KairosFocus’ self-defeating challenge

KairosFocus, he who shall not be real-named (Henceforth KF), habitual censor over at Uncommon Descent, perpetually crows about his long-standing challenge:

provide a 6,000 word feature-length article that justifies the Darwinist tree of life from its OOL roots up through the Cambrian revo — as in Darwin’s Doubt territory — and other major formation of body plans up to and including our own origins, and we will host it here at UD, one of the leading ID blogs in the world. We are perfectly willing to host a parallel post with another site. Only, you must provide thesis and observation based evidence that solidly justifies your conclusions in light of inference to best explanation, the vera causa principle and other basic principles of sound scientific induction. Also, you must actually argue the case in outline, a summing up if you will. You must strive to avoid Lewontin’s a priori evolutionary materialism, and if you would redefine science on such terms you will have to reasonably justify why that is not a question-begging definition, in a way that is historically and philosophically soundly informed. Of course, you may link sources elsewhere, but you must engage the task of providing a coherent, non-question-begging, cogent argument in summary at the level of a feature-length serious magazine article . . . no literature bluffs in short.

[some format lost because I can’t be arsed]

KF is of course free to set the bar for his personal satisfaction at whatever pathetic level of detail he requires, but given that he’s often accused of being a massive hypocrite I’m sure he’ll be happy to provide us with a corresponding ID narrative.

I mean, ID isn’t just a negative case against Evolution, is it? 😉

Things I’m sure he’s eager to include:

Who is / was the designer?
What was their motivation(s)?
What was their method of fabrication?
How many design interventions were there?
What specifically was designed?
What specifically wasn’t designed?

Please feel free to add your questions in the comments.

I’d ask that if math is invoked for any design justification then it is comprehensively completed and not just talked about in a big numbers / hand-wavy sort of way. Any new concepts you bring to the table must be empirically tested rigorously so we can attest to their design detection capabilities.

Thanks in advance KF, we know you’ll engage us in good faith and we’re eager to have productive dialogue.

EDIT: vjtorley has started a parallel thread over at UD. Thanks VJ.

 

Let’s hope we can have some good, scientific dialogue.

150 thoughts on “KairosFocus’ self-defeating challenge

  1. Richardthughes:
    VJT is now re-engaged at UD. Hoping he stops by here.

    VJ outlines some arguments against design. I excerpt. Fairly, I think, but here’s the link.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/a-darwinist-responds-to-kfs-challenge/#comment-492658

    1. It’s a whole planetful of organisms of various kinds, which are often competing against each other. When we claim that all of these were designed, the question naturally arises: what for?

    2. …we know the timescale involved: billions of years. Designers typically don’t take that long to do a job…

    3. …there’s the objection from apparent mal-design: laryngeal nerves, prostate glands and suchlike. …

    4. …there’s the moral objection…

    Scientists, however, don’t like twiddling their thumbs: they need work to do. Faced with a choice, most of them would rather check out an implausible but fruitful hypothesis than endorse a more plausible hypothesis that gave them no leads to follow up.

    First, I’d like to say that I don’t find any of the enumerated arguments interesting or convincing. I’ve never used them and don’t intend to. The unnumbered one is an ad hominem slur, but I will translate it to mean that scientist require problems to have handles. Conjectures are empty unless they have entailments.

    I have stipulated in my opening essay that evolution could be wrong, but it is the only model on the table. In his post, VJ seems to agree that ID needs to have an hypothesis. So we are in agreement that ID is scientifically vacuous.

    I do not intend to argue that ID is wrong. I simply intend to argue that it is not science, and that the objections to evolution from improbability are without merit.

  2. On the same thread, Kariosfocus carefully avoids descending into ad hominem:

    VJT: Thanks. I took a look at title and OP, and setting ad hominems aside, at best it pivots on the sort of ideological misunderstandings like those Marxists used to have.

    He then proceeds to cite really big numbers without answering any of my questions about how they are calculated. In particular I would like to see how you calculate the difference in CSI between organisms, or between individuals of the same population, one of which has an advantageous variation.

  3. Very disappointing from KF, must do better.

    I specifically asked:

    “I’d ask that if math is invoked for any design justification then it is comprehensively completed and not just talked about in a big numbers / hand-wavy sort of way. Any new concepts you bring to the table must be empirically tested rigorously so we can attest to their design detection capabilities.”

    Kirosfocus then rehashes largely meaningless invocations of large numbers. KF, if design detection is a scientific, empirical, independently verifiable enterprise at some point your going to have to do a specific design detection calculation, one that addresses the eleP(T|H)ant in the room.

    Pick one, or if not I’ll chose the bacterial flagella for you as you all hold that up as ‘designed’.

    Its sad that his logorrheic diatribes are just these rehashed non-maths. Like a broken record, he produces a Markov chain of inanity.

    Edit:

    “Where, obviously, he and ilk — after years of failed attempted counter examples, is unable to show blind chance and mechanical necessity producing FSCO/I.”

    Yes, we’ve been unable to analyze the finest cloth from the emperor’s clothes because the material is too fine to study…

    IT IS NOT INCUMBENT UPON US TO DO YOUR MATH FOR YOU:

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=4045

  4. Kirosfocus then ties to make an inductive case for design*. He of course makes an inductive case for Human design. Good luck with that as an origins explanation.

    *Of course we have far more observations IN BIOLOGY for naturally occurring changes such as sexual selection, mutations etc than we do for direct designer intervention at the genomic level.

  5. Although he already knows about your attempted posts, KF would post it if you email him to ask, Petrushka:

    “In short, it sure looks like I have (again) been misrepresented in a way that would cast unjustified doubt on me.

    I think you need to set the record straight, P.

    (And I would post your try no 1 if you notify me on it.)”

  6. Does KF have a publicly known email address? I’m not aware of it. Anything I post at UD disappears.

    Anyway, now that the thread is started, all they have to do is unban me.

  7. petrushka:
    Does KF have a publicly known email address? I’m not aware of it. Anything I post at UD disappears.

    He’s not very keen on people researching him on the web were he discloses particulars about himself such as his real name.

  8. Alan Fox:
    Richardthughes,
    You could always try emailing Barry Arrington.

    This is not a big technical problem for them. they are aware of the situation and can decide whether I will be allowed to post. I will post here if that’s what they want.

    But I won’t post there if my posts sit in moderation. Been there, done that, didn’t like it. I will accept rules of conduct, but not rules of content. I will not accept conditions that allow me to be banned because someone doesn’t like my line of reasoning.

  9. Setting the record straight:

    petrushka on December 14, 2012 at 7:58 pm said:
    I’m working on a 6000 word essay on why I support evolution. I will post it at UD if I’m allowed.

    As I expected, 6000 words in not a trivial length if one wishes to sum up several hundred years of science. It is both long and too short.

    I expect it to take a week or so, depending on real life concerns.

    I do not request any favors from UD other than the ability to post to the one thread and to any follow-up threads.

    I will note that a previous offer to debate kariosfocus was turned down. I don’t see this as the same offer. This is a response to KF’s challenge. I realize that some time has passed, but this is a challenge in every sense of the word. I am not cutting and pasting, nor am I simply repeating things I have already written. This is a clean slate.

    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=1362

    Thread title:

    A challenge to kairosfocus

  10. petrushka,

    I don’t think you should think of posting there except on your own terms. It is not as if Arrington sets a high standard of integrity.

  11. My terms are that my posts will not be moderated and I can make any argument as long as I do not post vulgarities or engage in name calling.

    I do not care if I am allowed to post outside the debate thread (but I assume no one will post about me on any thread where I cannot respond.

    I would prefer that the debate were confined to one thread.

  12. That challenge was some time ago. Since then I have decided that there are only a few key issues worth debating. This made it possible to express my claim if far fewer words.

  13. I’m not interested in his personality. Only in his argument.

    From my point of view, he has the only testable version of ID. I think the isolated islands assertion has been tested and is wrong, but he at least says something worth arguing about.

    Second, I do not care about winning. I am only interested in making the best argument I can. I think I am pretty good at managing my emotions. I do not think I can be goaded into a shouting match.

  14. petrushka: I’m not interested in his personality. Only in his argument.

    Fine. I just don’t think he can be trusted to behave honestly. It’ll be interesting to see – if you get to post there.

    From my point of view, he has the only testable version of ID. I think the isolated islands assertion has been tested and is wrong, but he at least says something worth arguing about.

    Well, it’s not a theory of ID, is it? It’s a claim that evolutionary processes cannot find solutions because protein space is large and sparse. You introduced me to Keefe and Szostak and their neat refutation of sparseness.

    Second, I do not care about winning. I am only interested in making the best argument I can. I think I am pretty good at managing my emotions. I do not think I can be goaded into a shouting match.

    Well, judging by your previous contributions, I am sure you will make an excellent presentation.

  15. GEM invites Petrushka to search for his email address!

    P[etrushka], in simple terms, you know or should know how to find my email. I have not found in my email box an attempt or notification of same.

  16. I was banned by Barry Arrington. I will respect his wishes and accept his invitation if he offers it. I accept Kariosfocus’ longstanding assurances that he is not a moderator. I would not want to put Kariosfocus in the position of conflicting with the site owner.

    Posting here is also acceptable to me.

  17. The email route seems somewhat superfluous at this point.

    ETA: I’ve looked for a member list at UD, or a private mail button. I don’t see it. I’m not going to invade anyone’s real life world.

  18. This is off-topic, and if it ends up being deleted, I was wondering if a topic could be started on it. I’ve had a mini-epiphany in the last few minutes that made me think I implicitly agreed with Dembski’s ID all along, but then realized I may have found a flaw in it.

    If you have some phenomenon X and its of sufficient length and its algorithmically compressible, then you can rule out chance pretty reasonably, as the percentage of algorithmically compressible strings is vanishingly small. But X could be the output of some other mechanistic process X1 (which follows from X being algorithmically compressible) but then there is a question of what output X1, and X1 could also not be the result of chance if itself is algorithmically compressible. But as soon as you hit some XN after some degrees of regress in like fashion, and XN is not algorithmically compressible, then XN is just as likely as any other random string, and you cannot rule out chance for XN. And if X,X1,X2…XN are increasingly compressed and thus more random, it seems you will eventually hit an XN that is small and completely random, and thus likely to have occurred by chance. Better yet, why don’t we let a completely random and relatively small XN be the specification for X to begin with. Maybe I’m covering old ground.

  19. Coding sequences in genomes are not a record of die tosses. The length doesn’t matter, because they accumulate as a result of a learning process.

  20. petrushka,

    Yes I understand they’re not a result of die tosses or the like. But do you know if the above is a valid and previously unidentified flaw in Dembski’s ID (I know there are others). I don’t know why it took me so long personally to see it. [Incidentally I greatly appreciate your contributions in this thread — learning a lot.]

  21. Well they are the result of tosses. It’s just that you get to accumulate your winnings, and free energy from the sun covers your losses. Everyone would win at Vagas with that kind of deal.

    As far as I know, Dembski’s math is correct if you have to toss the sequence in one swoop.

  22. JT: Better yet, why don’t we let a completely random and relatively small XN be the specification for X to begin with. Maybe I’m covering old ground.

    It’s not even necessary to trace an “infinite” regress of “random” processes.

    The key – in this universe – is that matter condenses. The ID/creationist community doesn’t understand the significance of that fact; and if one points it out to them, as many have done so in the past, they think it is a foolish and trivial non-sequitur.

    But that fact – that matter condenses – invalidates all their arguments and calculations. Anybody who knows anything about the behavior of matter would never do calculations the way ID/creationists do them. ID/creationist “calculations” are irrelevant.

  23. Mike Elzinga,

    You completely lost me on “matter condensing” should I just google it, or do you have any links. [I assume you’re not just talking about gravity.]

  24. To petrushka, In a previous comment you likened “computer programs” to a mere analogy, if applied to the concept of biological evolution. I would disagree with that, as computer theory encompasses our most rigorous and fundamental conception of a description. Everything has to reduce to algorithmics.

  25. JT: [I assume you’re not just talking about gravity.]

    That’s right. Gravity is just part of it. Because without forces like gravity, electromagnetism, and other fields that bind matter, there would be no asymmetries, no second law of thermodynamics, no binding of matter, and no concept of time and evolution.

    ID/creationist calculations treat inert objects such as coins, dice, and Scrabble letters, as stand-ins for the properties and behaviors of atoms and molecules; and that makes their calculations irrelevant.

  26. thorton: Others have already hammered on the equivocation over the definition of ‘code’ so I’ll let that go.There are other glaring mistakes that are just as bad.

    What we know is that only intelligent agents can generate abstract codes, where symbols are used to abstractly represent other pre-specified meanings.There are plenty of naturally occurring non-abstract codes where natural processes encode information about their surrounding environment.The simplest example is tree rings whose width and spacing encode a history of the weather in the years the tree grew.Similarly, DNA is a non-abstract code that also encodes information about the environment at the time the particular gene was being formed.

    Since premise 1) is incomplete and 2) is flat out wrong that makes the conclusion just as worthless.

    I’m not sure that biological codes can’t be abstract. One of the things that comes to mind is the signalling or identification receptors on cell surfaces. There are billions of possible arrangements of these receptors, and all that’s really necesary is that one type of cell, say an immune cell, can recognize them on another cell. Let’s just say the pattern of receptors that identifies all cells in an organism as “self”. Immune cells recognize “self” patterns, and ignore them, but attack “nonself” cells that have different patterns. These patterns are in a certain sense arbitrary, and vary in random ways between individuals. Their meaning of “self” or “nonself” isn’t inherent, but is symbolic as to its relationship to an individual. I’d call that abstract.

  27. JT:
    To petrushka,In a previous comment you likened “com-puter programs” to a mere analogy, if applied to the conceptual of biological evolution.I would disagree with that, as computer theory encompasses our most rigorous and fundamental conception of a description.Everything has to reduce to algorithmics.

    Algorithmics can’t tell you the attributes of a new protein or new coding sequence. At least not in useful detail. The evolutionary algorithm is to make something just a smidgen different from what exists and see what happens. Rinse, repeat. You can’t design biology without doing the chemistry.

  28. Quite a poor showing on UD so far. I was hoping for some engagement.

    KF has handwaved at big numbers and pouted at not getting to start the thread.
    Joe has linked to a page that has a broken link that should go to Durston’s infamous “spontaneous generation math” paper. OH NOES MY TORNADO IN A JUNKYARD IS DESTROYED!

    No one has calculated the CSI / FIASCO of ANYTHING. How many years since the design revolution? Are you all that bad at math, or is the method flawed?

  29. What is it with KF. He is Gish’s Gallop and hatred personified. [Fear or hatred, I don’t know. Expand your horizons, dude.]

  30. I’d love him to come here and calculate the CSI of something. Boy would he teach us a thing or two.

  31. Richard:

    No one has calculated the CSI / FIASCO of ANYTHING. How many years since the design revolution? Are you all that bad at math, or is the method flawed?

    Both.

  32. Petrushka,

    You’ve confused poor Barb:

    The reply to KF lost me at the very beginning: “Evolution is the better model because it can be right or wrong.”

    Wait, what?

    If it’s wrong, why would you–or any intelligent person–believe it? What would be the point of believing in something that is false?

    Linus Pauling stated that science is a search for the truth. Truth is that which conforms to reality. If you state that your theory is either right or wrong, then it’s not the truth.

  33. JT,

    If I read you correctly, you’re refuting an antecedent of Dembski: Hoyle’s Fallacy. He observes that a string of length N and V different elements has a probability of V^N of arising by random picks. This is only relevant if the mechanism refuted is in fact random pick, and the target sequence is the only thing in the space of any use whatsoever.

    Of particular relevance to your point is that protein components are modular. A modular element of a few dozen acids is much more likely than the entire 1000-acid protein of which it forms a part. Such motifs are identifiable in protein after protein, and there are mechanisms that shuffle and duplicate them. Modern proteins tend to be large, but that does not mean that short proteins don’t work. IDers tend to see proteins as much less malleable than they actually are.

  34. Incredible! He’s done it again.. hundreds of words about math, without doing any. Calculate CSI or FIASCO or whatever for the bacterial flagella. Or admit that you can’t.

    Again, please:

    “I’d ask that if math is invoked for any design justification then it is comprehensively completed and not just talked about in a big numbers / hand-wavy sort of way. Any new concepts you bring to the table must be empirically tested rigorously so we can attest to their design detection capabilities.”

  35. vjtorley: It’s pretty easy to argue: “Living things contain a genetic code. We know that intelligent agents can generate codes, but we know of no unguided natural process which is capable of doing so. Therefore it’s rational to infer that living things were designed by an intelligent agent.”

    Yes, it is, indeed, easy to argue that. It’s at least as easy to argue: “Living things contain a genetic code. We know that intelligent agents human beings can generate codes, but we know of no unguided natural process other class of entities which is capable of doing so. Therefore it’s rational to infer that living things were designed by an intelligent agent human beings.”

    Similarly, it’s very easy indeed to argue: “We know of no intelligent agent which is capable of implementing abiogenesis. Therefore it’s rational to infer that no intelligent agents were involved with any abiogenesis event(s) that have occurred on Terra.”

    I look forward to vjtorley’s ignoring this comment generating a dense cloud of inchoate bafflegab in a futile attempt to rescue his logic from my reductio ad absurdum upcoming demonstration that the word-substitutions I’ve inflicted on his argument do not, in fact, constitute a successful refutation-by-reductio ad absurdum of his logic.

  36. Richardthughes:
    Quite a poor showing on UD so far. I was hoping for some engagement.

    I think Vincent Torley is the most open of the current participants of Uncommon Descent. Of course, that is perhaps not a difficult feat to achieve 🙂 .

    KF has handwaved at big numbers and pouted at not getting to start the thread.

    Indeed. Let’s see some genuine calculation of a meaningful parameter.

    Joe has linked to a page that has a broken link that should go to Durston’s infamous “spontaneous generation math” paper. OH NOES MY TORNADO IN A JUNKYARD IS DESTROYED!

    Durston:

    Finally, nobody in the field thinks that stable, 3D structures are common in sequence space. Please note I am talking about 3D structural proteins, which biological life seems to need, not some random sequence that has a lab-defined ‘function’ of merely binding to something. I repeat, nobody in the field thinks that sequences forming stable, 3D structures are common in sequence space. If you believe they are, show us the paper.

    Here is Keefe and Szostak:

    In conclusion, we suggest that functional proteins are suffciently common in protein sequence space (roughly 1 in 1011) that they may be discovered by entirely stochastic means, such as presumably operated when proteins were first used by living organisms.

    (HT Zachriel)

    No one has calculated the CSI / FIASCO of ANYTHING. How many years since the design revolution? Are you all that bad at math, or is the method flawed?

    With regard to proteins, the assumption that functional proteins are rare enough to assume “1 in a gadzillion” is unsupported at best.

    Frankly, I don’t expect anything useful or scientific to emerge from their “Intelligent Design” philosophy. I don’t think many ID proponents do either and I wonder if they are that bothered.

    ETA Another paper from the Szostak lab

  37. Allan Miller:
    Alan Fox,

    No, no, it’s a needle in a straw bale a light year across. Maybe 2.

    KF issues a corrective!

    F/N: Axe’s empirical work indicates protein rarity in AA space (for which he suffered a little dose of being expelled . . . ) is of order 1 in 10^60 – 70+. That puts us in the ballpark of the one straw to 1,000 Ly cubical haystack that was outlined on above. KF

    In fact, one straw in a ten-light-year-sided cube, no less! Or does he mean 1,000 light years a side? Unfortunately for KF, Axe is not able to provide evidence for the rarity of unknown proteins.

  38. Alan Fox,

    Axe’s work indicates the very opposite of everyone else’s!

    In relation to another post I worked out that a particular sample space in one paper was a sphere about 5AU across (each protein represented, as a real protein, once). I don’t know how many of those you’d get in a 1000 light-year cube (5AU is about 40 light minutes), but the researchers.sampled a subset of it that would 1/10th fill an E coli shell, and found functional proteins never before seen. The jammy bastards!

  39. Axe’s work indicates the very opposite of everyone else’s!

    Perhaps someone (VJT?) who is allowed to post at UD can relay my question:

    Would the methods of Axe or Durston have found the sequence of mutations that enabled citrate metabolism in Lensky’s experiment? Specifically, do their methods explore multiple neutral enabling mutations?

    This is a yes or no question.

  40. Allan Miller:
    JT,

    If I read you correctly, you’re refuting an antecedent of Dembski: Hoyle’s Fallacy. ..

    No, I’m not talking about that. Dembksi’s first step in design detection is to rule out chance. He says you can rule out chance generating a (sufficiently long) string if it is also algorithmically compressible (i.e. has an identifiable pattern) because such strings basically comprise zero percent of all strings (as the number of strings are infinite). This for him addresses the much older argument by some that any string is just as likely as any other to occur by chance. Dembski says no, because if a string has the extremely rare property of being algorithmically compressible, then its a very very very rare string indeed.

    Then in his method, once ruling out chance, if you can’t identify any mechanism responsible either, you provisionally accept “design” as the cause. So that right there is an argument from ignorance (in addition to an unwarranted assumption of the existence of transcendental “design” capability independent of mechanism.)

    But I’m not addressing that here. My original post on this concerns only the aspect of ruling out chance. And essentially I say you can never do that, because even if a string is algorithmically compressible, you can just reference the most compressed version of it when talking about it, which is guaranteed to be completely random (and not algorithmically compressible), and thus just as likely as any other random string to occur by chance.

    Maybe this has already been observed by someone, but it just hit me yesterday.

    Frankly I thought by this time, Dembski’s ID methodology would have completely gone by the wayside, but even Craig at one point in that Carroll/Craig debate video, talks matter-of-factly of ruling out chance or mechanism and then concluding “design”.

  41. Alan Fox:
    petrushka,

    I don’t think you should think of posting there except on your own terms. It is not as if Arrington sets a high standard of integrity.

    I don’t think you should post there at all. Neither Barry Arrington nor kairosfocus (nor most of the other intelligent design creationists there) have any respect for the free exchange of ideas.

    All but one of them are perfectly welcome to participate here, with no concerns that their comments will be deleted or modified. That is in stark contrast to the situation at UD. The fact that kairosfocus refuses to join a truly open discussion says a great deal about his confidence in his position.

  42. Too late. I accepted the challenge and my essay has been posted. Now it’s just a matter of waiting until I’m allowed to participate.

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