The Great Explanation – Atheist Style (Part 2 . 3)

This post will be followed by a Summation of this dialog in which I will highlight the particular arguments that have been made against DD and her atheist worldview.

7. Information and Observation

We noted earlier that raw energy will of itself do nothing to take one state of affairs (e.g. a recipe or dirty laundry, not to mention the building blocks of life) and upgrade it.  Indeed, such a thing has never been observed.  Dormant Dragon and other atheists believe that matter and energy (originally gas in their scenarios) came together and produced life.  She does this despite the obvious fact that scientists, with all the best equipment and millions of dollars at their disposal, have never been able to create (note the word) anything approaching a living cell (in fact, they cannot even make a snowflake akin to the wondrous hexagonal structures produced every winter).

Energy must be controlled and directed to achieve particular goals and complete certain tasks, often entailing detailed specificity.  This is to say, in every instance we have observed (and recall that “experience” is DD’s great hope) it requires a code and finely-tuned constants to produce complex specific characteristics such as we see all around us in the world, from photosynthesis to DNA and a thousand instances beside.  Our increasing awareness of this fact, in tandem with what is now known of the amazing complexity and breathtaking precision of living systems has brought the concept of information center-stage.

To give just one example: Every cell contains at least 10,000,000,000,000 bits of information.  It contains the whole code needed to build the organism of which it is a part!  It contains factories and distribution systems which make two thousand proteins every second!  It would take (at time of writing) a supercomputer 10 to the 127th power (10 followed by 127 zeroes) years to achieve what real proteins do in seconds in terms of generation!  And we are supposed to believe matter and motion and the laws of physics evolved it?

It is no longer enough to talk wistfully about the supposed properties of matter and time and chance and necessity.  Information as a basic constituent of reality is banging on the door!  One characteristic of proteins is that they require specificity of both shape and arrangement.  The function of the protein is dependent upon these properties.  But further, it takes a protein to make a protein.

The onset of the computer age has put Information on the map as a third aspect of reality which must be contended with.  A worldview that ignores the science of information or that cannot account for information at the most rudimentary level of existence is not an accurate account of the world (something that DD seems to think a worldview doesn’t have to do!).

Bruce Alberts, former President of the National Academy of Sciences in the U.S. has said that scientists will have to take design courses in order to help them comprehend what is being uncovered.  It is this kind of thing which is persuading more and more young scientists that intelligence must lay behind the fabric of the universe.

Of course, if they want a career they had better toe-the-line (e.g. Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” chronicles this fact).  And it is not without important implications for the future that it takes the law courts to protect the hegemony of scientific reductionism and methodological naturalism based on the “theory” of evolution.

Everyone knows that matter is the main vehicle for information.  But as Varghese rightly asks, “How did it become a vehicle for codes and blueprints?  We know it takes intelligence to decode the information transmitted by matter.  But if decoding requires intelligence, how about the encoding?  If information exists prior to matter, what is its source?” – R. A. Varghese, The Wonder of the World, 423.

A little earlier he notices that Noam Chomsky says that human language cannot come from animal communication systems because of the presence of syntactical and semantic rules (417).  Indeed, anyone who knows anything about the languages of the ancient world is aware of the fact that the further back one goes, the more complicated the languages become.

Professor Werner Gitt, former Head of the Dept. of Information Technology at the German Federal Institute of Physics & Technology, has said, “Information originates as a language; it is first formulated, and then transmitted or stored.” – In The Beginning Was Information, 60.

Dr Gitt’s presents a set of scientific Theorems in his book, among which is this one:

Theorem 23: There is no known natural law through which matter can give rise to information, neither is any physical process or material phenomenon known that can do this. (80).

Further down the page he comments:

Any natural law can be rejected the moment a single counter example is found, and this also holds for these information theorems.  After many talks by the author at colleges and universities, both abroad and at home, no researcher could mention one single counter example.

DD thinks she can:

It seems, in my experience, to be a common criticism of materialism that it cannot account for things we experience as ‘immaterial’, such as thoughts, ideas, emotions, creativity and so forth – there is fierce resistance to the notion that such things could come from ‘mere matter’…

Ideas and creativity are prerequisites for language and “all information is language.”  This is my defense for my “fierce resistance to the notion that such things could come from ‘mere matter.”!  It’s a “notion” all right.  But not a very good one.

In their essay entitled “Complexity, Chaos and God,” Wesley Allen and Henry Schaefer state that,

“Complexity theory views the essence of life as independent of its particular physical medium, consistent with Christian belief.”  – Darwin’s Nemesis, ed. William A. Dembski, 300.

Schaefer is one of the most oft quoted scientists in the academic literature and is a recognized expert on chaos theory.  The author’s also note that naturalistic science cannot explain the presence of information in systems.  They cite approvingly the words of Overman who said, “The paradigms for the emergence of life are algorithms which must contain at least as much information content as the genetic messages they claim to generate.” (299).

Here we encounter the issue of “Garbage In=Garbage Out”.  To put it more positively, nothing can arise from a thing that does not already have this property in it, or the power to produce it.  As Varghese quips, “a collection of…systems can only produce what is collectively present in them.  Rocks can produce pebbles, but not flowers or minds.” (131).

This is what I have been saying all along, and by way of rebuttal DD keeps lobbing over the same answer: “the self-ordering properties of matter.”  And each time her answer splats unceremoniously on the cold floor of reality.

Information as it appears in complex systems cannot be derived from laws of nature, and for a very good reason.  Laws of nature are regular and predictable.  They always obtain wherever they apply.  By contrast, the information in complex systems like languages and codes is irregular.  If it weren’t, conversations would be very boring and me and DD would be writing exactly the same blog!

Just as physics and chemistry are governed by universal laws, so it is with information.  But the laws of information are not, as we have just seen, dependent on the laws of nature.

Now we must be careful to define our terms.  There are basically two kinds of information: Shannon Information, and Specified Information.  Shannon Information deals with random events such as occur when some clumsy oaf like me knocks the Scrabble letters over on the floor.  Shannon’s theory has nothing to do with meaning!  It “cannot distinguish functional or message-bearing sequences from random or useless ones.  It can only measure the improbability of the sequence as a whole.” – Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 91.

The kind of information one finds in all living systems, however “simple” they are, is not Shannon Information but specifically coded and improbable.  Thus, “DNA base sequencing cannot be explained by lower-level chemical laws or properties any more than the information in a newspaper headline can be explained by reference to the chemical properties of ink.” (Meyer, 240).

This situation cannot be remedied by the atheist/evolutionist magic “Ace-in-the-hole” – Time.  Another information theorist, Lee Spetner, in his critique of Richard Dawkins’s hypothetical scenarios of how the complexity of life can come from natural laws has stated:

Dawkins’s error is one that evolutionists often make…They think the earth’s age is long enough for anything to have happened.  When one deals with events having small probabilities and many trials, one should multiply the two numbers to determine the probability.  One should not just stand gaping at the long time available for trials, ignore the small probability, and conclude that anything can happen in such a long time.  One has to calculate…The events necessary for cumulative selection are much too improbable to build a theory on.  The events needed for the origin of life are even more improbable. – Lee Spetner, Not By Chance, 166.

When one adds the consideration that “there are no examples of mutations that add any information to the genome.” (Spetner, 173), and that “there are no bonds at all between the critical information-bearing bases in DNA” (Meyer, 243),  the reductionist philosophical materialism of atheism looks like a crock.

Neo-Darwinist Kenneth Miller has consistently misrepresented Michael Behe’s version of “Irreducible Complexity” as asserting that the individual pieces of a system serve no function outside of that system.  As Behe has pointed out (and as anyone with eyes to see can attest) this is not Behe’s definition, but one invented by Miller and believed by the gullible.

In an ‘Afterword’ in the 10th Anniversary edition of Darwin’s Black Box Behe, after dealing with Robert Pennock’s misrepresentations, he writes,

In Miller’s thinking, if he could point out that, say, a piece of a mousetrap could be used as a paperweight…then an “individual part” could serve a “function,” “irreducible complexity” would vanish by definitional edict, and all good Darwinists could breathe easier once more. – Michael J. Behe,  Darwin’s Black Box, 260.

Then he clarifies (although it appears Miller is still pushing his version of Behe’s definition):

The system is irreducible, not the parts.  By Miller’s reasoning you couldn’t distinguish between a jumbled pile of Lego parts and an elaborately designed Lego machine.  Apparently they would both look the same to him. (261).

One is reminded after reading Miller or Pennock or Eugenie Scott of Francisco Ayala’s “review” of Signature in the Cell.  A remarkable piece since it has been proved that at the time his review was published Ayala had not read the book!

DD will cling onto her blind faith in evolutionary explanations because her whole worldview rests upon the supposed self-organizing properties of nature.  Although she writes repeatedly about “experience” she holds to beliefs which run contrary to human experience, including everything that we know about Information systems.

13 comments

    1. Great link Alf! We ought not be surprised by these examples of evolutionists speaking authoritatively about a book they have never read. After all, their whole evolutionary hypothesis, touted with triumphalism, declares things to be “fact” which neither they nor anyone else have ever seen.

      Not all evolutionists are so obscurantist (using the word accurately), but this bunch lean upon evolution as their reason not to believe in God, so they protect it from any critique.

  1. We noted earlier that raw energy will of itself do nothing to take one state of affairs (e.g. a recipe or dirty laundry, not to mention the building blocks of life) and upgrade it.

    How would you know this without extensive empirical observation? Are you omniscient?

    How do you know that there are no other forces brought to bear upon “raw energy”? Are you omnipresent to do all possible observation, or omniscient, so you can just know such things without bothering?

    And if you claim your god speaks to some part of you that is independent of your evolved senses and reason, what part of you is that?

    And upon whose perspective do you speak of “upgrading” anything? Yours?

  2. DD,

    I do not share your empiricist epistemology (which I have shown to be a house of cards anyway). I believe we can be empirical (not empiricist) where knowledge is amenable to such means of investigation. This is part of the Biblical Worldview and is what the founders of modern science believed.

    I know this because of the LAWS of nature. This has already been said very plainly. You simply present an argument from silence coupled with a questioning of these laws of nature. By doing so you undermine your empiricism!

    “And if you claim your god speaks to some part of you that is independent of your evolved senses and reason, what part of you is that?”

    DD, this demonstrates more ignorance of the BW. I never asserted such a thing. Moreover, I have repeatedly referred to “the God of Scripture.” He gave us His Word and it explains why we are here, why we are not “good”, why we have language and logic…. Read the correspondence DD. Don’t pretend this hasn’t been addressed. I have said numerous times that I don’t expect you to agree from your perspective. You will have to dump your worldview in order to do that.

    “And upon whose perspective do you speak of “upgrading” anything? Yours?”

    The word was just employed as a stand-in for “added specificity or information.”

      1. As you will also note, there is no empirical evidence that our senses were created by an immaterial being who is outside time and space yet periodically interacts with the temporal, material world. I guess the jury is still out, until you can provide either an empirical explanation for why this should be the case, or a workable alternative to empiricism for human understanding of the world.

      2. And in any case, why do you find this such an unreasonable proposition? There are plenty of examples of animals with much simpler sensory receptors than ours, as there are animals with vastly more sophisticated sense organs – consider the dog’s nose or the eagle’s eyes, for example. Molecular genetic evidence suggests that we are related to all of them – that we’re all cousins, variously removed. Do you have a better explanation – one that’s actually explains these observations, mind you – than that we all evolved from common ancestors?

  3. Dormant Dragon and other atheists believe that matter and energy (originally gas in their scenarios) came together and produced life. She does this despite the obvious fact that scientists, with all the best equipment and millions of dollars at their disposal, have never been able to create (note the word) anything approaching a living cell (in fact, they cannot even make a snowflake akin to the wondrous hexagonal structures produced every winter).

    When you can come up with a working scenario whereby an immaterial entity interacts with matter to produce life, then you might be in a position to criticise scientists who are genuinely endeavouring to find out how it could have happened; the reason they don’t tend to factor in any kind of immaterial intervention is because…well, how would they? You don’t seem to appreciate that the whole point of doing science is to discover and understand how stuff works, not to settle for a prefabricated answer that was dreamed up by pre-scientific tribesmen.

    And to give the scientists their due, they have been able to recreate conditions in which amino acids – building blocks of protein and hence all cellular life – will spontaneously assemble. That’s a fair way off building a cell, or even a simpler replicating molecule, but that’s still more than you were previously prepared to acknowledge, and way more than any ID proponent has ever demonstrated of their dubious “theory”.

  4. I do not share your empiricist epistemology (which I have shown to be a house of cards anyway).

    And yet despite repeated discussion of the failings of radical empiricism, in which you have taken great delight in knocking down what you call this house of cards, you have failed to present any viable alternative means of accessing information about the world.

    I believe we can be empirical (not empiricist) where knowledge is amenable to such means of investigation. This is part of the Biblical Worldview and is what the founders of modern science believed.

    And yet there are so many aspects of your worldview that are not amenable to empirical investigation! This is exactly what I’m asking – how do you profess to know such things? Revelation? To what part of you does your god reveal things, if not your own senses and reason? And how does he reveal them? Not to mention the fact that empirical investigations have led to findings that roundly contradict supposed “facts” about the world as presented in the Bible. Need I remind you of your professed adherence to flood geology?

    I know this because of the LAWS of nature. This has already been said very plainly. You simply present an argument from silence coupled with a questioning of these laws of nature. By doing so you undermine your empiricism!

    The laws of nature are observed regularities in the way matter and energy behave and interact. They are inductively derived from repeated observation, and if something is observed to act differently to how it is described in the formulation of a natural law, then the proposed law is not a law at all and will need to be reformulated in a way that accounts for the deviation.

    I’m not sure what particular natural laws you’re referring to, but there is obviously nothing in the way nature behaves that prevents the spontaneous assembly of complex molecules under appropriate conditions (see above reference to amino acids), so it seems a little naive of you to be so confident that the early evolution of life could not have happened naturally.

    Nature is as nature does, and the only reason you insist upon limiting its capabilities – before all the facts are in, and they may never be – is because of your weddedness to the primacy of supernatural consciousness. Because you can’t, by definition, explain a supernatural entity through empirical observation, you denigrate and devalue empiricism – little realising, it appears, how much you rely upon it in your everyday life. The minute that scientists arrive at a working explanation for how replicating life could have arisen from nonliving molecules – and, improbable as such an event may be, it did only have to happen once – and how consciousness arises from complex neural systems, such things will have been demonstrated to be natural, not supernatural, occurrences.

  5. Most of this stuff has been addressed already. It appears we have a case here of “empiricism is dead, long live empiricism.”

    Of course, one cannot know many things empirically. That someone loves you; what someone else is thinking; what the laws of logic are; what happened in the past and what will happen in the future (a consistent empiricist cannot KNOW that nature is uniform). And we cannot know the statement “all knowledge is empirically derived” by empirical methods.

    Also, one cannot set out a worldview or philosophy of life that amounts to much via empiricism – let alone anything approaching a normative ethics! And one cannot prove immaterial things by material methods (as should be obvious). Now, DD has NOT shown otherwise and she will not do so. Any attempt to do so ends up reading like reductionistic pragmatic subjectivism. Read the correspondence!

    Thus we should kick out empiric-ISM and adopt another epistemology.

    One does not just choose epistemologies. DD’s epistemology is wedded to her metaphysic of naturalism (which has been shown to be a hopeless outlook). My epistemology is “revelatory” is that it is based upon Scriptural Revelation – which explains what other epistemologies can’t. But this revelatory epistemology is wedded to a biblical supernatualism as the precondition of the natural world: that is my metaphysic. My ethics come from these two aspects considered.

    The physical realm does not provide the explanation for many of the things we have talked about. In addition to this, as I alluded to in the article above, chaos theorists and information theorists are arriving (some have arrived) at the same conclusion.

    The post on “The Biblical God: The Precondition of Intelligibility” should be studied carefully. It is deceptively simple, but it cannot be duplicated coherently by any other worldview system. https://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/the-biblical-god-the-precondition-of-intelligibility/ DD’s attempt to address some of this list is unimpressive from an explanatory point of view to say the least.

    I have written on epistemology FROM A CHRISTIAN STANDPOINT TO CHRISTIANS here: https://drreluctant.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-frame-of-knowledge/

    There is always more to say and I may return to some of these matters at another time. The Flood IS supported by clear scientific evidence, but that subject does not impinge on the worldview issues which affect how one looks at evidence, and so I will not argue the point here. (Though I cannot resist making the point that secular scientists posit that the canyons on Mars (where there is no water) were caused by a……? You got it…..a Flood!)

    My Summation should be up soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s