Puzzling over theory

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On Saturday, I gave a talk to the Minnesota Atheists on a bit of the evidence for evolutionary history. In one part of the talk, I gave an analogy for what biologists do, and I thought I'd expand on it a little bit here.

A theory is a powerful thing, a tool for interpreting observations and experiments, and the way to assess the utility of a theory is to examine how well it explains the available facts, whether it suggests new experiments and leads to new insights, and whether it contradicts any of the evidence. What we do with a theory like evolution is use it to interpret and assemble what we see into a coherent whole. The process is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle.

Continue reading "Puzzling over theory" (on Pharyngula)

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On Sunday, there was a letter in the New York Times from Ahren Sadoff, Professor of Physics at Cornell University.

I wrote to him in reply:

You (Dr Sadoff) wrote:

“The crucial criterion for any scientific theory is that it must make testable predictions (not “post”-dictions). Would the proponents of intelligent design please tell us what are the testable predictions of their “theory”?”

Congratulations on getting a letter published in the NYT!

I’ve been trying without sucess for many years.

There is no one “theory of evolution”.

Evolution is a process. Living things change over time. The organisms of the present and the adaptations, structures and processes that they display have changed over time. They are different from the past. Evolution is as much a fact as “the sky is blue”.

On the other hand, neo-darwinism (the “modern synthesis”), the notion that evolution is the accumulation of random, accidental mutations filtered by natural selection, is a mechanism. While mutations do occur, and natural selection is a real phenomenon that no thinking person questions, what is absent is any kind of nexus linking the trivial effects of mutation and natural selection to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, adaptations and systems.

I am not a religious creationist, and I have no religious agenda. I have been an agnostic my whole life. I am a scientist with advanced degrees and years of experience teaching science and supporting the scientific method. Intelligent design is a perfectly plausible mechanism for evolution and falls nicely within the domain of legitimate science. Unfortunately, it’s consideration has been hijacked by religious creationists to promote their own religious agenda.

As Feynman said: ““God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you’re taking away from God; you don’t need him anymore”. I’m confident that at some time in the future we will discover how evolution works and that this explanation will move the discussion squarely into the realm of science.

All one has to do is examine the various systems, structures (try molecular motors) and processes that make up functional, living organisms and one would be hard pressed to explain these phenomena using nothing more than random, accidental, unguided events as claimed by evolutionists (darwinists in particular). That there is an intelligent input involved appears to me to be self-evident.

Now I’m not claiming the existence of God. Only an intelligence higher than human or some as yet to be discovered “first principle”. But one does not have to identify this entity before one accepts the inadequacy of the darwinian paradigm.

My position is simple: Accept evolution as a process and reject darwinism as a mechanism.

The “modern synthesis” is slowly being superceeded by new understandings in embryology and genetics sometimes referred to as “evo-devo”. Just as development of an organism is guided by a computer algorithm in the genome, so evolution most likely is the unfolding of a similar computer algorithm that functions on a population level, rather than the organism level. What we refer to as “evolution” is most likely the unfolding of this program that was already present at the time that the first life forms arrived on earth from elsewhere. And most likely, just as a mature organism has run it’s program to it’s conclusion after its development is complete, so the evolutionary algorithm has most likely also run it’s course and what we see today is primarily extinction and diversity within existing groups.

http://www.charliewagner.com http://enigma.charliewagner.com http://www.charliewagner.com/casefor.htm

Charles Wagner Lahaina, HI 96767 [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Here is Dr. Sadoff’s complete letter, followed by more commentary:

To the Editor:

Re “Dangling Particles” (Op-Ed, Sept. 18):

Lisa Randall, in her discussion about evolution, may have inadvertently opened the door to the creationists when she says that “evolution is by no means a complete theory.”

One of the favorite ploys by the creationists has been to claim that evolution is only a theory that has not been proved. Of course, anyone with a basic knowledge of scientific methodology would know that no theory can ever be proved since it must always be subject to experimental verification.

The crucial criterion for any scientific theory is that it must make testable predictions (not “post”-dictions). Would the proponents of intelligent design please tell us what are the testable predictions of their “theory”?

Ahren Sadoff Ithaca, N.Y., Sept. 19, 2005 The writer is a professor of physics at Cornell University.

What Dr. Sadoff fails to see is that evolutionary theory, neo-darwinism specifically, suffers from the same shortcomings as intelligent design theory. It is not testable, and therefore falls outside the realm of science. There are genetic mechanisms that can be tested, there are mutational mechanisms that can be tested, there are molecular mechanisms that can be isolated and verified, there are ways to demonstrate and prove that natural selection is a real phenomenon. But some scientists try to claim that the sciences of genetics, molecular biology, population genetics, etc. somehow add up to a defense of neo-darwinism and somehow they weave their theory from these related sciences. But they fail to make the most important connection of all: establishing a connection between these defensible and testable scientific principles and the absurd notion that neo-darwinism is the mechanism of evolution.

I’ve been hanging around for a lot of years, and I have never once seen the claim that “neo-darwinism is the mechanism of evolution”. I’ve never seen the claim that “neo-darwinism” is a mechanism at all. WTF is that supposed to mean?

RBH

What is it with this American propensity for adding -ism to everything? Darwinism? WTF is Darwinism? WTF is neo-Darwinism? Used by the likes of CW it would appear to infer some sort of rigid belief system. Which I guess makes it a convenient straw man come whipping boy to argue against or beat up. Unfortunately this caricature bears no resemblance to reality.

Get with the picture CW. Neo-Darinism isn’t proposed as a mechanism!

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

On the other hand, neo-darwinism (the “modern synthesis”), the notion that evolution is the accumulation of random, accidental mutations filtered by natural selection, is a mechanism. While mutations do occur, and natural selection is a real phenomenon that no thinking person questions, what is absent is any kind of nexus linking the trivial effects of mutation and natural selection to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, adaptations and systems.

Is that you Bevets?

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

On the other hand, neo-darwinism (the “modern synthesis”), the notion that evolution is the accumulation of random, accidental mutations filtered by natural selection, is a mechanism. While mutations do occur, and natural selection is a real phenomenon that no thinking person questions, what is absent is any kind of nexus linking the trivial effects of mutation and natural selection to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, adaptations and systems.

Is that you Bevets?

No, it’s actually Charlie Wagner. You can tell it’s him by phrases like “accidental, random mutations” which is sometimes “accidental, random, fortuitous mutations”. Anyone who is familiar with real science can detect him by the excess of hand waving.

The possibility that Charles “Chuckie” Wagner does indeed possess “advanced degrees and years of experience teaching” as he claims is one of the reasons that I am completely unimpressed when someone refers to such-and-such’s titles and degrees: without seeing the context and direction of the alleged (but licensed!) education it only means the person wasn’t all THAT stupid. The situation is very like hearing someone whisper that such-and-such “made a bundle in doo-dad speculation and futures.” I’ll wait a bit and hear what evidence of creativity, insight, humanism, compassion, raw intelligence, humor, etc. exists before crediting such people with having actually achieved something. I mean, I don’t count it against them, but letters after a perfectly good name are as useless as showing me a fat wallet, (unless I plan to stick ‘em with the check.)

In “Big” C.W.’s case, we’ve seen ample evidence on P’sT (on the scale of D. Parton’s bust) that he is a silly, very tiresome, often dishonest, entirely humorless, self-inflating, crank, whatever skills he may (or may not) have in other areas (though, if he actually IS teaching young people “science” as he display his knowledge of it here, may the Goddess save them!)

I think I’ve seen Charlie Wagner promoting something referred to as “Nelson’s Law” before, which is just a rehash of the classic Second Law of Thermodynamics argument. He seems to believe that by renaming it and calling it a “Law” it somehow becomes valid again.

From http://www.haloscan.com/comments/se[…]19508715840/ At any rate, we observe an increase in biological organization starting from the first primitive cells and progressing up to the present state of the biosphere. Nelson’s Law clearly states that this kind of increase in organization cannot occur without intelligent input or guidance from the outside

Simply creating a ‘Law’ that states something you believe, and then referring to it, is utterly irrelevant. I wonder if Charlie has ever seen a snowflake, that amazing increase in organisation that is obviously guided by a higher intelligence?

Nelson’s Law? I did a google, straight and in parentheses, and I found out a lot about people named Nelson, especially lawyers named Nelson and Nelson Mandella, but nothing about “Nelson’s Law.”

lol Moses, I saw him refer to Nelson’s Law on (I seem to recall) another PT post: it took me quite a while to find any sort of definition of what it was due to exactly the problem you describe, so I thought it worth posting the link in case he randomly mentioned it again ;)

Incidentally, I recently formulated the “Hot Dirty Sex” Law that categorically proves that evolution is impossible. I’m not going to describe what it is, though, as you should be able to do your own research on Google ;)

Are you really that dense, Charlie?

Dr. Sadoff Wrote:

Would the proponents of intelligent design please tell us what are the testable predictions of their “theory”?

In your response, you claim:

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

I am a scientist with advanced degrees and years of experience teaching science and supporting the scientific method. Intelligent design is a perfectly plausible mechanism for evolution and falls nicely within the domain of legitimate science.

Great! So we can expect your letter to list at least one testable scientific prediction of ID, right?

Well let’s see. There’s this:

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

All one has to do is examine the various systems, structures (try molecular motors) and processes that make up functional, living organisms and one would be hard pressed to explain these phenomena using nothing more than random, accidental, unguided events as claimed by evolutionists (darwinists in particular). That there is an intelligent input involved appears to me to be self-evident.

Um, Charlie? ‘Appears self-evident to you’ is not a prediction. It’s not scientific evidence of any sort. But you know that, right? With your advanced degrees and your years of experience? The predictions must be in this next bit:

Charlie Wagner Wrote:

Just as development of an organism is guided by a computer algorithm in the genome, so evolution most likely is the unfolding of a similar computer algorithm that functions on a population level, rather than the organism level. What we refer to as “evolution” is most likely the unfolding of this program that was already present at the time that the first life forms arrived on earth from elsewhere. And most likely, just as a mature organism has run it’s program to it’s conclusion after its development is complete, so the evolutionary algorithm has most likely also run it’s course and what we see today is primarily extinction and diversity within existing groups.[emphasis added]

Are those your “testable predictions” Charlie? They don’t look much like predictions to me. Saying a bunch of stuff is “most likely” true (but maybe not!) hardly qualifies as making predictions.

Even if we’re feeling really charitable, and agree those are (most likely) your predictions, how, exactly, are they testable?

If that letter is an example of your experience and understanding of the scientific method, then I feel truly sorry for anyone who was/is your student.

Dear Charlie Wagner: Since you already possess advanced degrees, perhaps now you may spend some time on learning the difference between “its” and “it’s.” Thank you and good luck.

Dr. Sadoff wrote:

“Would the proponents of intelligent design please tell us what are the testable predictions of their “theory”?”

Intelligent design makes one major prediction: that any system which is intelligently designed will display the “signature” of intelligence. This is a clear and unambiguous constellation of attributes that are known to be found only in intelligently designed systems. These attributes can be collectively referred to as “intent” or “purpose”. Intent (or purpose) is a quality that flows directly from intelligence, and never from random processes. More specifically, intent is characterized by some or all of the following attributes: 1. multiple structures 2. multiple processes 3. structures that support the functions of other structures. 4. processes that support the functions of other processes. 5. Structures that support processes and processes that support structures. 6. organization in which the structures and processes are integrated in such a way that they support the function of the system. It is predicted that any system that displays this constellation of attributes is the result of intelligent design. We can test this prediction by looking at examples of such systems and determining their origin. All such systems whose origins can be determined are seen to be the product of intelligence.

I would like to comment on two things here. One, when Wagner states, “At any rate, we observe an increase in biological organization starting from the first primitive cells and progressing up to the present state of the biosphere. Nelson’s Law clearly states that this kind of increase in organization cannot occur without intelligent input or guidance from the outside.” Now, doesn’t the Benard cell experiment actually show that this kind of organization actually does occur.

This is what I don’t understand about IDists. They know that the theories of self-organization and emergence posit a great deal of harm against their ideas. However, they are not able to understand it correctly. Dembski, in NFL, seems to think that the Benard experiment occurs, but we know it does by a specifiable causal network, namely heat. However, heat is not a causal source, but heat changes the conditions of the cells enviornment. Heat does not create organization, it simply makes it possible.

Secondly, when Wagner states, “Just as development of an organism is guided by a computer algorithm in the genome, so evolution most likely is the unfolding of a similar computer algorithm that functions on a population level, rather than the organism level. What we refer to as “evolution” is most likely the unfolding of this program that was already present at the time that the first life forms arrived on earth from elsewhere,” he forgets one thing, the entire scientific community does not think that organisms are embedded with bits of computer programs. Algorithms may be an excellent way to describe processes, but this by no means that the processess are algorithms.

There is a huge problem with the idea of algorithms being computed by an organism. The idea of computation presupposes the idea that the organism and the enviornment are already separate at the beginning. Thus, the information for the organism must be calculated in order to stay in touch with the environment. However, if this idea of dualism is neglected and we see that information is not only in the organism, but information specifies both]/b] the organism and the environment at the [b]same time, then no computation is necessary. The organism, pre-linguistically, is already embedded with the flow of information. It simply picks up information that is already available. There is no algorithm that tells organisms that something is food. The food is already specifiable in relation to the organism. They simply presuppose a mindful agent in order to explain the intelligence.

Brian

re: the actual topic of this post -

It seems to me that the jigsaw puzzle analogy is problematic. Is theory ever read off the data in this way. Isn’t the theory given, more or less, independently of the data (Einstein’s theory of special relativity would be the exemplar; i.e., Einstein seems to have asked, “What if the speed of light is constant come what may,” and then compared that postulate with the data).

Obviously, no theory can be completely independent of data (every theory is “fact-laden” Kuhn tells us), but it seems that, for the most part, theory precedes the search for data. And armed with the theory, we set out in search of a puzzle piece (or combination of pieces) with a particular shape and color pattern, etc.

Charlie Wagner: This is a clear and unambiguous constellation of attributes

If the attributes are clear and unambiguous, then why is intent characterised by some or all of these attributes. How many are required in order to guarantee intelligent design, and are others more important than others? How did you determine that these are the attributes associated with something being designed, and that this has direct relevance to biological systems?

I’m fairly sure you could say that weather systems satisfy all of the above criteria: where’s the theory of “Intelligent Raining”? Conversely, I have a paperweight on my desk that satisfies none of those criteria, but I’m fairly sure it isn’t naturally occurring. I think it’s safe to assume that you’d agree with me on that it was, in fact, designed.

Integrating this into your theory (if I may), it means that intelligently designed systems may contain none, some, or all of the attributes you describe. Also, systems produced by natural causes may also manifest none, some or all of those qualities.

I’m not sure whether that works so well as a method of discrimination, to be honest.

Even if you believe that adding the ‘matches none of the criteria’ results in a strawman argument, the fact that known natural systems can also produce results matching all of your attributes still exposes deep-seated flaws.

Why is it that so often people who oppose evolutionary science seem to be largely unfamiliar with the theory itself? Charlie’s suggestions indicate to me that he has not read many evolutionary science papers or he would realize how his own questions are being addressed by the theory.

First Heddle comes back with the same junk, now Charlie Wagner? Are we in reruns here at PT? Come on creationists, it’s fall, time for the new season.

To those new at the PT that don’t know Charlie Wagner (CW)here is a basic run down of his beliefs…if you want me to provide links to his posts that confirm this I can.

1) CW believes that all terrestrial life was created and seeded by alians. 2) CW believes these alians are not supernatural. 3) CW believes these alians do not come from outside our universe. 4) CW believes these alians can not travel outside our universe. 5) CW believes these alians have always exsisted and thus avoids the infinate regress. 6) CW believes no intelligence can ever create something more intelligent then itself 7) CW believes that all genetic information was preloaded onto the first life forms seeded on Earth 8) CW believes that the universe is infinately old

Ok, so CW believes terrestrial life is seeded from space alians. Something I can’t say didn’t happen but here are some basic flaws of CW’s idea

Some comsological model do technically suggest a infinately old universe but the problem is that it is not a infinately old universe where life could always exist. We use the age of about 14 billion years as measurement but the time of singularity could have been infinately old as time at that point had different context. This is one explanation for why the universe is so uniform. So his alians “always being” is fundamentally flawed from all the current cosmological models.

As DrFrank points out his arguement of “multiple structures and multiple functions blah blah blah” is also flawed. There are plenty of intelligently designed items that don’t have any of these. There are also plenty of items that are not “intelligently designed” that have these traits. He’s been shown plenty of examples on both side such as a pin to circuts created completely from genetic algorithms (GA). He, and others nut cases will make arguements that electronics are man made and the GAs are also man made and that we artifically guide the development of the circuts. The point he ignores is that while we may define a fitness function for a circut we do not design the circut at all. To boot I could create a GA to create a circut that I don’t even know what it does simply by randomising what the fitness function is. So in the end I’d have a circut that by his definition would be “intelligently designed” but nothing about it was designed.

Brian wrote:

“Benard cell experiment actually show that this kind of organization actually does occur.”

There is no increase in organization in the Benard Cell experiment. There is, however an increase in order. I’ve discussed the differences between order and organization on many occassions and I refer you to my online paper for further clarification: http://www.charliewagner.com/casefor.htm

I’ve also stated on many occassions that order can arise from random processes in natural systems and so can complexity. Organization (as I have described in the previous post) cannot. Insofar as algorithms are concerned, it may be useful to revisit the metaphor that I described earlier between a developmental algorithm and an evolutionary algorithm. The developing organism does not “compute” the algorithm for its development, it’s already there. As the organism develops, it interacts and is modified by its environment until a homeostasis is achieved between its inherited components and its available resources.

See Brian? Complexity can arise without an Intelligent Designer, but Organization can’t. Don’t you feel stupid?

Wayne, I’m sure there’s some reason you don’t use a spell check. What is it? Are you using a text-to-speech device?

Dr Frank wrote:

“How many are required in order to guarantee intelligent design, and are others more important than others?”

In order to guarantee intelligent design, all are required. Fewer may suggest intelligent design but do not guarantee it. Take for example Michaelangelo’s “David”. It has None of these attributes, yet it was intelligently designed.

“How did you determine that these are the attributes associated with something being designed, and that this has direct relevance to biological systems?”

By examining systems that are known to be intelligently designed. An analogy is then proposed between the attributes of intelligently designed systems (machines) and living organisms, which are biochemical machines.

“I’m fairly sure you could say that weather systems satisfy all of the above criteria: “

Weather systems satisfy none of the criteria for intelligently designed systems. They are purely random phenomona, subject to natural physical principles and chaos theory.

“the fact that known natural systems can also produce results matching all of your attributes still exposes deep-seated flaws.”

There are no known natural systems that produce results that match all of the attributes of intelligently designed systems. Hence, there are no flaws in the reasoning.

steve wrote:

“First Heddle comes back with the same junk, now Charlie Wagner? Are we in reruns here at PT? Come on creationists, it’s fall, time for the new season.”

I wasn’t ignoring you, steve. I’ve had a run of bad luck with respect to my health. In March, I had heart failure and a bypass and in August I had kidney failure. Fortunately, the kidney failure was the result of clogged renal arteries and long-standing renal stenosis, conditions that can be corrected. I had stents placed in my renal arteries and I’m happy to report that I’m now better than I have been in years. I’m actually looking fowrad now to living long enough to see my theories vindicated and my views accepted by others. Each day, each new discovery brings me a little closer. If you want to stay ahead of the curve and not be bogged down in stale, obsolete thinking, you would be smart to abandon neo-darwinism and look for a better mechanism.

Charlie, you know I think you are a bit of a cretin, but I’m very sorry to hear that. No matter how good your current prognosis is, though, I guarantee you that you won’t live to see your ideas vindicated–I strongly suggest that you seek satisfaction in other venues, like your grandchildren or good music or sunny days at the beach.

It seems to me that the jigsaw puzzle analogy is problematic. Is theory ever read off the data in this way. Isn’t the theory given, more or less, independently of the data (Einstein’s theory of special relativity would be the exemplar; i.e., Einstein seems to have asked, “What if the speed of light is constant come what may,” and then compared that postulate with the data).

Obviously, no theory can be completely independent of data (every theory is “fact-laden” Kuhn tells us), but it seems that, for the most part, theory precedes the search for data. And armed with the theory, we set out in search of a puzzle piece (or combination of pieces) with a particular shape and color pattern, etc.

While the Theory of Relativity is indeed the product of an inspired set of axioms (which were, however, prompted by the Michelson-Morley experiment), there are many cases where the facts accumulated before the theory came around. Quantum Mechanics would be one case.

Syntax Error: not well-formed (invalid token) at line 1, column 54, byte 54 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Man, that editor is vicious. A one-character typo and you lose everything you wrote permanently. Yeah, I should preview. Nonetheless, the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Spending one’s last days repeating crank nonsense is not the way to go. Nelson’s Flaw is handwaving garbage. Use your newfound health to do important things.

In all seriousness, Charlie, use your last years on something where’ll you have something to show for your efforts. Don’t spend your last years frustrated and angry in front of a computer screen. Aside from this thing you have about ‘neo-Darwinism’, you don’t seem like a bad person. Give your grandchildren some nice memories of you.

What bothers me about you Charlie (and I second or third the hope that you will spend your remaining time (decades, I trust) deriving satisfaction from actually meaningful and true things) is that you apparently don’t bother to read your own material.

You claimed the following guaranteed intelligent design:

1. multiple structures 2. multiple processes 3. structures that support the functions of other structures. 4. processes that support the functions of other processes. 5. Structures that support processes and processes that support structures. 6. organization in which the structures and processes are integrated in such a way that they support the function of the system. It is predicted that any system that displays this constellation of attributes is the result of intelligent design. We can test this prediction by looking at examples of such systems and determining their origin. All such systems whose origins can be determined are seen to be the product of intelligence.

A storm system has

a) multiple structures (multiple indiviual storms, thermal boundaries, lightning (for example)

b) multiple processes (evaporation, condensation, thermal transfer, etc.)

c) structures that support other structures (clouds that support lightning)

d) processes that support other processes (thermal transfer supports evaporation and condensation)

e) structures that support processes and processes that support structures (condensation that supports clouds, lightning strikes that support current flow) f) organization in which the structures and processes are integrated in such a way that they support the function of the system (yup. That would a storm system, whose function is to produce weather)

And a billiard ball possesses none of those characteristics, yet it is the product of intelligence.

I’ve read your web-site: you are incredibly confused about science, logic, and terminology.

Spend your life on something meaningful, not on this stercor.

Furthermore, Charlie’s not even proposing something as good as other ID ‘theories’. After all, Dembski believes his Explanatory Filter has neither false negatives nor false positives. Charlie admits his has false negatives. So if he thinks Dembski is correct, his own idea is pointless.

Maybe he believes that the evolutionists, And the IDers are wrong, and only his version is correct.

Nobody cares what you think, Charlie. (shrug)

I find the puzzle analogy to be sound, and I would like to suggest an additional idea:

Not only do IDers attempt to jimmy disparate puzzle pieces together in order to formulate what resembles a theory (or to show that a current valid theory makes no sense), but they pour in pieces from an altogether different–and unrelated in content–puzzle. Evolutionary biologists are assembling a huge puzzle, let’s say, of a fish. Much of it is complete, as evidenced by the contiguous areas of blue seawater and most of the fish itself. IDers come along and not only attempt to force upside-down (with cardboard showing) pieces into the puzzle, but they’ve introduced pieces from a puzzle of Jesus. These pieces are smaller, dustier, and they’re becoming de-laminated. This puzzle belongs in Sunday school…and should be kept at least five miles away from the fish puzzle at all times.

What always confused me (or should I say, what I see as the main downfall of ID) is that they use terms as “original function” in their ideas. For example, Behe’s mousetrap, the flagellum, etc. have to be interpreted in terms of their original function. However, doesn’t this have a hint of Platonic forms? Doesn’t an organism’s function depend on the environment that they are in? Identical parts in two different environments can have different functions.

In a paper that I am almost done writing, I use the example of an older sibling teaching his younger brother to use certain objects. However, the younger brother does not use the objects as he is told and the older brother can only state, “That’s not what that is for!” It seems as if ID proponents are telling nature what they can or cannot do.

The divide between organization and order is problematic. They only differ by degree, not type. A waterfall has organization (due to the laws of physics). Also, the capabilities between organisms are all organized and complex, but they differ (humans can act in diverse ways compared to bacteria). However, this is a matter of degree.

This disparity is seen in their idea of intelligence. What is intelligence? According to Dembski intelligence is choice. However, how can one choose? What ID assumes is that the mind occurs first. However, all research shows that intelligence is embodied. Foresight, planning, etc., is nothing more than information specifying more opportunities for action. However, as was noted above, information specifies both the environment and the organism.

It is apparent that what ID proponents call organization, information, complexity, are based on conceptual ideas; that is, Platonic ideals. However, if information is understood as non-conceptual objects, then the idea of a mind is not needed. For example, as light reflects off of a step, for a human it specifies the action walk-onable. However, for a dog, it may specify a a sleeping spot. In other words, all this talk about organization and complexity in the way that ID proponents sepak about is nonsense. Organization is how parts interact. Complexity is their order. The interaction of parts assumes a reductionistic position. The parts may be separate, but their function is not. They form a system which becomes stronger through constant interaction. The strength of the function, thus, evolves. Also, if two entities are specified by the same information, won’t they interact with each other. This may be how the system first arises. Information specifies the same capabilities. Thus, organization is only the result of similar capabilities.

Wagner claims that snowflakes and bicycles have different organizations. Snowflakes may occur without designers, but bikes cannot. However, the information specifies, in relation to the world, the ability to construct bikes. The laws of physics specifies the snowflakes. But specifiables are natural occurrences. If we understand what intelligence is, then we can see how such emergences are similar. Intelligence is not some higher, abstract, immaterial process. Intelligence is picking up information in the world. Humans numerous cabalities (consider doing calculus).

One final note. The distinction between types of algorithms Wagner gives is misleading. He still describes algorithms as instructions. But this linguistic anology would already assume knowledge of one’s environment. If one sees such and such event, do this. But this is too conceptually based to be taken seriously. As I noted above, information is already available in the environment. Information specifies a food source as well as the hungry organism. There is no internal instruction. The organism is guided by perceptual information. As Maturana and Varela state in Autopoiesis and Cognitive (paraphrased), when an organism acts (the non-conceptual part) there are no instructions that guide the organism, but rather the situation guides one based on the context. These contexts are not known beforehand. But organization still occurs because the environment is already informational. Thus, the problem for ID is the inability to recognize non-conceptual, environmental information where guidance can be accounted for without mental faculties. In fact, our abstract thought presupposes the non-conceptual.

All in all, the distinction between organization and order is lacking. To look into how physics describes organization, try out these papers listed below. Search for the Benard cell experiment, organization, autocatakinetic systems, and self-organization. And remember, ID must explain how information specifies both]/b] the environment [b]and the organism. Most scientists, I think, would claim that through ordering, organization occurs. Ordering allows organization to occur since new conditions arise. When a system becomes ordered it is up to the information to specify the capabilties and for the organisms to act and self-organize. This, I think, is the basis of Kauffman’s idea of how basic molecules were weak catalysts and, through that process, sprung weak autocatakinetic systems, which then gave way to strong autocatakinetic systems.

http://philosophyofscience.net/evolution1/ http://rodswenson.com/humaneco.pdf http://dennett.philosophyofscience.net/

Brian

Good morning Panda’s Thumb, I’ve been kept away from PT for several weeks because of computer problems and a great deal of excess work. The withdrawal shakes are getting pretty bad. But several days ago there was a letter in the local paper from a physics professor at UNC-Wilmington, and I’m using work time to tell you guys about it. The bathroom still hasn’t been fixed yet so I hope PZ Myers forgives me for choosing his thread as best.

Moorad Alexanian sent this letter to the Wilmington Star News. http://www.starnewsonline.com/apps/[…]1018/Letters

It is the fifth one down. I think the most galling thing is the apparent conclusion that evolutionary biology is not real science because it is “historical” and not “experimental”. Cosmology is certainly regarded as a real science but is no less historical. Or that evolution does not deserve educational edification because of its historicity. I think his physics superiority complex is showing. I have written a letter for the paper but they generally take two weeks to appear. If anyone would like to do the same, please do.

If you can’t access the Star News site: username = [Enable javascript to see this email address.] password = pandasthumb

Some of you may recognize Mr Alexanian as a signatory of the DI’s dissent from Darwin statement. For anyone who would like to write him directly his homepage is: http://www.uncw.edu/phy/fac-alexanian.html and he can be reached at [Enable javascript to see this email address.]

Sincerely, Paul Flocken

P.S. In preview mode the computer I am using did not show the email addresses, so I am writing them out longhand. Change “AT” to “@” and “DOT” to “.”. username = sfbrulesATcsDOTcom alexanianATuncwDOTedu

KiwiInOz Wrote:

What is it with this American propensity for adding -ism to everything?

It’s known as Ismism.

Firstly, I would like to express my appreciation to Charlie for concisely answering my queries without any handwaving :)

I think RG did a good job of expanding on my original argument for weather systems, which was handy as I’d forgotten about this thread lol.

Of course, meteorology is only a set of theories, and the predictions commonly made are much more unreliable than anything produced by evolution, so why are ID advocates so accepting that it occurs through purely natural laws?

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on September 25, 2005 7:55 PM.

The false choices of intelligent design was the previous entry in this blog.

A Brief History of the Minnesota Academic Standards in Science is the next entry in this blog.

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