Understanding creationism, III:
An insider’s guide by a former young-Earth creationist

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By David MacMillan.

3. You don’t evolve, your species does.

Creationists often conceptualize evolution as something which is purely vertical: successive changes from parent to child to grandchild to great-grandchild accumulating over time. They can hardly be faulted for this misconception, because this view seems to be shared by the general public and even reinforced by the sometimes-imprecise explanations and depictions of evolution by museums and science educators.

Evolutionary adaptation, however, does not happen in a straight line from parent to child. Rather, adaptation takes place throughout a population as different genetic sequences spread outward from parents to all their offspring and are recombined and reshuffled in many different individuals each successive generation. Evolution is wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. It is the combination of changing genetic material across an entire population that makes major evolutionary adaptation possible; without this constant mixing and recombination from the entire population, evolution would grind almost to a halt. Evolution is a phenomenon that functions not at the level of the individual, nor at the level of individual lineages, but across the entire population within the species (Figure 1).

sardines-2.jpg

Figure 1. This hypothetical example depicts evolutionary change as an emergent property of the entire population. Both the “ABC” combinations (in shades of blue) and the “XYZ” combinations (in shades of red) offer a survival advantage and are passed on, while combinations of the two (shown in shades of purple) are detrimental and are removed from the population. No specific mutation order is required; as long as the selection pressure remains steady, the mutations accumulate together (essentially “finding” each other) and two separate genotypes emerge.

Unfortunately, depictions of evolution often show individual specimens arranged linearly in ascending order: apes to humans, theropods to birds, and the like (Figure 2). Such representations make it easy to miss the population aspect. Even an accurately depicted branching tree of evolution can still be misunderstood to represent individuals rather than whole populations.

SardinesLinear.jpg

Figure 2. In this common but mistaken depiction of evolution typically adopted by creationists, individual changes occur in simple sequence within a single lineage. With this view, it is easy to wrongly assume that individual mutations must occur one after another in a specific order, something that seems intuitively improbable.

Biologist PZ Myers explains it very well in a recent blog post:

Evolution isn't sequential. It's massively parallel. Massively. Humans have about 20,000 genes, and all of them are evolving at once, with trial runs in about 7 billion individuals. New variants are arising all the time, and then they're tested to destruction in multiple combinations over time. Scrap your weird idea that the pieces of a complex system must be developed one at a time – they can't, and all of them are being constantly tinkered with. It is the most badly designed scientific experiment or engineering program ever, with no controls and every variable getting randomly tweaked at random intervals. So don't be surprised that multiple elements are getting juggled.

Understanding and addressing the misconception (Figure 2) is vital because it determines how plausible common descent seems (as well as how plausible objections to evolution will seem). In a game of cards, it would be incredibly rare to draw four aces on the first try. But if you have hundreds of card players all trading cards back and forth between their hands, it’s virtually certain that someone in the group will end up with four aces almost right away.

Even when creationists with professional scientific training understand that evolution is supposed to happen at the population level, they will still (wittingly or unwittingly) reinforce this misconception because it fits better with their philosophical presuppositions. This approach is seen particularly in statistical or probabilistic arguments, especially among intelligent-design creationists. Demonstrating the difference between the misconception of “individual” evolution and the reality of “population” evolution quickly displays the fallacy in this sort of reasoning.

For example, a creationist may calculate that the probability of a fish arriving at a particular DNA sequence by chance mutation is some astronomical number like 1 in 10 30. This number, he believes, is far beyond the limits of what he thinks is reasonable. 1 Now, his estimate is probably suspect, but that’s beside the point, because evolution doesn’t happen in just one fish; it happens in a population of fish. A school of fish like sardines may contain 100 billion individuals, each with around 25 chromosome pairs. During meiosis, each maternal and each paternal chromosome can undergo a simple crossing-over recombination two or three or even more times. A single breeding pair of sardines can produce 20,000 eggs in one clutch. And this is just one school; there may be multiple schools of the same species.

If we suppose five separate schools, there is the potential for 1.4 million trillion trillion (2.1 x 10 30) newly recombined genotypes 2 for this species in a single breeding season. Now, this is just a very generalized example; using different numbers would of course generate different results, and a rigorous examination of this question would require analysis of mutation rates and much more. But my rough example illustrates how seemingly astronomical odds can turn out to be much less challenging once a shift is made from thinking in terms of individual evolution to thinking in terms of population evolution.

For individuals who are not interested in learning about the underlying microbiology, the card game example from earlier is probably sufficient: the chance of one lone individual drawing one exact hand off the top of the deck is very low; the chance of somebody getting the desired hand when there are hundreds (or thousands) of players all constantly exchanging cards is very high.

Easy-to-understand examples are vitally important. At heart, these sorts of probabilistic arguments usually advanced by intelligent-design creationists are nothing more than arguments from incredulity: “I can’t imagine how it’s possible, so it must not be.” Although this is an obvious logical fallacy, it doesn’t usually do any good to point it out – “just because you can’t imagine it doesn’t mean someone else can’t” – because creationists will merely assume such imaginings are only wishful thinking by atheist evolutionists determined to defend a theory that would otherwise fall apart. That’s why it’s vital to have straightforward examples to demonstrate the fallacies inherent in the creationist understandings.

Footnotes.

1. Some of the smallest protein-coding genes are around 22 codons in length, or 66 nucleotide base pairs; the chance of arriving at a specific 22-codon sequence by pure chance is roughly 1 in 10 30. Note, however, that the size of the genome plays a major role here. Even as few as 4-5 different species with genomes roughly the size of our own are likely to have matching sequences of this length in their junk DNA, simply by statistical accident. Also keep in mind that creationists often wrongly assume a gene must be complete and fully functional before natural selection can begin selecting for it and developing it further, but they are wrong. Selection doesn’t require the emergence of some new major advantage; selection requires only a functional difference. Even a change in a single codon can alter a protein enough to cause a division to form between the original genotype and the altered genotype. For example, a small mutation that alters the start of the breeding season by even a couple of days can cause a population to divide into two overlapping groups which will continue to evolve both separately and in concert.

2. In ordinary sexual reproduction, each parent contributes half its genetic material by selecting one chromosome from each of its chromosome pairs to donate. Each of the offspring’s chromosomes is thus an exact match to an individual chromosome in one of the parents. A crossing-over recombination takes place when pieces of both chromosomes in a given parental pair are spliced together to produce a new donated chromosome. Not only does crossing-over result in a newly arranged package of genes to be passed on to the next generation, but it also creates an entirely new genetic sequence at each splice point. This event is not technically a mutation in the same way as substitution, insertion, deletion, and transposition, but it still generates new genetic information. Fortunately, crossing-over recombinations rarely interfere with any existing functions, simply because it is very unlikely for any given splice point to intersect a functioning protein sequence. When a recombined chromosome is combined with the chromosome from the other parent, the result is a new, complete genotype which is both heritable and selectable.

228 Comments

For example, a creationist may calculate that the probability of a fish arriving at a particular DNA sequence by chance mutation is some astronomical number like 1 in 10 30. This number, he believes, is far beyond the limits of what he thinks is reasonable…

…Easy-to-understand examples are vitally important.

In the spirit of simple examples one can use to refute ID creationism, here’s one. Whenever a creationist tells you some probability is beyond the limits of what can happen on earth/in the universe (like 1 in 10^30), do this:

1. Take the exponent. (In this case, 30.)

2. Multiply by 1.3. Round up. (So…39.)

3. Roll that number of 6-sided dice. If you don’t have physical dice handy, you can always just have Excel produce a random number between 1 and 6, and copy the formula into 39 rows (or however many rows you need).

4. Congratulations. You have just produced an event less probable than what the creationist said the universe couldn’t produce, proving them wrong.

eric said:

For example, a creationist may calculate that the probability of a fish arriving at a particular DNA sequence by chance mutation is some astronomical number like 1 in 10 30. This number, he believes, is far beyond the limits of what he thinks is reasonable…

…Easy-to-understand examples are vitally important.

In the spirit of simple examples one can use to refute ID creationism, here’s one. Whenever a creationist tells you some probability is beyond the limits of what can happen on earth/in the universe (like 1 in 10^30), do this:

1. Take the exponent. (In this case, 30.)

2. Multiply by 1.3. Round up. (So…39.)

3. Roll that number of 6-sided dice. If you don’t have physical dice handy, you can always just have Excel produce a random number between 1 and 6, and copy the formula into 39 rows (or however many rows you need).

4. Congratulations. You have just produced an event less probable than what the creationist said the universe couldn’t produce, proving them wrong.

This, unfortunately, intersects another creationist misconception: that there is only one solution to any given problem, i.e., that a particular genetic sequence must be pre-specified. The problem is, this isn’t entirely false. A completely random sequence is meaningless; the chance of rolling some sequence is exactly 1 in 1.

Any creationist worth his salt (as I daresay I was) will immediately point that out. “You’re begging the question. No matter what result you got, you’d say it was a 1e-30 chance…but it isn’t, because you were bound to get a result. What you need is a meaningful result, one that will accomplish the evolutionary step required by environmental selection pressure.”

And, more importantly, you’re still reinforcing the idea that evolution is a singular, individual, linear event. It isn’t. It’s an emergent property of the entire population. If you want to use that example, here’s a version that would probably work better:

“So the odds are 1e-30, huh? Okay, here are 40 six-sided dice. If I roll all of these at the same time, the odds of them all coming up on the same number are about 1e-30, right? Not going to happen, not even if I roll them over and over every second for 10,000 years.

“But wait. Let’s say I give a set of dice to 10,000 different people. They all roll just once. Still, none of them are going to have all the same number. However, they then begin trading non-matching dice with their neighbors at random. Any matching dice are retained after each trade. How many trades will it take before someone in that 10,000 has all-matching dice?”

While I’ll leave the math for someone else, this helps the creationist to see that reproduction is not just a blind dice roll every generation. Every generation is a trade. Every trade is selectable. So the chances of all those sequences converging to at least one all-matching roll is really, really good.

[David] For individuals who are not interested in learning about the underlying microbiology, the card game example from earlier is probably sufficient: the chance of one lone individual drawing one exact hand off the top of the deck is very low; the chance of somebody getting the desired hand when there are hundreds (or thousands) of players all constantly exchanging cards is very high.

The fact that there is not just a single “desired hand” is also significant. The probability of any particular adaptation to an environment may be vanishingly small, but it is nearly inevitable that some adaptation will occur in the presence of selective pressure.

[eric] 4. Congratulations. You have just produced an event less probable than what the creationist said the universe couldn’t produce, proving them wrong.

Yes, but I always feel that this misses the point, since it leaves open the false notion that there is really something improbable about having some kind of functioning ecosystem on earth as a result of evolution. Evolution is not a process of making an independent series of dice rolls and seeing what happens. The tiny subspace of viable outcomes is not arrived at by chance but by a convergent process that requires very accurate replication of genes just as much as it requires a small amount of variability.

callahanpb said:

The tiny subspace of viable outcomes is not arrived at by chance but by a convergent process that requires very accurate replication of genes just as much as it requires a small amount of variability.

Yeah, that’s another part that’s easily missed – the idea that genes have to be scrambled every time.

It’s not that the deck is shuffled every generation; it’s cut every generation. Sometimes with a very slight shuffle around the edges.

david.starling.macmillan said: Any creationist worth his salt (as I daresay I was) will immediately point that out. “You’re begging the question. No matter what result you got, you’d say it was a 1e-30 chance…but it isn’t, because you were bound to get a result. What you need is a meaningful result, one that will accomplish the evolutionary step required by environmental selection pressure.”

A creationist looking at current organisms and back-calculating some probability is the same question-begging procedure. So what the example shows is that their logic does not lead to the “impossibility” conclusion that they think it does. I agree with you that my example does not reflect how evolution works. Its focused on their internal inconsistency, not the issue of whether their model matches reality.

And, more importantly, you’re still reinforcing the idea that evolution is a singular, individual, linear event. It isn’t.

That’s a fair criticism. In reality, I would only use (and recommend) this sort of response when first confronted by a creationist making a multiplication-of-individual-probabilities argument. I would not use this to defend or explain evolution to a fence-sitter or young uneducated person. Again, the focus is popping their balloon, not telling them why their ballon doesn’t look like evolution.

While I’ll leave the math for someone else, this helps the creationist to see that reproduction is not just a blind dice roll every generation. Every generation is a trade. Every trade is selectable. So the chances of all those sequences converging to at least one all-matching roll is really, really good.

Perhaps a good approach is to start with your argument, and if they ignore/handwave/are unwilling to consider the complications inherent in a better biological analogy, use mine as a last resort. “Okay, if you insist on treating evolution according to your equation and ignoring population and selection effects altogether, you’re still wrong…and here’s why.”

eric said:

Perhaps a good approach is to start with your argument, and if they ignore/handwave/are unwilling to consider the complications inherent in a better biological analogy, use mine as a last resort. “Okay, if you insist on treating evolution according to your equation and ignoring population and selection effects altogether, you’re still wrong…and here’s why.”

They obfuscate everything because they aren’t willing to actually make a decision on how to define “information”.

They beg the question by assuming that “genetic information” is something only God can make, which means they can decide it’s pre-specified and everything else.

david.starling.macmillan said:

While I’ll leave the math for someone else, this helps the creationist to see that reproduction is not just a blind dice roll every generation. Every generation is a trade. Every trade is selectable. So the chances of all those sequences converging to at least one all-matching roll is really, really good.

Our postings crossed paths and I think I tried to make some similar points. I’ve been reading these discussions since around the time of the Kitzmiller decision and there is a lot of misunderstanding about statistics on both sides.

To take the “all outcomes equally probable” point to absurdity, suppose I start flipping a coin. It comes up heads, then tails, then head, then tails… OK, so far nothing special. I had a 1/16 chance of this precise outcome and a much higher chance of something else that would have got my attention. But if I’m still flipping alternating heads and tails after 1000 flips, what do I conclude? (The coin is rigged in some very remarkable way? Maybe I’m dreaming? Maybe I’m crazy?)

The “all outcomes equally probable” viewpoint would suggest that I still can’t conclude much of anything, defying human intuition. That’s not the deal-breaker, though, because a lot of true things defy intuition. But it is also poor science.

The reason you can conclude that something special has happened is because the outcome belongs to a very small “meaningful” subset of the space of all coin flips. The standard statistical approach is to group the outcomes and assign p-values.

This works well if you have a specific hypothesis in mind. For example, if you have the a priori hypothesis that your coin is more likely than an ordinary coin to produce periodic sequences during a particular “flipping session” then you can assign p-values to each periodicity. Out of 1000 flips, and 2^1000 outcomes, just 2 are all heads or tails, just 2 strictly alternate, just 6 (I think) have period 3 and so on. Then you consider the null hypothesis that it is actually a fair coin producing independent outcomes. You carry out the series of 1000 flips and see what happens. If you get the alternating outcome as above, you would be able to state as a fact that the probability of getting an outcome like this with a fair coin (null hypothesis) is 2 in 2^1000. That is strong scientific evidence that the null hypothesis is an inadequate explanation.

But maybe I don’t have an a priori hypothesis, so what then? Fortunately, there is the more recent technique of Solomonoff induction http://lesswrong.com/lw/dhg/an_intu[…]f_induction/ which really just amounts to a very general way of assigning p values.

One reason an alternating series of 1000 coins is noteworthy is that you can record it without writing out all the flips. I could write (HT)^500 for instance to mean “heads, then tails, repeat 500 times.” That is much shorter than writing out all the flips. So it is highly compressible. It is easy to show mathematically that most outcomes are not compressible at all (you would need 1000 bits to represent them). You could argue that compressibility is subjective, but you can standardize it by picking any common programming language and defining the size of the representation as the size of the smallest program that will produce it as output. The compressibility will be about the same independent of the choice of language.

Next, you define a p-value by asking what is the probability of getting a result that can be compressed (as above) to k bits or less. Getting back to the series of 1000 coin flips, for k much less than 1000, the probability will be vanishingly small. So with this single universal test, you can look at the outcome, ask what would be the probability of a fair coin giving me an outcome with this much compressibility, and conclude that a lot of results are noteworthy. E.g., if you started flipping the coin and got HTHHTTTHHHHHTTTTTTTT… where each successive run was the next Fibonacci number 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 etc. you could apply Solomonoff induction to conclude that something very unlike a series of independent coin flips was happening. Any kind of well-defined pattern will refute the null hypothesis because of the low probability of getting a compressible sequence using flips of a fair coin.

I state all the above with some trepidation, because it may bear a superficial similarity to nonsense like “specified complexity.” One important distinction is that it actually works. Another is that it says nothing about whether something “was designed” or “evolved” but only how it compares to the result of a series of independent uniform random events. But evolution is not a series of independent uniform random events. There is some randomness adding to variability, but not “tornado in a junkyard” randomness.

I don’t know if Figure 1 is your original work or not, but I believe that it is very effective and rich with explanatory possibilities.

First, it shows the emergence of properties in populations over time. One canard that I’ve heard is the notion that “Adam” with mutation “W” has to somehow wait for “Eve” “W” to show up at the exact same time in order to pass on “W” to their children. This shows that it doesn’t have to happen that way.

Second, the “out-of-orderness” is critically important. Mutations come and go all the time. Over time, some of these mutations become “fixed” in the child populations. You might expand the width of the “graph” to show specific mutations dying out in some lineages. In addition, one could show individual mutations popping up spontaneously at different times at different points in the graph.

Third, the graph shows that the “parent” population still lives. The child “blue” and “red” populations are there, but there are still “white” fish. Again, a wider graph could make more explicit the parent “white” lineage continuing to exist.

Fourth, the graph shows contingency. Mutation “E” shows up only in a “purple” lineage. We could expand this area of the graph and demonstrate that, in fact, “E” can only show up (or only be selected for) in the presence of “W” and “V”, even though “W” and “V” are detrimental to the final sequence “ABCDEF”. “W” and “V” provide the scaffolding to support the emergence of “E”, even though “W” and “V” are no longer in the direct ancestry of “ABCDEF”, nor even in the parent “white”. This shows a direct contradiction to IC.

Fifth, it demonstrates (or could demonstrate) that Evolution has no particular “goal” in mind. The down side of this particular graph is that the “goal” appears to be the “intelligent” sequence “ABCDEF”. It’s the Weasel program all over again. To those of us “in the know”, the sequence “ABCDEF” is obviously arbitrary. But it doesn’t look arbitrary to those who want to see a purpose in Life.

Sixth, it demonstrates speciation. At some point, the accumulation of “blue” and “red” mutations are such that any combination is truly detrimental to survival, and you now have two separate lineages that cannot interbreed successfully.

Seventh, it blows up a favorite Creationist canard. At no point in time did a Dog give birth to a Cat. No crocodile gave birth to a duck. No “white” parent gave birth to either a “blue” or “red” child.

What could be even more effective might be an “interactive” and “fractal” graph, one showing different levels of detail at different points which one could zoom in on, or showing different “paths” that different mutations take through the graph. Hook it up to a genetic algorithm of some sort (so you don’t have to do it all by hand), and you could generate quite an extensive, extensible, and explorable graph. Being interactive, the student could even turn a few knobs, and watch the expression of the various mutations change over time.

If a graph like this is not part of any high school biology text, it certainly should be. I know for certain that any text I had growing up looked more like Figure 2, with the “obvious” linear changes over time.

david.starling.macmillan said: They obfuscate everything because they aren’t willing to actually make a decision on how to define “information”.

We’re in full agreement here. The rank and file probably can’t (give a formal definition), while the folks like Behe and Dembski have stopped even trying, beacuse after a couple of attempts they now know it takes a mathematician about five minutes after reading any formal or technical definition of ‘information’ to show how it could arise without intelligence.

One of the things I touched on in footnote 1 is critical – you only need four or five human-genome-length individuals before the chance of getting at least one matching 22-codon sequence is better than your chance of getting a speeding ticket in Hampton, Florida.

Most creationists simply have no concept of microbiology…but think they do, which makes them dangerous. Mostly to themselves.

I said:

I’ve been reading these discussions since around the time of the Kitzmiller decision and there is a lot of misunderstanding about statistics on both sides.

Please replace the part in italics with “are still a few misconceptions about statistical inference that I see from people arguing against creationists, though nothing nearly as egregious as what you see from the creationists themselves.” I had no intention of suggesting equivalence, and I just wrote my thoughts in a sloppy way. (But the “all outcomes equally probable” thing is one of my pet peeves.)

Scott F said:

I don’t know if Figure 1 is your original work or not, but I believe that it is very effective and rich with explanatory possibilities.

[snip]

What could be even more effective might be an “interactive” and “fractal” graph, one showing different levels of detail at different points which one could zoom in on, or showing different “paths” that different mutations take through the graph. Hook it up to a genetic algorithm of some sort (so you don’t have to do it all by hand), and you could generate quite an extensive, extensible, and explorable graph. Being interactive, the student could even turn a few knobs, and watch the expression of the various mutations change over time.

If a graph like this is not part of any high school biology text, it certainly should be. I know for certain that any text I had growing up looked more like Figure 2, with the “obvious” linear changes over time.

The idea for the graphic was suggested by Matt, and executed by me. I wanted to make it bigger, but didn’t want to make it too complicated for the purposes of this post. And you hit on all the factors I wanted to demonstrate, so kudos!

Beautiful in its clarity. Thank you DSM.

Both evolution and probability require some thought to understand.

Both, if approached in a superficial way, give rise to characteristic misinterpretations.

The ego-serving creationist bias that the correct understanding of these subjects “must be wrong” is, except in rare circumstances, a virtually insurmountable emotional barrier.

Think about it. Imagine doing a difficult assignment, then going over how to solve all the problems correctly with the professor. However, instead of the humbling but rewarding experience of learning how the problems should be approached, you experience the superficial high of convincing yourself that the professor “must be wrong” and that your mistaken, simplistic efforts were superior.

It isn’t very mature, but it’s a mechanism for avoiding the mild emotional pain of learning that everything you assume isn’t always correct.

Of course, you can’t listen to closely to the professor, or their explanations might start to make sense.

A surprising amount of science denial is driven by anti-intellectualism, which is itself often insecurity dealt with by excess arrogance and denigration of that which is poorly understood.

david.starling.macmillan said: Any creationist worth his salt (as I daresay I was) will immediately point that out. “You’re begging the question. No matter what result you got, you’d say it was a 1e-30 chance…but it isn’t, because you were bound to get a result. What you need is a meaningful result, one that will accomplish the evolutionary step required by environmental selection pressure.”

I don’t know how useful it is when talking with creationists (I don’t tend to encounter them very much, at least to the point that the topic comes up), but I refer to this as the “wrong end of the telescope” argument.

The idea springs from the point Sagan made in the original _Cosmos_ series. Lowell (misinterpreting Shiaparelli’s “canali” as “canals” rather than “channels”) decided that there was (or had been) intelligent life on Mars. Well…looking at Lowell’s maps of Mars, there is certainly evidence of intelligence at work, but it doesn’t actually tell you which end of the telescope it’s on.

Yes, we know of some specific codon sequences that produce specific proteins necessary for life. The random chance for evolution to produce those specific sequences is rather low. What we *don’t* (crucially) know is just how many other sequences and the proteins coded for would work reasonably well. The “target” sequence isn’t required. What is required is some one sequence out all the possible workable ones. All we know is that we got the particular one we got. So the whole probability calculation is meaningless because the number of possible working results isn’t known.

harold said:

However, instead of the humbling but rewarding experience of learning how the problems should be approached, you experience the superficial high of convincing yourself that the professor “must be wrong” and that your mistaken, simplistic efforts were superior.

This is where (as I said before) David’s articles have given me new insights (and puzzles) about YEC.

I can understand someone thinking “I just don’t get evolution. And I know I didn’t come from a monkey.” Evolution is counterintuitive and may not give you the answer you want to hear. So, OK, Genesis 1. God did it. That explains it. ‘nuff said.

Even the Fall has explanatory power because you might say “OK, so if God did it, why didn’t he do a better job?”

But… I mean… Noah… Seriously? If I got this far in a discussion with a YEC, my first thought would be “C’mon… you can’t possibly believe this.” and it would take a while even to get from there to “OK, but you can’t possibly expect me to believe it.” To convince yourself that one guy with a very large boat carried out a massive animal rescue from which all land animals descended requires lengthy and tortured reasoning. But either you’re going to go back to being a good student and listen to your new “professor” in order to piece all this together, or you’re just going to have to take the professor’s word for it. So why didn’t you just do that when you had the sane professor?

I suspect that there are very few genuine biblical literalists out there even among fundamentalist Christians. A lot them probably accept the basic principle of creation and a fall, without thinking about it too hard, because it answers (actually dismisses) questions we all have. The story of Noah just seems way out there too me, and aside from its utility to the YEC apologist in accounting for strata and dinosaur bones, I doubt very much that the average fundamental Christian really places much personal stock in its veracity.

d

callahanpb said:

But… I mean… Noah… Seriously?

Up until the appearance of “The Genesis Flood” by Whitcomb and Morris in 1961, the anti-evolutionists were almost believable. One might also argue that the real science was more vulnerable. Studies of DNA were in their infancy. As far as hominin evolution - we didn’t even have the word ‘hominin” and Homo was in a different a different taxonomic family than the African apes, etc.

But what did anti-evolution do but adopt an impossible position.

There is a perversity to it.

eric said:

For example, a creationist may calculate that the probability of a fish arriving at a particular DNA sequence by chance mutation is some astronomical number like 1 in 10 30. This number, he believes, is far beyond the limits of what he thinks is reasonable…

…Easy-to-understand examples are vitally important.

In the spirit of simple examples one can use to refute ID creationism, here’s one. Whenever a creationist tells you some probability is beyond the limits of what can happen on earth/in the universe (like 1 in 10^30), do this:

1. Take the exponent. (In this case, 30.)

2. Multiply by 1.3. Round up. (So…39.)

3. Roll that number of 6-sided dice. If you don’t have physical dice handy, you can always just have Excel produce a random number between 1 and 6, and copy the formula into 39 rows (or however many rows you need).

4. Congratulations. You have just produced an event less probable than what the creationist said the universe couldn’t produce, proving them wrong.

You have my expert opinion, FL, that it’s full of shit.

Why have recourse to Paul, to discuss the influence of the mysteries on Early Christianity.

Jesus, or rather the author of the signs source–and yes I accept the signs source and will say why if anyone is interested–that is preserved in John already shows the influence of the mysteries. All of the miracles that Jesus does in John are engaged in a dialog with Greek cults. He turns water into good wine–not the cheap stuff that Dionysus caused to run in the fountains in his temples on his birthday (just happens to be the Epiphany), when he heals the lame man on the Sabbath, he sends him to Siloam to tell them there–Siloam was the site of an Asclepius temple, the miraculous multiplication of food is a spell from the Greek magical papyri, etc. Since you accept the NT as gospel true, FL, you have no choice but to accept that Jesus already copied the mysteries. But these are facts that Nash is completely ignorant of.

Helena Constantine said:

eric said:

For example, a creationist may calculate that the probability of a fish arriving at a particular DNA sequence by chance mutation is some astronomical number like 1 in 10 30. This number, he believes, is far beyond the limits of what he thinks is reasonable…

…Easy-to-understand examples are vitally important.

In the spirit of simple examples one can use to refute ID creationism, here’s one. Whenever a creationist tells you some probability is beyond the limits of what can happen on earth/in the universe (like 1 in 10^30), do this:

1. Take the exponent. (In this case, 30.)

2. Multiply by 1.3. Round up. (So…39.)

3. Roll that number of 6-sided dice. If you don’t have physical dice handy, you can always just have Excel produce a random number between 1 and 6, and copy the formula into 39 rows (or however many rows you need).

4. Congratulations. You have just produced an event less probable than what the creationist said the universe couldn’t produce, proving them wrong.

You have my expert opinion, FL, that it’s full of shit.

Why have recourse to Paul, to discuss the influence of the mysteries on Early Christianity.

Jesus, or rather the author of the signs source–and yes I accept the signs source and will say why if anyone is interested–that is preserved in John already shows the influence of the mysteries. All of the miracles that Jesus does in John are engaged in a dialog with Greek cults. He turns water into good wine–not the cheap stuff that Dionysus caused to run in the fountains in his temples on his birthday (just happens to be the Epiphany), when he heals the lame man on the Sabbath, he sends him to Siloam to tell them there–Siloam was the site of an Asclepius temple, the miraculous multiplication of food is a spell from the Greek magical papyri, etc. Since you accept the NT as gospel true, FL, you have no choice but to accept that Jesus already copied the mysteries. But these are facts that Nash is completely ignorant of.

I’m terribly sorry. the above post was meant ot be a reply to FL in t e previous thread, but I had both pages open at once I foolishly posted it in the wrong one. No way to delete it now.

Callahanpb wrote,

I can understand someone thinking “I just don’t get evolution. And I know I didn’t come from a monkey.”

I’m glad you brought up that very last word, because that’s the animal that came to mind as I read David’s “Part 3” essay.

Get a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters, so they say, and Voila! Somewhere down the road, the critters will hand you a brand-new, error-free copy of Shakespeare’s Works.

That’s how evolution works. That’s the “massively parallel” business that David M was quoting from PZ Myers.

But wait! A million monkeys typing on a million typewriters is actually far more likely to hand to you, NOT some brand-new error-free copy of Shakespeare’s Works, but instead a million urine-soaked typewriters clogged up with monkey-poop. So various variations of the argument had to be offered

One such variant, maybe the most popular, is in Richard Dawkins’ well-known 1980’s book The Blind Watchmaker. It feature the one-liner “Methinks it is like a Weasel”, (Dawkins’ famous computer simulation, taken from a line in Hamlet).

I think that Wiki may have the best summary statement that describes the situation:

In terms of the typing monkey analogy, this means that Romeo and Juliet could be produced relatively quickly if placed under the constraints of a nonrandom, Darwinian-type selection, by freezing in place any letters that happened to match the target text, and making that the template for the next generation of typing monkeys.

Pretty much like the brief example of dice that David replied to Eric there.

****

Anyway, the argument is an erroneous one. Casey Luskin wrote in a 2011 Evolution News and Views article that Dawkins’ original simulation) wrongly assumed that some functional advantage exists at each small step along the evolutionary pathway, “when in reality they have not demonstrated any reason for unguided natural selection to retain many of the evolutionary steps.”

The fact that these early steps resemble gibberish for so many generations shows precisely why Darwinian evolution cannot select for structures that provide no useful function or benefit to the organism. Natural selection might be able to fine-tune sequences which are already highly functional, but it has great difficulty evolving new functional sequences of code.

To see this better, let’s borrow a few generations of Dawkins’ simulation results. Courtesy of the Sept. 1998 CMI article “Weasel Words” by Werner Gitt with Carl Wieland.

Now Dawkins’ pre-selected target (includinga pre-selected number of letters) is METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. The fact that the target phrase and even the number of letters have been intelligently pre-selected should be a red flag for everybody, since as PZ Myers explicitly pointed out in the article David M quoted, “Evolution is not teleological.”

But beyond that, let’s borrow an abbreviated list of Dawkins’ 1st 10 generations (hat tip to Gitt/Wieland):

1st Generation (starting point)

WDLTMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P

2nd Generation

WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZIMQLO P

10th Generation

MDLDMNLS ITJISWHRZREZ MECS P

Okay, so the first 10 generations have gone by, and all 10 are complete unintelligible gibberish. (And this is just the first test; in the second test, the first 20 generations go by, and all 20 are complete gibberish.)

So why would unguided, un-teleological natural selection select and retain any of these gibberish phrases? No functional advantage, no extra dollop of fitness, is cited or shown in any of these first 10 generations–there’s nothing for natural selection to select for. No reason is given for each gibberish generation’s retention–yet you’re supposed to assume, for no reason, that natural selection would do so anyway.

So in fact you’ve got these VERY big gaps on the evolutionary pathway to the pre-selected phrase METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL, big gaps where no reason can be given why or how real-world unguided natural selection would actually bridge such gaps in at all. There would be NO viable evolutionary pathway to the magic pre-selected 28-letter “WEASEL” phrase in the real world, the real world of “Evolution is not teleological.”

So when biochemist Michael Behe (and on separate occasion, biologist Ralph Seelke) point out that…

If only one mutation is needed to confer some ability, then Darwinian evolution has little problem finding it. But if more than one is needed, the probability of getting all the right ones grows exponentially worse.

–(Behe, The Edge of Evolution).

…It turns out that the million-monkey argument (or rather, the Weasel variation of it that Dawkins has successfully popularized) actually supports what Behe is saying there. Luskin writes, “Natural selection might be able to fine-tune sequences which are already highly functional, but it has great difficulty evolving new functional sequences of code.”

Other criticisms have come from William Dembski and Ronald Marks, Sean Pitman, and CreationWiki. Darwinists and Non-Darwinists continue to debate and disagree, of course.

http://creationwiki.org/Weasel_program

Meanwhile, it’s not difficult to print off a quickie single-page summary of these issues. It just requires some parents and clergy or Sunday School/CCIA/VBS/Afterschool Club teachers who would be willing to print them off and hand them out.

Say No To Monkey Business!

FL

FL said:

Callahanpb wrote,

[omitted]

Note the context that I was generously speculating how a naive but nonetheless sane person might at first express doubts about evolution. This was mainly by way of contrast with further ventures down the YEC rabbit hole.

That’s how evolution works.

No, evolution works absolutely nothing like that. Evolution requires reproduction and selective pressure, both of which are missing in your scenario.

Is that really the best strawman you can come up with?

That’s the “massively parallel” business that David M was quoting from PZ Myers.

Hmm… I thought somewhere you had at least conceded that fruit flies could adapt provided they remained fruit flies. Given that the “monkeys at a typewriter” strawman wouldn’t even be sufficient to develop something like antibiotic resistance in bacteria, I’m now very puzzled about how you think “microevolution” works.

Now let’s see the probability calculation for an agency which is apt to produce more results than what the laws of chemistry can do. The probability is calculated by a ratio: the number of “favorable” outcomes divided by the number of possible outcomes. If you introduce a agency which can do more things (which is what “supernatural” means, vis-a-vis “natural”), the probability ratio is smaller. However improbable that natural causes would do it, it is even more improbable that supernatural causes would.

A lot of us know why the creationist arguments fail. What I do not understand is why after each failure do they go back to their same bogus sources and pick out something else?

What is the mentality that makes the “argument of the moment” viable. Why does stupid junk like the Gish gallop mean anything to them? To try to support their belief in a young earth they might assert that the speed of light was much faster in the past, but they will move on to something else if you point out something like E equals MC squared. They might start claiming that the earth was in some singularity with the universe aging around it, but when asked about radioactive decay on the earth being the same as the radioactive decay in meteorites they just move on to the next stupid senseless argument.

It seems that they only have to lie to themselves in the immediate present to make whatever they claim as problem solving work.

How does that work? What is the mentality that makes something so stupid, sensible for them to do? Virtually nothing they make up has to be consistent. How does that work?

Ron Okimoto said:

A lot of us know why the creationist arguments fail. What I do not understand is why after each failure do they go back to their same bogus sources and pick out something else?

What is the mentality that makes the “argument of the moment” viable.

Its: “putting prayer and god back in schools is really important, so if we have to pretend to a secular motive and justification for doing that, we will.”

Just go back and read the first page of the Wedge document. “[The Center] seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies…” Or just look at the local paper comments defending any attempt to put creationism back in schools, any place the issue crops up; the defenders will basically tell you its about putting God back in schools.

Floyd is so cute when he flings his feces around like a monkey and pretends to understand science. Sort of a self defeating argument from the monkey boy.

FL said: Get a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters, so they say, and Voila! Somewhere down the road, the critters will hand you a brand-new, error-free copy of Shakespeare’s Works.

That’s how evolution works.

No, it isn’t, and that’s David’s point. Your wrong models lead to wrong predictions of the probability of events happening. Get a right model, and then come show us how it predicts evolution is impossible.

“when in reality they have not demonstrated any reason for unguided natural selection to retain many of the evolutionary steps.”

Dawkins also produced a nonlocking weasel program and showed it results in the same basic conclusion: even nonlocking, an evolutionary algorithm arrives at a certain sequence many many orders of magnitude faster than random search - which is the process you, FL, are incorrectly using as a model for it.

Now Dawkins’ pre-selected target (includinga pre-selected number of letters) is METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. The fact that the target phrase and even the number of letters have been intelligently pre-selected should be a red flag for everybody,

No, it’s not a red flag, because organisms exist in an environment, which functions like a target. And if you think about the problem for a minute, it should be clear to anyone that you could use a random number generator to create the string and decide the string length, and the overall conclusion (selection and preferential reproduction reduces run time by a huge number of orders of magnitude) will still hold true.

You could even, as I’ve argued, have the target constantly changing, and as long as the rate at which the target changes is slower than the rate of generational selection and reproduction, evolutionary algorithms will do better than random search.

So why would unguided, un-teleological natural selection select and retain any of these gibberish phrases? No functional advantage, no extra dollop of fitness, is cited or shown in any of these first 10 generations

Yes in fact it is. You show you fundamentally don’t understand the program. “Fitness” in this case simply means similarity to target, not the existence of English words. This is explained by Weasel program producers every time they discuss it, but evidently you don’t hear what they are saying.

No reason is given for each gibberish generation’s retention

Um, yeah, the reason is explained directly in Dawkins’ (and many other peoples’) descriptions of the program. The algorithm compares each string to the target and selects the one that most resembles it. That’s the reason for retention. The reason is given - you just don’t bother to read. The algorithm, in this case, is functioning like natural selection: killing off variations that have worse comparable traits before they can reproduce.

But if more than one is needed, the probability of getting all the right ones grows exponentially worse.

–(Behe, The Edge of Evolution).

Here is another Behe quote. He’s talking about a disulfide bond that he (Behe) says would require two unconnected substitution mutations - so egad! Exponentially harder than one!

Q [Rothschild]. And one last other question on your paper. You concluded, it would take a population size of 10 to the 9th, I think we said that was a billion, 10 to the 8th generations to evolve this new disulfide bond, that was your conclusion?

A. [Behe] That was the calculation based on the assumptions in the paper, yes.

MR. ROTHSCHILD: May I approach the witness, Your Honor?

THE COURT: You may.

BY MR. ROTHSCHILD:

Q. What I’ve marked as Exhibit P-756 is an article in the journal Science called Exploring Micro–

A. Microbial.

Q. Thank you – Diversity, A Vast Below by T.P. Curtis and W.T. Sloan?

A. Yes, that seems to be it.

Q. In that first paragraph, he says, There are more than 10 to the 16 prokaryotes in a ton of soil. Is that correct, in that first paragraph?

A. Yes, that’s right.

Q. In one ton of soil?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And we have a lot more than one ton of soil on Earth, correct?

A. Yes, we do.

Q. And have for some time, correct?

A. That’s correct, yes.

So, Behe’s “exponentially harder” multi-mutation adaptation is still trivially easy for evolution to accomplish, and even Behe admits this (when he has to).

Get a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters, so they say, and Voila! Somewhere down the road, the critters will hand you a brand-new, error-free copy of Shakespeare’s Works.

I’d call this a straw man, but that would be too insulting to other straw men.

harold said:

Get a million monkeys typing on a million typewriters, so they say, and Voila! Somewhere down the road, the critters will hand you a brand-new, error-free copy of Shakespeare’s Works.

I’d call this a straw man, but that would be too insulting to other straw men.

Ironically, it aptly describes Dembski’s random search algorithm. So what FL is really arguing is that Dembki’s proposed algorithm would not lead to the ecosystems we see today. I agree, it wouldn’t. :)

eric said:

So what FL is really arguing is that Dembki’s proposed algorithm would not lead to the ecosystems we see today. I agree, it wouldn’t. :)

Yeah, this is the flaw that stood out to me, though I’m not interested in playing “gotcha” with FL. You can’t (a) concede that evolution has a certain limited explanatory power and then (b) continue to insist that evolution is equivalent to a model without even that much explanatory power. If someone presents such an argument then (generously) they have serious deficiencies in critical thinking or (less generously) they’re dishonest and know it.

harold said:

Both evolution and probability require some thought to understand.

Both, if approached in a superficial way, give rise to characteristic misinterpretations.

The ego-serving creationist bias that the correct understanding of these subjects “must be wrong” is, except in rare circumstances, a virtually insurmountable emotional barrier. …Of course, you can’t listen to closely to the professor, or their explanations might start to make sense.

A surprising amount of science denial is driven by anti-intellectualism, which is itself often insecurity dealt with by excess arrogance and denigration of that which is poorly understood.

Unfortunately, this anti-intellectualism is not limited to science denial. It seems rather to be a feature of life in America these days. David’s series immediately brought to mind an analogous, if minor in comparison, problem in my field of Shakespeare studies. You may be aware of the so-called Authorship Controversy, that is, the argument that Shakespeare did not write his own plays and poems but rather functioned as a front for a nobleman (usually today Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford is the preferred candidate) who wanted to publish his work anonymously. This hilarious conspiracy theory can be traced only back to the mid-19th century where its origin was simple snobbery on the part of some Oxbridge people who were incensed that England’s greatest writer lacked a university education (which at his time consisted almost exclusively of Latin and theology) AND was a commoner to boot. The idea’s “scientific” impetus or evidence was, well, the putative lack of evidence from Shakespeare’s life (a lack, incidentally, endemic to ANY 16th century English person who was not royal or noble)such as letters, diaries, obituaries, etc. The “debate” was also fueled by people like Mark Twain, who expressed his personal doubts (as if his position as a very fine writer qualified him in some way to address historical and archival knowledge…his quote [just one] on the subject is still invoked by “Oxfordians” today).

Since Twain’s time, mountains of scholarship and deep archival work have revealed far more knowledge about Shakespeare’s life and times than was ever available in the centuries since his death. There are no reputable scholars or experts that I am aware of, at any college or university that is properly credentialed, who subscribe to the “controversy”. Instead, there is a gaggle of modern pundits, a selection of very well-known Shakespearean actors (Mark Rylance and Derrick Jacobi among them), and other non-scholars who continue to present to the media and the public that there is an equivalent validity between their conspiracies and the scholarly work of Shakespeare specialists (see James Shapiro’s “Contested Wills” for an outstanding survey of the history and nature of the issue).

What I have found instructive is that the same logical fallacies, obfuscation, and willful misreading of evidence so evident in the work of YEC and ID adherents are the methodology of the Oxfordians (and the Marlovians, etc.)Reading one of their treatises or webpages (most are on the web because reputable presses will not usually publish them – with some exceptions)is pretty much the same exercise in obscurancy and convoluted syntax and logic that I have noticed in, shall we say, certain posts-that-shall-remain-anonymous on these threads.

Two simple examples of the absurdity of the position:

1. Oxford died in 1604, before a hefty chunk of Shakespeare’s plays were written and published. The theory is that he had already pre-written them (including apparently prophetic references to future historical events like the gun powder plot and subsequent Guy Fawkes trial of 1605-1606) and then had them squibbed out periodically to maintain the secret of his authorship. There is a kind of reverse Occam’s razor involved in all of it.

2. Shakespeare did not work in a vacuum. There were dozens of other playwrights and poets in Elizabethan/Jacobean London, even the most well known of whom (Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Webster) we have even less documentary evidence about than we do for Will S. Yet, there are no authorship controversies surrounding ANY of the other writers (except for the one that Marlowe faked his own death in 1593, moved to Venice, and wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays himself–sending them back to the front). The lack of documentary life evidence which drives the Shakespeare denial does not produce any Webster denial or Middleton denial.

My students, however, are very inclined to read an indifferently fact-checked article on the web, see an interview with an actor who must be an expert on historical Shakespeare scholarship because he is so great at performing the words, or watch a travesty of a mistake-filled film like “Anonymous”(which can’t even get the known facts of Oxford’s biography accurately) and conclude that there is indeed a furious controversy over the issue, that experts are suppressing true inquiry into the matter to protect their own careers and the so-called Shakespeare industry.

There is a strong current in the thinking of these students that:

1.) experts do not really have expertise and are simply expressing opinions that they have a vested interest in maintaining (a very naive version of postmodern power analysis, for sure).

2.) Perhaps more troubling, I find that many of them are simply unwilling to concede that any amount of evidence ever trumps a strongly and dearly held opinion and that no one, under any circumstances, should ever be called out or criticized for holding an opinion no matter how ill-informed as long as they are sincere and committed to that opinion. The purity of their emotional connection to that opinion is paramount as is their right, Constitutionally derived, to freely express that opinion without censure or judgment from others. Since science (and most other real scholarship) depends on falsifiability and replication of results, rather than deep emotional commitment to opinions, it just follows that anit-intellectual science denial would also be deeply ingrained.

https://me.yahoo.com/a/UZTyNgIV2NoJdpo6Kaxq0gI.KQ–#90715 said:

A symbiosis between the environment and life is evidence of design. Whats the point of rain, evaporation, rain if not for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals? Is there rain on Mars? The moon?. Think, man. Think.

I realize this is late, but did anyone else notice this? This is surely a new contender for being the stupidist thing on the internet. And look at how he sells it as if he is calling on the reader to think for himself with this nonsense.

Helena Constantine said:

https://me.yahoo.com/a/UZTyNgIV2NoJdpo6Kaxq0gI.KQ–#90715 said:

A symbiosis between the environment and life is evidence of design. Whats the point of rain, evaporation, rain if not for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals? Is there rain on Mars? The moon?. Think, man. Think.

I realize this is late, but did anyone else notice this? This is surely a new contender for being the stupidist thing on the internet. And look at how he sells it as if he is calling on the reader to think for himself with this nonsense.

I agree completely… that quote about rain being for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals belongs in the FSTDT database. How can we nominate it?

I agree completely… that quote about rain being for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals belongs in the FSTDT database. How can we nominate it?

http://www.fstdt.com/SubmitQuote.aspx

Helena Constantine said:

https://me.yahoo.com/a/UZTyNgIV2NoJdpo6Kaxq0gI.KQ–#90715 said:

A symbiosis between the environment and life is evidence of design. Whats the point of rain, evaporation, rain if not for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals? Is there rain on Mars? The moon?. Think, man. Think.

I realize this is late, but did anyone else notice this? This is surely a new contender for being the stupidist thing on the internet. And look at how he sells it as if he is calling on the reader to think for himself with this nonsense.

Well, does it rain on the sun, or snow on Venus? Think, man. Think.

See how easy science is? Atheists just make it hard to try to fool us that it all just happens.

Glen Davidson

PS. Actually, it does snow on Mars. It couldn’t rain because the atmospheric pressure is too low. To be sure, it doesn’t snow much, due to conditions, but it’s hard to prevent precipitation altogether when stuff evaporates (sublimes).

By the way, it may only be carbon dioxide snow that occurs on Mars.

Maybe some life there needs carbon dioxide snow.

Glen Davidson

david.starling.macmillan said:

Technically, they’re right. Newly-emerged genes are just pre-existing information in the genetic code.

They are wrong in that a sequence can be “just pre-existing information” AND be an example of new information at the same time. At least, according to the way people often typically measure it (Shannon entropy).

Under Shannon’s conception, when a string changes from X to XX, information content has both changed and increased. And that makes sense, because the information on the number of X’s has certainly changed. That information used to be “one,” now it’s “two.” That makes a big difference - it’s not E = mc, after all.

I think you can find some quotes out there of IDers rejecting this idea (i.e, saying that changing the number of identical sequences does not change information content). The problem is, IDers typically don’t back up such claims by offering an alternative, rigorous definition. And it’s hard to see how they even could formulate a definition that passed the smell test where number of duplicates didn’t count as information, given the above reasons and examples.

Helena Constantine said:

https://me.yahoo.com/a/UZTyNgIV2NoJdpo6Kaxq0gI.KQ–#90715 said:

A symbiosis between the environment and life is evidence of design. Whats the point of rain, evaporation, rain if not for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals? Is there rain on Mars? The moon?. Think, man. Think.

I realize this is late, but did anyone else notice this? This is surely a new contender for being the stupidist thing on the internet. And look at how he sells it as if he is calling on the reader to think for himself with this nonsense.

Yeah, it’s like Dr. Pangloss declaring that the purpose of the nose is – obviously – to support the spectacles, whence we wear them.

When an 18th-century satirist can mock your position into oblivion, it’s time to rethink your position.

One common creationist example of why mutations “don’t actually add new information” is the “duplicate manual”. Let’s say you have an instruction manual for assembling a new bicycle. If there’s a copying error at the printer and the manual is printed twice in the same binding, you don’t actually have anything new; you just have two copies of the same thing.

Sure, fine, whatever.

But if there’s a copying error at the printer causing only the “wheel assembly” page to be duplicated…then, holy crap, you don’t have a bicycle any more; you’ve just built yourself a quad bike.

Someone else apparently had the same idea regarding the graphic depiction of evolution on this page. The graphic itself is here. Amusingly, the author here also used “wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey.”

david.starling.macmillan said:

If there’s a copying error at the printer and the manual is printed twice in the same binding, you don’t actually have anything new; you just have two copies of the same thing.

Sure, fine, whatever.

But even in this case, you still have more information. To distinguish between X and “N copies of X” you still need to represent the value of N. On average, that requires N bits (some choices of N will have lower Kolmogorov complexity, but almost all will not).

The ID folks in particular have done a great job annoying not only biologists, but computer scientists with their nonsense about “information.” The copying-isn’t-creating-anything-new canard is one of my “favorites” because it is so wrong, and you have to get it right to make any progress in formalizing the notion of information.

E.g., which automaton requires more states, (I) one that outputs “abababababab…” forever or (II) one that outputs “ababababab…” out to a billion characters and stops? The answer is (II) because it needs to maintain a count (so that’s about 30 bits to store a billion states) whereas (I) can get by with just two states alternating between the output of “a” and “b” (assuming one character output per state transition).

I’m not sure if the above is counterintuitive or not. It seems obviously true to me. But regardless, it demonstrates that just knowing the number of copies of something is information.

I goofed horribly:

On average, that requires N bits (some choices of N will have lower Kolmogorov complexity, but almost all will not).

On average, that requires log_2 N bits. Sorry, I just didn’t proofread the preview as carefully as the resulting post.

Dave Luckett said:

I’ve had a fundy tell me that the words in red in his KJV mean that they were the very words spoken by Jesus Himself. Pointing out that the words in red were English words produced not even a puzzled frown; he simply repeated it. When informed that Jesus was speaking Aramaic, not even the Greek of the Testament, he didn’t even blink. It meant nothing. The fact simply didn’t exist. Asked when he thought the words had been first written (in Greek) he didn’t know, or care, nor when they had been translated into English, nor who had translated them, nor who had caused them to be printed in red. It didn’t matter. The version he held in his hand was the Authorised Version. Period. End of discussion.

Since it’s Friday afternoon, here’s a joke told in Lutheran churches:

One day a preacher came visiting the local Minnesota church from the old country (Norway). This guy was so authentic, he even read the Gospel passage in Norwegian, to everyone’s happy amazement.

But nobody was happier than old Lars, sitting in his favorite pew where he had sat for 20 years since he came over from the old country. Tears of joy were running down his face, and he said with great satisfaction, “Ah, it’s good to hear Yesus’ words, yust as Yesus Himself spoke them!”

Some time above, I refuted FL’s assertion that the six-day creation in Genesis is meant as literal fact, in that the days are literal 24-hour days. The refutation is repeated below. This is about the umpty-eleventh repeat. The repeat is necessary because FL keeps repeating that falsehood.

FL has been in hiding from these facts since then. He’s read the thread, as his later posts demonstrate, but he has not said a word about the argument below. That’s because he can’t. There is no rebutting it.

Of course, sometime later, somewhere else, he’ll pop up again, say it again and tell the world it has never been refuted. He will be lying. So what else is new?

We’re (FL and I) arguing two, fundamentally futile, ideas:

One, that the Bible says that the days of creation were meant as literal twenty-four hour days.

Well, does it say that?

No, it does not. It says that they were days, yom, and that they had an evening and a morning. It does not say that they lasted twenty-four hours. I am in the evening of my own days, but I can recognise a metaphor when I see one. FL, of course, can’t.

Two, that the Bible in this instance must be read as literal history. Not as fictive narrative in which days are mentioned, with their attendant mornings and evenings, but as literal history.

Well, does it say that it must be read as literal history?

No, it does not, and that’s flat. Nowhere does Genesis tell us that this is literal history. Nowhere is it implied. It doesn’t say it’s fiction, either, but there’s damn-all fiction that does. There’s no reason at all to suppose that Genesis isn’t fiction, every reason to think it is, and every reason to think that the originators never meant it as anything but mythos - stories told to make a point.

So FL’s premise, that the Genesis days of creation are meant as literal twenty-four hour days, fails on two separate grounds. The Bible doesn’t say that, two layers deep.

Helena Constantine said:

https://me.yahoo.com/a/UZTyNgIV2NoJdpo6Kaxq0gI.KQ–#90715 said:

A symbiosis between the environment and life is evidence of design. Whats the point of rain, evaporation, rain if not for watering trees and hydrating thirsty animals? Is there rain on Mars? The moon?. Think, man. Think.

I realize this is late, but did anyone else notice this? This is surely a new contender for being the stupidist thing on the internet. And look at how he sells it as if he is calling on the reader to think for himself with this nonsense.

Here’s another contender. Jason Rosenhouse reported on the Sixth International Conference on Creationism in his Evolution Blog in 2008:

A fellow named John Pantana got up to tell us about God’s pharmacy. To anticipate in advance your natural question: Yes, he’s serious. I know that because someone asked him precisely that after his talk, and he bluntly answered in the affirmative. Read it and weep:

Here’s God’s amazing pharmacy. We can see the creativeness of God in the colors of food and the shapes of food that we put into our bodies. …

Did you know that the sliced carrot looks like a human eye. The pupil, the iris, the radiating lines look like a human eye. Science shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to the function of the eyes.

A tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart has four chambers and is red. All the research shows that tomatoes are loaded with lycopine and are indeed pure food for the heart and the blood.

Grapes and the heart. Grapes hang in a cluster that look like the shape of a heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell. All the scientific research shows that both red and green grapes are profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

A walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles and folds are just like the neo-cortex. They have shown that walnuts help develop more than three dozen neuron transmitters to the brain. So everybody eat some walnuts.

Kidney beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function. Yes, they look exactly like the human kidney.

Celery, bok choy, rhubarb and many others look like the bones. These food specifically target bone strength. Bones are twenty-three percent sodium and these foods are twenty-three percent sodium. If you don’t have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones thus making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Avocados, eggplants and pears target the health and function of the womb and the cervix of the female. They look just like these organs and the latest research shows that when a woman eats one avocado a week it balances hormones … and prevents cervical cancers. It takes exactly nine months to grow an avocado from the blossom to the ripened fruit.

Figs and male sperm count. Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of sperm as well to overcome male sterility.

Sweet potatoes and the pancreas. Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives and ovaries. Black and green olives assist the health and function of ovaries.

One last. Oranges, pomegranites, grapefruits and other citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of the breasts and the movement of lymph in and out of the breasts.

Onions look like body cells. Today’s research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes.

This is like nothing so much as herbalism from the Dark Ages.

You can read the whole thing here: http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionbl[…]-internatio/

Intelligent Design my foot.

Heaven help us.

callahanpb said:

I’m not sure if the above is counterintuitive or not. It seems obviously true to me. But regardless, it demonstrates that just knowing the number of copies of something is information.

No creationist was ever persuaded by Reason, by evidence, or by facts. They simply ignore them, wait a while, and go on repeating their falsehoods. Duane Gish was famous for this. When shown his blatant errors he simply waited, changed venues, and repeated his same old erroneous arguments full of falsified ‘evidence’ again and again. Reminds me of the creationists here in the PT BW.

No creationist was ever persuaded by Reason, by evidence, or by facts.

Not even Mr. MacMillan?

Matt Young said:

No creationist was ever persuaded by Reason, by evidence, or by facts.

Not even Mr. MacMillan?

No TRUE ScotsmanCreationist!

Matt Young said:

No creationist was ever persuaded by Reason, by evidence, or by facts.

Not even Mr. MacMillan?

He’s not entirely persuaded.

He will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand DSM to believe in a magical, supernatural reality for which there is no reasonable rationale, no empirical evidence, no testable supporting facts.

“But if there’s a copying error at the printer causing only the “wheel assembly” page to be duplicated…then, holy crap, you don’t have a bicycle any more; you’ve just built yourself a quad bike.”

Not only is Evolution “Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey”, but The Doctor also invented the quadricycle.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on June 11, 2014 12:00 PM.

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