Bill and his strawmen

Bill (aka William Demsbki) reports on the problem Airbus is experiencing because two design teams used different CAD software and uses the following ‘argument’.

Bill wrote:

Meanwhile, climatic scientists have nevertheless created absolutely perfect models for the world’s weather patterns extending 100,000 years back and forwards in time (and yet they still can’t tell you if it’s going to rain on the weekend). Likewise, Darwinists have conclusively shown that living creatures, far more complex than the new Airbus plane, are the result of blind evolutionary processes in which the badly-functioning assemblies were filtered out by natural selection. Right.

Count the fallacies…

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… I count easily 6 fallacies.

  1. “absolutely perfect models”
  2. “for the world’s weather patterns”
  3. “extending 100,000 years back and forth in time”
  4. “can’t tell you if it is going to rain on the weekend”
  5. “have conclusively shown”
  6. “the result of blind evolutionary processes”

If one does not understand science, how can one critique it without attacking strawmen?

  1. Anyone familiar with climate (or is it climatic) modeling would know that climate models suffer from several problems and that the scientists in the IPCC have clearly outlined what some of these problems are. These problems add to the uncertainty of the climate predictions over the next century.

  2. It’s climate patterns not weather patterns. Anyone familiar with chaos theory as well as Lorenz would know that climate scientists deal in climate. For those unfamiliar with the difference:

Definition of climate (Edward Lorenz): “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get.”

Updated for the 21st century (Myles Allen): “Climate is what you affect, weather is what gets you.”

Because of the chaotic nature of weather, climate modelers take a probabilistic approach. Surely Bill would be aware of the difference between weather and climate modeling?

  1. While weather predictions, especially when it comes to fog and rain in a particular location, are still far from perfect, weather prediction has improved significantly.

  2. Scientists do not claim that they have conclusively shown… What scientists have shown is that there are a variety of processes which have played roles in the evolution of life on earth. In addition they have shown that the appeal to ignorance by Intelligent Design proponents is misplaced and that complexity and information can indeed arise from natural processes. In fact, Bill has conceded as much when accepting the existence of apparent versus actual complex specified information, without providing any tools to differentiate between them.

  3. To call Darwinian processes blind ignores the concept of evolvability as well as selection.

So let’s explore Bill’s ‘logic’ and see where this leads. For instance the problems experienced by Airbus engineers shows poor coordination between teams can cause significant design problems. This suggests that intelligently designed processes may be unable to deal with such issues, especially when it involves multiple teams. Given the fact that so far the first and only ‘intelligent design’ inquiry into evolution has suggested that multiple independent designers were involved, it seems that Airbus’s problems show its relevance to evolution. In addition it also shows the vacuity of intelligent design to explain evolutionary features.

Unless of course, one includes natural selection as an intelligent designer… And that’s one of the conclusions that ‘follows’ from intelligent design musings so lets see where such a conclusion does take us.

If, as the argument seems to go, weather, climate, life and the interactions between control systems and the environment are too chaotic, then then looking for intelligently designed solutions seems to be doomed by the existence of this chaotic behavior. Instead what is needed is a system which co-evolves with its environment, adapting robustly to the changes. Now, before we explore this, let me point out that there is nothing that prohibits an intelligent designer (wink wink) from intervening continuously or episodically with his creation (wink wink). If that is the argument by ID then it is up to ID to show that there is indeed such a mythical entity that intervenes continuously or episodically. Or perhaps, the intervention was in the form of ‘front loading’ but given the chaotic nature of the interactions, it seems that in this case evolution once again plays a major role.

In 1993, Inman Harvey submitted his PhD thesis titled The Artificial Evolution of Adaptive Behavior

A methodology is presented for the design through artificial evolution of adaptive complex systems, such as the control systems of autonomous robots.

Genetic algorithms have largely been tailored towards optimisation problems with a fixed and well-defined search-space; the SAGA (Species Adaptation Genetic Algorithms) framework is introduced for the different domain of long term artificial evolution, where the task domain is ill-defined and can increase in complexity indefinitely. Genotypes should be able to increase in length indefinitely, and evolution will take place in a genetically converged population. Significant changes from normal genetic algorithm practice follow from this.

Note some particularly salient features: genotypes should be able to increase in length indefinitely, task domain is ill-defined and can increase in complexity indefinitely…

Remember how ID proponents used to argue that evolutionary theory could not explain ‘creativity’ as “evolutionary algorithms are stuck to a particular hypervolume”? In fact, some evolutionary algorithms may indeed be stuck to a particular hypervolume but that is a feature by design, not a limitation of evolutionary algorithms and in fact, in evolution it seems that gene duplication is a major contributor to innovation.

And let’s tie this in with an earlier posting of mine on neutrality

R. Shipman, M. Shackleton and I. Harvey (2000): The use of neutral genotype-phenotype mappings for improved evolutionary search BT Technology Journal, v. 18 no. 4, pp. 103-111, October 2000. ISSN 1358-3948.

This paper examines the effect of neutral genotype-phenotype mappings on artificial evolutionary systems through examination of an abstract redundant mapping based on a random Boolean network (RBN). It then goes on to examine the genotype-phenotype mapping within a planning tool that evolves instructions for growing telecommunications networks. It is demonstrated how the right kind of redundancy has the potential of significantly aiding the evolvability of a system.

Compare this with Intelligent Design ‘explanations’ such as

Bill wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

Since Bill has recently commented that his true love is apologetics, I would like to introduce him to the work by St Augustine

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]


And if IDers want to ‘explain’ Bill’s statement by claiming that it was ‘humor’ then please remind him that he filed it under

This entry was posted Thursday, February 8th, 2007 at 8:09 am and is filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, Darwinism. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

A good thing that Bill’s passion can be found in apologetics. How anti-climatic can one be?