Your Amazingly Designed Brain

Scientists have been working hard to piece together on how human brains operate. Recent articles reveal some of the most mind-bogging discoveries yet! Many of us own a digital camera. A very high quality camera can consist around 15 or more megapixels but take a human eye. It has 120 million rods and 6 million cones each.

A  receptor represents a pixel, which is 2 x 126 million pixels, or 252 megapixels!  Keep in mind, these are not taking still shots out in the sun somewhere with technology that helps prevent some blur pictures but rather the enormous eye resolution is with moving objects.

How can your amazing brain transmit and then process such a high level of visual information? The answer lies with how the brain compresses the information similar to that how a computer hard-drive compresses its information.

Science daily reports…

“The brain is faced with a similar problem. The images captured by light-sensitive cells in the retina are on the order of a megapixel. The brain does not have the transmission or memory capacity to deal with a lifetime of megapixel images. Instead, the brain must select out only the most vital information for understanding the visual world.”

“Computers can beat us at math and chess,” said Connor, “but they can’t match our ability to distinguish, recognize, understand, remember, and manipulate the objects that make up our world.” This core human ability depends in part on condensing visual information to a tractable level. For now, at least, the .brain format seems to be the best compression algorithm around.”

In another story, your amazingly designed cerebellum which is part of the brain near the brain stem, it’s functions consists of emotions and language. Some like Live Science say, the wiring in the cerebellum starts with “surprisingly bad wiring,” but it’s only an interpretation on what is considered negative. Because there was found that “a substance known as bone morphogenetic protein 4, which plays a role in bone development, helped correct these errors.”

One of the researchers who made the discovery published on Feburary 8, 2011, in PLOS Biology

“What we demonstrate here is that you have a negative system that repels axons from an inappropriate target, thereby steering them to the right target. In summary, we show that the specificity of the synaptic connections in the ponto-cerebellar circuit emerges through extensive elimination of transient synapses.”

How can one call a system negative (or bad wiring) that performs (if working properly) a highly important and positive function? The paper does raise another interesting question, what regulates the regulators?

In more articles, the memory of the brain is absolutely amazingly designed. Live Science describes how information is stored outside the brain…

“The tipping point came in 2002 — that was when the world began storing more information in digital than in analog format, or so estimate the researchers who recently completed an inventory of the world’s technological capacity…

“As of 2007, the latest year that Hilbert reviewed, humankind wasable to store 295 trillion optimally  megabytes, to communicate almost 2 quadrillion megabytes, and to carry out 6.4 trillion MIPS (million instructions per second) on general-purpose computers.”

It’s an incredible amount of stored information, right? Now think of this huge amount of information the world has compressed digitally, it only represents “0.33 percent of the information that can be stored in all DNA molecules of one human adult.” Wow!  That means for each person, the DNA can store an amount of information that if it could be all stored on DVDs, those DVDs would be able to  extend from earth to half the distance of Mars!  Absolutely amazing!

And that’s not all! John Timmer of Ars Technica expanded research on the processing power of the brain…

“To put our findings in perspective, the 6.4*1018 instructions per second that human kind can carry out on its general-purpose computers in 2007 are in the same ballpark area as the maximum number of nerve impulses executed by one human brain per second,” they write. “Our total storage capacity is the same as an adult human’s DNA.  And there are several billion humans on the planet.”

Your brain can outperform all the computers in the world combined. And evolutionists would like us to think this all happened through random mistakes in the DNA code (mutations) which is then directed by a mindless process, while computers got here by intelligence.  They only get it half right, the similarities between human machines and biology demonstrates a Creator, namely, God!

29 thoughts on “Your Amazingly Designed Brain

  1. Ehh … my brain isn’t ‘amazingly designed’.
    Is yours, Michael ? Are you really a robot ?

  2. @Eelco,

    True. A “designed brain” would imply being a robot.. Therefore it can be argued that a designed brain is inconsistent with God giving us free will, ..Well, depending of certain definitions, that is.

    Well, if Michael is a Calvinist…which I personally suspect, then there would be no problem for him.

  3. In the previous post, we saw Michael’s disproof of evolution by finding something that scientists had got wrong. In this post, he disproves evolution by finding that the humans are more complex than he can understand. Wow! It’s all so amazing! It had to be God.

    Of course, Michael has no idea what he’s talking about. OK, so he thinks the human eye has 252 mega pixels, or about 20 times the number in a digital camera. Michael, look at a photo taken with a digital camera—a good one, not that piece of junk you carry around. If your eye really has 20 times the resolution of the camera, one pixel on the photo should look like 20 to your eye. You should be able to see detail 20 times as small as on the photo. Can you? Huh? Keep trying.

    If Michael ate something besides Science Daily for breakfast, he would know that the brain’s[1] reason for compression is different from a camera’s. A camera odes not have to make sense out of the pictures it takes; it merely records. The brain’s purpose, however, is to detect patterns, and to assess their significance to its survival.

    Try a little experiment yourself. Watch a very distant object,. barely visible. The first thing you will see is whether or not it is moving. The second thing you will see is how big it is. The third thing is whether it is alive. The fourth is human or not human. And so on. What purpose do you suppose that serves? Recording better pictures?

    Here’s another little experiment: You might notice that, for a faraway human shape, it is much easier to tell whether it is a man or a woman than to tell which of two men (or women) the shape represents—whether or not the people are known to you. How do youe suppose this happens?

    Therefore, the ways in which compression occurs differs greatly. Cameras frequently employ length coding—a series of adjacent pixels of the same color are condensed to color+length, for example. The eye, on the other hand, doesn’t store patches at all. The brain detects edges, not patches of the same color. Here’s another little experiment. Look closely at a cartoon. Notice how many of what appear to be edges in its frame are not actually there—your mind fills them in—So your mind frequently expands images, rather than compressing them. Why do you suppose that is? I thought not.

    When Michael and Science Daily compare cameras to cerebellums, they mislead. But, since Michael is utterly ignorant of science, he can be misled easily. If he misled only himself, that would be one thing. But he insists upon putting his ignorance on display for others as well..


    [1] Michael thinks it takes place in the brain, in the way that the processor compresses the pixels of a camera’s sensor. This is not correct.

  4. The brain and the mind are different. The notion that the brain is designed does imply that we are something like robots. But, M2M evolution limits us to no more than that because it assumes we are no more than our biology. Whether we are designed or the product of random mutation is beside the point. The mind, if truly no more than biology, limits us to being no more than magnificent machines – we are Cylons. The mind, if non-material and indeed spiritual, utilizes the machinery of the brain to interface with the body and thus nature and the natural world. The brain (in the latter case) serves to process, filter and store information, but the mind interacts with the brain to think – a capacity yet to be developed artificially nor do I believe it ever will be, great science fiction not withstanding.

  5. @Lance Ponder: “The brain and the mind are different.”

    Mind truly does differ from brain. Yet it differs in exactly the same way that an anthill differs from an ant. An anthill can figure out the best path to a food source, can herd aphids, can process leaves into building materials—whereas no single ant, or even dozens of ants, can do any of these things. Yet an anthill is no more than a huge collection of individual ants.

    Well, that’s not correct. And that is the point. A large collection of individually simple components that interact with each other according to fairly simple rules can produce effects that are totally different from anything that the components can do by themselves, even without any external planner, guidance, or organizing principle.

    The nascent theory of complex systems calls these “emergent phenomena.”[1] While the physical substrate causes all of the behavior of a non-physical emergent phenomenon, the emergent phenomenon as such also causes physical changes in the substrate—this is called “downward causation.” Downward causation arises entirely within the system, and not from any source separate from the physical components that constitute the system:

    “Downward causation is often accused of being mystical. It is not if it is clearly articulated. There are two dimensions in the interpretation of downward causation. The first regards the effects of the system on the behaviors of its constituents, the second the source of the system’s causal efficacy. Mysticism results if the system’s causal power is credited to independent sources such as vitality or psychic energy that are detached from the the forces among the constituents and stand above them. Such attributions are not necessary…. Whatever causal efficacy the system has is endogenously derived from the self-organization of the constituents.”[2]

    Analyzing mind as an emergent phenomenon of brain has the advantage of solving Descartes’ problem: There is no longer any mystery as to how a non-physical entity can control a physical structure. The non-material “mental” set of neural interactions governs the actions of the physical neurons.[3]

    The mind-brain problem that has troubled philosophers for millenia has been solved in concept.[4] Complex-system theory is a new kid on the block, only a decade or so old. It is one of several revolutions in systems theory since my graduate work in that field almost half a century ago.[5] Of course, the philosophers still debate the subject. It’s their fault if they don’t pay attention to scientific advances.


    [1] See S.Y. Auyang, Foundations of Complex-Systems Theories (Cambridge University Press 1998). The author threats three areas: statistical physics, evolutionary biology, and economics. These types differ in that they respectively operate in the present only, in the present and past, and in the present, past, and future.

    [2] Auyang, op. cit., p.65. Examples of downward causation in emergent phenomena are: (a) screened potentials affect the motion of individual electrons; (b) organization of anthills determines the behavior of individual ants; and (c) pricing structures affect the spending habits of individual consumers.

    [3] Which behaviors are allowed or disallowed in certain circumstances depends upon genetic instructions within the physical neurons. Just as the properties of individual water molecules determine how water freezes—even though the ability to freeze does bnot exist within individual molecules, but only in their crystallization patterns with others.

    [4] Of course, the details have only begun to be worked out. Complex systems are … well, complex. In fact, it has been shown that self-organized systems are inherently more complex that designed systems, for the same level of functionality. Cellular automata illustrate this point nicely.

    [5] We used to calculate whether a system was positive real or not. Active components came along and made that irrelevant. Then we worried whether a system was causal. Digital systems with memory disposed of that concern. And on and on. I am become a paleolithic systems-theory fossil.

  6. Update on my bet:

    I bet that one of Michael’s disciples would “like” this post, and I have been correct. –Aren’t self fulfilling profecies great?!

  7. This is a pretty unique article. once again, like many things i have read, i fail to see how this incredible information proves or disproves evolutionary theory or creationism, but it is quite a unique article. to think that one strand of DNA contains the immense amount of information like it does is simply phenomenal, in addition to how it is able to be stored in such a compact way. but the biggest issue of this article is not the fact that the writer believes that God is the source of creation since i believe it to be true as well, but simply that the last sentence is the only sentence in which he makes a case for the Creator. Obviously our bodies and brains are complex, but he should consider using a better line of reasoning than his approach, which consisted of taking a wealth of scientific information, and then at the very end, using this information for his own purposes. these findings of our brain do point to a Creator God, but don’t use this scientific information to put your own twist on a philosophical issue! but looking past the last sentence, this is a very interesting article to read…it is more and more surprising and interesting how our world is really more and more complex than we could have ever dreamed of.

  8. ndemichael, “This is a pretty unique article. once again, like many things i have read, i fail to see how this incredible information proves or disproves evolutionary theory or creationism, but it is quite a unique article. to think that one strand of DNA contains the immense amount of information like it does is simply phenomenal, in addition to how it is able to be stored in such a compact way.”

    The article is topical, and by no means expresses every detail, there are bits in every article, you piece them together and that is what your looking for. DNA compresses information, it’s a molecule with a message. It is thought to have letters like AAA, TCC, CGT, that form a language or in other words a genetic code. Given the fact one protein is a product of several hundred amino acids, a sequence of one or two thousand letters. The sequence must be accurate because chemical interactions between amino acids in the chain will determine how they fold and thus, shape of the protein will determine the function. Let’s say you attempt to misspell words and symbols for the next billion years, do you think you will be able to construct a code that would produce a video game like we see today? And that’s with some supplied information (various letters and symbols).

    DNA is the hard-drive where the information is stored and then translated and the protein is the worker which obtains information so it can do it’s task. Without the function of translation, the information is useless because the protein doesn’t understand it. Complexity in itself is not the issue but it’s specified and understandable information where it’s origin comes from intelligence. We observe this in our daily lives all the time! :) I of course believe the evidence containing nature’s specified information was created by God.

  9. @ndemichael: “Obviously our bodies and brains are complex, but he should consider using a better line of reasoning than his approach, which consisted of taking a wealth of scientific information, and then at the very end, using this information for his own purposes.”

    Michael does not use a better line of reasoning because he knows too little about biology, and about science in general, to do so.[1] He looks for certain buzzwords, such as “complex” and “information” and “mistake,” then shoehorns them into cookie-cutter formulas.

    When boiled down to their essence, every argument Michael makes is based upon ignorance. How could such complexity arise naturally? No one knows—therefore God. Where could DNA information have originated? No one knows—therefore God. Where did the universe ultimately come from? No one knows—therefore God.

    Meanwhile, scientists try to find out how complexity arises. And they come up with a mathematical theory of complex systems, which explains concepts in fields as different as statistical physics, evolutionary biology, and economics. Scientists investigate the origins of DNA—and they recently found that the code is not in fact arbitrary, but can at least partially[2] be traced to chemical affinities among certain amino acids; and then they find ways to extend the code to new amino acids that do not occur naturally in any life forms. Scientists tackle what happened before the big bang—or whether there was such a thing as “before.” And they propose hypotheses that find neutrinos, dark matter, and cosmological constants.

    In fact, this is my major problem with creationism in general. Not that it’s wrong, but that it can’t explain anything in a manner that leads to new understanding or practical applications. It is vacuous. In the words of Wolfgang Pauli, “It’s not even wrong.”

    You may notice that creationists never offer any positive evidence for their own theory. All arguments involve something that science doesn’t yet know, or that previous research got wrong, or that “common sense” says could not happen.

    But knowledge advances, lighting the dark recesses of ignorance—we know how humans acquired color vision from color-blind apes. New evidence modifies previous theories—time is not constant, but changes with acceleration. Despite common sense, experiments show that an electron can be in several different places at once.. .

    Creationism offers only a single explanation: God did it, for reasons unknown and unknowable

    But an explanation that explains everything explains nothing.


    [1] This is the guy who called copper and calcium “soft tissue” when found in dinosaur bones. And who wondered how a complex biological molecule such as “zinc” could form by natural means.

    [2] 15 of the 20 biologic amino acids, so far.

  10. @Lance Ponder: “That’s all well and good, but it is easily demonstrable that the mind is non-material whereas the brain is material.”

    You didn’t really read my comment, did you?

    (a) “Mind” is an emergent property of a brain.
    (b) Emergent properties arise solely from their physical substrates
    (c) Emergent properties affect their physical substrates.
    (d) Yet they do not exist independently of them..

  11. Lance Ponder, her’s an analogy: Mind differs from brain in the same way that a symphony differs from an orchestra.

    The orchestra is physical, the symphony is non-material. Yet the sound does not exist without the strings, woodwinds, bass, and percussion.

  12. Olorin: The symphony/orchestra allegory is pretty good. You’re right about the sound requiring source instruments. Sound is still material as pressure waves in air, just as electromagnetic waves are the material transmission medium for TV. The symphony, being music rather than the sound, is non-material. The music only has meaning personally. It serves a purpose only to the mind of the hearer or player. The sounds produced are material, but their meaning (the music) is non-material.

    You can explain that as “emergent property” if you like (and yes, I understand the concept), but I that’s not an adequate explanation to me.

  13. @Lancwe ponder: “I understand the concept), but I that’s not an adequate explanation to me.”

    Too bad. It’s a powerful and general new tool that is being used to investigate phenomena from crystallization to business cycles. And minds.

  14. Speaking of brains, I watched IBM’s Watson computer beat two champion players on Jeopardy yesterday. Not only beat them, but by almost 3-to-1 margin. A friend and former colleague of mine was on the Watson development team.

    Watson’s importance lies not in its encyclopedic knowledge, but in its ability to retrieve that information as people do—by parsing a request, formulating it in a language, and associating that information with information acquired in quite different modalities. That is, Watson’s forte is not answering questions, but understanding them. We have heretofore granted computers the ability to “know”—but never before the ability to “understand.” Computers have dealt in information, but not in meaning.

    So, does Watson advance our ability to synthesize understanding or meaning? Regrettably, not by much. We’re still faking it. We’re employing clever algorithms to map the architecture of designed computers onto the evolved architecture of brains.

    And this remains precisely the difference. Brains evolve, computers are designed. Although the concept seems simple, I think researchers still do not grasp this fundamental difference, and persist in applying design approaches to artificial intelligence..As an example, no one has yet imbued a computer with a survival instinct.[1]

    The power of animal brains lies not in their billions of neurons or trillions of synapses, nor in the complexity of their gross components and their interconnections. Nematodes have survived for millions of years with 302 neurons. The power of brains resides in a few concepts which, although relatively simple, differ significantly from the principles that humans use to design computers—or to design any other artifact. “Machine intelligence” will not get off the ground until we start thinking about it in a fundamentally different way—in terms of how brains evolved.


    [1] At least not in real life. You may recall that HAL, in 2001, perceived that Dave was trying to destroy it, and mustered its resource against that. Isaac Asimov endowed his robots with a self-preservation drive in his Rules of Robotics.

  15. Olorin you say, “And this remains precisely the difference. Brains evolve, computers are designed. Although the concept seems simple, I think researchers still do not grasp this fundamental difference, and persist in applying design approaches to artificial intelligence..As an example, no one has yet imbued a computer with a survival instinct.”

    A brain is designed much more advanced than a mere computer. How can artificial intelligence ‘evolve’ when there is no program produced by intelligence?

  16. Michael, the brain is an advanced biological machine and I agree that it is a design marvel. But the mind is not the machine just as the storyteller is not the book. The mind is also not an emergent property of the brain because it is demonstrably non-material and not tied to any part of the brain. The brain interfaces the mind to the body and thus to the natural world.

  17. @Lance Ponder: “The mind is also not an emergent property of the brain because it is demonstrably non-material and not tied to any part of the brain.”

    You still don’t get it. Re-read the quote in my comment above from Foundations of Complex-Systems Theories. Read it several times, until it oozes through the barrier of preconceived belief.

    (a) All emergent properties are non-material.
    (b) Emergent properties cannot be tied to any part of their physical substrates.

    Come back when you understand the definition of “emergent property.”

  18. @Michael: “A brain is designed much more advanced than a mere computer.”

    The point is that it’s not designed at all. “Advanced” has nothing to do with it.

    @Michael: “How can artificial intelligence ‘evolve’ when there is no program produced by intelligence?”

    Because evolution does not require intelligence.


    Your preconceived assumption of agency continues to blinds you. In the same way that the “obviousness” of Euclid’s parallel axiom blinded mathematicians for two thousand years. When someone finally said, well, let’s see what happens if we do not assume this axiom, they opened the door to a whole world of non-Euclidean geometry—one which describes the physical universe better than the old assumption did.

    Imagine that. If you can.

    Consider my previous example: An ant colony can find food, herd aphids, build nests. Things that no single ant can begin to do. Yet any sufficiently large group of ants will form a colony, all by themselves.. So who “designed” the colony? Where did its “plan” come from?

    I thought not.

  19. @Olorin

    //Come back when you understand the definition of “emergent property.”//

    The last time I checked you and I are both visitors here. This is Michael’s blog. Were it yours I might have some measure of respect, but it is not your blog nor was my comment directed to you.

    The term “emergent properties” has various definitions depending on what web site you use for research. Wikipedia, for example, offers three different definitions. I also found definitions and explanations on sites such as the Insititute for Systems Biology; the International Society for Complexity, Information and Design; and the Citizen’s Compendium. A few common threads appear in all of the definitions and explanations. I’ll elaborate and you can agree or advise if I’m in error.

    Emergent properties (in biology) are properties associated with complex systems which only are discernible in view of the whole system. These properties cannot be explained by examination of individual components.

    From When individual components in an environment come together to create distinct, collective and interactive properties and functions, the results are called emergent properties. These emergent properties do not and cannot manifest themselves unless an organism is looked at in its entirety. … A further elaboration of emergent properties deduces that the systems they form are called irreducible, since they cannot be fully comprehended when broken down into smaller segments, much in the way that a person would be unable to capture the essence of a movie by watching 3 of its scenes. At the same time, the systems that are produced through emergence are also considered complex, in that they are unpredictable even to people who are experts in the nature of the individual components. One reason for the development of emergent properties is that an increase in the number of interacting simple components will naturally bring about an exponentially greater probability of possible reactions. However, it should not be implied that volume inexorably leads to emergent behavior, since many interactions are negligible.

    I did some research on this outfit and one of its members is Stephen Behe. I am aware that he is an avid proponent of Intelligent Design. I was prepared to dismiss the above, but upon looking up the other source I mentioned I found the descriptions were substantially similar.

    From The concept of emergent properties is central to the study of systems. Any function performed by a system that is not the result of a single part in the system, but rather is the result of interacting parts in the system, is an emergent property. The light bulb’s ability to generate light cannot be attributed to any of the three parts in the system on their own. Rather, it is the result of the combination of the metal cup sealing the glass bulb and passing current to the wire coil, the glass bulb maintaining a vacuum and still allowing light to radiate out, and the wire coil glowing hot enough to give off light without melting itself or the glass balloon. The light bulb’s ability to give off light emerges only as a result of the interactions of the metal base, the glass envelope, and the tungsten wire filament.

    This site has no obvious affiliation with or affinity for ID. I looked over the site and reviewed the published credentials of several of its fellows and found no remarks one way or the other about either ID or evolution. The only site where I found clear (and positive) references to evolution was Its definitions differed little although it did offer more philosophical opinions and metaphysics.

    From the phenomenon of emergence, whereby properties, functions and behaviors of living systems, and many of their constituent sub-systems, manifest themselves as inexplicably unpredicted novel properties, functions and behaviors, ones not observed in the system’s subsystems and their components, and not explainable or predictable from complete understanding the components’ properties/functions/behaviors considered in isolation from the system that embeds them. … Every cellular system in biology exhibits emergent behaviors. Emergent behaviors of living systems include such things as locomotion, sexual display, flocking, and conscious experiencing. Even the biological components of living cells, such as mitochondria and other organelles, exhibit emergent properties.

    The above descriptions of emergent properties do not directly require nor rule out design. What they do all point to is purpose and/or will. Purpose and/or will imply a mind as either the catalyst for existence or resident within. Purpose cannot be explained in purely materialistic ways. Materialism can describe how, but not why. It seems to me that emergence would be quite the conundrum for the evolutionist. What say you?

  20. Lance, thank you for the thoughtful reply. You know the definition(s) of “emergent property.” Now all you have to do is, as I said, to understand the definition.

    The definitions you cited are mostly correct. However, they all omit an aspect that is critical to understanding the concept. Not every large system or every complex system produces emergent properties. In particular, there is a range of component and interaction types among the components—systems with too little or too much do not exhibit emergent properties.[1]

    The definition in, although correct in a rudimentary way, gives as an example a system that is not an emergent property” Light from a bulb is not an emergent property. The example shows that does not understand the concept.

    It is true, as states, that emergent properties can be called “irreducible.”[1] The way in which that term is used, however, is misleading. When Behe uses this term, he impliedly freights it with the requirement for an external agency that produces the complexity. In complex-systems theory, the emergent property arises entirely from the interaction of the system’s components—in the sense that the property emerges by the mere presence of the elements, without any assembly or other outside influence. . An ant colony happens when a sufficient number of ants congregate; no ant-god plans the colony, or manages it once formed.[3] When water freezes (another emergent property), no external glacial spirit plans the process. I’ll repeat part of the earlier quote form Auyang:

    “Downward causation is often accused of being mystical…. Mysticism results if the system’s causal power is credited to independent sources…. Such attributions are not necessary. Whatever causal efficacy the system has is endogenously derived from the self-organization of the constituents.”

    Lance, you miss the point with: “The above descriptions of emergent properties do not directly require nor rule out design.” The point is that , as noted above, they require no design. True, a human could assemble a bunch of ants into a colony—but almost every colony in the world is not started this way. And, once the ants are assembled by whatever means, it functions independently of any plan that the person had in mind. An outside intelligence may pour water into a can and put it in the freezer. However, the water would freeze in any event, all by itself.

    “What they do all point to is purpose and/or will. Purpose and/or will imply a mind as either the catalyst for existence or resident within. Purpose cannot be explained in purely materialistic ways..”

    Now we come to the crux. These statements are just plain false. What “purpose” does water evince when freezing? What “mind” exercises control over the Cooper pairs in a superconductor system? You may attribute purpose or will to an ant colony if you desire—however, these qualities arise totally within the colony itself. No single ant possesses these behaviors, and no external agency forms the colony. As Auyang says, this “willful” behavior arises endogenously, from the system itself. Materialistically, From the properties of the components—molecules, electrons, ants—and their interactions. No intelligence required..

    So, I must repeat my original assessment. You may know the definition of “emergent property,” but you do not allow yourself to understand it.[4]


    [1] Similar to chaos conditions. In the logistic equation X=>RX(1-X), for example, chaos does not occur for R outside a certain range of values.

    [2] Given the source, however, we can guess why they chose this particular word. If you researched this source, you know that it is a front for the Discovery Institute, of intelligent-design infamy.. (I think you meant to refer to Michael Behe (not “Stephen”—you’re thinking of Stephen Meyer)

    [3] Although systems can choose “leaders.” A recent paper on how bees choose which one to follow ito a new hive location also applies to how networked computers select task managers.

    [4] My background in this area is a 40-year old graduate degree in a field that today would be called Mathematical Systems Theory. Since complex-systems theory came along decades later, and I had left that area for another career, I have read a couple of the bedrock books on the subject, som papers, and attended a lecture series on complex systems from University of Michigan.

  21. @Olorin

    Thank you. That was an excellent help. I think perhaps its a bit of apples and oranges to talk about emergent properties for non-living systems and living systems as though they are the same.

    As to the crux, if I understand correctly, you said I was wrong about purpose being tied to a non-material mind as the ultimate source. Am I wrong about the purpose as well as the mind, or only the mind? It seems as though the whole idea of an emergent property is our way of expressing the concept of a whole serving an irreducible purpose. The idea of a complex body/thing having a purpose might not require an external mind to come into being, but it certainly requires a mind to recognize and quantify it, don’t you think?

  22. @Olorin

    ps – Yes, I meant Michael Behe. I know who he is and who Discovery Institute is. I am aware of his slant. That’s one reason I was reluctant to cite that source, except that it seemed helpful to our discussion at the time. For what its worth, while I find some of his stuff interesting and useful, in general I have as much distaste for ID as you do and for the same reason, though from the opposite perspective.

  23. Lance Ponder: “I think perhaps its a bit of apples and oranges to talk about emergent properties for non-living systems and living systems as though they are the same.”

    The usefulness of complex-systems theory is that they are the same, in certain respects.[1] Certain aspects of each can be described by the same principles, just as the mechanics of walking and the orbits of planets can be described by the same laws. The emergence of superconductivity from electron pairing can be described similarly to the emergence of hiving in bees and the connection densities of the internet. One of the things living and non-living systems have in common is self-organization—the ability, under certain conditions, to assemble structures from random parts without the intervention of an external agency. Alan Turing originally proved the mathematics of this—including self-reproduction—in 1954. He also showed that a non-living “Universal Turing Machine” can solve any computable function, including those of living organisms, without an external agent.

    “if I understand correctly, you said I was wrong about purpose being tied to a non-material mind as the ultimate source. Am I wrong about the purpose as well as the mind, or only the mind? “

    “Mind” seems to be describable as an emergent property of brains, a non-material entity that nonetheless can exert an influence upon its underlying physical structure as an irreducible ontos. Yet, mind has no existence apart from a brai9n. The “purpose” is an attribute of mind; it does not—or at least need not—originate in any agent external to mind. In living organisms, the basic purpose of mind is to advance the reproduction of its brain. Or, as they say, a chicken is one egg’s way of making another egg.

    It may seem that complex-systems theory almost becomes philosophical[2] or even religious at times Sometimes it almost seems that if we can solve these problems, then the problem of theodicy ought to be a snap.

    To me, the glory of God is not that of a stage magician who can create the universe from nothing as an after-dinner stunt. Osiris and Brahma can do that. Rather, it lies in how the world is arranged according to a set of physical principles that we can puzzle out. Michael whines that every new scientific discovery only adds to the number of questions to be answered. But, this is the reason I went into the field to begin with. There is always some new mind-bending concept, that once pried open yields new insights, new understandings, and new levels to explore. I believe that creationism demeans God.


    [1] I have noted that religion—and creationists in particular—take analogies too far. If an analogy was exactly the same as the thing referred to, it wouldn’t be an analogy, it would be identical, and the usefulness of the analogy would be lost. For example, why does interrupting an electrical circuit break the Sabbath? The Torah never mentions electricity. But aha! Interrelating a circuit may cause a spark, a spark is LIKE a fire, and a fire breaks the Sabbath. But a circuit is not the same as a fire in all respects. Here’s another one to consider: Stevie Wonder is God. WHAT??? Well, God is love, love is blind, and Stevie Wonder is blind. QED.

    [2] One of the major objects of Auyang’s book is to examine the philosophical principles of the theory.. What is the nature of “causation” as it concerns emergent phenomena? What influence does time exert? What do we mean by “complexity”?

  24. It doth seem passing strange that Michael prefers the US economy to the Soviet economy.

    After all, a free capitalist economy, as described by complex-systems theory, is self-organized, without any economics god presiding over it, determining what the pricing structure shall be, or what goods people will or will not purchase. Whereas the communist Soviet economy had a central planning authority which determined prices for all goods, how much of what items would be produced, and how much the workers would be paid in each industry.

    Oh well. One cannot expect logic from creationists.

  25. @Olorin

    Good point. — Michael doesn’t like the “survival of the fittest” [1] mentality when it comes to the natural world, but he doesn’t seem to object to it when it comes to economics. To be consistent, he should either apply it or discard it in both scenarios.

    I, however, am free that that particular contradiction being both a Liberterian (who believes in the free market) and accepting the science for what it is.

    [1] Darwin never used the term “the survival of the fittest.” It was coined by anthropologist Herbert Spencer who in reality misunderstood Darwin’s theory of evolution. Indeed, his failure to understand evolution is the origin of many of Michael’s failure to understand even the simplest detail of Darwinian evolution.

  26. Re Libertarian:

    give it a few years. They say that anyone who is not a radical when he is young has no heart; but he who is not a conservative when old has no head.

  27. I try not to be too radical. Granted I do have strong opinions, but that’s just how I am. I do find some Libertarian political candidates to be too extreme for me, so I think I’m probably going to be okay :P

  28. Re economics.

    An interesting aspect of S.Y.Auyang’s book on complex systems is that it addresses 3 areas: statistical physics, evolutionary biology, and economics. The the fir area, the system’s future state depends only upon its present state. In the second, the past plays a role as well. Economics involve past, present and future. The future state of an economic system influences its present action, because people act o the basis of their expectations as to what will happen.

    Imagine if evolution proceeded on that basis! That giraffes get longer necks because they WANT to reach higher leaves. One of the results of expectations in economics is “bubbles” — housing bubbles, tech bubbles — systemic instabilities based upon expectations. What would an evolutionary bubble look like?

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