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Jon Garvey on William Dembski’s Being as Communion

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Retired British doctor Jon Garvey wrote an interesting review some months back at Hump of the Camel of William Dembski’s Being as Communion:

Evolution, then, is legitimately viewed as an algorithmic search, which is agreed at least by those who produce evolutionary algorithms to simulate it. As is well known, Dembski utilized the then recently-proven “No Free Lunch” theorems to say that, when all factors are considered, no type of search is better than random search, including evolutionary searches.

More recently this led him to postulate a Law of Conservation of Information, or actually to consolidate the idea, first put forward by Nobel-prizewinner Peter Medawar in the 1980s. Medawar had shown, as others before him, that in mathematical and computational operations, no new information can be created, but new findings are always implicit in the original starting points – laws and axioms. Although Dembski doesn’t mention it, I’m interested how congruent Medawar’s Law is with what was argued by mathematicians at the infamous 1966 Wistar Conference (which he chaired), and which I mentioned here. He seems to have been persuaded. In that blog I quoted Kurt Gödel’s logical objection to Darwinian evolution: More.

So if we haven’t mentioned it, let me commend it now.

Lots of great thinkers have doubted Darwinism, which is, after all, a form of secular magic, and best understood as a cultural phenomenon. Tht is what makes it so powerful. People who know little science and care less know Darwin.

5 Replies to “Jon Garvey on William Dembski’s Being as Communion

  1. 1
    Jon Garvey says:

    Thanks for the plug, Denyse.

    Just to say that your link goes to the last of 8 posts I did on the book (cashing in on the fact that it came out here in UK even before the US). They start here.

  2. 2
    Jim Smith says:

    Very nice quote from Godel at the link. Thanks!

  3. 3
    Mung says:

    Evolution, then, is legitimately viewed as an algorithmic search, which is agreed at least by those who produce evolutionary algorithms to simulate it.

    Evolutionary algorithms are not simulations of evolution. However, evolutionary algorithms are search algorithms.

  4. 4
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Jim Smith @ 2 — thanks for highlighting that. One brief paragraph says it all.

  5. 5
    harry says:

    At the More link above:

    In that blog I quoted Kurt Gödel’s logical objection to Darwinian evolution:

    The formation in geological time of the human body by the laws of physics (or any other laws of similar nature), starting from a random distribution of elementary particles and the field is as unlikely as the separation of the atmosphere into its components. The complexity of the living things has to be present within the material [from which they are derived] or in the laws [governing their formation].
    As quoted in H. Wang.
    “On `computabilism’ and physicalism: Some Problems.” in Nature’s Imagination, J. Cornwall, Ed, pp.161-189, Oxford University Press (1995).

    Gödel’s argument is that if evolution is unfolding from an initial state by mathematical laws of physics, it cannot generate any information not inherent from the start – and in his view, neither the primaeval environment nor the laws are information-rich enough. In other words, either information must be added later, or some currently invisible front-loading would be necessary.

    If “the primaeval environment” and “the laws” were “information-rich enough,” that was no accident. Such front-loading of information could only be done by an intellect. Information added later would have to be added by an intellect. One could say, as many do, that we just “got lucky,” but is that rational?

    Suppose you were to come across a vacant parking lot covered with Scrabble pieces, and those Scrabble pieces were arranged such that an interesting mystery novel was spelled out. Maybe a helicopter hovered over the parking lot dumping out boxes of Scrabble pieces and they just happened to land that way. Maybe we just “got lucky.” But it is rational to assume that?

    Humanity was far more unlikely to have come about mindlessly and accidentally than it would be for such a parking lot mystery novel to come about that way. Beings capable of writing mystery novels are much more unlikely than a mindless, random composition of a mystery novel.

    If one would bet that the parking lot mystery novel was no accident, then why would one just assume the Universe and the life within it are mindless accidents?

    Science has to remain rational to remain true science.

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