Saturday, October 23, 2010

The manifestation of Supreme Intelligence

One of the greatest disservices that evolution's blind watchmaker thesis has done to mankind is to deprive it of that which should be manifest to any thoughtful person, that the universe is saturated with plan and purpose.
Molecular machines, although it may often seem so, are not made with a blueprint at hand. Yet, biochemists and molecular biologists (and many scientists of other disciplines) are used to thinking as an engineer, more precisely a reverse engineer. But there are no blueprints … ‘Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution’: we know that Dobzhansky (1973) must be right. But our mind, despite being a product of tinkering itself strangely wants us to think like engineers. (Walter Neupert, "Highlight: Molecular Machines," Biological Chemistry, Vol. 386(8):711, August, 2005. Emphasis added.). 
I actually don't know why Dobzhansky must be right? As a professional engineer with a PhD in Electrical Engineering, I am astounded at the coded information (surpassing anything that we engineers have been able to do even with Shannon communication theory, control theory and Turing machines) in the DNA nanotechnology molecular machinery of the cell. Wherever we have checked into the origins of systems of coded-information/Turing machines, intelligence is always implicated (check the manufacturer's label on your PC). So when we see the same systems (without the manufacturer's label) in the DNA of the cell, then we are entitled to conclude that intelligence is implicated.

Here is what would convince me that Darwin and his successors were on to something: provide a detailed Darwinian pathway for the emergence of the molecular machinery in the cell with probability greater than 10^(-150) starting from dead chemicals (*). A detailed Darwinian pathway is one that may use any chance or natural processes, but it may not appeal to intelligent guidance. The outcome should be judged by qualified experts on both sides of the evolution-creation controversy. Alternatively, see here.

In Chapter 19 of Challenge of Creation, the author writes that some scientists admit they do not know how life originated via naturalistic processes but that other scientists feel that "there is a viable naturalistic explanation" for the origin of life". The question is not what scientists believe or feel. The question is what have they actually demonstrated? Come to think of it, if R. Slifkin is correct, he might be able to win a million dollars here.

(*) There are about 10^80 elementary particles in the universe. The properties of matter are such that the transition from one state to another cannot occur faster than 10^45 times per second corresponding to the Planck time, the smallest meaningful unit of time. Assuming an age for the universe of 13.7b years according to the evolutionists, that is about a billion times younger than 10^25 seconds. Putting that all together, there could not be more than 10^150 events in cosmic history. So a probability bound of 1 in 10^150 is a universal probability bound using all the probabilistic resources of the cosmos according to consensus science. Emil Borel provided a more stringent bound of 1 in 10^50, but we want to make it as easy as possible for evolutionists to provide the requisite scientific demonstration. Dobzhansky was talking about biological evolution but scientists have extended the blind-watchmaker thesis to chemical evolution as well. Any combination of biological and chemical evolution are addressed in this post, and that is what is meant by a Darwinian pathway).

9 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Dr. Ostroff, before writing new posts, please could you respond to unanswered questions from earlier posts? Here are two of mine that you didn't answer (Rafi has many others), with some minor modifications:

    1. The whole point of R. Slifkin's book is to explain how God works through mechanisms that only superficially appear to be naturalistic, random and unguided. Even R. Coffer and R. Lampel acknowledge this. R. Slifkin spelled out at length (in his book and on his website) that the people who Dr. Ostroff love to quote-- Dawkins and co.--are making unwarranted metaphysical extrapolations. He pointed out that the scientific theory itself does not rule out God's role any more than any other field of science--as many people, from Ken Miller to Michael Ruse, agree. So why does Dr. Ostroff keep ignoring all this, and saying that R. Slifkin believes in unguided, random processes, AS OPPOSED to believing that there is a God behind things?

    2. Dr. Ostroff, does theistic meteorology contradict the scientific consensus? After all, the science textbooks just speak about the causes of weather in terms of blind, random processes. But you believe that God determines it. So is it problematic to study/ teach meteorology? And the same for astronomy, history, and every other branch of science.

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  3. B"H
    Dear Yissacher
    Please could you respond to unanswered questions from earlier posts?

    You wrote:
    It's odd that you keep quoting from "the Science in Torah", when in "the Challenge of Creation" R. Slifkin makes it clear that he has since studied the topic more carefully and his views have developed, and that he considers the evidence for common ancestry to be real and overwhelming.

    IB
    Please provide page numbers on CoC (2006 edition)

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  4. I don't have the 2006 edition, but in the 2008 edition it's on p. 269. He also presents line of evidence that did not appear in "the Science in Torah." It is strange and disturbing that people here keep quoting from the earlier book rather than from his current views.

    Dr. Betech, if you are in touch with Dr. Ostroff, can you request that he answers the questions that he keeps ignoring?

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  5. Yissacher
    In the 2008 edition it's on p. 269 is written
    "that he has since studied the topic more carefully and his views have developed, and that he considers the evidence for common ancestry to be real and overwhelming."?
    Otherwise please copy the relevant words.

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  6. No, that wasn't a quote. He writes something about the evidence being overwhelming, and it's obvious that he's studied the topic more carefully and that his views have developed, since it came out several years after the other book, and he brings arguments and references that didn't appear in the first book.

    Honestly, I find this discussion quite strange. It's just bizarre that the people here are quoting from an old book in order to claim that R. Slifkin himself doesn't consider there to be good evidence for evolution, when it's very obvious that he does consider there to be very good evidence. R. Slifkin himself has pointed out that he used to deny evolution altogether. If anything, this works against you - it shows that he is able to accept new evidence and change his mind. Although personally I think that his case would be more powerful if he DIDN'T believe that there was evidence for evolution, like Rav Hirsch, and still argued that it was compatible with Torah.

    But I guess that I'm being caught up in your game here... R. Slifkin's view of whether there is evidence for evolution is surely entirely irrelevant. He's just a rabbi, after all, not a scientific expert.

    Let's get back to important matters. Dr. Ostroff, where are you? Please can you answer my questions?

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  7. B"H

    Yissacher
    Could you please tell in which page I can see a basis for what you wrote:

    a)
    in "the Challenge of Creation" R. Slifkin makes it clear that he has since studied the topic more carefully

    b)
    and his views have developed,

    c)
    and that he considers the evidence for common ancestry to be real and overwhelming.

    Dear Yissacher please provide at least 3 page numbers.

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  8. Dear Yissacher, you write that before writing new posts, authors should respond to unanswered questions from earlier posts. Why? Authors may post and readers may comment each at their own discretion. This is how many blogs work. If I think a question is interesting and I have time, I enjoy responding. If I believe a question has been answered then I leave it to the readers to do their homework.

    (1) You write: "The whole point of R. Slifkin's book is to explain how God works through mechanisms that only superficially appear to be naturalistic, random and unguided. ... So why does Dr. Ostroff keep ignoring all this, and saying that R. Slifkin believes in unguided, random processes, AS OPPOSED to believing that there is a God behind things?"

    You question does not adequately represent the issues. I address myself to R. Slifkin's claim that "Darwin's "blind-watchmaker thesis need not be incompatible with God” (Challenge, p297) and that in fact R. Slifkin thinks that Judaism sees random processes "as an ideal means via which God dynamically exerts His will." (Challenge, p293). These claims are nonsense. R. Slifkin has adopted a brand new religion (call it theistic evolution if you like) that is contrary to the fundamental principles of Torah. Firstly, when scientists say the "blind" watchmaker thesis they really mean blind (no intelligent guidance allowed). What confusion -- to even write that the blind watchmaker thesis is compatible with traditional notions of G-d? (no matter how you later qualify what you mean). How did that one slip by the editor? Secondly, there is no evidence for the kind of evolution that theistic evolutionists embrace (in the attempt to escape the incoherent notion of guided "unguided" evolution) that comes anything close to what one finds in the hard sciences. In fact, nature manifests Supreme Intelligence (this is really the topic of this post), not dysteleology such as the supposedly poor design of the Panda's thumb trumpeted in R. Slifkin's books (see
    here for how badly he erred with respect to the Panda's thumb). Thirdly, and most importantly, theistic evolution compromises the account of creation in the Torah in a way that undermines the concept of Shabbat (see here and here, for example). It is a category error to conflate the Creation Week with the post Creation week (see next comment).

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  9. (continuation of previous comment)


    (2) Yissacher, you also write that "does theistic meteorology contradict the scientific consensus? After all, the science textbooks just speak about the causes of weather in terms of blind, random processes."

    In these questions, always ask yourself the following question. Are we studying the origin of a phenomenon addressed by the Torah in the first chapters of Genesis, or are we studying how the phenomenon currently operates? Meteorology is the study of currently operating weather processes, right? After the Creation Week, when nature stabilizes, then we have the operational sciences and we can study and predict such weather phenomena. In fact, why are there regularities that Science can study? Why is nature not purely chaotic and random? G-d -- as the Author and Sustainer of nature -- is the One who undergirds the stability and rationality of nature (in the post Creation Week phase, no less than during the Creation Week). And yes, after the Creation Week, G-d also sustains the chaotic nature of weather as well ("Three keys the Holy One blessed be He has retained in His own hand and not entrusted to the hand of any messenger, Rain, Children and the key of the Revival of the Dead" (Tan.2a)). But, random processes did not form planet earth with the its phenomenal weather system -- in the first place. The origin of planet earth with its fine tuned processes for life was via meta-natural creation by the Supreme Intelligence. In fact, despite our inability to predict weather even a week in advance, the whole phenomenon of weather is a manifestation of Supreme Intelligence. Plate tectonics, the carbon cycle and the water cycle all work together to make planet earth habitable via evaporation, condensation and precipitation and that huge heat pump called the sun.

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