Monday, October 19, 2009

This Comment Nails It


What I find odd is that anti-IDists challenge the math of IDists, yet expect everyone to accept their assertion that chance is a sufficient explanation without any mathematical model whatsoever.

It seems to me that questioning IDers on the accuracy of their probability analysis is rather hypocritical when one offers no probability analysis whatsoever to support one’s original contention that chance is a sufficient explanation.

Mote, eye, beam.


Stephen R said...

Referring to the odds that humanity evolved by chance is like talking about the odds of this particular person, standing right in front of me, winning tomorrow's lottery; when what we're really talking about is going and finding the person who won *yesterday's* lottery and saying "what are the odds that this guy won the lottery?"

It's a false question. The odds that he *did* win are 100%. That's the guy who won. It's history. Out of millions of people, he's the one who, by random chance, won. It is NOT random chance that today there is a team of presenters standing outside his door with balloons and a giant check.

What are the odds that humanity evolved on Earth? 100%. We're here. It's not tomorrow's lottery; it's history. This planet (out of billions of billions throughout the cosmos) is the one that one the "intelligent life" lottery. It is NOT random chance that we are therefore standing around asking "what are the odds?" If there's no intelligent life, there's nobody to ask the question in the first place.

The guy who wins the lottery might see it as evidence of God, because HE won the lottery and what were the odds? From the standpoint of anyone else though, it's not proof of anything other than somebody, somewhere, won.

Matteo said...

Thanks. I'm well aware of all of that.

What your analogy misses is that lotteries are *designed* to have a winner.

In any case, the Darwinist atheists claim a random process, but have shown no calculations that would establish this to be possible given the known resources of the universe in terms of time and suitable environments

Saying, "Well the odds are 100% because it happened," although trivially true, is of no real scientific use.

The point of the post stands.

Stephen R said...

I suppose it's more of a "monkey's at typewriters" situation. The universe is a very, *very* big place -- big enough that odds are some seemingly "miraculous" things can happen in it by sheer dumb luck.

I didn't say "billions of billions" by accident (as opposed to Sagan's apocryphal "billions *and* billions", which is essentially meaningless).

Also -- one need not be an atheist to be a Darwinist.

Matteo said...

Throwing around numbers such as billions (10^9), or billions of billions (10^18) as if they were sufficiently huge is an exercise in begging the question. 10^18, compared to 10^70 might as well be zero. Darwinists need to tell me why the probabilities are as good as one part in 10^18 rather than in 10^70 or 10^200 or 10^40,000.

Dawkins himself has said, "Even if the chances are as little as one in a billion..."

One in a billion?!? If he thinks the odds are that tremendously favorable then he's going to need to show why. One in a billion odds are kick-ass in a universe this size. 1 in 10^70? Not so much. He needs to show how he got rid of the extra 61 zeros.

BTW, the odds of a monkey randomly typing even a 60 character string of Hamlet is about one part in 10^83. So I do agree with you, it is more of a "monkeys at typewriters" situation. A billion billions would only improve things to the point that the odds are one part in


Again, those who claim random causation are going to have to show the math. Trying to mesmerize with the word "billions" is not going to cut it.

Now, suppose I put on lottery in which the chances of winning are 1 in 10^100. When a winner is announced are you really going to just shrug and say, well the chances were 100% because that is what happened? Or are you going to wonder whether the game was riggged?

Stephen R said...

You keep repeating the figure of 10^70 like a mantra. What is this number and where does it come from? You seem to be arguing that the odds of life evolving by chance are 1 to 10^70 against. Is that correct?

If so, are we talking the odds of *life* evolving, of *intelligent* life evolving, or, specifically, *human* life evolving.

If you're going to dismiss the odds of life appearing randomly by comparing it to the magic 10^70 number, you have to say where that number comes from.

I still think you have it backwards. Given the choice between random odds vs. Deity, I'll take the odds. Unless of course you'd like to explain the odds of an **omnipotent** being coming into existence. Oh yeah, I forgot -- He's just always existed and thus needs no explanation.

(PS -- You may not believe me at this point, but I have a lot of respect for religion. I just tire of IDers sneering down their noses at the concept of science.)

Matteo said...

What does it matter where *I* came up with 10^70? The point of the post is that the Darwinists have not come up with *any* relevant probability numbers.

As such, I find that I quickly tire of Darwinists sneering down their noses at the concept of science, which most certainly must include calculation of relevant probabilities.

You said: "Oh yeah, I forgot -- He's just always existed and thus needs no explanation."

You are correct, sir. That which did not come into being does not require and cannot have an explanation for its coming into being.

A book I highly recommend that goes into these philosophical issues is "The Last Superstition" by Edward Feser...

Stephen R said...

I looked to the article you link to, and it seems you're pulling the number from that somewhere, though I'm still not sure you're using it correctly even coming from there.

He talks about the odds of a particular chain of amino acids coming about by chance. But are amino acids the only way life can exist? Again, the question isn't so much the odds of our precise form of life evolving, but of *any* life evolving, anywhere.

Once you get that far, that life form, whatever form it has taken, is going to be the one standing there asking the questions.* And that one life form, out of all the possible forms of life that could exist, is the one who proverbially won the lottery, and is now standing there thinking "the fact that *I* won proves God exists!"

Also, where you consider the theory that there is more than one universe out there, the odds change quite a bit. Because we don't really know the scale of the environment, the odds are impossible to calculate, and are therefore meaningless in the context in which you pose the question. Are we the only life within a thousand universes, or are there millions of inhabited planets in our universe? We don't know. And without that information, trying to calculate the odds is meaningless.

* (I'm of course speaking in the sense that once you have *any* life, the odds of it evolving in to *intelligent* life are trivial compared to life coming into existence in the first place.)

Matteo said...

Strictly speaking, is it scientific to say that there *might* be an infinite ensemble of universes, therefore just about anything has a chance to happen? Don't we need to deal with the actual known properties of the one universe that is "in front of us"?

Your questions are good, but they are more philosophical than scientific, at this point. One problem that I see is that scientists have very little training in, or exposure to, basic philosophy. Scientific reasoning does not lead to valid metaphysical conclusions, nor are metaphysical demonstrations of the same tentative nature as scientific hypotheses. Again, I urge a close reading of Feser's book. I've been over it four times, and still find profound insights.

Stephen R said...

"You are correct, sir. That which did not come into being does not require and cannot have an explanation for its coming into being."

Great. But don't call that science. In order to call ID science, you must **scientifically** explain the omnipotent, omniscient being purportedly behind it. Otherwise it's like that old cartoon where there's the chalkboard filled with math math math math math math math "and then a miracle happens" math math math. Any scientist worth his salt is going to have a problem with that middle part there.

That's why it's called "faith", and that's fine. But it's not science.

Stephen R said...

"Strictly speaking, is it scientific to say that there *might* be an infinite ensemble of universes...?"

Well, science is largely the art of asking intelligent questions, and then investigating them. If we're going to talk about what's right in front of us, we barely get past this solar system. As to the nature of the universe at large, it's mostly theory. Very solid theory in many cases, but large swaths of science are not things directly observed. (We conceived of black holes *years* before we actually saw one.) I didn't get the "other universes" idea from Star Trek... more like Hawking. Yes, it is genuine theory and considered legitimate (if cutting edge).

"...therefore just about anything has a chance to happen? Don't we need to deal with the actual known properties of the one universe that is 'in front of us'?"

For most argument, I would agree, but in the context of "the universe is X old and Y big, and thus the odds are Z", it is legitimate to point out that those numbers are not the entire scope within which we consider the odds of something happening. You argument would be solid if we *knew* that the universe we live in (and understand it to be) was the entirely of existence. But we don't know that -- and will likely *never* know for sure the true scope of all of existence. (LOL -- I almost said "the entirety of creation". Language is a funny thing innit?)

I am an atheist, but I harbor no illusions that science can prove the *non*-existence of God. Proving a negative is frequently impossible (which is why Dan Rather to this day can claim the Killian letters are real, because "nobody has proven they're fake".)

On the flip side, if God were real, it seems that it would be a bit more provable than it is. ("Hey, let's just authenticate the Shroud of Turin. What? It's only 400 years old? Oh Bad Luck -- turns out there was a fire a couple centuries ago, so that's not conclusive.")

Matteo, you're an intelligent person, and I like your blog, so I'm not going to keep beating away at this. It's been a solid debate, but I think that clearly neither one of us is going to convince the other. ;-)

I'll see you around. Peace.

Matteo said...

"Great. But don't call that science. In order to call ID science, you must **scientifically** explain the omnipotent, omniscient being purportedly behind it."

See, this is the problem. God's manner of existence is a philosophical question, with a philosophical answer. There is no reason whatsoever why I should want to give a scientific explanation of the "omnipotent, omniscient being purportedly behind it", for the simple reason that no scientific explantion is needed. It is not a question for science to judge. As such, it is entirely invalid for a scientist to assert that because the mode of existence of a designer is not a matter for scientific explanation, that therefore the very idea of a designer is anti-science and that therefore there can be nothing to be said against materialistic explanations, and nothing to be said in favor of scientifically inferring design.

This is precisely where philosophical ignorance and naivete cause a major problem.

Metaphysics stands above science. It is not for science to reject metaphysical conclusions on the basis that they are not science.

Again, if it can be asserted that ID is to be rejected because it is not science, then precisely the same objection can be made against any metaphysical assertion that materialistic explanations are the only possible valid answers. Such an assertion is itself not science. There is nothing rational about maintaining that one metaphysical possibility is "scientifically" valid while the other isn't, for the simple reason that neither is science in the first place.

In any case, Darwinists seem to somehow know that the things they are treating of are not designed. On what basis? Purportedly it would be because they have a good and complete explanation. But when anyone tries to point out reasons for thinking that their explanations are actually quite inadequate, and don't even answer pertinent and crucial questions of probability, well suddenly that person is talking "religion". How convenient. It seems that Darwinists have sure knowledge of the lack of a designer based on evidence and reasoning that dare not be questioned or critically examined because, why, we have separation of church and state.

I find the circularity and arbitrariness of this to be quite philosophically insane, and thereby, unscientific in the extreme.

Again: "The Last Superstition" by Feser brings a lot of clarity to these questions.

Matteo said...

Thanks Stephen. Peace to you, too.

Stephen R said...

Okay, one last thing:

Strictly speaking, I didn't claim "infinite" universes, merely "other". I have no idea how many there may (or may not) be, though a good astrophysicist may have a better answer than that. ;-)