Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where Greg Kroah and Linus are wrong.

This post is about to step on more toes than probably any post i've had before.

The subject draws from this page on Kroah's site : http://www.kroah.com/log/linux/ols_2006_keynote.html

and the comment by Linus that "Linux is Evolution, not Intelligent Design."

My first thought was, Good thing that Linus is a computer programmer and not a Chemist, Biologist, or any other kind of scientist.

Now, the first thing we need to do is actually set the definitions. The problem is a lot of people involved in the Intelligent Design debates are using the same vocabulary, the same words, but the meanings behind the words are completely different.

Lets call Intelligent Design for what it is: Creationism. It is the belief that a higher power created everything, from the atoms to the molecules, to the very life that we live.

Now, there is a lot of evidence to support Creationism. Proponents of Creationism cite the statistical chances of a single string of amino acids coming together in such a way to create life. You'll also hear arguments relating the lack of any fossil record indicating transitional species. Some will point to the problem that where did everything come from? How did matter come to exist to begin with? Some Creationists will point out that while there are ample examples of Homo Sampiens diverging from each other in skin tone, average hight, average health, and facial features, and while such separation is found in birds, monkeys, and other animals, there has never been located a mid-species.

All dogs found so far are still dogs. All cats are still cats. There isn't a single "cog" to be found. No dog has bred into a cat, and no cat has ever bred into a dog.

Others will conveniently point out how most dating methods, such as Carbon-14 dating just happen to stop working after the time period estimated for the world to have existed in the Jewish Torah and Christian/Muslim Bibles.

The problem behind Creationism isn't for lack of scientific backing or number crunching. The problem is this: What do people want to believe.

Many scientists, while signing off that Creationism is backed by hard science, are not willing to sign off that the Creator is the God of the Jews, the God of the Christians, and the Semi-God of the Muslims.

Most of these class of scientists are known as Deists. They believe there is a higher power, but that they either cannot know, or cannot understand the higher power. They collectively, are not comfortable with what they see as "Organized Religion." They'll cite examples from the times of the reign of the Catholic Church and the old England Anglican Church in which science was oppressed. You'll also hear such lines as "Why would a Loving caring God allow this to happen." They'll look at cancer or other diseases, and decide that whatever higher power there is, it can't be the same one that the Jews, Christians, and some Muslims pronounce as being in control.

Another popular class of scientists are those who believe in extra-planar forces. Their theory is that something created the world in which we live, and the universe, but it isn't, or wasn't, a God. It was some external force that we can't comprehend, or simply don't have the technology to understand. These guys are mostly represented out in public by the UFO wack job who claims midnight abductions and crop circles.

Because of the bad reputation that the wack jobs bring those who believe in extra planar forces, most of them aren't exactly in a hurry to spout their theories.

Intelligent Design then, was created as a catch all term. It was supposed to be a banner that all those who rejected anything but a higher power could gather under. It would not matter if you believed in Jesus/Yaweh, another un-named or unknown God, or no God at all.

Evolution, on the other hand, is harder to define and classify.

There are two types of Evolution.

Horizontal Evolution is based in fact. Humans who live in climates closer to the Equator have higher skin pigmentation, and therefor a darker skin color. Humans who live away from the equator have lighter skin colors, almost a pale white. Humans who live kind of in between have a yellow or brownish color overall.

Yes, Blacks from South America, Africa, Indonesia, and Persia.
Whites from Europe.
Asians, from Asia, Japan, and North American Indians.

Horizontal Evolution is also found in other animals. Birds, such as Finches, can have longer beaks than cousins in a different location. Dogs bred near the equator generally have less fur than say, a Husky or a Saint Benard who works the Swiss Alps or Alaska.

The traits of horizontal evolution are marked by a change in what something is capable of doing, rather than what something is.

However, horizontal evolution does not result in a higher form being reached. A dog with a heavy fur coat, while perfect for snow covered wastelands, is going to be miserable in South Central Georgia. A finch with a long thin beak, will find it easy to snatch bugs out of bark on trees. The same finch, when asked to break open a nut or fruit, is going to be quite out of luck.

The same example is found in a shrimp, the Rimicaris exoculata, which has developed an light sensitive organ on it's backside. That was reported by Discover back in 2001. The shrimp did not improve as a whole. It, instead, changed to fit its environment.

Horizontal Evolution is also subject to the laws of physics, specifically the laws of Thermodynamics. David Morgan-Mar had a humorous look at the Three laws of Thermodynamics here http://www.irregularwebcomic.net/431.html

  1. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that energy is conserved. You can't create energy from nothing, nor can you destroy it. Since heat is a form of energy, you're stuck with it, unless you convert it into some other form of energy or move it away. Since you can't get something for nothing: You can't win.
  2. The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that heat will only flow from a region of higher temperature to one of lower temperature. To move it the other way, you need to supply some extra external energy to do the work. So moving energy in any useful direction that doesn't happen naturally requires you to put in additional energy. You can't even use the First Law and say "the total heat content is equal, so just move the heat from the cold place to the hot place" - it won't happen: You can't break even. However, the efficiency with which you move energy around is related to the temperature. The colder the better. If you could get to absolute zero, you could break even, just. But:
  3. The Third Law of Thermodynamics states that it's impossible to reach absolute zero. As you make a system approach absolute zero, the process that you are using to cool it down slows down. It sucks smaller and smaller amounts of heat away (and you're using tons of energy to power this ├╝ber-refrigerator), and you can never suck away that last bit of heat to get it to absolute zero. Since you can't even get to the place where the Second Law lets you do things with 100% efficiency: You can't get out of the game.

Basically, with Horizontal Evolution, there is no net gain on abilities. Dogs that develop heavier coats become poorer suited to warmer environments. Dogs without heavy coats are poor choices for the Iditarod. Finches with long beaks are best suited to hunting bugs. Finches with heavy beaks are best suited to breaking things open. The best that can be hoped for in Horizontal Evolution is to get as close to Law #2 as possible, and attempt to break even.

Horizontal Evolution also accounts for Mutations, be it by strict Genetic means, other Biological Means, by Chemical means, or by Radiation methods. Those fall in under Law #3, you can't get out the game.

The next type of Evolution is based in dreams. That is Vertical Evolution. Now, I personally admire anybody who seriously believes in Vertical Evolution. I really do. I wish I had the faith to believe that I came from nothing. I wish I had to faith to believe that without a fossil record or any living examples of a transient species, that I can from a Monkey. If only my faith were that strong to believe in total manure.

Now, it isn't a question that Vertical Evolution is patently false. Chemist Michael Behe has several books out poking holes in the theory, and there is little reason for me to recover well established ground. http://www.arn.org/authors/behe.html

Going back to the Three Laws of Thermodynamics, Vertical Evolution is in clear violation of Law #1, which is You can't get something for nothing.

Vertical Evolution is also in violation of Law #3, You Can't Get out of the game. Vertical evolution assumes at some point that a higher nexus point has been reached and there is a clear separation between what is and what was.

Vertical Evolution proponents are marked by promoting manure like the Big Bang Theory, telling people that humans descended from Monkeys, and so on. That monkey part greats on my nerves the most. Wouldn't it be "ascended" from Monkeys anyways? Last time I checked a Monkey hadn't created a Space Shuttle or designed something as complex as an Intel Pentium Processor.

So, why do we hear a lot about Vertical Evolution and Horizontal Evolution, and why is Creationism openly mocked by the Mass Media?

I'll try to avoid pointing the political party that by and large runs the Associated Press and Reuters, as well as news outlets like CNN, NBC, and ABC but that actually has a large bearing on the perception in the non-scientists eye about what is going on in the fields of Biology and Chemistry.

The central problem is again, fragmentation. Everybody who believes in Vertical Evolution, BELIEVES in Vertical Evolution. The tenants behind Vertical Evolution don't allow much wiggle room for dissenters.

Vertical Evolutionists also have a distinct advantage in their choice of terminology.

Consider Intel for a second. Intel named processors based off of their Conroe design with the retail label, Core. So, whenever you talk about Multi-Core, Dual-Core, or Multi-Processor systems with Multiple Cores, you say Core. This forms a mental link between Intel and the word Core. Even if you talk about Dual Core Athlon64's, you still say, yeah, Core.

Vertical Evolutions work in the same way, albeit for a much longer time period. Any time a person talks about Horizontal Evolution, they still have to say, Evolution. By using the vocabulary of an established series of scientific facts, the Vertical Evolutionists have an automatic vehicle with which to associate their ideas.

That is why it is so important to clearly define the meaning behind the words.

Creationists, however, are at a disadvantage. Creationists are fragmented, which is almost by their nature. Most Creationists are probably also Conservatives who strongly believe in doing things themselves. They don't depend on a Group to provide support. It is their nature to be independent, and to think independently. Most Creationists will have arrived at their conclusions by crunching the numbers themselves. They will have looked up the archaeological records, themselves. They will have run the Amino Acid calculations... yes, by themselves.

The result is that when it comes to presenting their facts to the public, Creationists don't have a unified front to talk through. Intelligent Design was supposed to be that front, but it went against the very nature of who the Creationists were. Most Creationists also take it for granted that their view is correct. Many just don't see a need to combat the Vertical Evolutionists. To the average Creationist, the Vertical Evolution idea is about as absurd as Drinking your own Urine is healthier than drinking purified water.

It doesn't even merit consideration, much less action. That, by and large, is now considered to have been a mistake by many Creationists. Rather than fighting early and removing the Vertical Evolutionists years ago, the Creationists are now having to fight an idea that has succesfully hijacked established scientific fact.

That is why you probably haven't heard much from the Creationists, but, if you pick up an average college textbook, you'll read a lot of Vertical Evolution-ism.

Okay, so where exactly does Linux fit into the mix of these two scientifically established methods, and the farce.

Linux is a mixture of both Horizontal Evolution and Creationism.

One one hand, as Kroah and Linus state, Linux moves to fill a need. If somebody needs support for a RAID card or for a Multi-Processor system, Linux moves in and fills in the requirement for that product.

However, the movement is not strictly horizontal evolution. A higher power, in this case the coder, the maintainer, or the guy who checks the code into the CVS, makes sure the code does what it is supposed to.

Nor is there a trade off on the development. Just because a RAID Driver was created does not mean that a Sound Driver was removed, which would be the case in a strict enviroment of Horizontal Evolution.

That is also the mark of Creationism. Something was created. Now, the process might be implemented in the method of Horizontal Evolution, and in most cases Open Source development strikes a balance between the two.

But when it comes down to it, you can't escape the fact that Linus himself publishes the kernel everybody uses. Would not that make him the ultimate end point, and thus the originator of the Intelligent Design behind Linux?

So, in the end, Mr. Kroah and Linus are wrong. Linux is both Creationism and Horizontal Evolution.

Trying to pigeonhole the Open Source process in one section or the other just doesn't work. Nature doesn't work that way either.

Supplemental to this post is located here : http://zerias.blogspot.com/2007/03/supplemental-development-of-linux.html
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