Intelligent Design

Another Question for Matzke

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Dear Nick,

We’ve had this exchange:

Barry Arrington: “If you came across a table on which was set 500 coins (no tossing involved) and all 500 coins displayed the ‘heads’ side of the coin, would you reject ‘chance’ as a hypothesis to explain this particular configuration of coins on a table?”

Mark Frank: “. . . they might have slid out of a packet of coins without a chance to turn over.”

Sal Cordova: “Which still means chance is not the mechanism of the configuration.”

Matzke: “Not really.”

Now Central Scrutinizer suggests:

If I were a software engineer commissioned to write the best random number generator possible, and after I delivered my product, the first set of results that my customer obtained were the first 500 digits of Pi, my customer would demand his money back.

Do you believe Mr. Scrutinizer’s customer would have just cause to be dissatisfied? After all, the chance of Scrutinizer’s random number generator spitting out that 500 digit sequence is precisely the same as the chance it would spit out any other 500 digit sequence.

11 Replies to “Another Question for Matzke

  1. 1
    Querius says:

    You see, each coin molecule MUSTA been like a tiny coin with two sides. As its crystal lattice MUSTA grown, the coins in the lattice MUSTA gotten larger and more numerous. There’s a 50-50 chance that the coin molecule started as a “heads” and all the other coins would have followed deterministically.

    There.

    Problem solved.

    Science triumphs once again!

    Put it in a textbook and we’re done.

    -Q

  2. 2
    Joe says:

    Well what if the customer didn’t recognize Pi and restarted the RNG to see what came next?

    Also what packet of coins has all the coins facing the same way? Never seen it, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t done such a thing.

  3. 3
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Joe: Well what if the customer didn’t recognize Pi and restarted the RNG to see what came next?

    That’s a different question. Obviously, the customer wouldn’t care if they didn’t notice. The point of the OP, and my original statement on the other thread, is that if the output corresponds to a highly specific special number, such as Pi, how would one view that occurrence?

    Darwinist ideologues like to point out that “all numbers have an equal chance of output” from a random source, which is entirely true. However, there are special numbers and special sequences which are highly specific and meaningful in advance. This is obviously germane to the issue of OOL, and evolution with regards to things like protein domains, where extremely (and equally) unlikely yet highly specific, special events have occurred to produce the effect.

    If a supposedly random number generator produced the first 500 digits of Pi, wouldn’t the first question be: how can this possibly be? The rat has a strong odor. No sane person would believe it was random.

  4. 4
    PaV says:

    CS:

    We hear all the time from the Darwinists who keep telling us that the probability of any sequence of numbers generated by the toss of a coin, the rolling of dice, or any other chance mechanism is independent of all else, and, so, the odds of rolling a particular sequence of numbers with one particular die is ONE!

    The Darwinists apparently get this, as best I can determine, from Mark Perakh, who writes about this in his book, Unitelligent Design. I read this book somewhat extensively this past summer, and have been threatening to write a post on it. Perakh can be shown to be wrong in what he says, and, in one particular instance, it appears he was downright deceitful.

    With that introduction, let me say this:

    My first thought was: “Oh, yeah. The odds of any particular sequence–a la Perakh–is ONE.” This is a truism born from the fact that the only thing getting in the way of the sequence of rolls is the actual action of rolling the die, and nothing more. The sequence anyone rolls is non-referential.

    But thinking it through some more, the fact is that the odds of generating 500 base 10 digits sequentially, which match some pre-determined referential pattern, is hugely astronomical.

    The example you give is tantamount to the very example Dembski uses/gives in his book: NFL, where he likens it to the SETI people receiving a pattern of the first 100 numbers in ASCII code (IIRC). It’s the same principle.

    Where Perakh is completely wrong, and where all of his proselytes are wrong, yet smugly certain that Perakh knows better than everyone, including Behe and Dembski, is that what ID design says is that every such sequence only has a probability if a “pattern” is perceived. The probability of the sequence, or improbability, if you like, is completely determined by how the sequence is derived; but, it only has said probability/improbability if a “pattern” is either seen, or looked for ahead of time, otherwise the probability of the sequence is ONE!

    IOW, the ODDS of selecting a particular lottery number is 1. You just do it–nothing will get in your way. But picking the actual “winning” lottery number is in the ‘one in the billions.’

    The Darwinist retort: “Oh, but somebody always wins.” Well that’s true. But, let’s think of things this way: as it is now run, the lottery picks the numbers on a particular date; all lottery picks have to be submitted ahead of time. But the only reason it is run this way is because humans can’t be trusted. So, let’s run the lottery this way: I pick six numbers between 1 and 59. Then I hold onto these numbers and let everyone select their individual lottery picks. Then, after 30 million picks have been made, I make known the numbers. The odds work in the very same way in both instances. Yet, it is clear that in the latter case, the ODDS of getting the right number are 1 in 31 million (or whatever the actual number is), plain and simple.

    So, in the given example, it is just as you wrote in your response:

    This is obviously germane to the issue of OOL, and evolution with regards to things like protein domains, where extremely (and equally) unlikely yet highly specific, special events have occurred to produce the effect.

  5. 5
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    Pav: The Darwinist retort: “Oh, but somebody always wins.”

    And the Darbot is right: somebody always does win.

    However…

    What if the person “who wins”, wins three royal flushes in a row in a poker game?

    The specifity of the situation demands an answer.

    We don’t live in a world of merely random numbers. We live a world were there are certain special numbers. And when they “hit” they must be JUSTIFIED. Like three royal flushes in a row.

    Darbots seems to have no understanding of this.

    They don’t seem to understand that it’s complexity AND specificity. Randomness landing on a narrow space. Over and over. The rat stinks.

  6. 6
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    I have a scientific prediction:

    Matzke won’t reply…

    For obvious reasons

  7. 7
    PaV says:

    central scrutinizer:

    You have completely misunderstood my post, if you think I’m a Darbot.

    Try actually reading it—top to bottom.

  8. 8
    CentralScrutinizer says:

    PaV, no, no, I wasn’t calling you a darbot. Good post.

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    CS:

    Sorry I misunderstood.

    Yes, they always leave out the ‘specificity’ part. I went round and round with Shallit about this years ago. I must say I was stunned that he had so little understanding of what is meant by “specification”. He certainly has the mathematical background. I think he simply chooses not to engage Dembski’s works seriously. He’s dismissive.

    But, you’re right. They all don’t get—or don’t want to ‘get’—the specification side of the whole thing.

    As I mentioned with Perakh, sure, the probability of any sequence is 1.0. But to “pre”-specify and then to await the pre-specified outcome introduces probabilities other than 1.0.

  10. 10

    Just to be clear, it is not necessary to “pre-specify” in the sense of identifying beforehand with specificity what we are looking for. True, that kind of situation would be an obvious example of specification in action, but the design inference does not depend on a “pre-specification”, rather on an “independent specification.”

    In other words, we can identify design and recognize a specification even if we didn’t know the specification up front. That happens all the time in forensics, archaeology, cryptography, language studies, reverse engineering, and (they hope someday) SETI.

    Anyway, just wanted to make sure when we talk about specification with ID critics that we don’t get trapped into the idea that the specification must be identified up front before we examine the artifact in question.

  11. 11
    PaV says:

    Eric Anderson:

    What I was attempting to do was to demonstrate the flaw in Darwinist’s thought relating to “complex” sequences. I did this via “pre-specification.” But, as I pointed out elsewhere with examples, what is needed is a “pattern” that, and I can’t remember the technical term Dembski uses for this, a “pattern” that is, as you say “independent,” meaning that the actual “pattern” exists outside of the mind of the person who perceives this “pattern.”

    To make my point regarding Perakh’s faulty criticism, I could have just as easily said that any sequence regarded simply as a sequence, and no more, is ‘independent’ of its ‘search space.’ That is, it’s no more than a sequence that has been generated in a fashion that involves chance mechanisms.

    However, if you analyze those ‘chance mechanisms,’ and develop from those mechanisms the related ‘search space’ of all possible configurations (permutations), then the likelihood of any particular sequence would be that particular sequence divided by the total number of permutations in the ‘search space.’ IOW, you can either look at a ‘search space’ (set) that contains ALL permutations, or you can simply look at a ‘search space’ that contains only ONE sequence (that is, you’re not interested in any particular sequence). In the second case, the probability that you’ll get your sequence is just ONE!—that is, if, for example, you roll a die six times, a sequence will emerge. Simple as that.

    ID says that if one can recognize a pattern after the fact in some object that is constructed from sub-objects containing a certain number of degrees of freedom, then the “improbability”of this ‘pattern’ is 1 over the number of degrees of freedom of each sub-object raised to the power of the number of sub-objects that combine to form the object itself.

    But to mimic something like this, all one has to do is to simply pick any kind of ‘pattern’ ahead of time (royal flush in your example) and then each sequence that develops is but “one” of the sequences contained in the “search space” (configuration space) of the degrees of freedom and sub-objects that produce the sequence.

    When dealing with Darwinists, this approach becomes necessary, simply because they don’t want to understand that which is really straight forward.

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