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Questions for Intelligent Design Fans


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In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 4:54:27 AM PDT
Mary Endress says:
EKT: "But then we find a design in the bacterium flagellum which is for all functional purposes the same, but this latter has come about by purposeless random mutations"

It comes about through natural selection - NOT purposeless random mutations.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 6:08:25 AM PDT
E. K. Thomas says:
To Rip

You say,"I see. If we don't know the answer then a deity must be responsible. I will ask you the same question that I ask all ID/Creos. Can you give me an example of a scientific explanation being superseded by a religious for natural phenomena (there are lots of counter-examples). If you can not, why do you regard "god did it" as a default explanation in the absence of a scientific explanation?"

You are bringing religion into this not me.

You say, "And of course you do have some counter-examples of computer programs that just appear out of nothing."

Of course not. That's my whole point! Computer programs do not appear out of nothing. They are intelligently designed!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 6:27:26 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 9, 2007 6:28:46 AM PDT
E. K. Thomas says:
Mary,

I expected somebody would say that. Natural selection is what? The accumulation of mutations? Richard Dawkins (See You Tube)was asked, "Can you give me an example of a mutation or evolutionary process which can be seen to add information to the genome?" For 20 seconds he gazed at the ceiling, puckered his brow, pursed his lips and finally asked for the camera to be switched off to give him time to think. Eventually he deflected the question by talking about misunderstandings of evolution.

Natural selection presupposes a series of random beneficial mutations producing complex designs from supposedly simple beginnings. Darwin supposed that the living cell would be a very simple organism. Subsequent science has shown that the living cell is an immensely complex organism packed with incredible information
that in the case of we humans produces the wonder of the human body with its trillions of cells with over 200 different tissues types. Next time you look in the mirror Mary tell yourself what the ancient Psalmist said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:00:04 AM PDT
"Thanks again for your post."

My pleasure.

"You say that there is evidence for the evolution of the bacterium flagellum."

Since the evolution of the flagellum would have happened billions of years ago, and probably took more time to happen than humans can directly observe, we have only indirect evidence to go by. We look at the structure of the flagellum, look at other structures, look at the genetics and molecular biology in general, and try to piece together a picture of how it *could* have happened. That's the best we can do.

"Am I not right in saying that this "evidence" is based on the assumption that evolution is true but of itself does not really provide conclusive evidence?"

It's more like we look at the evidence, and see what sort of "picture" it forms, and we see that the picture we get matches what evolutionary theory predicts we are likely to see.

What, do you, would be "conclusive evidence", given that the processes we are looking at take longer to happen than humans have existed?

"Look at it another way (you might call it the ID way) - how is it that an engineer using his creativity and ingenuity designs a means of propulsion which transfers energy into motion along a transmission shaft and by a series of mechanical devices with "O" rings etc. to a propeller."

Engineers and evolutionary processes both "design" things, but in the latter case there is now Intelligent Designer involved.

"But then we find a design in the bacterium flagellum which is for all functional purposes the same, but this latter has come about by purposeless random mutations !"

It isn't just random.... the mutations are random, but those variations are filtered by natural selection, as well as being cumulative. Google "evolutionary computation" for references on how a process with no designer can create things that, to our eye, look designed.

"Never mind the fact that mutations are normally detrimental to an organism and do not normally survive."

See here: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mutations.html

"In response to your comments on ID, I can agree that perhaps there may not be a useful application in the field of biology. Nevertheless the point remains as far as DNA is concerned that it fulfils requirements that indicate intelligent design."

It certainly can *look* designed from a certain point of view... but that doesn't mean it actually *was* or *had to be* designed.

"My question as to where the information in DNA came from has still not been answered."

The information "came from" a process of mutation + selection carried out over multiple generations.

"The sentences which we are writing to one another can be identified as coming from an intelligent source by recognition of organised specified complexity."

Please outline the exact steps that one would apply to the prose I write in order to determine that a Designer was involved. However unlikely, how do you know that these words aren't randomly assembled? What test can you perform that can tell the difference between "randomly assembled letters that spell out a message" and "a composed message"? I don't think such a test is possible, even in principle.

Besides, *evolution is not purely random*

"How do you know bits of concrete are not falling from the ceiling onto the keyboard and producing this sentence?"

I don't.

"Are you suggesting that the encoded information in DNA which is far more complex than this sentence and in Bill Gates words far more sophisticated than any humanly designed computer program, is not intelligently designed?"

Yes, that's *exactly* what I'm saying. Again, you really want to read up on "genetic programming"... you can read up on how one can get designs without a designer.

"That's why I suggest we unscramble our brains and start thinking clearly."

Thanks, but my thinking is quite clear on the subject.

"Incidentally in speaking of computers I know they can be programmed to program themselves which is why I said they have to have an intelligent mind AT SOURCE."

If I write a program that generates snowflakes, does that mean that snowflakes are intelligently designed? When I run a piece of evolutionary software, I'm running a simulation of a process... but I don't know what design I'll get, and I may not even understand how the design I get even works! My intelligence set up the simulation, but my intelligence didn't design anything... the process did.

"What you say about SETI is fine and we would need the means to decode or interpret any message. You say this is the case with DNA but I don't understand what you mean because it has been decoded it so why do you think ID does not apply?"

We pursue SETI on the chance that there are sentient beings out there who could produce signals we'd recognize as coming from intelligences like ourselves.

DNA has information, but that doesn't require that some intelligence put it there.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:06:54 AM PDT
Deckard says:
I said: "I see. If we don't know the answer then a deity must be responsible. I will ask you the same question that I ask all ID/Creos. Can you give me an example of a scientific explanation being superseded by a religious for natural phenomena (there are lots of counter-examples). If you can not, why do you regard "god did it" as a default explanation in the absence of a scientific explanation?"

E. K. Thomas said: You are bringing religion into this not me.
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I see. The "intelligent designer" is not a deity at all? Is that what you are claiming? Your religion has nothing to do with this?

I said:"And of course you do have some counter-examples of computer programs that just appear out of nothing."

You said: Of course not. That's my whole point! Computer programs do not appear out of nothing. They are intelligently designed!
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Then please explain wisdom teeth. Bad backs. The need for a Heimlich maneuver. All easily explained by evolution. What "intelligent designer" made those designs?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:09:33 AM PDT
Deckard says:
E. K. Thomas said: that in the case of we humans produces the wonder of the human body with its trillions of cells with over 200 different tissues types. Next time you look in the mirror Mary tell yourself what the ancient Psalmist said, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!"
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Except for a friend of mine, whose body is ravaged by auto-immune diseases. Except for those with cancer. Except for those with prostate problems. And so on on.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:10:04 AM PDT
Smokey says:
EK wrote:
"Natural selection is what? The accumulation of mutations?"

NO. Got it?

Anyone who pretends that evolutionary mechanisms are mere randomness is LYING. It's really that simple.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:17:04 AM PDT
"Natural selection presupposes a series of random beneficial mutations producing complex designs from supposedly simple beginnings."

Not exactly:

1. An organism has offspring. Those offspring are a bit different from their parents.

2. Some of those offspring survive long enough to reproduce. Part of what determines whether or not they survive has to do with their characteristics, characteristics that are part inherited, part new.

3. The ones that survive pass on their set of characteristics to the next generation, with, again some differences.

So, generation after generation, you tend get organisms that are better and better at surviving. Of course, the environment is changing, too, so the meaning of "better" changes, too.

"Darwin supposed that the living cell would be a very simple organism. Subsequent science has shown that the living cell is an immensely complex organism packed with incredible information that in the case of we humans produces the wonder of the human body with its trillions of cells with over 200 different tissues types."

No, it's more that Darwin assumed that an organism had information in it stored in some way, and that that information was being passed on from generation to generation. He had no idea how that information was stored... but he didn't need to know in order to observe evolution in action, and to formulate his theory. When DNA was discovered, that only strengthened evolutionary theory, by giving us the mechanism by which inheritance happened.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:36:43 AM PDT
Derek D. says:
EKT said: "You say that there is evidence for the evolution of the bacterium flagellum. Am I not right in saying that this "evidence" is based on the assumption that evolution is true but of itself does not really provide conclusive evidence?"

Me: here's a short example of why Behe's flagellum argument doesn't work, in words that are very understandable and also entertaining:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQQ7ubVIqo4&mode=related&search=

please take a look at it.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:42:59 AM PDT
E. K. Thomas says:
To Michael Altirra (and others)

I appreciate you taking the time to write such a lengthy post. Some of your analogies indicate a misunderstanding of what I am saying, but never mind. I could go through your post and answer point by point, but I honestly think it would be best to just agree to disagree.

Thank you again for your polite input. I wish you well.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 11:02:46 AM PDT
<i>John D says:
<"What if there isn't? What if the universe is cyclic? A circle has no beginning or end."

The Big Bounce has been disproved, there is not enough matter in the universe. And it is extremely mechanicaly inefficient.>

You write with terse assuredness my friend. So, you have a degree in physics? Congratulations, so do I! My Ph.D. is in experimental particle physics, what's your physics Ph.D. field?
</i>

I have a BS in Physics, no Ph.D. Those are good questions that I would like to answer, but I am too busy at work today. I'll answer them tonight. Except the last one, stupid semantics gets people arguing over a nothing.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 4:56:21 PM PDT
John D don't give up on me, but I forgot my Cowboys are playing the Colts tonight in the first pre-season game, keep the track on your email, I have free time tomorrow night. I won't just fade away.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 5:13:08 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2007 10:25:29 PM PDT
John D says:
Hmmm, that is an interesting question Michael.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to sit myself down long enough to wrap my brain around the gedanken experiments or keep track of the probabilities to understand Bohm's hidden variable theory or Bell's theorem.

However, might I suggest to you the consideration that the experiments inspired by Bell's theorem may only test a certain "class" of hidden variable theories?

Also for consideration: For a while now there's existed the notion that other conserved quantum numbers suggest hidden degrees of freedom connected to spatial dimensions other than the 4 usually considered dimensions of physical spacetime. And supersymmetric and string theory models might suggest a "way out" of the EPR paradox.

E.g., for a moment, think about our situation on the surface of our earth. Geodesics (great circle routes) are the route that one would take to travel the shortest distance to another location on the surface of the earth. However, of course, it is NOT THE shortest distance. THAT distance would be the chord through the portion of the great circle connecting the two points, but unfortunately through the earth.

I'd assume that the proposed "curled up dimensions" mentioned in some models are perpendicular to each other and to the 4 that we are "aware of". That would imply that the hyperspace of all those dimensions wouldn't be a hypersphere but perhaps a highly elongated hyperellipsoid, like say a cigar (can't remember whether oblate or prolate, though I lean towards the latter).

Let me use the cigar analogy briefly. If you stand on the seal of the "cigar band" and you wanted to travel to the point directly opposite to you on the surface of the cigar (back side of the "band" where it states where/by whom the cigar was made, taking the best, in Havana, Cuba). You could just travel along the band, the shortest distance along the surface, OR you could go along the perpendicular direction around the lit or draw ends of the cigar (or some angle wrt both directions), a considerably longer travel, OR finally you could just drill right straight through to the other side, the minimal distance.

In nature, the motion of natural objects, like planets, electrons seems to always take the minimal path as we learned in Advanced Classical Mechanics using Lagrangians, Hamiltonians and Calculus of Variations. This geometric interpretation is a feature built into Einstein's General Theory of Relativity.

SO, the punchline? Take the cigar and conserve it's volume while stretching it from the two tips without limit. You'd have a very, very skinny cigar with the distance around the band (and through the cigar) being infinitesimally short, while the distance along the perpendicular direction along the tips being infinitely large. Let's now say that THIS hyperellipsoidal model is more like what the spacetime of our physical universe resembles. That is, the curled up dimensions are like the "cigar band" dimension on the surface of our "cigar space." Though I admit that they could just as well be parabolic, hyperbolic or some weird function.

Let's consider the emission of light by a source spreading out in ALL spacetime directions at c, the spread of a "spherical wave" (because the spacetime that we are aware of is a hyperspherical cross section? like a crosssection in a plane through the cigar band). Similarly, by analogy, the probabilistic information wave in the collapse of the wavefunction for pairs of electrons in the EPR/Bell's theorem inspired experiments would also do the same. IF THE INFORMATION TRAVERSED THE CURLED UP DIMENSIONS AT C IT WOULD ARRIVE AT THE OTHER ELECTRON OF THE PAIR ALMOST INSTANTANEOUSLY. So, there would NOT be "action at a distance" but information legitimately transmitted at c, and received in the minimal distance/time, as nature would have it.

It is as if our "cigar space inhabitants", sent a light signal out as a directed beam in the direction along the tip, it would take "forever" to receive the signal on the opposite side. BUT, if they sent the beam in the direction along the band, it would arrive seemingly "instantaneously".

Perhaps it would also suggest that the expansion of the universe is just the undulation of this hyperellipsoid, where 3 expand and all the others contract with the volume of this immense hyperellipsoid remaining constant, thus the source of universal constants and conservation laws.

If there was a collapse, then the subsequent expansion could involve other axes than the ones with which we are familiar and yield an entirely strange universe with our familiar dimensions playing the role of the curled up hidden dimensions of that strange universe.

Ciao,

John D

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 8:03:31 PM PDT
D. G. Turner says:
Is there a single example of a scientifically testable explanation coming out of evolution for the anatomy, physiology or behavior of any organism whatsoever? Don't quote me the "party-line"; I know that evolution is used as an explanation for everything (see the other responses in favor of your argument below), but what does evolution predict. Because when it comes down to science, if it can't predict, what's it good for? Yes, we can use the framework of evolution to describe much around us, but what can we use evolution to predict (to say that living structures evolve isn't evidence of evolution, it is an attempt to define evolution)? For example, the devout evolutionist sees the similarity of DNA in a number of species as evidence of a common progenitor for all of the species. But, if we begin with an intelligent designer then all animals and plants have similar structures because a good designer would have developed an intelligent design and then re-used the same good design (in fact isn't that what all of the great artists have done, found a good design or idea and used it widely in a multitude of locales). So my question really comes down to this; what can evolution predict, not just see and explain but really predict? Even quantum mechanics with all of it's bizarre explanations still makes predictions that are not only testable but also falsifiable
It reminds me of an old story; an experimental physicist finishes a data set, plots the data and then walks into the office of the theoretical physicist and says, "Look what I've done." The theoretical physicist takes the data plot, studies it for a few moments and begins, "Well, this is exactly what we'd expect..." and continues on in his description of how this data perfectly fits his expectations and theory. Several minutes into the discussion, the experimental physicist looks at the plot, recognizes that the theoretical physicist has it upside down. So, he reaches over and flips it for the theoretical physicist and hands it back to him. The theoretician studies the data for a moment and begins again, "Well, this is exactly what we'd expect..." and launches off into a new explanation.
You see, you can't say that a theory explains anything until it can begin to predict and potentially be proven wrong before the outcome of the experiment is finished. That's the problem with evolution, it doesn't predict, it only is a framework in which an explanation can be formed.
I have no problem identifying ID as bad science, but so is evolution and for the exact same reason.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 8:17:56 PM PDT
Derek D. says:
DGT,

From Scientific American,
http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000D4FEC-7D5B-1D07-8E49809EC588EEDF&pageNumber=2&catID=2
The historical nature of macroevolutionary study involves inference from fossils and DNA rather than direct observation. Yet in the historical sciences (which include astronomy, geology and archaeology, as well as evolutionary biology), hypotheses can still be tested by checking whether they accord with physical evidence and whether they lead to verifiable predictions about future discoveries. For instance, evolution implies that between the earliest-known ancestors of humans (roughly five million years old) and the appearance of anatomically modern humans (about 100,000 years ago), one should find a succession of hominid creatures with features progressively less apelike and more modern, which is indeed what the fossil record shows. But one should not--and does not--find modern human fossils embedded in strata from the Jurassic period (144 million years ago). Evolutionary biology routinely makes predictions far more refined and precise than this, and researchers test them constantly.

Evolution could be disproved in other ways, too. If we could document the spontaneous generation of just one complex life-form from inanimate matter, then at least a few creatures seen in the fossil record might have originated this way. If superintelligent aliens appeared and claimed credit for creating life on earth (or even particular species), the purely evolutionary explanation would be cast in doubt. But no one has yet produced such evidence.

also,
http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA210.html
Evolution has been the basis of many predictions. For example:

Darwin predicted, based on homologies with African apes, that human ancestors arose in Africa. That prediction has been supported by fossil and genetic evidence (Ingman et al. 2000).
Theory predicted that organisms in heterogeneous and rapidly changing environments should have higher mutation rates. This has been found in the case of bacteria infecting the lungs of chronic cystic fibrosis patients (Oliver et al. 2000).
Predator-prey dynamics are altered in predictable ways by evolution of the prey (Yoshida et al. 2003).
Ernst Mayr predicted in 1954 that speciation should be accompanied with faster genetic evolution. A phylogenetic analysis has supported this prediction (Webster et al. 2003).
Several authors predicted characteristics of the ancestor of craniates. On the basis of a detailed study, they found the fossil Haikouella "fit these predictions closely" (Mallatt and Chen 2003).
Evolution predicts that different sets of character data should still give the same phylogenetic trees. This has been confirmed informally myriad times and quantitatively, with different protein sequences, by Penny et al. (1982).
Insect wings evolved from gills, with an intermediate stage of skimming on the water surface. Since the primitive surface-skimming condition is widespread among stoneflies, J. H. Marden predicted that stoneflies would likely retain other primitive traits, too. This prediction led to the discovery in stoneflies of functional hemocyanin, used for oxygen transport in other arthropods but never before found in insects (Hagner-Holler et al. 2004; Marden 2005).

With predictions such as these and others, evolution can be, and has been, put to practical use in areas such as drug discovery and avoidance of resistant pests.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 8:19:30 PM PDT
Derek D. says:
Also, evolution can be falsified:

There are many conceivable lines of evidence that could falsify evolution. For example:
a static fossil record;
true chimeras, that is, organisms that combined parts from several different and diverse lineages (such as mermaids and centaurs) and which are not explained by lateral gene transfer, which transfers relatively small amounts of DNA between lineages, or symbiosis, where two whole organisms come together;
a mechanism that would prevent mutations from accumulating;
observations of organisms being created.

This claim (not being able to be falsified), coming from creationists, is absurd, since almost all creationism is nothing more than (unsubstantiated) claims that evolution has been falsified.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:03:57 PM PDT
Deckard says:
D. G. Turner said: Is there a single example of a scientifically testable explanation coming out of evolution for the anatomy, physiology or behavior of any organism whatsoever?
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- Animals that have been determined to have recent common ancestors should share a large percentage of their DNA. This is true.

Don't quote me the "party-line"; I know that evolution is used as an explanation for everything (see the other responses in favor of your argument below), but what does evolution predict. Because when it comes down to science, if it can't predict, what's it good for? Yes, we can use the framework of evolution to describe much around us, but what can we use evolution to predict (to say that living structures evolve isn't evidence of evolution, it is an attempt to define evolution)? For example, the devout evolutionist sees the similarity of DNA in a number of species as evidence of a common progenitor for all of the species. But, if we begin with an intelligent designer then all animals and plants have similar structures because a good designer would have developed an intelligent design and then re-used the same good design (in fact isn't that what all of the great artists have done, found a good design or idea and used it widely in a multitude of locales).
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First of all, not all of the design is intelligent. The appendix? Wisdom teeth? The prostate? Your back?
Secondly, evolution explains the temporal relationships; ID does not. You see one species gradually being transformed into another.

So my question really comes down to this; what can evolution predict, not just see and explain but really predict? Even quantum mechanics with all of it's bizarre explanations still makes predictions that are not only testable but also falsifiable
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- DNA
- Temporal relationships

It reminds me of an old story; an experimental physicist finishes a data set, plots the data and then walks into the office of the theoretical physicist and says, "Look what I've done." The theoretical physicist takes the data plot, studies it for a few moments and begins, "Well, this is exactly what we'd expect..." and continues on in his description of how this data perfectly fits his expectations and theory. Several minutes into the discussion, the experimental physicist looks at the plot, recognizes that the theoretical physicist has it upside down. So, he reaches over and flips it for the theoretical physicist and hands it back to him. The theoretician studies the data for a moment and begins again, "Well, this is exactly what we'd expect..." and launches off into a new explanation.
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And when exactly did this happen?

You see, you can't say that a theory explains anything until it can begin to predict and potentially be proven wrong before the outcome of the experiment is finished. That's the problem with evolution, it doesn't predict, it only is a framework in which an explanation can be formed.
I have no problem identifying ID as bad science, but so is evolution and for the exact same reason.
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And just how much do you know about paleontology?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2007 9:11:52 PM PDT
Just wanted to add to all this: If it did turn out that there are problems insurmountable to evolution, why would ID be a good alternative? Most everyone agrees that evolution via natural selection is responsible for animals changing. Questions of speciation, complex adaptations, etc seem very hard. But surely new explanations that DON'T involve invoking a god are the first avenue of investigation for any scientist. Invoking a designer creates a real headache. Amongst the questions you need to ask:

- One designer or many?

- In real life a designer is usually of comparable (in fact usually much greater) complexity to that which was designed. So you get an infinite regress. I've never read of a compelling reason to believe that the gods are actually inifinitely simple beings who designed a universe infinitely more complex than themselves. Surely that flies in the face of believability far more than any probability arguments advanced to prove that evolution is counter-intuitive.

- What is the nature of the designer? Why did it design things as it did? Can we infer its desires from the design of nature and thus make testable scientific predictions about life?

-Has the designer created any new things (e.g. species) recently? If so what? If not, any idea why?

(I know the above questions are not original, but I've forgotten the stock IDer answers to them, so they can't have convinced me. I invite the IDers to answer these questions and convert me!)

Because of the enormity of these questions, it makes me suspicious that ID supporters tend to be monotheists when the chance of their particular deity being the designer seems ludicrously unlikely. If irreducible complexity is (somehow) proved (although it seems there are better ways to disprove evolution to me. I.R. can always be disputed) and the scientific community races madly to infer the nature of the designer by scientific observation, what do you think are the chances that the Christian god or any other will prove a good match?

Personally, I don't think scientists should feel guilty about rejecting designers as a possible answer to scientific questions. To say "God did it" is akin to giving up on the simplification and connection of natural phenomena which science achieves.

I think I understand the gap between the bewildering nature of the human condition/human experience and the naturalistic explanations of science, and the way that this gives rise to the desire for meaning supplied by religion. Science isn't going to dispel existential terror any time soon! But that doesn't make me want to introduce hazy concepts such as "designer" let alone gods into science. Science should aboslutely be about seeing how far we can get without such assumptions. If this process undermines your religious faith, then I think it's a problem with your faith, not the scientific process.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 1:44:37 AM PDT
Mary Endress says:
"If irreducible complexity is (somehow) proved (although it seems there are better ways to disprove evolution to me. I.R. can always be disputed) and the scientific community races madly to infer the nature of the designer by scientific observation, what do you think are the chances that the Christian god or any other will prove a good match?"

Although, as a scientist, one needs to keep an open mind about these things, I must admit, that I find the Flying Spaghetti Monster really appealing in a number of ways. He has oodles of charisma (not to mention big meat balls), and I would have to watch that I didn't favor him over the others.

Mary

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 9:59:52 AM PDT
Don says:
C.Blanchard:

Let's assuming for now that there is no supernatural order of existence. Based on evolutionary theory alone, what is then the explanation for ethics and morality? What compels a person to sometimes die for another, even for a stranger? Why should a person act ever against his own best interest (and minimize or eliminate his chances to live and recreate)? What other animals exhibit a system of ethics that is not based solely on survival? Why do 90 percent of people say they believe in an afterlife?

I don't think there's an answer for these questions in the TOE but I am willing to listen and learn.

I see no explanation for this behavior in the TOE. Indeed, if the TOE explains everything about mankind what criteria would be appropriate for ethics and morality, on what principles would they be based? What TOE biological imperative would then drive our ethical system? Why?

In addition, what about free will? If man has free will, what good does it do him (based on the TOE). Can animals be said to have free will? Does biology or the TOE speculate on that at all?

I'll also answer your two questions in your post not for QB but for myself:

1) I don't believe that biological life must, necessarily, be similar to a computer program. Indeed, for mankind, we are not automata and a computer or computer program is a deterministic finite-state automata but man has free will, I don't think a robot will ever be designed that has free will.

Computer simulations, however, are now being extensively used to simulate the process of evolution (by inheritable mutations and natural selection) and are perfect for that task, if that was the motivation for your question. Simultations, however, are based on the algorithms programmed and are not perfect or to put it another way, they are as perfect as the science that goes into the program.

2) I personally "want" the TOE to be true. I'd rather not put in the effort to learn about whatever theory takes it's place.

Thanks,

Don

PS: Are there studies in science of Biology on the subjects of free will and ethics?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 10:15:30 AM PDT
"Let's assuming for now that there is no supernatural order of existence. Based on evolutionary theory alone, what is then the explanation for ethics and morality?"

In a word: survival. Groups can work together, pooling their resources and cooporating for mutual benefit. We are all the descendents of billions of years of survivors; one of the ways we primates have survived is by being social animals, so we are biased towards empathy and the formation of social hieararchies.

"What compels a person to sometimes die for another, even for a stranger?"

See above.

"Why should a person act ever against his own best interest (and minimize or eliminate his chances to live and recreate)?"

Because group survival can sometimes take precedence over individual survival. If your group loses the occasional individual in exchange for enhanced survival of the group, that's a survival advantage for your DNA. As the saying goes, "A chicken is an egg's way of making more eggs."

"What other animals exhibit a system of ethics that is not based solely on survival?"

Who says ours isn't, even if "survival", or that which survives, are abstract entities?

"Why do 90 percent of people say they believe in an afterlife?"

There's quite a bit of debate on that... but the fact that many people believe something doesn't really say anything about whether or not that something actually exists.

"I don't think there's an answer for these questions in the TOE but I am willing to listen and learn."

Well, some of the answers are there, maybe...

"I see no explanation for this behavior in the TOE. Indeed, if the TOE explains everything about mankind..."

Whoever said or implied that "the theory of evolution explains everything about mankind" ? I've never heard that claimed by anyone.

"... what criteria would be appropriate for ethics and morality, on what principles would they be based?"

That's a whole different discussion.

"What TOE biological imperative would then drive our ethical system? Why?"

Survival... but that survival could be "survival of a set of ideas" or "survival of a culture" or ...

"In addition, what about free will?"

In my opinion, the concept of "free will" is so vague as to be useless. People make lots of (IMO unwarranted) assumptions as to what, exactly, has "will", and in what ways, exactly that "will" could be said to be "free."

"If man has free will, what good does it do him (based on the TOE)."

It may have nothing whatsoever to do with the theory of evolution... assuming "free will" actually exists.

"Can animals be said to have free will?"

If we do, they do, since we are animals, too.

"Does biology or the TOE speculate on that at all?"

:) There's lots of speculation.

"1) I don't believe that biological life must, necessarily, be similar to a computer program."

I don't either... but is what you're trying to really say something more along the lines of "Are human minds deterministic?" ?

"Indeed, for mankind, we are not automata and a computer or computer program is a deterministic finite-state automata but man has free will, I don't think a robot will ever be designed that has free will."

How do you know humans have free will?

Human brains are made of matter. What's to stop a different assemblage of matter from having the "free will" that humans have?

"Computer simulations, however, are now being extensively used to simulate the process of evolution (by inheritable mutations and natural selection) and are perfect for that task, if that was the motivation for your question."

Yep... they are very cool.

"Simultations, however, are based on the algorithms programmed and are not perfect or to put it another way, they are as perfect as the science that goes into the program. "

What does perfection have to do with anything?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 10:31:54 AM PDT
Smokey says:
Don asked:
"What other animals exhibit a system of ethics that is not based solely on survival?"

Lots. For an extreme case, look at salmon. Your problem is that you aren't realizing that natural selection is based on reproduction, not just survival. When you realize this, many more things make sense.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 11:47:19 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2007 12:14:55 PM PDT
Don says:
Smokey, You're right, I should have said reproduction.

Michael:
"What does perfection have to do with anything?" Nothing! I never said it did. I had said "they are as perfect as the science that goes into the program." May I add "or as imperfect." or perhaps "no more or no less".

Picky you are, eh?

"Human brains are made of matter. What's to stop a different assemblage of matter from having the "free will" that humans have? " Nothing! But it would have to have some non-deterministic parts. Maybe the human brain is not the entire explanation for man's free will if the parts are all deterministic or maybe there are non-deterministic parts of the brain. If so, then we'll never know how the brain works.

Current computers are composed of "very" [I know "very" is redundant] deterministic parts called "nor" or "nand" gates. Computer programs are algorithms that tell a computer exactly what to do. If all of the parts are deterministic the whole can't be otherwise. I was in the business of computer design, that, at least, I know about.

I know I have free will because I've freely done really stupid things, that can't be otherwise explained, not by my best interests, and not even by group survival or anything you mentioned [or by reproduction imperatives - another set of stupid things altogether]. I don't know if others have free will or not. I assume most people freely do some stupid things at times and, by extension, have free will. Some people don't have free will because they're insane.

You said, "In my opinion, the concept of "free will" is so vague as to be useless." Then we'll need to revise our legal system, it's based on the concept that everyone has free will, that is that they freely do illegal things. Are you an advocate for change?

I don't think individual or group survival [or reproduction]explains our system of ethics or morality, or even the "survival of a set of ideas" you threw in. We can agree to disagree on that. There are some people, however, that don't give a darn about the survival of the group, a set of ideas, or the culture, or their kids, so it's not a universal and, therefore, not a heritable characteristic. The group survival explanation and the others are a big stretch.

Don

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 12:57:03 PM PDT
"Picky you are, eh?"

:) Just trying to get the details right...

Me: "Human brains are made of matter. What's to stop a different assemblage of matter from having the "free will" that humans have? "

Don: "Nothing! But it would have to have some non-deterministic parts. Maybe the human brain is not the entire explanation for man's free will if the parts are all deterministic or maybe there are non-deterministic parts of the brain. If so, then we'll never know how the brain works."

I don't see how that follows. FWIW, my tentative position is that human brains are deterministic, but are so complex that the simplest description of a brain is that very brain, and any simulation you did would quickly diverge from the original. So, while brains are *technically* deterministic, they are, for all practical purposes, *effectively* non-deterministic, since there is no way, even in principle, of predicting what a particular brain will do.

Don: "Current computers are composed of "very" [I know "very" is redundant] deterministic parts called "nor" or "nand" gates."

Not exactly, but close enough... you can create a Von Neumann architecture computer using just NAND gates.

"Computer programs are algorithms that tell a computer exactly what to do. If all of the parts are deterministic the whole can't be otherwise."

I'm not sure I agree... if I created a simulation of your, one which simulated the activity of every single neuron in exacting detail, and I have that simulation the same inputs that your brian gets, I'd expect that simulation to insist, in all sincerity, "What are you talking about?!? Of course I'm Don!"

And, IMO, the simulation would be right to do so. I lack a belief in the existence of souls, spirits, or any other such component of human consciousness.

"I know I have free will because I've freely done really stupid things, that can't be otherwise explained, not by my best interests, and not even by group survival or anything you mentioned [or by reproduction imperatives - another set of stupid things altogether]."

Maybe the "this was really stupid" explanation of what you did was an after-the-fact story your consciousness composed to explain the determistic action your "lower level" brain structures did without conscious instigation. They've done brain activity studies, and noted brain activity to, say, move an arm that began *before* the person claimed to have decided to move their arm... their "free will" came after then action they supposedly freely chose to perform.

Me: "In my opinion, the concept of "free will" is so vague as to be useless."

Don: "Then we'll need to revise our legal system, it's based on the concept that everyone has free will, that is that they freely do illegal things. Are you an advocate for change?"

We're technically deterministic, effectively non-deterministic, but yes, our legal system is arranged around the assumption that each of us has some homonculous sitting in our skulls, figuratively pressing buttons and pulling levers to make our bodies do what they do. I don't think humans work that way at all. We should be able to deal with situations in which the functioning of our nervous systems was altered by chemicals, disease, etc.

" don't think individual or group survival [or reproduction]explains our system of ethics or morality, or even the "survival of a set of ideas" you threw in. We can agree to disagree on that."

I guess so.

"here are some people, however, that don't give a darn about the survival of the group, a set of ideas, or the culture, or their kids, so it's not a universal and, therefore, not a heritable characteristic."

Your reasoning is based on a false premise, that genetic components which influence behavior are simple on-off switches that either don't exist or are "on" and exactly the same for each and every human. That's not how genetics works. Heritable characteristics aren't expressed the same way in every individual... epigenetics plays a big role here. You can have two people with exactly the same genetics, but with different expressions of those genes.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 10, 2007 1:52:27 PM PDT
Don says:
Michael:
Thanks for your reply. You said:

"Don: 'Current computers are composed of "very" [I know "very" is redundant] deterministic parts called "nor" or "nand" gates.'

Not exactly, but close enough... you can create a Von Neumann architecture computer using just NAND gates."

Yes, exactly! The "or" in my "nor or nand" above can be considered either exclusive or inclusive and my original statement is still exactly correct. You can use just nor gates, just nand gates or both nor and nand gates. I guess I should not also be picky but what the heck since we want to be exact. This is my field.

I don't think I ever specifically discussed simulating the human brain. I agree it is currently not a viable task. An automata, however, human or computer, is either deterministic or non-deterministic, it can't be "effectively non-deterministic". I do agree with you, however, that the human brain even if deterministic is very complex and is currently impractical to simulate. Who knows enough now to say what will be possible in the future.

I'll take your word for it on heritable characteristics. This is not my field.

I still think the Biological study of free will would be very interesting indeed. I don't think it will be an easy study.

We disagree on the basis or cause of mankind's ethical systems but there's nothing, I think, either of us can say that would convince the other. But, thank you for the discussion.

Best Regards,

Don
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