Re: [asa] review of Hitchens' book by Michael Novak

From: PvM <>
Date: Sun May 20 2007 - 17:26:24 EDT

On 5/18/07, Janice Matchett <> wrote:
> Seems to me that the evangelical right may have demoralized some of its
> followers? ~ Pim

> @ Yeah ... "some of its followers" would no doubt be better off if they
> listened to some of the ideas you promote, huh? :)

I am not sure if they would be better of if they listened to the ideas
I promote, although I do believe that if some were to spend more time
on educating themselves with the facts, they would run less risk
running afoul of St Augustine's concerns.

It's not really my ideas which I am worried about but rather the ideas
of some of the evangelicals who are abusing faith and science to
promote a position which seems demoralizing and unnecessarily

We have seen what happened in Europe which has historically set the
trend. Recent happenings in the US may also contribute to an increase
in demoralization amongst the faithful.

In the end, the extremism of the evangelical right may very well be
quite costly, politically, socially, scientifically and religiously

Yes, to a certain extent religion and atheism are 'feeding on each
other' much like prey and predator (without identifying which is which
here). I see it as a healthy swing of the pendulum evolved to keep
our societies free from too much extremism.

That morality, altruism etc can be found amongst other animals than
humans, gives me hope both from a scientific as well as spiritual
perspective. Understanding how these evolved, either as spandrels or
as selectable features, can help us understand our history and perhaps
provide a glimpse of our future.

Recently, in an interesting experiment it was found that flies show
some hint of 'free will'. While the concept of free will is quite open
to philosophical discussions, it seems that a totally random system
would not be free will, and that a totally deterministic system would
also fail. In other words, free will likely is to be found somewhere
inbetween determinism and indeterminism (randomness). In case of the
flies a search flight pattern evolved which matches the levy
distribution which not too surprisingly is also one of the more
effective search patterns under certain circumstances. In other words,
this evidence of 'free will' can be quite well understood from an
evolutionary perspective.

Funny enough, Denyse O'Leary seems to be struggling with these
concepts right now as people on UcD and her own blog seem to be
confusing this with evidence against evolutionary theory and in
particular Darwinian theory.

May I invite ID supporters to explain how they explain the
observations? Are they aware as to how science explains them?

Which one seems more probable?

Our subjective notion of "Free Will" is an oxymoron: the term 'will'
would not apply if our actions were completely random and it would not
be 'free' if they were entirely determined. So if there is free will,
it must be somewhere between chance and necessity - which is exactly
where fly behavior comes to lie. "The question of whether or not we
have free will appears to be posed the wrong way," says Brembs.
"Instead, if we ask 'how close to free will are we"' one finds that
this is precisely where humans and animals differ".

and the paper in question

Alexander Maye, Chih-hao Hsieh, George Sugihara, Bj÷rn Brembs
Order in Spontaneous Behavior

Brains are usually described as input/output systems: they transform
sensory input into motor output. However, the motor output of brains
(behavior) is notoriously variable, even under identical sensory
conditions. The question of whether this behavioral variability merely
reflects residual deviations due to extrinsic random noise in such
otherwise deterministic systems or an intrinsic, adaptive
indeterminacy trait is central for the basic understanding of brain
function. Instead of random noise, we find a fractal order (resembling
LÚvy flights) in the temporal structure of spontaneous flight
maneuvers in tethered Drosophila fruit flies. LÚvy-like probabilistic
behavior patterns are evolutionarily conserved, suggesting a general
neural mechanism underlying spontaneous behavior. Drosophila can
produce these patterns endogenously, without any external cues. The
fly's behavior is controlled by brain circuits which operate as a
nonlinear system with unstable dynamics far from equilibrium. These
findings suggest that both general models of brain function and
autonomous agents ought to include biologically relevant nonlinear,
endogenous behavior-initiating mechanisms if they strive to
realistically simulate biological brains or out-compete other agents.

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Received on Sun May 20 17:26:38 2007

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