Saturday, February 09, 2008

Principia Marconomica

Marco claims that Marconomic Principle 4 is incompatible with some aspects of my philosophy. ‘Contradicts [my axioms] heavily’ in fact. Here is Marconomic Principle 4:

Complex design and creation - Complex artefacts of any description or purpose always have precedents that are complex. A lineage must always be assumed to exist to a less complex precedent with either trial and error pathway for any additional complexity, or a lineage with an added component that has extensive precedent in itself. Whether the pathway to the antecedent is directed or undirected is immaterial to this principle. "Creation" of a complex artefact without precedent does not exist under Marconomic principles. "The design process" is also a complex "artefact" under this concept and thus itself necessarily has precedents and lineage that can be traced back. This Paradigm of code generation demonstrates creation/design as a unified concept (nearly)

Quoth he: ‘I believe this principle to be Universal (with a capital U) This makes my views quite incompatible with your concept of God.

I can’t see it.

Perhaps Marco, like Dawkins and Haldane and so very many disputatious atheists, is under the misapprehension that my concept of God is of an entity that is complex? If it was, then it would clearly be vulnerable to principle 4. I would equally clearly be a nitwit. However- like Spinoza, and in agreement with the doctors of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, I conceive of God to be an entity that is simple.

As St. Augustine says, God is truly and absolutely simple.

19 comments:

Marco said...

I really have to break down principle 4 to a simple to understand axiom. Basically, during my formative years I was exposed to intense debate of evolution versus creation. I felt that both sides had reasonable points and fairly consistent ideologies, but quite frankly, I felt both sides were using very crude approximations of reality, mainly to rule out the other side of the debate as it was structured. From that point, my axiom has been that "Design and Evolution are one and the same thing". I have fitted my philosophy around it and I will get together some examples soon

Marco said...

Combining with another of my implied axioms that the supernatural doesn't exist, related to the Spinozan axiom which dictates that everything has proximal natural causes, when looking at evolution from a "design" perspective, the "brains" behind the design work is non-supernatural and is contained within the DNA and other information within the biological systems themselves. We should be looking for natural analogues to processes in the evolution of human artefacts in the natural world. I believe that God follows the rules of the Universe much like the president of the USA must obey the rules of his country even though he both represents it and rules over it.

Marco said...

Since it is impossible to be all-knowing and to be be part of the Universe, the assumption of God being all-knowing is also an approximation (but, in all fairness, can be very useful and correct in all critical situations)

Thus, I cannot connect with a creed or hope of a perfect, simple, but all-knowing God.

Dr. Clam said...

Since it is impossible to be all-knowing and to be be part of the Universe, the assumption of God being all-knowing is also an approximation (but, in all fairness, can be very useful and correct in all critical situations)

Yes, and that is why I have argued at some length that any God worth considering must be outside the universe (space-time as we know it and can possibly know it in the future) in order to be omniscient with respect to the universe. The Universe (whatever unknowable thing or things of which the universe is a subset) is not our concern.

I believe that God follows the rules of the Universe much like the president of the USA must obey the rules of his country

I believe, in a more accurate analogy, that God follow the rules of the universe much like the president of the USA chooses of his own free will to obey the rules of his country- which rules he also has a role in generating.

My axiom has been that "Design and Evolution are one and the same thing".

This sounds clever, but in the context of the Evolution/Creation passenger pigeon hunt (NOT debate) I assert that it is a statement without meaning or value.

Dr. Clam said...

felt that both sides had reasonable points and fairly consistent ideologies

Reasonable points? Consistent ideologies? The creationists have no reasonable points to speak of, and an utterly inconsistent ideology.

Any *single* monkey sitting at a typewriter could create (or evolve) a more consistent ideology in an afternoon.

Marco said...

Reasonable points? Consistent ideologies? The creationists have no reasonable points to speak of, and an utterly inconsistent ideology.

I was young and impressionable. I no longer think "young earth" creationists have a consistent ideology. They were the majority in almost all the arguments. Some things have stuck from those arguments however:

a) Sudden catastrophic events can cause some geologic features that are usually interpreted as gradual.

b) The mathematics behind completely random mutations tempered only by natural selection is extremely dodgy.

c) Ideological zeal is often stronger with some evolutionists (read Dorkins) than with my peers that believed in "ex nihilo" creation.

d) Many evangelicals believed in creation via evolution but were fuzzy on the details.

Marco said...

I guess I have another implied axiom as well. "Any hope which requires *the supernatural* (such as being all-knowing) should be assumed to be a natural process that approximates the ideal for all intensive purposes. With virtually infinite parallel universes, that are huge in themselves, this leaves a lot of room for something that for human purposes is *all-knowing*"

However, this something (by this axiom) is necessarily complex, and has precedents that are less so, etc.

I refuse to resort to the hope of the supernatural for something like "knowledge" which can be stored and requires complexity to do so in perfectly natural ways.

Dr. Clam said...

I have another minor axiom which I should table.

"Parallel universes are a load of toss."

Hehe!

BTW, the mathematics behind completely random mutations tempered only by natural selection is not at all dodgy. You are being led down the primrose path by the ghosts of those long-departed evangelicals. You need to think not of an egalitarian society where every gene is as good as another, but an elaborate hierarchy where many (most)(micro)mutations will do nothing, but a single micromutation at an upper-level control gene can make a gross difference to the phenotype.

Marco said...

(most)(micro)mutations will do nothing, but a single micromutation at an upper-level control gene can make a gross difference to the phenotype.

Yes, but there is one thing that (mathematically) worries me greatly. There is a great deal of "redundancy" in DNA. That doesn't just mean that most micro-mutations won't make any difference. It will also follow, that there will be mutations that accidentally remove some of the redundancy *Without any change to the function of the gene*. This reduction of redundancy would be passed on faithfully like a copying error on a second hard drive, eventually reducing redundancy everywhere well before selection even knows about it. This is one of those inconvenient facts that I have trouble fitting into the orthodox model.

The conclusion I come up with is that there is some particularly nifty error correction happening on all crucial segments and their backup drives; and furthermore, there is considerable knowledge within DNA about which subroutines are critical and require redundancy and which ones don't. Also, which mutations to let through and which ones are *obviously* deleterious.

Marco said...

BTW, the mathematics behind completely random mutations tempered only by natural selection is not at all dodgy. You are being led down the primrose path by the ghosts of those long-departed evangelicals

The primrose path is leading me down the road that tells me that DNA is a lot more sophisticated in a number of dimensions than any biologist is giving it credit for. Biologists continue to have an aversion to anything that even "sounds" like design. It isn't enough that DNA encodes how an organism develops.

Dr. Clam said...

It will also follow, that there will be mutations that accidentally remove some of the redundancy *Without any change to the function of the gene*. This reduction of redundancy would be passed on faithfully like a copying error on a second hard drive, eventually reducing redundancy everywhere well before selection even knows about it.

I don't see it. This 'reduction in redundancy' is meaningless as long as they are functionally the same. Indeed, this is how improved versions of the gene can arise. All you need to maintain effective redundancy is a mechanism that can swap copies between individuals and occasionally duplicate genes. I think you will find this mechanism is called 'sex'.

Marco said...

All you need to maintain effective redundancy is a mechanism that can swap copies between individuals and occasionally duplicate genes.

I don't see it. You can copy information between drives all you like and copy bits all over the place. But without *error correction* you do not have a RAID array. If you are only relying on system failure to tell you there is a problem, it will only happen after the all copies of the program stop doing what they are supposed to do.

I don't know why biologists insist that there is no error correction on DNA. DNA repair is something that is observed for somatic cells (however imperfect the repair). Why is it such a stretch to believe that repair happens to germline cells by fixing critical sections with similar processes that a RAID drive array does? Software that uses "natural selection" in design, only allows randomness in particular dimensions. The advantage is that designs don't have to be built and fail (in easily simulated ways). Perhaps there is an organism simulator locked away in our subconscious that tests subroutines. Perhaps the evolutionary logic behind a female egg being fully formed before she is born, and being highly shielded from the elements, and sperm that is generated not long before it is used and is exposed, is the equivalent of going to the archives and checking that your current version of the bible that has been copied over and over again by hand is still the same as the original archive that has been in storage untouched.

Dr. Clam said...

If you are only relying on system failure to tell you there is a problem, it will only happen after all the copies of the program stop doing what they are supposed to do.

Nuh uh. You are thinking in crude Boolean terms. 19 working copies of the flimflam gene will make a creature which is slightly less fit than one with 20.

I am quite sure that there are sophisticated error-checking mechanisms. I don't think biologists deny this. I think on reflection most would probably agree with your statement there is considerable knowledge within DNA about which subroutines are critical and require redundancy and which ones don't. Also, which mutations to let through and which ones are *obviously* deleterious, which on reflection I do too.

Okay. Are you saying:

"Under environmental stress A, the control mechanism that check replication in germ cells will *selectively* relax/fail to allow more micromutations in a spectrum of genes A which correspond to proteins or regulatory sequences A potentially important in responding to stress A."

I could buy that. What I can't buy is a theory that postulates selective 'good' mutations in the direction of better fitness under conditions A.

Skipping back a bit, you also said:
It might be alright for a virus with millions of launches every second, but I don't think it would quite be so good for the Emperor Penguin.

Why not? We are talking primarily about failures that take place in gametes or zygotes, not in comical metre-high birds.

Marco said...

"Under environmental stress A, the control mechanism that check replication in germ cells will *selectively* relax/fail to allow more micromutations in a spectrum of genes A which correspond to proteins or regulatory sequences A potentially important in responding to stress A."

Yes! I am saying this as a mere obvious starting point. However this really opens up a door to:

a theory that postulates selective 'good' mutations in the direction of better fitness under conditions A.

Especially with DNA elements like:
retrotransposons

That do really neat tricks like :
Like DNA transposable elements (class II transposons), retrotransposons can induce mutations by inserting near or within genes

The really BIG eureka thing for me is that Stress A is a mere *trigger*.

Just think about it: No-one can predict the future exactly. How can one know that a cold stress isn't just a one-off and not an indicator of long term ice-age? Species stay roughly the same because the best first guess is that conditions are going to be roughly the same for your children as for you, regardless of extremes.

The future can only be predicted in certain situations and the trigger may have nothing to do with the actuality (eg. higher CO2 levels could indicate climate change, as a rough example) so the CO2 could trigger mutations for higher temperature tolerance among other things.

Once you have determined you can stop certain mutations at will, surely it isn't much of a stretch that they can be let through at will. Additionally the multi level hierarchy of genes require very isolated mutations for big phenotypic response.

Marco said...

Why not? We are talking primarily about failures that take place in gametes or zygotes, not in comical metre-high birds.

That is the point *Natural selection* doesn't act on the gametes and zygotes for features (like swimming) that are of interest later. Every good engineer knows that you must test and experiment with a subsytem independently, when you have a hierarchy (like you have with genes) I'm fine if you tell me that there is a selection process *within* that determines that kind of thing.

*Begin RANT*
I just cannot believe that people like Dorkins go on and on and on about Selfish genes and competition and selection and random changes. You can see that there is a hierarchy of genes. How can one select on just ONE of the lower level genes when random changes can affect many different lower level genes at the same time. Can you imagine programmers submitting edited routines for testing with random ideas at random times, and using a full program test to test them all AT THE SAME TIME. That is such an insane concept. The reason this(insanity) is ignored is that the orthodoxy is so concerned with ruling out *DESIGN* and swimming in their glorious pool of triumph at ruling out *Intelligent Design* that all their studies focus on competition, methods of selection and distribution of genes, and absolutely NOTHING on the clever error correction etc. that they know must be there.
*End RANT*

Dr. Clam said...

However this really opens up a door to: a theory that postulates selective 'good' mutations in the direction of better fitness under conditions A.

'It really opens up a door to' is not an argument. It is a non-sequitur. Invoking retrotransposons does not help. There is no physical way you can micromutate gene A selectively in a direction that will make the organism better able to cope with condition A. You have taken an entirely unjustified step into the aether. How can you selectively let through mutations that *will be* useful? Just think about it: No-one can predict the future exactly.

Once you have determined you can stop certain mutations at will, surely it isn't much of a stretch that they can be let through at will.
Sure they can. But not with foreknowledge of what they will do the phenotype. Just think about it: No-one can predict the future exactly.

Chris Fellows said...

I think you need a new analogy.

It's not like writing code, its like finding the optimal protocol for a process with umpteen gazillion parameters. You can't possibly do enough experiments to test all parameters independently, so you do a matrix of experiments where all sorts of things are changing between experiments. It's standard chemical engineering. Sure, it would be madness for a programmer, but not for a chemical engineer... *or* an organism.

And I am here, naturally, trolling for comments on my own blog ;)

Marco said...

I think you need a new analogy
I think you need a new analogy :)

It's not like writing code

Really? Really? So a sequence of instructions on how to build an organism isn't like a computer program? It is called Genetic code for goodness sake! I think it is like writing code when it suits biologists to think of it that way.

its like finding the optimal protocol for a process with umpteen gazillion parameters Oh, yes - when it is done with multiple layers of abstraction (like the hierarchy of genes) it is called software engineering.

You can't possibly do enough experiments to test all parameters independently, so you do a matrix of experiments where all sorts of things are changing between experiments. It's standard chemical engineering.

Aha. So you admit it! It is like engineering (design). I am not saying that this parameter matrix bizo is not happening as well *at the higher levels* of the gene hierarchy, but that there are strict restrictions on what is left to be randomised and which are static *especially in the lower levels of the hierarchy* When you have an optimised liver, you don't mess with it (much).

Sure, it would be madness for a programmer, but not for a chemical engineer... *or* an organism.

It wouldn't necessarily be madness for a programmer of computer viruses, just when you are doing something complex at multiple levels (space shuttle). A chemical engineer would not dream of doing it if there was a hierarchy of chemistry.

For an organism it would make perfect sense for a virus to rely on it, but a complex organism needs to build on what it has already optimised.

And I am here, naturally, trolling for comments on my own blog ;)

I would like to, but I am not finished here yet.

Marco said...

Just think about it: No-one can predict the future exactly.

There are some things you can predict (By looking at the distant past) and some things you can't. I'm saying that genes hedge their bets somewhat unless there is a 10/10 trigger/future match based on a million years genetic experience