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Michael Shermer of Skeptic magazine vs. “turtles all the way down . . .”

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UD’s resident journalist, Mrs Denise O’Leary, notes on how Mr Michael Shermer of Skeptic Magazine and Scientific American (etc.) has written on his new book, The Believing Brain: Why Science Is the Only Way Out of Belief-Dependent Realism:

. . . skepticism is a sine qua non of science, the only escape we have from the belief-dependent realism trap created by our believing brains.

While critical awareness — as opposed to selective hyperskepticism — is indeed important for serious thought in science and other areas of life, Mr Shermer hereby reveals an unfortunate ignorance of basic epistemology, the logic of warrant and the way that faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of our worldviews.

To put it simply, he has a “turtles all the way down” problem:

"Turtles, all the way down . . . "

The image of course comes from the old story of the lady who told the scientist that the world rests on the back of a turtle. The scientist challenged her, and where does that turtle stand? On another one. And that one? “It’s turtles all the way down . . . ”

The same problem holds for warranting a given claim. As I noted in a comment in Mrs O’Leary’s thread (which Mr Arrington suggested be promoted to a full post):

Take any given claim of consequence A. Why accept it?

It has grounds of some sort B.

Why accept B?

C.

And so forth.

You will then have the choice of:

(i) infinite regress [“turtles all the way down . . . “],

(ii) a circle [“turtles in a loop . . . “] or

(iii) stopping at some set of first plausibles F that are accepted as that, plausible without further demonstration. [“The last turtle stands on something, hopefully something solid”].

The first two are absurd and fallacious in turn.

Since many such sets F are possible, the matter now turns to comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power across live options F1, F2, F3 etc.

Have a look here on.

But, every such set F, is a Faith-point. Faith and reason are inextricably intertwined in the roots of our worldviews.

This brings us to the real issue: not whether we live by faith — we must — but in what do we put our trust, why.

That is, we seek to have a reasonable faith.

We are thus forced to stop at some set of first plausibles or other — that is, a “faith-point” (yes, we ALL must live by some faith or another, given our finitude and fallibility) —  and then compare alternatives and see which is least difficult. (At this level, all sets of alternative first plausibles bristle with difficulties. Indeed, the fundamental, generic method of philosophy is therefore that of comparative difficulties.)

John Locke aptly summed up our dilemma in section 5 of his introduction to his famous essay on human understanding:

Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 – 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 – 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 – 2 & 13, Ac 17, Jn 3:19 – 21, Eph 4:17 – 24, Isaiah 5:18 & 20 – 21, Jer. 2:13Titus 2:11 – 14 etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 – 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly. [Emphases added. Text references also added, to document the sources of Locke’s biblical allusions and citations.]

So, we must make the best of the candle-light we have. At worldview choice level, a good way to do that is to look at three major comparative difficulties tests:

(1) factual adequacy relative to what we credibly know about the world and ourselves,

(2) coherence, by which the pieces of our worldview must fit together logically and work together harmoniously,

(3) explanatory relevance and simplicity: our view needs to explain reality (including our experience of ourselves in our common world) elegantly, simply and powerfully, being neither simplistic nor a patchwork where we are forever adding after-the-fact patches to fix  leak after leak.

Two key components of this process of comparative difficulties in pursuit of a worldview that is a reasonable faith, are: (i) first principles of right reason, and (ii) warranted, credible truths.

And, when it comes to matters of fact, our challenge is aptly summed up by founder of the modern theory of evidence, Simon Greenleaf, in his famouse treatise on Evidence:

The word Evidence, in legal acceptation, includes all the means by which any alleged matter of fact, the truth of which is submitted to investigation, is established or disproved . . . .

None but mathematical truth is susceptible of that high degree of evidence, called demonstration, which excludes all possibility of error [Greenleaf was almost a century before Godel] , and which, therefore, may reasonably be required in support of every mathematical deduction. Matters of fact are proved by moral evidence alone ; by which is meant, not only that kind of evidence which is employed on subjects connected with moral conduct, but all the evidence which is not obtained either from intuition, or from demonstration.

In the ordinary affairs of life, we do not require demonstrative evidence, because it is not consistent with the nature of the subject, and to insist upon it would be unreasonable and absurd. The most that can be affirmed of such things, is, that there is no reasonable doubt concerning them. The true question, therefore, in trials of fact, is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but, whether there is sufficient probability of its truth; that is, whether the facts are shown by competent and satisfactory evidence. Things established by competent and satisfactory evidence are said to he proved . . . .

By competent evidence, is meant that which the very-nature of the thing to be proved requires, as the fit and appropriate proof in the particular case, such as the production of a writing, where its contents are the subject of inquiry. By satisfactory evidence, which is sometimes called sufficient evidence, is intended that amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond reasonable doubt. The circumstances which will amount to this degree of proof can never be previously defined; the only legal test of which they are susceptible, is their sufficiency to satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man ; and so to convince him, that he would venture to act upon that conviction, in matters of the highest joncern and importance to his own interest . . . .

Even of mathematical truths, [Gambler, in The Study of Moral Evidence] justly remarks, that, though capable of demonstration, they are admitted by most men solely on the moral evidence of general notoriety. For most men are neither able themselves to understand mathematical demonstrations, nor have they, ordinarily, for their truth, the testimony of those who do understand them; but finding them generally believed in the world, they also believe them. Their belief is afterwards confirmed by experience; for whenever there is occasion to apply them, they are found to lead to just conclusions. [A Treatise on the Law of Evidence, 11th edn, 1868 [?], vol 1 Ch 1 , pp. 45 – 46.]

So the key challenge is that one must have a reasonable and responsible consistency in standards of warrant on important matters of fact or matters rooted in facts.

We thus see the standard of reasonable and consistent, albeit provisional warrant that appears in all sorts of serious contexts such as the courtroom, history, science [especially origins sciences], and many matters of affairs.

Mr Shermer needs to do some fairly serious rethinking on the relationship between faith and reason. END

Comments
"The only case ... if it's murder." How do you know for certain if it is murder before investigating?! First you have to prove it is and then find out who did it. Maybe it is suicide or just an unlucky coincidence? My point is you have no right to filter out any thinkable possibility prior to starting your analysis.Eugene S
September 20, 2011
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Nope, the post belongs here as documentation of an identified but all too often denied problem.kairosfocus
September 19, 2011
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F/N: I used to present a form of the "turtles all the way down" problem -- yet another emerging icon of design thought, joining the burning matchstick as a way to teach the closely related issues and logic of causality -- routinely to my students [cf presentation here]; the "turtles all the way down" formulation is just a colourful way to present it.kairosfocus
September 18, 2011
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In particular, I observe that you seem not to have absorbed the point that solar system stability is an OPEN issue to this day. One that is pointing to an extraordinary degree of fine tuning of our system.
But Newton wrote that the system required constant supervision and attention. He even speculated on how many ongoing calculations were required to keep it in repair.Petrushka
September 17, 2011
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I asked two simple questions that are not rude or insulting or irrelevant. Is common descent through natural kinds of variation a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why? Is the origin of life a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?Petrushka
September 17, 2011
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The turtles all the way down problem is a logical and epistemological challenge that confronts any knowledge oriented enterprise. Until it and its ramifications are squarely faced -- as opposed to brushed aside -- you do not have a sound basis for addressing knowledge questions. Including in science.kairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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P: The point is that we do have an answer, especially where so obvious a case as string based, digital, functional data -- DNA, RNA, Proteins -- is concerned. There is a longstanding, well known source of digital, coded string data. Intelligence. And, beyond any reasonable threshold of complexity, it is not only the only empirically known source, it is a case where the analysis of the relevant config space points to chance + necessity being maximally implausible as sources. But, because the evidence points where a priori materialists would not go, the logical, well warranted conclusion is stoutly resisted and even labeled anti-science or even "giv[ing] up." Sorry, it is quite plain where the empirical and analytical evidence is, and it is plain where the a priori materialism is, and it's not on the same side. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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how do you get to the shores of an island of complex and specifically organised function beyond a reasonable threshold without intelligently directed search...
That's a good question. It's an empirical question. I've seen hundreds of journal articles addressing it. Many of them doing the same basic kind of work done by Douglas Axe. The metaphor of the functional landscape was invented by Sewall Wright in 1932. It's been a central topic of research since then.Petrushka
September 17, 2011
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Sigh, a definite lost comment, one of my own. P, the quick answer is that a look at what N wrote in Opticks Query 31 will reveal at once that he is discussing inductive generalisation and its limitations in warranting conclusions, on empirical testing of scientific hypotheses; which he explicitly describes as inductive conclusions. So, his use of "hypothesis" above must mean a different class, namely, a priori speculative metaphysical impositions. Observe, it is actually quite plainly stated -- not a good sign for the way that the "general view" you describe is being held:
This Analysis consists in making Experiments and Observations, and in drawing general Conclusions from them by Induction, and admitting of no Objections against the Conclusions, but such as are taken from Experiments, or other certain Truths. For Hypotheses are not to be regarded in experimental Philosophy.
In short, Newton is objecting to precisely the sort of a priori that Sagan, Lewontin, the NAS and NSTA et al would impose on us, a priori materialism by the back-door of so called methodological naturalism. We owe Lewontin thanks for making he problem so plain. Now, of course N did not discuss abductive inference, as the analysis for that was 200 years later down the line, with Peirce et al. But, he was in fact intuitively using it, when he speaks about conclusions. Initial observations are explained on alternative hyps, and these are tested until we winnow out and find a provisional best one that is held to be a general and empirically reliable result, subject to further tests. Inference to best current, tested and provisional explanation. Which also brings us right back to the turtles all the way down point, science works by confidence in provisional results, i.e. trust -- reasonable faith -- and critically aware reason are inextricably intertwined int eh fabric and foundations of science.kairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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I'll stipulate that science and its products are not entirely philosophically satisfying. (In response to your turtles problem.) Science is pragmatic, and trades finality for usefulness. Deep problems ,like the stability of the solar system, may never have philosophically satisfying answers. But Newtons response -- which wasn't based on his head aching or mere difficulty -- was that some things were inherently beyond human reason and empirical investigation. He actively posited divine intervention as an explanation. He did not answer the question by saying he lacked data, or that he had not yet developed the necessary analytical tools, or that perhaps another person would take up the challenge. So here are the core questions I pose to you: Is common descent through natural kinds of variation a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why? Is the origin of life a problem worth perusing? Yes or no? And why?Petrushka
September 17, 2011
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F/N: I have responded above, here, to the argument that ID thinkers misunderstand the way evolution explains complexity on chance plus necessity, linked to the notion that trial and error/success is not a search algorithm.kairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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A revealing exchange:
[KF] In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity. [P]Every case where we can observe the creation of the information and the actions of the creator. That’s kind of the point. Exactly what prevents populations of organisms from learning? By learning, I mean trial and error learning. Reproducing with variation and accumulating those variations where the are not detrimental? [P] I think the thing that most separates you from mainstream biology is your assumption, when calculating information content, that the current configuration of the genome represents a goal or target or destination.
1 --> It is obvious from the above, that it has not registered [and I do not now expect it to register, this is for record . . . ] that we have here an inductive generalisation based on a very broad base: functionally specific, complex organisation and associated information have one known cause [intelligence], and we have an analytical framework -- not an "assumption" [see the turnabout rhetorical device once the Lewoninian a priori is on the table?] -- that explains it, in fact on essentially the same "search of a configuration space" analysis that grounds the statistical form of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. This has been gone over, again and again [cf here at UD for the last time around, in response to the MG sock-puppet agenda and how it is being trumpeted in the anti-ID ideological fever swamps], and is plainly well warranted; but is routinely brushed aside and ignored by those who find its results inconvenient to their a priori materialist ideology (or as fellow travellers). So kindly take patience for us to outline the matter again. 2 --> What happens (and, no this is not an error on toy examples of GA's) is that there are inherently many possible configs for a set of physical components, which goes through a combinational explosion as the number of components goes up. 3 --> So, for instance, random strings of text elements where ASCII characters appear with the same probabilistic patterns as in English (or more simply flat random), will rapidly reveal that contextually responsive English text strings -- we have here defined a specific function -- will be extraordinarily rare in the space of possibilities. This is the context of "islands of function" that you may see here at UD. 4 --> At the same time, chance-and-fail/succeed trial and error is by definition, an algorithmic search process:
(i) a config occurs by chance,* (ii) if it works or works better keep it -- there is a self-reinforcing, hill climbing mechanism (iii) if it is inferior, or does not work, drop it. (iv) repeat, as long as the relevant resources are available. _______________ * If you wish, instead, to argue that the laws of the cosmos have life and its elaboration into complex body plans built-in, you have just presented the strongest possible argument that the physics and chemistry of the cosmos are designed for the purpose of creating life, i.e. that our cosmos is programmed by the ultimate form of front-loading. In fact, the argument is that accidental circumstances that just happen to occur lead to progress if they happen to improve performance, measured by relative reproductive potential. And of course for OOL, it is origin of reproduction that is one of the complex phenomena to be explained. For complex body plans, systems of reproduction are often on the table, but the more basic issue is embryological feasibility as body plans are shaped early in development from the zygote or equivalent, i.e. the issue is that a chance change in such an integrated process is extraordinarily likely to be lethal. CF Meyer PBSW, 2004 etc.
5 --> Notice that "or works better." It highlights the crucially begged question in most discussions of evolutionary materialism, and the reason why its advocates usually do not "get" the issue that design theory is highlighting:
not, (a) how do you climb upwards within an island of function by incremental change, but (b) how do you get to the shores of an island of complex and specifically organised function beyond a reasonable threshold without intelligently directed search, within (c) a relevant gamut of physical resources and time.
6 --> For instance, within the gamut of the solar system's 10^57 atoms [mostly H, He, within the sun, BTW, this is a conservative estimate], and in about 10^17 s, we have at most 10^102 available Planck-time, quantum states, where the fastest [ionic] chemical processes take about 10^30 such states. 7 --> The number of possible configs for a 500-bit string is 3 * 10^150, usually rounded to 10^150. This is 10^48 times the scope of the 10^102 possibilities above. Or, converting to hay-bale terms, you are to pick a single straw-sized sample from a cubical bale, a light month across, without intelligent direction. 8 --> Our solar system out to Pluto could be hiding in that bale [not merely a needle or all needles, nails and the like that have ever been made], and the overwhelming likelihood is that such a small sample, however scattered, will pick up a straw. Your scope of sample is so small in the field of possibilities that it will be all but impossible for it to pick up an atypical result. (This, BTW, is the underlying basic framework of analysis for classical Fisherian hypothesis testing, which -- from some pretty sharp exchanges at UD -- seems to be systematically misunderstood today.) 9 --> That is why [cf again linked here, and onward discussions] I modified and simplified the Dembski chi metric as follows:
Chi_500 = I*S - 500, in bits beyond the solar system threshold, where I is an info metric based on I = - log p or the like [where -- per NFL, p. 144, cf. p 148 -- p relates not to the observed event E but the zone of functionally equivalent outcomes T], and S is a dummy variable that takes values 1 or 0 according as something is or is not specific.
10 --> If you want to argue on a bigger scale [e.g. for OOL], moving to 1,000 bits will even more deeply isolate the scope of resources of the observed cosmos as a whole, in a haystack that would dwarf the cosmos. Beyond that, multiverse speculations are metaphysics, not science and even more cannot properly a priori censor out live options. 11 --> So, we see that within our solar system, our practical universe for chemical level interactions, 72 ASCII characters worth of info is a threshold where we can comfortably say on analysis that the resources of our observed cosmos will be hopelessly inadequate to stumble on an island of function, within the reasonable lifespan of the solar system. Move up to 143 characters, and you are beyond the scope of resources of the observed cosmos. 12 --> In his recent book, Meyer pointed out how this sort of threshold of complexity undermines hopes that blind chemistry in some still little pond or a similar environment, will ever get us to the sort of cell based life we see that starts out at 100,000 to 1 mn 4-state base pairs. 13 --> In his earlier paper, he pointed out on the Cambrian revolution, the challenge for the dozens of novel body plans to have come about spontaneously on earth, is about 100 mn new bases worth of info. We are not bothering with the higher levels of info in the cell as that simply adds to the challenge. 14 --> So, we are not dealing with assumptions -- the new favourite dismissive squid-ink cloud escape word at UD for objectors to design theory, but analyses and empirical observations. 15 --> Here is the real challenge to advocates of evolutionary materialism: show how we can reasonably surmount that sort of algorithmic challenge, empirically. Without smuggling in intelligence into the analysis and exercise. (There are a LOT of cases where that inadvertent snuck in the backdoor is the key to a result that appears to break the above analysis. This was MG's repeated blunder over the past 6 months or so.) 16 --> We have a KNOWN cause of FSCI, and only one KNOWN cause, empirically and analytically justified in the present. This entitles us to inductively take FSCI as a reliable sign of design. 17 --> We find relevant phenomena in life, starting with DNA, RNA and the protein-assembling process. 18 --> On the very same uniformity principle championed by Lyell, Darwin et al, we are entitled to explain the observations on their known best causal explanation. Design. 19 --> To make sure we do not make blunders, we take a phenomenon, object or process etc, and we conceptually split it up into various aspects. 20 --> We assume that as first default, the best explanation is law of mechanical necessity. This is defeated by high contingency; which has the known causes, chance or design. 21 --> In a highly contingent situation [e.g. DNA or protein, AA strings], the second default is CHANCE. 22 --> This is defeated by finding complex and specified information beyond the sort of threshold we see above, especially functionally specific, complex information. For the reasons identified above. 23 --> So the problem is not whether we and the "mainstream" Lewontinian a priori materialists have a difference, but who has a well warranted case. And it is plain that the FSCI threshold barrier is an unacknowledged, resisted, but well warranted challenge to the claimed "best" explanations offered by the dominant school of thought for origin of life and for origin of body plans. 24 --> But, not only is this a barrier, we ALSO have a serious, empirically and analytically warranted alternative on offer that is being resisted on the a priori injection of materialism as a constraint on scientific explanation, backed up by strawman caricatures of the alternative. 25 --> in short, the plain case is that science in our day is in ideological captivity to materialism, and needs to do some serious rethinking. ______________ That re-thinking needs to start with the turtles all the way down analysis that appears in the original post for this thread. So, it is extraordinarily revealing that -- several days after the thread has been posted (and after sixty-odd posts), there has not been ONE serious response by an evolutionary materialism advocate to the actual core analysis. That should tell us a lot about what is going on. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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This post seems to belong to another thread. I believe one of my posts got applied to another thread, but I haven't found it.Petrushka
September 17, 2011
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Note to readers: something odd seems to have happened overnight, so it is possible five comments vanished on some sort of glitch. (I infer that from seeing the number of comments rolled back, and noting that a comment with a problem I fixed reverted to un-fixed state.)kairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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Yet another "no concessions" tangent. In particular, I observe that you seem not to have absorbed the point that solar system stability is an OPEN issue to this day. One that is pointing to an extraordinary degree of fine tuning of our system. It is clear that we are dealing with ideological control and censorship on science, and that career and funding decisions are being made in an indefensible way. The case of Gonzalez is a capital example in the general fields that have come up in this thread (complete with blame the victim, slanderously demonising rhetoric). Once universities are publicly funded, research decisions should not be made on viewpoint discrimination, and the peer review system should not be abused to enforce a reigning orthodoxy. Which is happening and not just in this field. In addition, phil and ethics of sci with key historical and contemporary case studies should be incorporated as a compulsory component of both undergraduate and graduate level science education. Not that I have any confidence that such will be seriously entertained by the reigning orthodoxy.kairosfocus
September 17, 2011
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Putting my question another way: What kinds of research now being done would you not fund, given the power? And why. If you would not defund any ongoing research, why not?Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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In detective fiction, the only reason to investigate is if it's murder. Some of the most celebrated scenarios involve deaths that are ruled suicide by the police. There's a difference between the conclusion of the investigation and the investigation itself, which focuses on finding a murderer. The analogy I'm using is comparing a premise or inference that suggests avenues of investigation vs one that shuts down the investigation. If one infers that an object is designed by an immaterial designer having no attributes, there is nothing to investigate. One has shut down questions about who, what, when, where and how. If the object is attributed to a known artisan, it is possible to test whether that is realistic and whether all the known facts are consistent with the story. If one infers that an object has a "natural" history, one must build a story that fits all the evidence and requires no supernatural intervention. One must answer the "W" questions. In the case of biology, the Who question is irrelevant, but the where, when, how and what questions must be addressed. Cases unfold. One starts with conjectures and tests them against fact. This leads to modified conjectures and hypotheses. Sometimes the conjectures lead easily to theories and sometimes not. the origin and evolution of life are immense problems that are likely to occupy researchers for hundreds of years.Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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That's why the phase (i) inference to INTENTIONAL death at the hands of a second party is so vital to a murder investigation. And, this is a classic design inference.kairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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I think the thing that most separates you from mainstream biology is your assumption, when calculating information content, that the current configuration of the genome represents a goal or target or destination. I can see where the toy computer genetic algorithms could lead to that impression. It is also a rather traditional way of looking at life, that the current status was intended. But that is not how biologist see it. We have come to see that the modal state of life is single-celled if not viral. Multi-celled life is a tiny hill on a generally flat landscape comprised of bacteria and viruses. Nearly all protein evolution (origination of new coding genes) occurred in this domain, prior to multi-celled life. Nearly all modern sequences bear similarities to these ancient sequences, even if the modern ones code for new proteins. Genomics is a new science, just getting started, but it is making and extending discoveries like this. So it might difficult to follow the mainstream argument that the dominant mode of evolution is not progress or increase in complexity, but merely change.Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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Group think, intimidatory thought police in action, again in the halls of the academy; for the thought "crime" of daring to question the "consensus" in a student presentation. Yes, a student presentation. Notice, how having a student reduced to tears and shaking seemingly did not trigger any sense that they were going beyond any reasonable behaviour; a classic sign of thought police in self-righteous action, hoping to trigger fear and/or guilt as an emotional response on the part of one who has failed to toe the partyline, similar to the U Colorado case recently handled by Barry A. I hope there were witnesses willing to speak. We need to make some financial bloody-nose examples of a few intellectual bullies like this, to stop this sadistic --and I MEAN that term ("who di cap fit. let 'im wear it . . . ", cf. senses 2 & 3) -- grown up version of the school yard bully. Bullies like that only respect superior force. (And believe you me if you were to attack and intimidate one of my students in front of me like this -- especially a young lady, and ignored warnings to back off, I would step in decisively. Bully-boy. And if you persist, you will get what you are asking for, jackbooted SS bully-boy. As in, student harassment with power/status abuse and obvious sexual intimidation overtones. Kiss your career goodbye. Bully Verbal rapist!) See why dismissive rhetoric that pretends there is not a serious problem in science or science education, as can be seen above, have no impact on me? I know too many cases in point of abusive behaviour, and I can tell the foul demonic stench of SS bully-boyism a mile off, upwind. Ganging up on a GIRL to intimidate her for presenting a student presentation! And, keeping at it till she is reduced to tears and shaking! Frankly, you should be taken to the schoolyard wood-shed and thoroughly whupped, with a good old fashioned tamarind switch . . . one soaked in saltwater first. Maybe, it has not got through your thick comfortable skulls that if you keep on doing that sort of thing, you are going to pick on the wrong girl one of these days and her bro or boyfriend or husband or dad or uncle or cousin is going to come for you and give you a very literal bloody nose. Regardless of consequences. Those are the matches you are playing with, academic bully-boys. Lesson no 1 of half-decent broughtupcy: don't pick on girls, or on someone who cannot hit back.kairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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By the way, as to your suggested murder case, it would be a bad idea to exclude a priori possibilities other than a murder. Filtering out possibilities should only happen as a result of a careful investigation of facts.Eugene S
September 16, 2011
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F/N: More details here.kairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity.
Every case where we can observe the creation of the information and the actions of the creator. That's kind of the point. Exactly what prevents populations of organisms from learning? By learning, I mean trial and error learning. Reproducing with variation and accumulating those variations where the are not detrimental?Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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Great point ESkairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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Au contraire Petrushka the linked has every relevance to the case, for there is an isolable regularity we routinely observe in the case. Functionally specific, complex organisation and related information. We do routinely see it formed in our time and place, and have done so for millennia. In EVERY observed case, it traces to design by art, not to undirected chance and necessity. So, when we turn to explain unobserved cases, we have every epistemic right to use the uniformity principle that when we have a tested sign for how "like causes like," we may then credibly explain cases where we did not see on inference to best empirically anchored explanation. This is the foundational principle of origins science work. What is happening here is quite obvious: now that the uniformity principle is pointing where you would not want to go, you are playing selectively hyperskeptical objections games. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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Petrushka: This is inadvertently telling on the key pattern of flaws in your reasoning:
There has never been a greater genius than Newton, and yet he seems to have given up the task prematurely.
1 --> The original issue for the thread, from the OP is the inescapable intertwining of trust in first plausibles -- i.e. faith -- and reasoning, however critically aware, in ALL worldviews; in reply to Shermer's imagined skeptical "scientific" (in fact, scientism-laced) worldview that requires no faith, and which in his mind is supposed to define science and its capabilities:
. . . skepticism is a sine qua non of science, the only escape we have from the belief-dependent realism trap created by our believing brains.
2 --> This was answered by the issue of "turtles all the way down, leading to the choice of infinite regress, or circular worldview foundations, or a foundation tested through comparative difficulties. Only the last, reasonable faith, is not patently absurd. 3 --> This defining context has been persistently avoided through a pattern of red herring distractors, beginning with your very first post, at 1 above:
I would say, along with the majority of people who post in favor of science, that science produces provisional explanations rather then truth. It is the nature of science to look for regularities that are predictive or which have entailments. Explanations that give rise to questions that suggest further research . . .
4 --> I have already called you out on the implied party-spiritedness, and you have said this was not intentional. (I need not elaborate on those who went further above, in fact, too far.) 5 --> Now, already, you are unwilling to explicitly acknowledge the credibility of the main point, and have gone on to repeatedly try to indict theists as not being able to practice proper science by your plainly evolutionary materialistic lights. 6 --> In general response I have pointed out to an indisputable fact of history, it was Judaeo-Christian theism, and overwhelmingly theists who founded modern science, on the implications of their worldview that the realm of creation would reflect an intelligible order tracing to its author. 7 --> In a further distraction, you have repeatedly tried to raise God of the gaps type arguments, and have now culminated in a declaration of how Newton gave up, evidently meaning to imply that heists will fail to do "real" science. 8 --> This is a classic case of a live donkey kicking a dead lion. 9 --> As was already pointed out, ALL science is provisional, which you actually acknowledged [but seemingly cannot bring yourself to acknowledging what that implies: science is based on reasonable faith]. And BTW, FYI, I am on public record on that provisionality of science for over 15 years. (The just linked was first produced for the local Min Edu, for use in training of teachers, c. 1995.) 10 --> Thus, the possibility for error exists in all cases, and making such an error does not constitute "giving up" (especially where the analytical techniques to go beyond that were a century off in the future, as in cf on study of planetary perturbations here. Notice, Newton's challenge starting with the fine details of the orbit of the moon: "It causeth my head to ache." That does not sound like a blase "giving up" on "Goddidit" to me or any reasonable onlooker), as you caricature. 12 --> And BTW, there are issues . . .
[and here I again use Wiki as testifying against known interest: Though the planets have been stable historically, and will be in the short term, their weak gravitational effects on one another can add up in unpredictable ways. For this reason (among others) the Solar System is chaotic,[1] and even the most precise long-term models for the orbital motion of the Solar System are not valid over more than a few tens of millions of years ]
. . . that point to long term stability of a solar system as a challenge in a world of sensitive dependence on initial conditions and exposure to disturbances. 13 --> In short, things are not at all so simple as you have been led to imagine. Beyond those "few tens of millions of years" of model time, we are taking long term solar system stability on faith, to this very day! 14 --> And with the picture of very disturbed solar systems that is emerging from extrasolar planetary research, we have ever more reason to see we live on a very privileged planet indeed. "It's as though there's an angel pushing . . . " [to borrow from another context, tongue firmly -- literally, in cheek]. _________________ So, kindly, pull back on the red herrings and strawmen. Deal with the central issue from the original post, first, then address onward questions on a more balanced basis. Good day. GEM of TKIkairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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Petrushka You have again committed a classic red herring led away to a strawman. The prosecutor is arguing to INTELLIGENT and INTENTIONAL cause of death, by a KNOWN designer; known to moral certainty. Before that can be done, there have to be good grounds to infer deliberately inflicted death, as in "accident, suicide or murder." In short there are two inferences at work in such a courtroom: (i) nature vs art, and (ii) which agent is credibly responsible. An attempt to infer that some demon did it, is an answer to (ii) not to (i) and leaves untouched the inference at (i). It is (i) that is the relevant design inference, on credible empirical signs. As has been repeatedly pointed out, design inference on tested signs, is and inference to design as relevant causal process, not to identity of the designer, much less whether said candidate/culprit is within or beyond the cosmos. Why is it that there is such a persistent insistence on this red herring and strawman combi fallacy? GEM of TKIkairosfocus
September 16, 2011
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Petrushka:
The only process we have observed modifying populations of living things is evolution,..
ID is not anti-evolution. So what type of evolution are you equivocating about? Also modifying something does not account for the origin of that something.Joseph
September 16, 2011
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I goofed up the formatting on the last post and failed to close the blockquote.Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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I think a more properly worded analogy is, why does the detective think that an intentional event occurred at all, when everyone else is satisfied with the answers “it was just a happenstance occurrence” or “nothing caused it”
That's a fair question, and I would have to say that it boils down to experience. In the early stages of an investigation noting is settled, and experience guides the investigator. At that point the main question is what kinds of evidence to look for. I've tried to give my answer to that question by invoking the history of science. In the early centuries of science, investigators in astronomy, geology and biology were looking for evidence that would support the Genesis story. Over time -- and we are speaking of centuries -- the expectations of finding such evidence dimmed. There are certainly people who have not given up, but among science professionals, they are in the minority. _____________ ED: Fixed this, again [the close block was at the end of the comment], and it seems five comments have vanished mysteriously. Was there a glitch and rollback on the thread?Petrushka
September 16, 2011
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