Dembski’s continuing contradictions

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Dembski has ‘responded’ to Wesley Elsberry’s and Mark Perakh’s criticicsm at ARN

Panda’s Thumb.

Does the discussion at the Panda’s Thumb advance the discussion we had on this board about that paper? As I mentioned in another post, that paper will be the basis for my technical lecture at the Trotter Prize Lecture Series at Texas A&M coming up the beginning of April. I’d enjoy meeting any critics on this board there (as well as supporters, of course).

Other than the usual self inflation, Dembski has little to say about the critiques themselves.

When pressed for details as to how Dembski ‘abuses’ critics, Dembski responded:

I’m happy to acknowledge my critics where I think they are being insightful. There tends to be a disconnect, however, between the criticisms I regard as insightful and those that my critics regard as insightful. I’m afraid that Wesley Elsberry and Mark Perakh do not rank high among those I regard as insightful critics. Since I’m quite busy and have plenty of critics, they tend to fall low in the queue. Consider, for instance, that Tom English on this board at least engaged the mathematics in my article. I’ve seen no indication that Elsberry or Perakh could even state the gist of it in plain English.

So why does Dembski start a thread about Wesley and Mark when he does not consider them to be insightful critics?

In fact, both critics have contributed significantly to the demise of Dembski’s arguments, which may help explain why Dembski is reluctant to address their claims.

As RB observes in the same thread

Of course neither can Bill, but then that gives him the fall back position of “you just don’t understand”. Nor can Bill discuss, in plain english, the application of his math to the realities of evolution and molecular research and theory.

Dembski obviously excels at self-promotion, and although his academic accomplishments seem to be rather limited, his popular contributions seem to have been embraced somewhat uncritically by many ID proponents (caveat emptor!!).

Dembski has consistently ignored his most formidable critics: For instance it was Wesley Elsberry who showed how Dembski failed to explain how to distinguish between apparent and actual CSI. In Dembski’s latest piece, he has made an almost incredible concession to his critics, one overlooked by most of the ID proponents, namely that both evolutionary mechanisms and intelligence can create CSI.

Dembski’s latest paper, undermines even more his explanatory filter approach since it has shown how false positives are a real possibility and provides no way to detect false positives. Which makes the explanatory filter, in Dembski’s own words, useless.

Both Elsberry and Perakh were quick to point out the problems with using NFL theorems as well as the displacement problem.

Dembski, sadly enough does not seem to give his critics much credit for this. Let’s hope that when/if his latest paper is published, the reviewers require a more thorough list of references.


Douglas Theobald has continued the thread to expose some of the deeply rooted ignorance amongst ID proponents. Surprisingly to many perhaps, the ignorance seems to be more about Dembski’s arguments this time than about evolutionary theory.

Douglas Theobald Wrote:

I really don’t mean to be catty, but seriously, have any of the ID-ists here read Dembski’s latest paper, the topic of this thread?

But Theobald does far more than showing the level of unfamiliarity amongst ID proponents with Dembski’s arguments

Douglas Theobald: Once again, I will try to get this thread back on target.

Douglas Theobald: Dembski’s “FTID” is premised on a targeted search. According to Dembski, a “target” of an algorithmic search is a subregion of the search space that is pre-specified before the search begins. Dembski’s math concerns the probability of finding that pre-specified target, and that target alone.

Douglas Theobald: However, evolution and RMNS are not targeted searches by Dembski’s own usage, so Dembski’s math does not apply to evolution. Unless it can be shown that certain biological targets were pre-specified, Dembski’s math is irrelevant to evolution.

Douglas Theobald: Would anyone here (who has read Dembski’s paper, others need not apply) like to try to refute that?

Douglas Theobald: Specifically:

  • Can you provide examples of what the targets are in biology?
  • Can you explain how you know they are targets?
  • Who or what pre-specified these biological entities as targets?
  • Can you explain why the biological targets you propose are not simply labeled as such after the fact?

Douglas Theobald: This is the challenge I have presented, and nobody has answered it yet. Even Dembski acknowledges this problem in his paper, and he also gives no answer for it.

It follows that assisted search, even with so modest a problem as finding a specific protein 100 amino acids in length, requires a considerable amount of information if it is to surpass blind search and successfully locate a target. How are we to explain this net increase in information? One way is to explain it away by suggesting that no targets are in fact being searched. Rather, a space of possibilities is merely being explored, and we, as pattern-seeking animals, are merely imposing patterns, and therefore targets, after the fact (see, for instance, Shermer 2003).

(Dembski, pp. 15-16 of “ Searching Large Spaces “)

Douglas Theobald: Dembski goes on to explain how targets are valid in engineering, by specifically giving an example about finding a useful polymer. Yet he never provides even a hint of an argument for why pre-specified targets are valid in evolution or biology in general.

Douglas Theobald: In Dembski’s human engineering example, it is easy to justify the target as valid: I can easily answer each of the four challenges above in the engineering case.

Douglas Theobald: The target is a polymer with a minimum resilience and strength. We know such a polymer is a target because we have independent knowledge that human engineers pre-specified the target, indicating a desire for finding such a polymer. These desirable polymers are not after-the-fact targets, because they were specified by human engineers before they went and searched for them. Success of the algorithm is measured as whether it finds these polymer targets or not. Dembski’s math applies here. If Dembski’s math is valid, we can conclude that these engineers knew something about their search space in order to choose a successful targeted search algorithm.

Douglas Theobald: Now how about evolution and biology in general?

Douglas Theobald: The answer should ideally be as clear and concise as the above engineering example.


For those fans of Salvador, you may enjoy his attempts to distract from the conversation with his usual Turing machines, or other irrelevant arguments. For someone who once said he was willing to “take the grenade” for Dembski “so that Dembski can continue to not respond to critics”, he seems to ignore the implosion his own arguments have caused for ID.

Seems that Bill as withdrawn himself from the discussion, I am curious how he is going to fix his paper before he presents it at the Trotter Prize lecture series?

62 Comments

I’m afraid that William Dembski does not rank high among those I regard as insightful critics.

–Charles Darwin

For those who read the published reviews and critiques of Dembski’s work, check out how often my name appears in the citations or acknowledgements. I think that these people find my views insightful, and I’m pleased that my arguments and comments have helped, in some small way, those critics in their work.

The Trotter Prize? The one sponsored by the creationist, Ide Trotter?

Isn’t that an outlet for creationist papers?

Ide P. Trotter Jr (spokesman for Texans for Better Science) established this prize in 2001 to

increase awareness of the rapid advances in the physical, biological and information sciences and to promote dialogue within university communities and across disciplines regarding the overarching implications.

…with a matching contribution from ExxonMobil Corp., in 2001 to honor Ide P. Trotter Sr., former dean of Texas A&M University’s graduate school.

Yuck…

Thanks, PvM, for standing up for me (and Wesley). Unlike Bill Dembski who does not shy away from praising his own article as “admirable,” I have no intention to judge my own writing, leaving this task to others. Therefore I naturally will leave without reply Dembski’s attempt at insult by characterizing my (and Wesley’s) critique as “not insightful.” I have more reasons to do so because Dembski’s lack of consistency is notorious, and his habit of dodging answering critical comments is too well documented, so his claim that our critique is not insightful enough to deserve his reply is quite probably just a display of his limited ability to come up with reasonable counter-arguments to the essence of our critique. Either he does not comprehend the gist of our critique, or, if he does, perhaps he simply can’t figure out a reply in a meaningful way. If so, it is an explanation of why he arrogantly resorts to a convenient method of dodging answering the critique under the preposterous pretext that our critique is not good enough for such a great mathematician and philosopher as the Isaac Newton of information theory is claimed to be by his obsequious co-travelers.

What, you mean Slavador is trying to divert attention away from the topic of a thread with irrelevant posts?

I’m shocked!

Evidently Francis Crick and Charles Townes are past recipients of this award. I’ve searched the Texas A&M site for any reference to Demski and the Trotter lecture and haven’t found anything. The only reference to this comes from Dembski’s own website. Anyway, this is disturbing to say the least. What are they thinking? Are the faculty at A&M even aware of this? Dembski’s teaches at a Baptist seminary for god’s sake! Oh, I forgot, it’s Texas…

“Oh, I forgot, it’s Texas.…”

That’s humorous. Likely the words of a Vermont or Ohio resident. Are you seriously suggesting that Texas A&M is not a top tier research institution? How about UT Austin or Rice? Ever heard of the micro-chip. It was invented in Dallas (though sadly, so were breast implants and MDMA). Perhaps you’ve mistaken the greatest state in the Union for Tennessee.

No, California has far too many beaches to be mistaken for Tennessee.…

Dembski Wrote:

I’ve seen no indication that Elsberry or Perakh could even state the gist of it in plain English.

Let me give a it a shot:

“God did it; now that we have our conclusion let’s jiggle the numbers until our argument appears to support that conclusion.”

I’m a native Texan, a life-long resident except for military service, and hope I can speak with some experience and objectivity when I say that Texas A&M is not a top tier research institution. It is influenced by politics and money even more than most institutions in the state, and its biggest claims to fame, scientifically, is the purple jalapeno pepper, and the capsaicinless jalapeno pepper. It has also engineered a few other purple vegetables, purple being one of the school colors. Texas unfortunately ranks behind even Mississippi in school quality, in the amount spent per student for public education, and in the percentage of high school graduates. We’re so mired in ignorance that we’re blinded by hubris. Any state ignorant enough to elect George W. Bush governor has no business calling itself great. And if A&M plans to award a prize to Dembski, then QED.

It did not say that Dembski was getting an award, just that he was speaking at a “lecture series.” It soulnds like that they have a bunch of people speak at the time of the award and Dembski was chosen, for who knows what reason, to speak.

I am also a native and life-long Texan and recognize a charlatan when I see one.

I would have you know that (1) the primary and secondary schools of any large state are, as a whole, inferior to those of smaller states, (2) “public education” is conveniently vague; the statistics you allude to apply to primary and secondary schools, and not to institutions of higher learning, and (3) and the school color of the Aggies is maroon (not to be confused with the equivocal noun of which I’m sure you are familiar).

As for your silly comments about jalepenos: Texas A&M spends around $400 million a year on research and is consistently ranked a “top tier” research institution by the National Science Foundation - http://vpr.tamu.edu/remarkable/index.html

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 3, column 193, byte 416 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.12.3/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187

No, it’s true. At least according to this source:

Future Event: On April 4, 2005, Dr. William Dembski will receive this year’s prestigious Trotter Prize and give a lecture associated with that award. The event will be at Texas A&M University in College Station. Previous winners have included Drs. Paul Davies, Robert Shapiro, Alan Guth, John Polkinghorne, and Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Charles Townes.

Previous winners have included Drs. Paul Davies, Robert Shapiro, Alan Guth, John Polkinghorne, and Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Charles Townes.

Davies, Polkinghorne and Townes are all Templeton prize winners “for progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities”

C’mon people. Surely one clever double-meaning bit of wordplay is worth at least two thoughful refutations.

Consider, for instance, that Tom English on this board at least engaged the mathematics in my article. I’ve seen no indication that Elsberry or Perakh could even state the gist of it in plain English.

Tom English…plain English.…darn that’s clever!

I repeat - It’s Texas ;-)

And you were close Michael - I’m from Massachusetts, home of Harvard and MIT.

Oops, thanks for the correction.

Whatever else might be said of Texas A&M University, in 1988 they decided to obtain the best faculty in marine mammal science that money could buy. And they did. Because of that, I did my doctoral research at A&M. There are just a few programs in the country that do marine mammal research, and A&M’s program covered several aspects of that research. On that criterion, Texas A&M University is very much a top-tier research institution. That doesn’t mean that everything that happens on campus partakes of the same quality.

Excepting the part about “appears,” what is objectionable about that? Science usually begins with a theoretical claim, i.e., a conclusion, and then attempts to justify that claim empirically.

No, science attempts to test a hypothesis and then comes to a conclusion based on the evidence.

Sometimes science reaches a conclusion after demonstrating the failure of all other alternatives. At least that is what I have done in reaching the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. Sorry if I didn’t follow the rules. Neither did William Bateson, Pierre Grasse, Richard B. Goldschmidt, Otto Schindewolf or any other scientist so out of touch with reality as to fall for the Darwinina fairy tale. There have been many of us. Trust me.

John A. Davison

No Free Lunch - Except at Texas A&M University.

In addition to the Trotter Lecture, ole Bill will be preaching to the Department of Computer Science.

http://www.cs.tamu.edu/research/sem[…]81_2004-2005

Maybe all those Aggie jokes are true, after all.

btw: I have found no indication that Dembski has received any prize; he’s just giving a lecture in the endowed series.

Dembski is the recipient of this year’s Trotter prize sharing it with Stuart Kauffman

On April 4, 2005, Dr. William Dembski will receive this year’s prestigious Trotter Prize and give a lecture associated with that award. The event will be at Texas A&M University in College Station. Previous winners have included Drs. Paul Davies, Robert Shapiro, Alan Guth, John Polkinghorne, and Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Charles Townes.

Dembski is the recipient of this year’s Trotter prize sharing it with Stuart Kauffman

On April 4, 2005, Dr. William Dembski will receive this year’s prestigious Trotter Prize and give a lecture associated with that award. The event will be at Texas A&M University in College Station. Previous winners have included Drs. Paul Davies, Robert Shapiro, Alan Guth, John Polkinghorne, and Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Charles Townes.

Hello All,

I read the blurb on the creationist website, but I was unable to find any reference to it at TAMU, the Texas A&M website. The lecture series is endowed and several lectures are given each year. Trotter has also been hosting debates between creationists and sane people. I found no reference that Dumbski received the Prize, rather he was granted a debate. Still, the creationists have no ethical standard and I find it quite astounding the Dumbski would receive any prize other than Loser of the Year.

My personal opinion, including bile.

Regards, Dr. Bill Farrell

To call the Trotter award prestigious is a bit premature. The Trotter family enmphasize their affiliation with a Baptist church (which is Dembski’s turf) in whose activities they are very active. So is Dembski. To give this prize a veneer of alleged prestige, they first awarded it to a few real scientists such as Crick and Townes (the latter was once a co-inventor of laser, but lately has been engaged in philosophical exercise aimed at reconciling science and religion). This year they finally partially shed off the pretense and give a half of it to their evangeical co-traveler Dembski (the other half went to Kauffman who, unlike Dembski, has produced a meaningful output). There is little doubt the ID crowd will hail this award as a sign of the recognition of ID by mainstream science (which it is not by a long shot). So far neither Dembski nor anybody else in the ID crowd has produced any contributiion to any field of science (or mathematics) based on ID “theory.” By awarding the prize to Dembski, they have simply undermined any respect this prize may otherwise eventually win in the mainstream scientific community.

any field of science (or mathematics)

So you’re saying that mathematics is not science? ;-)

Mathematics is the “language” of science. And when devising a new mathematical system, picking the axioms can be a somewhat empirical process. ;)

Henry

Until Nosy will contribute something worthwile I will be dumping his comments to where they truly belong.

Dumped some off topic comments to the bathroom wall

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on March 24, 2005 9:28 PM.

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