Thursday, June 21, 2012

NOMA and the realist interpretation of evolutionary biology

NOMA is an attractive idea. However, it seems to be an essential part of what evolutionary biologists are saying that there was no involvement in the process by God or any other supernatural beings. One could avoid this problem is to say that evolution is a model, and the best scientific model we've come up wtih so far. We can study the science without believing it to be literally true. In other sciences, scientists will present their views as theories without insisting that they are literally true. Rather, they say it's the best way to make sense of the data from a scientific standpoint. Physicists like Hawking say this sort of thing a lot. Evolutionary biologists, on the other hand, seem to expect people to be realists about their theory. I wonder why?

The guy in Holy Grail says, of Camelot, "It's only a model."

41 comments:

unkleE said...

"it seems to be an essential part of what evolutionary biologists are saying that there was no involvement in the process by God or any other supernatural beings"

Some seem to be saying this, but they have no right to say it until they have constructed experiments to scientifically test whether God was involved or not. I've never heard of such an experiment, and I don't see how one could be constructed - which is one reason why Intelligent Design cannot be seen as science.

We and they can't have it both ways. If science can legitimately show God isn't involved, then it could be used to show that he is, as in ID. If ID is not science, neither are the conclusions you have written about.

Bilbo said...

The philosopher of biology, Elliot Sober, wrote a fascinating paper, "Evolution without Naturalism," ( in J. Kvanvig, ed., Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, vol. 3) about this subject, Vic. I recommend reading it. Plantinga used Sober's idea in his book, Where the Conflict Really Lies.

Crude said...

Popular biologists go back and forth on this topic, and it really seems like some of them try to have it both ways.

Plantinga's book is the one I read, and I'd heartily recommend. Sober, I'll have find this.

mattghg said...

it seems to be an essential part of what evolutionary biologists are saying that there was no involvement in the process by God or any other supernatural beings

As the other commenters have been saying, Plantinga contests this in Where The Conflict Really Lies.

Papalinton said...

Victor
Your little OP on NOMA is an interesting piece of blithering christian Apologetical obscurantism. I know much of Gould's NOMA. I have read much of Gould's work. Indeed I have read as much as I am able to understand of many of the great biologists of our time. And no, NOMA is not an essential part of any of the leading biologists' perspectives on the non involvement of any form of spectral numen in the process of evolution. They categorically, almost to a man, to a woman, [apart from a few IDiots like Michael Behe, Englander and Snoke,] reject NOMA full stop. And just as unequivocally, they repudiate any causal involvement of the supernatural in the evolutionary process, and in the most classic LaPlacian interpretive sense. Theist-guided evolution is a dead duck. Period.

The rest of your stream of consciousness could easily have been avoided. The problem lies not within science and evolutionary biology. Nor does the problem lie with the scientists and the physicists, nor the scientific standpoint, nor with the evolutionary biologists. No. The problem does not lie where you have posited it.

The problem lies squarely at the feet of bible crazies, superstition mongers, resurrection merchants, exorcists, spirit-channelers, incantationists, papal sycophants, spirit-dwellers, god-botherers, eucharistic blood drinker; all those inexplicable mystical primordial elements for which christianity is duly renowned.

No Victor. It is the deep and extremely worrying pathology of the religious mind that has the problem of assimilating the greatest medical, scientific, social and psychological finds and discoveries of the contemporary world. It is the congenital inability of the indiscriminately trained religious mind to distinguish superstition from science, from the natural and the supernatural, to distinguish between fact and fantasy. It is the deep cognitive impairment of the incapacity to mark where reality leaves off and allegory segues in.

Much of your remaining OP could have been so easily handled in the most appropriate manner as: "One could avoid this problem is to say that supernaturalism is a model, and the best theological model we've come up wtih so far. We can study the theology without believing it to be literally true. In other theologies [Islam, Hindu etc etc], theologians will present their views as theories without insisting that they are literally true. ............." Victor, I think you get my drift.

The trouble with your perspective Victor, is that the science works, evolution works. It is the greatest single quantum expansion in human understanding and knowledge of the biological and non-biological world since humans evolved, the explanatory power of the sciences and of evolution have simply dwarfed religious explanation.

As Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) German Astronomer, notes: "When miracles are admitted, every scientific explanation is out of the question."

BeingItself said...

Wow, what a muddle. Evolution like all science, does just fine without introducing superstitious primitive notions like gods, goblins, or vitalism.

Reminds me of this great bit from Stephen Law:

Suppose a flower grows from a seed. Ted says a fairy made it happen. Bert explains everything about the growth of the flower by natural means, pointing to the way in which cells divide, etc. etc.

Ted says, Yeah, but that's how the fairy made it happen!

Bert has justified being highly sceptical about the Ted's fairy account.

And Ted is a twit.


Shoehorning a god into your explanation just makes you a twit. Whether you are explaining the origin of species, or the origin of reasoning.

Yes, evolution is a model, like the standard model is a model. They are both almost certainly true. Just don't mistake the map for the territory.

Crude said...

Evolution like all science, does just fine without introducing superstitious primitive notions like gods, goblins, or vitalism.

Intelligence, design and guidance are not primitive, scary notions, you halfwit. Likewise, scientific theory is incapable of commenting on the presence or lack of these things - ID is not science, and neither is anti-ID.

And whether evolutionary theory is "doing fine" is a subjective call. You can look at SJ Gould, Margulis, Shapiro, Carl Woese, the evo-devoists and many others who think the current views are an absolute muddle, and none of them are creationists. On the flipside, insofar as science "does fine", it does so without the need of atheist metaphysics or extrapolation. (Indeed, including atheist metaphysics just results in a hilarious anti-scientific muddle. See: Rosenberg and company.)

Really, BI, you should keep your mouth shut about evolution. It's clear you know nothing about it other than what PZ Myers now and then belches out - and Myers stopped being a scientist years ago.

Shoehorning a god into your explanation just makes you a twit.

BI, your attempts at reasoning in the past have exposed you as a twit and a hack besides. I don't think you can really stand as a judge on questions like this. ;)

Crude said...

And just to put a point on it.

Suppose Crude says that John made a flower grow. BI explains explains everything about the growth of the flower by natural means, pointing to the way in which cells divide, etc. etc.

Crude says, yeah, but John made the flower grow.

BI says he's highly justified about being skeptical of Crude's claim.

Crude introduces BI to John. "John, what do you do for a living?" Crude asks.

"I'm a florist," John replies.

Crude is justified in believing BI is a twit.

BeingItself said...

Crude,

I would no longer be skeptical of the John explanation once you showed me John the florist.

But you have failed to produce Yahweh or Baal or Thor or whatever god you think explains this or that. So once again you have refuted yourself.

Angra Mainyu said...

One might as well wonder why geologists similarly realistically interpret a hypothesis of continental drift that does not involve a personal being arranging the continents, or astronomers realistically interpret their hypotheses about the existence of exoplanets around certain stars, or black holes at the center of a galaxy, or the formation of stars, and so on, without positing that some personal being is making the starts in such-and-such way.

It's true that in some cases, the evidence may be insufficient to make an assessment about certain hypotheses, and so withholding belief is called for, but it's not as if an anti-realistic interpretation is the norm in science.

The fact is that when one posits a hypothesis, one needs to be able to make predictions. Biologists do make predictions about what kind of organisms they will find, based on a hypothesis of a non-directed process.

If someone has an alternative hypothesis that posits a process guided by an intelligence and can make predictions based on that too, they're free to present the hypothesis and see which one can better predict observations (e.g., irreducible complexity or whatever).

Crude said...

BI,

I would no longer be skeptical of the John explanation once you showed me John the florist.

Of course, BI. You walk into the freaking grocery store and are just stunned at the produce section. I mean, look at all those potatoes and crap! You never met the gardeners, so the default explanation is "no one made any of these". You think the modern world food economy is one big scavenging operation.

And the fact remains that guidance, intent, intelligence, etc, are not some mysterious ****ing things theists dreamt up to scare you. The only people who think that are crank materialists.

You're a twit, BI. You used wretched reasoning twice in a row. The lesson here for you should be, henceforth when you get into these discussions, do so with more care, and more humility. Because your antics in this short thread? Very Papalinton.

Hint: that ain't a compliment.

Crude said...

The fact is that when one posits a hypothesis, one needs to be able to make predictions. Biologists do make predictions about what kind of organisms they will find, based on a hypothesis of a non-directed process.

Incorrect - biologists are incapable of determining whether or not "the kind of organisms they find" were the result of a directed or non-directed process in the relevant sense. See Eugenie Scott in the NABT controversy, and you'll see her admitting as much. (Whether she said that for political expediency is another question - but she said what she said.)

A biologist can (and even with examples like these, their ability to test and experiment with this is ridiculously limited) surmise that in a polluted environment, moths with black wings will be preyed upon less than moths with white wings, and thus you'll see more black-winged moths than white-winged moths. Were the factors present - from the individual examples of predation to larger emerging patterns - orchestrated or guided or such in the relevant sense? The biologist is incapable of determining this - it's outside their field. And this goes for its lack too.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Crude,

Actually, biologists can make predictions about what they expect to find, such as insects and bacteria adapting to antibiotics, gradual changes between species (i.e., no 'jumps'; that does not mean that there are no periods of faster evolution), and so on.

If, on the other hand, evolutionary biology were unable to make testable predictions about what observations to expect, or if the predictions happened to be falsified, then of course they ought to abandon the hypothesis.

You, Behe and others are welcome to either present an alternative hypothesis, or show that the one evolutionary biologists posit has been falsified, or is not falsifiable.

The fact remains, however, that criticism of the hypothesis on the basis that the interpretation is realistic is unwarranted as explained before; realistic interpretations are usual, not exceptional. Again, that's different from the issue of whether a hypothesis is correct.

As for the moths, for that matter, someone might say that the same goes for the movements of continents, the formation of planets, etc. You can always say that maybe there is a hidden cause, and indeed challenge pretty much everything on that claim, but if that prevented us from establishing facts, the result would be an epistemic nightmare: we would never be able to establish causes of our observations, no matter how good our hypotheses are at making predictions, since someone can always say that there is a hidden pattern we failed to see.

That is not how science is done. A hypothesis (say, continental drift, formation of black holes, or evolution by certain mechanisms) is used to make predictions, and then those are tested.
Again, if you, Behe, or someone else has a guided evolution hypothesis that makes competing predictions (or even similar ones), you could just present it and compete.

Else, you're stuck with the epistemic nightmare of the hidden pattern. For that matter, a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) might posit hidden causes of our observations and say that the Earth is less than 10000 years old, and as long as the cause is a sufficiently powerful personal being, their ad-hoc hypothesis would not be in conflict with observations (trivially, due to its ad-hoc character).
Actually, for that matter, we could say 300 years old instead of 10000.
The degree of absurdity of those ad-hoc hypotheses varies depending on how much observations have to be absurdly forced to fit the evidence, but it's just not a way to learn about the world.

And again, if your objection is with the idea that evolutionary biology makes successful predictions and you're interested in learning about the subject, I would suggest that you (and readers) to just google 'predictions evolutionary biology' or similar terms.

BenYachov said...

@Angra Mainyu

Crude is a Theistic Evolutionist not an ID supporter(thought he does think ID is more intelligent than New Atheism which isn't hard).

Barking up the wrong tree much?

BenYachov said...

>That is not how science is done. A hypothesis (say, continental drift, formation of black holes, or evolution by certain mechanisms) is used to make predictions, and then those are tested.
Again, if you, Behe, or someone else has a guided evolution hypothesis that makes competing predictions (or even similar ones), you could just present it and compete.

God is proven by philosophical argument not science.

Category mistake much?

Enough of the Scientism/Positivism crap already.

Crude said...

Actually, biologists can make predictions about what they expect to find, such as insects and bacteria adapting to antibiotics, gradual changes between species (i.e., no 'jumps'; that does not mean that there are no periods of faster evolution), and so on.

Anyone can make a prediction. Being able to test that prediction is an entirely different story - and the limitations to testing quite a lot of the claims of evolutionary theory (which I accept, being a TE) are considerable. I did not say, anywhere, that evolutionary biologists make no predictions or that their predictions cannot be tested. If you bothered to read what I wrote, you'd realize I gave an *example* of a successful prediction that was tested.

Science is dead silent on guidance's presence or lack at the relevant levels. It's just the basic fact of the matter for the field.

You, Behe and others are welcome to either present an alternative hypothesis,

I don't think ID is science, nor did I say or imply as much.

What I said - and this is something you're evading rather than disputing - is that evolutionary theory, insofar as it remains scientific, is utterly incapable of determining that evolution is or is not purposeful, guided, intentional, etc. Saying "this event took place with absolutely no intention, guidance, purpose, etc whatsoever" lands you off in la-la metaphysics land. Which is great, so long as you recognize you're doing philosophy and metaphysics. Science, it ain't.

I could argue as much on the merits alone, but I did one better: I referred to Eugenie Scott's statements in the NABT controversy. Are you familiar with that controversy? Are you familiar with what position Scott took? Do you even know who she is?

You can always say that maybe there is a hidden cause,

And this fundamentally misunderstands guidance. If I say that Bob intended for a flower to grow, it does not throw all of our botanical knowledge out the window. If I say that science is incapable of determining whether or not Bob intended for a given flower to grow, our knowledge and progress remains intact even granting my claim, thank you.

You need only look at Darwin to see as much: he did not regard artificial selection as some kind of terrifying supernatural construct. It was his inspiration.

And again, if your objection is with the idea that evolutionary biology makes successful predictions

I see I've tripped your script. But you'll notice that the only person who brought Behe up in this thread is Papalinton. And the claim was not an objection to evolutionary biology's status - it was me A) pointing out that intention, guidance, and design are not scary, terrifying notions exclusive to theists (unless, of course, you're an eliminative materialist - in which case, congratulations, you just took on a view that's even more crazy than YEC), and B) pointing out that science as science is dead silent on matters of guidance, intention, knowledge, etc.

Please, I know atheists so often love to fight figments of their imagination, but don't do it with me, for your own sake. I reject ID as science, I reject YEC, I'm a theistic evolutionist, and trying to argue with a figment will just lead to me exposing the figment for what it is again and again.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Crude,

I did not say that you said what you did not. I considered different options, to block potential objections from you and others, considering what had been said in this thread.

I already explained why your previous objection failed, and I do not see anything in the new reply that merits further comment, so I'll just recommend readers to take a look at the exchange (and generally, at what I said in the posts above) and make their own assessments.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Ben Yachov

1) I made no category mistakes. I would recommend readers to take a look for themselves.

2) Of course, if someone claims that, say, there is a powerful entity that responds to prayers from religion X, the matter is testable. The same goes if someone claims that the Earth is less than 10000 years old, and so on. So, plenty of religious claims are testable, regardless of whether or not the claim that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect creator is.

3) In any event, your point about God is just not relevant to my point about science.

You will probably reply to that, and I do not have an infinite amount of time for this, so I guess you'll get the last word. I will just recommend readers to take a look at the exchange carefully.

Crude said...

Angra,

I did not say that you said what you did not. I considered different options, to block potential objections from you and others, considering what had been said in this thread.

Considering the only person who brought up Behe in this thread was Linton, with unkleE bringing up ID only to say it's not science, you apparently didn't read the thread very carefully. And if by "considering different options" you mean "responded to me and proceeded to argue against claims I did not make, while not noting that I did not make these claims", I believe the proper term for that is 'strawmanning'.

But yeah, I do encourage others to read the thread and judge for themselves - the result's going to be kinder to my arguments than yours.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Crude,

I did read the thread carefully. I would have mentioned Behe even if no one else had, because I was using that to make a point about making alternative hypotheses, not to claim or imply that that's what you were doing.
I was saying that ifyou have an alternative hypothesis, then you can present it, etc.

As for the substantive points, I do not see the point in further repetition; anyone interested can read the posts.

Crude said...

Angra,

I would have mentioned Behe even if no one else had, because I was using that to make a point about making alternative hypotheses, not to claim or imply that that's what you were doing.
I was saying that ifyou have an alternative hypothesis, then you can present it, etc.


And this is where you go off the rails. My claim here was not "the science is wrong, some other hypothesis is right", nor is it the case with Plantinga. The claim was that the hypothesis, insofar as it's scientific, is dead silent on the 'lack of guidance' issue. One more time: Eugenie Scott. NABT. Read what went on there for just one example of this delineation.

The same goes for Plantinga's views on the subject. I nowhere suggested that some replacement for evolutionary biology was needed, because that's actually counter to the point I'm making.

Angra Mainyu said...

@Crude,

In order to make predictions, the hypothesis posits (implicitly or explicitly) that there is no person is guiding the evolutionary process.

Otherwise, either the intentions of the guider to take the process in certain directions would have to be factored in if such intentions are known, when making predictions (and that is obviously not the case; no such intentions are being factored in by scientists), or if the intentions are unknown, many predictions could not be made, since scientists would not know what to expect from an entity that guides a process with unknown intentions.

BenYachov said...

>1) I made no category mistakes. I would recommend readers to take a look for themselves.

Yes you did.

How is trying to answer a Philosophical question by invoking science not a category mistake?

God is a philosophical question not a scientific one. Get over it!

>2) Of course, if someone claims that, say, there is a powerful entity that responds to prayers from religion X, the matter is testable. The same goes if someone claims that the Earth is less than 10000 years old, and so on. So, plenty of religious claims are testable, regardless of whether or not the claim that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, morally perfect creator is.

God as He is classically understood is not a "powerful entity" or any type of entity at all. More category mistakes!

Epic fail!

>3) In any event, your point about God is just not relevant to my point about science.

It is perfectly relevant since no "god" you can prove to exist using science can be by definiton the God of Abraham & Aquinas.

You suffer from Gnu'Atheist one size fits all polemics.

How tedious and limiting.

>You will probably reply to that, and I do not have an infinite amount of time for this, so I guess you'll get the last word. I will just recommend readers to take a look at the exchange carefully.

I have seen all this shit before. You are another philospohically illiterate Gnu with unconcious and unexamed Positivist philosophical beliefs who believes science is the sole means of knowledge while not knowing in any fashion the philosophy behind science.

Tedious! When will you people get a new act instead of a gnu act?

Crude said...

Angra,

In order to make predictions, the hypothesis posits (implicitly or explicitly) that there is no person is guiding the evolutionary process.

Alas, it does not. Which is a good thing too, since this would render that aspect of the theory unscientific and incapable of being tested.

Which is why you never see, in peer-reviewed journals, tests for whether or not God or any powerful beings intervened in and guided evolutionary history.

Otherwise, either the intentions of the guider to take the process in certain directions would have to be factored in if such intentions are known, when making predictions

Incorrect, for the same reason we can still thoroughly investigate flowers planted by known intentional agents. Agents can work through, even entirely through, secondary causes, etc.

or if the intentions are unknown, many predictions could not be made, since scientists would not know what to expect from an entity that guides a process with unknown intentions.

...nor do they know what to expect from a process that is wholly and entirely unguided and random. Cue SJ Gould and the statement (which assumed the lack of God's presence, the lack of guidance, etc) that rewinding the tape of life would render utterly different evolutionary paths.

Your views cash out to this: if the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient God were proven tomorrow, evolutionary science would immediately be in the toilet. Suddenly, even the known and observed incidents of evolution in the lab would, on those grounds alone, automatically be defunct because of the presence of a powerful agent. That's self-evidently ridiculous.

Which is why Eugenie Scott explicitly said that talk of evolution being unguided, purposeless, and impersonal were outside the bounds of scientific theory.

And, for any onlookers, Scott's both an atheist and an evolutionary biologist.

BenYachov said...

>In order to make predictions, the hypothesis posits (implicitly or explicitly) that there is no person is guiding the evolutionary process.

I can believe in a guiding principle even in a godless universe. All I have to do is postulate we live in a godless universe governed by Quantum Super Determinism.

Thus anything that happens must by necessity happen. Thus any and all evolutionary processes in nature are guided by necessity to happen.

Like I said enough of the scientism bullshit already.

Learn some philosophy for Darwin's sake!

Oy Vey!

Angra Mainyu said...

@Crude

You said:
"Alas, it does not. Which is a good thing too, since this would render that aspect of the theory unscientific and incapable of being tested."
I already explained why it does.

You said: "Incorrect, for the same reason we can still thoroughly investigate flowers planted by known intentional agents. Agents can work through, even entirely through, secondary causes, etc. "
If we were investigate flowers whose growth is being guided by an agent with certain intentions and the power to bring about some results from that process (say, w1, w2,..., wn), and the intent to bring about one such result, we would need to take into consideration what result the agent is going for, in order to predict the outcome.

You said: "...nor do they know what to expect from a process that is wholly and entirely unguided and random."
I'm not sure whether the cause of your error here is an equivocation on 'random', but whatever the cause of your error, the fact is that they actually do make such predictions, and many successful ones at that. Those predictions assume that the process happens in certain ways, which do not include a guider, and that's why the predictions can be made in the first place.

You said: "Your views cash out to this: if the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient God were proven tomorrow, evolutionary science would immediately be in the toilet. Suddenly, even the known and observed incidents of evolution in the lab would, on those grounds alone, automatically be defunct because of the presence of a powerful agent. That's self-evidently ridiculous."

Obviously, if we assume that there is a powerful entity that guided a process and who, so far, wanted to get the results we already observe, that hypothesis is trivially compatible with the observations.
But that is not a problem for my position, which is that the hypothesis of no guider is used, implicitly or not, to make predictions about what to expect, not that there is no hypothesis including such a guider that is trivially compatible with the observations we got so far.

Crude said...

Angra,

If we were investigate flowers whose growth is being guided by an agent with certain intentions and the power to bring about some results from that process (say, w1, w2,..., wn), and the intent to bring about one such result, we would need to take into consideration what result the agent is going for, in order to predict the outcome.

No, you actually wouldn't. A little like how we can "predict the outcome" of everything from computer code to tool use, knowing not a thing about the designing agent's intentions, and still predict the outcome of running the code or using the tool.

You clearly haven't thought about this for more than a minute. Now, if you said that without knowing the agent's intentions, we may not know what a given program was for, that'd at least give you some ground to stand on - except then it could be argued we could divine some of those intentions by seeing how the program plays out. But to say what amounts to "we can't even predict what a given thing will do if it was designed, if we don't know the designer's intentions"? That's flat out ignorance.

Those predictions assume that the process happens in certain ways, which do not include a guider, and that's why the predictions can be made in the first place.

And you fail to understand a real basic limitation of science: the predictions neither exclude nor include guidance at the level of detail we're talking about, which is precisely why Eugenie Scott explicitly said such claims are outside of science.

You can keep ignoring Scott's own views on this, but until you start to address them - and that will require acknowledging them - it's becoming more and more clear you're operating with a fifth grader's level of knowledge of evolution, with a dash of Cult of Gnuism.

There is no scientific prediction that entails the lack of God guiding, knowing, or preordaining the outcome. Prove me wrong: show me a peer-reviewed research paper (everyone uses Peer Review as the standard) about an experiment testing for the presence or lack of God's, or any sufficiently powerful being's, guidance in evolution. You won't find one, but I rather wish you would - it would be a delight to tear it apart right here.

Obviously, if we assume that there is a powerful entity that guided a process and who, so far, wanted to get the results we already observe, that hypothesis is trivially compatible with the observations.

You don't even need to go that far. Maybe he got some of the results he wanted here, but not some there. Maybe he had a string of failures. Maybe there are ten designers. Maybe a billion. Maybe he changed his mind.

Guess what? Science is completely helpless, as science, to determine this.

But that is not a problem for my position, which is that the hypothesis of no guider is used, implicitly or not, to make predictions about what to expect,

Actually, you were rattling off BS about how if there was guidance, we'd be utterly unable to predict the results without knowing the designer(s) intention. You have a wacky-ass understanding of science.

NOW you're suggesting that 'implicitly or not' the "hypothesis" is 'no guider' - nice retreat. Except that's - here comes Ockham - utterly extraneous to the theory, and does no work whatsoever. Just as Eugenie Scott realizes. Insofar as science is concerned, evolutionary theory - explicitly, if it is to remain science - is dead quiet on the presence or lack of any guidance or designers at the level of God, or even a level of considerable power.

Sorry to make science less attractive to you, but the truth helps.

Cale B.T. said...

A brief musical interlude:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jGHZnSkpuA&feature=relmfu

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "No, you actually wouldn't. A little like how we can "predict the outcome" of everything from computer code to tool use, knowing not a thing about the designing agent's intentions, and still predict the outcome of running the code or using the tool. "
If we study a code without knowing what it's going to do, then it's going to be difficult to predict the outcome rather than just run the code and observe the outcome.
If the program is too complicated for a human to just follow, it's going to be very difficult.

However, but given what we already know about computer programs, computers, etc., and the simplicity of some codes, we could manage in some cases to predict what will happen, because no agent is directing the execution of the program; in other words, no one with sufficient power will alter the execution (otherwise, we would need to factor in the intentions of the agent if known; else, we would not be able to make predictions in the first place).

Regarding tool usage, that's a specific case of observing our environment and making predictions based on what we already know, which is something we can often do, but of course, when we make the prediction of what we can do with a tool we implicitly hold that no powerful agent will interfere with our usage of the tool in question (otherwise, we would need to factor in the intentions of the agent if known; else, we would not be able to make predictions in the first place).

Crude said: "You clearly haven't thought about this for more than a minute. Now, if you said that without knowing the agent's intentions, we may not know what a given program was for, that'd at least give you some ground to stand on - except then it could be argued we could divine some of those intentions by seeing how the program plays out."

I clearly have thought about it, and you're clearly wrong in your criticism. But whatever, in the scenario you present now, we would have to run the program to figure out the intentions of the programmer, rather than predicting the outcome of the execution.

Still, this is beside the point. When it comes to predicting the outcome of the execution, see above. There is a difference between a program that just runs without guidance even if someone started it in the first place, and someone messing with the program to achieve certain goal.

What evolutionary biology implicitly or explicitly assumes is that there is some environment with certain conditions, and some things in that environment (namely, organisms) which develop according to the aforementioned conditions, rather than with someone trying to bring about some stuff. Evolutionary biology does not rule out deism, since it makes no hypothesis as to how the environment with such conditions came to be, but assumes that it's there and it's not going to be messed with.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude said: "But to say what amounts to "we can't even predict what a given thing will do if it was designed, if we don't know the designer's intentions"? That's flat out ignorance."
I've not said any of the sort. I said that we couldn't make the prediction if there is a powerful agent with some unknown intentions guiding the process.

If, on the other hand, we know that there is an environment with some conditions, and that some things develop in said environment given the conditions, then we can make in a good number of cases predictions about the outcome; all we need to assume is that no agent with the power to alter those conditions is involved in doing just that (i.e., no guider of the process), or that we know what a guider is trying to bring about, if there is one.
Evolutionary biology does not assume that deism is false.

Crude: "And you fail to understand a real basic limitation of science: the predictions neither exclude nor include guidance at the level of detail we're talking about, which is precisely why Eugenie Scott explicitly said such claims are outside of science."
You mean a guider that does it best to hide itself?

That would be an alternative hypothesis that would have to be explained, but in that case, we would have to be factoring in the intentions of the guider: namely, a hiding intent. That's not what scientists do, and it's not clear how you'd go about that hypothesis, but still, if that's your hypothesis (if not, then whatever), then you're free to present it.

Crude: "You can keep ignoring Scott's own views on this, but until you start to address them - and that will require acknowledging them - it's becoming more and more clear you're operating with a fifth grader's level of knowledge of evolution, with a dash of Cult of Gnuism. "
Sorry, but an argument is an argument is an argument; authority arguments may be okay in some contexts, but they do not substitute reason (plus, you've not provided a link that allows me to learn the details of her position, but that aside). Not to mention, of course, that other scientists will say otherwise, but that's beside the point; incidentally, Victor realizes that point as well, when he says: "it seems to be an essential part of what evolutionary biologists are saying that there was no involvement in the process by God or any other supernatural beings".

If there is disagreement between different biologists, that's really not going to affect my arguments.

Crude: "NOW you're suggesting that 'implicitly or not' the "hypothesis" is 'no guider' - nice retreat."
The accusation is unfounded. There is no retreat at all on my part. I've always been talking about the hypothesis that no one is directing the process. which is what the OP was about: i.e., that there is no involvement in the process by any such agent (and, by the way, 'supernatural' is not required. The hypothesis, implicitly or not, posits that no agent is involved in guiding the evolutionary process; otherwise, we would have to factor in the intentions of the guider in order to figure out what to expect).

Crude: "Just as Eugenie Scott realizes. Insofar as science is concerned, evolutionary theory - explicitly, if it is to remain science - is dead quiet on the presence or lack of any guidance or designers at the level of God, or even a level of considerable power."
You keep conflating guiders or directors of the process with designers of the universe. Evolutionary theory does not rule out the latter, but the former.

BeingItself said...

Why do we have the same arguments over and over.

Yes, we all admit that evolution by natural selection is an underdetermined theory. Because all scientific theories are under determined.

So, if some superstitious twit wants to shoehorn in a grumpkin or a grimlin or a snark or a god or a goblin - that cannot be disproved.

The superstitious twit pats himself on the back for rescuing his belief in grumpkins. While the rational man just sharpens his Occam's razor.

Crude said...

So, if some superstitious twit wants to shoehorn in a grumpkin or a grimlin or a snark or a god or a goblin - that cannot be disproved.

Aww, look at the little baby. He got his ass spanked for someone pointing out that things like 'guidance', 'design' and 'intelligence' aren't mysterious freaking things, but are very normal and familiar, and because his arguments were so piss-poor. So now he's going to whirl and whine and just ramp up the namecalling.

You blew it, BI. You could have made some reasonable criticisms, but instead you displayed gross ignorance twice in a row - because of your kneejerk Cult of Gnuisms. You are now officially at the level of Linton - except, thank God, your ravings are shorter.

Think this one over long and hard, kiddo: the scientific theory is silent with regards to guidance. It neither claims, nor denies, the presence of guidance in nature. Because it is utterly, completely unable to do so in the relevant sense.

"Naturalism" and "totally unguided, unplanned nature"... is the real "grimlin". ;)

Crude said...

Angra,

I've not said any of the sort. I said that we couldn't make the prediction if there is a powerful agent with some unknown intentions guiding the process.

It cashes out to the same thing, Angra. Because, as you seem utterly incapable of freaking comprehending: powerful agents can and do use secondary causes to achieve their goals. Any example you give, and could possibly give, of 'natural selection', becomes 'artificial selection' trivially in any event where the designer knew and intended the outcomes of the selective acts.

Honest to God, it's like you never heard of artificial selection before. Did you not even read the cliffnotes version of Darwin's work?

You mean a guider that does it best to hide itself?

Wonderful stock claim! Except whether a guider at this level is "doing its best to hide itself" is yet another thing science can't speak of. You're off into the realm of philosophy and metaphysics again.

Your personal inability to discern God's activity - you can't even get basics about science and evolution right - does not cash out to "God is trying to hide".

And once again, it's not an 'alternative hypothesis', because science is incapable of even dealing with this question. You know what it's also incapable of? Determining whether all relevant events are unguided and unintended. Your randomness/atheism of the gaps is yet more metaphysics and, yes, religion. There is no test for it, and it's nicely falsifiable at the relevant levels.

If there is disagreement between different biologists, that's really not going to affect my arguments.

Uhh, yeah, it is. Because your 'arguments' aren't arguments - they're just claims based on a wild misunderstanding of science generally and evolutionary biology in particular.

Further, A) you wouldn't even acknowledge my references to Scott, period. No questions, no nothing. You kept dead silent. And B) I've already provided a link. Please, read more carefully, eh?

You keep conflating guiders or directors of the process with designers of the universe. Evolutionary theory does not rule out the latter, but the former.

And you keep making the same wretched mistake: you seem to think that 'guidance' requires the suspension or non-use of secondary causes. But it's entirely compatible with the exclusive use of secondary causes. You've been misinformed about these things due to spending an inordinate amount of time in an echo chamber, Angra: again, the truth hurts, but you need to both read and accept it.

Crude said...

However, but given what we already know about computer programs, computers, etc., and the simplicity of some codes, we could manage in some cases to predict what will happen, because no agent is directing the execution of the program; in other words, no one with sufficient power will alter the execution (otherwise, we would need to factor in the intentions of the agent if known; else, we would not be able to make predictions in the first place).

And you don't seem to understand - and really, this is not a hard concept to grok - that 'altering the program' on the fly *is not necessary for guidance*. You seem to think that a program or nature being 'guided' absolutely must mean that the results are unpredictable, which is just some hilarious misunderstanding on your part. Guess what? A *human* designer can arrange both variation and selective acts in order to attain a particular outcome. Or the human designer can arrange the selective acts but not touch the variation. Or they can alter the variation and leave selection looser. And that's at the human level.

Worse for you, the 'predictions' of evolutionary biology involve stochastic models - again, see SJ Gould's view of evolution. The predictions are not physics-precise, but instead are conceptual. But you're saying that guidance would mean an inability to predict outcomes of evolution - so, by your horrible logic, the fact that evolution is (from the perspective of our efforts and models) in large part unpredictable, is apparently evidence of a guidance.

A terrible argument, of course, but it's falling out of your horrible understanding of the process, and of science generally.

which is something we can often do, but of course, when we make the prediction of what we can do with a tool we implicitly hold that no powerful agent will interfere with our usage of the tool in question

Once again, you seem to believe that 'guidance' == 'direct interference'. And once again, that is not the case. "Guidance" can be everywhere in that scenario, from the discovery of the tool, the use of the tool, the perceived results of the tool usage - all without some immediate intervening manipulation. Even on a lesser level, the tool being used as intended could itself be a guiding factor - when someone grips a hammer by the comfortable, padded handle, you're dealing with a very human level of passive guidance. Whether it was 'guidance' depends on the knowledge and intention of the proximate creator.

As I said, you haven't thought this through. Or you have, and you're spooked by the results.

Crude said...

What evolutionary biology implicitly or explicitly assumes is that there is some environment with certain conditions, and some things in that environment (namely, organisms) which develop according to the aforementioned conditions, rather than with someone trying to bring about some stuff.

Man. As I said, your understanding of science generally and evolutionary biology particular is pretty wretched. First, the usual criticisms: everything from the acts of selection to the environment to the particular variation can itself be determined, far in advance and without any direct intervening. Second, the sources of variation are very, very wide open in evolutionary theory - if you believe that the requirement is that variation itself be strictly deterministic, you're even more uninformed on evolutionary biology than I thought.

Third, see the Gould quote: evolutionary biology is not viewed as a thoroughly (or hell, even largely) precisely predictable discipline, certainly not when it comes to deep time development.

You are apparently one of those guys who thinks that evolution can never involve guidance, so the very idea of artificial selection and/or determined variation - very, very common things - would just blow your mind.

Read more on this, Angra. And I don't mean 'read more puff pieces by Myers or Dawkins'. Start with - finally - Scott. That's easy-mode.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude, you're the one who fails to understand the argument.

It's implicit in the hypotheses about evolution that are used by biologists that there are no, say, aliens doing artificial selection to achieve some goal, and surely that there is no aliens doing genetic engineering to reach some goal.

Again, if there is an entity that can mess with the process, do genetic engineering, etc., then its
intentions and powers would have to be taken into consideration, otherwise we would not know what to expect.

The more powerful the entity is, the more the predictions would depend on her intentions.

In fact, in such cases in which there is artificial selection by humans, those actions are factored in as part of the environment in which something develops.

But if biologists are, say, trying to figure out how whales evolved from other species, they posit environments that do not include things like 'aliens from another planet decided to cull those animals that did not have the traits they wanted, leading to the evolution of whales'.

Obviously, artificial selection could be factored in when it happens, but then again, that would mean either a different environment in which things survive and reproduce (which would require that we consider what the selectors are trying to do), or genetic engineering, which of course would also require us to factor in what the guider or guiders of the process are trying to do, what their powers are, etc.

Crude: "Wonderful stock claim! Except whether a guider at this level is "doing its best to hide itself" is yet another thing science can't speak of. You're off into the realm of philosophy and metaphysics again."
For that matter, someone might posit that the Earth is 10000 years old, and that a sufficiently poweful being made it look the way it did. Or that the exoplanets or black holes that were found aren't really there, but that a sufficiently powerful being makes it look that way.
But of course, the claim by scientists that such planets, black holes, etc., exist, or that the Earth is over 4 billion years old, etc., are not metaphysics, but perfectly good science.
Science can establish results beyond a reasonable doubt. But unreasonable ad-hoc hypothesis can be made and they're trivially compatible with the evidence. That does not mean science can't establish that the Earth is over 10000 years old, or that there is a supermassive black hole at the center of the Andromeda galaxy.

Crude: "Uhh, yeah, it is. Because your 'arguments' aren't arguments - they're just claims based on a wild misunderstanding of science generally and evolutionary biology in particular."
You're completely wrong about that, but regardless

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude: "Further, A) you wouldn't even acknowledge my references to Scott, period. No questions, no nothing. You kept dead silent. And B) I've already provided a link. Please, read more carefully, eh? "
A) Your preference for authority arguments is irrelevant, as are your arguments in this context, so I have no reason to address them before pointing out what I already did, namely:

1) Just as you can bring up a scientist, I can bring up others (e.g., Myers, Dawkins). Victor realizes that there are such scientists as well, when he says: "it seems to be an essential part of what evolutionary biologists are saying that there was no involvement in the process by God or any other supernatural beings". 
2) Even that would be irrelevant. I'm explaining why you're wrong, not claiming that you're wrong because of some authority.

B) I know you provided a link, but not one  that allows me to learn the details of her position ; I would ask you to read more carefully but it's pointless.
In any case, I disagree with some biologists' position on this, so I may as well disagree with her too; I've provided sufficient reasons to show that you're mistaken, even though you've not and will not realize that. What the reasons are is a matter of public record, so readers can take a look if interested.

Crude: "And you keep making the same wretched mistake: you seem to think that 'guidance' requires the suspension or non-use of secondary causes. But it's entirely compatible with the exclusive use of secondary causes. You've been misinformed about these things due to spending an inordinate amount of time in an echo chamber, Angra: again, the truth hurts, but you need to both read and accept it."
You're the one who has not and will never accept the truth, but regardless, if you're going to use the expression 'guided evolution' in a broad sense that would include, say, deism (not sure how you cash out 'secondary causes' here), then you're simply not using the words in the way I was using them, and are failing to understand the arguments in question.

If you want to argue against someone else's position, that's your prerogative, though it would be helpful if you refrained from ascribing such positions to me.

In other words, you're attacking a strawman.

Crude: "Once again, you seem to believe that 'guidance' == 'direct interference'. And once again, that is not the case. "

Actually, what I meant by 'guided evolution' is precisely that. Someone interfering with the process to bring about some results, and with the power to do so. I did not say anything that would rule out, say, deism.

In other words, you're attacking a strawman.

Crude said...

Angra,

It's implicit in the hypotheses about evolution that are used by biologists that there are no, say, aliens doing artificial selection to achieve some goal, and surely that there is no aliens doing genetic engineering to reach some goal.

No, what's implicit in the minds of some biologists, and may amateurs, is that this is what they read into the theories. Insofar as the theories are scientific, they are much blander than that - precisely because any claim of "Well, these things took place in evolutionary history, but they were/were not due to the orchestrations of God or a sufficiently powerful agent" are entirely superfluous to the theory.

Which is exactly why you have not, and will not, present any peer reviewed research attempting to test the presence or lack of this manner of guidance, direction or intention in evolution. What you, or even an actual evolutionary biologist, personally read into the theory is not a concern - the concern is whether the claim associated with it is or is not science.

You may dislike it. It may seem like it's a case of a theist robbing evolution and science from you. But them's the breaks.

Again, if there is an entity that can mess with the process, do genetic engineering, etc., then its
intentions and powers would have to be taken into consideration, otherwise we would not know what to expect.


And here we go again. Cue the SJ Gould quote about the stochastic nature of evolution (and even his claim was loaded with metaphysics, and unscientific.) Cue your inability to realize that our ability to make predictions comes as a result of the workings of secondary causes, but a given intention of a designer could be *entirely* comprised of secondary causes.

You're mangling the most fundamental aspects of the theory, and don't even realize it. Worse, insofar as you talk about the 'predictability' of evolution, the weight of the evidence even as it stands just harms your case further. Do you even know what the word "stochastic" means? Do you know what it means to have a stochastic model?

But if biologists are, say, trying to figure out how whales evolved from other species, they posit environments that do not include things like 'aliens from another planet decided to cull those animals that did not have the traits they wanted, leading to the evolution of whales'.

And nowhere did I say that included things like 'aliens from another planet...'. Nor do they, insofar as their claims are scientific, say 'these things evolved utterly randomly for no purpose whatsoever, foreseen by no one, orchestrated by no God', because that is outside the bounds of science. They cannot begin to test such a claim, and it's superfluous to their reasoning. What they need are secondary causes. Whether or not those secondary causes are ultimately the result of a creator they cannot test for - which is fine, because the presence or lack of such a creator is outside the scope of their science.

But of course, the claim by scientists that such planets, black holes, etc., exist, or that the Earth is over 4 billion years old, etc., are not metaphysics, but perfectly good science.

They're perfectly good science, but all science results, ultimately, on some metaphysics - that's how it gets off the ground to begin with, though thankfully said metaphysics tends to be of a minimal variety.

Science can establish results beyond a reasonable doubt.

It can, in a very limited scope of areas in principle, and an even more limited scope of areas in practice. Sadly, the existence and activity of God, gods, or even sufficiently powerful beings is neither within its scope in principle or practice.

Cry about it, but them's the breaks.

Crude said...

Just as you can bring up a scientist, I can bring up others (e.g., Myers, Dawkins).

Do so. Act one from me will be to point out that neither of those guys have "done science" in a very long time - they are ex-scientists in terms of profession.

Act two will be to compare their arguments. Don't be surprised when it's exposed that Myers has little more than ranting and assertion, and Dawkins is quoted explicitly saying he has no idea how to even perform tests on these things.

B) I know you provided a link, but not one that allows me to learn the details of her position ; I would ask you to read more carefully but it's pointless.

Then apparently, you didn't read the link at all, or you're just slow. Let me guess - now your dance will be "okay, it explains some of the details, but not enough!". ;)

In any case, I disagree with some biologists' position on this, so I may as well disagree with her too; I've provided sufficient reasons to show that you're mistaken, even though you've not and will not realize that.

Quick, repeat yet again that 'it's explicit or implicit that these things are unguided', while insisting that guidance or intention mandates unpredictable on-the-spot direct intervention, all while suggesting that evolution is a wholly predictable and deterministic process - your near-complete ignorance of the field needs to be put on display more.

Also, I love - absolutely love - that when you had to think up two 'experts' in evolutionary biology, it just so happened to be two Cult of Gnu members. Not Ayala, not Scott, not EO Wilson, not Nowak, not anyone else. Why, it's almost as if your knowledge of evolutionary theory comes almost entirely from Cult of Gnu blog posts. Which would, frankly, explain a lot.

Actually, what I meant by 'guided evolution' is precisely that.

Christ Almighty. And you have yet to understand that 'guidance' does not necessitate direct intervention, or that evolutionary theory is not predicated on metaphysical determinism (lucky for it, considering current trends in physics), or that the field as it stands is utterly incapable of making even stochastic 'predictions' on the level you're implying they are.

I repeat what I said earlier: read on this subject more. And that doesn't mean "Hit PZ Myers' archives". It means split off from the Cult of Gnu for a bit and read some books from more varied, better sources. It'll do you good.

Angra Mainyu said...

Crude,

As I explained after you attacked some strawmen, there is no assumption that there is no designer in the first place.

However, obviously if there is an immensely powerful entity that influences the process (not that designed the universe, etc.; your strawman is a strawman), her intentions need to be factored in.
That's pretty obvious, but for instance:

a) If there is such an entity engaging not in genetic engineering but altering the environment, by killing the animals she does not want to succeed, and protecting those she wants to succeed from predators, as a means of guiding the process, that would be a superpowerful artificial selector, which is a salient feature of the evolutionary environment and has to be factored in. If we do not know how she'll behave, then we don't know where the process is going, and then we can't make the proper predictions.

When biologists make predictions, they have to posit a certain environment in which evolution took place, and the environment they posit does not include such actors.

b) If there is an entity like that engaging in genetic engineering, again, what she's trying to do has to be factored in, since the results we would get are different from what they would otherwise be, and indeed they could be pretty much anything depending on her goals, which we couldn't predict in advance at all given lack of knowledge of her intentions.

Such a presence is ruled out in the hypotheses, even if implicitly.

c) If there is an entity like that engaging both in genetic engineering and altering the environment, well obviously that one has to be factored in as well. But it's not. The hypotheses used by biologists exclude such beings, even if implicitly.

But this is getting repetitive: the claims you make now are basically repetitions of strawman attacks and some of the errors I already explained, so I do not see anything that merits further comment on my part.

The exchange is on record above for anyone interested.

Victor Reppert said...

It seems to me that if there were an intelligent agent guiding evolution, it would be one whose activity was less predictable and less tractable to science than the other kinds of forces that science is pretty good at predicting and explaining. So, it seems to me to be sensible for science to go as far as it can analyzing and predicting discoveries without taking design into consideration. Only when these sorts of explanations run into trouble should science look for something else.

If I understand a particle, I know what the particle is going to do, always and everywhere. If I am dealing with an agent, there is some predictability, but such an agent is less predictable than a particle. It's not as if I can't make any predictions for form any expectations, I can. If I am playing chess with a world title contender, I have some idea of what they will do, but surely not a perfect idea, otherwise I would be as good as my opponent. So, if there is a God, I think we should expect science not to be able to bring it in until we had everything else understood. And, I suspect, that will be be awhile.