Max’s Demon, a Design Detection Riddle

Suppose Max comes to you with a sealed but clear container consisting of two separate chambers with two visible certified thermometers mounted on the sides of the two chambers. Thermometer one reads 100 degrees and Thermometer 2 reads 10 degrees. Max tells you that the temperature differential you see is the result of tiny invisible demon that controls a microscopic door between the two chambers. As individual gas molecules approach the door, the demon quickly opens and shuts the door so that only fast molecules are passed into chamber one, while only slow molecules are passed into chamber two.

Your mission if you choose to accept it is to devise a way to objectively verify the demon’s design influence on the contents of the container?

As always when it comes to riddles like this there are few ground rules.

1) you may examine the container and it’s contents in any way you like as long as you don’t violate it’s physical integrity because that will let the demon escape and ruin the closed nature of the system.

2) The demon is invisible so efforts to view him directly won’t work

3) You may examine the thermometers to verify that they are functioning correctly or replace them with ones of your choosing if you like.

I don’t want to spoil the fun by sharing my proposed method for detecting the demon’s design until I hear some of your ideas.

What do you say is objective design detection possible in this case?

peace

159 Replies to “Max’s Demon, a Design Detection Riddle”

  1. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Zachriel: It’s not a person, because people can’t violate the 2nd law. Nothing known can violate the 2nd law.

    Which second law?

  2. Joe Felsenstein Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    fifthmonarchyman: The question that the riddle is getting at is how do we determine it’s nature that is selecting and not some hidden farmer.

    Ah, so you’re into “His eye is on the sparrow”

  3. Joe Felsenstein Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: If an allele is detrimental to possessors’ net survival and reproductive output, then that alone would tend to eliminate it from the population. Therefore, the ‘demon’ would be notable for its tendency to sustain detrimental alleles, against the attrition of the environment.

    In other words, frequency-dependent selection could be a signal of a demon. Of course there are ecological interactions that can bring about frequency-dependent selection too, without a demon being necessary.

  4. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Felsenstein,

    Or it is the Demon of Drift, manipulating finity just so to ensure that a detrimental allele becomes common and a beneficial one lost.

  5. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: Or it is the Demon of Drift, manipulating finity just so to ensure that a detrimental allele becomes common and a beneficial one lost.

    This makes it sound like drift works at cross-purposes to selection, so perhaps “Demon of Drift” is appropriate.

  6. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    Corneel:
    fifthmonarchyman: I like the riddle precisely because it lets us knock the very interesting idea of design around in a manner that is not tainted with theological arguments about God’s existence or the problem of evil or philosophical arguments about free will or political arguments about how hypocritical and intolerant Christians are.

    Corneel: I fear that most TSZ residents were sharp enough to spot a metaphor here, so I doubt that it helped.

    Yes. FWIW, I think the entire “puzzle” is theological and, if I’ll be permitted a psychological explanation, it’s because FMM is God-obsessed. He has an unshakeable faith that Jesus Christ (in one of his three incarnations) is responsible for a bunch of stuff that scientists insist is “natural.” So he is hellbent (prolly not the best word here) to show that either these artifacts must have intentional causes or (as here) that nobody can prove they don’t. (I.e., it might be a demon, no?)

    But it’s all God, 24-7. Just please don’t mention anything about religion in your comments to his posts because, um, that’s not why he’s here.

  7. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Allan Miller: If an allele is detrimental to possessors’ net survival and reproductive output, then that alone would tend to eliminate it from the population. Therefore, the ‘demon’ would be notable for its tendency to sustain detrimental alleles, against the attrition of the environment.

    Not necessarily detrimental perhaps just neutral to the environment.

    When the Demon opens the door for fast moving molecules she is not doing any thing “against the attrition of the environment.” All she is doing is selecting for things that the environment of the container is neutral about.

    Always keep in mind Mungs important point that the second law 2LoT is a statistical “law” and not a physical law. That means that the demon is not fighting against anything in nature when she selects the outcomes she does.

    It’s only when we see all of her choices in the aggregate that we realize that she possibly has different priorities than nature.

    peace

  8. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    Zachriel: It’s not a person, because people can’t violate the 2nd law. Nothing known can violate the 2nd law.

    No one said the Demon is violating the second law. I would be very surprised if she was.

    Zachriel: If the key to your riddle is “apparently”, then there are all sorts of possible causes, depending on the sensitivity and length of observation.

    Apparently violating the 2nd law is not the “key” to my riddle. The 2nd law have very little to do with my riddle

    What we have is an improbable phenomena and an explanation we need to validate.

    The second law is only important in that it is what makes the phenomena improbable.

    peace

  9. fifthmonarchyman
    Ignored
    says:

    DNA_Jock: The magical heat pump may be the result of design, or it may be an unintended consequence of the actions of the Invisible Pink Unicorn.

    EXACTLY !!!!

    It would not be a good riddle if there was only one possible answer. What we are trying to do is decide if the temperature difference is the result intention or is unintentional. How would you go about doing it??

    If you throwing in the towel and saying that there is absolutely no way to ever differentiate between natural selection and personal choice then Darwin has a problem. Because his theory relies on that difference.

    peace

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.