CSI-free Explanatory Filter…

…Gap Highlighter, Design Conjecture

Though I’ve continued to endear myself to the YEC community, I’ve certainly made myself odious in certain ID circles. I’ve often been the lone ID proponent to vociferously protest cumbersome, ill-conceived, ill-advised, confusing and downright wrong claims by some ID proponents. Some of the stuff said by ID proponents is of such poor quality they are practically gifts to Charles Darwin. I teach ID to university science students in extra curricular classes, and some of the stuff floating around in ID internet circles I’d never touch because it would cause my students to impale themselves intellectually.

I have yet another opportunity to make myself yet more odious to the ID community by suggesting information theory should be dropped or at least de-emphasized as a means of making the design argument, especially the use of CSI to implement the Explanator Filter (EF). I claim the EF is adequately and more effectively implemented with CSI-free methods for most biological designs that are debated currently.

TSZ’s very own Patrick/MathGrrl successfully demonstrated the inability of ID proponents to make basic ID inferences in ways that would stand up to university-level scrutiny. I tried to agree with him without having to offend too many IDists in my essay:
Siding with Mathgrrl.

I probably got away with my oblique defiance of the CSI culture at the time because my alternate approach to rejecting the chance hypothesis actually works in demonstrating certain chance hypotheses can be rejected! In fact, those who tried to assail my alternative CSI-free approach became the butt of jokes at UD. I now informally introduce my version of the CSI-free Explanatory Filter.

But first I should mention, I use the phrase “Design Conjecture” vs. “Design Inference”. The word “conjecture” seems to capture the notion that an ID claim might not ever be formally proven nor falsified, but there might be intuitions or beliefs to suppose design could be true. FWIW, at the time of this writing, even in mathematics, there are some conjectures which many could accept as true, but have not yet been nor may ever be proven: List of Conjectures. [My favorite conjecture is Goldbach’s conjecture probably because it is easy to understand.] The phrase word “Design Inference” connotes an assertion that lies beyond the limits of what can actually be formally demonstrated. “Conjecture” captures more the spirit of what ID can formally claim based on what can be formally demonstrated.

The Explanatory Filter can be argued to be a tool to support the design conjecture. And if “design conjecture” seems too ambitious, the EF can be said to be a tool to demonstrate gaps in our knowledge. Rather than saying the EF proves design (as some of my ID comrades argue), I make the more modest claim the EF demonstrates the origin of certain systems are not consistent with certain chance and law hypotheses. The modified CSI-free EF does not eliminate all conceivable non-ID hypotheses.

The CSI-free EF does not argue from ignorance, but rather proves via contradiction. For example, if a proposed mechanism conforms to the binomial distribution, to the extent a system convincingly contradicts that distribution, that distribution is falsified.

Perhaps the simplest (albeit somewhat weak) example of a conjectured design in biology is homochirality. Amino acids are left-handed homochiral, DNAs are right handed homochiral. Though there are a few successful chiral amplification chemistry experiments for amino acids, they fail to maintain homochirality through a polymerization process of diverse amino acids in a supposed pre-biotic soup. Further more, even in the unlikely event amino acids spontaneously polymerize, if they were homochiral, they won’t stay that way for long without an active policing mechanism since thermal agitation at temperatures above freezing will dispense homochirality in short order relative to geological time.

The homochiral feature of life statistically relates to the problem posed by 500 fair coins heads and is at variance with binomial expectation. The CSI-free EF can be said to reject the model of the bionomial distribution to explain the homochiral features of life. If a distribution for a set of coins or amino acids in a polymer are assumed binomial, even if there is modest bias, there are conditions where the chance hypothesis can be operationally rejected. We don’t have to resort to CSI or ambiguous CSI Phi_ST calculations to do this! We can resort to textbook freshman statistical analysis.

On the presumption a binomial distribution accurately models a chance hypothesis for a system, I outlined one method to reject the chance hypothesis using the law of large numbers: LLN vs Keiths and Eigenstate and my other TSZ critics. This was so easy! And there are other comparably easy approaches to reject the chance hypothesis, such as a Chi Squared Test.

I then came to a heretical viewpoint during my writing of alternate approaches to the EF. Why use CSI to implement the Explanatory Filter (EF) at all? It seemed CSI was mostly superfluous and an added unnecessary layer of confusion. The superflousness is demonstrated by this formula:

I = -log2(P)

where P is the probability of an event, I is the measure of information. Restating the probability in terms of negative log2 adds no insight. That sort of logarithmic transformation is clearly useful for communication engineers trying to figure out how to push more more bits through a wire, but it certainly never helped me make a more convincing anti-chance argument!

In the case of 500 coins 100% heads, the P is 1 / 2^500 and I is 500 bits. But this tells us nothing about rejecting the chance hypothesis for the 100% heads. Calculating CSI to reject the chance hypothesis required complicated procedures which practically all IDists at UD could not follow, but which they swore by nonetheless, and certainly few if any were able to execute successfully to Patrick’s satisfaction.

Rather than the CSI method, I resorted to simple statistics. The widely accepted model for the statistics of coins and/or amino acids was the binomial distribution (biased or unbiased). There are 501 possible macrostates for 500 fair coins under the binomial distribution, and 100% heads had the lowest possible multiplicity macrostate, was the farthest configuration from expectation, and would be rejected by chi-square tests for randomness. No need for CSI! The tools to make an unassailable inference with respect to the most widely accepted statistical model of fair coins was available and used in practice for decades, maybe even centuries.

Why not just use basic arguments? For systems as complicated as the algorithmically controlled metabolisms found in life, maybe we just have to be a little creative and thus find much easier ways to implement the EF without doing those blasted Phi_ST calculations!

Can the CSI-free EF be applied to other features of life? I think so, and here is an example in outline (not elaborated) form. By convention we view a conceptual divide between hardware and software. The same software can be run on computers made of different materials – silicon, halfnium or DNA-RNA-PROTEINS. Hardware cannot as a matter of principle determine the essential details of the software, but instead must allow necessary degrees of configurational freedom. We sometimes measure those degrees of freedom in bits, but lets not go there for now. 🙂

One particular set of algorithms of interest to ID are Quines. In addition to Quines another set of algorithms of interest would be those that drive von Neumann Universal Constructors. A few scientists view life as implementing such wonderful devices as Quines and von Neumann Constructors.

If life indeed implements these devices, as a matter of principle, life software cannot be reduced to law any more than the essential features of software can be explained in terms of hardware. Furthermore, the chance hypothesis cannot be an explanation for such software constructs even in principle. Additionally, as far as OOL is concerned, Darwinian selection (even assuming it works, which it really doesn’t) is inapplicable to OOL or should I say Origin of Quines and Origin of von Neumann Constructors.

It is no surprise then that individuals like Don Johnson, who hold two PhD’s (one in chemistry, the other in computer science) and who researched recombinant DNA, accept ID. And it is no surprise there are a few closet ID sympathizers in the engineering community. They understand the Origin of Life problem is not one of chemistry, but of software, and not just any kind of software, software associated with Quines and von Neumann Constructors.

Many years ago I had a discussion with Tom English at ARN over how improbable a Turing complete system might be as a matter of principle. I recall the numbers would be astronomical for Hofstadter’s example of a Turing system for DNA as stated in Gödel, Escher, Bach, but I could not get a generalized answer from anyone thereafter. I never had a chance to finish the discussion….

What I eventually realized however was that it’s not a matter of how simple an algorithm can be made, but that extravagant algorithms of extreme Rube Goldberg complexity exists in life that defy expectation from ordinary processes. Sure replicators can spontaneously form, but when a replicator forms that is astronomically far from expectation, thoughts of a Designer, a Creator God begin come into the mind of some. We don’t have to use theologically loaded words like “miracle” or “supernatural”, but we can use euphemisms like “astronomically far from scientific expectation.” 🙂

So what is the CSI-free Explantory Filter? It is a filter that does not use CSI but rather basic science, logic, mathematics and cybernetics to reject or make less believable known or claimed law and chance mechanisms as explanations for certain features of the universe.

 

[Title shortened by Lizzie]

84 thoughts on “CSI-free Explanatory Filter…

  1. I’m sure everyone here knows what a big fan I am of Salvador. He’s probably the best thing to happen to ID since William Paley. If Paley were here today he’d no doubt give Sal a gold watch and send him off into retirement with instruction not to lose it on the heath.

    AFAIK Dembski introduces the Explanatory Filter in his 1998 book The Design Inference (p. 36).

    The term Complex Specified Information appears in Dembski’s 2002 book No Free Lunch and Salvador refers to this as “CSI v1.0″.

    So Sal, which version of CSI was Dembski using in TDI and how does it differ from what you are proposing?

  2. Allan Miller: In fact I’m very dubious about the capacity of design to ignite the spark where nature fails, so ‘dead things stay dead’ is hardly a plus for ID, is it?

    Yep, this. In my never-humble opinion, this has made ID an abject failure. They can’t seem to describe, even as a hypothetical, how “design” process can spark chemistry into life / proto-life. If our current natural / materialistic hypothetical processes aren’t good enough (not yet, maybe not ever) well, theirs aren’t good AT ALL because theirs don’t exist.

    Where? When? Who? HOW did the designer (material fingers or equivalent appendages? tools? pure thought vibrations?) rearrange (suddenly? gradually?) the necessary molecules? (Was one enough for the spark to catch? all the molecules in a beaker full of proto-life soup? all the molecules in Earth’s ocean?)

    Without even a shadow of an explanation as to HOW, the ID position is functionally identical to:
    And god said, LET THERE BE LIGHT.
    And there was light.
    And god saw that the light was good.

  3. stcordova: Thank you for taking the time to transcribe the Koonin passage.

    Sure, you’re welcome. I see at least one embarrassing typo; citation [Livein and Rees, 2005] should be Livio, as of course it was correctly cited in the book. I don’t know how I missed that and now I can’t correct it. Apologies to Dr. Livio.

    My graduate advisor in Engineering Applied Physics was a world expert in Quantum Computing where many-worlds or at least many virtual worlds are leveraged in order to get the next generation high speed computation. One of my co-workers was a pupil of Stephen Weinberg and worked also on quantum computation — something called the Schorr algorithm, or whatever….

    In math we use a lot of representations that have artifacts that may or may not be real such as infinite series or in finite sum decompositions. Whether a single number represents the sum of many worlds or is just a certain way of looking at the world might be at the root of the debate with many worlds or multiverses.

    Interesting, and way above my pay grade.

    Honestly, Sal, I just have to shake my head in mystification that you can show such mathematical competence and yet choose to believe that an entire real universe is only something like 10000 years old. Surely you must be aware that all the math, all the physics theories, and all the physical evidence are consilient at an age of almost 14 billion years. The math and science which is behind your quantum computing is the same math and science which demonstrates that the cosmologists’ calculations and theories are, essentially, correct. There is simply no item of evidence which indicates that the universe could possibly be young. Your arithmetic is off by a factor of 10^6. How can that be?

    No one but God will really know the answer to the questions of the multiverse or many worlds. So like many things, we go on with life based on some unprovable conjectures, such conjectures might be labeled faith. This is necessary since to answer all important questions conclusively, one would have to be as omniscient as God, in which case one would probably be God.

    Yep.

    But this is how I think your statement should be re-phrased:

    No one but god [if it exists, and if it is necessarily omniscient] will really know the answer to the questions of the multiverse or many worlds.

    The god in which I believe isn’t omniscient, anyways.

    And if we don’t go into the “important question” assuming the existence of god to begin with, then we non-omniscient humans probably have to settle for:

    “No one will really know the answer to the questions of the multiverse or many worlds.”

    Shrug. I’m happy to speculate; that’s what I do for fun; knowing is fun, too, but it doesn’t hurt my feelings not to “know”.

  4. Mung: I’m sure everyone here knows what a big fan I am of Salvador. He’s probably the best thing to happen to ID since William Paley. If Paley were here today he’d no doubt give Sal a gold watch and send him off into retirement with instruction not to lose it on the heath.

    Heya, Mung.

    Even though I’ve proven today that I can’t trust my sense of humor … I’ll say it anyways:

    This is funny. This is really funny. This is really good funny, not bad funny. Thanks for giving me something to smile about. 🙂 😉

  5. hotshoe_,

    And god said, LET THERE BE LIGHT.

    Not remotely relevant, I just like word-play, but I read that as LET THERE BE BLIGHT! Which is kinda cool. 🙂

  6. I’m not really a fan of invoking the multiverse as a potential solution of the ‘probabilistic issue’. It concedes that there is a probabilistic issue for starters, which in itself I would challenge, but like all such analyses omits a realistic probabilistic computation. The probability is greater than zero but less than can be handled by the probabilistic resources of 1 universe? Oh riheally? Show your math. It’s not merely a combinatorial problem. It is much, much more complicated than that.

    There are a great many potential physicochemical environments one could look at. The variables are immense. Researchers have a probabilistic problem. We don’t know the right environment, so we don’t know how probable it is to exist in the average universe, nor how often it would generate replicators if it did. We need to sterilise the earth, rewind the atmosphere and keep an eye on it, see what transpires.

  7. Allan Miller: e need to sterilise the earth, rewind the atmosphere and keep an eye on it, see what transpires

    Please not while I’m on it. Or while you’re on it, either.

  8. Sal, I just have to shake my head in mystification that you can show such mathematical competence and yet choose to believe that an entire real universe is only something like 10000 years old.

    Worth another discussion, but thank you for the back handed compliment about my math competence.

    Hope you won’t be offended if I say, “God bless you.” 🙂

  9. hotshoe_,

    Please not while I’m on it. Or while you’re on it, either.

    Some people have no scientific curiosity! 😉 ‘S OK, we’d be on Mars, waiting for Earth to turn blue.

  10. Allan,

    Thank you for your responses in this discussion. I respect your opinion, but let me offer a little further why I hold the view there is and will likely be a probability problem.

    When I referred to the illustration of the bowl, it actually was rephrasing a well-used concept in signal processing namely Bibo Stability see 4.1.2.

    There is no question replicators can spontaneously form, but the issue is the extravagant algorithmic replicator that appears to exist far from expectation. I’ve offered some conceptual reasons why it should reside far from expectation as a matter of principle (independent of chemistry and physics) based on elements of the von Neumann constructor and software, but additionally let me add physical and chemical considerations.

    An OOL researcher would probably prefer a chemical that naturally evolves to a stable state on its way to becoming a component of a life-like replicator. Unfortunately for the OOL advocates, we know that biotic materials require care to preserve their biotic state. They tend to coalesce naturally to a non-biotic state over time much like a marble released into a bowl. It is well-known the direction where the marble-bowl system will evolve. Trying to pin down more variables and having more and more comprehensive analysis won’t overturn the inevitable evolution of the marble-bowl system.

    Here are a few issues chemically which show why proteins are fabulous choice by a Designer wishing to show that He can build something as extravagant and delicate as a mansion of cards.

    1. homochiral amino acids polymers (of which proteins are a subset) will automatically racemize and become functionless over time. One NASA scientist as well as others have argued homochirality is necessary feature of a protein. If an amino acid polymer is homochiral to begin with, it won’t stay that way long relative to geological time. This is a well-known fact in chemical kinetics.

    2. hydrolysis reactions. The polymerized proteins will tend to break apart into amino acid fragments.

    Hydrolysis reverses the condensation of amino acids into proteins by the acid- or alkali- catalyzed breaking of the peptide bonds and the addition of water at the break.

    http://www.biosafelifesciences.com/chemistry_alkaline_hydrolysis

    Few OOLers wish to really talk about this, but hydrolysis will happen it’s only a question of how fast. Biological organisms circumvent the problem because of active self-healing.

    One way to stop the hydrolysis is to keep water away from the protein, but that would either kill the organism by thirst or least prevent chemicals from floating around and meeting each other to evolve an organism.

    3. If hydrolysis shows that existing proteins break apart into individual monomers, thermodynamics shows amino acid monomers are not naturally inclined to polymerize into a polymer in plausible conditions. Sidney Fox boasted he polymerized homochiral amino acids derived from soy beans, but most forget hid did so at temperatures that we would deem appropriate for sterilization, not for creation of life! The Fox’s polymerized peptides were short and didn’t have the necessary alpha-peptide bonds, and the polymerization process along with the heat destroyed the homochirality. Further, many of the monomers adhered into clusters rather than polymer chains.

    No amount of putting more variables into our models will circumvent these issues anymore than getting more decimal places in the position momentum of a marble-bowl system. The eventual evolution of the system occurs under a very broad space of conditions. As far as biotic chemicals are concerned, biotic type chemicals natural evolve toward functionally useless state if they aren’t in that state already.

    There are legitimate chemical considerations that support Wells much maligned Humpty Dumpty illustration, and that is why James Tour doesn’t hesitate to argue via Humpty Dumpty to other chemists. They know the score.

    I have an easy time teaching ID-sympathetic students with chemistry, physics and engineering backgrounds. Their backgrounds makes it easier for me to demonstrate to them that the natural direction of chemical evolution is away from extravagant algorithmic replicators we call life, not toward it. It is not hard therefore to suggest life is a miracle, and if life is a miracle it becomes easy to believe there is a Miracle Maker.

  11. stcordova,

    It is well-known the direction where the marble-bowl system will evolve. Trying to pin down more variables and having more and more comprehensive analysis won’t overturn the inevitable evolution of the marble-bowl system.

    Sure, put chemicals in a jar and they will follow their entropic gradients and adopt lowest-energy states. It requires energy replenishment to keep one step ahead of permanent residence in an energy well. Still, even if life truly arose spontaneously and its 4-billion-year descendants were trying to find out how, they would be in the position we are in now – we simply don’t know the conditions, so we don’t know how ‘impossible’ they are. There are numerous gradient-driven and cycling processes; physicochemical systems can be maintained far from equilibrium.

    Entropy is no friend to ‘design’ either. You may know exactly where you want all your atoms, but how do you get them in place without them reacting in transit? Magic is the only option, or “physics undreamed of by our puny minds”, which amounts to the same thing.

    1. homochiral amino acids polymers (of which proteins are a subset) will automatically racemize […]

    I don’t subscribe to a protein OoL, so not my problem. Proteins are homochiral because aaRSs and ribosomes are stereospecific.

    One NASA scientist as well as others have argued homochirality is necessary feature of a protein. If an amino acid polymer is homochiral to begin with, it won’t stay that way long relative to geological time. This is a well-known fact in chemical kinetics.

    I think a worse problem is the extravagant array of exotic amino acids. Our proteins are made only of alpha acids, and there are many more than 20, or even the 39 including isomers. Plus there can be beta and gamma forms, permutating up to about 500 IIRC. I think you (and many others) set far too much store on issues of protein chirality. There are much bigger problems with ‘proteins first’ – the biggest of all being specification. It’s not enough to make even 1 molecule. You have to make millions, repeatedly. For these and other reasons, I reject Proteins First.

    2. hydrolysis reactions. The polymerized proteins will tend to break apart into amino acid fragments.

    Condensation is not energetically favourable anyway, so again: not my problem!

    Few OOLers wish to really talk about this, but hydrolysis will happen it’s only a question of how fast.

    I think you impugn the character of OoL researchers there. They know exactly what the chemical issues are, and are not shy of discussing them.

    3. If hydrolysis shows that existing proteins break apart into individual monomers, thermodynamics shows amino acid monomers are not naturally inclined to polymerize into a polymer in plausible conditions.

    Sure. Not disputed. Proteins First is, to me, a non-starter.Now, I am sure you have a similar set of objections to RNA scenarios. I would not trivialise the problems with RNA (and I am aware of many knowledgeable people who reject ‘RNA World’), but it has significant merit.

    No amount of putting more variables into our models will circumvent these issues anymore than getting more decimal places in the position momentum of a marble-bowl system.

    Yes, once you decide protein is essential, no amount of staring at it will get it to turn into a replicator. If that is as far as you are prepared to let your mind wander, you can dust your hands and declare OoL impossible.

    I have an easy time teaching ID-sympathetic students with chemistry, physics and engineering backgrounds.

    Ha! I bet you do!

    Their backgrounds makes it easier for me to demonstrate to them that the natural direction of chemical evolution is away from extravagant algorithmic replicators we call life, not toward it. It is not hard therefore to suggest life is a miracle, and if life is a miracle it becomes easy to believe there is a Miracle Maker.

    If people want to badly enough, even knowledgeable ones can believe in a 6,000 year old earth, so I’m sure issues with the complexities of life fall upon very receptive minds. Still …I am a biochemist by training and a software engineer by profession. So I have some understanding of the issues that engineers – and chemists – routinely flag up. Yet I don’t find a natural OoL implausible.

  12. Thank you to all who participated in this discussion.

    I don’t think there is much debate we can eliminate some chance and law hypotheses without recourse to CSI.

    It was good the discussion focused on actual and hypothetical living systems, chemistry, physics and cybernetics rather than the not-so-easy-to-formulate-and-apply ideas of CSI. This discussion went along the lines I’d prefer these discussions go. Rather than getting involved in a distracting argument over CSI, we talk about things that are more accessible. That is why I advocate to the extent IDists want to use the EF, use it without recourse to CSI!

    So perhaps one thing that we mostly can agree with, on balance, the CSI concept doesn’t help IDists, or at the least it certainly doesn’t help me.

  13. Allan Miller: There are numerous gradient-driven and cycling processes; physicochemical systems can be maintained far from equilibrium.

    Hydrothermal vents appeal to me as a plausible environment for proto-life, where very hot water rich in dissolved chemicals is mixing turbulently with water at barely above freezing.

  14. Alan Fox,

    Yes – it’s almost certainly at some physical boundary that the issue would be settled, hence the difficulty of creating a situation with the right materials, structure, chemistry and dynamical flux, from all the possibilities available.

    The problem is a single-molecule one, which is something chemists, physicists and engineers seem to fail to grasp. You only need a single ‘true replicator’ molecule, in principle. Simply by virtue of being a ‘true replicator’, it ignites a chain reaction – but not one that would necessarily make itself known to the researcher lucky enough to have it in his apparatus during an experimental run.

    People’s experience, even those in the know, tends to be at a much larger scale, mixing bulk reagents in a coarse manner and applying low-grade energy to the entire mix, which tends to disrupt as much as it creates. But at the atomic-to-molecular scale, things are a bit different.

  15. shallit: There is no reason to believe that life requires a Turing-complete system

    True. And the actual evidence is against it.

    shallit:All that is needed is replication with errors.

    Not true.

  16. hotshoe_Thanks for giving me something to smile about.

    You are most welcome.

    I am all about erecting walls between people and then smiling madly over the wall at each other.

    [The walls are there to prevent hugs. Ugh.]

  17. Neil Rickert:
    I approve of getting rid of the “information” nonsense.

    Unfortunately, reality intrudes.

    Is it your position that information does not exist?

  18. Am I the only one amazed at how the binomial distribution matched up to coin tossing? If only information theory would catch up.

    IMO there is still a lot of good stuff to be looked at in this thread.

  19. Mung: Is it your position that information does not exist?

    Of course it exists. We construct it all the time with out technology and with our brains.

    The problem is that the ID people conflate different meanings of “information”.

  20. Right, it’s all the fault of the ID people. Not buying it.

    So information is strictly a product of the human mind, Neil? Why should that be the case, unless human minds are some how divorced from organic bodies?

  21. Mung:
    Right, it’s all the fault of the ID people. Not buying it.

    So information is strictly a product of the human mind, Neil? Why should that be the case, unless human minds are some how divorced from organic bodies?

    1. depends on what you mean by information. By many perfectly good definition, information is NOT “strictly a product of the human mind”.

    2. Even under definitions that include concepts such as “meaning” that are intrinsically to do with minds, clearly non-human animals with cognitive capacities take in information, use it, and transmit it.

    3. This does not imply that minds are “divorced from human bodies”. Machines can also take in information (in this sense) and transmit it, both to people and to other machines. My car’s GPS system, for instance.

  22. The information usually used by ID-ers is the sequential information in biomolecules. This can be ‘information’ according to most definitions, but each is interestingly different.

    The fundamental informative capacity in nucleic acids is actually complementarity, not strictly sequence at all. The charge distribution at the surface of a single strand most tightly binds to the complementary charge distribution on another, antiparallel strand. That’s ‘information’ like a magnetic field is ‘information’ to an electron – it induces a causal change; the system sheds energy and something moves.

    Of course there’s more, because a strand can also specify a protein. Again, the basic interaction is actually of the same type as above – triplets in tRNA bind most tightly to the complementary triplet in mRNA. The complementary triplets ‘inform’ each other like the earth ‘informs’ my molecules to plummet towards it. Of course one can say that the strand contains ‘information’ about the amino acid sequence, which in a roundabout way (you have to include the entire system) it does.

    Not sure where ‘information theory’ really helps with any of this, though. We’re not trying to compress the strings, and without an informational context, can’t really analyse them at all, beyond raw sequence.

  23. Mung on May 29, 2015 at 3:34 am said:

    shallit: There is no reason to believe that life requires a Turing-complete system.

    True. And the actual evidence is against it.

    Could you elaborate, for a change? Do you mean there is evidence against Turing-complete systems or against life?

    shallit: All that is needed is replication with errors.

    Not true.

    Because? The consensus view among biologists is, given a sefl-sustaining system of self-replicators and a shifting environment, evolution in inevitable. And there’s plenty of evidence to support that view. You’re welcome to disagree and ignore that evidence. I just wondered whether you thought there was contra-evidence and what that might be.

  24. Alan Fox:
    Do you mean there is evidence against Turing-complete systems or against life?

    Neither. The cell is not a Turing-complete system.

  25. Alan Fox:
    The consensus view among biologists is, given a self-sustaining system of self-replicators and a shifting environment, evolution in inevitable.

    Well, the first bit is right there in your own statement. Shallit didn’t mention that the self-replicators needed to constitute a self-sustaining system. Think error catastrophe.

    Replication with errors is not enough.

    Alan Fox:
    And there’s plenty of evidence to support that view.

    ok, but where’s the theory? What theory delineates the elements of the minimal system required for Darwinian evolution and how has that theory been tested?

  26. Neil Rickert: Of course it [information] exists.We [humans] construct it all the time with out technology and with our brains.

    1. Can machines “construct” information?

    2. In accusing IDists of conflating the various meanings of information, you can no doubt tell us how you are using the term [the definition you are using]. An operational definition would be nice.

  27. Elizabeth:
    2. Even under definitions that include concepts such as “meaning” that are intrinsically to do with minds, clearly non-human animals with cognitive capacities take in information, use it, and transmit it.

    Indeed. It has meaning to them.

  28. Elizabeth:3. This does not imply that minds are “divorced from human bodies”.Machines can also take in information (in this sense) and transmit it, both to people and to other machines.

    What are the requirements for the “taking in” [storing?] of information and it’s subsequent transmission? Is a semiotic system required?

  29. Mung: 1. Can machines “construct” information?

    Sure. A digital camera does that whenever you take a picture.

    Mung: In accusing IDists of conflating the various meanings of information, you can no doubt tell us how you are using the term [the definition you are using]. An operational definition would be nice.

    My preferred meaning is Shannon information. Roughly said, that’s a string of symbols used as part of a communication.

  30. Hi Neil, prior to the advent of the digital camera did machines NOT “construct” information? A non-digital camera does not construct information?

    A string of symbols used as part of a communication is not how Shannon defined information. So you’re using “roughly” very roughly.

    You claim we [humans] construct information all the time with our brains. Would you say that our brains are symbol creating machines? Who or what do our brains communicate these symbols to?

    No brain no symbols? No symbols no communication? No communication no information?

  31. Mung: What theory delineates the elements of the minimal system required for Darwinian evolution and how has that theory been tested?

    In answer to your first question, you don’t need a theory. There are various candidates for the simplest living organism and I can imagine one could, for instance, try knock-out experiments to see if one could arrive at an even simpler system. Just Googling “simplest organism” throws up plenty of discussion.

    Of course all modern organisms contain protein and life could have been simpler in early stages of evolution, involving organisms with RNA as both enzymatic and genetic components.

    There is no way I know of to establish the biochemistry of the first life that existed on Earth but that doesn’t stop people testing ideas for plausible systems. That’s the wonder of science. Anyone can do it.

  32. Mung: Hi Neil, prior to the advent of the digital camera did machines NOT “construct” information?

    I was just giving one example. Sure, there were machines constructing information before that.

    A non-digital camera does not construct information?

    No. Recall that we are talking specifically of Shannon information, rather than other meanings of “information”.

    A string of symbols used as part of a communication is not how Shannon defined information.

    I don’t think Shannon actually defined “information” at all. He used terms such as “communication” and “channel” and “entropy”. I gave what has come to be the meaning of “Shannon information” in current usage.

    Would you say that our brains are symbol creating machines?

    That would be a stretch.

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