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 wit 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.

A note to our friends at Uncommon Descent

I see that Denyse has taken time away from misinterpreting / misrepresenting decade old articles she found on google to visit our little home. Come on in Denyse! Would you like a cuppa? Don’t worry, there are no “Brit Toffs” here.

Listen, as you’ve stopped by, we’d like to have a quick chat about UD:

Frankly, we’re a bit disappointed. We were hoping for some design science to chew on, some CSI calculations to review. But instead we were saddened when we learned that neither Barry Arrington nor KairosFocus understand CSI. We’re going to give you a little time to get up to speed with the literature so that we can re-engage when you know the stuff. You don’t need to make up more acronyms like FIASCO: FOCUS on mainstream ID concepts. We may find fault with Dembski’s work but he was leagues ahead of where you are now.

Start here:


There’s an EleP(T|H)ant in the room that you need to come to terms with. Perhaps when you understand the source material we can have a better chat (and therefore more posts).

We also note that UD has expanded to more general science denialism / Republican talking points. Are you sure you want to do that? Pretending to be a science blog was more entertaining.

Well thanks for dropping by. We’ll keep our ears to the ground and report back if scientists ever isolate the specific, “selfish gene”.

Barry Arrington and Company: Does A=A?

This is a little test of reasoning ability. I would prefer that for the first few days, only ID advocates post answers. These questions, and the underlying reasoning, are widely discussed on the internet, so you may have encountered them. If you have, I would appreciate knowing that fact. Also, for those who have seen them before, I would like to know how you did the first time you encountered them.

If anyone spots a typo or logical error, I’d appreciate hearing about is so it can be corrected.

The answers I’m looking for are in three parts:

First — yes or no — can the puzzles be solved by reason, assuming ordinary knowledge of the vocabulary. There are no tricks or unusual meanings involved.

Second, provide the answer.

Third, the provide the reasoning or proof.

Uncommon Descent frequently invokes logic and reason. this is a challenge to anyone who posts at UD. Feel free to post your answers on this thread or at UD.

Here are the questions:

1. [The original editor has been sacked. Re-Edited to straighten out the mess: The price of a cheeseburger is $2.20, the price of a plain hamburger plus the price of the added cheese.] A plain hamburger costs two dollars more than the added cheese. How much does a plain hamburger cost?

2. In Elbonia, one person in ten thousand has Ebola. A new test is so good that anyone who is infected will test positive. But three percent of uninfected people will also test positive. John, a citizen of Elbonia tests positive. What is the probability that John has Ebola?

3. I have a deck of picture cards. They have automobiles on one side and living things on the other side. I have looked through them, and I think they follow the following rule: if a card has a GM automobile on one side, it will have an animal on the other side. After shuffling, I deal out four cards.

Cat, Ford, Petunia, Chevy

What cards must I turn over to test my hypothesis?

4. William is tweeting Betty, but Betty is tweeting John. William is in love, but John is not. Is a person in love tweeting a person who is not in love?

5. Elbonia has invented a treatment for Psoriasis. During a recent blind test, of the patients who were given the treatment 197 improved and 95 did not.

Of the patients who were given a placebo, 45 improved and 20 did not.

Is the treatment effective?

The Twilight of Intelligent Design (Open thread)


It just dawned on me that ID is dead.

Dembski is off all radar. He doesn’t even show up in the search box at South Carolina bible college or whatever. The last post on the Design Inference is a year old.

Meyer’s book went up like a firework and came down with the stick.

Most of the static websites are moribund. UD has banned virtually all dissenters. The few brave enough to wander over to TSZ bail out after a couple of rounds. The biologic institute inflates its “selected publications” with publications that have nothing to do with the biologic institute and seems to be doing no more than pretending to produce output.

Bio-Complexity is moribund.

Behe doesn’t seem to have much to say.

The big guys won’t come out to debate. The small ones mostly won’t leave heavily censored sites. Even the UD newsdesk peddles 6 year old stories as “news”.

And all the threads are about religion. Or tossing coins.

I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it before.

It’s dead.

Posted at “After the Bar Closes on Jan. 05 2014,16:37 by Febble (Elizabeth Liddle) Continue reading