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Ian Sharkey
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That there is no known mechanism that created the complexity and beauty of life, that it's statistically impossible, and that it speaks very loudly that there is an intelligent creator. But they suppress this awareness because they don't like it. The mechanism is evolution. I have trouble believing you understand the statistics involved, considering your trouble with introductory information theory. Hint: most statistical arguments assume the optimal solution is required, drastically reducing the solution space. Open that up, and the numbers get way less scary. In the context of the string: ";ai;jao8 la;wer'9r0 plse9i" the word you were looking for is "meaning", or "semantics". The random string has more information, due to the structure of English text; on average, each letter in English encodes about 1.0 to 1.5 bits, while this uses letters not commonly found in words. Now, to me, the first sentence has a meaning, but that's due to a process in my brain. The other string may have meaning to other processes. The book "Godel, Escher, Bach" looks into this relationship between syntax and semantics. Indeed, the theory of computer science is basically exploring the link between syntax and semantics. I was using humor to sidestep your arguments because I think you are going way off course, getting lost in your jargon. Using a 'winky' emoticon doesn't count as humour, and I don't think I hid in jargon as I attempted to explain any fundamental concepts I mentioned. I'm simply ignoring your snide comments and trying to use this space to educate you or anyone who stumbles across this slice of the web. Now, the 'other side' of the design question do not have good arguments, only misunderstandings, biases and falsehoods. They've been answered repeatedly, only to reiterate the same disagreements time and again. There's no suppression, but only ridicule seems to have an effect. If you can not criticize your own metaphysical position, or at least describe what others see as it's weaknesses, you are essentially being dogmatic, not scientific. Considering how many problems you've had with these basic concepts of the natural world, how likely is it that you have a decent grasp of the metaphysical concepts involved? You can probably guess my answer. Oh, btw. Happy Holidays. 'Tis the season to eat unhealthy food, and I need to start cooking :)
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On specified complexity (or complex specified information, CSI), quoting Blake Stacey, quoting Elsberry and Shallit (from their 2003 paper linked above), Despite his insistence that his "program has a rigorous information-theoretic underpinning" [19, p. 371], CSI is used inconsistently in Dembski's own work. Sometimes CSI is a quantity that one can measure in bits: "the CSI of a flagellum far exceeds 500 bits" [17, p. 178]. Other times, CSI is treated as a threshold phenomenon: something either "exhibits" CSI or doesn't: "The Law of Conservation of Information says that if X exhibits CSI, then so does Y" [19, p. 163]. Sometimes numbers or bit strings "constitute" CSI [17, p. 159]; other times CSI refers to a pair (T;E) where E is an observed event and T is a pattern to which E conforms [19, p. 141]. Sometimes CSI refers to specified events of probability < 10^150; other times it can be contained in "the sixteen-digit number on your VISA card" or "even your phone number" [17, p. 159]. Sometimes CSI is treated as if, like Kolmogorov complexity, it is a property independent of the observer — this is the case in a faulty mathematical "proof" that functions cannot generate CSI [19, p. 153]. Other times it is made clear that computing CSI crucially depends on the background knowledge of the observer. Sometimes CSI inheres in a string regardless of its causal history (this seems always to be the case in natural language utterances); other times the causal history is essential to judging whether or not a string has CSI. CSI is indeed a measure with remarkably fluid properties! Like Blondlot's N-rays, however, the existence of CSI seems clear only to its discoverer. Evolution has been remarkably static in comparison. My definition of information is the accepted definition in all legitimate research papers and texts. It's the basis of information theory, which ID proponents (and yourself) are invoking for support. If you don't understand it, don't use it. >> At least, esp. if you are verbose and lack succinctness See? You've made a number of other mistakes (assuming removing a gene can't create information, assuming studying a gene can't involve knocking it out and observing the results in a model organism, ignoring the existence of ring species as evidence of transitory evolution, dismissing legitimate abiogenesis work because you don't agree with the consequences, etc). All of these sum to a purely naturalistic explanation and therefore atheism, but I've run out of patience describing them. Truth is backed up by explanation. If I just stated, you would immediately jump to "well, that's your opinion". The evidence for the truth is important, and unfortunately not succinct due to the vast quantity of observations and interrelationships between fields. I'd recommend starting with information theory, but Feynman's lectures have rekindled my interest in physics and may do the same for you. Regardless of the topic you start with, you've got some reading to do; otherwise, you will continue to assert false statements about the natural world.
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I am an atheist (at least, as far as is rationally possible, which is pretty far in my opinion). "Specified complexity" is an ill-defined concept created by Dembski, and changed as needed. See http://recursed.blogspot.com/2009/11/paper-rebutting-dembski-finally-out.html for a detailed take-down. Information vs random data is well defined: a truly random string contains maximal information. Informally, information is the "surprise" of a bit (under Shannon information), or the smallest program to generate the string or its "compressibility" (Kolmogorov complexity). A random string contains the most information, because every bit is surprising; alternatively, a random string's most compact representative program is just itself. A cell has less information than a truly random arrangement of the same molecules, due to the cell's structure. If you put the elements of a cell in a flask and expose it to a source of energy, you will get amino acids. No one has done the experiment for a few billion years, but the results would probably be surprising. The evidence has been well documented of the transitory stages of evolution, and correlated with geographic changes. Additionally, the new science of genetics and evo-devo provides even more evidence; I'd recommend "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", but I've heard good things about "Your Inner Fish" and "Why Evolution is True". Lenski's long-term historical contingency experiment with E. coli is a well-documented example of a novel mutation generating new functional proteins; any literature search will find hundreds of other examples, usually based upon genetic comparisons and experiments with knocking out a gene in a model organism. What in atheism do you find incomplete, insufficient, or a weakness? Honestly? Nothing. As far as my reason goes, I find atheism with philosophical naturalism a consistent system within the limitations of our observations. I remain open to alternative viewpoints, but the integrity of physics, biology, logic, computer science, neurology etc have convinced me that natural explanations are the correct answers (with the understanding that current models will be refined, but unlikely to be completely reversed) and will continue to be so. This is an inductive assumption but not a weakness, only an observation. Actually, I just thought of atheism's weakness: to correct a single wrong sentence takes at least 2 paragraphs of correction. Theism's defenders will state ridiculous conclusions, repeat debunked falsehoods and then claim victory when the debate partner runs out of time/patience correcting the problems (see: any debate with Craig). There are a million ways to be wrong, and only a few ways to be right. The asymmetry of truth will always be atheism's weakness.
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How can you look at the information content of the cell, or the engineering excellence of living things that in many ways still serves to outstrip our engineering efforts and say 'no design'? Tell me, what is the information content of a cell, and then compare it with the information content of a truly random collection of the same molecules in gaseous form in a container of equal size? Here's a hint: the first is a trick question, the other is independent of the measure of information (Kolmogorov vs Shannon). The 'engineering excellence' is a result of millions of years of evolution, not design. That should be obvious from the evidence.
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Dec 23, 2009