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EVOLUTION,

EMPIRICISM AND

PURPOSENESS (2)

Jesús Zamora Bonilla

Presented at the symposium


‘Evolutionism and Religion’
Firenze, Italy, november, 2009
jpzb@fsof.uned.es 1
‘NO FREE LUNCH’
THEOREMS AND
THE DYNAMICS
OF INFORMATION

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‘NFL theorem’: no search algorithm performs, ‘on
average’, better than blind search
So, selection algorithms only work if they are
‘intelligently programmed’
(though, as Häggström 2007 shows, the theorem also says
that, if an algorithm actually performs better than another,
then the assumption of ‘pure noise’ simply does not hold as a
description of the fitness landscape)

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This is analogous to the following ‘theorem’:
Let E be the conjunction of the phenomena to be
explained by a scientific theory T
If T explains E, then p(T) ≤ p(E)
Furthermore, the more numerous, different, detailed,
and surprising the empirical facts we want to explain
are, the less probable any theory explaining them
must be.
So, the better an explanation is (the more it
explains), the more ‘unexplanible’ (‘chancy’) it is

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An example: The
‘clock in the
beach’ argument

The more complex a creation


is, the more complex is the
SOCIETY needed to create it,
and a more sophisticated
explanation will the existence
of this ‘creator’ demand
So, intelligence needs always a
sophisticated explanation; and
the ‘bigger’ the intelligence, the5
Another example

Position of the Position of the


atoms of the atoms of the
universe at time t universe at time t’

prior probability p ≈ 0 prior probability p ≈ 0

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What is the prior probability that the transitions
from state t to t’ are continuous (i.e., of atoms
having continuous trajectories)?
State t by itself does not logically imply
anything about other states
So, since there are an ‘infinity’ of instants
between t and t’ (let’s say a hughe number Λ ),
the probability is less than pΛ
Consider, for example, the prior probability that
orbiting bodies follow Keplerian trajectories,
instead of any other mathematically possible
trajectory.
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So, the prior probability that the particles of the
universe have the trajectories they have (P), is
far bellow the ‘universal probability limit’
Assume that classical or relativistic mechanics
happen to explain those trajectories
Then the prior probability that the universe
obbeys these theories can not be higher than P
Of course, the probability that real trajectories
are so, given our empirical data, is very high,
and the probability given that the universe
follows some of these theories, is 1.

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This can be related to Dembski’s claim on ‘nature
incompleteness’ (‘natural laws cannot explain by
themselves the existence of design’)
In a sense, natural laws are unavoidably incomplete:
Imagine we knew all the laws of nature
Then it would be impossible to explain why nature
has precisely those laws, instead of other
mathematically possible laws
For that would demand to derive those laws from
other laws, and we have assumed we had already all
the laws of nature.
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In the case of ‘explaining design’, what is what
Dembski means?
That chemical laws are not capable of
explaining biological facts?
That ‘chemical’ processes cannot lead to the
emergence of biological entities?
Nothing of these leads to the conclusion that
living beings are better explained by an
intelligent design, for it is not explained anyway
how that intelligence leads to those facts

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More importantly, however:
from the fact that biological entities contain
incredible amounts of information,
and from the assumption that they have emerged
out of the interaction of chemical mollecules
according to physico-chemical laws,
It follows that these physico-chemical laws (plus the
relevant initial conditions) contained still more
information
(Compare this to the emergence of a ‘rich and
complex’ planetary system out of an apparently
‘homogeneous and amorphous’ nebula)
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There is also a confusion between the information
contained in a state-of-affairs (i.e, a real system), and the
information contained in the description of a system

Intelligence amounts to the capacity to manipulate


descriptions of states-of-affairs (what can physically
influence those of other states, of course)

The information contained in real systems is not ‘created’ in


the same sense as when a mind creates the information
contained in a novel or a symphony, and does not need, in
general, the intervention of intelligent agents

(E.g., compare the processes that ‘created’ the information


contained in an accurate map of the Earth, and one of
Tolkien’s Middle-Earth).
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Dembski and Marks, “Life’s Conservation Law”

“We are not here challenging common descent... nor


are we challenging evolutionary gradualism... Nor are
we even challenging that natural selection may be the
principal mechanism by which organisms have evolved.
Rather, we are challenging the claim that evolution can
create information from scratch where previously it did
not exist. The conclusion we are after is that natural
selection, even if it is the mechanism by which
organisms evolved, achieves its successes by
incorporating and using existing information.”

Exactly! The information contained in the


periodic table
(for natural selection working with other stuff creates
less complex entities) 13