August 17, 2004

KIND OF INEVITABLE THAT STASIS PRODUCED A STASI, NO? (via Mike Daley)

Challenging Darwinian Fundamentalism: a review of Uncommon Dissent. Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing, ed. William A. Dembski (Bruce Thornton, VDH)

If you believe what you hear in the mainstream media, the critics of Darwinian evolution are all wild-eyed creationists who believe that Genesis literally describes the origins of life, and so are equivalent, as William Dembski says in his Introduction, to a "holocaust denier, a flat-earther, or a believer in horoscopes." Arrayed against them are those presumed paragons of rational thought who simply believe what the facts of science have established as the truth. It doesn't take much to figure out who the media thinks wears the white hat-- all those enlightened sophisticates who are protecting us from the narrow-minded fundamentalists itching to take us and our children back to the dark ages of ignorance and superstition.

As usual, the media have it backwards. Although creationists use the work of
Darwin's critics, most of the latter are not advancing the creationist or any other religious view of life's origins. Instead, they are doing what scientists and intellectuals are supposed to do: exercise "a hungry mind and a willingness to question received opinion," as John Wilson says in his Foreword. After all, isn't that how science works, through a relentless skepticism that subjects each and every theory to the questioning of its assumptions and claims, not to mention the evidence that is supposed to support both? As this collection of essays shows, the best critics of Darwinian evolution are precisely that: intellectuals and scientists scrutinizing the claims of Darwinian theory, and pointing out its flaws and weaknesses. As Edward Sisson says in "Teaching the Flaws in Neo-Darwinism,"

"The proponents of intelligent design whom I find persuasive do not argue
that evolution must be suppressed because of some conflict with the Bible.
Instead, they argue that unintelligent evolution should be questioned
because the scientific evidence offered to support it is weak."

In fact, frequently it is the Darwinians who display an intolerance of dissent and impatience with criticism more typical of the fundamentalist mentality, as evidenced by the readiness with which some Darwinians resort to ad hominem attacks and personal disparagement of their critics. One tactic is simply to avoid any argument and label a critic with the scare-epithet "creationist," as arch-Darwinist-popularizer Richard Dawkins did in response to David Berlinksi's article in Commentary magazine (reprinted in Uncommon Dissent along with other readers' responses and Berlinski's replies). Elsewhere Dawkins has asserted that "if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." Such shrill, juvenile reactions suggest not a scientific but a quasi-religious sensibility threatened by any challenges to its orthodoxy.


If you were to bring any leading intellectual who died prior to the 1970s back to life today, you'd get a fair number who were surprised that liberal democratic capitalism had triumphed so utterly over Marxism/socialism, and not a few who'd be surprised that Freud is a laughingstock, but what would truly flabbergast them all is that modern Americans so thoroughly disbelieve in Darwin yet America is the most powerful modern state in human history while the nations of Europe, which embrace Darwinism, are in decline. Our very "ignorance" (only about 10% of Americans believe in Darwinism)--a benefit of our historic hostility to intellectuals--appears to be a key to our greatness.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 17, 2004 11:02 PM
Comments

David Berlinski's article is interesting, but has one grave error.

His monkeys and Shakespeare illustration completely neglects recursion, which life does not.

Change the mechanism. 100 monkeys type. At least one of them types the correct first letter of Romeo and Juliet. That, then, is the starting point for the second letter, and so on.

Life is recursive, it does not start from scratch with each generation. But his illustration does.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 6:47 AM

Each generation doesn't start at square one, but you must admit that an awful lot of people (intellectuals, especially) attempt to make their mark by rejecting the wisdom of their forbears in order to hew a new path - a "new path" usually based on the work of previous rebels. But, as you see by walking through a museum of 20th Century art (or a library's section of feminist literature - mercy), removing old rules does not by itself bring new rules into play.

For that you need to discern what worked in the old rules and what needs to be revised; those who reject the old entirely deny themselves this opportunity. In my opinion, this goes a long way in explaining why the radicals (in whatever ideology) do the theorizing while the rest in the middle get the actual work done.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at August 18, 2004 7:35 AM

Jeff:

If in your example you're suggesting that an observer intervenes every time a monkey gets a letter right and has the rest continue from there then you're right that system would end in Romeo fairly quickly.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 8:28 AM

OJ:

No, the existence of an observer is irrelevant.

Life does not start from scratch each generation, but rather is based on the preceeding one. Posing an example that starts from scratch with each iteration is just plain wrong, no matter what one thinks of an intelligent observer.

I could quickly write a computer program that through such recursion and random letter selection would re-create R&J in far less than infinite time. In fact, the number of generations would be the number of characters in R&J times the probability of a monkey kicking out the proper character times the number of monkeys. Even one monkey could do it.

Equally, his use of the eye as an counter-example is also wrong, in precisely the same way Creationists use of a bird's wing has been demonstrated wrong.

That isn't to say his article is without merit, or doesn't highlight where Darwinism is incomplete. But a careful editor would have questioned these points very closely.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 8:47 AM

Jeff:

When you write stuff like that I usually assume you're just using deep self-parody to have some fun, but in case you're not:

(1) Creationists will happily concede a Programmer.

(2) in your example you still have to intervene every time the monkeys get a letter right--we'll concede intervention

(3) The experiment has been run and it failed: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/devon/3013959.stm

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 9:05 AM
The work was interesting but had little scientific value, except to show that the "infinite monkey" theory is flawed.

Dr Amy Plowman, Paignton Zoo scientific officer

This is absolutely total nonsense. The experiment 'shows' nothing of the kind. It has absolutely nothing to do with the "infinite monkey" theory and in fact has nothing to do with a 'scientific experiment'.

Dr Amy must have bought her degree off the internet, she is certainly no scientist.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at August 18, 2004 10:49 AM

OJ:

You really don't get it, as your objections abundantly show. The Monkeys analogy he uses is so flawed that it is difficult to cover the entire territory.

The Monkeys analogy effectively considers each key stroke as a memory-free event, much like a roll of a 30 some-odd (letters & punctuation marks; we won't deduct for capitalization) sided die. Further, the analogy repeats every time from the first roll. That is a discussion of how many random, independent rolls are required to reproduce a specific character string, when every trial starts anew from the initial point.

That, however, bears absolutely no resemblance to natural history. Each generation is the consequence of the generation preceding it. Therefore, not only is each generation not a random, independent event (or at least until your wife, say, gives birth to finches), but each "trial" (new generation) most certainly does not recapitulate all of natural history.

Further, it (either ignorantly or dishonestly, your choice) hides the assumption that only R&J is a meaningful outcome. In order to come even close to being a meaningful analogy with respect to Natural History, an allowed outcome would have to be any meaningful sequence of characters.

So, no matter your preference, or lack thereof, for Darwinism, his use of the Monkeys analogy utterly, wholly, fatally flawed. It lacks even the tiniest correspondence to the system it analogizes.

Which, if you had checked your condescension at the door and actually analyzed what I said, you would have recognized how silly he is, and your objections are.

Darwinism says nothing about the existence of a Programmer, it only posits what the program is.

The notion that I have to imply an intervener to determine whether a given letter is correct is equally fatuous, unless you are implying God has to intervene with every conception to make sure women aren't birthing finches.

It is rare to read something largely based on an argument so flawed as to fail as badly at countering the other side as it does at substantiating its own.

Perhaps you should stop running articles on this subject, or at least throttle back on the condescension. This is almost as bad as the time you asserted evolution could have produced only 25 species in all of Natural History.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 12:27 PM

"Darwinism says nothing about the existence of a Programmer, it only posits what the program is."

No chicken, no egg.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 1:19 PM

Well, we ought all to be able to agree that the French are, notoriously, not Darwinists -- too English for them, by far -- so their decline cannot be caused by excessive Darwinism.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 18, 2004 2:08 PM

The French aren't Darwinists, Darwinism is French.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 2:13 PM

OJ: I think that Jeff is saying that only one act of creation was necessary, because all other genomes evolved from that original creation.

Posted by: David Cohen at August 18, 2004 3:11 PM

Then why does He keep crashing asteroids into the damn place and starting over?

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 3:15 PM

Because He can?

Posted by: David Cohen at August 18, 2004 3:35 PM

Good point, I'd have sunk the ark.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 4:12 PM

If Darwinism is yesterday's paradigm, what is today's? From what I can see nothing has replaced Darwinism as a coherent scientific theory to explain the evolution of species. ID is not scientific, it is a religious belief.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 18, 2004 4:28 PM

just like Darwinism. All you need to trump a religion is a more popular religion. Most Americans (90%) either disbelieve Darwin entirely or think it is directed by an Intelligence.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 4:36 PM

Not part of the rainbow coalition, huh?

Posted by: David Cohen at August 18, 2004 4:42 PM

More a "fire next time" kind of guy.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 5:17 PM

What 90% of Americans believe about Darwinism is what's irrelevant.

What would be relevant would be the proportion who have any idea what Darwinism is.

It's way less than 10%.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 18, 2004 6:38 PM

Harry:

Sure, everyone else is ignorant except the priesthood of your sect whose word you treat as gospel. We all know the feeling.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 7:57 PM

OJ:

I'm astonished you could run an article with that kind of barking-mad (and it wasn't the only one) argument as an advocacy of your side.

It was so bad that, well, diplomacy fails me, both Krugman and Down would have rejected it out of hand.

No wonder you changed the subject.

BTW, "No chicken, no egg" also fails by miles to apprehend the point.

As does the rest of your sophistry.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 18, 2004 10:35 PM

Where do you get your eggs?

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 10:58 PM

Clever questions that reveal a basic lack of knowledge about natural history aren't going to win you any points, Orrin.

You're not in the 10%, or, if you are, you've hidden it very well.

The Institution for Creation Research has not exactly flooded the world with persuasive research papers, has it?

You'd think that if anyone had the key, and spent 150 years jiggling it in the lock, the lock would open.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 18, 2004 11:39 PM

Harry:

No, I'm in the 90% on this one--the nation is persuaded.

Posted by: oj at August 18, 2004 11:44 PM

OJ:

Back to my original question. What persuaded you to reference an article relying on such ridiculous reasoning?

Okay. I give. God started life on Earth.

And has been absent ever since pursuing other projects.

The egg problem is settled, clearly showing how "No Chicken, no egg" and "Where do you get the egg?" fail by miles to apprehend the point.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 19, 2004 7:19 AM

Jeff:

What ridiculous reasoning?

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 8:49 AM

Excuse me for repeating the obvious, but:

"The Monkeys analogy effectively considers each key stroke as a memory-free event, much like a roll of a 30 some-odd (letters & punctuation marks; we won't deduct for capitalization) sided die. Further, the analogy repeats every time from the first roll. That is a discussion of how many random, independent rolls are required to reproduce a specific character string, when every trial starts anew from the initial point.

That, however, bears absolutely no resemblance to natural history. Each generation is the consequence of the generation preceding it. Therefore, not only is each generation not a random, independent event (or at least until your wife, say, gives birth to finches), but each "trial" (new generation) most certainly does not recapitulate all of natural history.

Further, it (either ignorantly or dishonestly, your choice) hides the assumption that only R&J is a meaningful outcome. In order to come even close to being a meaningful analogy with respect to Natural History, an allowed outcome would have to be any meaningful sequence of characters.

So, no matter your preference, or lack thereof, for Darwinism, his use of the Monkeys analogy utterly, wholly, fatally flawed. It lacks even the tiniest correspondence to the system it analogizes.

Which, if you had checked your condescension at the door and actually analyzed what I said, you would have recognized how silly he is, and your objections are.

Darwinism says nothing about the existence of a Programmer, it only posits what the program is.

The notion that I have to imply an intervener to determine whether a given letter is correct is equally fatuous, unless you are implying God has to intervene with every conception to make sure women aren't birthing finches.

It is rare to read something largely based on an argument so flawed as to fail as badly at countering the other side as it does at substantiating its own."

If you were unable to quickly identify how grotesqeuly inappropriate that analogy, and how it fatally undermines half the article, then perhaps you should stop posting on this subject.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 19, 2004 12:19 PM

Jeff:

Ah, I see, you're simply making an assertyion that depends on Darwinism being true rather than an argument for Darwinism. That's a tad circular, but it is what Darwinism does depend on.

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 1:26 PM

If we really were hostile to intellectuals, then we wouldn't be buying any of the claptrap being sold by the "New Economy" academics. It takes an intellectual to make people throw out common sense and buy into delusions such as "deficits don't matter".

Posted by: Robert Duquette at August 19, 2004 1:52 PM

The egg and the hen are both developments that can be traced back through a series of small changes to, most likely, fungi.

There are lots and lots of ways -- thousands -- to generate successors.

They are intimately related, although if you pick spots divergent enough, no one, by reason, would ever connect them. You have to go out and look to see the connections.

If you don't look, you cannot see

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 19, 2004 1:55 PM

Robert:

No, it took running high defecits for seventy years during which we became an uberpower to convince people. Then the way we were driven into a slowdown by the surplus put the capstone on the argument.

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 2:01 PM

OJ:

Wow. You really don't get it. Not only that, but you somehow failed to note I haven't said a thing supporting Darwinism or attacking Intelligent Design.

Repeating myself yet again: "So, no matter your preference, or lack thereof, for Darwinism, his use of the Monkeys analogy utterly, wholly, fatally flawed. It lacks even the tiniest correspondence to the system it analogizes."

His use of the Monkeys Analogy is no more appropriate in attacking Darwinism--or supporting some alternative--than it would be in supporting the superiority of baseball over soccer.

Which led to my question. What led you to cite an article whose conclusions were in large part dependent upon such a blatant, barking-mad, non-sequitor?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 19, 2004 2:11 PM

Jeff:

What ridiculous reasoning?

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 4:28 PM

What led you to cite an article whose conclusions were in large part dependent upon such a blatant, barking-mad, non-sequitor?

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 19, 2004 6:21 PM

What non-sequitor?

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 6:25 PM

One of several things is going on here:

A) You are too thick to spot the obvious.
B) You didn't notice it the first time, but having had it pointed out, are are loath to admit a mistake, and are hiding that behind irrelevancies.
C) You noticed it the first time, but tossed it out anyway.
D) While obviously quite intelligent and analytical in some endeavors, inumeracy and a lack of skill or practice at systems analysis is obscuring from you the obvious.

Based on evidence in other areas, A) is right out, and you wouldn't knowingly make yourself look ridiculous, so C) is out to.

I think D) got you to B).

D) can happen to anyone. B) is nothing to be proud of.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 19, 2004 8:46 PM

Are you talking about the monkeys typing Hamlet? Why is that ridiculous?

Posted by: oj at August 19, 2004 10:01 PM

"OJ:

The Monkeys analogy effectively considers each key stroke as a memory-free event, much like a roll of a 30 some-odd (letters & punctuation marks; we won't deduct for capitalization) sided die. Further, the analogy repeats every time from the first roll. That is a discussion of how many random, independent rolls are required to reproduce a specific character string, when every trial starts anew from the initial point.

That, however, bears absolutely no resemblance to natural history. Each generation is the consequence of the generation preceding it. Therefore, not only is each generation not a random, independent event (or at least until your wife, say, gives birth to finches), but each "trial" (new generation) most certainly does not recapitulate all of natural history.

Further, it (either ignorantly or dishonestly, your choice) hides the assumption that only R&J is a meaningful outcome. In order to come even close to being a meaningful analogy with respect to Natural History, an allowed outcome would have to be any meaningful sequence of characters.

So, no matter your preference, or lack thereof, for Darwinism, his use of the Monkeys analogy utterly, wholly, fatally flawed. It lacks even the tiniest correspondence to the system it analogizes."

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 20, 2004 6:03 AM

Yes, that's just an assertion. Why does our DNA keep replicating us generation after generation--who tells it that it has Act I scene ii done right? Particularly when Darwinism requires that everything be up for grabs at all times in order to work.

I'm not sure why one of the leaders of the cult, Richard Dawkins, chooses the example of the typing monkey that you find so appalling. He doesn't seem very bright, if that's any help.

Posted by: oj at August 20, 2004 8:02 AM

"Particularly when Darwinism requires that everything be up for grabs at all times in order to work."

That assertion--patently false--shows why you are blind to the non-sequitor.

I don't know of Dawkins use of the analogy, but its use in the article you cited is utterly indefensible, even if you agree with its conclusions wholeheartedly.

So I guess the answer is you just aren't sufficiently skilled in systems analysis to tell sh[garbage]t from shinola.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 20, 2004 12:05 PM

Jeff:

He brings it up in the article because Dawkins uses it. I think you're quarrel is with your cleric, not this article.

Posted by: oj at August 20, 2004 12:13 PM

OJ:

First, I owe an apology. In reading the article, I read more into it than was there.

But I didn't miss entirely.

" ... 'directed' conveying, at least to me, the sobering image of a stage-managed search, with evolution bypassing the awful immensity of all that frozen space because in some sense evolution knew where it was going."

Is where he goes astray. No matter how you believe life on Earth got started (I'm agostic), the moment it did, that frozen space got vastly smaller, no matter whether you believe in ID or Darwinism, and the 100 Monkeys thing no longer applies.

The number of life forms on Earth is far smaller than those possible on Earth, and far smaller still than could be imaginable, since the universe of variability was severely circumscribed by that first life form.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 20, 2004 3:15 PM

Everythng is not up for grabs all the time, according to darwinists.

Each generation is constrained by its history. And some alternatives apparently are constrained because they just don't work very well under any circumstances.

I like to use numbers of limbs. Setting aside 0, evolutionism has made use of 2, 3,4,5,6,7,8,9, 10 but not 1. After 10 or so, evolution has made use of various numbers up to around 200 but not all of them.

Anyhow, the chance that a squid with 10 limbs will, in the next generation, have a great many more or fewer than 10 is not part of the deal.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at August 20, 2004 3:22 PM

Jeff:

Yes, but far larger than you can get to at the pace of evolution we've observed, which is zero.

Posted by: oj at August 20, 2004 4:11 PM

"Each generation is constrained by its history. And some alternatives apparently are constrained because they just don't work very well under any circumstances."

That too is just an assertion. There are many creatures for whom just the addition of an arm would confer such obvious advantage that not "working very well" can't be why they don't have them.

Posted by: oj at August 20, 2004 4:16 PM

OJ:

Well, then, nothing ever changes.

Except that it does.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Darwinism is really two sides of a coin. Variation, and extinction.

Since virtually all species that have ever existed are now extinct, we certainly can't blame mankind for virtually any of them. In proclaiming ID, you have more than just the variation side of the coin t consider.

"There are many creatures for whom just the addition of an arm would confer such obvious advantage that not 'working very well' can't be why they don't have them."

Darwinism is the ultimate conservatism, that's why.

That is why human's suffer hemorrhoids, which an even mildly competent Intelligent Designer worthy of any kind of adulation would have been able to deal with quite handily.

Oh, and one other thing. It is disingenuous to say "Infinity equals Inevitability" in one thread, then neglect "Nearly infinity is nearly Inevitability."

Oh, and one other one other thing. I must reiterate my apology for some of my comments--they were ill considered, and I only succeeded in hoisting myself on my own petard.

Whatever that is.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 20, 2004 8:10 PM

Jeff:

Yes, those are assertions--variation and extinction. Neither of which have ever been observed except when caused by us. That they happened prior to us only suggests earlier instances of intelligence intervening.

You apology is welcome but unnecessary--I don't take any of this personally and I obviously try to push peoples' buttons. :)

Posted by: oj at August 20, 2004 8:26 PM

"...only suggests..."

Only? To the exclusion of all other suggestions?

The decline of the spotted owl at the behest of the barred owl is proceeding apace without any help from us.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 21, 2004 11:54 AM

We got rid of the trees.

Posted by: oj at August 21, 2004 11:56 AM

No, we didn't.

This is in tens of millions of acres of undisturbed old growth forest.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 22, 2004 8:50 AM

That we drove the big owls into.

Posted by: oj at August 22, 2004 8:59 AM

You say that with a great deal of certainty.

Unfortunately, so far as I know, that just isn't the case. I'm sure you remember the thread of several months ago discussing how many animals were showing up in and around cities, despite Sierra Club propaganda to the contrary.

Can't have it both ways.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 22, 2004 10:06 PM

They're returning to places we drove them out of now that we don't kill them anymore. They're numbers and habitats are completely dependent on us. We are Darwinism.

Posted by: oj at August 23, 2004 12:05 AM

Never mind that.

The Barred Owls are driving out the Spotted Owl, and it has nothing to do with us.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 24, 2004 5:33 AM

As with all Darwinism, it's all us:

http://www.birdweb.org/birdweb/species.asp?id=248

Posted by: oj at August 24, 2004 7:23 AM
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