Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Complexity

"It's very complex." How many times has someone said that line at one time or another to dismiss a question? One gets it thrown in ones face whenever the topic is economics or global warming or anything else that pundits have an answer for that they can't explain.

How is it that we can solve our economic problems by spending money we don't have? Bailouts are just another way of saying impoverish your children or bankrupt the nation. Nations have to live by the same laws of the universe, including economics, as everyone else. "Ignore the man behind the curtain." Congress is no more able to ignore the laws of economics then they are at getting anything meaningful done. It's all smoke and mirrors.

Global warming is another one of those things. I've been reading about ice-ages and looking at graphs until I'm blue in the face with annoyance about the general nonsense being purveyed. The current warming trend extends back to before the industrial revolution and has continued without appreciable change in general slope through the period that fossil fuel usage ramped up. No sign in the data of any particular change in slope unless you carefully cherry pick your data. So yes the planet is warming and no, we don't seem to have much to do with it. "It's all very complicated you know."

Life is that way too. The Darwinian theory of evolution is certainly an interesting intellectual jump from the capacity of animal breeders to modify animals by selection to the idea that everything has preceded by the same principle only naturally preserving random modifications that have survival value. It's a terrific source of "just-so" stories. I do have some questions about whether it has predicted very much since there seems to be a story which explains things regardless of what the things are. One of the proofs used to be that we had lots of vestigial organs in the human body. You know, organs that are really unnecessary, that don't do very much, that are left over from earlier adventures of the lifeform, but we don't hear much about that argument anymore. Why? Because we've discovered what they do for the most part and it would just reveal our prior ignorance to keep on repeating the argument.

In the DNA genome world there is a similar thing going on. There is this phrase "junk DNA" going around to describe all the DNA that we haven't figured out that lies between the DNA that we have figured out. I'm rather confident that after a century or so we'll look back on these writings with a distinct sense of superiority since by then we'll likely have figured out what a lot of that "junk DNA" actually is doing. "It is, after all, very complex."

Of course complexity gets a bad name. Poking around my library, which threatens to take over the house and spill out into the universe, thereby releasing a scourge no less severe than opening Pandora's box, I stumbled upon my copy of "The Design Revolution" by William A. Dembski. The subtitle of this work is "Answering the Toughest Questions about Intelligent Design." I'd like to comment on the tautology "Intelligent Design" — there really isn't any other kind of design. If there is a design, then there is a designer. If the case were otherwise then we couldn't properly call it design at all. That being said, complexity (that's what we're talking about after all) that has a point, that is ends up being teleological, is hard to explain unless it is evidence for design.

Chesterton put it this way: It is absurd to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into everything. -- G.K. Chesterton from his book on St. Thomas Aquinas

4 comments:

bob said...

I stumbled upon my copy of "The Design Revolution" by William A. Dembski.

Why did you waste your money on a book written by a brain-dead liar? The book should be called "The MAGIC Revolution". Dembski is using "design" as a code word when he is really talking about magic.

I suggest you watch this 10 minute video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUxLR9hdorI

Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs) are the relics of ancient viral infections preserved in our DNA. The odd thing is many ERVs are located in exactly the same position on our genome and the chimpanzee genome. There are two explanations for the perfectly matched ERV locations. Either it is an unbelievable coincidence that viruses just by chance inserted in exactly the same location in our genomes, or humans and chimps share a common ancestor. It was our common ancestor that was infected, and we both inherited the ERVs. ERVs provide the closest thing to a mathematical proof for evolution. And remember, ERVs are just one of the millions of FACTS that support the theory of evolution. Think about it.

Ray Schneider said...

I think that reaction is a bit simplistic and ad hominem Bob. I'm quite aware of the chimp thing and the issue with Darwinism has little to do with DNA or some speculation based on DNA.

Claudistics is interesting of course and if you are examining a text it gives sort of the highest probability sequence. I'm not sure what Dembski believes since I've not read the book.

I plan to one of these days. I'm quite doubtful that MAGIC is a fair summary however. Contrary to what a good many Darwinists believe, those that believe in Intelligent Design don't necessarily believe in special creation, which is I imagine what you believe. Dembski explicitly distinguishes between Scientific Creationism and Intelligent Design, the first having ontological religious commitments and the second having none. So while I've not yet read the book I'll be really surprised if your summary is accurate. Might as well call Darwinism's mechanism magic.

Cheers, Ray

bob said...

Contrary to what a good many Darwinists believe, those that believe in Intelligent Design don't necessarily believe in special creation, which is I imagine what you believe.

Why would you think I believe in special creation? That's something a scientifically illiterate Christian would believe.

Intelligent Design are code words that mean magical creation by a god fairy. The designer is Mr. God, and design is just a code word for supernatural magic.

Dembski is a Liar-For-Jeebus. Dembski won't admit his childish insane belief in magic, which he dishonestly calls design, is not scientific. Real scientists don't invoke magic to solve scientific problems.

Are you an evolution denier? Do you deny the proven beyond any doubt fact humans apes and the other ape species are distant cousins?

By the way, biologists call evolution "evolution". They don't call it "darwinism" and they don't call themselves "darwinists". They call themselves biologists.

Also, biologists don't "believe" anything. They "accept" facts that have massive evidence. Evolution has overwhelming evidence. Intelligent design magic is childish, not scientific, and it doesn't have a shred of evidence.

Ray Schneider said...

Bob -- sorry for the misunderstanding. I was not saying that you believe in "special creation" I was saying that you believe people who think "intelligent design" is a reasonable hypothesis are really crypto special creationists.
You repeated your ad hominem, which I think essentially makes you a troll. The notion that someone can't believe differently from you without being caricatured as being some sort of loon is pretty typical of dogmatists. It's not uncommon for one kind of dogmatists to characterize others as equally dogmatic.
Evolutionists are certainly Darwinists -- It's called Darwin's Theory of Evolution.
I am not a Darwinist and not really an evolutionist. My personal thoughts are that there is a thread of continuity that joins all life based on all kinds clear connections. I don't doubt that natural selection plays a role. I suspect a very large number of other things, many which we likely don't know, also play a role.
As usual with dogmatists, they posture and pretend to greater knowledge than they actually have. Claudistics for example proves nothing except a possible path to observed change and the simplest.
I imagine that you probably don't know enough to critique Dembski so you have to libel him instead. I think if you want to post comments they ought to reflect something like real thought. Of course that means there have to be more than two neurons put to use. See if you can find some spares.

Cheers, Ray