Big Bang Cosmology Fine tuning Intelligent Design

Inflation and its critics

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SciAm: POP goes the Universe

The firestorm ignited by Ijjas, Loeb & Steinhardt’s blog post in Scientific American,  is very much worth your time reading. It engages Peter Woit’s string-theory criticism on his blog. But the scientists do not divide into sides very rationally, as Woit notices, “This is getting very weird. It’s not normal to respond to a scientific argument by enlisting letter writers on your behalf, even less normal to put your university press office to work on a response..”

Abraham Loeb is a cosmologist age 55 at Harvard who came from a Jewish farming community in Israel. He is known for creativity and writing on many sides of an issue. Paul Steinhardt is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist age 65 at Princeton, whose early 1980’s papers laid the foundations of inflationary cosmology (along with Linde and Guth) but in 2002 concluded it couldn’t work. Anna Ijjas is ~30 post-doc at Princeton, with most of her publications in this decade. She describes herself as a “theoretical cosmologist” and “actively participating in the dialogue with Philosophy and the Humanities” who wrote an “award-winning thesis at Munich University, studying philosophical implications of quantum physics.”

It would seem that these critics, for all different reasons, have abandoned “inflationary cosmology”, finding the results of recent theory to be very disquieting. Ijjas doesn’t explain her antipathy, which may simply arise from working for Steinhardt, but is no doubt motivated by her thesis in the philosophical implications of QM. Loeb is not shy about proposing outlandish hypotheses, so his dislike of inflation likely comes from his Jewish upbringing and belief in a rational universe. But it is Steinhardt who is the most puzzling of the dissidents.

Not only did Steinhardt start the theory that he later abandoned, but he has also championed equally questionable theories of dark energy, “eternal inflation,” an eternally “bouncing big bang,” and “self-interacting dark matter” (e.g. dark sector). From this, one would have thought that Steinhardt is not the least bit shy of changing the laws of physics to accommodate observations. Why then does he suddenly criticize his colleagues for holding to an “unfalsifiable” theory?

Steinhardt’s objections to inflation is explained in a PBS blog  and summarized in his Wiki page:

“Based on observations from the Planck satellite (reported in 2013) Anna Ijjas, Abraham Loeb and Steinhardt showed in a widely discussed pair of papers that the inflationary model was much less likely to explain our universe than previously thought. According to their analysis, the chances of obtaining a universe matching the observations after a period of inflation is less than one in a googolplex. Steinhardt and his team dubbed this result the “unlikeliness problem.”
The two papers also showed that the remaining inflationary models require more parameters, more fine-tuning of those parameters, and more unlikely initial conditions than the simplest models. As a result, the startling conclusion was that Steinhardt and his colleagues had essentially shown that, by the standards of normal scientific reasoning, the inflationary theory is unlikely to be correct based on the observations.”

In short, the whole purpose of the inflationary theory is negated by its development. It was invented to explain the 1:10^66 fine-tuning of the Big Bang, but in the end, it required 1:10^10^100 fine-tuning. (The first number has 66 zeroes after it, the second number has a hundred, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion zeroes after it.) Steinhardt pleads ignorance as to why he advocated the theory in the first place. At the time it looked like it had just one or two zeroes after the probability, but research added a few more until the theory just wasn’t justified any more.

So the real question becomes, why do 33 famous physicists included Nobel prize-winners, still like the theory and think Steinhardt has lost his marbles? They wrote a blog in Scientific American to list their rebuttal to Ijjas, Loeb and Steinhardt (IL&S) Here’s the summary:

D1. 14,000 papers by 9,000 scientists w/ “inflation” in their title or abstract.
D2. If “inflation” is outside scientific method, then all this work is wasted and wasteful.
D3. Inflation is testable, and has passed all tests (see #6 below)
D4. Inflation is a family of models, only one has to be correct–just like “Standard Model”
D5. Some models (sub-families) are excluded, but many remain empirically successful.
D6. Particular predictions of the model have been confirmed:
.  a) Flatness
.  b) perturbations are adiabatic: matter, radiation & dark matter
.  c) perturbations are Gaussian
.  d) CMB polarization shows E-modes (and B-modes)
D7. Testable can have fitting parameters–the standard model does.
D8. Even with fitting parameters, the models are still falsifiable.
D9. Even the standard model is tweaked when new data appear.
D10. Multiverse accusations are “guilt by association”, in no way diminishing the empirical bases of inflation.
D11. Inflation doesn’t have to explain everything to be useful.
D12. Progress on inflation continues, even empirically.

IL&S Rebuttal.
R1. Diachronic versus synchronic truth: “Confirmation” was claimed in the ignorant past, but could not be so claimed now.
R2. We can reject the current synthesis without discounting the value of published literature.
R3. The problem solved by inflation (fine tuning) turned out to be worse in the solution, i.e., metaphysical purpose is no longer valid.
R4. A parameterized model is not the same as an infinitely adjustable model, which is what inflation has become.
R5. Inflation models cannot be falsified.

Now what is peculiar about this debate, is the way both sides dance around two or three elephants in the living room while trying to execute pirouettes. For example, D1 & D12 are claims to social and historical relevance. R1 says that these claims equivocate since initially promising “confirmations” were later found to be wrong, so clinging to historical victories is irrelevant to the march of science. But is it? Is a theory’s “validity” not also a function of time and history? After all, isn’t that how progress is made, by a sequence of theories getting progressively better? Is IL&S saying that progress is irrelevant to truth, and better no theory at all than one that is 99% correct?

The elephant here is whether science is progressing or regressing, whether it is possible for 9000 scientists to all be wasting their time and other people’s money. Philosopher of science, Imre Lakatos, called this real possibility “a degenerate science program” and listed the criteria for detecting this situation. (Money, prestige, inertia, ad hoc solutions, etc.) Not surprisingly, inflationary cosmology fits the description. So why doesn’t IL&S mention this? Because many of Steinhardt’s other projects (bouncing big bang, dark matter interactions) also fit Lakatos’ description. Hence the elephant foxtrot.

It all seems rather dry and academic to put it that way. So let’s use the ad absurdum approach to this debate. Let’s look at some elephants, using extreme examples of “good science,” “pseudo-science,” and “degenerate science.” The dance here is to define our preferences as “good” and our opponents as “pseudo” or “degenerate”. Is the criteria proposed by 33 eminent scientists better than the criteria of IL&S?

The comparison that our Nobelists draw, is to the “Standard Model” (SM) of particle physics, in which we have 3 families of quarks and leptons (12 particles) plus neutral exchange bosons (5), for a grand total of 18 arbitrary masses needed to describe the building blocks of creation. In some ways it is very complete, but it does have these 18 adjustable parameters. So if we were to substitute “Standard Model” for “Inflation”, these 33 argue, there would be no discernible difference. D1-D11 is certainly applicable to SM, but much angst and spilled ink over the lack of progress with D12. What about R1? Doesn’t apply to SM but does apply to Inflation. R2 is certainly IL&S attitude toward dark matter self-interactions, which amounts to a rejection of SM as well as a rejection of D1. R3 agrees that the SM certainly simplified the assumptions down to 18 from the several hundred sub-atomic particles discovered, but then D4, D7, D9 are illegitimate comparisons for Inflation to make. R4 hammers home the difference between SM and inflation. And R5 is self-evidently true that if inflation incorporates an infinite number of independent solutions, then indeed, proving it wrong is logically impossible.

So it would seem that SM passes through unfazed by the rebuttal, while Inflation is stopped cold. But perhaps we have proved too much. Let’s look at an example of supposed pseudo-science. Replace the word “inflation” with the word “creationism”, and “Standard Model” with “Darwinism”. D1 lots of papers, check. D2 avoid waste. D3 its testable (according to its proponents). D4 there are certainly flavors. D5 seems true. D6 also. D7 check. D8 check. D9 check. D10 requires a mapping of “multiverse” to “miracles”, but otherwise is correct. D11 check. D12 check. So in this version of the debate, if inflationary cosmology models are okay, then so are creationist cosmology models! Surely this isn’t what our Nobelists were trying to prove, was it?

Now let’s see what this does to the rebuttal. R1 sounds a lot like Biologos. As does R2. And R3. R4 may not be a Biologos criticism, but many Panda’s Thumb argue this. And R5 seems to be bandied by everyone. So if IL&S have a valid complaint, then so does Biologos!

And that is what makes this such an interesting and relevant debate to the ID community.

Well, what do I think?

I think D6 overstates the evidence for inflation, and that IL&S are correct in their analysis of the empirical disconfirmation, making inflationary cosmology a seriously degenerate science program.

Which raises another question–how can 33 eminent scientists all be so wrong?

IL&S address this in a separate article:  They claim that there has been a “bait-and-switch” involving Guth and Linde, so that 29 of the signatory scientists are simply gullible.

If true, what made them so gullible?

To me, this is the crux of the matter. If a scientist claims that his goal is to ferret out the truth from a “not malicious but subtle” Nature, then gullibility is as damning an epithet as “simpleton”. If we are ready to believe other people over our innate objections, over empirical observations, then we have no business being in science, we should be in politics. I am not advocating being a loner, or a one-man university, but we must always test what we hear, continually evaluating our current understanding. If Andre Linde tells you in 1982 that inflation has only one free parameter, but then in 2002 tells you that inflation has a million free parameters, it might be time to re-evaluate his reliability. And if Alan Guth says that disagreeing with his most recent theory is as criminal as breaking the Internet, you might tag him not just unreliable but unhinged as well.

Why then are these 29 co-signers still so gullible? To restate Tolstoy, the truth is univocal, falsehood cacophonic. Some may be personal friends of Guth. Others may have their own version of inflationary cosmology that they fear is under attack. Still others may see advantage in joining arms with the establishment. As far as I can tell everyone is a theorist that you wouldn’t let in your lab (excepting Mather, Smoot and Weiss), and theorists really and truly have no skin in the game–they can as easily write a paper supporting inflation as attacking it–just as long as both papers get published. What they get irate about, is not being able to publish both papers.

Experimentalists have a different problem. They have to justify expensive equipment and years of paperless research for a teleological goal. They have no problem publishing null results–such as lower and lower thresholds for gravity waves or WIMPS–as long as the search can continue to be funded. To deny an effect is measurable, however, is an existential sin. The reason Mather, Smoot and Weiss have signed this document tells me that they are no longer worried about funding or managing the funding of an experimental group. They have moved up the administrative ladder sufficiently to stop being experimentalists. And this is true of Rees as well, whether or not he ever spent a long night in the observatory while becoming Royal Astronomer.

Then we can add a new item to Lakatos’ signs of a degenerate science program: when theorists and experimentalists deny the other a job.

28 Replies to “Inflation and its critics

  1. 1
    Barry Arrington says:

    From Steinhardt’s Wiki page:

    Steinhardt’s argument that inflation is eternal and produces anything and everything was something that leading proponents of the inflationary theory, including Alan Guth and Andrei Linde generally concede.

    Then they concede the theory is not scientific in any meaningful sense of that word.

  2. 2
    rvb8 says:

    I think Barry that the above description by Steinhardt is a perfect description of what Jews, Christians, and Muslims, would call God!

    ‘is eternal and produces anything and everything..’

    Then you agree(?) that this description; ‘is not scientific in any meaningful sense of the word.’ I agree.

    God is beyond science, indeed beyond nature, supernatural, if you will.

    How the hell can science study this? You mock ‘inflation’ but embrace God, two equally unprovable positions.

    You are very ‘pick and mix’, when it comes to science aren’t you?

  3. 3
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8 @ 2.

    Where did you ever get the notion that I want to study God scientifically? Certainly not from anything I ever wrote or said.

    Yours is a fascinating comment though. It reminds me that people like you go through life believing what you believe in serene indifference to evidence and logic. And sometimes, when you give us a glimpse into those beliefs, we are stunned and flabbergasted. Thanks for the peak inside though. I guess.

  4. 4
    rvb8 says:

    Barry,

    ID is nothing if not an attempt to argue for supernaturalism.

    Everything you write is an implicit argument for God. You know that, all of the posters here know that, and all visitors to this site get that idea very sharpishly.

  5. 5

    What do we call someone who simply CANNOT speak about their opponent’s position without lying about it or misrepresenting it?

  6. 6
    News says:

    ID is first and foremost a demand that evidence matter, underwritten by a conviction that reason-based thinking is not an illusion. That means, of course, accepting fine-tuning as a fact like any other, not to be explained away by equating vivid speculations about alternative universes with observable facts. Second, ID theorists insist that the information content of our universe and life forms is the missing factor in our attempt to understand our world. Understanding the relationship between information on the one hand and matter and energy on the other is an essential next discovery. That’s work, not elegant essays.

    We will get there eventually. But perhaps not in this culture; perhaps in a later one. Science can throw so many resources into protecting metaphysical naturalism that it begins to decline. Periods of great discovery are often followed by centuries of doldrums. These declines are usually based on philosophical declines. The prevalence of, for example, fake physics, shows that we are in the midst of just such a philosophical decline. It’s a stark choice for our day.

    https://www.evolutionnews.org/2017/05/how-naturalism-rots-science-from-the-head-down/

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    RS:

    I see the summary clip:

    According to their analysis, the chances of obtaining a universe matching the observations after a period of inflation is less than one in a googolplex [ {= 10^[10^100]}, calculator smoking territory]. Steinhardt and his team dubbed this result the “unlikeliness problem.”

    The two papers also showed that the remaining inflationary models require more parameters, more fine-tuning of those parameters, and more unlikely initial conditions than the simplest models. As a result, the startling conclusion was that Steinhardt and his colleagues had essentially shown that, by the standards of normal scientific reasoning, the inflationary theory is unlikely to be correct based on the observations.”

    This looks like the very familiar problem by which an attempt to put fine tuning off the table in one direction faces it coming back up in another one. In this case, an extreme case in point.

    Of course, given the issues that a best explanation of cosmological fine tuning in many ways is intelligently directed configuration of the observed cosmos, that pattern is very unwelcome in many quarters.

    KF

    PS: RVB8, as usual, needs to understand the difference between an inference to design on empirical signs and the strawmannish caricature that this would constitute either god- of- gaps fallacious reasoning or trying to put God in a test tube to subject him to scientific study. Ironically, the result as highlighted in the context of feirce repudiation, points to materialism of the gaps, empty promissory note thinking.

    PPS: It is worth the pause to clip Sara Walker & Paul Davies:

    In physics, particularly in statistical mechanics, we base many of our calculations on the assumption of metric transitivity, which asserts that a system’s trajectory will eventually [–> given “enough time and search resources”] explore the entirety of its state space – thus everything that is phys-ically possible will eventually happen. It should then be trivially true that one could choose an arbitrary “final state” (e.g., a living organism) and “explain” it by evolving the system backwards in time choosing an appropriate state at some ’start’ time t_0 (fine-tuning the initial state). In the case of a chaotic system the initial state must be specified to arbitrarily high precision. But this account amounts to no more than saying that the world is as it is because it was as it was, and our current narrative therefore scarcely constitutes an explanation in the true scientific sense.

    We are left in a bit of a conundrum with respect to the problem of specifying the initial conditions necessary to explain our world. A key point is that if we require specialness in our initial state (such that we observe the current state of the world and not any other state) metric transitivity cannot hold true, as it blurs any dependency on initial conditions – that is, it makes little sense for us to single out any particular state as special by calling it the ’initial’ state. If we instead relax the assumption of metric transitivity (which seems more realistic for many real world physical systems – including life), then our phase space will consist of isolated pocket regions and it is not necessarily possible to get to any other physically possible state (see e.g. Fig. 1 for a cellular automata example).

    [–> or, there may not be “enough” time and/or resources for the relevant exploration, i.e. we see the 500 – 1,000 bit complexity threshold at work vs 10^57 – 10^80 atoms with fast rxn rates at about 10^-13 to 10^-15 s leading to inability to explore more than a vanishingly small fraction on the gamut of Sol system or observed cosmos . . . the only actually, credibly observed cosmos]

    Thus the initial state must be tuned to be in the region of phase space in which we find ourselves [–> notice, fine tuning], and there are regions of the configuration space our physical universe would be excluded from accessing, even if those states may be equally consistent and permissible under the microscopic laws of physics (starting from a different initial state). Thus according to the standard picture, we require special initial conditions to explain the complexity of the world, but also have a sense that we should not be on a particularly special trajectory to get here (or anywhere else) as it would be a sign of fine–tuning of the initial conditions. [ –> notice, the “loading”] Stated most simply, a potential problem with the way we currently formulate physics is that you can’t necessarily get everywhere from anywhere (see Walker [31] for discussion). [“The “Hard Problem” of Life,” June 23, 2016, a discussion by Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies at Arxiv.]

  8. 8
    kairosfocus says:

    News, Walker and Davies have put the cat in among the pigeons in the above clip. KF

  9. 9
    complexityscholar says:

    See my blog post “Cosmic Inflation Clique Defends Its Tribal Folklore” :

    http://futureandcosmos.blogspo.....s-its.html

    See also this post from John Horgan at Scientific American:

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/is-a-popular-theory-of-cosmic-creation-pseudoscience/

  10. 10
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    What do we call someone who simply CANNOT speak about their opponent’s position without lying about it or misrepresenting it?

    Good explanations have reach. They extend beyond the problem right in front of you, regardless of how inconvenient you find it. Otherwise, all you’ve done is selectively assume some particular series of observations will continue.

    I’ll ask again, what is your basis for an inference to design?

    Is it probability? But probably is only applicable when applied inside an existing theory that constrains the number of options to choose from. It’s unclear how you know what options there are for alternative theories, such as those we have yet to conceive of yet, those that you haven’t observed, etc. Furthermore, if you’re appealing to probably how probable are other designers at the place time that this supposed act of intelligence occurred? We haven’t observed any designers other than human beings and they couldn’t have designed themselves. If the only designers we know of are so improbable [that they must have been designed], how can some other designer be the probable cause of organisms? IOW, it’s unclear how you can calculate the probability that a designer did it. It’s simply not applicable in this case.

    Is it induction? See above. [Every designer we’ve observed has had a complex material brain. Yet, I’m guessing you haven’t induced that all designers have complex material brains. And that’s just one of many sequences of observation that you do not think will continue, despite of trillions of times we’ve empirically observed them.]

    But that let’s induction of too easy.

    Bertand Russell’s story of the chicken and the farmer not only shows that one cannot induce truth from past experience, but that it’s a myth that one can extrapolate observations to form new theories.

    For Russell’s chicken to reach a false prediction via induction, it must have first interpreted the farmer’s actions (being fed every day) using a false explanation, such as the farmer had benevolent feelings towards chickens. However, had the chicken first guessed a different explanation, such as the farmer was feeding the chicken so it would fetch a good price when slaughtered, then it would have extrapolated the farmer’s actions quite differently.

    As such, it’s unclear how one can extrapolate observations without first putting them into a explanatory framework. This is why I keep asking for an explanation, not merely an appeal to inductivism.

  11. 11
    Origenes says:

    CR: This is why I keep asking for an explanation …

    The fool kept shouting “Why! Why!” stamping his foot with rage, but the wise man understood that not everything can be explained ….
    Consciousness is not only presupposed by the distinction between reality and illusion, it is also presupposed by the quest for explanation. For where would explanations reside if not in the minds of conscious beings?

  12. 12
    tjguy says:

    Gotta love this! If this is science, how can there be so much disagreement? I thought science was black and white.

    So cosmology is a wide open field right now and not near as “settled” as people want us to think. It’s always best when they disagree among themselves and reveal the weaknesses in each other’s views.

    If we point out the weaknesses, we are criticized as bias or unscientific or whatever, but here they do us a great service and do it for us. This is a great example of why historical science is no where near as dependable as experimental science.

  13. 13

    What do we call someone who simply CANNOT speak about their opponent’s position without lying about it or misrepresenting it?

    Good explanations have reach.

    CR, I don’t see any connection whatsoever between the question I asked above and your response. It appears that you’ve simply taken this opportunity – following on our last exchange — to repeat your laundry list of idiosyncratic, non-evidentiary reasons why you needn’t engage physical evidence. If you are unwilling to understand such things as why a “template” replicator is not a “recipe” replicator, and that one is physically incapable of producing the effects of the other, then what’s the point of discussing evidence with you? It seems to me that it would be better, in your case, to simply let you roll out all your justifications for ignoring the physical evidence, and then just move on. Obviously, in the absence of physical details, you are free to continue indulging yourself in your chosen misconceptions, but there is nothing that can be done about that.

  14. 14
    kairosfocus says:

    TJG, yup, it is important to see what goes on behind the — too often, misleading — united front as presented to the public by champions of scientism and asserted consensus. KF

  15. 15
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8:

    ID is nothing if not an attempt to argue for supernaturalism.

    What miracle do you believe had to occur for life to arise as an act of a designer that was not necessary for life to arise through blind unguided natural forces?

  16. 16
    Barry Arrington says:

    rvb8’s comment at 4 demonstrates the insane double standard of many materialists:

    Materialist: Blind unguided natural forces are well able to account for the staggering complexity of life.

    ID Proponent: Well, another explanation is that a designer is responsible for the staggering complexity of life.

    Materialist: But that would require a miracle! You are just arguing for God.

    *palm forehead*

  17. 17
    john_a_designer says:

    Upright BiPed @ 5,

    What do we call someone who simply CANNOT speak about their opponent’s position without lying about it or misrepresenting it?

    Well, let’s give rvb8 some benefit of the doubt here. It could also be that he is deluded or simply daft (daft is a polite way of saying he’s misinformed, ignorant or stupid.) This is what I call the internet atheist (troll?) trilemma. The logically fallacious “arguments” they persistently make are because they are either dishonest, deluded or daft. Of course it could be, some combination of the three. For example some of them may be “willfully” ignorant.

    Is there another possibility? I suppose but those are the only ones I can think of.

  18. 18
    critical rationalist says:

    @UB

    CR, I don’t see any connection whatsoever between the question I asked above and your response.

    You haven’t claimed I’m misrepresenting ID?

    It appears that you’ve simply taken this opportunity – following on our last exchange — to repeat your laundry list of idiosyncratic, non-evidentiary reasons why you needn’t engage physical evidence.

    And I’m the one misrepresenting someone’s position? Again, empiricism was an improvement because it help promote the importance of empirical evidence. However it got the role empirical evidence plays wrong. And worse, people started trying to take that mistake seriously. So, a claim that I don’t think it’s necessary to engage physical evidence is a misrepresentation of my position. Furthermore, I’ve clarified this several times. So, it’s unclear why you keep repeating a claim you know is mistaken. Seems to me you’re calling the kettle black.

    If you are unwilling to understand such things as why a “template” replicator is not a “recipe” replicator, and that one is physically incapable of producing the effects of the other, then what’s the point of discussing evidence with you?

    So, you’re going to keep bringing up what you think is a mistake, despite having clarified it previously, and to which you did not respond?

    From This comment

    [Excerpt from paper that indicates the recipe consists of subtasks, within subtasks that eventually end up with non-replication specific tasks, which makes it compatible with no-design laws.]

    IOW, from what I can gather, what you referring to as rate-independence would be subtasks in the constructor theoretic terms. The specific mediation would itself be knowledge. Again, this open-endedness is acknowledged in the paper.

    To which you did not reply. Furthermore, if I was wrong regarding subtasks, you did not clarify how I was wrong by contrasting what your or the article’s position was. Rather, you incorrectly assumed I appealed to authority when I pointed out not only was you conclusion of the evidence not in any of the papers you referenced, but there was an explicit lack of that conclusion in at least one of them.

    Yet you claim you’re just following the evidence and I’m just ignoring it.

    Obviously, in the absence of physical details, you are free to continue indulging yourself in your chosen misconceptions, but there is nothing that can be done about that.

    As you’re free to continue to indulge yourself in the misconception that I think empirical evidence is irrelevant? Thinking you are mistaken about the role empirical evidence plays is not the same as thinking empirical evidence is irrelevant. Thinking we do not induce theories from observations from observations same as thinking empirical evidence is irrelevant, etc.

    Is there nothing that can be done about that as well?

  19. 19
    critical rationalist says:

    The fool kept shouting “Why! Why!” stamping his foot with rage, but the wise man understood that not everything can be explained ….

    Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume the anti-rational stance that there is some boundary at which some things cannot be explained, how would you know you’ve reached it? Why assume it is here rather than there, or somewhere else? That couldn’t possibly have anything to do with dogma, could it?

    Consciousness is not only presupposed by the distinction between reality and illusion, it is also presupposed by the quest for explanation. For where would explanations reside if not in the minds of conscious beings?

    We start out as a single unconscious cell that contains the knowledge of how to build an entire conscious being from raw materials. Where would the knowledge for that transformation reside if not in the knowledge that exists in those cells?

    Unless something is prohibited by the law of physics the only thing that would prevent us from accomplishing it is knowing how. You’re not suggesting the transformation from a single unconscious cell into a conscious is prohibited by by the law of physics? That’s refuted by, well, the fact that you didn’t appear out of thin air. So, what’s your objection?

    Let me guess, consciousness is so weird that human reasoning and problem solving are not applicable? But that’s just one of many general purpose strategies one could use to deny anything.

  20. 20
    Origenes says:

    CR: Even if, for the sake of argument, we assume the anti-rational stance that there is some boundary at which some things cannot be explained ….

    Explain to me why it is an “anti-rational stance” that some things cannot be explained and I will explain to you why the opposite is true.

    CR: We start out as a single unconscious cell …

    That’s unacceptable as a starting point.

  21. 21
    critical rationalist says:

    @Origenes

    Why is it anti-rational? Apparently you have failed to grasp the impactions of assuming there is some inexplicable realm where inexplicable beings reach in to our bubble of explicably in a way that can actually effect us. From a much earlier comment on UD.

    If we really do reside in a finite bubble of explicably, which exists in an island in a sea of of inexplicability, the inside of this bubble cannot be explicable either. This is because the inside is supposedly dependent what occurs in this inexplicable realm. Any assumption that the world is inexplicable leads to bad explanations. That is, no theory about what exists beyond this bubble can be any better than “Zeus rules” there. And, given the dependency above (this realm supposedly effects us), this also means there can be no better expiation that “Zeus rules” inside this bubble as well.

    In other words, our everyday experience in this bubble would only appear explicable if we carefully refrain from asking specific questions. Note this bares a strong resemblance to a pre-scientific perspective with its distinction between an Earth designed for human beings and a heaven that is beyond human comprehension.

    Of course, just because something is a bad explanation this doesn’t necessarily mean it is might not be true.

    But, if we assume this is indeed true, for the sake of criticism, and that all observations should conform to it, this leads to the following question: “If bad explanations are indeed true, then how do you explain our ability to know anything?”

    That’s unacceptable as a starting point.

    This is where you insert an argument for why it’s an unacceptable as a starting point.

    For example, are you suggesting that the fertilized egg you started out as was conscious and therefore no transition has occurred? Otherwise, it’s unclear how this is not an acceptable staring point for the transition from not exhibiting conciseness to exhibiting conciseness.

  22. 22
    LocalMinimum says:

    CR:

    …we assume the anti-rational stance that there is some boundary at which some things cannot be explained…

    Why is it anti-rational? Apparently you have failed to grasp the impactions of assuming there is some inexplicable realm where inexplicable beings reach in to our bubble of explicably in a way that can actually effect us.

    Happens every time a squirrel is hit by a car.

  23. 23
    PaV says:

    From Pop goes the Universe:

    Would you agree that inflation inspired lots of important experiments and ideas? Absolutely, including even many of our own ideas. However, just because an idea inspires does not mean that it has predictive power in the scientific sense. This is an old issue, extensively discussed among philosophers of science.

    This sounds exactly like the criticism leveled at ID by our dear Darwinist friends: ID is a scientific non-starter, while Darwinian evolution gives rise to so many fruitful ideas.

    Well, I would question how “fruitful” they are.

    But, then there’s this:

    ID: “junk-DNA” has function
    Darwinism: “Junk DNA” is a remnant of NS; leftovers that just go along for the ride.

    ID: Genes alone cannot give rise to body-plans; regulatory regions are more critical to evolution than merely genes.
    Darwinism: There’s 100,000 genes in the human genome.
    There’s 50,000 genes in the human genome. There’s 30,000 genes.
    There’s 20,000. There’s 15,000.

    Who gets the “predictive” side of this argument right?

  24. 24
    Pearlman says:

    Cosmic Inflation fits the natural observations best under the SPIRAL cosmological redshift hypothesis and cosmology model, the new standard for the strongest science.
    reference free infographic:
    http://www.researchgate.net/publication/312519866

  25. 25

    PaV,
    I think you get the flavor of the comparison. If inflation is an unprovable theory that encourages other, more provable theories, then it operates as a meta-theory, or a metaphysical assumption.
    In exactly the same way, Darwinism and ID are meta-theories, and with equal footing.
    The 33 Nobel scientists are making arguments for metatheories that would support ID. The IL&S are making arguments against metatheories that support Biologos. A very interesting arrangement.

  26. 26
    critical rationalist says:

    @ PAV

    I’m still confused by this sort of thinking. Some human designed things are ornamental and have no function. Some human designed things are unavoidable or unintended side effects, etc. As such, it’s unclear why assuming that an organism designed should predict that everything has a purpose. Not to mention that if that designer is God, significant aspects of the organism could be non functional for some supposedly good reason we cannot understand.

  27. 27
    critical rationalist says:

    I’d also point out that you seem to be concerned with provenance, rather than actually solving problems. For example, we know that we start out with a guess. So, we should prefer theories that have the most content that could be found in error.

    From the Wikipedia entry on Critical Rationalism..

    In this sense, critical rationalism turns the normal understanding of a traditional rationalist, and a realist, on its head. Especially the view that a theory is better if it is less likely to be true is in direct opposition to the traditional positivistic view, which holds that one should seek for theories that have a high probability.[5] Popper notes that this “may illustrate Schopenhauer’s remark that the solution of a problem often first looks like a paradox and later like a truism”. Even a highly unlikely theory that conflicts current observation (and is thus false, like “all swans are white”) must be considered to be better than one which fits observations perfectly, but is highly probable (like “all swans have a color”). This insight is the crucial difference between naive falsificationism and critical rationalism. The lower probability theory is favoured by critical rationalism because the higher the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false. The rationale behind this is simply to make it as easy as possible to find out whether the theory is false so that it can be replaced by one that is closer to the truth. It is not meant as a concession to justificationist epistemology, like assuming a theory to be “justifiable” by asserting that it is highly unlikely and yet fits observation.

    Even the highly unlikely theory that conflicts current observation that “A very specific area of the cell are genes and of those a specific area are responsible for body-plans” is preferable to the theory that “everything in the cell has a function” or “all genes have a function”, etc. because the latter has a greater number of ways in which it may turn out to be false.

  28. 28

    Checking back in …

    Your post at #18 attempts to sell the idea that you have engaged the physical evidence, and that I have failed to respond to your penetrating criticisms. This is pure deception on your part.

    This is what I told you at the top of our conversation:

    ID suggests that an act of intelligence can be empirically detected in the origin of life on earth. This is the claim that ID theorists attempt to answer. In order to validate the claim, there must be some measurable aspect of known intelligent processes found in the physical embodiment of living things. To that end, science has documented the necessary physical conditions of semiotic systems – that is, systems that use information bound in physical memory to create functional effects. Science has documented that these systems are unique (and exclusively identifiable) among all other physical systems found in the cosmos. Science has shown that these systems are only related to living things.

    Inside this very small set of physical systems, science has found an even smaller subset of systems. These are systems that use spatially-oriented representations (tokens) to encode their physical memory (i.e. they use a reading-frame code). Science has documented the additional physical requirements of this smaller subset of systems, and found that they are identifiable only in written language and mathematics – two unambiguous products of intelligence. It is now known that this same physical system is also found in the translation of the genetic information inside the cell (i.e. the genetic code), thus forming an inference to intelligent action 4 billion years before the appearance of human intelligence on earth. So to answer your question, ID theorists claim that the origin of the genetic translation apparatus — underlying all of biology – is best explained as the product of intelligent action. Moreover, the ID claim about detecting a universal correlate of intelligent action in biology has been validated by physics, using the scientific method. Indeed, the observations that fundamentally support the claim are not even controversial.

    I then went on to explain the specific physical details that identify the system in question.

    And this is how you actually ended up dealing with this evidence:

    CR: “There is a language in organisms, so they were designed?” Still not seeing it.

    It’s the kind of thing someone says specifically to avoid dealing with the evidence. Having not responded to any specific details of the system (over the course of an entire conversation), you attempt to simply jump over those details and go directly to minimizing the implication: “Yeah, so it takes symbols and language to organize the cell, so what, it means nothing?”

    Bottom Line: A symbolic language system is physically required to organize the cell. The material and organizational requirements to establish such a system are exceptionally steep; clearly beyond chance, beyond evolution, and only found elsewhere in language and mathematics. Despite posting a continuous stream of irrelevant and idiosyncratic objections, you have yet to produce a single criticism that demonstrates any of the observations are untrue, or that the inference is unwarranted.

    And you still can’t.

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