At Panda’s Thumb: An evaluation of Dembski, Ewert, and Marks’s Search For a Search argument

Tom English and I have posted at Panda’s Thumb a careful evaluation of William Dembski, Winston Ewert, and Robert Marks’s papers on their Active Information argument. We find that it does not show that we require a Designer in order to have an evolutionary system that finds genotypes with higher fitness. Basically, their space of “searches” is not limited to processes that have genotypes with different fitnesses — many of their “searches” can ignore fitness or even actively look for genotypes of worse fitness. Once one focuses on evolutionary searches with genotypes whose reproduction is affected by their fitnesses, one gets searches with a much greater chance of finding genotypes with higher fitnesses.

I suspect that most discussion of our argument will occur at PT — I have posted here to point to that post. If people want to discuss the matter here, I will try to comment here as well. But you can also comment at PT.

2LOT and ID entropy calculations (editorial corrections welcome)

Some may have wondered why me (a creationist) has taken the side of the ID-haters with regards to the 2nd law. It is because I am concerned for the ability of college science students in the disciplines of physics, chemistry and engineering understanding the 2nd law. The calculations I’ve provided are textbook calculations as would be expected of these students.
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Highly recommended: ‘Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief’

If you’re fascinated by irrational beliefs and the people who hold them, HBO’s new Scientology documentary is a must-see:

It premieres on HBO Sunday, March 29th, at 8 pm. For more airtimes, go here and mouse over “Schedule” in the lower right corner.

(I saw it yesterday in a San Francisco theater. They’re doing a very limited theatrical release so that the film will be eligible for Oscar nominations.)

Algorithmic Specified Complexity and the Game of Life

Ewert, Dembski, and Marks have a forthcoming paper: “Algorithmic Specified Complexity and the Game of Life” – It appears to be behind paywalls though. Can anyone provide a copy?

Please note, any comments not directly addressing the math or mechanics of this post will moved to Guano (thanks Neil and Alan)

My earlier post:

1. In Conway’s Life:
2. There is the Glider-Producing Switch Engine
3. It is coded by 123 “On Cells” but requires a space of 67×60 in a specific configuration.
4. That’s 4,020 bits, > UPB.
5. It contains well matched parts : 4bli,3blo,2bee,1boat,1loaf,1ship,1glider
6. It occurs naturally out of randomly configured dust :
7. It can evolve from a much smaller entity (“time bomb” – 17 active cells):

Possible criticisms:

Information is hidden somewhere
This is under “standard” Life rules (B3/S23) which means there is precious little exogenous information:

1.Any live cell with fewer than two live neighbours dies, as if caused by under-population.
2.Any live cell with two or three live neighbours lives on to the next generation.
3.Any live cell with more than three live neighbours dies, as if by overcrowding.
4.Any dead cell with exactly three live neighbours becomes a live cell, as if by reproduction.


These are not self-replicating
This is not actually a requirement of Specified Complexity and it does send off some of its parts into the life universe.

Also interesting – some musings on how big a life universe might have to be to support self-replicating life:

More 2LoT inanity at Uncommon Descent

Springtime is approaching. The 2LoT truthers are flocking at Uncommon Descent, hoping to find mates so that they can pass their second law inanity on to the next generation. Until yesterday, I was observing their bizarre mating rituals up close. Now I have been banned (again) from the nesting site, for pointing out a particularly ugly and infertile egg laid by kairosfocus.

Many others have been banned from the site as well, but we can still observe the spectacle through our high-powered binoculars. At this distance, our laughter will not disturb the awkward courtship rituals, as the participants preen and flaunt their ignorance in front of potential mates.

Hence this thread. Feel free to post your observations regarding the current 2LoT goings-on at UD and the perennial misuse of the 2LoT by IDers in general.

Spontaneous generation of >500 bits of functional information as well matched sub-components

It’s a quicky:

1. In Conway’s life:
2. There is the Glider-Producing Switch Engine
3. It is coded by 123 “On Cells” but requires a space of 67×60 in a specific configuration.
4. That’s 4,020 bits, > UPB.
5. It contains well matched parts : 4bli,3blo,2bee,1boat,1loaf,1ship,1glider
6. It occurs naturally out of randomly configured dust :
7. It can evolve from a much smaller entity (“time bomb” – 17 active cells):


Questions for Christians and other theists, part 1

Christianity and other forms of theism are full of oddities.  This is the first of a series of posts pointing out the oddities and asking theists to explain how they understand, deal with, or rationalize these oddities.

Today’s question:

Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden for eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  If they didn’t know good from evil until after eating the fruit, then they were punished for doing something they didn’t know was evil.

Does this make sense to you? If so, why?

Barry Arrington fails at logic again

Here’s Barry’s latest:

I’ve saved the web page in case he ‘disappears’ it, as he tends to do.

Barry is making the case that some irrational beliefs may cause outcomes that are still beneficial and so are not selected against (religion, anyone?).

He does this in reply to Piotr’s comment:

“As far as I can see, thought processes which allow us to understand the world and make correct predictions (and so are empirically “true”) are generally good for survival.”

Please note “GENERALLY good for survival”

in most cases; usually.

(from google search)

Barry, its time for you to learn about ‘distributions’. Do you think the correctness of belief is orthogonal to taking an action that is likely to improve survival chances?

I think given this and yesterdays comment:

“Your comment is classic.

ID Supporter: You can’t make a dog from a finch.

Darwinist: Yeah, but some finches are really really different from each other. I have now refuted your point.”

(Dogs don’t give birth to finches, Checkmate evolution!) – You should actually take some biology and logic classes. Spend less time on your apologetics and ‘rules of logic’ and actually learn something about biological origins.

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 that does something not entirely unlike a word ladder.