Friday, December 24, 2010

Blind Alleys

I was interested in a statement on this post on UD claiming that evolution is “mathematically impossible”. I eagerly followed the link supplied to find what it was all about. Alas, I drew another blank: The assumption was that the underlying process driving evolution is reproduction and natural selection. This article doesn’t engage the question of the more general and abstract object needed to drive evolution, namely the arrangement of stable structures in configuration space.

Another rather notable post on UD is this one by Cornelius Hunter. He tries to make a distinction between “origins and operation”, a duality which to my mind is rather dubious as it smacks of the subliminal deism in the anti-evolutionist community. I shall be looking at that post in more detail in due course.

Stop Press 29/12/2010
Continuing with my recent theme of mechanism, interventionism and subliminal deism here is post on UD that contains a fairly clear expression of a paradigm at work which dichotomizes physical mechanism and interventionism. It also expresses a strong (and unsupported) assertion of the raison-d’être of the anti-evolution community; namely, the belief that mechanism can’t generate life. (In the article read “frontloading” as “mechanism”). This underlying philosophy of anti-mechanism is a reaction to the perceived threat of deism and the subliminal belief that mechanisms serve a redundancy notice on the "interventionist" God. For that reason anti-evolutionism will have a very strong hold on the minds of many religious people. Since "frontloading" (sic) requires Intelligent Agency it is revealed that UD's position is not primarily one of Intelligent Design, but has more to do with an existential need to see God "re-employed" by giving Him an overt role in the processes of the physical world and re-establish confidence in the "intervening" God.

Stop Press 31/12/2010
This looks interesting and possibly mold breaking: A new poster on UD claiming to be a theistic evolutionist (“of sorts”). The poster shows signs of walking a tight-rope: He is a Theistic Evolutionist, but has come to realize that “Darwinism” is different from “Evolution” and he has little patience for the former (I’d be interested to know how he makes this distinction). He’s got over his hostility to YECs and divine interventions and yet is comfortable with the concept that perhaps no direct interventions took place, if that is indeed the case, because for him the overriding issue concerns design detection; the means of creation are less important to him than the fact that things were designed and created.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More on “Self” Organisation

I was honoured to have received a comment from Richard Johns on my blog post about his "Self Organization" paper . I have reproduced Richard’s comment and my reply below. I have also added some further remarks:

Hi Timothy,

Thanks for your detailed treatment of my paper -- actually the best I have seen.

The objection you raise is a good one, although I think it can be answered. (Jeffrey Shallit made the same point in an email to me.)

There are simple (i.e. short) algorithms that can generate irregular strings, as I define them. You mention pseudo-random sequences, and I have previously thought about the digits of Pi. Hence these things are algorithmically simple, despite their irregularity.

As I pointed out to Shallit, I claim that irregular objects are *dynamically* complex, not *algorithmically* complex. And, while it seems certain that dynamically simple objects are algorithmically simple (since dynamical systems can be emulated by computers) the converse is far less obvious. In other words, while the digits of Pi can be generated by a short program, it might not be produceable easily within a dynamical system, from a random initial state.

If a converse theorem does hold, however (i.e. algorithmically simple objects are dynamically simple) then my arguments have gone wrong somewhere. But even in that case, self-organisation theories of evolution will be in a difficult position. For they will then be committed to the claim that living organisms are algorithmically (and dynamically) simple. In other words, living organisms are like Pi, merely *appearing* to be complex, while in fact being generated by a very short program. (Vastly shorter than their genomes, for example.)

Following Richard Dawkins, who coined the term "designoid" for an apparently designed object, one might say that living organisms are "complexoid". While perhaps not obviously false, this view is likely to be very unattractive.

My reply now follows:

Thanks for the comment Richard,

I am not sure I understand what you mean by producing an object *dynamically* as opposed to *algorithmically*. In your paper you seem to be using a cellular automata model to generate your objects. No problems with that except that as far as I understand, cellular automata can be simulated algorithmically and therefore fall under the algorithmic category. Moreover, if Stephen Wolfram’s work is anything to go by (and some of my own work), cellular automata also generate complex “Pi” like patterns pretty quickly – complex in the sense you have defined in your paper; that is they show a high irregularity or “disorder” as I call it.

Now this doesn’t mean to say, of course, that life actually is the product of a clever dynamics, but given both your definition of irregularity and your use of an algorithmic cellular automata model, it seems we are back to square one – we haven’t yet succeeded in eliminating self organization from the inquiry. However, for reasons I have given in this blog entry I can see why a “soft focus” version of your limitative theorem applies. But given that the resources of an Intelligent Designer is within my particular terms of reference, then it seems not outside the bounds of possibility that should the required fruitful self organizing regime actually be a mathematically possibility, then that intelligence is capable of contriving it.

If (repeat if) this is the case then it is wrong to conclude that life must therefore be algorithmically simple for this reason: The space of all possible algorithms, though a lot smaller than the space of all possible configurations, is still a very, very large space as far as we humans are concerned. I suspect (and this is only a hunch) that not any old algorithm has the right Self Organising properties required to generate living things - in which case selecting the right algorithm is then a computationally complex task; that is, life is not algorithmically simple in absolute terms.

One more thing: Imagine that you were given the problem of Pi in reverse; that is you were given the pattern of digits and yet had no clue as to what, if any, simple algorithm generated it. The hard problem then is to guess the algorithm – generating Pi after you have found the algorithm is the easy problem. So to me life remains algorithmically complex even if it’s a product of SO.


ONE) I am still not sure just how Richard defines the word “dynamic”. The only thing I have to go on is that he drew his conclusions from a cellular automata model, which I assume is his understanding of a dynamic system (?). Wolfram’s cellular system is effectively just another model of computation and therefore I guess that it would be possible to program cellular automata to calculate Pi; such a program is likely to be “simple” in as much as it is likely to have a short length, a short execution time and start with a simple initial state. Therefore I cannot make sense of what Richard means by suggesting that Pi is likely to be dynamically complex, but algorithmically simple.

TWO) I conclude therefore, that Pi can be “easily” generated within a dynamical system. However, Richard actually says this: “In other words, while the digits of Pi can be generated by a short program, it might not be produceable easily within a dynamical system, from a random initial state.” That last phrase, “from a random initial state”, is crucial as it rescues Richard’s statement: If the algorithm is the sort where the initial state and the corresponding output have a one to one mapping then most initial conditions will not lead to Pi in a realistic time. Therefore a random initial state is very unlikely to lead to Pi being calculated in a realistic time.

THREE) As I have said above a “soft focus” version of Richard’s limitative theorem is valid: If one is selecting algorithms and initial states blindly then you are very unlikely to get the result you are looking for. In other words if you’ve got monkeys programming your cellular automata it’s going to be a “garbage in/garbage out” situation. But if the programming of a dynamical system is in the hands of an intelligent agent and you might just get what you are looking for. Richard has effectively shown that if a dynamical system is to produce a configurationally complex output of a particular kind in realistic time then the dynamical algorithm has to be carefully selected. But it is easy to misinterpret this result: It is certainly not as strong as saying there are absolutely no simple algorithms which can generate particular complex outputs in short execution times; in fact as we know simple algorithms can quickly generate complex output in the sense defined by Richard; that is in the sense of being “irregular” or “disordered”. So, basically we are left with the question I keep coming back to: Do simple “short time” dynamical algorithms exist which are fruitful in their generation of a subclass of complex forms and functions? As far as the question of evolution is concerned then, in a word, Richard’s work doesn’t eliminate Self Organization as a suspect in the inquiry. Richard is not so much wrong in his conclusions as they are easy to misinterpret. However, let me say that in my opinion the term “Self organization” is a complete misnomer: There is no “Self” about it: If evolution works it only does so because the right algorithm has been selected by some transcendent super-context; whether we believe that context to be some impersonal mindless multiverse or an all-embracing, “self explaining” intelligence. (I subscribe to the latter view)

FOUR) However, having made that last statement we have to bear in mind that in the anti-evolution community evolution and ID are likely to be portrayed as mutually excluding; that is, the anti-evolution community perceive this debate as a “evolution vs. intelligent design” dichotomy. Hence they are inclined to eliminate evolution from the enquiry by definition; that is, by defining in advance evolution to be a mindless, blind process (ironically atheists are likely to agree with this characterization of evolution!). Thus any suggestion that evolution works by way of the clever selection of a dynamical algorithm is considered an oxymoron. We can see this “definition in advance” at work in Richard’s paper: He starts by presuming that the agent selecting the program of the cellular automata to be blind and thus effectively lacking in intelligence. Not surprisingly if Richard is going to employ chimps to select his algorithm he’s going to get out bananas.
"I only employ chimps, but to get a result I need a lot of them"

FIVE) Unless one subscribes to some kind of multiverse/infinite trial system, even bog standard evolution, if it is to work, must be resourced by improbable preconditions. This improbability has the effect of triggering Demsbki’s design detection criterion and thus in the abstract evolution has the imprimatur of Intelligent Design. However, the ID community represented by Uncommon Descent are defacto anti-evolutionist and therefore they will do their damndest to try and show evolution to be a mindless process that simply doesn’t work; anyone who so much as entertains evolution as a viable “self organizing” candidate is likely to be accused of courting “naturalism” and perhaps even accused of failing a crucial faith test. The irony is that they, along with the militant atheists, seem to have subliminally bought into the deistical intuition that “well oiled” mathematical mechanisms need no divine support or perhaps not even a divine initiator. (See my blog post here)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Beyond Our Ken: On Mature Creation. Part 1

"I’d love a bit of Apatosaurus but all we get is ham, ham, ham"

I have been looking into the concept of “mature creation” as propounded by the Young Earth aficionados on the Answers in Genesis web site. Reading some of their web pages it becomes clear they much prefer the terms “mature creation” or “functioning creation” to “appearance of age”. They don’t like their supporters talking about an “appearance of age” because, for reasons we are well aware of, AiG don’t believe in a cosmos of great age and therefore won’t accept that the universe even “looks” old. As Ken Ham says (See here)

“By saying the universe looks old, you are trusting that dating methods can give us an apparent old age for the universe—but they can’t.” Let me explain. When people say the universe has “apparent age,” usually they are assuming, for whatever reason, that the universe “looks old.” I have often found that, unconsciously, such people have already accepted that the fallible dating methods of scientists can give great ages for the earth. So if they believe what the Scripture says about a young universe, they have to explain away this apparent great age.

What Ken is saying here is that he completely distrusts any dating methods. That’s really not news, of course - if he did trust them he’d be out of his job as AiG supremo. Given that few, if any, dating methods return Earth’s history to be anything as short as 6000 years it is no surprise that AiG policy is to do its damndest to undermine all dating methods. Rather than propose a reliable physical dating method themselves, AiG science is the science of negation. However, later on in the same article Ken goes on to show that in his mind the appearance of age is not just loaded with the concept of a chronological age:

When doctors look at the human body today, they can estimate age from various evidences in the body. But before sin, nothing aged—everything was created “very good.” The human body did not experience the effects of sin or aging.
What would a doctor from today’s fallen world say if he looked at Adam and Eve’s bodies just after they were created? This doctor would be very confused. Such perfect bodies would show no degenerative aging, and he would be shocked to learn that these adults were less than a day old.

Here, in addition to chronological age, Ken is loading the term “age” also with the idea of degeneration. Ken, of course, believes the process of cosmic degeneration originates from Adam’s sin. So, when he says “before sin, nothing aged” he means that “before sin, nothing degenerated”.

In introducing the concept of degeneration Ken is actually clouding the argument because clearly evidence of an object having a history does not necessarily imply degeneration. For example, all human beings today have navels – a navel is not in itself evidence of temporal degeneration of the human body but simply evidence of its history – namely, that each individual was formed in the womb. So we must distinguish between degenerative age and Chronological age. Regardless of whether they degenerate or not objects have a history. Two questions then naturally arise: Firstly, do objects with a history carry evidence of that history? Secondly can we quantify that history in units of time? The answer to these questions may be “yes” or “no”: Some objects carry more information about their history than others. Some objects have lots of information about their history even to the extent that we may be able to quantify their age. Others have little or no information and to all intents and purposes are a-historical.

Given that some objects display inherently historical features and others are a-historical, then we find that this fact determines the policy of AiG: Objects which contain little or no historical information means that AiG can claim that they were created as fully functioning objects, whereas objects that have blatantly historical indicators forces AiG to endeavour to reconstruct a history (< 6000 years of course) to explain these indicators.

As I have said before we must be grateful for small mercies. The AiG policy is at least an improvement on those forms of Young Earth Creationism that have no qualms about the ex nihilo creation of objects with a bogus appearance of history: Notorious examples are those YECs who claim that the light from the stars was created in mid flight and that fossils were created in situ. As a rule AiG shies away from this sort of approach because it clearly impugns the integrity of the created order and shows little respect for it. At least AiG haven’t become so uselessly spiritual that they have adopted a comprehensively anti-science stance and retreated into a fideist ghetto of spiritual ultras. But the trouble is, as we shall see, some objects don’t easily slide one way or the other into the historical and a-historical categories; like most real categories the boundaries are fuzzy. be continued

Evolution: (Not) Wanted Dead or Alive

Further to my recent posts on luddites, mechanism, and evolution, here’s another post  on Uncommon Descent indicating the anti-evolutionist’s timorousness toward any suggestion that “Natural” mechanism may be a source of form and function. Quoting the salient points:

Rene Descartes … urged evolutionary ideas because of the evident power of natural law. Yes god created humanity, but individuals are born and grow according to law. From people to plants, we observe incredible development brought about by nature. So too, the continental rationalist argued, we should understand the origin of the world as strictly naturalistic as well.

Decades later the influential Thomas Burnet showed how the Cartesian view is theologically mandated. Rather than creating a clock that doesn’t work and needs constant adjustment, the greater clockmaker makes a clock that works by itself. Likewise, the Anglican cleric argued, the greater god makes a world that operates on its own.

Cornelius Hunter, the author of the post, spells out the much dreaded deistical scenario:

And these machines assemble and operate according to natural law—there is no vitalism here, no divine finger adjusting the cogs and turning the crank.

This then is the threat posed by evolution in the minds of the anti-evolutionists and yet at the same time the great joy of the militant atheists: Evolution in the first instance appears to put God out of work, therefore the next logical step is to question whether He was ever there in the first place to be put out of work. Whether evolution works or not the anti-evolutionist doesn’t want it. Whether it works or not the militant atheist wants evolution. Hence for the anti-evolutionist evolution must go at all costs whereas for the atheist it must stay at all costs. It is doubtful in my mind whether such impassioned protagonists can handle this subject with sufficient detachment to arrive at a useful conclusion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Impasse

These two posts one by PZ Myers and one by Paul Nelson bring out the key issue that separates the evolutionists from the anti-evolutionists. The critical issue is one I have made a lot of on this blog; namely, irreducible complexity versus reducible complexity. This question is about how our world is made in the abstract realm of configuration space; given our particular physics just how is the class of stable organic forms arranged in configuration space? Are these forms closely packed enough to allow random evolutionary jumps between them or are they too widely separated thus effectively blocking any possibility of evolution? It’s notable that both parties manage to address the same subject without appearing to be cognizant of this question. Configuration space is a huge, complex, abstract and perhaps mathematically intractable object; PZ Myers and Paul Nelson are like insects crawling around on the face of a mountain, unable to see the broad sweep of the landscape for what it is. Both parties need to humbled by the immense platonic landscape in which they are embedded.

The anti-evolutionists can’t finally prove that biological structures are irreducibly complex or be cognizant of the non-linearities that may lie in configuration space which could give rise to sudden evolutionary spurts. And yet the evolutionists can’t present a full suite of evidence showing that biological structures are reducibly complex. This argument is going to run and run.

You don't have to be religious to use religious logic: Just reconstruct this cartoon using either "reducible complexity" or "irreducible complexity" instead of "baseball".
With acknowledgements to:

Friday, December 10, 2010

Beware Luddites at Work.

In this post I developed the idea that many anti-evolutionists share the atheist's view that the “evolution machine” puts God out of work. Here is the relevant passage from that post:

The underlying ideas driving this kind of thinking are a very anthropomorphic; gone is the idea that God is so totalizing an entity that He is an environment, but instead God is imagined to be in an environment - almost to an extent reminiscent of the Grecian view of gods, gods who have very human attributes and live in a very human environment. The picture is of a God who, much like a human artisan, one day creates a cosmic sized mechanism that once running needs little sustenance, and which he can then walk out on and leave to manage itself.

Ironically the fundamentalists and anti-evolutionists share in this mindset; they have a sneaky suspicion that the atheists are right and that somehow mechanism, like the machines of the industrial revolution, is likely to put people out of work - even a cosmic designer. Anxious therefore to have a God who doesn’t put himself out of a job they downplay the abilities of mechanism to generate form and variety. It is no surprise then that for fundamentalists and anti-evolutionists using mechanism to explain life is bad, bad, bad, whereas using Divine fait is good, good, good.

There is a strong common gut feeling that the “Law and Disorder” mechanisms of modern physics betoken a regime that can function apart from the presence of God. The underlying anthropomorphism inherent in this form of deism is not only at the root of atheist thinking but also, ironically, not far away in anti-evolutionist thinking.

Now here is a passage taken from this post on Uncommon Descent that is the perfect illustration of what I mean:

Many Christians who say they believe in “Darwinism” do not understand what they are saying. They believe that God created through evolution and was involved in the process and guided it through to completion. They do not understand that “Darwinism” properly understood rejects the very view they hold. A Darwinist believes that the combination of natural law and random variation are sufficient to account for the origin and diversity of life without any guiding intelligence from God or anyone else. They believe that the human body is the result of a process that did not need God any more than a stone rolling down a hill needs God. Very often, therefore, the issue is not whether a Christian can believe Darwinism, but whether a Christian can hold a mistaken belief about Darwinism.

Darwinism, properly understood, is dangerous to all religious belief. It truly is, in Dennett’s phrase, a universal acid, and faith is one of the things that acid dissolves. It is for a very good reason that Dawkins famously proclaimed that Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist. And we see a strong correlation between the rise of Darwinism and the decline of religious faith, especially among the so-called intellectual elite. Belief can be very inconvenient when that belief places constraints on the sovereign will. Darwinism helps people throw off those constraints.

So the author of this post has imagined that it is possible posit processes that don't need God. Even the Athenian poets understood the error of this thinking: "...for in him we live and move and have our being". (Acts 17:28) As I said in my previous post I wouldn't say that I’m a 100% convinced by standard evolutionary theory (Caveat: that may be down to my ignorance of the details of evolutionary theory) but I stand by it partly because of some of the crass philosophy (and theology) one finds amongst the anti-evolutionists. As Nietzsche said:

Sometimes we remain true to a cause simply because its opponents are unfailingly tasteless. (or stupid – ed)

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Anti-Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Let's be upfront about what we stand for

This short post on Uncommon Descent contains the first reference I have seen on UD to the words “anti-evolutionist”. The inference is that UD is being identified as an anti-evolutionist web site rather than just an Intelligent Design web site. As I have maintained on this blog before, in popular parlance “Intelligent Design” now evokes anti-evolutionist connotations: This practice is misleading given that Christian evolutionist John Polkinghorne claims to be a Intelligent Design Creationist. If UD is primarily an anti-evolutionist site and secondarily an Intelligent Design site, then to date UD have done little to make this clear. I haven’t yet seen many posts on UD acknowledging that if evolution is to work it must be resourced by highly improbable preconditions thus flagging up Dembki’s ID detection  criterion and making it an ID candidate. If UD really stood by ID first and foremost they would be able to make peace with evolutionists like John Polkinghorne; but no, the agenda of UD is now cast in stone and probably too mixed up with right wing politics and Young Earth Creationism to make this possible. I would love to be proved wrong on this score.

Anyway, if from now on UD starts identifying itself as an “anti-evolutionist” web site we will know where they stand. But somehow I don’t think this will happen because they will want to continue to portray themselves as representative of the exclusive and one and only authentic ID community and therefore have an interest in making out  ID to be necessarily anti-evolution. They will therefore continue to misrepresent evolution as a necessarily informationless process that pretends to be able to create information.

Monday, December 06, 2010

God, Theology, Evidence and Observation

PZ Myers has an an interesting blog post on Terry Pratchett who is suffering from the first stages of Alzheimer’s disease. This is what PZ says:

The casual cruelty of nature is one example of the absence of a benevolent overseer in the universe. For another, I'd add the fact that Pratchett has been afflicted with a disease with no cure, of a kind that will slowly destroy his mind. We're left with only two alternatives: that if there is a god, he's insane or evil and rules the world with wanton whimsy; or the most likely answer, that there is no such being and it's simple chance that leads to these daily haphazard catastrophes.

PZ Myers’ comments remind me of Darwin’s loss of faith, a process that, I believe, was progressive and apparently linked to his observations of nature and above all to the tragedy of his daughter’s death. Now, let me say this: PZ has my full sympathies for what is not an unreasonable conclusion; even those of us of faith are challenged by the age old problem of suffering and evil especially when it is close to home. The number of times this challenge has lead to a loss of faith in the faithful is uncounted. So let him who is without sin cast the first stone at PZ.

But let’s get this clear: Firstly the above statement by PZ is overtly theological; it works from the presumed nature of God, His moral obligations and how He relates to the world. It is a counterfactual argument based on what PZ concludes should not exist if a benevolent God exists. Secondly, the argument being used is not entirely metaphysical and non-observational as clearly PZ is making a comparison between his implicit concept of God and his observations of the cosmos. Ergo, God is an entity for which there is observational evidence relevant to His existence or non-existence.

Is PZ’s alternative belief in what he refers to as “simple chance” a dynamic which provides a deep metaphysical explanation for the way things are? Seemingly not: Chance is a conceptual derivative of disordered patterns. Thus “simple chance” is little more than a name for a particular class of pattern. What I think PZ really means here is that he can’t believe a benevolent overseer would allow such patterns, patterns which are the source of “haphazard catastrophes”. Once again a theological argument is being invoked to draw conclusions about God’s existence or otherwise, based on observed patterns.

In conclusion PZ says “the most likely answer, [is] that there is no such being [as God]”. Does this mean that he has not entirely closed the door on God? In some ways it might be good thing if PZ does close the door completely, because the only God he can think of must be "insane, or evil and rules the world with wanton whimsy."

God suffers with man: Christianity hits the problem of innocent suffering head on

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Luddites and The Evolution Machine

When Newton’s “clockwork” universe was “discovered” shortly before the 18th century, European culture had been familiar with mechanical clocks and automata of increasing sophistication for over 400 years. Once primed with their burden of potential energy and released, the ordered yet complex motions of clocks and automata continued without further human intervention - its maker could then walk away and let it run. These clever pieces of engineering provided the prototypes of a new paradigm and they have been used as an instructive model by philosophers ever since. Moreover, early anatomical studies helped the paradigm along.  It was natural enough, then, for the interpreters of Newton to use the automaton as an analogy to draw conclusions about the relation of God to His creation. In particular, the notion of a Deistical God who built the universe in the manner of a human engineer and then left it to its devices is a notion still very much with us today. The advent of Quantum randomness didn’t change the picture very much either: Probability, like the tossing of a coin, is also subject to mathematical laws; moreover everyday observations suggest that the disorder of randomness is often a sign of the absence of intelligent management. Consequently mathematical randomness is inclined to subsume under the heading of mechanism. Nowadays those physical mechanisms are portrayed as being so good at creating variety and form that many doubt that a Divine creator and sustainer is needed at all; the successes of mechanism in generating patterns may prompt the idea that somehow mechanism can even “self create”; such a notion may in the final analysis be unintelligible, but it is probably at the back of some people’s minds. The upshot is that the concept of the cosmos as a grand logically self sufficient mechanism is now so embedded in our consciousness that many effectively say of God “I do not need that hypothesis”

The underlying ideas driving this kind of thinking are a very anthropomorphic; gone is the idea that God is so totalizing an entity that He is an environment, but instead God is imagined to be in an environment - almost to an extent reminiscent of the Grecian view of gods, gods who have very human attributes and live in a very human environment. The picture is of a God who, much like a human artisan, one day creates a cosmic sized mechanism that once running needs little sustenance, and which he can then walk out on and leave to manage itself.

Ironically the fundamentalists and anti-evolutionists share in this mindset; they have a sneaky suspicion that the atheists are right and that somehow mechanism, like the machines of the industrial revolution, is likely to put people out of work - even a cosmic designer. Anxious therefore to have a God who doesn’t put himself out of a job they downplay the abilities of mechanism to generate form and variety. It is no surprise then that for fundamentalists and anti-evolutionists using mechanism to explain life is bad, bad, bad, whereas using Divine fait is good, good, good.

There is a strong common gut feeling that the “Law and Disorder” mechanisms of modern physics betoken a regime that can function apart from the presence of God. The underlying anthropomorphism inherent in this form of deism is not only at the root of atheist thinking but also, ironically, not far away in anti-evolutionist thinking. For example in this blog entry on Uncommon Descent we are presented with an apt metaphor for this sentiment; we hear of “Darwin’s unemployed God” as if, as I have already said, God is a frustrated divine artisan in some Greek myth. It is this sort of anthropomorphic outlook which, I submit, means that Richard Johns paper on self organization appeals to anti-evolutionists. (See my blog post here). Johns’ thesis tries to show how a law and disorder package cannot effectively be the creator of complex variety and form. This (false) conclusion will find a very receptive audience amongst the anti-evolutionists, because so many of them have a subliminal deistical view that although law and disorder needs little or no divine management, it nevertheless has no right to compete with God as the creator of form and variety. They are therefore anxious to downplay the role of physical mechanism and re-employ God as the miraculous intervener by positing a world that requires large dollops of arbitrary divine fiat.

At the start of his paper Johns uses a polemical method that helps assist the anti-evolutionist view of minimizing the role of mechanism. Johns hamstrings any chance that self organization might have been the cause of evolution by explicitly excising any intelligence that could be used to select a dynamical system which could favour evolution. He effectively posits a know-nothing agent who is completely blind to an overview of the situation and thus has no chance of selecting the dynamics that gives self organization a chance. He is not only tying the boxer’s hands behind his back but he has blindfolded him as well. Ironically Johns is kicking God out of His own creation

In the anti-evilutionist and fundamentalist mind evolution is defined by the absent of contrivance, so it is no surprise that their version of evolution fails to work and that they regard themselves as the only purveyors of authentic intelligent design. They don’t believe that theistic evolutionists can be serious about intelligent design, and as I have already indicated, their subliminal deism will lead them to accuse Theistic Evolutionists of giving God his redundancy notice. That’s in spite of the fact that an evolutionist like Sir John Polkinghorne claims to be an intelligent design creationist. It’s little wonder then that people like John Polkinghorne are not sympathetic to the anti-evolutionists. Neither am I. I wouldn’t say that I’m a 100% convinced by standard evolutionary theory (Caveat: that may be down to my ignorance of the details of evolutionary theory) but I stand by it partly because of some of the crass philosophy one finds amongst the anti-evolutionists. As Nietzsche said:

Sometimes we remain true to a cause simply because its opponents are unfailingly tasteless. (or stupid – ed)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

YEC Star light Travel Time: If at first you don’t succeed…

Judging from this article over on the Institute of Creation Research Young Earth Creationist Russ Humphreys is still beavering away on his geocentric cosmology. The article is dated 1st Nov 2010 but it points back to an article here which in turn refers to some 2007 work by Humphreys where he attempts to perfect his model. I had a look at Humphreys ideas in my blog post here, but I haven’t seen this later work. Essentially Humphreys idea involves postulating a finite asymmetrical big-bang-like event with the Earth near the centre. His hope is that the resulting space-time metric generates enough time dilation in the vicinity of the Earth to slow down time to the extent that only about 6000 years  passes in the Earth’s locale since creation.

One of the problems in Humphreys earlier work, the article claims, is that his models “Did not provide enough time dilation for nearby stars and galaxies,”. Humphreys later models, I gather, attempt to address this problem. This difficulty actually brings out just how geocentric Humphreys model must be: Problems start little by little for the YECs at a mere 6000 light years from Earth. At all distances greater than that light is hard pressed to reach is in time unless the “Humphreys effect” kicks into action in stages for astronomical objects seen beyond that distance. A distance of 6000 light years covers only a small fraction of own galaxy let alone the wider environs of the cosmos. Thus, the Earth, according to Humphreys, must lie very precisely at the centre of his cosmic model. In fact I think that Humphreys is effectively claiming that the Voyager gravitational anomaly may be evidence of the special status of Earth’s locale.

I suspect that Humphreys ideas will come to grief in time. If the “Humphreys effect” can be thought of as a concentric gravitational field with the Earth centrally placed, then the fact that the metric of that field must at some point in the past have very steep differentials within a few thousand light years from Earth’s locale would, I guess, considerably distort the shape of our own galaxy. Off the top of my head let me just say that I’m not aware astronomical observations support such a conclusion.

Anyway, Humphreys is at least showing some respect for science and the integrity of the created order by taking this approach; that is, he is trying to craft a creation narrative that doesn’t make recourse to large dollops of arbitrary Divine fiat. His type of approach is probably the best bet for the YECs - although many YECs may feel uneasy about the fact that according to Humphreys  billions of years of history passes in most of the cosmos implying that there are likely to be planets out there with an “old Earth” geology. As for the ideas of YEC creationist Jason Lisle they are best binned and forgotten about.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some Light Relief: Trench Humour on Remembrance Day.

The video below is absolutely priceless: I would normally publish this sort of thing on my Views News and Pews blog but I thought that Quantum Non-Linearity was in need of some lightening up:

Screams of laughter with Pastor Kerney Thomas

Perhaps I have a strange sense of humour but I was legless after watching this guy. He really does seem to be real and not just a spoofer. Who would have guessed that somebody out there would have come up with this one and provided us with such an unexpected idiosyncrasy for us to gawp and wonder at! Think of the sheer tragedy of our world with its wars of mass destruction, numerous sufferings and evils .... and yet in the midst life’s deeply serious trench warfare it suddenly throws up this sort of peculiar, asinine, frivolous inanity which contrasts so gloriously against the backdrop gravitas of life’s affairs. For a while it breaks the tension of contention and causes roars of laughter.

“There’s nowt so queer as folk” as the saying goes. Some people say that “You can’t make this stuff up!” Well, I once had a jolly good go at making it up:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Self Organisation

According to my reading of Richard Johns, this complex fractal landscape can't happen

As promised in my last two blogs here is my post giving a more detailed look at Richard Johns’ paper on self organization. The central part of Johns’ paper is his “Limitative Theorem”, in which he states:

A large, maximally irregular object cannot appear by self organization is any dynamical system whose laws are local and invariant.

Understood in its most literal sense the above statement by Johns is false. But, to be fair, it does rather depend on how one interprets the terms in Johns’ formulation. Interpreting these terms using excluded middle “true or false” logic, then Johns’ central thesis is beguiling. However, if interpreted in the fuzzy terms of probabilities which deal with typical cases rather than special cases then Johns is seen to have point.


If you toss a coin many times you end up with a sequence of heads and tails that can be conveniently represented by a long binary pattern of 1s and 0s. This pattern of 1s and 0s can be broken down into a contiguous series of segments of any chosen length of, say, n tosses. The probability of finding a segment containing k 1s is then given by Bernoulli’s formula :

where p is the probability of heads being thrown and where:

A corollary of this formula is that segments with equal numbers of 1s have equal probability. For example with n = 10 a segmental configuration such as 1010101010 is as equally probable as say 111110000 or 1000101011.

Bernoulli’s formula is most likely to be thought of as device for statistical prediction in as much as it can be used to calculate the expectation frequencies of segmental configurations like 1000101011 or 10101010 etc. The reason why the formula works is because the number of possible sequences that can be constructed from 1 and 0s with segmental frequencies consistent with the formula is overwhelmingly large compared to the number of sequences that deviate from the Bernoulli expectation frequencies. Thus, given that a sequence is generated by a chance source then it is clear that a member taken from the class of sequences conforming to the Bernoulli expectation values is going to be a highly probable outcome.

But statistical prognostication is not the only way that Bernoulli’s formula can be used. It is also possible to use the formula as an indication of the configurational complexity of a sequence. To do this we take a given sequence of 1 and 0s and enumerate the frequencies of its segmental configurations. If the sequence so enumerated returns frequencies consistent with the Bernoulli values then that sequence is deemed to be maximally complex. If, given a set of enumerated segmental frequencies, the number of possible sequences consistent with that enumeration is represented by Z, then Z is maximised for a Bernoulli sequence. If, on the other hand, a sequence deviates from the Bernoulli expectation values, then correspondingly Z will deviate from a maximum value. The departure of Z from its maximum is a measure of the departure of the sequence from maximum complexity. I have dealt with these matters more rigorously elsewhere, but for the purposes of this article we can now get a handle on Richard Johns’ paper. Johns’ paper makes use of something he calls “irregularity”, a concept closely related, if not identical to the concept of configurational complexity that I have defined above: Johns breaks his patterns up into small chunks and then defines the concept of irregularity as the number of possible configurations consistent with the frequency distribution of the segmental configurations.

Johns’ paper is an exploration of the relationship between configurational complexity (or “irregularity” as he calls it) and computational complexity. Computational complexity, as Johns understands it, is measured in terms of the execution time needed to reach a pattern; in particular he is concerned with the time needed to generate configurationally complex patterns. Johns arrives at the conclusion - as stated by his Limitative Theorem above - that maximally irregular patterns cannot appear as a result of self organization. What he actually means by “cannot appear” is that maximally irregular patterns cannot be produced in what he calls a “reasonably short time”. Thus, according to Johns, complex irregular patterns are computationally complex – that is, they need large amounts of execution time.

A few moments reflection reveals that there is a correlation between computational complexity and configurational complexity as Johns submits. This correlation arises simply because of the sheer size of the class of configurationally complex patterns. The value of Z rises very steeply as the segmental frequencies move toward the Bernoulli values. In fact the value of Z far outstrips the number of steps that can be made in a realistic computation. Thus, if we imagine a computation taking place it is clear that given realistic execution times any computation, whether controlled by a deterministic algorithm or some aleatory process, is only going to be able to visit a relatively small number of configurations that make up the huge number Z. Thus, it is fairly easy to see that the chances of a computation generating an arbitrarily selected complex configuration in a realistic time is very small. This, then, is essentially Johns’ Limitative Theorem: An arbitrarily selected irregular or complex configuration is very probably going to have a high computational complexity.

But we must note here that “very probable” doesn’t rule out the possibility of improbable cases where self organization appears to take place in a realistic time. In fact at the start of his paper Johns declares that cases where self organization depends on starting from “fine tuned initial conditions” breaks the rules of his game and therefore doesn’t classify as self-organisation. The big problem with Johns’ formulation is over the meaning of his terms; in some people’s books an example of a complex pattern that makes a surprisingly quick appearance from particular initial conditions would still classify as self organization.

Johns’ concept of irregularity, as we have seen, is closely related to the kind of patterns generated by chance processes such as the tossing of a coin. Johns “irregular” patterns and those patterns produced by aleatory processes both have high values of Z. That is why I actually prefer to call them “disordered” patterns and refer to the quantity Z as “disorder”. Given this equivalence between Johns’ concept of irregularity and my concept of “disorder”, it is easy to think of examples where an irregular object is generated in a reasonably short time, apparently violating Johns Limitative Theorem: I am thinking of cases where elementary algorithms generate pseudo random sequences in polynomial execution times; such rapidly generated sequences show a high value of Z. But given that there is a certain amount of doubt about the way the terms of Johns’ Limitative Theorem should be interpreted it is difficult to know whether this example can be considered to violate his thesis. Is a blank memory and a simple algorithm to be considered as “fine tuned initial conditions”? In addition we know that when Johns says in his Limitative Theorem that self organization “cannot appear” he is not speaking in absolute terms but actually means that self-organization cannot appear in reasonable execution times. So perhaps we should rewrite Johns’ Limitative Theorem as follows:

A large, arbitrarily selected, maximally irregular object is unlikely to appear in reasonable time by self organization in any dynamical system whose laws are local and invariant.

This more measured form of Johns’ principle allows for the rare cases where self organization happens. For example, we know that some elementary algorithms can reach a limited subset of irregular patterns in a relatively short time, even though it is mathematically impossible for such algorithms to reach all irregular patterns in reasonable execution times. It is precisely this kind of exception to the rule that leaves the whole issue of self organisation an open question. Therefore as far as I’m concerned Johns’ paper has not eliminated evolutionary self organization from the inquiry. In fact it’s the same old, same old contention that I have raised time and time and again on this blog; complexity is not in general a conserved phenomenon; complexity can be generated from simple symmetrical starting conditions in polynomial times. I have never seen satisfactory cognizance taken of this fact in the anti-evolution community. In fact as I have suggested before, it is ironic that their very positing of a fabulous creative intelligence subtly subverts their anti-evolutionism; for if evolution is an example of self-organization arising from the right regime of generating laws then we are dealing with a very rare case – a case that the level of creative intelligence envisaged by the anti-evolutionists is presumably more than capable of contriving. With breath taking irony the anti-evilutionist's attempts to show the impossibility/improbability of evolution fail to connect the evolutionary conundrum with a concept that looms large in their culture and which stands impassively behind them: Namely, Divine Intelligence!

Some Notes on Complexity.
Although Johns rightly points out that biological structures such as DNA score high on the irregularity scale, irregularity (or “disorder” as I prefer to call it) does not capture an important characteristic of biological complexity and therefore fails to bring out the real reason for the relative computational complexity of these structures. Let me explain:

In one sense the class of disordered sequences is actually computationally elementary: For example imagine the problem being posed of generating any irregular/disordered pattern. The simplest way of solving this problem is to toss a coin: Using this method of “computation” we can arrive at an irregular/disordered pattern in as short a time as it takes to toss the required number of tosses. So let me suggest that a better measure of complexity than the bare value of Z is given by this equation:

Complexity, C ~ Log (Z/W),

where Z is the disorder of the case sort for and W is the size of the specified class whose members all classify as a “hit”. For example, if we specify that we require any maximally disordered pattern then W ~ Z and so C ~ 0 ; which expresses the fact that this particular problem is of low computational complexity, because simply flipping a coin is likely to produce what we want. But, on the other hand, if we specify that the pattern generated is to be a self perpetuating machine it is very likely that Z will be large and W small, thus returning Log(Z/W) ~ large. Hence, the point I am trying to make is that what makes living things computationally complex is not so much their configurational complexity as measured by Z, but rather a combination of configurational complexity and their rarity.

But even this measure of complexity may only be apposite for typical conditions. If there is such a thing as a class of self perpetuating complex patterns that can be arrived in polynomial time from some basic physical algorithms then it is likely that the number of basic physical algorithms is actually smaller than the configurational complexity of the patterns they produce; in which case the computational complexity of these patterns would be smaller than their configurational complexity! In fact, although we don't actually get a "free lunch" here, we at least get a fairly cheap lunch!

Whether or not actually existing biological structures are a rare case of evolutionary self organization, I nevertheless suspect that there are incredibly complex self perpetuating structures out there in platonic space that cannot be reached by evolutionary self organization. Just imagine what they must be like!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Richard Johns vs. Larry Moran

I spotted this piece of street art whilst walking through Norwich. I photographed it because in a crude way it illustrates the nature of physical explanation as I understand it, particularly in physics. We’ve heard about the the “Turtles all the way down” scenario; here an infinite regress results as the demand to explain the explanation leads to a decked succession of objects that fail to converge on any final explanation that could be said to have some semblance of being a natural end point. In contrast my photograph is a way of conveying, using another rather woolly zoological metaphor, that explanation in physics does involve a progression of object that shows some kind of convergence: As is often remarked, physics succeeds in showing how the complex can be generated from the relatively simple and as physics advances the complexity of the cosmos is reduced to elementary explanatory objects. In my street art metaphor this reduction in complexity is expressed by the diminishing size of the supporting mammals, but as this is a rather loose metaphor a type violation is allowed and the final explanatory object is represented by a ball – something mathematically simple, elemental and above all irreducible. As I have affirmed many times in this blog, physics, in the final analysis, is a science of description that gets its explanatory purchase on nature simply because nature is presumably highly organized. This means that if the cosmos is a closed system and is appropriately organized it will be amenable to a succession of increasingly compressed descriptions. It is the destiny of physics, therefore, to eventually come up against a logical barrier beyond which it cannot proceed; for there comes a point when the explanatory “compression” can go no further; any further attempt to explain the explanation simply leads to the “turtles all the way down” effect. Thus, if physics is to lead us to a final theory it is destined to ultimately leave us at a barrier of incompressible brute fact. Having then arrived at this kernel of fact its job is finished. (If indeed such is possible – it may not be possible as nature could conceivably be mathematically open ended)

The news conveyed by my metaphor is worth putting beside the views of two people: Firstly Richard Johns, who is probably an intelligent design creationist and whose paper on the limits of Self Organisation was mentioned in my last blog entry. My second client is the uncompromising evangelical atheist Larry Moran.

Richard Johns: In his paper on self organization Johns arrives at a conclusion that for many ID theorists is the anti-evolution community’s shibboleth of authentic ID; namely, that there is some kind of conservation law of complexity and/or information that means you can’t have “ a free lunch of complexity”. According to this view the presence of complex organisms must have its origins in more or less equally as complex precursors. Using the zoological metaphor the anti-evolutionist’s view is that one type of elephant can only be supported on another type elephant; so, either you end up with “elephants all the way down” or you believe that at some point God created the first elephant. In other words anti-evolutionists are unlikely to favour the view expressed by my Norwich street art.

I have read Richard Johns paper on the limits of self organization and although I haven’t properly completed my analysis of it let me say in advance that am I not entirely happy that the conclusions of this paper are robust. I will, in due course be giving a detailed analysis of the paper, but suffice to say here that Johns’ reasoning does not take into account that a relatively small subset of complex forms can be generated by simple algorithms. Johns appears to have been mislead by the fact that the overwhelming majority of complex forms can only be reached algorithmically if either the algorithm is executed for a prohibitive amount of time or has available complex initial conditions on which to work. Johns’ reasoning certainly applies to the large majority of configurations and therefore it looks as though Johns has been too easily satisfied by the fact that in terms of probabilities his argument works: Because probabilities favour the situation where complexity arises only from complex initial conditions or after impractically long execution times, then probabilistically speaking Johns is right. But he then fails to take into account the rare cases where simplicity to complexity is possible. It is, presumably, well within the capability of a Divine intelligent designer to contrive one of these rare cases of simplicity to complexity in realistic execution times. Thus, given that Johns is a suspected ID creationist it is ironic that it is the very concept of a Divine designer that in the final analysis raises doubts over this line of argument as a way to ease through anti-Darwinian sentiments.

Larry Moran: In this post Larry responds to some questions posted on the Anti-Darwin web site “Evolution and News”. The first three questions impinge on the subject matter of this post and so I have reproduced these questions and Larry’s answers below. That in the final analysis physical explanation is destined to come up against a fundamental logical barrier is perhaps indicated by Larry’s responses: He looks a little bit like a baffled man who is shifting his weight from one foot to other.

1) Why is there anything?

I don't know and I don't really care. I'm quite happy to think that something has always existed but I'm not troubled by the fact that our space-time may just be an accident.

Well, I do care and I am more than a little curious about ultimate origins and do my best to think past the barrier of physics’ incompressible kernel of explanatory information. If this requires some nifty and reflexive philosophical footwork then so be it. Besides, a philosophical frame of mind probes the meaningfulness or otherwise of linguistic forms like “space-time may be just an accident”; it’s a frame of mind that doesn’t accept an appeal to randomness as a pretext to shelve the problem. For something to be an accident we have to embed it in some higher context in which the event can be judged as accidental; for example, throwing a six on a die is an “accident” within the higher context of the physical circumstances surrounding the throwing of the die. In follows then that “accidents” require some sort of physical context, and this of course raises questions about the origin of this context. The spectre of “Turtles all the way down” is haunting us once again.

So just what explanatory status does Larry’s “accident” have other than as a pretext for dismissing the problem with a bit of hand waving? Related to this particular form of hand waving is the common misconception that if space-time is some kind of inflated quantum vacuum fluctuation then the problem of something for nothing is solved: Somehow amidst this kind of reasoning questions about the problematical nature and origin of physical laws that can “create ex nihilo” in this way just get quietly dropped. In any case it is not at all clear to me that physical laws and the material substrate which they describe can be meaningfully separated. The notion that the laws of physics play the role once played by the “Word of God” by bringing things into existence suggests that Christian theology is deeply rooted in our culture and is subliminally present in the thinking of Westerners; even atheists.

2) What caused the Universe?

I don't know. In fact, I'm not even sure what you mean by "cause." I'm told by experts in the field of cosmology that there's no need to invoke a supernatural being to explain the origin of the universe but if you want to believe in a deist god then that's all right by me.

I agree with Larry’s view that the meaning of the word “cause” is nebulous: Understood in the very day to day “domino effect” sense of one thing interfering with another in a sequence of events is not very helpful when viewed in the light of physics whose most general explanatory structures are mathematical constraints rather than rules of how effects are transferred from one object to another. Larry’s passing on the question of “ultimate causes” to cosmology experts is OK, but we happen to know in advance about the logical limits of what cosmologists can ultimately achieve – namely, an elemental kernel of brute fact, the terminus of descriptive science. If physics ever reaches this point then we can say that physics has a complete theory, but only in a descriptive sense; for in a logical sense physics cannot avoid a final incompleteness.

What Larry seems not to have conceived is that any truly supernatural being would be over and above the cosmos and thus would not appear as an auxiliary player adding his 100 cents worth of interventional cause and effect every now and then; rather such a being would be a present tense continuous agent in the creation and sustenance of cosmic form. So if physics eventually provides a complete description of the cosmos, then I don’t expect such a being to appear in the final theory: Physics, after all, is about succinct descriptions and not about the deep philosophy of origins. If a description of the universe included what Larry refers to as “supernatural” beings, I would conclude that they are players very much embedded in the cosmos and would therefore be very “natural” beings like little green men or something; entities that in the past would have classified as the spirits in an animistic world view  The intellectual grasp of the concept of God has much more to do with the reflexive philosophical frame of mind that must be adopted when trying to think beyond physical description to those philosophically diffuse meta-questions about ultimate origins.

3) Why is there regularity (Law) in nature?

I don't know. That's not my field.

Nicely side stepped; and just as well because in the context of physical descriptive logic such questions are unintelligible: How do we formulate a law which explains regularity in nature when that law itself must exploit a presumed regularity to be an effective explanatory object? Self referencing questions like this are not going to be intelligible let alone answered unless we are prepared to get philosophically reflexive.

Summarizing. We have, then, two very different perspectives here. Johns is saying that the kernel of fact needed to describe the universe (which must include the phenomenon of life) cannot have a complexity that is reducible to anything smaller than an “elephant sized” object. He is therefore anxious to talk up the notion of the conservation of complexity because surely big elephants are harder to explain than simple objects like mathematically elementary spheres. Larry Moran, on the other hand, probably believes in the descriptive reducibility of life in terms of physics; a point of view which I tend to support (But I have to admit it: As a great fan of physics and computer programming I could be biased. For this reason I’m prepared to entertain the view that life may be a second creative dispensation; that’s why I take seriously the work of people like Dembski and Johns). But the trouble with Larry is that he is either unaware of, or waves past the deeper questions about the ultimate origins of even simple objects (as can be seen from his responses above), questions that demand some philosophical reflexiveness.

In some areas the anti-theists and the anti-evolutionists appear to have common philosophical assumptions: I suspect that both parties share the view that as explanatory objects get more elemental, perhaps to the point of seeming to be trivial or aleatory, then a stage is reached where it is felt that no deeper reflexive explanation is needed. Thus the anti-theists feel the need to minimize the existential question by maximizing the triviality of the fundamental explanatory objects. People like Larry Moran can then wave those objects through the passport control of the critical faculties without making any probing enquiries. So, given this sort of behavior amongst anti-theists it’s no surprise that the anti-Darwinians want to keep things as irreducibly complex as they can; you might be able to smuggle a ball through passport control, but an elephant is a different matter. In my view, however, the degree of complexity of a contingent object is irrelevant to the deeper questions of its existence; the existence of a simple sphere is just as hard to explain at the philosophical level as an elephant.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On Origins

I am currently studying a paper publicized in this post on Uncommon Descent and hope eventually to give my verdict on this blog. The paper is written by Richard Johns and concerns the limits of “Self Organisation”. I notice that Johns eliminates evolution as a separate category by classifying it as a “self organizing” process. That’s a point in his favour: It underlines the fact that if evolution is to work it requires the right mathematical conditions – it’s not organization for free as some seem to think. In any case I dislike the term “self organization”; it sounds too much like “self-creation” which is probably an equally if not even more dubious concept. Johns’ paper certainly looks very interesting.

I have also had a request to provide an opinion on another YEC cosmology that attempts to solve the star light travel time problem. This request has came via a correspondent called age2age who made the request when he commented on my blog post here. I won’t be releasing details on this matter, however, unless age2age gives permission. There's nothing like a bit of secrecy to spice things up. Let's face it, intrigue sells. (But I bet it won't be me that's making the money)

Furrowed brow: I've got my work cut out at the moment!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Answers in Genesis Screws It up Again

Lisle has responded to the Missing gravitational field” question as follows

I’ve seen this criticism but I haven’t responded yet. It is very easy to refute. I plan on doing a series on this blog on the topic of ASC, in which I will refute this and other criticisms made by those who have not studied the topic..... 
I had already planned to deal with this in detail in a future blog entry. But the short answer is: no, ASC does not require a gravitational field. It is simply a coordinate transformation from the ESC. And coordinate transformations do not introduce any real forces.            
[Circa 2012 - Lisle's plan apparently never came to fruition. We continue to wait on his good pleasure]

That in turn is very easy to refute: Lisle well knows that you can do all sorts of arbitrarily bizarre things with coordinate transformations: e.g. the direction and gradations we assign to the time coordinate are just matters of convention and yet physically speaking the time coordinate has a natural direction and natural units. This is where Lisle’s mistake lies.

Latest news August 2012:
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"Answers in Genesis" have recently published their latest “solution” to a problem that Young Earth Creationists have worried for as far back as I can remember – the star light travel time conundrum; basically, how does light from stars billions of light years away reach Earth in less than 10,000 years? I suspect that this particular “solution” will not be the last word on the subject and give it a few more years another attempt will be made when the short comings of this latest attempt are all but forgotten. In this blog entry I indicated that I was eagerly awaiting the publishing of a paper by AiG writer Jason Lisle revealing this cutting edge science. Jason Lisle claimed on his AiG blog that the paper was being “peer” reviewed. It is likely that this meant it was being reviewed by other YECs. The YEC community forms such a marginalised and persecuted group that they don’t even bother to submit their work to the wider scientific community. The only way they can live with themselves is by accounting for their wholesale rejection as a product of a corrupt scientific community. Putting this with the fact that the wider scientific community are in the main pulling together on the overall cosmological picture we have a situation that is fertile ground for conspiracy theory. But I digress.

The start of the Lisle’s paper has a section on “mature creation” – there are in my view many problems with this philosophy, but I’ll save a critique of “mature creation” theory for a separate blog entry. However, there are two points in the paper with which I do agree. Like myself Lisle rejects the notion that God would create photons in mid flight within a radius of 6000 light years of Earth. He rejects this on the basis that this would require fictional events, such as super novae, being embedded in the light signals rather than being generated by real events; the alternative compromises the integrity of the created order. I also agree with Lisle’s view that the Bible writers would most likely have thought of events as taking place when they saw them happening, and thus as far as events in the heavens are concerned they would have timed them as seen. In defense of this view Lisle points out that the Biblical writers didn’t know the distance to the stars and therefore could not use any other convention for designating the time of an astronomical event than the time of its appearance. But it is quite possible that the Biblical writers may not even have conceived that sight had anything to do with a signal that passed from A to B, or perceived that there is an issue with the timing of observed events; it may be that in their perception seeing was a naturally instantaneous process indifferent to distance. So even when Lisle gets something right he may have got his reasoning wrong: It may be that the ancients thought about sight in a way that is incommensurable with our own concept of the transfer of a signal. Treating the book of Genesis as if it contains lists of prepackaged scientific facts is a very dubious exercise given that the ancients may have had very different conceptual structures to our own. But I digress (again)

Let me now look at the core content of Lisle’s paper. This paper appears to be a sophistication of an idea he mooted here; namely, that it is possible to simply define the timing of events as and when they are seen to occur. It then follows that all events on the inverted light cone extending into the past are coincident, by definition. There is nothing to stop one adopting such a definition; it is quite possible to define coincidence in this fashion. If one does then this means that an event occurring at any distance from Earth is defined as happening when it is seen. Lisle is at pains to point out in his paper that this “Anisotropic Synchrony Convention” (or ASC for short,) as he calls it, is a purely conventional step:

The anisotropic synchrony convention is just that—a convention. It is not a scientific model; it does not make testable predictions. It is a convention of measurement and cannot be falsified any more than the metric system can be falsified.

But given the conventional nature of this step Lisle also admits that it is possible to revert back to Einstein’s synchrony convention:

Einstein synchronization does have its place. In particular, Einstein synchronization is isotropic; the speed of light is stipulated to be the same in all directions. This greatly simplifies the equations of Special Relativity, thereby making Einstein synchronization the preferred convention to be used when doing physics computations.

Much as the metric system is easier to use in physics calculations than the English system, no one would suggest that students learning Special Relativity for the first time should use anything other than the Einstein synchrony convention. One consequence of the Einstein synchrony convention is that all observers agree on the timing of distant events if the observers have the same velocity—regardless of the position of the observers. Conversely, ASC would have all observers agree on the timing of events if the observers have the same location, regardless of velocity. Since Relativity is concerned with velocity reference frames, it is very useful to select a synchrony convention in which velocity alone (irrespective of location) sets the timing of distant events. The mathematical advantages of the Einstein synchrony convention are clear.

So far so good – I don’t see anything wrong here. I agree on the conventional nature of the choice of synchrony method. I agree that the choice is often based on convenience – in particular ASC is convenient for an Earth based frame. I also agree that ASC is more likely to be consistent with the arcadian mindset of the Biblical writers. The underlying mathematical reason for the arbitrariness of the synchrony convention is that we are free to choose the coordinate system we use. As I pointed out in this blog post, where I discussed Young Earth Creationist’s Gerardus Bouw geocentric views, it is possible to even define a coordinate system that makes the Earth stationary with everything in the universe revolving round it; and this is certainly a useful co-ordinate system for the man in the street. However, in the case of Bouw he goes on to suggest that this geostationary coordinate system is justified by his rewritten version of physics; so Bouw is actually saying that a geocentric cosmos is not just conventional but physical as well. Unlike Bouw it at first appears that Lisle is merely proposing a convention, namely a coordinate system that assigns a time coordinate to astronomical events as they are seen. But - and here is the inevitable “But” that you knew was coming eventually - Lisle’s paper carries a subtle error; he effectively builds in an observable physical condition into his “convention” and he is not aware that he is doing it. This is the offending passage:

The act of choosing a synchrony convention is synonymous with defining the one-way speed of light. If we select Einstein synchronization, then we have declared that the speed of light is the same in all directions. If we select ASC, then we have declared that light is essentially infinitely fast when moving directly toward the observer, and ½c when moving directly away. Under ASC, the speed of light as a function of direction relative to the observer (θ) is given by cθ = c/(1-cos(θ)), where θ = 0 indicates the direction directly toward the observer. (My emphasis)

There is nothing to stop one choosing a synchrony convention which assigns events a time coordinate defined by the arrival of their signal at the Earth’s surface. But to define an Anisotropic Synchrony Convention is one thing; to then imply that anisotropy in the one way speed of light is also a matter of convention is entirely another thing. Let me explain.

Lisle correctly points out the practical and theoretical difficulties in measuring the one way speed of light with any rigor because of issues relating to the synchronization of two clocks that are separated by the distance over which the speed of light is measured. It is much easier, therefore, to measure the two way speed of light; that is by using one clock and timing light over a there and back journey. But the issue here, of course, is that it is conceivable that the speed of light on the outward journey may be different from that of the return journey; how would we know? For this reason a physicist called Edwards rehashed special relatively by simply assuming that only the two way speed of light, which is in fact the average speed over a there and back journey, is a constant equal to c. In spite of the possibility that the speed of light in one direction may be different from its speed in another direction Edwards found that provided the two way speed averaged to the value c then all the results of special relativity still applied. In my last blog on this topic I referenced a paper by Chinese physicist Jian Qi Shen who has done some work on the Edwards space-time. In the last page of his paper Jian Qi Shen writes down the metric for the Edwards space time thus: (written for the special case of a null geodesic in this instance, hence = 0)

Where X is a parameter that is dependent on observer velocity and effectively measures the anisotropy in the speed of light as seen by that observer. The crucial point is that X is constant for the observer and does not vary from place to place. Let Jain Qi Shen continue the story:

In other words there is no gravitational field in the Edwards space time because the anisotropy in the speed of light is constant; in the Edwards space-time the anisotropy in the speed of light does not change its direction as one moves from place to place. Under these circumstance one can by convention choose the one way speed of light without having any observable effect on special relativity and other physical circumstances. But - and here is the big "but" – one cannot choose a one way speed of light that varies its direction from place to place without introducing a space curvature; that is, without introducing a gravitational field. And it is precisely an anisotropy in the speed of light that varies its direction from place to place that Lisle thinks he can achieve merely by definition:

The act of choosing a synchrony convention is synonymous with defining the one-way speed of light.

Given that Lisle requires the speed of light in the direction of Earth to be all but infinity, then this means the anisotropy in the speed of light is radially directed toward the Earth, thus implying that the anisotropy changes its direction from place to place. Therefore Lisle’s “convention” is not a mere coordinate system redefinition because he cannot take this step without his model being physically different, a difference that entails a gravitational field. In my last blog on this subject I assumed that Lisle would spot this and that he would be forced to postulate some kind of geocentric gravitational field. But it seems that neither Lisle nor his AiG reviewers have spotted it. For Lisle’s YEC cosmos to work it must be pervaded by some kind of geocentric gravitational field. But since he does not see that a gravitational field is required to give him a light speed anisotropy that changes direction he therefore sees no reason to postulate a source of this field. We cannot  detect an anisotropy in the speed of light if its direction and magnitude is constant, but as soon as we try to “define” an anisotropy that is spatially variable we find we cannot do so without introducing a gravitational field. Therefore the act of choosing a synchrony convention is not synonymous with defining the one-way speed of light. In short Lisle’s paper is fundamentally flawed. But this is not the only error in the paper, although it is probably enough to be going on with for now. If I get time I may look at the other problems in Lisle’s work.

In the YEC community the scientific quality of its papers is less crucial than the role they serve in the wider YEC culture. The average fundagelical supporter who doesn’t understand science can, if challenged on the issue of Star light travel time, simply point to papers such as Lisle’s with the misplaced confidence that the matter is in hand. From his perspective this paper comes out of the stable that runs the impressive Ken Ham Creation Museum, a museum where no expense has been spared and whose lavish (if tacky) exhibits must stun and awe the average Christian fundamentalist. When one is immersed in such a heady patriarchal culture it must feel that it just can’t be wrong. Any challenge to such an awe inspiring source must look as though its coming from somewhere near the gates of  hell and need not be engaged; after all, it’s in the hands of people like Jason Lisle and his AiG reviewers – what better authority and assurance can one ask for? Thus, whether right or wrong, Lisle's work serves to act as an important community myth.

11/08/2012 For the latest news see here:

13/10/12 The latest news on Jason Lisle's ASC....

The lasest news on ASC in relation to the above blog post comes in the comments section of this post on Jason’s blog. Here we read:
Isaac Roland says:
August 31, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Dr. Lisle,
Have you responded to a critique of your AIG article at ?
Dr. Lisle says:
September 11, 2012 at 6:18 pm
I’ve seen this criticism but I haven’t responded yet. It is very easy to refute. I plan on doing a series on this blog on the topic of ASC, in which I will refute this and other criticisms made by those who have not studied the topic.
Nick L. says:
September 12, 2012 at 11:07 am
I’m looking forward to that series of entries.
At that point I had to step in to encourage Jason to make a response and tell him I too am very much looking forward to that series of posts. Yes it certainly is “very easy to refuteif Jason is telling us that he is simply making a coordinate transformation on the Einstein space. But as we shall see there is far more to it than that! As I said in my reply on Jason’ blog: Your move Jason ....... so let’s wait and see what Jason has to say!
While I was there, however, I started to do some ground work by talking about the consequences of ASC when one simply uses it as a coordinate transformation; because even here there are issues to contend with. In fact Lisle’s correspondent “Preston” eventually said what I wanted him to say and he inferred a duration of 28 billion years.  In due time I hope to also look at the issues which arise even when one interprets Lisle’s ASC model in purely coordinate transformational terms. I’ll hand it Russ Humphreys’ model: It may not work but it is far more respectful of astrophysics than Jason Lisle’s evil abortion.
I’m not really on talking terms with YECs and this is why I was loathe to show up on Lisle’s blog; we are dealing here with religious fundamentalists, the West's equivalent of the Taliban, who are busily corrupting and subverting science and Lisle and his followers are typical culprits. It was no surprise when “Preston” (The anti-gay bigot I mention in the comments section of this post) told me:
Mr. Reeves, Your war is with God, and you’ve already lost. You should read your bible and believe it and repent before it’s too late. A lake of fire and eternal suffering await those who reject God till the end.
What charming people my work brings me into contact with! This response is just all too typical of human conceits.  Assuming that all but one's own religious culture are for the burning is the view of every sect between here and Salt Lake city!

Addendum  14 July 2013

Last September (2012) I added a few comments to a post on Jason Lisle’s blog entitled Arbitrariness and Inconsistency – the Opposites of Rationality (and Dated  3 August 2013).  This comment thread had got people talking about Lisle’s ASC model solution to the YEC star light problem and somebody had linked to this blog post on the subject. Lisle responded to this commenter which in turn rather forced my hand into responding myself.

It is clear from one of  Lisle’s comments, a comment I reproduce below, that he thinks of his ASC model as only employing a mere coordinate transformation. As you can read below he promised that he will in due course bring out some posts on the subject of gravity. However, for the purposes of the thread below I stayed true to the perception that Lisle’s ASC model entails just a case of changing the coordinate system.

Most of the comments I added to Lisle’s blog, along with a lot of the other useful material, has since been deleted by Lisle. Because I don’t want this material lost I reproduce it here. Although I also discuss the age of the Earth generally with one of Lisle’s YEC followers, my main focus was on Lisle’s ASC model solution to the YEC starlight problem. Challenging Lisle’s perception of his model in relation to gravity is the work for another day, so in this particular connection I focussed on the timing of the arrival of light from the vicinity of the Earth at galaxies billions of light years away. I know and Jason Lisle knows that in his asymmetrical cosmology this event occurs billions of years after the creation of those distant galaxies and billions of years after the creation of the Earth.  This thread brings out this fact about his model.

Rational Wiki contributor Sam Trenholme also commented on Lisle’s blog. Sam introduced a thought experiment involving a mirror, an experiment that very elegantly and clearly brings out the asymmetry/geocentricity of Lisle’s cosmology, but unfortunately this comment was also deleted about a week after its first appearance.

Note: I've since annotated the thread below with a few further comments and these can be seen in bold between square brackets. I've added them in order to help interpret what’s going on. Notice at no point does Lisle acknowledge my presence. This behaviour probably has some fundamentalist basis in righteous indignation; I've met this kind of behaviour before as I have moved amongst Christian sectarians.

Isaac Roland says:
Dr. Lisle,
Have you responded to a critique of your AIG article at
·         Dr. Lisle says:
I’ve seen this criticism but I haven’t responded yet. It is very easy to refute. I plan on doing a series on this blog on the topic of ASC, in which I will refute this and other criticisms made by those who have not studied the topic.
[My Comment: Jason Lisle actually put this so called “refutation” in one of his other comments, a comment that I have included below.]
o    Nick L. says:
I’m looking forward to that series of entries.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
…and so am I! My blog admin alerted me to this link! Now Jason, I think I have an inkling of what you are going to say: In fact there is probably only about one or two things you can say, and it is that I’ve been preparing for! Now, if I was to follow your example then at this point I might engage in a bit of posturing myself and claim that “You haven’t studied this topic”! Your move Jason!
Sorry that no big scientific names have moved in and really taken your proposal seriously. I must apologise that I’m not an interlocutor with a societal high status myself but can only offer to test your proposal from the perspective of an enthusiastic amateur (although with the appropriate background) within the mainstream Christian tradition; so that means I am a creationist in the general sense.
It’s long ago now (well, not long ago if you are using Jason’s notification based co-ordinate transformation! Haha!), but I went through a period of Christian fundamentalism myself and read “The Genesis Flood” from cover to cover ultimately finding it unconvincing. However, on emerging from Christian fundamentalism I’ve kept tabs on YEC developments.
BTW: As far as I’m aware geocentrist Gerardus Bouw does define a stationary reference frame which he anchors in what I think he calls “the plenum”- although I have to admit that I haven’t studied his one-man rewrite of physics that closely (and don’t intend to.)

[My comment: Next, I start talking generally about YEC with this guy called Nick….]
§  Nick L. says:
I’m not gathering a lot of information from your post, Timothy, outside of the fact that you’re an Old-earth Creationist. I assume then that you have a number of rescuing devices ready to explain the many scientific evidences that contradict your view; thus, there is probably no point in venturing into a discussion of the lunar recession rate, the erosion rate of the continents, the shrinkage rate of the Sun, the existence of short period comets, or any of the other scientific evidences I find supportive of a young earth.
Since that’s the case, can you share how you support your Old-earth view Biblically? I find absolutely no evidence in the Genesis narrative supportive of Old-earth creationism. On the contrary, all I find are clear reasons to reject OEC in favor of YEC.
The most powerful reason for embracing YEC, in my opinion, is the problem of death before sin in an Old-earth view. How do you reconcile the Bible’s clear teaching against death before sin and the necessity of such events in an Old-earth view?
Incidentally, I can’t help mentioning that you’re entirely incorrect when you state that no ‘big-name’ scientists have embraced the Young-earth view. Organizations like the Institute for Creation Research and the Creation Research Society boast memberships by dozens of PhD scientists. The ranks of Creationism are getting progressively stronger, while the supporters of traditional evolution are becoming fewer and more fractured. Well-known figures like Richard Dawkins are now abandoning traditional evolutionary models of the origin of life in favor of even more radical ideas like panspermia. As Jason states in one of his blog entries, evolution is truly becoming an endangered species.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Thanks for the reply Nick.
Yes, there is little point in discussing those items because I don’t want to embark on an in depth analysis deep inside the entrails of this blog; I take that sort of thing back to my own blog. To this end, however, perhaps you are the very man to help me out on some questions.
Regarding lunar recession rate, Sun shrinkage, sedimentation etc, etc Some of these (such as Sun Shrinkage, if it exists) are all but useless in returning duration information because the (possibly chaotic) mechanisms that drive them are the subject of speculation. However, using a (very) crude model I used the moon recession rate to return an Earth duration limit of not greater than half a million years, a figure well in access of 6000 years. What I would like to know (because I have yet to come across it in my study of YEC culture) is this: Are there any YEC models out there that return durations that limit Earth age to not greater than 10,000 years? I’m interested in getting a listing of YEC models that return duration information in this “not greater than” format so that I can see how these are distributed on the time axis.

I actually regard the treatment of Biblical evidence by YEC as one of its weakest links because YEC is not using the right historical model to interpret scripture: Especially when ancient narratives reach back to pre-human times (such as we see in Genesis 1) we must factor in the vagaries and polemical purposes of the mythological/metaphorical imagination (though managed and inspired by The Sovereign Will)
But regarding early Genesis I have another question: How do YEC’s literal interpretations juxtapose Satan’s fall and Man’s fall in cosmic history? Which comes first? And who is the serpent?
I think you need to read again what I said regarding “big-name” scientists; I thought I was simply remarking on a fact that is not contentious: Viz: Jason’s specific proposal (to my knowledge) has not been given the kudos of serious critical attention by any (non-YEC) “big noises”; if it had it is unlikely that Rational Wiki would have had to resort to linking to my article! However, you seem to have read into the word “proposal” the whole YEC Weltanschauung and this has inadvertently connected with the YEC self-worth complex, triggering off in you the need for a marginalized subculture to find reasons to believe in itself. I’ve touched a nerve here! Boasts? You’ve got it in one!
I understand that you won’t be aware that I have no emotional commitment to currently accepted theories of the mechanism of evolutionary change (not to be confused with natural history) and even Big Bang. But one thing I say with confidence is this: Cosmic durations are a lot greater than 6000 years. i.e.YEC is false.
§  Nick L. says:
Thanks for the response.

First, yes, there are several models that limit the age of the earth to various numbers far closer to 6,000 years than the lunar recession rate. The first example that comes to mind is the work by Dr. Thomas G. Barnes. I will quote from A Scientific Analysis of Genesis by Edward F. Blick, PhD: “Physicist Dr. Thomas Barnes in a remarkable study has noted that the Earth’s magnetic field has been decaying exponentially since it was first measured in 1835. His analysis shows that its half-life is about fourteen hundred years. Based upon a half-life of fourteen hundred years, the Earth’s magnetic field would have been equal to that of a magnetic star just ten thousand years ago. Dr. Barnes indicates that the only reasonable source for the Earth’s magnetic field must be free circulating electrical currents in the Earth’s iron core. He concluded that the heat generated by these currents flowing against an electrical resistance would have been too large for life to have existed on Earth more than ten thousand years ago; hence, life has been on Earth less than ten thousand years” (84). A few more models that fulfill your requirements: the influx of radiocarbon into the Earth system limits the age of the Earth to somewhere between 5000 and 10,000 years. The development of the human population of the Earth comes out to roughly 4000 years, which, as I’m sure you’re aware, is entirely consistent with the YEC model of the Noachian Flood roughly 4000 years ago. The decay of short period comets limits the age to less than 10,000 yrs. The accumulation of peat in peat bogs limits the age to less than 8,000 years. And the formation of river deltas limits the age to less than 5,000 years, again consistent with a Noachian flood 4000 years ago.
While those should be enough to keep you busy researching for a little bit, the point really isn’t how close to 6,000 years we can limit Earth’s age to. The real point at hand is that there are a plethora of models out there that disprove the vast ages REQUIRED for evolution. Regardless of whether or not you accept or deny any particular model mentioned (or any of the others you’re familiar with), if even ONE of them escapes the criticism of evolutionists unscathed (as the majority of them have), evolutionary theory is undone.
I’m not sure where you find Scriptural support of the idea of incorporating “mythological/metaphysical” factors into our interpretation of Scripture. I think it’s fairly clear what the writer of Genesis was trying to convey, and that is that the heavens and the earth and all that is in them were created in six literal, 24 hour days. Again, I must ask what Scriptural proof you have that shows otherwise.
As for the fall of Satan, the Bible implies it took place after the creation of man and before the fall. God concluded that His entire creation was “very good” at the end of Genesis 1, and this judgment seems hard to understand if Satan and one-third of the angelic host was already in rebellion. There are also passages that refer to Satan in the Garden of Eden prior to his fall. Obviously, however, he fell before he took on the form of a serpent and beguiled Eve.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Thanks for that info Nick; very helpful.
I think Barnes’s ideas have come in for a lot of criticism: As per Sun shrinkage the models used are in a state of speculative flux: I’ve heard of models of the Earth’s interior that flip the poles with a period of about 1 million years. It’s all very reminiscent of the “moon dust” debacle. Likewise I’m not impressed with the population argument which neglects chaotic population fluctuations in small stressed hunting communities.
However, I haven’t looked into the influx of radiocarbon, comets, peat bogs and river delta’s so I’ll take those away with me. But as always one finds attempts by either side of the debate to make absolute statements is scuppered by many adjustable variables and a general open endedness of the phenomena concerned.
But in any case there seems to be a paradox in YEC: On the one hand one finds YECs using age calculations and the rational assumptions on which they are necessarily based positively and yet in other contexts YECs are negative about age calculations: Unless of course the YEC strategy is a negative one of simply subverting science by dwelling on inconsistency…. which may be what you are trying to get at in your second paragraph. BTW: Just in case you are thinking about it: I don’t accept the philosophy that attempts to make a clear demarcation between “historical science” and “operational science”; they in fact form a seamless whole.
Of course you won’t find “meta-information” about the mythological/metaphorical in the Bible any more than you will find information about the fundamentals of language and grammar, common sense physics and philosophy, the wider historical context of the Middle East, basic ideas about human beings etc etc – all of which are part of a huge open ended meta-database that we bring to the Bible’s black and white pixel information in order to appropriate meaning.
Thanks for the information on the fall of Satan and his angels. That essentially confirms what I was given to understand in my fundamentalist days. In fact it’s still my understanding. Trouble is it leaves us with a wild card: The history of Satan’s fall and its consequences.
Another question for you Nick. I did a quick search for Jason’s views on colliding galaxies. Jason’s ASC model, as we shall see, is very strictly limited in what it can do as it is a transformation consistent with Einstein. This means that average light speed is a “conserved” quantity of c. Consequently there’s a hemisphere of solid angle where light speed is either c or less. So how does he deal with colliding galaxies? I only found some second hand references where it was said that Jason claimed that colliding galaxies were created in collision. Are you able to point me at any quotes from Jason himself?
Looks to me as if the formatting here is eventually going to restrict us to one word per line.

§  Kenny says:
Dr. Lisle mentions them in the second to last paragraph (before the footnotes) in his article on ASC.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Thanks v. much Kenny. I must have read that and forgotten it! 

[My Comment: In the following comment Lisle is responding to a comment by someone called “Preston” – a comment not published here - who asks for help in understanding his ASC Model. This leads into the important discussion I'm looking for]

Dr. Lisle says:
Exactly right regarding the experiment, and ASC from earth’s point of view. The interesting thing is that from the stars’ point of view, the earth would be created after the stars. Whereas, from earth’s point of view, the stars are made later – on day 4. They have different positions, and therefore different definitions of “simultaneous.”
·         Timothy V Reeves says:
The interesting thing is that from the stars’ point of view, the earth would be created after the stars
…and now Jason can you please tell Preston this: From the point of view of a typical galaxy how long after its creation does the Earth appear be to created? Don’t worry about significant figures – a log value will do!

[My Comment: What I’m getting at above is this:  I know, and Lisle knows that his ASC model implies that stars very distant from the Earth will only see the Earth millions of years after their creation! “Preston” eventually twigs this fact and says so in a comment I have reproduced below, but in the meantime “Kenny” chimes in…]
o    Kenny says:
For galaxies that would first see earth, under ASC, it would appear to be created 8-16 minutes after the galaxy/stars.
Only the galaxies which see the sun aproximately between them and the earth will see the earth. The sun’s light has to travel to the earth and then bounce off of it. In this configuration, the light from the sun moves towards the earth (depending on the angle of the observing galaxy in relation to the light’s motion) at somewhere between c and 1/2c. At c, the light takes about 8 minutes to reach earth and at 1/2c the light will take 16 minutes. After the sun’s light bounces off of the earth, it travels towards observers, in those  galaxies, instantly.
[My Comment: Kenny has completely missed the point and gone off at a tangent. When Earth light does arrive at those distant galaxies the inhabitants in those galaxies can use ASC to claim that it arrived all but instantaneously. But what Kenny hasn’t seen is that when that light does eventually arrive at those galaxies they must have been hanging around for billions of years!]
§  Kenny says:
I just want to be clear that I’m coming at this from a hypothetical position, because the earth is too small to be seen from another galaxy.
With this in mind, there would be galaxies that would see the earth as soon as THEY were created. If from their point of view the earth was transiting the sun they would instantly see the earth as a black spot crossing in front of the sun. Since the sun’s light is traveling directly towards the observing galaxy, the sun’s light and the dark spot would appear instantly.
I believe Dr. Lisle’s last statement had in mind the idea of the light first reflecting off of the earth. Therefore, to the some stars, the earth appears to be created after them.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
So Kenny, am I to understand that that is the answer which convinces you?
[My Comment: Yes Kenny really just can’t see the wood from the trees! Lisle’s model has completely fazed him!]
§  Kenny says:
No! I’m an old-earth creationist. I was just what telling you what Dr. Lisle’s ASC theory would say.
I also wanted to correct myself. Because the earth is a sphere, a more correct statement would be that most galaxies would see some evidence for the earth between insatntly and 16 minutes. There would be a large fraction that would not see earth until it revolved around the sun to a point that it reflected some of the sun’s light in their direction.

§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Thanks for the reply, Kenny
I think Jason will tell you (and at one level I agree with him) that he is simply using a (Biblical) coordinate transformation on a straight Einstein space-time. However, gravitational issues do emerge eventually (as we shall see in due time). But running with Jason’s maneuver as simply a coordinate transformation, questions still arise that threaten his ASC model. I’ll look at these at some date on my blog.
So you’re old Earth like me! I have lot of respect for William Dembski and friends (and also Hank Hannegraph) although I wouldn’t say I’m entirely at one with the way ID is being handled by his community. However, sad to say that as far strict and particular fundamentalists are concerned a state of war exists between us!
§  Preston says:
Mr. Reeves,
Your war is with God, and you’ve already lost. You should read your bible and believe it and repent before its too late. A lake of fire and eternal suffering await those who reject God till the end.

[My Comment…..Now there’s a man who knows he speaks for God! Preston is a classic fire and brimstone heretic burner! However, in spite that we find it is this guy “Preston”  who makes the kind of observation I'm looking for]

Preston says:
Hi Dr. Lisle,
Thanks for the feedback – its encouraging to think at least I’m on the right track.
When you say “from the stars’ point of view, the earth would be created after the stars”, is that because Observer B’s time reference frame always precedes Observer A’s time reference frame by 2*distance/c?
As an example let me choose a galaxy B 14 billion light years away. Galaxy B is created on earth day 4. The following day when God creates observer Adam, he immediately sees galaxy B. From galaxy B’s perspective, even though incoming light travels instantaneously, B will not see the earth for 28 billion years. [My comment: Excellent, well done Preston!] This is because B always instantly sees incoming light, and that incoming light always lags B by 2 * distance / c. Is that correct?
Oftentimes, different conventions are explaining the same thing. For instance a building may be designed using both metric units or English units, but the finished buildings will be identical. In this case though the synchronization is by convention, the things being described are very different. We see light from all the stars and galaxies from closest to furthest away at exactly the same age. If big bangers adopted ASC, they would still expect to see all the stars and galaxies at ages ranging from 0 to 14 billion years old. Because they think the universe is roughly 14 billion years old and they think that somewhere in the universe stars are currently forming. Is that correct?
Thanks very much!  [and thank you Mr. Preston!]
Best regards,


·         Preston says:
Correction – two days later God created observer Adam.
Also, just considered how ASM explains the light not being created in transit from either earth or the star’s perspective. The light over the full billions of light years distance really does contain information about actual events. [My emphasis]
o    Dr. Lisle says:
Yes – that’s it exactly.
[My Comment: Yes – that’s it exactly, Bravo Preston! Interestingly, as far as I can tell the above comment by Preston has been erased by Lisle.]

[My Comment:  See below: At last Kenny twigs……]
o    Kenny says:
Wait a minute Preston,
Dr. Lisle, did you just tell Preston that his statement was correct?
“As an example let me choose a galaxy B 14 billion light years away. Galaxy B is created on earth day 4. The following day when God creates observer Adam, he immediately sees galaxy B. From galaxy B’s perspective, even though incoming light travels instantaneously, B will not see the earth for 28 billion years. This is because B always instantly sees incoming light, and that incoming light always lags B by 2 * distance / c. Is that correct?”
This statement would only be correct if galaxy B were relying on its own light output to reveal the earth. This is because galaxy B’s light would travel away from it, in the direction of the earth, at 1/2c. Then it would reflect off of the earth back towards galaxy B instantly.
As I pointed out to Timothy, the sun’s light will reveal it, to galaxy B and most other galaxies, between instantly and 16 minutes.
[My Comment: If only Kenny would keep out of it! But it only goes to show that people can so easily fail to see the asymmetry in Lisle's model. Yes, galaxy B can use ASC to claim that light has arrived instantaneously from Earth, but observers in this galaxy won’t see this event until they have been hanging around for billions of years!]

§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Good! I see above that 28 billion years has popped out of the space-time wood work!
Yes; since Earth’s creation signals from Earth have only got about 3000 light years into space! That means right now a good part of the universe can only see about half a universe! BTW Kenny: Don’t mix coordinate systems: We’re currently defining “now” in terms of signal reception at the surface of the Earth, as per the Biblical example.

§  Kenny says:
Maybe I am misunderstanding you, but the discussion is about the signal reception at a distant galaxy, not earth. In ASC it does not matter where an observer is, light follows the same rules. If it is traveling towards a galaxy, the light is seen in an instant. I cannot think of a place where you would only see part of the universe.

Dr. Lisle told me earlier: “Under ASC, relative to any observer, inward directed light is instantaneous, and outward directed light is ½ c. This is always the case (in vacuum) and is true for any given observer, whether on the moon, on earth, whether at A or B.”
[My Comment: So I have a go at explaining it to Kenny…..]
·         Timothy V Reeves says:
Hi Kenny.
It goes like this.
If we use Earth as a reference planet for ASC we are using a coordinate system whereby we date events as and when their signals reach Earth. For example, if a signal from the planet Alderaan in a galaxy far, far away (14 billion light years according to Preston) made Earth fall last Wednesday at 6pm, then all events that occurred on the line of sight as the signal passed by are dated, by convention, as 6pm last Wednesday. This is a perfectly legitimate way of dating events. But using this otherwise valid coordinate convention we find that electromagnet signals leaving Earth do so at a velocity of c/2, implying that signals from us, as our brother in Christ Preston has informed us, won’t reach Alderaan for 28 billion years!
Now, it is possible for us to use instead planet Alderaan as the ASC reference planet to date cosmic events. That is, we assign cosmic dates as and when electromagnet signals from these events make planet fall on Alderaan. In which case we find the infinite asymmetry in light speed skewed toward Alderaan, although in contrast we then find that signalsfrom Alderaan take 28 billion years to reach Earth!
But in the above scenario we are using two different coordinate systems: One system uses Earth as the reference planet to date events and the other uses Alderaan as the reference planet to date events. It’s bad practice to use both systems at once as this leads to inconsistency and confusion. However, whichever coordinate system we choose to use we find that one or the other returns a duration of 28 billion years for outgoing signals to reach the planet that is not the reference planet…….Unless..… unless we postulate that one of the planets fails to get light from the other. As we seem to be receiving light from 14 billion light years away I assume Alderaan isn’t seeing light from us – which may explain why we get Star Wars and Alderaan doesn’t.
Did you read Mr. Preston’s comment about the lake of fire? Typical! And then he wonders why I talk about a state of war! That’s exactly the kind of behavior I have in mind when I use the expression “state of war”!

§  Kenny says:
Preston clearly said, “From galaxy B’s perspective, even though incoming light travels instantaneously, B will not see the earth for 28 billion years. This is because B always instantly sees incoming light, and that incoming light always lags B by 2 * distance / c. Is that correct?”
So, he wants to know what galaxy B will see, not what observers on earth will see. What you are describing is what we will see. From our perspective, light from earth has not reached galaxy B, but from galaxy B’s perspective, our light reached it long ago.
If Preston had asked, “from earth’s perspective, has galaxy B seen us yet,” then I would agree.
You are using earth as the reference point, but Preston did not do this.

§  Kenny says:
ASC works the same for everyone, everywhere. Light leaving galaxy B will be seen by galaxy B at 1/2c, but will be seen by us as infinite. Light leaving earth will be seen by us at 1/2c, but by galaxy B as infinite. If you look at my first couple of posts, Dr. Lisle states this, when I asked him about light reflecting off of the moon.

[My Comment: Below I throw in a comment for lake of fire fundie, Preston!]
·         Timothy V Reeves says:
Hello Mr Preston,

And I suppose William Dembski and Hank Hannegraph also get thrown into the Lake of fire? I treat your empty and conceited religious threats with utter contempt in the light of the precious Grace of God to all those who call on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:5) and have received the Spirit of adoption (Rom 8:15). Start reading your Bible in the Spirit.

o    Kenny says:
Yes, I saw Preston’s comments. You are claiming to be a Christian by faith in Jesus, so he has no reason to doubt that.
I take the creation days as literal long periods of time and that Genesis is describing real history. I for one have never been convinced by the appeal to ancient near eastern “parallels” or their ways of thinking. Their creation texts are not at all like Genesis one.
I would get into the exegesis of Creation days 1, 2 and 4, but I want to get this ASC thing settled in my mind.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
Hi Kenny,
The core issue here has very little to do with what B (on Alderaan) or an observer on Earth actually see; rather it’s about the coordinate systems these observers employ to label points/events in the “space–time manifold” (to use the technical term). Therefore to my mind both yourself and Preston are getting the wrong end of the stick.
In fact it is quite possible for our Alderaan observer to use Earth as a reference planet and vice versa! A reference planet is not defined by the presence of an actual observer but by the use of that planet to time cosmic events; Viz: Using Jason’s ASC cosmic events are timed using the arrival time of signals from those events at the surface of the reference planet.
My point is that one can’t mix coordinate systems; yes one can use Alderaan or Earth as a reference planet – in that sense ASC will work from any point in the cosmos; as you have said above it works for all! But when timing events one must state which ASC-coordinate system one is using – either that centered on Alderaan or that centered on Earth. When one uses a particular ASC reference system one finds, as Preston has discovered, that points/events still pop out of the space-time manifold separated by durations of billions of years!
However, whether or not these points/events in the space-time manifold are regarded as a reality or are just theoretical is all down to how Jason handles them in his ASCmodel. (As opposed to ASC pure and simple). And that’s where I get interested because this is where we are going to find issues with Jason’s ideas along with that of gravity.
Re: My claim to being a Christian My claim to saving spirituality is nearly as worthless as Brother Preston’s vacuous and threatening fulminations. More to the point is what God claims about me: Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies…. Romans 8:33

§  Kenny says:
I completely agree. Again, my only point was that Preston switched his coordinate from Adam on earth to “galaxy B’s perspective.” And that he ignored the sun, which is a light source, so that galaxy B would actually see us instantaneously. From Adam’s perspective, 28 billion years is correct.
§  Timothy V Reeves says:
So, I think we’ve got that sussed!

[My Comment. Oh no he hasn't sussed it! Below we find Kenny still completely confused. My first comment below is a response to a comment by Kenny – not published - where I attempt once again to bring clarity]

·         Timothy V Reeves says:
Heck Kenny, you need to realise that ASC is a coordinate transformation so that it doesn’t predict anything. Moreover, when the light from us arrives at that distant galaxy it is 28 billion years into our future! The big question then, is how does Jason handle these space time coordinates with huge assigned duration values in his ASC model, a model that does make predictions although not always testable. Is Jason going to postulate that points exist in the space-time manifold that have these assigned time values? If he doesn’t allow them then it means that light from us is still creeping out to that distant galaxy, a galaxy which has yet to see us and will in fact never see us! In short Jason has to posit a quasi-geocentric cosmology in as much as it is asymmetrically skewed around planet Earth or thereabouts!

o    Atticus Sheffield says:
Oh dear.
[My comment: Too right!]
o    Kenny says:
Please read what we have been talking about. Dr. Lisle and the others have said that if A sees the clocks as synchronized, then B will say that 2 seconds have passed on his own clock, and will actually see his own clock 2 seconds ahead of A’s clock.
I was pointing out the same for earth and galaxy B. For earth to say that galaxy B’s light arrived instantly, then galaxy B would say no, it took 28 billion years to get there. I.E. the universe, from galaxy B’s perspective is 28 billion years old.
No one was talking about earth’s light reaching galaxy B. At least not this time around.
o    Kenny says:
Please read what we have been talking about. Dr. Lisle and the others have said that if A sees the clocks as synchronized, then B will say that 2 seconds have passed on his own clock, and will actually see his own clock 2 seconds ahead of A’s clock.
I was pointing out the same for earth and galaxy B. For earth to say that galaxy B’s light arrived instantly, then galaxy B would say no, it took 28 billion years to get there. I.E. the universe, from galaxy B’s perspective is 28 billion years old.
No one was talking about earth’s light reaching galaxy B. At least not this time around.
By the way, I see that you brought this same thing up on Sept. 22.

·         Timothy V Reeves says:
Hi Kenny,
I entirely concur with the logic that Jason has used to explain it to you above. But I note that you say this:
“B knows there is no light travel time from her clock to A. Therefore, she assumes that A is really synchronizing the clocks.”
This is not a case of “B knowing” rather it is a case of “B defining”; in this case defining a coordinate system where she is on the reference planet and this means that the light travel time from her clock to A is fixed by a defined speed of c/2.
What you’ve got to understand is that the one-way speed of light can be defined. Either you define the speed of light recession as c/2 or as infinite -you can’t define it as both c/2 AND infinite – that’s a contradiction in terms.
You are still mixing up coordinate systems, and that is why you are arriving at paradoxical conclusions. When you’ve got this sorted we can then move on to the question of whether 28 billion year temporal displacements exist in the space-time manifold of Jason’s ASC model

o    Timothy V Reeves says:
Rather appropriate that this blog post is about consistency, because inconsistency in use of coordinate systems seems to be at the heart of you problem Kenny!

[My comment: So that was the end of that!  Kenny appeared to not see that there is an issue over the existence of space-time coordinates with time labels running into billions of years – I suspect Lisle would claim that these coordinates have no observational relevance to us, as he’s only concerned with the first 6000 years of the Universe's existence. But what this issue does bring out is the high geocentricity of Lisle’s  ASC model.
Moreover, the question of gravity is still outstanding and elsewhere in this particular comment thread Lisle gives his “refutation” of this criticism of his ASC model.  I reproduce that “refutation” below: It starts by somebody challenging Lisle with a “missing gravitational field” and this is how Lisle replies to that challenge]

Dr. Lisle says:

….I had already planned to deal with this in detail in a future blog entry. But the short answer is: no, ASC does not require a gravitational field. It is simply a coordinate transformation from the ESC. And coordinate transformations do not introduce any real forces.  [My emphasis]

[My Comment: That comment is now nearly a year old! Watch this space!]

Addendum 29/08/13
See the following link for further consideration of Lisle's comment thread in relation to his contentless ASC model. In particular I raise the question of why he tolerates in-transit-signal-creation to "explain" interacting star masses but is loathe  to use this device to "explain" the origins of deep space signals arriving at earthly eyes. This is likely down to Lisle's deep commitment to his fundamentalist sub-culture and its literal (mis-) interpretation of the Biblical texts.