Intelligent Design

Mark Frank, “OK, I’m With You Fellas.”

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O Brother Where Art Thou is in my top five all time favorite movies. In this particular clip both Everett and Pete want to be the leader of the three-man “gang.” So they take a vote . . .

O Brother Clip.

I was reminded of this when I read one of Mark Frank’s comments to my last post.

In that post I pointed out that over at The Skeptical Zone, Elizabeth Liddle says this:

Chance is not an explanation, and therefore cannot be rejected, or supported, as a hypothesis.

But Ronald A. Thisted, PhD, a statistics professor in the Departments of Statistics and Health Studies at the University of Chicago, says this:

If the chance explanation can be ruled out, then the differences seen in the study must be due to the effectiveness of the treatment being studied.

Mark Frank commented on the post, and I tried to pin him down as to whether he agreed with Thisted or Liddle. After much squirming he finally said:

I never disagreed with either Lizzie or Thisted on the essentials because they are in agreement. All that has happened is that Thisted has used ‘chance’ in a somewhat slipshod way.

Liddle: “Chance is not an explanation.”

Thisted: “The purpose of statistical testing is to rule out the chance explanation.”

Frank: “OK, I’m with you fellas.”

One of them might be right and the other wrong. They may both be wrong. One thing is certain, they can’t both be right.

Hey Mark, is this why you are so squishy on the Law of Noncontradiction? You want to reserve the option of having it both ways?

64 Replies to “Mark Frank, “OK, I’m With You Fellas.”

  1. 1
    Neil Rickert says:

    I’ll try to avoid getting into semantic arguments about the meaning of “chance”. It’s the nature of language, that people disagree about meanings.

    So I’ll concentrate on the statistics. And, incidentally, I have taught courses in mathematical statistics.

    I’ll use drug testing as an example. We do use null hypothesis testing to evaluate the efficacy of drugs.

    I’m not an expert in medicines, but it is my understanding that people don’t all respond in the same way to a particular drug treatment. So we might say that there is some randomness in the response to drugs.

    To use null hypothesis testing, we use a sample of the population. The double-blind protocols are supposed to minimize bias in the sampling. However, the sampling is still random — we do not test the entire population, only a sample.

    When we design the null hypothesis experiment, we determine confidence intervals, which deal with possible randomness in the results of the test.

    The confidence intervals are based only on the random sampling errors. They have no relation to possible randomness in the way people respond to the drug. If the experiment fails to prove the efficacy of the drugs, that is because the noise due to the random sampling is too high. If you want to say that chance explains that noise, then you are talking about the chance involved in the sampling, and not about anything probabilistic about the way the drug acts. Personally, I would not use that “chance explains” way of talking, but if used for such statistical testing, it could only apply to the randomness of the sampling.

    If it turns out that the drug is efficacious, but its effects vary for different patients, then we might want to know the mean and standard deviation of that variation. We could design a statistical experiment for that, too. And the result would give us confidence intervals for the mean and deviation of the drugs effects. But the randomness involved in having confidence intervals, rather than exact measurements, is again the randomness due to the random sampling.

  2. 2
    Barry Arrington says:

    My God Neil. Are you serious? You may have taught math, but you have no idea what you are talking about here. Or else, there really is no depths to which Darwinists will not sink in their ideology-driven scorched earth sophistry.

    Your entire comment rests on this assertion:

    If the experiment fails to prove the efficacy of the drugs, that is because the noise due to the random sampling is too high.

    That is wrong in so many ways it is difficult to know where to begin.

    First, if anyone says “what does a lawyer know about statistical sampling,” I would respond that before I was an attorney I was a certified public accountant. I was an auditor for Ernst & Whinney (now Ernst & Young), and in my audit work a used statistical sampling all the time. To prepare for that work, I studied statistics in college.

    Second, no one needs to believe me. Go read Professor Thisted’s paper. As a professor of statistics, he can be counted on to get it right. Here’s another link to his paper.
    http://galton.uchicago.edu/~th.....pvalue.pdf

    Third, Neil does not even get the question right, much less the answer. The null hypothesis in a drug trial is not that the drug is efficacious. The null hypothesis is that the difference between the groups is due to chance. If the drug is in fact efficacious, there will be a “real” difference between the two groups. How do you know if there is a real difference. By ruling out the chance explanation, as Professor Thisted says.

    Fourth, the “chance” at issue is not the noise in the sampling. I mean, this statement is absurd on its face. If group A takes the treatment and group B takes the placebo, what is being measured when they report back different results? Ask yourself this question. If the treatment is not effective, what difference would you expect between the two groups? Of course, you would expect their response to be roughly equal. But no two groups are ever going to be exactly equal. Random differences between the groups will result in some difference. A statistical test starts with this assumption (the null hypothesis): There is no difference between the two groups and any difference that is reported is due to chance (i.e., the “chance explanation).

    The statistical analysis then determines whether that null hypothesis is rejected. In other words, if you reject the chance explanation, you are left with the conclusion that the best explanation for the data is that the drug is efficacious.

    Finally, while Neil is wrong about the “sampling noise” being the “chance” that is tested, there is such a thing as sampling noise. There is a chance that the sampled population does not truly reflect the real population. Generally, the larger your sample size, the smaller this risk is but it cannot be eliminated completely. In other words, there is a “chance” that the “chance explanation” is correct even though your test says it should be rejected. That risk is measured by the “p-value” Professor Thisted is discussing in his paper. A low p-value means the chance of your analyses being wrong is low. How low is low enough to rely on the test? There is no universally accepted answer to that question. Generally, however, a p-value of 0.05 or less is said to be “statistically significant,” which means that for practical purposes the sampled group can be assumed to be reflective of the population as a whole.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    OT: My favorite ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’ song:

    Alison Krauss – Down in the River to Pray
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VLKngHexeU

  4. 4
    scordova says:

    Generally, the larger your sample size, the smaller this risk is

    But remember Barry, you’re responding to someone who said the Law of Large Numbers has no relevance to reality.

    it [the law of large numbers] is a theorem in mathematics with no relevance to reality

    Neil Rickert comment on the Fundamental Law of ID

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    That is wrong in so many ways it is difficult to know where to begin.

    I’ll admit to being a little careless in that statement you criticized. It is, of course, possible that the drug is not efficaceous, so I should have included that possibility in my statement.

    My main point was that the confidence levels in a test are related to the randomness of the sampling, rather than to any randomness in the response to the drug.

    Finally, while Neil is wrong about the “sampling noise” being the “chance” that is tested, …

    I did not say that is what is tested. Rather, that is what the confidence levels and confidence intervals are all about. Of course, we are attempting to test the effects of the drug, but the sampling noise is an important part of how we evaluate the tests.

  6. 6
    Neil Rickert says:

    But remember Barry, you’re responding to someone who said the Law of Large Numbers has no relevance to reality.

    If you go back and look where I made that quoted comment, I also said that the law of large numbers does apply to mathematical models. A properly designed statistical experiment uses a carefully specified mathematical model.

  7. 7
    Barb says:

    “Chance and chance alone did it all from the primeval soup to man,” said Nobel laureate Christian de Duve, speaking about the origin of life.

    If Dr. Liddle thinks chance isn’t an explanation, then she might want to have a conversation with Dr. de Duve.

    The term “chance” can be defined several ways: a mathematical probability, such as the chance involved in flipping a coin; however, when scientists use this term,
    generally it’s substituting for a more precise word such as “cause,” especially when the cause is not known.

    “To personify ‘chance’ as if we were talking about a causal agent,” notes biophysicist Donald M. MacKay, “is to make an illegitimate switch from a scientific to a quasi-religious mythological concept.”

    Similarly, Robert C. Sproul points out: “By calling the unknown cause ‘chance’ for so long, people begin to forget that a substitution was made. . . . The assumption that ‘chance equals an unknown cause’ has come to mean for many that ‘chance equals cause.’”

    Nobel laureate Jacques L. Monod, for one, used this chance-equals-cause line of reasoning. “Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, [is] at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution,” he wrote. “Man knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance.” Note he says: ‘BY chance.’ Monod does what many others do—he elevates chance to a creative principle. Chance is offered as the means by which life came to be on earth.

    In fact, dictionaries show that “chance” is “the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings.” Thus, if one speaks about life coming about by chance, he is saying that it came about by a causal power that is not known.

  8. 8
    scordova says:

    Bill Dembski outlines a critic’s strategy:

    Irrelevancies are stressed

    ask for endless detail, throw in countless red herrings,

    prediction accurate

    If the experiment fails to prove the efficacy of the drugs, that is because the noise due to the random sampling is too high.

    That had little to do with the paper in question.

    Irrelevancies are stressed

    ask for endless detail, throw in countless red herrings,

    that also characterizes this statement by Lizzie

    Chance is not an explanation, and therefore cannot be rejected, or supported, as a hypothesis.

    Lizzie is free to define “chance” so that statement is true, but that wouldn’t be a charitable rendering of how it is being used in ID discussions.
    We at UD know the anti-ID playbook, and the anti-IDists know the ID playbook. It’s really a matter at some point how long both parties want to keep playing the game and what value each party has in playing such games.

    The strategy is valuable to anti-IDists because it changes the subject and causes the ID folks to actually stop arguing their case and talk about irrelevancies.

    The ID folks engage in it because sometimes the anti-ID folks will say something gobsmakingly stupid in the process of throwing red herring in, and thus the ID folks can discredit the critics when the red herring backfires, so in that sense, occasionally a red herring back fires in a big way.

    The other way a red herring can backfire is when it results in a critic saying something that will demonstrate a Darwinists effectively criticizing another Darwinist. And thus a Darwinist ends up discrediting another Darwinist.

    Barb, God bless her, has done just that!

    “Chance and chance alone did it all from the primeval soup to man,” said Nobel laureate Christian de Duve, speaking about the origin of life.

    If Dr. Liddle thinks chance isn’t an explanation, then she might want to have a conversation with Dr. de Duve.

    Thank you Barb!

  9. 9
    scordova says:

    Red herrings can backfire. We have Lizzie saying:

    Chance is not an explanation, and therefore cannot be rejected, or supported, as a hypothesis.

    and Mark saying:

    Thisted has used ‘chance’ in a somewhat slipshod way.

    but in effect, they end up criticizing many of their own, like Larry Moran and evolutionary textbook author Douglas Futuyma

    according to the textbook, evolution by chance occurs

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2.....hance.html

    So now, both Mark and Lizzie are demonstrated to not only be at variance with ID, the statistics paper Barry quoted, but also some of their own.

    Are such games worth playing? Well, it depends on whether having this sort of fun is valuable to the participants.

    When engaging in such games, at some point it has little to do with the real issues at hand.

    I find a tiny amount of value in such games in as much at it reminds me the critics are more out to disagree than they are to deal with ideas impartially.

  10. 10
    TSErik says:

    Are such games worth playing? Well, it depends on whether having this sort of fun is valuable to the participants.

    When engaging in such games, at some point it has little to do with the real issues at hand.

    When the game ends up effecting things like national policy and education, I would say it is of the highest importance to understand, reveal, and disassemble the rhetorical tactika of the Darwinists.

    Hell, I’d even suggest compiling these few threads in a section on the site for reference.

  11. 11
    Barry Arrington says:

    Sal asks if the games are worth playing. I have to admit that constantly correcting Darwinist sophistry is tedious and wearisome (KF’s ability to come back over and over to basic correctives, his seemingly bottomless well of patience, is a marvel to behold). On the other hand, it is necessary to show their scorched earth never-admit-you-are-wrong-even-when-you-know-you-are tactics in the small things that are easily understood. That way when they inevitably carry those tactics into the bigger game, they will have already scorched their credibility in addition to the earth.

  12. 12
    scordova says:

    Chance is not an explanation, and therefore cannot be rejected, or supported, as a hypothesis.

    Lizzie

    and Mark in support

    Thisted has used ‘chance’ in a somewhat slipshod way.

    But they are obviously not up-to-date on the latest and greatest evolutionary literature!

    In 2011, evolutionary biologist Eugene Koonin wrote this highly acclaimed book:

    The Logic of Chance: The nature and origin of biological evolution

    He writes:

    The overwhelming importance of chance in the emergence of life on Earth suggested by this line of enquiry is unorthodox and sure to make some uncomfortable

    Eugene Koonin
    The Logic of Chance

    Koonin is a big advocate of multiverses as it helps chance become a theoretically viable mechanism of evolution. Larry Moran loves that book.

    I point that out to show that it would put Lizzie’s claim:

    Chance is not an explanation, and therefore cannot be rejected, or supported, as a hypothesis.

    Lizzie

    in the minority even among her associates. So why did she do it? Maybe she was trying to bail out one of her heroes who go reduced to ashes in recent debate at UD.

  13. 13
    scordova says:

    On the other hand, it is necessary to show their scorched earth never-admit-you-are-wrong-even-when-you-know-you-are tactics in the small things that are easily understood.

    Well said, I never thought we’d annihilate a nationally known evolutionary biologist who has been called upon to spearhead the assault on ID at Dover and ID literature. He was vanquished on pathetically simple questions:

    1. chance’s role in 500 coins being heads
    2. chance’s role in the outcome of a two-headed coin toss

    He failed miserably for all the world to see.

  14. 14
    Mapou says:

    This is brutal.

  15. 15

    The alternative to the “chance doesn’t exist” school of thought is that everything is deterministic. Right down to the smallest particle, right back to the Big Bang and before. Every particle of every atom of every molecule of every amino acid of every protein of every cell of every organ of every organism of all of nature is where it is right now and behaving exactly as it is right now due to the sheer necessity of physics and chemistry. Everything we see around us was already built in out of force of necessity from the very first instant of existence.

    And yet, that contradicts what even what most ardent evolutionists believe. Gould famously quipped that if the tape of life were replayed we would end up with entirely different organisms.

    So, yes, unless one wants to go down the absolute deterministic intellectual dead end, chance must be acknowledged as real. Not just a definitional convenience — though it could certainly be useful in that sense as well — but an actual part of reality.

    —–

    BTW, I finally got the 2+2=4 question for the captcha problem!

  16. 16
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry – all you have done is trawl the paper for quotes which you could use to give the appearance of a contradiction. I expect this works nicely in court and is effective in a debating format like this where people do not have time to dig deeper. It does not, however, reveal the truth.  I would ask any one who is genuinely interested in this topic as opposed to “winning the debate” to read and understand Thisted’s paper and Lizzie’s response on TSZ. I will summarise the main points here.

    As Lizzie says the word “chance” is vague and can be used in many ways.  Informally people often say “chance” explained this or something happened by chance. However, Barry was using the word in the context of “chance as a hypothesis” to explain the 500 heads. As someone who has studied formal statistics Barry should know this is utter nonsense. The null hypothesis is never something as imprecise as chance. It is a specific claim such as “there is no difference between treatment A and treatment B” with an associated probability distribution. The alternative hypothesis (and nowadays it would be quite unacceptable not to formulate the alternative hypothesis as well) is also a probability distribution. This is clearly what both Lizzie and Thisted meant, although Thisted expressed himself rather sloppily.  It might be that is what Barry meant by “chance as a hypothesis” for explaining the 500 heads but when I articulated the most plausible hypothesis (50% independent probability of each coin being heads) and repeatedly asked him to confirm that this was what he meant by “chance” he did not do so.

    When Thisted was using chance as an explanation he meant that the results could be explained by the null hypothesis plus the unexplained variation (reflected in the probability distribution). Possibly Thisted was using “chance” to refer to the unexplained bit. The irony is that in this sense chance variation could well be the result of intelligent intentional action (think for example of opinion polls).

  17. 17
    Mark Frank says:

    #15 Eric

    I don’t think anyone is claiming chance does not exist. I certainly believe there are such things as non-determined events. Our only point is that “chance” is far too vague to act as a hypothesis. I hope my #16 will explain.

  18. 18
    Paul Giem says:

    The really sad part is that Nick Matzke could have avoided all this by simply allowing truth to be a guide rather than simply opposing ID on principle. I have seen where, by recognizing that his opponents might have some points, listening, and responding as directly as possible to those points, he can make a worthwhile contribution.

    Perhaps there is a lesson in there for all of us. Never get so caught up in opposition that you fail to recognize when your opponent has a point. Truth is still more important than winning. (That is hard on all of our egos–we might have to admit we were at least partially wrong.)

    It also means that we might have to surrender the typical argument that our opponent has made a mistake, and has therefore lost all credibility. People make mistakes all the time. What is important is whether the core argument is valid and sound.

  19. 19
    Mark Frank says:

    #18 Paul

    The really sad part is that Nick Matzke could have avoided all this by simply allowing truth to be a guide rather than simply opposing ID on principle.

    This principle should guide us all – but why do you assume that Nick was not guided by what he sees as the truth? There has been an outbreak here of assuming that what you say is so obviously true that anyone who is disagreeing with you must be doing so insincerely. Nick, myself, Lizzie and many others on TSZ all sincerely belief that it is wrong to think that “Chance” as a simple abstract concept can be a hypothesis. We have given reasons for it. We have tried to seek common ground by offering more precise definitions.  What more do you expect?

    Barry (or any of you) could have avoided all this by responding to my request (repeated many times)

    “By chance do you mean a 50% probability of each coin being head or tails independent of other coins”.

    It is not as if Barry answered “No – what I mean is ….”. He just avoided answering the question (as far I can see – there have been a lot of comments flying about on many threads)

  20. 20
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Mark Frank, may I say that I respect your view. You have a commendable and pleasant way of expressing yourself. Also, I am with you when you argue that each person has a right to hold a viewpoint even if contrary to ones antagonist or even the majority line.

    May I ask you a question Mark Frank, so that I may understand your position on Chance more fully?

    Are you saying, that if we knew the precise details of all things in a given situation, then we could predict accurately what is by law determined to take place and hence, in this scenario, Chance would not truly exist? Chance is merely our way of saying, we do not have every relevant detail to explain the outcome of an event.

    Would that be, in broad brush-strokes your position on Chance.

    Thanks.

  21. 21
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,
    Quotes from Eugene V. Koonin, “The Logic of Chance”, 2012.

    Undirected, random variation is the main process that provides the material for evolution. Darwin was the first to allow chance as a major factor into the history of life, and this was arguably one of his greatest insights. (p.14)

    (…) the interplay of randomness (chance) and regularity (necessity) in life and its evolution. (preface)

    As best I could, I tried to stick with the leitmotif of the book, the interplay between chance and nonrandom processes.. (xii)

    Considering Darwin’s work in a higher plane of abstraction that is central to this book, it is worth emphasizing that Darwin seems to have been the first to establish the crucial interaction between chance and order (necessity) in evolution. Under Darwin’s concept, variation is (nearly) completely random, whereas selection introduces order and creates complexity. In this respect, Darwin is diametrically opposed to Lamarck, whose worldview essentially banished chance. (3)

    As emphasized earlier, Darwin recognized a crucial role of chance in evolution, but that role was limited to one part of the evolutionary process only: the emergence of changes (mutations, in the modern parlance). (10)

    Here chance enters the picture at a new level: Although Darwin and his immediate successors saw the role of chance in the emergence of heritable change (mutations), drift introduces chance into the next phase—namely, the fixation of these changes—and takes away some of the responsibility from selection. (10)

  22. 22
    Mark Frank says:

    Ho-De-Ho

    Thanks for your very pleasant comment.

    I am not a complete determinist. I think there are some events that are truly uncaused and logically unpredictable. I would describe chance as encompassing those elements that are effectively unpredictable. This encompasses both outcomes which are logically unpredictable and outcomes which have determining causes but we don’t know what they are. I don’t think the distinction matters as far as this debate is concerned. Do you see it as important?

  23. 23
    Mark Frank says:

    #21 Box

    Thanks for the quotes but I don’t see their relevance. As I tried to explain in #16 the word “chance” is a very broad brush word which can be used many ways. My objection (and I think it is shared by Nick and Lizzie) is to proposing “chance” in the abstract as a hypothesis to explain the 500 heads. I am not even sure we disagree with Barry! But he seems averse to any attempt to clarify exactly what he meant by chance in the original OP.

    In the last 30 minutes I read Barry’s comment #2 above, which rudeness and aggression aside, is not a bad description of conventional hypothesis testing and suggests that when he talks of chance being a hypothesis he means something like “resulting from the unpredictable variation within a specific null hypothesis”. In other words there might well be no dispute at all! It just needs a little more clarity about what he means by chance as hypothesis.

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    To expand a bit on Barb’s excellent post at 7, in which she pointed out that ‘chance’ is given causal power by atheists, Eddington reflects on the dilemma for atheists here:

    “I have no “philosophical axe to grind” in this discussion. Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of Nature is repugnant to me. I am simply stating the dilemma to which our present fundamental conception of physical law leads us. I see no way round it; but whether future developments of science will find an escape I cannot predict. The dilemma is this: Surveying our surroundings, we find them to be far from a “fortuitous concourse of atoms”. The picture of the world, as drawn in existing physical theories shows arrangements of the individual elements for which the odds are multillions to 1 against an origin by chance. Some people would like to call this non-random feature of the world purpose or design; but I will call it non-committally anti-chance. We are unwilling in physics that anti-chance plays any part in the reactions between the systems of billions of atoms and quanta that we study; and indeed all our experimental evidence goes to show that these are governed by the laws of chance. Accordingly, we sweep anti-chance out of the laws of physics–out of the differential equations. Naturally, therefore, it reappears in the boundary conditions, for it must be got into the scheme somewhere. By sweeping it far enough away from the sphere of our current physical problems, we fancy we have got rid of it. It is only when some of us are so misguided as to try to get back billions of years into the past that we find the sweepings all piled up like a high wall and forming a boundary–a beginning of time–which we cannot climb over.
    A way out of the dilemma has been proposed which seems to have found favour with a number of scientific workers. I oppose it because I think it is untenable, not because of any desire to retain the present dilemma, I should like to find a genuine loophole. But that does not alter my conviction that the loophole that is at present being advocated is a blind alley.
    Eddington AS. 1931. The end of the world: from the standpoint of mathematical physics. Nature 127:447-453.

    Indeed, that ‘high wall’ that one cannot climb over is found to be a much higher wall than Eddington had realized in his day:

    “This now tells us how precise the Creator’s aim must have been: namely to an accuracy of one part in 10^10^123.”
    Roger Penrose – Emperor’s New Mind, Penrose, pp 339-345 – 1989

    “The time-asymmetry is fundamentally connected to with the Second Law of Thermodynamics: indeed, the extraordinarily special nature (to a greater precision than about 1 in 10^10^123, in terms of phase-space volume) can be identified as the “source” of the Second Law (Entropy).”
    Roger Penrose – The Physics of the Small and Large: What is the Bridge Between Them?

    It is also important to note how pervasive entropy is in its explanatory power:

    Shining Light on Dark Energy – October 21, 2012
    Excerpt: It (Entropy) explains time; it explains every possible action in the universe;,,
    Even gravity, Vedral argued, can be expressed as a consequence of the law of entropy. ,,,
    The principles of thermodynamics are at their roots all to do with information theory. Information theory is simply an embodiment of how we interact with the universe —,,,
    http://crev.info/2012/10/shini.....rk-energy/

    This number for the initial entropy of the universe is gargantuan. If this number were written out in its entirety, 1 with 10^123 zeros to the right, it still could not be written on a piece of paper the size of the entire visible universe, even if a number were written down on each sub-atomic particle in the entire universe, since the universe only has 10^80 sub-atomic particles in it.
    In this following video it is pointed out that if one tries to explain that gargantuan initial entropy of the universe by appealing to ‘pre-Big Bang states’ then one finds that the entropy problem gets even worse and worse the further back one tries to go:

    The Absurdity of Inflation, String Theory and The Multiverse – Dr. Bruce Gordon – video
    http://vimeo.com/34468027

    ‘If there was a pre-Big Bang state, and you have some bounces, that fine-tuning gets even finer as you go backwards, if you can even imagine such a thing”
    Dr. Bruce Gordon – quoted from 3:40 minute mark of the preceding video

    It is interesting to note how ‘pre-Big Bang states’ that Dr. Gordon referred to, in which ‘fine-tuning gets even finer as you go backwards’, reflects what Dembski’s ‘Search for a Search’ paper highlighted. A paper in which he and Dr. Marks proved that ‘searching for a successful search increases exponentially’ as one go backwards,,,

    The Search for a Search: Measuring the Information Cost of Higher Level Search William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II
    Excerpt: We prove two results: (1) The Horizontal No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that average relative performance of searches never exceeds unassisted or blind searches, and (2) The Vertical No Free Lunch Theorem, which shows that the difficulty of searching for a successful search increases exponentially with respect to the minimum allowable active information being sought.
    http://evoinfo.org/publication.....-a-search/

    Moreover, to circumvent any objections that information and entropy are not connected, the connection between information and entropy is found to be much tighter than many people realize,

    “Is there a real connection between entropy in physics and the entropy of information? …. The equations of information theory and the second law are the same, suggesting that the idea of entropy is something fundamental…”
    Tom Siegfried, Dallas Morning News, 5/14/90 – Quotes attributed to Robert W. Lucky, Ex. Director of Research, AT&T, Bell Laboratories & John A. Wheeler, of Princeton & Univ. of TX, Austin in the article

    Demonic device converts information to energy – 2010
    Excerpt: “This is a beautiful experimental demonstration that information has a thermodynamic content,” says Christopher Jarzynski, a statistical chemist at the University of Maryland in College Park. In 1997, Jarzynski formulated an equation to define the amount of energy that could theoretically be converted from a unit of information2; the work by Sano and his team has now confirmed this equation. “This tells us something new about how the laws of thermodynamics work on the microscopic scale,” says Jarzynski.
    http://www.scientificamerican......rts-inform

    Thus that high wall facing atheists, that Eddington referred to at the beginning of the universe, has the highly unusual characteristic of growing even higher, and higher, if one tries to scale it by appealing to ‘chance’ as a causal factor for the universe! 🙂

    It is also very interesting to note that Ludwig Boltzmann, an atheist, when he linked entropy and probability, did not, as Max Planck a Christian Theist points out in the following link, think to look for a constant for entropy:

    The Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann first linked entropy and probability in 1877. However, the equation as shown, involving a specific constant, was first written down by Max Planck, the father of quantum mechanics in 1900. In his 1918 Nobel Prize lecture, Planck said: “This constant is often referred to as Boltzmann’s constant, although, to my knowledge, Boltzmann himself never introduced it – a peculiar state of affairs, which can be explained by the fact that Boltzmann, as appears from his occasional utterances, never gave thought to the possibility of carrying out an exact measurement of the constant.”
    http://www.daviddarling.info/e.....ation.html

    I hold that the primary reason why Boltzmann, an atheist, never thought to carry out, or even propose, a precise measurement for the constant on entropy is that he, as an atheist, had thought he had arrived at the ultimate ‘chance’ cause for how everything in the universe operates when he had link probability with entropy. i.e. In linking entropy with probability, Boltzmann, again an atheist, thought he had explained everything that happens in the universe to a ‘random’ chance basis. To him, as an atheist, I hold that it would simply be unfathomable for him to even conceive that the ‘random chance’ (probabilistic) events of entropy in the universe should ever be constrained by a constant that would limit the effects of ‘random’ entropic events of the universe. Whereas on the contrary, to a Christian Theist such as Planck, it is expected that even these seemingly ‘chance’ entropic events of the universe should be bounded by a constant:

    Verse and Music

    Romans 8:20-21
    For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Phillips, Craig & Dean – When The Stars Burn Down – Worship Video with lyrics
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPuxnQ_vZqY

    Supplemental note:

    Quantum Zeno effect
    Excerpt: The quantum Zeno effect is,,, an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_Zeno_effect

    In other words, why should the entropy of an unstable particle care if and when I decide to look at it unless consciousness precedes material reality?

    Supplemental quote:

    “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.'”
    – Wolfgang Pauli

  25. 25
    Box says:

    Mark Frank,

    Surely you are joking when you say that you do not see the relevance!? The chance hypothesis is a crucial explanation for … everything.
    More Koonin quotes:

    (…) the emergence of even highly complex systems by chance is not just possible, but inevitable (392)

    (…) one of Darwin’s key achievements was demonstrating the essential interaction between chance and necessity in the evolution of life. According to Darwin, most of the heritable variation is random, and the directionality of evolution is brought about entirely by natural selection that governs the fixation or elimination of the random mutations (Darwin, 1859). (257)

    Eliminating the conflict between the Lamarckian and Darwinian evolutionary scenarios, far from being of purely historical significance, affects our fundamental views on the role and place of chance in evolution. This then seems to be a veritable, if underappreciated, paradigm shift in modern biology. (274)

    The studies reviewed in this chapter reveal more complex, unexpected contributions both on the side of chance/randomness and on the side of adaptive, even directional processes (287)

    Speaking of chance, entropy (noise) at all levels of biological information transmission can be a constructive factor of evolution, in large part because of the robustness of biological networks. (288)

    The MWO model not only permits but guarantees that, somewhere in the infinite multiverse (moreover, in every single infinite universe), such a complex system would emerge; moreover, there is an infinite number of these systems. Thus, the pertinent question is not whether systems of any complexity have emerged spontaneously by chance alone (the MWO guarantees this), but what is the most likely breakthrough stage whose appearance on Earth should be attributed to chance under anthropic reasoning? (386)

  26. 26
    Mark Frank says:

    #25 Box

    No I am not joking. The quotes you supply are all either in the context of specific hypotheses which contain unpredictable elements (i.e. the interpretation I am offering of “chance as a hypothesis) are not about hypotheses at all.

  27. 27
    Box says:

    #26 Mark Frank,

    Do you accept ‘gravity’ as an explanation? Or are you only willing to talk specifics?
    Second question: how about ‘randomness’ as a synonym for ‘chance’?

  28. 28
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Thank you for your answer Mark Frank. I think your explanation of Chance is pretty reasonable and sensible. I never thought you were a pure determinist.

    I shall ponder your comments, as I enjoy looking at things from the perspective of others. You express things very eloquently Mark Frank and I have found merit in most, if not all of the comments you share. Of course, nobody has the monopoly on the correct point of view, and that is why I solicited your explanation of Chance. To be honest I do not find anything to raise a hand in objection to with your definition of Chance.

    The difficulty of course is the multiplicity of definitions one can ascribe to a word.

    In this ongoing saga of 500 coin tosses, I understand the use of the word Chance to, in essence, mean ‘not deliberate’. I mean to say, if I stood outside and tossed a few hundred coins onto the lawn without any attention to the way I tossed nor any care as to what side up they landed, I would expect such a non deliberate approach to achieve a pretty even share of heads and tails. That would be a ‘Chance’ result, in the colloquial everyday world, I would hazard. If I found 500 Heads peeping back at me though, I should first suspect a deliberate explanation. Such as a two headed coin, or weighted coin or spooky goings on, since the observed and repeated natural laws haven’t tended towards such a one sided result.

    I could be wrong, but I think that that would be the response of most people irrespective of their personal beliefs.

    Please do not think that I am trying to shoe-horn your position in this discussion Mark Frank. Nor am I stating that your viewpoint is wrong. I have been trying to understand why some seem against saying 500 heads, while technically possible, does actually smack of deliberate intervention rather than non deliberate Chance.

    Please do not read this as being personally antagonistic towards your good self Mark Frank. I am speaking somewhat generically as an observer of these discussions. I also appreciate the quite even toned line that you take.

    Perhaps a comment I made on another post may explain my thoughts from a more tongue in cheek perspective. I shall post it below for your consideration. Please understand that the following post is not an attack on those who believe in evolution or are not persuaded by ID. I have no particular investiture in either. I wrote the following simply as an observation on what I had been reading.

    Thank you.

  29. 29
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Whatho everybody. This coin flipping sequence of threads has been deuced interesting to follow.

    I have often heard it said by some of the ID detractors that ID does not make any predictions. From following the statements of all of the good people here at UD who have been casting 500 coins about hither and thither, I think a case for a positive prediction can clearly be seen. I shall state it now.

    If a person were to be sauntering through the Roman districts one sunny afternoon and happened upon the Trevi fountain, they may plod over to have a look into its waters at all of the coins thrown into it by the many visiting lovers and wish-makers.

    Now what would our coin spotting adventurer expect to see? From the “500 coin” comments, I would say that if our adventurer towed the ID line, they would expect to see a pretty even distribution of heads and tails displayed amidst the booty.

    Why?

    Because, that kind of configuration does not need an intelligence or physical law to explain it and is observed repeatedly on a regular basis.

    On the other hand, from following this debate, one would conclude that our Roman sojourner, if he were anti-ID, would not predict anything whatsoever. If the coins were all Heads, well there you are. All Tails? Not a concern. A mixture of the two? So what. After all, all configurations are possible are they not.

    On top of this, what would be the response of of the ID advocate if all coins were heads up? They would no doubt say to themselves: “Gosh that is odd. Why are they all like that? Very rummy. Perhaps some child is diving down and turning them all Heads up. Or is there some particularly localised force of nature at work here? Let me see…” – or thoughts to that effect.

    If the urge took them, they could set up a camcorder or whatever, in order to see if there is a diving boy or girl interfering with the coins orientation. If not, let’s start doing some more detailed research on the fountain. This is weird stuff what?

    By contrast, the anti-ID figure (as posited on these threads), on finding all coins glimmering their Heads to him, would merely say. Nothing interesting here. No need for inquiry.

    This is of note since I have often heard it said that ID stultifies curiosity in science. However, that is clearly not the case in the science of coin tossing at least. The opposite view, in this instance, would appear to waving this flag.

    By-the-by, I am sure nobody opposing ID would actually hold these singular views, but merely from the comments here at UD these views are what an impartial bystander could conclude.

    Thanks for reading.

    Ho-De-Ho

  30. 30
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Once again, Mark Frank, please do not take the above as a personal criticism. It was just an observation of the general discussion.

    That is what led me to ask for clarification of your personal definition on Chance.

    As I said, I shall really ponder over what you said. Many Thanks.

    Ho-De-Ho

  31. 31
    Barry Arrington says:

    Mark Frank @ 16. Lizzie says there is something called “chance” and it is not an explanation for anything. Thisted says there is something called “chance” and it can be an explanation. Those two statements cannot be reconciled no matter how much you stamp your foot. Everyone knows that. Why you don’t admit it is a mystery.

  32. 32
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related note, the atheist’s insistence on ‘chance’ as a causal explanation in Darwinian evolution (i.e. ‘random’ variation) is what prevents Darwinian evolution from ever having a rigid mathematical demarcation criteria in science:

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.”
    Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

  33. 33
    Mark Frank says:

    Barry

    I am not sure whether you just didn’t read everything that Lizzie wrote or are you deliberately omitted it. I quote a relevant passage:

    Sure, we can use “chance” as a free-hand “explanation” – “it was just one of those things”; “we met purely by chance”; “if my parents hadn’t met by lucky chance, I wouldn’t be here”.

    But we are talking about formal statistical null hypothesis testing here (clearly – Barry headed his original post “A Statistics Question”) and in formal statistical hypothesis testing, chance is not a hypothesis.

    It could hardly be clearer that Lizzie is not saying chance cannot be an explanation for anything in its broadest sense. She is saying it cannot be a hypothesis in the formal statistical sense. Furthermore your account of hypothesis testing in comment #2 suggests that you agree with here and actually there is no dispute of substance here.

    Something that interests me more is the way you keep referring back to Lizzie and quoting from her. You banned Lizzie for commenting here. I was never clear why but it was not for personal comments or bad language. I think it was either for making the same point repeatedly or for being insincere. In any case presumably you banned her because you thought that in some way her contributions were reducing the quality of the discussion. So why do you keep bringing her back into the discussion (albeit by the tedious method of quoting from and responding to another blog)? Has the quality of contributions suddenly improved?

    PS Have you seen the quote about chance from Casey Luskin. It starts:

    When a person says that something happened “by chance,” there may seem to be an implication that chance actually caused the event. But “chance” is not the true cause.

  34. 34
    Mark Frank says:

    #27 Box

    Do you accept ‘gravity’ as an explanation? Or are you only willing to talk specifics?

    As a statistical hypothesis? It would need more context. In general yes.

    Second question: how about ‘randomness’ as a synonym for ‘chance’?

    Not exactly a synonym – it would be very odd to say we met by randomness! But sometimes they can be used interchangeably.

  35. 35
    Box says:

    MF #33: It could hardly be clearer that Lizzie is not saying chance cannot be an explanation for anything in its broadest sense.

    Does this mean that one could state, like Darwin and Koonin do, that chance has a crucial role in evolution? Or that chance is a major factor in the history of life? Can we correctly state that according to evolutionary theory there is an essential interaction between chance and necessity in the evolution of life?
    Not, so it seems, according to Lizzie:

    Lizzie:“And this is not a trivial nitpick. It goes, I think, to the error at the heart of the ID critique of evolutionary theory.
    Evolutionary theory is not the theory that what we observe is explained by “chance”. Chance explains nothing.”

  36. 36
    Mark Frank says:

    <Ho-De-Ho #28 and #29
     
    It may well be that Barry meant “not deliberate” by “chance”. I have repeatedly ask him to clarify what he meant and but he has not responded. This use does not concur with the title of the original OP which implied it was a statistical test – but who knows and I don’t think Barry is going to enlighten us.
     
    If by chance hypothesis he did mean “not deliberate” then I cannot agree that seeing 500 coins heads up is sufficient to reject the possibility that they got there non-deliberately i.e. I think it is quite plausible to suppose that the coins ended up that way without anyone intending them to. I agree that I would first suspect they had been placed deliberately. I have always accepted that deliberately placing them that way is the most likely explanation – we know a lot about the kinds of the things people can do with coins and like to do with coins. However, as discussed at length in the comments, there are other possibilities which do not involve placing them deliberately which cannot be confidently rejected given the minimal information of 500 coins on a table heads-up.
     
    Your example of the Trevi fountain demonstrates a common misunderstanding of the non-ID position. If I saw 500 coins in the Trevi fountain all heads I would certainly think that was odd and would suspect it had been done deliberately (although I might wonder if tails was marginally heavier on Italian coins).  You have given a lot of context and this is by far the best explanation. I do not think it is impossible to detect design. Where I think ID is wrong is in proposing that by simply looking at an outcome without any assumptions about who or how or when you can detect that something was designed.  In the case of the Trevi fountain we know a lot. We know how coins typically end up in fountains. We know there are people around and the kind of things they can do with coins and like to do with coins.
     
    Try taking away the context. Imagine you were the first person on a new planet. You find 500 similar roughly disc shaped objects – in each case one side is blueish, the other whitish. You notice that they all have the blue side upmost. Could you safely conclude they had been placed that way deliberately? I think not. You just don’t know enough about how the objects got there.

  37. 37
    Mark Frank says:

    My apologies to all who have asked me questions and I have not responded but I have run out of time, energy and enthusiasm for this particular debate. There comes a time to stop.

  38. 38

    Mark Frank @33 and 34:

    Thanks for clarifying Lizzie’s statement. (And , Box, thanks for your last quote from Lizzie as well.)

    MF, if we grant that chance is not real (it is just a surrogate label for processes that are not identified), then presumably we are left with only necessity, meaning everything is determined by pure force of chemistry and physics.

    Do you think that is where Lizzie is going? Is that your view as well?

  39. 39

    MF @ 36:

    Imagine you were the first person on a new planet. You find 500 similar roughly disc shaped objects – in each case one side is blueish, the other whitish. You notice that they all have the blue side upmost. Could you safely conclude they had been placed that way deliberately? I think not.

    Of course not. They might be that way due to necessity. Indeed, that would be a default explanation.

    Not chance does not mean design. Not chance means either necessity or design. We still have to deal with necessity, which is of course why the classic coin toss problems all assume a “fair coin” (a shorthand term to point out that they are not being influenced by necessity).

  40. 40
    wd400 says:

    Fourth, the “chance” at issue is not the noise in the sampling. I mean, this statement is absurd on its face. If group A takes the treatment and group B takes the placebo, what is being measured when they report back different results? Ask yourself this question. If the treatment is not effective, what difference would you expect between the two groups? Of course, you would expect their response to be roughly equal. But no two groups are ever going to be exactly equal. Random differences between the groups will result in some difference. A statistical test starts with this assumption (the null hypothesis): There is no difference between the two groups and any difference that is reported is due to chance (i.e., the “chance explanation).

    In other words the “chance” is due to sampling! If you don’t reject the null you conclude the apparent difference in your sample is no reflective of a true difference (or at least there is little evidence for this). Thus, the apparent difference is due to the chance sample you took of the larger population.

    You are also confused about p-values (but then, almost everyone is…). A low p-value does not necessarily means “the chance of your analyses being wrong” (i.e. the false postive rate) is low. A p-value is simple the probability of seing data as extreme or more extreme in your sample if the null hyptothesis were true – p(observed|null). To move from that value to probability that there is a true difference between groups you need a prior probability on you hypothesis.

  41. 41
    scordova says:

    But we are talking about formal statistical null hypothesis testing here (clearly – Barry headed his original post “A Statistics Question”) and in formal statistical hypothesis testing, chance is not a hypothesis.

    Chance does not have to be the null hypothesis to be rejected as a hypothesis! That is the fallacy in play!

    If I have 500 fair coins, and 50% are heads, the following are possible:

    1. the configuration due to chance
    2. the configuration due to intelligence
    3. the configuration due to some other mechanism (like a mahince, etc.)

    If 500 fair coins are all heads, chance can be ruled out as an explanation.

    But we are talking about formal statistical null hypothesis testing here (clearly – Barry headed his original post “A Statistics Question”) and in formal statistical hypothesis testing, chance is not a hypothesis.

    OK, I’m sorry I have to do this. And perhaps the readers will see why I’ve gotten so cynical about these debates. Here is a published playbook of how the Darwinists will debate: Darwinist Guide to Debating ID proponents.

    The salient fallacy are:

    1. “we are talking about formal statistical null hypothesis testing here” No we are not. Chance does not have to be the null hypothesis for it to be eventually rejected. This is a clever maneuver because the addition of the word “null”, which seems innocent enough, changes the whole meaning. This is a strawman.

    2. “we are talking about formal statistical null hypothesis testing here”, no we (ID proponents) are not, this is a strawman of our position. Clearly Liz was targeting us since she addressed the question to Barry. Again the strawman was quite subtle. Mark sutblely equivocated what we mean when we say, “rejecting the chance hypothesis” to “rejecting the null hypothesis of chance”.

    3. “rejecting the null hypothesis of chance” is thus attributing an argument to us we didn’t make, it is doubly bad if not challenged because then it implies the ID side doesn’t know statistics. If the ID side had taken the bait, it would be like the ID side answering a leading question like, “are you still beating your puppy?”

    3. for those that miss the subtle twist, the strawman ends up being a red herring, and Neil tried to seize upon it. It was shut down quickly by Barry, and I threw in an irrelevancy of my own by pointing out Neil comments on the LNL. Formally speaking that was a logical fallacy on my part, but I fought Neils red herring with implied hasty generalization (“if Neil makes such stupid remarks about LNL, he should not be trusted about anything statistical”).

    4. the red herring Lizzie and Mark put forward ended up resulting in Argument ad Nauseam about an irrelevancy “chance being the null hypothesis”, and the Darwinist hoped to score a draw in the debate by driving the debate into that mode. I don’t know that Mark and Lizzie actually said “chance cannot be the Null” but the clever way to do it is to make that argument without actually saying it.

    5. The implicit fallacy employed: “if chance is not the null hypothesis, then chance cannot be rejected as a hypothesis” That is a non-sequitur, but it is subtle, the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise.

    6. There is also another strawman in play here. The suggestion is you can only falsify a hypothesis if it is the null hypothesis. Not true, but most readers will not pick up on the falsehood because that falsehood is not stated explicitly, it was snuck in and changed the terms of the debate by adding the notion of null.

    7. I might suggest (not insist) the approximate null hypothesis in question is “not chance”. The Darwinists flipped it around and said the null hypothesis is “chance”.

    If we were dealing with only one fair coin, and the coin was heads, if “not chance” was the null, I could falsify it by simply showing coin heads will come up 50% of the time. It gets harder to falsify the null when I go up to 2,3, ….500 coins.

    The original question could have been phrased:

    If you came across a table on which was set 500 fair coins and all 500 coins displayed the “heads” side of the coin, would you reject “chance” as a hypothesis to explain this particular configuration of coins on a table?

    To understand how the Darwinist twisted our words, consider the far weaker, but credible question that could have been posed to Nick. It would have still made a good point.

    If you came across a table on which was set 500 fair coins and all 500 coins displayed the “heads” side of the coin. I claim the following null hypothesis: “The coins pattern is not the result of chance”

    Can you falsify my null hypothesis?

    Instead, the Darwinists actually reframed the arguments into a twisted strawman:

    If you came across a table on which was set 500 fair coins coins and all 500 coins displayed the “heads” side of the coin. I claim the following null hypothesis: “chance explains a configuration of 50% heads.”

    Can you falsify my null hypothesis?

    Think about it, that version follows exactly the pattern of argument that Reciprocating Bill, Neil, Lizzie and Mark are using. They change the real question being asked, they assert chance can’t be the null (and falsely imply the ID side claims chance can be the null), and introduce a red herring all in one! But the way it was done was extremely subtle, and that’s why it’s so hard to uncoil.

    Grade B for our debate performance. It took too long for us (myself included) to identify the fallacy. If you don’t identify the fallacy, the Darwinists will have a field day, and we fail to prosecute our case.

    The phrase “rejecting the chance hypothesis” is used heavily in ID literature because it is far more accessible than saying “failing to falsify the null hypothesis of ‘not chance'” (gag!).

    Now that we’ve identified the fallacy, we can really take it to their side with “Wow Lizzie, you’ve just demonstrated Koonin, Moran, Dawkins, Futuyma, DeDuve, Monod….etc. are out to lunch. Thanks for helping the ID cause.”

    She’ll be forced to either retract or double down. If she double’s down, she’ll end up like Nick. Checkmate.

    Bottom line, Thisted is right Lizzie is wrong.

  42. 42
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Mark Frank, many thanks for your response. It was put most admirably. I too confess that there is a limit to a topics enthusiasm load. I would not have written so much myself had I not wished to see your perspective a little clearer. Not for need to point out any error, but to more fully see a problem from another angle which was not my immediate point of view. For that, I am grateful to you Mark Frank.

    Your blueish and white stones example was a welcome mental experiment. I have my thoughts on it but I shall keep them to myself so as not to be tiresome, save to observe that coins were being discussed, which we do have some knowledge of. But your point is well taken.

    Thank you for the amicable exchange of thoughts.

    Ho-De-Ho

  43. 43
    Paul Giem says:

    Mark Frank,

    I know you’ve officially left this thread, and therefore will not expect an answer. But It is still proper to answer your comment in #19.

    You quote me,

    The really sad part is that Nick Matzke could have avoided all this by simply allowing truth to be a guide rather than simply opposing ID on principle.

    and say,

    This principle should guide us all – but why do you assume that Nick was not guided by what he sees as the truth? There has been an outbreak here of assuming that what you say is so obviously true that anyone who is disagreeing with you must be doing so insincerely.

    I hope Nick is being simply contrarian (close to insincere, but not quite) when he made the comment at
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-484041
    that

    1. two-headed coins is a rejection of the chance hypothesis

    Not really.

    When events have a probability of 1, (and these coins are specified as lying down and not on their edge), we commonly no longer speak of chance, but of law. The fact that there could be (these could also be carefully arranged coins) a chance component in how they land is effectively cancelled out by the fact that both sides are heads. Chance has no role in whether a head is showing for each coin, and therefore for the whole ensemble. To put it another way, there is no chance that the coins could land any other way but heads. If we had 5 multillion coins dumped out of a dump truck and they were all two-headed coins, we should expect to see all heads and no tails, again excluding coins on their edge. To claim that chance has any role in the final outcome of all heads is to twist words beyond recognition. Matzke was wrong. Are you really disputing this?

    Just to clarify, I am specifically not saying that Matzke is always wrong, or that he should not be listened to. I’m just saying that he blew it here.

    Nick, myself, Lizzie and many others on TSZ all sincerely belief that it is wrong to think that “Chance” as a simple abstract concept can be a hypothesis. We have given reasons for it. We have tried to seek common ground by offering more precise definitions. What more do you expect?

    If you are meaning to say that “chance” means “we don’t know” (e. g., chaos theory), or “it is in principle unknowable” (e. g., the most popular interpretation of quantum theory), or some combination thereof, and therefore it is more proper to speak of chance theories than chance theory, I might agree with you. If you mean that “chance” really does not exist, or does not follow, even though with statistical variations, statistical laws, then you have lost me.

    Barry (or any of you) could have avoided all this by responding to my request (repeated many times)

    “By chance do you mean a 50% probability of each coin being head or tails independent of other coins”.

    I assume you meant to end your quote of yourself with a question mark. You have repeated this several times, and I agree that some response, IMO, is warranted.

    I cannot speak for Barry, but will offer this suggestion subject to his correction. Yes, that is one chance hypothesis that can be safely eliminated, and so we have at least partial agreement.

    There are a number of other chance hypotheses, such as, the coins were collected from a bank, which aligned them into stacks, but without regard to their being heads or tails, from deposits which had been dumped into the bank, again without regard to their orientation (basically the equivalent of shuffling cards). Even if they were placed on the final table without turning them over, I would only accept the chance hypothesis after firmly ruling out virtually all remotely reasonable design hypotheses. For practical purposes, once I ruled out law (say by establishing that the coins were fair), I would consider design proved in this instance.

    It is not as if Barry answered “No – what I mean is ….”. He just avoided answering the question (as far I can see – there have been a lot of comments flying about on many threads)

    I agree. Perhaps he has his reasons, and if we are lucky he may share them with us.

    In the meantime, I might point out that it is not just the particular hypothesis that you reject, that should be rejected, but a whole class of hypotheses that can safely be rejected, that can be reasonably described as chance hypotheses. Any hypothesis that should be expected to follow stochastic laws with anywhere close to an expected p value for heads of 50% for each individual coin (or for that matter 90%) should be rejected, absent the reasonably complete ruling out of design hypotheses.

    One last question. Here are two different patterns of coins, one with heads represented as 1 and tails as 0. If I tell you (honestly, but how do you know besides that you trust me) that one was done by flipping coins, and one was done by an intelligent design, can you tell which is which? Do you believe me? And do you know how the intelligently designed pattern was made? Do you have any way to tell? (this is less than 500 bits/flips)

    A

    10010001010100111010110010000111011
    00101001100001010111001010110110110
    10101010011000001001010101010000000
    01101110111010001101111001100011110
    11011100111111010000001011110100111
    01001001011110001101000001000111101

    B

    01110010001000100010001001110011111
    10001010001001010011001010001010000
    10000010001010001010101010000010000
    10000011111011111010101010000011110
    10000010001010001010011010001010000
    01110010001010001010001001110011111

  44. 44

    Ho-De-Ho, if I may be so bold, the answer to Mark Frank’s blue discs is at #39. The blue disc example does not address the issue in question.

    It could be an interesting example to get people to start thinking about design, but it must be done carefully, taking into account all three possibilities — chance, necessity, and design — in order to avoid creating confusion.

  45. 45
    Barry Arrington says:

    Paul @ 43:

    You quote Mark Frank:

    By chance do you mean a 50% probability of each coin being head or tails independent of other coins . . . It is not as if Barry answered “No – what I mean is ….”. He just avoided answering the question.

    Then you say:

    I agree. Perhaps he has his reasons, and if we are lucky he may share them with us.

    And then you give the obvious reason I did not rise to Mark’s bait:

    In the meantime, I might point out that it is not just the particular hypothesis that you reject, that should be rejected, but a whole class of hypotheses that can safely be rejected, that can be reasonably described as chance hypotheses. Any hypothesis that should be expected to follow stochastic laws with anywhere close to an expected p value for heads of 50% for each individual coin (or for that matter 90%) should be rejected, absent the reasonably complete ruling out of design hypotheses.

    As Sal has pointed out, one of the Darwinists’ favorite tactics is to ask for endless definitions. In my experience, when a Darwinist asks for a definition, all he is doing is trying to change the subject. He does not really want to know the answer.

    You can be certain this was what Mark was doing here. As you ably demonstrate, it did not matter what my definition of “chance” was, because no matter how one defines it, anything that can reasonably be called “chance” can be ruled out. This is glaringly obvious to even the most casual observer, which is why we can be sure Mark was not asking the question in good faith.

  46. 46
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Eric Anderson, splendid to hear from you. Thank you for your comment. Your reference to #39 was right on the spot me thinks.

    If I touched down on planet X and found all those bi-coloured stones all blue side up, I should say “By Jove these stones are possessed of some curious property.” And to test my assumption I should pick a few up and throw them around for a spell. If they all landed blue up I should be content. If on the other hand some fell white side up, I should quickly change my mind and think “Dash it! those things were put like that deliberately. I hope I have not offended my hosts.”

    Chance, Necessity, Design. As you say Eric Anderson these are the big three. And our reactions to them are pretty instinctive.

    My comments to Mark Frank were in order to truly try and grasp his perspective and opinion of what he was thinking towards the whole issue. There are those, of course, in life who go around behaving like absolute fat-heads. They come in all guises and will not budge an inch on their views, which they are entitled to. But Mark Frank is not in my opinion one of those fellows. His comments on a multitude of topics have been even-handed and with decorum. I respect this, even if my conclusions differ.

    I also have a great deal of respect for your views to Eric Anderson. You are persuasive and tolerant which strikes just the right note. On the coin issue I think we are as brothers. I do love though, to ponder the opposing view and seek to understand it as thoroughly as I can. I think everyone is appreciative of how Mark Frank has tried to state his case so respectfully.

    Thank you again for posting for me to read. I enjoy reading your comments.

  47. 47
    Mark Frank says:

    (Apologies for the length of this comment but I think it is quite easy to read).

    Christmas preparations have gone much better than expected and so I have some free time to respond. I don’t think I can bear to talk about the 500 coins again but I would like to pick up Barry’s comments in #45 which concludes:

    which is why we can be sure Mark was not asking the question in good faith.

    I do think it is shame to see these debates, as Barry clearly does, in terms of a war with tactics and subterfuges. I guess it is in his training as a lawyer. However, it closes down the opportunities to learn.  He writes:

    As Sal has pointed out, one of the Darwinists’ favorite tactics is to ask for endless definitions. In my experience, when a Darwinist asks for a definition, all he is doing is trying to change the subject. He does not really want to know the answer.

    You can be certain this was what Mark was doing here. As you ably demonstrate, it did not matter what my definition of “chance” was, because no matter how one defines it, anything that can reasonably be called “chance” can be ruled out.

    Suppose for a moment I genuinely found the phrase “chance hypothesis” to be ambiguous. How am I to proceed? I could of course just stop taking part in the discussion on the grounds that any request for clarification would be taken as a “Darwinist tactic”. Otherwise I see little alternative to propose what it might mean and see if that was correct (which was what I did). As it happened Paul responded:

    In the meantime, I might point out that it is not just the particular hypothesis that you reject, that should be rejected, but a whole class of hypotheses that can safely be rejected, that can be reasonably described as chance hypotheses. Any hypothesis that should be expected to follow stochastic laws with anywhere close to an expected p value for heads of 50% for each individual coin (or for that matter 90%) should be rejected, absent the reasonably complete ruling out of design hypotheses

    This was just the kind of response I expected. It is constructive and throws light on what a chance hypothesis is. I agree with it (and would modify my definition as a result) with two provisos:

    1) the probabilities for each coin must independent

    2) I don’t understand the clause “absent the reasonably complete ruling out of design hypotheses”

    But you can imagine how the conversation could continue. We would probably fail to agree and maybe even get a bit cross as almost everyone does on internet debates. But we might also both get a bit clearer  about our own position and the opposing position. Barry’s response kills the conversation dead. It is based on the assumption he is both clear and correct and that the only reason for raising the subject is to win the battle with the Darwinists who must be either very stupid or duplicitous in what they are saying because Barry is obviously right.

    Lizzie has a couple of moderation rules on TSZ:

    * Assume all other posters are posting in good faith.

    – For example, do not accuse other posters of being deliberately misleading
    * Address the post, not the poster.

    – This means that accusing others of ignorance or stupidity is off topic
    – As is implying that other posters are mentally ill or demented.

    People quite often transgress them, but when it is pointed out they generally accept it in good spirit and retract.  I think they are excellent guides and even if they are not UD policy recommend them as personal guides to constructive debate. I sometimes fail to conform to them myself but when I do it is mistake and I commit to retracting any comments that I realise has transgressed them.

  48. 48
    Ho-De-Ho says:

    Sound moderation rules. Can’t fault them.

    Of course some will still be obtuse and not act in good faith, but let the readers determine that from the comments what? One can choose not to respond.

  49. 49

    Thanks, Mark Frank, for participating. Please continue to share your thoughts.

    I know you don’t have too much more time to spend on this thread, but I was hoping you would respond to #38 and #39. 🙂

  50. 50
    Mark Frank says:

    #48 Ho-De-Ho and #49 Eric

    Both of you – thanks for the encouragement.

    Eric – I really wanted to leave the coins but your request is so reasonable and your attitude so positive I will give it a try.

    #38

    I see “chance” as usually meaning to “unpredictable” or “no known explanation”. The unknown explanations may be deterministic elements or genuinely random uncaused events which we just don’t know about.

    It can also includes things that happen as the result of intelligence – but as a materialist I believe intelligence to be a blend of the determined and random so for me that is not a third type of explanation. However, you probably do count intelligence as a different type of explanation and that also can be part of unknown explanation. I hope that makes sense.

    #39

    Of course not. They might be that way due to necessity. Indeed, that would be a default explanation

    The discs might also be blue through a chance (non-design, non-necessity) explanation of reasonable probability – most importantly the probability of the discs being blue might not be independent. Suppose for example that there is a natural process on that planet which means that if one disc is blue then adjacent discs turn blue (this bit is necessity – but all explanations include some necessity). Then there is a 50% chance of the first disc to arrive (however that happens on that planet) being blue or white. After that all the others will almost certainly be the same. Hence the probability of them all being blue is 50%.

    You can make up almost any story and guess any probability of the 500 discs being blue because you have no context. It is only because we know so much about coins that we assume each coin is independent of each other with a 50% prob. In fact that is what I was trying to get at with the coins sliding out of a packet. It might be a 50/50 as to which way the packet was – but pretty much certain they would all be the same.

  51. 51
    Paul Giem says:

    Mark Frank (#47 and #50),

    Thank you for your kind words. My intent in Comment #43 was partly to make a reasonable response that Barry might agree with, that would help you understand why after repeated requests for clarification Barry had not answered you.

    As it happened, Barry in #45 noted that I was essentially completely correct. Note that he considered it an obvious reason. I am assuming it was not that obvious to you. It was obvious enough to me that I was able to state it, and I was even right about how he might not want to share it as it might involve debating strategy.

    Should it be obvious to you? Perhaps not, if you are not used to thinking like ID advocates. But perhaps once it is pointed out, it will be easier to understand.

    Let me explain. Some people do come here with the express intention of tripping up ID advocates, then proceed to carp over small details, hoping to show that the other side has somehow made a mistake. They themselves will never admit to making a mistake, as that shows weakness. They treat this whole thing as if it were being scored on points, and often heap abuse on the other side as they are debating. You have been different from that when I have noticed, and for that I am thankful.

    But Barry has been conditioned by others, and views all on the other side as opponents. His training as a lawyer has emphasized that one must always be on the lookout lest the opposition find an unguarded word and use it to their advantage. If he detects persistent resistance, he tends to interpret it as opposition–you leave the jury box and move to the opponents’ side, and he intends to (metaphorically) crush you.

    It is not important at this time for me to explain all the factors (personality, training, experience, personal decisions, and their interaction) that go into this. Suffice it to say that once you understand where he is coming from, his actions will make more sense, which is why I understood him as well as I did.

    (I have run into some of the same obstinacy myself (references available on request) and am sympathetic to his position, although I am usually a little more relaxed about it.)

    Regarding the clause “absent the reasonably complete ruling out of design hypotheses”, it was put there because if I were actually watching the process, and noting that the coin(s) being flipped did not have two heads apiece, and that they did not appear to be weighted, and that the air in the area did not have significant air currents, and that there was no detectable magnetic field and no unusual flashes of light, I just might have to choke down the chance theory after all.

    I can tell you this, that if there were theological overtones (say, an evil person was torturing an innocent victim by telling her that he would shoot her as soon as the coin turned up tails, and then flipped 500 heads, getting progressively more angry and frustrated with time), I would be tempted to ascribe the sequence to higher power interference before ascribing it to chance.

    You note that “I don’t think I can bear to talk about the 500 coins again”. Is it because of Barry’s direct attack on your motives? Then talk to me and ignore him. Is it because you can’t afford to admit that 500 heads is essentially impossible to happen in a random universe, and that if one can rule out a natural law, one is then stuck with the highly probable conclusion of design, which makes design detection at least theoretically rational? Then why not change your mind, at least on this subject? Is it because you believe that there is no such thing as design detection, but don’t have the fortitude to go on maintaining that 500 heads in a row cannot justify a design detection in the face of us dealing you a losing hand, so to speak 🙂 ? Then in that case I can’t help you much and you might as well quit. Is it because of some other reason? Then if you can bring yourself to, please tell us.

  52. 52
    Mark Frank says:

    #51 Paul

    Thanks for your comment. The reason I want to leave the 500 coins is simply that I am bored with it. I began to found the discussion about the discussion more interesting.

    ome people do come here with the express intention of tripping up ID advocates, then proceed to carp over small details, hoping to show that the other side has somehow made a mistake. They themselves will never admit to making a mistake, as that shows weakness. They treat this whole thing as if it were being scored on points, and often heap abuse on the other side as they are debating.

    I think you will find that this perception is true of both sides. What seems like a valid point to one side seems like carping over small details to the other side.

  53. 53
    Upright BiPed says:

    What seems like a valid point to one side seems like carping over small details to the other side.

    Mark, I spent two months at TSZ arguing with RB over the word “entailment”. His position was that “in science” the word only refers to the product of an event or process (in the sense, for example, that oxygen reacting with iron entails the formation of iron oxide), and therefore my entire argument could be ignored until I removed the offending reference. He only relented when it became obvious that if a thing has necessary conditions for its existence, then the presence of that thing entailed those necessary conditions.

    Two months wasted. And the only reason it happened is because of the sheer reasonableness of the observations being made.

    Perhaps you can uderstand why ID proponents have some of the perceptions they have of these debates. Perhaps that too is wishful thinking.

  54. 54

    During the course of his participation at TSZ UB pivoted from one use of “entailment” to another, an equivocation that exemplified what is muddled about his understanding of entailment and implication, and indeed what is muddled about his entire presentation.

    On April 18, at the outset of this discussion, I anticipated that ambiguity:
    UB

    Demonstrating a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state.”

    RB:

    It simply would not follow from an observation that all known instances of semiotic information transfer (all of which are instances of human symbolic or representational communication) exhibit your “material entailments” that all systems exhibiting these “entailments” are necessarily semiotic, convey semiotic information, or have semiotic origins. Unless, of course, you are simply defining “semiotic” as “exhibits these material entailments,” in which case to assert that “a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state” is a tautology that gets you no further than did proposing your definition.

    First notice that Biped characterizes his “entailments” as “physical consequences of recorded information.” He doesn’t identify them as “necessary and sufficient conditions for the transfer of recorded information,” as he does following his pivot. There is no reading of “physical consequences of” that yields “necessary and sufficient conditions for” without acknowledging severe ambiguity in the former. When he employs “entailment” in this sense of “physical consequences,” his claim that observing such consequences “successfully confirms a semiotic state” commits the error of implication that was subsequently discussed at length on that thread. Nor was this an isolated mispeaking. I later showed that, in his missives to Larry Moran and to Lizzie, UB repeatedly employed similarly logically flawed reasoning in which his later revised, “post pivot” use of “entailment” is nowhere to be found.

    Notice also that, in the above quoted passage, I anticipated his later pivot at the outset of our discussion. On April 26 I similarly remarked:

    It only follows that “Demonstrating a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state” if you define a “semiotic state” as “a system that demonstrates these ‘entailments.’” In which case this “confirmation” is tautological.

    This again anticipates Biped’s later pivot to using “entailment” not in the sense of entailments that are “physical consequences”, but in the sense that if a phenomenon has occurred, observation of necessary and sufficient conditions for the phenomenon is “entailed.” This is a more or less useless form of “entailment” that, as deployed by Biped in this discussion, assumes its conclusions, almost exactly as I anticipated in the quoted passages above.

    ?I identified that uselessness at the moment of his pivot:
    Biped:

    Bill, if a specific thing only exist under specific conditions, then does it existence entail the existence of those specific conditions?

    RB:

    Yes, it does. So that would be a valid use of “entailment.”
    ?Not a very useful entailment, however, as you must already know that a phenomenon has both necessary and sufficient conditions, and what they are, before reaching your conclusion that those conditions obtained.

    I repeated the latter observation perhaps six or seven times (more?), but UB never responded to that objection in any way, and later pointedly quote-mined my response in a way that removed that objection. It remains wholly unrebutted.

    Rather, Biped seemed to think that his completion of a pivot from a use of “entailment” in a sense that yields reasoning beset by a fatal logical flaw to a sense that is useless because it assumes its conclusions was a decisive moment in the discussion, and rescued him from the observation that he really doesn’t understand how to use entailment in a scientific context. He also seems to think that my observation of one set of intractable problems prior to his pivot and a second set of problems post-pivot represented a “concession” on my part.

    Neither was the case.

  55. 55
    Upright BiPed says:

    THE OFFENDING USAGE…

    UB: So here we have a series of observations regarding the physicality of recorded information which repeat themselves throughout every form – no matter whether that information is bound to humans, or human intelligence, or other living things, or non-living machines. There is a list of physical entailments of recorded information that can therefore be generalized and compiled without regard to the source of the information. In other words, the list is only about the physical entailments of the information, not its source. I am using the word “entailment” in the standard sense – to impose as a necessary result (Merriam-Webster). These physical entailments are a necessary result of the existence of recorded information transfer.

    THE AFTERMATH….

    RB on April 28th: The issue is not whether there is “a single way to record information that doesn’t entail the physical roles and dynamic relationships as given in the argument…

    RB on May 3rd: …you neither understand the word “entailment,” nor understand the entailment relationship described in the simple illustrations we have provided. For that reason, you repeatedly travel the wrong way down a one-way street.

    RB on May 4th: Again demonstrating that you don’t grasp the relationship of “entailment.” Entailment may be 100% reliable, yet by itself does not “confirm.”

    RB on May 8th: I assert (not suggest) that you do not understand entailment, and due to your failure to grasp entailment you have constructed an argument beset with a fatal logical flaw.

    – – – – – – – – –

    BIPED on June 10: Bill, if a specific thing only exist under specific conditions, then does its existence entail the existence of those specific conditions?

    RB on June 11th: Yes, it does. So that would be a valid use of “entailment.”

    1) A word was used, then 2) a definiton was given at the time of the use, then 3) the sentence was re-stated with the definition in place of the word.

    – – – – – – – –

    Thanks RB, you couldn’t have made my point more clear.

  56. 56

    Goto statements are poor programming technique, but at times they suffice:

    10 Goto 54

    Just let that run, and have great holiday, UB.

  57. 57
    Upright BiPed says:

    When someone uses a word in a statement, then immediately gives the standard definiton of that word, and restates the statement with the definiton in place of the word itself, then quibbling over the usage of that word is poor technique.

    I hope you and yours have a happy and safe Christmas Holiday as well, Bill.

  58. 58
    Paul Giem says:

    Mark Frank (#52),

    I am sorry to hear that you are bored with the 500 coin problem. I found it quite interesting.

    For example, your white and blue stones (at first white on the underside and blue on the upper side (see #36), but after reading #50 I have my doubts; there the discs seem to be all blue). Let’s assume the top is blue and the bottom is white. My first thought is that there is some kind of photocatalyzed reaction that turned the tops blue, or perhaps that there is some kind of water- (or ammonia- or whatever) catalyzed reaction that turns the bottoms white. I would quickly lose that opinion, however, if i turned half of them randomly upside down, put a clear plastic box around one, and came back the next day to find all of them blue-side up except the one in the box, which still had a blue side and a white side but was upside down.

    To me the interesting part is not people’s take on their opponents. That’s something that has to be worked around. It is what are the core questions, and what evidence can help us to decide those questions.

    To go back to my #43, do you think of the two sets of 1’s and 0’s? It may help to go here:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ion-part-i

  59. 59
    kairosfocus says:

    F/N: Onlookers, the pivot of the issue is now plain from MF at 50 above:

    [re EA} #38

    [MF:] I see “chance” as usually meaning to “unpredictable” or “no known explanation”. The unknown explanations may be deterministic elements or genuinely random uncaused events which we just don’t know about.

    It can also includes things that happen as the result of intelligence – but as a materialist I believe intelligence to be a blend of the determined and random so for me that is not a third type of explanation.

    Here we have the root problem, that for MF, design reduces to chance and necessity.

    Also, I would not go along fully with MF’s definition of chance, having identified that chance processes come about by two major known physical processes:

    Chance:

    TYPE I: the clash of uncorrelated trains of events such as is seen when a dropped fair die hits a table etc and tumbles, settling to readings int eh set {1, 2, . . . 6} in a pattern that is effectively flat random. In this sort of event, we often see manifestations of sensitive dependence on initial conditions, aka chaos, intersecting with uncontrolled or uncontrollable small variations yielding a result predictable in most cases only up to a statistical distribution which needs not be flat random.

    TYPE II: processes — especially quantum ones — that are evidently random, such as quantum tunnelling as is the explanation for phenomena of alpha decay. This is used in for instance zener noise sources that drive special counter circuits to give a random number source. Such are sometimes used in lotteries or the like, or presumably in making one time message pads used in decoding.

    In reply to MF’s attempt to reduce design by intelligence to the other two sources of cause, I suggest that this approach radically undermines the credibility of mind as a thinking and knowing function of being intelligent humans, in a reductio ad absurdum. (Cf my remarks here yesterday in reply to Dan Barker’s FFRF and my longstanding observations — in the end they go back to the mid 1980’s in answer to marxist as well as evolutionary materialism — here on.)

    Haldane sums up one of the major problems aptly, in a turn of the 1930’s remark that has often been cited here at UD:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209.]

    Let me clip my more extended discussion:

    ___________

    >> 15 –> In short, it is at least arguable that self-referential absurdity is the dagger pointing to the heart of evolutionary materialistic models of mind and its origin . . . . [It can be presented at a much more sophisticated way, cf Hasker p 64 on here as an example, also Reppert, Plantinga and others] but without losing its general force, it can also be drawn out a bit in a fairly simple way:

    a: Evolutionary materialism argues that the cosmos is the product of chance interactions of matter and energy, within the constraint of the laws of nature; from hydrogen to humans by undirected chance and necessity.

    b: Therefore, all phenomena in the universe, without residue, are determined by the working of purposeless laws of chance and/or mechanical necessity acting on material objects, under the direct or indirect control of happenstance initial circumstances.

    (This is physicalism. This view covers both the forms where (a) the mind and the brain are seen as one and the same thing, and those where (b) somehow mind emerges from and/or “supervenes” on brain, perhaps as a result of sophisticated and complex software looping. The key point, though is as already noted: physical causal closure — the phenomena that play out across time, without residue, are in principle deducible or at least explainable up to various random statistical distributions and/or mechanical laws, from prior physical states. Such physical causal closure, clearly, implicitly discounts or even dismisses the causal effect of concept formation and reasoning then responsibly deciding, in favour of specifically physical interactions in the brain-body control loop; indeed, some mock the idea of — in their view — an “obviously” imaginary “ghost” in the meat-machine. [[There is also some evidence from simulation exercises, that accuracy of even sensory perceptions may lose out to utilitarian but inaccurate ones in an evolutionary competition. “It works” does not warrant the inference to “it is true.”] )

    c: But human thought, clearly a phenomenon in the universe, must now fit into this meat-machine picture. So, we rapidly arrive at Crick’s claim in his The Astonishing Hypothesis (1994): what we subjectively experience as “thoughts,” “reasoning” and “conclusions” can only be understood materialistically as the unintended by-products of the blind natural forces which cause and control the electro-chemical events going on in neural networks in our brains that (as the Smith Model illustrates) serve as cybernetic controllers for our bodies.

    d: These underlying driving forces are viewed as being ultimately physical, but are taken to be partly mediated through a complex pattern of genetic inheritance shaped by forces of selection [[“nature”] and psycho-social conditioning [[“nurture”], within the framework of human culture [[i.e. socio-cultural conditioning and resulting/associated relativism]. And, remember, the focal issue to such minds — notice, this is a conceptual analysis made and believed by the materialists! — is the physical causal chains in a control loop, not the internalised “mouth-noises” that may somehow sit on them and come along for the ride.

    (Save, insofar as such “mouth noises” somehow associate with or become embedded as physically instantiated signals or maybe codes in such a loop. [[How signals, languages and codes originate and function in systems in our observation of such origin — i.e by design — tends to be pushed to the back-burner and conveniently forgotten. So does the point that a signal or code takes its significance precisely from being an intelligently focused on, observed or chosen and significant alternative from a range of possibilities that then can guide decisive action.])

    e: For instance, Marxists commonly derided opponents for their “bourgeois class conditioning” — but what of the effect of their own class origins? Freudians frequently dismissed qualms about their loosening of moral restraints by alluding to the impact of strict potty training on their “up-tight” critics — but doesn’t this cut both ways? Should we not ask a Behaviourist whether s/he is little more than yet another operantly conditioned rat trapped in the cosmic maze? And — as we saw above — would the writings of a Crick be any more than the firing of neurons in networks in his own brain?

    f: For further instance, we may take the favourite whipping-boy of materialists: religion. Notoriously, they often hold that belief in God is not merely cognitive, conceptual error, but delusion. Borderline lunacy, in short. But, if such a patent “delusion” is so utterly widespread, even among the highly educated, then it “must” — by the principles of evolution — somehow be adaptive to survival, whether in nature or in society. And so, this would be a major illustration of the unreliability of our conceptual reasoning ability, on the assumption of evolutionary materialism.

    g: Turning the materialist dismissal of theism around, evolutionary materialism itself would be in the same leaky boat. For, the sauce for the goose is notoriously just as good a sauce for the gander, too.

    h: That is, on its own premises [[and following Dawkins in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2004, p. 46], the cause of the belief system of evolutionary materialism, “must” also be reducible to forces of blind chance and mechanical necessity that are sufficiently adaptive to spread this “meme” in populations of jumped- up apes from the savannahs of East Africa scrambling for survival in a Malthusian world of struggle for existence. Reppert brings the underlying point sharply home, in commenting on the “internalised mouth-noise signals riding on the physical cause-effect chain in a cybernetic loop” view:

    . . . let us suppose that brain state A, which is token identical to the thought that all men are mortal, and brain state B, which is token identical to the thought that Socrates is a man, together cause the belief that Socrates is mortal. It isn’t enough for rational inference that these events be those beliefs, it is also necessary that the causal transaction be in virtue of the content of those thoughts . . . [[But] if naturalism is true, then the propositional content is irrelevant to the causal transaction that produces the conclusion, and [[so] we do not have a case of rational inference. In rational inference, as Lewis puts it, one thought causes another thought not by being, but by being seen to be, the ground for it. But causal transactions in the brain occur in virtue of the brain’s being in a particular type of state that is relevant to physical causal transactions. [[Emphases added. Also cf. Reppert’s summary of Barefoot’s argument here.]

    i: The famous geneticist and evolutionary biologist (as well as Socialist) J. B. S. Haldane made much the same point in a famous 1932 remark:

    “It seems to me immensely unlikely that mind is a mere by-product of matter. For if my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true. They may be sound chemically, but that does not make them sound logically. And hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms. In order to escape from this necessity of sawing away the branch on which I am sitting, so to speak, I am compelled to believe that mind is not wholly conditioned by matter.” [[“When I am dead,” in Possible Worlds: And Other Essays [1927], Chatto and Windus: London, 1932, reprint, p.209. (Highlight and emphases added.)]

    j: Therefore, though materialists will often try to pointedly ignore or angrily brush aside the issue, we may freely argue: if such evolutionary materialism is true, then (i) our consciousness, (ii) the “thoughts” we have, (iii) the conceptualised beliefs we hold, (iv) the reasonings we attempt based on such and (v) the “conclusions” and “choices” (a.k.a. “decisions”) we reach — without residue — must be produced and controlled by blind forces of chance happenstance and mechanical necessity that are irrelevant to “mere” ill-defined abstractions such as: purpose or truth, or even logical validity.

    (NB: The conclusions of such “arguments” may still happen to be true, by astonishingly lucky coincidence — but we have no rational grounds for relying on the “reasoning” that has led us to feel that we have “proved” or “warranted” them. It seems that rationality itself has thus been undermined fatally on evolutionary materialistic premises. Including that of Crick et al. Through, self-reference leading to incoherence and utter inability to provide a cogent explanation of our commonplace, first-person experience of reasoning and rational warrant for beliefs, conclusions and chosen paths of action. Reduction to absurdity and explanatory failure in short.)

    k: And, if materialists then object: “But, we can always apply scientific tests, through observation, experiment and measurement,” then we must immediately note that — as the fate of Newtonian Dynamics between 1880 and 1930 shows — empirical support is not equivalent to establishing the truth of a scientific theory. For, at any time, one newly discovered countering fact can in principle overturn the hitherto most reliable of theories. (And as well, we must not lose sight of this: in science, one is relying on the legitimacy of the reasoning process to make the case that scientific evidence provides reasonable albeit provisional warrant for one’s beliefs etc. Scientific reasoning is not independent of reasoning.) >>
    ___________

    In short, there is a major issue that materialism is inherently and inescapably self referentially incoherent, undermining its whole scheme of reasoning.

    That is a big topic itself.

    But, when it comes to the issue of debates over the meaning of chance and inferences to design which implicate intelligence, it is an underlying assumption that plainly leads to endless debates.

    In this context, however, the case of 500 coins in a row on a table reading all H or alternating H and T or the first 72 characters of this post in ASCII code, strongly shows the difference in capacity of chance and design as sources of configurations that come from independently and simply describable clusters that are deeply isolated in a space of configs that are such that the atomic resources of our solar system cannot credibly search a big enough fraction to make it re4asonable to believe one will stumble upon such configs blindly.

    In short, there is a major and directly experienced phenomenon to be accounted for, self aware conscious intellect and related capacities we subsume under the term mind. And this phenomenon is manifest in capacity to design, which is as familiar as composing posts in this thread.

    Such designs are well beyond the capacity of blind chance and mechanical necessity, so we have good reason to see that intelligence capable of design is as fundamental in understanding our empirical world as chance and as necessity.

    Whatever the worldview consequences — and I think they are huge.

    KF

  60. 60
    Mark Frank says:

    #58 Paul

     

    I am sorry to hear that you are bored with the 500 coin problem. I found it quite interesting.

    I didn’t see the discussion taking any new turns. But as it’s you

     

    For example, your white and blue stones (at first white on the underside and blue on the upper side (see #36), but after reading #50 I have my doubts; there the discs seem to be all blue). Let’s assume the top is blue and the bottom is white. My first thought is that there is some kind of photocatalyzed reaction that turned the tops blue, or perhaps that there is some kind of water- (or ammonia- or whatever) catalyzed reaction that turns the bottoms white. I would quickly lose that opinion, however, if i turned half of them randomly upside down, put a clear plastic box around one, and came back the next day to find all of them blue-side up except the one in the box, which still had a blue side and a white side but was upside down.

    Yes. One could do all sorts of experiments to investigate the probability model that lead to 500 blues.  Those experiments start to create the context you need to decide whether intelligence is a good explanation. Just looking at the pattern gets you nowhere.

    To me the interesting part is not people’s take on their opponents. That’s something that has to be worked around. It is what are the core questions, and what evidence can help us to decide those questions.

    I have an academic interest in internet debate – so more interesting to me perhaps.

    To go back to my #43, do you think of the two sets of 1?s and 0?s?

    Clearly intelligence (yours) was involved so some extent in both.  You created some kind of model for  creating the pattern which might have included a random (or more likely pseudo-random) element. The first one looks like it might have been created by a model with gives each bit a 50% probability of being 1 independently of each other bit.  The second one has too few zeros for that model – you might be using something like the champerdowne sequence and thus specifying each bit exactly or maybe a model which gives 1 a higher than 50% probability of being selected or maybe some model where probabilities are not independent.

  61. 61
    Paul Giem says:

    Mark Frank (#60)

    You say,

    Just looking at the pattern gets you nowhere.

    What about the pattern in B?

    01110010001000100010001001110011111
    10001010001001010011001010001010000
    10000010001010001010101010000010000
    10000011111011111010101010000011110
    10000010001010001010011010001010000
    01110010001010001010001001110011111

    Slightly modified, courtesy of Chance Ratcliff

    ..111..,.1..,,..1..,,..1..,,..1..,,..1.,..111.,..11111
    1..,,..1..1..,,..1..,.1..1.,..11.,..1..1..,,..1..1..,..,..
    1..,..,..,.1..,,..1..1..,,..1..1..1..1..1..,..,..,.1..,..,..
    1..,..,..,.11111..11111..1..1..1..1..,..,..,.1111..
    1..,..,..,.1..,,..1..1..,,..1..1..,.11..1..,,..1..1..,..,..
    ..111..,.1..,,..1..1..,,..1..1..,,..1.,..111..,.11111

    See http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-484616

    Can you explain that pattern on the basis of either sochastic processes, or law (like you can the stones with all blue faces up)? Now that you see the pattern, does it not scream DESIGN?

  62. 62
    Paul Giem says:

    Whoops! That should be “stochastic”.

  63. 63
    Mark Frank says:

    #61 Paul

    I now see the significance. But it is not the pattern alone that allows me to deduce it was designed that way. There is masses of context. I have a lot of knowledge about how you created that series of 1s and 0s and so I know that by far the most plausible explanation of that pattern is that you intentionally created it. But I do need that context. Had the same pattern appeared amongst a vast array of 1s and 0s spread out in 2 dimensions according to some stochastic process I would have been less impressed.

  64. 64
    Paul Giem says:

    Mark Frank (#63),

    I will accept the idea that context influences one’s judgment as to the significance of a series of 1’s and 0’s. But I think that you are avoiding the crucial point. You really do not know how i created the two patterns. Nevertheless, I think that if I told you that both patterns were produced by stochastic processes, I should encounter much more personal incredulity from you regarding Sequence B, especially now that you see the pattern, than I should from Sequence A. Why is that?

    Maybe another way of asking the same question is, how big a 2-dimensional series of allegedly stochastically generated 1’s and 0’s would there need to be before you would comfortably believe that this particular set of 210 1’s and 0’s “just happened”?

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