The Karl Rove of Information Theory?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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