Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Blind Watch Maker, chapter 4.

Having successfully ignored the elephants in the room for chapter 3, Dawkins proceeds to make some more collosal blunders: He begins by using the eye example and pretending that evolution will do a single objective optimization of a single component. Here, he is projecting a classic ID technique onto the eye. In ID, we work on single components at a time because this is astronomically easier than working on the entire system when optimizing. Either increasing the number of objectives or increasing the number of variables will cause this astronomical explosion in difficulty. Moving from a biological component to a biological system requires both.

Dawkins also introduces us to the X-dimensional design space. Since I work in X-dimensions daily, this is quite familiar to me. What is different about Dawkins X-dimensional space is that all differential increments within this space produce an increase in fitness. There are no peaks, no valleys, no saddle points, no singularities, no non-viable points, no ill-conditioning. All the real problems of design are postulated out of the evolutionary design space. No wonder it is so easy for evolution to do design! If the real world were like this, I too could design anything.


Bunc said...

Hi Looney - how are you doing?
Any thoughts on the recent announcment that they have found the genes for limb development in a primitive fish group related to fissol fish identified as a transitional form to land based life?

Yup - me again said...

Oh and just a thought on design space....
Any design biologically that gets stuck in a "valley" in design space by definition either remains with its existing design (assuming its already adapted to its environment) or dies of. By definition only those designs which dont get stuck in a valley etc contribute to further evolution - thats inherent in the theory.

Looney said...

Hi Bunc. As an engineer, I am compelled to put intelligent design principals at the center of my world view. What do we conclude if two Ph.d. dissertations have major portions that are the same? When two computer chis from different vendors have different designs, the lawyers go to court, present their patent claims and argue over authorship rights. Whenever we see similar complex designs, it is always a symptom of common authorship. The problem isn't with the data, but rather the deduction.

There is another article comparing genes of fruit flies to humans. If the simplest insects have genomes as complex as humans and similar, then this causes infinitely more problems for evolution than for intelligent design.

As a technicality, I don't think anyone has analyzed genes in a fossil fish, in spite of the Jurassic Park movies.

Bunc said...

Your analogy is excellent - but more in suppport of my world view than yours methinks.

The existence of common genetic elements in different species is strong evidence in support of evolutionary development. You on the other hand have to assume that these common elements were put there ( created) by some "intelligent designer" ( by which you mean God I assume - why don't you just say so?)

I see evidence of entirely natural processes in this; whereas to you it provides evidence of some supernatural intervention (for which our only evidence is stuff written in books thousand of years ago by men who also believed the world to be flat).

I know which I am more persuaded by. The common "authorship" is the process of evolution for which there is mountains of scientific evidence (evidence which until the recent return to fundamentalism among Christians most Christians accepted!!)

I wasn't suggesting of course that anyone had analysed the genes in a fossil fish. ( If only we could this whole debate might be easier to settle!) The fossil fish in question is taxonomically very close to the extant fish which has the genes for limbs.

A couple of other points I would be interested in your views on;

1) Why did the intelligent designer go to the trouble of making Ape behaviour so similar to Human behaviour? Just to throw us a "wobbly" so that we would mistakenly come up with the theory of evolution? A bit perverse don't you think?

2)As you are probaby aware all computer simulations of evolution are essentially serial processes whereas real world reproduction and selection is essentially a massively parallel process in which the probabilities of routes being found from one genetic "position" to another (in simplistic terms from one species to another) have massively more potential routes. It will be interesting to see if Quantum computing and other routes to true parallel computing allow better simulation of the combination of randomeness and selection that Darwinian eviolution consists of.

3) In my view the evidence for Darwinian evolution (in its modern sense) does not of itself provide the deciding argument for the exiistence of God or not. It does of course for a fundamentalist - for whom every word in a boook like the bible must be defended literally. Many Christians however have no difficulty reconciling natural physical laws with the existence of God. Only fundamentalists seem to have this problem.

4) On what basis should I distinguish a fundamentalist christian from a fundamentalist Muslim - or indeed any other fundamentalist? Both claim divine inspiration. Both claim to have "the Holy book" inspired,indeed authored, by God.

Had you been born in Afghanistan wouldn't you have just ended up a fundamentalist Muslim? Wouldn't the taliban in Afghanistan have ended up a bible quoting Christian had he been born in your position? Doesn't this suggest that "belief" is essentially culturally driven and can't therefore be claimed to have any basis in ultimate "truth"?

And on what basis should I, as someone who tries to live by rational thought decide who actually has "the truth"? You fundamentalists of different religions can't all be right.

The only approach to thinking about the way the world works that isnt dependent on where you happen to be born is a rational,scientific one. For all your reference to mathematical modelling issues you seem a long way from that approach.

This isn't a personal attack of course Looney. I have no doubt that you are a good engineer - and I am sure I couldnt keep up with you even on a run to the corner shop! Keep up that running. I love the picture in your "11 miles today" post by the way.

Looney said...

Bunc, thanks for the comments. There is a lot to respond to. Don't worry about my feelers!

One thing you might check up on: "Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians" by Russell.

I think you will learn that the flat earth theory was invented in the 19th century. In the US, the founder of Cornell University, Andrew Dickson White, worked tirelessly to insure that this error was in all of the textbooks along with evolution. They have a symbiotic relationship.

Yes, I might have grown up to be a fundamentalist Muslim if I were born in Afghanistan. Then there was the little old lady who taught me evolution when I was a child based on things that 19th century intellectuals said long before DNA or proteins were discovered. Is the atheist really any different?

Pilate sarcastically said to Jesus, "What is truth?". We all need to ask hard questions of each other.

Bunc said...

Hi Looney - actually you are right ab out the flat earth thing I think because after I wrote it I had this faint memory of having read that the ancient Greeks.

"Then there was the little old lady who taught me evolution when I was a child based on things that 19th century intellectuals said long before DNA or proteins were discovered."

I am not sure of your point here. If anything I think this supports my position. Darwin was able to examine evidence at the organism level across many species and, building on the works of others, was able to deduce a process of evolution based on natural selection. At that time there was no knowledge of what the detailed hereditary mechanism might be that would support his theory whcih seemed to explain the observations.

(Of course Mendels work was not well know or linked to his work at the time as I recall).

Later, in the twentieth century mendels work is found to have a biochemical basis in DNA and protein synthesis from DNA ( forgive the simplification) and lo and behold it exactly provides a mechanism on which natural selection would work.

Indeed you can demonstrate it in your own life in the breeding of domestic animals - some of which are now so far removed from their natural ancestors that interbreeding becomes unlikely - a step towards speciation.

I will press my earlier point - how should anyone choose between two fundamentalists of different persuasions?
The difference the scientific view (I am admitedly strong proponent of evolution) and a religious funddamentalist view is that if someone turns up a set of fossils out-of-sequence or demonstrates through some other good evidence that natural selection doesn't work then I will happily move to supporting the next theory that better explains the facts.

For a religious fundamentalist all is faith. Now I have nothing against faith per se. the problem with fundamentalism is that it is founded on rigid interpretations of written words in books written by men. That is exactly not what Darwinian "believers" are like. Views about darwinian evolution and its mechanisms have changed and evolved as evidence has emerged. for example the debate between Gould and Dawkins. ( both of who accepty natural selecetion but stress different mechanisms within it as most important - Gould being the less traditional.

Sorry I am rabbiting on. And I am sure you'll be ready for a run.
C Ya