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Salon, on the utter triumph of Darwin — NOT

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An article in Salon caught my eye while looking at other things online:

Saturday, Jan 3, 2015 10:00 AM -0400

God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified

A young MIT professor is finishing Darwin’s task — and threatening to undo everything the wacky right holds dear
Paul Rosenberg

The triumphalistic tone and immediate leap to a socio-cultural and/or aggressive materialistic agenda backed up by denigratory caricatures, published in a seemingly respectable magazine, already speak inadvertent volumes.

But the lead-in to the piece (leaving off some rhetorical points-scoring off the bogeymen Mr Rosenberg particularly targets and evidently views as insane) is where the other shoe, proverbially, drops:

Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

What leaps out to me, is that Mr Rosenberg apparently does not understand that a cosmos whose circumstances, parameters and laws are set up so that life is inevitable in suitable habitats, would be exquisitely fine-tuned. Leading straight to grounding a cosmological design inference. Which, is in fact the answer that Plato made in The Laws, Bk X c. 360 BC, to the ancient materialists. (After, he first paused to expose their utter intellectual-moral bankruptcy in light of radical relativism and amorality: “the highest might is right.”)

Yes, we can go on to highlight that life based on highly informational macromolecules organised in functionality- specific ways, is not reasonably explicable on bare mechanical necessity of natural law and/or random shuffling on a solar system scale or the scope of the observed cosmos. Just for one instance:

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)
Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

Yes, we can also point out that there is no adequate empirical warrant for supposed scenarios for origin of life, whether of genes first or metabolism first schools, even the now common form of appealing to a speculative RNA world. (If you doubt this, kindly provide the Nobel Prize winners who showed this, and their empirical findings.)

This may require a bit of amplification, so here is the exchange between Orgel and Shapiro:

[[Shapiro:] RNA’s building blocks, nucleotides contain a sugar, a phosphate and one of four nitrogen-containing bases as sub-subunits. Thus, each RNA nucleotide contains 9 or 10 carbon atoms, numerous nitrogen and oxygen atoms and the phosphate group, all connected in a precise three-dimensional pattern . . . .  [[S]ome writers have presumed that all of life’s building could be formed with ease in Miller-type experiments and were present in meteorites and other extraterrestrial bodies. This is not the case.A careful examination of the results of the analysis of several meteorites led the scientists who conducted the work to a different conclusion: inanimate nature has a bias toward the formation of molecules made of fewer rather than greater numbers of carbon atoms, and thus shows no partiality in favor of creating the building blocks of our kind of life . . . .To rescue the RNA-first concept from this otherwise lethal defect, its advocates have created a discipline called prebiotic synthesis. They have attempted to show that RNA and its components can be prepared in their laboratories in a sequence of carefully controlled reactions, normally carried out in water at temperatures observed on Earth . . . .Unfortunately, neither chemists nor laboratories were present on the early Earth to produce RNA . . .
[[Orgel:] If complex cycles analogous to metabolic cycles could have operated on the primitive Earth, before the appearance of enzymes or other informational polymers, many of the obstacles to the construction of a plausible scenario for the origin of life would disappear . . . .It must be recognized that assessment of the feasibility of any particular proposed prebiotic cycle must depend on arguments about chemical plausibility, rather than on a decision about logical possibility . . . few would believe that any assembly of minerals on the primitive Earth is likely to have promoted these syntheses in significant yield . . . .  Why should one believe that an ensemble of minerals that are capable of catalyzing each of the many steps of [[for instance] the reverse citric acid cycle was present anywhere on the primitive Earth [[8], or that the cycle mysteriously organized itself topographically on a metal sulfide surface [[6]? . . .  Theories of the origin of life based on metabolic cycles cannot be justified by the inadequacy of competing theories: they must stand on their own . . . .  The prebiotic syntheses that have been investigated experimentally almost always lead to the formation of complex mixtures. Proposed polymer replication schemes are unlikely to succeed except with reasonably pure input monomers. No solution of the origin-of-life problem will be possible until the gap between the two kinds of chemistry is closed. Simplification of product mixtures through the self-organization of organic reaction sequences, whether cyclic or not, would help enormously, as would the discovery of very simple replicating polymers. However, solutions offered by supporters of geneticist or metabolist scenarios that are dependent on “if pigs could fly” hypothetical chemistry are unlikely to help.  [[Emphases added.]

But, a grand elaboration is not necessary at this point.

What we need to address is simple: why is it so obvious that a great many “need” Darwin and extensions to Darwin to be utterly triumphant to the point that those who dare differ on reconstructions of the remote, unobservable past of origins, are to be characterised as ignorant, stupid, insane and/or wicked? (Let’s leave off for the moment the obvious conflation of making design inferences on empirically tested, reliable signs, and “right wing” “Creationism.”)

What is that telling us, in the teeth of a case where plainly Mr Rosenberg failed to consider whether a cosmos that is so fine tuned in its circumstances, parameters and laws, that life will emerge at suitable points and times, might just be pointing us to the handiwork of a designer powerful enough to build a cosmos?

Let’s just pause to hear noted, Nobel-equivalent prize holding astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle, as a spring-board for discussion:

From 1953 onward, Willy Fowler and I have always been intrigued by the remarkable relation of the 7.65 MeV energy level in the nucleus of 12 C to the 7.12 MeV level in 16 O. If you wanted to produce carbon and oxygen in roughly equal quantities by stellar nucleosynthesis, these are the two levels you would have to fix, and your fixing would have to be just where these levels are actually found to be. Another put-up job? . . . I am inclined to think so. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has “monkeyed” with the physics as well as the chemistry and biology, and there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. [F. Hoyle, Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 20 (1982): 16.Cited, Bradley, in “Is There Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God? How the Recent Discoveries Support a Designed Universe”. Emphasis added.]

This seems to have originally appeared as the conclusion to a talk given at Caltech in 1981 or thereabouts. Earlier in the talk, he elaborated on Carbon and the chemistry of life, especially enzymes:

The big problem in biology, as I see it, is  to understand the origin of the information carried by the explicit structures of biomolecules.  The issue isn’t so much the rather crude fact that a protein consists of a chain of amino acids linked together in a certain way, but that the explicit ordering of the amino acids endows the chain with remarkable properties, which other orderings wouldn’t give.  The case of the enzymes is  well known . . . If amino acids were linked at random, there would be a vast number of arrange-ments that would be useless in serving the pur-poses of a living cell.  When you consider that a typical enzyme has a chain of perhaps 200 links and that there are 20 possibilities for each link,it’s easy to see that the number of useless arrangements is enormous, more than the number of atoms in all  the galaxies visible in the largest telescopes. This is for one enzyme, and there are upwards of 2000 of them, mainly serving very different purposes.  So how did the situation get to where we find it to be? This is,  as I see it,  the biological problem – the information problem . . . .

I was constantly plagued by the thought that the number of ways in which even a single enzyme could be wrongly constructed was greater than the number of all the atoms in the universe.  So try  as I would, I couldn’t convince myself that even the whole universe would be sufficient to find life by random processes – by what are called the blind forces of nature . . . .  By far the simplest way to arrive at the correct sequences of amino acids in the enzymes would be by thought, not by random processes . . . .

Now imagine yourself as a superintellect working through possibilities in polymer chemistry. Would you not be astonished that polymers based on the carbon atom turned out in your calculations to have the remarkable properties of the enzymes and other biomolecules? Would you not be bowled over in surprise to find that a living cell was a feasible construct? Would you not say to yourself, in whatever language supercalculating intellects use: Some supercalculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. Of course you would, and if you were a sensible superintellect you would conclude that the carbon atom is a fix.

No wonder, in that same talk, Hoyle also added:

I do not believe that any physicist who examined the evidence could fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce within stars. [“The Universe: Past and Present Reflections.” Engineering and Science, November, 1981. pp. 8–12]

So, now, let us reflect. END

59 Replies to “Salon, on the utter triumph of Darwin — NOT

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    In Salon, on the weekend:

    God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified

    A young MIT professor is finishing Darwin’s task — and threatening to undo everything the wacky right holds dear

    Paul Rosenberg

    I wonder what could have prevailed upon the Editors for them to publish in that tone, and with such a huge hole in the logic? (Not to mention, without adequate observational foundation.)

    What is this telling us about our culture and where it is heading?

    KF

  2. 2
    awstar says:

    What is this telling us about our culture and where it is heading?

    It tells us that the Bible is still the closest thing to a free lunch by reducing search for a search costs, in that it continues to tell us more accurately than anything else what was, what is, and what will be.

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Natalie Wolchover in Quanta Magazine, a year ago (as linked from the cite in the OP):

    Why does life exist?

    Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck. But if a provocative new theory is correct, luck may have little to do with it. Instead, according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

    From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

    “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

    England’s theory is meant to underlie, rather than replace, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection . . .

    In short, get some order and hey presto we should not be surprised that organisation appears.

    That is, there is a blindness here to the information hurdle posed by functionally specific, complex organisation leading to interaction in particular ways dependent on coupling of component parts. Ways that are in very narrow zones in vast configuration spaces. (As in, why shaking up a bag of watch parts reliably will not assemble a watch, and why the formation of crystals will not create FSCO/I rich structures.)

    That needs to be followed up.

    But already, we can see a key difference accurate familiarity with the design inference on FSCO/I makes.

    KF

  4. 4
    Jim Smith says:

    An earlier article on this blog dealt with England in a more direct way:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....fe-exists/

    I just watched this video of his talk. I suggest you do not waste your time on it. I find it hard to believe that people can take this guy seriously.

    The article goes to explain what is wrong with England’s speculations.

  5. 5
    kairosfocus says:

    JS, thanks for the link. Open systems arguments depending on heat flows, do not answer seriously to the origin of organisation and associated information, nor do they even recognise that a cosmos that is set up in a very fine tuned way to inevitably form life, would itself be a strong sign of design. I am also concerned for the issue of the perceptions and tone being openly shown: wacky right, being driven mad and more. Something is deeply wrong in our civilisation when a board of editors somehow fails to see how uncivil, stereotyping, denigratory and frankly bigoted such language is. KF

  6. 6
    kairosfocus says:

    AWS, interesting, if brief point. Do you wish to elaborate? KF

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,”

    I think it helps to recognize the logical failings inherent in statements like this. The operative word here is “acquires.” It assumes that effects can occur without a proportional cause. On the contrary, we have to explain how the matter acquires the life-related attribute. What caused it to happen?

    The Darwinist simply wants to say that “law” did it (while chiding the Theist for saying that “God” did it). The question is, how or why could “law do it?” How can a cause give something to an effect that it doesn’t have to give? How can a law give life to matter if it doesn’t have life to give?

  8. 8
    Box says:

    “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,”

    StephenB #7 makes an excellent argument. To elaborate on it, there is one obvious thing that ‘law’ does not contain and therefore cannot give, namely ‘information’. Other ‘things’ that ‘law’ lacks are ‘organization’ and – closely related – ‘unity’.
    So, it all hinges on “under certain conditions”. Information, organization and unity must be caused by ‘certain conditions’. Whatever young MIT professor England has in mind here, he should consider that only intelligence can create information, only overview can create organization and only unity can create unity.

  9. 9
    liljenborg says:

    “Rocks rolling down a hill” don’t assemble themselves into buildings. They break down from larger objects with form and structure into smaller rocks or even sand and pile up, according to their constitution gradient, in a much less organized, less cohesive structure than they were at the top of the hill. All the added energy of their acceleration down the hill is transferred into shattering what structure they had (in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics).

    If you take a bunch of methane mixed with the elements in the air: oxygen, nitrogen, etc. then add heat to it, you don’t get larger more complex hydrocarbons. You get an explosion where the hydrocarbons are broken down into carbon dioxide and water. There is nothing in chemistry that would lead one to even fantasize that chemicals naturally form in increasingly complex ways to more efficiently use energy, even in an open system.

    Unless, you are a priori dedicated to denying science that points to causes outside of the natural world and are thus forced to create a just-so story to explain natural law defying order within nature.

  10. 10
    awstar says:

    StephenB #7

    The Darwinist simply wants to say that “law” did it (while chiding the Theist for saying that “God” did it). The question is, how or why could “law do it?” How can a cause give something to an effect that it doesn’t have to give? How can a law give life to matter if it doesn’t have life to give?

    Seems to me the materialists are moving very close to the truth while still denying the truth. Just replace “Word” with “law” and remove the word “God” from the scripture below and you there you have their alternative to God. One might say an “anti” God.

    “In the beginning was the law, …. All things were made by the law; and without the law was not any thing made that was made.”

    verses

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

  11. 11
    awstar says:

    KF #6

    It tells us that the Bible is still the closest thing to a free lunch by reducing search for a search costs, in that it continues to tell us more accurately than anything else what was, what is, and what will be.

    AWS, interesting, if brief point. Do you wish to elaborate? KF

    I’m finding Dembski’s “Being in Communion” a hard read, but his explanation of costs for searching for information resonates with my experience as a computer programmer.

    I’ve programmed in numerous languages and frameworks since 1970, and every new framework that comes out that is suppose to make things easier, actually slows an individual down as he tries to learn the new conventions, syntax, strengths and weaknesses. And one doesn’t really know which framework will still be around five or ten years down the road. So everything invested in learning an easier “way” becomes wasted when the rest of world doesn’t go your chosen way. It would have been just as easy, if not more so, to just write all your code from scratch.

    And the same thing happens in learning how to live. So much grief could have been avoided if I was wise enough to stick with the Bible as the sole source of information on how to live, instead of trying to figure it out for myself — all the while trusting in the advice of others who had no business offering/selling advice on how to live because they didn’t really have the right information on what true living meant.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    liljenborg (and, attn Box):

    Welcome to UD, your name seems new.

    I would start even further back; we have a cosmos fine tuned in ways that make the first four elements: H, He, O, C, with N close by.

    That is, on the physics of the cosmos the prime ingredients of life are right at the top, in ways dependent on fine tuning.

    H — stars, He – first step to the rest of periodic table, O — water (and a main ingredient of rocks thus crusts of terrestrial planets, as well as breathing gas . . . ), C — the Swiss army knife connector block element, N — proteins.

    All of that should be a wake-up call.

    (As, Sir Fred Hoyle highlighted.)

    On rocks rolling down hills, you are manifestly right.

    It seems there is a blindness to the significance of coherent, complex functionally specific organisation and associated information that is astonishing.

    KF

  13. 13
    Robert Byers says:

    AMEN. this writer shows his true agenda as having a dog in the fight. its a obvious attempt to not describe some new idea but use it for a attack on God and religion etc.
    first the writer should do a better job of checking facts.
    Darwin did so mean to replace entirely any conclusion that there was evidence in man, biology or thought, to show a god created him.
    Darwin wrote the descent of man to settle man was not made by god or had any claim to a high heritage.
    Darwin was not just about biology at all.
    he was aggressively rejecting christian doctrines.
    It was a bigger attack on christianity then even christian leaders would of accused dArwin back in the day.
    this salon rag is showing they mean to break social contract about not attacking other peoples faiths.
    These people are attacking christian/religion as a dream of destroying it and its influence.
    while holding us to live and let live and don’t push your religion on society.
    We were double crossed long ago.
    the writer backing up this researcher shows the desperation of grasping at straws.
    We can take them. SALON should offer rebuttal or fold up. They are boring .

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    AWS, There seems to be a concerted effort to alienate people from the time-tested wisdom of Scripture. Just yesterday, I had to point out to someone here at UD who apparently imagined that Absolutism was grounded in Scripture, just what Samuel had to say to the people of Israel who wanted a king, on the dangers and likely abuses of kings. Likewise, just now I had to point out to another on how Paul pointed out the folly of thinking “let us do evil that good may come.” As to the point that the in-stamping of the image of God in us, and the resulting moral value and dignity of each of us calls forth mutual respect and neighbour-love, which then is a core premise of moral thought and life, that seems largely lost on many. And, much more; currently I am exercised by Finney’s insight that it is as we grow in purity of heart, mind and life that we are enabled to see and understand the things of God more clearly. That points to not only the blinding power of sin and a rebellious spirit, but to how in our sin we even unconsciously suppress what we know or should know. KF

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    RB, your point is appreciated. I do counsel caution and care in light of concerns long since raised to you. KF

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    SB, effects without proportionate — adequate — cause seems significant. A version of something from nothing, in this case organisation and specific, complex, information rich function for free. KF

  17. 17
    kairosfocus says:

    Box, care to elaborate on adequate cause of organisation and information? KF

  18. 18
    rvb8 says:

    KF at 12; aah the ‘fine tuned’ argument. If the universe is fine tuned by an unspecified designer then certain numbers are essential, these are called Mathematical Constants, and as far as we know are constant anywhere in the universe.

    Pi= 3.145926…, e=2.71818…, Euler-Mascheloni constant, Pythagoras’ Constant the root of 2, de Bruijn-Newman constant, Meisel-Mertens constant, etc etc. My question is why are these numbers so messy? Surely beauty in design is prefigured by proportion and clarity. Pi should be 3.0, as described by the dunderhead writers of the old Testament. ‘e’ should be 2.0.

    You point to the obvious beauty in nature as clear evidence for design, these incredibly messy numbers clearly show that this universe is anything but designed.

    If it was designed then these numbers appear to be unchangeable, that is if the designer was God, then he appears to have had to make Pi the mess it is because the laws of nature cannot tolerate anything else. This begs the question, is God constrained by nature and if so…..? I think you can guess where this leads the designer.

  19. 19
    Me_Think says:

    liljenborg @ 9

    There is nothing in chemistry that would lead one to even fantasize that chemicals naturally form in increasingly complex ways to more efficiently use energy, even in an open system

    Atoms and molecules always combine to lower the energy level. Even within atom,electrons always try to occupy the lowest energy level.

  20. 20
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8: You have prioritised mathematical numbers. Why should real numbers fit with a decimal scheme, reduced to rational values? And why should real numbers not be real-world, e.g. pi is the logical result of our taking the ratio of circumference and diameter of a circle? Where e is the point where area under 1/x between 1 and x goes to 1. As well, we define i as sqrt(-1) opening up vistas in Mathematics. Where, if you want elegance, that seems to be there in spades with the Euler result 0 = 1 + e^i*pi that brings together five pivotal numbers, each of which is very strange in its own way, two of them having very odd-seeming values, which happen to be real and transcendental. And of course, that is notoriously the most beautiful expression in Mathematics. Where, BTW, you will find nowhere that in the above or onward linked is there an appeal to beauty as such, though beauty there is and it does draw attention to the source of such. But, this is tangential; fine tuning of the observed cosmos (as I noted from Hoyle in the OP) is about how the physics of the cosmos, from roots up, sets up finely balanced requisites of C-Chemistry, aqueous medium, protein-based life. That strongly points to design as underlying process, and onwards raises the issue of the knowledge, skill and power behind such a cosmos; even, through a speculative multiverse. KF

    PS: Attitude showing. If you simply recognise that Carpentry has been going on since the Bronze Age you would see that we should expect people to measure sufficiently well for purpose in hand, not least by passing a tape from rim to rim and running one around the inside of the lip. Way back, I did a simple exercise based on the 4″ lip of the “sea” you will see one possible resolution.

  21. 21
    kairosfocus says:

    MT,

    Molecules forming low energy states has little to do with functionally specific, complex interactive organisation and associated information.

    Which is the pivotal matter to be explained.

    I point to:

    ORGEL, 1973:

    . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . . .
    [HT, Mung, fr. p. 190 & 196:] These vague idea can be made more precise by introducing the idea of information. Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure. [–> this is of course equivalent to the string of yes/no questions required to specify the relevant “wiring diagram” for the set of functional states, T, in the much larger space of possible clumped or scattered configurations, W, as Dembski would go on to define in NFL in 2002, also cf here, here and here (with here on self-moved agents as designing causes).] One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the q’s to be answered are Y/N, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions. [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . . . Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content, for they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes. [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189, p. 190, p. 196. Of course, that immediately highlights OOL, where the required self-replicating entity is part of what has to be explained (cf. Paley here), a notorious conundrum for advocates of evolutionary materialism; one, that has led to mutual ruin documented by Shapiro and Orgel between metabolism first and genes first schools of thought, cf here. Behe would go on to point out that irreducibly complex structures are not credibly formed by incremental evolutionary processes and Menuge et al would bring up serious issues for the suggested exaptation alternative, cf. his challenges C1 – 5 in the just linked. Finally, Dembski highlights that CSI comes in deeply isolated islands T in much larger configuration spaces W, for biological systems functional islands. That puts up serious questions for origin of dozens of body plans reasonably requiring some 10 – 100+ mn bases of fresh genetic information to account for cell types, tissues, organs and multiple coherently integrated systems. Wicken’s remarks a few years later as already were cited now take on fuller force in light of the further points from Orgel at pp. 190 and 196 . . . ]

    WICKEN, 1979:

    ‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’ [[“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65. (Emphases and notes added. Nb: “originally” is added to highlight that for self-replicating systems, the blue print can be built-in.)]

    KF

  22. 22
    Box says:

    KF#18,

    In his article “Self-organization, a misnomer” Niwrad concludes that

    matter-energy (ME) + natural laws (NL) => self-organization

    does not work because “the left member lacks a potentiality of organization which don’t come from ME + NL and only an intelligent organizer can provide.”
    I would rather say that the left members lack a ‘self’, a ‘unity’, a ‘whole’. IOW there is simply no self that self-organizes. In holistic terms, I would argue that information and organization are instantiated top-down – from the level of the whole – from a level which can also be termed as ‘overview’.

    When we look at an organism, top-down self-organization is exactly what we see.

  23. 23
    Me_Think says:

    KF @ 21

    Molecules forming low energy states has little to do with functionally specific, complex interactive organisation and associated information.Which is the pivotal matter to be explained.

    I commented on liljenborg comment that ” nothing in chemistry would lead one to even fantasize that chemicals naturally form in increasingly complex ways to more efficiently use energy”
    IMO ,which is in agreement with your opinion -specific to Jeremy – is that England Jeremy is a long way from proving life could originate from non-living things using his thermal bath formula.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    MT, I think the trend of chemistry in a warm pond or the like, is well understood as towards simpler not more elaborately complex compounds, absent rather complex constraints such as we see in the protected environment of the cell and the NC controlled assembly of proteins, etc. KF

  25. 25
    awstar says:

    rvb8 #18

    Pi should be 3.0, as described by the dunderhead writers of the old Testament.

    Since when are folks who round off a number thought of as dunderheads? Have you not ever rounded off a number? In fact, who hasn’t ever EVER rounded off Pi? That fact alone reveals the degree of shallowness in your argument.

  26. 26
    DennisM says:

    Longtime lurker here…

    I wonder if an essential point is missing in the comments posted so far. If I read the article correctly, Mr Rosenberg claims that matter self-organizes for the most efficient dissipation of energy. But isn’t that the opposite of what living things do, i.e., they capture and apply energy to perform useful work, often against the direction of maximum dissipation?

    I’ll appreciate any correction or clarification of this idea, since I’ve already posted about it in Salon’s comments (“DennisM” there, too). If I’m incorrect, I’d like to know sooner rather than later.

    Thanks for any replies.

  27. 27
    Me_Think says:

    DennisM
    This is how England explains it :

    We can show very simply from the formula [of Jarzynski and Crooks] that the more likely evolutionary outcomes are going to be the ones that absorbed and dissipated more energy from the environment’s external drives on the way to getting there,” . The finding makes intuitive sense: Particles tend to dissipate more energy when they resonate with a driving force, or move in the direction it is pushing them, and they are more likely to move in that direction than any other at any given moment.

    “This means clumps of atoms surrounded by a bath at some temperature, like the atmosphere or the ocean, should tend over time to arrange themselves to resonate better and better with the sources of mechanical, electromagnetic or chemical work in their environments,”

    IMO, that’s not going to create life. We are a long way from solving OOL problem.

  28. 28
    gpuccio says:

    Me_Think:

    “IMO, that’s not going to create life. We are a long way from solving OOL problem.”

    For once, I agree with you.

  29. 29
    Dionisio says:

    Many serious bio researchers are busy trying to figure out how the known mechanisms function and what effect they have. Most research is focused precisely on achieving those goals. Then as they dig deeper into the bio systems, novel mechanisms may get revealed and newer questions are raised. Obviously, any OOL debate is kind of distracting attention away from the serious research that could produce more benefits to all in many ways, including more effective medical treatments and health maintenance programs.

  30. 30
    Zachriel says:

    Box: Niwrad concludes that matter-energy (ME) + natural laws (NL) => self-organization does not work because “the left member lacks a potentiality of organization which don’t come from ME + NL and only an intelligent organizer can provide.”

    We know that the degree of organization can increase due to evolution. Even though that presupposes replication, the claim of some sort of ‘conservation of organization’ is still contradicted.

    In any case, what Jeremy England proposes is speculative, and hardly a theory.

  31. 31
    Box says:

    Zachriel: We know that the degree of organization can increase due to evolution.

    Are we talking ‘blind watchmaker evolution’?

    Zachriel: Even though that presupposes replication, the claim of some sort of ‘conservation of organization’ is still contradicted.

    ‘Conservation of information / organization’ is indeed contradicted by life and intelligence. The question is if life and intelligence are reducible to blind watchmaker evolution. At this point in history the concept of blind watchmaker evolution is clearly not the best explanation. It cannot even explain one single protein. Therefore all the fancy stuff in life is best explained by intelligent design.

  32. 32
    Zachriel says:

    Box: Are we talking ‘blind watchmaker evolution’?

    Natural variation and natural selection.

    Box: ‘Conservation of information / organization’ is indeed contradicted by life and intelligence.

    The claim was that matter-energy (ME) + natural laws (NL) lacks the potential for organization. As organization can increase in replicators, that would seem to be an unfounded claim.

    Box: It cannot even explain one single protein.

    You will find functional proteins in random sequence libraries.

  33. 33
    Box says:

    Zachriel: As organization can increase in replicators (…)

    Reference please.

  34. 34
    Zachriel says:

    Box: Reference please.

    See Darwin 1859. Or any evolutionary algorithm, for that matter.

  35. 35
    Box says:

    See Darwin 1859. Or any evolutionary algorithm, for that matter.

    A: One can read the future in stars.
    B: reference please.
    A: See ‘All About Astrology’ 1859.

  36. 36
    rvb8 says:

    Is it easier for the designer to produce the conditions for the theorized emergence of life, or for the designer to make Pi equal 3?

    If we can conceive of the conditions for the emergence of life, but cannot conceive of Pi ever equaling 3, which of these two ideas is more probable?

  37. 37
    rvb8 says:

    God has been ‘on the ropes’, since the enlightenment. He is now seriously punch drunk, hiding in obscure miracles(god cured my bald patch, my myopia, my cancer; as if science can’t already do these things), and becoming ever more irrelevant; hence this post.

    My very simple question remains: Why is the ratio of the diameter of the circle to its circumference missing a bit? How could god create life, the universe, and everything, and yet not make the diameter of the circle fit the circumference perfectly, three times? ‘Rounding’, up or down, is the lazy cowards way to solve this obvious conumdrum. ‘Constants’ are clear evidence for no, or at best shoddy design. If it’s the latter, then who wants a shoddy designer for their god? If, as I believe,it is the former, then natural answers based on observation and the laws of nature are more satisfying.

  38. 38
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8:

    Pi — as you full well know — is set by the logic of a circle and spatial relationships, just as the relations between side and diagonal of a square or what happens when one drops a bisector from one vertex to the opp side of an equilateral triangle, or the many subtleties tied to a hexagon or a pentagon. i.e. there is a logic of space that implies so-called irrational numbers that cannot be expressed as finite fractions but as non-repeating power series, where say the place value notation decimal rep is a way to write a power series.

    To demand that a creator make pi = 3, to please your sense of aesthetics, is to in effect demand, create a square circle; when we already have in hand the severe mathematical beauty of the Euler expression 0 = 1 + e^i*pi, an utterly astonishing unifying result that has long been highly regarded.

    Yet another case of the — on fair comment — confusion that fails to understand the reality-constraining force of pure logic.

    And that is before we get to round-off effects and implications of a culture that was capable of carpentry etc . . . not to leave off the simple point that a 4″ lip makes a very big difference to what one would measure along the rim vs from lip edge to lip edge.

    Going beyond, I would suggest to you that designs typically manifest a multitude of finely set, co-ordinated components that fit and work together in patterns that give an overall outcome, just ask anyone who has built a roof for a house and has had to cut lumber to fit together to achieve the result, or who has got a serious electronic circuit to work, or the like. Or even, composed a fairly complex sentence.

    As for, God is confined to shrinking gaps and let’s list things to blame him for, I suggest to you, read the OP and see what this thread is about; if you want to address theism, I suggest you read here on, for the worldviews level discussion as a 101 intro; there’s much more out there. The objections are increasingly strained, arbitrary and hyperskeptical, in short.

    As further fair comment, the net effect, is that you more and more seem to be straining for objections to fit an already fixed view.

    KF

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    DM, welcome. Yes, living cell based life forms often go dramatically uphill, using elaborate mechanisms to do so as the illustration in the OP shows. As in ATM energy battery molecules, here we come. And, ATP Synthase (itself an astonishing bit of nanotech) as a direct consequence. Thence, chicken and egg loops galore. The result is, that it is OOL speculations that are really on the ropes as can be seen from the final words in effect of two pioneers in the field as cited. KF

  40. 40
    Querius says:

    rvb8,

    Why is the ratio of the diameter of the circle to its circumference missing a bit? How could god create life, the universe, and everything, and yet not make the diameter of the circle fit the circumference perfectly, three times?

    That’s trivial.

    Pi can equal exactly 3 when space has a certain, spherical curvature, and the circle is the right size compared to that curvature. Then again, you’d be giving up e^(Pi*i) = -1 and you have no idea what that would mess up! LOL

    Hey, maybe God made a universe like that just for you! It’s a small universe . . .

    Good luck.

    -Q

  41. 41
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: The Euler expression, of course, is deeply rooted in power series based analysis. KF

  42. 42
    rvb8 says:

    ‘…straining for objections to fit an already fixed view.’ Coming from a believer, all I can say is, ‘hark at the pot calling the kettle black.’

    Listen, if your omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent god, is constrained by the natural world, just say so and have done. Your designer is limited, I understand. However does everyone here share your view on the limitations of the designer? If God came down to earth and said Pi equals 3, would you rebel?

    It has been plainly shown on many threads that ID consists solely in showing where evolution is at present wanting, without any positive evidence to support its own claims. This tactic is now spent and we, who think ID is a vacuous concept, are waiting for the Institutes research; promised long ago by Dembsky and crew. Long posts consisting of philosophical gymnastics no longer (if they ever did) cut it.

    Do some positive research. If you like follow the example of evolutionary biologists who constantly come up with new data, new ways of interpreting data, new ways of obtaining data, and new ways of just explaining our world.

    Jeremy England, for all that you disagree with him, proposed a new idea that the laws of thermodynamics mean that life had no other option than to naturally evolve. This is a newly framed take on the theory of OOL, your response is to say, “no it can’t”. Even you must see how weak and just plain childish that sounds!

  43. 43
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, unfortunately, you just inadvertently underscored the point, by the attitude reflected in your tone. Perhaps, you would appreciate that in Jn 1:1 — as you plainly have deep hostility to the Judaeo-Christian worldview specifically, a key concept of the Divine Nature as envisioned, is that we deal with one who quite literally is Reason or even Logic Himself. So, logic is a facet of the necessary root of being on that view . . . just as a note. It is unreasonable and unphilosophical to the point of being reminiscent of the rhetoric of one of those stock village characters, to expect or demand that omnipotence implies irrationality or incoherence. Please, please, please . . . think again. KF

    PS: And, I am moved to say that as one who has a full right to the proverbial lab coat, and who glows faintly blue-green in the dark, so to speak [per an old ironic joke with a bit of bite to it . . . and there are a few of us around UD]; who also appreciates that there are legitimate concerns at worldviews level that should inform our thought, on pain of utter absurdity.

    PPS: Take any claim A and ask why accept. That takes us to claims, evidence etc B. But why accept B? C. And so forth. So we face infinite regress, circularity or a finitely remote set of first plausibles, F. The first is absurd, the second unsatisfying. The end is that we all start with Faith points based on first plausibles, F1, F2, . . . Fn. A sound thinker applies comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power to avoid question-begging. Not, if faith (and, you are too gullible if you do not found your system on skepticism) but, which faith-point, why. Again, please think again. Here on as alreadyn highlighted, will help

  44. 44
    Robert Byers says:

    KF
    Thanks for the warning but i have no idea what your warning about.
    So I can’t take heed.
    I stand by what i said. what was wrong?
    Anyways thanks for the concern however vague it is.
    The attack on SALON is a general one on aLL of the establishment.
    Yes i insist they arttack Christianity and religion and god concept in general.
    Yes i accuse their motives.
    However i don’t know these people personally.
    However they speak words in public and we can evaluate them. I can also be evaluated.

  45. 45
    rvb8 says:

    KF,
    I have no idea what you just responded to. The future of ID? Positive evidence for ID? Jeremy England’s new thinking? Your inability to post without obscurirantism?

    Byers is here now, so all should become crystal shortly,
    Bye.

  46. 46
    Joe says:

    rvb8

    It has been plainly shown on many threads that ID consists solely in showing where evolution is at present wanting, without any positive evidence to support its own claims.

    That is a lie based on willful ignorance. For one science mandates that the design inference first eliminate the non-design possibilities first. And also ID has the positive criteria laid down by Behe and Dembski.

    And if ID followed the example of evolutionary biologists we would wallow in ignorance for over 100 years making bald declarations.

  47. 47
    Joe says:

    Why is the ratio of the diameter of the circle to its circumference missing a bit?

    It isn’t. That ratio just cannot be fully written using our current numbering system.

  48. 48
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Let us pause for a moment from the thread’s proper focus, clipping and marking up a dismissive strawman caricature by RVB8, noting correctively on basic facts and key issues:

    >> It has been plainly shown on many threads that ID consists solely in showing where evolution is at present wanting,>>

    1 –> Blatantly false. And long since addressed. The core design inference pivots on positive evidence and an inference process per best, empirically anchored explanation [applicable to the relevant cases in which we do not or cannot directly see the causal process in action . . . as obtains for the deep past of origins], that is a highly reliable index of design, with trillions of cases in point.

    2 –> On examining aspect a of a phenomenon or object etc X, the first default is that it is accounted for by mechanical necessity, manifesting in lawlike necessity, leading onward to characterising the law or laws at work. A familiar process.

    2 –> Where a instead shows high contingency on closely similar initial circumstances, the second default is blind chance, showing itself in stochastically distributed contingency. Again, a very familiar pattern.

    3 –> However, there are certain cases where the outcome(s) — especially those showing functionally specific complex organisation and associated information [cf familiar cases such as an Abu 6500 C3 fishing reel and note going back to Orgel and Wicken in the 1970’s], beyond 500 – 1,000 bits — are such that it is maximally implausible that such would be found by blind chance and/or maechanical necessity on the gamut of the solar system or the observed cosmos

    4 –> On a test base of up to trillions of cases, such FSCO/I and similar patterns highly correlate with design. This can be directly checked on further cases, and attempted counters, many of which have been shot down over the years, typically being cases of design and not what was imagined.

    5 –> From this the inductive inference is made that FSCO/I is a reliable index of design, and that when we find such in say traces from the past of origins, we should apply the uniformity principle and the vera causa principle and hold that the best current explanation of a is design.

    6 –> Extend across the various aspects of X, to compose an account of causal process.

    7 –> Immediately on applying tot he living cell, many aspects and the overall cell are inferred as designed, design being the only reliably known causal process accounting for relevant FSCO/I. Likewise, for many features of major body plans. Open to change on demonstrating an observed counter example — just like the laws of thermodynamics.

    >> without any positive evidence to support its own claims.>>

    8 –> Just shown to be false, in outline.

    9 –> Where also even just looking at the weak argument correctives under the resources tab at the top of this and every UD page would suffice to show better, so the characterisation is irresponsible and selectively hyperskeptical.

    >> This tactic is now spent>>

    10 –> Error carried forward, and the intent to dismiss is patent.

    >> and we, who think ID is a vacuous concept,>>

    11 –> Irresponsibly so, in the face of more than adequate evidence to the contrary, as just outlined for record.

    >> are waiting for the Institutes research; promised long ago by Dembsky and crew.>>

    12 –> There are now several dozen peer reviewed ID research papers published by fellows of the Discovery Institute and other workers in the design paradigm, not counting the vastly many more in the field of cosmology linked to fine tuning. (I add: and there are many, many more inadvertently supported works.)

    13 –> We have here an insistent objection in the teeth of readily accessible fact to the contrary, speaking volumes about those who keep on pushing it.

    >>Long posts consisting of philosophical gymnastics no longer (if they ever did) cut it. >>

    14 –> Dismissive attitude to worldviews analysis, logic, theory of knowledge [epistemology], grounding of ethics, grounding of knowledge claims in various fields of study, etc duly noted.

    KF

    PS: This of course also shows some of the force of the tone problem.

  49. 49
    Eugen says:

    Kairos

    Thanks for a thoughtful article. It seems atheists will say anything these days. Are they getting desperate?

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    Eugen, perhaps that is part of it. Part seems to reflect a deep polarisation and linked breakdown of civility that do not portend well for our civilisation. KF

    PS: Hint, if you are about to say or imply that millions are mad or “wacky” etc, please think again. In error is one thing, even caught up in an ideology that is playing the Plato’s Cave game, but mass insanity attaching to worldview, no.

  51. 51
    Eugen says:

    Kairos,
    Progressive secular elites are firmly leading society into abyss of moral relativism. Future looks scary. I enjoy reading UD, a brave beacon of daring ideas about science and philosophy in fog of conformity and shallowness.

  52. 52
    rvb8 says:

    KF,

    When you write I have to read your sentences several times and still come away bemused:

    “2-> Where a instead shows high contingency on closely similar initial circumstances, the second default is blind chance, showing itself in stochastically distributed contingency. Again, a very familiar pattern.”

    The preceeding and following sentences leave me equally dumbfounded.

    Jeremy England said, the laws of thermodynamics, and the relevant material on hand do not mean life ‘could’ evolve, these mean that it was impossible to impede life from evolving. What is it you are saying?

  53. 53
    Mung says:

    rvb8:

    When you write I have to read your sentences several times and still come away bemused:

    I don’t have to read any sentence you write more than once and I don’t come away bemused. As such, you are the lowest form of troll.

  54. 54
    rvb8 says:

    Joe,

    “And also ID has the positive criteria laid down by Behe and Dembski.”

    Well, this at least seems positive. But I have to note that if these ‘positive criteria’ are so helpful to ID, might it be possible to tell me what they are?

    Of course Behe was given the perfect setting to lay out his positive criteria; a court case. He was allowed, before the media and the public to explain slowly, in his own time, to experts and amateurs alike, what these positive criteria were. He gamely gave it his best shot and came away having convinced neither the experts nor the amateurs, indeed he was the major reason (according to the judge) for the utter collapse of his sides argument.

    Dembski of course, famously, did not turn up, perhaps sensing impending doom. He did however try to have his ‘expert’ testimony entered as evidence. The judge noted (quite rightly), that if the ‘expert’ was unwilling to defend his ideas in a public arena, and face cross-examination, then he (the Judge) saw no value to the testimony. Perhaps Joe, these ‘positive criteria’ need a simple definition with accompanying prediction and theory, you know, like the simple beauty of, RM+NS=Ev.

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    rvb8, your logic is impeccable.

    Behe appeared at trial, therefore ID is false.

    Dembski did not appear at trial, therefore ID is false.

  56. 56
    rvb8 says:

    Mung,

    I’m not a troll, I want answers that are not irrelevant, vague, or disingenuous.

    ID has been around since the dawn of man. The beauty of nature, and man, our ability to think and be moral (or not), has led naturally to us believing we are special, separate from nature with a different future.

    Our understanding of the natural sciences today leads us in an alternate direction. We are largely immoral, our future is not special, nor is to be unhinged from the planet’s future.

    I understand that this ‘alternate’ causes you disquiet, that does not make it wrong. It also does not mean I have a liscense to throw away decent living, or morality. I ground my morality in Jesus’ golden rule, and absolutely none of the rest the twaddle.

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    rvb8:

    ID has been around since the dawn of man. The beauty of nature, and man, our ability to think and be moral (or not), has led naturally to us believing we are special, separate from nature with a different future.

    Nature is not beautiful.

    Man lacks the ability to think.

    Man lacks the ability to be moral (or not).

    We know this, therefore we are not special.

    Self. Refuting. Nonsense.

    Our understanding of the natural sciences today leads us in an alternate direction. We are largely immoral, our future is not special, nor is to be unhinged from the planet’s future.

    The natural sciences cannot address any of those questions.

    You’re a fool if you think otherwise.

    Lowest. Level. Troll.

  58. 58
    rvb8 says:

    Mung, let me help,

    “Behe appeared at trial,(and given an open forum failed at, not only defending ID, but also admitted that by his own unclear definitions, astrology could also be science)therefore ID is false.”

    “Dembski did not appear at trial,(therefore letting a golden opportunity on a national stage, to explain and describe ID thought and research pass by), therefore ID is false.”

    ID has been given ample opportunity to explain its position, this site shows it is uncensored. ID has not been ‘expelled’ as it has never been accepted. You can’t evict an idea unless it has somewhere to be evicted from. The scientific community has never even slightly taken ID seriously, because ID has never produced anything seriously.

    Are “Self. Refuting. Nonsense.” now considered separate sentences? Are “Lowest.Level.Troll.” also complete sentences?

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    RVB8, I will simply highlight that reliably, a dropped heavy object falls at 9.8 N/Kg initial accel, near Earth’s surface (mechanical necessity). If a die, the uppermost face on tumbling is highly contingent on similar initial conditions (high contingency). However, such dice can be fair or loaded, or may be set by external intervention. Similarly, a coin is in effect a two-sided die that is highly contingent. If fair, we would expect 500 coins in a tray on being tossed, to show typical results, near 50:50 H:T in no particular order. But, were we to observe that these coins showed the ASCII code for say the first 72 characters for this comment, we would have excellent reason to infer design, on FSCO/I. That already points to the FSCO/I in a trillion web pages on the Internet. This, extends to more sophisticated cases, e.g. the organisation of a complex entity such as a 6500 C3 reel can be reduced to a structured string of Y/N q’s [thus, bits that are functionally specific], as say AutoCAD routinely does; pointing to trillions of further cases in our tech-rich world. Consistently, tied to the insuperable blind search problem for 500 – 1,000 bits and the atomic-temporal resources in sol system or observed cosmos, FSCO/I and related indices are reliable signs of design. They pass the vera causa test and are inductively strong; design is currently the ONLY empirical observation warranted, blind search for a needle in haystack-plausible causal explanation for FSCO/I; where the need for interactive coupling of correct, correctly arranged components to achieve function naturally leads to a pattern of isolated islands of function in very large configuration spaces. This directly relates to inferring best explanation for the causal origin of DNA, proteins, ribosomes and protein synthesis, or even the integrated organisation of the process-flow network associated with cellular metabolism. Of course, at this stage I do not expect a reasonable response; it now seems me no speaka da ingles will be the next gambit. KF

    PS: I will shortly put up a further post on this topic. The original post, on a serious socio-cultural trend of hostility to design thinkers to the point where Salon’s editors thought nothing of passing and publishing an article making blanket accusations of insanity, needs to be seriously addressed. Where, the above takes on the colour of a red herring distractor being led away to strawman caricatures soaked in ad hominems, ready to be ignited to cloud, distract, polarise and poison the atmosphere.

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