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Friday, January 23, 2015

Probability and the Problem of Life

Yesterday, I observed that most biologists and believers in evolution have a poor grasp of probability. In the subsequent discussion, the otherwise perspicacious wrf3 demonstrated that he is not entirely clear on the difference between math and philosophy, two fields it is rather important to distinguish between despite their occasional overlap:
If you're going to claim that the occurrence of low probability events is evidence of behind-the-scenes tampering in nature, then you're going to have to show how the math for that works without assuming your conclusion. Otherwise, you're a fraud.
That is incorrect and is is an indication of subscribing to the conventional fetish-myth of math. Logic does not require math or even any quantification. A correct syllogism holds true regardless of whether it contains any quantities or not.

Consider the following two syllogisms:
  1. All cats are named Tom.
  2. I have a cat.
  3. Therefore, my cat's name is Tom.
  1. Mike is shorter than Alan.
  2. Zeke shorter than Mike.
  3. Therefore, Alan is taller than Zeke.
Both syllogisms are impeccably correct, without having any need to show how the math for them works. Sure, in the case of the latter we could treat the names as variables, retroactively assign some quantities to them, and thereby confirm the correctness of the logic with math, but that would be redundant. It's not necessary. We already know that the syllogism is correct because its logical construction is correct. The conclusion follows correctly from the propositions.

Here is the relevant syllogism:
  1. No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.
  2. A low-probability event has taken place.
  3. Therefore, nature was tampered in.
There is nothing fraudulent about that. There is no need for any math, or even any precise measurement of how low the relevant probability is in order to correctly conclude that nature has, in fact, been tampered in. Indeed, that is the only possible conclusion that is dictated by the logic.

Now, one can argue either of the first two propositions. One can claim either a) a low-probability event has been observed to take pace without tampering in nature or b) a low-probability event has NOT taken place to reject the conclusion. Only in the case of evolution, argument b) cannot possibly apply. We are here, after all.

 This leaves argument a) a low-probability event has been observed to take pace without tampering in nature. Very well. That is the only correct objection to the argument, so the burden thus falls on wrf3 or anyone who wishes to argue that there has not been any tampering with nature, be it Divine, divine, or merely alien, in the origin of the various species. I do hope no one is so haplessly midwitted that they fall into the obvious and incorrect trap for the intellectually careless here.

Furthermore, for the stubbornly pedantic, I will note that impossible is NOT a synonym for zero probability. Yesterday's pedantry was not only foolish and irrelevant, it was technically incorrect and didn't even rise to the level of Wikipedia.
Imagine throwing a dart at a unit square (i.e. a square with area 1) wherein the dart will impact exactly one point, and imagine that this square is the only thing in the universe besides the dart and the thrower. There is physically nowhere else for the dart to land. Then, the event that "the dart hits the square" is a sure event. No other alternative is imaginable.

Now, notice that since the square has area 1, the probability that the dart will hit any particular sub-region of the square equals the area of that sub-region. For example, the probability that the dart will hit the right half of the square is 0.5, since the right half has area 0.5.

Next, consider the event that "the dart hits the diagonal of the unit square exactly". Since the area of the diagonal of the square is zero, the probability that the dart lands exactly on the diagonal is zero. So, the dart will almost never land on the diagonal (i.e. it will almost surely not land on the diagonal). Nonetheless the set of points on the diagonal is not empty and a point on the diagonal is no less possible than any other point, therefore theoretically it is possible that the dart actually hits the diagonal.

The same may be said of any point on the square. Any such point P will contain zero area and so will have zero probability of being hit by the dart. However, the dart clearly must hit the square somewhere. Therefore, in this case, it is not only possible or imaginable that an event with zero probability will occur; one must occur. Thus, we would not want to say we were certain that a given event would not occur, but rather almost certain.
Or to put it another way: "Consider selecting a point x from the uniform distribution with p.d.f. f over the unit circle D. P(x = r) = \int_{\{r\}}f = 0 for all r in D. However, clearly x is in D."

In other words, quibbling over the difference between impossible and very highly improbable is totally pointless, because the sufficiently intelligent can also manage to do so over the difference between impossible and zero probability. It's all beside the point anyhow, as the aforementioned logical syllogism should suffice to demonstrate.

Now, one can, if one wishes, attempt to quibble over the precise level of probability that defines "low-probability event", but here it suffices to cite Borel's Law of Chance (which is actually more of a Heuristic of Chance) that states: "Phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur". However, Borel also directly addressed the Problem of Life directly in Probability and Certainty, p. 124-126:
The Problem of Life.

In conclusion, I feel it is necessary to say a few words regarding a question that does not really come within the scope of this book, but that certain readers might nevertheless reproach me for having entirely neglected. I mean the problem of the appearance of life on our planet (and eventually on other planets in the universe) and the probability that this appearance may have been due to chance. If this problem seems to me to lie outside our subject, this is because the probability in question is too complex for us to be able to calculate its order of magnitude. It is on this point that I wish to make several explanatory comments.

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

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

Moreover, certain of these properties of living matter also belong to inanimate matter, when it takes certain forms, such as that of crystals. It does not seem possible to apply the laws of probability calculus to the phenomenon of the formation of a crystal in a more or less supersaturated solution. At least, it would not be possible to treat this as a problem of probability without taking account of certain properties of matter, properties that facilitate the formation of crystals and that we are certainly obliged to verify. We ought, it seems to me, to consider it likely that the formation of elementary living organisms, and the evolution of those organisms, are also governed by elementary properties of matter that we do not understand perfectly but whose existence we ought nevertheless admit.
This is often cited as evidence that it is not possible to apply the laws of probability calculus to the question of evolution. John Stockwell wrote: "In short, Borel says what many a talk.origins poster has said time and time again when confronted with such creationist arguments: namely, that probability estimates that ignore the non-random elements predetermined by physics and chemistry are meaningless."

However, the elementary properties of matter that Émile Borel, who died in 1956, did not understand are better understood today. We now know that the probability of the beneficial mutations required for the theory of natural selection are very low; we have also observed that the number of generations needed for even fairly small selective changes to spread across a population are too great to fit the timescales required. So, Borel's arguments for the inapplicability of probability calculus to the problem of life is outdated, leaving us with one more logical construction to consider.
  1. The Law of Chance states that phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur
  2. We do not understand the elementary properties of matter that govern the formation of elementary living organisms and the evolution of those organisms. 
  3. Therefore, we cannot apply the Law of Chance to the Problem of Life.
That may have been true in the 1950s. But in 2015, we possess considerably more information and we sufficiently understand those elementary properties of matter in order to estimate enough of the probabilities concerned to characterize them as "very small". This falsifies proposition two, leaving us with the inescapable conclusion that the Law of Chance does apply to the Problem of Life, and therefore evolution by natural selection has not occurred. Which then brings us back to the original point and forces us to conclude that if evolution has taken place, it is the result of artificial selection.

Labels:

159 Comments:

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 5:43 AM  

That's a pretty low sophistication ID argument and somewhat conflated abiogenisis and evolution.

Also: "The Law of Chance states that phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur"

No - they occur with the frequency assigned by their probability. You can try for a more complicated UPB argument,if you'd like/





Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 5:55 AM  

That's a pretty low sophistication ID argument and somewhat conflated abiogenisis and evolution.

The Problem of Life intrinsically comprises both abiogenesis and evolution, among other things. You cannot rationally distinguish the two in this regard.

Your statement is also factually incorrect. Borel's Law of Chance most certainly states that phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur. Take it up with Borel if you disagree. The only lack of sophistication being shown here is your own; you're engaging in precisely the same pedantry that I've already shown to be both foolish and irrelevant.

You're making the rhetorical mistake of talking about the argument rather than addressing it. The logical syllogisms are there. Can you show them to be incorrect? If so, then do it. If not, then admit you can't. Babbling about their sophistication is pure rhetorical cant.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 23, 2015 5:56 AM  

The Law of Chance states that phenomena with very small probabilities do not occur

And yet Seattle came back to beat Green Bay last Sunday.

The relevant syllogism here is as follows:
No low-probability event has been observed to take pace without tampering in nature.
A low-probability event has taken place.
Therefore, nature was tampered with.


Not to be the skunk at the garden party, but all someone has to do is add the word "yet" to #1 and the syllogism is broken. A Royal Flush is a rare event, but just because after dealling 1000 hands you haven't seen one doesn't mean dealing one on the 1001st hand is the result of tampering. And if it did happen on the 1001st hand, dealing another 1000 hands without another one wouldn't be proof someone had rigged the deck on that one exceptional hand either.

I really don't understand why anyone bothers with that quack Dembski and his Quixotic attempts to confuse zero with almost zero and to misunderstand thermodynamics. An honest question for those who support him: why? What does he add to what you already know through faith?

OpenID simplytimothy January 23, 2015 6:02 AM  

Thank you for the very informative and enjoyable read.

I have never encountered the distinction between zero probability and impossibility; thank you for that.






Anonymous grey enlightenment January 23, 2015 6:04 AM  

I know and do not know

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 6:05 AM  

Do you agree that an event with odds of 1/X happens on average once every X times? because that is my position. Now you can take a UPB of say 10^120 and argue the universe doesn't have enough probabilistic resources (time / size / plank interactions) for a specific thing, but this is a more sophisticated argument than you proffer. The odds of any specific configuration of 2 decks of shuffle cards is 104!, which is about 10^166 so outside the UPB .. . and yet I just shuffled them. It turns out that P(H|T) is the critical calculation: http://theskepticalzone.com/wp/?p=2592

Blogger Eric I. Gatera. January 23, 2015 6:06 AM  

I don't know if it is by chance or by design that i read this article just before i see VD post, but it is considerably similar in the sense that it strengthen the view that in 2015 we have a much better grasp about the elementary properties that constitute life:

http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/01/biologic_instit_1092941.html

Anonymous Gleiw January 23, 2015 6:10 AM  

Despite the name, Borel's Law is not a physical law or even a mathematical theorem. It's a rule of thumb for constructing models, more specifically for deciding which events can be safely neglected in a particular problem.

Here's what Borel himself says about how it relates to the problem of life, in his "Probability and Certainty":

"In conclusion, I feel it is necessary to say a few words regarding a question that does not really come within the scope of this book, but that certain readers might nevertheless reproach me for having entirely neglected. I mean the problem of the appearance of life on our planet (and eventually on other planets in the universe) and the probability that this appearance may have been due to chance. If this problem seems to me to lie outside our subject, this is because the probability in question is too complex for us to be able to calculate its order of magnitude. It is on this point that I wish to make several explanatory comments.

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

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

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

Similar observations could be made regarding possible attempts to apply the probability calculus to cosmogonical problems. In this field, too, it does not seem that the conclusions we have could really be of great assistance."

Anonymous jack January 23, 2015 6:14 AM  

I love this blog....
Its so a low probability event to find this sort of discussion at a SJW/Pink/gamma/left wingnut blog. VERY low probability.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:19 AM  

And yet Seattle came back to beat Green Bay last Sunday.

That was a 3.9 percent chance, if I recall correctly. That's a dead certainty compared with the improbabilities we're discussing here.

Not to be the skunk at the garden party, but all someone has to do is add the word "yet" to #1 and the syllogism is broken.

That doesn't break it. A low-probability event still actually has to be observed to take place in order to break it.

A Royal Flush is a rare event, but just because after dealling 1000 hands you haven't seen one doesn't mean dealing one on the 1001st hand is the result of tampering.

True. But because the odds of a royal flush being dealt is 1/649,740, seeing 10 in 1,000 hands would be an indication of tampering. Your understanding of the issue here is backwards. What we're seeing here is royal flush after royal flush being dealt and the evolutionists insisting that the automatic dealer is legitimate.

Do you agree that an event with odds of 1/X happens on average once every X times?

Of course.

The odds of any specific configuration of 2 decks of shuffle cards is 104!, which is about 10^166 so outside the UPB .. . and yet I just shuffled them.

That argument isn't more sophisticated, it's irrelevant. Your construction is absurd. You just proved that a probability of 1 is certain. Yes, you shuffled the cards and... they came out in an specific order.

To be relevant, you'd have to shuffle them twice and have them come out IN THE SAME order. And what we're talking about is more akin to shuffling them hundreds, or thousands of times and having the deck come out in the same order every time. Multiplying the improbabilities into one vast improbability is not helping your case.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:22 AM  

Despite the name, Borel's Law is not a physical law or even a mathematical theorem. It's a rule of thumb for constructing models, more specifically for deciding which events can be safely neglected in a particular problem.

Try reading the entire post before you comment next time, moron. You not only copied what I quoted, you took it from the exact same web page. All you did was repeat what I already rebutted.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 6:27 AM  

Ah, the irony of "I observed that most biologists and believers in evolution have a poor grasp of probability."

The odds of any single configuration of shuffles cards is 104!

This is a statistical fact.

Now you may be concerned with "winning hands", which would be good (you are of course fixated on a specific winning hand). You're very late to the party and we finished the appetizers a long time ago. P(H|T).

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:30 AM  

Richard, to summarize, there is nothing even REMOTELY sophisticated about saying "it had to happen sometime, why not now?" That's all your entire argument boils down to: multiplying all the probabilities into one, then appealing to the luck of the draw.

Anonymous Gleiw January 23, 2015 6:34 AM  

@VD

I apologize. The post being rather longer than most on this blog I assumed the part displayed on the main page (ending as it does prior to the quotation and its discussion) is the entirety of it. By force of habit I went through the link going straight to the comments from the main page, and only found Borel's law mentioned there.

Again, sorry for that. I'll try to be more conscientious in the future.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 6:36 AM  

Not really. You're just late and uniformed. It is more of a search space argument than a raw probability argument. Enumerating the respective steps and processes is difficult but bright minds are trying. You, of course, have offered no numbers - and you'll need some if you want your argument from incredulity to be a probabilistic argument.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:37 AM  

The odds of any single configuration of shuffles cards is 104!

Yes.

This is a statistical fact.

Yes.

Now you may be concerned with "winning hands", which would be good (you are of course fixated on a specific winning hand).

No, I'm concerned with a series of specific sequences. And it is precisely because I am, as you say, "late to the party" that I can observe that the relevant facts have changed since 1963 and some parties are citing outdated reasoning.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 6:39 AM  

How many ways could 'life' (not necessarily this life and its associated substrates and systems) come about? Please show your workings.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:44 AM  

Not really. You're just late and uniformed. It is more of a search space argument than a raw probability argument. Enumerating the respective steps and processes is difficult but bright minds are trying. You, of course, have offered no numbers - and you'll need some if you want your argument from incredulity to be a probabilistic argument.

More rhetorical cant. You're in over your head and hand-waving, Richard. You haven't even tried to address the logic, all you've done is present your own argument from credulity. "Why not now?" is all you've offered. You haven't even managed to defend against the revival of the Law of Chance.

And you're evading the fact that you are conflating multiple events into a single one just so you can point to the 1 in "1/Very Large Number". Why? Because it sounds vaguely less ridiculous.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 6:48 AM  

Bless. You're lost. You're trying to make a probabilistic argument without using any numbers. This must be some new age "emotional math" I'm not used to. Have fun with it.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:49 AM  

How many ways could 'life' (not necessarily this life and its associated substrates and systems) come about? Please show your workings.

We don't know because we don't have a sufficient definition of "life". And drop the "please show your workings" nonsense. You're dealing with me here, not some evasive rabbit. You know perfectly well I'm not afraid to answer your questions directly.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:51 AM  

Bless. You're lost. You're trying to make a probabilistic argument without using any numbers. This must be some new age "emotional math" I'm not used to. Have fun with it.

No, Richard, as I said, you are in over your head. As I pointed out from the beginning, MATH IS NOT RELEVANT. This is not a probabilistic argument, it is a LOGICAL argument. Hence the bits about the syllogisms. You've already conceded the only aspects necessary.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 6:54 AM  

This feels exactly like talking to a programmer. They are always locked in on a specific tree, with no absolutely no conception of the forest.

But it is certainly fascinating to see how an atheist goes about arguing against an appeal to incredulity.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 7:00 AM  

"No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature."

Well my cards were very low probability, but I suppose you could argue I was the tamperer. So let's just say the a specific configuration of an asteroid field. almost anything specific with a sufficient long description is highly improbable. And yet we see them all over the place. Improbability is not enough, you need specification.



Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 7:08 AM  

So let's just say the a specific configuration of an asteroid field. almost anything specific with a sufficient long description is highly improbable. And yet we see them all over the place.

You're still making the same mistake. I'm not saying that you are the tamperer. You don't seem to understand that it is the specificity that produces the improbability. The asteroid field doesn't work because we have not observed it. You don't know that there wasn't tampering, that every asteroid wasn't hand-carved and lovingly placed. You are begging the question.

You keep pointing to the existence of a shuffled deck and calling it improbable. It's not. A result HAD to happen. But you're right to start bringing specification into it.

Shuffle, deal, and observe the results. Now shuffle again, deal again, and achieve the precise same order. Now you've observed a low-probability event. Now you've falsified the syllogism. You're cutting out a necessary step.

Anonymous Richardthughes January 23, 2015 7:14 AM  

How many possible configurations (naturally) of an asteroid field are there?
So what are the odds of a specifi configuration?
Is it 1/ the first number?
Is that a tiny number?
Does that make it impossible without non natural intervention?

Now with life, *you're* talking about 'the life we know'. We don't know how many types of or pathways to to life their might be.

Alrighty, I'm off to bed. As always, no hard feelings.

Blogger Outlaw X January 23, 2015 7:26 AM  


All cats are named Tom.
I have a cat.
Therefore, my cat's name is Tom.


Here you have stated an axiom. in the set of cats all are named Tom therefore it is axiomatic that any thing (cats) is in that set and is named Tom and is math as in axiomatic theory. We can therefore prove the cat is named Tom.


No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.
A low-probability event has taken place.
Therefore, nature was tampered in.


Here you have defined a conditional set and in doing so it is not axiomatic that a set of non observed low probability events are part of the mentioned observed set and therefore false. It's math.

Blogger James Higham January 23, 2015 7:28 AM  

I don't even bother with all that, Vox. If proof be metaphysically delivered, then let it be so. I'll not waste my breath arguing it out.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 7:32 AM  

How many possible configurations (naturally) of an asteroid field are there?
So what are the odds of a specifi configuration?
Is it 1/ the first number?
Is that a tiny number?
Does that make it impossible without non natural intervention?


Don't know. Don't know. In some unknown configuration, yes. Presumably. According to the Law of Chance, yes.

Besides, you know perfectly well that the asteroid fields were produced by a non-natural intervention. The Minervans blew up the planet after the Jevlenese arrived from the future through the space-time wormhole.

As always, no hard feelings.

(laughs) Of course not.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 7:44 AM  

Vox wrote: wrf3 demonstrated that he is not entirely clear on the difference between math and philosophy,

One uses odd symbols and arcane symbols in ways that suggest rigor is a fleeting concern. The other is math.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 7:48 AM  

Vox wrote: Both syllogisms are impeccably correct, without having any need to show how the math for them works.

Only because the proof is readily available/easily reproducible. It's no different than paint-by-numbers kits or CNC manufacturing. Someone else has done the real work.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 8:06 AM  

Vox wrote: so the burden thus falls on wrf3 or anyone who wishes to argue that there has not been any tampering with nature

And you just moved the goalposts. You just switched the burden of proof from the person who was trying to make an argument to the person who was objecting to the argument.

In case you've forgotten, the conversation went like this:

DT [January 22, 2015 4:53 PM]: No one would ever accept that such a thing could be random.

wrf3: At what point in a random sequence does one does teleology creep in? If I flip a fair coin and it comes up heads twice, is that really rigged? How about 10 heads in a row? How about 1,000?

Crude: So you mean you have no clue how to tell when something 'behind the scenes' ever takes place?

wrf3: It depends on the stage. Without assuming what you're trying to prove (i.e. by anthropomorphizing nature), provide a mathematical formula that shows when a particular apparently random sequence actually isn't random. For example, given a fair coin, at what point can everyone definitely call shenanigans? After 5 heads in a row? 500? 5,000? When?

I'm still waiting for the answer to that. Everything else, including this post, is just hand-waving and hominid shrieking.

(I now see that Soga made an interesting reply at January 23, 2015 12:13 AM. He's on the right track. The TL;DR version: "people see what they want to see" or, the engineering version, "GIGO". Here, it's "improbable things happen" vs. "improbable things can't happen without tampering." Pick your poison, but be up front about what your poison is. Don't you dare hide your assumption(s), provide a proof, and then expect everyone to be amazed at your erudition when it's found that all you did was assume your conclusion).

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 8:14 AM  

And you just moved the goalposts. You just switched the burden of proof from the person who was trying to make an argument to the person who was objecting to the argument.

I didn't move any goalposts. I didn't pay much attention to your discussion with Crude, I simply noted the obviously false nature of your claims.

Everything else, including this post, is just hand-waving and hominid shrieking.

As is this. For all your love of mathematical precision, you are incredibly sloppy when you get outside of that. Your lack of respect for philosophical logic is not commendable; Aristotle did not use symbols.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 8:20 AM  

Vox wrote: Here is the relevant syllogism:
No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.


I mentioned this parenthetically in my previous post, but I want to isolate what the core issue is. The basis for the syllogism assumes that low probability events are evidence of tampering. As I said, it boils down to:

a) improbable things happen, or
b) improbable things can't happen without tampering.

I'd like a more rigorous explanation for b). After how many events does teleology creep in?

Blogger Salt January 23, 2015 8:25 AM  

the distinction between zero probability and impossibility

The distinction seems obvious as one leaves the door open for some yet potential other than zero (no matter the current calculated odds are zero itself) while the other slams it shut. Reading what's posted above on Borel's Law of Chance it would seem our appearance broke the greatest odds of non-happening in the Universe.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 8:25 AM  

Vox wrote: Aristotle did not use symbols

Words are symbols.

you are incredibly sloppy when you get outside of that

And yet, I'm the one asking for a bit of rigor. How droll.

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 8:27 AM  

"Words are symbols."

/facepalm

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 8:34 AM  

>That's all your entire argument boils down to: multiplying all the probabilities into one, then appealing to the luck of the draw.

Heart of the cards.

I want a probability book that takes all its playing card examples from Yu-Gi-Oh!

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 8:37 AM  

I'm assuming someone has previously pointed out that this is exactly the opposite of correct:

Next, consider the event that "the dart hits the diagonal of the unit square exactly". Since the area of the diagonal of the square is zero, the probability that the dart lands exactly on the diagonal is zero. So, the dart will almost never land on the diagonal (i.e. it will almost surely not land on the diagonal). Nonetheless the set of points on the diagonal is not empty and a point on the diagonal is no less possible than any other point, therefore theoretically it is possible that the dart actually hits the diagonal.

The same may be said of any point on the square. Any such point P will contain zero area and so will have zero probability of being hit by the dart. However, the dart clearly must hit the square somewhere. Therefore, in this case, it is not only possible or imaginable that an event with zero probability will occur; one must occur. Thus, we would not want to say we were certain that a given event would not occur, but rather almost certain.


If not, I can throw together a quick explanation.

OpenID cailcorishev January 23, 2015 8:39 AM  

No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.

Isn't the popularity of the many-worlds concept an attempt to short-circuit this? If there are infinite or near infinite universes, then even a very low probability event was likely, even certain, to happen in one of them. And since we are alive in this universe, this is the one it happened in.

To me, that's really no better than "a wizard did it" without some evidence of all these other universes. You're still left with a "cause" that can't be shown. But that's how I've seen people handwave the probability problem.

Anonymous Alexander January 23, 2015 8:43 AM  

The number "3" is also a symbol.
Therefore, math is sloppy and rigor is a fleeting concern.

Anonymous Alexander January 23, 2015 8:45 AM  

Cail,

Yes, that's exactly what it is. Given that there's not enough time in our own universe... WELL IF THERE ARE INFINITE UNIVERSES then there is infinite time and it has to happen *somewhere*.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 8:46 AM  

Outlaw X,

Here you have defined a conditional set and in doing so it is not axiomatic that a set of non observed low probability events are part of the mentioned observed set and therefore false. It's math.

This is incorrect. Observe:

No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.
A low-probability event has taken place.
Therefore, nature was tampered in.


In symbolic notation:

not P if not Q
P
therefore Q


Where

P = low-probability event has occurred
Q = tampering in nature

Anonymous Bottled Nixon January 23, 2015 8:58 AM  

Go for it, think the audience would benefit from an explanation.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 8:58 AM  

For all this talk about how a probabilistic argument requires numbers and arithmetic (it doesn't), I have not seen anything approaching even the first stages of such an argument. I'm almost tempted to make one...thankfully I'm currently drinking coffee and not booze.

Maybe I'll come back tonight and aspie all over the thread.

Anonymous Bottled Nixon January 23, 2015 9:02 AM  

It does seem like there's an argument about where to draw the line between "improbable things happen" and "improbable things can't happen without tampering," and that's where all the probability and math talk is coming from.

Anonymous Soga January 23, 2015 9:08 AM  

Aeoli, I also thought the dart problem was incorrectly constructed. It's making a logically incoherent statement about landing an object in realspace onto an abstract space. A better way to phrase the problem would have been to ask about the probability of a dart of a given size to land on any points such that the dart intersects the diagonal of the dartboard. That's a realspace object + realspace problem there. A proof could be composed using calculus.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 9:11 AM  

a) improbable things happen, or
b) improbable things can't happen without tampering.

I'd like a more rigorous explanation for b). After how many events does teleology creep in?


b) is incorrect. It should be "improbable things don't happen without tampering". They can, but the observably DON'T.

After how many events? There is no hard and fast rule, but two occurrences of a 1 in a million probability are probably sufficient to trigger the average man's BS radar and three sufficient to convince him beyond any shadow of a doubt. Tell us what your trigger is:

You're playing poker. The machine deals. Your opponent takes no cards and puts down four aces. Second hand, same thing. Third hand, same thing. How many hands do you play before you suspect there is something wrong with the machine?

First hand is 1 in 4,165. I'd buy it. Second hand is 1 in 17,347,225. No way. Third is 1 in 72,251,192,125. What sort of idiot still thinks it is pure chance?

So, somewhere between 1/649,720 (odds against royal flush) and 1/17,347,225 would be my limit of credulity.

Blogger Salt January 23, 2015 9:13 AM  

The problem I see with Outlaw's conditional set is he's assuming there is an observed set which there isn't. Given zero probability and Borel, only by tampering might an observed set exist.

Anonymous PhillipGeorge©2015 January 23, 2015 9:14 AM  

Just make one protein in a laboratory using inorganic processes.
See, with trillions of dollars at stake no genius is anywhere within light years of synthetic food.
It's just not on the 'reality' table for even mental consumption.

Fools will be fools will be fools. And I'm looking forward to every knee bending. Every proud tongue struck dumb.



Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 9:30 AM  

"
Fools will be fools will be fools. And I'm looking forward to every knee bending. Every proud tongue struck dumb.
"

One of the things I am looking forward to... is that when it is all revealed... all the crying "Wait we understand now! it makes sense! if you'd only explained it better we'd have believed!"

Anonymous Tom B January 23, 2015 9:31 AM  

That is a damn near irrefutable defense, Vox. The only push back I could see coming would be an appeal to cosmology/ multiple universes, which is a lame way to introduce infinite regression into the argument (and thus infinite chances to get the right conditions into play) and i don't think that would hold up under scrutiny. Do you think maybe this is what Dennett was setting the stage for in his appeal to authority (Trust biologists because physicists get so much right)?

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 9:32 AM  

Go for it, think the audience would benefit from an explanation.

You all heard him folks. I can't be blamed for what happens next. :-P

Next, consider the event that "the dart hits the diagonal of the unit square exactly". Since the area of the diagonal of the square is zero, the probability that the dart lands exactly on the diagonal is zero. So, the dart will almost never land on the diagonal (i.e. it will almost surely not land on the diagonal). Nonetheless the set of points on the diagonal is not empty and a point on the diagonal is no less possible than any other point, therefore theoretically it is possible that the dart actually hits the diagonal.

The same may be said of any point on the square. Any such point P will contain zero area and so will have zero probability of being hit by the dart. However, the dart clearly must hit the square somewhere. Therefore, in this case, it is not only possible or imaginable that an event with zero probability will occur; one must occur. Thus, we would not want to say we were certain that a given event would not occur, but rather almost certain.


In more or less layman's terms, the quote above is incorrect because you can't divide a point by an area and come up with a dimensionless ratio between 0 and 1. Probabilities of events must be expressed as dimensionless ratios between 0 and 1, like 0.5 or 1/3. They can also be expressed as "percents", but only because per cent literally translates to "divided by one hundred". This is read as P(X) = 0.3, or the event X will probably occur three times out of ten experiments.

In the ideal case where the dart's point has no area (it is a 1-D point), it is only coherent to talk about the probability of the event of this dart landing within a certain sub-area of the unit square, because this would be dividing an area by an area to yield a dimensionless ratio. Dividing a line by an area yields something, but it isn't a ratio and therefore not a probability of an event. If the dart's point is not actually a point but has an area...which isn't what we were talking about, I'm just heading off an expected tangent of discussion...then we're actually talking about the probability that this area will cover a point on a line. This would yield a real probability because we'd be dividing an area by an area again.

Blogger njartist January 23, 2015 9:32 AM  

O.T. Another one Breitbarted: does any one know what the probability of this was?
Anti Government Filmmaker and Family Found Murdered.

We are being told it was a murder/suicide.
I guess the little daughter was in a depressive state./s

Anonymous Stephen J. January 23, 2015 9:32 AM  

"And what we're talking about is more akin to shuffling them hundreds, or thousands of times and having the deck come out in the same order every time."

Actually, that isn't quite fair to the analogy. It's more like shuffling a deck thousands of times and dealing out a sample set of poker hands each time; if you observe that in the vast majority of those rounds, one hand will be highest, and that the higher a given hand the more likely the player holding it is to win that round, that does not make the actual shuffling of the cards any less random.

(Now if you actually played those rounds out and observed that one *player* consistently tended to win, despite not consistently getting the highest hands, then there might be reason to suspect additional interventionary factors. If you played those rounds out and one player *always* won even when he had the *lowest* hands on initial dealing, then there would be reason to suspect disruptive interventionary factors (i.e. cheating). But the simple fact that a random input, when subjected to consistent rules, produces patterns of output that are predictable, within limits, does not mean the input is not random or that the rules originate from conscious intervention.)

Blogger Troy Lee Messer January 23, 2015 9:42 AM  

Logic does not require math.

I stopped reading here. First, let me say I am a big fan. But this is /facepalm stuff. Logic IS math. Logic is binary math. It is the very reason you are reading this on your screen because your computer uses logic circuits, binary math.

If I recall my logic class. Syllogisms are based on boolean logic (read: binary math) truth tables. So yeah, you don't need logic because the logic has already been done. for you.

RE: Evolution

All evolution says is that species change. That's it. It's called speciation. And it has been witnessed. Now where species came from, sure that's up to debate. Where species are going, sure that's up for debate.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 9:42 AM  

The problem I see with Outlaw's conditional set is he's assuming there is an observed set which there isn't. Given zero probability and Borel, only by tampering might an observed set exist.

No, the problem is that Outlaw X is confusing the validity of Vox's syllogism with its soundness. The syllogism is valid, pure and simple. Whether it's sound is another matter entirely, and depends on the soundness of the premises. The soundness of the premises, in turn, will depend on each of us making a "weight of evidence" type of judgment. This is where probability comes in- being the art and science of quantifying uncertainty due to our particular state of knowledge vs. ignorance- but again it has nothing to do with the validity of the syllogism.

OpenID zippycatholic January 23, 2015 9:45 AM  

Good post. An example of one of these never-observed low probability events is the production of a wholly new kind of protein with a new function (or even with no function); that is, a random polypeptide chain folding into a stable native state:

https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2006/04/21/translation/

Anonymous Stephen J. January 23, 2015 9:46 AM  

"It should be "improbable things don't happen without tampering". They can, but they observably DON'T."

If they aren't observed to happen then how can one meaningfully say that they "can" happen?

I myself am not an evolutionary materialist, but it seems to me the only way to disprove the assertion "The random chance sequences of physical chemical events is capable of explaining both the existence of life and observed biological complexity in the known time of the universe's life span so far, without assuming purposeful intervention" is to say that the possibility of random chance explaining it is zero, and I see no way to prove this.

Put another way, as long as the possibility of random origin is not absolutely zero, and (so assumes the evolutionary materialist) the possibility of purposeful intervention is zero -- or more strictly cannot be assumed to be non-zero in order to satisfy the requirements of empiricism -- then the materialist is still playing the odds, as he understands them.

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 9:48 AM  

"I stopped reading here. First, let me say I am a big fan. But this is /facepalm stuff. Logic IS math. Logic is binary math. It is the very reason you are reading this on your screen because your computer uses logic circuits, binary math."

No.

Logic is the basis for math. Not the other way around.

Blogger IM2L844 January 23, 2015 9:52 AM  

By a preponderance of the evidence, on a balance of probabilities, I think there is more than a 50% chance that a Creator God exists and has tampered with the material world. Conversely, I think there is less than a 50% chance that the propositions of macroevolution are true. All pedantry aside, that's all I need.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 10:01 AM  

Vox wrote: b) is incorrect. It should be "improbable things don't happen without tampering". They can, but the observably DON'T.

Well, one might ask how you know they don't since the likelihood of them happening when someone is looking is small. But, it isn't worth arguing about here.

There is no hard and fast rule ...

Great. That's the point I was hoping you would get to. Since there is no hard and fast rule, can we consider that something else might be going on? Specifically, that we aren't being objective with the evidence? There are three types of brains: brains that see teleology behind events in nature, brains that see teleology but suppress it, and brains that don't see teleology at all.

Just as you have rabbit brains and wolf brains, and all of the fun interactions between the two, what we're seeing here is "teleological" brains vs. "~teleological" brains. One side goes, "it's RED! Can't you see it?" The other side goes, "it's BLUE you idiot. Are you blind?" Then someone asks, "what's the wavelength?" "Well, we can't measure it, exactly, but it's clear that it's RED." "Oh, not this again. It's BLUE you bleeding wanker." Ad infinitum.

In support of this, see 1, 2, and the practical outcome in a dialog with one of our "favorite" atheists, John Loftus.



Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 10:01 AM  

Logic IS math.

As Nate already mentioned, you have it backwards. Math is a form of logic.

All evolution says is that species change. That's it. It's called speciation. And it has been witnessed.

Evolution doesn't say anything at all. Nor is speciation the limit of the theory. You may recall that the landmark work addresses "the origin" of the species, and the probability aspect involves considerably more than mere speciation.

Put another way, as long as the possibility of random origin is not absolutely zero, and (so assumes the evolutionary materialist) the possibility of purposeful intervention is zero -- or more strictly cannot be assumed to be non-zero in order to satisfy the requirements of empiricism -- then the materialist is still playing the odds, as he understands them.

Sure. And we can flip that around and prove that God created Oreos the same way. But no one would take it seriously that way, and no one should take such question-begging seriously the other way either. They can, and will do it. And we will laugh at them.

Syllogisms are based on boolean logic (read: binary math) truth tables. So yeah, you don't need logic because the logic has already been done. for you.

This is like claiming that because the King James Bible is written in English, the original scriptures were not written in Hebrew. Syllogisms are not based on boolean logic. They preceded boolean logic by more than 2,000 years; the term was first coined in 1913.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 10:05 AM  

I stopped reading here. First, let me say I am a big fan. But this is /facepalm stuff. Logic IS math. Logic is binary math. It is the very reason you are reading this on your screen because your computer uses logic circuits, binary math.

This is a common mistake amongst math-y types. I believed it myself, once upon a time. I'll try to illustrate your error somewhat. What follows will be extremely difficult for materialists to follow unless they can let go of their prejudiced ideas about how ideas are merely arrangements of atoms.

Math is built from logic. However, logic is not built from math. It is merely a wonderful happenstance that we live in a predictable and causal material universe in which we are able to build computation devices that imitate logic, and therefore math. But even if we didn't live in a causal universe, where logic gates could be built from transistors or clever mechanical arrangements, there would still be such things as logic and math, and math would still be derivative from logic.

This is because the laws of logic are beheld by the mind. The ideal NAND gate is not a specific device sitting on a shelf, or even the collection of all such existing devices, it is an idea like an architect's blueprint. If we took all the NAND gates in the world and threw them into the sun, the logical idea of NAND would still exist.

Computers do not have minds. If I give you a logic gate and tell you it's a NAND gate, you'd better test it and see if I'm lying, because the computer won't look at the truth table and say "huh, that's weird". Only humans (and, technically, other mind-bearing meatbrains) can do this. If you printed out a truth table that was all zeros, you wouldn't say "OMG, the laws of logic have changed!" You would, instead, conclude reasonably that the logic gate is a bad NAND gate. It has failed to imitate the ideal NAND gate.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 10:05 AM  

Since there is no hard and fast rule, can we consider that something else might be going on? Specifically, that we aren't being objective with the evidence?

Not really. I mean, people will make absurd claims about their beliefs, but I don't care how ~teleological you are, at some point you're going to walk away from the poker table if the other guy keeps drawing four aces every hand. It's one thing to make stupid claims about numbers you don't really grasp. It's another thing to sit there like an idiot watching a guy deal himself aces.

I certain we could design a simple experiment to work out the exact average number you are seeking. You didn't answer my question, though. At what point would YOU walk away?

After one hand, after two hands, after three hands, or more? There is your answer.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 10:07 AM  

“This feels exactly like talking to a programmer. They are always locked in on a specific tree, with no absolutely no conception of the forest.”

…but damn if they don’t know that particular tree like they know the back of their hand… *laugh*

Vox beat me in pointing out that for the deck of cards, the low probability event isn’t the unspecified deal of the deck, it is the specified deal of the deck. It is a flagrant abuse of probability theory to claim that the deck is an example of how “low probability events occur all the time” because the probability of a specific deal from the deck is 1/104! “yet we get a deal everytime we deal”. Completely wrong. Specify the deal before the cards are drawn and then tell me how often you get that exact sequence dealt off of deck. That would be the low-probability event that needs to happen “all of the time”…which doesn’t. Shuffle and deal 10 times in a row with the exact same sequence and then argue with a straight face that the event isn’t rigged.


It’s like claiming that because there is an arbitrarily large number of roulette wheels outside your casino all being spun all the time; that when yours hits green 20 times in a row, its to be expected because “there are many wheels and we just happen to be watching the one that did it”.


Evolutionist apologists love to trot similar examples of commonplace events which have a low probability of a given specific configuration occurring, yet a very high probability of a generic configuration occurring, and then claim that this demonstrates that low probability events happen often. Interestingly enough, they don’t seem to realize that in doing so, they are stipulating that abiogenetic/evolutionary phenomena are in fact low probability events.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 10:07 AM  

Vox wrote: Tell us what your trigger is...

I haven't quantified it. I know that I suspect my BlackJack app is cheating because I always lose. Always.

But suspicion of cheating is not proof of cheating. You're a fair guy -- you wouldn't shoot a card shark without finding the ace up the sleeve. And even the poker machine needs to be inspected to see where the flaw in the mechanism is.

Furthermore, I know people cheat. I have direct unimpeachable evidence of that. I know that software engineers make mistakes. Unfortunately, I have direct unimpeachable evidence of that, too.

The question is whether Nature "cheats".

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 23, 2015 10:08 AM  

At least, it would not be possible to treat this as a problem of probability without taking account of certain properties of matter, properties that facilitate the formation of crystals and that we are certainly obliged to verify.

Borel was hoping that what we now know as DNA would be something very elegant and very simple, with a structure that basically "forced" genes into the correct pattern, so that people could say "it only looks complex, it's really rather simple".

Instead, DNA ended up being an information-packing polymer that (with its cell) is a Turning-complete system. The system got even MORE complex than they could dream, and even more improbable, not less.

First hand is 1 in 4,165. I'd buy it. Second hand is 1 in 17,347,225. No way. Third is 1 in 72,251,192,125. What sort of idiot still thinks it is pure chance?

A single random mutation succeeding in generating information is like getting between 5 and 8 royal flushes in a row. DNA randomly forming into a usable program from raw amino acids is like 30 to 50 royal flushes in a row (no, I'm not doing the math now). Any single one of these events is bordering on the impossible; assuming that a long series of these events occurred is the scientific equivalent of the old cartoon of the mathematician including "a miracle occurs here" in his proof.

(And I'm skipping the basic point of Behe's book: even IF you make the new information, that doesn't mean that it's useful. Most biological systems would have to transition from state A to state B instantly, because "the middle" is completely not working. That means multiple changes in information simultaneously. Hope your dealer can stack the deck well....)

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 10:09 AM  

"
Great. That's the point I was hoping you would get to. Since there is no hard and fast rule, can we consider that something else might be going on? "

No.

We can't.

That's like saying "Because we have no idea what exact percentages of each element making up the surface of mars are... that it may in fact be made of tofu?"

Blogger frigger611 January 23, 2015 10:11 AM  

Bottled Nixon says: It does seem like there's an argument about where to draw the line between "improbable things happen" and "improbable things can't happen without tampering," and that's where all the probability and math talk is coming from.

I think he's exactly right.

I also think this should be a relatively simple argument, but witness a good many of us running round in circles, hair on fire.

No reasonable person here is arguing that events with low probability cannot happen or did not happen - it is the pattern of so many "nearly impossible" events all occurring so commonly that makes it appear as if the game is rigged.

I would say that a fully functioning airplane that resulted from an exploding star is an event of EXTREMELY low probability. Just because I can imagine it (I've seen Bugs Bunny cartoons) doesn't mean I have to admit it can happen. Because it can't. Because I am just that smart.

Evolution is a process. It is not a starting point. All evolutionists say "once you have the first self-replicating building block, the rest is easy..."

Yes, precisely. I am focused on the arrival of that first self-replicating building block, (To the evolutionist, this is just a ho-hum event). But how did it get here?

Assuming it just appeared out of near-nothingness, how did the first one "know" of even the most fundamental NEXT step to take, (like folding or replicating)? What did it eat? It would have to "eat" inorganic matter, but how did it know how to synthesize nutrients from the environment properly?

You would need a confluence of many events, all with infinitesimally, extremely low probabilities, for this little guy just to survive a week. And I agree this all happened. I'm saying it all happened because the game is, indeed, rigged.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 10:12 AM  

As always, njartist leaves the only comment that will actually communicate from one brain to another. Still, one quibble.

O.T. Another one Breitbarted: does any one know what the probability of this was?

I know you're being silly, but this is more properly a statistical question. Talking about the probability of human action is incoherent due to your ignorance of the other person's state of mind, which cannot be quantified in numbers.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 10:18 AM  

Vox wrote: at some point you're going to walk away from the poker table if the other guy keeps drawing four aces every hand.

Sure. But:
1. Is knowing that people cheat sufficient grounds for saying that Nature cheats?
2. The analogy of four aces isn't correct when it comes to abiogenesis. Nature only had to deal four aces once (i.e. the first self-replicating molecule). That it may have done it (four?) times means the odds aren't as high as we think they are. (I really need to research that claim...)

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 10:20 AM  

Actually, it occurs to me that referring to minds being in one "state" or another at all is technically a category error.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 10:21 AM  

I saw the word “pedantry”…and I knew in my gut that our esteemed colleague wrf3 had to be involved.

It depends on the stage. Without assuming what you're trying to prove (i.e. by anthropomorphizing nature), provide a mathematical formula that shows when a particular apparently random sequence actually isn't random. For example, given a fair coin, at what point can everyone definitely call shenanigans? After 5 heads in a row? 500? 5,000? When?

I'm still waiting for the answer to that. Everything else, including this post, is just hand-waving and hominid shrieking.


As he established in a previous thread, wrf3, often argues by attempting to blur a point to indistinction and then cry “Nothing there to see citizens, move along!”. In the previous discussion his cudgel was abstraction, in this one he uses his sidearm: reduction.

IN this case, he is examining a continuum of steps between two points A) 1 flip heads in a row and B) N flips heads in a row, and turns up the magnification on his scope until one can no longer distinguish the difference between adjacent steps, and then concludes that there is no difference between A and B.

This is like arguing over sunset: when he uses his MOST sensitive light meter and tightest time scale he can demonstrate a case where he can discern no change in the light levels from one moment to the next, and therefore concludes that there is no difference between night and day.

In terms of the coin flips, the exact level at which one can rule out randomness and rule in agency is somewhat arbitrary, but that doesn’t mean that a transition between the two doesn’t exist or isn’t warranted.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 10:24 AM  

2. The analogy of four aces isn't correct when it comes to abiogenesis. Nature only had to deal four aces once (i.e. the first self-replicating molecule). That it may have done it (four?) times means the odds aren't as high as we think they are. (I really need to research that claim...)

Entropy only increases in a closed system. Stars form and stars die, but the entropy always increases. Even protons decay eventually.

Anonymous Porky January 23, 2015 10:24 AM  

We don't know how many types of or pathways to to life their might be... Enumerating the respective steps and processes is difficult but bright minds are trying.

Said every alchemist, ever.

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 10:28 AM  

One can also argue that the event that occurred -- the chemical evolution of life -- was not a low probability event under the conditions that existed at the time. Thus, it is perfectly logical to argue that no low probability event has taken place. And that just happens to be the belief of those biologists who have been studying chemical evolution/abiogenesis for around the last 80-90 years. This is a difference of opinion, not a lack of understanding of probability.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 10:30 AM  

Porky wrote: Said every alchemist, ever.

And yet we know about stellar nucleosynthesis. You can get gold from hydrogen. You just need an exploding star.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 10:33 AM  

@noah

"was not a low probability event under the conditions that existed at the time"

Except that has been demonstrated to not be the case. The Earth's atmosphere was not in fact, reducing as most of the primordial soup chemistry requires...it was neutral or oxidizing.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 10:33 AM  

Is knowing that people cheat sufficient grounds for saying that Nature cheats?

Not nature, but either something in or out of nature. Yes.

The analogy of four aces isn't correct when it comes to abiogenesis.

I don't think you can say that. We don't know how many steps were involved.

But suspicion of cheating is not proof of cheating. You're a fair guy -- you wouldn't shoot a card shark without finding the ace up the sleeve. And even the poker machine needs to be inspected to see where the flaw in the mechanism is.

We're not talking about suspicion of cheating, we're talking of certainty of cheating. We may lack the proof, but we know. Sure, we don't know where the flaw is, but we know the flaw is there. And that's all we need to dismiss it.

For example, I KNOW that some ASL players cheat when playing VASL by email. I first SUSPECTED when a couple players got low probability rolls in critical situations to beat me. I KNEW when I realized that my winning percentage was 4x higher in live VASL than in playing by email. And I PROVED it when I ran an analysis of all the rolls and discovered that over a statistically significant number of rolls, my email opponents were rolling about 1.2 lower on average than I was, using the same dicebot.

So, I stopped playing VASL by email and haven't played since. You, on the other hand, would presumably keep playing and wondering why you always lost when playing by email.

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 10:39 AM  

'For example, I KNOW that some ASL players cheat when playing VASL by email."

Assholes.

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 10:41 AM  

"And yet we know about stellar nucleosynthesis. You can get gold from hydrogen. You just need an exploding star.'

you say we "know" this.

know.

are you sure we know this?

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 10:43 AM  

"Except that has been demonstrated to not be the case. The Earth's atmosphere was not in fact, reducing as most of the primordial soup chemistry requires...it was neutral or oxidizing."

That's at odds with what I learned and what still appears to be widely accepted. Wikipedia is still saying that earth's early atmosphere consisted of hydrogen, water vapor, methane, and ammonia, which would be a reducing atmosphere. So, could you provide a source for your claim?

Blogger William Newman January 23, 2015 10:45 AM  

"No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature."

Without more care in defining what you mean by low probability event, it's not clear how you can believe that.

The formation of even a single snowflake is a 'low probability event' by any definition I can think of. The formation of entire storms swarming with intricate symmetric snowflakes is considerably more improbable. Should we conclude that J*ck Fr*st is performing a miracle of tampering for each snowflake, or instead that it that would be too much tampering for a single J*ck Fr*st and it follows that there must be J*ll Fr*st doing just as much work while getting paid only 67 units of free energy for 100 units J*ack receives, or what? (Hume's posthumous _Dialogue_ was sadly behind the times in earnestly exploring the theological implications of the argument from design.)

And once you learn a bit about the statistical mechanics of commonplace things, even various processes that we think of as unremarkably dull turn out to be mindbogglingly improbable. E.g., the distillation of zillions of molecules of highly pure steam out of somewhat more zillions of molecules of dirty salty ocean water is an extremely improbable separation. (Here "zillions" means numbers considerably larger than Avogadro's constant, and the improbability of the separation is on the order of the proportional purity of the steam raised to the zillions-th power, and so "extremely" is the mother of all SJillW-implying mistresspieces of understatement.)

"So, I stopped playing VASL by email and haven't played since."

FWIW, modern cryptography provides a number of technical tricks for solving distributed trust/verifiability problems like this. It's probably not worth learning about them just for VASL:-| but they might be worth learning about anyway: they matter for various practical things that are already important and might be more important in the future (notably financial things, famously Bitcoin).

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 10:48 AM  

"The formation of even a single snowflake is a 'low probability event' by any definition I can think of. The formation of entire storms swarming with intricate symmetric snowflakes is considerably more improbable. Should we conclude that J*ck Fr*st is performing a miracle of tampering for each snowflake, or instead that it that would be too much tampering for a single J*ck Fr*st and it follows that there must be J*ll Fr*st doing just as much work while getting paid only 67 units of free energy for 100 units J*ack receives, or what? (Hume's posthumous _Dialogue_ was sadly behind the times in earnestly exploring the theological implications of the argument from design.)"


What in the blue hell is going on here?

why can't you type jack frost? or jill frost???

Also... the suggestion that something that happens trillions of times in a predictable manner is a "low probability event" is damned asinine.

OpenID kbswift January 23, 2015 10:50 AM  

Vox,

This isn't directly relevant to the discussion, but in your opinion is this artificial selection still active in current micro and macro evolution, or did it stop sometime between abiogenesis and now?

Blogger IM2L844 January 23, 2015 10:51 AM  

Possibilities are not probabilities. That something could have happened does not make it more probable than improbable. It is only through the wholesale dismissal of anything the self-declared supreme arbiter of valid knowledge pronounces unscientific that possibilities magically transform into that which is then widely disseminated as probabilities. It's blatantly disingenuous.

Anonymous Giuseppe January 23, 2015 10:51 AM  

I have to say it. Wow.
All the numbers and so many... What are they autistic? I am Aspie and I certainly never needed to do all the math to figure out there has to be agency.
And as far as mankind goes, that agency is mostly aliens. But of course, someone had agency on the aliens....so God in that respect is easy to "see". What VD did in TIA though was bring nack a certain possibility for pantheism. Or at least a potential for it. It troubles me. But the logic is pretty inescapable.

OpenID kbswift January 23, 2015 10:56 AM  

What is the probability that something is tampering with nature?

If it's not significantly higher than the probability by evolution, that would discount the tampering from happening by Occam's razor.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 10:58 AM  

@Noah:

"Wikipedia is still saying that..."

Really? You just wrote that with a straight face? GIve me a bit and I will dig up the cites.

Anonymous Porky January 23, 2015 11:02 AM  

And yet we know about stellar nucleosynthesis. You can get gold from hydrogen. You just need an exploding star.

Prove it.

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 11:07 AM  

That may have been true in the 1950s. But in 2015, we possess considerably more information and we sufficiently understand those elementary properties of matter in order to estimate enough of the probabilities concerned to characterize them as "very small".

I don't believe this is the case at all. Yes, we have a great deal more knowledge about physical and chemical properties of matter than we did in the 1950's. But our knowledge is still miniscule when compared to the total number of possible chemical reactions. Someone yesterday brought up the example of a small protein containing 100 amino acids. There are about 10^130 possible proteins fitting that criteria, and storing only the simplest data about each one would require more information storage capacity than presently exists on Earth. Obviously as we vary the possible length of the protein, consider how their conformations may change in different chemical environments, consider the question of all of the ways that one or more proteins might interact with one other, and begin to ask the same questions about nucleic acid polymers and lipids -- it should be apparent that the complexity of the situation is so great that there is little immediate hope of mapping out the space of all possible biochemical reactions.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 11:07 AM  

Proving stellar nucleosynthesis would be a worse red herring than when a physicist brings quantum mechanics to a philosophy fight.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 11:10 AM  

Speaking of which, first person to bring up Heisenberg's cat gets a letter full of anthrax in their mailbox.

Oh, wait...dammit.

Blogger IM2L844 January 23, 2015 11:10 AM  

If it's not significantly higher than the probability by evolution, that would discount the tampering from happening by Occam's razor.

What, precisely, makes it "significantly" higher?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 23, 2015 11:10 AM  

Nature only had to deal four aces once (i.e. the first self-replicating molecule). That it may have done it (four?) times means the odds aren't as high as we think they are. (I really need to research that claim...)

Let me restate your argument a bit. Via a process that we can't even theorize (much less reproduce), a strand of DNA formed a working program via a practically-impossible random combination, and then didn't immediately fall apart under the same conditions(*). At that point, some other process we've never seen and can't theorize yet allows said DNA molecule to reproduce itself into a second copy.

DNA isn't truly self-reproducing. You can't put a DNA molecule into a beaker with amino acids and out pop multiple copies of the DNA molecule. Viruses show this; there's a few viruses that take over native cells 100%, so they're a complete program. However, they aren't self-reproducing; they need the cell.

A functioning cell is like a 3D printer that reads it DNA "program" from a paper tape. When wanting to make another of itself, it starts printing its own pieces, and then putting the pieces together with robotic arms. Then it copies its program onto another tape, error checks it, sticks that paper tape into the new 3D printer, and turns it on.

You're not only arguing that the holes in the tape randomly formed directly into a functioning program in a Turing-complete system, but that there was some unknown method laying around that would take that paper tape and make another close enough to it that it was either functionally the same or better.

By that standard, epicycles are more scientific.

(*) All "chemical soup" environments that can allow DNA to form randomly out of unordered amino acids also immediately dissolve the DNA back to amino acids. Right now, this is yet another "a miracle happens here" event.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 11:13 AM  

Nate asked: are you sure we know this?

I can't speak for you. But it isn't secret knowledge, e.g. here and here.

And if you don't believe me, you can always ask Stickwick.

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 11:14 AM  

"Really? You just wrote that with a straight face? GIve me a bit and I will dig up the cites."

Thanks, I'd appreciate seeing whatever you've got.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 11:14 AM  

The formation of even a single snowflake is a 'low probability event' by any definition I can think of.

Think harder.

is this artificial selection still active in current micro and macro evolution, or did it stop sometime between abiogenesis and now?

I have no idea. But I doubt it has stopped.

It troubles me. But the logic is pretty inescapable.

That's what I do....

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 11:17 AM  

"Speaking of which, first person to bring up Heisenberg's cat gets a letter full of anthrax in their mailbox."

Don't tease us like that.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 11:19 AM  

Don't tease us like that.

Every now and then I need to remind the NSA to red flag me, or else my blog wouldn't have any readers :-P.

Blogger David-2 January 23, 2015 11:22 AM  

I'm not sure that your example 2, as a syllogism, is "impeccably correct, without having any need to show how the math for them works". In fact it is not really a syllogism. You need to also know that the relation "shorter than" is transitive.

Consider the following "syllogism":

a) Rock beats scissors
b) Scissors beats paper
c) Therefore rock beats paper

In this case the relation is not transitive - which you know from information outside the syllogism - and you don't have a valid syllogism.

(I am commenting only on example 2, not on the rest of the argument.)

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 23, 2015 11:23 AM  

If it's not significantly higher than the probability by evolution, that would discount the tampering from happening by Occam's razor.

You misread William's premise. The original idea is that a philosophical argument with less assumptions should be chosen over one with more assumptions if they are both equally likely to be true.

To apply this to wtf3, he's arguing that a practically impossible set of events that we can't describe occurred, and kept occurring. Vox believes that an external force (that he describes as God) created life on Earth, again through some set of events that we probably can't describe. You can only use the razor if you believe in a creator God here; an atheist will reject the axiom to start with.

(Now, if you want to use the "simplified" Razor, "the simplest answer is probably right", that's different. In that case, Young Earth Creation is clearly simpler. Genesis 1 and 2 tell a very simple story, much better than these impossible chances and billions of years of little choices. However, even I wouldn't attempt to justify YEC under these terms.)

Anonymous Porky January 23, 2015 11:23 AM  

wrf3 has inspired a new demotivator:

"You can trust theoretical biologists, because theoretical physicists come up with such convincing stories."

Anonymous Stephen J. January 23, 2015 11:24 AM  

"Speaking of which, first person to bring up Heisenberg's cat gets a letter full of anthrax in their mailbox."

Yeah, but as long as we never open the letter then it is always possible it isn't anthrax.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 23, 2015 11:25 AM  

And it's Schrodinger's cat, not Heisenberg's. Heisenberg's cat was a meth head.

Blogger Nate January 23, 2015 11:28 AM  

"I can't speak for you. But it isn't secret knowledge, e.g. here and here."

its the exploding star I have the problem with... but I think that was just rhetoric thrown in for effect.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 23, 2015 11:36 AM  

And it's Schrodinger's cat, not Heisenberg's. Heisenberg's cat was a meth head.

Oops. They're all assholes anyway. Only good cat is a dead cat.

...and now I'm wondering if I could form an ontological proof for the existence of God based on opening the box and thereby killing Schrodinger's cat. God's omnipresence means he sees inside all Schrodinger's boxes, killing all the cats, thereby creating the most moral universe possible...

I'll get back to you guys later.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 12:04 PM  

Nate wrote: "its the exploding star I have the problem with... but I think that was just rhetoric thrown in for effect."

Fusion only gets you to Iron. The explosion provides the neutron bombardment to make the heavier elements.

Anonymous patrick kelly January 23, 2015 12:05 PM  

@VD"This feels exactly like talking to a programmer. They are always locked in on a specific tree, with no absolutely no conception of the forest."

This midwit programmer can only focus on one tree at a time.....maybe two if I'm trying to connect them.......the geniuses trying to design the forest have their own problems with communicating their grand plan in a way that uses actual, real trees and not some ambiguously described theoretical replacement..... /rant

Anonymous Daniel January 23, 2015 12:12 PM  

For example, I KNOW that some ASL players cheat when playing VASL by email. I first SUSPECTED when a couple players got low probability rolls in critical situations to beat me. I KNEW when I realized that my winning percentage was 4x higher in live VASL than in playing by email. And I PROVED it when I ran an analysis of all the rolls and discovered that over a statistically significant number of rolls, my email opponents were rolling about 1.2 lower on average than I was, using the same dicebot.

That sucks. I'll play ASL by email with you. Guaranteed no cheating...also guaranteed no fun because not only am I a rank amateur, but I tend to throw good men after bad and generally bore the hell out of my opponent, hoping he may concede. Plus, on the dice streak I've been on for a while, I bet I'd average .25 of a point less than your average.And it's Schrodinger's cat, not Heisenberg's.

Heisenberg's cat was a meth head.

So another cat who isn't all there?

Q: How can you tell the difference between Schordinger's, Heisenberg's and a regular cat?

A: You have to kill the regular cat yourself.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 23, 2015 12:24 PM  

True. But because the odds of a royal flush being dealt is 1/649,740, seeing 10 in 1,000 hands would be an indication of tampering. Your understanding of the issue here is backwards. What we're seeing here is royal flush after royal flush being dealt and the evolutionists insisting that the automatic dealer is legitimate.

But life is self-organizing. That is something we observe literally with every breath we take. Certainly with every birth we see. Once the first Royal Flush comes up, it starts stacking the deck to get more. Life itself becomes the tamperer.

I'll provide my own syllogism

1) for us to exist requires that a low probability even to have occurred
2) we exist
3) therefor a low probability even occurred.

But that says nothing about whether it occurred through random chance or through tampering from an outside entity. We know some form of the anthropic principle holds, but we don't know which one. We can't know through logic which one. All we can do is state our preference.

Anonymous patrick kelly January 23, 2015 12:30 PM  

"We can't know through logic which one. All we can do is state our preference."

I think this is the point, and I have yet to encounter an atheist evolutionist who will acknowledge it.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 23, 2015 12:31 PM  

That was a 3.9 percent chance, if I recall correctly. That's a dead certainty compared with the improbabilities we're discussing here.

Sure, but I figured a Viking's fan would appreciate the sentiment.

Blogger Mindstorm January 23, 2015 12:34 PM  

From Zippycatholic's blogpost made in 2006: And random polypeptide chains don’t fold.

From a 2001 paper titled:
Functional proteins from a random-sequence library

Starting from a library of 6 × 10^12 proteins each containing 80 contiguous random amino acids, we selected functional proteins by enriching for those that bind to ATP. This selection yielded four new ATP-binding proteins that appear to be unrelated to each other or to anything found in the current databases of biological proteins.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 12:34 PM  

the geniuses trying to design the forest have their own problems with communicating their grand plan in a way that uses actual, real trees and not some ambiguously described theoretical replacement.

Touche'.

Anonymous Porky January 23, 2015 12:39 PM  

"We can't know through logic which one. All we can do is state our preference."

Nevertheless, one must be a sucker of truly epic proportions to go on believing that their own brain came from a big kaboom! in the sky.



Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 12:40 PM  

I would modify that slightly, Jack:

1) For us to exist requires that an event occurred that we have not observed or been able to replicate.
2) We exist.
3) Therefore, an event of a kind that we have not observed or been able to replicate occurred.

That's all we really know.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 12:56 PM  

@Noah B

Apologies for the delay, Lunchtime was calling my name…

“That's at odds with what I learned and what still appears to be widely accepted. Wikipedia is still saying that earth's early atmosphere consisted of hydrogen, water vapor, methane, and ammonia, which would be a reducing atmosphere. So, could you provide a source for your claim?”

To be fair, the research suggesting such is not the case is relatively new, so as much I would like to piss all over Wikipedantica, I will refrain. Today. 

The oxidation state of Hadean magmas and implications for early Earth’s atmosphere

In short, the Earth’s atmosphere has been Oxidizing, or at least neutral since about 200MY after the formation of the Earth. Or 4.35 Billion Years Ago. Which is also a long time before the prokaryotic first life forms appear around 3.8 BYA.

Blogger Brad Andrews January 23, 2015 12:59 PM  

Genesis 1 and 2 tell a very simple story

Simpler in one sense, but lots of room for the complexity we see today.

I like the fact that the creation of everything else seems almost an after thought: "He made the stars also."

We boldly assert that we know all about what happened when we weren't there and ignore an eyewitness account. That should work out well....

Blogger Brad Andrews January 23, 2015 12:59 PM  

And we know this early atmosphere state how?

Oh, it is needed for the current version of the Theory, right....

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 23, 2015 1:16 PM  

@Brad.

You may have missed the previous comments on this, where Noah had referred to the "primordial soup hypothesis:

"One can also argue that the event that occurred -- the chemical evolution of life -- was not a low probability event under the conditions that existed at the time. Thus, it is perfectly logical to argue that no low probability event has taken place. And that just happens to be the belief of those biologists who have been studying chemical evolution/abiogenesis for around the last 80-90 years. This is a difference of opinion, not a lack of understanding of probability."

To which I responded that the early atmospheric conditions were not that different than they are today (i.e.: Oxidizing). Because "primordial soup" chemistry requires a reducing atmosphere, having the atmosphere actually be Oxidizing (or even just neutral) is a big problem for chemical abiogenesis.

Noah B. wasn't aware of newer research that makes the case that the Earth's early atmosphere was in-fact Oxidizing and not reducing and asked me for a cite.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar January 23, 2015 1:22 PM  

Yes as Evolution is breaking down, the Darwin Cult has been claiming that magic beans in the early atosphere caused life and evolution, but now that the magic is gone there are no longer signs of evolution that you can see. I wonder if they believe in Astrology too?
Have you read your horoscope today? Mars is in retrograde in Jupiter's House and Venus ran off to Vulcan again. Oh wait is that Greek Mythology. Its all Greek to me...

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 1:40 PM  

My knowledge of mineralogy and geochemistry is a bit sparse, but let's continue with the assumption that the conclusion in the abstract is correct -- the Earth's atmosphere became neutral or oxidizing when Earth was around 200 MY old.

A few possibilities for abiogenesis remain:

1) Abiogenesis occurred prior to the atmosphere becoming oxidizing, but we have no evidence of earlier life forms. Quoting your own article, "Direct constraints on the oxidation state of terrestrial magmas before 3,850 Myr before present (that is, the Hadean eon) are tenuous because the rock record is sparse or absent." It would be difficult to have evidence of prokaryotic life if the rock record itself is sparse or absent, wouldn't it? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all.

2) Biochemical precursors were formed in abundance prior to the atmosphere becoming oxidizing but were somehow protected from oxidation (much like the hydrocarbons we're still extracting today). Formation of more complex biochemical structures could then have occurred with previously formed precursors serving as feedstock.

3) Pockets of reducing conditions could have lingered even after the atmosphere became oxidizing.

But in any case, those who believe that abiogenesis occurred tend to also believe that conditions existed that would have made it a likely event.

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 1:42 PM  

"Yes as Evolution is breaking down, the Darwin Cult has been claiming that magic beans in the early atosphere caused life and evolution, but now that the magic is gone there are no longer signs of evolution that you can see."

So -- you don't believe in anything you don't fully understand?

Blogger Brad Andrews January 23, 2015 2:21 PM  

DT,

I would still ask those who claim any specific atmosphere, especially different from today, how they know that.

Even if any specific "soup" existed, where is the evidence it creates life? One flawed experiment with lots of outside interaction to make it work is not evidence that it all happened by chance without any outside interference as well.

Not the point you were arguing, but something that should be asked.

Blogger Brad Andrews January 23, 2015 2:22 PM  

So -- you don't believe in anything you don't fully understand?

I don't believe in things that are not logical myself. The idea we all came from random interactions is VERY illogical.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 2:25 PM  

Vox wrote: Not nature, but either something in or out of nature. Yes.

I submit that this is a subjective conclusion based on your brain's wiring (see here). The gist is:

Boston University's Catherine Caldwell-Harris is researching the differences between the secular and religious minds. "Humans have two cognitive styles," the psychologist says. "One type finds deeper meaning in everything; even bad weather can be framed as fate. The other type is neurologically predisposed to be skeptical, and they don't put much weight in beliefs and agency detection.

Now, if you're going to claim that "rabbits gonna rabbit", and argue for brain differences based on r/K selection, then Harris' observation is well within reason.

I don't think you can say that. We don't know how many steps were involved.
If that's the case, then you don't know what the odds really are, and your argument kinda falls apart.

We may lack the proof, but we know.
That's faith. Nothing wrong with it, but it helps to state it up front, instead of trying to sneak it in.

For example, I KNOW that some ASL players cheat

Right. But the problem is extending that to something in or out of Nature.

The purpose of science is to remove subjectiveness. Given that there are teleological brains and ateleological brains (just like there are rabbit brains and wolf brains), one (or both) cannot be subjective.

Anonymous Noah B. January 23, 2015 2:33 PM  

"The idea we all came from random interactions is VERY illogical."

Yeah, I agree. But I don't know anyone who believes that.

Anonymous Giuseppe January 23, 2015 2:36 PM  

That's what I do....
I am not even sure why it troubles me. I think maybe because when I went to visit Delphi I tried to imagine ancient Greece and believing in the old Gods and Keats' poem came to me about them being slumbering now from lack of worship. And well... It kind of fit. Lovecraft, and Keats too I guess realised that the dragons in the outer darkness are not a comforting thought. Especially because when you recognise their reality, two things become immediately apparent :
1. They are not exactly friendly in the majority of cases
2. They are in fact very powerful. Godlike even.

Luckily I have very resilient stats for my sanity rolls.

Anonymous Giuseppe January 23, 2015 2:42 PM  

Wrf3
The problem is thatbin your rabbit/wolf analogy wrt to Vox believing in agency and youbarguing against it, it is you who are, again, the rabbit.
Even if we assume the religious/secular theory of mind is right, the mind who sees signs is the superior one from a survival point of view.

Blogger Joshua Sinistar January 23, 2015 3:02 PM  

Lovecraft is my favorite author. His view of vastly powerful beings so alien and potent that mankind is simply beneath their notice is the kind of humility that is rarely seen amongst humanity. Even secularists who claim that life is meaningless and we are merely an accident of chemicals in a pool of gunk hit with a mild electrical charge still have this annoying little princess view of themselves as special little unique snowflakes. How someone can believe in nothing and still maintain their life has unique value is the kind of sentimental romantic delusions you normally see amongst Leftists however.
It is interesting to point out that Lovecraft would probably be seen as one of us due to his "racist" views and belief in the positive effects of morality and Western Civilization, which is so hated and despised by pond scum on the Left. Before you claim I'm being mean, pond scum is still better than primordial ooze they claim to be their ancestor, I'm simply being snarky in pointing out the lack of distance between them and their purported ancestry. Lovecraft would be the perfect viewpoint for true agnostics to take on omnipotent or near-omnipotent beings however. The idea that godlike beings would be so alien and different that mankind would simply be beneath their notice is similar to how they portray characters like Galactus in the comic books that are now half the media. So powerful and alien that humans are like ants milling around at their feet.
Lovecraft's masterful prose and elegant storytelling would have been a powerful antithesis to the Faith of Godfearing Christians. Fortunately, the hotheaded illogical Leftist "rabbits" with their Dogmas of egalitarianism and racial equality will fortunately never embrace him due to his "racist" viewpoints. Suckers, really.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 3:07 PM  

Guiseppe wrote: it is you who are, again, the rabbit.

On the contrary. I have a "teleological" brain. But I know that I have a teleological brain and I know how that affects how we see the world. I happen to think that apologetics needs to take this into account. Even if the atheists won't play "fair" (by not admitting their biases), we still have to.

Even if we assume the religious/secular theory of mind is right, the mind who sees signs is the superior one from a survival point of view.

I don't disagree. I said the same thing back in 2011:

"It appears that the atheist cannot win. If God does exist, they are wrong. If God exists only in man's imagination, evolution has wired man so that the idea of God gives a direction toward reproductive success."

See? I'm not a complete idiot.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 3:26 PM  

If that's the case, then you don't know what the odds really are, and your argument kinda falls apart.

No, it doesn't. It's astonishing that you simply cannot understand that quantification is not necessary beyond a simple point. It makes absolutely no difference if the odds are 1 in 1 million or 1 in 1 googleplex.

I'm just sitting here watching in disbelief as you lose yet another hand and say "rats, what are the precise odds of THAT!"

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 3:47 PM  

Vox wrote: It makes absolutely no difference if the odds are 1 in 1 million or 1 in 1 googleplex.

First, if you don't know the odds, you don't know if it's 1 in 1 million, 1 in 1 googolplex, or 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 5.

Second, "1 in a million" over billions of interactions over almost a billion years isn't long odds, is it (since the earth is ≈4.5 billion years old and the earliest known life appeared ≈3.7 billion years ago)?

Either
1) the odds are less than what we think they were (in which case there's no "tampering"),
2) the odds are at least as bad, if not worse, than we think they are, in which case:
    a) something wildly improbable happened, or
    b) something wildly improbable happened because of tampering.

The only way to decide between 2a and 2b is by a priori beliefs (which just happen to be influenced by brain type). If you don't put agency in, you don't get agency out. If you put agency in, you get agency out.

Blogger lordabacus January 23, 2015 4:12 PM  

"Second, '1 in a million' over billions of interactions over almost a billion years isn't long odds, is it (since the earth is ≈4.5 billion years old and the earliest known life appeared ≈3.7 billion years ago)?"

What's more, there may be as many 100 million planets in our galaxy that permit life, and there are at least 100 billion galaxies. In order for premise 2 of Vox' original syllogism to hold, the event must not only be shown to be "low-probability" on our particular planet, but "low-probability" on the scale of the scope and duration of universe (Note that no many worlds hypothesis is required to make this case).

Vox' argument is valid, but I would challenge its soundness based on the second premise, despite the confidence with which he asserted its unchallengeability.

Blogger SirHamster January 23, 2015 4:19 PM  

Second, "1 in a million" over billions of interactions over almost a billion years isn't long odds, is it (since the earth is ≈4.5 billion years old and the earliest known life appeared ≈3.7 billion years ago)?

It's rather disingenuous to be willing to estimate there were billions of interactions to "try for life", but not be willing to estimate the odds of "trying for life".

You can't identify the odds, but yet you know enough to figure what constitutes an attempt to roll the dice against said odds.

What if it takes 100 billion years of interactions to constitute a "try" at those one in million odds?

Blogger SirHamster January 23, 2015 4:23 PM  

What's more, there may be as many 100 million planets in our galaxy that permit life, and there are at least 100 billion galaxies.

100 million = 1e8
100 billion = 1e11

On the other hand, some estimates place the magnitude of chances around 1e-1200.

1200 >>> (11 + 9)

When you throw all sorts of assumptions in favor of evolution for absolutely no reason - it still only adds a handful of 0s to your tries.

Blogger James Dixon January 23, 2015 4:35 PM  

> No, the problem is that Outlaw X is confusing the validity of Vox's syllogism with its soundness. The syllogism is valid, pure and simple. Whether it's sound is another matter entirely, and depends on the soundness of the premises

Exactly. And it's soundness can be questioned because "No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature." does not equate to "No low-probability event has taken place without tampering in nature." That doesn't affect the form though.

> All evolution says is that species change.

If that was the only argument evolutionists made, they'd get little argument.

More to come later as I catch up.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 4:44 PM  

SirHamster wrote: It's rather disingenuous to be willing to estimate there were billions of interactions to "try for life", but not be willing to estimate the odds of "trying for life".

Evolution doesn't "try for life". It's ateleological. And it's hardly disingenuous to say that there were "billions of interactions" in almost a billion years. There are many orders of magnitude more interactions taking place every second of every day.

And I used Vox's odds of 1 in 1 million.

You can't identify the odds,

I never said that I could. I was just replying to Vox's "We don't know how many steps were involved" comment.

but yet you know enough to figure what constitutes an attempt to roll the dice against said odds.

The universe is in constant motion. The dice are being thrown all the time.

What if it takes 100 billion years of interactions to constitute a "try" at those one in million odds?

What if you had a brain? Do you not understand the argument isn't "what are the odds" but "you can't get teleology out unless you start with teleology and you can't get ateleology out unless you start with ateleology." The odds are irrelevant.

Blogger William Newman January 23, 2015 4:53 PM  

"Think harder."

Well then, OK. If it was particularly important to claim that the originally syllogism was correct, and one didn't mind making the original syllogism useless, one could define a low-probability event as one which cannot be observed to take place without tampering in nature.

Srsly, the formation of a big ol' drift of marvellously intricate symmetric pure snowflakes made out of any material other than water --- aluminum, sugar, DNA... --- would clearly be a low-probability event. To someone who has slogged through enough snow to lose their sensawunda, snow can seem ordinary. (Not so ordinary that shivering soggy people couldn't imagine that J*ck Fr*st makes all those filigrees, though.) But to someone who has never heard of snow, perhaps one of the crystalline silicoid life alien forms from desiccated planets beloved of mid-century SF, the exception for water would not be obvious: they could be honestly ignorant about the mechanism of snowstorms, which is after all rather nonobvious. (Consider that people got Nobel prizes in mid-century for finally working out some of what's going on phase changes like freezing.) Honestly it is not obvious what sensible nontechnical definition of low-probability event makes an exception for water, other than one like the one above, working backwards from how under certain conditions of humidity and temperature change it is observed to happen, and thus must not be a low-probability event. And by any the technical definitions I can think of --- stuff based on the microscopic stat mech underlying thermodynamics --- having all those particles arranged in a snowflake-y state is very unlikely indeed.

Or if you don't like my snowflake example, consider also that for other low-probability spontaneous events in storms (some kinds of microbursts, ball lightning) it apparently took quite a while for specialists to be convinced that they could actually happen. From first principles, they seemed awfully unlikely. Or consider how Isaac Newton apparently thought that it was a very low probability event for the Solar system to remain stable without intentional fine-tuning. ("The Planets move one and the same way in Orbs concentrick, some inconsiderable Irregularities excepted, which may have arisen from the mutual Actions of Comets and Planets upon one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this System wants a Reformation.") Again, it wasn't until mid-century that people understood some of the very subtle reasons (KAM theory) why it's much less improbable than someone --- even someone ridiculously clever like Newton --- might reasonably think.

Blogger SirHamster January 23, 2015 5:17 PM  

What if you had a brain? Do you not understand the argument isn't "what are the odds"

I quoted precisely what I objected to.

"1 in a million" over billions of interactions over almost a billion years isn't long odds"

You can't use use 1 billion rolls of dice to get a 1 in million chance hand of cards. The "try" has to match the odds. 1 billion "tries" of drawing a hand of cards is needed.

So when you say that the odds aren't long because there are "billions of interactions" for those "one in million" odds, you are claiming the existence of a relationship between "interactions" and "tries".

If you wish to say there is no relationship between "interaction" and "try", then bringing up "interactions" is a red herring. You might as well say "Those one in a million chances aren't long odds because I have a billion apples." Just as meaningful, and at least you're clearly communicating the nonsense.

Either argue that the odds are unknown, or argue the odds are not long. Arguing both simultaneously, without acknowledging those positions are incompatible and are separate arguments, is ridiculous.

Anonymous OddRob January 23, 2015 5:38 PM  

These statements seem to conflict:

Borel
"...if this work was printed, it must have emanated from a human brain. Now the complexity of that brain must therefore have been even richer than the particular work to which it gave birth."

TIA, p. 96
"There is no reason why a designer must necessarily be more complex than his design. The verity of [Dawkin's] statement depends entirely on the definition of complexity"

Anonymous Stickwick January 23, 2015 5:41 PM  

wrf3: And yet we know about stellar nucleosynthesis. You can get gold from hydrogen. You just need an exploding star.

Nate: are you sure we know this?

wrf3 is wrong about the process involved in making heavy elements like gold (see below), but we've also recently discovered that the supernova nucleosynthesis model could well be wrong.

Some recent observations indicate that supernovae are probably not the source of heavy elements. A very rare direct observation of a gamma ray burst, likely produced by the collision of a pair of orbiting neutron stars, showed that these events are more likely what produce heavy elements like gold than supernovae. A study of chemical abundances of the Earth's crust in the ocean floor supports this picture.

Now, there is very little doubt that you get elements heavier than hydrogen via the fusion of hydrogen, but there's a limit to this process. Beyond what are called the iron peak elements (e.g. nickel), you cannot get heavier elements from the fusion of lighter elements. To get something like gold, you need to capture neutrons, and that's why it was believed for a long time that such elements are produced in neutron-rich environments like supernovae. The new evidence we have now supports neutron star collisions -- or whatever produces gamma ray bursts -- as the source of these neutrons.

Anonymous lowbro January 23, 2015 6:11 PM  

> No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.

This is a meaningless statement at best and completely incorrect at worst.

The christian manosphere is awesome when talking about society and stuff, but when they try to justify creationism with anything other than their faith, it's simply embarasing. This is the kind of bullshit that keeps me from recommending you guys to the people I know.

Anonymous VD January 23, 2015 7:04 PM  

This is a meaningless statement at best and completely incorrect at worst.

No, lowbrow, it may be incorrect. That is the nature of propositions. Under no circumstances is it meaningless.

it's simply embarasing.

Oh, the irony. Look, it's over your head. There is no shame in that.

Blogger Simon Jester January 23, 2015 7:30 PM  

The odds are irrelevant.

They aren't. They are the point of the post.

Your point seems to be that in a Universe of infinite possibility that everything can and will happen. But that is not what Evolution as a theory or this post is talking about.

The odds are central to the understanding of Evolution as a realistic theory, or more to the point, why it fails.

Evolution doesn't "try for life". It's ateleological.

If you think evolution is merely the universal process of replication, mutation, and environmental sufficiency, then maybe. But that is not what the Theory argues. It attempts to discuss "the origin of species," which is, in fact, a "try for life."

Blogger Simon Jester January 23, 2015 7:35 PM  

the geniuses trying to design the forest have their own problems with communicating their grand plan in a way that uses actual, real trees and not some ambiguously described theoretical replacement.

At least in the conversation I was just in, the comparison would be "amorphously described incorrect and unlikely replacement that only works in CandyLand's Lollipop Woods."

But yeah.

We need an engineering vs Science vs Philosophy thread stat.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 8:07 PM  

Simon Jester wrote: They aren't. They are the point of the post.

Adam Selene (aka Mike) you aren't. Please don't pretend to think you know the point of the post better than the author of what started it.

Your point seems to be that in a Universe of infinite possibility that everything can and will happen.

You're reading comprehension isn't what you think it is. Try the entries at January 23, 2015 8:06 AM, January 23, 2015 8:20 AM, January 23, 2015 10:01 AM, and January 23, 2015 2:25 PM. The one line summary is "Do you not understand the argument isn't 'what are the odds' but "you can't get teleology out unless you start with teleology and you can't get ateleology out unless you start with ateleology."

OpenID Ynglnglgr January 23, 2015 8:07 PM  

Having read the entire comment section in one sitting, several thoughts:
not P if not Q
P
Therefore Q
could be read from the paragraph to be
Some(~P If (~Q))
P
Therefore Q
which would be invalid
however, assuming no "Some" it still might not be sound
as is the case when you us logic with a paper rock scissors argument.
A sound logical argument depends on the truth of the assumptions.
Also, the divorce of speciation from the idea of evolution is absurd. I have be quoted innumerable studies about the ability to genetically alter fruit flies so that legs replace eyes, but where these flies are able to reproduce the effect is regression to the mean of a fruit fly. I have yet to be shown a single example of speciation even with artificial selection (i.e. human agency) and even when the definition of a species stretched to absurdity (separate species due to geography implies that Vox's ancestors were a different species than Europeans until 1492).
Without speciation there is no evolution.

Blogger wrf3 January 23, 2015 8:12 PM  

Simon Jester wrote: It attempts to discuss "the origin of species," which is, in fact, a "try for life."

Your explanation presupposes teleology. The ateleological explanation is that the universe is in motion -- a constant churn. The roiling motion and interplay of energy simply is. That it happened to result in a self-replicating molecule which was able to replicate is just the happy coincidence that eventually resulted in us. If it hadn't happened then we wouldn't be having this conversation, but the universe wouldn't care. The big wheels would still keep on turning.

Blogger James Dixon January 23, 2015 8:52 PM  

> 1) the odds are less than what we think they were (in which case there's no "tampering"),

Does not follow. The fact that something can occur naturally without tampering doesn't mean that tampering didn't happen in any given case. The fact that there are wild dogs doesn't mean people don't breed dogs.

The fact that a universe and life could exist without tampering would not mean that this specific one didn't involve tampering. It merely means there's no reason to assume that tampering was involved without additional evidence.

Anonymous Jack Amok January 23, 2015 9:57 PM  

The odds are irrelevant.

They aren't. They are the point of the post.


The odds are indeed irrelevant, unless they are zero, which is why Borel goes to such... absurdities trying to turn "low" into "zero."

It doesn't matter if the odds are 1 in a hundred or 1 in 10 to the billionth power, as long as they are not zero, then the Weak Anthropic Principle can be cited.

Nevertheless, one must be a sucker of truly epic proportions to go on believing that their own brain came from a big kaboom! in the sky.

You realize that athiests think the same of anyone who believes a supernatural diety created them, right? Probably worse, since they think there's zero probability God exists.

Dont get me wrong, preferences are fine, but you shouldn't confuse them with arguments.

Anonymous physphilmusic January 23, 2015 11:41 PM  

Just a few comments on the original post. As some others have mentioned, there are at least 3 major errors in Vox's original post, all of which result from sloppy mathematical reasoning

1. I'm surprised that Vox hasn't acknowledged (so it seems, I may have missed it in the mass of comments) Aeoli Pera's debunking of Vox's Wikipedia quotation of the dart example. The crux of the rebuttal is that you can't divide a 0-dimensional value (the "area" of the point) by a 2-dimensional value (the area of the square) and get a coherent answer. The dart example is completely wrong. And consider what Vox said:

P(x = r) = \int_{\{r\}}f = 0 for all r in D. However, clearly x is in D."

It's not clear what kind of integral Vox is doing to the probability distribution here. What are the limits of integration? Without them, this is meaningless. In this case, you have to do a double integral over an area to the function that serves as the p.d.f. Which is why you can't coherently talk about the probability of the dart striking a particular (zero-dimensional point). If you do the integral over the entire area, then it should add up to 1, which is why "clearly x is in D".

2. As David-2 has mentioned, it is absolutely INCORRECT that Vox's second syllogism about heights is "impeccably correct, without having any need to show how the math for them works...We already know that the syllogism is correct because its logical construction is correct. The conclusion follows correctly from the propositions."

For the second syllogism to be correct, it must be proven (or defined) that < and >, where < = "shorter than" and > = "taller than" are transitive operators, namely that if A < B and B < C, then A < C (and the same with >). You can argue that we immediately know that height is a transitive property, but this we know from experience and the physical world, not from logic or even math.

3. Vox's third syllogism, which is as follows:


Vox Day's Third Syllogism

1) No low-probability event has been observed to take place without tampering in nature.
2) A low-probability event has taken place.
3) Therefore, nature was tampered in.


This isn't necessarily a flawed argument, but it's absolutely wrong to say that 3) is dictated by logic alone. Which logical inferences are being invoked there? To make it strictly logical, we would change proposition 1) to the following:


1') No low probability event takes place without tampering in nature.


With this, then the argument becomes a proper modus ponens. But then we would have to argue for why 1') is true.

If we insist to stick with the original proposition 1), then the objection would be how does it follow that repeated observation of A demands that A will always occur again? (This is essentially Hume's argument against induction). For the argument to work, we have to introduce the assumption that

1a) If a phenomenon has been observed X times to happen a certain way, it will likely happen in that same way the next time it occurs.

The first point is that this assumption cannot arise from logic. In fact, it cannot be proven, and the entire enterprise of science, as you must know, rests on this assumption. At most, we can say that believing this proposition seems to result in useful outcomes in this universe. The second point is that this assumption is a probabilistic one, in that you have to define what "likely" is.

In conclusion, syllogism 3 is not a valid syllogism. You can say that it's a good common sense argument, and this seems to be your intention. I tend to agree with that statement. But it remains that it's not a strictly logical one.

Anonymous Peter Pan January 24, 2015 1:20 AM  

"(Now if you actually played those rounds out and observed that one *player* consistently tended to win, despite not consistently getting the highest hands, then there might be reason to suspect additional interventionary factors. If you played those rounds out and one player *always* won even when he had the *lowest* hands on initial dealing, then there would be reason to suspect disruptive interventionary factors (i.e. cheating). But the simple fact that a random input, when subjected to consistent rules, produces patterns of output that are predictable, within limits, does not mean the input is not random or that the rules originate from conscious intervention.)"

In that case, isn't it telling that humans consistently dominate every other species.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 24, 2015 12:31 PM  

@Noah B.

A few possibilities for abiogenesis remain:

“1) Abiogenesis occurred prior to the atmosphere becoming oxidizing, but we have no evidence of earlier life forms. Quoting your own article, "Direct constraints on the oxidation state of terrestrial magmas before 3,850 Myr before present (that is, the Hadean eon) are tenuous because the rock record is sparse or absent." It would be difficult to have evidence of prokaryotic life if the rock record itself is sparse or absent, wouldn't it? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, after all.”

Ahh…no, not really. In the Hadean era, the surface of the Earth was molten and undergoing heavy meteoric bombardment…not conducive for life at all.

”2) Biochemical precursors were formed in abundance prior to the atmosphere becoming oxidizing but were somehow protected from oxidation (much like the hydrocarbons we're still extracting today). Formation of more complex biochemical structures could then have occurred with previously formed precursors serving as feedstock.

3) Pockets of reducing conditions could have lingered even after the atmosphere became oxidizing.”


“somehow protected from oxidation” for oh, say 500 or 600 million years, and then, still protected from oxidation once they were exposed to the atmosphere for the long periods of time necessary for the “primordial soup” reactions to occur, in pockets that likewise “lingered” for the same 500-600 million years.

"But in any case, those who believe that abiogenesis occurred tend to also believe that conditions existed that would have made it a likely event."

Sure, no doubt...So…this is really more of an Article of Faith for those that believe Abiogenesis occurred. Interesting to see them hold onto that in the face of scientific data to the contrary.

Anonymous Johnny Caustic January 24, 2015 1:37 PM  

For the folks who are asking for specific probabilities for the question of evolution, there have been papers written attempting to compute some of those, and you can find quite a bit of discussion of them in Stephen Meyer's book "Darwin's Doubt".

Anonymous Didas Kalos January 25, 2015 1:12 PM  

Complexity of argument is not a sign of intelligence, but confusion. Everyone posting here knows that God created life and everything we see, and all we do not see or know yet.
Discovering 'how' he did it, or how His creation works is a worthy endeavor. To elevate one's own self in their finite mind to try and come up with an alternative to the known only creates a complexity of confusion that limits one to their own finite mind (or the conglomerate of thousands of illogical finite minds: the sum of which is always illogical.)

Anonymous rho January 26, 2015 3:08 AM  

As much as I like these kinds of arguments, I sort them according to what we know and have observed.

A meaningful low-probability event is finding life in the Atacama Desert. Another is finding life surrounding hydrothermal vents in the deep ocean. We find extremophile life forms all over the place.

Perhaps life isn't all that rare, for sufficiently small values for "life".

Of course, turning microbial life into an elephant is a completely separate question. Or is it? We apply TENS or ID or whatever to explain what we observe. We don't build TENS or ID or whatever as the next logical step to the broad and robust chemical engineering knowledge we already have.

VD describes TENS as having epicycles. The comparison is apt. Epicycles were applied to explain what the ancients observed. When a simpler, more complete answer came along, epicycles were eventually dropped. To reiterate the value of logic, a jungle panther that, through random mutations, is day-glo orange and likes to beat-box is not going to be a successful predator. That ridiculous example demonstrates two things--random mutations are very rarely going to do anything of any import; and that small changes in physiology can be very important.

Humans are not creatures of logic, at least not formal logic. Humans are creatures of pattern recognition. We observe what we observe, and make judgements from what we observe. Clever people can observe other people's observations and apply their data to their own observations.

Very clever people can describe a phenomenon in logical forms than can be answered in binary terms, but that is not the same thing as accurately describing the phenomenon. That's just the best we've got.

Blogger Mindstorm January 31, 2015 4:40 AM  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_theory - how much sense has the following question: "what is more important, math or logic"?

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