Re: [asa] Multiverse and ID

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Sat May 09 2009 - 13:48:42 EDT

On Sat, May 9, 2009 at 6:33 PM, Bill Powers <> wrote:

> Ian:
> You say that an explanation that can explain anything is no explanation at
> all. This has always been partly my problem with evolutionary theory
> broadly construed. Specific evolutionary theories can be falsified I think,
> but evolution in a general sense appears to be able to explain anything.

I agree with you here. If by evolution you mean some sequence of mutations
that got you from point A to point B, however convoluted, then it is akin to
my example of the high order polynomial to fit to limited data, and it falls
foul of exactly the same criticism. However, I think in its favour there is
the following:

(a) There seems to be ample evidence (e.g. from DNA sequencing/ massive
similarities between species) etc that evolution has gone on.
(b) My understanding (though I don't work in the field) is that when
attempting to find evolutionary lineage, the search algorithms attempt to
find the most parsimonious sequence.

> I agree that multiverse appears capable of explaining anything. This is
> just the power of chance events and infinite time: the entire phase space
> can be covered, regardless of how small the supposed probability. Hence,
> anything can be explained. This is exactly the problem that ID faces: given
> some notion of the probability function (something we have far better sense
> of that a multiverse has) at what point do you judge an event so unlikely
> that we need reject the hypothesis: a common Fisher rejection problem. It
> seems to me that in the history of science we do not make judgments about
> theories that way. Rather they are based on prior commitments and
> comparisons with alternative theories. There simply is no other game than
> the evolutionary game under MN requirements. I have difficulty imagining
> what alternative theories could be on the horizon short of a radical
> transformation of the scientific paradigm.

As I have done before on the list, I would recommend "Darwin in the Genome"
by Lynn Caporale. It is a beautifully and graciously written book by an
author who has no intention of picking an argument with religion (she states
so right in the preface). The book is a revelation of the sheer complexity
of "molecular strategies for evolution" that arise, which is a million miles
from the simplistic "mutation + natural selection" idea (make a copying
error and maybe it's a bit better and so lives longer). I would have said
that the ideas presented in this book, while remaining within the paradigm
of Natural Selection are a radical transformation of simplistic ways of
looking at it. One of the key ideas explored that lead to interesting
behaviour is the simple fact that the A-T and C-G bond strengths differ
significantly. What this means is that for some sequence of bases, the
mutation probabilities are NOT uniform along the genome; some parts are much
more likely to mutate than others. This leads to a very different picture
of what goes on than the conventional "random mutation hitting anywhere"
idea which is about all you get from having read about Dawkins's "Weasel".


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Received on Sat May 9 13:49:15 2009

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