Betting on the Weasel

… with Mung.   In a recent comment Mung asserted that

If Darwinists had to put up their hard earned money they would soon go broke and Darwinism would be long dead. I have a standing $10,000 challenge here at TSZ that no one has ever taken me up on.

Now, I don’t have $10,000 to bet on anything, but it is worth exploring what bet Mung was making. Perhaps a bet of a lower amount could be negotiated, so it is worth trying to figure out what the issue was.

Mung’s original challenge will be found here.  It was in a thread in which I had proposed a bet of $100 that a Weasel program would do much better than random sampling.  When people there started talking about whether enough money could be found to take Mung up on the bet, they assumed that it was a simple raising of the stake for my bet.  But Mung said here:

You want to wager over something that was never in dispute?

Why not offer a meaningful wager?

So apparently Mung was offering a bet on something else.

I think I have a little insight on what was the “meaningful wager”, or at least on what issue.  It would lead us to a rather extraordinary bet.  Let me explain below the fold …

Mung accepted that Weasel programs reach their goal far faster than random sampling.  However Mung also said (here) that

Weasel programs perform better than blind search because they are guided. I didn’t think the performance was in dispute, nor why the performance was better.

and elsewhere characterized Weasels as succeeding because of “intelligence” as opposed to ignorance.

So let’s imagine what might happen if we took Mung up on the $10,000 bet.  We would bet that the Weasel would succeed, because of cumulative selection.  Mung would bet that (because of “intelligence” or being “guided”) the Weasel would succeed.  The stake would be held by a house of some sort, which would not take a commission.

The Weasel would be run.  It would succeed.  So the house would declare that we had all won.  The stake would be given to the bettors, in proportion to their bets.  But alas, no one actually bet against the Weasel.  So the winnings would be zero.  Everyone, Mung and the rest of us, would get their stake back, and that’s all.

To bet against Mung, we have to come up with some event that distinguishes cumulative selection from “intelligence” (or being “guided”).  That seems to be the issue on which Mung was offering a $10,000 bet, and declaring (here) us all to be “pretender[s]” because we would not put up or shut up.

So there it is.  We’re all betting on the same side, and no one will win or lose a penny.  Unless Mung can come up with some test that distinguished “intelligence” or being “guided” from cumulative selection.

Now I am possibly misunderstanding what the bet actually would be.  I hope that Mung will straighten us out on that, so that we can understand what test is proposed, and place our bets.

664 thoughts on “Betting on the Weasel

  1. dazz: all of them

    Well since you insist, I’m going to ask you that though I would prefer to hear it from Joe F.

    What scientific, experimental evidence convinced you that all 10 billion species on the earth are evolving into other species…?
    Give us few hundred examples out 10 billion of the transitional evolutionary changes happening now…
    I’m all ears…;-)

  2. Joe Felsenstein: I agree with dazz: all of them. Every species is busy changing, and if we wait long enough it will change enough that anyone will call it a different species.

    What happened to now Joe? Are you telling me there are no organisms right now out of 10 billion species on the earth that are transitioning into new species but there will be some if we wait long enough?

    Of course organisms are changing but that is not what I’m asking about here and you know it very well Joe…

  3. Joe Felsenstein: I agree with dazz: all of them. Every species is busy changing, and if we wait long enough it will change enough that anyone will call it a different species.

    Are Darwin finches already changed into different species? The one that developed a larger beak out of the smaller one?

  4. J-Mac: All of them, all the time.

    You seem to think that it takes some special category of change to make a new species. And that “ordinary” change isn’t that.

    It’s the old “microevolution is different from macroevolution” argument.

  5. Joe Felsenstein: As far as I can see J-Mac’s argument is the old “why are there still monkeys” argument.

    That argument is old. My argument is the new “Why am I still a monkey?’ argument.

  6. Mung: Microevolution is different from macroevolution.

    But where, exactly? Let’s say I start walking, oh, west. Clearly my very first step is a microjourney. But how many steps do I need to take to turn it into a macrojourney? How will I know when I get that far?

  7. Flint: But how many steps do I need to take to turn it into a macrojourney?

    What makes you think your analogy has anything to do with microevolution/macroevolution?

  8. Mung: What makes you think your analogy has anything to do with microevolution/macroevolution?

    Well, there’s this thing about many small steps adding up to a large difference given enough time. You may even have heard about this, but I wondered if maybe Joe hadn’t explained it clearly enough.

  9. genotype – The set of genes possessed by an individual organism.

    – Futuyma

    Unless evolutionists want it to mean something else. But hey, it’s their theory. It’s their language. They can make the words mean whatever they want.

  10. fitness – The success of an entity in reproducing.

    – Futuyma

    Unless evolutionists want it to mean something else. But hey, it’s their theory. It’s their language. They can make the words mean whatever they want.

  11. Flint: Well, there’s this thing about many small steps adding up to a large difference given enough time.

    You’re talking about gradualism, not microevolution.

    gradualism – The proposition that large changes in phenotypic characters have evolved through many slightly different intermediates states.

    – Futuyma

  12. Mung,

    Unless evolutionists want it to mean something else.

    Evolutionists like you that is? After all, you accept common descent etc. You are not a creationist. You can’t or won’t say what involvement ID has.

  13. J-Mac: What happened to now Joe? Are you telling me there are no organisms right now out of 10 billion species on the earth that are transitioning into new species but there will be some if we wait long enough?

    They all are. That’s why “species” causes people like you great difficulty. Macroevolution is simply microevolution at lower resolutions.

  14. Mung,

    fitness – The success of an entity in reproducing.

    – Futuyma

    Unless evolutionists want it to mean something else. But hey, it’s their theory. It’s their language. They can make the words mean whatever they want.

    Oh, for Christ’s sake! Boo hoo. I don’t know where your Futuyma quote comes from, but on page 349 of Evolutionary Biology (3rd Ed) he defines it as the average per capita rate of increase. Which is actually the same as Wikipedia, the same as I’ve been saying. Do you think your Futuyma quote is somehow at odds with that? Are you pitting Futuyma against Futuyma – or what?

  15. Mung,

    genotype – The set of genes possessed by an individual organism.

    – Futuyma

    Genotype (page 231 Evolutionary Biology 3rd Ed – you see how this citation thing works?):

    The genetic constitution of an individual organism, or of a group of organisms alike in this respect, at one or more loci singled out for discussion.

    So yeah, he gives two possible usages, which don’t differ enormously. Perhaps, when reading, one could try and determine which sense was being used, rather than insist that, whatever someone says, they can only mean the other, or that there is some impenetrable inconsistency that undermines the whole enterprise? Would that be so hard?

  16. Mung,

    Even in single-step selection?

    That’s what I understand by single-step selection – 1 generation of a population – so yes.

  17. Allan Miller: Are you pitting Futuyma against Futuyma – or what?

    I’m saying the word doesn’t have one single solitary meaning, just like genotype doesn’t have one single solitary meaning.

    ETA: And using Futuyma to show it.

  18. Joe Felsenstein:
    J-Mac: All of them, all the time.

    You seem to think that it takes some special category of change to make a new species.And that “ordinary” change isn’t that.

    It’s the old “microevolution is different from macroevolution” argument.

    I didn’t say that (micro-macro) but it makes one wonder that out of 10 billion species on earth today (your claim) you can’t show even 1 example of a transition from one species to another even remotely resembling the finches beak change…
    How are you going to know in the future it’s new species if you can’t see any of them evolving today? I know! You are going to assume it evolved based on the premise that evolution is happening because organisms change…

    At least in finches, the larger beak involves two base pair change in a genome…

    Yeah..the species of finches change… so do we… some call it evolution…

  19. Joe Felsenstein: It’s the old “microevolution is different from macroevolution” argument.

    Do you hold to the old “microevolution proves macroevolution” argument? As in: If you can walk 5 km/h, you most definitely can also run 200 mph. Or: Offspring of a species has some variation compared to their parents, therefore crocoducks.

    Most biologists I know have a problem with these arguments.

  20. Erik: Do you hold to the old “microevolution proves macroevolution” argument? As in: If you can walk 5 km/h, you most definitely can also run 200 mph.

    The correct analogy would be that if you can walk five kilometers in an hour, then you can walk twenty kilometers in four hours.

  21. Kantian Naturalist: The correct analogy would be that if you can walk five kilometers in an hour, then you can walk twenty kilometers in four hours.

    Why is that the correct analogy?

    gradualism – The proposition that large changes in phenotypic characters have evolved through many slightly different intermediates states.

  22. Kantian Naturalist,

    No, it doesn’t help at all. For example, someone may be able to run, but it doesn’t follow that he can run a 100 m without stopping meanwhile to catch breath. Pretty much everyone can walk, but hardly anyone can walk without stopping for meals and nights.

    Similarly, macroevolution does not follow straightforwardly from microevolution.

  23. Mung,

    I’m saying the word doesn’t have one single solitary meaning, just like genotype doesn’t have one single solitary meaning.

    I wonder why you people don’t spend your time bugging physicists because their fields don’t have any cows in. Pointless nitpicks are the order of the day. It’s perfectly reasonable to observe that words can have more than one meaning. But when it’s accompanied by the kind of snide (you’ll have to imagine me adopting a mincy voice here) “Unless evolutionists want it to mean something else. But hey, it’s their theory. It’s their language. They can make the words mean whatever they want.”, it’s obviously some attempt to make capital out of nonexistent confusion. If someone talks of the fitness of a genotype, they are rarely talking about the fitness of an individual. It’s usually possible to establish what they mean, if it isn’t clear.

  24. Kantian Naturalist: The correct analogy would be that if you can walk five kilometers in an hour, then you can walk twenty kilometers in four hours.

    If you can walk up a ladder, why can’t you walk to Mars.

  25. Allan Miller,

    The word “genotype”, of course, is not solely curated by evolutionists. But it only seems to be their usage that generates any confusion. A Creationist could take a genetics course without ever getting confused.

  26. Erik: No, it doesn’t help at all. For example, someone may be able to run, but it doesn’t follow that he can run a 100 m without stopping meanwhile to catch breath.

    Exactly, given enough time small increments of running result can result in large distances covered

  27. newton: Exactly, given enough time small increments of running result can result in large distances covered

    Exactly – “can”, not “will”. This is what “does not follow” means. Basic logic.

    For macroevolution to follow, microevolution is not enough. Macro and micro are not the same thing, contrary to JF.

  28. GlenDavidson: Somehow, macro-leaps– leaps to different categories in their case–aren’t any problem in ID, only for evolution.

    Tu quoque: When talking about the Designer, you decry the macro-leap. When talking about evolution, no problemo.

    As for me personally, macro-leap is a problem in both cases. In every case, really.

  29. Erik: When talking about the Designer, you decry the macro-leap.

    There’s no evidence of any designed leap, not micro, not macro.
    OTOH there’s the evidence of micro & macro evolution (common descent, fossil record etc, etc…)

    No one reasons like “micro evolution and millions of years therefore macro evolution”, this is just another case of ignorant creationists being bewildered by science

  30. newton: Exactly, given enough time small increments of running result can result in large distances covered

    LoL!

    Or, it could be like a blind, drunk, man running in place and getting nowhere after much running. Much running and no distance at all covered. Remind us again why evolution is like running.

  31. Evolution is like taking one step. Then two steps. Then four steps. That’s why evolutionary change is exponential!

    Stupid creationists.

  32. Mung,
    There are poor analogies and there are daft analogies. The point about a journey of a thousand steps is that if there is a bias, the niche, the steps may lead, on average, the direction of that bias, as water tends to run downhill, to employ another poor analogy.

  33. Apologies to Joe Felsenstein.

    There is no rule against trolling but there is the option of not rising to the bait!

  34. Alan Fox: Explain the difference between a macro-word and a micro-word!

    No!

    But speaking of analogies. You can add up letters, many, many letters. And you can have a very long string of letters. But that doesn’t mean you have words, or sentences. So why don’t evolutionists use letters and words and sentences in their analogies. Oh, wait… LoL!

    METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL!

    Clearly a case of macro-evolution.

  35. Alan Fox: Apologies to Joe Felsenstein.

    Same here, although to be fair, Mung already lost the bet when he tacitly conceded that cumulative selection works and doesn’t need a target. That happened when he tried to change the subject to complexity, to claim that the weasel fails miserably at doing something Dawkins never conceived it for, after repeatedly affirming that the weasel works because it’s guided and models ID

    So all is left to do in this thread is confirm that Mung has honored his bet

  36. Alan Fox: The point about a journey of a thousand steps is that if there is a bias, the niche, the steps may lead, on average, the direction of that bias, as water tends to run downhill…

    Or like stepping off a cliff.

  37. Bill Cole: If cumulative selection is valid why can’t you build a working model without a target sequence?

    Mung: Experience.

    Much of the debate over Weasel has been over this very point.

    1. Build such a model.
    2. Find a way to quantify and measure “the power of cumulative selection.”
    3. Make a wager on which model will have the greater “power of cumulative selection.”
    4. Compare “the power of cumulative selection” for the model with a target (Weasel) and the model without a target.
    5. Pay up

  38. Mung: LoL!

    Or, it could be like a blind, drunk, man running in place and getting nowhere after much running. Much running and no distance at all covered. Remind us again why evolution is like running.

    In your analogy nothing changes therefore micro-evolution does not exist ,in which case macro-evolution is not like running when small changes in distance can result in large changes in distance given time.

  39. Erik: Tu quoque: When talking about the Designer, you decry the macro-leap. When talking about evolution, no problemo.

    I believe the problem is lack of any specifics of how the designer achieves the leap.

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