Monday, September 2, 2013

Explanatory Filter and Explanatory Blinders

Perception:  Even though the habit is to quibble/demur/deny/equivocate or change the subject, the problem most of the detractors have generally with Dembski's Explanatory Filter seems to be the choice between natural law explanations and interference by an intelligent agent.

What many of them seem to be saying is that it takes particular knowledge of a particular problem to know whether something bears signs of being a human artifact (based on specific facts about existing human artifacts) before we can know whether something is intelligently designed.  If that's true then their version of Occam's Razor (which is apparently the 4th or 5th Law of Thermodynamics) must require us to assume that some confluence of law-like behavior of atoms and "sheer dumb luck" interact to make what otherwise seems designed.  If it doesn't bear unique signs of human technology, it must be as purposeful as a snowflake.

I mean, this seems like it must be the case given the vitriol they inveigh against the Explanatory Filter.  The Filter is crap they say, and if you aren't convinced, I'm sure that Mark Perakh can start a Project Keith or Project Dave to change your mind.  Hey, just because they are not psychologists doesn't mean that scientists don't know about the Asch conformity experiments.
It would seem that there are no purely informational clues that one is dealing with an intelligent entity.  If the signal from what we would otherwise take to be some stellar radio source would transmit what was readily interpreted as pattern of one and zeroes (or a's and b's if you prefer the abstraction) that is readily interpreted as sequence of primes.  (Elsberry and Shallit dispute many things, but the unary code itself doesn't appear in and of itself to be one of them.)   They sidestep the issue of exactly how many bits it would take to establish the implausibility of a natural (i.e. non-artifactual) explanation given their suggestion of a "frequentist interpretation."  Using the first distribution they suggested, it might take a sequence 210% longer than the example they nitpick.

Using the 4th distribution (or was it the third?)  they suggested, they offer that the distribution might actually be messages of primes in any order whatsoever.

Okay.  Let's say we wait a while (assuming the signal received was brief and there was no way to replicate) -- a few months, say -- and then the signal returns and Elsberry and Shallit are justified:  Behold! It's is a sequence of primes in a different order!  Nothing to see here folks!  Just a random distribution of primes!  Now, let's look up what set of physical laws predicts a primes-only set of signals.

This seems like a poor way to make their point.

Let's allow though, although they don't admit it explicitly, that at most you could say:
Either there is some intelligent agency involved or there is something egregiously incomplete in our account of physical laws (in such a way that they can result in something that appears intelligent). 
But near as I can tell, that is not something that any neo-Darwinist mainstreamer will admit explicitly and publicly.  The closest the mainstreamers come to it is when they point to self-organization theories as possible recourses to ID.  But then, Stuart Kauffman is explicit and public about there being something completely missing in our account.  His apparently indefatigable materialism atones for the sin of now bowing at the golden image of selectionism.  He advocates formulating a Fourth Law of Thermodynamics that would some how account for the production of the very specified complexity that Perakh, Elsberry, and Schneider dismiss with some smug handwaving.
A note on selectionism:  To keep from seeming too extremist, many neo-Darwinists will truthfully offer that neutral mutations and horizontal gene theory play roles as well.  In all these theoretic constellations, it is always natural selection that brings about functional designs in nature and is the mechanistic and explanatory engine for biological innovation.
Anyway, it seems appropriate to end with an excerpt from Kauffman's foreword to A Third Window: Natural Life Beyong Newton and Darwin:

Careful there, Kauffman.  You are starting to sound like one of them there creationists.  Or at least, throwing them a bit of candy, which Michael Ruse holds to be a "wicked" act.  

No comments:

Post a Comment