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Evolution and Creation. Where did we come from? How did we get here? What is life all about?

Re: A satisfying response to the watchmaker argument

Postby Out of My Mind » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:52 pm

These are junk odds, designed to assess the probability that a modern protein would form by random chance on the assumption that the only possible kind of life is the kind we observe. This is not how biochemistry works, and we know that self-replicators and protein-builders don't have to be especially complex. What you've given here are the odds of something that nobody thinks happened. The actual obstacles to a working theory of abiogenesis are perfectly manageable, and do not involve anything with a problematically low probability needing to happen.

Now, I'm sure it's true that the odds of exactly what happened happening exactly as it did are mind-bogglingly low. You can make the same observation with respect to the order of every deck of cards you've ever shuffled. But there is no insurmountable probability obstacle to a working theory of abiogenesis when you stop placing arbitrary constraints on it.

> fine tuning necessary for the universe to support life anywhere

I don't think you ever addressed my response to this notion: We have no reason to think that life was the objective of whatever fine-tuning we observe. Life seems special to us because we are life, so we place a disproportionate emphasis on it. Nothing about the conditions of the early universe suggests that they were as they were in order for life to exist.

> evolutionists continually attribute purpose to the process

This is pretty extreme equivocation. Yes, you can get order from disorder. You can get sustainable advancement through natural selection. None of your bullet points are actual examples of nature or natural processes having purpose or personality.

To hit just one of them, it's perfectly expected that increasing entropy will result in increasing complexity along the up-slope of the bell curve. Think about dropping cream into coffee. Your initial arrangement, where the coffee and cream were separate, was very orderly but not very complex. Your ending arrangement, a uniform distribution, is very disorderly and not very complex. The mid-point, where you have swirling tendrils of cream throughout the coffee as they mix together and make different shades of caramel in different places, is somewhat orderly and very complex. This is how the relationship between entropy and complexity works. Wait a googol years or so, and we'll have a uniform distribution. But for now, we live on the up-slope of the bell curve where heightened emergent complexity is completely expected.
The beauty of natural selection is that while the mutations are random, the selective process is not.
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Re: A satisfying response to the watchmaker argument

Postby jimwalton » Wed Feb 15, 2017 4:53 pm

Regardless of whether or not you accept these particular statistical equations, the odds of life as we know it today evolving by random effects are so abysmal as to be, for all practical purposes, non-existent. "Well," you seem to be arguing, using a deck of cards analogy, "this is what happened." So despite the odds, here we are!

What is still puzzling is that so many physical constants have the values they *do* have, and this fact demands an explanation. It's no use saying, "Well, they just are, or we wouldn't be here to ponder it." I could just as well argue God created me or I wouldn't be here to notice.

Plantinga offers this analogy:

1. I am convicted of treason and sentenced to be shot.

2. I am placed next to a wall, and 8 sharp-shooters take aim and fire, each firing 8 times.

3. Oddly enough, they all miss.

4. I compare two hypotheses: (a) They intentionally missed, or (b) They intended to kill.

5. I note that my evidence is greater on a than on b

6. I conclude a is to be preferred to b.

The problem is that it would not be possible for me to make the observations had I been fatally shot. But my argument looks right and proper. We observe that our universe is fine-tuned. We have two hypotheses:

1. The universe has been designed by some powerful and intelligent being

2. The universe has come to be by way of some chance process that does not involve an intelligent designer.

We note that 1 is more likely than 2; we conclude that with respect to the evidence, 1 is to be preferred to 2. Granted, we could not exist if the universe was not fine-tuned, but how is that so much as relevant?

Even if I take a simple example from your deck of cards analogy: I deal us each a poker hand, just once, and I end up with 4 aces. You would look at me real funny, but you know it's possible. But what if I did it twice? And a third time? You would never be satisfied with my explanation that, "Hey, it happened, didn't it?" But with the natural world we are talking about BILLIONS of components and QUADRILLIONS of possibilities. But you wouldn't even countenance my 4 aces out of 52 cards 3 times in a row, because the chances of just that are so low as to be impossible. The amount of information stored in our phenomenal is immeasurably more complex than any known technology and contains more informational data than all of our paper and digital bytes combined. And yet you believe this has come about in the course of random misspellings and the blind mechanistic natural selection? And yet we know of no such informational data that can come from other than previous informational data. The burden of proof is on you (evolutionists) to show an unguided evolutionary path that is not prohibitively improbable (not mind-bogglingly low). It can't be done.

> I don't think you ever addressed my response to this notion: We have no reason to think that life was the objective of whatever fine-tuning we observe.

Again, Plantinga:

1. Some natural systems (such as the human eye) are mechanically ordered (they exhibit the same sort of order as watches and other machines produced by human beings).

2. Intelligent design is a very good explanation of mechanical order.

3. No other explanation (or no equally good explanation) of mechanical order is available.

4. Every instance of mechanical order has an explanation.

5. Some natural systems were (probably) designed.

In addition:

1. We as humans don’t know of anything that shows evidence of being purposefully designed that wasn’t indeed purposefully designed. Whenever we know of something that exhibits purpose (a reason for why it exists or why something happened the way it did), and whenever we know whether or not it was the product of intelligent design (somebody thought it up and made it happen), it was indeed the designed product of an intelligent being. Whether a watch, a washer, or a window, if we can infer that there was a purpose behind it, it’s safe to say that an intelligent being designed it for that purpose, or at least for a purpose.

2. There are many parts of the universe, the earth, and life as we know it that exhibit purpose—not just parts of the universe exhibit purpose, though, but even the universe itself. Every scientist asks “Why?” We assume purpose in what we observe around us. “Why do the planets spin?” “Why is the earth pitched at an angle?” We are always looking for the reasons and the purpose, assuming they are there and, not surprisingly, we find purpose in many parts of the universe and life.

3. Therefore, it’s logical to assume that the universe could be the product of purposeful design.

4. Everything else we know that exhibits those characteristics was indeed designed; why should the universe be treated any differently?

Logic and reason both tell us that theism is more probably than naturalism.
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Re: A satisfying response to the watchmaker argument

Postby Out of My Mind » Tue Mar 21, 2017 4:32 am

> Regardless of whether or not you accept these particular statistical equations, the odds of life as we know it today evolving by random effects are so abysmal as to be, for all practical purposes, non-existent. "Well," you seem to be arguing, using a deck of cards analogy, "this is what happened." So despite the odds, here we are!

That's not really an accurate characterization of what I'm doing.

Related, there are two different things going on here that should be kept separate.

First, there is a significant difference in principle between the odds that an event of abiogenesis could occur in the environments present on early Earth and the odds that life as we know it would exist in the precise way that it does. Taking what actually happened and then observing that the antecedent odds were astronomically low as evidence that something fishy is going on involves exactly the same faulty logic as assuming that everyone who ever shuffles cards must have cheated because the antecedent odds of every individual arrangement are 1 in 52 factorial.

Second, the odds that some sort of biological self-replicator could emerge from the environments present in our planet's early history are not problematically low in any respect. This is why the distinction above matters. The same can be said for every subsequent step we would need to have occurred to get from a basic self-replicator to functioning ecosystems.

There is no sense in which the odds that life of some kind would arise on this planet are so low as to demand explanations invoking a designer with intent.

> We observe that our universe is fine-tuned. We have two hypotheses:
The universe has been designed by some powerful and intelligent being
The universe has come to be by way of some chance process that does not involve an intelligent designer.

This is both a false dichotomy and a misunderstanding of what fine-tuning is.

When cosmologists say that certain parameters of the early universe are finely tuned, they mean that small adjustments to individual parameters will have dramatic macro-scale effects. As a corollary, we had some expectation for the values that certain constants would take and not all of the observed values matched our projections.

A good example here is entropy. We don't know why the early universe had such a low entropy. That's a great and open question. But it's grossly unprincipled to jump straight to the notion that it must be because there's a magic being out there who can make universes and designed it that way just for us.

Significantly, the degree of entropy present in the early universe does not match the projections of a design hypothesis. Theists love to point out that if the entropy of the early universe were not below a certain value, then life as we know it could not have arisen. But in reality, the actual value we observe is many orders of magnitude lower than necessary to accommodate life. This difference utterly dwarfs, in orders of magnitude, the difference between the initially-projected naturalistic value and the threshold value to permit life as we know it. Taking this as evidence that an intelligent being designed the low-entropy condition so that life could exist is a bit like finding 1000 marijuana plants in someone's backyard and concluding they must be growing it for personal use. If that were the explanation, there would presumably be some sort of logical link between the amount being grown and the amount a person can consume. This is what I mean when I say that there's no reason to expect any apparent fine-tuning was for life. If empty space and black holes want to start arguing that a divine being made the universe for them, they will have a much better (but still unsound) argument than human theists do.

> Intelligent design is a very good explanation of mechanical order

I don't see why this would be true as applied to natural systems. All of the experiences you're trying to pull in as support for this concept are specific to our experiences with humans and human artifacts. The reason we all assume Paley's pocket watch was designed by a person isn't because of the degree of complexity or the suitability for a function. It's because we know where watches come from.

Separately, I don't think you can say it's a good explanation without first establishing that it's even possible. Otherwise, how is what you're doing any different than me saying magical Oreo-eating elves are a very good explanation of why my Oreos are gone? Let's start by establishing the potential existence of beings who can create universes. Then we can talk about whether they might fill some explanatory niche in the fields of origins cosmology or abiogenesis.

> No other explanation (or no equally good explanation) of mechanical order is available.

This is simply false. Natural selection explains the orderliness of natural systems. It's interesting that you use the eye as your point of comparison here, because that's a great example of an evolutionary pathway we do understand perfectly well.

> We are always looking for the reasons and the purpose, assuming they are there and, not surprisingly, we find purpose in many parts of the universe and life.

This is equivocal as well. The kind of "purpose" you want to attribute to a designer is not analogous to the kind of "purpose" demonstrated by the behaviors of things in the natural world.

When we ask why the planets spin, or why the Earth is pitched at an angle, we aren't asking for the goal of them being this way or the purpose for which they are this way. We're asking for the explanation of how they got that way. It's perfectly legitimate to ask for an explanation of the low entropy of the early universe, in the sense of wanting to know how it got that way. It's not legitimate to ask what the purpose is, because that assumes there is one.

What you need, but don't have, is some reason for thinking the way things are was the goal, as opposed to it simply being what happened as a result of naturalistic processes that have no goals.

> why should the universe be treated any differently?

Because it isn't a human artifact and is not in any relevant way analogous to one.


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