# DrREC Wants to Play Poker

DrREC writes that the concept of “specification” is a tautology, because in determining if something is designed, ID proponents start from the assumption that it is designed.  He gives a poker example to illustrate his point:  “A straight flush is an interesting example – out of 2.6 million poker hands, there are 40 straight flushes.  Which is the specification – getting one of them, or any of them?  Or any hand better than your opponent’s?  Choosing the specification inserts a design assumption – that 1 of the flushes, or all of them are what was ‘specified.’”

Let’s take DrREC up on his challenge and consider what a design inference might mean in a poker game.  First, we need to consider what a search for “design” in poker even means.  To do this I will define a “fair game” as a game in which the cards are properly randomized (i.e., thoroughly shuffled) and properly dealt to the players in each hand.  In a fair game, by definition, the hand each player receives in each hand is completely random.  On the other hand, we are warranted in making a design inference ONLY if we find evidence that leads us to conclude that a player has received a hand or series of hands that are not random AND the cause of that deviation from randomness is the intentional acts of an agent (commonly called “cheating”).

Let’s look at the math.  DrREC is correct in at least two respects.  There are approximately 2.6 million five card poker hands (2,598,960 to be precise) and of those hands there are 40 combinations that result in a straight flush (including royal flushes, which some people consider a different hand).  This means that on any given hand the odds of being dealt a straight flush are 40/2,598,960 or 1/64,974.  Now those are pretty long odds, but they are well within the powers of simple chance.  And in fact this is verified by our experience.  We also know that players regularly receive straight flushes in fair games.

Therefore, using the explanatory filter to make a design inference based upon a player being dealt a single straight flush is not possible.  In other words, if all we know is that one player (let’s call him “Larry”) received one straight flush, we have no warrant to conclude that the null hypothesis (i.e., that it is a fair game) has been falsified.  We must conclude that the best explanation for this event is “chance.”

But that is not the end of the analysis.  Suppose on the very next hand Larry gets another straight flush.  What are the odds of that happening?  It is important to keep in mind that we are not talking about the odds of the single event.  If we look at each event independently, the odds for each event are the same (i.e., 1/64,974).  Failing to understand this leads to the ruin if many gamblers like a craps player betting on “12” because it is “due.”  On any given roll of the dice the odds of getting “12” are 1/36 whether “12” has not come up in an hour or it came up on the last roll.

This is not to say, however, that we cannot calculate the odds of a particular series of events.  Take a coin flip for example.  The odds of getting heads is ½ and the odds of getting tails is also ½.  This is true on any given flip.  But are the odds of getting three heads in a row also ½?  The answer is “no.”  The odds of a series of events is simply the odds of each of the events multiplied together.  Thus, the odds of getting three heads in a row is ½ X ½ X ½ = 1/8.

In the same way we can calculate the odds of Larry getting two straight flushes in a row.  Those odds are  1/64,974 X  1/64,974 = 1/4,221,620, 676 or about 1 in 4.2 trillion.  Those are very very long odds.  Still, however, the odds are not long enough to warrant a design inference.  With millions of poker players in the world, billions of poker hands get played every day.  Therefore, over the course of a not-too-long time, trillions of hands will be played and common sense says that over the course of 4.2 trillion hands there is an even chance there will be two straight flushes in a row.  This too is confirmed by experience.  I searched the internet and it did not take me long to find a story of a game in which a player received two straight flushes in a row in a game everyone believed was fair.

We’re not done yet.  What if Larry gets 10 straight flushes in a row?  What are the odds?  The odds are 1/64,974^10 or approximately 1/1.34^48.  That’s 1 in 1.34 raised to the power of 48.  If every person who ever lived played one poker hand per second from the big bang until now, we would not expect any of them to receive 10 straight flushes in a row.  Now, perhaps, we are warranted in making a design inference.

But wait!  This is where DrREC’s objection comes in.  We cannot make a design inference merely because the sequence of hands is highly improbable, because if we take ANY random set of 40 hands, the odds of receiving one of those 40 hands ten times in a row is EXACTLY THE SAME as the odds of receiving a straight flush ten times in a row.  Therefore, we are not warranted in making a design inference.

Well, if I were playing Larry and he kept getting straight flush after straight flush I would have a strong intuition that someone was cheating.  But is that intuition grounded in anything other than my feelings?  Is there a rigorous way to demonstrate design?

First, let’s give DrREC his due.  He is correct.  The odds of receiving one of the hands in any random set of 40 hands is exactly the same as the odds of receiving 40 straight flushes in a row.  He is also correct that merely because an event is extraordinarily unlikely, a design inference is not warranted, because the probability of ANY series of ten hands is extremely low and that series of ten hands will probably never happen again from now until the heat death of the universe.

So is it really true that our design inference is based on nothing but a feeling in our gut?  This is where William Dembski’s work is so important.  Dr. Dembski would say that a design inference is warranted if the event in question displays “complex specific information.”  Here everyone agrees there is “information.”  Within the rules of poker the cards contain a clearly recognizable semiotic system.  Everyone also agrees that our event is complex (i.e., highly improbable).  The only issue is whether the complex information is also “specified.”  Dembski writes:  “The distinction between specified and unspecified information may now be defined as follows: the actualization of a possibility (i.e., information) is specified if independently of the possibility’s actualization, the possibility is identifiable by means of a pattern.”

In our case we have a pattern.  The pattern is called “ten straight flushes in a row.”  This pattern is not post hoc, because the concept of “straight flush” was clearly known and defined well before the ten hand series was ever dealt.  Therefore, ID theory posits that the ten hand series displays a high degree of complex specified information and therefore the best explanation for its existence is “design by an intelligent agent.”

## 69 Replies to “DrREC Wants to Play Poker”

1. 1
DrREC says:

Wow, a whole post about me.

“This is where DrREC’s objection comes in. We cannot make a design inference merely because the sequence of hands is highly improbable, because if we take ANY random set of 40 hands, the odds of receiving one of those 40 hands ten times in a row is EXACTLY THE SAME as the odds of receiving a straight flush ten times in a row. Therefore, we are not warranted in making a design inference.”

Unfortunately, that was NOT my objection. Or it is an obtuse restatement of it Try again.

http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-411992

It is much simpler: choosing a “straight flush” from other straight flushes, or all other hands is a act of selection, of target specification, or design.

In nature, this is like holding up, say, aldolase reductase, declaring it to be a target that must exist, in no way is substitutable, and conforms to a narrow form and function. You in a sense “designed” its specification, the way humans designed a “straight flush” in the game of poker.

Could someone calculate the fsci of a straight flush for me-it would illustrate what I mean by the design bias in picking a specification.

2. 2
DrREC says:

“Information is specified if independently of the possibility’s actualization, the possibility is identifiable by means of a pattern.”

The pattern is of human design in an attempt to describe nature (which doesn’t seek any design target).

Using the pattern (design) to detect design is circular.

3. 3
ScottAndrews2 says:

Would’t it be correct to say that no randomly dealt hand contains any specified information?
The abundance of specified information would be created by someone taking a deck of cards and deliberately selecting a straight flush, and then doing it nine more times.
Given the ease of doing this deliberately vs. the near impossibility of doing it accidentally, the result is more rationally attributed to the former than to the latter.
Deliberate action is well know to be capable of such arrangements and is therefore the obvious explanation.

It doesn’t matter how the straight flush is specified, only that it is. Take any random hand and use it as the specification and it changes nothing.

This is silly. We’re using detailed scenarios and math to illustrate common sense. Anyone who doesn’t know that ten straight flushes in a row is rigged isn’t playing with a full deck anyway. If someone is willing to dispute that, then the train has left the station and gone off the rails.

4. 4
DrREC says:

” isn’t playing with a full deck anyway.”
“then the train has left the station and gone off the rails.”

Thanks for the insults Scott, but none of this relates to my original point.

5. 5
DrREC says:

Lets do one more example-

Pulsars often have a complex behavior. But is it specified?

If we took the pattern of pulses we detect as the “design specification”-the pattern we search for, we would conclude yes.

Totally and undeniably circular.

6. 6
DrREC says:

I’ll give you a hint:

In the pulsar example, if the pattern was specified beforehand (say 30 digets of pi) we might conclude design. SETI would be psyched.

But in biology, you take post-hoc human specifications-“designs” that describe nature, after scientific investigation, and use them to detect “design.”

Maybe someone should PREdict a design.

7. 7
Barry Arrington says:

Let me ask you this DrREC, would you make a design inference if your opponent were dealt ten straight flushes in a row?

8. 8
ScottAndrews2 says:

If life isn’t a specification then explain why we hear every other day that some distant planet has the conditions to support life. Why would anyone assume that there were any conditions to meet.

It’s not that a sea urchin or sparrow is a specific target. But the only available explanation for them, both from the semiotic information contained in their smallest components to the arrangement of those components to form a self-replicating entity, is that someone did set them as their target. Someone did specify first and implement second, and then perhaps specify modifications and then implement them.

The Eiffel Tower didn’t have to be the Eiffel Tower. Any number of different targets could have been specified. Does that open the door to explaining the Eiffel Tower without someone specifying and implementing? Is there an alternative explanation?

Sure, there are plenty of possible targets. That’s a bit like reasoning that a comprehensible paragraph in English isn’t really specified because there are so many possible paragraphs that no one can even count them. But try achieving one without specification.

It’s the same old silly argument that that there are so many possible combinations of chemicals that reproduce and perform functions and eventually discover and discuss themselves, etc., etc., that they routinely pop up.

Except you don’t know of any others and can’t explain the one in front of you. Your entire argument depends on the unsupported assertion that somewhere out there are alternate life forms which also arose naturally to demonstrate that ours was not a “target.” Imagining more targets makes hitting this one seem less improbable.

Your reasoning depends entirely upon imagined possibilities. Like any fantasy, they provide escape when the reality in front of us is undesirable.

Even if you discovered one of these alternate non-targeted life forms, if you don’t have a natural explanation and it’s saturated with evidence of planning and design as our current form is, how would that strengthen your argument? Does finding a new paragraph in English strengthen the argument that they don’t require design because there are just so darn many possibilities?

The alarms should start going off as soon as your logic depends on the existence of alternate possibilities that not only have never have been observed, but were only imagined because your logic requires them.

Sorry, that’s a bit of a rant.

9. 9
DrREC says:

What does the probability of outcomes from a human (designed) game with finite outcomes of known probability have to do with the circularity of detecting design with design?

I’d say 1 in 10^-49 (or whatever it works out to) is pretty improbable.

Some might think 1 in 10^-14 is unlikely but these folks did it:

http://articles.sfgate.com/200.....ntasy-five

But lets us add design back in-How would you disconfirm a design inference (that they cheated)? Choose to give them the money, or send them to jail? Defend your answer.

Or maybe just defend the non-circularity of the pulsar question. Using the detected pattern to infer design went quite badly in that example.

10. 10
Mytheos says:

What if the general nature of cards was that they degrade well before any one can deal them?
Then what are the odds?

11. 11
Barry Arrington says:

DrREC, I will ask the question one more time. If you evade it again, I suppose the answer will be clear enough. If your opponent were dealt ten straight flushes in a row would you make a design inference?

12. 12
Barry Arrington says:

BTW, this question is rich: “What does the probability of outcomes from a human (designed) game with finite outcomes of known probability have to do with the circularity of detecting design with design?”

You, not I, were the one who proposed using the card game as a framework within which to consider the issue.

13. 13
DrREC says:

Who are you that I have to answer your off-topic questions while you evade my entire point?

Design inferences don’t really contribute much to our consideration of a designed game, do they?

Using a detected pattern-a design to detect design is circular.

It is, however below the universal probability bound.

14. 14
DrREC says:

Yeesh. Original use of the poker analogy:

“A straight flush is an interesting example-out of 2.6 million poker hands, there are 40 straight flushes. Which is the specification-getting one of them, or any of them? Or any hand better than your opponent’s? Choosing the specification inserts a design assumption-that 1 of the flushes, or all of them are what was “specified.”

15. 15
DrREC says:

What are you getting at?

16. 16
DrREC says:

“Sorry, that’s a bit of a rant.”

Indeed. Care to give me the cliff notes version?

17. 17
Mytheos says:

Just thinking about what we observe in our laboratory designed “primordial soups”.
It seems from observation that nature doesn’t want to play cards.

18. 18
DrREC says:

? Is this a riddle ?

19. 19
Mytheos says:

Yes. See how you go with it.

20. 20
Joe says:

You have no idea how we detect design. Cause and effect- pulsars do not have an artificial signature.

21. 21
Joe says:

No one can predict what some designer will design next.

Just as with your position no one can predict what mutation will occur next nor what mutation will be kept and spread.

22. 22
Barry Arrington says:

DrREC writes: “As for poker, I already answered-it is improbable. It is, however below the universal probability bound.”

Both of these things are true. But as I said, any series of 10 hands is equally improbable and both are below the universal probability bound.

BTW, when I am in trial I absolutely love to cross examine witnesses like you who try to evade questions when everyone in the courtroom knows the answer is obvious. Jurors (in this case lurkers) are never impressed and always punish them.

23. 23
ScottAndrews2 says:

I’m deeply sorry if your reasoning is so flawed that I can’t decide whether to point out its faulty assumptions or the faulty conclusions drawn from them or the imaginary conditions upon which they all depend.

But I don’t see why the length of the post prevents you from addressing a single point it contained. Perhaps there are other reasons.

I’ll summarize it, then.
1) You claim that life as we know it is not a target while observatories search for the “signature of life” – our kind of life. That’s not fatal, but it’s contradictory.

2) Just because something is not the only possible solution or “target” does not make it automatically accessible to an evolutionary search. Not everything is a sea urchin, but that doesn’t help explain sea urchins or anything else. It’s merely a distraction from the lack of explanation.

3) You reason that life as we know it is not a “target” because it could have occurred differently. But you don’t back up that assumption. You have no evidence that life arose naturally once. How does speculating on the natural occurrence of hypothetical life forms help?

4) If you found one or more new life forms, how would that support the notion that they occur naturally? You seem to think that other “targets” would make your case. They wouldn’t.

5) The target seems to small to hit by accident, so you’re just imagining more targets and more arrows to make it seem more plausible. Your logic depends on imaginary entities which you don’t even bother to imagine in any detail, because they don’t serve any purpose beyond manipulating probabilities to support that same logic.

There, that’s much shorter. And it’s numbered.

24. 24
DrREC says:

“BTW, when I am in trial I absolutely love to cross examine witnesses like you who try to evade questions when everyone in the courtroom knows the answer is obvious. Jurors (in this case lurkers) are never impressed and always punish them.”

Are they impressed when the cross-examination is irrelevant to the question at hand? My students might be less than impressed with you. Of course, they seek knowledge….

I answered your question-the odds are under the universal probability bound, and even under 1 in 10^50, where some stataticians draw a bound. The player may have been exceptionally lucky. I asked how you would draw a design inference in this case? Can you convict them of cheating? What about the double lottery winners? What allows you to draw a distinction?

I can really tell you enjoy your cross-examinations. I can tell you disdain conversation. I’ve answered all your questions, but you haven’t given mine any time or consideration at all. Sadly, in this forum there isn’t a judge to silence this witness (yet).

So back to the original topic-isn’t using a design (specified pattern) to detect a design circular? If not, please answer it, or the pulsar question. I find it quite straightforward.

25. 25
DrREC says:

“? Is this a riddle ?

5.1.1.1.1
MytheosDecember 14, 2011 at 8:55 pm
Yes. See how you go with it

Really?

26. 26
ScottAndrews2 says:

You’re saying that poker is a flawed analogy because it’s a designed game. I don’t see the point. A hand of cards is presumed to be random, not designed. It’s perfectly fair to ask under which circumstances a hand or series of hands are determined to be designed rather than random.

You do realize that even a hand of cards or a series of hands can be random or designed whether or not the game or cards were designed, don’t you?

But fine, forget the cards. Throw a thousand boxes of toothpicks on a floor and see if it produces an accurate English paragraph that multiple unbiased observers can recognize.

Still no good, because English is designed and therefore specification itself is specified? Fine. Using toothpicks or any other random generator, randomly generate anything that can be consistently translated into a functional output from any language, even if that language itself comes into existence through that or any other random generation.

Do you see where this leads? Random chance does not produce any fcsi, even if every function, real, imagined, or otherwise is available as a target and even if you allow for every possible form that information might take.

Going back to poker, the game cannot exist without specifications. It itself is specified to produce a certain playing experience. But as I said, even within that context it’s unreasonable to assert that random events can never be distinguished from non-random events. But that is exactly the corner you have painted yourself into.

27. 27
Bruce David says:

Dembski’s work builds on that of earlier probability theorists’ who were wrestling with the problem that, for example, any pattern of heads and tails obtained by tossing a coin 100 times is equally improbable, yet intuitively, a pattern of 50 heads followed by 50 tails is in some sense far less probable than a “normal” random pattern. In order to solve this conundrum, they came up with the idea of specification—if the pattern of heads and tails can be described independently of the actual pattern itself, then it is specified, and specified patterns can be said to be non-random. And note, the pattern does not have to be described ahead of time; the requirement is just that it is capable of being described independently of the actual pattern itself. In other words, a normal “random” pattern can only be described by something equivalent to “the first toss was heads, the second heads, the third tails,” and so on, whereas the example above is specified because it can be described as I already have, namely, “50 heads followed by 50 tails”.

Basically, what Dembski has done is apply this concept to living organisms. The sequence of DNA for a given organism may be millions of base pairs long, and strictly speaking, the probability of its actual sequence occurring by chance is the same as the probability of any other sequence. However, the fact that the sequence can be in some sense specified by its functionality makes it non-random.

However, DrREC has a point, in that this whole strategy is an attempt to codify what is at bottom intuitive–a pattern of 50 heads followed by 50 tails is highly improbable in a way that a non-specifiable sequence is not. Or, that the DNA sequence necessary for the existence of the first living cell could have arisen by chance is astronomically improbable.

In other words, you can’t prove it using probability theory unless you accept the assumptions of that theory, and DrREC doesn’t appear to be willing to do that, at least when it comes to living things. (I strongly suspect, however, that if he were in a poker game and an opponent got 10 straight flushes in a row, he would not react to that as a legitimately random occurrence.)

So DrRec, if you wish to maintain that it is no more improbable that the DNA sequence of any living cell could have arisen by chance than any other random sequence of nucleotides, nobody can stop you. But likewise no one can stop me from believing that you are not being honest here, either with yourself or with us or both.

28. 28
Mytheos says:

Not really.
I was referring to the bio-polymers required for life breaking down without living components building them up.
How could random processes build a seeming design if it is the case that they cant get started.
And what are the odds that they could overcome this law of chemistry?

29. 29
DrREC says:

“The sequence of DNA for a given organism may be millions of base pairs long, and strictly speaking, the probability of its actual sequence occurring by chance is the same as the probability of any other sequence.”

Ok.

“However, the fact that the sequence can be in some sense specified by its functionality makes it non-random.”

Bull. It is a living organism, therefore its genome has at least some function.

The pattern you used (functionality) to detect design is a post-hoc explanation, dictated by survival. No discernable difference from the counter hypothesis,

30. 30
DrREC says:

Is this a riddle?

31. 31
DrREC says:

OK-I think this is getting buried, and I’d like an answer:

Pulsars often have a complex behavior. But is it specified?

If we took the pattern of pulses we detect as the “design specification”-the pattern we search for, we would conclude yes.

Totally and undeniably circular.

Prove me wrong.

32. 32
John D says:

If we design electric motors, then we find electric motors already in our cells, isn’t it fair to say they appear to be designed things?

If not, then why not?

33. 33
Petrushka says:

The 50/50 distribution seems less likely than other distributions because we attach meaning to it.

Consider how you would evaluate probability is someone generated a random sequence and offered a billion dollars to anyone who duplicated it with coin tosses.

The most obvious problem with specification is that evolution doesn’t deal a whole hand at a time and replace a whole hand at a time. It’s more like a game in which you draw a card and discard the least useful card. There are several popular card games like that, the best known is probably Hearts.

It’s not a great analogy, but it’s closer to evolution than poker. One of the good features of this analogy is that there’s no specified target. Each play simply asks whether the new card is an improvement or not.

The resulting hands will evolve meaning within the context of the game, even though the source of change is random.

34. 34
Barry Arrington says:

“I strongly suspect, however, that if he were in a poker game and an opponent got 10 straight flushes in a row, he would not react to that as a legitimately random occurrence.”

Not so Bruce. In comment 6 DrREC insists the player might have just been lucky. At least that’s what he says he believes.

Like you I find it difficult to believe he is being honest. On the other hand, he is a Darwinian Fundamentalist as blindly devoted to his faith as any West Virginia snake handler ever was. Maybe he is literally incapable of seeing how absurd his statement is.

35. 35
Upright BiPed says:

John, how many dogs are on your porch? You apparently don’t understand how modern scinece works.

We can only infer that they were designed if they can look inside their bodies and find even littler motors. But this would lead to an infinite regress, and you ID creationist have no answer for that.

😐

36. 36
DrREC says:

Wow! I see there is a second post about me.

Sadly comments are off-I suppose Barry Prefers to cross examine mute witnesses. If his cases don’t get summarily dismissed.

I suspect I’ll be silenced here soon enough-not that “comments closed” in a thread mocking me isn’t enough. Coward.

I had responded to the probability question:

It is, however below the universal probability bound”
Some might think 1 in 10^-14 is unlikely but these folks did it:
http://articles.sfgate.com/200…..ntasy-five”
But lets us add design back in-How would you disconfirm a design inference (that they cheated)? Choose to give them the money, or send them to jail? Defend your answer.”

I didn’t and still don’t see a reply, just a slam against the statistical probability bound and the universal probability bound Dr. Dembski uses. Perhaps you’d like to start a thread calling him out, and turn comments off. Frankly, I’d suspect something was amiss, and seek independent confirmation.

Gee, that sounds like design detection!

Barry (comments are off) Arrington, would you do me the favor of answering any of my questions, as I patiently answer all of your (off topic) ones?

Or how you detect design with out using a human-designed specification referencing what has been observed in nature?

37. 37
DrREC says:

I will give Barry credit-he really knows how to shift a cross-ex off topic when it is spiraling out of control for him.

Observers will note my original posts had nothing to do with probability (note Barry had TOTALLY abandoned fsci, and resorted to simple probabilities), but rather use of a design “specification” in the detection of design.

Back to the pulsar question, please.

38. 38
DrREC says:

Asinine

39. 39
DrREC says:

You might ask some ID elites where they set statistical impossibility, Mr. Comments are off.

40. 40
Upright BiPed says:

😉

41. 41
Barry Arrington says:

I answered you in new OP. The floor is now yours.

42. 42
Barry Arrington says:

“I suspect I’ll be silenced here soon enough”

Are you kidding me? I LOVE you. Keep ’em coming.

BTW, as I noted in my new OP, I wanted to keep the poker comments on this thread. I had no intention of silencing you. I still don’t even after you have insulted me. You are priceless.

I have started a new OP on the pulsars if you want to go over there and talk so that the pulsar discussion does not get buried in the poker discussion

43. 43
Bruce David says:

In the first place, I quite deliberately used the term “the first living cell”, which by definition could not have arisen by Darwinian processes.

Secondly, each macro-evolutionary advance entails the generation of massive amounts of heretofore non-existent functionally specified information, so the argument applies equally to Darwinian processes as well.

Regarding the question of the probability of duplicating a random sequence of coin tosses, I believe that the statement, “a duplication of the pattern generated on such and such a day at such and such a time by such and such a person” would count as a specification. However, I am not a probability theorist, so I am not positive about that.

44. 44
John D says:

…inside the bodies of the motors? the dogs? Not sure what you’re getting at.

45. 45
John D says:

“Or how you detect design with out using a human-designed specification referencing what has been observed in nature?”

Isn’t most of the design we detect inside cells because it contains proximate solutions similar to the types humans use? We have “receptors”, “channels”, “motors”, “gates”, “tags”, “tethers”, “translators”, and countless others. Isn’t that a testament to the fact that it is easier to use words for similar things we’ve already made than to come up with new words? As far as purposes go, it would seem that 99% of what we recognize as designed comes from comparison to human efforts. What would you personally accept as a designed thing? If you can’t answer that, why would people offer you examples?

46. 46
kairosfocus says:

F/N: I have responded to Dr Rec’s underlying argument (again) here. KF

47. 47
kairosfocus says:

PS: I think Dr Rec needs to think about the difference between the needle and the haystack in a pile. There is such a thing as objectively defined clustering of possibilities for a sample from a domain, and the clusters may have differing statistical weights, leading to the result that a reasonable or feasibly sized sample will by overwhelming odds come from the BULK of the distribution, not from atypical zones. This is a commonplace of, say, statistical inference on rejection regions.

48. 48
Joe says:

Pulsars do NOT represent an artificial signal. There isn’t anything about them that sez “some alien made me!”

49. 49
Upright BiPed says:

Hello John.

Please forgive me. In an effort to ignore the observed fact that codons are physical representations of specific effects within genetic translation, a regular UD critic had just earlier suggested that the spinning wheels on his car were a physical representation of the angle of the accelerator pedal.

The twisted logic sent me into a temporary lapse of sarcasm. You’ll get no more trouble out of me.

50. 50
MrDunsapy says:

First of all when I have gone science forums and talked about ID or creation, I am answered in a very insulting way. Like I am the dumbest person on the planet.I put it down as they don’t know how to act. So I do not return that type of answer with same kind of attitude. After all aren’t you trying to let the other person see your point and why his or her line of thinking ,is not correct. If you go at them as if they are a low life to be put down and trampled, what are the odds that the returns will be the same?
Should not this be a place where things are discussed, openly, and a person wants to be here, because at least people will discuss the ideas,and would not rip you.
After all isn’t your goal to win the person over, not to bury him?

Now I know people like to do math, and figure the probabilities. But isn’t that a mistake with life and ID?
What number do you give for a loaf of bread?
No number is high enough. Because it would not happen without ID. At some point when the scientists, create life in a lab. Does that show it could happen on its own? It only shows creation.Do you put a number with that? Is it magic, when they are able to do that? No, it is a level of ID.
How do you put a number on ID.
That is why many scientists can not detect it, they can’t measure it. But that is a failure of the method of detection.(the theories)
So just saying there is a billion years, does not mean life will happen. Or because there are billions of materials in space , there has to be another earth? The numbers are meaningless with ID.

http://patternsofcreation.weebly.com

51. 51
Bruce David says:

DrREC, this is actually a response to #9, but I’ll post it here to avoid it getting buried.

Ok, I’ll lay it out as simply as I can:

Consider two sequences of coin tosses, each 100 tosses long. The first has no detectable pattern and a roughly equal number of heads and tails. The second begins with 50 heads and ends with 50 tails. The probability of each sequence being the result of a series of 100 “fair” coin tosses is the same—1 in 2^100, or roughly 1 over 10 to the 30th power. In spite of that, if someone claimed that he got the first sequence by actually tossing a coin, there would be no reason to doubt him. On the other hand, if he claimed that he got the second, no one would believe him, or else they would conclude that the coin tosses were rigged (i.e., designed). It is to solve this problem (that in this situation probability does not conform to what reasonable people would conclude) that the notion of “specification” was invented.

Now consider two sequences of DNA. One contains all the coding necessary to support the minimum sized living cell. The other is exactly the same length (roughly half a million base pairs), but has no discernible pattern and has a roughly equal number of each of the four DNA bases (i.e. is random). Assuming there is some process by which strings of DNA that long could be randomly created (a major assumption), the probability of each of the strings having been created by that process would be the same, approximately 1 in 4^500,000, well beyond anyone’s universal probability bound. Nonetheless, if someone claimed that the second sequence was the result of that random process, no one would have any reason to doubt it. On the other hand, if they made the same claim regarding the first sequence, which just happens to contain the code for all the proteins necessary for that simplest living cell, only a materialist with a strong need to be right about his or her materialism would pretend to find that reasonable.

So in other words, and at the risk of overstepping the bounds of civil discourse, I think you’re lying to yourself. I think you are suppressing what your own reason would conclude in the service of protecting your world view.

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DrREC says:

Ok, just to be clear 1 in 4^500,000 is the total genomic sequence space of all potential organisms with a 500,000 nucleotide genome. Every single permutation. Kinda crazy to even think about.

I play poker a lot, but I don’t go to all 2.6 million hands before calling it a day.

Since I observe increases in information readily, the real question is-what is the probability of an protoreplicator? Hard to calculate, since we haven’t determined its minimum complement, but infinitely more likely than the numbers you’re throwing around.

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Petrushka says:

But draw poker is a bit like evolution in that you try to improve your hand incrementally.

I’ve tried to argue that natural selection is smarter than artificial selection. Perhaps I could make the analogy between a player who sets a specific target, such as a straight, vs a player who always selects the strongest play without regard to a specific target.

In living populations, differential reproductive success is a better long term strategy than targeted selection, because it integrates all the dimensions of utility.

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lastyearon says:

On the other hand, if they made the same claim regarding the first sequence, which just happens to contain the code for all the proteins necessary for that simplest living cell, only a materialist with a strong need to be right about his or her materialism would pretend to find that reasonable.

Please take a moment to think this statement through, specifically the part I bolded, and address the following…

Human beings assign specific meaning to that precise arrangement of molecules, and they call it “a living cell”. That doesn’t imply that anyone or anything intended for there to be “a living cell”.
We can rephrase your statement “which just happens to contain the code for all the proteins necessary for that simplest living cell” to “which results in what conscious entities that are made of those things call ‘a living cell'”.

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lastyearon says:

My last post is a response to Bruce David at 16

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Bruce David says:

DrREC,

If by a protoreplicator you mean something simpler than the simplest living cell but which can reproduce itself and “evolve” into such a cell, I submit that no one knows if such a thing is even possible or what it would be like in any kind of detail. Therefore, it is quite impossible to assign a probability to its existence. The probability could well be 0 (i.e., it may be that such a thing is impossible).

The existence of a protoreplicator is pure speculation. The idea is basically an attempt by people who have a strong emotional stake in ID being false to get around the probabilistic wall that I described in #16.

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DrREC says:

Sure, talking about proto-life is speculative.

“Therefore, it is quite impossible to assign a probability to its existence.”

Yep, there is really no telling how complex it might of been, or any way to infer its specificity.

Yet ID people are pretty sure it must have been designed, and go on about abiogenesis. Thought you were looking for positive evidence, not just ‘gaps’ to go sticking your nose into.

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Bruce David says:

To continue…

But in any case, the real thrust of my comment is to justify Dembski’s notion of complex, functionally specified information (CFSI). My contention is that it is justified to make the distinction between CFSI on the one hand, and mere random arrangements of nucleotides or amino acids on the other, and that reasonable people will conclude that it is virtually impossible for CSFI to have come into existence by chance, unless those people have a strong stake in a paradigmatic system that is threatened by such a conclusion.

This is why I admire Antony Flew. He had the intellectual courage to recognize that the existence of CFSI in origins situations invalidated his atheism, and to admit it publically.

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Bruce David says:

I haven’t even said whether I am pro-ID or not yet. I have only been discussing the justification for my and others’ contention that it is false (or at least totally unreasonable) to say that the arrangement of nucleotides in the first living cell is equally likely to any random arrangement. In other words, that the existence of functional specificity matters greatly in assessing likelihood. (See more in 16.1.3 below.)

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Bruce David says:

Lastyearon,

I reject your phrase “conscious entities that are made of those things [cells]”. This statement begs the question by assuming that human beings are entirely material (made of cells), thus affirming materialism, one of the beliefs that is at issue here.

In my world view, consciousness exists independently of bodies. We exist as conscious beings before we incarnate into a particular body, and we continue to exist as conscious beings after the death of that body. So I’ll stand by my original statement.

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StephenB says:

—Dr. Rec: “I answered your question-the odds are under the universal probability bound, and even under 1 in 10^50, where some stataticians draw a bound. The player may have been exceptionally lucky. I asked how you would draw a design inference in this case? Can you convict them of cheating? What about the double lottery winners? What allows you to draw a distinction?”

You did not answer the question, which is this: Is it more likely that the player was extremely lucky or that he cheated? If the example doesn’t seem improbable enough for you, then consider the possibility that the player could draw 100 consecutive Royal flushes in spades. Would you then draw an inference to cheating?

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Eugene S says:

DrREC,

The pattern is of human design in an attempt to describe nature (which doesn’t seek any design target).

You are right, dumb matter does not seek anything. Matter on its own can only provide constraints or at most low-information regularity like fractals. In contrast, however, formal functionality and meaning require choice (note, choice, not a potential for choice). It does not matter how this choice is actualised in practice. Actualisations may be different. But functionality and semantics can only be explained by choice. It is a shame you don’t want to see it.

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Eugene S says:

It is rather amusing.

Hodja Nasreddin once visited a pub. He just came there to have a rest and did not want to have anything to eat. The owner came up to him and told him to pay. Hodja answered that he had not ordered anything so we would not pay. ‘All the same, pay because you smelled my soup,’ the owner persisted. ‘Well,’ said Hodja, taking his money pouch out of his pocket and shaking it front of the greedy host, ‘then you can hear my coins rattle.’

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Eugene S says:

MrDunsapy,

I liked you paintings a lot. Really good.

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Eugene S says:

Dr Rec,

You miss the whole point. 10^-14 is not unlikely (not operationally impossible) enough to infer to design. Could you kindly read through the basic ID reasoning on this blog. It is only one click away.

Also, your question regarding the possibility of detecting design without a human-designed spec is easy to answer. The answer is, it is impossible to do it without an independent spec. The whole point is to have a spec. Why would you want to disallow an independently chosen spec? Is it really because you think it falls into circular reasoning? I doubt it.

This argument of yours sounds tautological to me because it simply says that without intelligence it is impossible to do any science. That is true, so what?

1. We notice that formal function (appropriately defined) and semiosis are observed only in sophisticated artefacts and in biosystems.
2. As there is absolutely no evidence so far that would warrant an assumption that formal function can emerge spontaneously or incrementally, we propose a theory which states that life is also an artefact.

This is a scientific induction in the full sense of this word. The “no evidence” bit presents opportunity to falsify the whole theory by providing a single counter-example of spontaneous emergence of formal function.

IMO, all attempts to cook semi-life in a test-tube (that are collectively known abiogenesis) are rubbishy scientifically even though they may lead to some side-effect technological advances in future.

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lastyearon says:

Eugene,

You miss the whole point. 10^-14 is not unlikely (not operationally impossible) enough to infer to design. Could you kindly read through the basic ID reasoning on this blog. It is only one click away.

Because you’ve convinced yourself that DrREC just doesn’t get it, you’re unable to carefully examine his argument.

Why don’t you try assuming, just for the sake of argument, that DrREC does get ID, and that he has valid criticisms of it. Then you can begin to actually analyse the points he is making. Beware, though, that learning may occur, and cherishingly held beliefs may be placed in doubt.

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gpuccio says:

DrREC:

I would like to suggest some thoughts.

The general concept of specification is: can we describe in the general search space some category that represents a distinguishable subset, whose definition can be given in some objective way? If we can do that, then the specified complexity becomes naturally the probability to hit that subset by a random search.

As I have said in another post recently, in the general concept of CSI, as given mainly by Dembski, various kinds of specifications can be given.

Take for instance pre-specification. I can give a sequence of the 52 cards before i draw them In that way, I objectively define a subset (indeed, only one onfiguration) from all the others. Therefore, the probability of getting that configuration in a single experiment is 1 : search space.

That is an objective specification, and it determines a specific value of CSI.

Other specifications can be formal, logico-mathematics. One could be: the set of all sequences, where four cards with the same value are always drawn one after the other. That too implies a specific complexity.

Finally, the specification can be functional. Leaving alone the deck of cards for the moment, that has its limitation at this level, let’s think that I draw numbers from a bag containing, in equal proportions, the ten digits 0 – 9. I draw 100 digit sequences. I define my functional subset as all the sequences that correspond to the first 100 digits of any number in a list of fundamental real constants in mathemathics, such as p, e, and so on. The probability of success is certainly extremely low. The point is that here we have not only a pre-specification, but a pre-specification based on a functional description (an important role in mathemathics).

Finally, the best type (IMO) of specification is the purely functional specification, which can be given “post-hoc” on the basis of an explicitly recognized and described function.

It is important to observe that functional specification has many important properties:

a) It can be defined “post hoc” by recognizing the function in the object, but it is in no way arbitrary, because the function can be objectively observed and measures.

That is completely different from “designing the target where the arrow has stricken”. It is, indeed, finding an arrow in its target, because the target is objectively there.

Again, let’s take an enzyme. It does sometning that, from a biochemical point of view, is a real marvel. Reactions that would never happen in nature, or that would happen at an extremely slow rate, are made possible and efficient by the wonderful strucutre of these brilliant molecular machines.

Now, let’s forget for a moment that those reactions are necessary for more complex netwroks of functionality, and let’s stop at the first level. The molecular machine that is an enzyme works wonderfully. It does things that would be impossible normally. We see that. We recognize that. We are not making it up.

b) The functional specification is not a purely formal property, such as compressibility or any other logio mathemathical concepts. It is an empirical property. Functional sequences can do things, but formally they are very much like random sequences.

But random sequences are useless.

c) The functional specification allows us easily to compute how much information is necessary to give the function. It is enough to define the function and give a threshold to ascertain its presence or absence. That gives always an empirical way to test objectively if a sequence is functional or not, according to our specific definition.

You ak:

Is using a design (specified pattern) to detect a design circular?

The concept of specified pattern is vague and ambiguous, if you don’t define better what you mean. A pre-specified pattern is a good specification. A post specified pattern is not.

But a post specified function is a very good specification.

So, recognizing a function and using it to infer design is perfectly correct, not at all circular, and very empirical.

I am not sure what is your question about pulsars is. Could you please point it to me, so that I don’t have to read the whole thread? (my time is limited, at present). Thank you.

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DrREC says:

“If we can do that, then the specified complexity becomes naturally the probability to hit that subset by a random search.”

But again, you’ve taken something nature has hit already, and then define some reduced subset of it.

a) You draw the bullseye around where a arrow has struck! As if nature needs, or intended that function.
b) The probability should really be of obtaining any functionality that improves the fitness of the organism.
c) You usually only consider an narrow sequence-defined subset, not all potential sequences that could give the same function
d) You don’t consider the path that gave the function-the GAIN in fsci is relevant. This discussion is going on at another thread.

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gpuccio says:

DrREC:

a) Wrong. The bullseye is alredy there. Nature may not have intended that function (whatever nature is), but the living beings certainly need it. Again, you are playing (badly) with terms.

b) Correct. Indeed, of any fucntion that confers better reproductive potential, and is therefore visible to NS. But, as I have argued, the functions visible to NS are really constrained by the already existing complexity. Moreover, even if there were a good number of them, that number should be added to the target space, which woulld increase the probability of only a few orders of magnitude at best. However you look at it, the probability of hitting a selectable protein sequence in a specific biological random system remains extremely low.

c) Wrong. We do mour best to define as precisely as possible the target space. The Durston method, as I have argued, is a good way of approximating it. You have your reservations, that I respect but don’t share. And anyway, other methods of approximating that value are available, and will be developed. The “rugged landscape” paper, many times discussed by ne here, shows that in a particular case, and with a powerful viral system, the functionality if a specific subset of a protein system (probably irreducible as a whole)could not be fully reconstituted by NS, and that to achieve that a starting random library of about 10^70 sequences would be needed.

That order of magnitude is in perfect accord with an older esteem by Axe.

So, all we know about the functional space of proteins tells us that functional sequences are extremely rare. And naturally selectable sequences are an extremely tiny subset of all sequences.

d) Wrong. I fully enclose known paths in my evaluation. It’s not my fault if known paths don’t exist. What I reject is the generic point that paths could possibly exist, without any logical or empirical support to that statement. Fairy tales are not admitted, in my vision of science.

What other thread? The pulsar one? I will try to read it, if I have the time.