Evo-Info: Publication delayed, supporting materials online

Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, by Robert J. Marks II, the “Charles Darwin of Intelligent Design”; William A. Dembski, the “Isaac Newton of Information Theory”; and Winston Ewert, the “Charles Ingram of Active Information.” World Scientific, 350 pages. Jan 31 May 1, 2017.
Classification: Engineering mathematics. Engineering analysis. (TA347)
Subjects: Evolutionary computation. Information technology–Mathematics.

I cannot tell you exactly what will be in the forthcoming book by Marks, Dembski, and Ewert. I made it clear in Evo-Info 1 and Evo-Info 2 that I was responding primarily to technical papers on which the book is based. With publication delayed once again, I worry that the authors will revise the manuscript to deflect my criticisms. Thus I’m going to focus for a while on the recent contributions to the “evolutionary informatics” strain of creationism by George D. Montañez, a former advisee of Marks who is presently a doctoral candidate in machine learning at Carnegie Mellon University (advisor: Cosma Shalizi). My advice for George is that if he wants not to taken for a duck, then he had better not walk like a duck and swim like a duck and quack like a duck.

Interestingly, young-earth creationist Jonathan Bartlett did an Amazon “customer review” of Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics in late January, after World Scientific had changed its online announcement to indicate that the book would be published in May. When I let the folks at Amazon headquarters know that they were misrepresenting the book as available for purchase, they went above and beyond the call of duty to correct the mistake. I’m interested in hearing from Jonathan whether he removed his “customer review” voluntarily. Of course, I’d like to know also what led him to post it in the first place.

I’ll hazard to suggest that the book will be much like the supporting materials, which were revised extensively in January. The presentations on the Weasel, ev, and Avida models of evolution are self-contained. And they cast doubt on the advertising claim:

Built on the foundation of a series of peer-reviewed papers published by the authors, the book is written at a level easily understandable to readers with knowledge of rudimentary high school math.

Click on the “Mathematics” tab here, and you will see that the math — the easy stuff, as it happens — is something that almost everyone will skip. It’s there to impress, not to enlighten, the general reader. As I’ve said before, I would love to address the math, and not the rhetoric that the authors attach to it. Things would be much easier for me if the authors turned out to have magical teaching powers. But we have evidence now, and the evidence says no magic.

201 thoughts on “Evo-Info: Publication delayed, supporting materials online

  1. Mung,

    So, keiths, just how is it that you fixed my program for me. Do tell. I missed something, somewhere.

    Here you go:

    keiths March 6, 2017 at 4:20 pm


    So I let the script run overnight… 9 hours and just shy of 3% computed permutations, the process had already hogged 140GB of virtual memory…

    I initially found it puzzling that eval() was leaking so badly. This is not some obscure method, after all, so it seemed surprising that the leak hadn’t already been detected and fixed by someone out there.

    But then it occurred to me that the problem might be due to ill-formed strings. Mung’s program passes every permutation to eval(), legal or not, and handles the bad ones by doing a “rescue SyntaxError”. Most users of eval() won’t pass lots of illegal strings to it, if any, so it seemed plausible that a memory leak in eval’s error handling code might have gone undetected.

    To test that hypothesis, I ported the is_legal() check from my Python script and changed Mung’s program to call eval() only for legal permutations.

    That seems to work. I no longer see the leak.

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