Re: [asa] Multiverse and ID

From: Bill Powers <wjp@swcp.com>
Date: Sat May 09 2009 - 19:03:08 EDT

Ian:

What mean by evolution I think is more general. I mean something like
that life arouse and speciated by the workings of chance and law.

It seems to me that under MN this is an unfalsifiable theory. Indeed, it
must be true. No matter what the evidence, I think the position would
still be held.

What we find is evidence that supports that evolution has occurred. E.g.,
perhaps genetic signatures that can be traced from species to species, and
perhaps, given some dateline of species arrival, a history of genetic
modification, etc.

My point, however, is that even if we didn't find this evidence, but found
something else, it too would either support evolution or some story would
be developed to explain it.

Suppose, for example, that we found no simple celled fossils in a strata
that predates the arrival of more complex forms. We would simply conclude
that for some reason these species left no fossil record.

My familiarity with the modern developments of evolutionary theory is
almost nil (except what I hear here and elsewhere). So this picture must
be oversimplified.

Can someone offer the evidence or lack thereof that would cause serious
doubts in a naturalistic evolutionary story. The only one that I am fully
familiar with is ID, which claims the probabalistic resources are
inadequate. That, however, is a very broad and difficult case to make.

It occurs to me, however, that what I am saying is obvious, just as
obvious that the fall of a ball, or lightning must according the MN have
naturalistic explanations. This means that in order for what I say to
make any sense, I would have to distinguish different naturalistic models
of evolution.

I often hear, here and elsewhere, that evolution is a fact attested now by
much evidence. That is not at all clear to me, having heard some of the
evidence. What I think is meant to be said is that there is a mass of
evidence that can be interpreted to support that evolution has taken
place. What this is taken to mean is that something like "common descent"
is a phenomena that begs for explaining. It is not clear to me that the
argument is not circular.

Take, e.g., similarities in the genetic coding across many species, or the
common process of protein replication. This suggests, given the large
number of life forms, some relationship between them. It also suggests to
me that if life arose by "accident," it must be very improbable indeed,
even on our planet. For otherwise, it seems that there would be many
competing forms. But I don't know how common descent is inferred without
presuming that life variations arose by naturalistic processes.

If we are to presume by agreement that any explanation must be
naturalistic, then the only question appears to be whether there were many
trees or just one or two, the latter representing common descent. If this
is all common descent asserts, it seems rather meagre and one wonders why
given naturalistic presumptions why anyone would have difficulty with it.

The issue appears to be a matter of the naturalistic probability of life
arising. Common descent appears to affirm that probability is low,
perhaps extraordinarily low given the vast amount of time available.
Whereas if there are many paths, i.e., many beginnings the probability of
life developing in our environment might be considerably larger. Of
course proponents of many paths might argue that all but one or two died
out and that's the reason we don't see multiple strains today.

Well, I'm rambling.

bill

   You
wrote: >>
>> 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.

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Received on Sat May 9 19:03:47 2009

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