Fuller’s Invention?

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Over on Michael Berube’s weblog, Steve Fuller responded to various points being made about his advocacy of “intelligent design”. One item caught my attention:

6.’And please, to cite Dembski…the man is a dilettante who relies on speaking math to those who know a little biology and biology to those who know a little math. His ideas are useless.’ Well, his ideas may be wrong, but they are not useless. In any case, the man’s not finished yet – and (unlike Newton) he’s exposing his ideas for public inspection and critique, rather than going underground for 10-20 years to work all the bugs out. (Perhaps you’d prefer that approach.) Here you’ve got to take seriously what it means for ID to be primarily a science of ‘design’: God and humans design in exactly the same way (so says the theory), so the more we learn about detecting human-led design (e.g. Dembski has come up with scientific fraud detectors used by the NIH and NSF – I can already see students of Irony 101 raising their hands), the more we get (hopefully testable) ideas about how the universe might be designed. ID basically turns biology into divine technology. This is not a million miles from Herbert Simon in ‘Sciences of the Artificial’, in which he imagines (among other things) natural selection as a watchmaker who gets interrupted a lot and periodically needs to regroup from where he left off. [emphasis added - WRE]

William A. Dembski, mathematician, theologian, and philosopher, is also a heavyweight expert when it comes to self-promotion. So why is it, Steve, that Dembski has not himself boasted of the adoption of his particular methods by the NIH and NSF for “fraud detection”?

My basic stance on this is skepticism until such time as an independently verifiable reference is provided. One does not have to look far to find ID advocates exaggerating grandly from mundane reality, so I take the claim that someone other than Dembski has figured out how to make Dembski’s methods work (when even Dembski has thus far failed at that task) with a dried-up Permian sea of salt.

(Continue reading at Antievolution.org)

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I found more very interesting discussion with Fuller and critics on literature and cultural studies professor Michael Brub's blog: Brub mentions Fuller briefly. Panda's Thumb picks up the story via Antievolution.org. Fuller responds, provoki... Read More

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“God and humans design in exactly the same way (so says the theory)”

So now ID posits not only that God is the designer, but that we can make assumptions about the way God designs?

And that humans are gods?

I won’t hazard a guess at how God design things. I do know that humans are quite limited in power, though, and find endless minor improvements on suboptimal designs over time. In recent years, computer searches have been used to find or approximate optimal solutions to problems that defy human intelligence–for instance routing all the connections on a computer chip in approximately optimal layout. The routing algorithms are just simple deterministic processes, though. I like to think that anyone worthy of the capitalized word God would do a lot better than humans or their computers, but like I said, I won’t hazard a guess.

I will hazard a guess at how humans design things, because I think it’s an interesting question. In the most general sense, all designs are solutions to optimization problems. The only available steps in an optimization method come down to one of two things: either generating a candidate solution or comparing it against other candidate solutions. Occasionally logic can be applied to rule out an infinity of solutions. For instance if you have peg that won’t fit in a hole, you can infer that the infinity of larger pegs would also fail to fit. But actually a lot can be done by mere tinkering, and it’s not obvious to me that logic ultimately beats out tinkering except through increasing the efficiency of finding designs.

What humans cannot do, however, is make a complex functioning design in absence of other related designs. Designs build on others; they don’t arrive fully developed in dreams. So any argument that evolution fails because a particular mechanism is inaccessible through a series of incremental refinements would apply just as well to a human invention.

Like human design, evolution can generate possible designs and can compare them. It has also been operating longer than human intelligence and has more combined processing power at any given step. Why should we be surprised to find that its creative capacity matches (and indeed exceeds) that of humans?

In my not-so-humble opinion, any entity worthy of the capital G word designation would do a whole lot better at designing biological systems than the human body.

Further down the comments, DocMara quotes the recent New York Times article about the Templeton Foundation’s disappointment about ID:

“The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.”

Amazingly, Fuller responded with:

Not a good sign, to be sure. But the Templeton Foundation could be a bit more imaginative about the way it gives away its money. In particular, they could run a competition to come up with a blueprint for an ID research program, including anticipated re-interpretations and new theorizing of existing data, as well new experiments and even modes of empirical inquiry. The competition could be open to both supporters and opponents of ID, and the prize committee would consist of supporters and opponents as well. Put a 12-18 month and 25,000 word limit, and also promise to publish all the better ones, even though the prize money only goes to the best. That’s how Templeton could help raise ID’s game: Turn it into a game!

That’s right. It’s not the fault of the IDists that they could not come up with a use for the money the Templeton Foundation was looking to throw in their direction… No, it was because the Foundation didn’t make the process fun enough!! Doh!!

Now, that’s quite a Dembski-ism if you ask me.

My favorite Fullerism is the claim that Linus Pauling predicted (correctly!) that the material of heredity was protein.

When his error was pointed out to him

he Wrote:

First of all, I admit to the charge of failing to tell the difference between nucleic acids and polypeptides! But before launching into non-sequitur claims of my incompetence, I was originally prompted to comment on Pauling’s prediction that ‘genetic material is a protein’. Now Pauling knew about DNA but thought it had a protein structure. He basically made my error. However, my error was informed by a hazy memory that Pauling had several years earlier articulated a principle that Watson-Crick (but not Pauling himself) used to figure out the structure of DNA. So I’m not being quite as stupid as the poster suggests. But I admit error. (But the original point about whether scientists can predict future science is unaffected: Even Pauling made some correct predictions about productive avenues of research.) Unfortunately, the poster seems to think that knowledge of the structure of DNA is somehow germane to whether Darwinism or ID provides a better basis for biological explanation.

Uh, yeah. Fuller makes the same mistake Pauling did. Except that Pauling’s mistake was made in 1951 and Fuller’s was made yesterday. And also, Pauling did not think that DNA “had a protein structure” – he thought that genes were encoded in the protein portion of nucleoprotein.

A critic of science who can’t keep the distinction between proteins and nucleic acids straight has no right to an opinion on what constitutes good biology.

Who is that Lawrence Sober character in the Fuller thread?

Sounds like he’s been reading a lot of Lenny Flank. ;)

Well, a Google search, and searches of the NIH and NSF websites turned up nothing. I have to agree that if Dembski’s approach was being used by government agencies, that fact would be repeated again and again by ID proponents.

Fuller is one of the …er, well, “buffoons”, of the “science war”, though like many of them he addresses interesting topics. Taking him seriously is often a recipe for head-slapping.

Yes, I definitely agree, Fuller seems a little loose on the facts. If the NSF or NIH was using fraud detectors designed by Dembski, clearly Bill would have let us know, in fact I have heard Bill several times claim that the cryptographers in the Military were interested in his ideas, though I have never seen a true follow-up (but I am sure it would all be top secret homeland security anyway.)

Even if Fuller was correct we have already covered ad naseum to difference between forensic approaches in finding things like fraud, plagerism etc. and the “design inference” ala Dembski to infer ID of biological features.

I don’t know anything about this Fuller guy, but it’s obvious from his Pauling / protein comments that he didn’t bother to crack open a high school Biology textbook before shooting off his mouth. Then won’t admit it when he gets busted.

So once again we have an ignoramous who thinks he knows more than the professionals, with delusions of grandeur (“See - Pauling made the same mistake I did. Great minds think alike!”), and tap dances around the issue when caught.

Remind you of anyone else? Here’s a clue: It starts with “D” and ends with “embski”.

in fact I have heard Bill several times claim that the cryptographers in the Military were interested in his ideas, though I have never seen a true follow-up (but I am sure it would all be top secret homeland security anyway.)

It’d be interesting to see when he said this. I’m guessing he saw _A Beautiful Mind_ and missed the fact that the action (highly fictionalized anyway) was going on in Nash’s head. I apologize for mentioning Dembski together with a genuinely brilliant mathematician like John Nash, but it was just too tempting to imagine Dembski sneaking off to put his latest opus in a “dead drop” somewhere and then claiming that his work was a major contribution to national security.

Remember just because someone in the government uses something does not mean that it works, or that it is official government policy. After all, I have heard of various branches of gov’t using dowsing and remote viewing, and indeed people use that to claim: “Remote viewing works! The CIA tested it!”

Look up “Orgel’s Second Rule”

That’s no fraud detector, that’s an Irony Meter Mk XIV - and it’s gonna blow any second now…

R

You know, I’ve always felt that people of little merit who claim to be working on “hush-hush” military/CIA stuff are frauds. One of those things that people with low or fragile self-esteem do to build themselves up.

We recently have the wing-nut le cause celebritie regarding his tenure denial by “evil liberals.” The man is a fraud and, among his bogus claims, claimed to be a Silver Star recipient and to have fought in Persian Gulf I, a Major in the Special Forces, etc. And, of course, like any fraudster, when a reporter asked to have the discrepancies that had come to her/his attention cleared up, the fraudster responded with the old ‘it’s secret and can’t be made public’ excuse.

The scientific analog is, of course, demonstrated by the ID crowd and includes, secret, mis-understood and/or “suppressed” research. Plus the definite, out-side science approach which includes pandering research to the public instead of independent, peer-reviewed journals, sensationalist media coverage when available, legal trials and political operations, etc.

That Dembski may be giving “impressions” (or flat-out lying) regarding being contacted by someone in one of the major players of the intelligence community, and thus seems to be a double-dipper, just makes him look shakier and weaker.

And I’m not saying Dembski has said this. I don’t know. Only that others on his side are indicating this to be true and I would have to believe, based on his massive ego and other grandiose claims, that the source of the “rumors” would have to be Dembski.

You know, I’ve always felt that people of little merit who claim to be working on “hush-hush” military/CIA stuff are frauds.

Either frauds or soon-to-be-ex hush-hush project people. The first thing you don’t do when you are engaged in such stuff is talk about it in any form or manner, even to close friends, let along in some public forum.

mdr (whose secret clearance lapsed a LONG time ago)

I posted this over on there but.. “In this respect, ‘our’ side pulled its punches in the Science Wars when it refused to come out and say that the scientific establishment may not be the final word on what science is, let alone what it ought to be.”

This line made me think of a quote from Mel Brooks’ ‘History of the World, Part 1’

Dole Office Clerk: “Occupation?”

Comicus: “Stand-up philosopher.”

Dole Office Clerk: “What?”

Comicus: “Stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human existence into a viable and meaningful comprehension.”

Dole Office Clerk: “Oh, a *bullshit* artist!”

Comicus: “Hmmmmmm…”

Dole Office Clerk: “Did you bullshit last week?”

Comicus: “No.”

Dole Office Clerk: “Did you try to bullshit last week?”

Comicus: “Yes!”

Jeesh! What ‘is’ is all over again.

MYOB’ .

After some prompting by Jeffrey Shallit and Rodney Dyer, I tried to find a source in Dembski’s work for the the scientific fraud detectors I mentioned over in Berube’s blog which seems to have gotten this thread going. I’m sorry to say that I cannot find such a reference, and it’s only my own faulty memory to blame – certainly no conspiring on Dembski’s part. Sorry for what, I suppose in this context, must be regarded as a false alarm.

Just because you can’t find a reference in text, doesn’t mean Dembski didn’t say it. He has been caught in flat-out lies in the past.

Misrepresenting research: http://www.stcynic.com/blog/archive[…]nd_id_re.php Using quotes misleadingly out of context: http://jgrr.blogspot.com/2005/04/do[…]otemine.html lying about Jeff Shallit: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives[…]finds_t.html and then, btw, deleting those lies from his blog, Lying about the designer: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com/archives/12836 Miscellaneous lying: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/[…]perately.cfm

and so on, and so forth.

Hmmm. I’m sceptical that the source for stating that something as significant and notable as fraud detectors being used by the NSF and NIH could could be a ‘faulty memory.’

Steve Fuller Wrote:

After some prompting by Jeffrey Shallit and Rodney Dyer, I tried to find a source in Dembski’s work for the the scientific fraud detectors I mentioned over in Berube’s blog which seems to have gotten this thread going. I’m sorry to say that I cannot find such a reference, and it’s only my own faulty memory to blame — certainly no conspiring on Dembski’s part. Sorry for what, I suppose in this context, must be regarded as a false alarm.

But if Dembski is “elevating his game”* along with the rest of the ID gang, no doubt he’ll invent something useful in the near future.

* Translation: sitting on the bench

More piling on of Steve Fuller. He said:

Here you’ve got to take seriously what it means for ID to be primarily a science of ‘design’: God and humans design in exactly the same way (so says the theory),

Does ID “theory” say that anywhere? What does that mean, exactly the same way?

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on December 6, 2005 9:53 PM.

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