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 5 the ‘bigger’ the intelligence, the

Another example

Position of the atoms of the universe at time t
prior probability p ≈ 0

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