Sunday, May 18, 2008

Relevant Fields Of Expertise Go Well Beyond Biology

Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I read someone saying something along the lines of "non-biologists have no standing to critique Darwinism!". My own response is along the lines of "I'm sorry, but non-engineers, and non-systems theorists, and non-information theorists have no standing to assess the question of design vs non-design!"

This comment sums it up well:

Sigh . . .

Re FDSA, 30:

Interesting factoid:
According to the About page on this site, only one or two of the contributors/friends (Red and Lee) have any credentials related to Biology. Yet this blog is one of the prime sources of criticism for it. Interesting…

FDSA, you have this precisely backwards:

1 –> Science works by empirically anchored inference to best explanation, and when predictions [especially unexpected ones] are confirmed, then it lends high credit to a given theory. (And of course empirical disconfirmation hurts a theory; directly or indirectly as it has to build up so much of an ad hoc patchwork to cover gaps that it loses credibility.)

2 –> Predictions include not only those within the formal range of a theory, but the implication of what can be called bridging concepts. For, when a theory or research programme opens up a bridge to another domain in science, suddenly it is exposed to the full range of data and explanation from that domain, which often leads to exciting times. (Think of the power of the Newtonian synthesis in C17 - 18 when it bridged the earth and the heavens through one theoretical framework.)

3 –> As the always linked through my handle [LH column] Section A, discusses, this has happened to modern biology ever since the turn of the 1950’s, once it was discovered that the DNA molecule was a code-bearing information storage molecule, with associated computer language, algorithms and algorithm-implementing companion nanomachines.

4 –> Thus, a bridge was opened to the knowledge base of the fields of information theory, computer science and associated domains in mathematics etc. This immediately means that knowledge and expertise in this cluster of fields is highly relevant to evaluating the credibility of darwinian thought on origins of life and biodiversity.

5 –> The theory of intelligent design in part [there are other domains that it addresses] addresses that bridge, and it powerfully shows that evolutionary materialist paradigm is in deep trouble, and why.

6 –> In very compressed summary, mechanical necessity accounts for natural regularities [low contingency]. Where there is high contingency, chance and/or intelligence are implicated, and we have a reliable filter for identifying sufficiently complex, functionally specified cases of complex organization.

7 –> Namely, if something exhibits functionally specified complex information and so would exhaust the probabilistic resources of the cosmos to find it through random walks or the equivalent [i.e. per Marks & Dembski, it is active, insightful information injected by intelligence that significantly outperforms random search] in the relevant configuration space, then we are well-warranted to infer to intelligence as the cause. (For instance, we would find it incredible to see a claim that this post was created by lucky noise.)

9 –> DNA exhibits an extreme case of such FSCI: 300 - 500,000 4-state elements at the lower end, up to ~ 3 - 4 bn at the upper end. Just 300k bases is a config space of ~9.94 * 10^180,617, and even if we were to see 10^1,500 islands of functionality of 10^150 states each, these would be so isolated in the available space that no undirected search on the scope of our observed cosmos [~ 10^150 quantum states across its lifetime] would be likely to find even one such state.

10 –> And if one posits instead a quasi-infinite array of sub cosmi to expand the available search resources, one is indulging in ad hoc, empirically unsupported metaphysical speculation. The inference that on what we know about the origin of FSCI intelligence is the best explanation for DNA-based life, gains force from seeing the other major live option being forced to such a resort!

Consequently, FDSA, biologists and their intellectual kin no longer have an intellectual monopoly on speaking with relevant expertise on matters linked to the origin of and diversity manifested by DNA-based life.

Thus, too, the importance of a blog like this one, where those knowledgeable in the bridged-to fields can have their say without being “expelled.”