Sunday, February 10, 2008

Science Deals with Evidence

I’ve heard some people make the outrageous claim that there isn’t any evidence of intelligent cause for life. Let’s examine this, and see if these people are merely being selective hyper- sceptics or if they really do have a point that there is no evidence of intelligent cause within life.

First let’s briefly look at intelligence. What is intelligence? There are many ways to discuss intelligence and many different properties that can be attributed to intelligence. However, as far as I have seen, the two most common “tests” of intelligence is the ability to learn and the ability to use functional information and knowledge.

What is learning? Well, one thing is true about learning ... that is, when you learn something, the useful information and knowledge that you possess increases. If an AI system learns, then it increase its useable information as a functional response to its environment. One thing that distinguishes intelligence from other systems is its ability to increase its functional information
and knowledge content as it interacts with its environment.

Intelligence can then use this information to manipulate its environment. That seems to be what an IQ test actually looks for ... the ability to apply information to situations and problems. If intelligence can apply information to environmental situations, it will then be able to utilize stochastic processes (natural law and chance) to produce a goal oriented procedure to solve a particular problem or cause a pre-planned result which is not definable by natural theoretical law and not reasonably attributed to pure chance.

Therefore, ID Theory postulates that certain effects of intelligence can be reliably separated from theoretical law and chance – intelligent cause is detectable. Since intelligence can basically be summed up in the ability to produce a goal oriented procedure by utilizing (sufficiently organizing/programming) stochastic processes, intelligence can be equated with any type of teleological process – teleology being defined as: “the fact or character attributed to nature or natural processes of being directed toward an end or shaped by a purpose.” Neither chance nor a random assortment of law are teleological. However, intelligence is marked by the ability to plan into the future and then sufficiently engineer a solution to accomplish a goal. So the debate concerning Intelligent Design Theory is fundamentally one of accident verses teleology – that is, chance assemblage of law verses intelligent assemblage and fine tuning of law (guidance toward a pre-planned goal). And both of these positions are testable by experimenting with information processing systems.

ID Theory hypothesizes that the systems below are reliable indicators of previous teleological/intelligent cause because they are not theoretically definable by law, neither reasonably attributed nor observed to have arisen by pure chance, yet are (as a positive) observed to have been caused by intelligent systems using foresight to accomplish future goals:

-CSI (Specifications) [link]

-Communication system, Information processor, Coded Information, Coding/Decoding System (Definition of a code: Given a source with probability space [Omega, A, p(A)] and a receiver with probability space [Omega, B, p(B)], then a unique mapping of the letters of alphabet A onto letters of alphabet B is called a code. Here p(A) is the probability vector of the elements of alphabet A and p (B) is the probability vector of the elements of alphabet B. (Perlwitz, Burks and Waterman, 1988). (According to this definition, which is very simple, DNA is a code.)

-Evolutionary algorithms [link], which must be guided by problem-specific active information (knowledge of the problem/targets programmed into the behaviour of the algorithm).

... as well ...

Convergent evolution [link][link]is the observation of many separate biological evolutionary trials converging upon the same forms and functions. Convergent evolution provides evidence that the evolutionary process is focussed upon non-accidental end functions (targets) and is consistent with the hypothesis that there is an ultimate evolutionary end point (the Omega Point) -- the ultimate target of evolution. Convergent evolution shows the constraint of evolution, after multiple separate runs, to the same targets of highly improbable form and function. This provides evidence that biological evolution follows what has already been discovered with the NFL Theorems – that evolutionary algorithms only work if the search procedure is guided to pre- set problems by problem specific information. It’s one thing for evolution to find a highly improbable form or function once, however, when it finds it on multiple separate trials we have evidence that it is indeed a process which is guided toward a palate of pre-determined functions which are then sorted by the environment (natural selection).

As an extra, here is Hameroff’s blog [link] discussing his testable and fasifiable model/hypothesis re: a potential foundation for a quantum based intelligent design – that is: consciousness may actually fundamentally be a property of the operation of space-time’s quantum effects. Here’s a good video lecture [google video] [link] by Hameroff giving the basic explanation of his hypothesis/model.


Martin said...

And more generally, there is evidence that the entire cosmos is the result of ID. I'm referring, of course, to the coincidental values of the constants. The problem is that there are alternative interpretations of these values; the multiverse-accidental scenario for the specification of constant values. So, the evidence is not definitive. However, there is some possibility that this entire category of explanation can be falsified, leaving only the nonaccidental (intentional) interpretation. See:

There are still other forms of evidence, but evidence alone isn't really enough for a thesis such as ID. The evidence would have to be a slam dunk. The redshift feature for distant galaxy clusters was and is clear evidence for standard model ("big bang") cosmology, but it wasn't treated as such until the microwave background was discovered.

Anonymous said...