Wednesday, April 11, 2007

One billion monkeys

I had a lot of fun over at ExpectoRants discussing Intelligent Design with cvj of Placeholder. Too much fun, in fact. He uses the words 'proof' and 'proven' rather loosely. When he uses 'proof' or 'proven' he actually means 'inferred from observed facts'. But no problem. I do get his drift. We're laymen so we can't all the time be expected to use words like 'proof' and 'theory' as a scientist would use them. He made some interesting statements like

"Life itself cannot be used as proof of such intelligence because there are more straightforward, alternative explanations in the form of evolution."

Again in this statement, I think he uses 'proof' to mean 'inference'. It is not that life itself is used to infer intelligence. It is specified, systematic information that is used to infer intelligence, not life. That's what we do in the real world. That's the principle Darwin himself espoused when he proposed his theory: that in trying to reconstruct what happened in the past, we shouldn’t infer causes that are strange or 'exotic'. We should only infer causes whose effects are known to us. In this case, intelligence is the best explanation for systematic, specified information. When you see a banana leaf with a poem written on it, you automatically infer that the poem came from someone's mind even if that someone didnt leave his or her name on it. You dont infer that natural, purposeless processes worked on the leaf to create that poem. That would be absurd.

I replied:

'More straightforward' is a relative term of course. I see systematic, specific information, complete with language and syntax, and I hypothesize an intelligence as the most straightforward explanation. On the other hand, a Darwinian sees a series of random mutations worked upon by a purposeless natural selection as the most straightforward. It all depends on the metaphysical framework one is working in. (I submit though that if we see a book on Shakespeare, an intelligence is a more straightforward explanation than 'a billion monkeys on a keyboard typing for a billion years and just happened to type the complete works of Shakespeare'. This of course is a 'too-simplistic' generalization of Darwinian theory, but I trust you get the point.)
Francis Collins, who headed the Human Genome Project, once said that if you printed the human genome on regular sized paper, in regular sized font, what youll end up with is a book as thick as the Washington Monument is tall. That's a lot of pages of information.

I used a billion monkeys typing for a billion years somehow ending up with a complete works of Shakespeare. That's not quite what Darwin's theory says. In fact that's half of it. The billion monkeys are the random mutation part. What's missing is the natural selection part. That is, there ought to be a mechanism that watches over what the monkeys are typing, then when a recognizable word comes out, the mechanism takes that word and sets it aside. To write Hamlet, this machine scans what the monkeys are typing. It sees 'To', it sets it aside. It sees 'be' and it places it after 'To' and so on until the machine comes up with 'To be, or not to be: that is the question.' Each word needs to be in its proper place, with the proper punctuation. The machine can't come up with 'That: or be question the, to not...' It won't make sense and therefore won't survive [isnt fit for survival, i.e., won't be selected]. It does this until it completes Hamlet. With the machine, one can see that it is possible, indeed easy, for one billion monkeys to come up with the Complete Works of Shakespeare.

The problem is, the machine is 'blind'. It has no idea what it is doing. It doesnt have a copy of Hamlet with which to compare what comes up from the monkeys' keyboards. Remember each letter has to be put in a specific place in the play. You can't just place the words anywhere you like or else there won't be a Hamlet. A billion monkeys can only come up with Hamlet if the machine already knows what words it wants in a specific order it wants, complete with punctuation, and instructions like Enter Hamlet, and all that. To be able to write Hamlet with one billion monkeys, the machine must already have an idea of what Hamlet looks like; a purpose.

Darwinians seem believe that the information in DNA is best explained by the blind machine of natural selection instead of a machine that has a full set of instructions on what to do already programmed into it. To them, the blind machine is the more straightforward explanation. If that is straightforward, I'd hate to think what they mean when they say 'convoluted.'

Charles Darwin never knew about DNA. I once wrote that had Darwin known about it, he mightve seen it as a validation of a theological belief he once held that God gave instructions to nature for it to create itself. The richness of information in DNA couldve been seen by Darwin as part of that instruction set.

Francis Crick was familiar with DNA. And when he realized what it was and what it contained, he became an advocate of Directed Panspermia, [changed link to panspermia site from original link to Wikipedia] the idea that the earth may have been purposely seeded by an advanced civilization. This theory of course neatly solved the origin of life on earth, but still doesnt solve the question of life from non-life: How did life start in that planet that seeded us? The point is, once you realize the amount of information in DNA, you start thinking "Some mind mustve done this" as the most straightforward explanation.

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