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Old 20 Aug 2009, 12:26 PM   #60062 / #1
BigEvil
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Default Dembski vs The Quibbles

I found this humorous.

Dembski announces over at Uncommon Descent a new peer-reviewed paper called New Peer-Reviewed Pro-ID Article in Mainstream Math/Eng Literature.

He describes the paper as follows:

Quote:
In it we critique, for instance, Richard Dawkins METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL (p. 1055). Question: When Dawkins introduced this example, was he arguing pro-Darwinism? Yes he was. In critiquing his example and arguing that information is not created by unguided evolutionary processes, we are indeed making an argument that supports ID.

I am in no way qualified to comment on the paper (I suck at math) but a few people found some alledged flaws with the article. At comment #9 (with 2 of the previous comments being from Dembski), Dembski can no longer handle the reviews and posts:

Quote:
I’m growing weary of these quibblings and thus shutting the comments off.
This coming so shortly after his assigning his students the task of defending ID at hostile websites, I found it funny that he couldn't defend his own paper on his own website.
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 12:46 PM   #60065 / #2
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If the IDiots ever expressed any kind of consistency, I would be surprised. That's funny. There have been many critiques of Dumbski's critiques in the past. I suspect that it won't take long before someone points out everything wrong with Dumbski's analysis (again).
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 04:33 PM   #60100 / #3
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Hey, PZ linked us in his Pharyngula blog. Cool.

By the way, we see that we have a lot of visitors today, presumably from Pharyngula. Welcome to Secular Cafe!

If you'd like to post, please register and we'll get you sorted. Or feel free to browse around if you prefer.

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Last edited by Ray Moscow; 20 Aug 2009 at 05:23 PM.
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 04:50 PM   #60104 / #4
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Is it just me, or are Dembski's answers always this lame?
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 04:57 PM   #60110 / #5
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It does not surprise me in the least, Bill Dembski is rapidly becoming the poster-boy for the finest in ID fucknuttery.



Quote:
Hey, PZ linked us in his Pharyngula blog. Cool.
Cheers, i suspect PZ will serve up a good riposte.
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 05:07 PM   #60115 / #6
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Quote:
Dembski: In it we critique, for instance, Richard Dawkins METHINKS*IT*IS*LIKE*A*WEASEL (p. 1055). Question: When Dawkins introduced this example, was he arguing pro-Darwinism? Yes he was. In critiquing his example and arguing that information is not created by unguided evolutionary processes, we are indeed making an argument that supports ID.
Wasn't Dawkins' point that a simple, unintelligent algorithm could build complexity from purely random variations if it had the capacity for preserving useful variations? Just like -- let's see -- natural selection?
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 05:25 PM   #60134 / #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Moscow View Post
Is it just me, or are Dembski's answers always this lame?
No, it's not just you. He doesn't know how to make any other kind.

And a big welcome to our fellow Pharyngulites!
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 05:48 PM   #60140 / #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Moscow View Post
Wasn't Dawkins' point that a simple, unintelligent algorithm could build complexity from purely random variations if it had the capacity for preserving useful variations? Just like -- let's see -- natural selection?
Either Dembski finds it hard to understand how natural selection works or else he is being intentionally obtuse. In his last response in that thread, he posted
Quote:
ppb: And the environment creates the information required for evolution to successfully locate a target how? Lots of environments lack the active information to conduct successful targeted searches.
I don't know what he means by "active information". How is one supposed to recognize it? Why is it supposed to be necessary?

I don't know how much programming skill he has, because if he has some, he could try writing a natural-selection optimizer like Richard Dawkins's.

I doubt that he has much, if any at all, because of how he was received when he showed up at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Despite his bragging about having gotten invited there, he got this response:
Quote:
In the hour at his disposal in front of a friendly-minded but mathematically knowledgeable audience, Dembski wove like a freshman about to fail. He repeated his heuristic, hand-waving arguments endlessly, drew stains on the blackboard, but didn’t produce a single result of any mathematical value. Unfortunately, this is also what a mathematician gets from reading his “mathematical” book, The Design Inference, which, incidentally, is widely used to scare people who are intimidated by mathematical equations. It looks impressive, but in actuality contains no coherent mathematics. But now Dembski can boast that he, as a researcher of Intelligent Design, was invited to the Niels Bohr Institute as well as the Danish Technical University. What he doesn’t mention is that he will never be invited again.
(translated by Rasmus Pedersen; from Skeptic on Dembski and Their Own Words, The Panda's Thumb)
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 07:03 PM   #60180 / #9
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Years ago I fought my way through Dembski's The Design Inference and No Free Lunch, the former being the published version of his philosophy dissertation. After deciphering his idiosyncratic notation, it became clear that he was committing the 'look back' fallacy in probability: taking some complicated event, assuming that the set of possible events was very large with a uniform probability distribution across instances, and concluding that the complicated event was really really improbable on a random selection basis. That's your basic "Well, duh!" result.

In the more than 10 years since TDI was published Dembski has never ever responded substantively to any critique of his "work." My favorite characterization of it is by David Wolpert: William Dembski's treatment of the No Free Lunch theorems is written in jello.
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 07:22 PM   #60188 / #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dembski
I’m growing weary of these quibblings and thus shutting the comments off.
"I'm going to stick my fingers in my ears and go "LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" real loud!"
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Old 20 Aug 2009, 07:54 PM   #60202 / #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dembski
I’m growing weary of these quibblings and thus shutting the comments off.
My all-time favorite Dembski quote:
Quote:
As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.
I had to Google this to find it, and it was on The Panda's Thumb in this post.
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Old 21 Aug 2009, 11:53 AM   #60388 / #12
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Over at Talk Rational, they posted this link:

Quick Critique: Dembski and Marks in IEEE Journal

Its a critique by Mark Chu-Carroll. The guy has done some devastating reviews of Demski's past work. His basic accessment of this one:

Quote:
My biggest criticism of the paper is how utterly dull it is. It's obvious how they got it published - they removed anything that's really interesting from it. It's a rehash of the stuff they've written before, stripped of any content that directly hints at the anti-evolution part of their claims - which leaves a not-particularly-interesting paper on search algorithms.
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Old 21 Aug 2009, 12:29 PM   #60405 / #13
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As noted by BillB in the comments at Pharyngula, Clive Hayden has opened a thread in response to PZ. Nothing but taunting in the thread, but there is apparently some quibbles breeding in the comments section. Dembski might have to take a sabbatical until quibble season is over.
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Old 21 Aug 2009, 12:47 PM   #60406 / #14
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It's particularly ironic how quickly Dumbski shut down comments given the recently discovered criteria for his ID class he 'teaches'. So he specifically sends students out to troll at 'hostile' web forums/blogs, but he doesn't even allow comments on his site.

Funny how that works. I guess if they worked with any kind of consistency, they would wind up throwing out all that ID garbage, though.
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Old 21 Aug 2009, 08:19 PM   #60567 / #15
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Joe Felsenstein takes a whack at Dembski's paper over at Panda's Thumb. It's worth a read.

Quote:
In effect, the picture the article paints is that information is out there in the shape of the fitness surface — the way fitnesses change as we move among neighboring genotypes. So, on this view, natural selection does not create information, it just transfers it into the genotype. The information is out there already, lying around. Dembski and Marks at one point say that “the active information comes from knowledge of the fitness”. If the fitness surface is smooth, as in the Weasel case, natural selection will readily be successful. D&M would then regard the information as provided by a Designer in advance.
The part I bolded is in my opinion, the money quote.
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Old 23 Aug 2009, 09:56 PM   #61177 / #16
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Seems like a big stretch to claim that, because genotype information usually looks very different from fitness-landscape information.

Furthermore, Dembski's law of conservation of information is rather suspicious, since one can easily duplicate information. And has anyone gotten a coherent idea of how he proposes to quantify information?

There exist two main approaches:

The Shannon approach, which is to find the minimum number of yes-no questions to distinguish some entities with different probabilities.

The Kolmogorov-Chaitin approach, which to find the minimum length of an algorithm that can make that distinction.

Is there any hint that Dembski has come up with an approach unrelated to these approaches? Or failing that, has he discovered anything significant about either information measure?

He's gone on record as stating
Quote:
ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it's not ID's task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.
But a law of conservation of information, if it exists, would have some mechanistic sort of explanation.
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Old 23 Aug 2009, 10:06 PM   #61182 / #17
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OK, I don't have the degrees that Dembski has -- but isn't it obvious that if mutations increase the amount of information, or rather the amount of information required to represent those variations in the genome, in the genes of a population? More variations require more information to represent them.
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Old 24 Aug 2009, 06:19 AM   #61326 / #18
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That depends on how one defines "information", I think.

If it is a raw count, 2 bits per base pair, then the number of bits is proportional to the total length of the genome. If one uses more elaborate definitions that weight by frequency, or use correlations and redundancy, then it naturally becomes less straightforward.

I've seen some creationists claim that both evolution to greater specialization and evolution to less specialization involve information loss, which is a nicely self-contradictory position.

I've also seen some creationists claim that gene duplication does not create new information, because it produces repetition. However, I could not get an answer for what happens to the information content when duplicated genes evolve in separate directions.

However, we know of several families of duplicated genes, and some of them have been studied in great detail.
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Old 24 Aug 2009, 02:26 PM   #61410 / #19
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Dembski and the others think that only intelligence can create information, so any increase in information in the genome is a result of intelligence. They never say how intelligence creates information but they very specifically state that it doesn't do it by way of random mutations or natural selection. Dembski and the others specifically reject theistic evolution.

In the case of the weasel program, they say that the information is placed in the language by the search program. The search program already had the information so no new information actually exists.

As far as whether its shannon information or K/C information, according to Mark Chu-Carroll, Dembski oscillates back and forth never using a consistent definition.
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Old 24 Aug 2009, 06:35 PM   #61501 / #20
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But how does Dembski think that intelligence creates information? Given his disdain for "mechanistic stories", does he think that it magically poofs information into existence?


Furthermore, "information" is not a fixed quantity. BigEvil, I decided to calculate the information content of your most recent post in several ways, "information" meaning the number of bits necessary to specify its text. I did it by bits per character, for better comparison between different texts (yours has 734 characters in it).

ASCII character definitions: 8
Unicode character definitions: 16

Each character separately:
Shannon entropy limit: 4.2745
Huffman: 4.30926

Predictive: each character is used to predict the next one
Shannon entropy limit: 2.82754
Huffman: 2.86803
(each character getting its own Huffman table for doing the prediction; the beginning I treated as a pseudo-character)

It's possible to look back more characters for doing the prediction, but I did not bother with that. I also ignored the sizes of the Huffman tables.

Huffman refers to Huffman coding, a technique for setting up a series of yes-no questions for specifying a symbol in a set of symbols with a known probability distribution. It produces the smallest number of yes-no questions possible, and it is at most 1 bit per symbol worse than the Shannon entropy. However, it is usually much closer to that limit.


I don't know of any algorithms for calculating the Kolmogorov-Chaitin entropy, so I did not try that one.
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Old 24 Aug 2009, 08:09 PM   #61527 / #21
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I gather it takes very little difference in the amount of information to make a big difference to how a genome expresses itself, as it needs very little difference amount of information to change how a word can change its meaning.

As a good example of the latter, I'd like to suggest the difference between a homoeotic gene and a homoerotic gene

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Old 25 Aug 2009, 03:24 AM   #61792 / #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
But how does Dembski think that intelligence creates information? Given his disdain for "mechanistic stories", does he think that it magically poofs information into existence?
Well, I misspoke, Dembski thinks only intelligence can create "specified" information. As for as how, well, if the intelligence is supernatural, one can not speculate how, you can only know that it does.

Quote:
Furthermore, "information" is not a fixed quantity. BigEvil, I decided to calculate the information content of your most recent post in several ways, "information" meaning the number of bits necessary to specify its text. I did it by bits per character, for better comparison between different texts (yours has 734 characters in it).

ASCII character definitions: 8
Unicode character definitions: 16

Each character separately:
Shannon entropy limit: 4.2745
Huffman: 4.30926

Predictive: each character is used to predict the next one
Shannon entropy limit: 2.82754
Huffman: 2.86803
(each character getting its own Huffman table for doing the prediction; the beginning I treated as a pseudo-character)

It's possible to look back more characters for doing the prediction, but I did not bother with that. I also ignored the sizes of the Huffman tables.

Huffman refers to Huffman coding, a technique for setting up a series of yes-no questions for specifying a symbol in a set of symbols with a known probability distribution. It produces the smallest number of yes-no questions possible, and it is at most 1 bit per symbol worse than the Shannon entropy. However, it is usually much closer to that limit.


I don't know of any algorithms for calculating the Kolmogorov-Chaitin entropy, so I did not try that one.
I am guessing, that since what I typed is specific (which I assume means purposeful) one would assumed that my post was produced by an intelligent agent(me).

When Dembski looks at the genome, he sees specified information, information with a purpose. The purpose of the human genome would be to produce a human. Thus he assumes that it has to be produced by intelligence. He never argues how, hence the quote:
Quote:
ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it's not ID's task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.
In the weasel program, he is basically asserting that Dawkins is the intelligence that put the information in the search algorithim. I think it is basically true, but it rather misses Dawkins point. Nor does it in anyway show that only intelligence can produce something like a genome.
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Old 25 Aug 2009, 03:58 AM   #61811 / #23
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Joe Felsenstein makes another reply to Demski at Panda's Thumb.

According to Felsenstein:
Quote:
Dembski and Marks’s argument is (in effect) that smoothness of the adaptive landscape means that information has been built into the situation, and that natural selection does not create new information, but instead transfers this existing information into the genome. To Dembski, the Designer acts by creating this information.
Its certainly the argument posted in Demski's argument against the weasel program.

But to me, it appears to be arguing, that the Designer is designing by micro-managing the enviroment.
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Old 25 Aug 2009, 03:04 PM   #61976 / #24
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Another response from Dembski at Uncommondescent:

Quote:
But at the next Dover trial, as the body of peer-reviewed work supporting ID continues to grow (Marks and I have plenty in the pipeline, and there are other labs now getting into the act), it will no longer be possible for the next Judge Jones to dismiss ID for lack of peer-reviewed papers (even at the Dover trial, Jones was mistaken to claim that no peer-reviewed work supports ID).
The Dover trial was 4 years ago, which makes this response appear rather belated. But this seems to be boasting more about the peer-review articles that may or may not come, than any work actually done. My guess is that Dembski has so little actual output, one peer-review article is a big thing to him and he is very proud.
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Old 25 Aug 2009, 06:31 PM   #62126 / #25
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Aaand....

comments are closed. What a silly little man.
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