Eric Holloway has returned to The Skeptical Zone, following a long absence. He expects to get responses to his potshot at phylogenetic inference, though he has never answered three questions of mine about his own work on algorithmic specified complexity. Here I abbreviate and clarify the recap I previously posted, and introduce remarks on the questions.
If there is a fundamental flaw in the second half, as you claim, then I’ll retract it if it is unfixable.
— Eric Holloway, January 2, 2020
In Section 4 of their article, Nemati and Holloway claim to have identified an error in a post of mine. They do not cite the post, but instead name me, and link to the homepage of TSZ. Thus there can be no question as to whether the authors regard technical material that I post here as worthy of a response in Bio-Complexity. Interacting with me at TSZ, Holloway acknowledged error in an equation that I had told him was wrong, expressed interest in seeing the next part of my review, and said, “If there is a fundamental flaw in the second half, as you claim, then I’ll retract it if it is unfixable.” I subsequently put a great deal of work into “The Old Switcheroo,” trying to anticipate all of the ways in which Holloway might wiggle out of acknowledging his errors. Evidently I left him no avenue of escape, given that he subsequently refused to engage at all, and insisted that I submit my criticisms to Bio-Complexity.
The notion that I must submit to Bio-Complexity is ludicrous, considering my past interactions with the editor-in-chief, Robert Marks, and a member of the editorial board, Winston Ewert. See “A Nontechnical Recap” for an account of how Baylor University required Ewert (advised by Marks) to submit a revised master’s thesis, following my report of plagiarism in the original version. I have no more interest in legitimizing Bio-Complexity than I have reason to expect fair handling of a submission exposing negligence in the review and editing of the article by Nemati and Holloway. (For an elementary explanation of the most obvious errors that passed review, see “Stark Incompetence.”)
A “fundamental flaw in the second half,” or two
According to Nemati and Holloway (and their former advisor, Robert Marks), each and every measure of algorithmic specified complexity — there are infinitely many of them — is a quantification of the meaningful information in data. The first of the fundamental flaws in the article is that the way in which the algorithmic specified complexity of the data is measured depends on how we refer to the data. Suppose that the expression refers to the data, and that You need not know how and are defined to recognize that is another way of referring to the data. The amount of “meaningful information” in the data itself does not depend on whether we refer to the data as or as This is something that most high schoolers grasp, and I am amazed to find myself explaining it here. Nemati and Holloway introduce a requirement that the measure of algorithmic specified complexity depend on how we refer to the data. As a consequence, the quantity of “meaningful information” in is generally different from the quantity of “meaningful information” in even though the two expressions denote the same data. If you measure algorithmic specified complexity as they prescribe, then there are cases in which the result is infinite when the data is referred to as and the result is a negative number when the data is referred to as
The second of the fundamental flaws in the article is that an ostensible characterization of “conservation of complexity for ASC” turns out, when deobfuscated, to be a comparison of differently measured quantities of algorithmic specified complexity. For concreteness, let us say that is the data output by a process when is the data input to the process. In any claim that a quantity of algorithmic specified complexity is conserved in the process, the measure must be the same for the output as for the input. However, Nemati and Holloway use the function which represents the process, to make the measure of algorithmic specified complexity different for the output of the process, expressed as than for the input to the process, expressed as In fact, the ASC measure that they apply to the output is customized to the process. It is absurd to suggest that a quantity of algorithmic specified complexity is conserved in the process when ASC is measured differently for the output than for the input.
Three unanswered questions
Holloway will be tempted to seize upon parts of this vague recap redux, and twist them to his purposes. Please keep it in mind that I supplied mathematical details in “The Old Switcheroo,” and that he ignored them, complaining that my post was too long. I subsequently distilled three brief questions, repeated below, and Holloway responded only with diversionary tactics. Yet he returns now to TSZ, expecting responses to the latest of his free-ranging crankery. It bears emphasis that I am attempting to engage him on a topic of the dissertation that he defended, by way of earning his doctoral degree in electrical and computer engineering. That is, Holloway is supposed to be an expert on algorithmic specified complexity. He declines to answer questions in his own field, and nonetheless insists that his criticism of phylogenetic inference be taken seriously by experts in the field.
Answers of yes to the following questions lead to the conclusion that Nemati and Holloway in fact compare quantities of “meaningful information” obtained by two different measures, when they claim to have established that the quantity of “meaningful information” is conserved. If Holloway cannot justify an answer of no to any of the questions, then he should retract the latter half of the article, as he said he would.
Question 1. Is your definition of algorithmic specified complexity precisely equivalent to the definition given by Ewert, Dembski, and Marks in “Algorithmic Specified Complexity,”
even though you write in place of ?
Remark. I introduce the equivalent definition (A) of algorithmic specified complexity in order to simplify what ensues. It is important to understand that an ASC measure associates a quantity of “meaningful information” with and that and are parameters of the measure. Change the values of and and you have switched from one measure of “meaningful information” to another.
Question 2. The identity follows from your definition of algorithmic specified complexity. Is the following extension of your inequality (43) correct?
Remark. Inequality (43) is so the extension is plainly correct.
Question 3. You refer to the upper bound on fASC as “conservation of complexity for ASC,” so you evidently regard fASC as algorithmic specified complexity (ASC). I observe that
where denotes the probability distribution of the random variable Have I correctly expressed fASC as algorithmic specified complexity?
Remark. There is nothing to the derivation but application of definitions and an introduction of new notation. Nemati and Holloway cannot object to my reasoning, because there is virtually none. What I’ve shown is that there is concealed, in the definition of fASC, a switch from one measure of algorithmic specified complexity to another. Specifically, the parameter of the ASC measure is changed to
It follows from answers of yes to the foregoing questions that what Nemati and Holloway refer to as “conservation of complexity for ASC,”
is equivalent to
Remark. The right-hand side of (43) is rewritten according to the inequality of Question 2, and the left-hand side of (43) is rewritten according to the equality of Question 3. In the result, the two ASC measures have different parameters: where one has the other has In other words, there is clearly a comparison of quantities of “meaningful information” by two different measures.
As explained early in “The Old Switcheroo,” it is absurd to change from one ASC measure to another, and speak of conservation. Holloway should make good on his word, and retract the latter half of the article.