Vox Day: The "Fractal Intelligence" Delusion

On a private email loop, I've been getting bits and pieces of Vox Day offered by way of theistic argumentation. In particular, theistic friends find Mssr. Beale's "take down" of Dawkin's complaint that "A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself”[1]. Now, I've only read just a few pages of the opening of The Irrational Atheist, and have now read through Chapter VIII, "Darwin's Judas" just as means of familiarizing myself with the arguments being advanced on the email loop, and I guess I've been out of the loop for a while with respect to the mensa-punk-apologist groove that's happening out there. There's a lot of the book I haven't read yet, but just from what I have, I can say... that is one target-rich environment for fisking.

Anyway, it's easy to poke fun of the smaller, tangential blunders Day makes - in response to Dawkins' complaint, for example, Day says:

"Third, does Dawkins seriously wish to argue that Martin Rees is more complex than the universe? We know Rees calculated the Goldilocks values, so if he can do so despite being less complex than the sum of everyone and everything else in the universe, then God surely can, too. "[2]


Day apparently thinks that "calculating", or maybe just reading a physics textbook describing these parameters' values, is what Dawkins is pointing to in his objection. Hah! Calculating, say, the weak nuclear force is no small feat, and one wonders if Day, even as confused as he is here, supposes that Rees calculates these values on his own, apart from the enterprise of science?

I think it's safe to say that Dawkins would laugh at this kind of response, the idea that calculating a set of parameters' values represents the kind of complexity Dawkins is referencing, and rightly so. It's the machinery (for lack of a better metaphysical term) that unifies and interrelates these parameters that implicates something fantastically sophisticated, complex. Like Day supposes that Rees has matched the complexity of an automobiles design(er) by figuring out the car's design parameters: gas mileage, horsepower, number of gears, number of tires, etc.

As Day works through the "Fractal Intelligence and the Complex Designer" section, though, the errors become more fundamental, and less silly. Day continues on page 153:

"There is no reason why a designer must necessarily be more complex than his design. The verity of the statement depends entirely on the definition of complexity. While Dawkins doesn’t specifically provide one, in explaining his “Ultimate Boeing 747 gambit,” he refers to the Argument from Improbability as being rooted in “the source of all the information in living matter.” Complexity, to Dawkins, is therefore equated with information." [3]


Day can be forgiven here for his frustration; Dawkins does not spell out a formal definition of organizational or algorithmic complexity in his book. But you don't have to be a super-genius to get familiar with the concepts as they are used in science and information theoretic application. I haven't read Day's section of "theistic bodycounts" from wars versus "atheistic bodycounts", but Day's supporters on my list regale me superlatives of Day's phenomenal research capabalities. If he's got such capabilities, he shot all his efforts in previous chapters; Day simply punts here and decides to equate complexity with information.

Oops. That's a really major blunder. Just in casual terms, complexity is a description of the "number of discrete and differentiated parts", and information is "reduction in uncertainty". Complexity and information are related on some level, and those terms do often occur together in computing and information theoretic contexts. But complexity is not information, any more than mass is acceleration.

Day then gets ready for his example, which he intends to use in refuting Dawkins thusly:

"But as any programmer knows, mass quantities of information can easily be produced from much smaller quantities of information. A fractal is perhaps the most obvious example of huge quantities of new information being produced from a very small amount of initial information. For example, thirty-two lines of C++ code suffice to produce a well-known fractal known as the Sierpinski Triangle."[4]


Now, a recursive algorithm can produce arbitrary large amounts of output; so long as it continues to recurse, code for rendering Sierpinski triangles is stuck in an infinite loop, with each iteration produce a new level of rendering. But, complexity is not information, and while code for Sierpinski triangles and Mandelbrot set fractals (the other example Day invokes here) can generate enormous, unlimited amounts of output, both Sierpinski triangles and fractals are classic examples of precisely the opposite of what Day understands: minimal complexity.

Day has the clues right there in front of him on the page. He's proud of the fact that in just 32 lines of C++ code, he can produce staggering amounts of output. But complexity in information terms is measured by the size of the smallest program required to precisely the output. That means that a 32 line program is, by the very definition of complexity, not complex at all, and is in fact a very elegant example of simplicity. The essence of a fractal is self-similarity. Recursion simply applies this features of itself to itself, on a different scale.

A 1,000 x 1,000 pixel grid of random pixels, on the other hand, isn't as pretty to look at as a rendering of the Mandelbrot set, but it is much more complex -- maximally complex, as it turns out (which is part of why it's not as appealing aesthetically as a fractal image!). It's counterintuitive to people who don't work with information theory and algorithmic complexity, but its a fact of the domain: randomness is the theoretical maximum for measured complexity. You can't get any more complex than purely random. In a random grid of pixels, we cannot guess anything about any pixels at all. In a rendering of Sierpinski triangles, or the Mandelbrot or Julia set, as soon as we see one level of rendering, prior to any recursion, we no everything about the rest of image, and can reproduce the fractal to any depth of detail without the original program.

What does all this mean? Well, at a high level, it means Day has no idea what he's talking about in this part of the book. Worse, in a book that's held up as a treatise against slipshod reasoning and sloppy argumentation, this section indicts the author rather than his subjects. Dawkins' argument may not stand on its own, and may prove unsound in some regard. But Day's refutation is an example that works in Dawkins' favor, if anything, and Day doesn't even know it.

Intrigued by the profoundly amateurish analysis in this section, I did a little googling, suspecting that Day's "expertise" comes on the cheap thanks to a DSL line and a web browser (and even that must be done in a lazy, half-ass fashion, as even nominal effort with Google will unearth simple, straightforward treatments of this subject that would have shown Day how confused he was). The reader can judge for themselves what the likelihood is of this connection, but consider: here’s a paragraph from the Wikipedia article on “Fractal”:

“Because they appear similar at all levels of magnification, fractals are often considered to be infinitely complex (in informal terms). Natural objects that approximate fractals to a degree include clouds, mountain ranges, lightning bolts, coastlines, and snow flakes.”[5]


Note the similar phrasing used in the Wikipedia text, and Day’s quote above from page 155:
“considered to be infinitely complex”, and “not only considered to be complex, but infinitely complex”.[6]


Also notice Day’s use of “approximate fractals”, a term used in the Wikipedia text as well. That by itself may not be compelling, but considered with the list of examples provided --- clouds, mountain ranges, lightning bolts, coastlines and snowflakes -- all of which Day names in his list, except for coastlines (which Day may be identifying indirectly with his mention of ‘other natural examples’)... one cannot read the Wikipedia text beside Day’s discussion on page 155 without recognizing them as cognates. See for yourself:

Day, page 155:
“Nor do they require human intelligence or computers to produce them, as approximate fractals can be found in clouds, snowflakes, lightning, mountains, and other natural examples.”[7]


Wikipedia, “Fractal”:

“Because they appear similar at all levels of magnification, fractals are often considered to be infinitely complex (in informal terms). Natural objects that approximate fractals to a degree include clouds, mountain ranges, lightning bolts, coastlines, and snow flakes.”[8]


Now, there’s nothing wrong per se with getting clued in by a Wikipedia page, or cribbing from its text in discussing fractals or other topics, but please note that there’s an important clue in these juxtaposed quotes. If Day is working from this Wikipedia article as his source here, it’s significant that he left out a key qualification - “(in informal terms)”. It’s parenthetical in the text, as it should be apparent to the informed reader, and is superfluous for readers familiar with formal concepts of complexity. But just in case, the text helpfully notifies the reader, and perhaps Day, if my conjecture is right, that fractals are “infinitely complex” only in a casual sense.

Day emphasize that Sierpinski triangles are not just complex, but "considered to be ... infinitely complex". He conveniently leaves out the key qualification that such characterizations obtain only in informal terms, why? Because it eviscerates his argument! In terms of actual, measured complexity, Sierpinski triangles aren't complex at all, they are 'complexity poor', as Day documents himself in his own arguments by noting that the output requires less than three dozen lines of code to produce.

All of this gets wrapped up with a new brand name that Day is proud to introduce to the reader: the argument from "Fractal Intelligence", as defeater for theoretical problems Dawkins identifies in a Complex Designer (if complex things require designers, then who designed God?). But because Day is thoroughly confused about the basics of complexity as a concept, he ends up writing comedy, rather than refutation. Unfortunately, because information theory and algorithmic complexity are outside the conceptual frameworks of most of his readers, Christians gobble this up, credulous, enthused by the prospects of Dawkings getting refuted. I have no idea how widespread Vox Day's books, articles or ideas are -- I'd not heard of him until he was brought up on my discussion loop a couple months ago -- but his gobbledygook is getting approving nods and applause in some Christian quarters, apparently, since I am seeing Chapter VIII of his book being seriously offered as a refutation of Dawkins objections on the complexity of God requiring his own Designer.

-Touchstone


[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Mariner Books), p. 143.
[2] Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 153.
[3] ibid., p. 153.
[4] ibid., p. 153
[5] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal
[6] Vox Day, The Irrational Atheist, p. 155.
[7] ibid., p. 155.
[8] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal

23 comments:

Mark Pendray said...

I agree Vox Day's argument doesn't seem very strong, but he's not a philosopher. How would you respond to someone who isn't a soft target such as Plantinga http://www.christianitytoday.com/bc/2007/002/1.21.html or Valicella http://maverickphilosopher.powerblogs.com/posts/1167878240.shtml.

Touchstone said...

Mark,

Hmmm. How do you gauge your 'representativeness' here with respect to Vox Day, and The Irrational Atheist? I made a comment on the email loop that Vox Day was obviously a nut job, and was harshly rebuked for that comment. As I said, I haven't read his "tour de force" yet on the competing body counts ascribed to atheism and theism, but really, given what I have read, it seems like a waste of time.

As it happens, I'm working through my newly obtained copy of Knowledge of God, a match between Plantinga and Tooley, which I got interested in from reading the discussions over at Prosblogion. Plantinga is an accomplished professional, of course, but even so, the "Dawkins Delusion" article in CT seems to have the same conceptual problems as Day's -- fundamental credulity about complexity, or, more precisely, simplicity. God is simple, doncha know -- just read your Aquinas!

Plantinga's diction and structure are much more refined, but the conceptual grounding here in this case seems little better, and possible *worse* in parts (even giving a nod to Aquinas on this question pretty much embarrasses the article, and his digression into attending conjectures in the Belgic confession inter alia just cast Plantinga in the role of the "Courtier" in PZ Myers' "Courtier's Reply").

I've made a note to visit that article in a future post.

As for Valicella, I've read the blog once or twice, and failed to see the thrill behind the hype, but perhaps I've missed something good. I'll go read your link in the morning. Thanks.

-TS

Evan said...

As is usual for apologetic arguments, if you inspect them closely, they crumble into what appear to be (informally) infinitely complex fractals of trash.

the mad LOLscientist said...

Vox Day = Fractal Wrongness.

Moses said...

Ah, good ol' Vox Day. The guy is off the deep end and bleeds ignorance from every pore. That the lying, shameless self-promoter is wrong, again, about something on which he pontificates is no surprise. That the sheeple who read World Nut Daily think it's brilliant is equally unsurprising.

Also, thank you for column, I actually learned something interesting, and that's always a treat.

Rick said...

So let me see if I have this straight. You're defending Dawkin's claim that God is impossible because He'd have to be more complex than this super-complex universe, and that His required "complexity" would make Him so improbable as to be impossible.

Yet, as an atheist, you believe as improbable as it may seem, all this complexity must have "evolved" by itself?

You whacky atheists! You're funny!

Rick said...

Hey Touchstone,
One of my "complaints" against evolution has been that all other theories of science are capable of being modeled via computer simulation, but not evolution. My claim is that any real science theory ought to be capable of being modeled to the extent of our understanding.

Let me be clear what I mean by "simulation". I don't mean a demonstration of "natural selection" between pre-canned attributes. Even creationists believe in natural selection as a preservative force against harmful mutations or for adaptation within the given genome (pre-canned attrubutes). I mean an open-ended simulation of ever-increasing functionality that was not designed in by the programmer, that lends itself to "natural selection". If the new functionality is inherent in the program design, then the programmer fills the role of "God" and defeats the argument. This would be a simulation of the central claim of evolution, and the key differentiator between evolutionist vs. creationist worldview of genetics.

I noticed in your bio that your interest includes "evolutionary computing". Well? If you have anything that proves me wrong in my claim, I'd be interested in seeing you post your source on SourceForge.net and leave a post here where you put it. It doesn't matter to me whether you write in C/C++/lisp/scripts for windows/mac/Linux/BSDunix.

Touchstone said...

Rick,

Dawkins objection is that the theistic arguments from complexity are self-defeating, because the complexity in nature, if it REQUIRES a designer, would, by extension, require a designer for the designer, forcing an infinite regress.

That is NOT Dawkins own argument, that God is impossible do to a regress into increasingly complex designers. Rather, it's just the defeat of a theistic argument. As you know, just because an argument *for* God fails, that does not mean God exists. As William Lane Craig is understandably wont to point out, even if all the arguments for God are unsound, God may still exist.

So no, I think you've misunderstood what's happening here. Dawkins is pointing out a structural deficiency in the argument from complexity, that's all. It's not an argument for the non-existence of God, just pointing out the poverty of one of the arguments *for* God's existence.

Whacky, huh?

-TS

Evan said...

Rick you astound me with your willful ignorance.

Took me about 3 seconds to come up with this, this, and this.

My wild technique that allowed this was a Google search for "Natural Selection Computer Program Modeling". Try it out. Google is great. You probably use some Christian search engine and that's why you couldn't find these.

Touchstone said...

Rick,

I have in the past worked as a developer on projects using genetic algorithms and evolutionary computing, code deployed in financial markets, and also large scale networks as a means of exploring new parts of the search landscape for detecting patterns and important signals in high-volume nets.

I think you have a self-contradiction in your request. Since you've made the request of me, it seems an impossible one, given that I am an intelligent designer. Anything I "touch" when I spark up TextMate and start typing will be disqualified by you. So I don't know if you haven't thought through what you're asking, or if you think that's a clever form of a trick question, but in either case, it's a non-starter. When one rights a simulator to model and test the aerodynamics of a solid, the physical constraints are just baked in, rendered as best we can based on our knowledge of physics and aerodynamics. The programmer on such a project doesn't spend a single cycle wondering who to simulate the origin of physical laws themselves. With a simulation about evolution, there's no more concern for the provenance of physical law than there is in the aerodynamic simulation: given these physical constraints, what happens?

-TS

Rick said...

TS,
Soooo.... you're saying that Chapter 3 of Dawkin's book "The God Delusion", titled "Why There Almost Certainly is No God", where he calls God the "Ultimate Boeing 747", is NOT making an argument against the existence of God? Then what is his argument for "why there almost certainly is no God"?

Have you checked with Dawkins on this?

Touchstone said...

Hi Rick,

TS,
Soooo.... you're saying that Chapter 3 of Dawkin's book "The God Delusion", titled "Why There Almost Certainly is No God", where he calls God the "Ultimate Boeing 747", is NOT making an argument against the existence of God?

No, manifestly, he *is* making such an argument.
Then what is his argument for "why there almost certainly is no God"?

In point (3), Dawkins points to the absurdity of the "skyhook" logic that the argument from design relies on -- an ever increasingly improbable set of designers, ad infinitum. His argument is that in order to avoid the absurdities of the argument from design, we need a "crane" -- a process by which complexity emerges for less-complex (at least as a first order attribute) systems.

This effort may or may not succeed -- the search for a "crane" -- but it does at least avoid outright absurdity.

But even if we grant for the moment that Dawkins objection isn't a good one, we can confidently conclude from reading Vox Day that he's not got a clue what he's doing in discussing this topic. His refutation of Dawkins is just silly, and a glaring bit of amateurish "debunking with Google", at that, if you look at his reliance on the "Fractals" article from Wikipedia as his knowledge source on the subject of organizational complexity (even Wikipedia had the sense to note the problems Day omitted with the assignment of 'complexity').

All of which to say, even if Dawkins had offered an unsound argument, Day's refutation makes that argument look pretty sophisticated and sound by comparison. Just heavy irony for the swashbuckling Day, given the swagger of his prose.

Have you checked with Dawkins on this?


No, he never calls me any more. He's made the big time, and forgotten all about me, it seems, alas.

-TS

Rick said...

Evan,
Despite the ad hominem comments, which usually are a clear sign of being "out of gas" in a debate, I checked your links as a courtesy. My comments on each follow:

home.entouch.net model
This is, I'm sure, a well-meaning, excited devotee of evolution, but this site suffers from a certain naivete' of over-reaching claims. But as for the simulation itself, it is a goal-oriented "evolving answer" to a problem, and as such is not much more than a "brute force" approach to numerical analysis. Since evolution itself is NOT supposed to be goal oriented, this alone should disqualify it. But the statement of "I have not fully tested the circle and disk (goals) and do not know if such forms exist (in my design)" is the antithesis of the premise I'm seeking.

www.utm.edu model
This models Gregor Mendel's Laws of Inheritence (which creationists believe is real science), for 2 alleles if you plug in "fitness" values (goal oriented) for each, over X generations. As such, this is merely demonstrates adaptation within the genome (which creationists also believe). No evolution happens here.

lifesci.rutgers.edu models/tools
There are 5 basic programs here, most are just DNA analysis tools. Only one (FPG) is an actual forward-looking simulation but, again, it is highly focused on just what might happen to the actual DNA code with various mutations without regard to what new codings might actually mean. In other words, the informational value of DNA is discarded (maybe because nobody can predict what variants might mean) in favor of pre-assigned "fitness" values for each mutation. A good model of genetic mutation, not at all a model of evolution.

Not one model of new, functional systems evolving by means of random changes and "selection".

Evan said...

Rick ... willful ignorance is when you choose to be ignorant of something, as you seem to be of the theory of common descent by means of natural selection.

You seem to believe it is accurate, as you accept the premise that a population of organisms will undergo genetic change over time with pressure from changing ecological conditions, so I can't see what possible theoretical argument you could develop beyond personal incredulity (which seems to be all you can muster so far). Therefore, without impugning your intelligence (as I have many very fine, intelligent, Young-Earth Creationist friends) I choose to call you (and them) willfully ignorant.

You're not stupid, you are closing your eyes to data that disprove your position (even when you accept all the individual details of said proposition).

There is simply no ad hominem there unless you construe ignorant to be an attack on your intelligence, which I will now reiterate, it is not.

On to your critiques. In your first post on the computing issues you said:

One of my "complaints" against evolution has been that all other theories of science are capable of being modeled via computer simulation, but not evolution.

I then showed you three examples.

And now you are playing the no true Scotsman game.

Yes, those all model evolution but they only model *parts* of evolution so they aren't totally modeling the whole thing so those aren't *true* models.

Have fun with that. I see you ignored Touchstone's post where he actually described doing exactly what you are asking for as part of his job.

Bottom line, no model is perfect that is a simulation. There are more variables than a sim can account for, as I'm sure you are aware. The models you have discussed more than meet your objection that:

... all other theories of science are capable of being modeled via computer simulation, but not evolution.

Would you say that economic models perform any better than the ones you have so cavalierly dismissed?

Additionally I need to make something very clear to you. You say:

But as for the simulation itself, it is a goal-oriented "evolving answer" to a problem, and as such is not much more than a "brute force" approach to numerical analysis.

All successful life forms are goal-oriented in exactly one respect. They have as a goal to deposit the very largest number of their genes back into the gene pool that they can given the initial conditions and the ecological changes that occur over their lifespan.

That is the goal.

There is no other.

Hope that helps.

Rick said...

Evan,
As I see it, one of the problems with "evolution" is it has no clear definition of "what is it" that would lend itself to simulation. Most evolutionists seem to draw a circle around a mix of real science, like genetics which can be tested and repeated in the present, and historical fairy tales like "common descent" which CANNOT be tested and repeated, and call THAT "evolution". Evolution is a chimera of fact and fancy, a modern-day legend. Proponents point to the factual components of evolution and ask us to buy the fiction along with it.

Take the evolutionary concept of "fitness". What is it? Huxley's famous quip "survival of the fittest" is nothing but a tautology. Evolution says "only the fittest survive", but how does evolution define "fit"? Those who survive! It is a backward-looking historical concept that has no predictive power. THAT is why evolution cannot be simulated, because simulations can only model laws that predict what happens in t+1.

You say it is only my incredulity that prevents me from accepting evolution? Coming from someone who demands proof for God, this seems a little disengenuois to ask for faith in science! Especially since God is SUPPOSED to be about faith and science is SUPPOSED to be about proof!

You say your a physician, Evan. So help me with my incredulity about evolution's answer to mammals that give live birth. Somehow mammals came from reptiles or amphibians that laid eggs, right? So how did this transition to live birth take place? The placenta grows from a layer of cells in the mammalian egg, eventually fusing together into one huge super-cell. It then implants itself into a receptive uterous and performs ALL of the functions of lungs, kidney, liver, intestines, you name it. It does EVERYTHING the organs will eventually do after birth. And at birth, when it rips away from the uterous, a women by all rights should bleed to death within minutes, except that special arterial muscles constrict at the event. All these functions are completely foreign to egg-laying creatures. How many iterations of random mutations did it take to "evolve" this miraculous design? And how on Earth did the poor species evolving it survive until it got it right?

Rayndeon said...

I think Dawkins' argument suffers unnecessarily by appealing to *compositional* complexity - when, in reality, his argument would be much more effective if it appealed to *epistemic* complexity. Here's a sample argument as such, presented excellently by bd-from-kg. At most, however, this only establishes that the *epistemic prior probability* of God's existence is inordinately low - a theist could accept this and say that there are powerful theological arguments that make the epistemic posterior probability of God's existence extremely high (as is allegedly the result of design arguments, arguments from reason, arguments from mind, and Biblical/Quranic arguments) or unity (as is allegedly the result of cosmological arguments, ontological arguments, moral arguments, and conceptualist arguments). That's not to say that any of them work - just that establishing that theism has a very low posterior probability isn't necessarily a problem for theists. [On a sidenote: It *is* a problem for any inductive, probabilistic theistic argument - however, it is not a problem for any deductive argument. So, while the theist espousing inductive arguments may be in trouble, the theist espousing deductive arguments is not]

Evan said...

Rick,

Once again. Evolution is change in the genome of a population of organisms over time. It's observed constantly and you accept that it happens. You just are personally incredulous that it has happened and continues to happen in all populations of organisms at all times leading to huge variations in organisms.

But your own examples show how little you know of biology. I am curious what your expertise is in, but I'm positive it is not in biology or any biological science as you are woefully unaware of the basic facts of the discipline.

To the placenta. A quick Google search on placental evolution would lead you to a plethora of information about what we do and do not know about placentas.

Let's go through your uneducated screed on placental evolution and bring you up to speed:

You say your(sic) a physician, Evan.

Yep. Been practicing for 14 years now since my residency. Delivered over 100 babies during that time. Me, I have seen some placentas.

So help me with my incredulity about evolution's answer to mammals that give live birth.

I doubt I can. But I will try.

Somehow mammals came from reptiles or amphibians that laid eggs, right?

Not really. Mammals came from mammals that laid eggs, like the platypus and the spiny anteater. You are aware of the existence of monotremes, marsupials and eutherian mammals I hope. Certainly the existence of egg-laying mammals is suggestive that the original population of mammals did so. It's not a complete proof though.

It's not hard to imagine placentation developing though, since it actually happens quite frequently in evolution.

So how did this transition to live birth take place?

The same way it did in sharks that have placentas, or placental fish. Do you read much biology or watch any nature shows?

The placenta grows from a layer of cells in the mammalian egg, eventually fusing together into one huge super-cell. It then implants itself into a receptive uterous(sic) and performs ALL of the functions of lungs, kidney, liver, intestines, you name it.

Actually this is wrong. The placenta allows the bloodstream of the child to mix with the bloodstream of the mother. Osmosis does most of the rest of the job along with fetal hemoglobin having a higher affinity for oxygen than adult hemoglobin. Again, this is really basic biology and nothing to be too amazed at.

It does EVERYTHING the organs will eventually do after birth. And at birth, when it rips away from the uterous(sic), a women by all rights should bleed to death within minutes, except that special arterial muscles constrict at the event.

Special arterial muscles just like the ones at the base of your dick. Wow, that's so special that you should thank Jesus for your erections. Actually, lots of guys do.

All these functions are completely foreign to egg-laying creatures.

Here's where we need to talk.

Do you know about the evolution of placentation in cichlid fish? If you don't, I suggest you look it up.

Figure out how recently it has occurred. Figure out that it has probably occurred more than once in cichlids. Then you will see that it's not all that difficult.

How many iterations of random mutations did it take to "evolve" this miraculous design? And how on Earth did the poor species evolving it survive until it got it right?

This one is even easier. Mammals who developed placentas that made them deliver more genes to the subsequent generation survived at a rate higher than egg-laying or marsupial mammals. This is why almost all egg-laying mammals are extinct and almost all marsupial animals are extinct or in Australia.

How do you explain the fact that Australia is the only home of egg-laying mammals and the predominant home of most marsupial species? I'm curious.

zilch said...

Evan- I'm disappointed in you. Everyone knows that kangaroos swam to Australia from Mt. Ararat, using their powerful tails as propellers. Next question.

Theological Discourse said...

This is microphone jones, the one personally responsible for exposing your ignorant, dishonest, irrational reasoning and sloppy researching. Your failure was noted as is displayed for all to see. You have proven yourself a hypocrite and have also embarrassed yourself by refuting dawkins definition of complexity instead of days!

Theological Discourse said...

oops I forgot to give the link to your utterly embarrassing post.

http://irrationalatheist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=536&sid=9cba7b7be992bbe5dd4a8155ded398d2

Vox said...

This is such an incomplete and erroneous attempt at a critique that I hadn't bothered to previously address it, but since a few people have asked me about it, I shall do so now.

First, I note that Touchstone omits the greater part of my refutation of the 747 argument and only partially addresses two of the points. This is deceptive, especially since I addressed the entirety of Dawkins's central argument of TGD. Touchstone simply ignores those he knows he can't successfully address when only one point suffices to demolish the entire argument.

Second, with regards to Martin Rees, Dawkins specifically refers to "A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers". He did not make any reference to actually creating or even unifying the entire system. Touchstone's auto analogy is inapplicable here since he is imputing to Dawkins's argument things that Dawkins neither wrote nor implied. Based on Dawkins's logic, God can be no more complex than the humans who have calculated those values; since they both exist and have done so, this is not only sufficient to explode Dawkins's argument for God's nonexistence whether William Rees has personally done so or not, it would indicate that God's existence is highly probable.

Touchstone makes the same error of putting words in Dawkins's text when he attacks the fractal intelligence concept. He simply cannot believe that Dawkins would be so foolish as to equate complexity with information, but that is exactly what Dawkins has done.

He writes: "Oops. That's a really major blunder....But complexity is not information, any more than mass is acceleration."

I agree, it is a really major blunder. But, as Microphone Jones pointed out, Touchstone's incredulity must be directed against Dawkins, not me. The error is Richard Dawkins's. Touchstone apparently doesn't realize that he has condemned the 747 argument with his own words.

Finally, since Touchstone's attack on the fractal intelligence concept is based on the errant idea that for Dawkins, complexity is not information, it is completely irrelevant and therefore fails.

So, with all due respect, I ask Touchstone to admit that this critique is in error and either correct it or withdraw it.

Mushroom said...

Vox, in TIA you say that

[Dawkins] refers to the Argument from Improbability as being rooted in “the source of all the information in living matter.” Complexity, to Dawkins, is therefore equated with information.

But the second sentence doesn't follow from the first: to describe complexity as the source of information is not to equate the two. Better to say simply that Dawkins leaves complexity undefined, and I agree that's somewhat problematic. It entails that his argument is an informal plausibility argument rather than a rigourous proof. There is no generic definition of complexity that can be applied to just any old thing in a principled way.

I imagine Dawkins had in mind an informal version of Kolmogorov complexity, as Touchstone has alluded to - the complexity of something is the length of its description. This would defeat your fractal counterexamples, as detailed in the OP, and it also defeats your GM rice counterexample, since an organism's genetic code is not a complete description of the organism.

So, although you've found something of a flaw in Dawkins' argument, it bounces back rather easily under a plausible reading of his meaning (so long as we understand that without a rigourous definition of complexity, it's not a rigourous argument - something I hope Dawkins would willingly concede).

That idea of complexity would also mean Martin Rees, or anyone else, is more complex than the initial state of the universe, but that's fine: Dawkins' argument is that a being with a mind such as God or Martin Rees would be more complex than the initial universe, and is thus not satisfying as an ultimate explanation. The fact that Rees is less complex than the universe as it stands now is irrelevant; as a counterexample Rees is a non-starter.

Theological Discourse said...

Mushroom, stop trying to defend Touchtones sloppy ignorant research.

You said this

But the second sentence doesn't follow from the first: to describe complexity as the source of information is not to equate the two.

Firstly, you have effectively proved that you have not read the God delusion as what you quoted from TIA was from Dawkins book.
“the source of all the information in living matter.”
Dawkins equates complexity with information, day just takes that argument and refutes it. So you need to take this issue up with Dawkins and not Day, you cannot fault day for Dawkins lack of definition, nor can you fault day for responding to Dawkins own definition of complexity.

You attempt to ignore this simple fact by stating that you "imagine Dawkins had in mind an informal version of Kolmogorov complexity" but as you correctly stated, you imagined what Dawkins has in mind, this is also suspect because you have retreated to only what you are imagining, this retreat is convenient since reality says otherwise, reality states that Dawkins has equated information with complexity!, as it is written right there on the pages. Do you honestly expect us to believe your argument is valid when it is based on what you imagine?

Stop defending Touchtones sloppy poor researching and just hold him accountable. Its that simple. This issue is not the definition of complexity, this issue is about Day refuting Dawkins argument, Dawkins argument is 'complexity is equated with information' and day refuted that argument. The definition of complexity is an entirely different issue! furthermore you have proven yourself ignorant not only in regards to the God delusion, but also TIA as Day does not only use fractals, but also uses the human genome as well.

Touchstones post is nothing but sloppy researching, he needs to be held accountable by the same scrutiny and criticism you apply to Day, otherwise you are just using double standards. If you want to keep doing this dance and appealing to what you imagine then you will continue to be called out on it.