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Author Topic:   A Year In Intelligent Design
PaulK
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Posts: 14225
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 16 of 27 (827608)
01-28-2018 3:20 PM
Reply to: Message 15 by A Certain Cyborg
01-28-2018 2:58 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
Yes, I think the usual method of detecting design is to consider a positive design hypothesis and use inference to the best explanation. Purely negative arguments are an unreliable method - it’s too easy to miss possibilities.

However Dembski’s method is supposed to deal with identifying the pattern in retrospect. That’s the point of specification - the observed pattern is shown to be “special”. The problem Dembski missed at the time is that there are plenty of “special” patterns and the probability of getting any one of them is (usually) what you really need. I’ve seen writings where he tries to correct for this by calculating the number of possible specifications but it’s a really bad omission.

The really weird thing though is that Dembski tried to sell his “Complex Specified Information” as an anti-evolution argument. But you can’t count any feature as CSI without ruling out evolutionary explanations. It makes me suspect that Dembski had a quite different argument in mind but couldn’t get it to work.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 15 by A Certain Cyborg, posted 01-28-2018 2:58 PM A Certain Cyborg has responded

Replies to this message:
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A Certain Cyborg
Member
Posts: 7
From: Calgary
Joined: 12-19-2017


Message 17 of 27 (827631)
01-28-2018 10:25 PM
Reply to: Message 16 by PaulK
01-28-2018 3:20 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
Would you mind elaborating? It's been a couple months since I've looked at any of this in depth.
Appended: Quoting wouldn't work earlier when I was trying to reply from my phone, so I'm fixing the post now for what I actually wanted to communicate.

PaulK writes:

...the usual method of detecting design is to consider a positive design hypothesis and use inference to the best explanation. Purely negative arguments are an unreliable method - it’s too easy to miss possibilities.

I'm not too familiar with the usual methods; I have an interest in Forensics, but I know too little to make a comparison between how the science actually works compared with Dembski's method. However, I do understand that Dembski's method is a 'negative', or exclusionary 'sieve'; it doesn't positively indicate design, and it only rules out the (purportedly) only other explanations. As for probabilities...


PaulK writes:

Dembski’s method is supposed to deal with identifying the pattern in retrospect.

I'm at a loss for how it is supposed to do this. Complex Specified Information makes sense to me, but he doesn't seem to propose a method to detect any specifications, they must be assumed. As for 'special patterns' and the probabilities of "getting" any of them, I don't know what you're referring to. In regards to possible specifications, I'd really like to see Dembski's chicken scratchings on that.

Evolutionary mechanisms are ruled out a priori with his method not because of the 'necessary' sieve in his Explanatory Filter, but because natural selection doesn't specify positively any patterns of surviving organisms genome, right? Please correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm not a savant or even very well acquainted with evolution beyond the basics, but natural selection is the environmental pressure selecting negatively (akin to Dembski's sieve) the organisms which are unfit, and the rest of the population it is blind to, right? In other words, natural selection is simply death of the unfit, no?

Edited by A Certain Cyborg, : I'm not going to try to respond from my phone again.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 16 by PaulK, posted 01-28-2018 3:20 PM PaulK has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 18 by PaulK, posted 01-29-2018 2:14 AM A Certain Cyborg has acknowledged this reply
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PaulK
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Posts: 14225
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


(1)
Message 18 of 27 (827634)
01-29-2018 2:14 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by A Certain Cyborg
01-28-2018 10:25 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
Just time for one quick point.

If you look at Mt Rushmore (a favourite ID example) you don’t go “I can’t think of a natural explanation, it must be designed” - but you might well go “humans carved that to honour famous people”

That is, Dembski’s method leaves design as an unexamined default. If you can’t think of a possible natural explanation for a pattern you are supposed to conclude design - even if you don’t have any idea at all of who might even want to do it.

In contrast most people would think of an actual explanation involving design and compare that to the evidence.


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PaulK
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Posts: 14225
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


(3)
Message 19 of 27 (827647)
01-29-2018 8:01 AM
Reply to: Message 17 by A Certain Cyborg
01-28-2018 10:25 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
quote:

I'm at a loss for how it is supposed to do this. Complex Specified Information makes sense to me, but he doesn't seem to propose a method to detect any specifications, they must be assumed.

The basic idea is pretty common. Given a fair coin the probability of any sequence of tosses depends only on the length. Obviously it would be daft to say that there must be something odd going on just because you’ve tossed a coins twenty times in a row. But if you get twenty heads in a row - which is a million-to-one shot you would be justified in thinking that maybe there is something making it come up heads.

Dembski does have some ideas on what makes a specification valid and they aren’t too bad, but I don’t think that they are objective enough to call his design inference a mathematical proof. I may quote them later - I do have a copy of the book (remaindered - no way I’d have paid full price)

quote:

Evolutionary mechanisms are ruled out a priori with his method not because of the 'necessary' sieve in his Explanatory Filter, but because natural selection doesn't specify positively any patterns of surviving organisms genome, right?

Evolutionary explanations are supposed to be ruled out based on probability calculations. In reality I’ve never heard of Dembski coming close to doing that - in one case the “reason” was “Behe said so” which doesn’t even seem to be true.
(In Darwin’s Black Box Behe admitted that there were “indirect” routes of evolution that sidestepped his argument. He assumed that they were too unlikely to count but never made an argument to that effect, and certainly never showed that the probability fell below Dembski’s probability bound. He was almost certainly wrong, too)

quote:

but natural selection is the environmental pressure selecting negatively (akin to Dembski's sieve) the organisms which are unfit, and the rest of the population it is blind to, right? In other words, natural selection is simply death of the unfit, no?

That’s not really accurate. Positive selection for beneficial traits is an important part of evolution. The simplest explanation is that, in aggregate, genes that help individuals successfully reproduce become more common while genes that hinder that become less common.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 17 by A Certain Cyborg, posted 01-28-2018 10:25 PM A Certain Cyborg has responded

Replies to this message:
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 Message 21 by A Certain Cyborg, posted 01-30-2018 1:08 AM PaulK has not yet responded

    
NoNukes
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Posts: 10856
From: Central NC USA
Joined: 08-13-2010
Member Rating: 2.4


Message 20 of 27 (827676)
01-29-2018 1:00 PM
Reply to: Message 19 by PaulK
01-29-2018 8:01 AM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
Evolutionary explanations are supposed to be ruled out based on probability calculations. In reality I’ve never heard of Dembski coming close to doing that - in one case the “reason” was “Behe said so” which doesn’t even seem to be true.

This is an easy attack point for both Dembski's and Behe's positions. They each use different methods of ruling out evolution as a possibility and their critics have pretty much hammered away at those failings. The straight probability calculations are completely flawed. Here is one such critique:

http://scienceblogs.com/.../dishonest-dembskithe-universal-1

quote:
Let’s look at Dembski’s own words first:

>Specifically, within the known physical universe there are estimated to be no
>more than 1080 elementary particles. Moreover, the properties of matter are
>such that transitions from one state to another cannot occur at a rate faster
>that 1045 times per second. Finally, the universe itself is about a billion
>times younger than 1025 seconds (assuming the universe is around 10 to 20
>billion years old). ….these cosmological constraints imply that the total
>number of specified events throughout cosmic history cannot exceed
>1080 * 1045 x 1025 = 10150.

He goes on to assert that this is the “maximum number of trials” that could have occurred since the beginning of the universe, and that for anything less likely than that which is observed to occur, it is not reasonable to say it is caused by chance.

Here’s the fundamental dishonesty: None of those numbers have *anything* to do with what he’s supposedly trying to prove. He’s trying to create a formal-sounding version of the big-number problem by throwing together a bunch of fancy-sounding numbers, multiplying them together, and claiming that they somehow suddenly have meaning.

But they don’t.

It’s actually remarkably easy to show what utter nonsense this is. I’ll do a fancy one first, and a trivial one second.

So any state of particles within that cube is an event with probability considerably smaller than 1 in 105232. So what Dembski is saying is that *every* possible configuration of matter in space in the entire universe is impossible without intelligent intervention.

And the trivial one? Grab two decks of distinguishable cards. Shuffle them together, and lay them out for a game of spider solitaire. What’s the probability of that particular lay of cards? 104! , or, very roughly, something larger than 1×10166. Is god personally arranging ,my cards every time I play spider


There is more in the article, but it is not hard to find any number of sound attacks on this probability BS.

Edited by NoNukes, : No reason given.


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A Certain Cyborg
Member
Posts: 7
From: Calgary
Joined: 12-19-2017


Message 21 of 27 (827699)
01-30-2018 1:08 AM
Reply to: Message 19 by PaulK
01-29-2018 8:01 AM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
PaulK writes:

quote:
but natural selection is the environmental pressure selecting negatively (akin to Dembski's sieve) the organisms which are unfit, and the rest of the population it is blind to, right? In other words, natural selection is simply death of the unfit, no?

That’s not really accurate. Positive selection for beneficial traits is an important part of evolution. The simplest explanation is that, in aggregate, genes that help individuals successfully reproduce become more common while genes that hinder that become less common.

Alright. Good to know I'm mistaken. It's been a while since I've read any Dawkins, and I haven't read any textbook explanations (which I should; I have several right next to me). I'll have to review the literature I have on hand before I consider these things further.
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Taq
Member
Posts: 7514
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 22 of 27 (827710)
01-30-2018 10:55 AM
Reply to: Message 12 by A Certain Cyborg
01-28-2018 4:21 AM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
A Certain Cyborg writes:

I haven't read The Design Inference, but I have printed out several pages of his seminal thesis (upon which the book and his subsequent writing about Complex, Specified Information is based) for reference. When I first started reading the arguments from the Intelligent Design community I was immediately interested in their claim (based on Dembskis claim) that it is being used in Forensic Science and Archaeology.
It was a short order for me to cook up an argument probing my interlocutors as to exactly how the Design Inference would differentiate between four scenarios. Needless to say, they merely told me I should read the Design Inference (a seeming tacit admission that they haven't read it, or at least haven't understood it).
Taking their bait, that's how I came to accessing Dembskis thesis (my library didn't have a copy of The Design Inference, but did have a copy of The Design Revolution which I was unimpressed by, to say the least). I've tried my best to comprehend it, but as I mentioned even Dembskis academic peers have criticized his writing for being misleading or hard to comprehend (and not because it's a difficult topic).
Suffice it to say, those actually involved in Forensics and Archaeology aren't impressed. See: Chapter 8, written by Gary S. Hurd in 'Why Intelligent Design Fails'.

From my surface understanding of the Design Inference, it is nothing more than a Designer of the Gaps argument backed by bad math. His main thesis seems to be "it is too improbable, therefore magic". Of course, internally his whole thesis hinges on getting the probabilities right, and from what I have seen he uses the Sharpshooter fallacy where probabilities are calculated after an event has occurred (which is the wrong way to do it).

In a nutshell, if we look at evolutionary pathways down to the fine grained level of individual mutations then every evolutionary pathway is extremely improbable. The problem for Dembski's thesis is that the mere fact of the arrow of time guarantees that a highly improbable evolutionary pathway will occur due to the simple fact that mutations occur in large populations of organisms. It is equivalent to a sharpshooter painting the bullseye over his bullet hole.

Edited by Taq, : No reason given.


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Replies to this message:
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Taq
Member
Posts: 7514
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.4


(1)
Message 23 of 27 (827712)
01-30-2018 10:59 AM
Reply to: Message 18 by PaulK
01-29-2018 2:14 AM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
PaulK writes:

If you look at Mt Rushmore (a favourite ID example) you don’t go “I can’t think of a natural explanation, it must be designed” - but you might well go “humans carved that to honour famous people”

If an archaeologists is digging in the ground and finds a potshard and an earthworm, which one does he take back to the museum as evidence of an intelligence? The potshard. If Dembski wants to claim that archaeologists are using the Design Inference, then he needs to explain why this is.


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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14225
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 24 of 27 (827717)
01-30-2018 1:55 PM
Reply to: Message 22 by Taq
01-30-2018 10:55 AM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
quote:

From my surface understanding of the Design Inference, it is nothing more than a Designer of the Gaps argument backed by bad math. His main thesis seems to be "it is too improbable, therefore magic"

Formally it is more “everything else I can think of is proven too unlikely therefore some unspecified designer did it by unspecified means”.

That’s poor as science (since the conclusion is too damn vague), risks error (it’s too easy to miss something) and pretty much useless where he wants to apply it. (The calculations for evolution would be a ridiculous amount of work even if we had good figures)

quote:

Of course, internally his whole thesis hinges on getting the probabilities right, and from what I have seen he uses the Sharpshooter fallacy where probabilities are calculated after an event has occurred (which is the wrong way to do it).

In my experience it’s more a case of he finds excuses not to do the calculations or does the wrong calculation entirely. He does actually take some steps to avoid the sharpshooter fallacy, but having a more or less valid methodology - in principle - is no good if the application is always seriously lacking.

quote:

In a nutshell, if we look at evolutionary pathways down to the fine grained level of individual mutations then every evolutionary pathway is extremely improbable

Yes, that is a potential flaw of the method but I haven’t seen Dembski do a good enough job of applying his method for that to be a real issue in practice. If Dembski ever gets to calculating the probabilities of evolutionary paths (and he may have, I haven’t looked at his work in the last few years) that might be an issue. But I haven’t seen him even try it, even when he should.

So, I think you are missing the mark somewhat.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 22 by Taq, posted 01-30-2018 10:55 AM Taq has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 26 by Taq, posted 01-30-2018 5:46 PM PaulK has responded

    
RAZD
Member
Posts: 19544
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 2.9


Message 25 of 27 (827720)
01-30-2018 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 23 by Taq
01-30-2018 10:59 AM


of watches and kaleidoscopes
If an archaeologists is digging in the ground and finds a potshard and an earthworm, which one does he take back to the museum as evidence of an intelligence? The potshard. If Dembski wants to claim that archaeologists are using the Design Inference, then he needs to explain why this is.

One of the arguments I have used re neo-Paleyism is comparing watches (of course) to a kaleidoscope ...

see Is ID properly pursued? (posted 2004)

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This message is a reply to:
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Taq
Member
Posts: 7514
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.4


Message 26 of 27 (827721)
01-30-2018 5:46 PM
Reply to: Message 24 by PaulK
01-30-2018 1:55 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
PaulK writes:

Yes, that is a potential flaw of the method but I haven’t seen Dembski do a good enough job of applying his method for that to be a real issue in practice. If Dembski ever gets to calculating the probabilities of evolutionary paths (and he may have, I haven’t looked at his work in the last few years) that might be an issue. But I haven’t seen him even try it, even when he should.

Then it ends up being a moot point. It would seem that the Explanator Filter is incapable of explaining biology, the very thing that ID is focused on.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 24 by PaulK, posted 01-30-2018 1:55 PM PaulK has responded

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PaulK
Member
Posts: 14225
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 1.6


(2)
Message 27 of 27 (827730)
01-31-2018 12:14 AM
Reply to: Message 26 by Taq
01-30-2018 5:46 PM


Re: Rosa Parks They Are Not
quote:

Then it ends up being a moot point. It would seem that the Explanator Filter is incapable of explaining biology, the very thing that ID is focused on.

It is still worth getting the criticisms correct. Aside from the fact that honest debate demands it - and that is important, errors on our part give opponents an advantage they don’t deserve.


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