Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

Moorad Alexanian (
Sun, 04 Apr 1999 15:12:55 -0400

-----Original Message-----
From: Kevin O'Brien <>
To: Moorad Alexanian <>; Howard J. Van Till
<>; ASA Listserve <>; Evolution
Listserve <>
Date: Saturday, April 03, 1999 8:36 PM
Subject: Re: Dembski and Nelson at MIT and Tufts

>>You misrepresent my use of the term "intelligence."
>Then you should have defined it; if you do not define your terms, do not
>upset if people do not use them as you intended to use them.
>>I use the term to denote the ability to reason.
>Which is how I assumed you meant it; maybe you didn't read my post
>enough. You seemed to be saying that some people were inherently better
>able to reason than others, so they develop theories the rest of us could
>never think of. I was trying to explain that that is not the case; that
>with sufficient education and training and experience, anyone could have
>come up with any theory.

Dear Kevin,

There is a difference between developing (creating) a theory and
understanding what has already been developed. Let us face it there are
plenty of people that cannot understand even the basic essentials of
science. I do not believe you are correct in saying that anyone could have
come up with any theory. I suppose in evolutionary theory speech is cheap.
Not so in the frontiers of physics, for instance. Things are tough!

>>It is clear that most people can reason....
>So we agree on this point; then why do you believe only a special few could
>think up scientific theories?

It is just a fact that only a few people come up with new ideas in
formulating theories

>>...but most
>>people cannot be at the forefront of science and develop the theories and
>>devise the experiments necessary to elicit questions from Nature.
>That has nothing to do with the ability reason; that has to do with getting
>the education, the training, the experience and the money necessary to do
>the work, and having the luck to be in the right places at the right times.

Are you a practicing scientist?

>>I do not recall using the term "artifact."
>No, you didn't, but it's assumed in your logic, whether you realize it or
>>Scientific theories are by nature mathematical....
>No, they are not. Theories are by nature explanations of how physical
>phenomena work; sometimes that can be done with pure mathematics; often
>times with a mixture of mathematics and exposition; most of the time solely
>with exposition. Most physical theories are mathematical; many chemical
>theories are mathematical but many are expositional; most biological and
>biochemical theories are expositional with only a few being mathematical.
>Yet all are theories, because they explain physical phenomena.

I am sure that the biologists aspire for their theories to be as
all-encompassing and precise as the theories in physics. The word theory is
used too loosely by evolutionists.

>>...and so it deals with concepts that include fields that
>>are more elusive than what is normally called an artifact.
>Theories are explanations of physical phenomena; therefore theories deal
>with physical forces. Artifacts are controlled by physical forces, so
>theories usually deal with artifacts directly or indirectly.

The concept of a force is not as fundamental as the concept of a field. That
is why the most advanced theories of particle structure are given in terms
of a quantum field theory.

>>For instance, it
>>is clear to me that there can never be a mathematical theory that will
>>explain life.
>Perhaps you can enlighten the rest of us with the evidence you have that
>makes that clear to you. In any event, life is a physical phenomenon that
>needs to be explained; there are in fact many theories that when combined
>explain how life works. Some of these theories are mathematical, most are
>not, but they explain how life works well enough to be accepted as true.

Mathematical theories deal with "nonliving" concepts, I ask you how can life
come into being by means of formulae written on paper with ink? Remember
that theories are descriptive not prescriptive. [Newton's theory of
gravitation cannot bring planets into being.]

>>It could be that we can "create" life in the lab, but the
>>elements that we use in the lab cannot be described mathematically by a
>>full-fledged theory.
>Theories don't merely describe a phenomenon (what does it do, when does it
>do it, where does it do it), they also explain it (how does it work; why
>does it work the way it does); scenarios that only describe phenomena are
>called "schemes". Since life created in a laboratory must be the same as
>natural life then it must be explained by the same theories that explain
>natural life. So in fact we do have full-fledged theories that explain
>life; whether they are mathematical is irrelevant.

If one were to create life from nonliving elements, a remarkable feat, then
we may know how things came into being, but not quite.

>>Fundamental theories deal with "dead" things and not life.
>Except that life is controlled by these "dead" things, such as
>electromagnetism, chemical kinetics and thermodynamics; therefore these
>fundamental theories deal with life as well.
>Kevin L. O'Brien

Living things are made of matter, but are they merely material? I am not
sure and would guess that it is not.

Take care,