Aphrodite’s head: Eight questions for Douglas Axe

Over at Evolution News, Dr. Douglas Axe argues that merely by using very simple math, we can be absolutely certain that life was designed: it’s an inescapable conclusion. To illustrate his case, he uses the example of a rugged block of marble being transformed by natural weather processes into a statue of a human being. Everyone would agree that this simply can’t happen. And our conclusion wouldn’t change, even if we (i) generously allowed lots and lots of time for the statue to form; (ii) let each body part have a (discrete or continuous) range of permitted forms, or shapes, instead of just one permitted shape; (iii) relaxed the requirement that all body parts have to form simultaneously or in sync, and allowed the different parts of the statue to form at their own different rates; and (iv) removed the requirement that the different parts have to each form independently of one another, and allowed the formation of one part of the statue to influence that of another part.

In his post, Axe rhetorically asks: if we’re so sure that a rugged block of marble could never be transformed by the weather into a human statue, then aren’t we equally entitled to conclude that “blind natural causes” could never have “converted primitive bacterial life into oaks and ostriches and orangutans”? In each case, argues Axe, the underlying logic is the same: when calculating the probability of a scenario which requires many unlikely things to happen, small fractions multiplied by the dozens always result in exceedingly small fractions, and an event which is fantastically improbable can safely be regarded as physically impossible.

In an attempt to persuade Dr. Axe that his logic is faulty on several grounds, I’d like to put eight questions to Dr. Axe, and I sincerely hope that he will be gracious enough to reply.

My first question relates to the size and age of the universe. As I understand it, Dr. Axe, you define “fantastically improbable” as follows: something which is so improbable that its realization can only be expected to occur in a universe which is much bigger (or much older) than our own. Indeed, on page 282 of your book, Undeniable, you further stipulate that “fantastically improbable” refers to any probability that falls below 1 in 10116, which you calculate to be the maximal number of atomic-scale physical events that could have occurred during the 14-billion-year history of the universe. You calculation requires a knowledge of the age of the universe (14 billion years), the amount of time it takes for light to traverse the width of an atom, and the number of atoms in the universe. So here’s my first question for Dr. Axe: how is the design intuition supposed to work for an ordinary layperson who knows none of these things? Such a person will have no idea whether to set the bar at one in a million, one in a billion, one in 10116 , or even one in (10116)116. I should also point out that the figure you use for the number of atoms in the universe refers only to the observable universe. Astronomers still don’t know whether the size of the universe as a whole is finite or infinite.  And it gets worse if we go back a few decades, in the history of astronomy. Until the 1960s, the Steady State Theory of the universe was a viable option, and many astronomers believed the universe to be infinitely old. How would you have argued for the design intuition back then? 

My second question relates to functional coherence. You make a big deal of this in your book, Undeniable, where you managed to distill the case for Intelligent Design into a single sentence: “Functional coherence makes accidental invention fantastically improbable and hence physically impossible” (p. 160), where functional coherence is defined as a hierarchical arrangement of parts contributing in a coordinated way to the production of a high-level function (p. 144). The problem with your statue illustration should now be apparent. A statue has no functions. It just sits there. Consequently, whatever grounds we may have for rejecting the supposition that ordinary meteorological processes could transform a block of marble into a statue, they obviously have nothing to do with the argument you develop in your book, relating to functional coherence and whether living things could possibly be the product of unguided natural processes. So my question is: will you concede that the marble block is a bad illustration for your argument relating to functional coherence?

My third question relates to the identity of the object undergoing transformation. In your statue illustration, you ask whether “a rugged outcrop of marble would have to be altered by weather in only a few reasonably probable respects in order to convert it into a sculpted masterpiece.” Obviously, the answer is no: the number of steps would be extremely large, and the steps involved would be fantastically improbable. You then compare this case with the evolutionary claim that “blind natural causes converted primitive bacterial life into oaks and ostriches and orangutans.” But there is an obvious difference in the second case: the primordial bacterium itself is not being changed into an orangutan. Its very distant embryonic descendant, living about four billion years later, is developing into an orangutan. Its ancestors 20 million years ago were not yet orangutans. Self-replication, along with rare copying mistakes (mutations), is required in order for evolution to work. So I’d like to ask: why do you think it’s valid to infer from the fact that A’s changing into B is a fantastically improbable event, that A’s distant descendants gradually mutating into B is also fantastically improbable?

My fourth question relates to chemistry. Let me return to your original example of a block of marble being transformed by weather events into a human statue. I think we can all agree that’s a fantastically improbable event. However, the probability is not zero. I can think of another event whose probability is much, much lower: the likelihood of weather processes transforming a block of diamond, of adamantine hardness, into a human statue. What’s the moral of the story? Chemistry matters a lot, when you’re calculating probabilities. But the average layperson, whom you suppose to be capable of drawing a design inference when it comes to living things, knows nothing about the chemistry of living things, beyond the simple fact that they contain atoms of carbon and a few other elements, arranged in interesting structures. An ordinary person would be unable to describe the chemical properties of the DNA double helix, for instance, even if their life depended on it. So my question to you is: why do you think that a valid design inference can be made, without knowing anything about their underlying chemistry?

My fifth question relates to thermodynamics. I’d like you to have a look at the head of Aphrodite, below (image courtesy of Eric Gaba), known as the Kaufmann head. It’s made of coarse-grained marble from Asia Minor, and it dates back to about 150 B.C.

You’ll notice that her face has worn away quite a bit, thanks to the natural weather processes of weathering and erosion. This is hardly surprising: indeed, one might see weathering and erosion as an everyday manifestation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics: in an isolated system, concentrated energy disperses over time. Living things possess an unusual ability to locally decrease entropy within their
highly organized bodies as they continually build and maintain them, while at the same time increasing the entropy of their surroundings by expending energy, some of which is converted into heat. In so doing, they also increase the total entropy of the universe. But the point I want to make here is that a living thing’s highly useful ability to locally decrease entropy is one which a block of marble lacks: its thermodynamic properties are very different. So my question to you is: why would you even attempt to draw an inference about the transformations which living things are capable of over time, based on your observations of what happens to blocks of marble? And why would you encourage others to do the same?

My sixth question relates to your probability calculations. In your post, you explain the reasoning you employ, in order to justify a design inference: “it takes only a modest list of modestly improbable requirements for success to be beyond the reach of chance.” You continue: “Once again, the reasoning here is that small fractions multiplied by the dozens always result in exceedingly small fractions.” Now, this kind of reasoning makes perfect sense, if we are talking about dozens of improbable independent events: all you need to do is multiply the probability of each event, in order to obtain the probability of the combination of events. But if the events are not independent, then you cannot proceed in this fashion. Putting it mathematically: let us consider two events, A and B. If these events are independent, then P(AB) is equal to P(A) times P(B), and if both individual probabilities are low, then we can infer that P(AB) will be very low: one in a million time one in a million equals one in a trillion, for instance. But if A and B are inter-dependent, then all we can say about P(AB) is that it is equal to P(A) times P(B|A), and the latter probability may not be low at all. Consequently, in an inter-dependent system comprising dozens of events, we should not simply multiply the small probability of each event in order to compute the combined probability of all the events occurring together. That would be unduly pessimistic. And yet in your post, you attempt to do just that, despite your earlier statement: “Do I assume each aspect [of the statue] is strictly independent of the others in its formation? No.” So I’d like to ask: if you’re willing to grant that the even the formation of one aspect of a statue may depend on the formation of other aspects, thereby invalidating the method of calculating the probability of the forming the whole statue by multiplying dozens of “small fractions,” then why do you apply this invalid methodology to the formation of living things?

My seventh question relates to the vast number of possible pathways leading to the formation of a particular kind of living thing (such as an orangutan) from a primordial ancestor, and the even vaster number of possible pathways leading to the formation of some kind of living thing from the primordial ancestor. The point I want to make here is a simple one: this or that evolutionary pathway leading to an orangutan may be vanishingly improbable, yet if we consider the vast ensemble of possible pathways leading to an orangutan, the probability of at least one of them being traversed may not be so improbable. And even if we were to agree (for argument’s sake) that the likelihood of an orangutan evolving from the primordial ancestor is vanishingly low, when we consider the potentially infinite variety of all possible life-forms, the likelihood of evolutionary processes hitting on one or more of these life-forms may turn out to be quite high. It is this likelihood which one would need to calculate, in order to discredit the notion that all life on earth is the product of unguided evolutionary processes. Calculating this likelihood, however, is bound to be a very tricky process, and I doubt whether there’s a scientist alive today who’d have even the remotest idea of how to perform such a calculation. So my question is: what makes you think that an untutored layperson, with no training in probability theory, is up to the task? And if the average layperson isn’t up to it, then why should they trust their intuition that organisms were designed?

My eighth and final question relates to algorithms. Scientific observation tells us that every living thing, without exception, is put together by some kind of biological algorithm: a sequence of steps leading to the formation of an individual of this or that species. The algorithm can thus be viewed as a kind of recipe. (Contrast this with your illustration of a statue being formed by blind meteorological processes, which bears little or no relevance to the way in which a living thing is generated: obviously, there’s no recipe in the wind and the rain; nor is there any in the block of marble.) In order for “blind natural processes” (as you call them) to transform a bacterial ancestor into an orangutan, the algorithm (or recipe) for making an ancient bacterial life-form needs to be modified, over the course of time, into an recipe for making an orangutan. Can that happen?

At first blush, it appears fantastically unlikely, for two reasons. First, one might argue that any significant alteration of a recipe would result in an unstable hodgepodge that’s “neither fish nor fowl” as the saying goes – in other words, a non-viable life-form. However, this intuition rests on a false equivalence between human recipes and biological recipes: while the former are composed of letters which need to be arranged into meaningful words, whose sequence of words has to conform to the rules of syntax, as well as making sense at the semantic level, so that it is able to express a meaningful proposition, the recipes found in living things aren’t put together in this fashion. Living things are made of molecules, not words. What bio-molecules have to do is fit together well and react in the appropriate way, under the appropriate circumstances. Living things don’t have to mean anything; they simply have to function. Consequently, the recipes which generate living things are capable of a high degree of modification, so long as the ensembles they produce are still able to function as organisms. (An additional reason why the recipes found in living things can withstand substantial modification is that the DNA found in living organisms contains a high degree of built-in redundancy.)

Second, it might be argued that since the number of steps required to transform a bacterial ancestor into an orangutan would be very large, the probability of nature successfully completing such a transformation would have to be fantastically low: something could easily go wrong along the way. But while the emergence of an orangutan would doubtless appear vanishingly improbable to a hypothetical observer from Alpha Centauri visiting Earth four billion years ago, it might not seem at all improbable, if the Alpha Centaurian also knew exactly what kinds of environmental changes would befall the Earth over the next four billion years. The probability of evolution traversing the path that leads to orangutans might then appear quite high, notwithstanding the billions of steps involved, given a suitably complete background knowledge of the transformations that the Earth itself would undergo during that period. In reality, however, such a computation will never be technically feasible: firstly, because we’d probably need a computer bigger than the cosmos to perform the calculation; and second, because we’ll never have the detailed knowledge of Earth’s geological history that would be required to do such a calculation. So my concluding question to you is: given that the probability of nature generating an orangutan from a bacterial ancestor over a four-billion-year time period is radically uncomputable, why should we trust any intuitive estimate of the probability which is based on nothing more than someone eyeballing a present-day bacterium and a present-day orangutan? 

Over to you, Dr. Axe. Cheers.

311 Replies to “Aphrodite’s head: Eight questions for Douglas Axe”

  1. Acartia Acartia
    Ignored
    says:

    Why do we need eight questions? A first year biology student knows that a piece of weathering marble is a lame analogy for evolutionary processes.

  2. EricMH
    Ignored
    says:

    > Consequently, the recipes which generate living things are capable of a high degree of modification, so long as the ensembles they produce are still able to function as organisms.

    Nothing stops human recipes from being highly redundant, too. And redundancy is great for preserving recipes/code. But, it is unclear why redundancy helps evolution happen. Just because my code is redundant doesn’t make it more likely that random radiation will turn my message into the winning lottery ticket. There seems to be a missing premise here:

    1. Bio code is more redundant than human code.
    2. _________
    3. Therefore, bio code can evolve better.

    What fills in the blank?

  3. Robert Byers
    Ignored
    says:

    This is a great case for evolutionism’s fantastic unlikelyness.
    i said something like this on a thread I made here some time ago.
    Yet i would change it from a block of marble turned into a human head and then turned back into a (smaller) block, then turned again into a human head.
    if small steps can do anything then they could do this IMPOSSIBLE thing.
    being impossible THEN small steps can’t do it.

    Weathering on a block is less demanding of complicated processes and so it makes a good case about probability in biology. Not the other way around.
    its like the clock in the forest or airplane out of a windy junkyard.

    On one of the questions.
    The block being sculpted IS ABOUT SMALL STEPS.
    its not about a sudden wing. One could allow as much time as one wants. The analagy is the same.
    Is it being said here that a block can be turned into a human head likeness if given enough time for enough steps??

  4. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH: Just because my code is redundant doesn’t make it more likely that random radiation will turn my message into the winning lottery ticket.

    It is difficult to imagine how this analogy relates to biological evolution.

    What is “random radiation” here supposed to be analogous to in biology?
    What is “your message”?
    What is “the winning lottery ticket”?

  5. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    Over at Evolution News, Dr. Douglas Axe argues that merely by using very simple math, we can be absolutely certain that life was designed: it’s an inescapable conclusion. To illustrate his case, he uses the example of a rugged block of marble being transformed by natural weather processes into a statue of a human being. Everyone would agree that this simply can’t happen.

    I don’t agree that can’t happen. I think it can. It’s unlikely, but it can. Everything that has a probability greater than zero can happen. But that’s not where this argument really collapses. It collapses because what will happen owes to circumstance. To say that natural forces can’t create a statue is to say that you happen to know that such circumstances can’t exist.

    If we were to go back in time 300 million years, what would we have calculated the probability of plate tectonics and erosion producing the exact mountain we today recognize as the Mt Everest? What was the probability that all those atoms would end up in that exact structure with all their specific positions?

    The only thing required for something incredibly unlikely to happen is that the circumstances are right. And the circumstances were right for the Mt Everest to form in the particular way it did. Think of all the ways it could be different.

    The Mt Everest is a very specific and particular mountain. There are probably no other mountains exactly like it in the entire observable universe. There are too many atoms and too many possible ways to combine them, so assuming the universe doesn’t undergo heat-death the forces that would have shaped the Mt Everest exactly like they did will probably not repeat again for an incomprehensible period of time.

    Think about how many atoms Mt. Everest is made of, how they are all arranged exactly the way they are into the shape it has. All it’s cracks, faults, peaks, valleys, whatever countless miniscule surface features, texture, hardness etc. etc. Every cubic millimetre of that entire mountain from it’s core and foundation to it’s surface and peak. Made of rock, which consists of atoms, incomprehensible number of atoms arranged into it’s particular shape and structure. Any one particular atom could be in a different place. Any imaginable different place. But they aren’t, they’re part of the Mt. Everest. They each have some particular and exact position. Litterally unique.

    And yet it happened. Will Douglas Axe produce a calculation to show that weather creating a statue is impossibly unlikely while also showing that the exact mountain we call the Mt Everest was expected to happen by a hypothetical individual existing 300 million years ago?

  6. phoodoo
    Ignored
    says:

    I have eight questions for VJ Torley.

    I have posted them on the door of a refrigerator at a Days Inn motel in Fairfax, Nova Scotia.

    So far a lot of people have posted that Torley is wrong.

  7. EricMH
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: It is difficult to imagine how this analogy relates to biological evolution.

    Just an example to show redundancy does not automatically help achieve the goal. There is a missing premise in his argument.

  8. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Over at Evolution News, Dr. Douglas Axe argues that merely by using very simple math, we can be absolutely certain that life was designed: it’s an inescapable conclusion.

    No, that is not his argument.

    C’mon Vincent. You can do better than that.

  9. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: It is difficult to imagine how this analogy relates to biological evolution.

    And yet OMagain thinks the Law of Demeter can be applied to biology to tell us how bad biological design is.

  10. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: Everything that has a probability greater than zero can happen.

    I disagree. 🙂

    Are you using a frequentist interpretation of probability? Everything that has a probability greater than zero has already happened?

  11. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:

    Over at Evolution News, Dr. Douglas Axe argues that merely by using very simple math, we can be absolutely certain that life was designed: it’s an inescapable conclusion.

    No, that is not his argument.

    Well, tell us, then, what is his argument.

  12. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: Well, tell us, then, what is his argument.

    Go read it for yourself and make up your own mind. Once you’ve done that we can discuss it if you disagree with me.

  13. DNA_Jock
    Ignored
    says:

    I disagree with you, Mung. As does vjt, obviously.
    Put your cards on the table. Explain what his argument is, and support your contention that vjt has mis-characterized his argument.

  14. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Are you using a frequentist interpretation of probability? Everything that has a probability greater than zero has already happened?

    Well since life originated and evolved, then obviously the probability of life originating and evolving is greater than zero. But no that was not really the argument I was making, as that would just be begging the question against Axe’s argument.

    Rather I was arguing that even going by Axe’s assumptions, that something has a very low prior probability of occurring, it can never be the case that it can’t happen. That’s what a nonzero probability means. If it isn’t zero, it can happen.

    Unlikely =/= impossible
    Very unlikely =/= impossible
    Extremely unlikely =/= impossible
    Etc.

    At no point does the probability cross over from merely being less and less likely, to impossible. That could only be the case if the probability dropped to zero.

  15. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: Once you’ve done that we can discuss it if you disagree with me.

    What can I disagree with? You have not taken a position.

  16. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox,

    Mung,

    Axe writes:

    The approach I’m advocating is much simpler than the one you’re critiquing, Hans. Without worrying about how the thing in question came to be, we merely consider what must be in place in order for it to do what it does. No detailed answer is needed. All we have to do is imagine the list of requirements that would constitute a complete specification — details of overall shape, material or chemical composition, internal structure, chemical or mechanical processes, connectivity, and so on. By recognizing that these conditions are too restrictive to be met by accident, we establish that accidental causes cannot have brought the thing into existence.

    It seems to me an approach similar to others who claim there is strict determinism. History is written in the present if you can do enough math. Radioactive decay says no.

  17. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    From Axe’s OP:

    My recent book, Undeniable, makes the case not just that life is designed but also that this is obvious — you need no special training to see it.

    And therein lies the problem. It seems obvious that life is designed because of our anthropomorphic biases. It takes a lot of learning and understanding, and often courage, to overcome that bias (and the religiously-motivated fears) and figure out that life was not designed.

  18. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Alan Fox: What can I disagree with? You have not taken a position.

    Oh good. Now see if you can get DNA_Jock to agree with you.

  19. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Entropy: And therein lies the problem. It seems obvious that life is designed because of our anthropomorphic biases. It takes a lot of learning and understanding, and often courage, to overcome that bias (and the religiously-motivated fears) and figure out that life was not designed.

    Some might call it brainwashing.

    No math required to be absolutely certain that life was designed. Not even simple math. Contra VJT.

    What AXE appeals to is our “design intuition,” “our intuitive sense that certain things can’t happen by accident.” This is his one and only use of “certain” and he doesn’t ever say that math can give us absolute certainty.

    Intuitively, we know natural weathering can’t do this kind of thing; no unguided natural processes can do the work of a master sculptor. Contrary to your concerns, I’m claiming that the math that backs this intuition up is so simple and so robust that it can hardly go wrong.

    The math simply backs it up. The math is not the basis of the intuition. It’s not because of the math that we know life was designed.

    We know that without the math, by intuition.

  20. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    VJT,

    Thank you for not overwhelming us with toooo much info!
    I don’t think I have ever read an OP by you like this…I have a feeling that you are responding to Axe’s axing you as not a capable contender in the origins discussion…
    Anyway, you have made some very layman errors in your arguments starting withe the sculpture that Axe clearly indicated it was just an illustration for layman to appreciate that random processes can’t accomplish creativity the way intelligence can… You took it literally and your whole argument has gone downhill from there…
    If Axe never responds to you, it will be another slap on your face… I have a feeling, that he never will…

  21. Rumraket Rumraket
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: We know that without the math, by intuition.

    But intuition isn’t knowledge, it’s more like emotion, experience, and instinct. And our intuitions are frequently wrong. Test people’s intuitions on the Monty Hall problem just as an example. Or some people’s intuition is that people who look differently from themselves are inherently dangerous.

    And we know that the intuition that unlikely things can’t happen is wrong.

  22. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH,

    The reason why redundancy helps evolution is that with duplicate copies of the same gene, nature can afford to experiment around with slight variations on one of them, and occasionally come up with a whole new function. I’m thinking here of orphan genes.

  23. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Hi Rumraket,

    I don’t agree that can’t happen. I think it can. It’s unlikely, but it can. Everything that has a probability greater than zero can happen.

    You’re right, and in my own OP, I tacitly acknowledged as much, when discussing the case of a block made of diamond instead of marble. I wrote:

    Let me return to your original example of a block of marble being transformed by weather events into a human statue. I think we can all agree that’s a fantastically improbable event. However, the probability is not zero. I can think of another event whose probability is much, much lower: the likelihood of weather processes transforming a block of diamond, of adamantine hardness, into a human statue.

  24. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley: nature

    Can you explain clearly what you mean by nature? My kids have a hard time distinguishing between nature and a god.
    As a catholic, you shouldn’t have a problem distinguishing the two, shouldn’t you?

  25. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung,

    The math is not the basis of the intuition. It’s not because of the math that we know life was designed.

    We know that without the math, by intuition.

    If Dr. Axe wants to put forward a non-mathematical, intuitive argument that life was designed, then I have no quarrel with him. I share his intuition that there’s a Mind behind nature. But faulty mathematical arguments do not serve his cause.

    And as Rumraket points out, one has to be careful with intuitions. It’s hard not to feel that Nature is the work of a Mind, but what about the malaria parasite? (Or is it perhaps a diabolical design?) And where is the edge of evolution? Intuition cannot answer these questions. It’s best for big-picture thinking, in my humble opinion.

  26. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac,

    By Nature I simply mean the cosmos, or the whole of contingent reality.

  27. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: I don’t agree that can’t happen. I think it can. It’s unlikely, but it can. Everything that has a probability greater than zero can happen. But that’s not where this argument really collapses. It collapses because what will happen owes to circumstance. To say that natural forces can’t create a statue is to say that you happen to know that such circumstances can’t exist.

    If we were to go back in time 300 million years, what would we have calculated the probability of plate tectonics and erosion producing the exact mountain we today recognize as the Mt Everest? What was the probability that all those atoms would end up in that exact structure with all their specific positions?

    The only thing required for something incredibly unlikely to happen is that the circumstances are right. And the circumstances were right for the Mt Everest to form in the particular way it did. Think of all the ways it could be different.

    The Mt Everest is a very specific and particular mountain. There are probably no other mountains exactly like it in the entire observable universe. There are too many atoms and too many possible ways to combine them, so assuming the universe doesn’t undergo heat-death the forces that would have shaped the Mt Everest exactly like they did will probably not repeat again for an incomprehensible period of time.

    Think about how many atoms Mt. Everest is made of, how they are all arranged exactly the way they are into the shape it has. All it’s cracks, faults, peaks, valleys, whatever countless miniscule surface features, texture, hardness etc. etc. Every cubic millimetre of that entire mountain from it’s core and foundation to it’s surface and peak. Made of rock, which consists of atoms, incomprehensible number of atoms arranged into it’s particular shape and structure. Any one particular atom could be in a different place. Any imaginable different place. But they aren’t, they’re part of the Mt. Everest. They each have some particular and exact position. Litterally unique.

    And yet it happened. Will Douglas Axe produce a calculation to show that weather creating a statue is impossibly unlikely while also showing that the exact mountain we call the Mt Everest was expected to happen by a hypothetical individual existing 300 million years ago?

    Mount Rushmore would be a better analogy here but you would rather drink a vile of poison than mention it…

  28. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley:
    J-Mac,

    By Nature I simply mean the cosmos, or the whole of contingent reality.

    Really?
    Maybe Axe was right by placing you in the right category? Which category of belief would you find yourself in today?

  29. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley,

    Do you think we can come with a natural explanation for the origin of the eukaryotic cell based only on available evidence. We can work our way up to humans and every major transition requires explanation of the origin of lots of unique functional information. I have seen you argue Axe’s position on UD with Moran and others and you basically shut the argument down by making science about observed evidence vs made up evidence.

    Is the darwinian paradigm still viable given what we are observing with the enormous sequence space of the genome and the appearance of novel functional sequences over time?

  30. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: And yet OMagain thinks the Law of Demeter can be applied to biology to tell us how bad biological design is.

    That’s your interpretation actually. My point is actually that when we “detect” design what we “detect” is nothing like what we actually design. So on what basis are IDists detecting design? It seems to be simply on the basis of improbability.

    Any other questions?

  31. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: Is the darwinian paradigm still viable given what we are observing with the enormous sequence space of the genome

    Case in point.

  32. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung:
    Some might call it brainwashing.

    It’s only natural for humans to project anthropomorphism.

    The part that would be brainwashing is the religious part, where they infuse fear into children to even question the existence of the magical being in the sky. For example, I had nightmares as a child out of the fear to question “God’s” idea of justice and salvation, after all, this being could read my mind, was reading my mind each and every time, so I had no freedom to question even inside my mind. I learned to stop my brain from questioning, but the nightmares remained for quite a while.

    Mung:
    No math required to be absolutely certain that life was designed. Not even simple math. Contra VJT.

    There’s no way to be certain that life was designed Mung. Not after understanding that nature is first and design cannot be but second. For this you need to understand a lot of the fundamentals of physics, chemistry, then how that makes evolution unavoidable. You also need very good philosophical foundations.

    Mung:
    What AXE appeals to is our “design intuition,” “our intuitive sense that certain things can’t happen by accident.” This is his one and only use of “certain” and he doesn’t ever say that math can give us absolute certainty.

    That “intuition” is nothing but anthropomorphism, and the “accident” part is the classic creationist straw-man/false dichotomy, where they imagine that if it’s not a magical being in the sky, it must be mere randomness.

    Mung:
    The math simply backs it up. The math is not the basis of the intuition. It’s not because of the math that we know life was designed.

    The math is bullshit. In that OP Axe claims not to be doing what the other guy is telling him that he’s doing, only to demonstrate that he’s doing exactly what he’s denying to be doing. Making up probabilities and multiplying them as if the event had to be producing an organism in one try from independent “attributes.” The issue is that nobody knows how to calculate those probabilities because nobody knows what the probability of each event is, nor how to account for the processes that produce them (evolutionary phenomena, the historical accumulation of successful features, etc.). There’s also the issue with the lotto fallacy.

    Mung:
    We know that without the math, by intuition.

    Nope, you think that you know that by intuition, but the intuition is but anthropomorphism combined with that straw-man+false dichotomy.

  33. phoodoo
    Ignored
    says:

    I wonder why, for centuries, people have assumed that the pyramids were designed? And Angkor Wat. And Stonehenge. And Easter Island. And ancient pottery. And arrowheads. And…

    We never seem to assume it might just be wind.

  34. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: the appearance of novel functional sequences over time?

    “Darwinists” have a proposed answer to that question. To convince them otherwise you simply have to make a more convincing case.

    But you don’t even have the beginnings of such a case, merely an argument from improbablity.

    Tell me colewd, which of these two things is more improbable?

    A) The bacterial flagellum
    B) Your existence, taking into account the number of competing sperm for each egg in every one of your ancestors, and the chance of them meeting at that time plus the chance of every relation and ancestor in your family tree meeting etc? Also Taking into account the rain that stopped ancestor 9643 meeting what otherwise would have been their partner.

  35. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    phoodoo: I wonder why, for centuries, people have assumed that the pyramids were designed?

    If pyramids were observed to mate and reproduce then the story might be different.

    phoodoo: We never seem to assume it might just be wind.

    It was a designer who acted in some way, in some time, to some unknown effect to some unknown end.

    Frankly, “wind” makes more sense to explain stonehenge.

  36. Alan Fox Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    EricMH: There seems to be a missing premise here:

    1. Bio code is more redundant than human code.
    2. _________
    3. Therefore, bio code can evolve better.

    What fills in the blank?

    Not sure whether premise 1 is correct but 2. is biased selections on variation with parameters supplied by the niche environment.

  37. OMagain
    Ignored
    says:

    Mung: No math required to be absolutely certain that life was designed.

    Being certain about something does not preclude you from being wrong about that something.

    Mung: I have a gut, and my gut tells me more sometimes than anybody else’s brain can ever tell me

    Yeah, well, I await the publication of that paper!

  38. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac,

    Which category of belief would you find yourself in today?

    I’m still a Christian, and I still call myself a Catholic.

    I’m not sure why my definition of Nature surprised you. How would you define it?

  39. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd,

    Do you think we can come with a natural explanation for the origin of the eukaryotic cell based only on available evidence.

    I honestly don’t know. I don’t know whether life arose naturally, either. I have previously critiqued arguments purporting to demonstrate that abiogenesis is “fantastically improbable,” but just because those particular arguments are faulty, it doesn’t follow that life’s emergence was highly probable. Nor would it follow that eukaryotic cells arose naturally, even if one could show that life did. We may have an answer to these questions in 50 years, but I’m not holding my breath.

  40. vjtorley
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac,

    If Axe never responds to you, it will be another slap on your face… I have a feeling, that he never will…

    I have just been informed by someone who knows Dr. Axe very well that he makes it a point not to read Internet critics. So it looks like you’re right.

  41. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley:
    J-Mac,

    I’m still a Christian, and I still call myself a Catholic.

    While this may not be a good comparison (I’m just trying to make a point and not to offend you), Hitler, at least at one point in his life, viewed himself as a Christian and called himself a Catholic…
    How many Christians and Catholics today would affiliate themselves with his Christianity and Catholicism?

    How many would say that he was a true Christian and a Catholic? If he wasn’t, what made him such?
    In other words, what really makes one a Christian or a Catholic? Is the claim to be one good enough?

  42. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Rumraket: But intuition isn’t knowledge, it’s more like emotion, experience, and instinct. And our intuitions are frequently wrong.

    Then VJT should address that instead. Because that’s what Axe actually says.

    Intuitively, we know natural weathering can’t do this kind of thing; no unguided natural processes can do the work of a master sculptor.

  43. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley:
    J-Mac,

    I’m not sure why my definition of Nature surprised you. How would you define it?

    Many people today attribute the qualities of God/ ID to nature; they assign the creative powers of God/ID to mindless processes…
    I was just wanted to make sure whether you were doing the same claim, either deliberately or subconsciously…

  44. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley: But faulty mathematical arguments do not serve his cause.

    Where does AXE ever make the claim that it is because of the math that we can be absolutely certainty that life was designed?

    What he actually argues is that math supports our intuition.

    I’m claiming that the math that backs this intuition up is so simple and so robust that it can hardly go wrong.

    You have his argument backwards.

    So you should say that math cannot back up our intuitions.

    Or that the math does not back up our intuitions.

    Or that our intuitions are wrong and the math is irrelevant.

    Did I leave anything out?

    And arguing about the math doesn’t change the intuition.

  45. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    vjtorley,

    I honestly don’t know. I don’t know whether life arose naturally, either.

    So the theory that life arose from a single ancestor by natural causes does not really exist with any academic credibility. It’s an unsupported philosophical statement only. Thomas Nagel is right after all.

    The spliceosome arose in the eukaryotic cell. Its central protein PRPF8 is made of 2500 AA’s. According to Jock the chance of an alpha helix (simplest secondary fold) forming from 6 AA’s given the chemical matching required is 31%. If I extrapolate that out to 2500 amino acids thats 10^190 is the best case for a secondary fold. I think you would agree that there is no natural selection prior to a secondary fold. This makes Axe’s math conservative. Art Hunt also validated Axe’s claim as he said that his number was in the range of other experiments. The math shoots down the Darwinian mechanism as the explanation of life’s diversity in every case I have seen where you are looking at a variety of cases across organisms.

    Without a mechanism there is no theory. Joe Felsenstein is smart to argue for natural selection until it runs out of steam. I do hear the fat lady in the background 🙂

  46. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    OMagain,

    Tell me colewd, which of these two things is more improbable?

    A) The bacterial flagellum
    B) Your existence, taking into account the number of competing sperm for each egg in every one of your ancestors, and the chance of them meeting at that time plus the chance of every relation and ancestor in your family tree meeting etc? Also Taking into account the rain that stopped ancestor 9643 meeting what otherwise would have been their partner.

    So you are claiming that my family was directly created with the Darwin’s mechanism? 🙂

  47. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd:
    So the theory that life arose from a single ancestor by natural causes does not really exist with any academic credibility.

    You’re mixing two distinct claims here: (1) That today’s life is descendent of a single ancestor, and (2) that this ancestor(s) arose naturally. The first, I would not be completely convinced, the second is too obvious to even try and argue against it. What else is there if not nature?

    colewd:
    It’s an unsupportedphilosophical statement only.Thomas Nagel is right after all.

    Nope. The first is supported by several lines of evidence, the second is supported by simple logic: if not nature then what? How do we test that what? How would we even know that there’s such a what? If the what exists, then what makes it unnatural? Etc.

    colewd:
    The spliceosome arose in the eukaryotic cell.

    You don’t know this. All you know is that some, perhaps many, perhaps most, eukaryotes have spliceosomes, not that it arose in eukaryotes.

    colewd:
    Its central protein PRPF8 is made of 2500 AA’s. According to Jock the chance of an alpha helix (simplest secondary fold) forming from 6 AA’s given the chemical matching required is 31%. If I extrapolate that out to 2500 amino acids thats 10^190 is the best case for a secondary fold.

    You’re doing your math very wrong. The protein is not a single 2500 aa-long alpha-helix, it has turns and other things, which makes that secondary structure probability much higher. Even before considering the effects of selection we should expect to see alpha-helical regions, turns, beta-strands, more turns, more alpha-helices, etc.

    colewd:
    I think you would agree that there is no natural selection prior to a secondary fold.

    I would not. I’d say concomitant with the secondary structure with varying degrees of stability, depending on how much function they provide. You seem to think too much in an all-or-nothing fashion, when biology is replete with examples after examples of barely-enough-but-works, and when such barely-enough-but-works is enough for selection.

    colewd:
    This makes Axe’s math conservative.

    Once understood, the math is obviously tricked. AKA bullshit.

    colewd:
    Art Hunt also validated Axe’s claim as he said that his number was in the range of other experiments.The math shoots down the Darwinian mechanism as the explanation of life’s diversity in every case I have seen where you are looking at a variety of cases across organisms.

    It shows that Axe doesn’t know what he’s talking about, or he knows and prefers to trick you because he knows you don’t know any better, that you don’t know how to do math, or what to expect given some basic probabilities combined with selection and evolutionary histories.

    colewd:
    Without a mechanism there is no theory. Joe Felsenstein is smart to argue for natural selection until it runs out of steam.I do hear the fat lady in the background

    What do you mean by without mechanism? Have you learned the biochemistry? The structural stuff? The effects of selection? The role of historical accumulation of successful sequences?

    The fat lady part tells me that you were deafened by a fat and ignorant lady, and, thus, you could not pay attention to what Joe has explained.

    ETA: apparently, the protein you chose has homologs in bacteria and archaea.

  48. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    colewd: Axe’s claim as he said that his number was in the range of other experiments. The math shoots down the Darwinian mechanism as the explanation of life’s diversity in every case I have seen where you are looking at a variety of cases across organisms.

    Without a mechanism there is no theory. Joe Felsenstein is smart to argue for natural selection until it runs out of steam. I do hear the fat lady in the background 🙂

    Colewd,
    That’s why so many Darwinists have moved away from the mechanism of natural selection acting on variations-mutations… Others, like Larry Moran, promote random genetic drift… Yet, many others, like the third way people, are looking for new mechanisms of evolution…
    One thing I do know though: The classical information in DNA can’t be accessed for evolution to move forward as it is constrained by quantum information. This means that evolution can only degrade the organism, which can seen in the “evolution of dogs” from wolves…by breaking genes in selective breeding…
    When this is experimentally proven, all evolutionary theories will be impossible …The only ones will be “the maybe theories” …of theistic evolutionists… “…maybe God guided the evolution …” by adding the information…That is it 😉

  49. J-Mac
    Ignored
    says:

    Entropy,

    Let’s not forget about the miraculous appearance of genes in endosymbiosis miracle of life…
    To prove the point that evolution of prokaryotic cell to eukaryotic is possible, all one has to do is what C. Venter did; replacing the hardware in one type of cell with the other and see if any evolutionary changes take place…

    Unfortunately the chasm between the two types of cells is so great that nobody in the right frame of mind would even attempt that…

    That’s way Darwinists prefer to stick to the speculations and fairy tails of how sheer dumb lack accomplished something they can’t… It’s a comedy club… lol

  50. Entropy Entropy
    Ignored
    says:

    J-Mac:
    Let’s not forget about the miraculous appearance of genes in endosymbiosis miracle of life…

    What’s miraculous about getting genes from another organism via endosymbiosis? The genes were right there. They didn’t appear by magic. Why do you despise miracles being a believer in miracles yourself? Why do you shoot yourself in the foot while trying to make fun of science?

    J-Mac:
    That’s way Darwinists prefer to stick to the speculations and fairy tails of how sheer dumb lack accomplished something they can’t… It’sa comedy club… lol

    What’s a comedy club is you pretending to make fun of science while shooting yourself in the foot. Fairy tales? Like the magical being in the sky that you believe in? Sheer-dumb-luck like a magical being in the sky deciding to make you out of all the people “He” could have chosen to make instead? Giving you a faulty brain and deaf ears so that you’d never understand that sheer-dumb-luck is a silly straw-man, thus condemning you to be a tragic-comedy in the eyes of those who understand better?

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