Synthese issue on “Evolution and its rivals”

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The news is out (see John Pieret) but I’ll repeat it here. Synthese, An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, has an entire issue devoted to the topic of the title edited by Glenn Branch. It includes papers by names we know like Robert Pennock, John Wilkins (of TO fame), Wes Elsberry and Jeff Shallit on Dembski’s info theory foibles, Sahotra Sarkar, Barbara Forrest, and others. Best of all, all the articles are free online until December 31. Get ‘em while they’re hot!

181 Comments

Thanks! Let me add that James H. Fetzer of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, coedited the issue with me.

Oops. I should have mentioned that too, former Minnesotan that I am and brother of a UMD graduate to boot.

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system. Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable; you can only know its beginning and end points. How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

Ah, the “Law Of Conservation Of Information” … I know it well:

http://www.vectorsite.net/taifevo.html

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system. Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable; you can only know its beginning and end points. How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

There are far deeper reasons intelligent design “theory” can’t identify deities.

(1) There is no such concept as “conservation of information.” And why “it is always constant or in decline” makes absolutely no sense whatsoever for something that is supposed to be “conserved.”

(2) “Complex specified information” is not a state variable. It is a fabricated term that has no consistent meaning among ID/creationists. It provides no handle on any physical property of anything. It can’t be measured; it produces no signal, and leaves the impression in the minds of rube followers that something important is being discussed when there is absolutely nothing being discussed.

(3) There are no deity detectors anywhere on the face of planet Earth. No one has written up any specifications for such a detector, nobody has worked through the epistemological issues of designing and building such a detector, and not one ID/creationist dares to even try; not even you.

Mike Elzinga said:

(2) “Complex specified information” is not a state variable. It is a fabricated term that has no consistent meaning among ID/creationists.

As we have discussed before, it’s actually an old and well-established concept: “elan vital”.

Existing the same dictionary with “phlebotinum” or it’s equivalent, “balonium”.

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

He?! You outed yourself, Dogbarf! A paternal-monotheistian slip, you might say.

There’s also the question of what if anything “cognitive input” might mean. For an evolving gene pool, it gets input of data from its environment; that’s how it “learns”, in a way loosely analogous to how an individual organism learns stuff.

Henry J said:

There’s also the question of what if anything “cognitive input” might mean. For an evolving gene pool, it gets input of data from its environment; that’s how it “learns”, in a way loosely analogous to how an individual organism learns stuff.

The cognitive input of the Grim Reaper, who decides whether a lineage prospers or becomes extinct.

darwinism.dogbarf() said: That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable;

Evidently it is an incalculable state variable, since neither Dembski nor anyone else has shared with the world the method used to calculate it.

As an incalculable value, it is worthless to science.

you can only know its beginning and end points. How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

Pure BS. Temperature is a state function and I can certainly know how something’s temperature got to the value it currently holds.

The fact that a value is independent of the path does not mean the path is unknowable. Claiming its unknowable is just your way of avoiding admitting the ID path consists of divine “poof!”

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Fair warning: Any comments from the fake Michael Behe go to the Bathroom Wall, as do comments responding to that troll.

Has it been established that the poster going by “Michael Behe” is in fact that esteemed scientist? If not, shouldn’t those posts be moderated until they’re verified? We shouldn’t allow someone to sully Dr. Behe’s good scientific name before he gets another chance to do it himself.

It’s not the Michael Behe of Lehigh, it’s a troll. Don’t feed it and make more work for me cleaning up the thread, please.

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system. Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable; you can only know its beginning and end points. How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

Hello again Mr. Dogbarf,

You must have missed my query on another thread, since you did not respond. I am wondering, since you seem to be quite knowledgeable on the subject, if you could please state for me the theory of intelligent design. I am not familiar with it and would like to have a concise statement of what it entails. If you could also provide me with a few references that provide support for the theory, that would be superb.

Thank you very much.

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system.

To do that we require the formula to compute what the complex specified information is.You can’t explain something if you can’t define it. “Complex specification” is the Zen of ID theory. IDists can’t explain it, but they know what is.

If you’re punking us, very well done.

“cognitively isolated”. Unfortunately ID proponents suffer cognitive disbaility.

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system.

The ID concept of “complex specified information” is not meaningful. If you think otherwise, perhaps you might like to tell us all how one goes about measuring ‘complex specified information’? Let me give you some instances of objects/entities which are clearly Designed; I would greatly appreciate it if you could pick at least one of those object/entities, measure how much ‘complex specified information’ it has, and explain how you went about measuring the stuff. • A ham sandwich • A copy of the vinyl LP edition of the MEET THE BEATLES album • An F-111 fighter plane • A live performance of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony If it’s just not possible to measure the ‘complex specified information’ in any of these four objects/entities, please pick one of them and explain why it’s not possible to measure that objrect/entity’s ‘complex specified information’. Thanks in advance!

Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

If “complex specified information” is a conserved quality, exactly how does the stuff manage to “decline”?

cognitively isloated[sic]

wtf does that even mean?

I would translate it as literally meaning: isolated from knowledge and reason, which of course, the concept he refers to actually IS…

and think this guy is deliberately playing word games for fun.

Ichthyic said:

cognitively isloated[sic]

wtf does that even mean?

Isolated from cognition; a system which does not accept information from the outside world, nor produce any. Used in a sentence: “PT trolls tend to be cognitively isolated.”

darwinnism.dogbarf() said:

“That is why ID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.”

To that I echo the Church Lady: Isn’t that special?

Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

These sentences contradict one another. Something which can be in decline is not conserved.

That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable; you can only know its beginning and end points.

Then it has nothing to do with the study of things which were designed. Designed objects, whether of human or animal design, are by definition objects which contain information about their manufacture. How can you tell that an arrowhead is “designed”? Precisely because the process of human manufacture of arrowheads can be understood.

How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

By a logical extension of your own claims, ID also cannot tell whether or not a thing is designed.

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system. Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

dogbarf, what is the basis for this statement? Is it William Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information? Sounds like it might be.. If so, note that this is not the same as Peter Medawar’s Law of Conservation of Information. Which are you relying on?

Or are you just making it up as you go along?

Joe Felsenstein said: If so, note that this is not the same as Peter Medawar’s Law of Conservation of Information.

Some physicists also have a concept of “conservation of information”, but in that context what it means is that the present state of a system can be traced back through its previous states … at least in principle.

I wasn’t familiar with Medawar’s concept – sounds a bit like “garbage in garbage out”, a computer simulation is no more valid than the assumptions on which it is based. It might be noted, however, that evolutionary design algorithms will come up with designs that nobody predicted: try variations on designs more or less at random, see which work, then use those that work for the next generation.

If so, note that this is not the same as Peter Medawar’s Law of Conservation of Information.

Some physicists also have a concept of “conservation of information”, but in that context what it means is that the present state of a system can be traced back through its previous states … at least in principle.

I wasn’t familiar with Medawar’s concept – sounds a bit like “garbage in garbage out”, a computer simulation is no more valid than the assumptions on which it is based. It might be noted, however, that evolutionary design algorithms will come up with designs that nobody predicted: try variations on designs more or less at random, see which work, then use those that work for the next generation.

mrg said:

Joe Felsenstein said: If so, note that this is not the same as Peter Medawar’s Law of Conservation of Information.

I wasn’t familiar with Medawar’s concept – sounds a bit like “garbage in garbage out”, a computer simulation is no more valid than the assumptions on which it is based.

Medawar’s theorem was very simple and trivial If you take a space and make a one-to-one, hence invertible, transformation, you don’t lose information. Which is trivially true because you can always get back to where you were by undoing the change.

That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

There is no such thing in biology. Information can and is created routinely in real time timescales.

darwinism.dogbarf() said: That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

Why is it that I get the feeling that this is just reobfuscated 2nd law of thermodynamics falsehoods?

darwinism.dogbarf() said:

None of those essays explains how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated system. Without cognitive input, complex specifed information is always constant or in decline. That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

That having been said, complex specified information is a state variable; you can only know its beginning and end points. How it got there can not be determined. That is whyID can not answer who the designer is and when he designed it, only that a thing is designed.

Get back to us after reading the Elsberry and Shallit essay from the Synthese issue, taking special note of section 7 for demolishing claims of a “law of conservation of information”.

ID can’t even answer whether a thing is designed, if one accepts that it is Dembski’s CSI that is supposed to be used in the identification.

Everything which is supposedly explained by a design inference is better and more simply explained by Specified Anti-Information (SAI, introduced in Elsberry and Shallit 2003, in the appendices).

Mike said: Why is it that I get the feeling that this is just reobfuscated 2nd law of thermodynamics falsehoods?

Same algorithm: “An unmade bed never makes itself. An intelligence has to make it up.” Though even the SLOT argument is just a rephrased Paley argument, and Paley’s argument wasn’t at all new in Paley’s time.

I think the “conservation of information” argument works better from their point of view, however. The problem is that everyone has an intuitive idea of the word “information” while failing to realize that they don’t really have a precise definition of what it means.

I tend to flinch when I hear the term “information” being tossed around as a physical parameter, like “energy” or “temperature” … it’s just not in the same league of definition or measurableness.

Sorry, RBH, just one more…

darwinism.dogbarf() wrote:

[…] That is what the law of conservation of information is about.

Uh, no, at least that’s not how Dembski has presented it.

d.d():

No, these essays do not distinguish between information and complex specified information. They have failed to explain how complex specified information rises in a cognitively isloated environment.

You lose.

I did mention that perhaps actually reading the essays might be in order.

From page 244 of Elsberry and Shallit:

Not all commentators on Dembski’s work have appreciated that CSI is not information in the accepted senses of the word as used by information theorists; in particular, it is neither Shannon’s entropy, surprisal, nor Kolmogorov complexity.

Looks to me like the essays do distinguish between information and “complex specified information”.

While we didn’t tackle any then-non-existent claims about “cognitively isolated systems”, we did have a right go at Dembski’s actual claim that neither functions nor nature could increase CSI. From page 254 on to page 257, we gave several examples illustrating that Dembski’s “law of conservation of information” did not actually preclude functions from increasing CSI. These include an example of construction of strings by a unary encoding function of a binary string, an example of a decryption function producing a message in English, and a function that generates palindromic bit strings via a random process.

We then considered a number of natural instances where it is unclear that Dembski can glibly claim his “design inference” to operate correctly upon.

So anybody wishing to pass judgment of the “You lose” sort really, really ought to see whether the claims they are making are, like d.d()’s claims, trivially untrue when one reads the essays.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 16, 2010 10:22 AM.

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