ETA 2015/12/05: “Rubik’s Cube Is a Hand-Sized Illustration of Intelligent Design,” featured in the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News and Views, illustrates clearly the fallacious “conservation of information” reasoning discussed in a post of mine, “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
- the Darwin-Wallace Medal,
- the John J. Carty Award for the Advancement of Science, and
- the International Prize for Biology
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.
He has reified the abstract concept of gravity and attributed casual [sic] powers to the reified concept. It is easy to fall into that hole, and we should all watch out for it.
—Barry Arrington, June 18, 2015 at 3:10 pm
I hear from intelligent-design proponents that information is neither matter nor energy, is conserved by material processes, and is created only by intelligence. Would you please explain how they determined that intelligence is real, and not merely an abstraction? I’d like to see you contrast it with gravity.
If Uncommon Descent (UD) is not suffering from our departure, then why has the Discovery Institute’s Center for
the Renewal of Science and Culture stooped to lame promotion of the site? I’m referring to an ID the Future podcast, “Eric Anderson: Probability & Design.” It begins with Casey Luskin singing the praises of UD.
[Eric Anderson…] for the past year has been a contributing author about intelligent design at the great intelligent design blog, UncommonDescent.com. So, quick plug for Uncommon Descent. If you’re an “ID the Future” listener and you’ve never checked it out, go to UncommonDescent.com. And it’s a great ID blog, kind of like EvolutionNews.org. It has many participants, and many contributors, of which Eric is one of the main authors there.
And it ends with Casey Luskin steering listeners to UD.
And I would encourage our listeners to go check out the blog Uncommon Descent. That’s Uncommon, and the last word is spelled D-E-S-C-E-N-T, dot com. So “descent” like you’re going down into something. So UncommonDescent.com.
I repeat my invitation to Dr. Winston Ewert to join us here for discussion of several questions I raised. It helps immensely to display mathematical formulas, rather than talk about them vaguely. However, he has replied at Uncommon Descent, where that is impossible. I’m genuinely astonished to see:
Some of you are raring to go with responses to the Uncommon Descent post Dr. Ewert Answers. Adapa dropped the following into a thread in which I hope to engage Ewert in discussion of my own question, not Andy’s. Have fun.
Over at UD Ewert hand-waved away this question by Andy:
Added June 17, 2015: Jump in with whatever comments you like, folks. Dr. Ewert has responded nebulously at Uncommon Descent. I’d have worked with him to get his meaning straight. I’m not going to spend my time on deconstruction. However, I will take quick shots at some easy targets, mainly to show appreciation to Lizzie for featuring this post as long as she has. Here, again, is what I put to Dr. Ewert:
Your “search” process decides when to stop and produce an outcome in the “search space.” A model may do this, but biological evolution does not. How do you measure active information on the biological process itself? Do you not reify a model?
Dr. Ewert seemingly forgets that to measure active information on a biological process is to produce a specific quantity, e.g., 109 bits.
One approach is to take the search space not to be the individual organisms, but rather the entire population of organisms currently alive on earth. Or one could go further, and take it to be the history of organisms during the whole of biological evolution. One could also take it to be possible spacetime histories. The target can then be taken to be spacetimes, histories, or populations that contain an individual organism type such as birds.
These “search spaces” roll off the tongue. But no one knows, or ever will know, what they actually contain. Even if we did know, no one would know the probabilities required for calculation of the active information for a given target. And even if we did know the probability of a given “target” for a given “search,” we would not be able to justify designating a particular probability distribution on the search space as the “natural” baseline. By the way, Dr. Ewert should not be alluding to infinite sets, as his current model of search applies only to finite sets.