Intelligent Design

To Save Time Barry Argues Both Sides

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In comment [25] to my last post , The ID hypothesis, Elizabeth Liddle asks about information. I think I’ve been at this long enough to predict how an exchange between me and Elizabeth would go.

Barry’s Point 1:
Let’s take the information in your comment [25]. I am sure you will agree your comment contains specified complex information. Indeed, your one little comment contains more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment.

Barry’s Point 2:
I am sure you will agree that the cells in your body contain more complex specified information than your comment by several orders of magnitude.

Barry’s Question to Elizabeth:
If your comment contains more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment, and the cells in your body contain several orders of magnitude more complex specified information than your comment, why should we attribute the complex specified information in your body to chance and necessity? Isn’t it more reasonable to attribute the CSI in the cells in your body to intelligent agency, just as we attribute the CSI in comment [25] to intelligent agency?

Elizabeth’s Probable Response 1:
The CSI in the cells in my body can reasonably be attributed to the accretion of random errors.

Barry’s Response to Her Probable Response 1:
Surely you don’t believe your comment [25] could reasonably be attributed to random key strokes by our proverbial monkey. That has a sort of first blush plausibility, but as we all know the math does not work. Then why do you attribute the CSI in the cells in your body to the accretion of random errors?

Elizabeth’s Probable Response 2:
Well, it’s not just random chance. The good random errors are selected for by natural selection and bad random errors are eliminated by natural selection. So it is not pure chance. It is chance (random genetic errors) and necessity (natural selection) combined that results in the CSI.

Barry’s response to her Probable Response 2:
What an extraordinary claim! This remarkable interaction of chance and necessity to which you allude has never been observed even over trillions of reproductive events by bacteria under intense selective pressure. What non-question begging evidence do you have for your remarkable assertion? Remember, Dawkins says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And surely you will agree that saying the staggering amounts of CSI in living things is the result of the accretion of random errors sorted by natural selection is the most extraordinary claim ever made.

Elizabeth’s Probable Response 3:
Let’s change the subject.

172 Replies to “To Save Time Barry Argues Both Sides

  1. 1
    paragwinn says:

    Imagination fail.

  2. 2
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    There is massive evidence that gene duplication + mutation + selection has produced many new genes with modified or new functions. It’s not just me saying this. Behe agrees. Even some UD posters, e.g. that Thomas guy, agree with this.

    If it’s true, then natural processes can produce new information, and have produced many new genes in just the limited sample of well-studied genome sequences in just the last few million years. So (a) the basic ID argument, that the only explanation for information/specified complexity is wrong, and (b) please tell us why this process should magically stop at just a few genes? A process that can produce a little bit of information and store it, can build up lots of information when iterated over many species over billions of years.

  3. 3
    NickMatzke_UD says:

    edit: “the only explanation for information/specified complexity is wrong”

    –>

    “the only explanation for information/specified complexity is ID is wrong”

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    Nick claims gene duplication is established beyond doubt, yet the empirical evidence states there is much room for doubt:

    Is gene duplication a viable explanation for the origination of biological information and complexity? – December 2010 –
    Excerpt: The totality of the evidence reveals that, although duplication can and does facilitate important adaptations by tinkering with existing compounds, molecular evolution is nonetheless constrained in each and every case. Therefore, although the process of gene duplication and subsequent random mutation has certainly contributed to the size and diversity of the genome, it is alone insufficient in explaining the origination of the highly complex information pertinent to the essential functioning of living organisms. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity, 2011
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com.....5/abstract

    Evolution by Gene Duplication Falsified – December 2010
    Excerpt: The various postduplication mechanisms entailing random mutations and recombinations considered were observed to tweak, tinker, copy, cut, divide, and shuffle existing genetic information around, but fell short of generating genuinely distinct and entirely novel functionality. Contrary to Darwin’s view of the plasticity of biological features, successive modification and selection in genes does indeed appear to have real and inherent limits: it can serve to alter the sequence, size, and function of a gene to an extent, but this almost always amounts to a variation on the same theme—as with RNASE1B in colobine monkeys. The conservation of all-important motifs within gene families, such as the homeobox or the MADS-box motif, attests to the fact that gene duplication results in the copying and preservation of biological information, and not its transformation as something original.
    http://www.creationsafaris.com.....#20110103a

    The Limits of Complex Adaptation: An Analysis Based on a Simple Model of Structured Bacterial Populations Douglas D. Axe*
    Excerpt: In particular, I use an explicit model of a structured bacterial population, similar to the island model of Maruyama and Kimura, to examine the limits on complex adaptations during the evolution of paralogous genes—genes related by duplication of an ancestral gene. Although substantial functional innovation is thought to be possible within paralogous families, the tight limits on the value of d found here (d ? 2 for the maladaptive case, and d ? 6 for the neutral case) mean that the mutational jumps in this process cannot have been very large.
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/.....O-C.2010.4

    An Insurmountable Problem for Darwinian Evolution – Gene Duplication – And Minor Transformation of Protein Function – May 2011
    http://intelligentdesign.podom.....1_43-07_00

    Michael Behe Hasn’t Been Refuted on the Flagellum!
    Excerpt: Douglas Axe of the Biologic Institute showed in one recent paper in the journal Bio-complexity that the model of gene duplication and recruitment only works if very few changes are required to acquire novel selectable utility or neo-functionalization. If a duplicated gene is neutral (in terms of its cost to the organism), then the maximum number of mutations that a novel innovation in a bacterial population can require is up to six. If the duplicated gene has a slightly negative fitness cost, the maximum number drops to two or fewer (not inclusive of the duplication itself).
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....44801.html

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.”
    http://www.scitopics.com/The_G.....ciple.html

    A Fishy Story About AntiFreeze Gene Evolution – Casey Luskin – January 2011
    Excerpt: In his 2005 textbook Evolution, Douglas Futuyma states that a high estimate of the gene duplication rate is “about 0.01 duplication per gene per million years.” (p. 470) A given gene will thus be duplicated about once every 100 million years. The present paper speculates that the antifreeze gene evolved in response to cooling temperatures in the Antarctic deep ocean water over the past 50 million years. What are we to make, then, of the fact that Antarctic eelpouts have over 30 AFPIII genes, all of which are said to have resulted from a duplication of a single AFPIII gene which evolved at some point in the past 50 million years in response to changing ocean temperatures? http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....43141.html

  5. 5
    David W. Gibson says:

    What an extraordinary claim! This remarkable interaction of chance and necessity to which you allude has never been observed even over trillions of reproductive events by bacteria under intense selective pressure. What non-question begging evidence do you have for your remarkable assertion? Remember, Dawkins says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And surely you will agree that saying the staggering amounts of CSI in living things is the result of the accretion of random errors sorted by natural selection is the most extraordinary claim ever made.

    Elizabeth’s Probable Response 3:
    Let’s change the subject.

    This sounds like something straight out of a Chick tract. Elizabeth seems endlessly patient, and has NEVER changed the subject. Very much to the contrary, she has doggedly insisted on sticking to the subject when others want to wander off.

    What I find rather surprising is the claim that “this remarkable interaction of chance and necessity to which you allude has never been observed.” Most practicing biologists are under the vivid impression that they observe it routinely, as a matter of course, every day. Claiming it has never been observed is like claiming that no dispute has ever been observed in a courtroom. One wonders if we’re speaking the same language.

    Molly Ivins once wrote that a Military Denier can look you straight in the eye, deny that you’re there at all, and sincerely believe it. And something like that renders communication impossible.

    I wonder what a dog (or cow, fish or sheep, or other) breeder would say to someone who told him that the results he was achieving “have never been observed” and that SAYING he’s achieved those results is “the most extraordinary claim ever made”, and that pointing to his results is “changing the subject”.

    I suppose you could tell him that his results “don’t count” for some reason. And he might nod politely, and back slowly away, and return to what he’s been doing, because it works.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest; constraint on variability of proteins (protein evolvability) is found to be extremely tight thus further constraining the ‘bottom up’ Darwinian scenario for ‘randomly’ generating functional complexity/information:

    Dollo’s law, the symmetry of time, and the edge of evolution – Michael Behe – Oct 2009
    Excerpt: Nature has recently published an interesting paper which places severe limits on Darwinian evolution.,,,
    A time-symmetric Dollo’s law turns the notion of “pre-adaptation” on its head. The law instead predicts something like “pre-sequestration”, where proteins that are currently being used for one complex purpose are very unlikely to be available for either reversion to past functions or future alternative uses.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....f_tim.html

    Stability effects of mutations and protein evolvability. October 2009
    Excerpt: The accepted paradigm that proteins can tolerate nearly any amino acid substitution has been replaced by the view that the deleterious effects of mutations, and especially their tendency to undermine the thermodynamic and kinetic stability of protein, is a major constraint on protein evolvability,,
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19765975

    When Theory and Experiment Collide — April 16th, 2011 by Douglas Axe
    Excerpt: Based on our experimental observations and on calculations we made using a published population model [3], we estimated that Darwin’s mechanism would need a truly staggering amount of time—a trillion trillion years or more—to accomplish the seemingly subtle change in enzyme function that we studied.
    http://biologicinstitute.org/2.....t-collide/

    “Mutations are rare phenomena, and a simultaneous change of even two amino acid residues in one protein is totally unlikely. One could think, for instance, that by constantly changing amino acids one by one, it will eventually be possible to change the entire sequence substantially… These minor changes, however, are bound to eventually result in a situation in which the enzyme has ceased to perform its previous function but has not yet begun its ‘new duties’. It is at this point it will be destroyed – along with the organism carrying it.” Maxim D. Frank-Kamenetski, Unraveling DNA, 1997, p. 72. (Professor at Brown U. Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Biomedical Engineering)

    “A problem with the evolution of proteins having new shapes is that proteins are highly constrained, and producing a functional protein from a functional protein having a significantly different shape would typically require many mutations of the gene producing the protein. All the proteins produced during this transition would not be functional, that is, they would not be beneficial to the organism, or possibly they would still have their original function but not confer any advantage to the organism. It turns out that this scenario has severe mathematical problems that call the theory of evolution into question. Unless these problems can be overcome, the theory of evolution is in trouble.”
    Problems in Protein Evolution:
    http://www.cs.unc.edu/~plaisted/ce/blocked.html

    Extreme functional sensitivity to conservative amino acid changes on enzyme exteriors – Doug Axe
    Excerpt: Contrary to the prevalent view, then, enzyme function places severe constraints on residue identities at positions showing evolutionary variability, and at exterior non-active-site positions, in particular.
    http://nsmserver2.fullerton.ed.....lution.pdf

    Darwin’s God: Post Synaptic Proteins Intolerant of Change – December 2010
    Excerpt: Not only is there scant evidence of intermediate designs leading to the known proteins, but the evidence we do have is that these proteins do not tolerate change.
    http://darwins-god.blogspot.co.....nt-of.html

    =======

    further note:

    Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution, pg. 162 Swine Flu, Viruses, and the Edge of Evolution
    “Indeed, the work on malaria and AIDS demonstrates that after all possible unintelligent processes in the cell–both ones we’ve discovered so far and ones we haven’t–at best extremely limited benefit, since no such process was able to do much of anything. It’s critical to notice that no artificial limitations were placed on the kinds of mutations or processes the microorganisms could undergo in nature. Nothing–neither point mutation, deletion, insertion, gene duplication, transposition, genome duplication, self-organization nor any other process yet undiscovered–was of much use.”
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2....._edge.html

    “The likelihood of developing two binding sites in a protein complex would be the square of the probability of developing one: a double CCC (chloroquine complexity cluster), 10^20 times 10^20, which is 10^40. There have likely been fewer than 10^40 cells in the entire world in the past 4 billion years, so the odds are against a single event of this variety (just 2 binding sites being generated by accident) in the history of life. It is biologically unreasonable.”
    Michael J. Behe PhD. (from page 146 of his book “Edge of Evolution”)

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    And to really spoil Nick’s evening, I point out, once again, that the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic reductionism has been falsified:

    Getting Over the Code Delusion (Epigenetics) – Talbot – November 2010 – Excellent Article for explaining exactly why epigentics falsifies the neo-Darwinian paradigm of genetic reductionism:
    http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....e-delusion

    The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories – Stephen Meyer
    “Neo-Darwinism seeks to explain the origin of new information, form, and structure as a result of selection acting on randomly arising variation at a very low level within the biological hierarchy, mainly, within the genetic text. Yet the major morphological innovations depend on a specificity of arrangement at a much higher level of the organizational hierarchy, a level that DNA alone does not determine. Yet if DNA is not wholly responsible for body plan morphogenesis, then DNA sequences can mutate indefinitely, without regard to realistic probabilistic limits, and still not produce a new body plan. Thus, the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot in principle generate novel body plans, including those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.”
    http://eyedesignbook.com/ch6/eyech6-append-d.html

    Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins And Information For Body Plans – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4050681

    further notes:

    A review of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism
    The numbers of Plasmodium and HIV in the last 50 years greatly exceeds the total number of mammals since their supposed evolutionary origin (several hundred million years ago), yet little has been achieved by evolution. This suggests that mammals could have “invented” little in their time frame. Behe: ‘Our experience with HIV gives good reason to think that Darwinism doesn’t do much—even with billions of years and all the cells in that world at its disposal’ (p. 155).
    http://creation.com/review-mic.....-evolution

    Dr. Behe states in The Edge of Evolution on page 135:

    “Generating a single new cellular protein-protein binding site (in other words, generating a truly beneficial mutational event that would actually explain the generation of the complex molecular machinery we see in life) is of the same order of difficulty or worse than the development of chloroquine resistance in the malarial parasite.”

    So, how many protein-protein binding sites are found in life?

    Dr. Behe, in an important Table 7.1 on page 143 of Edge Of Evolution, finds that a typical cell might have some 10,000 protein-binding sites. Whereas a conservative estimate for a multicellular creature is,,,

    Largest-Ever Map of Plant Protein Interactions – July 2011
    Excerpt: The new map of 6,205 protein partnerings represents only about two percent of the full protein- protein “interactome” for Arabidopsis, since the screening test covered only a third of all Arabidopsis proteins, and wasn’t sensitive enough to detect many weaker protein interactions. “There will be larger maps after this one,” says Ecker.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....144936.htm

    So taking into account that they only covered 2%, of the full protein-protein “interactome”, then that gives us a number, for different protein-protein interactions, of 310,000. Thus, from my very rough ‘back of the envelope’ calculations, we find that this is at least 30 times higher than Dr. Behe’s estimate of 10,000 different protein-protein binding sites for a typical single cell (Page 143; Edge of Evolution; Behe). Therefore, at least at first glance from my rough calculations, it certainly seems to be a gargantuan step that evolution must somehow make, by purely unguided processes, to go from a single cell to a multi-cellular creature. To illustrate just how difficult of a step it is, the order of difficulty, of developing a single protein-protein binding site, is put at 10^20 replications of the malarial parasite by Dr. Behe. This number comes from direct empirical observation.

    Richard Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth Shies Away from Intelligent Design but Unwittingly Vindicates Michael Behe – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: The rarity of chloroquine resistance is not in question. In fact, Behe’s statistic that it occurs only once in every 10^20 cases was derived from public health statistical data, published by an authority in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The extreme rareness of chloroquine resistance is not a negotiable data point; it is an observed fact.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....est_s.html

  8. 8
    woodford says:

    Wow, BA77, you have a lot of time on your hands! All I can say is I’m just grateful for the Page Down key…

  9. 9
    ScottAndrews says:

    I wonder what a dog (or cow, fish or sheep, or other) breeder would say to someone who told him that the results he was achieving “have never been observed” and that SAYING he’s achieved those results is “the most extraordinary claim ever made”, and that pointing to his results is “changing the subject”.

    A clever person can make lots of stuff from a bucket of legos. That’s not the same thing as making new legos.
    How do thousands of years of breeding dogs, cows, and sheep and producing only more dogs, cows, and sheep make your point?

  10. 10
    bornagain77 says:

    woodford, when it comes to Nick, I always seem to find time.

    =========

    OT: To every Father who has raised a daughter, this song will touch you:

    Shane and Shane – The One You Need
    http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=F9J9MCNU

  11. 11
    material.infantacy says:

    lulz pg, ur teh funneez!!!!11!! 3pik FALEZ!!!!!!!1! n ur f1rst!!1!!11

    heerz teh lolcatz 4u: WUT?

  12. 12
    woodford says:

    Hi BA77. Effective communications: Less is more. Try it. Otherwise, you’re ignored.

  13. 13
    ScottAndrews says:

    Imagination fail.

    Why should Darwin non-believers be expected to imagine what the believers can’t? Help me to imagine. Imagine a specific, plausible RM+NS pathway between two forms, or to some feature from its lack, and I’ll be happy to imagine it with you.

  14. 14
    Barry Arrington says:

    David W. Gibson claims that biologists directly observe random mutation plus mechanical necessity generate CSI “routinely.” Kindly give me one example David.

    Prediction about which I am reasonably confident: Gibson will resort to schoolyard name calling again “Denier, Denier, pants on fire!”

    Prediction about which I am absolutely certain: Gibson will not be able to point to a single example where see random mutation plus mechanical necessity has generate CSI.

  15. 15
    material.infantacy says:

    “Elizabeth seems endlessly patient, and has NEVER changed the subject. Very much to the contrary, she has doggedly insisted on sticking to the subject when others want to wander off.”

    You forgot to mention that she’s clothed with the sun, and the moon is beneath her feet.

    Elizabeth has been very courteous and considerably patient considering she’s in enemy territory here, but let’s cut the St. Elizabeth crap, dong-ma?

  16. 16
    Ilion says:

    Even endless courtesy and patience doesn’t begin to make even a dent in intellectual dishonesty.

  17. 17
    Ilion says:

    Barry Arrington:I am sure you will agree your comment contains specified complex information. Indeed, your one little comment contains more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment.

    That the two of you probably agree on that statement doesn’t change the fact that it is both misleading and false — neither her original comment, nor your OP here, nor this post of mine contain any information, whatsoever. Words and sentences, whether spoken-and-heard or written-and-read, conventionally represent information, they conventionally symbolize information, they conventionally point to information, but they are not, themselves, information and they do not “contain” information.

    The person/mind speaking or writing the words intends to convey to another person/mind some information or thought via the words. And the thought he intends to convey is, indeed, “more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment”. And, moreover, in order to represent his thought via symbols, he must possess another set of “more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment”, which defines *how* to encode the symbolic representation of the information he means to convey.

    Likewise, the person hearing or reading the words must possess essentially that same set of “more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment”, which in his case defines how to decode the symbolic representation of the information the other meant to convey, such that he can “think the same thought” (whether or not he agrees with it).

    Barry Arrington:I am sure you will agree that the cells in your body contain more complex specified information than your comment by several orders of magnitude.

    If so, then her belief is as wrong/misguided as yours — cells do not contain information, no more than words do. Certainly, a DNA codon may represent information, much as a computer code in the proper context may represent information, but neither is, itself, information, nor “contains” information.

  18. 18
    Upright BiPed says:

    Matzke in #2 simply assumes the system he requires to operate.

  19. 19
    material.infantacy says:

    Ilion, Meyer points out in SITC that there are two acceptable definitions of information. If you have a better word for the second definition, that would improve communication over the common usage, I’d be interested to know. If we can’t call the second definition “information,” what do we call it?

    Excerpt:

    Defining Information: Two Distinctions

    Most of us use the term “information” to describe some piece of knowledge. When we say so-and-so passed on some interesting information, we mean that so-and-so told us something that we didn’t know before, but that we know now, thanks to what we were told. In other words, information equals knowledge. The first definition of information in Webster’s dictionary reflects this idea: information “the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence.” Because many of my students had this idea of information firmly in mind, they were often confused at first when I talked about information stored in a molecule. There is a sense in which it could be said that DNA stores the “know-how” for building molecules in the cell. Yet since neither DNA nor the cellular machinery that receives its instruction set is a conscious agent, equating biological information with knowledge in this way didn’t seem to quite fit.

    But our English dictionaries point to another common meaning of the term that does apply to DNA. Webster’s, for instance has a second definition that defines information as “the attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produce specific effects.” Information, according to this definition, equals an arrangement or string of characters, specifically one that accomplishes a particular outcome or performs a communication function. Thus, in common usage, we refer not only to a sequence of English letters in a sentence, but also to a block of binary code in a software program as information. Information, in this sense, does not require a conscious recipient of a message; it merely refers to a sequence of characters that produce some specific effect. This definition suggests a definite sense in which DNA contains information. DNA contains “alternative sequences” of nucleotide bases and can produce a specific effect. Of course, neither DNA nor the cellular machinery that uses its information is conscious. But neither is a paragraph in a book or a section of software (or the hardware in the computer that “reads” it). Yet clearly software contains a kind of information.
    [my emphasis]

    Stephen Meyer, Signature in the Cell, page 85

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    —Ilion: “Certainly, a DNA codon may represent information, much as a computer code in the proper context may represent information, but neither is, itself, information, nor “contains” information.”

    Obviously, the cell does contain information as is clear from the fact that the contained information produces an effect.

  21. 21
    Ilion says:

    Ilíon (paraphrased):‘Information’ is not a physical entity; it is never “contained” by or in physical entities.

    material.infancy:Ilion, Meyer points out in SITC that there are two acceptable definitions of information. If you have a better word for the second definition, that would improve communication over the common usage, I’d be interested to know. If we can’t call the second definition “information,” what do we call it?

    Then Meyer would be incorrect on that account.

    And — this is very important, so please make an extra effor to grasp the principle I am invoking — you are making the same invalid argument that DarwinDefenders routinely make so as to avoid facing up to the obvious shortcomings of the non-theory they assert is the truth about the nature and history of living organisms: you are arguing, in effect, “Well, sure, ‘information’ is an incorrect and misleading term to use for these cases, but unless you can provide me a better term to use, then you ought not point out the misleading and false usage currently practiced by nearly everyone.

    Moreover, I have already repeatedly used better terms which can be used to denote what nearly everyone insists upon mis-naming, and thus misunderstanding, such as: symbol, representation, signifier, symbolic representation.

  22. 22
    Ilion says:

    an obvious waste of bandwidth @ 20[clearly refusing to *think* about what he wishes to dispute]

  23. 23
    Ilion says:

    A pebble falling off a mountainside obviously “contains” information, as is clear from the fact that it produces an effect — for the pebble dislodges other pebbles, which together dislodge rocks, which together dislodge boulders, which together bring down half the mountainside, which buries the village.

  24. 24
    Ilion says:

    For thousands of years in ancient times, Egyptian heiroglyphics “contained” information … or, at any rate, they did when there was a scribe or priest nearby who had been properly trained in the reading of them.

    Then, for many hundreds of years until recently, even though they had not changed in any aspect nor changed in respect to anything else, they “contained” no information whatsoever, for there existed no one at all possessing the knowledge required to read them.

    Then, close to two centuries ago, the Rosetta Stone was discovered and Egyptian heiroglyphics again “contained” information … or, at any rate, they do when there is someone nearby who has been properly trained in the reading of them.

    ^^ What an utterly strange, and incoherent, way of looking at the world, and of “understanding” what ‘information’ is and is not. ^^

  25. 25
    Ilion says:

    Upright BiPed @ 18:Matzke in #2 simply assumes the system he requires to operate.

    But, of course; for, without employing his multitude of sky-hooks, how else will he ever get that incoherency off the ground?

    Yet, many, or most, IDists insist upon doing much the same thing with respect to ‘information’ “in” the cell.

  26. 26
    material.infantacy says:

    Should we disregard Webster’s too?

    I understand how you’re defining information, and I don’t disagree; but I am suggesting that the second definition is valid, as is the case with many, many, MANY words.

    Feel free to continue your crusade on this, but I’ll go with Webster’s dictionary, and Meyer, and the common understanding, and continue to believe that second definitions for technical words are perfectly acceptable in normal use.

    And — this is very important, so please make an extra effor to grasp the principle I am invoking…

    And if you want to have a contest to see who can be the biggest prick about this, and turn it in to an unholy flame war, I might just be up for it.

    “Well, sure, ‘information’ is an incorrect and misleading term to use for these cases, but unless you can provide me a better term to use, then you ought not point out the misleading and false usage currently practiced by nearly everyone.”

    That’s a pathetic characterization. Fly off.

    Webster’s: Information

  27. 27
    StephenB says:

    —Ilion: “A pebble falling off a mountainside obviously “contains” information, as is clear from the fact that it produces an effect — for the pebble dislodges other pebbles, which together dislodge rocks, which together dislodge boulders, which together bring down half the mountainside, which buries the village.”

    An irrelevant and silly response to a refutation by one who has yet to grasp the context or the multiple meanings of the words being used. In fact, representations and symbols do not produce effects. Therefore, anything that does produce an effect must be more than a representation.

  28. 28
    Ilion says:

    Should we disregard Webster’s too?

    Dictionaries are frequently wrong … and are nearly always circular in their definitions. They’re better than nothing at all, so long as one understands their limitations.

  29. 29
    Ilion says:

    Before the village was buried by the non-symbolic and more-than-representative landslide, there lived in the village a crusty old ‘atheist’, who, out of sentimental regard for his sainted mother, kept her old family Bible. Not, you understand, that he himself had ever cracked its cover. So, as this old Bible clearly produced no effect whatsoever in the life of the crustly old ‘atheist’, it is equally clear that it contained no information.

  30. 30
    Ilion says:

    And if you want to have a contest to see who can be the biggest prick about this, and turn it in to an unholy flame war, I might just be up for it.

    The relevant metric is not “who can be the biggest prick”, but rather who chooses to refuse to think clearly.

  31. 31
    material.infantacy says:

    “Dictionaries are frequently wrong … and are nearly always circular in their definitions. They’re better than nothing at all, so long as one understands their limitations.”

    And if we had no dictionaries, all our definitions would come from context, and you’d likely be in a worse state from the start.

    Information:

    1: the communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence

    2: a (1) : knowledge obtained from investigation, study, or instruction (2) : INTELLIGENTSE, NEWS (3) : FACTS, DATA

    b : the attribute inherient in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

    c (1) : a signal or character (as in a communication system or computer) representing data (2) : something (as a message, experimental data, or a picture) which justifies chance in a construction (as a plan or theory) that represents physical or mental experience or another construct

    d : a quantitative measure of the content of information; specifically : a numerical quantity that measures the uncertainty in the outcome of an experiment to be performed

    3 : the act of informing against a person

    4 : a formal accusation of a crime made by a prosecuting officer as distinguished from an indictment presented by a grand jury

    — in-for-ma-tion-al adjective
    — in-for-ma-tion-al-ly adverb
    _______

    Looks like they have it pretty confused. Only the first definition is correct.

  32. 32
    material.infantacy says:

    The relevant metric is not “who can be the biggest prick”, but rather who chooses to refuse to think clearly.

    Yes, my humblest apologies on not paying the proper respects, your grace.

    Do you have a ring I could kiss? I need absolution.

  33. 33
    material.infantacy says:

    I used a dictionary, for shame!

    Ilion’s trolling has made me reconsider, and I now will defer to him on all matters of definitions.

    Poor guy, I hope you don’t die alone, clutching your manifesto on why everyone is insane regarding their usage of the word “information.”

    Sounds like a great thing to get hung up on, frothing at the mouth.

    Because how we use “information” is the key to winning the debate. Nothing else matters.

  34. 34
    Ilion says:

    It’s neither my fault, nor my problem, that some persons choose to refuse to think clearly, critically, and rationally.

  35. 35
    material.infantacy says:

    I would rather people used “sophisticated” instead of “complex” where it would be most illuminating.

    And if it were that important, I’d certainly make a reasonable appeal.

    What I don’t do is casting non-conformists as “irrational,” which is beyond ridiculous. It’s pathetic.

    Another view: Information

    Other interesting words, suitable to this context:

    Prig

    Pedant

  36. 36
    avocationist says:

    Born Again,

    You quoted:
    “Neo-Darwinism seeks to explain the origin of new information, form, and structure as a result of selection acting on randomly arising variation at a very low level within the biological hierarchy, mainly, within the genetic text. Yet the major morphological innovations depend on a specificity of arrangement at a much higher level of the organizational hierarchy, a level that DNA alone does not determine. Yet if DNA is not wholly responsible for body plan morphogenesis, then DNA sequences can mutate indefinitely, without regard to realistic probabilistic limits, and still not produce a new body plan. Thus, the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot in principle generate novel body plans, including those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion.”

    This is really huge. It means that the Darwinian theory has an explanatory gap as large as DNA itself. Because DNA was discovered, they want to explain everything in terms of it, but now we know that body plans themselves are arranged by something we have not yet discovered, and it is here that they must look to figure out if one species can morph into another, or rather, why they can’t.
    And as for people like me who think that life unfolded somehow, this epigenetic system must be an important key as to how it’s done. As long as that system remains intact, the species is locked in.

  37. 37
    lamarck says:

    Illion, the pebble didn’t make babies and fake land on the moon. Increasing complexity is a quantitative difference. Information is front loaded physical laws which result in Stanley Kubrik. Or back loaded or whatever if your a quantum physicist.

  38. 38
    bornagain77 says:

    avocationist, in regards to epigenetic information you state:

    ‘It means that the Darwinian theory has an explanatory gap as large as DNA itself’;

    I gets far worse for the neo-Darwinist than just the failure of the genetic reductionism to explain epigentic information, for there has now been found ‘non-local’ quantum information within life on a massive scale,,,

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA & Protein Folding – short video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/5936605/

    Quantum entanglement holds together life’s blueprint – 2010
    Excerpt: When the researchers analysed the DNA without its helical structure, they found that the electron clouds were not entangled. But when they incorporated DNA’s helical structure into the model, they saw that the electron clouds of each base pair became entangled with those of its neighbours (arxiv.org/abs/1006.4053v1). “If you didn’t have entanglement, then DNA would have a simple flat structure, and you would never get the twist that seems to be important to the functioning of DNA,” says team member Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford.
    http://neshealthblog.wordpress.....blueprint/

    The relevance of continuous variable entanglement in DNA – July 2010
    Excerpt: We consider a chain of harmonic oscillators with dipole-dipole interaction between nearest neighbours resulting in a van der Waals type bonding. The binding energies between entangled and classically correlated states are compared. We apply our model to DNA. By comparing our model with numerical simulations we conclude that entanglement may play a crucial role in explaining the stability of the DNA double helix.
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1006.4053v1

    Quantum Information confirmed in DNA by direct empirical research;

    DNA Can Discern Between Two Quantum States, Research Shows – June 2011
    Excerpt: — DNA — can discern between quantum states known as spin. – The researchers fabricated self-assembling, single layers of DNA attached to a gold substrate. They then exposed the DNA to mixed groups of electrons with both directions of spin. Indeed, the team’s results surpassed expectations: The biological molecules reacted strongly with the electrons carrying one of those spins, and hardly at all with the others. The longer the molecule, the more efficient it was at choosing electrons with the desired spin, while single strands and damaged bits of DNA did not exhibit this property.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....104014.htm

    ,,, and yet ‘non-local’ quantum information cannot be ’caused locally’ by purely neo-Darwinian mechanisms;

    Here is a clip of a talk in which Alain Aspect talks about the failure of ‘local realism’, or the failure of reductive materialism, to explain reality:

    The Failure Of Local Realism – Reductive Materialism – Alain Aspect – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/w/4744145

    The falsification for local realism (reductive materialism) was recently greatly strengthened:

    Physicists close two loopholes while violating local realism – November 2010
    Excerpt: The latest test in quantum mechanics provides even stronger support than before for the view that nature violates local realism and is thus in contradiction with a classical worldview.
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....alism.html

    Quantum Measurements: Common Sense Is Not Enough, Physicists Show – July 2009
    Excerpt: scientists have now proven comprehensively in an experiment for the first time that the experimentally observed phenomena cannot be described by non-contextual models with hidden variables.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....142824.htm

    (of note: hidden variables were postulated to remove the need for ‘spooky’ forces, as Einstein termed them — forces that act instantaneously at great distances, thereby breaking the most cherished rule of relativity theory, that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.)

    i.e. It is very interesting to note that quantum entanglement, which conclusively demonstrates that ‘information’ in its pure ‘quantum form’ is completely transcendent of any time and space constraints, should be found in molecular biology on such a massive scale, for how can the quantum entanglement ‘effect’ in biology possibly be explained by a material (matter/energy space/time) ’cause’ when the quantum entanglement ‘effect’ falsified material particles as its own ‘causation’ in the first place? (A. Aspect) Appealing to the probability of various configurations of material particles, as neo-Darwinism does, simply will not help since a timeless/spaceless cause must be supplied which is beyond the capacity of the energy/matter particles themselves to supply! To give a coherent explanation for an effect that is shown to be completely independent of any time and space constraints one is forced to appeal to a cause that is itself
    not limited to time and space! i.e. Put more simply, you cannot explain a effect by a cause that has been falsified by the very same effect you are seeking to explain! Improbability arguments of various ‘specified’ configurations of material particles, which have been a staple of the arguments against neo-Darwinism, simply do not apply since the cause is not within the material particles in the first place!
    ,,,To refute this falsification of neo-Darwinism, one must falsify Alain Aspect, and company’s, falsification of local realism (reductive materialism)!

    ,,, As well, appealing to ‘non-reductive’ materialism (multiverse or many-worlds) to try to explain quantum non-locality in molecular biology ends up destroying the very possibility of doing science rationally;

    BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010
    Excerpt: For instance, we find multiverse cosmologists debating the “Boltzmann Brain” problem: In the most “reasonable” models for a multiverse, it is immeasurably more likely that our consciousness is associated with a brain that has spontaneously fluctuated into existence in the quantum vacuum than it is that we have parents and exist in an orderly universe with a 13.7 billion-year history. This is absurd. The multiverse hypothesis is therefore falsified because it renders false what we know to be true about ourselves. Clearly, embracing the multiverse idea entails a nihilistic irrationality that destroys the very possibility of science.
    http://www.washingtontimes.com.....arguments/

  39. 39
    bornagain77 says:

    avocationist, here are a couple of cool videos of epigenetic information in action;

    The face of a frog: Time-lapse video reveals never-before-seen bioelectric pattern – July 2011
    Excerpt: For the first time, Tufts University biologists have reported that bioelectrical signals are necessary for normal head and facial formation in an organism and have captured that process in a time-lapse video that reveals never-before-seen patterns of visible bioelectrical signals outlining where eyes, nose, mouth, and other features will appear in an embryonic tadpole.,,, “When a frog embryo is just developing, before it gets a face, a pattern for that face lights up on the surface of the embryo,”,,, “We believe this is the first time such patterning has been reported for an entire structure, not just for a single organ. I would never have predicted anything like it. It’s a jaw dropper.”,,,
    http://www.physorg.com/news/20.....-seen.html

    Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – Glimpses At Human Development In The Womb – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4249713

  40. 40
    StephenB says:

    –Ilion: “It’s neither my fault, nor my problem, that some persons choose to refuse to think clearly, critically, and rationally.”

    If you want to think clearly, critically, and rationally on the subject, you can begin by defining your terms and relating them to your arguments—you know—terms like “contain” and “information.” That way we can evaluate your claim that the DNA code does not “contain information.” See how that works?

  41. 41
    lpadron says:

    Ilion and those engaged with Ilion: as a novice at all this I find everything in your posts informative and thought provoking. Everything, that is, but the insults, both small and large, that you continue to hurl at each other.

    Elizabeth Liddle may be obstinate or wrong or even disingenuous but she is never rude. That alone makes her posts always worth reading.

  42. 42
    arkady967 says:

    DWG:

    “I wonder what a dog (or cow, fish or sheep, or other) breeder would say to someone who told him that the results he was achieving “have never been observed”

    This is an interesting point to defend the case – I’ve been told, and have every reason to believe, that what’s happening here is the segregation of CSI, and that into subsets of the original. And I think this sort of example was foundational to Darwin’s thinking (Natural vs Artificial selection).
    But, are you saying this is a good example for your argument? And is this what you mean when you say biologists see the interaction of chance and necessity -to produce new specified complexity- every day?

    But more on point, I believe you’re defending E.L. – and I tend to think you’ve a point. She does seem to stay on subject. Aside from which, she writes well. But B.A. seems to have a point, too. There’s a predictability of response involved in challenges to narualism. – I wonder if it is because the reponse from the “consensus” viewpoint, has no place to go when examining certain phenomena in nature owing to an a priori dedication to philosophical, vs scientific, constraints inherent in that natualism, constraints that preclude the possibility of design even in the face of evidence.

    May science answer the question: “Can chance and necessity account for biodiversity” (not to mention biogenisis) “No”? Or at lease “Probably not”? If it cannot, is it really science that’s under disucssion?

  43. 43
    Mung says:

    DWG:

    Elizabeth seems endlessly patient, and has NEVER changed the subject.

    I guess it’s all in the eye of the beholder, or not.

    I can refer you to numerous threads where Elizabeth has just stopped participating.

    If hat’s not an indication of “let’s change the subject” I don’t know what is.

    For example, the thread where Elizabeth says she rejects wave-particle duality.

    That’s a good one.

    Then there’s the one where she claimed an ocean wave is immaterial.

    Another high point.

    And there was the one with the demon that could look at the universe and program a deterministic simulation based solely upon the information present within the universe.

    You haven’t been here long, have you.

    Elizabeth has a habit of making bizarre claims and not being able to follow through on them.

    Indeed, the response is to change the subject.

    So nice try, but it’s not going to wash here.

  44. 44
    Mung says:

    Information is a physical substance and does not require mind as it’s source nor must the effect produced be an effect on a mind.

    aka materialism

  45. 45
    Mung says:

    There is an “operational definition” of information, aka Shannon information, but operational definitions do not tell us what a thing is.

  46. 46
    Mung says:

    b : the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects.

    Is not the same as:

    …alternative sequences or arrangements of something … that produce specific effects.

  47. 47
    Mung says:

    If you want others to think clearly, critically, and rationally on the subject, you can begin by defining your terms and relating them to your arguments.

  48. 48
    Ilion says:

    lpadron:… Everything, that is, but the insults, both small and large, that you continue to hurl at each other.

    You want to know what really frosts me? Pointless and false drawings of moral equivalency; they are, after all, built upon intellectual dishonesty.

    lpadron:Elizabeth Liddle may be obstinate or wrong or even disingenuous but she is never rude. That alone makes her posts always worth reading.

    She’s not merely obstinate; she’s intellectually dishonest, which is the ultimate in rudeness — by analogy, a knife slipped between your ribs by a smiling man is no less rude than one slipped between them by a scowling man. That EL clothes her intellectual dishonesty in “dialogue” does nothing to change the key fact that she is dishonest and refuses to reason/argue consistently, much less correctly. She’s passive-aggressive with her intellectual dishonesty; other DarwinDefenders are directly aggressive with their intellectual dishonesty; in both cases, the intellectual dishonesty makes rational argument/discussion with them impossible.

    For an example of obstinacy, look to the behavior of material.infantacy in this thread; though, he is treading the line of intellectually dishonest.

  49. 49
    Ilion says:

    Mung:Then there’s the one where [EL] claimed an ocean wave is immaterial.

    In truth, there does appear to be an immaterial aspect to an ocean wave, and it does seem to be the most critical aspect of the wave; take that immaterial “part” away, and there is no wave.

  50. 50
    material.infantacy says:

    “For an example of obstinacy, look to the behavior of material.infantacy in this thread; though, he is treading the line of intellectually dishonest.”

    If you want to keep this going, let me know. I wrote a post in our little tiff that predicted you’d cast out that accusation (I didn’t post it) and here you are flirting with it, just as I thought. It appears to be one of two arrows in your quiver.

    You responded to my initial attempt at dialog about the definition of information with rude, dismissive smugness, and I warned you where that would lead. This of course was after your diatribe in response to BarryA.

    Anyone following the discussion can see your somewhat smug response to BarryA, and my intrusion was polite and deferential. Your response to me was completely unacceptable in that context.

    That you snap quickly to accusations of irrationality and intellectual dishonesty doesn’t help your case. You can cast about those accusations all day long, but their not helping your argument.

    Instead of trying to reason with and enlighten others on your view of the proper usage of the word, you’ve proceeded with pompous, smug accusations of irrationality.

    Do you feel like keeping this little tiff going? I have no tolerance for your smug priggishness. If you think I’ll continue to let it pass without comment, especially when it’s directed at me, think again. I won’t stand for it. You’re acting like a bully, and your arrogance is repulsive.

    Your call.

  51. 51
    material.infantacy says:

    I don’t care how rational you think you are, your behavior in response to disagreement is completely inappropriate, and pathetic.

    I’m making no defense of my own behavior, and no apologies either.

    So let’s either call a truce, or let’s keep this going until moderators step in to break it up.

  52. 52
    material.infantacy says:

    …or until stars burn out…

  53. 53
    StephenB says:

    Mung, alluding to some of my past comments on this subject, recalls two ways that I defined information:

    SB: “the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects.”

    and

    SB: “…alternative sequences or arrangements of something … that produce specific effects.”

    Because the latter is an abbreviated version of the former, Mung insists that they are “not the same.”

    Of course the abbreviated definition is not a word-for-word repeat of the extended definition. So what? The theme is identical in both cases. Why would I want to use thirty-three words each time I allude to the point when I can cover it in ten. What incredible nonsense!

    The point is, Mung, that information is being defined in terms of objective, immaterial, alternating sequences and not as something subjective that exists solely in the mind or as something objective that is grounded in matter. Please try to grasp the substance of the matter.

    –Mung: “If you want others to think clearly, critically, and rationally on the subject, you can begin by defining your terms and relating them to your arguments.”

    I have defined my terms. So many times, in fact, that you apparently have nothing better to do that to go around looking for variations on the same definition trying to make them appear different on the grounds that an abbreviation contains fewer words. Once again, your protests contain absolutely no substantive content and do not even rise to the level of an intellectual objection.

    Meanwhile, you have provided not a clue as to why you agree with Ilion’s dubious claim that DNA does “not contain information.” Begin by providing your definitions and then making your case.

  54. 54
    Mung says:

    StephenB:

    Mung, alluding to some of my past comments on this subject, recalls two ways that I defined information:

    What I recall is you quoting Meyer quoting Webster’s:

    Webster’s, for instance has a second definition that defines information as “the attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produce specific effects.”

    And then you quoting Meyer defining information as:

    “…alternative sequences or arrangements of something … that produce specific effects.”

    See the post @19.

    And then when I had the gall to suggest that Meyer mangled the Webster’s definition you resorted to a rather dishonest tactic to make it appear as if he had not done so.

    The pertinent piece left out of the Webster’s definition by Meyer is as follows:

    the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences…

    Now you may not see any difference in the two “definitions,” but I do.

    You may think that leaving off the aspects of something “inherent” and “communicated” is unimportant, but I don’t. Not to mention that an alternate sequence is not enough, but it must be a choice between two of more alternate sequences.

    But what you don’t get to do is pretend like your version or Meyer’s version is no different from the Webster’s definition, because it obviously is different.

    Get back to me when you’re willing to admit that fact.

    Meanwhile, you have provided not a clue as to why you agree with Ilion’s dubious claim that DNA does “not contain information.”

    I have done so, across many threads. It’s not my fault you haven’t read them.

    But what you do not get to do, is assert that because you are not aware of them, they do not exist.

    When Ilion says:

    Moreover, I have already repeatedly used better terms which can be used to denote what nearly everyone insists upon mis-naming, and thus misunderstanding, such as: symbol, representation, signifier, symbolic representation.

    I agree with him on all counts. He has, if nothing else, been consistent.

    You, as do so many others, conflate the representation with the “thing” represented.

  55. 55
    Mung says:

    I have repeatedly quoted sources to the effect that information is always information about something.

    There is no “aboutness” running around out there in the material world.

    As Ilion has pointed out in this thread, and as I have likewise done in the past, arranging some rocks and tossing them in a pond qualifies as “information” in the sense of “information” currently being offered by some in this thread.

    Pardon me for thinking that to be absurd.

    Likewise absurd is the idea that information can be meaningless.

    Some arrangement of something bringing about a meaningless effect is not information.

    It’s seems strange to have to argue these points.

    This reminds me of Ilion’s house. Does it contain information? If we tear it down where does the information go if the information is contained within the material that makes up the house?

    Is it still there?

    Can we reconstruct his house my locating the missing information?

  56. 56
    material.infantacy says:

    I would really like to flesh this out, but I know for a fact that I’m too wound up about it at the moment, and possibly for the next several days.

    I’ve no confidence that I could offer a perspective on the usage of the word “information” without being accused of irrationality or intellectual dishonesty, which is likely to make me fly into another indignant tirade.

    So I’m going to take a step back, unless Ilion still wants to fight about it (I’ve still plenty if fight left in me).

    Apparently this definition and the usage of the word is an important issue for some, and there may be a valid objection there; and considering the ongoing discussion with EL, it probably deserves its own OP… at a later date.

    vive la différence!
    vive la Intelligent Design!

    m.i.

  57. 57
    Mung says:

    Buried Books and Lost Information

    If you were to write down your autobiography in a book, would you say that the book contained information?

    Many people here would say just that, that the book contains information.

    But what if you bury that book in your backyard? Does it still contain information?

    And if the book rots, and no one ever reads it, did it ever really contain any information?

  58. 58
    ScottAndrews says:

    Mung,

    I follow what you’re saying. But words are defined largely by their usage. If most people think that the unread words on the pages are information then it’s hard to argue against. “Information” just isn’t technical enough that it can have a precise meaning without either being qualified in some way or used in a context where the exact meaning is understood.
    I’m not arguing against your definition and description. But it excludes the common usage.

  59. 59
    StephenB says:

    —Mung: “You may think that leaving off the aspects of something “inherent” and “communicated” is unimportant, but I don’t.

    Meyer did not leave out the words “the attribute inherent in and communicated by.” All you need to do is read page 86. Are you prepared to retract your claim that he left them out?

    —“When Ilion says:

    —“You, as do so many others, conflate the representation with the “thing” represented.”

    It is the “thing” [the configuration, the alternative sequences, i.e. the information] that is responsible for accomplishing the outcome. Mere representations, mental concepts, or symbols do not accomplish these kinds of outcomes. Your error, and Ilion’s error, is in believing that something must either exist in the mind or else be imbedded in matter. Those are not the only two options. There is a third category of things that are both immaterial, mind related, and yet function independently from minds.

    The DNA molecule “communicates” both to the organism [storing information, giving instructions etc.] and to the scientist who detects design in its make up. The chemical features and shapes of the DNA bases do not directly account for the specific sequencing of proteins. It is their arrangement, not their physical or chemical features, and that arrangement is not simply a mental concept or some mere idea in our minds. It is an ontological reality.

  60. 60
    Mung says:

    Hi Scott,

    But it excludes the common usage.

    Does it?

    See the definitions posted by m.i @31.

    See also the wiki definition linked to in #35.

    If most people think that the unread words on the pages are information then it’s hard to argue against.

    It’s not hard at all if they also argue that information must produce an effect.

    What is the effect produced by “information” contained within a book that no one ever reads?

  61. 61
    Mung says:

    Hey Barry, next time could you argue just one side?

    😉

  62. 62
    ScottAndrews says:

    Mung,

    By common usage I mean that most people would say that there was information in the book.
    I’m not saying that any term should be stretched to encompass its use. But “information” was never such a precise word. If most people consider the words in the book information, then it is, even if Websters is overdue for an update.

    That just means that some was is needed to distinguish between information by one definition and by another.

  63. 63
    Upright BiPed says:

    I’ve been watching this conversation, which I find interesting. The distinction between Ilion’s view of information and the more standard view that Dr Liddle and I have been working from is either trivial or profound depending on how you want to look at it.

    If I understand Ilion correctly (correct me if I am wrong), the symbols aren’t the information; the actual state of the object is the information. Of course, I disagree with this for the obvious reason that it makes no distinction between the state of the object and the information of the object; in fact “information of the object” becomes a meaningless term if the state of the object and the information of the object are the same thing. It reduces to the object of the object, meaning that the idea that information is about something no longer makes sense.

    This whole thing goes back to the very start of mine and Dr Liddle’s discussion about what information is. We eventually described it as follows:

    Information is a representation of a discrete object/thing embedded in an arrangement of matter or energy, where the object/thing represented is entirely dissociated from the representation, but where the association of the two can be established by means of a protocol instantiated in the receiver of the information.

    This suggest that an immaterial representation (of the state of an object) is given material status – embedded in matter or energy – and that material representation IS the information. In other words, the state of an object is represented in a separate state of matter. A protocol can then be used to access the knowledge (of the state of the object) embedded within the representation. The distinction here is that there are two separate realities that are properly accounted for. There is the state of the object, but there is also the representation (instantiated in matter). They are not the same thing. I maintain that the state of the object is nothing more than the state of the object. The representation of that object is the information.

    If someone was to then tell me that the representation is actually nothing but symbols, and those symbols are to represent the actual information (which is the state of the object) then I would have to conclude there is no distinction between the state of an object and the information of the object, they are apparently the same thing. This would make the concept of misinformation impossible by definition, and the word could be stricken from the language. What was once regarded as misinformation is now defined as misrepresentation. This is because representations are no longer mapped to objects, but to information about objects, which is a misuse of terminology in itself, because information and objects are now the same thing.

    It would be at that point that I would begin to wonder what the hell I am doing.

    What am I gaining by trying to rewrite the definition of a concept that has withstood the test of time? Is there some benefit in precision or clarity if I should ask the lady behind the counter to stop asking people for their information and start asking them for their symbols? She may ask me how she will become ‘informed’ of who they are. I will tell her we don’t really use those terms anymore, because information is not really transferred under the new definitions, it’s just the state of a thing, and as such cannot be transferred. What is transferred however are the symbols of information, and if a mistake should be made at her post it no longer means that she’s been misinformed, but that they have been misrepresented.

    Personally, I just don’t see the point in this.

    Look at it this way. Lets us say the ball is red. You ask “what color is the ball”. I write the word “red” on a piece of paper and hand it to you. You then pick up the piece of paper and read the word “red”. Now you know (you have been in-formed of) the color of the ball.

    The flow of this exchange goes something like this (obviously abbreviated):

    Object – vision – protocol – informed – protocol – symbols – vision – protocol – informed

    In other words, I see the ball, I have the protocol necessary in my optical system to become informed by what I see, I have the protocol necessary in my brain to form symbols, you have the protocol necessary in your brain to see those symbols, and you have the protocol necessary to know what they represent.

    The information of the ball (what color it is) is separate from the ball, and has been passed from the state of the ball, through me, to you, all by representation.

    The information about the color of the ball was created by me from the state of the object (thereby accounting for both realities). I gave that information (representations instantiated in matter) to you. You then received that information and became informed by it. That’s what information is.

    Of course, if I have misrepresented Ilion’s position, then I just wasted a bunch of symbols, and no one was informed by it.

    🙂

  64. 64
    Mung says:

    lol

    I shall let Ilion respond for himself, though I do think you have not grasped what he is saying.

    What if you held up the chinese symbol for red (is there one), or held up a sign which had ‘red’ written in arabic, or simply held up a red flag?

    Forgive my if I’m not grasping what you’re getting at.

  65. 65
    Mung says:

    Hi Scott,

    People may say that the book contains information, yet these same people might also say that information must produce a specific effect.

    Should I just ignore the incoherence in that because by common usage most people would say that there was information in the book?

    That’s the point I’m trying to make.

    What does it tell us about common usage if common usage is incoherent?

  66. 66
    StephenB says:

    —Mung: “People may say that the book contains information, yet these same people might also say that information must produce a specific effect.”

    Which people would say that information in a book might produce a specific effect?

  67. 67
    Upright BiPed says:

    People may say that the book contains information, yet these same people might also say that information must produce a specific effect.

    Mung, I don’t know why this should be considered incoherent.

    Most people say that books contain information because that’s what we do with them – we record information in them. The effect of the symbols on those pages is to inform the people who read the book.

    Now if you held up a book that was written in Arabic symbols and asked me if it contained information, I will say “yes” but that’s only because under normal circumstances I would doubt that anyone would take the time to write a book of meaningless marks. So in truth, my answer would just be an assumption (probably valid), but because I don’t have the protocols to prove it, it’s still just an assumption.

    Now you may ask “If there is no one who has the protocols to demonstrate that information exist in a book of symbols never seen before”, then the same applies: “I don’t know” because I cannot demonstrate the effect.

    But you may ask again, “does the information itself exist” even if I don’t have the protocols to demonstrate it, and again, the answer is the same.

    If I cannot demonstrate the information, then I cannot say with absolute certainty that it is there. That’s the beauty of Nirenberg – he demonstrated it. There is no question that it is there.

  68. 68
    StephenB says:

    –Mung: “I have repeatedly quoted sources to the effect that information is always information about something.”

    Sorry, but that is not a definition. Please provide you definition of information. I gather that you reject Webster’s four offerings, so you will have to come up with one of your own.

  69. 69
    StephenB says:

    When I say define “information” I mean define “biological information,” assuming that you agree that such a thing exists.

  70. 70
    ScottAndrews says:

    What does it tell us about common usage if common usage is incoherent?

    I don’t think common usage is incoherent. It’s just not very precise. If I say that there’s a book full of information buried in my yard, no one will misunderstand me. If I told them that the book contained writing but no information, they would be puzzled. And if I tried to explain why, I would lose them.

    But in another context that usage might be wrong. The information in Information Technology refers to information processed by computers, not the contents of books or things we know.
    Multiple conflicting definitions could all be correct.
    That’s why I think some qualification may be needed when using the word to distinguish between meanings whenever the specific usage is important and could be easily confused. In programming we call it a “namespace,” a defined context that prevents naming conflicts.

    Nonetheless someone who’s argumentative will likely digress from the idea and focus on the word.

  71. 71
    Mung says:

    I did not say that people would say that information in a book might produce a specific effect, I said that people might also say that information must produce a specific effect.

    Now I do consider myself to be one who would (not might) say that information must produce a specific effect or it is not in fact information.

    But I am not one who would also say that a book which is buried in the ground and which is never read by anyone (context my dear man) contains information.

    StephenB:

    Meyer did not leave out the words “the attribute inherent in and communicated by.” All you need to do is read page 86. Are you prepared to retract your claim that he left them out?

    Why do you think you can get away with such blatant falsehoods? That’s a lie and you know it and I shall demonstrate for all to see that you know it is false.

    First, I never asserted that Meyer misquoted the Webster’s definitions. So if you’re saying that Meyer did not leave out the words “the attribute inherent in and communicated by” when quoting the definition from Webster’s you are correct. But so what.

    As for what we can find on page 86:

    Information, according to this definition, equals an arrangement or string of characters, specifically one that accomplishes a particular outcome … Thus, in common usage, we refer not only to a sequence of English letters in a sentence, but also to a block of binary code in a software program as information. Information, in this sense…merely refers to a sequence of characters that produce some specific effect.

    And:

    This definition suggests a definite sense in which DNA contains information. DNA contains “alternative sequences” of nucleotide bases and can produce a specific effect.

    Further, from page 92:

    We must distinguish sequences of characters that are (a) merely improbable from sequences that are (b) improbable and also specifically arranged so as to perform a function.

    Follow this link to see you quoting Meyer leaving out the very words you assert he did not leave out:

    StephenB quoting Meyer

    So you know, or ought to know, that what you say is false.

    And you again quoting Meyer:

    The DNA molecule does, indeed, contain information, which is defined as “a sequence of characters that produces some effect.” DNA contains “alternative sequences” of nucleotide bases and can produce a specific effect.

    StephenB presumably quoting Meyer

    The phrase “attribute inherent in and communicated” appears in exactly one place and one place only in the book, and that is when he is quoting Webster’s.

  72. 72
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    The effect of the symbols on those pages is to inform the people who read the book.

    That may be the intent, though if the author took the book out and buried it in the ground I’d have to question even that.

    And if no one ever reads the book, what then is the effect?

    If what is written in the book has no effect upon anyone, is it still information?

    As is wont to happen some of the context has been lost. Please see my post @57.

    What is incoherent is the belief that both:

    Information must have a specific effect, and

    Information which has no effect is still information, even though it has no effect.

    Surely you can see this.

    A rational person must abandon one or the other, or both, of those beliefs.

    If not, why do you say otherwise?

    Regards

  73. 73
    Mung says:

    Hi BiPed,

    My intent in bringing up Chinese and Arabic was not to argue that the Chinese character for ‘red’ or the Arabic word for ‘red’ conveyed no information to someone who did not recognize the significance (heh) of the character or word, but rather to point out that there are very many different representations for the concept of redness.

    In fact one could represent the word red using binary symbols following the ascii coding or representing red as an RGB value for monitors.

    So I was trying to understand and explore what you were trying to convey in your post @63.

    I think we agree that no concept is tied to a single representation, but that seems to me to be what you think Ilion is saying.

    Does that help clarify what I meant?

    In the same way, there are many different ways to represent the symbol ‘R.’

    There is no ACGT in DNA. Those are themselves representations.

    By the way, are you coming from a semiotics background?

    Who would you recommend that I read to help set context for where you are coming from, anyone?

    Cheers

  74. 74
    Mung says:

    A Participatory Universe?

    ‘Participatory universe’ is Wheeler’s catchphrase for the controversial notion that that the universe is not entirely ‘out there’ and ready to be discovered, but shaped in part by the very questions we ask about it and the information we receive in answer to them. He illustrates this proposal by telling the story if three baseball umpires who define balls and strikes according to their world views: ‘I call ’em as I see ’em,’ brags the first one, evidently an empiricist. ‘I call ’em the way they are,’ proclaims the realist. The third explains: ‘They ain’t nothin’ until I call ’em,’ making Wheeler’s point.

    – Hans Christian von Baeyer, Information: The New Language of Science

  75. 75
    Upright BiPed says:

    I’ve read back through Ilion’s comments and think recognize the point of view. Ilion suggests that there are representations which follow a convention, and those representations are mapped to information that the state of an object exists as it does. My point of view is that the representations are the information, which follow a convention, and are mapped to the state of the object itself.

    So like I said, it’s either trivial or profound depending what you want to make of it. The reason its trivial is because all we are doing is moving around the labels. The dynamics remains the same, and I would venture a guess that Ilion would say the same. The way it becomes profound is by making a dividing issue out of it.

    I’m not sure it warrants that.

    I can offer everyone a piece of advice: If a masked man breaks into your house, and forces you by gunpoint into the backyard where he’s tied up a donkey next to a big sign that says “Donkey”, and with him he brings along the most important thing in your life. And if he points the gun at the most important thing to you in your life and yells Which one in the information!!! For gosh sakes, don’t point at the Donkey.

  76. 76
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    The distinction between Ilion’s view of information and the more standard view that Dr Liddle and I have been working from is either trivial or profound depending on how you want to look at it.

    I get impression some folks think we’re arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. 🙂

    So to get back to the distinction between object and representation, the genetic code is redundant. So we cannot get from leucine, say, back to UUA.

    Maybe you think that proves your point, I dunno. Just something I thought of, lol.

    But we also represent leucine by the symbols LEU and we also represent leucine with the single letter L.

    But the letter L is not the same as Leucine, nor is Leucine the same as the letter L, nor, apart from a particular convention, does L even represent Leucine.

    And even then, L does not refer to a specific object.

    As for the state of an object, someone once mentioned the carbon atom.

    We could define a convention by means of which certain symbols could represent certain states of the carbon atom, but they would apply to any carbon atom as an abstract concept. They would not be identical to the state of any particular carbon atom.

    If they were, then we could not use the same symbol to represent the same state of multiple carbon atoms.

    Thus representations are independent.

    I hope were not talking past each other, lol.

    So I guess the $64,000 question is, if the carbon atom changes state, does the representation change as the carbon atom changes?

  77. 77
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mung at 72

    That may be the intent, though if the author took the book out and buried it in the ground I’d have to question even that.

    I’ve read through your post, but you’ve lost me on this one. If the guy buried the book, all I can say is that he must have wanted anyone who read it to have to find it and dig it up first.

    And if no one ever reads the book, what then is the effect?

    There isn’t one – beyond whatever effect it had on the author.

    If what is written in the book has no effect upon anyone, is it still information?

    Yes, the author put it there. If I write a diary and no one ever sees it but me, it’s still information, even if the effect is intended only for me.

    As is wont to happen some of the context has been lost. Please see my post @57.

    I’ve read your 57 now, and you have my point of view.

    What is incoherent is the belief that both:

    Information must have a specific effect, and

    Information which has no effect is still information, even though it has no effect.

    The effect that information has is a marker that it exists – if there should be any doubt about its existence. If a page from Leonard Susskind’s notebook was dropped on my dining room table, I would see the symbols of this or that formula and I would have to believe it is information, but I could not be certain of it unless I could demonstrate it or have it demonstrated. I told Dr Liddle that in her simulation she must demonstrate the effect because in her simulation there will most assuredly will be a doubt that it exist, and also, there will be an effect that she must tie to the existence of that information. Without that, there would be no way of knowing for certain it exists.

    This does not mean, however, that I can write a book that I don’t want to have an effect, even if I burned it immediate after I was finished. I could not do so without it having the effect I intended for it (for me to write it and for it to never be read). With that, I am simply illustrating (by a drastic example) the serial observation that information, particularly recorded information (which is what we are all talking about) is tied to the purpose of having an effect.

    A rational person must abandon one or the other, or both, of those beliefs.

    I think you have a much better than average handle on the issue of information, certainly better than I have had for the majority of my adult life. I suggest a small tweak instead.

  78. 78
    StephenB says:

    [Meyer did not leave out the words “the attribute inherent in and communicated by.” All you need to do is read page 86. Are you prepared to retract your claim that he left them out?]

    —Mung: “Why do you think you can get away with such blatant falsehoods? That’s a lie and you know it and I shall demonstrate for all to see that you know it is false.”

    Meyer writes this on page 86:

    “Webster, for instance, has a second definition that defines information as ‘the attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produces specific effects.”

    Yet you claim he left out the words “THE ATTRIBUTE INHERENT IN AND COMMUNICATED BY ONE OF TWO OR MORE SEQUENCES”

    He did, for good reason I think, leave out the words “one of two or more,” but he did not leave out the words, “the attribute inherent in and communicated by.” So you should not have said that he left out the entire phrase, which you emphasized in bold letters. When you accuse someone of misrepresentation, you need to be accurate–and you were not.

    Mung @71

    —“I never asserted that Meyer misquoted the Webster’s definitions.”

    —“Meyer mangled the Webster’s definition”

    To say he “mangled it” is to say he misquoted it.

    —“Follow this link to see you quoting Meyer leaving out the very words you assert he did not leave out:”

    SB: “…alternative sequences or arrangements of something … that produce specific effects.”

    Do I really have to explain to you once again that there is no need to provide an extended definition every time I allude to the subject. That was not a full quote: I was SUMMARIZING Meyer. That is why you find …..followed by words, followed by …. I pointed this out to you more than once, so it isn’t possible that you just slipped up again. What a waste of time. Unbelievable!

  79. 79
    Mung says:

    A Manufactured Controversy

    StephenB, presumably quoting me:

    —“Meyer mangled the Webster’s definition”

    The full quote, in context:

    The DNA molecule does, indeed, contain information, which is defined as “a sequence of characters that produces some effect.” DNA contains “alternative sequences” of nucleotide bases and can produce a specific effect.

    Hi StephenB, do you think Stephen Meyer deliberately mangled the Webster’s definition?

    b: the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

    Really? You have to manufacture a controversy over that? And you have to both take me out of context and misquote me to do so.

    Pathetic.

  80. 80
    Mung says:

    A liar exposed

    StephenB:

    Meyer did not leave out the words “the attribute inherent in and communicated by.” All you need to do is read page 86. Are you prepared to retract your claim that he left them out?

    StephenB contradicting StephenB:

    Unaware that both Meyer and I abbreviated the definition at times and extended it at other times, Mung accused BOTH of us of dishonesty for not using the exact set of words each time.

    Meyer “abbreviated” the definition? By leaving out certain words?

    You evil person. Where did I accuse Stephen Meyer of dishonesty?

    StephenB:

    I think the best way to handle this problem is for Mung and I to agree not to comment on anything the other says, or anything someone says about us.

    And yet here you are, dredging up the past again and trying to score cheap points and getting enmeshed in your own contradictions and making up yet more false allegations.

    I pity you. You don’t have anything better to do than try to start fights on the internet by telling lies about people?

    Again, there is only one place in the entire book where the phrase “attribute inherent in and communicated” appears, and that is when Meyer is QUOTING the Webster’s dictionary entry.

    Make of it what you will. I’ll let the readers decide.

    I did not call Meyer dishonest, that is a lie.

    Here is the thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....you-asked/

    The word “dishonest” doesn’t even appear in it.

    Here is the other thread where you again couldn’t let a sleeping dog lie:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....n-heretic/

    I call you dishonest, but not for the reason you give. But I don’t call Meyer dishonest. Repent.

    Here you are, trying to create a controversy where none exists, by manufacturing a scenario in which I claim that Stephen Meyer is dishonest.

    Pathetic.

    Let me point out that StephenB made this allegation in a previous thread as well and I just ignored it. But here he saw fit to raise it again and I ignore it no longer.

  81. 81
    Mung says:

    Sigh. Trying to get back on topic.

    I’m just going to ignore anything else StephenB writes in this thread. So have at it StephenB, make up all the lies and excuses you want to, I’ll not contradict them here.

  82. 82
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    If I write a diary and no one ever sees it but me, it’s still information, even if the effect is intended only for me.

    How is it that writing what you already believe to be the case in a diary changes what you believe to be the case?

    If what you believe to be the case is not changed, in what sense have you been informed by what you have written in your diary?

    IOW, you [and not you alone] appear to have a view of information in which information is or can be passive.

    I have a view of information in which information must be active. It must effect a change or it is not information.

    [If passive and active are the right words. At the moment they are the best I can do.]

    What you already know or believe is not information. It may be that you came to know or believe what you do because you have received some information, but once what you know or believe has been changed, the information “departs” and what is left is knowledge or belief.

    Even if you disagree, does that make sense?

  83. 83
    Mung says:

    The Passive View of Information

    It is in this passive view of information that I find a logical absurdity.

    If no one has been informed, then how is it that we call this “stuff” by which no one has been informed, information?

    Perhaps it has the potential to inform someone, but until an act of being informed takes place, is it actually information?

    I guess that is the point of difference. But does it make a difference?

  84. 84
    Mung says:

    The operational theory of information

    “Information is as information does.”

  85. 85
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed:

    With that, I am simply illustrating (by a drastic example) the serial observation that information, particularly recorded information (which is what we are all talking about) is tied to the purpose of having an effect.

    And if the effect upon the receiver is not the effect that was intended we may say that the receiver has been misinformed.

    I assume you agree with that?

  86. 86
    Ilion says:

    A liar exposed” … demonstrated by his behavior a number of weeks ago

  87. 87
    Ilion says:

    Upright BiPed @63:If I understand Ilion correctly (correct me if I am wrong), the symbols aren’t the information; the actual state of the object is the information. Of course, I disagree with this for the obvious reason that it makes no distinction between the state of the object and the information of the object; in fact “information of the object” becomes a meaningless term if the state of the object and the information of the object are the same thing. It reduces to the object of the object, meaning that the idea that information is about something no longer makes sense.”

    Now, of course, I don’t expect you to have read every port that I’ve written, nor to have remembers every single line that you may have read, but, nonetheless, how you could come up with such a total misrepresentation of what I’ve said, in just this thread, mystifies me. How can you attribute materialism to me when I am denying (and showing why the denial, as applied to ‘information,’ is true) that materialism is the truth about the nature of reality?

    There is no information “*in*” a physical entity; the state of a physical entity is no more information than is the matter of which the physical entity is comprised. A mind may create information about the physical entity, or about its states, but that information does not reside/exist “in” the physical entity.

    Information is an immaterial thing that exists only “within” minds. It is created by minds; it may be shared/communicated to other minds; and any particular exists only so long as there exists a mind who knows it.

    Upright BiPed @63:This whole thing goes back to the very start of mine and Dr Liddle’s discussion about what information is. We eventually described it as follows: [clip of quote] This suggest that an immaterial representation (of the state of an object) is given material status – embedded in matter or energy – and that material representation IS the information. In other words, the state of an object is represented in a separate state of matter. …

    Ah! So, since you are asserting materialism, you just naturally assume that I must also?

  88. 88
    StephenB says:

    —Mung: “And yet here you are, dredging up the past again:

    That is a lie. You dredged it up. I didn’t start this party. You brought up the past at 46 and 47, alluding to my elliptical references on another thread as if I had purposely left out information to mislead.

    Elliptical phrases are designed to leave out information for the sake of brevity. I explained this to you several times, yet you persisted in your attempts to question my honesty in that context.

    I repeat, you started this party with a misrepresentaion.

    —“Again, there is only one place in the entire book where the phrase “attribute inherent in and communicated” appears, and that is when Meyer is QUOTING the Webster’s dictionary entry.”

    So what? The words were there and you said that they were not. Worse, you accused me of lying by pointing out that fact. That makes you the liar.

    —“I did not call Meyer dishonest, that is a lie.”

    Although Meyer made it very clear that he believes in two kinds of information, you insisted that he likely does not believe that even though he said that he did. To say that someone says what he doesn’t mean is to accuse him of being dishonest.

    As you say, let the readers decide.

    Meanwhile, I wonder if we can return to something of substance. Do you even acknowledge that any such thing as biological information exists?

  89. 89
    Upright BiPed says:

    Mung at 82,

    How is it that writing what you already believe to be the case in a diary changes what you believe to be the case?

    The act of writing the diary itself is a change. Prior to the mentally-coordinated record of those thoughts on paper, that mentally-coordinated record did not exist.

    Writing a diary is the act of a mind. It serves no purpose to view it as a non-conscious input-output device. Minds exercise their mental faculties for their own reasons, computer don’t. Go to a writer’s convention and ask for a show of hands, “How many writers here have developed or clarified their thoughts as a result of writing them?” In other words, “Did you have to think about what you were writing when you were writing it?” I am willing to bet you’ll get an effective response of 100%. I am also willing to bet that response is a reliable indicator to not shoehorn the possible range of effects that information may have into too narrow a view.

    IOW, you [and not you alone] appear to have a view of information in which information is or can be passive.

    I have a view of information in which information must be active. It must effect a change or it is not information.

    If I believe in some-thing and by writing about this some-thing that I believe in, I am able to clarify my beliefs and tackle potential problems. In such a case, has an effect taken place? What is it that counts as a “change”? Must I stop believing in what I believe? What if I write for the sole purpose of humoring myself? Does doing something, if only because I want to, have an effect?

    What you already know or believe is not information. It may be that you came to know or believe what you do because you have received some information, but once what you know or believe has been changed, the information “departs” and what is left is knowledge or belief.

    Even if you disagree, does that make sense?

    Your comment makes sense in such terms that your words form complete sentences and your views are reflected in those sentences. But if you tell me that the moment I know ‘the ball is red’, that this little tidbit of information departs, then I don’t think these particular restrictions of yours on the use of the word “information” make any sense, nor do they add clarity or change the dynamics of the issue.

    Mung at 85

    And if the effect upon the receiver is not the effect that was intended we may say that the receiver has been misinformed.

    Fair enough. The receiver did not interpret the information as the author intended.

  90. 90
    StephenB says:

    —Ilion: ““A liar exposed” … demonstrated by his behavior.”

    The Ilion, Mung tag team attempted to disrupt my thread a few weeks ago (as they have attempted to disrupt this thread) when Ilion accused me of “motive mongering.” When I asked him to provide examples, he headed for the tall grass.

    Yes, that’s right. Ilion, the gatekeeper of civilized discourse–whose favorite phrase is “You are a liar–and whose insulting tone infuriated one blogger on this present thread to say that he would tolerate no more bullying–was shocked, I say shocked, at my unpleasant tone.

  91. 91
    Upright BiPed says:

    Ilion at 87,

    Now, of course, I don’t expect you to have read every port that I’ve written, nor to have remembers every single line that you may have read, but, nonetheless, how you could come up with such a total misrepresentation of what I’ve said, in just this thread, mystifies me.

    No need to be mystified. You said the information is “conventionally represented” by the symbols, but is not the symbols. So the information is not the sender, it’s not the receiver, it’s not the convention and it’s not the representation.

    So if I hand you a piece of paper that says “the ball is red”, the information is not me, its not you, its not the English convention, it’s not the symbols on the paper, and it’s not the paper itself. A reasonable conclusion is that the information is the state of the ball, being red.

    May I ask a question: If you came to know something, like say ‘the ball is red’ do you then have a red ball in your head, or do you have a neural pattern that records that information, or does that information only exist on an immaterial plane?

    How can you attribute materialism to me when I am denying (and showing why the denial, as applied to ‘information,’ is true) that materialism is the truth about the nature of reality?

    I didn’t attribute materialism to you.

    There is no information “*in*” a physical entity

    It is certainly true that information does not exist as a material thing, as in, information is not listed among the atomic particles that occupy the physical universe.

    the state of a physical entity is no more information than is the matter of which the physical entity is comprised.

    So the state of the ball, being red, is not information about the state of the ball. And by that same token, the information you are conveying about your concept of information, is not information about your concept of information. It seems that the noun is rather out of a job.

    A mind may create information about the physical entity, or about its states, but that information does not reside/exist “in” the physical entity.

    Agreed, as far as conclusions go. However, there is a counter argument (in general terms) that symbolically-recorded information does not require a mind in order to come into existence. I dispute that counter claim (in slightly different terms), and to argue that point I cannot assume the conclusion that a mind is required. Instead I have to say that a mechanism is required, then explore the observable entailments of that mechanism, and argue that the mechanism is a mind.

    Information is an immaterial thing that exists only “within” minds. It is created by minds; it may be shared/communicated to other minds; and any particular exists only so long as there exists a mind who knows it.

    So an earthworm that happens to crawl out on a sidewalk in the sun, does not try to find the edge of the slab and return to the soil, because he does not have a mind to allow him to become informed of his predicament.

    And if the water treatment facility in your town uses automated control systems operated by an electro-mechanical convention. driven by computer processing of informational sgnals, then you should not expect to see water coming from your tap, because there are no minds in the valves leading up to it.

    Ah! So, since you are asserting materialism, you just naturally assume that I must also?

    Not only am I not asserting materialism; I am not saying you have. What you can take from this is that I don’t intend on assuming my conclusion and therefore losing every argument I engage in. I would think that taking that position would probably make me a bit testy over time, which could easily lead me into becoming belligerently intolerant of anyone who didn’t assume my conclusion as I had – as opposed to arguing for them instead.

    And here we find a significant distinction between our purposes. I have no interest whatsoever in trying to rewrite several hundred years of English text in order that my own personal, and peculiar, use of a noun makes sense to those to whom I am speaking. And already having no interest whatsoever, the prospects become even less motivating when I understand that my use of the term doesn’t change the dynamics of the issue one iota. So while your purpose may be to engage over the acceptance of your narrow definition, my purposes are to explore the dynamics in terms that the vast majority of human beings would recognize.

  92. 92
    lamarck says:

    A one way flow of information could be radio signals sent into space.

    Regarding definition of information:

    Some differences between a rock and living things:

    – A rock’s motion isn’t motivated by machines within the body. There is no wall between the internal workings of a rock and physical universe laws. There is a wall in living bodies which enables a different source of motion

    – There are no rock babies begetting increasingly complex rock features.

    – Rocks don’t consume stuff into the body, then through a cascade of machines, either add to itself or excrete. All living things do.

    Laws which govern living things aren’t the same then, as laws which govern non-living.

    Darwin’s assumption is that the non-living laws account for life, but that hasn’t been found to work, so therefore information is the undiscovered physical laws acting on matter that create or perpetuate living things. I say perpetuate because the genome is theoretically falling apart.

    I think that has to be the front-loading take on it at least.

  93. 93
    Mung says:

    Upright BiPed,

    What is the conclusion that you think is being assumed?

    That materialism is false?

    That information requires a mind?

    I’m not clear what question it is you think is being begged.

  94. 94
  95. 95
  96. 96
    Upright BiPed says:

    Where there is a question otherwise, I cannot argue that information requires a mind if information requires a mind by definition.

    So if you start yout argument by claiming as a defnition that “Information is an immaterial thing that exists only “within” minds” then you have assumed your conclusion.

  97. 97
    Upright BiPed says:

    Now it could be said that Ilion was simple stating his conclusion, but his definition of information is otherwise, but I looked on this thread for the words “information is” in Ilion’s post and only found the one instance quoted above. Perhaps I missed others, but he seems more comfortable saying what information isn’t.

    If this is a part of his defnition then he’ll have to provide evidence for ‘information existing only in the mind’ – good luck with that.

    So he starts by assuming his conclusion, then puts himself in the position of having to defend something he has no way of defending.

    I have noticed that he is quick to attack people for not using their critical thinking skills though.

  98. 98
    StephenB says:

    I have a few questions for those who claim that information exists only in the mind or for critics of biological information theory.

    Does biological information exist or not? Do the non-material configurations lead to a specific result or not? Is purpose evident in those configurations or not? If information exists only in the mind, and does not exist in the DNA, how could one build a case for intelligent design? If information exists only in the mind, what is it?

  99. 99
    lamarck says:

    Information is an idea and a command, commanding matter to start or change or stop. If it’s
    on automatic, then it’s a law. If it changes then it’s not a law.
    The law of gravity likely doesn’t stem from dictates from matter by itself. That mass attracts is arbitrary. Why doesn’t mass repel?

    Information isn’t the information’s origination point. It’s also not the channel on which the information travels. It’s also not
    the rearrangement of matter itself – the end product. What it must be is that idea which travels on a channel from an originator (or automatic originator), and effects matter. So it’s also not the information in a story or the type on a page or any random idea.
    It has to be a command which affects matter.

    It has to be assumed for interest’s sake that it’s an automatic command happening in biology, so it’s a law.
    But once you assume that you have to assume that those laws are different and undiscovered, because there’s no other solution being found anywhere.

    If this isn’t a search for laws then it can only be a search for changing commands.

  100. 100
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    MI:

    Elizabeth has been very courteous and considerably patient considering she’s in enemy territory here, but let’s cut the St. Elizabeth crap, dong-ma?

    Absolutely.

    And one of my faults is getting distracted by interesting discussions on the internet from stuff that needs doing IRL (you should see my kitchen sink), so I would ask, Mung, that you do not regard threads or questions I have left un-responded to as evidence that I do not have a response, merely as evidence that I am too flakey to organise myself into finding them and giving them.

    However, I will head back to the “Michael Denton” thread this afternoon, having taken in at least some of the interesting and relevant comments on this one, particularly by Upright BiPed. Also, as some people know, I have set up this site:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/

    where you are all welcome (Chris Doyle could use your company!) to tackle me on any question you think I might be avoiding here. Contact me if you want OP rights.

    OK, will now respond to Barry’s curious OP 🙂

    Back in a jiffy.

  101. 101
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Hi, Barry! I saw this post earlier in the week, and cleared my diary, as it were, this afternoon, to respond to it:)
    You write:

    In comment [25] to my last post , The ID hypothesis, Elizabeth Liddle asks about information. I think I’ve been at this long enough to predict how an exchange between me and Elizabeth would go.

    Barry’s Point 1:
    Let’s take the information in your comment [25]. I am sure you will agree your comment contains specified complex information. Indeed, your one little comment contains more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment.

    Barry’s Point 2:
    I am sure you will agree that the cells in your body contain more complex specified information than your comment by several orders of magnitude.

    Barry’s Question to Elizabeth:
    If your comment contains more specified complex information than we could reasonably attribute to chance and necessity working from the beginning of the universe to this moment, and the cells in your body contain several orders of magnitude more complex specified information than your comment, why should we attribute the complex specified information in your body to chance and necessity? Isn’t it more reasonable to attribute the CSI in the cells in your body to intelligent agency, just as we attribute the CSI in comment [25] to intelligent agency?

    And you anticipate that my response will be:

    Elizabeth’s Probable Response 1:
    The CSI in the cells in my body can reasonably be attributed to the accretion of random errors.

    Well, no 🙂 First of all, if the CSI in the cells of my body could “be reasonably attributed to the accretion of random errors “ then the cells of my body wouldn’t contain CSI as I understand the term. For a pattern to possess CSI it must

    1) be complex (have lots of Shannon bits);
    2) be specified (be easy to describe);
    3) have a probability of occurring by Chance that is so low that we would not expect to see it even once, given every event in the space and time of the universe.

    Yes, DNA sequences (for instance) are complex (lots of bits); yes, they are specified (we can devise a general description of working genomes i.e. genomes that specify a functional organism), each of which includes a number of subsets of possible working genotypes, but which are only a tiny subset of the Vast number of theoretically possible DNA sequences that do not specify a functional organism at all. However, the last condition is the odd one out. I cannot explain “why my cells contain CSI” by chance without you first demonstrating that they contain CSI, and you cannot demonstrate that they contain CSI without demonstrating that they cannot have come about by chance.

    In other words, the third condition that must be fulfilled before a pattern can be said to contain CSI actually begs the very question that you challenge.

    Now, what I might have responded is that iterative feedback processes can create patterns that are both complex (lots of Shannon bits needed to describe the output) and specified (can be members of a subset of comparably complex patterns, consisting of those that can be easily described), and that cells may be, or contain, patterns of that type. But, in that case, they wouldn’t, by definition, possess CSI.

    Barry’s Response to Her Probable Response 1:
    Surely you don’t believe your comment [25] could reasonably be attributed to random key strokes by our proverbial monkey. That has a sort of first blush plausibility, but as we all know the math does not work. Then why do you attribute the CSI in the cells in your body to the accretion of random errors?

    Well, obviously I don’t, as I explain above. I don’t attempt to attribute it at all, because it seems to me that it is your job to demonstrate that the CSI is there in the first place! And if you did, then obviously I could not “attribute it to the accretion of random errors, because you would have already demonstrated that it could not be due to the accretion of randome errors. However, let me re-interpret your question more broadly (i.e. not using Dembski’s mathematical definition, and leaving out his universal probability bound term) as: how do you explain the presence in the cells of information that is both Complex (lots of Shannon bits) and Specified (one of a subset of easily described patterns that does something interesting like prescribe an organism) by “accretion of random errors”?

    Well, the answer lies right there in your word “accretion”. How do errors “accrete”? Well, sometimes errors just pile up, willy nilly. So if you play Chinese Whispers, and every person in the chain gets something a bit wrong, then what comes out at the end will contain nothing of the original message. Additive errors (new stuff) and subtractive errors (missed out old stuff) accumulate, eventually obliterating the original.

    But of course that’s not what any scientist proposes, as I’m sure you know. The “accretion” process is not “willy nilly”. What gets passed on is filtered, and so what gets through is what the filter allows through. Let’s say that you have a game of Chinese Whispers in which the original message is generated by some random process, and all the participants have high frequency deafness. What emerges will be as meaningless, in one sense, as what went in, but will have a characteristic pattern not present in the original. In other words, it may be equally complex, but more specified (be a specific subset of the phonemes from which the original is drawn. And it will contain information in the common or garden sense of being data from which we can gain knowledge. It will, in fact, tell us that at least some of the members of the chain suffered from high frequency deafness (or, alternatively I guess, a speech impediment).
    And it’s that filter that is absolutely critical. Not only that, but it doesn’t have to be designed – anything can act as a filter, letting in things with some properties and keeping out things with others, resulting in a set of somethings that are a specifiable subset of a much larger subset.

    Elizabeth’s Probable Response 2:
    Well, it’s not just random chance. The good random errors are selected for by natural selection and bad random errors are eliminated by natural selection. So it is not pure chance. It is chance (random genetic errors) and necessity (natural selection) combined that results in the CSI.

    Closer, so let’s look at your response:

    Barry’s response to her Probable Response 2:
    What an extraordinary claim! This remarkable interaction of chance and necessity to which you allude has never been observed even over trillions of reproductive events by bacteria under intense selective pressure. What non-question begging evidence do you have for your remarkable assertion? Remember, Dawkins says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And surely you will agree that saying the staggering amounts of CSI in living things is the result of the accretion of random errors sorted by natural selection is the most extraordinary claim ever made.

    Well, again assuming that you are not using CSI in Dembski’s sense but in the (in my view more sensible) sense that leaves out the question-begging Chance issue:

    First of all, the interaction of “chance and necessity” has frequently been observed to result in patterns that are both complex and specified. And while I’m sure I will be beaten down in flames here, I offer you genetic algorithms, in which a population of minimally functional “virtual organisms” capable only of self-replication, the prerequisite for Darwinian evolution) , breed and die in an “virtual environment” that provides various hazards that the individuals have to overcome. And as a result, the genomes of such virtual critters can become both more complex (longer than the originals) and highly specified (they belong to a small subset of patterns that affect their own longevity in that environment). So we know in principle that it works.

    Second, we see it working in lab and field – we see that chance and necessity (not a pair of words I like, actually, but they will do) working together in what is called “micro-evolution” in which the random mixing of genotypes (at least in sexually reproducing populations) result in phenotypic variance in ability to reproduce in the current environment, and thus to populations of better-adapted phenotypes.

    Thirdly, when it comes to bacteria, things are a little simpler in some senses, though more complex in others because bacteria only replicate by division, and so, with some notable exceptions (HGT), a novelty appearing in one lineage does not propagate independently of the rest of that genome. And contrary to your assertion, as you must know, in Lenski’s lab, members have indeed noted that when subjected to “intense selective pressure” novel genetic sequences that allow the bacteria to reproduce better in that environment are not only apparently randomly generated (though that is a question worth investigating) but, once generated, result in a better adapted, i.e. fitter, bacterium for that environment.

    However, because I know you know this, I assume you mean something slightly different: that a cell capable of Darwinian evolution itself contains CSI, so we can’t invoke Darwinian processes to account for the simplest possible organism capable of Darwinian evolution.

    This is possibly true (given the more relaxed definition of CSI above), but it moves the question to: how can Chance and Necessity generate an entity capable of Darwinian evolution? And we do not know that yet, although there is quite a lot of research into it.

    Elizabeth’s Probable Response 3:
    Let’s change the subject.

    Well, only because I think OOL is where your question leads. But if you want to stick with Darwinian evolution, I’m happy to continue to discuss it 🙂

    But I will confess to a brief frisson of annoyance at the suggestion that I want to avoid any subject. I don’t. It’s my bane.

    But if you think I am doing so, come and chase me here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/

    However, I do need to ration my online time a bit right now, so the conversation may be slow. But slow is good 🙂

  102. 102
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Upright BiPed @ 67:

    If I cannot demonstrate the information, then I cannot say with absolute certainty that it is there. That’s the beauty of Nirenberg – he demonstrated it. There is no question that it is there.

    And, as I think we are now clear, he demonstrated by demonstrating that a particular pattern, namely a triplet of RNA nucleotides, has a specific effect, namely the transport of a specific amino acid to the ribosome.

    With regard to the book written in Arabic – yes it could contain information, on the other hand, it could be a decorative sequence of squiggles (after all, it looks really pretty), unless we can discover that particular patterns produce specific effects – that a particular set of squiggles causes an Arabic speaker to utter certain sounds, and to behave in a certain way.

    So I think the Meyer-cited Webster definition works pretty well, at least as a starting point.

    What is good about it, I think, for present purposes, is that it does not require a sender and/or receiver. That puts it apart from some meanings of the word, but what matters here is what ID proponents mean by it in the context of an ID claim, not what someone else might mean by it in a different contexts.

    Will head over to the other thread now.

  103. 103
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    What is good about it, I think, for present purposes, is that it [Webster’s definition 2b] does not require a sender and/or receiver.

    How does something which is communicated not have a sender and receiver?

    the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

    I wonder why they call it messenger RNA.

  104. 104
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    In other words, the third condition that must be fulfilled before a pattern can be said to contain CSI actually begs the very question that you challenge.

    You do realize, I hope, that it’s not a deductive argument.

    3) have a probability of occurring by Chance that is so low that we would not expect to see it even once, given every event in the space and time of the universe.

    ok

    However, let me re-interpret your question more broadly (i.e. not using Dembski’s mathematical definition, and leaving out his universal probability bound term) as…

    Yes. Let’s leave out the very thing about Demski’s formulation that justifies the rejection of the chance hypothesis.

    And then let’s say that Barry’s begged the question.

  105. 105
    Mung says:

    And it will contain information in the common or garden sense of being data from which we can gain knowledge.

    – Elizabeth Liddle

  106. 106
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    First of all, the interaction of “chance and necessity” has frequently been observed to result in patterns that are both complex and specified. And while I’m sure I will be beaten down in flames here, I offer you genetic algorithms, in which a population of minimally functional “virtual organisms” capable only of self-replication, the prerequisite for Darwinian evolution) , breed and die in an “virtual environment” that provides various hazards that the individuals have to overcome. And as a result, the genomes of such virtual critters can become both more complex (longer than the originals) and highly specified (they belong to a small subset of patterns that affect their own longevity in that environment). So we know in principle that it works.

    An actual demonstration might avoid the flames.

  107. 107
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, you can google as many as you like, Mung.

    Your problem doesn’t seem to be shortage of demonstrations, but difficulty in seeing that that’s what they are.

    I’ve rebuttted both your objections already, and haven’t yet seen a counter-rebuttal.

    But you could watch this if you have a spare few minutes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

    And tell me why it is not the demonstration you seek. I will then try to explain why it is.

  108. 108
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Well, you can google as many as you like, Mung.

    I want you to pick an actual GA Dr. Liddle. Something from real life. Pick one. One that you think demonstrates the creation of a design by a GA using Darwinian mechanisms.

    I think we need one that meets the following criteria:

    a. We can run it on our computers without too much difficulty.

    b. We have access to the source code.

    c. The source code is in a language we can agree upon.

    d. We can modify the source code and observe the effects.

    Preferably the source code does not need to be compiled or the folks who are interested can download whatever is needed to run the GA without difficulty.

    If I pick one you probably won’t like it, lol.

    But if you’re willing, I can pick one out.

    I’ll watch the vid, though it may be later today.

  109. 109
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Or ask DrBot maybe.

    But feel free to pick one out and say why it doesn’t demonstrate design.

  110. 110
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Yes. Let’s leave out the very thing about Demski’s formulation that justifies the rejection of the chance hypothesis.

    And then let’s say that Barry’s begged the question.

    Well, Dembski’s CSI does, in a sense. It rolls the test up inside the measure.

    I’m using the definition he gives here:

    Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence

    So anything with certified Dembskian CSI has necessarily passed the improbability test.

    And it’s the test I question.

  111. 111
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    But feel free to pick one out and say why it doesn’t demonstrate design.

    But GAs do demonstrate design.

    They are designed, by designers, with goals and purposes in mind.

    Quite unlike evolution, or so we are told.

    That includes the design of the program to generate a timepiece as demonstrated in your linked video, even though the person who wrote the presentation claims there was no goal imposed (8:52). What a laugh.

    So though it is a bit difficult for me to take that person seriously considering the overall argument, tell me what it is you think the program demonstrate?

    Evolution? Are you saying that the timepieces evolved and what takes place in the program is analogous (or even the same as) what takes place with living things?

    Regardless of what you say in response to those questions, here are my first objections.

    1. The initial pool consists of completely random genomes (3:16).

    How is that like a biological population? It isn’t. This dis-analogy between GAs and natural populations has been pointed out to you before.

    2. Fully 98% of his initial population does nothing (3:58).

    And this is like biological evolution how? It isn’t.

    3. His “timepieces” do not self-replicate.

    How is this like a living population? It isn’t.

    So here we are, not even past the first generation, and we already have three serious problems with this proposed demonstration.

  112. 112
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    But GAs do demonstrate design.

    They are designed, by designers, with goals and purposes in mind.

    Quite unlike evolution, or so we are told.

    Populations have an inbuilt goal, which is to survive in the current environment.

    That includes the design of the program to generate a timepiece as demonstrated in your linked video, even though the person who wrote the presentation claims there was no goal imposed (8:52). What a laugh.

    Right. So the analog of the environment in which biological critters have to survive is a designed environment in which survival depends on enabling some potentially hazardous feature of the environment to tell the time. Let’s imagine there really are biological critters that are regularly eaten by predators who nonetheless spare them if the predators find them useful for telling the time. The point is that the design input you are identifying here is not into the design of the clocks but into the environment. In nature that is a given.

    I’ve made this point before, but you keep missing it.

    So though it is a bit difficult for me to take that person seriously considering the overall argument, tell me what it is you think the program demonstrate?

    That Darwinian evolution using no more than chance processes and natural selection can result in the design of something pretty clever (in this case a clock) as long as doing that pretty clever thing (in this case enabling someone to tell the time) contributes to its survival.

    Evolution? Are you saying that the timepieces evolved and what takes place in the program is analogous (or even the same as) what takes place with living things?

    Yes, exactly that. The fitness criterion (how well can this individual enable me to tell the time and thus avoid instant death?) is, in this case designed, but is exactly analogous to problems presented by the environment in nature (how well can this individual break its fall from its nest and thus avoid instant death?). The clock itself is not designed at all, just as the down that decrease a chick’s terminal velocity is not designed at all. Except by evolution. In both cases.

    Regardless of what you say in response to those questions, here are my first objections.

    1. The initial pool consists of completely random genomes (3:16).

    How is that like a biological population? It isn’t. This dis-analogy between GAs and natural populations has been pointed out to you before.

    It’s arguably similar to the kind of early genomes that preceded life. But in any case, you are being over-literal – the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making, but they are nonetheless minimally functional in that they are all capable of sexual reproduction. It is only with respect to making clocks that they are random, just as a population faced with a new environmental hazard might find itself armed with nothing better to handle it than a random bit of genome. But, finally, your objection is bizarre – the fact that the critters start with random genomes makes the point more strongly, not less – the proto-clocks start off with nothing other than the ability to self-replicate – no “pre-loaded” information in the genome. No “smuggled in” part-solution (a criticism more commonly leveled at GAs).

    2. Fully 98% of his initial population does nothing (3:58).

    And this is like biological evolution how? It isn’t.

    Except that they self-replicate with variance. i.e. the thing that is a prerequisite for Darwinian evolution.

    3. His “timepieces” do not self-replicate.

    Mung, did you watch the video? Blimey, you even saw them at it!!!!

    How is this like a living population? It isn’t.

    Oh boy.

    So here we are, not even past the first generation, and we already have three serious problems with this proposed demonstration.

    Well, it was useful, at any rate. Sheds light on why people are so resistant to the idea of Darwinian evolution.

    Mung, none of your “three serious problems” are problems at all. You could easily re-do it with part-functional clock genomes (just start the algorithm a bit later in the process) so that would answer your first objection. You’ve missed out that they replicate (your second). And your third is the same as your second (and just as wrong).

    And your argument that the environment is designed is irrelevant, as I explained. And the one remaining argument that I can see, namely, that they were already functional self-replicators, is an anti-OOL argument not an anti-Darwinian one (as the author points out).

  113. 113
    Mung says:

    haha, how funny is it that we are talking about a GA that produces timepieces in a thread called “to save time.”

    Now Elizabeth, would you please be so kind as to give me the time signature for the point in the presentation at which he shows his timepieces self-replicating?

    And would you also explain what you think he means when he says that 98% of the initial population of 10,000 genomes “do absolutely nothing” (3:38)?

    Do you seriously think he means by “98% do absolutely nothing” that they do in fact “do something,” as in they each and every one of them self-replicates?

    please

  114. 114
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making

    I have no idea what that could possible mean. Random with respect to clock-making? How would we test that claim?

    Do you mean that the genomes of the initial population are random with respect to the current environment?

  115. 115
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung

    haha, how funny is it that we are talking about a GA that produces timepieces in a thread called “to save time.”

    Now Elizabeth, would you please be so kind as to give me the time signature for the point in the presentation at which he shows his timepieces self-replicating?

    2’50”. The frame that says: “Matrixes are mated just as in my first two videos.”

    It shows Mother Father and Offspring. It also says “Every offspring receives one 1 mutation”.

    And would you also explain what you think he means when he says that 98% of the initial population of 10,000 genomes “do absolutely nothing” (3:38)?”

    He means that in no way can they be used to tell the time. The remaining 2% are simple pendulums, which can be used to tell the time by counting swings.

    Do you seriously think he means by “98% do absolutely nothing” that they do in fact “do something,” as in they each and every one of them self-replicates?

    Three members of the population are drawn at random and the “best two” are mated with each other, the “best” being the ones best at telling the time. I can’t remember if he says in the case of a draw, but in most algorithms, in that case, the loser is selected at random.

    So all are capable of replication – sexual replication in fact, and therefore of passing on part (or indeed all, as the genome is so small) to their offspring.

    I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear, but should be clear from the video.

    Please lets not get into a lawyer quibble about whether sexually reproducing populations “self-replicate”. They do, it’s just that some genome shuffling goes on as well, which is cool.

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making

    I have no idea what that could possible mean. Random with respect to clock-making? How would we test that claim?

    As it’s a simulation you can simply ask the simulator: is set of genotypes biased in favour of clock-making? And the answer is no – he says they are random.

    Do you mean that the genomes of the initial population are random with respect to the current environment?

    They are random with respect to clockmaking in the current environment. The guy doesn’t bother with a genome that specifies the mating procedure – he just does that, so in effect he assumes wrt to replication processes they are identical.

    If you are having difficulty getting your head round this, imagine that every organism has a genotype that tells it how to mate and produce offspring, but as it is identical in all cases, he doesn’t show it. But that each genotype has a 9 piece slot that in 98% of cases is just junky stuff that causes it to stick bits of clock part together randomly, regardless of whether the result is any kind of clock. But in 2% of cases results in a simple pendulum.

    Mung – you can’t just dismiss simulations because they are too simple – the whole point of simulations is to demonstrate a principle using simple examples.

    The point here is that the fitness function, the physics and chemistry are all designed, as is the mating system.

    But the “clocks” themselves are not – they evolve, given the physics and chemistry, the self-replication, and the fitness function.

    In other words, the Darwinian bit works. Given: Necessity, Chance and replication with variance, and a fitness function that determines what phenotypic features are most likely to breed, you get a designed clock. The Darwinian algorithm “finds” a clock in the Search Space, if you like.

    It doesn’t have to search every single combination of parts in the hope that a clocky one turns up. It moves steadily towards clockiness, although, interestingly, not producing identical clocks each time.

  116. 116
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    …the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making…

    They are probably random with respect to nuclear bomb-making and ice-cream making as well.

    Yet for some inexplicable reason the program doesn’t crank out ice cream, nor nuclear bombs.

    So much for the power of Darwinian processes to design things.

    So since you have so far refused to face this issue, let me put it another way.

    The starting genomes are random with respect to other genomes in the initial population.

    How is this like an actual biological population? Answer, it isn’t.

    So here we are, still at square one.

    They are random with respect to clockmaking in the current environment.

    False, false, and, yes, wait for it, false.

  117. 117
    Ilion says:

    Yet for some inexplicable reason the program doesn’t crank out ice cream, nor nuclear bombs.

    Moreover, any particualar execution of it, given an identical set of inputs, will always crank out an identical set of not-ice cream and not-atomic bombs.

  118. 118
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    …the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making…

    They are probably random with respect to nuclear bomb-making and ice-cream making as well.

    Are you trying not to understand this, Mung?

    Yet for some inexplicable reason the program doesn’t crank out ice cream, nor nuclear bombs.

    Not inexplicable at all. Biological organisms don’t crank out nuclear bombs either.

    So much for the power of Darwinian processes to design things.

    So since you have so far refused to face this issue, let me put it another way.

    The starting genomes are random with respect to other genomes in the initial population.

    Well, it’s my turn to not understand this, Mung. The starting genomes are randomly generated, not generated with a bias towards assembling clocks. I don’t know what your problem is with this.

    How is this like an actual biological population? Answer, it isn’t.

    Only in the sense that in an existing biological population you aren’t starting from scratch. But that makes the program more impressive, not less.

    So here we are, still at square one.

    They are random with respect to clockmaking in the current environment.

    False, false, and, yes, wait for it, false.

    OK, Mung, time for me to give up again. You don’t seem to know what I am talking about, and I don’t know what you are talking about.

    As I see it, that little program is a perfect example of how, starting with a randomly generated set of genomes that, at best, and in a minority of the population, specifies no more than a simple pendulum, evolves, by rm+ns, a population of highly accurate clocks.

    That demonstrates that rm+ns can design things.

    And, if you don’t like the clocks, take a look at those NASA radio antennae.

    I’m off to bed 🙂

    Sleep well.

  119. 119
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Moreover, any particualar execution of it, given an identical set of inputs, will always crank out an identical set of not-ice cream and not-atomic bombs.

    Only if a pseudorandom number is used and the same seed for every run.

    Otherwise, it won’t, and doesn’t, as is made clear in the video.

    It reliably evolves a clock, but the clocks are not identical.

  120. 120
    mike1962 says:

    The video that Elizabeth cites was designed by an intelligent agent with carefully crafted fitness functions toward productions within certain quantifiable bounds. And the search space is damn small.

    It’s interesting that all genetic algorithms that are known to produce novel F/CSI have been designed by intelligent beings, namely, humans. As for the F/CSI in nature, it’s an open question as to how much intelligent intervention was required.

  121. 121
    Ilion says:

    EL @ 119:
    There are only two (*) logically available ways to categorize your post #119, wherein you pointlessly try to dispute the very specific thing I said. Either:
    1) you are so stupid that you simply cannot understand the noises that come out of your mouth;
    2) you are so intellectually dishonest that you say, in effect, “Well, yes, you’re right about that … which just shows how wrong you are about that!

    Now, I simply do not and cannot believe that you’re stupid. That leaves only one option (*).

    (*) For the third potential categorization (and there are only three possible in total) – that you are missing or not understanding some critical prior information – clearly does not apply here. It is clear from you pointless disputing that you understood exactly what I said.

  122. 122
    Ilion says:

    … And the search space is damn small.

    May I inject a point of grammatical pedantry here (in contrast to Miss Grundyish prissiness)? It seems to me that the grammatically proper word would have been ‘damned’, not ‘damn.’ It’s kind of like writing/saying “you were suppose to do that” when one means “you were supposed to do that”

  123. 123
    mike1962 says:

    Ilion,

    Hehe. Point taken. But in casual writing I usually write the way I talk 😀

  124. 124
    Mung says:

    If I did that I’d sound like a total redneck.

  125. 125
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    But you could watch this if you have a spare few minutes:

    From the video:

    My favorite straw-man argument for the proof of Intelligent Design goes as follows…

    Take a watch…
    smash it with a hammer…
    put the pieces in a box…
    shake it around…
    open the box…
    and see what you get.

    ID advocates believe that since you do not reform a functional watch, not only must intelligent design be correct, but evolution must be wrong.

    Funny how such a simple experiment, supposedly able to disprove one of the most strongly supported theories in the history of science, has NEVER appeared in any scientific peer reviewed journal.

    Well Elizabeth, if it’s places like that where you get your ideas about ID it explains a great deal.

    You didn’t see that and immediately think, wow, this guys is lying through his teeth?

    Have you come across anyone here making such an argument for ID or against evolution? Seriously.

  126. 126
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    But you could watch this if you have a spare few minutes:

    Also from the vid:

    The theory of evolution is NOT a theory of life’s origin. It is a theory of how one form of life changes over time through mutation and natural selection, into another form. (0:45)

    Oh my. That’s just so wrong.

  127. 127
    Ilion says:

    I have to make a conscious effort to sound like a redneck, and then I don’t really get it right (especially in writing). What’s odd about this is that my father’s people were/are; even though he had only 19 months total of formal education, and never totally eliminated the accent, he was determined to “talk proper,” and set the example in our home.

  128. 128
    Mung says:

    In her post @107 Elizabeth directed me to an internet video which purports to demonstrate the designing power of Darwinian mechanisms.

    In my post @111 I offer an initial critique in which I point out at least three ways in which the GA is not at all analogous to populations of living organisms with all three objections focusing on just one single aspect of the GA, the initial population.

    I wrote:

    1. The initial pool consists of completely random genomes (3:16).

    Now Elizabeth attempted to argue that in natural populations the genomes are random. And if that is not what she is arguing I have no idea what her objection is to my first point.

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    But in any case, you are being over-literal – the starting genomes are random with respect to clock-making, but they are nonetheless minimally functional in that they are all capable of sexual reproduction. It is only with respect to making clocks that they are random, , just as a population faced with a new environmental hazard might find itself armed with nothing better to handle it than a random bit of genome. But, finally, your objection is bizarre – the fact that the critters start with random genomes makes the point more strongly, not less – the proto-clocks start off with nothing other than the ability to self-replicate – no “pre-loaded” information in the genome. No “smuggled in” part-solution (a criticism more commonly leveled at GAs).

    Mung:

    Do you mean that the genomes of the initial population are random with respect to the current environment?

    Elizabeth:

    They are random with respect to clockmaking in the current environment.

    My response:

    False, false, and, yes, wait for it, false.

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Well, it’s my turn to not understand this, Mung. The starting genomes are randomly generated, not generated with a bias towards assembling clocks. I don’t know what your problem is with this.

    My problem with this is that it is FALSE. NOT TRUE. NOT TO BE BELIEVED.

    You admit so in your own words for gooodness sake and contradict what you wrote ealier!

    …that little program is a perfect example of how, starting with a randomly generated set of genomes that, at best, and in a minority of the population, specifies no more than a simple pendulum,

    So it is biased towards making clocks. And you know it!

    And yet you can say that it is not.

    And you can also say that the genomes are random with respect to clock-making. Also false.

    (1:33) Details of the simulation: The Componenents (1:33)

    Gears, Ratchet, Hands, and Spring

    are replaced by the following symbols…

    (2:21) Each clock organism consists of:

    30 gears, 1 ratchet, 7 hands, 1 spring, and 1 housing

    (2:39):

    The clock genome is a matrix containing the information of who binds to who and what their properties are.

    And the icing on the cake:

    (3:15) Start with a pool of clocks with COMPLETELY RANDOM GENOMES

    (3:19) Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time.

    (3:26) The better two clocks kill the worst clock.

    (3:31) Mate the surviving two and produce an offspring.

    And yet you assert that the initial population is random with respect to clock-making.

    It is as plain as day that there is no “random with regard to clock-making” in this GA. the GA is designed to make timepieces.

    Elizabeth:

    Mung – you can’t just dismiss simulations because they are too simple – the whole point of simulations is to demonstrate a principle using simple examples.

    I am not dismissing it because it is too simple. I am dismissing it because it is not analogous to the way evolution purportedly works.

    I am showing that your repeated assertions that GAs are evidence for what evolution can do have serious and fundamental flaws.

    In this instance, with this particular GA, you have not offered a valid rebuttal to my first point.

    Nor have you ever, when I raised this exact same issue in the past.

    Yet you continue repeat the same claims and assert that no one has offered a convincing counter-argument.

    Here it is, one more time:

    1. The initial pool consists of completely random genomes (3:16).

    How is that like a biological population? It isn’t. This dis-analogy between GAs and natural populations has been pointed out to you before.

    Natural populations occupy points within the search space that are close to each other.

    The initial populations in a GA are designed to do the exact opposite, as this GA shows.

  129. 129
    Mung says:

    lest the point be lost

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    What is good about it, I think, for present purposes, is that it [Webster’s definition 2b] does not require a sender and/or receiver.

    How does something which is communicated not have a sender and receiver?

    …the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

  130. 130
    Ilion says:

    Mung @ 128:

    (3:19) Remove 3 at random and arrange them in order of their ability to accurately tell time.
    (3:26) The better two clocks kill the worst clock.
    (3:31) Mate the surviving two and produce an offspring.

    Wow! Who knew that “natural selection” was so potent a force in the cosmos that artificial “natural selection” is indistinguishable from selective breeding?

  131. 131
    material.infantacy says:

    Well, I made it more than half way through that video before beginning to stare off into the horizon, like I often do when listening to long stories from some of my relatives.

    I can’t say why a toy with 5000 lines of code (just guessing) is taken seriously as supporting some fundamental feature of evolution.

    And that’s what these things are — toys — delightful little toys.

    If the powers of creation are unlocked in 5000 lines of code, why can they only make little virtual clocks, for which the target functionality is largely assumed right off the bat, the starting and ending points already determined?

    The sheer scale of creative wonders that must be present in chance and necessity accounts of evolution, if they are truly modeled in this type of simulation, should accomplish much more than being cute little toys.

    I confess to taking only a superficial interest to the simulation in the video, but that’s all I can seem to gin up for this sort of virtual bluster. So I’ll make allowance for the fact that there’s more going on than I could deduce in a painful six-and-a-half minutes.

    I guess I would be more impressed if it evolved pocket watches, grandfather clocks, digital wrist watches, clock radios, and eventually televisions. Perhaps that’s too high a bar to set, in order for something like this to surpass entertainment; but that’s what we’re supposed to expect from evolution, whether taking into account the intractable problem of abiogenesis, or just the trivial issues of evolving a plethora of disparate body plans from the first self-replicating, living organism.

    If you detected a little sarcasm toward the end of that last paragraph, then your sarcasm sensor is appropriately calibrated. You’re welcome.

  132. 132
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    What I find frustrating here is that when anyone produces a proof-of-principle – whether it be WEASEL or the Clock simulation – of the powers of rm+ns, the result is roundly dismissed as being too simplistic to apply to living things, which is fine.

    However, that is a massive moving of goal posts: the claim that both WEASEL and the clock simulation were devised to refute is the claim that rm+ns cannot (in the case of weasel) produce sense out of nonsense, or (in the case of the clocks) find a clock-solution efficiently out of the Vast space of non-clock solutions. In both cases the claim is duly refuted.

    The clock video, in particular, falsifies the notion that rm+ns is a monkeys-on-typewriters algorithm or a needle-in-a-haystack algorithm.

    It demonstrates that rm+ns is an efficient search algorithm.

    So does the NASA paper about antenna design.

    All I am asking for here is for the concession that rm+ns can find design solutions in a vast search space, including solutions that an engineer would be slower (in the case of NASA) to dream up, if at all.

    In other words it can be creative.

    If you accept that notion, then indeed, we can go on to discuss whether it could account for life.

    Although already micro-evolution is widely accepted, so I’m not sure what the objection to the clock simulation is, frankly.

    So let me ask:

    1) do you accept, having watched that video, that one a large number of possible clock designs is reliable “found” by the algorithm from an orders of magnitude number of clock-part combos that do not function as clocks?

    2) do you accept, having watched the video, that while the fitness function and the physics-and-chemistry of the system were designed by the programmer, the clock itself was designed by the program?

    If not, why not?

  133. 133
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    MI:

    If the powers of creation are unlocked in 5000 lines of code, why can they only make little virtual clocks, for which the target functionality is largely assumed right off the bat, the starting and ending points already determined?

    Because, to demonstrate the principle, it is useful to reduce the dimensions of the fitness landscape.

    In this case to a single dimension.

    And the end point is NOT determined – the problem is determined, but the solution is not, and there are a very large number of potential solutions.

    The space of non-solutions is orders of magnitude larger. Nonetheless the algorithm finds one of the subset of solutions each time, despite these being unknown in advance to the designer of the algorithm.

    Note the surprising design of the antennae in the NASA paper.

    The sheer scale of creative wonders that must be present in chance and necessity accounts of evolution, if they are truly modeled in this type of simulation, should accomplish much more than being cute little toys.

    And they can, and probably do, but people primarily make GAs to solve their own problems and so they design fitness functions (i.e. environments) in which the critters, by evolving to survive in that environment, will come up with a solution to the designer’s problem.

    Although in fact we do utilise solutions that the environment has set to evolving populations, even though we didn’t actually design the problem.

    Robotics is full of designs borrowed from evolution.

    But then I guess you wouldn’t see it that way 🙂

  134. 134
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Ilioin:

    Wow! Who knew that “natural selection” was so potent a force in the cosmos that artificial “natural selection” is indistinguishable from selective breeding?

    Having trouble pinpointing the target of your sarcasm here, Ilion.

    Indeed, you could regard the clock program as an example of artificial selection aka selective breeding. That’s a nice way of looking at it.

    Are you suggesting that the role of a ID in biology is at the level of selection?

  135. 135
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    What I find frustrating here is that when anyone produces a proof-of-principle – whether it be WEASEL or the Clock simulation – of the powers of rm+ns, the result is roundly dismissed as being too simplistic to apply to living things, which is fine.

    Where have I, up to this point, argued that this clock-making demonstration is too simple?

    What you fail to see is that in order for a proof of principle to be a proof of principle it actually needs to be a proof of principle.

  136. 136
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Please lets not get into a lawyer quibble about whether sexually reproducing populations “self-replicate”. They do, it’s just that some genome shuffling goes on as well, which is cool.

    So you want me to pretend like the “organisms” in this clock-making program are true self-replicators and not get into a liar quibble about it?

    We both know they don’t self-replicate, so why should we say that they do?

  137. 137
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    OK, Mung, in future I will try not to use the word “self-replicate” for sexual reproduction, even though it is widely so used.

    Call them breeders if you want. It makes no difference to the case or the math.

  138. 138
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    And the end point is NOT determined – the problem is determined, but the solution is not, and there are a very large number of potential solutions.

    The space of non-solutions is orders of magnitude larger. Nonetheless the algorithm finds one of the subset of solutions each time, despite these being unknown in advance to the designer of the algorithm.

    [I suspect there are no non-solutions, but I’ll have to look at the code]

    The potential solutions are programmed in, by design.

    So is the path to each potential solution. Programmed in, by design.

    We know something will be found by the search, we just don’t know what, specifically, in advance.

    How many functional “time-pieces” are there within the search space?

    What is the actual size of the search space?

  139. 139
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    What you fail to see is that in order for a proof of principle to be a proof of principle it actually needs to be a proof of principle.

    Which is what it is. It has all the ingredients: breeding with heritable variance in probability of breeding.

    The clock-part assembly part of the genome is randomly drawn at the start, with the result that only 2% of critters have any timekeeping facility at all, and that minimal.

    From there, the search space (every possible genome) is reliably traversed so that the final population is a population of accurate clocks (a solution from the small but still substantial solution subspace of the much larger total search space).

    And it obviously finds these solutions without having to randomly pick straws out of the whole haystack, therefore does it much faster than a random search would do.

  140. 140
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung:

    [I suspect there are no non-solutions, but I’ll have to look at the code]

    Of course there are non-solutions. 98% of the randomly generated genomes are non-solutions (do nothing to tell the time). So we know that only 2% of the search space contains solutions. And of that 2% a tiny fraction contain solutions that involve several hands and gears.

    The potential solutions are programmed in, by design.

    No they aren’t They are possible (they exist in the search space, obviously, because they are found), but nothing except the Darwinian algorithm “programs them in”.

    So is the path to each potential solution. Programmed in, by design.

    No. The only program that “designs” the search path is the Darwinian one.

    We know something will be found by the search, we just don’t know what, specifically, in advance.

    Yes, we do know that, and the reason we know that is that we know that Darwinian search works.

    How many functional “time-pieces” are there within the search space?

    Dunno, but we can put an upper bound of considerably less than 2%.

    What is the actual size of the search space?

    You’ll have to look at the program. It’ll be the total number of possible genomes.

    I’ll try and find out, but if you think about it (unless you think the man is lying) you can probably ballpark it from the info he gives.

  141. 141
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    OK, Mung, in future I will try not to use the word “self-replicate” for sexual reproduction, even though it is widely so used.

    Call them breeders if you want. It makes no difference to the case or the math.

    Hello passive-aggressive dishonest person. What have you done to our oh so polite, kind, and always honest to a fault Dr. Liddle?

    In what sense of the term “breed” do the organisms in this clock-making program breed?

    In what sense of the term “to reproduce via sexual reproduction” do the organisms in this clock-making program reproduce via sexual reproduction?

    Even the creator of this presentation doesn’t say his organisms self-replicate or sexually reproduce.

    Since we’re talking about GAs, not natural breeding and sexually reproducing populations of biological organisms, why not employ the terms appropriate to the domain?

    I’ll tell you why. Because it helps facilitate the charade that what takes place within natural populations is analogous to what happens in a GA. iow, it’s for rhetorical effect.

    But that’s the point in dispute, so why should we allow you to beg the question?

  142. 142
    Mung says:

    So my last post bring up an interesting question. What would happen in this clock-making GA if he did not use crossover?

  143. 143
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    The sense in which the organisms in the clock-making program breed, is the sense in which any pair-breeding species breeds – they pair up, and produce offspring with randomly spliced bits of the parent genotypes, i.e. they inherit traits from both parents.

    No, it’s not for “rhetorical effect” Mung, it’s for precision. Some GAs use recombination, some don’t. Recombination usually works better, and its usually referred to as sexually reproducing virtual organisms because it’s directly analogous.

    Not that your post deserves a response, frankly.

  144. 144
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    But if anyone wants to continue talking about GAs and search space, I’ve started a thread here:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=98#more-98

    Anyone can post, and all are welcome.

    Even you, Mung. Just remember to wipe your feet.

  145. 145
    Mung says:

    Here’s a rather amusing point about the video.

    He complains that the ID types have it all wrong, that there are some very obvious issues with the argument.

    1. Clocks do not reproduce
    2. Clocks do not mutate
    3. Clocks are not subject to natural selection
    4. The components of clocks do not have natural affinities for each other like the components of cells

    He then goes on to create a program in which he overcomes all his objections against clocks, and calls the resulting objects in his program clocks.

    IOW, his argument is self-refuting.

    How bizarre is that?

    So we should be able to smash up the clocks in his program and shake them up and the parts will come back together and work just fine.

  146. 146
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    It isn’t, Mung.

    It’s ironic

  147. 147
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Oh, and yes, – if you took the final clocks, and smashed them up, and then put mangled genomes through the process again, yup, they’d come out again as clocks.

    Different clocks.

  148. 148
    mike1962 says:

    Elizabeth L: What I find frustrating here is that when anyone produces a proof-of-principle – whether it be WEASEL or the Clock simulation – of the powers of rm+ns, the result is roundly dismissed as being too simplistic to apply to living things, which is fine.

    This is a distorted characterization. Genetic Algorithms are proven techniques that use fitness functions in conjunction with random searches to find novel effects within the constraints of the fitness functions. Nobody disputes this (that I know of.) Moreover, nobody disputes (that I know of) that biological RV+NS can leads to small scale novel solutions to “problems” (nylonase, for example.) The key word here are “scale.”

    If I write a GA that can demonstrably produce more efficient antenna designs and then set about to pawn my algorithms off as a means to building gasoline powered automobile engines that have a 97% efficiency, people are going to be skeptical. People are going to demand to see my source code to see if my fitness functions can handle such search space requirements within a reasonable time-frame. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence

    However, that is a massive moving of goal posts: the claim that both WEASEL and the clock simulation were devised to refute is the claim that rm+ns cannot (in the case of weasel) produce sense out of nonsense,

    Nobody denies that (that I know of.) What I am skeptical of is that the known mechanisms plus environmental selection are sufficient to produce the broad swath of life on earth, in particular, novel cell types, tissue types, organs and body plans, exhibited by earth life. At present, it’s an undemonstrative claim.

    In the weasle programs and your clock example, we can easily verify that a given “genome” was produced by the algorithms. We can just look at the steps that it tooks to get there (if we log them.) We can see that given the initial conditions, the outcome was “doable.” RV+NS as an explanation for most biological forms is entirely unproven.

    The clock video, in particular, falsifies the notion that rm+ns is a monkeys-on-typewriters algorithm or a needle-in-a-haystack algorithm.

    Nobody claims otherwise (that I know of.) Sorting clothes by “whites” and “non-whites” achieves the same thing. And as an example, is a lot easier to grasp. Humans turn randomness into order all the time via selection criteria. So do spiders and birds when they make webs and nests. Nobody denies that (that I know of).

    It demonstrates that rm+ns is an efficient search algorithm.

    But it doesn’t demonstrate RV+NS is responsible for grand sweep of life on earth.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  149. 149
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mike, thanks. Then my whinge was not at you 🙂

    I’m glad you think no-one is disputing what you are not disputing, and if you are right I withdraw my whinge.

    So what do you think the limitations are on what is clearly, in principle, a highly efficient and creative problem solving algorithm?

    Recalling that in living things, the dimensions along which a trait can improve fitness are many times greater than in any GA?

  150. 150
    mike1962 says:

    EL: So what do you think the limitations are on what is clearly, in principle, a highly efficient and creative problem solving algorithm?

    I don’t know the limits. Nobody does. I applaud efforts of Mike Behe and people like Richard Lenski who are doing things that may lead to more insight. Otherwise, it’s just “Darwinism” of the Gaps.

  151. 151
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I guess, except that there are lots of gaps that are fairly well filled, and no obvious theoretical reason why there should be longitudinal limits.

    Plenty for lateral limits though, which are what we see, and which would be odd if the thing were the product of design (human design lineages don’t have lateral limits).

    But I agree with you about Lenski. His work is awesome.

  152. 152
    mike1962 says:

    Moreover…

    EL: So what do you think the limitations are on what is clearly, in principle, a highly efficient and creative problem solving algorithm?

    This is a strange question. The efficiency of a GA depends on how it’s written. One GA can be more efficient than another GA. A particular GA may more efficient than another at designing antennas. And neither may be applicable to improving aerodynamics of an airplane.

    You’d have to be specific. What GA? What application? Let’s see how efficient it is for the target application.

    Recalling that in living things, the dimensions along which a trait can improve fitness are many times greater than in any GA?

    Specifics please.

  153. 153
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    What I mean, Mike, is that if you have a problem to solve,and you set it up as a fitness function so that it can be solved by a Darwinian algorithm (which is what a GA does) then the algorithm tends to do it very efficiently – comes up with things you wouldn’t have thought of, and does so in much shorter time than you would have taken.

    Specifics regarding dimensions:

    Let’s take a problem, such as “not being eaten by predators”:

    Camouflage
    early warning system
    faster running
    unpredictable movements
    mimicry
    noxious smell
    making yourself look big
    Moving like an inanimate thing

    And each of those have dimensions within them.

  154. 154
    mike1962 says:

    I guess, except that there are lots of gaps that are fairly well filled, and no obvious theoretical reason why there should be longitudinal limits.

    And no obvious reason why it should be a “gap filler” either. Let’s say I present you with a GA (undisclosed source code) that could demonstrably design antennas. I show you the log of steps that it did for the designs. Then I make the claim that my GA designed the space shuttle. I refuse to provide you with either the source code or a log of the steps that it took. Would you believe me? Why not? There’s no theoretical reason why it couldn’t, right?

    At any rate, for the sake of discussion, I’m particularly interested in the ability of “nature’s GA”, if you will, to account for cell types, tissue types, organs and body plans. I’m afraid there’s much more gap than not here. Maybe some antenna design going on. But space shuttles? Is Nature’s GA robust enough to pull that off? Sure, there’s no theoretical reason why not. This is because the question is unanswered. Your statement is merely a promissory note thinking stated in a different manner. We simply do not have sufficient information to answer the question: is Nature’s GA sufficient for all the life forms on earth?

    Sidebar: Elizabeth, I’ve been reading your posts for some weeks now, and engineers don’t think the way you think. At least the ones I know. And I think it comes down to a personal orientation that is clearly out of the realm of science and in the realm of psychology. I demand provenance for a grand claim and you seem to be happy to let scant evidence fill the Grand Canyon size gaps. Why is that? For one thing, engineers need designs that work. Bad design, bad product, bad financial reward, perhaps lives lost. Gaps in my world can kill people. Try using the “well, there’s no theoretical reason why it can’t work” excuse for an unproven design and see how far you get in the “real world.” Do not take this as a slight to your character or intelligence. It just happens to be the way people think in your world and you think it’s normal. To me it is anything but.

    Plenty for lateral limits though, which are what we see, and which would be odd if the thing were the product of design (human design lineages don’t have lateral limits).

    Why odd?

  155. 155
    mike1962 says:

    EL: What I mean, Mike, is that if you have a problem to solve,and you set it up as a fitness function so that it can be solved by a Darwinian algorithm (which is what a GA does) then the algorithm tends to do it very efficiently – comes up with things you wouldn’t have thought of, and does so in much shorter time than you would have taken.

    Right. But there are GAs and there are GAs. All GAs are not created equal even for the same design goal. If I have GA that is written to the goal of efficient antenna design, it may out perform another designed for the same goal, but neither is designed for the production of space shuttles.

    The question, and this is the only question, where you and I seem to be at odds: is Nature’s GA (the mechanisms and means we know about) robust enough to produce all the features of life as we know it? The short answer is that it’s an unknown question.

    When you say there are no theoretical reasons on your part why it can’t, that is on par with me saying my antenna GA can also produce space shuttles. While theoretically possible (unless you spied the source code), something tells me you would be be hyper skeptical about it 🙂

    Let’s take a problem, such as “not being eaten by predators: Camouflage….And each of those have dimensions within them.

    Very high level design goals with plausible sources of realization possible given the current state of our knowledge. In the end, we have to look at the nuts and bolts of the beast to see what has to take place, if it already has the require features in some latent form or not, what it takes to get from point A to point B. In your feature list above, allele changes might be all that’s necessary. This sort of evolution is known to exist and it’s entirely understood how it is effected. We know whence the difference between Chihuahuas and Great Danes. We don’t know how the mammalian body plan came to exist given present knowledge.

    In short, the devil is in the details. But I’ll make the goal a lot simpler for you: give me a blow by blow description with no gaps how a flagellum could come to exist. And it’s not fair to just point to this protein or that protein having already existed, as if the mere presence of parts explains the assembly of the object. I need a complete “log” of how the genome was modified, including how the order and timing of assembly came to be and all intermediate steps (which is probably more complicated a goal than the appearance of the proteins themselves). Matzke took a stab it it. I was more full of holes than swiss cheese.

    If you can’t come up with a gap free account for how a flagellum came to exist, how can you expect skeptical engineers like me be to believe Nature’s GA is responsible for the mammalian body plan? (Or novel cell types, tissue types, organs or body plans.)

  156. 156
    Mung says:

    Well Barry, what’s the verdict?

    Have you convicted yourself?

  157. 157
    Mung says:

    Would you believe me? Why not? There’s no theoretical reason why it couldn’t, right?

    I’d believe you. Any particular GA, after all, can be applied to a wide range of problems.

    A GA is, after all, a highly efficient and creative problem solving algorithm.

    It’s not like the clock-making program wouldn’t make ice cream and nuclear bombs if we just gave it enough time.

  158. 158
    Ilion says:

    Mung:The potential solutions are programmed in, by design.

    The perpetually honest-to-a-fault (!) EL @ 140:No they aren’t They are possible (they exist in the search space, obviously, because they are found), but nothing except the Darwinian algorithm “programs them in”.

    Mung:So is the path to each potential solution. Programmed in, by design.

    The perpetually honest-to-a-fault (!) EL @ 140:No. The only program that “designs” the search path is the Darwinian one.

    Mung:We know something will be found by the search, we just don’t know what, specifically, in advance.

    The perpetually honest-to-a-fault (!) EL @ 140:Yes, we do know that, and the reason we know that is that we know that Darwinian search works.

    In these assertions, El is either unbelievably ignorant — or, as a logical possibility, but which I am positive does not apply, too stupid for words — or simply partisanly dishonest. If her false assertions were founded on honest ignorance, she could be corrected on the matter; but, as she will not accept correction, reasonable persons must conclude that she is intellectually dishonest.

    ===
    The potential outputs/results of any computer program are *always* implicit in the logic; and, if this were not so, we would not use them, nor could we get any useful result/work from them.

    Consider the two following functions, X and Y —

    public static void X(int input)
    {
    return 5;
    }

    public static void Y(int input)
    {
    return (input / 2) * 5;
    }

    Now, X always returns the value ‘5’, regardless of any input given it; while Y always returns the value ‘5’ when given the inputs ‘2’ or ‘3’ – and, given any specific input, Y will always return exactly the same output, no matter how many times one tests the assertion I’ve just made.

    With respect to these two functions, what the perpetually honest-to-a-fault EL is asserting is that only for function X is the solution, such as it is, “programmed in”. This assertion is false, as any moderately intelligent person can clearly see, and as any moderately intelligent person who is also intellectually honest will admit. For, the output of neither function exists until it is executed and an input given it. It just happens to be the case that X always returns ‘5’ as its output, regardless of its input at any particular execution; whereas the output of Y at any particular execution always follows mathematically, and exactly, from its input, such that no matter how many times one executes the function giving it the input ’10’, it will always return ’25’.

    There is no number named ‘input’ – just as there is no number named ‘random’ – there are only specific-and-actual numbers (and in these two cases, the functions “know” only integer numbers); and thus, the statement “return (input / 2) * 5” is just a place-holder until “input” is replaced by some actual integer.

    So, IF someone wants to tell me that he or she *still* cannot grasp that all potential results of *any* computer function/program are fully specified by its logic (that is, as Mung put it, “The potential solutions are programmed in, by design.“), THEN I must reply, “If your claim to be unable to understand and grasp the inescapable truth of what I just have said is true, THEN what you are telling me is that you are incorrigibly stupid. In that case, frankly, I am surprised that you do not drown in your own spittle

    And, should some silly, or foolish, person try to object to what I have said on the basis of “random numbers”, why not save yourself the bandwidth (and spare yourself the mockery)?, for I have *already* covered that objection.

    ====
    Consider again the perpetually honest-to-a-fault EL; specifically, consider my post @ 117 and her response @ 119 — clearly, she already understand what I have explicitly spelled out in this post — and *still* she asserts the falsehoods she asserts (and, moreover, these particular falsehoods are not contingent; there is no possible world in which her assertion might have been true).

  159. 159
    Ilion says:

    Concerning the “I’m just asking questions; I just want a converstaion” game that some persons like to play … a recent post reminded me of a better way that I usually manage to communicate my objection to, and disdain for, the pose; to paraphrase C S Lewis — “Once you were a child and asked questions because you wanted answers,” said the Spirit to the Bishop. “Ah, but when I became a man, I put away childish things,” replied the Bishop with a superior smile.

    The point being that the poseurs playing the “I’m just asking questions” game do not want answers — they do not want to themselves posses answers and they do not want that you might possess answers. They want only the destruction of answers.

  160. 160
    Mung says:

    And to add insult to injury, if you watch the linked video, you can actually see the very principles stated by Ilion in action.

    It’s like clockwork. Really.

    The refutation of Elizabeth’s claims are right there before her eyes, and she denies the very evidence before her eyes.

    Just watch the portion towards the end where it shows the results of repeated runs.

    Tomorrow I’ll post the actual times and text from the vid.

    H.T. Ilion for the reminder.

  161. 161
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    I look forward to it Mung.

    Ilion: You are mistaking the territory for the map.

  162. 162
    Mung says:

    Well, Elizabeth, I can do at least one from memory, perhaps even more.

    Why do his clocks always start out as pendulums?

  163. 163
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Well, now, Mung, why do you think?

    My guess is that it turns out to be a both a sufficient and necessary feature for time-telling, given the physics-and-chemistry of the model.

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    Same reason as photosensitive cells probably always precede the evolution of eye-pits or lenses. A necessary first step up Mount Improbable.

  164. 164
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    Same reason as photosensitive cells probably always precede the evolution of eye-pits or lenses.

    lol. sure. if you want to believe that.

  165. 165
    Mung says:

    Elizabeth Liddle:

    My guess is that it turns out to be a both a sufficient and necessary feature for time-telling, given the physics-and-chemistry of the model.

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    Are you like just not capable of comprehending simple arguments?

    Of course I agree!

    That’s precisely the point I’ve been asserting, that you have been disputing, and now you ask don’t I agree? lol

    wow

    And still operating from memory, why is it that his clocks always seem to end up with hands?

    just coincidence?

    That’s certainly not a necessary condition, as the example of the pendulum shows.

    Yet there they are, clocks with hands. like clock-work. time after time.

  166. 166
    Ilion says:

    EL @ 161 (referring to my post 158):Ilion: You are mistaking the territory for the map.

    Now that is just too funny, really.

    EL alleges that she has found a “map” of (an imaginary) “territory” — and, on the basis of “the map”, avers that “the territory” is real and reachable.

    Without at the time making an issue of the imaginary nature of “the territory”, I point out the “the (alleged) map” does not, and cannot ever, in principle, map to “the (alleged) territory”.

    And EL “refutes” what I have said by waving her not-so-dainty hands, and accusing of the very thing she is insisting upon doing.

    Are not DarwinDefenders the most amazing persons who have ever lived?

  167. 167
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    Mung, what is your point?

  168. 168
    Mung says:

    My point Elizabeth, is that you can post the very material that demonstrates the point being made while at the same time denying that it does so.

    The point is, that you can make the exact same argument that I did, and then assert that I am wrong.

    From the clock vid, here is the clear progression, each time:

    6:12
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    Eventually 3 handed clocks dominate

    Simulation Run #2 (7:16)
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    The age of pendulums was shorter, but we still ended with 3 handed clocks

    Simulation Run #3 (7:31)
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    This time we had a brief apeparance of 4 handed clocks, but the 3 handed clocks eventually dominated.

  169. 169
    Mung says:

    Information and Meaning

    “If we are smart, we will doggedly resist any impulse to think closely about meaning. On the other hand, if we were smart, we probably would not have gotten bogged down in the contemplation of information in the first place.”

    – Robert Wright

  170. 170
    Elizabeth Liddle says:

    My point Elizabeth, is that you can post the very material that demonstrates the point being made while at the same time denying that it does so.

    The point is, that you can make the exact same argument that I did, and then assert that I am wrong.

    From the clock vid, here is the clear progression, each time:

    6:12
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    Eventually 3 handed clocks dominate

    Simulation Run #2 (7:16)
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    The age of pendulums was shorter, but we still ended with 3 handed clocks

    Simulation Run #3 (7:31)
    Pendulum only
    proto-clock
    1 handed clock
    2 handed clock
    3 handed clocks
    This time we had a brief apeparance of 4 handed clocks, but the 3 handed clocks eventually dominated.

    But you still haven’t made your point!

    You’ve just asserted that you’ve made it.

    I don’t get it, Mung. You will have to spell it out. These oblique remarks do not cut the mustard.

    Yes, we both agree, it seems, about what the program does.

    You seem to think this makes some point. I don’t know what point you think it makes.

    I have told you what point I think it makes, and you have not rebutted it, so I’ll make it again:

    The program shows that with just two ingredients,

    1. A population of self-replicators that replicate with variance
    2. An environment in which being able to perform some function increases the chances of breeding

    that function reliably evolves. In other words, that rm+ns works.

    Now, what is your point.

  171. 171
    Mung says:

    Red Balls of Information!

    Upright BiPed:

    So if I hand you a piece of paper that says “the ball is red”, the information is not me, its not you, its not the English convention, it’s not the symbols on the paper, and it’s not the paper itself. A reasonable conclusion is that the information is the state of the ball, being red.

    – to form the mind

    If I did not know before that the ball was red, then I would become informed that the ball was red.

    If I already know that the ball is red, I would not become informed that the ball is red.

    You cannot become informed about something you already know.

    Yet nothing about the ball itself has changed.

    It follows that the information is not the state of the ball being red.

    The information is what has changed my knowledge about the ball, and if my knowledge has not changed, there is no information.

    Knowledge is what you have once you have been informed. You now know something you did not know before.

    Information becomes knowledge and ceases to be information.

  172. 172
    Ilion says:

    Mung @ 171,
    Have you thought what you’ve written through carefully enough? (To be sure, it must be admitted that the statement you quote and comment upon is logically horrendous, and in practical terms, is just a restatement of materialism)

    Sure, it is true that “the information is not the state of the ball being red“.

    But, it is not true that “The information is what has changed my knowledge about the ball, and if my knowledge has not changed, there is no information”. To summarize your post, “If one’s knowledge has not changed, then one has not received information” is not true — pace the way ‘Shannon information’ is commonly discussed (falsely so, in my opinion), ‘information’ does not equal, nor require, “surprise”.

    ‘Information’ is any proposition or set of propositions with the potential to “inform a mind” (as you like to put it) — ‘information’ is:
    1) propositional — ‘information’ is a set of one or more statements saying something about some thing;
    2) true — properly speaking, ‘information’ is a set of true statement(s) about some thing — in contrast to ‘disinformation’ … but, in practice, we cannot always distinguish false statements from true; and so it is ok to use the term ‘information’ to encompass propositions that might be true;
    3) known — ‘information’ is (necessarily) known to at least one mind … it may be shared with other minds; it may be “hoarded” by the mind who knows it. To put it another way, the set of ‘unknown proposition(s)’ is an empty set; there is no such thing as a proposition that is wholly unknown by any mind whatsoever (the set of ‘propositions unknown to me’ is a different matter, altogether).

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