Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

# DrREC Wants to Play Poker

Share
Flipboard
Print
Email

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.”

December 17, 2011
December
12
Dec
17
17
2011
02:36 AM
2
02
36
AM
PDT
"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.DrREC
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
02:29 PM
2
02
29
PM
PDT
DrREC: I have not read all the thread, but I believe that it is mainly about specification. 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.gpuccio
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
09:54 AM
9
09
54
AM
PDT
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.lastyearon
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
08:55 AM
8
08
55
AM
PDT
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.Eugene S
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
08:28 AM
8
08
28
AM
PDT
MrDunsapy, I liked you paintings a lot. Really good.Eugene S
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
08:09 AM
8
08
09
AM
PDT
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.'Eugene S
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
04:55 AM
4
04
55
AM
PDT
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.Eugene S
December 16, 2011
December
12
Dec
16
16
2011
04:33 AM
4
04
33
AM
PDT
---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?StephenB
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
02:36 PM
2
02
36
PM
PDT
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.Bruce David
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
01:14 PM
1
01
14
PM
PDT
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.)Bruce David
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
01:04 PM
1
01
04
PM
PDT
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.Bruce David
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
12:53 PM
12
12
53
PM
PDT
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.DrREC
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
12:39 PM
12
12
39
PM
PDT
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.Bruce David
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
12:32 PM
12
12
32
PM
PDT
My last post is a response to Bruce David at 16lastyearon
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
11:20 AM
11
11
20
AM
PDT
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'".lastyearon
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
11:18 AM
11
11
18
AM
PDT
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.Petrushka
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
11:12 AM
11
11
12
AM
PDT
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.DrREC
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
10:56 AM
10
10
56
AM
PDT
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.Bruce David
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
10:42 AM
10
10
42
AM
PDT
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.comMrDunsapy
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
10:01 AM
10
10
01
AM
PDT
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.Upright BiPed
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
06:43 AM
6
06
43
AM
PDT
Pulsars do NOT represent an artificial signal. There isn't anything about them that sez "some alien made me!"Joe
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
04:12 AM
4
04
12
AM
PDT
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.kairosfocus
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
03:20 AM
3
03
20
AM
PDT
F/N: I have responded to Dr Rec's underlying argument (again) here. KFkairosfocus
December 15, 2011
December
12
Dec
15
15
2011
03:15 AM
3
03
15
AM
PDT
"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?John D
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
11:23 PM
11
11
23
PM
PDT
...inside the bodies of the motors? the dogs? Not sure what you're getting at.John D
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
11:08 PM
11
11
08
PM
PDT
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.Bruce David
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
09:00 PM
9
09
00
PM
PDT
"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 discussionBarry Arrington
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
08:54 PM
8
08
54
PM
PDT
I answered you in new OP. The floor is now yours.Barry Arrington
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
08:49 PM
8
08
49
PM
PDT
;)Upright BiPed
December 14, 2011
December
12
Dec
14
14
2011
08:46 PM
8
08
46
PM
PDT
1 2 3