Tuesday, January 31, 2006
DaveScot is Destroying Dembski's Blog [Updated, not anymore]
It seems that DaveScot is trying his best to alienate everyone who disagrees with him in order to be liked better by Darwinists, whom he doesn't like. DaveScot is essentially the new Commander-in-Chief of Dembski's blog, and he seems to be saying that any argument against common ancestry is now verboten because it won't help him win.
It seems to be centering around Davison's Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis. I think Davison's Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis is fascinating, but I think that the ID community did a much better job when it wasn't about a specific view of origins. Multiple hypotheses were part of ID, including Davison's and also including OEC and YEC. If it now becomes about a specific view of origins, I think it is headed back to the dustbin.
Now, DaveScot doesn't represent the ID community. He isn't even a major player. I'm not really worried about the immediate future of ID, as it is currently in the hands of Dembski, Behe, Meyer, and their likes, who are much more open, and much more focused on the intelligent agency aspects. I like Meyer in particular. While some or all of them may agree with common ancestry (and it is definitely compatible with ID), they aren't exclusionary.
Anyway, hopefully Dembski will either take his blog back or take it down, but leaving it in the hands of DaveScot seems to have turned it to the worst.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
See the rest of Ian Juby's virtual museum. Ian is currently touring the US with his mobile creation museum, and I got the pleasure to have lunch with him last week. If you are in the US or Canada and are interested in having him come to your location to speak, you can get contact information from his website.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Gitt Info Theory -- A Preliminary Response to T.O
I am still reading Gitt, but I think I know enough to at least preliminarily respond to Baldwin's page on T.O about Gitt. His first argument is this:
A striking contradiction is readily apparent in Gitt's thinking- he holds that his view of information is an extension of Shannon, even while he rejects the underpinnings of Shannon's work. Contrast Gitt's words
(4) No information can exist in purely statistical processes.
Theorem 3: Since Shannon's definition of information relates exclusively to the statistical relationship of chains of symbols and completely ignores their semantic aspect, this concept of information is wholly unsuitable for the evaluation of chains of symbols conveying a meaning.
with Shannon's statement in his key 1948 paper, "A Mathematical Theory of Communication"
The fundamental problem of communication is that of reproducing at one point either exactly or approximately a message selected at another point. Frequently the messages have meaning; that is they refer to or are correlated according to some system with certain physical or conceptual entities. These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem.
It becomes very difficult to see how he has provided an extension to Shannon, who purposely modeled information sources as producing random sequences of symbols (see the article Classical Information Theory for further information). It would be more proper to state that Gitt offers at best a restriction of Shannon, and at worst, an outright contradiction.
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Gitt is trying to do. Gitt does not disagree with Shannon as to what the measure or definition of information is at a statistical level. Gitt is talking about the higher levels of information. In fact, if you read the Shannon quote properly, you will see that it is confirming Gitt's views. Specifically "These semantic aspects of communication are irrelevant to the engineering problem". Gitt is absolutely correct, the "engineering problem" as Shannon refers to it, is wholly inadequate for describing meaning. Gitt and Shannon are in complete agreement with this. The point of Gitt is to extend the concept of information and be able to view it at more than just the statistical level.
It is strange that Baldwin used an issue that Gitt and Shannon agreed upon as a means of saying that Gitt is in contradiction to Shannon.
The next point is about randomness:
Gitt allows himself to make guesses about the intelligence and purpose behind a source of a series of symbols, even though he doesn't know whether the source of the symbols is random. Gitt is trying to have it both ways here. He wants to assert that the genome fits his strictly non-random definition of information, even after acknowledging that randomness cannot be proven.
I think the point that Gitt was making was that a string of symbols following a strict semantics is evidence of it being from an intelligent source. While he did not prove it, I do not know of any counter-examples, nor did Baldwin even attempt to give any.
Now, using the algorithmic information theory definition of randomness, it is very easy to show that a given sequence of symbols is not random. Baldwin completely misses this point, and seems to assume that since randomness is an undecideable problem, then non-randomness is as well. This is simply false. In algorithmic information theory, if you can compress a string of symbols in any fashion then it is non-random.
In addition, I think it is fairly obvious that the genome fits a rather strict semantic, and in fact the existence of a discernable code is evidence of this. The fact that scientists can isolate genes means that the genes are following a specific semantic. Likewise for other structures such as regulatory regions, they likewise follow semantic rules for their operation. I view semantics as direct evidence of apobetics, and if someone wants to provide a counter-example, I would love to hear it.
Gitt describes his principles as "empirical", yet the data is not provided to back this up. Similarly, he proposes fourteen "theorems", yet fails to demonstrate them.
I'm still reading the book, but this is the most accurate claim in the article. However, Baldwin still does not provide a counter-example to even a single one of them, or even mention which ones he disagrees with and why. He accuses Gitt of arm-waving, but himself is not demonstrating the falsity of any of his statements, except for the arguments against theorem 3 as already discussed.
I also agree with Baldwin that these results are not empirical. Perhaps this is Gitt misusing the term (his native language is German, I believe). These are logical deductions, not experimental results. I don't think that Gitt properly proved his theorems, but I think that this is more due to the fact that this is an area that has previously eluded examination. If Gitt's definition of semantic information is inadequate, what is a better one? The only substantive thing I can draw from Baldwin is that research in this field isn't finished, not that there is anything necessarily incorrect about Gitt's work (this isn't to say it is completely correct, either -- but I think that his work is much more interesting than simply saying it is wrong without providing counter-examples or logical reasons for them to be wrong).
Neither do we see a working measure for meaning (a yet-unsolved problem Shannon wisely avoided). Since Gitt can't define what meaning is sufficiently to measure it, his ideas don't amount to much more than arm-waving.
Gitt agrees that this is a qualitative, not quantitative measurement in its current form.
If we use a semantic definition for information, we cannot assume that data found in nature is information. We cannot know a priori that it had an intelligent source. We cannot make the data have semantic meaning or intelligent purpose by simply defining it so.
Perhaps I am missing something, but I perceive the semantic aspects of the genome to be self-evident.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Real soon now
Friday, January 06, 2006
Behe on Astrology
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Why Non-Scientists are Skeptical of Scientist's Findings on Evolution
The first thing to look at is Philip Johnson's examination of this issue in The Unravelling of Scientific Materialism.
When scientists acknowledge the fact that they cannot even consider the idea of God working, and then somehow claim that they have found evidence of God not working, it is obvious to those listening that there is an error in judgment. Any time I write a paper (although I am not in research, I do write technical tutorials) I try to have someone examine it who is not technical, for the simple reason that I am too close to the subject to see my own biases and distortions. In fact, I usually let my Dad read them, who has not done programming since college, to look over them, precisely because he is not part of the whole rigamorole.
And I think this is what has happened with evolutionary science. They get caught up in this whole way of thinking, and then cannot look back in an objective way and examine what they are doing. They don't see that by excluding an entire method of causality (intelligent causation) they have unnecessarily restricted themselves in what kinds of explanations are allowed.
For example, if I have a stone that is on the floor, and I leave for an hour, and come back, and it's on the table. If I don't acknowledge that an intelligent agent may have moved the stone, I have to come up with some sort of idea of wind gusts that moved the stone from the floor to the table. I will then become _convinced_ about these short-acting, high-velocity, spontaneous winds, simply because I _know_ that the rock moved, and I have a priori decided not to include intelligent causation.
In the words of Behe:
Still, some critics claim that science by definition can't accept design, while others argue that science should keep looking for another explanation in case one is out there. But we can't settle questions about reality with definitions, nor does it seem useful to search relentlessly for a non-design explanation of Mount Rushmore. Besides, whatever special restrictions scientists adopt for themselves don't bind the public, which polls show, overwhelmingly, and sensibly, thinks that life was designed. And so do many scientists who see roles for both the messiness of evolution and the elegance of design.
The question is, can God's action be allowed to be considered by science? I don't claim to know the answer to this question definitively, but we should look at the consequences of answering the question either way.
If "yes", then we need to have explanations of why the similarities of organisms are the result of common descent rather than common design. We need to know why the idea of non-interventionistic abiogenesis makes more sense than the nearly global idea that life came from God. We need to have an open dialog as to why happenstance changes make better sense of life than design. In fact, this has happened once in recent history. Of course, the creationists did too well, and since then Dawkins now has a policy of not debating creationists, the AAAS reported inaccurately the outcome of the debate, and the Oxford Union misplaced all records of the debate. The creationists did not win, mind you, but they did very well considering that the debate was held at Oxford, not exactly a bastion of creationism (the vote was 115 to 198 -- the AAAS reported it as 15 to 198). So, if it is "yes", then we need to have more open debates, and there is no reason they shouldn't be nationalized. (by the way, if anyone would like a copy of the audio of the debate, post your email address here and we can arrange it -- I have an agreement with the copyright holder to do this)
Let's now consider the "no" answer. If science has a methodological predisposition saying that it can't consider God, then theologians have a right and responsibility to say that it therefore cannot say anything remotely definitive about what happened in the past. They are flying blind, purposefully ignorant of an entire area of causation, attempting to come up with explanations that simply ignore what theology tells us. It would be the same as trying to construct chemistry without thermodynamics.
This is why the public doesn't trust science in this area. Science is making bold claims resting on unproved presuppositions. Certainly the scientists know more than the public about their area, but the scientists are also claiming to know more about God's actions than the theologians! Why is one alright and not the other? If science wants to methodologically exclude a method of causation, why should anyone take it seriously in how accurately it depicts past events? I can try, as an exercise, to create a view of the past that ignores certain parts of reality, but I can't then take that to be a true history of the earth. It would simply be an interesting, yet counterfactual, view of history.