Dr. Donald Hoffman, Materialism’s Final Death Blow? |436|

#41
The thing is the information theory of evolution and in particular the origin of life strongly points to the concept of agency and unless we keep pushing the question back with panspermia or extraterrestrial seeding we also need a non biological source.
A source outside nature?



After all the information must precede biological evolution.
Why? And in answering this I would be interested in a detailed definition of what you consider ‘information’.

Evolution as we know it requires all the DNA, RNA, and enzymes. The semantic nature of the code has both descriptive and prescriptive information. This is required for replication. The cell must have all it's own constructions encoded within. The cell itself, the molecular machines, proteins all reek of agency and teleology. Codes require agency period.
This looks like an ‘argument from incredulity’. This chemistry, and these cells, are made of nothing other than the known building blocks of nature which have certain predetermined properties (and that’s another story of course). I’m willing to accept they might behave outside of those properties, but you’ll have to be clear what you mean by ‘teleology’.
 
#42
A source outside nature?
That's just a arbitrary definition. I am suggesting that the origin is behind the "desktop" that Donald refers to.

Why? And in answering this I would be interested in a detailed definition of what you consider ‘information’.
Biological evolution begins with translation which involves many richly encoded structures. Information in this case is not merely Shannon information but semantic, both prescriptive and descriptive. This is just scratching the surface of what is required before biological evolution can begin. The origin of life is really the question of the origin of the vast amount of information required.


This looks like an ‘argument from incredulity’. This chemistry, and these cells, are made of nothing other than the known building blocks of nature which have certain predetermined properties (and that’s another story of course).
I quote that directly from Howard Pattee or you can refer to the video above. They do have certain predetermined properties but if you watched the video you'll see this inconsequential, enzymes are required. It is the arrangement that gives function. That is defined by information encoded in DNA who's function is also defined by its arrangement.

I’m willing to accept they might behave outside of those properties, but you’ll have to be clear what you mean by ‘teleology’.
Teleology is something that is directed towards a end goal. For example, what is DNA but a blueprint or plan?
 
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#43
You are right in that Hoffman doesn't mention random mutation but he repeats the word 'fit' or 'fitness' so often it's ridiculous. This tells me if you asked him (and I do wish Alex had) if he's a neo-Darwinist he would have had to reply 'yes.' Otherwise he would have qualified all his references to 'Evolution' and 'Darwin' and 'survival of the fittest.' (By the way, 'Survival of the fittest' is itself meaningless since it's circular -- how to define 'fittest'? By survival! So 'The survive survive' is what the phrase says. It's as circular as Einstein defining gravity with gravity (which he does via his 'space bending' drivel... Sorry, but I think Einstein set physics back 100 years and counting...)
"Fitness" can be used without reference to NS. Obviously, organisms have to be well-fitted to their environment, otherwise they'll have trouble surviving. Why they're well-fitted is a different question. Some adaptations are astounding: I did postgrad work in parasitology, and was especially struck by how intricate adaptations were in some of the parasitic platyhelminths. Look up Dicrocoelium dendriticum (lancet liver fluke) to see what I mean (just being lazy here as it would take me a long time to describe the life-cycle of these worms, how many metamorphoses they go through, how different stages can affect the behaviour of their hosts, and so on). Another example at random is a certain species of pitcher plant that is able to shelter and protect bats; what they get in return is a reward of nutritious (to them!) bat guano.

Adaptations extend through mid-levels (e.g. in the feet of geckos, enabling them to climb pretty smooth vertical surfaces, or in dipteran flies, which can land upside-down on the undersurface of leaves or on ceilings, an especially difficult manoeuvre) into the molecular realm, where we find many different kinds of "machines" involved in all sorts of metabolic processes. It's all totally gobsmacking and I wonder that anyone can imagine it all came about by accident. We're only recently in a position to try to engineer (markedly less efficiently) some of the features of organisms that they came up with millions of years ago.

Honestly, I'm amazed by the way that organisms are adapted to their environments and think that anyone who believes it all came about solely through the interaction of RM+NS has a screw loose. IMO, somewhere in the system, some kind of consciousness must be involved. And bearing in mind that Hoffman believes that consciousness is fundamental, I have my doubts that he has a straightforward interpretation of NS; I suspect he's using the rubric of NS publicly, but holding a quite different idea privately. And if so, who can blame him given the hostility to heretical ideas that Darwinists have?

I say, give him a break. He's walking a tightrope, and if he has to be economical with the actualité, so be it, for now at least.
 
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#44
This looks like an ‘argument from incredulity’.
Well only in the sense that every combinatorial argument is an argument from incredulity.

I mean, suppose you had a friend, and every week he would fill in his lottery card and win $1 million!
To begin with, you might just pat him on the back and say what a lucky fellow he was, but after a month of that, you would want a better answer!
The odds against life self assembling in the pre-biotic era are vastly greater than that. I mean the inside of a cell is incredibly complicated. If an archeologist unearthed a plane from hundreds of millions of years back, I think everyone would be convinced that some alien entity had come here and travelled about by plane - nobody would be convinced that it just got there by natural forces. Yet the complexity of a cell is probably greater than that plane, and somehow that doesn't count.

David
 
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#45
What might be important, though, is that even though natural selection (the 'random mutation' part of it) is untenable (do you agree?), his thesis might still stand. It's complex, for sure. It's obvious (to me, via evidence) that there is some sort of 'higher power' with an interest in the affairs of us humans. Are you familiar with the 'moon numbers', i.e., the incredible matches in numbers re the sun, moon, and earth, which are summed up in Who Built the Moon? by Butler and Knight? They can only mean that there is a 'higher power' that wants us to know of its existence. This could be interpreted as evidence for simulation theory (of some sort), which fits with Hoffman's view.
Hi Allan

I haven't and won't read Hoffman's book. This is not out of disrespect, just time and priorities. Random selection has, I think, been demonstrated to be not a tenable notion. It was when it was first proposed, but now we can crunch massive numbers it seems silly.

The 'moon numbers' are just a few of the factors that suggest things are as they are by intent. That suggests to me that when we think of 'higher powers' we are thinking of a form of governance. I have worked in government nearly all my working life, which commenced in 1968, and I remain convinced that government [as I know it] is a very good example of the principle of 'as above so below'.
 
#46
The thing is the information theory of evolution and in particular the origin of life strongly points to the concept of agency and unless we keep pushing the question back with panspermia or extraterrestrial seeding we also need a non biological source. After all the information must precede biological evolution. Evolution as we know it requires all the DNA, RNA, and enzymes. The semantic nature of the code has both descriptive and prescriptive information. This is required for replication. The cell must have all it's own constructions encoded within. The cell itself, the molecular machines, proteins all reek of agency and teleology. Codes require agency period.

This is such a huge elephant in the room for materialism. I don't think many people really get the full weight of this profound enigma.
Yeah this makes a lot of sense--but what is the materialist response? --Isn't it simply that all this can be explained without anything like 'agency' involved?
 
#47
Well only in the sense that every combinatorial argument is an argument from incredulity.

I mean, suppose you had a friend, and every week he would fill in his lottery card and win $1 million!
To begin with, you might just pat him on the back and say what a lucky fellow he was, but after a month of that, you would want a better answer!
The odds against life self assembling in the pre-biotic era are vastly greater than that. I mean the inside a f a cell is incredibly complicated. If an archeologist unearthed a plane from hundreds of millions of years back, I think everyone would be convinced that some alien entity had come here and travelled about by plane - nobody would be convinced that it just got there by natural forces. Yet the complexity of a cell is probably greater than that plane, and somehow that doesn't count.

David
This makes sense too.....But isn't the conventional materialist response to this concern that the level of biological complexity in nature is capable of explanation in completely physical terms.....and that they have accomplished this?
 
#48
Wow, there are a bunch of smart people on this forum. To all of you: If you are interested in human origins, there's a subject I want to cover on my blog... it's related to the 'higher power'/agency question, if indirectly. Might be better on a separate thread. The issue is the fact that homo sapiens has 23 pairs of chromosomes, the other primates 24. The fact that chromosomes 1 and 2 (I think) fused is used by Darwinists as evidence of their type of evolution (I believe in 'evolution' as change over time and maybe even common ancestry). What they NEVER talk about is HOW that fusion took place. The specifics for me point to an intelligent designer (possibly an alien intervention a la Lloyd Pye); some sort of 'agency' that might relate to the Hoffman issue.

See -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the fusion had to have been a one-off mutation that somehow made it into the genome. If you try to imagine the specifics of how this took place (and when is interesting as well), you realize that the most likely origin of this drastic change was genetic engineering. If you picture it as a one-off mutation you keep running into unlikely scenarios, million to one shots, and so forth. It's interesting that the I.D. crew at Discovery don't bring this up or even deal with it when asked (I did), probably because the indication is not to the Christian God they all believe in, but to a more 'mundane' non-omniscient agent.

Is anyone else interested in this? I've done some fairly serious study on evolution and blogged about it but I see some of you are above my knowledge pay grade and may be able to enlighten me further on this subject. (It is sort of related to consciousness, but indirectly.) I've challenged neo-Darwinists and did fairly well, I think. Here's my Open Letter to Richard Dawkins: http://blog.banditobooks.com/an-open-letter-to-richard-dawkins/

In my Open Letter to Behe et al I have a back and forth argument with NY Times neo-Darwinist Carl Zimmer, which I believe I won. That's at
http://blog.banditobooks.com/an-open-letter-to-michael-behe-stephen-meyer-and-douglas-axe/

I don't mean to promote myself here; I'd just like to get more evolution conversations rolling, here or elsewhere. Today I'm going to go over the Behe thread on this forum. Are there any other threads you might point me to?
 
#49
See -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- the fusion had to have been a one-off mutation that somehow made it into the genome. If you try to imagine the specifics of how this took place (and when is interesting as well), you realize that the most likely origin of this drastic change was genetic engineering. If you picture it as a one-off mutation you keep running into unlikely scenarios, million to one shots, and so forth. It's interesting that the I.D. crew at Discovery don't bring this up or even deal with it when asked (I did), probably because the indication is not to the Christian God they all believe in, but to a more 'mundane' non-omniscient agent.
As far as I know nobody posting here is a geneticist (I am a former chemist (not biochemist) and software developer), so it is hard to cover 'details' like that. Michael Larkin might be able to respond in more detail. On the other hand, we do understand the general mechanisms of genetics, and the proposed mechanism by which all life is supposed to have evolved. I guess the DI may take a similar approach - rather than poke at one event such as the fusion of chromosomes, I think they are more interested in the overall mechanism - but of course, I don't speak for them.

Personally, I am most interested in the argument put forward by Michael Behe in his latest book, "Darwin Devolves", which a number of us discussed here:

http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threads/behes-argument-in-darwin-devolved.4317/

Behe's argument is extremely general and means that while minor evolution can take place - such as that in which bacteria become immune to particular antibiotics, this is severely limited by the fact that each such mutation operated by damaging or disabling a gene. If this destruction is passed on the bulk of the organisms in question (because it is useful) there is no way to reclaim the damage. This is because a gene can be damaged in many ways, but a reverse mutation would have to be specific. Clearly evolution like that is self limiting.

I'd definitely advise anyone to read Behe's book.

Studying the actual mechanism of RM+NS operating on DNA, is clearly a fruitful area, because DH's proof that perception can't be seeing reality as it is, is another example of the same sort of result.

In my Open Letter to Behe et al I have a back and forth argument with NY Times neo-Darwinist Carl Zimmer, which I believe I won. That's at
http://blog.banditobooks.com/an-open-letter-to-michael-behe-stephen-meyer-and-douglas-axe/
My impression is that Behe has gone rather quiet since his book - I don't know why, because I don't think he has been proved wrong - indeed once you see his argument, it is amazing nobody realised this before!

David
 
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#50
Yep, Behe's Darwin's Black Box is pretty much an inarguable debunking of the strict Darwinist view, and that everyone doesn't see this is a good example of denial/doublethink in action. IMO. Btw, I've read all the books by the DI crew, including Behe's last. I think there would be less reason for mainstream science's violent denial of Behe/Meyer/Ax/ et al if they had stuck to disproving the 'random' part of RM+NS and kept quiet about 'intelligent design' -- which would have been implied anyway. Meyer's work especially shows how statistically impossible is the neo-Darwinist view. By positing a theory (that's so in line with Christian beliefs) they all have left themselves open to attack, notwithstanding the logical fallacies in those attacks.
 
#51
Yep, Behe's Darwin's Black Box is pretty much an inarguable debunking of the strict Darwinist view, and that everyone doesn't see this is a good example of denial/doublethink in action. IMO. Btw, I've read all the books by the DI crew, including Behe's last. I think there would be less reason for mainstream science's violent denial of Behe/Meyer/Ax/ et al if they had stuck to disproving the 'random' part of RM+NS and kept quiet about 'intelligent design' -- which would have been implied anyway. Meyer's work especially shows how statistically impossible is the neo-Darwinist view. By positing a theory (that's so in line with Christian beliefs) they all have left themselves open to attack, notwithstanding the logical fallacies in those attacks.
Even so, I think it is worth understanding the argument in Behe's latest book, if you haven't already. I mean it gets around all the conventional arguments that say (in effect) that with so many organisms and so much time anything is possible.

David
 
#52
Yep, Behe's Darwin's Black Box is pretty much an inarguable debunking of the strict Darwinist view, and that everyone doesn't see this is a good example of denial/doublethink in action. IMO. Btw, I've read all the books by the DI crew, including Behe's last. I think there would be less reason for mainstream science's violent denial of Behe/Meyer/Ax/ et al if they had stuck to disproving the 'random' part of RM+NS and kept quiet about 'intelligent design' -- which would have been implied anyway. Meyer's work especially shows how statistically impossible is the neo-Darwinist view. By positing a theory (that's so in line with Christian beliefs) they all have left themselves open to attack, notwithstanding the logical fallacies in those attacks.
Not so sure about this. It happens that a number of individuals at, or associated with, the DI are Christians, but some aren't (there are Jews and agnostics, maybe even some atheists), and in any case they aren't insisting that it's the Christian God that's responsible for the design of life. The official line seems to be that there's some kind of designing consciousness involved in the process of evolution (in the sense of change over time), but they're not insisting it's the Christian God. Some of them believe so, but they don't really beat people over the head with it.

Somewhat paradoxically, it could be the opposition that's doing the insisting: it's in their interests to do so in order to cast the DI in the mould of pseudoscientists. See how they often say things like "intelligent design creationism"; they can't resist juxtaposing creationism with ID because it invokes the idea of young-earth creationism, which the DI disagrees with. However, many people reflexively think of young earthers when "creationism" is mentioned.

Whilst the Christians amongst IDers do think that the Designer is the Christian God, by and large they avoid stipulating it as a necessity. Indeed, in a way, I think they're almost materialist in their approach to ID. They go along with many currently held "scientific" (scientismic?) ideas such as the Big Bang, Relativity and so on. For them, I suspect, the universe is dualistic: there's God and He's created a separate material world, which is exactly what it appears to be, and in which the natural laws He's created operate.

People like Hoffman and Bernardo Kastrup, who believe that consciousness is fundamental and physicality is a kind of illusion, have gone beyond this. There is no such thing as physicality; that's merely what we perceive, or put another way, an interpretation through the senses of reality. There is nothing but God, if you like; all is the one consciousness, including the apparently physical.

Incidentally, have you checked out Bernardo Kastrup? His web site is here and his YouTube channel is here. He's an Idealist, and so am I. If you haven't checked him out, do yourself a favour and do so: he's a highly articulate and engaging communicator. He's been interviewed twice or more on Skeptiko in the past.
 
#53
Well put and thanks for the links. It is a disappointment that so many otherwise smart folks (at the DI), who are unafraid to take on the mainstream, still believe in the big bang (etc etc) crapola, among other junk science. Like the otherwise good book, The Privileged Planet... this book is a good example of a failure to really 'follow the evidence wherever it leads'; they rightly point out the 'coincidences' that equal solar eclipses (meaning desiggn) but are afraid to go further and bring up the numerical stuff I mentioned before that point to an intelligence behind it all. I would repeat that their underlying religious beliefs create a sort of 'crimestop' that prevents them from seeing the obvious.

As a side note re the DI and Christianity: All you say is true but to think their (mostly) Christian beliefs don't 'leak' into their 'scientific' world views is... a bit naive. No offense. Take Paul Nelson. What a disappointment (after reading his book) to hear him assure us that his Young Earth beliefs... blah blah. That was all I had to hear. It's like the old Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie in that I envision a giant pod under Nelson's bed, if you get my drift.
 
#54
Well put and thanks for the links. It is a disappointment that so many otherwise smart folks (at the DI), who are unafraid to take on the mainstream, still believe in the big bang (etc etc) crapola, among other junk science. Like the otherwise good book, The Privileged Planet... this book is a good example of a failure to really 'follow the evidence wherever it leads'; they rightly point out the 'coincidences' that equal solar eclipses (meaning desiggn) but are afraid to go further and bring up the numerical stuff I mentioned before that point to an intelligence behind it all. I would repeat that their underlying religious beliefs create a sort of 'crimestop' that prevents them from seeing the obvious.
The problem is that very few people realise just how shaky much of modern science is.

For example, I was prescribed statins a few years back, and experienced the side effects first hand. Of course, I went to the internet and found a bunch of doctors and medical researchers who are very critical of the value of taking statins, and with the level of side effects. Furthermore there seems to be precious little evidence that cholesterol (which statins reduce) is a danger anyway!

Yes the big bang looks very dodgy.

There is a huge row in high energy physics because string theory seems to have produced nothing testable after about 40 years of intensive development by many teams.

Climate Change seems like a theory that is only held together by the activists, most of whom seem to like it for political reasons.

etc. etc.

Science has been invaded by dogma, politics, and huge vested interests.

David
 
#55
Not so sure about this. It happens that a number of individuals at, or associated with, the DI are Christians, but some aren't (there are Jews and agnostics, maybe even some atheists), and in any case they aren't insisting that it's the Christian God that's responsible for the design of life.
David Berlinski describes himself as an atheist Jew. I think there are others.

David
 
#56
That's just a arbitrary definition.
Nature appears to be better defined than some of the concepts you are appealing to...

I am suggesting that the origin is behind the "desktop" that Donald refers to.
I’m gonna need some meat on those bones.




Biological evolution begins with translation which involves many richly encoded structures. Information in this case is not merely Shannon information but semantic, both prescriptive and descriptive. This is just scratching the surface of what is required before biological evolution can begin. The origin of life is really the question of the origin of the vast amount of information required.



I quote that directly from Howard Pattee or you can refer to the video above. They do have certain predetermined properties but if you watched the video you'll see this inconsequential, enzymes are required. It is the arrangement that gives function. That is defined by information encoded in DNA who's function is also defined by its arrangement.
Semantic information (descriptive and prescriptive) can only be invoked (in good faith) with evidence of a predetermined (prescribed) outcome. I’m unconvinced of that, and I’m unaware of any ‘mainstream’ evolutionary biologist who understands that to be the case.

James Tour makes a fair summary of the mysteries of life’s origins. Studying these mysteries is fun and not beyond the purview of further scientific investigation and discovery. Nobody is claiming to have all the answers here. (Apart from James Tour apparently: https://www.jmtour.com/personal-top...-the-christian-creationist-and-his-“science”/ )

Teleology is something that is directed towards a end goal.
Again, I need more evidence that there was an end goal ‘in mind’. This is where evolutionists and creationists diverge.
 
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#58
Nature appears to be better defined than some of the concepts you are appealing to...
It may appear that way to you. None the less it is factual.

I’m gonna need some meat on those bones.
Listen to the podcast.

Semantic information (descriptive and prescriptive) can only be invoked (in good faith) with evidence of a predetermined (prescribed) outcome. I’m unconvinced of that, and I’m unaware of any ‘mainstream’ evolutionary biologist who understands that to be the case.
It seems you are out of your depth Malf. The code is semantic, prescriptive and descriptive are subsets. Prescriptive information instructs and programs. eg. computational halting, linguistic instructions. Ribosome, enzymes, proteins etc... It's existence is self evident.

James Tour makes a fair summary of the mysteries of life’s origins. Studying these mysteries is fun and not beyond the purview of further scientific study and discovery. Nobody is claiming to have all the answers here. (Apart from James Tour apparently: https://www.jmtour.com/personal-top...-the-christian-creationist-and-his-“science”/ )
Wow! this is a quite the understatement! Doesn't sound like you watched the entire video either. Or acknowledge the immensity of the issue at all! We have not moved closer to a solution, we have only broadened the gulf with more knowledge. No one has a clue!

Again, I need more evidence that there was an end goal ‘in mind’. This is where evolutionists and creationists diverge.
The same could be said when you make lunch. I would need more evidence that you had a end goal in mind. :)

I said it reeks of teleology. Most biologists will actually admit this. DNA is a blueprint. It is prescriptive for a end product. There is no other known mechanism for code besides mind. It is not physics that bind a symbol to what it represents. Only minds do this.

You can brush all of this off or deny it. It does not refute it. I was never out to convince you. You would need to do some homework if you actually cared.
 
#60
Yeah this makes a lot of sense--but what is the materialist response? --Isn't it simply that all this can be explained without anything like 'agency' involved?
In my experience they usually don't either comprehend or just ignore it or handwave it away in place of a science of the gaps argument. See above. :)

Yes agency can never be allowed of course. This is not a scientific response but a ideological one. We are then left with simply a unknown mechanism for code, and not even a clue how something not of physics can emerge from physics. In all of our known experience we actually do know what the mechanism for it is, it is part of our daily existence. As i mentioned above, it is not physics that binds a symbol to what it represents. A code is not physical it is formal. It has a structure but not a physical one.
 
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