A Designed Object’s Entropy often Increases with Its Complexity

[This is an abridged version of a post at UD: A Designed Objects Entropy Must Increase for Its Design Complexity to Increase, Part 2. I post it under a different title at TSZ, because upon consideration, the new title should be above reproach. What I put forward should happily apply to man-made designs. A student recently wanted to challenge his professors regarding the 2nd law and evolution, and I pointed him to my essay. If that student is a creationist, at least I feel I did my job and made him understand science better than he would from most creationist literature. Hence, the rather torturous discussions at TSZ and UD had benefit in furthering this student’s understanding of science. If he is going to reject Darwinism, he should reject it for good reasons, not because of the 2nd law.]

In order for a biological system to have more biological complexity, it often requires a substantial increase in thermodynamic entropy, not a reduction of it, contrary to many intuitions among creationists and IDists. This essay is part II of a series that began with Part 1
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Materialism and Emergentism

At Uncommon Descent, Elizabeth mentioned that she liked what I was calling “emergentism”. Here’s a brief overview, in contrast with dualism and materialism, that perhaps will spark some discussion.

(1) Dualism gives us The Bifurcated World: the world consists of two fundamentally different kinds of substance (mind and matter), each of which is characterized by an essential property (mental and physical), and is constituted by logically and metaphysically distinct substantial particulars (minds and bodies). Nothing is essentially both physical and mental, although some things may exist as temporary unions of mind and body. (How logically and metaphysically distinct things can causally interact (or even appear) to causally interact is a serious problem.)

(2) Materialism gives us The Layered World: the world consists of a series of “levels”, each of which hierarchically imposed on the others, and each level supervenes on the level below it. Mental facts –> biological facts –> chemical facts –> molecular, atomic, and quantum facts. (A major problem with this view is that each ‘level’ has its own conceptual, ontological, and causal integrity — whereas some philosophers hold that biology is irreducible to chemistry for merely epistemological and methodological reasons, I hold the stronger view that biology is irreducible to chemistry for ontological (or metaphysical) reasons.)

(3) Emergentism gives us the Dynamic World: the world consists of processes that are inherently active and reactive, energetic, and operating at all ‘scales’ of temporal and spatial resolution — some processes are vast and slow, others small and fast, and many in-between. Some of these processes are merely physico-chemical, some are biological, and some are mental. The basic elements in this ontology are processes, not substances (as in dualism) or even particles (as in materialism).

As I see it, the frequently-heard allegation (made by dualists and theists) that emergentism is an intellectual fraud depends on whether there is a difference that makes a difference between emergence and supervenience.

What qualifies as science in the wonderful world of Disney

[cross posted at uncommondescent: What Qualifies as Science in the Wonderful World of Disney]

The scientific enterprise entails:

1. observation
2. hypothesis
3. testing

Consider this passage from the class text of an introductory cosmology class I took once upon a time:

galaxies farther than 4300 megaparsecs from us are currently moving away from us at speeds greater than that of light. Cosmological innocents sometimes exclaim, “Gosh! Doesn’t this violate the law that massive objects can’t travel faster than the speed of light?” Actually, it doesn’t. The speed limit that states that massive objects must travel with v < c relative to each other is one of the results of special relativity, and refers to the relative motion of objects within a static space. In the context of general relativity, there is no objection to having two points moving away from each other at superluminal speed due to the expansion of space.

page 39
Introduction to Cosmology
by Barbara ryden

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A resolution of the ‘all-heads paradox’

There has been tremendous confusion here and at Uncommon Descent about what I’ll call the ‘all-heads paradox’.

The paradox, briefly stated:

If you flip an apparently fair coin 500 times and get all heads, you immediately become suspicious. On the other hand, if you flip an apparently fair coin 500 times and get a random-looking sequence, you don’t become suspicious. The probability of getting all heads is identical to the probability of getting that random-looking sequence, so why are you suspicious in one case but not the other?

In this post I explain how I resolve the paradox. Lizzie makes a similar argument in her post Getting from Fisher to Bayes, but there are some differences, so keep reading.

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Getting from Fisher to Bayes

(slightly edited version of a comment I made at UD)

Barry Arrington has  a rather extraordinary thread at UD right now, ar

Jerad’s DDS Causes Him to Succumb to “Miller’s Mendacity” and Other Errors

It arose from a Sal’s post, here at TSZ, Siding with Mathgrrl on a point,and offering an alternative to CSI v2.0

Below is what I posted in the UD thread.

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Siding with Mathgrrl on a point,and offering an alternative to CSI v2.0

[cross posted from UD Siding with Mathgrrl on a point, and offering an alternative to CSI v2.0, special thanks to Dr. Liddle for her generous invitation to cross post]

There are two versions of the metric for Bill Dembski’s CSI. One version can be traced to his book No Free Lunch published in 2002. Let us call that “CSI v1.0”.

Then in 2005 Bill published Specification the Pattern that Signifies Intelligence where he includes the identifier “v1.22”, but perhaps it would be better to call the concepts in that paper CSI v2.0 since, like windows 8, it has some radical differences from its predecessor and will come up with different results. Some end users of the concept of CSI prefer CSI v1.0 over v2.0.
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Lines of reasoning as opposed to scientific evidence

In a recent comment, Robert Byers said:

Yes lines of reasoning as opposed to scientific evidence is a criticism I strongly make!!

I’m not quite sure what is going on in Robert’s way of thinking.  I am not sure what he means by “scientific evidence”.  Here I want to explore what Robert appears to be arguing.

Let’s take crossword puzzle solving as an illustration.  The puzzle has a grid where one can enter words.  And then there are the clues.  There is a list of “Across” clues and a list of “Down” clues.

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VJ Torley on Order versus Complexity

VJ has written, by his standards, a short post distinguishing order from complexity (a mere 1400 words). To sum it up – a pattern has order if it can be generated from a few simple principles. It has complexity if it can’t.  There are some well known problems with this – one of which being that it is not possible to prove that a given pattern cannot be generated from a few simple principles.  However, I don’t dispute the distinction. The curious thing is that Dembski defines specification in terms of a pattern that can  generated from a few simple principles. So no pattern can be both complex in VJ’s sense and specified in Dembski’s sense.

At the heart of this the problem is that Dembski has written a paper that most IDers would find unacceptable if they took the trouble to understand it.  But they don’t quite have the courage to say they disagree. That is why this comment from  Eric Anderson made me chuckle:

Second, why is it so hard for some people to get it through their heads that the issue is not “order”? Is this really hard to understand, or just that so many people haven’t been properly educated about the issues?

I wonder which one it is in William Dembski’s case?


TJ has written a 4000 word appendix to this post. I haven’t time to read it all but it appears that he accepts that some of his original OP was wrong. It is rare for people to admit they are wrong in heated Internet debates so all credit to him. In particular he appears to accept that there is considerable confusion about order, complexity, and specification within the ID community (why else the need to propose his own definitions?).

What would be really nice would a similar admission from Eric Anderson that the ID community needs to sort out its own definitions before complaining that others are incapable of understanding them.

The eleP(T|H)ant in the room

The pattern that signifies Intelligence?

Winston Ewert has a post at Evolution News & Views that directly responds to my post here, A CSI Challenge which is nice. Dialogue is good.  Dialogue in a forum where we can both post would be even better.  He is extremely welcome to join us here 🙂


In my Challenge, I presented a grey-scale photograph of an unknown item, and invited people to calculate its CSI.  My intent, contrary to Ewert’s assumption, was not:

…to force an admission that such a calculation is impossible or to produce a false positive, detecting design where none was present.

but to reveal the problems inherent in such a calculation, and, in particular, the problem of computing the probability distribution of the data under the null hypothesis: The eleP(T|H)ant in the room

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The Laws of Thought


They are perfectly valid rules of reasoning, of course.  Wikipedia cites Aristotle: :

  • The law of identity: “that every thing is the same with itself and different from another”: A is A and not ~A.
  • The Law of Non-contradiction: that “one cannot say of something that it is and that it is not in the same respect and at the same time”
  • Law of Excluded Middle: “But on the other hand there cannot be an intermediate between contradictories, but of one subject we must either affirm or deny any one predicate.”

And of course they work just fine for binary, true-or-false, statements, which is why Boolean logic is so powerful.

But I suggest they are not Laws of Thought.

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Libertarian Free Will

As The Ghost In The Machine thread is getting rather long, but no less interesting, I thought I’d start another one here, specifically on the issue of Libertarian Free Will.

And I drew some diagrams which seem to me to represent the issues.  Here is a straightforward account of how I-as-organism make a decision as to whether to do, or not do, something (round up or round down when calculating the tip I leave in a restaurant, for instance).


My brain/body decision-making apparatus interrogates both itself, internally, and the external world, iteratively, eventually coming to a Yes or NO decision.  If it outputs Yes, I do it; if it outputs No, I don’t.

Now let’s add a Libertarian Free Will Module (LFW) to the diagram:

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I’ve been meaning to write a post in this for a while, but as usual, Barry Arrington has prompted me into action (I’m really very grateful to Barry sometimes :))  (Golly, just checked – it’s already half way down the UD page!  Does Barry really want his posts buried quite so rapidly?  We are going to see fossilisation at this rate!)

Anyhoo….  Neuroimaging is one of the things I do.  Here is one of my favorite images (probably the most reproduced fMRI image of all time), by Fox et al, 2005:

Although it may not have the form that some readers might be more familiar with, as it’s plotted on a “flat[ish] map” of the cortical surface.

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Gpuccio on compatibilism and moral responsibility

Gpuccio has written a couple of comments intended for the impressive RDFish.  RDF hasn’t responded – I suspect because he/she is concentrating on responding to StephenB on another thread.  I find it  disconcerting that GP, who is a nice chap, should get so emotional and dismissive of a respectable (and in my view correct) view of free will. So I am going to dive-in in RDF’s absence and hope GP sees this.It is over 1000 words and repeats some rather well known things about compatibilism. I wouldn’t waste your time reading it unless you think compatibilism is self-evident rubbish.

To see the strength of GP’s feelings on this here are a couple of quotes:

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The Ghost in the Machine

Let’s suppose there really is a Ghost in the Machine – a “little man” (“homunculus”) who “looks out” through our eyes, and “listens in” through our ears (interestingly, those are the two senses most usually ascribed to the floating Ghost in NDE accounts).  Or, if you prefer, a Soul.

And let’s further suppose that it is reasonable to posit that the Ghost/Soul is inessential to human day-to day function, merely to conscious experience and/or “free will”; that it is at least possible hypothetically to imagine a soulless simulacrum of a person who behaved exactly as a person would, but was in fact a mere automaton, without conscious experience – without qualia.

Thirdly, let’s suppose that there there are only a handful of these Souls in the world, and the rest of the things that look and behave like human beings are Ghostless automatons – soulless simulacra. But, as in an infernal game of Mafia, none of us know which are the Simulacra, and which are the true Humans – because there is no way of telling from the outside – from an apparent person’s behaviour or social interactions, or cognitive capacities – which is which.

And finally, let’s suppose that souls can migrate at will, from body to body.

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“Darwin’s Delusion” Concise Version

Darwin’s Delusion vs. Death of the Fittest

From Kimura and Mayurama’s paper The Mutational Load (eqn 1.4), Nachman and Crowell’s paper Esitmate of the Mutation Rate per Nucleotide in Humans (last paragraph), Eyre-Walker and Keightley’s paper High Genomic Deleterious Mutation rates in Homonids (2nd paragraph) we see that by using the Poisson distribution, it can be deduced that the probability P(0,U) of a child not getting a novel mutation is reasonably approximated as:

where 0 corresponds to the “no mutation” outcome, and U is the mutation rate expressed in mutations per individual per generation.

If the rate of slightly dysfunctional or slightly deleterious mutations is 6 per individual per generation (i.e. U=6), the above result suggests each generation is less “fit” than its parents’ generation since there is a 99.75% probability each offspring is slightly defective. Thus, “death of the fittest” could be a better description of how evolution works in the wild for species with relatively low reproductive rates such as humans.

Naturalism, Normativity, and Nihilism

Hopefully it will not be seen as an abuse of posting privileges if I share some thoughts I’ve been developing over the past few years.   But I’ve been prompted to share them by JLA’s assertion at Uncommon Descent that naturalism entails nihilism — an assertion that seems unquestioned in that forum. I think that that assertion collapses on closer inspection.

The problematic I’m concerned with here is about the relations between naturalism, normativity, and nihilism.  Each of these terms avails itself of a straightforward articulation, but I’ll be explicit: by ‘naturalism’ I mean that all real phenomena have a spatio-temporal location and participate in causal relations with other spatio-temporally locatable particulars.  By ‘normativity’ I mean that thought and action for at least some intelligent beings are governed by norms or rules of what counts as correct or incorrect, valid or invalid, good or bad.  And by ‘nihilism’ I mean that there is nothing of any real, genuine value, meaning, purpose, or fact in the world.

Now, does naturalism entail  nihilism?   It does, I submit, if — and only if — one has an a priori commitment to the further view that normativity is non-natural.  Put otherwise, if normativity is non-natural, but the natural is all that there is, then there isn’t any normativity — not really.   And nihilism follows as a result.

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Split-brain patients and the dire implications for the soul

Note: I have changed the title of this post for the benefit of readers who are unfamiliar with the term ‘substance dualism’.

Many of our readers – especially among the regulars at Uncommon Descent – are substance dualists.  That is, they believe that each of us has an immaterial mind or soul that constitutes our true self, and that the body, including the brain, is merely a vehicle “inhabited” and controlled by the mind or soul.

There are many problems with this idea, which is why it is rejected by most neuroscientists and philosophers.  One of the most striking is the problem posed by the strange characteristics of split-brain patients, as described in this video by VS Ramachandran:


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If there is no God….

JLAfan2001 writes at UD:

If there is no God and there’s just naturalism, materialism:

• No objective, absolute, inherent meaning in life or the universe
• No objective, absolute, inherent purpose in life or the universe
• No objective, absolute, inherent value in life or the universe
• We are the cobbled together Frankensteins of billions of years of trial and error
• No objective, absolute, inherent morality in life or the universe. No good, no evil, no right, no wrong
• No objective, absolute, inherent truth in life or the universe
• No objective, absolute, inherent knowledge in life or the universe
• No objective, absolute, inherent logic in life or the universe
• We have no free-will, mind, consciousness, rationality or reason. They are illusions and our very personhood, identity and humanity are not real.
• The emotions we express are just chemicals in our brain. The very things we seek in life like happiness, peace, contentment, joy are just chemicals reducing us to nothing more than chemical addicts.
• We are no more important than other animals. A dog is a rat is a pig is a boy.
• There is no after life. Once we die, we fade from existence and all our memories, experiences, knowledge etc goes with it. In time, we are forgotten.
• All the things we do in life are just for survival. Learning, loving, seeking, being positive, eating, relating, having fun are created for the sake of ignoring the real reason we are here and that’s to live as long as we can.
• There is no help coming to save humanity as a species or as individuals. We are all alone and on our own. If you can’t survive, you die.

This is reality if there is no God. I don’t give a rat’s ass what Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens or what other atheist wrote a book says. Nihilism is the truth and atheism is a noble lie just the same as theism would be. Survival and reproduction. THAT”S IT. All other things are made up bullshit for survival and reproduction. The atheists of old knew this. The new atheists are trying to say that you can have your cake and eat it too but there really is no cake.

I assumed it was satire; KF assumes not.  Be that as it may, it seems usefully wrong:

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