Paging Dr. Holloway!

TSZ member Eric Holloway is the latest rising star of the “Intelligent Design” movement. Such a meteoric rise is bound to attract attention and it has indeed caught the eye of veteran biologist Professor Joseph Felsentein who noticed a comment young Eric posted here at TSZ and remarks


Eric Holloway just made a dramatic announcement on The Skeptical Zone, in Dieb’s thread on the number of posts at the ID site Uncommon Descent. In this comment he concludes “At least in my personal interactions with people, it seems like ID has won the debate”.

Professor Felsenstein has a few questions for Eric and hopes he may find the time to respond. I’m just helping out in case Eric has missed Joe’s post at the Panda’s Thumb.

114 thoughts on “Paging Dr. Holloway!

  1. I love speculative science! You can neve go wrong as long as you include natural seclection to it…If one believe in omnipoten god, the natual seclecion is it… It can can do anything and leaves no evidence of doint it…; 🙂

  2. J-Mac:
    I love speculative science! You can neve go wrong as long as you include natural seclection to it…If one believe in omnipoten god, the natual seclecion is it… It can can do anything and leaves no evidence of doint it…; 🙂

  3. More guerrilla skepticism in action.

    Joe saying he wants to keep out the so called trolls (creationists) on Pandas Thumb. Alan saying that others have noticed and are complaining that too many creationists are allowed to post on TSZ.

    Now Alan is doing the bidding for PT as well. Meanwhile at PS, Tomothy can say whatever damn insults he wants towards creationists nonstop and all Swami does is warn Cornelius not to post links to his articles.

    Great job skeptics. Even with all you sleazy tactics you still can’t win the debate. Less and less people believe you.

  4. It’s a pretty good sign you have lost the debate if you are afraid to let the lone moderator with an apposing viewpoint operate independently.

    winners aren’t so scared

    peace

  5. I’m not holding my breath, as I take to heart Joe Fs warning about the limitations of Eric’s previous responses to critiques.

    As best I can tell, Eric is a nice person who is sincere in his views, but I no longer see any value of engaging with him on those views.

  6. Well, I do like interacting with the people here. BruceS has been particularly fruitful to dialogue with. But, I tend to get drawn into internet debates, so due to lack of much free time, I have to limit my interactions. Most of my time is focussed on inventing technology based on ID theory, which is what everyone is looking for anyways. How is ID actually practically useful? I hope to answer that question soon.

    The Bio-C paper is submitted, and I’ll hopefully find out soon whether it is acceptable or not.

    I also have a couple posts to go up on Mind Matters that’ll explain my views more in depth based on an exchange with someone who finds the AI=mind proposition persuasive, yet nevertheless found our arguments intriguing.

    So, stay on the lookout for those.

    And I’ve not forgotten the discussion with BruceS. I will be working that discussion into a paper in the future, since it seems that argument is interesting to people. It will work well as a sequel to the current Bio-C submission.

  7. EricMH:

    And I’ve not forgotten the discussion with BruceS.I will be working that discussion into a paper in the future, since it seems that argument is interesting to people.It will work well as a sequel to the current Bio-C submission.

    That’s good to hear and I do look forward to seeing what you have to say. I’d be happy to be proved wrong in the view I took upthread.

  8. “At least in my personal interactions with people, it seems like ID has won the debate”.

    In my interactions, the sentiment has been the DATA continue to increase in favor of ID. The notable example is ENCODE. We were all making jokes of Dan Graur, for example, looking like a professional troll.

    It doesn’t mean that ID has convinced more of the general population, but it is our sense the next generation of biologists, bio-chemists are more friendly to ID than the prior generation.

    Even one of my agnostic chemist friends has a low opinion of evolutionary biologists. I don’t know any one in disciplines outside of evolutionary biology that thinks evolutionary biology is a real discipline like disciplines in chemistry and physics.

    The problem of the origin of cellular life still remains favorable to ID.

    I was surprised how many of my classmates at the NIH didn’t believe in evolution or at least had a favorable view of Behe’s book.

  9. stcordova,

    I don’t know any one in disciplines outside of evolutionary biology that thinks evolutionary biology is a real discipline like disciplines in chemistry and physics.

    If they would drop the ideological claims there is no reason they cant regain credibility. Behe is providing a pretty good frame work for this in Darwin Devolves.

  10. Over at Panda’s Thumb, in a post of mine about Eric Holloway’s arguments for intelligent design, Holloway (writing as “yters” and identifying himself) said in a comment that

    I wrote a post about that awhile back on TSZ which you participated in. Two main ways:
    1. If the target is not contained in the fitness function
    2. Even if target is, slows down finding the target

    That is, that he had outlined here at TSZ in a “post” how his mathematical argument about Conservation of Mutual Information applied to population genetic models that included natural selection. However he did not provide a link. So I came looking over here.

    The best I can find is Holloway’s comments (not “post”) on Tom English’s excellent post last November explaining in mathematical detail why computation can increase Algorithmic Specified Compexity. Holloway has numbers of comments there going back and forth with Tom about what Tom has or hasn’t proven.

    In the comments in that thread, I asked how Holloway’s conservation argument impacts the example I published here in 2012 showing that natural selection in a haploid population of wombats could increase the mean fitness of the population enough to go far out into the tail of the its initial distribution of fitnesses among genotypes, thereby putting Specified Complexity into the population’s genomes.

    Holloway said that he had addressed this, in an argument in a paper he had submitted to BIO-Complexity. As far as I can see that argument is not also presented in a post here at TSZ, or even in comments here. So I suppose that we are left waiting for the BIO-C article to appear. (Note that George Montañez’s paper about how Specified Complexity can be defined in all sorts of cases does settle the issue, as it does not at all address the issue of how it can be shown that SC cannot be put into the genome by natural selection).

    Or am I wrong about that? I can find no post here at TSZ by Holloway. Did I miss one?

  11. Joe Felsenstein:
    ….So I suppose that we are left waiting for the BIO-C article to appear….

    I am glad to see you continuing to hold Holloway accountable.

    Do you know if anyone ever did a detailed analysis of Ewert’s paper, “The Dependency Graph of Life” ?

  12. Joe Felsenstein,

    I assumed that Eric was referring to the OP he wrote in response to your request. In the comment thread he can be found arguing that the target was hardcoded in the selection function. I do not understand what he means by natural selection slowing down the finding of the target.

  13. Joe Felsenstein,

    Specified Complexity can be defined in all sorts of cases does settle the issue, as it does not at all address the issue of how it can be shown that SC cannot be put into the genome by natural selection).

    This is dependent on if there are enough selectable steps. You are fighting a very uphill battle here if you are trying to claim natural selection explains the diversity of life as you need to show all complex biological systems have enough selectable steps for random change to find.

    Since the number of selectable steps is unknown and can only be estimated I think this is an empirical problem.

  14. Corneel:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    I assumed that Eric was referring to the OP he wrote in response to your request. In the comment thread he can be found arguing that the target was hardcoded in the selection function. I do not understand what he means by natural selection slowing down the finding of the target.

    Thanks for that link. I had forgotten that one, and the TSZ Search facility failed to find it.

    I note in the comments that I could not then figure out why Holloway’s conservation result proved something about population genetic arguments such as my natural selection model of 2012.

    I’ll take a look at it again and see whether I now see something there that I failed to see before. Of course hints from Holloway wouldn’t hurt.

  15. colewd:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    This is dependent on if there are enough selectable steps.You are fighting a very uphill battle here if you are trying to claim natural selection explains the diversity of life as you need to show all complex biological systems have enough selectable steps for random change to find.

    Since the number of selectable steps is unknown and can only be estimated I think this is an empirical problem.

    Wrong.

    Take a look at my posts and comments and try to figure out which of these two is the issue I was addressing:

    1. “Trying to claim natural selection explains the diversity of life” in which I would “need to show all complex biological systems have enough selectable steps for random change to find.”

    2. Trying to evaluate whether a proposed conservation law shows that increase of Specified Information is impossible, by showing a simple model in which it is possible.

    Once you figure out which, you’ll be qualified to make comments on it.

  16. stcordova:
    ID proponents should drop the use of specified complexity and FIASCO.

    Really?
    I’d thought you knew QM better than me…
    I guess times have changed…

  17. Joe Felsenstein:
    Over at Panda’s Thumb, in a post of mine about Eric Holloway’s arguments for intelligent design, Holloway (writing as “yters” and identifying himself) said in a comment that

    That is, that he had outlined here at TSZ in a “post” how his mathematical argument about Conservation of Mutual Information applied to population genetic models that included natural selection.However he did not provide a link.So I came looking over here.

    The best I can find is Holloway’s comments (not “post”) on Tom English’s excellent post last November explaining in mathematical detail why computation can increase Algorithmic Specified Compexity.Holloway has numbers of comments there going back and forth with Tom about what Tom has or hasn’t proven.

    In the comments in that thread, I asked how Holloway’s conservation argument impacts the example I published here in 2012 showing that natural selection in a haploid population of wombats could increase the mean fitness of the population enough to go far out into the tail of the its initial distribution of fitnesses among genotypes, thereby putting Specified Complexity into the population’s genomes.

    Holloway said that he had addressed this, in an argument in a paper he had submitted to BIO-Complexity.As far as I can see that argument is not also presented in a post here at TSZ, or even in comments here.So I suppose that we are left waiting for the BIO-C article to appear.(Note that George Montañez’s paper about how Specified Complexity can be defined in all sorts of cases does settle the issue, as it does not at all address the issue of how it can be shown that SC cannot be put into the genome by natural selection).

    Or am I wrong about that?I can find no post here at TSZ by Holloway.Did I miss one?

    The omnipotence of natural selection never fails…
    https://theneutralzone.video.blog/2019/03/29/darwins-god-the-omnipotent-natural-selection/

  18. Joe Felsenstein,

    2. Trying to evaluate whether a proposed conservation law shows that increase of Specified Information is impossible, by showing a simple model in which it is possible.

    This is what you have been trying to do. What value do you think it adds to the theory of evolution? Showing an airplane can fly at 1000 ft does not answer if can fly to Mars.

    Behe has already stated in his book that Darwinian processes can account for some genus level diversity.

  19. colewd:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    This is what you have been trying to do.What value do you think it adds to the theory of evolution?Showing an airplane can fly at 1000 ft does not answer if can fly to Mars.

    Behe has already stated in his book that Darwinian processes can account for some genus level diversity.

    Yes, it is what I have been trying to do. Make a simple model that tests whether Holloway’s suggested Conservation Law prevents natural selection from being effective.

    Not, of course, asserting that my simple example adds value to the theory of evolution, or addresses the possibilities of long-term change. Why on earth you think that those questions are relevant mystifies me, and suggests that you do not understand how one tests a proposed general law. I am going to ignore further comments on this until you figure out what is going on.

  20. Alan Fox:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    Is it this comment? Eric has made 68 coments here in total but I didn’t see any other that seemed to fit the spec.

    Thanks, that too is relevant, in addition to Holloway’s OP that was pointed out by Corneel. I need to look in both those places and see whether there is something illuminating there that I missed before.

  21. Joe Felsenstein: I am going to ignore further comments on this until you figure out what is going on.

    Paging Pandas Thumb, paging Pandas Thumb.

    Where can Joe Felsenstein post where there will be no inconvenient interruptions of people actually questioning his dubious arguments?

    If only such a place existed, where they have “special ways” to filter out dissent, wink wink…

  22. Joe Felsenstein: Thanks, that too is relevant, in addition to Holloway’s OP that was pointed out by Corneel.I need to look in both those places and see whether there is something illuminating there that I missed before.

    Joe: I too would like to see your views on whether the model Eric presents in that post fairly captures the types of models in population genetics and evolution in general.

    Eric will never be convinced by arguments that list examples of natural selection and then claim those example prove him wrong.

    In response to lists of examples, he argues that he has shown that
    1. Evolution cannot be anything more that determinism plus randomness.
    2. Math shows that determinism plus randomness cannot produce the results we see in nature.
    3. So attributing these results to NS alone must be wrong.
    4. Hence something other than determinism plus randomness must be at work. 5. That something is intelligence, which can do more because intelligence uses an Oracle which by definition can produce results no algorithm can produce.

    Step 5 uses the standard idea that algorithms are always implementable by Turing machines; that is, that Turing machines can simulate any process characterized by determinism and randomness alone and conversely.

    The only way I see to attack Eric’s arguments is to show theoretically why his math does not capture what nature can do using determinism and randomness alone. It is not enough to just list examples as many posters do. You have to engage with his theory and his claims about how it models NS and population genetics in general.

  23. BruceS: 1. Evolution cannot be anything more that determinism plus randomness.
    2. Math shows that determinism plus randomness cannot produce the results we see in nature.
    3. So attributing these results to NS alone must be wrong.
    4. Hence something other than determinism plus randomness must be at work. 5. That something is intelligence, which can do more because intelligence uses an Oracle which by definition can produce results no algorithm can produce.

    You are close here

    The best bet is to disprove 1 and 5.

    You need to explain how “Evolution” is more than determinism plus randomness and then show that this additional thing is not intelligence.

    On the other hand merely continuing to show that there are things in nature that apparently can’t be accounted for by determinism plus randomness is simply proving his point for him.

    peace

  24. Rumraket: Holloway can post both here and on Panda’s Thumb.

    It’s six of one or a half a dozen of the other as far as the moderation goes.

    peace

  25. BruceS: Eric will never be convinced by arguments that list examples of natural selection and then claim those example prove him wrong.

    That’s why Eric got smart after he had realized that the only argument Joe and the Gang at Panda’s Thumb have is the supposed omnipotence of natural selection…

    With Behe’s book out and many evolutionists publicly admitting that natural selection is not only impotent, it is “blind” to breaking and blunting gene functions, Joe’s self-deception can only appeal to the confirmation bias of his gang but fewer and fewer of them every day…

    Losos is one of many who admitted that NS doesn’t create novelty… What does? A god? Swamidass has case 😉

    https://www.edge.org/response-detail/27108

  26. phoodoo: Paging Pandas Thumb, paging Pandas Thumb.

    Where can Joe Felsenstein post where there will be no inconvenient interruptions of people actually questioning his dubious arguments?

    If only such a place existed, where they have “special ways” to filter out dissent, wink wink…

    Paging omnipotent natural selection! You can never lose just like in theistic, guided evolution: No evidence for blind evolution? No problem! Maybe God guided evolution in order to fool his faithful when he had said he created all things…😉

  27. J-Mac: Paging omnipotent natural selection!

    As usual, you’re projecting your fantasies onto the things you don’t like. That means that you find your own beliefs ridiculous. Nice way to shoot yourself in the foot J-mac.

  28. BruceS: Joe:I too would like to see your views on whether the model Eric presents in that post fairly captures the types of models in population genetics and evolution in general.

    Eric will never be convinced by arguments that list examples of natural selection and then claim those example prove him wrong.

    The only way I see to attack Eric’s arguments is to show theoretically why his math does not capture what nature can do using determinism and randomness alone.It is not enough tojust list examples as many posters do.You have to engage with his theory and his claims about how it models NS and population genetics in general.

    Yes, I need to address that.

    I’d point to two of the numbered points in your summary of Holloway’s argument:

    2. Math shows that determinism plus randomness cannot produce the results we see in nature.

    5. That something is intelligence, which can do more because intelligence uses an Oracle which by definition can produce results no algorithm can produce.

    Step 5 uses the standard idea that algorithms are always implementable by Turing machines; that is, that Turing machines can simulate any process characterized by determinism and randomness alone and conversely.

    Thanks for the clear summary.

    I’d say that, when we allow a population of organisms that vary genetically, with the variants affecting their probability of survival and reproduction, we go beyond what a single algorithm can do to a single genome. Holloway’s argument is about what can happen to a single genome acted on by a function.

    Without a population, with a single genome, it can undergo mutation, but natural selection cannot occur. (In fact, geneticists use lines with a single genome each generation to do “mutation accumulation line” experiments that evaluate what mutation does alone, precisely because in such lines, mutation is unopposed by selection).

    Consider, for example, Dawkins’s Weasel. If we make a version that has one offspring per generation, with the selection being to pick the best among all the offspring, there is really no selection as there is nothing to choose. In that case the Weasel will just wander randomly in a space of 28-character strings, and the time taken to find the target will be about 10^{40} generations.

    Holloway has not modeled the population and the differential survival and reproduction of genotypes. If he did, the conservation law would disappear.

  29. Joe Felsenstein,

    Thanks Joe.
    I agree that whole populations must be considered, and not just single organisms, which I think is all that is modelled in Eric’s latest (December) OP at TSZ.

    I also think Eric is unclear or incorrect on what mutual information is captured in his use of the the math of K-complexity. Specifically, mutual between what and what? I think his latest uses the mutual information between a single genome and its mutated successors, but I am not sure.

    Instead, I think he needs to somehow model the mutual information between (1) the aggregate genome of a population and (2) the environment. His model has to allow for physically possible change in both.

    On a technical note for those who want to do some spelunking at Peaceful Science: In the following thread, Joshua uses the mutual information between two cancer cells genomes. He points to the genes which have been found to underwrite the success of those genomes in outcompeting other cancer cells and also normal cells. So the reasoning is that success can be accounted for by NS, the mutual information is not in the original unmutated cells, and hence NS can create new MI. Eric presents his counters to this reasoning in that thread, but I thought he and Joshua were talking at cross-purposes.

    https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/computing-the-functional-information-in-cancer/1646

    To be clear, I read Joshua as referring to MI between two cancer cells, and not between the original cell and those cancer cells. But Eric involves the original cell in his counter arguments.

    Further, the environment is not directly involved in the MI, but its involvement is implicit in the claim that NS is the reason that explains the successful set of genes.

    Of course, in this example we are talking about NS as applied to model of cancer within a single organism

  30. BruceS:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    Thanks Joe.
    I agree that whole populations must be considered, and not just single organisms, which I think is all that is modelled in Eric’s latest (December) OP at TSZ.

    I also think Eric is unclear or incorrect on what mutual information is captured in his use of the the math of K-complexity. Specifically, mutual between what and what? I think his latest uses the mutual information between a single genome and its mutated successors, but I am not sure.

    Instead, I think he needs to somehow model the mutual information between (1) the aggregate genome of a population and (2) the environment. His model has to allow for physically possible change in both.

    Further, the environment is not directly involved in the MI, but its involvement is implicit in the claim that NS is the reason that explains the successful set of genes.

    As far as I can see the issue is how any mutual information argument can predict that there is no way for natural selection to increase adaptation, in particular fitness. (Note — not that it always increases fitness. Holloway’s argument is that it can never increase this mutual information between the genome and something-or-other). The issue is, what is that something-or-other, and how does not increasing the mutual information between the genome and it show that adaptation cannot increase?

    Any argument that involves just how one genome changes implicitly models a situation in which natural selection cannot be present.

    So the two major questions are, what is the something-or-other, and how does the conservation rule work in a population of genomes, where some genomes may have higher fitness than others?

    Until these are clarified, Holloway’s argument is really Holloway’s Mystery. I hope it is cleared up soon.

  31. Joe Felsenstein,

    As far as I can see the issue is how any mutual information argument can predict that there is no way for natural selection to increase adaptation, in particular fitness. (Note — not that it always increases fitness. Holloway’s argument is that it can never increase this mutual information between the genome and something-or-othert). The issue is, what is that something-or-other, and how does not increasing the mutual information between the genome and it show that adaptation cannot increase?

    As far as I can tell he is not making the claim that adaption cannot increase.

  32. colewd:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    As far as I can tell he is not making the claim that adaption cannot increase.

    Well, he’s making the claim that something-or-other cannot increase. What’s needed is a clarification of what that something-or-other is, and how that is relevant to the effectiveness of natural selection.

  33. Joe Felsenstein: Well, he’s making the claim that something-or-other cannot increase.What’s needed is a clarification of what that something-or-other is, and how that is relevant to the effectiveness of natural selection.

    “It’s easy to think of natural selection as omnipotent. As Darwin said, “natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing…every variation, even the slightest; rejecting that which is bad, preserving and adding up all that is good.” And the end result? Through time, a population becomes better and better adapted. Given enough time, wouldn’t we expect natural selection to construct the ideal organism, optimally designed to meet the demands of its environment?

    If natural selection worked like an engineer—starting with a blank slate and an unlimited range of materials, designing a blueprint in advance to produce the best possible structure—then the result might indeed be perfection. But that’s not a good analogy for how natural selection works. As Nobel laureate Francois Jacob suggested in 1977, the better metaphor is a tinkerer who “gives his materials unexpected functions to produce a new object. From an old bicycle wheel, he makes a roulette; from a broken chair the cabinet of a radio.” In just this way “evolution does not produce novelties from scratch. It works on what already exists, either transforming a system to give it new functions or combining several systems to produce a more elaborate one.”-J. B. Losos

    https://www.edge.org/response-detail/27108

  34. Joe Felsenstein: we go beyond what a single algorithm can do to a single genome.

    In what way exactly. Be very specific as this is the crux of the disagreement.

    Joe Felsenstein: Holloway has not modeled the population and the differential survival and reproduction of genotypes. If he did, the conservation law would disappear.

    If you combine two or more algorithms is not the result an algorithm? How exactly do you make the leap from algorithm to “something beyond” by addition alone?

    What is the magic sauce?

    peace

  35. Joe Felsenstein: how does the conservation rule work in a population of genomes, where some genomes may have higher fitness than others?

    Exactly as it does with one genome. That is because adding or subtracting algorithms and/or integers together is not a way to “get beyond” what a single algorithm can do.

    peace

  36. fifthmonarchyman: In what way exactly. Be very specific as this is the crux of the disagreement.

    Indeed, it is the crux of the disagreement.

    If you combine two or more algorithms is not the result an algorithm? How exactly do you make the leap from algorithm to “something beyond” by addition alone?

    What is the magic sauce?

    and

    fifthmonarchyman: Exactly as it does with one genome. That is because adding or subtracting algorithms and/or integers together is not a way to “get beyond” what a single algorithm can do.

    It is very simple. There is a population of organisms (of genomes, in this case). These genomes have fitnesses. The “algorithm” of Holloway is supposed to represent the effect of a generation of survival, reproduction, and genetic inheritance. So it has to be an algorithm that acts on, not a single individual, but on the population. That has to include the effects of mutation and the effects of reproduction and inheritance including the effects of unequal fitness in changing the composition of the population.

    So you cannot just say that it acts “exactly as it does with one genome”. Because that leaves totally undetermined what the algorithm does to the proportions of different genotypes.

    Holloway’s discussion leaves out the population, and hence its changes in composition, and hence leaves out the possibility of natural selection.

  37. Joe Felsenstein: That has to include the effects of mutation and the effects of reproduction and inheritance including the effects of unequal fitness in changing the composition of the population.

    Do you think that these things constitute something more than randomness and determinism? If so what exactly is the extra thing and where did it come from?

    peace

  38. Joe Felsenstein: So you cannot just say that it acts “exactly as it does with one genome”. Because that leaves totally undetermined what the algorithm does to the proportions of different genotypes.

    Do you think that the algorithm can possibly do something that is “beyond algorithmic” ever? If so how can it possibly accomplish this? Where does the extra stuff come from?

    peace

  39. fifthmonarchyman: Joe Felsenstein: So you cannot just say that it acts “exactly as it does with one genome”. Because that leaves totally undetermined what the algorithm does to the proportions of different genotypes.

    Do you think that the algorithm can possibly do something that is “beyond algorithmic” ever? If so how can it possibly accomplish this? Where does the extra stuff come from?

    Algorithms generally do something algorithmic. Not sure what part of the wild blue yonder you wanted me to go off into.

    In the this case the algorithm would be one that implemented a process of change in the genotypic composition of a population. But Holloway is using a conservation result that holds for an algorithm that only says what happens to one genotype. So it is insufficient to say whether anything is conserved when biological processes operate on a population.

  40. fifthmonarchyman: Do you think that these things constitute something more than randomness and determinism? If so what exactly is the extra thing and where did it come from?

    No, but the random and the deterministic things that happen in evolution happen to a whole population, not just to one genome.

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