Re: 1. a couple of questions, 2. Re: design: purposeful or random? 2/2 & 1/2

Stephen Jones (
Fri, 07 Mar 97 05:41:18 +0800


On Mon, 03 Mar 1997 11:33:18 -0500, Brian D Harper wrote:


>SJ>I really cannot follow Brian's thinking. He must be a genius!

BH>What exactly is it that's hard to follow? It seems obvious to me,
>but previous experience has taught me that what's obvious to me may
>not be obvious to someone else. Maybe it helps to modify what I
>wrote above slightly:

BH>But if MN has nothing to do with whether nature is all there is
>then MN provides no reason to *ASSUME* nature is all there is.
>Or maybe like this: But if MN has nothing to do with whether
>nature is all there is then one can accept MN without assuming that
>nature is all there is.

Where did I say that "MN has nothing to do with whether nature is all
there is"? A feature of Brian's posts is that he often subtly
re-words what I say. If I am not careful, I find myself defending
terminology that Brian has inserted into the debate. I would suggest
to Brian that he do what I do and quote his opponents *actual
words*, not a paraphrase of what he thinks they said.


>BH>Who said it was any less real?

SJ>Brian implied it by dismissing my defintion of "information" as
>"specified complexity" as not "objective".

BH>It is interesting that you thought I implied this. Do you think
>that if something cannot be measured objectively then it is less
>real? I certainly never said or implied any such thing.

I cannot accept this explanation of Brian's either. That was the
*clear* implication of Brian's words and that is how I took it.

>SJ>It just shows the limitations of "information theory" which is
>based on scientific materialism.


SJ>If meaning is ultimately non-material, then "scientific
>materialism" will be forever unable to deal with it, because
>materialism means that matter (including mind) is all there is:
>"...philosophical materialism-the postulate that matter is the stuff
>of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its
>by-products." (Gould S.J., "Ever Since Darwin", 1977, p24)

BH>The reason for my "huh?" was your statement that is based on
>scientific materialism. It is not.

If it is "scientific" in a fully naturalistic sense then *by
defintion* it is " based on scientific materialism".

BH>One good illustration of this is to look at Hubert Yockey, one of
>the most outspoken anti-materialists around. He wrote his most
>recent paper in J. Theoretical Biology to oppose the materialistic
>view of the origin of life published in the same journal by
>Avshalom Elitzur. He wrote a letter to BioEssays to oppose the
>materialistic views of Lifson. In his book he ridicules
>materialists by referring to them as the LumpenIntelligentsia and by
>comparing them to "professors" at the Grand Academy of Lagado
>(Gulliver's Travels). He compares belief in a primordial soup to
>the architect at the Grand Academy who tried to build houses
>starting with the roof. Based on Information Theory he concludes
>that life must be accepted as an axiom and is not reducible to
>chemistry and physics.

Yockey truly is the exception that proves the rule! He is hardly
typical of information theorists. That's *why* he is "one of the
most outspoken anti-materialists around". But it is not strictly
true that he "ridicules materialists". He opposes *some forms* of
materialism, eg. the "materialistic reductionist point of view"
(Yockey H.P., "A Calculation of the Probability of Spontaneous
Biogenesis by Information Theory," Journal of Theoretical Biology,
67, 1977, pp380,396) and "dialectic materialism" (Yockey H.P., "Self
Organization Origin of Life Scenarios and Information Theory",
Journal of Theoretical Biology, 91, 1981, pp24,27,28).

But Yockey, although an anti-reductionist is still a scientific

"Position C: Organisms contain irreducible information, meaning
information not explainable in terms of physical laws and/or chance.
Hence the neo-Darwinian theory is inadequate (except at the micro
level) in a way that probably cannot be fixed. This is the position
of Wilder-Smith, Michael Behe's forthcoming book, and those who
endorse "intelligent design." Support for it comes also from the
writings of antireductionists like Polanyi and Yockey (who do not
explore or welcome the theistic implications)."(Johnson P.E., "Reason
in the Balance", 1995, p213-214)

Yockey's writings contain gratuitous (and wrong) attacks on religion
in general and Christianity in particular:

"St Paul in no fewer than four of his letters (Ephesians 6:5-6, Titus
2:9-10, Timothy 6:1-2, Colossians 3:22-24) instructed slaves to be
loyal and obedient to their masters and also approved of stoning as a
means of execution (Acts 8:1)....Science and religion have different
and opposite belief systems. Scientific beliefs are never absolute.
Doubt is a virtue in science and many well established theories have
been replaced because of tiny discrepancies. Faith on the other hand
plays a central role in religion. Doubters, who must touch the very
stigmata to believe, are not well regarded even if they are saints
(John 20:25-29). A true believer confronted with evidence contrary
to his doctrine regards this as merely a test of the steadfastness of
his faith. The more his doctrine is denied by experience and
observation the more tenaciously he clings to his holy faith. His
greatest fear is heresy and treason to his doctrines- He believes
that, like Job, he will be rewarded in the end when the amazing grace
of holy writ is at last revealed. He does not need to understand,
only to believe. He can be converted but not convinced. He views
the world behind a fact proof screen and depends on an infallible
comprehensive doctrine and often on an infallible leader (Hoffer,
1951)" (Yockey H.P., "Self Organization Origin of Life Scenarios and
Information Theory", Journal of Theoretical Biology, 91, 1981, p27)

He is every bit a "scientific materialist" as those of his colleagues
he criticises.

On Wed, 26 Feb 1997 20:09:10 -0500, Brian D Harper wrote:


>SJ>No doubt there are other definitions of "random", especially in a
>. "6 volume <Encyclopedia of Mathematics>"! But "equal probability"
>is the core, definition of "random", as can be seen by these
>separate examples:

BH> It is true that one would expect a lot of different definitions
>of random in something as exhaustive as a 6 volume encyclopedia.
>Sure enough, when I searched closely I did find some mention of the
>equal probability situation, but only as a special case.

Everything is a "special case"! Perhaps Brian can state what the "6
volume <Encyclopedia of Mathematics>" gives as *the* general
case "definitions of `random' "?

>SJ>"random mating, in population genetics, condition of unrestricted
>mating, such as exists in large natural populations in which,
>theoretically, any male can mate with any female." ("random
>mating", Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1984, viii:416)

BH>this is not the same as saying each male mates with any female
>with equal probability.

If "any male can mate with any female" it is the same as saying that
there is an "equal probability" that "any male can mate with any
female". If Brian disagrees, then perhaps he can state *what*
"probability" it would be, if it was not "equal"?

>SJ>"random sampling, in geology, method of sampling any population
>of values in such a way that any particular value has an equal
>chance of being selected" ("random sampling", Encyclopaedia
>Britannica, 1984, viii:416)

No comment? Brian would surely concede that "an equal chance" means
an "equal probability"?

>SJ>"random walk, stochastic process based on the problem of
>determining the probable location of a point subject to random
>motions given the probabilities (the same at each step) of moving
>some distance in some direction." ("random walk", Encyclopaedia
>Britannica, 1984, viii:416)

BH>I looked this one up in the encyclopedia of mathematics. Saying
>that the probabilities are the same at each step doesn't mean they
>are equal, only that the probability distribution (whatever it is)
>doesn't change from step to step.

If "the probabilities are the same at each step" but that "doesn't
mean they are equal", then it would be *biased*, in which case it
would not be "random".

BH>Again, they say specifically that random walks with equal
>probabiliites is a special case.

Well, again perhaps Brian can say what is the *general* case?


BH>First of all, the example was used to illustrate the definition of
>a "random event".

And my point was that no "`real world' example" would be truly
"random" because there is no such thing as a truly "pair of fair

BH>Secondly, you have it backwards in the above. Assuming the dice
>were fair one might observe something close to equal occurence
>after a few trials. The larger the number of tosses, the closer
>the observed frequencies will coincide with the theoretical
>probability distribution. [hint, its more likely you will roll a 7
than a 2.]

OK. I fell into that little trap! It is obvious that the *total* of
two dies favours 7 because there are more numbers that add up to 7 in
two die: 1+6, 6+1, 2+5, 5+2, 3+4, 4+3. But there is an equal
probability of *each* die (if they were truly "fair") turning up a 1,
2, 3, 4, 5, or a 6.

God bless.


| Stephen E (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ |
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