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The_Shadow_Of_Paley



Posts: 14
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 06 2007,17:16   

Creationists, especially the intellegent design crew, hinge much of their anti-evolution rhetoric on the idea of complexity--e.g., organisms are "too complex" to have evolved therefore God or some unnamed intelligent designer put them there. Now the colloquial meaning of the term "complexity" refers only to the ability of Homo Sapiens to understand things. Easily comprehensible things are "simple" while difficult to comprehend things are "complicated." This concept can not be divorced from subjective human understanding. Complexity, defined colloquially, is not a physical quantity and has absolutely nothing to do with phenomena themselves but only how human perceive it. Hence, such an idea is all but meaningless in a scientific context; for how can a concept rooted in human psychology mean anything when applied to phenomena independent of that psychology? Does anybody disagree with me so far?

Now, from this list of scientific definitions of the term we see complexity defined exclusively in terms of quantities related to the order of algorithms. These are still not physical quantities. We can compute the complexity of an algorithm used to manufacture a watch, but we can't say a watch itself has this complexity, or any complexity at all--as opposed to mass, volume or temperature. There is no way algorithmic complexity can be attributed to physical phenomena. Again, does anybody disagree with me?

Now, where I'm confused is how the term is used specifically in biology. Biologists do discuss a distinction between "simple" and "complex" organisms. A bacterium is simple because it has only one cell without a nucleus while a human is complex because she has trillions of diverse cells all with nuclei. However, this seems no different from the colloquial idea discussed above. Is an H. Sapien more complex than an E. Coli merely because the former has more parts to be understood by other H. Sapiens, or does biological complexity have a more rigorous definition?

  
curious



Posts: 8
Joined: Jan. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 06 2007,17:49   

Quote
There is no way algorithmic complexity can be attributed to physical phenomena. Again, does anybody disagree with me?


Although computability theory and computational complexity are theoretical, of course they have practical counterparts. In fact, we use algorithms to represent physical phenomena all the time, helping us to understand its "complexity".
For example, if I write a program, it would be nice if it finished its task in a certain amount of time, like sorting algorithms along with their complexities.

also check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computational_complexity_theory.

However, this is a non-sequitur to the issue of organisms in biology.

  
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 08 2007,16:57   

When am I gonna see that Belliard post?  :(

.......  


Yeah, I think that scientists are struggling to derive a universal -- let alone biologically useful -- definition of complexity. This discussion reminds me a little bit about PZ Myers' post on ontogenetic depth. After failing to provide his own definition of o.d. in the thread, Paul Nelson linked to this paper. The abstract looks pretty interesting, but since the metric measures developmental complexity in embryonic lineages, its scope is pretty narrow.

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
BWE



Posts: 1898
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 11 2007,09:05   

you are kind of a dork paley. No insult intended, just an observation.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
The Ghost of Paley



Posts: 1703
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: Jan. 11 2007,11:20   

BWE:

Quote
you are kind of a dork paley. No insult intended, just an observation.


Which Paley are you addressing? And what are you talking about?

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Dey can't 'andle my riddim.

  
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