Dembski’s consistent inconsistencies

| 55 Comments

Note: Dembski has submitted a posting to ARN called Condeding too much which mostly misses the point. More later.. In fact my conclusion was premature, it was just a revision of the same old with a new ‘topic’. What was first title “the benefits of reinventing the wheel” is now titled “conceding too much” and much of the text has been revised.

Note: The title borrows from a posting by Mark Perakh on Talkreason.org. Who says that Intelligent Design is not predictable

William Dembski’s strategy of ‘using critics’ has been well documented in his own writings.

Critics and enemies are useful. The point is to use them effectively. In our case, this is remarkably easy to do. The reason is that our critics are so assured of themselves and of the rightness of their cause. As a result, they rush into print their latest pronouncements against intelligent design when more careful thought, or perhaps even silence, is called for. The Internet, especially now with its blogs (web logs), provides our critics with numerous opportunities for intemperate, indiscreet, and ill-conceived attacks on intelligent design. These can be turned to advantage, and I’ve done so on numerous occasions. I’m not going to give away all my secrets, but one thing I sometimes do is post on the web a chapter or section from a forthcoming book, let the critics descend, and then revise it so that what appears in book form preempts the critics’ objections. An additional advantage with this approach is that I can cite the website on which the objections appear, which typically gives me the last word in the exchange. And even if the critics choose to revise the objections on their website, books are far more permanent and influential than webpages.

Scientifically speaking such behavior seems ‘odd’ as it suggests that it may be more important to appear right rather than being right. From an apologetic standpoint I can understand such a position but from a scientific standpoint I wonder about the effectiveness of such an approach in providing for a solid scientific foundation for ID.

Recently Bill sent an email to various well-known critics…

Dear Critics,

As I indicated in the preface to No Free Lunch, “my strategy in writing this book has been to include just enough technical discussion so that experts can fill in the details.” Because the experts have not done this, the burden remains on me to fill in the technical details.

This burden (of filling in the technical details) was there from the beginning and has not gone away. I am not sure why Bill expected ‘experts’ to fill in the technical details? Who is even included in the term ‘experts’? Was Dembski expecting that ID proponents would raise to the opportunity to work on the ‘theory of ID’? If that is the case he must be quite disappointed by the lack of interest or enthusiasm in this area. If Dembski was hoping for experts from the scientific community to contribute then I wonder what contributions he was expecting? Many critics of ID have shown the shortcomings, errors and flaws in the many claims in “No Free Lunch”. From such a perspective experts indeed have ‘filled in the blanks’, or better ‘blanked out the errors’.

I expect to place some of these articles in the mainstream statistics/probability/complexity literature. Once they are all finished, I plan to collect the articles in a straight mathematical monograph (perhaps with CUP in one of their lecture note series or with the IMS). Once this monograph is done, I plan to produce a second edition of The Design Inference (the book is now dated, needs to be cleaned up, and make its mathematical underpinnings clearer). I’ve already been in touch with CUP about this (though, sadly, Terry Moore, my editor at CUP, recently passed away).

The ‘tread mill” in action… When confronted with evidence that undermines his claims or arguments, Dembski is quick to give a promisorry not by stating that he intends to fix/address/clarify this in a future publication.

The next paragraph is of particular relevance given Dembski’s recent comments which seem to contradict his earlier claims.

I’m writing you because I want your scrutiny on this project. Certainly, I want the mathematics to be correct; I don’t want to reinvent the wheel; and I want to be sure that the results are not trivial or being misinterpreted (by either side!). Also, I see this as a crucial phase in the debate over my own contribution to design-detection methods: whether my program ultimately succeeds will depend on being able to fill in the technical details that till now I’ve only addressed in part.

Now compare this to his latest version:

I didn’t expect my usual critics (e.g., Shallit, Elsberry, Wein, Schneider, Stenger, and Perakh) to point out where the measure would have been introduced because the paper is beyond their expertise.

But if that is the case why did he sent out this email to his critics, especially requesting a mathematical evaluation. And if he were aware of the state of the art in ‘information technology’ and ‘complexity research’ why did he re-invent the wheel? As Dembski clearly stated ‘I don’t want to reinvent the wheel’, which is exactly what he did. And when critics correctly point this out, his comments seem to be at odds with his earlier statements.

Then Bill makes this ad hominem and somewhat arrogant claim

This chapter is supposed to lay some conceptual groundwork. As far as I’m concerned, it continues to do that job admirably. Mark Perakh, in his book Unintelligent Design (p. 90) criticizes my identification of information with the negative logarithm to the base two of a probability as “amateurish.” In “Information as a Measure of Variation” I show that my “simplistic” definition generalizes in ways that Perakh can no longer follow mathematically and that, as I intend to show in future installments, is deeply significant for science.

And yet Mark Perakh appreciates the fact that Dembski’s measure of information (or should we say entropy), remains amateurish in nature (calling it information/complexity does not resolve this) and Dembski’s “derivations” are nothing more than a re-invention of the wheel. Pehaps Dembski may be unaware of the vaste amount of work by Renyi and others in this area? But that’s hard to believe from someone who was once called ‘the Isaac Newton of information technology’. Or perhaps Dembski was unable to follow Renyi’s arguments no longer mathematically?

The rest is just another promise which if history is a reliable guide, will remain unfullfilled (see Forrest and Gross: Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design)

Dembski continues with his inconsistencies

Now:

If I thought there were new mathematics here, I would have submitted the paper to a mathematics journal.

versus

Then:

I don’t want to reinvent the wheel.

So either there is something novel worth publishing in a mathematics journal or this is just ‘reinventing the wheel’. What is it Bill?

At any rate, it is not a mathematics journal, and I submitted my paper there fully conscious that its significance would lie in the insights it might generate for understanding evolving natural systems.

Notice that ‘insights it might generate’ is a yet to be fullfilled promise. With Dembski’s past history in living up to his promises one may wonder if this promise will ever be fullfilled.

If Dembski merely wanted to introduce some relevant concepts that might generate an understanding of evolving natural systems, all Dembski needed to do would be to mention the work of Renyi, explain why he uses Renyi’s formula with and move on to explain that in a future paper he may show how these concepts may be relevant to intelligent design. In the mean time science has already done a lot of work in this area. But that would be not much of a paper, although filling it with impressive looking ‘reinventions of the wheel’ may help ‘wow’ his supporters. Of course there is always the possibility that Dembski may be unaware of the state of the art as it applies to ‘information technology’?

So to conclude:

Bill requested his ‘critics’ to ‘check the mathematics’ since he did not want to ‘reinvent the wheel’? When critics did find significant “reinvention of the wheel” issues, Dembski seems to suggest that he did not consider his critics to be able to evaluate the mathematical foundations of his claim (but why then did he send an email to his critics requesting just that? Something just does not seem to add up.) But maybe this addition is math beyond my comprehension.

So what is Dembski trying to achieve here? The answer may be found in his email. Dembski observes that experts failed to fill in the details of his claims in “No Free Lunch” so Dembski sets out on the ‘treadmill” to correct the shortcomings of “No Free Lunch”. One of the more painful criticisms seems to have been the criticism that Dembski uses as a measure of information/complexity rather than as a measure of (im)probability.

Dembski thus “reinvents the wheel” (40 years of research work since Renyi’s original paper) with his ‘variational information’ concept. So far there is nothing new in his argument, at least nothing new to those who have kept up with the state of the art in ‘information technology’ and ‘complexity research’.

What is left is a disagreement whether or not :

the information geometry that I introduced (yes, here I am claiming priority) is just reinventing the wheel. Shalizi gives no evidence of familiarity with the Kantorovich-Wasserstein metric. What’s more, the article by Streater that he cites, though describing a number of information geometries, does not describe the one I developed.

It seems to me that Dembski gets the “who should do what” wrong when he states:

At any rate, Shalizi has presented nothing like a cogent argument to show that the notion cannot have useful applications.

Should it not be Dembski who should show that the notion DOES HAVE useful applications?

Dembski, who has already explained how he uses his critics elsewhere, now asks for help in proving his conjecture P13:

Let’s call the conjecture on page 13 of version 2.0 of my paper “Information as a Measure of Variation” (go here or here), “Conjecture P13.” In the spirit of Paul Erdos, who used to offer small cash prizes for proofs of mathematical conjectures, I offer anyone who supplies the first correct, duly verified proof of Conjecture P13 a cash prize of $100. Please submit the proof to this thread.

Why not present his own proof of this conjecture first Bill? That assumes of course that you have succeeded in doing so? Did Bill not say:

This conjecture seems likely to be true, but has no simple proof.

and

Yet, regardless of whether this conjecture is true, it does not affect how we assess the continuity of probability paths.

So is the validity of the conjecture relevant or not? And has the conjecture been supported by rigorous mathematics or a mere dismissal?

Dembski revised his earlier posting on ARN. Some comments

Critics who charge that because my variational information paper contains “no new math,” it therefore shouldn’t be published at all, are thus missing the point.

Perhaps Bill would like to explain how pointing out that Bill was “reinventing the wheel” somehow has become “missing the point”? In fact, did Bill not send an email to his critics stating that he wants to avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’?

On ARN ID proponents are trying to spin the whole issue:

Salvador Wrote:

Your critics have accused you of not responding to them. Now having examined their criticisms, like Elsberry’s, it’s apparent you have better things to do than waste time on voluminous misrepresentations of your work.

and

What I see here is critics are quick to misrepresent you, Bill, and attack the strawmen they erect. At first I caved in to their ploys until I actually started studying their material in detail.

Note how any evidence of misrepresentation of Bill is lacking? In fact, most of the critics are NOT misrepresenting Bill’s arguments but rather show how his arguments are without much scientific merrit. Confronted with this virtual onslaught of hard hitting criticism, some ID proponents seem to prefer the

'ostrich approach'

And why is Salvador convinced that ID is true? Because it is true. Tautology at work

IDists have perhaps some kinks to iron out in our formulations, but the design argument will ultimately prevail because it is scientifically sound. In the mean time, our critics will keep helping us improve our arguments.….

And yet, in spite of these assertions that the design argument is scientifically sound, there is virtual no evidence that supports such a notion.


Appendix of critics notified

Critics emailed by Dembski included the following “motley crew”

Jeffrey Shallit Associate Professor of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo

Wesley R. Elsberry, One of the most soft spoken and well reasoned critics of the intelligent design movement, zoologist, webmaster of Antievolution.org and Dembski Internet stalker (if we were to take Bill’s characterization seriously) and more recently Information Project Director for the National Center for Science Education. (His views as expressed at The Panda’s Thumb are his own and are not necessarily shared by NCSE, its employees, or its supporters)

Tom Schneider Research Biologist National Institutes of Health. His paper Evolution of biological information destroyed much of Dembski’s arguments.

Victor Stenger Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy, University of Hawaii, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, University of Colorado

Mark Perakh Professor Emeritus of Physics Cal State University, author of “Unintelligent Design” and famous for his hard hitting Talkreasons.org website.

The next two are authors of various No Free Lunch theorem papers

Jason Rosenhouse Assistant Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics and Statistics James Madison University

Richard Wein, hard hitting author of some of the earliest criticism of Dembski’s intelligent design arguments

Massimo Pigliucci Associate Professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Also well known ID critic.

Kenneth Miller Professor of Biology, Brown University author of Finding Darwin’s God and many articles about the failures of intelligent design

Richard Dawkins

Daniel Dennett

The authors of Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford, 2004). an in-depth expose of the Intelligent Design movement

Barbara Forrest Professor of Philosophy, Southeastern Louisiana University.

Paul R Gross University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, at the University of Virginia. His baccalaureate and doctoral degrees are from the University of Pennsylvania. He holds honorary degrees from Brown University and the Medical College of Ohio. He is a developmental and molecular biologist who has taught at Brown, Rochester, MIT, and the University of Virginia. A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he served from 1978 to 1988 as President and Director of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and was Vice President and Provost of the University of Virginia, where he helped to found and served as Director of the Molecular Biology Institute.

Eugenie C. Scott, Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, a former college professor, is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education

Elliot Sober William F. Vilas Research Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1993-present. Hans Reichenbach Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison,1989-present. Author of many papers critical of the intelligent design thesis.

Branden Fitelson Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Expert in Bayesian theory, author of “Plantinga’s Probability Arguments Against Evolutionary Naturalism,” in Pennock, R. ed., Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, MIT Press.

Paul Davies Professor of Natural Philosophy, Macquarie University and much more… Prolific author

Don N Page Professor of Physics and CIAR Cosmology Fellow . On the jacket of No Free Lunch

And the Discovery crowd

Stephen C. Meyer Paul Nelson Jay Richards Jonathan Wells

Robert C. Koons (referred to Dembski as the “Isaac Newton of information technology” I wonder if he regrets this characterization?) Of course Dembski’s ‘Law of conservation of Information’ did not turn out to be ‘a revolutionary breakthrough’. How much can one get wrong in one paragraph I wonder.

Timothy Mcgrew Associate Prof. of Philosophy, Western Michigan University and author of Toward a Rational Reconstruction of Design Inferences

Robin Collins Associate Professor of Philosophy, Messiah College

Del Ratzsch, author of “Nature, Design, and Science (SUNY Press, 2001)” where Del Ratzsch shows the major problems and limitations with Dembski’s Explanatory Filter. See also ISCID chat for more refreshening comments from an ID proponent who understands the limitations of what ID can and has achieved.

Frank Tipler Professor Department of Mathematics Tulane University. Also a prolific author.

55 Comments

juxtaposition.

As far as I’m concerned, it continues to do that job admirably.

‘My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Another interesting tidbit: over at ISCID in a short thread there, Dembski wrote,

I’ve submitted the paper to Complexity. This is not a straight mathematics journal, but given the historical and motivational padding in the first two sections of my paper, it seemed advisable to submit the paper to a journal like Complexity.

I like the phrase “motivational padding” although perhaps “mathematical padding” would also be appropriate.

Note also Dembski’s last two examples of how “his” work with which he ends the paper:

Example 3 Distinguishing scientific theories in terms of informational continuity and discontinuity. Classical physics consistently yields continuous information spectra. By contrast, quantum physics yields discontinuous information spectra. Likewise, classical evolutionary theories à la Darwin are gradualistic and suggest continuous information spectra whereas saltational approaches to evolution suggest discontinuous information spectra. To what extent can variational information make this distinction rigorous and provide genuine insights into the processes responsible for life’s evolutionary history?

Example 4 Assessing the sensitivity to perturbation as well as the robustness of biophysical laws. Laws governing physics and biology seem fine-tuned to bring about interesting features that would be absent if the laws were slightly different. Alternatively, there are many features of the biophysical world that seem largely insensitive to the contingencies of natural history. For instance, paleontologist Simon Conway Morris (2003) finds that evolution reinvents the same organic structures over and over and concludes that evolution is robustly constrained to proceed along a limited number of fixed paths. Can the variational information be used to gain insight into the sensitivity to perturbation as well as the robustness of biophysical laws?

Instead of spending a whole paper “reinventing the wheel,” which is what Dembski did, why doesn’t Dembski actually try to do some working applying this already well-known tool to the questions that he is interested rather than (as is his wont) merely alluding to the possibility that maybe someone else will put his ideas to actual use someday, somplace, somehow?

Another point. Demsbki says in his response at ARN,

I never claimed to be “introducing” a “new” measure of information (do a find-command in Adobe Acrobat on these or similar terms and you’ll see that confirmed). Indeed, I was fully prepared that the measure had been introduced already. That’s because (a) the mathematical machinery I was using is old (I was fully aware of that) and (b) this information measure is derived very naturally.

However in his paper, the last paragraph of the section before he introduces “variational information” says

I want next to characterize an information measure that is both relational and additive in the sense just described, but that calculates the amount of information associated with specific possibilities as opposed to the amount associated with averages of possibilities, the latter being what information measures defined in terms of entropy always do. This measure seems much closer to our fundamental intuitions about information–indeed, it provides a very natural generalization for the information measure described in section 1.5 Moreover, by being defined within a Hilbert space formalism, this information measure promises to be mathematically tractable and widely applicable.

[my emphasis]

Given that Shalizi has pointed out that this measure is already widely applied, this sure sounds like Dembski thinks he’s offering something new.

Dembski’ new post to ARN where he maintains that he originally conceded too much to Shalizi, as well as the modified text of his paper on variational information, amazingly, show that even after Shalizi has so clearly explained the relationship between Dembski’s variational information and Renyi’s more general measures, Dembski seems still not to get it - his amendments to his paper contain new misstatements testifying to an insufficient understanding of the stuff in question. Perhaps after some additional mulling it over he’ll realize where his new flop is, but I am not going to specify it here lest it provides him with what his friend Salvador gleefully characterized as free help to improve the paper. This new flop leaves no doubt that Dembski has been completely unaware of Renyi’s work - a striking fact for an expert in information theory.

I am not going to specify it here lest it provides him with what his friend Salvador gleefully characterized as free help to improve the paper.

I haven’t the time to keep track of all the discussions on the various evoblogs. But what is the relationship between this Salvador character and Dembski? Just from the short bit I read on the post linked to from PT, it seems to be some sort of odd boxer/trainer relationship, kinda like the one between Jack Palance and his man-servant in The Big Knife. Does Salvador independently publish papers on Intelligent Design theory and/or its “implications”? Or is he just around to prop, puff and fluff up The Great Dembski?

I don’t know anything about Salvador except for the fact that he jumped to defend and support Dembski on ARN, and, among other things gloated over Shalizi’s providing free assitance to Dembski, along the lines Dembski himself described in his often quoted passage about usefulness of critics and enemies. He seems to always be ready to defend Dembski no matter what. Kind of a sidekick, although I don’t know whether he does anything on his own as well - maybe he does.

How about Sancho Panza, and his allegiance to Quixote and his addiction to windmill tilting?

PvM Wrote:

Blah-blah-blah

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

Hey Robert, as always your ‘contributions’ are much appreciated since it helps remind the casual browsers of these forums what ‘great minds’ the ID movement attracts.

As far as your ‘come back’ is concerned, it seems to ignore how Dembski seems to be unable to admit that he was wrong at all cost. In my contributions to PT I have presented several such examples. I notice you have no real response to these observations.

PvM Wrote:

As far as your ‘come back’ is concerned, it seems to ignore how Dembski seems to be unable to admit that he was wrong at all cost. In my contributions to PT I have presented several such examples. I notice you have no real response to these observations.

Well, I do not pay much heed to the Dutch in general, and I see no reason to make an exception for you. However, even if you were not Dutch, my response to your Sisyphean efforts would be “So what?”

Foolish consistency may not be a virtue in everyday life at times, but when one is supposedly builidng a logical and mathematical system, consistency is a virture. In such cases it woud be more appropriate to say that it is foolish to be inconsistent.

RObert Wrote:

Well, I do not pay much heed to the Dutch in general, and I see no reason to make an exception for you. However, even if you were not Dutch, my response to your Sisyphean efforts would be “So what?”

So what? Keep those ad homs coming my dear ID friend. If I were that ineffective you would not behave the way you do right now.

I can fault you for trying, the other alternative would be to actually defend ID, quite a impossible task as you have shown so eloquently.

Finally somebody tells it like it is about those damn dyke-builders. Here Here. I also don’t listen to Frenchmen or the Wily Filippino.

Timmy, Timmy, Timmy. Never fails to bring a smile to my face.

…the other alternative would be to actually defend ID, quite a impossible task as you have shown so eloquently.

I have not attempted to defend ID, only William Dembski (from personal attacks).

O’Brien: “I have not attempted to defend ID, only William Dembski (from personal attacks).”

Oh, the irony! Robert, you crack me up. Really - don’t ever change!

R O’B,

Are you serious? Point out an instance if I’m mistaken, but the only examples of personal attacks I’ve seen here that you’ve involved yourself in have been yours, directed at anyone daring to criticize the writings and rhetoric of your apparent hero, Wm. Dembski. In fact, I think that’s been the sum total of what you’ve contributed to the dialogue here.

Russell Wrote:

Oh, the irony! Robert, you crack me up. Really - don’t ever change!

Russell, it is your occasional magnanimity that will, I believe, spare you from the lower circles of Hell (where many of your PT friends are likely to plummet) and earn you a place among the virtuous pagans in Limbo.

Bob Maurus Wrote:

R O’B,

Are you serious? Point out an instance…

Yes; off the top of my head, there was Mark Perakh’s statement that William Dembski is no good at mathematics, as well as Steve “Me Too!” Story’s calling William Dembski a dumbass.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 137, byte 137 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

O'Brien Wrote:

Russell, it is your occasional magnanimity that will, I believe, spare you from the lower circles of Hell (where many of your PT friends are likely to plummet) and earn you a place among the virtuous pagans in Limbo.

Wow, looking forward to finally meeting you in person then :-)

O'Brien Wrote:

I have not attempted to defend ID, only William Dembski (from personal attacks).

Defending by using ad hominems yourself. Quite original but very ineffective.

PvM Wrote:

the other alternative would be to actually defend ID, quite a impossible task as you have shown so eloquently.

O'Brien Wrote:

I have not attempted to defend ID, only William Dembski (from personal attacks).

Indeed, as I said an impossible task as you have shown so eloquently Robert. And you have attempted to do more than defending Dembski from personal attacks since few such examples exist. You have attempted to defend Dembski from criticisms about the nature of his claims by ignoring the criticisms and insist that only mathematicians are qualified to review Dembski’s work. Reality shows otherwise and beyond the feeble attempt to defend Dembski, you have actually weakened the case by your choice of words and your actions.

R O’B,

You provided “Mark Perakh’s statement that William Dembski is no good at mathematics, as well as Steve “Me Too!” Story’s calling William Dembski a dumbass” as examples of personal attacks on him by members of this board. I don’t think so.

A number of mathematicians are on record as to the quality - or lack thereof - of Dembski’s mathematics. Disputing someone’s qualifications or abilities in his chosen field on the basis of his statements, work, and publications in that field hardly qualifies as a “personal attack.” Were Dr. Wolpert’s criticisms of Dembski’s misuse/misunderstanding of the NFL Theorems a “personal attack”?

As to calling Dembski a “dumbass” - the circumstances surrounding and following his latest effort; his invitation of critiques of that effort from specific individuals who he subsequently dismisses as unqualified to offer the critiques he requested of them; and his general attitude throughout this and other episodes; seem (arguably at least) to provide an amply sufficient behavioural basis for the charge of “dumbass.”

Bob Maurus Wrote:

R O’B,

You provided “Mark Perakh’s statement that William Dembski is no good at mathematics, as well as Steve “Me Too!” Story’s calling William Dembski a dumbass” as examples of personal attacks on him by members of this board. I don’t think so.

A number of mathematicians are on record as to the quality - or lack thereof - of Dembski’s mathematics.

Ah, but are they mathematicians of quality? I think not.

Disputing someone’s qualifications or abilities in his chosen field on the basis of his statements, work, and publications in that field hardly qualifies as a “personal attack.”

Perakh’s remark, which he offered as unsubstantiated opinion, was most certainly a personal attack. Besides which, he is not qualified to comment on William Dembski’s mathematical ability.

Were Dr. Wolpert’s criticisms of Dembski’s misuse/misunderstanding of the NFL Theorems a “personal attack”?

Dr. Wolpert said William Dembski needed to be more concrete; he did not attack his mathematical ability.

As to calling Dembski a “dumbass” - the circumstances surrounding and following his latest effort; his invitation of critiques of that effort from specific individuals who he subsequently dismisses as unqualified to offer the critiques he requested of them; and his general attitude throughout this and other episodes; seem (arguably at least) to provide an amply sufficient behavioural basis for the charge of “dumbass.”

Your apologia on behalf of the anti-Dembskians’ obsequious little follower is totally vapid.

Robert, you do have a way with words. I enjoy your turns of phrase, even when you’re engaging in ad hominem personal attacks.

Your dismissal of Rosenhouse and other mathematicians as not qualified to judge the quality of Dembski’s output is nothing but an unsubstantiated opinion.

Am I to take it that, in your unsubstantiated opinion, Dembski is a “mathematician of quality?” If so, I must question your definition of quality.

Bob Maurus wrote:

R O’B,

You provided “Mark Perakh’s statement that William Dembski is no good at mathematics, as well as Steve “Me Too!” Story’s calling William Dembski a dumbass” as examples of personal attacks on him by members of this board. I don’t think so.

That’s it? “Me Too”? Come on, be creative, there are much more original ways to attack me personally. If you’re going to do it, go all out man.

Robert is still arguing the silly perspective that others are not ‘qualified’ to judge Dembski’s mathematical capabilities. How desperate one has to be to use such a defense to avoid addressing the valid criticisms raised about Dembski’s math. On the other hand, it is much simpler to focus on issues of ‘qualifications’ than on the actual arguments since Dembski’s mathematics indeed seems to be quite poor a has been shown in various instances now.

Dr. Wolpert said William Dembski needed to be more concrete; he did not attack his mathematical ability.

Just that it was written in jello. What a polite way to state the obvious. Maybe from Robert’s perspective that’s to be interpreted as a compliment?

I say Dembski “attempts to” turn this trick because despite his invoking the NFL theorems, his arguments are fatally informal and imprecise. Like monographs on any philosophical topic in the first category, Dembski’s is written in jello. There simply is not enough that is firm in his text, not sufficient precision of formulation, to allow one to declare unambiguously ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ when reading through the argument. All one can do is squint, furrow one’s brows, and then shrug.

Surely a ‘mathematician/philosopher’ of Dembski’s stature could have done better than evoke such a response?

Read also Wimsatt’s comments on NFL.

Your apologia on behalf of the anti-Dembskians’ obsequious little follower is totally vapid.

So many flowery words to hide the obvious that Robert is really unable to defend both the claims by ID as well as the flaws in Dembski’s mathematics. It does not take a mathematician to see this. In fact it seems that being a mathematician may blind one to the obvious

Pim Wrote:

So many flowery words to hide the obvious that Robert is really unable to defend both the claims by ID as well as the flaws in Dembski’s mathematics.

That’s correct. At this point, I have not read enough to defend (or even commit to) any of William Dembski’s ideas. However, I said as much in my e-mail to Dr. Wolpert.

Robert

P.S. I am glad to see you are a Christian; I thought they were extinct in the Netherlands.

PvM, are you indeed in the Netherland? A beautiful country.

PvM, are you indeed in the Netherland? A beautiful country.

Does anybody know what the credentials of O’Brien are? He so brazenly judges the qualification of others that, I guess, he must be a prominent mathematician with an inpressive record of publications, perhaps having received scores of awards and acclaimed for his work in the professional literature? In any case, he probably can shave using his tongue. Makes this blog full of fun.

Robert O’Brien on atheists (and other ‘scum’)

Robert O’Brien Champion of Mathematics; forever dedicated to the idea of driving human secularist and libertarian scum back to Hell where they belong.

From the Recovery From Mormonism Message Board

May help you understand…

Robert Wrote:

P.S. I am glad to see you are a Christian; I thought they were extinct in the Netherlands.

The differences between what Robert thinks and what really IS is sometimes painfully obvious.

More quality from R O’B;

Now, I’m no expert when it comes to biology (nor would I want to be an expert in a discipline that is based largely upon groundless conjecture and the sands of ignorance), but I know damn well that there has never been an individual born with both male and female sex organs.

Kudos to Pimmy for the linkage.

Pim Wrote:

Robert O’Brien on atheists (and other ‘scum’)

On Saracens he throws a haughty glance

But meek and mild on the men of France

To whom he speaks out of a courteous heart.

Bob Maurus Wrote:

Robert, you do have a way with words. I enjoy your turns of phrase, even when you’re engaging in ad hominem personal attacks.

Thanks Bob. I consider it a labor of love.

Pim Wrote:

Robert O’Brien on atheists (and other ‘scum’)

By the way, you should know that I have long since befriended two of the contributors to that thread (of course, you do not seem to be interested in the present).

Thanks, Pim: Now we know who Robert O’Brien (if he is indeed the same O’Brien) is - a religious psychopath bristling with hatred of the Dutch, French, and all those who dare to disagree with him, and eager to send all of them to Hell. In all his numerous comments he never offered a word of substance but only spiteful personal remarks, and managed to rudely insult almost everybody. He admitted not being familiar with Dembski’s work but nevertheless is confident that Dembski is right and his critics wrong. He promised to provide a clear explanation of Kantorovich metrics, but it is pretty obvious that we are in for a long wait. Indeed, if he can’t even comprehend what Wolpert said about Dembski (re his ridiculous interpretation of Wolpert’s dismissal of Dembski’s math as allegedly only suggesting a more “concrete” discourse), Kantorovich’s math should be a little above his abilities. He has his use on this blog, though, as a resident clown, although he is a little too nasty for a good clown.

Robert, nobody doubts your ability to use rhethoric eloquently and quote the work of others (Song of Roland) but that should not be confused with a logical argument.

An example “of course you do not seem to be interested in the present” is as usual an unsupported assertion, one of the many we have come to admire (sic) in our pro-ID friend’s prose.

It would impress me if Robert were to apply his efforts as eloquently to logic or mathematics. I have yet to see any example of this in the past or present.

Arniel, calling someone a psychopath is not very helpful in furthering a discussion. Let O’Brien make his best case and we can admire his efforts. Please try to make some effort to keep the exchange at a civil level.

someone insignificant Wrote:

Thanks, Pim: Now we know who Robert O’Brien (if he is indeed the same O’Brien) is - a religious psychopath bristling with hatred of the Dutch, French, and all those who dare to disagree with him, and eager to send all of them to Hell.

Right, that’s why I defended the French to “Creationist Timmy,” and quoted the Song of Roland.

He admitted not being familiar with Dembski’s work but nevertheless is confident that Dembski is right and his critics wrong.

I am confident Dembski is worthy of my admiration. I have not committed to any of his ideas, though.

He promised to provide a clear explanation of Kantorovich metrics, but it is pretty obvious that we are in for a long wait.

That should not make any difference to you; I doubt you would understand it.

Indeed, if he can’t even comprehend what Wolpert said about Dembski (re his ridiculous interpretation of Wolpert’s dismissal of Dembski’s math as allegedly only suggesting a more “concrete” discourse)…

My summary of Dr. Wolpert’s remarks was accurate.

By the way, if you piled your Ossa of delusions on Steve Story’s Pelion, you could touch the firmament of the Ptolemaic universe he, Cartwright, and Lynch appear to live in (since they all deny, to varying degrees, the conformity of the universe to Mathematics).

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 5, column 158, byte 401 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Pim Wrote:

Arniel, calling someone a psychopath is not very helpful in furthering a discussion. Let O’Brien make his best case and we can admire his efforts. Please try to make some effort to keep the exchange at a civil level.

Thanks Pim. You are passing tolerable for a Frieslander.

“He promised to provide a clear explanation of Kantorovich metrics, but it is pretty obvious that we are in for a long wait.” That should not make any difference to you; I doubt you would understand it.

As written here:

“Go ahead and take your stand, and take the heat for it. But don’t try to get out of debating and get credit for “I could if I wanted to.” If you really didn’t want to defend your statement, the ethical thing would have been to not make it in the first place. If you refuse to make a case, other people are quite justified in concluding that you have no case to make, and stating that opinion.”

Of course, the reply from O’Brien is exactly what could be expected from a clown. He does not know a whit about who I am but takes the liberty of calling me “somebody insignificant” as if being considered “significant” by O’Brien may have any significance. He better should think a little of being considered at least “semi-significant” by others. Being challenged to provide an explanation of Kantorovich metrics, he instead suggests that I’d not understand it. How does he know that? What if “the insignificant” happens to be a professional well versed in precisely the subject of Kantorovich metric? His explanation of Wolpert’s opinion of Dembski is so plainly absurd that (quoting Wolpert)one can only shrug. But what do facts mean for O’Brien? His only passion is to insult everybody, and I am glad that my post provoked him to do exactly what was expected from him thus confirming my characterization of him. He is not just a clown, he is an insolent, poorly informed and arrogant clown.

Jon Fleming Wrote:

As written here:

“Go ahead and take your stand, and take the heat for it. But don’t try to get out of debating and get credit for “I could if I wanted to.” If you really didn’t want to defend your statement, the ethical thing would have been to not make it in the first place. If you refuse to make a case, other people are quite justified in concluding that you have no case to make, and stating that opinion.”

Like I told Perakh, I will “give it a shot,” but that will be according to my timetable, not anyone else’s.

Robert O’Brien writes

I am confident Dembski is worthy of my admiration. I have not committed to any of his ideas, though.

Hmmm. I detect a whiff of sea salt here … “Navy Davy-esque,” one might say …

Johnny-Come-Lately Wrote:

Being challenged to provide an explanation of Kantorovich metrics, he instead suggests that I’d not understand it. How does he know that? What if “the insignificant” happens to be a professional well versed in precisely the subject of Kantorovich metric?

Well, your posts lead me to believe you lack the native intelligence.

Robert Wrote:

Thanks Pim. You are passing tolerable for a Frieslander.

Brabander

R O’B’

I’ve been searching for just the right word to encompass the sum your various well-turned offerings. It finally manifested itself to me - Poppycock, specifically in the original Dutch.

Just a brief comment to the most recent post by O’Brien. I will not comment on his habitual rudeness (and certainly will not adopt such a style myself) but will only address his remark about how accurately he summarized Wolpert’s opinion of Dembski. In fact O’Brien misinterpreted what Wolpert thinks about Dembski’s math. It is clear from what Wolpert wrote in his essay posted on Talk Reason, but I can add a few more bits of information. I have communicated with Wolpert quite extensively, about various topics including his NFL theorems and his view of Dembski’s treatment of these theorems. That is why in the “Acknowledgments” section of my chapter in the anthology “Why Intelligent Design Fails” I especially stressed advice I received from Wolpert. (Btw, recently Dave Wolpert complained to me that he has gotten fed up with arguing against various interpretations of the NFL theorems, such, as, for example by Tom English (discussed on this blog several weeks ago) and asked me whether or not I would take over the discussion as a champion of his interpretation of the NFL theorems (which I share). Referring to this suggestion I am not implying that I am such an expert in the NFL theorems as David himself - surely far from it - but only to illustrate that I am pretty well familiar with what Wolpert thinks about the matter. I can confidently assert that, in David’s view, Dembski’s treatment of the NFL theorems is inadequate - it contains nothing even remotely approaching a reasonable discourse. In his usual manner, Wolpert replied to O’Brien avoiding any harsh language but O’Brien misinterpets Wolpert’s opinion in a way too charitable for Dembski. This seems to be understandable in view of O’Brien’s overall position which seems to be rather clear if we account for the quotation from that Mormonism site provided by Pim and from O’Brien’s own assertion that he admires Dembski (although has not yet familiarized himself with Dembski’s theories.

Regarding comment 6631 - O’Brien endeavors to judge intelligence of others - fits well in with what clowns do, although some clowns are very intelligent, but this is not the case with O’Brien. You have not yet realized, despite your great intelligence, that after the quotation about all scum going to Hell the visitors to this site are done with you irreversibly.

Robert wondered if I were interested in the present (By the way, you should know that I have long since befriended two of the contributors to that thread (of course, you do not seem to be interested in the present).)

Here a quote right of this board

Obrien Wrote:

Russell, it is your occasional magnanimity that will, I believe, spare you from the lower circles of Hell (where many of your PT friends are likely to plummet) and earn you a place among the virtuous pagans in Limbo.

see ;-)

Just a bit of information. Several Amiel Rossow’s essays as well as discussion letters have been posted to Talk Reason. This is a web name of a physicist with a substantial record of publications. As is explained on Talk Reason, the views of authors are their own and not necessarily shared by the Talk Reason team.

Posting removed. Robert, either you contribute or you find another place for you snipes.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on August 11, 2004 11:20 PM.

Evolution of whale hearing unfolds in fossil record was the previous entry in this blog.

The Evolution of Dembski’s Mathematics is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Categories

Archives

Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter