Howard Van Till asked
>Ruest asserts that such "informing" action was essential because of the "transastronomical improbability" of the creation doing it without divine assistance. In the spirit of the ID movement, he judges that there must be some non-natural way for information to be introduced from the outside.
>I'm wondering how others on this list might evaluate that proposition. Do we, for example, have any right to claim that we are able to compute the actual values of the relevant probabilities?<
I'm not sure about the right, but I do not think we have the data to make meaningful calculations regarding the probabilities of producing creaturely systems. We are just beginning to get comparative data for some aspects of other planetary systems, and have a sample size of one for the origin of the universe or of life. Calculating accurate probabilities will require a thorough knowledge of the number of possible options that would produce the desired result, the number of possible options that would not produce it, the starting conditions, and the possible mechanisms producing one particular option rather than another. It is also necessary to agree on the starting conditions under consideration. For example, to calculate the probability of chemical evolution producing life, do we assume the laws of physics and an abiotic environment close to that of the early Earth, or do we try to calculate probabilities of producing those as well?
Fallacious logic is another problem. I believe it was an article in Discover several years ago that featured arguments by a physicist (I forget if actual qualifications were mentioned) claiming that the probability of producing a physical universe similar to ours was quite high. It was based on the same fallacy as the pope is an alien discussion from either Science or Nature in the late 1990's and Hume's argument against miracles. (References are not handy, as you have probably figured out.) The flawed argument is as follows: A randomly selected event, person, law, etc. is more likely to fall into the typical rather than atypical category. Therefore, a non-randomly selected example must fit into the typical category. In the case of laws of physics, it was claimed that the observed laws of our universe are typical values for the range of possible laws. Conversely, the initial letter regarding the pope claimed that, because the probability of any given human being the p!
ope is miniscule, it is therefore highly probable that John Paul II is an alien. Hume argued (at least in more recent, simplified versions) that, because miracles are rare events, you can always assume that a given event is not miraculous.
A different error typifies popular young-earth estimates of probability. These typically fail to take into account the current understanding of mechanisms and multiple ways of producing a desired result. For example, calculating the probability of producing human DNA as one chance out of the total length of the human genome ignores both the action of natural selection in getting rid of dysfunctional possibilities and the fact that there are well over 6 billion combinations of DNA that have produced humans so far. Dr. Ruest does a much better job with this, but still much has to be assumed.
Dr. David Campbell
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That is Uncle Joe, taken in the masonic regalia of a Grand Exalted Periwinkle of the Mystic Order of Whelks-P.G. Wodehouse, Romance at Droigate Spa
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