Dembski does it again

Unbelievable. Dembski is bragging about getting a peer-reviewed paper published — in IEEE Transactions, so not a biology journal, and it's a paper about search algorithms — and he misrepresents Dawkins again. He just had to toss in his garbled version of the "Methinks it is a weasel" program in which Dembski has consistently gotten the algorithm stupidly wrong, and he does it again. The man really doesn't understand selection at all.

To make it even more amusing and even more like a standard creationist on the web, people pointed out to him in the comments that he was still getting it wrong, and what does he say?

I'm growing weary of these quibblings and thus shutting the comments off.

Of course, Bill, of course. We expect you to stick your fingers in your ears and shout "LALALALALA" all the time. Why not just get rid of the troublesome comments at your site altogether?

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William Dembski spoke at the University of Chicago in August, and a video of the talk is available. I tried to watch it, I really did, but I ended up skipping through most of it (one of the advantages of seeing it on youtube!). Here's my rather stream-of-consciousness monolog as I was flicking like…
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X-Lurker @ 194:

If you're not a YEC, then simple duration (many millions of years), statistics (at a constant rate, the more time that passes, the closer the conditions become to something very improbable happening just because SO MUCH has happened), chemistry (the interactions possible between elements & compounds, at a pretty basic level of existence), & the numeric populations / interactions involved, which can be seen today in any science lab, allow for a simple, if arduous, proof or disproof.

For example, if there's a 1 in a million chance of something happening to a person in a given time period, stats tells us that it would happen roughly 300 times in that time period in the US, just based on the census. This is not a prediction for any given individual, of course.

So, across hundreds of millions of years, in a hot, chaotic environment, with billions, if not trillions, if not MANY more, particles at play, it's perfectly possible to believe that self-replicating molecules developed *many* times, just on the basis of the magnitudes involved. Some were destroyed by their environments, some became fuel for others, some couldn't adapt, etc. We are the results, in this view, of millions of years of the winners in this contest, those who survived to reproduce in the environment(s) of their respective era(s).

Sure, it's improbable, in the 10 or 100 based numbers we're accustomed to dealing with (who really thinks in a finer scale than percentages on an hourly, daily basis? I'd guess a small percentage of dedicated numbers people (scientists, financial traders, etc.)). Just because it's improbable, doesn't mean it's impossible, just very unlikely.

Tell you what: Here's a way to prove your point. Learn (or use, you may have these tools already) stats on chemistry, on the populations involved (elements & compounds), on the time scale involved, then come back & prove conclusively that not only is it impossible for life to have originated in that way, but also that not enough time has passed for the observed complexity to *evolve* (this last will require a detour into biology, but if the first goes well for you, it will provide encouragement).

Failing that, shut up, or offer a falsifiable hypothesis, an experiment to test it, and results that can be reproduced by an honorable, ethical person, regardless of whether or not said person agrees with you.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink

X-Lurker @ 222:

Mmmm, this could be fun! I'm going to interfile quotes with commmentary, too, but don't know how to pull the indent stunt yet, so here goes:

First quote: "No, I am not arguing anything of the kind. I am not even claiming that I necessarily have an objective purpose. I am merely arguing that if we are the result of a blind, indifferent, unguided process, we simply cannot have an objective purpose, nothing more."
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Logical, true, & not contested. You, however, have implied (by disputing & disdaining subjective purpose) that you wish to believe in some objective purpose, but have yet to provide more proof than your SUBJECTIVE desire for some such agent to exist.
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Second quote: "No, I'm not a Calvinist, but it's amusing that you would jump to such a conclusion, even provisionally. As far as free will is concerned, if God does exist (humor me), and if God gives us a choice to either comply with his "objective purpose" or selfishly seek our own "subjective purpose", how is free will violated in any way?"
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So you're allowed to jump to conclusions & call it a 'logical conclusion', but we must be painfully, pedantically rigorous? As to 'god'(s) giving us a choice, there went Objective Purpose, & Objective Purpose is the reason here given why you postulate 'god'(s).
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Third quote: "This is based on a false, or at least unfounded, premise, namely, the premise that we have no choice but to follow this agent's objective purpose for us, and that free will is an illusion. Also, the idea that any "objective purpose" must necessarily be "completely opaque to us" is another unfounded premise. But again, what if that agent gives us a choice up front, between its objective purpose and our subjective purpose? That would completely undermine your premise, yes?"
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If we don't follow the agent's objective, then we weren't built for an objective purpose or built wrong, take your pick. If we have free will, and the agent built us for an objective purpose, then we are built defective, which your agent (omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent) is by definition incapable of building. As for the 'unfounded premise' that an objective purpose could be other than "completely opaque to us", it is NOT unfounded, it follows directly from objective purpose. If we are built to fulfill an objective purpose, then we are given no leeway to deviate, and seeking to understand the objective purpose distracts from the actual attainment. So if we have free will, it's a design flaw.

And as to the purpose being NOT 'necessarily "completely opaque to us" ', I must demand at this juncture *your* objective, reproducible evidence that such an agent exists & has the objective which you attribute to said agent.

I know enough religion to know that it refuses to prove the existence of the god(s) in which it believes. After all, said god(s) is/are the *reason* for the religion, so if they're not axiomatic, everything else following fails. In logic, "From a false premise, anything follows".

Also if subjective purpose is unworthy, as you have implied strongly, that is only a problem for YOU. Many people have found and continue to find full, enjoyable lives of meaning and service without the need of your god(s), or any other.

What you esteem is impossible of proof, or of disproof. You accept it, we don't. Why do you demand that objective reality correspond to your beliefs, as long as the lack of such correspondence does not physically hurt you or socially deprive you in any fashion? Or are you all about controlling *others*, and you don't care how?
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Fourth quote: "So, in spite of my explicit fair warning that my definitions were not meant to be absolute or all-inclusive, you insist on treating them that way anyway.

Since God ostensibly inhabits a realm that is eternal, it would seem to follow that his whims cannot be "fleeting", but must themselves be eternal, which would subsequently undermine the claim that they're "whims". In addition, since this God presumably created this Universe and everything in it, it stands to reason that his "understanding of reality", at least as it pertains to this Universe, would be substantial, perhaps even complete and total, in stark contrast to our (extremely) limited understanding."
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science is not about partial definitions. It attempts to find 'absolute or all-inclusive' rules. And we use what we've got until something better shows up AND IS PROVEN. Such a caveat severly weakens your argument. As to god(s) 'inhabiting a realm that is eternal', again, I'm going to need proof of that, not just a bald assertion that it exists. And in such an 'eternal realm', ALL desires / objectives / whims MUST be fleeting, for any measure of time is so infinitesimally small as to be nonexistent against eternity. So either god(s) never change their minds (there goes Moses, Noah, the whole New Testament) or god(s)' "whims" as you call them must, by definition, be fleeting.

As to our '(extremely) limited understanding.' By your tenets, we shouldn't even be looking, since we can never attain godhood. So why don't you give up all that humanity has attained via science by dint of our subjective purpose(s) which you scorn, and see how long you last?

It's morally dishonest to depend on that which you disdain, whether you're talking natural philosophy or biblical philosophy (coveting is a form of disdain for another's rights, after all, killing & stealing is disdain for their lives & property, etc.) That, of course, would include computers, the essence of god(s)less science, where everything is reduced to 1's & 0's...but of course you are trying to fight what you perceive as 'the devil' with its own tools, but that's not morally allowed. Morally, the ends DO NOT justify the means.

Also, you're claiming to know the mind of your god(s). Quoting from what is likely to be your own book: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matthew 24:36&change). If we can't know something THAT simple about the nature of god(s), how can we claim to know the mind of god(s)? Not from their revealed writings, which in the case of your likely book is full of contradictions (see http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions… for a quick list).

So where are *your* postulates & axioms really coming from? Civil society, which started with that rulebook (which cribbed from all manner of earlier codexes), but adapted it over time? Sounds likely to me, which means that either your god(s) is/are adapting, which you've expressed distaste / disbelief about, or your god(s) silly whims, and thus rules beyond solid social morals, are not only useless but harmful.

Fifth quote: "How does this follow? Can we not, of our free will, choose to follow this external agent's objective purpose for us? Or are you claiming that free will and objective purpose are mutually exclusive? If so, I have already shown that they are not, necessarily, if God gives us the choice between his objective purpose and our subjective one"

Again, if we can even *conceive* of the idea of purpose, agent's objective or our own subjective, then the agent creating us either isn't interested in achieving the stated objective, or designed us wrong, willfully, since with infinite knowledge & an eternity to prepare, no mistake could creep into the plan or execution. So by your standards, we were purposely designed imperfect, thus have no truly objective purpose, unless that purpose is to determine whether it's possible to flout the agent's *stated* objective purpose, and how long it will take to achieve said *stated* objective purpose. By that standard, deviating from the agent's purpose is a measure of the success of the agent's experiment.

By Anonymous Coward (not verified) on 03 Jan 2010 #permalink