The Karl Rove of Information Theory?

| 33 Comments

William Dembski continues to avoid answering my detailed criticisms of his work. Instead, he continues his personal attacks. Ever more desperate, he now resorts to quoting anonymous e-mail messages attacking me. I guess this is yet another variation on “the lurkers support me in e-mail”. How much lower can he go?

Here’s a brief summary of the debate so far. I’ve criticized Dembski’s work in several places, such as a book review published in the journal BioSystems and a longer paper with Elsberry. These criticisms date back to 2002. Dembski promised me a response in 2002, but three years passed and I heard nothing from him. I suppose eventually he got tired of his supporters asking why he had never responded, because in June he finally posted a “response” on his blog. But his “response” did everything it could to avoid actually addressing my criticisms. Instead, he resorted to personal attacks. I replied here. Now Dembski has replied again. This time he’s resorted to posting anonymous e-mail messages he’s received that call me a “fanatic”. I guess if you get tired of mud-slinging, you can just get someone else to do it – and do it anonymously.

Although Dembski refuses to provide the authors of the attack messages, I can probably guess the identity of the first two. Based on the delightful colloquialisms, the first is probably Andrew Ruys. I already commented on my exchange with Ruys here. But this new excerpt is wrong in several respects. First, I never “commanded” Ruys to read anything. I sent the URL to my long critical paper with Elsberry to him and I asked him to read it. (It’s interesting that Ruys can know it is “shight” without even reading it! Ahh, for the certainty of the intelligent design supporters.) As for “blowing me off”, on the contrary, Ruys promised he would read my paper and get back to me. More than two years later, I’m still waiting. More empty promises from the intelligent design community – why am I not surprised?

The author of the second message [“[He] amasses a database of your best evidence”] is harder to figure out, because the one common feature of intelligent design supporters is that they don’t provide any evidence. My guess is that it is John Bilello. Bilello, of course, is the bloviating evolution critic who kept insisting to me that journalist Gordon Rattray Taylor was a biologist and that Stephen Jay Gould was one of the main proponents of neo-Darwinism! For Bilello, I imagine anyone who doesn’t accept his bogus claims is a fanatic.

The third message is more of a mystery. I wonder if it is the same person who told me, “I believe you do provide serious criticism, especially in your published piece.” But this anonymous author uses the term “harass” incorrectly. “Harassing” for intelligent design advocates seems to mean “taking issue with your bogus claims”. Like many religious believers, they want everyone to accept their point of view unquestioningly. And if my critique is “nonsense”, it should be easy to point out why. No one has.

Dembski claims that he has “responded […] at length” to my critiques, in his book The Design Revolution. This is incorrect. I have reviewed this book and not a single one of my criticisms is addressed there. The two recent papers he mentions do not address my criticisms explicitly either, although I am pleased to see he has abandoned his previous bogus account of “specification” as unworkable. If only he could admit this forthrightly! Now he has altered his framework so much that it nearly coincides with previous work of Li and Vitányi which, by the way, he does not refer to. I challenge readers to read Dembski’s paper and that of Li and Vitányi and see for themselves. Paraphrasing a famous quip, Dembski’s new paper is both good and original. Unfortunately, the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

Dembski finally admits, three years after I informed him of the error, that the centerpiece calculation in No Free Lunch is off by 65 orders of magnitude. I suppose we should be grateful that he’s finally admitted it, but why did it take three years? Why is there no errata page for No Free Lunch? How long will it take him to admit to all the other errors I’ve pointed out?

Dembski still cannot bring himself to admit that his supposed quote of Schopenhauer is not due to Schopenhauer. He apparently thinks that “24,000 Google hits on the quote” is evidence. He should try googling “scientology thetans”. That gets 24,300 hits, but numbers alone don’t imply that scientology is right or thetans exist. My challenge to Dembski remains open: provide the citation to original work of Schopenhauer or admit you were wrong. You’ve admitted one mistake already, why not two?

Dembski continues to claim that I attempted to “insert” an article behind his back in an anthology he was co-editing. Incorrect again. I never attempted to “insert” anything or asked anyone to do so. Instead, I expressed my worry that if I submitted the article to Ruse, Dembski would find some way to illegitimately keep my article out of the volume. He may “continue to find such behavior unethical”, but the behavior he decries only exists as a fantasy in his mind.

Dembski continues to imply that fame and fortune await those who criticize ID. On the contrary, whenever colleagues find out that I spend my time on these activities, they always want to know, “Why are you wasting your time on that garbage?” Recently I spent two days in Philadelphia being deposed for the Dover case. Unlike Dembski, I didn’t charge $200/hour for my work on the case; I did it pro bono. Sorry, Bill, but even though the universe may revolve around you, I’m not improving my career or my wallet by being your critic.

With the amount of time Dembski has spent constructing bogus personal attacks, he could simply have read my critiques and responded to them. If they are wrong, it should be easy for the “Isaac Newton of information theory” to point out where. Unfortunately, his behavior is more consistent with being the “Karl Rove of information theory”.

33 Comments

If they are wrong, it should be easy for the “Isaac Newton of information theory” to point out where.

That’s Fig Newton of information theory.

Hmm… a fatty biscuit also containing figs. Wouldn’t having much of that in someone’s intake make them evacuate their bowels rather rapidly/frequently?

The Fig Newton of ID eh? Does that mean the major component of Dembski was fertilised by a uniquely suited (or at least relatively uniquely suited) species of wasp? Or is that W.A.S.P.? I an never tell.

I’m actually happy for Dembski to call himself/be referred to as the “Isaac Newton of ID” in one narrow sense. Newton was often a thoroughly unpleasant character who stifled and bullied his critics/opponents. He was also obsessed with various aspects of alchemy (read: pseudoscience), spirituality and theology (read: not science at all) and spent a considerable part of his productive life trying to solve various issues within this subjects. Old Isacc also did some top quality science.

So Newton was often unpleasant and arrogant, obsessed with pseudoscience and various religious ideas, and also turned out some great science. Sorry Dembski old son, two out of three ain’t bad. (Just to clarify, you missed on the last one)

ID is the Mr Benn* of the creationist world: “…and as if by magic, the information appeared”

(*Those of you unfamiliar with this brilliant but slightly obscure bit of 70s/80s British children’s telly please look here:

http://www.answers.com/topic/mr-benn )

“He can’t leave ID or me well enough alone (prove me wrong, Jeff).”

Says it all really. Please don’t scrutinize my work.…..because.….

Sorry, Bill, but even though the universe may revolve around you, I’m not improving my career or my wallet by being your critic.

But, you are improving the universe by doing so. The really great stuff never comes at an immediate pecuniary profit – alas.

Dembski still cannot bring himself to admit that his supposed quote of Schopenhauer is not due to Schopenhauer. He apparently thinks that “24,000 Google hits on the quote” is evidence. He should try googling “scientology thetans”. That gets 24,300 hits, but numbers alone don’t imply that scientology is right or thetans exist.

What I want to know is, how did you find something else that matched the number of hits?

Apparently ID boils down to “Perhaps God is made in man’s image.”

OK, if I undersatnd correctly, the ID theoretical model is that of a Master Experimenter, fiddling about in much the same manner as human scientists, excpet on a much grander and intricate scale.

How do we empiracally evaluate this model?

Regarding the Schopenhauer flap: I think you’re missing Debmski’s point. I don’t see him as saying that the Google hits proves he’s right. Rather I take him to be saying that he had good reason for thinking it was Schopenhauer, so while he was in error, it was a good faith error. He isn’t admiting he was wrong because it’s a minor insubstantial point that doesn’t speak to the issues at hand. Like he says, it’s pedantry.

Okay, I just defended Dembski. I think I need to go take a shower.

I agree it’s pedantic, but some people you just can’t stop kicking once they’re down.

Aw, leave Karl Rove out of this. There may not be many conservative Republicans who are fed up with the antics of creationists and ID-ers, but for God sakes, we do exist. Have some compassion!!! (Seriously, there are actually quite a few conservatives who are as pissed about this ID/creationism nonsense as anyone, and are doing what we can to fight the good fight.)

The big difference being, Karl Rove has enjoyed substantial professional success.

Rdog Wrote:

Could you please explain, so that this interested layman can understand, how ID theory would yield an alternative, and a (presumably) more fruitful strategy of inquiry?

Poof… Btw ID does not need to deal in “pathetic details”. Just ask Dembski…

Infidel! Geniuses like Bill Dembski have better things to do than to check calculations again and again to make sure they’re correct to a few orders of magnitude. Just wait until Dembski questions you personally in the next trial! You won’t be so confident when you’re stuck in his vice of truth then, will you? Mwa-ha-ha-ha.

P.S. Anyone have a link to the picture of the Vice of Truth? I wanted to link to it but can’t find it - boo hoo.

The first quote is from Denyse O’Leary – I’m sure she won’t mind me revealing her. As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.

I just came across this back cover photo for Dembski’s upcoming book, “Why I’m So Hot”.

http://venomouspenguin.com/wdph.jpg

WmAD Wrote:

The first quote is from Denyse O’Leary – I’m sure she won’t mind me revealing her. As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.

… Which I’m real good at ‘cause it’s, like, my job.

Doctor Dembski –

While you’re here, would you mind telling us if you’ve repudiated the HIV/AIDS denial that the magazine on whose board you sit has directed at children?

From a moral standpoint, I find this to be a more pressing issue than the identities of persons in an anonymous email flame-war.

William Dembski Wrote:

The first quote is from Denyse O’Leary – I’m sure she won’t mind me revealing her.

In other words, someone who lacks relevant credentials and whose prejudice is very well known. What exactly was posting her opinion supposed to prove?

William Dembski Wrote:

As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.

Is that what they gave you the Trotter Prize for? Cutting and pasting personal attacks?

William Dembski quoth:

The first quote is from Denyse O’Leary – I’m sure she won’t mind me revealing her. As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.

This is a remarkably non-substantive and unprofessional response.

Why would you, a supposed scientist who has failed to generate a substantive response to a substantive criticism of your “scientific” ideas, engage in the entirely unprofessional practice of slinging someone else’s anonymous critical emails in the first place?

Why would you imagine–or, more to the point, expect anyone else to imagine–that quoting from anonymous and nonsubstantive emails would add any substance to your own lack of response?

But, hey, I’m glad you’ve at least managed to save a little time by cutting and pasting. Maybe now you can apply some of that salvaged time to an actual ID research program.

Uh, once, that is, ID actually COMES UP WITH a theory and some hypotheses that could be tested with a research program.

But maybe that’s why it’s taken you three years to fail to come up with a substantive response to these critiques. You thunk and you thunk, but all you got was–

cue: sound of crickets chirping

Jeffrey,

If Bill Dembksi were really the Karl Rove of information theory, your sexual identity would have been called into question by numerous anonymous emails and your cover as a plainclothes blogger would have been blown, exposing you for a scientist by way of a column in AiG’s Technical Journal.

Jeffrey Shallit writes:

Ever more desperate, he now resorts to quoting anonymous e-mail messages attacking me. I guess this is yet another variation on “the lurkers support me in e-mail”. How much lower can he go?

Didn’t you know? Dembski is the Limbo King of Information Theory.

Is that what they gave you the Trotter Prize for? Cutting and pasting personal attacks?

Wow - google confirms there really is such a thing in America. It was actually making quite a lot of sense just with my initial guesses of it being a humorous remark, ie: Del Trotter (well known fictitious dishonest peddler of all sorts of rubbish and not above verbally attacking other people in an unsophisticated way - though without having to hide behind other people doing it) or Margaret Trotter (non-fictitious person well known on the BBC MBs for being of the rabidly religious sort who revels in the prospect of physical attacks on people not just verbal ones).

As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.

How dreadful.

Hey Isaac, would you mind cutting-and-pasting some answers to the questions I asked of you the LAST time you posted-and-ran in here?

They were:

1. What is the scientific theory of intelligent design, and how do we test it using the scientific method? I want to know what your designer does, specifically. I want to know what mechanism it uses to do whatever the heck you think it does. I want to know where we can see these mechanisms in action.

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

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

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

Hey Dr Bill, while you’re here, maybe you’d like to comment on the fact that all the ID supporters here keep dragging this “God” thing itno all their discussions . …

Are THEY lying when they say ID is all about God, or are YOU lying when you say it’s not?

Waldo writes “The first quote is from Denyse O’Leary – I’m sure she won’t mind me revealing her. As for my spending a lot of time constructing personal attacks against you, it wasn’t at all necessary – you’ve been remarkably adept at bringing these on yourself. The people you’ve annoyed have provided me with plenty of free material, which I then merely needed to cut and paste.”

Let me guess, they also haven’t/couldn’t respond to Jeff’s criticisms?

I dunno know about this Fig Netwon stuff. If I want to explain who Bill Dembski is to his new neighbors, I tell them he’s the Bill Curry of Information Theory. They’ll understand instantly.

Heck, I’d give him the moniker “Rich Brooks of Information Theory”, but hope springs eternal in Wildcat country. Brooks may yet guide the ‘Cats to wins over the Gators and Vols.

(College football afficiandos may commence to laugh heartily.)

Hey Bill Dembski, I’m sure it’s true, as it says on your book, that you are the Isaac Newton of Informtion Theory. Could you please tell me at which Information Theory conferences you’ll next be presenting? Could you perhaps refer me to paper in the mainstream Information Theory literture which references your revolutionary work? I’m assuming such things exist.

Off topic comments are being moved to the Bathroom Wall. Continued off-topic posting here will result in banning. Clear?

I’d still like to know how Jeffrey found another google search (scientology thetans) with the same number of hits as Dembski’s (alleged) Schopenhauer quote.

Jeff tells me that the “scientology thetans” search was the first he tried, and having a greater number of hits than Dembski’s example, he used it.

Jeff tells me that the “scientology thetans” search was the first he tried, and having a greater number of hits than Dembski’s example, he used it.

What astounding luck – or intuition! When I googled scientology thetans after seeing it here, google said there were “about 24,000” results, exactly the number Dembski used (it now says 23,100).

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This page contains a single entry by Jeffrey Shallit published on July 27, 2005 11:29 AM.

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