Uncommon Descent: Back to Banning?

Couldn’t resist the tribute to Denyse?

The new open policy at Uncommon Descent appears to have stalled somewhat. In trying to post a comment this morning I find it disappears. I tried on a couple of threads to no avail. Going on past behaviour, I suspect Barry Arrington has found having an open venue even less appealing than a blog dying from lack of traffic. Of course I could be wrong and will be ready to eat my hat if it turns out to be a glitch.

In the meantime, this is what I had to say (I tried to comment immediately after R0bb’s comment)

Echoing Astroman and R0bb,

Could we have a definition of CSI (complex specified information) which enables a distinction between designed and non-designed entities? It seems core to claims being made currently by Barry and others that there is some substance to ID as an intellectual pursuit.

If it is indeed a quantifiable concept, please tell us how to measure it.

Any, absolutely any, example would do for a start.

From R0bb’s link, Ewert writes:

At her blog, The Skeptical Zone, writer [neuroscientist] Elizabeth Liddle has offered a challenge to CSI that seems worth considering. She presents a mystery image and asks for a calculation of CSI. The image is in gray-scale, and looks a bit like the grain in a plank of wood. Her intent is either to force an admission that such a calculation is impossible or to produce a false positive, detecting design where none was present.

But as long as we remain in the dark about what the image actually represents, calculating its probability is indeed impossible. Dembski never intended the design inference to work in the absence of understanding possible chance hypotheses for the event. Rather, the assumption is that we know enough about the object to make this determination.

Ewert seems to say calculating CSI is impossible unless you know whether the entity in question is designed or not. Seems to render the effort somewhat pointless! Surely someone can do better than this.

Mind you, I must have been doing something right if Barry has indeed “suspended” posting privileges”. I see Keith is still posting there.

ETA Seems some hat-eating may be in order. Commenting from another IP using my phone still works.

ETA2 I’m no longer able to post from other locations, so I guess that’s it.

ETA3 User name and email address now not in their data base so that’s definitely someone actively deleting my account details.

107 thoughts on “Uncommon Descent: Back to Banning?

  1. The sheer proliferation of terms — “complex specified information”, “functional complex specified information,” etc. — tells you that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

    For one thing, no one currently active on Uncommon Descent has the slightest idea how to calculate CSI, which means that there’s no argument here, period. All they’ve got is “it looks designed to me, therefore it must have been designed” (which is what they say when they’re not being careful). When they are being careful — as happens less and less often — it comes to, “it looks designed to me, therefore it likely was designed.”

    What they miss is the whole point of evolutionary theory, which is that biological complexity can result from unguided processes. But they cannot afford to ignore this, because they themselves accept that microevolution is real!

    Notice what this acceptance does to the ID position: microevolution is certainly the coming-into-being of biological complexity, and if it is guided, the guidance is empirically undetectable. Once microevolution is admitted, the ID advocate must accept that unguided processes can create biological complexity at least some of the time. All she’s got left is the insistence that there are limits to the degree of biological complexity that such processes can create. And there’s no way of determining that, because there’s no way of calculating CSI, and because nothing that’s come out of ID in the past thirteen years has shown that Wilkins and Elsberry are wrong.

    The deep idea of evolutionary theory is that “complex specified information” is created by two unguided processes: variation to create the “complexity” of the “information” and selection to “specify” that information. Two unguided processes can do the work of one guided process. It’s easy to miss this if one insists (as Dembski does) of shoehorning variation-cum-selection into “chance and necessity” — basically, turning evolutionary theory into a case of Epicurean metaphysics — and then postulating the Platonic alternative to Epicureanism.

    [It is also the case that the proponents of Darwinism, from Monod to Dawkins, have actively contributed to the “Epicureanization” of Darwinism, in contrast to the more “Aristotelian” Darwinism of Dewey and others since. There are various reasons, I think, why this has happened. It has part to do with the explanatory successes of molecular biology, and it has something to do with the historical process whereby Epicureanism became the legitimizing ideology of liberal capitalism.]

  2. I blame Ed Feser for putting me off Aristotle. When you take the trouble to read what Aristotle himself wrote (his de rerum natura, especially) it’s impressive considering he’s writing around 350 BC.

    ETA de partibus animalium. Thanks for spotting that, Bruce.

  3. Alan Fox:
    I blame Ed Feser for putting me off Aristotle. When you take the trouble to read what Aristotle himself wrote (his de rerum natura, especially) it’s impressive considering he’s writing around 350 BC.

    My Latin is pretty rusty, but is de rerum natura the book you meant to reference? Mr Google says it is by that hero of capitalism and all around good guy, Joe Lucretius (ie the Epicurean)

    Not that I’ve read the poem. But I did read The Swerve about the poem’s rediscovery which I recommend if you are interested in history at the start of the Renaissance.

  4. The Swerve is quite good. For that matter, De Rerum Natura is utterly fantastic. My complaint wasn’t really about Epicureanism as a philosophical theory — in fact, I’m quite sympathetic to Epicureanism! — but rather about how key elements of Epicureanism (and also Stoicism) have been appropriated or turned into the ideology of liberal capitalism, much as Aristotelianism was turned into the ideology of medieval Europe.

  5. I have been blocked from commenting from my home computer and my work computer. However, I can still post on other WiFi hotspots, but if I use the same one for a couple days, I lose the ability to comment from that location. Sounds like banning by blocking IP addresses rather than blocking individual user names.

    I guess, Barry can then argue that he has not banned anyone since the amnesty. Sneaky, sneaky.

  6. Well, they always have “Joe” and “Bornagain77”, so they will never run out of comments. And Barry doesn’t get the lack of analogy between arguments and bombs — a bomb will blow you up even if you absolutely refuse to be convinced that it will. Not so an argument.

    I think that people here who want them to show that CSI cannot be caused by natural selection are missing the point. Until last year I did too, and so have most commenters at UD. Dembski has clarified that you are only allowed to call a pattern (say an adaptation) CSI if it has already been shown that it could not result from normal evolutionary processes. Thus CSI cannot be caused by natural selection by definition.

    This was the subject of a post by me at Panda’s Thumb and the two “EleP(T|H)ant” posts by Elizabeth Liddle here (this one and this one).

    Basically, CSI is only invoked after you have, by some other means, settled the matter. So it is a redundant concept.

  7. Joe Felsenstein: I think that people here who want them to show that CSI cannot be caused by natural selection are missing the point. Until last year I did too, and so have most commenters at UD. Dembski has clarified that you are only allowed to call a pattern (say an adaptation) CSI if it has already been shown that it could not result from normal evolutionary processes. Thus CSI cannot be caused by natural selection by definition.

    Whoa. That’s crazy.

    I mean, I always figured that the argument was supposed to be:

    (1) Biological processes exhibit CSI;
    (2) It is highly unlikely that physical laws and sheer randomness can produce anything with CSI;
    (3) But human intelligence is able to produce artifacts with CSI;
    (4) Therefore, it is highly likely that biological processes were produced by something analogous to human intelligence.

    I mean, isn’t that the whole point of the inference in “the design inference”?

    Now, I understand that the criticism is that we’re only going to get anything at all about CSI after the design has been “detected”. But for the ID people to adopt this as their very own argument makes no sense to me at all.

  8. Well, they always have “Joe” and “Bornagain77″, so they will never run out of comments. And Barry doesn’t get the lack of analogy between arguments and bombs — a bomb will blow you up even if you absolutely refuse to be convinced that it will. Not so an argument.

    Yes, that’s an amazingly clueless admission there–that he was afraid that something would actually compel his closed mind to agree that evolution is responsible for the diversity of life.

    Fat chance.

    Glen Davidson

  9. Kantian Naturalist: Whoa.That’s crazy.

    I mean, I always figured that the argument was supposed to be:

    (1) Biological processes exhibit CSI;
    (2) It is highly unlikely that physical laws and sheer randomness can produce anything with CSI;
    (3) But human intelligence is able to produce artifacts with CSI;
    (4) Therefore, it is highly likely that biological processes were produced by something analogous to human intelligence.

    I mean, isn’t that the whole point of the inference in “the design inference”?

    Now, I understand that the criticism is that we’re only going to get anything at all about CSI after the design has been “detected”.But for the ID people to adopt this as their very own argument makes no sense to me at all.

    You get the point. Originally both supporters and opponents of ID thought that the Design Inference argument was that (a) we see whether we observe CSI, and (b) we have a conservation-of-information law argument by Dembski showing that natural selection cannot produce CSI. And the whole point of the Universal Probability Bound part of the CSI argument was the nonselective processes such as mutation would never produce anything well-adapted enough to have CSI.

    That was the argument people criticized from 2002 on (including my own extremely-clear paper: I found the conservation law wrong).

    But then Dembski argued that a term in a 2006 paper required us to rule out natural selection before we could even say that CSI was observed. Either we were all wrong, or he had changed his method.

    I note that the quote from Barry in the original post of this thread asks us to show that CSI could result from natural processes. But it is defined as only being present when you can show that it couldn’t result from them. This shows that we ID critics are not the only ones who don’t understand CSI.

  10. Have I told you that once I was debating with an idist and he had his own definition of “artificial”: something that happens suddenly. So, he could describe as artificial a lot of natural processes..

    I realized of that after squeezing my brain trying to understand why he was talking of “artificial intervention” when he was in fact mentioning natural mechanisms..

  11. This is why Behe wrote The Edge. To argue that natural selection could not make complex combinations.

    Behe’s argument might be likened to saying most biological structures are like combination locks. You get no benefit until you hit all four numbers. Even worse, if you get one of the first three numbers wrong, you die.

    Needless to say, Lenski and Thornton tackled that argument experimentally, and Abbie Smith pounced on him from the perspective of AIDS evolution.

  12. My comments aren’t appearing – I’m presuming straight to moderation. Plus I had my account deleted 4 times.

    They are getting destroyed, I’m surprised damage limitation didn’t start earlier.

    KeithS – can you ask who put me in moderation?

  13. Do they allow ANY opposing viewpoints on Jerry Coynes blog? No. How about Pz Meyers? No. Richard Dawkins No way.

    So you can’t be a rude jerk at UD. Poor you.

  14. phoodoo:
    Do they allow ANY opposing viewpoints on Jerry Coynes blog?No. How about Pz Meyers? No.Richard Dawkins No way.

    So you can’t be a rude jerk at UD.Poor you.

    It’s Barry’s blatant dishonesty that’s the issue. Invite skeptics publicly then ban them surreptitiously.

  15. KF has now posted another FYI-FYR with closed comments. He also keeps pointing an an earlier one, which he has updated. And the bannings are happening.

    UD clearly isn’t competitive and KF is the least competitive. He’s not even honest enough to say why there has been bannings or even that there has been bannings.

    I really hope he has no power in real life, because he can’t be trusted with it.

  16. Is there any chance it’s KF who has somehow gotten Mod powers and is doing the bannings? Seems like his style.

  17. Alan,

    You mean Barry said he would never ban anyone for anything ever again?

    Let’s see, I guess he never did say that, so who is being dishonest, Alan?

  18. phoodoo: Do they allow ANY opposing viewpoints on Jerry Coynes blog?

    I’ve posted opposing viewpoints on Coyne’s blog and not been banned. I no longer read PZ’s blog.

  19. phoodoo:
    Alan,
    You mean Barry said he would never ban anyone for anything ever again?
    Let’s see, I guess he never did say that, so who is being dishonest, Alan?

    Is that supposed to be a virtue? Inviting people back in with no change of policy?

    Just wow.

  20. A few more banning and we’ll be back to “look our critics have no answers!”

    Might even get to open up comments on posts again.

    Pathetic, really.

  21. Enkidu:
    Is there any chance it’s KF who has somehow gotten Mod powers and is doing the bannings?Seems like his style.

    KF has denied having bannation powers, but he has always had the power to ban people from threads he starts.

    The first time I was placed in moderation was moments after asserting that he had misrepresented the history of science.

  22. The longstanding joke, Phoodoo, is how uncompetative UD is in the free marketplace of ideas. The high priests have long tried to shelter the little ‘uns such as yourself from the cruel, harsh barbs of reality. Look what happened when the wall was let down – decimation. Not only did we discover they couldn’t defend their ideas but also in many cases (Barry, KF, etc) they didn’t properly understand the concepts the seek to defend.

    They so want to have sciency sounding things for the culture war, because a large and unsophisticated audience will be taken in by it,

  23. Just so you understand this issue, I disagree with Coyne about religion causing bad behavior — as in ISIS, honor killings and the like.

    This meme first came to my attention in the form of blaming Darwin and the theory of evolution for Nazism. Or atheism for the mass murders in the Soviet Union and in China.

    I have been consistent throughout in asserting that religion and ideology can provide cover for greed and power, but are not the underlying cause.

  24. Richardthughes,

    Uncompetitive compared to what? Compared to the censorship of Wikipedia? Of Richard Dawkins, Meyers, Coyne. Of the moose club brotherhood of the National Center for Science Education, the National Science Board, Scientific American Magazine, of The Smithsonian Institute, The California Science Center, The Skeptics Society, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, The Royal Academy of Science, the…nevermind, when it comes to censoring, you guys are the undisputed champions by light years.

  25. Uncompetitive to here. Uncompetitive to science, and peer review. Uncompetitive in terms of methods, results and predictions.

  26. Oh Boo Hoo.

    The ID movement is uncompetitive because it has no ideas. Look at how many online journals have been created to publish ID articles, but nothing interesting has been published.

    Behe and Dembski publish books, but no worthwhile ideas have emerged.

  27. phoodoo,

    Don’t you have some answers to give in the post about tautology? I made two interesting questions and I wait for your answer.

    People is being banned in UD, while YOU, for example, are not banned here. That’s the point. In an honest debate, you win with arguments, not banning.

  28. phoodoo:
    Richardthughes,

    Uncompetitive compared to what?Compared to the censorship of Wikipedia?Of Richard Dawkins, Meyers, Coyne. Of the moose club brotherhood of the National Center for Science Education, the National Science Board, Scientific American Magazine, of The Smithsonian Institute, The California Science Center, The Skeptics Society, The Skeptics Guide to the Universe, The Royal Academy of Science, the…nevermind, when it comes to censoring, you guys are the undisputed champions by light years.

    Censorship by the SGU? Precisely what censorship are you talking about?

  29. phoodoo: Richard Dawkins No way.

    Yes way.. Just get in and check it.

    phoodoo: nevermind, when it comes to censoring, you guys are the undisputed champions by light years.

    What a paradox.. Your comment has not been censored..

  30. phoodoo:
    Alan,

    You mean Barry said he would never ban anyone for anything ever again?

    Let’s see, I guess he never did say that, so who is being dishonest, Alan

    But that’s not the point, phoodoo. Used to be that when a commenter was booted, there’d be some indication. “X is no longer with us” at least. On a previous occasion I pointed out Barry was quote-mining to which he took exception and booted me. No problem.

    This time, Barry declares an amnesty and within a short time inconvenient commenters mysteriously disappear. I had my account tinkered with by having the password changed and the email I registered with deleted. This is underhand and deceitful. People were still responding to my comments, including you. I certainly didn’t insult or abuse anyone verbally. I don’t give a fig about being able to post at UD but it would have been minimally polite for whoever was responsible to publish the ban. If Barry hgad merely asked me to stop posting, that would have been enough. Also, my case seems far from unique judging by others reports.

    Would you like to do the decent thing and tell gpuccio and other interlocutors that I can no longer respond there?

  31. Alan Fox: Would you like to do the decent thing and tell gpuccio and other interlocutors that I can no longer respond there?

    I haven’t been re-banned yet, probably because I haven’t posted anything except a test.

    But I will not go back unless and until the site owner or administrator announces a policy that people will not be banned simply for posing opinions that disagree with the majority.

    UD has always allowed one or two token opponents. that is a dishonest way to manage a site.

  32. Richardthughes:
    To be fair to Barry, Alan, he might not know. I’m pretty sure KF is doing it.

    Well, there have been several comments about the “disappearances” and Barry is posting there. I find it hard to credit he isn’t fully aware what is going on. The level of intervention would have to involve someone with “admin” level authorisations. Can you imagine Barry giving Gordon the key to the safe?

  33. petrushka: UD has always allowed one or two token opponents. that is a dishonest way to manage a site.

    Well, indeed. But what can they do? There has only been decline since Dover and pointing out the emperor has no clothes gets monotonously repetitive. It must be depressing for ID enthusiasts. And it can’t be fun trying to talk up the troops when there is never a development, never a genuine attempt to advance “ID science”. I’m happy if there are one or two critics (opponents implies something to oppose – ID is vacuous) pointing it out or if there are none. We all know ID was a vehicle for religious and right-wing political groups to advance their political fortunes. I guess they need a new vehicle.

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