# Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System?

In a previous UD post I commented on an article by mathematician Granville Sewell, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A MathematicianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s View of Evolution.Ã¢â‚¬Â Since then Granville and I have corresponded and he forwarded a follow-up piece entitled, “Can Anything Happen in an Open System?

The essence of the thesis is as follows:

If an increase in order is extremely improbable when a system is closed, it is still extremely improbable when the system is open, unless something is entering which makes it NOT extremely improbable.

Here are some excerpts:

Critics of my Opinion piece, Ã¢â‚¬Å“A MathematicianÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s View of Evolution,Ã¢â‚¬Â have focused primarily on my first point, which deals with the question of whether or not major evolutionary improvements can be built up through many minor improvements. It is clear to me that they cannot, but this question is the traditional front on which most battles over Darwinism have been fought since 1859, and I did not imagine that my arguments would constitute the last word on this topic. I consider that the main point in my article was the second one.

…which is that the increase in order observed on Earth (and here alone, as far as we know) violates the laws of probability and the second law of thermodynamics in a spectacular fashion.

Evolutionists have always dismissed this argument by saying that the second law of thermodynamics only dictates that order cannot increase in an isolated (closed) system, and the Earth is not a closed system–in particular, it receives energy from the Sun. The second law allows order to increase locally, provided the local increase is offset by an equal or greater decrease in the rest of the universe. This always seems to be the end of the argument: order can increase (entropy can decrease) in an open system, therefore, ANYTHING can happen in an open system, even the rearrangement of atoms into computers, without violating the second law.

It requires only a modicum of common sense to see that it is extremely improbable that atoms should rearrange themselves into mammalian brains, computers, cars, and airplanes, even if the Earth does receive energy from the Sun. We will see that the idea that anything can happen in an open system is based on a misunderstanding of the second law; that order can increase in an open system, not because the laws of probability are suspended when the door is open, but simply because order may walk in through the door.

## 42 Replies to “Can ANYTHING Happen in an Open System?”

1. 1
Lurker says:

…not because the laws of probability are suspended when the door is open, but simply because order may walk in through the door

That’s the way I always understood it. Something with more order, more complexity, more potential must enter into the open system so that it can cause the open system to reverse it’s natural course of increasing entropy. What was that ‘something’ that caused this some 4 billion years ago?

2. 2
littlejon says:

Do we not have a bit of a problem arguing that “it requires only a modicum of common sense”? A point that has apparently eluded some of the best minds for over a century? No, not all, but I doubt millions of people worldwide have missed a “simple” knockdown argument…

3. 3
Scott says:

What was that Ã¢â‚¬â„¢somethingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ that caused this some 4 billion years ago?

AÃ‚Â massive influx of information from a telic entity.

Seems reasonable to me, at least.Ã‚Â

4. 4
jmcd says:

Order can obviously increase dramatically in an open system. We can see that most clearly in the formation of stars, solar systems, and galaxies. On pre-biotic Earth the chemical mixtures would have been many with some being quite complex. I would agree though that the jump to modern life seems to be an improbable leap, but given that we know so little about how life can be formed I cannot rule out natural causation as a possibility.

5. 5

Sewell is perfectly correct. The anti-evo argument from thermodynamics is really a knockdown argument. Also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organization. Because an input of energy can locally decrease entropy (neghentropy) but cannot create Complex Specified Information. Sand castles are usually destroyed by entropy but nobody ever saw a sand castle constructed by neghentropy!

6. 6
idnet.com.au says:

jmcd writes

“Order can obviously increase dramatically in an open system. We can see that most clearly in the formation of stars, solar systems, and galaxies.”

I see it differently.

Firstly the universe is not an open system.

Secondly life is not about increased “order”. life is about specified purposeful information.

The formation of galaxies and stars does not represent an increase in information.

7. 7
Doug says:

I am confused about entropy. Does entropy mean that chemical reactions need energy from outside of their system? For example mixing baking soda and vinegar does something different if there is no sun? Seems like the evos are trying to claim that random chemical processes created all of life from one tiny little assembly of amino acids and that those amino acids randomly self assembled due to natural chemical processes. That just seems like stretching your mind a little too far.

In terms of entropy, even the obvious hand of the designer needs to suspend it? No?

How do people build things if we can’t get around entropy? I’m just confused. I am trying to get educated but this one is hard for me to understand.

Thanks,
Doug

8. 8
idnet.com.au says:

Richard Dawkins is at it again.

“God is a delusion”, said one renowned ethologist and evolutionary biologist during a lecture at the Lied Center Monday night.

“Lied Center” now that is an appropriate venue!

http://www.kansan.com/stories/.....aker/?news

9. 9
DharmaBum says:

The wrong issue is being discussed here. The earth is not merely an open system, but a far-from-equilibrium system. The sun creates quite a thermal gradient, and there are various examples of dissipative structures “self-organizing” under such circumstances. Even without the sun, the gradients at hydrothermal and geothermal vents would be of great interest.

10. 10
Patrick says:

People on UD actually discussed far-from-equilibrium systems a while back, specifically the work of Ilya Prigogine.

11. 11
David vun Kannon says:

Sewell is still wrong.

Take as an example a system which is a volume of space containing hydrogen atoms. Some of the atoms collapse towards each other and form a star, which eventually goes supernova. In the process of exploding, it cooks up a lot of more complicated elements. The shock wave of the explosion causes the remaining hydrogen to collapse into a star and the more complex elements cooked up in the nova form a planet around the star.

As this system progresses through time, the average temperature of the whole system falls, even though some local parts of the system become temporarily quite hot and/or complex. In order to overbalance the books in favor of lower entropy, those local hotspots of complexity have to be set against an even larger amount of photons, neutrinos, etc. that are streaming out into the darkness.

By Sewell’s argument, it should not be possible to turn a thin scattering of hydrogen atoms into the iron that makes up this planet. Forget about life for a minute. If the argument can’t explain iron from hydrogen, it can’t explain much about the real world.

Even in a perfect gas that is slowly cooling from a gazillion degrees down to absolute zero over billions of years, there will be random fluctuations in which small local regions are hotter than average, and small local regions are colder than average. Sewell could calculate the distribution of such fluctuations and then attempt to see whether or not the fluctuation we live on fits that distribution or not.

12. 12
mattison0922 says:

I know I don’t participate in this forum much, but had to add my two cents.

Lurker Wrote:
“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the way I always understood it. Something with more order, more complexity, more potential must enter into the open system so that it can cause the open system to reverse itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s natural course of increasing entropy. What was that Ã¢â‚¬â„¢somethingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ that caused this some 4 billion years ago?”

Not exactly. A local decrease in entropy need only be accompanied by an increase in the entropy of the overall system.

As extant biological systems demonstrate, energy input in the form of radiant energy, energy in the form of gradients, and/or energy contained in chemical bonds is sufficient to drive the local decreases in entropy that occur in biological systems.

“Also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organization. Because an input of energy can locally decrease entropy (neghentropy) but cannot create Complex Specified Information. Sand castles are usually destroyed by entropy but nobody ever saw a sand castle constructed by neghentropy!”

No… no intelligent source of energy is required to decrease entropy in an open system, again, the sun is a perfect example of this. The formation of stars and planets, etc. is likely due to solely to the unintelligent forces of gravity, etc.

Sand castles are destroyed as a function of entropy, but the statement that you’ve never seen a sandcastle formed by negentropy isn’t exactly true either. When you see a sand castle constructed, what you see is a systemic increase in entropy (a person burning ‘fuel’ to build the castle), and the local decrease in entropy (the sandcastle).

Though it is true that this particular example only results from the input of intelligence. I have no problem with this, just talking about SLoT in general.

DharmaBum wrote:

“The wrong issue is being discussed here. The earth is not merely an open system, but a far-from-equilibrium system. The sun creates quite a thermal gradient, and there are various examples of dissipative structures Ã¢â‚¬Å“self-organizingÃ¢â‚¬Â under such circumstances. Even without the sun, the gradients at hydrothermal and geothermal vents would be of great interest.”

The importance of the sun is agreed upon and noted above. However, the issue of thermal energy is somewhat irrelevant. While it certainly is true that the thermal energy of the sun is important for life, it permits liquid water, etc., the really important factor for life seems to be the light energy, not the IR energy.

After all… at least to my knowledge, there is no ‘thermoautotrophic’ class of cellular nutrition.

In any case, the difference between heat energy and light energy is important. Heat energy is far to destructive to be used by living organisms. Light energy is one of the mechanisms of primary autotrophic metabolism, important to all categories of life, and what is really under consideration… that and chemoautotrophic metabolism.

In any case, the mechanisms that harness these forms of energy and result in the local entropy decreasing, dis-equilibrim maintaining entities we call cells, certainly deserve a more detailed explanation than we currently have with respect to origins.

13. 13
DaveScot says:

DvK

You miss Sewell’s point entirely. Gases contracting to form stars, supernovae, etcetera are not spectacularly improbable. They are inevitable consequences of the laws of physics and are not at all improbable. A computer forming out of base elements is spectacularly improbable and not an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics. Intelligence is required to organize matter into things like computers. Intelligence is not required to organize a hydrogen cloud into a star.

14. 14

Mattison0922 wrote: Ã¢â‚¬Å“NoÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ no intelligent source of energy is required to decrease entropy in an open system, again, the sun is a perfect example of this. The formation of stars and planets, etc. is likely due to solely to the unintelligent forces of gravity, etc. […] Sand castles are destroyed as a function of entropy, but the statement that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve never seen a sandcastle formed by negentropy isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly true either. When you see a sand castle constructed, what you see is a systemic increase in entropy (a person burning Ã¢â‚¬ËœfuelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to build the castle), and the local decrease in entropy (the sandcastle).Ã¢â‚¬Å“
Mattison0922, you entirely miss my point. When you see a sand castle constructed, what you see is a person burning Ã¢â‚¬ËœfuelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to build the castle BUT ALSO a person using his brain, i.e. his INTELLIGENCE to provide INFORMATION to DESIGN the castle. Fuel is not enough, also brain is needed. Energy has no brain.
As DaveScot rightly said, the formation of stars and planets, per se, doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need more CSI than that present in the natural laws. Energy can decrease entropy but cannot provide CSI. The equation entropy-decrease = CSI is dead WRONG. That equation is as to say that a decrease of temperature can generate the ShakespeareÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s opera. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the very reason why evolutionists fully misunderstand SLOT and wrongly believe in a spontaneous OOL.

15. 15
tribune7 says:

but given that we know so little about how life can be formed I cannot rule out natural causation as a possibility.

Possibility is fine. The problem comes when it is called a scientific certainty, and that those who hold to the far far far far more rational view that God did it are portrayed as gap-toothed, inbred anti-science luddites.

16. 16
mattison0922 says:

niwrad wrote: “Mattison0922, you entirely miss my point. When you see a sand castle constructed, what you see is a person burning Ã¢â‚¬ËœfuelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ to build the castle BUT ALSO a person using his brain, i.e. his INTELLIGENCE to provide INFORMATION to DESIGN the castle. Fuel is not enough, also brain is needed. Energy has no brain.”

I most definitely did not, miss your point.

It would appear however that you either missed mine or didn’t read my entire post. How did you miss the following:

“Though it is true that this particular example only results from the input of intelligence. I have no problem with this, just talking about SLoT in general.”

Which, IMO, very clearly indicates that I agree with your assessment re: sand castle construction and the requirement for intelligence… just trying to throw out a non-telic example of decreasing entropy.

This was written in response to your statement:
“Also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organization. ”

which is WRONG. An open system needs no intelligent source of information to increase organization. This is a misrepresentation of the SLoT.

I made no comment about CSI, so please don’t equivocate my statement above with stating that “entropy-decrease = CSI.” I’ve not done this and I don’t believe this.

From reading your post, one unfamiliar with SLoT and you, could get the impression that you believe information input from intelligence is a prerequisite for local decreases in etropy.

17. 17

Mattison0922 wrote: Ã¢â‚¬Å“This was written in response to your statement: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organization. Ã¢â‚¬Â which is WRONG. An open system needs no intelligent source of information to increase organization. This is a misrepresentation of the SLoT. I made no comment about CSI, so please donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t quivocate my statement above with stating that Ã¢â‚¬Å“entropy-decrease = CSI.Ã¢â‚¬Â IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve not done this and I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe this. From reading your post, one unfamiliar with SLoT and you, could get the impression that you believe information input from intelligence is a prerequisite for local decreases in entropy.

N.Wiener said: Ã‚Â«The amount of information in a system is a measure of its organization degreeÃ‚Â» (Cybernetics, Introduction). So the equation ORGANIZATION = CSI is true. Then you cannot say that is wrong my proposition: Ã¢â‚¬Å“also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â.

I think that our misunderstanding is about our different meanings of the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â. For you, entropy-decrease = organization meanwhile for IDers (and Wiener) ORGANIZATION = CSI. Ã¢â‚¬Å“OrganizationÃ¢â‚¬Â is a key word. In a sense we can say that entropy-decrease means order-increase but that Ã¢â‚¬Å“orderÃ¢â‚¬Â is NOT organization (in the sense of CSI).

If you agree that:
(1) sand castles are CSI and their construction need intelligence;
(2) entropy-decrease doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean CSI;
(3) energy can produce local entropy-decrease only and not CSI.
(4) a local entropy-decrease doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need intelligence
(6) thermodynamic Ã¢â‚¬Å“order-increaseÃ¢â‚¬Â is not CSI

then there are no real problems between us.

18. 18
DaveScot says:

Organization is not the same as complex specified information. You’re way off the mark. A snowflake is organized. It is also complex. But it isn’t specified.

19. 19
mattison0922 says:

“N.Wiener said: Ã‚Â«The amount of information in a system is a measure of its organization degreeÃ‚Â» (Cybernetics, Introduction). So the equation ORGANIZATION = CSI is true. Then you cannot say that is wrong my proposition: Ã¢â‚¬Å“also an open system needs an intelligent source of information to increase its organization.Ã¢â‚¬Â

Sorry, but I’m going to have continue to disagree with you about this point. Organization is not necessarily CSI; snowflakes are ordered, heck crystals in general are ordered, and their organization is distinctly not due to CSI. Crystal formation doesn’t need an intelligent source of information to happen, and is undeniably a decrease in entropy.

I think that our misunderstanding is about our different meanings of the word Ã¢â‚¬Å“organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â. For you, entropy-decrease = organization meanwhile for IDers (and Wiener) ORGANIZATION = CSI. Ã¢â‚¬Å“OrganizationÃ¢â‚¬Â is a key word. In a sense we can say that entropy-decrease means order-increase but that Ã¢â‚¬Å“orderÃ¢â‚¬Â is NOT organization (in the sense of CSI).

I am more than a little familiar with the ID movement as a whole, and I was unaware that organization had adopted this particular meaning to the ID community. When did this happen? For me, and I would assume the vast majority of the scientific community, a decrease in entropy locally means less randomness, and hence more organization.

I can agree with you that order isn’t CSI, but my issue wasn’t with CSI, rather the general term ‘organization.’

As I mentioned, I was unaware that organization had adopted a specific meaning, and that ‘organization’ and ‘CSI’ were now going to be used interchangably by the ID community.

If you agree that:
(1) sand castles are CSI and their construction need intelligence;
(2) entropy-decrease doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean CSI;
(3) energy can produce local entropy-decrease only and not CSI.
(4) a local entropy-decrease doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need intelligence
(6) thermodynamic Ã¢â‚¬Å“order-increaseÃ¢â‚¬Â is not CSI

then there are no real problems between us.

I see no problems with any of these statements, and it’s likely we are both on the same page here.

20. 20
David vun Kannon says:

DS,
Sewell’s spectacularly improbable computer is relevant to a calculation like “what particles do I expect to see evaporating off of the event horizon of a black hole?” It’s not particulary relevant to a discussion of abiogenesis. Nobody I know of is arguing that DNA or RNA spontaneously formed directly from their constituent elements. That is a strawman argument.

Nobody is arguing that water flows uphill during abiogenesis. If chemicals are pumped uphill, it happens one photon at a time. Sewell can’t argue that chemicals are not pumped by photons. Nor can he argue that the result is occaisionally a (temporarily and locally) more organized chemical and a less energetic photon.

The big problem in abiogenesis is not the creation of interesting molecules, it is their persistence. That’s what Miller-Urey et seq. have taught us.

21. 21
DaveScot says:

DvK

Yes, the formation of a computer IS relevant to abiogenesis when it comes to asking what is required to generate complex specified information. A computer is an unlikely arrangement of matter that 2LoT works against even in an open system. In fact you could even bring all the components of a computer together, assemble them correctly, and it still wouldn’t do anything without the abstract complex specified information contained in the digitally encoded program instructions. 2LoT will work against those patterns forming. Add all the photons you want. Without intelligence you get nothing but a more energetic pile of junk. Similarly you could bring all the necessary components of a cell together in one place and without the digitally coded program instructions in the DNA molecule it won’t do anything and 2LoT will work against those patterns emerging. Add all the photons you want and you’ll still get nothing but a more energetic pile of junk.

What “Miller-Urey et seq.” actually taught us is that even in a contrived simulated natural environment you can’t get all the necessary polymer components to self-assemble, you can’t get them in high enough concentrations to assemble into more complex forms, and you can’t keep it stable enough so they don’t decompose. The chemistry just doesn’t work out. If you imagine otherwise you are sadly misinformed.

22. 22
DaveScot says:

DvK (fyi)

Prebiotic Chemistry and the Origin of the RNA World

Leslie E. Orgel
The Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, USA

Critical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Vol 39, Issue 2, 99-123
doi: 10.1080/10409230490460765

Conclusion
The inevitable conclusion of this survey of nucleotide synthesis is that there is at present no convincing, prebiotic total synthesis of any of the nucleotides. Many individual steps that might have contributed to the formation of nucleotides on the primitive Earth have been demonstrated, but few of the reactions give high yields of products, and those that do tend to produce complex mixtures of products. It should also be realized that any prebiotic synthesis of a nucleotide would yield a racemic product, not the biologically important D-nucleotide. Recent publications, particularly those of Zubay and his coworkers (cited above), suggest that the search for a convincing prebiotic synthesis of the nucleotides is not hopeless. However, the difficulties remain so severe that alternatives to the de novo appearance of RNA on the primitive Earth deserve serious consideration. The succeeding sections of this review, in addition to discussing possible routes to RNA from a hypothetical source of prebiotic nucleotides, will also consider other ways in which the RNA World could have appeared.

23. 23
David vun Kannon says:

DS,

Yes, that article is a good review of the state of the art and current problems in abiogenesis research. As Orgel concludes,

One must recognize that, despite considerable progress, the problem of the origin of the RNA World is far from being solved.

In relation to Sewell’s contention, Orgel’s many references to demonstrated pathways to important biotic and proto-biotic chemicals (at rates of a few percent to 50%) demonstrated that none of this is “spectacularly improbable”.

24. 24
DaveScot says:

DvK

You obviously read into the article what you wanted to read. Orgel concluded the problems are so severe in constructing plausible de novo pathway to an RNA World that we should start seriously looking for something else. And he doesn’t even begin to take up the problems with RNA “evolution” which is where the real complexity begins. The experimental chemistry to date doesn’t even work to get the building blocks of RNA all in one place in a way that complex polymers can form spontaneously.

25. 25

DaveScot and Mattison0922, I answer to both because you share the issue,
DaveScot wrote: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Organization is not the same as complex specified information. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re way off the mark. A snowflake is organized. It is also complex. But it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t specified.Ã¢â‚¬Â

If you want you can say that a snowflake is organized, but you yourself recognize that is a poor kind of organization (not CSI or very low CSI). In my opinion it would be more appropriated about crystals to speak of Ã¢â‚¬Å“orderÃ¢â‚¬Â instead of Ã¢â‚¬Å“organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â. In fact what Wiener considered was an higher kind of organization, which is perfectly equivalent to CSI. After all Ã¢â‚¬Å“organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â derives from Ã¢â‚¬Å“organÃ¢â‚¬Â that means a functional complex system. Wiener cybernetics deals with functional, information processing, complex systems. The order of a crystal is far from being equivalent to the organization of the cybernetic systems.

Moreover the applications of IDT to biology deal with organic systems even more complex than cybernetic ones. In both field we can speak of organization as synonyms of real CSI without exaggerating. Life needs an organization infinitely more CSIed than that of a crystal.

Properly a crystal cannot be defined as an organ and thus its Ã¢â‚¬Å“organizationÃ¢â‚¬Â Ã¢â‚¬â€œif any- is very poor and sure isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t a Ã¢â‚¬Å“cyberneticÃ¢â‚¬Â (and even less Ã¢â‚¬Å“biologicalÃ¢â‚¬Â) organization. In two words IMO order means less than organization and I would propose to equate the very organization with CSI. Doing so I think that all seems clearer, specially when we deal with thermodynamics.

What itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sure is that the order thermodynamically generated by an entropy decrease has really nothing to do with an increase of organization in the Wiener-IDT Ã¢â‚¬â€œ cybernetic, biological – sense, which is what matters herein.

The goal is to counter evolutionismÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s error of believing that energy can create ex abrupto the organization of life. Independently from the interpretation of the word organization we can be sure that the miraculous organization of life, which is eminently CSI at the highest level, cannot arise thermodynamically by mean of an entropy decrease. Between the formation of ice and the formation of a cell there is an oceanic gap of complexity. That was the correct argument from thermodynamics of Granville Sewell and I absolutely agree with him.

26. 26
DharmaBum says:

mattison0922:

In any case, the difference between heat energy and light energy is important. Heat energy is far to destructive to be used by living organisms. Light energy is one of the mechanisms of primary autotrophic metabolism, important to all categories of life, and what is really under considerationÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ that and chemoautotrophic metabolism.

Heat energy is far too destructive? I am confused by this. Chemoautotrophs of deep sea vents live in temperatures about 350 degrees Celsius. Although their energy comes directly from oxidation of inorganic molecules, rate of oxidation increases with temperature. Am I looking at this the wrong way?

In any case, it is not clear to me that the notion that living things are dissipative structures implies that they are thermoautotrophs.

27. 27
DharmaBum says:

DaveScot:

A snowflake is organized. It is also complex. But it isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t specified.

28. 28
David vun Kannon says:

DS,

Yes, Orgel did suggest looking at meteorite borne RNA, deep sea vents with a sulfur chensitry, and scaffolding solutions that might have supported simpler genetic systems. Those are all great suggestions. We have to keep working to solve the problem.

29. 29
David vun Kannon says:

DS,

Sorry my prevous comment was so short.

I _am_ reading that article as a glass half full, or perhaps three quarters full. Orgel makes clear that we’ve made tremendous strides in twenty years, since some of the earliest concrete suggestions were made. But he is pointing out that at-the-surface, open water models aren’t producing the results necessary to be convincing models, and other models are necessary.

That is expanding, not abandoning, the enterprise of abiogenesis research. It’s a wonderful time to be alive, to be able to watch great scientists like Orgel chip away at our ignorance and reveal something breathtaking about our world and ourselves.

30. 30
bFast says:

DaveScot:

A computer forming out of base elements is spectacularly improbable and not an inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.

Interesting truth. If the “law” crowd — Denton etc. — are to win this debate, then they must demonstrate, with a few new laws I am sure, that they have uncovered a set of laws which render the computer “inevitable”. Hmmm, I shift back in the direction of agency.

31. 31
DaveScot says:

DvK

Orgel et al are on a wild goose chase. I’m sure it will be a lucrative area for research grants for some time to come but ultimately it will come up short. I can think of little more breathtaking than discovering that life was designed.

There is zero CSI in snowflakes and other crystals. Snowflakes are complex but have no specification. Regular crystals are specified but are not complex. You don’t really have a good handle on CSI if you don’t understand that. A specification is an independently given pattern. A cubics crystal is specified (it adheres to the independently given pattern of a cube) but a cube isn’t complex. A snowflake has a complex shape but adheres to no independently given pattern. A gene is complex specified information. It is complex and adheres to the independently given pattern of the genetic code. Once something meets the criteria for CSI then one can examine probalistic resources available to form the pattern. Determining PR is the most difficult step in a design inference as it cannot be proven that all probalistic resources are known (lack of evidence is not proof of lack). However, one can become more confident that all possibilities are accounted for at some point and a tentative conclusion may be warranted. If the probability of the pattern emerging by unintelligent means is less than the universal probability bound (1 in 10^150) then according to Dembski a design inference is warranted.

32. 32
DaveScot says:

DharmaBum

A specification in CSI is an independently given pattern. The snowflake patterns you linked were not given independently but taken from observation of actual snowflakes. The pattern must be independently given and these are not independent of snowflakes.

33. 33
DharmaBum says:

DaveScot:

There is zero CSI in snowflakes and other crystals. Snowflakes are complex but have no specification. Regular crystals are specified but are not complex. You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really have a good handle on CSI if you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand that. A specification is an independently given pattern.

Much of what you say about CSI has been superceded, if not obsoleted, by “Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence.” The notion of an independently given pattern was always vague, and I cannot find it anywhere in the paper. CSI is

Ãâ€¡ = Ã¢â‚¬â€œlog_2[ 10^120 Ã‚Â· Ãâ€ _S(T) Ã‚Â· P(T|H)].

See the paper for what the factors mean. It is highly unlikely that there is zero CSI in any entity.

If the probability of the pattern emerging by unintelligent means is less than the universal probability bound (1 in 10^150) then according to Dembski a design inference is warranted.

No, when Ãâ€¡ > 1, a design inference is warranted, and pattern T is called a specification. Note that the bound in the definition of Ãâ€¡ is 10^120, not 10^150, and that it is not really a probability bound, because it gives a threshold above which the product of specificity and “complexity” (probability) must rise.

The snowflake patterns you linked were not given independently but taken from observation of actual snowflakes.

The S in Dembski’s equation is a semiotic agent that uses its background knowledge to designate the pattern T. There is no restriction that the agent cannot have acquired background knowledge through observations of similar phenomena in the past. Furthermore, all that matters in a design inference is that one semiotic agent S be able to supply a specification.

Now if we observe a new snowflake and determine that it matches one of the 35 patterns, and we do not understand the physical process of snowflake formation well enough to give a detailed causal account (i.e., make P(T|H) non-small), then Ãâ€¡ will exceed 1 and we will draw a design inference.

It’s essential that you read the paper. CSI is not what it used to be.

34. 34
Douglas says:

“People on UD actually discussed far-from-equilibrium systems a while back, specifically the work of Ilya Prigogine.”

Where? I’ve searched on “Prigogine” and “far from equilibrium”, but haven’t found much (I don’t think).

35. 35
DaveScot says:

DharmaBum

No, nothing I said has been superceded. I read the paper you mentioned a year ago. You evidently need to read it again. I quote

To see this, it will help to understand what prompted this new treatment of
specification and specified complexity as well as why it remains in harmony with my past
treatment.

According to Dembski specification did not change in kind from the past as you asserted.

The first question a reader familiar with my past treatment of these concepts is likely to ask is
whatever happened to such key notions as detachability, conditional independence, tractability,
and universal probability bounds that in the past had characterized my account of specification.
They are still here, but they no longer need to be made explicit because of a fundamental
simplification to the account of specification that appears in this paper.

So you are also wrong in saying that detachability and independence are no longer part of specification. In the more recent paper Dembski calls it “prespecification” and says it must be part of any specification.

I reiterate that the snowflake patterns you provided are not independent. They were formed by observing snowflakes. They cannot be detached from snowflakes. A snowflake has zero CSI if it has zero specification.

36. 36
DharmaBum says:

DaveScot:

Rather than invoke Dembski’s authority in “Addendum 1: Note to Readers or TDI & NFL,” would you please show me in the paper itself the support for your claims?

By the way, the fact that Dembski says the new treatment is in “harmony” with earlier ones does not mean that it does not supercede earlier ones. He refers to “a fundamental
simplification to the account of specification that appears in this paper.” Why would this fundamental simplification not supercede past accounts?

If “such key notions as detachability, conditional independence, tractability, and universal probability bounds … no longer need to be made explicit,” and you read the paper a year ago, why are you still talking about them explicitly. That is, why have you not embraced the “fundamental simplification”? I think the paper is a huge improvement over NFL.

So you are also wrong in saying that detachability and independence are no longer part of specification.

First, I never said a thing about detachability. Second, show them to me in Section 6, “Specificity.”

In the more recent paper Dembski calls it Ã¢â‚¬Å“prespecificationÃ¢â‚¬Â and says it must be part of any specification.

Even in Addendum 1, Dembski says:

The simplification results from not demanding that the theory of specification do double-duty as also a theory of prespecification. […] By separating off prespecifications from specifications, the account of specifications becomes much more straightforward. With specifications, the key to overturning chance is to keep the descriptive complexity of patterns low. […] With prespecifications, by contrast, the descriptive complexity of patterns is irrelevant. […] Provided that a pattern delineates an event/target of small probability and provided that an event that exhibits the pattern occurs after the pattern itself has been explicitly identified, the pattern will constitute a prespecification and therefore be suitable for eliminating chance. This was the point of the conditional independence condition (i.e., patterns automatically satisfy this condition if they are identified prior to the events that exhibit these patterns).

Dembski clearly distinguishes prespecification (before an event) and specification (after an event), here and throughout the paper, and links the old conditional independence condition to prespecification. Again, if you can link conditional independence to specification in the body of the paper, please show me where. By the way, note that Dembski writes on page 15:

The key to defining specifications and distinguishing them from prespecifications lies in understanding…

DaveScot:

I reiterate that the snowflake patterns you provided are not independent. They were formed by observing snowflakes.

Reiteration gets us nowhere. My claim is that there is nothing in the treatment of specificity in Section 6 that precludes the semiotic agent S having knowledge of snowflake patterns. You can resolve this easily by showing me the restriction.

A snowflake has zero CSI if it has zero specification.

The phrase “zero specification” is meaningless. A specification is a kind of pattern (description), not a quantity. Specificity

ÃÆ’ = Ã¢â‚¬â€œlog_2[Ãâ€ _S(T)Ã‚Â·P(T|H)]

is zero if and only if the descriptive complexity Ãâ€ _S(T) is the reciprocal of the “complexity” P(T|H). This simply is not going to happen very often at all. But let’s say that ÃÆ’ = 0. Then CSI

Ãâ€¡ = Ã¢â‚¬â€œlog_2[ 10^120] + ÃÆ’ = Ã¢â‚¬â€œ398.6,

which is far from zero.

37. 37
DaveScot says:

DharmaBum

Rather than invoke DembskiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s authority in Ã¢â‚¬Å“Addendum 1: Note to Readers or TDI & NFL,Ã¢â‚¬Â would you please show me in the paper itself the support for your claims?

No, I won’t. I can’t quote a higher authority on a paper than the author himself in the same paper. Dembski explicitely said detachability and independence are still inherent in the newer presentation. Snowflake patterns derived from the observation of snowflakes is simply not independent of snowflakes. It’s dependent on snowflakes.

38. 38
kairos says:

IMHO Dave is right because of the presence of an obvious but implicit condition for the Ãâ€¡ formula
Ãâ€¡ = Ã¢â‚¬â€œlog_2[ 10^120 Ã‚Â· Ãâ€ _S(T) Ã‚Â· P(T|H)].
When the patterns under consideration do strictly refer to a given amount of previous observations (and this is the case for snowflake structures), in a certain sense recognizing that a new pattern matches is simply a tautology. So this does not constitute a specification at all.

39. 39
DaveScot says:

Maybe snowflakes that actually exhibit a detachable, independently given pattern will help DharmaBum distinguish between snowflakes whose pattern is that of a snowflake from snowflakes with a detachable pattern. In this example the foreknowledge of a semiotic agent is required to recognize the pattern but no foreknowledge of snowflakes is required.

http://tinyurl.com/ye4oto

40. 40
mattison0922 says:

DharmaBum Wrote (special emphasis by mattison0922:

Heat energy is far too destructive? I am confused by this. Chemoautotrophs of deep sea vents live in temperatures about 350 degrees Celsius. Although their energy comes directly from oxidation of inorganic molecules, rate of oxidation increases with temperature. Am I looking at this the wrong way?

In any case, it is not clear to me that the notion that living things are dissipative structures implies that they are thermoautotrophs.

Perhaps ‘too destructive’ is the wrong way to describe it. That cells require heat energy at least to keep water in a liquid state, and to permit biologically relevant reactions, is undeniable. Furthermore that certain extremophiles can tolerate such temperature extremes as those you cite is undeniably a remarkable adaptive feat.

In any case, the problem with heat energy is that there’s nothing to harness per se. It’s the final fate in some energies conversion to the ultimate state of entropy.

There’s no potential in heat to harness, thus heat is an inadequate souce of energy for biological systems to harness. Biologicals appear to require a source of energy that can be harnessed in an incremental or stepwise fashion. Heat doesn’t fit the bill.

I don’t believe I understand the relevance of your final paragraph. I wasn’t implying that these organisms are thermoautotrophs, rather pointing out that there is no thermoautotrophic class of organisms known. IOW heat, thus far, appears to be an inadequate source of energy to power biological reactions.

I bolded a highly relevant point in your quote above.

41. 41
DaveScot says:

Due to his refusing to recognize that snowflake patterns derived from looking at snowflakes is self-referential DharmaBum is no longer with us. He’s done wasting our time here.

42. 42
Patrick says:

http://search.yahoo.com/search.....8;ei=UTF-8

The 3rd link isn’t initially about Prigogine’s work but the discussion leads toward it. This quote from Prigogine from before he died is relevent:

Ã¢â‚¬Å“The results of my research in thermodynamics were to show that non-equilibrium systems may lead to complex structures. For a recent account, see my book Ã¢â‚¬Å“Modern Thermodynamics, From Heat Engines to Dissipative StructuresÃ¢â‚¬Â (D. Kondepudi and I. Prigogine, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, 1998). However, this is still far from a theory of biological evolution. To my knowledge, we have still not discovered the mechanisms, which lead to the remarkable adaptation between life, and environments, which we observe in nature.Ã¢â‚¬Â

On a side note, this discussion we’re now in has been “educational” since it shows how some ID opponents don’t even comprehend what they’re opposing.