Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Evolution -- the Propetual Motion Machine
Basically, the argument is like this:
- The search space for finding a beneficial set of mutations for a changed environment is very, very huge
- Bernoulli's principle of insufficient reason states that without knowledge, all changes are on an equal playing field, thus the changes must be a blind search
- Blind search even in a small search space with a small target is impossible (i.e. only 500 bits)
- Therefore, in order to actually achieve success, one must use information to structure the search space to get results quicker
- However, if the search space is optimized for certain sets of problems, it will be unoptimized for others. Search optimizations require problem-specific knowledge to work at all
- Therefore, evolution cannot occur unless organisms have been designed with optimizations to find relevant solutions
Darwinists see evolution as some sort of magical problem-solving device. It violates all laws of probability and optimization, yet somehow people still cling to it, because, since they know God doesn't exist, it must be true!
Using a different approach, I have written a short article on the algorithmic issues that make evolution impossible.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Darwinism and the Integration of the Sciences
Darwinian evolutionary biologists have enjoyed a privileged position of authority, especially in academia, because anyone who questions their theses, whether on the grounds of theoretical principle or evidence, is immediately labeled an enemy of science. Never mind that the hypotheses are built on a foundation of wishful speculation, and that contradictory evidence is consistently ignored or dismissed with ridicule.
The essence of the Darwinian evolutionary hypothesis can be comprehended with little effort by almost anyone: Vary stuff randomly, and keep the stuff that works the best. The stuff that works the best will make copies of itself. This explains everything!
But an interesting turn of events has occurred in the last 30 or so years.
Scientists in other fields have started to question the “vary stuff” part of the hypothesis. Engineers, mathematicians, computer programmers and information theorists understand the statistical problems presented by the phenomenon of combinatoric explosion, which evolutionary biologists ignore as being surmountable with time and probabilistic resources, with no hard analysis of the probabilities involved.
Great post! Also, you all might want to take a look at Part 2 of Paul Nelson's account of his debate with Sarkar.
Friday, March 17, 2006
Semi-Meiosis and Prescribed Evolution
Davison's hypothesis has been refined over the years, and it has recently emerged as the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. The idea is that ontogeny (development from an embryo to a full-grown organism) and phylogeny (the diversification of organisms through time) are similar processes. Both follow a planned set of changes, which are self-limitted. In ontogeny, development stops in the adult form. In phylogeny, progress stops when the organisms have finished diversifying. He views obligatory sexual reproduction as the halting event for phylogeny. Semi-meiosis is a form of reproduction that Davison hypothesizes was the norm before obligate sexual reproduction, which enabled major gene reorganizations without having the problems of finding a suitable mate, or diluting the effect of the change.
Anyway, this is more-or-less the quintessential non-Creationist Intelligent Design hypothesis. It has evolution proceeding, but proceeding not by random processes, but according to an orderly, more-or-less predetermined process.
Interestingly, while Davison thinks absolutely that large-scale evolution has occurred in the past, he similarly thinks that it is _not_ happening today. He gives evidence for this in his paper Is Evolution Finished? The reason for the change is that, like ontogeny, phylogeny has a final form that it attains, after which it stops developing -- it self-limits.
Anyway, as a Creationist, I disagree with several of his points, but they are all worth consideration. Kurt Wise has put forward some similar ideas, though in a much more limitted form (see pgs 7-11 of that paper). Davison does not have much tolerance for Creationists such as me, as he puts it "A past evolution is undeniable. A present evolution is undemonstrable."
Also of interest is that I think Davison has come to disagree with monophyly. He does not view man as a separate creation as Creationists do, but I think I remember him mentioning that Primates may in fact be a separate starting point of phylogeny, as well as other taxonomic groups.
Dr. Davison -- if you are reading this and I have misrepresented your ideas in any way, please correct me in the comments below.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
The reliance of evolution on theological arguments
[note -- in all quotes, italics are in the original, bold is mine]
Evolutionists use two primary arguments for their position. The argument from imperfection (as in Gould's The Panda's Thumb) and the argument from homology. Nelson's basic point is that the former requires a definition of perfection which is both defensible and measureable, and the latter only qualifies evolution into the race -- it does not set it up as a preferential system unless empirical evidence that such homologies could be the result of common descent are found. His basic point is thus:
If homology provides evidence for descent, it must do so not because homologies are inconsistent with what a rational creator would have done. A rational creator might have done any number of things. Rather, homologies appear to mark out a pathway of natural transformation characterizing a continuous geometry of organic form, i.e., of descent. Is the appearance of natural transformation more than an appearance? Is the geometry of nature profoundly continuous? These questions want empirical answers. Speculations about the freedom of the creator should be seen for what they are, and abandoned.
So, basically, in order to prove the homology argument, it requires someone to show that there is in fact such continuous variation between creatures, not just that such homologies are not consistent with what one person's conception of a creator might do. The ultimate argument is that such a way of designing is fundamentally uncreative. In response, Nelson uses a quote by Lovtrup:
Why not? Even the Creator may use a good device more than once. Yes, why not indeed? Darwin's arguments against this possibility are postulates, unfounded by any evidence.
Nelson also notes that the common objection that an engineer could design better limbs than vertebrate limbs is a wholly unsubstantiated objection. It was made in 1859 by Owen with no support, and has been repeated ever since.
Nelson attacks the arguments from imperfection by two means. The first is to show that optimality depends precisely on (a) knowing precisely what it is that is being optimized, (b) knowing what such an optimization would look like, and (c) being able to compare what exists to what should be. (a) and (b) are wholly untenable. First of all, it presupposes a particular theology, namely one with an omnipotent Creator. While that is fine for debating Creationists (that is in fact what Creationists generally believe), it does not provide support for evolutionary theory over and above other theological outlooks. The dichotomy between Christianity and evolution is a false one, and one on which evolution rests. If the Christian conception of God were to be invalidated, evolution does not follow before a different conception of God. Of course, we do not even have to go there. Viewed individually, an organism may be viewed imperfect, when in fact if it were viewed combined with the rest of the system, the system my be judged perfect. Nelson says:
...the necessary finitude or limits of scientific observation may lead us to infer mistakenly that an organic design (e.g. the panda's thumb) is imperfect, when its imperfection is only apparent, that is, local. On this view, any judgment of perfection or imperfection must be qualified with a proviso that perfection -- defined as divinely created perfection -- can be judged only on the scale of the whole creation. And there is no reason for a creator to optimize one part of the universe at the expense of the whole.
Nelson doesn't mention this, but determining whether a given observation is optimized in relation to some idea of free will makes this determination almost impossible. Since we can't design free will, we don't know what sorts of tradeoffs are involved, and certainly don't know what perfection or imperfection would look like in such systems.
Nelson notes another problem with the imperfection argument. Namely it is that of cooption. Many evolutionists use co-option as evidence against design. If something looks rigged, if it looks like a secondary adaptation of an existing element, then it could not have been designed. However, this supposes that there exists only static theories of creation -- i.e. that all ecosystems are set up as they were from creation. But almost no creationist holds on to this view. Most creationists hold to dynamic theories, where a created kind has had secondary causes affecting their interaction with the environment, including speciation. It is essentially a false dichotomy which is set up. Either one believes in secondary causes in the current natural order, or one believes in divine fiat. Left out is the possibility of multiple, distinct creations which are further diversified by secondary causes.
Nelson makes a convincing case that a large portion of evolutionary theory rests not on empirical evidence, but on theological arguments, and bad theological arguments at that.
Yet many hold that the Darwinian revolution entailed the surrender of theological speculation in biology. Indeed, many scientists and philosophers would argue that natural science and theology view each other across a largely (if not completely) impassable epistemological gulf. Science, on this view, is by its very nature committed to a thoroughgoing methodological naturalism. Hence, the problem which opened this essay: the persistence of Darwinian theological themata in evolutionary theory is inconsistent with the doctrine of methodological naturalism.
But should science necessarily be committed to methodological naturalism? The shortcomings of theological arguments for evolution may be evidence enough that science has no business meddling in theology (or vice versa). I draw a different moral, however. Science will have to deal with theological problems if science is a truth-seeking enterprise; theology must confront the patterns of scientific experience if it hopes to speak to all of reality. What this essay helps to show, I think, is how very easy wit will be to do both theology and science badly. That is not a brief for methodological naturalism, however. It is a tale of caution about how we should go about explaining the origin of the world's creatures.
As for methodological naturalism, I should point out that Nelson has a short but interesting brief out on whether methodological naturalism should be assumed in science. Basically he points out that (a) we cannot know a priori if naturalism is true, therefore (b) using naturalistic assumptions means that we may be unnecessarily limitting ourselves to possible true explanations, and (c) searching for false explanations is not useful.
If the role of theology in biology is of interest to you, I suggest you also check out Hunter's book Darwin's God. It makes a lot of the same points here. However, it has many, many examples, and many more specific questions. Hunter does a better job at the specifics (after all, it's a full book), while Nelson does a better job of isolating the specific theological/philosophical questions that are at issue. Darwin's Proof is Hunter's follow-up work, but I have not read that book yet.