Of flies and free will

On Uncommon Descent Denyse comments on a paper which found how flies have ‘free will’. While ID proponents are quick to argue that (Darwinian) evolutionary pathways cannot explain ‘free will’, I will show, in a future posting, that this is a fallacious argument based on the common appeal to ignorance found amongst ID claims. In this specific case, I will present how science explains the evolution of Levy flight patterns.

In the mean time I would like to invite any ID proponent to step forward with ID’s best explanation for the existence of ‘Levy flight patterns’ as found in these fruit flies.

Denyse is making a very important concession, namely by dropping the validity of the ‘specification’ argument. Remember that much of ID’s logic is based on the existence of similarities between animals and ‘machines’.

Denyse admits however that

I am not sure, however, that the researchers have discovered in flies what humans mean by free will. They have discovered something that natural philosophers have always known: Life forms, even simple ones, are not like machines.

Denyse further speculates that

The researchers had expected to find that flies behaved like computers (with natural selection presumably playing the role of the software engineer), but they did not.

Is this what the researchers had expected? Even though Levy distributions have been found to be quite pervasive in biology? She may have been confused by the MSNBC article which stated:

Brembs and his colleagues reasoned that if fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) were simply reactive robots entirely determined by their environment, in completely featureless rooms they should move completely randomly. To investigate this idea, the international team of researchers glued the insects to small copper hooks in completely uniform white surroundings, a kind of visual sensory deprivation tank. These flies could still beat their wings and attempt to turn.

However, the news article also mentions that

Specifically, their behavior seemed to match up with a mathematical algorithm called Levy’s distribution, commonly found in nature. Flies use this procedure to find meals, as do albatrosses, monkeys and deer. Scientists have found similar patterns in the flow of e-mails, letters and money, and in the paintings of Jackson Pollock, Brembs said.

Source MSNBC

However, if Levy distributions are so commonly found in nature, why does Denyse believe that they had expected otherwise? And if a mathematical algorithm can explain it, then what relevance does it have for ID’s claims which are based on eliminating chance and regularities (including mathematical algorithms)?

As to why ID proponents may be so gullible? I have no idea but they do seem to flock around issues such as ‘global warming ‘skepticism’’ and other pseudo-scientific ventures. Skepticism is abandoned for sake of disagreeing with the scientific data and facts just because most scientists agree. In fact, this kind of behavior is quite predictable :-) Which makes one ask the following question: is the anti-scientific behavior of ID proponents intelligently designed or not or is it just a mechanistic, innate response?

As to Augie Auer, we learn from Tim Lambert at Deltoid that

Also former Met Service chief meteorologist Augie Auer, who offers this:

Prof Auer said that three quarters of the planet was ocean, and 95 percent of the greenhouse effect was governed by water vapour.

"Of that remaining 5 percent, only about 3.6 percent is governed by CO2 and when you break it down even further, studies have shown that the anthropogenic (man-made) contribution to CO2 versus the natural is about 3.2 percent.

“So if you multiply the total contribution 3.6 by the man-made portion of it, 3.2, you find out that the anthropogenic contribution of CO2 to the the global greenhouse effect is 0.117 percent, roughly 0.12 percent, that’s like 12c in $100.

“It’s miniscule … it’s nothing,” he said.

Actually, humans have increased the CO2 content of the atmosphere by 30%. You would have hoped that a “leading climate scientist”, or a climate scientist, or even a plain old scientist of any kind would not have got something so basic so wrong.

It’s fun to educate ID proponents, mostly because I can predict that much of their claims can be shown to be ill-informed, that seems to be the cost of giving in to the innate response of ‘fairness’ rather than relying on a more informed approach.