Sunday, 4 December 2011

A Quick Response To an Anti-ID YouTube Clip

Today I just wanted to quickly respond to a YouTube movie entitled "Why Intelligent Design is Wrong". It demonstrates the power of mutations guided towards a goal of producing a given structure (in this case, an image).

  1. ID claims that sufficiently large quantities of information cannot be generated spontaneously i.e. without intelligent agency. ID also provides a quantitative measure for it. So all ID is about is saying that strong Artificial Intelligence is a subject of science fiction, not science.
  2. Strictly speaking, ID is not counter-evolution because they are compatible. ID is even compatible with common descent although not every ID theorist thinks common descent is a practical possibility (and I agree with this). E.g. there is nothing wrong at all in an ID model which includes micro-evolution. 
  3. Evolution has no goal, so the example in the movie clip is flawed because it has been intelligently programmed to evolve. This in fact is the common fallacy of many critics of ID.
  4. No one disputes micro-adaptations. What is disputed is unwarranted extrapolations as an attempt to explain observed bio-diversity on the planet.
  5. It is known that control is part of biosystems. While regularity can spontaneously emerge (e.g. in crystallisation), control has never been observed to emerge by itself. Prominent materialist thinkers like Stuart Kauffman do not recognise this. They believe that since matter is capable of producing a regular structure of some sort, it just happened to be life as we know it, whereas in other scenarios it could have been different but something like life anyway. However, this is a philosophical claim, not a scientific one, and it stems from their materialistic world view. Science deals with evidence as we have it, not as we could have had in a different universe.
  6. The classical Darwinian model, i.e. Random Variation + Natural Selection, is incapable of generating sufficient amounts of novelty. NS is only a means of removing the less fit and is therefore passive. Consequently, it cannot be a source of biological novelty. As regards the random component of the Darwinian model, chance and/or law-like necessity cannot generate such rich information content as is observed on Earth either. This is because it simply does not have enough probabilistic resources. Based on overwhelming evidence, ID posits that large enough quantities of functionally specified information cannot emerge spontaneously but must be intelligently imparted to the system. 
  7. Intelligent agency amounts to heuristic guidance in solving feasibility/optimisation problems for a given system with respect to certain criteria. Due to combinatorial nature and size of the problem of parameter fine-tuning in biological systems, purposeful intelligent agency is the only empirically warranted answer to the existence of life. 
  8. Evidence suggests that the semantic cargo of information exchange between system components is always a result of intelligent agency. 
Let us assume for a moment, following Gregory Chaitin, that life can be modelled as evolving software. To use a very nice analogy from, how would you picture for yourself the process of developing a full operating system starting with a modest piece of code whose only function is printing out "Hello, World":
  • as purposeful, consistent and systematic modification with a stated objective e.g. by a qualified software engineer, or 
  • as symbol by symbol undirected random mutations of the initial code with no explicitly stated goal given some automatic mechanism for the elimination of certain resultant programs as unviable? 
Put differently, which of the two options would you bet on in practice given the physical constraints of our cosmos? Is natural selection over random variations really likely to produce Mozart or Beethoven out of mud in 10^17 seconds?

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