Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Meloncolia I Resume

This post is a recap of where I last left my Meloncolia I project, my last word being this paper where I derived the following information relationship:

I(p) = I(1/N)  + I(q) + I(b)
....and where:

 I( ) represents the information function --log( ),   

p is the absolute probability of an outcome. The implication is that p is extremely small as it represents a tiny minority of favourable cases among the huge space of platonic possibility. In the context of Meloncolia I the cases of relevance and interest is the class of organic configurations. Clearly within the context of all that is possible this class of organised complexity is very small. Thus it follows from the definition of information that I(p) is very high.

b is the conditional probability of the outcome under scrutiny. This probability is within  the bonds of practical realization - that is, it must be high enough to mean that the outcome has a realistic chance of occurrence.  e.g. life exists so we expect it that its conditional probability is within the realms of practicability given the age and size of the universe. It follows then that the information embodied in b is relatively low.  

q is the probability of the physical constraints which constitute the conditions that make b a conditional probability. 

The above three probabilities were the concern of William Dembski's "conservation of information" thesis. If for the moment we forget the first term on the right hand side of  equation 1.0 it is easy to see why it is so termed. In order to get I(b) sufficiently small for its corresponding outcome to be realistic, the absolute information embodied in I(p) must be soaked up in the conditions needed to make the outcome associated with b realistic. That is, the absolute  improbability of p can only be expressed as the product of the improbabilities of q and b - which in information terms means the corresponding information values are summed. An example of the kind of precise physical set up embodying the information implicit in q needed to give evolution a realistic chance is the spongeam. 

The I(1/N) term
However, I have added a third term on the right-hand side of equation 1.0. This term,  I(1/N), is the information created by activity or searching. In the most elementary model N represents a simple sequential searching of the possible cases in the huge volumes of platonic space. Under these circumstances it is clear that because I is a logarithmic function, I(1/N) grows extremely slowly with N, so slowly in fact that we can understand why this term is easily missed from 1.0. A conservation law of sorts, nevertheless, still holds in as much three terms sum to a constant, but the existence of I(1/N) makes for a dynamic equation where information shifts from one term to another, rather than having a situation that is in stasis. However,  the existence of the term I(1/N) may be liminal and difficult to perceive, for whenever we do algorithmic searches conventional computational activity is creating information only very slowly given the processing technology of our current machines. 


I would submit that equation 1.0 gives us hints about the nature of intelligent activity and this becomes clearer once we include the activity term in the information conservation equation. Without this dynamic term the equation we are left with pertains to a static system that does nothing, leaving the question of where does the information come from? dangling. This prompts dualistic attempts to fill the gap with a mysterious thing called "intelligence" which is eminent to physical systems and all but beyond further scientific scrutiny: It's no surprise, therefore, that IDist Robert Marks should believe intelligence to be a different genus to physical activity (or "natural processes" - sic) rather than seeing that activity as bound up with Intelligence. Further, it is of no surprise that some de facto IDists see the nature of intelligence as beyond their terms of reference. In short, the philosophical problems with their explanatory filter has brought their inquiry to an end.  It is not that adding the dynamic term I(1/N) to equation 1.0 answers all the questions, far from it, but we are effectively zooming in on the subject of intelligence itself and resolving it into parts which may help take the inquiry beyond de facto ID's God Intelligence-of-the-Gaps. 

Computations and also, I would maintain, human mental activity produces envelopes of tentative experimental possibility. These envelopes or "halos" are scrutinized for the fulfillment of high level objectives thus making the process of intelligence teleological. If a configuration is discovered that fits these general objectives the envelops generated by the trial process are discarded. In such trial systems the information is, as it were, back-loaded into general and sometimes very fuzzy teleological goals rather than front-loaded into the very tight and precise constraints signified by I(q) in equation 1.0. Because there may be many configurations that fit the general goals selection of a particular outcome could be probabilistic.  (See here for more details)

Equation 1.0 may also give us a clue about the nature of learning. Huge activity is needed to create the information required to fulfill teleological goals. When that information is found it may be stored away and used to update the I(q) term which then acts to constrain future searches. In the activity of human thinking learning no doubt considerably reduces the search space. 

Disclaimer: The above is certainly not being proposed with any claim to scientific authority. The above is more about speculative world view synthesis as I attempt to make an epistemic trade off between proposing embracing high level theoretical speculation against empirical rigor. It is more an avenue of speculation which is not going to be everyone's cup of tea; see the epistemic note below which was my response to a Facebook entry on epistemology.

Appendix: An Epistemic Note:

It was requested that I make a comment on the following facebook entry: 

Quine would agree with me that there is no difference in type comparing religion and science.They are both science and just differ in degree.There are just varying degrees of scientific goodness. Religion is in fact just bad science.There may be a god but it is much less likely to be found or understood by bad science. Quine said:
"For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing, the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind. Both sorts of entities enter our conceptions only as cultural posits. The myth of physical objects is epistemologically superior to most in that it has proved more efficacious than other myths as a device for working a manageable structure into the flux of experience."

My reply, below, is that whilst I agree that there is a general category of epistemology that runs from standard science through world view synthesis to religion, we need to factor in epistemic tractability which varies with the object of study.  Objects such as springs and precipitates are very different in terms of epistemic tractability  to say "evolutionary history"; accordingly standards of "proof" vary. 

Timothy V Reeves I believe there is an epistemic continuum from elementary spring extending and test tube precipitating science, through economics, sociology, history, evolutionary psychology to outright world view synthesis which includes what we think ultimate reality to be. (The latter includes religion). The epistemic common factor here is one of a contentious but hopefully constructive dialogue between experience and our theoretical narratives which attempt to make sense of our experience. So I’m inclined to agree with the view that elementary science is on the same epistemic continuum that religion is on.

But… and it’s a really big but….But that continuum is not necessarily a continuum of “good and bad” science/rationality, but one of epistemic tractability. For example the objects that social scientists and historians deal with are far less epistemically tractable than, say, springs and chemicals in as much as those objects are far more complex and erratic in their presentation. Hence someone can practice bad science with a very tractable ontology and yet another person can do good history with the far less epistemically tractable objects of history. In short it would certainly be wrong to judge historians by the standards of the “physical sciences” when the ontologies dealt with are very different in complexity, accessibility and presentation.

One has to factor in the nature of the ontology one is dealing when discussing this subject. In “Against Method” Feyeraband is good on the subject of how hard epistemic method is to pin down to anything definite even within the so-called “physical sciences”

As for “physical objects” – Quine really needs to reflect on what this means – it’s a loaded term that makes little sense given that the concept of “physical objects” presumes a huge mountain of epistemic and theoretical refection even before they can be defined and understood with anything less than a vaguely felt understanding. 

17 hrs · Edited · Like · 2

Timothy V Reeves ..and one of those non-physical objects with all the potential for generating controversy is the question of very complex nature of science itself. In the philosophy of science we attempt to turn the tools of observation and theoretical narrative onto themselves, thus giving us a "science of science", the quintessential reflexive endeavour!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Brexit: Farce piled on top of Fiasco

Successful Politicians? 

farce (fars): noun: A comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.

I thought I'd join in the general political jamboree and "headless chicken" melee that erupted after the UK's Brexit vote. So, I decided to sign the petition for a second Brexit referendum.  Here's the circular reply I recently received (Note: The petition now has over 4.1 million signatures)

Dear Timothy V Reeves,
The Government has responded to the petition you signed – “EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum”.
Government responded:
The European Union Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015, receiving overwhelming support from Parliament. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout.
The EU Referendum Act received Royal Assent in December 2015. The Act was scrutinised and debated in Parliament during its passage and agreed by both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Act set out the terms under which the referendum would take place, including provisions for setting the date, franchise and the question that would appear on the ballot paper. The Act did not set a threshold for the result or for minimum turnout.
As the Prime Minister made clear in his statement to the House of Commons on 27 June, the referendum was one of the biggest democratic exercises in British history with over 33 million people having their say. The Prime Minister and Government have been clear that this was a once in a generation vote and, as the Prime Minister has said, the decision must be respected. We must now prepare for the process to exit the EU and the Government is committed to ensuring the best possible outcome for the British people in the negotiations.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Click this link to view the response online:
This petition has over 100,000 signatures. The Petitions Committee will consider it for a debate. They can also gather further evidence and press the government for action.
The Committee is made up of 11 MPs, from political parties in government and in opposition. It is entirely independent of the Government. Find out more about the Committee: https://petition.parliament.uk/help#petitions-committee
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

My comments
1. This above doesn't say whether or not the outcome of the referendum is legally binding; they've evaded answering that one;  truthfully and explicitly answering that question would, of course, beg the question (See here)
2. The leadership that acted as the main player in securing a Brexit vote has collapsed and made an ignominious exit rather than take responsibility for the circumstances their actions have brought about. You might expect that out of a Brexit victory would come firm decisive leadership, but no, they were just demagogues who touted misleading information.  This doesn't inspire much confidence in the cause they promulgated.
3. Ironically the petition was set up by a Leave campaigner; its parameter thresholds  of a  >75% turnout and >60% majority were conceived in advance of the vote,  evidence of at least one Leave campaigners perception of what would constitute  a valid outcome; ergo, by his own rules the outcome is not sound. 
4.  I don't think it is contentious to claim that a large proportion of the Leave vote was based on crypto-xenophobia. Moreover many have expressed regret at their all too causal voting practice in favor of Brexit and would now vote Remain.

5. I'll concede that having a second referendum would certainly not feel like good democratic practice: It looks as though  we've made our bed and we're probably going to have to sleep on it. However, in what looks suspiciously like a flawed vote and a Brexit leadership collapse farce has been added to fiasco. I doubt if British democracy would be set back much by a second referendum. British democracy must be the laughing stock of the world already and it couldn't get much worse than it is.

6. One reason why I have favoured Remain  (and I admit this is a very personal and idiosyncratic reason) is not just because of the weight of economic opinion in favour of Remain, but because "Brexit" has a high frequency of conspiracy cranks in its ranks, from the loony left to the  raging right, through David Ike to the numerous fundamentalist christian sects. These people promote fantasy cloud-cuckoo-land ideologies that incorporate anti-EU theories. I personally have seen some of their thinking in operation at close quarters and have become very aware of their all too human foibles which in the case of the Christian fundamentalists often masquerade as spiritual authority. Consequently knowing what I do meant that I just couldn't bring myself to vote the same way!

To complete the story today I received the following email.

Dear Timothy V Reeves,
You recently signed the petition “EU Referendum Rules triggering a 2nd EU Referendum”:
The Petitions Committee has decided to schedule a House of Commons debate on this petition. The debate will take place on 5 September at 4.30pm in Westminster Hall, the second debating chamber of the House of Commons. The debate will be opened by Ian Blackford MP.
The Committee has decided that the huge number of people signing this petition means that it should be debated by MPs. The Petitions Committee would like to make clear that, in scheduling this debate, they are not supporting the call for a second referendum. The debate will allow MPs to put forward a range of views on behalf of their constituents. At the end of the debate, a Government Minister will respond to the points raised.
A debate in Westminster Hall does not have the power to change the law, and won’t end with the House of Commons deciding whether or not to have a second referendum. Moreover, the petition – which was opened on 25 May, well before the referendum – calls for the referendum rules to be changed. It is now too late for the rules to be changed retrospectively. It will be up to the Government to decide whether it wants to start the process of agreeing a new law for a second referendum.
The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs. It is independent from Government. You can find out more about the Committee on its website: http://www.parliament.uk/petitions-committee/role
The Petitions team
UK Government and Parliament

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Right Wing Perspective on the Orlando Night Club Massacre

In a rather disquieting post on the web site "Uncommon Descent" we read the reaction of abrasive right wing Christian Gordon Mullings to the Orlando Night Club Massacre. The post can be found here:


Below I reproduce some portions of Mullings' post plus one comment he added in the comment thread. I also reproduce below some of the content by another right-wing UD poster Denise O'Leary. I have interleaved my comments.  

This seems to be of a — horrific — piece with the Paris and San Bernardino attacks. (The direct parallel to Bataclan makes chatter about “gun control” as the solution patently irrelevant.)

My Comment:  Irrelevant? Far from it!

Unlike the Bataclan attacks which had detectable IS links it seems the FBI are having trouble finding any links with IS apart from lone-wolf radicalization. I have heard it said that there is a distinction between being inspired by IS and being directed by IS. When directed by IS the radicalized Islamist must be linked into the IS communications network which then considerably increases the chances of the radical appearing on the security services radar. But those who are just inspired by IS and otherwise operate alone, are much more difficult to detect. 

In the UK attacks from those who have links to radical Islam or claim to be inspired by radical Islam have used sharp edge weapons and not guns (See here and here). This is very likely down the the difficulty of getting guns in the UK. So, provided there is effective gun control already in place, as it is in the UK,  lives  are clearly being saved; for it is extremely likely that if the perpetrators of UK attacks could have laid their hands on high powered military grade weapons of mass destruction they would have done so. 

Mullings can say what he likes but once good gun control is already in place it is a very relevant factor in public safety although it is not the complete solution, of course. 

Per Drudge, it seems Gateway Pundit and Walid Shoebat are saying there was an ISIS threat against Florida three days ago. Sky News reports a call to emergency services just prior to the attack, during which loyalty was pledged to IS. A now sadly familiar modus operandi.

Mass murder, demonic evil on the loose, 4th generation war with no distinction between military and civilians.

My Comment: A familiar modus operandi? I suppose it is if you understand that in the US lone wolves inspired by IS who are likely to be off the radar of the security services, can easily pick up military grade weaponry and start shooting straight away with devastating results. 

Let us get what seems to be relevant geostrategic context:
The  geographic paranoia of  right-wing America

My Comment: To my mind this vision of America is typical of the extreme right wing; Christian supporters of Donald Trump are also likely to see the world much like this; that is, a decaying and weak US beset by increasingly confident and belligerent antagonists. These supporters are quite sure America is no longer great and therefore respond to the appeal to "Make America great again". In fact the above is a paranoid vision that fails to take into account the nature  of Russian, China and as we shall see, human nature in general.

The Chinese are a creative and hard working nation and have been the seat of thousands of years of high civilization. It ought to be no surprise that a country like China, once it mobilizes its huge population and starts to feel its strength, is going to be a force to be reckoned with; but not necessarily a malign force if the West, faced with a trade hungry nation, plays its (business) cards right and leaves the Chinese to govern themselves the Chinese way.

As for Russia we must remember that here we are dealing with a nation whose history favours a perspective of paranoia and belligerence - as one commentator put it, in Russian culture  "Might is right". But nevertheless we ought to have some sympathy with Russia on several counts. From a Russian point of view there is a long history of the West appearing to be always out to get Russia and do down its culture and generally humiliate it. This started, I suppose, with the great schism of 1154 between Latin and Greek Christianity, followed by the Western Crusader sack of Constantinople in 1204. More recently Russia has had to face Napoleon, the Crimean war, Nazi Germany, the Cold war defeat, not to mention recent tensions with the West which from a Russian point of view look malign, threatening and above all humiliating.  Let's also recall that the Russian population is only similar in size to the populations of just the UK and Germany combined, both of whom have larger economies than Russia and where the UK alone has a similar military spend to Russia. If one now combines all the rich Western nations (and Japan) ranged against Russia (and that includes the most powerful nation in the world i.e. America, in spite of what Trump says) one can understand Russian fears.

Let's remember that Russia, like the West, has a Christian background, namely the eastern orthodox church with its roots in Greek speaking Byzantium. This background Christian culture should be respected and encouraged. I know it's not a perfect model of Christianity, but then neither is Roman Catholicism and its Protestant offspring with its numerous fanatical fundamentalist sects and cults. Most of all Russia wants respect and security. For the Latin Christian this means respecting Russia's orthodox Christian tradition.

Yes, there are dangers in the current tensions between the big nations as there always have been, but it  helps to attempt to understand the perceptions and sense of (jn)justice of those on opposite sides of national divides. Contrast this with a right-winger like Mullings who only sees bogeymen and threat. If that attitude spreads and goes go critical on all sides then you've got a world war on your hands. 

It seems the weapon is an AR-15, which would be a semiauto 5.56 mm NATO weapon. At Bataclan,  AK 47s were used.

I think, again, that we need to look to serious target hardening, given the successful defense of the Geller event in Garland TX. END

VS, while I really do not want to get into an exchange just now, I note that in Paris the restrictions on firearms are far more stringent than anything that would be imposed in the US for the foreseeable future. All it did was create a massive soft target. The tactical lesson is, targets need to be hardened in a 4th gen war world in which the determined WILL be able to get hands on weapons (as long as drugs are smuggled, so can be guns); as the Garland TX case also shows. Also, as was discussed here at UD after the San Bernardino case. KF

My Comment. Well, I can't speak for the US; it's already awash with military grade weaponry and whether you are a lone mass killer or a well organised network of killers guns are virtually on tap; how one proceeds given a national situation like that I've no idea. If I lived in such an armed environment I might well feel threatened and paranoid enough to want to defend myself with a gun. i.e to become a "hard target", in the face of threats from extremists, cranks and people angry enough to just blow it.

Guns beget more guns and that in turn begets more killings in an fight for survival that leads to an arms race. Let's face it; in the US the horse has bolted and I've really no idea of how they are going to sort it, especially in the face of right wing intransigence on gun control.

But how would Mullings propose to target harden places like the UK and France where that hardening is in the hands of the security forces?  According to Mullings the stringent firearms controls in both countries makes their populace a massive soft target! But imagine it: To target harden the UK gun shops would have to open up on every street corner. That would immediately make guns available to both those inspired by IS and those already linked to the IS comms network. If there wasn't such stringent gun control in the UK we would very probably have seen several IS style massacres by now. But radicalized Islamic extremists would be the least of our problems; at most they are likely to take the lives of a hundred or so citizens. However, make weapons of mass destruction available to citizens on a huge scale and you immediately consign many thousands per year to death by gun. When guns are available over the counter the human impulse is to use them under situations of stress, threat and anger, not to mention the obvious dangers of making guns readily available to malign crackpots. Where a society is awash with military grade weaponry its citizens don't just become hardened targets but potentially proactive shooters themselves simply because  anger, vengeance and mental pathology then have the potential to express themselves with a gun; the population turns the guns on itself.

At times Mullings seems paranoid; he is very ready to read ad hominem, web stalking, and malicious innuendo into critics behavior especially if the criticism comes from that much feared bogeyman, the atheist liberal-left. This prompts further abrasive and accusing reactions from Mullings which only have the effect of inflaming the web attacks on him still further, thus fixing the whole process in a polarising feedback cycle. But we can't just blame Mullings here. A kind of cultural paranoia is abroad among the transatlantic right-wingers in general, a paranoia which in part defines the right-wing and conditions its responses.  Consider for example UD poster Denise O'Leary who gives her reason for not favoring Brexit as follows:

I’m not a Brit, but were I one, I’d sure vote Brexit. Several reasons:
1. If Britain had wanted to be run by Germany, she could have surrendered in either of the two World Wars. But she didn’t. She defeated Germany in both. History matters.
2. One person who clearly recognized all that was WWII era French President Charles deGaulle. He vetoed England’s entry into the European Common Market precisely because he had lived in England, knew English, and understood that the culture of the English-speaking peoples is different. For one thing, we have each other, worldwide.

(See http://www.uncommondescent.com/science/celebrate-the-science-writer-as-asshat/)

To me the above smacks of subliminal xenophobia: It doesn't follow that being part of the EU means acquiescent acceptance that Germany runs the show or even wants to run the show. Frankly O'Leary's comment trades on a lingering distrust and fear of ulterior Germanic motives that revolve round the bad memories of fascist Germany. Also, it is entirely erroneous to talk as if the English speaking peoples share a very common culture - they don't. For example, the kind of quasi-anarchistic gun tooting libertarian brash right wingery and christian fundamentalism we see in the States leaves me utterly uncomprehending of transatlantic culture. It seems that the self-selecting go-getting Europeans who left the troubles of Europe in favor of the promise of the New World has given America its own peculiar culture, vibrant, pioneering and innovative  yes, but sometimes it feels a little off-balance to a Brit.

Clearly O'Leary's simplistic "Whose side are you on?" dichotomy and her fanatical paranoia over the liberal left does no justice whatever to the real world situation. But paranoia isn't a problem unique to US right wingers and fundamentalists - it's a human nature problem and that is a universal independent of culture. There are bound to be the paranoid and nationally belligerent equivalents of the O'Learys and Mullings among the Russians, the Germans, the Chinese*1, not to mention the Brits, each of whom fancies they see a threatening world of ulterior motives, a world out to get them. And these nations don't just have a few Kalashnikovs, truck bombs, bows and arrows, flint axes and what-have-yous, but huge arsenals of some of the most advanced weapons of mass destruction the world has seen. Now that is scary, very scary.

* 1  See here for an example of Chinese paranoia: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-36983521

Note on Gordon Mullings' Science
Mullings' hard-right attitudes and personal abrasiveness doesn't do justice to his science material which is eminently more reasonable. He's not a fanatical YEC and seems aware of the heuristic nature of science. If you want to find out about transatlantic de-facto ID you couldn't do much better than consult Mullings' works - they are well organised and well presented.  However, there are aspects of his thinking which in my opinion are badly wrong: He uses the old crude explanatory filter which leads him to adopt the standard God-of-the-gaps paradigm of de facto ID. Also, he wrongly thinks the second law of thermodynamics contradicts evolution. This seems to be because he has no concept of how physical constraint (such as the spongeam) might play a role in evolution, as it does in life's ability to organise and annex matter on a large scale and yet stay within the second law. It's true that the latter is down to the presence of biological information, but conceivably the laws of physics provide this up front information for evolution. Although I personally actually doubt this proposition the possibility of the spongeam has to be examined and consciously eliminated from the inquiry.