Intelligent Design

Mathematicians are trained to value simplicity

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It is frustrating for me to see that even most ID proponents are ready to concede a Darwinian explanation for any complex structure which does not seem to be irreducibly complex. If someone could show, for example, that the bacterial flagellum could have been constructed through many gradual improvements, would I find a Darwinian explanation reasonable? Heck no. It seems reasonable only if you assume that random errors are only occurring in the DNA. Gil Dodgen gave a brilliant analogy in a Sept 28, 2006 post at UD: he said that if you really want to simulate evolution with computer programs, you should introduce random errors not only in the string simulating DNA, but also in your entire program, the compiler that is compiling it, the operating system, and the computer hardware on which it is running–then see what happens. Unintelligent forces simply can’t do intelligent things, and Behe’s new book, “The Edge of Evolution,” confirms that natural selection of random mutations has the same effect on complexity as all other unintelligent processes: it degrades it.

In a Fall 2001 Mathematical Intelligencer article, I began my response to critics of my Fall 2000 article as follows:

“Mathematicians are trained to value simplicity. When we have a simple, clear proof of a theorem, and a long, complicated counter-argument, full of hotly debated and unverifiable points, we accept the simple proof, even before we find the errors in the complicated argument”

The simple, clear, proof is here ; and, no, I am not embarrassed to write such “simplistic” essays, the whole argument is ridiculously simple, in my view

6 Replies to “Mathematicians are trained to value simplicity

  1. 1
    Patrick says:

    The majority of the examples Behe discussed involved destructive albeit positively selected mutations, but not all. Behe also discussed the antifreeze glycoprotein gene in Antarctic notothenioid fish. In short, he says that it looks reasonably convincing as an example of Darwinian evolution, but that it’s a relatively minor development, and probably marks the limit of what Darwinian processes can reasonably be expected to do in vertebrate populations. So what we’re primarily looking for is the limitations on “constructive” positively selected mutations.

  2. 2
    GilDodgen says:

    If someone could show, for example, that the bacterial flagellum could have been constructed through many gradual improvements, would I find a Darwinian explanation reasonable? Heck no.

    I concur. And I expect that virtually no non-irreducibly-complex biological systems came into existence by the Darwinian mechanism of random genetic changes filtered by natural selection.

    In the case of proposed gradual improvements it must be shown:

    1) what specific mutations would be required to engineer the change,
    2) what the likelihood is that these mutations would come about by chance, given the number of individuals, generations, and reproductive events,
    3) what specific survival advantage would be afforded, and that this advantage would be profound enough to warrant statistically significant selection, and
    4) what the likelihood is that the mutation would become fixed in the population.

    Without these details, proposing Darwinian gradual-improvement pathways is a complete waste of time and not worth taking seriously at all. In light of the requirements listed above, I expect that essentially nothing of any real significance in the history of life came about through Darwinian mechanisms.

  3. 3

    […] UD: Mathematicians are trained to value simplicity It seems reasonable only if you assume that random errors are only occurring in the DNA. Gil Dodgen […]

  4. 4
    Unlettered and Ordinary says:

    Greetings!

    I love math.

    Math is so, oh, what’s the word… ah logical.

    What! What do you mean things didn’t just happen by accident? But but lightning, mud ppp-uddle… error error *smoke billows out ears*

  5. 5
    Michaels7 says:

    If I remember correctly Nick Matzke provided over 20 different “possible” coopted events or pathways that the bacterial flagellum “may have” evolved over time.

    I’d suspect, if we toss all these probable events together in mathematical terms it would far surpass any illusions of the darwinian mythos. Maybe this has already been done.

    When Newton fixated upon the planets rotation he looked for simple order. I think sticking to simple is best. Order, not chaos. Organized, not random. Functional not broken.

    Ordered, organized and functional. OOF ID. Where random is goal oriented. Origin of Function.

    You cannot have OOL without OOF first. That should be a law.

  6. 6
    prhean says:

    I’ve said it all along: You guys have an extremely good grasp of the obvious.

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