This recent post by Cornelius Hunter exemplifies, in one sentence, the special combination of arrogance and ignorance that creationists possess:
Random events are simply not likely to create profoundly complex, intricate, detailed designs.
Even if one is able to come up with a rigorous scientific definition of terms like "profoundly complex", "intricate", and "detailed", this is a remarkably arrogant claim. How does Hunter know this to be true?
The answer is, he doesn't; he just believes it because his religion demands it. And it isn't true: we have abundant evidence from the field of artificial life that the claim is false.
To look at just a single example, take the work of Karl Sims. He has shown that virtual creatures can evolve intricate and novel locomotion strategies by a process of mutation and natural selection. This 1994 video shows some of the behaviors that evolved.
There's a good reason why none of the principal ID creationists (Dembski, Behe, Berlinski, Hunter, Luskin, etc.) address the challenges to their claims posed by artificial life: the rebuttal is so devastating that they can find nothing to say.
Monday, December 26, 2011
The Creationists' Big Lie
Posted by Jeffrey Shallit at 5:26 AM
Labels: Cornelius Hunter, creationism, intelligent design
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Just want to make sure that these programs don't "smuggle in information such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets."
> "There's a good reason why none of the principal ID creationists (Dembski, Behe, Berlinski, Hunter, Luskin, etc.) address the challenges to their claims posed by artificial life"
None? Surely you perused evolutionnews before you wrote that, right?:
Melville, define precisely what "smuggle" means and what measure of "information" you are using. Kolmogorov? Shannon? Some creationist definition?
If you can find me a citation that comes to grips with the example I cited of Karl Sims' work, please let me know.
Furthermore, neither of the two references you gave was written by Dembski, Behe, Berlinski, Hunter, or Luskin, as I stated.
Do you have a reading comprehension problem?
It would take too long to define what smuggle means, but an example -- and I'm not claiming that Sims' work did this -- would be something in his program that eliminated errors.
The first article wasn't written by Luskin?
Even if we say that Douglas Axe wrote it, (ie, he wrote the paper that Luskin references), surely you'd rather include Axe in your list of principal ID guys since he at least has a PhD (and he heads the Biologic Institute).
Recall that you wrote: "Dembski, Behe, Berlinski, Hunter, Luskin, etc."
That "etc" opened the door for me to post the second link.
You realize that in your original post, you stated that you were using Sims' work as "just a single example." And then you said the ID guys fail to "address the challenges to their claims." I figured I was completely justified in supplying a challenge to a different example of an artificial life program, especially one that was written after Sims' work was created.
Finally, you write: "we have abundant evidence from the field of artificial life that the claim is false." Now what was Hunter's claim? His claim was: "Random events are simply not likely to create profoundly complex, intricate, detailed designs." Now, unless you're claiming that examples from artificial life research constitute a significant portion of examples of random events, there's absolutely no contradiction between his claim and yours.
My reading comprehension seems to be better than yours.
would be something in his program that eliminated errors.
I don't even know what this is supposed to mean.
You don't know a damn thing about artificial life, do you?
The first article wasn't written by Luskin?
Did Luskin address the challenges posed by artificial life? No, he just used his post as a commercial for the system "Stylus".
there's absolutely no contradiction between his claim and yours.
Neither you nor Hunter seem to understand what the word "random" means. Hint: it does not necessarily mean every event is equally likely.
I feel stupid when I *have to* explain that "random" does not mean "equally likely". I take it for granted that folks who claim to be using or knowing (some) probability, do have a grasp of this. But no. It's false: many people (mathematicians included) do not (care to) understand that probability theory is a very "simple" theory in that it rests entirely on two axioms.
It came to my surprise, some time ago, to realize that many "learned" ID-iots use "random" and "equally likely" interchangeably. Bah! Humbug!
I like it how you first wrote, "neither of the two references you gave was written by Dembski, Behe, Berlinski, Hunter, or Luskin, as I stated." -- and then change gears by asking, "Did Luskin address the challenges posed by artificial life?" -- without ever admitting your oversight.
Now, did Luskin address the challenges? OK, you got me. No he didn't. But the paper he was focusing on does.
I wrote, a bit too much in shorthand: "an example would be something in his program that eliminated errors." It would be a lot easier just to rewrite my original statement like this, so that you won't quibble about one word, and you can address the meat of my comment: "Just want to make sure that these programs don't "smuggle in anything such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets."
"You don't know a damn thing about artificial life, do you?"
Ad hominems will get you nowhere. Point out my error or stay silent.
"Hint: (random) does not necessarily mean every event is equally likely."
I see no evidence in Hunter's piece that that's what he thought it means. Concerning the word "random," there's no need to "define" it for me. Scientists, let alone laymen, use the word random to mean several different things, depending on the situation. And it's burdensome to give the exact intended definition each time one writes an article. (FWIW, you can see how Kenneth Miller uses the term: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2009/11/truth_or_dare_with_dr_ken_mill027891.html )
You seem so completely bewildered that I don't think it's possible to remediate your confusion.
"smuggle in anything such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets."
This is just creationist babble. Suppose I give you a probabilistic Turing machine M with output O. What test should I perform to decide if M has "smuggled" anything?
Point out my error or stay silent.
Your babble is so incoherent that it doesn't even say anything that one could regard as right or wrong.
Scientists, let alone laymen, use the word random to mean several different things, depending on the situation. And it's burdensome to give the exact intended definition each time one writes an article.
If you use "random" to mean several different things, then you must explain what you mean, each time you use the term.
You should be ashamed, try, I know it's hard, to pull out a pathetic tirade against Miller to defend your own skinny little whine.
What do you understand to be random? never mind Cornelius doesn't, as he is spinning away at some skyfairy diploma mill.
Miller's understanding of random is not an issue, as his fame rests on uncovering evidence of the actual process of evolution, which is why he counts a Nobel Laureate among his students, and employs more TAs/GAs than the number Behe has ever advised.
So then what do you think is random?
Takis, I'll agree with your last comment. It's useless replying to Jeff, though.
It's useless replying to Jeff, though.
Because you don't even have a basic understanding of the issues.
That's the usual arrogance of creationists. Because their religion convinces them they have the Truth, they refuse to do the most basic preparation to address arguments of scientists who have thought about the issues carefully for years and years.
Is there any better example of the way religion warps discussions?
I'm glad we agree. Indeed, one should not only define randomness, but also be able to use it in a coherent way. Here is an example of someone using randomness in a totally childish manner, probably because he doesn't understand what it means: W.A. Dembski (2001), No Free Lunch, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. If you haven't seen this book or the writings of this fellow, please take a look. You will realize in what kind of idiotic way some people treat randomness.
For me to post my first comment, there was no NEED to have an understanding of the issues. A sober review will confirm that. However, I DO have an understanding of the issues. You're just stuck in insult mode to answer my concern, which is, again: "Just want to make sure that these programs don't "smuggle in anything such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets."
However, I DO have an understanding of the issues
OK, what's the answer to my question, then?
,"Just want to make sure that these programs don't "smuggle in anything such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets."
OK, you give me a program P. What test should I do to determine if it has "smuggled" anything?
I suppose that you have absolutely no concern that my concern is a real concern.
I'd have to carefully look over the code to see if anything goes against real-world conditions.
I suppose that you have absolutely no concern that my concern is a real concern.
If you could articulate your concern in a rigorous, mathematical way, perhaps we could begin to discuss it. As it is, you can't answer my simple question - what, precisely, does it mean for a program to "smuggle" something?
Funny, I thought I did. Not "precisely", but "generally." I felt it was good enough for my purposes.
And that's the difference between science and pseudoscience.
In science, we don't define "resistance" as "you know, that sort of thing that prevents electricity from moving".
In pseudoscience, though, it's "good enough".
Your utter failure to define what "smuggling" means is noted.
Actually, Hunter claims that his objection to evolution doesn't stem from his religious belief. After reading his site for while, I concluded that for him the bottom line is just a gut feeling that evolution is an absurd idea. He repeatedly characterizes evolution as an idea so inherently stupid and absurd that no intelligent person would ever have proposed it or accepted it. He claims that his rejection is based on evidence, but I couldn't escape the sense that it is really base on a profound revulsion for the idea of evolution, and all the arguments are really just window dressing.
You're being way too picayune, Mr. Shallit.
Still no answer. Typical creationist.
"Just want to make sure that these programs don't "smuggle in information such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets." "
I have to agree with Jeff, here. You need to define "smuggle in information". For example, if an EA is written to produce a batter antenna (<a href="http://ti.arc.nasa.gov/m/pub-archive/124>it's been done</a>), the obvious test for fitness is better reception. Does that mean information is smuggled in? I don't know how artificial life experiments test for fitness, but there has to be some criteria for survival. If you think that "smuggle[s] in information such that they are pre-directed to evolve their targets." then you really have no understanding of EA/GA.
When I first posted, I never claimed to know precisely what to look for in a code that "smuggled" in information.
Did you investigate the code that Sims wrote? Would you know what to look for if you wanted to see if the virtual entities were pre-directed to evolve their targets?
Poor Melville is a splendid example of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
No matter how many times I ask, he still can't provide a definition of what "smuggling" means.
Despite this, he thinks he is making sense.
1) Melville should just acknowledge that he made a mistake when using the word "smuggle". It's not such a big deal. However, the more you challenge him, the more he defends a silly term.
2) Melville has not replied about the definition of randomness either, neither has he addressed my subsequent comment on the misuse (or, rather, idiotic use) of randomness by some Christian/creationist authors lie Dembski.
3) It's really a puzzle for me why the religious folk have to hide behind pseudo-science in order to justify their beliefs. I can tolerate more a person who says "I believe in gods and do not know why", rather than someone who says "I believe in gods because, without them, science is incomplete". I can't stand the latter.
"Did you investigate the code that Sims wrote? Would you know what to look for if you wanted to see if the virtual entities were pre-directed to evolve their targets?"
No and Yes, respectively.
"The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled people make poor decisions and reach erroneous conclusions, but their incompetence denies them the metacognitive ability to recognize their mistakes." -- wiki
The thing is, Jeff, that even if I'm unskilled, I haven't reached any erroneous conclusions in this post. If you read my words carefully, and without preconceived notions, I didn't even TRY to make a conclusion.
"No matter how many times I ask, he still can't provide a definition of what "smuggling" means."
You're getting caught up in irrelevancies. Besides, I already gave a general idea, if not the overdemanding definition. Takis is right, I made a mistake in using the word "smuggle". (The main mistake was in not thinking how Jeff would jump all over that word.) And Takis is also right that it's not a big deal. What I meant by "smuggle" is simply how I explained it in my 9:43 PM, December 31 post.
Takis challenges me on why I didn't define randomness. The reason is simple. It has almost nothing to do with the reason I posted. I feel it's a distraction. I acknowledge that Jeff and Takis feel otherwise. Let it suffice that I acknowledged that Hunter should've have defined it better in his article.
John, thanks for being the first to answer my question. I would've preferred Jeff to answer, but I guess that's all I can expect. Oh, by the way, I was unable to click on your NASA link, but I DID find a few very interesting articles on evolvable systems on the site. A couple of sentences caught my eye: "It's an area that NASA is very interested in, and it's a growing field," Lohn said. "We wanted to see if computers can do things without telling them how to design them. You tell a computer to do x, y, z -- out spits the design you want." Hang on: the programmer is telling a computer to do x, y, and z. Doesn't that sound like the target is already envisioned (not the target 'design', but the target 'features')? It sounds awfully teleological to me. We can't have that, now, can we.
Actually, Hunter claims that his objection to evolution doesn't stem from his religious belief.
Considering he has all but pissed away his PhD and is droning away at a bible diploma mill, his objections are entirely founded on religious grounds. Sadder still is that even after all the droning he's put in, he's just an Adjunct at Biola!
Melville, the reason I insist on randomness is because this is my job :-) But, more to the point, it's because so many people abuse the concept, not in cocktail party conversations, but in establishing their careers. As Jeff pointed out, for many (creationists and others), "random" is tantamount to "equally likely". Dembski is a prime example of someone who abuses it. He should have known better, but he doesn't or he doesn't want to know (because he gets lots of money from creationists and religious fanatics to pretend that science can explain religion and gods).
Truti, the remark above is another example os someone who did a PhD but nothing after that. (I consider the use of pseudo-mathematics for religious purposes as less than nothing.)
A commenter posted this in another thread, but I think it belongs here:
evolved virtual creature
A belated return to the topic of this post:
"Random events are simply not likely to create profoundly complex, intricate, detailed designs."
What about snowflakes?
Excerpt from the article in the link provided by Lacey Cuskin:
The theory of evolution suggests that increased organization has developed simply by random processes.
Oh, by the way, this kind of bogus organizations, like "Institute for Creation Research" [!], don't exist in Europe (in such a large scale as in the bible belt lands), so I'm happy I don't have to get frustrated by facing these people on a daily basis. But I do sympathize with my colleagues in the US where this kind of junk is encountered almost daily and--what is worse--taken seriously by one's institution, administrators, politicians, etc.
By "random", I think the writer meant "undirected".
I think the author is an adult, capable of speaking English, and, presumably, of thinking--although I'm not sure about the latter (he seems to be religious and, like most religious folk, probably not that smart), so he doesn't need an interpreter.
One thing is sure, thought, that the author knows nothing about evolution, and nothing about randomness. He probably, however, knows lots of prayers by heart.
Average IQ in Mongolia: 98
Average IQ in Greece: 93
-- from http://sq.4mg.com/NationIQ.htm
A related interesting article: http://experimentalmath.info/blog/2012/01/does-probability-refute-evolution/
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