Posted by Mark Perakh on August 18, 2005 09:21 AM

I don’t read the stuff posted on Dembski’s sites for an obvious reason – I don’t expect to see anything there of substance and interest. However, I received emails from Dave Mullenix and Steve Verdon, who have quoted in their emails Dembski’s post, where he supposedly “replied” to my post titled “Skeptic on Dembski” placed on Panda’s Thumb (see here) and TalkReason (see here). This made me look up Dembski’s site to verify the quotes sent by Dave and Steve.

Here is the full text of Dembski’s post:

The Boris Yeltsin of Higher Learning

Mark Perakh, the Boris Yeltsin of higher learning, has weighed in with yet another screed against me (go here). The man is out of his element. I’m still awaiting his detailed critique of “Searching Large Spaces” - does he even understand the relevant math?

It is a perfect confirmation that I was fully justified in writing the essay “Skeptic on Dembski.” Typical Dembski: not a single word about the substance of my critique, and instead an assault on my qualifications. That is the same device he used when “replying” to Wein, Matzke, Tellgren, and others, avoiding the substance of critique but asserting the supposed insufficient qualifications of his critics. What else could be expected from Dembski whose supercilious self-assurance of being way above his critics has been well documented? How about saying something, for a change, about the substance of critique of his hackneyed “theories”? For example, how about reading my paper in Skeptic, v.11, No 4 and offering some replies to critique? I am not holding my breath.

Dembski’s demand that I discuss his mathematics is laughable. I have never promised such a discussion and never intended to engage in it, so why is Dembski “awaiting” my delving into his mathematical exercise? What math does he want to discuss? That which was dismissed in the math department of a Danish university?

The crucial fact is that his math is utterly irrelevant to both evolution theory and intelligent design so there is nothing to discuss insofar as these two subjects are in question, and I have quite clearly pointed to that fact in my post (see here). Moreover, Cosma Shalizi, David Wilson, David Wolpert, and Tom English, all four real experts, have said something about Dembski’s math and it was not very flattering. What else needs to be discussed regarding the piles of mathematical symbols in Dembski’s production? (See also the comment by mathematician Jason Rosenhouse (here).

Now Dembski attempts to be witty by calling me the “Boris Yeltsin of higher learning.” Very funny indeed. What is this preposterous appellation supposed to imply? It demonstrates that Dembski not only is not very good at science and math, but also that he is equally not very good at humor, even in “plain English.”

While verifying the quotes sent by Dave and Steve, I noticed a few other comments on Dembski’s site. While Dembski promptly deletes from his site any comment he does not like (which contrasts with how Panda’s Thumb behaves), he allows posting of libelous pieces like the comment alleging that I have not published as many papers as I claim. Perhaps I can briefly clarify some of the points related to this question for those readers who may be confused by the libelous comment on Dembski’s site. About half of my papers were published in Russian before 1973 (but most were later translated into English, as the Russian scientific journals all were translated in full, albeit with a delay). In all these Russian papers my name was spelled as M. Ya. Popereka (I changed my name in 1974). Still, a Google search does not show many of those papers. For example, I tried to find on Google a paper by myself and V. Balagurov on negative Poisson ratio. When searching by my name, I did not find it. However, when I searched for “negative Poisson ratio” it was right there (published in 1969).

When I was emigrating from the USSR, I was not allowed to take with me many of my documents and reprints of my papers. When already beyond the borders of the USSR, I had to recompile my list of publications and patents (in the Soviet parlance, “author’s certificates”) in 1973 from memory and therefore the list probably missed some items published in the fifties and sixties. Therefore I am not sure what the exact count of my published articles is, but I am confident it is close to 300 (perhaps some ten or fifteen items fewer than 300).

As Professor Andrea Bottaro has informed me, his search of ISI database for “Popereka M or Perakh M” revealed 111 of my publications, which, although showing the falsity of the libelous comment on Dembski’site, is still just a fraction of my entire published output. It is well known that in the fifties and the sixties (I published my first scientific paper in 1949) publications in Russian were often not duly referred to in the West (the situation started gradually changing after the USSR launched Sputnik - the first artificial satellite).

The last time I updated my list of publications was in 1985, when I applied for a position at CSUF. It already contained well over 200 items.

Indeed, I have not been active in research in recent years, but this does not change the fact that when I was not yet as old as I am now I published hundreds of articles and several books, and was granted a number of patents (most of them in the USSR). Instead, I have been recently active in debunking the nonsense propagated by pseudo-scientists which I believe is, although not very rewarding, a necessary activity.

Back to Dembski’s “reply” to my post. It speaks for itself and supports once again the statements I made in the “Skeptic on Dembski” post.

PS. In the same comment on Dembski’s site where its author alleges that I don’t have to my credit all those publications I claimed, he also asserts that I got only one degree from some Soviet institution and therefore it is not a good one, as the USSR has lost the cold war allegedly because its science was not on a par with that of the USA.

First, I have two doctoral degrees, one from the Odessa Polytechnic Institute (in 1949) and the other from the Kazan Institute of Technology (in 1967).

Odessa is also the place whence came Sikorsky, who, upon emigration to the USA, became the famous inventor of a helicopter. Kazan is the place where, among other things, the first of the known resonances in solids (the electron paramagnetic resonance) was discovered (by Zavojski in 1939). In 1942 Rabi in the USA, following in Zavojski’s footsteps, discovered nuclear magnetic resonance and was awarded the Nobel prize. Zavojski did not get it, despite his pioneering work. Zavojski shared the fate of some other Russian scientific pioneers (like Gamow) who never got the Nobel, while their followers in the West did. I see no reason to be ashamed of getting my degrees from these two fine institutions. On the other hand, the author of popular books allegedly reconciling the biblical story with science, Gerald Schroeder, who got his PhD degree from MIT, wrote in one of his books that masers emit atoms and that weight and mass are the same. Perhaps this is a sign of a superior status of degrees in this country as compared with the former USSR?

In a more general respect, the derogative remark in a comment on Dembski’s site about the alleged lower status of Russian science speaks a lot about either the comment writer’s ignorance or his deliberate distortions.

Were it not scientists in the USSR who went into space ahead of any other country including the USA? Have the comments’ writers to Dembski’s site never heard the names of such mathematicians as Lobachevsky, Chebyshev, Markov, Pontryagin, Kolmogorov, Kantorovich, Lyapunov, etc., etc., etc.? Or such physicists as Landau, Tamm, Basov, Prokhorov, Alferov, Mandelstam, Ginsburg, Frank, etc. etc., etc.? Or biologists such as Vavilov, Dobzhanski, (who came to the USA from Russia), Oparin, and many others? Or chemists like Frumkin or Chichibabin? Second rate science indeed. Nothing is wrong with my degrees, regardless of how much Dembski and his comments’ writers may wish it to be otherwise.

After the collapse of the USSR, thousands of scientists moved from the USSR to the West (many of them to the USA) where they were met with open arms in scores of universities and research centers because of their excellent credentials. As far as I know, Dembski’s status as a scientist is rather far from equaling that of those “inferior” scientists from the former USSR.