Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Mon Aug 13 2001 - 09:22:57 EDT

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    > Howard, I will get into some of your more serius writing this coming week I
    > But, I still think you are not answering the fundamental question I pose.

    We seem to have the "shifting question problem" in this exchange. I thought
    several times that I was answering exactly the question asked, but I am no
    longer sure I know what the question is.

    > To ask
    > this, I don't have to become expert on your views nor do I have to engage on
    > debate between progressive and other creationist perspectives.

    But if I am expected to offer reasons why I prefer the "robust formational
    economy principle" over some "incomplete formational economy principle,"
    don't I have to know something about the latter?

    In essence you seem to be saying, "Show me, with reference to specific
    empirical data, why you prefer A over B, but I need not tell you exactly
    what B is."

    > Yes, in my view, the creation came with an endowment. We discover that
    > constant, the form of general relativity, the number of dimensions of space,
    > the rate of expansion of the big bang, all turn out to be "just right" for
    > such as us to exist. Clearly, the universe is a finely tuned vessel for us.

    A universe equipped with a robust formational economy is more than just
    finely tuned (by selecting the correct combination of values for a dozen or
    two universal parameters). It must FIRST be endowed with the full array of
    resources, capabilities, and potentialities AND THEN, given the specific
    nature of these character traits, the numerical values of several key
    parameters must be just right.

    > BUT, the universe is not just a vessel. If we were to postulate, as some have
    > done, that we are but one realization of a large ensemble, then we could ask
    > many realizations would lead to man as we know it. This is a question that we
    > cannot answer from emperical investigations.

    So, is the question now about the sufficiency of the universe's formational
    economy to produce the exact species Homo Sapiens? I have never argued that
    this particular outcome was inevitable.

    > Gould even argues that if you run the tape of life again and again that we
    > get different animals and man would not likely be an outcome.

    I think that this is a possibility worth considering.

    > The issue is that the universe not only has to have the gravitational
    > just right but the unlikely has to happen. See for example the arguments of
    > recent book Rare Earth.

    I have not read this book, but in a very broad sense, doesn't the unlikely
    happen every day?

    > So, it is an issue of boundary conditions or, if you will, initial conditions
    > God manipulating the dice after they have been thrown.
    > So your concept of God setting it all just right from the beginning requires
    > the dice be preset.

    The dice metaphor suggests something far too deterministic in light of what
    we know about the numerous probabilistic processes involved in the
    formational history of the universe. So does Nancy Pearcy's metaphor of
    "front loading" the universe with information (used in her CT article last

    > IF this is true, then how could I emperically detect the difference bewteen
    > and God helping the dice along the way?

    As I have said on this list before, the idea of a universe equipped with a
    robust formational economy does not at all preclude the idea of divine
    action in the course of time. I have also said that I find considerable
    merit in process theology's proposal of non-coercive divine action playing a
    substantial role in the particulars of the universe's evolutionary
    development. But process theology's proposition also includes the
    requirement that the universe have a robust formational economy.

    What I have expressed a preference for is the idea that the universe has
    been equipped (by its Creator) with a robust formational economy so that
    means to actualize any of the inanimate structural forms or life forms that
    have appeared in the course of the universe's formational history.

    For THIS preference I have cited, as an example of supportive evidence, the
    widespread success of numerous specific scientific theories regarding the
    formational history of atoms, stars, planets, galaxies, etc., all of which
    are scientific theories built on the premise that the RFE Principle is true.
    If the RFEP were false, such success would be unlikely. The fruitfulness of
    a scientific theory, or of a metascientific principle, is generally taken as
    substantial support for that theory or principle.

    Furthermore, as I have stated in numerous publications, I find the RFE
    Principle attractive for theological reasons,

    The consonance of these scientific and theological considerations taken
    together leads me to the preferences I have expressed. There is no one
    specific empirical result that clinches the argument. If that's what you're
    looking for, I cannot satisfy your request. Like many other instances of
    scientific theory evaluation (or metascientific principle evaluation) it
    might well be the consistency of several lines of thought, including
    aesthetic considerations (internal consistency, consonance with other
    scientific theories, consonance with philosophical or religious commitments,
    simplicity, "elegance," fruitfulness, and the like), that sways a person to
    favor one approach over another. If you continue in your refusal to accept
    fruitfulness (or any other aesthetic value) as a legitimate and substantial
    factor in scientific theory evaluation, then further discussion is futile.

    Howard Van Till

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