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Eric Schechter
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 6

NKS disproves intelligent design

NKS can be used as evidence against at least one formulation of the dogma of "intelligent design." I have posted a brief web page about this, at

http://www.math.vanderbilt.edu/~sch...es/wolfram.html

I invite anyone's comments, either on this form or directly by email. I probably will make some small alterations in the web page in the next few days or weeks.

I wrote the web page as a reaction to hearing news about the trial going on in Pennsylvania -- see

http://www.aclu.org/evolution/

I'm not any sort of expert on NKS, evolution, or law, but I thought my observation was a fairly obvious one, just using common sense. Still, I didn't hear it being mentioned in the news. I just wish I'd thought of this sooner; by now it's probably too late for my observation to have any effect on the trial.

- Eric Schechter

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Last edited by Eric Schechter on 10-02-2005 at 04:26 PM

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Old Post 10-01-2005 03:23 PM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

How can one theory be used as evidence against another theory? Certainly, you use the term "evidence" is some non-conventional meaning.
I read your blog, and found a couple of standard misconceptions there.
1) you equate ID and theology (please re-read your own post and make sure this is really the case). In fact, they are not the same, I have a hard evidence for this: it's my own existence. I'm not religious, but I still can imagine that this world was designed before being implemented, there's nothing wrong about it, I do the same every day while writing computer programs.
2) you believe the science is based on absolutely rational platform, which is not true. For example, darwinists believe evolution is driven by RANDOM mutations. (Take away RANDOM from here - and you virtually destroy the whole construction of scientific worldview). Do you have any evidence proving randomness? You certainly don't, it would require direct observations of mutations (zillions of them), running statistical tests, etc. -no one ever done this (moreover, elementary math suggests this can't be the case). So, based on what scientific data do darwinists believe in random mutations? It's a kind of religious belief, no more plausible (at least for me) than tale of Adam and Eve.

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Old Post 10-01-2005 11:35 PM
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Eric Schechter
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 6

Vasily -

I'm not sure whether I've understood you correctly; I
will respond to what I think you meant.

(1) When you write a computer program, certainly you
are using your intelligence to design it. The computer
program did not come into existence by accident -- at
least, not directly. But where did your intelligence
come from? How could something as complicated as your
intelligence have arisen accidentally from something as
simple as inanimate matter? Well, NKS does not show
all the details of the evolutionary process, but NKS
does show that very complicated things *can* arise
spontaneously from very simple things. This does not
prove that there were no supernatural interventions,
but it shows that both explanations -- accidental or
intelligent design -- are plausible. Most people will
prefer whichever explanation they consider simpler.

(2) I'm sure that biologists have experimental evidence
for the presence of random mutations. But I also would
offer a philosophical explanation.

Actually, whether or not there are random mutations
depends partly on your view of the world. If you take
the view that "nothing in this world ever happens by
accident," then there is a guiding hand in every
random-seeming brownian movement of every microscopic
particle, and no mountain of evidence will ever
convince you otherwise. When you met that special
someone, it was not merely an accident -- it was fate;
and when you and that special somone broke up, that was
also meant to happen. And your uncle died at exactly
the date and time that he should have died.

Scientists do not contradict this attitude, but they do
not concern themselves much with this sort of hidden
design, which is of little use for making predictions.
Science is concerned with finding the parts of the
design that are *not* hidden, the parts that we can
detect and measure. That's what science is about, so
that's what should be taught in our science classes.
Any theory of hidden design should be taught in
some other sort of classes.

Purely as a convenience of terminology, let us call
"random" the absence of discernible pattern. This is
not just a measurement of what is happening, but also a
measurement of what we have learned to discern. Once
you accept this terminology, it should be evident that
plenty of random errors do occur. No system for
encoding and transmitting information is immune to
error. Any system -- DNA, USB, Wi-Fi, or what have
you -- is occasionally going to have errors, due to
things like gamma rays, solar flares, mutagenic
toxins, quantum reactions, brownian motion; etc. We
don't see much of that in our everyday experience,
because our bodies are built to see the macroscopic
level where most of the fluctuations average out.

Eric

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Old Post 10-02-2005 06:12 AM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

Eric,
you are using mostly hand-waving arguments. Like: mutations are random because we know no discernible pattern. From here, you conclude they are really random, and that ID should not be taught at school. And you are mistaken if you assume that biologists really ran statistical tests to prove randomness. You are of too high opinion about evolutional biologists - they would never do that, even if they could.

In fact, I cannot imagine more dogmatic curriculum than current one. It teaches frozen, dead theories. Every live theory is full of doubt, it's never complete, it's always in the process of denying itself; no one is ever sure that ANY notion used by a theory will survive in long term. School takes away life from every disipline it tries to teach.
I could understand why any shadow of doubt was eliminated from curriculum in USSR: 1) they needed good soldiers to obey orders without asking questions 2) they were afraid that if they cast doubt on any theory, someone would extend it to marxism, and their system will immediately collapse (which proved to be a correct analysis).
BTW, there was no debate there as to what to teach and how to teach. Debates were prohibited either, which is quite logical if your are afraid of seeding doubt in the heads of citizens.

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Old Post 10-02-2005 04:17 PM
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Eric Schechter
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 6

Actually, different school districts have different curricula; our society as a whole merely has general trends about this. And whether the subject seems frozen, dead, and dogmatic probably depends more on the individual instructor than on the local school district's curriculum, anyway.

But I think I may have to drop out of this discussion -- I'm just a mathematician; I don't have a lot of expertise on biology or school curricula or philosophical debates. (Perhaps someone with such expertise can step into this discussion.) Evidently I need to do more reading on those subjects. I think I may start with the book published earlier this year by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt.

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Old Post 10-02-2005 05:38 PM
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Philip Ronald Dutton
independent
Columbia, SC

Registered: Feb 2004
Posts: 172

disproving intelligent design

To argue against intelligent design requires the acknowledgement of the possibility (quite obviously).

What about the possibility that an intelligent "being" (who is all powerful, etc, etc, etc) could create a universe for which its inhabitants could find some random true (according to that particular universe's rules) proof that intelligent design never happened, could not exist, etc., etc., etc.. The existence of that proof is due to that universe's rules but its existence does not seem to be able to breach beyound the bounds of that particular universe. It has no effect on the intelligent designer who is now sitting back watching this universe and sipping starbucks coffee.

I have just proved that it is not possible to disprove intelligent design.... (just kidding!)

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Old Post 10-03-2005 04:53 AM
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Eric Schechter
Vanderbilt University
Nashville, TN

Registered: Oct 2005
Posts: 6

Philip -

I agree with you that the existence of an intelligent designer cannot actually be disproved. I find it plausible that there was a creator who intentionally (for reasons of his own that we cannot guess) set things up in such a fashion as to make his own existence uncertain to us. He might, indeed, be sitting in a coffee shop somewhere and watching us all, chuckling about our debates over his nature. (I am now adding something about this to my web page.)

However, at least some of the advocates of intelligent design have made a stronger claim, one which I am countering. They claim that the existence of the intelligent designer is not just plausible, but certain. They base this assertion on the notion that the ordered complexity that we see around us could not have arisen accidentally.

My response is that this "proof" of theirs is mathematically just plain wrong. Simple systems can and sometimes do generate complex ones; this is demonstrated clearly by the examples in NKS.

I also find it plausible that someday we will become certain of the existence of an intelligent designer, because someday someone will find a proof. But as far as I can see, they haven't found it yet.

Last edited by Eric Schechter on 10-03-2005 at 03:07 PM

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Old Post 10-03-2005 11:47 AM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

Eric,
You mentioned a principle of simplicity in your blog. Really, why do we
believe that, other things being equal, simple theory is better than complex
one? Why scientists are always looking for elegant theories, not for ugly ones?
For, objectively, there's no difference. For computer, the equation with 25
parameters is not better or worse than with 2.

In general, when we are talking about simplicity, we are using HUMAN language.
Simple means: easy to understand. When Wolfram says: simple programs lead to
complex behaviour, this translates to (apparently, contrary to his intentions):
programs that are easy to understand lead to behaviour that is hard to
understand. But wait: if nature has no intelligent designer (or: designers)
behind it, why does it care about our ability to understand it. Remove human
being from the picture - and there's no difference between "simple" and
"complex", these notions don't have "objective meaning". True, he could use the
term "short" instead of "simple", but what would he use instead of "complex"? [
BTW, formula "short program can lead to complex behaviour" would be in
contradiction with Kolmogorov's definition of complexity, but this fact doesn't
matter much in the context of this discussion - let's forget about it for now]

Be it "simple", or "short", why would it matter in objective world having no
intelligent observer? Why there's so much excitement about rule 110? What
difference would it make if the minimal universal rule had 1000 digits in it
instead of 3? And only one out of 10 million rules would be universal? From
computers's viewpoint, this difference wouldn't make any difference.

The point is that all science, including math, has some background belief behind
it - belief that the "rules" of this world are simple and beautiful, AS IF (!)
they were constructed by intelligent being. Wolfram, as a mathematician, shares
this view, no matter if he is aware of it or not. In this context, rule 110
really matters: it's BEAUTIFUL, there's no other value in it, but this is the
absolutely the most important value mathematical result can have. Somehow, I
suspect that Wolfram didn't fully realize what he really discovered; or, maybe,
he realized, became overly excited, and in this excitement, produced a number of
statements that reduce this sense of beauty to absolute ugliness of universe
driven by cellular automation. (Critics overlooked this beauty, too. What's
the difference between rule with 5 neighbours and 3 colors, and 2 neighbours and
2 colors? There's a difference, I would say. Infinitely big difference in
beauty).

So, what's wrong if people make this background belief more explicit? It's
USEFUL. It leads to things like Newtonian laws, relativity, Euler's identity,
etc,... - and, among other things, modest rule 110, which is not that bad
either. On what grounds should anyone administratively prohibit this idea?

What an irony: official science is engaged in a struggle with the fundamental
idea of science: the belief in beauty.

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Old Post 10-04-2005 08:29 PM
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Lawrence J. Thaden


Registered: Jan 2004
Posts: 357

Vasily wrote:

What's the difference between rule with 5 neighbours and 3 colors, and 2 neighbours and 2 colors? There's a difference, I would say. Infinitely big difference in beauty).

My comment:

One might argue that the rule with 5 neighbors and 3 colors is more complex than the 2 neighbor, 2 color rule based on the number of components and the number of possible arrangements. One might also find two NKS students who agree on this point but differ on which is more beautiful. The reason is because beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Simplicity is a property proper to the study of math and science. But is beauty?

I would even go so far as to say that those looking for a designer are casting an eye beyond the pale. That seems an endeavor proper to metaphysics and theology. It muddies the water of scientific research.

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Old Post 10-05-2005 07:06 PM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

By the same token, one can argue that Wolfram's statement "simple rules lead to complex behaviour" is devoid of rigorous mathematical meaning and belongs to
metaphysics and theology. And muddies the water of scientific research, as you put it. So what - this water is muddied enough already by Einstein, Bohr, Poincare and virtually every great physicist and mathematician. Notion of beauty is central for mathematical research. Highest praise for mathematical result is when somebody calls it "beautiful".

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Old Post 10-06-2005 01:24 AM
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Lawrence J. Thaden


Registered: Jan 2004
Posts: 357

Great! So if virtually every major scientist and mathematician muddies the water, we should follow suit and jump in too?

Where's the progress unless it means drawing the line?

Also, I should like to hear that argument that places Wolframs claim about simple rules among the postulates of metaphysics just because it does not have mathematical rigor.

My understanding is that proofs proceed from “by examples” to “by description” to “by explanation”. And explanations are most often mathematically or logically rigorous.

So if Wolframs NKS is still in the descriptive stage, it only means more work is to be done. It does not follow that it has to be dumped into metaphysics.

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Old Post 10-06-2005 12:54 PM
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Val Smith


Registered: Jun 2005
Posts: 39

Intelligent design is a euphemism for Universe created by an extrauniversal supreme being or God.

God may be invisible but evil is not. We may not be able to prove or disprove God with logic and reason, but we can prove an Anti-God by the existence of illogic and insane evil, and the illogical black magic of numbers like 911 or 666 that make some paranoid who try to make sense of it. Spiritual reality at least the dark side has no human logic nor reason at all in it. Who can explain why "Jesus saves us on his cross"? Isn't it more logical or reasonable to take the role of an engineer and debug and fix the CA which runs the cosmos?
(And occasionally walk on water or turn it into wine or heal blind, lepers) Yet the spirit, which is what life has and death does not, and of which we have no science to resurrect ourselves (nor explain how our selves do know "we are here"), required the peculiar action. You can measure evil by distance from paradise. So, why is the devil working so hard against God if there is no God? If there's no creator why is there a destroyer?
Revelation 9:11 "They have a king named Destroyer" (a spirit that inspires destruction?)

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Old Post 10-12-2005 12:26 AM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

I don't understand a thing in your post, so I cannot tell whether it makes sense or not. I can just argue against the first paragraph, which says:
> Intelligent design is a euphemism for Universe created by an extrauniversal supreme being or God.

I disagree with this statement. I find the idea of ID quite plausible, but I don't see any reason to believe in a lone designer. There can be a whole think-tank stuffed with designers of varying qualifications over there. As a programmer, I know that as soon as we define a class, instances of this class start proliferating. In nature, we can hardly find an example of singleton. Whatever entity you consider, even the President of US - there're many instances having this title at different times, not to mention that even a current President has a host of advisors, deputies, speechwriters, etc. So, as soon as we introduce the notion of Designer, we have to accept the fact that there're probably many of them, plus their assistants, employees etc.
And who knows, maybe we are also their employees or assistants of some kind.
I have even a more radical idea that we are (at least part-time) Designers ourselves, but I can't elaborate on this idea at this moment.

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Old Post 10-12-2005 02:20 AM
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Val Smith


Registered: Jun 2005
Posts: 39

I have made my own programming language by myself. I programmed a video game by myself. I designed it's "world" by myself. It's rules do not include player rank, nor currency, nor politics, nor anything implying a "team". Players may build things without knowledge of how the world was designed.

I am the only [my language] programmer in the world.
I am the only one who programmed the game alone.
The game may be copied by new players but it is still the same game. The game could be hacked so that it's rules could be broken but then it would be corrupt.

And I have not cloned myself so there is only one me. I have written all my programs, hundreds of them, alone.

And programming is not the only thing I do by myself. I paint landscape art, make music, garden, make sculptures, ...
So I guess I'm a singular Intelligent Designer, but I didn't make The Universe;
the one who did is called God, and apparently God created me in the image of a creator.

As a programmer, you may understand that my language is a RISC VM, which may have 16 or less instructions, and I have never written a program larger than 16KB. All of my complete programs are "single files" (or I may say: This or That program is a 4096 digit integer).
The idea of defining a class with proliferating instances is foreign to me and only helps to explain why operating systems have insatiable appetites for memory and are susceptible to viruses, and why I can't write a windows program in one hour or even one year.

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Old Post 10-12-2005 10:57 PM
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Vasily Shirin


Registered: Jun 2004
Posts: 78

You can design your game all by yourself, or together with a friend, or as an employee of a company, or even within open-source project having 100 other participants completely unknown to you. How can you be sure which of those possibilities really materialized in our Universe? Even in your post, you mention other entities somehow involved in the process. Other sources also mention angels, which look very much like Designer's employees to me.
Most importantly, do we care how many designers were really involved? The very fact of design is something that matters. That's the idea of ID, as I understand it. Going into details is a pure speculation.

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Old Post 10-14-2005 08:50 PM
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