Comment on The Adventist Accrediting Association is Still Reviewing LSU by Sean Pitman.
I’m so glad you referenced this paper as it perfectly illustrates my point. Here is the key passage in your cited paper:
A more appropriate model is the following: After guessing each of the letters, we are told which (if any) of the guessed letters are correct, and then those letters are retained. The second round of guessing is applied only for the incorrect letters that remain after this first round, and so forth. This procedure mimics the “in parallel” evolutionary process. (Wilf and Ewens, PNAS, 2010 – Link)
If you read this key passage, and the rest of the paper you cited, very carefully, you will notice something very interesting. Surprisingly, your authors make a very similar argument to that Richard Dawkins made with his fairly well known “Methinks it is like a weasel” evolutionary algorithm in his 1986 book, The Blind Watchmaker. The only real difference is that Wilf and Ewens merge “beneficial” mutations regardless of where they might occur within the population. That’s not the problem, of course. The problem is in getting the beneficial mutations to begin with anywhere within the population.
Richard Dawkins tried to illustrate the power of natural selection in this regard. What he did was very interesting. He first set up a target phrase, taken from Shakespeare, “Methinks it is like a weasel” as the goal of his evolutionary algorithm. Then, starting with a random sequence of the same length programmed into his computer as the “parent” sequence, he had the computer make 100 copies of the parent sequence (a rather high reproductive rate), each copy with exactly one additional random mutation compared to the parent sequence. Then, Dawkins had the computer analyze the “offspring” to see which ones were a closer match to the target phrase, “Methinks it is like a weasel”. Very quickly, in just 40-50 or so “generations”, the target phrase was evolved.
Aha! Evolution of meaningful functional complexity in action – neatly and conclusively proved!
Not so fast. If it were this easy, computers could randomly generate all the works of Shakespeare without the need for human authors or intelligence – which would certainly prove the reality of the neo-Darwinian claims (and would put a lot of authors out of business at the same time). So, you see, there must be a small little problem with this scenario. And, of course, there is. There is a basic fundamental problem that is so obvious that I’m very surprised that such nonsense scenarios keep being published in literature as being remotely comparable to what takes place in biological evolution.
The problem is that the authors of your article (Wilf and Ewens) and Richard Dawkins assume, wrongly, that every single match to their target sequence will be functionally selectable all along the way. Their algorithm is set up to tell them if any additional mutation produces another “match” to the target sequence – or not. If this were the case in real life, then evolution at all levels of complexity would happen easily and very very quickly. The problem is that this does not reflect reality, and for good reason. The reality of the situation is that there is an exponentially stalling effect, with each step up the ladder of functional complexity, that is realized by all valid evolutionary algorithms that are based on functionality rather than sequence matching – to include computer generated algorithms or in real live biological systems (i.e., living things). The reason for this exponentially stalling effect is that not every character match to a target sequence is selectably beneficial by an algorithm that can only select based on the functionality or the meaning of the sequence – not on how many of its characters match a pre-determined target sequence (i.e., a reduced Hamming distance).
As an illustration, consider the random meaningless sequences “quiziligook”. What is the selectable difference between this meaningless sequence and “quiziliguck”? Nothing. They are both equally meaningless (in the English language system or “environment”) and therefore equally non-selectable by any function-based selection algorithm (which is what natural selection is).
This is where my concept of minimum structural threshold levels for functional systems comes into play. A sequence will not be beneficially selectable until a certain minimum structural threshold level of sequence size and specificity is realized which effectively produces a beneficial function/meaning. For lower-level systems, like meaningful 3-letter words for example, the minimum requirements for a novel meaningful 3-letter word are easily and commonly met by single or multi-character mutations (the odds of success are about 1 in 18 at this level). However, the odds of successfully finding a novel selectably meaningful 7-character sequence in sequence space are not nearly so good. The odds change exponentially to around 1 in 250,000.
You see, the basic problem is the changing ratio of potentially beneficial vs. non-beneficial sequences in sequence space. As the minimum size and/or specificity requirement of a system increases linearly, the ratio beneficial vs. non-beneficial sequences decreases exponentially. Very quickly, this creates a non-beneficial gap between what currently exists and what might exist to some benefit within the “gene pool”. And, as this gap increases linearly, the average time required to cross this gap, via any kind of random mutations, increases exponentially. By the time one considers sequences of a required length of more than 1000 characters, the average time required to cross the gap distances between beneficial islands within this level of sequence space is trillions upon trillions of years.
You really do need to read through the arguments I’ve given you before on this concept. You said you did read through them, but I don’t think you have. I’ve read your article, why not try reading my mathematical response?
P.S. Consider also that your article did not deal with the inevitable build up of detrimental mutations, which far outpaces the beneficial mutation rate, in each generation – a detrimental build up that far outpaces the maximum possible reproductive rate (and required death rate needed for natural selection to remove these detrimental mutations) for slowly reproducing species.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
The Adventist Accrediting Association is Still Reviewing LSU
You skipped certain key elements of this letter Ellen White wrote about ministers with special financial needs that she supported with tithe monies.
First off, she was directly told by God what to do. I certainly am not in the position of a prophet of God where God directly tells me what to do with His tithe money contrary to the general directive to support the organized church – and I doubt you’re in such a position either. Also, you skipped the part where Mrs. White herself explains that she does not recommend that others gather up tithe money outside of the organized church structure. She writes, “I would not advise that anyone should make a practice of gathering up tithe money.” Of course, those who did send their tithe money to Mrs. White did so knowing that she was a prophet of God and was being directed by God, in a very privileged manner, as His messenger. We do not have such a prophet among us at the present time. And, even while she was doing this sort of personal ministry with the tithe monies that she had, she did not advertize this particular ministry nor wish it to be well known, nor was it her usual practice – and for good reason.
In this light, consider also the comments of her son, Arthur White, regarding this particular letter:
“It should be noted that as Mrs. White speaks of the use of the tithe in this and similar cases, it is always in the setting of money that was to be used for the support of the ministers. Any tithe money she handled was used as tithe money should be used. The one whom the Lord used as His messenger, and to whom had been given special enlightenment regarding the necessities of worthy laborers, at a time when there was inadequate provision for these ordained ministers, was authorized to meet those necessities, even to the use of her tithe.
But there is not one phrase or sentence in this letter that would neutralize or countermand the clear and full instruction concerning paying tithe or its use. Any such use of the letter addressed to the conference president is a misuse.
Again, I submit to you that if one wishes to call oneself part of the Seventh-day Adventist Church that it would be wrong of one to withhold tithes and/or offerings from the organized church. I think, as Arthur White points out, that it is not appropriate to use Mrs. Whites comments here to argue otherwise.
In any case, this is about as far as I wish to continue this discussion within this particular forum.
The Adventist Accrediting Association is Still Reviewing LSU
The evidence is genetic evidence, not archaeological. And, near-neutral detrimental mutations are not going to make a significantly noticeable phenotypic difference in just 4000 years. However, they would make a huge difference in a million years. The evidence for the inevitable build up of such detrimental mutations is found in modern studies of genetic mutation rates.
For more information on this topic, see: http://www.detectingdesign.com/dnamutationrates.html#Summary
The Adventist Accrediting Association is Still Reviewing LSU
The organized church is God’s church, not yours or mine. It is not therefore up to us to tell God where our tithes and offerings are to go. Not even Jesus did this when the church leadership of His day was doing many bad things with the money given to the church. We are simply asked to give to God’s work and leave it up to God as to how to deal with the church leadership.
So, as long as we call ourselves Seventh-day Adventists, and believe that this church was ordained by God to do a special work for the last days, it is our duty to support the church with our tithes and offerings and leave the rest up to God. We can write our leadership and speak up about those things that we think should be improved or corrected in the church, but tithes and offerings are not ours to control (especially tithes). These moneys are God’s and He’ll take care of how they are used or misused.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…