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Richard Lewontin in The New York Review of Books


Richard Lewontin, in reviewing several books that celebrate Darwinism, writes

…There remains, nevertheless, a substantial population whose commitment to a fundamentalist Christian belief in divine creation of the earth and its inhabitants has driven them to political action. Having been convinced that the separation of church and state is here to stay, they have adopted a pseudo-scientific theory of intelligent design in which the designer is unspecified, and attempted to introduce it into the school curricula in the name of intellectual openness. The scientific community has the definite sense of being embattled and one of its responses is to use the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of its apostle of truth about the material basis of evolution and the 150th anniversary of the appearance of his gospel to carry on the struggle against obscurantism. Jerry Coyne’s Why Evolution Is True is intended as a weapon in that struggle…

Source: www.nybooks.com/articles/22694

To alan (7) and tgpeeler (59), Thank you for excellent posts. I found both posts thoughtful and full of insight. Thanks! glennj
tgpeeler, Fantastic post. Maybe Barry should make this the center of a new thread. I have been studying this issue for about 10 years now. Each year brings a firmer understanding of the problems with naturalistic processes. My experience here in the last year is that information is the key. There is no answer for its existence or its build or its transformation that isn't wishful speculation. jerry
Folks: Following up on qubits, entanglement and the like, starting with an interesting Wiki extract, focussed on particle pairs: ___________________ Quantum entanglement is a possible property of a quantum mechanical state of a system of two or more objects in which the quantum states of the constituting objects are linked together so that one object can no longer be adequately described without full mention of its counterpart — even though the individual objects may be spatially separated. This interconnection leads to non-classical correlations between observable physical properties of remote systems, often referred to as nonlocal correlations . . . . When pairs of particles are generated by the decay of other particles, naturally or through induced collision, these pairs may be termed "entangled", in that such pairs often necessarily have linked and opposite qualities, i.e. of spin or charge. The assumption that measurement in effect "creates" the state of the measured quality goes back to the arguments of, among others: Schrödinger, and Einstein, Podolsky, and Rosen . . . concerning Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and its relation to observation (see also the Copenhagen interpretation). The analysis of entangled particles by means of Bell's theorem, can lead to an impression of non-locality (that is, that there exists a connection between the members of such a pair that defies both classical and relativistic concepts of space and time). This is reasonable if it is assumed that each particle departs the scene of the pair's creation in an ambiguous state (as per a possible interpretation of Heisenberg). In such case, either dichotomous outcome of a given measurement remains a possibility; only measurement itself would precipitate a distinct value. On the other hand, if each particle departs the scene of its "entangled creation" with properties that would unambiguously determine the value of the quality to be subsequently measured, then a postulated instantaneous transmission of information across space and time would not be required to account for the result. The Bohm interpretation postulates that a guide wave exists connecting what are perceived as individual particles such that the supposed hidden variables are actually the particles themselves existing as functions of that wave. Observation of wavefunction collapse can lead to the impression that measurements performed on one system instantaneously influence other systems entangled with the measured system, even when far apart. Yet another interpretation of this phenomenon is that quantum entanglement does not necessarily enable the transmission of classical information faster than the speed of light because a classical information channel is required to complete the process. ______________________ So, looks like we are seeing differing views on an issue, with one side -- that has made some big assumptions on what superposition of quantum states means [the heart of many ideas on Qubits] -- sometimes presented as if it were the whole story. (Plainly, it is not.) On another side of the story, in some cases qubits are being stored as isolated electrons in quantum dots, e.g. in isolated dots embedded in the depletion regions of insulated gate field effect transistors. (NB: Ever since Millikan and his oil drops experiment, it has been possible to detect the action of a single electron electrostatically.) These dots can be coupled and treated as acting through superposition of possible states treated as in effect a basis in a coordinate/vector system. GEM of TKI PS: TGP, your instincts are sound. Indeed spontaneous information generation from "lucky noise" in a scope that makes random search on the gamut of our cosmos utterly implausible is the central unanswered issue for naturalistic theories of origins of life, body plans and minds. The problem, though, is that in the science and related high prestige, high power institutions, we have an establishment that is in significant parts deeply committed to materialism (and is in the politicised cliques, ruthlessly so). So a direct concentration of forces challenge within the institutions is predictably going to be a defeat on correlation of power -- not on the actual merits of the issue. (Hence, the "expelled" phenomenon.) But, such elites are like the Spartans, ever in fear of an uprising. That is why they view efforts like UD as a threat -- if the general public becomes aware of what has been going on (especially through the equivalent of a Luther and other Reformers objecting to the equivalent of a Tetzel's sales talks), the game is up. Especially, if it leaks out that science is being censored and subverted from being an unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) search for the truth about our world based on experimental and other observational evidence. And that is why Mr Lewontin's statements in 1997 and in the new article are important, especially when paralleled with more official statements of the US NAS etc. kairosfocus
"Is this an indication of a certain poison creeping into our thinking, where it becomes perfectly logical to use logic to prove that logic is invalid? How’s that for cutting of the branch on which you are sitting." CJYman, ditto to your post #54. You stated very clearly what I was trying to say over at another thread but much more articulately. Vivid vividbleau
alan (7) "The public must be able to demand accountability - admittedly a very big job. Any suggestions?" I have a suggestion born of my Marine Corps experience and training as an infantry officer. I think that the ID movement often fights the wrong battles. One of the principles of warfare is Mass. Mass is maximizing combat power at the decisive time and place on the battlefield. Too often we give away the game before we even start playing. We grant them explanatory resources they do not possess. Therefore, we argue the fringe issues when we should be pounding them on the fundamentals. Their fundamental intellectual commitments are irrational and most people, if they understood this, would reject them out of hand. The “committed” materialist, having rejected reason, is beyond hope, but the general public is not. Or so I hope. One of these fundamentals is language and information. I personally see this as the Achilles heel of the entire naturalistic enterprise. If my commitment to naturalism (nature is all there is) or materialism (sub-atomic particles in energy fields is all there is) or physicalism (the physical facts fix all the facts) is genuine, then I am committed to explaining everything in terms of the laws of physics. I have no recourse to mind and certainly not to MIND. Part of naturalism is that nature is “causally closed.” That is, when we trace back along an antecedent chain of causes we never depart the natural realm. We never invoke mind and certainly not MIND (God). But this is nonsense on the face of it. The very laws of physics themselves, as far as I can tell, are “outside” of nature. They are not empirically detectable. “We” (not ME, I wouldn’t know a quark from a boson) certainly use empirical data to infer their existence but we only do this, are able to do this, through the mechanism of reason. Which is a function of mind, which they deny the existence of. Philosophers of mind wonder about the problem of mental causation (they generally deny it) because how could the immaterial affect or have causal powers in the material world? Well how does “physics” do it? It’s the same problem, it seems to me. Not only that, but these “laws” that they need to explain everything are communicated in the language of mathematics. Now to that… This is maybe juvenile, I don’t know, I’m not a professional philosopher by any stretch of the imagination and I’m probably only marginally well read but the following seems reasonable to me. If anyone sees flaws in this argument I would be happy to have them pointed out. Information is what MUST be explained by Darwinian evolution or any account of life. The physical structures, wings, feathers, eyes, etc… are a distraction. All of the “just so” stories that they tell to “explain” the existence of these structures miss the entire point. You can’t explain an organism apart from its genome, apart from its information content. If we grant that, that information must be explained, then we immediately realize that information is not possible without language (symbols, vocabulary, grammar, and syntax, roughly). This should be self-evident but in case it is not, a quick thought experiment will demonstrate this. Try to imagine information communicated between any two beings, real or imagined, apart from some kind of language. It’s impossible. We then note that all languages require the use of symbols. In written languages these symbols are letters or pictograms. In animal languages the symbols may be chemical “odors” or movements (honey bees) or clicks, chirps, or whatever. But in all cases there is a message that is communicated from one living thing to another by means of the language. No symbols, no language. That is the claim here. So what are symbols? Roughly, a symbol is one thing that represents another thing. This other thing can be real or not and it can be physical or abstract. For example, the bald eagle as a symbol of America. Or the flag as a symbol, or whatever. Or the letters I am typing can refer to whatever I can conceive. But in any case, I need symbols. I need something to refer to other things. So given the ontology of naturalism (nature is ALL there is) and a methodological naturalism that denies a causal place, or any place, for MIND/mind, the obvious question to me becomes, how to account for symbols with the explanatory tools of naturalism? That is, physics. Or the laws of physics. Or physical laws. Whatever. Once we ask the question in this way, I think the game is almost over. What part of physics can possibly explain the symbols required for language? Is it General Relativity? Or thermodynamics? Or the Standard Model? Or Quantum Physics? To even ask the question points out how ridiculous it is to expect an answer. There is nothing in the laws of physics that tells us that “cat” means a certain kind of mammal and that “act” means to do something, something done, or a segment of a play. I know this for a fact. I even checked with an agnostic physics professor tennis buddy of thirty years (who is coming around because of this argument, in part). Physics has nothing to say about anything that would bear on language and information. Nothing. But if that’s all I have to explain anything, then I can’t even explain the language I’m using to deny the existence of everything that people with normally functioning intellects justly take for granted. The presence of other minds. The reliability of reason. The existence of a moral law. The existence of purpose and design. All of these things they deny. But they must admit that they cannot explain information and language with physics. But information and language exist. So there must be something else in the tool kit. I suggest MIND/mind. We know that minds create information and we do it all the time, effortlessly. Physics can’t create information, it’s impossible, even if “we” grant them symbols, and vocabulary and grammar and syntax, (but why would we?) any string of characters that means something overwhelms the available probabilistic resources. Everyone here can do that math but just to illustrate, what I’ve written so far, according to my MS character counter, is around 4,900 and 5,900 (no spaces, and spaces). So what are the odds of that happening? If we say I have 26 symbols, upper and lower, ten numerals, a space, and seven punctuation marks, that is what, 70 characters? So the odds of this particular arrangement of letters is 70 to the 5,000th power. That is 5000 x log70 = 9,225 and change. So that is 10-9,225 power that this short piece would happen by “chance.” In other words, absolutely impossible. Granted there are many variations that could communicate the same message, but probably not enough to overcome those odds. If every atom in the observable universe, 10 to the 80th power, was doing something at Planck time speed (10 to the 43rd per second) for as long as the universe has been in existence, 10 to the 17th seconds, we’re up to 10 to the 140th possible events. Hell, add on ten more orders of magnitude just to make it an even 10 to the 150th power and something with odds of less than that happening seems safely remote to me. Up against 10 to the -9,225th power, 10 to the -150th power is nothing. Physics can’t create information with regularity. Any system designed to create symbols based on gravity, say, will create a string of only one character. Algorithm: step 1. Pick up object. Step 2. Drop object. Step 3. If object falls, type “a”. Step 4. Repeat. If object does not fall, type any other symbol at random. We see that the most this will produce is a string of aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa… So it seems obvious to me, it’s beyond obvious, that the naturalistic explanation for language and therefore information, fails. If all I have is physics to create information, I’m done. Even given the existence of a language, neither chance nor law can do the job. If this was already blindingly obvious then I apologize for wasting your time. tgpeeler
kairosfocus, Thank you very much. This looks to be a rather helpful resource. The presentations seems to be really very nice (just glancing through it, anyway). Gotta love PDF. Again, I appreciate it. HouseStreetRoom
HSR: Looking up stuff on Alfred Russell Wallace, so passed by. I highly recommend the free textbook, Motion Mountain. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
I realize that this is completely off-topic, but I would like to ask a quick question. Can anyone recommend or suggest a decent book/textbook for becoming acquainted with modern physics (sometimes I'm not too thrilled with some of these college textbooks)? I've been learning a good deal about electricity/magnetism and would like to take the next plunge, so to speak. I'm especially interested in nuclear reactions etc. Thanks! HouseStreetRoom
Topics for new posts, anyone? Denyse? Lithium in drinking water has 'anti-suicide' effect The science of voodoo: When mind attacks body "Creating life in the primordial soup may have been easier than we thought." - Kate Ravillious, "New Scientist," 13 May 2009. Molecule of life emerges from laboratory slime vjtorley
A quick two cents on QM and the LNC: What if our understanding of the quantum mechanical system is incomplete? Wouldn't it be more prudent to state that we don't fully understand what is actually taking place or can not yet fully describe certain QM experiments rather than speedily moving to throw out Logical Foundations? ie: (as it relates to wave-particle duality) Maybe we aren't really dealing with a "wave-particle" at all and we are merely inhibited by our measuring capabilities so that we can only measure one aspect -- velocity or position -- to the exclusion of the other and the fundamental reality which gives rise to these aspects is something which we do not fully understand and can not describe since we are borrowing from language which relies too much on visual rather than mathematical representation. The same could hold with photons both "existing" and "not existing" -- does it occur at the same time and under the same formal circumstances? With all the possible warping of space and time and other such oddities, the LNC is most likely perfectly in harmony with such "observations." How could it not be? I am slightly [ok, much more than slightly] confused as to how one can use science (a system founded upon logic) to prove that certain logical foundations are invalid. Is this an indication of a certain poison creeping into our thinking, where it becomes perfectly logical to use logic to prove that logic is invalid? How's that for cutting of the branch on which you are sitting. ... just some food for thought. CJYman
kairosfocus Thanks very much for your comments on the Sheaff paper. You made a very telling point about inference: P => Q is equivalent to NOT-[P and NOT-Q]. I was also intrigued to read the paper by Richard Lewontin which you were kind enough to provide a link to. This quote in particular caught my eye:
What seems absurd depends on one's prejudice. Carl Sagan accepts, as I do, the duality of light, which is at the same time wave and particle, but he thinks that the consubstantiality of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost puts the mystery of the Holy Trinity "in deep trouble." Two's company, but three's a crowd.
Skeptics should take note. To give credit where credit is due, I will say one thing about Richard Lewontin: he really has a way with words. vjtorley
Hey, here is the path to 600 comments of inanity. Is the denial of the LNC self referentially contradictory? Or does that make sense? All you budding Plato's out there, have at it. jerry
"Your concept of ID is so elastic as to be meaningless. But hey, claiming that all science is ID is great! Sure beats doing real research." My concept of ID is truth. Where naturalistic processes are called for, conclude that the cause is naturalistic. Where design is called for, conclude that the possible cause is design. As opposed to absolutely conclude that the cause must be naturalistic in every study which is mandated under the current paradigm. So David, the difference is not in the content of the research but in the potential conclusions and we had this discussion in mini form a week or so ago under the guise of methodological naturalism. The reason it did not last too long is that the argument for the current paradigm is so bankrupt that even the anti ID people had a hard time coming up with enough psychobabble to defend it. I will point you to a past post I made on this subject. https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/faq2-is-open-for-comment/#comment-304029 As I said, I thought you would know this by now. It is interesting that you don't. jerry
"That is, far from “disproving” non-contradiction, simply to state the results of the S-G experiment must use this law of reasoning. no surprise: it is indeed a basic law of thought." Pretty ironic that in order to deny LNC one must first affirm it. I am curious however about one thing. How does one go about observing something that does not exist? Vivid vividbleau
It’s fun to see the somewhat desperate gusto with which Darwinists resist extinction. ID already won the battle in the public square, hands down, since it’s perfectly self-evident. But maybe a FEW MORE INFLAMMATORY POSTS on UD by [fill in the blank] can save the day! Survival of the fittest, anyone? allanius
9 --> So, IF a certain studied particle interaction gives rise to a separating pair of particles, say one spin up, the other spin down, and they propagate until light years separate them, then when we on earth detect the one, THEN we "know" that somewhere out there, there is another particle in the complementary state. (This inference of course relies on the validity of non-contradiction as for instance P => Q is NOT- [P and NOT-Q], i.e we cannot have P true and Q false.] 10 --> Such does not reasonably mean that physically information has travelled "instantly" across space at rates beyond c, but that we . . . logically . . . infer (assuming non-contradiction to do so) -- NB: we have not observed! -- the state of particle B from the observed state of particle A, AND our underlying theory. Similarly, if by coincidence the Kzinti had observed B at some other time, they would infer to the state of A independent of our observations. (The notion that our observing the state of A has somehow instantly physically caused B to go to its state from an unresolved superposed state, seems to me -- but then I am a mere, humble applied physicist -- a misunderstanding of the underlying process of observation and inference at work.) 11 --> Going on to Qubits, the Sheaff paper (nice catch VJT!) is speaking of interpretations of the probabilistic nature of Q-states intermediate between initial and final state as observed. 12 --> Superposition mathematically . . . thus, inferentially and as a map, not an observed reality [which would of course drastically change the situation] . . . allows blending of intermediates or unresolved unobserved states. But, plainly, that is more or less a matter of mathematics and inference, not at all observed violation of the principle that to assert A AND NOT-A is to assert an inevitable falsehood via contradiction. 13 --> And, in the proposed physical instantiation (cf discussion of a Qubit 8-digit register, or onward a 64- Qubit one), Sheaf is -- on my reading -- relying on the population of atoms allowing instantiation of the population of states, i.e. we did not get something for nothing. And, the issue that signals as weak as from the spin of a single atom or a few atoms will be very weak and subject to noise must be reckoned with. (Providing we can then effectively sample the pop, we can then take advantage of the running of the single operation across the whole population at one go, which is an advantage in parallel processing, not a magical manufacturing of outcomes out of thin vacuum. [Remember, 79 grams of Ag would have in it 6 * 10^23 atoms, much more than would be required to implement a 64-bit Qubit register.]) 14 --> So, if we can profile the pop or filter it on an achievement function, we can then use Qubits to carry out otherwise unattainable processing feats that fit that sort of algorithm where we can scattershot across a range of states in parallel and then pick a nd identify a winner. (But, knowing the temptations that are out there, we must duly note: this does not get us around the 10^150 state limit for the observed cosmos as a whole acting as a processor.) 15 --> Now, on reading the latest RL essay, it is a sort of collective review on the Darwin 200 triumphant celebrations, with complaints on the fly in the ointment; those pesky ID thinkers; setting the work of Darwin in the3 context of the C19 triumph of positivist science multiplied by the use of the term "evolution" in ways that are quite a stretch. Carnot's early form of the 2nd Law of thermodynamics leads to a framework which as developed, is hardly a law of SPONTANEOUS increase in organisation and complexity of function rooted in algorithmic information! 16 --> Instead, it is about what it says: DYNAMICS, the (usually mathematical -- differential and/or difference eqn based) study of how systems accumulate change across time from initial conditions in light of applicable laws. Laws that, a la Newton's General Scholium to the Principia, can be understood as the ways that the Pantokrator has determined to structure the cosmos; pace Lewontin's historically ill-informed and indeed evidently "obscurant" -- I am turning his own recent word on himself -- notions that God is a chaotic principle who should be locked out of the temples of science lest he turn all into disorder:
. . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator , or Universal Ruler . . . . Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e bare mechanical necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.]
17 --> And so, let us note correctively: DYNAMICS =/= EVOLUTION. 18 --> Moreover, such a Pantokrator-ordered cosmos is on the Judaeo-Christian view open to specific interventions that do not fit the usual course, but for such to stand out as signs, they must stand out form the generally predictable course of nature. And, if we are to be morally accountable and relational, actions must by and large have predictable consequences. (So, the notion popularised by RL that "To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen" is obscurantist scare-mongering.) 19 --> Moreover, I find that he constant emphasis on "natural selection" distracts from the key issue: cell-based life is strongly based on complex functional symbolic digital information processing systems clustering about DNA, a digital storage unit. Such information, to be functional, must specify codes implementing algorithms and embedding data structures that naturally lead to islands of complex, specified function in vast seas of non-function. I find it highly significant that Darwinists seem to be unable to see that until one credibly gets to shores of function of Isle Improbable on the available search resources without implicit or explicit active information [i.e. design], hill-climbing Mt Improbable by further minor variation and differential reproductive success is simply not on the cards. 20 --> And, labelling that issue "pseudo-Science" and associating it with those ever-handy bogeymen "fundamentalists" and "creationists" -- y'know, like Newton, Maxwell, Faraday and Kelvin, those ignoramus pseudo-scientists -- may score debate points with the home team or the ill-informed, but it does not address the ISSUE on the merits. 21 --> Similarly, I find that there are a few slippery issues of definition involved in saying "we "know" that evolution has, in fact, occurred in a stronger sense than we "know" that some sequence of evolutionary change has been the result of natural selection." Evolution, notoriously ranges in meaning from observed (and in some cases reversible) minor population variations to a grand metaphysically laden narrative of the origin and diversification of life, or even the solar system and the cosmos itself. The degree of warrant to the former is utterly different in not just degree but kind from he latter: we observe micro-evo; we infer and spin narratives on a distant, unobserved past. (And that is why BTW, the grand narrative simply cannot be warranted as well as the gravitational theory of planetary motion.) 22 --> And, that of course carries us full circle to the issue raised by Simon Greenleaf, 150 or so years ago now. GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Onlookers: Some further notes, including a little on Q-mech, Qubits and quantum computing in the context of the law of non-contradiction; also first notes on Mr Lewontin's new essay in the context of the infamous 1997 one. But first, some more personal observations by way of right of reply -- especially as the listing and dismissive labelling of items Dk et al intend to ignore the logical and factual force of (especially multiplied by attacking the source for daring to insist that facts and logic must speak and be heeded, not dismissed and ignored) does not constitute a refutation: 1 --> I see that, sadly, the Anti Evo personal vendetta has been continued, with the insinuation through its resident spokesman, that I probably am quote-mining the 1997 essay by Mr R Lewontinn. The rebuttal is quite simple: have a read here (as is provided in my always linked at the point where I cite RL), and you will see the whole essay and can judge for yourself. (You will see that the remarks by RL -- given in a review of Sagan's last book -- are NOT out of context. They mean just what they seem to mean, and indeed the NAS -- of which he is a member -- has in recent years sought to impose these same themes; acting as a de facto magisterium. [Cf Section E, my always linked.] Thus, we see the magisterium's vision: Science, not as an unfettered but intellectually and ethically responsible search for the empirically warranted truth about our cosmos, but as the rhetorical servant of atheistic evolutionary materialism That is -- if we value liberty and intellectual integrity -- we had better take those words seriously, esp. given the current remarks cited and linked above.) 2 --> As touching the linked issue of selective hyperskepticism, it should be evident from my online discussion of the topic that I claim no originality on concept, I am simply using a descriptive phrase for a theme long ago sounded by a certain Mr Simon Greenleaf (and by others). It so happens that Mr Greenleaf is a founding father of the anglophone theory of evidence, so it is much more convenient to dismiss a relatively unknown blog commenter than to address the substantial issue at stake. [A by now very familiar tactic: the red herring used to drag attention away from the track of truth, led out to the strawman misrepresentation (laced with a personal mischaracterisation -- oil of ad hominem) and ignited to cloud, confuse and poison the atmosphere .] 3 --> To wit, here is Mr Greenleaf:
In the ordinary affairs of life we do not require nor expect demonstrative evidence, because it is inconsistent with the nature of matters of fact, and to insist on its production would be unreasonable and absurd . . . The error of the skeptic consists in pretending or supposing that there is a difference in the nature of things to be proved; and in demanding demonstrative evidence concerning things which are not susceptible of any other than moral evidence alone, and of which the utmost that can be said is, that there is no reasonable doubt about their truth . . . . In proceeding to weigh the evidence of any proposition of fact, the previous question to be determined is, when may it be said to be proved? The answer to this question is furnished by another rule of municipal law, which may be thus stated: A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence. By competent evidence, is meant such as the nature of the thing to be proved requires; and by satisfactory evidence, is meant that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt. . . . . If, therefore, the subject is a problem in mathematics, its truth is to be shown by the certainty of demonstrative evidence. But if it is a question of fact in human affairs, nothing more than moral evidence can be required, for this is the best evidence which, from the nature of the case, is attainable.
4 --> The precise and relevant force of the 1997 Lewontin cite is of course that it demonstrates intent not to address matters of science on that basis of provisional warrant applicable to matters of empirical fact, but to enthrone materialist prejudice; these days through the notion of methodological naturalism. So --and confessedly so -- by a priori imposition of materialism, the facts are not allowed to speak when they might on common sense (and real world sci methods are by and large glorified and systematised common sense . . . i.e. prudent judgement in light of evident facts . . . with a bit of mathematical modelling tossed in) suggest that intelligent cause is involved in an inconvenient situation. 5 --> Censorship, in one word. 6 --> And, BTW, I admittedly studied Q-mech in the light of the old Copenhagen School, but I thought the Stern-Gerlach expt of passing electrons -- strictly a beam of Ag atoms (which are net spin-half) -- through a peculiarly calculated uneven magnetic field [made by wedge and matching U-shaped poles] was about detecting intrinsic quantised angular momentum in these particles, i.e. what we now know as spin. How that is being turned into the notion that Q-mech somehow disproves that to say "A and not-A" in the same sense a the same time does not seem reasonable to me. For, first even to assert a claim that the S-G expt reliably shows certain results (i.e. a split in the beam of electrons occasioned by spins up and down) entails the denial of the converse. (That is, far from "disproving" non-contradiction, simply to state the results of the S-G experiment must use this law of reasoning. no surprise: it is indeed a basic law of thought.) 7 --> Further, Q-mech theory is not about ultimate unchallengeable truth about how the world either definitively is or must be -- as opposed to the import of what happens when we say A (as opposed to NOT-A). Instead Q-mech is about observations and maps that try to model reality at the scale where Planck's constant h becomes a significant factor. In that context, we have "wavicles" -- i.e. whatever they are , such entities partly act as particles and partly as waves do in our mathematical models and associated classical experiments; depending on observational set-up (note that constraint and its implications!) -- whose position and momentum, or energy and time cannot be fully simultaneously resolved. 8 --> Moreover, the frame of the theory teaches us that the act of observation fundamentally changes the circumstances, per the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. So, the spin of a given electron is not resolved till observed. Likewise Mr Schroedinger's poor cat is until observed not certainly known to be alive or dead, which we can model as a superposition of the states live and dead, pending resolution on intervention. But, that "intervention by observation" itself is a factor that has to be reckoned with. [ . . . ] kairosfocus
David Kellogg: Thanks for the tip. I'll look into this. I've been trying to find links that discuss the philosophical implications of the experiment. I've come across this one so far, at http://patriot.lib.byu.edu/ETD/image/etd908.pdf . It's a Masters thesis by Jared Stenson, of Brigham Young University. It looks very rigorous, both mathematically and technically. A discussion of the philosophical implications of the experiment can be found in chapter 6, from pages 51 to 68. In chapter 7, the author, who describes himself as "part philosopher, part physicist," proposes some follow-up research which could help to distinguish between what he refers to as positivist and realist interpretations of the original experiment. I gather he is a realist. I would suggest that science has not yet spoken its last word here. I found another paper at http://www.angelfire.com/ult/claysheaff/An_Overview_of_Spintronics.pdf but it's a little technical. The pages of interest are pages 10 to 13. I was intrigued by this sentence on page 12:
In a proton’s transition from ? to +'', it can be thought to have passed through both the ?' and +' states simultaneously! This is an interesting quantum effect known as quantum parallelism. (Italics mine - VJT.)
Doesn't sound like an observation to me. Here's another extract from page 13:
This means that all possible states are linear combinations of 0' and 1', and they can be thought of as quasi-horizontal spin states (as opposed to spin up or spin down). So instead of being merely either a 0 or a 1, a qubit can manage to store a combination of both 0 and 1!
I highlighted that word "store." Removing the word and replacing it with "be" does indeed generate paradoxical consequences; but that's not what the author wrote. I'm way out of my depth here, but my cursory online search has yet to convince me that the Stern-Gerlach Experiment necessitates an abandonment of realism, let alone LNC. vjtorley
vjtorley, consider this:
I could discuss with [torley] the Stern-Gerlach experiment with electron spins. It demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that classical binary logic fails: a quantum bit can simultaneously be 1 and not 1, i.e. 0. Incidentally, that's precisely the reason why a quantum computer is expected to be exponentially faster than a classical one. Its quantum bits can be set simultaneously to 0s and 1s, so it performs a massively parallel computation. A photon simultaneously existing and not is just a variant of the same type of quantum superposition.
The author is associate professor at a world-class physics department. David Kellogg
Off-topic David Kellogg (#32)
Once more to Stephen: it seems pretty clear in the last thread that a photon can both exist and not exist, although some preferred to believe the LNC over the science. So there’s at least that exception even within the universe.
As I recall, the evidence for this assertion consisted in a statement made to you by an unnamed physicist describing an unnamed experiment. Would it not be helpful to find out which experiment he/she was talking about, and to put up some links showing how this experiment is currently interpreted in the scientific literature? I suspect that the percentage of contemporary physicists who would adhere to the bald statement, that a thing can both exist and not exist at the same time, would be considerably less than 50%. vjtorley
On topic: This review by Professor Richard Lewontin is an absolute goldmine of quotes. Of course, most of the interesting facts mentioned in this review have been covered before in various posts at UD, but it's convenient to have a single review by a well-known scientist, bringing them all together. A selection (highlights are all mine - VJT):
Why do we call the modern theory of organic evolution "Darwinism"? There are, however, occasions on which there are orgies of idolatrous celebrations of the lives of famous men, when the Suetonian ideal of history as biography overwhelms us. For Darwinians, 2009 is such a year. ...[Darwin's] contemporary, Alfred Russel Wallace, the acknowledged independent inventor of the theory of evolution by natural selection... It seems amazing that two naturalists could independently arrive at the same articulated theory of evolution from a consideration of the characteristics of some species of organisms in nature, their geographic distribution, and their similarities to other species. This amazement becomes considerably tempered, however, when one considers the social consciousness and economic milieu in which the theory arose, a milieu marked by the rise of competitive industrial capitalism in which individuals rose in the social hierarchy based, presumably, on their greater entrepreneurial fitness. One can hardly imagine anything that would have better justified the established social and economic theories of the Industrial Revolution than the claim that our very biological natures are examples of basic laws of political economy. Despite the intuitive appeal of the theory of evolution by natural selection, there is a deep flaw in it as it was conceived in the nineteenth century, a flaw that was potentially fatal: it lacked an understanding of heredity. This problem was first pointed out in 1867 by a Scottish engineer, Fleeming Jenkin, but it does not seem to have had any effective force. The problem is that if inheritance proceeds by a blending mechanism, then new variants in a species would rapidly be lost by dilution through mating with the common form. The Darwinian mechanism would, in fact, not work in a world of blending inheritance. Unknown to Darwin, Wallace, or any of the enthusiasts for the claim of evolution by natural selection, work by an obscure monk in the Königenkloster at Brno in Moravia would turn out to save the theory. In full historical justice, if we are to personalize our modern explanation of evolution we should call it not "Darwinism," nor even "Darwin-Wallacism," but "Darwin-Wallace-Mendelism." Lamarck's theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics was certainly coherent given the ignorance of the basis of heredity, and was, in a sense, more nearly complete than Darwin's precisely because it included and depended on a definite theory of inheritance. ...Richard Owen, a zoologist of considerable fame and prestige whose Hunterian Lectures on zoology were attended by Queen Victoria and Darwin himself. Exhibiting a typical hardworking professional's disdain for the amateur, Owen writes that Darwin "has long been favourably known...by the charming style [of his] observations...." I must confess that in reading Owen's essay I found myself over and over nodding my head in agreement. Given the state of ignorance of basic biological processes in 1860, Owen might well have been right. The primary reason for the attention being paid to Darwin is the rejuvenation in recent years of theories of the divine creation of the earth and the organisms that inhabit it. Although we may think that the Scopes trial legitimized the teaching of evolution, it had little effect on public education. ...Sputnik had hardly made its first orbit before Congress was pouring money into the institutions of American science, both universities and government agencies like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health... The result was a major change in the teaching of biology, with a large emphasis on evolution both in textbooks and in the classroom. [Jerry Coyne's] primary object in writing this book is to present the incontrovertible evidence that evolution is a physical fact of the history of life on earth. In referring to the theory of evolution he makes it clear that we do not mean the weak sense of "theory," an ingenious tentative mental construct that might or might not be objectively true, but the strong sense of a coherent set of true assertions about physical reality. In this he is entirely successful. Where he is less successful, as all other commentators have been, is in his insistence that the evidence for natural selection as the driving force of evolution is of the same inferential strength as the evidence that evolution has occurred. But to say that some example is not falsification of a theory because we can always "find" (invent) a feasible explanation says more about the flexibility of the theory and the ingenuity of its supporters than it says about physical nature. There is, of course, nothing that Coyne can do about the situation. There are different modes of "knowing," and we "know" that evolution has, in fact, occurred in a stronger sense than we "know" that some sequence of evolutionary change has been the result of natural selection.
What does this tell us? (1) The ID movement should definitely continue to focus on driving a wedge in the public's perception between the strong evidence that evolution has occurred and the much weaker evidence for natural selection as the driving force of evolution. (2) In drawing attention to the weaknesses of evolutionary theory, the ID movement can expect to be mercilessly attacked by influential science organizations. But that tells us something. The more books they write, the more besieged they must feel. The ID movement has to counter by writing and disseminating an even greater number of books. One reason why Lenin's ideas triumphed in Russia, as the historian Paul Johnson points out, is was his voluminous literary output: he never stopped writing. (3) We have to draw people's attention to the fact that the original arguments for evolution were not very strong, and Darwin's theory of evolution driven by natural selection was lucky, historically speaking, to have survived as a theory. What does that tell us? That the scientists who eagerly embraced his theory were guilty of a rush to judgement. So should we trust them today? Are they not likely to be have been swayed by emotional factors, including a visceral dislike of any kind of Deity guiding evolution? (4) Pushing Wallace's theory of evolution as an alternative to Darwin's is a very sound tactic. Wallace's theory of Intelligent Evolution is the kind of theory we should be advocating. (5) Even Lewontin is rather surprised that Darwin and Wallace arrived at their ideas independently. Or did they? A few more books opening up this line of investigation might deflate Darwin's balloon somewhat. (6) Although scientists like Allen MacNeill may advocate a pragmatic theory of scientific truth, many evolutionists (such as Coyne) do believe that the Darwinian theory evolution is objectively true and not just a useful way of accounting for the facts. In other words, they're scientific realists - which is a good thing, as it's much easier to have a philosophical argument with a realist than an anti-realist who is skeptical of any claims for the objective truth of a theory. vjtorley
You're right - it's just that the other thread got closed while it was still in progress. Maybe the subject will come up again sometime in an appropriate place. hazel
----Hazel: "If time is something that began in the universe, then what does it mean to say that something outside the universe, such as the supposed cause of the universe, has “always” existed?" We should probably return to the subject of the thread, since I have already indulged myself too much on old business. StephenB
Hmmm. Stephen says,
My argument was and is that universe began with the big bang, which means that time began with the big bang.
If time is something that began in the universe, then what does it mean to say that something outside the universe, such as the supposed cause of the universe, has "always" existed? What meaning does the word "always" have in a context where time does not exist. Likewise, since cause-and-effect as we know it is embedded in time (with cause happening before effect), what is the meaning of "cause" outside of the universe in a context where time does not exist? hazel
I am sorry. You did not take the position that I mistakenly attributed to you. I am unable to make the position you do take make sense. David Kellogg
----David: "Stephen, your original version of the proof talked about things beginning “in time.” You changed it (at my suggestion) to “begin to exist.” No, not at your suggestion. I could have argued either way, but I was trying to reason with you and Diffaxisl in your own territory so you would have no excuse to complain. Since you wouldn't agree with the original premise, I changed it knowing that I could work with either formulation. In any case, all that is irrelevant, because either way, you claim that I argued that time is a "consequence" of the universe. That is obviously not the case, and you are not helping yourself here by evading responsibility for this distortion. All you have to do is say, "I am sorry. You did not take the position that I mistakenly attributed to you.” StephenB
Correction: problematically static. David Kellogg
Stephen, your original version of the proof talked about things beginning "in time." You changed it (at my suggestion) to "begin to exist." In my view, the universe did not begin "in time" but, in a sense, "with time." If that is the case, then your original version of the proof fails at that point. As Diffaxial (who is clearly more trained in symbolic logic than either of us) pointed out, "begin to exist" is a philosophically problematic statement. So: "begin in time" relies on a notion of time that is problematically statis. "begin to exist" is problematic for the reasons Diffaxial stated. Your argument has never been clear. Note to jerry; I agree with you that this is all silly. However, Stephen is the one who thinks he has the philosophical goods. David Kellogg
That should read, "You did [not] take the position I attributed to you." StephenB
----David: "One more to Stephen: it seems pretty clear in the last thread that a photon can both exist and not exist, although some preferred to believe the LNC over the science. So there’s at least that exception even within the universe." We are not talking about "photons" or the principle of non-contradictin. We are talking about your mischaracterization of a very simple point. I argued that time began with the universe. You portrayed it as something radically different that than. Rather than trying to do damange control with irrelevant distractions, you should simply say, "I am sorry. You did take the position that I mistakenly attributed to you." StephenB
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