Analogies

Where agnostics and atheists can freely discuss

Moderator: Moderators

User avatar
unfogged
Student
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:47 pm

Analogies

Post #1

Post by unfogged »

I've been considering a few analogies to use when talking with theists and I'd appreciate any thoughts anybody has on them or any other analogies that they have found to be useful.

Regarding evolution and the "when did a dog give birth to a cat" type of question:
A common game in childhood was to draw a stick figure at the bottom of the page of a notebook. On the next page you'd draw a slightly different figure and so on. When you rifled the pages you can make the figure move across the page, grow, shrink, change shape, etc. The differences between any two pages were small but the difference over multiple pages was large. Evolution is the same in that the differences among any small sample of generations are tiny and often unnoticeable but when you compare animals hundreds or thousands or millions of generations apart the differences can be huge.

Regarding the highly unlikely chances that order can come from chaos:
When a cereal producer fills a box of raisin bran cereal the raisins and flakes are mixed randomly and fill the box. The box is then subjected to random jostling as it is shipped and shelved and purchased. Very often the consumer finds that the raisins and bran have mostly separated out into different layers in the box and they have compacted to fill less volume. That is an increase in order produced entirely by random processes produced only by the physical laws that govern objects. While the reason those laws are what they are may be debatable it remains that they operate blindly and that randomness can increase order.

Regarding the statistical improbability of random chemicals forming living compounds:
If you toss a large number of bar magnets into a box and then check you will find that they have lined up with the north and south ends each as close to their opposites as possible. They do not join north-to-north or south-to-south or end-to-middle. Chemical compounds, like the atoms that make them up, also have fixed ways of joining with other compounds so the odds of particular compounds forming is significantly higher than a completely random mixing might imply.

Regarding the improbability of human DNA forming randomly:
If you have a box full of paperclips and you insert a magnet and draw it out you will get a long chain of paper clips suspended from the magnet. The odds of those particular paper clips being caught up in the chain and in that particular order are vanishingly small and yet there they are. If you repeat the experiment the chances of getting that same initial chain repeated exactly are near zero. The error is in attaching significance to that initial chain; while the odds are against any specific chain forming there is certainty that some chain will form. If the earth could be reset the chances of humans evolving again are essentially zero and whatever did evolve would be wondering about the odds it beat.

Another view on statistical improbability:
If you have a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle that you want to assemble there are 500 factorial possible arrangements of the pieces (500x499x498x497…x2x1). Taking just the first 5 pieces there are more than 30 trillion possible combinations. If you try 1 piece every second it would take more than 973000 years to try them all. It’s obviously impossible to a jigsaw puzzle to ever be completed. Of course, since the pieces can’t all be assembled interchangeably, and you don’t have to try all possible combinations, and you don’t keep trying new pieces when you find a match, the numbers are irrelevant.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Re: Analogies

Post #2

Post by Divine Insight »

unfogged wrote: Regarding the highly unlikely chances that order can come from chaos:
Where was there ever any chaos to begin with?

Where did that assumption come from? :-k

I would argue that this is an invalid assumption in the first place.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

User avatar
unfogged
Student
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:47 pm

Re: Analogies

Post #3

Post by unfogged »

[Replying to Divine Insight]

point taken, but that was mostly just lazy wording on my part. The argument isn't based so much on the idea that chaos existed but that order can not arise from random events. One of the points that I'm trying to get across in the analogies is that seeing order appear without being planned by an intelligence is not uncommon.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Re: Analogies

Post #4

Post by Divine Insight »

unfogged wrote: [Replying to Divine Insight]

point taken, but that was mostly just lazy wording on my part. The argument isn't based so much on the idea that chaos existed but that order can not arise from random events. One of the points that I'm trying to get across in the analogies is that seeing order appear without being planned by an intelligence is not uncommon.
I think the other analogies you've already given are pretty solid as they are.

Your analogy of the magnets lining up is a really good on. It's almost more than just an analogy for chemical bonds because that pretty much how they actually do it.

And that analogy actually shows that it wasn't exactly "chaos" in the first place, because of the nice neat "ordering" of North and South poles on every single magnet.

In other words, there are underlying laws at work, so things that appear to be "random" aren't really as random as they may first appear.

A fellow started a thread a few days ago renouncing evolution. His claim was that the probability of biological evolution is as absurd as a house constructing itself without a carpenter.

As I'm sure you are well aware, the folly there is that 2 x 4's aren't magnetic. There is nothing to cause them to naturally line up or stick together. 2 x 4's themselves don't automatically appear from dead trees, etc. So there's no reason for a house frame to even self-evolve much less the whole rest of the house.

But with biological chemistry it's very easy for a cell wall to automatically come together as magnetic atoms and molecules bump into each other and stick together magnetically. No need for a carpenter to drive nails. ;)

But all of this happens naturally precisely because magnets are not "chaos". Magnets automatically stick to (or repel from) each other naturally, and they can also only do this in basically TWO ways because of the two poles.

So that removes "chaos" from the picture.

So rather than giving the previous analogy for order coming from chaos, I would refuse to even accept that assertion to begin with and explain that atoms are exactly chaotic (if only because of their magnetic poles). Of course there are other reason why they aren't so chaotic too, such as how they can form bonds with other atoms, or not form bonds, etc.

So arguing that order can come from chaos seems to be a step that would be better left open. Or at least addressed in a way that shows that we're not exactly dealing with complete chaos in the first place. At the very least in things like neatly arranged magnetic poles. Although there are many other fundamental properties that aren't actually chaotic either. So that's a good foundation to start from. (instead of arguing that order can come from complete chaos)

Just my suggestion for whatever it's worth.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Re: Analogies

Post #5

Post by Divine Insight »

unfogged wrote: Regarding the highly unlikely chances that order can come from chaos:
When a cereal producer fills a box of raisin bran cereal the raisins and flakes are mixed randomly and fill the box. The box is then subjected to random jostling as it is shipped and shelved and purchased. Very often the consumer finds that the raisins and bran have mostly separated out into different layers in the box and they have compacted to fill less volume. That is an increase in order produced entirely by random processes produced only by the physical laws that govern objects. While the reason those laws are what they are may be debatable it remains that they operate blindly and that randomness can increase order.

I'm really disturbed by this particular argument and analogy. I can't help but address it further.

There is no mystery as to why the raisins and bran separate. The active force is gravity. This would not happen if this box was placed in outer space and shook. The raisins fall to the bottom of the box because they are heavier than the bran. And gravity is a unidirectional force.

So I would toss this analogy out altogether. It only serves to confuse the issue.

Just refute that there is chaos in the first place. There is already "order" even though it may be very simplistic order such as one-way forces, and Di-pole magnets, and all the other forces of nature that have very strict laws.

Just say, "It's not chaos. Nature has ordered laws". But they are extremely simplistic laws and are not an indication of any higher intelligence or designer at work. They are non-chaotic, but at the same time not sophisticated enough to view them as "intelligent design" either.

I feel that this topic right here needs to be addressed head-on, because ultimately an understanding of this topic will serve all your other analogies very well. ;)

So don't even argue for order from Chaos.

Argue for "more complexity" from "simple order". ;)

You have simple order to start with. Not Chaos.

And therefore you have reasons why more complex order can grow out of that.

Again, just my thoughts for whatever they are worth.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

User avatar
unfogged
Student
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:47 pm

Post #6

Post by unfogged »

Thanks, I really appreciate the responses; it's not every day I get divine insight! :) You've given me some food for thought. The cereal analogy I also thought was the weakest and your comments have helped me understand why.

Just to clarify, the whole "from chaos" thing is a bit of a red herring. I'm only looking to counter arguments that order can not arise as a result of random events and I didn't make that clear in the initial post.

The thing I like about the analogy is that it is a common experience and easy for people to grasp that taking an initially disordered set you can end up with increased order without intelligent guidance. Random events, constrained by physical laws and the inherent properties of the constituents, do just fine without any god micro-managing reality.

User avatar
Nickman
Site Supporter
Posts: 5443
Joined: Mon Sep 06, 2010 8:51 am
Location: Idaho

Re: Analogies

Post #7

Post by Nickman »

Divine Insight wrote:
unfogged wrote: Regarding the highly unlikely chances that order can come from chaos:
Where was there ever any chaos to begin with?

Where did that assumption come from? :-k

I would argue that this is an invalid assumption in the first place.
Think of an explosion. It may be what we perceive as chaotic yet it does end in order without a God. All that is required os the laws of physics.

User avatar
Divine Insight
Savant
Posts: 18080
Joined: Thu Jun 28, 2012 10:59 pm
Location: Here & Now
Been thanked: 15 times

Post #8

Post by Divine Insight »

unfogged wrote: I'm only looking to counter arguments that order can not arise as a result of random events and I didn't make that clear in the initial post.
But that's the gist of my point.

It's not "order" that is arising from random events.

It's an "increase in complexity" that is arising.

The "order" was already there. All that is arising is a more complex form of order.

So it would be wrong to argue that "order" arises from random events.

That would probably never occur if there wasn't some sort of underlying order to begin with (as simplistic as it may be).

Maybe you can argue for "increasing order" from the seeds of "primal consistent laws of physics"?

You might also enjoy the work of Garret Lisi. He argues that there is no need for a God because the universe can be entirely explained from having arisen from a very simple geometry (at least that's his view).

He has some truly marvelous mathematics that is an attempt at a mathematical T.O.E (Theory of Everything). Of course he doesn't have the complete theory in his hand, for if he did he would have most likely already solved the problem of quantum gravity too. But his mathematical approach does hold great promise.

With Garret Lisi's view you can speak of a "primal geometry" instead of "primal laws of physics", because, according to Lisi, it is this primal geometry that actually sets the laws of physics to be what they are. So in this view all you need is a very simple primal geometry, and everything follows from that.

When I say "simple" I don't mean too simple. I think Garret's model requires extremely high-dimensional geometry. Nothing our simple human minds can easily intuit. But mathematically speaking, it would still be fairly simple.
[center]Image
Spiritual Growth - A person's continual assessment
of how well they believe they are doing
relative to what they believe a personal God expects of them.
[/center]

keithprosser3

Post #9

Post by keithprosser3 »

Your asking for some Devil's advocacy so,

Doesn't the jigsaw analogy make the need for intelligent intervention seem stronger?
You seem to show that without a guiding eye and hand the jigsaw would never get done.

Dunno why DI likes Lisi's work. He's colourful, what with being a surfer-type, and I think that's why his routine-seeming sort of PhD stuff was picked up on what was a slow news day or something. Anyway I'll risk a bottle of Scotland's most famous beverage* that him and his theory will be off the radar in 5 years time.

(*irn bru).
Last edited by keithprosser3 on Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
unfogged
Student
Posts: 30
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:47 pm

Post #10

Post by unfogged »

[Replying to Divine Insight]

I think I see what you are saying but I wouldn't call what initially exists "order". There are constraints on what is possible and outcomes that are more likely than others based on the inherent properties but that I would not call that "order".

Post Reply