ALL BLOG POSTS AND COMMENTS COPYRIGHT (C) 2003-2016 VOX DAY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. REPRODUCTION WITHOUT WRITTEN PERMISSION IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Probability and belief

A few days ago, in Probability and the Problem of Life, I pointed out that there is no need to precisely calculate probabilities that we cannot possibly know in order to reach logical conclusions about them. Contra the opinions of the misguided math fetishists, logic is the foundation of math, not the other way around, and we can reach perfectly sound logical conclusions even if we are not able to make precise mathematical determinations or quantifiy all of the various factors involved.

Throughout the course of the discussion, it soon became abundantly clear that those who defend the theory of TENS on probability grounds do not actually believe their own position. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that although the very low probability events to which they appeal are mathematically possible, they are so highly improbable that no sane human being can credibly feign to take seriously, as evidenced by their own daily behavior with regards to other, much more likely events.

WRF3 asked me to identify the precise point at which mathematical possibility and belief part company; I said that for me it was somewhere between 1 in 4,165 and 1 in 17,347,225. The latter are the odds of being dealt four aces twice in succession from two properly shuffled card decks; I would not view that as credibly possible and continue to play poker with a machine that dealt out such hands. The absolute outer limit for even the most credible individual is probably 1 in 72,251,192,125, which would be three such unlikely hands.

But the reality is that for the average individual, the credibility ratio is much lower. Consider the recent statistical evidence of the New England Patriots having systematically cheated by deflating the football since the 2007 season:
While speculation exists that “Deflate Gate” was a one time occurrence, data I introduced last week indicated that the phenomena MAY have been an ongoing, long standing issue for the New England Patriots. Today, that possibility looks as clear as day.

Initially, looking at weather data, I noticed the Patriots performed extremely well in the rain, much more so than they were projected.  I followed that up by looking at the fumble data, which showed regardless of weather or site, the Patriots prevention of fumbles was nearly impossible.  Ironically, both studies saw the same exact starting point:  2007 was the first season where things really changed for the Patriots.  Something started in 2007 which is still on-going today.

I wanted to compare the New England Patriots fumble rate from 2000, when Bill Belichick first arrived in New England, to the rest of the NFL.  Clearly, one thing I found in my prior research was that dome teams fumble substantially less frequently, given they play at least 8+ games out of the elements each year.  To keep every team on a more level playing field, I eliminated dome teams from the analysis, grabbed only regular season games, and defined plays as pass attempts+rushes+times sacked.  The below results also look only at total fumbles, not just fumbles which are lost.  This brought us to the ability to capture touches per fumble.

To really confirm something was dramatically different in New England, starting in 2007 thru present, I compared the 2000-06 time period (when Bill Belichick was their head coach and they won all of their Super Bowls) to the 2007-2014 time period.  The beauty of data is the results speak for themselves:

The data is jaw dropping, and this visual perfectly depicts what happened.  From a more technical perspective, John Candido, a Data Scientist at ZestFinance who is a colleague of mine over at the NFLproject.com website and was also involved in the development of this research, comments:

Based on the assumption that plays per fumble follow a normal distribution, you’d expect to see, according to random fluctuation, the results that the Patriots have gotten since 2007 once in 5842 instances.

Which in layman’s terms means that this result only being a coincidence, is like winning a raffle where you have a 0.0001711874 probability to win. In other words, it’s very unlikely that results this abnormal are only due to the endogenous nature of the game.


Many of the arguments giving the Patriots the benefit of the doubt are evaporating.  While this data does not prove they deflated footballs starting in 2007, we know they were interested in obtaining that ability in 2006. (This is something I found out AFTER I performed the first two analyses, both of which independently found that something changed starting in 2007.)
I was skeptical when I first read the analyst's theory, because he initially used fumbles lost rather than all fumbles; it is generally believed by football statisticians who have considered the question that fumble recoveries are random. And when fumbles rather than fumbles lost are utilized, the Patriots are considerably less of a radical outlier, although they are the only team that plays outdoors that fumbles as little as a dome team.

My first thought was that the anomaly was more a result of New England's pass-happy offense than statistical evidence of ball deflation. However, a look at the passing statistics showed that New England was pass-happy as early as 2002, when they threw 601 passes, compared to 582 in 2014, and the fact that their plays per fumble from 07-14 increased so dramatically from 00-06 after the rule change that they requested does tend to confirm the analyst's original suspicions.

 But my point is not to take a side in the latest New England scandal, only to observe that for the professional statistician, observation of a successful event against 1 in 5,842 odds is sufficient to indicate the results observed are probably not obtained naturally. And while this statistical evidence is not absolute proof (although it is interesting to see that the statistician's odds are in the range I suggested should preclude belief), it is enough to indicate that the greater part of one's efforts should be directed at discovering the precise nature and mechanism of the unnatural tampering indicated rather than on the unlikely natural explanation.

"The bottom line is, something happened in New England.  It happened just before the 2007 season, and it completely changed this team."

Which brings us back rather to my long-held position contra Mr. Sherlock Holmes: Once you have calculated the sufficiently improbable, you must reconsider your assumptions of the impossible.

Labels: , ,

227 Comments:

1 – 200 of 227 Newer› Newest»
Anonymous kh123 January 29, 2015 5:23 AM  

Evolution and football. Of course.

And the spirit of Markopolos lives on.

Anonymous Carlotta January 29, 2015 5:25 AM  

OT:
Thank you to Beau and others who prayed for me. Our Baby safely arrived and I was kept through it all. Thank you again. May Yahweh bless you.

Anonymous Carlotta January 29, 2015 5:28 AM  

Throughout the course of the discussion, it became abundantly clear that those who defend the theory of TENS on probability grounds do not actually believe their own position. Furthermore, it is relatively easy to demonstrate that although the very low probability events may be mathematically possible, they are of a nature that no sane human being can credibly feign to take seriously, as evidenced by their own daily behavior.



The above quote is applicable to a wide range of beliefs. Interesting. Using their own disbelief of a professed belief against them. Always learning here.

Blogger Subversive Saint January 29, 2015 7:09 AM  

How fun! My New England relatives are going to have something else to do today besides shovel snow.

Already posted to FB.

Making some popcorn now.

Blogger Tommy Hass January 29, 2015 7:17 AM  

Not sure if I believe some of the arguments there.

If something can happen, that it's probability souldn't and probably couldn't be zero.

"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."

It makes more sense to say that having zero square area doesn't mean that the probability of it being hit is zero.

"Here is the relevant syllogism:

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.

There is nothing fraudulent about that."

I don't think that follows. Just because a low probability event hasn't been observed, doesn't mean it isn't possible. (was that the trap for the careless?)

It is impossible for a low probability event to happen without tampering.
A low probability event happened.
Therefore, nature has been tampered with.

This is valid.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 29, 2015 7:25 AM  

Just to make sure I'm following the argument correctly, what biological evolutionary event does the four-aces draw represent in this analogy?

If it is meant to represent merely the occurrence of a nonlethal mutation in a species population, that is one thing; if it is meant to represent the occurrence of a nonlethal mutation that is fortunately beneficial to its possessors in the species' environment, that is something else; if it is the complete accumulation of all the beneficial mutations needed for transspeciation or complex structures to occur, that is yet a third thing. And as I pointed out before, the odds that the same player wins twice in a row with two four-ace hands or higher are a lot lower than the odds that some player will win with some hand, or there will be a winner in each round.

Moreover, as I understand it most TENS adherents do not in fact believe the "deck" to be regularly "reshuffled"; the possible mutations for any given species, and the conditions defining benefit and thus survival likelihood, are in fact dependent on what has already occurred. Perhaps evolutionary biology is simply the attempt to "count the cards" over the epochs.

(Now I personally believe the fact that the "rules of poker" exist at all in this analogy are proof enough that Someone created the game. But that is a metaphysical rather than a probabilistic argument.)

Anonymous DrTorch January 29, 2015 7:27 AM  

Is it the same team at 56 in both instances? That team is an outlier too. Would like to know who that is (San Diego?)

The challenge here is, something changed in 2007, but the authors don't do their work honorably by at least identifying other possibilities. New OC? New full time RB? Did Brady's #fumbles change, or did a particularly egregious fumbling player leave the team?

The analysis is interesting, but it's not thorough enough for indictment, rather it's just evidence for more research. Research that should be done BEFORE publishing.

Blogger Old Harry January 29, 2015 7:29 AM  

Their problem is that they can not distinguish between the improbability of an event happening and the improbability of that event happening regardless of sample size. They also don't appreciate the difference between a truly quantifiable probability and a theoretically calculated probably. For instance, there is a difference between being able to calculate the probability of flipping heads 100 times in a row, but they don't understand that increasing the sample size doesn't necessarily increase the probability of having 100 heads. Each sample set is independent. The multiverse doesn't increase the probability of useful amino acids arising from the primordial goo of any particular version of Earth. Their logic is circular - we are here, so QED, the aminos arose from the goo. Like the folks in Voltaire's Candide, they believe "all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds" since we're here.

Blogger Tommy Hass January 29, 2015 7:37 AM  

The probability may not increase, but the longer you play poker, the more you are likely to get a royal flush. I think it is something like that.

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler January 29, 2015 7:45 AM  

Alright, Alright. You forced me. I confess. I am being paid by the NE Pats to deflate the balls. We inflate inside a hotbox, quickly present to the umpires, and then at normal or cold temps, the balls deflate naturally. Yes, I am on a secret payroll. It is all been planned and coordinated. I'm guilty.

But my bank account luuuves it.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 7:51 AM  

The analysis is interesting, but it's not thorough enough for indictment, rather it's just evidence for more research. Research that should be done BEFORE publishing.

That's ridiculous. It's a blog, not a criminal indictment. Read all of the posts. The guy is simply showing his work in public. He should be commended for that, not criticized.

I do not understand the idiot position that one should never say anything at all without possessing iron-clad scientific evidence and incontrovertible mathematical proof to support it. Especially in those cases when the person insisting upon that standard never abides by it in stating their own opinions.

(Not pointing at you there, Dr. Torch, it's a general statement.)

Blogger Old Harry January 29, 2015 7:52 AM  

The probability of a royal flush is 1/4324 or 0.0032%. That's a manageable probabilty.

Flipping heads had a one in 593 trillion probablity. It will not happen regardless of the sample size. The improbability of amino acids from goo is ever greater.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 7:54 AM  

Vox wrote: I pointed out that there is no need to precisely calculate probabilities that we cannot possibly know in order to reach logical conclusions about them.

One wants to know if the logical conclusions are correct because the reasoning is right or if they are correct because of assumption of the conclusion.

Let me restate my question another way: "without the a priori assumption of agency, at what probability can agency be shown?"

We want our proofs to be objective. A proof should be as true for the atheist as it is for the theist. We know that one area of subjectivity is the way brains interpret data. Some brains are teleological, some aren't. So that effect has to be removed from the proofs.

Vox, in every example your provided, you started with agency. It doesn't matter if it's poker, football, or online games. Start with agency, end with agency.

That's not what I'm asking. This isn't the "sorities paradox". This is more like a Turing test. Maybe what I'm asking is impossible. But if so, then it needs to be understood, because both sides bludgeon each other with "proofs" that assume their conclusions. And that's lousy logic.

Anonymous jay c January 29, 2015 7:58 AM  

Congratulations, Carlotta!

Anonymous Stilicho January 29, 2015 7:58 AM  

Given that QB is the hardest position to fill on any NFL owner's roster, you'd think they would lower the pressure threshold if only to increase the numbers of men who could pass the ball at an NFL level. They collectively waste tens of millions every year on QBs who can't pass well enough. Perhaps opening the game up to QBs with smaller hands would help. The size,shape, pressure are all arbitrary as it is and it isn't as if the league is averse to changing rules to make the game more QB and passing friendly.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 8:14 AM  

One wants to know if the logical conclusions are correct because the reasoning is right or if they are correct because of assumption of the conclusion.

The former. If we are simply going to assume the conclusion - the Patriots cheated and the actions of some artificial force produced the variety of life we see today - there is no reason to bother with any of the analysis.

We want our proofs to be objective. A proof should be as true for the atheist as it is for the theist. We know that one area of subjectivity is the way brains interpret data. Some brains are teleological, some aren't. So that effect has to be removed from the proofs.

You need to drop your bugaboos. The teoleogical factor doesn't have to be removed, it is irrelevant. The proof is true whether the ateleologist believes it or not, just as the animal is not lurking in the bush whether the teleologist is convinced or not that it is there. Furthermore, as I have demonstrated, most of that ateleogy is a rationalization for dismissing unwanted conclusions.

Vox, in every example your provided, you started with agency. It doesn't matter if it's poker, football, or online games. Start with agency, end with agency.

Irrelevant. I only chose them because we can quantify the odds, which was your original objection. Do you concur that it has been sufficiently dealt with? Or are you going to insist that there is no evidence that the Patriots are cheating.

Just to make sure I'm following the argument correctly, what biological evolutionary event does the four-aces draw represent in this analogy?

The sum total of all biological evolutionary events. We don't know what it is, but we know it is substantially lower than 1 in 5,842.

Their problem is that they can not distinguish between the improbability of an event happening and the improbability of that event happening regardless of sample size.

Precisely. This is especially important to keep in mind when the odds are unknown.

Anonymous rienzi January 29, 2015 8:19 AM  

The only true constant in the physical universe is that the odds of Bill Belichek doing everything possible, moral or immoral, legal or illegal, in order to to win = 100%.

Anonymous DrTorch January 29, 2015 8:20 AM  

I do not understand the idiot position that one should never say anything at all without possessing iron-clad scientific evidence and incontrovertible mathematical proof to support it.

I get your point, however there are many half-truths out there that serve effectively as lies, whether it is TENS, climate change, economics or alleged fraud in the 2000 presidential election.

Good faith efforts that are clear about their starting assumptions and limitations should be praised. But when researchers ignore obvious (and readily answered) questions necessary to support their conclusions, then they should be criticized.

I read somewhere that MPAI, and incomplete research only serves as rhetoric to incite their emotions, rather than dialectic to hone their reality.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 8:20 AM  

Is it the same team at 56 in both instances? That team is an outlier too. Would like to know who that is (San Diego?)

Can't be certain, but it looks like Chiefs pre-2007 and Ravens post-2007. That would appear to be the far end of the Bell Curve.

Blogger David January 29, 2015 8:22 AM  

If Prechter's work on EW reveals an underlying natural process of spontaneous organization that yields outcomes that are non-random, the fact that biological outcomes are statistical anomalies simply means that a critical factor is not understood.

Spontaneous organization underlies much of our reality. Like pre-Copernican astronomers, evolutionary biologists attempt to "fit" what we see to constructs that are fundamentally flawed.

The origin of species is knowable. It's just not yet known.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 8:23 AM  

Good faith efforts that are clear about their starting assumptions and limitations should be praised. But when researchers ignore obvious (and readily answered) questions necessary to support their conclusions, then they should be criticized.

Absolutely. But if you look at the guy's blog, you can see that he started out with an observation and a faulty methodology, and has methodically improved it by addressing each criticism in turn. He even falsified the theory that Belichick taught his players how not to fumble by showing how ex-Patriots reverted to their pre-Patriot fumbling patterns after leaving New England.

Anonymous Northern Observer January 29, 2015 8:30 AM  

But... but... but... TIME!

Time can do anything! Heal a broken heart, mend all wounds and create life!

TIME is your god now!

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 8:47 AM  

"1 in 72,251,192,125"

If something has a % of happening and you attempt enough times, it will probably happen. If you attempt an infinite amount of times, it will definitely happen.

The unlikely of % means nothing when (science says) there are infinite worlds and infinite time for life to happen out of nowhere.

Anonymous Carlotta January 29, 2015 8:55 AM  

Thank you Jay c :)

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 29, 2015 8:55 AM  

"You need to drop your bugaboos. The teoleogical factor doesn't have to be removed, it is irrelevant."

Amen.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 8:56 AM  

No, it doesn't. Right off the bat: you agree that in an infinite amount of time, it's possible that only one event will occur over and over, even though other events have a greater than 0 chance of happening. That, by your own logic, that is technically possible?

But, irrelevant: time is finite, so there are only N trials available, even if that N is beyond the human mind to really grasp.

It's impossible. If you claim that any possible conceivable outcome is possible, then N(possible events) > N(events that actually occur). Even less so when you consider that the event where say a spilled glass of water hit the ground and forms a puddle will happen more than once in the effort to pour the glass and have it form a liquid replica of the Eiffel Tower.

One very enlightening thing about this conversation is it throws the whole 'educated believers' out the window. I suppose it's true that someone could technically be ignorant with how probability works and still be correct as to the interrelations by species on pure chance... but I'm not the one to bet that way.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 8:57 AM  

> Let me restate my question another way: "without the a priori assumption of agency, at what probability can agency be shown?"

It can't be shown. But at some point it can be reasonably assumed to be the case. How much of your life do you base on certainties and how much on reasonable assumptions?

Blogger ManiaC Provost January 29, 2015 9:00 AM  

The zero probability thing is a result of early 20th century mathematicians revising math to say that 1 / infinity is 0. Prior to that, it was possible to use infinities to solve calculus problems. The statement that the probability of hitting a specific point is zero is logically flawed, even though it is true according to currently accepted mathematics.

Anonymous Zek January 29, 2015 9:03 AM  

For an interesting read that's not too long, check out Spygate by Ryan O'Leary. He does some multiple regression analysis in regards to New England and it does show additional outliers that imply shenanigans in New England.

Couple that with the Flutie quote about the helmet, the fact that Steelers players like Hines Ward said "It was like they knew our plays" in those Steeler playoff defeats to New England, and you have to conclude that they are a bunch of cheating bastards.

O’Leary repeats a rumor that Pats backup quarterback Doug Flutie once said he accidentally picked up Brady’s helmet during the 2005 season.

“He was amazed that the coaches kept right on speaking to Brady past the 15-second cutoff, right up until the snap,” ­according to O’Leary.

“The voice in Tom Brady’s helmet was explaining the exact defense he was about to face.”

That same year, Pats linebacker Ted Johnson told USA Today that an hour before game time, a list of the opposing team’s audibles — the signals a QB would use at the line of scrimmage just before a snap to change the play — would sometimes appear in his locker. He had no idea where the lists came from.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 9:06 AM  

> The unlikely of % means nothing when (science says) there are infinite worlds and infinite time for life to happen out of nowhere.

And when does science conclusively say this?

Anonymous Soga January 29, 2015 9:09 AM  

Another thing to recognize is that if an event has a probability P(E) of happening, there is a 1 - P(E) chance of it NOT happening.

In an infinite universe (which ours is certainly not), there is no guarantee that because an event has a nonzero probability it will inevitably occur, because there is also the probability that the event won't happen.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 9:10 AM  

Alexander, re read my comment.

Anonymous Roundtine January 29, 2015 9:20 AM  

Give up the god delusion! This is clearly the result of the random motion of footballs in the Patriot's ball bag.

Anonymous scoobius dubious January 29, 2015 9:24 AM  

Sorry, completely off-topic, but just as a general public service to the ilk, I wanted to post this link. You won't regret it, I promise......

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwWW742T0Wc&x-yt-ts=1422411861&x-yt-cl=84924572

the Heads. Live in Rome, 1980. Shockingly good, and with the divinely-inspired Adrian Belew on lead guitar, plus one of the best rhythm sections on earth. Unlike the very highly choreographed "Stop Making Sense" tour (widely considered the best concert film of all time, by those in a position to know), this set has a sort of raw magnetic energy that you can't design in advance. It rarely gets as good as this on this woebegone planet.

Treat yourself.

And take notes, Kratman. ;-)


Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 29, 2015 9:24 AM  

"It can't be shown. But at some point it can be reasonably assumed to be the case. How much of your life do you base on certainties and how much on reasonable assumptions?"

Agreed James, I would ask Wrf3 if he is mathematically *certain* that cars in the oncoming lanes will keep to their side of the painted lines, or if he is merely sufficiently certain so as to bet his life on it.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 9:25 AM  

The unlikely of % means nothing when (science says) there are infinite worlds and infinite time for life to happen out of nowhere.

But science says there is only one world and 4.5 billion years for life to have reached this point on Earth ex nihilo.

Blogger sykes.1 January 29, 2015 9:31 AM  

What is studiously ignored in deflategate is the role of the game officials. After every play, at least two to three officials handle the ball and have an opportunity to determine its fitness for use. Once they put the ball in play, they have certified it meets NFL standards or is close enough that the differences do not matter.

The point is, you cannot accuse the Patriots of cheating without implicating the game officials, too.

The bigger point is, who cares? The players should get the balls they want.

Blogger Log January 29, 2015 9:31 AM  

Low probability alone isn't sufficient to sink a "scientific" claim.

Blogger Northern Hamlet January 29, 2015 9:42 AM  

VD,

I found this post to be informative and interesting, even though football isn't my thing.

We're also close to how we measure probability. Maybe there's something larger there... IQ, personality type, or age/sex vs possibility assessment.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 9:43 AM  

VD,

"But science says there is only one world."

Why one world?

Blogger Josh January 29, 2015 9:47 AM  

http://drewfustin.com/2015/01/27/patriots-fumble-comments/

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/your-guide-to-deflate-gateballghazi-related-statistical-analyses/

http://regressing.deadspin.com/why-those-statistics-about-the-patriots-fumbles-are-mos-1681805710

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 9:55 AM  

Darth Toolpodicus wrote: I would ask Wrf3 if he is mathematically *certain* that cars in the oncoming lanes will keep to their side of the painted lines, or if he is merely sufficiently certain so as to bet his life on it.

Again, you're arguing something I'm not arguing. You're arguing "sorities", I'm arguing (a modified) Turing. Do you understand the difference?

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 9:58 AM  

James Dixon wrote: It can't be shown.

Then why do both sides keep trying to show it?

But at some point it can be reasonably assumed to be the case.

a) what is that point?
b) can it not also be reasonably assumed to not be the case?

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 10:06 AM  

Yohami:

1. So science's answer to the charge that Christians are hand-waving God is to hand-wave the multi-verse.

2. But that too is irrelevant. If the universes are independent to one another (as they must be), it matters not. Our universe has a finite amount of time, therefore a finite number of N events, therefore the majority of the infinite conceivable events will never occur.

Blogger William Newman January 29, 2015 10:07 AM  

"Prior to that, it was possible to use infinities to solve calculus problems."

People still use infinities to solve calculus problems, including various idealized problems that are the most useful approximations to the physical world. (See below for more on this.) It would be more accurate to say we have rules to avoid working infinities in situations where the results would be undefined: for example, in the notes linked below, Tao will tend to (mostly implicitly) follow rules that forbid doing something like adding infinity to a finite number and expecting it to obey the usual rules of algebra on real numbers.

"The statement that the probability of hitting a specific point is zero is logically flawed, even though it is true according to currently accepted mathematics."

On the Internet, no one can hear my head explode.:-|

I'm not sure what your definition of 'currently accepted mathematics' is, but people who are motivated to work with infinitely dense probabilities piled up at a single infinitely small point have ways of doing it. E.g., people doing things involving Fourier transforms often have reasons to do this: the Fourier transform of a pure signal not bounded in space is infinitely dense piled up at a single point, and there's no simple way to reformulate the problem so that this goes away. Years ago I did a lot of quantum mechanics, and this arises naturally there, and everyone knows how to deal with it.

I know less about how the statisticians and pure mathematicians deal with this, but I know they can, and a few minutes with a search engine led me to a promising example, https://terrytao.wordpress.com/2009/04/19/245c-notes-3-distributions/ . A Fields medalist teaching a calculus ('analysis') course in the math department at Berkeley is evidently not what ManiaC Provost as an individual considers to be 'currently accepted mathematics' --- seems weird, but OK, whatever, perhaps I need to think harder. Ordinary readers of this weblog who use words in the ordinary way should realize, though, that in the ordinary meaning of 'currently', 'accepted', and 'mathematics' this is about as accepted as math can currently get. (Also realize that the 'Dirac delta distribution' in those notes is a mathematical description of the infinitely-concentrated-infinitely-narrow situation in question.)

In physical reality, of course, generally we don't quite have these idealized perfect situations (situations like a infinitely concentrated probability at a point, or pure signal extending evenly over infinite space), any more than we have truly infinite crystals or perfect spheres or perfectly smooth lenses. But it's very commonly useful to work with the idealized approximation (e.g., the band theory of infinite crystals, or the orbits of spherical planets, or the optics of smooth lenses, not the optics of a particular lens complicated by a bunch of corrections for the blemishes that happen to be on that particular lens). And this delta distribution, what the physicists often call the 'Dirac delta function', is one of the many cases where the techniques for working with idealized approximations are commonplace.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 29, 2015 10:08 AM  

@wrf3:

No not really, just focusing on the disconnect between how your assessment of probability differs between your judgment of an argument vs a level of risk that you (willingly, literally) bet your life on every time you get behind the wheel of a car.

In other words, you will hem and haw about probabilities that would indicate agency in a particular intellectual argument yet you will risk your life on a much, much higher probability of occurrence.

I seldom make arguments based upon the Heap paradox, though you seem quite fond of them. Could you please elaborate on exactly what your (modified) “Turing argument” is?

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 29, 2015 10:12 AM  

@wrf3:

You just got done decrying the Sorites paradox, and then this:

"But at some point it can be reasonably assumed to be the case.

a) what is that point?"

News flash: Take enough beans out of the heap, and you no longer have a heap. Regardless of whether individuals have different standards for how many beans makes a heap.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 10:20 AM  

Great post.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 10:23 AM  

Bruce Charlton linky link again: Natural selection is normative, not productive. Goes a long way toward explaining the dysgenic effects of agriculture, industrialization, welfare, etc.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 10:26 AM  

Alexander,

"So science's answer to the charge that Christians"

I dont care about science vs christians, my comment is about the logic of a statement. The logic can be sound, or not. Here:

"1 in 72,251,192,125"

If you have a 1 in 72 billion chance to win a lottery, what are your chances of winning if you play 72 billion times?

What are your chances if you play 720 billion times? how about a billion of a billion times?

Sooner than later you face the "anything that is possible must happen" mindfuck that results from playing with infinite attempts.

This means that given enough chances, probabilities would materialize a computer with windows 95 installed, and the "out of this world" game of the year edition in the floppy drive.

Well, that's implausible - for my mind. But wtf do I know.

What science says is that life is the result of self replicating DNA inside of a carbon protectore membrane. Wether I agree or not with that definition of life, what they state is that the DNA might have been chained "on its own" in the hot soup of proteins that was the sea x millions of years ago. All this is speculation.

Doing an attempt of an estimate of "1 in 72,251,192,125" chance that the DNA gets chained in the proper way, means nothing without knowing how many attempts per second happens in a sea and how many millions of years this was happening. How many attempts is that? 1 billion? a billion of billions of billions? do you know?

I dont. The chances of chaining the four ingredients of DNA in a coherent way are bigger than, say, produce a torre eiffeel from nowhere.

Still the torre eiffel should totally possible to create in this infinite amount of trials model, if you find a place where attempts of eiffel can be made.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 10:27 AM  

Vox wrote: If we are simply going to assume the conclusion - the Patriots cheated and the actions of some artificial force produced the variety of life we see today - there is no reason to bother with any of the analysis.

The question is not "did the Patriots cheat" or "did an artificial force produce the variety of life we see today" but, rather, "do long odds indicate agency or not? Is your answer subjective or objective? Why?"

You need to drop your bugaboos.

One man's "bugaboo" is another man's "heads I win, tails you lose."

The teoleogical factor doesn't have to be removed, it is irrelevant.

Except you're trying to demonstrate teleology through probability. If the teleology is built into your brain, then you aren't demonstrating anything except your subjective impression of the data.

The proof is true whether the ateleologist believes it or not, just as the animal is not lurking in the bush whether the teleologist is convinced or not that it is there.

Looking for animals and looking for agency are two different things. "Is the animal there" is different from "is the animal there because this is its native habitat, or is the animal there because it was dropped from a UFO?"

Furthermore, as I have demonstrated, most of that ateleogy is a rationalization for dismissing unwanted conclusions.

Sauce, goose, gander.

I only chose them because we can quantify the odds, which was your original objection.
No, it wasn't. The objection isn't "what are the odds of x happening" but "at what point do the odds indicate agency?" Since you started with agency, it doesn't matter if the odds are 1 in 100 (preponderance of the evidence) or 1 in 1,000,000 (beyond a reasonable doubt).

Or are you going to insist that there is no evidence that the Patriots are cheating.
Cheating agents cheat. That's not surprising.

My car has a "tire pressure low" gague. For months, it registered that everything was fine. One morning, I'm driving and I notice that the light is on. Did someone let air out of my tires that night while the car was parked in the garage, or was it the fact that the temperature dropped significantly over night that was the cause? PV=mRT, or a disgruntled spouse/child?

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 10:31 AM  

...people who are motivated to work with infinitely dense probabilities piled up at a single infinitely small point...

Look, I'm about as crazy as they make 'em, but this is clearly an "appeal to esotericism" as I call it. There is no such thing as an "infinitely dense probability", even if a particular trick of math gives us a useful answer. It's like saying you can divide by zero because lim (x/x) = 1 as x -> 0.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 10:34 AM  

Yohami,

Let us assume an event has a .001% chance of occurring.

Then that also means it has a .999% chance of not occurring.

So .999^n is a non-zero probability.

So *after any number of trails you care to come up with*, there is a non-zero chance that event will not occur.

What that means is, no, it's perfectly plausible that something will never happen *because that too is a probability*.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 10:37 AM  

> Then why do both sides keep trying to show it?

Human nature. We crave certainty, elusive though it is.

> a) what is that point?

It varies from person to person. I'm not sure why that seems to surprise you. Different people have different tolerances for uncertainty.

> b) can it not also be reasonably assumed to not be the case?

Sure, At a certain level of improbability. I don't think anyone has attempted to make that case outside of the multiverse argument though.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 10:37 AM  

Alexander, I'll take your non answer for what it is.

Blogger Eric Wilson January 29, 2015 10:39 AM  

Vox,

I believe your odds are incorrect. The odds you posted are of being dealt 4 of a kind. The odds of being dealt 4 aces is 54145:1.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 10:40 AM  

Yohami,

I was unaware you had a question. I just continue to point out that your logic that a non-zero event must occur is flawed.

If you have a specific question you would like me to answer, please ask it.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 10:47 AM  

> If you have a 1 in 72 billion chance to win a lottery, what are your chances of winning if you play 72 billion times?

From memory, the inverse of 1-[(72B-1)/72B]**72B.

Anonymous mattos January 29, 2015 10:47 AM  

I see one error here: any machine that deals you 4 aces twice in a row is one that you absolutely should keep playing on, since it appears to be glitched in a good way. Still supports your point.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 10:50 AM  

wrf3,

I think I understand your point in playing devil's advocate here, and I'm beginning to believe you are wasting your time. You are asking him to prove a teleological idea with materialist assumptions. This is an incoherent request, especially because there is neither randomness nor probability in a material universe. Only "indeterminacy", as usefully phrased in the previous thread.

Contrarily, Vox's argument is like the spinning totem from Inception. If the top is still spinning after a certain length of time, we conclude that we must be in a dream. It is possible but implausible that it would still be spinning otherwise. Present the top to a rigorous materialist, who doesn't believe dreams are possible, and they are bound by their assumptions to conclude that however improbable the top must be spinning for purely material reasons. If the top jumped off the floor and did a jig, he would be forced to conclude it was due to the wind, or a puppeteer's string (a mindless, mechanistic puppeteer, mind).

Appealing to such a person through probability is silly. Their worldview is incoherent to begin with, and if they are logical creatures it would be better to use a logical proof of the supernatural. If they are not logical creatures then an appeal to empiricism is the way to go. Probability assumes an observer with a POV. To the extent that a materialist allows this (maybe for the practical reason of getting the math done), they are already being illogical.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 10:51 AM  

Alexander, there are several questions, you can find them by looking at the "?" characters.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 10:52 AM  

James,

"From memory, the inverse of 1-[(72B-1)/72B]**72B.""

What's the translation of that?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 29, 2015 10:54 AM  

But science says there is only one world and 4.5 billion years for life to have reached this point on Earth ex nihilo.

This is giving the Earth too much credit. Since bacteria fossils have been found in rocks dated 3.5 billion years old, and the current consensus has the Earth as molten (or otherwise inhabitable) for about 500 MY, the maximum time available to ex nihilo creation is about 500 million years. This is so impossibly improbable that Crick et. al. believe DNA came from extraterrestrial sources, to reopen the 10 billion years+ the rest of the universe gives.

Except that may not be possible. There was a recent article explaining that the levels and frequencies of supernovas in the Milky Way area probably sterilized the entire galaxy multiple times up to 4 billion years ago via gamma radiation, explaining why Fermi's Paradox (if there's life in the universe, why can't we see a single sign of it?) appears to be true: all possible life is no older than life here.

Except that that makes us fall back on our 500 million years or so here on Earth, according to common consensus. The odds of DNA randomly creating a working pattern in 500 MY is statistically impossible. The "primordial soup" explanation most use just isn't possible.

wrf3, I agree that there can be some working mechanism that forced DNA into a sub-random combination process. The problem is, there's absolutely no evidence of it in natural processes. If a scientist wants to posit that it exists, the theorem has to be more than "it exists because it has to". Failing to explain a working process is pretty much "a miracle occurred here", and makes ex nihilo creation LESS reasonable than saying "God did it".

Anonymous LES January 29, 2015 10:55 AM  

If evolution was true I would expect to see abundant non-lethal mutations among all the species of life on Earth today. Shouldn't there be a person somewhere who has tooth enamel on his scalp instead of hair?

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 10:55 AM  

Why one world?

Because that is the only world we are discussing when we contemplate the origin of the various species inhabiting a particular planet. If you want to discuss philosophy, that's fine, but you need to begin by admitting that you have abandoned science.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 10:56 AM  

> What's the translation of that?

The chance of your winning is that number. But that's not the way odds are normally stated. They're either stated as a percentage chance, in which case you multiply by 100, or as the odds for or against winning, in which case you say 1 in x or x to 1.

Do you often ask questions to which you're incapable of understanding the mathematical response?

Anonymous 691 January 29, 2015 10:57 AM  

If something can happen, that it's probability shouldn't and probably couldn't be zero.

It depends on how you want to conceptualize probability and how "big" your set of possibilities are.

The phenomenon of 0 probability events that can nonetheless occur arises from trying to make sense of probability when the set of possibilities is infinite.

Suppose that T is the set of all possible outcomes and S is some subset of T. You'd like to ask "What is the probability that something in set S occurs?" Well, if there 1 element in S and 2 elements in T (like flipping a coin), it's easy to say 1/2. If S is the interval [0,1/2] and T is the interval [0,1], again, it's easy to say 1/2.

But suppose S = {.333} has a single element and T is the interval [0,1]. What is the probability of landing in S?

Well, there should be some coherence to probabilities. In particular,
-if A is a subset of B, then P(A) should be less than or equal to P(B).
- if A is the subinterval [c,d] of [0,1], then P(A) is d - c (i.e. the length of the interval.).

It turns out that the only way to satisfy both of these conditions is for the probability of that single element set S = {.333} to have probability P(S) = 0.

Why, well suppose you assign S some positive probability P(S) = e > 0. Now, there's an interval Q = [.333 - e/4,.333+e/4] that has length .333+e/4 - (.333 - e/4) = e/2. So P(Q) = e/2. But S is clearly a subset of Q, so we should have P(S) <= P(Q) and e <= e/2, which is a contradiction.

So, to maintain logical consistency, P(S) can't be any positive real number. So it has to be 0.

On the other hand, to say that something can't happen means that the set of possibilities S is empty , i.e. has no elements in it.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 10:59 AM  

There is also the elephant in the room, which is that people often don't want to understand the truth due to the potential for discomfort ("I'm not evil inside, I'm a good person!"). The way to convince such a person is to wait for a moment of crushing pain and great turmoil (like the progressives do). If, for instance, Scalzi lost all of his followers, friends, family, money, lawn, cats, and delusions of grandeur, and thereby became a miserable wreck with no chance of solace except the truth, then he would have a chance of being saved. "Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed."

Blogger JDC January 29, 2015 11:01 AM  

Congrats Carlotta. God be with you.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 11:01 AM  

VD,

"Because that is the only world we are discussing"

Got it.

"admitting that you have abandoned science."

No problem with that, science is flawed.

Blogger stareatgoatsies January 29, 2015 11:02 AM  

Just to make sure I'm following the argument correctly, what biological evolutionary event does the four-aces draw represent in this analogy?

The sum total of all biological evolutionary events. We don't know what it is, but we know it is substantially lower than 1 in 5,842.


A question: what is the probability that you are you. Going back to the moment of conception when the your mother & your father's chromosomes combined. You have 23 pairs of chromosomes, each of which is a semi-random combination of two grandparents' chromosomes. Anybody done the calculation? I imagine a very small number.

And a follow on question for Vox - does your "sum total of all biological events" distinguish between the probability that "you are you" and "you are someone", if that makes sense. Thanks.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 11:02 AM  

Oh, note that as I said, the above calculation is from memory. It's been along time since my high school and college probability studies.

Anonymous Eric Ashley January 29, 2015 11:02 AM  

This universe has no infinite Past as one could not arrive at the Present if so.

The odds of evolution are such that you could multiply the seconds in five B years X the number of elementary particles in the Universe to reach a total pool, and have one chance in that astronomical number......and yet evo is still more improbable.

Just one of the many problems is Hoyle's amino acid problem at 10 to the 400.

Blogger ManiaC Provost January 29, 2015 11:02 AM  

So, apparently I was wrong and Fields medal winners agree with me that 1 / infinity is equal to epsilon, which is greater than zero. Excellent.

Anonymous VD January 29, 2015 11:13 AM  

A question: what is the probability that you are you.

1 in 1. This has already been addressed in the previous post. What you want is the probability that precise replication will happen at least twice in a row.

It's a very silly argument that begs the question. Think it through a little deeper and you'll understand why.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 11:15 AM  

So, apparently I was wrong and Fields medal winners agree with me that 1 / infinity is equal to epsilon, which is greater than zero. Excellent.

Wow, an authority agrees with you? I've never heard this form of argument before. Perhaps you can explain how it works?

Blogger W.LindsayWheeler January 29, 2015 11:16 AM  

If I remember my Yahtze playing days, several times I rolled doubles back to back; a couple of times, rolled doubles three times in a row. But one can not if one had a billion years playing Yahtze can one roll doubles throughout the game. Won't happen. Even if one had a odds of it happening, it won't.

I believe that is what Vox is getting at. Chaos only goes so far; Chance only goes so far; Chance does not consistently override the physical laws. It's called push-back.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 11:25 AM  

Worst comments since Satan created Baptists.

And yet here you are. Reminds me of the retards who come to Minneapolis and preach about how they do things in Chicago. Jump on a Greyhound, bitch. I'll pay your fare if you can't cover it.

Blogger stareatgoatsies January 29, 2015 11:27 AM  

Perhaps, but I'll leave the question as posed, out of interest. Just along the lines of, 'How many different people could I have been, given the random nature of conception'.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 11:27 AM  

Moral of the story is Chicago sucks dick and so do you.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 11:28 AM  

Yohami: Really, you are asking for math to be done for you?

All your 1/X chance questions: Poisson's distribution says you've got a lambda that is going to be .000000000...000N, so the odds of P(X=0) is going to be staggeringly high in all those scenarios, even with billions and billions of trials.

And there is no mindfuck: because I've repeated to you, the odds of the event never occurring is also an event, and is an event with a non-zero probability. Since A and Not A are two mutually exclusive events, you must concede that even if in theory A has a greater than 0 percent chance of happening, it might never happen. Not A could happen an infinite number of times, however likely or unlikely that might be.

"Doing an attempt of an estimate of "1 in 72,251,192,125" chance that the DNA gets chained in the proper way, means nothing without knowing how many attempts per second happens in a sea and how many millions of years this was happening. How many attempts is that? 1 billion? a billion of billions of billions? do you know?"

Good - so at least you concede that your 'infinite' time is not in play. We are now dealing with millions of years and X attempts per second - finite amounts.

As for what I know - no, I do not know how many times a bacteria's genetic material replicated X million years ago. But what I do know is that given the low probability of a proto-amoeba undergoing enough successfully chained and ordered mutations to eventually go through a succession of species and ultimately produce me... does not seem at all likely within the time constrains. Especially when once we get outside of the bacterial ranges, we're not basing it off of 'mutations per second', but 'years per generation'.

Anonymous n.o.o.c. January 29, 2015 11:36 AM  

Don't feed the troll.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 11:39 AM  

Darth Toolpodicus wrote: No not really, just focusing on the disconnect...

There is no disconnect. The issue is not "what are the odds" or "what actions do I take based on the odds" but "when do long odds indicate agency"? Type "x" brains will say "never", type "y" brains will say "at some point." That's a subjective answer. Either we admit the subjectivity, or we try to find an objective answer.

In other words, you will hem and haw about probabilities that would indicate agency in a particular intellectual argument yet you will risk your life on a much, much higher probability of occurrence.

Agency is indicated because you started with agency. Do you still not get that?

Could you please elaborate on exactly what your (modified) “Turing argument” is?
The purpose of the Turing test is to determine if an agent (in this case, a computer) is intelligent. To this end, either a computer or a human is hidden, so that the experimenter cannot determine what the subject is. The experimenter then has a conversation with the subject, via a communication channel which gives no clues to the nature of the subject. If the experimenter thinks the subject is intelligent, then it is.

After the test, the experimenter can uncover the true identity of the subject. At that point, he might say, "oh, well, yes it's a computer -- but it's intelligent because it was made to be intelligent." The modified test doesn't allow the experimenter to uncover the subject, so that no statements about imputed intelligence (or, in this case, agency) can be made.

You just got done decrying the Sorites paradox, and then this:...

I didn't write what you attributed to me. James Dixon did.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 11:40 AM  

@691: The phenomenon of 0 probability events that can nonetheless occur arises from trying to make sense of probability when the set of possibilities is infinite.

Suppose that T is the set of all possible outcomes and S is some subset of T. You'd like to ask "What is the probability that something in set S occurs?" Well, if there 1 element in S and 2 elements in T (like flipping a coin), it's easy to say 1/2. If S is the interval [0,1/2] and T is the interval [0,1], again, it's easy to say 1/2.

But suppose S = {.333} has a single element and T is the interval [0,1]. What is the probability of landing in S?


This is fallacious for the same reason as throwing a dart into a specific point has no probability.

(I get the feeling that I've been repeating myself a bit in these threads.)

Short answer: different cardinalities. You're trying to pull an integer out of a hat full of irrational numbers.

Long answer: Let T be all points in the unit square. Throw a dart. What is the probability of landing in the direct center (0.5, 0.5)? Well, that would be the subset represented by the event divided by all possible events, so (0.5, 0.5) / T....wait a minute, that doesn't make any sense.

Now in 1-D. Throw a dart at the subinterval [0, 1] of the number line. What is the probability of landing in the exact middle? 0.5/[0, 1]...still doesn't make sense. We're dividing one point by an uncountably infinite number of points.

Anonymous Scintan January 29, 2015 11:41 AM  

the fact that their plays per fumble from 07-14 increased so dramatically from 00-06 after the rule change that they requested does tend to confirm the analyst's original suspicions.

The claim about the Patriots and fumbles has already been shown to be complete nonsense.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 11:59 AM  

Aeoli Pera wrote: This is fallacious for the same reason as throwing a dart into a specific point has no probability.

In math land, sure, since points have no dimensionality. But darts and dartboards do, so you're comparing apples and oranges. Either Zeno's paradox keeps you from moving, or it doesn't.

Anonymous 691 January 29, 2015 12:02 PM  

Aeoli

As I said, it's about how you choose to conceptualize probability. Your approach is to take the set of all possibilities T and the subset S you care about and divide cardinalities: P(S) = #S/#T.

But that approach doesn't work when S and T are both infinite sets. The cardinality of [0,1] is the same as the cardinality of [0,1/2] - both uncountably infinite. Or in a different direction, what's the probability when choosing a random integer that it's even? Again, it should be 1/2 but the cardinality of the set of integers is the same as the cardinality of the set of even integers (countably infinite), even though the latter is a proper subset of the former.

Instead, to deal with infinite sets it's better to think of probability as a function that assigns numbers to subsets S of a set T. From this approach, there's no need to divide at all. And the only logically coherent thing from this perspective is for nonempty, finite subsets to have probability 0.

So, if you want to reject that probability applies to infinite sets, then you are welcome to do that. But once you jump to an infinite set of all possibilities, you have to deal with the case of finite subsets.

Anonymous onejohn512 January 29, 2015 12:09 PM  

The universe though large is finite and therefore has an absolute limit to chance that may be estimated.
Estimated number of sub atomic particles in the universe 10^80
Estimated fastest possible number of interactions in 1 second 10^43 (cf. Plank's time for fastest single possible sub atomic interaction time 10^-43 seconds)
Estimated number of seconds since the beginning of the universe 10^16
Conservative estimate of the limits of chance in the universe 10^139
Possible protein shape target space possibilities that living things are a subset of 10^1500
There has not been enough time or possible particle interactions since the beginning of the universe to account for random processes to produce life.
Conclusion life is impossible without agency.

Anonymous onejohn512 January 29, 2015 12:16 PM  

Thanks again for a great post. Patriots fan here, thank you for the compelling evidence. If you were running a multi-billion dollar business would you leave it to chance? Apparently the NFL does not.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 12:17 PM  

Alexander,

"so the odds of P(X=0) is going to be staggeringly high in all those scenarios"

So "1 in 72,251,192,125" went from "impossible" to a "staggeringly high" chance. Funny.

"And there is no mindfuck"

Materializing a functioning computer with windows 95 installed and a game on the floppy drive seems pretty mindfuck to me. Maybe this happens everyday for you.

"the odds of the event never occurring is also an event"

That is interesting, but it's rethorics

"Since A and Not A are two mutually exclusive events"

A coin has roughly 50% chance of landing on either side, a somewhat .000001 % of landing still in the middle, and an infinitesimal chance of being eaten by a crocodile whos being chased by a time cop before touching the ground. Since the crocodile and landing on a side are mutually exclusive events, you have to concede that given enough chances all of this might happen or not - but in way that allows me to push my ideas further.

This is how science becomes bullshit and science is full of wankers. The idea that a non event is actually an event is nothing but rhetorics. Thanks.

If you have a coin with a 50% landing on each side but after a billion trials it ALWAYS gets eaten by a crocodile, then your initial model was wrong. Simple.

"no, I do not know how many times a bacteria's genetic material replicated X million years ago."

Yup, that's how ignorant we are.

"But what I do know is that given the low probability of a proto-amoeba undergoing enough successfully chained and ordered mutations to eventually go through a succession of species and ultimately produce me"

According to Vox, the chances of You being You are 100%, which would prove that evolution is real.

I know, that's rhetorics again.

My original comment was a bout the statistics of producing life as science defines it. Not even addressing evolution - I have my problems with it.

Anonymous 691 January 29, 2015 12:32 PM  

The idea that a non event is actually an event is nothing but rhetorics

Except in craps, where once you set the point, the goal is to not roll a 7.

Blogger Alexander January 29, 2015 12:37 PM  

P (X=0) means that the odds of zero occurrences is staggeringly high you midwit.

Your complete ignorance on this matter continues to tell. Your schoolboy error highlights you have no idea what you are discussing.

Blogger Vox January 29, 2015 12:38 PM  

According to Vox, the chances of You being You are 100%, which would prove that evolution is real.

Do construct that syllogism, Yohami. I'll be very interested to see it.

Blogger ManiaC Provost January 29, 2015 12:38 PM  

Aeoli, I believe in TENS and really haven't made any argument whatsoever. I stated that most mathematicians define 1/ inf equal to 0, which underlies the statement that the probability of hitting a point with a dart is defined to be zero. I disagree with this, and it was pointed out that some mathematicians agree with me that 1/inf is not equal to 0. It's not a problem since you can do the math either way, but it is important to understand the distinction before spending 1000 internet years debating the probability.

Ergo, I said nothing of substance, as usual. Therefore, anyone arguing with me is just an argumentative doof. I did not make an appeal to authority to prove any point whatsoever; the existence of authorities is the point.

Blogger Vox January 29, 2015 12:39 PM  

Your schoolboy error highlights you have no idea what you are discussing.

Yohami is a poet, not a logician. Relax and let him entertain you. Let's bring this dream home.

Blogger Alexander January 29, 2015 12:40 PM  

Let me make it really simple for you. Heads is A and tails is not A.

You agree its possible for an infinite string of tails, yes? Then it must be possible to in an infinite number of trials never be heads.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 12:42 PM  

Vox, the general rule that applies in the cases you've mentioned is that if one observes a highly improbable outcome, one should question his assumptions regarding the probabilities of underlying events. While the experiments you described relied on human tampering to produce seemingly improbable outcomes, that need not be the case. Nature can do the very same thing. A classic example of this is the Rutherford experiment, wherein an event that was assumed to be so improbable as to be impossible actually occurred, drastically changing our understanding of atomic physics. Such a profound and unexpected discovery hasn't happened in biology yet, but the future possibility can't be ruled out. After all, biologists are studying much more complex systems than particle physicists are.

Further, I still don't understand the objection to evolution from a religious perspective. After all, if the basic properties of matter are such that it naturally produces life under the right circumstances, is that any less remarkable than a unique and specific act of divine intervention to create life on one planet?

Blogger Alexander January 29, 2015 12:42 PM  

Ah, a poet, eh? Thanks Vox, I'll stand down and grab popcorn for a bit.

Anonymous physics geek January 29, 2015 12:43 PM  

One more analysis:

http://www.advancedfootballanalytics.com/index.php/home/research/general/224-the-patriots-have-great-ball-security%20

"Whoa. In this case NE is at the top of the list, and the next best team is a distant second. Notice how the second team [Baltimore] through the second to last team [Philadelphia] have rates that are within 1 or 2 plays of each other. NE, however, is better than the next best team by 20 plays per fumble."

Blogger Vox January 29, 2015 12:53 PM  

While the experiments you described relied on human tampering to produce seemingly improbable outcomes, that need not be the case. Nature can do the very same thing.

"Can do" and "has done in this particular case" are very different things. You don't seem to grasp the basic point. It is absolutely stupid to devote ALL of our scientific resources on the subject on the MORE IMPROBABLE theory. Logic dictates that there is tampering of some sort that has taken place; only an irrational ideologue could possibly contest the reasoning. We've had more than 150 years of useless "science" that is little more than an attempt to rationalize the highly improbable; if the same effort had been put into figuring out how the tampering took place we'd probably be much farther along in understand how to do the tampering ourselves.

I mean, if we finally find a TM somewhere tucked away in the DNA code, are you guys going to claim that appeared naturally too?

No one is saying it is necessarily a Creator God; logic also dictates that alien intervention is far less improbable than Nature+Time.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 12:54 PM  

One more observation. The odds of a dart hitting a specific point on a dartboard are huge. Wildly improbable against. Yet the dart hits the dartboard -- and the point that it does hit is just as improbable as any other. So wildly improbable things do happen.

Anonymous JI January 29, 2015 12:54 PM  

My graduate adviser, a statistician, once told me that the field of statistics is based on the idea that "rare events don't happen". That is, based on all of your assumptions, if the reality occurred with a very low probability, then it is your assumptions that are wrong.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 12:55 PM  

Vox,

"Do construct that syllogism, Yohami. I'll be very interested to see it."

Its just begging the question. Assume evolution is real, then ask what are the chances of the evolution of amoebas producing you = 100%

Anonymous 691 January 29, 2015 12:56 PM  

I stated that most mathematicians define 1/ inf equal to 0, which underlies the statement that the probability of hitting a point with a dart is defined to be zero. I disagree with this, and it was pointed out that some mathematicians agree with me that 1/inf is not equal to 0.

Actually, the modern approach is mostly to just avoid ending up in a situation where you have to divide two numbers and the denominator could be infinity. Dividing cardinalities works in simple cases, but in order to tackle harder problems, you need to conceptualize probability in a different way.

Anonymous Scintan January 29, 2015 1:00 PM  

One more analysis:

http://www.advancedfootballanalytics.com/index.php/home/research/general/224-the-patriots-have-great-ball-security%20


Start with this:

The study is fatally flawed

and then add the fact that the author uses fumbles lost, not actual fumbles. Sharp's "analysis" is not worth the electrons being used on it.

Anonymous clk January 29, 2015 1:01 PM  

VD says ...."I do not understand the idiot position that one should never say anything at all without possessing iron-clad scientific evidence and incontrovertible mathematical proof to support it."

That would be one of the differences between rhetoric and dialectic maybe ? Alhought for the record the inclusion of numbers does not make a dialectic arguement in and of itself...I have always held this position -- any analysis without numbers is merely an opinion... Its an engineering thing. You are free to state your opinions but dont expect anyone to agree based solely on those opinions... some people.. and normally you are one of them.. want hard facts..

Now onto those bastard cheating NE Patriots...

Are you telling me that it would be completely out of character for Bill B to have have the balls pumped up to the min spec value at a very high room temp so that during the game the ideal gas law would reduce the pressure to a more grippable level ... Bill B manages every aspect of the game --- he is always looking for a loop hole in the rules to get a advantage... its completely within his character to do this.



Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 1:05 PM  

The real joke in this thread is that New England only started fucking over the rest of the country in 2007.

Blogger ManiaC Provost January 29, 2015 1:08 PM  

691, on the other hand, mechanical engineers define 1 / inconvenient number = 0. So I have no issue with the practicality of it. That would be like arguing that because TENS has a tiny probability of occurring in a Godless universe, and TENS occurred, therefore there is no God.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 1:13 PM  

Alexander,

"midwit [...] your complete ignorance"

Debate respectfully or shut up.

"so the odds of P(X=0) is going to be staggeringly high in all those scenarios"

I misread your comment - are you stating that the probabilities go down the more you try?

Anonymous onejohn512 January 29, 2015 1:15 PM  

It seems to me, without specifying the begining conditions at inflation, among them the temperature of the air used to inflate the balls there is no meaningful standard other than what the referees on the filed determine. Therefore the referees are culpaple.

Blogger Josh January 29, 2015 1:16 PM  

Are you telling me that it would be completely out of character for Bill B to have have the balls pumped up to the min spec value at a very high room temp so that during the game the ideal gas law would reduce the pressure to a more grippable level ... Bill B manages every aspect of the game --- he is always looking for a loop hole in the rules to get a advantage... its completely within his character to do this.

Is Joe Flacco elite?

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 1:16 PM  

Instead, to deal with infinite sets it's better to think of probability as a function that assigns numbers to subsets S of a set T. From this approach, there's no need to divide at all.

First of all, thank you for demonstrating a grasp of the subject. It's heartening.

Second...we are still using division to describe the probability here. It just happens to be division of the number we arbitrarily assigned to S. Call it P(x in S) = c, such that given T, P(S|T) = c/1.

So, if you want to reject that probability applies to infinite sets, then you are welcome to do that. But once you jump to an infinite set of all possibilities, you have to deal with the case of finite subsets.

I don't mind talking philosophy, but I'm currently agnostic on the question of whether it has any basis in reality, because that requires knowledge of the building blocks. For instance, in the case of cellular automata it would be incoherent to talk about probabilities along the number line except as an estimation tool or a fun thought experiment.

Anonymous clk January 29, 2015 1:18 PM  

I am one of those math geeks that has a problem with the statistics of TENS... but I also sometimes feel that its much more likely mathematically that man was seeded by extraterrestial aliens than by mythical God (and I am a RC by the way).

A thought experiment:

Look at it this way .... as we are starting to see, there are millions, if not billions of possible stars in existance that can support life of the type we know. That means over time there could be millions of life forms out there and some fraction would have the ability to interact on a planet/solar system/galaxy widedistance. Lets say over time there has been a million of such species across the universe. and Now.. theres only 1 God .....

Lets use a simpler model

We have a room with 1 million fat guys you can see and 1 skinny guy you cant. You leave a donut on the table and come back to it gone .. is it more or less likely that it was eaten by one of the fat guys you can see than the skinny guy you dont.. probably.

If you watch all these ancient astronaut shows on the history channel, and listen to coast to coast on the shortwave, you will hear of much more concrete evidence of the existance of aliens than of God making greater the possibility of the creator behind the scenes is a little green man with bug eyes than a mythical God in heaven ...

Just a thought

Anonymous Hong Hu Shi January 29, 2015 1:24 PM  

I misread your comment - are you stating that the probabilities go down the more you try?

His argument is that if the odds of event X happening at a given moment is 1 in 72 billion, the odds of event X not happening at a given moment is 71,999,999,999 in 72 billion. The odds aren't changing, but rather they remain "staggeringly high" for as long as the conditions remain the same.

You seem to be arguing that everytime event X doesn't happen, the odds of X happening get better, as if events are being dealt out of a finite deck of cards.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 1:28 PM  

No - I will not debate you respectfully because there is no debate. Before you throw out snide remarks that "oh it went from impossible to guaranteed, funny" you should at least *comprehend what you are reading.*

You require your opponent to do your math for you, and then you misinterpret the English when I spoon feed you the results. Very clearly, me pretending that your opinions deserve respectful deconstruction is as absurd as expecting to hold a meaningful conversation about Hapsburg-Ottoman relations with a houseplant.

Though at least the houseplant wouldn't seriously consider it a reasonable question to ask someone else to do a math problem for them.

"Midwit" is far too kind on my part.

I'm saying that with a one-in-72 billion chance, the odds go up but they are so slight and so small that my calculator just goes straight to (P=0) = 1 (that means the probability of it happening zero times, ie. not happening). It is absurd to think such odds would not only happen by chance in nature, but would form a successive chain wherein all events improved an organism's reproductive capability or at a minimum had no impact, eventually creating a subset that were no longer sexually compatible with that larger group, creating a new species.

Also, there is a probability that you cannot, by your own thinking discount: that me calling you a 'midwit' was in fact a complement of extreme deference and admiration.

Anything's possible, right?

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 1:34 PM  

Hong,

"You seem to be arguing that everytime event X doesn't happen, the odds of X happening get better"

No, the odds of every individual attempt remain the same.

But if you roll the dice 100 times it's very likely you're going to get a six there.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 1:35 PM  

Alexander,

"I will not debate you respectfully"

Then shut up.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 1:36 PM  

Yes, it is.

But the odds of 1/6 are much higher than 1.39*10^-11.

Tell you what though. If the universe ends up being 1 billion ^ 1 billion years old, I will reconsider by position on evolution. Even with 1/72 billion odds.

Anonymous 691 January 29, 2015 1:41 PM  

Second...we are still using division to describe the probability here. It just happens to be division of the number we arbitrarily assigned to S. Call it P(x in S) = c, such that given T, P(S|T) = c/1.

Who's "we"? There's no division necessary. You declare that the probability of landing in a subinterval of [0,1] is the length of that subinterval. Then you demand that the probability of landing in a subset of an subinterval is less than or equal to the probability of landing in the subinterval. With just these two facts, you can logically deduce that P of a single point must be 0.

I don't think of probability in terms of division, except in simple cases when dividing cardinalities is equivalent to a more general approach. And why did you jump to conditional probability? It seems to me you are attempting to define P(S) in terms of P(S|T). If so, how do you know what P(S|T) is?

Anonymous Anubis January 29, 2015 1:44 PM  

Everyone thinks that the balls where leaked after the fact but what if they where at full pressure with hot air, and allowed to cool. If I wanted to soft ball cheat that's what I would have done, that way there would be no chance of someone catching a leaker on camera.

Blogger Vox January 29, 2015 1:52 PM  

and then add the fact that the author uses fumbles lost, not actual fumbles. Sharp's "analysis" is not worth the electrons being used on it.

He corrected that in the update to the initial post, which was several posts ago. He has since addressed other objections. You simply don't know what you're talking about and therefore your opinion on the matter is worthless.

OpenID cailcorishev January 29, 2015 2:09 PM  

One more observation. The odds of a dart hitting a specific point on a dartboard are huge. Wildly improbable against. Yet the dart hits the dartboard -- and the point that it does hit is just as improbable as any other. So wildly improbable things do happen.

But someone still has to throw the dart. Abiogenesis is like finding a dartboard with a dart stuck in it and theorizing that the dartboard developed the ability to grow darts. At what level of improbability should one start considering the alternate possibility of a dart thrower, even if one has never personally seen such a thing?

Blogger stareatgoatsies January 29, 2015 2:10 PM  

Assume evolution is real, then ask what are the chances of the evolution of amoebas producing you = 100%

Not about evolution and amoebas, just any given fertilization. So you have meiosis to produce sperm and an egg which combine to produce the zygote. It's not like a full house because the percentage of possible random combinations which produce viable reproduction-capable offspring is far higher (how high?). There's 2^23 possible combinations of chromosomes, but there's also the crossing over phase which amplifies that massively. How much so? I'm curious.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 29, 2015 2:12 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 29, 2015 2:13 PM  

One more observation. The odds of a dart hitting a specific point on a dartboard are huge. Wildly improbable against. Yet the dart hits the dartboard -- and the point that it does hit is just as improbable as any other. So wildly improbable things do happen.

Let's simplify darts just a second, and pretend that a dart that doesn't hit the board doesn't count as a throw at all. Let's also pretend that there's about 1 million cells in the pieces of cork on a dart board, and it's not possible to fit between the cells.

What's the probabilities I'll hit one specific cell in the cork? 1 in a million. What is the odds that a cell will get hit by a legal throw? 1 in 1.

Because of genetics and environment, the odds that two non-twins will be identical in every fashion are so low that they're practically 0. Nonetheless, the odds that an individual will be "themselves" is one, because they have to be someone.

wrf3, you are attempting to say that, even though the possibility of a random DNA combination being self-reproducing is somewhere approximating 2^130k (the smallest self-replicating genomes we know about yet), you are asserting that that's not accurate because there could be a lower-probability mechanism involved. OK, so I'm going to lay down a gauntlet here:

What is it?

If you want to make a scientific claim about the origin of life and it's probability, that's wonderful. Make it. Tell us what that mechanism is. Make a hypothesis.

The problem here is, I think you're making a faith statement. You are sure that there's a natural explanation for abiotic genesis, but you don't have a scientific explanation for it, and cannot come up with one more likely than random chance. You're taking it on faith that there is one.

However, that moves us into Occam's Razor territory. You are proposing that life created spontaneously for non-explainable reasons. An Old Earth Creationist (or an alien-seedist) says God/aliens/spores/etc. seeded it. They have less assumptions and a simpler explanation, so by the Razor, they win.

Anonymous Stephen J. January 29, 2015 2:15 PM  

Me: "Just to make sure I'm following the argument correctly, what biological evolutionary event does the four-aces draw represent in this analogy?"

VD: "The sum total of all biological evolutionary events. We don't know what it is, but we know it is substantially lower than 1 in 5,842."

With respect, that's exactly what we don't know. Because if the sum total of all biological evolutionary events on the planet Earth over the lifespan of the universe is our 1, our numerator, then our denominator has to be the number of planets in the Universe on which biological life could possibly have developed to our level of complexity but did not -- and we have absolutely no idea what that number is yet. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Out of curiosity, if biological life of similar complexity to Earth's were discovered to be widespread in the Universe beyond Earth, would that strengthen the hypothesis for TENS by making life's existence appear more likely, or weaken it by making life's prevalence seem less likely? Our instinctive evaluation of probability depends on a lot on our a priori assumptions about possibility.

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 2:23 PM  

I haven't had as much time as I would like to enjoy those posts by Vox and participate in the discussions. At best I've been able to read the posts and barely skim the top comments.

That said...

Yohami January 29, 2015 10:26 AM Doing an attempt of an estimate of "1 in 72,251,192,125" chance that the DNA gets chained in the proper way, means nothing without knowing how many attempts per second happens in a sea and how many millions of years this was happening. How many attempts is that? 1 billion? a billion of billions of billions? do you know?

We're never going to be able to put more then a rough estimate on such things. But given the scales involved, our rough estimates are more then sufficient to demonstrate that life did not form or evolve randomly in this universe.

Marcel Golay estimated the odds of the random formation of the simplest possible self replicating life form (genome) at 1 in 10^450. Frank B. Salisbury put the odds at 1 in 10^600.

There are roughly 10^80 atoms in our universe, and there have been roughly 4.35x10^17 seconds since the Big Bang occurred.

If every single atom could participate in a potentially life bearing random event 1,000 times per second we would still be forced to conclude that the random formation of life in this universe is impossible. Indeed, it would be impossible even if this universe was a simulation that would be run 10^100 times (a comment I made under Vox's post "More evolutionary absurdity").

The truth is abiogenesis doesn't have that many dice to play with. At any given moment since the Big Bang the bulk of the matter in this universe has been locked up such that it could not possibly participate in abiogenesis. Black holes, stars, planets not in a habitable zone, etc.

What if this universe was unbounded, infinite in space and/or time such that abiogenesis would eventually occur? Well, Marcel Golay estimated the odds of life achieving the complexity of a modern mammal via mutation and natural selection at 1 in 10^3,000,000. The physics of this universe would preclude such a thing from happening even on an infinite playing field. Stars and their habitable zones simply cannot last long enough for this to occur.

Life did not start in this universe. And if you take the fossil record and evolutionary time line at face value (as opposed to, say, a literal 7 day creation theory), life on Earth was obviously and repeatedly upgraded by life not of Earth (i.e. Cambrian explosion).

Believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the savior of mankind takes faith. It is a reasonable faith backed up by some evidence, but a faith none the less. Believing that there is a creator God, i.e. a being (or beings) not of this universe who seeded and guided life within this universe? That is a mathematical certainty.

Anonymous kh123 January 29, 2015 2:27 PM  

"Just to make sure I'm following the argument correctly, what biological evolutionary event does the four-aces draw represent in this analogy?"

"The sum total of all biological evolutionary events. We don't know what it is, but we know it is substantially lower than 1 in 5,842."


F*cking great response. Along with the previous comment that those who demand iron clad evidence in this instance almost never abide that request themselves - indeed they can't in this case.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 2:27 PM  

stareatgoatsies,

"Not about evolution and amoebas"

The argument was about probabilities. What are the chances that amoebas reproduce, mutate, evolve into animal forms and ultimately into human beings? statistically, I'd say "zero"

But here I am.

What are the chances that a baby is born and does exactly the things I did and ends up exactly where I am now? "zero" again, but here I am.

The end result is usually impossible to predict by us. But there will be a result and it will be "the" result. Looking back it was impossible to predict, it looks stupid, unlikely, in retrospect, how every small decision and every little turn changed my life - I mean, my parents met, and their parents met, and they had sex, and the specific sperm and the specific ovule had to find each other, and then an non ending stream of casualities happened for me to be right here what now? what are the chances?

The chances are zero if you try to predict this into a model - you cant make a formula with it, it's all a miracle.

But the chance is actually 1/1 because here I am.

"There's 2^23 possible combinations of chromosomes, but there's also the crossing over phase which amplifies that massively.""

The unlikeness of you even existing is infinite. We cant do science here. There's not enough for us to slice measure and replicate, we dont have the grasp.

Anonymous Carlotta January 29, 2015 2:29 PM  

Thank you JDC. God be with you as well :)

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 2:31 PM  

You declare that the probability of landing in a subinterval of [0,1] is the length of that subinterval.

While the dart example is clearly meant to evoke a uniform density distribution, I didn't actually declare this. I only said that we arbitrarily assign a probability per each subinterval.

I'm curious to learn how you intend to come up with a ratio P(S) = 1/x without invoking division.

Anonymous Aeoli Pera January 29, 2015 2:33 PM  

Oops, I meant x/1, 0 >= x >= 1.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 2:34 PM  

You don't seem to grasp the basic point. It is absolutely stupid to devote ALL of our scientific resources on the subject on the MORE IMPROBABLE theory.

First, I made no statement of any kind about how scientific resources should be allocated. I'm in favor of people researching what interests them and what they believe will bear fruit, so long as they're not stealing from me. Second, you have no basis for stating which possibility is more or less probable. Abiogenesis and divine creation of life are both phenomena that have never been observed by mankind, so how exactly does one go about calculating the likelihood of something that has never been observed and that works by an unknown mechanism?

And I do grasp your point. I just don't agree.

"Can do" and "has done in this particular case" are very different things.

Logic dictates that there is tampering of some sort that has taken place...

The two statements above are at odds. If nature can provide what may be considered to be "tampering," then it is not always possible to distinguish between tampering and nature functioning in a way that is different from our understanding. Therefore, logic does not dictate that tampering has taken place, just as it cannot discount the possibility of tampering.

Blogger Yohami January 29, 2015 2:35 PM  

DT,

That was very interesting. I'll see what I can find about Golay and Frank B. Salisbury (UFO believer?)


Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 2:37 PM  

Kentucky Packrat wrote: wrf3, you are attempting to say that, even though the possibility of a random DNA combination being self-reproducing is somewhere approximating 2^130k (the smallest self-replicating genomes we know about yet), you are asserting that that's not accurate because there could be a lower-probability mechanism involved.

Not at all. I don't care what the probabilities may, or may not, be. I don't know what the probabilities may or may not be. My question has been, and continues to be: "without the a priori assumption of agency, at what probability can agency be shown?"

The only reason I responded to the dart board example is because it was a case of egregiously misusing probabilities.

The problem here is, I think you're making a faith statement.
Have you read nothing of what I've written? This:

"The issue is not 'what are the odds' or 'what actions do I take based on the odds' but 'when do long odds indicate agency'? Type 'x' brains will say 'never', type 'y' brains will say 'at some point.' That's a subjective answer. Either we admit the subjectivity, or we try to find an objective answer."

and

"Agency is indicated because you started with agency. Do you still not get that?"

You are sure that there's a natural explanation for abiotic genesis,

That's funny. I'm not sure of it at all. But I happen to have a "teleological" brain. But knowing that I know that I have a "teleological" brain, I know that my beliefs are subjective. Just like the beliefs of "ateleological" brains are subjective.

but you don't have a scientific explanation for it, and cannot come up with one more likely than random chance. You're taking it on faith that there is one.

And you're taking it on faith that there is. Watch...

However, that moves us into Occam's Razor territory.

Can you give me an objective proof that Occam's Razor is the metric that should be used? Or are you taking it's applicability on faith?

You are proposing that life created spontaneously for non-explainable reasons.

"Wildly improbable things happen" is a reason. Just like the dart hitting a point on the dart board. That's just as improbable is it hitting the exact center.

An Old Earth Creationist (or an alien-seedist) says God/aliens/spores/etc. seeded it. They have less assumptions and a simpler explanation, so by the Razor, they win.

I have a beard. The razor doesn't apply. Occam's Razor, like Gödel's incompleteness theorem, is an impressive sounding ogre used to scare little children who don't know any better.

Anonymous Carlotta January 29, 2015 2:39 PM  

If you watch all these ancient astronaut shows on the history channel, and listen to coast to coast on the shortwave, you will hear of much more concrete evidence of the existance of aliens than of God making greater the possibility of the creator behind the scenes is a little green man with bug eyes than a mythical God in heaven

@clk
Or, you read the Bible and have the answers to the questions raised by those shows and realize that you are made in the image of the Creator and His rebellious one hates that image. And has sought to change it, demean it and overthrow it.

They aren't aliens, they are fallen angels. It isn't an extinction event, it was a flood. The gods did fall to earth. They have been cast down and their time is fast running out as the King is coming back. The truth is there for the taking.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 2:40 PM  

"Marcel Golay estimated the odds of the random formation of the simplest possible self replicating life form (genome) at 1 in 10^450. Frank B. Salisbury put the odds at 1 in 10^600."

In other words, if you assume that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible, you reach the starting conclusion that -- wait for it -- abiogenesis is mathematically impossible.

Fascinating.

OpenID cailcorishev January 29, 2015 2:40 PM  

The real joke in this thread is that New England only started fucking over the rest of the country in 2007.

Heh. (I know this post isn't really about that, but the NFL is always on-topic, right?) The outcry over this particular cheat, which probably didn't affect games much, means there's a general sense among fans that:

A) The Patriots cheat more than other teams, either because they're better at it (smarter and sneakier) or because they try to cheat a lot more. (I assume all teams push the envelope more or less.)

B) The NFL can't or won't stop them.

That's a problem for the league, especially for a league so many people gamble on. That's why I think the calls for suspensions actually make sense -- not because this latest infraction deserves suspensions, but to give the NFL back some credibility by making it look like it's serious about stopping cheating.

Blogger William Newman January 29, 2015 2:41 PM  

"it was pointed out that some mathematicians agree with me that 1/inf is not equal to 0"

It was pointed out that it is incorrect to say that people can't use infinities to solve calculus problems, and that it is incorrect to say that currently accepted mathematics can't work with an infinitely concentrated spike of probability for hitting an infinitely narrow point. As far as I can tell, it was not "pointed out" that some mathematicians agree with you that 1/infinity is not equal to zero, that is something else, perhaps based on some unpublished proof of yours that the only possible way that people could use infinity to solve calculus problems requires taking 1/infinity>0.

For an example of the kind of use of infinity I was referring to, see one of the definitions at the beginning of Tao's book on measure theory (or at least see the draft of it which is available for free download as https://terrytao.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/measure-book1.pdf): "extended non-negative real axis" on page xi. Nothing about 1/infinity being nonzero there that I can see; indeed, I see a following paragraph that warns about some technical complications that seem to suggest acceptance of the usual rules (not explicitly stating 1/infinity=0, but not leaving much room to wedge in a rule that 1/infinity>0).

I do dimly remember hearing about schemes to use non-finite quantities that have nonzero inverses (transfinite numbers, maybe? don't remember), but as far as I know no such schemes are in common use, and such a scheme would probably cause serious difficulties unless it involved an entire range of non-finite values, not just one infinity. (Usually we want a value which works tidily in roles like "the limit as X goes to infinity", so we want a single infinity such that among other things 2*infinity=infinity, which would make it hard for 1/infinity to be nonzero without breaking lots of other stuff. Also it can be a fiddly business getting a collection of axioms about real numbers --- convergence, existence, uniqueness of limits... --- to work reliably, and once you add new axioms about your infinitesimal "epsilon" just above zero but not quite, it might be harder than you think to get things right.) In contrast, Tao's approach cited above seems to be pretty conventional, and it definitely allows solving calculus problems, and it sure doesn't seem to imply 1/infinity>0.

Blogger IM2L844 January 29, 2015 2:43 PM  

Now onto those bastard cheating NE Patriots...

This thing has gotten completely out of hand. Some member or another on each and every team will eventually cheat in each and every game. Should we review all the video and retroactively punish all of the individual teams for the holding or pass interference or plethora of other offenses intentionally committed by their members each and every game?

Now, back to wrf3 and his zealous dedication to what I suspect is some kind of a Heidegger-Peircean vision of phenomenology.

Anonymous Alexander January 29, 2015 2:55 PM  

Well what is the logic for allowing the individual teams to provide and hold custody of the game balls? Why does the NFL not have a set of game balls and leave the teams out of it entirely?

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 2:57 PM  

wrf3 January 29, 2015 12:54 PM - One more observation. The odds of a dart hitting a specific point on a dartboard are huge. Wildly improbable against. Yet the dart hits the dartboard -- and the point that it does hit is just as improbable as any other. So wildly improbable things do happen.

False analogy. We are not dealing with any two potential configurations of matter whereby we can say configuration A is just as wildly improbable as configuration B.

We are dealing with the class of configurations which do nothing vs. the class of configurations which are alive (i.e. consume energy and matter in the process of self preservation and replication).

In this case one set of configurations is so vast, and the other so infinitesimally small, that the Law of Entropy applies. Any random change in the system will always select for a configuration from the larger set.

A better analogy would be a dart board with 10^450 points. Only one point is red, and the rest are black. If we observe that the dart has hit the red point, but we did not observe the throw, we would be forced to conclude that it was purposely aimed at red.

Blogger Mindstorm January 29, 2015 3:16 PM  

The probability of something happening on the next try and the probability of equivalent 'something' happening somewhere, sometime are not the same probability.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:16 PM  

"In this case one set of configurations is so vast, and the other so infinitesimally small, that the Law of Entropy applies. Any random change in the system will always select for a configuration from the larger set."

Right on schedule, you misunderstand and misstate the law of entropy. The law of entropy states only that entropy within a closed system does not decrease over time. What's up next, the butchery and total misapplication of information theory?

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 3:19 PM  

wrf3 January 29, 2015 2:37 PM - "without the a priori assumption of agency, at what probability can agency be shown?"

When a configuration is encountered which, absent agency, would be a clear violation of the Law of Entropy, then agency has been shown.

Noah B. January 29, 2015 2:40 PM - In other words, if you assume that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible, you reach the starting conclusion that -- wait for it -- abiogenesis is mathematically impossible.

You either did not read the entire post or you did not understand it. There is no such assumption. This is an estimation of the odds of an event contrasted against an estimation of the potential number of random events in our universe. The impossibility of abiogenesis in our universe is a conclusion, not an assumption.

You'll note that I discussed abiogenesis in an unbounded universe meaning I do not consider it to be absolutely impossible, just impossible given what we observe in this universe.

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 3:28 PM  

Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:16 PM - Right on schedule, you misunderstand and misstate the law of entropy.

I suggest you tone it down given the simple errors you are committing in your responses.

The law of entropy states only that entropy within a closed system does not decrease over time.

Are you claiming that our universe is not a closed system?

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:30 PM  

Apparently you don't understand your own post, DT. You ran some rough calculations, compared them to your assumptions, and concluded that life could not have come about through natural processes.

But your assumption has that conclusion built in. It's called circular reasoning.

Most of the Ilk are skilled at reading comprehension. They can see it for themselves.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 3:32 PM  

DT wrote: False analogy.
It wasn't my analogy. I was just correcting the misuse of probabilities concerning it.

When a configuration is encountered which, absent agency, would be a clear violation of the Law of Entropy, then agency has been shown.

1) Which might such a configuration be?
2) How do you demonstrate a violation of the law of entropy? (Hint: you can't since nothing violates the law of entropy. Even agents can't violate the law of entropy.)

So this is just more hogwash.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:36 PM  

"Are you claiming that our universe is not a closed system?"

You still don't understand. One part of a closed system may decrease in entropy, provided another part increases in entropy by that same amount or more. The Second Law does not state that all things must always increase in entropy.

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 3:40 PM  

Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:30 PM - Apparently you don't understand your own post, DT. You ran some rough calculations, compared them to your assumptions,

What assumptions would those be Noah?

Most of the Ilk are skilled at reading comprehension. They can see it for themselves.

You just assumed "most of" a group agrees with you. Interesting tactic in a post accusing me of assuming something I should not have.

Name the assumption or assumptions you believe I made. Be very specific.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:45 PM  

"Name the assumption or assumptions you believe I made. Be very specific."

I already quoted it. Read it again if you don't understand.

Blogger Owen January 29, 2015 4:14 PM  

This comment has been removed by the author.

Blogger Owen January 29, 2015 4:15 PM  

Not sure if this has been addressed, but Brady's numbers also seriously improved.

Looking at the stats, there's a noticeable change across the board from 2007+

2000-2006
Completion % 61.9%
Yards per pass 6.4
TD % 4.1%
INT % 2.5%
QBR 81.9

2007-PRES
Completion % 64.7%
Yards per pass 7.6
TD % 5.3%
INT % 1.6%
QBR 99.7

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 4:18 PM  

wrf3 January 29, 2015 3:32 PM - It wasn't my analogy. I was just correcting the misuse of probabilities concerning it.

Fair enough. But it is a false analogy none the less.

1) Which might such a configuration be?

In the context of discussing abiogenesis? A configuration of matter which is alive. (A rough definition would be an organism with a genome, or controlling program, which uses matter and energy to sustain and replicate itself.)

2) How do you demonstrate a violation of the law of entropy?

You do not. You demonstrate that absent agency a configuration would be a violation. Hence the conclusion that the configuration did not come about absent agency.

Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:36 PM - You still don't understand.

Rather ironic statement from you.

One part of a closed system may decrease in entropy, provided another part increases in entropy by that same amount or more.

Abiogenesis would represent a decrease in entropy for the universe as a whole from the viewpoint of information.

The Second Law does not state that all things must always increase in entropy.

The Second Law is a specific application of the Law of Entropy to the thermodynamic configurations of our universe. And the Big Bang left our universe in a relatively low thermodynamic entropy configuration. So you can have a decrease in local entropy at the expense of the system as a whole.

But abiogenesis and TENS are not about thermodynamic configurations. They are about information. More specifically code which can manipulate matter and use energy towards the purpose of sustaining and replicating itself.

And the Big Bang left this universe in a maximum entropy configuration as far as such things are concerned. (Explosions tend to do that to systems that contain, or potentially can contain, information.)

You are going to chafe against my posts, and insist that I am the one who does not understand, until you come to realize that the Law of Entropy is an emergent property of statistical mechanics. And that it can be used to model any set of potential configurations which meet certain criteria and which are subject to random changes. Not just energy in our universe.

Absent that realization this is going to be a short and fruitless side conversation, and I would be better off returning to the math just to save myself time (which I am short on at the moment).

And the math is this: you can bet on a 1 in 10^450 event occurring in this universe if you want. But you are a fool to do so.

Anonymous DT January 29, 2015 4:26 PM  

Noah B. January 29, 2015 3:45 PM - "Name the assumption or assumptions you believe I made. Be very specific." I already quoted it. Read it again if you don't understand.

There was no assumption, explicit or implied, that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible in my post.

There was an estimation of the odds of abiogenesis. Given those odds the possibility or impossibility of abiogenesis would depend entirely upon the universe in which we are looking for abiogenesis to occur.

This should be quite apparent to you given that I discussed abiogenesis in an unbounded universe.

Would you like to try again?

OpenID cailcorishev January 29, 2015 4:36 PM  

Well what is the logic for allowing the individual teams to provide and hold custody of the game balls? Why does the NFL not have a set of game balls and leave the teams out of it entirely?

The QBs are allowed to rub the balls down to take the new sheen off them, sit on them, sleep with them, whatever they want as long as it doesn't abrade them, affect their shape, or a list of other damage. That's why the teams supply the balls and have them beforehand. After they're checked for damage and correct pressure by a ref before the game, he marks the laces and gives them back. Presumably they let the teams keep track of them at that point because no one thought of messing with them during the game before, at least not seriously enough someone would notice.

As for the refs noticing: radio sports guy Steve Czaban (who's been defending the Patriots on this) bought some official balls like they use and aired them up to the officially required range, and also to the pressure that the Patriots' balls were found to be holding. He said they all seemed rock-hard to him. He said his own balls that he kicks around for fun are a few pounds lighter yet. So it's reasonable that no one else would notice a pound or two except a few picky players like the QBs.

So it may not have affected any games, and certainly didn't make the difference in that last game. It just looks bad when one of the league's best teams seems to be spending a lot of effort on finding new and inventive ways to outsmart the officials.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 29, 2015 4:38 PM  

In other words, if you assume that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible, you reach the starting conclusion that -- wait for it -- abiogenesis is mathematically impossible.

Math is hard that way, NoahB.

DNA is a 4-character language. Currently, the smallest possible genome for a bacteria is around 130k characters in the genome. That means there's 2^131 possible programs, if you let the monkeys type randomly.

The bacteria in the 130k range are symbiotic; they can't live without the support of their host. Even so, let's pretend that a 90k genome was viable during abiogenesis, so that's 2^91k. If 10% of the DNA combinations produce a viable life form of some form, that's 2^9100 or so, let's round to 2^9000.

2^10 is approximately 10^3. 2^9000 is about 10^2700. At that rate, 10^600 is terribly generous; it's assuming that either 40k genomes are viable (not very likely), or that around 40% of 130k genomes are viable (again, even less likely).

We don't have to know if the chance that random DNA combinations are 1 in 10^80, 1 in 10^600, 1 in 10^900, 2^9000, or 2^10,000,000. We can know that a single process is so stunningly improbable that it's practically impossible.

Blogger Darth Toolpodicus January 29, 2015 4:57 PM  

@wrf3:

“There is no disconnect. The issue is not "what are the odds" or "what actions do I take based on the odds" but "when do long odds indicate agency"? Type "x" brains will say "never", type "y" brains will say "at some point." That's a subjective answer. Either we admit the subjectivity, or we try to find an objective answer.”

Wrong. Regardless of what differences of opinion brains X and Y may have with each other in where they draw the line, the difference between one side of the line and the other still exists and that is in no way subjective. In a case where you have two and only two possibilities, and are trying to decide between the two based upon probabilities, the fact that the “brains” may quibble about the exact point that one chooses in NO way makes the underlying question subjective. This should be obvious.

As a side point I note that people, you included, will regularly risk their lives against the 1 in 20000 (approx..) odds of having a fatal car accident.

“Agency is indicated because you started with agency. Do you still not get that?”

And

“Except you're trying to demonstrate teleology through probability. If the teleology is built into your brain, then you aren't demonstrating anything except your subjective impression of the data”

Wrong and wrong again. You are really hung up on trying to shoehorn a pet discussion on teleology in here where it simply does not apply. Indicating Agency in the case of Abiogenesis/TENS is NOT a teleological argument in this case, it is a logical determination. This isn’t a “Devil’s Advocate” argument you are making, it is simply erroneous.

There are TWO and ONLY TWO possibilities for the cause of Abiogenesis: a) natural processes and b) agency

Making a determination between the two and only two options by examining the probabilities and ruling one of the two cases out is neither a teleological argument nor does it require teleology be demonstrated.

Re: your Turing argument. I know what the Turing test is. I want to know what your “modified” form is and how you think it applies in this argument.

“I didn't write what you attributed to me. James Dixon did.”

No, you did. I was replying to your reply to James. The full message that I was replying to from you:

wrf3January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
James Dixon wrote: It can't be shown.

Then why do both sides keep trying to show it?

But at some point it can be reasonably assumed to be the case.

a) what is that point?
b) can it not also be reasonably assumed to not be the case?”

In this you are running right back to the Sorites (Heap) paradox that you decry.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 5:24 PM  

Darth Toolpodicus wrote: Wrong. Regardless of what differences of opinion brains X and Y may have with each other in where they draw the line, the difference between one side of the line and the other still exists and that is in no way subjective.

Ok, prove it. Prove that wildly improbable things cannot happen without agency.

Put up, or shut up.

OpenID cailcorishev January 29, 2015 5:37 PM  

“There is no disconnect. The issue is not "what are the odds" or "what actions do I take based on the odds" but "when do long odds indicate agency"? Type "x" brains will say "never", type "y" brains will say "at some point."

I don't think anyone really says "never" in all situations, which I think is Vox's point. What some brains do is say "at some point" when dealing with things like games of chance, and "never" when it has theological implications.

Anonymous Eric Ashley January 29, 2015 5:46 PM  

ateleological mind....the fool (morally retarded??) hath said in his heart, there is no God....possibly related to tone deafness, color blindness....destructive mutations.

Anonymous Scintan January 29, 2015 5:51 PM  

He corrected that in the update to the initial post, which was several posts ago. He has since addressed other objections. You simply don't know what you're talking about and therefore your opinion on the matter is worthless.

I've been following it since the beginning. I'm certain that I know it far better than do you, so let's not try the pissing contest about opinions, because yours isn't even close on this.

Blogger wrf3 January 29, 2015 6:38 PM  

Eric Ashley wrote: possibly related to tone deafness, color blindness....destructive mutations.

A very perceptive comment, Eric. If Darth Toolpodicus actually tries to prove that wildly improbable events cannot happen without agency, he's going to have to deal with this. We aren't arguing over the raw facts -- we're arguing over the interpretation of facts. Interpretation involves how brains work and not all brains work the same. Part of the way brains work is the tendency to anthropomorphize. There's a very good reason we do this -- we have to in order to communicate with each other. You can see this spill over in the way we relate to animals. In describing agency to random events, he's either anthropomorphizing Nature, or positing another anthropic element, such as an alien. He's going to have to show why this is a valid thing to do, and isn't just a "mental illusion", like there are optical illusions.

I can't wait for his proof.

Blogger Brad Andrews January 29, 2015 6:38 PM  

After all, if the basic properties of matter are such that it naturally produces life under the right circumstances, is that any less remarkable than a unique and specific act of divine intervention to create life on one planet?

Just where do were see this "natural tendency" to produce life? All we can see says that doesn't happen. Food processing, among other things, is built on that very assumption.

Arguing that natural forces "can" do something is idiotic if they have never been observed doing so. We haven't seen life from non-life, nor have we seen one species change into another (only variants within a species).

Why do so many still cling to the "well it COULD have happened that way" argument? I reject it because it doesn't fit with any observational fact and is only there to prop up an idea meant to remove the need for God.

Blogger Brad Andrews January 29, 2015 6:40 PM  

Exactly what does proving that mutations happen do to prove the significant issues in this thread? You are trying to argue a completely different point. Kind of the "physics is good so TENS is as well."

I have yet to meet anyone who claims that both good and bad mutations don't happen. Nice straw man there.

Blogger Mindstorm January 29, 2015 6:59 PM  

@Kentucky Packrat

Are anywhere on Earth now exactly the same environmental conditions as in the times of supposed abiogenesis? If not, then why do you place the lowest limit for a genome size of a free-living organism somewhere close to 10^5 base pairs?

@Eric Ashley
This is it, the ultimate argument. I'm sure that calling people fools is the fastest way of changing their opinions....

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 7:02 PM  

Brad, you do realize that every one of your arguments against abiogenesis is also an argument against creation, right? Or do you seriously think that we have observational evidence of creation?

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 7:39 PM  

@Kentucky Packrat

Math is hard that way, NoahB.

No amount of math is sufficient to cure the fallacy of circular reasoning. Nice try though.

We can know that a single process is so stunningly improbable that it's practically impossible.

You can assume that if you like, which is quite different from actually knowing it.

@DT

There was no assumption, explicit or implied, that abiogenesis is mathematically impossible in my post.

There was an estimation of the odds of abiogenesis. Given those odds the possibility or impossibility of abiogenesis would depend entirely upon the universe in which we are looking for abiogenesis to occur.

This should be quite apparent to you given that I discussed abiogenesis in an unbounded universe.

Would you like to try again?


You're not fooling anyone with this semantic game. When you make an assumption that just so happens to naturally lead to your desired conclusion, you are engaging in circular reasoning.

If you disagree that you are making an assumption, just provide a rigorous mathematical proof that the odds of life naturally occurring are less than 1 in 10^450.

But abiogenesis and TENS are not about thermodynamic configurations. They are about information.

And here is the butchery and misapplication of information theory I predicted in an earlier post. Information theory does not provide any sort of universal definition of information. Information requires context and is subjective. You have demonstrated on many occasions, including today, that you do not understand entropy in its simplest context. Your attempts to apply it to more complex phenomena are even more absurd.

Blogger Brad Andrews January 29, 2015 7:53 PM  

Noah,

Brad, you do realize that every one of your arguments against abiogenesis is also an argument against creation, right? Or do you seriously think that we have observational evidence of creation?

My belief is that Someone outside of creation did what I cannot see. I do not claim the god "natural processes" did it. That is the difference. Try again.

Information requires context and is subjective.

So? TENS still requires information to become more ordered without an intelligent outside intervention. The context is irrelevant. The need for more order is independent of the specific context.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 8:04 PM  

> Are you claiming that our universe is not a closed system?

Our working assumption is that it is, but in point of fact we do not know that to be the case.

Blogger James Dixon January 29, 2015 8:14 PM  

> Arguing that natural forces "can" do something is idiotic if they have never been observed doing so.

I must respectfully disagree. I have never seen a volcano erupt, and I don't know anyone who has. If that was all the information I had, would that be sufficient reason to assume they didn't?

> Or do you seriously think that we have observational evidence of creation?

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

So, assuming Christianity is true, yes.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 9:29 PM  

James, even that isn't an explicit statement that mankind directly witnessed creation.

Blogger Akulkis January 29, 2015 9:56 PM  

"The unlikely of % means nothing when (science says) there are infinite worlds and infinite time for life to happen out of nowhere."

but elapsed time to date, while large, is nowhere close to infinite -- for the spontaneous organization of life to be "a certainty" .. the age of the universe would have to be... not the current estimate of 5 Billion years, but more on the order of 5 Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion Billion years.

2nd, we are not observing "many universes" we are observing THIS ONE UNIVERSE. And we don't have the slightest bit of evidence that any of these "other universes" exist [The Universe, being all of existance, pretty much precludes the existance of something outside of it, when, by definition, ALL that exists is part of the one universe].


Does that make it clear now

Blogger Akulkis January 29, 2015 10:00 PM  

"The zero probability thing is a result of early 20th century mathematicians revising math to say that 1 / infinity is 0. Prior to that, it was possible to use infinities to solve calculus problems. The statement that the probability of hitting a specific point is zero is logically flawed, even though it is true according to currently accepted mathematics."'

You do realize that CALCULUS ITSELF relies on the concept that 1/infinity is NOT zero.

Assuming you do know that (well, you do now), then you should know just as well that your statement is pure poppycock. And I learned Calculus in 1980, which is well toward the END of the 20th Century.

Blogger Akulkis January 29, 2015 10:19 PM  

And to add to what William said.

The Fourier Transform (and it's (literally) complex cousin, the Laplace Transform [Fourier Transform only handles real numbers]) both are use the Dirac Delta Function as a starting point

ANY Electrical, Mechanical, or Aeronautical Engineer has studied, and knows Fourier Transforms and Laplace Transforms inside and out due to having to take Signals & Systems analysis (or whatever the mechanical equivalent is called) -- it's a grueling course -- and you come out of it with everything beaten into your head such that it lasts forever and remains instinctive to your understanding of nature.

And every bit of anything you own that utilizes any sort of oscilations of varying frequencies was designed by someone who studied these Transforms. The math (and the use of the infinities) is reliable enough to absolutely bet my life on the math being accurate. [Now implementation factors such as choice of materials, manufacturing tolerances, etc., are other factors, which I may or may not bet my life on]

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 10:31 PM  

Brad, regardless of your beliefs, each of your arguments against abiogenesis works equally well against creationism.

Consider the following modification of your previous post:

Just where do were see this "supernatural tendency" to produce life? All we can see says that doesn't happen. Food processing, among other things, is built on that very assumption.

Arguing that supernatural forces "can" do something is idiotic if they have never been observed doing so. We haven't seen life from supernatural entities, nor have we seen one species appear from out of nowhere.

Why do so many still cling to the "well it COULD have happened that way" argument? I reject it because it doesn't fit with any observational fact and is only there to prop up an idea meant to create the need for God.

To date, logic has had little success in addressing the question of where life came from.

Anonymous Noah B. January 29, 2015 10:35 PM  

So? TENS still requires information to become more ordered without an intelligent outside intervention.

Speaking of information in this context is absolutely meaningless. Information is not an objective physical quantity.

Blogger IM2L844 January 29, 2015 11:07 PM  

This should be obvious.

Yes, it is, Darth. You and several other have done a good job of contrasting the pertinent issues with the trollish niggling over minor points tantamount to whether or not Homer Simpson is bald.

Just wanted to let you know that I think most of the readership has probably notice this as well even though I personally find pointing out the obvious to these dishonest obfuscating pedants , over and over again, a tedious and exasperating waste of time and energy.

Anonymous Eric Ashley January 30, 2015 2:04 AM  

wrF, I'm mostly not on your side. I suggest that having an ateleogical tendency is a genetic defect, or you are inferior to normal people who have a teleological viewpoint.

I will agree that 1 in Ten to the 2300 odds (my guess) could happen. Its not impossible. However, as Vox points out, no one lives based on such nonsense.

Mindstorm, no, I rather think that this whole arguement is incredibly silly, and any reasonable person ought to take as given that Someone set up the Universe. Pretending to take you seriously does no one any good.

Sorry to be so harsh, but this is tripe.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 2:13 AM  

Hi Vox, it's your friendly neighborhood pedantic lunatic.

As I understand it, your position is that the proposed evolutionary chain of events leading to humankind is highly improbable. Therefore, it is more likely that humanity is the result of deliberate intervention.

I don't find this position persuasive. Here are several points against.

First, we must consider the nature of probability. If the cosmos is deterministic, then probability is a subjective interpretation based on inadequate information. If the cosmos is probabilistic, then probability objectively exists, and we should distinguish between objective quantum probability and subjective informational probability.

Quantum probability is irrelevant to a macroscopic phenomenon such as the development of biological life, biogenesis perhaps excepted. Thus we can focus on informational probability.

The accuracy of any informational probability judgment depends on the quality of the information. You have credibly demonstrated that biologists do not know what they're talking about when they speak on evolution. Thus it seems reasonable to assign low confidence to any declarations they make about the probability of genetic mutations, etc.

Second, we should consider the subjective nature of our observation point. Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that the evolution of sentient life at any particular location in the cosmos capable of supporting life is unlikely. This does not tell us much. As a non-starfaring race, our observations are limited to a single location. However emotionally unlikely we may feel our evolution at this particular location to be, the fact remains that all of the "misses" were not observed, because we were not there to observe them.

To make a credible probability judgment about the likelihood of our evolution, we need two pieces of information:
1. The number of "misses" that actually occurred, and
2. The likelihood of a "hit", i.e. the natural evolution of a sentient race.

Do we have the necessary information? Here is a partial list of things we don't know, to varying degrees:
1. The duration and extend of the natural cosmos
2. The variety of sentient life-forms possible
3. The mechanisms of evolution
4. The likelihood that each step in those mechanisms would occur.

Thus, I do not find your logical argument that life's natural evolution on Earth is prohibitively unlikely to be a persuasive rationale for disbelieving in the evolution by natural means of sentient life on Earth.

I don't think my position violates any common sense application. For example, I am unready to believe that any natural metereological phenomenon on Earth explains the construction of a previously disassembled Boeing 747. But Earth is a closed system, fairly well observed, and we know enough about weather and 747's to be confident that the former's chance of creating the latter is infinitesimal.

As it happens, I think the most likely explanation for sentient life on Earth is the intervention of some combination of supernatural entities and material alien races. But I also think that natural evolution played a major role in the development of both the material alien interveners and the Earthly races.

Perhaps someday we will be able to easily distinguish between engineered and natural species. By that time, biogenesis will be engineering and the search for man's origins will be a problem of forensic accounting. I suspect we will find that man is a combination of natural and unnatural means, but I admit that is a monkey's opinion on Enron.

In any case, the only sense I can make of your logic is that it is actually rhetoric - that you are granting that biologists and secular cosmogenicists know far more than they actually do, and then attempting to hoist them on their own petard. But you are not clearly presenting your argument with those qualifications.

Anonymous Noah B. January 30, 2015 2:54 AM  

Math is hard that way, NoahB.

DNA is a 4-character language. Currently, the smallest possible genome for a bacteria is around 130k characters in the genome. That means there's 2^131 possible programs, if you let the monkeys type randomly.


Since math is hard, perhaps it's also worth noting that there would be 2^260,000 possible DNA sequences in your example, not 2^131.

The bacteria in the 130k range are symbiotic; they can't live without the support of their host. Even so, let's pretend that a 90k genome was viable during abiogenesis, so that's 2^91k. If 10% of the DNA combinations produce a viable life form of some form, that's 2^9100 or so, let's round to 2^9000.

90kBP results in 2^180,000 possible DNA sequences, not 2^91,000. And 10% of 2^91,000 is about 2^90,996.7, not 2^9100.

We can know that a single process is so stunningly improbable that it's practically impossible.

How do we know this, again? Was it that math you did up above? A really, really great gypsy fortune teller who has never once been wrong? Even Fred Reed eventually admitted that he has no idea what the probability is for the existence of a plausible mechanism for abiogenesis, so his entire "analysis" a few months back was little more than mental masturbation.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 5:24 AM  

For example, suppose that Earth's periodic magnetic reversals shuffle genetic cards, producing punctuated equilibrium, and perhaps even solve abiogenesis. This could either mean that Earth was designed as a life bomb planet, or that this is simply a common planetary feature. We have no way of evaluating the probability of either scenario.

Anonymous Eric Ashley January 30, 2015 9:04 AM  

Suppose that Koanic is the Easter Bunny....

Why do you hate science?

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 30, 2015 9:23 AM  

Since math is hard, perhaps it's also worth noting that there would be 2^260,000 possible DNA sequences in your example, not 2^131.

You correct my typo with a power mistake. Lovely.

OK, I meant to type 2^131k, which was still wrong. 4^130k is 2^130001, which works back to approximately 2^130k, since our margin of error is higher than the number of atoms in the universe already.

The power of 2 doesn't double when you multiply by 2, it goes up by 1.
* 2^2 = 4
* 2^2 x 2 = 2^2 x 2^1 = 2^3 = 8, not 16

Now, I will agree that my 10% of 2^91000 was stunningly wrong (and again, typo, meant to type 90k), and will absorb all blame for the mistake. I will note, however, that the correction only makes my point that much stronger, not weaker. 2^90996 is in the general range of 10^27k, which is stunningly high.

Even Fred Reed eventually admitted that he has no idea what the probability is for the existence of a plausible mechanism for abiogenesis, so his entire "analysis" a few months back was little more than mental masturbation.

This is my entire problem with abiogenesis and evolution via random DNA mutations. A positive information-creating genetic mutation happening by random chance once makes the lottery look like a sure investment. Gradual evolution requires these lottery hits every hundred to thousand years constantly over 3.5 billion years. Punctuated equilibrium requires hundreds or thousands of them in a single generation.

We have about 200 years of systematic scientific study available to us. We have no evidence of punctuated equilibrium at all (not crippling to the theory, but still disappointing), but more importantly, we have no evidence of gradual evolution either. We've seen a lot of turning genes off and on (white moths to black moths and then back to white moths), but no new features. We should have expected to see some evidence by now.

If there is some mechanism at work that is constraining chance here, please explain it. Tell me what it is. Atheists make fun of the flying spaghetti monster; I thoroughly reject the magic evolution fairy.

If there is some force, factor, or feature of the universe that can make sure that the correct DNA changes occur and the incorrect ones don't, then explain it to me. Tell me what it is. Don't just tell me it has to exist or that it has to exist but we can't/don't know what it is. That's a religion, and I don't need another one of those.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 9:24 AM  

Because the scientific method is as outdated as 2GW, obviously.

Anonymous Noah B. January 30, 2015 10:26 AM  

You correct my typo with a power mistake. Lovely.

OK, I meant to type 2^131k, which was still wrong. 4^130k is 2^130001, which works back to approximately 2^130k, since our margin of error is higher than the number of atoms in the universe already.

The power of 2 doesn't double when you multiply by 2, it goes up by 1.
* 2^2 = 4
* 2^2 x 2 = 2^2 x 2^1 = 2^3 = 8, not 16


I have made no mistake, but you have demonstrated nicely that you do not understand exponentiation. 4^x = 2^(2x), which is not in general equal to 2^(x+1).

A positive information-creating genetic mutation happening by random chance once makes the lottery look like a sure investment.

Once again, information, as the term is used in information theory, is not an objective physical quantity. Information is subjective. You have no idea what you're talking about, as you have well demonstrated.

Anonymous Noah B. January 30, 2015 10:32 AM  

"Don't just tell me it has to exist or that it has to exist but we can't/don't know what it is."

I never made any such statement. My argument has consistently been simply that we cannot exclude the possibility of evolution using these absurd exercises in logic and math.

Perhaps you're accustomed to people saying that evolution is proven or that we know that life originated through evolution, but that has never been my position.

Blogger Kentucky Packrat January 30, 2015 2:52 PM  

I never made any such statement.

In the first edit of this statement, I had a disclaimer that I meant the general you, and not Noah B in specific, and I decided to leave it out. I will admit that I was confused because you seem to be arguing for the position, but I will agree that I can't say you did say it.

I also promise not to talk about powers of 2 and 4 until after I get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, from now on.

My argument has consistently been simply that we cannot exclude the possibility of evolution using these absurd exercises in logic and math.

The issue is conversational shorthand. The vast majority of people who discuss evolution and discuss abiogenesis are talking about abiogenesis from random DNA combinations and are talking about evolution via an engine of random DNA mutations. For these arguments, the math is clearly against them, even if we can't prove exactly what it is. (Kinda like P!=NP and Fermat's Last Theorem until recently.) When these people are talking, logic and math are against them. And even if the math weren't, and even if the logic wasn't (information theory is a big strike against evolution via random DNA mutations), the science isn't (no evidence of the existence of any "primordial soup", no evidence of gradual evolution, etc.).

People who posit non-random DNA combinations aren't promoting scientific viewpoints, because they either don't know what mechanisms are involved or believe in mechanisms that left no evidences. (One example are the few special snowflakes (like Crick) who argue origin theories like extraterrestrial origins, including deliberate alien seeding.) These arguments can't be argued with science, logic, or math, because they're not falsifiable. They're usually either philosophical or religious in nature. That's why Occam's Razor is useful: if the arguments are equally philosophical or equally religious, we can use the Razor with confidence.

Blogger SirHamster January 30, 2015 3:02 PM  

Brad, regardless of your beliefs, each of your arguments against abiogenesis works equally well against creationism.

Consider the following modification of your previous post:

Just where do were see this "supernatural tendency" to produce life? All we can see says that doesn't happen. Food processing, among other things, is built on that very assumption.


No, the arguments don't work in the reverse direction, because the opposite of "natural" is not "supernatural".

Let's go to a supermarket, and pick up a box of food advertising "natural flavors!" What is it contrasting itself to? "Artificial flavors".

Has humankind ever observed "artificial" objects? (See supermarket advertising above) If yes, then that's evidence to reason that humanity and life, systems with complexity dwarfing all known artificial objects, are also artificial.

It's a bit of a misnomer to call life "natural". It's abundant here on earth, but natural is dead clumps of matter - and that is where continued nature will take this universe.

Blogger Mindstorm January 30, 2015 3:44 PM  

@Kentucky Packrat

Again, what you think that evolution and abiogenesis are, is not what others think they are. 'Hitting the jackpot'? If that means contributing to the existence of more copies of itself? Consider the mechanisms of compound interest. Is there any relation to self-replicating objects?

Blogger James Dixon January 30, 2015 3:48 PM  

> James, even that isn't an explicit statement that mankind directly witnessed creation.

True, but where does the term observational evidence restrict the observation to mankind?

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 4:53 PM  

Also, all this talk of "random" is pretty meh. Evolution is random in the same sense a mountain stream is random, but that doesn't stop the latter from running downstream in a coherent bed.

Blogger SirHamster January 30, 2015 5:13 PM  

Also, all this talk of "random" is pretty meh. Evolution is random in the same sense a mountain stream is random, but that doesn't stop the latter from running downstream in a coherent bed.

Too bad evolution is upstream.

How many upstream rivers have you seen?

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 9:31 PM  

How's this for a law?

For any given issue, if there are two opposing viewpoints sufficiently popular that the question, "Which side are you on?" is commonly intelligible, the correct answer is "Neither."

Rivers do indeed run backwards sometimes, so your question is artless. Furthermore, evolution is no more thermodynamically or informationally "upstream" than Earth's weather patterns are.

The idea that human beings could somehow calculate and detect a change in the total information of the solar system is more absurd than that they could calculate the probability of evolution.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 9:37 PM  

That was unexpected. I have so thoroughly destroyed the basis of this debate that I'm almost embarrassed to be participating. Culture war aside, there really is only one thing to do - shrug and hold both models simultaneously for maximum utility.

Of course, that would require substantial general intelligence...

Blogger SirHamster January 30, 2015 10:22 PM  

Rivers do indeed run backwards sometimes, so your question is artless. Furthermore, evolution is no more thermodynamically or informationally "upstream" than Earth's weather patterns are.

But "sometimes" is not always. Not against gravity. Which is thermodynamically expected.

As for evolution, you can lie about the evolutionary difference between a single-celled bacterium and a multi-celled human being all you want, but what's true remains true.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 10:42 PM  

Sure, I'm lying about things I've never mentioned.

What's thermodynamically expected is not that rivers run downhill, but that everything be in perfect heat death, i.e. no rivers.

If life evolved naturally, then the sum total of life information was already contained in the solar system when the sun was new. Tell me the amount of information in an atom, and maybe I'll believe you can detect a perturbation in the solar system.

Anonymous Koanic January 30, 2015 11:20 PM  

All that said, I do think Vox is right to pay close attention to the geneticists new findings on the frequency and usefulness of random mutations. It certainly serves very well to make mainstream evolution look stupid, and it's one of the few useful data points we have, although I don't think it's strong enough to settle any of the larger questions yet.

So I guess it all makes sense.

Anonymous Eric Ashley January 31, 2015 12:36 AM  

Koanic, what are you babbling about?

How's this for a law? Any time a Right winger is bold enough to enunciate and stick to the obvious facts of a case, after a while, a Lefty will suggest a compromise when the proper response is to ignore the dust in history's wastebasket and move on to more productive endeavours.

Blogger SirHamster January 31, 2015 1:31 AM  

Sure, I'm lying about things I've never mentioned.

You said evolution has no upstream/downstream. Which is incompatible with TENS and evolutionary theory.


If life evolved naturally, then the sum total of life information was already contained in the solar system when the sun was new. Tell me the amount of information in an atom, and maybe I'll believe you can detect a perturbation in the solar system.

You can't even tell the difference between potential and actualization. The existence of a state is not the same thing as the achievement of that state.

1 – 200 of 227 Newer› Newest»

Post a Comment

Rules of the blog
Please do not comment as "Anonymous". Comments by "Anonymous" will be spammed.

<< Home

Newer Posts Older Posts