Skeptic on Dembski

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The latest issue of the Skeptic journal is now available (2005, vol. 11, No 4). It contains, among other things, two articles pertaining to the Intelligent Design and its critique. One of them (pages 54-65) is my article titled “The Dream World of William Dembski’s Creationism.” The other article (pages 66-69) “Creationism’s Holy Grail: The Intelligent Design of a Peer-Reviewed Paper” is by Robert Weitzel.

Given Dembski’s protestations regarding the term “creationism” when applied to his and his cohorts’ views (with some exceptions, like Dembski’s armour-bearer, Salvador Cordova who has frankly referred to himself as a creationist), perhaps it can be expected that Dembski will reject the very title of my paper as well as the reference to his ideas as a dream.

Weitzel’s paper is about Stephen Meyer’s infamous article in June 2004 issue of The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Weitzel shows the lack of merits in Meyer’s article and favorably quotes the article by Gishlick, Matzke, and Elsberry which was posted both on Panda’s Thumb (see this) and Talk Reason (see this).

I am posting this brief entry in order to explain why I’ve written one more article on Dembski’s already discredited pseudo-theory. Some denizens of The Panda’s Thumb and readers of Talk Reason probably know that I have authored a book Unintelligent Design (Prometheus Books, 2004) with a chapter about 100 pages long dealing in detail with Dembski’s literary output (as the latter existed at the time I was writing my book, in the first half of 2002). Furthermore, I have also authored a chapter in the anthology Why Intelligent Design Fails (Rutgers U. Press, 2004, eds Matt Young and Taner Edis) which specifically deals with Dembski’s misinterpretation and misuse of the No Free Lunch theorems. Why, then, have I written one more paper, which contains a concise critique of the main points of Dembski’s output?

Perhaps it is proper to point out that the article for Skeptic was written in March of 2004, before Dembski posted to the web some papers allegedly providing the “mathematical foundation of intelligent design.” Thus Dembski’s recent “mathematical” papers have not been covered in the Skeptic‘s article. My brief critical discussions of those “mathematical” papers by Dembski can be found here and here ; it was posted much later than the article for Skeptic was written. Other critiques of Dembski’s “mathematical” papers were suggested by Elsberry – see this (March 15, 2005), and by Tom English (posted on ARN website in March 2005).

Having published the above book and chapter in the Rutgers anthology (besides a number of posts on the web) dealing with Dembski’s publications, I had no reason to return to discussing his output. Of course it was rather obvious that Dembski most probably would continue shooting out multiple articles, posts, and books at a machine-gun rate, but the experience with his output up to 2004 provided a good basis for not expecting from him any material of a greater interest than his production had up to that date.

So, why did I write the paper for Skeptic? The answer is simple. The editor of the Skeptic journal, Michael Shermer suggested that I write a paper for him succinctly analyzing Dembski’s output. In other words, Shermer had in fact commissioned me to write such a paper, asking though to limit it to not more than about 7,500 words.

However strong the aversion on my part to once again dealing with the literary production of Dembski, I just felt I could not afford not to go along with Shermer’s suggestion.

In the paper I submitted to Shermer in March 2004 I tried to analyze as succinctly as reasonably possible the most salient points of Dembski’s output, omitting many details and ignoring his often unethical behavior, but covering his most loudly praised claims. Up to now, Dembski has never responded to the essence of my earlier critique. All his response boiled down to a couple of sentences, none of which in any way touched on the substance of my critique. On one such occasion Dembski wrote (in a post on the ARN website on March 13, 2004) that he has not replied to my critique because I just was

recycling other criticisms and doing a poor job in the process.

I think that for anybody who is familiar with my critique of Dembski it is obvious that the quoted “reply” displays Dembski’s arrogance and perhaps also his inability to offer counter-arguments to my critique. My book Unintelligent Design has been rather widely reviewed, both in press and on the web. While most of the reviews evaluated my book positively, there were, as could be expected, several quite negative reviews (mostly anonymous) obviously written by adherents of ID. However, in none of these negative reviews (not to mention the positive ones) was there even a hint at the notion that my arguments were not my own. There is little doubt that Dembski knows that my critical comments in no way “recycled” arguments of other critics. His disdainful dismissal of my critique as allegedly “recycling other criticisms” speaks more about his intellectual integrity than about the essence of my critique.

On another occasion, Dembski (see this) similarly dismissed my critical comments (as well as those by Wesley Elsberry) which addressed his article where he claimed to have mathematically “disproved” evolution theory. Again, without uttering a single word related to the substance of my (and Elsberry’s) critique, Dembski, in his habitual supercilious manner, wrote that answering my and Elsberry’s critique is rather low on his priority list since we (Elsberry and I) cannot even respond to his great math “in plain English” not to mention relating to his sophisticated mathematics (see Note 2 at the end of this post). (This was Dembski’s attempt at a pun, as another critic of Dembski’s article was named Tom English and in his critique Tom analyzed some details of Dembski’s mathematical exercise, while Elsberry and I avoided delving into Dembski’s math formalism because all his math exercise was irrelevant both to evolution theory and to the supposed foundation of intelligent design.)

I have no idea whether Dembski chooses not to respond to my article in Skeptic, as he chose so far to do regarding my previous critique of his output, or whether this time he will try to repudiate some parts of the substance of my critique. It does not matter, though. From previous experience with Dembski’s replies to critique (as to that by Richard Wein, H. Allen Orr, Jeffrey Shallit, Robert Pennock, Nic Matzke, and others – see some details here) a pattern seems to emerge: in his replies Dembski avoids addressing the crucial parts of the critical remarks, pointing instead to irrelevant details such as the formal credentials of his critics, distorting the critic’s arguments, triumphantly asserting, without any factual basis for it, the alleged imminent victory of ID etc. Therefore, even if Dembski chooses (as he has not yet) to “respond” to my article in Skeptic, there is no reason to expect that his possible response will have substance.

Anyway, I am hardly concerned with Dembski’s opinion of my critique. I view him as a pseudo-scientist whose prolific output, either as his own discourse or as replies to critics, is largely worthless. Moreover, the documented instances of Dembski’s unethical behavior provide an additional reason for not attaching much significance to his possible replies to critique. (For cases illustrating Dembski’s unethical behavior, see, for example this or this> (posted on March 26, 2004). After having published my book Unintelligent Design and the chapter in the Rutgers anthology, I had no plans to ever again write any detailed analysis of Dembski’s output, previous or subsequent. Shermer’s suggestion made me change my plans and write the article which appeared in Skeptic, v. 11, No 4. Also, some recent posts by Dembski led to my brief responses, posted on Talk Reason and Panda’s Thumb. Perhaps I’ll have to write about Dembski again in the future, but I’ll do it reluctantly; hopefully such cases will be quite rare, leaving this rather nauseating task to our younger colleagues whose own age is closer to Dembski’s.

Note 1

While Dembski’s output has been extensively critiqued by many experts in relevant fields of inquiry (including information theory, biology, end others) one of the reasons for his contemptuous and supercilious attitude to critics may be the abundance of exaggerated acclaims of his publications by sycophants like Salvador Cordova and such philosophers as Robert Koons. Apparently Dembski is inclined to give much more weight to those acclaims than to critique, as the acclaims jibe well with his own well documented self-admiration. To judge, however, what the reliability of the loud praise for Dembski’s alleged breakthroughs is, let us look at just one example.

In the much derided example, philosopher Robert Koons of Texas wrote (in the blurb on the dust cover of Dembski’s book Intelligent Design, InterVarsity Press 1999):

William Dembski is the Isaac Newton of information theory, and since this is the Age of information, that makes Dembski one of the most important thinkers of our time. His law of conservation of information represents a revolutionary breakthrough.

This super-inflated acclaim apparently did not embarrass Dembski. Were his behavior typical of a scientist, he certainly would have objected to having such a laughable blurb printed, or at least expressed his discomfort after the fact. He never did, thus testifying to his apparent agreement with Koons’s obsequious lines. Now, however, I am interested not so much in Dembski’s self-admiration as in the actual level of Koons’s understanding of what he was writing about. In the Science Insight journal, a publication of the National Association of Scholars (v.7, No 5, 2003 –(see this) there is a letter by that same philosopher Robert Koons who, just a few years after his comparison of Dembski to Newton and acclaiming Dembski’s “law of conservation of information” now writes, among other things, that

William Dembski does not claim to have ‘discovered’ the law of the conservation of information. Instead, he simply brings this well-known and widely accepted result of information theory (the ‘no free lunch theorems’) to bear on problems of the origin of biological information.

The 2003 statement by Koons, which utterly negates his previous claim of 1999, appeared after Dembski’s alleged law was shown to be non-existent by a number of critics. This example illustrates that acclaims of Dembski’s work by his admirers more often than not are worthless. (By the way, Koons’s second claim also demonstrates his ignorance of the matter he endeavors to judge. The “no free lunch theorems” by Wolpert and Macready have no relation whatsoever to Dembski’s alleged law of conservation of information, and even less support it in any way. Moreover, these theorems have little to do with information theory in general. They are part of optimization theory, but philosopher Koons seems to have an equally nebulous understanding of what constitutes both information and optimization theories. Such is the level of authority of Dembski’s multiple admirers and sycophants.)

Note 2.

In a post (see this), Dembski wrote:

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.

I cannot speak for Elsberry, who surely is fully capable of repudiating Dembski’s arrogant claim in regard to Elsberry’s critique (in my view Elsberry’s critique of Dembski has been quite insightful and well substantiated). As to my own alleged lack of understanding of Dembski’s “mathematical” paper, perhaps it is relevant to point out that unlike Dembski, who has a rather unimpressive history of publishing peer-reviewed papers, I have to my credit nearly 300 scientific papers printed in international journals, as well as several scientific monographs. I also was granted a number of patents in several countries. For example, any one of my published papers on stress calculation contains more formulae (all of which I derived) than Dembski’s entire mathematical output. (For example, just one paper printed in Surface Technology, v. 8, 1979, pp. 265-309, contains 131 formulae I derived). Regarding my inability to express my view of Dembski’s mathematical exercise “even in plain English,” in fact I have expressed my ideas in published papers which I wrote in five languages. There seems to be little doubt that Dembski would hardly be capable of even reading most of those languages, or of comprehending the gist of most of those papers, such as those dealing with computation of electric fields in cells of complex shape, with calculation of stress, with kinetics of photodeposition, with electrosorption hysteresis, and with other subjects I used to deal with. It is advisable that Dembski weigh more carefully his disdainful utterances if he wants to be taken seriously beyond the narrow circle of his lickspittles. Of course all this is hardly relevant to the critique of Dembski’s output, and I’d prefer not to have said all of this, but Dembski’s arrogant remarks regarding “plain English” (which are rather typical of his overall attitude to his critics) called for providing, at least once, some reply in a similar vein, at least as a footnote.

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When IDcs complain that world of science ignores IDcists they are wrong for several reasons. Read More

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I would like to recommend this site to Panda’s Thumb readers. It purports to challenge the Periodic Table on the basis of ID.

http://www.re-discovery.org/per_table.gif

http://www.re-discovery.org/

It is quite subtle and clever–from their website:

The reDiscovery Institute is non-profit, non-partisan, public-policy think-tank located in Tacoma, Washington, with branches in Atlanta, Georgia and Fort Worth, Texas. The reDiscovery Institute fosters integration of science education with traditional Judeo-Christian principles of free market, limited government, morality, faith, property, obedience, and anti-intellectualism .

Our primary focus is to extend and promote Design Theories, which have been so successful in Biology, to the fields of Chemistry, Astronomy, Geology, Atmospheric Science, Oceanography, Material Science, Acoustics, Condensed Matter Physics, Fluid Dynamics, Nuclear Physics, Anthropology, Physiology, Algebra, Geometry, Statistics, and Meteorology.

Our goals are to Teach the Controversies, all of them, each and every one. The reDiscovery Institute promotes better education of children, and re-education of adults; those on our current Enemies List. The reDiscovery Institute supports Fellows, who relentlessly write letters to editors and post ‘articles’ on the web. Highly-paid journalists present our Fellows to the public as bonafide scientists.

The reDiscovery Institute maintains a slick web page, and tirelessly promotes archaic religious dogma elegantly dressed in modern scientific terminology, to school boards, museums, theaters, and editorial pages across America. We are consultants to Fox News Network. The reDiscovery Institute urges adherence to John Phillipson’s Ice Pick Gambit: “Until we gain total control, keep the old testament part of our agenda quiet because it frightens normal people.” The reDiscovery Institute is backed by members, a board, and an ultra-conservative, ultra-rich, California savings and loan heir who believes that the American democracy should be replaced with biblical theocracy.

If he has time to blog, he has no excuse.

The term “lackwit” may apply, since his ingenuity in replies to critics seems lacking in regard to the quality of his speech. Instead of providing clear or concientious commentary, Dembski resorts to a tactic that I have found familiar in pseudoscientists who receive praise largely from uninformed “scholars” and “philosophers” (people who read and think about things a lot, oooo…) and the responses, if typical, are themselves the only true recycled remarks in the conversations (if you can call them that). Dembski does not try to muster courage and brave the idea he might be wrong, since in his view he is right, and thus only seeks to validate his ideas and disrespect those that contradict what he has faith in are real. His touchiness on his avowed religiosity being mentioned by others is a classical defense when you run a front organization that pretends not to be religious in nature, but is such to its core. All that is lacking are the cheap repeated insults; if he were Jewish, no doubt he’s be claiming antisemitism and jew-baiting, something I had to deal with in regards to another “scholar”.

Dr. Perakh,

I’ve never said anything publicly derogatory of you personally, and in fact have offered some of my praise for your work (like your critique of Bible codes, and your essay in Shermer’s magazine where you talked of a pebble).

Thus, though we intensely disagree, I was surprised that you would refer to me as a sychophant or lickspittle. If wish to say derogatory comments of me that’s your free speech right…

And if you wish to be-little me by calling me Bill Dembski’s armor bearer, then I’ll say, it’s been an honor serving the Noble Sir William.

I will credit you however with at least stating in your book on page 97 and 98 definitions related to Bill Dembski’s CSI, which more than I can say for the lengthy critique that Shallit and Elsberry made, where they didn’t even quote Dembski’s definitions but rather slapped together their own straw man approximations of CSI.

At least I credit you with typing Dembski’s definition verbatim for CSI:

Complex Specified Information :

The coincidence of conceptual and physical information where the conceptual information is both identifiable independent of the physical information and also complex

So, I credit you with quoting Dembski properly on a key definition, which is more than I can say for Shallit and Elsberry in their paper which I criticize in Response to Elsberry and Shallit 2003

That said, on page 97 of your book where you say:

Therefore, insofar as we deal with text, the term conceptual information seems to coincide with the meaning of that text.

Mark Perakh

Which does not represent what conceptual information is, even if text is involved. And thus your critique of CSI is flawed from the start.

I’m not saying you agree with Dr. Dembski, but if you’re going to critique his work you should represent his ideas accurately. The representation you offered on page 97 is inaccurate, but subtle enough that most on this discussion board will not discern.

However, if little old me could figure it out that you made a mistake, someone with 300 published papers in 5 languages liek you should not have made that mistake in the first place. But, hey, the best of us make mistakes, and perhaps in the 2nd edition of your book you can put me in the acknowledgement section for correcting your mistake.

Out of curiosity, nothwithstanding that you are a very well-qualified physicist, does your field of specialty translate into understanding Dr. Dembski’s Displacement theorem and the associated proofs? You may not agree to the assumptions, but are the derivations from the assumptions correct. Are his calculations sound?

But I must say, given you did not represent Dembski’s work accurately on page 97 of your book, I hope you understand this armor-bearer’s reluctance to ascent to any of your other pronouncements against the Noble Sir William.

And until you can represent his work accurately, I suppose you’ll be relegated to having to joust with Sir William’s armor bearer rather than Sir William himself.

Salvador Cordova

Sal, maybe you can explain something else. I’m looking at the website for the 2005 IEEE International Symposium for Information Theory. It will be held in Adelaide, Australia. This is The upcoming conference for IT scientists. Now, I was confused when I saw the list of plenary speakers:

* Richard Blahut (Shannon Lecturer) * P. R. Kumar * David MacKay * Benjamin Schumacher * Terry Speed

Isn’t that weird? No William Dembski. The Isaac Newton of Information Theory, not speaking at the big IT conference? That’s strange. Maybe he’s presenting a paper, though. Is Dembski presenting a paper at the conference? Like you say, Darwin should have known Information Theory to study evolution. Dembski is your big supposed Information Theory guru about evolution. So he should be there, right?

I know. He might have a scheduling conflict. You see, the other big thing going on in September for IT scientists is the workshop in New Zealand. Specifically, the IEEE ITSOC Information Theory Workshop 2005 on Coding and Complexity. Coding and complexity, that’s right up Dembski’s alley, if he’s such an expert at this stuff, isn’t that true? Take a look at the topics covered at the workshop:

Algorithmic information theory; channel coding; coded modulation; complexity, information and entropy; complexity measures; convolutional coding; error-correcting codes; information theory and statistics; iterative decoding; LDPC codes; quantum information theory; quantum-theoretical aspects of coding; randomness and pseudo-randomness; relationships between codes and complexity; rate distortion theory; soft-decision decoding; source coding; source-channel coding; spreading sequences and CDMA; turbo codes.

See that? “Algorithmic information Theory”—“information theory and statistics”—“relationships between codes and complexity”—that’s exactly what you think Dembski is such an expert at. So is he going to be teaching those sections of the workshop? Or will they be discussing any of Dembski’s results there? I mean, it can’t be true that international conferences on Information Theory would fail to discuss revolutionary new results in IT. So if they’re not talking about Dembski, why not?

Sal said:

Which does not represent what conceptual information is, even if text is involved. And thus your critique of CSI is flawed from the start.

Seriously? Then just what in blazes does “conceptual information” mean? And just to be sure you’re not bluffing, can you give any examples, from both Dembski and others, where the use supports your definition over Dr. Perakh’s?

With friends like Salvador Cordova Dembski needs no adversaries. Salvador seems to be under delusion that his diatribes may be taken seriously (re his miserable “critique” of Elsberry & Shallit’s paper} while Dembski seems to revel in praise even if it comes from nincompoops.

Hey Sal,

Ever wonder why we deal with people who can’t carry on a simple conversation without resorting to childish name calling. Sychophant, lickspittle, lackwit, nincompoop? How can these guys talk about Dembski being arrogant, unethical, and rude. I have never seen the evidence for such claims. I would say that it is apparent and understandable that Dembski grows frustrated with having to deal with the same old bull all the time from anti-ID propagandists, but he never just gets on his blog and starts calling his critics delusional pseudo-scientists lackwits. The way these guys see Sir William looks to be just another classic case of self-projection?

Anyways, I just finished reading your critique of Elsberry & Shallit’s paper and noticed that you managed to complete a quite thorough response without ever lowering yourself to such pejorative language. Good Job.

it’s been an honor serving the Noble Sir William. … you’ll be relegated to having to joust with Sir William’s armor bearer rather than Sir William himself.

Is anyone else reminded of the Monty Python brave Sir Robin sketch? :-D Any relegation was due to the principal running away. Dembski needs a (more honest) minstrel. Anyone applying for the post of Dembski’s Minstrel would have to be aware that they won’t be allowed to accurately sing his “praises” in his presence (ie on his blog) though.

T. Russ Wrote:

Anyways, I just finished reading your critique of Elsberry & Shallit’s paper and noticed that you managed to complete a quite thorough response without ever lowering yourself to such pejorative language. Good Job.

This must be some usage of “thorough” with which I am not familiar. Salvador’s linked commentary only runs to criticizing our identification of simple computational processes as the means by which apparent “specified complexity” may be obtained and repetition of the curious mantra-like objection that since we didn’t mention Dembski’s vague, non-mathematical “definition” of “complex specified information” we committed an “inexcusable” error. It seems odd to me that our extended critique of the mathematical framework of Dembski’s that was the object of Dembski’s descriptive phrasing went entirely unremarked by Salvador, and yet Salvador’s bit of commentary is considered a “thorough” treatment by “T. Russ”.

So let’s enumerate the bits that Salvador somehow failed to address in his “thorough” criticism (linked in his comment above) of Elsberry and Shallit 2003. I’ll just cover the first ten pages of our 48 pages of essay, so this is just a sample of what Salvador did not bother to address:

* Dembski’s paucity of publications in mathematical journals * Dembski’s lack of publication in information theory journals * Dembski’s failure to provide a consistent account of “design” * The fact that “design” is considered by science, contra Dembski * The distinction between “ordinary” and “rarefied” design inferences * The marvelous expanding museum exhibit * Dembski’s inconsistent stance on what can be studied concerning a detected designer * The examples of inquiring about identity and intention of designers * Dembski’s inconsistent usage of “intelligent * The protected status of intelligent agency in Dembski’s “design inference” * Dembski’s depauperate listing of hypotheses concerning Nicholas Caputo * Dembski’s use of the “Erroneous Design Inference Principle” (EDIP) * The substantiation of EDIP in scientific studies * Dembski’s refusal to properly consider design hypotheses and chance hypotheses * Dembski’s overlooking of Jocelyn Bell and LGM-1 * Dembski’s ambiguity in referring to “complex” sequences * Modern science considers both design and non-design hypotheses * Dembski’s avoidance of the issue of animal intelligence * The curious non-application of CSI to demonstrate animals as “intelligent agents” * The generation of CSI via proxy as a problem for assigning intelligence to humans * Dembski’s video-camera-certainty method of “induction”

“I would say that it is apparent and understandable that Dembski grows frustrated with having to deal with the same old bull all the time from anti-ID propagandists…”

I thought the entire point is that he never actually “deals” with anyone who criticizes his “work”.

T. Russ Wrote:

Ever wonder why we deal with people who can’t carry on a simple conversation without resorting to childish name calling.

This, coming from the guy who just recently called me, “Boy,” and made reference to me being some kind of dog? Once again, the hypocrisy of IDers knows no bounds.

Besides, aside from definitions of information (using Shannon information theory, that is), the problems with Dembski’s “terms” are the bases of use for “conceptual”, “physical” and “complex”. Complex? Complexity is relative, as any one familiar with Complexity Theory can tell you. A spoon is a collection of millions of atoms is a simple tool is a spoon.…

Hey! It’s T. Rex again! Now, forgive me if this is getting a bit repetitious, but didn’t you promise months ago to go away and not return until you had a meaningful response to Elsberry’s critiques? I have to ask, then, if referring to Cordova’s “thorough response” substitutes for providing your own. What about the list provided in comment #43222?

Would anyone care to speculate on T. Russ’ religious orientation? Would anyone wonder whether it is just a coincidence? Is anyone willing to argue that what’s really being addressed here is the math, and not the faith? Does anyone seriously expect that Dembski will ever address substantive criticisms knowing that they invalidate his apologetics?

We’re partway there, I hope. Now, when anyone says “ID is science” there’s little debate as to whether it’s really science; we all know it’s not. But when Dembski says “ID is math” everyone focuses on the math.

People, the topic here is a religious doctrine. Belief in defiance of the evidence is surely the sine qua non of Creationism. Dembski has chosen to misrepresent the evidence in mathmatical terms. Getting Dembski to admit valid criticisms of his treatment is like getting Duane Gish to admit there was no Noah’s Flood. Not going to happen.

Getting Dembski to admit valid criticisms of his treatment is like getting Duane Gish to admit there was no Noah’s Flood. Not going to happen.

But surely you’re not suggesting that we quit harping on it?

Aside from the entertainment value of watching the loyal “armor bearers” dodge the questions, and provoking Dembski to ever more childish displays of petulance, there’s the important educational point of continuously demonstrating to anyone who seriously wonders about IDC: there’s no there there.

Ed, remember that Sal is on the record as claiming that “information is almost anything you want it to be”. Just make it up as you go along and you cannot be wrong.

This is the acme of ID theory. LOL.

(Url for Sal’s comment: http://www.arn.org/ubb/ultimatebb.p[…].html#000365)

I don’t know if this is the right place to post this, but here goes:

Dembski was featured in a Danish national weekly newspaper (Weekendavisen) article on ID last week. This week saw some letters to the editor, one of which was from an associate professor of mathematics at the Danish Technical University. Dealing with the question of whether scientists should lend academic credibility to ID by discussing it, Hjorth wrote that he had attended a talk by Dembski at his department last year. My translation of part of the letter (titled “Creationists find only a mirror”):

“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.”

Original letter (for subscribers only).

Does Koons know how to describe Dembski’s work in “plain English”? Does he understand the ‘work’ at all?

I don’t know where I stand with the debate. But I’m shocked to read some of the insults being thrown at Sal. I re-read his whole post a couple more times to see what he could have said that is drawing such heat. I can’t find it. What exactly are some of you attacking?

The general feeling of smug, self satisfaction radiating from every pore does it for me.

Sad Wrote:

I don’t know where I stand with the debate.

Perhaps you would like to ask some questions then? What is it about this debate (I assume you mean the debate between evolution and ID) that you are unsure about? Perhaps we can help you.

…I’m shocked to read some of the insults being thrown at Sal. I re-read his whole post a couple more times to see what he could have said that is drawing such heat. I can’t find it. What exactly are some of you attacking?

You’re right; if all there was to Sal was the post you read, you’d have to wonder: why the venomous reaction? I would guess that people are responding to Sal in historical context.

Sal is a Young Earth Creationist (YEC). That’s right - he contends that the earth was created a few thousand years ago, just like it says in Genesis. He thinks there was a literal Adam & Eve; that there was a world-wide flood, etc. etc. In other words, he doesn’t give a damn about science, except insofar as it contradicts his religion. That makes him really mad. So he proudly assumes the role of Sancho Panza to Dembski’s Don Quixote, praising his every utterance, comically pretending to grasp the profundity in his master’s mathematical pretensions - even in the face of criticisms* from serious scientists and mathematicians. All because Dembski is the current Great White Hope of the creationists’ dream of making science and logic compatible with scripture.

*(“criticism” is a euphemism here. It implies that there are scientists or mathematicians that take Dembski seriously.)

Aside from finding his obsequious attitude toward Dembski variously comical and nauseating, I think a number of readers detect a hint of hypocrisy in a biblical literalist, Young Earth Creationist touting the party line of the ID movement, which pretends to be more scientifically sophisticated than the cartoon creationists of yesteryear.

Hope this helps.

Oh, that makes sense then. He believes certain things that seem to contradict scientific knowledge and other things that can’t be proved. He is a F#$*ing good for nothing piece of trash. Let’s never listen to anything he has to say then because of his accompanying historical context. Let’s put alot of “LOL’s” following his posts too. We can be our own little clan.

Oh wait!!!! I’m a F#$*ing good for nothing piece of trash too. My stars! I believe things that contract scientific knowledge. That earth cooled and liquid water appears around 3.8 billion years ago…followed immediately by photosynthetic algae. Darn it!!! That’s not gradual. Come on chemical evolution.… where’s my trial and error? Where is the gradualism? Now how about that early bacterial complexity? Crap! That’s out of key too.

“chemical evolution”? Have you been reading the Jack Chick tracts again?

So let’s enumerate the bits that Salvador somehow failed to address in his “thorough” criticism (linked in his comment above) of Elsberry and Shallit 2003. I’ll just cover the first ten pages of our 48 pages of essay, so this is just a sample of what Salvador did not bother to address:

* Dembski’s paucity of publications in mathematical journals * Dembski’s lack of publication in information theory journals * Dembski’s failure to provide a consistent account of “design” * The fact that “design” is considered by science, contra Dembski * The distinction between “ordinary” and “rarefied” design inferences * The marvelous expanding museum exhibit * Dembski’s inconsistent stance on what can be studied concerning a detected designer * The examples of inquiring about identity and intention of designers * Dembski’s inconsistent usage of “intelligent * The protected status of intelligent agency in Dembski’s “design inference” * Dembski’s depauperate listing of hypotheses concerning Nicholas Caputo * Dembski’s use of the “Erroneous Design Inference Principle” (EDIP) * The substantiation of EDIP in scientific studies * Dembski’s refusal to properly consider design hypotheses and chance hypotheses * Dembski’s overlooking of Jocelyn Bell and LGM-1 * Dembski’s ambiguity in referring to “complex” sequences * Modern science considers both design and non-design hypotheses * Dembski’s avoidance of the issue of animal intelligence * The curious non-application of CSI to demonstrate animals as “intelligent agents” * The generation of CSI via proxy as a problem for assigning intelligence to humans * Dembski’s video-camera-certainty method of “induction”

For one, Wesley, for some of the issues you mention, I may have thought you had a reasonable and potentially valid point. My lack of commentary may simply mean I think those points should be considered, but it does not mean that I believe you are correct.

As you know I was very favorable to your work at first, even giving preference to your ideas earlier over Dr. Dembski’s in 2003. However, in the course of further study, I began to feel Dr. Dembski had a better case. Though I may not be as qualified as Dr. Perakh in terms of semi-conductor films and stress analysis, my background is at least reasonable enough to read through competing arguments regarding ID detection. I’ve worked on automatic target recognition and fingerprint identification. The issues involved are not foreign to me.…

I felt your criticisms and that of Dembski’s former professor, Jeffrey Shallit, had much merit and worthy of consideration in several areas. I merely pointed out the areas I considered outrightly wrong. Maybe your other points have merit, maybe not, but the areas I highlighted showed where you inaccurately represented key concepts.

For the sake of the reader, in simplistic terms, the concept of CSI is very well approximated by a “bluprint/artifact” metaphor, where CSI is the design that is evidenced by the PHYISCAL artifact. One infers CSI is in evidence by a PHYSICAL artifact if one has an independent blueprint in hand that describes the PHYSICAL artifact.

A patent violation case is a good illustration. One has a basic blue print in a patent, if one finds a PHYSICAL artifact matching that basic blueprint, one says the PHYSICAL artifact evidences CSI.

Your TSPGRID examples didn’t really touch on PHYSICAL artifacts, but focused on the blueprint alone. Your analysis was therefore totally out in left field, having inaccurately represented what CSI is.

However, I did credit you with helping provide a method of creating independent specifications through your concept of SAI, since we don’t actually have direct access to the blueprints which a designer may have used. Your SAI provided a method of reconstructing such a blueprint…

So I was not totally negative on some of the very ingenious ideas you and Jeffrey put forward. I think, you inadvertently made valuable contributions to ID with your SAI, if one is willing to take a slightly differnt perspective.

My accolades however do not negate that you and Jeffrey complete erred in representing CSI, much less refuting it. My analysis is not hard for someone with a modest background in science to understand.

Again, for the sake of the lurkers, a somewhat plain English, informal critique of Wesley and Jeffey’s work is at: Response to Elsberry and Shallit 2003

I mention favorably the idea tha Mark Perakh put forward regarding a pebble on the beach. I liked that example very much.

Salvador Cordova PS thank for the kind words T. Russ, and congratulations also for being mentioned in the journal Nature this past April.

Ed asked,

Seriously? Then just what in blazes does “conceptual information” mean? And just to be sure you’re not bluffing, can you give any examples, from both Dembski and others, where the use supports your definition over Dr. Perakh’s?

Hiya Ed,

I appreciate your interest in learning more about ID.

You can learn more about conceptual information by purchasing William Dembski’s book, No Free Lunch. A copy can be obtained by making a $35.00 donation to Access Research Network. You can do so through this link:

No Free Lunch by William Dembski

Or, you can also get a free introductory description of conceptual information at the ISCID link I provided earlier at: Response to Elsberry and Shallit 2003

The word “blueprint” is a reasonable approximation of what conceptual information is. The concept of blueprint however needs to be extended a bit when one does not have access to the original blueprint which the designer used. I cover that in my discussion at ISCID.

Salvador Cordova PS This is an unpaid promotion for Bill’s books. I just felt you guys at PT need to lighten up a bit with a bit of humor. But you should read Bill’s books if you want to critique them seriously.

I for one have purchased Mark Perakh’s book, Taner Edis’s book (with contributions from many PTers), and Paul Gross’s book. So I do read what the PT authors publish regarding ID.

Hey, don’t tar Sancho Panza with Sal’s sins–Sancho knew he was working for an idiot. He’s more Bardolph to Dembski’s Falstaff…

Sad, did you come here to ask questions and learn about evolutionary theory? If so, please ask away and the people here will be more than willing to help you.

If you came to complain about the treatment that some people receive, this place is the same as most other discussion boards. Sometimes the rhetoric heats up and people exchange words that they would not otherwise use in polite conversation. IMO it stems from the anonymity of sitting behind a computer screen detached from the person that you are conversing with. In that sense, what you are witnessing with Sal and others is an ongoing back and forth that has been going on for quite a while. And, yes, it is a back and forth. No one, however, has called him a, “F#$*ing good for nothing piece of trash.” People do disagree with him and those disagreements do heat up, but no one has called Sal that. Please don’t put words in other people’s mouths.

If you truly want to learn and discuss things, please, let’s do that. If you came to complain, then perhaps you should try looking back at some of the previous exchanges that have taken place, and you can decide for yourself whether anyone has stepped over the line.

1) My point is that what you will likely compare to things humans design to call design, “that which projects intent”… is no different than the sum of any otber objects *expressed bias* toward satisfying whatever relevant physical need, necessity being the mother of “invention” in every case. Only human arrogance can put us above nature to make us believe that we aren’t “predisposed” to making our own form of “fairy-rings”… there is no difference.

2) Done and done… ;)

3) Please spend some quality time on it.

Can’t make it much clearer that CSI is a purely subjective metric.

Sal declined to actually calculate the CSI of the exemplars, of course. It’s much easier to fake it with coins and pretend that has something to do with biology.

Yes, the ARN thread is classic Sallie: claim that design can be detected, then refuse to do it. Ignore the fact that Dembski’s entire case for making ID different from pure intuition relies on performing the math. It is fairly clear that Sallie is fundamentally incapable of either understanding or applying what Dembski has been rambling about for book after book.

For Sallie, it’s about religion - the actual science is irrelevant.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Perakh published on August 15, 2005 4:03 PM.

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