What is obvious to Granville Sewell

Granville Sewell, who needs no introduction here, is at it again. In a post at Uncommon Descent he imagines a case where a mathematician finds that looking at his problem from a different angle shows that his theorem must be wrong. Then he imagines talking to a biologist who thinks that an Intelligent Design argument is wrong. He then says to the biologist:

“So you believe that four fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone can rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into Apple iPhones and nuclear power plants?” I asked. “Well, I guess so, what’s your point?” he replied. “When you look at things from that point of view, it’s pretty obvious there must be an error somewhere in your theory, don’t you think?” I said.

As he usually does, Sewell seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for his post at UD. Is it “obvious” that life cannot originate? That it cannot evolve descendants, some of which are intelligent? That these descendants cannot then build Apple iPhones and nuclear power plants?

As long as we’re talking about whether some things are self-evident, we can also discuss whether this is “pretty obvious”. Discuss it here, if not at UD. Sewell is of course welcome to join in.

24 thoughts on “What is obvious to Granville Sewell

  1. As he usually does, Sewell seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for his post at UD.

    I would word that as “Sewell has deliberately disabled commenting on his UD post.”

    As a mathematician, I consider Granville Sewell an embarassment.

    He is, of course, correct about transformations. But, for that to work, the transformation needs to be an isomorphism. In this case, his thought experiment should lead him to question the adequacy of his own understanding of biology and evolution.

  2. Funny, Sewell’s corrected again and again about the SLOT and about biology, and he never really addresses the issues nor changes his mind. Same old, again with the false analogy.

    Could ID survive without projection?

    Glen Davidson

  3. That the theory of evolution was not “obvious” is not a strike against it. It should increase our admiration for those who have developed it. Sometimes science is for grown-ups, not just people who’d say “Are you kidding?! That could never be!”

  4. Glen,

    Funny, Sewell’s corrected again and again about the SLOT and about biology, and he never really addresses the issues nor changes his mind. Same old, again with the false analogy.

    It’s like an itch he can’t scratch. He just knows he’s right, and he’s convinced that if he keeps repeating the same arguments endlessly, someday the world will catch on.

  5. Is it obvious to Sewell that life should exhibit the constraints imposed by unintelligent evolution, yet be designed?

    Let me guess, he doesn’t think about things he doesn’t think about. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a creationist who actually cared about the details that so badly fit the design scenario.

    Glen Davidson

  6. GlenDavidson: Funny, Sewell’s corrected again and again about the SLOT and about biology, and he never really addresses the issues nor changes his mind. Same old, again with the false analogy.

    Could ID survive without projection?

    Here he is in his imagined example, trying to make the point that, if you look at things a little differently, some things that seem straightforward are obviously wrong.

    Meanwhile, folks like us keep pointing out the same thing to him. About his 2nd Law arguments and about his silly particles-to-computers argument.

    But he shows little sign of paying attention. It is as if his own Comments section is turned off.

  7. Alan Fox:
    Joe Felsenstein,

    OT

    I didn’t realise Will Provine was so ill when you mentioned he had recently had surgery. It puts a different light on the unfinished feel to his last book.

    He had been fighting this for at least 20 years and at least one previous brain surgery. He was very open and brave about it. Some of the parts of his new book that did not quite “compute” are understandable in view of his condition (his previous books were generally very clear).

  8. Intelligent design is the theory that the only people who don’t really understand biology are biologists.

  9. Joe,

    As he usually does, Sewell seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for his post at UD.

    He also seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for the YouTube video.

    I actually watched the whole thing — a painful experience, given his monotonic, Elmer Fuddish delivery — and can attest that he has learned nothing from the criticisms of the last few years.

    It is indeed as if his own internal Comments section is turned off, as Joe suggests. Probably permanently.

  10. As someone who has vigorously disagreed with Granville’s 2nd law argument in its specific details, there is an element where, if he had modified it, it would be quite correct as far as ID.

    The 2nd law argues thermodynamic systems will tend toward the state of highest multiplicity analogous to a system of a buzzillion fair coins tending toward the highest multiplicity state of approximate 50% heads.

    Entropy as a measure of multiplicity:
    http://www.hyperphysics.de/hyperphysics/hbase/therm/entrop2.html

    500 fair coins heads when subject to uncertainty inducing processes (like shaking them in a box), will go toward a state of maximum multiplicity analogous to entropy going up in a thermodynamic system.

    Where I have disagreed with Granville is that the microstates of concern to thermodynamics should not be conflated with the microstates of concern to the question of ID. I pointed out an ice cube has LESS thermodynamic entropy than a living human. No one here at TSZ thought my critique of Granville’s work was materially wrong:
    http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/2lot-and-id-entropy-calculations-editorial-corrections-welcome/

    But, supposing my critique is correct, that does not imply the pre-biological evolution of life by natural means is correct. Life is a low multiplicity state. That is to say there are so many more ways to be dead relative to ways of being alive, where by “alive” I mean having an algorithmically controlled metabolism.

    If being dead is a high multiplicity state, then uncertainty inducing mechanisms (like say thermal agitation and random chemical reactions) will spontaneously evolve a system away from complex life, not toward it.

    So far, my theory that “dead things stay dead” for the reasons stated above agrees with experiment and observation.

    As far as Darwinian evolution, I think it is incoherent in what it claims to achieve. Since what constitutes “fit” is auto-renormalized with each generation, reductive evolution and trashing of the genome to ever higher states of non-functionality can happen, all the while “fitness” kept increasing. So even though differential reproductive success happens, it’s not even wrong as an explanation for the evolution of complexity.

    One other thing that is not appreciated is natural selection somewhat predicts elimination of species as in “Elimination of Species by means of Natural Selection”. We see this in the wild today. Humans are multiplying and causing the extinction of other creatures in the biosphere. I view that as empirical support of the notion that the natural direction of biological evolution is toward elimination of complex life forms, not the construction of it.

    These considerations suggests physics and chemistry not only predict tendency toward the high multiplicity predicted by the 2nd law, but also that natural evolution is toward the dead state if alive and remaining in the dead state if already dead.

    Thus if there is complex life on Earth, it was a miracle, and if there is a miracle, there is a Miracle Maker. That’s why, even though I disagree with Granville on the particulars, I agree with him on the generals.

  11. So far, my theory that “dead things stay dead” for the reasons stated above agrees with experiment and observation.

    So much for Jesus rising from the dead.

  12. stcordova: So far, my theory that “dead things stay dead” for the reasons stated above agrees with experiment and observation.

    To be dead you have to have been alive first. This does not apply at the OOL does it?

  13. Kantian Naturalist:
    Intelligent design is the theory that the only people who don’t really understand biology are biologists.

    I LOVE this observation. Be forewarned: if I ever become famous I will be using this statement publically!

  14. The point is, not that I know how the Origin Of Life occurred, but that Sewell does not have a proof of its impossibility. When he says that “it’s pretty obvious there must be an error somewhere in your theory” he is wrong. It is not “pretty obvious”, and Sewell has no argument that it is.

    By stating the issue as whether the fundamental laws of physics can “rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into Apple iPhones and nuclear power plants”, he has made quite ordinary events sound impossible. Such as having those particles aggregate into atoms, molecules, and our Solar System. He has just made that sound “obviously” impossible.

  15. REW: I LOVE this observation.Be forewarned: if I ever become famous I will be using this statement publically!

    On a more positive note, the only people who do understand evolution are lawyers and dweebs who spend the day mining quotes that they don’t understand.

  16. As he usually does, Sewell seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for his post at UD.

    So? When is the last time you posted at UD?

  17. Mung:
    [quoting Prof. Felsenstein] As he usually does, Sewell seems to have forgotten to turn comments on for his post at UD.

    So? When is the last time you posted at UD?

    Come on, Mung, the powers-that-be at Uncommon Descent can’t be trusted to treat comments fairly or honestly. They have a track record of deleting and editing comments, blocking IPs, silently disabling member accounts. It’s a track record that does not encourage participation.

  18. Wow, Zachriel, I was beginning to think that Barry had an inexplicable soft spot for you, something like Stalin’s reluctance to execute Boris Pasternak. Hell, you gave him an apoplectic fit. Congratulations!

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