Creationists are idiots - Part 8,246,532

I've largely been ignoring their stupid lately. But the sheer idiocy of a ID "mathematician" Granville Sewell takes the cake for this truly idiotic straw-man argument.

It starts with an interesting question though:

I speculated on what would happen if we constructed a gigantic computer model which starts with the initial conditions on Earth 4 billion years ago and tries to simulate the effects that the four known forces of physics (the gravitational and electromagnetic forces and the strong and weak nuclear forces) would have on every atom and every subatomic particle on our planet. If we ran such a simulation out to the present day, I asked, would it predict that the basic forces of Nature would reorganize the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers with supersonic jets parked on deck, and computers connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards?

Well, chances are no, that in simulation you would never get the same result due to the limitations of chaos theory and the dependence upon initial conditions which would lead to highly unpredictable results. But it's kind of an interesting idea, even if Sewell is probably about the millionth to have it. He leaps off the cliffs of dumb, however, when he suggests the inability of such a program to predict life itself is some kind of argument for ID.

A friend read my article and said, computers have advanced a lot in the last seven years, I think we could actually try such a simulation on my new laptop now. So I wrote the program-in Fortran, naturally-and we tried it. It took several minutes, and at the end of the simulation we dumped the final coordinates of all the particles into a rather large data file, then
ran MATLAB to plot them. Some interesting things had happened, a few mountains and valleys and volcanos had formed, but no computers, no encyclopedias, and no cars or trucks. My friend said, let me see your program. After examining it, he exclaimed, no wonder, you treated the
Earth as a closed system, order can't increase in a closed system. The Earth is an open system, you need to take into account the effect of the sun's energy. So I modified the boundary conditions to simulate the effect of the entering solar radiation, and reran it. This time some more interesting things happened, but still no libraries or computers...

Now I realize this moron is trying to be tongue-in-cheek with this assertion, and as always his "friend" is the imaginary evilutionist who proposes arguments no one in his right mind would. He just proposes classic idiotic strawman after strawman. For one thing, the most powerful computers in the world can not predict the folding of a single protein, let alone every single atom in some moronic simulation of a planet. But that doesn't mean that proteins aren't operating according to physical laws, or that we can't learn about their functions without first predicting their function according to some non-existent deterministic physics of atoms. Talk about an impossible expectation. He then goes on to completely misrepresent quantum mechanics, as well as using an idiotic quote to suggest that quantum mechanics is somehow indistinguishable from the supernatural (quite the opposite, as Einstein was concerned, it seemed to rule out the possibility of the supernatural). But even worse, this all boils down to Sewell proposing, yet again, the argument that evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.

Well, he said, of course the problem is you haven't taken into account the one force in the universe which CAN violate the second law of thermodynamics and create order out of disorder--natural selection. You mean there is a fifth force--why didn't you say so? Just give me the equations for this force and I will add it to my model. He said, I can't give you the equations, because it isn't actually a physical force, it doesn't actually move particles. So what does it do, I asked? Well, you see, there are certain collections of atoms, called living things, which have incredibly complex structures, and are able to do remarkable things. It almost seems as if the second law doesn't apply to them (until they "die", then they do decompose into simpler components): they are able to duplicate themselves, and pass their complex structure on to their descendents perfectly generation after generation, even correcting genetic errors. He went on to talk about how genetic accidents and survival of the fittest produce even more complex collections of atoms, and how something called "intelligence" allows some of these collections of atoms to design computers and laser printers and the Internet. But when he finished, I still didn't know how to incorporate natural selection--or intelligence--into my model, so I never did get the simulation to work. Maybe I just needed to use a better random number generator.

What an idiot. If one could actually conceive of such a model, separate equations would not be necessary for natural selection, because for the billionth time, evolution does not violate the second law. Worse, he seems to suggest that living things must be somehow constantly god-driven, as apparently we are immune to the second law until we die.

It's hard to even sort out all the idiocy, innumeracy, poor-reasoning and straw men arguments in this essay. But I think it illustrates, again, the fundamental dishonesty of intelligent design creationists. For one, none of us would make such incredibly stupid arguments that Sewell attributes to his evilutionist "friend". A computer simulation will never be sophisticated enough to model the whole planet and if it did, there is not some deterministic path that would replicate life as we know it. No one in their right mind thinks natural selection requires its own set of physics or is somehow inconsistent with the second law. And most embarrassing of all, Sewell fundamentally does not understand how entropy works, not even in living things apparently. Life is not inconsistent with increasing entropy, our cells expend huge amounts of energy - yes ultimately derived from the sun - to maintain their ordered state against the natural drift towards equilibrium. The stupid, it burns. And to think, to this day, these idiots can still propose that evolution, or living things themselves, are somehow a 2nd law violation, like every biologist and physicist in the world would ignore how life is inconsistent with a fundamental law of physics, is so incredibly intellectually dishonest I think this essay should stand as an example of why Intelligent Design can never be a science. Uncommon Descent suffers from such terrible crank magnetism they should be ashamed. Of course, they never could be ashamed because that would require insight into how terrible these arguments actually are. Instead, I think these twits actually think they're being clever.
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PS, I'd love to see MarkCC's take on such obviously innumerate assertions that Sewell makes.

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As of 2/24/2008, Sewell has just responded to this, pretending that he just noticed it. To make discussions easier to follow, I have responded with a new post here, and I would appreciate it if comments could be posted there, to keep it all in one place. My SciBling Mark Hofnagle over at the…
Granville Sewell, over at UD, has decided to pretend that he just discovered my earlier critique of his "though experiment" where he claims to simulate the universe. The reason that I say "pretend" is that Sewell originally edited the article that I was mocking in response to my post; now, months…
The folks over at Uncommon Descent have unveiled a new blogger: mathematician Granville Sewell. He's the latest know-nothing to convert a comically simplistic version of the second law of thermodynamics into an anti-evolution argument. Of course, this is one of those shark-jumping, litmus-test…
Remember Granville Sewell? He's the alleged mathematician who wrote the very non-mathematical "A Mathematician's View of Evolution", which I fisked [a few weeks ago](http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2006/10/second_law_slop_from_granville…). Well, he's back with a response to the people who…

Sewell is a renowned ego fueled crank. He's always coming up with new equations and theories that he names after himself or attributes to himself. Not to mention all the other gibberish he spews at the clown show. Like many over "there", he's a joke.

This reminds me that in the late 60s, early 70s, attempts were made to model an ecosystem. It took about 3 months to collect the input data to run the model for 3 days and was not particularly close to reality. The main proponent of this did an excellent selling job and for a while funds were rolling in, but as you might expect he came a cropper when performance fell well short of the promises.

Regarding the SLoT - Has any creationist given a reason for all the world's physicists ignoring its violation by the theory of evolution? Some mass conspiracy? But why? Do they truly believe that every last physicist is an evil atheist bent on bringing about the downfall of religion?

By Richard Simons (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink

I think Sewell has discovered a new form of inference, though:

"When we guess at the output of an imaginary computer simulation, we find that the simulation agrees with our position. Therefore, our position is correct, QED."

The fundamental problem here is not the fallacious arguments or the strawmen, it's the flat-out, bald-faced lying.

So I wrote the program-in Fortran, naturally-and we tried it. It took several minutes, and at the end of the simulation we dumped the final coordinates of all the particles into a rather large data file, then ran MATLAB to plot them.

Ummm, no. You didn't. Even if you had the combined computing power of every machine on the planet, such a simulation would take longer than the life of the Universe to run.

Yeah, he's quite stupid, but why is this relatively recent IDiotry given such a low number? When did you start counting, an hour ago?

Anyway, read the quote about the Fortran program, and well, this big gush of red stuff sprayed out my ear. I think I'll lie down for a bit.

Is that the proof that the Designer doesn't use good ol' Fortran, but a more modern language ?

By Christophe Thill (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink

I wish scientists, unlike ID cranks, could simply carry out hypothetical experiments that automatically generate the results that we want. It would be much easier to finish my thesis if I could just SAY I ran my experiments and everything confirmed my theory.

Here's my rebuttal to Sewell: I fired up Excel and wrote a little macro in Visual Basic simulating God. I inputted the equations for an all-powerful force who knows everything and can do anything at anytime. After pressing enter and letting Excel solve it all over lunch, I was surprised to find out that life as we know it was not the result. All I got was a bunch of animals running around some beautiful garden. There was no mention at all of Brittany Spear's horrible VMA performance! ERGO: There must not be some intelligent designer behind it all.

See how simple that was? And see how it got everyone absolutely nowhere?

By Harry Abernathy (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink

Is there any sort of crankery (crankiness?) which will nit invoke quantum mechanics?

khan:

Well, there are people who claim that quantum mechanics is wrong (sometimes mixed up with a confused Einstein-was-wrong anti-Semitic ramble). We've also got folks who are adamant in insisting that a "classical reality" must "underlie" quantum physics, and they can be pretty cranky about it. Stephen Wolfram is a (perhaps moderate) example of the latter.

Dunc and Bronze dog, can you explain to this non-computer nerd type person what you mean?

Sure, guthrie: If I understand it correctly, he's claiming to have run a simulation as complex as the whole of Earth, down to particles and thermodynamic reactions, on a computer significantly smaller than Earth, with fewer components than there are things being simulated.

In short, we're supposed to be shocked that illions upon illions of bytes that would be needed to describe complex things like libraries and computers can't evolve inside a hundred-or-so gigabyte hard drive.

Guthrie: I'll try to answer your call for help, although Dunc and Bronze Dog can supplement as they see fit.

An example of computational chemistry: I'm a materials scientist who studies how certain reactions occur inside of fuel cells. I have a coworker who uses quantum chemistry to predict properties of the molecules involved in these reactions. I then measure these properties to confirm theory and his calculations.

Now, to simply calculate the interactions between a single oxygen molecule and a model surface (composed of, let's say, a few hundred atoms), it can take DAYS of computer processing time to get usable results. And we're talking about reactions that occur within nanoseconds. And the software we use was developed by scores of people over decades of research.

So for Sewell to say he himself wrote a little FORTRAN (a basic computer language good for number crunching) program and was able to simulate billions of years of interactions between a whole planet's worth of atoms under nonideal conditions (and we're talking billions of billions of billions of billions of... you get the point... atoms) ON A LAPTOP IN A FEW MINUTES... Well, that's just crazy talk. Either that, or he's just presenting an overly simplified mental experiment to try to prove his "logical" point.

Think about it: with the hundreds of millions of dollars available to Hollywood, they cannot do animation that is perfectly lifelike (e.g., they can't simultaneously animate every pore on and every hair on a man's face). If that can't be done, how could some novice like Sewell use a friend's laptop computer to somehow simulate all the atoms in the world over a billion year using more sophisticated physics than the top computer animators use?

I hope that addresses your concerns.

By Harry Abernathy (not verified) on 26 Sep 2007 #permalink

Sewell writes:

But when he finished, I still didn't know how to incorporate ... intelligence--into my model

Or apparently into his basic thinking process either.

Well, BD and Harry Abernathy seem to have answered that question fairly comprehensively... All I'll add is:

1. It takes a modern desktop PC several months to run a fairly coarse-grained slab ocean climate model (i.e. a hugely simplified model, with 1000km grid squares, using a bunch of rules-of-thumb rather than first principles) for 120 years.

2. To accurately simulate a single uranium atom from first principles is extremely computationally challenging, and I'm not at all sure that anyone's ever done it.

3. Our current understanding of physics is wholly inadequate to model the world from first principles. There's that whole issue with having to unify quantum mechanics with general relativity, which no-one has managed to crack yet.

4. Even if such a thing were possible (which it isn't), it's not the sort of project you knock out in your lunch hour - it's more of a life's-work kind of thing - and you'd win several Nobel prizes along the way.

And most embarrassing of all, Sewell fundamentally does not understand how entropy works, not even in living things apparently.

Even more embarrassing for him is that he wrote an anti-evolution 2LOT addendum in his math textbook, where he both manage to display his ignorance of physics (unwarrantably assuming perfect differentials) and errors of math.

The later, in the form of sign errors that makes his 'derivation' of a model for entropy calculations go through, may or may not be accidentally introduced. In any case it should embarrass him.

By Torbjörn Lars… (not verified) on 27 Sep 2007 #permalink

Right, Ex-drone, I too noted that part about how he couldn't incorporate intelligence in his model.

So we are led to conclude that Sewell claims he has proved that intelligent design is also impossible.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 27 Sep 2007 #permalink

He then goes on to completely misrepresent quantum mechanics, as well as using an idiotic quote to suggest that quantum mechanics is somehow indistinguishable from the supernatural ...

I'm no scholar on Arthur Eddington, but he was a member of the pre-quantum generation and may well have been part of those who never really accepted parts of quantum mechanics and its implications.

As another famous physicist noted much later:

a href="http://www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Quotations/Feynman.html">I think that I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics. [Richard Feynman, The character of physical law (Cambridge, USA, 1967)]

[I note that this quote exists in several trunkated and/or disfigured forms on the web.]

While Eddington was an expert on and early proponent of relativity theory, and as late as 1923 wrote a well recieved treatise on the subject, he also dabbled with numerological and algebraical interpretations of fundamental constants.

I have gotten (the unsubstantiated) impression that these things became a source of ridicule in his later days. So I tend to take quotes on him or of him with a pinch of salt.

... (quite the opposite, as Einstein was concerned, it seemed to rule out the possibility of the supernatural).

Einstein argued against (the later verified) lack of local hidden variables that could combine quantum mechanics with relativity in a point particle frame. But its true that this makes supernaturalism an even unlikelier position.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 27 Sep 2007 #permalink

Apparently...

Granville is performing a tongue-in-cheek thought experiment, to demonstrate how absurd certain aspects of Darwinian speculation (oops, theory) are.

Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference when the serious posts by Sewell and others at the clown show are on the same level as their "Street Theater"

The easier test is to take the Bible and see if it predicts Sewell exists.

It doesn't, therefore his arguments are specious.

By Ample Riddick (not verified) on 27 Sep 2007 #permalink

Rev Bigdumbchimp,
I think both MarkCC and I both realized this was a joke, but it's such an idiotic formulation, and set of conclusions, and ultimately lands as a 2nd law argument. It's really just a breathtakingly stupid underhand shot at evolution, that when exposed as being complete idiocy he can just fall back on "parody" - as UD usually does when they get caught being full of shit.

It's really an inexcusable piece of stupidity, joke or not.

D'oh! I should have seen that myself, but unfortunately I am finding my brain skips the creationists haverings and I read the comments more attentively. Thanks, that all makes perfect sense now.

The easier test is to take the Bible and see if it predicts Sewell exists.

Matthew 24:24:

For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

QED

I have to disagree somewhat wrt quantum mechanics. Einstein's concern was with the lack of determinism in QM; in his famous statement that "[god] does not play dice", he was using "god" metaphorically, not literally (I'm drawing here principally on ch. 25 of Pais' excellent Einstein biography).

wrt Torbj�rn Larsson's argument, I think the response would be that an omnipresent supernatural entity would be a non-local hidden variable, in which case Bell's inequality doesn't apply. I might even argue that the indeterminacy in QM allows for a more immanent deity than the classical mechanics clockworks, though that argument is perilously close to "god of the gaps" territory.

By Dan Riley (not verified) on 28 Sep 2007 #permalink

I think both MarkCC and I both realized this was a joke, but it's such an idiotic formulation, and set of conclusions, and ultimately lands as a 2nd law argument. It's really just a breathtakingly stupid underhand shot at evolution, that when exposed as being complete idiocy he can just fall back on "parody" - as UD usually does when they get caught being full of shit.

It's really an inexcusable piece of stupidity, joke or not.

Yeah like I said it's hard to tell their serious idiocy from their "jokes". I actually fell for it at first.

Catching up on old threads:

Dan Riley:

Agreed. But these clockwork gods are indistinguishable from last thursdays and solipsism. What QM contributes is a problem for isolated miracles.

By Torbjörn Larsson, OM (not verified) on 04 Oct 2007 #permalink