Pharyngula

It’s terribly unfair. Not only are the paladins of evolution handsomer, wittier, more charming, and with a deeper grasp of the truth than the orc-like hordes of creationism, but even our ancillary skills are wielded with more effortless panache than our opponents’ primary talents. Here’s a beautiful example: Richard Dawkins, a mere biologist, wrote a clear, simple program in BASIC about thirty years ago that has had the Isaac Newton of Information Theory scratching his head in puzzlement. How did a program running a simple selection algorithm turn a random text string into the specific string “METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” so quickly? He must have cheated! There must be some trick in the code! The poor bewildered ‘experts’ of Design Theory struggled to comprehend, and floundered trying to create a program of equal complexity.

As Ian Musgrave shows, the program is trivial, and even us biologists can whip one out in minutes. Once again, the ID camp shows themselves to be less a research group than a gaggle of stumblebum clowns, with the capacity to embarrass themselves with their own incompetence.

Comments

  1. #1 Adam
    March 27, 2009

    Scientists are all to willing to whip it out in minutes once they get behind their computer.

  2. #2 Bride of Shrek OM
    March 27, 2009

    So now Richard Dawkins has another source of income as a progam writer. I say he can WELL afford to loan you $5000 for Kwok’s camera then.

  3. #3 CatBallou
    March 27, 2009

    Now you’re just being mean, PZ!

    I like it.

  4. #4 cs
    March 27, 2009

    Wait a second. Two questions:

    Is Richard Dawkins intelligent?
    Did he design the program?

    There you go!

  5. #5 Abstruse
    March 27, 2009

    Weasel is an appropriate term to describe ID proponents.

  6. #6 Mark
    March 27, 2009

    I like being a Paladin.

  7. #7 LadyH
    March 27, 2009

    As someone who can’t do a lick of programming (seriously, I tried) Dawkins makes me feel like a lowly imbecile. . . and yet I still know more about biology than Dembski. This makes me happier.

  8. #8 eddie
    March 27, 2009

    Are we to take from this that someone at DI has finally got round to reading the Blind Watchmaker?
    Unlikely. Or at least, like cs above, they failed to understand it.

  9. #9 Doc Bill
    March 27, 2009

    Furthermore, Dembski claimed that the TechSavvies over at the BioiLLogic Institute, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Discovery Institute, Hair Care and Tire Center, would whip out a similar program before you could say “She sells snake oil in Seattle.”

    Alas, like Dembski’s scotch bet and Paul Nelsons monograph, naught is to be seen.

    I guess Dawkin’s program was just too complex. Irreducibly so.

  10. #10 TJ
    March 27, 2009

    I guess this only goes to prove that science and religion don’t mix.

  11. #11 Trold
    March 27, 2009

    Adam (at 1) and cs (at 4):

    Obviously the computer, compiler, &c. were intelligently designed. Most programming languages (including BASIC) however, come with the ever-helpful random(); command (or some equivalent). That random, unsorted information can, with the application of a filter and a few hours, become “Methinks it is like a weasel” is a perfectly good demonstration of the efficacy of selection algorithms. I don’t see how running it on a designed platform –so long as we’re still starting out with randomized characters, using randomized changes, and so on– really undermines the argument.

  12. #12 Screechy Monkey
    March 27, 2009

    “Are we to take from this that someone at DI has finally got round to reading the Blind Watchmaker?”

    If by “reading” you mean “scan furiously for quote-mining opportunities,” the answer is “yes.” Otherwise, no.

  13. #13 Trold
    March 27, 2009

    Correction (to previous post at 11). When I say randomized changes I mean that the variation is random, not that the selection process is random. If the selection was random it’d be very little like natural selection and a poor analogy or demonstration, tough you were all probably already aware of this.

  14. #14 Moggie
    March 27, 2009

    Whaaat? The “weasel” program is almost trivial to any half-competent programmer (I can speak with authority, being a half-competent programmer). How could the Fig Newton of Information Theory fail to understand it?

  15. #15 Facilis, SP
    March 27, 2009

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer. I’m sure he is to busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    I wonder what the whole fuss about Dawkins’ program is?

  16. #16 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    I can’t understand the Isaac Newton comment. Newton was a genius, far smarter than Dawkins by any reasonable measure. I doubt the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory” would be stumped by that simple program.

  17. #17 Jadehawk
    March 27, 2009

    Not only are the paladins of evolution handsomer, wittier, more charming, and with a deeper grasp of the truth than the orc-like hordes of creationism

    RAWR….

    wait… what were we talking about again?

  18. #18 PZ Myers
    March 27, 2009

    Stop using the “SP”, Facilis. It’s not something to be proud of. You were one of the select few who elicit such contempt that many readers here want to get rid of you — all that save you is that there were a few others who were loathed even more than you are.

    And in case you missed my prior comment, it is still within my power to make you a non-survivor.

  19. #19 Jeff Bell
    March 27, 2009

    The opposite is also true.

    For really difficult optimization problems, computer scientists have used “Genetic Algorithms”. You start with a population of candidate solutions which undergoes selection, mutations, breeding with crossover.

    For example, when designing an op-amp you could have the resistor and capacitor and transistor sizes as alleles. The fitness function might include gain and harmonic distortion.

    Over time you decrease the mutation rate so that it converges.

  20. #20 stogoe
    March 27, 2009

    cs: fuck. the. fucking. fuck. off. Fucker.

  21. #21 Nerull
    March 27, 2009

    You must realize the Dembski calls himself the Issac Newton of Information Theory.

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon: The “Isaac Newton of Information Theory” is what Bill Dembski styles himself.

  23. #23 IST
    March 27, 2009

    Facilis> I see you have a sense of humour about the whole survivor thing…

    Not even going to get into what Dembski is… the fuss over Dawkins’s programme is that it demonstrates how a selection algorithm applied to randomly generated characters can result in a recognisable pattern… i.e. it acts as a proxy for natural selection.

  24. #24 Siamang
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperion,

    Dembski has referred to himself as “The Isaac Newton of Information Theory”, because he thinks there’s a law of conservation of information, or something like that.

    He cannot comprehend that complexity, when a stochastic filter is applied, can produce novel solutions.

  25. #25 Janine, Insulting Sinner
    March 27, 2009

    Facilis, the only reason I did not vote for you is because I found both Barb and siMon to be more vile then you. It does not mean I do not find you to be closed minded, a bore and an apologist for monstrous behavior.

    Before you speak up, it is helpful to know of what you speak of. Dembski is not a scientist. His fields are mathematics, philosophy and theology. Try using a search engine some time you sad little dumb ass.

  26. #26 IST
    March 27, 2009

    PZ> saw your post after I sent mine… my apologies for encouraging Facilis… I found the use of SP amusing. Obviously, you don’t.

  27. #27 Joe Fredette
    March 27, 2009

    Whats more, we use genetic algorithms such Dawkin’s Weasel program for _far more_ than just pwning creationists. We use them to evolve faster programs by messing with optimization options.

    The process is something like this:

    Take a program, write a test(s) which takes uses most of the program elements (eg, it tries to make use of all the various functions provided by the program.)

    Compile the program with a 100 different sets of random optimization flags. run the test with each program, timing each.

    Choose the top 10, and generate another 5 new random sets of optimization flags, from this pool, choose 2 random sets of optimization flags and randomly splice them together, until you have 100 new sets of opt-flags.

    Rinse

    Repeat until improvement is below some minimal threshold.

    Whats more, it _works!_ check out my good buddy Don Stewart’s post about using this w/ Haskell:

    http://donsbot.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/evolving-faster-haskell-programs/

    The timescales involved are pretty big, (took something like a day or two to appropriately evolve the test program from that blogpost), but the results are pretty substantial, shaving anywhere from 0.2s to 3-4s off the runtime. While that doesn’t seem like much, thats the rough equivalent of a light-sensitive patch of tissue to a primitive eye which can resolve images and colors and stuff, or something…

    Evolution is terribly handy for us Math/Computer Scientist types.

  28. #28 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon: The “Isaac Newton of Information Theory” is what Bill Dembski styles himself.

    Ohhh…makes sense now. Yeah, he would call himself that. What a stupendously arrogant, colossal prick. I mean, really, what a wanker.

  29. #29 Eumaios
    March 27, 2009

    Long-time lurker here. Just want to say that the second sentence of PZ’s post is a thing of beauty. Mencken would be pleased to have written it.

    Thanks for Pharyngula. (I’d have italicized the title of the blog, but I’ve forgotten what little HTML I ever knew.)

  30. #31 MissPrism
    March 27, 2009

    Can Dembski write a similar program to test intelligent design? It could print METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL straight off the bat, as soon as you pray hard enough.

  31. #32 windy
    March 27, 2009

    Stop using the “SP”, Facilis. It’s not something to be proud of.

    “Pete Rooke, ES” was pretty funny. “SP” is just confusing, it looks like an indeterminate species designation: Facilis sp.

  32. #33 SiMPel MYnd
    March 27, 2009

    It is examples of this level of ineptitude that depress me so much in the struggle against creationism. Holy Hand-Grenades, Batman!! Anyone with even a small degree of intelligence and basic knowledge of, well, BASIC, can see what the hell this program does. How can they have whole teams of people looking at this??!!! I mean, if they really are, I’m glad that they’re wasting their money on it, but, COME ON… Teams of people struggling to understand a few lines of code that you can whip up from scratch in less than an hour???!!! And missing the point for years??!! WTF?

    They have got be lying. Anyone with that level of stupidity simply would not be able to function by themselves. They must just sit in a big room throwing their feces against the walls muttering “Weasel, Weasel, Weasel” all day.

  33. #34 cs
    March 27, 2009

    To stogoe (#20)

    I was being FUCKING sarcastic to the IDiot Cretinists.

    Fuck the shit out of your fucking self.

    And keep the change.

    Fuck.

  34. #35 Kawa
    March 27, 2009

    #29: the I tag for Italics. In broken brackets.

  35. #36 Marcus B.
    March 27, 2009

    I am also really surprised that anyone who knows any programming could fail to understand a program like this. It’s all fairly trivial. But nice :)

    If you want to see more simple programs that demonstrate evolutionary principles, check out cdk007 on Youtube. If you by some chance haven’t seen them before, he/she has a lot of videos up about evolution/creationism, and some of them involve visualizations of programs that use natural selection.

    Of course it’s not actual evolution exactly as we see in nature, but the videos are still very good at showing some of the principles that creationists often have a hard time understanding.

  36. #37 Kawa
    March 27, 2009

    Isn’t this BASICally a simpler version of the Mona Lisa program from a while back?

  37. #38 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Obviously the computer, compiler, &c. were intelligently designed. Most programming languages (including BASIC)[,] however, come with the ever-helpful random(); command (or some equivalent). That random, unsorted information can, with the application of a filter and a few hours, become “Methinks it is like a weasel” is a perfectly good demonstration of the efficacy of selection algorithms. I don’t see how running it on a designed platform –so long as we’re still starting out with randomized characters, using randomized changes, and so on– really undermines the argument.

    Strictly speaking, it’s equivalent to having evolution run in a designed environment (natural selection is done by the environment: whatever fits the environment best has the greatest chance to have more surviving fertile offspring).

    Equally strictly speaking, it wouldn’t matter in the least for the theory of evolution if God were micromanaging the climate, if every micrometer a continent moved were a miracle, and so on (just as long as he doesn’t interfere with mutation). As in the program, mutation is random; as in the program, selection is done by the environment (the filter in the program); as in the program, the result is evolution by mutation and natural selection. Where the environment (the filter) comes from doesn’t matter.

    This, cs, is why your analogy fails.

  38. #39 Newfie
    March 27, 2009

    Once again, the ID camp shows themselves to be less a research group

    I thought that they were a, “suck money from stupid fundies, and create silly arguments” group…

    wait..

    … oh, research how to fleece the fleecers. Got it.

  39. #40 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    I remember seeing Richard Dawkins on the BBC some time in the late 70′s or early 80′s, when I was learning BASIC myself (on a Radio Shack TRS-80!) It was the first time I’d ever seen him, and was immediately impressed not only by his computer skills but also his rock-solid arguments against creationism delivered as always in a marvelously clear speaking style. I quickly wrote my own “weasel” program which performed exactly as his did (except I got it to home in on rather more scurrilous phrases, and eventually on any phrase randomly typed in). I’ve been programming – and listening intently to Richard – ever since.

    (PZ’s an ok guy too I suppose…)

  40. #41 Marcus Ranum
    March 27, 2009

    Processor designers used to use a tool called “Dracula” – back in the day – that basically used evolutionary modelling to lay out the traces for a CPU. It used a godawful load of compute-power, distributed around a network, but basically what it did was try different layouts over and over until it got layouts the worked better than the previous one, etc, etc.

    Would you say that it was “creating information” because it was producing a more complicated output than its input? Anyone who does not understand this has never tried to read optimized RISC processor instructions. :) There’s tremendous complexity there, each piece depends on the other, and
    printf(“hello world\n”);
    produces something vastly larger than its original input. Such things happen all around us, all the time.

  41. #42 pdferguson
    March 27, 2009

    Facilis, SP (silly person) babbled:

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer. I’m sure he is to busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    Scientific research? Sheesh… Are you STILL laboring under the bizarre misconception that the Discovery Institute does any actual research? Grow the fuck up, child.

    And as for being a programmer (excuse me, “Information Theory expert”), Demski knows about as much about modern day digital computers and programming languages as Isaac Newton did…

  42. #43 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    I was being FUCKING sarcastic to the IDiot Cretinists.

    Poe’s Law: Every sufficiently advanced parody of creationism is indistinguishable from the real thing.

    Ebert’s Fallacy: to think that it’s possible to create a parody of creationism that is so over-the-top it won’t be confused with the real thing.

    Your exact argument has been presented by a dozen creationists right here on Pharyngula within the last year.

  43. #44 rhr
    March 27, 2009

    I had to have a go. This isn’t the prettiest, but it’s fun to watch the output.

    #!/usr/bin/perl
    $t = “Methinks it is a Cephalopod”;
    $x = ‘x’ x length $t;

    sub fit {
    my $fx = shift;
    my $fn = 0;
    for $fi (0..length $t) {
    $fn++ if substr($fx, $fi, 1) ne substr($t, $fi, 1);
    }
    return $fn;
    }

    while($x ne $t) {
    for $nn (0..999) {
    $z = $x;
    for(0..1+rand 2) {
    $n = rand length $z;
    substr($z, $n, 1) = chr(32 + rand 96);
    }
    $y[$nn] = $z;
    }
    @s = map { $_->[0] }
    sort { $a->[1] < => $b->[1] }
    map { [$_, fit($_)] }
    @y;
    $x = $s[0];
    $nnn++;
    $f = fit($x);
    print “$nnn\t$f\t$x\n”;
    }

  44. #45 Mark B.
    March 27, 2009

    Newton invented calculus (along with Leibniz and others). Dembski invented … nothing–except a certain inability to understand even the simplest of ideas.

    Newton never saw a computer, but I have no doubt he could have understood Dawkins program after a few moments of explanation of what instructions and algorithms are. Dembski will never understand.

  45. #46 BdN
    March 27, 2009

    For more “visual” programs, there is always the classic EvoDots and on Facebook Evarium. FAQ quite detailed and well made for Evarium.

  46. #47 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    Marcus Ranum: if you want an example of a formula that produces an output far greater than itself, look no further than the Mandelbrot equation. Three lines of code -> infinite regress!

  47. #48 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    I liked H Allen Orr’s review of No Free Lunch
    http://www.bostonreview.net/BR27.3/orr.html

    Evolution isn’t searching for anything and Darwinism is not therefore a search algorithm. The bottom line is not that the NFL theorems are wrong. They’re not. The bottom line is that they ask the wrong question for what Dembski wants to do. More precisely, the proper conclusion isn’t that the NFL theorems derail Darwinism. The proper conclusion is that evolutionary algorithms are flawed analogies for Darwinism.

    The astonishing thing is that Dembski knows all this. In a remarkable revelation?and one that follows two hundred pages of technical mumbo-jumbo?Dembski suddenly announces that Darwinists won’t find his NFL objection terribly relevant. And why not? For the very reason I just gave. Dembski even quotes Richard Dawkins at length, who, it turns out, warned all along that his METHINKS? example is ?misleading in important ways. One of these is that, in each generation of selective “breeding,” the mutant “progeny” phrases were judged according to the criterion of resemblance to a distant ideal target, the phrase METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. Life isn’t like that. Evolution has no long-term goal. There is no long-distance target, no final perfection to serve as a criterion for selection?.In real life, the criterion for selection is always short-term, either simple survival or, more generally, reproductive success.

  48. #49 tripwire
    March 27, 2009

    Do also check the follow-up thread at PT.
    Dembski’s specific beef with Dawkins’ Weasel program is that he suspects foul play on Dawkins’ part; i.e. that characters are ‘locked’ once they have mutated to the correct target character. This is of course utter nonsense.
    At the above thread, a number of Weasel implementations have been whipped up in no time (mine took only 45 minutes), all of which show that no ‘latching’ (Dembski’s term) algorithm has to be used to achieve the target phrase. They also show that sometimes beneficial mutations can be reversed while the target phrase is still achieved in the end.

  49. #50 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer. I’m sure he is to busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    Firstly, he’s a mathematician – not a scientist. Secondly, he’s written a book on this very topic. Read the H Allen Orr review I linked above.

  50. #51 tmaxPA
    March 27, 2009

    Kawa; yes. Weasel uses text, Mona Lisa used pixels (more or less). Same principle.

  51. #52 Kawa
    March 27, 2009

    tmaxPA: Methinks it was like polygon soup ;)

  52. #53 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    Facilis:

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer. I’m sure he is to [sic] busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    You really don’t know anything about what scientists do at work, do you?

  53. #54 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Of course it’s not actual evolution exactly as we see in nature

    Funnily, actual evolution is, in one respect, even easier. That’s because it doesn’t have a single precisely predetermined goal. Often there are several possible solutions for the same problem ? several possible adaptations to the same environment. The program assumes there’s just one.

  54. #55 mothwentbad
    March 27, 2009

    The Isaac Newton of information theory, huh? I don’t know… maybe if he’s sexually repressed, superstitious, and an all-around jerk out to destroy his competitors, I can see the comparison. I can’t comment on the first.

  55. #56 Wowbagger, OM
    March 27, 2009

    We’re talking code and programming? Hmm, I can contribute even less to this than I can to the biology threads. I guess I’m going to have to do something more productive with my Saturday morning*. Well, unless Ed’s talking about anything interesting on Dispatches

    *Australian time.

  56. #57 Libbie
    March 27, 2009

    I’m going to find a way to work “METHINKS IT IS A WEASEL” into a novel some day. See if I don’t.

  57. #58 Bill Dauphin
    March 27, 2009

    David:

    Equally strictly speaking, it wouldn’t matter in the least for the theory of evolution if God were micromanaging the climate, if every micrometer a continent moved were a miracle, and so on (just as long as he doesn’t interfere with mutation).

    This reminds me of one of my favorite SF stories, Theodore Sturgeon’s novelette Microcosmic God, in which a biochemist creates a very short-lived (i.e., rapid generational turnover) synthetic lifeform and then directs their evolution — to the point where they make him (their “god”) ridiculously wealthy by solving problems he sets for them and thus generating advanced inventions — by manipulating the closed environment in which he keeps them. Dunno how good it is on evolutionary theory, but a cracking good story.

  58. #59 mothwentbad
    March 27, 2009

    David, #54 -

    Agreed. This is a somewhat better analogy than what Dawkins did, I think:

    http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2006/08/design-challeng-1.html

  59. #60 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    re my comment at #40, seems my memory is slightly faulty. It was of course the 1987 BBC Horizon programme where I saw Dawkins and his weasel, and by then I had upgraded from the TRS-80 to an Amiga – still using BASIC though. Yet I’m sure the TRS could have managed it too.

    (btw I use the word “Programme” as in TV programme, as distinct from computer “program”)

  60. #61 Mark B.
    March 27, 2009

    Firstly, he’s a mathematician – not a scientist.

    Firstly, I take issue with the idea that mathematicians are not scientists. Yes, mathematical concept are not EXPERIMENTALLY verifiable, but the concept of proof and peer review are quite strong in mathematics. At the very least, mathematics is the most powerful tool in the scientists toolbox, and I think they deserve their own spot at the table.

    Having said that, it’s a poor mathematician that can’t grasp a simple program written in a simple language like BASIC.

    Disclaimer: I have a math degree, but I now work as a programmer.

  61. #62 tweetbirdie386sx
    March 27, 2009

    He cannot comprehend that complexity, when a stochastic filter is applied, can produce novel solutions.

    Oh I’m sure he can comprehend it. He just thinks that stuff is like really way too complexified. It’s so complexitized that it must be the gospel of John restated in the language of complexitolergy and Legos theorology. It’s really very complicated stuff for the average layman.

    [Mark 16:19] “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”

    Tweet tweet!

  62. #63 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    I am also really surprised that anyone who knows any programming could fail to understand a program like this. It’s all fairly trivial. But nice :)

    I came to believe that all genetic algorithms are enchanted somehow. No creationist can get them right. EVER. I would not believe that myself, but I saw it quite a few times. No matter how a creationist tries he NEVER gets a working genetic algorithm.

  63. #64 Stanton
    March 27, 2009

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer.

    As was mentioned, William Dembski is, by trade, a mathematician and philosopher. Dembski has also demonstrated that he is a vile, manipulative charlatan who is neither capable of understanding even the most basic concepts of Biology, nor cares to do so.

    I’m sure he is too busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    If you are moronic enough to assume that the members of the Discovery Institute do scientific research, AND are moronic enough to swallow the bullshit lies in “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” then, why don’t you go out and purchase some Nevada beachfront property, too?

  64. #65 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    As it happens, I used genetic algorithms in my undergraduate thesis. I had basically stumbled into a problem where I needed to figure out the scattering cross sections of gas atoms — a measure of what happens when an electron bumps into an atom, depending on the energy of the incoming electron — from measurements made in the laboratory. Going from cross sections to predictions of measurable quantities was easy; there are formulas for simple cases, and in the more complicated situations, whipping up a simulation wasn’t too hard. However, the “inverse problem”, going from laboratory measurements on the macro-scale to micro-scale parameters, was basically a mess.

    Genetic algorithms to the rescue! Breed a thousand cross-section curves, and let them fight and breed, their fitness determined by how well the macro-scale predictions made from them match the data from experiment.

    I won’t pretend the result was spectacularly novel, but it was sure fun.

  65. #66 socle
    March 27, 2009

    Kel #48:

    Unfortunately it appears that Orr has the weasel algorithm wrong—he includes “latching” in his explanation.

  66. #67 Stanton
    March 27, 2009
    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer. I’m sure he is to [sic] busy with his scientific research for the DI to waste time.

    You really don’t know anything about what scientists do at work, do you?

    And the sad thing is, Blake, Facilis doesn’t care what scientists do at work.

  67. #68 clinteas
    March 27, 2009

    Wasnt Nick Gotts involved with this somehow?
    Seem to remember that from “The Blind Watchmaker”.
    Might be wrong though.

  68. #69 gma
    March 27, 2009

    I always understood that anything complex that cdesign proponentsists cannot understand is by definition irreducibly complex.

    Their inability to understand Richard’s simple basic program implies that we have to broaden this definition.

    Anything simple or complex that cdesign proponentsists cannot understand is by definition irreducibly complex.

  69. #70 Kyle
    March 27, 2009

    Makes me think of this program I ran across, evolving the Mona Lisa with random polygons.
    http://alteredqualia.com/visualization/evolve/
    Requires Firefox, Opera or possibly Safari 4 to view.

  70. #71 socle
    March 27, 2009

    RE: My post #66: My bad—Orr is simply echoing Dembski’s incorrect version in his NFL book.

  71. #72 doug
    March 27, 2009

    I read #15 as being sarcastic, but it looks like most other people didn’t.

    The program is extremely simple, and even a non-programmer with any semblance of logic should be able to comprehend. To assert that because someone is not a programmer they would be unable to understand it really doesn’t make much sense. Further, to posit that Dembski is too busy doing research to worry about a minor computer program is odd, considering that the linked Panda’s Thumb post arose because Dembski WAS spending time complaining about a program that he doesn’t seem to understand.

    So either #15 was meant as a joke or was stupid, but due to the internet it’s difficult to tell.

  72. #73 Psy-Kosh
    March 27, 2009

    Personally, I prefer this demonstration of the idea, since, among other things, the programmer doesn’t even know the target at the start, merely some properties they want it to optimize.

  73. #74 Dr. Cereal
    March 27, 2009

    Calling Dembski the Newton of Information theory is insulting to both Newton and information theory.

  74. #75 Stanton
    March 27, 2009

    Calling Dembski the Newton of Information theory is insulting to both Newton and information theory.

    To call Dembski the “Newton of Information theory” is insulting to the cookie and figs, in fact.

  75. #76 Asemodeus
    March 27, 2009

    I’ve done coding in Visual Basic, Java, C++, Matlab, and Mathcad. I would be shocked if any creationists reading this even knew 3 of these programs/codes existed, yet alone actually tried fiddling with them.

    This just furthers my idea that there has to be a rudimentary test for everyone to pass so they are even allowed to use a computer.

    Such things as:

    Knowing the difference between RAM and ROM.
    T/F on if you should meddle in any of the directories.
    Understanding that things have to be plugged in to work.

    And so on…

    Classic example. I went into my parents den to print out something, only to find that the printer was not working. My first instinct was that the printer was unplugged from the computer, as it was. Later on that day my mother comes storming in asking me how I fixed the computer. Gee…. I wonder…

  76. #77 BABH
    March 27, 2009

    Libbie @57: Shakespeare beat you to it.

    I’m going to find a way to work “METHINKS IT IS A WEASEL” into a novel some day. See if I don’t.

  77. #78 'Tis Himself
    March 27, 2009

    You really don’t know anything about what scientists do at work, do you?

    Scientists stand around in labs, wearing white coats, and pouring foaming, brightly colored liquids from test tubes into beakers. Everyone knows that.

    </snark>

    Isaac Asimov told about reading a murder mystery where one of the people was an astronomer. Asimov was convinced that the astronomer was the murderer who had killed the real astronomer and had taken his place because the guy wasn’t acting like any astronomer Asimov knew. Asimov was very disappointed at the book’s conclusion when the murderer turned out to be someone else. The story’s author didn’t know what real astronomers do for a living.

  78. #79 TheNaturalist
    March 27, 2009

    I don’t think Demski can’t understand that program. I think he’s being willfully stupid. It’s a “gift” that goes along with the “talent” of using logic and reason in everyday life and then not being able to use those same tools when considering thier own religion.

  79. #80 'Tis Himself
    March 27, 2009

    Asemodeus #76

    Classic example. I went into my parents den to print out something, only to find that the printer was not working. My first instinct was that the printer was unplugged from the computer, as it was. Later on that day my mother comes storming in asking me how I fixed the computer. Gee…. I wonder…

    There are people in the world who don’t know as much about computers as you do. We’ve all heard about how some smuck doesn’t put the ON/OFF switch in the ON position or when told to have the computer read something holds the paper up to the monitor. Yeah, yeah, hilarious, much yucks provided by the idiots who don’t know the stuff computer weenies spend years learning and using. However, there’s a whole lot about computers that is counter-intuitive. For instance, using Windows, how do you shut down a computer? You first click on “START.”

  80. #81 cpsmith
    March 27, 2009

    @76

    “This just furthers my idea that there has to be a rudimentary test for everyone to pass so they are even allowed to use a computer.

    Such things as:
    Knowing the difference between RAM and ROM.
    T/F on if you should meddle in any of the directories.
    Understanding that things have to be plugged in to work.
    And so on…”

    I fail. I only know one of the three. *hangs head in shame* But that having been said, even I know enough about computer programming to know how one would write a weasel program.

  81. #82 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    I don’t think Demski can’t understand that program. I think he’s being willfully stupid. It’s a “gift” that goes along with the “talent” of using logic and reason in everyday life and then not being able to use those same tools when considering thier own religion

    if he is not able to use logic and stop being ‘willfully’ stupid, then his stupidity is not really willful, and he is really genuinely not able to understand.

  82. #83 MadScientist
    March 27, 2009

    Thanks for pointing out Ian Musgrave’s site; I haven’t got a copy of the Blind Watchmaker so I’ll mutate Ian’s program into C instead. I’ve just got to take it apart and see what makes it tick. I think we need a C version (or a FORTRAN77 version) just so we know the program will last through the ages.

  83. #84 FlameDuck
    March 27, 2009

    Is Richard Dawkins intelligent?

    Without a doubt.

    Did he design the program?

    No. It being a laughably trivial program, he probably just sat down and wrote it, giving little thought to its design.

    Besides which, the program itself is not the important part of the argument. The important part of the argument is that the process Richard Dawkins calls “cumulative selection” is millions of millions of orders of magnitude more effective than pure random chance, at arriving at a complex pattern.

    I doubt the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory” would be stumped by that simple program.

    Well you must understand that Isaac Newton was a mathematician and physicist, and died nearly 100 years before Charles Babbage was even born, and nearly 300 years before the first Computer. So his knowledge of Information Theory would in all probability, be converging towards zero. So in reality it’s quite a suitable title for William Dembski, since he clearly demonstrates as much understanding of Information Theory as the real Isaac Newton would have. None.

  84. #85 Stwriley
    March 27, 2009

    No doubt Dembski will eventually find some objection to this that he can hang his hat on besides conspiracy theory. Perhaps he’ll try to argue that the target string is too short to actually demonstrate evolution (well, it’s no better than his other arguments, I know, but that just makes it more plausible that he’d actually make it). In that case, I think we should propose a longer target string. How about:
    METHINKS DEMBSKI IS LIKE A WEASEL
    Yeah, that should be long enough.

  85. #86 Marc Abian
    March 27, 2009

    even us biologists can whip one out in minutes

    As long as there I no follow up tasks, yes, I absolutely can write computer programs.

  86. #87 Somnolent Aphid
    March 27, 2009

    orc-like hordes of creationism – I love it.

    There was a show on history channel today about neanderthals versus cro-magnons, which, along with this post, got me to think that maybe we are just a bit more evolved than the creationists and that soon they will just vanish, not being able to compete for resources, not being quick on their feet, just not being smart enough.

    one can hope.

  87. #88 Trold
    March 27, 2009

    ‘Tis Himself

    You forgot shouting “It’s aliiiive!” and cackling wildly on your list of things scientists do; those’re as important a part of the protocol of any experiment as the white labcoats. Why, research in some disciplines is nearly 50% manic laughter!

    Of course, fields like physics, geology, computer science, and mathematics rarely actually have something alive to shout and cackle over and so have to adopt broader, alternate definitions of “alive.”*


    *These definitions, apart from the shouting and cackling, are pretty much worthless. It’s common to distinguish the meaningful “alive” from the fiat “alive” by shouting, instead, “It’s by-a-nonstandard-definition-of-very-little-use-outside-this-sentence-I’m-shouting ALIVE!”

  88. #89 SiMPel MYnd
    March 27, 2009

    Somnolent Aphid @#87:
    “…maybe we are just a bit more evolved than the creationists and that soon they will just vanish…”

    Unfortunately, Dembski has already married and pro-created. So, we’ve got at least another generation to worry about. :)

  89. #90 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Hey Facilis SP, Dembski is not a scientist, he is a fraud.
    But maybe that’s unfair. I mean, should I expect you to know the difference?

  90. #91 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    Stwriley (#85):

    The program I threw together just now — a Python script using SciPy for graphical output — converged on “METHINKS DEMBSKI IS LIKE A WEASEL” in just under 200 generations, with no “locking” whatsoever. . . .

  91. #92 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Isaac Newton attempted to think himself into the mind of God.

    He realised that the principles/laws could ever be rendered more and more general – and God would prove ever elusive.

    Dawkins believes he understands the universe sufficiently to rule out the notion of God. Ergo, he becomes like a God in his own mind and perhaps this explains his condescension to the religiously inspired.

  92. #93 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins believes he understands the universe sufficiently to rule out the notion of God.

    would you please be so kind and STOP LYING about dawkins ?

  93. #94 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete “total fool” Rooke, you are babbling again. God is not needed for anything but delusions. Delusions that inhabit your brain.

  94. #95 Eamon Knight
    March 27, 2009

    Billy Dumbstruck is not the first hot-shot ID/Cist to have trouble with Dawkins’ Weasel. This Google search string turns up several old t.o threads concerning one Scott Huse — a *computer scientist* ferkrisake — who couldn’t get it working:
    http://groups.google.ca/groups/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=huse+incompetent+group%3Atalk.origins&btnG=Search&sitesearch=

  95. #96 fsmdude
    March 27, 2009

    Hey guys!

    U.N. body adopts resolution on religious defamation!!!!!!

    http://www.calgaryherald.com/news/body+adopts+resolution+religious+defamation/1431382/story.html

  96. #97 mcow
    March 27, 2009

    I hadn’t heard the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory” thing before. This cheese-whip really has the audacity to not only compare himself to the likes of Shannon, Hamming, and Kolmogorov, but to actually place himself above them. I burn with rage.

  97. #98 amphiox
    March 27, 2009

    Sure William Dembski can be considered the Isaac Newton of Information Theory!

    So long as you remember that the analogy references alchemy rather than physics.

  98. #99 SiMPel MYnd
    March 27, 2009

    “Dawkins believes he understands the universe sufficiently to rule out the notion of God. Ergo, he becomes like a God in his own mind and perhaps this explains his condescension to the religiously inspired.”

    (a) He rules out the notion of God because there’s no evidence FOR one. Not because he thinks he understands everything.

    (b) Your “Ergo” conclusion doesn’t follow.

    (c) His condescension doesn’t come from what he thinks about himself; it comes from what you fuckwits do in the name of the magic sky fairy

    (d) You are a tool.

  99. #100 Wowbagger, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins believes he understands the universe sufficiently to rule out the notion of God. Ergo, he becomes like a God in his own mind and perhaps this explains his condescension to the religiously inspired.

    At this point I’m thinking Pete took the advice I gave Walton about expanding his consciousness via psychoactive compounds – ’cause you’ve got to be a least a little zonked to be thinking crazy-ass shit like this.

    Or, of course, it could be further evidence of Pete’s having a serious mental condition*.

    *Well, a mental condition other than Christianity, that is.

  100. #101 Ichthyic
    March 27, 2009

    Isaac Newton attempted to think himself into the mind of God.

    now why does that sound so familiar…

    Oh yeah, that’s EXACTLY what ID consists of: an attempt to know the mind of God.

    that’s what attempting to know something that doesn’t exist will get ya. A handful of nothing and a lot of angst.

    thanks for pointing out that the creationist mindset hasn’t advanced a bit since at least Newton’s time, though obviously it’s been even longer than that.

  101. #102 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    Billy Dumbstruck is not the first hot-shot ID/Cist to have trouble with Dawkins’ Weasel. This Google search string turns up several old t.o threads concerning one Scott Huse — a *computer scientist* ferkrisake — who couldn’t get it working:

    Another data point for my ‘no creationist can understand or write a genetic algorithm’ hypothesis. Not even a creationist computer scientist.

  102. #103 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    T_U_T:

    If Dawkins can relate the likelihood of God to that of non-essential beings like fairies at the bottom of the garden then he is close to certainty for the room left over, in terms of doubt, to be dismissed as irrelevant.

  103. #104 hje
    March 27, 2009

    Bill’s first & only program:

    10 REM Proof of ID
    20 INPUT “Enter evidence>”, ignoreIt$
    30 PRINT “God did it!”
    40 GOTO 30

  104. #105 Ichthyic
    March 27, 2009

    If Dawkins can relate the likelihood of God to that of non-essential beings like fairies at the bottom of the garden then he is close to certainty

    if you ended it there, it would make sense, Pete.

    you have no more evidence (not like we haven’t fucking asked a thousand times) for your god than exists for garden fairies.

    thus, Dawkins argument is not only relevant, but indisputable.

  105. #106 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins believes he understands the universe sufficiently to rule out the notion of God. Ergo, he becomes like a God in his own mind and perhaps this explains his condescension to the religiously inspired.

    Logically, then, he also becomes like a Santa Claus, a Tooth Fairy and a Zaphod Beeblebrox. Getting crowded in there. . . .

  106. #107 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete “total fool” Rooke, you are the one who is irrelevant. You haven’t said anything cogent since you first started posting here. God only exists in your mind, as a delusion, since you have not shown any physical evidence. Your days are numbered cricket.

  107. #108 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
    Robert Heinlein (Lazarus Long in Time Enough For Love)

    To which I think we should also add “refute creationists”!

  108. #109 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Ichthyic,

    believe it or not, as is likely the case, but this same mindset has even influenced contemporary biologists like Dawkins.

    Think of all the design metaphors, in everything written about the subject.

    The near personification of the theory of evolution – the adaptationist rationalisation of the process.

    This sense of an ultimate teleological purpose: Climbing Mount Improbable, The Blind Watchmaker etc.

    This same mindset, that of understanding an underlying teleological process, is at the heart of evolution as a scientific theory and in all the scientific discourse about it.

  109. #110 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    If Dawkins can relate the likelihood of God to that of non-essential beings like fairies at the bottom of the garden then he is close to certainty for the room left over, in terms of doubt, to be dismissed as irrelevant.

    Which is something different and far more sensible than the ” he ruled out god and because of that started to consider himself being god”
    lie you wrote first

  110. #111 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete, what point of your god exists only between your ears are you having trouble with? God, the ultimate delusion. Prove god with physical evidence or let this drop.

  111. #112 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    Pete, can you write a simple working genetic algorithm solving a problem of your choice and show it here, can you ?

  112. #113 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Blake Stacey,

    That was remarkably well reasoned. Although, perhaps those fictional characters can be separated from the idea of God because they in no discernible way relate to the idea of an inherently intelligible universe.

  113. #114 'Tis Himself
    March 27, 2009

    Rooke,

    Dawkins has said he’ll believe in god(s) if reasonable evidence is produced for them. Do you have any reasonable evidence?

    I didn’t think so.

  114. #115 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    universe is intelligible therefore goddidit. Rather weak argument, isn’t it ?

  115. #116 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    T_U_T,

    Err, no I couldn’t. I don’t see how it could possibly be relevant.

    ‘Tis Himself,

    that of religious experience. You could also add to that the idea of a prime mover, an explanation for how life arose and, relatedly, the problem of inanimate matter -> consciousness.

  116. #117 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete Rooke

    Science uninformed by religion is sophistry.

    Remember that one Pete? As usual, you got is wrong. Science has not need religion for a couple of centuries. The correct analysis is: Religion uninformed by science is delusions.

  117. #118 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Well, perhaps the universe isn’t intelligible. I see no reason for the atheist to assume it is. Dawkins adopts a position of faith in Science – that it can in fact discover the ultimate truth of the nature of the universe or that it is at least worth trying to discover this. I find in difficult to be optimistic though given the progress Science has made (huge health benefits yes) but we could all be wiped out at the flick of a switch. Besides which in ~~5 billion years this galaxy will have collided with another. Dawkins asserts the universe is queerer than we can suppose and yet believes it is possible to make inroads towards this underlying reality.

  118. #119 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    I don’t see how it could possibly be relevant

    I am testing the hypothesis that no creationist is capable to write a genetic algorithm no matter how he tries.

    an explanation for how life arose

    and you appear to be one, so I am trying to test it on you .

  119. #120 cm
    March 27, 2009

    #Proof of Intelligent Design in Python

    import God

    jesus = God.son(parent=self)

    light = jesus.LetThereBeLight()
    print “There was “, light

    light.Show()

    for creature in range(1000000000000):
    creature = jesus.Make(characteristics = rand(100))

    world = jesus.SetWorld(Good)
    print world

    >> ‘It is Good.’

  120. #121 cm
    March 27, 2009

    (because the blog removed my indents, the program above won’t run. Fitting enough. I also forgot to include the output ‘There was light.’)

  121. #122 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete “total fool” Rooke, why not just admit you don’t have any physical evidence for your imaginary god, then ratchet down the godbotting to an almost imperceptible level? And then post maybe five times a week. We don’t need to deal with your delusions.

  122. #123 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    Rooke:

    Besides which in ~~5 billion years this galaxy will have collided with another.

    If we’re still around in five billion years, I doubt that will be a problem.

  123. #124 T_U_T
    March 27, 2009

    see no reason for the atheist to assume it is

    but we as scientists can assume it tentatively, and each successful application of our reason is thus also another successful test of the ‘universe is intelligible’ hypothesis.

  124. #125 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Personally, I prefer this demonstration of the idea, since, among other things, the programmer doesn’t even know the target at the start, merely some properties they want it to optimize.

    Ingenious.

    Firstly, I take issue with the idea that mathematicians are not scientists. Yes, mathematical concept are not EXPERIMENTALLY verifiable, but the concept of proof and peer review are quite strong in mathematics. At the very least, mathematics is the most powerful tool in the scientists toolbox, and I think they deserve their own spot at the table.

    Proof and verifiability don’t exist in science, which is both a very important part of science theory and a key difference to mathematics.

    Mathematics takes definitions and looks what logically follows from them. It deals in Platonic truths.

    Science makes up hypotheses out of whole cloth (see comment 100 for one way to do it), deduces predictions from them, and then looks if reality appears to conform to those predictions. (Arranging reality so it’s easier to look at ? an experiment ? isn’t necessary, though of course it makes everything easier.)

    Science uses mathematics (for deducing predictions from hypotheses; for getting a statistic handle on the messiness of reality; for counting which hypotheses ? out of all those that are not falsified ? are the most parsimonious ones; and so on), but that’s it.

    Peer review is merely a method to reduce personal bias and personal ignorance. It is neither a part of the definition of science, nor is it restricted to science ? I don’t know if theologians do it, but they easily could.

  125. #126 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    I define the Great Celestial Slime Mold Flibbertigibbet to be that which is better at ensuring the Universe obeys logic, causality and such than any other entity discussed by the human species. Because science works, therefore, Flibbertigibbet exists.

  126. #127 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins adopts a position of faith in Science – that it can in fact discover the ultimate truth of the nature of the universe or that it is at least worth trying to discover this.

    I have a faith in science too… it was rewarded when I turned on my computer this morning!

  127. #128 Newfie
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins adopts a position of faith in Science – that it can in fact discover the ultimate truth of the nature of the universe or that it is at least worth trying to discover this.

    I don’t think that ultimate truth can ever be achieved, Pete.

    5 billion years this galaxy will have collided with another.

    Yup, existence is finite.
    And if not science, how else are we to achieve understanding of the physical universe? Revelation?
    How are we to question revelation then, if not with empirical means? If you accept any revelation, you are deferring to authority, and are either incapable, or unwilling to offer anything tangible.

  128. #129 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Blake Stacey,

    “and that we call God” which is all that is required for a deist. I agree we are not yet at the specifities required for religion.

  129. #130 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    If mathematics isn’t part of science, that’s only because it doesn’t deal in truths about the physical world. These arguments about “falsifiability” and “proof” and all the rest of it can’t really be taken seriously.

    Strictly speaking, any proof a mathematician writes might possibly be falsified at some future date. There have been many proofs in mathematics that were thought sound until an error was later discovered. Of course the recognized proofs of Pythagoras’ theorem are very unlikely to be overturned. The same goes for the theory of evolution in natural science.

  130. #131 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Pete, still no physical evidence for your imaginary deity. Without a god religion is superfluous.

  131. #132 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins adopts a position of faith in Science

    Just wondering Pete, did you have faith that your computer would switch on today? Did you have faith that the right 1s and 0s would come about that would bring you to this site? Did you have faith the last time you cooked a meal, or used a manufactured utensil? Did you have faith when you turned on the light, used the television or took some medicine?

    Science is not a faith, because science works!!!

  132. #133 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Hey rookie the troll, here’s one piece of information you may find of use.
    The one time Newton invoked god rather than using science, was on the interaction of planets. He said it must be an act of god, rather than doing the math.
    The result? It wasn’t unlike the time of Pierre-Simon Laplace that someone finally looked into the problem and solved it.
    And when Napoleon asked Laplace why there was no mention of god in the book he has written about celestial bodies, you know what he said?
    “Your majesty, I haven’t needed that hypothesis”.
    I can’t speak for Dawkins, but I think that should pretty much some it up.

  133. #134 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Kel,

    Did you read that lecture I left on your blog? The point is why suppose that Science is ultimately worthwhile – a belief in progress etc. Why suppose that we can get anywhere near, or if we are even progressing towards, an ultimate understanding etc.

  134. #135 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    I meant “until the time of” and “sum it up”, but you get my point.

  135. #136 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    Advances in science have: split the atom, put a man on the moon, eradicated smallpox, put electricity into our homes, given us computers that can do billions of calculations a second… in terms of science working there’s simply no question. In terms of the “ultimate truth” science is the best tool to give us such a thing. Why can we say this? because it’s the only tool demonstrated to work.

    If you don’t think that science is the best tool for the job, what do you think is? Religious revelation i.e. making shit up?

  136. #137 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    Science has made (huge health benefits yes) but we could all be wiped out at the flick of a switch.

    Any of us could be wiped out instantly simply by walking under a bus. Don’t let that stop you living an enjoyable life while you can though. Be thankful that you are alive – like Dawkins said; “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.”

    Besides which in ~~5 billion years this galaxy will have collided with another.

    I don’t see that as a problem. 5 billion years is plenty long enough for me, even if the collision does destroy our solar system (which it probably won’t. Ask Phil Plait.)

    Dawkins asserts the universe is queerer than we can suppose and yet believes it is possible to make inroads towards this underlying reality.

    He believes it is possible because that is exactly what we are doing, despite all the anti-science dumbness trying to pull us back the other way.

    The 21st Century – what a great age to live in. We have all the benefits of hundreds of years of science, and new discoveries and achievements are coming thick and fast. Be thankful for what science has given you and continues to give you, and grateful to the scientists for improving your quality of life – and quantity too, don’t forget. Or would you rather live in a Middle Ages monastery with an average lifespan of 35, a diet of bread and cheese, no medical technology and all sorts of lethal diseases rampant in the drinking water? But you get to pray 5 times a day, so it can’t be all bad then!

  137. #138 MPG
    March 27, 2009

    Speaking of computer simulations of natural selection, I saw this intriguing little program a while back. It simulates a cart riding over rough terrain, and the ones which go the furthest breed the next generation. It’s quite enjoyable to watch, seeing the randomized garbage in the early generations zeroing in on more and more capable vehicles. It even generates a graph displaying maximum and average distances for each generation.

    http://www.wreck.devisland.net/ga/

  138. #139 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    Aargh – flubbed a blockquote. Still, two out of three isn’t bad.

  139. #140 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Ape,

    you miss the point.

    It is the description of gravity as a process rather than the “why,” in reference to the process, that Newton was limited to.

    He was limited to a crude Instrumentalism.

    You, I am sure, would argue that that is not a grounded question. It remains a question that many consider valid however, the “why” that is.

  140. #141 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    his condescension to the religiously inspired

    Hmmm, let’s see now:
    his condescension to the religiously inspired impaired

    ….such as yourself. Though I am inclined in your case to think that yours is more of a Pervasive Character Disorder than a simple Religious Impairment.
    What makes you think than anyone here is interested in your babblings? Even your justifications of idiocy lack depth or intellect.
    What a shame that the input of religious people here is so scant. If they find it hostile here, who can blame them when our thoughtful skepticism is so thoroughly repulsed by rebarbative, onanistic, apologists like Pete Rooke.
    No wonder we’re rude – all the good lord sees fit to bring us are mock-intellectual childhood fuckups like him.
    What’s the matter – did God tell you to fuck off and stop bothering him?
    For once, if He exits, I don’t blame Him.

  141. #142 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Here’s another quote for you rookie:
    “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible”. Albert Einstein.
    Will we one day have all the answers? Dawkins is the first to admit we may not. But the reason to go forward with science is not that we are sure it can work, but because it is THE ONLY WAY.
    Religion claims to have many of the answers, but of course those are the wrong answers. For example, if it weren’t for science we would still believe the Earth is 6000 years old (not that everyone has that “faith” in science as you put it even today).

  142. #143 W. Kevin Vicklund
    March 27, 2009

    What the Kwok?! Dembski’s had over a week to write a simple program and he still hasn’t figured it out? What’s wrong with him?

    Knowing the difference between RAM and ROM.

    Oh, that explains it – he’s a creationist. He denies the utility of Random Access Memory and instead relies entirely on Read Only Memory.

  143. #144 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    You could also add to that the idea of a prime mover, an explanation for how life arose and, relatedly, the problem of inanimate matter -> consciousness.

    1) You have been sleeping for the last 100 years. Quantum physics: there is such a thing as an uncaused event. Everything that isn’t forbidden from happening happens with a certain (calculable) probability.

    2) Please. That’s just a subfield of chemistry.

    3) Hypothesis: Just like how vitalism turned out to be wrong, the idea that conciousness is anything other than a process will turn out to be wrong.
    Proposal for testing this hypothesis: Take it, run with it, and keep going till you stumble over evidence that contradicts it.
    Progress so far: No such evidence has yet been found.

    Well, perhaps the universe isn’t intelligible. I see no reason for the atheist to assume it is.

    It is not necessary to have a reason for making a hypothesis up.

    What comment 124 says: the hypothesis that the universe is intelligible is testable ( = scientific), is being tested all the time, and still hasn’t failed (our understanding of the universe just keeps increasing, with no sign of that increase slowing down). That’s not a proof, but it does look pretty good so far. So far, it works.

    Dawkins adopts a position of faith in Science – that it can in fact discover the ultimate truth of the nature of the universe

    Wrong!

    It’s entirely possible that science can discover the truth ? but if we find it, it’s impossible to find out whether what we’ve found is indeed the truth. How could we? By comparing it to the truth, which we don’t have?

    Science can disprove, but it cannot prove.

    Dawkins asserts the universe is queerer than we can suppose

    “Counterintuitive” and “incomprehensible” aren’t the same thing.

    Take quantum physics. Counterintuitive basically from start to finish. And yet, quantum electrodynamics is not just a well-understood theory, it is the best theory that currently exists ? the theory whose predictions agree with the observations to the largest number of digits behind the comma.

    because the blog removed my indents, the program above won’t run.

    Next time use the <pre> tag.

    Finally, myself:

    Peer review is merely a method to reduce personal bias and personal ignorance. It is neither a part of the definition of science, nor is it restricted to science ? I don’t know if theologians do it, but they easily could.

    Actually, theology is very similar to math in one respect: it takes a couple of assertions and tries to figure out what logically follows from them. Of course, that’s also where the similarities end. :-)

  144. #145 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    Why suppose that we can get anywhere near, or if we are even progressing towards, an ultimate understanding etc.

    Who says that we can? We’ve been hitting limitations and ultimately that leaves a lot unknowable. But to characterise Dawkins as believing that science will reveal the “ultimate truth” is misrepresenting Dawkins and what the scientific endeavour is. Who is to say we can grasp ultimate truth? How can we measure it, test it, see it?

    We are limited by our place in space and time, and by the tools we have. Yet despite that we have seen the beginning of the universe, we have looked to at ancient and distant galaxies, we have seen the origins of the planet and the origins of life. We have discovered the laws of nature, from the very big to the very small. We have looked into ourselves and extracted the code of life, we have observed the duality of the atom and use it to power that device sitting on your desk that can do more calculations per second than the human race combined. In short, science has been the only tool that has allowed us to understand this much.

    By contrast, how do you think an “ultimate truth” can be revealed? Do you think humans can ultimately know the unknowable, and if so what processes will go about seeing this? And can we verify that it’s beyond mere assertions by examining it’s predictive power? I would contend that Dawkins understand the limits far better than you do, and there’s a reason why he is considered one of the leading intellectuals of this age. He would know the limitations of science, and would know the breathtaking inanity of any other professed method that people say that can ascertain ultimate truth.

  145. #146 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    Elwood Herring (#141):

    All these years, I thought it was “two out of three ain’t bad“.

    (I blame my parents.)

  146. #147 Ray Ladbury
    March 27, 2009

    Pete Rooke says: “Well, perhaps the universe isn’t intelligible. I see no reason for the atheist to assume it is.”

    Well, maybe it isn’t for you…

    OK, now Pete, work with me, son. To the atheist, we are products of evolution in that Universe; it is our environment. Ya think maybe it might have made some impression on our brains in, oh, 3.8 billion years? Do you think maybe the ability to understand the Universe might have some practical advantage for survival. Maybe, figuring out how to lead the running prey with the toss of the spear. Maybe figuring out where to look for water. It’s not quantum mechanics. It doesn’t have to be. The correspondence principle takes care of that.

  147. #148 John Morales
    March 27, 2009

    Pete Rooke:

    The near personification of the theory of evolution – the adaptationist rationalisation of the process.
    This sense of an ultimate teleological purpose: Climbing Mount Improbable, The Blind Watchmaker etc.
    This same mindset, that of understanding an underlying teleological process, is at the heart of evolution as a scientific theory and in all the scientific discourse about it.

    You misapply ‘rationalisation’ and ‘teleological’.

    A description is not a rationalisation*, nor is describing the process that has led to a known state saying the process purposed to reach that state, especially when the description clearly states the process is deterministic but contingent.

    * in the psychological sense.

  148. #149 Monado
    March 27, 2009

    I think that “cs” was joking.

  149. #150 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Ape,

    surely that Einstein is surprised at the universe’s intelligibility suggests that it has been created by divine reason: that we call God.

  150. #151 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    Ape,
    you miss the point.
    It is the description of gravity as a process rather than the “why,” in reference to the process, that Newton was limited to.
    He was limited to a crude Instrumentalism.
    You, I am sure, would argue that that is not a grounded question. It remains a question that many consider valid however, the “why” that is.

    You see? Complete bollocks.
    To poke the turd with a long stick – Newton had his “why” perfectly clear. That he was, in many ways, a nasty religious nutcase had no effect on his brilliant science, a small proportion of his total output of lunacy.
    But why would I bother discussing Newton and his contributions with Rooke? He knows nothing, and his posts are a meaningless concatenation of bullshit.
    Sheesh.

  151. #152 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    No Rookie, you are the one missing the point.
    The “why” is also a question for science, not for religion.
    String theorists think it may be because of a gravity “brane” that is at some distance from the “brane” we call universe. Do a search on Lisa Randall, at Harvard.
    Are they right? We don’t know yet. The LHC may shed some light on that. But if we were content with the generic answer of “it is an an act of god(s)” we wouldn’t even know it exists, let alone why.
    Oh, and “crude interumentalism”. Sure, Newton’s instruments were crude. But is possible that in the future the LHC may be thought of as a crude instrument.

  152. #153 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    surely that Einstein is surprised at the universe’s intelligibility suggests that it has been created by divine reason: that we call God.

    Wrong Pete, god is never needed for any explanation except by deluded people like yourself. Come over to the rational side and renounce god. It will save you a lot of headaches.

  153. #154 Kel
    March 27, 2009

    Well, perhaps the universe isn’t intelligible. I see no reason for the atheist to assume it is.

    I wonder if Pete took that on board last time he ate, and chewed down on meat / veges as opposed to plastic. Did he take that on board when he turned on his computer this morning as opposed to powering it by tipping water on the components. Did that take on board when he used a vehicle powered by oil as opposed to powered by urine.

    Goodness knows how he can possibly get on a plane and fly at 11,000 metres when all the while it’s built on dozens of assumptions about the nature of energy and kinematics and millions of parts that could only work under those assumptions… but maybe planes are held in the sky by the hand of God!

  154. #155 Pete Rooke
    March 27, 2009

    Lots of food for thought. As to Instrumentalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instrumentalism

    I will consider the issues raised.

  155. #156 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    That he was, in many ways, a nasty religious nutcase had no effect on his brilliant science, a small proportion of his total output of lunacy.

    Actually, that’s almost certainly not true. That’s oft-repeated, unsupported slander, in my opinion. The fact that his theology was greater in volume than his science and mathematics doesn’t imply that he spent more time on theology. It’s a lot easier to pen theological just-so stories than it is to invent calculus and apply it to physical problems.

  156. #157 Mark B.
    March 27, 2009

    Strictly speaking, any proof a mathematician writes might possibly be falsified at some future date. There have been many proofs in mathematics that were thought sound until an error was later discovered.

    Poincare’s Conjecture was unproven until recently, and the recent proof had a few errors in the first few iterations which were straightened out in the process of peer review. Perelman’s proof is exceptionally beautiful (brief nontechnical discussion here and if it’s not science, it’s art of the highest order.

  157. #158 tweetytweetbirdie386sx
    March 27, 2009

    Don’t miss this one folks. Down n’ dirty prime time vintage creationism deeeeee-luxe, comin’ atcha live. That’s some genuine ol’ school creationism right thar.

  158. #159 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    But the very worst is, the afucnctional creep is jesus-wanking all over us. Tedious beyond belief, literally.

  159. #160 Jason Thibeault
    March 27, 2009

    Shameless self promotion — when that Evolution Mona Lisa blog post was all the rage, I started work on a Python version of the exact same thing, and managed to get it to the point where it emulated pretty well all the specifics of the original project. My original intent was to modify it to have a population of pictures that could pass genes back and forth and reproduce sexually, with both a selection by fitness and a wholly random culling of pictures. However, I’m also a gamer, and I keep getting wrapped up in new games as opposed to working on this project. Sad but true.

  160. #161 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Rookie, Einstein himself didn’t have the genius to think of that answer. I guess we have been waiting all this time to get it from YOU. The reason I brought up that quote was to answer your question, why I think it is possible that we may have the answers one day: Einstein thought so. Though, as it is obvious, he didn’t know as much as you do.
    But I’m sure that universe is built intelligibly suggests that it has been created by divine reason: that I call the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  161. #162 'Tis Himself
    March 27, 2009

    Pete Rooke #116

    that of religious experience.

    That’s a pretty nebulous statement. You need to be a little more specific about what type of religious experience. Are you talking about the televangelist saying “Put your hand inside the TV and feel the power or what?

    You could also add to that the idea of a prime mover,

    Who created the creator? Saying “it’s always been around” is a logical fallacy called special pleading. You’re saying “everything was created except for one thing.” Why can’t we say “everything was created except ten things or a hundred things or a hundred million things”?

    an explanation for how life arose

    This is a God of the Gaps argument. You’ve been around this blog long enough to know that argument won’t fly.

    and, relatedly, the problem of inanimate matter -> consciousness.

    Another God of the Gaps argument. Also, you need to define what consciousness is and where the line between animate and inanimate matter lies. My cat is less sentient than me but is she less conscious? Is an earthworm less conscious? A bacterium? A virus?

  162. #163 Elwood Herring
    March 27, 2009

    Blake Stacey: Ah, my upbringing gives me away. That I would ever resort to such linguistic crudity! (Also shows why I hold Dawkins and PZ in such high regard.)

    As Oscar Wilde once said when he was challenged to a duel: “Sir, considering you made the challenge, I have choice of weapon, and I choose grammar.”

    (Damn, I copied & pasted that from another site, and I still had to correct it!)

  163. #164 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    BTW…

    Well, perhaps the universe isn’t intelligible. I see no reason for the atheist to assume it is.

    This sounds like you think an unintelligible universe would logically follow from atheism, and/or an intelligible one would logically follow from theism. Is either of these what you mean?

    Strictly speaking, any proof a mathematician writes might possibly be falsified at some future date. There have been many proofs in mathematics that were thought sound until an error was later discovered.

    Then they weren’t actually proofs. :-| Science is in a different category altogether. Proofs don’t exist in science at all ? not even errors that could be confused with proofs exist.

    And when Napoleon asked Laplace why there was no mention of god in the book he has written about celestial bodies, you know what he said?

    That story is probably made up, but se non è vero, è ben’ trovato.

    It is the description of gravity as a process rather than the “why,” in reference to the process, that Newton was limited to.

    You should read more Pharyngula. :-)

    PZ’s discipline is development biology, and, as he has mentioned, a development biologist (I forgot who) once said: “Everything is the way it is because it got that way.”

    Do you notice something?

    That little sentence is the answer to all “why” questions. It converts all “why” questions into “what” and “how” questions: How did it become? What causes did that development have? What happened? What regularities did it follow? What can those regularities be derived from? And so on.

    There are many people who unthinkingly parrot the nonsense that “science explains the ‘how’, philosophy (or even religion) explains the ‘why’“. But the “why” questions are all already answered.

    Back to your example: Einstein went a very long way toward finding a theory that explains Newton’s law of gravity ? explains what it can be derived from.

  164. #165 Blake Stacey
    March 27, 2009

    The near personification of the theory of evolution – the adaptationist rationalisation of the process.

    Nonsense. The only way I can imagine that someone would say something so divorced from reality is that the speaker is incapable of conceiving of explanations of a non-personal character.

    This sense of an ultimate teleological purpose: Climbing Mount Improbable, The Blind Watchmaker etc.

    Quoting the title of a book is not an argument. You would do better to appreciate the book-length footnote to the title contained between the covers, that minor detail known as “content”.

    This same mindset, that of understanding an underlying teleological process, is at the heart of evolution as a scientific theory and in all the scientific discourse about it.

    Diametrically opposed to reality.

    “and that we call God” which is all that is required for a deist. I agree we are not yet at the specifities required for religion.

    You dare to call the Great Celestial Slime Mold Flibbertigibbet by the degrading epithet “God”? May Its/Their quintessential cyclic AMP, which is of course merely a metaphor for something beyond merely human comprehension, catalyze the dissolution of your puny soul! Flibbertigibbet will not be diminished by the likes of you.

  165. #166 extatyzoma
    March 27, 2009

    funny, i always thought correct letters were locked! this makes it far better!

    so dembski sort of doesnt want to accept the evidence hes messed up, sounds familiar, that guy has issues.

  166. #167 Bob Carroll
    March 27, 2009

    Concerning Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Information I have two comments.

    First, conservation laws, like the 1st law of thermo, do not allow the conserved quantity to *decrease* or to increase. Since information can obviously be made to decrease (think of burning a book), his “law’ is questionable.

    Perhaps he means his law to be analogous to the second law of thermo, which notes that entropy on a closed (isolated) system, cannot decrease. (Entropy is not a conserved quantity.)

    His idea that “complex specified information” cannot increase (presumably in an isolated system) has two difficulties: first that this type of information is not clearly defined (as others have commented, CSI seems to be whatever Dembski says it is.)

    Second, by the Shannon definition, information can certainly increase in a isolated system. Two copies of a book have more Shannon information than a single copy. So, if we have a sealed (isolated) growth medium, into which a single (say, bacterial) cell is introduced, which subsequently multiplies exponentially, this exemplifies an increase of information. When we further consider the inevitable mutations, even more information increase is seen.

    So his “law” is kaput. Does he know this? Almost certainly. Does he care? Of course not. His writing is intended to please the brainleess faithful, and to sell his books.

    Isaac Newton? William Dembski is the Ann Coulter of information theory.

    Bob

  167. #168 Newfie
    March 27, 2009

    First link from Pete’s wiki post:

    The philosophy of science is concerned with the assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.

    So, if I kick you in the nuts, Pete.. you’re not going to admit that it hurt… but will argue the importance of whether or not it hurt? Philosophical arguments against simple reality, just like a popular book that I’ve heard about.

  168. #169 SiMPel MYnd
    March 27, 2009

    Pete Rooke’s “I will consider the issues raised” = “I will crack open my thesaurus and find some more big words to obscure the fact that there is no evidence of the big guy in the sky”

  169. #170 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    Then they weren’t actually proofs. :-| Science is in a different category altogether. Proofs don’t exist in science at all ? not even errors that could be confused with proofs exist.

    The point is that the mathematical community thought they were proofs. There have been many such examples. The analogy with science is exact, because scientific theories may or may not exactly correspond with reality — just as attempted theorems in mathematics may or may not actually be theorems.

    I admit there’s an operational difference, because in practice, mathematicians are very sure about many of their theorems, and scientists are usually less sure about their theories. This isn’t a conceptual difference, though.

  170. #171 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    OK hyperon – maybe I’m wrong in degree. My impression was that he spent most of his time engaged in alchemical studies and obscure religious meanderings. And he was, though irrelevant to his discoveries, a vindictive mysogenist in his human life, which never helps one’s reputation.
    Am I being unfair to the old codger?

  171. #172 AJ Milne
    March 27, 2009

    Hey–can I take this opportunity to pimp my Dawkins-inspired ‘ware, too?

    I wrote this one after reading Watchmaker, quite some time back now. You need a JVM in yer browser to run it, but relatively ancient ones ‘ll probably work.

    (It’s supposed to be a relatively open-ended natural selection one–since the efforts of one type of organism feed back out into the environment, you can actually get sorta ‘food webs’ evolving, if you’re patient.)

  172. #173 foole
    March 27, 2009

    Wow, I just did this in python in 77 lines (and about 30 minutes).

    Here’s an idea: any Pharyngulapods who want could create their own version and e-mail their submission Dembski.

    Any takers?

  173. #174 extatyzoma
    March 27, 2009

    post #15 by facilis, i read it and just skimmed over it as a sarcastic comment, now i know better.

    funny.

  174. #175 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    My cat is less sentient than me but is she less conscious?

    Only when she’s asleep.

  175. #176 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    We’ve been hitting limitations and ultimately that leaves a lot unknowable.

    Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Relation, for example: even in principle it isn’t possible to know more than half of everything.

    surely that Einstein is surprised at the universe’s intelligibility suggests that it has been created by divine reason: that we call God.

    Sometimes, Pete, you say something that just blows me out of the water because it’s so incredibly stupid.

    Lots of food for thought.

    “Arise, Peter [...] and eat.”
    ? Twice in the New Testament. I forgot where, though.

    Perelman’s proof is exceptionally beautiful [...] and if it’s not science, it’s art of the highest order.

    It isn’t science, because 1) it doesn’t contain a single observation ? it’s all just logic; 2) it’s, well, a proof.

    It’s math, not science.

  176. #177 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Rookie is a troll, plain and simple-”I will consider the issue raised”. He is not interested in a true debate, rather just causing disruption. When he is confronted with issues he is not ready for, he moves on to the next subject, or simply goes away-only to reappear the next day and cause more aggravation.
    I think he should be banned.

  177. #178 John Morales
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon @170, David is quite right – by definition, a proof cannot be falsified as it reduces to a tautology.

    That a faulty proof is not recognised to be so is a different issue.

  178. #179 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 27, 2009

    Isaac Newton? William Dembski is the Ann Coulter of information theory.

    Ouch.

    Well, the truth hurts :-)

    The point is that the mathematical community thought they were proofs.

    The scientific community knows that proofs are impossible in science. Science simply doesn’t and can’t get beyond “that’s the best approximation we’ve been able to find so far”. If a theory corresponds exactly to reality, we cannot find that out even in principle.

  179. #180 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 27, 2009

    I think he should be banned.

    I’m sure if we had another round or two of Survivor Pharyngula Pete would be bye-bye. He didn’t do himself any favors today after his warning by PZ. Like Kwok, he just couldn’t keep away. And PZ is not in the best of moods at the moment (I wouldn’t be either).

  180. #181 Tony Sidaway
    March 27, 2009

    METHINKS THE WEASELS DO PROTEST TOO MUCH.

    (and yes, I know Shakespeare didn’t mean “protest” in that sense)

  181. #182 Insightful Ape
    March 27, 2009

    Is rookie going to throw a tantrum for a camera like Kwok?

  182. #183 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    OK hyperon – maybe I’m wrong in degree. My impression was that he spent most of his time engaged in alchemical studies and obscure religious meanderings. And he was, though irrelevant to his discoveries, a vindictive mysogenist in his human life, which never helps one’s reputation.
    Am I being unfair to the old codger?

    Yes, you are. Much of his alchemical studies had value and even inspired some of his work in physics. Alchemy, let’s not forget, was the precursor to chemistry, and many chemists’ techniques are inherited from alchemy. He did spend a lot of his time engaged in “obscure religious meanderings”, but then so did almost every intellectual in his time.

    “Vindictive misogynist” is definitely going too far. His young niece came to live with him when he was Master of Mint, and apparently they got on well. He avoided women throughout his life (and evidence suggests he was very probably sexually frustrated), but I doubt there’s any clear-cut evidence that he was a misogynist by late 17th century and early 18th century standards.

    The notion that Newton was some sort of “monster” is pop-biographical nonsense. Like any human being he had his flaws; let’s not blow them out of proportion. The popular presentation of his feud with Leibniz is completely one-sided: Leibniz acted shamefully as well, more so than Newton in my opinion. It’s significant to bear in mind that Newton apparently sincerely believed he was plagiarized by Leibniz. In that light, his behavior is to some extent understandable.

    It’s also worth noting, by the way, that Newton’s writing on theology was found in a sealed box after his death. Some biographers take this as a sign that he wasn’t proud of this side of his life and didn’t want to be remembered for it.

  183. #184 Mark B.
    March 27, 2009

    It isn’t science, because 1) it doesn’t contain a single observation ? it’s all just logic; 2) it’s, well, a proof.

    Well, OK, but suppose the Poincare Conjecture had been proven to be false (as many famous mathematical conjectures have turned out to be). As I understand it,* this would be serious trouble for General Relativity, since it would open the possibility for all sorts of weird and wild 3-spaces which would require at least a reformulation of the mathematical basis for gravitation. I’m belaboring the point, obviously, and I do in fact agree with you. Mathematics is not in itself a science. But without it, there is no way science could exist. If you can do science, thank a mathematician.

    *And I don’t pretend to understand GR much at all.

  184. #185 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    Math/Science/Reality?

    Now that’s what I find fascinating. Is mathematics an invention, or a discovery?
    Dismissing a mathematical proof as “not science” – but it it art? – seems somehow unsatisfying to me. No, it’s not, but is the study of prime numbers, say, and the elucidation of their properties (which sometimes seem distinctly personal) so far remote from what scientists do? I have the idea that mathematicians are, as a breed, more religious than scientists (pace Paul Erdos) and can see their inspiration sometimes as viewing the mind of God, but I think that what inspires both is the seeking out of the patterns of the universe.
    Or is this just specious bullshit?

  185. #186 'Tis Himself
    March 27, 2009

    Is rookie going to throw a tantrum for a camera like Kwok?

    That triggers a thought:

    Hey Rooke, if we get you a nice camera would you go away?

  186. #187 hje
    March 27, 2009

    “Besides which in ~~5 billion years this galaxy will have collided with another. ”

    You can ask the astronomers but I think this collision with Andromeda is in about 2-3 billion years, and there is no guarantee that this would even disrupt our solar system.

    On the other hand, the ultimate global warming may occur in as little as 1 billion years rendering Earth uninhabitable. In 5 billion the earth spirals into the sun and be converted into plasma. Somehow I find it comforting that what once were atoms in my body will become stardust puffed out by a dying star, seeding the molecular clouds that may form new stars and maybe even life.

  187. #188 windy
    March 27, 2009

    Looks like Pete is trying to introduce a new word game. But unlike “in bed”, adding “that we call God” to random sentences does not seem to be much of an improvement.

    “Methinks it is like a weasel, in bed!”
    “Methinks it is like a weasel, that we call God”

  188. #189 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon @170, David is quite right – by definition, a proof cannot be falsified as it reduces to a tautology.

    I never said a proof can be falsified. What I’m saying is that mathematics doesn’t do proofs, it does attempted proofs. We have no way of knowing, in principle, that mathematicians of the future won’t discover an error with even the simplest of our proofs. You might think this is nitpicky — and it is, in just the same way as pointing out that evolution might be falsified. In principle we could find fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian. But we know that’s not going to happen.

  189. #190 AnthonyK
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon – interesting. He was, however a complete bastard towards Robert Hooke (not himself noted for his warmth and generosity) and no doubt there would be many who would argue with you more generally. I know, why don’t I go and find out for myself? Thanks for putting me right on those points though.

  190. #191 gma
    March 27, 2009

    “William Dembski is the Ann Coulter of information theory.”

    I have to think about that one. Is that an insult to Coulter or Dembski or both?

  191. #192 Don
    March 27, 2009

    I’m shocked… absolutely shocked – by this blatant insult to orc-kind.

  192. #193 Hyperon
    March 27, 2009

    Hyperon – interesting. He was, however a complete bastard towards Robert Hooke (not himself noted for his warmth and generosity) and no doubt there would be many who would argue with you more generally. I know, why don’t I go and find out for myself? Thanks for putting me right on those points though.

    I’m behind Newton almost one hundred percent regarding his conflict with Hooke. (Although I think destroying, or refusing to preserve, the last extant portraits of Hooke after Hooke’s death was definitely below the belt.) I can easily see how Hooke’s whiny, jealous, over-competitive mannerisms would have infuriated a noble-minded truth-seeker like Newton.

    Newton’s physics, incidentally, is remarkable for its intellectual honesty and lack of self-deception. That, by itself, is hard to square the cartoon version of “Newton the religious crackpot”.

    If you want a good, accessible, very readable biography of Newton, I’d probably recommend James Gleick.

  193. #194 Canary
    March 27, 2009

    Dawkins is hot

  194. #195 Canary
    March 27, 2009

    Oh the irony, no offense to the Weasel(Mustela)family but “Dumbski” looks like a weasel

  195. #196 Carl
    March 27, 2009

    To nitpick: I don’t think that Dembski described himself as the Isaac Newton of Information Theory. It was somebody called Rob Koons who described Dembski in those terms on the dust jacket of one of Dembski’s books.

    Of course, if Dembski weren’t such a colossal twat he would have distanced himself from the comparison.

  196. #197 GAZZA
    March 27, 2009

    Having not read anything about this particular program before, and being a computer programmer for a living, I decided to time myself.

    From woe to go with debugging added I managed to churn out a Perl program that does the “weasel evolution” thing in 15 minutes. Even if we assume that I’m an order of magnitude better than the dudes that Dembski goes to for his software developer – and while I’m competent, I make no such claims of pure awesomeness – that still means that his guys should have been able to duplicate Dawkin’s efforts in a a few hours. (Though if they took that long they’d better be writing it in either BrainF*ck or have some sort of pretty GUI. I’m just sayin’).

    Hell, my entire progam is only 52 lines long, and I didn’t make any particular efforts to keep it unusually short. I would have been able to write that in BASIC when I was 10 – and again, I’m only “bright” not “The Issac Newton of Information Theory”.

  197. #198 Monado
    March 27, 2009

    I believe that Dembski suggested his own contributions were equivalent to Newton’s, but am suffering from source-fade. Dembski is misleading at best since his definition of “specified” is “we can define it,” that is, “described” (not specified).

    Albert Einstein:

    I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious ourselves.

    Off-topic update: Tony Lyons is in km 39 of his marathon 42-km swim, which started at 5:00 a.m. Pacific Time. After suffering a crisis around km 34, he seems to have the smell of the stables in his nostrils and is heading for home: Marathon Swim Live. Any money raised goes to the CKNW Radio fund for orphans. He has had a team of volunteer pacers, lap-counters, and cheerers-on (and a live-blogger) all day.

  198. #199 pcarini
    March 27, 2009

    I had to whip one up in python, in order to fit in with the cool kids. I’m a python noob so it took about an hour, but I think I learned something in the process: The larger the size of a descendant generation, the greater chance it had of developing a “beneficial” mutation. I think I had expected that somewhat, but I was shocked at how long my simulation ran without finding the result when I tried a generation size of less than 10. (one mutation per child)

    I don’t, of course, expect the model to accurately depict reality, but that aspect of it makes a lot of sense to me.

  199. #200 pcarini
    March 28, 2009

    Dembski is a champ
    Dembski is a chimp
    Dembski is a chump

    Bingo!

  200. #201 Jam
    March 28, 2009

    I don’t like the fact that all the offspring in the program are mutants. That artificially shortens the amount of time the program takes to give the result and makes it not a true example of what Dawkins was trying to say.

  201. #202 John Morales
    March 28, 2009

    Jam @201: refer to IST @23.

  202. #203 Hyperon
    March 28, 2009

    Sorry, I don’t buy all this bragging about how easy Dawkins’ program is and how “I would have been able to write that in BASIC when I was 10″. It was a fairly pioneering effort, and a remarkably good way for Dawkins to illustrate his point. It’s technically straightforward, sure, but it really is quite clever. (Not just the program, but the idea of subjecting a sentence in English to random mutation and natural selection.)

  203. #204 pcarini
    March 28, 2009

    @Jam #201: The time involved isn’t what Dawkins’ model is meant to show. The model highlights the difference between mutation with no selection and mutation with selection, end of story. Slowing the mutation rate doesn’t change how the selection process works one bit.

  204. #205 Grant N
    March 28, 2009

    Just sat down to refresh Pharyngula to check the goings on.

    There must be some cosmic force in action. But, could it just be coincidence???

    Half an hour ago I just finished reading this section of the Blind Watchmaker. I’ve seen the documentary showing it generate the phrase before, but when the cool things are both timeless and coalescent in a timely fashion, it just makes you really appreciate life, knowledge and being a bit more aware.

    Pardon the philosophical interlude. Now back to your regular programming…

  205. #206 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Sorry, I don’t buy all this bragging about how easy Dawkins’ program is and how “I would have been able to write that in BASIC when I was 10″. It was a fairly pioneering effort, and a remarkably good way for Dawkins to illustrate his point. It’s technically straightforward, sure, but it really is quite clever.

    I’m with you on how well the program works as an illustration of Dawkin’s point, and that the application of programming to this particular idea might have been clever and novel at the time that he did it, but you lose me after that. It’s more than technically straightforward, it’s trivially simple to write and implement. After all, the algorithm is quite simple, and the simplicity of it helps to illustrate Dawkins’ point.

  206. #207 GAZZA
    March 28, 2009

    I’m with Mark B@206. Sure, the idea of doing it at all is novel, and certainly wouldn’t never have occurred to me at 10. But the actual algorithm is trivial – I wasn’t bragging (though it probably came across that way) so much as illustrating just how simple this is.

    Of course I don’t know exactly what Dawkins program did/does; my own uses simple mutation. It’s possible that he has a sex based recombination process in there as well – if so, I believe he was way ahead of the curve in essentially using genetic algorithms before us lowly computer scientists had heard of them. But I suspect he wasn’t, and I do not believe Professor Dawkins himself would claim that his “weasel evolution” program was spectacularly complicated.

  207. #208 Tristanm
    March 28, 2009

    I have a presentation on Evolution coming up for a class, so this topic gave me the idea to write a program just like that as a demonstration. The hardest part was where I got stuck since I’m not exactly all that familiar with C. (I should have used C++ ._. )

  208. #209 astrounit
    March 28, 2009

    Hyperon #130:

    I’m afraid I can’t entirely agree.

    In my view, the whole idea of “proof” in mathematics has been a distraction. Mathematics only deals with self-consistent statements. If a routine, algorithm or whatever else grammatical manipulation employing some logic system leads to a statement or conclusion that is described as “self-evident”, it can only mean that it makes consistent sense. That’s all it can be. That’s what “proof” ought to mean. Cantor’s Uncountability and Goedel’s Incompleteness (and more recent excursions into “Omega” territory, etc) are theorems that are themselves derived from ‘merely’ consistent statements which were in turn derived by ‘merely’ self-consistent trains of logic, and these all unavoidably suggest an intrinsic and ultimate unaccountability.

    The classic notion of “proof” just can’t be completely satisfied. Yet many people (even mathematicians) who know all of that continue to dance around the imaginary bonfire of ‘proof’ as if it survived the great quenching. It’s been a mouldering wet ash-heap for many decades, and still they dance around it as if it gave them light.

    They might as well be dancing around an oracle that can answer an infinite regression of “why” questions.

    You are quite correct about how a current mathematical statement or theorem “might possibly” be rendered false in the future, given additional considerations. But I have to take exception to your opening statement asserting that their is some disconnect between mathematics and the “physical world”.

    There is nothing to justify the idea that what we commonly regard as “physical nature” does not accomodate every mathematical statement (known and unknown) that is consistent. That would be tantamount to misapprehending the difference between what is physically measurable (a limitation placed on fallible observers) and what is simply physically logical (a completely different animal).

    If any potential mathematical statement “makes sense” according to any rule of order and logic, it can only be a result of the fact that such intrinsic order exists in a physical sense to begin with. It makes no consistent logical sense to think that a humongous set of consistent mathematical statements (say, starting from 0+1=1) that have no obvious or direct or discernable bearing on what is ‘physically observable’ don’t have any connection to the physical order by which nature in fact runs.

    True and untrue statements – or consistent and inconsistent statements – are all ‘allowed’ to be expressed. The true and consistent ones work and run; the others are trash and don’t. Yet trash is allowed to exist. Is that a violation of the order? NO! It’s a testament to the existence of order. It’s PART of the order to find disorder by way of context and contrast. In other words, there could be no discernable order if there were no trash to highlight it. There could be no difference to distinguish, no diversity to appreciate.

    But I don’t think we can reliably conclude that nature discriminates between those true mathematical statements we have found to favorably correspond to what we can observationally verify, and those we haven’t yet found an observable physical manifestation for. It could well be that most consistent mathematical statements CAN’T be attached to some observable physical aspect of nature or another, but that surely can’t mean that physical nature isn’t the ultimate source of those consistent statements posed within it, no matter how irrelevant most of them may be deemed by big-brained creatures obsessed with drawing artificial conceptual boundaries between what constitutes physical reality and mathematical description.

    Scientists – physicists and mathematicians – relax on this all the time. They’re human too. They express shock and surprise every time they get blindsided by a new discovery or theoretical insight that overturns their hard-won belief. It’s a cultural thing. In this particular respect (basically, on matters of the hypothetical as applied to the unknown) many physicists and mathematicians generally seem to exercise a way of thinking that sports a disquieting resemblance to that of religious people. They insist their beliefs are provisional, but they still rely on a provisional form of CERTAINTY at the expense of accuracy and consistency. I’m not knocking them; it’s just a hard habit to break. And it’s actually nearly impossible NOT to ASSUME a stance of ‘certainty’ as soon as one adopts a position, whether it’s a consensus view open to modification or one more privately held on other assumptions.

    I think nature physically visits ALL the consistent maths, whether known or unknown to us mere mortals, however arcane and divorced from “physical reality” they may seem to us at the moment, within a coherent scheme of natural physical order. Some of it – a very small part of it so far – slaps us directly in the face with observable manifestations, and we go, “Oh wow, look, we got one right, look how well it conforms to what we see!” but the rest is no more physically “unreal” simply because we haven’t yet found any connection to what we presume to be ‘physical’.

    Oh, I realize much of this may be viewed as potential grist for the God-Squad. Dammit. But we shouldn’t shirk OUR ideas simply because those bozos have a history of monopolizing and exploiting every idea that comes along as their own property. Let’s buck up. The future is going to be filled with an explosion of theories and hypotheses. We just need to be vigilant that we aren’t robbed while we do our work. Let’s be increasingly bold and defend OUR ideas and see to it that the Usurpers don’t capitalize on them.

  209. #210 Ryan
    March 28, 2009

    I just watched the Youtube video of the original program running. I decided to write my own “Weasel program” in c++. Took me about 30 minutes but in all fairness I was simultaneously watching Seinfeld.

  210. #211 Tony Sidaway
    March 28, 2009

    Not fair, I was banging out toy programs like this at a rate of knots nearly forty years ago. It is still wonderful to see the rate of convergence that can be achieved by this simple demonstration of cumulative mutation.

    It is rather shocking to see someone who was awarded several mathematics degrees including a PhD from the University of Chicago, but is unable to understand and reliably reproduce the kind of mathematical toy that is within the grasp of any bright teenager. There is something weird about the American educational system there.

  211. #212 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    I wrote one in java a few months ago, although mine does currently cheat. It would take about 30 seconds to fix it up if I wanted.

  212. #213 Monado
    March 28, 2009

    Also check out Darwin@home (http://www.darwinathome.com/), which has a program you can download that randomly mutates a 3D structure. Any motion in any direction is rewarded. The site has a number of videos of the results: randomly evolved locomotion.

    The programmer is working on other forms of computed evolution.

  213. #214 Hyperon
    March 28, 2009

    astrounit,

    You make two extremely interesting distinct points here.

    In my view, the whole idea of “proof” in mathematics has been a distraction. Mathematics only deals with self-consistent statements. If a routine, algorithm or whatever else grammatical manipulation employing some logic system leads to a statement or conclusion that is described as “self-evident”, it can only mean that it makes consistent sense. That’s all it can be.

    Yes, this makes me realize I’m actually wrong. It’s possible to have computer programs check for consistency and thereby check whether elementary theorems are “proven”. And in this way we can “know for sure”, by any reasonable measure, whether an elementary theorem is true. In practice this is a lot more difficult for more advanced theorems. But in principle, I grant you, it could be done. So I am, it seems, wrong when I say there’s no conceptual difference between mathematical truth-seeking and scientific truth-seeking.

    There is nothing to justify the idea that what we commonly regard as “physical nature” does not accomodate every mathematical statement (known and unknown) that is consistent. That would be tantamount to misapprehending the difference between what is physically measurable (a limitation placed on fallible observers) and what is simply physically logical (a completely different animal).

    Yes, I was ignoring (probably unfairly) the possibility that some sort of mathematical Platonism holds. I have sympathy for restrained Platonism, but the pure sort is a lot harder for me to accept. Coincidentally, I encountered a hilarious remark by Bertrand Russell, from his autobiography. He writes about his conversations with Einstein, Pauli, and Gödel, and says that Gödel “turned out to be an unadulterated Platonist, and apparently believed that an eternal ‘not’ was laid up in heaven, where virtuous logicians might hope to meet it hereafter.”

  214. #215 Tony Sidaway
    March 28, 2009

    #213

    Monado, thanks. That Darwin@home software looks very promising. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

  215. #216 arachnophilia
    March 28, 2009

    it’s a nice simple demonstration of the power of selection, but i have one major problem with it.

    it’s directed. fittness is judged on simply one factor: similarity to the target string. this is NOT a good model for evolution. evolution does not have a goal in mind, let alone one specific goal.

    but it would be a great deal more complex to program in things like spelling, grammar, coherence, etc, as fittness criteria, and then keep all of the ones that are reasonably close to being decipherable. but at the end, you’d end up with a lot more variety than “methinks it is a weasle.” sort of like how we have more than one species of life on this planet.

  216. #217 Jonathan Cantwell
    March 28, 2009

    I haven’t read the entire comments thread, so invariably someone will have said this, but: as a computer scientist, a programmer, and a follower of information theory, there is absolutely no justification for referring to Dembski as the ‘Isaac Newton of IT’, except inasmuch as Dembski and Isaac Newton both maintained as true certain sets of irrational ideas.

    However, Isaac Newton was one of the world’s geniuses with regards to science and mathematics, and laid much of the groundwork for modern rational discussion of science.

    Dembski is a talentless hack who teaches at a Bible school and phoned it in enough to get a Ph.D., apparently, one would hope to the shame and discredit of the University of Chicago.

    To imply that Dembski is the ‘Isaac Newton of Information Technology’ does a disservice to the field of information technology. Dembski’s wiki page lists as publications -only- things regarding intelligent design, which, last time I checked, was not in the direct purview of information theory by any stretch of the imagination.

    If, say, Claude Shannon, who -could- be regarded as the Newton of IT, turned out to have actually worshipped invisible pink unicorns, this sort of statement would perhaps be justified. As far as I know, he did not.

  217. #218 DLC
    March 28, 2009

    PZ Myers:

    Not only are the paladins of evolution handsomer, wittier, more charming, and with a deeper grasp of the truth than the orc-like hordes of creationism, but even our ancillary skills are wielded with more effortless panache than our opponents’ primary talents.”

    And we’re overpowered, have self-healing and can wear plate.
    [/WoW Reference]

    But seriously, folks. Dawkins’ program is cute and works well. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking or anything, but it sure is an elegant piece of work.

  218. #219 Bertok
    March 28, 2009

    @ #44

    Ah, bless your heart, rhr. Your fun code snippet demonstrates why Perl is simultaneously the most awesome and the most horrible programming language yet to be devised. I’ll try your code out tomorrow, but only once I’ve deciphered at least 75% percent of it. :P

  219. #220 Bone Oboe
    March 28, 2009

    Off, but in the vicinity of the topic.
    Followed the link over to “Panda’s Thumb”, from there to YouTube to watch the “weasel” in action. After the “weaseling”, did a bit of poking around the YouTubes and found Douglas Adams: Parrots the Universe and Everything, speaking at UC Santa Barbara.

  220. #221 latsot
    March 28, 2009

    Asemodeus:

    I’ve done coding in Visual Basic, Java, C++, Matlab, and Mathcad. I would be shocked if any creationists reading this even knew 3 of these programs/codes existed, yet alone actually tried fiddling with them.

    This just furthers my idea that there has to be a rudimentary test for everyone to pass so they are even allowed to use a computer.

    Such things as:

    Knowing the difference between RAM and ROM.

    …knowing the difference between programs and programming languages…?

  221. #222 Twin-Skies
    March 28, 2009

    @DLC

    Not to mention you guys use protection. We rogues do it from behind [Yet another WoW reference].

    I’m convinced that the generic creationist today would have to be a murloc – Everything they say comes out as MRMRMRMRBRBRLGH! Rightwingnuts on the other hand are definitely locks – fear spamming galore.

  222. #223 Pete Cockerell
    March 28, 2009

    I always like Javascript myself, because then anyone can run the program from a browser. Mine is at:

    http://peter-cockerell.net/weasel.html

    I’ve slowed it down to 5 generations per second, so that you can get some sense of the characters changing. To speed it up, or play with other parameters, save it locally and tweak these variables to your heart’s content:


    var target = “methinks it is like a weasel”;
    var offspringPerGeneration = 100;
    var pMutation = 0.01;
    var showEvery = 10;
    var msPerGeneration = 200;
  223. #224 Nemo
    March 28, 2009

    I see a lot of reimplementations of the Weasel program, but I can’t find Dawkins’ original. Did he not actually publish it? Or is it only in the book?

  224. #225 Ernst Hot
    March 28, 2009

    Incidentally, this short writeup on Genetic Computing was just posted by Antonny Gulli.

  225. #226 latsot
    March 28, 2009

    Rooke:

    Why suppose that we can get anywhere near, or if we are even progressing towards, an ultimate understanding etc.

    I’m confused. Science isn’t about progressing toward an ultimate understanding. It’s about understanding what we observe. This may or may not lead toward understanding the universe in its entirity. It doesn’t matter: science would work whether that was the eventual goal or not. Even if that were the eventual goal and was for some reason unachievable, science would *still* work.

  226. #227 latsot
    March 28, 2009

    Well somehow I screwed up the blockquote in my reply to Asemodeus. Perhaps I should learn the difference between things inside tags and outside them. What I was *attempting* to say was that Asemodeus doesn’t appear to know what he/she is talking about and is therefore a dick for acting all superior.

    I may have undermined my position by apparently fucking up the simplest application of tags :(

  227. #228 FlameDuck
    March 28, 2009

    import God

    ImportError: No module named God – Programming Fail

    It’s a lot easier to pen theological just-so stories than it is to invent calculus and apply it to physical problems.

    Which brings us full circle back to William Dembski who, despite having penned ludicrous volumes of theological just-so stories, cannot comprehend a a trivial program written in BASIC (Beginners All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) which is hands down the simplest programming language to understand, significantly more so than say calculus. It practically reads like plain English.

  228. #229 GAZZA
    March 28, 2009

    Pete Cockerell@223 – great minds, and all that. My wife wanted something she could play with, so I converted my Perl to Javascript before I saw your message:

    http://podblack.com/evolve_weasel.html

    We’ve gone in slightly different directions here, but the basic idea is the same.

  229. #230 CosmicTeapot
    March 28, 2009

    I must have a computer virus.

    My weasel program always ends up with the phrase “John Kwok is the king of the world”

    G.D.R

  230. #231 clinteas
    March 28, 2009

    Lets lighten up this Pharyngula nightshift a little:

    Chris Hitchens on Bill Maher,from last night:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hB3PXcvopYk

  231. #232 clinteas
    March 28, 2009

    Uhoh,

    and it got a bit heated in “Overtime” :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYx_EfG1yF8

  232. #233 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    More like darken it with clouds of anger – the type which results in spittle flying from the mouth, a bulging forehead, pulsating veins, a clenched jaw. Hitchens is not to be taken seriously, and it is best that we drop this pretence that he is anything other than a fanatic in relation to everything – history, politics, religion, science, and what little he knows of any of it.

  233. #234 Pete Cockerell
    March 28, 2009

    @GAZZA: Yeah, I was just about to go to bed when I did a head-slap: why didn’t I just make all those parameters settable on the page instead of making the user change the source? Duh. So now it has fields for all the parameters, which you can set before clicking Run (and you can change them and click Run again at any time while it’s running too).

    In Firefox, I see some HTML in the TextArea in yours before you click the button. Odd!

    OK, 3:50AM. NOW I can go to bed :D

  234. #235 Matt Heath
    March 28, 2009

    Anyone know what field of maths Dembski worked in? Whatever it was he ought to be able to understand some basic information theory. EVERYONE passed that course; those that went on to further study had grades at first class average. He’s a liar rather than a fool.

  235. #236 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Pete Rooke wrote:

    Hitchens is not to be taken seriously, and it is best that we drop this pretence that he is anything other than a fanatic in relation to everything – history, politics, religion, science, and what little he knows of any of it.

    Well, he knows that most arguments for Christianity – and religion in general – are crocks of shit; that puts him one up on you, Pete.

  236. #237 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    I disagree.

  237. #238 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Pete Rooke,

    I disagree.

    Good to know you still aren’t letting a profound lack of anything resembling support for your position stop you from posting.

  238. #239 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    “Religion poisons everything”

    Hands up if you think this is true. Hitchens is a contrarian shill.

  239. #240 Gorun Nova
    March 28, 2009

    Dembski thinks he’s the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”, eh? He must be referring to Mr. Newton’s extensive research into alchemy. ;)

    *is busily writing a version of that basic program in C. Shouldn’t take long. ;)*

  240. #241 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Pete, your dubious religion and imaginary god isn’t needed for anything. What part of that are you having trouble with?

  241. #242 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Hitchens is a contrarian shill.

    I’m wouldn’t call myself a fan, but that doesn’t mean that a significant proportion of what he’s said/written (esp. about religion) isn’t accurate.

  242. #243 John Morales
    March 28, 2009

    Pete Rooke, given your usage, methinks you don’t know what ‘shill’ means, or ‘contrarian’, or ‘fanatic’.

  243. #244 clinteas
    March 28, 2009

    Rookie,

    here’s Hitchens explaining why religion and gods are BS,the most concise 15 minute summary of why there are no gods you will ever come across:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnMYL8sF7bQ&feature=related

  244. #245 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    Hands up if you think this is true. Hitchens is a contrarian shill.

    Have you actually read his book? He makes the case quite convincingly.

  245. #246 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    How about this:
    he sells controversy.

    Does that invalidate, necessarily, his positions? No. If he is sincere (which I doubt) it may even be that his addled mind produces the occasional position of coherence. Religion is not this position. Neither is anything else I’ve read of his.

  246. #247 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    Hitchens is a polemic figure, but he’s actually thought his positions through. I find him very disagreeable on matters of politics and especially in the Iraq front, but it’s hard to deny the arguments he puts across. For better or worse, he matches it with the best.

  247. #248 T_U_T
    March 28, 2009

    no, rooke is back. His presupper attack tactic failed, so he returned back playing the “guilt by association” (hitchens is mean, hitchens says bad things about religion, you say bad things about religion, so you are mean too), and plain simple name calling

  248. #249 John Morales
    March 28, 2009

    By no means do I claim to follow Hitchens, but to dismiss him as a “seller of controversy” (such as, say, Ann C0ulter) is myopic and malicious. I consider him a person of substance.

    Unlike you.

    Thissays something about his character:

    Waterboarding
    Hitchens initially rejected the notion that waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that has allegedly been used on prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, constitutes torture. Subsequently, he was asked by Vanity Fair to experience it for himself. In May 2008, Hitchens voluntarily experienced waterboarding, after which he fully changed his opinion. He concluded “if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

  249. #250 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    T_U_T:

    There are a number of people who make particularly eloquent cases against religion, many of them theologians, philosopher and, indeed, some scientists. Hitchens employs the scatter gun approach and I believe many of his arguments are simply dishonest. I could quote imagine him as a huckster-like preacher conning his flock week after week.

  250. #251 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    I believe many of his arguments are simply dishonest.

    Can you list even a single argument he’s made that you feel is dishonest?

  251. #252 Nerdiah
    March 28, 2009

    … “stumblebum”? lol.

  252. #253 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    John Morales,

    I typically respect what you write here. On torture however, Hitchens is insane. If you watch the video link above (that started this discussion) you will see that Hitchens says something to the effect of (~) “woe betide Obama if those released from Guantanamo commit terroristic activity. 50 such people have been released and rejoined the battle field.” This is not honest,

  253. #254 clinteas
    March 28, 2009

    Wow,cool,
    I hijacked a thread !!
    LOL

    I find it interesting that Dembski would struggle so much to figure this program out,Im not a programmer,but even I can see how it works in general,its intriguing that how creationist’s brains will shut down when a fact interferes with their perceived reality.

  254. #255 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    I could quote imagine him as a huckster-like preacher conning his flock week after week.

    I believe more than a few posters on this site say the same thing about you, Pete.

  255. #256 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    Kel,

    this debate is post war:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnK02sODkW8

    You can also see the same two debate before the war on youtube.

    His insane approach to Clinton cf. Bush.

  256. #257 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    What was dishonest about it? Come on Pete, construct an argument to support your assertion. Don’t just link to a video.

  257. #258 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Pete has no argument. We know that. He just thinks religion should be above everything else. What a fool. He can’t even show physical evidence for his god.

  258. #259 amphiox
    March 28, 2009

    Another difference between Dembski and Newton is that, when Newton’s alchemy experiments did not yield valid results, he did not publish them anyways and insist they were nevertheless right, after all.

  259. #260 rimpal
    March 28, 2009

    Another difference between Dembski and Newton. Newton doesn’t think he is Dembski!

  260. #261 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    Mos Def is such an idiot. Why is here on there when you have Salman Rushdie and Christopher Hitchens?

  261. #262 clinteas
    March 28, 2009

    Kel,

    yeah,could have been a great discussion without Mos Def,thats what I thought….
    Loved Hitch with his Scotch though LOL

  262. #263 DaveL
    March 28, 2009

    I guess Dembski is a scientist , not a programmer.

    Seeing as how a major branch of information theory (algorithmic information theory) is all about computer programs, anyone billing himself as “The Isaac Newton of Information Theory” who doesn’t understand he level of programming in “Methinks it is like a Weasel” is a disgrace to the discipline.

    Dembski is more like “The Gomer Pyle of Information Theory”, although there is admittedly a lot of competition in creationist circles for that title.

  263. #264 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    Hitch and Rushdie were both really good. Hitchens should have taken Maher to the sword over his alcohol claims, Maher got off preaching his nutritionist bullshit way too easily.

  264. #265 Bug
    March 28, 2009

    Off topic: http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSTRE52P60220090326

    Religious defamation is now a human rights violation. Just thought you might like to know, what with your cracker-torturing antics and all.

  265. #266 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    “The U.N. Human Rights Council adopted the non-binding text” – I think those are the key words there…

  266. #267 Feynmaniac
    March 28, 2009

    Re: Real Time with Bill Maher

    Yeah Mos Def came across as quite dumb. The worst part was him saying “Everyone has a religion” only to look up and see he was sitting with Salmon Rushdie, Christopher Hitchens, and Bill Maher.

  267. #268 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Eh, even if it was an issue, all we’d have to do is make up a religion where the core belief is that our gods* require us to demonstrate our faith by defaming any and all other religions.

    What are they going to do? Stop us from practicing our religion? Ha!

    *If I have to be religious then I’m bloody well going to be polytheistic. Monotheism is just dull.

  268. #269 Elwood Herring
    March 28, 2009

    Not only are the paladins of evolution handsomer, wittier, more charming, and with a deeper grasp of the truth than the orc-like hordes of creationism, but even our ancillary skills are wielded with more effortless panache than our opponents’ primary talents.”

    … And I can kill you with my brain.

    /firefly

  269. #270 Bug
    March 28, 2009

    Kel @266: It’s still a global authority on human rights advocating the extension of restrictions on freedom of speech and expression as regards irrational belief. I thought this sort of thing, and the Dark Ages 2.0 it allows me to prophesy, would be of interest to Pharyngulites.

  270. #271 logicamente
    March 28, 2009

    Dawkins with is program does a thorough job in explaining how a dumb, non-thinking, careless algorithm can produce complex designed objects, but he also does a good job (even if involuntarily) in demonstrating how a programmer is needed in the first place. Programs don’t just write themselves, they don’t just pop-up without an engineer programming them.
    If we compare Dawkins’ program to the natural process of evolution it is intended to simulate then we can say that evolution is like a piece of software that runs in the universe.
    What is my point?
    Dawkins is needed to write the biomorph program (as described in the blind watchmaker) so much as a god/creator/intelligence/programmer is needed to design the real life evolution program.

  271. #272 Feynmaniac
    March 28, 2009

    Bug,

    I thought this sort of thing, and the Dark Ages 2.0 it allows me to prophesy, would be of interest to Pharyngulites.

    Yes, and it has already been discussed here. Funny enough, that contains Christopher Hitchens too!

  272. #273 Bug
    March 28, 2009

    @271: Because clearly the laws of physics and specifically intermolecular attraction do not work without a god tinkering with them.

  273. #274 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    So the religious apologist Rooke criticizes Hitchens. As with all his “arguments” who fucking cares? Nothing worth saying, and that poorly expressed. Coming from a man who is constantly supporting all the worst excesses of Catholicism – its mindless opposition to abortion under any circumstances, its opposition to contraception, and the way it enabled child abuse (including, of course, physical abuse) at the very heart of the church. You have a disgraceful attitude to humanity in general like the church you so ineptly defend.
    Once again, Rooke, you are a lying toad. Go take your repulsive views and post them somewhere else.

  274. #275 Bug
    March 28, 2009

    @272: Very impressive. I stand corrected. Is PZ clairvoyant or something? Reuters claims the resolution was passed this week, but that blog post is from *last month* …

  275. #276 Wowbagger, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Programs Leaves don’t just write themselves, they don’t just pop-up fall on their own without an engineer programming helpful invisible pixies lowering them gently to the ground.

  276. #277 co
    March 28, 2009

    logicamente @ 271

    Dawkins is needed to write the biomorph program (as described in the blind watchmaker) so much as a god/creator/intelligence/programmer is needed to design the real life evolution program.

    It would be wonderful if you’d do a little bit of background checking before posting that. Read Waldrop’s Complexity, or Schrödinger’s What is Life, or any of a tremendous multitude of other texts on studies of evolution. People immediately recognized your objection, and, so far as I know, no researcher in the field believes that a prime mover is needed to “write the program”. Self-catalysis easily takes care of all of your objection.

  277. #278 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Incidentally, I don’t think Dawkins was clever at all. If I take the sentence:
    “Pete Rooke posts vacuous bollocks”
    I can transform it in 1 step to the almost equivalent sentence:
    “Methinks ’tis very like a twat”
    No program, and little thought (appropriately) required.
    Does this prove evolution is true?
    I think it does.

  278. #279 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    Dawkins is needed to write the biomorph program (as described in the blind watchmaker) so much as a god/creator/intelligence/programmer is needed to design the real life evolution program.

    No. All conditions to form life can come about as a biproduct of the laws of nature, and if they are designed for anything it’s building black holes. It just so happens that in this particular black-hole reality, the conditions also permit life, but life is hardly important in this universe.

  279. #280 logicamente
    March 28, 2009

    If we consider the microcosm computer+biomorph program we have evidential support that in this specific system is true a principle that says:

    ?In order to create complex objects from simple beginnings through a completely blind and dumb process is needed an external designer that writes down the rules/instructions that govern the blind process itself?

    Is this principle, that is objectively true for my microcosm, applicable to the real Universe itself?

  280. #281 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    Please tone done your misongynistic rhetoric.

  281. #282 Pete Rooke
    March 28, 2009

    *down

  282. #283 co
    March 28, 2009

    Please tone done your misongynistic rhetoric.

    Methinks ’tis very like an ass.

    (But that’s patently unfair, as I have a tremendous respect for ass.)

  283. #284 co
    March 28, 2009

    Is this principle, that is objectively true for my microcosm, applicable to the real Universe itself?

    No.

    Again, read Waldrop’s Complexity; for a more complete, balls-to-the-wall addressing of your question, read any of the researchers referenced therein.

  284. #285 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Please tone done your misongynistic rhetoric.

    Please fuck off and post your pathetic apologist bollocks somewhere else.

  285. #286 DaveL
    March 28, 2009

    Please tone done your misongynistic rhetoric.

    I agree. Anthony, it is very wrong of you to compare Pete to a vagina. Vaginas are useful organs that bring joy to my life. Therefore Pete is nothing like a vagina.

  286. #287 Freak
    March 28, 2009

    @picarni 199:

    If there’s a small number of offspring per generation, and it doesn’t lock letters, then it will tend to stay around some less than perfect state and depend on scatter to hit the perfect sentence.

    For example, with a 28 character target and a 27 character alphabet, at 26 characters correct:
    - there are 2 beneficial mutations
    - there are 78 neutral mutations (26 change a correct character to itself, 2*26 change an incorrect character to an incorrect character)
    - there are 676 harmful mutations (26 sites * 26 values)
    for a total of 27*28 = 756 mutations

    With 10 offspring per generation, the chance of improving (getting at least 1 offspring better than the present) is 1-(1-(2/756))^10 = 3%. The probability of deproving (getting all offspring worse than the present) is (676/756)^10 = 33%.

  287. #288 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    The comparison is perhaps unfair. A vagina is, in one sense, a useful orifice, with a promise of mystery and pleasure – for both partners.
    Pete Rooke is a useless collection of orifices, offering no pleasure, and where the only mystery is why he imagines that his ridiculous, dishonest views should be on any interest whatsoever to anyone here.
    I apologise to vaginas for any negative connotations I have imputed to them.

  288. #289 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    I used ‘Dembski is a fool’ as my target phrase, and one of the phrases that showed up as a late almost fit was ‘Dembski is a fowl’. If so, he’s a turkey.

  289. #290 logicamente
    March 28, 2009

    invisible pixies lowering them gently to the ground.

    You have misunderstood my argument. The programmer doesn’t intervene directly, he only writes the code. The code runs blindly without any external intervention.
    So there’s no place for the “pixies of the leaves”.

  290. #291 Robert MacDonald
    March 28, 2009

    You can watch Richard Dawkins give a demonstration of his computer program in his Growing Up in the Universe series from some years ago, which were posted recently on his site. The specific episode is Climbing Mount Improbable. It’s all easy to find at his site or on Youtube – Ep3: Climbing Mount Improbable – Growing Up in the Universe – Richard Dawkins -and all the lectures are fun.

    He had a “Hoyle” version of the program to generate the target phrase, “more giddy in my desires than a monkey,” and a “Darwin” version, which bred offspring with mutations of the original random letter phrase and preserved the “beneficial” mutations, and of course Darwin did the job promptly. Dawkins points out himself that there are no “target phrases” in nature, but that the simple program illustrates how beneficial features can emerge and acquire complexity gradually.

    Kwok shouldn’t cry for a Leica M7, but get a simple workhorse of a digital camera like I did on my own dime, and focus on learning the basics and having fun taking pictures. I think I know the photography websites he misreads.

  291. #292 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    You have misunderstood my argument. The programmer doesn’t intervene directly, he only writes the code. The code runs blindly without any external intervention.

    The “code” is nothing but the chemistry of the universe expressing itself. The analogy is just that and nothing more. If you want to believe there is a deity that made the laws of physics the way they are, that’s your choice. But don’t pretend that a deity is needed in order to get evolution – all you need is imperfectly copying chemical forms and from there life happens.

  292. #293 logicamente
    March 28, 2009

    If you want to believe there is a deity that made the laws of physics the way they are, that’s your choice. But don’t pretend that a deity is needed in order to get evolution – all you need is imperfectly copying chemical forms and from there life happens.

    What I’m saying is that Dawkins gave the computer a set of instructions/rules. Rules that in themselves are blind and non intelligent but when the computer(itself dumb) runs them it produces very complex results (I repeat again, all that happens blindly, carelessly, without any purpose). Now, the fact is, that those instructions/rules have been specifically and intelligently designed by Dawkins.
    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

  293. #294 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Clinteas – loved the Hitchens/Rabbi debate. Great rhetoric, sometimes on both sides.
    It’s here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnMYL8sF7bQ&feature=related
    And yes, Hitchens does lurch into his hobbyhorses at times, but so what? Since he is in no sense an infallible source of enlightenment, one is free to do so.
    This is one of the glories of being an atheist.

  294. #295 co
    March 28, 2009

    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

    Seriously, NO. Kauffman, Arthur, and Holland all have shown that it’s not necessary at all. So had Turing. So have many chemists (http://www.scholarpedia.org/article/Belousov-Zhabotinsky_reaction).

  295. #296 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

    Reasonable? As my ex-wife used to say all of the time, whatever floats your boat. If it makes you feel better to believe that, go right ahead. But to say that a set of rules that is hospitable to a small insignificant portion of the matter in the universe becoming highly ordered and self replicating is more unlikely than one that is not? At this time there is not enough evidence to determine whether this is the case. Clearly, we are here, so the probability appears to be quite high.

  296. #297 Kel
    March 28, 2009

    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

    No, because Dawkins’ program is nothing more than an analogy to how selection can build complexity. All you need to get complex life and designs is an imperfect replicating process – like we have now. The building blocks of life form through chemical processes, there’s not much more to the creation of life than a series of (as yet unknown) chemical processes. Once you have the first replicating cell, you have the capacity to build complex designs without anything more than the fundamental forces of nature. Life by all accounts is an expression of the laws of nature, evolution does not require any intelligent force to work – all it requires is that life can begin and is imperfect.

  297. #298 Blake Stacey
    March 28, 2009

    Clearly, we are here, so the probability appears to be quite high.

    The conditional probability of natural laws being favourable to organic matter given that organic matter exists is quite high — unity, for all practical purposes. We’re here, so we know the stuff of which we’re made can be here.

    The a priori probability that natural laws would be such as to allow organic matter in some small fraction of the Universe, not conditioned on the observation that such matter exists. . . is ill-defined.

  298. #299 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Of course you’re right, Blake. My post would have been better with the last sentence left out.

    I don’t think cosmology has advanced to the point where we can say too much about the rules of physics in all possible universes, although some interesting work has been done in that area. As I remember it, the exact same universe as ours is extremely unlikely, but a universe with a different big bang event may end up with extremely different rules of physics, it’s undetermined if ordered structures would arise. My guess is that it would always happen, but that’s just speculation on my part, but it might be a good scifi story idea to speculate what kind of ‘life’ would arise under a different sort of rules. It would probably be unrecognizable to us.

  299. #300 Tony Sidaway
    March 28, 2009

    #280

    I don’t think that’s a correct assumption. All that is demonstrated here is a feedback loop driving mutation. Feedback loops drive many natural processes such as the weather but when this happens we don’t seem to be moved to attribute the existence of the system to the presence of a programmer or engineer. The trouble is that we cherry pick the examples that we will ascribe to intelligent agency and blindly ignore others.

  300. #301 T_U_T
    March 28, 2009

    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

    Look. You can kick a loose boulder and make it roll down the slope. But by no means you can claim that all the piles of stones that accumulated at the bottom of the hill have been also kicked down by someone.

  301. #302 Freidenker
    March 28, 2009

    Um, I hope this question won’t get sucked into the comment vortex – but is there anyone here who can give me a friendly source explaining what random actually IS? I imagine this can be more of a philosophical question, but I was hoping to find a practical and consensually established definition for the word.

    If the term “random” doesn’t apply for Dawkins’ program, then the whole idea behind using it fails.

    Actually, if the same can be applied to mutations in general, then it fails – but how can anyone tell?

    In short: help, anyone?

  302. #303 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    Randomness is a well-defined mathematical concept, if you have a defined universe to pick from, such as numbers. The concept, in my opinion, is not especially deep or difficult to grasp, at least in a basic sense. I suggest you do a wikipedia search and look it up. Numbers picked by computers are not random, strictly speaking they are psuedorandom simulations of random numbers, since they are usually picked with a deterministic algorithm which simulates the distribution of a random function, usually with some sort of ‘seed’ added to make it perform differently on different runs. As it turns out, it’s quite difficult to prove that a psuedorandom function is a good substitute for random numbers. Nevertheless, most random functions used by computer programs are ‘random enough’ to drive simulations such as Dawkins’ WEASEL program.

    The point of the WEASEL program isn’t really randomness, but how selection, even applied fairly weakly, can quickly select out the randomness and create an ordered structure. It’s not a perfect analogue for evolution as has been repeatedly pointed out above, but it does illustrate the effect of selection on random structures, which is the point of the demonstration.

  303. #304 AnthonyK
    March 28, 2009

    Friedenker, I can’t answer you question – although I know you can generate numbers from the output of something undergoing radioactive decay – but I do know of one interesting mathematical result.
    It’s this: if you were to, say, fill in your accounts with (you thought) “random” amounts, your trickery could be easily discovered. How? It’s because naturally generated numbers would appear with far less frequency starting with high digits (say, 7,8,9) than with 1s or 2s, whereas your accounts would assume a more-or-less random initial digit. Check this out – pick up say, an atlas and look at lengths of rivers, height of mountains, information like that – they often/usually start with low digits.
    Why? Consider that an exercise for the reader!

  304. #305 co
    March 28, 2009

    AnthonyK’s statement in #304 is known as Benford’s Law. Actuary companies (and others suspecting people of cheating via “random” numbers in various ways) know lots about it. It’s always fascinated me. Wikipedia has good introductory backgrounds on it, including Newcomb’s original observations of it.

    The gist of it is that “random” can have lots of meanings, almost always related to the overall distribution which is chosen to generate the random numbers. One always has to state that one is using a univariate, or Gaussian-distributed, or Poissonian-distributed (among many, many others) generator.

  305. #306 Freidenker
    March 28, 2009

    Oh, I was aware that natural selection is different than what’s on the WEASAL program. Actually, right after I wrote my comment, I decided to pluck the courage and file through the long wikipedia article. Randomness as a mathematical concept actually makes a lot of sense: it is not so much a synonym for unpredictability as it is the inability to predict in a 100% a certain outcome. It is possible to predict random outcomes with probabilities, and these probabilities have discernable, testable outcomes. THAT I can accept.

    The only problem remains philosophical or metaphysical, but I’m less worried about that. I’m only worried about the fact that it may be very hard to conclude that stuff is actually random, and I’m not at all at peace with the fact that you wrote that Dawkins’ program is “random enough”. Mainly, because I’m not sure what you mean by that. According to the Wiki article, there is a way to positively discern random from non-random – the question is: how can that be applied to the numbers that Dawkins’ program generated?

    Do these numbers also follow a certain “probability pattern”? If they do, that solves the problem nicely.

  306. #307 Freidenker
    March 28, 2009

    Anthony, yeah, the Wikipedia article says something very similar that answers my question just as well – since the world of coins is LIMITED, even if I randomly (whatever that means in that context) throw in coins, there will be a discernable pattern of what kinds of “random” (that is “unpredictable) numbers I might get.

    According to that definition, randomness isn’t “unpredictability”, it’s just a term denoting the predictability of certain *probabilities*, as opposed to “certainties”.

    You could say that random and non-random are on the same spectrum – deterministic events being “events which can be predicted with 100% accuracy” and random events being “random events which can be predicted with anything other than 100% accuracy”.

    That said – this applies to genetics easily. You can surmise that genetic mutations are random.

  307. #308 FlameDuck
    March 28, 2009

    Dembski is more like “The Gomer Pyle of Information Theory”

    What does that make Dawkins then? GySgt. Hartmann?

    Now, the fact is, that those instructions/rules have been specifically and intelligently designed by Dawkins.

    Well, no. Dawkins simply implemented what he thought was a good algorithm to demonstrate why a selection process, is superior and different from a random process. He is not trying to make the case that his PROGRAM is like nature. His case is that the DATA behaves in a similar fashion, and that’s why the claim that “evolution is a random process” is garbage.

    So is reasonable to assume that also the rules/laws of nature, that in themselves are blind, in order to produce complex designs from simple beginings, have to be designed by some intelligence?

    No, because there are significant differences between nature and computers. Computer are inherently designed to be different from nature. They’re designed as tools for mathematicians, and as such it’s not exactly useful to allow random mutation. On a computer 2+2 is always four. In nature 2+2 is roughly 4.

    There are one category of computer programs who unfortunately do exhibit creationist tendencies. Computer viruses mutate (using various techniques like self-modifying code) from generation to generation, in order to avoid detection. This virus is very much intelligently designed, because it’s an important aspect that the virus maintains its primary malicious function, so while it does mutate, it retains the same functionality, so in a sense it doesn’t evolve. Nature thankfully, doesn’t work that way.

  308. #309 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 28, 2009

    It’s also worth noting, by the way, that Newton’s writing on theology was found in a sealed box after his death. Some biographers take this as a sign that he wasn’t proud of this side of his life and didn’t want to be remembered for it.

    Well, he didn’t believe in the Trinity, and that coming out during his lifetime would have ended the latter pretty promptly.

    Mathematics is not in itself a science. But without it, there is no way science could exist. If you can do science, thank a mathematician.

    I’ve never denied that.

    Now that’s what I find fascinating. Is mathematics an invention, or a discovery?

    Neither. It consists of definitions and tautologies.

    Dismissing a mathematical proof as “not science”

    I didn’t dismiss it. I didn’t say it’s worse than science. I just said it’s not science.

    Mathematicians seek out the patterns of the patterns of the universe… and way, way beyond (infinite-dimensional hyperspaces and stuff).

    Somehow I find it comforting that what once were atoms in my body will become stardust puffed out by a dying star, seeding the molecular clouds that may form new stars and maybe even life.

    Nope. The sun isn’t big enough to go supernova. It’ll become a red giant and then quietly shrink to a white dwarf. And then a black dwarf.

    In principle we could find fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian. But we know that’s not going to happen.

    We don’t know that’s not going to happen. All we know is that the theory of evolution, when applied to our current knowledge of the fossil record, predicts it’s not going to happen.

    Of course, being Puny Humans™, in reality we’re prone to making an inductive inference: we’ve never found fossil rabbits in the Precambrian*, so we won’t ever ? but induction doesn’t work.

    (It goes without saying that what’s called a “proof by induction” in math is something completely different.)

    * The stratigraphers once had a war about how to spell that.

    So I am, it seems, wrong when I say there’s no conceptual difference between mathematical truth-seeking and scientific truth-seeking.

    Worse yet: what science actually does isn’t a search for truth; it’s a search for falsehood. The idea is to find everything that’s false and prove that it’s false. It’s supposed to work by elimination (even though, ultimately, it can’t because there are just too many options, so we have to fall back onto the principle of parsimony).

    “Religion poisons everything”

    Hands up if you think this is true.

    <raise style=”hand”>

    He gets drunk way too often for my taste, and he has said horrendous fear-based stupidities about 9/11 and the Iraq war (basically arguments from ignorance, AFAIK), but that still leaves a lot. He deserves respect for doing the experiment to see if waterboarding is torture, and then again respect for not denying the results but actually changing his opinion like a scientist.

    here’s Hitchens explaining why religion and gods are BS,the most concise 15 minute summary of why there are no gods you will ever come across:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnMYL8sF7bQ&feature=related

    That doesn’t take 15 minutes, it takes 1 hour 34 minutes. Is that summary somewhere in there?

    Dawkins with is program does a thorough job in explaining how a dumb, non-thinking, careless algorithm can produce complex designed objects, but he also does a good job (even if involuntarily) in demonstrating how a programmer is needed in the first place. Programs don’t just write themselves, they don’t just pop-up without an engineer programming them.
    If we compare Dawkins’ program to the natural process of evolution it is intended to simulate then we can say that evolution is like a piece of software that runs in the universe.
    What is my point?
    Dawkins is needed to write the biomorph program (as described in the blind watchmaker) so much as a god/creator/intelligence/programmer is needed to design the real life evolution program.

    It is evil to comment on a thread without having read all previous comments first.

    In comment number FOUR your exact argument was already made, and comment 38 explains what’s wrong with it. Read all of that, and then we can talk.

    I’m not at all at peace with the fact that you wrote that Dawkins’ program is “random enough”.

    Learn how mutations are actually caused at the molecular level.

  309. #310 David Marjanovi?, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Ouch. Blockquote fail. But it should be pretty obvious where the quote ends.

  310. #311 protestfish
    March 28, 2009

    If anything, this whole Dembski episode quite effectively serves as an example of how ideological blindness can make one unsuitable for a job. And I don’t mean temperementally. I mean functionally.

    Christ, I was programming in BASIC when I was ten. I could’ve understood the Weasel code even then. And I’m by no means a genius.

  311. #312 windy
    March 28, 2009

    If the term “random” doesn’t apply for Dawkins’ program, then the whole idea behind using it fails.

    The mutations in the Weasel program are random with respect to “need”. Just like genetic mutations. That’s all that’s required.

    Actually, if the same can be applied to mutations in general, then it fails – but how can anyone tell?

    What fails, exactly? Do you really think the Dawkins program is somehow unique in using a computer to model a “random” process? What about the hundreds of other programs that do this, like card games and weather prediction models?

  312. #313 Mark B.
    March 28, 2009

    In a way, I’m sorry I brought up the difference between pseudorandom (spelled correctly this time) and random. The truth is for simulations like this, there isn’t any real problem unless your PRNG (psuedorandom number generator) is really crappy. You are going to get a sufficiently good spread of numbers to test your problem. I just think it’s interesting, which is why I mentioned it.

    Now, at the time Dawkins originally wrote his program, the PRNG embedded in BASIC probably was not as rigorous as PRNGs that are in use today. Most of them use some input from the real world like the last keystroke or the system clock to initialize the state of the PRNG and make it perform even closer to a true random distribution. I think my next stochastic simulation will use a Mersenne Twister instead of one of the built in PRNGs. It just sounds cool.

  313. #314 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    March 28, 2009

    Most of them use some input from the real world like the last keystroke or the system clock to initialize the state of the PRNG

    Yes, that is why I had to change initialization on the Apple IIe systems years ago from boot to a timed keystroke. Ah, the olden days. (Stares at present computer, dual 1.4 GHz 64 bit vs 1 MHz 8 bit. Fuck the old days.)

  314. #315 'Tis Himself
    March 28, 2009

    Stares at present computer, dual 1.4 GHz 64 bit vs 1 MHz 8 bit. Fuck the old days.

    Hey Hey 16K

  315. #316 mark
    March 28, 2009

    The program is too complex to understand. Ergo, God wrote it.

  316. #317 Bertok
    March 29, 2009

    @ #313

    The Mersenne Twister is indeed very cool. Matlab uses it as the default PRNG now. Apparently, you can write a multiply-with-carry PRNG that has a significantly longer period than the Twister, but this would only matter if you were faced with coding the Twister on your own (not something I would look forward to in a language like Fortran).

  317. #318 furlan
    March 29, 2009

    Hi cm @(#120)

    >>> import God
    Traceback (most recent call last):
    File ““, line 1, in
    ImportError: No module named God

    That module doesn’t seem to be included in my version… :-p

    ciao,
    f

  318. #320 AussieAndrea
    March 30, 2009

    “a gaggle of stumblebum clowns”…. snigger snigger…
    The ability to make me spit my tea on my keyboard from giggling is HIGHEST on my list of attributes for an ideal man. Wanna go steady?

  319. #321 GAZZA
    March 30, 2009

    Freidenker@307: My program, Dawkins program, and probably the numerous others just use the standard pseudorandom number generator. Generally that’s considered “random enough” for anything non-cryptography related; it’s “not random” to the extent that it is possible to predict the sequence if you know the algorithm and study a few iterations, yes (it’s trivial, of course, if you know the starting seed) – but it’s “random enough” in the sense that the order is not following any particularly obvious pattern.

    However, you could reasonably say that this is weasel talk; fortunately, there is a solution. If you use a linux operation system, most of them come with /dev/random installed as a device driver that uses entropy gathered from various sources to produce what is, to all intents and purposes, truly random numbers. Rewriting the weasel program to use such a generator instead of the pseudo random generator isn’t particularly difficult, and certainly makes no discernible difference to the outcome. Still, money where my mouth is: if you want such a program just to satisfy your curiosity, I’ll throw one together for you.

  320. #322 Selcaby
    March 30, 2009

    Marcus Ranum #41:

    printf(“hello world\n”);
    produces something vastly larger than its original input.

    Assuming this is a C program, the output size is partly due to the need to link against the stdio library, which contains the definition of printf().

  321. #323 y l
    April 3, 2009

    Woo hoo!
    My version!

    http://pastebin.com/f23c277f0

  322. #324 Alan Clarke
    May 17, 2009

    Mark: The program is too complex to understand. Ergo, God wrote it.

    Mark, you may be jumping to an unnecessary conclusion. Maybe the program is too complex for most people to understand but a handful of individuals that DO understand the program exist somewhere. First, we must try to locate these rare individuals. If they cannot be located, then we might conclude that the intelligence of the program’s creator supersedes human intelligence. If the latter is true, and we are talking about the human genetic program, this would add credence to the idea of a God whose attributes are described in the Bible.

  323. #325 Alan Clarke
    May 18, 2009

    I translated the Ian Musgrave / Richard Dawkin?s ?Methinks it is a weasel? program into a 32-bit standalone executable using Powerbasic Command Compiler 5.0 so that anyone can run it without the need for the old and limited 16-bit Quick Basic interpreter. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD. I maintained all of the original procedural constructs (bugs and all) so you can see for yourself how Dawkins? program is a good of example of why ?evolution? cannot and will not happen.

    Seven months ago, I constructed a rebuttal for a similar claim that information could be generated randomly but my argument applies similarly to the program touted on this thread. Click here to see the Powerbasic user forum thread, then look at post #?s 62, 64, 65, and 68. When I called the hand of the evolutionist programmer/evangelist, he knew that my rebuttal had validity so he retreated in post #68 as follows:

    I appreciate the grace and good humour inherent in your reply, and I would like to apologise if it seemed as though I was playing the man instead of the ball, no offence was intended?Ignore the code, it is and was trivial.

    Dawkins? program draws upon the same sleight of hand as the one on the Powerbasic forum. If you don?t understand programming, let me bring it down to Earth for you. A magician will be represented by ?M? and an audience volunteer will be represented by ?A?.

    M: I can derive your name randomly in my mind.
    A: Okay, guess my name!
    M: First you must tell me your name.
    A: My name is ?Myers?.
    M: Allow me to do some random calculations. Wait just two minutes.

    While the audience waits, the magician thinks:

    I?ll try the letter ?A? first. Nope! That doesn?t match the ?M? in ?Myers?. I?ll try ?B? second. Nope that doesn?t match either. I?ll try? (and so on until he reaches ?M?) ?M? matches! Now for the second letter. (and so on until all letter are matched against the target source.)

    M: Sir, I have the answer! Is your name ?Myers??
    A: Yes! It certainly is! How did you figure it out? You are my idol!

    I am not exaggerating the absurdity in this analogy. The magician is insanely bold as evidenced by his asking the audience member for the answer before he starts guessing. Evolution supposedly has no defined ?target?, but the Musgrave / Dawkins program has the ?target? right at the beginning of the program code. Look at the code for yourself and notice how ?methinks it is a weasle? is defined at the beginning (yellow highlighted) exactly as in the magician analogy.

    ‘WEASLE2a.BAS Copyright Ian Musgrave 1997, QB4.x, QBASIC 1.1, PDS 7.X”
    ‘Program to use selection to generate a given string from nonsense
    ‘Inspired by the Richard Dawkins program and the weasle program posted
    ‘by Wesley Elseberry. The only things you can select are the target
    ‘string and the number of offspring. One string is selected to
    ‘”Breed” from out of the offspring. The string is
    ‘duplicated with one random mutation per new string.

    ‘Please feel free to improve this

    DEFINT A-Z

    DECLARE SUB Wait10 ()
    DECLARE SUB Pause ()
    DECLARE SUB CheckFit ()

    COMMON SHARED Target$, TargLen, Diff, BestDiff, BestFit, OffSpring

    ‘Initalize variables
    Target$ = “methinks it is a weasle”
    TargLen = LEN(Target$)
    OffSpring = 10

    DIM SHARED CharVals(1 TO TargLen)
    DIM SHARED TestVals(1 TO TargLen)
    DIM SHARED TestDiff(1 TO OffSpring)
    DIM SHARED Test$(1 TO OffSpring)

    RANDOMIZE TIMER
    ?

    If you don?t think that my magician analogy matches the program, then please be patient. The actual program is even worse:

    M: I am going to do something even more amazing! I will derive first, middle, and last names of individuals while being beaten with a baseball bat! I need another volunteer. Okay sir, what is your name?
    A:
    My name is ?Rev. Big Dumb Chimp?.
    M: Excellent! Your name is lengthy. I will be able to repeat it back to you using the magical power of ?cumulative selection?.
    A: What good is that? I already told you my name!
    M: That is not important. The speed at which I can answer is what you must focus on. And I?ll perform this feat while my assistant beats me with a baseball bat!

    Here is the ?baseball bat? code which is applied to the magician?s head:

    FOR I = 1 TO OffSpring

    Site = (RND * TargLen) + 1
    IF Site > TargLen THEN Site = TargLen
    Char$ = CHR$((INT(RND * 26) + 96))
    IF Char$ = CHR$(96) THEN Char$ = CHR$(32)
    Test$(I) = Parent$
    MID$(Test$(I), Site) = Char$
    NEXT

    ?RND? generates a random character every so often to simulate being thwarted from the final goal, but the thwarting blows of the ?baseball bat? are gentle so as not to cause the magician?s brains to gush out.

    Something of notable interest is the Dawkins? program allows an alternate ?target?. Instead of choosing ?methinks it is a weasel?, let?s try ?lazy programmers evolve?. You?ll notice that the program will run endlessly in vain searching for its target because of programmer Ian Musgrave?s fallibility. How much time would be required for evolution to eliminate this bug through ?natural selection?? Certainly it shouldn?t be too complicated because all that needs to be fixed is changing ?26? to ?27? in the following line of code:

    Char = CHR$((INT(RND * 26) + 96))

    Unfortunately, when the change is made and the program is re-compiled, the following differences exist between the old and new program:

    fc evolution101.exe evolution101_fix.exe

    Comparing files evolution101.exe and evolution101_fix.exe
    00000556: 2F 8E
    00000557: 50 A3
    00000558: 09 71
    00000559: 95 BC
    0000055A: 07 82
    0000055B: 58 47
    0000055C: D1 7F
    0000055D: 42 49
    0000055E: 91 A8
    0000055F: 5F 22
    00000560: 49 E8
    00000561: C4 11
    00000562: 1F 6D
    00000563: 72 F5
    00000564: 6B 0A
    00000565: 47 E6
    00001011: 80 7C
    00001017: 7C 6C
    000012E9: 80 7C
    000012EF: 7C 9C
    00001808: 80 7C
    00008444: 1A 60
    00008448: 60 20
    0000844C: 20 5A
    00008450: 5A 05
    00008454: 05 02
    00008458: 02 0C
    0000845C: 0C 07
    00008460: 07 08
    00008464: 08 1A

    The time required for these changes to happen randomly is going to be more than the age of the universe. What’s more, source code is meaningless unless there is an “interpreter”. Thinking that the two evolved independently and simultaneously is sheer madness. Could a simple compiler (simple compared to the human genome) such as Powerbasic 5.0 “evolve” by natural means? The ?faith? of evolutionists exceeds that of any Christian I know.

    I?ve already accepted Ian Musgrave?s offer to ?improve? his program by writing the ?Life by Chance? program included in the above download link. This program better approximates evolution?s attribute of ?no goal?. Assuming that that a protein indeed formed by chance in a primordial soup (or a substrate), how long did it take? This first step is a big leap indeed since the mechanisms of ?evolution? are not applicable to non-living things and we must rely on pure chance. Maybe life will form by chance if we get millions of people running the program simultaneously. Good luck!