David Berlinski

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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 2nd, 2018, 9:49 pm 

David-Berlinski-intelligent-design-true-freethinker.jpg

David Berlinksi has claimed the following, in public and on camera.

1. Evolution by natural selection and random mutations sounds like it works on paper, but would never work in actual practice because it would only introduce negative mutations.

2. Berlinski says that if you take a random program from a computer and mutate its source code, you will inevitably get a program that crashes. He points to this as evidence that the statistico-mathematical process of evolution would not, if performed produce varieties of higher fitness, and never do something even more adventurous , like speciation.

3. In short, Berlinski says the process of random mutation with selection would only ever lead inevitably to extinction. It could only ever introduce mutations deleterious to the organism's survival. Then over many generations, the negative mutations would compound together.

Berlinski's claim about mutating a spreadsheet program is completely factually correct. If you take source code or binary executable, and randomly mutate it with a spot-mutation, it is inevitable that it will malfunction in a catastrophic way. That statement is sound and factual when tried experimentally. No argument there.

However, this property of brittleness is true of all spreadsheets, word processors, web browsers, and email clients. Those programs are coded by designers to perform a specific task. They are not written with the capacity to make a copy of themselves. This distinction I am making here is absolutely crucial to everything else that I will be saying this thread.

Take a program and write it with the goal task of making a copy of itself. (literally write a copy of yourself in RAM and halt) You can duplicate this program into a large population of candidate programs. You can "reproduce" them using crossover of their source code between two "parents". Whenever a "mate" is done between parent programs, take the child offspring program and do a spot mutation on it. Do a mutation on a random locus, and at that locus just replace the instruction there with a random one. If the child program is capable of creating a copy , keep it around. If not, discard it. ("kill it off")

Repeat the procedure as described above -- tens of thousands of times. This growing population of programs will evolve. They will undergo evolutionary change. Run it long enough, and you will get better and faster replicator programs. Run it even longer and speciation may happen.

You might want something that is more pleasing to watch. Create a simulation of a simple toy ecosystem, where the simulated organisms are little "blocks" in a grid. Give them some way to reproduce themselves using spores and germination of spores (or pregnancies and birth according to taste). Each organism contains a little program inside of it. The program views the environment around the organism's location ("looks") and then performs some calculations to make a decision about what the organism should do next. ("move up" "attack" "lay spore" "grow") Whenever a mating takes place between male and female (or perhaps a spore is germinated) copy the parents' program into the child, and perform a random spot mutation. Eventually most if not all the simulated organisms in the system are interacting through their own personalized program.

Over the course of running this toy ecosystem for 8 days and some, you will see these organisms change. They will have morphological and behavioral changes. They will form into pockets of a certain variety and when a pocket of those are successful, they spread out and infect other regions, often "taking over" the existing organisms there and displacing them. You will see various differently-sized and varying behaviors in isolated groupings. These are the "Species" given rise by the process. In other words, random mutation of offspring placed under selective pressures to reproduce eventually gave rise to variaties of populations. In short, they exhibit speciation.

You would be watching evolution take place in front of your eyes.

You might ask how I heard about this and you might demand outside citations. You are in luck. I happen to have source code for an ecosystem like the one I have described. The source is C++ and it invokes two libraries, openGL and WinAPI. I happen to have this source code with me here because I wrote it. I am the author and programmer. I have recorded a number of videos of the simulation running in realtime on a computer. They are available on youtube.

CAecosystem.png


Vis-a-vis David Berlinski : we might ask if this toy ecosystem simulation proves that evolution took place on the biosphere on earth? No, it does not prove that. But does this computer simulation suggest evolution happened on earth? It does not do that either.

But lets remember Berlinski's claim: The informational/statistical process of evolution would never work in practice. It would fail to produce candidate organisms of higher fitness, and certainly never produce a new species altogether.

That claim is resolutely falsified. Evolution can be faithfully reproduced in a computer.


That random variation and selective pressure can discover candidates of higher and higher fitness has been known by computer science for decades. We call them Genetic Algorithms. Annually, a multinational symposium is held for academics who work in this type of computation. It is the Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference or GECCO. This is a link to the 2017 conference held in Berlin. http://gecco-2017.sigevo.org/index.html/HomePage

The use of evolutionary processes to optimization (and produce new designs) has seen a few minor successes. In microchip VLSIs, a genetic algorithm "designed" a circuit that was far better in every aspect than any circuit designed by a human being.

An evolutionary algorithm was employed to optimize a tiny antenna and the success was wild. The evolved design has a beam width that is greater than any antenna a human designer has ever thought of.

330px-St_5-xband-antenna.jpg


There is an optimization problem involving how to maximize the absorption of sunlight into a solar cell. The nano-structure of the surface of the cell has an effect on this capacity, and the exact microfacet structure would alter this absorption. One could suppose there is an as-yet-unknown surface structure that is optimal for sunlight. A genetic algorithm was employed to try to find this structure, and it discovered the optimal surface over a broad range of visible light is some kind of unusual fractal pattern. No human engineer could have dreamed of this solution.

sunlightnanosurface.png


The process of evolution is in some rare cases, powerful as a design tool. It can produce solutions that are surprising and even surprisingly clever. One should appreciate why this matters in the context of real organisms on earth. If it were the case that a surprisingly clever mutation found its way into an offspring , the fitness endowed onto that one individual would increase its ability to reproduce. Then, as things go, all of its children would inherit that advantage.

(..then it starts snowballing..)

Leave the forest where this happened and return in 8 thousand years. Now a large portion of the forest houses a species with that advantage, as these are all descendants of that original endowed great-great grandfather predecessor. Evolution, being a process that operates on things that copy themselves, will take a rare, nearly-impossible one-off event , and then multiply it until it is commonplace.

What is improbable becomes widespread and common, after enough time.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Braininvat on September 2nd, 2018, 11:03 pm 

Hyksos, you know Reg (aka Noships) and BioWizard and several other members did a long thread on Berlinski a year or two back. BTW, OP posts cannot consist of just tagging a member. If you want a thread, I can peel off your longish one and start fresh with that. I like your genetic algorithm analysis, and how it addresses Berlinski.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby someguy1 on September 3rd, 2018, 12:08 am 

Braininvat » September 2nd, 2018, 9:03 pm wrote:Hyksos, you know Reg (aka Noships) and BioWizard and several other members did a long thread on Berlinski a year or two back. BTW, OP posts cannot consist of just tagging a member. If you want a thread, I can peel off your longish one and start fresh with that. I like your genetic algorithm analysis, and how it addresses Berlinski.


I found the discussion interesting to help me put Berlinski into perspective. I don't know enough biology. But if this thread is about to get into trouble, I'll mind my own business.

ps -- Is this thread verboten? I have a technical question for the OP.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Braininvat on September 3rd, 2018, 9:20 am 

Hyksos, I think you misunderstood my reference. I was speaking of The Deniable Darwin thread, which you would likely wish to review before proceeding...


viewtopic.php?nomobile=1&f=37&t=31949&hilit=Berlinski+evolution&start=360

Reg Prescott was called NoShips in those days.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby davidm on September 3rd, 2018, 9:46 am 

1. Evolution by natural selection and random mutations sounds like it works on paper, but would never work in actual practice because it would only introduce negative mutations.


This is factually incorrect. It is empirically incorrect. Berlinski must know this. In fact, most mutations are neutral. Some are harmful. Some are beneficial. The beneficial ones spread because of natural selection. This is all very well understood science. I conclude that Berlinkski, paid by the Discovery Institute, is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.


Berlinski says that if you take a random program from a computer and mutate its source code, you will inevitably get a program that crashes. He points to this as evidence that the statistico-mathematical process of evolution would not, if performed produce varieties of higher fitness, and never do something even more adventurous , like speciation.


Yes, and as you note, this comparison is wholly inapt. Programs do not reproduce and are not subject to selection pressures. What’s interesting is that mutations are copying errors. What kind of competent designer would fail to take steps to reduce or eliminate such errors, which are in fact common? A bad one, maybe? As Berlinski does not seem to deny that mutations occur, which would be even more ridiculous than his other claims, it follows that he thinks some invisible Man in the Sky must step in and, in a completely undetectable way, “fix” the errors that his bad design promulgated. The idea is ludicrous on the face of it.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 3rd, 2018, 11:35 am 

davidm » September 3rd, 2018, 5:46 pm wrote:This is factually incorrect. It is empirically incorrect. Berlinski must know this. In fact, most mutations are neutral. Some are harmful. Some are beneficial. The beneficial ones spread because of natural selection. This is all very well understood science. I conclude that Berlinkski, paid by the Discovery Institute, is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes.



The definition of lying is running around in public repeating something that you know is it not true. (and also publishing such) Lying is not saying something you genuine believe, but turns out to be wrong.

Berlinski must know this.

Kind of the whole point. So we could say that Berlinski is a liar, and that would be a factual assertion about his behavior. So demonstrated. It would not, as the Reg_Prescott's and the Brent696's assert, be a desperate attempt to smear and discredit Berlinski by attacking his character. They assert we are after him with a vengeance because he, "challenged our precious doctrines". When really what we are doing is a neutral assessment of his claims which has repeated in public and in print.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 3rd, 2018, 11:43 am 

Braininvat » September 3rd, 2018, 5:20 pm wrote:Hyksos, I think you misunderstood my reference. I was speaking of The Deniable Darwin thread, which you would likely wish to review before proceeding...


http://sciencechatforum.com/viewtopic.p ... &start=360

Reg Prescott was called NoShips in those days.

Ah. It is possible that I had posted in there. If I recall correctly, the thread may have actual quotes of Berlinski's writing.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Brent696 on September 4th, 2018, 12:03 pm 

hyksos » September 2nd, 2018, 9:49 pm

Take a program and write it with the goal task of making a copy of itself. (literally write a copy of yourself in RAM and halt) You can duplicate this program into a large population of candidate programs. You can "reproduce" them using crossover of their source code between two "parents". Whenever a "mate" is done between parent programs, take the child offspring program and do a spot mutation on it.


It really seems like you are saying that once you incorporate a designer, who installs "purpose" into the system, evolution can then work out fine, even as it is no longer truly random but is following a preset goal.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Braininvat on September 4th, 2018, 12:45 pm 

That's not his point at all. He was showing how genetic algorithms demonstrate that random variation via mutations can lead to an evolutionary process analogous in some respects to what is seen in nature. This was an analogy that Berlinski falsely characterized. Hyksos used an analogy, giving a concrete example of a genetic algorithm that optimised light absorption for a photovoltaic cell. Don't confuse goals with selective pressure from the environment. The selective pressure from the natural environment is about survival, it is not about a specific design goal from a cosmic watchmaker. The environment doesn't impose some kind of teleology - it's just a place where you either survive to reproduce, or you don't. Please read entire posts before replying to them.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Forest_Dump on September 4th, 2018, 12:46 pm 

You don't need any kind of designer in the process. All you need is self replication. Once you have that then evolution proceeds.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby mitchellmckain on September 4th, 2018, 12:59 pm 

Brent696 » September 4th, 2018, 11:03 am wrote:
hyksos » September 2nd, 2018, 9:49 pm

Take a program and write it with the goal task of making a copy of itself. (literally write a copy of yourself in RAM and halt) You can duplicate this program into a large population of candidate programs. You can "reproduce" them using crossover of their source code between two "parents". Whenever a "mate" is done between parent programs, take the child offspring program and do a spot mutation on it.


It really seems like you are saying that once you incorporate a designer, who installs "purpose" into the system, evolution can then work out fine, even as it is no longer truly random but is following a preset goal.


Incorrect. Just because an artist paints a tree doesn't mean that trees are all painted. Likewise just because we design a program to imitate the process of evolution in nature doesn't mean the process in nature was also a product of design. The most you can suppose is that the original laws of nature (at the big bang) were a product of design, because science is pretty much dead ends at the big bang singularity and whatever we suppose from before that is no more objective than theological ideas about this. Careful though, this doesn't mean that naturalists are at a loss to explain things before the big bang -- they do have ideas and they are every bit as valid as those of other philosophers and theologians.

In any case, we have every reason to believe none of the activities of living organisms including the process of evolution is a product of design. I certainly agree these activities are purposeful, but not because purpose was installed by a designer but because it was chosen and pursued by these living organisms. And I also agree, and have even demonstrated that the process is not purely random. Variation is pursued as a strategy for survival and the randomness is limited in ways to maximize the production of viable offspring. But the randomness is never eliminated completely because that would not serve the survival of the species. Just as we have learned that evolutionary algorithms (with its random components) can solve math and engineering problems magnificently so also have living things learned that this process of evolution (using random elements also) can solve the challenges of survival.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Brent696 on September 4th, 2018, 10:03 pm 

Braininvat » September 4th, 2018, 12:45 pm

Please read entire posts before replying to them.


I did, but multiply circular arguments don't work as evidence to support another. Besides, when you trace the logic of a proposition, it helps to point out exactly where it goes off the tracks.

Braininvat » September 4th, 2018, 12:45 pm

That's not his point at all. He was showing how genetic algorithms demonstrate that random variation via mutations can lead to an evolutionary process analogous in some respects to what is seen in nature.


(Wiki) In computer science and operations research, a genetic algorithm (GA) is a metaheuristic inspired by the process of natural selection that belongs to the larger class of evolutionary algorithms (EA). Genetic algorithms are commonly used to generate high-quality solutions to optimization and search problems by relying on bio-inspired operators such as mutation, crossover and selection


I know that many of you have drunk the kool aid, from my perspective, and so when you read a thread like this you are immediately drawn to what validates what you already have accepted as true. Don't deny it, you have absolutely accepted evolution as the only viable process for our present condition. That being the case, you cannot claim to approach the subject on a critical level of thinking.

That being the case I would be wasting too much time in debating particulars. I find this supposed support (evidence) as circular, cell membranes are efficient, but the fact the live is incredible does prove how it got here. The evolving antenna was trail and error, made more efficient with computers, I guess when Edison was searching for a viable filament we can call that natural selection. Following is an interesting youtube for anyone who would like to look into such algorithms and understand ALL the viables that go into their creation, it is not like they are necessarily drawn straight from observable nature as they suggest. But I won't start a debate about algorithms, beyond that I will get to a my point,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHyNqSnzP8Y

Braininvat » September 4th, 2018, 12:45 pm

Don't confuse goals with selective pressure from the environment. The selective pressure from the natural environment is about survival, it is not about a specific design goal from a cosmic watchmaker. [


Ah yes, "survival", the goal and purpose of all life. That selective programming that had to be written in whereby it is conditioned that Berlinsky could then be said to be wrong.

At least FD could see right to the core problem here, Designer, replicator, a drive to survive, but pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

So where do we start, does a rock complain when it falls and breaks, chemicals in the environment are constantly assaulted, having the stability challenged as the are diluted of have molecules torn from them. And what are these simply "replicator" that are theorized to have once existed. These fabulous RNA molecules, that scientists are so giddy about, forget about the 2 dozen areas of nearly insurmountable odds they must overcome, prior metabolisms, lack of proteins, inherent instability that does not allow the storage of information like DNA,

lets just put all that aside and pretend in some deep water vent possibly a couple of these seems to replicate, just by random chance after millions of years,

what keeps them from simply falling apart, exactly what chemical combination comes about that produces an instinct to survive. How can something, without a consciousness of its own self, begin to behave in a way to ensure its own survival.

In my cosmology I understand consciousness to be inherent in Life itself, from a cell to a human being, some of you know recently I have proposed this many times, so a survival instinct is not a problem for me,

but I would suggest to you that you have not thought deeply enough about evolution, about life.

It is not just about finding some RNA something that can replicate to some degree, it must also attain the will to fight for its own existence. How does even a single cell express this will to survive, but perhaps you will tell me it is just some chemical combination, a small electric jolt for saltiness, in a burst of mental brilliance you might tell me it is a response to the environment, never mind the fact "response" is an effect of life and not a precursor to it. Your Frankenstein monsters have become very small, but they never reflect the true value of Life.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Braininvat on September 5th, 2018, 12:22 am 

I know that many of you have drunk the kool aid,



That being the case, you cannot claim to approach the subject on a critical level of thinking...


but I would suggest to you that you have not thought deeply enough about evolution, about life....


That being the case I would be wasting too much time in debating particulars...


Insults, and an unwillingness to engage with specific points. And quite a bit of arrogance, combined with ignorance of the subject matter, the kind that leaves you with one approach: troll members until they get tired and leave. You can feel triumphant, the deep thinker who leaves the brainwashed scientists in the dust, unsullied by "particulars."

Enough. Good luck at the pseudoscience websites, which will no doubt welcome you.

I leave you with the words of the late great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

"Sir, you are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts."
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby someguy1 on September 5th, 2018, 1:15 am 

Braininvat » September 4th, 2018, 10:45 am wrote:That's not his point at all. He was showing how genetic algorithms demonstrate that random variation via mutations can lead to an evolutionary process analogous in some respects to what is seen in nature. This was an analogy that Berlinski falsely characterized. Hyksos used an analogy, giving a concrete example of a genetic algorithm that optimised light absorption for a photovoltaic cell. Don't confuse goals with selective pressure from the environment. The selective pressure from the natural environment is about survival, it is not about a specific design goal from a cosmic watchmaker. The environment doesn't impose some kind of teleology - it's just a place where you either survive to reproduce, or you don't. Please read entire posts before replying to them.


I have a question about this. I haven't had the time to investigate genetic algorithms so I'll just state my uneasiness and perhaps you or @hyskos can put this in perspective for me.

As I understand it, Berlinski is saying that if you randomly changed a program one bit at a time, it is virtually impossible to improve the program.

A genetic algorithm is designed and coded to apply memory weighting and other ML strategies to evolve the best solution to some given problem.

It seems to be these are very different things; and that @hyskos's genetic algorithm does not falsify Berlinski's point.

Context appreciated.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Reg_Prescott on September 5th, 2018, 2:43 am 

Braininvat » September 5th, 2018, 1:22 pm wrote:
Insults, and an unwillingness to engage with specific points. And quite a bit of arrogance, combined with ignorance of the subject matter, the kind that leaves you with one approach: troll members until they get tired and leave. You can feel triumphant, the deep thinker who leaves the brainwashed scientists in the dust, unsullied by "particulars."

Enough. Good luck at the pseudoscience websites, which will no doubt welcome you.

I leave you with the words of the late great Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

"Sir, you are entitled to your own opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts."



BiV, you know me well enough to appreciate my admiration for your knowledge, wisdom and judgement. But even the judgement of the wisest of judges is surely -- on occasion --subject to fallibiltity. For all it's worth (probably nothing), what I see here is largely the opposite scenario from the one you have portrayed in your post immediately above.

But let's stick to the facts...

I entered the most recent evolutionary brouhaha on these forums when Davidm told us in the now locked "Blocking Evolution" thread that

Evolution, however, is both a fact and a theory.


to which I replied

That evolution is supposedly both a fact and a theory seems to me, speaking as a layman, patently absurd. As I'm sure we all know, though, the prima facie absurdity of the claim hasn't stopped the faithful --Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins at the vanguard -- from screaming it from the top of every hill.

Unfortunately, that evolution is both a fact and a theory, as you claim David, does not itself appear to be a generally accepted fact. I quote now from the Wiki article I've linked at the bottom of this post.

"Evolution has been described as "fact and theory"; "fact, not theory"; "only a theory, not a fact"; "multiple theories, not fact"; and "neither fact, nor theory." "

Even among those mentioned in the Wiki article who countenance a "fact" of evolution, there seems to be little agreement on exactly what this fact is. Is it that allele frequencies change over time, as David tells us? Is it descent with modification? Is it...

Well, read for yourselves.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution ... and_theory



Now, why do I say that it is prima facie absurd to claim -- as Davidm and countless like him do -- that evolution is both a fact and a theory?

Because granting the assumption that fact and theory are mutually exclusive categories (i.e., that which is a fact is not a theory, and vice versa) then evolution can no more be both fact and theory than a bank can be both a financial institution and the side of a river.

Even allowing Davidm his most sympathetic reading, what we have, instead, is a case of equivocation: "Evolution", under one meaning of the term, is a fact; under another meaning of the term it is a theory (cf. "bank").

If you'll recall, BiV, I did try to point out to yourself on page 3 of the same thread...

It [evolution] is one of these terms that is so vague and susceptible to equivocation that it seems almost so vacuous, in common usage, as to mean nothing more than "God didn't do it".

I said this just after you'd voiced your disgust at David Berlinski's ignorance. A quick reminder:

David Berlinski was quoted (correctly) as saying

Evolution is a process, one stretching over four billion years. It has not been observed.


to which a critic, H. Allen Orr, objected

While it is true that no biologist attended the last four billion years of evolution, the claim that evolution has not been observed is simply wrong. Examples are a dime a dozen. When antibiotics were first introduced, most bacteria were susceptible. [...]


and you (BiV) added

So, I start reading, and I'm immediately encountering statements that are, I'm sorry to say, utter bullshit. Be honest, what would your response be, if you were well-informed on a topic and you started reading an essay where the author, right off the bat, revealed an abysmal ignorance of that topic? I am not attacking Berlinski as a person, please take note of that. I am registering a total lack of truth in something he said. And the only plausible explanation of such bullshit is that he is ignorant of his subject matter.


The problem here, once again, as I see things, lies not with Berlinski's "abysmal ignorance", but rather with another rather blatant case of equivocation on the part of H. Allen Orr, one that apparently went unnoticed, or else was deemed unworthy of correction.

Berlinski gave us a commonly accepted meaning of evolution (i.e., "a process, one stretching over four billion years"). Mr Orr concedes Berlinski's definition, then immediately switches to another one in order to misrepresent, proceed with a strawman pummeling, and portray Mr Berlinski as some kind of wayward ignoramus.

If evolution means just as Mr Orr characterizes it in his second usage of the term -- what would be more precisely called microevolution -- then we could all stop now: Creationists and evolutionary biologists are agreed that evolution is real. Clearly this is not the case.

Now, getting back to the putative fact of evolution, in the (also locked) Berlinski thread from last year that you linked us to above, you will see this "fact" variously characterized as:

"The fact of evolution is that we have fossils that represent surviving remains of plants and animals." (Forest_Dump)

"Yes, this is the "fact of evolution" as I see it, namely that after the first living organisms appeared more than 3 billion years ago as simple single cell organism there was diversification and branching as well as increasingly complexity among some, but not all, branches. There is no implication here of the theory of evolution folowling Darwin of how this all happened or any of the alternatives." (Forest_Dump)

"Evolution is descent with modification. End of. One can argue that the modification occurs through natural selection, natural selection plus other mechanisms, blind chance, alien intervention, acts of God, etc., but the fact of descent with modification is what evolution is." (Eclogite)

Meanwhile, in his first post in the "Blocked Evolution" thread, Davidm tells us that the fact of evolution is

"that allele frequencies change over time."


These would not appear to be the same facts.

Now, if Brent is to be castigated for fabricating facts, supposing he even did (I hadn't noticed myself), and assuming there even is a fact of evolution, how come the castigations start and end with Brent? Seems if those guilty of equivocation, duplicity, and massaging of facts are to be hanged, you're gonna need a few more lengths of rope, pal.

I know it's a losing battle. After all, the evolutionary skeptic just has to be misreprented, slandered, mocked, and humilated somehow or other. You're the objective seekers of truth; we're the brainwashed, ignorant, destroyers of rationality who would have us back in the Dark Ages before you could say Joan of Arc is hot.

I just wanted to get this off my moobs, that's all.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Reg_Prescott on September 5th, 2018, 2:52 am 

Philosopher Thomas Nagel -- nope, not a Creationist before you all go Googling -- has the following to say on those who criticize evolutionary orthodoxy, and the treatment they invariably receive from the guardians of dogma:

"In thinking about these questions I have been stimulated by criticisms of the prevailing scientific world picture… by the defenders of intelligent design. Even though writers like Michael Behe and Stephen Meyer are motivated at least in part by their religious beliefs, the empirical arguments they offer against the likelihood that the origin of life and its evolutionary history can be fully explained by physics and chemistry are of great interest in themselves. Another skeptic, David Berlinski, has brought out these problems vividly without reference to the design inference. Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair."

"Mind and Cosmos", p 10


Sentiments to which I heartily add my own endorsement.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 5th, 2018, 3:22 am 

So where do we start, does a rock complain when it falls and breaks, chemicals in the environment are constantly assaulted, having the stability challenged as the are diluted of have molecules torn from them. And what are these simply "replicator" that are theorized to have once existed. These fabulous RNA molecules, that scientists are so giddy about, forget about the 2 dozen areas of nearly insurmountable odds they must overcome, prior metabolisms, lack of proteins, inherent instability that does not allow the storage of information like DNA,

lets just put all that aside and pretend in some deep water vent possibly a couple of these seems to replicate, just by random chance after millions of years

(I really did not expect this argument to appear in this thread -- but here it is!)

Are you asserting that the veracity of the theory of Evolution by NS hinges on whether abiogenesis is demonstrated?

Do you believe that the truth of Evolution requires a demonstration of abiogenesis in nature?
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 5th, 2018, 3:34 am 

As I understand it, Berlinski is saying that if you randomly changed a program one bit at a time, it is virtually impossible to improve the program.

That was an example he used as demonstration of a larger assertion he was making. Those programs are not replicators. They will not evolve, but only accumulate errors from mutation. True. Hand-written programs for spreadsheets are what computer scientists call "brittle".

A genetic algorithm is designed and coded to apply memory weighting and other ML strategies to evolve the best solution to some given problem.
Factually false.

It seems to be these are very different things; and that @hyskos's genetic algorithm does not falsify Berlinski's point.
Berlinski's assertion is that the informational-statistical process of evolution (in the abstract) would never accumulate beneficial, useful mutations over time. Genetic algorithms falsify that assertion in flying colors.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 5th, 2018, 4:13 am 

Hmm welp. It looks like we have another banned user.

I will do some finalizing notes about Brent696, just to wrap some loose ends that are dangling.
the evolving antenna was trial and error, made more efficient with computers, I guess when Edison was searching for a viable filament we can call that natural selection.

The evolved antenna was vehemently and pointedly not trial-and-error. Trial-and-error is an algorithm used in computer-assisted optimization. It is called "Hill Climbing" by computer scientists. While Hill Climbing is a simplified, limited form of a genetic algorithm, an actual deployed genetic algorithm is very different than Hill Climbing. There is a large population for one. Second there is use of recombination (genetic crossover), which proceeds very differently than Hill Climbing.

Brent696 was raising misgivings about a collection of prerequisite biochemical processes that would be required for living and reproducing organisms. If Brent were an honest person, he could have been more patient and slow-going, and maybe smarter with tact. He could have quietly asked me what sorts of hurdles I faced with the ecosystem simulation in regards to how it gets started at the very beginning.

With all honesty, these simulations are extremely difficult to get going. There is an enormous amount of design and tweaking on the part of the programmer to get them started. You want to find a collection of rare parameters and rules that allow the process to "take off". (after which you can run them for days on end without them petering out. ) It is so difficult that it not only takes design, it takes what I could call . . finesse.

I'm sure that Brent would have been tickled pink that this is the nature of these computer simulations. He could have drawn me out with questions, and then later used my own words against me to reinforce his own position. Unfortunately, he instead decided to go on a tirade about kool-aid drinkers.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Positor on September 5th, 2018, 8:47 am 

Reg_Prescott » September 5th, 2018, 7:43 am wrote:Because granting the assumption that fact and theory are mutually exclusive categories (i.e., that which is a fact is not a theory, and vice versa) then evolution can no more be both fact and theory than a bank can be both a financial institution and the side of a river.

Can we say that evolution itself (in its proper sense) is a fact, and that "theory of evolution" (loosely abbreviated just to "evolution") is a theory about that fact?

In other words, the "of" in "a/the theory of evolution" denotes an attribute (as in "the difficulty of the work"), and not an identity (as in "the city of Paris"). There can be a theory of evolution, an idea of evolution, an understanding of evolution, and so on.

So "evolution" and "theory of evolution" (or "evolution theory") can co-exist.

Reg_Prescott wrote:Berlinski gave us a commonly accepted meaning of evolution (i.e., "a process, one stretching over four billion years"). Mr Orr concedes Berlinski's definition, then immediately switches to another one in order to misrepresent, proceed with a strawman pummeling, and portray Mr Berlinski as some kind of wayward ignoramus.

If evolution means just as Mr Orr characterizes it in his second usage of the term -- what would be more precisely called microevolution -- then we could all stop now: Creationists and evolutionary biologists are agreed that evolution is real. Clearly this is not the case.


As a non-expert, I do not understand how someone can believe in microevolution but not evolution in general. Why cannot microevolution produce major evolution over a vast timescale? Surely it just requires "more of the same". Why should microevolution always stop short of the point at which a biologist would classify an organism as a new species?

If any process can occur one step at a time, then it can carry on without limit unless there is a specific preventative factor (such as God's will, as a creationist might argue).
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby davidm on September 5th, 2018, 9:17 am 

I refuse to once again to wade through all of 
Reg’s stuff, because he, like Brent, simply does not respond to rebuttals of his points, and goes on to repeat these false claims over and over even after they have been refuted. I’ll just say a few things here.

The fact that someone can quote a wiki pages with a lot of confused descriptions of what evolution supposedly is, means nothing. It just shows the confusion of the people being quoted, and that is true even if some of those being quoted are scientists.

Evolution IS both a fact and a theory, and this has nothing to do with Reg’s preposterous “bank/bank” non sequitur. Fact: populations change (evolve) over time. Theory: a model that describes this observed fact, and makes testable predictions and retrodictions. I explained this to Reg in the other thread, and of course he ignored it all and is right back at it here, erecting his silly straw men like “bank/bank”

There are lots of things that are both facts and theories. Gravity is a fact. General relativity is the theory that describes and explains the fact.

I remind Reg that in the other thread, he made a post insisting that lots of people dispute that evolution is a fact. In a later post, he said that no one disputes that microevolution occurs. Since microevolution JUST IS EVOLUTION (macroevolution being microevolution over time), Reg blatantly contradicted himself. When I pointed out this contradiction, he ignored my post.

I remind Reg also that in the other thread, he showed an inability to grasp a basic idea in evolutionary theory: the distinction between the targets of selection (genes/individuals) and change in allele frequencies over time (populations). The inability to grasp this fundamental distinction disqualifies the discussant from having his views taken seriously on the fact and theory of evolution.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby davidm on September 5th, 2018, 9:19 am 

Positor » September 5th, 2018, 6:47 am wrote:
Reg_Prescott » September 5th, 2018, 7:43 am wrote:Because granting the assumption that fact and theory are mutually exclusive categories (i.e., that which is a fact is not a theory, and vice versa) then evolution can no more be both fact and theory than a bank can be both a financial institution and the side of a river.

Can we say that evolution itself (in its proper sense) is a fact, and that "theory of evolution" (loosely abbreviated just to "evolution") is a theory about that fact?.


Exactly right. See my post above.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby davidm on September 5th, 2018, 9:30 am 

Reg seems to be confused (pretends to be confused?) because “evolution fact” and “evolution theory” just happen be bear the same name: “evolution.” Is Reg actually suggesting that if General Relativity were renamed “the theory of gravity,” and then someone said that gravity is both a fact and a theory, he would again raise this ridiculous “bank/bank” objection? Don’t make me laugh. This is all about contriving some desperate attack, ANY attack, no matter how ludicrous, on evolutionary biology.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Reg_Prescott on September 5th, 2018, 10:22 am 

Positor » September 5th, 2018, 9:47 pm wrote:
As a non-expert, I do not understand how someone can believe in microevolution but not evolution in general.


Again, the vagueness of the term "evolution" rears its ugly head, Positor. The obvious rejoinder is "tell me what you mean by evolution and I'll tell you whether or not I believe in it".

If evolution means nothing more than "God didn't do it", then being an atheist myself, I can only believe.

What exactly do you have in mind when you use the term "evolution" right now?

Positor » September 5th, 2018, 9:47 pm wrote:
Why cannot microevolution produce major evolution over a vast timescale? Surely it just requires "more of the same". Why should microevolution always stop short of the point at which a biologist would classify an organism as a new species?

If any process can occur one step at a time, then it can carry on without limit unless there is a specific preventative factor (such as God's will, as a creationist might argue).



Perhaps it can. I don't deny the possibility; I simply treat it with a little more caution that our other members apparently do.

But having seen a kangaroo or two jump, would you draw the inference that kangaroos can jump to the Moon?

In his latest contribution, Davidm tells us:

Since microevolution JUST IS EVOLUTION (macroevolution being microevolution over time), Reg blatantly contradicted himself. When I pointed out this contradiction, he ignored my post.

Well, again, perhaps David is right and macroevolution JUST IS microevolution writ large; "more of the same", as you put it, Positor. My gripe here, as has been before, is that David is presenting as fact (with his signature "ask anyone who knows about these things, you ignoramus, and they'll all tell you the same thing" attitude) that which I personally don't consider fact, and apparently I'm not alone.

You strike me as more open minded than most, Positor. You might like to check out the two essays on the topic in "Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Biology". One essayist argues, as Davidm merely asserts, that macroevolution is just "more of the same". The other argues to the contrary that microevolutionary processes are unable to account for macroevolutionary change. (Note, he does not deny macroevolutionary change).
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby wolfhnd on September 5th, 2018, 10:31 am 

The direction thread was more entertaining.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Reg_Prescott on September 5th, 2018, 10:41 am 

davidm » September 5th, 2018, 10:17 pm wrote:
I remind Reg also that in the other thread, he showed an inability to grasp a basic idea in evolutionary theory: the distinction between the targets of selection (genes/individuals) and change in allele frequencies over time (populations). The inability to grasp this fundamental distinction disqualifies the discussant from having his views taken seriously on the fact and theory of evolution.


Hate to hog the thread, but since Davidm continues to willfully lie (yes, lie; there's no longer any doubt) about me, I'd like to direct our members to where I pointed out that the screw-up was Davidm's, not my own.

To those of you with the integrity to judge for yourselves, see my post that begins "Just to set the record straight" about a third of the way down the page, as well as the short post that follows, on the link below:

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=34620&p=339231&hilit=just+to+set+the+record+straight#p339231
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby Braininvat on September 5th, 2018, 12:54 pm 

Been through all this a year ago. Also, two years ago. Also, earlier this year. No longer interested in the pedagogical mission of imparting what ET is and isn't. Or deconstructing strawmen.

I am informing our other active moderator, Scientific AmeriKen, that I'm done moderating ET threads of any kind, and he can either assume that duty, or do whatever he wants with the threads up to and including locking them or dumping them in the garbage. For someone with experience moderating forums, I think the basic criterion for locking a thread is when it reaches the phase of "He LIED!" "No, HE lied!" "I'm just stating facts, HE's the big fat liar!" "He made up those facts! HE's the big fat liar." And so on, ad nauseam, ad infinitum, ad hominem, ad hogwash.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby davidm on September 5th, 2018, 1:09 pm 

Keeping this brief, since I’m not interested in rehashing this stuff, when I, in the other thread, remarked that evolution operates on populations and not individuals, Reg, in response, googled up a discussion at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy of targets of selection and red-bolded a statement that selection targets individuals. In doing so he plainly confused selection with evolution. In fact, selection is a subset of evolution, which operates on populations only, and selection is not necessary for evolution: much evolution is non-adaptationist.

As to Nagel, I didn’t have to google up who he is or what he believes, thank you very much. I’m sure there are some non-theists who question evolutionary biology. That is fine and dandy, but it is weird how they so often echo creationist talking points. Nagel seems to think there is some hidden telos to evolution but never shows us what it is. When he finally manages to show us what it is, I suppose he can write a new book and let the rest of us poor sods in on the secret. Nagel invites us to consider the arguments of people like Steven Meyer, but Meyer’s claims have been refuted six ways of Sunday.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby hyksos on September 5th, 2018, 2:51 pm 

It seems this thread has been co-opted as a place to adjudicate events in another far-away thread. The contents of the original post are no longer being responded to in any form.

Being the OP I feel some sort of obligation to participate. However, it would merely be picking out fragments of posts and committing an opinion. I don't mind doing that.
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Re: David Berlinski

Postby mitchellmckain on September 5th, 2018, 6:11 pm 

Ok... I responded to the OP by giving it a thumbs up. What else is there to say? I did reference the information you presented there in my first post, but now you have my direct affirmation.

Seems we are just divided between those who like science and accept the facts and those who only have a use for science if it is restricted to topics they approve of.

I was a amused by Brent's reference to drinking kool-aid -- the irony being that this refers to something done by a religious group which indulged in all kinds of willful ignorance which these people gave the name of "faith". My first thought was that this kind of flexibility represented by Brent's backward usage is the problem with rhetoric. Those insisting on believing things regardless of the evidence can turn all your argumentation around and throw it back in your face -- thus it never goes anywhere. This is exactly why we need science to advance out of the muck and mire. Next was my realization that I am not an example of one of these raised in the religious point of view and then "converted" to evolution. I started with science as ground floor of truth and then took a look at religion to see if there was anything of value there. Thus I am more of an example of how one CAN accept Christianity without drinking the kool-aid.
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