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The problem of using “methodological” naturalism to define science

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One of the problems that keeps on cropping up here at UD and elsewhere is as captioned. Accordingly, I just noted to JDK et al in the “complaining” thread as follows:

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KF, 66: >>I should note on the subtly toxic principle that has been injected in such a way as to seem reasonable (especially to those who have been led to be ever-suspicious towards or at minimum forever apologetic over, our civilisation’s Judaeo-Christian heritage).

Namely, so-called “methodological” naturalism.

The first key trick in this, of course is that there is a grand suggestion that “methodological” removes the philosophical agenda involved in the naturalism.

It does not.

Instead, it subtly converts the effective meaning of “Science” into: the “best” evolutionary materialist narrative of the world and its origins, from hydrogen to humans.

In short, when the NSTA Board saidThe principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts” they obviously meant it, and we should take due notice of that ideologically, institutionally imposed philosophical question-begging and associated censorship.

(Of course, those who have been led to believe that Big-S materialistic Science has effectively cornered the market on knowledge and truth, will often imagine that Truth has rights to “protect” itself from pernicious, nefarious error. Especially error propagated by those ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked, right-wing, bomb-throwing fundamentalists. Besides, one does not let accounting fraud convicts teach accounting principles.

The toxic prejudice involved in such projections should be duly noted for what it is, and it should be set aside. And, one should be willing to recognise that when one has been deeply polarised against the stereotyped and scapegoated other and has been led to enable ruthless action, something is seriously wrong.

I repeat, we have here a case where, for the thought-crime of proposing a traditional, historically and epistemologically well-warranted schools level understanding of science: “Science is a systematic method of continuing investigation, that uses observation, hypothesis testing, measurement, experimentation, logical argument and theory building, to lead to more adequate explanations of natural phenomena,” the children of the state of Kansas were held hostage over the accrediting of their education, held hostage by NSTA and NAS.

Where, we can directly see that in 2000 the NAS put up an ideologically loaded re-definition of science and that — patently not coincidentally — it was in 2001 that the slightly reworded loaded definition was pushed into the Kansas education system: “Science is the human activity of seeking natural [–> notice, not, observationally grounded, empirically reliable] explanations of the world around us.” “Natural,” of course, given the context, should be translated: natural-ISTIC.

Whatever the real or imagined motives of those who argued for the 2005 corrective, that extreme response should be a warning. Where, let us note that JDK, above, has noticeably failed to inform us as to the letters of warning issued to the many states that c. 2005 had very similar schools-level definitions of science.

Recall at 57 above, I cited from Wisconsin as a capital case in point:

Scientific knowledge is developed from the activities of scientists and others who work to find the best possible explanations of the natural world. Researchers and those who are involved in science follow a generally accepted set of rules to produce scientific knowledge that others can confirm with experimental evidence. This knowledge is public, replicable, and undergoing revision and refinement based on new experiments and data… [Scientific inquiry] should include questioning, forming hypotheses, collecting and analyzing data, reaching conclusions and evaluating results, and communicating procedures and findings to others.

Notice, the studious silence on the demonstrable fact that the Kansas 2005 corrective definition was in line with the obvious general pattern of the states.

[–> Something, which I believe, was drawn to JDK’s attention over ten years ago by Eric Anderson, right here at UD; that sort of long-term background should be borne in mind as one reads on.]

And of course, the definitions we can find in good quality dictionaries of the generation before the big push to redefine Science itself in materialism- in- a- lab-coat terms.)

That direct world-view level implication — that science is being re-defined in ideologically materialistic terms by ruthless activists with questionable agendas — should be a first clue (and it is one Lewontin inadvertently let the cat out of the bag over).

The second key, is that most people [especially today] lack a good understanding of philosophical issues and the relevant history of science, including on the worldviews of many of its founders. To such (having been steeped in agenda-serving, one-sided secularist narratives from childhood), the following will sound like near-self-evident nonsense, though it is in fact a readily supported, sound summary:

Sometimes the most obvious facts are the easiest to overlook. Here is one that ought to be stunningly obvious: science as an organized, sustained enterprise arose only once in the history of Earth. Where was that? Although other civilizations have contributed technical achievements or isolated innovations, the invention of science as a cumulative, rigorous, systematic, and ongoing investigation into the laws of nature occurred only in Europe; that is, in the civilization then known as Christendom. Science arose and flourished in a civilization that, at the time, was profoundly and nearly exclusively Christian in its mental outlook.

There are deep reasons for that, and they are inherent in the Judeo-Christian view of the world which, principally in its Christian manifestation, formed the European mind. As Stark observes, the Christian view depicted God as “a rational, responsive, dependable, and omnipotent being and the universe as his personal creation, thus having a rational, lawful, stable structure, awaiting human comprehension.” That was not true of belief systems elsewhere. A view that the universe is uncreated, has been around forever, and is just “what happens to be” does not suggest that it has fundamental principles that are rational and discoverable. Other belief systems have considered the natural world to be an insoluble mystery, conceived of it as a realm in which multiple, arbitrary gods are at work, or thought of it in animistic terms. None of these views will, or did, give rise to a deep faith that there is a lawful order imparted by a divine creator that can and should be discovered.

[–> Clue: why do we still talk about “Laws” of nature? Doesn’t such historically rooted language not suggest: a law-giver? (And indeed, that is precisely what Newton discussed at length in his General Scholium to his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy.) Of course, that will not move the deeply indoctrinated and polarised, but it is a clear marker to those who are willing to think more open-mindedly.]

Recent scholarship in the history of science reveals that this commitment to rational, empirical investigation of God’s creation is not simply a product of the “scientific revolution” of the 16th and 17th centuries, but has profound roots going back at least to the High Middle Ages . . . .

Albertus Magnus — prodigious scholar, naturalist, teacher of Thomas Aquinas, and member of the Dominican order — affirmed in his De Mineralibus that the purpose of science is “not simply to accept the statements of others, that is, what is narrated by people, but to investigate the causes that are at work in nature for themselves.” Another 13th-century figure, Robert Grosseteste, who was chancellor of Oxford and Bishop of Lincoln, has been identified as “the first man ever to write down a complete set of steps for performing a scientific experiment,” according to Woods.

WHEN THE DISCOVERIES of science exploded in number and importance in the 1500s and 1600s, the connection with Christian belief was again profound. Many of the trailblazing scientists of that period when science came into full bloom were devout Christian believers, and declared that their work was inspired by a desire to explore God’s creation and discover its glories. Perhaps the greatest scientist in history, Sir Isaac Newton, was a fervent [–> though of course, unorthodox] Christian who wrote over a million words on theological subjects. Other giants of science and mathematics were similarly devout: Boyle, Descartes, Kepler, Leibniz, Pascal. To avoid relying on what might be isolated examples, Stark analyzed the religious views of the 52 leading scientists from the time of Copernicus until the end of the 17th century. Using a methodology that probably downplayed religious belief, he found that 32 were “devout”; 18 were at least “conventional” in their religious belief; and only two were “skeptics.” More than a quarter were themselves ecclesiastics: “priests, ministers, monks, canons, and the like.”

Down through the 19th century, many of the leading figures in science were thoroughgoing Christians. A partial list includes Babbage, Dalton, Faraday, Herschel, Joule, Lyell, Maxwell, Mendel, and Thompson (Lord Kelvin). A survey of the most eminent British scientists near the end of the 19th century found that nearly all were members of the established church or affiliated with some other church.

In short, scientists who were committed Christians include men often considered to be fathers of the fields of astronomy, atomic theory, calculus, chemistry, computers, electricity, genetics, geology, mathematics, and physics. In the late 1990s, a survey found that about 40 percent of American scientists believe in a personal God and an afterlife — a percentage that is basically unchanged since the early 20th century. A listing of eminent 20th-century scientists who were religious believers would be far too voluminous to include here — so let’s not bring coals to Newcastle, but simply note that the list would be large indeed, including Nobel Prize winners.

Far from being inimical to science, then, the Judeo-Christian worldview is the only belief system that actually produced it. Scientists who (in Boyle’s words) viewed nature as “the immutable workmanship of the omniscient Architect” were the pathfinders who originated the scientific enterprise. The assertion that intelligent design is automatically “not science” because it may support the concept of a creator is a statement of materialist philosophy, not of any intrinsic requirement of science itself.

The redefinition of science in materialist terms — never wholly successful, but probably now the predominant view — required the confluence of several intellectual currents. The attack on religious belief in general, and Christianity in particular, has been underway for more than two centuries . . . . IT WAS THE AWE-INSPIRING SUCCESS of science itself, nurtured for centuries in a Christian belief system, that caused many to turn to it as the comprehensive source of explanation. With the mighty technology spawned by science in his hands, man could exalt himself, it seemed, and dispense with God. Although Darwin was by no means the sole cause of the apotheosis of materialist science, his theories gave it crucial support. It is perhaps not altogether a coincidence that the year 1882, in which Darwin died, found Nietzsche proclaiming that “God is dead…and we have killed him.”

The capture of science (in considerable measure) by materialist philosophy was aided by the hasty retreat of many theists. There are those who duck any conflict by declaring that science and religion occupy non-overlapping domains or, to use a current catchphrase, separate “magisteria.” One hears this dichotomy expressed in apothegms such as, “Science asks how; religion asks why.” In this view, science is the domain of hard facts and objective truth. Religion is the realm of subjective belief and faith. Science is publicly verifiable, and is the only kind of truth that can be allowed in the public square. Religion is private, unverifiable, and cannot be permitted to intrude into public affairs, including education. The two magisteria do not conflict, because they never come into contact with each other. To achieve this peace, all the theists have to do is interpret away many of the central beliefs of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

This retreat makes some theists happy, because they can avoid a fight that they feel ill-equipped to win, and can retire to a cozy warren of warm, fuzzy irrelevancy. It also makes materialists happy, because the field has been ceded to them. As ID advocate Phillip Johnson remarks acerbically:

Politically astute scientific naturalists feel no hostility toward those religious leaders who implicitly accept the key naturalistic doctrine that supernatural powers do not actually affect the course of nature. In fact, many scientific leaders disapprove of aggressive atheists like Richard Dawkins, who seem to be asking for trouble by picking fights with religious people who only want to surrender with dignity.

But the ID theorists do not go gentle into that good night. That’s what’s different about intelligent design. ID says that the best evidence we have shows that life is the product of a real intelligent agent, actually working in space and time, and that the designer’s hand can be detected, scientifically and mathematically, by what we know about the kinds of things that are produced only by intelligence. It is making scientific claims about the real world. Because it relies on objective fact and scientific reasoning, ID seeks admission to the public square. Rather than retreating to the gaseous realm of the subjective, it challenges the materialist conception of science on its own turf. It thus threatens materialism generally, with all that that entails for morality, law, culture — and even for what it means to be human.

THOSE WHO NOW OCCUPY the public square will fight to keep possession of it. The advocates of Darwinian materialism believe that they are in possession of The Truth, and are perfectly willing to invoke the power of the state to suppress competing views [–> which should be a big warning-sign that something has gone very wrong] . . . [“What’s the Big Deal About Intelligent Design?” By Dan Peterson, American Spectator, Published 12/22/2005; also cf his earlier popular level summary on ID here. (HT: Wayback Machine.)]

If the just above sounds like nonsense to you, I am sorry to have to advise you in this way, but you have been led to make a crooked yardstick into your standard of straightness, accuracy and uprightness. The problem with that, is that if crookedness is the reference standard, what is really straight or accurate or upright will never be able to measure up to the standard.

A plumbline

This means, we need a plumb-line test. In this case, the actual history of the founding of science and of the views and approaches of its pioneers. No definition of Science that cannot accept the work and approach of the founders of scientific methods and disciplines across centuries can be correct.

So, here is Newton in Opticks, Query 31:

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

And yes, this is likely the root source of traditional summaries of science and its methods.

What you have likely never been told is what else Newton said in that immediate context:

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

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

So, if we have a proffered definition c 2000 and echoed 2001 and 2007 that cannot deal with this history, it is patently wrong. Period.

In short, there is serious and broadly applicable force to Philip Johnson’s response to Lewontin’s cat-out-of-the-bag comments. Force, that a reasonable and responsible person should ponder rather than dismiss:

For scientific materialists the materialism comes first; the science comes thereafter. [Emphasis original] We might more accurately term them “materialists employing science.” And if materialism is true, then some materialistic theory of evolution has to be true simply as a matter of logical deduction, regardless of the evidence.

[–> notice, the power of an undisclosed, question-begging, controlling assumption . . . often put up as if it were a mere reasonable methodological constraint; emphasis added. Let us note how Rational Wiki, so-called, presents it:

Methodological naturalism is the label for the required assumption of philosophical naturalism when working with the scientific method. Methodological naturalists limit their scientific research to the study of natural causes, because any attempts to define causal relationships with the supernatural are never fruitful, and result in the creation of scientific “dead ends” and God of the gaps-type hypotheses.”

Of course, this ideological imposition on science that subverts it from freely seeking the empirically, observationally anchored truth about our world pivots on the deception of side-stepping the obvious fact since Plato in The Laws Bk X, that there is a second, readily empirically testable and observable alternative to “natural vs [the suspect] supernatural.” Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity [= the natural] vs the ART-ificial, the latter acting by evident intelligently directed configuration. [Cf Plantinga’s reply here and here.]

And as for the god of the gaps canard, the issue is, inference to best explanation across competing live option candidates. If chance and necessity is a candidate, so is intelligence acting by art through design. And it is not an appeal to ever- diminishing- ignorance to point out that design, rooted in intelligent action, routinely configures systems exhibiting functionally specific, often fine tuned complex organisation and associated information. Nor, that it is the only observed cause of such, nor that the search challenge of our observed cosmos makes it maximally implausible that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity can account for such.]

That theory will necessarily be at least roughly like neo-Darwinism, in that it will have to involve some combination of random changes and law-like processes capable of producing complicated organisms that (in Dawkins’ words) “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

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

So, for “methodological” naturalism, we should simply read: naturalism. That is, evolutionary materialism.

It is time to address and correct the ideological captivity of science to evolutionary materialism.

For, science at its best should ever seek to be:

the unfettered — but ethically and intellectually responsible — progressive, observational evidence-led pursuit of the truth about our world (i.e. an accurate and reliable description and explanation of it), based on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

KF>>

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It is high time that so-called methodological naturalism was put out to retirement pasture. END

92 Replies to “The problem of using “methodological” naturalism to define science

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    The problem of using “methodological” naturalism to define science

  2. 2
    Seversky says:

    The problem seems to be in the conflation of naturalism, materialism or physicalism and atheism. As an a/mat, I would argue that naturalism, as I understand it, does not necessarily exclude the possibility of God.

    For example, the entry on Naturalism in the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy begins:

    The term “naturalism” has no very precise meaning in contemporary philosophy. Its current usage derives from debates in America in the first half of the last century. The self-proclaimed “naturalists” from that period included John Dewey, Ernest Nagel, Sidney Hook and Roy Wood Sellars. These philosophers aimed to ally philosophy more closely with science. They urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing “supernatural”, and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the “human spirit” (Krikorian 1944; Kim 2003).

    So understood, “naturalism” is not a particularly informative term as applied to contemporary philosophers. The great majority of contemporary philosophers would happily accept naturalism as just characterized—that is, they would both reject “supernatural” entities, and allow that science is a possible route (if not necessarily the only one) to important truths about the “human spirit”.

    In addition, in his essay On Nature, the nineteenth-century English philosopher John Stuart Mill develops the concept into a form which expresses my thinking on it:

    According to the Platonic method, which is still the best type of such investigations, the first thing to be done with so vague a term is to ascertain precisely what it means. It is also a rule of the same method that the meaning of an abstraction is best sought for in the concrete – of an universal in the particular. Adopting this course with the word “nature,” the first question must be, what is meant by the “nature”of a particular object, as of fire, of water, or of some individual plant or animal ? Evidently the ensemble or aggregate of its powers or properties: the modes in which it acts on other things (counting among those things the senses of the observer), and the modes in which other things act upon it; to which, in the case of a sentient being, 565must be added its own capacities of feeling, or being conscious. The nature of the thing means all this; means its entire capacity of exhibiting phenomena. And since the phenomena which a thing exhibits, however much they vary in different circumstances, are always the same in the same circumstances, they admit of being described in general forms of words, which are called the laws of the thing’s nature. Thus it is a law of the nature of water that, under the mean pressure of the atmosphere at the level of the sea, it boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
    As the nature of any given thing is the aggregate of its powers and properties, so Nature in the abstract is the aggregate of the powers and properties of all things. Nature means the sum of all phenomena, together with the causes which produce them; including not only all that happens, but all that is capable of happening; the unused capabilities of causes being as much a part of the idea of Nature as those which take effect. Since all phenomena which have been sufficiently examined are found to take place with regularity, each having certain fixed conditions, positive and negative, on the occurrence of which it invariably happens, mankind have been able to ascertain, either by direct observation or by reasoning processes grounded on it, the conditions of the occurrence of many phenomena; and the progress of science mainly consists in ascertaining those conditions. When discovered they can be expressed in general propositions, which are called laws of the particular phenomenon, and also, more generally, Laws of Nature.

    On this understanding of nature or natural phenomena the obvious question is, what else is there? If you propose some supernatural domain then, if its contents are more than just random or chaotic, they must have regularities and distinctive properties. In other words, they have a nature and, by definition, are natural not supernatural. On the other hand, if this domain is forever “walled off” from our Universe, so that there is absolutely no connection between the two, of what interest can it be? It can have no effect on our Universe, we can never learn anything about it so how would it differ from an alternate universe in multiverse theory which is constantly decried here?

    As an alternative to the natural/supernatural dichotomy, kf and others have proposed that the proper contrast to ‘natural’ is not ‘supernatural’ but rather ‘artificial’. In other words, the better distinction is between phenomena that are the result of the actions of intelligent agents and everything else which is not. In the essay I quoted from before, Mill had some thoughts on this also:

    Such, then, is a correct definition of the word “nature.” But this definition corresponds only to one of the senses of that ambiguous term. It is evidently inapplicable to some of the modes in which the word is familiarly employed. For example, it entirely conflicts with the common form of speech by which Nature is opposed to Art, and natural to artificial. For, in the sense of the word “nature” which has just been defined, and which is the true scientific sense, Art is as much Nature as anything else; and everything which is artificial is natural – Art has no independent powers of its own: Art is but the employment of the powers of Nature for an end. Phenomena produced by human agency, no less than those which as far as we are concerned are spontaneous, depend on the properties of the elementary forces, or of the elementary substances and their compounds. The united powers of the whole human race could not create a new property of matter in general, or of any one of its species. We can only take advantage for our purposes of the properties which we find. A ship floats by the same laws of specific gravity and equilibrium as a tree uprooted by the wind and blown into the water. The corn which men raise for food grows and produces its grain by the same laws of vegetation by which the wild rose and the mountain strawberry bring forth their flowers and fruit. A house stands and holds together by the natural properties, the weight and cohesion of the materials which compose it: a steam engine works by the natural expansive force of steam, exerting a pressure upon one part of a system of arrangements, which pressure, by the mechanical properties of the lever, is transferred from that to another part where it raises the weight or removes the obstacle brought into connection with it. In these and all other artificial operations the office of man is, as has often been remarked, a very limited one: it consists in moving things into certain places. We move objects, and, by doing this, bring some things into contact which were separate, or separate others which were in contact; and, by this simple change of place, natural forces previously dormant are called into action, and produce the desired effect. Even the volition which designs, the intelligence which contrives, and the muscular force which executes these movements, are themselves powers of Nature.

    On this understanding, when kf and others inveigh against naturalism or materialism as being an unwarranted constraint on science and imply that so much more could be done if science was allowed to think outside that box, my reply is, what else is there? On my view of naturalism, nothing is excluded. If ID or anyone else has a testable theory to put on the table then go right ahead. Lewontin notwithstanding, it should all be grist to the scientific mill. What can be disastrous for science, if history is anything to go by, is where it is forced to operate under the constraints of religious or political doctrines, where dogma hobbles free inquiry. Do you not agree?

  3. 3
    tribune7 says:

    My take is a little different.

    Natural science should be limited to revealing the consistencies of nature. While it would allow the recognition of singularities, explanations for them would be precluded as singularities can’t be consistencies.

    The adjective is necessary and science without the adjective should be unconstrained to pursue any idea with any logic-based methodology as once was the case.

    Our existing crisis is that “science” is now considered synonymous with natural science yet is unconstrained by the rules of natural science. Further, “science” is used as the final arbiter regarding political and cultural issues and this has caused incalculable harm. http://billlawrenceonline.com/.....heres-why/

    FWIW, ID would fall in the category of natural science as designed objects obviously exist in nature and obviously have consistent characteristics. If these characteristic are also found in biology it is not unfair to point this out.

  4. 4
    Molson Bleu says:

    I don’t have a problem with saying that science is limited to the material world. For anything to be tested, a prerequisite of science, you must be able to measure/observe something. This clearly limits science to the material realm. But this doesn’t mean that ID can’t be tested scientifically. I’m just not convinced that we have been able to do so yet. Although I believe we will.

    Even Kairosfocus’ example of comparing written language to DNA fails this test. Inferring that DNA is intelligently designed because the only other example of an information containing string of characters is the result of an intelligent source is a very weak argument. All you can really conclude from this is that there are two information carrying strings of characters. One is intelligently designed. We don’t know the source of the other. Kairosfocus’ argument is akin to saying that mined diamonds are intelligently designed because the only other known source of similar stones are those designed and manufactured by humans.

    Trying to argue that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally is a fools game. It truly is a God of the gaps argument. What we need is a testable hypothesis on how the designer brought DNA to fruition. One that could not have occurred naturally. And then search for evidence to support it. I am not intelligent or clever enough to develop such a hypothesis but there are plenty of ID scientists out there who should be able to come up with one.

  5. 5
    ET says:

    The DESIGN exists in the physical/ material world and as such can be tested.

    Trying to argue that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally is a fools game.

    Saying DNA isn’t the result of ID because you don’t have any idea how the genetic code could have arisen via blind and mindless processes is nothing but a choke and hinders reality.

    In the end it remains that to refute ID all one has to do is step up and demonstrate nature is capable of producing what ID says requires an intelligent designer. Until someone does so all else is just whining.

  6. 6
    john_a_designer says:

    In 2013 I had this brief exchange on-line with someone who identified himself as David P. He asked me if I would consider a world view that actively disagreed with my current theistic Christian world view. Since David had already identified his own world view as naturalism, I told him that if he could prove to me “that naturalism was true, I would.”

    He replied, “If that is your condition, you are essentially saying “no”, because naturalism cannot be proven.”

    I responded by asking him, “So, on what basis are you warranted in believing in it?”
    That question prompted the following dialogue:

    David wrote: “Believing that naturalism cannot be proven? Because we can only perceive a tiny part of the entire system. We may one day be able to formulate naturalistic theories that explain beautifully all that we perceive, but we cannot prove that that is all there is.”

    I asked: “So then, you accept naturalism by faith… Correct?”

    David replied: “I accept naturalism as a working assumption because of the evidence that it helps drive us to understand reality in a way that allows us to make increasingly better predictions. Also, the evidence that so many phenomena attributed to supernatural causes have turned out to have natural causes.”

    Notice how David smuggled faith into his world view without calling it that. What I mean is that he is actually acting on the biblical definition of faith and he doesn’t even realize it. Let me prove it to you…

    Hebrews 11:3 says: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

    Someone committed, like David, to naturalism is actually just modifying the verse so that it reads:

    “By faith we understand that the universe was formed [by some kind of mindless natural process], so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, the overwhelming majority of scientific “naturalists” in our day are following evolutionary materialist scientism, or some cleverer ones are knowledgeable enough to drop the scientism. The context in hand speaks to such, for cause. KF

  8. 8

    Trying to argue that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally is a fools game.

    ID doesn’t argue that the gene system was designed merely because materialists haven’t figured out how it came about without intelligence. DNA is part of a symbol system that was predicted to exist before it was discovered inside the cell. That system has a set of critical requirements that are only found elsewhere in written language and mathematics – two unambiguous correlates of intelligence. Additionally, none of the experimental work by materialists to “figure out” the gene system actually explains (provides a non-intelligent pathway to) those material conditions.

    And by the way, positioning ID as a “gaps argument” requires one to assume conclusions against universal evidence to the contrary. In science, that’s the fool’s game.

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    Harvard professor of psychology Steven Pinker is someone who takes a scientifically based world view just about to its absolute limit. Pinker writes that,

    the findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.

    In other words, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.

    http://www.newrepublic.com/art.....humanities

    It appears to me that Pinker does not draw and distinction between philosophical naturalism and so-called methodological naturalism. Again notice what he says, the worldview that guides the moral and spiritual values of an educated person today is the worldview given to us by science.

  10. 10
    kairosfocus says:

    MB,

    Okay, something substantial:

    Inferring that DNA is intelligently designed because the only other example of an information containing string of characters is the result of an intelligent source is a very weak argument. All you can really conclude from this is that there are two information carrying strings of characters. One is intelligently designed. We don’t know the source of the other . . . . Trying to argue that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally is a fools game. It truly is a God of the gaps argument.

    1 –> Unfortunately, strawmannish. We are not simply making an analogy, there is an underlying framework of observed causes that has stood for thousands of years, as can be seen from Plato’s The Laws Bk X to Monod’s Chance and Necessity.

    2 –> Namely, blind chance and/or mechanical necessity and/or intelligently directed configuration or contrivance [design].

    3 –> In this well established context, under highly similar initial conditions, mechanical, lawlike necessity leads to predictable, low contingency outcomes. E.g. unsupported dense enough objects near eart’s surface tend to fall under 9.8 N/kg.

    4 –> Alternatively, we may observe high contingency of outcomes, e.g if the falling object is a common die, due to eight corners and twelve edges, it tends to tumble and the uppermost face on settling is normally quite variable. In the case of a fair die 1 to 6 with roughly equal odds.

    5 –> However, there may be loading, down to the point of drastically shifting odds. This is of course by design and Las Vegas Houses keep a sharp eye out for it.

    6 –> Also, we could set the die to read a value we wish. Indeed, we may assign a six-state code at a rate of 2.585 bits/symbol potential information-storing potential.

    7 –> Were we to find a string of 200 dice spelling out coded information in a language or serving as machine code to numerically control automated machinery, we would instantly realise that this was intelligently designed, for reasons to be explained in a moment.

    8 –> 200 dice as a string mark out a configuration space of 4.268 * 10^155 possibilities from 111111 to 666666. This space is beyond the credible search capacity of the 10^57 atoms of our solar system acting as observers at 10^14 searches per second each.

    9 –> That is, so many atoms, each observing a 200 dice string at that rate would not be able to sample more than a negligible fraction of the state space in 10^17 s. and going up to 400 dice, the 10^80 atoms of the observed cosmos would be overwhelmed to a much worse degree. This is the needle in haystack search challenge problem.

    10 –> In short, some kinds of functionally specific complex outcomes tend to come in deeply isolated clusters in a complex configuration space and so are not plausibly the result of blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.

    11 –> So, as an inductive matter (modern sense of argument conclusions empirically supported by premises rather than entailed by them) we confidently and reliably infer from functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information [FSCO/I going forward] to the only vera causa demonstrated cause of such: design.

    12 –> In this context the error of the oh unless you can absolutely prove to the contrary of my desired outcome I can hyperskeptically dismiss such an inference is plain.

    13 –> nor is this a god of shrinking gaps argument. We are inferring to best current explanation on empirically tested, reliable sign. FSCO/I has a known cause and good reason why we should dismiss suggested alternatives unless and until they can show the like capability.

    14 –> Given the search challenge, that is utterly implausible to the point of being a dodgy IOU argument. Blind chance and/or mechanical necessity simply are not good demonstrated causes of FSCO/I.

    15 –> Design is, on a trillion member observational base backed by the search challenge analysis as given.

    16 –> Therefore, the unknown cause claim also fails, per inference on reliable sign.

    17 –> And if your real target is inductive logic, that reduces very rapidly to absurdity.

    KF

  11. 11
    Nonlin.org says:

    Seversky@2

    If you propose some supernatural domain then…

    That’s your problem right there – “supernatural” is a made up word meant to represent a barrier but that’s only your mental barrier. Obviously if the universe is created, then everything is natural.

    You can think of other similar mental barriers (although not as contrived) like organic/inorganic and natural/artificial. Simple.

  12. 12
    john_a_designer says:

    The philosophical naturalist (following up on my comments @ #6 and #9) has deluded himself into thinking he has a trump card which bolsters his hand… science. The problem is that there are no trump cards in the high stakes world view ontological game. This is because in order to even begin to play the game you must establish the ground of being. You must begin by asking some basic questions. For example, you must ask, why does anything at all exist? Or, what is the nature of existence? How do we know? How can we be sure of what we know? Can we really know the truth about anything? However these are metaphysical questions, not questions that can be answered by science itself.

    Einstein said that scientists are poor philosophers. That perhaps explains why there are a number of scientists, like Pinker, who believe that science can actually serve as a basis for a world view that can answer some of our biggest questions—at least those that are worthwhile. The late American astronomer Carl Sagan, for example, proclaimed that “the Cosmos is all that there is or ever was or ever will be.” (Again notice that this is an a priori claim that is itself not scientifically provable.) And, Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg opines that while “the worldview of science is rather chilling” there is, nevertheless, he goes on to say, “a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking–with good humor… without God.”

    On the other hand, there are other scientists, including some who are non-religious, even agnostic or atheistic, who see the folly of the blatant kind of scientism that Pinker is trying to foist on us all. For example, Sir Peter Medawar, also a Nobel laureate, was one scientist who spoke out against this so called scientism. He wrote in his book, Advice to a Young Scientist:

    “There is no quicker way for a scientist to bring discredit upon himself and upon his profession than roundly to declare – particularly when no declaration of any kind is called for – that science knows, or soon will know, the answers to all questions worth asking, and that questions which do not admit a scientific answer are in some way non-questions or ‘pseudo-questions’ that only simpletons ask and only the gullible profess to be able to answer. … The existence of a limit to science is, however, made clear by its inability to answer childlike elementary questions having to do with first and last things – questions such as ‘How did everything begin?’; ‘What are we all here for?’;’What is the point of living?’”
    Advice to a Young Scientist, London, Harper and Row, 1979 p.31

    Also, Erwin Schrödinger, one of the early theorist of quantum physics, said something similar: “Science puts everything in a consistent order but is ghastly silent about everything that really matters to us: beauty, color, taste, pain or delight, origins, God and eternity.”

    But the inadequacy of science is not limited to questions that it cannot answer. The fact is we cannot even begin to do science unless we make some metaphysical assumptions about science.

  13. 13
    OldAndrew says:

    Trying to argue that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally is a fools game.

    This is an absurd statement, as no one claims that just any unexplained phenomena is the result of intelligent design.

    Trying to figure out how DNA could have occurred naturally isn’t a fools game either unless you start from the assumption that it did. You can’t understand how something happened if it didn’t. At what point do we realize that it’s rational to point some of that energy at understanding how it was designed or what that design might reveal?

    That’s like someone spending a lifetime looking for the island of unicorns, all the while believing that they’re getting closer. If the island of unicorns exists they may be getting closer. But if it doesn’t then no one is getting closer to anything. They might regard every discovery of horses and narwhals as one step closer to the inevitable, but success doesn’t depend on determination alone. A successful search for something depends on the existence of that something.

  14. 14
    Molson Bleu says:

    “At what point do we realize that it’s rational to point some of that energy at understanding how it was designed or what that design might reveal?”

    This is exactly my point. When are we going to start putting some energy into understanding how it was designed rather that putting all of our energy into pointing out ways that it could not have arisen naturally? Until we start doing so, we are no better than your example of searching for the island of unicorns.

  15. 15
    kairosfocus says:

    MB, have you been following Venter and others doing genetic engineering? DNA engineering is a fact. KF

  16. 16
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Ever looked at say the exploded view for a 6500 reel? The cluster of functional configurations for parts vs the number of non functional clumped or scattered ones makes the point described by “deeply isolated islands of function” and “needles in a haystack on steroids”. Trying dismissive brain not engaged quips simply shows selective hyperskepticism going utterly absurd.

  17. 17
    Molson Bleu says:

    “MB, have you been following Venter and others doing genetic engineering? DNA engineering is a fact. KF”

    But I am not aware of any of them believing that what they are doing has ever been done by non humans, or that the origin or evolution of life required a designer. In most cases of genetic engineering, scientists are just moving strands of DNA from one species to another. Something that has been shown to occur without any outside intervention (HGT). And, if I remember correctly, many of the chemicals and enzymes that they are using to perform these genetic manipulations were originally isolated from living organisms.

    What I am talking about is developing hypotheses about how life was designed, how it changed over time through design mechanisms, and then testing these hypotheses. This is what I am not seeing. Maybe none of this is being done because none of us is clever enough to develop these hypotheses and design the tests, but given the large support for ID, I find this hard to believe.

  18. 18
    J-Mac says:

    Molson Bleu,

    All I know is that Venter doesn’t believe in ONE common ancestor. He also doesn’t believe that more than one of spontaneous life origins is possible…

    Why don’t you figure it out what this means?

  19. 19
    hnorman5 says:

    I think the word “methodological” has always been inappropriate with regards to naturalism. It only makes sense for methodological assumptions to govern actions, not truth claims. Technically, it may hold together because technically science doesn’t make truth claims. But, then if you don’t think science makes truth claims, try being a science denier.

  20. 20
    J-Mac says:

    hnorman5,
    Why don’t you change the dictionary, if your definition is right?

  21. 21
    hnorman5 says:

    I didn’t give a definition of “methodological”. I just said it wasn’t appropriate with “naturalism.” I’m certainly not the first to note the incoherence of doing so.

  22. 22
    john_a_designer says:

    Earlier @ #12 I argued that we cannot even begin to do science unless we make some metaphysical assumptions about science. Ironically, at least according to physicist and theologian Ian Barbour, the assumptions that a scientist must make to do science are basically Biblical assumptions.

    “A good case can be made,” Barbour writes, “that the doctrine of creation helped set the stage for scientific activity.”

    Christian philosopher Peter S. Williams, who provides the above quote from Barbour in his on-line article, “Does Science Disprove God?” lists several presuppositions of science that he argues “derive warrant from the theistic doctrine of creation:

    * That the natural world is real (not an illusion) and basically good (and hence worth studying

    * That the natural world isn’t divine (i.e. pantheism is false) and so it isn’t impious to experiment upon it

    * That the natural world isn’t governed by multiple competing and/or capricious forces (i.e. polytheism is false)

    * That the natural world is governed by a rational order

    * That the human mind is, to some degree, able to understand the rational order displayed by the natural world

    * That human cognitive and sensory faculties are generally reliable

    * That the rational order displayed by the natural world cannot be deduced from first principles, thus observation and experiment are required”

    Again, notice that these presuppositions themselves cannot be proven by empirical science. Therefore, a science based epistemology, i.e. “scientism,” of any kind cannot be true.

    Williams observes that, “There is thus a wide-ranging consonance between Christianity and the presuppositions of science.” He then goes on to quote Barbour again.

    “Both Greek and biblical thought asserted that the world is orderly and intelligible. But the Greeks held that this order is necessary and that one can therefore deduce its structure from first principles. Only biblical thought held that God created both form and matter, meaning that the world did not have to be as it is and that the details of its order can be discovered only by observation. Moreover, while nature is real and good in the biblical view, it is not itself divine, as many ancient cultures held, and it is therefore permissible to experiment on it… it does appear that the idea of creation gave a religious legitimacy to scientific inquiry.”

    http://www.bethinking.org/does.....scientific

    Barbour is not alone here. Both Alfred North Whitehead and American physicist Robert Oppenheimer understood that historically a Christian milieu was in fact necessary for the development of science. The famous Christian writer and University of Cambridge professor C.S. Lewis summarized the position this way: “Men became scientific because they expected Law in Nature, and they expected Law in Nature because they believed in a [Lawgiver.]”

    Indeed, all the early scientist who were part of the so-called scientific revolution: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton were all Christian theists.

  23. 23
    ET says:

    Molson Bleu:

    When are we going to start putting some energy into understanding how it was designed rather that putting all of our energy into pointing out ways that it could not have arisen naturally?

    Our time would be better spent understanding the design so we can properly maintain and repair it. And even before that we have to show academia that they are wrong to continue to pursue science dominated by materialistic dogma and get them to embrace ID. Then those other questions will start to gain the resources needed to get to those answers.

  24. 24
    OldAndrew says:

    When are we going to start putting some energy into understanding how it was designed rather that putting all of our energy into pointing out ways that it could not have arisen naturally?

    First we have to advance beyond the dogma of naturalism which insists that we reconcile science with irrational fantasies of self-organization and self-invention.

    Overcoming that is an effort unto itself. To me ID isn’t about advancing science. It’s about bringing the relevant science back to a baseline of rationality and realizing that we don’t have to look for our keys under one particular streetlight.

  25. 25
    kairosfocus says:

    MB,

    what people may or may not believe is tangential to the fact that genetic engineering of DNA using known technologies is real.

    The suggested hyperskeptical dismissal fails.

    Next, we are contingent beings and exemplify designers; there is no good reason to abuse inductive inference to suggest we exhaust possible designers. We demonstrate that designers are possible and illustrate some ways to do it, where we also illustrate that for any complex thing, there’s more than one way to skin a catfish.

    Once FSCO/I is established as an empirically reliable sign of design, and it is, we need to follow the logic that if designers are in principle possible, FSCO/I stands as evidence of their action falling down to us as traces. So, to discover alphabetic code and linked execution machinery in the heart of the cell, in a context where we know such FSCO/I is known to come from design and that blind chance and/or mechanical necessity would face an implausible needle in haystack search-challenge at OOL, that counts strongly as indicating that cell based life on earth is a product of design.

    Finally but one, it is again and again clear that the issue does not lie in the scientific data and facts, but in the grounding of the logic of inductive inference to the best explanation, with a large side-order of linked worldviews analysis and analysis of informal fallacies.

    Last but not least, it is evident that the penumbra of attack-animus sites and the wider circle of evolutionary materialism enthusiast activists have been busily constructing and knocking over a strawman caricature of design thought, on the underlying prejudice that we must be ignorant, stupid, insane or wicked.

    CONCLUSION: The evidence before us is strong justification for us to proceed to correct the underlying flawed reasoning and to recognise that unless it is corrected, it is futile to try to pile up facts and cases; which will simply be dismissed as weak analogies, in one of the most pernicious strawman fallacies of all.

    KF

    PS: It looks like there is urgent need for basic tutorials in the logic of inference to best current empirically grounded explanation and wider inductive logic (including the proper place of analogies).

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, 22 [also 6, 9, 12], very well said. KF

  27. 27
    LarTanner says:

    KF @ 25:

    cell based life on earth is a product of design

    Is it possible to define and isolate the specific physical steps that the desginer(s) took to produce cell-based life?

    Can you please itemize these steps, preferably in historical sequence?

  28. 28
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, can you distinguish between per the manifested FSCO/I this car, this PC, this watch and this 6500 C3 reel were designed and knowing the specific steps taken to specify, develop and execute said design? Should it not be enough for relevant purposes to note that we have tested, reliable signs? Where also, we actually do see relevant technologies in action today, though obviously not as advanced? KF

  29. 29
    Molson Bleu says:

    “First we have to advance beyond the dogma of naturalism which insists that we reconcile science with irrational fantasies of self-organization and self-invention.”

    I agree. But we don’t get there by simply pointing out what evolution can’t explain. It hasn’t worked so far and it won’t work in the future. We get there by developing our own hypotheses and testing them.

    Modern chemistry didn’t develop by pointing out what alchemy couldn’t explain. It developed by developing hypotheses that better explained existing evidence and then further testing those hypotheses.

  30. 30
    tribune7 says:

    Molson Blue

    We get there by developing our own hypotheses and testing them.

    What do you think ID is? Technically it isn’t even anti-evolution Well, unless you include abiogenesis as evolution.

  31. 31
    LarTanner says:

    KF @ 28:

    LT, can you distinguish between per the manifested FSCO/I this car, this PC, this watch and this 6500 C3 reel were designed and knowing the specific steps taken to specify, develop and execute said design? Should it not be enough for relevant purposes to note that we have tested, reliable signs? Where also, we actually do see relevant technologies in action today, though obviously not as advanced? KF

    Yes, I would think we can distinguish between the FSCO/I of a car, a computer, and fishing reel. I also would think we could talk intelligently — if not definitively — about the steps taken to build individual instances of each technology.

    If we agree that “cell based life on earth is a product of design” — as indeed cars, computers, and reels are products of design — then we should next strengthen the assertion by showing knowledge of how the process(es) of design were implemented. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding: do you not share my view that we ought to explain how design produces different things, including cell based life?

  32. 32
    ET says:

    LarTanner- We cab strengthen the design inference by demonstrating there is immaterial information inside of cells

  33. 33
    john_a_designer says:

    KF @ 25 wrote,

    PS: It looks like there is urgent need for basic tutorials in the logic of inference to best current empirically grounded explanation and wider inductive logic (including the proper place of analogies).

    It appears to me that most of our naturalist/materialist interlocutors seem to think that their world view (WV) somehow wins by default. But does it really? When have any of them ever been able to prove their WV to be true? (If any of them have, I apparently missed it.) It appears to me that the only argument that they have is a fallacious argument from ignorance: No has proven naturalism to be false, therefore, it must be true. However, the argument from ignorance is a two edged sword which cuts both ways.

    Here is a textbook example:

    Ad ignorantium arguments (appeals to ignorance) have one of the following two forms:

    It has not been proved that P. [therefore] ~P.

    It has not been proved that ~P. [therefore] P.

    Here are two classic examples:

    SOLVED PROBLEM

    8.20 What is wrong with these arguments?

    No one has ever proved that God exists
    [Therefore] God does not exist.

    No one has ever proved that God does not exist.
    [Therefore] God exists.

    Solution

    Both are fallacious appeals to ignorance. Nothing about the existence of God follows from our inability to prove God’s existence or nonexistence (i.e., from our ignorance about the matter).

    (Schaum’s Outlines of Logic, 2nd Ed., p. 203)

    https://www.amazon.com/Schaums-Outline-Logic-Second-Outlines/dp/0071755462

    Ironically, some nat/mats try to discredit theism by fallaciously accusing theist’s of the so-called God-of-the-gaps argument. Yes, some theist’s and ID’ist do make fallacious arguments but not every appeal to God or a designer is fallacious or “God of the gaps.” Indeed, nat/mats are, more often than not, guilty of making a Nature or a “Darwin of the gaps” argument which is just as fallacious.

    This raises some pertinent questions: (1) Is there any way to prove that your world view is true? (2) When it comes to competing world views A and B (such as theism and naturalism) how do we decided between them?

  34. 34
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, that twerdun comes before whodunit, how twerdun etc. And besides we have already put on the table that we have taken first technological steps. In particular it is not appropriate to distract from the evidence and argument grounding inference to design on tested, reliable sign. When distraction is insisted upon that is often an evidence of the red herring fallacy at work. KF

  35. 35
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, evolutionary materialistic scientism is irretrievably self-referentially incoherent in many ways and is necessarily self-falsifying as a direct consequence. KF

    PS: I am thinking there is something seriously wrong in how people are addressing the inductive logic that is the basis of the epistemology of science, something connected to the distinct identity of entities which are observable such that we may infer information regarding state and even nature from exposures to observation. In this context it seems people try to substitute the concept that analogies are weak arguments thus readily dismissible without serious thought; even, when they look at instances of a common phenomenon. Particularly, alphabetic, complex, meaningful code with associated communication and execution machinery. BTW, that’s part of why I suggested using dice to effect a 6-state code above, to shock by a fresh instance.

  36. 36
    LarTanner says:

    KF @34 —

    LT, that twerdun comes before whodunit, how twerdun etc.

    I completely agree.

    What’s more…I am saying “twerdun.” ID wins. FSCO/I shows us twerdun. The question is answered, the mystery is solved.

    Because twerdun is affirmed, I want to move on and expand on what’s been established by twerdun. So…now that tested, reliable signs have provided evidence and argument that ground the inference to design, I happen to be curious about what more we can say about how design produced cell-based life.

    No big deal to me if this question is not of interest to you (or others). As I say, I happen to be curious.

  37. 37
    Seversky says:

    Nonlin.org @ 11

    That’s your problem right there – “supernatural” is a made up word meant to represent a barrier but that’s only your mental barrier. Obviously if the universe is created, then everything is natural.

    I see no barrier because I don’t recognize a supernatural domain. There is what we know and what we don’t yet know. The observable Universe might have been created but it isn’t necessary for naturalism.

  38. 38
    ET says:

    The contrast is between natural and ARTIFICIAL and not between natural and supernatural.

    And yes, Larry, once ID is fully accepted I would expect investigative venues to open up to answer those follow-on questions. At first the how may be like asking an Amazon tribe to figure out how a cell phone was realized. But we will trudge on because that is what we do.

  39. 39
    LarTanner says:

    ET @38 —

    once ID is fully accepted I would expect investigative venues to open up to answer those follow-on questions

    Why wait until ‘full acceptance’? Why wouldn’t answering ‘follow-on’ (I would rather say ‘relevant’ or ‘associated’) questions be exactly the means to accomplish acceptance?

  40. 40
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    ID doesn’t argue that the gene system was designed merely because materialists haven’t figured out how it came about without intelligence. DNA is part of a symbol system that was predicted to exist before it was discovered inside the cell. That system has a set of critical requirements that are only found elsewhere in written language and mathematics – two unambiguous correlates of intelligence.

    What’s so unambiguous about them?

    Additionally, none of the experimental work by materialists to “figure out” the gene system actually explains (provides a non-intelligent pathway to) those material conditions.

    Even if that were true, that’s equivalent to “[arguing] that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally”

    And by the way, positioning ID as a “gaps argument” requires one to assume conclusions against universal evidence to the contrary. In science, that’s the fool’s game.

    Except, universals are not supported by experience. They are educated guesses. They are rejected due to some kind of criticism, such as they do not sufficiently explain the phenomena in question or there are examples to the contrary. Trying to justify universals via a number of singular observations is the fool’s game because tomorrow could come along with criticism that contradicts them.

    Despite the trillions of observations we have that gravity behaves universally in our local vicinity, that’s less than a drop in the bucket compared to all the places in the universe that we haven’t tested it. Not to mention all the times in the past in those places and all of the possible times in the future in those places. So, it would be accurate to say that, statically, it’s astronomically unlikely that gravity behaves universally everyone in the universe.

    Rather we think gravity behaves universally everywhere in the universe, because it is fundamental to a vast number of other theories. And it makes predictions about phenomena, such as gradational lensing, that we’ve relatively recently observed.

  41. 41
    ET says:

    LarTanner:

    Why wait until ‘full acceptance’?

    Resources and training. Scientists tend to have specialties that they were trained for.

    Why wouldn’t answering ‘follow-on’ (I would rather say ‘relevant’ or ‘associated’) questions be exactly the means to accomplish acceptance?

    At first the how may be like asking an Amazon tribe to figure out how a cell phone was realized. And there are more important questions to answer. One follow-on question that would cement ID’s status as the one and only paradigm would be the discovery of the software that runs living organisms. That would be more relevant that trying to determine how something that is way out of our league to design came to be. We have a hard enough time trying to understand how some artifacts came to be.

  42. 42
    ET says:

    Even if that were true, that’s equivalent to “[arguing] that DNA is the result of intelligent design because we have not been able to figure out how it could possibly have developed naturally”

    The same can be said for all artifacts, murders, copyright penalties, arsons, thefts, etc. The heck with what we know now tomorrow may or may not uncover something to the contrary so we better wait? Really?

  43. 43
    critical rationalist says:

    “artifacts, murders, copyright penalties, arsons, thefts, etc” are not universals.

  44. 44
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    PS: I am thinking there is something seriously wrong in how people are addressing the inductive logic that is the basis of the epistemology of science, something connected to the distinct identity of entities which are observable such that we may infer information regarding state and even nature from exposures to observation.

    We know your position, KF. We just don’t agree and think that you’re mistaken.

    Furthermore, in most cases, people being mistaken about it doesn’t really hurt. The problem comes when people try to take it seriously, as an explanation for science. ID is one of those cases.

  45. 45
    critical rationalist says:

    From this article on constructor theory….

    We can discover what is at the center of stars even though we’ve never been there. We can find out that those cold, tiny objects in the sky that we call stars are actually million-kilometer, white, hot, gaseous spheres. They don’t look like that. They look like cold dots, but we know different. We know that the invisible reality is there giving rise to our visible perceptions.

    That science has to be about that has been for many decades a minority and unpopular view among philosophers and, to a great extent, regrettably even among scientists. They have taken the view that science, just because it is characterized by experimental tests, has to be only about experimental tests, but that’s a trap. If that were so, it would mean that science is only about humans and not even everything about humans but about human experience only. It’s solipsism. It’s purporting to have a rigorous objective world view that only observations count, but ending up by its own inexorable logic as saying that only human experience is real, which is solipsism.

    I think it’s important to regard science not as an enterprise for the purpose of making predictions, but as an enterprise for the purpose of discovering what the world is really like, what is really there, how it behaves and why. Which is tested by observation. But it is absolutely amazing that the tiny little parochial and weak and error-prone access that we have to observations is capable of testing theories and knowledge of the whole of reality that has tremendous reach far beyond our experience. And yet we know about it. That’s the amazing thing about science. That’s the aspect of science that I want to pursue.

  46. 46
    ET says:

    “artifacts, murders, copyright penalties, arsons, thefts, etc” are not universals.

    And the genetic code being an artifact is?

    Also if ID isn’t a scientific explanation for some or most of what we observe then it is a given that a scientific explanation for it doesn’t and may never exist (because ID will never do regardless of anything).

    The only problem with ID is just some people just don’t want to hear it. And because of that they refuse to budge even though they don’t have a viable alternative.

  47. 47
    critical rationalist says:

    @john_a_designer

    Why should we think that we’ve reached a point where things become inexplicable and therefore have to propose an entirely new realm of the supernatural?

    I don’t underhand it. What’s wrong with I don’t know? It’s unclear why you would expect us to know when when we’re reached this point and should give up on a natural explanation.

    Do you think that observations or experience tells us when we should give up? Do you think it has somehow been revealed to us when we should give up in via other means?

  48. 48
    john_a_designer says:

    KF @35,

    Frankly, even logically valid arguments based on inductive logic aren’t going to get very far with our typical interlocutors because they have an a priori blind faith commitment to naturalism/materialism. That is why I am not a big “ID as science” proponent. For me ID is mainly about drawing philosophical inferences from empirical scientific evidence. That is as legitimate for the theists to do as it is for the materialists to do. The difference is that the materialist interprets the evidence according to his a priori beliefs and world view is correct, which he clings to like a security blanket. If he can’t explain something he’ll either dismiss it as an anomaly– “there are always anomalies”– or, employ the canard that maybe someday science will be able to explain that “but there has got to be a naturalistic explanation– there just has to be.” But why do they accept they’re world view so uncritically? Can he prove that his world view is true? If he can’t how can he justify his belief?

    From what I see the atheists who show up here accept atheism-materialism completely on faith, which is totally contrary to their claim the eschew anything like faith. So they are not being honest with themselves or others. Of course, they’ll deny that. That’s what happens with self-deception. But then to top it all they show up here and try to cram their nutty beliefs down everyone’s throat.

  49. 49

    CR, see here.

    When you are able to acknowledge the demonstrated flaws in your argument, we can proceed. It is pointless to do so otherwise.

  50. 50
    kairosfocus says:

    UB, 49 (attn CR): Yup. KF

  51. 51
    kairosfocus says:

    JAD, the issue is that when a crooked yardstick is made the standard of straightness and accuracy and uprightness, then what is genuinely such will never pass the test of conformity to crookedness. This, BTW, is a main aim of agit-prop operators, for if they can so establish falsehood in the place of truth and soundness, then it becomes ever so hard to break out of the trap. This, BTW, is one reason why plumbline test cases become pivotal: the ordinary, un-indoctrinated man in the Clapham bus stop can see that a plumbline is naturally straight and upright, so also sorting out scale-accuracy. So, the ideologue is discredited. And, behind that is the importance of the cat-out-of-the-bag admission against interest. Here, we have an obvious ideological imposition that seeks to redefine science as evolutionary materialistic atheism in a lab coat. (Notice, the evasions of that problem?) The ordinary man knows that if Science is not about seeking the truth about our world, however imperfectly and provisionally, it becomes just another manipulation-tool for the corrupt powerful. Which is exactly what we saw when the families and children of Kansas were held hostage over their education and were further manipulated through a red herring led off to a strawman caricature soaked in ad hominems and set alight to cloud, confuse, poison and polarise the issue. No wonder that many can then be led towards a crumbling cliff’s edge. (And BTW, the fact that the penumbra of atheistical animus agit-prop sites hate me for highlighting this consistent rhetorical habit on their part speaks inadvertent volumes on how close it hits to home.) KF

  52. 52
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, cf. 51 just above and the OP. We are highlighting a root-problem that blocks progress on doing actual science by abusing institutional influence and media power to impose a demonstrably historically false and philosophically tendentious redefinition of science. If that cannot be fixed, no progress will be possible with science held captive to ideology and so also to ideological lock-out. For instance, it is an amazing achievement that now dozens of ID-supportive articles have been published in the peer-reviewed literature linked to biological and to informational themes. Cosmological themes did not see so much of a lock-out. And, we will see that we first deal with setting up the physics of a cosmos and that of a solar system amenable to C-chem, cell-based, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet in circumstellar and galactic habitable zone life. Capability to do that then leads on to exploring how something like a similar simulation/analysis suite can look at the engineering of the living cell and of terraforming a planetary biosphere. Recall, only C is suitable as a fairly abundant connector-block element and water is the universal solvent, bring up N, close enough in abundance and we see how cosmological fine tuning sets the stage for aqueous medium, C-chem, cell-based, protein using, life. Then, ecosystem design and body-plan design with built-in robustness and adaptability. This then highlights the emerging field, exobiology i/l/o astrophysics — and BTW gas giant roasters, inside Mercury terrestrials and the like are not credible candidates for terraforming. It also indicates the significance of computing [including quantum, analogue and neural network techniques], AI, cybernetics and mechatronics. We are already taking first steps with practical bio-systems engineering and we see the ecosystem concerns raised on genetically modified organisms. That points to the central importance of robust modelling and simulations. In this context, long ago, Dembski pointed to TRIZ as a theoretical framework for and initial guide to studying relevant technologies and their evolution by intelligent invention. The rising ICT2 wave in the global economy looks set to provide key technologies for the onward work. And maybe now you can glimpse why I have begun to highlight things like memristors and microscale information-using Maxwell Demon engines. KF

  53. 53
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    You’ve just pointed to a thread, not a specific criticism.

    Are you referring to this?

    CR, when you are able to acknowledge that storing information in a “quantum storage medium” is a semiotic system, we can continue this conversation.

    Last time I checked, Semiosis refers to the ability to segment a physical system into very specific roles: firstness, secondness, etc. And it’s through this particular segmentation, as a means of explanation, that makes a system semiotic, not just the results.

    So, by all means, explain how to segment a quantum storage medium, which is a physical system, into those specific semiotic roles.

  54. 54
    critical rationalist says:

    @JAD

    Frankly, even logically valid arguments based on inductive logic aren’t going to get very far with our typical interlocutors because they have an a priori blind faith commitment to naturalism/materialism.

    Arguments based on inductive logic and probability credence are not going to get far with me because they are bad explanations for the growth of knowledge.

    For example, No one has formulated a “priciple of induction” that actually provides guidance that can be used, in practice. Nor is it possible to interpret observations without first putting them into some kind of explanatory theory. Nor is it clear how you can calculate the probably of a theory since that requires knowing the all possible choices. Unlike a die, in which you know how many sides it has, how can you include theories we have not conceived of yet, etc. It is theories tell us the number of options we have, not vice versa. .

  55. 55
    john_a_designer says:

    Kf @ 51,

    I am not sure you understand what I am saying. (Take a look again at what I said at #6 of this thread.) The gist of my argument is that nobody can prove their worldview to be true— not the theist, not the naturalist/materialist, not the pantheist etc. It is something we must believe, as the writer of Hebrews states (Heb. 11:3), on the basis of faith. The big difference is that the atheist/ naturalist/ materialist won’t admit this so they are either being dishonest or deluded, or they are daft (ignorant and stupid). Of course if they accept the truth that atheism must be accepted by faith that leaves them in an absurd position, because faith is something they claim to eschew.

    However, even if we begin with faith we’re left with the question, is there any way to find out which world view is true?

    In the text I cited @ #33 above, about the argument from ignorance, the authors Nolt, Rohatyn and Varzi suggest that there is a way we can do so.

    These arguments suggest a false dichotomy either our evidence for a claim is conclusive or the claim itself is false. Quite obviously, however, a claim may be true even if our evidence for it is inconclusive. In the absence of proof, the rational approach is to weigh the available evidence, and, if the preponderance of the evidence favors one conclusion, to adopt that conclusion tentatively. Sometimes, however, the available evidence is not sufficient even to favor a tentative conclusion. In that case, it is best simply to suspend judgement.

    In other words, we accept a world view because of its explanatory scope and power. That’s something that theism has and naturalism/materialism doesn’t.

  56. 56

    CR, your #53 isn’t an acknowledgement. It appears to be little more than an invitation to re-argue your claims (which have already been conclusively falsified).

  57. 57
    critical rationalist says:

    First, why I should care that your misinterpretation of my argument has been “conclusively falsified”?

    A common way to attach a theory one finds objectionable is to present a false version of it, then point out how it’s false.

    Second, so can’t subdivide a quantum physical system into firstness, secendness, etc? Or are you suggesting that whether a system is semiotic has nothing to do wither being able to subdivide that physical system into firstness, secondness, etc?

    I can’t tell one way or the other.

  58. 58

    Claiming that you’ve been misunderstood, or that I haven’t correctly relayed your argument (after its been falsified) is nothing new for you, CR. We’ve all seen you do it before. Here is my response the last time you pulled this tactic:

    UB: CR, your counter-argument is that the semiotic model does not scale to a “quantum storage medium”. But a quantum storage medium is part of a semiotic system (just as I told you months ago).

    CR: That’s not my counter argument.

    CR, congratulations, in your quest to protect your theory from valid criticism, you’ve graduated from mere dissembling and deception, to telling outright falsehoods.

    ”Just as the scope of Newton’s laws does not scale to very high velocities required to build GPS satellites, your “theory of information” does not scale to the level of quantum storage mediums”critical rationalist, Nov 6, 2017

    The quote above was posted to me by someone commenting under the name “critical rationalist”. Are you not that “critical rationalist”? Are you a different critical rationalist? Are you asking us to believe that there is another critical rationalist posting here?

    If not, then you clearly made your claim (many many times, ad nauseam). Do you not remember harping for weeks about Newton’s law’s not scaling to general relativity, and demanding that I respond?

    Or perhaps you will claim that this quote is too old?

    Here is a later example:

    “your “theory of information” does not scale to quantum storage mediums” — critical rationalist, Nov 8, 2017

    And yet example another (weeks) later:

    “UB’s theory of information is an approximation which does not scale”. — critical rationalist, Nov 29, 2017

    And another example, later still:

    “UB’s theory of information does not scale” – critical rationalist, Dec 6, 2017

    And even another example from this very thread:

    “Since your theory of information does not scale” — critical rationalist, Dec 9, 2017

    Your claim has been answered CR. It is false. You’ll have to learn to accept it. Your counter example of a quantum storage medium requires semiosis to function. Just as I told you, months ago.

    You remain unable to act with minimal integrity. There is no value in conversing with someone who simply cannot bring themselves to acknowledge the demonstrated flaws in their claims.

  59. 59
    LarTanner says:

    KF @52,

    Maybe I misunderstand. Are you saying that expert researchers worldwide are prohibited from exploring and publishing on where/how design processes have been implemented in the development of cell-based life? I would not think this is so: researchers do their work to get results and yield new information. You point out that there is already some published research available to build upon.

    It seems like you want to win hearts and minds before doing the hard research, when it ought to go the other way around.

    What am I missing?

  60. 60
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, you have been following the situation long enough to know what has been going on for years with censorship, exclusion, slander and outright unjustified career busting. Bergman’s Slaughter of the Dissidents would make some useful reading on some of what has been going on. KF

  61. 61
    LarTanner says:

    KF @60,

    I understand that’s one partisan view of “the situation.” But again, the research is there for people to use. The tools are there. The logic is there.

    Maybe it’s an ideological barrier, as you say. But maybe, just maybe, it has no less to do with the quality of the research, tools, and logic.

  62. 62
    ET says:

    LarTanner:

    It seems like you want to win hearts and minds before doing the hard research, when it ought to go the other way around.

    If you want to harp on something harp on the fact that no one is trying to figure out how blind and mindless processes produced vision systems or any other biological system and yet they have all of the resources!

    The hard research demonstrates living organisms and biological systems are the result of intelligent design.

  63. 63
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    The argument I’ve presented has been clarified.

    For example a theory that “does not scale” as a very specific meaning in constructor theory. To clarify, I’ve presented multiple examples of a theory not scaling, including the the case of thermodynamics, which you claimed scaled.

    Something that scales in constructor theory because it allows us to make exact statements about. This was not possible in any theory of information or thermodynamics. And references to that effect were provided in detail.

    You, not initially understanding what was meant by “does not scale” is not relevant to the actual argument. It a distraction. This is because words are shortcuts for ideas. We should be willing to use other peoples terminology when having a discussion.

    Apparently, you’re unwilling to have a discussion about ideas, as opposed to the definition of words.

    It’s unclear how a deficiency I’ve been referring to from the beginning, and has yet to be addressed, is somehow a “I don’t know what you’re taking about” defense. You have yet to present a theory of information that scales to quantum systems. In fact, many people have attempted to bring information into fundamental physics and have been unsuccessful. Von Neumann attempted to bring his replicator vehicle into fundamental physics and was unsuccessful as well.

    What I’m suggesting is that we can bring information into fundamental physics via constructor theory. And we can do so because it is a new mode of explanation which is not limited by the current conception of physics. This is nothing new.

    Just looked at the referenced OP. Found this…

    1) a sequence of representations in a medium of information.

    This does’t tell me how to subdivide any physical system into “representations’. How does a representation actually perform the role it plays in any physical system? How does it scale?

    2) a set of physical constraints to establish what is being represented.

    This doesn’t tell me which constraints must be possible or impossible to establish what is represented. In the absence of this, it’s unclear if those necessary constraints are available in quantum systems.

    3) a system of discontinuous association between representations and referents, based on spatial orientation (i.e. a reading-frame code)

    Is spatial orientation the only way to associate between representations and referents in the translation system, or just classical systems, or any semiotic system?

    Again, it’s unclear how to subdivide any physical system into these roles, which would include a quantum system as well.

    As I’ve pointed out, Newton’s laws predict the same outcome as general relativity when it comes to launching rockets into space. Yet, general relativity suggests someone thing completely different is happening there, in reality. Newton’s laws are an approximation and general relativity is a more fundamental theory.

    I’m suggesting the same thing in the case of semiotic systems. This doesn’t mean I’m suggesting symbols are impossible in quantum systems. Rather, I’m suggesting that you need a more fundamental theory to achieve them. Perhaps a constructor theory of semiotic systems, which would reformulate semiotic system into constructor theoretic terms?

    The point being made is that we already have an example of a transition from replication specific to non-replications specific constructor tasks. Constructor theory allows us to model the entire gradient because it scales from primitive replicators to high fidelity replicators, including semiotic systems. It is this feature of constructor theory is what allows us say in exact terms that the design of replicators is not already present in the laws of physics.

    Are you suggesting that they are present in the laws of physics? Last time I checked you didn’t seem to think that was the case.

    4) functional coordination (semantic closure) between two sets of sequences; the first set establishes the constraints that are necessary to interpret the representations, and the second set establishes a system whereby the representations and their constraints are brought together in the specify way required to produce a functioning end product – an autonomous self-replicator. Coordination is required because changes to the first set affect the second set.

    This doesn’t seem to be applicable as I don’t think you’re claiming a quantum storage medium, such as a hypothetical future room temperature superconducting “quantum thumb drive” could replicate itself.

  64. 64
    kairosfocus says:

    LT, injustice is injustice, and Bergman has documented enough to give sobering pause. KF

  65. 65
    LarTanner says:

    KF, Fair enough. From whatever source or motivation, injustice ought to be condemned and opposed.

  66. 66

    I’ve presented multiple examples of a theory not scaling, including the the case of thermodynamics, which you claimed scaled.

    You should be more careful when you attempt to put words into someone’s mouth on a recorded blog. All they must do is ask you to post a link to the quote. When you are unable to do so, or if your link shows a gratuitous and opportunistic reading of their words, then the whole thing makes you look more silly than is actually necessary.

    You, not initially understanding what was meant by “does not scale” is not relevant to the actual argument.

    Firstly: Your post of Nov 6th (quoted in #58) is abundantly clear what your claim was, not to mention the fact that you kept repeating it over and over and over again. So, get off of it CR. You were never misunderstood; you were simply wrong.

    Secondly: Yes, I am quite sure that after your claims have been burnt to the ground in front of you, it would be comforting to think they were actually irrelevant to your cause. The issue here is that I clearly understood what you were talking about when you didn’t understand it yourself. You thought that because classical dynamics don’t scale to quantum dynamics, this meant that semiosis in a classical system wouldn’t scale to a quantum system. Oops. The real illuminating thing here is that I told you about this months ago: using quantum phenomena to encode a medium changes precisely nothing about the semiotic requirements of the system. Unfortunately, you are among that not-so-rare class of people who JUST CANNOT hear what is being said to them if they perceive it to be a problem for their prior assumptions.

    – – – – – – – – –

    The remainder of your post is more dissembling; typing empty words, playing rope-a-dope, looking for meager opportunities.

    I will address you further when you can acknowledge that a quantum storage medium is part of a semiotic system.

  67. 67
    critical rationalist says:

    CR:I’ve presented multiple examples of a theory not scaling, including the the case of thermodynamics, which you claimed scaled.

    UB: You should be more careful when you attempt to put words into someone’s mouth on a recorded blog. All they must do is ask you to post a link to the quote. When you are unable to do so, or if your link shows a gratuitous and opportunistic reading of their words, then the whole thing makes you look more silly than is actually necessary.

    From this comment….

    Note, this isn’t the first time UB was mistaken about a theory “scaling”. Specifically, UB claimed

    UB: There is a fundamental principle within physics sometimes referred to as the minimum total potential energy principle. This principle is related to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and simply states that any physical object (regardless of its size or composition, as big as a planet or as small as a molecule) will distort and twist, and naturally orient itself to seek its lowest potential energy state.

    But this doesn’t apply at the level of quantum physics, so it doesn’t actually scale to “any physical object”, as I pointed out here.

    You specified a range. And I pointed that doesn’t scale to “any physical object”. And then I pointed out the problems with thermodynamics, in how our current conceptions didn’t scale either.

    From this comment

    Actually, the second law is scale-dependent in this respect and this is a problem at the level of information theory with quantum systems. However, reformulation of the Second law in Constructor theoretic terms allows for scale independence. This is yet another example of the motivation for constructor theory. From this paper….

    An insidious gulf separates existing formulations of thermodynamics from other fundamental physical theories. They are scale-dependent – i.e., they hold only at a certain ‘scale’, or level of ‘coarse-graining’, none of which are ever exactly specified. So existing thermodynamics provides unambiguous predictions about ‘macroscopic’ systems such as Victorian heat engines, but it is controversial how it applies to ‘microscopic’ ones, such as individual quantum systems.
    Here I propose a scale-independent formulation of the zeroth, first and second laws of thermodynamics – i.e., one that does not rely on approximations, such as ‘mean values on ensembles’, ‘coarse-graining procedures’, ‘thermodynamic equilibrium’, or ‘temperature’. This new approach uses the principles and tools of the recently proposed constructor theory [1], especially the constructor theory of information [2].

    UB: Since all representations are physical objects, they are all subject to this fundamental principle. There are representations that function directly as a result of the medium physically assuming its lowest potential energy state.

    Except not all physical systems are classical. So the assumption that ….

    An isolated system in an arbitrary initial state within a finite fixed volume will spontaneously attain a unique state of equilibrium.

    does not hold in a scale-independent way. Nor does statistical approach solve the problem, either. IOW what is needed is to reformulate thermodynamics as possible and impossible tasks, in constructor theoretic terms.

    In other words, any given pheromone is a combination of a certain number of specific atoms that (when bound together as a compound) assumes a certain physical structure according to its nature – and it is that specific three-dimensional structure that the system recognizes and responds to.

    Some tasks are impossible in quantum systems. Specifically, regarding which attributes can be read at which times. So, technically, this is false, as qbits doe not have these structures, yet can be an information medium. In the paper, quantum information is an example of superinformation, because some tasks are impossible to perform on that medium.

    Constructor theory does not describe systems using initial conditions and laws of motion, which is what a potential lowest entry state represents (a tree branch comes to rest from an initial state after being acted on by snow, etc.) This is what allows it to be truly scale independent.

    So, your distinction between DNA and say, pheromones, hinges on the limitations of thermodynamics in the current conception of physics. Constructor theory has to define information in a way that does not depend on this equilibrium state because it’s not always present in all physical information mediums.

    Note this last part. This is yet anther example of what it means to say something “scales” in constructor theory.

    You thought that because classical dynamics don’t scale to quantum dynamics, this meant that semiosis in a classical system wouldn’t scale to a quantum system. Oops.

    See above. A theory of semiosis that scales is not “scale-dependent – i.e., [it] hold only at a certain ‘scale’, or level of ‘coarse-graining’, none of which are ever exactly specified.” Yet, that’s what you’ve provided.

    The real illuminating thing here is that I told you about this months ago: using quantum phenomena to encode a medium changes precisely nothing about the semiotic requirements of the system.

    So, it seems that I do have my answer after all. Specially, you seem to be claiming “…whether a system is semiotic has nothing to do wither being able to subdivide that physical system into firstness, secondness”, etc. But, if that’s the case, then it’s unclear what that tells us what is actually physically necessary for information.

    A theory of something isn’t the mere claim of their existence somewhere in some vague sense. It explains that something. Again, despite the fact that relatively suggests something completely different is going on in reality, as opposed to Newton’s laws, they can still be used to launch rockets into space. They explain the same thing in a fundamentally different way.

    This is why I kept pointing out the fact that our ability to launch rockets into space by pretending Newton’s laws are correct isn’t a problem for relativity. I’ve said this from the start. Apparently, you misunderstood that as well.

    The remainder of your post is more dissembling; typing empty words, playing rope-a-dope, looking for meager opportunities.

    I will address you further when you can acknowledge that a quantum storage medium is part of a semiotic system.

    Of course, UB. What you considered relevant (and continue to find relevant) couldn’t possibility had anything to do with you misinterpreting my argument. Obviously, I meant what you thought was relevant, rather than I what I though was relevant.

  68. 68

    From this comment…

    Good grief CR, this pointless distraction again? Okay

    The text you quoted from is part of a very brief and simplified explanation of the minimum total potential energy principle, specifically as it relates to DNA. That was the topic of the quote. The text is clearly intended to help a layperson understand DNA as a symbol system. Nothing I said in that context is even the slightest bit controversial.

    Do I claim anywhere in that very brief explanation that thermodynamic theory scales between classical and quantum domains? No, I do not, so your claim that I did is false. As if it wasn’t completely obvious, the issues being discussed have nothing whatsoever to do with a quantum media.

    Your comment is (as expected) opportunistic and gratuitous given the specific confines of the text and its obvious purpose. But hey, as a consummate dissembler, you’ll ignore the context and play the card anyway, right? You can even pretend to be serious for effect.

    On the other hand, the minimum total potential energy principle describes a physical reality that is actually relevant to understanding the topic. And a quantum storage medium (despite your avoidance of the issue) is part of a semiotic system, falsifying your claim.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    At the top of this post, I characterized this as another pointless distraction. You can put it into perspective by answering one of the questions you’ve avoided thus far:

    CR: I am referring to quantum storage mediums.

    UB: Okay. If a researcher uses quantum memory to store a simulation for, say a cure for cancer, he or she will (depending on the system) use various techniques to set the superposition state of the medium (i.e. the nuclei of a particular atom, for instance), thus encoding the qubits of memory.

    Is the state of a qubit of memory a cure for cancer, or is it about a cure for cancer, and thus, has to be interpreted?

  69. 69
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    The text you quoted from is part of a very brief and simplified explanation of the minimum total potential energy principle, specifically as it relates to DNA. That was the topic of the quote. The text is clearly intended to help a layperson understand DNA as a symbol system. Nothing I said in that context is even the slightest bit controversial.

    If you stick to what is not the “slightest bit controversial”, then all you have is a claim of irreducible complexity in the translation system, with all of it’s warts and flaws.

    That’s far form “unambiguous correlates of intelligence.”

    UB: Okay. If a researcher uses quantum memory to store a simulation for, say a cure for cancer, he or she will (depending on the system) use various techniques to set the superposition state of the medium (i.e. the nuclei of a particular atom, for instance), thus encoding the qubits of memory.

    And what various techniques might those be? What is physically necessary to apply them?

    To summarize as I see it…

    UB: All information storage is semiotic.

    CR: What about quantum storage mediums? To say a system is semiotic means it can be subdivided into very specific roles: firstness, secondness, etc. ala Charles Sanders Peirce. How do you subdivide a quantum system into those parts? What is physically necessary to do so?

    UB: You can store information in quantum systems, so it is semiotic.

    But this begs the question, because it assumes its conclusion. And it treats the term “semiotic” as being incredibly vague and far from “unambiguous.”

    Again a theory of symbols would define what is physically necessary in a way that scales. And when we find out a theory doesn’t scale, that is a problem to solve. In the process of solving it we can develop a more fundamentally theory that also explains symbols, yet suggests something different is happening there, in reality.

    This is the constructor theory of information, which explains symbols in a fundamentally way that scales.

    Again, pointing out that it’s possible to store information about, say cancer, in quantum system begs the question.

  70. 70

    lol

    CR, you poor thing. You write largely incoherent non-sequiturs, and produce positioning statements against well-recorded empirical facts — yet you just can’t bring yourself to answer the question.

    All your crap blows up if you do.

    And “constructor theory”? Oh lordy, it doesn’t even begin to describe the workings of symbol systems, as you have so kindly demonstrated over and over again by your hypervigilant need to avoid physical facts and the actual systems themselves. You tell yourself mountains of bafflegab (as seen regularly on these pages) trying to sell the idea that constructor theory is “more fundamental” than whatever, and then hilariously, you turn around and suggest we need a constructor theory of semiosis to get to the bottom of it.

    It’s calculated buffoonery.

  71. 71
    critical rationalist says:

    CR, you poor thing. You write largely incoherent non-sequiturs, and produce positioning statements against well-recorded empirical facts — yet you just can’t bring yourself to answer the question.

    All your crap blows up if you do..

    Again, that’s claiming the “well-recorded empirical facts” that it’s possible to launch rockets into space pretending that Newton’s laws are true causes relativity to “blow up”. It doesn’t. Nor does one have to avoid those facts.

    Both explain the same phenomena, while simultaneously suggesting something completely different is happening there, in reality. One is significantly more fundamentally that then other.

    Is there something about the above that yo duo not understand? Do you merely just not find it interesting, so you choose ignore it?

    So, again, what you seem to have is merely a claim of irreducible complexity in the translation system, with all of its warts and problems.

    To rephrase, do you deny you are claiming the translation system is irreducible complex? Is it a “well-recorded empirical fact” that it actually irreducible complex? IOW, it’s unclear exactly how you can get anywhere remotely close to there from “well-recorded empirical facts.”

    And “constructor theory”? Oh lordy, it doesn’t even begin to describe the workings of symbol systems, as you have so kindly demonstrated over and over again by your hypervigilant need to avoid physical facts and the actual systems themselves.

    Again, I have no need to avoid physical facts. This is because there is more than one way to explain phenomena. That’s what it means to have a theory of something. At best, the physical facts could lead you to make a claim of irreducible complexity. And we all know how well that’s gone over in the past.

    You tell yourself mountains of bafflegab (as seen regularly on these pages) trying to sell the idea that constructor theory is “more fundamental” than whatever, and then hilariously, you turn around and suggest we need a constructor theory of semiosis to get to the bottom of it.

    Then, by all means, feel free to present a way to subdivide a physical system into firstness, secondness, etc. that scales. Or even reference a paper that does so. As of the moment, you don’t seem to have one.

  72. 72
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    Of course, let’s not forget that your “theory of information” isn’t actually a physical theory because it doesn’t actually bring information into fundamental physics, and is incomplete.

    This is despite having asked what is physically necessary for information to be possible, which would include storing it in some physical medium. Apparently, you only care about this question when you think it supports your position. When presented with a more fundamental theory that doesn’t, the answer suddenly becomes “irrelevant”.

  73. 73
    Origenes says:

    CR, you have failed to answer the following simple question: what does constructor theory explain?
    You may want to give it another try.

  74. 74

    Again, that’s claiming the “well-recorded empirical facts” that it’s possible to launch rockets into space pretending that Newton’s laws are true causes relativity to “blow up”. It doesn’t. Nor does one have to avoid those facts.

    CR, you’ve become confused by your own BS. The relationship between classical and quantum dynamics is not equivalent to the relationship between semiosis in a classical system and semiosis is a quantum system. You keep playing this card like you have an actual distinction, but you don’t. The interdependent relationships required for semiosis to function as a system in a classical domain are the same as in the quantum domain. I told you this MONTHS ago – using quantum phenomena to encode matter does not alter the semiotic requirements of the system. But you REFUSE to listen. You REFUSE to address the well-known well-documented system function. This is why I have refused to move forward with you*. This is why I want you to actually answer the questions that you refuse to answer. This does not mean re-formulate the question into a twisted pile, and then scurry away. It means actually address the question. How many arrangements of matter are required to specify a thing from a medium of information in a primitive system? When the first semiotic constraint was synthesized from genetic memory, how many of the other constraints had to be in place? Did the dynamic system that is presumed to exist before the semiotic system have to specify the semiotic system that followed? And just for you – is a qubit of memory a “cure for cancer”, or is it ABOUT a cure for cancer, therefore requiring it to be interpreted?

    * This has actually been fairly difficult because you say so may upside down inaccurate things, it is difficulty to stand idly by. But I do it, because I know for a fact that if I talk about X or Y or Z, you will just keep on talking and NEVER EVER answer a question. You are a pathological dissembler, CR. The only way to have a conversation with you is tie you down to something, i.e. to force you to actually look at the facts and acknowledge them. Otherwise, it ankles high in bullshit of the truly (remarkably) self-indulgent variety.

    I have no interest in that.

  75. 75
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    What does it mean for a system to be “Semiotic”? Please be specific.

  76. 76

    Oh good grief CR, give it a rest. Not only have we been having this conversation for almost a year now, but you’ve been all over my website, and an entire thread has been posted here specifically on that very subject. Yet you stand there and suddenly ask what I mean by “semiotic”, like it’s been a mystery.

    Forgive me for considering your last post disingenuous. It’s a clumsy attempt to bring in some new grist for the mill. And it’s all become very old.

  77. 77
    critical rationalist says:

    This is why I want you to actually answer the questions that you refuse to answer. This does not mean re-formulate the question into a twisted pile, and then scurry away. It means actually address the question.

    Of course, UB, re-formualting the question can’t have any value because it does not suit your purpose. So, it must be a “a twisted pile.” (which is a incredibly vague criticism)

    From this paper…

    Constructor theory seeks to express all fundamental scientific theories in terms of a dichotomy between possible and impossible physical transformations – those that can be caused to happen and those that cannot [and why.]

    This is not a typo. Constructor theory underlines all theories in the current conception of physics. This includes the most fundamental theories we have: relativity and quantum mechanics.

    Consider an automated factory for producing goods to a particular specification. Though its purpose may only be to produce those goods, the laws of physics imply that it must transform something into them and, typically, also use other resources and produce waste products. Very few such transformations happen spontaneously; that is to say, almost all require a constructor, which I shall define as anything that can cause transformations in physical systems without undergoing any net change in its ability to do so. I shall call those physical systems the constructor’s substrates:

    input state of substrate(s) [constructor] ? output state of substrate(s).

    A transformation, regarded as being caused by a constructor, I call a construction..

    Are you following along? When we subdivide a physical system constructors are the part that cause transformations in physical systems without undergoing net change itself. Does this sound familiar?

    Constructors appear under various names in physics and other fields. For instance, in thermodynamics, a heat engine is a constructor because of the condition that it be capable of ‘operating in a cycle’. But they do not currently appear in laws of physics. Indeed, there is no possible role for them in what I shall call the prevailing conception of fundamental physics, which is roughly as follows: everything physical is composed of elementary constituents such as particles, fields and spacetime; there is an initial state of those constituents; and laws of motion determine how the state evolves continuously thereafter. In contrast, a construction (1) is characterized only by its inputs and outputs, and involves subsystems (the constructor and the substrate), playing different roles, and most constructors are themselves composite objects. So, in the prevailing conception, no law of physics could possibly mention them: the whole continuous process of interaction between constructor and substrate is already determined by the universal laws governing their constituents.

    Still following along? Constructors are called by other names in other theories. Which other theories? All theories in the current conception of physics. Nor is there any room for them, as constructors, in the current conception of physics, despite playing fundamental roles in those theories.

    However, the constructor theory that I shall propose in this paper is not primarily the theory of constructions or constructors, as the prevailing conception would require it to be. It is the theory of which transformations

    input state of substrates ? output state of substrates

    can be caused and which cannot, and why. As I shall explain, the idea is that the fundamental questions of physics can all be expressed in terms of those issues, and that the answers do not depend on what the constructor is, so it can be abstracted away, leaving transformations (2) as the basic subject matter of the theory.

    Constructor theory is a new mode of explanation. Despite being called “constructor theory” it’s not actually about constructors because they can be abstracted away.

    I shall argue that we should expect such a theory to constitute a fundamental branch of physics with new, universal laws, and to provide a powerful new language for expressing other theories.

    Still with me? Re-formulating other theories in constructor theoretic terms is not an aversion tactic. Nor does it result in a “twisted pile.” It’s a form of unification and explanation. That it’s possible to re-formulate all physical theories this way is core to constructor theory.

    I provisionally define a construction task (or ‘task’, for short) as a set of pairs such as (2), each designating a legitimate input state for the task and associating that with a legitimate output state for that input. […] A constructor is capable of performing a task A if, whenever it is presented with substrates in a legitimate input state of A , it transforms them to one of the output states that A associates with that input. For example, if p, q, r and s are states of some substrate, then to be capable of performing the task {p?q,q?r,q?s}, a constructor must invariably produce q if presented with p, and may produce either r or s if presented with q, and may do anything at all if presented with any other state. A constructor’s behavior when presented with anything other than a legitimate input state is undefined. The transpose A~ of A is the task with all the input and output states of A swapped, so {p ? q, q ? r, q ? s}~ ? {q ? p, r ? q, s ? q} .
    Presumably no perfect constructors can exist in nature. A factory is only an approximation to one, as are some of its constituents such as robots and conveyor belts, because of their non-zero error rates (producing something other than the specified output), and because in the absence of maintenance they gradually deteriorate. A task A is possible (which I write as A? ) if the laws of nature impose no limit, short of perfection, on how accurately A could be performed, nor on how well things that are capable of approximately performing it could retain their ability to do so. Otherwise A is impossible (which I write as A? ).

    This sounds familiar, don’t you think? And it also seems to encapsulate some process we’e been discussing, but does so as a generalization that is more fundamental.

    A candidate formalism for constructor theory is the algebra of tasks. The parallel composition A ? B of tasks A and B is the task of achieving the effect of performing A on one substrate and B on another. But performing A ? B need not involve actually performing A or B . Indeed, A ? B may be possible even when neither A nor B is – for instance, when they violate a conservation law by equal and opposite amounts. The same holds for the serial composition AB , which is defined such that in cases where every legitimate output state of B is a legitimate input state of A , AB is the task of achieving the net effect of performing B and then immediately performing A on the same substrate. (Other cases will not concern us in this paper.) We can also define tasks as networks of sub-tasks, with the outputs of some connected to the inputs of others. A regular network is one in which the legitimate outputs of the task at the beginning of each link are the legitimate inputs of the task at its end. This formalism makes it natural to conjecture – and here we come to our first constructor-theoretic law of physics, which I shall call the composition principle – that every regular network of possible tasks is a possible task. However, networks of possible tasks are not the only subject-matter of constructor theory. A possible task can be composed of impossible ones, as in the case of conservation laws that I have just mentioned. In this respect constructor theory differs from the theory of computation, which it generalizes (Section 2.7 below), and from other extensions of the idea of computation, such as modal logics. Those all deal with how to compose constructions, which are processes in which constructors perform possible tasks.

    So, there can be networks of tasks, that bring about transformations, which can consist of even more tasks, that result in even more transformations, etc.

    A catalyst is a substance that increases the rate of a chemical reaction without undergoing any net chemical change itself. Chemical equations describing catalysis are written like this:

    (1) (2) C (1) (2)?n1R +n2R +…???m1P +m2P +…, (3)

    which conforms to the pattern (1) with the catalyst C as the constructor.
    Since a catalyst changes only the rate of a reaction, not the position of equilibrium, it is sometimes deemed a mistake to regard catalysts as causing reactions. However, that argument would deny that anything causes anything. Even without a factory, the components of a car do spontaneously assemble themselves at a very low rate, due to Brownian motion, but this happens along with countless other competing processes, some of them (such as rusting away) much faster than that self-assembly, and all of them much slower than the assembly effected by the factory. Hence a car is overwhelmingly unlikely to appear unless a suitable constructor is present. So if causation is meaningful at all, catalysts and other constructors do indeed cause their characteristic constructions.
    When one is not specifically discussing the catalyst, one usually omits it, describing the reaction as a construction task instead:

    n1 R(1)+n2 R(2)+… ? m1 P(1)+m2 P(2)+…. (4)

    This is convenient because most laws of chemistry are only about the reagents; that is to say, they hold regardless of what the catalyst may be, and hence assert nothing about the catalyst. For example, the law of definite proportions requires the coefficients n1,n2… and m1,m2… in (3) or (4) to be integers, depending only on the chemical identities of the reagents and products. It says that any catalyst capable of catalyzing (4) can do so only for integer values of the coefficients. Similarly, (4) has to balance (expressing the fact that chemical processes cannot create or destroy atoms); it has to scale (be the same whether the terms refer to molecules, moles or any other measure proportional to those); the free energy of the products must not exceed that of the reagents; and so on. All these laws hold whatever causes the reaction while remaining unchanged in its ability to do so.
    Imposing the prevailing conception of fundamental physics on chemistry would entail treating the catalyst as another reagent. One would rewrite (3) as

    kC+n1 R(1)+n2 R(2)+… ? kC+m1 P(1)+m2 P(2)+… (5)

    for some k. But then the catalyst violates the law of definite proportions: since each catalyst molecule may be re-used, (5) can proceed for a huge range of values of k. Nor does (5) scale: the minimum number of catalyst molecules for which it outpaces competing reactions is some k0 , but for x times the number of reagent molecules, the minimum number may be much lower than xk0 , and will depend on non-chemical factors such as the size of the container, again contrary to the law of definite proportions.

    The customary distinction between catalysts and other reagents therefore correctly reflects the fact that they are treated differently by laws of nature – in this case, laws of chemistry. But there is no significant distinction between catalysts and other
    constructors. For example, the synthesis of ammonia, 3 H + 2 N ??? 2 NH , will not
    happen in empty space, because at near-zero pressure the process of diffusing away is much faster than the chemical reaction. Hence a container or equivalent constructor is among the conditions required in addition to the catalyst. Indeed, some catalysts work by being microscopic containers for the reagents.

    Chemical catalysis has natural generalizations. Carbon nuclei are catalysts for nuclear reactions in stars. A living organism is both a constructor and a product of the construction that is its life-cycle which, for single-celled photosynthesizing organisms, is simply:
    ?small molecules+light [cell]?cell+waste products . (6)

    Inside cells, proteins are manufactured by ribosomes, which are constructors consisting of several large molecules. They function with the help of smaller catalysts (enzymes) and water, using ATP as fuel:

    aminoacids+ATP [RNA+ribosome+enzymes+H O 2 ]?protein+AMP+waste products.

    I mention this reaction in particular because the RNA plays a different role from the other catalysts. It specifies, in a code, which protein shall be the product on a given occasion. Thus, the catalysts excluding the RNA constitute a programmable constructor. The general pattern is:
    ?input state of substrates [[program ]programmable constructor]?output state of substrates.

    Constructor theory is the ultimate generalization of the idea of catalysis.

    Hey, look. That’s the translation system. And symbols are an example of a constructor called by another name in another theory. Specifically, they retain the ability to perform construction tasks again. They cause transformations on substrates. Etc.

    So, the translation system, the symbols that drive it, the resulting construction of proteins and even the construction of the cell itself, is a series of tasks, and subtasks and subtasks, composite constructors and networks possible construct tasks!

    And, if we can re-formulate all physical theories in constructor theory, it should be possible to re-reformulated other theories in constructor theoretic terms as well, in a more fundamental way. This would include the theories that had yet to be brought into fundamental physics, such as information and the theory of life. That sounds familiar too…

    Oh wait. I’ve already referenced both of those. Repeatedly. Which can be found here and here, respectively.

  78. 78
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    It’s a simple question UB.

    if it has nothing to do a means of dividing any physical systems into firstness, secondness, etc., then what exactly have to do with physics? What is it other than a mere claim of irreducible comepleity?

    See above.

  79. 79
    Origenes says:

    CR: Constructor theory seeks to express all fundamental scientific theories in terms of a dichotomy between possible and impossible physical transformations – those that can be caused to happen and those that cannot [and why.]

    Constructor theory is a non-starter because pointing out what is possible and impossible is not an explanation of anything. Things do not happen because they are possible. Yes, it is possible that a tornado turns a junkyard in a Boeing 747, however, ‘being possible’ does not in any way guarantee (explain) its occurrence. Yes it is possible that a monkey banging away on a typewriter produces Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but merely pointing out a possibility is not an e x p l a n a t i o n of why that would occur.

    “Because it is possible” <<< not an explanation.

    Also, it does not help to point out transformations which cannot happen. For instance, pointing out that a tornado cannot transform a junkyard into a red hypergiant star, due to lack of matter and energy, does not improve the ‘explanation’.

    CR: Constructor theory is a new mode of explanation.

    No it is not, for the simple reason that it does not explain anything. When Deutsch writes: …

    I conclude that self-reproduction, replication and natural selection are possible under no-design laws …

    it is not the case that self-reproduction, replication and natural selection are explained.

    … it is a new mode of explanation …

    No it is not an explanation. A naive claim that something is “possible” never was an explanation and never will be.

    Constructor theory is more fundamental explanation …

    Get real.

  80. 80

    It’s a simple question UB.

    Yes, thank you for reducing it down to its most simple form. I suppose we can also assume that this is your best shot as well, so let’s take a look:

    You’ve presented two options…

    Option #1 says that my argument is all about sorting the world into Peircean categories. However, I’ve never said a single word about Peircean categories (ever), so this option is a complete rhetorical invention on your part. Nicely done.

    Option #2 says that my argument is all about irreducible complexity. I can tell from your presentation that you’re expecting to hear gasps from the audience at the mere mention of those words.

    So after months of deliberately avoiding any contact with the actual details of these systems, this “simple question” is your best shot. And as it turns out, physical evidence plays no role in it whatsoever.

    I don’t find that surprising at all.

  81. 81

    meanwhile …

    The system requires:

    1) a sequence of representations in a medium of information.

    2) a set of physical constraints to establish what is being represented.

    3) a system of discontinuous association between representations and referents, based on spatial orientation (i.e. a reading-frame code)

    4) functional coordination (semantic closure) between two sets of sequences; the first set establishes the constraints that are necessary to interpret the representations, and the second set establishes a system whereby the representations and their constraints are brought together in the specify way required to produce a functioning end product – an autonomous self-replicator. Coordination is required because changes to the first set affect the second set.

    You have to have a medium of information, representations, constraints, discontinuous association, a reading-frame code, and semantic closure in order to create a material system capable of Darwinian evolution. Each interdependent piece has a physical manifestation, and each brings a critical capacity to the system.

    – – – – – – – – – – – –

    >>> How many arrangements of matter are required to specify a thing from a medium of information in a primitive system?

    >>> When the first ever semiotic constraint was synthesized from genetic memory, how many of the other constraints had to be in place?

    >>> Did the dynamic system that is presumed to have existed prior the semiotic system have to specify the semiotic system that followed it?

  82. 82
    critical rationalist says:

    Constructor theory is a non-starter because pointing out what is possible and impossible is not an explanation of anything.

    Again, this is a strawman.

    It’s not just a claim that something is possible. Again, what is key is the dichotomy of what is possible and impossible and why. Furthermore, you are assuming that initial conditions hold some special role.

    From the paper…. [forgot the link in my previous comment..

    In the constructor-theoretic conception, the initial state is not fundamental. It is an emergent consequence of the fundamental truths that laws of physics specify, namely which tasks are or are not possible. For example, given a set of laws of motion, what exactly is implied about the initial state by the practical feasibility of building (good approximations to) a universal computer several billion years later may be inelegant and intractably complex to state explicitly, yet may follow logically from elegant constructor-theoretic laws about information and computation (see Sections 2.6 and 2.8 below).

    The intuitive appeal of the prevailing conception may be nothing more than a legacy from an earlier era of philosophy: First, the idea that the initial state is fundamental corresponds to the ancient idea of divine creation happening at the beginning of time. And second, the idea that the initial state might be a logical consequence of anything deeper raises a spectre of teleological explanation, which is anathema because it resembles explanation through divine intentions. But neither of those (somewhat contradictory) considerations could be a substantive objection to a fruitful constructor theory, if one could be developed.

    Your objection is address above…

    Furthermore…

    1.3 Constructor theory would underlie all other scientific theories
    The theory of relativity is the theory of the arena (spacetime) in which all physical processes take place. Thus, by its explanatory structure, it claims to underlie all other scientific theories, known and unknown, in that requires them to be expressible in terms of tensor fields on spacetime, and constrains what they can say about the motion of those fields. For example, any theory postulating a new particle that was unaffected by gravity (i.e. by the curvature of spacetime) would contradict the general theory of relativity. Another theory that inherently claims to underlie all others is quantum theory, which requires all observable quantities to be expressible in terms of quantum-mechanical operators obeying certain commutation laws. And so, for example, no theory claiming that some physical variable and its time derivative are simultaneously measurable with arbitrary accuracy can be consistent with quantum theory. Constructor theory would, in this sense, underlie all other theories including relativity and quantum theory. The logic of the relationship would be as follows: Other theories specify what substrates and tasks exist, and provide the multiplication tables for serial and parallel composition of tasks, and state that some of the tasks are impossible, and explain why. Constructor theory provides a unifying formalism in which other theories can do this, and its principles constrain their laws, and in particular, require certain types of task to be possible. I shall call all scientific theories other than constructor theory subsidiary theories.
    In this paper I guess some principles of constructor theory. Some of these guesses (such as the composition principle in Section 1.2 above and the interoperability principle in Section 2.6 below) are natural given the formalism I am proposing, which is itself natural if constructor theory is regarded as a generalisation of the theory of computation (Section 2.7). Others are principles that are already known but not widely regarded as laws of physics, such as the principle of testability (Section 2.11) and what I have called the Turing principle (Section 2.8). If the thesis of this paper is true, then others may emerge from the explicit integration of subsidiary theories, especially quantum theory and relativity, and by guessing improvements to falsified guesses (Section 2.10).

    So, to say someone problem is solvable, or even to define things like information, requires that specific constructor tasks must be possible and other construction tasks must be impossible. One such example is thermodynamics.

    Causation is widely regarded by philosophers as being at best a useful fiction having no possible role in fundamental science. Hume (1739) argued that we cannot observe causation and therefore can never have evidence of its existence. But here I shall, with Popper (1959, 1963), regard scientific theories as conjectured explanations, not as inferences from evidence, and observation not as a means of validating them, but only of testing them. So Hume’s argument does not apply. Nor does the argument (e.g. by Russell 1913) that the fundamental laws of physics make no reference to causes – for that is merely an attribute of a particular way of formulating those laws (namely, the prevailing conception) not of the laws themselves. Moreover, the prevailing conception itself is not consistent about that issue, for the idea of a universal law is part of it too, and the empirical content of such a law is in what it forbids by way of testable outcomes (Popper 1959, §31 & §35) – in other words in what transformations it denies can be caused to happen, including to measuring instruments in any possible laboratories. Explanatory theories with such counter- factual implications are more fundamental than predictions of what will happen. For example, consider the difference between saying that a purported perpetual motion machine cannot be made to work as claimed ‘because that would violate a conservation law’ and that it won’t work ‘because that axle exerts too small a torque on the wheel’. Both explanations are true, but the former rules out much more, and an inventor who understood only the latter might waste much more time trying to cause the transformation in question by modifying the machine.

  83. 83
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: Option #1 says that my argument is all about sorting the world into Peircean categories. However, I’ve never said a single word about Peircean categories (ever), so this option is a complete rhetorical invention on your part. Nicely done.

    I see. So when you wrote….

    Not only have we been having this conversation for almost a year now, but you’ve been all over my website, and an entire thread has been posted here specifically on that very subject. Yet you stand there and suddenly ask what I mean by “semiotic”, like it’s been a mystery.

    … I shouldn’t actually read what’s posted on your Bibliography page and take that as part of what you mean by “semiotic”?

    Here’s ‘just one reference

    The problem is that conceptually the epistemic cut divides the world in two, and the central problem is how the two worlds are connected. As C. S. Peirce has emphasized, all symbol systems are necessarily triadic systems, and the epistemic cut itself is actually a complex process. It corresponds to the interpretation that relates the symbol to its referent. In the cell this is an enormously complex process transcription, translation, synthesis, folding, distribution, and selective control of many proteins. How this coordinated interpreting system originated is the central problem of the origin of life.

    And another….

    Peirce model of semiosis
    According to the classical doctrine of semiosis developed by Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, signs are divided into two great classes that Augustine (389ad) called signa data and signa naturalia, a distinction that continues to these days with the terms conventional signs and natural signs. The con- ventional signs (or symbols) are those where there is no physical relationship between signs and objects (between a flag and a country, for example) and a link between them can only be established by arbitrary rules, i.e. by conven- tions. In natural signs, by contrast, a physical link is always present. Typical examples are the symptoms that doctors use to diagnose illnesses (spots on the skin, a fever, a swollen area, etc.), as well as a variety of cues (smoke as sign of fire, odours as signs of food, footprints as signs of organisms, etc.). In all these cases there is a physical relationship between the visible signs and the invisible entities that they point to, and yet the relationship is un- derdetermined, so much so that it takes an act of interpretation to establish it. All this suggests that semiosis is based on interpretation in natural signs and on codes in conventional signs, as Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas had indicated. On this point, however, Peirce broke with tradition, argued that codes too are interpretive processes and concluded that semiosis always requires interpretation. According to Peirce, in other words, the agent of semiosis is necessarily an interpreter, and this is why Thomas Sebeok (2001) declared that “. . . there can be no semiosis without interpretability”. This conclusion has become known as ‘the Peirce model of semiosis’, a model that was expressed in formal terms in the treatise Semiotik/Semiotics edited by Roland Posner, Klaus Robering and Thomas Sebeok (1997), in the following way: “The necessary and sufficient condition for something to be a semiosis is that A interprets B as representing C, where A is the interpretant, B is an object and C is the meaning that A assigns to B”.
    [Back to Contents]

    There are several others, do I need to post them as well? Or should I even bother if the are as irrelevant as Shannon’s theory of information supposedly was when I asked months ago if that what theory of information you were referring to, because what you passed off as one was incomplete.

    So, apparently, it’s UB’s model of semiosis, which is what everyone has known for 50 years, not Peirce’s model? That would mean you’re, say, 70 + years old?

    Option #2 says that my argument is all about irreducible complexity. I can tell from your presentation that you’re expecting to hear gasps from the audience at the mere mention of those words.

    From this 2012 post on UD….

    7.  And if those observations are true, then in order to actually transfer recorded information, two discrete arrangements of matter are inherently required by the process; and both of these objects must necessarily have a quality that extends beyond their mere material make-up. The first is a representation and the second is a protocol (a systematic, operational rule instantiated in matter) and together they function as a formal system. They are the irreducible complex core which is fundamentally required in order to transfer recorded information.

    Yet, there is no mention of irreducible complexity in this recent post on the same subject. Nor have you affirmed or denied it when asked about it point blank. So, what else am I supposed to think? What gives?

    So after months of deliberately avoiding any contact with the actual details of these systems, this “simple question” is your best shot. And as it turns out, physical evidence plays no role in it whatsoever.

    Having referenced these papers, several times, it’s unclear how I’ve avoided evidence. The quote above is referring to generalizations of catalysts and actually makes reference to the translation system. And that’s just the general paper on constructor theory, not the detailed paper on the subsidiary theory of life. Do I need to start quoting that as well? Again, is evidence that one can launch a rocket into space by pretending Newton’s laws are true a problem for Relativity?

    The question you asked: what is necessary for information? Apparently, you’re really, really interested in getting an answer until a more fundamental, physical theory of information is provided which does not suit your agenda. Then you just ignore it.

    In other words, apparently, its not that evidence doesn’t play a role. It’s just not a role you find particularly interesting. And you’re the one who isn’t surprised?

  84. 84
    critical rationalist says:

    How many arrangements of matter are required to specify a thing from a medium of information in a primitive system?

    As indicated above, constructor theory is the ultimate generalization of catalysts in that it scales from very simple chemical reactions to the translation system and beyond. So, we could just as well ask in a more fundamental sense: what construction tasks must be possible, which construction tasks must be impossible and why?

    In the case of a environment consisting entirely of primitive replicators, high-fidelity is unnecessary. All the is needed is to reproduce in some form. As such, it does not need to be a self-replicator. The environment is the constructor.

    When the first ever semiotic constraint was synthesized from genetic memory, how many of the other constraints had to be in place?

    Constraints can be express as which construction tasks are impossible. That’s covered in my long comment above.

    Did the dynamic system that is presumed to have existed prior the semiotic system have to specify the semiotic system that followed it?

    First, I would again point out that you might want to avoid using an argument that is problematic for your own. Specifically, suggesting something that is well adapted to serve a purpose (design organisms) as the explanation for something being well adapted to serve a purpose (the translation system) results in an infinite regress.

    If a designer actually designed the transition system, it would have been a system that existed prior and represented the same knowledge, via the interoperability principle, of the system that followed it. At which point, you have the same problem.

    Did your designer’s knowledge (system that is presumed to have existed prior) have to exist to specify the semiotic system that followed it?

    Some designer that “just was” complete with the knowledge of which genes would result in just the right proteins that would result in just the right features, already present, serves no explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared”, complete with the knowledge of which genes would result in just the right proteins that would result in just the right features, already present.

    Again, constructors go by different names in different theories. If organisms were designed, the entire [designer – translation system – organism] process can be expressed in constructor theoretic terms as a network of possible tasks.

    IOW, the designer / translation system boundary you’re implicitly to appealing to, in an attempt to avoid this infinite regression problem, is specific to the current conception of physics. A designer, capable of design because it “knows how”, the genome of the organism, etc. They all represent knowledge. So, it’s unclear why knowledge being present in or by the designer isn’t an example of the very same problem.

    Furthermore, since ID says nothing about the designer other than “designing” organisms, it represents merely an authoritative source of knowledge. “It just was”, complete with that knowledge, already present.

    Nor is there any mystery here as to why this is the case. ID proponents must leave enough ambiguity not to exclude their preferred designer, and that precludes codifying any of the assumptions necessary to make ID a good explanation as officially part of the theory itself. It’s unclear how “science” is to blame when ID itself effectivity neuters itself.

    Second, no, it did not. Our laws of physics are “non-design” in that the design of replicators was not present there from the outset. The network of construction tasks that make up current, high-fidelity biological replicators eventually end up at generic tasks that are not replication specific. At this level, the environment acts as a constructor as well.

    The is why the question asked in the referenced paper is key in bringing Darwinism into fundamental physics. It allows us to model construction from the level of simple catalysts to the transitions system, etc. Variation can occur in those systems. Single strand RNA viruses are significantly less stable than DNA virtues, which results in greater mutation rates. And both are significantly less stable than the cells they hijack.

    Again, we have concrete examples of gradations of fidelity even in the current conception of physics. Constructor theory of life expands that significantly.

    And constructor theory allows us to define “the appearance of design” in an exact way that scales across the biosphere, information, etc. Specifically…

    3.1.1 Appearance of design
    Something with the appearance of design is often described as “improbable” [27, 28]. This is misleading because probability measures are multiplicative; so that would mean that two independent objects with the appearance of design would have much more of that appearance than they do separately. But that is not the case when the two objects have unrelated functionalities (such as, say, internal organs of different organisms). In contrast, two organs in the context of the same organism, coordinating to the effect of gene propagation, do have a greater appearance of design than either separately. This can be expressed naturally in constructor-theoretic terms for programmable constructors.
    Consider a recipe R for a possible task T. A sub-recipe R? for the task T? is fine-tuned to perform T if almost any slight change in T? would cause T to be performed to a much lower accuracy. (For instance, changing the mechanism of insulin production in the pancreas even slightly, would impair the overall task the organism performs.) A programmable constructor V whose repertoire includes T has the appearance of design if it can execute a recipe for T with a hierarchical structure including several, different sub- recipes, fine-tuned to perform T. Each fine-tuned sub-recipe is performed by a sub-constructor contained in V : the number of fine-tuned sub-recipes performable by V is a measure of V ’s appearance of design. This constructor- theoretic definition is non-multiplicative, as desired.

    So, to get started…

    The second point is that natural selection, to get started, does not require accurate self-reproducers with high-fidelity replicators. Indeed, the minimal requirement for natural selection is that each kind of replicator produce at least one viable offspring, on average, per lifetime – so that the different kinds of replicators last long enough to be “selected” by the environment. In challenging environments, a vehicle with many functionalities is needed to meet this requirement. But in unchallenging ones (i.e. sufficiently unchang- ing and resource-rich), the requirement is easily met by highly inaccurate self-reproducers that not only have no appearance of design, but are so inac- curate that they can have arisen spontaneously from generic resources under no-design laws – as proposed, for instance, by the current theories of the origin of life [11, 31]. For example, template replicators, such as short RNA strands [32], or similar “naked” replicators (replicating with poor copying fi- delity without a vehicle) would suffice to get natural selection started. Since they bear no design, they require no further explanation – any more than simple inorganic catalysts do.(11)

  85. 85

    CR, is there really no end to your dissembling?**

    Is there no point where you become embarrassed by having to play one deception on top of another? It’s a cheesy way of protecting your claims from criticism, and you are particularly inept at it.

    We can continue our conversation when you are able to acknowledge the flaws already demonstrated in your claims. Does a quantum storage medium require interpretation or not?

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    ** In your effort to avoid acknowledging the flaws in your claims, you’ve set up a diversion where you pretend to suddenly not know what I mean by the term “semiosis”. In order for you to nudge that deception along, in comment #78 you tried to spin Peirce’s philosophical categories of thought (i.e. firstness, secondness, thirdness) into this conversation, suggesting that these concepts must have something to do with what I mean when I use the term (semiosis). In response, I pointed out that your remarks (about Peircean categories) were a complete fabrication, given the fact that I have never said one word about these categories (ever). You then replied with a snappy comment about certain information available through my website, and produced two texts as your examples – neither of which makes any mention whatsoever about these Peircean categories.

    This is a dissembler’s game; deliberately manufactured to protect you from having to acknowledge the flaws in your claims. It shows a lack of minimal integrity, and is the reason why there is little point in conversing with you. Specifically, if you cannot acknowledge when your claims are false, then we cannot be genuinely reasoning whether or not they are true.

  86. 86
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB,

    I’m the one avoiding the flaws in my argument?

    Since you first asked what was physically necessary to store information in a storage medium, I’ve suggested your “theory” is incomplete and doesn’t scale. Specifically, no one had presented a theory of information that brings information into fundamental physics. This includes Shannon, von Neumann, etc. This has been my position from the start.

    Since it’s possible to misinterpret someone, my process has been to guess what you mean by “semiosis”, try to take that guess seriously, and then discard errors I have about it. This is why I asked if the “theory” of information you were presetting was Shannon’s, which you quickly dismissed as being “irrelevant”.

    I’m asking because, if I try to take what you *seem* to mean by “semiosis” seriously, what I get is that “you can store information in it”, which is basically a claim of irreducible complexity. I’ve received virtually no feedback from this either.

    This became clearer when you seemed to think a quantum storage medium exhibited “semiosis” merely because could be used to store information. A physical theory of what’s necessary to store information is what’s in question, not the ability to do so at all. A theory that “scales” is one that allows us to make exact statements in constructor theory. You having misinterpreted this from the start does’t mean my argument has changed.

    Furthermore, a clarification has been made. Are you suggesting the reason why is even remotely relevant? My presentation of the argument will change in an attempt to gain a better understanding of what you mean by “semiosis” because it will attempt to focus on ways our positions differ, the consequences of those differences, etc. That’s how we make progress.

    I would again point out the ability to launch a rocket into orbit can be physically explained via Newton’s laws or in terms of tensor fields and space-time of general relativity. Both of which suggest something completely different is happen there in reality, despite resulting in the same outcome in specific scenarios. This is not something general relativists have to avoid. Do you disagree with this? Do you see the difference between multiple ways ways of explaining what will occur vs the prediction of what will occur?

    In the same sense, we can define information in constructor theoretic terms and, in turn, what’s necessary to to embed it in a storage medium, in terms of which constructor tasks are possible, which constructor tasks are impossible and why. And that would span the supposed designer and the translation system it supposedly designed. It’s in this sense the very thing that makes symbols possible would have implications about the designer. That is unless you’re suggesting information could have just spontaneously appeared in a storage medium? (Note: this is me attempting to take your theory seriously to determine where we differ, etc)

    Do you have some criticism of this? Are you suggesting all physical theories cannot be expressed in terms of this dichotomy, including information? If so, what is your objection? It seems what you’d need to have a physical theory of information in the first place to actually suggest something is missing. Or are you suggesting there is such a thing as a non-physical instantiation of information? (Hint, I’m doing it again)

    IOW, it seems that you’re trying to portray making yet another attempt to get you to provided a physical theory as suddenly pretending not to know what you mean by “semiosis”.

    So, I’ll ask yet again. If what you mean by “semiosis” doesn’t have anything to do with subdividing a physical system into some triad, if not Peirce’s, then what else do you have other than a claim of irreducible complexity?

    In constructor theory, part of the physical system doesn’t undergo a net change after performing the construction task. That’s what it means for it to be the constructor. This is opposed to the substrate, which also can be identified as a specific part of the physical systems, in addition to the attributes that get transformed. It’s only when a physical system can be divided in this sense, that it represents a constructor.

    Consider an automated factory for producing goods to a particular specification. Though its purpose may only be to produce those goods, the laws of physics imply that it must transform something into them and, typically, also use other resources and produce waste products. Very few such transformations happen spontaneously; that is to say, almost all require a constructor, which I shall define as anything that can cause transformations in physical systems without undergoing any net change in its ability to do so. I shall call those physical systems the constructor’s substrates:

    input state of substrate(s) [constructor] -> output state of substrate(s).

    A transformation, regarded as being caused by a constructor, I call a construction.

    Are you suggesting that the translation system cannot be divided in this way? If so, why?

    For example, does an aspect of your triad loose its ability to perform whatever role you’re referring to because it undergoes net change, or does it continue to do so, again and again? Does part of the triad not represent a substrate and do attributes of it not get transformed? (In case it’s not obvious, I’m doing it yet again)

  87. 87

    I’m the one avoiding the flaws in my argument?

    Yes, that’s correct.

  88. 88

    Observe:

    Does a quantum storage medium require interpretation or not?

  89. 89
    critical rationalist says:

    That you think this is a flaw in my argument is precisely the flaw in your argument.

    Observe:

    Is the ability to launch a rocket into orbit assuming Newtonian mechanics is true a problem for general relativity?

    Yes, or no?

    Depending on the conditions, both will up with a spaceship in orbit despite the fact that both assume sometime completely different is happening there, in reality. Right? So, the question becomes, are you a realist? Is there any distinction to be made between the two?

    So, if by “interpretation”, you mean that it requires specific construction tasks to be possible, while others are impossible, then yes, quantum storage mediums require “interpretation”. This can be expressed in a more fundamental way, that doesn’t actually require knowing subjects, etc.

    IOW, you repeating this question implicitly denies something of the above, such as that words are ultimately undefined and are shortcuts for ideas, scientific realism, or that all scientific theories can be expressed in terms of which tasks are possible, which are impossible and why, etc. in constructor theory.

    So which do you deny? What criticisms do you have of them?

  90. 90

    CR: Just as the scope of Newton’s laws does not scale to very high velocities required to build GPS satellites, your “theory of information” does not scale to the level of quantum storage mediums

    UB: Okay. Give me an example of a quantum storage medium that does not require semiosis in order to function.

    CR: **endless amounts of dissembler’s bafflegab**

    UB: We can continue the conversation when you are able to acknowledge the flaws already demonstrated in your claims. Does a quantum storage medium require interpretation or not?

    CR: That you think this is a flaw in my argument is precisely the flaw in your argument.

    If this was true, then you’d be eager to answer the question to prove me wrong. But you can’t. Thus, your non-answer becomes the answer. All you are left with now is the ability to dissemble non-sequiturs and disanalogies into a combox. Sadly, you apparently also you have the will to do so.

    -cheers-

  91. 91
    critical rationalist says:

    UB: If this was true, then you’d be eager to answer the question to prove me wrong. But you can’t. Thus, your non-answer becomes the answer.

    CR: So which do you deny? What criticisms do you have of them?

    Apparently, none. Otherwise, you’d be eager to provide them?

    It’s unclear why you think I haven’t answered the question in a more fundamental way, despite having no specific criticism of it.

  92. 92
    kairosfocus says:

    Talk about going off topic on a tangent! (At least, this shows part of why philosophical issues are highly relevant.) KF

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