Friday, January 15, 2010

Up Front Front Loading

Spot the front loading is this theory.

This post on Uncommon Descent has proved interesting. Below I’ve quoted parts of it and added my own comments:

I have argued before that the core of ID is not about a specific theory of origins. In fact, many ID’ers hold a variety of views including Progressive Creationism and Young-Earth Creationism.

Comment: I understand the above to mean that in the poster’s opinion ID concerns not a history of origins but the ultimate source of information (which is identified with intelligence). Well, I suppose somebody from the anti-evolution ID community would have to say this because, as we know, there is little consensus amongst them on the course of natural history: There’s a lot of difference between an Old Earth theory of common descent and Young Earth Creationism. In fact as far as an account of natural history is concerned those ID theorists who believe in an Old Earth and common descent are closer to standard evolutionists than they are to YECs! But presumably this UD poster regards belief in the ultimate cause of life a more important category marker than which story of natural history one believes. But at UD the ironies and paradoxes abound: In this post I comment on a UD post by William Dembski where he appears to distance himself from the YEC community.

But another category that is often overlooked are those who hold to both ID and Common Descent, where the descent was purely naturalistic. This view is often considered inconsistent. My goal is to show how this is a consistent proposition.

Comment: The author then goes onto to consider a form of genetic “front loading” as evidence of the work of intelligent agency in the history of life. As this front loaded genetic information is implemented by life at different junctures in prehistory it results in a bifurcating tree of common descent. (Although the author is careful to state that he himself does not hold this view)

Behe’s actual view, as I understand it, actually pushes the origin of information back further. Behe believes that the information came from the original arrangement of matter in the Big Bang.

Comment: That’s what you might call the ultimate "up front" front loading into matter. Notice a habit of mind in operation here: It is taken it for granted that front loaded “information” will be reified in a complex arrangement of matter; in this case the arrangement is envisaged to be implicit in the arrangement of matter in the “cosmic egg” of the Big Bang; it’s either that and/or a given arrangement of atoms in a very large genome.

And, as hopefully has been evident from this post, the mode of evolution from an information-rich starting point (ID) is quite different from that of an information-poor starting point (neo-Darwinism).

Comment: This is where he goes wrong in my view: One can analyze neo-Darwinism in the same counterfactual way that this UD poster is considering genetic (an even Big Bang) front loading and thus come to the conclusion that if neo-Darwinism has happened then it can only have done so because of an information rich front loading; in this case the front loading would be found in a reducibly complex arrangement of structures in morphospace (See my last post). Ergo, a working conventional neo-Darwinism becomes just as much a form of front loaded ID as genetic front loading. The reason why it is difficult to spot “Darwinism” as a front loaded system is that the information has no material reification in the form of an arrangement of “solid matter”; instead it is to be found in the platonic realm of morphospace.

In Darwinism, each feature is a selected accident.

Comment: “A selected accident” – precisely; something is doing the “selecting” and that something is the “information source” and that information source is found in the arrangement of morphospace. However, that arrangement would have to be implicit in the laws of physics. But I suspect that the anti-evolution community would take exception to that suggestion because they have a low view of the complexity generating powers of algorithms and laws. (Note: I said “complexity generating powers” and NOT “Information generating powers”)

I think that agency is a distinct form of causation from chance and law. That is, things can be done with intention and creativity which could not be done in complete absence of those two.

Comment: “Chance and Law”; well that’s a step in the right direction – it’s much better than “chance and necessity”, although I think “Law and Disorder” is even better. Yes I agree that the a-priori complexity of intention and creativity can reach solutions that are practically unreachable to law and disorder. However if this UD poster is a theist why would he want to draw a sharp distinction between agency (=Divine Intelligence) and “chance and law”? If he is a theist then wouldn’t he believe that “chance and law” are ultimately sourced in divine agency and thus the ultimate cause of all that chance and law generate is to be found in that agency? Aren't "chance and law" a theory of origins rather than an ultimate cause? Is he underestimating what divine intelligence, the ultimate cause, can achieve through law and disorder? In my view “chance and law” are a description of the status quo, a theory of origins, and as such they are not causes in and of themselves.

Final Comments:

1. As I have remarked before the anti-evolution ID community seem confused about the difference between information and complexity: They expect high information objects to be complex (That need not be the case as I have already suggested in previous posts) and therefore the mantra that “you can’t create information” translates to “you can’t create organized complexity”. This is why they don’t believe in evolution and abiogenesis; to work, these processes are required to create organized complexity and therefore in the anti-evolutionist’s mind they must be creating information which of course they can't do.

2. If I am right in suggesting that common or garden evolution could equally be mooted as an ID candidate then this means that the span of possible ID theories ranges from YEC theory, through genetic front loading to neo Darwinism! However, it is likely that the anti-evolution ID community will resist this conclusion: Given all the name calling that has been traded between anti-evolutionists and the evolutionists it is simply impossible for the anti-evolution community to call a moratorium on bog standard evolution on the basis that it can be mooted (albeit counterfactually) as an ID candidate because they would lose face and become a laughing stock. Moreover the anti-evolution community has committed itself to portraying bog-standard evolution as a “natural” process that pretends to be able to create information and thereby the seat of a godless lie. In the mind of the anti-evolutionists the “natural forces” of evolution are set over and against Divine Agency. Hence they don’t see just one “prime mover” but a trinity of causal candidates: God, chance and necessity with the latter two as upstart pretenders. No doubt if pressed they would confess that “chance and necessity” are also down to the Divine Mind. But “chance and necessity” has become blighted by a close association with atheism and is seen as a tool of an atheist conspiracy, to be resisted at all costs. I’m reminded somewhat of the fact that acceptance of the Gregorian calendar was at first resisted in England; it was too closely associated with the papacy to be immediately acceptable.

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