Dembski Wakes Up, Smells the Steiners, Pushes Snooze Button

| 78 Comments

I talked to Bill Dembski in person about my work on using Genetic Algorithms to solve Steiner’s problem way back in 2001. He didn’t “get” it then, and he still doesn’t!

Reacting to this news story, “Supercolony trails follow mathematical Steiner tree”, Dembski writes today that

Some years back, ID critic Dave Thomas used to tout the power of genetic algorithms for their ability of solve the Steiner Problem, which basically tries to minimize distance of paths that connect nodes on a two-dimensional surface (last I looked, he’s still making this line of criticism - see here). In fact, none of his criticisms hit the mark – the information problem that he claims to resolve in evolutionary terms merely pushes the design problem deeper … In ID terms, there’s no problem – ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities. On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths that resolve the Steiner Problem. In other words, evolution, by some weird self-similarity, embedded an evolutionary program into the neurophysiology of the ants that enables them to solve the Steiner problem (which, presumably, gives these ants a selective advantage).

Kudos to Dr. Dembski for this classic Goal-Post movement! The purpose of my original article was simply to move the discussion of Genetic algorithms beyond the ID “Dawkins Defense,” namely that all genetic algorithms suffer the “Weasel” flaw of needing the solutions to be incorporated directly into the fitness function.

Dembski’s response is remarkable in that it totally avoids the issues I raised. Just because ants can find ways for colonies to make efficient paths has no bearing on whether genetic problems can be applied without having solutions in hand already.

My original article on Steiner (Target? TARGET? We don’t need no stinkin’ Target!) showed that there are also physical methods for solving Steiner’s problem, including minimal-surface soap films.

If soap films can solve Steiner problems, why not ants? And this bolsters the Weasel defense, how?

My Skeptical Inquirer article from last year, “War of the Weasels: An Evolutionary Algorithm Beats Intelligent Design” has a nice summary of these Weasel Wars, including the marvelous story of UD’s software engineer, Sal Cordova, getting whupped by a Genetic Algorithm on an open-book design problem. The article posting is courtesy of Southern Methodist University’s Critical Thinking/Physics Class!

More: Panda’s Thumb’s “EvoMath” category.

78 Comments

I just wanted to thank you for your initial set of articles. The concrete examples of what the gene and sex would mean for solving this problem made complete intuitive sense. It got me really interested in GA, and plan on coming back to it once my hobby time allows for “programming for fun” again.

Typical ID creationist non-answer:

In ID terms, there’s no problem – ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities.

Who, what, when, where, and how, Bill?

—“On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths that resolve the Steiner Problem.”

Translation: “Algorithms need programmers! DUH!”

“And programmers are just sophisticated algorithms. Thus programmers need programmers too. Ad infinitum. Except for God, she has a magical ability to program herself before she existed. She created magic as well, which is how she was able to program herself the ability to program herself the ability to program herself the ability to program herself … blah blah blah.”

Darth Robo said: Translation: “Algorithms need programmers! DUH!”

So … the Darwinian evolutionary algorithm was created by an Intelligent Programmer?

Reed A. Cartwright said: Except for God, she has a magical ability to program herself before she existed.

Hey, you gotta have a bootstrap loader somewhere in the system, right?

Somehow I just had an ancient memory of flipping front panel switches on a PDP-8 and watching the paper tape zip through the reader.

And, unfortunately, the pounding sound of an ASR-33 teletype. Which I would say would have to be the appropriate soundtrack for labored creationist software analogies.

I see Bill Dembski is making good on his excuse that Intelligent Design proponents are still not obligated to “sink to (our) pathetic levels of detail.”

Pity, I’m surprised that he still doesn’t understand that this is one of the main reasons why Intelligent Design Theory is never going to amount to anything scientifically.

So, is Dembski saying evolution is God? or God is evolution? I can’t keep track with this guy. He needs to pick a story and stick with it.

Who, what, when, where, and how, Bill?

Probably the wrong questions, since they’ve already been answered: By God, who crated these capacities, at the beginning of time, in heaven, by divine miracle.

Maybe a better question might be, can you propose any test, even in principle, that might indicate ants were NOT designed. Would you find the results of your own test convincing?

So, obviously the laws of physics were intelligently designed so that you could solve Steiner tree problems with soap bubbles.

Ok. Need to make a productive comment rather than a silly joke. Um, how about this: So I had a thought a while ago about genetic algorithms. I don’t know how correct it is and genetic algorithms are very far from my expertise. Anyways, the thought was that we should in general in some vague sense expect genetic algorithms to outperform evolution, since genetic algorithms can concentrate purely on meeting the fitness function whereas evolution requires living things to actually meet a large number of conditions including the ability to actually reproduce (which is in the case of genetic algorithms taken care by the software rather than simulated entities themselves). Is this vague idea correct? Is it known? Is it useful? (My guess is that the answers are “sort of yes, yes, no.”)

Joshua Zelinsky said: So, obviously the laws of physics were intelligently designed so that you could solve Steiner tree problems with soap bubbles.

Well, of course. Either all of the Universe is Designed, or none of it is.

One of the list of oddities of ID / Stealth Creationism is its attempts to sort out natural things that are Designed from those that are not. And then they go and ruin the exercise by pushing Cosmic Fine Tuning arguments.

mrg said:

Joshua Zelinsky said: So, obviously the laws of physics were intelligently designed so that you could solve Steiner tree problems with soap bubbles.

Well, of course. Either all of the Universe is Designed, or none of it is.

One of the list of oddities of ID / Stealth Creationism is its attempts to sort out natural things that are Designed from those that are not. And then they go and ruin the exercise by pushing Cosmic Fine Tuning arguments.

It’s not ruined if you think of it in the context of the wedge strategy. The natural things that are designed are the wedges, and the things that are not designed are the wedgies. First get the wedge in there and then later on they plan to take over the whole universe and give it the wedgies. It’s called the “wedge strategy”.

Of course this is exactly what happens to ID/creationists when they refuse to learn physics and chemistry, but instead, jump right into biology with attempts to make mathematical refutations of evolution without initializing variables in their programs.

ID/creationists simply don’t understand how computers are used in modeling research, whether those computers are digital or analog. One would think they would “get” it looking at an analog computer result, but they don’t.

Real scientists put the strategies that nature uses into their programs and get results that one sees in nature. ID/creationists still think this is putting the answer into the program, and they would rather dictate how nature is supposed to behave according to their own preconceptions about what is consistent with sectarian dogma.

The ICR puts a lot of publicity into the “heroics” of their founder, Henry Morris; but Morris introduced so many misconceptions into “scientific” creationism that everyone following on that lead thought they were building on a solid foundation in science.

Well, the joke is on them.

Over on UD Dembski made a reference to his “Evolutionary Informatics” Lab page.

Here is what we find there.

By looking to information theory, a well-established branch of the engineering and mathematical sciences, evolutionary informatics shows that patterns we ordinarily ascribe to intelligence, when arising from an evolutionary process, must be referred to sources of information external to that process. Such sources of information may then themselves be the result of other, deeper evolutionary processes. But what enables these evolutionary processes in turn to produce such sources of information? Evolutionary informatics demonstrates a regress of information sources. At no place along the way need there be a violation of ordinary physical causality. And yet, the regress implies a fundamental incompleteness in physical causality’s ability to produce the required information. Evolutionary informatics, while falling squarely within the information sciences, thus points to the need for an ultimate information source qua intelligent designer.

I have highlighted the fundamental misconception that permeates all of ID/creationist “science.”

It is inexcusable these days to be that unaware of what goes on in physics and chemistry. Yet these characters manage to remain clueless even when hit between the eyes with a steel I-beam. (Hey Bill; bet you can’t figure out why steel can be a solid. How do all those damned atoms know where to go?)

386sx said: It’s not ruined if you think of it in the context of the wedge strategy.

Oh yeah, the “Designed / Not Designed” gambit is clearly a wedge strategy. Stealth Creationists get very antsy when assailed on the “Not Designed” component – it is, after all, easy to cook up arguments that show any specific natural object is Designed – since they know that it’s the only obstacle that prevents them from drifting into the camp of the dreaded TEs:

“Then we won’t be creationists any more!”

“You say that as though it were a bad thing.”

I still maintain that Cosmic Fine Tuning arguments blow their cover on this game – but the game was pretty obvious to the critics all along, and logical consistency was never an issue to the game-players.

Indeed, logical consistency would be very inconvenient in the game, since it would eliminate the ability to spin the argument in either direction depending on the convenience of circumstances.

“Dembksi”?

William Dembski’s recent argument (with Robert Marks) that the success of natural selection means that the fitness surface is designed has been addressed here at PT last year. It is a completely different issue than whether he has theorems that show that natural selection cannot put adaptive information into the genome. My take on the latter can be found here.

Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information has, as explained there, been shown not to be correct and it has been shown that even if it were it is not in the correct form to show that natural selection cannot put adaptive information into the genome. He has never replied to this demolition of his work. Instead he points to his newer theorems, which do not rule out that natural selection could be the mechanism of adaptation. So it is as if he has given up on the earlier arguments that led to his reknown among ID types. But he has never admitted that he has given up on them!

In ID terms, there’s no problem – ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities.

It’s hard to believe a grownup adult would say that and be serious. But there it is I guess. Lol. I like the “programmed/designed capacities” part the best because it’s so hilarious.

Maya said:

Typical ID creationist non-answer:

In ID terms, there’s no problem – ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities.

Who, what, when, where, and how, Bill?

Of couse my dear “friend” Bill knows the answer:

GODDIDIT!!!!

Henry J said:

“Dembksi”?

Nah, how about Dumbski. That’s far more fitting IMHO.

386sx said: It’s hard to believe a grownup adult would say that and be serious.

He not. Darth Robo is a Loki Troll.

Flint said: Maybe a better question might be, can you propose any test, even in principle, that might indicate ants were NOT designed. Would you find the results of your own test convincing?

How about giving even a hypothetical example of something which might not be designed? Something which an Intelligent Designer could not, or would not, or did not design?

What difference does “being designed” make?

Stanton said: I see Bill Dembski is making good on his excuse that Intelligent Design proponents are still not obligated to “sink to (our) pathetic levels of detail.”

Actually what Dembski said is “ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.”

Thus Dembski was saying that ID’s level of detail doesn’t rise to the level of “pathetic.”

The quote in its original form may be found here. It’s the sixth post down–there are no permalinks for each post.

TomS said:

Flint said: Maybe a better question might be, can you propose any test, even in principle, that might indicate ants were NOT designed. Would you find the results of your own test convincing?

Of course there is also the somewhat semantical issue that Design does exist in Nature, but its existence does not mean automatically that one needs to explain it by invoking an Intelligent Designer. Instead, one could say that Design can and does arise out of natural processes like Natural Selection.

How about giving even a hypothetical example of something which might not be designed? Something which an Intelligent Designer could not, or would not, or did not design?

What difference does “being designed” make?

TomS said:

Flint said: Maybe a better question might be, can you propose any test, even in principle, that might indicate ants were NOT designed. Would you find the results of your own test convincing?

How about giving even a hypothetical example of something which might not be designed? Something which an Intelligent Designer could not, or would not, or did not design?

What difference does “being designed” make?

Of course there is also the somewhat semantical issue that Design does exist in Nature, but its existence does not mean automatically that one needs to explain it by invoking an Intelligent Designer. Instead, one could say that Design can and does arise out of natural processes like Natural Selection.

” … the information problem that he claims to resolve in evolutionary terms merely pushes the design problem deeper … “

Is this not a direct admission of moving the goal posts?

Mike Elzinga said:

Over on UD Dembski made a reference to his “Evolutionary Informatics” Lab page.

Here is what we find there.

(snip) patterns we ordinarily ascribe to intelligence, when arising from an evolutionary process, must be referred to sources of information external to that process. (snip)Evolutionary informatics thus points to the need for an ultimate information source qua intelligent designer.

And yet, at the same time, identifying the source of the information is, apparently, outside the scope of ID, or, indeed, all science.

Why do you suppose that is?

fnxtr said:

And yet, at the same time, identifying the source of the information is, apparently, outside the scope of ID, or, indeed, all science.

Why do you suppose that is?

As often as I have observed this kind of behavior on the part of ID/creationists over a period of 40+ years, I still find this kind of intransigence hard to believe. These people are incapable of learning anything except how to subvert political processes.

It is repeatedly pointed out to them that there are entire branches of science they are misusing and that they know nothing about, yet they continually brush it off as irrelevant. They don’t even appear to have heard what others have told them.

The fact that living organisms are a product of natural, energy-driven process in condensing matter is far more interesting than some “unspecified designer” they refuse to talk about for political reasons. The boring consequences of their claims are written large within these fundamentalist ID/communities; and it shows up in the pure blindness, hatred, and fear that are nurtured in these groups, even in a technologically advanced society with millions of face-slapping examples coming at them every second of their existence.

Look at any list of the accusations they make of secular society and other religions and you see them engaging in these very behaviors even as they accuse. They are telling you about themselves in extremely graphic terms.

Mike Elzinga said: It is repeatedly pointed out to them that there are entire branches of science they are misusing and that they know nothing about, yet they continually brush it off as irrelevant.

It IS irrelevant. If you trace back to Henry Morris’s “use science against science”, that established an effort to create a PARODY of science, intended to mock it. Any logical criticisms of a parody are meaningless, all that matters is the mockery.

The real craziness comes in because this effort at parody, though willful, is not deliberate – because in all deluded sincerity the creationists try to promote their parody of science as real science, even though they built it from the ground up as a parody.

Klaus H -

I’m not sure if you meant to say that freedom of expression and conscience (which is what creationists VIOLATE when they try to use taxpayer dollars to teach their own divisive, sectarian, anti-scientific dogma as “science” in public schools, or to force schools to deny science for all students because their narrow dogma is offended by it) is not guaranteed in the US constitution. If so, you are wrong, as is pointed out just above.

Alternately, you may have meant that tax exempt status of churches is not guaranteed in the US constitution. This is true; however, their tax exempt status is a matter of law, not tradition. I personally oppose tax exempt status for religious organizations, but doubt if it will ever go away.

John Kwok said:

Klaus H said:

Mike Elzinga said:

The more dangerous, however, are the fundamentalists; they have tax-free status, are guaranteed their churches by the US constitution, and don’t hesitate to use “freedom of speech” as an excuse for proselytizing.

There is no such guarantee in the US Constitution, it is merely a tradition.

Actually it is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The very guarantee that Mike writes of is noted here in the First Amendment:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I fail to see where where any organizations are granted tax free status. I only see that Congress can’t directly tax lawful religious practices; any organization with a cash flow is fair game.

harold said:

Klaus H -

I’m not sure if you meant to say that freedom of expression and conscience (which is what creationists VIOLATE when they try to use taxpayer dollars to teach their own divisive, sectarian, anti-scientific dogma as “science” in public schools, or to force schools to deny science for all students because their narrow dogma is offended by it) is not guaranteed in the US constitution. If so, you are wrong, as is pointed out just above.

Alternately, you may have meant that tax exempt status of churches is not guaranteed in the US constitution. This is true; however, their tax exempt status is a matter of law, not tradition. I personally oppose tax exempt status for religious organizations, but doubt if it will ever go away.

I meant the later, Tax exemption is not granted by the Constitution.

Klaus H -

This thread seems to have died - no doubt some troll is drawing all the attention to the BW.

Anyway, although tax exemption for religion is not granted by the constitution, and I wish it would go away, it is “tradition” only in the sense that giving productive, otherwise law-abiding and ethical people long prison sentences for personal use of marijuana is “tradition”. It is a matter of law. I hope that will change some day.

By the way, of course, although I am not personally religious, I can’t help noticing that religious entities that practice in the true spirit of the Biblical character Jesus have no reason to fear loss of tax exempt status. If the entity is legitimately non-profit, there will be no income to be taxed. Taxation of salaries of clergy is a trivial matter if clergy live humbly, after the example of Jesus, and in contrast to the example of hypocrites whom he condemned. Property taxes and the like will not be a problem for those Christians who worship in simple structures, among the poor in spirit. We can look at St Francis of Assisi, for example, and see an inspiring example of a man who very effectively preached Christian gospel, in a manner that could not possibly incur the slightest tax liability.

Of course, there is also the great tradition, particularly by the Catholic church, of patronizing great art and architecture. Yet this, too, can be accomplished without excess tax burden.

The thing that lets Dembski lie about Dave Thomas’s Steiner GA is that there is only a single solution and we know how to describe that solution(the shortest path). The description is the test in the GA. Dembski is conflating the solution with the qualities the solution must have and claiming that the description is the same as the information of the solution. The best answer to this nonsense is the raft of GA’s that solve problems that possess no single solution whose qualities can be described inside the GA. The example I can think of now is the evolved antenna. The test, of how good an antenna is, was not actually part of the GA, if I can remember that article correctly. In natural evolution the test is simply; can I have more babies than my competition. The richness of the world is clear evidence there is no single solution to that algorithm.

DaveL said:

How does the fitness function for a Steiner Tree algorithm include the solution within it? Doesn’t it just measure the overall length of the tree? Isn’t it the same fitness function for any set of nodes? Can Dembski reproduce the solution given only the fitness function, given an arbitrary set of nodes?

Or is he saying Intelligent Design is built into plane geometry? If so, how does that not push ID out of the realm of science and back into the realm of philosophy?

Dawkins, in response to critiques of his Weasel program, played up programs to simulate the evolution of spiderwebs as a counterexample. They just started with a sticky thread or two and then generated variations at random, evaluating them on their ability to catch flies.

Spiderwebs are surprisingly diverse, the classic “orb” web being only one configuration among many, and the programs were able to re-evolve many of the variations on the theme.

Klaus H said:

John Kwok said:

Klaus H said:

Mike Elzinga said:

The more dangerous, however, are the fundamentalists; they have tax-free status, are guaranteed their churches by the US constitution, and don’t hesitate to use “freedom of speech” as an excuse for proselytizing.

There is no such guarantee in the US Constitution, it is merely a tradition.

Actually it is guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The very guarantee that Mike writes of is noted here in the First Amendment:

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I fail to see where where any organizations are granted tax free status. I only see that Congress can’t directly tax lawful religious practices; any organization with a cash flow is fair game.

I believe the theory is that the power to tax is the power to destroy. Freely practicing one’s religion may well require an organization, which the government could tax out of existence.

Dornier Pfeil said:

The thing that lets Dembski lie about Dave Thomas’s Steiner GA is that there is only a single solution and we know how to describe that solution(the shortest path). The description is the test in the GA. Dembski is conflating the solution with the qualities the solution must have and claiming that the description is the same as the information of the solution. The best answer to this nonsense is the raft of GA’s that solve problems that possess no single solution whose qualities can be described inside the GA. The example I can think of now is the evolved antenna. The test, of how good an antenna is, was not actually part of the GA, if I can remember that article correctly. In natural evolution the test is simply; can I have more babies than my competition. The richness of the world is clear evidence there is no single solution to that algorithm.

That’s not correct. In the antenna GA, the fitness test uses known laws of electromagnetism to calculate the antenna pattern (shape and strength, over a desired, wide set of variable frequencies) for any configuration that is possible with the algorithm. That test can be used to tell which of a spiral-shaped-antenna, or series of linear segments, or what-have-you configuration(i.e. the bizarre shapes evolved by the GA) offers the best pattern. The test carries no details of the optimum shape(s), but drives the GA to finding splendidly-functioning shapes via selection, mutations, breeding, and heredity.

The Steiner GA is quite similar. The “Test” here is for shortest-length, connected networks; besides dispensing numbers representing length and connectivity, the Test carries no design details. While there can be one (or more) “Book Solutions” for a given set of nodes (points to be connected), the GA finds those solutions, and dozens of interesting “also-rans”. These (the “MacGuyvers”) prove that the GA is not simply repeating a given answer, a la Dawkins’ “Methinks it is like a Weasel” illustration.

This article has a lot more detail.

I have never noticed a creationist comment on GA-created antennas. Do I smell another creationist tactic: Pretend that you haven’t heard it when faced with an argument that can’t be hand-waved away?

The difference between designed and evolved antennas is striking, isn’t it?

Rolf Aalberg said:

I have never noticed a creationist comment on GA-created antennas. Do I smell another creationist tactic: Pretend that you haven’t heard it when faced with an argument that can’t be hand-waved away?

The difference between designed and evolved antennas is striking, isn’t it?

Indeed it is.

Not so sure about creo’s pretending never to have heard about it - for example, here’s a creationist comment on NASA’s antenna GA, courtesy Bill Dembksi himself:

Dembski spoke at the Continuing Education Center on November 12th, 2001, in a talk titled “Darwin’s Unpaid Debt.” … Dembski then discussed genetic algorithms, and even showed the result of a remarkable study in which herds of wire antenna models were bred, and those that provided more uniform antenna patterns were bred some more. A simple antenna - a straight piece of wire, for example - has a non-uniform radiation pattern, looking much like a donut, uniform on the sides, and vanishing along both ends of the wire. Dembski showed a curious antenna that looped this way and that that was developed in a genetic algorithm, and which actually produces a very uniform antenna pattern. Clearly, there is specified complexity in the loops and twists of the antenna wire, but Dembski says this was snuck in, front-loaded, in the fitness function - the requirement that a uniform pattern is preferred.

This is wrong. I have written genetic algorithms, and discussed these with Dembski after the Tuesday debate. I presented him with results of my algorithms that bred solutions to Steiner’s problem, involving efficient networks, and some of which displayed striking geometric patterns - design. Dembski said I had simply front-loaded that design into my fitness function, which took the simple form “shorter is better, as long as nodes are connected.”

Dave Thomas said:

Rolf Aalberg said:

I have never noticed a creationist comment on GA-created antennas. Do I smell another creationist tactic: Pretend that you haven’t heard it when faced with an argument that can’t be hand-waved away?

The difference between designed and evolved antennas is striking, isn’t it?

Indeed it is.

Not so sure about creo’s pretending never to have heard about it - for example, here’s a creationist comment on NASA’s antenna GA, courtesy Bill Dembksi himself:

Dembski spoke at the Continuing Education Center on November 12th, 2001, in a talk titled “Darwin’s Unpaid Debt.” … Dembski then discussed genetic algorithms, and even showed the result of a remarkable study in which herds of wire antenna models were bred, and those that provided more uniform antenna patterns were bred some more. A simple antenna - a straight piece of wire, for example - has a non-uniform radiation pattern, looking much like a donut, uniform on the sides, and vanishing along both ends of the wire. Dembski showed a curious antenna that looped this way and that that was developed in a genetic algorithm, and which actually produces a very uniform antenna pattern. Clearly, there is specified complexity in the loops and twists of the antenna wire, but Dembski says this was snuck in, front-loaded, in the fitness function - the requirement that a uniform pattern is preferred.

This is wrong. I have written genetic algorithms, and discussed these with Dembski after the Tuesday debate. I presented him with results of my algorithms that bred solutions to Steiner’s problem, involving efficient networks, and some of which displayed striking geometric patterns - design. Dembski said I had simply front-loaded that design into my fitness function, which took the simple form “shorter is better, as long as nodes are connected.”

Tails I win. Heads you lose!

Dave Thomas said:

Clearly, there is specified complexity in the loops and twists of the antenna wire, but Dembski says this was snuck in, front-loaded, in the fitness function - the requirement that a uniform pattern is preferred.

Does the “Explanatory Filter” contain a test for whether the CSI has been imported (“snuck in” or “front-loaded”)? Is this part of the “Law of Conservation of CSI”? Or is this considered only when it is a counter-example to ID?

Dembski’s hollowness and shallowness are absolutely breathtaking, especially in the light of his having obtained several advanced degrees in order to appear formidable to the rubes in his church.

And all these ID/creationist pushers are so unaware of what is going on around them that one can’t help wondering if they are able to avoid constantly walking into walls.

The NASA antenna designed by genetic algorithms is simply making use of our understanding of the way nature works. This “front loading of the solution” ploy of Dembski’s, rather than being an argument against genetic algorithms, is simply a huge neon sign broadcasting Dembski’s profound ignorance; and it is difficult to emphasize just how profound that ignorance is. It’s like being in the presence of an intellectual black hole; hollow, lifeless, and profoundly stupid. It would be easier to teach a clam to crochet.

All the ID creationists I have encountered over the years have this deadly pall they cast on all those around them. It’s as thought their mission in life is to hang like a dead weight on everybody’s neck and suck the life and spirit out of everyone and everything around them.

Gabriel Hanna said:

In what sense were Jim Jones and the People’s Temple Christian fundamentalists?

The Reverend Jim Jones was an ordained Assembly of God church minister, one of the most fruitbat insane of fundie death cult churches.

AofG’s latest venture is supporting the murders of alleged child witches in Africa.

Violence and murder and never far below the surface of toxic religions.

Thank you for the correction.

Dave Thomas said:

Dornier Pfeil said:

The thing that lets Dembski lie about Dave Thomas’s Steiner GA is that there is only a single solution and we know how to describe that solution(the shortest path). The description is the test in the GA. Dembski is conflating the solution with the qualities the solution must have and claiming that the description is the same as the information of the solution. The best answer to this nonsense is the raft of GA’s that solve problems that possess no single solution whose qualities can be described inside the GA. The example I can think of now is the evolved antenna. The test, of how good an antenna is, was not actually part of the GA, if I can remember that article correctly. In natural evolution the test is simply; can I have more babies than my competition. The richness of the world is clear evidence there is no single solution to that algorithm.

That’s not correct. In the antenna GA, the fitness test uses known laws of electromagnetism to calculate the antenna pattern (shape and strength, over a desired, wide set of variable frequencies) for any configuration that is possible with the algorithm. That test can be used to tell which of a spiral-shaped-antenna, or series of linear segments, or what-have-you configuration(i.e. the bizarre shapes evolved by the GA) offers the best pattern. The test carries no details of the optimum shape(s), but drives the GA to finding splendidly-functioning shapes via selection, mutations, breeding, and heredity.

The Steiner GA is quite similar. The “Test” here is for shortest-length, connected networks; besides dispensing numbers representing length and connectivity, the Test carries no design details. While there can be one (or more) “Book Solutions” for a given set of nodes (points to be connected), the GA finds those solutions, and dozens of interesting “also-rans”. These (the “MacGuyvers”) prove that the GA is not simply repeating a given answer, a la Dawkins’ “Methinks it is like a Weasel” illustration.

This article has a lot more detail.

A commenter “Tristan” at Jerry Coyne’s site makes an interesting observation here:

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress[…]omment-81032

The ants are solving the wrong problem; an intelligent designer would have made ants walk in straight lines between each two nests. The Steiner solution doesn’t do this.

The ants are solving the wrong problem;

Is the criteria to minimize travel distance, time, effort needed, or amount risk along each path?

Henry J

The real craziness comes in because this effort at parody, though willful, is not deliberate – because in all deluded sincerity the creationists try to promote their parody of science as real science, even though they built it from the ground up as a parody.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dave Thomas published on February 18, 2011 3:52 PM.

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