Viruses: another chicken and egg paradox?

As the COVID 19 hysteria is unfolding almost all over the world, many are asking the question:

Where did the viruses come from?

ID proponents, like Michael Behe, have gone on record saying that viruses were designed, in most cases they cause no harm, but their role in nature is not yet fully understood here.

On the other hand, the proponents of Darwinian theory of evolution claim that viruses evolved, because why would an omnipotent God/ID designed something harmful, like viruses? So, viruses must’ve evolved…

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Intelligent Design explains Sex!

A thread for ID proponents to explain their alternative theory for biological phenomena.

Allan Miller has written an article on sex, proposing an evolutionary explanation for why almost all Eukaryota indulge in sex. In response to comments from evolution skeptics questioning his explanation, he challenges them:

OK, you ID types, what’s the Design explanation for sex? You need to explain why all eukaryotes have genes that are involved in meiosis, though some never actually perform meiosis, and in some, the genes are ‘broken’. And you need to explain the taxonomic distribution of asexuality – absent in mammals and birds, but increasingly found as one descends your imagined scala naturae – though intermittent sex remains the norm, even in single celled organisms.

Why? What purpose does it serve that is common to single celled protists and our favourite organism, the chimp? Why wasn’t everything designed to just reproduce asexually?

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Coronavirus: Evolution vs ID

Another deadly virus is just around the corner: coronavirus, as predicted by evolution…

Since it was predicted, what had been done to prevent it?

We have all sorts of experts visiting TSZ, such as immunologists, population geneticists, biochemists, and the like…

What have they done in this field?  How about ID?

What are you doing personally to protect yourself, and your family,  from another possible epidemic?

I have lived through SARS, wearing full protective gear for many days. My wife was doing initial screening at the hospital entrance, while few months pregnant…

Is same, or worse, yet to come?

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Behe vs. Swamidass I, as “God and/or Evolution?” Time to yawn, politely applaud or cheer?

The biggest news of this week for the “conversation” this blog is in some small way a part of will likely be the discussion between Drs. Michael Behe and S. Joshua Swamidass in Texas. The answer for both men to the polemical question above is not “God w/out evolution”, but rather “God with evolution,” iow both God and evolution. So what else important is there left for them to disagree about? http://www.veritas.org/location/texas-a-m-university/

For Behe, “evolution” has a narrower meaning than it does for Swamidass. One key question, that likely won’t be asked, is: how wide is Swamidass’ meaning of “evolution” and where does it stop (i.e. what doesn’t ‘evolve’)? Is Swamidass, who somewhat incredulously claims to be neither a creationist nor an evolutionist, actually both? One of the biggest challenges unaddressed still by Swamidass regarding his evolutionism will be met when he starts describing or explaining the “limits of evolutionary theories”, rather than only “the great possibilities of evolutionary theories”, now as we live in a post-Darwinian, extended synthesis scenario.

We may nevertheless hope for some reconciliation, or even a moment or two of peace amidst an artificial storm in the USA involving “Intelligent Design”, evolution, and creationism. Those moments will likely constitute a rare pause in their otherwise contrary apologetics approaches, both taking a “public understanding of science” attitude of pedagogical communication to the stage. We may thus, purely on the communications front, simply get either a parody of abstract intellectualism driven by “religious” or “quasi-religious” agendas, or more positively, a few simple concessions of common ground that shouldn’t be too difficult for either of them to find, or to make towards each other.

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Is Behe’s acceptance of common descent confusing?

In his recent video Michael Behe explains the reasons for his acceptance of common descent.

Do you find it confusing?

Most members of the Discovery Institute find the idea of common descent lacking. Behe, ‘for the sake of the argument’ , is willing to accept it and, instead, focus on the mechanism of Darwinian evolution, natural selection and random mutations, as insufficient to explain evolution.

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Definitions involving “Intelligent Design”: DI Fellows’ language vs. Everyone Else’s

Not long ago in a comment here, I posted a short version of definitions involving the Discovery Institute’s “Intelligent Design” (ID) paradigm, hypothesis, movement, theory, inference, policy, heuristic, or whatever one wants to call it, depending on which person they’re speaking with. This was done because the person in the conversation I was responding to appeared to be, to me at least, quite obviously conflating two meanings into one term (thing & theory). And he didn’t seem to realize that he was doing it. (Aside: there appear to be multiple reasons why people tempted by ideological Intelligent Designism [IDism] or repelled by it, may feel they need to intentionally conflate definitions of ID.) I wondered what might be the issue with what was merely an attempt to lay out simple definitions, for mutual benefit towards clearer communications, or ‘operations’ as some people here like to call it.

Within days, to my surprise, I discovered the exact same thing in a long exchange with a Discovery Institute () Fellow on a social media platform. This person too conflated two meanings into one. Why also is that? And this person wanted to equivocate over whether or not there even is a “movement” at play, before finally conceding that yes, indeed, there is = the IDM based at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, USA. The conversation reminded me of previous ones at Uncommon Descent & BioLogos with Eddie, now of Peaceful Science and Potiphar, who only begrudgingly, after listing off a number of ways that this “Movement” could only properly or ‘officially’ be spoken about, according to his somewhat “philosophistic” definition of “Intelligent Design theory” (IDT), conceded the point of there being a “Movement”, with all of DI-CSC’s Fellows admitted as members.

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A nontechnical recap

David Nemati and Eric Holloway, “Expected Algorithmic Specified Complexity.” Bio-Complexity 2019 (2):1-10. doi:10.5048/BIO-C.2019.2. Editor: William Basener. Editor-in-Chief: Robert J. Marks II.

In Section 4 of their article, Nemati and Holloway claim to have identified an error in a post of mine. They do not cite the post, but instead name me, and link to the homepage of The Skeptical Zone. Thus there can be no question as to whether the authors regard technical material that I post here as worthy of a response in Bio-Complexity. (A year earlier, George Montañez modified a Bio-Complexity article, adding information that I supplied in precisely the post that Nemati and Holloway address.) Interacting with me at TSZ, a month ago, Eric Holloway acknowledged error in an equation that I had told him was wrong, expressed interest in seeing the next part of my review, and said, “If there is a fundamental flaw in the second half, as you claim, then I’ll retract it if it is unfixable.” I subsequently put a great deal of work into “The Old Switcheroo,” trying to anticipate all of the ways in which Holloway might wiggle out of acknowledging his errors. Evidently I left him no avenue of escape, given that he now refuses to engage at all, and insists that I submit my criticisms to Bio-Complexity.
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The old switcheroo

David Nemati and Eric Holloway, “Expected Algorithmic Specified Complexity.” Bio-Complexity 2019 (2):1-10. doi:10.5048/BIO-C.2019.2. Editor: William Basener. Editor-in-Chief: Robert J. Marks II.

Eric Holloway has littered cyberspace with claims, arrived at by faulty reasoning, that the “laws of information conservation (nongrowth)” in data processing hold for algorithmic specified complexity as for algorithmic mutual information. It is essential to understand that there are infinitely many measures of algorithmic specified complexity. Nemati and Holloway would have us believe that each of them is a quantification of the meaningful information in binary strings, i.e., finite sequences of 0s and 1s. If Holloway’s claims were correct, then there would be a limit on the increase in algorithmic specified complexity resulting from execution of a computer program (itself a string). Whichever one of the measures were applied, the difference in algorithmic specified complexity of the string output by the process and the string input to the process would be at most the program length plus a constant. It would follow, more generally, that an approximate upper bound on the difference in algorithmic specified complexity of strings y and x is the length of the shortest program that outputs y on input of x. Of course, the measure must be the same for both strings. Otherwise it would be absurd to speak of (non-)​conservation of a quantity of algorithmic specified complexity.
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Walking sharks evolving fast. Don’t miss out!

It boggles my mind when I read Darwinian propaganda like this:

These sharks have evolved to walk on land—and they did it quickly” here

Or this Science Alert:

“Rapid Evolution Made These Paper Wasps Capable of Recognising Each Other’s Faces” here

Or

Profound’ evolution: Wasps learn to recognize faceshere

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Of “models” and “algorithms”

I was short with Joe Felsenstein in the comments section of “Stark Incompetence,” a post in which I address, well, um, the stark incompetence on display in a recent publication of Eric Holloway. I have apologized to Joe, and promised to make amends with a brief post on the topic that he wants to address. Now, the topic is a putative model that Eric introduced in “Mutual Algorithmic Information, Information Non-growth, and Allele Frequency” (or perhaps an improved version of the model). Here is a remark that I addressed to Joe:

Tom English: As you know, if a putative model is logically inconsistent, then it is not a model of anything. I claim that that EricMH’s putative model is logically inconsistent. You had better prove that it is consistent, or turn it into something that you can prove is consistent, before going on to discuss its biological relevance.

I will not have to go far into Eric’s post to identify inconsistencies. After explaining the inconsistencies, which I doubt can be eliminated, I will remark on why the “model” is not worth salvaging. The gist is that Eric’s attempted analysis puts a halting, output-generating simulator of a non-halting, non-output-generating evolutionary process in place of the process itself. An analysis of the simulator would not, in any case, be an analysis of the simuland.

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Stark incompetence

David Nemati and Eric Holloway, “Expected Algorithmic Specified Complexity.” Bio-Complexity 2019 (2):1-10. doi:10.5048/BIO-C.2019.2. Editor: William Basener. Editor-in-Chief: Robert J. Marks II.

Let us start by examining a part of the article that everyone can see is horrendous. When I supply proofs, in a future post, that other parts of the article are wrong, few of you will follow the details. But even the mathematically uninclined should understand, after reading what follows, that

  1. the authors of a grotesque mangling of lower-level mathematics are unlikely to get higher-level mathematics correct, and
  2. the reviewers and editors who approved the mangling are unlikely to have given the rest of the article adequate scrutiny.

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Non-conservation of algorithmic specified complexity…

… proved without reference to infinity and the empty string.

Some readers have objected to my simple proof that computable transformation f(x) of a binary string x can result in an infinite increase of algorithmic specified complexity (ASC). Here I give a less-simple proof that there is no upper bound on the difference in ASC of f(x) and x. To put it more correctly, I show that the difference can be any positive real number.

Updated 12/8/2019: The assumptions of my theorem were unnecessarily restrictive. I have relaxed the assumptions, without changing the proof.
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Evo-Info 4 addendum

Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, by Robert J. Marks II, the “Charles Darwin of Intelligent Design”; William A. Dembski, the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”; and Winston Ewert, the “Charles Ingram of Active Information.” World Scientific, 332 pages.
Classification: Engineering mathematics. Engineering analysis. (TA347)
Subjects: Evolutionary computation. Information technology–Mathematics.

In “Evo-Info 4: Non-Conservation of Algorithmic Specified Complexity,” I neglected to explain that algorithmic mutual information is essentially a special case of algorithmic specified complexity. This leads immediately to two important points:

  1. Marks et al. claim that algorithmic specified complexity is a measure of meaning. If this is so, then algorithmic mutual information is also a measure of meaning. Yet no one working in the field of information theory has ever regarded it as such. Thus Marks et al. bear the burden of explaining how they have gotten the interpretation of algorithmic mutual information right, and how everyone else has gotten it wrong.
  2. It should not come as a shock that the “law of information conservation (nongrowth)” for algorithmic mutual information, a special case of algorithmic specified complexity, does not hold for algorithmic specified complexity in general.

My formal demonstration of unbounded growth of algorithmic specified complexity (ASC) in data processing also serves to counter the notion that ASC is a measure of meaning. I did not explain this in Evo-Info 4, and will do so here, suppressing as much mathematical detail as I can. You need to know that a binary string is a finite sequence of 0s and 1s, and that the empty (length-zero) string is denoted \lambda. The particular data processing that I considered was erasure: on input of any binary string x, the output \mathtt{erased}(x) is the empty string. I chose erasure because it rather obviously does not make data more meaningful. However, part of the definition of ASC is an assignment of probabilities to all binary strings. The ASC of a binary string is infinite if and only if its probability is zero. If the empty string is assigned probability zero, and all other binary strings are assigned probabilities greater than zero, then the erasure of a nonempty binary string results in an infinite increase in ASC. In simplified notation, the growth in ASC is

    \[A(\mathtt{erased}(x)) - A(x) = \underbrace{A(\lambda)}_\text{infinite} - \underbrace{A(x)}_\text{finite} = \infty\]

for all nonempty binary strings x. Thus Marks et al. are telling us that erasure of data can produce an infinite increase in meaning.

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Number of Unique Commentators

For The Panda’s Thumb’s After the Bar Closes thread on Uncommon Descent, I created a graph of the number of unique commentators at UD:

Here, for each day from Apr 2005 until Nov 2019, I gave the number of different people who commented at UD at least once during the previous 365 days. The colors indicate the number of contributions such a commentator has made over this period of time.

Obviously, the same can be done for “The Skeptical Zone”:

Enjoy!

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Behe and Co. in Canada

This past Friday, I bumped into Dr. Michael Behe, and again on Saturday, along with Drs. Brian Miller (DI), Research Coordinator CSC, and Robert Larmer (UNB), currently President of the Canadian Society of (Evangelical) Christian Philosophers. Venue: local apologetics conference (https://www.diganddelve.ca/). The topic of the event “Science vs. Atheism: Is Modern Science Making Atheism Improbable?” makes it relevant here at TSZ, where there are more atheists & agnostics among ‘skeptics’ than average.

On the positive side, I would encourage folks who visit this site to go to such events for learning/teaching purposes. Whether for the ID speakers or not; good conversations are available among people honestly wrestling with and questioning the relationship between science, philosophy and theology/worldview, including on issues related to evolution, creation, and intelligence in the universe or on Earth. Don’t go to such events expecting miracles for your personal worldview in conversation with others, credibility in scientific publications or in the classroom, if you are using ‘science’ as a worldview weapon against ‘religion’ or ‘theology’. That argument just won’t fly anymore and the Discovery Institute, to their credit, has played a role, of whatever size may still be difficult to tell, in making this shift happen.

A question arises: what would be the first question you would ask or thing you would say to Michael Behe if you bumped into him on the street?

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Does Paul Nelson really teach both ‘design theory’ & ‘Intelligent Design’ theory?

He sure made it sound that way. I’m guessing he actually doesn’t. It may be just a bluff or a semantic game. And then, given Paul Nelson seems to be a man who enjoys good jokes, we’ll laugh together and return to the ‘other’ conversation that respectfully doesn’t accept double-talking between these terms.

Gladly and thankfully, I’m open and ready for Paul to prove me wrong and to show us (people on the internet) his great balancing act. I really don’t think he teaches what I’m talking about when he professes ‘Intelligent Design’ theory. I would willingly admit and concede to being wrong, if he were to outline more clearly his views showing how he teaches ‘design theory’, ‘design thinking’, ‘design thinkers’ & ‘design studies,’ and not actually just IDism (which he calls IDT), which is what I suspect.

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The Demise of Intelligent Design

At last?

Back in 2007, I predicted that the idea of “Intelligent Design” would soon fade into obscurity. I wrote:

My initial assessment of ID in my earliest encounter with an ID proponent* was that ID would be forgotten within five years, and that now looks to me an over-generous estimate.

*August, 2005

I was wrong. Whilst the interest in “Intelligent Design” (ID) as a fruitful line of scientific enquiry has declined from the heady days of 2005 (or perhaps was never really there) there remain diehard enthusiasts who maintain the claim that ID has merit and is simply being held back by the dark forces of scientism. William Dembski; the “high priest” of ID has largely withdrawn from the fray but his ideas have been promoted and developed by Robert Marks and Winston Ewert. In 2017 (with Dembski as a co-author) they published Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, which was heralded as a new development in the ID blogosphere. However, the claim that this represents progress has been met with scepticism.

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Swamidass vs. Nelson – trying to find a “Common Narrative with ID on MN”?

I’ll intervene on this conversation started by S. Joshua Swamidass as my guess is he’s going to mangle terms & then claim mastery over them, as he has done in the past on the topic of ‘methodological naturalism’ (MN). Paul Nelson (of micro-/macro- distinction) has posted here in the past & has done a fine job of staying more neutral, scholarly and welcoming to discussion than most IDists at the DI. It would be welcome for Nelson to clarify, re-iterate or to add any points here that Swamidass might not wish to address at PS, or in case the naive scientism cum MN lobby grows too loud there.

This is one of those topics where in my view Swamidass scores quite low in credibility and coherency (much like I score in biology! = P). This makes sense because he has little training and doesn’t seem to have done much personal reading in philosophy, social sciences or humanities. Paul Nelson, on the other hand, did a PhD in the philosophy of biology. So if Swamidass starts to try to out-philosophize Nelson, things could get hilarious quickly, as they have in the past, e.g. with Jonathan Burke, who discovered predecessors to GA -> GAE that Swamidass missed & had to add at the last minute.

Let’s see if Swamidass is ready to learn if the term ‘methodological naturalism’ is really a sword he wants to fall on or not. So far, it has been. Nelson, as do I, rejects MNism, & not just as a misnomer.

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Behe vs Swamidass: Why?

According to Joshua Swamidass Michael Behe and him have a lot in common… Swamidass has even publicly defended Behe on his blog by demanding a fair hearing.

Not only that, Swamidass agrees with Behe on many evolutionary/ID issues, such as guided evolution…

So, why would Behe and Swamidass square off at Texas A & M University in 2020?
What are they going to discuss? Not the polar bear evolution/devolution fiasco, right?

What do you think?

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