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Times Online UK ^ | May 21, 2005 | Richard Dawkins

Posted on 05/25/2005 3:41:22 AM PDT by billorites

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To: betty boop
What am I missing here?

That philosophy is not science.

2,641 posted on 06/08/2005 1:56:28 PM PDT by Liberal Classic (No better friend, no worse enemy. Semper Fi.)

To: betty boop
Yet it's these kinds of odds that the scientific materialists are placing their bets on. It just doesn't seem rational to me. What am I missing here?

Calculations of a priori probabilities of this sort are completely specious? And that even if they weren't, they're the sort of odds we find against everyday occurences?

Take Boltzmann's equation S = k ln W. Now invert it: W = exp(S/k). Take a process whose entropy is -100 J/K. With Boltzmann's constant k = 1.3 X 10^-23 J/K, that gives you a probability of the process of exp(-10^25) or so; in other words, about 1 in 1 followed by 5 X 10^24 zeroes, give or take a factor of 10.

That's the a priori probability of a couple of ice cubes forming from water in your freezer after you've filled the trays up with water. You could either learn to love luke-warm drinks, like the English, or be skeptical about a priori probability calculations.

2,642 posted on 06/08/2005 2:04:37 PM PDT by Right Wing Professor

To: Fester Chugabrew
And after she comes running once, the post hoc rationalization begins.

Well, maybe for you; with me it was an obvious opportunity to make a hypothesis and test its predictive power.

2,643 posted on 06/08/2005 2:07:36 PM PDT by Right Wing Professor

To: chronic_loser
The problem is you see intervention as somehow at odds with what you can observe. I reject utterly the notion that there is some kind of "natural" universe which left to itself chugs along, and only needs "intervention" for a virgin birth, a resurrection, or some other puzzlement.

Then, when one of your children gets sick, why seek medical treatment, when clearly direct intercession with the primum mobile would eliminate all that intermediate futzing around with the here-and-now?

I do hope you're not one of those hypcritical anti-naturalists who turns his key in the ignition rather than praying for the divine spark.

2,644 posted on 06/08/2005 2:12:40 PM PDT by Right Wing Professor

To: Right Wing Professor
It is clear from your response that ONE of us is confused about what the other is saying. Since if you are confused, it means I did not do a good enough job explaining myself. You ask: Then, when one of your children gets sick, why seek medical treatment, when clearly direct intercession with the primum mobile would eliminate all that intermediate futzing around with the here-and-now? In doing so, you make the same disjunction that I emphatically deny (or at least I THOUGHT I emphatically denied) exists. A materialst starts with matter alone and builds his construct of the universe from there. To ask me why do I work, study, think, etc. since my worldview supposedly demands that I conjure the divine for activity means he doesn't understand that I reject emphatically this bifurcated world of "natural and supernatural."

....I do hope you're not one of those hypcritical anti-naturalists who turns his key in the ignition rather than praying for the divine spark.
Indeed, why bother with this post but rather just "pray" that God will "enlighten" you? The problem is that you are like a person who holds up an orange and says "the half of the orange you see is ALL THERE IS"( or all that can be meaningfully spoken about ) and if someone argues with you that the other half truly exists...., it is out of our field of view, you posit that they are saying THE SAME THING YOU ARE, just substituting the "other" half of the orange. As a matter of fact, I have been known to pray that my car would start. Sadly some of them have not been "good" prayers.... (like 'God, please start this damn car!") but I still prayed as I turned the ignition. A naturalist would tell me to save my breath, but he is just one more person telling me that there is only half an orange.
2,645 posted on 06/08/2005 3:08:15 PM PDT by chronic_loser

To: Fester Chugabrew
Are Dembski and Behe employed by the Roman Catholic Church?

I don't think so. My pastor graduated from Baylor and I'm certain I attend a Baptist church.

2,646 posted on 06/08/2005 3:19:48 PM PDT by AndrewC (Darwinians love censorship)

To: Right Wing Professor

Please "stupid proof" your calcs here for me if you would. I confess I did not understand the mechanics of your argument, though I did get the picture of what you are saying. My problem comes in trying to use Boltzmann to define probabilities is something as dense as water. Be gentle with me please. It has been almost 30 years since PChem. My (very limited) knowledge here translates to a rough approximation of "Bolzmann is great when it comes to ideal gasses but his equation is less and less accurate as higher density materials are in view" (don't bother googling for that..., no one else is so thickheaded to put it in such crass terms). Again, this may just be that I dont' understand Boltzmann. If so, my ego is not on the line here, and I can take correction.

2,647 posted on 06/08/2005 3:24:40 PM PDT by chronic_loser

To: Liberal Classic; chronic_loser
Questions such as 'what is knowledge' and 'how do we know what our senses tell us is true' are all very important questions. It is, however, not relevant to the issue at hand because epistemology is a branch of philosophy.

I maintain that epistemology and science have a great deal to do with one another, and that to deny one on account of the other is to place unnecessary constraints upon the conquest of ignorance. One's fundamental assmptions about reality are sure to be a factor in the application of logic to the evidence at hand. At the same time, I welcome a process of science that focuses upon strictly material concerns while leaving philosophical concerns in the background.

How our senses function is a material issue that holds tremendous sway in what is understood and spoken in the scientific world. How our reason functions is critical to the assmuptions we make and the conclusions we draw. Neither of these will assist in arriving at absolute Truth, and so science, strictly speaking, is left to deal with relative truth.

I'd be curious to know if science can quantify the amount of information needed to construct a functioning strand of DNA using basic elements as the building material. A strand of DNA is finite, and we are dealing strictly with material. Can a strand of DNA exist without intelligent, i.e., informational, input? I'm inclined to think most people would answer "no."

Or, I suppose we could make it simpler. How much information is needed to put together one atom of hydrogen? No intellectual capacities, cause, purpose, or design needed?

It seems logical to me that intelligent design must be behind the universe as we know it if only because intellegence must be involved in observing and sorting it out in measurable, material terms.

2,648 posted on 06/08/2005 3:54:31 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew

To: Liberal Classic; Alamo-Girl; marron; Right Wing Professor; Ronzo; xzins; PatrickHenry; AntiGuv
That philosophy is not science.

Tell that to the scientific materialists. Materialism is, after all, a "philosophical opinion."

Check this out: according to the American Heritage Dictionary, materialism is "The philosophical opinion that physical matter in its movements and modifications is the only reality and that everything in the universe, including thought, feeling, mind, and will, can be explained in terms of physical laws." [Except on this definition the physical laws themselves.]

Here's the authoritative Oxford Dictionary of the English Language: Materialism is "philos. The opinion that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications; also in a more limited sense the opinion that the phenomena of consciousness and will are wholly due to the operations of material agencies."

Here's Websters: "a theory that physical matter is the only or fundamental reality and that all being and processes and phenomena can be explained as manifestations or results of matter."

The first two dictionaries explicitly refer to materialism as a philosophy. The third refers to it as a theory.

Respecting the third case, it was recently pointed out to me that in the entire history of science, at no time has there ever been a formal investigation as to whether matter is the only thing in the Universe. That is why materialism is either a "philosophy," or a "theory" -- which has never been empirically validated, just simply taken for granted, one gathers, because the theory is "friendly" to one's philosophical presuppositions/predilections.

Thus materialists are all "closet philosophers" in any case. So please don't tell me that philosophy is not science. I already know that, just as science is not philosophy. Tell it to the scientists who are at the same time practicing philosophers. You want, I gather, a hard and clean, total "Cartesian split" between the disciplines. But as a practical matter, this never happens.

Furthermore, as I pointed elsewhere recently, to say that there are only material causes in the Universe is to load the conclusion in in one's premise; which makes for a circular argument.

This is simple logic. And the fact is, science can get absolutely no where without logic. And logic isn't something that one can just "pick and choose" -- that is, to employ in just some cases, but not in all cases.

Thanks for writing.

2,649 posted on 06/08/2005 4:01:06 PM PDT by betty boop (Nature loves to hide. -- Heraclitus)

To: Right Wing Professor; Alamo-Girl
Take Boltzmann's equation S = k ln W.

So tell me, Professor, does Boltzmann's equation have a material cause? How about natural logarithms -- are they the product of matter in its modifications/motions? Or the British taste for luke-warm beer for that matter? Or the fact that I like mine icy cold?

Personally, I don't think Penrose's probability calculation is at all specious.

2,650 posted on 06/08/2005 4:09:22 PM PDT by betty boop (Nature loves to hide. -- Heraclitus)

To: js1138
"Many supporters of ID hope that the existence of God -- or at least an entity or entities with super-human intelligence -- can be proven through their work."

Found the above statement out there. I wonder what the author means by "many." Whoever they are, I am not one of them.

Frankly, it would be unreasonable to expect science to prove the existence of God. In fact, I would consider it an abuse of reason to expect as much. Science has yet to "prove," in an absolute sense, the Law of Gravity, let alone explain what makes it tick.

OTOH, it is not unreasonable for science, through its observations, to lend credence to the assmption that the universe demonstrates attributes of intelligence and design by means of its orderly arrangements and functions.

I count it as less than helpful that so many people make scientific statements without admitting to their underlying assumptions. What little I've read regarding the overall efforts of man to obtain knowledge leaves me unimpressed in view of the object involved.

Take the discipline of paleontology, for example. How many observers have had the benefit of directly viewing the evidence in 3D? Very few, and the few there are have only seen a tiny fraction of it. As for myself, I have to take their word for it, when they write their books, that their observations, interpretations, and 2D representations are accurate.

In pointing this out I am in no way suggesting the pursuit of knowledge is useless. I am only calling attention to the fact we do not know as much as we often claim, and that what we often claim as "knowledge" is less direct than we might care to admit.

2,651 posted on 06/08/2005 6:54:36 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew

To: chronic_loser
Everything in the Christian construct universe is the result of the moment by moment intervention of a sovereign Creator/sustainer, from the subatomic level upwards. The problem is you see intervention as somehow at odds with what you can observe. I reject utterly the notion that there is some kind of "natural" universe which left to itself chugs along, and only needs "intervention" for a virgin birth, a resurrection, or some other puzzlement.

Our worldviews have no point of intersection at all. I see nothing to be gained by further discussion.

2,652 posted on 06/08/2005 7:17:14 PM PDT by js1138 (e unum pluribus)

To: Fester Chugabrew
what else constitutes scientific evidence if it is not what manifests itself to the senses either directly or indirectly?

I thought I'd explained this already. A fact/phenomenon/whatever X is evidence for a scientific theory if it follows from that theory. For X to be evidence, the theory must explain X. It must not be the case that both X and not X are consistent with the theory.

I consider it an illogical proposition to suggest a universe unfolding without intelligence or design yet producing an intelligent observer.

Why? Has the concept been disproved? Is it contradictory? It sounds perfectly logical to me. To illustrate, are you familiar with the multiverse interpretation of QM? In this interpretation is is supposed that every possible outcome of every "measurement" takes is an actual outcome in some fraction of the multiverse - every possibility, no matter how remotely unlikely, is realized. Without any intention or design, it is *certain* that there will a universe like this one with me typing this post to you.

Now, is that *true*? I don't know. But there is nothing illogical about it.

do you think the amount of information needed to design and build a viable strand of DNA can be quantified?

That would depend on what you mean by "amount of information" and "viable" and "viable DNA." In complexity theory, the amount of information in X is the length of the smallest program that can calculate X. I suppose the biological equivalent would be the shortest molecule that can perform biological function X.

I assume by viable you mean stable and self-replicating. DNA cannot exist on its own and relies on an organism for its propagation so it is probably more interesting to consider self-replicating RNA or proteins. I recall mention on some other thread of a self-replicating peptide in the some tens of amino acids long, let's say 30 for argument's sake. Letting there be 20 different amino acids (let's call that five bits), I make that to be 150 bits. I'd consider that an upper bound on the minimal amount of information needed for viability.

can the chances of doing so without the aid of intelligence or design be quantified?

"Chances" can only be calculated relative to some definite stochastic process. I assume you mean the chances in our universe, so you'll need a complete description of all ways to achieve viability. Furthermore, as Dembski often warns (but just as often ignores his own warning), you must give an independent specification of "viability." Those two requirements make the problem quite daunting.

2,653 posted on 06/08/2005 9:14:00 PM PDT by edsheppa

To: js1138
Should you choose not to interact, that will be fine. I am actually delighted by your response as it is usually a sign that a materialist for the first time understands the nature of a true Christian worldview. The real issue here is NOT over some weird literalism by fundamentalists which results in a whole spate of bizarre doctrinal issues, from the age of the earth to how special creation occurred to some goofy "left behind" series of millenial screeds. These are "family feuds" within Christendom and while they can be annoying, are not the REAL cause of all the caterwauling and howling. People just don't get pissed off enough about stuff like that to make the kind of effort and display the kind of emotions you see on these and other boards. The kind of "culture war" you see over "evolution" is really about the conflict of these two worldviews.
The mistake many Christians make is to cede the idea that one can start out legitimately from a materialist base and build a coherent and intellectually satisfying worldview. It cannot be done and leads to alot of the silliness you see in the crevo debates. Again, my contention is that the materialist CANNOT build an intellectually coherent nor a personally coherent worldview on rank empiricism. As a matter of fact, you may be surprised at how selective your statement is that our worldviews have no point of intersection. If you wish, we can discuss my root contention with the empiricist, which is that a materialist borrows from a theistic worldview constantly in both your professional (or "scientific") life and your personal life. This borrowing is usually unaware, but always unacknowledged. My contention is that science, divorced from the metaphysical constructs that Christianity originally provided, simply slits its own throat and becomes nothing more than a statitics keeper. The ability to make meaningful statements about the nature of the universe or the reliability of the data collected is contingent on principles of uniformity. The materialist can only arrive there by climbing onto a big soapbox full of nothing. He only has statistics and a heritage that he is doing his best to stab to death while he is sitting on its shoulders announcing the "results of his research."

If you choose not to respond at all to me in the future that will be fine, although disappointing to me. Should our paths cross, I won't be able to jump into some discussion on potassium argon dating, or "transitional forms" or red shifts or any such crap without asking the question "What are we REALLY arguing about here?"

At any rate, you have been civil to me and your brief response, if curt, was not demeaning or hateful. That beats the hell out of most responses on these threads, from theists or non. Thank you.

Whether the philosophical underpinnings of the materialist or Christian actually provide sufficient underpinnings for science, and the complete life of the scientist doing them is the basis for my posts on all these threads.
2,654 posted on 06/09/2005 2:36:53 AM PDT by chronic_loser

To: Liberal Classic
Q. What am I missing here?
A. That philosophy is not science.>>>>>

The very intimation that "science" can somehow operate independently of any philosophical underpinnings is either
1) silly or
2) (more likely) rife with a whole gaggle of empiricist (i.e. philosophical) assumptions about the nature of science and knowledge.

You are really better than this.
2,655 posted on 06/09/2005 2:45:59 AM PDT by chronic_loser

To: chronic_loser

I am not interested in philosophical coherence or satisfaction. Methodological materialism creates knowledge that can be used to heal the sick. By their fruits...

2,656 posted on 06/09/2005 5:28:39 AM PDT by js1138 (e unum pluribus)

To: js1138
Methodological materialism creates knowledge that can be used to heal the sick.

Or blow them up. Within the world of materialism, both are equally valueless and absurd....... don't worry about the loan. you can pay me later.
2,657 posted on 06/09/2005 5:44:23 AM PDT by chronic_loser

To: chronic_loser

Knowledge is neither wisdom nor morality.

2,658 posted on 06/09/2005 5:49:35 AM PDT by js1138 (e unum pluribus)

To: edsheppa
Now, is that *true*? I don't know. But there is nothing illogical about it.

Once one assumes an infinite number of possibilities for the combination and interaction of matter, any outcome is a possibility, so yes, this is not illogical, as you say. Actually there are at least two unprovable assumptions involved here: 1.) Enough time has transpired to allow for all the combinations to come about so as to produce the universe as we know it, 2.) the elements are capable of self assembly without the aid of intelligent design.

At the same time, with these two assumptions in hand, why could not all the right combinations occur to produce a universe as you know it, complete with the appearance of age, but only produced the day you were born? In view of a range of infinite possibilities, this is not illogical either.

At bottom it seems the conclusion is assumed on account of these two assumptions, and the evidence will always fit both. At bottom it is a reasonable faith to maintain and support. It remains to be seen how firmly that faith is rooted in reality.

2,659 posted on 06/09/2005 6:44:44 AM PDT by Fester Chugabrew

To: Fester Chugabrew
At the same time, with these two assumptions in hand, why could not all the right combinations occur to produce a universe as you know it, complete with the appearance of age, but only produced the day you were born?

Yes it could. I mean yes it would. So long as it didn't violate any conservation laws that is.

Keep in mind though that multiverse outcomes, even though all are realized are not uniformly distributed but obey a probability distribution - more likely outcomes out number less likely ones. Consequently, should one observe a universe whose present state is like ours, it is vastly more probable than not that the apparent past is real.

2,660 posted on 06/09/2005 8:12:42 AM PDT by edsheppa