Author Topic: The complexity argument is all backwards...  (Read 1756 times)

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Offline The Gawd

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The complexity argument is all backwards...
« on: February 03, 2012, 03:18:57 PM »
I have been thinking about this, and don't know if it has been discussed here. But I'm sure we all know the common argument that the universe and life itself is too complex for it to just have "happened" or to be due to evolution. And that the complexity suggests a designer. And science rebuts that the designer would have to be more complex than the design.

However, I think the argument is backwards. I think that complexity suggests no designer because it would not make sense for an all powerful god to make it that complex. We wouldnt need lungs to breath air IF we had been designed, we would just exist without needing oxygen. We wouldnt need a bone structure to support our weight, because we just would support our weight because god said so. We wouldnt need the sun for warmth and energy because we'd just be warm and energized. We wouldnt need to eat because we'd be already fulfilled.

It just doesnt make any sense for a creator to create things so unnecessarily complex.

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2012, 03:23:08 PM »
Considering that monotheistic deities are childish and insecure, the argument is actually "right" (in the sense that it's not backwards). They would need to show off their power by making things extremely complex, so that people would worship them, thus reassuring them that they had done a good job.
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Offline Mr. Blackwell

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2012, 03:27:42 PM »
BM

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Offline DVZ3

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2012, 04:06:31 PM »
I posted a similar stance but can't seem to find it now... I'll try again later. I did however find this old post of mine how complex snowflakes most certainly look designed by that of intelligence.  They aren't..... it's the just how the molecular sturcture of water looks when turned into ice crystals.

http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forums/index.php/topic,18564.msg411578.html#msg411578
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 04:08:23 PM by DVZ3 »
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 04:58:41 PM »
Very interesting point! A nice comeback to the silly "hurricane in a junkyard doesn't make a 747" argument. Life looks a lot more like a messed up junkyard[1] than a streamlined, well-designed, efficient 747.
 1. An all powerful brilliant being designed the camel, the ostrich and the duckbilled platypus. Excuse me, but was he high at the time?
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline The Gawd

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 05:53:31 PM »
Considering that monotheistic deities are childish and insecure, the argument is actually "right" (in the sense that it's not backwards). They would need to show off their power by making things extremely complex, so that people would worship them, thus reassuring them that they had done a good job.
I see what youre saying Lu, can I call you Lu? But we already know that theists will take the available information no matter what it says and claim that it supports there being a god... ironically the god they believe in. There's really no sense in reasoning with that, however when discussing with other reasonable people I think the complex argument should go the other way. Like when I'm watching Dawkins he'll say that the creator must be more complex thus less likely which I certainly agree with, but I dont know if that stance disproves or shows a god doesnt exist and it doesnt really go against what theists believe. However, to say that complexity suggests no creator hurts the theist argument more if theyre able to see the reason of why (which I highly doubt they can).

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #6 on: February 04, 2012, 01:33:20 PM »
When we think of something like a machine or process being well-designed, it is beautiful, simple and elegant. It works so well so you can't imagine a better way of it being put together. Think of something everyday like a paper clip or a safety pin, a fork, or a pair of scissors, or earmuffs, or velcro. These are really simple, so that people say, "Of course, why didn't I think of that?" It is hard to improve on them, they do what they do so well. 

You can easily think of lots of stupid designs that don't work well-- the entertainment devices that take three different remotes to operate; painfully awkward high heeled shoes; 8-track tapes, oversized exercise machines.

And there are plenty of Rube Goldberg inventions that do things in the most complicated way. I don't like devices that try to do too many things: the machine that chops, slices, dices and makes julienne fries. It takes so long to put it together and take it apart and clean it. It takes up too much room on the counter. We have something small, elegant and simple that does all those things very well-- the knife.

When we look at the natural world we see examples of simple, elegant design: the egg is a great example. But then what comes out? An ostrich! Are you kidding me? A giant gawky ugly bird that can't even fly?

We see examples of beauty and symmetry in design: the snowflake. But what is that beauty for? Most snowflakes will never even be seen by anyone.

And a lot of nature is just-good-enough design. The human body, that works okay until it doesn't.  And breaks down and screws up in countless ways.

It is clear that the natural world was not designed by any competent, consistent planner. It certainly was not designed by any perfect being. There are lots of beautiful and simple things, but there are way too many screw-ups and mistakes.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Online One Above All

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #7 on: February 04, 2012, 02:14:26 PM »
can I call you Lu?

Anything, as long as it's properly spelled and is clearly intended for me.

But we already know that theists will take the available information no matter what it says and claim that it supports there being a god...

Not all theists are entirely intellectually dishonest. Some will admit to rely on faith (belief in something for which there is no evidence). Unfortunately, the ones we hear about the most are dishonest, and not just intellectually.

ironically the god they believe in.

That would be called arrogance, and is a trait shared by all theists.

There's really no sense in reasoning with that, however when discussing with other reasonable people I think the complex argument should go the other way. Like when I'm watching Dawkins he'll say that the creator must be more complex thus less likely which I certainly agree with, but I dont know if that stance disproves or shows a god doesnt exist and it doesnt really go against what theists believe. However, to say that complexity suggests no creator hurts the theist argument more if theyre able to see the reason of why (which I highly doubt they can).

Use this argument during a discussion and you'll see if they can or not, because I really don't think they'll reply to this. Theists rarely reply to threads directed at them.
Anyway, the complexity argument also fails because it uses a fallacy called "special pleading". As Dawkins mentioned, the creator must be more complex than the creation. If the creation requires a creator because of its complexity, then so does the creator, and so does the creator's creator and so does the creator's creator's creator and so on ad infinitum.
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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #8 on: February 04, 2012, 02:15:44 PM »
It is clear that the natural world was not designed by any competent, consistent planner. It certainly was not designed by any perfect being. There are lots of beautiful and simple things, but there are way too many screw-ups and mistakes.

I remember Woody Allen, in "Stardust Memories" saying something like: "If there is a God, he's an underachiever."
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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #9 on: February 04, 2012, 02:20:56 PM »
It is clear that the natural world was not designed by any competent, consistent planner. It certainly was not designed by any perfect being. There are lots of beautiful and simple things, but there are way too many screw-ups and mistakes.

I remember Woody Allen, in "Stardust Memories" saying something like: "If there is a God, he's an underachiever."

I have a better one. If there is a god, he's a complete retard. Harmful mutations are the best example of this. DNA is the basis for every life form[1]. This basis is flawed in ways that can literally kill any living being, if the "correct" mutation occurs.
 1. Remember kids, there are no other life forms in the 300+ billion galaxies in the universe, only our planet has it, because GAWD created it just for us!!!
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Offline Willie

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #10 on: February 04, 2012, 02:50:57 PM »
Yes, I've often thought about this too. The argument from complexity is backwards. It is simplicity, not complexity, that is the identifying feature of design. Just look at all of the designed objects around you. What are the features that make these things look designed? More than anything, it's that they are assemblages of simple shapes. Straight, often parallel, lines; flat, and often very smooth, surfaces; near perfect 90degree angles; circles; cylinders; spheres; etc. Even the "irregular" shapes in designed objects usually have some kind of easily identifiable order, such as smooth curves or some kind of symmetry. And when you think about some of the more complex designed objects, things that are functioning systems with many parts, you still see that distinctive designed simplicity in their elements. The LCD monitor that I'm looking at right now is, overall, fairly complex. But its the simple elements that make it appear designed. The very flat and almost perfectly rectangular display surface; the simple, smooth, symmetrical curves of its housing and stand. And if I were to look at the more complex internals, the simplicity of design would still be apparent. Flat circuit boards. rectangular components in orderly arrangements. Uniform lines, etc.

When we see such simple forms in nature, it is invariably the result of natural forces or processes that produce those forms without any intelligent guidance. Crystal formation for example, or the tendency for gravity to produce spherical objects in elliptical orbits. Beyond that, nature tends to produce very chaotic and complex forms, quite different from things that are designed. Very few straight lines, flat surfaces, right angles, accurate circles, smooth curves, parallel lines, etc.

Offline Tero

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2012, 10:38:18 PM »

 We wouldnt need lungs to breath air IF we had been designed, we would just exist without needing oxygen. We wouldnt need a bone structure to support our weight, because we just would support our weight because god said so.

I didn't get that part. God would have needed the same parts, they just would have been the simplest design possible. Our circulation and nervous systems do unnecessary loops. Also, our social system is complex, if God just wanted us to reproduce, we could have had instincts decide that we mate with all possible mates. Chimpanzees in fact do that.

Offline The Gawd

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2012, 11:05:49 PM »

 We wouldnt need lungs to breath air IF we had been designed, we would just exist without needing oxygen. We wouldnt need a bone structure to support our weight, because we just would support our weight because god said so.

I didn't get that part. God would have needed the same parts, they just would have been the simplest design possible. Our circulation and nervous systems do unnecessary loops. Also, our social system is complex, if God just wanted us to reproduce, we could have had instincts decide that we mate with all possible mates. Chimpanzees in fact do that.
I disagree. We have lungs because there is oxygen, not the other way around. Oxygen doesnt exist because we have lungs. Had the universe or even just earth been made for us there is no purpose for air, its simply unnecessary IF we were the intention of all this 'design'. We would simply exist without needing air. Perhaps there is some logic behind: "im going to make humans, then i will make air for them to breath or else they will soffocate" but I just dont see it. I think it would be more like: "im going to make humans."

As for your comparison to chimps, some people do at least try to mate with all possible mates. Think if we didnt have jobs and other responsibilities how much more time could we put into mating.

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2012, 11:45:03 PM »
bm
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Offline screwtape

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #14 on: February 05, 2012, 01:22:43 AM »
Another atheist, I forget who[1], said god would be more believable if we did not function exactly like every other animal.  If we were made of solid bronze and could not explain how we lived, instead of breathing, eating, reproducing like mammals, that would really indicate a god.  Instead, we are just chimps with cell phones.


edit - chimps, not chips.  I make that mistake all the time.
 1. Dawkins? Shermer? Harris?
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Offline Aspie

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #15 on: February 05, 2012, 03:52:31 AM »
The way I see it the complexity therefore design argument doesn't even make any sense in the context of Christianity. They shoot their own argument in the foot by asserting that an all-powerful, all-knowing God created the universe and everything in it. That would mean that literally everything is designed, which means that complexity cannot be a valid indicator of design as though a rock or a pile of mud would be reasoned by a Christian to have probably not been created by God because it isn't complex. The entire notion of "looks designed" is pure sophistry - what could you possibly point to and conclude "not designed" in a world of biblical creation? What would something "not designed" even look like?
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 04:26:13 AM by Aspie »

Offline Tero

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #16 on: February 05, 2012, 08:20:49 AM »


I disagree. We have lungs because there is oxygen, not the other way around. Oxygen doesnt exist because we have lungs. Had the universe or even just earth been made for us there is no purpose for air, its simply unnecessary IF we were the intention of all this 'design'. We would simply exist without needing air. Perhaps there is some logic behind: "im going to make humans, then i will make air for them to breath or else they will soffocate" but I just dont see it. I think it would be more like: "im going to make humans."

As for your comparison to chimps, some people do at least try to mate with all possible mates. Think if we didnt have jobs and other responsibilities how much more time could we put into mating.

Sorry, I am still not getting your point. We had a guy in a forum that insisted there was no god but that we were still designed and there was no evolution. I was confused.

Anyway, I prefer to discuss science topic strictly based on science.

I am a chemist and know materials very well. It gives you a kind of closed view of things. I no longer can imagine life without C, N, O and H. You need organic (carbon) molecules for complexity.

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #17 on: February 05, 2012, 08:23:55 AM »
Sorry, I am still not getting your point. We had a guy in a forum that insisted there was no god but that we were still designed and there was no evolution. I was confused.

ID in its truest form states that life here was designed by at least one other life form. However, as theists were the ones who suggested this "hypothesis"[1], they say that their specific god is the "designer".
 1. Read: Crappy guess based on magical thinking.
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Offline The Gawd

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #18 on: February 05, 2012, 09:25:35 AM »


I disagree. We have lungs because there is oxygen, not the other way around. Oxygen doesnt exist because we have lungs. Had the universe or even just earth been made for us there is no purpose for air, its simply unnecessary IF we were the intention of all this 'design'. We would simply exist without needing air. Perhaps there is some logic behind: "im going to make humans, then i will make air for them to breath or else they will soffocate" but I just dont see it. I think it would be more like: "im going to make humans."

As for your comparison to chimps, some people do at least try to mate with all possible mates. Think if we didnt have jobs and other responsibilities how much more time could we put into mating.

Sorry, I am still not getting your point. We had a guy in a forum that insisted there was no god but that we were still designed and there was no evolution. I was confused.

Anyway, I prefer to discuss science topic strictly based on science.

I am a chemist and know materials very well. It gives you a kind of closed view of things. I no longer can imagine life without C, N, O and H. You need organic (carbon) molecules for complexity.
I see, and you being a chemist I'd certainly defer to you in the realm of chemistry. However, I agree with what I think youre saying (basically without chemistry none of this existence is possible). In my mind it goes back to the "something from nothing" argument to which I say "who says 'nothing' was ever possible?" We are a result of those things being present. My argument is why do we HAVE to breath? It is an unnecessary detail IF we were devinely made. We do breath because CO2 is the by product of our body's usage of oxygen and  have to take in what we need and release what we dont. It makes perfect sense when no god is introduced into the conversation.

Awe hell... I thought of a good example:

look at the biblical or any creation myth. Look how simple they are. Theres no mention of the complex processes that created the universe, evolved life, and keep life going. Why? Because "God did it" is good enough. God did it is good enough for our existence. Using that, there is no reason for us to HAVE to breath or have chemical reactions to exist.

Offline Historicity

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #19 on: February 05, 2012, 09:57:29 AM »
The way I see it the complexity therefore design argument doesn't even make any sense in the context of Christianity. They shoot their own argument in the foot by asserting that an all-powerful, all-knowing God created the universe and everything in it. That would mean that literally everything is designed, which means that complexity cannot be a valid indicator of design as though a rock or a pile of mud would be reasoned by a Christian to have probably not been created by God because it isn't complex. The entire notion of "looks designed" is pure sophistry - what could you possibly point to and conclude "not designed" in a world of biblical creation? What would something "not designed" even look like?

Yes. When I was a teenager some JW girls came to our door and flirted a bit and it only got as far as a creationism booklet. I read it later. It had lots of pictures.  One contrasted the regularity of life (picture of a flower or something like that) with the randomness of a rock fall (picture of boulders).  I noticed what I suspect they had not noticed.  They had allowed room for objectivity and randomness in the universe and considered God to be manifest in some things. 

Each roll of the dice in Las Vegas is personally controlled by God then.  No, no[1] Christian wants to go there.  Just don't try to think about it.

St. Augustine rationalized it that parts of the universe have willfully exempted themselves from God and are now under the dark regimes of randomness and Satan.

BTW, for my Sunday morning worship I read some of Infidels.org.  This morning the sermon is

Beyond Born Again
Section I-- The Born Again Experience: A Brave New World?
Chapter 1: A Might Fortress Is Our Mentality

Quote
Briefly I will argue that among Born Again Christians (fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and Charismatics), there is a very distinctive model for relating to and coping with the world. I call it "the hard religious line." Here all answers to life's puzzles are strictly religious or spiritual in nature and are directly derivable from personal commitment to Christ and accompanying devotional disciplines. Furthermore, all necessary information for this is in the Bible. The result is a purely religious view of the world and the self which does full justice to neither. This, I will contend, is unhealthy and immature.

But the author isn't brief.  It is quite long but not a wall of words, it is detailed and informative.
 1. Well, few, anyway.

Offline Tero

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #20 on: February 05, 2012, 10:36:07 AM »
There just aren't a lot of fundies here to debate. Maybe it has to do with the problem God has curing amputees?

There are plenty of fundies here, for example:
http://www.amazon.com/forum/science/ref=cm_cd_t_rvt?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxZ58KVEERYS5E

they tend to be denialists and conspiracy thorists as well. But we have a good science gang too. I'm Tero there too.

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #21 on: February 05, 2012, 11:04:38 AM »
Along the same lines as the OP. Surely a god could have designed beings that weren't restricted to just one planet in one galaxy. We could have been designed to be able to transport ourselves anywhere in the universe, and exist in any environment, so that we could enjoy and appreciate the full extent of god's creation.

Of course, I guess folks who can get lost in a desert for 40 years probably shouldn't have that many options...
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Offline Willie

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #22 on: February 05, 2012, 04:24:47 PM »
... As Dawkins mentioned, the creator must be more complex than the creation. ...

I used to sometimes make that assertion, but I no longer think that it is valid. Why couldn't a creator create something more complex than itself? Is there any law of physics that would prevent it? There are certainly phenomena in which simple rules can produce very complex patterns. Fractals, for example.

Consider the ways that humans deal with the complexity of the systems we create. One of those ways is hierarchy. You can successfully write a program in a high-level language while having only a very superficial understanding of how the compiler works, the low-level code that it produces, the operating system, and the hardware (multiple levels of hierarchy in that alone) that makes it run. And even if you did know all of those things, it would still be near impossible to mentally model the function of the whole system at all hierarchical levels simultaneously. Another way we deal with complex systems is through reuse of design elements. For example, components and sub-circuits used repeatedly within a circuit, or functions that are written once then called many times in a program. I don't know of any hard limit on the amount of complexity that can be dealt with in these ways, and I see no justification for disallowing the use of these and other methods by a god.

As I see it, "the creator must be more complex than the creation" is an argument from incredulity fallacy, much like the Intelligent Design concept of Irreducible Complexity.

This is not to say that the "infinite regress" problem with creationism doesn't exist. Just that the "creator must be more complex than the creation" assertion is not a valid part of it. You could just as well have an infinite regress of creators who are all of equal complexity.
« Last Edit: February 05, 2012, 04:28:17 PM by Willie »

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #23 on: February 05, 2012, 04:46:05 PM »
As I see it, "the creator must be more complex than the creation" is an argument from incredulity fallacy, much like the Intelligent Design concept of Irreducible Complexity.

The argument originally came from theists, not atheists, AFAIK. To them, complexity is a sign of design, and as a (faulty) corollary, the creator must be of a higher degree of complexity than its creation.
Regardless, by the theists' own "logic", there must be an infinite sequence of creators, each more complex than the last.
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Offline Historicity

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #24 on: February 05, 2012, 05:54:21 PM »
One of the Christian philosophers at Quodlibeta[1] claimed a solution to one of the problems[2] by saying it was solved by God's "Divine Simplicity".

If it was ordinary simplicity then God would be a featureless, timeless, point so it had to be "Divine Simplicity".
 1. IIRC
 2. I don't remember which one of the problems.

Offline nogodsforme

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #25 on: February 05, 2012, 05:59:44 PM »
One of the Christian philosophers at Quodlibeta[1] claimed a solution to one of the problems[2] by saying it was solved by God's "Divine Simplicity".

If it was ordinary simplicity then God would be a featureless, timeless, point so it had to be "Divine Simplicity".
 1. IIRC
 2. I don't remember which one of the problems.
Soooo....why all the thousands of species of beetles? Not simple, not complex, just WTF?

And extinction? What's up with that? :?
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Online jetson

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #26 on: February 05, 2012, 06:05:03 PM »

Of course, I guess folks who can get lost in a desert for 40 years probably shouldn't have that many options...

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....you owe me a new monitor.

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Offline Azdgari

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2012, 11:38:35 PM »
I used to sometimes make that assertion, but I no longer think that it is valid. Why couldn't a creator create something more complex than itself? Is there any law of physics that would prevent it?

The reasoning is as follows:  If the details of our universe's complexity are deliberately designed, then there must have been a divine deliberation for every detail of our universe.  That's a lot of decisions.  That's a lot of information.  All of that information would have to have been in the "mind of God", making the contents of that mind at least as complex as the thing being designed.

There are certainly phenomena in which simple rules can produce very complex patterns. Fractals, for example.

Do you know how many computations it takes to create a decent-looking fractal?  The original rules aren't enough.  You need the program to step through each cycle of computation.  It often takes thousands of them.  Or even millions.  There's information in knowing how many times to run that cycle, and information in knowing to do the same cycle instead of a random/different one, and information in where to draw the points of the fractal in the first place.  And then of course there's the information of the rules, and the context for the rules.  The rules alone don't do much of anything.  They're just a bit of math.

Consider the ways that humans deal with the complexity of the systems we create. One of those ways is hierarchy. You can successfully write a program in a high-level language while having only a very superficial understanding of how the compiler works, the low-level code that it produces, the operating system, and the hardware (multiple levels of hierarchy in that alone) that makes it run. And even if you did know all of those things, it would still be near impossible to mentally model the function of the whole system at all hierarchical levels simultaneously. Another way we deal with complex systems is through reuse of design elements. For example, components and sub-circuits used repeatedly within a circuit, or functions that are written once then called many times in a program. I don't know of any hard limit on the amount of complexity that can be dealt with in these ways, and I see no justification for disallowing the use of these and other methods by a god.

The justification is that the god doesn't have such pre-designed tools at its disposal.  It needs to make everything from scratch.  Yes, it could "mechanize" the universe-creation process, but it would still need to define constraints for the "mechanized" construction to be done within.  And if the mechanism of the universe did things that the god did not tell it to do, then those things were not designed, and their complexity doesn't count toward the "universe's complexity" value that is being compared with the "God's complexity" value.
I have not encountered any mechanical malfunctioning in my spirit.  It works every single time I need it to.

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Re: The complexity argument is all backwards...
« Reply #28 on: February 06, 2012, 12:06:45 AM »
One of the Christian philosophers at Quodlibeta[1] claimed a solution to one of the problems[2] by saying it was solved by God's "Divine Simplicity".

If it was ordinary simplicity then God would be a featureless, timeless, point so it had to be "Divine Simplicity".
 1. IIRC
 2. I don't remember which one of the problems.

This just in: a Christian invokes special pleading to rescue God from falsification. In other news, a bear shits in the woods. More at 11!