Detecting design: Specification versus Likelihood

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This is a guest appearance of Mark Frank. It is his first appearance on the Panda’s Thumb. Mark Frank offers his take on the concepts of specification and design inference. In certain aspects Frank’s ideas seem to jibe with the appoach adopted by Elliott Sober, but also seem to add some substantive nuances.

The Intelligent Design (ID) movement proposes that it is possible to detect whether something has been designed by inspecting it, assessing whether it might have been produced by either necessity or chance alone, and, if the answer is negative, concluding it must have been designed. This means there is no need to make any commitments about the nature of the designer.

This approach relies heavily on the concept of specification. The proponents of ID have made various attempts to define specification. A recent attempt is in a paper written by William Dembski in 2005 which is clearly intended to supersede previous attempts. This essay examines this revised definition of specification and highlights some issues in Dembski’s paper. It also proposes that our intuitive understanding of when an outcome is implausible is much better explained by a comparison of the likelihoods of different hypotheses. Finally the essay considers some of Dembski’s objections to the comparison of likelihoods and Bayesian approaches in general.

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We keep getting told that the Dover (Kitzmiller) decison was the end of Intelligent Design. Judge Jones ruled that ID is just creationism in a cheap tuxedo. Yet physicist and regular contributor to Panda’s Thumb, Mark Perakh, is still strugglin... Read More

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This is a rather short article, but there’s some rather good parts in it.

I especially like the article’s offhanded observation that in Dembski’s much-loved Caputo example, Dembski violates one of the supposed basic premises of ID– that is, he uses specific known information about Caputo, the information that Caputo is a Democrat. Rather than proposing design and attempting to detect it, Dembski proposes a specific designer (specifically, a designer who is both corrupt and Democrat) and tests for signs of that known designer. Fun.

If anyone here has closely examined both, what exactly is the difference between “specification” in the 2005 paper and “specification” in the Design Inference? Is the central innovation this concept of defining specificational resources in terms of those patterns which are at least as simple and no more likely, but which the signal does not conform to? Or what?

It really seems like this “complex specified information” concept just gets more and more complicated every time Dembski publishes, yet the continually expanding definition of CSI never quite seems to cross the line into being objectively specified…

Good point. Since ID insist that ID cannot say anything about the designer and since they insist that ID can be inferred without making assumptions about the designer, ID will inevitably fail as it cannot constrain its ‘claims’. Unlike sciences such as criminology, archaeology etc which use means, motives, opportunity, eye witnesses and hard evidences to infer ‘design’, ID is left to infer design from our ignorance.

Funny that IDists imagine that no one has heard “Everything is obvious in retrospect.” All IDist who scream that their gunk isn’t taken seriously, should appreciate Mark Frank’s seriousness towards their dishonest twaddle

While we’re recapping the contradictory claims of ID, let’s not forget that we can apparently infer that the Designer is, in fact, Intelligent.

we can apparently infer that the Designer is, in fact, Intelligent.

According to whom?

If by, the standards of other imaginary designers? I think that particular projection shows not just a lack of imagination but a distinct lack of intelligence.

Which may explain why American Christian Fundamentalist’s imbue their putative idol and each other, with far more intelligence than they deserve.

…we can apparently infer that the Designer is, in fact, Intelligent.

As used here, intelligence is qualitative, not quantitative (clever, wise, knowledgable, etc.). Intelligence is shorthand for intelligent agency. Intelligent agency refers to a non-embodied, consciously aware, intentional being having contra-causal freedom. That being must be able to conceive of and initiate goal-directed change that runs counter to the natural (deterministic) flow of events. The postulate is supported by the identification of intentionality in the outcome. The article presents the challenge succinctly: is it possible to read an intention off of an outcome without making substantive additional assumptions concerning, as PvM insists, means, motives or opportunity?

That being must be able to conceive of and initiate goal-directed change that runs counter to the natural (deterministic) flow of events.

a) Determinism was pretty much obliterated by quantum mechanics

b) To the extent that the universe is deterministic, why should intelligence be less deterministic than any other part of it?

PvM Wrote:

Unlike sciences such as criminology, archaeology etc which use means, motives, opportunity, eye witnesses and hard evidences to infer ‘design’, ID is left to infer design from our ignorance.

Loved this. Further building on this: Criminology works with one element that is not in doubt - people. We’re quite sure, except perhaps in some paranoid fantasies, that there are other people there. People, in short, are a given.

Ergo, because there are people, and because people perform actions that can be measured, criminology can function by understanding the human element. It even allows one to try and differentiate between random/accidental and “Intelligently Designed” events because the human signatures are identifiable - since we know humans.

Intelligent Design assumes a designer, but does not seem too hot on providing evidence the designer exists, resorting to mathematical contortionisms or questioning other theories, while trying to extrapolate the behavior of a proposed non-human designer from human behavior.

I’ve often seen the ID critique that Darwin and others who study evolution made the “mistake” of not looking for supernatural explanations, and are thus biased - literally that he didn’to go looking for gaps and deciding they were ID-shaped. That’s roughly the equivalent of the mindset that you should always assume the possibility that every event in your life has someone besides yourself responsible for it.

Detecting design is easy, here’s a good place to look.

I’ve said it before, but the real issue in detecting intelligent design is detecting rational design, or rational specification. IDists try their best to avoid predictions about their “designer”, but surely “intelligent” implies rational capabilities. Just as we do, such an intelligent agent may make some designs which do not exhibit rational specifications in any obvious manner, however many, if not most, of the designs produced by intelligent agents will have at least some elements of rational design (a chaotic painting will typically be done upon a rationally-designed canvas).

Detection of alien intelligence typically relies upon rational specifications as well. Numbers relating to specific mathematical or physical characteristics of the universe are favorites for “design detection”. Any rational intelligent being would be expected to come up with prime numbers, to know the speed of light, etc. Complex rational designs incorporating straight lines and a knowledge of geometry (not crystalline geometric growths) also would give away design, at least so long as any such “rational design” could be known not to have been able to evolve organically.

Rational design is why simplicity would often exhibit intelligence more convincingly to us than would complexity. Not that alien productions would necessarily be simple, however the simple rationality that often exists in complex computer chips in order to reduce design complexity, as well as to bypass previously-existing difficulties, sets them apart from the complex adaptations found in organisms.

Why do IDists constantly avoid using rational design criteria to identify “design” in organisms? Obviously because it doesn’t exist in organisms.

Take the mitochondrian, for example. IDists like to claim that repair mechanisms for DNA indicate design. Of course they do not, since it is function that requires repair, not design. Aside from that, they fail to take account of the fact that mitochondria do not have most of the requisite repair mechanisms that are supposed to indicate “design”, and we pay in disease and aging in consequence of that fact.

What would be the rational design of mitochondrial DNA? Why, it is more than a little apparent that a rational designer, recognizing the problems that long-lived organisms substantially lacking in repair mechanisms for a crucial portion of their DNA would encounter, would either include the same or similar repair mechanisms into mitochondria, or would put all of the DNA into the nucleus (the tranfer of DNA from mitochondria into the nucleus under selective pressure is another evolutionary process that shows up in the “nesting hierarchies” of the clades).

It’s a classic non-rational aspect of eukaryotic cells, this odd mixture of nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, with the latter mutating far faster than the former. This is where we say once again that nothing in biology makes sense except in light of evolution, because the comparative lack of mDNA repair mechanisms simply agrees with the evidence for a symbiotic evolutionary event, while rational design explains exactly nothing about nuclear and mitochondrial repair differences.

It isn’t even so much that mitochondrial DNA is “badly designed”, even though in some ways it is. It is mainly that there is no rationality evident in mitochondrial and nuclear genetic differences. The circularity of the mitochondrion’s DNA, it’s lack of efficient repair mechanisms, and its use of n-formylmethionyl transfer RNA tells of derivation, but nothing about rational design of mitochondria.

IDists like to baptize certain aspects of organisms, like DNA-repair, as “design”. What they don’t care to consider is that the exceptions to their false criteria count against “design” even according to their own claims, and are explainable as exceptions in only one intelligent manner–as the result of evolution.

We detect intelligence when propositional information agrees with rational explanations and/or observations of phenomena. That is to say, if we find strings of consecutive large prime numbers (in an apparently propositional message), we suspect high level rationality, thus intelligence. Likewise, when people can make sense of mitochondria using evolutionary explanations (perhaps a non-symbiotic evolutionary explanation is possible, however we can be confident that design does not explain mitochondrial matters), we note that they are thinking intelligently. People who exclaim “intelligence” when they see derived and adapted organelles are, paradoxically, not thinking very intelligently (though one has to admit that the rational construction of “design theory” in the absence of convincing evidence is still a kind of intelligence).

We detect intelligence by comparing our rational capabilities with those of other organisms. The fact that IDists strenuously avoid using such comparisons only shows that they are trying to define evolutionary criteria to be design criteria.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Here’s the ignoramus George Gilder prattling on about what he knows so little:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/vi[…]&id=3631

So I guess after his claim that ID was meaningless, he went back and was convinced by his “fellows” (shouldn’t there be some merit in being labeled a “fellow”) at the DI.

It’s amazingly stupid, since he confuses feminist attempts at retelling evolution with what actual scientists do. Perhaps he should learn why feminist attempts at taking over evolutionary science were squashed in the journals, indeed, never had any significant traction in the journals.

Well, “live and don’t learn” is apparently the IDist motto.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

R. O’Connor wrote:

As used here, intelligence is qualitative, not quantitative (clever, wise, knowledgable, etc.). Intelligence is shorthand for intelligent agency. Intelligent agency refers to a non-embodied, consciously aware, intentional being having contra-causal freedom. That being must be able to conceive of and initiate goal-directed change that runs counter to the natural (deterministic) flow of events. The postulate is supported by the identification of intentionality in the outcome. The article presents the challenge succinctly: is it possible to read an intention off of an outcome without making substantive additional assumptions concerning, as PvM insists, means, motives or opportunity?

In other words some metaphysical imaginary observer with a magic wand, totally limited to a man’s or a women’s neuron activity, AKA projected intelligence, the result of nothing more than vanity and fear.… if they can be considered ‘qualities’. I’ll bet whole libraries are full of what that might be…(snickker).

That’s a bit 500 BCE isn’t it?

Who gets to define what can be done in this fictional characters name?

Well, “live and don’t learn” is apparently the IDist motto.

As if what they do can be called “living”…

Isn’t Dembski’s notion of specification merely an exercise in painting a bulls eye around the arrow wherever it landed? AFAIK Dembski has never made it clear how a specification is discovered. Given that there are so many things in nature, and many more things that happened on the evolutionary pathways then is it really surprising to find something (ie. the flagellum) that can be described, albeit simplistically, and is analogous to something humans created (ie. outboard motor and propeller)?

It seems to me that what Dembski has done is like sifting through many card deals that have happened and then claiming design when one with a meaningful pattern is encountered. Why can’t evolution independently arrive at something which has an anologue in a human design or concept?

Isn’t Dembski’s notion of specification merely an exercise in painting a bulls eye around the arrow wherever it landed?

Indeed I have used that very analogy:

With the Explanatory Filter, Dembski and other IDers are using a tactic that I like to call “The Texas Marksman”. The Texas Marksman walks over to the side of the barn, blasts away randomly, then draws bullseyes around each bullet hole and declares how wonderful it is that he was able to hit every single bullseye. Of course, if his shots had fallen in different places, he would then be declaring how wonderful it is that he hit those marks, instead.

Dembski’s filter does the same thing. It draws a bullseye around the bullet hole after it has already appeared, and then declares how remarkable it is that “the designer” hit the target. If the bullseye had been somewhere else, though, Dembski would be declaring with equal intensity how remarkably improbable it was that that bullseye was hit. If ID “theory” really wanted to impress me, it would predict where the bullet hole will be before it is fired. But, ID does not make testable predictions of any sort.

Dembski, it seems, simply wants to assume his conclusion. His “filter”, it seems, is nothing more than “god of the gaps” (if we can’t explain it, then the Designer must have done it), written with nice fancy impressive-looking mathematical formulas. That suspicion is strengthened when we consider the carefully specified order of the three steps in Dembski’s filter. Why is the sequence of Dembski’s Filter, “rule out law, rule out chance, therefore design”? Why isn’t it “rule out design, rule out law, therefore chance”? Or “rule out law, rule out design, therefore chance”? If Dembski has an objective way to detect or rule out “design”, then why doesn’t he just apply it from the outset? The answer is simple – Dembski has no more way to calculate the “probability” of design than he does the “probability” of law, and therefore simply has no way, none at all whatsoever, to tell what is “designed” and what isn’t. So he wants to dump the burden onto others. Since he can’t demonstrate that any thing was designed, he wants to relieve himself of that responsibility, by simply declaring, with suitably impressive mathematics, that the rest of us should just assume that something is designed unless someone can show otherwise. Dembski has conveniently adopted the one sequence of steps in his “filter”, out of all the possible ones, that relieves “design theory” of any need to either propose anything, test anything, or demonstrate anything

I suspect that isn’t a coincidence.

Glen Davidson Wrote:

That is to say, if we find strings of consecutive large prime numbers (in an apparently propositional message), we suspect high level rationality, thus intelligence.

I disagree here; consider the cicada.

Glen, not sure if I’ve caught you out of context, but are you really saying that sometimes we can infer design solely by looking at a message’s content (“apparently propositional message”)?

Re “rule out law, rule out chance, therefore design”?

Not to mention that “law”, “chance” and “design” aren’t even mutually exclusive categories in the first place.

Henry

Dembski tries, and fails, to show the superiority of purely eliminative testing, and then denies that his design detection method is purely eliminative, as if that’s a bad thing.

As poorly reasoned as his contributions to ID are, his ideas on significance testing are even worse.

I disagree here; consider the cicada.

Do you regard 13 and 17 as “large prime numbers”? I do not. The cicada is exactly why I wrote “large prime numbers”, then added “apparently propositional message” just to be sure:

Glen Davidson Wrote:

That is to say, if we find strings of consecutive large prime numbers (in an apparently propositional message), we suspect high level rationality, thus intelligence.

Oh, and the “strings of consecutive” were another way I drove away from 17-year and 13-year cycles.

“Suspect” is another important word, since there is no one way to be quite confident of intelligence behind a “design”. I couldn’t write that we would know intelligence did something in general based on a rule or two, rather we generally need corroborating information to make a secure judgment.

Glen, not sure if I’ve caught you out of context, but are you really saying that sometimes we can infer design solely by looking at a message’s content (“apparently propositional message”)?

What would suggest such a thing? “Apparently propositional” would have to be a contextual judgment, which I added onto the content criterion. Finding that something is designed can be fairly tricky, after all, so of course I’m not going to suggest that mere content is enough, at least not generally.

DNA is not, as far as we know, propositional. Of course bringing up propositional matters is also tricky, however it seemed worth adding in because SETI researchers, and people who might look for a message from the scientist who made the universe, are basically looking for more or less propositional information.

That is to say, Dembski wants to utterly ignore the fact that SETI researchers, even when they might be dealing with complex codes and/or languages, are cued in to intelligence in part because electromagnetic radiation (for instance) is used by at least some intelligent beings (us) to communicate. We do not expect genetic information, or large prime numbers, to appear in radio waves without intelligence putting it there as “propositional knowledge”. Hence Dembski is ignoring the fact that SETI researchers are looking for apparently propositional messages, not simply complex coded information.

The fact is that I don’t know if some messages might be knowable to be intelligently designed simply through content. Some perhaps could be (I rather suspect that certain plans and machines could be identified as designed with a high level of certainty by themselves), but I wasn’t writing about them. What is important is that many cannot be known by content alone, which is why I included “apparently propositional messages” as a modifier.

To IDists, codes are codes, machines are machines, etc. Dembski cannot deal properly with “specification” in a code because he dare not recognize that nothing indicates genetic information to be propositional, which is more or less what normal scientists would generally mean by “specified information”. Mere reproduction of information becomes “specification” in their book, so that essentially they treat reproduced information as if it were propositional knowledge.

It’s a word game, and I think that some of them know it.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Thanks for the semantic clarifications. It was helpful.

I disagree here; consider the cicada.

Listen to what I mean, not what I say! In other words I was a bit gnomic here. I meant that it should not surprise us if we found large consecutive primes exhibited in nature. If the arms race between predator and cicada had longer to develop, we could’ve gotten cicada species with large prime year life cycles, ad infinatum.

That is to say, Dembski wants to utterly ignore the fact that SETI researchers, even when they might be dealing with complex codes and/or languages, are cued in to intelligence in part because electromagnetic radiation (for instance) is used by at least some intelligent beings (us) to communicate. We do not expect genetic information, or large prime numbers, to appear in radio waves without intelligence putting it there as “propositional knowledge”. Hence Dembski is ignoring the fact that SETI researchers are looking for apparently propositional messages, not simply complex coded information.

In point of fact, SETI researchers aren’t looking for anything within the content of a signal. All they are looking for is a strong narrow-bandwidth signal, which are not normal natural phenomena and may be a hallmark of an intelligent signal.

Designed?

Nah, but durn cool:

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/conte[…]12/5782/1965

The Ant Odometer: Stepping on Stilts and Stumps

Desert ants, Cataglyphis, navigate in their vast desert habitat by path integration. They continuously integrate directions steered (as determined by their celestial compass) and distances traveled, gauged by as-yet-unknown mechanisms. Here we test the hypothesis that navigating ants measure distances traveled by using some kind of step integrator, or “step counter.” We manipulated the lengths of the legs and, hence, the stride lengths, in freely walking ants. Animals with elongated (“stilts”) or shortened legs (“stumps”) take larger or shorter strides, respectively, and concomitantly misgauge travel distance. Travel distance is overestimated by experimental animals walking on stilts and underestimated by animals walking on stumps.

I just saw Dave Scott’s post on UD (which is also in the track back above). I am banned from UD so I guess I need to respond here.

Dave appears to have got me muddled with Mark Perakh. Mark was kind enough to suggest putting the essay here but any errors or other inadequacies are entirely my own work. Dave’s comment is so self-evidently silly it is not worth refuting.

Golly, Mark, you’re famous.

You must be on the right lines to get a thread on UD about you, notwithstanding they confuse authorship. But then the facts have never had high priority at UD. If Mr Springer is reading this and wishes to respond, he is welcome to do so here.

(For the lurkers with zero stat/prob experience, why Davetard’s response is exceedingly silly is, Mark’s essay was about the structure of the hypothesis testing used by Dembski, how the use of ‘specification’ is unsupported, and how even Dembski’s example uses side information which ID says we don’t need. For DT to complain about the particular odds in Mark’s example is to not merely miss the boat, but the entire body of water it resides in.)

I don’t read the piffle posted on UD, except for rare cases when somebody mentions certain specific examples of inanity which is their regular staple. I am curious though whether the certified liar DaveScot, having been pointed to his inability to read “plain English” - in this case his attributing to Mark Perakh the authorship of an essay by Mark Frank - will keep his post thus exposing his hide once again to ridicule, or he will remove his post as he routinely does when his or his master Dembski’s frequent gaffes are exposed.

I see the thread on UD has another comment. I am banned from UD and I do not want to bog down this forum with name-calling and trivial errors. So I suggest the discussion continues on Alan Fox’s neutral blog where he set up a thread on this very subject a week or two ago. I will make one more response here and also copy it to Alan’s blog.

When I said Dave’s comment was silly I was referring only to the first paragraph (for some reason I didn’t see the second when I was browsing UD and I apologise for missing it). In this paragraph he claims that it is some sense hypocritical or contradictory or wrong (?) to criticse Dembski’s work after the Dover trial has decided against ID. I do not believe it is worth discussing this accusation.

In the second paragraph Dave takes issue with the use of a Royal Flush as an example of specification - claiming that it is not nearly improbable enough. I think he needs to read both Dembski’s paper and mine. I used that example because Dembksi himself uses it (on page 19) and Poker is familiar to many readers. Dembski makes it clear that specification is a matter of degree ranging from patterns that can easily be met through to the highly improbable. If Dave preferred I could have written the paper with an example of two or three consecutive Royal Flushes. That is not the point. Even three Royal Flushes in a row is just as probable as any other three defined hands in a row and we need to ask why it is surpising.

b) To the extent that the universe is deterministic, why should intelligence be less deterministic than any other part of it?

a) Determinism was pretty much obliterated by quantum mechanics.

In light of your first comment, what sense can be made of your question? How is it that you are not suffering from cognitive dissonance, holding contradictiry views about reality as you obvisouly do?

I am banned from UD…

According to DaveScot, you are not banned from UD.

Mark Frank’s registration here is alive and he’s not blacklisted. He’s on the moderation list which means his comments take an editor’s approval before they appear. He didn’t even try responding here.

Mark Frank Wrote:

When I said Dave’s comment was silly I was referring only to the first paragraph (for some reason I didn’t see the second when I was browsing UD and I apologise for missing it).

Probably not your fault; DaveScot has a habit of editing/removing his own posts without notification or explanation–usually when someone points out something silly in them–so the second paragraph may simply not have been there when you looked.

Mung thanks. The last communication I had from Dave asked me to leave UD. I respected his wishes and have not attempted to post since and he has never contacted me to say the situation was any different.

I will give it a try now.

Mung Wrote:

b) To the extent that the universe is deterministic, why should intelligence be less deterministic than any other part of it?

a) Determinism was pretty much obliterated by quantum mechanics.

In light of your first comment, what sense can be made of your question? How is it that you are not suffering from cognitive dissonance, holding contradictiry views about reality as you obvisouly do?

Surely you realize that “To the extent that the universe is deterministic” is not equivalent to “The universe is deterministic”? Corkscrew is pointing out two independent flaws in O’Connor’s characterization of intelligence; b) holds even if a) does not (if it turns out that the universe is more deterministic than QM suggests.)

For the record: I made no contribution whatsoever to Mark Frank’s essay and posted it to Talk Reason and PT as a courtesy to Mark Frank. He is not supposed to speak for me and I do not pretend to share the credits provided by whatever positive responses his essay may invoke. As to negative responses, like those reportedly appearing on UD, it is good news for Mark Frank: when any denizens of UD gang say that something is bad, there is a good chance it is something good.

DaveScot (at Uncommon Descent*) Wrote:

I could have responded to the Marks on Panda’s Thumb but I’m banned there. I mean really physically banned there. Mark Frank’s registration here is alive and he’s not blacklisted. He’s on the moderation list which means his comments take an editor’s approval before they appear. He didn’t even try responding here.

How disingenuous of you, Mr Springer. We have seen many examples of posts that you would rather not acknowledge remaining in the moderation queue indefinitely.

*Link.

Mark Frank’s registration here is alive and he’s not blacklisted. He’s on the moderation list which means his comments take an editor’s approval before they appear. He didn’t even try responding here.

Or, in other words

You’re not banned, we’ve just locked your account into a nightmarish cage of the mind where you can post all you like but nobody can see your comments except you and the operator of the blog. Why won’t you try to kick the football, Charlie Brown?

Dembski wrote in his paper:

“For a less artificial example of specificational resources in action, imagine a dictionary of 100,000 (= 10^5) basic concepts. There are then 10^5 1-level concepts, 10^10 2-level concepts, 10^15 3-level concepts, and so on. If “bidirectional,” “rotary,” “motor-driven,” and “propeller” are basicconcepts, then the molecular machine known as the bacterial flagellum can be characterized as a 4-level concept of the form “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller.” Now, there are approximately N = 10^20 concepts of level 4 or less, which therefore constitute the specificational resources relevant to characterizing the bacterial flagellum. Next, define p = P(T|H) as the probability for the chance formation for the bacterial flagellum. T, here, is conceived not as a pattern but as the evolutionary event/pathway that brings about that pattern (i.e., the bacterial flagellar structure). Moreover, H, here, is the relevant chance hypothesis that takes into account Darwinian and other material mechanisms. We may therefore think of the specificational resources as allowing as many as N = 10^20 possible targets for the chance formation of the bacterial flagellum, where the probability of hitting each target is not more than p. Factoring in these N specificational resources then amounts to checking whether the probability of hitting any of these targets by chance is small, which in turn amounts to showing that the product Np is small.”

Does anyone know if he’s explained how he derived the specification “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”? This describes the structure and function of a flagellum, but why stop at those words, why not make it “biochemical bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller” for instance which would give specificational resources of 10^25. Indeed, Dembski often misses out the word rotary so the specificational resources to be used in the calculation would appear to depend on what mood he’s in. It looks arbitrary and subjective to me, unless Dembski has clearly defined how a specification is discovered and constructed. I’ve never seen him explain how tightly bound the specification has to be to the thing in question.

Also, his reasoning seems backwards. If we said the specification of a flagellum is a “propellor” then this gives 10^5 concepts which is a smaller target than 10^20 for “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”. But the specification of “propeller” covers many, not less, targets.

Does anyone know if he’s explained how he derived the specification “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”? This describes the structure and function of a flagellum, but why stop at those words, why not make it “biochemical bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”

For that matter, isn’t it a bit redundant to specify that a propeller is rotary? What exactly would be an example of a non-rotary propeller?

non-rotary propellor: D_mbski.

I don’t know any non-rotary propellers, tho’.

PT contains already about 2500 entries, and well over 100,000 comments, posted by a long list of commenters. The comments by no means have always been favorable to PT’s contributors - they also include scores of comments highly critical of PT’s goals and of individual contributions. Some of them had been quite unrestrained, stooping to name calling and to other forms of insults and defamation addressing the PT team and the contributors’ opinions. However, for the entire period of PT’s existence, only two commenters were banned. Even Robert O’Brien who was honored by naming after him the “prize” for the most obnoxious post, was never banned here. One of the banned commenters was DaveScot. The reason was obvious: DaveScot had become notorious for endless insults, lies and slanders, without contributing anything of substance to the debates. His complaint about being “physically banned” from PT sounds ludicrous - his own behavior as Dembski’s substitute at the helm of Dembski’s blog is an epitome of a consistent suppression of any opinion he dislikes - posts to his blog wherein any aspect of his position is subjected to doubts are immediately removed, even if such a comment is polite and restrained. His complaint is just a vivid display of hypocrisy which is one of the constant features of pro-ID spinmeisters.

Dene Bebbington Wrote:

Dembski wrote in his paper:

“For a less artificial example of specificational resources in action, imagine a dictionary of 100,000 (= 10^5) basic concepts. There are then 10^5 1-level concepts, 10^10 2-level concepts, 10^15 3-level concepts, and so on.

See, if I was looking for non-artificial examples of something, I probably wouldn’t start with, “There are N basic concepts in the universe, which can be independently mixed and matched. Now I’m going to do probability calculations over ‘concept space.’” That’s not so much natural and intuitive as it is Deepak Chopra on mushroooms.

If “bidirectional,” “rotary,” “motor-driven,” and “propeller” are basic concepts, then the molecular machine known as the bacterial flagellum can be characterized as a 4-level concept of the form “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller.” Now, there are approximately N = 10^20 concepts of level 4 or less, which therefore constitute the specificational resources relevant to characterizing the bacterial flagellum. Next, define p = P(T|H) as the probability for the chance formation for the bacterial flagellum. T, here, is conceived not as a pattern but as the evolutionary event/pathway that brings about that pattern (i.e., the bacterial flagellar structure). Moreover, H, here, is the relevant chance hypothesis that takes into account Darwinian and other material mechanisms. We may therefore think of the specificational resources as allowing as many as N = 10^20 possible targets for the chance formation of the bacterial flagellum, where the probability of hitting each target is not more than p. Factoring in these N specificational resources then amounts to checking whether the probability of hitting any of these targets by chance is small, which in turn amounts to showing that the product Np is small.”

How are

“the molecular machine known as the bacterial flagellum can be characterized as a 4-level concept of the form “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller.””

and

“ We may therefore think of the specificational resources as allowing as many as N = 10^20 possible targets for the chance formation of the bacterial flagellum”

not completely contradictory? One moment he characterizes the flagellum as a single 4-level concept in particular, the next he says that possibly all 10^20 4-level concepts are “targets” for its formation?

I suppose the contradiction fades if you give up on trying to interpret “Concept X is a possible target for the chance formation of Object Y” as anything but gibberish.

Dene Bebbington Wrote:

Does anyone know if he’s explained how he derived the specification “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”?

Dunno, but I bet if you ask, he’ll say he just used that for the sake of argument but you can see a more rigorous derivation if you buy his forthcoming book.

Anton wrote:

I suppose the contradiction fades if you give up on trying to interpret “Concept X is a possible target for the chance formation of Object Y” as anything but gibberish.

Indeed, it doesn’t make sense. Also, just because Dembski chooses to describe the flagellum as a 4-level concept doesn’t mean we should only consider 10^20 targets. The specificational resources should be 10^5N where N is a possibly huge number to represent up to N-level concepts.

The big problem for Dembski is that evolution has a probability of 1 of hitting some kind of “target”. The question then is what are the odds of something in nature being describable (to some extent) by a specification. Which leads to the question that he’s never answered AFAIK - how a specification is to be constructed without it merely being a subjective analogy.

Sorry, but why are you guys even taking his crap seriously? It’s all based on a faulty premise - that evolution works by the sequential addition of parts instead the gradual evolution of existing parts.

I can’t help but think that wading into his kind of pseudo-scientific nonsense only validates his position in making it. Shouldn’t we kind of just be saying “you’re wrong, here’s the evidence for evolution, it is incontrovertible, durrrrrrrr”? ;)

Unless I’m missing something and this particularly part of his argument has some merit.

Mark Frank Wrote:

Dave appears to have got me muddled with Mark Perakh. Mark was kind enough to suggest putting the essay here but any errors or other inadequacies are entirely my own work.

Can Ian Musgrave Really Read?

DaveScot Wrote:

That article was written by Gil Dodgen not William Dembski. Your attention to detail is underwhelming and not at all surprising. It’s characteristic of the quality of everything you boys write.

Re “It looks arbitrary and subjective to me, unless Dembski has clearly defined how a specification is discovered and constructed.”

Are you questioning his skill at preparation of word salad? ;)

Henry

Wha…??? “bi-directional blah blah …”

Willy’s arbitrarily limiting/extending descriptions to suit himself and generate some completely arbitrary numbers. Why not break down the concept of bi-directional? Why is that basic? Why not just call a flagellum a flagellum as a basic concept?

Maybe he now thinks he’s the new Noam Chomski (in his linguistics persona, not political activism).

What utter gibberish.

k.e. wrote:

R. O’Connor wrote:

As used here, intelligence is qualitative, not quantitative (clever, wise, knowledgable, etc.). Intelligence is shorthand for intelligent agency. Intelligent agency refers to a non-embodied, consciously aware, intentional being having contra-causal freedom.

Marvin Minsky also used the term “intelligent agent” in his 1986 book “The Society of Mind.” However, Minsky’s idea of an intelligent agent wasn’t a “non-embodied, consciously aware, intentional being having contra-causal freedom,” rather Minsky’s agents were simple parts that were themselves mindless. Their interactions is what made a “Society of Mind” work.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/06[…]amp;n=283155

The supposed ID evidence for “intelligence” is not evidence of consciousness, non-embodiment or free will. To the extent that there is any evidence of such things in human beings it is discovered in human communication, not human action.

At the very best ID researchers might, in the future, luck onto evidence of “foresight,” but foresight does not require consciousness or free will – unless you are willing to grant consciousness and free will to Deep Blue, the IBM chess playing computer that had “look ahead” abilities for chess.

I do think biologists should read Minsky’s book and keep their eyes open for Minsky’s kind of agents – and if they find them they will find those agents embodied in that almost Turing Machine like system of DNA and its ribosomes.

… is it possible to read an intention off of an outcome without making substantive additional assumptions concerning, as PvM insists, means, motives or opportunity?

In other words some metaphysical imaginary observer with a magic wand, totally limited to a man’s or a women’s neuron activity, AKA projected intelligence, the result of nothing more than vanity and fear.… if they can be considered ‘qualities’. I’ll bet whole libraries are full of what that might be…(snickker).

That’s a bit 500 BCE isn’t it?

Who gets to define what can be done in this fictional characters name?

Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and William Dembski.

Raging Bee wrote:

Well, “live and don’t learn” is apparently the IDist motto.

As if what they do can be called “living”…

Do pointless insults like that add anything to the argument against ID?

I don’t think so.

Just a couple of comments.

Hypothesis testing now is pretty much a hybrid of Fisher and Neyman-Person.

I really don’t know how Fisher’s work (he’s rolling over in his grave over this) really helps to support ID. Fisher’s ideas on hypothesis testing could be used as an approach for model validation (e.g. how extreme are the data relative to the model). In this case doesn’t Dembski need a model to compare the data too? I’d imagine this might require some real research, data, and some very very complicated models & mathematics. In addition, Fisher’s ideas were based on proof by contradiction. I can’t even imagine what model Dembski would contradict which would provide support for ID. Which pretty much sums up Mark’s post.. they’re plenty of alternatives!

With regard to specification, sounds an awful lot like trying to mix Fisher and Bayes together. In fact, it sounds to me (note, I’m not a statistician/mathematician) like Dembski wants to find a prior which maximizes the probability of detecting design. Objectivity out the window… this is all about science yessireeeeeee!

This is my first UD/PT post so be kind. I posted this over at UD but who knows if it will show up. In case it doesn’t im putting it here (mainly to have a record as its not really a finshed idea yet):

DS: How does “Specifications aren’t difficult. They’re independently given patterns.” fit with the ID position that genetic algorithms “front-load” the answer by specifying a fitness function of some kind? That was primarily an aside, my main point is:

To so to say that the odds against a “specified and complex” system (SCS) evolving are effictevly infinte is only meaningful if we consider only a single version of the system as a possible endpoint. To calculate the odds against a SCS you would need to know the form and approximate difficulty of all possible SCS that perform the function asked of it. For example, lets consider the canonical immune system example. Asking what are the odds of evolving our exact immune system is similar to taking a post mortem a paticular person winning a lottery. Its like saying the odds are so astronomically against Joe Shmoe winning he therefore must have cheated, case closed. Our immune system is just the “winning ticket” from a potentially huge range of similar systems that could perform the same function (until proven otherwise). Therefore to be meaningful, probability calculations to evolve an immune system must factor in all possible working systems that fill the need of our current immune system.

In trashing Mark’s example, DaveScot inadvertently trashes virtually all of Dembski’s examples, almost none of which involve probabilities as small as the UPB.

Good job, Dave.

Does anyone know if he’s explained how he derived the specification “bidirectional rotary motor-driven propeller”?

What about “foot”. That’s how the bacterium uses it.

This is a pointlessly artificial word chase. How many times have you had a conversation that goes “You know, the parts of the blender that plug into the body and latch in there and they go around and mix the food and people lick them and …”

“Oh, you mean the “blades”?”

Our inability to concisely describe something does not make it complicated. (And conversly, a simple expression does not make it easy - define “time”.)

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