What does S. Joshua Swamidass mean by ‘secular scientist’?

Apparently, he means ‘non-confessional,’ since he actively pits ‘secular scientist’ over against ‘confessional scientist’ at ‘Peaceful Science.’  

Swamidass’ chosen dichotomy may seem stark to some people, almost as a kind of ‘you’re with us or you’re against us’. Notably, it has achieved some success so far, mainly among natural scientists. In other words, you’re either with ‘mainstream science’ or you’re against it. Swamidass upholds ‘mainstream science,’ while at the same time promoting non-mainstream evangelical protestantism as a ‘confessionalist’ approach to the topic. 

“The science we are putting forward here is solid. It does not require a religious point of view to accept. Even secular scientists endorse it.” – S. Joshua Swamidass

The devil is in the details when natural scientists write: “does not require.” This is the legacy Swamidass’ confused embrace of ‘methodological naturalism’ as if it were free from ideology.

So, for Swamidass, Michael Behe (who while both challenging and praising him, called his ‘hero,’ before removing it for supposedly ‘confusing people’, with a mere explanation of: “what can I say?”) must be labelled as a ‘confessional scientist,’ even though he’s not an evangelical like Swamidass. In other words, Swamidass is dividing people into 2 camps, those who ‘confess’ their religion on the internet in public and those who are ‘secular’ in doing science. This is why Swamidass is intent on asking people to ‘tell us about yourself’ and is actively now flirting with forcing people to reveal their IRL identity on PS in order to participate there. 

Yet this is where it gets confusing because Swamidass has repeatedly noted that he works at a ‘secular university’ (WUSTL). So he’s apparently also a ‘secular scientist’ in so far as he’s a natural scientist who works at a university that is not a private religious one. Yet apparently it is only because he ‘confesses’ his ‘faith’ (evengelical Protestantism) online that he considers himself ‘non-secular’ as a ‘practising natural scientist’.

This raises the question: what about all of the many natural scientists, philosophers and social scientists who don’t evangelize online and yet are active in conversations about science, philosophy and theology/worldview? Are they all necessarily counted as ‘confessional scientists’ too, or not? In my view, they are not and I would defend non-evangelical but religious scientists (of whom I have come to know many) from Swamidass’ confrontational polemics, which seem to adopt black & white thinking like “you’re either with us or you’re against us.” This seems to be what Swamidass’ version of ‘confident faith’ boils down to.

Nevertheless, this in no way takes away from the fact that Swamidass has indeed made a noteworthy splash after his noisy exit from BioLogos. What makes things most interesting about the conversation is the people who have been attracted to PS so far, with its focus on natural science, yet openness and friendliness to theological topics and discussion.

Indeed, a curious mixture of people have answered Swamidass’ call for peace in science, joining in with the mainly evangelical company he has brought along with him. Two of the most active posters at PS, who have been there from the beginning, are a Unitarian Universalist gbrooks9, who joined Swamidass via BioLogos, and a self-described ‘militant atheist,’ who supports the Freedom from Religion Foundation in the USA. The latter has created >740 topics, even more than Swamidass himself on his own site so far! Swamidass has gone to significant effort to allow space for atheism to be promoted at PS.

gbrooks9 speaks regularly as if on behalf of PS, saying: “We arent trying to prove Adam and Eve existed… we are proving that they could have been miraculously created… and science is not in a position to contradict some miracles!” He follows this by using the pronoun ‘we’ to refer to PS, saying “we have obtained funding.” This was cleared up by Djordje a Serbian Orthodox who clarified that gbrooks9 hadn’t himself obtained anything, only Dr. Swamidass. Likewise, Patrick the ‘Freethinking Atheist’ confirmed Swamidass “gets major secular funding to real science at WUSTL.” Again, what’s with this primitive ‘secular’ vs. ‘anything else’ dichotomy, when Templeton has also funded non-evangelicals who at least acknowledge the spiritual realm?

Swamidass’ most outspoken booster said the following: “You are an atheist who opposes all religion… so I really don’t care what you think. This site is really not designed for you. It is designed for Christians who want to retain recognition for the evidence of Evolution.” – gbrooks9 George (Frantic Unitarian) (https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/the-theological-hypothesis-of-adam-in-science/4437/78) For George, following Swamidass, the online ‘confessional’ booth aspect of PS often seems to get in the way more than to edify the conversation. Yet on the coattails of Swamidass’ ‘strictly natural science’ approach, even alone Swamidass can continue to be a thorn in the side of the 4 organisations he has positioned himself to oppose as a supposed ‘fifth voice’: Answers in Genesis, BioLogos, Discovery Institute and Reasons to Believe.

“The science we are putting forward here is solid. It does not require a religious point of view to accept. Even secular scientists endorse it.” – S. Joshua Swamidass

While Swamidass continues to push ideological scientism with his “the Science of Adam” and “genealogical science,” it doesn’t really matter much if he uses the labels ‘confessional’ or ‘secular’, since he’s made ‘THE (natural) science’ into his priority topic and source of dictation. Philosophy is an afterthought, something Swamidass seems to spend little time on and theology/worldview, other than his own non-mainstream evangelical protestantism, is barely addressed except for by others. Yet rather ironically, it is non-mainstream evangelical protestants themselves who Swamidass must know by now are most confused, contorted and convoluted in this conversation. So it’s a pleasant surprise that Swamidass is not actively trying to turn the outdated, scientifically under-educated worldview of those evangelicals on its head just yet! 

As chief Swamidass cheerleader George recently responded with exasperation to an atheist MD: “Go bang your head against a godless tree.” Apparently that’s his way to find ‘common ground’ with Swamidass as the ringleader and master of ceremonies. https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/the-theological-hypothesis-of-adam-in-science/4437/130

Yet that kind of talk still seems to be far more ‘tolerable’ for his current fan base than Swamidass being told that ‘methodological naturalism’ is an untenable ideology, not a sign of someone ‘doing good science,’ but rather of an ideologue.

194 thoughts on “What does S. Joshua Swamidass mean by ‘secular scientist’?

  1. colewd:
    Entropy,

    We have information which is that minds are a valid mechanisms for creating sequences as mass is a valid mechanism for curving space-time.I think we have common ground that the other 4 forces are unlikely mechanisms for the sequences we are observing.

    Aside from the ideological implications why not explore this idea?

    Do minds tend to bias substitutions – even in, or rather especially in, mutationally sensitive proteins – towards the silent or the chemically conservative? Do they tend to give tree-like patterns, as if the substitions had actually occurred in branching lineages? Apart from the ideological implications, why not explore this idea? It sure looks like evolution.

  2. Reification of ‘mind’ is one of the ways in which ID tries to stack the deck right from the start.

  3. Allan Miller: Do minds tend to bias substitutions – even in, or rather especially in, mutationally sensitive proteins – towards the silent or the chemically conservative? Do they tend to give tree-like patterns, as if the substitions had actually occurred in branching lineages? Apart from the ideological implications, why not explore this idea? It sure looks like evolution.

    This whole idea of “minds” as if they are a thing in and of themselves that can be separated from the physical brain and body and still somehow cause material things to move around and physical events to happen, despite these minds not being connected to a central nervous system, sensory organs, and limbs, is completely ridiculous.

    The only minds we know of are those with physical brains and bodies. And the only kinds of causal effects on their surroundings that these minds have, are through and with their physical bodies.

    Every piece of evidence we have about what minds can do, is equally well supported by evidence that they can’t do anything at all to affect their surroundings without sensory organs and physical limbs. There is zero evidence that “telekinesis” or something like that is even remotely possible. The fact that our conscious perceptions, moods, thoughts, and cognitive performance, can all change in fundamental and apparently radical ways when the brain and body is physically manipulated with damage, surgery, food, rest, and chemicals, is all evidence that the mind IS itself some kind of physical process. That there wouldn’t BE a mind without physics.

    We don’t have evidence that “minds” can create sequences. We have evidence that physical organisms can create sequences.

  4. Allan Miller: Do minds tend to bias substitutions – even in, or rather especially in, mutationally sensitive proteins – towards the silent or the chemically conservative? Do they tend to give tree-like patterns, as if the substitions had actually occurred in branching lineages? Apart from the ideological implications, why not explore this idea? It sure looks like evolution.

    This whole idea of “minds” as if they are a thing in and of themselves that can be separated from the physical brain and body and still somehow cause material things to move around and physical events to happen, despite these minds not being connected to a central nervous system, sensory organs, and limbs, is completely ridiculous.

    The only minds we know of are those with physical brains and bodies. And the only kinds of causal effects on their surroundings that these minds have, are through and with their physical bodies.

    Every piece of evidence we have about what minds can do, is equally well supported by evidence that they can’t do anything at all to affect their surroundings without sensory organs and physical limbs. There is zero evidence that “telekinesis” or something like that is even remotely possible. The fact that our conscious perceptions, moods, thoughts, and cognitive performance, can all change in fundamental and apparently radical ways when the brain and body is physically manipulated with damage, surgery, food, rest, and chemicals, is all evidence that the mind IS itself some kind of physical process. That there wouldn’t BE a mind without physics.

    We don’t have evidence that “minds” can create sequences. We have evidence that physical organisms can create sequences.

  5. OMagain,

    But given you yourself fall at the first hurdle how can you possibly expect others to do better?

    On what basis do you believe how the mind containing entity did the design the first priority?

    In the case of gravity we don’t know how mass curves space-time, we know that it does and thanks to Einstein we have a model of its action.

    As you pointed out we can demonstrate that minds can create sequences simply by communicating with each other here and as Rum pointed out we also need functioning arms hands and fingers to do the job.

  6. Allan Miller,

    Apart from the ideological implications, why not explore this idea? It sure looks like evolution.

    We should explore this idea. Behe claimed that it can explain diversity up to the Genus level and there is a lot to explore here.

  7. colewd:
    We have information which is that minds are a valid mechanisms for creating sequences

    This is false. Minds cannot create sequences. As others have pointed out:

    Rumraket: We don’t have evidence that “minds” can create sequences. We have evidence that physical organisms can create sequences.

    colewd:
    as mass is a valid mechanism for curving space-time.

    Mass is not a mechanism for curving space-time. It’s its presence that curves the space-time thingie.

    ETA: Your body is not a mechanism for displacing water when you enter the pool, it’s the presence of your body that displaces the water just because it’s there, because two bodies cannot occupy the same space, etc.

    colewd:
    I think we have common ground that the other 4 forces are unlikely mechanisms for the sequences we are observing.

    Whut? Now minds are a force? Minds work on the basis of stuff that works on the foundations of those four forces, just like those sequences are assembled on the foundations of those four forces, but, the forces are not “mechanisms.”

    Besides that, you seem to be engaging on some kind of genetic equivocation (like Eric’s crap about super-Turin power) and excessive reductionism. The “four forces” don’t “explain” natural selection, for example, because the realms of application of those concepts are different. That doesn’t mean that natural selection is magic, it just means that our conceptual frameworks don’t work the same way at every level of explanation.

    colewd:
    Aside from the ideological implications why not explore this idea?

    Because it’s a semantic and philosophical mess. A scientifically productive idea needs much better foundations than mistaking four forces for mechanisms, or engaging in excessive and misleading reductionism.

  8. Entropy,

    Mass is not a mechanism for curving space-time. It’s its presence that curves the space-time thingie.

    Can you expand on this?

    Can you propose a definition of a mechanism?

  9. Joe, do you consider yourself a ‘secular scientist’? And if you are a ‘confessing scientist,’ what is it that you confess as a scientist?

  10. Gregory:
    Joe, do you consider yourself a ‘secular scientist’? And if you are a ‘confessing scientist,’ what is it that you confess as a scientist?

    I confess that I consider myself a scientist. I was not really trying to answer the question of the OP (remember the OP?).

    Scientists who worry a lot about Christianity-and-science seem to consider themselves “confessing scientists” and other scientists to be “secular scientists”. But I’m not much interested in religious beliefs. I don’t have any faith that I “confess”.

    Of course I realize that everybody has some sort of philosophical framework, but I am not very concerned to assign a label to mine. Except that I know I’m not a Catholic, or an Orthodox Jew, or a Buddhist, or a Presbyterian. Or anything like that.

    So I am not a good sample for those trying to answer the questions of the OP.

  11. Joe Felsenstein: Scientists who worry a lot about Christianity-and-science seem to consider themselves “confessing scientists” and other scientists to be “secular scientists”. But I’m not much interested in religious beliefs. I don’t have any faith that I “confess”.

    For the record, I consider myself a secular scientist, and do not see this in opposition in any way to the fact that I also disclose my personal beliefs. https://discourse.peacefulscience.org/t/what-is-a-secular-scientist/5976

    The OP did not correctly represent what I meant.

  12. Joe Felsenstein: I confess that I consider myself a scientist.I was not really trying to answer the question of the OP (remember the OP?).

    Scientists who worry a lot about Christianity-and-science seem to consider themselves “confessing scientists” and other scientists to be “secular scientists”.But I’m not much interested in religious beliefs.I don’t have any faith that I “confess”.

    Of course I realize that everybody has some sort of philosophical framework, but I am not very concerned to assign a label to mine.

    Thanks for this Joe. Yes, in such a case ‘confess’ is closely used like ‘admit’. And yes, most have lost track of the OP.

    I’ve never heard ‘confessing scientist’ other than from Joshua. He uses being a tenured scientist as a confessional for his worldview. That’s his prerogative to promote his worldview & to call what he does ‘confessing.’ How much of a ‘fifth voice’ he constitutes over at PS or not is still up in the air.

    As for having no ‘faith’ that you confess, I would suspect that is not true & that you’re just shy in expressing it underneath. Even label-avoiding people constitute a label, so it’s better to have at least one or to make your own instead of having others do it for you. A materialist I am not, nor a proponent of rationalism alone. It’s good for a person to know what they believe about life & death, whether ‘scientist’ or not, don’t you agree?

  13. Joe Felsenstein: His 2002 Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information was incorrectly formulated to rule that out. So it got quietly dropped from the argument.

    What do you think of his COI proof in his 2010 Search for a Search paper?
    Perhaps you think it is a different thing because it deals with active information instead of CSI?
    https://evoinfo.org/papers/2010_TheSearchForASearch.pdf

    At any rate, Dr. Ewert has a proof that ASC is probabilistically conserved in his Improbability of ASC paper, i.e. probability of >= a bits is <= 2^-a.
    https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6524962

    Dr. Montañez generalized the proof to apply to all forms of complex specificity:
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2018.4

    The key results have all been published in mainstream technical journals. The authors themselves all have doctoral degrees in the relevant highly technical fields from highly regarded accredited universities. So, I feel that calling ID theory 'mathbabble' is a bit dismissive and uncharitable.

    I've been spending quite awhile researching the mathematics behind ID, and as I keep mentioning, it all is fairly mundane from a mainstream perspective. The fundamental idea shows up in many different fields. If there is interest, I can document all the connections I've discovered between the mathematical theory behind ID and mainstream statistics, information theory and computer science.

  14. EricMH,

    “I can document all the connections I’ve discovered between the mathematical theory behind ID and mainstream statistics, information theory and computer science.”

    Then why haven’t you yet?

    Dembski’s promise of an ‘ID mathematics’ has failed to, err, materialize. He was promoted in ID circles as the “Isaac Newton of information theory,” yet the Texan philosopher who called Dembski that seems to know very little about the topic of information. That IDism unravels into mere probabilism & uses statistics as a crutch, shows how unfortunate it is when religious scholars get duped into ‘using’ it.

    Why does the DI continue to avoid discussion of real design theory with actual design theorists using tried & tested ‘design thinking’ instead of funding & promoting IDist ideologues at the DI? The answer, EricMH, should be quite easy & obvious. Apparently it’s too obvious & difficult for the DI’s isolationist rhetoric to include anywhere on it’s websites.

  15. p.s. a wee bit earlier than Rush:
    “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” – William James

  16. Joe Felsenstein: Yes, what Dembski failed to rule out was a nonrandom process, natural selection. His 2002 Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information was incorrectly formulated to rule that out. So it got quietly dropped from the argument.

    Indeed, Dembski radically changed the definition of specified complexity in his 2005 paper “Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence.”

    EricMH: At any rate, Dr. Ewert has a proof that ASC is probabilistically conserved in his Improbability of ASC paper, i.e. probability of >= a bits is <= 2^-a.

    The paper is by Ewert, Dembski, and Marks, not just Ewert. The ostensible proposition and the ostensible proof are both horrendously botched. Thus I am willing to accept that they are Ewert’s work. Furthermore, I’ll ask why Dembski and Marks allowed such atrocities to be published. Did they even bother to read the paper? Note that the statement and proof of the theorem are greatly changed in the book Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, by Marks, Dembski, and Ewert. Evidently Marks and/or Dembski stepped in.

    ASC (algorithmic specified complexity) derives from Dembski’s 2005 definition of specified complexity, not his 2002 definition.

    EricMH: Dr. Montañez generalized the proof to apply to all forms of complex specificity:

    No, George Montañez is mathematically competent. He abandoned the botched formalism and botched argument of the horrible paper by Ewert, Dembski, and Marks. His generalization covers Dembski’s 2005 definition of specified complexity, which he (not Dembski) calls semiotic specified complexity, and also ASC. What Dembski referred to as specified complexity in 2002 is not covered by Montañez’s generalization. Furthermore, what Montañez calls conservation of information is very different from what Dembski called conservation of information in 2002.

    You, as usual, are extraordinarily careless in your claims.

  17. EricMH: What do you [Joe Felsenstein] think of his [Dembski’s] COI proof in his 2010 Search for a Search paper?

    When Joe responded to that article (by Dembski and Marks, not just Dembski), as well as a 2009 article by Dembski and Marks, Dembski complained that Joe had ignored a later paper by Dembski, Ewert, and Marks, “A General Theory of Information Cost Incurred by Successful Search.” Joe acknowledged his error. He and I addressed the paper by Dembski, Ewert, and Marks in “Fitness surfaces and searches: Dembski, Ewert, and Marks’s search for design.” Ewert, swell guy that he is, subsequently responded by synthesizing a claim that we had not made, and then rebutting that claim by reverting to the original (2009) definition of active information, which is different from the definition that Dembski insisted that Joe address.

    The three papers that Dembski referenced in his University of Chicago talk differ from one another in fundamental definitions. Dembski told me, in personal correspondence, that he intended to stick with the definitions in the most recent of the papers — the one that Joe and I addressed.

    The 2010 paper is erroneous. That is why Dembski, Ewert, and Marks changed definitions. Why do you want to revert to the erroneous paper? Again, Dembski has told me that he is sticking with the most recent of the papers, not the 2010 paper.

  18. swamidass,

    “The OP did not correctly represent what I meant.”

    Well, to be fair (not meaning the same as ‘secular’), you have gained a reputation of being slippery and oft-changing with the words you choose, Joshua, as is known apparently other than to your safe home-side cheerleaders. It’s more than likely many people will not clearly understand what you are ‘representing’ because of the fuzziness of your categories & flirtation with liberal amounts of relativism. Your notion of ‘secular,’ as un-orthodox as it appears, is both unnecessarily polarizing (secular vs. confessing) and also *not* what is taught about ‘secular’ in the fields that address what is ‘secular.’

    This is yet another case of a doctor/biologist haphazardly throwing around concepts and ideas from fields he doesn’t know well or at all yet that he thinks he can redefine according to his particular ‘peace in science’ approach. And the fact that he won’t display the human dignity to apologize, either privately or publicly after outing & doxxing me, both here & on his site PS, makes S[] J[] S[] an untrustworthy person on this site & elsewhere.

    As I wrote in my response to this OP being published, it was unexpected, left as a draft post, unfinished; not requested for publication. I suspect it was Alan who thought it would be fun to post it, just before heading away from participation for the summer.
    [redacted by DNA_Jock]

  19. EricMH:

    Let X be a nonnegative random variable with expected value E[X] = p defined. Now rewrite Markov’s inequality:

        \begin{align*} P(X \geq \alpha p)    &= P\left(\frac{X}{p} \geq \alpha\right)     &= P\left(\log_2 \frac{X}{p} \geq \log_2 \alpha\right)     &\leq \frac{1}{\alpha} \end{align*}

    for constant \alpha > 0. Substituting a := \log_2 \alpha,

        \[P\left(\log_2 \frac{X}{p} \geq a\right) \leq 2^{-a}.\]

    The expression above is still just Markov’s inequality, written in an unconventional form.

    Question 1: Suppose that X is the performance of a search process selected uniformly at random from a space of search processes, as described by Dembski, Ewert, and Marks in “A General Theory of Information Cost Incurred by Successful Search.” That is, for X=q, the performance is the probability q that the selected search process yields an element of the target. What do Dembski, Ewert, and Marks call Markov’s inequality in this context?

    Question 2: Are you so afflicted by true believerism that you feel no shame?

  20. P.S.–I should have stipulated that E[X] = p is positive. For Dembski, Ewert, and Marks, E[X] = p = |T|/|\Omega|, where target T is a nonempty, proper subset of the finite search space \Omega. That is, applying a search drawn uniformly at random from the space of searches is equivalent to drawing an element uniformly at random from the search space.

  21. “Question 2: Are you so afflicted by true believerism that you feel no shame?”

    The same could be asked of you, Tom, though unbelieverism would need to be substituted?

    That you feel no shame straying far & wide away from the OP seems clear. How about a reminder to stay on topic?

    Let me guess that you welcome for yourself the label ‘secular scientist’ or perhaps ‘agnostic scientist’. But does that mean EricMH is required to take the term ‘confessing’ in order to do what he’s doing, just because that’s the opposing qualifier as presented in Swamidass’ lingo?

  22. @Gregory, lack of time is always the answer why I don’t do something 😛

    @Tom, I’ve never quite understood your criticism of ID. You make a large amount of noise, but then the content of your complaints seems to be you think their proofs are trivial or too complex. That is a criticism, but not a very fatal criticism.

  23. EricMH: @Tom, I’ve never quite understood your criticism of ID.

    That’s because you do not have, and evidently do not care to do the hard work required to obtain, a detailed understanding of ID. I see time and again that you form hasty, nebulous notions of mathematical work. You could hardly be more unlike George Montañez (whom I largely respect).

    It appears, also, that you do not have the grace to admit when you are categorically wrong. Montañez’s work does not cover Dembski’s 2002 notion of specified complexity. Dembski’s earlier work on specified complexity and the explanatory filter is error-ridden and obsolete. Much of what Dembski said about complex specified information in No Free Lunch (2002) has been reattached to active information in Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics. Dembski and Marks have tried to hide the fact that they changed the “information” in the Law of Conservation of Information from complex specified information to active information. I cannot think of any reason for you to be unaware of that, other than true-believerism making it impossible for you to see the obvious.

    I will not comment further on this thread. I’m moving some of what I wrote above to an OP.

  24. Gregory: The same could be asked of you, Tom, though unbelieverism would need to be substituted?

    That you feel no shame straying far & wide away from the OP seems clear.

    Don’t be a child.

  25. Rumraket,

    Just asking to stay on track with the OP on the meaning of ‘secular scientist’ vs. ‘confessing scientist’ as Swamidass frames things. Some say the 1st term is redundant because all ‘scientists’ are ‘secular scientists.’ Joshua seems to think all Christians are evangelicals who should apologetically ‘confess’ in public … after they get tenure at a public university. The evangelicalism smuggled into Swamidass’ format is part of the issue behind raising this topic in the OP (though it was unfinished & incomplete, not with the right title).

    Otherwise, be welcome to start another thread & go off on whatever tangents & diversions there. With chaotic skepticism, nothing much valuable usually gets done, so I try to encourage reducing the tangents & diversions in threads I’ve written when/if there is time to do so. Isn’t that the ‘author’s right’ here at TSZ, or does the author have no rights here?

  26. @Tom, yes it is true the field of ID theory has developed since its origin (as every field does). And you are correct, the most rigorous COI is applied to active information instead of specified complexity, which are different mathematical animals. And there are nuances I am glossing over in my responses.

    But still, I maintain your criticism never isolates anything *incorrect* in the ID argument. You are mostly nitpicking about whether they use your preferred terminology, whether their proofs are elegant enough, whether someone else has already proven something similar, etc. In particular, the last point is a major point in favor of ID theory, that it is not some crazy theory dreamt up by Dembski but in fact stands on solid, well explored territory.

    Almost every post I make here at TSZ now is pointing out this fact, and I must assume either you are unaware of some fairly well known theorems and approaches (seems implausible) or are intentionally ignoring the forest for the trees in order to cast ID theory in a bad light.

    @Gregory, I’ll stop hijacking your thread now. Tom says he’s working on an OP related to our discussion.

  27. EricMH,

    “@Gregory, lack of time is always the answer why I don’t do something 😛”

    Not always, EricMH. Lack of will is also part of it.

    E.g. I tried to get Ted Davis to read Kenneth Kemp for several years. He simply wasn’t interested in reading it because of what it meant would need adjustment with his worldview up to that point, connected both to his academic work and personal religious storytelling. Ted Davis lacked the will to ‘do something’, which meant he simply didn’t do it … until now having to directly face the music via Swamidass’ GAE formulation, his ‘science of Adam’ & ‘genealogical science’ arm-swinging.

    In your case, the ‘doing something’ would mean facing the unbridgeable gaps that IDT isn’t ‘designed’ to solve, yet which IDists force themselves to speak about (in their rather strange version of ideological scientism) as if those gaps are already solved with IDT. You don’t lack time for this, EricMH. Instead, you seem to lack will & concern for truth.

    As a graduate of the DI’s Summer Program, if you can’t answer why the DI refuses to distinguish real design theory (widespread & active across several disciplines), design theorists (who aren’t persecuted) & design thinking (I’ll be doing some again today in practice; nothing to with IDT) from their ‘IDism’ (which they sometimes just call ‘design theory’ and their movement people as ‘design theorists’), then you really are just a sucker for their rhetoric & ideology. Sorry to say it. Gain the will & concern for truth & you’ll be able to escape the maelstrom of ‘intelligent design’ theory rather rapidly & likely soon return to a calmer, safer & more enjoyable route, which doesn’t require abandoning your religious beliefs.

  28. Let me answer these one by one.

    EricMH: What do you think of his COI proof in his 2010 Search for a Search paper?
    Perhaps you think it is a different thing because it deals with active information instead of CSI?
    https://evoinfo.org/papers/2010_TheSearchForASearch.pdf

    The question for me is, even if the technical details in the 2010 paper (which is not by Dembski but by Dembski and Marks) are entirely correct, what do the theorems imply for evolution? The argument in the 2010 paper is that “active information” is needed to make a search do better than “unassisted or blind search”. Note that their argument is about the average performance, averaged over all possible searches.

    Tom and I have dealt with that in our March 2015 post at Panda’s Thumb. The average over searches includes reasonable evolutionary searches but it also includes vast numbers of utterly crazy searches, ones which ignore the fitness of genotypes or even reward genotypes that have worse fitnesses, going downhill on the fitness surface.

    On average over that straw-man horrible mess, yes, “searches” will do badly. But as we showed in the 2015 post, even having a simple algorithm that climbs uphill on the fitness surface (our Greedy Uphill Climber Bug), the algorithm does a lot better than “unassisted or blind search”. Other, more realistic models of evolutionary processes will also do a lot better than unassisted searches. All it takes is some genotypes that have fitnesses, where higher fitness implies higher survival and reproduction, and the processes are way better than “unassisted or blind search”.

    What is your response to that 2015 argument of ours? Writing more comments about how you can’t find any reasonable counterargument to Dembski [and Marks] won’t, as they say, “cut the mustard”.

    As for this:

    At any rate, Dr. Ewert has a proof that ASC is probabilistically conserved in his Improbability of ASC paper, i.e. probability of >= a bits is <= 2^-a.
    https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/stamp/stamp.jsp?arnumber=6524962

    I have been meaning to address that (as Tom has noted, it is not just by Ewert) so let me do that very very briefly. What does ASC have to do with fitness? Is an organism that can be described by a shorter algorithm better-adapted than one that is described by a longer algorithm? Not as far as I can see. So you can conserve ASC all you want, and not have anything that shows that evolutionary processes are under any kind of constraint.

    Dr. Montañez generalized the proof to apply to all forms of complex specificity:
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2018.4

    He worked on connections between CSI in different situations. He never attempted any demonstration that natural selection could not put specified information into the genome, or put enough of it into the genome to constitute CSI.

    The key results have all been published in mainstream technical journals.The authors themselves all have doctoral degrees in the relevant highly technical fields from highly regarded accredited universities.So, I feel that calling ID theory ‘mathbabble’ is a bit dismissive and uncharitable.

    Your comment was addressed to me. I don’t think I have ever used the word “mathbabble” in a post or comment. Did I?

    I’ve been spending quite awhile researching the mathematics behind ID, and as I keep mentioning, it all is fairly mundane from a mainstream perspective.The fundamental idea shows up in many different fields.If there is interest, I can document all the connections I’ve discovered between the mathematical theory behind ID and mainstream statistics, information theory and computer science.

    Fine, let’s do that. At Panda’s Thumb, in a thread I start there? Note that I will be looking for any demonstration that you have found that CSI cannot end up in the genome. And if you show that by arguing that yes, natural selection can do the job, but a Designer is needed to set up the fitness surface in the first place, I will be looking for any argument that ordinary physics would not predispose towards those kinds of fitness surfaces.

  29. EricMH: @Gregory, I’ll stop hijacking your thread now.

    Thanks for concern with thread hijacking & disinterest to do it.

    In any case, with comments like the following, it brings comic relief:

    “…it is not some crazy theory dreamt up by Dembski”

    Well, he was teaching at a Baptist Seminary after all. = P

    I guess I just don’t hold Dembski on much of a pedestal and see little reason you or Winston should.

    This thread could well be forked into the new one that Tom is soon starting. That would allow you & Joe & Tom to continue in peace without me reminding you that Swamidass’ strange definition of ‘secular scientist’ & his evangelical language labeling himself a ‘confessing scientist’ is the main topic here. Thanks.

  30. Tom English: That’s because you do not have, and evidently do not care to do the hard work required to obtain, a detailed understanding of ID.

    Do you think there exists a detailed understanding of evolutionary theory?

    Do you think anyone exists who can articulate it?

  31. @Felsenstein,
    Yes, I can post a list on your blog. Per Gregory’s request, creating a basic list with some explanation is not difficult.

    I’ve responded to your question about fitness and the COI over at your blog, but you’ve probably missed the comment. Disqus doesn’t always seem to register follow up comments.

    https://disqus.com/home/discussion/the-pandas-thumb/eric_holloway_needs_help_again/#comment-4417115457

    In general, the response to your question is Dembski’s vertical no free lunch theorem. Even if biology and physics are somehow uniquely setup to make evolution happen autonomously, that merely pushes the information elsewhere, and it still must be accounted for.

    The ‘mathbabble’ point was not aimed at you. Another commentator called the mathematics of ID theory ‘mathbabble’.

    @Gregory, you should write a piece on Bulverism 🙂

  32. EricMH,

    I am not sure what is “my” blog. Panda’s Thumb? In what thread, if there? (I am not the owner of PT).

    As for the need to “account for” the information: That seems to be an argument that acknowledges that maybe natural selection can put information into the genome, but even then the smoothness of the fitness surface needs explaining. I have argued many times at PT and at TSZ that ordinary physics, including the weakness of action at a distance, predicts such smoothness. In that case no Designer is required to explain how the information came to be able to be incorporated into the genome.

    Do you need me to point you to those arguments of mine?

  33. Joe Felsenstein: I am not sure what is “my” blog. Panda’s Thumb? In what thread, if there? (I am not the owner of PT).

    Yet, you still say “we” have a way of keeping out undesirable (counter opinions, you know like those pesky non-atheists) posters at PT.

  34. Joe Felsenstein,

    “no Designer is required to explain how the information came to be able to be incorporated into the genome.”

    Nicely capitalized, since ‘Designer present’ is what is implied, if not always directly stated by IDists, EricMH included.

    As for the ‘is required’ part, that might be above your philosophical & theological/worldview pay grade as stated. You don’t personally believe in the existence of a Designer (i.e. God), therefore of course ‘none required’ preconditions your ‘strictly scientific’ answer.

    I asked above & wonder if you’d care to give an answer:

    “It’s good for a person to know what they believe about life & death, whether ‘scientist’ or not, don’t you agree, Joe?”

    Worth adding, it’s not just a secular vs. religious thing as Swamidass is framing it like a culture war either.

  35. phoodoo: Joe Felsenstein: I am not sure what is “my” blog. Panda’s Thumb? In what thread, if there? (I am not the owner of PT).

    Yet, you still say “we” have a way of keeping out undesirable (counter opinions, you know like those pesky non-atheists) posters at PT.

    I am a member of the PT “Crew” that advises the owner (and each other) on what to do. That’s who “we” are. I do not own the blog (for example, I don’t pay any of its costs). Many posts recently have been by Matt Young. So it is not “my blog”.

    Posts are by members of the Crew (who can also approve guest posts). The Crew member who puts up a post moderates the comments. In my case I hope to toss off-topic trolling and off-topic troll-chasing. We don’t ban theists or creationists — I just approved a comment by Robert Byers, for example.

    PT does not have the TSZ rule that anybody can put up a post or say anything, as long as they don’t post insults. We’ve seen what that results in here.

  36. @Felsenstein, I provided a link in my previous comment. As for your commentI have a lengthy response, but I’ve promised Gregory to stop hijacking his thread, so I’ll post it once Tom English publishes his next article.

  37. Gregory:

    Joe Felsenstein,

    “no Designer is required to explain how the information came to be able to be incorporated into the genome.”

    Nicely capitalized, since ‘Designer present’ is what is implied, if not always directly stated by IDists, EricMH included.

    I sometimes refer to what the Designer does as “Design Intervention”.

    As for the ‘is required’ part, that might be above your philosophical & theological/worldview pay grade as stated. You don’t personally believe in the existence of a Designer (i.e. God), therefore of course ‘none required’ preconditions your ‘strictly scientific’ answer.

    I am trying to evaluate their arguments. If they could show that the adaptations we see in biology could not possibly be the result of natural selection, that might or might not affect my conclusions about the universe, but it would at least worry me a lot.

    I asked above & wonder if you’d care to give an answer:

    “It’s good for a person to know what they believe about life & death, whether ‘scientist’ or not, don’t you agree, Joe?”

    Worth adding, it’s not just a secular vs. religious thing as Swamidass is framing it like a culture war either.

    It is good to think about such things. Just as it is good to think about a lot of other things. And I don’t necessarily have such an overwhelmingly cogent set of arguments about them that I care to vent them here.

    On the other hand this is your thread and such things are what you wanted to talk about, so I’d best leave you and other commenters to have at it. My appearance here was off-topic.

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