More “cargo cult” science?
Given the importance of information theory to some intelligent design arguments I thought it might be nice to have a toolkit of some basic functions related to the sorts of calculations associated with information theory, regardless of which side of the debate one is on.
What would those functions consist of?
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.]
I’ve written a genetic algorithm, which I have posted below, which implements single-step selection.
The relevant line for single-step selection is line 38:
fitness == 28 ? fitness : 0
- Have I successfully coded a genetic algorithm?
Is this a version of the Weasel program?
Does it demonstrate the power of cumulative selection?
The battle over cumulative selection and Dawkins’ Weasel program has raged on for some months [years?] here at TSZ and across numerous threads. So can it possibly be that we now, finally, have a definitive statement about cumulative selection?
Mung: And whether or not my program demonstrates the power of cumulative selection has not been settled…
To which keiths responded:
keiths: Anyone who understands cumulative selection can see that it doesn’t, because your fitness functions don’t reward proximity to the target — only an exact match. The fitness landscapes are flat except for a spike at the site of the target.
So there you have it. You need a target and a fitness function that rewards proximity to the target.
I was very struck by Glenn Williamson’s [vjt meant GlenDavidson] remark that creativity is not the same thing as complexity. Very deep. Glenn seems to think that people are good at the former, but the blind processes can outdo them in the latter. That’s an interesting view, but I’d want to see evidence that blind processes are actually capable of producing systems with a high degree of functional complexity, of the kind Axe described in his book. Even a computer simulation would be something.
What with all the experts in writing GA’s here at TSZ I was hoping VJT would have elicited more of a response.
Vincent strikes me as a genuinely nice guy whose views are very different from mine on many issues. Possibly one of his most remarked-upon idiosyncracies is his tendency to publish exceedingly long posts at Uncommon Descent but (leaving Joseph of Cupertino in the air for a moment) lately Vincent has become a little more reflective on the merits of “Intelligent Design” as some sort of alternative or rival to mainstream biology. Continue reading
When the Click Whore of Babylon appeals to her own authority, the chances are high that her rhetoric is designed to conceal an intolerable truth:
My sense, based on some years of coverage at Uncommon Descent, is that Pastafarianism has changed its focus. […] They could not stay in the game with ID indefinitely because they would need to be something other than just a big practical joke that went on way too long.
My response to her pulling stuff out of her ass is of course not to pull stuff out of my ass, but instead to look for evidence. What came immediately to mind was to plug the terms “Flying Spaghetti Monster” and “intelligent design” into Google Trends.
Interest in FSM and ID Since 2004
Interest in FSM and ID over the Past Five Years
The parody of religion evidently has greater staying power than the parody of science.
Tom English: (If Mung does not know that authors at Evolution News and Views often disagree with one another, but never point out their disagreements, then I’ve given him way too much credit. For instance, Dembski told us that “evolutionary search” really does search for targets. But Meyer and Axe have both gone out of their ways to explain that “evolutionary search” actually does not search.)
Did Tom ever reveal his sources?
A prominent ID supporter at UD, gpuccio, has this to say:
My simple point is: reasoning in terms of design, intention and plans is a true science promoter which can help give new perspective to our approach to biology. Questions simply change. The question is no more:
how did this sequence evolve by some non existent neo darwinian mechanism giving reproductive advantage?
why was this functional information introduced at this stage? what is the plan? what functions (even completely unrelated to sheer survival and reproduction) are being engineered here?