Bill and his strawmen

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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?

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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]

Source

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?

20 Comments

It’s been my experience that whenever someone begins a comment about the state of climate science by mentioning that weather forecasters are often incorrect, whatever follows next can be safely ignored without fear of missing any potentially intelligent ideas.

Besides which, inability to predict short term fluctuations doesn’t imply inability to predict long term averages.

Henry

What Bill doesn’t mention, of course, is despite the occasional glitch, just how amazingly good the aerodynamic modeling actually was.

Once upon a time, nobody cared about fluid dynamics, yeah, back in the 1800’s there were theories and ideas but nobody actually designed sailboats that way. Instead they used rules of thumb, years of precedent, and trial and error.

No Longer.

In the 21st century, airplanes like the A380 are designed from the ground up using some of the most sophisticated fluid dynamics modeling ever achieved by man. They exist as mere wisps of math for years before anyone cuts the first scrap of sheet metal.

The fact that the new airbus flew at all — on the first try — is vindication that the models were substantially correct. They had to be, with a 250 ton airplane, there’s simply no way to incrementally test it.

So Bill, yes, the manufacturing effort had the kinds of growing pains that are only too familiar to those of us who do this sort of thing for a living. But they did so in an environment where the sheer complexity of the task — and the dramatic successes achieved - were only possible by the excellent understanding science and engineering had developed of the problem at hand.

And yes, Bill, you manage to complain about how nobody can possible understand very complex technology as you type on a computer that, in a space the size of two cinder blocks, contains more transistors than existed on the whole earth just 40 years ago. Each and every one of which is understood by somebody.

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

Even Dembski’s usual commenters did not understand what he was about. Especially his last sentence led to some disturbance

Interestingly, Boeing avoids the problem, even though it is “Christian-dominated” America that is going to suffer in competition with increasingly “atheist and Darwinist” Europe.

I guess he meant that flying Boeing equals ascension while with Airbus you are going to hell directly.

Interestingly, Boeing avoids the problem, even though it is “Christian-dominated” America that is going to suffer in competition with increasingly “atheist and Darwinist” Europe.

The implication is that a non-materialist point-of-view leads to superior engineering. But he dares only to hint at it.

And please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn’t a lot of the data presented about past climate comes from actual evidence (like isotope analysis of ice cores) rather than relying totally on models?

PvM Wrote:

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

I’m fairly sure that they can’t. But I am even more sure that if one does understand science, and has an agenda to misrepresent it, one can dazzle nonscientists with strawmen better than those who don’t understand science and honestly believe what they preach.

There’s straw all over the place!

ID doesn’t end with a bang, or a whimper, but a non-sequitur, incoherent string of randomly recycled cdesign proponentsists catch phrases. :)

And yes, Bill, you manage to complain about how nobody can possible understand very complex technology as you type on a computer that, in a space the size of two cinder blocks, contains more transistors than existed on the whole earth just 40 years ago.

Excellent point. And if you consider just the CPU, you have a hundred million transistors in a space the size of a toenail.

The average human male has a mass of 57.4 kg. I predict that my mass is 57.4 kilograms. I actually have a mass of 94 kg. Therefore, all physical anthropology is wrong because it can’t even predict my body mass. *sigh*

I’m not sure that what I have in mind here is a fallacy exactly, but I’d also like to take exception to the phrase “badly functioning.” Compared to what? Other organisms? A Platonic ideal? And how adaptive a function might be obviously changes with location, as well, as can be demonstrated easily by getting a sea turtle and a desert tortoise to swap places for an afternoon.

If a given function is at least marginally more adaptive than what the competition has, no matter how “bad” the function might be compared to some hypothetical ideal, the organism that possesses it will pass on more genes. The proof of that is in our bodies, which house whack-job contingency engineering such as the vagus nerve looping through the aorta, the prostate gland surrounding the urethra, a heart with an inadequate blood supply, an appendix, and eyes that are wired up backwards. So again–badly functioning compared to what?

AJ — That is correct.

Bill’s airbus example of poor design may help explain the various examples of poor plumbing found in for instance the human body. Having the urinary tract run through the prostate in men is just asking for problems and while we can understand and explain this from an evolutionary science perspective, we have to invoke either a clueless designer or perhaps a team of designers who communicate poorly on various occasions, leading to ad hoc fixes. I am sure that this is not the kind of designer Bill has in mind and although Sober is quick to point out at predictions for ID are meaningless, I’d argue that the multiple designer hypothesis fares much better.

So let’s teach the controversy: There are indeed multiple designers involved in the origin and evolution of life :-) Zeus and his crowd will be happy…

The climate/weather distinction is the proper analogy with evolution. For the more general evolutionary predictions have been unequivocally upheld by the evidence over and over again, while the specifics (like those of weather) of evolutionary events have frequently been lost, in many cases never to be recovered.

So Dembski, showing his usual ignorance of science, misunderstands not only the predictability of climate, he also misunderstands the crucial predictions of evolution, while demanding that we provide evidence for the equivalent of “weather” in evolution. The fact that he can’t see the nearly perfect evidence undergirding the “climate” predictions in evolution is his argument against evolution.

Come to think of it, it is too bad that there are no equivalent terms in evolution for “climate” vs. “weather”. I don’t think that “macroevolution” vs. “microevolution” will do as an anology, even though in many cases it is actually easier to provide evidence for macroevolutionary predictions than for microevolutionary changes.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

You don’t even need to get to his second paragraph to see the problems. He refers to aerospace engineering as “…working with programs simulating real, tangible objects and physical laws which are nearly perfectly understood…” Yes, our understanding might be pretty good, but I wouldn’t call it “nearly perfect.” There wouldn’t be any sense in doing any more research into aerodynamics or structures. Hell, we can’t even get an exact solution for the Navier Stokes equations for most real world applications.

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.

I suppose it’s worth pointing, once again, to the absurd “analogy” with human design that is used by these IDiots. Life is far more complex than the designs that humans can handle, thus, wait for it, life is designed. That is to say, known intelligences cannot deal realiably well with designs having far less the complexity of life, hence we should conclude that intelligence, unknown intelligence in fact, must be responsible for creating life.

There are other issues, such as rational design, unrestricted borrowing, and novelty that can be used in context to determine the likelihood (to our minds, at least) of design even in cases where complexity may far outstrip our ability to design complexity, so I’m not saying that complexity beyond our designs “disproves” design (and of course life doesn’t exhibit those aspects, as I have discussed them elsewhere). What I’m saying is that, leaving out the other factors, it is sheer idiocy to find phenomena which do not fit the abilities of known intelligences and from that to conclude that intelligence is responsible for such phenomena which are beyond the capabilities of known intelligences.

Even when they try to claim a known aspect of life as if it were a “prediction” of ID they completely fail to understand that complexity beyond that which we can manipulate points to processes which are unlike our intelligence, at the least. And of course the differences from actualy design point decidedly toward evolution, a fact they usually try to avoid addressing.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Glen Davidson Wrote:

Come to think of it, it is too bad that there are no equivalent terms in evolution for “climate” vs. “weather”. I don’t think that “macroevolution” vs. “microevolution” will do as an anology, even though in many cases it is actually easier to provide evidence for macroevolutionary predictions than for microevolutionary changes.

What about ‘fitness’ vs. ‘survival’. That a particular allele increases the fitness of its host doesn’t tell you whether any particular organism will survive. The individual births and deaths are biological weather, while the trends in gene frequencies are biological climate.

Figures Dembski doesn’t care that Airbus CAD problems is due to the political and national structure of the company. Since he must pretend ID isn’t due to similar concerns among creationists.

Interestingly, Boeing avoids the problem, even though it is “Christian-dominated” America that is going to suffer in competition with increasingly “atheist and Darwinist” Europe.

Interestingly, Airbus is still a year or so ahead on Dreamliner 787. And Dreamliner have problems too.

First, it is 2-3 % (2.5 ton) heavier than target, so there are a lot of redesign and compromises made. The customers will se lower quality: wireless service is dropped, since a wired network is lighter. ( http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/boeing/b[…]s-231524.php ) More titanium will be used instead of steel.

Second, subcontractors are late, so a lot of contingency plans are started. ( http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily[…]1_175337.htm )

Not that Dembski cares about such pathetic levels of detail.

Zeus and his crowd will be happy…

cool! I’ll write this derivation on a t-shirt as protection from lightning strikes.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on February 19, 2007 6:26 PM.

Elliott Sober: What is wrong with Intelligent Design? was the previous entry in this blog.

Robert John Russell : Intelligent Design is Not Science and Does Not Qualify to be Taught in Public School Science Classes is the next entry in this blog.

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