Back to Basics of ID Darwinist rhetorical tactics Functionally Specified Complex Information & Organization Selective Hyperskepticism

RVB8 and the refusal to mark the difference between description and invention

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. . . (of the concept, functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information, FSCO/I)


Sometimes, a longstanding objector here at UD — such as RVB8 — inadvertently reveals just how weak the objections to the design inference are by persistently clinging to long since cogently answered objections. This phenomenon of ideology triumphing over evident reality is worth highlighting as a headlined post illustrating darwinist rhetorical stratagems and habits.

Here is RVB8 in a comment in the current Steve Fuller thread:

RVB8, 36: >> for ID or Creationism, I can get the information direct from the creators of the terminology. Dembski for Specified Complexity, Kairos for his invention of FSCO/I, and Behe for Irreducible Complexity.>>

As it seems necessary to set a pronunciation, the acronym FSCO/I shall henceforth be pronounced “fish-koi” (where happily, koi are produced by artificial selection, a form of ID too often misused as a proxy for the alleged powers of culling out by differential reproductive success in the wild)

For a long time, he and others of like ilk have tried to suggest that as I have championed the acrostic summary FSCO/I, the concept I am pointing to is a dubious novelty that has not been tested through peer review or the like and can be safely set aside. In fact, it is simply acknowledging that specified complexity is both organisational and informational, and that in many contexts it is specified in the context of requisites of function through multiple coupled parts. Text such as in this post shows a simple form of such a structure, S-T-R-I-N-G-S.

Where of course, memorably, Crick classically pointed out to his son Michael on March 19, 1953 as follows, regarding DNA as text:

Crick’s letter

Subsequently, that code was elucidated (here in the mRNA, transcribed form):

The Genetic code uses three-letter codons to specify the sequence of AA’s in proteins and specifying start/stop, and using six bits per AA

Likewise a process flow network is an expression of FSCO/I, e.g. an oil refinery:

Petroleum refinery block diagram illustrating FSCO/I in a process-flow system

This case is much simpler than the elucidated biochemistry process flow metabolic reaction network of the living cell:

I have also often illustrated FSCO/I in the form of functional organisation through a drawing of an ABU 6500 C3 reel (which I safely presume came about through using AutoCAD or the like):

All of this is of course very directly similar to something like protein synthesis [top left in the cell’s biochem outline], which involves both text strings and functionally specific highly complex organisation:

Protein Synthesis (HT: Wiki Media)

In short, FSCO/I is real, relevant and patently descriptive, both of the technological world and the biological world. This demands an adequate causal explanation, and the only serious explanation on the table that is empirically warranted is, design.

As the text of this post illustrates, and as the text of objector comments to come will further inadvertently illustrate.

Now, I responded at no 37, as follows:

KF, 37: >>Unfortunately, your choice of speaking in terms of “invention” of FSCO/I speaks volumes on your now regrettably habitual refusal to acknowledge phenomena that are right in front of you. As in, a descriptive label acknowledges a phenomenon, it does not invent it.

Doubtless [and on long track record], you think that is a clever way to dismiss something you don’t wish to consider.

This pattern makes your rhetoric into a case in point of the sociological, ideological reaction to the design inference on tested sign. So, I now respond, by way of addressing a case of a problem of sustained unresponsiveness to evidence.

However, it only reveals that you are being selectively hyperskeptical and dismissive through the fallacy of the closed, ideologised, indoctrinated, hostile mind.

I suggest you need to think again.

As a start, look at your own comment, which is text. To wit, a s-t-r-i-n-g of 1943 ASCII characters, at 7 bits per character, indicating a config space of 2^[7 * 1943) possibilities. That is, a space with 2.037*10^4094 cells.

The atomic and temporal resources of our whole observed cosmos, running at 1 search per each of 10^80 atoms, at 10^12 – 10^14 searches per s [a fast chem reaction rate] for 10^17 s [time since big bang, approx.] could not search more than 10^111 cells, a negligibly small fraction. That is, the config space search challenge is real, there is not enough resource to search more than a negligibly small fraction of the haystack blindly. (and the notion sometimes put, of somehow having a golden search runs into the fact that searches are subsets, so search for a golden search comes from the power set of the direct config space, of order here 2^[10^4094]. That is, it is exponentially harder.)

How then did your text string come to be? By a much more powerful means: you as an intelligent and knowledgeable agent exerted intelligently directed configuration to compose a text in English.

That is why, routinely, when you see or I see text of significant size in English, we confidently and rightly infer to design.

As a simple extension, a 3-d object such as an Abu 6500 C3 fishing reel is describable, in terms of bit strings in a description language, so functional organisation is reducible to an informational equivalent. Discussion on strings is WLOG.

In terms of the living cell, we can simply point to the copious algorithmic TEXT in DNA, which directly fits with the textual search challenge issue. There is no empirically warranted blind chance and mechanical necessity mechanism that can plausibly account for it. We have every epistemic and inductive reasoning right to see that the FSCO/I in the cell is best explained as a result of design.

That twerdun, which comes before whodunit.

As for, oh it’s some readily scorned IDiot on a blog, I suggest you would do better to ponder this from Stephen Meyer:

The central argument of my book [= Signature in the Cell] is that intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals. In other words, intelligent design is the only explanation that cites a cause known to have the capacity to produce the key effect in question . . . . In order to [[scientifically refute this inductive conclusion] Falk would need to show that some undirected material cause has [[empirically] demonstrated the power to produce functional biological information apart from the guidance or activity a designing mind. Neither Falk, nor anyone working in origin-of-life biology, has succeeded in doing this . . . .

The central problem facing origin-of-life researchers is neither the synthesis of pre-biotic building blocks (which Sutherland’s work addresses) or even the synthesis of a self-replicating RNA molecule (the plausibility of which Joyce and Tracey’s work seeks to establish, albeit unsuccessfully . . . [[Meyer gives details in the linked page]). Instead, the fundamental problem is getting the chemical building blocks to arrange themselves into the large information-bearing molecules (whether DNA or RNA) . . . .

For nearly sixty years origin-of-life researchers have attempted to use pre-biotic simulation experiments to find a plausible pathway by which life might have arisen from simpler non-living chemicals, thereby providing support for chemical evolutionary theory. While these experiments have occasionally yielded interesting insights about the conditions under which certain reactions will or won’t produce the various small molecule constituents of larger bio-macromolecules, they have shed no light on how the information in these larger macromolecules (particularly in DNA and RNA) could have arisen. Nor should this be surprising in light of what we have long known about the chemical structure of DNA and RNA. As I show in Signature in the Cell, the chemical structures of DNA and RNA allow them to store information precisely because chemical affinities between their smaller molecular subunits do not determine the specific arrangements of the bases in the DNA and RNA molecules. Instead, the same type of chemical bond (an N-glycosidic bond) forms between the backbone and each one of the four bases, allowing any one of the bases to attach at any site along the backbone, in turn allowing an innumerable variety of different sequences. This chemical indeterminacy is precisely what permits DNA and RNA to function as information carriers. It also dooms attempts to account for the origin of the information—the precise sequencing of the bases—in these molecules as the result of deterministic chemical interactions . . . .

[[W]e now have a wealth of experience showing that what I call specified or functional information (especially if encoded in digital form) does not arise from purely physical or chemical antecedents [[–> i.e. by blind, undirected forces of chance and necessity]. Indeed, the ribozyme engineering and pre-biotic simulation experiments that Professor Falk commends to my attention actually lend additional inductive support to this generalization. On the other hand, we do know of a cause—a type of cause—that has demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. That cause is intelligence or conscious rational deliberation. As the pioneering information theorist Henry Quastler once observed, “the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” And, of course, he was right. Whenever we find information—whether embedded in a radio signal, carved in a stone monument, written in a book or etched on a magnetic disc—and we trace it back to its source, invariably we come to mind, not merely a material process. Thus, the discovery of functionally specified, digitally encoded information along the spine of DNA, provides compelling positive evidence of the activity of a prior designing intelligence. This conclusion is not based upon what we don’t know. It is based upon what we do know from our uniform experience about the cause and effect structure of the world—specifically, what we know about what does, and does not, have the power to produce large amounts of specified information . . . .

[[In conclusion,] it needs to be noted that the [[now commonly asserted and imposed limiting rule on scientific knowledge, the] principle of methodological naturalism [[ that scientific explanations may only infer to “natural[[istic] causes”] is an arbitrary philosophical assumption, not a principle that can be established or justified by scientific observation itself. Others of us, having long ago seen the pattern in pre-biotic simulation experiments, to say nothing of the clear testimony of thousands of years of human experience, have decided to move on. We see in the information-rich structure of life a clear indicator of intelligent activity and have begun to investigate living systems accordingly. If, by Professor Falk’s definition, that makes us philosophers rather than scientists, then so be it. But I suspect that the shoe is now, instead, firmly on the other foot. [[Meyer, Stephen C: Response to Darrel Falk’s Review of Signature in the Cell, SITC web site, 2009. (Emphases and parentheses added.)]

Let me focus attention on the highlighted:

First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals.

The only difference between this and what I have highlighted through the acronym FSCO/I, is that functionally specific organisation is similarly reducible to an informational string and is in this sense equivalent to it. Where, that is hardly news, AutoCAD has reigned supreme as an engineers design tool for decades now. Going back to 1973, Orgel in his early work on specified complexity, wrote:

. . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . . .

[HT, Mung, fr. p. 190 & 196:] These vague idea can be made more precise by introducing the idea of information. Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure. [–> this is of course equivalent to the string of yes/no questions required to specify the relevant “wiring diagram” for the set of functional states, T, in the much larger space of possible clumped or scattered configurations, W, as Dembski would go on to define in NFL in 2002, also cf here, here and here (with here on self-moved agents as designing causes).] One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the q’s to be answered are Y/N, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions. [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . . . Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content, for they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes. [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189, p. 190, p. 196.]

So, the concept of reducing functional organisation to a description on a string of y/n structured questions — a bit string in some description language — is hardly news, nor is it something I came up with. Where obviously Orgel is speaking to FUNCTIONAL specificity, so that is not new either.

Likewise, search spaces or config spaces is a simple reflection of the phase space concept of statistical thermodynamics.

Dembski’s remarks are also significant, here from NFL:

p. 148:“The great myth of contemporary evolutionary biology is that the information needed to explain complex biological structures can be purchased without intelligence. My aim throughout this book is to dispel that myth . . . . Eigen and his colleagues must have something else in mind besides information simpliciter when they describe the origin of information as the central problem of biology.

I submit that what they have in mind is specified complexity, or what equivalently we have been calling in this Chapter Complex Specified information or CSI . . . .

Biological specification always refers to function. An organism is a functional system comprising many functional subsystems. . . . In virtue of their function [[a living organism’s subsystems] embody patterns that are objectively given and can be identified independently of the systems that embody them. Hence these systems are specified in the sense required by the complexity-specificity criterion . . . the specification can be cashed out in any number of ways [[through observing the requisites of functional organisation within the cell, or in organs and tissues or at the level of the organism as a whole. Dembski cites:

Wouters, p. 148: “globally in terms of the viability of whole organisms,”

Behe, p. 148: “minimal function of biochemical systems,”

Dawkins, pp. 148 – 9: “Complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by ran-| dom chance alone. In the case of living things, the quality that is specified in advance is . . . the ability to propagate genes in reproduction.”

On p. 149, he roughly cites Orgel’s famous remark from 1973, which exactly cited reads:

In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . .

And, p. 149, he highlights Paul Davis in The Fifth Miracle: “Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity.”] . . .”

p. 144: [[Specified complexity can be more formally defined:] “. . . since a universal probability bound of 1 [[chance] in 10^150 corresponds to a universal complexity bound of 500 bits of information, [[the cluster] (T, E) constitutes CSI because T [[ effectively the target hot zone in the field of possibilities] subsumes E [[ effectively the observed event from that field], T is detachable from E, and and T measures at least 500 bits of information . . . ”

So, the problem of refusal to attend to readily available, evidence or even evidence put in front of objectors to design theory is significant and clear.

What it in the end reflects as a case of clinging to fallacies and myths in the teeth of correction for years on end, is the weakness of the case being made against design by its persistent objectors.

Which is itself highly significant.>>

Now, let us discuss, duly noting the highlighted and emphasised. END

232 Replies to “RVB8 and the refusal to mark the difference between description and invention

  1. 1
    kairosfocus says:

    Is FSCO/I an invention or a description?

  2. 2
    Bob O'H says:

    I know this is utterly pedantic, but is “acrostic” the correct description of FCSI/O? I’ve read it as an initialism (F-C-S-I-O), but I know some wags have unkindly suggested it is an acronym (“Fiasco”).

  3. 3
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob, Strike two — playground rhetoric. Respond substantially, please i/l/o OP or leave the thread. KF

    PS: I clip Wiki from top of a Google, by way of pointing out:

    An acronym is a word or name formed as an abbreviation from the initial components in a phrase or a word, usually individual letters (as in NATO or laser) and sometimes syllables (as in Benelux).
    Acronym – Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acronym

    –> The issue would be pronouncing FSCO/I, and “fish-koi” would readily work. (Koi are beautiful fish and are produced by — intelligent design, through targetted breeding.)

    –> Note, Merriam Webster:

    Definition of acronym

    : a word (such as NATO, radar, or laser) formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term; also : an abbreviation (such as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism

    acronymicplay ?a-kr?-?ni-mik adjective
    acronymicallyplay -mi-k(?-)l? adverb

  4. 4
    kairosfocus says:

    PPS: I have updated the OP to illustrate FSCO/I as fish-koi.

  5. 5

    Excellent work, KF. Impressive!

    That said, don’t expect much from rvb8 and his ilk. Bad soil.

  6. 6
    timothya says:

    KF quotes Meyer:

    “First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals.” [Bolden for emphasis]

    Here is an interesting article about novel minerals:

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/201.....ls/8319026

    On the face of it, these appear to be cases of undirected chemical processes generating additional complexity. The minerals are functional, specified, certainly have more complex organisation than their substrate materials, and could presumably be represented in digital form.

    Do these minerals represent more FSCO/I in the world, or less, or no change? Show your work.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    TA, the formation of minerals is not the writing of text that functions in an algorithmic information system. Which is what we find with DNA. Chemical reactions forming minerals such as “an Egyptian statue at the bottom of a museum drawer . . . [with] a blue coating on the statue; . . . [which] turned out to be a new mineral called Chalconatronite” are expressions of chemical reaction and crystallisation. Back in 1973 Leslie Orgel, noted OOL researcher highlighted the material difference between such and what we find in the living cell. As was already cited in the OP. For one aspect, crystallisation is a process of mechanical necessity, it is not going to exhibit the freedom required to store significant information, as say we see with protein synthesis, where the connexion from DNA codon to AA is set by loading enzymes for tRNA that load a particular AA to a particular CCA tip based on the conformation of the tRNA and the code, not mechanical necessity. Indeed, dialects exist and codons have been reprogrammed. Indeed, additional codon-AA pairings have been created. Information storage needs high contingency and protocols that set up codes, which cannot be mechanically forced. In short, a distraction not a cogent response on your part. You inadvertently underscore the force of the point. You cannot show FSCO/I by blind chance and mechanical necessity, you know there are trillions of cases of FSCO/I by design, so you tried to make up a puzzle and distractively shift the burden of warrant. Fail. KF

  8. 8
    timothya says:

    Your non-answer is noted. Since biological processes are fundamentally chemical and physical, then it is reasonable to assume that their representation in FSCO/I form can also be applied to inorganic systems. Hence the question. What is your answer?

    By the way, mineralogical processes most certainly can be represented algorithmically – in fact that is pretty much a description of what mineralogy is.

  9. 9
    rvb8 says:

    Forget it ‘t’,

    the best way I can describe this kind of post is only by using outdated Freudian language. Which amazingly enough, in the case of Kairos and to a large extent BA77, doesn’t seem to be so much outdated, as damn revealing; if it’s bigger and longer, it’s better.

    Filling the post with a rebuttal of a short point I made is hubrous in the extreme, and also points to very thin skin. I have been mocked and called an idiot here, and worse, but I don’t care, honestly go ahead and insult me. The reason I don’t care is exactly the same reason I don’t care if a five year old mocks me; they’re five!

    I said, the acronyms produced by Kairos (FSCO/I), Behe (ID), and Dembski (SC), are the best evidence for the thinking of IDers, and their fellow travellers. Is that wrong? Where should I go? Talkorigins? Though I must admit the description of these acronyms at ‘Talk’ is much easier to understand than Kairos’s efforts, or BA’s efforts.

    They produce yards of words but refuse to do the fieldwork, (Tiktalik and umpteen others), or the Laboratory work, (Richard Lenski and his patient brilliance), or just plain good peer reviewed writing, (I suppose if you publish in the ICR Journal, or AIG Journal it does give a warm glow of seeing your name in print in a sciency sounding rag.)

    I suggest Kairos take his groundsqueeking work to an open forum, ‘theskepticalzone’ perhaps, where his ilk have always been allowed to rant.

  10. 10
    Eric Anderson says:

    timothya @6:

    On the face of it, these appear to be cases of undirected chemical processes generating additional complexity.

    Undirected processes can result in complexity. It happens all the time. That is not even the issue on the table.

    Yes, chemicals (reagants) react with each other and form products of the chemical reaction. So? That has absolutely nothing to do with specified complexity, with information-rich systems, with the requirements for the origin and maintenance of living systems.

    The minerals are functional, specified, certainly have more complex organisation than their substrate materials, and could presumably be represented in digital form.

    Functional in what sense? In that they will react with something? Again, so what? Every chemical does that.

    They certainly aren’t specified.

    Anything can be described in a symbolic language, including in digital form. There is a world of difference between something that contains information and the fact that we can describe every physical object using information.

  11. 11
    Eric Anderson says:

    I should add that it isn’t even clear the minerals you refer to are complex to the extent we are interested in for design purposes. Certainly as individual minerals they are not. Even if we wanted to argue that a large group of them constitutes some kind of complex structure, then see #10 above.

  12. 12
    kairosfocus says:

    TA & RVB8:

    You have both been objectors to design theory in and about UD for quite some time, years I believe.

    Your reactions above are therefore astonishingly revealing as to the way in which the very concept of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information is being resisted. Resisted in ways that are so intellectually irresponsible and so dismissive of duties of care to truth and simple fairness that they have to be explained in terms of the fallacy of the closed, indoctrinated, hostile mind.

    Sad, surely you can do a lot better than this.

    FYI, the distinction between crystallisation, random tars etc and formation of the functionally specific, organised molecules of life is not some dubious novelty brought up by IDiots on some blog. Instead, it is a foundational fact.

    D/RNA and proteins (including enzymes) — key molecules of the cell familiar to anyone who has done just one year of High School biology since what, the 1960’s or 70’s [which would be just about any person of at least average intelligence in our civilisation] — are polymers. But they are not like the brute-force polymers found in our common plastics. They are assembled monomer by monomer in a profoundly informational manner through cellular processes that are of algorithmic character.

    D/RNA uses a templating process that uses a prong-height complementarity in side branches to chain strings that in many cases store information . . . comparable to the prongs on keys for a Yale type lock. Messenger RNA is often subjected to editing.

    When it comes to protein synthesis, there is code-based, step by step assembly as is highlighted in the OP. This involves starting, elongation in functionally organised order (function being effected through onward folding, agglomeration and activation), termination, in the ribosome. That is, we are discussing an automated numerically controlled machine process carried out using molecular nanotech. (That fact alone should give you sobering pause; that it does not speaks sad volumes.)

    These facts are the background for famed OOL researcher Leslie Orgel’s remarks cited in the OP. But first, let me roll forward about six years to Wicken’s related remarks:

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

    Crystals, whether the many types long known or those that have come about through say corrosion of ancient Egyptian statues in museum drawers, simply are not assembled like proteins or templated, transcribed and edited like D/RNA.

    That someone would imagine it scores rhetorical points to try to push the two together and demand showing “working” on the difference speaks volumes about the underlying ignorance and hostile closed mindedness at work.

    Let me clip the first part from Orgel in 1973, as appears in the OP, that is, right in front of you both:

    . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity. [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189. That seminal book sits next to me as I type and you would find it instructive to read what was understood over forty years past.]

    At this point, I have to assume that if you insist on conflating crystal formation with the creation and use of organised informational polymers such as we see in the cell, it is because your position is so weak that it demands that sort of rhetoric.

    The crude reference to bigger is better and appeal to Freud is even worse. It reveals that you, RVB8, are utterly ignorant of and contemptuous about the very basics of digital — discrete state — technology and the linked logic of structure and quantity [i.e. mathematics].

    Let me go back to binary [= two-state digital] logic 001. Something like a switch or a voltage in a computer chip can be in two distinct states. When we chain such elements in clusters or strings, it allows us to represent information because we can set up a protocol, a code that assigns meaningful values to particular configurations of elements. Typically, we use On/Off, North/South, Hi/Lo, 1/0.

    One binary digit element [= bit] can take up two values, 1, or 0.

    Two, can take up four, as for each state of the first digit, say A, there are two possibilities for the second, B: AB = 00, 01, 10, 11.

    For three, there are eight states: 000, 001, 010, 011, 100, 101, 110, 111. Four, give sixteen, and so forth, in general for n binary digits, there are 2^n states. For things that have 3 states, that would by the same logic be 3^n; for 4-state elements such as in D/RNA, 4^n; for ten -state elements, 10^n; for 27-state elements [one mor5e for the space between words], 27^n; for the ASCII code used in digital computers [even when embedded in UNICODE], 128^n.

    This means that there is a definable abstract space for possibilities, such as we see in the table for the genetic code in the OP. Distinct states can be assigned meaningful values in accord with a code, as the Genetic code shows, cf. said table in the OP.

    In a digital age, we commonly see information measured in bits, which in effect says that this file uses XX number of two-state elements. We do not hear RVB8 and ilk trying to ridicule that usage. I suspect, they lack awareness of the under-pinnings.

    This then rapidly leads to the point made by Orgel, as further cited in the OP but obviously brushed aside in the attempt to make cheap, inappropriately suggestive rhetorical points [I will come back to this]:

    Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure. [–> this is of course equivalent to the string of yes/no questions required to specify the relevant “wiring diagram” for the set of functional states, T, in the much larger space of possible clumped or scattered configurations, W, as Dembski would go on to define in NFL in 2002, also cf here, here and here (with here on self-moved agents as designing causes).] One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the q’s to be answered are Y/N, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions. [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . .

    In short, we see that the scope of a search space grows exponentially with the number of relevant discrete state elements used. Within such spaces, we observe that there are clusters of functional forms, such as the text of comments in this thread. Can such be arrived at by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity in a search type process? For simple cases involving only a few elements in the cluster, that is plausible. But for functionally organised entities such as proteins, D/RNA, fishing reels, oil refineries and living cells, no. As, the space of possibilities grows exponentially with number of elements in the cluster.

    Consequently, search challenge grows, equally exponentially.

    For bits, at 500 bits there are 3.27*10^150 possibilities. For 1,000 bits, that rises to 1.07*10^301. These are large numbers, the atomic and temporal resources of our sol system and our observed cosmos — the only actually observed cosmos — would be exhausted before we were to get to as much as searching one straw in an impossibly large haystack. In short, such numbers render blind chance and/or mechanical necessity irrelevant as means of accessing such islands of organised function of the types seen with D/RNA, proteins, fishing reels and oil refineries. No significant portion of the space of possibilities can be searched to make it even reasonable to suggest that blind search can hit on a happy result. Search for a golden search goes to the next level of exponentiation, and that is even worse.

    RVB8, that is the reality you obviously cannot face, even after years in which it has been pointed out to you again and again.

    Instead of responsibly re-thinking, that something may be wrong with the scheme of thought you prefer, you resorted to crude suggestiveness.

    That utter irresponsibility simply discredits you further.

    I suggest to you that it is also borderline in terms of appropriate behaviour in a forum like this one.

    I must ask you to cease and desist from such crudities in future.

    All you have managed to do is to inadvertently underscore how weak your objections tot he design inference on FSCO/I are.

    The koi fish are looking at you and with their oh so dignified poise, they shake their heads sadly.

    KF

  13. 13
    kairosfocus says:

    EA, thanks. KF

  14. 14

    Tim,

    Do these minerals represent more FSCO/I in the world, or less, or no change?

    The minerals you speak of contain no information in the first place, and that obviously answers your question. Information requires a material substrate (i.e. a medium of information) operating within a system that can interpret the arrangement of the medium. Such systems are identifiable by their physical characteristics. Your example demonstrates precisely none of the necessary material conditions of information. I would encourage you to do some reading and acquaint yourself with the physical properties required. Setting the ID issue completely aside, there’s no reason for you to fundamentally misunderstand the topic you are asking about.

    Here’s a good place to start, it’s dedicated to this specific question: Biosemiosis: Bibliography

  15. 15
    timothya says:

    Upright Biped:

    “The minerals you speak of contain no information in the first place”.

    In a backhanded way you have hit the nail on the head. Since organic chemicals are fundamentally the same as inorganic ones (being made of atoms), the same must be true of them.

    Now explain to your confrères why physical systems of any kind contain no information in the first place.

  16. 16
    timothya says:

    Eric Anderson:

    “Functional in what sense?”

    Functional in the mathematical sense. Any function applied to a set of inputs will have a single, determinate output. In this case, chalconatronite.

  17. 17
    timothya says:

    Eric Anderson:

    “I should add that it isn’t even clear the minerals you refer to are complex to the extent we are interested in for design purposes. Certainly as individual minerals they are not.”

    This is interesting.

    Are you saying that the design inference only works above a certain level of “complexity”. I have noticed that KF, Stephen Meyer et al., when pushed, resort to qualifiers on complexity such as “significant” or “large”. These are quantitative arguments, as is yours. So would you like to put a number on what “to an extent” is? Or significant? Or large?

  18. 18

    timothya said:

    Now explain to your confrères why physical systems of any kind contain no information in the first place.

    Surely I’m misunderstanding you. Are you saying that an encyclopedia or a computer hard drive contains no information?

  19. 19
    timothya says:

    You are asking the wrong person. Talk to Upright Biped, he is the one who claims that minerals contain no information. My rather light-hearted comment simply pointed to the fact that he doesn’t understand what a mineral actually is.

  20. 20
    Florabama says:

    tim and rv, it would seem, based on your view, quite easy to create life in the lab, so where is it? You have made it “crystal” clear, that all that’s required are a few minerals and some common chemical reactions, and “poof.” So where is it? Why are you two keeping the secret to yourselves?

    Here we are 150 years removed from Darwin and 60 years removed from Miller/Urey, and 50 years from landing on the moon, and we’re still waiting for the headline for something that’s as easy as growing a Donald Trump chia pet. Just pour a little water on it, right? When you tell the world, can I come to your Nobel acceptance party?

    Of course, you know (I think) that there’s complexity and then there’s complexity. Isn’t there a bit of difference between, throwing a deck of cards on the floor and throwing a deck of cards on the floor and getting four Royal Flushes? One is complex but non-informational (mineralization, pot holes, chemical reactions) the other represents a high degree of understandable, readable, meaningful information (the parts diagram of a fishing reel) AND an impossible probability to repeat via random chance.

    The point is not a complicated one, but it’s one you two, either out of ignorance or willful obtuseness (I vote for willful obtuseness) refuse to acknowledge, but that is absolutely typical of those with a religious commitment to materialism. It makes you dishonest, and that is frustrating.

    What is seen in the code of R/DNA and the machinery of the cell is both impossible from a chance probability standpoint and represents understandable, readable, meaningful, SPECIFIED information. You don’t have to become an evangelical Christian to acknowledge this fact, but you do have to acknowledge it or be transparently dishonest and forever brand yourself as someone for whom the science really doesn’t matter.

    The specified complexity of the machinery of the cell, is overwhelming evidence for the design of life, and yet you dismiss it without the slightest acknowledgment of the monumental problem this represents for your worldview, and without the first substantial rebuttal except to point to trivial, non-informational chemical reactions and crystallization which is like saying that since you can jump two feet, you can jump to Jupiter.

    Ironically, your worldview is being obliterated by the science you claim to hold in the highest regard. The Designer does have a sense of humor.

  21. 21

    #15

    Tim, the organization of the living cell establishes DNA as a genuine medium of information (i.e. heritable memory), which it then translates in order to specify how the proteins of the living system are to be individually constructed (so that they function inside the cell).

    This type of organization has a very specific set of physical characteristics that uniquely identify it among all other physical systems. Your mineral example demonstrates none of those characteristics.

    There are two general options at this point: One option is for me to explain these physical characteristics to you in this comment section, and perhaps give you some of the history behind the observations. This would require your engagement. (I unfortunately hold out little hope for that scenario).

    The other option is to give you a link to papers within the literature where scientists have described these systems. Judging by your response, you apparently have no interest in that option, which is your choice.

    If you intend to hold your position at all costs, there is nothing to stop you — (that is, after all, what “at all costs” means).

  22. 22
    Eric Anderson says:

    timothya:

    Well this is pretty remarkable for someone who has been around the debate for years. I am surprised that you still don’t understand the design inference or how it works. Whether you agree that design can be reliably inferred is a separate matter. But you should at least understand the issues.

    Let’s start back at square 1: Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up your genome and the molecules making up a pile of inanimate dirt?

    Answer that question and then maybe there will be some basis for taking the next step in a rational discussion.

    —–

    BTW, the fact that particles around the universe do not contain information by their mere existence has already been the topic of a detailed post in these pages. I can refer you to the post if you have a sincere interest, but it would be better for you to think through it yourself. Start with the above question and then we can go from there.

  23. 23
    Seversky says:

    Florabama @ 20

    tim and rv, it would seem, based on your view, quite easy to create life in the lab, so where is it? You have made it “crystal” clear, that all that’s required are a few minerals and some common chemical reactions, and “poof.” So where is it? Why are you two keeping the secret to yourselves?

    Here we are 150 years removed from Darwin and 60 years removed from Miller/Urey, and 50 years from landing on the moon, and we’re still waiting for the headline for something that’s as easy as growing a Donald Trump chia pet. Just pour a little water on it, right? When you tell the world, can I come to your Nobel acceptance party?

    If life came about through naturalistic or materialistic processes – and, as an unreconstructed old atheist/materialist, I still say “if” – then it took the Universe over 10 billion years to get to the earliest life on Earth. So the fact that we haven’t been able to do it in the last hundred or so is hardly surprising. And the fact we haven’t done it so far doesn’t necessarily mean we never will.

    The reality is that no one – not materialists, not creationists – know how the laws or regularities or information that make this Universe the way it is came about. It’s one of the most profound mysteries. Unfortunately, positing a Creator doesn’t really help. That’s just proposing a ‘who’ not a ‘how’. Of course, for those who believe they have a direct line to a Creator who will listen to – and even respond to – prayers for a particular football team to win, you could also put in a request for information on how the Creation was actually done. If you got something back, that really would be the answer to a prayer.

  24. 24
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky,

    no one is positing a creator here; this is not a matter of postulating. (We would appreciate it if you would stop trotting out this long mummified, moldy strawman caricature.)

    The issue as you know from many years of objecting to it, is that functionally specific organisation of high information content and high complexity exists as a commonplace phenomenon. In the literally trillions of cases where we directly know the source of such FSCO/I, it is design as process — intelligently directed configuration. Further to this a simple application of phase/state space thinking soon tells us that for cases reducible to 500 – 1,000 or more bits of information, blind chance and mechanical necessity processes on the gamut of the sol system or the observed cosmos across 10^17s could only sample a negligibly small fraction of the config spaces; ten billion years makes no difference to this, it is ALREADY factored into the analysis as part of the search resources, which are patently inadequate.

    Thus, it is maximally implausible that a blind, undirected, non purposive, non designed process could arrive at cases of FSCO/I.

    So, observation, analysis and inductive reasoning all align: FSCO/I is currently best explained as a reliable sign of intelligent design as key causal input.

    This is prior to identifying any particular “suspects, ” big-C or small-c creators.

    So long as designers are possible, inferring design on FSCO/I is reasonable.

    In this context, the many obfuscations, strawman caricatures, side-tracks etc made by objectors to this inference over many years now plainly point to the weakness of the objection case.

    If your side had a strong case, it should be readily apparent that blind chance and mechanical necessity get us to FSCO/I. You don’t have this, there are trillions of known cases and they all point to design. The config space, search challenge analysis backs this up.

    Indeed at the upper end threshold of 1,000 bits, using 10^25 s as time to “heat death” makes little difference on the cosmic scale, we are still talking about taking a few straws worth of sample so to speak, from a haystack that would dwarf the observed cosmos.

    You are inadvertently underscoring the strength of the design inference as to type of cause. And, an intelligent explanation is not like a mechanical one. Insight, skill, knowledge, creativity and purpose, not mere motions and figures of cogs grinding away in Leibniz’s mill.

    I ask you, HOW exactly did you compose your comment, show the mechanical steps. That is almost irrelevant and absurd. You chose as a rational being knowledgeable of English and able to use a PC or phablet or whatever. Fingers moved to hit keys here and there are immaterial, it is which keys you — a who — CHOSE to type in what successive pattern that shaped the post.

    For all we know, a molecular nanotech lab several generations beyond Venter would work. Means we do not yet imagine could be possible. That matters not, from the TEXT in D/RNA we can see that algorithms were coded to carry out extremely sophisticated processes, using molecular nanotech devices.

    That points to high art, not brute blind chance and mechanical necessity.

    KF

  25. 25
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @23:

    And the fact we haven’t done it so far doesn’t necessarily mean we never will.

    Quite right.

    And if we are ever able to create life, you’d better believe it will be the result of detailed, purposeful planning and engineering, not a bunch of particles accidentally bumping into each other . . .

  26. 26
    kairosfocus says:

    EA, my guess is, across this century, building on Venter et al. KF

  27. 27
    Seversky says:

    kairosfocus @ 24

    no one is positing a creator here; this is not a matter of postulating. (We would appreciate it if you would stop trotting out this long mummified, moldy strawman caricature.)

    If life cannot arise from inanimate matter through some sort of naturalistic process then the only rational alternative is intelligent agency. Now, while it is possible to discuss intelligent agency without specifying the agent, there is a huge amount of content in the comments on this blog which make it quite clear who most here believe that agent to be and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.

    The issue as you know from many years of objecting to it, is that functionally specific organisation of high information content and high complexity exists as a commonplace phenomenon.

    You also know that I reject the notion that information – at least in the commonly understood meaning of the word – is a property of the natural world rather than the mental models we use to describe that world.

    Yes, depending on your assumptions, you can calculate that some event is so improbable as to be impossible for all practical purposes, yet highly improbable events happen all the time. You and I are both astronomically improbable events, yet we are just two of over seven billion equally improbable events that populate this planet.

    As I’ve written many times, do I know how the Universe began or how life emerged? No, I don’t and neither does anyone else. They are still profound mysteries. I can’t rule out intelligent agency but unless it is an agent functionally indistinguishable from a god then it doesn’t help with those most fundamental questions.

  28. 28
    Seversky says:

    Eric Anderson @ 25

    And if we are ever able to create life, you’d better believe it will be the result of detailed, purposeful planning and engineering, not a bunch of particles accidentally bumping into each other . . .

    Yes, it will. But it will also prove that it is possible for life to be coaxed from inanimate matter. If it isn’t, then all the abiogeneticists are wasting their time.

  29. 29
    Eric Anderson says:

    Seversky @28:

    I agree with you there are some interesting open questions about the nature of life — certainly if we are willing to consider the hard questions, such as consciousness, awareness and the like.

    I may be at odds with some of my colleagues, but my personal assessment is that it is still an open scientific question whether life — certainly sentient life — can arise from just a specific arrangement of matter. We will have to see how that plays out in the coming decades — probably going far beyond creating a bacterium or other single-celled organism before we have an inkling of an answer.

    In either case, for purposes of the debate over materialistic evolution and intelligent design, the primary issue is not whether there is something else above and beyond the specific arrangement of matter found in living organisms. It is sufficient to look at this specific arrangement of matter to draw a conclusion of design.

    So the initial inquiry is not whether “life can be coaxed from inanimate matter”. Intelligent design doesn’t argue against that possibility. It may well be possible, and many design proponents might adopt such a position. Indeed, as a working assumption it is perfectly compatible with intelligent design.

    The real point for present purposes is not whether “life can be coaxed from inanimate matter”. Let’s assume that it can for a moment. The real point is that this “coaxing” will be done through detailed, purposeful planning and engineering. It will not occur through mere dint of physical/chemical processes on their own.

    Thus, the conclusion of design stands firmly grounded, regardless of whether living organisms are just particular arrangements of matter or whether there is something to their nature beyond the material and the physical.

    And if it turns out that there is indeed something else required for life — something above and beyond the particular arrangement of matter, some consciousness or intelligence or soul or spirit (or whatever we want to call it) — if something above and beyond physical matter is required, that fact will certainly cut further against the materialist narrative not in favor of it.

  30. 30
    Florabama says:

    Seversky @ 27,

    “If life cannot arise from inanimate matter through some sort of naturalistic process then the only rational alternative is intelligent agency.”

    Correct! So far so good — except that while the materialist holds to a religious hope against hope that the impossible naturalistic path to life from non-life will be revealed, the path becomes more difficult with every revelation of a new layer of complexity that tops the already multiple layers of complexity in a working cell.

    Here’s Crick 40 years ago:

    “To produce this miracle of molecular construction all the cell need do is string together the amino acids (which make up the polypeptide chain) IN THE CORRECT ORDER [emphasis in original]. This is a complicated biochemical process, a molecular assembly line, using instructions in the form of nucleic acid tape (the so called messenger RNA) which will be described in outline in Chapter 5. Here we need only ask, how many possible proteins are there? If a particular amino acid sequence was selected by chance, how rare an event would that be?

    “This is an easy exercise in combinatorials. Suppose the chain is about two hundred amino acids long; this is, if anything, rather less that the average length of proteins of all types. Since we have just twenty possibilities at each place, the number of possibilities is twenty multiplied by itself some two hundred times. This is conveniently written as 10^260, that is a one, followed by 260 zeros!

    “This number is quite beyond our everyday comprehension. For comparison, CONSIDER THE NUMBER OF FUNDAMENTAL PARTICLES (ATOMS, SPEAKING LOOSELY) IN THE ENTIRE VISIBLE UNIVERSE, NOT JUST IN OUR OWN GALAXY WITH ITS 10^11 STARS, BUT IN ALL THE BILLIONS OF GALAXIES, OUT TO THE LIMITS OF THE OBSERVABLE SPACE. THIS NUMBER WHICH IS ESTIMATED TO BE 10^80 IS QUITE PALTRY BY COMPARISON TO 10^260 [emphasis mine]. Moreover, we have only considered a polypeptide chain of a rather modest length. Had we considered longer ones as well the figure would have been even more immense. It is possible to show that even since life started on earth, the number of different polypeptide chains which could have been synthesized during all this long time is only a minute fraction of the number of imaginable ones. The great majority of sequences can never have been synthesized at all, at any time. “ Francis Crick, Life Itself — Its Origin and Nature (Simon and Schuster, 1981), 51-52.

    Life is more complex than even Crick knew back in ’81 making the, “rational alternative,” that much more plausible, and dismissing overwhelming evidence is not a paean to science, it is the exact opposite — it is anti-science.

    “Now, while it is possible to discuss intelligent agency without specifying the agent, there is a huge amount of content in the comments on this blog which make it quite clear who most here believe that agent to be and it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.”

    Wrong! Patently wrong! Crick saw the impossible complexity and came to the same exact conclusion — intelligence — but Crick’s intelligent designer was alien (and not the illegal type).

    “From this point on we must leave behind quantitative considerations, however approximate, and allow our imagination a somewhat freer hand. We shall postulate that on some distant planet, some four billion or so years ago, there had evolved a form of higher creature who, like ourselves, had discovered science and technology, developing them far beyond anything we have accomplished, since they would have had plenty of time and it is most unlikely that their society would have stopped at exactly the stage at which we are now.”

    Crick saw that the machine like, specified, coded, programed, impossible, complexity of life pointed toward an intelligent designer. In that regard, he was at least honest, which is far more than can be said for most materialists today who simply ignore the science when it flies in the face of their religion. As Crick demonstrates, who or what the designer might be, is irrelevant to the science that points toward design. Was Crick wrong about the complexity of the cell because he accepted the straight forward implication that it required a designer even though his designer was a space alien? No, of course not. Who or what the designer is and what our relationship is to him/her/it, is a separate question that has nothing much to do with the unmistakable implication that the utter impossible complexity of life must require a designer. To believe anything else is to hold to an irrational faith that rejects straight forward science.

  31. 31
    kairosfocus says:

    Seversky, we are all familiar with string data structures and no informed person would deny that such are informational. Such are everywhere in our digital age. Such text, notoriously, is sensitive to corruption, i.e. it reflects functional specificity and organisation that is informational. The point then is, since 1953, with more and more detail across the years, we have known DNA is also a string data structure. One that is informational, null state being two bits per base in the chain, as it can take up A/C/G/T as states. We know such tapes are transcribed and edited to form mRNA, which is threaded into ribosomes and used, step by step, to create proteins, the workhorse molecules of the cell. All of this is commonplace now. Your attempt to dismiss the impressing of information into the organisation of DNA based on codes as tabulated in the OP, simply shows us that the point is strong and runs against where you wish to go ideologically. By in effect trying to deflect a major fact, you show that your ideology of evolutionary materialist scientism does not sit well with the facts of DNA. Thanks for confirming the strength of the design inference on seeing DNA etc in the heart of the cell. Which, I think we can safely take, is long prior to issues of consciousness in a certain multicellular upright non-feathered bipedal species that loves to pretend to wisdom and brilliance. KF

    PS: The motive mongering rhetoric doubly fails. First, as too many objectors to design have adherence to ideologies, including self-refuting evolutionary materialism, which is thus inherently and irretrievably irrational. Second, you are committing an error of projection. Just because evolutionism was used to make it seem that God was out of a job does not mean that the motivation of design thinkers looking at the world of life runs more or less like: the cell is designed, therefore God is its designer. On the contrary ever since Thaxton et al in the 1980’s, the explicit point has repeatedly been made that an inference to design of observed cell based life on earth does not instantly lead to a conclusion as to who such a designer is, much less whether that designer is within or beyond the cosmos. The insistence of objectors on pretending otherwise strongly implies that they are desperate to appeal to anti-religious sentiment to taint the atmosphere. If you want to look at a design inference that DOES point beyond the observed cosmos, fine tuning of the physics and circumstances of the cosmos that sets up a world in which C-chemistry, aqueous medium, terrestrial planet cell based life is possible is a much better candidate, That’s why there are nervous jokes about the First Church of God, big bang sponsoring faculty talks from its base in astrophysics departments, with guest lecturer the lifelong agnostic Sir Fred Hoyle. The 1980-81 remarks by Sir Fred give sharp point to the jokes. And the fine tuning challenge has only grown since.

    PPS: If I ponder my own case, I have to start from the fact that by rights I should have died from out of control asthma 46 years ago. It is desperate prayer of surrender of my mother that led to a miracle of guidance THAT VERY MORNING, which saved my life. This incident is foundational to my family. Next, I am deeply struck by the force of the historic witness of the C1 Christians, starting with the 500 who stod unflinchingly for what they directly knew to be true, regardless of dungeon, fire, sword and worse. Then I see the positive transformation in my life, in that of millions, and in the course of civilisation, and I know delusions are ruinous, not integrative. Then, I see the metaphysical implications of being a rationally and responsibly free, morally governed thinking being, including on logic. That points to the only serious candidate world root level IS capable of grounding OUGHT: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being, worthy of loyalty [I owe him my LIFE!] and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (If you doubt this, simply put up another serious candidate that is not prone to spectacular collapse. For sure, evo mat scientism fails the coherence test and is necessarily false.)

  32. 32
    Bob O'H says:

    OK, kf @ 3 – a more substantive question. If FSCO/I is an acrostic (as you still state, what are the other lines, that include FSCOI? I’m genuinely interested to know what it means (assuming it is genuinely an acrostic).

  33. 33
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob O’H, unresponsive to the focal issue, which is pivotal. That speaks volumes; esp as I cited dictionary authority that backs up my usage and provided a pronunciation if that was desired. Again, you are underscoring the want of serious response on the part of too many longstanding design inference objectors. KF

  34. 34
    Bob O'H says:

    kf – sorry, where did you post the definition of ‘acrostic’. I can’t find it!

  35. 35
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson:

    The real point for present purposes is not whether “life can be coaxed from inanimate matter”. Let’s assume that it can for a moment. The real point is that this “coaxing” will be done through detailed, purposeful planning and engineering. It will not occur through mere dint of physical/chemical processes on their own.

    Thus, the conclusion of design stands firmly grounded, regardless of whether living organisms are just particular arrangements of matter or whether there is something to their nature beyond the material and the physical.

    Behold the great strength of Intelligent Design: it can gracefully grant materialism all its assumptions. Sure, dear materialist, everything biological may very well be entirely physical, but you cannot deny the existence of design and intelligent designers. And, sure, also these intelligent designers may very well be entities who are entirely physical, but you cannot deny that the relationship between intelligent designers and design is a clear distinct class of causation. And most surely, dear materialist, you must admit that intelligent design is the best explanation for all the fancy stuff in life.

  36. 36
    kairosfocus says:

    Bob, did you read no 3 above on acronyms? Looks like no, link: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-626274 KF

  37. 37
    kairosfocus says:

    Origines, yes. That is one power of inductive reasoning and inference on tested, reliable sign. KF

  38. 38
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Come on, it’s just a mixup of two similar words. No one will think worse of you if you acknowledge the error.

  39. 39
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, please read the Merriam-Webster definition clipped at no 3: also : an abbreviation (such as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism.” And, we don’t need to be off on a tangent. KF

  40. 40
    Orloog says:

    @KF:

    you wrote in your article:

    or a long time, he and others of like ilk have tried to suggest that as I have championed the acrostic summary FSCO/I, the concept I am pointing to is a dubious novelty that has not been tested through peer review or the like and can be safely set aside.

    Please don’t harass DS, Bob OH and others just because you don’t remember what you have been writing….

  41. 41
    Bob O'H says:

    kf @ 36 – yes, I did. But it didn’t help, but you called FCSI/O an acrostic, and I’m intrigued about that, not about the acronym.

  42. 42
    daveS says:

    KF,

    Somewhat tangential, although not wholly, given the original point of the OP.

    You used the word acrostic.

    You cited a definition of acronym

    These words have different meanings.

    Please, just acknowledge that you made a rather trivial error in the OP.

  43. 43
    Eric Anderson says:

    timothya @17:

    Are you saying that the design inference only works above a certain level of “complexity”[?]

    Welcome to the debate! Of course a certain level of complexity is required. We can’t call any two-bit relationship “complex”. Right from the outset Dembski proposed his universal probability bound as a specific number. There are many, many designed things that exist below that level of complexity, but the bound is proposed in order to eliminate false positives. It is a rational and rigorous approach to the complexity side of the equation.

    Even if we required a higher level of complexity, a vast number of biological systems qualify for that level of complexity.

    Again, this is exceedingly basic and foundational to the design inference, so worth spending some time on if you are still unclear about what “complex” means in the context of intelligent design.

  44. 44
    kairosfocus says:

    DS, BO’H and Orlog: It seems you are insistent on tangents. In reply to the latest, I simply point out that an acronym is a type of acrostic, an acrostic name; that’s why it tends to be made up from initial letters. Obviously, there are also acrostic poems and inscriptions etc in which initial letters are cleverly arranged to spell out a message or word (and yes there are complexities beyond this first level). The willingness to expend so much on trying to find me in the wrong on a minor point while studiously avoiding the substantial matter speaks for itself on the actual force of the design inference on FSCO/I — “fish-koi” — as empirically reliable sign. KF

  45. 45
    J-Mac says:

    RVB8 and the refusal to mark the difference between description and invention

    I’m a bit perplexed about the expectation coming from the convinced materialist…

    Which way the author of this post expected RVB* to respond?
    According to his beliefs or yours?

  46. 46
    daveS says:

    KF,

    I simply point out that an acronym is a type of acrostic, an acrostic name; that’s why it tends to be made up from initial letters.

    That’s quite a flexible definition of acrostic you are using, where the initial letters can “spell” something as arbitrary as FSCO/I.

  47. 47
    kairosfocus says:

    DS,

    sigh.

    I first note on how studiously the focal matter is side-stepped; which itself speaks volumes. On the insisted upon tangent I have been quite puzzled; as I am simply reporting what I learned long ago in grade school from my teachers (admittedly, notoriously of the old school), and which accords with the pattern in my name, that of my brother and my father.

    Acro- is a Gk-origin prefix used e.g. in acro-polis [a high-point citadel — fortification — in a city such as . . . per historical significance . . . Athens, Corinth and Jerusalem, and some key ports have borne the same], which per Dictionary.com means “a combining form with the meanings “height,” “tip end,” “extremities of the body” . . . . [fr.] Greek, combining form of ákros topmost, highest; akin to Latin acer sharp. [–> I wonder on connexion to names for steel here] Cf. acme, ear2.” Patently, the initial letter of a word is an extremity; readily pointing to its use, including possibly independently as there has been a longstanding literary habit of going to Gk or Lat to create new words in English.

    Thus ACRO + . . . is a framework, for prefixes speaking to an extremity or dominant high point or extremity comparable to a citadel or a key port.

    So, too, we readily see how the suffix -ic can be used to create adjectival forms and/or nouns.

    Acrostic poems, inscriptions and names would then be closely related forms, with the further influence that this interacts with the memory-aiding power of the mnemonic and may interact with rhetorical forms such as the chiasm, which criss-crosses a descending and ascending sequence of points. Often, creating a natural focal point at the pivot where the sequence turns back: ask not what country can do for you but instead what you can do for country: C–> Y, Y –> C, focus, Y.

    Acrostics, then are a significant cluster that are a literary and/or rhetorical high-point that then dominates a lot of conceptual ground even as the Acra in Jerusalem dominated its history at a crucial time as the Maccabees took so long to break it.

    So, no I do not believe I am speaking loosely, save insofar as I have been led to understand that being able to readily pronounce has yielded to the ubiquity of such abbreviations.

    Note, again, Merriam-Webster from no 3 above (which should have settled the side-track at the outset): also : an abbreviation (such as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism” — where the exemplar given has no ready pronunciation save the sounding of the letters; likewise for HTML (hit-mal tempts me . . .), etc.

    That is the context in which I have given a way to sound FSCO/I, fish-koi in part as an answer to the puerile schoolyard taunt that has been inflicted by way of irresponsible, sneering dismissal of a rather inconvenient phenomenon for ideological evolutionary materialism.

    Namely, FSCO/I is ubiquitous in language and in technology as well as the world of cell based life, where for every independently observable case it reliably comes about by design, with a base of trillions of examples. This, being backed up by the needle in haystack blind search challenge.

    Now, let us return to focal concerns.

    KF

  48. 48
    Orloog says:

    KF, if you hadn’t just looked up acro-, but acrostic, you would have found that acrostic isn’t just acro + ic (acroic?), but acro- + stikhos, the latter meaning “line of verse”.

    So, an acrostic is literally:

    a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc.

    The acrostic is the whole poem, not just the letters at the beginning – though, obviously, it can be used as a pars-pro-toto….

    Functionally

    Specific,

    Complex

    Organisation and associated

    /

    Information

    is no poetry, regardless what your teachers have taught you.

    If you had looked up the definition of acrostic after you read Bob’s comment, you could have avoided the whole tangent! That would have been a pity, as it would have deprived us from wortgeklingel like :

    “Acrostic poems, inscriptions and names would then be closely related forms, with the further influence that this interacts with the memory-aiding power of the mnemonic and may interact with rhetorical forms such as the chiasm, which criss-crosses a descending and ascending sequence of points.”

  49. 49
    kairosfocus says:

    Orloog, All you have done is point to acrostic poetry, for which the no 1 exemplar is Psalm 119, which lays out the Heb Alphabet . . . just possibly, the original one (per those Sinai turquoise mine inscriptions of what may be Manasseh and co. Ltd) . . . to teach the significance of Scripture. I simply point out that the core concept is in the prefix, Acro, extremity. As a result, structurally, an acronym is an acrostic name and what I see in dictionaries as “acrostic” seems to be a contracted phrase: acrostic poem. (By which adjective becomes noun as is common in English.) Poetry is secondary, these days — FBI, NSA, CIA, KGB/NKVD, USSR, USA, HTML, SQL etc — show how acronyms have become dominant. Likewise, being able to call the letters in sequence conveniently as a word (such as laser, radar and sonar or asdic) has taken a back seat — as the M-W example directly implies. So, no, the whole side tracking has been needless if you and others had simply taken Merriam Webster in no 3 above seriously: also : an abbreviation (such as FBI) formed from initial letters : initialism” — notice, how “initialism” is here synonymous. I spoke further for record, in order to show that there is method to madness as perceived. And, given what was there from 3 above per Merriam-Webster, all of this majoring on minors is patently eloquent testimony by evasive silence that the key point of FSCO/I has force to be reckoned with. Not, what does acro mean, but the empirically reliable inference to design as key causal process, on seeing FSCO/I as sign. KF

    PS: I expanded and put into paras. I find, too, you seem to miss the significance of chiasm as a rhetorical structure [descending then re-ascending the steps], of mnemonics and of how acronyms interact with both. Acronyms are the high ground citadel here.

  50. 50
    Orloog says:

    KF, acrostic has always been a noun (well, since the 1580s), you abuse it as an adjective !

    An “acrostic poem” is a tautology, as acrostic itself is a kind of poem….

    I repeat – as you obviously haven’t read it:

    acrostic isn’t just acro + ic (acroic?), but acro + stikhos, the latter meaning “line of verse”.

  51. 51

    Question:
    “How did the first cell become specified before the organization required to specify something?”

    Answer:
    Verbiage Foul !!

    Wortgeklingel !!

    Tautology !!

  52. 52
    Orloog says:

    @UBP,KF:

    At the beginning, this was just a tangent (as Bob said) – I, too, became interested whether there was a kind of merkvers which KF used.

    KF could have answered Bob’s question just by saying: “Well, I use acrostic as an adjective of acronym” Some of us onlookers would have shaken our heads, but the general reaction would have been “meh, if he wishes to…”

    The problem starts when KF made up a new etymology for acrostic

    Thus ACRO + . . . is a framework, for prefixes speaking to an extremity or dominant high point or extremity comparable to a citadel or a key port.

    So, too, we readily see how the suffix -ic can be used to create adjectival forms and/or nouns.

    , thereby claiming that the word has been used in KF’S sense all the time by everyone.

    How can you discuss with someone who suddenly uses words so unconventionally, but isn’t aware of it?

    PS: I see “wortgeklingel” and raise “motive mongering rhetoric”…

  53. 53
    daveS says:

    KF,

    DS,

    sigh.

    Not that I don’t trust your morphological analysis, but Orloog quotes:

    a series of lines or verses in which the first, last, or other particular letters when taken in order spell out a word, phrase, etc.

    I’m guessing that if I wrote a poem where the first letters/characters of the lines were F, S, C, O, /, I, and then claimed it was an acrostic, I would (rightly) be accused of stretching the meaning of “acrostic” far beyond what is reasonable.

  54. 54

    Orloog,

    At the beginning…

    At the beginning this was taking a pot shot at a particular opponent who happens to have empirical facts as his resource. It was the same thing in the middle, and the same at the end.

  55. 55
    kairosfocus says:

    UB, dead right. And the continued side-tracking speaks glaringly of that which must not be named. -onym of course is a suffix meaning name. Put acro + onym together, compress one o and we get acronym, again, acrostic name which is exactly the function in view. KF

    PS: I add, that in former years educated people studied Latin and Greek. It was natural for them to construct words they needed from components from those languages, maybe with a bit of modding to smoothen out. We often saw that with key scientific terms. A good, fairly familiar case in point is the metric system of units. Of course they did things like putting in names of people such as Ohm or Joule etc.

  56. 56

    UB @ 51: “How did the first cell become specified before the organization required to specify something?”

    Excellent question. Has anyone responded to this yet?

  57. 57
    kairosfocus says:

    On complexity. From the beginning, Dembski spoke of odds 1 in 10^150 as marking a reliability threshold. I was not comfortable with that for a gamut beyond sol system and squared its bit form, 500 bits –> 1,000 bits. 500 bits specifies 3.27*10^150 and 1,000 bits 1.07*10^301 possibilities, thus measures of complexity and haystack size to be searched. At such thresholds sol system and observed cosmos scope searches do not have resources to be more than negligible by contrast, so isolated islands of function are effectively impossible on blind search. Down that road, active, intelligently injected information as Dembski and Marks later discussed. Objectors simply have not done basic homework. KF

  58. 58
    Florabama says:

    “But, but, but, your use of an acrostic is slightly off.” Really? That’s it? That’s all the materialists can come up with? Seriously? Hmmmmn! Perhaps this explains why Neo-Darwinism is crumbling away.

  59. 59
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB.

    Organisms are replicators. The first cells were primitive replicators. They did not have to replicate with great precision because they did not need to compete with the level of accuracy in replicators we observe today. In fact, NASA has a specific department to prevent this very thing from happening in off world environments.

    From this article on the constructor theory of life

    The early history of evolution is, in constructor-theoretic terms, a lengthy, highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction that eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things containing none. These elementary things are simple chemicals such as short RNA strands, which can perform only low-fidelity replication, and so do not bear the appearance of design, and are therefore allowed to exist in a pre-biotic environment governed by no-design laws.

  60. 60
    critical rationalist says:

    On the other hand, we do know of a cause—a type of cause—that has demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. That cause is intelligence or conscious rational deliberation. As the pioneering information theorist Henry Quastler once observed, “the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” And, of course, he was right. Whenever we find information—whether embedded in a radio signal, carved in a stone monument, written in a book or etched on a magnetic disc—and we trace it back to its source, invariably we come to mind, not merely a material process

    And how does “mind” result in those things in human designers? What is the theory behind how human knowege grows? This argument assumes we know nothing about it and haven’t made any progress on the issue for, thousands of years.

    If one is making the appeal, every human designer we have observed is a complex, knowege laden entitiy, that has a complex material brain, which itself would need to be explained, etc.

  61. 61
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist @59:

    Yes, it all sounds so easy. As long as we don’t actually look into the details or ask any hard questions.

    The initial question isn’t whether early cells self-replicated. The question is how early cells could come into existence with a capability of self-replication.

    And this is just wishful thinking, again based on a failure to actually look at what is required for self-replication:

    “They did not have to replicate with great precision . . .” There is no basis for this claim. There is no reason for thinking it is true, other than the fact that it supports a materialistic narrative.

    —–

    The early history of evolution is, in constructor-theoretic terms, a lengthy, highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction that eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things containing none. These elementary things are simple chemicals such as short RNA strands, which can perform only low-fidelity replication, and so do not bear the appearance of design, and are therefore allowed to exist in a pre-biotic environment governed by no-design laws.

    What an absolute load of bunk!

    Take some time to think through what is required for your primitive cells to exist in a real-world environment and to self-replicate. Then these facile, naive, made-up stories about “highly-inaccurate, non-purposive” chemicals accidentally bumping into each other to form living cells won’t seem so impressive to you.

    The level of gullibility one would have to embrace to believe stuff like this “constructor theory,” is truly remarkable.

  62. 62
    Origenes says:

    Why doesn’t a “highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction” fall completely apart? In order for something to continue to exist homeostasis needs to be fine-tuned.

  63. 63
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, how does mind result in the typing of the text of your comment just now? How is this relevant to the point that we know intelligent agents exist, that we do not exhaust the possibilities and that there are observable characteristics such as FSCO/I that are reliable indicators of design as cause. This is more than enough to effect a revolution in origins science already, and without taking on a world of further issues that are not germane to what is already clearly seen. KF

  64. 64
    bill cole says:

    CR

    Organisms are replicators. The first cells were primitive replicators. They did not have to replicate with great precision because they did not need to compete with the level of accuracy in replicators we observe today. In fact, NASA has a specific department to prevent this very thing from happening in off world environments.

    During replication DNA mutates. How would these early cell survive if their DNA was continually breaking down?

  65. 65

    The first cells were primitive replicators. They did not have to replicate with great precision because they did not need to compete with the level of accuracy in replicators we observe today.

    This sentence is written in the unambiguous affirmative. “The first cells were primitive replicators”. Additionally, there was “no need for precision”, because they did not have to compete against more precise replicators. Poof! Done! All assumptions have been demonstrated.

    good grief

    CR, since you apparently know all this to be true, then will you please summarize the number of different physical constraints required to interpret the “recipe” and the number of representations within that “recipe” that are required to describe the construction of the constraints? (This is not a wild-eyed request, after all, we can do this for modern cells). 0nly under such an analysis could you possibly even begin to gauge the level of accuracy necessary to create the (required) semantic closure. You see, it wasn’t other critters that the original cell had to overcome, it was the necessity of describing the translation apparatus in a transcribable memory, and being able to successfully interpret the description. That’s how the cell cycle works.

    So can you provide any of this data? Of course not. This is because constructor theory provides no answers to any of the central issues, and in doing so, becomes the perfect theory for people like yourself. At any point where an actually explanation and data are needed, the “theory” merely kicks in the ludicrous (and non-falsifiable) assumption that unless we can state a law that prohibits a thing, then that thing must have happened the way we assume it did.

    Really? Give it a rest.

  66. 66
    kairosfocus says:

    UB, we actually see homeostasis with defences, metabolism with controlled intake and disposal of wastes, all coupled to the additionality of a von Neumann type kinematic self replication facility. Where, the processes are code centric, using text with algorithms carried out on molecular nanotech machines. Such things require very specific functional configurations of high complexity and information content. The search space challenge to get to that information blindly is a patent empirical supertask, not credibly feasible on the gamut of the observed cosmos. So, what we are seeing is grand question begging backed up by the fallacy of confident manner and an ideological takeover of key institutions. Such, in the end cannot stand. But it can do a lot of damage before the inevitable collapse occurs. KF

  67. 67
    Orloog says:

    @Florabama:

    “But, but, but, your use of an acrostic is slightly off.” Really? That’s it?

    No, for me, that is not longer the point of this tangent – I have a problem with KF making up an etymology of acrostic to bolster his quite unusual use of this word, i.e., as just the adjective for acro.

  68. 68
    Orloog says:

    @KF:

    I should have been forewarned by the clumsy compound noun which you use as a moniker. So, let’s have a look at your comment #55:

    UB, dead right. And the continued side-tracking speaks glaringly of that which must not be named. yes, it is just a minor subject, but one which sheds a light on your modus operandi

    -onym of course is a suffix meaning name. no problem with this sentence…

    Put acro + onym together, compress one o and we get acronym,… and this one is correct, too

    again, acrostic name which is exactly the function in view. and here you fail miserably: acrostic isn’t the adjective to acros (?????)!!! Without any doubt, acrostic is a compound of ????? (akros) and ?????? (stikhos): put acro + stikhos together, compress the hos and we get acrostic

    While acronym means “heads of words”, acrostic means “heads of lines”. Your phrase “acrostic name” doesn’t make sense in this context.

    PS: I learned Greek and Latin at school, and I’m informed about the basic techniques of creating compound nouns – heck, I’m German, it’s our pasttime (just ask Heidegger…)

  69. 69
    Orloog says:

    what a pity, Greek characters are displayed as question marks…

  70. 70

    good grief, really?

    let it go, man

    If you need something to get worked up about, try helping CR decide how many non-integrable constraints it takes to specify the primeval translation apparatus.

  71. 71
    Orloog says:

    @UBP: I like Greek and Latin, so, yes, really….

  72. 72

    I like Greek and Latin

    Really. I like building slot-loaded dipoles and walks on the beach. So what?

    The pedantry over words is still a completely pointless distraction.

  73. 73
    Orloog says:

    If someone is so stubbornly wrong in my area of expertise, why should I trust his conclusions in other areas?

  74. 74
    SteRusJon says:

    Orloog,

    I took note of KF’s use of acrostic in stead of acronym. To me it was a triviality. It had no bearing on what he was saying, in my view, so I read past it and made the adjustment as I so often do to get past typos and such. No big deal.

    You, and others, want to focus on minutia and ignore the main point, altogether.

    Regarding “why should I trust his conclusions in other are?”

    You are engaging in a form of the genetic fallacy.

    Furthermore, KF has asked no one to “trust his conclusions” about this topic whether it be an acrostic or an acronym or a widget. In point of fact, KF has many times laid out his reasoning to his conclusion in a detailed, linear, point by point manner. If you do not agree with his conclusion, prey tell, why? Where is his chain of reasoning broken. Do you need some clarification on his part about a point or two.

    What does it take to get you people to focus? If, to you all, the most important aspect of KF’s post was the use of the word acrostic, you have proven to me that you all are really not serious about addressing the real points of this debate at all.

    Stephen

    PS You can all ignore me, now, while we fight about whether I should have used “past” or “passed” in my first paragraph. I am sure opinions will vary and it is so, so important to achieve clarity that this particular needs to be resolved before the main point can be properly addressed.

    PPS For those who are figure of speech challenged, that PS was sarcasm. Need to avoid a further distraction, so I am stating that explicitly for your benefit.

  75. 75

    “stubborn”

    That’s rich. Really.

    Allow me to offer you some unsolicited advice. Go find yourself a 3×5 index card and a good sharp pencil, and write down the naked honest answer to the following question:

    Was I truly confused by the meaning Kairos conveyed?”

    After you write “No”, you can then fold up that card and carry it around with you as you go through life demanding adherence in “your area of expertise” from the other 7 billion of us. And if you ever become frustrated — particularly in situations where your area of expertise isn’t even the topic on the table — you can take out your card and contemplate it. Perhaps you’ll come up with your own answer to your question.

  76. 76
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    Sounds like you’re looking for this paper on information theory.

    We present a theory of information expressed solely in terms of which transformations of physical systems are possible and which are impossible – i.e. in constructor-theoretic terms. Although it includes conjectured laws of physics that are directly about information, independently of the details of particular physical instantiations, it does not regard information as an a priori mathematical or logical concept, but as something whose nature and properties are determined by the laws of physics alone. It does not suffer from the circularity at the foundations of existing information theory (namely that information and distinguishability are each defined in terms of the other). It explains the relationship between classical and quantum information, and reveals the single, constructor-theoretic property underlying the most distinctive phenomena associated with the latter, including the lack of in-principle distinguishability of some states, the impossibility of cloning, the existence of pairs of variables that cannot simultaneously have sharp values, the fact that measurement processes can be both deterministic and unpredictable, the irreducible perturbation caused by measurement, and entanglement (locally inaccessible information).

    And this paper on the contractor theoretic theory of life

    Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory explains how the appearance of purposive design in the sophisticated adaptations of living organisms can have come about without their intentionally being designed. The explanation relies crucially on the possibility of certain physical processes: mainly, gene replication and natural selection. In this paper I show that for those processes to be possible without the design of biological adaptations being encoded in the laws of physics, those laws must have certain other properties. The theory of what these properties are is not part of evolution theory proper, and has not been developed, yet without it the neo-Darwinian theory does not fully achieve its purpose of explaining the appearance of design. To this end I apply Constructor Theory’s new mode of explanation to provide an exact formulation of the appearance of design, of no-design laws, and of the logic of self-reproduction and natural selection, within fundamental physics. I conclude that self-reproduction, replication and natural selection are possible under no-design laws, the only non-trivial condition being that they allow digital information to be physically instantiated. This has an exact characterisation in the constructor theory of information. I also show that under no-design laws an accurate replicator requires the existence of a “vehicle” constituting, together with the replicator, a self-reproducer.

  77. 77
    Armand Jacks says:

    Frankly I can’t get worked up over rvb8’s, oorlog’s, DaveS’ and others’ bone of contention over whether FSCO/I is an acronym or an acrostic. It is like arguing over the best way to market numerology, phrenology or astrology.

  78. 78

    CR, I’ve read your second paper, now can you answer my question?

    “please summarize the number of different physical constraints required to interpret the “recipe” and the number of representations within that “recipe” that are required to describe the construction of the constraints?”

  79. 79
    timothya says:

    Upright Biped:

    “This type of organization has a very specific set of physical characteristics that uniquely identify it among all other physical systems. Your mineral example demonstrates none of those characteristics.”

    Rubbish.

    Chalconatronite clearly is uniquely specified by its physical characteristics. Where did those characteristics come from? Natural causes that generated new and increased complexity? Or an intelligent agent when they were formed?

    Would you like to explain how the kestrel [SNIP- family forum TA, and broken window theory, consider yourself on notice] was intelligently injected into the mineral? The Famous Onlookers await your explanation.

  80. 80
    kairosfocus says:

    Orloog (et al),

    I see you wish to prolong a distractive tangent and we can see the usual trend to turn it into an ad hominem, atmosphere-poisoning attack.

    Now, first, I am NOT making up an etymology.

    I have reported on what should be a readily acknowledged longstanding acknowledged fact regarding what we could term “academic coinage.” A fact that leaves “fossils” in the terms, which we may readily inspect and which are accessible to all.

    There are words commonly used in academic related contexts that are and were routinely assembled from esp. Greek antecedents. In relation to Acros as I highlighted long since on historically significant cases, Acros + Polis –> Acropolis, Athens. Acros + Corinth –> Acrocorinth. In the case of Jerusalem, in a Hebrew-Aramaic culture, Greek invaders built a citadel which was known as the Acra which played a key part in the rise of the Hasmoneans, thus we see a loan word.

    In another case, in 1 Cor 6, Paul seems to have created a term based on Leviticus as rendered in Septuagint: arsenocoitai.

    As a result, we should be open to the obvious in looking at academic words. The ending -ic is commonly to be found with adjectives and adjectives in as loose a language as English, tend to become nouns. (And yes, I saw the same derivation you noted in the dictionaries. With all due respect to the learned authors, they are not telling the whole story as there are other socio-linguistic dynamics at work, pardon as follows.)

    That is why I dared suggest that Acrostic Poem likely became simply Acrostic, a long time since. I am aware of the construction of acrostic from stichos, but note that it is a well known pattern that words of similar form have influence on how meanings are taken. One of the bugs/features of English as a language. That Acrostic was chosen invites the question of influences on meaning from closely resembling suffixes, roots etc.

    Indeed, in my native land, a whole folk philosophy has grown out of the aural resemblance between “I” and “eye,’ leading to “I-man.” The one who is, and who sees in a world of pain and exile, Babylon. (And yes the famous song on the psalm reflects that philosophy.) A philosophy that cannot simply be brushed aside as ignorant conflation of words that have different meanings.

    Money has likewise become “dun-ny,” in an ironic pun that utilises a rhyme.

    As for kairos + focus, there is a world of meaning compressed there, and your sneer is of no consequence, thank you.

    Likewise, we readily see that Acros + -onym yields a contracted form acronym, equivalent to acrostic name. (I have it on not only memory of my teachers but also painful memories of required memorisation of roots, prefixes and suffixes in lessons and texts — or even online as I checked yesterday between work assignments and power cuts, that taking apart such words based on their components is reasonable praxis. [A machine seized up yesterday morning, they are hoping to get a long delayed new genset in synch to restore a stable grid. And yes, this is loaded with further examples from the sci-tech world. English is maybe the most flexible major language, which needs to be recognised as a bug/feature.])

    I put it to you, also, that there is no need to make a mountain out of a molehill of dictionaries [including even the famous OED] if I chose to use -ic in a readily understood context, in its obvious adjectival sense.

    I appreciate that you are concerned over language, but this should not be used as an in the end toxic distraction. English is exceptionally loose and/or flexible.

    And, please, at this time of pivotal decision for our civilisation, this rhetorically strategic moment, let us focus as a general or admiral would, on the key dangers and opportunities.

    (Yes, all of that is loaded into that “clumsy” handle. Where, if you think my handle is bad, ponder the bitter history lessons written into my personal name!)

    KF

    PS: Assume I am utterly in the wrong on using Acrostic in adjectival sense. What relevance is that to FSCO/I apart from distraction? Nil.

  81. 81
    Orloog says:

    @KF

    1) You are definitely making up the etymology of “acrostic” – there is no doubt about its origin as “acros” + “stikhos”. You try to reanalyse this into “acros” + “ic”, an interesting example of folk etymology. I gave you the link to the OED, where you can see that “acrostic” was used as a noun first!

    2) I repeat: “acrostic” isn’t just the adjective to “acros” – btw, that rather would be “acric”. You invented that meaning, and now you insist that it is commonly used. It is not!

    3) I called you moniker clumsy as it should be “kairofocus” or perhaps “kaironfocus” (it isn’t acrospolis, is it?)

    4) I’ll end with the immortal words of Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  82. 82
    timothya says:

    KF:

    “Where, if you think my handle is bad, ponder the bitter history lessons written into my personal name!”

    Could you let us know what those lessons might be?

  83. 83
    kairosfocus says:

    AJ,

    I find it interesting that you chose to invidiously compare FSCO/I with ” . . . the best way to market numerology, phrenology or astrology.”

    Now, let us see, you posted a text, using ASCII code, in English, of 225 characters, manifesting functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information. Such a text comes from a field of 2^(7 * 225) possibilities, 1.325*10^474.

    Blind chance and/or mechanical necessity, using all the atomic and temporal resources of our observed cosmos — 10^80 or thereabouts atoms for about 10^17 s, at 10^12 to 10^14 tries each per s, could not search anything but a negligibly small fraction of that total, and would face a supertask to reach such islands of function in the config space.

    You tossed it off through intelligently directed configuration in a matter of minutes.

    That remarkable difference reflects injection of active, intelligent information.

    It also points to what you are loath to acknowledge, but which is empirically reliable on an observation base of trillions. FSCO/I is observable, can be quantified and compared to thresholds of utter implausibility for blind search [500 – 1,000 bits], and is a strong sign of design as cause.

    To overturn that, we do not need loaded comparisons with superstitions, nor ideological question-begging enforced by the new lab coat clad magisterium. No, we need to see demonstration that blind chance and mechanical necessity has the needed capability. Studies so far are a factor of 10^100+ short of the threshold band.

    It is an empirically reliable, analytically plausible inference that FSCO/I is a sign of design as cause.

    On analyses and observations that are quite similar to those that give us high confidence in the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

    Further to this, we can detect a trace of the perception that equates worldview level acceptance of ethical theism with ignorant superstition. I suggest, such a dismissive leap is ill-advised and speaks more about the objector than about the credibility of such theism as a worldview.

    KF

  84. 84
    kairosfocus says:

    TA, kindly scroll up to the OP and take time to learn what Leslie Orgel put on the table in 1973. KF

    PS: Also, you know far better than you have done with language.

  85. 85
    Orloog says:

    @KF

    PS: Assume I am utterly in the wrong on using Acrostic in adjectival sense. What relevance is that to FSCO/I apart from distraction? Nil.

    1) Sigh. You may use “acrostic” in an adjectival sense – just not as the adjective to “acros”, but to “acrostic”

    2) If you keep up repeating a demonstrably wrong fact – even after being confronted with overwhelming evidence – what relevance is that to your credibility?

  86. 86
    timothya says:

    KF:

    “Where, if you think my handle is bad, ponder the bitter history lessons written into my personal name!”

    TA: My question is: Could you let us know what those lessons might be?

    KF’s response:

    “TA, kindly scroll up to the OP and take time to learn what Leslie Orgel put on the table in 1973. KF

    PS: Also, you know far better than you have done with language.”

    TA: Sorry, but I can’t see anything that is related to your “handle”. Was Leslie Orgel personally acquainted with you? Was he referring to you personally in his paper? Please explain.

  87. 87
    Origenes says:

    critical rationalist @76

    CR: Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory explains how the appearance of purposive design in the sophisticated adaptations of living organisms can have come about without their intentionally being designed. The explanation relies crucially on … natural selection.

    ‘Natural selection’ is, in fact, a process of elimination. Elimination only explains why some organisms go out of existence, but does not explain why organisms come into existence. Darwin’s theory promotes the false belief that elimination is creative.

    Darwin: Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.

    Given that natural selection is a process of elimination, existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are “untouched” by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

  88. 88
    kairosfocus says:

    Orloog,

    I have not disputed the direct construction [I have had no reason to doubt it], I have pointed to the influence of -ic as a suffix, which WILL have an influence. And no I am not simply indulging folk etymology. In that context, given repeated pointing out of the distractive nature, I must point out the rhetorical pattern, red herring –> strawman caricature –> ad hominem driven dismissal of a case on the merits through atmosphere tainting.

    The sustained evasion of empirical evidence on the reality of FSCO/I, the ducking of the observation base of trillions of cases and the refusal to engage the search challenge analysis in the end speak volumes regarding balance on the merits.

    TA,

    My first given name — I am what could be called a name-bearer — is written in my family’s martyred blood over the door of my native land’s parliament. Which, per family tradition, stands on the site of my relative’s house; seized after his execution on false charges of fomenting rebellion.

    Kangaroo court in front of two idiot militia officers who would not allow time for GWG’s physician to be called in witness as to why he was absent from a pivotal meeting. (The doctor was all of 40 miles away and a man’s life was on the line, never mind he was facing a prognosis of maybe one year to live.)

    A Governor who had helped preside over the Irish famine approved the execution, in an ill-judged action likely driven by resentment over GWG warning in parliament that famine and the people of my native land were a volatile mix and calling for reasonable acts of relief.

    GWG was hanged on one hour’s notice to himself.

    Not, one of Britain’s finer moments.

    At least, the Governor was recalled in disgrace — though cheered on his way to the ship as a hero by some — and was tried. He of course got off. The cockneys rendered their verdict by hanging him in effigy. To give due acknowledgement, Darwin protested.

    But, the matter is replete with lessons of history bought with blood and tears.

    [I add: kindly, note time stamps. above, I pointed to the remarks of Leslie Orgel in 1973 on the differences between crystals, random polymers and the functionally specific complex molecules found in cell based life. And, not for the first time. On language, you know the vulgarity you used, one of the seven notorious words.]

    KF

  89. 89
    timothya says:

    KF:

    “My first given name — I am what could be called a name-bearer — is written in my family’s martyred blood over the door of my native land’s parliament. Which, per family tradition, stands on the site of my relative’s house; seized after his execution on false charges of fomenting rebellion.

    Kangaroo court in front of two idiot militia officers who would not allow time for GWG’s physician to be called in witness as to why he was absent from a pivotal meeting.

    A Governor who had helped preside over the Irish famine approved the execution, in an ill-judged action likely driven by resentment over GWG warning in parliament that famine and the people of my native land were a volatile mix and calling for reasonable acts of relief.

    GWG was hanged on one hour’s notice to himself.

    Not, one of Britain’s finer moments.

    At least, the Governor was recalled in disgrace — though cheered on his way to the ship as a hero by some — and was tried. He of course got off. The cockneys rendered their verdict by hanging him in effigy. To give due acknowledgement, Darwin protested.

    But, the matter is replete with lessons of history bought with blood and tears.

    [I add: kindly, note time stamps. above, I pointed to the remarks of Leslie Orgel in 1973 on the differences between crystals, random polymers and the functionally specific complex molecules found in cell based life. And, not for the first time. On language, you know the vulgarity you used, one of the seven notorious words.]”

    Is “GWG” George William Gordon? And was the Governor that you refer to George Eyre? I do know a bit about him (coming as he did from Australia). If so, he was most certainly an imperialist murderer in the Jamaican uprising and Gordon’s death was most certainly a judicial murder.

  90. 90
    timothya says:

    KF, were you named after George Gordon?

  91. 91
    timothya says:

    If anyone is interested, here is one part of the Wikipedia account of the Jamaican uprising: “According to one soldier, “we slaughtered all before us… man or woman or child”. In the end, the soldiers killed 439 black Jamaicans directly, and they arrested 354 more (including Paul Bogle), who were later executed, many without proper trials. Bogle was executed “either the same evening he was tried or the next morning.”[5] Other punishments included flogging of more than 600 men and women (including some pregnant women), and long prison sentences. The soldiers burned thousands of homes belonging to black Jamaicans without any justifiable reason, leaving families homeless throughout the parish. This was the most severe suppression of unrest in the history of the British West Indies, exceeding incidents during slavery years.”

    This is what British imperialism stood for.

  92. 92
    timothya says:

    By the way, Edward Eyre had nothing to do with the Irish potato famine. Bad as he was, it isn’t fair to tar him with that one. He was in Australia the whole time it happened.

  93. 93
    kairosfocus says:

    TA, I was named after my paternal grandma, he was her great uncle; the family line ties to Jacobins and likely [I speculate] people in the famous regiment which was in Jamaica for a time — which would renew family ties and would leave “brown skin” descendants also. And yes, the events I speak of showed the ugly side of British global piracy. As in small-time operator — pirate. Big time operator — navy. A language is a dialect backed by an army or navy, and more. You duly noted the 1,000 houses (my history books did not speak of multiple thousands) razed to the ground and we should note the fact that that parish has never fully recovered down to today. I once knew a descendant of Bogle, and it made a bittersweet flavour to our friendship and joint fight to create a new generation of technology education programmes in the teeth of the wishes of the powers that be. Blood tells. BTW, the story I got was Bogle’s [common law?] wife fled pregnant over mountain trails; beating of such women was not in the history books but I don’t doubt the sort of idiots who ran a kangaroo court and callously murdered an innocent man under colours of justice could easily do that. The behaviour surrounding the Christmas 1831 uprising was just as questionable. KF

    PS: If it is the same one, it is an error of sources that gave the history, they point to the Irish famine. I have never heard of that figure other than as Governor Eyre; without a given name.

    PPS: it is Edward John, and he was in Australia. I always wondered about Lake Eyre mentioned in 2nd or 3rd form Geography [it is too long ago now to be clear], it is the same man; no wonder I had a queasy feeling in those classes — someone walking across your grave. Somebody was, though I thought at the time, it’s just a name; likely it is not THAT monster. I will adjust my understanding of the Irish famine connexion. The comparison is there at institutional level, especially given the Bogle petition and the ill-advised reply, but it is not directly personal.

  94. 94
    timothya says:

    If you have time, there is an honest account of the uprising, and its brutal suppression in Jan Morris’ “Pax Brittanica”, a history of the British Empire. It is in Volume 2, “Pax Brittanica”, an ironic title in this case.

  95. 95

    #79

    Chalconatronite has a genome?

    Do tell.

  96. 96
    timothya says:

    Uprid Biped:

    “#79

    Chalconatronite has a genome?”

    Has anyone said so? If so, where and when?

  97. 97

    You specifically presented chalconatronite as a counter-example in comment #79.

    You, of course, already know this.

    Your counter-example is easily refuted.

    And so, now you play the troll.

    You don’t need me around for that.

  98. 98
    Eric Anderson says:

    timothya:

    The initial, basic, starting point of the analysis remains on the table for you:

    Let’s start back at square 1: Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up your genome and the molecules making up a pile of inanimate dirt?

    Or, since you prefer to talk about Chalconatronite, we can word it this way:

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up your genome and the molecules making up Chalconatronite?

    —–

    Answer the above question and then we will know whether there is any point in further discussion with you.

  99. 99
    Phinehas says:

    Sev:

    If life came about through naturalistic or materialistic processes – and, as an unreconstructed old atheist/materialist, I still say “if” – then it took the Universe over 10 billion years to get to the earliest life on Earth. So the fact that we haven’t been able to do it in the last hundred or so is hardly surprising.

    Really? You say this as if it is obviously true. Yet we routinely produce things the universe seems incapable of producing via random chance over a much greater time frame.

    From wikipedia on the Infinite Monkey Theorem:

    Even if every proton in the observable universe were a monkey with a typewriter, typing from the Big Bang until the end of the universe (when protons might no longer exist), they would still need a still far greater amount of time – more than three hundred and sixty thousand orders of magnitude longer – to have even a 1 in 10^500 chance of [producing Hamlet]. To put it another way, for a one in a trillion chance of success, there would need to be 10^360,641 universes made of atomic monkeys.[note 6] As Kittel and Kroemer put it in their textbook on thermodynamics, the field whose statistical foundations motivated the first known expositions of typing monkeys,[3] “The probability of Hamlet is therefore zero in any operational sense of an event…”, and the statement that the monkeys must eventually succeed “gives a misleading conclusion about very, very large numbers.”

    In fact there is less than a one in a trillion chance of success that such a universe made of monkeys could type any particular document a mere 79 characters long.[note 7]

    So multiple times in this one thread you’ve managed to produce what the universe almost certainly cannot. You could probably do so again quite mindlessly over lunch, between bites of a sandwich, with no government funding whatsoever.

    You are either giving random processes way too much credit, or selling intelligent agency much too short. Either way, it is fantastically surprising that the universe should have merely stumbled onto and preserved processes and codes so technologically advanced and sophisticated that the best minds in the world cannot replicate it after more than a century. Any lack of surprise at this fact is a clear sign that ideology is being given precedence over rationality in forming one’s expectations.

  100. 100
    Eric Anderson says:

    BTW, critical rationalist, Orloog, Armand Jacks, Seversky and any others:

    Feel free to jump in and answer the question @98 in an honest and objective way so that we know you aren’t just avoiding the central issues and focusing on red herrings.

    Or you could remain conveniently silent on the substantive issue and hope timothya somehow squirms out of answering the real questions . . .

  101. 101
    Origenes says:

    Phinehas @99

    Excellent!

  102. 102
    Florabama says:

    Orlong @67 “No, for me, that is not longer the point of this tangent – I have a problem with KF making up an etymology of acrostic to bolster his quite unusual use of this word, i.e., as just the adjective for acro.”

    That sounds like you just said, “no it’s not, but yes it is.”

    Arguing about the use of acrostic is just being the grammar police while ignoring the point of his very detailed and in depth post, isn’t it?

  103. 103
    rvb8 says:

    Kairos,

    OT,

    More than seven hundred murdered children found in a sewer in an Irish orphanage. The sweet sisters of Bon Cecours murdered them over a period from the 1930s-1960s, for the crime of being bastards. The Church is ‘shocked!’

    I’m not!

    Thank you God for this priceless example of Christian Love, and understanding of Christ’s teachings.

    Are Protestants any better? Read a book!

  104. 104
    mike1962 says:

    rvb8 @103

    The murderers were not Christians, regardless of what they claimed they believed. (Mat 7:16,20)

    You’re a troll.

  105. 105
    kairosfocus says:

    M62, sadly, you are right. Here is 1 John 3:15b: ” . . . you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This is a critical test, no one impenitently guilty of blood and/or of the hate that leads to such overt actions is or could be in right relationship with God; there is need for repentance and reformation. That is why in reviewing how he made havoc of the faith in former days through excessive zeal for his religious agenda, Paul called himself the chief of sinners, and a trophy of God’s grace. No-one intent on responsible commentary on the Christian faith and the sins and blessings of Christendom, will be ignorant of or will fail to soberly understand and address this issue of critical moral tests for genuine Christian discipleship. morally freighted truth demands moral transformation and absence of the latter implies that profession is empty — and so such emptiness should be promptly remedied through repentance and reform of life. KF

    PS: Notice, how — hours after EA’s challenge at 100 above — what we are seeing is yet another intended toxic tangent rather than any serious grappling with the pivotal issue; something that is actually a matter of back to longstanding basics? Where, notice also just whose remarks are specifically headlined in the OP. That speaks saddening volumes as to the actual motives and willful distortions at work.

  106. 106
    Armand Jacks says:

    EA@98

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up your genome and the molecules making up a pile of inanimate dirt?

    Yes, I acknowledge that there is a difference.

    Or, since you prefer to talk about Chalconatronite, we can word it this way:

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up your genome and the molecules making up Chalconatronite?

    Yes, I acknowledge that there is a difference.

    Now, to make it interesting, are you willing to answer a question? Here goes:

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up a pile of inanimate dirt and the molecules making up Chalconatronite?

  107. 107
    kairosfocus says:

    AJ, you have asked a trivial matter, which EA long since highlighted the answer to, and beyond him, Leslie Orgel, when he wrote, as follows, in 1973 as cited in OP:

    . . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures [–> minerals are crystalline in general], because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified [–> the former, a random mass of crystals, the latter a random mixture at micro-scale, such as a tar]. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . .

    The repeated side tracking of this thread i/l/o that point from the OP, is telling. KF

  108. 108
    Armand Jacks says:

    KF, with respect, it was EA who asked the questions, not you. But, since it is your thread, I will explain my point.

    EA was trying to show that there is a significant difference between the information in the molecules making up dirt or Chalconatronite (both naturally formed) and the information in the molecules making up a genome. Which is not being contested. But there is also a significant difference between the information contained in the molecules of the two naturally ocurring materials. Therefore, how does the difference between the genome and dirt mean design, but the difference between dirt and Chalconatronite not mean design?

  109. 109

    AJ, you seem to be referencing the presence of physical information in the dirt. Is that correct?

    I have just a question for clarity. I was wondering if you can tell me anything about this information – a piece of the information perhaps – contained in the dirt?

  110. 110
    Armand Jacks says:

    UB:

    I have just a question for clarity. I was wondering if you can tell me anything about this information – a piece of the information perhaps – contained in the dirt?”

    I wish I could. But it was EA who brought the issue up. You should probably ask him.

  111. 111
    Eric Anderson says:

    Armand Jacks:

    Thank you for at least answering the question.

    You went on to say:

    But there is also a significant difference between the information contained in the molecules of the two naturally ocurring materials.

    Since you make this interesting assertion, can you please let us know what you imagine to be this significant difference between the information contained in Chalconatronite and that contained in a pile of inanimate dirt or any other naturally occurring mineral?

    Note, the question is not whether Chalconatronite has the same molecules as some other mineral. The question is about the information contained therein — given your claim that there is some.

    Alternatively, we can get to the same point if you are willing to expound on what you think the difference is in the information contained in your genome, as opposed to Chalconatronite.

    Either way, the answer, should you be willing and able to come up with it, will point toward the fundamental issue KF is highlighting in this thread.

  112. 112

    Armand Jacks:

    Now, to make it interesting, are you willing to answer a question? Here goes:

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in the molecules making up a pile of inanimate dirt and the molecules making up chalconatronite?

    It seems to me you were asking someone to agree that there is a difference between the information contained in a pile of inanimate dirt and the information contained in Chalconatronite. I then asked you if you knew what any of this information is. Now you seem to be saying that you don’t actually know if any information is there.

  113. 113
    Armand Jacks says:

    Eric, I am an analytical chemist by trade. More specifically, spectrometry. I can tell you with certainty that there is far more information stored in your basic lump of amorphous dirt than there is in any crystal. And, the more pure the crystal, the less information.

    So, given your argument, how does the assertion that the genome has more information than a lump of dirt support your argument? Whatever that argument is. There are huge differences in levels of information within the natural world.

  114. 114
    Armand Jacks says:

    UB:

    It seems to me you were asking someone to agree that there is a difference between the information contained in a pile of inanimate dirt and the information contained in Chalconatronite. Now you seem to be saying that you don’t actually know if any information is there.

    I aplologize. I was just being a smart ass in my response to you. You did not deserve that.

    I could go into great detail about the spectroscopic information contained within crystals and within “dirt” but it wouldn’t add much to the discussion. Suffice it to say, because your basic clump of dirt (soil, sediment) is a mix of many elements, it is far more information rich that any crystal, which is essentially a purified form of one or more elements in specific ratios.

    But, it is late at night, I am old, and I have forgotten what the original argument was about. Catch you on the flip side. Good night.

  115. 115

    That’s fine AJ.

    In your answer you mention “the spectroscopic information contained within crystals and within dirt”, and say that one contains “far more” than the other. Not meaning to sound obtuse, but spectroscopic information would almost certainly be a representation created by a spectroscope, and not really contained in the material. Many people here would suggest that this type of information does indeed exist in a real physical sense, but it is the product of a measurement taken from the material, not contained within it. Given your background, I will assume that you appreciate the distinction between the measurement and the soil, and so I would simply ask you if the soil contains any of this kind of information? After all, this is the type of information contained within the cell, which is the actual topic of this conversation.

  116. 116
    Eric Anderson says:

    Armand Jacks:

    Thank you for your response. I’ll pose a brief response and then we can continue tomorrow.

    You seem to be conflating complexity with information. You then mention that because a clump of dirt is “a mix of many elements, it is far more information rich than any crystal.”

    Where is that information? What is the information about? What language or symbolic system is it represented in?

    —–

    Ideally I would prefer to do a back-and-forth on each nuance, but realistically we don’t have that kind of time, so I will cut to the chase:

    Physical objects — whether a clump of inanimate dirt or a single mineral — do not contain information by their mere existence. Certainly not in the sense relevant to the present debate or the origin of biological systems.

    Yes, we as intelligent beings can analyze physical objects using our intelligence and our tools of discovery. At that point we have produced information as a result of our intellectual effort. We can then describe our findings (the information we have produced) in some kind of symbolic language. This can then, as all symbolically-represented information can be, transmitted and translated.

    This is how information works. It is how it always works.

    There is a world of difference between the fact that we can describe physical objects using information, and the fact that some physical objects actually contain information.

    This is the issue that ultimately lies at the crux of origin of life studies. It is the fundamental issue that origin of life researchers are trying to grapple with. It is the ultimate chasm that must be crossed from inanimate matter to living systems.

    It is not the case that there is some gradient from a tiny bit of information in a mineral, to a bit more information in a clump of dirt, to a lot of information in DNA.

    Every molecule can be described using information. But only some molecules contain representative information. These are entirely different domains.

  117. 117
    timothya says:

    Erik Anderson:

    “There is a world of difference between the fact that we can describe physical objects using information, and the fact that some physical objects actually contain information.”

    Not some, but all physical objects contain what you describe as information.

  118. 118
    Origenes says:

    Eric Anderson: What is the information about? What language or symbolic system is it represented in? …

    It is the ultimate chasm that must be crossed from inanimate matter to living systems.

    Although I agree that the chasm you point out is deep and wide, I would like to suggest that the ‘ultimate chasm’ has to do with functional coherence at the level of an organism as a whole.
    Crossing the chasm of symbolism, so words, sentences and paragraphs can be formed, the question arises: what power makes it all into a coherent story? And beyond that: given that the story of an organism is ever-changing, incorporating a myriad of external and internal events, what power perpetuates the coherence, precisely for a life time?
    It is at the level of an organism as a whole that we see the true miracle of unity in life. Even ‘representative information’ falls short as an explanation.

  119. 119
    kairosfocus says:

    TA, kindly define information as you use it, and provide some backdrop for justifying that usage. Explain to us how your usage is not a case of so broadening a concept as to render it useless, which is a rhetorical tactic that is often driven by ideological considerations. KF

    PS: As a starter, observe this on entropy and information onward to FSCO/I, as clipped in my always linked note, which is key backdrop:

    we may average the information per symbol in [a] communication system thusly (giving in terms of -H to make the additive relationships clearer):

    – H = p1 log p1 + p2 log p2 + . . . + pn log pn

    or, H = – SUM [pi log pi] . . . Eqn 5

    H, the average information per symbol transmitted [usually, measured as: bits/symbol], is often termed the Entropy; first, historically, because it resembles one of the expressions for entropy in statistical thermodynamics. As Connor notes: “it is often referred to as the entropy of the source.” [p.81, emphasis added.] Also, while this is a somewhat controversial view in Physics, as is briefly discussed in Appendix 1below, there is in fact an informational interpretation of thermodynamics that shows that informational and thermodynamic entropy can be linked conceptually as well as in mere mathematical form. Though somewhat controversial even in quite recent years, this is becoming more broadly accepted in physics and information theory, as Wikipedia now discusses [as at April 2011] in its article on Informational Entropy (aka Shannon Information, cf also here):

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

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

    Summarising Harry Robertson’s Statistical Thermophysics (Prentice-Hall International, 1993) — excerpting desperately and adding emphases and explanatory comments, we can see, perhaps, that this should not be so surprising after all. (In effect, since we do not possess detailed knowledge of the states of the vary large number of microscopic particles of thermal systems [typically ~ 10^20 to 10^26; a mole of substance containing ~ 6.023*10^23 particles; i.e. the Avogadro Number], we can only view them in terms of those gross averages we term thermodynamic variables [pressure, temperature, etc], and so we cannot take advantage of knowledge of such individual particle states that would give us a richer harvest of work, etc.)

    For, as he astutely observes on pp. vii – viii:

    . . . the standard assertion that molecular chaos exists is nothing more than a poorly disguised admission of ignorance, or lack of detailed information about the dynamic state of a system . . . . If I am able to perceive order, I may be able to use it to extract work from the system, but if I am unaware of internal correlations, I cannot use them for macroscopic dynamical purposes. On this basis, I shall distinguish heat from work, and thermal energy from other forms . . .

    And, in more details, (pp. 3 – 6, 7, 36, cf Appendix 1 below for a more detailed development of thermodynamics issues and their tie-in with the inference to design; also see recent ArXiv papers by Duncan and Samura here and here):

    . . . It has long been recognized that the assignment of probabilities to a set represents information, and that some probability sets represent more information than others . . . if one of the probabilities say p2 is unity and therefore the others are zero, then we know that the outcome of the experiment . . . will give [event] y2. Thus we have complete information . . . if we have no basis . . . for believing that event yi is more or less likely than any other [we] have the least possible information about the outcome of the experiment . . . . A remarkably simple and clear analysis by Shannon [1948] has provided us with a quantitative measure of the uncertainty, or missing pertinent information, inherent in a set of probabilities [NB: i.e. a probability different from 1 or 0 should be seen as, in part, an index of ignorance] . . . .

    [deriving informational entropy, cf. discussions here, here, here, here and here; also Sarfati’s discussion of debates and the issue of open systems here . . . ]

    H({pi}) = – C [SUM over i] pi*ln pi, [. . . “my” Eqn 6]

    [where [SUM over i] pi = 1, and we can define also parameters alpha and beta such that: (1) pi = e^-[alpha + beta*yi]; (2) exp [alpha] = [SUM over i](exp – beta*yi) = Z [Z being in effect the partition function across microstates, the “Holy Grail” of statistical thermodynamics]. . . .

    [H], called the information entropy, . . . correspond[s] to the thermodynamic entropy [i.e. s, where also it was shown by Boltzmann that s = k ln w], with C = k, the Boltzmann constant, and yi an energy level, usually ei, while [BETA] becomes 1/kT, with T the thermodynamic temperature . . . A thermodynamic system is characterized by a microscopic structure that is not observed in detail . . . We attempt to develop a theoretical description of the macroscopic properties in terms of its underlying microscopic properties, which are not precisely known. We attempt to assign probabilities to the various microscopic states . . . based on a few . . . macroscopic observations that can be related to averages of microscopic parameters. Evidently the problem that we attempt to solve in statistical thermophysics is exactly the one just treated in terms of information theory. It should not be surprising, then, that the uncertainty of information theory becomes a thermodynamic variable when used in proper context . . . .

    Jayne’s [summary rebuttal to a typical objection] is “. . . The entropy of a thermodynamic system is a measure of the degree of ignorance of a person whose sole knowledge about its microstate consists of the values of the macroscopic quantities . . . which define its thermodynamic state. This is a perfectly ‘objective’ quantity . . . it is a function of [those variables] and does not depend on anybody’s personality. There is no reason why it cannot be measured in the laboratory.” . . . . [pp. 3 – 6, 7, 36; replacing Robertson’s use of S for Informational Entropy with the more standard H.]

    As is discussed briefly in Appendix 1, Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen [TBO], following Brillouin et al, in the 1984 foundational work for the modern Design Theory, The Mystery of Life’s Origins [TMLO], exploit this information-entropy link, through the idea of moving from a random to a known microscopic configuration in the creation of the bio-functional polymers of life, and then — again following Brillouin — identify a quantitative information metric for the information of polymer molecules. For, in moving from a random to a functional molecule, we have in effect an objective, observable increment in information about the molecule. This leads to energy constraints, thence to a calculable concentration of such molecules in suggested, generously “plausible” primordial “soups.” In effect, so unfavourable is the resulting thermodynamic balance, that the concentrations of the individual functional molecules in such a prebiotic soup are arguably so small as to be negligibly different from zero on a planet-wide scale.

    By many orders of magnitude, we don’t get to even one molecule each of the required polymers per planet, much less bringing them together in the required proximity for them to work together as the molecular machinery of life. The linked chapter gives the details. More modern analyses [e.g. Trevors and Abel, here and here], however, tend to speak directly in terms of information and probabilities rather than the more arcane world of classical and statistical thermodynamics, so let us now return to that focus; in particular addressing information in its functional sense, as the third step in this preliminary analysis.

    As the third major step, we now turn to information technology, communication systems and computers, which provides a vital clarifying side-light from another view on how complex, specified information functions in information processing systems:

    [In the context of computers] information is data — i.e. digital representations of raw events, facts, numbers and letters, values of variables, etc. — that have been put together in ways suitable for storing in special data structures [strings of characters, lists, tables, “trees” etc], and for processing and output in ways that are useful [i.e. functional]. . . . Information is distinguished from [a] data: raw events, signals, states etc represented digitally, and [b] knowledge: information that has been so verified that we can reasonably be warranted, in believing it to be true. [GEM, UWI FD12A Sci Med and Tech in Society Tutorial Note 7a, Nov 2005.]

    That is, we have now made a step beyond mere capacity to carry or convey information, to the function fulfilled by meaningful — intelligible, difference making — strings of symbols. In effect, we here introduce into the concept, “information,” the meaningfulness, functionality (and indeed, perhaps even purposefulness) of messages — the fact that they make a difference to the operation and/or structure of systems using such messages, thus to outcomes; thence, to relative or absolute success or failure of information-using systems in given environments.

    And, such outcome-affecting functionality is of course the underlying reason/explanation for the use of information in systems. [Cf. the recent peer-reviewed, scientific discussions here, and here by Abel and Trevors, in the context of the molecular nanotechnology of life.] Let us note as well that since in general analogue signals can be digitised [i.e. by some form of analogue-digital conversion], the discussion thus far is quite general in force.

    So, taking these three main points together, we can now see how information is conceptually and quantitatively defined, how it can be measured in bits, and how it is used in information processing systems; i.e., how it becomes functional. In short, we can now understand that:

    Functionally Specific, Complex Information [FSCI] is a characteristic of complicated messages that function in systems to help them practically solve problems faced by the systems in their environments. Also, in cases where we directly and independently know the source of such FSCI (and its accompanying functional organisation) it is, as a general rule, created by purposeful, organising intelligent agents. So, on empirical observation based induction, FSCI is a reliable sign of such design, e.g. the text of this web page, and billions of others all across the Internet. (Those who object to this, therefore face the burden of showing empirically that such FSCI does in fact — on observation — arise from blind chance and/or mechanical necessity without intelligent direction, selection, intervention or purpose.)

    Indeed, this FSCI perspective lies at the foundation of information theory:

    (i) recognising signals as intentionally constructed messages transmitted in the face of the possibility of noise,
    (ii) where also, intelligently constructed signals have characteristics of purposeful specificity, controlled complexity and system- relevant functionality based on meaningful rules that distinguish them from meaningless noise;
    (iii) further noticing that signals exist in functioning generation- transfer and/or storage- destination systems that
    (iv) embrace co-ordinated transmitters, channels, receivers, sources and sinks.

    That this is broadly recognised as true, can be seen from a surprising source, Dawkins, who is reported to have said in his The Blind Watchmaker (1987), p. 8:

    Hitting upon the lucky number that opens the bank’s safe [NB: cf. here the case in Brown’s The Da Vinci Code] is the equivalent, in our analogy, of hurling scrap metal around at random and happening to assemble a Boeing 747. [NB: originally, this imagery is due to Sir Fred Hoyle, who used it to argue that life on earth bears characteristics that strongly suggest design. His suggestion: panspermia — i.e. life drifted here, or else was planted here.] Of all the millions of unique and, with hindsight equally improbable, positions of the combination lock, only one opens the lock. Similarly, of all the millions of unique and, with hindsight equally improbable, arrangements of a heap of junk, only one (or very few) will fly. The uniqueness of the arrangement that flies, or that opens the safe, has nothing to do with hindsight. It is specified in advance. [Emphases and parenthetical note added, in tribute to the late Sir Fred Hoyle. (NB: This case also shows that we need not see boxes labelled “encoders/decoders” or “transmitters/receivers” and “channels” etc. for the model in Fig. 1 above to be applicable; i.e. the model is abstract rather than concrete: the critical issue is functional, complex information, not electronics.)]

    Here, we see how the significance of FSCI naturally appears in the context of considering the physically and logically possible but vastly improbable creation of a jumbo jet by chance. Instantly, we see that mere random chance acting in a context of blind natural forces is a most unlikely explanation, even though the statistical behaviour of matter under random forces cannot rule it strictly out. But it is so plainly vastly improbable, that, having seen the message — a flyable jumbo jet — we then make a fairly easy and highly confident inference to its most likely origin: i.e. it is an intelligently designed artifact.

  120. 120
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    “please summarize the number of different physical constraints required to interpret the “recipe” and the number of representations within that “recipe” that are required to describe the construction of the constraints?”

    Unfortunately, indicating you have “read the second paper” has not clarified what you mean by “constraints”.

    As such, I’m going to assume you’re looking for a theory of information that is physical, despite the fact that information is media independent, and does not have Shannon’s circularity in defining what is distinguishable. Is that correct? If so, that’s why I posted the link to the first paper.

    Specifically, it brings information into fundamental physics using constructor theory – what must be possible and impossible. Also, Shannon’s theory is lacking because it is not compatible with information in the context of quantum mechanics and computation.

    IOW, If by “constraints”, you do not mean what must be possible and not possible, then please clarify.

  121. 121
    Eric Anderson says:

    timothya:

    Not some, but all physical objects contain what you describe as information.

    You are perilously close to denying objective reality, which will render any further discussion pointless and prevent you from even comprehending the issue KF is raising, much less being able to engage in a useful discussion about it.

    I echo KF’s kind request in his first paragraph @119 for you to clarify.

    If the question about whether there is information in physical objects generally is too nuanced and confusing, we can approach the issue from an easier angle.

    Let’s give you one more try, back to the basics:

    Do you or do you not acknowledge that there is a difference between the information contained in your genome and the information you think is contained in “all physical objects”?

    And what is that difference?

    Please do answer logically and honestly. Don’t worry. An honest answer to this question by itself won’t mean you have lost the debate about functional specified complexity. It won’t mean that intelligent design is true. It won’t mean that Darwinism and the materialist creation story are false. But it will help us assess whether you even understand one of the most basic and fundamental issues on the table.

  122. 122
    Eric Anderson says:

    Origenes, good points. Yes, there are multiple levels of functional integration and organization before we get to a complete organism, particularly a large, multi-cellular organism. At a very basic, foundational stage I’m just trying to get some people to acknowledge and articulate the important difference between DNA and a rock at this point! One step at a time. 🙂

  123. 123
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes#87

    ‘Natural selection’ is, in fact, a process of elimination. Elimination only explains why some organisms go out of existence, but does not explain why organisms come into existence. Darwin’s theory promotes the false belief that elimination is creative.

    This is what I mean by assuming we know nothing about how human designers design things.

    We start out with a problem to solve, conjecture solutions to those problems then criticize them and discard errors we find. Creative solutions are not “out there” for us to observe via our senses any more than creative solutions to biological problems faced by organisms. They start out as guesses which are criticized. In evolution, variation is random to any problem to solve, as opposed to being completely random.

    So, what we have is a universal theory for the growth of knowledge. This includes knowledge found in brains, books and even the genome.

  124. 124
    critical rationalist says:

    Eric,

    DNA contains knowledge. What do I mean by that?

    Knowledge is information that plays a causal role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. As pointed out above, this includes knowledge found in brains, books and genes. Nor does it require a knowing subject.

    From Popper’s book Objective Knowledge..

    “Let me repeat one of my standard arguments for the (more or less) independent existence of world 3. I consider two thought experiments:
    Experiment (1). All our machines and tools are destroyed, and all our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But libraries and our capacity to learn from them survive. Clearly, after much suffering, our world may get going again.
    Experiment (2). As before, machines and tools are destroyed, and our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But this time, all libraries are destroyed also, so that our capacity to learn from books becomes useless.”

    Knowledge: Subjective Versus Objective, page 59

  125. 125
    Origenes says:

    critical rationalist

    CR: We start out with a problem to solve, conjecture solutions to those problems.

    We do this with a goal in mind and understanding.

    CR: Creative solutions are not “out there” for us to observe via our senses any more than creative solutions to biological problems faced by organisms.

    I would say that creative solutions are “in there” for us to observe via our internal senses. In short, rationality cannot be compared to random mutations.

    CR: … creative solutions to biological problems faced by organisms. They start out as guesses which are criticized.

    Random “guesses”, based on … neither plan nor understanding.
    And ‘criticized’ by two things:
    1. The filter of existence — is the organism still viable?
    2. Random environmental change.

    Now ‘natural selection’ has to do with (2), which means that perfectly viable organisms are eliminated on a whim. Think about it: ‘natural selection’ removes perfectly viable organisms. Random mutations hit the jackpot and produce a miracle — a perfectly viable creature — and next natural selection elimination steps in …. Organisms that could have unique solutions to the problems life was trying to solve. Or organisms that could be on the brink of evolving a spectacular new feature. Eliminated, because of temporary draught, a severe winter, an epidemic or whatever.
    That’s clearly beyond ‘criticizing’, natural selection is a hindrance to evolution. Evolution would be better off without it. Natural selection makes evolution perform worse than a blind search.

  126. 126
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    We start out with a problem to solve, conjecture solutions to those problems then criticize them and discard errors we find. Creative solutions are not “out there” for us to observe via our senses any more than creative solutions to biological problems faced by organisms. They start out as guesses which are criticized.

    Right. So we start out with a goal. That goal helps us develop methods or heuristics for determining whether we are approaching the goal or moving further away from it. These are refined as we continue our search for a solution. Thus, our search for a solution is not blind at all.

    Variation doesn’t have a goal. There is no ‘solution’ for it to find because there is no ‘problem’ in the first place. It cannot define any methods or heuristics for determining whether anything will get it closer to a target it doesn’t have. It’s merely taking pot-shots in the dark. Thus, its search for any solution whatsoever is totally and completely blind. Even if you can imagine lots of theoretical targets out there, variation has no concept of a near miss and no process for refining its aim. It continues to fire randomly and either hits a target or not.

    In evolution, variation is random to any problem to solve, as opposed to being completely random.

    Just because variation is random to any problem to solve, how does that stand in opposition to it being completely random? Why can variation not be random to any problem to solve as well as being completely random? Where and how is variation not completely random? What is directing it?

  127. 127
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    I would say that creative solutions are “in there” for us to observe via our internal senses.

    All solutions to all problems are inside us and we can simply observe them with our “internal senses”? So, how does that work? Please be specific.

    In short, rationality cannot be compared to random mutations.

    I’m not comparing them. Rationality is an approach to how we criticize our theories. As you said, it’s part of our “process of elimination.”, not a source of our conjectured ideas.

    Again, I’m suggesting people start out with a problem to solve, conjecture theories about how the work works that solve those problems, criticize them, which includes empirical tests, and then discard those we find in error.

    Nor am I suggesting all knowledge is the same. While people can create both explanatory and non-explanatory knowledge, only people can create explanatory theories.

    To elaborate, imagine I’ve been shipwrecked on a deserted island and I have partial amnesia due to the wreck. I remember that coconuts are edible so climb a tree to pick them. While attempting to pick a coconut, one falls, lands of a rock and splits open. Note that I did not intend for the coconut to fall, let alone plan for it to fall because I guessed coconuts that fall on rocks might crack open. The coconut falling was random *in respect to a problem I hadn’t yet even tried to solve*. Yet it ended solving a problem regardless. Furthermore, due to my amnesia, I’ve hypothetically forgotten what I know about physics, including mass, inertia, etc. Specifically, I lack an explanation as to why the coconut landing on the rock causes it to open. As such, my knowledge of how to open coconuts is merely a useful rule of thumb, which is limited in reach. For example, in the absence of an explanation, I would likely assume I’d need to collect coconuts picked from other trees, carry them to this same tree, climb it, then drop them on the same rocks to open them.

    However, explanatory knowledge has significant reach. Specifically, if my explanatory knowledge of physics, including inertia, mass, etc. returned, I could use that explanation to strike coconut with any similar sized rock, rather than vice versa. Furthermore, I could exchange the rock with another object with significant mass, such as an anchor and open objects other than coconuts, such as shells, use this knowledge to protect myself from attacking wildlife, etc.

    So, explanatory knowledge only comes from intentional conjectures made by people and has significant reach. Non-explanatory knowledge (created by variation that is random to specific problems to solve, and selection) represent unintentional conjectures, which have limited reach. None of that was gained from my experience.

    While there are important differences, neither variations in evolution or theories conjectured by people come with any guarantee they are correct. In the case of people, rationality is an additional means by which we can criticize and eliminate them.

  128. 128
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    In the case of people, rationality is an additional means by which we can criticize and eliminate them.

    Or, rationality, along with recognizing a goal, is what saves our problem-solving from being completely random…like variation is.

  129. 129
    critical rationalist says:

    Or, rationality, along with recognizing a goal, is what saves our problem-solving from being completely random…like variation is.

    Again, variation in evolution is random to a specific problem to solve, not completely random. This is because proteins in evolutionary theory do not arise all at once from random variations. Natural selection plays the role of criticism in evolution. So, it’s not completely random, either.

    My key point is, in both cases, we start out with something that isn’t guaranteed to be true. Theories are tested by observations, not derived from them. People can create useful rules of thumb and accidentally solve problems without recognizing them as such at the time or having that goal in mind. See my concrete example above.

    An educated guess is still a guess, none the less.

  130. 130
    Origenes says:

    critical rationalist,

    CR: Again, variation in evolution is random to a specific problem to solve, not completely random.

    Mutation is completely random period.

    CR: This is because proteins in evolutionary theory do not arise all at once from random variations.

    Even if that is true, which it isn’t, it doesn’t change anything: we start with a protein and next some completely random change is going to happen.
    Now, proteins and everything else are caused by sheer dumb luck, according to a proper understanding of evolutionary theory. Natural selection does nothing to help and makes matters worse.
    Sheer dumb luck is all you have to offer:
    Given that natural selection is a process of elimination, existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are “untouched” by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

    CHANCE ALONE, is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of creation.”
    [Jacques Monod]

    CR: Natural selection plays the role of criticism in evolution.

    Natural selection elimination makes evolution perform worse than a blind search — see #125.

  131. 131

    CR, #120

    You were making statements about the physical requirements of the first self-replicating cells on earth. You claimed that these first cells did not need “great precision”, and you based this conclusion on the idea that they didn’t have to compete with better replicators than themselves.

    However, the primary requirement for the first heterogeneous self-replicating cells on earth was their capacity to produce a description of themselves in a transcribable memory and be able to successfully interpret the description. My question to you was intended to gauge how you were taking these requirements into consideration, which clearly, you were not doing.

    I’m going to assume your’e looking for a theory of information that is physical…

    There’s no need for this assumption; I am looking for no such thing.

    Also, the information in DNA (the topic of this conversation) doesn’t need to be “brought into fundamental physics” by “constructor theory”; it has been well-understood in terms of fundamental physics for a great number of years. Additionally, I don’t know why you introduced Shannon to the conversation.

    If by “constraints” you do not mean what is possible and not possible, then please clarify.

    (Attempting to speak to you using your map of the road)

    What you call “knowledge” is actually representations encoded in a material medium. Like all representations, they require interpretation via physical constraint.

    As an example, the representations contained in DNA (codons) are interpreted by a set of contingent physical constraints (aaRS) in order to produce functional proteins. This reflects the Peircean logic that representation and interpretation are necessarily complimentary realities. This logic was followed by Turing; followed by von Neumann; and is demonstrated in every instance of recorded information ever known to exist. Not only was it predicted by logic and reason, but it has been demonstrated in physics, and in the structural architecture of the system itself.

    So, circling back to the top of the issue, in order to establish the life cycle of the heterogeneous cell, you have to have enough of these organized representations and constraints to describe the system in a transcribable medium and be able to successfully interpret the description. It is only the coordination of these two sets of objects that enables the system to persist.

    Thus, statements about the origin of the living cell that either obscure or ignore these fundamental requirements are basically useless to the conversation.

  132. 132
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    Again, variation in evolution is random to a specific problem to solve, not completely random.

    And, again:

    Just because variation is random to any problem to solve, how does that stand in opposition to it being completely random? Why can variation not be random to any problem to solve as well as being completely random?

    This is because proteins in evolutionary theory do not arise all at once from random variations.

    What? That doesn’t make the variations themselves non-random. In a game of Yahtzee, I can select dice toward some goal (which, as Origenes points out so clearly above is NOT what natural selection does), but that doesn’t preclude in any way the fact that each roll of the dice (the variation) is still utterly random. For it not to be random, the dice would have to be loaded somehow. Are you suggesting that variation is loaded? What is influencing the variation itself such that it is not random?

  133. 133
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    You wrote:

    You were making statements about the physical requirements of the first self-replicating cells on earth….

    However, the primary requirement for the first heterogeneous self-replicating cells on earth was their capacity to produce a description of themselves in a transcribable memory and be able to successfully interpret the description.

    I am looking for no such [theory of information that is physical]

    Also, the information in DNA (the topic of this conversation) doesn’t need to be “brought into fundamental physics” by “constructor theory”; it has been well-understood in terms of fundamental physics for a great number of years. Additionally, I don’t know why you introduced Shannon to the conversation.

    UB,

    If not Shannon’s theory then what physical theory that we have supposedly known for a great number of years are you referring to? And how does it account for information in the context of quantum computation? Please be specific.

  134. 134
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    I’m trying to understand what you mean here.

    You wrote:

    What you call “knowledge” is actually representations encoded in a material medium. Like all representations, they require interpretation via physical constraint.

    As an example, the representations contained in DNA (codons) are interpreted by a set of contingent physical constraints (aaRS) in order to produce functional proteins. This reflects the Peircean logic that representation and interpretation are necessarily complimentary realities. This logic was followed by Turing; followed by von Neumann; and is demonstrated in every instance of recorded information ever known to exist. Not only was it predicted by logic and reason, but it has been demonstrated in physics, and in the structural architecture of the system itself.

    Are you suggesting that the design of organisms already existed in these physical constraints? If so, this sounds like the opposite of “no-design laws” mentioned in the paper, where the physical interpretations are somehow built into the laws of physics.

    From the paper….

    In the biosphere self-reproduction is approximated to various accuracies. There are many poor approximations to self-reproducers – e.g., crude replicators such as crystals, short RNA strands and autocatalytic cycles involved in the origin of life [11]. Being so inaccurate, they do not require any further explanation under no-design laws: they do not have appearance of design, any more than simple inorganic catalysts do.(4)
    In contrast, actual gene-replication is an impressively accurate physical trans- formation, albeit imperfect. But even more striking is that living cells can self-reproduce to high accuracy in a variety of environments, reconstructing the vehicle afresh, under the control of the genes, in all the intricate details necessary for gene replication. This is prima facie problematic under no-design laws: how can those processes be so accurate, without their design being encoded in the laws of physics? This is why some physicists – notably, Wigner and Bohm, [12], [13] – have even claimed that accurate self-reproduction of an organism with the appearance of design requires the laws of motion to be “tailored” for the purpose – i.e., they must contain its design [12].

  135. 135
    critical rationalist says:

    Just because variation is random to any problem to solve, how does that stand in opposition to it being completely random? Why can variation not be random to any problem to solve as well as being completely random?

    Variation in the process of evolution is not completely random. This is because it’s a repeating process of variation and selection, not just variation on its own.

    Just as in the growth of human knowledge, guesses are not completely random. This because conjectures take into account background knowledge that itself came from earlier conjectures and criticisms. This happens consciously and subconsciously.

    Ever find yourself about to suggest a solution, but then say “never mind”, since it won’t work? That’s a conjectured solution that just slipped though subconscious criticism. A vast number of solutions don’t make it that far. And then there is instinct, which itself based on variation and selection, such as a foal that can walk after just being born.

    IOW, all knowledge grows though some form of conjecture and criticism. It’s a universal theory that brings unification – just like gravity unified the motions of apples and planets.

    However, you seem to be suggesting that we can’t make any progress on the subject of knowledge, since unification is impossible.

  136. 136
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    This theory you are talking about seems to be largely OT for the current thread.

    Please feel free to put together a brief exposition of the theory and how it is relevant to Darwinian evolution and/or design, and I’d be happy to elevate it to a new thread so we can discuss in more detail.

  137. 137

    CR, your post at 133 doesn’t directly address any of my empirical criticism of your position, so I don’t feel particularly compelled to respond to it.

    As for your post at 134, I have no idea what it would even mean to say that “the design of organisms exist in these physical constraints”. Likewise, I have no idea what it means to say that “physical interpretations are built into the laws of physics”.

    The arrangement of codons in a DNA sequence establishes what pattern of amino acids will appear in a polypeptide, and the collective arrangements of the aaRS specify which amino acids will appear in that pattern. These things have been well known for half a century. End of mystery. The notion that we need to show that biological organization is “possible under no-design laws” seems rather meaningless.

    A more intriguing and relevant question is how does a lawfully determined system enable the specification of unlimited variation in an environment that allows no alternatives to those laws.

    That question has already been answered.

  138. 138

    By the way CR,

    “A more intriguing and relevant question is how does a lawfully determined system enable the specification of unlimited variation in an environment that allows no alternatives to those laws.”

    The physical independence created by such an organization, happens to be exactly what is physically required to describe the system in a transcribable memory and interpret the description. And the only other place such an physical system can be identified is in written language and mathematics. That’s one part of the inference to design in biology. It’s an completely empirical and unapologetic inference to design, identified right at the point where biology begins.

    The reason I am telling you this is that it might give you an opportunity (with a clear explanation in hand) to go read up on the system, verify it for yourself, and then re-read your articles.

  139. 139
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    You wrote:

    CR, your post at 133 doesn’t directly address any of my empirical criticism of your position, so I don’t feel particularly compelled to respond to it.

    Information theory and it’s relation to physics isn’t relevant despite the top of discussion being the information in DNA?

    Also, the information in DNA (the topic of this conversation) doesn’t need to be “brought into fundamental physics” by “constructor theory”; it has been well-understood in terms of fundamental physics for a great number of years. Additionally, I don’t know why you introduced Shannon to the conversation.

    I don’t feel particularly compelled to respond to a theory of information merely defined as the one “everyone knows”.

  140. 140
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    As for your post at 134, I have no idea what it would even mean to say that “the design of organisms exist in these physical constraints”. Likewise, I have no idea what it means to say that “physical interpretations are built into the laws of physics”.

    First, if you have no idea what that would mean, then how do you know it’s not relevant to the topic?

    Second, if you read the paper I referenced, that was addressed at length, through contrast with no-design laws of physics.

    In the biosphere self-reproduction is approximated to various accuracies. There are many poor approximations to self-reproducers – e.g., crude replicators such as crystals, short RNA strands and autocatalytic cycles involved in the origin of life [11]. Being so inaccurate, they do not require any further explanation under no-design laws: they do not have appearance of design, any more than simple inorganic catalysts do.(4)
    In contrast, actual gene-replication is an impressively accurate physical trans- formation, albeit imperfect. But even more striking is that living cells can self-reproduce to high accuracy in a variety of environments, reconstruct- ing the vehicle afresh, under the control of the genes, in all the intricate details necessary for gene replication. This is prima facie problematic un- der no-design laws: how can those processes be so accurate, without their design being encoded in the laws of physics? This is why some physicists – notably, Wigner and Bohm, [12], [13] – have even claimed that accurate self-reproduction of an organism with the appearance of design requires the laws of motion to be “tailored” for the purpose – i.e., they must contain its design [12].

    and…

    No-design laws can be expressed exactly in constructor theory, too.
    First, I define “generic resources” as substrates that exist in effectively unlimited numbers. In the context of early life on this planet, these include only elementary entities such as photons, water, simple catalysts and small organic molecules.
    It has sometimes been proposed that the very existence of laws of nature constitutes a form of “design” in them, [23]. In contrast, for present purposes no-design laws are those that do not contain the design of biological adaptations – i.e., of what the theory of evolution aims at explaining: for the problem here is whether the physical processes assumed by the theory of evolution are possible under such laws.

    Consequently I require no-design laws to satisfy these conditions:

    – Generic resources can only perform a few tasks, only to a finite accuracy, called elementary tasks. These are physically simple and contain no design (of biological adaptations). Familiar examples are spontaneous, approximately self-correcting chemical reactions, such as molecules “snapping” into a catalysts regardless of any original small mismatch.
    – No good approximation to a constructor for tasks that are non-elementary can ever be produced by generic resources acting on generic resources only.

    Under no-design laws, the generic resources and the interactions available in nature are allowed to contain only those approximate constructors that unequivocally do not have the design of those very adaptations the theory of evolution is required to explain.(7) Examples of laws that would violate these conditions are: laws including accurate constructors, such as bacteria, in the generic resources; laws with “copy-like” interactions, designed to copy the configuration of atoms of a bacterium onto generic resources; laws permitting spontaneous generation of a bacterium directly from generic resources only; laws permitting only mutations that are systematically directed to improvements in a certain environment.
    The exact characterisation of no-design laws is a departure from the pre- vailing conception – which can at most characterise them as being typical, according to some measure, in the space of all laws. The latter is unsuitable for present purposes, as the choice of the measure is highly arbitrary. Moreover, it is misleading: some laws that may be untypical under some natural measure – such as the actual laws of physics, because of, say, local interactions – need not contain the design of biological adaptations, thus qualifying as no-design in this context. Furthermore, laws with the design of biological adaptations are a proper subset of those laws that in the con- text of anthropic fine tuning have been called “bio-friendly”: those having features – such as local interactions, or special values of the fine-structure constant, etc. – which, if slightly changed, would cause life as we know it to be impossible. These features, though necessary to life, are not specific to life: their variation would make impossible many other phenomena, non specifically related to biological adaptations.

    The problem can now be restated in constructor theory, as: are accurate self-reproducers and replicators possible under no-design laws?

    I shall prove that an accurate self-reproducer is possible under no-design laws, provided they allow information to be physically instantiated; from this it will follow that an accurate replicator is possible too, provided that it be contained in a self-reproducer, (sections 3.1 – 3.3).

    I will assume that the raw materials of self-reproduction (N in (1), (2)) comprises generic substrates only. This over-stringent assumption rules out the realistic situation that they contain other organisms; but it is acceptable for present purposes because if accurate self-reproduction and replication are allowed under these over-stringent requirements, so are they when the generic resources contain also living organisms.

    Before presenting the argument, I shall recall the basics of the constructor theory of information (section 2.1). This is crucial to give an exact characterisation of what it means for the laws of physics to allow information to be physically instantiated.

  141. 141
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    The physical independence created by such an organization, happens to be exactly what is physically required to describe the system in a transcribable memory and interpret the description. And the only other place such an physical system can be identified is in written language and mathematics. That’s one part of the inference to design in biology. It’s an completely empirical and unapologetic inference to design, identified right at the point where biology begins.

    Again, It’s unclear how the theory about physics and it’s relationship with information is not relevant to an argument based on the relationship between physics and information.

  142. 142

    CR, your theory has been thoroughly criticized. It presents nothing substantive about the most unique and important aspect of the system its being applied to. It doesn’t even mention it.

    Even your response fails to address the issue.

    cheers

  143. 143
    Origenes says:

    CR: Variation in the process of evolution is not completely random. This is because it’s a repeating process of variation and selection, not just variation on its own.

    So, mutations (or ‘variations’ if you prefer) are not random because selection is not random? For clarity, let’s tease it apart: we have process A (mutation) and process B (selection). Now which of those is not random and why?

    CR: Just as in the growth of human knowledge, guesses are not completely random.

    Inapt comparison for reasons already provided.

  144. 144
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB,

    CR, your theory has been thoroughly criticized. It presents nothing substantive about the most unique and important aspect of the system its being applied to. It doesn’t even mention it.

    It doesn’t? Then please point out which comment contains this criticism, in which the relationship between information an physics is not relevant.

  145. 145
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist:

    With due respect, this so-called “constructor theory” seems to add little of substance and also appears to contain serious misunderstandings about the nature of both information and physical laws.

    Again, though, feel free to write up a brief exposition in your own words, with a few links to the key research in this area, and I’ll elevate to a new thread for discussion, as it is largely OT here.

  146. 146
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    I wrote:

    CR: Variation in the process of evolution is not completely random. This is because it’s a repeating process of variation and selection, not just variation on its own.

    You wrote:

    So, mutations (or ‘variations’ if you prefer) are not random because selection is not random? For clarity, let’s tease it apart: we have process A (mutation) and process B (selection). Now which of those is not random and why?

    Let’s ignore that it’s a process? And my response was inapt?

    Again in the process of evolution, variations are random to any specific problem to solve, not completely random. What you seem to be implying is that an entire protein was created from scratch all at once from random variations. That’s not evolutionary theory. Complexity grows in a Piecemeal fashion

    That clarification is sufficient to indicate that the goal variation plays is not goal oriented, yet not completely random.

  147. 147
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    With due respect, this so-called “constructor theory” seems to add little of substance…

    Can you be more specific than “seems to add little of substance”?

    …and also appears to contain serious misunderstandings about the nature of both information and physical laws.

    Which physical theory of information, which CT supposedly “misunderstands”, are you referring to? Please be specific.

    As for being off topic, was UB incorrect when he said…

    Also, the information in DNA (the topic of this conversation) doesn’t need to be “brought into fundamental physics” by “constructor theory”; it has been well-understood in terms of fundamental physics for a great number of years. Additionally, I don’t know why you introduced Shannon to the conversation.

    I posted a link to a public article on Aeon, then posted links to published papers when a similar claim was made.

  148. 148
    Origenes says:

    critical rationalist @146

    CR: Again in the process of evolution, variations are random to any specific problem to solve

    You keep repeating that. I agree 100%. I hold that a proper understanding of evolutionary theory entails that anything creative is due to sheer dumb luck / randomness, so I do agree with you. I hold that variations are completely random to any specific problem to solve and completely random to any non-specific problem to solve. Variations are completely random —period.

    CR: … not completely random.

    For the umpteenth time: why not?

    Complexity grows in a Piecemeal fashion.

    And every evolutionary step is due to complete randomness. So tell me, what is the non-random factor here?

  149. 149
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    For the umpteenth time, you are ignoring that it is a process. Evolution does not suggest that any protein of today’s complexity was randomly generated all at once.

    Knowledge is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. Genes that are better at being passed down to the next generation play that casual role. Selection represents error correction and genes represent knowledge. That is the non-random factor.

    Or, perhaps you have some other definition of random you would like to present, which you’re referring to here?

    Agan, to be clear, I’m coming from a universal theory for the growth of knowledge. This includes the knowledge in books, brains and even genes are explainable and using the same umbrella theory. Nor does it assume that knowledge in specific spheres comes from authoritative sources. Knowledge genuinely grows and is created.

    On the other hand, my guess is that you disagree than any such unification is possible and that knowledge in some spheres does come from authoritative sources. The knowledge in question was merely copied from the “mind” of a designer that “just was”, complete with that knowledge already present.

  150. 150
    critical rationalist says:

    UB,

    Having re-read some of your comments, perhaps you’re referring to the reach of DNA and its leap to universality? IOW, are you’re referring to the universality of computation?

  151. 151
    Origenes says:

    Critical rationalist @149

    CR: For the umpteenth time, you are ignoring that it is a process. Evolution does not suggest that any protein of today’s complexity was randomly generated all at once.

    Nor do I suggest ‘all at once’. So?

    CR: Knowledge is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    You have yet to explain the existence of such a system.

    CR: Genes that are better at being passed down to the next generation play that casual role.

    The causal role of remaining what they are in the next generation?

    CR: Selection represents error correction and genes represent knowledge. That is the non-random factor.

    Aha ‘selection’ is the non-random factor. Well, no, ‘selection’ (read: elimination), instead of being ‘error correction’, is a severe hindrance to evolution. Perfectly viable organisms are offered by complete randomness — it’s a miracle! — and what does ‘selection’ do? It kills off the vast majority. Behold the alleged ‘creativity’ of “natural selection”! This whole theory is fake.

    Darwin: Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.

  152. 152
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    You keep repeating that. I agree 100%. I hold that a proper understanding of evolutionary theory entails that anything creative is due to sheer dumb luck / randomness, so I do agree with you.

    Is error correction random?

    Is it random that mutation X is retained, while mutation Y does not? No! Mutation Y doesn’t play a causal role in it being retained when instantiated in a storage medium. X does. And it does so because X contains some approximation of truth about some problem in the biosphere, even if the organism cannot comprehend that problem or is not even aware of it.

    People start out with problems, then guess solutions to those problems. Unless we have some infallible way to identify and interpret sources, we start out knowing that our ideas contains errors to some degree. Error correction isn’t random in that case either. People exhibit universality in that they can create explanations about how the world works. The process of evolution does cannot. As such, bacteria is the result of non-explanatory knowledge.

    Neither have any guarantee of starting out as being correct. Both rely on error correction.

  153. 153
    Origenes says:

    critical rationalist

    CR: Is error correction random?
    Is it random that mutation X is retained, while mutation Y does not?

    A severe winter, an epidemic or whatever can wipe out mutation Y. Is that random? You betcha.

    No!

    Yes!

    Mutation Y doesn’t play a causal role in it being retained when instantiated in a storage medium.

    By ‘being retained’ you mean ‘not eliminated’? If so, I agree. One could say that ‘being retained’ is the absence of natural selection elimination. Rather meaningless, right?

    X does. And it does so because X contains some approximation of truth about some problem in the biosphere, even if the organism cannot comprehend that problem or is not even aware of it.

    And I bet that Y also contains ‘some approximation of truth about some problem in the biosphere’, but Y gets eliminated nonetheless. Maybe Y cannot cope with a severe winter, but has a unique solution to a hot summer that will kill X. We will never know, because all the information is lost thanks to that hindrance called ‘natural selection’.
    “Everyone is world champion in a sport that hasn’t been invented yet”, someone once wrote. The same applies here: every organism has some approximation of truth about some problem in the biosphere. It is a meaningless statement.

    People start out with problems, then guess solutions to those problems. Unless we have some infallible way to identify and interpret sources, we start out knowing that our ideas contains errors to some degree. Error correction isn’t random in that case either.

    Of course it isn’t. However you cannot compare free responsible rational persons with blind particles bumping into each other.

  154. 154
    kairosfocus says:

    More on info basics from my always linked note:

    A] The Core Question: Information, Messages and Intelligence

    Since the end of the 1930’s, five key trends have emerged, converged and become critical in the worlds of science and technology:

    1] Information Technology and computers, starting with the Atanasoff-Berry Computer [ABC], and other pioneering computers in the early 1940’s;

    2] Communication technology and its underpinnings in information theory, starting with Shannon’s breakthrough analysis in 1948;

    3] The partial elucidation of the DNA code as the information basis of life at molecular level, since the 1950s, as, say Thaxton reports by citing Sir Francis Crick’s March 19, 1953 remarks to his son: “Now we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another)”;

    4] The “triumph” of the Miller-Urey spark-in-gas experiment, also in 1953, which produced several amino acids, the basic building blocks of proteins; but, also, we have seen a persistent failure thereafter to credibly and robustly account for the origin of life through so-called chemical evolution across subsequent decades ; and,

    5] The discovery of the intricate finetuning of the parameters in the observed cosmos for life as we know and experience it — strange as it may seem: again, starting in 1953.

    The common issue in all of these lies in the implications of the concepts, communication and information — i.e. the substance that is communicated . . . . [As a model framework shows] information-bearing messages flow from a source to a sink, by being:

    (1) encoded,

    (2) transmitted through a channel as a signal,

    (3) received, and

    (4) decoded.

    At each corresponding stage: source/sink encoding/decoding, transmitting/receiving, there is in effect a mutually agreed standard, a so-called protocol. [For instance, HTTP — hypertext transfer protocol — is a major protocol for the Internet. This is why many web page addresses begin: “http://www . . .”]

    However, as the diagram [–> UD does not readily permit diags in comments, generally] hints at, at each stage noise affects the process, so that under certain conditions, detecting and distinguishing the signal from the noise becomes a challenge. Indeed, since noise is due to a random fluctuating value of various physical quantities [due in turn to the random behaviour of particles at molecular levels], the detection of a message and accepting it as a legitimate message rather than noise that got lucky, is a question of inference to design. In short, inescapably, the design inference issue is foundational to communication science and information theory.

    Let us note, too, that similar empirically testable inferences to intelligent agency are a commonplace in forensic science, archaeology, pharmacology and a great many fields of pure and applied science. Climatology is an interesting case: the debate over anthropogenic climate change is about unintended consequences of the actions of intelligent agents.

    Thus, Dembski’s definition of design theory as a scientific project through pointed question and answer is apt:

    intelligent design begins with a seemingly innocuous question: Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause? . . . Proponents of intelligent design, known as design theorists, purport to study such signs formally, rigorously, and scientifically. Intelligent design may therefore be defined as the science that studies signs of intelligence. [BTW, it is sad but necessary to highlight what should be obvious: namely, that it is only common academic courtesy (cf. here, here, here, here, here and here!) to use the historically justified definition of a discipline that is generally accepted by its principal proponents.]

    So, having now highlighted what is at stake, we next clarify two key underlying questions. Namely, what is “information”? Then, why is it seen as a characteristic sign of intelligence at work?

    First, let us identify what intelligence is. This is fairly easy: for, we are familiar with it from the characteristic behaviour exhibited by certain known intelligent agents — ourselves.

    Specifically, as we know from experience and reflection, such agents take actions and devise and implement strategies that creatively address and solve problems they encounter; a functional pattern that does not depend at all on the identity of the particular agents. In short, intelligence is as intelligence does. So, if we see evident active, intentional, creative, innovative and adaptive [as opposed to merely fixed instinctual] problem-solving behaviour similar to that of known intelligent agents, we are justified in attaching the label: intelligence. [Note how this definition by functional description is not artificially confined to HUMAN intelligent agents: it would apply to computers, robots, the alleged alien residents of Area 51, Vulcans, Klingons or Kzinti, or demons or gods, or God.] But also, in so solving their problems, intelligent agents may leave behind empirically evident signs of their activity; and — as say archaeologists and detectives know — functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] [–> the reference to organisation extends this] that would otherwise be utterly improbable, is one of these signs.

    Such preliminary points should also immediately lay to rest the assertion in some quarters that inference to design is somehow necessarily “unscientific” — as, such is said to always and inevitably be about improperly injecting “the supernatural” into scientific discourse. (We hardly need to detain ourselves here with the associated claim that intelligence is a “natural” phenomenon, one that spontaneously emerges from the biophysical world; for that is plainly one of the issues to be settled by investigation and analysis in light of empirical data, conceptual issues and comparative difficulties, not dismissed by making question-begging evolutionary materialist assertions. Cf App 6 below. [Also, HT StephenB, a longstanding commenter at the Uncommon Descent [UD] blog, for deeply underscoring the significance of the natural/supernatural issue and for providing incisive comments, which have materially helped shape the below.])

    Now, Dembski’s definition just above draws on the common-sense point that:

    [a] we may quite properly make a significantly different contrast from “natural vs. supernatural”: i.e. “natural” vs. “artificial.” [Where “natural” = “spontaneous” and/or “tracing to chance + necessity as the decisive causal factors” — what we may term material causes; and, “artificial” = “intelligent.”]

    He and other major design thinkers therefore propose that:

    [b] we may then set out to identify key empirical/ scientific factors (= “signs of intelligence”) to reliably mark the distinction.

    One of these, is that when we see regularities of nature, we are seeing low contingency, reliably observable, spontaneous patterns and therefore scientifically explain such by law-like mechanical necessity: e.g. an unsupported heavy object, reliably, falls by “force of gravity.” But, where we see instead high contingency — e.g., which side of a die will be uppermost when it falls — this is chance [“accident”] or intent [“design”]. Then, if we further notice that the observed highly contingent pattern is otherwise very highly improbable [i.e. “complex”] and is independently functionally specified, it is most credible that it is so by design, not accident. (Think of a tray of several hundreds of dice, all with “six” uppermost: what is its best explanation — mechanical necessity, chance, or intent? [Cf further details below.]) Consequently, we can easily see that

    [c] the attempt to infer or assert that intelligent design thought invariably constitutes “a ‘smuggling-in’ of ‘the supernatural’ ” (as opposed to explanation by reference to the “artificial” or “intelligent”) as the contrast to “natural,” is a gross error; one that not only begs the question but also misunderstands, neglects or ignores (or even sometimes, sadly, calculatedly distorts) the explicit definition of ID and its methods of investigation as has been repeatedly published and patiently explained by its leading proponents. (Cf. here for a detailed case study on how just this — too often, sadly, less than innocent — mischaracterisation of Design Theory is used by secularist advocates such as the ACLU.)

    Further, given the significance of what routinely happens when we see an apparent message, we know or should know that

    [d] we routinely and confidently infer from signs of intelligence to the existence and action of intelligence.

    On this, we should therefore again observe that Sir Francis Crick noted to his son, Michael, in 1953, in the already quoted letter: “Now we believe that the DNA is a code. That is, the order of bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another).”

    For, complex, functional messages, per reliable observation, credibly trace to intelligent senders.

    This holds, even where in certain particular cases one may then wish to raise the subsequent question: what is the identity (or even, nature) of the particular intelligence inferred to be the author of certain specific messages? In turn, this may lead to broader, philosophical — that is, worldview level — questions. Observe carefully, though:

    [e] such questions go beyond the “belt” of science theories, proper, into the worldview-tinged issues that — as Imre Lakatos reminded us — are embedded in the inner core of scientific research programmes, and are in the main addressed through philosophical rather than specifically scientific methods. [It helps to remember that for a long time, what we call “science” today was termed “natural philosophy.”]

    Also, I think it is wiser to acknowledge that we have no satisfactory explanation of a matter, rather than insist that one will only surrender one’s position (which has manifestly failed after reasonable trials) if a “better” one emerges — all the while judging “better” by selectively hyperskeptical criteria.

    In short, those who would make such a rhetorical dismissal, would do well to ponder anew the cite at the head of this web page. For, the key insight of Cicero [C1 BC!] is that, in particular, a sense-making (thus, functional), sufficiently complex string of digital characters is a signature of a true message produced by an intelligent actor, not a likely product of a random process. He then [logically speaking] goes on to ask concerning the evident FSCI in nature, and challenges those who would explain it by reference to chance collocations of atoms.

    That is a good challenge, and it is one that should not be ducked by worldview-level begging of serious definitional questions or — worse — shabby rhetorical misrepresentations and manipulations.

    Therefore, let us now consider in a little more detail a situation where an apparent message is received. What does that mean? What does it imply about the origin of the message . . . or, is it just noise that “got lucky”?

    If an apparent message is received, it means that something is working as an intelligible — i.e. functional — signal for the receiver. In effect, there is a standard way to make and send and recognise and use messages in some observable entity [e.g. a radio, a computer network, etc.], and there is now also some observed event, some variation in a physical parameter, that corresponds to it. [For instance, on this web page as displayed on your monitor, we have a pattern of dots of light and dark and colours on a computer screen, which correspond, more or less, to those of text in English.]

    Information theory, as Fig A.1 illustrates, then observes that if we have a receiver, we credibly have first had a transmitter, and a channel through which the apparent message has come; a meaningful message that corresponds to certain codes or standard patterns of communication and/or intelligent action. [Here, for instance, through HTTP and TCP/IP, the original text for this web page has been passed from the server on which it is stored, across the Internet, to your machine, as a pattern of binary digits in packets. Your computer then received the bits through its modem, decoded the digits, and proceeded to display the resulting text on your screen as a complex, functional coded pattern of dots of light and colour. At each stage, integrated, goal-directed intelligent action is deeply involved, deriving from intelligent agents — engineers and computer programmers. We here consider of course digital signals, but in principle anything can be reduced to such signals, so this does not affect the generality of our thoughts.]

    Now, it is of course entirely possible, that the apparent message is “nothing but” a lucky burst of noise that somehow got through the Internet and reached your machine. That is, it is logically and physically possible [i.e. neither logic nor physics forbids it!] that every apparent message you have ever got across the Internet — including not just web pages but also even emails you have received — is nothing but chance and luck: there is no intelligent source that actually sent such a message as you have received; all is just lucky noise:

    “LUCKY NOISE” SCENARIO: Imagine a world in which somehow all the “real” messages sent “actually” vanish into cyberspace and “lucky noise” rooted in the random behaviour of molecules etc, somehow substitutes just the messages that were intended — of course, including whenever engineers or technicians use test equipment to debug telecommunication and computer systems! Can you find a law of logic or physics that: [a] strictly forbids such a state of affairs from possibly existing; and, [b] allows you to strictly distinguish that from the “observed world” in which we think we live? That is, we are back to a Russell “five- minute- old- universe”-type paradox. Namely, we cannot empirically distinguish the world we think we live in from one that was instantly created five minutes ago with all the artifacts, food in our tummies, memories etc. that we experience. We solve such paradoxes by worldview level inference to best explanation, i.e. by insisting that unless there is overwhelming, direct evidence that leads us to that conclusion, we do not live in Plato’s Cave of deceptive shadows that we only imagine is reality, or that we are “really” just brains in vats stimulated by some mad scientist, or we live in a The Matrix world, or the like. (In turn, we can therefore see just how deeply embedded key faith-commitments are in our very rationality, thus all worldviews and reason-based enterprises, including science. Or, rephrasing for clarity: “faith” and “reason” are not opposites; rather, they are inextricably intertwined in the faith-points that lie at the core of all worldviews. Thus, resorting to selective hyperskepticism and objectionism to dismiss another’s faith-point [as noted above!], is at best self-referentially inconsistent; sometimes, even hypocritical and/or — worse yet — willfully deceitful. Instead, we should carefully work through the comparative difficulties across live options at worldview level, especially in discussing matters of fact. And it is in that context of humble self consistency and critically aware, charitable open-mindedness that we can now reasonably proceed with this discussion.)

    In short, none of us actually lives or can consistently live as though s/he seriously believes that: absent absolute proof to the contrary, we must believe that all is noise. [To see the force of this, consider an example posed by Richard Taylor. You are sitting in a railway carriage and seeing stones you believe to have been randomly arranged, spelling out: “WELCOME TO WALES.” Would you believe the apparent message? Why or why not?]

    Q: Why then do we believe in intelligent sources behind the web pages and email messages that we receive, etc., since we cannot ultimately absolutely prove that such is the case?

    ANS: Because we believe the odds of such “lucky noise” happening by chance are so small, that we intuitively simply ignore it. That is, we all recognise that if an apparent message is contingent [it did not have to be as it is, or even to be at all], is functional within the context of communication, and is sufficiently complex that it is highly unlikely to have happened by chance, then it is much better to accept the explanation that it is what it appears to be — a message originating in an intelligent [though perhaps not wise!] source — than to revert to “chance” as the default assumption. Technically, we compare how close the received signal is to legitimate messages, and then decide that it is likely to be the “closest” such message. (All of this can be quantified, but this intuitive level discussion is enough for our purposes.)

    In short, we all intuitively and even routinely accept that: Functionally Specified, Complex Information, FSCI, is a signature of messages originating in intelligent sources.

    Thus, if we then try to dismiss the study of such inferences to design as “unscientific,” when they may cut across our worldview preferences, we are plainly being grossly inconsistent.

    Further to this, the common attempt to pre-empt the issue through the attempted secularist redefinition of science as in effect “what can be explained on the premise of evolutionary materialism – i.e. primordial matter-energy joined to cosmological- + chemical- + biological macro- + sociocultural- evolution, AKA ‘methodological naturalism’ ” [ISCID def’n: here] is itself yet another begging of the linked worldview level questions.

    For in fact, the issue in the communication situation once an apparent message is in hand is: inference to (a) intelligent — as opposed to supernatural — agency [signal] vs. (b) chance-process [noise]. Moreover, at least since Cicero, we have recognised that the presence of functionally specified complexity in such an apparent message helps us make that decision. (Cf. also Meyer’s closely related discussion of the demarcation problem here.)

    More broadly the decision faced once we see an apparent message, is first to decide its source across a trichotomy: (1) chance; (2) natural regularity rooted in mechanical necessity (or as Monod put it in his famous 1970 book, echoing Plato, simply: “necessity”); (3) intelligent agency. These are the three commonly observed causal forces/factors in our world of experience and observation. [Cf. abstract of a recent technical, peer-reviewed, scientific discussion here. Also, cf. Plato’s remark in his The Laws, Bk X, excerpted below.]

    Each of these forces stands at the same basic level as an explanation or cause, and so the proper question is to rule in/out relevant factors at work, not to decide before the fact that one or the other is not admissible as a “real” explanation.

    This often confusing issue is best initially approached/understood through a concrete example . . .

    A CASE STUDY ON CAUSAL FORCES/FACTORS — A Tumbling Die: Heavy objects tend to fall under the law-like natural regularity we call gravity. If the object is a die, the face that ends up on the top from the set {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6} is for practical purposes a matter of chance.

    But, if the die is cast as part of a game, the results are as much a product of agency as of natural regularity and chance. Indeed, the agents in question are taking advantage of natural regularities and chance to achieve their purposes!

    This concrete, familiar illustration should suffice to show that the three causal factors approach is not at all arbitrary or dubious — as some are tempted to imagine or assert. [More details . . .]

    Then also, in certain highly important communication situations, the next issue after detecting agency as best causal explanation, is whether the detected signal comes from (4) a trusted source, or (5) a malicious interloper, or is a matter of (6) unintentional cross-talk. (Consequently, intelligence agencies have a significant and very practical interest in the underlying scientific questions of inference to agency then identification of the agent — a potential (and arguably, probably actual) major application of the theory of the inference to design.)

    Next, to identify which of the three is most important/ the best explanation in a given case, it is useful to extend the principles of statistical hypothesis testing through Fisherian elimination to create the Explanatory Filter . . . . The explanatory filter allows for an evidence-based investigation of causal factors. By setting a quite strict threshold between chance and intelligence, i.e. the UPB, a reliable inference to design may be made when we see especially functionally specific, complex information [FSCI] -rich patterns, but at the cost of potentially ruling “chance” incorrectly.

    UNDERLYING LOGIC: Once the aspect of a process, object or phenomenon under investigation is significantly contingent, natural regularities rooted in mechanical necessity can plainly be ruled out as the dominant factor for that facet. So, the key issue is whether the observed high contingency is unambiguously evidently purposefully directed; relative to the type and body of experiences or observations that would warrant a reliable inductive inference. For this, the UPB sets a reasonable, conservative and reliable threshold:

    Unless (i) the search resources of the observed cosmos would generally be fruitlessly exhausted in an attempt to arrive at the observed result (or materially similar results) by random searches, AND (ii) the outcome is [especially functionally] specified, observed high contingency is by default assigned to “chance.”

    Thus, FSCI and the associated wider concept, complex, specified information [CSI] are identified as reliable (but not exclusive) signs of intelligence. [In fact, even though — strictly — “lucky noise” could account for the existence of apparent messages such as this web page, we routinely identify that if an apparent message has functionality, complexity and specification, it is better explained by intent than by accident and confidently infer to intelligent rather than mechanical cause. This is proof enough — on pain of self-referentially incoherent selective hyperskepticism — of just how reasonable the explanatory filter is.]
    ________________

    The second major step is to refine our thoughts, through discussing the communication theory definition of and its approach to measuring information. A good place to begin this is with British Communication theory expert F. R Connor, who gives us an excellent “definition by discussion” of what information is:

    From a human point of view the word ‘communication’ conveys the idea of one person talking or writing to another in words or messages . . . through the use of words derived from an alphabet [NB: he here means, a “vocabulary” of possible signals]. Not all words are used all the time and this implies that there is a minimum number which could enable communication to be possible. In order to communicate, it is necessary to transfer information to another person, or more objectively, between men or machines.

    This naturally leads to the definition of the word ‘information’, and from a communication point of view it does not have its usual everyday meaning. Information is not what is actually in a message but what could constitute a message. The word could implies a statistical definition in that it involves some selection of the various possible messages. The important quantity is not the actual information content of the message but rather its possible information content.

    This is the quantitative definition of information and so it is measured in terms of the number of selections that could be made. Hartley was the first to suggest a logarithmic unit . . . and this is given in terms of a message probability. [p. 79, Signals, Edward Arnold. 1972. Bold emphasis added. Apart from the justly classical status of Connor’s series, his classic work dating from before the ID controversy arose is deliberately cited, to give us an indisputably objective benchmark. [ –> It also happens to be where I started from.] ]

    To quantify the above definition of what is perhaps best descriptively termed information-carrying capacity, but has long been simply termed information (in the “Shannon sense” – never mind his disclaimers . . .), let us consider a source that emits symbols from a vocabulary: s1,s2, s3, . . . sn, with probabilities p1, p2, p3, . . . pn. That is, in a “typical” long string of symbols, of size M [say this web page], the average number that are some sj, J, will be such that the ratio J/M –> pj, and in the limit attains equality. We term pj the a priori — before the fact — probability of symbol sj. Then, when a receiver detects sj, the question arises as to whether this was sent. [That is, the mixing in of noise means that received messages are prone to misidentification.] If on average, sj will be detected correctly a fraction, dj of the time, the a posteriori — after the fact — probability of sj is by a similar calculation, dj. So, we now define the information content of symbol sj as, in effect how much it surprises us on average when it shows up in our receiver:

    I = log [dj/pj], in bits [if the log is base 2, log2] . . . Eqn 1

    This immediately means that the question of receiving information arises AFTER an apparent symbol sj has been detected and decoded. That is, the issue of information inherently implies an inference to having received an intentional signal in the face of the possibility that noise could be present. Second, logs are used in the definition of I, as they give an additive property: for, the amount of information in independent signals, si + sj, using the above definition, is such that:

    I total = Ii + Ij . . . Eqn 2

    For example, assume that dj for the moment is 1, i.e. we have a noiseless channel so what is transmitted is just what is received. Then, the information in sj is:

    I = log [1/pj] = – log pj . . . Eqn 3

    This case illustrates the additive property as well, assuming that symbols si and sj are independent. That means that the probability of receiving both messages is the product of the probability of the individual messages (pi *pj); so:

    Itot = log1/(pi *pj) = [-log pi] + [-log pj] = Ii + Ij . . . Eqn 4

    So if there are two symbols, say 1 and 0, and each has probability 0.5, then for each, I is – log [1/2], on a base of 2, which is 1 bit. (If the symbols were not equiprobable, the less probable binary digit-state would convey more than, and the more probable, less than, one bit of information. Moving over to English text, we can easily see that E is as a rule far more probable than X, and that Q is most often followed by U. So, X conveys more information than E, and U conveys very little, though it is useful as redundancy, which gives us a chance to catch errors and fix them: if we see “wueen” it is most likely to have been “queen.”)

    Further to this, we may average the information per symbol in the communication system thusly (giving in termns of -H to make the additive relationships clearer):

    – H = p1 log p1 + p2 log p2 + . . . + pn log pn

    or, H = – SUM [pi log pi] . . . Eqn 5

    H, the average information per symbol transmitted [usually, measured as: bits/symbol], is often termed the Entropy; first, historically, because it resembles one of the expressions for entropy in statistical thermodynamics. As Connor notes: “it is often referred to as the entropy of the source.” [p.81, emphasis added.] Also, while this is a somewhat controversial view in Physics, as is briefly discussed in Appendix 1below, there is in fact an informational interpretation of thermodynamics that shows that informational and thermodynamic entropy can be linked conceptually as well as in mere mathematical form. [–> this bridges back to the clip already given]

    We can now see how information, intelligence, design and entropy are all closely linked. Indeed, entropy of a system can be seen as a metric of the average missing info to specify particular micro-state, given only the gross values that characterise macroscopically observable state. Also, it is useful to go beyond the focus on info-carrying capacity to look again at information as a functional issue:

    As the third major step, we now turn to information technology, communication systems and computers, which provides a vital clarifying side-light from another view on how complex, specified information functions in information processing systems:

    [In the context of computers] information is data — i.e. digital representations of raw events, facts, numbers and letters, values of variables, etc. — that have been put together in ways suitable for storing in special data structures [strings of characters, lists, tables, “trees” etc], and for processing and output in ways that are useful [i.e. functional]. . . . Information is distinguished from [a] data: raw events, signals, states etc represented digitally, and [b] knowledge: information that has been so verified that we can reasonably be warranted, in believing it to be true. [GEM, UWI FD12A Sci Med and Tech in Society Tutorial Note 7a, Nov 2005.]

    That is, we have now made a step beyond mere capacity to carry or convey information, to the function fulfilled by meaningful — intelligible, difference making — strings of symbols. In effect, we here introduce into the concept, “information,” the meaningfulness, functionality (and indeed, perhaps even purposefulness) of messages — the fact that they make a difference to the operation and/or structure of systems using such messages, thus to outcomes; thence, to relative or absolute success or failure of information-using systems in given environments.

    And, such outcome-affecting functionality is of course the underlying reason/explanation for the use of information in systems. [Cf. the recent peer-reviewed, scientific discussions here, and here by Abel and Trevors, in the context of the molecular nanotechnology of life.] Let us note as well that since in general analogue signals can be digitised [i.e. by some form of analogue-digital conversion], the discussion thus far is quite general in force.

    So, taking these three main points together, we can now see how information is conceptually and quantitatively defined, how it can be measured in bits, and how it is used in information processing systems; i.e., how it becomes functional. In short, we can now understand that:

    Functionally Specific, Complex Information [FSCI] is a characteristic of complicated messages that function in systems to help them practically solve problems faced by the systems in their environments. Also, in cases where we directly and independently know the source of such FSCI (and its accompanying functional organisation) it is, as a general rule, created by purposeful, organising intelligent agents. So, on empirical observation based induction, FSCI is a reliable sign of such design, e.g. the text of this web page, and billions of others all across the Internet. (Those who object to this, therefore face the burden of showing empirically that such FSCI does in fact — on observation — arise from blind chance and/or mechanical necessity without intelligent direction, selection, intervention or purpose.)

    Indeed, this FSCI perspective lies at the foundation of information theory:

    (i) recognising signals as intentionally constructed messages transmitted in the face of the possibility of noise,
    (ii) where also, intelligently constructed signals have characteristics of purposeful specificity, controlled complexity and system- relevant functionality based on meaningful rules that distinguish them from meaningless noise;
    (iii) further noticing that signals exist in functioning generation- transfer and/or storage- destination systems that
    (iv) embrace co-ordinated transmitters, channels, receivers, sources and sinks.

    That this is broadly recognised as true, can be seen from a surprising source, Dawkins, who is reported to have said in his The Blind Watchmaker (1987), p. 8:

    Hitting upon the lucky number that opens the bank’s safe [NB: cf. here the case in Brown’s The Da Vinci Code] is the equivalent, in our analogy, of hurling scrap metal around at random and happening to assemble a Boeing 747. [NB: originally, this imagery is due to Sir Fred Hoyle, who used it to argue that life on earth bears characteristics that strongly suggest design. His suggestion: panspermia — i.e. life drifted here, or else was planted here.] Of all the millions of unique and, with hindsight equally improbable, positions of the combination lock, only one opens the lock. Similarly, of all the millions of unique and, with hindsight equally improbable, arrangements of a heap of junk, only one (or very few) will fly. The uniqueness of the arrangement that flies, or that opens the safe, has nothing to do with hindsight. It is specified in advance. [Emphases and parenthetical note added, in tribute to the late Sir Fred Hoyle. (NB: This case also shows that we need not see boxes labelled “encoders/decoders” or “transmitters/receivers” and “channels” etc. for the model in Fig. 1 above to be applicable; i.e. the model is abstract rather than concrete: the critical issue is functional, complex information, not electronics.)]

    Here, we see how the significance of FSCI naturally appears in the context of considering the physically and logically possible but vastly improbable creation of a jumbo jet by chance. Instantly, we see that mere random chance acting in a context of blind natural forces is a most unlikely explanation, even though the statistical behaviour of matter under random forces cannot rule it strictly out. But it is so plainly vastly improbable, that, having seen the message — a flyable jumbo jet — we then make a fairly easy and highly confident inference to its most likely origin: i.e. it is an intelligently designed artifact. For, the a posteriori probability of its having originated by chance is obviously minimal — which we can intuitively recognise, and can in principle quantify.

    FSCI is also an observable, measurable quantity; contrary to what is imagined, implied or asserted by many objectors. This may be most easily seen by using a quantity we are familiar with: functionally specific bits [FS bits], such as those that define the information on the screen you are most likely using to read this note:

    1 –> These bits are functional, i.e. presenting a sceenful of (more or less) readable and coherent text.

    2 –> They are specific, i.e. the screen conforms to a page of coherent text in English in a web browser window; defining a relatively small target/island of function by comparison with the number of arbitrarily possible bit configurations of the screen.

    3 –> They are contingent, i.e your screen can show diverse patterns, some of which are functional, some of which — e.g. a screen broken up into “snow” — would not (usually) be.

    4 –> They are quantitative: a screen of such text at 800 * 600 pixels resolution, each of bit depth 24 [8 each for R, G, B] has in its image 480,000 pixels, with 11,520,000 hard-working, functionally specific bits.

    5 –> This is of course well beyond a “glorified common-sense” 500 – 1,000 bit rule of thumb complexity threshold at which contextually and functionally specific information is sufficiently complex that the explanatory filter would confidently rule such a screenful of text “designed,” given that — since there are at most that many quantum states of the atoms in it — no search on the gamut of our observed cosmos can exceed 10^150 steps . . .

    We can go on, but the above is enough backdrop for now.

    KF

    PS: Still very busy locally.

  155. 155
    kairosfocus says:

    PS: Cicero, c. 50 BC:

    Is it possible for any man to behold these things, and yet imagine that certain solid and individual bodies move by their natural force and gravitation, and that a world so beautifully adorned was made by their fortuitous concourse? He who believes this may as well believe that if a great quantity of the one-and-twenty letters, composed either of gold or any other matter, were thrown upon the ground, they would fall into such order as legibly to form the Annals of Ennius. I doubt whether fortune could make a single verse of them. How, therefore, can these people assert that the world was made by the fortuitous concourse of atoms, which have no color, no quality—which the Greeks call [poiotes], no sense? [Cicero, THE NATURE OF THE GODS BK II Ch XXXVII, C1 BC, as trans Yonge (Harper & Bros., 1877), pp. 289 – 90.]

    –> Yes the concept and inferred significance of FSCO/I on observing coded text etc is THAT old, at least.

  156. 156
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    You’re attempting to conflate random changes in problem spaces with error correction being random in respect to some problem space. The latter is not random. You’re presenting a false dichotomy that, unless every aspect of a process is not random, then the output must be completely random.

    How does being a “free, rational person” enables us to always start out with the right conjectured solutions to problems in the first place – preventing the process from being completely random?

    So, what’s the difference? IOW, it seems that you’ve arbitrary decided what’s random and what’s not.

    Again, I’m making a distinction between non-explanatory knowege and explanatory knowege. Only people can create non-explanatory knowege. So, I’m not saying the creation of knowege or even the kind of knowege evolution creates is exactly the same as a rational person. I’m saying they can be explained by the same universal theory of how knowege grows.

    In fact, I’m saying there is a common explanation where you apparently think none can exist since they supposedly cannot be compared at all.

    In the case of non-explanatory knowege, people accidentally discover solutions to problems they never intended to solve by accidentally testing solutions they didn’t conceive of in the first place via unintended circumances, the “dumb luck” of being at the right place at the right time, etc. Does that make the outcome completely random? No it does not.

    Some research data is randomly destroyed via random accidents. Researchers stop their work due to random reasons, such as loosing their job, contracting an illness, randomly running into a future spouse and deciding to change jobs to accommodate them, etc. Does the loss of research in those specific instances somehow make all research completely random? No, it does not.

    The knowege in books play a cause role in their being retained when embedded in a storage medium. They get reprinted. They are put on a shelf to be referenced at a later date, rather than recycled. A repair manual for a car is reprinted because it contains the knowege of how to repair cars that are still on the road and that people want to fix. Should that no longer be the case, it will stop playing a causal role. The same can be said for knowege in brains and even the genome.

  157. 157
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, did you notice how error correction of coded information occurs? As in via built-in organised redundancy and algorithms designed to detect same, that have to run on appropriate hardware set up to detect and correct? (Try, a simple 3-m, triple repetition and bitwise or equivalent voting code.) The phenomenon you are appealing to is based on codes, thus language, protocols (rules that manage contingency!) and integrated, organised, information rich systems to carry out algorithmic functions. Algorithms are yet another level. In short, your whole discussion is riddled with the issue of functionally specific, coherently organised, complex information. From just the text you wrote we readily see the source of such FSCO/I, intelligently directed configuration, i.e. design. As for discussion on books and manuals, intelligent, volitional action is even more explicitly present. So, kindly explain to us how you plan to demonstrate FSCO/I arising from lucky noise starting at arbitrary configurations filtered for function with elimination of non-functional forms. Explain how one gets TO islands of function that way on config spaces of scale 10^150 – 10^301 or worse, then let us know how we get to D/RNA and metabolising cells from a Darwin’s pond or the like, with empirical observational warrant. Absent this, we have a perfect right to conclude that you are doing little more than putting up ideological posturing in the teeth of a trillion member observation base on the source of FSCO/I backed up by needle in haystack search challenge analysis. KF

  158. 158
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF

    CR, did you notice how error correction of coded information occurs?

    Can you be more specific? As mentioned in the paper….

    The information in the recipe is an abstract constructor that I shall call knowledge (without a knowing subject [26]). Knowledge has an exact characterization in constructor theory: it is information that can act as a constructor and cause itself to remain instantiated in physical substrates. Crucially, error-correcting the replication is necessary. Hence the subunits pi must assume values in a discrete (digital) information variable: one whose attributes are separated by non-allowed attributes. For, if all values in a continuum were allowed, error-correction would be logically impossible..

    So, this is one simpler form of error correction. Analog values are not copied exactly, which allows errors to build up.

    As for discussion on books and manuals, intelligent, volitional action is even more explicitly present. So, kindly explain to us how you plan to demonstrate FSCO/I arising from lucky noise starting at arbitrary configurations filtered for function with elimination of non-functional forms

    Yes, KF, books written by people contain explanatory knowledge, which only people can create. I’ve already addressed the difference in the kinds of knowledge.

    Knowledge in the genome is not explanatory in nature. It is non-explanatory, in that it represents useful rules of thumb that have a very limited reach. On the other hand, the knowledge in books, which were created by people has a significantly greater reach.

    For example, take the laryngeal Nerve in the neck of a giraffe. As its neck became longer, the knowledge in a giraffe’s genome did not not contain an explanatory theory about routing necessary to reroute the nerve so it didn’t go all the way down the neck, around the heart, and then back up again. It’s reach is significantly limited.

    One exception to this, which UB might be alluding to, is that DNA does have significant reach, in that it can be used to encode which transformations of matter necessary to convert raw materials into all organisms in the biosphere. However, this represents a leap to universality, not explanatory knowledge.

    Before the first universal number system was created, people developed systems that were not universal. In fact, some systems could had been universal if it not for additional rules that were added to prevent it. And the same is said with the universality of computation, universal letter systems, etc. They all evolved from much simpler systems and made a disproportional leap to universality when a single addition was made, which was often unintentional and not planned. They are examples of emergent properties of matter.

    Explain how one gets TO islands of function that way on config spaces of scale 10^150 – 10^301 or worse, then let us know how we get to D/RNA and metabolising cells from a Darwin’s pond or the like, with empirical observational warrant.

    I’ve already given the explanation, KF. All knowledge grows via variation and criticism. It’s a universal theory of the growth of knowledge in brains, books and even the genome of organisms. Evolutionary theory doesn’t suggest any specific features in biology were intentional targets to hit. Yet the numbers you quote assume they were. Some other solution could have occurred instead. And they were initial formed from simpler solutions, etc.

    Again, evolution isn’t completely random, it’s random to any specific problem to solve. Complexity grows via variation and selection in a piecemeal fashion.

  159. 159
    critical rationalist says:

    If knowledge grows via variation and selection, then empirical observations can we use to test that theory?

    One example is the order in which organisms appear. Evolution could not result in organisms appearing in most complex to least complex. Nor could it appear all at once. The order in which organisms appear is necessary consequence of the theory that complexity grows via variation and selection.

    On the other hand, there is no necessary order for an abstract designer because it has no limitation on what knowledge it possessed or when it possessed it. Any order would be compatible with such a designer, including the most complex to least complex, or even all at once. There are significantly fewer necessary consequences of such an abstract designer, for which we can make empirical tests.

    Furthermore, this designer apparently intentionally and unnecessarily decided to use an order that would be only necessary for evolutionary theory. Didn’t this designer realize how this would look? Was the designer surprised that evolutionary theory would be proposed based on that order?

    IOW, evolutionary theory (complexity grows via variation and selection) explains that order, while ID does not. That order must be “just what the designer wanted”, which is a bad explanation.

  160. 160
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    Variation[1] in the process of evolution is not completely random. This is because it’s a repeating process of variation[2] and selection, not just variation[2] on its own.

    You’ve included ‘variation[2]’ in your description of what ‘variation[1]’ is. I hope you can see how confusing this could be. Obviously, [1] cannot be synonymous with [2].* I’ve been talking about [2], which is clearly random, is it not? I’m not sure what you mean by [1]. Can you elucidate?

    *In case this isn’t obvious enough…

    variation = variation + selection
    variation = (variation + selection) + selection
    variation = ((variation + selection) + selection) + selection

  161. 161
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    On the other hand, there is no necessary order for an abstract designer because it has no limitation on what knowledge it possessed or when it possessed it. Any order would be compatible with such a designer, including the most complex to least complex, or even all at once.

    You’ve never actually worked on a large software project, have you?

    Furthermore, this designer apparently intentionally and unnecessarily decided to use an order that would be only necessary for evolutionary theory. Didn’t this designer realize how this would look? Was the designer surprised that evolutionary theory would be proposed based on that order?

    Yeah, software designers apparently intentionally and unnecessarily decide to use this same order over and over again. Evidently, they don’t realize it would be only necessary for evolutionary theory and other purposeless processes that have no end goal in mind. I imagine they would be surprised that evolutionary theory would be proposed as the origin of their software based on the described order.

  162. 162
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    You seemed to have misinterpreted what I mean by “it” in that sentence. “it” refers to the process of evolution, not variation.

    The role that variation ultimately plays across multiple loops is not random, it is random to any problem to solve. It does not need to start over anew with each loop but builds on other solutions. So, while specific variations in a single iteration of the loop is random, the resulting variations that accumulate are not.

    Think of human knowledge, which uses a vast number of auxiliary theories that themselves were the result of conjectures and criticized, etc.

    The key point being that variations are not guaranteed to solve a problem.

    When people conjecture theories, they are in the context of a problem. But they are not derived from anything, such as experience. They are guesses. There is no source that we can turn to as a last resource that will not lead us into error.

  163. 163
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    I interpreted “it” the way I did because it made even less sense for “it” to refer to evolution. When “it” refers to evolution, your statement just becomes a non sequitur.

    Variation in the process of evolution is not completely random. This is because evolution is a repeating process of variation and selection, not just variation on its own.

    Variation is a component of evolution, not the other way around. How does what evolution is explain what variation is? Or how it is not random? I see how one might think your second sentence could support the notion that evolution is not random, but I don’t see how it says anything at all about variation not being random.

  164. 164
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    I wrote:

    On the other hand, there is no necessary order for an abstract designer because it has no limitation on what knowledge it possessed or when it possessed it. Any order would be compatible with such a designer, including the most complex to least complex, or even all at once.

    You wrote:

    You’ve never actually worked on a large software project, have you?

    Yes, I have. I’m working on one right now. This is what I mean by assuming we know nothing about how human designers design things.

    Software developers are not abstract designers. They are concrete with defined limitations, such as what they know and when they know it, etc. Human knowledge genuinely grows, where it did not exist before, via conjecture and criticism. Are you willing to impose such limitations and conditions on ID’s designer?

    An organism could not be “built” until the knowledge of what transformations necessary to construct them from raw materials was created. That is a necessary consequence of variation and selection. However, ID’s designer has no such limitations. It merely has the property of “design”, which is like saying fire has the property of dryness. As such there is no limitation on what it knew and when it kew it. So, it isn’t limited from having the knowledge of how to build any organism that has, does or could exist. That means it could have created them in the order of most complex to least, or all at once. At best, one could say “that’s just what the abstract designer must have wanted”

    Also, software engineers are well adapted to the process of designing software. As such they exhibit the appearance of design and would need to be explained, etc.

    I don’t see how adding a designer to the mix in regards to biological complexity improves the problem because it relies on the pre-existence of, well, a designer, which would be well adapted to the task of designing organisms. Or are you saying there can be a designer that isn’t well adapted to designing things? How would that work, exactly? Can just anything design something? Again, that would be like saying fire has the property of dryness.

    Do you have evidence of designers that are not themselves complex and well adapted for the purpose of designing things? If you’re going to limit theories to what we have observations of (which is bad philosophy, by the way), every designer we’ve observed has had a complex, material brains. So a designer cannot be the solution to the problem.

    To summarize, some designer that “just was” complete with the knowledge of just the right genes would result in just the right proteins that would results in just the right features, already present, does’t serve an explanatory purpose. That’s because, one can more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared”, complete with the knowledge of just the right genes would result in just the right proteins that would results in just the right features, already present. Neither case accounts for the origin of that knowledge.

    And, no, the latter is not evolutionary theory, BTW.

  165. 165
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    Are you willing to impose such limitations and conditions on ID’s designer?

    Is there any reason I should assume necessarily that “ID’s designer” doesn’t have such limitations and conditions? Why shouldn’t I just follow the evidence where it leads? I’m willing to do that. Are you?

    In short, it appears we both agree that designers as well as evolution share the characteristic of creating in the order described by the evidence. Progress!

  166. 166
    critical rationalist says:

    Again, you are referring to variation in a single iteration of the loop. I’m referring to the net variation that occurs across multiple loops. If all you had was variation, the net variation would be random. But that’s not the case.

    I see how one might think your second sentence could support the notion that evolution is not random, but I don’t see how it says anything at all about variation not being random.

    There are constraints regarding what kinds of variations that can occur in DNA. In addition it is thought that mutations are not distributed equally and that some repair mechanisms are more effective in some areas than others, which can skew the results of mutations and even cause mutations themselves in the process. But they are random to any problem to solve.

    The key thing is that, in both the case of people and evolution, variation and conjectures are not guaranteed to be correct. We start out knowing they contain errors. In the case of people, the contents of our theories are not derived from observations. And in the case of evolution, the content is not mechanically transcribed or derived from some preexisting source.

  167. 167
    Origenes says:

    CR: Again, you are referring to variation in a single iteration of the loop. I’m referring to the net variation that occurs across multiple loops. If all you had was variation, the net variation would be random. But that’s not the case.

    Why not? The net variation is the result of a series of random mutations. If one base mutation is random, why is a collection of, say, 100 random base mutations, separated by time, not random?

  168. 168
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    I wrote:

    Software developers are not abstract designers. They are concrete with defined limitations, such as what they know and when they know it, etc. Human knowledge genuinely grows, where it did not exist before, via conjecture and criticism. Are you willing to impose such limitations and conditions on ID’s designer?

    You wrote:

    Is there any reason I should assume necessarily that “ID’s designer” doesn’t have such limitations and conditions?

    As a software developer, you know we currently cannot simply rewrite an entire application overnight to migrate from, say, Win32 to C#. It’s simply not practical due to our limitations.

    However, ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. As such it’s not limited by what it knows, when it knew it, what resources or time has at it’s disposal, etc. So, it’s not limited from rewriting an application, in it’s entirety, for every single customer, to meet their specific needs that day. And the same could be said about designing computers. Entire one-off operating systems could be written for each one-off computer built for each customer, along with one-off versions off each application to run on them.

    Nor is ID’s designer limited from creating one-off programming languages for each customer’s application.

    To use another example, we currently do not design entirely new automobiles every year because doing so is simply too resource intensive, expensive, etc. It’s simply not practical. Even then, new models often reuse existing parts and even the same power train because next gen engines need to be long term tested on the track, etc. Manufactures must price their cars so customers will by them, so they can make a profit. They must report to their shareholders and request R&D budgets.

    However, ID’s designer would not be limited from designing an entirely new model, from the ground up for every single vehicle. This is because it has no limitations on what it knows, such as if a design is crash worthy, if it has long term engineering issues, etc. It has no customers, competitors, shareholders, R&D budgets .etc. Nor is it limited from designing automobiles in the order of most complex to least, or even all at once.

    IOW, what you’re appealing to are today’s human designers, and human beings could not have designed themselves. Even then, that appeal won’t hold.

    At some point in the future, assuming we create the necessary knowledge in time to prevent ourselves from going extinct, we’ll use exponentially more powerful computers that we have now to create one off systems and products for each customer, in conjunction with vastly more capable manufacturing systems which make 3D printing look like child’s play. The need for reuse will simply be virtually nonexistent. Heck, customers will do it in their own homes and garages. So will their *children*.

    IOW, you greatly underestimate the role that knowledge, or the lack there off, plays in design. Human beings are good explanations for human deigned things, precisely because of our current limitations.

    Why shouldn’t I just follow the evidence where it leads? I’m willing to do that. Are you?

    You seem to be confused about the role that evidence plays. Theories are tested by observations, not derived from them. So, you cannot “follow” evidence in the sense you’re referring to.

    From the article “What did Karl Popper Really Say about Evolution”

    What Popper calls the historical sciences do not make predictions about long past unique events (postdictions), which obviously would not be testable. (Several recent authors—including Stephen Jay Gould in Discover, July 1982—make this mistake.) These sciences make hypotheses involving past events which must predict (that is, have logical consequences) for the present state of the system in question. Here the testing procedure takes for granted the general laws and theories and is testing the specific conditions (or initial conditions, as Popper usually calls them) that held for the system.

    A scientist, on the basis of much comparative anatomy and physiology, might hypothesize that, in the distant past, mammals evolved from reptiles. This would have testable consequences for the present state of the system (earth’s surface with the geological strata in it and the animal and plant species living on it) in the form of reptile-mammal transition fossils that should exist, in addition to other necessary features of the DNA, developmental systems, and so forth, of the present-day reptiles and mammals.

  169. 169
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Why not? The net variation is the result of a series of random mutations. If one base mutation is random, why is a collection of, say, 100 random base mutations, separated by time, not random?

    Because they are not merely, “separated by time”.

  170. 170
    Origenes says:

    CR: Because they are not merely, “separated by time”.

    A series of random mutations is not random because they are not merely separated by time?
    I don’t get it.

  171. 171
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Usually when you criticize a theory, you start with the actual theory, rather than a straw man. But if you “don’t get” that, well, I’m not sure how I can help.

  172. 172
    Eric Anderson says:

    critical rationalist,

    Usually when you criticize a theory, you start with the actual theory, rather than a straw man. But if you “don’t get” that, well, I’m not sure how I can help.

    Write it up, man.

    Please.

    Again, I’ll give you a head post and you can tell us about this remarkable theory that resolves the information problem in biology that origin of life researchers have been grappling with for decades.

    I’m sure once you explain it to us in some clear detail we’ll be able to understand.

  173. 173
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    Evolution isn’t just variation, it’s variation and selection. Again, if people here can’t even get that right, then I’m not sure how I can help.

    Why should I bother writing up what’s already written in a high level Aeon article and expanded on with two published papers?

  174. 174
    Eric Anderson says:

    Yes, you’ve led us down a rabbit hole with this so-called “constructor” theory that you claim addresses a critical puzzle that origin of life researchers have been frustrated with for decades — the puzzle KF focused on in the OP.

    The “constructor” theory’s alleged application to biology is unfortunately completely incoherent, referencing nonsense like “no-design laws” that are supposed to help bring about life, and a bald-faced claim that a “highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction . . . eventually produced knowledge-bearing recipes out of elementary things . . .”

    There is exactly zero explanation how this could occur in the real world or why it should be taken seriously. It is unclear why anyone would be so gullible as to believe such rubbish. It was a nice attempt at smoke and mirrors and I’m sorry that you are frustrated people didn’t just roll over and accept the fancy-sounding terminology.

    I don’t give a hoot whether someone got a paper published about this nonsense. People have gotten gibberish published before.

    What I’m asking for is a simple exposition. Nothing too grand. You don’t need to write an essay or a lengthy article. A few paragraphs is sufficient.

    Something short — in your own words, in plain English — that would explain how you think this so-called constructor theory applies to the origin of life and addresses the long-standing problem of information content.

    —–

    Time isn’t an issue. You’ve posted so many comments on this thread you could have written up a brief description in half as much time.

    I’ve even offered you your own head post so that you can explain your views.

    There are a couple of possibilities here:

    1- You sincerely believe this “constructor” theory, but aren’t quite able to explain it or to articulate how it works. This is understandable. It seems incoherent, so explaining it would be a challenge.

    2- You realize this “constructor” theory is nonsense and that you threw out a literature bluff, so you are trying to avoid actually having to explain the thing. This often happens when true believers wade into territory they don’t understand and then do a quick Google search to come up with some “explanation” they can throw at the wall to see if it sticks. No problem. We understand not everyone is familiar with the issues. You’re in good company. Nick Matzke offered up a similarly-nonsensical literature bluff a while back about a so-called “kinetic theory” that was supposed to help explain the origin of life. They had a published paper too. 🙂

    In the first case, I would hope that you would nevertheless give it a try so that we can understand where you are coming from. Writing it up will also cause you to undergo the very valuable process of actually thinking through the issues.

    In the second case, fine, don’t bother. We realize it is probably a literature bluff anyway. I just wanted to offer you a chance to explain things — assuming you are sincere in your beliefs about it.

  175. 175
    Origenes says:

    CR: Usually when you criticize a theory, you start with the actual theory, rather than a straw man.

    Show me the straw man and the actual theory.

    CR: Evolution isn’t just variation, it’s variation and selection. Again, if people here can’t even get that right, then I’m not sure how I can help.

    Evolution is mutation and elimination. Elimination destroys perfectly viable organisms and is a severe hindrance to evolution as a blind search.
    It’s important to note that elimination does not explain organisms, as Darwin believed.

    Darwin: Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.

    Darwin got it all wrong: existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are “untouched” by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

  176. 176
    kairosfocus says:

    If EA does not host such an article, I would. Remember, the challenge starts in Darwin’s pond or the like pre-live environment and proceeds to the origin of body plans up to our own. In my underlying offer several years ago, I suggested a feature article of up to 6,000 or so words, with room for links etc but the main story must be summarised. As just one clue on the challenge, FSCO/I naturally comes in deeply isolated islands of function as the space of protein fold domains in AA sequence space shows aptly. In trying to cross a sea of non-function, there is no differential success to use as a culling filter, all alternatives are equally failing. The key challenge here is that to originate life and body plans, such intervening seas must be crossed. KF

  177. 177
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    Again, you are referring to variation in a single iteration of the loop. I’m referring to the net variation that occurs across multiple loops.

    The “net variation that occurs across multiple loops” is already covered quite nicely by the term “evolution” isn’t it? You basically say this in so many words:

    Evolution isn’t just variation, it’s variation and selection.

    It is no longer merely variation, so why insist on continuing to use that term? The variation itself is still very much random. What happens after the fact can’t change this about it.

    “Selection,” as used above, is a circularly-defined eliminative process dressed up in anthropomorphized, teleological clothes to make it look like it can accomplish more than a circularly-defined eliminative process ought to be able to accomplish. You’ve a long way to go to demonstrate that such a process can save randomness from itself.

  178. 178
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    However, ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations. As such it’s not limited by what it knows, when it knew it, what resources or time has at it’s disposal, etc.

    This looks to me like you are making an ontological conclusion from an epistemological premise. I don’t think that works. What follows appears to be built upon this initial error.

  179. 179
    critical rationalist says:

    Evolution is mutation and elimination. Elimination destroys perfectly viable organisms and is a severe hindrance to evolution as a blind search.

    Unless evolution causes all organisms to go extinct, not all are eliminated. Right? So, what remains is selected. When we select one theory from many, we eliminate all but one. The theory survives criticism. Deciding to call it “elimination” instead of selection just muddies the waters.

    Darwin got it all wrong: existent organisms are the ones that got away. Instead of being created by ‘natural elimination’, exactly the opposite is true: they are “untouched” by ‘natural elimination’. Existent organisms are those organisms on which natural selection has precisely no bearing whatsoever. They are the undiluted products of chance.

    Again, as I’m using in the context of this discussion, knowledge is information that plays a causal role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium.

    Publishers do not randomly decide to reprint an automotive repair book. The knowledge it contains plays a casual role in it being retained when embedded in a storage medium. Nor is that knowledge only useful 50% of the time, or some other random statistical distribution. It’s useful because it contains some approximation of truth in respect to the automobile in question. That is independent of any knowing subject.

    For example, if you ordered the plans to build a car but were accidentally shipped plans for a boat instead, you don’t end up with a car because you believed that’s what knowledge the plans contained. You still end up with a boat, assuming you continued to following the instructions to the end. That’s not random. The plan contains some approximation of truth as to how to build a boat. Anyones belief or desire won’t change that.

    In the case of neo-Darwinism, it’s not the survival of the fittest. That’s a straw man. Genes play a causal role in being passed down to the next generation. There is nothing “random” about the causality there, either. Nor does it randomly stop playing that casual role, if the environment doesn’t change. Again, that is independent of any knowing subject.

  180. 180
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    Eric,

    I’m really quite confused by your response. Apparently, you expect me to write a better version of the high level article written by the author of the published paper, who actually took the time to write it for a popular audience. It’s unclear why you expect a better outcome, even if I had the time.

    That’s simply not reasonable.

    Now, if you have questions about the Aeon article, I’d be glad to field them, in detail. But merely saying it’s “incoherent” isn’t a question or good criticism.

  181. 181
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    This looks to me like you are making an ontological conclusion from an epistemological premise. I don’t think that works. What follows appears to be built upon this initial error.

    What about it “doesn’t work” and why?

    Epistemology is key to the complexity of biology because the specific complicity is due to the knowledge those organisms contain. So, the origin of those features is the origin of that knowledge.

    Again, at some point in the future, that appeal won’t hold with human designers, which is supposedly the inference for ID.

    This is why I keep saying, I’m *not* ignoring what we know about human designers. We know that knowledge plays an important role. Designers do not “magically” design things. Epistemology plays a key role in that explanation. So, if anyone isn’t taking what we know about designers into account, it’s you.

  182. 182
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    What about it “doesn’t work” and why?

    This is an epistemological statement:

    ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations.

    Yet you take it as an ontological one. Your argument assumes it is ontologically true. This is a simple category error. It does not follow that the above is true from an ontological standpoint simply because it is true from an epistemological one. Before you can argue as though it is ontologically true, you would need to demonstrate that this is actually the case, not merely potentially the case.

  183. 183
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    Apparently, you expect me to write a better version of the high level article written by the author of the published paper, who actually took the time to write it for a popular audience.

    Where did Eric ever ask you to write a “better version” of the article? I only saw him ask you to write something in your own words. Is that really such an unreasonable request?

  184. 184
    Origenes says:

    CR: Unless evolution causes all organisms to go extinct, not all are eliminated. Right?

    Right.

    CR: So, what remains is selected.

    Wrong. The absence of elimination does not equal ‘selection’. Selection implies teleology, which is not grounded by materialism.

    CR: When we select one theory from many, we eliminate all but one.

    I agree, but you cannot equate our teleologically driven theory selection with the absence of elimination in nature.

    CR: Deciding to call it “elimination” instead of selection just muddies the waters.

    Exactly the opposite is true. Materialism cannot ground teleological selection, it can only ground random elimination.

  185. 185
    critical rationalist says:

    This is an epistemological statement:

    Yes, it is. I’m saying that epistemology is relevant because knowledge plays an important role in design, including the design of organisms. That’s part of what we know about human designers, for example.

    Yet you take [ID’s designer is abstract and has no defined limitations] as an ontological one. Your argument assumes it is ontologically true. This is a simple category error. It does not follow that the above is true from an ontological standpoint simply because it is true from an epistemological one. Before you can argue as though it is ontologically true, you would need to demonstrate that this is actually the case, not merely potentially the case.

    My point is that you’re making the same sort of epistemological assumption. The assumption that all designers must necessarily have the epistemological limitations that current day human designers have, and therefore would have necessarily designed organisms in the order of least to most complex, does not follow, as I’ve illustrated. Furthermore, the idea that the future (or the distant past) will resemble the past is simply isn’t valid. For example, I do not think you assume that all designers must have complex, material brains because all designers we’ve observed do.

    On the other hand, if knowledge grows via variation and selection, which is what Darwinism implies, that would have necessary epistemological consequences for the present day system that we can empirically test for: the order of complexity in organisms.

    An abstract designer with no limitations has no necessary consequences that must result in that order. Even in the case of human designers, it will eventually not necessarily need to reuse parts. At best you can say that order is “just what ID’s designer must have wanted”, which is a bad explanation. Furthermore, human beings cannot have designed human beings. And human-like designers would be complex, knowledge laden entities that exhibit the same properties that need to be explained in human beings.

    Being “well adapted to serve a purpose (design things)”, cannot be the explanation for why things are “well adapted to serve a purpose.”

  186. 186
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Wrong. The absence of elimination does not equal ‘selection’. Selection implies teleology, which is not grounded by materialism.

    You don’t need teleology to effectively select things. That’s why it’s called “natural selection”. Quibbling over the definition of words doesn’t change the effective outcome and is not an argument. Call it whatever you like.

  187. 187
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    Where did Eric ever ask you to write a “better version” of the article?

    Eric wrote:

    I’m sure once you explain it to us in some clear detail we’ll be able to understand.

    This implies the references I’ve provided lack “clear detail”, which I would be expected to provide. is that not a “better version” of the article?

  188. 188
    Origenes says:

    CR: You don’t need teleology to effectively select things.

    Oh yes you do. When you destroy 99% of your furniture by wielding a scythe blindfolded, you are not ‘selecting’ 1%. There is no selection of things in evolution. There is just an innumerous amount of all types of viable organisms — all produced by blind luck — and then there is an enormous amount of elimination. The organisms that we see are not ‘selected’, they are ‘not eliminated’ — the scythe of the grim reaper failed to do its job.
    It’s important to note that this elimination has no explanatory power whatsoever wrt existent organisms. Elimination is not creative.
    Hugo De Vries said it in 1904:

    Natural selection is a sieve. It creates nothing, as is so often assumed; it only sifts. It retains only what variability puts into the sieve. Whence the material comes that is put into it, should be kept separate from the theory of its selection. How the struggle for existence sifts is one question; how that which is sifted arose is another. …

    It is only a sieve, and not a force of nature, no direct cause of improvement, as many of Darwin’s adversaries, and unfortunately many of his followers also, have so often asserted. It is only a sieve, which decides which is to live, and what is to die … Of course, with the single steps of evolution it has nothing to do.
    [Hugo de Vries]

    Elimination only explains the fact that some organisms no longer exist.

    CR: That’s why it’s called “natural selection”. Quibbling over the definition of words doesn’t change the effective outcome and is not an argument.

    No it’s very important to use one’s words carefully, otherwise one may ascribe powers to things that are not there.

    CR: Call it whatever you like.

    Alrighty, I call it ‘absence of elimination’.

  189. 189
    Eric Anderson says:

    As I think others have hinted at, it is important to remember:

    Natural selection doesn’t do anything. It is not a force of nature. It has no value or measure or vector.

    It is simply a convenience label applied to the results of some change in a population. A change that took place due to random mutations, random environmental factors, the vagaries and hazards of nature, and so on. Those are the real causes. Natural selection isn’t doing anything.

    We observe a population at timepoint A. We observe the population at timepoint B. We notice some difference in the population and call it “natural selection”.*

    It is really no more substantive than that.

    —–

    * I should add that there are a number of changes in populations that would not even be properly assigned to “natural selection.” But, at most, what we have with natural selection is the fact that we are observing a change and applying a convenience label.

  190. 190
    Phinehas says:

    CR:

    An abstract designer with no limitations has no necessary consequences that must result in that order.

    You’ve done it again. And here, you’ve even made a slight change by dropping the “defined” qualifier for limitations in the original formulation. Why did you do that?

    The designer is not defined and the designer’s limitations are not defined simply as an acknowledgement that an inference to design does not require this knowledge. This is not a statement about what is or is not necessary with regard to a designer. It cannot be such, because it is precisely the opposite. It is a deliberate lack of a statement about what is or is not necessary with regard to a designer.

  191. 191
    critical rationalist says:

    @Phinehas

    You’ve done it again. And here, you’ve even made a slight change by dropping the “defined” qualifier for limitations in the original formulation. Why did you do that?

    A completely abstract designer merely has the property of “design”, which is like saying fire has the property of “dryness.” It does not say anything about what the designer knew and when it knew it. Nor does it have any limitations except it cannot design things that are logically impossible. For example, it cannot design itself, married bachelors, etc. That is a statement about abstract designers.

    ID’s designer is abstract and has no additional limitations defined by the theory itself. As such, no necessary limitations of the theory can be used in any sort of explanation for what it supposedly designed. That’s a statement about ID’s designer.

    The designer is not defined and the designer’s limitations are not defined simply as an acknowledgement that an inference to design does not require this knowledge. This is not a statement about what is or is not necessary with regard to a designer. It cannot be such, because it is precisely the opposite. It is a deliberate lack of a statement about what is or is not necessary with regard to a designer.

    Again, that is an epistemological assumption. I’m suggesting you are vastly underestimating the role that knowledge plays in an organism’s features and, therefore, the role knowledge would play in any designer that was supposedly responsible for those features.

    For example, I’d like to design a drug to cure cancer. However, regardless of what intention or purpose I had in formulating any such drug, it would only actually cure cancer if the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter required to do so were actually present in it when administered. My mere desire, enthusiasm or benevolent intent are insufficient to actually cure cancer. Right? So, it’s unclear why knowledge is “not necessary with regards to a designer” and biological organism.

    Organism’s are well adapted to serve a purpose because they contain the knowledge of what adaptations (transformations of matter) should be performed which will result in a copy of that organism. They do not “phone home” to a designer to receive instructions as to what transformations to perform. Rather, those transformations only occur when the requisite knowledge is present in the organism itself. So, organisms are not only well adapted to serve a purpose but they are well adapted due to having the knowledge of how to construct their own features embedded in them as a storage medium.

    For example, to copy the knowledge of how to build a car onto a flash drive, its physical medium is transformed to embed that knowledge. In that sense, it is well adapted to serve a purpose (store that knowledge.) And the source storage medium of that knowledge would have been well adapted to that purpose as well, such as book or a human brain.

    So, the origin of an organism’s features is the origin of the knowledge of how to make a copy of itself. IOW, that knowledge is what needs to be explained. In the case of ID an explanation for this knowledge is either absent or irrational (based on bad epistemology)

    Any designer that “designed” an organism would have also been responsible for that knowledge being present, not just the organism’s features. So, said designer must have already possessed that knowledge, so it could have embedded it in the organism when it was created. Right? Otherwise, where did it come from? Did that knowledge spontaneously appear when the organism was “created”?

    Returning to my example, this is like adapting raw materials into a flash drive with knowledge of how to build a car already on it. Not only is necessary to possess the knowledge of which transformations to perform to result in the flash drive but also the actual knowledge of how to build a car, which determines which additional transformations are needed to embed that knowledge in the drive’s NAND cells. If that knowledge wasn’t present somewhere, it would have been spontaneously generated when the flash drive was “created.” Right?

    A designer that “just was”, compete with the knowledge of just the right genes required to result in just the right proteins, which result in just the right features, already present, doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. That’s because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just were”, compete with the knowledge of just the right genes required to result in just the right proteins, which result in just the right features, already present. Neither explain the origin of that knowledge.

    And, in anticipation yet another straw man, “No.”, the latter is not neo-Darwinism.

  192. 192
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    It is simply a convenience label applied to the results of some change in a population. A change that took place due to random mutations, random environmental factors, the vagaries and hazards of nature, and so on. Those are the real causes. Natural selection isn’t doing anything.

    Nothing in the above conflicts with the universal epistemological view that knowledge grows via variations controlled by criticism. Mutations plays the explanatory role of variation and natural selection plays the explanatory role of criticism. The objection that natural selection does not ‘do anything'” in the traditional sense is arguing over the definitions of words.

    Again, knowledge is information that plays a casual role in being retained when embedded in a storage medium. That causality contains some approximation of truth in relation to the environment, which includes the organism itself. It is in that sense that it is selected by nature.

    IOW, what I’m suggesting is there is a universal explanation for the growth of knowledge in books, brains and even genes. While this explanation does take into account knowing subjects and people who are universal explainers, they are not required to create non-explanatory knowledge. Explanatory knowledge can only be created by people, which has significantly greater reach. Non-Explanatory knowledge can be created by both people and Neo-Darwinsim. It has significantly less reach.

    So, it’s not that I’m ignoring what we know about designers. If anything, I’m suggesting the opposite is true. You’re assuming there can be no explanation for what designers do and, therefore, unification by a shared underlying explanation is not necessary or even possible.

  193. 193
    Origenes says:

    CR: A completely abstract designer merely has the property of “design”, which is like saying fire has the property of “dryness.”

    Stop embarrassing yourself any further. You obviously don’t know the difference between the terms ‘epistemological’ and ‘ontological’. Simply put, ID is neutral on the identity of the designer, which doesn’t mean that the designer is ‘abstract’ or whatever. The designer(s) may be aliens, humans transported back in time, Zeus or some telic force. ID simply does not say. That’s all.

    And BTW knowledge implies a knower who understands it. Knowledge cannot exist in isolation. One can say that knowledge is a functional aspect of a larger whole. You are using the term in the context of blind particles bumping into each other, which renders the term meaningless.

  194. 194
    Eric Anderson says:

    cr @192:

    Non-Explanatory knowledge

    What is this?

    —–

    Look, we can draw a vague analogy to the fact that people sometimes experience random events and sometimes learn by trial and error. But to suggest that the way a conscious, intelligent, aware, sentient being learns is equivalent to a random, purposeless, non-sentient, non-conscious, unintelligent natural process seems beyond the pale. It is wrong on its face and commits a serious conflation of two very different domains.

    It is still unclear exactly what you are trying to argue, with terms like “non-explanatory knowledge” and “no-design laws”.

  195. 195
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Simply put, ID is neutral on the identity of the designer, which doesn’t mean that the designer is ‘abstract’ or whatever. The designer(s) may be aliens, humans transported back in time, Zeus or some telic force. ID simply does not say. That’s all.

    If something is absent in a theory, it cannot be used to explain phenomena. “Identifying” the designers in each case above does not improve the situation. Again, my criticism is that the explanation for that knowledge is either absent or irrational.

    If you’ve identified the designer as Zeus or a telic force, you have a supernatural origin of that knowledge. No such explanation can be given, because it is inexplicable by definition. A designer that “just was”, compete with the knowledge of just the right genes, etc., already present, doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. That’s because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just were”, compete with the knowledge of just the right genes, etc., already present. The explanation is absent, so you are back to a designer that merely has the property of “design” in an abstract sense.

    In regards to aliens or human beings, the appearance of design is being well adapted to serve a purpose. Alien or Human-like designers are well adapted to serve the purpose of designing things. It’s unclear how being well adapted to serve a purpose can be the explanation for being well adapted to serve a purpose. That’s irrational.

    And BTW knowledge implies a knower who understands it. Knowledge cannot exist in isolation. One can say that knowledge is a functional aspect of a larger whole. You are using the term in the context of blind particles bumping into each other, which renders the term meaningless.

    The traditional use of a word is not an argument. For example, the term “atom” implies indivisibility. Yet, that wasn’t used as an argument against subatomic particles.

    Again, from Popper’s book Objective Knowledge..

    “Let me repeat one of my standard arguments for the (more or less) independent existence of world 3. I consider two thought experiments:
    Experiment (1). All our machines and tools are destroyed, and all our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But libraries and our capacity to learn from them survive. Clearly, after much suffering, our world may get going again.
    Experiment (2). As before, machines and tools are destroyed, and our subjective learning, including our subjective knowledge of machines and tools, and how to use them. But this time, all libraries are destroyed also, so that our capacity to learn from books becomes useless.”

    Knowledge: Subjective Versus Objective, page 59

    Clearly, there is a difference in these two thought experiments. That difference is due to the objectivity of knowledge independent of a knowing subject. Do you have any criticism of this beyond it’s not the traditional use of the word “Knowledge”? Would using a different word make it more palatable for you?

  196. 196
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    Non-explanatory knowledge is information that causes itself to be retained when embedded in a storage medium and does not contain explanatory theories about how the world works. As such, it has significantly less reach. The knowledge in genes is one example of non-explanatory knowledge.

    See #127 and #158.

  197. 197
    Eric Anderson says:

    Non-explanatory knowledge is information that causes itself to be retained when embedded in a storage medium . . .

    How can information “cause itself” to be retained? What, exactly, is this information doing to interact with the physical world and cause itself to be retained?

    And what does the embedding in the first place?

  198. 198
    Origenes says:

    CR: If something is absent in a theory, it cannot be used to explain phenomena. “Identifying” the designers in each case above does not improve the situation. Again, my criticism is that the explanation for that knowledge is either absent or irrational. If you’ve identified the designer as Zeus or a telic force, you ….

    You do not understand the design inference. ID does not explain how or by who phenomena are designed.
    Ponder this:

    Eric Anderson:
    ID is not an attempt to answer all questions. It is a limited inquiry into whether something was designed. Questions about who, why, how, when are all interesting second-order questions that can be asked only after an inference to design is drawn. You may want, deeply in your heart of hearts, for ID to answer all of those questions. But that is a failure of your expectations, not ID itself.

  199. 199
    critical rationalist says:

    The appearance of design is being well adapted to serve a purpose. If you do not have an explanation for that adaptation, then how can you identify it as actually being design, as opposed to something else?

    You have no explanation for design, but I know new-Darwinism cannot achieve it? It’s unclear how this is good criticism.

    Furthermore, being well adapted to serve a purpose (design organisms) cannot be an explanation for being well adapted to serve a purpose.

  200. 200
    critical rationalist says:

    How can information “cause itself” to be retained? What, exactly, is this information doing to interact with the physical world and cause itself to be retained?

    As I’ve already given multiple examples. For example, genes play a causal role in being copied into future generations in a specific environment, which includes the organism itself.

    In the case of books, the knowege it contains solves a problem, so it is reprinted. Variations of that book that solve more problems or do so better are reprinted, while the ealirer version is not. Knowege plays causal roles because it is independent of a knowing subject.

    If I ordered a set of plans to build a car, but received plans for a boat instead, I wouldn’t end up with a car because that’s what I believed the knowege the plans contained would result in.

    And what does the embedding in the first place?

    It is embedded as part of the coping process, which is currenly high-accuracy.

    Again, the earliest cells would not need to be highly accurate template replicators. They just need to make some kind of copy.

    The key point here is that knowege solves a problem. It causes transformations, independent of what anyone believes. See #191.

  201. 201
    Eric Anderson says:

    In the case of books, the knowege it contains solves a problem, so it is reprinted. Variations of that book that solve more problems or do so better are reprinted, while the ealirer version is not.

    What on earth?

    The information isn’t doing anything to “cause itself to be retained.” An intelligent being, operating outside of the information, is recognizing value in certain pieces of information and making an informed decision about what to retain and what to improve.

    You can’t change that fact by using sloppy personification language when talking about information.

    It is embedded as part of the coping process, which is currenly high-accuracy.

    Sure. For the next generation. So what? The question is where information comes from and how it got there in the first place.

    Again, the earliest cells would not need to be highly accurate template replicators. They just need to make some kind of copy.

    Yes, that is the naive claim. Unfortunately no-one has ever seen these purely hypothetical early replicators. And no-one has ever been able to show how a “highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction” could possibly replicate faithfully in a prebiotic environment, in the lab, or anywhere else.

    —–

    This constructor theory, as you have outlined it, is completely nonsense. It is worse than wrong. It is anti-knowledge, because it gives people who aren’t familiar with the facts the false impression that it solves an important biological issue, when it doesn’t. It is just a mix of sloppy language, poor definitions, personification of inanimate objects, and general vague assertions about how it supposedly works.

    I know you have invested a lot of time and energy on this thread pushing this theory in a public forum. As a result, it will be difficult to back down and admit that it doesn’t hold water. But please, for your own intellectual integrity, take some time to understand the issues kf is raising on this thread and look hard in the mirror to examine the constructor business. It may be painful, but it will be a good learning experience.

  202. 202
    critical rationalist says:

    @Eric Anderson

    The information isn’t doing anything to “cause itself to be retained.” An intelligent being, operating outside of the information, is recognizing value in certain pieces of information and making an informed decision about what to retain and what to improve.

    Before a person can actually improve the contents of a book, they must posses knowledge of what improvements to make. Desiring or wanting to make improvement isn’t enough. Variations are conjectural, so a change that is retained depends of that knowledge actually improving solutions to existing problems or even expanding the kinds of solutions it contains. That’s objective in that is independent of what anyone believes. In the sense, it plays a key causal role.

    Sure. For the next generation. So what? The question is where information comes from and how it got there in the first place.

    Yes, that is the question. The knowledge in a organism’s genes determines what its features will be. So, the origin of that knowledge is the origin of those features. What is your explanation? Some designer put it there doesn’t explain that knowledge. How did it possess it?

    What you seem to be appealing to is an authoritative source of knowledge, which is bad philosophy.

    Some designer that “just was” complete with the knowledge of just the right genes would result in just the right proteins that would results in just the right features, already present, does’t serve an explanatory purpose. That’s because, one can more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared”, complete with the knowledge of just the right genes would result in just the right proteins that would results in just the right features, already present. Neither case accounts for the origin of that knowledge.

    The former is like saying a robot came off the assembly like already programmed how to build cars. That knowledge would have spontaneously appeared when the robot was being built.

    Yes, that is the naive claim. Unfortunately no-one has ever seen these purely hypothetical early replicators. And no-one has ever been able to show how a “highly inaccurate, non-purposive construction” could possibly replicate faithfully in a prebiotic environment, in the lab, or anywhere else.

    If the inference is human designers via induction, then every designer we’ve observed is well adapted for the purpose of designing things. So, you only think you are using induction. Being well adapted to serve a purpose (designing organisms) cannot be the explanation for being well adapted to serve a purpose. And if the designer is not well adapted, then how does that work, exactly?

    Again the criticism is that the origin of that knowledge Is either absent or irrational.

    This constructor theory, as you have outlined it, is completely nonsense. It is worse than wrong. It is anti-knowledge, because it gives people who aren’t familiar with the facts the false impression that it solves an important biological issue, when it doesn’t. It is just a mix of sloppy language, poor definitions, personification of inanimate objects, and general vague assertions about how it supposedly works.

    You’re merely objecting to the idea that knowledge in brains, books and genes can be unified because it’s not the traditional definition of knowledge. That’s just bad criticism in you’re claiming we cannot make progress, which is anti-knowledge.

    Do you have any other criticism other than that?

  203. 203
    kairosfocus says:

    CR:

    The appearance of design is being well adapted to serve a purpose.

    Over two hundred comments after the OP and it still has not registered that the design inference is not about the appearance of design, it seems.

    I suggest you revisit inductive logic 101.

    Functionally specific, complex organisation and/or associated information describes a readily observed phenomenon. Indeed, in Crick’s March 19, 1953 letter, he speaks to DNA as a case in point — readily recognising it as text.

    There are trillions of cases of separately known origin and utterly reliably it is by design. There are zero credible counter examples by which blind chance and/or mechanical necessity create de novo FSCO/I. The search challenge on sol system or observed cosmos scale to find needle in haystack islands of function in config spaces for 500 – 1,000 bits and beyond give a very good explanation for that. Where by the very need for well matched, correctly arranged and coupled parts to achieve relevant functionality, islands of function are a natural consequence.

    Random document generation exercises are a factor of 10^100 short, no surprise there.

    None of this would be controversial if there were not an established school of thought on origins that demands that such FSCO/I must somehow come about by blind chance and/or mechanical necessity.

    But that puts the cart before the horse: we have a major theory of origins that is failing key, empirically based tests.

    Mind you, too often nowadays that seems to have but little impact.

    Such are the days we live in.

    KF

  204. 204
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    There are trillions of cases of separately known origin and utterly reliably it is by design. There are zero credible counter examples by which blind chance and/or mechanical necessity create de novo FSCO/I.

    First, so it’s just induction? The distant past resembles the recent past we have and have not observed? Really? If not, then what is the explanation for the knowledge in organisms, which is uses to make a copy of itself?

    Our explanation for what you call FSCO/I in the case of human designers is due to having been well adapted to serve a purpose. What do I mean by being “well adapted”? If you change it slightly, then it doesn’t serve that purpose as well, if even at all.

    Everything from the knowledge in our genes, biological features and and knowledge in our brains represents being well adapted. For example, DNA is a substrate that is transformed as part of a construction task (well adapted) from raw materials, etc. The original instructions are well adapted matter. We either utilize instincts that come from our genes via variation and selection, or ideas that come from conjecturing ideas and criticizing them. That knowledge is our explanation for designed things, including computers, binary data, compilers, languages, etc. In their current state, they are often copied as is. And, before that, were were genuinely created via conjecture and criticism. In either case, they represent adaptations of storage mediums.

    Transformations that result in human designed things occur when the requisite knowledge is present in them, in some kind of adoption of matter. To quote an earlier comment..

    For example, I’d like to design a drug to cure cancer. However, regardless of what intention or purpose I had in formulating any such drug, it would only actually cure cancer if the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter required to do so were actually present in it when administered. My mere desire, enthusiasm or benevolent intent are insufficient to actually cure cancer. Right? So, it’s unclear why knowledge is “not necessary with regards to a designer” and biological organisms.

    How did the knowledge get into the drug? If I was responsible, I would have had to posses it in the first place before I could put it there. Otherwise, it would be like manufacturing a pill and having that knowledge spontaneously appear there when the filler was pressed.

    If you’re just using induction, it’s unclear why you wouldn’t also assume that the distant past would be like the recent past, in that any such designer would also be well adapted as we are. Nor have we ever observed a designer that is not well adapted to serve the purpose of designing things. So, following your “inference”, designers of the distant past would also be well adapted for the purpose of designing organisms. That rules itself out.

  205. 205

    CR why do you refuse to address the elephant in the room?

    The capacity to acquire “knowledge” requires organization prior to function. This is not a trivial amount of organization, and it is virtually defined by its independence from physico-dynamics.

    You have no source for that organization, or the coordination required for semantic closure. Why go on pretending that you’ve offered something that impacts these fundamental physical issues?

    Repeatedly assuming the capabilities of the system is a non-starter.

  206. 206
    kairosfocus says:

    CR,

    Inductive reasoning is never a “just.”

    Your first quarrel is obviously with the province of logic that allows us to access empirical, credibly reliable knowledge of the external world. No wonder you seem to treat empirical evidence so cavalierly.

    I suggest that it would be wiser for you to heed Locke in his Intro to his Essay on Human Understanding, sec 5 (where ATBC, AE, TSZ et al . . . trying to tell true/false by the clock is a fallacy):

    Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13, Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Text references added to document the sources of Locke’s allusions and citations.]

    Also, Newton, in Opticks, Query 31, has somewhat to instruct you:

    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 [speculative, metaphysical] Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy. And although the arguing from Experiments and Observations by Induction be no Demonstration of general Conclusions; yet it is the best way of arguing which the Nature of Things admits of, and may be looked upon as so much the stronger, by how much the Induction is more general. And if no Exception occur from Phaenomena, the Conclusion may be pronounced generally. But if at any time afterwards any Exception shall occur from Experiments, it may then begin to be pronounced with such Exceptions as occur. By this way of Analysis we may proceed from Compounds to Ingredients, and from Motions to the Forces producing them; and in general, from Effects to their Causes, and from particular Causes to more general ones, till the Argument end in the most general. This is the Method of Analysis: And the Synthesis consists in assuming the Causes discover’d, and establish’d as Principles, and by them explaining the Phaenomena proceeding from them, and proving the Explanations.

    I suggest that you need to address the absurdity of scanting inductive reasoning before further venturing out to criticise the design inference on FSCO/I as an inductively grounded, analytically backed strong sign of design as credible cause. Where, case no 1 is the algorithmic TEXT in DNA and the associated molecular nanotech macines that give it functional effect.

    As in, what is the empirically grounded, inductively known source of text (as in a manifestation of alphabetic language that per the usual timeline dates to what, 3.5 – 3.8 BYA?): ______________

    As also in, what is the similarly grounded source of algorithms, codes and linked data structures: _____________

    As further, what is the similarly grounded source of execution machinery that coherently accesses, reads and executes algorithms: _______________

    As yet further, what is the similarly grounded source of coherent, unified, structured organisation that establishes automata that carries out such processes: ______________________

    And finally, what would be the reasonable source of a von Neumann, kinematic self replication facility [vNKSR] that integrates all such into a self-replicating automaton: _______ , and why do you conclude such: ___________ , with what empirical warrant: ____________ ?

    (Do you see why the issue of absurdity arises, starting with OOL? Also, with burning down the house of inductive reasoning?)

    KF

    PS: For those inclined to play at dismissive attack the man on seeing the abbreviation of a descriptive phrase, FSCO/I, I suggest a look at the OP above. CR, this particularly includes you. Unresponsiveness to facts and evidence right in front of you on what a simple phrase means and addresses — an OBVIOUS phenomenon you created a further example of by posting a comment — does not lend you credibility in dealing with more difficult, more distant matters. And yes, it counts that the text of comments in this thread are further examples of FSCO/I and of its credible, reliable cause, intelligently directed configuration. Note the OP:

    FSCO/I is real, relevant and patently descriptive, both of the technological world and the biological world. This demands an adequate causal explanation, and the only serious explanation on the table that is empirically warranted is, design.

    As the text of this post illustrates, and as the text of objector comments to come will further inadvertently illustrate

    THAT is what is being so stoutly resisted. And if something so simple is being so ferociously opposed [remember, I have been subjected to stalking] there is no point, really, in trying to discuss more complex matters. Such evidence demonstrates that we are dealing with ideologically induced closed-mindedness and its handmaiden, selectively hyperskeptical dismissiveness . . . to the point of some objectors plainly being willing to burn down inductive reasoning, the core logic of the methods of science.

  207. 207
    critical rationalist says:

    CR why do you refuse to address the elephant in the room?

    That’s the thing I’m most confused about. The elephant in the room is the knowledge physical embedded in organisms. They do not “phone home” when making a copy of themselves, Rather, that knowledge to transform raw materials in a construction task. So, the origin of that knowledge is the origin of that organism’s features. How do you explain it?

    The capacity to acquire “knowledge” requires organization prior to function. This is not a trivial amount of organization, and it is virtually defined by its independence from physico-dynamics.

    An entire cell is constructed from prior knowledge from raw materials. It exists as information embedded in a storage medium prior to being put in the organism’s copy, Including the storage medium, etc. That is a non trivial amount of organization that any such designer must have possessed prior in some physical form, were it actually responsible for it. So, it would have been well adapted to design organisms. It’s unclear how being well designed to serve a purpose (design organisms) can be the explanation for being well designed to serve a purpose.

    And If the “designer” didn’t have prior possession of that knowledge, by nature of not being well adapted, then how did it end up in an organism it supposedly designed? Merely saying the knowledge appeared as part of the “design” process doesn’t explain the origin of that knowledge. This would be like an industrial robot coming off an assembly line somehow pre-programed with the knowledge of how to build a car, already present. That’s the spontaneous creation of knowledge, which is strangely what people here seem to claim evolution equates to.

    You have no source for that organization, or the coordination required for semantic closure. Why go on pretending that you’ve offered something that impacts these fundamental physical issues?

    I’m still not exactly sure what you’re referring to here. Are you referring to the universality of DNA? Or are you suggesting that the knowledge of how to build organisms was somehow already present in the laws of physics?

    As the paper states, some have proposed that the level of accuracy in which genes are copied in biological template replicators may not be compatible with no-design laws. That is, that level of accuracy would require the design of template replicators, including their copying mechanisms, to be already present somehow in the laws of physics themselves. Therefore, evolution doesn’t actually play the role it is thought to play. In constructor theory, that is a claims that the copy process that occurs would be prohibited by no-design laws of physics. Is that what you’re suggesting?

    From the Aeon article..

    Given that life isn’t the output of an intentional design process, but evolved, how could living things have evolved given these design-free laws of physics? Darwin’s theory addresses this problem, explaining that variation and natural selection bring about the appearance of design. But this in itself doesn’t close the explanatory gap, as we can see especially clearly in the modern version of Darwin’s theory – neo-Darwinism. At its heart are the replicators, or genes – bits of DNA that are transmitted, by replication, to the next generation. Moreover, for replication to be as accurate as it is in living things, accurate self-reproduction of the cell is also required. In short, the theory presupposes the possibility of certain accurate physical transformations, and these are just what no-design laws of physics fail to provide in their starter kit.

    The laws of physics do not provide what’s necessary to make those copies. The article then goes on to point out that even if we could somehow predict that specific forms of life would appear from initial contains in the prevailing conception of physics, objectors could always claim the design of those organisms was somehow already present in the laws of physics.

    Now, it turns out that an explanation of this sort is peculiarly difficult to formulate using the prevailing methods of physics. The latter can predict only what a physical system will do (or will probably do) at a later time, given certain initial conditions and laws of motion. But applying laws of motion to particles is an intractably laborious way to express the appearance of design, replication, self?reproduction and natural selection. Those processes are highly emergent, involving the collective motion of countless interacting particles.

    There is more. Even if one could predict that – given certain dynamical laws and initial conditions – particles would aggregate so as to form a goat at a certain time, this would not at all explain whether a goat could have come about without design. The design of the goat, for all we know, could be encoded in the initial conditions or in the laws of motion. In general, one must explain whether and how a goat is possible (ie, permitted) under no?design laws of physics; not just predict that it will (or will probably) happen, given some version of the actual laws and initial conditions.

    Thinking within the prevailing conception has led some physicists – including the 1963 Nobel Prize-winner Eugene Wigner and the late US-born quantum physicist David Bohm – to conclude that the laws of physics must be tailored to produce biological adaptations in general. This is amazingly erroneous. If it were true, physical theories would have to be patched up with ‘design-bearing’ additions, in the initial conditions or the laws of motion, or both, and the whole explanatory content of Darwinian evolution would be lost.

    So, what is addressed here is (1) how the accurate transformations in life are possible when the organization your are referring to is not present in the “toolbox” of the current laws of physics and (2) how their recipe for organisms need not be in the initial conditions or the laws of physics. Note, that (1) necessarily includes information, its storage and the transformations that occur during copying. Details on information in constructor theory are the first paper I referenced.

    If this isn’t relevant to your objection, then please elaborate on how it is different from what is presented here as a starting point. Or some other starting point. I’ll be out of town on a cruise until Wednesday, so I won’t be able to respond until then.

  208. 208
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    Why do you keep assuming I must think we can know nothing unless there is some infallible source of knowledge? I’ve specific indicated this is not the case. Yet, the first quote is aimed squarely at someone who held that assumption.

    Furthermore, it suggests you think we do not need an explanation for how induction works because induction is what we use, we use what God wanted us to use and he wouldn’t want us to use it unless he made it work via some inexplicable means. After all, God is an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable ream that works in inexplicable means and methods.

    So, don’t bother worrying abut induction works, because no progress can be made there. It’s inexplicable.

    In addition, Isn’t that curricular because it assumes God deigned us as one of its premises? Doesn’t Newton infer those assumptions due to the Biblical claims you listed in the quote?

    Nor have we ever seen a designer that wasn’t well adapted to serve the purpose of designing things. So, apparently, it’s not just induction, but induction plus a supernatural source of revealed and preserved knowledge?

  209. 209
    kairosfocus says:

    CR I am making no such assumptions as you project. I have responded to your statements and arguments, pointing out some of the challenges they face. I suggested earlier today, for example, that you need to be careful of how you respond to inductive reasoning, based on your remarks in-thread. KF

    PS: I have also pointed out that evolutionary materialism inherently lets loose grand delusion in our reasoning, warrant, knowledge and morality, utterly undermining itself. Fellow traveller schemes fall under the same fault.

  210. 210
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF,

    First, a correction…

    Doesn’t Locke infer those assumptions due to the Bibilcal clames you listed in the quote

    The candle designed (setup) in us by God is faillable, but is good enough to know that he designed us via induction? Again, how does that work, in practice?

    Assuming it works because it’s worked in the past is, well, induction. Assuming it works because God set it up that way appeals to a supernaturally revealed source and preserved knowege.

    I’m not discounting empirical evidence. I’m suggesting it doesn’t play the role you think it plays. You seem to think either it’s all or nothing, which is a false dichotomy.

    Theories are tested by observations, not derived from them. That’s not a claim that emeprical evidence doesn’t play a critical role in science. It’s just not the role you claim it plays. No one has developed a principle of induction that works in practice. No one. So how can you or anyone else use it?

    If you did, it would seem that you’d also assume that all designers are well adapted to design things, since we’ve never obsereved a design that was not. As you said, there are trillions of known examples of designers that are well adapted for the purpose of designing things and none that are not. Furthermore, designers that were well adapted but experienced an accident that disrupted that well adaptedness can no longer design things nearly as well or not at all.

    FSCO/I is an specific example of being well adapted to serve a purpose. Being specified is being well adpated. Being functional is to serve a purpose. When copied information is a transformation of matter, which again is an example of a storage medium being well adapted when embedded there. If modified, it woud not serve that purpose nearly as well if not at all. It checks all the boxes.

    So, why hasn’t induction lead you to conclude that all designed things which exhibit FSCO/I are a clear indication of a designer that is well adapted for the purposes of designing things? Something just doesn’t add up.

    Being well adapted to serve a purpose (designing organisms) cannot be the explanation for being well adapted for a purpose. That rules itself out.

  211. 211
    kairosfocus says:

    CR, Locke and Newton both highlighted the known nature of one branch of reasoning, induction. If we neglect it, it will severely damage ability to operate in the world. And in fact, what is really done by hyperskeptics is to selectively doubt and dismiss what they don’t like through double-standards on warrant. As to constructing bodies of knowledge and world views, including the role of self evident plumbline truths, I have already linked, but for convenience point here again: http://nicenesystheol.blogspot.....u2_bld_wvu . KF

  212. 212

    #207

    CR why do you refuse to address the elephant in the room?

    That’s the thing I’m most confused about. The elephant in the room is the knowledge physical embedded in organisms. They do not “phone home” when making a copy of themselves, Rather, that knowledge to transform raw materials in a construction task. So, the origin of that knowledge is the origin of that organism’s features. How do you explain it?

    CR, this is an ID blog. ID suggests that an act of intelligence can be empirically detected in the origin of life on earth. This is the claim that ID theorists attempt to answer. In order to validate the claim, there must be some measurable aspect of known intelligent processes found in the physical embodiment of living things. To that end, science has documented the necessary physical conditions of semiotic systems – that is, systems that use information bound in physical memory to create functional effects. Science has documented that these systems are unique (and exclusively identifiable) among all other physical systems found in the cosmos. Science has shown that these systems are only related to living things.

    Inside this very small set of physical systems, science has found an even smaller subset of systems. These are systems that use spatially-oriented representations (tokens) to encode their physical memory (i.e. they use a reading-frame code). Science has documented the additional physical requirements of this smaller subset of systems, and found that they are identifiable only in written language and mathematics – two unambiguous products of intelligence. It is now known that this same physical system is also found in the translation of the genetic information inside the cell (i.e. the genetic code), thus forming an inference to intelligent action 4 billion years before the appearance of human intelligence on earth. So to answer your question, ID theorists claim that the origin of the genetic translation apparatus — underlying all of biology – is best explained as the product of intelligent action. Moreover, the ID claim about detecting a universal correlate of intelligent action in biology has been validated by physics, using the scientific method. Indeed, the observations that fundamentally support the claim are not even controversial.

    An entire cell is constructed from prior knowledge from raw materials. It exists as information embedded in a storage medium prior to being put in the organism’s copy, Including the storage medium, etc. That is a non trivial amount of organization that any such designer must have possessed prior in some physical form, were it actually responsible for it. So, it would have been well adapted to design organisms. It’s unclear how being well designed to serve a purpose (design organisms) can be the explanation for being well designed to serve a purpose

    You place a paradox in front of you that is of your own making. It is not a necessary conclusion drawn from interpreting the physical evidence; it is a paradox under your prior assumptions and biases. You place this paradox in front of you in order to (not only) avoid the physical evidence as we find it, but also to avoid the actual claim that ID proposes to answer. I don’t know why you think the people on this board should be impressed by this maneuver.

  213. 213
    Origenes says:

    CR: …. the knowledge physical embedded in organisms.

    And then there is also this problem:

    Given materialism there is no organism. There is just a conglomerate of fermions and bosons, which presents itself to us as one thing: an organism. But materialism informs us that this unity is but an illusion. There is, in fact, not one thing, there is no organism. You may think so, but it is an illusion.
    Materialism attempts to unmask the world we are familiar with. It informs us that things are not what they seem to be, that is, there is no intrinsic unity — and as such no reality — to the macro-level of things we know from daily life.
    Similarly a human being, made from fermions and bosons, may present itself to us as one indivisible thing with its own intentions, but in fact there is nothing over and beyond fermions and bosons which care about neither human beings nor their intentions. The illusion of an intentional personal human being is produced by unintentional impersonal fermions and bosons. To be clear, there is no person and there are no intentions.

    Moreover, according to materialism, for similar reasons, there is no such a thing as “knowledge” and/or “information”. It simply cannot exist. Atheist philosopher Alexander Rosenberg puts it like this:

    What we need is a clump of matter …. that by the very arrangement of its synapses points at, indicates, singles out, picks out, identifies (and here we just start piling up more and more synonyms for “being about”) another clump of matter outside the brain. But there is no such physical stuff.
    Physics has ruled out the existence of clumps of matter of the required sort. There are just fermions and bosons and combinations of them. None of that stuff is just, all by itself, about any other stuff. There is nothing in the whole universe—including, of course, all the neurons in your brain—that just by its nature or composition can do this job of being about some other clump of matter.
    [Alexander Rosenberg, ‘The Atheist’s Guide To Reality’,Chapter 8]

  214. 214

    cr,

    It appears that you have made a decision to not pursue our conversation further (#205, #207, #212).

    Perhaps you’ve realized that under your own observations, and specifically your contemplation of those observations, you are committed to concur with the design inference as it is actually presented — i.e. with your prior assumptions and biases set aside.

  215. 215
    critical rationalist says:

    @KF & UB

    KF wrote…

    CR, Locke and Newton both highlighted the known nature of one branch of reasoning, induction. If we neglect it, it will severely damage ability to operate in the world.

    Neglect it? Not only is induction not possible, but it’s undesirable. Many of the contents of our best, current theories didn’t come from empirical observations and simply do not take that form. For example, the evidence that space-time is curved wasn’t a picture of space-time, but a dot in one place, instead of another, on a screen. They are explanations about reality that no one has experienced. Nor did the contents of those theories did not come from observations. They came from conjectured arrangements and variations of the contents of our existing, best theories – which did not come from observations either, etc. So, none of the contents of our theories come from observations.

    Astrophysics is not primarily about us, in respect to what we will experience when we look into the sky, but about what stars are, in reality: their composition, what makes them shine, how they formed, etc., along with universal laws of physics under which all of that happened. The vast majority of which has never been seen or experienced by anyone. No one has experienced a light year, let alone a billion years or the Big Bang, which happened over 13 billion of years ago. Nor will anyone experience a law physics except in their mind, as a theory. Our predictions of what we will experience (how stars will look to us) are deduced from a long chain of independently formed unseen explanations about how the world works. Inductivism completely fails to account for how we can know about these things as separate from distinct lights in the sky.

    IOW, if anything will severely damage our ability to operate in the world, it would denying we can make progress in this way. And that’s exactly what you’re doing here.

    Another misconception of inductivism is that scientific theories predict the future (or the distant past) resembles the past, that the unseen resembles the seen (or probably will), etc. But, when we attempt to take this idea seriously for the purpose of criticism, we find the future is unlike the past and the unseen reality we conclude is responsible for it is very different than the seen. Science often predicts – and even causes the appearance of – phenomena that is drastically different than anything we’ve experienced before.

    For example, people dreamed of flying for thousands of years. But they experienced nothing but falling. What made the momentous change in what we experienced? People discovered good theories about flying. Then they flew. In precisely in that order. A nuclear-fission explosion had never been observed by a human being before 1945. In fact, there may have never been any such explosion in the entire universe. Despite this fact, the first explosion, along with the conditions under which it would occur, had been accurately predicted. Not based on the future would resemble the past, or even probably so, but on explanations about how the world works.

    UB wrote…

    CR, this is an ID blog. ID suggests that an act of intelligence can be empirically detected in the origin of life on earth. This is the claim that ID theorists attempt to answer. In order to validate the claim, there must be some measurable aspect of known intelligent processes found in the physical embodiment of living things.

    What do you mean by “intelligent processes” and what is your explanation as to how they bring about the physical attributes you are referring to? In the absence of an explanation, it’s unclear how you know only they can produce them. At best, you have an abstract authoritative source of knowledge. But that’s bad philosophy.

    UB wrote…

    To that end, science has documented the necessary physical conditions of semiotic systems – that is, systems that use information bound in physical memory to create functional effects. Science has documented that these systems are unique (and exclusively identifiable) among all other physical systems found in the cosmos. Science has shown that these systems are only related to living things.

    Science doesn’t “document” or “show” anything. That assumes there is some way to mechanically derive theories from observations. Again, that’s a mistaken idea about how science works.

    For example, if you look into a microscope, your not looking at the sample directly. What you’ve done is introduce equipment that will relay information about the sample according to a theory about how the equipment works. Specially, a good explanation is hard to vary. It constrains what parts you need and how they must be arranged to give you accurate information about the sample. You can’t replace a lens with, say, a cucumber and expect to see bacteria, right?

    IOW, one’s ability to setup equipment correctly to obtain evidence depends on having a good explanation for how that equipment works. So, an observation is always an explanation, even if it’s setting on a bench right in front of you.

    Without an explanation about how “intelligent processes” bring about symbols, it’s unclear how they can be the only source of them. What you’re left with is just induction: every “symbol” we’ve observed was correlated to “intelligent processes”. Thats simply bad philosophy. In addition, I’ve referenced a deeper, universal explanation for knowledge, including the knowledge in biological organisms, that does not require a knowing subject and references to a theory of information that resolves the circularity in Shannon’s theory in regards to distinguishability, which you seem to be eluding to in regards to symbols that mediate gene expression, etc.

    From the constructor theory of information…

    Although it includes conjectured laws of physics that are directly about information, independently of the details of particular physical instantiations, it does not regard information as an a priori mathematical or logical concept, but as something whose nature and properties are determined by the laws of physics alone. It does not suffer from the circularity at the foundations of existing information theory (namely that information and distinguishability are each defined in terms of the other).

    What theory of information are you referring to, Shannons? And, if not any particular theory then, again, it’s just induction, which is based on what we experience. See above.

    UB wrote..

    So to answer your question, ID theorists claim that the origin of the genetic translation apparatus — underlying all of biology – is best explained as the product of intelligent action. Moreover, the ID claim about detecting a universal correlate of intelligent action in biology has been validated by physics, using the scientific method. Indeed, the observations that fundamentally support the claim are not even controversial.

    The genetic translation apparatus is constructed anew during each copy, when requisite knowledge is present in the cell. It does not phone home to some remote source to determine what transformations to perform. Nor do they just spontaneously appear when the cell is copied. The origin of that knowledge is the origin of the translation apparatus and the rest of the organism’s features. That knowledge is what needs to be explained. Merely saying a designer just copied that knowledge there when creating a cell merely pushes the problem up a level without solving it.

    Again, I wrote…

    For example, I’d like to design a drug to cure cancer. However, regardless of what intention or purpose I had in formulating any such drug, it would only actually cure cancer if the necessary knowledge of what transformations of matter required to do so were actually present in it when administered. My mere desire, enthusiasm or benevolent intent are insufficient to actually cure cancer. Right? So, it’s unclear why knowledge is “not necessary with regards to a designer” and biological organism.

    UB wrote…

    You place a paradox in front of you that is of your own making. It is not a necessary conclusion drawn from interpreting the physical evidence; it is a paradox under your prior assumptions and biases.

    This is what I mean when I say induction is impossible. Specifically, when you claim ID is a necessary scientific conclusion, you’re supposedly just practicing induction. Yet, when I try to take that seriously, for the purpose of criticism, I’m just making a unnecessary, biased interoperation of evidence. Every designer we’ve observed has been a complex, knowledge laden entity that is well designed to serve the purpose of designing things. That’s what information is. Matter that is well adapted.

    Portraying designers as mere authoritative sources of knowledge ignores what we know about designers. It ignores your own arguments about information, except when it suites your purpose. It ignores the role that knowledge plays in design and in biology. Any designer would have the appearance of design, which is the very thing that needs to be explained. If you don’t have a hard to vary role as to how “Intelligent processes” result in knowledge, then it’s unclear how you know it couldn’t be genuinely created though variation and selection

    If you assume knowledge only comes from authoritative sources then, of course, Neo-Darwinism cannot be the source of that knowledge because it’s not an authoritative source. But that’s bad philosophy.

  216. 216

    Science doesn’t document !!!
    Put a pickle in a microscope !!!

    Good grief, cr, you are reduced to bafflegab.

    1520 words and you still refuse to address the central claim that ID is based on.

    Just speak the words, cr, if you can.

    Can you do it? Can you answer the question straight up?

    What is the central claim that biological ID seeks to support?

    You are never going to detangle yourself until you get it right.

    (hint: the answer is in #212)

  217. 217

    Prediction: Hell will freeze over

  218. 218
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    What is the central claim that biological ID seeks to support?

    I quoted from #212, then make relevant criticisms based on that claim, such as your appeal to the scientific method, etc.

    Your response? A word count and vague claim that I was supposedly reduced to “bafflegab”. Neither of which is a response to my points. And you’re not impressed?

    Again, what theory of information are you implicitly referring to? it’s unclear why you think something so critical to ID doesn’t need a theory. Apparently, it’s just “obvious” and everyone knows. But things only seem obvious, after the fact. And, when better explanations are presented, they suddenly don’t anymore. One way explanations are better is that they explain more phenomena and unify what was once considered separate.

    Furthermore, the mechanism you refer to is constructed anew when the cell makes a copy of itself. Those transformations occur when the requisite knowledge is present there, as opposed to phoning home to some designer. So, that’s what needs to be explained.

    Again, in the absence of an explanation, what you have is induction. Namely, information has been experienced in conjunction with intelligent agents. But despite being intelligent, I cannot design a drug that cures cancer, regardless of how much I want too. Cancer cells would only be destroyed (a transformation of matter) when the requisite knowledge is present in the drug. What’s key is knowledge.

    Human designers are well adapted in that they posses knowledge in physical form. When human beings become less adapted, due to some kind of accident, for example, they perform that purpose less well, if event at all. A human designer that designed organisms would do so because they are we adapted to serve the purpose of designing organisms.

    Some designer that “just was”, complete with the knowledge of just the right transformations of matter to perform, already present (already well adapted), doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared” complete with the knowledge of what transformations to preform, already present (spontaneously well adapted).

    And, of course, ID doesn’t want to actually explain anything. Its designer must remain abstract and without limitations because, otherwise, your preferred designer couldn’t have done it. So, it must remain merely an authoritative source of knowledge, which is bad philosophy.

  219. 219

    UB:
    Good grief, cr, you are reduced to bafflegab.
    1520 words and you still refuse to address the central claim that ID is based on.
    Just speak the words, cr, if you can.
    Can you do it? Can you answer the question straight up?
    What is the central claim that biological ID seeks to support?

    Hell will freeze over.

    CR:

    I quoted from #212, then make relevant criticisms …
    Again, what theory of information …
    Furthermore, the mechanism …
    Again, in the absence …
    Human designers …
    Some designer …
    And, of course …

    Chilly.

  220. 220

    …the mechanism you refer to is constructed anew when the cell makes a copy of itself. Those transformations occur when the requisite knowledge is present there, as opposed to phoning home to some designer. So, that’s what needs to be explained.

    Unfortunately, you’re serious.

  221. 221

    Some designer that “just was”, complete with the knowledge of just the right transformations of matter to perform, already present (already well adapted), doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared” complete with the knowledge of what transformations to preform, already present (spontaneously well adapted).

    This is why you need to answer the question I posed to you. The problem for you is that the moment you answer the question, all your justifications become irrelevant, and you are left in the position of agreeing with the argument you are trying so hard to defeat. This is the impetus for your bafflegab and the strength behind it.

  222. 222
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    Chilly.

    Unfortunately, you’re serious.

    This is the impetus for your bafflegab and the strength behind it.

    Do you have any actual criticism of what I wrote?

    This is why you need to answer the question I posed to you.

    Is the the answer not what I quoted and responded to? If not, then how am I supposed to know?

    Furthermore, I don’t have justifications. What I’m doing is attempting to take ID seriously for the purpose of criticism.

    Specifically, when I attempt to take ID’s claim seriously, in that a designer designed organisms, this would include the knowledge of what transformations of matter to perform when making a copy of those organisms. A designer that just copied that knowledge into organisms would itself had possessed that knowledge, which would make it well adapted as a storage medium from which the copy originated. It would be well adapted to serve the purpose of designing organisms. Also, ID fails to explain how the knowledge wound up in the designer in the first place. A designer that “just was”, complete with this knowledge, already present, doesn’t serve an explanatory purpose. This is because one could more efficiently state that organisms “just appeared” with that knowledge, already present.

    Without an explanation for how intelligence results in knowledge, it’s unclear why you think knowledge only comes from intelligent agents unless you’re appealing to induction. We’ve only experienced knowledge in conjunction with intelligent agents.

    However, taking ID seriously for the purpose of criticism doesn’t necessarily mean I think knowledge only comes from designers. In fact, unlike ID, I’ve already presented explanations for knowledge that ID does not.

    Again, I’m suggesting that knowledge is information that plays a causal role in being retained when embed in a storage medium. Nor is there just one kind of knowledge. Explanatory knowledge, which is only created by people, has significant reach. On the other hand, non-explanatory knowledge has limited reach. See #127.

    In fact, since this explanation suggests only people can conceive of problems, conjecture explanatory theories of how the world works to solve them, and criticize them, an indicator of design would be the discovery of explanatory knowledge in organisms. Yet, the knowledge we find it organisms is non-explanatory in that it has limited reach.

    Take Dawkins’ example of the laryngeal nerve in a Giraffe. If the knowledge of nerve routing in a Giraffe’s genome was explanatory, it could be employed to re-route the nerve so it didn’t go down its neck, around it’s heart and back up to its larynx. It would have reach beyond the rule of thumb that was merely useful for short necked ancestors before it.

    IOW, the claim that the laryngeal nerve in a Giraffe is “bad design” refers to the limited reach of non-explanatory knowledge reflected in it. So it’s not merely subjective. Our current, best explanation for the rapid growth of knowledge is the search for hard to vary, independently formed chains of explanatory theories. This is in contrast to useful rules of thumb. Yet, non-explanatory knowledge is what we find in organisms.

    So, it’s only through some kind of explanation for knowledge that ID could suggest that a specific kind of knowledge in organisms indicates design, in that our only explanation for it is people. Otherwise, we’re back to mere induction or the bad philosophical view that knowledge comes from authoritative sources.

  223. 223

    You did it again CR.

    You refuse to address a very simple question — even with the answer right in front of you (#212) — because answering the question makes your argument irrelevant.

    For the reasons already noted, you will continue to do so.

  224. 224
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    The answer to your question makes my criticism irrelevant if I type it in into a comment on a blog?

    But that makes no sense. A good argument is independent of its source or who makes it. So, you don’t need me. Right?

  225. 225

    It is interesting to watch someone who simply cannot put the words together. What does it say about your counter-arguments that you can’t even state the thing they are intended to criticize?

  226. 226
    critical rationalist says:

    Can’t put the words together? I’m just being consistent, UB.

    Again, we start out with a problem to solve, conjecture solutions and criticize them. This includes the problem of what your argument actually is. IOW, it’s always possible to misunderstand someone because we always have to interpret them. That always comes first.

    So, I’ve quoted you, then presented relevant criticisms of what I think your argument is. I expect it to contain errors to some degree because we start out with a guess. There is no way to extrapolate or derive directly from experience.

    Your response? Claim that I “refuse to address the central claim that ID is based on.” It’s unclear how that helps me correct errors in my interpretation. Apparently, it’s obvious and I just refuse to acknowledge it. (Which sounds oddly like the idea that we all know God exists, and are without excuse)

    How do we make progress? I guess then, based on feedback, I vary my guess, etc. It’s a process. Look though my comments. I’ve made several attempts to clarify what I think your argument is (#150, #158, #207) Merely claiming I’ve got it wrong and suggesting it’s somewhere in #212 doesn’t help. I’ll ask again: did I quote the wrong part? If so, what is the right part? How is the lack of a theory of information not relevant if the central claim of ID is based on information? Effectively saying “You got it wrong” doesn’t address that, either.

    Again, apparently, that’s just not necessary because it’s all obvious and I’m just avoiding the issue. (That’s yet another conjecture, in case you didn’t recognize it)

  227. 227

    CR,

    Biological ID claims that an act of intelligence can be empirically detected in the origin of life on earth. I keep trying to bring you back around to it, because nothing you’ve presented even makes a dent in that claim (i.e. your criticisms have no impact on the observations that support the claim, they are irrelevant to those observations).

    And as far as the claim itself, it has already been validated by physics — about half a century ago.

  228. 228
    critical rationalist says:

    UB,

    You’ve just repeated what I already quoted in #215. It’s unclear how this is helpful. Nor does it address any of the questions or criticisms I presented there.

    For example, its unclear how the specific role empirical evidence plays in science is not relevant to the claim that something can and has been “empirically detected” in the origin of life. Nor is it clear what in organisms you are referring to and how it is explained by “an act of intelligence”

    “they are irrelevant to those observations” is not an argument, It’s an assertion. It’s irrelevant because?

    As for being supposedly having been “validated by physics — about half a century ago”, I assume you’re referring to this?

    To that end, science has documented the necessary physical conditions of semiotic systems – that is, systems that use information bound in physical memory to create functional effects. Science has documented that these systems are unique (and exclusively identifiable) among all other physical systems found in the cosmos.

    Again, this seem to be a reference to information theory, which is why I keep asking for the specific theory your claims are based on. Again, why is this not reinvent? Apparently you think it is not necessary because it’s somehow obvious to everyone else. After all, you seemed to think it would become obvious to me if I just typed ID’s premise into a blog comment.

    Science has shown that these systems are only related to living things.

    You’ll have to unpack what you mean by “related to” as well. It’s unclear how this gets you to “an act of intelligence” in organisms.

    There are symbols in organisms therefore they were designed by an intelligent agent? There is information inside organisms therefore they were designed by an intelligent agent? But, again, without an explanation for how intelligence results in knowledge, it’s unclear how you know that only intelligent agents are the only source of it.

    I.E. present an explanation for knowledge, which is X, Y and Z. Then point out that evolution doesn’t fit that explanation. Otherwise, you’re just appealing to induction in that Information is always experienced with intelligent agents and the future (or the distant past) resembles the recent past. But the future is unlike the past in a vast number of ways, many of which you ascribe to.

    For example, we’ve always experienced intelligence with complex material nervous systems. So, if you’re just “following the evidence”, you should conclude that all designers would have them as well. Yet, when I point this out, you claim it’s just bias on my part.

    However, I’m not just appealing to induction. The very explanations about information you’ve indirectly appealed to, such as how it is stored, etc, indicates that our explanation for designed things is that the knowledge required was present there. They possess the knowledge of what transformations of matter are necessary. They are well adapted for the purpose of designing things. It’s unclear how being well adapted to serve a purpose can be the explanation for being well adapted to serve a purpose.

    Furthermore, a designer just copying that knowledge from one place to anther doesn’t explain how the designer possessed that knowledge in the first place. If that is the key factor in an organism’s features, including it’s self replicating ability, then the origin of those features is that knowledge. Right?

    If a designer didn’t posses that knowledge, yet it ended up in organisms it created, that would be the spontaneous creation of knowledge. And saying a designer just was, complete with that knowledge, doesn’t actually improve the problem. You’ve just pushed it up a level into an inexplicable mind that exists in an inexplicable realm that operates in via inexplicable means and methods. Neither of these two explain the origin of that knowledge. At best, you have a authoritative source of knowledge which is bad philosophy.

    This is in contrast to neo-Darwinism, which says that the knowledge in organisms was actually created over time through variation and selection. It genuinely grows in that it did not exist before, becoming more and more accurate over time.

  229. 229
    critical rationalist says:

    It is interesting to watch someone who simply cannot put the words together.

    What is the origin of the knowledge in biological organisms? I keep trying to bring you back around to it, because nothing you’ve presented inidcates it’s even on your radar as a genuine problem to be solved or that it’s relevant to the issue at hand.

  230. 230

    CR, I am just now seeing that you returned with a response. I’ll be brief.

    #1 ID claims that a universal correlate of intelligent action can be detected in the origin of life on earth. It’s the only life we know of, and the only life we can even hope to explain. (In other words, we cannot explain life that we’ve never experienced, possibly existing somewhere, in a place that we know nothing about).

    Yet, when ID presents concrete universal evidence of an intelligent act in the origin of life on earth (i.e. evidence of the type that neither you nor anyone else can reasonably argue against), you then move the goalposts and demand that ID must explain ultimate causes instead. Hello?

    This is a defensive maneuver, which you refuse to give up, and you will continue to do so (regardless of the fact it’s hopelessly illogical). Hello?

    #2 You want to attribute the “knowledge” in the cell to evolution (i.e. a physical process of variation and selection; continually compiling and polishing the arrangement of a medium of information).

    However, evolution requires a very special type of physical system in order to exist in nature (meaning that it requires a known threshold of organization in order to function). Physicists have thoroughly studied this necessary system, and have related it directly to the material laws that govern nature. And they have determined that the only other place that such a system can be found (anywhere else in the cosmos) is in written language and mathematics – two universal correlates of intelligence. Hello?

    So what we have here, is that you first deny ID evidence by strategically moving the goalposts –then– you turn around attribute the origin of life to a cause that requires the very system that ID advocates present as necessary for life. In other words, you attribute life to a cause that requires the very thing it is intended to explain, which is obviously a non-starter. If A requires B to exist, then A cannot be the source of B.

    In response, of course, you will refuse all of this. And the beat goes on…

  231. 231
    critical rationalist says:

    First, it’s unclear how something as vague as “intelligent action” can be detected in the very thing that is in question (the origin of life). Especially since we use the unseen to explain the sceen.

    Specifically, how does intelligent action result in symbols? What would that even mean?

    Furthermore, the last time I checked, it’s a fallacy of logic to assume that correlation equals causation or a specific direction.

    From the Wikipedia article on correlation and dependence.

    In statistics, dependence or association is any statistical relationship, whether causal or not, between two random variables or bivariate data. Correlation is any of a broad class of statistical relationships involving dependence, though in common usage it most often refers to the extent to which two variables have a linear relationship with each other. Familiar examples of dependent phenomena include the correlation between the physical statures of parents and their offspring, and the correlation between the demand for a product and its price.

    Correlations are useful because they can indicate a predictive relationship that can be exploited in practice. For example, an electrical utility may produce less power on a mild day based on the correlation between electricity demand and weather. In this example, there is a causal relationship, because extreme weather causes people to use more electricity for heating or cooling. However, in general, the presence of a correlation is not sufficient to infer the presence of a causal relationship (i.e., correlation does not imply causation).

    IOW, it’s unclear how human beings discovering that symbols can be useful implies that organisms were designed.

    So, if corrections do not imply causation, then the goal of ID is making useful predictions that can be exploited in practice? What might those be?

    And how would that differ from or be incompatible with the theory that knowledge in organisms grows via variation and selection? Specially, knowledge plays a casual role in being retained when emended in a storage medium. it solves a problem. That’s not random.

    So what we have here, is that you first deny ID evidence by strategically moving the goalposts –then– you turn around attribute the origin of life to a cause that requires the very system that ID advocates present as necessary for life. In other words, you attribute life to a cause that requires the very thing it is intended to explain, which is obviously a non-starter. If A requires B to exist, then A cannot be the source of B.

    You wouldn’t happen to be referring to the idea that accurate reproduction is not part of the default tool kit of physics and that is a problem for evolution? That was addressed in an entire paper, which you supposedly read and indicated was irrelevant for reasons which you have yet to elaborate on.

  232. 232
    Origenes says:

    CR: First, it’s unclear how something as vague as “intelligent action” ….

    Vague? Post #231 is the result of your “intelligent action”. How “vague” is that?

    CR: … can be detected in the very thing that is in question (the origin of life).
    Especially since we use the unseen to explain the sceen.

    Have you never seen “intelligent action”?

    CR: … correlation does not imply causation.

    Which is an important message to those who try to bolster their naturalism with neuroscience — not so for ID.

    CR: Specifically, how does intelligent action result in symbols? What would that even mean?

    Look at post #231 ….

    CR: … it’s unclear how something as vague as “intelligent action” can be detected in … the origin of life.

    THE ONLY KNOWN CAUSE

    Both philosophers of science and leading historical scientists have emphasized causal adequacy as the key criterion by which competing hypotheses are judged. But philosophers of science have insisted that assessments of explanatory power lead to conclusive inferences only when there is just one known cause for the effect or evidence24 (see Fig. 17.3) in question. If there are many causes that can produce the same effect, then the presence of the effect does not definitively establish the cause. When scientists know of only one cause for a given effect, however, they can infer that cause and yet avoid the fallacy of affirming the consequent—the error of ignoring other possible causes with the power to produce the same effect.25 In that case, they can infer or detect a uniquely plausible past cause from the clues that are left behind.
    This can happen in one of two ways. First, historical scientists might focus their investigation on a single fact (in isolation) for which only one cause happens to be known. In such a case, they can quickly and decisively infer the cause from the effect alone—without risk of affirming the consequent, because no other known cause produces the same effect. For example, because a volcanic eruption is the only known cause of a volcanic ash layer, the presence of such a layer at an archeological site strongly indicates the prior eruption of a volcano.
    In other cases where historical scientists encounter evidence for which there are many known causes, they will often broaden their investigation beyond an initial fact or set of facts. In such cases, they will use the strategy described above (as part of the method of multiple competing hypotheses), by looking for additional evidence until they find a piece for which there is only one known cause. They can then compare the explanatory power of the competing hypotheses. Using this strategy, historical scientists will choose the proposed cause with the demonstrated power to produce all the relevant evidence, including the new fact or piece of evidence for which there is only one known cause. For example, the discovery of the symmetrical pattern of ocean-floor magnetism on opposite sides of a mid-oceanic ridge allowed for a comparison of the explanatory power of the three hypotheses under consideration, leaving only seafloor spreading as a causally adequate explanation of all the relevant facts.
    Such an approach often allows historical scientists to pick out a piece of evidence (from some combination of effects) for which there is only one known (or theoretically plausible) cause, thus making it possible to establish a past cause decisively. Though this strategy involves looking at a wider class of facts than the first strategy, the logical status of the inferences involved is the same. In each case, the presence of a fact (either standing on its own or in combination with other facts) for which only one cause is known allows historical scientists to make a definitive inference about the causal history in question without committing the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Logically, if a postulated cause is known to be a necessary condition or cause of a given event or effect, then historical scientists can validly infer that condition or cause from the presence of the effect. If it’s true that where there is smoke there is always first fire, then the presence of smoke wafting up over a distant mountain range decisively indicates the prior presence of a fire on the other side of the ridge.
    [Stephen C. Meyer, ‘Darwin’s Doubt’, Ch.17]

    However, evolution requires a very special type of physical system in order to exist in nature (meaning that it requires a known threshold of organization in order to function). Physicists have thoroughly studied this necessary system, and have related it directly to the material laws that govern nature. And they have determined that the only other place that such a system can be found (anywhere else in the cosmos) is in written language and mathematics – two universal correlates of intelligence.
    [Upright Biped]

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