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Monday, June 26, 2006

Immune to Correction! (or, some of my best friends are theistic evolutionists!)

First, thanks to IAMB who graciously pointed out that the odds involved in the card shuffling example were listed incorrectly. I do tend to grab things from the internet and don't always check the math, so I am grateful. The actual odds, be they 1 in 10^80 or to the 166th or even more, are not specifically important to the point but accuracy is always better. By the way, the first commenter who discerns the source for either one in 10^50 or some other number as the agreed upon "line of impossibility" will be highlighted and applauded herein!

Then, there is s cohen!

"Thanks iamb... I was going to make the exact same point, however, it's not just his math that needs correction. What would really help is the elimination of the arrogant 'immune to correction' attitude that radar sometimes exhibits. He made this satement:

"...10^8196, which is far more than the 1 in 10^50 considered to be the number beyond which a chance is considered an impossibility"

Which is easily refuted, since the outcome shuffling a deck of cards produces a result that is less likely than 1:1*10^50, yet instead of saying, "You're right, I was mistaken", we get a whole post of how he was actually right. One that is filled with bad math, selective quotes and ignorance.

I guess what it really boils down to is this: Should we trust a person that can't even properly calculate the permutations of a single deck of cards to make an argument based in statistics?

I say no."


Hee-hee! "Immune to correction!" I love it! I posted the very involved but carefully explained argument presented by Dr. Harold Morowitz, who undoubtably has better credentials that either myself or s cohen. S cohen cannot say anything about that post so he rags on me personally instead. It is to laugh! Earth to s cohen, you can't correct someone when he is right and you are wrong! Morowitz is right....and therefore you are wrong.

Worse yet, I have explained the logic behind why the card canard does not apply to the situation and after having met resistance, done it again in language a sixth grade student could understand. The card canard involves an outcome that can be random. RANDOM, not ordered.

Frog on a lily pad = ordered.

Frog subjected to a blender ride = random.

Only one is still a frog although both may have the exact same ingredients. Maybe it is because I am a YEC and s cohen cannot allow himself to hear anything I say, so maybe one of you logical evolutionists can explain it to him.

I liked what Dan S posted later:

"In its modern usage, hubris denotes overconfident pride and arrogance; it is often associated with a lack of knowledge, interest in, and exploration of history, combined with a lack of humility. An accusation of hubris often implies that suffering or punishment will follow, similar to the occasional paring of hubris and Nemesis in the Greek world and the proverb "pride goes before a fall" is thought to sum up the modern definition of hubris."

Me? I depend to a large extent on the wisdom of scientists more knowledgeable than myself. I pull together their findings and post them here in order to present reasoned arguments. I am neither a scientist nor a historian nor a philosopher as a vocation. On the other hand, the interested and involved man should probably be involved in many pursuits.

Dan S, with whom I largely disagree, is a great example of a man who is interested in a great number of issues in many fields of study and can present a reasonable argument for his side. Now this is the way to do it! Example:

"Metaphysics/Religion (Not science)

"This is philosophically difficult to defend but for those who believe in God and think that evolution has somehow been proven, a logical fallback position. It is a blend of natural and supernatural, . . .. Was God capable of creating Bacteria but not the Bison? Could He come up with the Trilobite but balked at the Termite?"

Of course, what you're saying (given belief in a omnipotent and somewhat inscrutable Creator God) is that God couldn't have made the universe so that the origin and subsequent evolution of life on Earth could have happened through natural processes. That God's way of working in this case couldn't be through natural processes, despite such things being taken absolutely for granted by religious people - even the most literally-inclined - throughout the modern world in terms of basic physics or weather or disease or medicine or . . .

And really, that's the ultimate slippery slope. Once you admit that Zeus doesn't cause the lightning, then - short of the stalling or collapse of scientific progress - nature gods, even montheistic Christianized ones, are doomed. If you want to worship a nature god as a literal explanation-for-physical-phenomena being, you're always going to have trouble, at least until the next time the light flickers out."


Awesome, Dan S!!! I disagree, but well said!

First, I believe metaphysics is essentially intrinsic to many scientific pursuits and that the study of origins is a perfect example.

Second, I would say that God could have created any way He wanted, but I have a book in which He told us how He did it and in that book He didn't need evolution in order to create. Also, logically, God would be more likely to just create a thing rather than begin a long, drawn out process that would in millions of years begin to yield that same thing, would he not?

Third, I simply assert that God has created a Universe in which there are operations that follow the laws He has set up and that science is an endeavor to determine what those laws are and use them to our best advantage. Have we not always depended on a Universe that is logical rather than random? We know that if we drop a hammer on our foot, it is going to fall on that foot and it is gonna hurt, unless (corrollary comes in here) another hand quickly grabs it, or our foot has been therapeutically numbed, etc, etc. We are confident that the hammer will fall EVERY TIME on that foot unless an outside action is brought into play. One may well suppose that a randomly occurring Universe would be, at its core, random. Well, this Universe is, at its core, logical. I thereby expect that it was designed by a logical being. I never say that God is literally throwing the hammer down or causing the nerves to send the message to my brain that "oh, boy, this really hurts!" and so on.

Worhty opponent/commenter Dan gives me something to respond to, to think about, something with substance. If you simply make ad hominem attacks or cry "Strawman!" then you really make no argument at all.

Derision is not an argument. Derision is not persuasion. Derision is a front while you think of something to say that is actually relevant.

Dan? By the way, Talk Origins has not addressed this Morowitz essay at all. I wonder if you recognize in my recent posts indications that I have actually read some of these Talk Origins links, despite my dislike for them. But I am tempted to do the point four of this discussion based on Talk Origins assertions....hmmm. Could be a plan?! The mind is simmering even now...

Xiangtao says this: "Even if we are to agree that everything radar has done here is completely correct, all he has proven is that life didn't spontaneously emerge the way that he says abiogenesis would happen. However, what are the chances that it all happened some other way? That is the problem with calculating the odds on abiogenesis: we just don't know enough about how it might have happened to start calculating the odds of it."

Ah, science! The beauty of it all is that no one has presented a plausible way it could have happened....yet....so many people believe it did anyway!

Metaphysics and Origins (in which radar concedes a point)

Back to Dan, I just want to say that some of my best friends are theistic evolutionists! Hee-hee! No, really, it is true! It doesn't make sense to me, but then again it is merely my opinion. One cannot calculate the odds for or against an opinion. To people who hold this opinion, the opinion is valid. They agree with me that God created life, so I find it hard to argue with that part. They aren't interested in abiogenesis, for it is not part of the discussion from their point of view.

I will concede this point: Evolution as presented by many scientists, and studied by many scientists, involves the development of complex life from simple and does not address the origin of life from non-life. So for many evolutionists, my assertions backed by good scientific minds means nothing to them. They simply believe they are able to show that complex life has evolved from simple life no matter where the simple life may have come from and work to study the ways this may occur or may have occurred.

My assertions concerning abiogenesis then, are conducive to a discussion with a naturalistic and materialistic scientist but not to one who is a theistic evolutionist. Agreed!

Jake says: "This is off topic of this thread, but I figured Radar, being such an Ann Coulter fan, might be interested in meeting the challenge found at the end of this post:

No evidence for evolution?

befre you do, though, I recommend you read the clarificationPZ posted after getting a few responses."


I amy have mentioned before that Ann Coulter is a conservative hottie (if you are over 40) with an attack-dog mentality who makes a lot of money by getting the more radical wings all worked up. After reading that 'clarification' post, I would have a real hard time suggesting that Coulter is as arrogant as PZ. But neither makes their living being diplomatic, obviously.

Jake, what Ann should have said is not that there is no evidence for evolution. There are metric tons of evidence which many scientists will say is evidence for evolution. She should have said, there is no proof of evolution and then she would have been accurate. Then again, Ann is accurate when it stirs up hornet's nests and otherwise falls back into opinion mode.

Uh, PZ? If Ann Coulter's fans couldn't read her books they wouldn't be fans, would they? I thought only the Democrats had to work their way up the reading scale?

30 comments:

highboy said...

Dan provides excellant debate, and is very cool to disagree with.

Anonymous said...

Well, thanks for the generous praise! Although I wouldn't say I'm a great example . . . I can think of many far, far better.

Anyway, it's always an interesting discussion on all sides - that's why I hang around here. . .

Re: Morowitz -

Some interesting testimony from him in McLean v. Arkansas (all the way back in '81, granted)

" . . .Q: Doctor Morowitz, do you know how life was first formed on this planet?
 
A: We do not know in any precise way how life was formed. However, it is a very active field of research. There are a number of studies going on, and we are developing and continuing to develop within science a body of knowledge that is beginning to provide some enlightenment on this issue.

Q: Now, you have been explaining why the creation science dual model approach to the teaching of origins of life on this planet is unscientific. Is there any other aspect of the creation science treatment of the origins of life on this planet that is similarly unscientific?

A: Well, I find the use of probabilistic arguments to be somewhat deceptive.

Q: Would you explain what you mean?

A: In general in the creation science literature, they start out by assuming, by making statements about the complexity of living systems. These will generally be fairly accurate statements about the complexity of living systems.

They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability, and they then assert that therefore life by natural processes is impossible.
 
A: (Continuing) But the fact of the matter is, we do not know the processes by which life has come about in detail. To do the probabilistic calculations, we would have to know all the kinetic and mechanistic details by which the processes have come about, and, therefore, we would then be able to do the calculations. We are simply lacking the information to do the calculations now, so to present them on the basis of the random model is somewhat deceptive.

Q: Is it also in your view unscientific?

A: Since deception is unscientific, the answer to that is yes. . . .
"

In 1992 he wrote Beginnings of Cellular Life, described in a review as:
" . . a rather technical account of how life could have arisen on the Earth.
Morowitz' postulate is that life's definition is the definition of a living cell, and therefore he narrows down on the cell, and eukaryotes (multicellular organisms) in particular. Cells of eukaryotes have a membrane that separates the cell from the environment, and inside the membrane some organelles are contained. Morowitz' essay aims at explaining how this "partition" occurred and why it was so successful that it gave rise to the living kigndoms as we know them.
[This is odd in several ways, but whatever]
Morowitz argues against Monod's idea that life originated and evolved by chance. Morowitz has a different view. The fossil record shows that life occurred very early in the life of this planet, and then it spread very quickly: this seems to prove that life was a highly probable event, just about the opposite of what Monod claims."


He was featured in the Spring 2000 edition of the Santa Fe Institute Bulletin (pdf) talking about researching the origin of life, using a scientific approach:

“There is only one chart of intermediary metabolism because all living organisms have parts of that same chart,” he says. “That means you’re looking at four-billion-year-old biochemistry—a fossil older than any rock we have.” This fossil is the clue that began his present investigations, which attempt to empirically prove an extraordinary postulate: that the core of this chart, the citric acid cycle, was present in the earliest living cells. That means Morowitz is starting from the chart and working backwards, trying to trace the chemical reactions that took place on the earth all the way back to some four billion years ago. . . .

. . . “We’re not finished yet,” he cautioned. “Now we’re searching for the kind of reaction networks that could give you the citric acid cycle. I’m not looking at the whole chart, rather at the core of the chart to see how this first cycle came about.” Everything else is future research: how molecules in the chart combine with molecules of ammonia to make amino acids, then the next stage of the chart, and so-on. His ultimate goal? “The postulate is that the chart is not an accident but comes out of physical and chemical properties of the atoms that make up living systems,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is to reduce the biochemistry to the underlying physical chemistry.”
"

He's also a big fan of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and in his 2002 book The Emergence of Everything he (according to, I think, the blurb) "seeks out the nature of God in the emergent universe, the God posited by Spinoza, Bruno, and Einstein*, a God Morowitz argues we can know through a study of the laws of nature."

Morowitz's estimate of 239 proteins for the simplest self-repoducing organism - which seems to come from 1969, a length of time in science that's at least as long as its equivalent in computing, and, it is claimed, has since been experimentally overturned - the ways Coppedge (mis)uses it, and related probability issues are discussed here in Addendum B: Are the Odds Against the Origin of Life Too Great to Accept?. (No quote - go read.)

The TalkOrigins Index has a mini-response to the chirality (=handedness) question: CB040: Life uses only left-handed amino acids.

Interestin' bit on homochirality at wikipedia.

Most of this stuff is so far above my head that for all I know, the writers could have been stringing random words together, giggling madly. But anyway, there it is . . .

* of course, Spinoza was excommunicated, back in the days when Jews did that sort of thing, and poor Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake as a heretic. Einstein did ok, though . . .

Dan S., goin' to sleep now; will return nice compliments when I wake up . . .

Anonymous said...

"S cohen cannot say anything about that post so he rags on me personally instead. It is to laugh! Earth to s cohen, you can't correct someone when he is right and you are wrong! Morowitz is right....and therefore you are wrong."

Even a not so careful reading of my post would indicate that I was correcting your baffling claim that anything with odds less than 1 in 10^50 is impossible. Shame you missed that.

My question to you is how can you advance an argument that you don't understand? It seems you're happy to just parrot quotes (either in or out of context) that seem to prove your point without understanding what they say. How can you advance an argument based on statistics (one that I find wholly invalid) when you don't understand stats?

The fact that you choose to post on your blog's front page rather than engage commenters is further proof that you don't want to engage in any meaningful debate.

Nevertheless, I obviously touched a nerve with my comment. Perhaps this isn't the first time that accusation has been made?

As for your quotes, do you even know what position Morowitz advocates? He advocates that under certain conditions, life is almost CERTAIN to happen, and that it doesn't happen by random chance. He argues that the first thing to form was a lipid bilayer, and that provided an environment for life to form.

So much for your very mature "i'm right and you're wrong" argument.

Again, I know little of abiogenesis, and it is not germane to this discussion of evolution. I've told you that, Dan, Creeper, Hermit and Xingtao have told you that, and amazingly, I've gotten Dr. Morowitz to tell you this as well.

This is him under oath:
Q: Now, as a scientist studying the origins of life, do you find it meaningful to include that study within the scope of evolution-science as defined in the statute?

A: Well, I don't find evolution-science a phrase that occurs normally in the scientific community. Section 4 (b) groups together in an ad hoc fashion a number of subjects which are normally not treated together under a single topic in the scientific literature. Therefore, I don't find evolution-science very meaningful.

Q: Does the theory of evolution as used by scientists include the study of the origins of life?

A: Normally that's treated as a separate subject in a technical sense.

P.S. I wrote a program to calculate the odds of any given ordering of a seven deck shoe. The answer is around 6.87x10^774. This number is so large that it cannot be represented natively by any 'normal' computers, and I had to use a special mathmatical library to calculate it. That's why iamb's excel spreadsheet errored.

P.P.S. It's just scohen, no capitalizations, no spaces.
-scohen

radar said...

Dan S

Dr. Morowitz finds the use of probabalistic models to be deceptive!!I find interesting the fact that he has used such models himself, but I will go on. It doesn't change the arguments he himself made concerning the probabilities of simple life randomly happening.

Dan, those posted links are made up of "may have" and "could have" but nothing beyond that, really. Typically, evolutionists seek to show how much simpler forms of life (not observable now) in a different set of circumstances (not observable now) could have formed more complex forms, yadda yadda yadda (also not observable now), until we find life as we know it today. It is very well documented and thought out and researched guess work. I applaud the time and effort and brilliance behind much of this work. It simply lacks what would be considered proof.

What is the simplest form of life we have found on the planet today? Are there forms of life that eschew DNA? Are there traces of life that did not use DNA or was far less complex than life we find on earth now?

scohen - When I was asked where 10^50 came from, I immediately asked the blog world to correct me if they had better information. Rather than ragging on me, prove me wrong and come up with the right number...Particularly since this seems to be an area in which you have some expertise it would benefit us all if you would, rather than simply stand on the sidelines and criticize.

Who are you, scohen, to say that I don't understand the probabalistic models? Omniscient, are we? Because I included one mistaken figure from a previous post? Nice to meet someone who never accidently or carelessly made a math mistake. I suppose you never spell anything incorrectly either????? Ah, perfection!

Probabalistic models such as the one used by Morowitz are relatively simple as you must know, so why not try to bring in more information rather than, again, snipe from the sidelines? Where is the proof that the paper itself was wrong?

As to the rest of your comment, scohen, it shows me that you did not read the rest of my post. I agreed that unless you were a dedicated naturalistic materialistic scientist, then the matter of life from non-life doesn't matter to you. If you are and don't address it, then you are choosing to whistle past that graveyard for now and that is your choice. Metaphysically speaking I cannot imagine a thinking person who at some point doesn't admit to himself that the question needs to be considered. But again, to repeat what I wrote on the blog which you somehow missed, I conceded that point.

Congratulations on writing the 7 deck program, seriously. I am not challenging your intellect, simply how you interpret the data that you have collected. My opinion and yours do not agree. You can bring in all the derision and arrogance you want and it will not advance your argument one bit. Or you can bring in evidence that refutes the point. At least you mentioned Morowitz under oath. It takes away some of the impact of his paper. Only a bit though, since no one has refuted what is written in the paper and Morowitz didn't either.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Dan, I didn't even see your post when I hit submit.

That link is a goldmine, and was easy to find for anyone curious enough to do a google search for "harold morowitz creationism". Let's keep reading a bit and see if Radar's new hero defeats any more creationist arguments:

Again, all Dr. Morowitz quotes are taken from here.
Q: Are there any other respects in which the creation science treatments of the origins of life on this planet is unscientific?

A: Well, they play rather fast and loose with the use of the second law of thermodynamics to indicate that the natural origin of life would not be possible.


Oh no! Say it ain't so Dr. Morowitz!

Q: And can you describe for us what about the creation-science treatment of the second law of thermodynamics is unscientific?

A: They state the second law in terms of the spontaneous movement of systems from an order to a disordered state, and then they argue that since evolution and the origin of life involve states going from a
disordered to more ordered states, that these transitions are inconsistent with the second law of thermodynamics.

What they totally leave out in the original statement of these arguments is that the second law of thermodynamics applies only to isolated systems. In the statement that they use as the second law of thermodynamics, it applies to isolated systems where the surface of the earth is, in fact, not an isolated system, but an open system, and therefore, not subject to the constraints that they place on it in the isolated systems statement.


More on the 2nd law:


Q: And what is an isolated system?

A: An isolated system is one that is cut off from all matter or energy exchange with the rest of the universe.

Q: Is the earth an isolated system?

A: The earth is not an isolated system.

Q: Does the second law of thermodynamics imply that the surface of the earth is becoming disorganized?

A: That does not follow from the second law of thermodynamics.


Radar: (from here)The idea that the sun makes the earth an open system has already been refuted

Dr. MorowitzA: The earth is an open system because it has a flow of energy from the sun to the earth, and then there is a subsequent flow of energy from the earth to outer space, and so those two constitute it being an open system.

Radar: I posted the very involved but carefully explained argument presented by Dr. Harold Morowitz, who undoubtably has better credentials that either myself or s cohen

Yep, but he sure does agree with Dan, Creeper, Hermit, Jake, Xingtao and I, and he seemed to call your argument "deception". That's gotta sting.

-scohen

radar said...

"Radar: I posted the very involved but carefully explained argument presented by Dr. Harold Morowitz, who undoubtably has better credentials that either myself or s cohen

Yep, but he sure does agree with Dan, Creeper, Hermit, Jake, Xingtao and I, and he seemed to call your argument "deception". That's gotta sting."


Nope, that doesn't "sting", since Morowitz, having made the argument that life as we know it could not have randomly occurred, therefore begins to suggest all sorts of much simpler forms had to have led to life as we know it instead. Despite what he knows, he is a believer in evolution and goes on looking for a way...

He says: "Life is the property of an ecological system, not of a single, individual, isolated organism. An isolated living organism is an oxymoron. Life of any organism depends on a flow of energy, and, ultimately, life "is" that flow of energy. Morowitz has proven two theorems that analyze what happens during that flow of energy through the chemical systems that living organisms are made of: 1. those systems store energy in chemical bonds, i.e. their complexity steadily increases; and 2. those systems undergo chemical cycles of the kind that pervade the biosphere (e.g., the carbon cycle)."

Okay, so where does he presume the 'spark of life' came from and what does that statement really prove?

"Morowitz first looks for the simplest living cell that can exhibit growth and replication and proves that, given the chemistry of life, it has to be a "bilayer vesicle" made of "amphiphiles" (a class of molecules, that includes, for example, fatty acids). Such a vesicle, thermodynamically speaking, represents a "local minimum" of free energy, and that means that it is a structure that emerges spontaneously. The bilayers spontaneously formed closed vesicles. The closure (the membrane) led to the physical and chemical separation of the organism from the environment. This, in Morowitz's mind, is the crucial event in the early evolution of life. Later, these vesicles may have incorporated enzymes as catalysts and all the other machinery of life. These vesicles are the "protocells" from which modern cells evolved."

So again we have a guy proposing that simpler life we cannot observe or detect must have happened and that even before it reached the level of 'life' it was evolving! Without the genetic mechanisms necessary for natural selection, how in the world is anything going to evolve?????

May have, could have.

"Morowitz has a different view. The fossil record shows that life occurred very early in the life of this planet, and then it spread very quickly: this seems to prove that life was a highly probable event, just about the opposite of what Monod claims. "

So Morowitz does the math, then calls it 'deceptive', then decides on his own life is not only not improbable, but highly probable. Hey, life made up its mind it was gonna happen and so it did!

Morowitz asserts all this while being free from the need to prove any of it. Good thing. Ever read a paper on how the many varied systems involved in what we now call photosynthesis could have 'evolved'? Talk about suspend disbelief! Life in a Dean Koontz novel seems far more likely than that.

Morowitz has a point of view as do you, scohen and Dan, Creeper, Hermit, Jake, Xingtao, IAMB on your side and several sources I have used from sites like ID and Creationonthe Web and TrueOrigins and AIG. Considering the paper that Morowitz wrote in relation to what he now asserts, I would say the primary deception is of Morowitz....by Morowitz!

Jake said...

So, Radar, given that you accept Morowitz as an expert, and given that he stated that evolution and abiogenesis in now way violate the second law of thermodynamics, are you willing to concede that you were wrong about that?

Anonymous said...

"scohen - When I was asked where 10^50 came from, I immediately asked the blog world to correct me if they had better information"

As far as I'm concerned the burden is on you to provide support for this statement. We shouldn't have to disprove any wild assertions you make, and you shouldn't have to disprove any that I make. I believe I have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that things with less of a probability happen all the time (the specific ordering of cards, your birth, etc).

"Rather than ragging on me,"
I have not ragged on you, I just pointed out your flawed calculations that put a deck shuffle at less than 1:1*10^50. Correction isn't ragging. Holding your math to account isn't ragging. In these comments, I have made no statements about your character, your intelligence or anything else about you as a person.

"Who are you, scohen, to say that I don't understand the probabalistic models? Omniscient, are we? Because I included one mistaken figure from a previous post? Nice to meet someone who never accidently or carelessly made a math mistake. I suppose you never spell anything incorrectly either????? Ah, perfection!"

Now who is 'ragging' on whom? I said you don't understand the models because there is no way you can accurately put a probability on any of this. The models you cited are gibberish --we don't know enough about how life formed to accurately put it into a probability model. Not realizing that this is the case indicates that you don't understand the models. Furthermore, If you post hard numbers on your blog, you had better be sure that they're correct, don't claim ignorance, I've pointed this very error out to you several times before, and you ignored my posts, which lead me to believe that you don't really care if your information is accurate or not.

"Nope, that doesn't "sting", since Morowitz, having made the argument that life as we know it could not have randomly occurred"

Well it should, I know I'd change my tune if an expert that I cited directly contradicted my claims about his statements. As far as I'm concerned you're the only one making the claim that life "randomly" occurred. Don't include me in your man of straw argument against evolution. I told you not to go into abiogenesis and how it wasn't germane to evolution --and now your own source, Morowitz, tells you that too.

"I would say the primary deception is of Morowitz....by Morowitz!"

Really? You're completely ignoring the possibility that the writer of the book from which you quote, James F. Coppedge, has purposely mis-represented Morowitz's numbers and claims, which, given Morowitz's testimony appears to be the case.

-scohen

xiangtao said...

Radar, had you read the links (probability of abiogenesis FAQ) in the comments Dan left on the previous post, you would have known where the 1:10^50 comes from (Borel's Law) and that this number was not a constant referring to all probabilities. Borel himself also said that creationist arguments about probability of the origins of life are flawed and irrelevant. I'm paraphrasing but if you want to read his actual words, by all means go to the link.

radar said...

scohen - You are hopelessly, smugly correct in your own mind. It does no good to try to reason with you. Wisdom only spends time tilling ground where seeds might grow.

~~

Dan and Xiangtao - Yes, I read the Borel reference but are you telling me that is where the 10^50 barrier comes from? If so, then the 1 in 10^50, while being remarkably unlikely, has not risen to the level of an accepted 'line of impossibility'. Anyone else know of another source? If I find better information, I will share it.

It is still true that the Morowitz paper has never been torn to shreds because it is correct, within the bounds of the assumptions therein. Many of you wish to bring in other assumptions but thus far the assumptions are entirely speculative concerning the origin of life.

No one has shown that any life is arising from non-life today.

No one has shown any evidence of much simpler life forms that existed in the past.

No one has shown how any function of natural selection can work on non-life.

When Morowitz backs off of his own paper, he does so with many speculative statements. It may be that it seems to him that life from non-life must have been highly probable since all sorts of life seems to have sprung up all at once.
Hmmm, but that is what creation would look like. I wonder if it occurs to him that if it was so probable at one time, shouldn't it be somehow possible now?

Anonymous said...

"It is still true that the Morowitz paper has never been torn to shreds because it is correct, within the bounds of the assumptions therein."

What paper are you talking about? The quotes you excerpted (in the comments here) were from a review of Morowitz's book. The quotes you had on the main post were a creationist excerpting Morowitz's book. To my knowledge his paper, as you put it, has not been posted.

I have an idea, why don't you email Dr. Morowitz (morowitz at gmu.edu) and have him explain to you how both his statements regarding statistics and the fallacy of using statistics to disprove abiogenesis and evolution can both be true? I'm sure he'd be glad to respond and enlighten you.

"scohen - You are hopelessly, smugly correct in your own mind. It does no good to try to reason with you. Wisdom only spends time tilling ground where seeds might grow."

Right back at you big boy.

From where I sit, your comments have been debunked on several levels. From your mischaracterization of thermodynamics, to your misunderstanding of the point Morowitz was trying to make --that random chance isn't what creates life-- to your statements lumping abiogenesis and evolution together, all of these things have been roundly smashed, and making ad-hominem attacks against me isn't going to make your case any stronger. The fact is, the statements I have made against you have been about your sloppy math and questioning your ability (actually, anyone's ability) to use statistics to disprove evolution. Those might be hard things for you to hear, especially the takedown where Morowitz directly contradicts you, but these things do not make me arrogant.

And I'm more than correct in my own mind, with respect to the 10^50 argument, I'm correct mathematically as well --chaos_engineer was trying to make the same point, and I believe you rejected his argument out of hand.

-scohen

radar said...

scohen, whereas your numbers may be correct the premise is flawed. You don't understand the problem you address and cannot comprehend it when I have showed you that flaw. Cannot, or will not, not sure which is the better choice. No matter, I let the readers decide whether your premise makes sense or not. I'll take my frog straight, no blender, thank you very much!

I don't care what Morowitz says now about whether life comes from non-life. The paper is what you need to refute and since you cannot do it you point everywhere else instead. Go for it, who cares?

Anonymous said...

Emil Borel, on the origin/evolution of life (from the link mentioned above):

"When we calculated the probability of reproducing by mere chance a work of literature, in one or more volumes, we certainly observed that, if this work was printed, it must have emanated from a human brain. Now the complexity of that brain must therefore have been even richer than the particular work to which it gave birth. Is it not possible to infer that the probability that this brain may have been produced by the blind forces of chance is even slighter than the probability of the typewriting miracle?

It is obviously the same as if we asked ourselves whether we could know if it was possible actually to create a human being by combining at random a certain number of simple bodies. But this is not the way that the problem of the origin of life presents itself: it is generally held that living beings are the result of a slow process of evolution, beginning with elementary organisms, and that this process of evolution involves certain properties of living matter that prevent us from asserting that the process was accomplished in accordance with the laws of chance.

Moreover, certain of these properties of living matter also belong to inanimate matter, when it takes certain forms, such as that of crystals. It does not seem possible to apply the laws of probability calculus to the phenomenon of the formation of a crystal in a more or less supersaturated solution. At least, it would not be possible to treat this as a problem of probability without taking account of certain properties of matter, properties that facilitate the formation of crystals and that we are certainly obliged to verify. We ought, it seems to me, to consider it likely that the formation of elementary living organisms, and the evolution of those organisms, are also governed by elementary properties of matter that we do not understand perfectly but whose existence we ought nevertheless admit.
"

___________

According to nizkor.com,
"The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. . . .

This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.
"

This accusation is coming up because some of the arguments being presented against evolution or abiogenesis seem to be actually against such a straw version. For example, the frog-in-a-blender bit*, (as far as I understand it) while more a shorthand analogy or illustration, rather than a formal argument, fundamentally misrepresents what is being claimed for the processes behind evolution or abiogenesis.

I don't think this is actually intentional, though (can you have unintentional strawmen, or does an argument require willful misirepresentation (etc.) to qualify?). It seems be more of a basic misunderstanding or gulf - more on this later, I hope.

_________________

The whole card thing seems to be causing a lot of frustration all 'round - let me try to get into it (and everyone feel free to set me back on the path if I wander off -

This example has one purpose - and only one purpose. It exists to show that under certain circumstances, you're guaranteed to get one of a range of individually pretty improbable results. Shuffle five decks of cards, and the chances of having them all in proper order is not just teeny-tiny but itsy-bitsy - but so are the chances of getting any arrangement. In this case, there's nothing inherently special about the proper order (beyond an arbitrary arrangement selected by human minds), and nothing to favor one outcome over another.

Then we have a very different situation:
"But, in order to exist, if it was necessary for the decks to fall in numerical order, by suit, for them to be cards and would otherwise just become a pile of dust, then shuffling cards would, statistically, always be expected to turn them into that pile of dust."

In this case, there is something very special about one - and only one - outcome, but still nothing to favor one over the others. It's possible to imagine other scenarios, etc., and so on.

Now, neither evolution nor abiogenesis (as far as we can figure) particularly matches either of the these illustrations. However:

Evolution is a lot more like the first one. While any particular outcome is pretty unikely (given the inclusion of chance via mutations, drift, etc..), as long as we have life, some outcome will come to pass. Rewind history's tape and start over (assuming that things can happen other than they have), and you might not get horses, but you'll get something more or less equally unlikely. The interesting question here is (rewinding far enough): how probable, given life, was the development of multicellular complex organisms? If you had 100 tries - given earth's particular history - how many of them end up stuck with stromatolites? - a sleepy pillow-world, as Richard Fortey (I think? - anyway, cool books, good writer) has presented it . . .

In addition, some outcomes are in fact favored over others (depending on the circumstances)- we have natural selection.

Abiogenesis is different in many ways, and it's harder to say exactly where it falls in relation to those two examples. Given what we know about life, however, it seems reasonable to say that there might well have been other possible successful outcomes, other ways life might have worked. Additionally, scientists view the origin of life as being governed by physical laws - elementary properties of matter - under specific early-earth conditions: not all outcomes are in fact equally likely, and some will be much more likely than others. How likely it was for life to appear, given these general conditions, is another interesting question - for example, can we pretty much expect this to have happened on most, some or almost no planets within a certain range?

This isn't really a good explanation - hopefully someone will give a better one. And Radar, please, one more time, specify what you don't agree with in this general approach?

* I used to know a bunch of jokes involving frogs in blenders. but they've all trickled out - probably for the best, I guess . . .

I've got a pretty bad headache, so I'm off to lie in bed and whimper quietly. Try to play nice, all, and remember - no going back in time and interupting Radar's parents at a most inconvenient time to make a point about the improbability of each individual life. It took a heck of a lot of work to get everything back in place the last time that happened, and it's really rather rude . . .

(sorry, rereading Fforde's Thursday Next series, plus Connie Willis' "To Say Nothing of the Dog" . . .)

-Dan S., ordering one Frogtini, shaken, not stirred . . .

Anonymous said...

Basically, you're saying, I think, that the card example doesn't apply, because unlike in random card shuffling, the various outcomes aren't equivalent. (And in fact, that's very true; it's a limit of the example based on 'elementary properties' of cards). Instead, you say, while no outcome is more or less likely than any other, only one very specific outcome is acceptable; all others are immediate failures:

"" . . . it was necessary for the decks to fall in numerical order, by suit, for them to be cards and would otherwise just become a pile of dust . . ."

The problem is that this doesn't seem to apply either. In terms of abiogenesis, there would appear to be (at least) three mismatches.

1) Some outcomes are more likely than others, due to what Borel terms the "elementary properties of matter." Which, how, and how likely depend in large extent on the specific conditions.

2) It's at least unclear that only one specific outcome would be acceptable - that's there's only one path and one form of life. Now, some conceievable genesises (genesii?) simply wouldn't work, or would require conditions that don't seem to have been present (or at an extreme, require alternate physics) - but we can't say that there weren't other possibilties. In fact, it seems almost certain that, even given the most restrictive conditions, there was at least some wriggle room (why not (mostly) D-amino acids, why the specific arbitrary genetic code, etc.) We don't know for certain how many acceptable outcomes we have.*

3) To go from random chemicals to even super-simple bacteria in one easy step is, yes, extremely unlikely - for all practical purposes, probably impossible. Sure. The issue here is that nobody in the field actually suggests that such a scenario is in any way plausible; nor do they propose such a thing. For a visual aid, let me direct your attention to the graphic comparing an often-expressed "Creationist idea of abiogenesis" (judge for yourself how descriptively appropriate this is) and the "Real theory of abiogenesis (simplified)" in this section (scroll down a bit) of the TalkOrigins essay "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics" - interesting reading in general, just in case folks haven't.

*Indeed, we've learned that even within Earth-model life there's a wider range than we originally expected - life that's powered by weird reactions using methane, sulfar, and heat, bacteria that feed on rocks, organisms that tolerate or even require extremely hot/ cold/ acid/ basic/ etc. conditions . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"Basically, you're saying, I think, that the card example doesn't apply"

Yes, that's exactly what radar is saying, but the problem is I'm not using the card example in the context of abiogenesis. Instead, I'm using the card example to disprove the notion that there is some probability x (radar cited 10^50) for which anything greater than x doesn't happen, which is clearly not the case.

I would also like Radar to post a link to the Morowitz essay that he so clings to. The citation from his blog post is from a creationist book that excerpted the essay, and I have a sneaking suspicion that when you read the whole thing, a much different picture of what Morowitz believes will emerge. I also plan on sending Dr. Morowitz an email to try to see if he'd take the time to explain his position.

-scohen

Anonymous said...

Another mini-area of contention here - just now - seems to be over what Morowitz himself actually claimed/claims. This is a little tricky since none of the original works - or even extended quotes - seem to be available online, at least at first glance - if anyone has both access to a good-sized college or university library, and the time to search/ dig them out, though . . .

As quoted or paraphrased - almost exclusively by anti-evolution sources -we have two somewhat connected claims. The first is that the smallest self-reproducing organism contains 239 proteins. The second often shows up like this:

"The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 to 10-340,000,000.  This number is 1 to 10 to the 340 millionth power!  The size of this figure is truly staggering, since there is only supposed to be approximately 10-80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!"

You'll note that this is one in an long list of quotes, many from mainstream scientists, that is being presented as proof that evolution is just a silly myth. You'll also remember that many such quotes and quote lists are actually examples of quote-mining - where quotes are in one way or another taken out of context to give a false and misleading impression. Often they are made to suggest that the people quoted really think evolution/ abiogenesis/etc. is impossible or absurd, when actually viewing even just the surrounding text makes it clear that they are referring to one specific hypothesis (out of several), making a rhetorical point (this seems incredibly unlikely - but . . ..), explaining why it isn't, or saying something else altogether. There are other forms of misrepresentation as well (quotes very out of date, not from relevent authorities, cherrypicking, etc.). Furthermore, just a quick glance at the list immediately reveals some famous examples, (including the grandaddy of them all, from Ol' Chucky D. himself.)

So already one might be inclined to question whether this claim is even being represented accurately. A more detailed creationist paraphrase (about 2/3 of the way down - and Harold Coffin is specifically a creationist) says that

"Morowitz has determined the probability for the origin of the organic precursors for the smallest likely living entity by random processes. He based his calculations of reaction probabilities, a somewhat different and more accurate approach than most other such computations. The chances for producing the necessary molecules, amino acids, proteins, et cetera, for a cell one tenth the size of the smallest known to man (Mycoplasm hominis H.39) is less than one in (10 to the 340 millionth) or 10 with 340 million zeros after it."

Ok, is there anything else we should know? Maybe.
According to this section of the previously linked "Are the Odds Against the Origin of Life Too Great to Accept?",

"Scientific ignorance also leads to the abuse of such citations, and you have to carefully pay attention to context. Coppedge, for instance, also cites (on p. 235) Harold J. Morowitz, Energy Flow in Biology (p. 99), who reports that (paraphrased by Coppedge) "under 'equilibrium' conditions (the stable state reached after initial reactions have balanced), the probability of such a fluctuation during Earth's history would be...1 chance in 10^339,999,866." In particular, this is "the probability of chance fluctuations that would result in sufficient energy for bond formation" needed to make a living cell. This statistic is laughable not only for its outrageous size, but for the mere absurdity of anyone who would bother to calculate it--but what is notable is that it has nothing to do with the origin of life. For notice the qualification: these are not the odds of the first life forming, but the odds of enough energy being available for any life to grow at all, in an environment which has reached an effective state of thermal equilibrium--a condition which has never existed on Earth. It is obvious that in an equilibrium state, with no solar or geothermal input, it would be impossible for life to gather enough energy to go on. Who needs to calculate the odds against it? Morowitz was demonstrating a fact about the effects of maximized entropy on a chemical system, not the unlikelihood of life originating in a relatively low entropy environment like the early or even current Earth. The fact is that life began in, and has always enjoyed, an active chemical system that is not only far from equilibrium, but receiving steady energy input from the sun and earth. So this statistic has no bearing on the question of the odds of life."

Is this the same (or basically the same) calculation being cited above, just rounded off a bit in these prior instances? (Seems a bit odd to do, and the descriptions don't quite match, but these figures are very close). I don't know - along with the original text, the part of Coppedge's book that cites this figure doesn't seem to be available online (it cuts off around chapter 11 or so) - perhaps he repeats this material somewhere else online?

In the next few lines after the quote (at least the one referred to in "Odds," if they're not all the same basic thing), does Morowitz go on to say "Ohno! My whole life is a lie!," or "Therefore, we have no reason to think this could have happened, but we will, because we want to get rid of God," or "However, this has no bearing on the actual origin of life, because (see the "Odds" quote right above) . . " or who knows what? Well, given his testimony in McLean v. Arkansas, something at least like the latter seems pretty certain:

"Q Last night you told me* that you have made some calculations regarding the possibilities or probabilities of life originating from non-life in an equilibrium state, did you not?

A That is correct.

Q Would you tell Judge Overton what the odds of life emerging from non-life in an equilibrium state are, according to your calculations?

A All right. Ten to the minus ten to the tenth.

Q Could you relate that so that us non-scientists can understand that?

A All right. That is one over one followed by ten million zeros.

Q Ten million?

A Ten billion zeros.

Q Ten billion?

A Right.

Q Now then, as I understand your testimony, the calculations based on an equilibrium state cannot be applied to the surface of the earth?

A That is correct.
"

_________

" It may be that it seems to him that life from non-life must have been highly probable since all sorts of life seems to have sprung up all at once. "

Actually, it doesn't. What scientists find is that the first things we can recognize as life - last I checked, over 3 billion years ago, perhaps ~3.5 bya - basically look like simple bacteria. And then for most of the rest of earth's history, they keep finding, well, bacteria, and then then, after quite a while, more complex single celled organisms, and then - possibly as long as 2 billion years ago, although that's, I think, disputed - simple multicellular life, and finally, a few hundred million years ago, towards the end of the Precambrian, complex multicellular life.

Most of the history of life probably wouldn't be visible to the naked eye, except in the form of weird-colored smears, clumps of algae, etc. We don't get to the point where individual organisms are big enough to see - at least beyond little specks or tiny blobs of goo - until we're very, very far along.

* Oh my! What was going on in that trial?
And the transcript refers to a (presumably Irish) origin-of-life reseacher called O'Parin . . . : )

____
Looking at preview and schohen's comment that has since appeared- some form of clarification would be helpful - and I know the card example wasn't brought up in the context of abiogenesis - was it in relation to the poor horsie? - but that seems to be how it's being framed by these last posts? Maybe not . . .


-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

Here the whole card thing would seem to be in relation to the probability of abiogenesis, and before it's been raised in terms of evolution:

"Here is the answer: Throw the five decks of cards up in the air until they fall to earth in one neat stack, sorted by suit and consecutively by value. Then we can talk. For you see, the Huxley Horse argument is still misunderstood. . . .
. . . A Philaramic Pakylumar [what a name! : )] would still have to go through that many beneficial and surviving mutations to exist. So, again, using cards to try to change the equation does not work. No matter what organism, the odds of going through so many changes to exist today are so overwhelmingly against occurrence as to make it a statistical impossiblity."

In this case, I would say, see CB940.1: The Mathematical Probability of Evolution

Who was it that offered to write a card shuffling/natural selection program? That would be nifty . . . although it would run into the same problem as WEASEL, that is, using a predetermined target.

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

"Here the whole card thing"
(as brought up by Radar, I mean. And Radar, feel free to jump in and clarify, or dispute, or shake your head sadly, or whatever . . .)

-Dan S.

creeper said...

"The card canard involves an outcome that can be random. RANDOM, not ordered."

Not random, but specifically complex, if you're going to calculate the odds of one specific (and complex) outcome.

"Second, I would say that God could have created any way He wanted, but I have a book in which He told us how He did it and in that book He didn't need evolution in order to create."

AFAIK, the bible doesn't specify what mechanism God used. It's pretty vague on that topic.

"Also, logically, God would be more likely to just create a thing rather than begin a long, drawn out process that would in millions of years begin to yield that same thing, would he not?"

??? Since when, in your worldview, can a mere mortal figure out which particular path of action God is most likely to take? Is God beholden to the path of least resistance? Is God lazy? Does God prefer one divine gadget over another?

"Third, I simply assert that God has created a Universe in which there are operations that follow the laws He has set up and that science is an endeavor to determine what those laws are and use them to our best advantage."

That contradicts your earlier claim that God "doesn't need" the natural mechanisms of evolution to create. But who's to say God wouldn't choose them?

"Have we not always depended on a Universe that is logical rather than random? [...] One may well suppose that a randomly occurring Universe would be, at its core, random. Well, this Universe is, at its core, logical. I thereby expect that it was designed by a logical being."

Not sure specifically what fallacy this is... it doesn't follow logically, in any case: the existence of natural laws does not logically dictate an intelligent, logical creator.

"If you simply make ad hominem attacks or cry "Strawman!" then you really make no argument at all.

Derision is not an argument. Derision is not persuasion. Derision is a front while you think of something to say that is actually relevant."


Pointing out, in the course of a logical argument, that someone is presenting a logical fallacy (e.g. a strawman), then that happens to be very relevant. You may not wish to address it - or in this case (ha!) deride it – but then there are many things you shy from addressing.

"Ah, science! The beauty of it all is that no one has presented a plausible way it could have happened....yet....so many people believe it did anyway!"

What percentage of people believe the origin of life has been completely explained by science?

"I will concede this point: Evolution as presented by many scientists, and studied by many scientists, involves the development of complex life from simple and does not address the origin of life from non-life. So for many evolutionists, my assertions backed by good scientific minds means nothing to them. They simply believe they are able to show that complex life has evolved from simple life no matter where the simple life may have come from and work to study the ways this may occur or may have occurred."

Good for you, glad to see that's settled.

"Jake, what Ann should have said is not that there is no evidence for evolution. There are metric tons of evidence which many scientists will say is evidence for evolution. She should have said, there is no proof of evolution and then she would have been accurate."

No, she simply would have walked into another equally dumb statement. I can't believe you post this after it has been pointed out to you so many times that 'proof' belongs in mathematics, 'confirmation' in the natural sciences, and of that there is plenty as far as the theory of evolution goes.

Still stalling on your mined Huxley quote and that equation and assumptions that you've accused us of changing, eh?

Anonymous said...

"Who was it that offered to write a card shuffling/natural selection program? That would be nifty . . . although it would run into the same problem as WEASEL, that is, using a predetermined target."

I did, Dan. I don't think it would have the same problem as WEASEL, which used a different approach. My approach --Genetic Programming-- simply would have a fitness function that would state that more sorted decks are better, and we'd let decks 'breed' and die off for many generations. Eventually we *should* see more and more sorted decks.

However, I'm only going to write that program if radar will agree beforehand that the program will show how natural selection operates without any 'intelligence'. The program has a couple of tricky problems (how do decks of cards breed while still having the same number of cards in them?) that I don't want to solve unless it actually proves something. I haven't written a genetic program since college, and I anticipate this taking several hours, unlike my four line 'calculate the permutations of x amount of cards' program.

-scohen

radar said...

scohen, just as I had given up on you, you surprise me! WEASEL, as I understand it, was designed with inherent flaws and to undertake a post-WEASEL project would be an undertaking I would be happy to chime in on. However, I suspect that you and I need to converse via email. IAMB has my email address, if you know him, and I would be most happy to hear from you and discuss this and also post a progress post and later a posting on your final results!

I think that the initial assumptions at the start of such an undertaking have major implications, correct? This should be fascinating.

~~~

Creeper, we are either way past or way ahead of the Huxley thing right now. The math that leads to both Huxley and Morowitz has been challenged and it now appears that scohen wants to get involved and try to put together a program that we may all possibly agree with.

~~~

At the heart of my contention concerning the "card canard" was that the results were random rather than ordered. Since all results would be necessarily complex (260 components involved in five decks, for instance), then of course every available shuffle will have a complex nature. However, organisms cannot just be a jumbled set of bits, they have specified systems that, if they developed rather than having been created, would have had to develop in a step-by-step manner. It defies logic to believe otherwise, correct? So for an organism to have occurred by chance, we have to look at the odds of each step of the process.

The arguments also come here, for some say that there are processes that will naturally happen in nature (the crystal example) and that chemically some of these step are almost certain rather than improbable. If so, this changes the calculations and makes them more favorable to the evolutionist position if this can be shown to be so in organisms. It is far more complex than I first thought when entertaining the notion of probabilities.

Still, if some systems or combinations will favorably occur, many of them need to, by chance, join together at the correct moment and then, by chance, go through other changes to rise to the level of self-replicating organism. Cards being shuffled have no mandate to align themselves in specific orders at any time during the process, thus precluding any relationship between the formation of life and a simple card shuffle.

creeper said...

Radar,

"Creeper, we are either way past or way ahead of the Huxley thing right now."

You must be joking.

Okay, Radar, if you're simply going to run away from this (like you do from an ever-growing number of topics), then you might as well do the honorable thing and concede that we did not try to alter the equation and assumptions of Huxley's horse, and that it did not support what you claimed it supported, because Huxley purposely ignored natural selection as a factor in order to illustrate how unlikely the evolution of something as complex as a horse would be without natural selection.

That was all one sentence. Woot.

" The math that leads to both Huxley and Morowitz has been challenged"

Fine, then show Huxley's equation and assumptions, and show how they've been challenged.

Otherwise, concede that your accusation was false, and that you were just quote mining. And drop the Huxley's horse nonsense from your repertoire.

radar said...

Radar,

"Creeper, we are either way past or way ahead of the Huxley thing right now."

You must be joking.

Okay, Radar, if you're simply going to run away from this (like you do from an ever-growing number of topics), then you might as well do the honorable thing and concede that we did not try to alter the equation and assumptions of Huxley's horse, and that it did not support what you claimed it supported, because Huxley purposely ignored natural selection as a factor in order to illustrate how unlikely the evolution of something as complex as a horse would be without natural selection.

That was all one sentence. Woot.

" The math that leads to both Huxley and Morowitz has been challenged"

Fine, then show Huxley's equation and assumptions, and show how they've been challenged.

Otherwise, concede that your accusation was false, and that you were just quote mining. And drop the Huxley's horse nonsense from your repertoire.


"Shut up, he explained."

You love to say I run away from subjects, then ignore my responses to them. Nice. I often choose to do responses within the body of posts and since it is my blog, I get to choose that method because it makes more sense to me. You have the same right to do it your way on your blog.

No, nothing has been falsified. You asked me to go back over Huxley and I told you I would not. Later on I decided to go into more detail on Huxley for my own reasons but the entire matter of probabalistic models has been called into question one step before Huxley and now it appears that scohen wants to produce a model that will do the calculations. It should be interesting.

But I am not going to go back over the Horse without getting the probabalistic model done for the abiogenesis question first. Also, you haven't falsified anything. Whether or not Huxley meant to say what he said, or in that way, or whatever, the probabalistic model took natural selection into account anyway. In fact, it gave natural selection the ability to always select the advantageous mutation once that mutation was available to be selected.

Bottom line, just because you assert you have falsified something means nothing. Prove it. Otherwise, either be part of the current discussion or be ignored.

Anonymous said...

"But I am not going to go back over the Horse without getting the probabalistic model done for the abiogenesis question first."

In that vein, can you please post a link to the entire Harold Morowitz essay that you want me to talk about? It's easier to debunk or explain things when you can actually read the whole thing, and not sections of it that have been excerpted for possibly dubious reasons. When I get such a link, I will read it and then email Dr. Morowitz so that he too can join our discussion.

With respect to the program: If it works, will you concede that there is no inherent intelligence needed in natural selection?

-scohen

creeper said...

Radar,

You sure make your concessions entertaining, if a little drawn-out.

"Shut up, he explained."

That appears to be the size of it, Radar.

First you say: "You love to say I run away from subjects, then ignore my responses to them. Nice."

Then in the next paragraph: "You asked me to go back over Huxley and I told you I would not."

Shut up he explained indeed. Saying you won't back up your accusation is not running away from addressing the subject?!

So you make an accusation, then flat-out refuse to back it up. You posted that mined quote about Huxley's horse some time ago, and in the ensuing discussion accused us of having "changed the equation". I pointed out that you had never even posted the equation, or the assumptions behind it, and that you should do so in order to be able to make the claims you make.

(BTW, I don't recall you saying that you would not respond, but I may be wrong. In that case, however, you should have simply conceded right then that your (apparently baseless) accusation was false.)

"I often choose to do responses within the body of posts and since it is my blog, I get to choose that method because it makes more sense to me. You have the same right to do it your way on your blog."

Hey, no problem there, but you never addressed the equation and assumptions behind your mined Huxley's horse quote in the body of a post either. So why bring this up here?

"No, nothing has been falsified."

What are you talking about? What is it that I said had been falsified that hadn't been?

"Later on I decided to go into more detail on Huxley for my own reasons but the entire matter of probabalistic models has been called into question one step before Huxley and now it appears that scohen wants to produce a model that will do the calculations. It should be interesting."

Yes, it should be, even if it is a separate topic from the theory of evolution itself. Which mechanisms for abiogenesis will this take into account, and what do we know about these mechanisms? Without addressing such basics, it seems impossible to me to come up with any meaningful calculation of the odds of abiogenesis.

See the earlier analogy of calculating the odds of what will happen to a drop of water suspended up in the air. If you take natural laws out of the picture, you'll come up with some astounding results indeed. With lots and lots of zeroes.

"But I am not going to go back over the Horse without getting the probabalistic model done for the abiogenesis question first."

Ah yes, the probabilistic model for the abiogenesis question. Which mechanisms will you be using in your calculations, and what do you know about those mechanisms? Will you be more careful in your research regarding this than you were with your earlier cut-and-paste mistake? What research into those mechanisms will you be using to make your calculations?

"Whether or not Huxley meant to say what he said, or in that way, or whatever, the probabalistic model took natural selection into account anyway."

Whose? Huxley's? Where did it do that? But to show that, I guess you'd have to show his equation and assumptions, which it appears you're unwilling or unable to do.

"Bottom line, just because you assert you have falsified something means nothing. Prove it."

Where did I assert I falsified something?

"Otherwise, either be part of the current discussion or be ignored."

I'm not all that fussed about the odds of abiogenesis discussion, since in the absence of an accompanying (and quite exhaustive) discussion of viable mechanisms of abiogenesis it can not yield any meaningful result, pro or con, no matter how many zeroes are in it.

Anonymous said...

"My approach --Genetic Programming-- simply would have a fitness function . . . "

Ach - sometimes I forget I don't know anything about programming beyond:
10 Print "Evolution is neat!"
20 Goto 10

Sounds very cool. I've heard more about using 'evolution' in mechanical engineering (within computer simulations) - this, I've been woefully ignorant about . . .

" In fact, it gave natural selection the ability to always select the advantageous mutation once that mutation was available to be selected. "

??! This ability is inherent in natural selection! Unless you're saying that it was a simplified model that ignored the possible effects of, say, genetic drift in small populations, etc.?

I have yet to understand this whole thing about how natural selection needs intelligence, or that we're supposedly saying it does, or something - all very confusing. After all, it seems quite simple: inherited traits that ultimately affect an organism's reproductive success will change in frequency in the population through successive generations - by the very virtue of affecting reproductive success.

"Whether or not Huxley meant to say what he said, or in that way, or whatever . . ."

It seems to me that this may be a pretty simple matter, one that doesn't even require delving too deep into details. Many creationists put forward a claim that Huxley showed that getting something like a horse via natural selection is improbable to the point of virtual impossibility; other folks point out that this specific (very rough, for illustrative) calculation actually refers to the chances of getting a horse without natural selection. For example, in the TalkOrigins feedback bit I quoted before - a reply to someone making this claim: "How do you explain such odds for mutations to occur? Huxley, an evolutionist, says that the odds of a horse evolving is around 10 to the 3 millionth power. Anything above 10 to the 50th is said to be not possible . . ." - Chris Ho-Stuart writes:

"First, you mispresent Huxley; he is saying the exact opposite of what you claim. The odds you give [are] for a horse arising without evolutionary processes, and specifically without selection. The calculation appears in Evolution in Action (1953). From page 43:

"A little calculation demonstrates how incredibly improbable the results of natural selection can be when enough time is available. Following Professor Muller, we can ask what would have been the odds against a higher animal, such as a horse, being produced by chance alone: that is to say by the accidental accumulation of the necessary favorable mutations, without the intervention of selection."

This is widely cited by creationist sources as being the probability of a horse arising by evolution. Of course, the truth is that it is a probability for a horse arising WITHOUT evolution."

Now, you're saying that Huxley makes subsequent calculations taking selection into account that also give unsurmountable odds. I can't seem to find quoted text or information on this online - do you know of any? Otherwise, I may have an opportunity Friday to take a look at a copy of Evolution in Action . . .

Then there's the issue about probability, but that's a bigger question.

"In that vein, can you please post a link to the entire Harold Morowitz essay . . ."

I'd second that, but I'm increasingly convinced that thi isn't online either (at least without access to various databases - it is a journal article, after all . . .) Very unfair. If I can't have a flying car and robot maid, at least I should have all published works available at the touch of a button, right?

Evolution and Chance, a "brief philosophical discussion of the notion of randomness and chance in evolution" from our friends at TalkOrigins (and again, there are tons of other evolution resources on the web - I'm just lazy).

I keep meaning to comment on the actual post . . . just trying to catch up . . .

-Dan S.

creeper said...

"A little calculation demonstrates how incredibly improbable the results of natural selection can be when enough time is available. Following Professor Muller, we can ask what would have been the odds against a higher animal, such as a horse, being produced by chance alone: that is to say by the accidental accumulation of the necessary favorable mutations, without the intervention of selection."

Thank you, Dan, for the money quote. Over to you, Radar: either retract or back up your claim.

No wonder you've been running away from this one. Can we expect not to see the Huxley's horse claim on your blog from now on?

Anonymous said...

Oh, I dunno - I still want to see the quote in context, to see what he says next (it's not the easiest book to find, and I can't justify purchasing it short of a used-bookstore bargin, but I'll be stopping by the main Philly Library branch tomorrow, and they claim to have two copies . . .) But ultimately this is an argument over what Huxley said, not over evolution. I mean, Bill Gates may or may not have said that 256k of RAM was more than anyone would ever need, and we could debate that - was it 256k or 640k, how was it phrased, did he actually say such a thing? - but it doesn't change reality.

Although I do get a chuckle over the early 19thC fellow who wrote that all this steam power stuff was just nonsense, and clearly humans could never travel above 20 miles an hour (may be misremembering all major details of paraphrase).

Though - Radar - it's cool that we're on the same page re: abiogenesis and evolution in terms of science (ok, sorta). Philosophically - well, that is an interesting issue . . .

-Dan S.

Anonymous said...

Me: "In that vein, can you please post a link to the entire Harold Morowitz essay . . ."

Dan: "I'd second that, but I'm increasingly convinced that thi isn't online either..."

Then can I have the name of the paper that is being excerpted in the creationist book? If I can get that, I will look on google scholar, and if I *still* can't find it, ask Dr. Morowitz about it. Again, I'm pretty confident what the answer will be, but it will be an interesting exercise anyway.

How about it Radar?

Also, can we all agree that we have final closure on the following issues?

1. Huxley's Horse
2. Thermodynamics

Also, radar, do you want to pursue the whole Genetic Programming thing? I think I've worked out how to breed card decks --at least conceptually. Also, regarding email addresses, you posted on my blog a while back. Did you enter a correct email address? It has a comcast domain, is this correct?

heh. my word verification was phpxt... PHP for the IBM XT, at LAST!!!

-scohen

radar said...

Mr scohen -

You have my email addy, give me a buzz.

I am swamped with end-of-month work, but will try to address thermodynamics and horse either tonight or tomorrow.

I already agree that natural selection is not intelligently directed, if that is what you mean?