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Famous Atheist Now Believes in God
Yahoo ^ | 12/9/04 | RICHARD N. OSTLING

Posted on 12/09/2004 1:15:38 PM PST by ZGuy

NEW YORK - A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God — more or less — based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

Flew said he's best labeled a deist like Thomas Jefferson, whose God was not actively involved in people's lives.

"I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots, cosmic Saddam Husseins," he said. "It could be a person in the sense of a being that has intelligence and a purpose, I suppose."

Flew first made his mark with the 1950 article "Theology and Falsification," based on a paper for the Socratic Club, a weekly Oxford religious forum led by writer and Christian thinker C.S. Lewis.

Over the years, Flew proclaimed the lack of evidence for God while teaching at Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele, and Reading universities in Britain, in visits to numerous U.S. and Canadian campuses and in books, articles, lectures and debates.

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?"

The video draws from a New York discussion last May organized by author Roy Abraham Varghese's Institute for Metascientific Research in Garland, Texas. Participants were Flew; Varghese; Israeli physicist Gerald Schroeder, an Orthodox Jew; and Roman Catholic philosopher John Haldane of Scotland's University of St. Andrews.

The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

The letter commended arguments in Schroeder's "The Hidden Face of God" and "The Wonder of the World" by Varghese, an Eastern Rite Catholic layman.

This week, Flew finished writing the first formal account of his new outlook for the introduction to a new edition of his "God and Philosophy," scheduled for release next year by Prometheus Press.

Prometheus specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

Last week, Richard Carrier, a writer and Columbia University graduate student, posted new material based on correspondence with Flew on the atheistic www.infidels.org Web page. Carrier assured atheists that Flew accepts only a "minimal God" and believes in no afterlife.

Flew's "name and stature are big. Whenever you hear people talk about atheists, Flew always comes up," Carrier said. Still, when it comes to Flew's reversal, "apart from curiosity, I don't think it's like a big deal."

Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

A Methodist minister's son, Flew became an atheist at 15.

Early in his career, he argued that no conceivable events could constitute proof against God for believers, so skeptics were right to wonder whether the concept of God meant anything at all.

Another landmark was his 1984 "The Presumption of Atheism," playing off the presumption of innocence in criminal law. Flew said the debate over God must begin by presuming atheism, putting the burden of proof on those arguing that God exists.


TOPICS: Skeptics/Seekers
KEYWORDS: antonyflew; atheism; atheist; morality
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To: MeekOneGOP

Thanks for the ping to this very interesting thread. After reading through, I wonder how many non-believers will be changing their minds when they turn 81, LOL.


101 posted on 12/10/2004 9:44:46 AM PST by JLO
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To: AntiGuv
I honestly don't understand how people can answer the question "where did it all come from" with "it came from God" and actually find any satisfaction in that. It's not so much that I don't accept that there's something outside of the universe - as a matter of fact, if I had to guess I would say that there must be some dimension of existence beyond and 'before' the universe - it is just that its nature strikes me as utterly indecipherable.

When I meet someone who is smarter than me I'm overjoyed. That's sort of how I face the question of who made God? Now, you're frustrated by that question. I'm delighted by it. It's the limit of the human mind. It's like an ant trying to comprehend driving a car. What was before the Big Bang? Was man seeded by aliens? Who made the aliens? There is no empiracle answer to that puzzle. We've hit the wall we cannot scale.

Now, you can drive youself nuts by banging your head against it. Or you can laugh with unrestrained mirth and be entertained. There is no way around it.

Concerning the indecipherability of the Powers that Be, I agree that reason fails. However, if this Power choses to make itself understandable it can certainly do so. I believe it has through the Holy Spirit and through Jesus as recorded in the Bible.

Why the Bible and not the Koran or some other book or tradition?

I think that, to a degree, that question can be answered through reason. Compare the lives of those who followed the one and others. Investigate via standard scholarship the claims. Look at the moral code that, I believe, is hardwired into every human heart and see what belief most reflects it.

Of course it will ultimately hinge on faith but that's true of any attempt to resolve the issue whether it's by the Resurrection or other dimensions.

102 posted on 12/10/2004 10:32:49 AM PST by Tribune7
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To: Tribune7
Now, you can drive youself nuts by banging your head against it. Or you can laugh with unrestrained mirth and be entertained. There is no way around it.

What's wrong with saying "I don't understand this, so in the abscence of meaningful knowledge, I will refrain from declaring to have comprehend an 'answer' beyond human understanding"?
103 posted on 12/10/2004 10:37:38 AM PST by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: betty boop; Tribune7; Alamo-Girl; Eastbound; marron; Taliesan; ckilmer; escapefromboston
". . .biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved"... [Flew] accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life. . . ."

I do not accept the premise that any investigation of the "complexity" of DNA by biologists has established in any way "that intelligence must have been involved." In fact, those who are principally involved in the making of this argument are doing so from the perspective of mathematical probability rather than from scientific investigation because they are proposing that which cannot be disproved, namely; that complexity alone explains intelligent design. Explaining the origins of life is still a problem in evolutionary biology, and there has been progress in addressing it, but to say that it has failed and will not ever come up with an answer is false.

And none of what I have written denies a creator either, something in which I very much believe.
104 posted on 12/10/2004 10:41:08 AM PST by StJacques
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To: Dimensio
What's wrong with saying "I don't understand this . . .?

Nothing, unless you do understand it.

105 posted on 12/10/2004 10:41:48 AM PST by Tribune7
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To: betty boop; Tribune7; Alamo-Girl; Eastbound; marron; Taliesan; ckilmer; escapefromboston
". . . they are proposing that which cannot be disproved, namely; that complexity alone explains intelligent design. . . ."

Now that I think about it, I believe I got this backwards. I should have written:

". . . they are proposing that which cannot be disproved, namely; that intelligent design alone explains complexity . . . "
106 posted on 12/10/2004 10:47:45 AM PST by StJacques
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To: AntiGuv

FWIW, I twas smited about ten years ago and three years later found myself that Easter being confirmed in the Church.

My avowed affiliation line runs: Lutheran - Methodist - Baptist - Agnostic - Atheist - Smitten - Buddhist - Catholic.

There is a Compassion that suffuses the cosmos and we can experience this as connected to our being. (The latin "religio" mean "re-bind.") It pursued itself within me all my life. But I don't think that, for everyone, it means "choosing to believe." Some, like me, are hard-headed, and it takes time and much Grace 'til we surrender and come home again for the first time.

Thanks very much for the discussion.


107 posted on 12/10/2004 11:22:26 AM PST by D-fendr
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Although Flew now believes in a Deist God, he does NOT believe in an afterlife. Therefore, to Frey there is no real cosmic benefit for his change of heart. What he did becomes even more important.

Atheists cannot claim the 81 year old Frey was just hedging his bets.

Frey was a MAJOR non believer. His works are (were) quoted on atheistic web sites as their Holy Writ. His defection is a large philisophical loss.
108 posted on 12/10/2004 11:29:12 AM PST by catonsville
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To: BMCDA
So to say that nothing is, is just an artefact of our language since without anything a temporal dimension doesn't make sense.

Even in a theoretical perfect vacuum, the laws of the universe are present - awaiting matter. This "nothing" is not nothing, only devoid of matter. Some might phrase this as "nothingness." Not nothing.

"First there was nothing, then there was existence"

Have you ever heard of "Vacuum Genesis"?

109 posted on 12/10/2004 11:34:35 AM PST by D-fendr
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To: ZGuy

Poor guy has found the road but he's still a little lost.


110 posted on 12/10/2004 11:36:39 AM PST by Tempest (Click on my name for a long list of press contacts)
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To: wallcrawlr

I'm sure the shaved typing monkeys will show up soon.


111 posted on 12/10/2004 11:37:56 AM PST by Tempest (Click on my name for a long list of press contacts)
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To: StJacques

". . . they are proposing that which cannot be disproved, namely; that intelligent design alone explains complexity . . . "
/////////////////////
I have seen displays which show the radical difference between organic and inorganic chemistry. The structure of the molecules of inorganic chemistry is a pattern repeated over and over again. This holds for molecules consisting of elements throughout the periodic table. However, with inorganic chemistry the molecules do not form any consistant repeated pattern. Its sort of like the difference between rational and irrational numbers.

The point is that life on the smallest scale looks very different from mere matter--and yet the overwhelming balance of stuff in the universe is matter/energy/space. What's the evidence of God when adam and eve are in the garden of eden. The answer is the Garden. I think a similiar arguement is being made for all life.


112 posted on 12/10/2004 11:51:46 AM PST by ckilmer
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To: catonsville
Atheists cannot claim the 81 year old Frey was just hedging his bets.

No, we just claim -- and rightly so -- that the alleged 'conversion' of Flew has been blown out of proportion.

Frey was a MAJOR non believer. His works are (were) quoted on atheistic web sites as their Holy Writ. His defection is a large philisophical loss.

Until yesterday, I had never heard of Antony Flew. My athiesm is not based upon the alleged 'holy' writings of any philosopher, it is based on the fact that thus far I remain unconvinced regarding the existence of deities.
113 posted on 12/10/2004 11:53:26 AM PST by Dimensio (http://angryflower.com/bobsqu.gif <-- required reading before you use your next apostrophe!)
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To: D-fendr
Even in a theoretical perfect vacuum, the laws of the universe are present - awaiting matter.

Space is something so a theoretically perfect vacuum is not what I was referring to.

114 posted on 12/10/2004 12:11:10 PM PST by BMCDA
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To: ckilmer
". . . What's the evidence of God when adam and eve are in the garden of eden. The answer is the Garden. I think a similiar arguement is being made for all life."

Yes; the argument is being made, but it's not a scientific one, remember the original quote was that "bilogists" had found evidence of complexity that suggested intelligent design, because scientific arguments can be disproven through testing and observation with rigorous application of scientific method. The intelligent design theory does not fit into this standard.
115 posted on 12/10/2004 12:23:09 PM PST by StJacques
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To: StJacques; tortoise; Doctor Stochastic; betty boop
Thank you so much for the ping to your posts!

I do not accept the premise that any investigation of the "complexity" of DNA by biologists has established in any way "that intelligence must have been involved." In fact, those who are principally involved in the making of this argument are doing so from the perspective of mathematical probability rather than from scientific investigation because they are proposing that which cannot be disproved, namely; that complexity alone explains intelligent design.

One of these days when we all have some time we need to pick up the conversation about "complexity" in biological systems again.

I do agree with you that it is not biologists who have raised the issue but mathematicians. However, I do not believe the issue of complexity was raised primarily from looking at probabilities but rather in response to the von Neumann challenge with the emphasis on cellular automata (self-organizing complexity).

Nature's Own Software (biography of Wolfram)

Uncertainty, Entropy, and Information - Tom Schneider

A Mathematical Theory of Communication - Claude Shannon

Randomness in Arithmetic - Chaitin

Should we decide to explore the subject though, I would like for tortoise, Doctor Stochastic and betty boop to be involved as well so we can make sure we are all using the same jargon with the same meanings.

116 posted on 12/10/2004 2:58:33 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: StJacques

Yes; the argument is being made, but it's not a scientific one, remember the original quote was that "bilogists" had found evidence of complexity that suggested intelligent design, because scientific arguments can be disproven through testing and observation with rigorous application of scientific method. The intelligent design theory does not fit into this standard.
///////////////////////////
true but in order to make this clear you have to also make clear that evolution does not prove by means of the scientic method--that a.)natural selection is random b.)there is no God.

further you have to mention that in greek terms say, the scientific method has been designed for aristotles creatures and not plato's creator.


117 posted on 12/10/2004 6:22:50 PM PST by ckilmer
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To: StJacques

Thanks for the ping. Bookmarked for later.


118 posted on 12/10/2004 9:18:49 PM PST by Eastbound ("Neither a Scrooge nor a Patsy be")
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Comment #119 Removed by Moderator

To: ZellsBells

Unless I read more about what Flew actually thought, and the path of reasoning that led him to his current belief in God (of some sort), I can only take his words at face value*. And your idea goes along with what is stated in the article.

Basically there are two kinds of people {those who divide people into two kinds, and those who don't}...

No, really - these two kinds:

1. Those who have a certain set of beliefs, want to continue believing, and therefore only allow information which supports these beliefs into the purview of their mind's acceptance.

2. Those who want to know that the Truth with a capital T is, and follow the search wherever it leads, not thinking that they know the destination before they arrive.

Unfortunately, group (1) is very numerous. But group (2) is the only one to be in to achieve the actual goal of human life.

*And being the uneducated fool that I am, I probably wouldn't understand his writings even if I tried.


120 posted on 12/10/2004 9:46:20 PM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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Comment #121 Removed by Moderator

To: ZellsBells

?????

And who might these gentlemen be?


122 posted on 12/10/2004 10:45:30 PM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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To: ZellsBells

And I DID finish the 10th grade!


123 posted on 12/10/2004 10:46:13 PM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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Comment #124 Removed by Moderator

To: ZellsBells

Hmmm, let me think about that.

(Will check my daily planner; one of my (numerous) faults is procrastination...so I'm always behind on stuff.)


125 posted on 12/10/2004 11:08:16 PM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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To: ZellsBells; little jeremiah
Er, I hope you don't mind but I'd like to add something to what you said:

Maybe, just maybe, Flew jumped ship because "[his] whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."

The article speaks of the first hint of Flew's turn in a letter he wrote which commends arguments raised by Gerald Schroeder, a physicist and orthodox Jew.

We've quoted Schroeder several times on evolution v intelligent design threads. If y'all - or perhaps Lurkers to your discussion - would care to read more about Schroeder's views, here are two of my personal favorites:

Rationality v Randomness (Evolution)

Age of the Universe


126 posted on 12/11/2004 9:23:08 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl

Not only do I not mind, I'm happy!


127 posted on 12/11/2004 9:25:26 AM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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To: little jeremiah
Great! Thank you so much for the encouragement!
128 posted on 12/11/2004 10:03:18 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl

I've read some of your comments and stuff you post here and there, and compared to you I am a lightning bug and you are the moon.

I'm not being funny.


129 posted on 12/11/2004 10:12:36 AM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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To: D-fendr
What a beautiful post, D-fendr. I can relate to what you say, for you describe a process that I myself have experienced. Indeed, there is a Compassion that suffuses the cosmos, and it is connected with our individual being. Though it might sound somewhat mystical to put it in these terms, I've come to understand the living process you describe as God in search of us, to "bring us home" into His love, peace, truth, and grace, in fulfillment of His desire to be reunited with His sons, the sons of man. From the human standpoint, this is a "re-binding" to Him in the fullness of His Truth, which is what is meant by salvation. IMHO FWIW.

Thank you so much for your gracious and beautiful post.

130 posted on 12/11/2004 10:22:27 AM PST by betty boop
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To: Alamo-Girl

Count me in, A-G! I'd welcome such a discussion.


131 posted on 12/11/2004 10:27:44 AM PST by betty boop
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To: ckilmer
". . . in order to make this clear you have to also make clear that evolution does not prove by means of the scientic method . . . "

I must respectfully disagree. First of all the use of the word "prove" is not in line with the way scientists approach any theory, because the ultimate goal of scientific observation is to eliminate alternative explanations through an inductive method. "Support" is really the term that applies. And evolutionary theory uses a body of observable evidence to support its hypotheses; including geologic stratigraphy, the fossil record, microbiology, taxonomy, field study, laboratory experiments that include observed instances of speciation, and more.

And on the issue of random mutations, that is a problem in evolutionary theory that has been called into question in a significant manner by evolutionary theorists themselves. Natural selection of random mutations seems to be insufficient as a singular explanation of evolutionary change, but that does not negate the overall theory, though it may force its revision to a form that is distinctly different from that which Darwin first proposed.
132 posted on 12/11/2004 10:51:19 AM PST by StJacques
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To: ZGuy
There's even a "Dial-a-Prayer" line for atheists, now.

When you call the number, nobody answers.

133 posted on 12/11/2004 1:51:22 PM PST by marshmallow
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Comment #134 Removed by Moderator

To: blam; Ernest_at_the_Beach; FairOpinion; ValerieUSA

Here's a ping, and a similar link that will last longer:

Atheist Philosopher, 81, Now Believes in God
By Richard N. Ostling
Associated Press
posted: 10 December 2004
09:31 am ET
http://www.livescience.com/othernews/atheist_philosopher_041210.html


135 posted on 12/11/2004 10:17:17 PM PST by SunkenCiv ("All I have seen teaches me trust the Creator for all I have not seen." -- Emerson)
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To: little jeremiah
Thank you so much for the encouragement, but truly you give me waaaay too much credit!
136 posted on 12/12/2004 12:11:58 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
I'm so glad to hear you wish to be a part of the discussion! If the others check in, we'll kick it off somewhere.
137 posted on 12/12/2004 12:13:40 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop

It would be interesting to find out how many former atheists there are, compared to believers turned atheist.

Of course, if someone believes in God and turns atheist, he generally either committed something really wrong which hardened his heart, or was not experiencing the reality of God's presence.

I would liken it (in a general sort of way) to being a conservative-who-used-to-be-a-liberal. There are many of us.

But how many liberals who used to be conservative? I don't think as many.


138 posted on 12/12/2004 12:23:28 PM PST by little jeremiah (What would happen if everyone decided their own "right and wrong"?)
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To: ZellsBells; StJacques; tortoise; Doctor Stochastic; betty boop; little jeremiah
Thank you so much for your reply!

Is it safe to assume that you accept some form of intelligent design?

Indeed. Very much so. IMHO, it is becoming untenable for scientists to cling to the original formulation "random mutations + natural selection > species". The problem is with the "random mutation" part of the equation because several lines of inquiry are converging against the notion of happenstance.

From the Intelligent Design theorists, taking the approach of looking backwards, the issue of "irreducible complexity" has been raised.

From mathematicians such as Marcel-Paul Schützenberger - taking the approach of looking forward, the issue of "functional complexity" has been raised. Gerald Schroeder takes a broad look at the functional complexity issue along with the issue of probability.

From mathematicians who are interested in the von Neumann challenge (Wolfram, Chaitin, Rocha, etc.) – “self-organizing complexity” or cellular automata has been raised (some links were provided above).

From the information theory corner of mathematics (Yockey, Schneider, etc.) the issue of information (successful communications paraphrased from Claude Shannon) has been raised, especially the question of origin of information in biological systems.

And now the Intelligent Design theorists have also raised the question of the origin of geometry in biological systems.

All of this is piling up on top of the underlying questions of randomness, e.g. whether it is an illusion of algorithm – an effect of a cause (Wolfram, Chaitin’s Omega) – and how complexity should be understood especially in algorithmic information theory (Kolmogorov, Solomonoff).

A great many of these mathematicians do not dispute that species have “evolved” as in changed gradually over time – but are raising issues that would point away from happenstance and towards a directed process, e.g. self-organizing complexity, emergence of functional complexity, reduction of uncertainty in the recipient in a molecular machine, etc.

IMHO, the “theory of evolution” is also subject to evolution. The “natural selection” part of the equation remains sound and is evidenced by even modern day extinctions of whole species. But the theory as it sits is out-of-step with mathematics.

139 posted on 12/12/2004 1:11:45 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl; ZellsBells; tortoise; Doctor Stochastic; betty boop; little jeremiah
". . . it is becoming untenable for scientists to cling to the original formulation 'random mutations + natural selection > species' . . ."

Yes it is, and certain evolutionary theorists, such as Luis Rocha, who stress the need for "syntax" to explain evolutionary processes of communication are pointing this out:

". . . the feud between those who claim that natural selection is the sole explanation for evolution and those who stress that other aspects of evolutionary systems, such as developmental constraints, also play an important role. . . . the second group likes to think of the propensities of matter or historical contingencies as being of at least equal importance in evolution . . ."

Maintaining the emphasis upon random mutations and natural selection is only applicable to those evolutionary theorists who are attempting to cling to Darwin's original formulation, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. There is a real debate among evolutionary theorists that is outside of the problem stated in the first quote, since many "do not accept the notion of happenstance" as has been suggested.

". . . From the Intelligent Design theorists, taking the approach of looking backwards, the issue of "irreducible complexity" has been raised. . . ."

"Irreducible Complexity" is the cornerstone of the Intelligent Design theory, because it argues, or at least implies, that if you go back far enough in the evolutionary record you will come to a point at which you can go back no further and within which you still have a level of biological complexity that is advanced enough so as to negate any evolutionary ancestry. It is not a scientific theory because there is no attempt to define a starting point for evolution in real time or in taxonomy, which could be tested by scientists, and it is instead argued from mathematical probability.

"Functional Complexity" is a real issue in evolutionary theory, but my opinion of the arguments made by supporters of Intelligent Design theory or other scholars they cite, Schützenberger, e.g., is that they are guilty of either postulating that there is something basically undecipherable about microbiological/genetic processes or what Immunologist/Microbiologist Andrea Bottaro refers to as "how to lose one's way while looking for misdirection." The above-quoted link for the interview with the late mathematician Schützenberger is a case in point. Allow me to excerpt:

". . . Q: What do you mean by functional complexity?

S: It is impossible to grasp the phenomenon of life without that concept, the two words each expressing a crucial and essential idea. The laboratory biologists' normal and unforced vernacular is almost always couched in functional terms: the function of an eye, the function of an enzyme, or a ribosome, or the fruit fly's antennae -- their function; the concept by which such language is animated is one perfectly adapted to reality. Physiologists see this better than anyone else. Within their world, everything is a matter of function, the various systems that they study -- circulatory, digestive, excretory, and the like -- all characterized in simple, ineliminable functional terms. At the level of molecular biology, functionality may seem to pose certain conceptual problems, perhaps because the very notion of an organ has disappeared when biological relationships are specified in biochemical terms; but appearances are misleading, certain functions remaining even in the absence of an organ or organ systems. Complexity is also a crucial concept. Even among unicellular organisms, the mechanisms involved in the separation and fusion of chromosomes during mitosis and meiosis are processes of unbelieveable complexity and subtlety. Organisms present themselves to us as a complex ensemble of functional interrelationships. If one is going to explain their evolution, one must at the same time explain their functionality and their complexity.
"

Schützenberger tells you on the one hand that "laboratory biologists" and others working "at the level of molecular biology" have trouble giving a defintion to the term "functional complexity" he can accept, but -- and read carefully what I have quoted above -- he does not offer a definition of his own -- which is something that scientists in those fields could take him to task for if they found it inadequate, except that there is nothing. And notice the language of undecipherability and misdirection I mentioned above: ". . . impossible to grasp the phenomenon of life without that concept . . ." and ". . . appearances are misleading . . ." and ". . . processes of unbelieveable complexity and subtlety . . ."

I submit that it is wholly unscientific to discuss "functional complexity" without proper scientific rigor, which requires that terms be stated and defined clearly. I encourage everyone to compare Schützenberger's response to the question "what do you mean by functional complexity?" above with the following definition given by Belgian evolutionary theorist Francis Heylighen, in his "The Growth of Structural and Functional Complexity during Evolution":

". . . Functional complexification follows from the need to increase the variety of actions in order to cope with more diverse environmental perturbations, and the need to integrate actions into higher-order complexes in order to minimize the difficulty of decision-making. . . ."

That is the kind of scientific rigor that makes the concept clear and is something we are not seeing from the Intelligent Design theorists, because you can take Heylighen on if your view of "functional complexity" is different than his. Or to put this another way, Heylighen is a "hard target," which is what a true scientist should be, not one who tells us that things are too difficult to understand, as Schützenberger continues in the next response he gave after the first question I quoted above:

". . . Q: What is it that makes functional complexity so difficult to comprehend?

S: The evolution of living creatures appears to require an essential ingredient, a specific form of organization. Whatever it is, it lies beyond anything that our present knowledge of physics or chemistry might suggest; it is a property upon which formal logic sheds absolutely no light. Whether gradualists or saltationists, Darwinians have too simple a conception of biology, rather like a locksmith improbably convinced that his handful of keys will open any lock. Darwinians, for example, tend to think of the gene rather as if it were the expression of a simple command: do this, get that done, drop that side chain. Walter Gehring's work on the regulatory genes controlling the development of the insect eye reflects this conception. The relevant genes may well function this way, but the story on this level is surely incomplete, and Darwinian theory is not apt to fill in the pieces. . . .
"

So, "functional complexity" "lies beyond anything that our present knowledge of physics or chemistry might suggest" does it? Well we can really take that one on in the lab can't we? What this all amounts to is that Intelligent Design theory must either be rethought to advance hard scientific proposals that can be tested or it must be rejected as a scientific explanation. Since the former requires action on the part of the supporters of Intelligent Design, the latter should be the attitude of the scientific community in response.

Some brief additional comments on the rest:

Von Neumann has presented a scientific challenge evolutionary theorists have yet to address fully. But I believe that the field of Biosemotics -- the quote I put up from Rocha above falls within this category -- is answering his challenge, though the discipline is still in its infancy and the response is not yet adequate to be qualified as an answer.

And "randomness" taken by itself is meaningless unless it is specifically applied to a scientific formulation of a theory that can be tested. Mathematicians have raised problems with "randomness" in general, some evolutionary theorists are dealing with it as it applies to natural selection, but we cannot use it as an alternative to either explanations for the origin of life on earth or problems within evolutionary theory unless it is attached to a specific theory whose applicability can be tested.

One way or another we are going to have to see something offered by Intelligent Design theorists or supporters of the theory, that attempts to make an argument based upon evidence, something like "result x has likely occured because of evidence y occuring at time z." It is not enough to simply challenge the body of scientific study to the contrary in an attempt to negate its hypotheses and/or conclusions and, as a result, leave Intelligent Design theory as the only possible alternative. That is not scientific under any criteria that are worthy of being considered as falling within "science."
140 posted on 12/12/2004 5:59:24 PM PST by StJacques
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To: StJacques; betty boop; tortoise; Doctor Stochastic; ZellsBells; little jeremiah
Thank you so much for your thorough and thoughtful reply! I particularly enjoyed the article by Francis Heylighen as he raised an issue in the discussion of complexity in biological systems which I had not yet researched – namely, does evolution increase complexity?

In investigating the subject a bit further, I discovered some things you and the others here might also find quite interesting. Chief among these is that there is a formulation for “functional complexity” in complex systems which includes biological systems. The evolutionary biologists however seem to question the applicability of the term to their domain and have offered yet another type of complexity, “physical complexity”. Heylighen’s article (1996) did not use the term which was evidently coined by Adami. Following is an article by Adami raising the concept and the results of modeling the theory:

Physical Complexity

Evolution of biological complexity – Adami

Darwinian evolution is a simple yet powerful process that requires only a population of reproducing organisms in which each offspring has the potential for a heritable variation from its parent. This principle governs evolution in the natural world, and has gracefully produced organisms of vast complexity. Still, whether or not complexity increases through evolution has become a contentious issue. Gould (1), for example, argues that any recognizable trend can be explained by the "drunkard's walk" model, where "progress" is due simply to a fixed boundary condition. McShea (2) investigates trends in the evolution of certain types of structural and functional complexity, and finds some evidence of a trend but nothing conclusive. In fact, he concludes that "something may be increasing. But is it complexity?" Bennett (3), on the other hand, resolves the issue by fiat, defining complexity as "that which increases when self-organizing systems organize themselves." Of course, to address this issue, complexity needs to be both defined and measurable.

In this paper, we skirt the issue of structural and functional complexity by examining genomic complexity. It is tempting to believe that genomic complexity is mirrored in functional complexity and vice versa. Such an hypothesis, however, hinges upon both the aforementioned ambiguous definition of complexity and the obvious difficulty of matching genes with function. Several developments allow us to bring a new perspective to this old problem. On the one hand, genomic complexity can be defined in a consistent information-theoretic manner [the "physical" complexity (4)], which appears to encompass intuitive notions of complexity used in the analysis of genomic structure and organization (5). On the other hand, it has been shown that evolution can be observed in an artificial medium (6, 7), providing a unique glimpse at universal aspects of the evolutionary process in a computational world. In this system, the symbolic sequences subject to evolution are computer programs that have the ability to self-replicate via the execution of their own code. In this respect, they are computational analogs of catalytically active RNA sequences that serve as the templates of their own reproduction. In populations of such sequences that adapt to their world (inside of a computer's memory), noisy self-replication coupled with finite resources and an information-rich environment leads to a growth in sequence length as the digital organisms incorporate more and more information about their environment into their genome. Evolution in an information-poor landscape, on the contrary, leads to selection for replication only, and a shrinking genome size as in the experiments of Spiegelman and colleagues (8). These populations allow us to observe the growth of physical complexity explicitly, and also to distinguish distinct evolutionary pressures acting on the genome and analyze them in a mathematical framework.

If an organism's complexity is a reflection of the physical complexity of its genome (as we assume here), the latter is of prime importance in evolutionary theory. Physical complexity, roughly speaking, reflects the number of base pairs in a sequence that are functional. As is well known, equating genomic complexity with genome length in base pairs gives rise to a conundrum (known as the C-value paradox) because large variations in genomic complexity (in particular in eukaryotes) seem to bear little relation to the differences in organismic complexity (9). The C-value paradox is partly resolved by recognizing that not all of DNA is functional: that there is a neutral fraction that can vary from species to species. If we were able to monitor the non-neutral fraction, it is likely that a significant increase in this fraction could be observed throughout at least the early course of evolution. For the later period, in particular the later Phanerozoic Era, it is unlikely that the growth in complexity of genomes is due solely to innovations in which genes with novel functions arise de novo. Indeed, most of the enzyme activity classes in mammals, for example, are already present in prokaryotes (10). Rather, gene duplication events leading to repetitive DNA and subsequent diversification (11) as well as the evolution of gene regulation patterns appears to be a more likely scenario for this stage. Still, we believe that the Maxwell Demon mechanism described below is at work during all phases of evolution and provides the driving force toward ever increasing complexity in the natural world.

Does complexity always increase during major evolutionary transitions?

Conclusions: The physical complexity of those regions that do not code for the structural changes increases independently from structural complexity. There is no correlation between fitness of collectives and division of labor (possible causes will be discussed later). On the other hand, there is a correlation between the size of colonies and fitness. Thus, it seems that there is no additional increase of physical complexity other than those regions that code for structural changes…

Seems to me that result ought to renew our interest in “what is functional complexity” with regard to biological systems. Here is the definition from the “complex systems” corner:

Complex Systems

Wikipedia definition

NECSI: Complexity

Complexity is ...[the abstract notion of complexity has been captured in many different ways. Most, if not all of these, are related to each other and they fall into two classes of definitions]:

1) ...the (minimal) length of a description of the system.

2) ...the (minimal) amount of time it takes to create the system.

The length of a description is measured in units of information. The former definition is closely related to Shannon information theory and algorithmic complexity, and the latter is related to computational complexity.

NECSI: Emergence

Emergence is...

1) ...what parts of a system do together that they would not do by themselves: collective behavior.

2) ...what a system does by virtue of its relationship to its environment that it would not do by itself: e.g. its function.

3) ...the act or process of becoming an emergent system.

According to (1) emergence refers to understanding how collective properties arise from the properties of parts. More generally, it refers to how behavior at a larger scale of the system arises from the detailed structure, behavior and relationships on a finer scale. In the extreme, it is about how macroscopic behavior arises from microscopic behavior.

According to this view, when we think about emergence we are, in our mind's eye, moving between different vantage points. We see the trees and the forest at the same time. We see the way the trees and the forest are related to each other. To see in both these views we have to be able to see details, but also ignore details. The trick is to know which of the many details we see in the trees are important to know when we see the forest.

In conventional views the observer considers either the trees or the forest. Those who consider the trees consider the details to be essential and do not see the patterns that arise when considering trees in the context of the forest. Those who consider the forest do not see the details. When one can shift back and forth between seeing the trees and the forest one also sees which aspects of the trees are relevant to the description of the forest. Understanding this relationship in general is the study of emergence.

Unifying Principles in Complex Systems

Functional complexity

Given a system whose function we want to specify, for which the environmental (input) variables have a complexity of C(e), and the actions of the system have a complexity of C(a), then the complexity of specification of the function of the system is:

C(f)=C(a) 2 C(e)

Where complexity is defined as the logarithm (base 2) of the number of possibilities or, equivalently, the length of a description in bits. The proof follows from recognizing that a complete specification of the function is given by a table whose rows are the actions (C(a) bits) for each possible input, of which there are 2 C(e). Since no restriction has been assumed on the actions, all actions are possible and this is the minimal length description of the function. Note that this theorem applies to the complexity of description as defined by the observer, so that each of the quantities can be defined by the desires of the observer for descriptive accuracy. This theorem is known in the study of Boolean functions (binary functions of binary variables) but is not widely understood as a basic theorem in complex systems[15]. The implications of this theorem are widespread and significant to science and engineering.

IMHO, the science of complex systems - function, observer and emergence – would have accomplished the same distinction that Michael Behe targeted with his new term, irreducible complexity. By introducing a new term under color of Intelligent Design, it gave the concept a taint of ideology. Compare the above definitions to the definition of irreducible complexity:

Irreducible Complexity

Wikipedia

The term "irreducible complexity" is defined by Behe as:

"a single system which is composed of several interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning" (Michael Behe, Molecular Machines: Experimental Support for the Design Inference)

Believers in the intelligent design theory use this term to refer to biological systems and organs that could not have come about by a series of small changes. For such mechanisms or organs, anything less than their complete form would not work at all, or would in fact be a detriment to the organism, and would therefore never survive the process of natural selection. Proponents of intelligent design argue that while some complex systems and organs can be explained by evolution, organs and biological features which are irreducibly complex cannot be explained by current models, and that an intelligent designer must thus have created or guided life.

You continued with a few other comments:

Von Neumann has presented a scientific challenge evolutionary theorists have yet to address fully. But I believe that the field of Biosemotics -- the quote I put up from Rocha above falls within this category -- is answering his challenge, though the discipline is still in its infancy and the response is not yet adequate to be qualified as an answer.

I certainly agree that the field is not fully developed wrt biology (though much progress has been made in the mathematics by Wolfram et al). Personally, I believe the evolutionary theorists will be brought kicking and screaming to the theory simply because the theory “goes to” complex systems arising from the iteration of simple rules. That would speak against happenstance and for direction. For Lurkers interested in the subject:

Self-Organizing Complexity

Cellular Automata – Wikipedia

Self-Organizing Complexity in the physical, biological, and social sciences

There is however a related aspect of the inquiry which I very strongly suspect will bring self-organizing complexity to a head: the application of Claude Shannon’s Theory of Communications to molecular machines.

The key to understanding all the dialogue on the “Chowder Society” is communications. In ordinary conversation – and indeed, in many of the articles from the science community at large – information and message are treated as pretty much the same thing. A database, letter, diagram, DNA would all be considered information using various symbolizations or languages for comprehension.

But to understand the Shannon definition, one must view information as a reduction of uncertainty in a receiver – the communication itself having been successfully completed. In molecular machines this is vital and can be best visualized by comparing a dead skin cell to a live one. The DNA, or message, is as good dead as alive. But the live skin cell successfully communicates with itself and the environment.

The state changes that occur in the molecular machinery is evidence of the reduction of uncertainty in the receiver. This is akin to the state changes which Rocha indicates would be required in an RNA world (abiogenesis) for self-organizing complexity to begin – i.e. toggling between autonomous communication and communication with the environment.

And "randomness" taken by itself is meaningless unless it is specifically applied to a scientific formulation of a theory that can be tested. Mathematicians have raised problems with "randomness" in general, some evolutionary theorists are dealing with it as it applies to natural selection, but we cannot use it as an alternative to either explanations for the origin of life on earth or problems within evolutionary theory unless it is attached to a specific theory whose applicability can be tested.

I agree that randomness is problematic from the get-go. It is a problem for the theory of evolution as it was originally formulated, that’s why I suggest the theory needs to be brought up-to-date. It is a big problem for abiogenesis, too – because logically there must be some “break point” population from which the theoretical RNA world could be bootstrapped into replication. IOW, it would require much more than a single phenomenon in a vast population of opportunity.

One way or another we are going to have to see something offered by Intelligent Design theorists or supporters of the theory, that attempts to make an argument based upon evidence, something like "result x has likely occured because of evidence y occuring at time z." It is not enough to simply challenge the body of scientific study to the contrary in an attempt to negate its hypotheses and/or conclusions and, as a result, leave Intelligent Design theory as the only possible alternative. That is not scientific under any criteria that are worthy of being considered as falling within "science."

IMHO, the Intelligent Design fellows at Discovery Institute are essentially minor players wrt the subject of happenstance in biological systems. They are much resented because of an assumed theological agenda – the same objection many of us have against the metaphysical naturalists like Lewontin who promote atheism under the color of science.

To the contrary, IMHO, the whole notion of happenstance is dying with a whimper because of the work of general mathematicians, information theorists and physicists. Precious few of them have a perceptible metaphysical bias, but they keep coming back to theories which make an unintended theological statement, that biological systems did not arise by happenstance alone. This is much like the determination that there was a beginning – the most theological statement to come out of science.

141 posted on 12/13/2004 10:06:08 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl
That was a very thorough and well-formatted reply Alamo-Girl. Though I am getting even farther behind in that I still owe betty a response on the "Plato" thread, I must defer to a later time when I can address what you have raised in a more comprehensive manner. Given the completeness of your post I think it would be untoward of me to simply dismiss what you have written, and I won't do that even when I do respond because some of what you have stated I agree with, so I will ask your indulgence to wait until I have a little more free time on my hands before I reply. I'm just stopping by right now during a work break and I am entering a busy week in which I have to complete some daunting job tasks that are going to occupy a good deal of my time, some of which will likely run beyond regular working hours.

I'll be back later, though I cannot say just when, though I'll try to get in here tonight. I owe betty a response first.
142 posted on 12/13/2004 11:20:00 AM PST by StJacques
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To: StJacques; betty boop
Thank you so much for your reply! I do very much understand the need to take care of pressing deadlines, so please, by all means, take your time in responding to both betty boop and to me. We will patiently look forward to your posts!
143 posted on 12/13/2004 7:28:42 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: StJacques; Alamo-Girl
I owe betty a response first.

No rush, StJacques. Write when you can -- you look to be very busy this week. I look forward to hearing from you when you have the chance to write.

144 posted on 12/14/2004 6:23:15 AM PST by betty boop
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To: Alamo-Girl; StJacques

The biosemiotics approach looks very interesting! Here's a link, to Friedrich Salomon Rothschild, "protosemiotician":

http://www.ut.ee/SOSE/sss/anderson311.pdf

Just found it, and it looks fascinating. I'll need some time to digest it. Maybe you might find it of interest, too?

Wonderful essay, Alamo-Girl! Thank you so very much!


145 posted on 12/14/2004 6:57:22 AM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Thank you so much for the encouragement! And thank you for the link! I'm looking forward to reading it.
146 posted on 12/14/2004 10:28:04 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop; StJacques; All
Thank you so much for that link! It was a fascinating read. Evidently, Rothschild was the first to coin the term "biosemiotics" and he obviously was addressing spiritual aspects as well as the biological aspects.

For Lurkers, here's some additional information on biosemiotics:

Biosemiotics

Biosemiotics Guide, Meaning , Facts, Information and Description

Biosemiotics (bios=life & semion=sign) is a growing field that studies the production, action and interpretation of signs in the physical and biologic realm, in an attempt to integrate the findings of scientific biology and semiotics to form a new view of life and meaning as immanent features of the natural world. The term "biosemiotic" was first used by F.S.Rothschild in 1962, but Thomas Sebeok has done much to popularize the term and field.

Thus, biosemiotics is

biology interpreted as sign systems

or, to use a few more words,

the signification, communication and habit formation of living processes

semiosis (changing sign relations) in living nature

the biological basis of all signs and sign interpretation

To define biosemiotics as “biology interpreted as sign systems” is to emphasize not only the close relation between biology as we know it (as a scientific field of inquiry) and semiotics (the study of signs), but primarily the profound change of perspective implied when life is considered not just from the perspectives of molecules and chemistry, but as signs conveyed and interpreted by other living signs in a variety of ways, including by means of molecules. In this sense, biosemiotics takes for granted and respects the complexity of living processes as revealed by the existing fields of biology - from molecular biology to brain science and behavioural studies - however, biosemiotics attempts to bring together separate findings of the various disciplines of biology (including evolutionary biology) into a new and more unified perspective on the central phenomena of the living world, including the generation of function and signification in living systems, from the ribosome to the ecosystem and from the beginnings of life to its ultimate meanings.

To sum it up wrt this discussion, biosemiosis is the sign - or symbolization (Pattee, Rocha); it is the language of the message in living systems.

The area of study differs from the approach of applying Claude Shannon's mathematical theory of communication (information theory) to molecular machines in that biosemiosis is focused on the symbolization of the message whereas the later is focused on the successful communication itself.

But when taken up by mathematicians the two directions of inquiry overlap:

information theory in molecular biology (Shannon approach taken by Schneider) looking to symbols

symbolization in biological systems (biosemiosis approach taken by Rocha) looking to successful communication).


147 posted on 12/14/2004 10:36:11 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: Alamo-Girl
A very useful post on biosemiotics Alamo-Girl.

I've just posted a reply to betty on the Plato thread and it took me about two hours to compose it, so I'm afraid I've used up my available "Freeper Minutes" for the day. I've got to turn in and get ready for another busy one tomorrow. I still owe you a reply on your earlier post and I'll need some more free time before I can get to it.
148 posted on 12/15/2004 12:04:01 AM PST by StJacques
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To: StJacques
Thank you so much for the kind words! I look forward to your reply on this thread, but please do not feel rushed. We shall be patient.
149 posted on 12/15/2004 7:59:53 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: StJacques; betty boop; PatrickHenry; tortoise; Doctor Stochastic; All
This is a reply post to a message on another thread which is also applicable to the discussion here:

Review of Yockey’s book, Information Theory and Molecular Biology (1st printing)

IMHO, this review illustrates the reviewer’s failure to understand the difference between the message and the communication of the message – as he ignores much to reduce the entire process to “decoding”. Most of his concerns center on his suspicion that Yockey is an intelligent design theorist or creationist.

On the handy side though, the webpage includes a graphic which illustrates and compares the Shannon communication model in normal engineering v biological systems (though he ignores both the communication and the rise of symbolization in his review).

Yockey responded to the above review in an email dated Nov 13, 2000:

Dear Gert:

Thank for your review of my book Information Theory and Molecular Biology. This book is now out of print but I am working on the second edition.

You seem puzzled by my quotations of the Bible. Please note that I also quote Robert Frost, Homer's Iliad, the Mikado, Charles Darwin, Machiavelli''s The Prince, Plato, The Rubaiyat and other sources. When something was said 2000 years ago, it is plagiarism to say it again without quotation.

It is a viscous circle indeed! (*) But that is what we find by experiment. We are the product of nature not its judge. As Hamlet said to his friend: "There are many things, Horatio, between Heaven and Earth unknown in your philosophy."

See Gregory Chaitin's books "The Limits of Mathematics",1998 and "The Unknowable",1999 both Springer-Verlag. See also my comments on unknowability in Epilogue. We will never know what caused the Big Bang and we will never know what caused life.

By the way, I am indeed an anti-creationist becaue I believe that the origin of life is, like the Big Bang, a part of nature but is unknowable to man.

Taken all in all, especially for those who finished reading the review, it is very favorable.

Here is a list of my recent publications. If you send me your postal address I shall send you the Computers & Chemistry paper. That will explain why the recent data on the genomes of human and other organisms provide a mathematical proof of "Darwinism" beyond a reasonable doubt. (**) I suggest you read the paper in Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. Perhaps you would then like to read some of Walther Löb's papers. Stanley Miller was not the first to find amino acids in the silent electrical discharge.

Yours very sincerely, Hubert P. Yockey

Yockey, Hubert P. (2000) "Origin Of Life On Earth and Shannon's Theory Of Communication", in: "Open Problems of computational molecular biology", Computers & Chemistry 24 issue 1 pp105-123 [This is an invited paper.]

Yockey, Hubert P. (1997) Walther Löb, Stanley L. Miller and "Prebiotic Building Blocks" in the Silent Electrical Discharge Perspectives. in: Biology and Medicine 41, Autumn pp1125-131.

Yockey, Hubert P. (1990) "When is random random?", Nature Vol 344 p823. (scientific correspondence).

A great source on the web (most of Yockey’s work is printed but not on the web) is: Biological Information Theory and Chowder Society

Here’s a helpful tidbit to get one’s “arms around” the question:

If someone says that information = uncertainty = entropy, then they are confused, or something was not stated that should have been. Those equalities lead to a contradiction, since entropy of a system increases as the system becomes more disordered. So information corresponds to disorder according to this confusion.

If you always take information to be a decrease in uncertainty at the receiver and you will get straightened out:

R = Hbefore - Hafter.

where H is the Shannon uncertainty:

H = - sum (from i = 1 to number of symbols) Pi log2 Pi (bits per symbol)

and Pi is the probability of the ith symbol. If you don't understand this, please refer to "Is There a Quick Introduction to Information Theory Somewhere?".

Imagine that we are in communication and that we have agreed on an alphabet. Before I send you a bunch of characters, you are uncertain (Hbefore) as to what I'm about to send. After you receive a character, your uncertainty goes down (to Hafter). Hafter is never zero because of noise in the communication system. Your decrease in uncertainty is the information (R) that you gain.

Since Hbefore and Hafter are state functions, this makes R a function of state. It allows you to lose information (it's called forgetting). You can put information into a computer and then remove it in a cycle.

Many of the statements in the early literature assumed a noiseless channel, so the uncertainty after receipt is zero (Hafter=0). This leads to the SPECIAL CASE where R = Hbefore. But Hbefore is NOT "the uncertainty", it is the uncertainty of the receiver BEFORE RECEIVING THE MESSAGE.

The post continues with an example in DNA binding sites.

And here is a message posted by Yockey on the Chowder Society in response to abiogenesis: Yockey #7

To: Brian D. Harper:

I have been lurking in this newsgroup for some time. You have understood my articles and my book. Congratulations. I directed the book to molecular biologists, applied mathematicians and theoretical physicists. It is nice to have someone from Applied Mechanics. Has there been any conversation about this at the faculty club?

"Your book gets discussed here every now and then. I am hoping that people will take this opportunity to pose their questions to the author himself, rather than get second-hand interpretations. I will list below what I feel are some of your more controversial views that should be of interest to this group. Please feel free to modify these if I mis-represent your views in any way ;-)"

You asked three questions:

a) the primeval soup probably never existed

b) even if it did, the various self-organizational schemes proposed to "explain" the origin of life still don't work

c) life must be accepted as an axiom

You get an A!

Response to a) The correct way to pose that statement is: There is no evidence that a primeval soup ever existed. If one looks for geological evidence that a primeval soup existed one comes up empty. See discussion in Information in Bits and Bytes in BioEssays v17 85-88 1995.

There is a more thorough discussion in Information Theory and Molecular Biology. Dialectical materialists are atheists. Their belief in a primeval soup without evidence puts them in bed with theologians. In science the "Absence of evidence IS evidence of absence." One does not believe unless and until one has overwhelming evidence. You will note of course that this is a twist from the usual declaration of faith by SETI disciples. Forgive me if I think this incongruous situation is very funny.

Response to b) All dialectical materialist origin of life scenarios require in extremis a primeval soup. There is no path from this mythical soup to the generation of a genome and a genetic code. John von Neumann showed that fact in his Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata U of Ill. Press 1966. One must begin with a genetic message of a rather large information content. Manfred Eigen and his disciples argue that all it takes is one self-catalytic molecule to generate a genome. This self-catalytic molecule must have a very small information content. By that token, there must be very few of them [Section 2.4.1] As they self-reproduce and evolve the descendants get lost in the enormous number of possible sequences in which the specific messages of biological are buried. From the Shannon-McMillan theorem I have shown that a small protein, cytochrome c is only 2 x 10^-44 of the possible sequences. It takes religious faith to believe that would happen. Of course the minimum information content of the simplest organism is much larger than the information content of cytochrome c.

c) Niels Bohr in his Light and Life [Nature 1933 v131 p421-423; 457-459] lecture is the author of the suggestion that life must be taken as an axiom inasmuch as we take the quantum of action in quantum theory as an axiom. There are many other examples in relativity and quantum mechanics. Prominent among these is the wave-particle dualism. How can an electron, clearly a matter particle, be at once a wave and a particle?

Pose this proposition to your enemies (not your friends): Given any two theories, an experiment will decide between them and prove one true and one false. This is the philosophy of Sir Karl Popper. When a physicist does an experiment to prove that an electron is a particle, it behaves as a particle. When another physicist does an experiment to show an electron is a wave, it behaves as a wave. In some diffraction experiments ray tracing shows the electron or neutron was in two places at once. Thus these experiments prove the wave-particle dualism. Einstein was extremely annoyed by this and suggested experiments to explain what he regarded as a dilemma. He exclaimed: Der lieber Gott wuerfelt nicht mit der Welt! Bohr's reply was: "Einstein, stop telling God what to do!"

Faced with what physicstis and chemists have had to accept from relativity and quantum mechanics, taking the origin of life as an axiom seems rather tame.

In the book I discussed other mathematically deeper questions, for example undecidability. Until the work of Goedel and Turing it was assummed that a mathematical proposition was either true of false. They proved that some questions are undecidable. For example, given any computer program it is undecidable whether it will ever stop. One can check it empirically. But suppose it doesn't stop in one year, no one can be sure it wouldn't stop in another five minutes. So it is with the origin of life.

The dialectical materialist lumpen-intelligentsia are extremely annoyed that God didn't take their advice when He made the universe.

Incidentially my suggestion that biologists follow particle physicsts in doing enormously expensive experiments was intended as a joke.

This is enough for now. Refer to what I have posted on other newsgroups. Best regards , Hubert


150 posted on 12/15/2004 9:22:21 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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