Why is Occam’s Razor not the starting point of any discussion about religion?

Sep 4, 2012


Discussion by: Per
My question is: Why is Occam’s Razor not the first thing we come to, in any discussion about the validity of religious views versus scientific ones?

Background: I have started out with the books written by Dawkins, and gone on to see some of the interviews and discussions he has participated in. The books (I am thinking especially of “The God Delusion”) outline a large number of arguments for religion, and proceed to dismantle them one by one. The apparently excessive frustration displayed while disproving either the arguments, or their relevance, in the book, is easily understood after watching the same few irrational and irrelevant arguments put forth again and again, by people who have not bothered to read his book, or even worse, people who have read it, and simply ignore it. I sincerely sympathize, and I do not understand how he has managed to stay sane. There is, however, one question that is rarely dealt with directly, even though it seems to be central to the discussion.

Thesis: If we discard the question about whether religion is useful and focus solely on the question of whether god(s) exist, it seems to me that any discussion should start by establishing whether Occam’s Razor is our primary principle for distinguishing between competing theories. If we do not establish that, then we risk wasting the entire discussion, making very compelling arguments which, for some participants in the discussion, has absolutely no bearing on the matter.

Example: One line of argument from atheists is as follows. We have two competing hypotheses: Either there is an omnipotent god, who incarnated himself, had himself killed and for some reason chooses to hide himself from physical observation to this day. Or god, as a concept, was conceived over time, by humans, to account for aspects of our life, which we were unable to explain two millennia years ago. My explanation here is oversimplified, but I expect most people are familiar with the argument. I do not think there is much question that the latter hypothesis is much simpler and more concise. Thus, according to Occam’s Razor, we should reject the former hypothesis, and accept the latter. It does not, however, matter how well we manage to demonstrate the simplicity of the latter hypothesis, as compared to the former, if we cannot agree to use Occam’s Razor as our guiding principle for selecting the superior one.

I think there is an assumption, amongst those with a scientific background, that Occam’s Razor is universally accepted, and universally understood. I am not sure that either is necessarily the case. Rather than getting stuck on details such as how literal scripture is meant to be taken, I think any productive discussion about faith, between an atheist and a religious person, should begin with establishing two things:
1)    Do both have a basic grasp of what Occam’s Razor is?
2)    Do both believe that this is an overriding principle, on which to measure the value of competing thesis?

Say a religious person claims to adhere to the principle of Occam’s Razor, and find that the bible offers the simplest explanation, e.g. for how life arose. Then we can proceed to discuss e.g. how assuming the existence of a omnipotent being with all the complexity that follows, can be said to be a simpler assumption, than the principle of “survival of the fittest”. From an agreement that we use Occam’s Razor for comparing competing hypothesis, we can progress, using logic and a whole lot of observations, to agree that there almost certainly is no god.

By contrast, our religious person may believe that anything mentioned in scripture overrides our natural tendency to assume the simplest explanation. In this case we can start by establishing, that this person does apply Occam’s Razor in other areas of life, and proceed to ask why this particular area is exempt from that scrutiny. In this case any argument that evolution offers a simpler explanation for life than most religions, would be a mute point, and we need not bother making it, until we have convinced this person that Occam’s Razor is the best means for choosing between competing hypotheses. We may waste the entire discussion on demonstrating simplicity of our theory, but if the person we are discussing the matter with, does not accept Occam’s Razor, then that has absolutely no bearing on the issue.

This seems to me as the main issue dividing those who believe there is a god, from those who believe there is no god. My frustration is that not only is it not the center of every discussion about religion, but in fact it hardly ever comes up.

I have seen enough interviews and discussions on religion to conclude that an important problem (perhaps the most important problem) is that we try to address every argument for or against religion, and as a result end up addressing none. We simply spread ourselves too thin. I think that this simple tool could be critical in cutting away something like half the possible arguments as irrelevant, thus focusing the discussion, and increasing our chances of reaching actual agreement with our interlocutor.

102 comments on “Why is Occam’s Razor not the starting point of any discussion about religion?

  • 1
    sheepcat says:

    Do people even understand what constitutes a simpler explanation? How does your telly work?  Magic pixies is certainly easier to say that whatever the actually answer is. 



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  • 2
    WithoutBlinders says:

    I think the main reason that Occam’s Razor is rarely used in these discussions is that because not only does the average person (especially the religious) have little to no scientific background at all, but I would hedge my bets that if you were to ask the average person to define Occam’s Razor the percentage that came back with the correct answer would be a scarecly small number.



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  • 3
    God fearing Atheist says:

    Per, I think you have misunderstood Occam’s razor.

    It is not “the simplest explanation”, it is “do not multiply entities unnecessarily”.

    If a cup falls off a table person A can say “The fairies moved it”. Person B can explain the gravitational theory; Person C can also explain gravitational theory but add that gravitons have pretty fairy wings.

    Explanation A is the simplest, but it does actually explain anything. Explanation C explains all the facts but adds a spurious entity (“fairy wings”) that adds nothing . Hence, it can be cut by Occam’s razor to yield explanation B.

    Occam’s razor is another way of stating parsimony. Or as Einstein is alledged to have said – “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler”.

    Religious explanations are simple – childishly so. Scientific explanations are often fiendishly complicated and take a decade of training for the most intelligent people to get their head around. But the scientific explanations are the ones which pass Occam’s Razor. “God did it” explains nothing at all, and adds an unnecessary entity – God. “I haven’t a clue” is the correct religious answer according to Occam.



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  • A quoted definition of ‘ Occams Razor ‘ at the start of your article would have been helpful. I know of it but  admit that I had to look at the definition to refresh my memory only to be reminded that there are several interpretations. Might be useful in an academic debate with  ‘ open ‘!! minded people but do not waste your time with the god botherers of any variety.  They already know the simple answer – Yes there is a god. Full stop, end of story, do not waste your breath.!! Very frustrating but that is how they thionk!! (not a typo)



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  • Occam’s razor is a conclusion that man has reached observing the natural universe. God exists outside of the universe and, in fact, natural law. God created the basis for Occam’s razor and natural law. It is not for god to be defined by Occam’s razor but the opposite.

    There are many issues with Occam’s razor, some of which have been alluded to below. But, in my opinion, Occam’s razor is not a tool to disprove the existence of god.

    Putting aside faith,  the biggest tool in postulating the existence of god exists in the gaps of human knowledge. simply put, that which we cannot understand (e.g. what existed before the universe) is god.

    I’m not too uncomfortable with this premise as it puts god on the defensive and more and more irrelevant to our daily existence as our body of knowledge expands. It is for this reason that I am less concerned about certain Eastern thought than our Abrahamic based religions.



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  • 6
    Street Logician says:

    Theists generally argue that naturalism fails to explain so whether or not it is simpler is a moot point to them. Don’t bother to demonstrate that it does. They will be sure to raise the bar as high as necessary to ensure you do not persuade them. Meanwhile they will bury the bar if necessary to make sure they can go over it with a “God did it”.



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  • 7
    Al Denelsbeck says:

    Others have made most of the points I would have, but there are a few more considerations. First, religion is much more of an emotional appeal, supporting (to varying degrees) security, privilege, status, and tradition. It’s not often followed because it was rational; rather, the methods of rationalizing it came after its other appeals. Using any approach such as Occam’s Razor or conservation of energy is basically coming out of left field.

    Secondly, it’s not really useful, because it’s not a law or demonstrable property; it’s a statement of probability, requiring known variables. Before we had decent records of lightning strikes, it was easy to postulate that such a powerful phenomenon was explained by a powerful intelligence. As we learned more, the god hypothesis became less tenable. This only works, however, if someone is willing to learn more.

    In order to invoke it, one has to firmly establish the variables that make it applicable. “How come every culture except a tiny fragment of the Middle East got religion entirely wrong?”  “What purpose does natural competition and extinction serve?”  “Why would an omniscient/omnipotent being even need emotions, much less play games with minor beings that it created?”  “How come every example of scripture messed up a round earth floating in unlimited space?” And once you’ve done that, you don’t really even need to refer to it, because it’s being applied automatically.



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  • Suppose someone then said: “I don’t believe in Occam’s razor. In order to accept it as a general rule, you must prove that it works generally, not just in some selected cases. Give me systematic evidence, not anecdotal, or I will throw the razor in the trash.” 

    How would you attempt to prove it?



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  • 9
    Enkidu90046 says:

    Trying to get people whose beliefs and arguments aren’t bound by logic to accept a logical principle like Occam’s Razor is bound to result in frustration.  Theists always have a trump card… they just reject Occam’s Razor.



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  • 11
    canadian_right says:

    Occam’s Razor is a general principal that can be useful to decide between two conjectures that both have similar amounts of evidence supporting them. It doesn’t really apply when there is no evidence to consider. Also, it is not a hard and fast rule. Quantum Mechanics is anything but simple, but it certainly is supported by the evidence. 



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  • 12
    jimmmmmy says:

    Occams razor does not appy because one side the religionist is using beliefs to talk gibberish and on the other the Atheist is using facts. No rational discussion can occur if both side are committed . The best outcome in that case is to agree not to discuss this subject which with a few provisos is the Agnostic position.



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  • 13
    jimmmmmy says:

    We know the How  But need to know the Why. Why did the universe begin and what is it’s purpose . To say there is no purpose is intelectually unsatisfying and emotionally frightening to most. “If all this should have a reason we would be the last to know” song lyric . is unsatisfactory to most humans and causes religion to take hold , that and the tax exemption.



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  • 16
    BenCarollo says:

    The only issue with your statement is that it assumes a stagnant universe that is all encompassing, but in reality we do have things that exist out side of time, and we do have things that do not follow our general laws of physics so,  to be fair , it is feasible for something to have existed before our universe, nay, it is necessary, to say this is a god is impossible to prove but, it indeed is not beyond the scope of reality, all science tells us is that what is now, is sufficient for continuing, but not everything is as it seems when you start to look at quantum physics. God is hardly to the level of being a theory, it is really just a possibility 



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  • 17
    ColdThinker says:

    Occam’s razor should never be used in a debate, because it’s worthless as a logical argument. It is a rule of thumb, a handy principle at best, a crude fallacy at worst. Actually, it’s almost always used fallaciously to defend simple, intuitive preconceptions against any complex body of knowledge. 

    Within a friendly discussion or when formulating one’s own thoughts, it can often be used as a practical tool to distinguish between muddled, unnecessarily complicated hypotheses (which make a lot of assumptions and have little explanatory power) from clear, parsimonious hypotheses (which make few assumptions and have great explanatory power). As a rule of thumb, the latter ones are more likely to be correct than the first ones. But there is no guarantee of that. Even the most parsimonius explanation can be wrong, and all complicated assumptions may actually turn out to be true. 

    Occam’s razor was probably made too famous for it’s own good by the Zemeckis film ”Contact” based on Sagan’s book. Even there it was intentionally misused as a cheap weapon to sink any complex argument.



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  • 20
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Occam’s Razor doesn’t prove anything – it just advises that redundant elements in an explanation should be avoided. For example, the suggestion that a prayer to an omnipotent God has to be processed by the BVM is clearly redundant. Another example: the suggestion that the orange juice in my glass was processed to condense it then reconsituted with water is clearly redundant. In the second case evidence can be found to show that the process was indeed more complex than necessary – we can find the reasons, too. I doubt whether there is any evidence in case 1 that would convince me, but Occam’s Razor isn’t the issue.



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  • Thinking in a mathematical way, you have to argue in terms of someone’s accepted postulates, or you have to cast down on the postulates, or show that the postulates are mutually contradictory. 
    I would be happy if every fundamentalist spontaneously combusted.  As far as I am concerned they are mental defectives, whose brains have been destroyed by a  mind virus.  However, that attitude is not likely to be persuasive to them.

    It feels like they completely distrust their senses and all the science that supports their daily life. The postulate that the bible in inerrant even though it is obviously erroneous and inconsistent.  They will discount an inconsistency on the grounds it was pointed out by an atheist.  That somehow makes it disappear or become some sort of illusion.

    The wedge might be to go to the Grand Canyon and have them count the layers.  They can stop after 4000. They will tell you, yes God did this, he FAKED the earth being older than 4000 years.  Have them look at how much work god must have gone to to create this illusion. Does your god normally trick his people like this?  Why so much work?  What evidence do you have this is a trick?  Who created that evidence man or god?



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  • 22
    Red Dog says:

    “but in reality we do have things that exist out side of time, and we do have things that do not follow our general laws of physics”

    What things exist outside of time or do not follow the laws of physics?



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  • 23
    Red Dog says:

    I thought this made a lot of sense. We can nit pick about how to define Occam’s razor but the basic point is that for any religious explanation there is always a simpler explanation that does not require supernatural concepts and explains the data equally well. 



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  • I am happy to see that so many have responded to the question so soon. I want to clarify my point, and follow up on some of the recurring comments at this time. I see the following subjects (paraphrased) when reading through the inputs:

    1)    Occam’s Razor is not about “simpler”, but about fewer assumptions.
    I should have been less vague, and less wrong in my description of Occam’s razor. Sorry ‘bout that. It does not change my point, and I will try to clarify a bit below.

    2)    Occam’s Razor is not a law / not a good argument / not a valid argument.
    I completely agree but it was never intended as an argument, but rather a premise. I think roedygreen’s comment about the Grand Canyon illustrates it nicely. Those of us who are not theologically inclined can spend hours arguing that scientific theories account for (almost) everything we see in the universe. Conversely religious people can argue that everything in the universe can be explained by religion. E.g. “there are distinct layers and dinosaur bones in the ground because god wanted it to look old”. It is precisely for this reason that we _need_ Occam’s Razor. If we fail to directly demonstrate the fallacy of a particular religious world view, but instead reach a point where we cannot disproof the god-hypothesis, and our interlocutor fails to disproof the no-god-hypothesis we need something else. If we agree that both explanations for our existence are possible, we need something to choose the preferred hypothesis. We need Occam’s Razor!

    3)    If we are having a discussion with a religious person they may not know/understand Occam’s Razor.
    I agree completely, but in that situation we should endeavor to explain it – we will need it before the discussion is over.

    4)    Religious people may believe a religious explanation really does have fewer assumptions (You just assume god, and everything works, …).
    In this case we should point out that an entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man. Since postulating god leaves the question “where did god come from” we are worse off than we were, when we “just” needed to explain the creation of man.

    5)    The real issue is that religious people do not understand how to explain the universe without a god.
    There is a very important point to be made here. Occam’s Razor cannot disproof god on its own (it cannot disproof god at all – merely weigh in on the probability of existence). Even with an agreement on Occam’s Razor there is a monumental task in demonstrating that science can in fact explain practically everything in the world. The point I am trying to make is that once we have demonstrated that, we have still not disproved god – we have merely postulated an alternative hypothesis. We still need to select a preferred hypothesis, and it is here that Occam’s Razor comes in.

    6)    Religious people do not adhere to logic / never change their minds so don’t bother making any argument.
    Occam’s Razor is no good on its own. It is intended to be used with great amounts of reason, and for those who are impervious to that, I am afraid nothing will help much.

    7)    Occam’s razor does not apply to god – god applies to Occam’s razor.
    To this I can only say, that the existence of god is a hypothesis, in exactly the same way that the non-existence of god is. We need a basis on which to compare them. No amount of Chuck Norris logic will change that.

    8)    What happens if we cannot agree that Occam’s Razor is the best principle by which to judge?
    Ideally we demonstrate that we all use this principle in every other area of our lives, and it is rather illogical to absolve this rather important area from the best scrutiny our minds have to offer. In case that does not work my opinion is this: I like helping people to reach a clearer understanding of important questions such as “does god exist”. In the case it is completely impossible to affect their opinion on the matter, the next best thing is, at least to help them see that their current standpoint is not the most logical one, as some would have them believe.



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  •  “No amount of Chuck Norris logic will change that.”

    Per,

    This is the country were the Honey BOO BOO reality show had a higher rating than the last night of the GOP National Convention.

    Chuck Norris logic is a million times more prevalent here than Plato and Aristotle combined; now put that in your empirical pipe and smoke it.

    (meant as humor)



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  • 27
    OHooligan says:

    “because god wanted it to look old”.   Well, that pulls the rug out from under you godless heathen evolutionaries, doesn’t it?   It’s all That Way ‘cos god decided it, and that’s that.  End of argument.

    So, never argue with a fool, he’ll drag you down to his own level and beat you with experience.



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  • 29
    WithoutBlinders says:

    ….and is usually supported by FACTS. One fairly big piece of the puzzle missing from most if not all religious arguments.



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  • For anyone who wants to listen to a good radio programme on Ockham’s Razor, try  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programme

    It may not be available outside the UK, in which case I can probably oblige with a copy of my copy.

    PS I only live a few miles away from Ockham … do I get a prize?



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  • 31
    JamesC says:

    Well, before you can use Occam’s Razor to discuss religion, shouldn’t you agree upon the definition of God? It seems pointless to discuss whether or not God created the universe if you think it’s a man in a white beard and a skirt with a bad temper and all that nonsense and I think it’s something completely different.



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  • You have to apply Occam’s Razor to the Occam’s Razor question, and therefore, assume the simplest answer. Because once you apply Occam’s Razor, you have shaved away (c’mon, the pun isn’t that bad) any pretense and the religious argument fails. 



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  • 33
    SelfDiagHFA says:

    “Why is Occam’s Razor not the starting point of any discussion about religion?

    For the same reasons its not employed when discussing any other superstition; we cant help but start off with the premise presented.

    Its a ‘curiosity’ pathology/connection in  the brain thats exercised to the point its automatic. IE Try forgetting your multiplication times tables…. good luck without any pharma.



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  • 34
    CEVA34 says:

    In any argument with the faithful, it’s a good idea to remind them that Occam wasn’t a  nasty old atheist. He was a monk!



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  • 35
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ Per

    “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    Therefore “man” does not exist.



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  • 36
    Alan4discussion says:

      logicophilosophicus
    @ Per
    “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    Therefore “man” does not exist.

    “A man, capable of creating calculators, is inevitably more complex than calculators.”

    Therefore “calculators” do not exist.

    The “theist logic” seems obvious (to theists) !  I wonder why more people do not accept it?



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  • 37
    Alan4discussion says:

     

      BenCarollo
     
    The
    only issue with your statement is that it assumes a stagnant universe
    that is all encompassing, but in reality we do have things that exist
    out side of time, and we do have things that do not follow our general
    laws of physics so, 

    Really?  You have evidence of these supposed objects “outside of time” and not following the laws of physics?

    If the understanding of present laws of physics needs some slight up-dating, that in no way invalidates earlier confirmed objective observations which give us very  accurate predictions on the workings of the universe:-   Accurate to such a degree that eclipses can be predicted to within minutes, and engineers can build complex structures, or land vehicles on Mars.

    The present laws of physic describe a VERY dynamic universe, so I do not know where your “stagnant” claim came from!

    to be fair , it is feasible for something to have existed before our
    universe,

    It is indeed possible, but like the historical mistaken explanations sky-fairies in celestial spheres, there is no reason to personify unknown phenomena.

    .. .. . nay, it is necessary, to say this is a god is impossible to
    prove but, it indeed is not beyond the scope of reality,

    There are many things in the unknown, which are vague remote possibilities – magic wands, alien universe creators, etc –  but a requirement for explanations of their origins means that an infinite regression of creators, of creators, of creators, is not an explanation of the unknown.  It is an incredibly contorted complex, unevidenced, explanation, which Occam can prune out as extremely unlikely.



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  • 38
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ alan4discussion

    I think you missed the point:

    “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    Since evolution by natural selction is a simple (actually tauatological) idea (given the first replicator) where did humn beings come from?

    This is not a theological argument – just a disproof of Per’s complexity-of-god argument (which RD has famously used).



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  • 39
    Alan4discussion says:

      logicophilosophicus
    @ alan4discussion

    I think you missed the point:

    “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.” 
     Therefore “man” does not exist.

     

    @ alan4discussion
    “A man, capable of creating calculators, is inevitably more complex than calculators.”

    Therefore “calculators” do not exist.

     

    No! – The point illustrating your flawed logic and circular argument, stands independently of any other issue.

    Since evolution by natural selction is a simple (actually tauatological) idea (given the first replicator) where did humn beings come from?

    Natural selection is simple in concept, but complex in detail, as thousands of university studies on its biological processes have shown and confirmed.  The evolution of humans via Chordates and Vertebrates, is well documented.

    The origins of the first replicators are “abiogenesis”, for which there is much evidence, and a hypothesis, but not yet a firm scientific theory. –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v
    This has been CONFIRMED in Dr. Jack Szostak’s LAB. 2009 Nobel Laurette in medicine for his work on telomerase.It’s
    been 55 years since the Miller-Urey Experiment, and science has made enormous progress on solving the origin of life. This video summarizes one of the best leading models. Yes there are others. Science may never know exactly how life DID start, but we will know many ways how life COULD start. Don’t be fooled by creationist arguments as even a minimal understanding of biology and chemistry is enough to realize they have no clue what they are talking about.

    So biologists know how abiogenesis CAN work> It is simply that researching events and conditions over a whole planet millions of years ago is very challenging.

    This is not a theological argument – just a disproof of Per’s complexity-of-god argument

    You comment is pure assertion.  It is not a dis-proof of anything.  A disproof requires evidence and relevance to the topic.  The complexity of a creator and the infinite regression of creators remains unanswered, as I very recently pointed out here.  – http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc

    You need to learn the difference between “evidence & logic” and “denial” or “assertion”.



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  • 40
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ A4d

    q if and only if p

    therefore either not-q, or p-and-q

    That is the way I learned my logic. This bears no resemblance whatsoever to circula reasoning.

    According to Per (and RD) the human brain (the most complex structure in the known universe) can only arise from a more complex cause. That shows a profound misunderstanding of the second law of thermodynamics – there’s more to low entropy than complexity.

    A logical dis/proof requires no evidence.

    I’d be really surprised if you could find a reference anywhere that implied that Darwwinian evolution was “complex” in this sense. But, supposing that to be true, it would still undermine Per’s/RD’s argument. God need be no more complex than evolution by natural selection, a simple tautology, since “man” assuredly does exist.

    I am an atheist, but – like Daniel Dennett – there’s nothing I hate more han a bad/false argument.



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  • 41
    nick keighley says:

    sigh. First we had lousy posting software, now we have new lousy posting software. Why is there no easy way to quote what you are replying too?

    > My question is: Why is Occam’s Razor not the first thing we come to,
    in any discussion about the validity of religious views versus
    scientific ones?

    I don’t think it is as useful as you think it is.

    > Background: I have started out with
    the books written by Dawkins, and gone on to see some of the interviews
    and discussions he has participated in. The books (I am thinking
    especially of “The God Delusion”) outline a large number of arguments
    for religion, and proceed to dismantle them one by one. The apparently
    excessive frustration displayed while disproving either the arguments,
    or their relevance, in the book, is easily understood after watching the
    same few irrational and irrelevant arguments put forth again and again,
    by people who have not bothered to read his book, or even worse, people
    who have read it, and simply ignore it. I sincerely sympathize, and I
    do not understand how he has managed to stay sane.

    I don’t understand why people get so wound up about other people’s belief systems. I think this sort of aggressive atheism is on par with the intolerance of some of the nastier religions

    >  There is, however,
    one question that is rarely dealt with directly, even though it seems to
    be central to the discussion.

    > Thesis: If we discard the
    question about whether religion is useful and focus solely on the
    question of whether god(s) exist, it seems to me that any discussion
    should start by establishing whether Occam’s Razor is our primary
    principle for distinguishing between competing theories.

    I’m not convinced it is.

    > If we do not
    establish that, then we risk wasting the entire discussion, making very
    compelling arguments which, for some participants in the discussion, has
    absolutely no bearing on the matter.

    > Example: One line of
    argument from atheists is as follows. We have two competing hypotheses:
    Either there is an omnipotent god, who incarnated himself, had himself
    killed and for some reason chooses to hide himself from physical
    observation to this day.

    its a big universe out there… (i’m not incidently, religious myself so I don’t think god is living in the oort cloud. But there is plenty of room for him)

    > Or god, as a concept, was conceived over time,
    by humans, to account for aspects of our life, which we were unable to
    explain two millennia years ago. My explanation here is oversimplified,
    but I expect most people are familiar with the argument. I do not think
    there is much question that the latter hypothesis is much simpler and
    more concise.

    yes that’s because you’re an atheist! A religious person might argue that having a god to set everything running is much simpler than big-bangs, evolution and so on.

    You naive belief that simple logic will win over a strongly held belief system makes me wonder if you are quite young. Teenager?

    > Thus, according to Occam’s Razor, we should reject the
    former hypothesis, and accept the latter. It does not, however, matter
    how well we manage to demonstrate the simplicity of the latter
    hypothesis, as compared to the former, if we cannot agree to use Occam’s
    Razor as our guiding principle for selecting the superior one.

    > I
    think there is an assumption, amongst those with a scientific
    background, that Occam’s Razor is universally accepted, and universally
    understood.

    I don’t think this is true even amongst scientists. Occam’s razor is *not* a law, it’s at best a rule of thumb.

    Consider General relativity. Most scientists from that period probably saw no particular reason for unifying space and time or to make it curved or to use that to explain gravity. Eienstein pretty well had to invent (or get someone else to do it for him) a whole new lump of mathematics. Talk about multiplying entities. It was *decades* before much of its predictions could be experimentally proven.

    And don’t get me a string thory…

    <snip>

    I have seen enough interviews and discussions on
    religion to conclude that an important problem (perhaps the most
    important problem) is that we try to address every argument for or
    against religion, and as a result end up addressing none. We simply
    spread ourselves too thin. I think that this simple tool could be
    critical in cutting away something like half the possible arguments as
    irrelevant, thus focusing the discussion, and increasing our chances of
    reaching actual agreement with our interlocutor.

    and I’mnot convinced of its universal effectiveness</snip>



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  • 42
    nick keighley says:

     American polital conventions look deadly dull to me! There isn’t even any mystery about the result! I’m assuming the point is to decide who is going to be the party’s presidential candidate?



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  • 43
    nick keighley says:

     “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”  I’m not convinced this is true. For a start how do we measure complexity? Is the world wide telephone system more complex than a man?

    “where did humn beings come from”. Didn’t you answer the question yourself? Human’s evolved from earlier forms. Do you think *any* evolution occurred?



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  • 44
    DominickG says:

    Per.
    I am not sure if Occam’s razor is the best starting point for discussion about all facets of religion.
    The roots of the religious urge is surely a desire to belong to something that provides a moral compass for our lives.
    I’m think most believers care much more about religious “values” than they do about
    religious “facts”.
    Regards

    DominickG



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  • I think we need to make a distinction between religion and god when evaluating Occam’s razor’s effectiveness as a tool in disproving either.

    I believe using Occam’s razor for the disproof (or proof, for that matter) of god is simply not effective. The main problem is in the fact that god (at that stage) is a very nebulous entity. Is it Abraham’s god? is it a Buddhist entity? is it Spinoza’s (and Einstein’s) god? We have, in fact seen many modern Theist philosopher use Occam’s razor with some effectiveness as their foundation towards what they call a rational approach towards their first proof i.e that there is a god.

    The minute we begin to dress this god up with certain characteristics (i.e. religion) clearly reflective of man’s, is when Occam’s razor becomes more effective. For example, endowing god with certain “objective” morals, proof of his awareness and involvement in our daily lives, resurrections, ascension to heaven on a winged horse. All of these do collapse easily under Occam’s unrelenting razor.

    As an old Atheist, I am more concerned with taking the edge off our more virulent religions than going around trying to get people to see things exactly my way. After all, my Atheism is simply a statement that, in my humble opinion, there does not appear to be any need for a god in explaining our existence. That is way to big a morsel for many to take in one sitting.

    When I discuss (always respectfully) god’s existence with theist friends, I will use the trusty razor in dealing with resurrection, miracles or “objective” morality arguments. When it comes to proving the more nebulous god, I back-off from Occam’s and will tend to use modern views in theoretical physics, the theory of evolution or cosmology (in a somewhat amateurish way I’m sure).

    Occam’s razor is based on observations of our known universe and it’s natural laws. The razor dulls quickly if we place that god outside our universe, our time and our observable laws. Use the blade where it can be more effective. If we undermine Occam’s razor trying to prove the unprovable, we undermine it’s effectiveness in trying to disprove in areas it can be more effective i.e., the talking snake.



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  • Occam’s razor is not evidence in-and-of-itself – frankly I have never liked it, because whether something is simpler or not does not determine whether it’s true or not, at least that’s what logic tells me. The problem is that simplicity is relative: Sheepcat has described a scenario where he suggest pixies are a simpler explanation than that of electrons and pixels – I would disagree because to me Pixies are so complex an raise such difficult questions that it is simpler to go with what looks originally like the more complex option.



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  • 47
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    @ A4d

    q if and only if p

    therefore either not-q, or p-and-q

    That is the way I learned my logic.

    A logical dis/proof requires no evidence.

    Logic alone can only prove self inconsistency.  Without an evidenced base, it is a hypothetical castle in the air with no connection to material reality.

    This bears no resemblance whatsoever to circula reasoning.

    Really? (See below!)

    According to Per (and RD) the human brain (the most complex structure in the known universe) can only arise from a more complex cause.

    The biosphere of the Earth with millions of years of mutations, selections and interactions of  millions of life-forms, is a VERY complex system.

    That shows a profound misunderstanding of the second law of thermodynamics – there’s more to low entropy than complexity.

    Indeed! your comment shows that YOU have no idea about the second law of thermodynamics!   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S…  –  The second law applies to closed systems.  The Earth is not a closed system.  Neither is the brain.

    I’d be really surprised if you could find a reference anywhere that implied that Darwwinian evolution was “complex” in this sense.

    Perhaps you should read some books on biology, ecology,  and biochemistry!  It should only take a few years!

    But, supposing that to be true, it would still undermine Per’s/RD’s argument.
    God need be no more complex than evolution by natural selection, a simple tautology, since “man” assuredly does exist.

    You seem to be repeating your fallacious, question begging, circular argument (man exists & therefore god existed to create man so god must exist) which I have already explained once with the calculator analogy here! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc

    I am an atheist, but – like Daniel Dennett – there’s nothing I hate more than a bad/false argument.

    Perhaps you should practise what you preach!  Creationist pseudo-science, like the stuff you are quoting, provides some of the worst false arguments around!



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  • 48
    logicophilosophicus says:

    It was asserted that if God created “man”, then God must be more complex than “man”.

    If that is true, then WHATEVER created humans must be more complex than humans.

    Since the human brain is the most complex structure (seen so far) in the universe, that is a problem. Or it would be, if the original assertion were true: so it isn’t.

    I have nowhere implied that God exists – I have stated quite clearly that I am an atheist. I have stated several different ways that I disagree with the original assertion: how could I be using it to prove God exists?

    (You did not, I notice, produce a citation to show that evolution, DNA, etc is more complex than the living human brain. I’m not holding my breath.)

    Re Second Law: free energy is not complexity.



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  • 49
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    It was asserted that if God created “man”, then God must be more complex than “man”.

    If that is true, then WHATEVER created humans must be more complex than humans.

    At abiogenesis humans and all life was much simpler than in its later evolved states.  In any case, creationists claim their god(s) created the universe and Earth, not just man.

    Since the human brain is the most complex structure (seen so far) in the universe, that is a problem. Or it would be, if the original assertion were true: so it isn’t.

    The human brain,  is only the most complex INDIVIDUAL structure at its particular scale.  The biosphere is clearly more complex, for various reasons including containing multiple brains.

    I have nowhere implied that God exists – I have stated quite clearly that I am an atheist. I have stated several different ways that I disagree with the original assertion: how could I be using it to prove God exists?

    It is not possible to prove or disprove that  un-falsifiable gods exist.  (Although it is possible to prove that self inconsistent claims are logically invalid.) 
    We can only use Occam to show that creators produce undue complexity and an unresolved problem of an infinite regression of repeating complexity.

    (You did not, I notice, produce a citation to show that evolution, DNA, etc is more complex than the living human brain. I’m not holding my breath.)

    Your problem is that you do not understand the science you are trying to quote.

    How can DNA be more complex than the human brain, when the human brain is made up of millions of cells each containing copies of that DNA – with variations in settings?  I think you are taking a quote about an individual structure (a brain) out of context.

    Re Second Law: free energy is not complexity.

    I have already pointed out that the second law of thermodynamics is irrelevant to open systems in the  context of this argument because “complexity” and energy can be imported into, or exported from, them.



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  • 50
    logicophilosophicus says:

    One of us doesn’t understand the science.

    Just how much more complex than one DNA molecule is a collection of a million copies of the molecule? (According to you.)

    How is the system in which the (imaginary) God of the original assertion operates closed? (According to you.)

    I believe simpler states can give rise to more complex states – which is my issue wrt the original assertion. It was a faulty assertion, therefore a bad argument, end of story.



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  • 51
    Alan4discussion says:

      logicophilosophicus
    One of us doesn’t understand the science.

    I have pointed out some glaring blunders in your claims, illustrating a lack of scientific understanding.

    Just how much more complex than one DNA molecule is a collection of a million copies of the molecule? (According to you.)

    You are assuming that DNA molecules remain chemically unchanged during cell development.  They do not!

    How is the system in which the (imaginary) God of the original assertion operates closed? (According to you.)

    I made no such assertion.  Indeed in pointing out the infinite regression of creators, I specifically claimed it would have to be an open system.  It would also have to be an open system to insert any effect into our universe: – (but any such effect would be detectable by science).

    Theists often claim that their hidden god-of-gaps, is outside our universe and its laws governing space and time.  
    Unless such a god/alien interacts with, and exchanges energy/complexity with our universe, and specifically the parts around Earth, then it is an irrelevance without effect here.

    Theists do of course assert that their god is miraculous and uses magic exempt from scientific laws, but no credible explanations have ever been given as to how this works.

    I believe simpler states can give rise to more complex states – which is my issue wrt the original assertion.

    You mentioned the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which allows simpler states to become more complex, but only by transferring energy/complexity from one place to another.

    It was a faulty assertion, therefore a bad argument, end of story.

    ???????????????????????  You clearly fail to understand the science involved! 

    If you are going to debate cosmology, astronomy, physics, abiogenesis,  evolution, or genetics, you really need to study those subjects.



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  • 52
    ColdThinker says:

    Getting complexity out of simplicity is pretty much the idea of evolution, the Darwinistic theory is explaining how this happens. But this I find strange:

    According to Per (and RD) the human brain (the most complex structure in the known universe) can only arise from a more complex cause.

    That is an odd statement, if by RD you mean Richard Dawkins. I don’t think he has ever asserted that a complex structure can only arise from a more complex structure. In fact, that would go against the very idea of Darwinian evolution by natural selection. So, I assume you’re not talking about Dawkins or you have grossly misunderstood his point about complexity.

    Dawkins has however very plausibly asserted that the theistic god who has a will, answers prayers, knows everybody’s mind, passes judgement on every human being’s behaviour and worries about the sins of all mankind must be very, very complex. So, to explain e.g. the existence of the human brain by postulating something even more complex explains nothing. 

    Actually, for this argument to work we don’t necessarily need to postulate a god that is more complex than the human brain. We just need to realize that the theistic god is quite complex. So explaining complexity by more complexity is not a useful explanation.

    The idea of Darwinistic evolution, as opposed to theistic creation stories, is quite contrary to this. The complex structures like a human brain do indeed arise from simpler structures, which takes time, and therefore complex things appear later in our universe, not in the very beginning as a creator god does by definition. 

    But actually, I can’t see how the complexity argument would ever work to defend intelligent design. People who find complexity as a plausible argument for the existence of a designer have probably never designed anything themselves. Any intelligent designer (like artists, architects or engineers) tries to create simplicity, clarity and prudence. If the complicated, extravagant and wasteful bloody mess that is the natural life on this planet were created by a designer god, he’d have to be an insane toddler. 



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  • 53
    logicophilosophicus says:

    “You mentioned the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which allows simpler states to become more complex, but only by transferring energy/complexity from one place to another.”

    At the moment (or, to avoid the singularity, just after the moment) of the Big Bang, was our universe more or less complex than now? Did it include more information?

    If not, then the universe of “man” is more complex than its precursor. It may indeed be the case that free energy enables increasing complexity (though theoretical work on digital simulations indicates that the information may increase with no additional energy demand) but that was my point: complexity does not imply a more complex cause. To claim that (whether couched in theistic terms or not) “was a faulty assertion, therefore a bad argument, end of story.”

    Of course you may decide that there is an infinite regress whereby every (free energy + information or complexity)z state is preceded by a (fe + ic)y state of lower entropy, z >y>x>w… But then, if you read a few of those cosmology books you’ll discover that a theoretical universe of zero net energy is now favoured.



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  • 54
    Alan4discussion says:

    You don’t seem to following the points I am making, but are hopping around looking for “gapology” and making flawed assertions about science.

    logicophilosophicus 

    “You mentioned the Second Law of  Thermodynamics, which allows simpler states to become more complex, but only by transferring energy/complexity from one place to another.”

    At the moment (or, to avoid the singularity, just after the moment) of the Big Bang, was our universe more or less complex than now? Did it include more information?

    The early stages of the big bang are not known, but that does not validate arguments from ignorance
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A…  – (characteristic
    of gods-of gaps arguments) or wild speculations.  

    The evolution of the universe, nebulae, stars and planetary systems is pretty well known after the period of inflation, and no gods are required for these processes. 
    The evolution of the atoms forming the Solar System, and life, is known for the last several billion years.

    But then, if you read a few of those cosmology books you’ll discover that a theoretical universe of zero net energy is now favoured.

    A universe FROM zero net energy is postulated , but the question of the imbalance between matter and anti-matter is unresolved.

    Once again! –  Pointing out the unknown, does not provide any evidence for gods, or reduce the complexity such gods would require to function in ways described by theists.



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  • 55
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Matter and anti-matter? Gods? Wikipedia giving me lessons on logic? And you accuse ME of hopping around?

    I must have fallen down a rabbit hole.

    Complexity does not require prior greater complexity. I have stuck to that simple point.

    You repeat the claim of necessary prior complexity. I must assume therefore you deny the existence of a simply organised (and therefore inadequately complex) early universe as a precursor of current complexity. Since you require an infinite regress of greater and greater complexity you have a problem I can’t help you with.

    That’s all folks.



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  • 56
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    Since you require an infinite regress of greater and greater complexity you have a problem I can’t help you with.

    The infinite regression of complex creators is a problem nobody postulating creators of the universe can help anyone with!

    Complexity does not require prior greater complexity. I have stuck to that simple point.

    I am well aware that you have stuck to repeatedly ASSERTING that point.



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  • 57
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    Matter and anti-matter? Gods?

    Matter / antimatter asymmetry – http://press.web.cern.ch/press

    The big bang should have created equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the early universe. But today, everything we see from the smallest life forms on Earth to the largest stellar objects is made almost entirely of matter. Comparatively, there is not much antimatter to be found. Something must have happened to tip the balance.

    Complexity does not require prior greater complexity. I have stuck to that simple point.

    The local complexity of life on Earth, is powered by the Sun!

    I must have fallen down a rabbit hole.

    Alice found that led to Wonderland where you could make up your own scientific “facts”.

    That’s all folks.

    Maybe, just maybe, Bugs Bunny is down there too!



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  • 58
    logicophilosophicus says:

    A) Per wrote: “…an entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    B) A4d in pursuance of his vehement endorsement wrote: “The local complexity of life on earth is powered by the sun!”

    So the sun is more complex than the human brain?

    Wonderland was a world of careless logic, not imaginary science. Like the Looney Toons allusion, it was mindfully chosen.

    Meanwhile, if the universe of matter required that “something [unknown] must have happened” what was the “something”? Actually no, the question I’m asking is: Why are you telling me this?



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  • 59
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    A) Per wrote: “…an entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    ..and I provided an analogous example about calculators, which should have made the point clear, when you added a flawed conclusion to that statement.

    B) A4d in pursuance of his vehement endorsement wrote: “The local complexity of life on earth is powered by the sun!”
    So the sun is more complex than the human brain?

    The answer was in response to your question about complexity and energy.

    The Sun powers the complexity of evolving life  locally against the general “downhill” flow of degrading energy in the entropy of the universe.  The relative sizes (ratio) of the Sun + its energy flow, to the Earth and brains, has implications in the second law of thermodynamics which you raised, but do not seem to understand.

    Wonderland was a world of careless logic, not imaginary science.

    That also!

    Meanwhile, if the universe of matter required that “something [unknown] must have happened” what was the “something”?

    When something is speculative or unknown, science simply says so – unlike theism which makes up answers.

    I thought I had explained (and linked) there was an  unknown reason for the missing antimatter!

    Actually no, the question I’m asking is: Why are you telling me this?

    You seem confused about the science and the reasoning involved, and persist in making strange incorrect assertions ( – lately about “free energy” – earlier about evolution). You then  simply ignore the scientific explanations I give you, or demonstrate your failure to understand by taking them out of context to confuse the issue, while pretending to have a superior understanding.  

    Statements like this one are utterly ridiculous!

      http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc…  –  I’d be really surprised if you could find a reference anywhere that implied that Darwwinian evolution was “complex” in this sense.

    As I commented:- “Perhaps you should read some books on biology, ecology,  and biochemistry!  It should only take a few years!”

    We are talking about the build up of solar powered complexity over millions of years covering all present life and the palaeontological  record of past life!
    There are libraries full of information explaining its complexities in millions of species present and past. 

    God need be no more complex than evolution by natural selection, a simple tautology, since “man” assuredly does exist.

    Even without looking at the theists claims that a “god created not just man, but the universe”, you seem utterly blind to the “own-foot-shooting” of your claims! Biological evolution is incredibly complex.  Much more so than any single organism.

    These comments and your persistent focus on humans & brains, suggests you may be ignorant of the subject, or  versed in “theistic evolution, rather than having an understanding of the complexities of genetics and Darwinian biology.



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  • 60
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Your calculator example, of which you are so proud:

    Per: “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.” (Seemingly thinking this disproves the existence of a god somehow, but never mind that…)

    Me (ironically) “Therefore ‘man’ does not exist.” (i.e. if no such entity, then no man; if Per had been right; but there is no such entity AND YET there really are people.)

    You: “A man, capable of creating calculators, is inevitably more complex than calculators. Therefore calculators do not exist.” (The parallel would be if no man, then no calculator: true. Completely irrelevant – unless you are using the man-calculator causal link to prove the superentity-man causal link.)

    You insist on the complexity of evolution, but cite no sources.

    THE ONE THING THAT MAKES EVOLUTION SUCH A NEAT THEORY IS THAT IT EXPLAINS HOW ORGANISED COMPLEXITY CAN ARISE OUT OF PRIMEVAL SIMPLICITY.

    But evolution is simple and generates comlexity. What is this



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  • 61
    Alan4discussion says:

      logicophilosophicus
    A) Per wrote: “…an entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    Complexity does not require prior greater complexity. I have stuck to that simple point.

    Perhaps you could clarify your counter-claim by providing  examples of  artefacts which are more complex than their creator(s).

    Evidence??



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  • 62
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Whoops. Ignore final line – my pasting is dire. Sould be:

    And, therefore, Per is claiming a rule for creative entities which reality has already disproved (assuming Darwinism is correct/complete).



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  • 63
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Simultaneous posts there, but never mind.

    The example was Darwinian evolution which “explains how organised complexity can arise out of primeval simplicity.”

    Conway’s “game” of Life is an even more striking example, so it is hardly surprising that Daniel Dennett uses it as exactly such an example in “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”. Just read a few books on evolutionary theory – I have it on good authority that it shouldn’t take more than a few years.



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  • 64
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ Coldthinker

    Sorry. I missed your query. RD has expressed a similar thought more than once. The only quote I can find at short notice is this: “Any designer capable of designing something really complex has to be even more complex himself.”

    That is not the case if the designer produces a simple algorithm which delivers innovative complexity. See my previous posting.



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  • 65
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    Your calculator example, of which you are so proud:

    Per: “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    (Seemingly thinking this disproves the existence of a god somehow, but never mind that…)

    It is not intended to “prove” anything!  It demonstrates that a creator would have to be more complex than a created object.

    Me (ironically) “Therefore ‘man’ does not exist.” (i.e. if no such entity, then no man; if Per had been right; but there is no such entity
    AND YET there really are people.)

    This is a false dichotomy.  My point was that the “creator” answer, answers nothing.  The creator needs to evolve or be created.   Evolution or a creator would require another universe, and creation of a creator would require another universe or another creator. – giving an infinite regression.  This is not an explanation or an answer.  The answer seeking a “first cause” remains unknown.  The absence of a creator (god) clearly does not cause man to “not exist”. The point is that the “creator god” is supposed to have created already complex people and objects.

    You: “A man, capable of creating calculators, is inevitably more complex than calculators. Therefore calculators do not exist.”

    Clearly the statement is false, illustrating the fallacy I was pointing out!

    (The parallel would be if no man, then no calculator: true.

    No it wouldn’t.  That would be the converse.

    Completely irrelevant – unless you are using the man-calculator causal link to prove the superentity-man causal link.)

    It is simply irrelevant.  The converse is logically unrelated to the initial statement and has no bearing on it.

    You insist on the complexity of evolution, but cite no sources.

    I cited the biosphere and the reference libraries of books on genetics and biology.

    THE ONE THING THAT MAKES EVOLUTION SUCH A NEAT THEORY IS THAT IT
    EXPLAINS HOW ORGANISED COMPLEXITY CAN ARISE OUT OF PRIMEVAL SIMPLICITY.

    It explains how life STARTS with primaeval simplicity and explains a SIMPLIFIED outline of the processes. 

    Evolution is an extremely complex process producing  extremely complex outcomes after using energy to build complexity for millions of years.
    You are confusing the initial stage and outline description with the process and the outcome. 
    Do you have ANY understanding of genetics, biochemistry, or the number of man-hours spent on studying genomes?  I was not joking when I said it would take you years of study.

    But evolution is simple and generates complexity.

    Wrong!!!!  The outline explanation is simple.  The process is one of increasing complexity and quickly became extremely complex, and has remained so for millions of years.

    Just read a few books on evolutionary theory – I have it on good authority that it shouldn’t take more than a few years.

    You need to improve your interpretation skills or find some better authorities if they are giving you this dud information.

    BTW I am a biologist.

    “Any designer capable of designing something really complex has to be even more complex himself.”

    That is not the case if the designer produces a simple algorithm which delivers innovative complexity. See my previous posting.

    This is simply wrong.  A pattern arising from a simple algorithm is nowhere like as complicated as a living human.  It is quite likely not even as complicated as a single cell of a living human.

    You are still making up nonsense!  I asked the question because I know the answer and know you will be unable to find such an artefact.



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  • 66
    Alan4discussion says:

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc
    Perhaps you could clarify your counter-claim by providing  examples of  artefacts which are more complex than their creator(s).

    Evidence??

      logicophilosophicus   That is not the case if the designer produces a simple algorithm which delivers innovative complexity.

    Keeping it simple, rational and focussed:-

    Not only does this fail because it is a simple pattern (such as a fractal without functioning parts), less complex than a human creator, but it merely describes an imagined DESIGN, not a manufactured physical artefact or creation.



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  • 67
    logicophilosophicus says:

    The sentence in caps is from “The Blind Watchmaker”. The example of “Life” is from “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”. Dawkins and Dennett are acceptable sources?

    You are confusing the emergent complexity (part of the outcome) with the process of evolution (the “entity” that generates the complexity). Primal simplicity + one simple (tautological) process [replicator + mutation + natural selection] => extreme complexity.

    If you have a look at the Universal Turing Machine in Conway’s “Life” and consider that its capabilities (the complexities of further outcomes) are essentially unlimited, you’ll get a different perspective.

    Shallit and Ellsberry (in “Why Intelligent Design Fails – A Scientific Critique…”) also use a UTM argument to disprove Dembski’s phoney Law of Conservation of Information, i.e. precisely the phoney law we are debating here. In the same book, Mark Perakh uses a different mathematical approach (“No Free Lunch” Theorems) to reach the same conclusion: “Dembski ignores Dawkins’s targetless evolutionary algorithm, which successfully illustrates SPONTANEOUS INCREASE OF COMPLEXITY in an evolutionary process.”

    Of course I have read biologists’ statements to the contrary. A good example with a sting in the tail is Robert Dorit on “Biological Complexity” in “Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism”. Dorit writes that “… complexity of cause and complexity of outcome… relate principally to the mechanism(s) underlying organic change: mutation, development, adaptation and so on…” He gives the example of bar-headed goose haemoglobin, claiming that there is a much more complex mechanism than (my version): flying over Himalayas reduces survival/fertility; a mutation enabled improved oxygen intake; natural selection spread the mutation. Dorit [hey – he could be you!] thinks items like this belong in the description of the MECHANISM: “…the requirement that the bond between oxygen and hemoglobin be reversible as a function of tissue needs; the stability of the component parts of hemoglobin… the history of hemoglobin, a protein with a deep evolutionary past whose counterparts (homologs) exist in plants…” Notice that the oxyhemoglobin-carboxyhemoglobin balance etc are ancient OUTCOMES of the same mutation-selection mechanism. I did know that legumes produce a hemoglobin, but unless barheaded geese eat beans the relevance escapes me. Anyway, one real giveaway of the lightweight nature of Dorit’s contribution is that there is NO mathematics, NO information theory. He thinks that because there are lots of different things in the world, it is complex in the sense that a design can be complex. But Mount Everest and beans are not involved in a structure with such “organised complexity”. ANYWAY, I promised a sting in the tail. Dorit sums up: “The problem of comlexity is likely to pervade scientific debate in the twenty-first century. UNDERSTANDING HOW OUTPUTS CAN BE MORE VARIED AND COMPLEX THAN THE INPUTS THAT PRODUCE THEM IS A PROFOUND AND STIMULATING QUESTION THAT EXISTS ALMOST EVERYWHERE WE LOOK.”

    I read a lot. I own and have read copies of all those texts. I own and have read/browsed Stryer’s “Biochemistry” and Prescott, Harley and Klein’s “Microbiology”, and a lot of other stuff. If you have any serious recommendations, fine, but you haven’t cited a single source, just patronisingly suggested I should read “some books” for a few years. I already did.

    Bottom line: Per’s supposed rule, or Dembski’s “Law”, is wrong (and is, in any case, a [poor] argument for ID/creationism). Everybody writing in the field (apart from ID people) says it’s wrong, I think. I asked you for any example of a source claiming that evolution was more complex than its outputs but you have avoided that question, just telling me “You need to improve your interpretation skills or find some better authorities if they are giving you this dud info. BTW I am a biologist.” I suggest you write to the university departments – Cambridge, Tufts, Stanford, etc – and urge them to fire the incompetent bums responsible. Let them know you are a biologist, that should carry some weight.

    Am I “still making up nonsense” do you reckon?



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  • 68
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ Coldthinker

    I missed another point of yours – the common view among atheist commentators that Christians claim their god is complex. If you Google “simplicity of god” you’ll get about a quarter of a million hits, mostly referring to the (still accepted) doctrine of Thomas Aquinas, not to some modern Sophisticated Theology.



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  • Richard Dawkins alludes to the 18th century philosopher David Humes’ axiom that because a miracle is a transgression of the laws of nature we should only accept a miracle if  there is a greater probability for it accuracy than the probability that there is an explanation of  how that claim might be deceitful and inaccurate. Only those blinded by faith would think it reasonable to assert that the biggest miracle imaginable, the claim for the existence of a god in heaven, is strong enough to outweigh the probability that the claim is no more than deception and inaccuracy passed down to countless generations of young  susceptible minds.



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  • 70
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    You are confusing the emergent complexity (part of the outcome) with the process of evolution (the “entity” that generates the complexity).
    Primal simplicity + one simple (tautological) process [replicator + mutation + natural selection] => extreme complexity.

    The primal simplicity is in the abiogenesis hypothesis.  Darwinian evolution IS the emergent complexity over 2 billion+ years, (usually) powered by the photons of solar energy.  The natural selection from the emergent complexity IS the PROCESS OF EVOLUTION.  That is the point you are missing.

    If you have a look at the Universal Turing Machine in Conway’s “Life” and consider that its capabilities (the complexities of further outcomes) are essentially unlimited, you’ll get a different perspective.

    Studying  abstract properties yields many insights into computer science and complexity theory, but
    I did ask for an example of a created constructed artefact.  
    The universe is made of real matter and energy.

    Am I “still making up nonsense” do you reckon?

    You are still missing the point!

    The sentence in caps is from “The Blind Watchmaker”. The example of “Life”
    is from “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea”. Dawkins and Dennett are acceptable sources? 

    Dorit sums up: “The problem of complexity is likely to pervade scientific debate in the twenty-first century. UNDERSTANDING HOW OUTPUTS CAN BE MORE VARIED AND COMPLEX THAN THE INPUTS THAT PRODUCE THEM IS A PROFOUND AND STIMULATING QUESTION THAT EXISTS ALMOST EVERYWHERE WE LOOK.”

    In a closed system the outputs and inputs should balance.  In the case of life on Earth the input energy to build the complexity comes from the Sun.  This ought to be understood, even though the Solar System is not a closed system.

    Bottom line: Per’s supposed rule, or Dembski’s “Law”, is wrong (and is, in any case, a [poor] argument for ID/creationism).

    I am not sure where you are trying to go with this.  The argument that a universe creator needs to be complex, and  its self requires an origin, (and so is  therefore,  not a good explanation of the origins of our universe), is an argument AGAINST creationism and ID.

    If you have any serious recommendations, fine, but you haven’t cited a single source,

    As you ask for some specific references, to keep it simple, here are some extracts:

    The second law of Thermodynamics states that, although energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can – must, in a closed system – become more impotent to do useful work:  that is what it means to say that ‘entropy’ increases.  ‘Work’ includes things pumping water uphill or – the chemical equivalent – extracting carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide and using it in plant tissues.  .. . both those feats can be achieved only if energy is fed into the system. …..  … or solar energy to drive the synthesis of sugar and starch in a green plant.  … … ..  [when used] some energy is lost but never destroyed. …..
    In life’s chemistry, the carbon extracted from the air by sun-driven ‘uphill’ chemical reactions in plants can be burned to release energy.

    Almost all energy in the universe is steadily being degraded from forms which are capable of doing work to forms that are incapable of doing work.  There is a levelling off a mixing up, until eventually the entire universe will settle into a uniform, (literally) uneventful ‘heat death’.  But while the universe as a whole is hurtling downhill towards its inevitable ‘heat death’, there is scope for small quantities of energy to drive little local systems in the opposite direction.

    …. When creationists say, as they frequently do, that the theory of evolution contradicts the Second law of Thermodynamics, they are telling us no more than that they don’t understand the Second law of Thermodynamics.  There is no contradiction because of the sun.

    Pages 413, 414, & 415  – The Greatest Show on Earth – Richard Dawkins.

    “Dembski ignores Dawkins’s targetless evolutionary algorithm, which successfully illustrates SPONTANEOUS INCREASE OF COMPLEXITY in an evolutionary process.”

    I had not heard of Dembski, but I tend to ignore IDiots anyway, unless they turn up here for me to demolish their arguments.

    I am not disputing the spontaneous increase of complexity in evolution.  I am looking at HOW it happens.

    I asked you for any example of a source claiming that evolution was more complex than its outputs but you have avoided that question,

    I am not sure what you mean by this!  Evolution is an on-going process with its out-puts constantly feeding back into the system, as they have been doing for over 2 billion years.
    The “out-puts” are the evolving life of the planet, not some detached feature.



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  • The acceptance of miracles is not a prerequisite for the existence of god, it is a prerequisite for the  validation of certain religions e.g. Jesus’ resurrection, Mohamed’s ascension, Joseph Smith’s golden tablets.

    Many philosophers going back to Thomas Aquinas, Avicenna and modern theologian/philosophers such as Alvin Plantiga have used logic as the sole basis for proof of the existence of god.

    You may agree or disagree (I personally disagree) with their logical arguments  but the point is that miracles are not necessary, nor is it used, for proof of god.



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  • 72
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @ Mauch

    Hume’s argument doesn’t establish truth or falsehood of a miracle. It just suggests that the more likely explanation is some kind of error, based on the overwhelming evidence of law-like regularity from experience. Notice that the argument would be the same even if the miracle really happened.

    Personally I prefer the argument that natural laws are never broken, but – very relevantly to this discussion – the Second Law of Thermodynamics is a statistical law, and could be locally violated by some random but highly improbable fluctuation: it is a law that describes a general downhill process but assigns a definite but extremely tiny probability to any opposite trend. (There’s much more to say but let’s not get sidetracked.)

    The main issue with Hume’s argument is reliability of the witness. He writes as if one lone witness describes a miracle. If I were that witness, I would say to Hume: “I perfectly understand your unwillingness to believe such an astounding claim. But your argument doesn’t apply to me: I witnessed it.” More importantly, if (say) 100,000,000 Christians claimed to have “felt God’s presence” personally, where would that leave Hume?

    Don’t mistake me: I don’t think that their experience proves God exists, I just think it proves that Hume’s quality-of-evidence approach is a weak argument (and, in any case, disproves nothing, as indicated above). There are much better (even cast-iron – though believers would disagree) arguments against (especially) Trinitarian Christian belief. Why rely on poor arguments?

    Which is where I started: the conservation-of-complexity argument is dodgy, and the miracles-break-laws argument is weak in those three ways considred above. They may sometimes, but not reliably, give the right answer.



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  • 73
    logicophilosophicus says:

    @A4d

    Thank you for a return to measured discussion. I was uncomfortable with my own tit-for-tat.

    Your first point doesn’t work. There was “primeval simplicity” and there is present complexity; the one arose from the other; what comes between is the process/mechanism and it has clearly, somewhere along the line, violated the complexity-only-from-complexity rule, which is therefore false.

    You asked for an example of a “created constructed artefact” more complex than its creator (cause is a less loaded term). I did that. You counter that the contents of the real universe are made of matter and energy, but that is just plain wrong, and a biologist especially should know this. If you put, say, 50kg of water, 15kg of the right proteins, 8kg of lipids, etc, into a tank you would have the right amount of mass-energy in there, but you woudn’t have a human being. This whole conversation has been about “organised complexity” or information, which has no energy equivalence as such. ( Rolf Landauer, 1996: “…there is no unavoidable minimal energy requirement per transmitted bit” of information.)

    That answers your next substantive statement: “In a closed system the outputs and inputs [of “complexity”] should balance.” Not so – complexity is not a conserved quantity. There can be “spontaneous increase of complexity”. There is only a vague analogy between the “entropy” of information and the entropy of thermodynamics – your lengthy quotation about the Second Law of Thermodynamics is solely concerned witn energy and totally irrelevant to information. If anyone ever tells you there is an equivalence, just ask “How many bits of information correspond to 1 joule of energy?” (And cite Landauer if necessary.) When I was very young, the stevedores in my home town were called out on strike when the union man noticed an extra carbon copy had been added to the paperwork. Eventually they went back to work after a substantial productivity bonus was agreed for the additional information recorded…

    Your last three lines don’t challenge anything I have written. Think back to the bone of contention: my assertion that Per’s complexity-only-from-greater-complexity assertion was wrong. Having now stated that “I am not disputing the spontaneous increase in complexity in evolution” might we say we are now in agreement?



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  • 74
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    Your first point doesn’t work. There was “primeval simplicity” and there is present complexity; the one arose from the other; what comes between is the process/mechanism and it has clearly, somewhere along the line, violated the complexity-only-from-complexity rule, which is therefore false.

    The different viewpoint is that you are considering abstract mathematical concepts without looking at the implications of working in physical materials and the constraints this imposes. 
    The “the complexity-only-from-complexity rule”, was only in relation to material creations by intelligent  beings!  It was you who extended it into other areas!

    You asked for an example of a “created constructed artefact” more complex than its creator (cause is a less loaded term). I did that. You counter that the contents of the real universe are made of matter and energy, but that is just plain wrong,

    E=mc²  If you remove the matter and energy there is no universe, and no complex arrangement of the matter or energy either.   A being, may be a “cause” of a material construction, but “causes” are a far wider scientific field than the material creations  of beings. – An extension of the argument!

    and a biologist especially should
    know this. If you put, say, 50kg of water, 15kg of the right proteins, 8kg of lipids, etc, into a tank you would have the right amount of mass-energy in there, but you woudn’t have a human being.

    True. – You would need matter and energy and structured complexity.  None of these can be missing or disregarded.  ( The important leg(s) on a 3 legged stool is the one that’s missing)

    This whole conversation has been about “organised complexity”

    The problem with your purely mathematical argument, is that it is like the creationists’ god: – A hypothetical description without the constraints of the matter and energy or the physical laws of the universe.  Any self consistent description is logical, but can be purely an immaterial “castle in the air”.

    If you have looked at theoretical physics, cosmology or astronomy, you will know that plausible hypothetical constructs have to be tested and measured against physical reality to be verified.

    If you look at the analogy of an engineer building a large suspension bridge,  it is very simple to sketch an outline drawing, and a little harder to do the material specifications and structural calculations.

    But if you have to go over all the research that provided the engineering/mathematical tables, all the resourcing, manufacturing and quality control of materials, all the tooling, manpower, training, and equipment for transportation, construction, invention of techniques etc, the complexity of required information escalates enormously.

    Such processes in the material world are not simple.

    Similarly, evolved species, with millions of years of selection of working systems, material resourcing and improvements, are neither simple in form nor in the on-going process.  (Even if it is explained simply in school textbooks or in publications which can be understood by the general public.)

    All species with thinking brains are very complex in comparison to created artefacts, with more complex artefacts requiring information from whole teams of thinking brains:- thus negating any increases in the comparative complexity of the artefact. 

    That is why I consider the Occam challenge to “intelligent creator gods” – (while not conclusive proof), to be valid – especially when combined with the absence of evidence, and diversity of theist claims –  arguments.

    I would also suggest that DNA coding for (particularly intelligent) life, is more complex than anything written for computers, and like computer codes, there are many different versions of it (millions).

    Some Creationists argue their god is simple, others argue “he” is very complex.  When describing the specific features of  non-existent entities, all properties and versions,  are equally (in)correct!

    logicophilosophicus – http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc… – 
    Personally I prefer the argument that natural laws are never broken, but – very relevantly to this discussion – the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    is a statistical law, and could be locally violated by some random but highly improbable fluctuation: it is a law that describes a general downhill process but assigns a definite but extremely tiny probability to any opposite trend.

    Perhaps you have not seen this quote from Sir Arthur Eddington – quoted by Richard Dawkins –  P 415 -“The Greatest Show on Earth”:

    If someone points out that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. –  If it is found to be contradicted by observation – well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. 
    But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope: there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.



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  • 75
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Virtually all those points have been asked and answered. I cited a number of expert sources and you ignored them.

    The key issue is that organisation is not energy – Landauer 1996, one of the citations you ignore, and contradict without evidence. (It’s a major topic of discussion in information theory, especially with regard to biological information. See e.g. Woodward and Farjudian.)

    Well, not quite without evidence. At last you quote a source: Richard Dawkins. But are you sure he is an expert on thermodynamics?

    I am sometimes amazed by serendepity. Many years ago – in the 1950’s – I was struck by a passage I read, and it has stuck with me. I later bought an old copy of the book, and marked the passage:

    “…the second law of thermodynamics… is… a secondary law… Some things never happen because they are impossible; others because they are too improbable. The laws which forbid the first are the primary laws. The laws which forbid the second are the secondary laws.” When I read about Everett’s Many Worlds I realised that in an infinite multiverse all of the events forbidden by he second law must happen, probably an infinite number of times. When I later read about inflation spawned multiverses, I realised the same was true. That’s one of the reasons I hate multiverse theories. They are too permissive. Are you happy with a multiverse where a human being (call him Adam if you like) can be assembled in a momentary statistical freak occurence? It’s not merely possible but obligatory in a truly infinite multiverse.

    Anyway, no need to answer that. It’s not the point. The point is that the Dawkins quote is from page 74 of Sir Arthur Eddington’s “The Nature of the Physical World” and mine (in the last paragaph) is from page 75.



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  • 76
    drew.damore says:

    Let’s not confuse Occam’s Razor with a genuinely complex assertion.  Using your television example, you were quite right to assert that the magic pixie alternative would be a lot more complex than an account of how a TV actually works.  However, the pixie argument makes more assumptions that are at odds with science’s perception of the natural world.  The assumptions we need to make describe the inner workings of a television are not considered assumptions because they are congruent with the laws of physics/electrical engineering.

    I’ve always found it helpful to turn to the Latin to understand Occam’s Razor:

    Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate.  

    Plurality is not to be posited without necessity.  In this case, we can take it to mean the “plurality” of your assumptions.  To use a “God” example, many find a deistic origin of the universe much easier to understand.  Our scientific alternative would be theories that are based on quantum mechanics and cosmology (exponentially more difficult to understand).  This is why I’ve always viewed God hypotheses as forms of intellectual laziness.  Still, you’ll notice that even in theoretical physics, fewer assumptions are made about the natural world than are made by a God hypothesis.



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  • 78
    RDnet_Moderators says:

    May we remind users that our Terms of Use make it clear that we are aiming for courteous, civilised and rational discussion of disagreements on this site. If your comment is being rude or insulting to or about another user, please do not post it.
    Thank you.
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  • 80
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    Further sources on complexity/information:

    http://www.scientificamerican….

    Perhaps you should have read the comments on the artcle you linked?  They explain your misconceptions!

       Good diagram, however there is something very misleading about comparing
    computer computation to human computation that is never pointed out. …. .. .. … . –

    In the brain, 1 neuron can connect to 10,000 others across the other side of the brain. Trying to simulate that in present hardware would overuse the computer bus, and it would spend practically all the time waiting for data to arrive rather than computing.

    Agreed. Jeff Hawkins points out the fallacy of comparing a brain to a computer in his 2004 book “On Intelligence.” Neurons are slow compared to transistors, but neurons operating in parallel are
    not the same as computers operating in parallel. According to Hawkins,
    “A human can perform significant tasks in much less time than a second.
    For example, I could show you a photograph and ask you to determine if there is cat in the image. Your job would be to push a button if there is a cat, but not if you see a bear or a warthog or a turnip. This task is difficult or impossible for a computer to perform today, yet a human can do it reliably in half a second or less. 

    … So how can a brain perform difficult tasks in one hundred steps that the largest parallel computer imaginable can’t solve in a million or a billion steps? The answer is the brain doesn’t “compute” the answers to problems; it retrieves the answers from memory. In essence, the answers were stored in memory a long time ago. It only takes a few steps to
    retrieve something from memory. Slow neurons are not only fast enough to do this, but they constitute the memory themselves. The entire cortex
    is a memory system. It isn’t a computer at all.”

    DNA coding is not computer coding, and a human brain is not an electronic computer chip. They are simply not comparable systems.

    “An entity, capable of creating man, is inevitably more complex than man.”

    CORRECT!   None of these computers is even remotely like being capable of creating man.  (Man by the way is a lot more  than a brain) And as I stated earlier, complex artefacts require teams of human brains to create them.

    http://scientopia.org/blogs/go

    Yes the creationists have a different wrong way of failing to understand the second law of thermodynamics to your way of misunderstanding it!



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  • 81
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Nothing there I didn’t know.

    The SciAm link is for interest – I drew no conclusion, but you’re correct in thinking that I believe it is food for thought. The isdue is really simple here: we started with a statement including the quantitative judgment “more complex” but you decline to accept any mathematical definition of complexity, rejecting maths as airy-fairy theoretical stuff. It seems that complexity is a private list in your head, and Langauer, Kolmogorov, Conway and the rest are, as non-biologists, just another kind of woo-monger.

    If you had read my posts carefully you would see that I accept and endorse the view that the brain is the most complex entity (known) in the universe – not the Fujitsu K or the Internet. The two items I expected you to note particularly in the SciAm were human DNA and Brain, because DNA causes Brain, and yet is orders of magnitude less complex on this measure. If you add methylation to DNA and Dendrites to Brain, the contrast is more stark, I think.

    However, the “entity…more complex” statement was about filling this gap:

    simpler “entity” => ??? => more complex entity

    in particular

    animal => ??? => man

    which you insist has to bow to a very strict interpretation of the Second Law. But complexity cannot be quantitatively equated to free energy. Read the Langauer quote again.

    I think the ??? is relatively simple in Darwinism; you insist it is more complex than a human brain. That’s all.



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  • 82
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus
    Nothing there I didn’t know.

    The SciAm link is for interest – I drew no conclusion, but you’re correct in thinking that I believe it is food for thought.

    Just another irrelevant side-track – unless you are trying to refute your own argument?

    The is due is really simple here: we started with a statement including the quantitative judgment “more complex” but you decline to accept any mathematical definition of complexity, rejecting maths as airy-fairy theoretical stuff.

    I decline to accept any hypothetical definition which is detached from material reality.  

    Complexity is a statement of the relationships between forms of matter and energy as described by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.  Even as a hypothetical concept, it needs material brains to hold the concept.

    It seems that complexity is a private list in your head, and Langauer, Kolmogorov, Conway and the rest are, as non-biologists, just another kind of woo-monger.

    The mistaken concept is an abstraction in your head.
    As I have pointed out here :   http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc… 

    which you insist has to bow to a very strict interpretation of the Second Law. But complexity cannot be quantitatively equated to free energy. Read the Langauer quote again.

    ( E=MC²) “Free energy”???? – It does not matter whose pet theory it is, or who misunderstood what they said,:-
    If it is in conflict with the 2nd law it is wrong in being applied to the material universe.

    Your problem is like one I encountered with a creationist who insisted that, “the god given colour red” was independent of electromagnetic radiation and photoreceptors  – because it gave him & others an emotional psychological reaction he claimed was “spiritual proof of god”.  There was an “immaterial substance”, called “redness” which was independent of physical reality, according to him.

    Complexity, like the colour red, does not exist independently of matter and energy.  ( E=MC²) 
    Without matter/energy to arrange into patterns, complexity cannot exist.  In the real universe, it is subject to the laws of physics and objective testing by scientists, what ever hypotheticals mathematicians may wish to invent.

    I think the ??? is relatively simple in Darwinism; you insist it is more complex than a human brain. That’s all.

    You really need to study some biology! The human brain is only a tiny recent part of the ecosystem of the biosphere.

    simpler “entity” => ??? => more complex entity

    in particular animal => ??? => man

    You also seem to hold the mistaken creationist view that “man” is more complex than all other organisms.



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  • 83
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Me: “The SciAm link… is food for thought.”

    You: “Just another irrelevant side-track – unless you are trying to refute your own argument?”

    Not at all. I made no comment, but I expected you – as a biologist – to home in on the contrast between the information content of the human Genome and the human Brain. The fertilised ovum generates an organism vastly more complex than itself (the brain being the most complex organ). I only included the computer figures for your interest since you had previously written: “…DNA coding for (particularly intelligent) life, is more complex than anything written for computers…” (The performance of the Fujitsu K is comparable to that of the human brain.)

    —–

    Me: “The issue is really simple here: we started with a statement including the quantitative judgment ‘more complex’ but you decline to accept any mathematical definition of complexity…”

    You: “I decline to accept any hypothetical definition which is detached from material reality.”

    That leaves us with no quantitative definition, and no basis for the “more complex” statement apart from “a private list in your head”.

    —–

    Me: “…complexity cannot be quantitatively equated to free energy. Read the Langauer quote again.”

    You: “( E=MC²) ‘Free energy’????”

    In 1944 Schroedinger wrote his “What is Life?” He introduced the term Negative Entropy because he thought non-physicists might have trouble with the term Free Energy: “…this highly technical term seemed linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things.” I see from your irrelevant “E=mc²” that he was right. The important part of the term Free Energy is “Free”, and the important part of the term Organised Complexity is “Organised”. You think that life builds complexity out of energy, ignoring precisely the bits that matter. The truth is that:

    1) FREE energy enables/maintains ORGANISATION; with occasional failure.
    2) Additional COMPLEXITY of the genome is the outcome of that failure.
    3) Natural selection is the automatic elimination of some (most) such genomes.
    4) Those which are not eliminated are mantained as before: the additional COMPLEXITY has become ORGANISED.

    “…selection is not an additional component to be activated from outside… Selection is an inherent form of self-organisation… a DIRECT PHYSICAL CONSEQUENCE of error-prone self-reproduction far from [thermodynamic] equilibrium… Evolution on the basis of natural selection ENTAILS THE GENERATION OF INFORMATION.” [Emphases added.] (Manfred Eigen)

    The information, the complexity, is not imported; it is generated by the failure of replication. The input of free energy (via food, ultimately from sunlight) does not generate that complexity: it enables the almost always successful maintenance of accurate replication. That is almost the opposite of your statement: “You mentioned the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which allows simpler states to become more complex, but only by transferring energy/complexity from one place to another.”

    —–

    You: “You also seem to hold the mistaken creationist view that ‘man’ is more complex than all other organisms.”

    Well, I was quoting somebody else:
    “The human brain is the most complicated object in the known universe.”
    (Jeff Lichtman, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard.)
    I don’t think he’s guilty of a “creationist mistake”.



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  • 84
    logicophilosophicus says:

    I did ask the moderators to remove one comment I considered empty and confrontational, because it informed readers that “…the only further explanation needed” concerning my arguments would be found at the Wikipedia article on the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”. Since this was evidently deemed on-thread/compliant I suppose I should comment.

    This is from the article:

    “Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
    tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
    fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
    fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;”

    I invite the reader to judge this comment in the light of my most recent posting above, which is clearly supported by expert mainstream science, carefully cited. That might be compared with the near absence of relevant support from the literature, despite repeated requests, in A4D’s postings. As he remarked, “readers can form their own conclusions.”
    (One might also draw some conclusion from Kruger and Dunning’s subsequent receipt of an IgNobel award.)



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  • 85
    Alan4discussion says:

    @logicophilosophicus
    The problem is you don’t understand the science and simply ignore the issues I raise and explanations given – wandering off on to sidetracks.

    It would be helpful if you read this one I put on another thread:-  http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc… as it would make your posts more readable.

     

    You: “( E=MC²) ‘Free energy’????”

    In 1944 Schroedinger wrote his “What is Life?” He introduced the term Negative Entropy because he thought non-physicists might have trouble with the term Free Energy: ” .this highly technical term seemed linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things.” I see from your irrelevant “E=mc²” that he was right. .

    The suggestion that “E=mc²” is irrelevant to the operation of matter and energy in the physical universe, is comical!!!!

    What is this “free energy”, and what is its source?  Energy can neither be created nor destroyed!

    I think physicists who understand the first or second laws of thermodynamics would also have trouble with the term “free energy”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L
    More specifically, the First Law encompasses the following three principles:

    1. The law of conservation of energy
    This states that energy can be neither created nor destroyed.
    However, energy can change forms, and energy can flow from one place to another. The total energy of an isolated system remains the same.

    The second law of thermodynamics asserts the existence of a quantity called the entropy of a system
    and further states that
    When two isolated systems in separate but nearby regions of space, each in thermodynamic equilibrium
    in itself (but not necessarily in equilibrium with each other at first) are at some time allowed to interact, breaking the isolation that separates the two systems, allowing them to exchange matter or energy, they will eventually reach a mutual thermodynamic equilibrium.
    The sum of the entropies
    of the initial, isolated systems is less than or equal to the entropy of the final combination of exchanging systems.
    In the process of reaching a new thermodynamic equilibrium, total entropy has increased, or at least has not decreased.

    I have already explained thoroughly that the building of complex structures in evolution is powered by the energy of photons from the Sun! This is energy, but it is not “free”. It passes from one body to another in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics affecting the entropy of the systems.

    Re “Organised complexity” –
    (the higher the entropy, the higher the disorder)



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  • 86
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus  – …the only further explanation needed” concerning my arguments would be found at the Wikipedia article on the “Dunning-Kruger Effect”

    After ignoring /disputing the quote below, there really are no further explanations required!

        http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc…  – If someone points out that your pet theory of the universe is in disagreement with Maxwell’s equations – then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. –  If it is found to be contradicted by observation
    – well these experimentalists do bungle things sometimes. 
    But if your theory is found to be against the second law of thermodynamics I can give you no hope: there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.

    My previous earlier post however does offer a further explanation for anyone requiring more clarification.

    You: “You also seem to hold the mistaken creationist view that ‘man’ is more complex than all other organisms.”

    Well, I was quoting somebody else:
    “The human brain is the most complicated object in the known universe.”
    (Jeff Lichtman, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Harvard.)
    I don’t think he’s guilty of a “creationist mistake”.

    Man is NOT more complex than all other organisms, and certainly not more complex than the ecology of the biosphere, so you have confirmed that you have no idea about this subject, and you have taken the quote out of context or misunderstood it!
    I am not impressed with personal incredulity, or with ignorance claiming to speak with authority!



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  • 87
    logicophilosophicus says:

    If you want to look comical, tell that to the physicists.

    Alternatively, here’s a primer (notice “free energy” in the title, the first sentence, the last sentence…):

    http://www.chem.uwec.edu/Chem1

    Or you could just Google “Gibbs free energy” and check out a few of the ~3 million hits.

    E=mc^2 is irrelevant because the Second Law is only concerned with free energy – i.e. the way energy is organised. You can see that when the ice in your whiskey melts. The energy in the drink is conserved (E=mc^2) and tells you nothing about the change taking place. Energy, as Schödinger emphasised, is not at all the same thing as free energy. The free energy is the energy that flows from the warm whiskey into the cold ice, and the decrease of free energy in the system is the increase in entropy. You can see the order literally melting away. Notice something else: the initial state (in this case) is less complex than the final state. Complexity is not at all the same thing as organised complexity; and that is why you are wrong in suggesting that the human brain is not the most complex STRUCTURE known. The earth’s biosphere is not an organised structure, and I have not misinterpreted Lichtman: the human brain is “the most complex system in the universe”. That quote is from the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute (Johns Hopkins University):

    http://krieger.jhu.edu/mbi/res

    Again, nice and easy, you’ll find it in the first sentence.

    Contrary to your abusive bluster, I know exactly what I am talking about. But don’t bother arguing with me – just follow the links and take it up with those people.



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  • 88
    Alan4discussion says:

    @logicophilosophicus

    @OP  The human brain is a network of 10 ^11 neurons with 10^15 connections,

    So!  Only a tiny fraction of the interacting organisms in the biosphere or star-systems in the universe.

    Still I suppose specialists can view their work through rosy spectacles, and may well be right that  for an organ of that size it is very complex. 
    Perhaps they should look outside their owns specialisms more often before making sweeping statements.

    The earth’s biosphere is not an organised structure,

    Really???  You have never heard of ecology, geology  or meteorology???  Like  human brains, the biosphere evolves and functions through numerous interactions. 
    It just has vastly more atoms, molecules and interactions. 
    As I pointed out earlier, it also contains numerous brains, which are part of its interactions. 

    The free energy is the energy that flows from the warm whiskey into the cold ice, and the decrease of free energy in the system is the increase in entropy. You can see the order literally melting away.

    You are still confused and quoting stuff you do not understand!

    As I made clear earlier, energy flows from warmer matter to colder matter in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics until the (closed) system reaches equilibrium.  The decrease in ” “free energy” or “usable energy” you describe is because of latent heat and the change from solid ice to liquid.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed (1st law).  An increase in overall entropy within the system  is also to be expected.   

    E=mc^2 is irrelevant because the Second Law is only concerned with free energy – i.e. the way energy is organised.

    E=mc² is relevant because it describes the total of energy and matter (which are interchangeable in Solar fusion reactions) in the system I was describing.  Energy is also organised into matter as any nuclear physicist will tell you.

    You are describing the energy involved in latent heat, where there is an up-hill down hill entropy issue because of a local energy flow.  (Similar to the one I described powering complexity in evolution – up-hill complexity against the normal trend to greater entropy.)

    You are simply substituting whiskey (finite heat source) and ice for my example of the Sun and the Earth, with the exception that in your example the “energy” is already finite heat in the whiskey (and you have added the issue of latent heat absorbed in melting the ice removing the crystal structure),

    …Rather than my example of the relatively unlimited long term Solar nuclear generated radiation (from matter  E=mc²) doing work powering complexity in Earth life, on the way to becoming heat (while on a very long road toward  equilibrium in the “heat-death” of the universe.)

    You have still not explained the source of this “free energy” which is what I asked for.  Presumably the whiskey acquired its heat (giving a temperature differential)  from somewhere outside this system?

    Nor have you produced an example of an artefact which is more complex than its maker/creator yet.

    To clarify:

    In 1944 Schroedinger wrote his “What is Life?” He introduced the term Negative Entropy because he thought non-physicists might have trouble with the term Free Energy: ” .this highly technical term seemed
    linguistically too near to energy for making the average reader alive to the contrast between the two things.

    He does seem to have made a particularly poor and ambiguous choice of words, considering that I have already explained this local “up-hill-against the flow”  of entropy powered by energy input, in the context of Solar powered life. 
    However, the question I asked you was where did this “free energy” come from?

    You have simply quoted my own explanation back to me in less clear terms, along with some confused unquantifiable claims (numbered 1 to 4 making totally unsupported inaccurate assertions) and claiming that it proves  the opposite of my explanation.  http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc

    Contrary to your abusive bluster, I know exactly what I am talking about. 

    ……… According to your own perceptions – 
    Irony meter explodes!



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  • 89
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    Alternatively, here’s a primer (notice “free energy” in the title, the first sentence, the last sentence…):

    http://www.chem.uwec.edu/Chem1

    Thank you for putting on a link which allows me to look at the distracting complexity of your argument which obscures the issues.

     My previous comment http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc…   has looked at the details.

    You are simply confusing the physics of  local effects – (potential energy, chemical energy, latent heat) and missing the big picture covered by the laws of thermodynamics.

    @Alan:disqus  
    What is this “free energy”, and what is its source?  Energy can neither be created nor destroyed!

    I think physicists who understand the first or second laws of thermodynamics would also have trouble with the term “free energy”.

    I should have been clearer, and should have said:

    ” I think physicists who understand the first or second laws of thermodynamics would also have trouble with the term ‘free energy from nowhere’.”

    The unanswered question remains:-  having been buried in a lengthy comment which missed the point.

    E=mc^2 is irrelevant because the Second Law is only concerned with free
    energy – i.e. the way energy is organised. You can see that when the ice in your whiskey melts. The energy in the drink is conserved (E=mc^2)
    and tells you nothing about the change taking place. Energy, as Schödinger emphasised, is not at all the same thing as free energy. The free energy is the energy that flows from the warm whiskey into the cold ice, and the decrease of free energy in the system is the increase in entropy. You can see the order literally melting away. Notice something else: the initial state (in this case) is less complex than the final state.

    Your whiskey example only works because there is an unexplained energy (heat) input, into a system affecting a special case local set-up of entropy involving latent heat.
    The laws of Thermodynamics do not allow perpetual motion machines or “magical” heat inputs to run special cases illustrating fallacies being applied to the overall system.  

    In my explanation of  Solar  power providing energy for  evolutionary complexity my energy flows were explained in terms of the big picture.  E=mc² = the overall energy. Your example has the external energy source omitted.

    Solar Nuclear fusion, – electromagnetic radiation,  – photosynthesis, – chemical energy in plants, – complex structures in plants and other organisms with eventual use/release of energy as transmission losses degrade energy to heat.

    You have simply ignored the question and gone off into diversionary distractions.

    Your other claims are just assertions with mistaken false claims that are supported by “authority”.

    As I said earlier, I am a biologist (and ecologist and planetary scientist) I know where systems of bio-complexity are to found. 

    Your claim re. the brain & biosphere is like someone who claims to have a formula proving the Empire State Building is bigger and more complex than the Earth.  – It isn’t – by a very large factor!



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  • 90
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    @link:disqus
     –   http://krieger.jhu.edu/mbi/res…  The human brain is a network of 10^ 11 neurons with 10^15 connections, making it the most complex system in the universe.

    Now I have seen the link, it seems the mistake was theirs, and your mistake was repeating it, rather than misunderstanding it, –  so sorry for my misattribution.

    Scientists really should avoid making these sorts of careless wild exaggerations.  Any competent peer -review would shoot this down in about 10 seconds.   It is hardly worth the effort of refuting it.

    Putting on my “space science hat” :- 

    Even with gravitational lensing, it is only possible to see part of the Universe, and only possible to make inferences based on scientific laws about the rest.

    Therefore: nobody on Earth is in a position present evidence to make comparisons with possible objects or life forms beyond the scope of our instruments other than by comparison with independent known equivalents.  (eg. equivalent star types)

    There is a multi-billion-galaxy sized gap in the evidence for this brain-claim.

    What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

    The conclusion is:  that those making such “on the record” statements,  don’t understand the biosphere, the universe, or scientific evidence, – unless they are simply sloppy!

    More perceptive people would have had it proof read and corrected it, even if it is just a general information document.



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  • 91
    logicophilosophicus says:

    Me: “The earth’s biosphere is not an organised structure [i.e. unlike the brain/human].”
    You: “It… has vastly more atoms, molecules and interactions.”

    You still don’t grasp the difference between organisation and complexity.

    “…what is the difference between a coupled [i.e. interacting] chemical system albeit arbitrarily complex [e.g. vastly complex] and a living system in which we again find nothing other than an abundance of chemical reactions. The answer is that all the reactions in a living system follow a controlled program [i.e. are organised] from an information centre.” (Manfred Eigen)

    You still don’t grasp the concept of free energy (though at least you are acknowledging that the term exists).

    You think it is enough to say that “energy flows from warmer matter to colder matter in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics until the (closed) system reaches equilibrium.” But an animal or plant or planet is in equilibrium in those terms: the energy going in equals the energy going out. So why did Eigen say (as I quoted in another post) that life is “far from [thermodynamic] equilibrium”? Because the energy in is (ultimately) visible light and the energy out is infrared. Organisms are “sucking orderliness [organisation]” from their environment and “exporting entropy”, as Schrödinger put it. And those people are AUTHORITIES, not “authorities” as you punctuated the word.

    You ramble at some length concerning latent heat as if phase changes are nothing to do with orderliness/organisation. Very wrong. However, I’ll home in on this:

    “You are describing the energy involved in latent heat, where there is an up-hill down hill entropy issue because of a local energy flow.  (Similar to the one I described powering complexity in evolution – up-hill complexity against the normal trend to greater entropy.)”

    I don’t understand the first sentence. Entropy is a property of the system and is not a conserved quantity: the entropy of whiskey+ice increases; you lose organisation on swings+roundabouts. Your second sentence suggests that locally increasing compexity is “against the normal trend to greater entropy”. But when you warm that ice or pasteurise that milk etc you increase both [disorganised] complexity and entropy. I suggest you re-read that “primer”. The heat doesn’t help at all in producing ORGANISED complexity; quite the opposite. That’s life’s trick – extracting orderliness from high-grade energy, and exporting disorderliness.

    But I think I’m banging my head against a brick wall here.

    “You have still not explained the source of this ‘free energy’ which is what I asked for.” Anywhere you like. Ultimately it’s usually sunlight or nuclear, and ultimately that’s gravitational energy. So what? “Free energy” means “energy that is not in equilibrium” not “energy you magically create”.

    “Nor have you produced an example of an artefact which is more complex than its maker/creator yet.” I thought I had: gamete and human; natural selection and DNA; and – well before 2150 – a computer more complex than all the human brains in existence. A good job too – because otherwise somewhere along the line we’d have to accept the creationist argument that Sheepcat was referring to: complexity derives from a More Complex Entityyyy……

    “Schrödinger… does seem to have made a particularly poor and ambiguous choice of words, considering that I have already explained this local ‘up-hill-against the flow’  of entropy powered by energy input, in the context of Solar powered life.” Well it’s just a pity you weren’t around to put that particular dubious “authority” right…

    “I think physicists who understand the first or second laws of thermodynamics would also have trouble with the term ‘free energy from nowhere’.” So would I. Where did you come across the phrase?

    “Your whiskey example only works because there is an unexplained energy (heat) input, into a system affecting a special case local set-up of entropy involving latent heat.”

    Well, funnily enough, the heat energy in the whiskey was not free; the whiskey was at ambient temperature and then the cold ice was added; now some of the energy was free to do work on the ice.

    “As I said earlier, I am a biologist (and ecologist and planetary scientist) I know where systems of bio-complexity are to be found.” I don’t doubt it. And I don’t doubt that you could run rings around me on the subjects of Amazonian biodiversity or symbiosis in the Great Barrier Reef. But on the subject of the relationship between free energy, organisation and complexity you can’t, not because I’m smarter than you but because I’ve carefully read the really big names in this field, and they are smarter than the both of us.



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  • 92
    Alan4discussion says:

    logicophilosophicus

    “Nor have you produced an example of an artefact which is more complex than its maker/creator yet.”

     I thought I had: gamete and human; natural selection and DNA;

    These are not artefacts produced by human creators!

    and – well before 2150 – a computer more complex than
    all the human brains in existence.

    .. .. and this is speculation!



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  • 93
    Alan4discussion says:

     
    logicophilosophicus

    “You have still not explained the source of this ‘free energy’ which is what I asked for.”

    Anywhere you like. Ultimately it’s usually sunlight or nuclear, and ultimately that’s gravitational energy. So what? “Free energy” means “energy that is not in equilibrium” not “energy you magically create”.

    Yes I know.  The issue with your “whiskey” example is that it has undefined variable “free energy”, which is the temperature/heat differential between the whiskey and the ice.

    The whiskey is at “ambient temperature”, but ambient room temperature is interacting seeking equilibrium with the global temperature (based on Sunlight, residual geothermal energy from the Earth’s formation, and tidal drag, balanced against radiation losses into space), together with weather and seasonal cycles. – Also possible room heating or air conditioning.

    Then there is the ice, which presumably has been created in a fridge/freezer (also interacting with”ambient temperatures) powered perhaps by electricity with degrading of energy + increased entropy from generation and transmission losses.

    There is also the fact that once the drink is chilled, it will absorb further heat from its surroundings.

    All these features, imply interactions outside the Whiskey/ice system with energy and entropy affected elsewhere.

    That is why I asked :

    What is this “free energy”, and what is its source? 

    In your example it is a variable, dependent on a variable undefined,  “ambient temperature”, and the mass of the materials.

    As I pointed out, the big picture would be governed by the laws of thermodynamics.

    logicophilosophicus Organisms are “sucking orderliness [organisation]” from their environment and “exporting entropy”, as Schrödinger put it.

    I know! I explained it back here:

    Alan4discussion http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc
    In a closed system the outputs and inputs should balance. In the case of life on Earth the input energy to build the complexity comes from the Sun. This ought to be understood, even though the Solar System is not a closed system.



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  • 94
    nick keighley says:

     > At the moment (or, to avoid the singularity, just after the moment) of
    the Big Bang, was our universe more or less complex than now? Did it
    include more information?

    it had lower entropy. I’m not sure how you measure the information in a universe. The early universe looks pretty simple to me. Pretty uniform.



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  • 95
    nick keighley says:

     I think part of the problem is that neither of you actually explain what you mean by “complexity”. How do you measure the “complexity” of the human brain or of “Darwinian biology” (how does that differ from any other biology?)



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  • 96
    Alan4discussion says:

    nick keighley
    How do you measure the “complexity” of the human brain or of “Darwinian biology” (how does that differ from any other biology?)

    It doesn’t!  Nor is the living organisation of an ecosystem or biosphere some other sort of organisation from organs in particular animals – it is all interacting evolved biochemistry. –
    (unless you are a creationist who wants to insist, “humans are a different special case and a central feature of a homo-centric universe”!)

    The “human brain claim” is just repetition of a wild and obviously unevidenced ridiculous  exaggeration, as I explained here.  http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc…  (It is not only wrong, but is wrong by orders of magnitude.)
    and here:-
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc

    I think part of the problem is that neither of you actually explain what you mean by “complexity”

    I agree.  Much of the the obscuring of issues and  lack of clarity, has arisen from assertions lacking definitions of terms and concepts. (In the Recent example the term “free energy” which I have tried to explain and clarify after an example was presented to me with undefined inputs.) – Not mention assertions, which are just plain wrong. –

    The  issues of energy and entropy are covered by the laws of thermodynamics:-
    as the quote from Richard Dawkins made clear back here.  –  http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc



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  • 97
    logicophilosophicus says:

    You are right that defining complexity is a problem, and it’s not one to be solved on the hoof here. Seth Lloyd lists around 40 different measures of complexity, of which maybe half might be relevant to this discussion.

    http://web.mit.edu/esd.83/www/

    However, when we compare two similar entities we can judge that one is more complex than another. I am certain that chess is more complex than checkers. I am certain that Für Elise is more complex than Yankee Doodle. I neither know nor care whether Für Elise is in some sense more complex than checkers – it wouldn’t be a useful distinction.

    The issue here is complexity of a structure, in partcular a living structure/animal.

    “…what is the difference between a coupled [i.e. interacting] chemical system albeit arbitrarily complex [e.g. vastly complex] and a living system in which we again find nothing other than an abundance of chemical reactions. The answer is that all the reactions in a living system follow a controlled program [i.e. are organised] from an information centre.” (Manfred Eigen)

    It shouldn’t be that hard to understand. An obvious test of organisation/structure is to see what it takes to destroy it. Take the biosphere (an “arbitrarily complex… coupled… system), and exterminate at random 90% of all living creatures. (Nature has performed something like this experiment several times.) Life goes on. Now take a human being, or a spider, or an I-Pad, or a genome, and destroy at random 10% of subunits – organs, processors, whatever…

    On the complexity of the human brain, it’s hard to imagine more authoritative views than these:

    “The human brain is the most complex arrangement of matter in the known universe.” (V.S. Ramachandran)

    “The human brain is the most complicated object in the known universe.” (Jeff Lichtman)

    And there are many other such expert judgments, e.g.

    http://www.alumni.sydney.edu.a

    http://krieger.jhu.edu/mbi/res

    http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/bra

    http://www.uib.no/med/avd/miap

    If you are interested in this topic – organised complexity, life, negentropy (Gibbs free energy, exergy) I have listed numerous authoritative sources. Or you can do a two-minute Wikipedia search as A4D suggests – he seems to think that’s adequate.



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  • 98
    Alan4discussion says:

    Oh dear! – Still learning nothing!  Not even how to format posts here! – http://www.richarddawkins.net/disc

      logicophilosophicus – On the complexity of the human brain, it’s hard to imagine more authoritative views than these:

    “The human brain is the most complex arrangement of matter in the known universe.” (V.S. Ramachandran)

    “The human brain is the most complicated object in the known universe.” (Jeff Lichtman)

     

    Ah! The posturing of false authority! Ignorance quoted by the ignorant, who clearly have no understanding of the Universe.

    As I said in my earlier refutation,  – there is a multi-billion-galaxy gap in the evidence for this claim!

    @MIT link The human brain is the most complex, sophisticated, and powerful information-processing device known.

    This is talking about INFORMATION PROCESSING DEVICES, not overall complexity.

    Still cherry picking ignorance and quoting scraps of science you have misread and cannot understand.

    With your refutations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and of Newton, and key elements in Eurkaryote evolution, you obviously need submit papers to go for that Nobel Prize! 
    In the mean time you will have to make do with illustrating an IgNobel Prize. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D



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  • 99
    Alan4discussion says:

    “…what is the difference between a coupled [i.e. interacting] chemical system albeit arbitrarily complex [e.g. vastly complex] and a living system in which we again find nothing other than an abundance of chemical reactions.

    Arbitrary is not the opposite of vast!  A chemical reaction is a chemical reaction and a chain reaction is a chain reation!

    The answer is that all the reactions in a living system follow a controlled program [i.e. are organised] from an information centre.” (Manfred Eigen)

    No they don’t evolution has no plan! This person is obviously very ignorant of ecology!  Some reactions in living cells are directed MAINLY  by their DNA but partially by external factors (such as temperature or daylight).
    Only creationists and ignoramuses think all life is centrally directed.

    It shouldn’t be that hard to understand. An obvious test of organisation/structure is to see what it takes to destroy it.

    This conflates LIMITING FACTORS with complexity.  It seems this is not difficult to MISUNDERSTAND. 
    I can pile 3 cubes in a tower, and flick out the bottom one. 
    This destroys the tower… and proves its complexity???  – I think not!

    Take the biosphere (an “arbitrarily complex… coupled… system), and exterminate at random 90% of all living creatures. (Nature has performed something like this experiment several times.) Life goes on. Now take a human being, or a spider, or an I-Pad, or a genome, and destroy at
    random 10% of subunits – organs, processors, whatever…

     

    Ignoring irrelevant I-pads – .. … .. and like the biosphere life goes on in a changed form, with certain living parts dying and removed.  ( In case you don’t know, humans are about 50% bacteria. – They are a symbiotic ecosystem -but those ignorant of biology would be unaware of this.)

    You are right that defining complexity is a problem, and it’s not one to be solved on the hoof here.

    Your problem, is that clarity and evidence debunks nonsense!
    That Second Law of of Thermodynamics keeps getting in your way when we look at real matter and energy, but the cascade evidence ignoring assertions continues.

    Or you can do a two-minute Wikipedia search as A4D suggests – he seems to think that’s adequate.

    You really should start reading information at a level where you can understand it.



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  • 100
    sffmadman66 says:

    In reply to #3 by God fearing Atheist:

    Per, I think you have misunderstood Occam’s razor.

    It is not “the simplest explanation”, it is “do not multiply entities unnecessarily”.

    Yes. “I haven’t a clue.” And that’s the truth; I don’t.

    If a cup falls off a table person A can say “The fairies moved it”. Person B can explain the gravitational theory; Person C can also explain gravitational theo…



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  • 101
    sffmadman66 says:

    In reply to #42 by nick keighley:

     American polital conventions look deadly dull to me! There isn’t even any mystery about the result! I’m assuming the point is to decide who is going to be the party’s presidential candidate?

    Well, it’s supposed to work that way. But I question that it actually does. I question whether or not our votes actually count anymore. I’ve learned not to assert this is true, however, until I can provide some evidence. But I’m not taking anything at face value.



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  • 102
    sffmadman66 says:

    In reply to #48 by logicophilosophicus:

    It was asserted that if God created “man”, then God must be more complex than “man”.

    If that is true, then WHATEVER created humans must be more complex than humans.

    Since the human brain is the most complex structure (seen so far) in the universe, that is a problem. Or it would be, if the original assertion were true: so it isn’t.

    I have nowhere implied that God exists – I have stated quite clearly that I am an atheist. I have stated several different ways that I disagree with the original assertion: how could I be using it to prove God exists?

    (You did not, I notice, produce a citation to show that evolution, DNA, etc is more complex than the living human brain. I’m not holding my breath.)

    Re Second Law: free energy is not complexity….

    Alan’s point about the second law is correct. however, I still think it’s unfair that he did not address this: “I have stated quite clearly that I am an atheist.” And this: “I have stated several different ways that I disagree with the original assertion: how could I be using it to prove God exists?”

    It’s almost like he wants you to be a theist even though you are not.



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