Jeffrey Shallit posted Entry 1186 on July 7, 2005 04:19 AM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/1184

In a recent blog entry, William Dembski alleges I am guilty of various and sundry offenses, but avoids once again answering my critiques of his work.  I doubt his smokescreen will convince anyone except the usual sycophants, but in case anyone takes his bluster seriously, I’ll make a response.

1.  He claims I have “harass[ed] anyone who endorses [his] work”.  I categorically reject this charge of harassment.  (A lawyer acquaintance of
mine informs me the charge is probably actionable.)  Here’s what really happened.

What I have done is to send copies of my critique to several people who have endorsed Dembski’s work, and I also asked some endorsers if they thought they had the mathematical training needed to arrive at a thorough assessment of his claims.  (Some, such as Senator Rick Santorum, or Robert P. George, clearly do not.)

Most of the Dembski endorsers never replied.  With some, such as Andrew Ruys at Sydney (whom Dembski alluded to but did not name) I have had spirited and enjoyable e-mail conversations.  Not a single endorser ever asked me to stop contacting them or has expressed any objection to my having contacted them.

With respect to the “mathematician at Oxford” that Dembski refers to, that could be John Roche.  Once again, I had a pleasant conversation with him by e-mail.  Not only that, he agreed that I had made some good points and that my critique was serious and intended to ask Dembski about it.  I never heard any more from him.  I have had no indication from him that he felt our good-natured correspondence constituted “harassment”; to the contrary, he generously thanked me for my comments.

Or perhaps the “mathematician at Oxford” was John Lennox.  He is listed on ISCID as a “fellow”, which means he is someone who has “distinguished [himself] for [his] work in complex systems”.  I know of Lennox’s work in group theory, but I had not read any papers of his on “complex systems”, so I wrote to him to ask where I could find them.  He replied that he had none, and that perhaps someone at ISCID was a bit too enthusiastic in labeling him as an expert in complex systems.  Now it is years later and he is still described in the same way on the ISCID page.  Professor Lennox never complained to me that he saw my question as harassment.

Of course, even if I had harassed supporters of Dembski, that would not negate my critique.

And isn’t it the pot calling the kettle black?  For years now Dembski has sent unsolicited email to many of his critics.  If sending unsolicited email about intelligent design is harassment, Dembski’s anti-harassment campaign should begin by examining the mote in his own eye.

2.  Dembski claims my “criticisms tend to focus on trivialities”.  This is wishful thinking.  My criticisms go to the very heart of Dembski’s claims.  For example, together with Elsberry, I dispute that Dembski’s “specification” is a coherent concept; I point out the inconsistent ways Dembski has chosen probability distributions, in order to make the outcome (designed versus not designed) fall the ways he wants; and I point our significant flaws in the proof of his bogus “Law of Conservation of Information”.  These are not trivialities; they are the essence of his argument.

As an example of a “triviality”, Dembski writes “[Shallit] spent three years trying to show that a quote widely attributed to Schopenhauer that I cited in my work was not actually written by Schopenhauer.” This is extremely misleading.  I began researching the origins of the bogus Schopenhauer quote long before Dembski used it.  I became interested in it because I had serendipitously run across it in many different contexts, attributed to many different people.  Furthermore, the quote is often used by advocates of fringe beliefs as justification for their work.  I consulted many people in my research of this quotation, including Schopenhauer experts.  All agree that Schopenhauer never said what Dembski claims, although he did say something vaguely along those lines. 

I flagged the quotation as bogus in an e-mail message to Dembski in May 2002.  He seemed uninterested, replying with a three-word answer:  “Prove me wrong.”  But of course I don’t have the burden of proof here; Dembski is hawking the quotation and so he has the burden of proof to verify it.  Quoting some website that does not give any original citation of Schopenhauer’s work does not fulfill the burden of proof.  I pointed out to Dembski that my forthcoming letter in Skeptic magazine would contain more details.  None of this interested Dembski, who then continued to use the bogus quotation in The Design Revolution.

Where I come from, making sure that the quotations you cite are really due to the person to whom you attribute them is called scholarship, and it is respected, not sneered at. 

For more details about the Schopenhauer quote, see http://www.pandasthumb.org/pt-archives/000102.html.

3.  Dembski claims “As for some number about which he keeps harping that I miscalculated in my book No Free Lunch, it turns out that when it is calculated correctly, it makes my case even more strongly.”  This is a blatant falsehood.  The number I am referring to is on page 297 of No Free Lunch.  On that page Dembski claims that the perturbation probability is 10-288, whereas the correct calculation gives about 10-223.  This means Dembski is off by 65 orders of magnitude in the wrong direction; in other words, his error makes the flagellum even more improbable than his absurd scenario suggests.  Fixing this error would make his case weaker, not stronger.

Granted, anyone can make an error in mathematical calculation; I have done so myself on occasion.  My point is the following:  any scientist who made an error of 65 orders of magnitude in a scientific paper would feel compelled to issue an erratum.  Why has Dembski never done so?  Along those lines, why is it that No Free Lunch has no errata page?  By contrast, my two books have readily-available errata pages.

4.  Dembski takes me to task because I have not corrected mathematical errors in other people’s work.  This is, of course, completely irrelevant to my criticism of Dembski’s work, and in any event but I have often criticized other people’s errors, as a glance at my reviews in Mathematical Reviews will show.  And since I have not even read the book to which he alludes (Simon Conway Morris’ Life’s Solution), how can I possibly be criticized for not correcting an error in it?

5.  Dembski labels me “obsessive” for criticizing his work (and also repeats the defamatory charge of harassment).  It seems the critic of intelligent design cannot win.  If the bogus claims of intelligent designers are ignored, proponents insist their arguments are so strong that they cannot be answered.  If ID claims are addressed, but not in great detail, Dembski dismisses the critiques as “uncharitable” or because they do not “engage my technical work”.  Finally, if ID claims are refuted point-by-point, Dembski calls the refuter an “Internet stalker” or “inhabiting a fantasy life” or “obsessive”.  Contrast this behavior with Dembski’s claim that “I always learn more from my critics than from the people who think I’m wonderful.”  If that’s true, it’s a strange way for Dembski to show his appreciation.

Of course, the issue is not whether I am “obsessive” but whether my critique is correct.  Dembski offers no reason to doubt that it is indeed correct.

6.  Dembski charges that I have engaged in conduct that is “frankly unethical”.  His only example is his claim that I wrote to Michael Ruse “asking that an article of his be inserted in the book [Debating Design] without my knowledge”.  This claim is simply false; I did not do that. 

What I did do was express to Ruse my confidential worry that if I were to submit my paper with Elsberry for the Dembski-Ruse volume, that Dembski would find some way to keep it out and thus achieve two wins: he would know my arguments before they were published, and he would keep the article from being published.  At no time did I ask that the article be inserted without Dembski’s knowledge. Ruse, ever the absent-minded professor, replied to my letter and accidentally copied Dembski —- not “appropriately” as Dembski claimed —- and Ruse later apologized profusely to me for this gaffe.  Ruse even offered to drop out of his collaboration with Dembski to atone for his mistake.

What’s so strange about Dembski airing this episode in public is that soon after the incident of the accidentally-forwarded email, Dembski and I spoke on the phone about it.  At the time, he accepted my explanation that my intent was not to have the article inserted behind his back, and he also accepted my apology for denigrating him to his co-author Ruse, something I should not have done.  I assumed the incident was over.  It is now very surprising to see Dembski’s revisionist history of the incident being put forth as a way to justify ignoring my critique of his work.  This is a classic example of the ad hominem fallacy:  Elsberry and Shallit’s critique is wrong because Dembski claims Shallit once did something unethical.

7.  In order to avoid answering my criticisms, Dembski uses the ploy that my critiques are out-of-date, since he has recently written two new papers on intelligent design.  Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt.  I am glad to see that Dembski has now repudiated his own bogus account of “specification”, but there are still many other claims he has not withdrawn.  The ball is still in his court, and he has not responded.

8.  Finally, Dembski claims that I am “making a name for [myself] by parasitizing [Dembski’s] work”.  This is hardly a credible charge, considering that my work in mathematics and computer science is well-known and respected, consisting of approximately 80 peer-reviewed papers and two books (with a third accepted for publication).  The preponderance of my scholarly work makes no mention of Dembski and his claims. 

In summary, Dembski’s “response” has addressed none of the issues Elsberry and I have raised.

Commenters are responsible for the content of comments. The opinions expressed in articles, linked materials, and comments are not necessarily those of PandasThumb.org. See our full disclaimer.

Comment #37075

Posted by The looney: Not just a Canadian dollar on July 7, 2005 10:11 AM (e)

Wow, is Dembski such a big name in the field of mathematics that being associated in any way (positive or negative) with his name would raise anyone’s stature? That idea sounds strange because I’ve never met a mathematician who knew his name. Honestly, getting involved in debates with IDers and creationists probably creates a net negative perception in the eyes of a scientist’s peers.

ID debating as a career enhancer: Dumb idea.

Question: How long do you think it will be before Salvador shows up to “take another grenade for Bill”.

Comment #37082

Posted by Bill Gascoyne on July 7, 2005 10:44 AM (e)

“Every great scientific truth goes through three stages: First, people say it conflicts with the Bible. Next they say it had been discovered before. Lastly, they say they always believed it.”
JEAN LOUIS AGASSIZ (1807-1883) (Who was an opponent of Darwin, but not a biblical literalist, by my brief Google research.)

Comment #37083

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 7, 2005 10:45 AM (e)

Dembski displaying contempt for basic standards of scholarship and running away from arguments he can’t answer? I am shocked!

Why won’t Dembski teach the controversy?

Comment #37084

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 7, 2005 10:53 AM (e)

ID debating as a career enhancer: Dumb idea.

Funny you mention that, when the ID article came out in Nature a while back I told the people who work in the lab I do that I regularly debate with creationists/IDists/cranks of various sorts (particularly abstinence and anti-vaccine). Interestingly, none of them could see the point of me arguing about ID at all, none of them knew who Dembski, Behe and the like were (until explained to them). Outside of the fundamentalist base in America, nobody really does care about creationists and neither is any of their ‘earth shattering’ literature paid any attention by the majority of scientists.

Arguing with IDers to ‘promote’ your career is silly, you’d be better off spending it writing in a lab. Then again, doing things in a lab is ultimately the entire point why IDers are ignored.

Comment #37086

Posted by Andrew on July 7, 2005 11:25 AM (e)

Salvador’s already there on Dembski’s blog, with his hilariously sycophantic comment (#1).

Comment #37100

Posted by Steve on July 7, 2005 12:34 PM (e)

In order to avoid answering my criticisms, Dembski uses the ploy that my critiques are out-of-date, since he has recently written two new papers on intelligent design. Sorry, but that dog won’t hunt. I am glad to see that Dembski has now repudiated his own bogus account of “specification”, but there are still many other claims he has not withdrawn. The ball is still in his court, and he has not responded.

Hey, where did Dembski do this? Is it online anywere?

Comment #37106

Posted by steve on July 7, 2005 12:48 PM (e)

I love when Dembski says this part:

As for Shallit reviewing my work if submitted to “real journals,” I’m afraid that’s unlikely to happen — his area is computational number theory, mine is probability theory.

Yeah, that’s unlikely to happen, but not exactly for the given reason.

Comment #37113

Posted by JRQ on July 7, 2005 1:08 PM (e)

In the comments, Dembski says:

“He would need to know a fair amount of functional analysis and measure theory — certainly beyond the usual exposure of grad students in math who are not specializing in analysis/ probability theory.”

Wait a minute here…what is it about his “work” that acutally does require a “fair amount” of anything beyond grad-level math? (that is, other than requiring good facility with deconstructing rhetoric)

I confess I follow his work only casually, and I certainly haven’t kept up with his recent stuff, but I recall a lot of his argument is just based on Fisherian statistical inference…what have I been missing?

Comment #37116

Posted by Brian on July 7, 2005 1:22 PM (e)

I have recently posted a comment on Dembski’s Blog. It is listed under June 23: New Article on Specification. He actually kept it on, which I was surprised. It seemed as though he did not read carefully where I showed that information, in the ecological sense, is not subjective nor objective, but then he accused it to being subjective. However, considering specifications as “background knowledge” (background for individuals I take it) makes it completely subjective and presupposes an intelligence that he barely even defines (I even criticized his idea of intelligence and showed that it is inadequate for a theory that focuses solely on intelligence, which is very harmful, but he did not comment on that).

Lastly, I argued that “You have only researched a small amount of information (at least you only written on a small amount of information out there).” However, he responded by stating, “Yes, I’m looking at a rather narrow problem. But it seems to me the approach to information that I’m adopting gets at the core issues in biology.” First, I did not state a “narrow problem,” but rather argued that he did not do his research and does not know about the progress in information theory and cognitive science.

Brian

Comment #37146

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 7, 2005 3:39 PM (e)

Nothing I read on Dembski’s blog surprises me any more. His blog is getting increasingly sillier, as evidenced by the doctored picture of men in tights wrestling and Dembski claiming it’s a metaphor of the ID movement.

As for this comment he made:

“As for Shallit reviewing my work if submitted to “real journals,” I’m afraid that’s unlikely to happen — his area is computational number theory, mine is probability theory.”

One can only wonder if he posted the paper to his website in order to impress the rubes if most people are in no position to judge it for or against.

Comment #37178

Posted by Tristram on July 7, 2005 5:33 PM (e)

The looney wrote:

Wow, is Dembski such a big name in the field of mathematics

Isn’t “Isaac Newton” a big name?
Sounds like the local fire brigade ought to keep an eye on Dembski’s pants.

Comment #37180

Posted by SirL on July 7, 2005 5:45 PM (e)

Dembski’s rantings are far from being free from contradiction. How can he both claim Shallit displays ‘obsessiveness in criticizing [Dembski’s] work’ and that the criticism is ‘completely out of date’?

Comment #37202

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 7, 2005 7:23 PM (e)

Posted by Tristram on July 7, 2005 05:33 PM (e) (s)

The looney wrote:

Wow, is Dembski such a big name in the field of mathematics

Isn’t “Isaac Newton” a big name?
Sounds like the local fire brigade ought to keep an eye on Dembski’s pants.

Posted by Tristram on July 7, 2005 05:33 PM (e) (s)

The looney wrote:

Wow, is Dembski such a big name in the field of mathematics

Isn’t “Isaac Newton” a big name?
Sounds like the local fire brigade ought to keep an eye on Dembski’s pants.

Hey, Dembski is the Newton of Information theory..

Comment #37207

Posted by shiva on July 7, 2005 7:45 PM (e)

Of course yes every IDixt craves attention and pompous ones even more than the usual. Shallit and Elsberry shdn’t waste time on this claptrap.

I am amused. SCordova seems to be pleading with Wes and Jeff to review Bill D’s latest “papers” in a post on antievolution.org while on Bill D’s blog commends Bill for having distanced himself from his one time mentor!

The entire TNR interview with conservativers on evolution seems to have been pasted in by Bill.

Comment #37208

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on July 7, 2005 7:47 PM (e)

Dr. Shallit,

Do you have any intention of publishing comments on William Dembski’s latest 4 papers:

Specification the Pattern that Signifies Intelligence

Searching Large Spaces

Uniform Probability

Information as a Measure of Variation

Short of that, have you seen any technical errors in Bill’s last 4 papers? Did his conclusions at least proceed correctly from his assumptions. I can respect that you may not agree with his assumptions, but was Bill’s logic correct?

Salvador Cordova

Comment #37210

Posted by Lurker on July 7, 2005 7:58 PM (e)

Like Dembski’s work, mathematical derivations that purport to reveal aspects of reality are irrelevant if they do not begin with assumptions that are consistent with existing data and do not reliable predict more data. Dembski’s work fails on both counts. In the end, his papers are nothing more than symbol manipulations.

Comment #37216

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on July 7, 2005 8:27 PM (e)

Dr. Shallit,

I reviewed your one of your last critiques of Dembski’s work:

Response to Elsberry and Shallit 2003

Though I appreciate your even tempered tone with regard to your former student, I must protest that your representation of CSI in Dembski’s was inaccurate. The definition Dembski provided for CSI:

Complex Specified Information :

The coincidence of conceptual and physical information where the conceptual information is both identifiable independently of the physical information and also complex.

You and Elsberry failed to cite the definition of CSI that Dembski provided. Your critique was therefore misplaced and essentially attacking a strawman. Had you utilized that defintion rather than your own representation of CSI you would not have thought the TSPGRID program generated CSI.

The TSPGRID program simply generated algorithmically compressible strings. Though CSI is sometimes detected in PHYSICAL objects that yield algorithmically compressible strings, the output of the TSPGRID program had no association with physical information in the sense that Bill intended. Thus I think Bill’s claim of an uncharitable reading by you and Elsberry is correct.

Salvador

Comment #37217

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on July 7, 2005 8:29 PM (e)

Re the appallingly-amateurish editing job on the doctored wrestler photo… here are early versions of illustrations that will accompany a couple of satirical pieces I have in the works: I call them (the illustrations, that is) Magister Dembski and Saint Stephen.

In the latter, I identify strongly with the figure at the right.

BTW, my comment on the Dembski blog page with the wrestler photo was “An amateurish and sloppy job of photo-editing — and therefore obviously the work of an intelligent design creationist … “.

Comment #37220

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 7, 2005 8:35 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37221

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 7, 2005 8:37 PM (e)

Hi Sal. Welcome back.

Last time you were here, I asked a few simple questions of you. For some odd reason, though, you ran away without answering.

I’m sure you won’t mind if I ask again. And again and again and again and again. Every time you post here. As many times as I need to, until you answer …

*ahem*

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

I look forward to your not answering my simple questions. Again.

Comment #37228

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on July 7, 2005 8:49 PM (e)

Milo and loonie’s posts have been deleted, and their IP addresses banned. I will do the same for any other insulting obscenity I come across. Through a combination of lack of time and the desire to promote open discussion, we don’t heavily police the comments on PT, but there are limits.

Comment #37231

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on July 7, 2005 9:17 PM (e)

Re the appallingly-amateurish editing job on the doctored wrestler photo… here are early versions of illustrations that will accompany a couple of satirical pieces I have in the works: I call them (the illustrations, that is) Magister Dembski and Saint Stephen.

In the latter, I identify strongly with the figure at the right.

You can actually preview one of the satirical pieces here

BTW, my comment on the Dembski blog page with the wrestler photo was “An amateurish and sloppy job of photo-editing — and therefore obviously the work of an intelligent design creationist … “.

Comment #37234

Posted by shiva on July 7, 2005 9:25 PM (e)

Sal Cordova:

I am not surprised that Wesley and Jeffrey ignored this “definition” of Complex Specified Information from Bill, “The coincidence of conceptual and physical information….….and also complex.”

This is simply a “clever” way of saying, “Complex Specified Information is information that is specified in a complex way.” As Danny Kaye did in his side-splitting classic of the School Inspector. “what is an Inspector General?” “The Inspector General is one who generally inspects.”

Comment #37238

Posted by primate on July 7, 2005 10:07 PM (e)

Sal,

I believe Dr. Shallit has already addressed CSI:

Jeffry Shallit wrote:

I dispute that Dembski’s “specification” is a coherent concept

Salvadore wrote:

Though CSI is sometimes detected in PHYSICAL objects

Can you provide examples of biological objects that have CSI? If you can, please identify the conceptual information without analogies to human design.

Comment #37239

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on July 7, 2005 10:09 PM (e)

“EmmaPeel” questions how trivial Shallit’s work is if it causes the production of two papers in response.

Bill, I’m confused. First you say that “[Shallit’s] criticisms tend to focus on trivialities”. Then in your responses to #2 & #4 you say his trivial critiques goaded you into writing two whole new papers in order to “develop a new line of argument”.

Isn’t that a tacit admission that they are substantive criticisms? Why would you go to the trouble to develop a whole new line of argument if the critiques were “trivial”?

Since you’re confident you’ve already “render[ed] the previous criticisms passé”, why not simply acknowledge that your opponents had made a good point and move on? You’d be the bigger man for it. I mean, did Darwin ever roll up into a defensive ball and snipe at his critics? No! He regularly gave his opponents their props for bringing up arguments that deserved a serious response. Admittedly, for his trouble Darwin ends up getting characterized by the more mendatious creationists as harboring private doubts about his theory. But I’m sure you agree that among respectable, honest scholars on both sides of the debate, Darwin has retained enormous respect after all these years for his open & gracious attitude to the debates over his theory.

I’m not familiar with the details of too many of the great scientific feuds, so I don’t know who’s the negative example to cite. All I can think of is Nixon & his enemies list. Eeew!

Comment by EmmaPeel — July 7, 2005 @ 2:08 pm

http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/155/trackback/

Comment #37243

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on July 8, 2005 12:08 AM (e)

Dembski likes to act like a massif immune to anything less than large-scale tectonic shifts. I think back to the 1997 NTSE conference and my telling Dembski about evolutionary computation and the problems it poses for his arguments. I note that Dembski has spent the rest of his career attempting, but failing, to deal with that. Dembski may not say much about my arguments, but his actions – taken as the argumentative content of his essays and books aimed at evolutionary computation – indicate that he did find something I said insightful after all.

Comment #37244

Posted by Apesnake on July 8, 2005 1:06 AM (e)

Jeffrey Shallit wrote

He claims I have “harass[ed] anyone who endorses [his] work”. I categorically reject this charge of harassment. (A lawyer acquaintance of
mine informs me the charge is probably actionable.) Here’s what really happened.

Oh please… PLEASE take action. After seeing creationists, Scientologists, Ten Commandment worshipers and others of similar ethical quality abuse the legal system right up to the Federal Supreme Court level it would be so sweet to see one of this people (a term I am granting them charitably) have to learn that libel and slander have consequences even if fallacies sophistries and the like do not.

On another note, I wonder how Dembski and his colleges manage to keep such high self esteem when their work (work - more charity on my part) is consistently exposed to be so very, very poor. They seems to have discovered the secret to eternal happiness in the face of crushing failure. It seems that ignorance really is bliss at some fundamental yet irreducibly complex level.

Comment #37245

Posted by William Dembski on July 8, 2005 1:43 AM (e)

Hi Thumbsmen. Check out my response to Shallit’s eight points at my blog: www.uncommondescent.com. By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. –WmAD

Comment #37246

Posted by 386sx on July 8, 2005 2:01 AM (e)

By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time.

You’ve only dropped that hint for the umpteenth billionth time, for crying out loud. So I don’t think the thumbspeople suspect that at all. (They can be a little dense, you know.)

Comment #37247

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 2:17 AM (e)

A brilliant non-response Dembski. I particulary like how you ignored point number 5 and turned it into a response on someone else entirely, ignoring the entire point of the argument put forward originally. Of course, saying that you ‘accept’ someones apology or reason at the time and but really not is something called ‘lying’ where I come from.

8. How many people know Shallit strictly for his work as a mathematician? How many of Shallit’s fans at the Panda’s Thumb even know what computational number theory is? How many know Shallit for his work bashing ID and me in particular? I suspect more of the latter

How many people outside of America and the creationist/evolution ‘controversy’ have any clue who you are Dembski? Could I go to my statistician professor tommorow and ask if he has any idea who the ‘Newton’ of Information theory is? Would anyone in the Mathematics and Statistics department at my university have even a vague idea who you are or what you write? None of the people in my department (biology though) knew who you were and neither could they name anything you had written. Then again, that is alright because they aren’t mathematicians and neither would I expect them to.

Perhaps I the same could be said for Jeffery Shallit above, it’s more than likely they wouldn’t know who he was either for that matter and I doubt if they were they’d know he ‘known’ for arguing against ID? I doubt it, because despite what you think in you’re own little world Dembski, ID is about as dead in the water everywhere else in the world except for the fundamentalist creationist Christians in the US. You accuse people of ‘cyber stalking’ you to gain fame or something, but in reality this is merely over stating your own importance. Without people on this blog, I wouldn’t have a clue who you were Dembski. Before I started coming here, I didn’t know anything about you or your books (which you’ll be pleased to know I bought so you can thank my New Zealand bananas as part of your royalties) which I subsequently had to buy. From where? The local creationists.

You know, you owe a lot to people like Shallit and those who ‘cyber stalk’ you for anyone (outside of America and those with an interest in ‘creationism/evolution’ debates) knowing who you were. They are your best advertising because even if you don’t want to admit it.

To answer you question incidently: No I don’t have any idea about what sort of work Jeffery Shallit does or what he has published. I am not a mathematician. At the same time, if it wasn’t for Jeffery Shallit and others here, I wouldn’t have had a clue who you were either.

Comment #37248

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 2:23 AM (e)

Perhaps I the same could be said for Jeffery Shallit above, it’s more than likely they wouldn’t know who he was either for that matter and I doubt if they were they’d know he ‘known’ for arguing against ID?

Argh, in editing my post I forgot to remove some of the old sentence as well, that should read:

“Perhaps the same could be said for Jeffery Shallit above, it’s more than likely they wouldn’t know who he was either and I doubt if they did, they would know him for arguing against ID rather than what work he does in the literature”.

Comment #37253

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:55 AM (e)

Salvadore wrote:

Though CSI is sometimes detected in PHYSICAL objects

Can you provide examples of biological objects that have CSI? If you can, please identify the conceptual information without analogies to human design.

I have a simple question about “Complex Specified Information” that, oddly enough, no IDer has ever answered for me. Maybe Sal can give it a shot:

Where, precisely, is this information that is presumably being “specified”? When, precisely, is it “specified”? And by whom? I think I smell a “Texan Marksman” argument here. I’d like an IDer to confirm it for me.

Alas, I know that Sal is lethally allerguic to answering direct questions, so I expect no answer from him. But maybe some other IDer would like to take a shot at it for me ….?

Comment #37257

Posted by SteveF on July 8, 2005 7:24 AM (e)

Number of evolutionary biologists I can currently see from my seat = 3.

Gets up…….asks quick question……

Number of evolutionary biologists I can currently see from my seat who have ever heard of William Dembski = 0.

Comment #37259

Posted by Randy on July 8, 2005 7:44 AM (e)

“By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. —WmAD”

Gee, Bill and I thought maybe you just did this ID stuff because you figured out a way to milk money from right wing groups–$20+K from the TMLC ($200/hr times 100+ hours), I could have a good time too for that much payola.

Comment #37262

Posted by Flint on July 8, 2005 8:25 AM (e)

Argh, in editing my post I forgot to remove some of the old sentence as well

There seems to be some principle operating here whose symptoms are known to most of us: Errors in our posts remain invisible until after the post has been submitted. No amount of correction, proofreading, previewing, etc. serves to locate these errors, which upon submission become instantly flagrant. This principle operates wherever it’s impossible to edit submitted entries.

Comment #37267

Posted by harold on July 8, 2005 9:09 AM (e)

William Dembski wrote -

“By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. —WmAD”

Well, I would have thought that ego defense/displays of cleverness, political ideology, and mucho dinero (by academic standards) counted for at least as much as “having a good time”.

But the idea that you don’t actually believe your own stuff - you said it first - hardly bends MY mind. To put it mildly.

Comment #37268

Posted by Lurker on July 8, 2005 9:14 AM (e)

“By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. —WmAD”

Explains “Waterloo”, Baylor and the Polyani Center perfectly.

Comment #37270

Posted by Andrew on July 8, 2005 9:21 AM (e)

“By the way, here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. —WmAD”

Oh, no doubt. I’m sure the doctors who are paid handsomely to endorse homeopathy and other crank notions don’t believe it, either – but being the well-paid hero to hundreds of thousands of idiots with disposable income is a hell of a lot more fun than, you know, doing real work for a living.

Comment #37271

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on July 8, 2005 9:22 AM (e)

Golly, even I get a mention in Dembski’s response. He seems to think that calling me nasty things changed my opposition to his ideas. I pretty much stopped updating my Dembski pages at AE in the spring of 2002, following posting various resources concerning Dembski’s No Free Lunch. That’s several months after Dembski’s supposedly show-stopping calumny. What else was going on, one might ask? As it turned out, my dissertation was going on. Many people have had to set aside avocations in order to complete a Ph.D. program, and I’m one of them. After completing my Ph.D., I ended up moving, and in the spring of 2004 helped start up and contribute to the “Panda’s Thumb”. I think people will agree that PT is a larger, more far-reaching resource than my set of pages specifically about Dembski.

As for Dembski’s feigned dislike of my pages on his work and criticism of it, I have email from him that states otherwise. On 2001/02/04, in Message-ID: LPBBKFGPKILKFEAMOFCDKEJCCLAA.William_Dembski@baylor.edu, he said that he was grateful for my efforts. On 2001/03/01, in Message-Id: 5.0.0.25.2.20010301101452.00a0c0e0@pop3.norton.antivirus (message cc’d to Paul Nelson), he stated his gratitude again, saying that my site had helped him recover materials lost in a hard disk crash.

Comment #37276

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on July 8, 2005 9:43 AM (e)

primate asked:

Can you provide examples of biological objects that have CSI? If you can, please identify the conceptual information without analogies to human design.

Genetically modified foods are PHYSICAL artifacts exhibit CSI almost beyond question for the very reason we were the designers. This is the kind of CSI whose symbols, as far as we know, not algorithmically compressible, unlike the TSPGRID program mentioned in Elsberry and Shallit’s paper.

The question remains of course in regards to pre-existing biotic design by supposed designers which we have never met. If one cannot accept such possibilities, I respect that.

As far as detecting design without analogy to human design, I do not know how that would be possible. The explanatory filter will generally detect designs which a designer is willing (if not eager) to have detected.

Bill Dembski has pointed out “masters of stealth” will evade the Explantory Filter. Thus as far as I know, the EF will detect only designs which we have specifications for, and that means designs analogous to our own.

Denton describes the independent human analogous specifications this way:

Michael Denton writes in Evolution a Theory in Crisis:

We would see that nearly every feature of our own advanced machines had its analogue in the cell: artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction. In fact, so deep would be the feeling of deja-vu, so persuasive the analogy, that much of the terminology we would use to describe this fascinating molecular reality would be borrowed from the world of late twentieth-century technology.

One independent specification, one very special platonic form which we find both in advanced technology human designs and in cellular designs is the Turing Machine (a finite approximation of Turing Machine to be exact). I consider biological Turing Machines to be a clear example of a PHYSICAL biological artifact that exhibits CSI. Many here at PT would reject that thesis, but I consider a worthy candidate of further exploration.

Salvador
PS
Nick, thank you for your moderation of this thread. I will seek to ensure you are afforded similar courtesies if you ever visit ID friendly discussion boards. Thank you.

Comment #37278

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 9:57 AM (e)

Genetically modified foods are PHYSICAL artifacts exhibit CSI almost beyond question for the very reason we were the designers.

And this is where all ID falls down into pseudoquakery but you don’t even realise it. Why? Very simple: We know EXACTLY who the designer is when it comes to making a transgenic plant. A biologically engineered virus and many other things that we could use the ‘EF’ for in regards to biology.

Of course, the point here is the EF is worthless from the very beginning and never has a use. Why? Again, because we know exactly what methods we use to make transgenic foods and crops we can look exactly for the markers left by those methods to find human design.

Thus as far as I know, the EF will detect only designs which we have specifications for, and that means designs analogous to our own.

Of course, because unless you actually know who designed it, generally us, the EF is worthless. Then again, it’s worthless anyway because when you know who the designer is (IE us again) you don’t need it to determine a biologically engineered organism/pathogen: you just look for the known molecular biology techniques used to make them.

If ID actually nailed down a designer to begin with rather than being horrifically confused about who/what/it is then they could probably get somewhere.

Comment #37279

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on July 8, 2005 10:00 AM (e)

Lenny asked:
Where, precisely, is this information that is presumably being “specified”? When, precisely, is it “specified”? And by whom? I think I smell a “Texan Marksman” argument here. I’d like an IDer to confirm it for me.

We have the specifications of designs we detect. The Turing Machine is an example. So are specifications for liguistic architectures. Had we not had those “canned” specifications, we would not have cracked the genetic code. It was because we tend to look for designed platonic forms like a language processor we are able to successfully investigate DNA transcription.

The biological community is already using human analogous metaphors and specifications and projecting it onto biotic reality. The problem it poses is that the metaphors are too effective. We’re beginning to treat biotic reality as if were engineered, and we are the “reverse engineers” trying to reverse engineer the specifications.

Witness:
Bio-Informatics Paper

We present an analogy between living systems and informatics systems by considering : 1) the cell cytoplasm as a memory device accessible as read/write; 2/ the mechanisms of regulation as a programming language defined by a grammar, a molecular algebra; 3) biological processes as volatile programs which are executed without being written; 4) DNA as a database in read only mode. We also present applications to two biological algorithms : the immune response and glycogen metabolism.

Thus from the IEEE we have a clear case of using pre-existing specification in human designs to interpret biotic reality. Why is there a correspondence? This correspondence (coincidence) between human designs and any other example of phyiscal information is CSI. Dembski has shown this coincidence of architecture can not be reached by Darwinian pathways for sufficiently complex artifacts.

Lenny said:

Alas, I know that Sal is lethally allerguic to answering direct questions, so I expect no answer from him. But maybe some other IDer would like to take a shot at it for me ….?

I’m afraid you’re wrong Lenny. I answered to the satisfaction of ID friendly lurkers.

Salvador
PS
I’d like to acknowledge Dr. Richard B. Hoppe for discovering the above referenced paper by the IEEE.

Comment #37282

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 10:07 AM (e)

I answered to the satisfaction of ID friendly lurkers.

You mean like answering these:

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

Care to answer those with this addition:

5. According to the scientific theory of intelligent design is the designer natural or supernatural, and how is the distinction made based on the detection of the methodology the designer used to create us.

Comment #37286

Posted by Salvador T. Cordova on July 8, 2005 10:23 AM (e)

Jim wrote:

And this is where all ID falls down into pseudoquakery but you don’t even realise it. Why? Very simple: We know EXACTLY who the designer is when it comes to making a transgenic plant. A biologically engineered virus and many other things that we could use the ‘EF’ for in regards to biology.

There is a nuance here that must be addressed. We can detect design without knowing the manufacturing details.

I have no doubt if the SETI researchers picked up a signal be it from an alien or an prankster human pretending to be an alien, the signal would still evidence design. The hypothesis that biological reality has signs of intelligent design is rejected because it has theological implications, not because it fundamentally has no chance of being ultimately true. The hypothesis is very reasonable. So much literature would not be devoted to trying to explain the appearance of design in biology if biology didn’t look designed.

Can we tell soley from any desgined artifact who the designer is independent any extra information? No. For example, I could not tell you the names of Stonehenges designers nor those of the Pyramids of Egypt.

I have no doubt a scientist should be able to recognize a design of an airplane or spacecraft for which he has no details of the manufacturing process or designers involved.

As far as who I believe the Designer is, I have my personal religious views, and those are relatively well known.

We can BELIEVE it is designed because we know humans are capable of such designs. But believing it is designed by intelligence is not the same as recognizing that a design has at least signs consistent with intelligence. Biotic reality at least, a first glance evidences “signs of intelligent design”.

In fact many, like Richard Dawkins and Douglas Theobald, see “design” by a blind wathmaker. Dawkins in particular sees design, but can not accept that the designer is intelligent as that has theological implications, and because he has neither directly seen God making things. I respect that. I suppose if Dawkins had seen God in the act of creating, he would certainly accept the detections of the Explanatory Filter. Barring that, he understandably decides he must invoke only naturalistic explanations, no matter how untennable.

IDists and creationists on the other hand are open to more exciting possibilities. As Behe said, it would be the greatest scientific discovery of all time. Seems like a lot of you guys at Pandas Thumb would be disappointed to discover the universe and life were made for a purpose. To this day, I never quite figured that out…

Salvador

Comment #37291

Posted by harold on July 8, 2005 11:13 AM (e)

Salvador Cordova wrote -

“I’m afraid you’re wrong Lenny. I answered to the satisfaction of ID friendly lurkers.”

This is true only if SIMPLY NOT ANSWERING AT ALL is “satisfying” to “ID friendly lurkers”.

Since a lurker is by definition ONE WHO DOES NOT EXPRESS THEMSELF OPENLY, this claim cannot even be evalutated.

If it is true, it merely proves that “ID friendly lurkers” don’t really give a darn about seeing ID defended intelligently and sincerely. When it comes to the ideas I do believe in, I like to see them defended competently, honestly, and completely, without resort to evasion or straw man distortions of opposing views (or flippant comments that “I may not really believe in this position at all” by the ostensible spokesman of my position). If ID friendly lurkers are satisfied, they shouldn’t be.

Comment #37295

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 8, 2005 11:28 AM (e)

Dr. Dembski -

Will clicking on the blog entry you referenced lead us to a page where you repudiate the HIV/AIDS denial which the magazine you supervise has directed at children and teenagers?

Honestly, if I had the choice of seeing you either respond to Elsberry and Shallit’s critiques regarding specified complexity or seeing you own up to actions that could literally get people killed, I would much prefer the latter.

Comment #37296

Posted by Hiero5ant on July 8, 2005 11:32 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'URL'

Comment #37297

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 11:33 AM (e)

There is a nuance here that must be addressed. We can detect design without knowing the manufacturing details.

Wrong.

As I said, we know a transgenic plant is designed by humans because we can test the exact methodology and mechanisms used to produce it. I notice that you completely failed to address this point at all and ignored it. Again, we don’t need the EF at all because we can merely look for the mechanism the designer [us] used. Without a mechanism ID is never going to get anywhere.

Can we tell soley from any desgined artifact who the designer is independent any extra information? No. For example, I could not tell you the names of Stonehenges designers nor those of the Pyramids of Egypt.

Is this pointless theory craft out of curiosity? It is pretty clear that we can establish the Pyramids were produced by people and Stonehenge is likely to as well. Again, because we have knowledge of a designer. All you are doing here is obsfuscating the point that all the ‘design’ we see in the world is confirmed to be designed because we know of the designer [us]. We have mechanisms and knowledge of the processes that humans use to make things, both inorganic and lately the living organisms we’ve begun to make.

Tell me, what has ID done in determining testable mechanisms for HOW designers both supernatural and natural use to ‘design’ life? You claim design, then go ahead and prove design by establishing the method of design. Anything else is just theology because it’s naturally asserting anything and everything as design.

Poorly designed structures? Design! Extremely efficient systems? Design! Functionless DNA? Design! Without a mechanism for a designer actually going through the process of designing you don’t have much of a theory.

I have no doubt a scientist should be able to recognize a design of an airplane or spacecraft for which he has no details of the manufacturing process or designers involved.

Because Sal, we can tell because we have a good comparison to another designer: Us. We have mechanisms, we can compare and determine something was made by comparing the mechanisms and processes we use [as designers]. We don’t use the EF or anything else, we use comparisons to other designers or us in other words. What does ID posit as the designer? What does ID posit as the designers methodology for producing us? Without these two questions having some form of support ID is worthless as a theory.

As far as who I believe the Designer is, I have my personal religious views, and those are relatively well known.

Which confuses me, because if I think about ID it rejects God by default. That’s right, ID rejects God to me for one simple reason:

If I posit the designer as a supernatural deity (IE God) I can see that many animals and people are badly designed in many respects. The female hyenas method of birthing, is the prime example of the sheer indifference of God as a benevolant and ‘perfect’ designer. The designer, to me is therefore rejected as being one that is supernatural and could ‘design’ things as being perfect. ID perfectly rejects God and supports a hypothesis of alien designers.

Alien designers could design things as we do. They aren’t exactly going to get it right and they’d be expected to have inefficient structures or leftovers, just as what you see when we try designing things like transgenic plants (left over antibiotic resistance markers). It provides strong evidence that, as we are the model designer (being the only known one that can manipulate living objects) what designed us would be more like us. This is also falsifiable inherently (unlike the supernatural designer) because if right we might be able to spot evidence of ‘alien’ inefficient design in our genomes. Maybe some of that junk DNA?

If I occams razored those two hypothesis, the supernatural one gets eliminated, because the simpler explanation is the one that posits the designer is one that is natural and would produce inefficient designs like we do.

We can BELIEVE it is designed because we know humans are capable of such designs.

But we also know about the mechanisms of design.

Where Sal, has ID made any inroads into actually determing what the mechanisms used for design were? Are supernatural design processes still carrying on today? How do you experimentally tell?

But believing it is designed by intelligence is not the same as recognizing that a design has at least signs consistent with intelligence.

Yes, by determining the mechanism as I’ve mentioned above for figuring out if a plant was transgenically altered.

You would use the EF on it, you’d be better to head straight to the core.

That would be an interesting test actually, would the EF in a blind trial be able to tell, with more accuracy, a series of transgenic plants from someone analysing the plants by looking for human methodology? The ultimate theory craft (EF) vs. mechanistic battle.

I know where I’d shove my money as well.

Biotic reality at least, a first glance evidences “signs of intelligent design”.

Fairy rings exhibit distinct design as well, yet clearly aren’t.

In fact many, like Richard Dawkins and Douglas Theobald, see “design” by a blind wathmaker. Dawkins in particular sees design, but can not accept that the designer is intelligent as that has theological implications, and because he has neither directly seen God making things.

But God didn’t make anything, aliens did and ID supports aliens much better than God. Our designs are inefficient and if we think about us as a model designer, and compare it to ‘life’ that you are claiming is evidently ‘designed’, the natural ID conclusion isn’t God. It’s a natural designer like we are that can quite clearly make some serious mistakes in their editing.

Anyway:

1) What is the mechanism for design and is it operating today?

2) Why is alien design not the best explanation for ‘design’ we see. Using ourselves as model designers, if life is designed (including us) and evolution cannot create new species, then aliens suddenly become a brilliant explanation for why animals exist as they are but in a flawed state (like what we would be able to do, if we created new lifeforms).

3) If 2 cannot be resolved, what does that posit as the designer? How does ID determine between natural or unnatural designers? If ID can’t determine what a designer is then that makes this ‘purpose’ stuff irrelevant anyway. How do you ascribe a purpose to a designer that you can’t figure out designed what (because you don’t have its methodology to know WHAT it designed) if you are not willing to name what that designer is? Basically, isn’t the whole thing pointless from the beginning unless you start with a designer? Surely that defeats the entire point of this “ID is neutral” to the designer garbage I hear.

Comment #37300

Posted by Brian on July 8, 2005 11:50 AM (e)

The problem, I think, of attributing design without knowing the details is the idea of information. Dembski’s idea of information already presupposes intelligence without adequately defining what intelligence is. For example, when we build a computer how does the creative force of the agent work? Dembski’s simplistic definition of intelligence is based on how ancients defined it “to choose between.” However, it has been shown in much of neuroscience that our naive idea of choice attributed to the “I” is misguided. The “I” emerges through emergence (another idea Dembski has a poor grasp on) through chaotic disruptions in the brain.

Information, in Dembski’s case, is seen as specification from “background knowledge.” Thus, information occurs from this “I” that he does not elaborate. However, contemporary theories on information is not thought, but rather, as I said above, chaotic disruptions that become concrete. In addition, information is notgenerated (Dembski is obsessed with “First Cause” argumentation), but rather information is what constraints exclude and the remainder is information. For example, when a ball is thrown against a wall, there are limited pathways that the ball can travel. However, take the wall away, the pathway/information has changed. Information is not generated at all, but changes through interaction (this is the emergence).

Brian

Comment #37308

Posted by Dene Bebbington on July 8, 2005 12:50 PM (e)

Joseph O’Donnell wrote:

“As I said, we know a transgenic plant is designed by humans because we can test the exact methodology and mechanisms used to produce it. I notice that you completely failed to address this point at all and ignored it. Again, we don’t need the EF at all because we can merely look for the mechanism the designer [us] used. Without a mechanism ID is never going to get anywhere.”

As Dembski likes to tell us: ID is not a theory of mechanism. In other words, he wants a vacuous “theory” of an unknown designer(s) with unknown abilities using unknown methods at unspecified times to usurp a well supported theory that explains the origin of species, nd the diversity and common descent of life. Clearly Dembski is happy with the idea that a “theory” which explains less should be the accepted one.

Comment #37314

Posted by steve on July 8, 2005 1:57 PM (e)

at 50 some-odd pages, it’s a hell of a beatdown Elsberry and Shallit give Dembski.

Salvador, if you read it, and actually believe it’s irrelevant, you need to improve your reading comprehension. CSI, like IC before it, is dead and buried. William Dembski is the John L. Sorenson of Information Theory.1[hr]1 http://www.rickross.com/reference/mormon/mormon33.html

Comment #37320

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 8, 2005 2:39 PM (e)

Salvador writes:”Genetically modified foods are PHYSICAL artifacts exhibit CSI almost beyond question for the very reason we were the designers. “

So CSI is a tautologous concept?

Comment #37325

Posted by prof-pupdog on July 8, 2005 3:18 PM (e)

Salvador wrote:

Genetically modified foods are PHYSICAL artifacts exhibit CSI almost beyond question

Thanks, Salvador–I’ve been trying to explain intelligent design and CSI to my colleagues, but could not think of an example of CSI. Now, just in case my colleagues ask, could you please help me explain how we can recognize that GM foods actually do exhibit CSI? I suspect they will want me to provide some sort of formal procedure so that they can look for CSI on their own. I’ll let you know if they find any.

Comment #37336

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:05 PM (e)

I’m afraid you’re wrong Lenny. I answered to the satisfaction of ID friendly lurkers.

Reeeaaallllyyyyyy.

Would you mind repeating your answers below? I seem to have missed them …. or are you just bullshitting me again, Sal?

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? And please don’t give me more of your “the scientific theory of ID is that evolution is wrong” BS. I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

2. According to this scientific theory of intelligent design, how old is the earth, and did humans descend from apelike primates or did they not?

3. what, precisely, about “evolution” is any more “materialistic” than weather forecasting, accident investigation, or medicine?

4. do you repudiate the extremist views of the primary funder of the Center for (the Renewal of) Science and Culture, Howard Ahmanson, and if so, why do you keep taking his money anyway?

Comment #37337

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on July 8, 2005 6:10 PM (e)

Lenny asked:
Where, precisely, is this information that is presumably being “specified”? When, precisely, is it “specified”? And by whom? I think I smell a “Texan Marksman” argument here. I’d like an IDer to confirm it for me.

We have the specifications of designs we detect. The Turing Machine is an example. So are specifications for liguistic architectures. Had we not had those “canned” specifications, we would not have cracked the genetic code. It was because we tend to look for designed platonic forms like a language processor we are able to successfully investigate DNA transcription.

The biological community is already using human analogous metaphors and specifications and projecting it onto biotic reality. The problem it poses is that the metaphors are too effective. We’re beginning to treat biotic reality as if were engineered, and we are the “reverse engineers” trying to reverse engineer the specifications.

That’s nice. now answer my question. I’ll ask again:

*ahem*

Where, precisely, is the information that is being “specified”. When, precisely, is it “specified”. And by whom.

Feel free to use any example you like to illustrate your answers; blood clotting, bacterial flagellum, whatever.

Save your arm-waving and vague generalities, and just answer my simple questions. Where is CSI specified, when, and by whom.

And please don’t make me ask you the same questions for three months, again, without any answer from you.

Although I will if you prefer.

Comment #37347

Posted by Bruce Thompson on July 8, 2005 7:48 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'b'

Comment #37350

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on July 8, 2005 9:37 PM (e)

Re Bruce Thompson’s tomato analogy:

The only way you were able to identify the fish gene is that you already knew its sequence, and the only reason you were able to infer design is that fish aren’t close relatives of tomatoes.

However, if you hadn’t already sequenced the fish gene, all you’d have is a chunk of tomato DNA that is different in the two tomatoes, with no clue as to the provenance of the different chunk, and no reason to suspect design.

The only difference between the two cases – already-sequenced fish gene, or not – is your prior knowledge, which is not a characteristic either of the tomato or of the fish, but a piece of side information that resides only in your head.

If the observer’s contextual knowledge can cause the same physical phenomena to be interpreted as either CSI or not, CSI would appear to be a pretty useless criterion for detecting design.

Comment #37352

Posted by Wesley R. Elsberry on July 8, 2005 10:12 PM (e)

Jon A. Pastor wrote:

If the observer’s contextual knowledge can cause the same physical phenomena to be interpreted as either CSI or not, CSI would appear to be a pretty useless criterion for detecting design.

Bingo.

Comment #37353

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on July 8, 2005 10:26 PM (e)

That’s what I keep asking these fellows. It’s why I thought it was rather hillarious a while back when Salvator was describing one of his ‘biology’ students that decided ID claptrap made any sense in regards to bioterrorism defence. Detecting ‘design’ in bioterrorism weapons by ID methodology would be pointless. According to them everything pings as being designed anyway and they can’t make their minds up what exactly it is. For example, was the whole virus designed? The genes in the virus designed? The protein designed?

The way you would detect ‘design’ in a human made biological agent is by looking for the tell tale signs of human methodology- not CSI which is worthless for making any sort of distinction.

This is why I find it interesting the IDers haven’t bothered running a proof of concept on their CSI hypothesis. If it works contrary to what I’ve said, then surely it should easily tell the difference between man made biologically manipulated organisms (Definite, 100% design) and those that are ‘natural’ or do not exhibit human design. The problem is, how do they drop the knowledge of the fact they know who the designer is? That’s the key thing, if they know who the designer is they can easily cheat beause rather than relying on CSI they wouldn’t bother. They’d do what anyone else would and just look for human methodology!

Making, for all intents and purposes, CSI worthless for any meaningful real world application except Christian/Raelian apologetics.

Comment #37354

Posted by Flint on July 8, 2005 10:36 PM (e)

Jon:

There has been some discussion along these lines before you got here. The basic idea is that we are equipped with a database of knowledge and experience which enables us to identify design when it matches closely enough with existing known design. This is Paley’s watch: Watches were well known artifacts in Paley’s time. What made his watch identifiable as a designed object was simply that watches were already known to be designed objects. Without this prior knowledge, the watch would be no different from a stone with a curious shape. And BOTH these items would be regarded as unique. No two stones are alike.

So you are entirely correct: context is critical and necessary. Paley’s watch was known to be designed because of Paley’s knowledge of watches. Dembski’s CSI is used to “infer” design only because in Dembski’s context, life is designed. If he did not already “know” this, he could not possibly infer it. Nor is it surprising that Dembski (nor anyone else, ever) has attempted to use Dembski’s techniques to infer the natural or designed nature of any object not already known to be one or the other. CSI is not an attribute that can be identified by analysis; it’s an attribute defined to be possessed by whatever Dembski believes his God chose to instantiate.

However, I do disagree with you about the fish. Fish genes in tomatos can be identifed by anyone not already familiar with this information, who happens to sequence the genes in both fish and tomatos and identifies the match. This match resides in the tomato, NOT solely in the researcher’s head. The knowledge that such a gene might be inserted is side information, of course. But if the researcher is not familiar with such techniques, he will tentative conclude some fairly close genetic relationship between fish and tomato, or conclude that a Designer did it, or attempt to find some other rationalization for this genetic match. But the match itself is real, not only in the researcher’s head.

Comment #37355

Posted by Bruce Thompson on July 8, 2005 10:48 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'b'

Comment #37356

Posted by frank schmidt on July 8, 2005 10:49 PM (e)

Salvador smirks:

Seems like a lot of you guys at Pandas Thumb would be disappointed to discover the universe and life were made for a purpose.

Actually I would be disappointed to discover that the Universe and life were made for the purposes you and your fellow IDC’ers so arrogantly assume, for that would mean that God was untruthful, and gave us reason and science as a cruel joke.

I will pray that you learn humility as you mature.

Comment #37357

Posted by Stuart Weinstein on July 8, 2005 10:54 PM (e)

Salvador writes “I’m afraid you’re wrong Lenny. I answered to the satisfaction of ID friendly lurkers. “

Sal, you have a lot of imaginary friends, don’t you?

Comment #37362

Posted by Jon A. Pastor on July 8, 2005 11:15 PM (e)

Wes-

Thank you, but the credit for this observation is really due to the lucid and unassailable logic laid out by a couple of dudes named Shallit and Elsberry, the authors of “Playing Games with Probability,” a chapter in Young and Edis, Why Intelligent Design Fails.

;-)

The right tool makes the job easy. You guys laid out the tools, and all I had to do was pick the right one and apply it competently.

-Jon

Comment #37423

Posted by Bruce Thompson on July 10, 2005 1:43 PM (e)

Jon A. Pastor wrote:

If the observer’s contextual knowledge can cause the same physical phenomena to be interpreted as either CSI or not, CSI would appear to be a pretty useless criterion for detecting design

Now I understand, I think. I need to cogitate on it.
I have read the Bingo reference, but will dutifully go back and reread the reference.

I have another question and a response. I’ll move to the bathroom wall.

Comment #37445

Posted by Bruce Thompson on July 10, 2005 11:17 PM (e)

Things are not quite straightened out in the bathroom, so I’m continuing my comments here.

Jon A. Pastor wrote:
If the observer’s contextual knowledge can cause the same physical phenomena to be interpreted as either CSI or not, CSI would appear to be a pretty useless criterion for detecting design

Ok, here’s what I don’t understand. At some point, doesn’t everything have to be evaluated in light of some piece of side information and it is that side information that is subjective? The side information places everything into context. This is circular, but I can’t see a way out, until one accepts the intellectually honest answer of “I don’t know”.

One example in the referenced paper uses life. The old old old fossilized high school biology argument was where to place viruses, what characteristics of life do they demonstrate that qualify them as alive? This is an extreme example of subjective side information. It seems to me, how you answer that question would affect the outcome of the filter. Starting with “I know the answer” (space aliens, you know who) directly affects subjective side information.

In my example, I inferred design because “I knew the answer” before I started. So the phylogenetic analysis supported my contention, ignoring any other possibilities. Any inference of design will be independently evaluated in light of side information. That’s why ID proponents can get away with the space alien analogy. If no one took SETI seriously then the analogy wouldn’t work.

So, I read the paper, wrote my response, reread your response, and it looks like what took you 1 sentence took me a several paragraphs. I feel more confident I understand, I think…

Minor rant which may be ignored.

My fundamental problem is that the ID/creationist arguments, starting from “I know the answer” combined with reverse engineering, are becoming so complex that refuting them takes specialists in specific fields.

I read Dembski’s papers through and
1. Pick out problems where I have counter arguments.
2. Toss out the mathematical symbols, some of which make no sense to me.
3. Reread and develop what I think are potential counter arguments.
4. Find and read a critique article.
5. Compare critique article with my observations.
6. Toss out my errors and try to evaluate errors I missed.
7. Try to formalize the arguments that are congruent between the critique article and my reading of the original article.

Distilling the arguments into everyday language is daunting.

End rant.

Comment #37473

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 10:00 AM (e)

“If sending unsolicited email about intelligent design is harassment, Dembski’s anti-harassment campaign should begin by examining the mote in his own eye.”

Uh, you mean the *beam* in his own eye.

Comment #37476

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 10:26 AM (e)

“If Dembski were trying to be a scholar, his inattention to accuracy would be a serious concern. But maybe we should judge his success on how well he achieves his goal, rather than Jeffrey Shallit’s goal.”

That’s disingenuous and downright stupid; Shallit isn’t making a judgment about Dembski’s success as an advocate – why should he?

Comment #37479

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 11:14 AM (e)

“There has been some discussion along these lines before you got here. The basic idea is that we are equipped with a database of knowledge and experience which enables us to identify design when it matches closely enough with existing known design. This is Paley’s watch: Watches were well known artifacts in Paley’s time. What made his watch identifiable as a designed object was simply that watches were already known to be designed objects. Without this prior knowledge, the watch would be no different from a stone with a curious shape.”

This sort of claptrap gives ammunition to those who claim evolution is religion. A watch is no more a stone with a curious shape save for familiarity with existing design than Leeuwenhoek’s microbes were curiously shaped dirt specs save for familiarity with existing design. Watches have characteristics that stones don’t, and microbes have characteristics that dirt specs don’t. Paley’s mistake was the inference of *intelligence*, not of design; he wasn’t aware that there’s an *algorithm* that can produce the same sorts of characteristics that distinguish watches from stones. Paley asserted that no one of sound mind would ever conclude that a watch was the product of bits of dust, dirt, and rock being shuffled together under natural processes; that even if the natural processes were allowed to operate for a very long time, there would still be no rational hope for a watch to be assembled. But Paley was wrong – human beings are a result of a natural process, and by extension so are the constructions of human beings, just as beehives and bird nests are the result of natural processes. To suggest that an unfamiliar bird’s nest, absent from any birder’s database, is no more than a curiously shaped clump of straw is to completely misconstrue both the argument from design and it’s rebuttal.

Comment #37482

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 11:37 AM (e)

“The hypothesis that biological reality has signs of intelligent design is rejected because it has theological implications, not because it fundamentally has no chance of being ultimately true.”

No, it is rejected because it violates Ockham’s Razor; because it’s the cheap easy sleazy way out for people too lazy or too stupid to do science. Anyone can declare “it was designed” and go home; but scientists do the hard work of figuring out the details and building predictive systems that give us the levers to shape our world.

“Dawkins in particular sees design, but can not accept that the designer is intelligent as that has theological implications, and because he has neither directly seen God making things.”

What an offensive ignoramus. Dawkins has declared that, prior to Darwin, there was no intellectually satisfying framework for atheists. Dawkins doesn’t accept an intelligent designer because he has something *far better* for a scientist, someone seeking to understand and be able to manipulate the way the world works. It’s like the difference between open source and proprietary code – the latter is opaque and inscrutable; it works in mysterious ways.

Comment #37485

Posted by ts on July 11, 2005 12:00 PM (e)

“… here’s a mindbender: Imagine that I don’t believe all this ID stuff but am just doing it because I’m having such a good time. —WmAD”

How is imagining you misrepresenting the facts “a mindbender”? It’s far more mindbending to try to imagine otherwise.

Comment #37530

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 11, 2005 4:39 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37535

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 11, 2005 5:21 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37538

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 11, 2005 5:31 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37539

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 11, 2005 5:40 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37549

Posted by Brian on July 11, 2005 6:56 PM (e)

I am unsure why Sal brings up the idea of a Turing Machine. The strict Strong AI has been mostly abandoned. Most of AI research is now focussed on how organisms can act withoutbeing programmed (having stored representations), instead they focus in interactions with the environment with affordances (see Andy Clark and Randall Beer for examples). Secondly, (and this follows from my point above), the idea of any type of processor is misleading. Organisms do not process environmental stimuli, but rather interact with environmental information, which shows that the specification of information is hardly dependent on a mind-independent entity. Instead, information is defined as that which leads to action, which means that the natural world is already meaningful and the meanings co-evolve through organismic interaction. Thus, ID’s definition of information is so far off base to adapt to biology and is just another mentalist approach that presupposes an a priori, pre-given, pre-made world; that is, a human bias.

Brian

Comment #37636

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 12, 2005 2:23 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37649

Posted by ts on July 12, 2005 4:12 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #37809

Posted by Rupert Goodwins on July 13, 2005 1:13 PM (e)

Not that any of this has any bearing on intelligent design, beyond showing that no intelligence is necessary for design — any design can be produced by a UTM, which can be a rather simple machine.

One of my favourite online devices is this:

http://rendell.server.org.uk/gol/tm.htm

which is a Turing Machine implemented in a Game of Life.

Now, what were those limits for complexity arising from simple mechanistic rules?

Comment #37839

Posted by Brian on July 13, 2005 3:50 PM (e)

Bot everyone in the biological community believe that organisms are computational devices, or little Turing machines. Some view that evolution is possible because the organism is tightly coupled with the environment. They co-evolve with one another. This view is in the ecological approach (autocatakinetics) and in the enactive approach (autopoiesis) to biological systems. For papers on the former go here: http://dennett.philosophyofscience.net/index.html and here:http://www.rodswenson.com/humaneco.pdf . For the latter, go here: http://dialog.net:85/homepage/autopoiesis.html , here: http://www.calresco.org/papers.htm and here: http://www.edge.org/documents/ThirdCulture/t-Ch.12.html . This last page is interesting since Varela speaks about autopoiesis along with Kauffman, Dennett, and others. Its hard to see if Varela subscribes to celluar automata since it is described as an input system where he goes against the idea of input/output systems.

Brian

Comment #38001

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 14, 2005 5:39 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'

Comment #38003

Posted by ts on July 14, 2005 6:21 AM (e)

The natural world is full of Cellular Automata.

Nope. Cellular automata are mathematical constructs.

One could say that there are no trees, only collections of molecules, but that would be bad faith. The natural world *is* full of Cellular Automata.

“Per the Church-Turing thesis, every computation is equivalent to some Turing Machine (you don’t need an infinite tape, since computations that terminate don’t use the whole tape).”

Not true either. Not all computations that can be implemented on Turing machines do terminate

Since I didn’t say or imply that they do, I can’t imagine what you’re on about. But notably, all real-world computations do terminate. Of course, if one insists on acting in bad faith, one can claim that there are no computations in the real world, because computations are mathematical abstractions.

Comment #38020

Posted by Brian on July 14, 2005 11:49 AM (e)

ts wrote:

One could say that there are no trees, only collections of molecules, but that would be bad faith. The natural world *is* full of Cellular Automata.

.

The way that I see it treating organisms as cellular computations is the same as treating trees as a collection of molecules. Computation theory presupposes that the world lacks enough information for an organism to act. However, as I stated above biologists are changing this interpretation, as in the autocatakinetics and autopoiesis. Here is a paper that criticizes the attempt to think that what organisms do is compute like mathematicians do. Especially a quote from Von Neumann, “Thus the out ward forms of our mathematics are not absolutely relevant from the point of view of eval u at ing what the math e mat i cal or log i cal lan guage truly used by the central nervous system is…. It is char ac ter ized by less logical and arithmetical depth than what we are nor mally used to…. What ever the sys tem is, it can not fail to dif fer considerably from what we consciously and explicitly consider as mathematics” (xii).

Brian

Comment #38021

Posted by Brian on July 14, 2005 11:51 AM (e)

Sorry, here is the link: http://www.imprint.co.uk/pdf/reclaim_Intro.PDF

Brian

Comment #38132

Posted by Arne Langsetmo on July 15, 2005 7:52 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'quote'