Ed Hudgins

Objectivism and Evolution: No Contradictions

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I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

Ghs

A robot could make another robot. Using some AI algorithm with random inputs the robot could turn out a product which no human programmer specifically designed. AI and random factors effectively make the robots the designers. Of course there is no intention nor purpose involved but still the robots are making and designing robots.

Right now in your cells there are non-conscious entities making proteins. With some random shaking up, perhaps a mutation caused by radiation, there are proteins produced which no conscious entity every design. One could say with stretch of language the genes in your chromosomes have designed proteins.

So we have examples of non-living beings designing thing and non-conscious living beings turning out living things.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

Ghs

A robot could make another robot. Using some AI algorithm with random inputs the robot could turn out a product which no human programmer specifically designed. AI and random factors effectively make the robots the designers. Of course there is no intention nor purpose involved but still the robots are making and designing robots.

Right now in your cells there are non-conscious entities making proteins. With some random shaking up, perhaps a mutation caused by radiation, there are proteins produced which no conscious entity every design. One could say with stretch of language the genes in your chromosomes have designed proteins.

So we have examples of non-living beings designing thing and non-conscious living beings turning out living things.

Ba'al Chatzaf

You are using "design" in a different, largely metaphorical, sense. Here is the entry for "design" in the American Heritage Dictionary:

1.

a. To conceive or fashion in the mind; invent: design a good excuse for not attending the conference.

b. To formulate a plan for; devise: designed a marketing strategy for the new product.

2. To plan out in systematic, usually graphic form: design a building; design a computer program.

3. To create or contrive for a particular purpose or effect: a game designed to appeal to all ages.

4. To have as a goal or purpose; intend.

5. To create or execute in an artistic or highly skilled manner.

Only #5 might justify your usage, but none of this matters for the present discussion. You know as well as I do what defenders of ID are getting at, and it's not a robotic "designer" or a "design" that comes about via natural processes.

Ghs

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For Darwinian True Believers (like Sagan, Dawkins, et al.), abiogenesis is a sub-discipline of Darwinian evolution, employing the same two causes: random variation and natural selection.

Ok, so you don’t recognize a fundamental difference between abiogenesis and evolution. Good for you. I’m sure you know that our bodies manufacture proteins, and that while there are a few “essential” amino acids that we have to get from our diets, our bodies are capable of changing one amino acid into another. This ability is coded in the DNA. I leave it to you to figure out what I’m driving at, I don’t have time now and this is getting boring.

Satire works wonders. Well, I'm off to the restaurant at the end of the universe!

My advice, stick to the green salad, but do try a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster chaser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekzcNwP4Lo0&feature=related

He comes on at 2:30

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So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Ghs

So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

I have no idea. A forensics expert has finished his job when he answers the question: was event or entity ( A ) caused by random / deterministic forces (i.e., does the corpse show signs of having accidentally slipped? Does it show signs of having had a heart-attack?); or was it caused by design (i.e., a crime of opportunity? a planned hit?). After that, his job is done, and he hands over the problem to others whose job it is to ask about the "details" you inquired about, such as the "how" and the "why."

You have no idea? Then I take it that you have not calculated the probability that an ID exists who was able to create life. And if not, then how do you know that this is not even less probable than life originating from inorganic causes?

Even if we accept your calculations, you have merely shown that the generation of life from inorganic matter is highly improbable, not impossible. So what? Even the highly improbable can happen. Thus if you want to present an alternative scientific theory, you need to present an alternative causal explanation that is more probable.

This is how science works; a prevailing scientific theory is modified or displaced when a better explanatory theory is offered. But you have "no idea" of what such an alternative causal theory would be. Hence the most you can claim is that we don't fully understand at the present time how life originated.

When a forensic pathologist concludes that a person was killed by design, he is referring to other human beings. This makes sense as an explanation, because we know from experience what human beings are and what they can do. But if a pathologist concluded that nothing natural can possibly explain how a person died, we would justly conclude that he is merely saying that he doesn't know how that person died. He cannot explain it. And this is all that you are justified in saying about the origin of life, given your calculations.

Same with living organisms. If you're interested in a specifically theological discussion regarding the details of how a designing intelligence could work, or why he would create life, then a thread devoted specifically to those issues should be started. I don't see how those details -- the "how" and the "why" -- have anything to do with the forensics of whether or not living organisms show certain tell-tale signs of having arisen by intelligent activity, rather than only random and deterministic ones.

The why is irrelevant to this discussion, but the how is crucial.

You claim that the improbability of life originating from inorganic causes provides "tell-tale signs" of intelligent design. But it doesn't show anything of the sort; at most, it merely shows that life is a highly unusual occurrence. If you wish to go further than this, if you wish to conclude that life was caused by an ID, then you must provide an alternative causal explanation and show that your explanation is more probable than the explanation you reject. But you have provided no such explanation; indeed, by your own admission you have "no idea" what such an explanation would consist of.

As for your calculations, the following question needs to be considered: Which is more probable? -- that your calculations are wrong, or that there exists an Intelligent Designer with the power to create life? Human error is a common occurrence, whereas we have no independent evidence for the existence of an ID.

You've confused the theological with the logical. Logically, all I have to do is show (or attempt to show) that living organisms came about through intelligence; not how this feat was accomplished or why it was done at all.

I haven't confused anything. We are talking about science, not theology. You have not shown that "living organisms came about through intelligence." All you have shown is that, by your standards, you are unable to explain how life came about.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Why do you presume that?

I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

Ghs

That's a question I've always wanted to put the scientists and engineers at the SETI program. To search for extraterrestrial life is to assume that it can, in principle, exist, and that intelligent activity leaves certain telltale signs that are recognizable by another intelligence. I don't accept that familiarity is a rational standard for judging an idea, hypothesis, or theory. The relevant question is: can goal-directedness from an intelligent source best explain the phenomena?

Another answer is this: I am not familiar with non-intelligent causes (meaning: randomness and determinism) for life, and neither is anyone else. So far, the only thing we know for sure -- following Pasteur in this -- is that living things always and only come from other living things; yet you find no absurdity in continuing to look for evidence that randomness + time = life. Sounds like dedication to the philosophical principle of materialism rather than dedication to finding the best explanation.

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So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Ghs

So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

I have no idea. A forensics expert has finished his job when he answers the question: was event or entity ( A ) caused by random / deterministic forces (i.e., does the corpse show signs of having accidentally slipped? Does it show signs of having had a heart-attack?); or was it caused by design (i.e., a crime of opportunity? a planned hit?). After that, his job is done, and he hands over the problem to others whose job it is to ask about the "details" you inquired about, such as the "how" and the "why."

You have no idea? Then I take it that you have not calculated the probability that an ID exists who was able to create life. And if not, then how do you know that this is not even less probable than life originating from inorganic causes?

Even if we accept your calculations, you have merely shown that the generation of life from inorganic matter is highly improbable, not impossible. So what? Even the highly improbable can happen. Thus if you want to present an alternative scientific theory, you need to present an alternative causal explanation that is more probable.

This is how science works; a prevailing scientific theory is modified or displaced when a better explanatory theory is offered. But you have "no idea" of what such an alternative causal theory would be. Hence the most you can claim is that we don't fully understand at the present time how life originated.

When a forensic pathologist concludes that a person was killed by design, he is referring to other human beings. This makes sense as an explanation, because we know from experience what human beings are and what they can do. But if a pathologist concluded that nothing natural can possibly explain how a person died, we would justly conclude that he is merely saying that he doesn't know how that person died. He cannot explain it. And this is all that you are justified in saying about the origin of life, given your calculations.

Same with living organisms. If you're interested in a specifically theological discussion regarding the details of how a designing intelligence could work, or why he would create life, then a thread devoted specifically to those issues should be started. I don't see how those details -- the "how" and the "why" -- have anything to do with the forensics of whether or not living organisms show certain tell-tale signs of having arisen by intelligent activity, rather than only random and deterministic ones.

The why is irrelevant to this discussion, but the how is crucial.

You claim that the improbability of life originating from inorganic causes provides "tell-tale signs" of intelligent design. But it doesn't show anything of the sort; at most, it merely shows that life is a highly unusual occurrence. If you wish to go further than this, if you wish to conclude that life was caused by an ID, then you must provide an alternative causal explanation and show that your explanation is more probable than the explanation you reject. But you have provided no such explanation; indeed, by your own admission you have "no idea" what such an explanation would consist of.

As for your calculations, the following question needs to be considered: Which is more probable? -- that your calculations are wrong, or that there exists an Intelligent Designer with the power to create life? Human error is a common occurrence, whereas we have no independent evidence for the existence of an ID.

You've confused the theological with the logical. Logically, all I have to do is show (or attempt to show) that living organisms came about through intelligence; not how this feat was accomplished or why it was done at all.

I haven't confused anything. We are talking about science, not theology. You have not shown that "living organisms came about through intelligence." All you have shown is that, by your standards, you are unable to explain how life came about.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Why do you presume that?

I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

Ghs

You have no idea? Then I take it that you have not calculated the probability that an ID exists who was able to create life.

You fail to understand the argument. The argument is this: there are 3 basic causal forces in the universe: deterministic ones, random ones, intelligent ones. If an event cannot be explained by reference to the first two, it means it was caused by the third. If it cannot be explained by the third, then it cannot be explained at all.

And if not, then how do you know that this is not even less probable than life originating from inorganic causes?

Depends on the event or entity in question. ID doesn't deny the existence of determinist and randomness, and grants, even that they may have played a role in the appearance of life, as well as in its later speciation. ID has a problem with the concept of information having arisen by any combination of the first two causes, especially if the odds of it having arisen by such means exceed the upper probability bound applicable to the universe as a whole.

Let's put it this way. If we convert the upper probability bound of 1 chance out of a total number of combinations of 10^142 into a number pertaining directly to information -- binary digits, or bits -- we get: 10^142 is approx. = to 2^500, or 500 bits.

So here's the line of demarcation: if a system, living or otherwise, can be shown to exhibit 500 bits of information or more, there is precisely zero probability that randomness had anything to do with its having come into existence, since at 500+ bits, you've exhausted the probabilistic resources of the entire universe: i.e., even if every fundamental particle were performing trial-and-error experiments at the highest possible frequency (Planck Time) since the universe began, you would not be anywhere near having created enough trials to plausibly come up with that one combination that wins the house jackpot -- that functions.

The previous example of a protein of 300 amino acids length is a case in point: the odds of that coming into existence, ex nihilo, by chance alone were about 1 in 10^600, far smaller than the smallest possible probability bound of 1 chance in 10^142. Ergo, chance alone could not have come up with such a combination. Determinism -- usually called "biochemical predestination" in the biz -- can be rejected for other reasons, but even intuitively we can reject it because it has the opposite problem: if the protein were predestined to appear because of immutable deterministic chemical forces, then its appearance has the probability of 1 chance in 1, or 100%. We can reject determinism as being the cause of life, which clearly need not arise in the universe.

That leaves only one causal force -- goal-directedness by an intelligent agency. We know from human experience that our own intelligent activity can easily surmount probabilistic odds of 1 in 10^142: any novel or piece of music instantly proves that case (for what are the odds that Shakespeare's plays could be accidentally created by monkeys randomly tapping away at computer keyboards: turns out, the probability -- which is non-zero -- is nevertheless far smaller than 1 chance in 10^142 (Shakespeare's plays have an information density that is higher than 500 bits); so even if 10^80 monkeys tapped away for 12 billion years, you would not be anywhere near having created enough random trials to plausibly generate Hamlet or MacBeth.

Mathematicians and statisticians actually make use of a concept called a "rejection region": if a certain event is calculated as having odds that fall within it, the statistician rejects randomness, or any sort of stochastic physical process, as having caused the event in question.

Finally, your claim that "intelligence" is somehow logically connected only to the notion of "human" is unfounded -- the whole idea of the SETI program, for example, is based on the idea that one kind of intelligence (human) will be capable of recognizing distinctive signs of any other kind of intelligence (non-human). SETI may or may not be a waste of money, but there's nothing inherently absurd about the mission.

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So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Ghs

So how did your Intelligent Designer create life? Some details, please.

I have no idea. A forensics expert has finished his job when he answers the question: was event or entity ( A ) caused by random / deterministic forces (i.e., does the corpse show signs of having accidentally slipped? Does it show signs of having had a heart-attack?); or was it caused by design (i.e., a crime of opportunity? a planned hit?). After that, his job is done, and he hands over the problem to others whose job it is to ask about the "details" you inquired about, such as the "how" and the "why."

You have no idea? Then I take it that you have not calculated the probability that an ID exists who was able to create life. And if not, then how do you know that this is not even less probable than life originating from inorganic causes?

Even if we accept your calculations, you have merely shown that the generation of life from inorganic matter is highly improbable, not impossible. So what? Even the highly improbable can happen. Thus if you want to present an alternative scientific theory, you need to present an alternative causal explanation that is more probable.

This is how science works; a prevailing scientific theory is modified or displaced when a better explanatory theory is offered. But you have "no idea" of what such an alternative causal theory would be. Hence the most you can claim is that we don't fully understand at the present time how life originated.

When a forensic pathologist concludes that a person was killed by design, he is referring to other human beings. This makes sense as an explanation, because we know from experience what human beings are and what they can do. But if a pathologist concluded that nothing natural can possibly explain how a person died, we would justly conclude that he is merely saying that he doesn't know how that person died. He cannot explain it. And this is all that you are justified in saying about the origin of life, given your calculations.

Same with living organisms. If you're interested in a specifically theological discussion regarding the details of how a designing intelligence could work, or why he would create life, then a thread devoted specifically to those issues should be started. I don't see how those details -- the "how" and the "why" -- have anything to do with the forensics of whether or not living organisms show certain tell-tale signs of having arisen by intelligent activity, rather than only random and deterministic ones.

The why is irrelevant to this discussion, but the how is crucial.

You claim that the improbability of life originating from inorganic causes provides "tell-tale signs" of intelligent design. But it doesn't show anything of the sort; at most, it merely shows that life is a highly unusual occurrence. If you wish to go further than this, if you wish to conclude that life was caused by an ID, then you must provide an alternative causal explanation and show that your explanation is more probable than the explanation you reject. But you have provided no such explanation; indeed, by your own admission you have "no idea" what such an explanation would consist of.

As for your calculations, the following question needs to be considered: Which is more probable? -- that your calculations are wrong, or that there exists an Intelligent Designer with the power to create life? Human error is a common occurrence, whereas we have no independent evidence for the existence of an ID.

You've confused the theological with the logical. Logically, all I have to do is show (or attempt to show) that living organisms came about through intelligence; not how this feat was accomplished or why it was done at all.

I haven't confused anything. We are talking about science, not theology. You have not shown that "living organisms came about through intelligence." All you have shown is that, by your standards, you are unable to explain how life came about.

And who created your Intelligent Designer? I presume he is "alive" in some sense.

Why do you presume that?

I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

Ghs

Even if we accept your calculations, you have merely shown that the generation of life from inorganic matter is highly improbable, not impossible. So what?

No, see, that's the whole point of a "rejection region." It is impermissible to say "Since there's a non-zero probability of X having occurred by chance, then randomness is a good explanation for its having done so." If the probability falls below a certain threshold -- the most forgiving being 1 chance in 10^142 -- then chance can be rejected out of hand as being an explanation for its existence.

This is probably why Objectivists don't make good security men at casinos. If someone were to win a jackpot with odds of 1 in 10^142, any competent person would suspect cheating (i.e., the employment of design to overcome the unfavorable odds stacked against you by the House). Instead, they merely say, "Oh, well, it was a non-zero probability, so I'm sure the win was honest." Doesn't work that way in the real world.

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I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

That's a question I've always wanted to put the scientists and engineers at the SETI program. To search for extraterrestrial life is to assume that it can, in principle, exist, and that intelligent activity leaves certain telltale signs that are recognizable by another intelligence. I don't accept that familiarity is a rational standard for judging an idea, hypothesis, or theory. The relevant question is: can goal-directedness from an intelligent source best explain the phenomena?

If this is the relevant question, then provide an explanation. You have given none so far, but I am anxious to hear it. Will it eventually lead to the conclusion, "Therefore, Jesus died for our sins"? Just curious.

When we infer the existence of intelligent life on other planets, we do so on the basis of phenomena that, so far as we know, are not found in insensate nature. The SETI researchers are searching for signs of purposeful communication , and such communication presupposes intelligence.

Your calculations of the probability of life originating via inorganic causes, whether correct or not, are based on the time frame supposedly allowed by Big Bang theory. So did your Intelligent Designer also emerge from the Big Bang? If it did, then you must explain how it could have been created during this limited time. If it did not, then you have in fact rejected Big Bang theory, which purports to explain how the entire universe came into being.

You know the ID catechism quite well, so you know that your Intelligent Designer must somehow exist outside the natural universe. It must, in other words, be supernatural -- and a supernatural "cause" explains exactly nothing. You might as well posit "magic" as an explanation.

Ghs

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Even if we accept your calculations, you have merely shown that the generation of life from inorganic matter is highly improbable, not impossible. So what?

No, see, that's the whole point of a "rejection region." It is impermissible to say "Since there's a non-zero probability of X having occurred by chance, then randomness is a good explanation for its having done so." If the probability falls below a certain threshold -- the most forgiving being 1 chance in 10^142 -- then chance can be rejected out of hand as being an explanation for its existence.

First of all, I am reluctant to accept the acumen of some guy who cannot learn enough rudimentary HTML to edit posts. But let's put that aside for now....

An improbable explanation, regardless of the degree of improbability, should be rejected only if we have an alternative explanation that is more probable. You have given no such explanation.

One explanation that is more probable is that your calculations are screwed up. Another is that the time frame of Big Bang theory, as currently understood, is faulty. In any case, the Argument from Life is a variant of the Argument from Design. Both have been around for a long time, and both are invalid forms of argument. It doesn't matter what particulars you plug in; an invalid inference will remain an invalid inference. The problem lies in the structure of the argument, not in the details.

This is probably why Objectivists don't make good security men at casinos. If someone were to win a jackpot with odds of 1 in 10^142, any competent person would suspect cheating (i.e., the employment of design to overcome the unfavorable odds stacked against you by the House). Instead, they merely say, "Oh, well, it was a non-zero probability, so I'm sure the win was honest." Doesn't work that way in the real world.

If we would suspect cheating in this case, this is because we have had previous experience with human cheaters. If you came along and explained the jackpot by positing a Great Cheater in the Sky, your "explanation" would be rejected as even more improbable than mere chance.

Ghs

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Only #5 might justify your usage, but none of this matters for the present discussion. You know as well as I do what defenders of ID are getting at, and it's not a robotic "designer" or a "design" that comes about via natural processes.

Ghs

Most ID types are Stealth Creationists. As a belief I have no objection to it (even though I do not accept it). As a motive for trying to sneak ID into the public schools and undermine what little genuine science education is going on there, I most certainly object to it.

I merely pointed out that a non-sentient design entity can exists and even a non-living design entity can exists. This has nothing to do with the ID movement which is the stealth version of the old creationist pro literal biblical hogwash that has been put forth since the time that Slippery Sam Wilberforce went after Darwin's arse.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Most ID types are Stealth Creationists.

There is no "stealth" about it, so far as the argument is concerned. It is simply an updated version of the standard Design Argument for the existence of God.

The "stealth" comes in when creationists present themselves as doing science. True, they are criticizing current scientific theories (there is absolutely nothing wrong with this), but their own theories have nothing whatever to do with science. Modern creationists are pushing the same shopworn "god of the gaps" that has been pushed for centuries. A major problem here is that "God' cannot fill any gaps in science. "God" pushes us into the realm of the supernatural, and we end up with a host of pseudo-explanations.

Ghs

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Most ID types are Stealth Creationists.

There is no "stealth" about it, so far as the argument is concerned. It is simply an updated version of the standard Design Argument for the existence of God.

The "stealth" comes in when creationists present themselves as doing science. True, they are criticizing current scientific theories (there is absolutely nothing wrong with this), but their own theories have nothing whatever to do with science. Modern creationists are pushing the same shopworn "god of the gaps" that has been pushed for centuries. A major problem here is that "God' cannot fill any gaps in science. "God" pushes us into the realm of the supernatural, and we end up with a host of pseudo-explanations.

Ghs

I agree. The Intelligent Design approach in which God is never mentioned explicitly gives the doctrine the verisimilitude of science while being totally unscientific. Once they introduce -design- they are implicitly implying a designer which is just another name for God. That is why I referred to it as Stealth. They are using deceit and guile. The seeming scientific sound to their doctrine is camouflage and nothing else.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I am not familiar with intelligent forms of nonliving beings who are capable of designing things. Are you?

That's a question I've always wanted to put the scientists and engineers at the SETI program. To search for extraterrestrial life is to assume that it can, in principle, exist, and that intelligent activity leaves certain telltale signs that are recognizable by another intelligence. I don't accept that familiarity is a rational standard for judging an idea, hypothesis, or theory. The relevant question is: can goal-directedness from an intelligent source best explain the phenomena?

If this is the relevant question, then provide an explanation. You have given none so far, but I am anxious to hear it. Will it eventually lead to the conclusion, "Therefore, Jesus died for our sins"? Just curious.

When we infer the existence of intelligent life on other planets, we do so on the basis of phenomena that, so far as we know, are not found in insensate nature. The SETI researchers are searching for signs of purposeful communication , and such communication presupposes intelligence.

Your calculations of the probability of life originating via inorganic causes, whether correct or not, are based on the time frame supposedly allowed by Big Bang theory. So did your Intelligent Designer also emerge from the Big Bang? If it did, then you must explain how it could have been created during this limited time. If it did not, then you have in fact rejected Big Bang theory, which purports to explain how the entire universe came into being.

You know the ID catechism quite well, so you know that your Intelligent Designer must somehow exist outside the natural universe. It must, in other words, be supernatural -- and a supernatural "cause" explains exactly nothing. You might as well posit "magic" as an explanation.

Ghs

If this is the relevant question, then provide an explanation.

The usual sort of response to a question is an answer, not an explanation. The relevant question I posed earlier was: can goal-directedness from an intelligent source best explain certain kinds of phenomena? My answer: yes, if the phenomena in question have an information density of 500 bits or more, then goal-directedness from an intelligent source will have to accompany any other explanation (or even pre-empt it altogether).

When judging a hypothesis, we use a "rejection region"; a threshold above which our initial assumptions no longer hold. The question then becomes: where do we draw the line of demarcation that bounds our rejection region, and on what basis?

For example: someone tosses a coin that we assume to be fair. The odds of landing "heads" or "tails" is 1/2. If our friend tosses 3 heads in a row, we think nothing of it; the odds of 3 heads in a row occurring are 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1 chance out of a total number of 8 possibilities, or 1/8. Do we accept that outcome as resulting from chance? Or did the tosser employ design (such as a two-headed coin)? Most of us would probably consider 3 heads in a row as nothing unusual.

What if our friend tosses 10 heads in a row? Do we accept that sequence as a product of randomness? or design? Ten heads in a row have odds of about 1/1,000. We might still accept this result as having occurred by chance.

What if our friend tosses 50 heads in a row? Chance? Or design? 50 heads in a row have odds of about 1/10^15, or one chance in 100 trillion. Has it crossed our demarcation border yet? Do accept a sequence of 50 heads in a row as a result of chance? or do we suspect that some other -- some additional -- causal agent, such as design was employed? Suppose we accept this result as having been caused by chance.

If our friend tosses 100 heads in a row, we find that the odds of doing that are about 1/10^30 for a fair coin, and assuming chance alone as the causal agent. Question: do we accept odds of 1/10^30 as indicating extreme luck? or do we not accept it as luck, and suspect design?

Apparently, the materialists on this board -- meaning all the Objectivists -- believe that as long as there's a non-zero probability of getting a certain sequence (and 1/10^30 is slightly bigger than zero), it means that chance is as good an explanation as any other. This would get every Objectivist on this board fired from working security at the Luxor. At the Luxor, if you win 100 roulette spins or 100 consecutive BlackJacks, you will be accused (to put it politely) of "employing design."

How does the House know this? Easy: they stack the odds against you purposely, so they know precisely where to draw the line of demarcation that establishes their rejection region.

The fact is this: in most cases, the choice of where to demarcate the rejection region is optional, based on NON-MATHEMATICAL considerations, often intuitive ones. But we can draw a demarcation at the upper boundary of possibility itself: since we know that every physical event in the universe -- which includes, of course, coin tosses -- must involve at least one out of a possible 10^80 fundamental particles; and since we know that a fundamental particle cannot change its state with a frequency greater than Planck Time (10^45 times / second); and since we know that the universe itself has been around for about 10^17 seconds, the "probabilistic resources" of the entire universe can be calculated as our line of demarcation. That line is here:

10^80 x 10^45 x 10^17 = 10^142

Which means the following: any event whose odds of occurring are less than 1 chance in 10^142 can -- conceivably -- have been brought about through chance alone.

If an event has odds of occurring that are equal or greater than 1 chance in 10^142, then it is inconceivable that this could have been brought about by chance alone. Notice that we can validly assert this even though the chance of something occurring might be greater than zero.

That's a pretty forgiving boundary line, since how many things, after all, have chances of occurring that are equal to or greater than 1 chance in 10^142?

It turns out, alas, that there are many phenomena that exceed this boundary. For example, if our friend were to toss 474 consecutive heads, we could not only suspect design, but prove it (even without inspecting the coin). The odds of tossing a coin and getting 474 consecutive heads are 1/2^474 = 1 chance in 10^142. Since we would not plausibly expect to see this sequence even if 10^80 friends were each tossing a coin 10^45 times per second for 12 billion years, it can only be that something other than chance is operating.

Just to be thorough, of course, I suppose we could also suspect that some deterministic force were in operation; it's not a logical impossibility, but we would probably reject it on the grounds that such a force was hauled in, ad hoc, simply for the purpose of explaining this one phenomenon, to disappear whence it came after our friend was arrested for cheating. Just on the basis of plausibility, we would, no doubt, assume teleology: our friend employed design to overcome the odds of 1 in 10^142 and achieve 474 consecutive heads.

"Cheating" is simply the word we use for design when it is employed in gambling, and in other contexts where one has contractually agreed to allow only chance to operate. At a piano recital, however, we generally do not want any hint at all of randomness, and hope that the effect the musician has on us -- the music he has learned and practiced -- is entirely a phenomenon governed by design.

We make the charge of design toward any entity that causes phenomena to occur whose odds are equal to or greater than 1 in 10^142. So if the chances of a functional protein of 300 residues forming are calculated to be 1 in 10^600, that is well past the demarcation line, and well within our rejection region; meaning: we can reject chance as a plausible hypothesis for explaining how the protein came into existence. Since nature itself is performing the trials, we can, with certainty, claim that nature itself made use of something in addition to chance. What is that something else? It can only be something deterministic, or something intelligent. Those are the only forces that can cause otherwise highly improbable events to occur with a probably very close to "1". For various reasons -- one of which has to do with the free, undetermined sequence of nucleotide bases that is used as a storage of coded information for the making of proteins -- determinism won't do.

That leaves only one other choice for a causal explanation: intelligence.

You know the ID catechism quite well,

Thank you. For your part, you know HTML quite well, but seem to have forgotten everything about 7th grade math. Only the latter is relevant here. You also repeat, with great religious zeal, the same catechism you recited 30 years ago in your book on atheism. Congratulations. Your faith is inspiring.

so you know that your Intelligent Designer must somehow exist outside the natural universe. It must, in other words, be supernatural -- and a supernatural "cause" explains exactly nothing. You might as well posit "magic" as an explanation.

A designing intelligence called First Cause bears the same relation to a subset of the universe called "living organisms" as another designing intelligence called Ayn Rand bears to a subset of the physical universe called "Atlas Shrugged." The latter required intelligence to bring it into existence; so did the former. That can be proven mathematically, since we have already established a rejection region and a demarcation line: take all the letters in Atlas Shrugged (omitting punctuation for the sake of simplicity of calculation) and calculate like this: At any given position in the continuous line of text from beginning to end, there are 27 possibilities: one of the 26 letters of the alphabet or a space. Multiply the number "27" by itself for each letter or space in AS. Not having done a character count on AS, I have no idea what that might be. Let's say it's a million characters. We can now calculate the following: the odds of AS having occurred by chance (let's say, by means of monkeys typing keyboards over a very long period time) are 1 chance in 27^1,000,000, which is approximately 1 chance in 10^1,500,000. That's a bit above our threshold of 1 chance in 10^142.

That means that we rule out as definitely implausible any such notion that chance caused just that sequence of letters that we call "Atlas Shrugged" to come into existence; yet Rand's intelligence easily leapfrogged over that impossibly big number and created AS in a mere 10 years! Is Rand's intelligence "supernatural"?

In a sense, yes. Rand's intelligence was not an effect, whose cause was physical changes in brain tissue; it was something undetermined entirely by matter and energy. Same for everyone else's mind. "Intelligence", per se, is outside matter and energy; either intelligence itself caused matter and energy to come into existence (since the reverse is clearly nonsense); or it existed along with it from the beginning. If it pleases your materialist biases by calling that "supernatural", then by all means do so.

As for a Designing Intelligence being the Creator of Everything, not just living organisms . . . as stated earlier, systems or configurations that can be shown to have 500 bits of information or more cannot come about in 12 billion years from strictly materialistic and random causes. The numbers are what they are. Intelligence can be the only cause of these things. Clearly, not everything in the universe has a density of 500 bits of information or more. It is conceivable, therefore, that matter, energy, randomness, and time alone could have created these things (or rather, we cannot rule out chance, even if it's later shown that chance had nothing to do with it).

If it did not, then you have in fact rejected Big Bang theory,

That, of course, doesn't follow. The Big Bang is taken as the starting point -- the cause -- of the resulting physical universe: matter and energy. Since intelligence -- in fact, mind in general -- is not an effect of matter and energy, nor is it a mere epiphenomenon of matter and energy -- one can certainly posit an intelligence prior to, and perhaps even causing, something else like the Big Bang. There's no contradiction in that. There is, of course a contradiction in the reverse. To assert that Mind is an effect of matter and energy, or even an epiphenomenon, is to reject Mind as distinct from matter and energy. Mind -- intelligence -- is a primary, and cannot be reduced to a mere effect of matter and energy antecedent to it.

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If our friend tosses 100 heads in a row, we find that the odds of doing that are about 1/10^30 for a fair coin, and assuming chance alone as the causal agent. Question: do we accept odds of 1/10^30 as indicating extreme luck? or do we not accept it as luck, and suspect design?

Why do you assume that each stage in the generation of life is completely random? On this basis, you would have to conclude that the probability of abiogenesis occuring on Venus and Earth were equal. This is nuts, but this very assumption is how you generate your fantastic odds against abiogenesis.

The manner in which higher stages in the development of life can dramatically diminish randomness is illustrated in this article by the cell biologist Dave Deamer:

Proponents of intelligent design believe that the components of life are so complex that they could not possibly have been produced by an evolutionary process. To bolster their argument, they calculate the odds that a specific protein might assemble by chance in the prebiotic environment. The odds against such a chance assembly are so astronomically immense that a protein required for life to begin could not possibly have assembled by chance on the early Earth. Therefore, the argument goes, life must have been designed.

It is not my purpose to argue against this belief, but the intelligent design argument uses a statistical tool of science -- a probability calculation -- to make a point, so I will use another tool of science, which is to propose an alternative hypothesis and test it. In living cells, most catalysts are protein enzymes, composed of amino acids, but in the 1980s another kind of catalyst was discovered. These are RNA molecules composed of nucleotides that are now called ribozymes. Because a ribozyme can act both as a catalyst and as a carrier of genetic information in its nucleotide sequence, it has been proposed that life passed through an RNA World phase that did not require DNA and proteins.

For the purposes of today’s column I will go through the probability calculation that a specific ribozyme might assemble by chance. Assume that the ribozyme is 300 nucleotides long, and that at each position there could be any of four nucleotides present. The chances of that ribozyme assembling are then 4^300, a number so large that it could not possibly happen by chance even once in 13 billion years, the age of the universe.

But life DID begin! Could we be missing something?

The answer, of course, is yes, we are. The calculation assumes that a single specific ribozyme must be synthesized for life to begin, but that’s not how it works. Instead, let’s make the plausible assumption that an enormous number of random polymers are synthesized, which are then subject to selection and evolution. This is the alternative hypothesis, and we can test it.

Now I will recall a classic experiment by David Bartel and Jack Szostak, published in Science in 1993. Their goal was to see if a completely random system of molecules could undergo selection in such a way that defined species of molecules emerged with specific properties. They began by synthesizing many trillions of different RNA molecules about 300 nucleotides long, but the nucleotides were all random nucleotide sequences. Nucleotides, by the way, are monomers of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, just as amino acids are the monomers, or subunits, of proteins, and making random sequences is easy to do with modern methods of molecular biology.

They reasoned that buried in those trillions were a few catalytic RNA molecules called ribozymes that happened to catalyze a ligation reaction, in which one strand of RNA is linked to a second strand. The RNA strands to be ligated were attached to small beads on a column, then were exposed to the trillions of random sequences simply by flushing them through the column. This process could fish out any RNA molecules that happened to have even a weak ability to catalyze the reaction. They then amplified those molecules and put them back in for a second round, repeating the process for 10 rounds. By the way, this is the same basic logic that breeders use when they select for a property such as coat color in dogs.

The results were amazing. After only 4 rounds of selection and amplification they began to see an increase in catalytic activity, and after 10 rounds the rate was 7 million times faster than the uncatalyzed rate. It was even possible to watch the RNA evolve. Nucleic acids can be separated and visualized by a technique called gel electrophoresis. The mixture is put in at the top of a gel held between two glass plates and a voltage is applied. Small molecules travel fastest through the gel, and larger molecules move more slowly, so they are separated. In this case, RNA molecules having a specific length produce a visible band in a gel. At the start of the reaction, nothing could be seen, because all the molecules are different. But with each cycle new bands appeared. Some came to dominate the reaction, while others went extinct.

Bartel and Szostak’s results have been repeated and extended by other researchers, and they demonstrate a fundamental principle of evolution at the molecular level. At the start of the experiment, every molecule of RNA was different from all the rest because they were assembled by a chance process. There were no species, just a mixture of trillions of different molecules. But then a selective hurdle was imposed, a ligation reaction that allowed only certain molecules to survive and reproduce enzymatically.

In a few generations groups of molecules began to emerge that displayed ever-increasing catalytic function. In other words, species of molecules appeared out of this random mixture in an evolutionary process that closely reflects the natural selection that Darwin outlined for populations of higher animals. These RNA molecules were defined by the sequence of bases in their structures, which caused them to fold into specific conformations that had catalytic properties. The sequences were in essence analogous to genes, because the information they contained was passed between generations during the amplification process.

The Bartel and Szostak experiment directly refutes the argument that the odds are stacked against an origin of life by natural processes. The inescapable conclusion is that genetic information can in fact emerge from random mixtures of polymers, as long as the populations contain large numbers of polymeric molecules with variable monomer sequences, and a way to select and amplify a specific property.

http://www.science20.com/stars_planets_life/calculating_odds_life_could_begin_chance

This article refers to the work of Jack Szostak, the Nobel Laureate biologist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Some of Szostak's conclusions are summarized in this video:

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Ghs

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Is there a special award for most non sequiturs per column inch of illogical "argument"? I think I've found a winner.

What's the prize? I might just want to compete too.

Rather than parrot someone else's work, I'll provide a link and then do a quote:

http://members.shaw.ca/tfrisen/chances_of_you_existing.htm

The age of the universe since the Big Bang is 13.7 billion years.

In seconds: 13.7 x 109 year x 365 day/year x 24 h/day x 3600 seconds/hour = 4.32 x 1016 seconds

or 43,200,000,000,000,000 seconds is the age of the Universe -- a very, very long time!!

If 1 Egg Getter Sperm were produced every second of the lifetime of the universe then it would take:

6 x 10100 / 4.32 x 1016 = 1.4 x 10 89 universe lifetimes to definitely result in you becoming, that is, if you calculate only 10 generations back (250 years).

14 with 88 zeros after it of universe lifetimes -- essentially an infinite time!

If you go back 1 million years it would take 42 x 10403149 universe lifetimes to definitely result in you.

42 with 403,149 zeros after the 42 of it lifetimes of the Universe!

All these numbers err on the side of caution -- a lot of caution.

Now, my entry in the competition:

Therefore God, specifically the New Testament God, exists, watches over you constantly, and strongly disapproves of masturbation. So cut it out, AA.

godkills.jpg

Did I manage enough non-sequiturs? I'm expecting extra credit for the irrelevant personal digs.

Edited by Ninth Doctor

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If our friend tosses 100 heads in a row, we find that the odds of doing that are about 1/10^30 for a fair coin, and assuming chance alone as the causal agent. Question: do we accept odds of 1/10^30 as indicating extreme luck? or do we not accept it as luck, and suspect design?

Why do you assume that each stage in the generation of life is completely random? On this basis, you would have to conclude that the probability of abiogenesis occuring on Venus and Earth were equal. This is nuts, but this very assumption is how you generate your fantastic odds against abiogenesis.

The manner in which higher stages in the development of life can dramatically diminish randomness is illustrated in this article by the cell biologist Dave Deamer:

Proponents of intelligent design believe that the components of life are so complex that they could not possibly have been produced by an evolutionary process. To bolster their argument, they calculate the odds that a specific protein might assemble by chance in the prebiotic environment. The odds against such a chance assembly are so astronomically immense that a protein required for life to begin could not possibly have assembled by chance on the early Earth. Therefore, the argument goes, life must have been designed.

It is not my purpose to argue against this belief, but the intelligent design argument uses a statistical tool of science -- a probability calculation -- to make a point, so I will use another tool of science, which is to propose an alternative hypothesis and test it. In living cells, most catalysts are protein enzymes, composed of amino acids, but in the 1980s another kind of catalyst was discovered. These are RNA molecules composed of nucleotides that are now called ribozymes. Because a ribozyme can act both as a catalyst and as a carrier of genetic information in its nucleotide sequence, it has been proposed that life passed through an RNA World phase that did not require DNA and proteins.

For the purposes of today's column I will go through the probability calculation that a specific ribozyme might assemble by chance. Assume that the ribozyme is 300 nucleotides long, and that at each position there could be any of four nucleotides present. The chances of that ribozyme assembling are then 4^300, a number so large that it could not possibly happen by chance even once in 13 billion years, the age of the universe.

But life DID begin! Could we be missing something?

The answer, of course, is yes, we are. The calculation assumes that a single specific ribozyme must be synthesized for life to begin, but that's not how it works. Instead, let's make the plausible assumption that an enormous number of random polymers are synthesized, which are then subject to selection and evolution. This is the alternative hypothesis, and we can test it.

Now I will recall a classic experiment by David Bartel and Jack Szostak, published in Science in 1993. Their goal was to see if a completely random system of molecules could undergo selection in such a way that defined species of molecules emerged with specific properties. They began by synthesizing many trillions of different RNA molecules about 300 nucleotides long, but the nucleotides were all random nucleotide sequences. Nucleotides, by the way, are monomers of the nucleic acids DNA and RNA, just as amino acids are the monomers, or subunits, of proteins, and making random sequences is easy to do with modern methods of molecular biology.

They reasoned that buried in those trillions were a few catalytic RNA molecules called ribozymes that happened to catalyze a ligation reaction, in which one strand of RNA is linked to a second strand. The RNA strands to be ligated were attached to small beads on a column, then were exposed to the trillions of random sequences simply by flushing them through the column. This process could fish out any RNA molecules that happened to have even a weak ability to catalyze the reaction. They then amplified those molecules and put them back in for a second round, repeating the process for 10 rounds. By the way, this is the same basic logic that breeders use when they select for a property such as coat color in dogs.

The results were amazing. After only 4 rounds of selection and amplification they began to see an increase in catalytic activity, and after 10 rounds the rate was 7 million times faster than the uncatalyzed rate. It was even possible to watch the RNA evolve. Nucleic acids can be separated and visualized by a technique called gel electrophoresis. The mixture is put in at the top of a gel held between two glass plates and a voltage is applied. Small molecules travel fastest through the gel, and larger molecules move more slowly, so they are separated. In this case, RNA molecules having a specific length produce a visible band in a gel. At the start of the reaction, nothing could be seen, because all the molecules are different. But with each cycle new bands appeared. Some came to dominate the reaction, while others went extinct.

Bartel and Szostak's results have been repeated and extended by other researchers, and they demonstrate a fundamental principle of evolution at the molecular level. At the start of the experiment, every molecule of RNA was different from all the rest because they were assembled by a chance process. There were no species, just a mixture of trillions of different molecules. But then a selective hurdle was imposed, a ligation reaction that allowed only certain molecules to survive and reproduce enzymatically.

In a few generations groups of molecules began to emerge that displayed ever-increasing catalytic function. In other words, species of molecules appeared out of this random mixture in an evolutionary process that closely reflects the natural selection that Darwin outlined for populations of higher animals. These RNA molecules were defined by the sequence of bases in their structures, which caused them to fold into specific conformations that had catalytic properties. The sequences were in essence analogous to genes, because the information they contained was passed between generations during the amplification process.

The Bartel and Szostak experiment directly refutes the argument that the odds are stacked against an origin of life by natural processes. The inescapable conclusion is that genetic information can in fact emerge from random mixtures of polymers, as long as the populations contain large numbers of polymeric molecules with variable monomer sequences, and a way to select and amplify a specific property.

http://www.science20...ld_begin_chance

This article refers to the work of Jack Szostak, the Nobel Laureate biologist and Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. Some of Szostak's conclusions are summarized in this video:

Ghs

The Creationists are so out gunned in the fact and logic department, yet they won't give up. They will persist till the end of time.

The vid had a wonderful music underscore. My favorite, the 4th movement of Behtoven's 9th.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The Big Bang is taken as the starting point -- the cause -- of the resulting physical universe: matter and energy. Since intelligence -- in fact, mind in general -- is not an effect of matter and energy, nor is it a mere epiphenomenon of matter and energy -- one can certainly posit an intelligence prior to, and perhaps even causing, something else like the Big Bang. There's no contradiction in that. There is, of course a contradiction in the reverse. To assert that Mind is an effect of matter and energy, or even an epiphenomenon, is to reject Mind as distinct from matter and energy. Mind -- intelligence -- is a primary, and cannot be reduced to a mere effect of matter and energy antecedent to it.

Big Bang theory, for you, is like Schopenhauer's cab. You dismiss it after you reach your desired destination. How convenient.

So "intelligence" does not require a causal explanation? This is an interesting position, since it leads to the conclusion that human life requires an explanation but human intelligence does not. Why do you suppose that we don't find "intelligence" in rocks?

You speak of "an intelligence" as if intelligence per se is, or could be, a type of being. Is this what you mean to say? If so, how would we recognize "an intelligence" if we happened across one?

Ghs

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When judging a hypothesis, we use a "rejection region"; a threshold above which our initial assumptions no longer hold. The question then becomes: where do we draw the line of demarcation that bounds our rejection region, and on what basis?

For example: someone tosses a coin that we assume to be fair. The odds of landing "heads" or "tails" is 1/2. If our friend tosses 3 heads in a row, we think nothing of it; the odds of 3 heads in a row occurring are 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1 chance out of a total number of 8 possibilities, or 1/8. Do we accept that outcome as resulting from chance? Or did the tosser employ design (such as a two-headed coin)? Most of us would probably consider 3 heads in a row as nothing unusual.

What if our friend tosses 10 heads in a row? Do we accept that sequence as a product of randomness? or design? Ten heads in a row have odds of about 1/1,000. We might still accept this result as having occurred by chance.

What if our friend tosses 50 heads in a row? Chance? Or design? 50 heads in a row have odds of about 1/10^15, or one chance in 100 trillion. Has it crossed our demarcation border yet? Do accept a sequence of 50 heads in a row as a result of chance? or do we suspect that some other -- some additional -- causal agent, such as design was employed? Suppose we accept this result as having been caused by chance.

If our friend tosses 100 heads in a row, we find that the odds of doing that are about 1/10^30 for a fair coin, and assuming chance alone as the causal agent. Question: do we accept odds of 1/10^30 as indicating extreme luck? or do we not accept it as luck, and suspect design?

I have paid very little attention to this thread so far, but this (and more of the same post) strike me as the kind of creationist junk math I've seen before. Is this alleged to apply to the result of a particular combination of genes or genetic mutations? Whether it does or not, I will use them to show the junk math. The same sort of analysis applies to abiogenesis as well, even though the number of chances is less clear.

Let's start with 10 heads. Getting 10 heads in a row is equivalent probability-wise to tossing 10 coins simultaneously and getting 10 heads. But suppose we were to toss lots more coins and calculate the probability of 10 heads. Obviously the more coins are tossed, the more the probability of getting 10 heads increases. How is tossing more than 10 coins and getting 10 heads relevant to evolution? Any species has multiple generations and many organisms within each generation. Each one is analogous to having another coin to toss. Does any of AristotleAdvance's calculations reflect such complexity? Of course not, which is merely one thing that makes it junk math.

Note that as I increase the number of tosses, the resulting probability increases. In contrast AA's decrease.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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The Creationists are so out gunned in the fact and logic department, yet they won't give up. They will persist till the end of time.

I've had a fair amount of interaction with Creationists, and I've read some of the standard texts by Michael Behe and others.

AA is using standard Creationist tactics, viz: When talking to religious skeptics, limit the parameters of your argument so as not to alienate them completely at the outset. Learn enough about science so you can speak the lingo and raise "reasonable doubts" about evolution, abiogenesis, and so forth. In other words, present what amounts to a lawyer's brief that identifies unresolved problems and unanswered questions in science -- which is an easy thing to do, since there are a lot of such issues in science, and there always will be.

After laying this groundwork, offer your own solution by positing some kind of intelligent design. But under no circumstances should you be specific or offer details, for that would require that you explain and defend your own theory. Nor should you ever (in the early stages of the argument) refer to the mysterious designer as "god."

Only later, after you have hooked a fish, should you reel him in and suggest that maybe -- just maybe -- the Bible provides an excellent framework for understanding the world. Then comes the stuff about the compatibility of faith and (authentic) science, how archeology has substantiated biblical accounts, the uncanny accuracy of biblical prophecies, and so forth.

Of course, Intelligent Design arguments don't necessarily lead to this nonsense. The former atheist Antony Flew, for example, was persuaded by ID arguments, but only to deism, not to Christianity. Nevertheless, when a proponent of ID conspicuously avoids revealing his own religious beliefs, as AA has, you can be reasonably certain that you are dealing with a Christian fundamentalist who is following standard Creationist tactics.

Ghs

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Evolution in the sense of bio-processes untriggered and unguided by an overweening supervising undetectable intelligence is impossible. Parmenides was prescient about this, but it can be proved incontrovertibly by the fact that if you roll the universe like a die a bazillion times in a row, there is only a less than one-in-bazillion chance that evolution would ever happen. With odds that low, what is the likelihood, for all practical purposes, that evolution actually happened?

Zero.

If you don't believe me, do the experiment for yourself. Run the history of the universe a bazilliion times in a row and see what happens. BUT DO THE EXPERIMENT. GET THE FACTS.

Therefore, since evolution is impossible, and since William Shatner is NOT a great actor (don't evade the facts and pretend that he is), the only way that various species could exist is by the magical effort of an antecedent consciousness, an extra-wondrous entity with an intelligence and powers capable of doing these sort of things. Now, what are the chances that an undetectable super-powerful intelligence capable of creating all that we know could exist without benefit of having been itself created by an even greater, even more lustrously wondrous pre-existing intelligence, in light of the fact that less-wondrous entities such as ourselves could not possibly exist without benefit of an already existing creative intelligence? Yeah, geniuses, that's right. ONE IN ONE.

Now, as any expert in mathematical probability will tell you--and it is depressing how many of you alleged "rationalists" are so freaking stupid and ignorant when it comes to any mathematical proposition more complicated than one plus one--a one-in-one probability is an ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. If there is a 100% chance that such-and-such is the cause of such-and-such effect, then SUCH-AND-SUCH IS THE CAUSE. 100% IS THE HIGHEST YOU CAN GO. Bam! Evolution is false and God created the universe and the species! QED! Deny it all you want, but THOSE ARE THE FACTS.

Edited by Starbuckle

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Why do you assume that each stage in the generation of life is completely random?

I don't make that assumption at all. Personally -- as you might have guessed -- I believe that each stage (or many of them) show unmistakeable signs of having been designed. It was Darwin and his True Believers who make the assumption of randomness. That's what their phrase "RANDOM VARIATION" means. Note the word "random", please. My calculation was based simply on taking their assumption literally.

On this basis, you would have to conclude that the probability of abiogenesis occuring on Venus and Earth were equal. This is nuts,

They are equal -- they're both effectively zero. The difference between Earth and Venus relevant to this discussion is this: once life already exists (ah! there's the problem!) THEN -- granted -- it will no doubt find it far more hospitable to thrive on Earth than on Venus. That doesn't mean that Earth-like ecologies naturally "tend" to the creation of life from non-living entities; that, of course, has never been shown experimentally. Such an assumption would also support the idea that given a certain environment, life is pretty much inevitable; i.e., determined. We know it isn't.

but this very assumption is how you generate your fantastic odds against abiogenesis.

That's correct. That pretty much shows that the fantastic odds are not figments of anyone's imagination or a case of misapplied 7th-grade math. The odds are real. The conclusion, therefore is this: obviously, life didn't arise by a random process (or, more conservatively: life could not have arisen by a random process alone).

The manner in which higher stages in the development of life can dramatically diminish randomness is illustrated in this article by the cell biologist Dave Deamer:

I'm acquainted with Deamer, his summary of this experiment, and the original paper in Science by Bartel & Szostak. This experiment -- an excellent example of what is today called "Ribozyme Engineering" -- is often touted by the Darwin Lobby as proof that abiogenesis can occur in a way consistent with the Darwinian theory of evolution; unfortunately for these poor benighted souls, the significance of the experiment is exactly the opposite. Deamer states this openly -- though probably unwittingly -- when he admits the following::

". . . By the way, this is the same basic logic that breeders use when they select for a property such as coat color in dogs . . . "

Yep. It sure is, Deamer. Even Darwin, who was a close observer of professional animal breeders, understood that breeders employ design and goals in their breeding efforts; they intentionally and intelligently select in favor of certain traits, and against certain other traits, that they want to see in the end result, or that they don't want to see in the end result. If one is going to carry the banner of materialism, it is obviously invalid to impute to insensate physical nature the same sort of ability to "select for favorable traits" or to "preserve traits that would be most welcome in an organism" that the breeders have.

Deamer's summary is full of references to the researchers employment of design, in contradistinction to how unguided physical nature acts:

"They then AMPLIFIED THOSE MOLECULES . . ."

Is this amplification something nature, left to itself, would have done? How do we know? What are the odds of nature doing such an amplification? What sorts of forces did nature bring to bear AGAINST such amplification? Blank out.

"They began by synthesizing many trillions of different RNA molecules about 300 nucleotides long . . ."

Right ho!! Unfortunately, unguided nature doesn't synthesize RNA molecules of any length, let alone one designed to be just the right length to allow one's experiment to conclude happily. Alas -- those poor geochemists! -- They're so unpopular! Everyone in the biology department hates them because they always report back to the origin-of-life fellows that "NO such conditions as you created in your lab EVER existed on the early Earth." This is what they told Harold Urey and Stanley Miller after their experiment on amino acid production back in the 1950s, and it quite simply demolished the conclusions that people (including Urey and Miller) were drawing. Would unguided, undirected nature -- a nature with no Bartel & Szostak -- have come up with the rare chemical pathway that leads to RNA formation? What about all the DESTRUCTIVE physical forces that unguided, undirected nature no doubt have also come up with that would tend to neutralize chemical reactions? Blank out.

There are more, but it might be more fun to quote the researchers themselves from their published paper in Science:

"Incubation of the pool RNA...led to rapid and extensive aggregation; more than half of the pool RNA precipitated when incubated for 90 minutes at 37º C . . . "

Here, "aggregation" means "formed a tangled, gooey mess that was completely useless." I.e., assuming nature unaided and unguided can even produce RNA and let it stagnate in "warm little ponds", it will aggregate (they also use the word "precipitate"). That's what nature does by itself with warm little ponds of RNA, assuming (and it's an unwarranted assumption) that it can even produce RNA to begin with.

So, how did Bartel & Szostak proceed? They employed their own intelligent design and thought up a way to beat unguided physical nature by doing something that humans often do when running into a problem: they invented a way to solve it.

"To minimize the problem of RNA aggregation, we immobilized the pool of RNA molecules on agarose beads before the addition of Mg2+"

Oh, yeah, baby! They tied those molecules down! As they put it, they, uh, "tethered" the RNA molecules to agarose, a carbohydrate derived from seaweed, specifically chosen for molecular properties that they knew in advance would NOT hinder the next few steps of the experiment. Nice! Very elegant! There's just one small hitch: is this plausibly a route that unguided, undirected nature would have arrived at by chance, granting, for the sake of argument, that it even had warm little pools of RNA in the prebiotic era? Blank out.

It's obvious that the selection forces used in laboratory ribozyme engineering are unlikely (to put it mildly) to occur outside of the laboratory, in the absence of intelligent designers and goal-choosers like Bartel & Szostak, and in the presence of many naturally occurring destructive processes.

It's a well known experiment, and an elegant one, but it doesn't show what you think it does, and it certainly doesn't prove what Deamer claims it does. If anything, it proves that design on the part of intelligent agents called "researchers" can fairly easily, and certainly very rapidly, leap over problems that unguided nature cannot.

Edited by AristotlesAdvance

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When judging a hypothesis, we use a "rejection region"; a threshold above which our initial assumptions no longer hold. The question then becomes: where do we draw the line of demarcation that bounds our rejection region, and on what basis?

For example: someone tosses a coin that we assume to be fair. The odds of landing "heads" or "tails" is 1/2. If our friend tosses 3 heads in a row, we think nothing of it; the odds of 3 heads in a row occurring are 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1 chance out of a total number of 8 possibilities, or 1/8. Do we accept that outcome as resulting from chance? Or did the tosser employ design (such as a two-headed coin)? Most of us would probably consider 3 heads in a row as nothing unusual.

What if our friend tosses 10 heads in a row? Do we accept that sequence as a product of randomness? or design? Ten heads in a row have odds of about 1/1,000. We might still accept this result as having occurred by chance.

What if our friend tosses 50 heads in a row? Chance? Or design? 50 heads in a row have odds of about 1/10^15, or one chance in 100 trillion. Has it crossed our demarcation border yet? Do accept a sequence of 50 heads in a row as a result of chance? or do we suspect that some other -- some additional -- causal agent, such as design was employed? Suppose we accept this result as having been caused by chance.

If our friend tosses 100 heads in a row, we find that the odds of doing that are about 1/10^30 for a fair coin, and assuming chance alone as the causal agent. Question: do we accept odds of 1/10^30 as indicating extreme luck? or do we not accept it as luck, and suspect design?

I have paid very little attention to this thread so far, but this (and more of the same post) strike me as the kind of creationist junk math I've seen before. Is this alleged to apply to the result of a particular combination of genes or genetic mutations? Whether it does or not, I will use them to show the junk math. The same sort of analysis applies to abiogenesis as well, even though the number of chances is less clear.

Let's start with 10 heads. Getting 10 heads in a row is equivalent probability-wise to tossing 10 coins simultaneously and getting 10 heads. But suppose we were to toss lots more coins and calculate the probability of 10 heads. Obviously the more coins are tossed, the more the probability of getting 10 heads increases. How is tossing more than 10 coins and getting 10 heads relevant to evolution? Any species has multiple generations and many organisms within each generation. Each one is analogous to having another coin to toss. Does any of AristotleAdvance's calculations reflect such complexity? Of course not, which is merely one thing that makes it junk math.

Note that as I increase the number of tosses, the resulting probability increases. In contrast AA's decrease.

I have paid very little attention to this thread so far

I can tell that.

Suppose you are going to toss three coins, and you want to work out the probability of only one head (and so two tails). The possible outcomes are:

TTT, TTH, THT, THH, HTT, HTH, HHT, HHH

All these outcomes are different, and they are all equally likely. There are 8 of them. There are 3 tosses with only one head:

TTH, THT, HTT

So the probability is 3/8. You can convert this into a decimal 0.375 or a percentage 37.5%

This is a simplification of your question. If in your scenario you had 100 coins and simply want to know the probability of getting 10 heads when tossing all 100, you're really asking: given 100 coins, how many different combinations are there after the toss that yield 10 heads and 90 tails?

There are many . . . and progressively more combinations as we increase the number of coins from 100 to 500, then 500 to 1,000.

But that's an irrelevant question for this discussion -- something you might even have known had you been paying attention to this thread. For suppose, instead of being interested in the mere number of outcomes that have one head and two tails (to return to the simpler example above), we were interested in a specific sequence; a specific order of one head and two tails -- for example, let's say the only sequence that was meaningful to us, and that we were looking for in advance of the calculation, was the sequence "T-H-T". We're not interested in "H-T-T", or "T-T-H", but only "T-H-T." Our question is now: What is the probability of finding that SPECIFIC sequence among all the possible sequences?

You can see for yourself: it's one out of eight, or 1/8, or 0.125, or 12.5% (not 37.5% as it is above, when we ignore sequence specificity). This is exactly the same answer we would have arrived at using the method I used in my original example: the probability of the first coin giving us a "T" is 1/2; the probability of the second coin giving us an "H" is 1/2; the probability of the third coin giving us a "T" is 1/2: the total probability getting "T-H-T" is 1/2 x 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/8.

Now,

Instead of a two-headed coin, suppose you had a 20-headed coin, shaped like an icosahedron. Instead of "heads" or "tails", each of the 20 faces had the name of an essential amino acid stamped on it. We want to calculate the probability of a highly specific sequence of amino acids for a protein whose chain-length is 300 amino acids. You claim that we'll have a fairly high chance of generating the 300 amino acids if we start out with an ocean-liner full of these icosahedrons and dump them -- you claim that as we dump larger and larger numbers of these icosahedrons, we will be progressively more likely to find the 300 amino acids we are looking for.

You're right -- as long as we ignore sequence. Protein chains are analogous to words made up of letters: it's not just the existence of certain letters that compose functional sentences; it's their unique order, their specific sequence. Once you start worrying about the specific sequence, you're back to calculating probability by the method I used in my earlier example. Ergo, the only way to calculate the odds of a specific protein appearing AT A SPECIFIC POSITION IN THE CHAIN -- not just anywhere in the chain, but specifically, e.g., at position 4, then you have to use the method I used in my previous posts (i.e., it's a probability of 1/20 for any given amino acid appearing at any position in the chain; if there are 300 "open positions" in the chain, then the chances of a specific, unique sequence filling the open positions will obviously be 1/20 at each position. Multiply them together and you get the probability for the entire sequence.

Edited by AristotlesAdvance

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Instead of a two-headed coin, suppose you had a 20-headed coin, shaped like an icosahedron. Instead of "heads" or "tails", each of the 20 faces had the name of an essential amino acid stamped on it. We want to calculate the probability of a highly specific sequence of amino acids for a protein whose chain-length is 300 amino acids. You claim that we'll have a fairly high chance of generating the 300 amino acids if we start out with an ocean-liner full of these icosahedrons and dump them -- you claim that as we dump larger and larger numbers of these icosahedrons, we will be progressively more likely to find the 300 amino acids we are looking for.

You're right -- as long as we ignore sequence. Protein chains are analogous to words made up of letters: it's not just the existence of certain letters that compose functional sentences; it's their unique order, their specific sequence. Once you start worrying about the specific sequence, you're back to calculating probability by the method I used in my earlier example. Ergo, the only way to calculate the odds of a specific protein appearing AT A SPECIFIC POSITION IN THE CHAIN -- not just anywhere in the chain, but specifically, e.g., at position 4, then you have to use the method I used in my previous posts (i.e., it's a probability of 1/20 for any given amino acid appearing at any position in the chain; if there are 300 "open positions" in the chain, then the chances of a specific, unique sequence filling the open positions will obviously be 1/20 at each position. Multiply them together and you get the probability for the entire sequence.

Your first paragraph seems to indicate you got the point I made. Then you immediately abandon it. Rather than stay with a base probability and calculate how the derived probabilities increase as the number of trials ("tosses") increases, you want to start all over and decrease the base probability, which is exactly what your second paragraph I quoted does.

It doesn't matter how low the base probability is. Increasing the number of trials increases the derived probability. But you don't want to travel down that fork of the road, do you? Indeed, you try to dismiss my point as "irrelevant" (above the part I quoted) so you can travel down your preferred fork of decreasing the base probability.

There is another way that creationists use "junk math" to promote their credibility. That is treating the entire gene sequence as if chance were involved with each and every specific protein in the sequence when the next gene sequence comes into being. That is at least implicit in your second paragraph. It misrepresents the reality. There is replication happening. Mutations, when they happen, happen to only a small part of the entire sequence. The replicated part of the sequence is a "given." So again calculating a probability for the given for when the next gene sequence comes into being is "double-counting", which here means reducing probabilities.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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