Responding to Granville Sewell about his Fraudulent Experiments

Feb 24 2008 Published by under Intelligent Design

Granville Sewell, over at UD, has decided to pretend that he just discovered
my earlier critique of his "though experiment" where he claims to simulate the universe. The reason that I say "pretend" is that Sewell originally edited the article that I was mocking in response to my post; now, months later, he's pretending that he just found it. Uh, yeah, sure, Gran, whatever you say.

(In keeping with my practice, I no longer link to anything at UncommonlyDense; since they feel free to lie, alter posts, and remove posts,
there's no way of knowing what my link will point to tomorrow. Similarly, I'm responding here rather than in a comment there, because UD feels free to censor, edit, or delete comments for any or no reason at all, without notice.)

Sewell's complaints come down to the following things:

  1. It's obvious that he wasn't claiming to have done the supposed experiment.
  2. My post ignores the "issues" that are at the heart of his "experiment"
  3. The post and the comments that followed it were mean and insulting.

The thing about his original essay is that you can look at it in two ways. You can pretend that it's actually serious - that he's discussing a real experiment. Or you can see it as a pointless, empty exercise in straw-man
argumentation.

The whole idea of the essay is: If we were to run a perfect, exactly simulation of the earth, we wouldn't ever observe anything
like the development of intelligent life. Every bit of "argument" in the post is based on that. Each stage of it consists of Sewell claiming that if you ran a simulation including this set of phenomena, you wouldn't get intelligent life; followed by his imaginary friend responding "Well, you forgot this thing", followed by Sewell proceeding to the next simulation including the missing feature, followed by his imaginary friend adding another thing, and so on.

Look at the argument. It's based on nothing but bald assertions of what would happen if you were to do the experiment. It's not an experiment that has been done - in fact, not an experiment that can be done. But his argument relies on conclusions drawn from the results of the imaginary experiments. Take away the supposed results, and there is no argument, beyond a simple, unsupportable assertion that evolution must be impossible, which is the conclusion of the argument.

In other words, it's a fraud.

As I said above, to respond to it, you can take two approaches. Pretend to take it seriously - that is, think about what the simulation means, what conclusions you could draw from it, what conclusions Sewell draws from it, and how they make sense. Or you could just admit that the whole thing is just another dull, pointless creationist strawman.

The take-away from Sewell's article, and my critique, is: like so many other intelligent design "scholars", Sewell can't do any real experiments. He can't make honest arguments. He can't do anything like real math or science or real experiments - so he resorts to the creation of elaborate straw-men, in which he pretends to be following a scientific process of experimentation. He talks about imaginary experiments, and uses them to draw conclusions, which he then pretends are every bit as real and valid as
conclusions drawn from real experiments.

In his defense, he describes them as "thought experiments" - a common
tack of pseudo-scientists. But they're not even thought experiments.

Go back and look at what people like Einstein meant by thought experiments. In Einstein's thought experiments, he laid out a set of real observations. Then he proceeded to ask "If this is correct, then what do these observations imply about what would happen in the following situation...", followed by an extremely careful, detailed mathematical analysis of exactly what would
be required to make the observations make sense. The result of Einstein's thought experiments was a mathematical derivation of a new version of the
law of gravity, which produced better precision than what came before. And
after the thought experiment, the theory was put to the test repeatedly, by real experiments.

Contrast Sewell's "experiment" to that. To even use the same words to describe the "thought experiments" of Einstein (a genuine, exploratory
process of precise mathematical analysis of the implications of a set of observations, leading to a specific, testable theory) with the "thought experiments" of Sewell (a fraudulent exercise involving fake questions leading to an unsupported pre-ordained conclusion) - it's just ludicrous. Sewell imagines himself as a scientific genius, a maverick, whose thought experiments will one day lead to the overthrow of the scientific theory of evolution. But really, he's just a liar and a fraud.

To get to the second part of his complaint, that I supposedly ignored the
point of his argument... What point would that be? Really, his originally essay
is a straw-man. He created an imaginary friend who believes in evolution, and has the imaginary friend spout silly arguments that Sewell made up, which no serious person would ever make. How is anyone supposed to respond seriously to things like that? No serious scientist,
ever has said anything as idiotic as "Natural selection is an exception to the second law of thermodynamics" - which is a slightly less idiotic statement than what Sewell has his imaginary friend spouting. There is no serious point to the essay to ignore!

For the creationists out there: Sewell's argument is the equivalent of
me inventing an imaginary Christian, who asks questions like "But golly Vern,
where are you gonna find a hand big enough to shape a planet from if there is no God?" - it's an pathetic caricature, saying something so patently foolish, so
idiotic, so totally off-the-wall that it's impossible to take seriously.

Finally, with respect to the "mean to him" stuff... You know, I just don't give a damn. I call 'em as I see 'em. Sewell is a liar and a fraud, who
spends his time creating bullshit arguments in order to find a way to
force his religious beliefs on the people around him. Yes, I treat him
with contempt and disgust, because he doesn't deserve any better. Respect is
something that has to be earned; Sewell doesn't deserve it.

No responses yet

  • Josh Adams says:

    So here's my problem with this whole freaking line of argument. On the one hand you have the guy claiming God made things out of nothing. On the other hand you have the guy saying that we know EXACTLY how all this stuff got made, and then sleight of hand and BAM stuff came out of nothing, but it's couched in a whole lot of math. At heart, though, someone has to tell me how they get around the 'something from nothing' argument or I'm just not interested in being told how ignorant I am for not subscribing to someone else's beliefs about all of it. It's ok that I don't feel like I know...

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Josh:
    That's what we call a "straw man".
    No one is claiming to know exactly how anything got made.
    What scientists say about evolution is that observations of the real world show:
    (1) That evolution is a fact of how living things develop. This isn't nearly as deep as
    at may sound. It's basically saying that if you have reproduction and variation,
    over time, that will add up into change; and we clearly observe both reproduction and
    variation.
    (2) All living things on earth show clear indications of a nested hierarchy of relations,
    and that hierarchy is best explained by the observed process of evolution.
    Where did the universe come from? Why is there something instead of nothing? What caused the big bang? What caused the universe to develop with the specific set of properties that it has? What exactly is matter? What is space?
    Those are all open questions - people have ideas about possible answers for some of them, but no one knows for sure. And no one honest even claims to know for sure.
    And just for information's sake, I'm a religious Jew. I do believe that there is a God. And yet, I still don't see the great difference between "God did it" and "Something came from nothing" - because as a religious person, I say God come from nothing. But God is clearly not nothing. Why is spontaneous appearance of an omnipotent, omniscient creator of the universe any less mysterious or unbelievable than the spontaneous appearance of the universe? If anything, it seems like the appearance of a creator is more mysterious and unlikely.

  • Sander says:

    "On the other hand you have the guy saying that we know EXACTLY how all this stuff got made, and then sleight of hand and BAM stuff came out of nothing, but it's couched in a whole lot of math."
    Who? Big bang theory is not about the origin of the universe.
    http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/astronomy/bigbang.html#misconceptions

  • Acleron says:

    Mark, you weren't mean to him, in fact far too kind from the quotes in your first blog. He states quite clearly he wrote the program, ran it and interpreted the results in MatLab. That's not a thought experiment. Of course it's quite possible that he is just deluded by not knowing the difference between a thought experiment and fantasy.

  • Flavin says:

    On the one hand you have the guy claiming God made things out of nothing. On the other hand you have the guy saying that we know EXACTLY how all this stuff got made, and then sleight of hand and BAM stuff came out of nothing, but it's couched in a whole lot of math.

    To continue the analogy, the second guy hasn't ever said and wouldn't ever say that. You've probably been listening to the first guy talk about the second guy rather than to what the second guy actually says.
    The first guy says he knows his answer absolutely, the second guy gives you what evidence he has and shrugs his shoulders.

  • Tobias says:

    Ugh, why are there so many stupid people out there? (not you Mark)

  • Joshua Steffan says:

    Mark is quite a renaissance character. He claims to be a mathematician, and a computer scientists, and knows all about economy... the list goes on. Now, Mark believes himself qualified to make smart-aleck comments about evolutionism.
    Since Mark is not as qualified as he claims to be, his line of argument is pointing fingers at honest and impartial researchers, crying "strawmen!", "fanatics" and "idiots." Since Mark is good at math, then he is *obviously* right and everybody else is, well, an idiot. Unless they're a fanboy to Mark.
    Why does Mark have an agenda against certain scientists? Because he's a bitter whiner who writes post about how everyone is a moron, but the oh-so-clever Mark had ideas stolen for him three times. You know "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." Fool me three times, and I'll get my head examined. But not Mark!
    Yet I don't believe that's the reason. It's obvious Mark's issue is with the CHRISTIANS, and that's understandable seeing how he's JEWISH, constantly slipping kosher salt in his "Sunday recipes."
    Well, what a coincidence. A Jewish Christian-hater using KOSHER salt in SUNDAY recipes.
    Don't worry, dear readers of this blog. Mark hasn't proven (or disproven) anything, other than he needs some SENSE IN HIS SKULL and some JESUS IN HIS LIFE or there'll be no weaseling out with mathematical slights-of-hand when the Horned One sticks his trident.
    Josh

  • Rupert says:

    Dear Josh,
    Clearly you're unlikely to come back to this page to read my response, but:
    1) Mark Chu-Carroll writes about 50% articles about rather silly (creation/somethingelse)ist arguments and about 50% about maths.
    2) The maths is usually interesting, and always well thought out and well written (I'm only an undergrad, but at least have learnt to recognise well written and correct maths).
    3) His particular religious beliefs may or may not come into his decision to critique websites with horrendous errors.
    4) But this is irrelevant - his critique remains valid.
    5) Anti semitic rantings rarely make one look clever (especially not in BLOCK CAPS)
    6) Sleight of hand has an 'e' in it.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Josh:
    I'll just note a few things:
    - I'm pretty specific about my criticisms of Sewell. I'm not just pointing fingers shouting "strawmen" - I'm specifically explaining why his experiment is a strawman fraud.
    - I don't post recipes on sunday. I post them on friday. That's why I call them "Friday Random Recipes".
    - Kosher salt is almost universally preferred by chefs. There's nothing really Jewish about it; there's historical reasons for the name. But it's coarse salt without iodine. For cooking, the coarse salt is preferable, because you can more easily feel how much you're sprinkling. Iodine can also produce an off flavor when cooked in some dishes. You get enough iodine in your diet from table-salt added at the table; you don't need it in the cooking.

  • Kyle says:

    Typical silly Christian argumentation. Mark, your response (to Josh) was incredible. Very awesome. Very cool-headed. How the heck did you manage that?
    As for your other critique, it's also very good of course. I'm an atheist, but your post and follow-up comments make me want to learn more about your religion, at the very least so I can be more diversified in my knowledge. Is there a place I might do that easily? So far, you sound infinitely more rational than all of my Snake-oil selling Christian friends. They use arguments like, "If there was no god, you wouldn't have free will. You WANT to have free will, don't you?" That one hurts me just to retype it, it's so bad.
    Have you ever discussed free will? What are your thoughts about it? I'm just curious.
    Thanks a lot, and please keep up the good work.

  • itchy says:

    Why does Mark have an agenda against certain scientists?

    Perhaps you missed part of the tagline at the top of this blog: "Squashing bad math and the fools who promote it."
    Or do you have an agenda against good math?
    (Aside: I love how the word "agenda" has morphed from its neutral meaning into something like "irrational bias.")

  • Kyle says:

    Ha, indeed, itchy. I love the assimilation of normal words into places they don't really belong. Words have always fascinated me, and that idea most especially so.
    Mark, I'm not sure if you're actually interested in philosophy. I would assume you are at least marginally. I wanted to provide a link to a person who was partly responsible for my coming to atheism, since I asked you for some study material on your Judaism. So, here you go:
    http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/
    George Smith was a lot more responsible for my atheism. I can't seem to find a good website for him, though, and Stephen Law is quite logical as well. I think his website would benefit from your Jewish outlook, since Christians and Muslims are well-represented already. Smith's book Atheism: The Case Against God is quite good, though, and I recommend it even to you, if you're interested.

  • Nomen Nescio says:

    seriously --- when's Mark ever claimed to know "everything about" economics? those few posts he made on subjects economical a while back, i could hardly see his points for all his disclaimers about being out of his field of expertise.
    (and yet he still managed to teach me a number of interesting things about money... which might go to show, computer scientists do need more brains than us mere programmers. i only wish i could do the maths required for real comp sci.)

  • David says:

    Kyle & Mark,
    I too would be interested in Mark's views of freewill. My basic understanding is that if you believe in a materialist world then the human mind would operate much like a sophisticated computer. The major difference between a computer and your mind is that your mind programs itself. So as you learn things your minds programming changes and evolves. It may appear that you have freewill but in reality all your choices are defined by previous choices and random events in your life. In other words, two identical babies would make the EXACT same choices throughout life if they experienced the EXACT same environment. Freewill in a materialist world is just an illusion.
    However, if you believe that God knows the future then freewill in a religious world is just an illusion as well. If God can see the future then he knows what decisions you will make. For example, Muslims believe the Koran (the word of God) is eternal just like Allah is eternal. The Koran discusses how Mohammed's uncle mistreats him, and since the Koran is eternal, Mohammed's uncle was predestined to mistreat him. He has no choice -- it is written in scripture. So, if whatever God you believe in, similarly knows the future then everything is predestined, and you do not really have freewill.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Kyle:
    I was a philosophy minor in college; I would have actually ended up with a double major, except that I would have had to take another whole semester of Descartes, and I just couldn't stomach it. So yes, I'm interested in philosophy. 🙂
    I'm a Reconstructionist Jew. Reconstructionism is a very recent offshoot of Conservative
    Judaism. It was founded by a Rabbi named Mordechai Kaplan. Kaplan has several books,
    which are pretty good. My brother, who is extremely orthodox, describes Reconstructionism as "Atheist Judaism". Abraham Joshua Heschel is also a good source for some of the roots of reconstructionism; he wasn't a member of the movement (in fact, he and Kaplan had some extremely deep philosophical differences), but his writings are extremely influential within Reconstructionism.
    WRT free will; yes, I believe in free will. No, I don't know how it works. So why do I believe in it? Subjective experience. I certainly *feel* as if I have free will. I can reason,
    and come to my own decisions. Maybe underneath it all, that's actually deterministic,
    and I'm not really deciding anything. But my own experience is that I'm making the choices. So I can either accept my experiences and that I have free, or I can conclude that I'm a robot going through the motions, believing that I have free will. What's the difference? I can't experience my own decisions as anything less than *my decisions*, which I am responsible for. Denying free will, when my experience of things is that I make my own choices, does nothing except deny my responsibility for my choices.
    I don't understand people who say you can't have free will if there is no God. It makes no sense to me at all. To me, it seems to be to be an entirely orthogonal issue.

  • John Marley says:

    To even use the same words to describe the "thought experiments" of Einstein (a genuine, exploratory process of precise mathematical analysis of the implications of a set of observations, leading to a specific, testable theory) with the "thought experiments" of Sewell (a fraudulent exercise involving fake questions leading to an unsupported pre-ordained conclusion) - it's just ludicrous

    Of course it is, but creationists are counting on most people not recognizing the conflation as BS. It takes a lot more time and effort to expose the lies than it takes to make them.

  • Drew says:

    Mark,
    You might try using archive.org's WayBack Machine to reference a page as it was a given time. If it isn't in their database already you can submit the URL and hopefully they'll get it in a reasonable amount of time. I'm not sure how long it takes on average.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Drew:
    The Wayback machine and the Google Cache both rely on some amount of honesty and cooperation on the part of the siteowner. Owners are allowed to request no cacheing, or to provide phony data to search/archive bots. I don't trust UD to allow embarassing things to be archived.

  • Eric says:

    Kosher salt also has greater surface area and dissolves much faster than table salt.
    The iodine is preferrable to goiter, though most people eat enough processed food and/or other sources of iodine for it not to be an issue.

  • samk says:

    "I don't understand people who say you can't have free will if there is no God."
    It seems to me that when God enters a person's life s/he is invariably left with less options.

  • trrll says:

    It may appear that you have freewill but in reality all your choices are defined by previous choices and random events in your life. In other words, two identical babies would make the EXACT same choices throughout life if they experienced the EXACT same environment. Freewill in a materialist world is just an illusion.

    There seems a fair amount of randomness in the function of the CNS, so I don't think that we can say with any degree of confidence that two genetically identical individuals, subjected to the EXACT same environment, would have the EXACT same patterns of neuronal firing or the exact same behavior. I strongly suspect that this is not the case. Neurons don't fire all that regularly, anyway, even in highly reduced preparations. It is very likely that cognition requires some sort of source of randomness, in order to discover novel solutions to problems and to carry out optimization of arbitrary procedures without falling into a "rut." Many computer optimization methods employ some sort of pseudorandom generator, which seems to be fine for most purposes (the distribution of values is more important than whether they are genuinely random). But a neural "computer" doesn't have to settle for pseudorandomness, as it has direct access to brownian noise at multiple levels (millisecond to millisecond variation in the number of neurotransmitter molecules bound at a constant concentration, variation in the number of channels that open in response to a given concentration of neurotransmitter, etc.) as well as thresholding and positive feedback mechanisms capable of amplifying such noise. It may well be that the function of the nervous system is chaotic, such that variation in, e.g. the number of channels that opens at a particular instant (even all macroscopic conditions being equal) can result in different behavioral choices.
    Now I'm sure that there are some who would insist that "free will" must be neither deterministic nor random--in other words, that it must be magical. But randomness is certainly a kind of freedom. it seems to me that a chaotic system that operates on the edge of randomness is something very different from either a purely deterministic or random system, and might well correspond to the subjective experience that we identify as "free will."
    A complementary philosophical question is whether an omniscient God could have free will. It seems to me that the experience of free will and the ability to reliably anticipate one's own future actions are likely mutually exclusive. I'm not sure what would distinguish such an entity from a nonsentient force of nature such as gravity.

  • David says:

    Your may be right trrll. I realize my arguements in both the materialistic case and in the religious case were not complete. However, in my defense, I maintain that I was trying to keep my arguements to just a few sentences.
    I'm an athiest, so I view my mind as software that programs itself. However, I really don't care if this places me into a deterministic world. I still maintain that "I think; therefore I am." (Sorry Mark, I couldn't help myself). Even if I live in a deterministic world it doesn't matter as long as my mind has been taught to use reason and logic. If I can make decisions based on reason and logic then freewill is just a matter of semantics in my opinion.

  • InnerNinja says:

    You say potato, i say potah-to,
    let's all get sauced and eat each other's pi.
    I guess what I'm trying to say is that this argument has lots of merit, but in the end, we should simply prepare ourselves for march 14th, 2008 my friend 🙂

  • Badger3k says:

    Off topic, but that salt issue sounds interesting enough to try in my (rare nowadays that I teach) home cooking. I assume that you (Mark, that is) prefer the kosher salt over sea salt? I've not looked into the details, but I assume there are differences, but just curious on your opinion. I haven't cooked with either, but maybe I need to give it a try.

  • Leigh says:

    Mr. Joshua Steffan, typing in haste and undoubtedly with great emotion, has committed the following logical errors, rendering his argument essentially useless:
    1. Argumentun ad Baculm, appeal to force:
    "no weaseling out with mathematical slights-of-hand when the Horned One sticks his trident"
    2. Argumentum ad Hominem, abusive:
    "Mark is quite a renaissance character. He claims to be a mathematician, and a computer scientists, and knows all about economy... the list goes on. Now, Mark believes himself qualified to make smart-aleck comments about evolutionism."
    and
    "A Jewish Christian-hater using KOSHER salt in SUNDAY recipes."
    and
    "It's obvious Mark's issue is with the CHRISTIANS, and that's understandable seeing how he's JEWISH, constantly slipping kosher salt in his "Sunday recipes."
    3. Argumentum ad Hominem, circumstantial:
    "Mark hasn't proven (or disproven) anything, other than he needs some SENSE IN HIS SKULL and some JESUS IN HIS LIFE"
    4. Argumentum ad Ignorantiam, and Fallacy of Complex Question:
    "On the other hand you have the guy saying that we know EXACTLY how all this stuff got made, and then sleight of hand and BAM stuff came out of nothing, but it's couched in a whole lot of math.
    5. Argumentum ad Misericordiam:
    "I'm just not interested in being told how ignorant I am for not subscribing to someone else's beliefs about all of it. It's ok that I don't feel like I know..."
    6. Argumentum ad Populum:
    "Why does Mark have an agenda against certain scientists? Because he's a bitter whiner who writes post about how everyone is a moron, but the oh-so-clever Mark had ideas stolen for him three times."
    7. Begging the Question:
    "At heart, though, someone has to tell me how they get around the 'something from nothing' argument"

  • Nick Johnson says:

    Kosher salt also has greater surface area and dissolves much faster than table salt.

    This seems unlikely to me. The finer the salt, the higher its surface area : volume ratio, which should cause it to dissolve faster, not slower. As a thought experiment (there goes that term again) imagine dropping a large rock of salt into a pot, compared to the most finely ground salt you can make.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    Badger3K:
    I like sea salt better that kosher salt. The varieties of minerals that wind up with the salt in the crystals give it subtleties of flavor that simple kosher salt can't have.
    The catch with sea salt is that in cooking, you can't taste the difference. The subtleties are lost amidst the the other flavors. And it's a *lot* more expensive than kosher salt. Why pay at least 3x as much for something when you won't be able to taste it?+
    Sea salt is great for sprinkling on things - a couple of crystals on a piece of bread with butter is amazing. But it's also not good as an everyday sprinkle-salt - we need some iodine in our diets, and sea salt doesn't have it, while table salt does. So sea salt is basically a once-in-a-while special ingredient.

  • Bob H says:

    "Kosher salt also has greater surface area and dissolves much faster than table salt"
    The surface area of a particle of salt goes as r^2 while the volume goes as r^3 so the surface to volume ratio goes as r^-1. The larger exposed surface area can't overcome the larger amount that needs to be dissolved.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    BobH:
    The surface area issue is actually a comparison between kosher salt and other coarse salts. Kosher salt isn't a coarse salt made up of perfect large crystals; it's a very rough salt, made up of clumps of tiny crystals stuck together in irregular shapes. So compared to a typical sea salt, which consists of rectangular crystals, kosher salt does indeed dissolve much faster.

  • To paraphrase Mark Twain (i think), "don't argue with idiots - people can't always tell the difference". Its a fine line between trying to make it clear that these "arguments" do not make sense (aren't worth their salt?) and giving attention to the 'semi-evolved simians' who make them. Keep up the good work on your interesting and informative blog.

  • SteveM says:

    after reading Leigh's list (#25) of the logical fallacies in Joshua's "comment" (#7), I'm lead to consider that Joshua's screed was meant as satire and we're all a victim of the "Law" that satire of fundamentalism becomes indistinguishable from the real thing. I mean really, using kosher salt on Sunday is some kind of evidence of hating Christians? That just has to be a joke, right? Right? And not just that, but it seemed just about every sentence was equally wacko that it just has to be satire. Yeah, satire, that's the ticket.

  • Mark C. Chu-Carroll says:

    SteveM:
    I'd like to believe that it was just a satire... But every time that I mention the fact that I'm Jewish on my blog, I get a flurry of private emails with similar contents.

  • Jeff says:

    It really does not matter if one is christian,athiest,jewish,agnostic,muslum,or undecided because we are all in the same (boat).
    It is the debate that will lead to a natural consenses.
    Let me muddle the water a bit...What if "God" was an athiest?

  • Jeff says:

    Sorry, I mean "What if God is an athiest?"

  • Reginald Selkirk says:

    I like sea salt better that kosher salt.

    I do wonder about all the trash we are putting into our seas. Regular table salt is mined from ancient seas, one can hope that the dinosaurs didn't disperse too much dioxin into their environs.

    WRT free will; yes, I believe in free will. No, I don't know how it works. So why do I believe in it? Subjective experience. I certainly *feel* as if I have free will. I can reason,
    and come to my own decisions. Maybe underneath it all, that's actually deterministic,
    and I'm not really deciding anything. But my own experience is that I'm making the choices. So I can either accept my experiences and that I have free, or I can conclude that I'm a robot going through the motions, believing that I have free will. What's the difference? I can't experience my own decisions as anything less than *my decisions*, which I am responsible for. Denying free will, when my experience of things is that I make my own choices, does nothing except deny my responsibility for my choices.

    Free will is one of those concepts that people cherish so much that it will probably never be abandoned, only redefined. "Oh you say X doesn't exist? Well then, free will must be something other than X." You make decisions, no argument there. That's called "will." Is your will free or not? In a materialist worldview, that question amounts to are "you" a part of the materialist world, or apart from it? And in a materialist worldview, there is no "apart." Whatever is part of the material world is part of it, and whatever isn't, doesn't exist. For many materialists, free will is a remnant of the dualism they think they have abandoned.
    For a dualist believer in an omniscient deity, the question of free will is quite different. The question becomes whether your will is free from Mr. Omniscient, not from the material nature of existence.

  • Jeff says:

    OK I'll answer that myself.I really don't think humans are the result of a major identity crisis.
    There is one thing I am sure of... Humans, soon after birth have at least two distinctive qualities. We are very curious and love to play.If I am created or designed or a random result of a cosmic coincidance, its still a wonderful thing,this thing called life,as matter of fact I could not live without it.I'll see you in the sunlight,bye for now.

  • trrll says:

    Sorry, I mean "What if God is an athiest?"

    If we define "theism" as a belief in a creator greater than oneself, then doesn't God almost have to be an atheist, by definition?

  • El Christador says:

    I like my definition of free will. It corresponds to the "hard determinism" definition.
    If the initial value problem posed by the laws of physics, and the current state of the universe has a unique solution, then there is no free will. If it possesses more than one solution, and there is no selection mechanism* to select which of the possible different solutions actually occurs, then there is free will.
    *there has to be no selection mechanism in principle, not merely an unknown one. If a selection mechanism exists, then it gets included in with the laws of physics.

  • Ian Musgrave says:

    Mark wrote:

    we need some iodine in our diets, and sea salt doesn't have it, while table salt does.

    Strictly speaking, sea salt does have iodine in it. Although at around 1.2 - 1.4 micrograms iodine/gram it's not going to supply the roughly 150 mircograms per day we need (unless you like your food really salty). Also, it may be the practise in the US to iodize all table salt, but not all Western countries have follow this practise (in Australia most, but not all, table salts are iodized). Given that most Medical Councils recommend that we reduce the salt in our diet, and that most salt added during food processing is not iodized, it might be appropriate to look at other dietary sources of iodine. Good sources of iodine are seafood, eating fish twice a week will supply all your iodine needs (but there may be issues with Mercury intake). Seaweed containing foods (Nori rolls, Yum!) are also rich in iodine. More mundane sources are milk and eggs.
    Also, cooking with unprocessed food (fresh vegetables rather than preprocessed, making your own sauces rather than buying tinned or packet ones) and adding a small amount of iodized salt to taste will be very good.
    Living close to the sea also helps, as there is a high concentration of absorbable aerosol iodine in air close to the ocean (most probably from decomposition of organic matter containing iodine, rather than iodine salts in water droplets).

  • Skemono says:

    If we define "theism" as a belief in a creator greater than oneself, then doesn't God almost have to be an atheist, by definition?

    Not at all. Surely God also has to wonder where he came from, doesn't he?

  • Jeff says:

    I think perhaps mankind was introduced to life by a sense of great loneliness.Imagine if you will,a universe of one, with no other to play. I would venture to say the dinosauors got a little boring and a more sentient being was required.
    Refer to the religous words "In his Image"
    "Image-A person or thing that closely resembles another;counterpart.
    So "Image" not just what you see but has the same attributes-anger,love,curious ect.
    Years ago and even perhaps today religous figures did a great diservice to mankind by keeping knowledge/information from the populace. Religion used to be the only source of knowledge until what we know as science broke free.
    {Copernicus}
    Reigion and science are very closely related.Both are belief systems.One can not prove anything exact,However in the attempt we can come very very close.PI is a very good example. We know thru are senses that the simple circle exist but prove it exactly.A close approximation is all that is needed to advance.As an object is being observed it is altered by the act of observation.[indeterminancy principle]> One should never get bored if we do it's our own fault. However,lonliness----Great lonliness can have profound repercussions. After a time one would do allmost anything to cure this condition. With mankinds limited abilty we might even attempt to assign life to a soccer ball. If you had the power of the Universe what would you do? If you were stuck on an island by yourself for a very very long time what would you really want/need? Would you not want someone with which to Play? OK to interject a morel to all of this.>>Continue to grow whether it be thru science or religion, be a friend to someone who is lonely, Afterall it may be you who is lonely. The sun just came out... gottago

  • jre says:

    OK to interject a morel to all of this.

    Mmmm ... morels, yum.

  • Jeff says:

    try them in a tuna noodle cassarole with spinich instead of peas--fresh morels that is---really yum.

  • David says:

    El Christador,
    I believe that some definitions of "hard determinism" take into account not only classic physics, but also quantum physics. Thus they allow that randomness exists, so that as you indicated the current state of the universe has more than one unique solution. However, this doesn't resolve the freewill question because now your actions are not dictated by your 'will' but instead they are dictated by randomness. In other words, if you believe in "hard determinism" then your choices are mandated by either the unwavering laws of classic physics, or by the randomness of modern physics. In either case, you don't really decide anything and freewill is an illusion.

  • Pole Greaser says:

    Jews, having rejected their law's fulfillment in Jesus, have become just another denomination the the Sodomite religion of evolutionism. The works of Copernicus and Darwin did for all mankind what the Talmud did for the Jews--turn men away from the Gospel and toward the practice of sodomy.
    The deep and subtil arguments of Dembski and Sewell compelety disprove evolutionism yet evolutionism os still believed because men need to justify their sodomy in light of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

  • Dave M says:

    Wow, hard to follow P.G. there, but I did want to say that for non-philosophers interested in the free will problem, this philosopher recommends Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves (or his earlier Elbow Room) for a very readable and helpful introduction.

  • I'm pretty sure PG is a deliberate parody, since I have a hard time believing someone legitimately concerned about "sodomy" would use a common slang term referencing oral sex as his/her handle.

  • Dave M says:

    That occurred to me, Tyler, but either way, it's hard to follow that.

  • Badger3k says:

    Thanks for the reply Mark. I'll give it a try.

  • Jeff says:

    Perhaps it would be of some help to put away such specific words such as creation,evolution,design and others.Think of everything (in transition)
    Transition=the act or state of passing from one place,condition, or action to another.

  • Anonymous says:

    Skemono@40: Nonsense. Since God is by definition omniscient, he has no scope to wonder about anything. I reckon this invalidates the concept right there, but let's skip over that and instead consider what an utterly intolerable existence this God would have. He must be bored out of his fucking mind. Pity this creation of yours: what else does he have to look forward to but his own oblivion? It's a fundamentally stupid, bad story.

  • Anonymous2 says:

    #51 Can't follow you here. Your paragraph is contridictory.
    Did you mean to say God, being (all-knowing)was bored,OR a God that wonders is bored.
    Oh and by the way, when was God given a life expectantcy?

  • Skemono says:

    Since God is by definition omniscient

    Not true. "Omniscient" is not inherent to the definition of "god".

    I reckon this invalidates the concept right there

    Which concept is that?

    Oh and by the way, when was God given a life expectantcy?

    According to most Christians, at the beginning of time (or maybe right after the Fall™), when God came up with a plan of "saving" all the children he punished by incarnating himself and having himself killed.
    Or maybe you meant another god? Lots of 'em are due to die in Ragnarok. Lots of others have already died--Osiris, Mithras, Baldur, etc.

  • Jeff says:

    Good point. Osiris died? Damn he owed me money.

  • As to the ID lies that evolution can only decrease the information in DNA, consider the following.
    New submissions for Fri, 9 May 08
    [1] arXiv:0805.1085
    http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0805/0805.1085.pdf
    Title: On the Law of Directionality of Genome Evolution
    Authors: Liaofu Luo
    Comments: 14 pages
    Subjects: Genomics (q-bio.GN); Cell Behavior (q-bio.CB)
    The problem of the directionality of genome evolution is studied. Based on the analysis of C-value paradox and the evolution of genome size we propose that the function-coding information quantity of a genome always grows in the course of evolution through sequence duplication, expansion of code, and gene transfer between genomes. The function-coding information quantity of a genome consists of two parts, p-coding information quantity which encodes functional protein and n-coding information quantity which encodes other functional elements except amino acid sequence. The evidences on the evolutionary law about the function-coding information quantity are listed.