RE: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and thenature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)

From: Alexanian, Moorad <alexanian@uncw.edu>
Date: Tue Jun 16 2009 - 10:38:10 EDT

Bill,

As I have indicated often, if one cannot define what is physical, nothing can be defined and thus we will be immersed in total confusion. Physical is anything that is composed of atoms, molecules, radiation, etc., viz. matter and/or energy, i.e., inorganic. In fact, the subject matter of physics is the physical aspect of Nature, which is also the subject matter of science.

Like electric charge, life is “quantized,” that is, you cannot partition life into little pieces. You cannot have a fraction of “life,” it is the whole without parts. Of course, a living being does have parts, which it can live without. However, such is not the case for “life.”

I agree that emergentists are physicalists, but I am not of that belief. Life is not part of the subject matter of science. Of course, perhaps one-day tie definition of science can be changes so to include life as part of its subject matter.

Nature has three aspects physical/nonphysical/supernatural. There are two sorts of detectors: Human beings and purely physical devices. The former detects all three aspects while the latter detects only the physical. Examples of nonphysical are mental concepts, mathematical notions, etc. I believe consciousness and reasoning are supernatural. However, not divine. There are levels of the supernatural and humans may be at the lowest level with God at the highest. Human existence is derived from that of God, the only self-existing being.

Science does not deal directly with being, the ontological, but the physical aspect, which is extracted from the truly existing entity. How can science be dealing with real being when the subject matter of science is based on physical records of past events?

Moorad

________________________________________
From: wjp [wjp@swcp.com]
Sent: Tuesday, June 16, 2009 8:23 AM
To: "" Alexanian@ame8.swcp.com; Alexanian, Moorad
Cc: Cameron Wybrow; asa
Subject: RE: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and thenature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)

Moorad:

Yes, I think I understood, from earlier discussions, that this is what you
might mean.

What you suggest of life is conventional emergence.
One would say that "life" supervenes on the physical.

I, however, am suggesting something more radical.
Emergentists are physicalists.

In trying to understand this position we need to try to understand
what exactly they, or anyone, means by physical.
We've been struggling with that.

You, as I and, I think Cameron (and perhaps almost everyone on this
list) believe there is something that is nonphysical, even though we
apparently have trouble defining what exactly that is.

How exactly does this nonphysical show up? Can we point to it?
Are we Cartesians, believing that essentially only the human soul,
angels, and God have nonphysical components, otherwise everything is
physical?

I have been suggesting that the term "physical" is impotent, and the
distinction between physical and nonphysical is empty.

The radical notion that I have been entertaining attempts to get
at the physicalist presumptions of emergence, and to suggest
that, yes, the whole is greater than the parts, but that, in
addition, the whole is of a different ontological status than
the parts.

Is this impossible? If so, why?
Is it conceptual or ontological (metaphysical)?

It seems that we reject this because by reason of conception.
This, then, gets at what we mean by physical.

So there appears to be two distinct options:

1) The parts are physical, but the properties of the whole is
"greater" than the parts in some sense.

2) The parts are physical, but the whole is ontologically
"greater" than the ontological parts.

Is this a real distinction? If not, does it start to
get at what we mean by ontology and properties.
When do we say that the ontology has remained constant,
say that they have remained physical?

thanks,

bill

On Tue, 16 Jun 2009 07:27:15 -0400, "Alexanian, Moorad" <alexanian@uncw.edu> wrote:
> Bill,
>
> What I had in mind was an extreme example of synergy; the whole is greater
> than the sum of its parts, whereby the system cannot be subdivided. It
> seems to me that a purely physical entity, say, DNA, can arise over time
> from an existing soup where all the basic ingredients are present. It is a
> question of probabilities and the a priori knowledge that such complex
> molecules can exist. That is to say, just having electrons and protons
> does not tell you that you can form neutral hydrogen atoms if the dynamics
> did not exist that made that outcome possible. If the flagellum is purely
> physical, then I have no qualms about it arising from simpler components.
> However, I believe that is not the case with life. There are no
> “parts” to life. That is why people use the term emergent for such
> types of synergies.
>
> Moorad
> ________________________________________
> From: Bill Powers [wjp@swcp.com]
> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 6:15 PM
> To: Alexanian, Moorad
> Cc: Cameron Wybrow; asa
> Subject: RE: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>
> Moorad:
>
> IC refers to an entity that it is believed to have been constructed of
> its parts. It is possible for the parts to exist independent of the
> constructed entitiy. You appear to be conflating IC with what we mean
> by the essential constitutes of an entity, that is, what semantically
> and perhaps ontologically required for an entity to belong to a certain
> class of entities.
>
> I'm perhaps wrong about what you're saying. Got to go.
>
> Bye
>
> bill
>
> On Mon, 15 Jun
> 2009, Alexanian, Moorad wrote:
>
>> According to this definition of irreducible complexity, an electron, as
> currently understood, is irreducible complex. Supposedly the different
> parts of the electron interact with each other and, in fact, owing to the
> quantization of charge, no part of the electron can be removed from it
> without violating charge quantization.
>>
>> Moorad
>> ________________________________________
>> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf
> Of Cameron Wybrow [wybrowc@sympatico.ca]
>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 4:33 PM
>> To: asa
>> Subject: Re: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>
>> Bernie:
>>
>> Bill has partly answered your posts already, and my understanding is
> about
>> the same as his, but let me try to address your objections in my own
> way.
>>
>> Two things must be kept distinct:
>>
>> 1. The nature of an irreducibly complex system
>> 2. The question whether Darwinian evolutionary processes can produce
>> irreducibly complex systems
>>
>> On point 1:
>>
>> "Irreducible complexity" is a non-historical, functional description of
> a
>> system. It indicates that all the parts are necessary for the whole to
>> function. In an irreducibly complex system, all the parts interact in
> such
>> a way that the removal of one of them would cause the system to cease
>> functioning. This is basically an engineering concept, having nothing
>> intrinsically to do with evolution or even with biology.
>>
>> On point 2:
>>
>> We know from our experience as human beings that irreducibly complex
> systems
>> can be built by intelligent agents, e.g., ourselves. We do not have
>> experience of inanimate matter building irreducibly complex systems.
>> (Unless the inanimate matter is following a template, e.g., as in
> embryonic
>> development; but I am speaking of building them up from scratch, or from
>> earlier systems which are quite different.) So the question is, can
> natural
>> processes, unguided by any intelligence, produce irreducibly complex
>> systems, or transform one irreducibly complex system into an entirely
>> different one?
>>
>> Darwinian evolution says that they can. Behe's argument is that there
> are
>> formidable barriers in biological systems to the production of
> irreducibly
>> complex systems by means of accidental mutations, even when those
> mutations
>> are culled by natural selection, because natural selection can't select
> for
>> a system which does not function. So how do you get enough mutations
>> together to make up the new system that you want, so that "natural
>> selection" can select it?
>>
>> Behe grants that in theory there might be intermediate stages between
> two
>> irreducibly complex systems, each of which has survival value. But he
>> doesn't find much evidence in the Darwinian literature of these stages.
>>
>> Regarding Ken Miller, Miller and Behe have been at this for years. They
>> have published several articles each on the irreducible complexity of
> the
>> flagellum. I think it is important that if you read Ken Miller's
> criticism
>> of Behe's argument, you read every one of Behe's rejoinders.
>>
>> First, Miller sometimes misrepresents Point 1 -- what Behe means by an
>> irreducibly complex system. Whether this is out of lack of
> understanding or
>> out of malice, I don't know. Anyhow, Behe clarifies what he means in
> his
>> rejoinders. You can read them.
>>
>> Second, Miller has suggested as a possible intermediate the Type III
>> secretory system. Let's say we grant this. It still doesn't do nearly
>> enough to solve the problem that Behe is raising. There would have to
> be a
>> series of useful intermediates, not just one, between your basic
> bacterium
>> and your bacterium with a flagellum. So you still need some notion of
> what
>> these stages would have been, how they would have given the creature
>> survival advantage, how they would be generated genetically, etc. 99%
> of
>> the story is missing. And in many cases in the animal kingdom, 100% of
> the
>> story is missing. What are the intermediate stages? What survival
> value
>> did they have? An eagle with 5% sharper eyesight has a definite
> survival
>> advantage. But what about a bat with half a wing, enough to impair the
>> normal functioning of the arm, but not good enough to fly, or even glide
> in
>> a stable manner? What survival advantage would that intermediate form
> have?
>> Or a malfunctioning sonar, one which sometimes caught mosquitoes very
> well,
>> and other times let the bat crash into the cave wall? What survival
>> advantage would that intermediate form have? If evolution had to work
> up
>> through such imperfect partial stages, it would certainly never get to
> the
>> bat. And Darwinists have yet to come up with even a single plausible
>> sequence of intermediate forms, anywhere in the animal kingdom, that
> could
>> produce complex organic machinery such as the cardiovascular system.
>>
>> We can trace the "evolution" of the motor car. We can see "intermediate
>> stages" between the Model T and modern cars. But all of those
> intermediate
>> stages were designed, irreducibly complex systems. They did not mutate
> into
>> the next phase by accident. The question is, can nature do the
> equivalent,
>> and manage, not just frequently but millions of times, to find its way,
>> unguided, to useful intermediate forms? The Type III secretory system,
> one
>> possible intermediate in a single type of unicellular creature, is very
>> thin evidence upon which to rest a mechanism which is supposed to
> explain
>> the entire macroevolutionary process.
>>
>> To bring this back to your original objection: Behe allows that
> "evolution"
>> (not of the Darwinian kind) might have produced irreducibly complex
> systems.
>> But if so, it would be "front-loaded" evolution of some kind, in which
> the
>> parts were, so to speak, self-assembling, almost as if they had an
> inbuilt
>> intelligence which told them when to appear and where to take their
> place in
>> the new arrangement. Needless to say, such a front-loaded evolution
> would
>> require a mind with an ability to handle complex interactions far beyond
>> that of the greatest supercomputer, a superintelligence which could only
> be
>> divine. So if you go for front-loading, you have to believe in God.
> Maybe
>> not the Christian God, but some kind of God. Thus, Denton, who proposes
>> such a system, speaks of God. Behe stops short of endorsing Denton's
> view
>> as the correct one, but allows it as a possible means of producing
>> irreducible complexity through an evolutionary process.
>>
>> Once again, unless you rigorously separate "evolution" from "Darwinian
>> evolution", as I have been begging everyone here to do, you will never
>> understand the arguments or motivations of ID proponents. The
> intelligent
>> design of irreducibly complex systems is logically compatible with
>> evolution, but not of course with Darwinian evolution.
>>
>> Cameron.
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>>
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
>> Cc: <asa@calvin.edu>
>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 2:18 PM
>> Subject: RE: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design and
> the
>> nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>
>>
>>> Bill said:
>>> "The issue is the number of elements that must be simultaneously
>>> available. If all the parts of a mouse trap are present simultaneously
>>> it might even be possible for a car accident to put it together, but
>>> highly unlikely."
>>>
>>> As I understand irreducible complexity (IC) , it is argued that the
> parts
>>> can't al be around at the same time because there is no use for them to
> be
>>> around. That is the whole point of the argument- since there is no use
>>> for them, they must have been created together all at once. Therefore-
>>> evolution, guided or unguided, is impossible. Evolution is all about
>>> building something more complex from more simpler building blocks. IC
> is
>>> all about this evolution being impossible, because there is no need for
>>> the lower building blocks to be around.
>>>
>>> ...Bernie
>>>
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Bill Powers [mailto:wjp@swcp.com]
>>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 10:34 AM
>>> To: Dehler, Bernie
>>> Cc: asa@calvin.edu
>>> Subject: Re: [asa] RE: (irreducible complexity and evolution) design
> and
>>> the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re: Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>>
>>> Bernie:
>>>
>>> I'll let Cameron reply for himself.
>>>
>>> But clearly your understanding of irreducible complexity cannot be
>>> correct. After all, we do construct mouse traps and cars all the time.
>>>
>>> The issue is the number of elements that must be simultaneously
>>> available. If all the parts of a mouse trap are present simultaneously
>>> it might even be possible for a car accident to put it together, but
>>> highly unlikely.
>>>
>>> It is a matter of probabalistic resources. In order to put togehter a
>>> car, say on an assembly line, it is required that
>>> 1) the available parts be simultaneously, or more carefully that they
>>> would be available on the time scale much shorter than the dissipative
>>> time scale (i.e., some measure of the effects of entropy, friction, or
>>> chaotic mixing).
>>>
>>> 2) That all the pieces would be put together on a time scale short
>>> compared to the disordering time scale (e.g., the time for the parts to
>>> rust, etc.).
>>>
>>> Irreducible complexity, as I understand it, is a statement that the
>>> joint probability of both the parts being nearly simultaneously
>>> available, say over time DeltaT, and the probability of the parts being
>>> put together over a time DeltaT is vanishingly small for a non-lawful,
>>> non-intelligent process.
>>>
>>> It assumes that there is no necessity in the parts coming together
>>> (e.g., the parts of a mouse trap have not "lawful" reason to come
>>> together, although once together they remain together, implying, it
>>> seems short range forces). The parts must have a lifetime that is long
>>> compared to the time of preparation, otherwise what is put together
> will
>>> not be made of the parts, although it might be possible that even a
>>> rusty car could become a whole, or an "inferior" mousetrap.
>>>
>>> bill
>>>
>>> On Mon, 15 Jun
>>> 2009, Dehler, Bernie wrote:
>>>
>>>> Cameron quoted:
>>>> " If the parts of the universe are so fine-tuned that they cannot help
>>>> but fall together into certain biologically functional arrangements,
> then
>>>> irreducibly complex structures will of course form through a
> front-loaded
>>>> evolutionary process."
>>>>
>>>> I don't understand. I understand "irreducible complexity" to mean
> that
>>>> it is impossible for nature to sequentially build something complex
>>>> because all the parts would need to appear at once (like the mousetrap
>>>> needing all of it's basic parts to be present at the same time). This
> is
>>>> against evolution- guided or unguided.
>>>>
>>>> ...Bernie
>>>>
>>>> -----Original Message-----
>>>> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [mailto:asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu]
> On
>>>> Behalf Of Cameron Wybrow
>>>> Sent: Monday, June 15, 2009 7:35 AM
>>>> To: asa@calvin.edu
>>>> Subject: Re: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
>>>> Gingerich on TE and ID)
>>>>
>>>> Actually, Bernie, that's not the case. Here are just three paragraphs
>>>> for
>>>> you:
>>>>
>>>> If the parts of the universe are so fine-tuned that they cannot help
> but
>>>> fall together into certain biologically functional arrangements, then
>>>> irreducibly complex structures will of course form through a
> front-loaded
>>>> evolutionary process. The evolutionary process would then be
> analogous
>>>> to
>>>> the embryological process, in that the outcome would be planned from
> the
>>>> beginning, with the changes all ready in advance. But this would be a
>>>> planned evolutionary process, unlike Darwin's evolutionary process,
> the
>>>> essential nature of which is to be unplanned. Irreducible complexity
>>>> does
>>>> not clash with "evolution"; it clashes with "unplanned evolution".
> Behe
>>>> assumed that any careful reader of *Darwin's Black Box* would
> understand
>>>> that he was talking about "unplanned evolution".
>>>>
>>>> Of course, there is as yet no evidence that fine-tuning can accomplish
>>>> such
>>>> an evolutionary feat. Fine-tuning at the evolutionary level
> essentially
>>>> requires that the earliest DNA has the plan for the whole march of
> life
>>>> implicit in it, and this claim is still highly speculative, and will
>>>> remain
>>>> so until we understand what all the apparently unused DNA is for. But
>>>> this
>>>> view is no more speculative than Darwinism itself. Each view requires
>>>> one
>>>> seemingly incredible claim. Darwinism requires us to believe that
> time
>>>> after time, over the course of life, accident produces new functional
>>>> structures, with the whole process conveniently tending upwards toward
>>>> man;
>>>> front-loading or fine-tuning requires us to believe that level after
>>>> level
>>>> of biological complexity is packed into the fundamental properties of
> the
>>>> chemical elements, and this gives to biochemical necessity the awesome
>>>> power
>>>> that Darwinism gives to chance. On the face of it, it seems
> incredible
>>>> that
>>>> either chance or necessity could have such powers.
>>>>
>>>> The smart money, I would say, is on the view that the evolutionary
>>>> process
>>>> is in fact intelligently guided. It's a view consistent with our
>>>> knowledge
>>>> of integrated complex systems, and of the limited power of Darwinian
>>>> mechanisms. It's a view in tune with common sense. It's the view
> that
>>>> seems to be held by Ted Davis and George Murphy and Robert Russell,
> and
>>>> also, I am told, by Owen Gingerich and other TEs. It is also a view
>>>> compatible with the arguments of Behe and of many other ID supporters.
>>>> But
>>>> it is of course a view which, according to many here, is unscientific,
> or
>>>> non-scientific. I never said that intelligently guided evolution was
>>>> "scientific" in the sense of a formal scientific hypothesis, but I
>>>> certainly
>>>> believe that it is compatible with the best scientific data -- more
>>>> compatible, in fact, than pure Darwinism is. Once again, I think that
>>>> TE,
>>>> when it is not afraid to say directly and without ambiguity that God
>>>> controlled the evolutionary process to produce certain specific
> results,
>>>> is
>>>> in tune with some versions of ID.
>>>>
>>>> Cameron.
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>>> From: "Dehler, Bernie" <bernie.dehler@intel.com>
>>>> To: <asa@calvin.edu>
>>>> Sent: Thursday, June 11, 2009 3:19 PM
>>>> Subject: RE: design and the nature of science (was: Re: [asa] Re:
>>>> Gingerich
>>>> on TE and ID)
>>>>
>>>>
>>>>> I think one TE could say "yes" (fully gifted creation- Howard Van
> Till),
>>>>> and another might say "No" because God needs to guide it somewhat or
> at
>>>>> certain times.
>>>>>
>>>>> Cameron said:
>>>>> ID says, "NO -- unless the properties of the atoms and the laws of
>>>>> nature
>>>>> are fine-tuned, which implies design."
>>>>>
>>>>> If ID says it could happen, then that blows apart Behe's mousetrap
>>>>> example
>>>>> (irreducible complexity), which is a pillar for ID I think ("Icons of
>>>>> ID"
>>>>> if you will).
>>>>
>>>>
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Received on Tue Jun 16 10:39:21 2009

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