Wagner’s Multidimensional Library of Babel (Piotr at UD)

I’ve wanted to start this discussion for several weeks, but wasn’t sure how to present Wagner’s argument. Fortunately Piotr has saved me the trouble with a post at UD.

Piotr February 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Do you mind if I begin with a simple illustrative example? Let’s consider all five-letter alphabetic strings (AAAAA, QWERT, HGROF, etc.). By convention, a string will be “functional” if it’s a meaningful English word (BREAD, WATER, GLASS, etc.). Functionality is therefore not a formal property of the string but something dictated by the environment. There are 26^5 = 11881376 (almost 12 million) possible five-letter strings. The number of five-letter words in English (excluding proper nouns and extremely rare, dialectal or archaic words) is about 6000, so the probability that any randomly generated string is functional is about 0.0005.

Any five-letter string S can produce 5×25 = 125 “mutants” differing from S by exactly one letter. If you represent the sequence space as a five-dimensional hypercube (26x26x26x26x26), a mutation can be defined as a translation along any of the five axes.

It would appear that the odds of finding a functional mutant for a given string should be about 125×0.0005 = 1/16 on the average. In fact, however, it depends where you start. If S is functional, the existence of at least one functional mutant is almost guaranteed (close to 90%). For most English words there are more than one functional mutants. For example, from SNARE wer get {SCARE, SHARE, SPARE, STARE, SNORE, SNAKE, SNARK…}. Though some functional sequences are isolated or form small clusters in the sequence space, most of them are members of one huge, quite densely interconnected network. You can get from one to another in just a few steps (often in more than one way), which is of course what Lewis Carroll’s “word ladder” puzzle is about:


You can ponder the example for a moment; I’ll return to it later.


The whole thread is worth a look.

I might add that there is a rather crude GA at http://itatsi.com that does something not entirely unlike a word ladder.

Manifesto for a Post-Materialist Science


9. Studies of the so-called “psi phenomena” indicate that we can sometimes receive meaningful
information without the use of ordinary senses, and in ways that transcend the habitual space
and time constraints. Furthermore, psi research demonstrates that we can mentally influence—
at a distance—physical devices and living organisms (including other human beings). Psi research
also shows that distant minds may behave in ways that are nonlocally correlated, i.e. the
correlations between distant minds are hypothesized to be unmediated (they are not linked to
any known energetic signal), unmitigated (they do not degrade with increasing distance), and
immediate (they appear to be simultaneous). These events are so common that they cannot be
viewed as anomolous nor as exceptions to natural laws, but as indications of the need for a
broader explanatory framework that cannot be predicated exclusively on materialism.

10. Conscious mental activity can be experienced in clinical death during a cardiac arrest (this is
what has been called a “near-death experience” [NDE]). Some near-death experiencers (NDErs)
have reported veridical out-of-body perceptions (i.e. perceptions that can be proven to coincide
with reality) that occurred during cardiac arrest.

UD discussion link:


Harry’s Choice

This post is inspired by Barry Arrington’s post at Uncommon Descent:


Harry Barrington, is a good, Christian man with objective morality who finds himself in a terrible position: He is in a hospital which has caught fire and he only has time to visit one of two rooms and escape before the whole building comes down, killing all within.

In room A is a beautiful, newborn baby girl. There is time to save only her.
In room B there are 10,000 IVF embryos, each waiting to develop into a wonderful child. There is time to save only them.

Should Harry:
1) Save the Baby
2) Save the IVF embryos
3) Save neither as some calculations must be literally unthinkable

And if (3) Should he even save himself from the fire?

The Reality of Intelligent Design!

I first noticed the phrase “Intelligent Design” about ten years ago. Not long after,William Dembski produced his website, Uncommon Descent, and declared his intentions:

This blog is for me mainly to get out news items about the ID movement and my work in particular. For more sustained writing and development of my ideas, I refer you to my website: www.designinference.com. I am not a journalist nor do I intend to become one. Thus this is not “The ID Answer Man” or “Ask Your Questions about ID Forum.” If I don’t respond to your comments and questions, even if they are good comments and questions, understand that I have way more commitments than I can fulfill, and that I will only occasionally contribute to a comment thread here.

Finally, there is one cardinal rule at this blog, namely, I make up the rules as I go along. In other words, these policies can change at any time. Moreover, if they change, it will most likely be in the direction of curtailing the time I need to spend with comments.

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Two Billion Years Without Evolution?

Over at UD, we have a thread entitled:

Why does defending Darwin increasingly remind one of defending communist economics?

It features some quotes from J. William Schopf, regarding some ancient fossils that appear morphologically identical to modern microorganisms.

“It seems astounding that life has not evolved for more than 2 billion years — nearly half the history of Earth,” said J. William Schopf, a UCLA professor of earth, planetary and space sciences in the UCLA College who was the study’s lead author. “Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained.”


“The rule of biology is not to evolve unless the physical or biological environment changes, which is consistent with Darwin,” said Schopf, who also is director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life. The environment in which these microorganisms live has remained essentially unchanged for 3 billion years, he said.

Jerry Coyne has blogged the same topic:

At UD, Mapou has posted:

The only problem with this is that random mutations, the engine of change in Darwinian evolution, do not care whether the environment changes or not. Mutations keep occurring no matter what. You just got to love Darwinists.

Which, ironically, is the same thing Jerry Coyne says.