Yesterday, a couple of folks let me know of a paper that crypto-creationist [ETA: perhaps under reform] George Montañez had just posted at arXiv, “The Famine of Forte: Few Search Problems Greatly Favor Your Algorithm.” Below you’ll find my response to one of them. I should explain a few things, by way of introduction.
Montañez is a former advisee of the “Charles Darwin of intelligent design,” Baylor University professor Robert J. Marks II. Last I heard, he was pursuing doctoral studies in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University. He worked not only with Marks, but also with William A. Dembski, the “Isaac Newton of information theory,” and Winston Ewert, the “Pooh Bear of evolutionary informatics,” on applications of measures of active information. He is still affiliated with them at the Evolutionary Informatics Lab. I refer to the core of affiliates who actually contribute to the output of the Lab — Marks, Dembski, Ewert, and Montañez — as Team EIL. The first three of them have a book scheduled for release by World Scientific on January 30, 2017. The title is Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics. I am trying to pull together a series of posts with the same title.
My email note follows.
[ETA: George Montañez has kindly responded here at TSZ. Contrary to what I guess below, he is not presently collaborating with the authors of the book.]
There’s an important development in the paper. In their studies of ev, Avida, etc., Team EIL did not apply their measures of active information, for which they had “conservation of information” (CoI) theorems, but instead their egregiously misnamed measures of average active information per query (AAIPQ). In it’s simplest form, AAIPQ is the endogenous (not active) information divided by the expected number of queries for the sampling process to first hit the target,
Active information was defined as the difference of endogenous information and exogenous information,
and endogenous information was thus the sum of active information and exogenous information,
You don’t even need to know the definitions of endogenous information and exogenous information to see that AAIPQ is active information per expected number of queries plus exogenous information per expected number of queries,
The upshot is that Team EIL indicated falsely in papers where they applied AAIPQ to evolutionary models that they had mathematical justification for their “conservation of information” rhetoric. Their CoI theorems were in fact irrelevant. I brought this up in one of my “Ask Dr Ewert” questions [posted here in The Skeptical Zone], and Ewert responded with unadulterated bullshit at Uncommon Descent.
Montañez has just provided a new definition of active information — the fourth in nine years, and quite different from the previous ones — along with conservation theorems. There is indeed averaging in the new measure. It serves as a replacement for AAIPQ. The new theorems say nothing relevant to AAIPQ. The release of Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics has been pushed back to January 30, and I’ll hazard a guess that Montañez and Ewert have applied the new measure to the data from the old studies, and that the new measurements will appear in the book. As for the arXiv publication, you know how uncharacteristic that is of stealth creationists. But it makes perfectly good sense if Marks et al. are using the work in the book, and need to cite a source. They’re perhaps hoping to change the reference to a peer-reviewed, forthcoming paper prior to publication of the book.
Montañez says nothing to indicate that his work is revisionary, as is the norm for Team EIL. Nor does he indicate that his Famine of Forte theorem (with conservation of active information redux as a corollary) is analogous to the “Algorithmic Specified Complexity Is Rare” theorem of Ewert et al. (By the way, I proved a closely analogous “Active Information Is Rare” theorem a couple years ago, using the then-current definition of active information, but decided not to share it with Team EIL.) In all sincerity, I had hoped that the outstanding faculty in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon would set Montañez straight. No such luck.
I’ll have to adjust the part of my introduction to evolutionary informatics dealing with average active information per query. The story I have to tell now is more complicated, but also more juicy. Marks et al. are damned if they use the new measure, because it appeared in an unreviewed, self-published paper after World Scientific began taking orders for the book (advertising it as based on peer-reviewed publications). Also, their new calculations will not have passed peer review, even if the paper by Montañez has. They’re damned if they don’t use the new measure, because they obviously were wrong, as I showed above, in suggesting that their CoI theorems of the time were relevant to AAIPQ, and because Montañez has now acknowledged tacitly that they were wrong.