Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mathematical Proof of God

Here's Kirk Durston explaining how mathematics can show that evolution is impossible and Intelligent Design Creationism is probable. Durston is a graduate student at the University of Guelph (Guelph Ontario, Canada). At some point he will have to describe his ideas to a group of scientists who will determine whether he should get a Ph.D. Good luck Kirk, you will need it. Unless, of course, if the committee is stacked with IDiots people who don't understand biology.

If this explanation forms any part of Durston's thesis then it would be extremely embarrassing if the University of Guelph awards him a Ph.D. But what if all this is left out of the thesis? Is it still fair game for the Ph.D. oral committee?


  1. This is not advanced mathematics.

    It sounds as if someone found an equation and tried to use it in applications that he really didn't understand.

  2. So the basic mistakes he's making (I printed out the equation and hung it on my wall for about an hour to admire it, BTW) is that:

    1) nature dosen't do a blind search to produce "functional information". This might be true if you went from a bacteria to an elephant all in one step (e.g. an large degree of function and infinite degrees of freedom). Well, that's not the way nature works.

    2) it's the old ID argument of physical entropy limiting the amount of variation produced
    because "functional information"
    is presumbed to be a constraint on biocomplexity. But what about non-
    functional information? What about evolutionary conservation? What about neutral processes? How does they affect nature's "search strategy" and "function-only"

    This is also of course assuming that ID would account for the accused "impossibility of mechanism". Ouch, ID creationists hurt my head.

  3. First of all I'm not qualified to critique much of what is stated in the presentation. I'm not a math guy. But I DO have a few questions and statements:
    1. His average genome gene number seems high by almost a factor of 10. Last estimates I have seen are about 20-25K genes. How much this makes a difference to his calculations is beyond me. I don't suspect much.
    2. The data from "Axe et al. on configurations makes me ask the nature of this estimation. Is it purely a mathematical model based on the total available possibilities OR is it calculated [I consider more realistically] taking into account enthalpy and entropy effects?
    Does the second question make sense? Its akin to calculating the probability that oil and water, on a molecular level, will separate due to 'random' assortment without taking into effect the energetics driving the assortment. Remove the cause for the assortment and it seems impossible. Include the energetics driving the process and it becomes most likely to occur. Does the value he use for protein folding/information generation, take into effect the energetics of the folding process? Does it take into account that not every gene needs to be be generated from scratch but from preexisting code?

    I don't know. I don't know this 'math'. Anyone able to answer these questions?


  4. Among the various problems, I'd just like to point out that:

    1) He hasn't shown that "intelligent design" is something different from "natural processes". The only intelligent design that I know about operates using only natural processes.

    2) He hasn't calculated numbers for a process which is capable of doing more than natural processes can do. A first estimate is that if one increases the number of possible outcomes, one decreases the probability that a specified outcome results.

    3) And, of course, he hasn't told us what "intelligent design" does, when it does it, or anything else about it. The argument is just as applicable to any process ("how"); and just as applicable to any outcome ("what"): For example, the Stork Theory of Reproduction.

    Tom S.

  5. Obviously he must have missed a beginning biology class when they explain that the purpose of science is to create testable theories. (and not just testable according to your own parameters!)

  6. Well, David K. Y. Chiu is Durston's advisor, but Jack Trevors will certainly be on the Ph.D. committee, no? Are there any other cdesign proponentsists at the university who could stack his committee and give him a passing review?

  7. If this is not in his thesis or presented during his oral examination, then it should not, and I would argue can not, be used to prevent the confirmation of a PhD. That is a road we should not travel. Should ERV be blocked from a PhD because her grammar and spelling are not up to snuff? If I write something on my blog that turns out to be demonstrably wrong, should I be blocked from promotions or not able to get other positions? Freedom of speech means something only when it supports ideas noxious to us.

    That being said, there is no reason why a committee member could not pursue a line of questioning that leads down this road and then if the same poorly reasoned and clearly wrong arguments are made, well then you may have a reason to not confer the PhD.

  8. The medievals gave considerable thought to the matter and, whatever other arguments they may have come up with, they never argued from the unlikelihood of this or that element of nature. Nor did they argue that natural processes were not involved. That was not how they conceived "creation." In fact, it was the very lawfulness, "the common course of nature," and not the apparent exceptions that they took as their evidence.

    Aquinas wrote in Contra gentiles: "We marvel at something when, seeing an effect, we do not know the cause. And since one and the same cause is at times known to certain people and not to others, it happens that some marvel and some do not." In modern terms: Don't assume something is a miracle [marvel] simply because you don't know the cause. Others may, or at some time may learn it.

    He also wrote in his Commentary on the Physics, "Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship." In modern parlance, the medievals assumed that their God had endowed natures with the ability to act directly upon one another, and the universe is like a ship that assembles itself.

    So from the medieval point of view, the lawfulness of the Theory of Evolution is better evidence for God than the Pythagorean scientism of this Durston dude.

  9. Lorax-- Your analogy is not appropriate.

    If I studied the evolution of HIV-1 by day but was a blogging HIV Denier by night, that would be analogous.

    I dont know how other Unis work, but it is extremely difficult to get a PhD at my school. They will flunk our asses at the 'masters' level and during our doctoral defense. It has happened to students the few years Ive been here-- its not an idle threat by concerned PIs.

    There is no question in my mind my committee would flunk me if I behaved like Durston. You dont know your shit, you flunk, end of story.

  10. I cringe every time this guy comes to light, as I did my under grad... proudly.. at U of Moo.

    The thought his degree may reflect upon mine would be horrifying if I was still in academia.

  11. Oh man,

    As an ex Guelphie myself this gets me down.

    Anyway, I noticed that he mixed up Eukaryotes and Prokaryotes. Maybe just a slip...

    Anyway, it seems that nothing in the math accounts for any realistic conception of how evolution actually works (e.g. gene duplication)