Sunday, March 30, 2014

U of Texas' Granville Sewell on entropy and the evolutionary materialist meta-narrative and origins story

Food for thought (HT UD, vid at YouTube):

For background, cf this on the basics of thermodynamics:

Thermodynamics, the entropy concept and the famous second law were first developed in analysing heat engines. Where in (a) we see the second law, in the isolated system overall increment in entropy dS must be at minimum zero, though of course the heat evolving subsys loses and the heat absorbing one gains, but dependence on temperature means the gain exceeds the loss. This of course also highlights how a system that gains heat or similar forms naturally tends to increase entropy, there being more ways for mass and energy to be distributed at micro level than before d'Q passed into it. Then in a heat engine at (b) the possibility of shaft work now leads to various possibilities for B' which both absorbs and emits energy, some as exhaust heat to D, some as shaft work, dW.

Such leads to the question of spontaneous formation of a heat engine, which is possible, e.g. a hurricane. But when such an engine shows intricate, functionally specific complex organisation, its formation by blind chance and mechanical necessity becomes maximally implausible as can be seen for the case of a piston engine (or a turbine engine) . . . here (HT, Wiki) the famous Rolls Royce Merlin V-12 used in the Spitfire, Hurricane and Mustang Fighters -- with the shaft shown sticking out:

 Moreover, the associated concepts are now understood to be far broader and far more powerful, once the concept of molecules and energy states was first added (leading to statistical thermodynamics) and once, later, the conceptual link to and from Shannon's information theory was appreciated -- though this is still subject to vigorous objection in some quarters.

However, as Wikipedia acknowledged in its article on informational entropy, as at April 2011:

At an everyday practical level the links between information entropy and thermodynamic entropy are not close. Physicists and chemists are apt to be more interested in changes in entropy as a system spontaneously evolves away from its initial conditions, in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, rather than an unchanging probability distribution. And, as the numerical smallness of Boltzmann's constant kB indicates, the changes in S / kB for even minute amounts of substances in chemical and physical processes represent amounts of entropy which are so large as to be right off the scale compared to anything seen in data compression or signal processing.

But, at a multidisciplinary level, connections can be made between thermodynamic and informational entropy, although it took many years in the development of the theories of statistical mechanics and information theory to make the relationship fully apparent. In fact, in the view of Jaynes (1957), thermodynamics should be seen as an application of Shannon's information theory: the thermodynamic entropy is interpreted as being an estimate of the amount of further Shannon information needed to define the detailed microscopic state of the system, that remains uncommunicated by a description solely in terms of the macroscopic variables of classical thermodynamics. For example, adding heat to a system increases its thermodynamic entropy because it increases the number of possible microscopic states that it could be in, thus making any complete state description longer. (See article: maximum entropy thermodynamics.[Also, another article remarks:  >>in the words of G. N. Lewis writing about chemical entropy in 1930, "Gain in entropy always means loss of information, and nothing more" . . .   in the discrete case using base two logarithms, the reduced Gibbs entropy is equal to the minimum number of yes/no questions that need to be answered in order to fully specify the microstate, given that we know the macrostate.>>]) Maxwell's demon can (hypothetically) reduce the thermodynamic entropy of a system by using information about the states of individual molecules; but, as Landauer (from 1961) and co-workers have shown, to function the demon himself must increase thermodynamic entropy in the process, by at least the amount of Shannon information he proposes to first acquire and store; and so the total entropy does not decrease (which resolves the paradox). [Cf. more detailed discussion here on.]

The relevance of this to the origin and development of life lies in the challenge to explain the origin of functionally specific complex organisation and associated information -- much of it in the form of complex digital code that operates cells and develops body plans from embryos. 

 Namely, as Sewell challenges, too much of what is being claimed amounts to being materially similar to a tornado video running backwards and untangling chaos into the fabric of an intact town. That becomes especially evident in the case of origin of cell based life from some claimed prebiotic soup or similar environment, but it also obtains for the claimed spontaneous origin of major body plans by blind watchmaker thesis macro-evolution.

So, the Sewell video is food for thought.

As is this Vuk Nicolic video on the DNA and RNA information "tape" controlled production of proteins in the living cell:

Protein Synthesis from Vuk Nikolic on Vimeo.

Where this illustration (HT Wiki) shows the ribosome in action:

Sewell patently has a serious point, one well worth reflecting on.

And for a first step for more cf. here on on OoL and here on on OoBPs. END

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Doppler shift and the credible path of hijacked (?) Malaysian Airlines Flight MH 370

Since yesterday, it has been announced based on Doppler shift analysis of the INMARSAT engine recorder hourly pings, that Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 credibly flew southwards into the Indian Ocean, where it probably crashed far from land.

CNN reports:

Clipping and highlighting:

The Doppler effect gives a compression of wave fronts when a source is approaching, and a spreading out as it recedes, for example the familiar eeeh-whooosh when a fast moving car goes the other way on the highway.

By applying it to the pings and using the range data given by the intensity of the signal and/or time delays relative to set times, we can credibly construct range and direction of travel, perhaps even work out the speed of approach/recession, which could help reconstruct the path more fully.


South, not North.

Until compelling reason points otherwise, this is the reasonable conclusion, as on a northerly track, all pings would have been receding.

And it did not look to be on track to Australia but the reaches of the southern Indian Ocean.

Unfortunately, this supports the conclusion that this ended in a fatal crash, with no survivors.

Why, is another story.

Maybe there was a hijack and somehow a southern path got plugged into an autopilot that could not be over-ridden (the pilots being by then dead)? 

Maybe, willful suicide and mass murder?

We don't know.

Telegraph of the UK summarises:

But we must weep and mourn with those who mourn and seek to comfort them. END

Monday, March 24, 2014

William Lane Craig comments on recently announced gravity waves said to be seen in the cosmic microwave background and speculated to point towards multiverse models . . .

The observations have triggered headlined speculation, Craig's comments may be helpful, here:

Again, food for thought. END

A Fox News vid clip of Gen. McInerney's educated guesses on the missing aircraft from Malaya and how it may feasibly have gone to Pakistan . . . U/D: likely S Indian Ocean

Speculative, here, dateline Mar 21, but worth thinking on, given an ever-deepening mystery:

Food for thought, and yes, I have held back on this until I spotted this as a follow-on vid clip for something else I also want to put up as a vid clip shortly. END

PS: Just now [7 am news, EC time], BBC says something may have been found, possible recovery within hours to a day . . . clip of Malasian official was just played. News flashes would probably rapidly follow. Let us see, two objects spotted by search aircraft in Australia's search zone one rectangular, one circular. Remember, there's a lot of debris in the seas, so this too is a wait and see.

UPDATE: WSJ summarises reports on pulse time delay and Doppler frequency shift analysis that point to S Indian Ocean as the terminus of the flight. Families of those on board, are distraught.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Sci-tech watch, 15: Setting up an all- in- one . . ." super-tablet" . . . PC based home/small office work station

The Macintosh (HT: Wiki)
I have been looking at small/home office workstations recently, and have gravitated towards today's successor to the old classic Macintosh from the 1980's and early '90's, the all-in-one PC. (Abbr: AIO.)

 The sort of profile I have been looking at is more or less a shelf [perhaps 22 - 24" deep, at 29" top surface level, maybe fold-down], maybe with an underslung 27" wide  keyboard tray, running on drawer slides at 26" top surface height.

(Those dimensions, BTW, are ergonomically chosen. The keyboard tray width allows using a mouse at the same level. [And, BTW, the arms on arm chairs can add to stress on tendons if you type with arms resting on such; consider using an armless Secretary Chair instead for anywhere you have to do a lot of typing.])

 I have been exploring as well video teleconferencing and have noted reasonable cost hang- on- the- wall TV/Monitors [40" for US$ 350 - 400], with the possibility of teleconferencing web cams and boundary layer [aka "pressure zone"]  conference table microphones.

Here is a "hang on the monitor" Logitech 920 Web Cam with built in microphones (set up for Skype at 1080 p HDTV level resolution):

I am finding that a layout where a small conference table is butted up against a wall and a large screen monitor on the wall is shared, is a useful group workstation mode (HT: Gateway)l:

It is advisable, of course, to use something like this Logitech wireless keyboard and track-pad to allow interactive sharing by simply passing it around:

For such a rig, of course, a good all- in- one scan/ copy/ fax/ printer is by now standard.

I would add a 2' x 3' or so whiteboard on an easel, the easel also being rigged to hold an old fashioned flip-chart. (The flip chart has certain advantages that nothing else can match to this day.)

I would also add a small podium, for preference one that adjusts from 30" to about 45" for the lower edge of the working surface . . . and I am trying to get one made that can attach both a shield at the front and a larger working surface so it can function as a mini, portable notebook PC workstation.

 Here is a news vid on a home office setup, which highlights a Lenovo unit, but many others are available:

I find that to complement this, a tablet and phone or "phablet" ( the larger sized smart phones that incorporate tablet features) will be a significant productivity boost. Where of course the 7" or so tablet in a folio with keyboard using Kingsoft Office has certain advantages as a mini notebook . . . and of course for educational computing (HT: Amazon):

Some may also want a light notebook, and with the screen real estate investment being in a 20 - 27" AIO, a light 12" or so unit will be adequate. Or, one can go for a "transformer" type 10" tablet, which docks to its own keyboard.

As late breaking news, if you are willing to go with a US$ 180 low end "Chrome Box," it looks like you can have a functional unit, with an additional US$ 70 - 80 getting a basic keyboard, mouse, monitor and HDMI-VGA adapter. (This unit of course is effectively a thin client that uses Google's cloud based services. Such a thin client also can easily be attached to the back of a wall monitor, or a convenient place. That might fit in with living room decor, and could make a dandy set-up for a home used as a cell group meeting place [or even a micro "cell church"] or Bible Study group facility . . . or, a seminar or class room. [Cf. here.])

I do confess to being less than happy with Google just now, as I have been using Picasa as image storage with Blogger for years. Google bought both, and is killing off Picasa, which hosts my blog images. Indeed, they just forced me to enroll with Google Plus, which I find is irritating. No, I don't want to socialise online and don't need all those helpful hints.

A spot of luck, this article helped me get my old Picasa back (for now . . . ), after frustrations on trying to delete pics. I am hoping the decision makers at Google understand the headache of having to rebuild from scratch 400 or so images from years of blog posting. And BTW, if you use a photo host service, check out terms and conditions on image sizes and overall hosted space.

Living on the cloud sacrifices control and independence, save if you rent server space and host your own site. For that BTW, I now highly recommend going with WordPress and a suitable template. END

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Capacity focus, 77: Ideas for sustainable development change strategy simulations in virtual spaces . . . drawing on colour wheel models, spiderweb evaluation charts and a block based wargame simulation . . .

Chess is a metaphor for strategic action
based on thinking three moves ahead
Many board games are about strategies and use virtual spaces such as the famous checker-/ chess- board or the like. Even games such as football, rugby and especially American Football (a mock battle . . . ), use artificial spaces.

So, I have been puzzling recently over the issue, can there be a sort of virtual or pseudo-space for sustainable development? (Often, abbreviated: SD.) Can it model capacity constraints and the issue of initiating change away from business as usual and where it ends up, i.e. the change strategy side of SD.

Where already, thanks to the Bariloche Foundation of Argentina, we have a general framework for integrating SWOT analysis with development of a sustainable strategy in light of analysing BAU vs ALT . . . business as usual vs alternatives:

Obviously, such an exercise would help motivate a critical mass towards change, but how do we model effective change in the face of capacity limitations, the range of issues, sectors, interactions, challenges, barriers and more in a typical SD planning context, etc?

A problem.

But I know concretising and symbolising can help us form concepts, so I have been fishing for in effect a board-game wargame approach, but there is no physical space to be mapped, unlike here:

. . . or, we can see a more modern non hex-grid board [notice the tendency to use a roughly pentagonal shape], with off-map resource boxes and time/turn lines, superposed here on an actual map of the Golan heights:

. . .  so, we have to have a virtual game board space that is at the same time meaningful, with pieces that can have value as strategic resource units and that can then act against challenges in physical ways translatable into policy actions.

Perhaps, like Backgmmon:

. . . or (HT: Wiki), the classic oriental territory domination game Go:

. . . or even like the American Football field:

Having been inspired by colour wheel models, I am currently developing such a simulation model on such a virtual space, based on the three environmental domains, the bio-physical, the socio-cultural (including governance and government), and the economic. I have also been mixing in radar chart/spiderweb type circular evaluation diagrams for modelling capacity constraints:

Obviously we can see here a model of "space" to move in [that within reach of your capacity], and a constraint on space that is blocked, whether due to internal limitations or external challenges and threats. This automatically brings in the issues of (i) lack- of- capacity- driven barriers and (ii) other barriers existing due to active (open or veiled) opposition. Thus we see two main sides: 
 A: the change agent player (ALT Strategy) and 

B: the status quo (BAU Strategy) player (s).

An extra issue is that it seems that pivotal zones exist in sectors at the interface between pairs of the three major environmental domains, e.g. 
Biophysical + Socio-Cultural

NR side: brains and linked required population . . .  what we have between our ears considered as a major renewable and develop-able natural resource (one which GROWS with right and sound use), and 

SC side: education considered as a socicultural enterprise that develops brain power, unleashing capacity -- which then enables pushing the frontier of possibilities. (Where also, for education to be effective, people need adequate social welfare [including health]  to be able to pay attention on a sustained basis and to have the focus and discipline required for success. Social welfare is of course an end in its own right . . . and can be a bit of a double edged ideological and economic sword, but from a development policy context, its effect on other aspects of development is a crucialconsideration.)

Let's cut to the chase scene. 

Below is a live photograph of a "draft" version I have begun to put together, showing as a state of play:
(a)  resource deployments by A (who has quite modest resources but has acquired funding to back some action . . . ) to address education capacity constraint roadblocks, here

(b) the general level of education capacity being only fair -- that is, functional to some extent but with serious gaps and limitations backed up by institutional players, and also

(c)  active opposition leading to policy debates between A and B team players over government policy and culture, as well as

(d) a similar clash over natural resources, hazards and management of same:

A virtual space simulation model for SD-oriented strategic change initiated by a critical mass of change agents
working with facilitators and accessing support resources. The three arcs are for main environmental domains,
with sectors falling under the domains. The Y-shaped framework highlights the pivotal nature of interfaces
between domains (here, brains/education for biophysical/sociocultural, natural resources & hazards/resource and hazard management for biophysical/economic, governance culture/government policy-making for sociocultural/economic). Inner dotted circles denote capacity levels on a rank-ordered scale from v. poor to excellent or world-class. Donors and other funding sources enable action turn by turn, and external physical and technical resources as well as the diaspora of Montserrat [for which this is being developed]
may be drawn in as allies (with degree of reliability and/or focal area colour coded).Other sectors are to be
filled in. In the next phase of development as well, a BAU vs ALT alignment chart similar to the above diagram is to be developed. [Copyright: GEM of TKI, all  rights are reserved.Particularly, it is underscored that
no permission is granted for commercial use.]
(This already shows the capability of the "game" as an analytic tool capable of identifying key elements of a policy situation. That is it is an effective visualising simulation model.)

The virtual space (March 31) can also be used for planning/envisioning a strategy that first creates capacity breakthroughs (note the use of a spider web map to delineate the capacity-constrained space for maneuver . . . )  then accesses the policy space by breaking out and so transforms a situation -- here,

a:  a media-access and capacity breakthrough driven by fresh sound thought in a change agent think-tank that is ably communicated to potentially allied opinion leaders accesses allies and logistical support, which then 

b: empowers capacity-building change in education, population and linked welfare [which creates the required long term capacity transformation required to sustain economic development in the long term], also, 

c: enabling better natural resources use and improved hazards/disaster  management (in a region prone to disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis and a drought-flood cycle), which 

d: synergises with addressing international access/transportation, the strategic tourism industry and manufacturing [including construction] and gradually improving argiculture, while

e: holding the line on the business as usual challenge in government, and 

f: gradually improving capacity for governance through reform of governance culture and government policy making and implementation capability; with

g: acceleration of these trends through an alliance with media, education and supportive resources from the wider world of the Caribbean diaspora,

h: eventually transforming governance also towards genuinely sustainable development . . .
better and more fairly meeting our needs today while making such wise use of resources and so husbanding the environment -- bio-physical, socio-cultural and economic -- that our children can adequately meet their needs tomorrow

i: thus cumulatively transforming our regional situation.

(Where, of course, each such step requires activities, resources, capability and effort. Thus, we see the OSL elements of strategic action in play: objectives, steps of action, and logistical support.)

{April 3:} This also leads to suggesting the key "pie-slice" sectors within the major domains [with an emphaisis on the sectors that lie at the interfaces between domains, highlighted in colours] with an eye to Caribbean circumstances, perhaps:

Also (as at Mar 22), we can also see the complementary SWOT strategy alignment chart:

SWOT strategy alignment chart, showing change strategy "OSL" framework  in outline: Objectives, [Action-]Steps, Logistics. A properly aligned, robust, sustainable strategy will " build on strengths, exploit opportunities, counter threats, and compensate for or correct weaknesses." Business as Usual [BAU] strategies usually reflect power or financial interests of groups with high social influence or power, and often (i) are inequitable, (ii) are short-sighted or have SWOT blind-spots, thus (iii) often have poor long term outcomes for a community or organisation. A more sustainable alternative [ALT] -- if such an ALT can be successfully developed --  will be better aligned to equity, meeting needs, husbanding resources and effects on the wider environment across time. This makes it more sustainable. But to achieve these outcomes, the development and planning process needs to undertake stakeholder identification, participative exploration, planning, decision making and project/programme governance, enlightened by sound environment scanning (biophysical, socio-cultural, economic-governmental), and it needs competent, sustained project cycle management. This usually implies a need for considerable capacity-building. Fortunately, this process is precisely, a capacity building one

Already, we can see many of the phenomena known to be relevant to strategic change in an SD context emerging naturally, in ways that can suggest actual planning and action steps in the real world. That is, I am seeing possibilities for using the emerging tool with the SWOT-strategy alignment process in exploratory planning and training/ capacity-building.

In effect an SD exploratory exercise with stakeholders could (inter alia)  enfold two phases:
Phase I: why the change and to what [the SWOT phase], 

Phase II: how, in light of objectives, strategy, logistics and situation [The change agent phase].
(Such an exercise would help to stimulate thought towards actual detailed planning.)

Let's also lay out a table of draft "simple" rules for the simulation (where also the umpire and or dice decision-based dialogue matrix game rules here are relevant, and the high level study here gives useful background):
 1] Purpose: The SD Policy space "game" is not a toy, but a planning process, so

2] We must be realistic: that is, we need to credibly and conservatively estimate: 
  • our capacities and intent in the situation in the SWOT context, 
  •  stakeholders in the situation, their needs, concerns, power to influence decisions, and motives/agendas
  • possibilities for partners, 
  • loyalty/agendas of allies,   
  • security concerns (tied to agendas of other interests/"players"), 
  • opportunities, threats, trends and possible shocks [with odds on various outcomes], 
  • financing possibilities,
  •  time and other logistical resources required in each period, 
  • action steps, resource inputs and time to achieve objectives, and 
  • how long it will take for steps to achieve the overall desired outcome.
3] Logistics: At each period (months, quarters, years as appropriate), one can only act on the basis of resources in hand, financial, in-kind, out of pocket ["zero budget"], voluntary effort, support by allies, etc.

4] Proposals: After the start, where one begins with current resources brought to the table by founding partners,  each player can only act on previously acquired resources, which in turn require creating and submitting proposals (and implied successful negotiations) in accord with a defined project cycle. Such proposals may include:
  • formal grant-making proposals to local, regional, national or international funding agencies (probably, a one-page, fill in blanks tabular format will be adequate)
  • similar proposals to businesses, community based organisations, etc.
  • informal agreements with partners and volunteers
  • subscriptions of members of a body
  • treaties or contracts with allies
  • if one has access to Government funds, national budgets 
  • etc.
 . . . for instance (HT: EU, CIDA, EFJ, etc):

. . . similarly, in public relations clashes (or policy debates) a decisive issue is to put a concept in a media statement, which is in effect an informal proposal to a relevant public:

5] Capacity: At each period, in any sector, one can only act within the level of capacity one has [though a policy level intervention can come to bear if one has adequate capacity in Government), and if there is doubt on which level, the lower is more conservative.
  • Capacity gives a player ability to act up to a limit (here, a player must access or be at policy level by building up capacity in some sector before being sufficiently able and/or credible to effectively act . . . otherwise the player may agitate but must depend on partners or allies to act on his/her behalf), 
  • key or critical success factors [most notoriously, funding] if favourable allow action to succeed, 
  • contingencies (uncontrolled variability) in the "world" or "environment" may or may not allow key success factors to be favourable. 
  • It is this element that brings chance . . . and so dice tossing and payoff tables . . . to bear in a game.
Or, using the Engle-type role-playing game as a context for setting up "rules":
 The Engle matrix game is a multi-sided, role-based seminar game with structured turns. It is possible for a given role to win in the game (by achieving its objectives) without other roles losing. Each player or team assumes a role within the game and makes an argument during each turn for how their action will change the game world. These arguments are assessed as to their likelihood by the adjudica-tor. Subsequently either the adjudicator or chance is used to decide the outcome of  the arguments, with the results of  the arguments and the nature of  the pre-existing conditions from earlier in the game shaping the likelihood of  success. The outcomes become facts in the game world. The same process is followed for counter arguments. As each turn passes, the facts accumulate to build a new world. 

Engle  matrix  games  are  a  form  of   structured  experiential  learn-ing—resulting in a strong exchange of  tacit and explicit knowledge between participants . . . [Helen Mitchard and Simon Ng ]
6] Government policy making: until one has reached world class policy level in at least one domain, one cannot act to directly influence government policy, though -- as just pointed out -- allies may do so on one's behalf (within relevant limits). One may agitate, but can not lead at policy level, in other words. (Agitation [by the usual means and tactics] seeks to influence media and public opinion, pressuring decision makers to recognise the relevant faction(s) as legitimate stakeholders, with needs and interests to be respected. Effective faction leaders become spokesmen consulted by media and decision-makers. [Unfortunately, but realistically, this reflects how terrorism acts.])

7] Capacity-building: This may need to be a project or project aspect. Until one has broken through to world class policy level, one is unable to directly act freely on decision-making regarding the three domains, but is limited to capacity-building in sectors -- and of course agitation. Allies may act on one's behalf, providing they are at world class policy level. Agitation seeks to attract allies and capacity-building support, and ultimately to bring new players to the table, i.e. to mainstream issues, concerns and interests of relevant stakeholders.

8] Allies vs partners: Allies may provide additional capacity, up to world class level, but must not take the lead role in the change agent ALT team. Partners may play lead roles, depending on relevant constraints on nationality or the like. Former objectors or opponents -- or the indifferent -- may become allies or partners . . . such can be represented by "capping" the tokens with a "hat" in the change agent's team colour. (As a complication if loyalty is an issue in play, in each turn, such "converts," or allies or even partners may be subject to an odds-based "flipping" of loyalty or to "backsliding." [E.g.: Decades ago, one of the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous apparently reverted to his old ways, damaging the movement's credibility.] )

9] Risk/contingencies: Many circumstances are risky due to environmental influences on key success factors that are uncontrollably variable, so if it is desirable to
A ten sided 0 - 9 die, 6 and 9 underscored (HT: Wiki)
consider the impacts of risk and associated contingencies/  contingency plans, such may be modelled based on estimated odds of different outcomes, coin flipping [for effectively 50:50 odds], tossing of one or more dice, or pulling cards from shuffled decks, etc. Or,
  • summary arguments or short stories on what is intended and likely to happen next (and why/how) as suggested can be used to set up 
  • a balance of odds on: 
A: favourable/ B:  unfavourable/ -- and/or 
C: lose-lose/  -- and/or 
D: compromise/ E: neutral outcomes 
. . . notice the two (A/B), three (A/B/C)  four (A/B/C/D) and (A/B/C/D/E) five-point outcome possibilities, linked to
  • strengths and weaknesses to act successfully in the situation (perhaps by tipping credibility and capacity factors up/down), leading to 
  • a die tossing or umpire judgement based decision, cf. here
For simple odds determination, I lean to setting odds of success by judgement of players and an umpire then setting a hurdle threshold from 0 to 99 using a pair of ten sided dice in two colours, that will give a more or less flat-random distribution. That is,
  • in laying out intents and likely outcomes with reasons or in objecting to same, players lay out a range of possibilities. 
  • The umpire balances strengths of pros and cons and weights the range of outcomes on a 2 - 5 point scale or a more complex one if needed, where
  • strong pros and cons give even weighting to each of the five or however many categories and enough weak ones can give some weighting, then 
  • odds are set based on even or uneven weighting, then 
  • the die toss gives play to chance, leading to the outcome.
So, typically, for multiple outcomes -- each bearing more or less equal weight (on grounds that we have no basis to prefer any particular outcome) -- the range of possible results -- payoffs -- may be split into sub-ranges, 3, 4, or 5 being most reasonable. Where diverse weights can be reasonably assigned [e.g. success is highly likely, but not certain], the ranges can be widened for the most likely outcomes, by using say blocks of 1/10 (or 1/20 if desired), with more likely possibilities getting more than an even share, less likely ones, less. The extreme values 00 and 99 can also be reserved for unusual, very unfavourable or very favourable outcomes. Perhaps, for convenience:

Flexible Payoff table. To get a finer resolution, take odds in stages, a first one determining general range, and one or more thereafter for more precise outcomes, e.g. (1 in 3) x (1 in 10) = (1 in 30); giving ranges down to 1 in 10^4 or 10^6. Cf Australian military discussions here, especially this.

10] Credibility/power clashes: When opposed parties clash on a policy area, comparison of resources on a ratio basis, A:B  . . . "manpower" as affected by a (credibility + capacity) multiplier* . . . pro/con argument balance . . .  and the roll of dice may be used to determine a payoff table with possible outcomes such as:
  • conversion of engaged units of one side to the other,
  • removal from the game [loss of  public credibility . . . shifting odds for next turn], or
  • compromises [shared power . . . a mainstreaming win?]
* That is, a large and capable high credibility institution controlled by BAU is not a good direct policy target, but a small ALT group with good credibility and good enough capacity  can overwhelm a large but largely discredited institution.
This means credibility is closely tied to capacity and we can construct a unit strategic value model by using strategic capability multiplied by credibility: "5  x 5 = 25" with a small institution can have a balancing effect compared to say a "3 x 3"= 9  opponent with greater material resources.  For instance 25 carries greater weight than 9, leading to A:B odds of 25:9 = 2.8:1, overwhelming odds. Allies would multiply the effect of their side (say another 5  x  3 = 15, which would shift odds to (25 + 15):9 = 4.4:1.  Payoff tables are to be developed, but already a rule of thumb is that 3:1 or worse odds are  immediately overwhelming, and 2:1 will force incremental losses on the other side, coming out of credibility which would be transferred, so a credibility loss in turn n sets up a knockout in turn n+ 1 except if there is reinforcement. At 1:1 odds, things could go either way . . . indicating a need for negotiated compromise instead of betting the farm on a clash. But, that is already a mainstreaming win. [As at now, I doubt that a more complex model would be worth the extra effort.])
Tokens (of various colours) are used for such abstract units, and unit values will be recorded sector by sector based on evaluation per turn, and based on previous events, such as a credibility loss from a previous turn. Credibility loss by one side transfers to units on the other side, with banking of excess. (For instance sides A and B can draft competing media statements, which can be judged, awarded weights and subjected to dice-tossing. Of course, one side may have manpower to overwhelm the other with a blizzard of mass media efforts. [Thus, we see how credibility and capacity need to be built up and arguments carefully composed and simplified then polished before launching media blitzes at the right time, when public attention has been focussed on an issue.])
 Under such conditions, compromise or conversion by negotiation may be preferred to a PR clash with its risks of "betting the farm and losing." Such is already a mainstreaming win for that sector.
A good index of value is an evaluation if real world strategic asses are being modelled, e.g. a certain local politician seems to be a 5 x 3, and another a 3 x 4. But on more abstract grounds a good initial rule of thumb is that capacity = credibility too, with the latter boosted or demoted based on indicia of favourability or the results of clashes or successful negotiations. Where capacity can be increased based on success in capcity building projects or the equivalent in negotiations or confrontations.
So also, capacity starvation may seem attractive (nip it in the bud) . . . but, for an institution to actively block capacity-building and/or credibility-building risks discredit and loss of capacity, should that be exposed by a media ally. (Which, shows the vital importance of such access and support.)
That points to subtle conflicts for donor support (implying resource starvation for the other side) as well as subtle backing of opposition not obviously traceable to a source, and for the power of potential allies to dramatically shift power balances, especially allies in the media.

11] "Winning": The dominance or degree of influence achieved in policy level decisions made in the three pivotal interfaces at the end of the agreed number of periods, is decisive on "winning." That is, the aim of the ALT team is the mainstreaming of sustainability. There are different degrees of a win:
a] An outright win will gain relevant capacity in the key domain interfaces and outright control or strongly influence all three.
b] If only two are controlled or strongly influenced, in the long term the change process will become mainstreamed.
c] If the change agent team has its concerns and vision put on the mainstream agenda for decision-making in at least one area such that its input will be routinely sought, it is now an established stakeholder and interest group.

12] "Winning" vs SD progress: Winning in the end is a power outcome, genuine progress towards sustainablility implies change with genuine -- realistically appraised --  progress, i.e.:
 . . . sustainable development better and more fairly meets our needs today, while so wisely husbanding resources and the environment . . . bio-physical, socio-cultural and economic -- and so prudently managing hazards that our children and grandchildren can better meet their needs tomorrow.

In this process, I have found block-type wargames an inspiration, and this tutorial is helpful to visualise how resource and strategic units can be modelled at fairly sophisticated levels:

Obviously, the level of sophistication depends on the context, and wargames already have an answer to that, they have rules for basic and more advanced levels of play.)

DV, I will continue to update this post as I work further. WIP -- END

PS: Cf the Matrix Wargame approach discussed here.  Let's clip:
In [typical war or role-playing] games you compare lists of statistics and peer at complicated books of rules containing someone else's idea about what things are important, before rolling a [die, representing risk/chance] . . . Instead, in a Matrix Game you simply use words to describe why something should happen, the Umpire decides how likely it is, and you roll a [die]. If you can say "This happens, for the following reasons..." you can play a Matrix Game . . . .
The [original] Chris Engle Matrix Game was created in the USA by Chris Engle, and published in 1992. Chris wanted to create a system by which it was possible for a player to "role-play" anything from a single person to an entire country . . .  What he wanted was a system that could take into account anything the players though was relevant, including intangible elements such as culture, beliefs, and perceptions of themselves . . . Like all good ideas, the Matrix Game is very simple in concept, but has huge potential in that it can be adapted to fit any game setting. Matrix Games have been used by the UK MOD with the Unmanned Underwater Vehicle capability, education of Consultants in UK MOD Procurement systems and in the preparation by HQ ARRC for the deployment into Bosnia . . . . 

In a Matrix Game, actions are resolved by a structured sequence of logical "arguments". Each player takes turns to make an argument, with successful arguments advancing the game, and the player's position. There are a number of ways you can do this and each has their own strengths and weaknesses, some of the most popular are:
  • The "Three Reasons" system [--> a player projects what is intended with three supportive reasons why it is achievable]
  • The "Pros and Cons" system [--> In case of active opposition, intent and pros are advanced, say by A, and cons by B, leading to a net pro/con weight in light of weight of points, then die toss to determine outcomes on the odds, the list of contingent constraints and outcomes coming from the pro's and cons with either flat weighting or odds assigned by informed judgement]
  • The "simple narrative" system [--> here " The players states what happens next in the evolving story that is the current situation. The chances of success or failure and exactly what those results look like are judged by an Umpire or, more usually, by another player taking it in turns . . . " so either a die toss based or a judgemental outcome can be accommodated]

. . . . The arguments themselves are judged by the Umpire based on inherent likelihood, historical precedence, personal experience, and his own judgement (and quite often the other player's judgement), and a chance of success arrived at (percentage dice normally being thrown to see if the result was achieved, but you could use any combination of dice or random number generator that you like - or the Umpire decides based on military judgement and the justice of the circumstances).

The advantage of this system is that it works well where there are a number of teams of players and you have a strong central Umpire. You have to be careful, however, that other players don't interrupt or heckle with a reason why these arguments might not work - that is the role of the Umpire . . .

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rom 1 reply, 48: Of babies, bathwater, Plantinga and the (notorious?) ontological argument to God

Perhaps the most controversial of the major arguments pointing to God is the ontological argument. Many think it is little more than verbal trickery, and are highly dismissive. Others are fond of parodying and dismissing it. 

But, we need to pause and ask a little question.

Alvin Plantinga, for a generation, has been a leading and widely respected American philosopher: so let us ponder, 
Q: if the ontological argument family is so easily brushed aside, why is he -- obviously highly intelligent and informed -- a major champion of the argument in our day, specifically the modal form?

A: Maybe, then, there is more to this argument than meets the eye, and we should pause and consider whether one issue is that it is subtle and sophisticated, thus easily misunderstood and caricatured then thrown away with a forest of knocked over strawmen. Besides, the key modern concept, of a maximally great being -- one of maximal excellence across possible worlds -- helps us understand in a profound way several key ideas in the theistic concept of God. (That, BTW, is one of the benefits of such arguments, they enrich our understanding of theology.) Last, but not least, this argument not only sharpens up our logic skills, but it is a part of a cumulative case that sets up the question that to reject theism, what are you implicitly committing yourself to, and is that position, in aggregate, a reasonable view? [For instance, it turns out that as necessity of being is pivotal to the idea of being God and being eternal, one is looking at implying that God is impossible, a pretty stiff claim to defend.]
 Of course, a subtle, sophisticated and frankly quite technical argument is not an argument that is easy to grasp, and is not a part of a case made while standing on one foot, so to speak. Pull up an easy chair, and let us take a little while to contemplate. It may well be more than worth it.

Before I go on, I think we need a reminder that across the world and across town, hundreds, thousands and even millions have met God in life-transforming ways in the face of Christ through the power of the gospel and the Word of God. They (and I must include myself in that number), quite rightly, are as sure of the reality of God as of the reality of their loving Mothers. No wonder, we see the apostle Peter, facing martyrdom at the hands of the demonically mad Nero Caesar, c. 65 AD:
2 Peter 1:13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body,[h] to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

  17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 

 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation.  

21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]
There is abundant, good reason to believe in God (start here on), that is not at stake here. What is, is to help us understand God and evidence pointing to him more profoundly, in ways that enrich our experience and understanding of God.

There's little point in trying to discuss Anselm of Canterbury's medieval formulation, as this is generally conceded to be outdated. Instead, let us go straight to Plantinga, who speaks in terms of possible worlds, in effect coherent states of affairs that in principle could have been . . . or in at least one case (our world) are actual. First, at full strength as he writes to his fellow philosophers and/or the philosophically literate:
. . . (29) There is a possible world in which maximal greatness is instantiated. [--> Emphases added]
[52] And [we may] . . . spell out what is involved in maximal greatness:
(30) Necessarily, a being is maximally great only if it has maximal excellence in every world [--> perhaps, easier to see if we conceive of certain worlds Wi, Wj . . . Wn in which a being has maximal excellence, and then across worlds see the one which is maximally great as the greatest of these, noting that such a being will be necessary (and thus eternal), and so present in every possible world; we will spell that out below]
(31) Necessarily, a being has maximal excellence in every world only if it has omniscience, omnipotence, and moral perfection in every world. [--> and thus is also a necessary being]
[53] Notice that (30) and (31) do not imply that there are possible but nonexistent beings -- any more than does, for example,
(32) Necessarily, a thing is a unicorn only if it has one horn. [--> Since "worlds" are possible states of affairs, if something, B is generally possible, there exists a possible world Wq in which B exists, at least as a concept, one that is potentially realisable]
[54] But if (29) is true, then there is a possible world W such that if it had been actual, then there would have existed a being that was omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect; this being, furthermore, would have had these qualities in every possible world [--> it would be necessary, his peers would know that so he needs not explicitly state this]. So it follows that if W had been actual, it would have been impossible that there be no such being [--> as the being is necessary]. That is, if W had been actual,
(33) There is no omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect being
would have been an impossible proposition. But if a proposition is impossible in at least one possible world, then it is impossible in every possible world; what is impossible does not vary from world to world. Accordingly (33) is impossible in the actual world, i.e., impossible simpliciter. But
[CONCL A:] if it is impossible that there be no such being, then there actually exists a being that is omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect;
[CONCL B:] this being, furthermore, has these qualities essentially and exists in every possible world.
To understand this, it may be necessary to take it slowly, point by point, and we may want to read the wider context, here. And, a "simpler" and more commonly used formulation will follow. Where also, we can understand that we can speak of possible vs impossible beings:
POSSIBLE: A Unicorn (a horse with a horn, which could exist in a possible world . . . and since gene engineering now exists is quite likely to exist in our world within 100 years as people will pay good money to own or even see one)

IMPOSSIBLE: A Square Circle (as attributes of circularity and squarishness contradict so both cannot be simultaneously met in the same being in the same place under the same circumstances)

Likewise, we may discuss among possible beings the case of a flame:

This being is obviously possible, and depends on there being (i) fuel, (ii) oxidiser, (iii) heat and (iv) an un-interfered- with combustion chain reaction -- the fire tetrahedron which extends the fire triangle you may have met in a safety class. (The reason for that is that Halon extinguishers directly interfere with the chain reaction.) These are enabling on/off factors that are each needed and jointly sufficient for a fire to begin or exist:

Thus, a fire is a contingent being, which because of dependence on enabling factors which may or may not be absent, is possible but does not exist in all possible worlds; in particular -- as striking and extinguishing a match shows -- it may begin and end. 

But we may consider another case: if a candidate being instead is possible and does not depend on such factors, it is NECESSARY. Such a being would have no beginning or end, and must be in any possible world. For instance the truth asserted in the proposition 2 + 3 = 5 never began to be true, and will always hold.  Likewise, it can be shown that numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 . . . exist in all possible worlds. For, we can begin from the set that collects nothing, the famous empty set of mathematics, and abstractly construct the natural numbers, which entails the existence also of mathematical operations that combine them:
{  } --> 0
{0} --> 1
{0, 1} --> 2
{0, 1, 2} --> 3
. . .
In short, there is literally no shortage of actual necessary beings, though -- wisely, I think here of the debacle of the New Math educational experiment in the 1960's where teachers who often did not understand what they were handling themselves, were trying to teach students ideas they too often were not ready for -- we don't usually think in such terms. And, imagine, when we were in elementary school learning 1, 2, 3 and 2 + 3 = 5, we were sitting next door to some of the most profound mysteries that we can contemplate!

(And in case you are puzzled by there existing a literally infinite number of necessary abstract beings, the classical theistic understanding of such things is that these abstract entities are eternally contemplated by a maximally great Mind, aka God.)

The key point here, though, is that a serious candidate necessary being -- flying spaghetti monsters etc need not apply -- will be either impossible or actual.

Which, is where the existence of God, an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent,  omni-benevolent mind independent of other beings for existence and causally adequate to account for a credibly contingent observed cosmos that from core physics on up seems massively fine tuned for the existence of Carbon Chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life comes in. (That is, the issue of a necessary being at the causal root of the observed cosmos is not merely arbitrarily pulled out of thin air and fevered imagination; we are trying to identify a best candidate to fill the bill, and a maximally great being with all great making properties to fullest aggregate extent and no lesser making properties is an obvious candidate to beat. Where also, as we saw, being eternal is directly connected to being necessary as a being.  Also, a truly necessary being -- a successful candidate -- will exist in all possible worlds. [To see why, try to imagine a coherent world in which 2 + 3 = 5 does not hold, or by contrast one in which square circles exist.])

That is, we see already why it is so that God will either be impossible, or actual.

Another -- simpler -- way of putting the modal ontological argument helps us see that from a fresh angle:
 P1: It is possible that a Maximally Great Being (MGB) exists [--> where such a being has greatmaking properties and no lesser making ones, to the maximal degree; and will be a successful serious candidate necessary being, NB]
P2: If it is possible that a MGB [--> inter alia a serious candidate NB] exists, then a MGB exists in some possible world
P3: If a MGB exists in some possible world, then a MGB exists in all possible worlds [--> As,
(P3.1) a serious NB candidate will be impossible or else will exist in any possible world, and
(P3.2) existence in one possible world directly indicates that the candidate being is possible, and where

(P3.3) something like a flying spaghetti monster will be material, composed of arranged parts etc, and will thus not be necessary . . . this also tells us something about constraints on what a NB can be like -- a mind or abstract entities are serious candidates (and, immediately, we see that materialists or those deeply influenced by evolutionary materialism dressed up in a lab coat, will have endless conceptual difficulties with necessary beings; I suggest a glance here on in context to begin to see the inescapable incoherence and self-refutation of such evolutionary materialism. Never mind the lab coat and the boasts of being rational, evo mat for short is inescapably self refuting and irrational. This is already an important side benefit of reflecting on this topic.)]
P4: If a MGB exists in all possible worlds, then a MGB exists in the actual world [--> the one that we know to be instantiated, all around us]
P5: If a MGB exists in the actual world, then a MGB exists
C6: A MGB. . . which is in effect, God . . .  exists.
So where does this complex chain of reasoning stand?

It is valid [as can be shown technically using propositional calculus . . . but is also intuitively plain], and in fact given the logic of being, possibility and contingency vs necessity, premises 2 - 5 are not generally controversial. The key issue, then, is the truth or otherwise of P1: it is possible (not IMPOSSIBLE) that a MGB exists.

You can of course reject P1, but at a price: showing (not merely asserting or skeptically implying or playing at knocking over strawmanised parodies, etc.  . . . ) the impossibility of a MGB.

Tough row to hoe (especially after the same Plantinga sank the deductive problem of evil several decades ago . . . which used to be a favourite atheistical argument to claim that God as conceived by theists was impossible).

But also, we see that a being that is necessary is eternal, and one that has maximal excellence across possible worlds with no lesser making properties will be omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent, eternal (which entails NECESSARY), etc.

All of which sound oh so familiar.

As in, Moshe at the Burning Bush, responding to the Divine Call (long, long before people thought through the above chain of argument):
 Exodus 3:13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, I am who I am.[g] 

This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

15 God also said to Moses,
“Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord [--> YHWH, often rendered YAHWEH or JEHOVAH],[h] the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.
 16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt . . .
Likewise, let us read one of the calls to penitence in the Bible:
Is 55:1  “Come, all you who are thirsty,
    come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
    and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    and you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me;
    listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    my faithful love promised to David.
See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
    a ruler and commander of the peoples.
Surely you will summon nations you know not,
    and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel,
    for he has endowed you with splendor.”
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call on him while he is near.
Let the wicked forsake their ways
    and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
    come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
    without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
    so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
    and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
    for an everlasting sign,
    that will endure forever.”
[Both, current edn NIV]

The God of the Bible, from the beginning, revealed himself to be The Great I AM (i.e. Eternal Being Himself -- the root of being and Creator), and effectively all-benevolent, all-knowing, all-wise [Reason Himself], utterly Sovereign Lord, Dread Judge, all-powerful to achieve his ends through his Word. 

Which, we can now see, are utterly, deeply rich with philosophical implications well ahead of their time. Seen by revelation, not by abstract speculation, and which helped trigger the 800+ years of difficult but pivotal thought that we have so desperately compressed above.

Just as Is 55:8 - 11 promised . . .

Food for thought, more to come, DV. END

PS: For more extended and elaborate discussions, I suggest Wartick here and Pruss here.

PPS: I noticed a pickup here Oct 23, 15. A very interesting point is made there by WL, which I take liberty to excerpt:
I think CB is saying that he's having difficulty with premise 3: "If God (the MGB) exists in some possible worlds, then He exists in all possible worlds."
I think the best way to look at it is to recognize that these alternatives are exclusive of each other and exhaust all the possibilities:
  1. God exists in every possible world (i.e. God is necessary)
  2. God exists in no possible world (i.e. God is impossible)
  3. God exists in some possible worlds, but not every possible world (i.e. God is contingent)
These three alternatives, by the way, apply equally to anything. WL is either necessary, impossible, or contingent also. Take a moment to convince yourself that this is true.
Now, the key insight of the modal argument is realizing that the definition of "God" does not permit any contingent being to satisfy the definition. It can't 'turn out' that a contingent being is God.
That rules out alternative 3 and leaves us with these two alternatives:
  1. God exists in every possible world (i.e. God is necessary)
  2. God exists in no possible world (i.e. God is impossible)
If God exists in any possible world, then option 2 is ruled out, then we are left with option 1. That is to say that if God exists in any possible world then God exists in all possible worlds. To put it another way, if God is possible, then God is necessary.