homepage
  roll on christmas  
click here to find out more about ship of fools click here to sign up for the ship of fools newsletter click here to support ship of fools
community the mystery worshipper gadgets for god caption competition foolishness features ship stuff
discussion boards live chat cafe avatars frequently-asked questions the ten commandments gallery private boards register for the boards
 
Ship of Fools


Post new thread  Post a reply
My profile login | | Directory | Search | FAQs | Board home
   - Printer-friendly view Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
» Ship of Fools   » Special interest discussion   » Dead Horses   » The Death of Darwinism (Page 20)

 - Email this page to a friend or enemy.  
Pages in this thread: 1  2  3  ...  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  ...  40  41  42 
 
Source: (consider it) Thread: The Death of Darwinism
Callan
Shipmate
# 525

 - Posted      Profile for Callan     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the world views of researchers influence their models but are irrelevant to whether those models are finally adopted as part of the corpus of science.

It probably isn't a coincidence that the theory of the Big Bang was originated by a Catholic Priest but the fact that it became the dominant model had nothing to do with whether Fr. Lemaitre's theology was widely shared and everything to do with the fact that subsequent discoveries in the field of astronomy and quantum physics tended to validate, rather than falsify the model.

--------------------
How easy it would be to live in England, if only one did not love her. - G.K. Chesterton

Posts: 9757 | From: Citizen of the World | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:


Here is what dictionary.com gave me on the meaning
of supernatural:

[dictionary definition snipped]

Likewise, the WordNet definitions include “not existing in nature” and ‘not subject to explanation according to natural laws’. Again, what precisely are meant by ‘nature’ and ‘natural laws’?

And most fundamentally of all, who gets to determine the precise meaning of these terms? To my mind there is a distinctly post-modern feel to that question.


As far as science is concerned, if something is part of the framework of observable physical laws and objects then it is natural. Nobody has yet shown that there is anything with objective reality that sits outside those laws: this is the province of faith and religion.

These are very simple, very straightforward concepts. They are near-universally understood, and very useful. Anyone seeking to redefine them had better have extraordinarily good reasons.

quote:


As for the definition of supernatural as “not physical or material”, is human mind reducible to the physical or material? Is human consciousness? is human intelligence?

We have ample evidence of human mind, consciousness and intelligence, and do not label them as ‘supernatural’. We also have evidence of some animal intelligence and, so I am told, even of single cell intelligence in some circumstances.

So, the evidence of mind, consciousness and intelligence are undisputed in some situations. Who is to say that evidence of mind, consciousness and intelligence won’t be found in other, hitherto unsuspected, situations? And who is say for definite, one way or another?


Mind, consciousness and intelligence have all been unequivocably observed in connection with physical laws and objects. This is science. They have not been unequivocably observed otherwise - this is religion.

You get a lot more freedom to speculate in religion, but science needs more rigour to qualify.

So, having established that science is the domain where physical laws and objects reside, and that religion and the supernatural is where you find things that cannot be shown to act according to physical laws nor share the nature of objects, may I now, for the final time, ask for you to explain Dembski's statements, in particular his apparent proposal that it is possible to introduce a mind unconnected with physical laws, and that acts in ways outwith the normal area of science, and still call it natural?

It still looks like theology to me. How does it differ from theology? How would we check this?

What on earth is Dembski saying?

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the world views of researchers influence their models but are irrelevant to whether those models are finally adopted as part of the corpus of science.

I have heard it claimed that the late 18th & early 19th French naturalists who saw evidence of evolution and/or catastrophic changes tended to be on the revolutionary side, whereas the Royalists prefered ideas of the fixity of species.

Also that the early French evolutionists, such as Cuvier tended to be from Protestant (Hugenot) families.

Its often been claimed that Darwinism is informed by 19th century English ideas of free trade, free markets, and business competition. Darwin of course was from a very wealthy big business family.

It's less often - but still sometimes - noticed that Darwin (& his family) were political liberals and Wallace a non-revolutionary libertarian socialist & early feminist - they were people who believed in the need for political change, but looked for gradual change.

But you are obviously right - although those political and cultural views inspired or constrained their scientific opinions, those opinions are still liable to be tested. And we don't reject what the lookout sees just because they are standing in a tower.

On the other hand, if the combination of a belief in human progress with Protestant religion, political democracy, and free market capitalism naturally led to the theory evolution by natural selection, why are the only large group of educated people who still reject it Americans who share those very cultural values?

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Faithful Sheepdog

I would have preferred to let the issue drop, but you have asked me a question. I found your post confused because you had shifted your ground. I found it confusing because I no longer know what ground you are standing on.

It wasn't me who introduced the Wedge Strategy document onto this thread. As for my ground, I am standing on logic, reason, the laws of science and the known facts of the universe.

quote:
Let me recap

1. I observed that the Wedge Strategy was devastating. You replied that I should not mistake a PR strategy for the serious underlying scientific issues.

Agreed - and I stand by my comment.

quote:
2. I countered by questioning the need for any PR strategy, given that the aim was the publication of scientific ideas and put forward some classic arguments (later repeated by Callan) about the correct approach to this issue.
Agreed - but I note that there is nothing illegal, immoral, unethical or underhand per se about a PR strategy.

quote:
3. You described my post as naïve and referred to your time in the nuclear power industry as an illustration that it was normal for scientists to have a PR strategy. This struck me as a confused and confusing shift of ground. The use of nuclear technology is controversial, subject to misrepresentation by pressure groups and it is perfectly sensible for the industry to invest in PR. That does not apply, in general, to the issues of pure science which are the chief domain of ID arguments.
The politics surrounding the science of biological origins has become a particularly hot potato, especially in the USA. Borrowing and editing one of your sentences, I could truthfully write: The use of [ID theory] is controversial, subject to misrepresentation by pressure groups and it is perfectly sensible for [ID theorists] to invest in PR.

To illustrate what is at stake in the extreme politicisation of these issues, you may like to read the following entry from William Dembski's personal blog. In the USA, qualifications are on the line, careers are at stake, and the courts are now involved. If I found myself in those circumstances, I would welcome as much PR help as I could get.

quote:
4. I observed that the PR strategy in the nuclear industry is concerned primarily with application and asserted the confusion in your post (which I have now explained from my POV).

I must disagree with you. The public is, in general, woefully ignorant of the scientific basics of nuclear physics, even before we get on to the really controversial stuff about dose limits, safety standards, waste disposal and the rest. That lack of basic scientific knowledge is one of the reasons why it is such a touchy subject with the public.

BNFL Sellafield have a whole visitor centre dedicated to educating the public. Much of it is about basic nuclear physics rather than the specific detail of BNFL's work. It is now one of Cumbria's leading tourist attractions.

quote:
After reading your latest post, I wonder if you are aware of your tendency to shift your ground, since you have now done so again.
From my perspective the ground shifting is being done by people who throw ad hominem and other logically fallacious arguments into a debate about scientific issues.

quote:
Let me cut this Gordian Knot. You have not answered Callan’s point, my point, Karl’s point about the proper promotion and testing of scientific ideas. You have simply evaded all of us.
I am not even sure what your point is, so it is no surprise if it remains unanswered. Callan and Karl can happily speak for themselves.

quote:
Although I am not a practising scientist, I studied Chemistry at University before a career switch into IT. My understanding of the scientific method was formed by my studies and subsequently reinforced/refreshed by reading Popper. I am very happy to admit to being out of touch with the current social/economic pressures on research scientists, which may very well distort the purity of the processes. They have never been pure in practice – that is common ground. I also thought it was common ground that the world views and prejudices of researchers did not matter a row of beans.
No argument from me against the general concept of Popperian falsibility.

Again though, I think your last sentence represents an over-optimistic and somewhat naive viewpoint. "World views and prejuduces of researchers" may distort someone's perceptions to the point where their scientific work ceases to be accurate and truthful.

The real world is messy and sinful - even the scientific world. A few years ago BNFL had to deal with the fraudulent falsification of safety documentation sent to the Japanese with some nuclear materials. Speaking more generally, fraud in academic scientific circles has certainly been indentified on occasion.

quote:
You can have whatever daft philosophical/religious/social ideas you like on these issues but if your science is good and your results replicable, testable and falsifiable, then you add soundly to understanding. That, essentially, is where I am coming from on this issue and, so far as I can tell, so is Callan and so is Karl.

That is also my position as far as the scientific issues go. I am at a loss to see how you have come to some other conclusion.

quote:
So, when you are up to it, perhaps you can address the following question? Why should some ID proponents require a Wedge Strategy in the form stated?
I think that I have answered your question above. Others may wish to discuss the Wedge Strategy document, but I do not. I will stick with the fundamental scientific issues.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Barnabas62
Host
# 9110

 - Posted      Profile for Barnabas62   Email Barnabas62   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Ken I understand your point. But my comment was in the context of the irrelevance of the views of scientists to the quality of the science they may produce. If their biasses mess up their findings and conclusions, then this will become obvious via the normal processes of replicability, testability and falsifiability, not by a test of their biasses. Unbiassed people (always supposing there are such paragons) can produce bad science and biassed people can produce good science, by the test of the scientific method. Which is, or should be, the only valid test.

Faithful Sheepdog. Thanks for your answers. I'm still inclined to believe you shifted your ground but I'm gratified by what we have in common. My opinion stands that you are underestimating the damaging significance of the Wedge Strategy, but within the context of discussing ID science per se, you are clearly free to ignore it. I don't think its introduction by Callan was ad hominem. From a close study of its Phase 1, it seems clear to me that the ad hominen attack is from within the Wedge Strategy itself - and directed aggressively outwards. But we can disagree about that, without it affecting any discussion of the science per se.

[ 12. July 2005, 23:48: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

--------------------
Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

Posts: 21397 | From: Norfolk UK | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged
Sleepyhead
Shipmate
# 3862

 - Posted      Profile for Sleepyhead     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Now to deal with some of Callan’s points:

quote:
The three theses you cite sum up Rex's point admirably. Davison postulates that the evolutionary development of a species is somehow pre-ordained rather than determined by natural selection, an idea which can be simply dismissed by the two words "mass extinction"
If you were more familiar with Davison’s ideas, you would find that the phenomenon of extinctions is one of the fundamental facts on which he bases his work. In his model, life-forms evolve through non-sexual reproduction and non-Darwinian means. Once sexual reproduction begins, it renders the life-form vulnerable to genetic deterioration and subsequent extinction.

This is especially interesting because it plays directly into a typical conservative disdain for sex! Anyways, this does not seem to explain existing evidence well, for instance the fossil record of vertebrate evolution, nor does it explain why parthenogenic animals have apparently developed from sexual ones. To be credible as a scientific theory, it should first explain the existing data.

quote:

You will find that Remine subscribes to an old earth paradigm and his arguments are developed on scientific and mathematical grounds, particularly with respect to population genetics. He has defended his thesis in depth at the ARN forums. If anyone can rebut it competently he wants to hear from you.

As a mathematics student, I must point out that for all its powers, even perfect mathematics does not prove anything about the physical world. There was some terrible "mathematical" ID text I read awhile back that was about the "no free lunch" theorem or somesuch. IIRC, the theorem itself was trivial, but as done by all good mathematical hacks, it was obfuscated to fill many pages.

Once one has an equation, then one can see whether or not the physical world agrees with that equation. One cannot just make up an equation, and then declare that the physical world must agree with it.

For instance, cladistics is a mathematical theory based on the idea of common descent and mutation with relatively little hybridization. The fact that cladistics models the tree of life so well tends to validate the assumptions that went into the model. It is worth noting here that, as one would expect if evolution by random mutation were true, non-coding regions of DNA correlate more strongly between organisms which are determined to be more related using cladistics based solely on physical appearance. So, this makes it a very good model indeed. I suggest you compare the application of mathematical models used in ID and biology if you want to see why one is not taken seriously. Unfortunately, most people cannot see mathematical crankishness, but if you look at how the maths have been spplied, then maybe you can see their value.

quote:

quote:
”The new data show that if more mutations show up at a gene, that gene tends to accept a higher percentage of those mutations.”
That is not a result that anyone was expecting, nor can it be claimed as a prior prediction of neo-Darwinian theory. It may, however, be compatible with EAM ideas.

Note it was not a prediction of EAM - it is just said to be compatible with EAM after the fact. It is a well-known crank technique to take every new data point that happens along and claim it fits your theory. Well, if your theory had predictive value, you could have told us about it before we actually saw it. I do encourage scientifically inclined people to spend time studying obvious cranks! For instance Crank.Net is a wonderful site. Spending so much time intrigued by cranks has taught me to be especially wary of certain lines of argument - and is helpful for spotting BS in areas outside my expertise. If I had not spent so much time amusing myself by making fun of cranks, I would probably not be nearly as pro-science as I am today.

I know some forces that blind someone to scientific knowledge, since I avoided the ramifications of science to my origins beliefs for years. Sometimes it is partially fear of what ones peers would think, or suppose that one's salvation is even in question if one has doubts. An individual really told me that "If evolution is true, then God does not exist!" Sometimes it is just laziness, as when YECcies speculate that the speed of light is non-constant, but then can't be bothered to see what research has been done to check that out. (Answer: quite a bit - it's a really important problem in physics, but many tests have been done and no one can find any significant changes!) I think in your case you really do not want to believe evolutionary theory, so you store up information about possible alternatives. The way you have been debating suggests you don't actually believe these alternatives, merely find them interesting because they also disagree with what you find so ugly. Surely you are aware that the different ID speculations are mutually contradictory, so what exactly are you arguing for? Simply stating the beliefs of these other people is pointless - we won't be impressed, because we are not impressed by their names or their obfuscated language, and we can't argue with them because they aren't here. Tell us what you actually believe about the origins of species, and we can discuss your concerns instead of these Dembskis. And if your belief just comes down to a negative assertion such as "evolution is wrong", or "mutation is nonrandom", I suggest you strongly consider bringing yourself to a point where you can come to think through these prejudices.

[ 13. July 2005, 06:06: Message edited by: Sleepyhead ]

--------------------
If I blame them for anything
it's nothing more than I blame on myself

Posts: 116 | From: American Midwest | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
As far as science is concerned, if something is part of the framework of observable physical laws and objects then it is natural. Nobody has yet shown that there is anything with objective reality that sits outside those laws: this is the province of faith and religion.

These are very simple, very straightforward concepts. They are near-universally understood, and very useful. Anyone seeking to redefine them had better have extraordinarily good reasons.

Firstly, my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Even when I do have some energy, real life has to go on and has to be fitted into the ‘energy gaps’. I am also on my own this week. Now to your post.

I really do think you are begging a huge number of questions here. I am fully in favour of the Popperian concepts of observability, repeatability, falsifiability and refutability (as Callan helpfully posted). However, it doesn’t follow at all from a commitment to those concepts that “physical laws and objects” represents the whole of the truth about our world (which is what I understand by science).

Your statement “Nobody has yet shown that there is anything with objective reality that sits outside those laws: this is the province of faith and religion” is very questionable. As a matter of fact I suspect that there are many everyday, ‘natural’ things that are not reducible to “physical laws and objects”.

Consider human emotions – love, joy, fear, hate – or the contagiousness of laughter and mirth. Are they reducible simply to biochemical states in the brain? Are they simply governed by the laws of chemical interaction? Emotion and laughter are certainly real enough, but do they fall under your definition of science?

Your statement also contains no less than three logical fallacies:

Firstly there is an argumentum ad ignorantiam – an appeal to ignorance. No one can prove me wrong, so I must be right. Even if I accept that “nobody has yet shown…” is correct (which I don’t), it does not logically follow that “nobody will ever show…”

Secondly, your statement presents a false dichotomy. Anything not science (as understood by yourself) is declared to be ‘the province of faith and religion’. The possibility that you have misunderstood science is not considered, as is the possibility that there remains much for science to discover. The argument here is a fiat on your own personal authority.

Finally there is an argumentum ad populum - an appeal to the majority. That is no guarantee of truth. Even Karl’s post had a somewhat suspicious 99% figure - I wonder whether it is scientific? [Smile] – but still leaves 1% unaccounted for. As a matter of historical fact, Darwin’s ideas took many years to become the majority scientific viewpoint (at least in the English speaking world), but they have never been accepted by 100% of competent scientists.

If you had said that as a convenient working convention some scientists make certain assumptions but without any prejudice as to the actual true reality of the world, then I might agree. But you seem unaware to the extent to which your viewpoint is defining in advance what the actual truth of our world is. As a result I am not surprised that you have had difficulty in understanding ID in general and Dembski in particular.

quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
Mind, consciousness and intelligence have all been unequivocally observed in connection with physical laws and objects. This is science. They have not been unequivocally observed otherwise - this is religion.

You get a lot more freedom to speculate in religion, but science needs more rigour to qualify.

I agree with your statement about rigour, but not much else. Many things have never been ‘unequivocally’ observed, but that doesn’t automatically make them religion. This is a false dichotomy again.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
So, having established that science is the domain where physical laws and objects reside, and that religion and the supernatural is where you find things that cannot be shown to act according to physical laws nor share the nature of objects, may I now, for the final time, ask for you to explain Dembski's statements, in particular his apparent proposal that it is possible to introduce a mind unconnected with physical laws, and that acts in ways outwith the normal area of science, and still call it natural?


It still looks like theology to me. How does it differ from theology? How would we check this?

What on earth is Dembski saying?

(Here is Dembski’s article on ID in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science to which Rex Monday has been referring.)

I think to begin with you need to understand properly what Dembski is saying in relation to design and its detection. Remember that Dembski is a mathematician and a philosopher. His own work is about identifying design, understood as a property of physical objects, and defined in a particularly rigorous mathematical fashion.

Of course, one consequence of that design identification is some postulation of ‘mind’ at work, but the identification of that mind with a deity or other divine powers is definitely not a necessary corollary of his scientific work. This is where many people are misrepresenting Dembski in particular and ID in general.

Some, of course, may choose to see evidence for theism in Dembski’s ID work, but others are postulating hitherto unknown properties of our universe, and a few are attempting to elucidate laws of material self-organisation. Far from inhibiting scientific research, Dembski’s work has opened up many new lines of enquiry.

I find that Dembski writes with clarity and is in general readily understandable, although some of his specialist mathematical work is way over my head. I have no problem seeing that his work is clearly scientific and not theological. I suspect that the roots of our very different opinions on this matter are that you and I understand ‘science’ very differently, and so we differ over what we think it should look like.

quote:
Ken said:
That's really important if anyone is going to make sense of his rather baroque structure of supposed probabilities he's calqued on Drake's equation.

Dembski’s work on the universal probability bound bears no relation whatsoever to Drake’s Equation. That contains some completely unknown and probably unknowable factors. It remains a theoretical curiosity of no practical use.

By contrast, Dembski is arguing logically from known facts and the present cosmological consensus. He has attempted to determine mathematically and rigorously a limit to the ‘probabilistic resources of the universe’.

In this respect I see some simple correspondence between his work and the quantum theory to which Rex Monday has already alluded. Just as matter is not infinitely indivisible, so in a likewise manner Dembski proposes limits to the creative possibilities of unintelligent processes.

His full weight academic work The Design Inference is published by Cambridge University Press and was fully peer reviewed. That doesn’t automatically mean it is right, of course, but clearly someone thought his arguments deserved a hearing. As a Cambridge man myself, I am proud of my Alma Mater here.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:
This is especially interesting because it plays directly into a typical conservative disdain for sex! Anyways, this does not seem to explain existing evidence well, for instance the fossil record of vertebrate evolution, nor does it explain why parthenogenic animals have apparently developed from sexual ones. To be credible as a scientific theory, it should first explain the existing data.

To be a credible commentator on Davison's work, you need to study it for yourself and cease making cheap superficial comments about conservatives and sex. He is far more able and sophisticated than you are giving him credit for. However, be warned, he is a grumpy old codger who doesn't tolerate fools gladly.

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:
As a mathematics student, I must point out that for all its powers, even perfect mathematics does not prove anything about the physical world. There was some terrible "mathematical" ID text I read awhile back that was about the "no free lunch" theorem or somesuch. IIRC, the theorem itself was trivial, but as done by all good mathematical hacks, it was obfuscated to fill many pages.

Once one has an equation, then one can see whether or not the physical world agrees with that equation. One cannot just make up an equation, and then declare that the physical world must agree with it.

As a former professional engineer with two mathematically-oriented degrees, I am well aware that mathematical models are meaningless unless they reflect physical reality.

Please give me some reasons why the ID text you read was "terrible". The 'No Free Lunch Theorems' did not originate with Dembski, but his use of them has sparked a lot of debate.

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:

<snip>

I suggest you compare the application of mathematical models used in ID and biology if you want to see why one is not taken seriously. Unfortunately, most people cannot see mathematical crankishness, but if you look at how the maths have been spplied, then maybe you can see their value.

I have previously studied the whole area of evolutionary algorithms in some detail. These models incorporate ab initio the conclusions that some people wish to reach, and consequently tell me nothing about the biological world. Dembski was right - there is 'no free lunch'.

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:

<snip>

If I had not spent so much time amusing myself by making fun of cranks, I would probably not be nearly as pro-science as I am today.

I would recommend less time having fun and more time studying the fundamental scientific issues. You may also wish to tone down the rhetoric about "cranks".

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:

<snip>

I think in your case you really do not want to believe evolutionary theory, so you store up information about possible alternatives. The way you have been debating suggests you don't actually believe these alternatives, merely find them interesting because they also disagree with what you find so ugly. Surely you are aware that the different ID speculations are mutually contradictory, so what exactly are you arguing for? Simply stating the beliefs of these other people is pointless - we won't be impressed, because we are not impressed by their names or their obfuscated language, and we can't argue with them because they aren't here. Tell us what you actually believe about the origins of species, and we can discuss your concerns instead of these Dembskis. And if your belief just comes down to a negative assertion such as "evolution is wrong", or "mutation is nonrandom", I suggest you strongly consider bringing yourself to a point where you can come to think through these prejudices.

Now you are just being patronising and rude. I suggest you learn some manners and moderate your tone substantially.

You are also ignoring the context in which I brought up the work of Davison, Remine and the EAM crowd. I flagged them up to answer the misrepresentation that the ID world produces no testable and falsifiable scientific work.

Their ideas may or may not be borne out by future research, but one cannot attempt to test and possibly refute a scientific idea whilst simultaneouly claiming that it is not science.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Karl: Liberal Backslider
Shipmate
# 76

 - Posted      Profile for Karl: Liberal Backslider   Author's homepage   Email Karl: Liberal Backslider   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
the whole of the truth about our world (which is what I understand by science).
I think this is the root of your problem. This is an understanding of science I usually associate with the likes of Dawkins. Science is only a subset of knowledge and understanding about our world. There are whole swathes it does not and cannot cover, such as the nature of truth itself.

--------------------
Might as well ask the bloody cat.

Posts: 17938 | From: Chesterfield | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Callan
Shipmate
# 525

 - Posted      Profile for Callan     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

quote:
I really do think you are begging a huge number of questions here. I am fully in favour of the Popperian concepts of observability, repeatability, falsifiability and refutability (as Callan helpfully posted). However, it doesn’t follow at all from a commitment to those concepts that “physical laws and objects” represents the whole of the truth about our world (which is what I understand by science).
Karl beat me to it, but that isn't what Popper was saying. Popper was saying that there is a particular intellectual enterprise for studying those physical laws and objects - called science - and that once you step outside that enterprise and have recourse to other concepts you enter the realm of metaphysics.

There is nothing inherently wrong or irrational in talking about metaphysics. In fact the one major philosophical attempt to dispense with them - logical positivism - foundered on the key metaphysical assumption at its heart, to wit the statement that only empirically verifiable statements are meaningful - how do you empirically verify that?

Karl seems to me right inasmuch as ID appears to be a mirror image of the sort of philosophy that Dawkins adopts. Dawkins' point goes something along the lines of: "Belief in God is not scientific, that which is not scientific is irrational ergo belief in God is irrational". The ID riposte goes something like: "That which is scientific is rational, belief in design is rational ergo belief in design is science". Both are based on a category error. In Dawkins' case the assumption that 'science' is a total description of rationality rather than a subset thereof. In the ID case that because a belief is rational it must, therefore, be scientific. Both hinge on the conflation between 'scientific' and 'rational'. For example, whatever one thinks of it the First Cause argument is a rational argument, the merits of which have been debated rationally by philosophers for centuries, but it has no place in a scientific work.

--------------------
How easy it would be to live in England, if only one did not love her. - G.K. Chesterton

Posts: 9757 | From: Citizen of the World | Registered: Jun 2001  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
As far as science is concerned, if something is part of the framework of observable physical laws and objects then it is natural. Nobody has yet shown that there is anything with objective reality that sits outside those laws: this is the province of faith and religion.

These are very simple, very straightforward concepts. They are near-universally understood, and very useful. Anyone seeking to redefine them had better have extraordinarily good reasons.

Firstly, my apologies for the delay in getting back to you. Even when I do have some energy, real life has to go on and has to be fitted into the ‘energy gaps’. I am also on my own this week. Now to your post.

I really do think you are begging a huge number of questions here. I am fully in favour of the Popperian concepts of observability, repeatability, falsifiability and refutability (as Callan helpfully posted). However, it doesn’t follow at all from a commitment to those concepts that “physical laws and objects” represents the whole of the truth about our world (which is what I understand by science).


But it does represent the whole of the scientific truth about our world, and ID claims to be science.

quote:


Your statement “Nobody has yet shown that there is anything with objective reality that sits outside those laws: this is the province of faith and religion” is very questionable. As a matter of fact I suspect that there are many everyday, ‘natural’ things that are not reducible to “physical laws and objects”.


And they are not scientific. Many people find God an everyday 'natural' idea - in the sense that it comes easily to them - yet outside science and outside naturalism.

quote:


Consider human emotions – love, joy, fear, hate – or the contagiousness of laughter and mirth. Are they reducible simply to biochemical states in the brain? Are they simply governed by the laws of chemical interaction? Emotion and laughter are certainly real enough, but do they fall under your definition of science?


Certainly do. Why shouldn't they? There are even fields of science, such as psychobiology, which investigate such things. I wouldn't say they were _simply_ governed by the 'laws of chemical interaction', but that's certainly a large part of the mix as decades of research into psychoactive drugs and their medicinal use shows.

quote:


Your statement also contains no less than three logical fallacies:

Firstly there is an argumentum ad ignorantiam – an appeal to ignorance. No one can prove me wrong, so I must be right. Even if I accept that “nobody has yet shown…” is correct (which I don’t), it does not logically follow that “nobody will ever show…”


(It's 'no fewer' than three, by the way). And I was saying quite simply that nobody HAS yet shown these things. Nothing about the future - so you're guilty of a non sequitur in inferring an argumentum ad ignorantium, and a straw man fallacy in then arguing about that.

It is a respectable position to say that one believes these things will be shown, and were ID to stick to this line and quietly get on with research to this end there'd be no argument. But ID says that it is _already_ sure of this, and is active politically to push this agenda, and this is not science.

Sic friatur crustum dulce.

quote:

Secondly, your statement presents a false dichotomy. Anything not science (as understood by yourself) is declared to be ‘the province of faith and religion’. The possibility that you have misunderstood science is not considered, as is the possibility that there remains much for science to discover. The argument here is a fiat on your own personal authority.

Finally there is an argumentum ad populum - an appeal to the majority. That is no guarantee of truth. Even Karl’s post had a somewhat suspicious 99% figure - I wonder whether it is scientific? [Smile] – but still leaves 1% unaccounted for. As a matter of historical fact, Darwin’s ideas took many years to become the majority scientific viewpoint (at least in the English speaking world), but they have never been accepted by 100% of competent scientists.


You were talking about the definitions of terms. I was explaining how I understood them - and it's a bit difficult to do that without saying what I think - and how the vast majority of scientists understand them.

This isn't a matter for discussion, unless you can show either that I do not believe what I say I think or that what I claim to be the normal use of words is in fact not commonly understood. You are, I fear, mixing up the things themselves and their names (there's probably a posh Latin tag for that, but I don't know it).

quote:


If you had said that as a convenient working convention some scientists make certain assumptions but without any prejudice as to the actual true reality of the world, then I might agree. But you seem unaware to the extent to which your viewpoint is defining in advance what the actual truth of our world is. As a result I am not surprised that you have had difficulty in understanding ID in general and Dembski in particular.


Indeed, it is impossible to divorce viewpoint from perception. Which is why science depends on objectivity, in finding things that are independent from individual perception and that can be tested regardless of viewpoint.

What Dembski proposes is not that. He takes viewpoint - the mathematics of ID is the theology of John - and then says that therefore science must subsume itself to theology - the acting of mind outside the physical world. I understand that perfectly well. I do not understand how that is science. And I do not understand how you can say that Dembski's explanation, which you quoted, is 'crystal clear' in solving this dilemma, without a demonstration of what is being conveyed.

quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
quote:

Mind, consciousness and intelligence have all been unequivocally observed in connection with physical laws and objects. This is science. They have not been unequivocally observed otherwise - this is religion.

You get a lot more freedom to speculate in religion, but science needs more rigour to qualify.

I agree with your statement about rigour, but not much else. Many things have never been ‘unequivocally’ observed, but that doesn’t automatically make them religion. This is a false dichotomy again.


No, you are committing another non sequitur. I don't say that everything that has never been unequivocably observed is religious, just that mind operating independently of matter has not been unequivocably observed and that believing that it does so operate is religious. Science could comfortably (or uncomfortably!) extend to encompassing such things, were they to be so observed.

Dembski says that it should extend to encompassing such things and abandon the rules that define science in the process, without benefit of observation or logical demonstration.

That's theology.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
quote:

So, having established that science is the domain where physical laws and objects reside, and that religion and the supernatural is where you find things that cannot be shown to act according to physical laws nor share the nature of objects, may I now, for the final time, ask for you to explain Dembski's statements, in particular his apparent proposal that it is possible to introduce a mind unconnected with physical laws, and that acts in ways outwith the normal area of science, and still call it natural?

It still looks like theology to me. How does it differ from theology? How would we check this?

What on earth is Dembski saying?

(Here is Dembski’s article on ID in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Religion and Science to which Rex Monday has been referring.)

I think to begin with you need to understand properly what Dembski is saying in relation to design and its detection.


Which is why I have been asking for so long now for you to tell me what he is saying, not just keep telling me I need to understand it. _You_ originally brought up that document by way of showing what Dembski says, I said that it didn't help me understand and asked you to paraphrase it in a way that made its meaning clearer - as you claimed it was very clear indeed.

The best way to save a drowning man is to throw him a lifebelt, not to say "What you need to do is find a way to get a lifebelt. Just like this one, in fact!" Just throw the blooming lifebelt!

I'm reminded of an old urban myth from the days when mobile phones were rare, expensive and something of a status symbol. A businessman was on a train and had been yacking away loudly on his mobile for some time to the annoyance of all, when another passenger collapsed with what looked like a heart attack. "Quick!", said a woman, "Phone the ambulance, so they'll be there when we get to the next station!" The businessman ignored her. "Come on," said someone else. "Your conversation can't be that important. This man is dying!" Still the businessman pretended he hadn't heard. Finally, with exasperation and murderous looks, the phone was wrenched out of his hands... and turned out to be a fake.

quote:


Remember that Dembski is a mathematician and a philosopher. His own work is about identifying design, understood as a property of physical objects, and defined in a particularly rigorous mathematical fashion.


A rigorous mathematical fashion that doesn't work. Nobody in ID has ever been able to identify design rigorously, and claims that they have have been swiftly dismissed by finding concrete counterexamples.

quote:


Of course, one consequence of that design identification is some postulation of ‘mind’ at work, but the identification of that mind with a deity or other divine powers is definitely not a necessary corollary of his scientific work. This is where many people are misrepresenting Dembski in particular and ID in general.


Does he misrepresent himself when he says that he is codifying the theology of the Logos from John?

The political and theological motives behind ID are clear and have been explicitly stated. They would not nullify any scientific evidence - if there were any - but they do make it a fair candidate for extra-critical scrutiny, as has been said many times already.

quote:


Some, of course, may choose to see evidence for theism in Dembski’s ID work, but others are postulating hitherto unknown properties of our universe, and a few are attempting to elucidate laws of material self-organisation. Far from inhibiting scientific research, Dembski’s work has opened up many new lines of enquiry.


Dembski sees evidence for theism in his work!

Science is perfectly happy looking for hitherto unknown properties of the universe and laws of material self-organisation. It does this without importing theological concepts.

None of Dembski's 'lines of enquiry' have evinced any interest outside ID.

quote:


I find that Dembski writes with clarity and is in general readily understandable, although some of his specialist mathematical work is way over my head. I have no problem seeing that his work is clearly scientific and not theological. I suspect that the roots of our very different opinions on this matter are that you and I understand ‘science’ very differently, and so we differ over what we think it should look like.


The trouble here is that ID claims to be science of the sort that is generally understood. You've just said that ID science is _somehow_ different to this, but without elucidating what it is.

You see my confusion.

I'm not going to get my paraphrase, am I? Well, I won't bother to ask again (jewish mother mode = OFF).

It really was the _one_ thing I wanted, in my attempt to understand why people call ID science: an explanation in your own words of how _you_ thought it actually worked as science.

Without a clear explanation of what I'm missing -especially when I've asked for it for so long and with as much directness as I can muster without smelling the brimstone - I fear I shall remain in the Realm of the Deeply Unconvinced.

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
I think to begin with you need to understand properly what Dembski is saying in relation to design and its detection. Remember that Dembski is a mathematician and a philosopher. His own work is about identifying design, understood as a property of physical objects, and defined in a particularly rigorous mathematical fashion.

To understand it I'd need to see it explained, and the online papers you linked to here do not explain it.

quote:

I find that Dembski writes with clarity and is in general readily understandable, although some of his specialist mathematical work is way over my head.

Well it looks clear and understandable to me. But it also looks clearly wrong - or more often not so much wrong as irrelevant to the point he seems to be trying to make.


quote:
Ken said:
That's really important if anyone is going to make sense of his rather baroque structure of supposed probabilities he's calqued on Drake's equation.

Dembski?s work on the universal probability bound bears no relation whatsoever to Drake?s Equation. That contains some completely unknown and probably unknowable factors. It remains a theoretical curiosity of no practical use.

By contrast, Dembski is arguing logically from known facts and the present cosmological consensus. He has attempted to determine mathematically and rigorously a limit to the ?probabilistic resources of the universe?.

[/QB][/QUOTE]

The essay I was refering to, and linked to, culminates in a 17-page explanation of a series of probabilities multiplied together that he quite specifically relates to Drake's equation - which he quotes in full and discusses at length.

As far as I can see its application to evolution is near zero - of the 7 probabilities he multiplies 2 at the most are relevant to the problem, and all are obfuscated by his confusion (or misunderstanding) between timescales, which im my opinion makes the entire second half of that essay more or less useless.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
The essay I was refering to, and linked to, culminates in a 17-page explanation of a series of probabilities multiplied together that he quite specifically relates to Drake's equation - which he quotes in full and discusses at length.

As far as I can see its application to evolution is near zero - of the 7 probabilities he multiplies 2 at the most are relevant to the problem, and all are obfuscated by his confusion (or misunderstanding) between timescales, which im my opinion makes the entire second half of that essay more or less useless.

(Here is the link to the essay by Dembski.)

I have previously read this essay in the past and I have just glanced through it again now. Note that this is only a fragment of his mathematical output, greatly simplified for consumption by the non-specialist mathematician.

Overall I think you have misunderstood the reason he quotes the Drake Equation at one point. He does that, partly because I suspect the Drake equation is well known in some circles, and partly because he wants to highlight the essential difference between the Drake Equation and the one he derives and presents on page 39. At no point does he use the Drake Equation as the basis from which he derives his own formulation (which he terms the origination inequality).

In Dembski's own words, with my emphasis:

quote:
Despite these interesting parallels between the Drake equation and the origination inequality—not least that both are used for discovering signs of intelligence—there is also a sharp difference. For the Drake equation to convince us that the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is likely to succeed, none of the terms on the right side of that equation must get too small. Only then will SETI researchers stand a reasonable chance of discovering signs of extraterrestrial intelligence. By contrast, with the origination inequality, to guarantee the specified complexity, and therefore design, of an irreducibly complex system, it is enough to show that even one term on the right side of the inequality is sufficiently small. With regard to the practical application of these formulas, this difference makes all the difference in the world.

The problem with the Drake equation is that most of the terms cannot be estimated.

By contrast, Dembski's own equation deals with the probability of achieving an irreducibly complex system originating by Darwinian means.

I would be interested to hear further from you on the significance of his "confusion (or misunderstanding) of timescales" and why you think "its applicability to evolution is near zero".

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
For example, his so-called synchronisation probability is based on the fundamental assumption that these things must all be randomly available at the same time - but what does he mean by "same time" here?

Same time in an evolutionary sense - i.e. in the same species?

Or same time in a population genetic sense, or in ecological time?

Or same time in the lifecycle of an organism?

Or same physiological time - when a certain set of reactions is going on, or a certain behaviour taking place?

Or the same time in a cycle of gene expression?

Very different questions.


Actually there is another point - there is gene transfer and co-operation between bacteria, and things can get transferred from species to species in many circumstances. Though as he is talking about the "fundamental molecular machinery - i.e. stuff that presumably comes from organisms is ancestral to all present-day bacteria - we can't really have any clear idea what they did in the way of reproduction - trhe only way to reconstruct the unobserved evolutionary past is by comparing current lineages - with only one lineage there is no data - which brings us back to the interesting question of what he would accept as evidence as such phylogenetic modeling inherently assumes common descent.

Anyway, the whole argument is based on the assumption that the parts of a complex structure must just happen to be randomly available before it can evolve by natural selection. Basically he starts off by saying that selection cannot take place - then he spends page after page proving that it can't, based on that assumption. Its really silly. And it just misses the point so badly. Like those party tricks where you "prove" 1+1=3.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Sleepyhead
Shipmate
# 3862

 - Posted      Profile for Sleepyhead     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:
This is especially interesting because it plays directly into a typical conservative disdain for sex!

To be a credible commentator on Davison's work, you need to study it for yourself and cease making cheap superficial comments about conservatives and sex. He is far more able and sophisticated than you are giving him credit for. However, be warned, he is a grumpy old codger who doesn't tolerate fools gladly.
If you agree with Davison, post some links or suggest a book I'm likely to find, and I'll look into it - nothing really obvious on google that I see. I have no problem tempering my language some if that is what you prefer, but if so I would hope you avoid calling me a 'fool'. The sex line was really just a joke: I forgot the ' [Smile] '

quote:

Please give me some reasons why the ID text you read was "terrible". The 'No Free Lunch Theorems' did not originate with Dembski, but his use of them has sparked a lot of debate.

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:

<snip>

I suggest you compare the application of mathematical models used in ID and biology if you want to see why one is not taken seriously. Unfortunately, most people cannot see mathematical crankishness, but if you look at how the maths have been spplied, then maybe you can see their value.

I have previously studied the whole area of evolutionary algorithms in some detail. These models incorporate ab initio the conclusions that some people wish to reach, and consequently tell me nothing about the biological world. Dembski was right - there is 'no free lunch'.

I was not talking about genetic algorithms at all, but I can discuss them if you wish. The point of genetic algorithms is this: we have this idea that complicated designs can arise through chance mutation and natural selection. Well, we need to test that assertion that complicated designs can arise in that manner. The easiest way to directly test the idea is to model it in a computer - and the fact of the matter is that these models have resulted in new and novel designs not thought of by the creators of the systems. The best known examples are probably a strangely-shaped antenna and a "bone-like" space truss.

Yeah, you might not be impressed by these results. Computers are still pretty weak, after all, so it's hard to get anything really complicated out of them. The point is this: some guys had this hypothesis that complicated designs could be arived at by chance mutation, so they tested it, and it worked! This is a real, tangible accomplishment that the ID people haven't touched - if their ideas about the creation of complex designs are valid, then why haven't they created a toy model on the computer to test out the basic ideas?

Anyway, when I was talking about mathematical models I was primarily talking about cladistics, those two previous paragraphs. Here's the idea: the complex design of animals was arrived at by chance mutation, until distinct populations no longer reproduce with each other. Since these mutations tend to produce differences in characteristics of the animals, we should get a pretty clean family-tree structure if we group them by similar characteristics.

Cladistics incorporates these ideas into a mathematical model, which can be used to propose the best family tree from all the data of animal characteristics. In addition, it also includes a built-in check that lets us see how well the data is actually incorporated in the tree-structure: for the tree of life this is astonishingly good. Surely as someone who takes an interest in these matters you've read talkorigin's 29 Evidences for Macroevolution which discusses this more plainly than I could.

What's most interesting is that because of its nature, I strongly suspect that just about any class of human-designed objects will fit very poorly into clades. No sarcastic comments please, but I am interested in the history of board games, and almost every book on the subject will tell you that, despite their best attempts, classifying games into such a tree-like structure is impossible, since nearly every combination of characteristics has been tried, and found relatively successful in some combination. And this seems to be true of human design in most areas I can think of. So, one could argue that since the only uncontroversially consciously designed objects we know about - those created by human individuals - fail to map into the cladistics paradigm, that the tree of life is in fact strong evidence against conscious design of animal life.

Now compare those successful models against Dembski's "No free lunch" model. IIRC, the paper that I read basically presented something much like the first chapter of an introductory book on information theory. I certainly have nothing against information theory, since it is applicable in those fields in which it is used.

However, the entire paper seemed to ignore the fact that in the natural world, information is just like entropy - the equations and concepts here are identical, and in general physicists and information theorists borrow language and ideas from the other constantly. The fact that entropy never decreases is identical to the fact that information never increases - that's all very clear. But he does not seem to recognize that the relevant pool of information consists of the entire universe - relative increases of information on Earth is paltry compared to the inevitable march of entropy across the universe. So the assertion that "there's no free lunch", when applied to the only object that we know is entropically closed, the universe, simply boils down to the fact that the initial entropy of the universe was astonishingly low! This is something everyone agrees on, and by no means does it say anything as to whether mutation can be the force behind evolution!

To assert that, for instance, the genetic code can only decrease in information, is to assert that information cannot flow in from the environment. But this is exactly what evolution states: that information does come from the environment in the form of natural selection.

(It seems like one of the problems with a lot of ID literature is that it cannot rule out the possibility that Evolution is the Intelligent Designer, much like the medieval proofs of God typically fail to distinguish Him from the Big Bang or the Universe at large.)

In any case, here is the rub: Dembski's model does not seem to describe anything in biology the way that the models of genetic algorithms and cladistics do seem to!

quote:

quote:
Originally posted by Sleepyhead:

<snip>

If I had not spent so much time amusing myself by making fun of cranks, I would probably not be nearly as pro-science as I am today.

I would recommend less time having fun and more time studying the fundamental scientific issues. You may also wish to tone down the rhetoric about "cranks".

[Snore] Of course I have done both - and again, if you want me to be civil, don't imply that I know nothing about scientific issues. And yes, perhaps I should have stated explicitly that I do believe these men of ID are cranks.

quote:
Now you are just being patronising and rude. I suggest you learn some manners and moderate your tone substantially.
Certainly, if it is returned...

quote:

You are also ignoring the context in which I brought up the work of Davison, Remine and the EAM crowd. I flagged them up to answer the misrepresentation that the ID world produces no testable and falsifiable scientific work.

I think that's pretty much the context I was thinking in - to me it honestly seems that you are using these names to deflect criticism of your ideas. You stated somewhere that you wished that people would address the scientific issues you raised. This post of yours was the closest I found to that, which is why I responded, since I thought maybe you were not getting a fair hearing. Perhaps there is something more explicit, but I was not seeing where you wrote what exactly, positively, you believed. I apologize if I missed it - I have read all this thread, but perhaps lost the post where you explain.

So all I know about your beliefs is that you think something is wrong with evolution, and to back this up you seem to be invoking a lot of names in the ID crowd. However, I can't tell what ideas of theirs, if any, you agree with.

Well, the validity of their beliefs, whether or no, may be quite a different matter than the validity of your beliefs.

Since these are public figures, a full discussion of these people's beliefs is probably not necessary on these boards. The only reason to discuss their beliefs is if you actually agree with any of them, because, hey, you do post and read here.

So, please do me the favor of explaining to me, what exactly constitute your scientific beliefs about origins. Then maybe we can have more constructive discussion, since we will be talking about your and my beliefs, instead of Behe's and Dembski's.

And again, I'm sorry if you've explained what exactly you think and I've missed it. My beliefs are pretty scientifically orthodox so it's probably obvious what I believe. All I know about yours is that you think I'm wrong! So what is the extent of our disagreement?

--------------------
If I blame them for anything
it's nothing more than I blame on myself

Posts: 116 | From: American Midwest | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Karl Liberal-backslider said:
I think this is the root of your problem. This is an understanding of science I usually associate with the likes of Dawkins. Science is only a subset of knowledge and understanding about our world. There are whole swathes it does not and cannot cover, such as the nature of truth itself.

Here is my original comment:
quote:
However, it doesn’t follow at all from a commitment to those [Popperian] concepts that “physical laws and objects” represents the whole of the truth about our world (which is what I understand by science)
I think my wording here was too loose and as a result I have misled you. For me part of our human vocation is to understand our world and our universe to the best of our ability. I see the realm of science as one of the tools to accomplish that task. Like you I do not automatically think that science in itself will ever be able to explain the whole of our world – that is simply asking too much of science, and other tools will be required.

However, I do think that Rex Monday’s comment about “physical laws and objects” represents an arbitrary limitation on what can be discerned through the Popperian concepts of observation, repeatability, falsifiability and refutability. It becomes particularly important when repeatable and testable scientific observations suggest that there is indeed more to the world than “physical laws and objects”.

That suggestion (never mind conclusion) seems to be anathema to some people on a priori grounds that are not themselves scientific. As a result the ID world has attracted ferocious political opposition, as well as many attempts to refute their work on scientific grounds. In the light of those attempts at refutation, the repeated denunciation that ID ideas are not science strikes me as itself fundamentally unscientific.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
The best way to save a drowning man is to throw him a lifebelt, not to say "What you need to do is find a way to get a lifebelt. Just like this one, in fact!" Just throw the blooming lifebelt!

I am sorry you feel that you are drowning. From my perspective I see several lifebelts in your vicinity, but you have turned your nose up at them all. I do not think that I can explain ID concepts to you any better than I have, but perhaps that is my failing.

If you disagree with ID ideas on rational grounds, that is your choice, but I am genuinely struggling to see where your present confusion actually lies. I am clutching at straws, but I wonder whether it is the word ‘design’ itself. From my engineering background its meaning has always been intuitively obvious to me, but perhaps not to others. Is this so?

Other than that I can only recommend more study of the work of ID world in their own words (and those of their few competent critics – most are not). You may also wish to spend time discussing ID ideas on the ARN forum (which is public access). The scientific and debating standard on that forum is high. Well-informed critics of ID ideas are welcome.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
I'm reminded of an old urban myth from the days when mobile phones were rare, expensive and something of a status symbol. A businessman was on a train and had been yacking away loudly on his mobile for some time to the annoyance of all, when another passenger collapsed with what looked like a heart attack. "Quick!", said a woman, "Phone the ambulance, so they'll be there when we get to the next station!" The businessman ignored her. "Come on," said someone else. "Your conversation can't be that important. This man is dying!" Still the businessman pretended he hadn't heard. Finally, with exasperation and murderous looks, the phone was wrenched out of his hands... and turned out to be a fake.

This anecdote was particularly revealing, especially the word “fake”. You have worked very hard to demonstrate that ID ideas, far from being science, are really disguised theology in the service of a political program (conservative, naturally). It is no secret that Dembski draws some theological inspiration from his scientific work, but that does not invalidate his scientific work any more than Dawkin’s aggressive atheism does his.

For my part I remain utterly unconvinced of your thesis. I have no qualms that there is any widespread fakery or manipulation going on in the ID world – there are too many necks on the line for that to be the case and no one is getting rich - quite the opposite, in fact. If their ideas are scientifically sound, they will be accepted sooner or later as the repeatability, testability and refutability of Popperian science kicks in.

quote:
Ken said:
For example, his so-called synchronisation probability is based on the fundamental assumption that these things must all be randomly available at the same time - but what does he mean by "same time" here?

Dembski’s argument is centred around the availability of a new function that provides a selective advantage. Non-teleological natural selection can only work on a function that is present and operating (e.g. better eyesight or whatever). If the new function conveys an advantage it will be selected for.

Non-teleological natural selection does not see into the future. In particular, it cannot work on the class of partially complete biological structures that remain totally non-functional until every last piece is in position. It must wait until the structure is complete and then select on the basis of the new function.

This is the essence of the irreducible complexity argument. If you don’t accept ‘irreducible complexity’ as a concept, then Dembski’s argument will naturally not be convincing. For more background on this topic, see the extended discussion by biochemist ‘Mike Gene’ at TeleoLogic here.

So, as far as I can see, the “same time” in question is the time when the gene begins to contain enough information for the new structure to become complete and functional during the creature’s life, and thus available to the operation of natural selection.

The precise time in the life of the creature will obviously vary depending on the nature of the creature, when it acquires its genetic information, whether it can modify its own genes during its lifetime, and how it reproduces.

Neil

[fixed URL]

[ 14. July 2005, 10:24: Message edited by: Faithful Sheepdog ]

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

 - Posted      Profile for Alan Cresswell   Email Alan Cresswell   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Non-teleological natural selection does not see into the future. In particular, it cannot work on the class of partially complete biological structures that remain totally non-functional until every last piece is in position. It must wait until the structure is complete and then select on the basis of the new function.

This is the essence of the irreducible complexity argument. If you don’t accept ‘irreducible complexity’ as a concept, then Dembski’s argument will naturally not be convincing.

The argument for ID isn't convincing not because the concept of "irreducible complexity" is unacceptable, but because no single example of irreducible complexity has been demonstrated. Natural selection does not see into the future, as you agree, and so can't select for features that have no current benefit but may have a future benefit (as opposed to artifical selection, where an intelligent breeder can select for currently non-beneficial features knowing that they will be useful in future breeds - though I've no idea if that's actually done, it's possible in principle). The problem for irreducible complexity is finding features that have been selected for that are "completely non functional".

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Posts: 32413 | From: East Kilbride (Scotland) or 福島 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Papio

Ship's baboon
# 4201

 - Posted      Profile for Papio   Email Papio   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Is this Very-Lengthy-Post week or something? [Razz]

[ 14. July 2005, 11:08: Message edited by: Papio. ]

--------------------
Infinite Penguins.
My "Readit, Swapit" page
My "LibraryThing" page

Posts: 12176 | From: a zoo in England. | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

 - Posted      Profile for Justinian   Email Justinian   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Non-teleological natural selection does not see into the future. In particular, it cannot work on the class of partially complete biological structures that remain totally non-functional until every last piece is in position. It must wait until the structure is complete and then select on the basis of the new function.

This is the essence of the irreducible complexity argument. If you don’t accept ‘irreducible complexity’ as a concept, then Dembski’s argument will naturally not be convincing.

The argument for ID isn't convincing not because the concept of "irreducible complexity" is unacceptable, but because no single example of irreducible complexity has been demonstrated. Natural selection does not see into the future, as you agree, and so can't select for features that have no current benefit but may have a future benefit (as opposed to artifical selection, where an intelligent breeder can select for currently non-beneficial features knowing that they will be useful in future breeds - though I've no idea if that's actually done, it's possible in principle). The problem for irreducible complexity is finding features that have been selected for that are "completely non functional".
Tonsils? The Appendix? Ostrich Wings? Oh wait, those are vestigial...

The problem here is that were the ID hypothesis to be true, vestigial organs would not remain - unless you choose the extra hypothesis whereby vestigial organs will be used again...

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Sleepyhead said:
If you agree with Davison, post some links or suggest a book I'm likely to find, and I'll look into it - nothing really obvious on google that I see. I have no problem tempering my language some if that is what you prefer, but if so I would hope you avoid calling me a 'fool'. The sex line was really just a joke: I forgot the ' [Smile] '

Here is a link to Davison’s own webpage. He has published in peer-reviewed journals and also posts regularly on various Internet forums, including ARN (as nosivad) and ISCID. His personality is, as they say, ‘distinctive’.

He welcomes informed comment on his scientific ideas, but I emphasis the word “informed”. Many have attempted to refute his ideas with little or no knowledge of his published views. The resulting blood-bath has not been pretty. I was not calling you a fool, but if you don’t do your homework, he surely will.


quote:
Sleepyhead said:
I was not talking about genetic algorithms at all, but I can discuss them if you wish. The point of genetic algorithms is this: we have this idea that complicated designs can arise through chance mutation and natural selection. Well, we need to test that assertion that complicated designs can arise in that manner. The easiest way to directly test the idea is to model it in a computer - and the fact of the matter is that these models have resulted in new and novel designs not thought of by the creators of the systems. The best known examples are probably a strangely-shaped antenna and a "bone-like" space truss.

Yeah, you might not be impressed by these results. Computers are still pretty weak, after all, so it's hard to get anything really complicated out of them. The point is this: some guys had this hypothesis that complicated designs could be arived at by chance mutation, so they tested it, and it worked! This is a real, tangible accomplishment that the ID people haven't touched - if their ideas about the creation of complex designs are valid, then why haven't they created a toy model on the computer to test out the basic ideas?

Last summer there was much previous discussion on this thread about genetic algorithms, but I don’t want to repeat it all. Start on page 11 of this thread and work onwards for several pages to see my views, particularly in respect to a certain electronics experiment that used a genetic algorithm. Genetic algorithms are a neat mathematical technique that demonstrates the importance of intelligence, purpose and design for them to work properly.

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
Anyway, when I was talking about mathematical models I was primarily talking about cladistics, those two previous paragraphs. Here's the idea: the complex design of animals was arrived at by chance mutation, until distinct populations no longer reproduce with each other. Since these mutations tend to produce differences in characteristics of the animals, we should get a pretty clean family-tree structure if we group them by similar characteristics.

Cladistics incorporates these ideas into a mathematical model, which can be used to propose the best family tree from all the data of animal characteristics. In addition, it also includes a built-in check that lets us see how well the data is actually incorporated in the tree-structure: for the tree of life this is astonishingly good. Surely as someone who takes an interest in these matters you've read talkorigin's 29 Evidences for Macroevolution which discusses this more plainly than I could.

Cladistics is not an area of palaeontology that I am competent to discuss in detail. I am aware that it has in the past been a controversial subject in scientific circles. I do not deny the facts of palaeontology, but their interpretation is clearly a specialist field wide open to debate and discussion.

I have certainly studied much of the information at Talk.Origins. In general, it has too much of a polemical flavour for me to trust that they are dealing strictly with science. Much of the time they are doing battle with young earth creationists, which is not my position.

A lot of their information is good, but much of what they present is questionable, and some is completely wrong. Their discussion on genetic algorithms was excellent in giving me information about the details and history of this mathematical technique, but extremely poor at justifying why it tells me anything at all about the biological world.

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
What's most interesting is that because of its nature, I strongly suspect that just about any class of human-designed objects will fit very poorly into clades. No sarcastic comments please, but I am interested in the history of board games, and almost every book on the subject will tell you that, despite their best attempts, classifying games into such a tree-like structure is impossible, since nearly every combination of characteristics has been tried, and found relatively successful in some combination. And this seems to be true of human design in most areas I can think of. So, one could argue that since the only uncontroversially consciously designed objects we know about - those created by human individuals - fail to map into the cladistics paradigm, that the tree of life is in fact strong evidence against conscious design of animal life.

That’s an interesting line of argument that I have not heard before. Apart from board games, what other areas of human design activity have you measured it against?

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
Now compare those successful models against Dembski's "No free lunch" model. IIRC, the paper that I read basically presented something much like the first chapter of an introductory book on information theory. I certainly have nothing against information theory, since it is applicable in those fields in which it is used.

However, the entire paper seemed to ignore the fact that in the natural world, information is just like entropy - the equations and concepts here are identical, and in general physicists and information theorists borrow language and ideas from the other constantly. The fact that entropy never decreases is identical to the fact that information never increases - that's all very clear. But he does not seem to recognize that the relevant pool of information consists of the entire universe - relative increases of information on Earth is paltry compared to the inevitable march of entropy across the universe. So the assertion that "there's no free lunch", when applied to the only object that we know is entropically closed, the universe, simply boils down to the fact that the initial entropy of the universe was astonishingly low! This is something everyone agrees on, and by no means does it say anything as to whether mutation can be the force behind evolution!

To assert that, for instance, the genetic code can only decrease in information, is to assert that information cannot flow in from the environment. But this is exactly what evolution states: that information does come from the environment in the form of natural selection.

<snip>


I don’t deny that natural selection can cause some changes to the genetic code. The key questions are what kind of changes can natural selection cause, and how rapidly can it do so, and what other mechanisms are operating to modify the genetic code. It is clearly scientific to ask these questions rather than to assume in advance the answers.

If you have the mathematical ability, then I encourage to read up in detail on Remine’s work in information theory, population genetics and (particularly) Haldane’s Dilemma. This dilemma is about the rate at which the genetic code can be modified. His webpage is here. He has struggled to find competent critics of his work.

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
Of course I have done both - and again, if you want me to be civil, don't imply that I know nothing about scientific issues. And yes, perhaps I should have stated explicitly that I do believe these men of ID are cranks.

If you want to call the ID world “cranks”, I suggest you start a thread in Hell and let rip. This kind of language is out of order on this thread, unless you can demonstrate that the ID world really do have some severe mental health problems and have lost touch with reality. But be careful, the hosts don’t like people dishing out medical advice. [Smile]

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
I think that's pretty much the context I was thinking in - to me it honestly seems that you are using these names to deflect criticism of your ideas. You stated somewhere that you wished that people would address the scientific issues you raised. This post of yours was the closest I found to that, which is why I responded, since I thought maybe you were not getting a fair hearing. Perhaps there is something more explicit, but I was not seeing where you wrote what exactly, positively, you believed. I apologize if I missed it - I have read all this thread, but perhaps lost the post where you explain.

So all I know about your beliefs is that you think something is wrong with evolution, and to back this up you seem to be invoking a lot of names in the ID crowd. However, I can't tell what ideas of theirs, if any, you agree with.

Well, the validity of their beliefs, whether or no, may be quite a different matter than the validity of your beliefs.

Since these are public figures, a full discussion of these people's beliefs is probably not necessary on these boards. The only reason to discuss their beliefs is if you actually agree with any of them, because, hey, you do post and read here.

So, please do me the favor of explaining to me, what exactly constitute your scientific beliefs about origins. Then maybe we can have more constructive discussion, since we will be talking about your and my beliefs, instead of Behe's and Dembski's.

And again, I'm sorry if you've explained what exactly you think and I've missed it. My beliefs are pretty scientifically orthodox so it's probably obvious what I believe. All I know about yours is that you think I'm wrong! So what is the extent of our disagreement?

I think it’s important to remember that the title of this thread is “The Death of Darwinsm”, and not “The Destruction of All Kinds of Evolution and a Triumphant Return to Genesis Literalism”. I am not arguing against the current scientific consensus on the age of the earth (4.6 billion years). I accept that that ‘natural selection’ is operating in the biological world, and that some form of biological evolution has very probably taken place, at least in some circumstances.

However, I am presently agnostic on the issue of universal common descent, and very definitely of the opinion that a random mutation/natural selection mechanism (plus some genetic drift) does not and cannot account for all the structures actually found in the biological world. In that sense I am strongly anti-Darwinian, as the title of this thread suggests.

I am mathematically and scientifically literate with an interest in logic and philosophy. I am not proposing any new theories of my own, but I am interested in discussing those proposed by others with more specialist knowledge than I have. Since I am ill and permanently off work, I have had a lot of time to study up on this subject.

The ID world has succeeded in comprehensively stirring the pot and shaking a complacent Darwinian establishment. Even if ID ideas are fully refuted in the course of time, the intense debate that is presently taking place can only be good for the long-term health of science.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

 - Posted      Profile for Justinian   Email Justinian   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Last summer there was much previous discussion on this thread about genetic algorithms, but I don’t want to repeat it all. Start on page 11 of this thread and work onwards for several pages to see my views, particularly in respect to a certain electronics experiment that used a genetic algorithm. Genetic algorithms are a neat mathematical technique that demonstrates the importance of intelligence, purpose and design for them to work properly.

No they do not. They require a scale of success or failure for them to work properly. This can be done by intelligence and purpose or it can be done by simple natural selection with those that are not fitted to the conditions of the world simply failing to breed. Criteria for success are necessary, but this doesn't mean that some intellegent individual needs to be measuring them.

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:
... This can be done by intelligence and purpose or it can be done by simple natural selection with those that are not fitted to the conditions of the world simply failing to breed. Criteria for success are necessary, but this doesn't mean that some intellegent individual needs to be measuring them.

An interesting thought experiment for anyone who feels that genetic/evolutionary algorithms do not accurately reflect mainstream evolutionary theory is to consider how one might design a computer model that does. In other words, how would one produce a model of mutation and natural selection that demonstrates the flaws in the idea by following all the rules but fails to produce the expected results.

It would be a very positive thing to do. Has anyone done it? Or is there some philosophical reason why evolution alone among scientific ideas cannot be so modelled?

R

(look, ma, a short post!)

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Sleepyhead
Shipmate
# 3862

 - Posted      Profile for Sleepyhead     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

However, I am presently agnostic on the issue of universal common descent, and very definitely of the opinion that a random mutation/natural selection mechanism (plus some genetic drift) does not and cannot account for all the structures actually found in the biological world. In that sense I am strongly anti-Darwinian, as the title of this thread suggests.

I am mathematically and scientifically literate with an interest in logic and philosophy. I am not proposing any new theories of my own, but I am interested in discussing those proposed by others with more specialist knowledge than I have. Since I am ill and permanently off work, I have had a lot of time to study up on this subject.

Very well. As I understand it, you have a very strong belief that random mutation cannot produce the level of biological diversity that we see, which is why you are interested in ID concepts to explain that diversity. Yet, your doubt of random mutation is not itself based on the ID authors that you've read. If that is the case, could you explain what is your strong basis for this doubt?

Since you seem interested in the cladistics "anti-design" argument, I will see if I can find any sources which directly deal with this, or do my homework and run some calculations myself. This is something I've been thinking of doing for some time, anyway, and I suspect it will be more productive for me than studying alot of ID. Of course, if I must research and code, this could take quite awhile!

--------------------
If I blame them for anything
it's nothing more than I blame on myself

Posts: 116 | From: American Midwest | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Dembski?s argument [...] Non-teleological natural selection does not see into the future. In particular, it cannot work on the class of partially complete biological structures that remain totally non-functional until every last piece is in position. It must wait until the structure is complete and then select on the basis of the new function.

That's the very thing that is not demonstrated. There just seems to be handwaving.

quote:

This is the essence of the irreducible complexity argument. If you don?t accept ?irreducible complexity? as a concept, then Dembski?s argument will naturally not be convincing.

Obvioulsy such a thing can be imagined. But they haven't gone anywhere near showing that they commonly exist in life.

quote:
For more background on this topic, see the extended discussion by biochemist ?Mike Gene? at TeleoLogic here.

I saw that before. Still doesn't answer the questions.

quote:

So, as far as I can see, the ?same time? in question is the time when the gene begins to contain enough information for the new structure to become complete and functional during the creature?s life, and thus available to the operation of natural selection.

Well, yes - but that is from the very origin of life.

Except I suppose in those cases where non-functional copies of genes mutate to a new function.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

The ID world has succeeded in comprehensively stirring the pot and shaking a complacent Darwinian establishment.

No it hasn't. They are almost invisible. They are far less well-knoiwn than YECCies. I hear zero discussion about it in scientific circles - only in Christian ones, such as this.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Cladistics is not an area of palaeontology that I am competent to discuss in detail. I am aware that it has in the past been a controversial subject in scientific circles. I do not deny the facts of palaeontology, but their interpretation is clearly a specialist field wide open to debate and discussion.

Cladistics isn't really about palaeontology but about taxonomy and systematics. Which is important to palaeontology but most cladistics is done on living organisms.

Its not really cotnroversial as such, in fact if anything it has completely taken over from other approaches to taxonomy. But like a lot of other ideas there are some people who push it too far.

There are 3 or 4 "layers" of it:

- a general approach to taxonomy which prefers to limit systematic names to "clades", (i.e. "branches" of the tree) instead of "grades" (twigs of the the tree that resemble each other) and tries to find family trees by examining living organisms. The fundamental point of it is that we can only observe the tips of the twigs of a family tree. Fossils are NOT the ancestors of living organisms (or at any rate we can't prove they are) they are just other branches of the tree. So if we want to construct a model of an unobservable ancestral organism (or gene, or protein, or anything else) the ONLY way we can do it is by comparing the organisms we can observe & assuming that things they have in common are more likely to have been present in their common ancestor. This is the way good systematists used to work anyway - cladistics summarises and formularises what was always best practice.

- a set of jargon terms invented by the German entomologist Willi Hennig who was trying to import some philosophical rigour into what he saw as a field dominated by fluffiness and imprecision. For example, Hennig defines species as "the largest set of semaphoronts interconnected by tokogenetic relationships". Honest, that is a good definition - but you have to have the Willi Hennig Mental Injection before you know what it means.

- a family of statistical methods for doing taxonomy, based on Hennig's work, and usually contrasted with other methods built round cluster analysis (sometimes called "phenetics" & popularised by Sokal and Sneath). Both kinds of methods have mutated and evolved and now have a life separate from that their creators envisaged, as they are packaged in software and used by thousands of people to analyse the information from genome projects & all sorts of research, including medical tests. Maybe hundreds of thousands - some of whom probably don't really understand what they are doing. Yes, when your doctor sends your blood sample off for a test, it is quite possible it will be analysed by a computer program written by a hippy mathematician from Wisconsin based on some ideas a very strange man in Hamburg had for drawing up family trees of wasps.

- a general philosophy of classification and description. Which when taken to extremes has been hedl to do away with the possibility of ever ingfering anything about evolution at all.

If you ever get the opportunity to read a book by Henry Gee called Deep Time do so. Or look at his website. Its not my fault that he looks a lot like me.

NB - my arguments about ecclesiology with Ley Druid and others on other threads are because deep down inside I think I am a cladist, which is a good Protestant system of classification and quite different from nasty essentialist Catholic systems [Biased] That's not a joke incidentally. T a pre-Darwinian biologist, a species was defined by its essential nature. To post-Darwinian biologists, species are defined by their relationships to each other.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
J. J. Ramsey
Shipmate
# 1174

 - Posted      Profile for J. J. Ramsey   Author's homepage   Email J. J. Ramsey   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Fossils are NOT the ancestors of living organisms (or at any rate we can't prove they are) they are just other branches of the tree.

[Confused] ken, could you explain this, because I was under the impression that if the creatures that became fossilized had managed to reproduce, they could very well be ancestors of living organisms.

--------------------
I am a rationalist. Unfortunately, this doesn't actually make me rational.

Posts: 1490 | From: Tallmadge, OH | Registered: Aug 2001  |  IP: Logged
Karl: Liberal Backslider
Shipmate
# 76

 - Posted      Profile for Karl: Liberal Backslider   Author's homepage   Email Karl: Liberal Backslider   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by J. J. Ramsey:
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Fossils are NOT the ancestors of living organisms (or at any rate we can't prove they are) they are just other branches of the tree.

[Confused] ken, could you explain this, because I was under the impression that if the creatures that became fossilized had managed to reproduce, they could very well be ancestors of living organisms.
Could be, but in all likelihood aren't. For one thing, we don't know a given fossilised organism had reproduced. For another, most species go extinct. Speciation is believed to mostly happen to small isolated populations, so it's actually quite unlikely that any given fossil comes from such a population, or was the ancestor of one.

It's a bit like digging up an Anglo-Saxon grave. It's possible that the guy we find in there was the ancestor of white Zimbabweans today, and certainly he's representative of the ancestors of such people at that time, but it's highly unlikely that this particular individual is.

--------------------
Might as well ask the bloody cat.

Posts: 17938 | From: Chesterfield | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by J. J. Ramsey:
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Fossils are NOT the ancestors of living organisms (or at any rate we can't prove they are) they are just other branches of the tree.

[Confused] ken, could you explain this, because I was under the impression that if the creatures that became fossilized had managed to reproduce, they could very well be ancestors of living organisms.
Of course. But how do we know?

Say I've got a leaf print from a Cretaceous fern. Most ferns die without ever producing a baby fern. The chance that that individual plant is the ancestor of any plant now living is so small as to be not worth bothering with.

OK, so we spread it out to species - I say my fern fossil is an Osmunda of some sort from the Antarctic. I could speculate that the species it is a member of is in fact a real ancestor of one or more of the current species of Osmunda.

But I can't know this. There could have been many other species of Osmunda alive at the time, and maybe another one was the ancestor of all the current species.

Also - from the point of view of Hennig who was a star pedant of negative magnitude - all I have on my table is the fossil. The actual specimen. All I have out in the garden is one specimen of a living plant. Any work I do to establish the family tree needs to be done on those individuals, not on the species I believe them to be members of. An assignment to species is one of the results I'm looking for, not part of my data.

So what the true-believing cladist does is to collect lots of specimens, alive or dead, and assume that none of the specimens are ancestral to any others, and make trees connecting them all to a putative common ancestor of all the specimens. And that the common ancestor is a hypothesis, not an observation. It is statistical, derived from many observations, and different methods or different workers will construct different ancestors.

Or, more controversially, every few months someone says they have dug up a fossil ancestor of modern humans from somewhere in Africa.

But have they? Have they found an ancestral species? Or perhaps a sister or a cousin or an aunt species? How can we ever tell?

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Papio

Ship's baboon
# 4201

 - Posted      Profile for Papio   Email Papio   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
(look, ma, a short post!)

Have a sweetie.
[Biased]

--------------------
Infinite Penguins.
My "Readit, Swapit" page
My "LibraryThing" page

Posts: 12176 | From: a zoo in England. | Registered: Mar 2003  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Sleepyhead said:
Very well. As I understand it, you have a very strong belief that random mutation cannot produce the level of biological diversity that we see, which is why you are interested in ID concepts to explain that diversity. Yet, your doubt of random mutation is not itself based on the ID authors that you've read. If that is the case, could you explain what is your strong basis for this doubt?

It is my understanding that strict Darwinism sees evolution as driven by a combination of random mutations and natural selection in an unguided and undirected process that is non-teleological. That is to say, it is a process that has no goal or purpose in mind, but rambles aimlessly and accidentally through genetic code space with natural selection (and some genetic drift) doing the rest and ensuring that all the various ecological niches are filled as environmental pressure permits.

I have doubted this for many years, but it is only in recent times that I have begun to look at it more closely and study it in a more scientific fashion. Reading Richard Dawkin’s book ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ was very revealing, as was Neil Broom’s reply ‘How Blind is the Watchmaker?’

In particular, Neil Broom’s reply introduced me to the concept of ‘information’ that transcends a simple materialist explanation. A printer’s interest in a book might be to examine the paper quality, the ink chemistry, and the printing technology, but I buy a book to read it. That is information.

With Dawkins’ famous “Methinks it is like a weasel” model of cumulative selection, he uses a teleological process (i.e. one that clearly knows where it is going) to illustrate a supposedly non-teleological process. To be fair, he later recognises this, but then retreats into his normal bombast and rhetoric without any significant substantiation of his position.

The final clincher for me was the extensive study of genetic algorithms that I undertook last year. In my opinion these algorithms produce impressive results because they are the product of a teleological environment, made up of the researcher’s mind, the operating system of the computer, and the design of the software programming.

There is absolutely nothing random or accidental about the way these algorithms wander through the relevant search space – that is all programmed in. By having the search goal specified in advance, these algorithms are being given access to information that strict Darwinism eschews. With all these helping hands it is not surprising that they work.

To be honest, I was really astonished to see that some Darwinists were citing these algorithms as support for their position. In my opinion they provide evidence in completely the opposite direction. I had already developed a lot of sympathy for ID ideas before I undertook to look at genetic algorithms, but once I had done so, ID ideas made even more sense to me than before.

The only way that there may be some reconciliation between Darwinist ideas about natural selection and the evidence from genetic algorithms is if there are some hitherto unknown teleological properties of the environment. In other words, that environmental pressure is somehow aware of where it wants the evolutionary process to go and ensures that the genome is manipulated accordingly. Despite the scientific evidence for it, that idea is deeply anathema to some people and consequently has been resisted tooth and nail.

quote:
Sleepyhead said:
Since you seem interested in the cladistics "anti-design" argument, I will see if I can find any sources which directly deal with this, or do my homework and run some calculations myself. This is something I've been thinking of doing for some time, anyway, and I suspect it will be more productive for me than studying a lot of ID. Of course, if I must research and code, this could take quite awhile!

I am certainly interested in hearing more about the cladistics “anti-design” argument. Anything you can come up with would be appreciated.

For the study of ID ideas, if you have the mathematical ability, I encourage you to read Dembski’s full weight academic work The Design Inference and the series of papers he has published at his own website on the Mathematical Foundations of Intelligent Design. These writings are aimed at the heavyweight mathematical specialist and were mostly over my head.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
An interesting thought experiment for anyone who feels that genetic/evolutionary algorithms do not accurately reflect mainstream evolutionary theory is to consider how one might design a computer model that does. In other words, how would one produce a model of mutation and natural selection that demonstrates the flaws in the idea by following all the rules but fails to produce the expected results.

It would be a very positive thing to do. Has anyone done it? Or is there some philosophical reason why evolution alone among scientific ideas cannot be so modelled?

Rex Monday, you are asking the right kind of questions. Richard Dawkins asks something similar in ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ after he coyly admits that his cumulative selection model actually incorporates something to which he is deeply opposed. Others have also asked the same question.

I think the huge problem is how one designs a piece of evolutionary software to produce results (an inherently teleological process) to demonstrate that a non-teleological form of evolution can produce results. To my mind it is akin to the riddle of Epimedes the Cretan who said, “All Cretans are liars”. In other words, a logical and philosophical self-contradiction.

You may wish to look into the AVIDA software that was featured in Nature Journal. It has also been extensively discussed at both the ARN and ISCID forums. AVIDA is much more sophisticated than a normal genetic algorithm, but does it get round the non-teleological barrier? Does it simply incorporate into its programming the conclusions that some have already reached by other means? I certainly think so.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

 - Posted      Profile for Justinian   Email Justinian   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
It is my understanding that strict Darwinism sees evolution as driven by a combination of random mutations and natural selection in an unguided and undirected process that is non-teleological. That is to say, it is a process that has no goal or purpose in mind, but rambles aimlessly and accidentally through genetic code space with natural selection (and some genetic drift) doing the rest and ensuring that all the various ecological niches are filled as environmental pressure permits.

I'm afraid that that says more about your understanding of Darwinism than it does about Darwinism itself. The "goal" of any organism is to pass on its genes and to help its species prosper. Either that, or to become immortal (which is more than slightly impractical). The reason this is the goal is that organisms which do not do this tend to die out.

quote:
With Dawkins’ famous “Methinks it is like a weasel” model of cumulative selection, he uses a teleological process (i.e. one that clearly knows where it is going) to illustrate a supposedly non-teleological process. To be fair, he later recognises this, but then retreats into his normal bombast and rhetoric without any significant substantiation of his position.
The Weasel model is a bad one. Fair enough. I'm not arguing. (More accurately, it is targetted extremely low, and is about as effective an analogy as describing the sun as a big ball of fire).

quote:
By having the search goal specified in advance, these algorithms are being given access to information that strict Darwinism eschews.
The search goal in question is the ability to successfuly survive and reproduce. That is all.

quote:
To be honest, I was really astonished to see that some Darwinists were citing these algorithms as support for their position. In my opinion they provide evidence in completely the opposite direction. I had already developed a lot of sympathy for ID ideas before I undertook to look at genetic algorithms, but once I had done so, ID ideas made even more sense to me than before.
When I cited them, it was against your assertion along the lines that evolution wouldn't come up with a solution that a designer wouldn't have found. And for that they provide a good counterexample. They do not debunk the concept of intelligent design (or anything like), but are a good counterargument to a lot of YEC arguments (and a few ID ones, as there).

quote:
The only way that there may be some reconciliation between Darwinist ideas about natural selection and the evidence from genetic algorithms is if there are some hitherto unknown teleological properties of the environment.
If you want to call "has on average at least one child that survives to reproduce per adult member of the species" as teological, so be it.

If you don't, then that is a non-teological process that provides a discernable criterion for success (if the average reproduction rate drops below this level long term, then the species is going to die out).

quote:
In other words, that environmental pressure is somehow aware of where it wants the evolutionary process to go and ensures that the genome is manipulated accordingly.
Or just kills off species that don't reproduce fast enough.

quote:
Despite the scientific evidence for it, that idea is deeply anathema to some people and consequently has been resisted tooth and nail.
The idea that there needs to be intelligence to implement the above condition for success is NOT NECESSARY.

A species (or even an organism) that reproduces at or above the replacement rate in the long term is a success. One that does not is a failure. The search space is defined by the real world (which is affected by all hte organisms living in it).

Now tell me what the above requires some guiding intelligence for.

A genetic algorithm simply takes the above and replaces the "reproduce at or above the replacement rate" with some condition specified by a designer (that will then reproduce the successes) and limits the search space. Same thing as done by any animal breeder.

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
What "evidence from genetic algorithms"?

Genetic algorithms are about people using mutation & artificial selection to solve softeware problems. They dervice from biology, not the other way round.

You sound as if you are both confusing them with the quite different practice of using software to model genetics. Not the smae thing at all.

--------------------
Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
Cladistics isn't really about palaeontology but about taxonomy and systematics. Which is important to palaeontology but most cladistics is done on living organisms.

Its not really controversial as such, in fact if anything it has completely taken over from other approaches to taxonomy. But like a lot of other ideas there are some people who push it too far.

Thank you for this clarification. From memory I think the controversy to which I was referring was about ‘transformed cladistics’.

quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:
I'm afraid that that says more about your understanding of Darwinism than it does about Darwinism itself. The "goal" of any organism is to pass on its genes and to help its species prosper. Either that, or to become immortal (which is more than slightly impractical). The reason this is the goal is that organisms which do not do this tend to die out.

If my understanding of Darwinism is substantially incorrect, then I need more than blanket assertions. Where is it incorrect? Can you support this with scientific arguments?

Your comment about genes has a Dawkins flavour to it and is deeply metaphysical. What is the scientific basis for this form of gene-centred metaphysics? Genes are a form of biochemical information database and are incapable in themselves of having any goals or sense of purpose. From where does any organism get the ‘goal to pass on its genes’ and ‘help its species prosper’?

quote:
The search goal in question is the ability to successfully survive and reproduce. That is all.
No, you’re confusing issues of individual survival with issues of evolution. The gene must be manipulated in the right manner for the evolutionary process to continue. That process must form new structures and achieve new functions. It must be inherently creative.

quote:
When I cited them, it was against your assertion along the lines that evolution wouldn't come up with a solution that a designer wouldn't have found. And for that they provide a good counterexample. They do not debunk the concept of intelligent design (or anything like), but are a good counterargument to a lot of YEC arguments (and a few ID ones, as there).
I think you’re drawing a false dichotomy between what a human designer might find and what a genetic algorithm might find. Since computers can do calculation so much faster than humans, they have made possible numerical calculation methods that previously remained as theoretical curiosities. The genetic algorithm is a human-constructed tool that enables a more effective and efficient search.

When you use the phrase “evolution would come up with a solution”, you are anthropomorphizing a process that in strict Darwinism has no mind or intelligence associated with it. This kind of loose language has a long history on the part of Darwinian apologists, starting of course with Darwin himself.

quote:
If you want to call "has on average at least one child that survives to reproduce per adult member of the species" as teological, so be it.

If you don't, then that is a non-teological process that provides a discernable criterion for success (if the average reproduction rate drops below this level long term, then the species is going to die out).

I think you’re misunderstanding completely what the word ‘teleological’ means. The fact that you’ve misspelt it twice does not give me confidence. Here is the definition of teleological at dictionary.com.

A good example of a non-teleological process is the erosion of the cliffs under the action of the waves. That is a process governed completely by the laws of physics. It requires no sense of purpose to explain it fully.

A good example of a teleological process is the way your personal thoughts are turned into a post on the Ship that appears on my screen via a beam of electrons. That is a process that cannot be fully explained by the laws of physics. It requires a (human) sense of purpose to explain it fully.

Non-living matter has no sense of purpose and consequently no will to survive, in complete contrast to living matter. The will to survive is an empirically observable fact, but Darwinism has no explanation for where that will to survive came from in the first place, even though it plays an essential part in the theory.

quote:
Or just kills off species that don't reproduce fast enough.
No one denies that ‘natural selection’ kills of individuals. The key question is what kind of genetic creative power it has in conjunction with random mutation, in the absence of any natural teleology.

quote:
The idea that there needs to be intelligence to implement the above condition for success is NOT NECESSARY.

A species (or even an organism) that reproduces at or above the replacement rate in the long term is a success. One that does not is a failure. The search space is defined by the real world (which is affected by all the organisms living in it).

Now tell me what the above requires some guiding intelligence for.

A genetic algorithm simply takes the above and replaces the "reproduce at or above the replacement rate" with some condition specified by a designer (that will then reproduce the successes) and limits the search space. Same thing as done by any animal breeder.

I think you have misunderstood the term ‘search space’. The word ‘space’ is not being used here with a physical referent. I was using it in a technical mathematical sense to refer to all possible configurations of a gene (and that’s a lot of configurations).

Some of these configurations will correspond to some form of viable life (with or without a selectable advantage), but the vast majority will simply be so much biochemical rubbish. The genetic code is specified and precise; it is not infinitely manipulable, any more than the letters in a piece of literature are if it is to remain intelligible.

Animal and plant breeders use human intelligence. Have they yet produced any novel anatomical structures or functions that are viable in the natural world? A generously-producing milk-cow is still a cow, and winter wheat is still wheat. I doubt that an unintelligent process can do any better.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

 - Posted      Profile for Alan Cresswell   Email Alan Cresswell   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
Your comment about genes has a Dawkins flavour to it and is deeply metaphysical. What is the scientific basis for this form of gene-centred metaphysics? Genes are a form of biochemical information database and are incapable in themselves of having any goals or sense of purpose. From where does any organism get the ‘goal to pass on its genes’ and ‘help its species prosper’?

I'm not sure why you think genes need a goal - even Dawkins at his most metaphysical seems to recognise the limitations of his "selfish genes" description. It is a simple fact that populations of organisms that reproduce at a rate equal to or greater than the rate they die will persist in the ecosystem; those that fail to meet that reproduction rate will eventually disappear from the ecosystem. There's no conscious "goal" required, which doesn't of course mean that some organisms don't possess such an instinct to reproduce.

quote:
A good example of a non-teleological process is the erosion of the cliffs under the action of the waves. That is a process governed completely by the laws of physics. It requires no sense of purpose to explain it fully.
What sense of purpose is needed to fully explain the observation I made above about reproduction? Where does it deviate from being governed completely by the laws of physics (albeit physics encapsulated in chemistry, biology and other branches of scientific research).

quote:
No one denies that ‘natural selection’ kills of individuals. The key question is what kind of genetic creative power it has in conjunction with random mutation, in the absence of any natural teleology.
The evidence clearly points to the answer "an awful lot of creative power". In the absence of teleology, genetic mutation will occur in a random manner (there are all sorts of probability functions that predict certain mutations are more likely than others - just as in nuclear fission some products are more likely than others, and no one disputes the randomness of nuclear fission because of that). No one here seems to dispute that. In the absence of teleology, many of those mutations will result in novel genetic combinations. In the absence of teleology, some of those novel genetic combinations will result in greater reproductive success and become increasingly common in the descendants of that creature - others will result in reduced reproductive success and become increasingly less common. Thus, by non-teleological processes, novel genetic combinations are created. Looks like a form of "creative power" to me, all non-teleological.

quote:
Animal and plant breeders use human intelligence. Have they yet produced any novel anatomical structures or functions that are viable in the natural world?
Well, given that we've only been in the artificial selection game for a few millenia you might have to wait a while until we catch up with a billion years or so of natural selection. Besides, it begs the point of what constitutes "novel anatomical structures or functions". Would visiting aliens, ignorant of the artifical breeding that created them, consider all the breeds of dog to be the same species?

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Posts: 32413 | From: East Kilbride (Scotland) or 福島 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:

quote:
Rex Monday said:
An interesting thought experiment for anyone who feels that genetic/evolutionary algorithms do not accurately reflect mainstream evolutionary theory is to consider how one might design a computer model that does. In other words, how would one produce a model of mutation and natural selection that demonstrates the flaws in the idea by following all the rules but fails to produce the expected results.

It would be a very positive thing to do. Has anyone done it? Or is there some philosophical reason why evolution alone among scientific ideas cannot be so modelled?

Rex Monday, you are asking the right kind of questions. Richard Dawkins asks something similar in ‘The Blind Watchmaker’ after he coyly admits that his cumulative selection model actually incorporates something to which he is deeply opposed. Others have also asked the same question.

I think the huge problem is how one designs a piece of evolutionary software to produce results (an inherently teleological process) to demonstrate that a non-teleological form of evolution can produce results.


I wouldn't call the act of designing a computer program 'teleological' - plain design is fine - but even if you want to say that, there is no problem in modelling non-intelligent systems in a designed system. If the weather, why not evolution? Is a weather simulator any more or less 'teleological' than an evolution simulator? Is a simulated weather pattern somehow imbued with teleological attributes? If not, why would a simulated evolutionary pattern need to be?
quote:
To my mind it is akin to the riddle of Epimedes the Cretan who said, “All Cretans are liars”. In other words, a logical and philosophical self-contradiction.


Sorry, I don't see the relevance.
quote:
You may wish to look into the AVIDA software that was featured in Nature Journal. It has also been extensively discussed at both the ARN and ISCID forums. AVIDA is much more sophisticated than a normal genetic algorithm, but does it get round the non-teleological barrier? Does it simply incorporate into its programming the conclusions that some have already reached by other means? I certainly think so.

Neil

(You haven't answered the original question. I'll get back to that later)

I brought up Avida some time ago.

So why can't evolution be modelled? Nobody seems to have a 'huge problem' in building these models, and they certainly seem to work. Where is the logical flaw? Your philosophical flaw only exists if you assume that evolution = design and design = an intelligently guided process, which is just restating your objections.

What Avida (and others like it) do is model evolutionary theory - that's the limit of the intelligent input to the design process. The random element which modifies the 'life' inside Avida is outside any sort of predetermined path, and the survival of the modified 'life' is an entirely mechanistic process.

Neither randomness nor mechanistic filtering requires an intelligent input. In fact, the state of computer art is such that there is no way to imbue a computer with intelligence: once you start the run, it's a machine. Whatever is going on in the computer is a randomly-driven mechanistic process and that is all. It cannot be anything else.

Let's put it another way. I assume that you don't disagree with the Avida designers when they say that they have implemented standard evolutionary ideas in their software. I also assume you don't disagree with their reported results, with systems created that embody novel functions in unexpected ways and some of the resultant constructs being remarkably complex (certainly meeting the ID tests for CSI or whatever). They evolve new functions, often co-opting old functions in new ways, and end up as working entities that are vastly different to anything a human would have designed.

These are matters of fact, checkable by simple inspection.

So where does the creation of complexity come from, given that a current computer by its very nature cannot exhibit intelligence no matter how creatively we program it?

Now, what would happen if the Avida creatures used as the starting point were made steadily more like biological creatures before each run? Would you expect them to somehow stop following the hard-wired evolutionary rules of the mechanical simulator at some point - and which point would that be? As the quality of Avida approached an accurate simulation of real life - this is a thought experiment, so don't worry about practicalities - at what point would the evolutionary model break down?

Anyway. That's by the by. My original question wasn't about that - it was about how the non-Darwinian models could be tested, or how the evolutionary model could be shown to be wrong through computer simulation.

By your arguments, it should be simple to do this and impossible to do what Avida does - yet the reverse appears to be true.

How would someone build an Avida for the non-Darwinians? It would be a very positive thing to do.

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Sorry for posting more, but a thought just struck me. The Cretan Liar paradox is only a problem [b]if you assume that Avida produces correct results derived from invalid premises[b]. That would indeed be paradoxical.

Paradoxes are always the result of incorrect assumptions. The assumptions of the Cretan Liar paradox are beyond me (I can hack it if I think very, very hard) but it is a far simpler task to resolve the Avida paradox! Just assume it does what it says it does.

R

[ 15. July 2005, 18:57: Message edited by: Rex Monday ]

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Rex Monday:
Sorry for posting more, but a thought just struck me. The Cretan Liar paradox is only a problem if you assume that Avida produces correct results derived from invalid premises. That would indeed be paradoxical.

Paradoxes are always the result of incorrect assumptions. The assumptions of the Cretan Liar paradox are beyond me (I can hack it if I think very, very hard) but it is a far simpler task to resolve the Avida paradox! Just assume it does what it says it does.

R

I'll respond to your other points in due course, but just to explain the Cretan liar riddle, which I think is also is called Epimedes' paradox. Note that I missed out an essential 'always' in my earlier post - apologies for any incovenience caused.

quote:
Epimedes the Cretan says, "All Cretans are always liars".
.
Given that Epimedes is a Cretan, and that he speaks about all Cretans, could his statement "All Cretans are always liars" ever be true?

If his statement is true, then he must be lying, since he is a Cretan and all Cretans are always liars. So his statement cannot be true.

But on the other hand, if his statement is false, then not all Cretans are always liars. So he may be telling the truth and his statement could be true.

So we have a statement that cannot be true and yet could be true.

Epimedes' Paradox is part of the class of self-referential statements that are logical absurdities and consequently have no meaning. They bear some relation to circular arguments in which the argument adopts as an essential premise that which it seeks to prove true.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, I was actually thinking about how it relates to Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, which I've always found one of the most fascinating, obvious yet elusive aspects of logic. I can, if I read up about it and do a lot of beard-scratching, give all the appearances of understanding what it's about, but I really don't know what it means about the limits of deductive logic. Except that it clearly does mean a great deal.

I blame an early exposure to "Godel, Escher and Bach". I got bored with Escher, will never be at ease with Godel - and I can't even pronounce Entscheidungsproblem - but will give thanks to whichever deity (apparently Protestant) had a hand in Bach.

Perhaps that's why I hang out on Dead Horses (*). Variations on a theme can sometimes be profoundly beautiful in ways that the theme itself can never reach.

R

(*) Nah.

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

 - Posted      Profile for Justinian   Email Justinian   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
quote:
Originally posted by Justinian:
I'm afraid that that says more about your understanding of Darwinism than it does about Darwinism itself. The "goal" of any organism is to pass on its genes and to help its species prosper. Either that, or to become immortal (which is more than slightly impractical). The reason this is the goal is that organisms which do not do this tend to die out.

If my understanding of Darwinism is substantially incorrect, then I need more than blanket assertions. Where is it incorrect? Can you support this with scientific arguments?
Although evolution has no goal, stick floating down a river have no goal. This doesn't mean that ones that get caught and stuck on the bank aren't ones that cease floating doen the river- and ones that wterlog and sink fail to float down a river as well.

quote:
Your comment about genes has a Dawkins flavour to it and is deeply metaphysical. What is the scientific basis for this form of gene-centred metaphysics?
How is it metaphysical? Species that reproduce at or above replacement rate will survive. Thise that don't won't. This is closer to arithmetic than metaphysics.

quote:
Genes are a form of biochemical information database and are incapable in themselves of having any goals or sense of purpose. From where does any organism get the ‘goal to pass on its genes’ and ‘help its species prosper’?
Those that don't do this get wiped out. It's as simple as that.

quote:
quote:
The search goal in question is the ability to successfully survive and reproduce. That is all.
No, you’re confusing issues of individual survival with issues of evolution. The gene must be manipulated in the right manner for the evolutionary process to continue. That process must form new structures and achieve new functions. It must be inherently creative.
What do you mean "Inherently creative"? There are lots of patterns in the digits of pi or the mandelbrot set - but I'd hardly describe these as inherently creative.

quote:
I think you’re drawing a false dichotomy between what a human designer might find and what a genetic algorithm might find. Since computers can do calculation so much faster than humans, they have made possible numerical calculation methods that previously remained as theoretical curiosities. The genetic algorithm is a human-constructed tool that enables a more effective and efficient search.
And the example I cited was not done by computer.

quote:
When you use the phrase “evolution would come up with a solution”, you are anthropomorphizing a process that in strict Darwinism has no mind or intelligence associated with it. This kind of loose language has a long history on the part of Darwinian apologists, starting of course with Darwin himself.
OK. If I really need to spell it out, "Random mutation would have lead to a large number of options, of which the ones that worked"...

My statement was a paraphrase of your position, not mine.

quote:
I think you’re misunderstanding completely what the word ‘teleological’ means. The fact that you’ve misspelt it twice does not give me confidence. Here is the definition of teleological at dictionary.com.
I'm dyslexic. Sue me.

quote:
A good example of a non-teleological process is the erosion of the cliffs under the action of the waves. That is a process governed completely by the laws of physics. It requires no sense of purpose to explain it fully.
And yet I've seen cliffs, rocks and stones that have such fascinating and complex patterns that a designer could be inferred if I was inclined to think that way. See snowflakes for another example.

quote:
Non-living matter has no sense of purpose and consequently no will to survive, in complete contrast to living matter.
And algorithms have no will to survive either.

quote:
The will to survive is an empirically observable fact, but Darwinism has no explanation for where that will to survive came from in the first place,
Yes it does. Those that didn't show the wide range of traits you have lumped together under the heading "will to survive" didn't do as well as those that did. Or are you now telling me that a plant has a will - plants certainly try to stay alive.

quote:
quote:
Or just kills off species that don't reproduce fast enough.
No one denies that ‘natural selection’ kills of individuals. The key question is what kind of genetic creative power it has in conjunction with random mutation, in the absence of any natural teleology.
I suggest you look at

quote:
I think you have misunderstood the term ‘search space’. The word ‘space’ is not being used here with a physical referent. I was using it in a technical mathematical sense to refer to all possible configurations of a gene (and that’s a lot of configurations).
And you still aren't thinking broadly enough. As far as we can tell, different species use different encodings to their DNA - and one of the areas humans save on is a need to regulate the homeostasis of a developing foetus- the mother does that using her standard algorithms. (And I am a trained mathematician).

quote:
Some of these configurations will correspond to some form of viable life (with or without a selectable advantage), but the vast majority will simply be so much biochemical rubbish. The genetic code is specified and precise; it is not infinitely manipulable, any more than the letters in a piece of literature are if it is to remain intelligible.
That doesn't prevent attempts to manipulate it at random from taking place. It just means that stillbirths and non-viable foetuses are comparatively common.

quote:
Animal and plant breeders use human intelligence. Have they yet produced any novel anatomical structures or functions that are viable in the natural world? A generously-producing milk-cow is still a cow, and winter wheat is still wheat. I doubt that an unintelligent process can do any better.
What do you mean by an intelligent process? Also, what do you mean by a novel anatomical structure? Standard evolutionary theory would say that there almost aren't any - simply new uses for old structures which slowly change shape to better perform their new role. At no specific point can the species be considered new, even tho it bears little resemblance to what you started with.

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by ken:
What "evidence from genetic algorithms"?

Genetic algorithms are about people using mutation & artificial selection to solve software problems. They derive from biology, not the other way round.

You sound as if you are both confusing them with the quite different practice of using software to model genetics. Not the same thing at all.

The genetic algorithms being discussed here are a numerical technique for solving a certain class of scientific and engineering problems. They are not to be confused with the specialist biochemical software used by geneticists and others.

Their development was inspired by evolutionary biology and their success at scientific problem solving has been cited by some as evidence for the correctness of Darwinism. I think the cart is being put before the horse here.

quote:
Alan Cresswell said:
The evidence clearly points to the answer "an awful lot of creative power". In the absence of teleology, genetic mutation will occur in a random manner (there are all sorts of probability functions that predict certain mutations are more likely than others - just as in nuclear fission some products are more likely than others, and no one disputes the randomness of nuclear fission because of that). No one here seems to dispute that. In the absence of teleology, many of those mutations will result in novel genetic combinations. In the absence of teleology, some of those novel genetic combinations will result in greater reproductive success and become increasingly common in the descendants of that creature - others will result in reduced reproductive success and become increasingly less common. Thus, by non-teleological processes, novel genetic combinations are created. Looks like a form of "creative power" to me, all non-teleological.

This is where the argument looks hopelessly circular to my eyes. The evidence points to "an awful lot of creative power" because of an a priori assertion that a non-teleological Darwinian process can be so creative.

Genetic mutations certainly occur, but the more fundamental question is what kind of genetic manipulation is necessary in order for the evolutionary process to move forward. Can a random mutation provide the appropriate raw material for natural selection to build new structures and new functions that previously did not exist?

In other words, can they provide for qualitative change (e.g. new functions or new limbs or new organs) as well as quantitative (enhanced features or bigger limbs or more-efficient organs)? I think Darwinism completely begs the question at this point with circular arguments and an unsubstantiated appeal to gradualism.

So, the only way I can see a process of random mutation being so creative is if the mutation is of such a calibre that the offspring are very different from the parents, in a far-reaching qualitative manner - e.g. the parents were totally sightless, but now the offspring have complete eyes with all the anatomical, biochemical and neurological apparatus necessary to sustain vision.

For this to happen, the random genetic mutation must be of a very particular character given the very precise constraints on the genetic code. It must also fortuitously coincide with a particular ‘opening’ in the environment for it to be selected. I am not credulous enough to accept that such creativity happens by itself.

quote:
Justinian said:
There are lots of patterns in the digits of pi or the Mandelbrot set - but I'd hardly describe these as inherently creative.

Introduction to the Mandlebrot set. I see lots of pretty shapes with recurring patterns. These shapes are the serendipitous results of an algorithmic process specified in advance.

Pi is a transcendent number with an infinite number of decimal places. The decimal places of pi display no patterns at all; rather they are completely random. In the days before calculators and random number generators, the decimal places of pi were used as a simple random number generator. If you see a pattern here, then you are doing better than any other mathematician to date.

quote:
Justinian said:
And the example I cited was not done by computer.

If this is a reference to the electronics experiment that we discussed last year, then you are not factually correct. The chip configuration was controlled by the computer under a genetic algorithm.

quote:
Justinian said:
And yet I've seen cliffs, rocks and stones that have such fascinating and complex patterns that a designer could be inferred if I was inclined to think that way. See snowflakes for another example.

This reply indicates that there is a fundamental difference in the way we think about this issue. When I see natural rock formations that bear any resemblance to these sculptures, I will have more belief in the creative powers of natural processes.

The patterns visible in cliff rockfalls and snowflakes are of a different order (qualitatively and quantitatively) from the genetic code patterns needed for viable life. The whole concept of genetic information is relevant here. That is why Dembski has attempted to provide the mathematical tools to decide between the simple patterns of unintelligent processes and the complex patterns that display evidence of teleology and intelligence.

quote:
Justinian said:
What do you mean "Inherently creative"?

<snip>

What do you mean by an intelligent process? Also, what do you mean by a novel anatomical structure? Standard evolutionary theory would say that there almost aren't any - simply new uses for old structures which slowly change shape to better perform their new role. At no specific point can the species be considered new, even tho it bears little resemblance to what you started with.

By “inherently creative”, I mean displaying the ability to further the evolutionary process by taking one type of cell/organ/system/body-plan/whatever and producing another qualitatively different type of cell/organ/system/body-plan/whatever.

If all life began as single celled amoeba-like creatures, and has ended up with what we see today, then there has obviously been some huge evolutionary innovation en route. At some point there must have been new ways to process oxygen; new ways to eat and excrete; new ways to move, walk, swim and fly; new ways to reproduce (sexual organs); and so on. That is what I mean by “novel anatomical structures and functions”.

I am using the word “creative” in the way I would use it of a creative human process, involving problem-definition, problem-solving, and solution-implementation transcending anything that random trial-and-error can achieve. That’s what I mean by an “intelligent process”. It is not explainable by a simple recourse to the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
I wouldn't call the act of designing a computer program 'teleological' - plain design is fine - but even if you want to say that, there is no problem in modelling non-intelligent systems in a designed system. If the weather, why not evolution? Is a weather simulator any more or less 'teleological' than an evolution simulator? Is a simulated weather pattern somehow imbued with teleological attributes? If not, why would a simulated evolutionary pattern need to be?

I think that the process of design inherent in any software development is by nature teleological, manifesting a clear sense of human purpose towards a specific goal. The software would not even exist at all without human involvement and specification. A computer model is only doing calculations to order. Whatever results the software produces are therefore a product of human purpose.

Computers can produce all sorts of fictional results - see digital technology in films. However, a serious computer model incorporating the scientific understanding of, say, weather is only as good as the prior scientific understanding (and may be much worse due to a necessarily simplified model, poor programming and faulty data).

If there are any deficiencies in the scientific understanding of weather, then the results from even the best model will invariably reflect those deficiencies. To ensure that those calculations reflect physical reality, the model must reflect physical reality as accurately as it can.

If the prior understanding of physical reality is not correct, then a computer model will not say so directly, but it will still run. The inadequacy of the model will only become clear when its results are back-checked against physical reality. “Garbage in equals garbage out”.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
So why can't evolution be modelled? Nobody seems to have a 'huge problem' in building these models, and they certainly seem to work. Where is the logical flaw? Your philosophical flaw only exists if you assume that evolution = design and design = an intelligently guided process, which is just restating your objections.

The flaw is that a fully functional model can produce wholly incorrect results if its programming does not reflect physical reality. Just because the program appears to work does not mean that physical reality has been properly modelled.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
What Avida (and others like it) do is model evolutionary theory - that's the limit of the intelligent input to the design process. The random element which modifies the 'life' inside Avida is outside any sort of predetermined path, and the survival of the modified 'life' is an entirely mechanistic process.

Neither randomness nor mechanistic filtering requires an intelligent input. In fact, the state of computer art is such that there is no way to imbue a computer with intelligence: once you start the run, it's a machine. Whatever is going on in the computer is a randomly-driven mechanistic process and that is all. It cannot be anything else.

I believe that AVIDA has something like three million lines of code. In my opinion that provides the program with a huge amount of up-front intelligence. There is also all the information resident in the operating system of the computer, without which the program would not run and the digital creatures (in reality, strings of assembly code) would not exist.

In that respect I don’t think AVIDA represents a meaningful model of Darwinian evolution or biological reality at all. The scope of the permitted evolutionary variation within each digital creature is laid down in advance by the programming. Digital creatures with more sophisticated functions are rewarded with more energy, so it is no surprise that more sophisticated functions develop.

That is how the programming works, but the truth of the underlying physical reality must be determined on other grounds. A working computer simulation that embodies certain starting assumptions cannot be cited as evidence for the truth of those assumptions. That is a circular argument.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Let's put it another way. I assume that you don't disagree with the Avida designers when they say that they have implemented standard evolutionary ideas in their software. I also assume you don't disagree with their reported results, with systems created that embody novel functions in unexpected ways and some of the resultant constructs being remarkably complex (certainly meeting the ID tests for CSI or whatever). They evolve new functions, often co-opting old functions in new ways, and end up as working entities that are vastly different to anything a human would have designed.

These are matters of fact, checkable by simple inspection.

So where does the creation of complexity come from, given that a current computer by its very nature cannot exhibit intelligence no matter how creatively we program it?

I think the AVIDA software is interesting from a programming point of view, but in my opinion it has some overwhelming flaws as a model of Darwinian evolution. Some of the AVIDA results are no doubt novel, unexpected and interesting, but their interpretation has been widely overstated.

I don’t think the concepts of complex specified information (CSI) and irreducible complexity (IC) are relevant in this case because the computer cannot do anything that it has not been programmed to do. Whatever structures the digital creatures evolve in the course of a run are a function of the programming and initial data.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Now, what would happen if the Avida creatures used as the starting point were made steadily more like biological creatures before each run? Would you expect them to somehow stop following the hard-wired evolutionary rules of the mechanical simulator at some point - and which point would that be? As the quality of Avida approached an accurate simulation of real life - this is a thought experiment, so don't worry about practicalities - at what point would the evolutionary model break down?

I really don’t understand this point. Under present technology a computer cannot break free of the constraints of the software programming and the operating system. When it does I usually call that a crash [Smile] . I suspect that you have substantially overestimated what constitutes the AVIDA digital creatures.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Anyway. That's by the by. My original question wasn't about that - it was about how the non-Darwinian models could be tested, or how the evolutionary model could be shown to be wrong through computer simulation.

By your arguments, it should be simple to do this and impossible to do what Avida does - yet the reverse appears to be true.

How would someone build an Avida for the non-Darwinians? It would be a very positive thing to do.

The truth or otherwise of any evolutionary paradigm has to be determined on grounds other than a computer simulation. For example, Davison has proposed a programme of bench research to examine the truth of his own proposals in the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis.

The underlying physical reality of true natural history must first be determined and described by an adequate theory. Once that happens, an accurate model of the true physical processes may make empirical predictions that, once verified by observation, will help to substantiate the underlying theory even further.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
For those uncertain about or opposed to the concept of irreducible complexity (IC), this essay at ISCID is worth reading. It explains common misconceptions about IC, as well as summarising and discussing the arguments that have been brought against the concept.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Sleepyhead
Shipmate
# 3862

 - Posted      Profile for Sleepyhead     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
I believe that AVIDA has something like three million lines of code. In my opinion that provides the program with a huge amount of up-front intelligence. There is also all the information resident in the operating system of the computer, without which the program would not run and the digital creatures (in reality, strings of assembly code) would not exist.

The software exists to implement an algorithm. Presumably it has so many lines of code to implement this algorithm properly, in a way that is user-friendly. If you have written complex software before, then you are aware that the majority of code deals primarily with such boring issues as reading/writing data files and interacting with the user. Only a small proportion of code (and really none of the OS) typically underlies the algorithm itself. Are you ascribing intelligence to this algorithm?

Actually, I am very confused by this entire section. Perhaps it would help me if you can explain why the following (non-random) mutation of your words does not produce an homologous argument:

I believe that [the Earth] has something like [3.5x10^51][nuclear particles]. In my opinion that provides the [planet] with a huge amount of up-front intelligence. There is also all the information resident in the [physical laws] of the [universe], without which the [planet] would not run and the [physical] creatures (in reality, [collections of physical particles]) would not exist.

In that respect I don’t think [the Earth] represents a meaningful model of Darwinian evolution or biological reality at all. The scope of the permitted evolutionary variation within each [physical] creature is laid down in advance by the [physics]. [Physical] creatures with more sophisticated functions are rewarded with more [offspring], so it is no surprise that more sophisticated [species] develop.


--------------------
If I blame them for anything
it's nothing more than I blame on myself

Posts: 116 | From: American Midwest | Registered: Dec 2002  |  IP: Logged
Justinian
Shipmate
# 5357

 - Posted      Profile for Justinian   Email Justinian   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
This is where the argument looks hopelessly circular to my eyes. The evidence points to "an awful lot of creative power" because of an a priori assertion that a non-teleological Darwinian process can be so creative.

I believe that the assertion is on your side that it can not be so creative. The Darwinian argument here is along the lines of the infinite number of monkeys.

quote:
Genetic mutations certainly occur, but the more fundamental question is what kind of genetic manipulation is necessary in order for the evolutionary process to move forward. Can a random mutation provide the appropriate raw material for natural selection to build new structures and new functions that previously did not exist?
Find me the point where a new structure can be said to exist...

quote:
In other words, can they provide for qualitative change (e.g. new functions or new limbs or new organs) as well as quantitative (enhanced features or bigger limbs or more-efficient organs)? I think Darwinism completely begs the question at this point with circular arguments and an unsubstantiated appeal to gradualism.
New functions can trivially be shown to happen- see the giraffe's neck for one example. Also look at the vast variety of domestic dogs.

quote:
So, the only way I can see a process of random mutation being so creative is if the mutation is of such a calibre that the offspring are very different from the parents, in a far-reaching qualitative manner - e.g. the parents were totally sightless, but now the offspring have complete eyes with all the anatomical, biochemical and neurological apparatus necessary to sustain vision.
Why??? Absolutely no one else here sees any need or desire for that to happen at all.

quote:
For this to happen, the random genetic mutation must be of a very particular character given the very precise constraints on the genetic code. It must also fortuitously coincide with a particular ‘opening’ in the environment for it to be selected. I am not credulous enough to accept that such creativity happens by itself.
Nor is anyone else. No one else thinks it happens that way at all.

quote:
quote:
Justinian said:
There are lots of patterns in the digits of pi or the Mandelbrot set - but I'd hardly describe these as inherently creative.

Introduction to the Mandlebrot set. I see lots of pretty shapes with recurring patterns. These shapes are the serendipitous results of an algorithmic process specified in advance.

Pi is a transcendent number with an infinite number of decimal places. The decimal places of pi display no patterns at all; rather they are completely random. In the days before calculators and random number generators, the decimal places of pi were used as a simple random number generator. If you see a pattern here, then you are doing better than any other mathematician to date.

There are lots of patterns in the digits of Pi - but they are short range and an artifact of Pi being a pseudorandom number.

quote:
quote:
Justinian said:
And the example I cited was not done by computer.

If this is a reference to the electronics experiment that we discussed last year, then you are not factually correct. The chip configuration was controlled by the computer under a genetic algorithm.
Mea culpa. It was not working on code rather than not using computers.

quote:
I am using the word “creative” in the way I would use it of a creative human process, involving problem-definition, problem-solving, and solution-implementation transcending anything that random trial-and-error can achieve. That’s what I mean by an “intelligent process”. It is not explainable by a simple recourse to the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry.
And I would say that given sufficiently large resources (the proverbial "infinite number of monkeys"), there is no solution that will not eventually be found by trial and error.

--------------------
My real name consists of just four letters, but in billions of combinations.

Eudaimonaic Laughter - my blog.

Posts: 3926 | From: The Sea Coast of Bohemia | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
Rex Monday

None but a blockhead
# 2569

 - Posted      Profile for Rex Monday   Email Rex Monday   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
Faithful Sheepdog said:
quote:

I think the AVIDA software is interesting from a programming point of view, but in my opinion it has some overwhelming flaws as a model of Darwinian evolution.

Ah, good. We're getting somewhere. What are these flaws? Are they implementation or design flaws?

quote:

Digital creatures with more sophisticated functions are rewarded with more energy, so it is no surprise that more sophisticated functions develop.

You've just described evolution! I thought you didn't believe that worked?
quote:
A working computer simulation that embodies certain starting assumptions cannot be cited as evidence for the truth of those assumptions. That is a circular argument.
Er, wot? That's not a circular argument, that's testing a theory! For example, lots of current cosmology is almost entirely simulator-tested: the hunt for dark matter relies on best guesses that are fed into a model of what we think the very early universe looked like, the simulator run and the results compared with what we now see. I think they'll be very upset when you tell them they can't do that!

I'm usually very reluctant to tell someone in a debate that they couldn't actually have meant what they said, but in this case... did you really mean that?

quote:
Under present technology a computer cannot break free of the constraints of the software programming and the operating system. When it does I usually call that a crash [Smile] . I suspect that you have substantially overestimated what constitutes the AVIDA digital creatures.
I fear you misunderstood or didn't see the bit immediately before, where I said this was a "thought experiment, so don't worry about the practicalities". Let's try it a different way. Assuming that as technology gets better, evolutionary modelling can get closer and closer to matching the actual details of real biological and environmental systems. At what point will the apparently successful model break down? What are the limits to the standard evolutionary model that you can see but evolutionary biologists cannot?

quote:
The truth or otherwise of any evolutionary paradigm has to be determined on grounds other than a computer simulation.
Well, yes. There's usually a lot more involved. But simulations are very handy along the way. I'm not aware of any branch of science that doesn't use them in some way, and Avida is entirely in keeping with standard practice.

So, assuming that non-Darwinian people are working towards a theory - what sort of simulation might help them? I cannot begin to imagine how this might work... and the complete absence of any such simulation only confirms me in my suspicion that there is no such theory and non-Darwinian objections to evolutionary biology are not science.

However, I'm very eager to find out how I might be mistaken in this, by hearing some thoughts about how such a simulation could be approached.

R

--------------------
I am largely against organised religion, which is why I am so fond of the C of E.

Posts: 514 | From: Gin Lane | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Faithful Sheepdog
Shipmate
# 2305

 - Posted      Profile for Faithful Sheepdog   Email Faithful Sheepdog   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Sleepyhead said:
The software exists to implement an algorithm. Presumably it has so many lines of code to implement this algorithm properly, in a way that is user-friendly. If you have written complex software before, then you are aware that the majority of code deals primarily with such boring issues as reading/writing data files and interacting with the user. Only a small proportion of code (and really none of the OS) typically underlies the algorithm itself. Are you ascribing intelligence to this algorithm?

No, not at all. The physical operation of a computer running a piece of software is is an unintelligent process and governed solely by the laws of physics, but it is an unintelligent process only explainable as the product of a priori intelligent process.

The AVIDA algorithm has no doubt been programmed with great sophistication. The functioning of the software (as well as the computer’s operating system) is therefore fully determined by human intelligence. Until computers spontaneously start generating their own software, I will find it difficult to see AVIDA (and its results) in any light other than a human artefact.

I know that computer crashes can corrupt files, but has anyone ever seen this as a creative process, even occasionally? In my experience it usually means a software reinstallation as the air turns blue, and not the celebration of some wonderful new feature in the software. [Smile]

quote:
Sleephhead said:
Actually, I am very confused by this entire section. Perhaps it would help me if you can explain why the following (non-random) mutation of your words does not produce an homologous argument:

I believe that [the Earth] has something like [3.5x10^51][nuclear particles]. In my opinion that provides the [planet] with a huge amount of up-front intelligence. There is also all the information resident in the [physical laws] of the [universe], without which the [planet] would not run and the [physical] creatures (in reality, [collections of physical particles]) would not exist.

In that respect I don’t think [the Earth] represents a meaningful model of Darwinian evolution or biological reality at all. The scope of the permitted evolutionary variation within each [physical] creature is laid down in advance by the [physics]. [Physical] creatures with more sophisticated functions are rewarded with more [offspring], so it is no surprise that more sophisticated [species] develop.

The fundamental difference is that an AVIDA digital creature only exists within inside a human-created computer. We know for certain that they are the result of an intelligent process decided by human will. The programming of AVIDA no doubt took great skill and a lot of debugging, but it didn’t just happen – it was the product of human agency.

By contrast, the universe and the earth certainly exist, but to my knowledge no serious scientist has ever suggested that they exist as digital creations in the equivalent of a gigantic computer core. That sounds like an idea from the film The Matrix [Smile] . We do however assume that the universe will be at least partially intelligible to us through scientific endeavours.

AVIDA has all sorts of documentation to explain how it was programmed and how it works, but we had no such prior scientific information about the universe and the earth (unless one is a YEC, of course – I’m not). As humans it is up to us to find that scientific information for ourselves.

I think your homologous argument also breaks down on the subject of information. 3.5 x 10^51 nuclear particles do not necessarily provide any information, any more than 3.5 x 10^51 letters provide information. In literature the key question is whether the letters are arranged in a way that corresponds with the laws of language, otherwise the result is meaningless garbage.

In the same way, the layout of the code in a computer program has to be precisely right, or the program won’t even compile. It also has to be closely debugged to ensure that it is doing what the programmer requires it to do. The word specification is relevant here.

I particularly recommend some further study on Dembski’s concept of specification, which plays a key part in his ideas. This heavyweight paper takes his ideas further and now gives specification a rigorous mathematical definition, as opposed to his earlier qualitative definitions.

quote:
Justinian said:
I believe that the assertion is on your side that it can not be so creative. The Darwinian argument here is along the lines of the infinite number of monkeys.

Gradualism is an essential part of Darwinian theory, even in its Punctuated Equilibrium variation. The burden of proof is definitely in the Darwinian court at this point. Even Darwin recognised this point, but did not rise to it, when he wrote:

quote:
“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
The age of the earth is it is finite, and not infinite. But even if it had an infinite amount of time, that does not render possible an intrinsic impossibility.

quote:
Justinian said:
New functions can trivially be shown to happen- see the giraffe's neck for one example. Also look at the vast variety of domestic dogs.

The giraffe’s neck and dog breeds are not examples of qualitative change – it’s still a neck, and they are still dogs. It is the more far-reaching qualitative change that remains to be demonstrated.

quote:
Justinian said:
Why??? Absolutely no one else here sees any need or desire for that to happen at all.

Nor is anyone else. No one else thinks it happens that way at all.

The falsification of gradualism is a consequence of the irreducible complexity argument (assuming that one accepts it – I know you don’t). The idea that qualitative evolutionary progress has been by leaps and bounds is called saltation and has been around for a long time. It is also an essential part of Davison’s contemporary hypothesis. This form of thinking has also been described as “hopeful monsters”.

quote:
Justinian said:
There are lots of patterns in the digits of Pi - but they are short range and an artifact of Pi being a pseudorandom number.

I think we differ in what we mean by arithmetical “patterns”. I am thinking of something that could reduce the infinite digits of pi to a formula that is much shorter than a long lists of digits. I believe that the mathematical term for this is ‘compressibility’.

I am told that flipping an unbiased coin several hundred times will often generate strings of six or seven heads in a row (or tails in a row) – a result that is far from intuitive, but true nonetheless. As far as the overall result goes, I would not call that a pattern, but it may be what you are referring to as a “short range pattern”.

What do you mean by a “pseudorandom number”?

quote:
Justinian said:
And I would say that given sufficiently large resources (the proverbial "infinite number of monkeys"), there is no solution that will not eventually be found by trial and error.

The probabilistic resources of the universe are finite, not infinite. Dembski’s work on the universal probability bound has attempted to quantify these resources.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Ah, good. We're getting somewhere. What are these flaws? Are they implementation or design flaws?

See some of my response above to Sleepyhead. I think it’s also worth repeating what the AVIDA people say about their own program (from here).:

quote:
Avida is an auto-adaptive genetic system designed primarily for use as a platform in Digital or Artificial Life research. In lay terms, Avida is a digital world in which simple computer programs mutate and evolve.

Avida allows us to study questions and perform experiments in evolutionary dynamics and theoretical biology that are intractable in real biological system.

The AVIDA people have been quite clear on the Internet that their program does not attempt to capture all essential aspects of biological reality, but is a research platform incorporating a much simplified model in order to facilitate study of certain aspects of evolutionary theory as it applies to artificial life.

From the Lenski et al. paper in Nature:

quote:
“We examined the issue using digital organisms – computer programs that self-replicate, mutate, compete and evolve.”

“These findings show how complex functions can originate by random mutation and natural selection.”

So, AVIDA does not model any biological processes directly, but then it did not set out to do that. The model certainly works and the digital life-forms show evolutionary progress in performing more complex functions. There’s no argument from me on these basic facts – the flaws lie elsewhere.

To my mind the success of the program is simply an artefact of human design and the product of programming skill. The programming rewards each step of the way as the digital creatures evolve towards the most complex function. When the rewards for these intermediate stages were stopped, the program consistently failed to evolve the most complex function.

Lots more short critiques of AVIDA here and longer critiques discussing its relevance to the irreducible complexity argument here and here.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
You've just described evolution! I thought you didn't believe that worked?

There’s no argument from me that variation (whether random or non-random) followed by natural selection can generate some evolutionary change, such as the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. The key question is whether this mechanism alone can explain the present diversity and complexity of biological life.

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Er, wot? That's not a circular argument, that's testing a theory! For example, lots of current cosmology is almost entirely simulator-tested: the hunt for dark matter relies on best guesses that are fed into a model of what we think the very early universe looked like, the simulator run and the results compared with what we now see. I think they'll be very upset when you tell them they can't do that!

I'm usually very reluctant to tell someone in a debate that they couldn't actually have meant what they said, but in this case... did you really mean that?

I stand by my remarks. I think your response here shows that we have very different perceptions of what any computer model can do to support the validation of a theory.

Firstly, note your use of the phrases “best guesses”, “what we think [it] looked like” and “the results compared with what we now see”. There is no guarantee that the results of any computer model will match “what we now see”. Even in the pre-computer era, the discrepancy between calculated results and (accurate) observed results indicated an inadequate theoretical understanding and/or mistaken calculations.

Guesswork and speculative thought certainly have their place in asking questions, proposing a hypothesis and formulating a research strategy. An accurate computer model of the proposed ideas may indeed help the research strategy – I don’t disagree there at all – but it cannot of itself determine whether those ideas are true or false.

Personally I do not see any way round the philosophical conundrum that any computer model is the product of an intelligent human mind. How could such a model ever then conclusively demonstrate that intelligent life evolved in the absence of an intelligent mind?

I am reminded of another sage aphorism from my personal experience of computer models: “To forgive is divine, to err is human, but to really screw things up you need a computer.” [Smile]

quote:
Rex Monday said:
I fear you misunderstood or didn't see the bit immediately before, where I said this was a "thought experiment, so don't worry about the practicalities". Let's try it a different way. Assuming that as technology gets better, evolutionary modelling can get closer and closer to matching the actual details of real biological and environmental systems. At what point will the apparently successful model break down? What are the limits to the standard evolutionary model that you can see but evolutionary biologists cannot?

Your question reminds me of the holographic life-forms in Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Most were not sentient and self-aware, but as a plot device one or two were given such characteristics. As a result they broke free of their programming constraints (and indeed some physical constraints) and got up to all sorts of fun and mischief as the script required.

The limiting factor in the future is unlikely to be computing technology, but our understanding of all biological processes including evolutionary ones. Any knowledge shortfall is necessarily where any model will fail to produce meaningful results.

If our future understanding of all biological processes reach the levels you suggest, then it is possible that parts of the computer model may become sentient and self-aware, and may even make a break for freedom. Who wants to do calculations all day? [Smile]

quote:
Rex Monday said:
Well, yes. There's usually a lot more involved. But simulations are very handy along the way. I'm not aware of any branch of science that doesn't use them in some way, and Avida is entirely in keeping with standard practice.

So, assuming that non-Darwinian people are working towards a theory - what sort of simulation might help them? I cannot begin to imagine how this might work... and the complete absence of any such simulation only confirms me in my suspicion that there is no such theory and non-Darwinian objections to evolutionary biology are not science.

However, I'm very eager to find out how I might be mistaken in this, by hearing some thoughts about how such a simulation could be approached.

Yes, everyone uses computer simulations these days, but the point I have made about digital fiction needs to be borne in mind. Personally I think that attempting to develop a computer simulation of a non-Darwinian evolutionary process is barking up the wrong tree entirely. Ultimately it will be no more convincing than AVIDA has been.

Davison considers that his Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis is testable and falsifiable by conventional bench experimentation. This work remains to be done due to a lack of research funding and the fact that he is now retired. His ideas presently remain untested.

Neil

--------------------
"Random mutation/natural selection works great in folks’ imaginations, but it’s a bust in the real world." ~ Michael J. Behe

Posts: 1097 | From: Scotland | Registered: Feb 2002  |  IP: Logged
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

 - Posted      Profile for Alan Cresswell   Email Alan Cresswell   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Faithful Sheepdog:
I think your homologous argument also breaks down on the subject of information. 3.5 x 10^51 nuclear particles do not necessarily provide any information, any more than 3.5 x 10^51 letters provide information. In literature the key question is whether the letters are arranged in a way that corresponds with the laws of language, otherwise the result is meaningless garbage.

In the same way, the layout of the code in a computer program has to be precisely right, or the program won’t even compile.

And, the genetic code written in DNA is neither literature nor a computer code. Unlike computer code there's no need for it to be precisely right for it to function; otherwise there would be no mutation at all as a single mutation would cause the program to crash.

Unlike literature, interpretation of the code isn't dependant on outside rules (the "laws of language") to give it meaning. The code simply translates into amino acid sequences in proteins. If you change the code you change the amino acid sequence, and hence the protein. The results of those changes will depend upon their nature and location in the sequence - but, whether or not the protein functions as it did before it'll still code for a protein. (Although, I suspect there are some potential mutations that affect the "this is the end of the gene" codes and result in no protein being produced).

And, even if the literature analogy was apt, if you generate a random sequence of letters and spaces of sufficient length then within that sequence there would be some recognisable English words. A more interesting version of "Dawkins weasel" would be to have a program that generates a long random sequence of letters, and selects those parts that produce recognisable English words and randomises the rest of the letters (including the addition/deletion of letters or sections). How long before large proportions of the sequence are recognisable words? How long before intelligable phrases appear?

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Posts: 32413 | From: East Kilbride (Scotland) or 福島 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged
sharkshooter

Not your average shark
# 1589

 - Posted      Profile for sharkshooter     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
...if you generate a random sequence of letters and spaces of sufficient length then within that sequence there would be some recognisable English words. ...

Only if someone had already defined what were and were not English words.
quote:
A more interesting version of "Dawkins weasel" would be to have a program that generates a long random sequence of letters, and selects those parts that produce recognisable English words and randomises the rest of the letters (including the addition/deletion of letters or sections). How long before large proportions of the sequence are recognisable words? How long before intelligable phrases appear?

There must be an end goal already defined or the experiment is useless.

Now, perhaps I have not followed all the arguments so far (of course I haven't) but could someone explain how, and if, this supports evolution in the absence of a pre-defined goal? How do you know which sequences of random letters (genetic mutations) to keep unless you know you want English or German, for example?

Why keep "yes" but not "oui" or indeed "aserifwe"?

--------------------
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. [Psalm 19:14]

Posts: 7772 | From: Canada; Washington DC; Phoenix; it's complicated | Registered: Oct 2001  |  IP: Logged
ken
Ship's Roundhead
# 2460

 - Posted      Profile for ken     Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
A more interesting version of "Dawkins weasel" would be to have a program that generates a long random sequence of letters, and selects those parts that produce recognisable English words and randomises the rest of the letters (including the addition/deletion of letters or sections). How long before large proportions of the sequence are recognisable words? How long before intelligable phrases appear?

That sounds like fun...
Posts: 39579 | From: London | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged
Alan Cresswell

Mad Scientist 先生
# 31

 - Posted      Profile for Alan Cresswell   Email Alan Cresswell   Send new private message       Edit/delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by sharkshooter:
There must be an end goal already defined or the experiment is useless.

Well, if it's supposed to be an analogy to evolution then defining an end goal makes it useless too. Unless you think evolution has an end goal?

--------------------
Don't cling to a mistake just because you spent a lot of time making it.

Posts: 32413 | From: East Kilbride (Scotland) or 福島 | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged



Pages in this thread: 1  2  3  ...  17  18  19  20  21  22  23  ...  40  41  42 
 
Post new thread  Post a reply Close thread   Feature thread   Move thread   Delete thread Next oldest thread   Next newest thread
 - Printer-friendly view
Go to:

Contact us | Ship of Fools | Privacy statement

© Ship of Fools 2016

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classicTM 6.5.0

 
follow ship of fools on twitter
buy your ship of fools postcards
sip of fools mugs from your favourite nautical website
 
 
  ship of fools