The Law of Conservation of Information is defunct


About a year ago, Joe Felsenstein critiqued a seminar presentation by William Dembski, “Conservation of Information in Evolutionary Search.” He subsequently discussed Dembski’s primary source with me, and devised a brilliant response, unlike any that I had considered. This led to an article, due mostly to Felsenstein, though I contributed, at The Panda’s Thumb. Nine days after it appeared, Dembski was asked in a radio interview whether anyone was paying attention to his technical work. Surely a recipient of

qualifies as a someone. But Dembski changed the topic. And when the question came around again, he again changed the topic. Mind you, this isn’t how I know that Felsenstein blasted conservation of “information,” which is not information, in evolutionary “search,” which does not search. It’s how I know that Dembski knows.

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Answer to Barry Part 1 (and, inadvertently, 2)

Barry seems to have noticed TSZ again, and so I will take this opportunity of inviting him over here, where he can post freely, and will not be banned unless he posts porn or malware or outs someone, which I expect he can manage not to do.

And he responds to my post, Lawyers and Scientists.  He does so in two parts, so I will devote two posts to them.  Here is my response to his first part.  Barry writes:

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Is Barry Arrington The Least Competent ID Advocate Ever?

Barry Sez:

Having studied Darwinism for over 20 years, I can tell you what it posits. Therefore, when I attack it, I am attacking the actual thing, not some distortion of the thing that exists nowhere but my own mind.



Good grief Zach do you have no shame? Do you seriously believe you can get away with saying that Darwin believed stasis is more typical than change and not his own words when he wrote infinitely many fine gradations between past and present species [are] required on the theory.


Darwin sez:

It is a more important consideration, clearly leading to the same result, as lately insisted on by Dr. Falconer, namely, that the periods during which species have been undergoing modification, though very long as measured by years, have probably been short in comparison with the periods during which these same species remained without undergoing any change. We may infer that this has been the case, from there being no inherent tendency in organic beings to become modified or to progress in structure, and from all modifications depending, firstly on long-continued variability, and secondly on changes in the physical conditions of life, or on changes in the habits and structure of competing species, or on the immigration of new forms; and such contingencies will supervene in most cases only after long intervals of time and at a slow rate. These changes, moreover, in the organic and inorganic conditions of life will affect only a limited number of the inhabitants of any one area or country.

Darwin, Origin of Species, 1866. p. 359

20 years of study, and nothing learned. Pathetic.

Barry finally gets it?

Barry Arrington was astonished to find that Larry Moran agreed with him that it would be possible for some future biologist to detect design in a Venter-designed genome.

He was further astonished to find that REC, a commenter at UD, agreed with Larry Moran.

Barry expresses his epiphany in a UD post REC Becomes a Design Proponent.

Has Barry finally realised that those of us who oppose the ideas of Intelligent Design proponents do not dispute that it is possible, in principle, to make a reasonable inference of design?  That rather our opposition is based on the evidence and argument advanced, not on some principled (or unprincipled!) objection to the entire project?

Sadly, it seems not.  Because Barry then gives some examples of his continued lack of appreciation of this point.  Here they are:

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More statistical confusion…

At UD I noticed, while I was checking the Moran-Arrington score, I couldn’t help noticing a news item entitled, provocatively (for me) Psychology does not speak the language of statistics very well.

So being a psychologist who teaches statistical methods to psychology students, I had to click, and found that it was a report of a blog piece here called Statistics Shows Psychology Is Not Science

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Lawyers and Scientists

There’s been a skirmish between Larry Moran and Barry Arrington about whether Barry understands the Theory of Evolution, and the latest salvo is a piece at UD, entitled, Can a Lowly Lawyer Make a Useful Contribution? Maybe.

Well, in a sense, Barry makes a useful contribution in that post, as he gives a very nice illustration of a common misunderstanding about the process of hypothesis testing, in this case, basic model-fitting and null hypothesis testing, the workhorse (with all its faults) of scientific research.  Barry writes:

[Philip]Johnson is saying that attorneys are trained to detect baloney.  And that training is very helpful in the evolution debate, because that debate is chock-full of faulty logic (especially circular reasoning), abuse of language (especially equivocations), assumptions masquerading as facts, unexamined premises, etc. etc.

Consider, to take one example of many, cladistics.  It does not take a genius to know that cladistic techniques do not establish common descent; rather they assume it.  But I bet if one asked, 9 out of 10 materialist evolutionists, even the trained scientists among them, would tell you that cladistics is powerful evidence for common descent.  As Johnson argues, a lawyer’s training may help him understand when faulty arguments are being made, sometimes even better than those with a far superior grasp of the technical aspects of the field.  This is not to say that common descent is necessarily false; only cladistics does not establish the matter one way or the other.

In summary, I am trained to evaluate arguments by stripping them down to examine the meaning of the terms used, exposing the underlying assumptions, and following the logic (or, as is often the case, exposing the lack of logic).  And I think I do a pretty fair job of that, both in my legal practice and here at UD.

Barry has made two common errors here.  First he has confused the assumption of common descent with the conclusion of common descent, and thus detected circular reasoning where there is none.  Secondly he has confused the process of fitting a model with the broader concept of a hypothesised model.

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The Enigma of Lamarckism

Lamarckism (or Lamarckian inheritance) is the idea that an organism can pass on characteristics that it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring (also known as heritability of acquired characteristics or soft inheritance).

– Wikipedia

Many of us have probably been taught that Lamarkian inheritance is anathema. Heresy. But why would that be the case? Is it for theoretical reasons or simply because of a lack of empirical evidence?

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