Good Math, Bad Math

Apparently William Dembski, over at Uncommon Descent is *not* happy with my review of
Behe’s new book
. He pulls out a rather pathetic bit of faux outrage: “Are there any anti-ID writings that the Panda’s Thumb won’t endorse?”

The outrage really comes off badly. But what’s Debski and his trained attack dog DaveScott try to smear me for my alleged lack of adequate credentials to judge the math of Behe’s argument.


This is rich. Michael Behe, a *biochemist*, writes a book that makes sloppy mathematical arguments – which is, in fact, built around a primarily mathematical argument. But there’s never so much as a peep questioning whether or not Behe is qualified to make a mathematical argument. But let a lowly computer scientist *dare* to criticize the glaring and obvious errors in his argument, and suddenly, it’s all about credentials.

Sorry guys, but that’s not how math or science work. Credentials don’t matter in math. What matters is the validity of your arguments. Behe makes a claim based on an *unvalidated* mathematical model. I laid out a very clear critique of Behe’s arguments on mathematical grounds, showing why Behe’s model is invalid. It’s that simple. If you don’t like my critique, if you think that it’s not fair, the only real response is to respond *to my arguments* by showing where I’m wrong. I didn’t respond to Behe by saying “He’s not a mathematician, he’s a biochemist: how dare he write a mathematical argument!” I wrote a careful critique laying out point by point what’s wrong with his argument.

Dembski and DaveScott can’t stand that – but they also can’t actually *respond* to the substance of my arguments. So they have to pretend outrage.

But where it gets particularly funny is when DaveScott tries to do a background search on me:

>To others – Carroll’s doctoral thesis was in the construction of compilers for general
>purpose parallel processing. Presumbly his position at Google Inc. is in the same area.
>There’s very little in the way of math in compiler design but it’s certainly heavily
>related to programming – it’s hard to imagine anything more involved with programming and
>less involved with math.

First, it’s “Chu-Carroll”. I’ve *never* been able to understand why people have *such* trouble with a hyphenated name. To do a publication search on me, he *had* to use Chu-Carroll. Every search result (except for my very first paper, which was written before I got married) has “Chu-Carroll” for the last name. My thesis has “Chu-Carroll”. My old IBM website has “Chu-Carroll”. My blog has “Chu-Carroll”. Every citation of my work cites it as “Chu-Carroll”. So where does this need to chop off the “Chu” come from? Why is the clear and obvious record that I use “Chu-Carroll” as my last name not sufficent for someone like DaveScott? (Sorry, I know it’s off-topic, but it’s a pet peeve.)

Davescott clearly isn’t qualified to judge much of anything about compiler design. It is, in fact, an extremely mathematical field of computer science. You see, what you do working on an optimizing compiler is that to figure out what information is expressed in the static semantics of a program, and then use that to do performance-improving transformations transformations that *provably* don’t alter program semantics. It’s a field which is highly dependent on things like lattice theory, domain theory, graph theory, and denotational semantics. Parallel compilation also generally involves a fair bit of linear algebra and sometimes vector analysis.

What’s more, if Davescott had bothered to find out a teeny tiny bit about my dissertation, he would found that the main contribution of it is something called the parallel continuation graph: a mathematical representation of parallel computation in terms of a π-calculus inspired variation of continuation-passing form compilation. The neat thing about the PCG is that many parallel performance optimizations could be expressed via simple graph restructurings. I’m quite proud of that dissertation; I still think the PCG is incredibly cool. And I challenge anyone to argue that proving that the transformation of source code into the PCG was semantically valid, and the proofs of the validities of graph-based program transformations was “very little in the way of math”.

> For someone who’s been in commercial computer R&D for over 10
>years Carroll’s patent portfolio (2 patents, sole inventor on one of those) is abysmal
>especially for an uber patent-house like IBM where he spent most of his time so far.
> He’s
>got a fair number of journal publications but that’s a metric for academicians not
>industry.
> Both the patents were in client-server networking i.e. zero math content. I
>generated twice that many patents in half the time and I was just a non-degreed senior
>systems engineer. Even that was still short of my performance plan target which called for
>being a named inventor on two patent submissions per year.

Bzzzt. Wrong. Industry actually quite likes publications. The mantra at IBM was that there are three things that IBM wants to see from researchers: papers, patents, and products. To be successful, you need to be generating at least two. I was mostly a papers and products guy. (Personally, I don’t like software patents; 14 year monopolies on software concepts seems completely unreasonable to me, so I didn’t file them unless I had to. You see, DaveScott, some of us have this quaint idea about this thing called “ethics”. I realize that’s probably a foreign idea to someone who works on a DI site.)

What’s funny about this is that once again, Davescott blows it by not bothering to read. Because the second of those two patents – granted 1 week before I left IBM – is on *search*: source code search optimization based on a kind of multidimensional vector analysis. You assign program fragments to locations in a many-dimensional search space, and then find things that are close to a particular search vector. (And why the patent there? Because there are *so* many patents in IR that you have to file as a matter of self-protection, to establish when you did the work, so that you’ll have a defense if someone else tries to file a patent that overlaps with it.) So in his attempt to smear me as unqualified of judging a mathematical argument based on search, he specifically mentions my work on search. Not super bright, Dave.

Comments

  1. #1 Mike Saelim
    June 3, 2007

    I think my father mentioned your work once. Well, he vaguely talked about searching by assigning topics to a multidimensional space, and I filled in his gaps along the way. He was talking about this rather recently though – if you filed your patent a while ago, he might have been talking about a company that built on your work, or someone else who just happened to find a newsperson to talk to about it.

  2. #2 Flaky
    June 3, 2007

    That multidimensional code search thing sounds nifty. Could you write more about that some time?

  3. #3 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    June 3, 2007

    Mike:

    I very much doubt that your father was talking about me. There’s a ton of work in information retrieval about using vector spaces as a representation, and cosine as a measure of closeness. The thing that I did was invent a way of generating a kind of semantic summary of code fragments that made it possible to use the classic IR algorithm for semantic searches of programs.

  4. #4 Mark VandeWettering
    June 3, 2007

    I’d find it amusing that ID proponents like Dembski and DaveScot feign such great indignation at criticism lodged against their ideas if it not were for the seriousness that I view all attacks on rationalism. That they can go no further than to simply make the claim that your criticism must be based upon an inability to understand the mathematics involved is just pathetic.

    Behe’s argument isn’t mathematical, or even quantifiable. It’s nonsense. Having a firm grasp of advanced mathematics is perhaps useful in attacking this kind of mindless drivel, but it certainly isn’t necessary.

  5. #5 Matthew L.
    June 3, 2007

    Well clearly compiler theory has nothing to do with math, because we all know that math is nothing but working with numbers and stuff, and graphs, lattices, etc, aren’t numbers, now are they?

    Also, a career at IBM focusing on academic-type papers rather than commercial patents obviously undermines your credibility to critique their psudo-academic arguments about biology.

    Lastly, with the last name thing, they’re just trying to protect you from scandalous charges of not being the “head of woman” as God meant men to be. We wouldn’t want to stoop to ad hominem attacks, now would we?

  6. #6 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 3, 2007

    This killed me from DaveScot’s comment

    Well, if you want to overlook the fact that Carroll is not employed as a book reviewer, his expertise is computer science not biology or evolution, and it’s a personal blog post then I guess it qualifies as a “review” but it’s hardly something you’re going to find in the New York Times or Nature if you get my drift.

    DaveScot, not an expert on biology, not an expert on religion, not an expert on evolution, not an expert on almost anything he blathers on about is complaining that someone who isn’t an expert in reviewing books, decided to review a book….. a book review that directly focused on the math problems of Behe’s arguments.

    Hilarious.

  7. #7 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    June 3, 2007

    Oh and don’t miss Sal’s quote mine in comment #3.

  8. #8 plunge
    June 3, 2007

    Seriously: Sal’s comment MUST have been a whoosh, or someone else posting as him.

  9. #9 Rich
    June 3, 2007

    I take it that DaveScott and Dembski are welcome here, unmoderated, unlike their blog?

  10. #10 John Wendt
    June 3, 2007

    Dembski wants someone to perpetrate a Sokal-type hoax, in order to suck “Darwinists” into demolishing a straw-man.

    But since “intelligent design” has no reference to reality, how can we tell the difference between deliberate nonsense and ignorant nonsense?

  11. #11 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    June 3, 2007

    Rich:

    Yes, of course, just like anyone else, they are welcome to come and comment here, uncensored, if they want. The only rules I have is no personal abuse aimed at other commenters, and no dragging my employer into what goes on on the blog.

    But I very much doubt that they will. They don’t seem to like forums that they can’t control. In particular, I don’t *ever* recall Dembski participating in *any* uncensored dialog.

  12. #12 plunge
    June 3, 2007

    “I take it that DaveScott and Dembski are welcome here, unmoderated, unlike their blog?”

    I’m not even sure they are welcome there on their blog, considering how many times they’ve erased and changed things they’ve said.

    DaveScot really is amazing though: for all the time he spends on bizarre unconvincing gymnastics explaining why Carroll is not qualified to be heard from or responded to, he could have, you know, like presented some arguments showing why Caroll’s arguments are no good.

  13. #13 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 3, 2007

    Duly added to the list. Playing “amateur Coturnix” is fun!

  14. #14 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    June 3, 2007

    plunge:

    Please, it’s “Chu-Carroll”. Not “Carroll”. Not “Chu”. “Chu-Ca
    rroll”. 3 syllables, ten letters.

    Really, what’s so hard about that?

  15. #15 Gary Hurd
    June 3, 2007

    I would not call D’ Tard a “trained attack dog” as he is very proud of his lack of training in most things he spouts off about. He loves to strut about being an autodicktard with an IQ higher than he can pee.

    It was lots of fun reading your pair of items deflating Behe, and Davey.

  16. #16 Rich
    June 3, 2007

    Mark, we have a thread at AtBC that only exists to make fun of uncommon descent.

    http://www.antievolution.org/cgi-bin/ikonboard/ikonboard.cgi?s=46634ada2dd1dda3;act=ST;f=14;t=1274;st=15510

    You are of course the highlight at the moment. Great work.

  17. #17 Anonymous
    June 3, 2007

    PS: Your link to your review of Behe at the top of the page is misdirected.

  18. #18 plunge
    June 3, 2007

    “Please, it’s “Chu-Carroll”. Not “Carroll”. Not “Chu”. “Chu-Ca
    rroll”. 3 syllables, ten letters.

    Really, what’s so hard about that? ”

    I apologize, I’ll try not to mess it up again.

    But in a little less serious of a vain, you ask that question as if there really was no good answer to it. But the reality is that it IS harder to remember to or to type out for whatever reason. It’s not unreasonable to ask people to get it right, but it shouldn’t be too surprising that they get it wrong sometimes either.

  19. #19 QrazyQat
    June 3, 2007

    It’s not unreasonable to ask people to get it right, but it shouldn’t be too surprising that they get it wrong sometimes either

    I think we can all agree with unge.

  20. #20 kamimushinronsha
    June 3, 2007

    Excellent article Mr. Chu-Carroll, I am amazed that anybody would claim that Computer Science is not math intensive. It’s just mind boggling that somebody would dismiss all the math required to write cryptographic, image analysis & manipulation, game AI, and video compression software. Even those are just the tip of the iceberg, I mean what the hell does DaveScot think all these people working on computing clusters are doing, trying to get 1000 simultaneous Duke Nukem 3d games going? As somebody who has a B.S in Computer Science and is going for their Masters it’s insulting, I can’t even image how you feel.

  21. #21 unge
    June 3, 2007

    Getting someones professional, formal name correct IS a bit more important and a matter of courtesy than a pseudonym. :)

    All I can say in my defense is that at least I didn’t do a LITERATURE SEARCH using the wrong name. :)

  22. #22 LRM
    June 3, 2007

    What really amused me is that Dembski referred to you as having a Ph.D. in “computer programming”. What kind of modern mathematician doesn’t understand the difference between programming and computer science? Especially given how his own ideas about specification are essentially a sloppy rehashing of certain topics from computational theory? He’s not even trying anymore: at this point, going back to making farting noise videos would be a step up for him in terms of intellectual achievement.

  23. #23 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 3, 2007

    “I am amazed that anybody would claim that Computer Science is not math intensive…”

    Except that I’ve made at least a dozen, probably closer to 20, applications for Math positions at colleges and universities where they demand a M.S. in Math — “or equivalent.”

    My B.S. in Math at Caltech is, when you look at the course descriptions of all the graduate Math courses I took) clearly the equivalent of an M.S. in Math — the Math Chairman said so in writing. Then some years in grad school getting an M.S. in Computer Science — very mathematical material, through Category Theory.

    54 graduate credits in Math or Math-equivalent beyond the B.S. — so I annotate the undergrad and grad transcripts, attach copies of refereed Math publications, and ask for an Equivalence Committee to determine that I have the equivalent of an M.S. in Math.

    Result? Not a single interview. Follow-up reveals that nobody in the Math departments ever saw the 50 pages of application material; HR decided (Faith-based reasoning?) that M.S. in Computers does not meet the requirements of “M.S. in Math, or equivalent.” Period.

    So Dembski is not alone. Outside of this blog, hate to say, he’s “preaching to the converted.”

    Starting later this month, I’ll be teaching Math at a bottom-ranked high school summer school. Those kids need to learn Math correctly: from someone who knows it, does it every day, and loves it.

    Do the techniques I used for 5 semesters teaching Math to university students, some taking the same class the 2nd or 3rd trime, applicable to helping younger students, mostly poor, Hispanic, and African-American?

    I’ll let you know by the end of August how this experiment worked out.

    To quote a Niven-Pournelle novel out-of-context: “Think of it as evolution in action.”

  24. #24 Zeno
    June 3, 2007

    John Wendt (#11) noticed the same thing I did in Dembski’s comment: his notion that a Sokal-type hoax would be just the thing to embarrass the reality-based folks who mock ID. It would be a good trick indeed. Dembski wants someone to write a hyperbolically outrageous and fake critique of ID that evolutionists would foolishly embrace, thus setting themselves up to be humiliated when the hoax is revealed. The tricky part, of course, is how to craft a false refutation of an inherent hoax like ID. My brain hurts!

    Dembski is so diabolically clever in suggesting this that he reminds me of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The hoax in the opera is that the young man Cherubino has to dress up like a girl in a scheme to embarrass the philandering Count. The funny part is that Mozart composed the role of Cherubino for a soprano, what they call a trouser role. So there’s a girl up on stage who is dressed as a boy dressed in a dress pretending to be a girl. Dembski may tell us that the drama requires we suspend disbelief and pretend it’s a boy, but — psst — it’s actually a girl.

    Suspension of disbelief: the key to embracing ID.

  25. #25 Davis
    June 4, 2007

    Well clearly compiler theory has nothing to do with math, because we all know that math is nothing but working with numbers and stuff…

    Apropos of nothing, this reminds me of the common suggestion at the end of a group meal — someone always says “you’re the math guy, you should work out how to split the check.” A friend came up with my favorite retort: “I’m a mathematician, not an arithmetician.”

  26. #26 Gary Hurd
    June 4, 2007

    The first friend I knew with two Ph.D.s (around 1976) initially did one in Math, and the second in ICS. I asked him why he had taken a second degree? His reply was that “I need the computer degree to remove the stigna from the math degree.”

    Just a historical observation.

  27. #27 Bob O'H
    June 4, 2007

    Gary (@16) – I think there’s a “house-” missing in the sentence.

    Bob

  28. #28 Susan B.
    June 4, 2007

    How would you even come up with a Sokal-like hoax rebuttal of ID? My mind is so full of reasonable objections to ID that I can’t even think up any silly ones. Actually, I’d like to see them try–there’s no doubt it would be shot down or at least politely ignored by scientists, though I suspect any IDists who weren’t in on the joke would attack it exactly as ineffectively as they attack any proper rebuttal to ID.

  29. #29 Dave Carlson
    June 4, 2007

    It’s amusing to me that Dembski is willing to shell out $200 to anybody who can embarrass those dratted Darwinists but he hasn’t–to my knowledge–made an equivalent offer to entice anyone to publish peer-reviewed articles supporting ID. Perhaps he feels that humiliating his ideological nemeses will do more to further the ID cause than actually doing science?

  30. #30 Olaf Davis
    June 4, 2007

    “Credentials don’t matter in math”

    Exactly. A very well-defended post, Mark – it’s almost a shame they didn’t have any real arguments for you to defend it from (ridiculous ad-hominem attacks aside).

  31. #31 Paul Carpenter
    June 4, 2007

    What does computer-science involve that isn’t maths? Last I checked, compsci was a branch of maths.
    Well anyway Mark, you talked here about stuff that you came up with, and if it isn’t *way* to complicated, it’d be nice to hear about your own inventions/discoveries.

  32. #32 gg
    June 4, 2007

    “Credentials don’t matter in math. What matters is the validity of your arguments.”

    Quite true! It is quite ironic that the IDers, who seem to spend a lot of their time claiming victimization by an entrenched and corrupt scientific bureaucracy, would turn around and criticize someone for not keeping ‘to their place’ in said bureaucracy.

    Their claim that computer science is somehow not math reminds me of an observation I have made numerous times: that the traditional boundaries between the sciences have broken down, as the original fields, once considered highly isolated from one another, have grown and overlapped. Physics, biology, and chemistry, for instance, have grown into one another so much that in my physics building we have welcomed chemists and biologists to share our space. Similarly, if there ever was a time when computer science could be considered a set with minimal intersection with mathematics, that time is long gone.

  33. #33 Soren
    June 4, 2007

    I started university career majoring in Math, and minoring in computer science. My university of choice requires that you do 2 B.S’s before going on to studying for you masters, so actually there is no major, both were the same weight.

    I soon changed to a computer science major, but finished my B.S in math (well almost, but this isn’t about my academical failings)

    We were introduced to the No Free Lunch theorem in computer science doing our B.S. It was an obligatory part of the education needed to get a B.S in science, just as lambda calculus, procedural, functional and logic programming etc.

    Of course, information theory was also a basic requirement to finish my B.S in CS.

    How a man – supposedly the Isaac Newton of information theory, does not know that Computer Science is one of the primary areas involved in information theory is beyond me.

    In fact, in Danish we called computer science “Datalogy”, meaning the science of data, or using information as a synonym for data, the science of information ;)

  34. #34 Rev.Enki
    June 4, 2007

    About Sokal hoaxing ID: I thought the idea of a Sokal hoax would be to get them to *agree* to, or at least to publish something that’s clearly absurd. For multiple reasons, I don’t think that would work very well. The obvious one is that they already take any number of absurd and ignorant positions. The second being that they don’t really have a publication structure to infiltrate in any meaningful way. The third being that your writing might well actually be used to convince the ignorant. In this case, I think the old Vonnegut adage holds pretty well:

    “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”

    Hoaxing ID would be like hoaxing a radical rightwing rant at someplace like Free Republic, or Lucianne.com. It’s highly unlikely anyone who wasn’t in on the joke would ever notice. That would be the best case. The worst might be that they all end up agreeing with you.

  35. #35 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 4, 2007

    Re: #32, #34,

    “Last I checked, compsci was a branch of maths.” — depends on the university. Often, Computer Science is in the department or division where it historically began, at that particular school. That could be Electrical Engineering, Physics, or almost anything computer-intensive and enough decades old. At Caltech, CS was in Engineering when I got there in 1968, and was later rescued by John “Jack” Todd, currently a 95 year old Emeritus Professor, who had been friends with Turing, and was the head of computing for the National Bureau of Standards. He considered it a scandal that CS was not its own department, and did what was politically necessary to have that done. His wife, Olga Taussky Todd, was one of the 2 greatest female mathematicians of the 20th century.

  36. #36 mark
    June 4, 2007

    Those twits ought to read what H.L. Mencken said about reviewing. Oh…but that would involve reading. And searching, since I’m not providing a citation. I wonder if they have ever read any real reviews.

  37. #37 Skemono
    June 4, 2007

    I just got my B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics, and I have to say that anyone who thinks that the former has little to do with the latter doesn’t know what they’re talking about. At my university, the requirements for the two degrees overlapped so much that dual majors like me were exceedingly common–any C.S. major only had to take a few extra classes to meet the math requirement.

  38. #38 scottb
    June 4, 2007

    Guys, guys…

    Aren’t you paying attention here? Dembski, Behe, and the rest of that lot aren’t writing for you. They don’t care whether they convince you. They’re looking for the 98% that ”can’t” don’t understand either argument, and so decide emotionally – unfortunately, the gods (or at least their proxies) are good at playing on emotions.

    Did anyone see the “debate” between Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort (as the creationists) and some bloggers from “Rational Response” that was on CNN earlier this month? Cameron and Comfort promised to prove the existence of their god without reference to the bible. They didn’t present a single argument that hadn’t been thoroughly crushed in the literature – it was entirely “argument from design”. In fact, The God Delusion alone meant their argument came completely pre-demolished. They didn’t even try to address Dawkins’ argument that everything they said was sheer nonsense.

    To me, it was obvious that the only thing they wanted out of it was a chance to put the “argument from design” out in front of as big an audience as possible. They simply wanted to create the illusion that their argument was somehow “just as good” as the other.

  39. #39 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    June 4, 2007

    To me, it was obvious that the only thing they wanted out of it was a chance to put the “argument from design” out in front of as big an audience as possible. They simply wanted to create the illusion that their argument was somehow “just as good” as the other.

    So you don’t think Comfort is going to send me my $10000?

  40. #40 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 4, 2007

    but he hasn’t–to my knowledge–made an equivalent offer to entice anyone to publish peer-reviewed articles supporting ID

    No, but IIRC he has instead offered money on his blog for people helping him with his ‘math’.

    Of course, a moral person can’t help an anti-science movement if it was drowning in its own phlegm, or Divine Wind farts as the case may be. I’m not sure he got any help. And how we would note the difference. :-o

  41. #41 Thony C.
    June 4, 2007

    JVV wrote:

    His wife, Olga Taussky Todd, was one of the 2 greatest female mathematicians of the 20th century.

    and who in your opinion is the other one? Would I be right in thinking that its Emmy?

  42. #42 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 4, 2007

    Emmy Noether is correct. Olga told me a lovely story about her meeting with Emmy Noether, complete with recitation of a German poem about a cat meeting a bird on a branch. Unfortunately, although I’m a relative of Heinrich Heine, I don’t speak German.

    Wikipedia begins:

    Amalie Emmy Noether [1] (March 23, 1882 – April 14, 1935) was a German-born Jewish mathematician, said by Einstein in eulogy to be “[i]n the judgment of the most competent living mathematicians, […] the most significant creative mathematical genius thus far produced since the higher education of women began.” [2] Almost universally known as Emmy Noether, she had penetrating insights that she used to develop elegant abstractions….

    Emmy Noether
    The woman responsible for connecting symmetry with physical laws.
    www-groups.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~history/Mathematicians/Noether_Emmy.html

    Heinrich Heine (born Chaim Harry Heine, December 13, 1797 – February 17, 1856) was a journalist, an essayist, and one of the most significant German romantic poets. He is remembered chiefly for selections of his lyric poetry, many of which were set to music in the form of lieder (art songs) by German composers.

  43. #43 Russell
    June 4, 2007

    Apropos of nothing, this reminds me of the common suggestion at the end of a group meal — someone always says “you’re the math guy, you should work out how to split the check.”

    I work with far too many other math guys for this ever to happen. And they know I would ponder a minute, and then say, “the stochastic walk says it’s your turn to pay.” ;-)

  44. #44 Mikael Johansson
    June 4, 2007

    I work with far too many other math guys for this ever to happen. And they know I would ponder a minute, and then say, “the stochastic walk says it’s your turn to pay.” ;-)

    I used to spend time with a good friend considering various schemes to derail a system built on “It’ll all be the same in the end” — we figured that it’d work out well if he kept paying a constant factor more than me. It’d also work out if his lunch payments were quadratic compared to mine, but we’d get into trouble if he started paying exponentially more.

    I don’t think we ever considered exactly how these descriptions were to be understood though.

  45. #45 Chris Noble
    June 4, 2007

    I thought the general view at UD was that nature shows evidence of design and that the best people to appreciate this are engineers and not those silly biologists.

    The genome is obviously a computer program and the best people to appreciate this would then be — software enigineers.

    If Mark were a supporter of ID they’d be bragging about his credentials. If Mark were a supporter of ID they’d put him on a list of scientists that doubt evolution.

    In the world of ID credentials are only valid if the person supports ID.

  46. #46 Bob Carroll
    June 4, 2007

    Mark, the “my degrees are better than your degrees” response is Dembski’s standard response when he has been conclusively trounced. I suspect that’s why he went for two PhDs. Recall Richard Wein’s incredibly accurate and detailed evisceration of his “No Free Lunch.” Dembski’s fallback response was along the lines of ‘my math PhD beats your MS.’ He followed that up by characterizing Wein as an obsessive net stalker. Nothing much was ever presented in the way of refuting Wein’s arguments, of course.

    Dembski’s comments on a pro-ID Sokal-like hoax are consistent with his other similar fantasies. Recall the “Darwin vise,” complete with illustration of a bearded doll with its head squeezed. His dream was to get the “Darwinists” in a court case, under oath, where they would be forced to admit the truth. How that turned out is history. His response to his rout was along the lines of “Eine Kleine Fartmusik.”

    Then there was the academic infighting at Baylor University. His response to a minor gain in an academic conflict was to declare total victory. Comments like (approximately) “My opponents have met their Waterloo” got him tossed out for uncollegiality.

    His present job at a third rate Baptist theological seminary is about where he belongs.

    Bob

  47. #47 Chris Noble
    June 4, 2007

    Apparently a PhD in Computer Science qualifies you to critique evolution but not to critique ID.

  48. #48 Ethan Winter
    June 5, 2007

    “It is pointless to argue facts and figures with someone who is enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”

    This quote has kept me away from many a vicious argument. And on Dembski’s name-calling, I always tell my opponent in a debate, “Counter argument or else I declare victory!” Some people simply can’t be reached, and that’s why we pick our fights wisely.

  49. #49 Tomas
    June 5, 2007

    Mr. Chu-Carrol

    If must inform you that “Dave-scott” is an attack-mouse not an attack-dog. To call him an attack-dog is an insult to even the smallest and dumbest of dogs everywhere.

  50. #50 Ric
    June 5, 2007

    “Not super bright: Dave.”

    I made a slight alteration in terms of punctuation to your last line. Hope you don’t mind.

    I was also going to point out that DaveScot is constantly writing about things that aren’t in his “area of expertise” (as if he is an expert in anything), but someone beat me to the punch.

  51. #51 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 5, 2007

    Let me be precise about one of Dembski’s glaring evidences of Math illiteracy, regarding the Fitness Landscape:

    If a univariate real function f(x) has a single critical point and that point is a local maximum, then f(x) has its global maximum there [Wagon 1991, p. 87]. The test breaks downs for bivariate functions, but does hold for bivariate polynomials of degree less than or equal to 4.

    Wagon, S. “Failure of the Only-Critical-Point-in-Town Test.” §3.4 in Mathematica in Action. New York: W. H. Freeman, pp. 87-91 and 228, 1991.

  52. #52 secondclass
    June 5, 2007

    Then there was the academic infighting at Baylor University. His response to a minor gain in an academic conflict was to declare total victory. Comments like (approximately) “My opponents have met their Waterloo” got him tossed out for uncollegiality.

    Strangely enough, Dembski is again collaborating with a Baylor professor on a project. The papers that they’ve produced so far seem much less logically problematic than Dembski’s other work, but they’re still obfuscatory and otiose.

  53. #53 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 5, 2007

    Two more things I should say to clarify my comment #52, where the subject is more subtle than it seems:

    (1) Definition (from MathWorld) of Critical Point:

    A function y = f(x) has critical points at all points x_0 where f'(x_0) = 0 or f(x) is not differentiable.

    A function z = f(x,y) has critical points where the gradient
    del f = 0 or partialf/partialx or the partial derivative partialf/partialy is not defined.

    (2) The Sendov conjecture, proposed by Bladovest Sendov circa 1958, that for a polynomial
    f(z) = (z-r_1)(z-r_2)…(z-r_n) with with n greater than or equal to 2 and each root r_k located inside the closed unit disk |z| less than or equal to 1 in the complex plane, it must be the case that every closed disk of radius 1 centered at a root r_k will contain a critical point of f. Since the Lucas-Gauss theorem implies that the critical points (i.e., the roots of the derivative) of f must themselves lie in the unit disk, it seems completely implausible that the conjecture could be false. Yet at present it has not been proved even for polynomials with real coefficients, nor for any polynomials whose degree exceeds eight.

    Now, Professor Dembski, if God Knows whether The Sendov conjecture is true or false, please tell us what He told you, providing either a proof or a specific counterexample. Otherwise, please stop shouting at us what you claim that God intends for the world.

  54. #54 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 5, 2007

    And, in case that was too abstract for Dembski, let’s return to the recent open quantitative biology literature:

    arXiv:0706.0406
    Title: Evolutionary dynamics of the most populated genotype on rugged fitness landscapes
    Authors: Kavita Jain

    We consider an asexual population evolving on rugged fitness landscapes which are defined on the multi-dimensional genotypic space and have many local optima. We track the most populated genotype as it changes when the population jumps from a fitness peak to a better one during the process of adaptation. This is done using the dynamics of the shell model which is a simplified version of the quasispecies model for infinite populations and standard Wright-Fisher dynamics for large finite populations. We show that the population fraction of a genotype obtained within the quasispecies model and the shell model match for fit genotypes and at short times, but the dynamics of the two models are identical for questions related to the most populated genotype. We calculate exactly several properties of the jumps in infinite populations some of which were obtained numerically in previous works. We also present our preliminary simulation results for finite populations. In particular, we measure the jump distribution in time and find that it decays as $t^{-2}$ as in the quasispecies problem.

  55. #55 Barry
    June 5, 2007

    “Result? Not a single interview. Follow-up reveals that nobody in the Math departments ever saw the 50 pages of application material; HR decided (Faith-based reasoning?) that M.S. in Computers does not meet the requirements of “M.S. in Math, or equivalent.” Period.”

    Posted by: Jonathan Vos Post

    This is standard for HR, almost anywhere, almost any time.

  56. #56 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 5, 2007

    Dear Barry: I agree. I don’t think it’s elitist of me to gripe that the nearly illiterate and clearly innumerate make life-altering decisions for the literate and numerate. Which is part of what Good Math/Bad Math is all about.

    I’m fed up with HR’s excuse, when they’ve given up their pseudojob completely by outsourcing to an online service which requires one to scan diplomas, CVs, letters of recommendation, and the like, then attach them to the product of a user-unfriendly web form, none of which they actually read or understand anyway: “We have a paperless office.” I have to bite my lip to keep from saying: “You mean that you have a workless office.”

  57. #57 blf
    June 5, 2007

    [I] must inform you that “Dave-scott” is an attack-mouse not an attack-dog. To call him an attack-dog is an insult to even the smallest and dumbest of dogs everywhere.

    Please! Won’t somebody think of the mice?

    From what I’ve read, a deformed coachroach would present a difficult challenge for him.

  58. #58 secondclass
    June 5, 2007

    I take back what I said above. This paper has serious logical problems. Fresh shredding material for Mark.

  59. #59 Mumon
    June 5, 2007

    That’s rich.

    Somehow the folks at Uncommon Descent feel fit to propound on how much “engineering” is like “intelligent” “design” theory, until some joker like me tries to comment as to when we can expect Dembski to get something published in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Transactions on Information Theory.

    In which case they never publish the comment.

    Evidently Dembski doesn’t want to actually have to be accountable to anything approaching a professional standard.

  60. #60 Elf M. Sternberg
    June 5, 2007

    There’s very little in the way of math in compiler design.

    My WTF meter started screaming right about there. I did compiler design back in the 80s and reading Sispser’s Theory of Computation was a mathematical slog about as rough as n-dimensional geometry! Good grief. DaveScott probably thinks “math” is arithmetic.

  61. #61 john
    June 5, 2007

    dude, you are my hero.

  62. #62 truth machine
    June 6, 2007

    Dembski wants someone to perpetrate a Sokal-type hoax

    It’s been done:

    Sokal convinced a bunch of science-ignorant people that some BS that misused and abused some scientific terms and concepts represented real science.

    Dembski, Behe, et. al. have convinced a bunch of science-ignorant people that some BS that misuses and abuses some scientific terms and concepts represents real science.

  63. #63 Shawn Wilkinson
    June 6, 2007

    Good post, Mark. Somehow, though, I fear this will fall on deaf ears. It is funny that Dembski uses (a rather botched form of ) information theory in the texts of his I’ve read thus far (Design Inference and No Free Lunch) but fails to consider that information theory was born out of computer science. Feynman explicitly links this in his Lectures on Computation (a really good, but dense, introduction for those like me who aren’t majoring in computer science but use computational power a lot). It simply astounds me that Dembski, who has a PhD from the University of Chicago, would make a brash statement that computer science lacks mathematics. But then again, as other posters have noted, IDists preach to congregation which already have a poor understanding of science.

  64. #64 plunge
    June 6, 2007

    Jebuss, DaveScot is STILL going on and on about how no one should try to respond to Mark’s arguments and how he’s not qualified to comment (even though he’s commenting on a BOOK written for the GENERAL PUBLIC, not a published paper in some other field).

  65. #65 AJS
    June 6, 2007

    From the comments to the linked article:

    Carroll’s doctoral thesis was in the construction of compilers for general purpose parallel processing. ….. There’s very little in the way of math in compiler design

    – DaveScot

    What the ….. ?!

    Either DaveScot is being duplicitous, or he is clueless about mathematics. Compiler design is very much mathematical. So, which is it to be?

    Despite all warnings not to suspect malice where ignorance would provide an adequate explanation, I have to favour the former. Remember, Behe’s intended audience consists of people without a scientific background (anyone with a basic understanding of the scientific method should already be able to see why “Intelligent Design” is such a crock). From the point of view of somebody whose understanding of maths ends with “….. nine tens are ninety, ten tens are a hundred!”, the abstract concepts involved in designing compilers — which are rather more advanced than adding, subtracting and multiplying integers (leaving out long division, which is obviously the Work of the Devil, since it produces answers which do not belong to Z+ [or, as they call it, E]) — must go far enough over their heads to be dismissed as non-mathematical.

    But we shouldn’t dismiss the idea that DaveScot is simply bat$#!t insane.

  66. #66 Dene Bebbington
    June 6, 2007

    I wonder if Dembski and DaveScot realise that if one needs certain credentials in maths to critique Behe’s book then one also needs those credentials to accept Behe’s arguments. In which case the majority of its readership shouldn’t be reading it.

  67. #67 Torbjörn Larsson, OMa
    June 6, 2007

    This paper has serious logical problems. Fresh shredding material for Mark.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    Those three papers are still in review. But at some point someone should probably use more than half an hour on them. But FWIW they seem to rely on trying to distinguish between information in searches solutions as coming from the specified constraints and from an unconstrained random search. The point being that a creationist can point on a GA and say “you put that information in there”.

    I looked at the “ev” program example, and I couldn’t find any problems with misinterpreting the information observed to be gained from selection. OTOH I am not confident that Dembski’s and Mark’s handwaving (though laboriously compiled) numbers really capture what they claim, see details below. And the complaint about the “ev” perceptron being a constraint is of course in any case besides the point here since the genetic machinery it models evolved previously.

    And I would look more at the detail. The ev researcher discussed the narrow window he saw for simulating independent variation. While D&M has a graph that seems to go outside the recommended window and when complain about non-gaussian behavior.

    I am also confused about if they really looked at the redundancy in the genetic code. I don’t think they did, because it allows them to around and complain that random searches can easily find several solutions too. (In which case the evolutionary biologist can applaud and note that the creationist Dembski doesn’t say any longer that protein site development is strictly impossible.)

  68. #68 plunge
    June 7, 2007

    DaveScot has apparently reversed himself and promoted a rebutal from the comments:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/ud-subscriber-fisks-chu-carrols-review-of-behe/#more-2396

  69. #69 secondclass
    June 7, 2007

    Those three papers are still in review. But at some point someone should probably use more than half an hour on them.

    One of the major problems with this paper is that they never support the first claim that they make in the abstract, namely that NFL poses an obstacle to biological evolution. Presumably, the problem is that evolution requires “active information” in order find its “intrinsic target”. But to posit active information is simply to say that the search algorithm and the structure of the search space and/or the location of the target are somehow interdependent. This interdependency is built right into D&M’s model of biological evolution as a search. In defining the target, they say: “It follows that survival and reproduction sets the intrinsic targets for biological evolution.” If RM+NS is the search algorithm, and RM+NS determines the targets, then obviously the search algorithm and targets are interdependent. Any search that’s largely deterministic will easily find a target that’s determined by itself. So to ask why there is active information in biological evolution is to ask why the universe isn’t completely random. The obvious rejoinder is, “Why should it be?”

    Another fundamental problem: They say that a reduction of the search space constitutes active information. But the question is: Reduced from what? If the baseline for the search algorithm is blind search, then what is the baseline for the search space definition? If it’s arbitrary, then we can justifiably say that every search over a finite search space has infinite active information, since every finite search space is an infinite reduction from an infinite search space.

    By the same token, the number of queries in a baseline search is arbitrary, so any amount of queries in the better-than-baseline search can be seen as an increase, and therefore active information.

    I see several other problems, especially with their fast and loose usage of the term “information”. I’ll write them up some other day when I have a lot of time to blab.

  70. #70 George Cauldron
    June 7, 2007

    DaveScot has apparently reversed himself and promoted a rebutal from the comments

    Given how terribly important credentials are to Dave Scot, I assume he’ll tell us soon how “UD Subscriber Magnan” is qualified to review MCC’s review?

  71. #71 secondclass
    June 7, 2007

    And he’ll tell us how UD is “a venue where [experts in the relevant field] normally publish their expert opinions.”

  72. #72 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 8, 2007

    a rebutal from the comments

    More like a buttal, actually.

    The first claim that I can engage without access to Behe’s book is that Magnan says Mark is wrong about Behe claiming that mutation is the only source of variation. Though Magnan have no support, he blithely assumes Behe left it out. Also, I note that Behe seems to claim directly that “the only way a plant or animal becomes fitter than its relatives is by sustaining a serendipitous mutation”.

    The next claim, that Behe’s example of malaria shows limits of evolution, is also not supported. And so it goes on.

    secondclass:

    But to posit active information is simply to say that the search algorithm and the structure of the search space and/or the location of the target are somehow interdependent.

    Yes, that is probably a better description of what they are trying to do. Your analysis of interdependency ends up being broader than mine of constraints. (Though, I must say, I slightly prefer mine when it comes to predicting their strategy. :-)

    In terms of fundamental problems, I noted earlier that what they assume as interdependency/lack of randomness (or constraints/search space/contingency) is previously evolved.

    Ultimately the right question to ask (in their paradigm or in evolutionary biology) is how abiogenesis through less faithful reproduction and quasispecies got settled in the current type of search space. I don’t see how they could answer that question in their terms. Except of course by the simple admission that their ‘active information’ can’t be constrained or compared. (As you point out.)

  73. #73 A Roy
    June 8, 2007

    I hesitate, really I do, I do – to object to any swatting of UD. But I really think you have the wrong tack here Mr. Carroll (hee hee). The real point is not that you are qualified enough to refute Behe’s nonsense. Of course you are. It is simply that the math therein is pretty damn trivial.

    Everytime William Dembski opens his mouth about credentials, someone otta post a sample of his stupendous reasoning about the likelihood of humans and chimpanzees being related (someone else please find the link). It goes – sure the genomes are 98% similar but two random DNA sequences are going to match pairs 25% of the time so it’s no big deal really. And chimpanzees can’t appreciate champagne anyway (no kidding, he said that).

    The joke’s on us really. Writing a ‘critique’ about such stuff is like arguing with the 0.999… != 1 guys on sci.math.

  74. #74 Ruth
    June 8, 2007

    “The funny part is that Mozart composed the role of Cherubino for a soprano, what they call a trouser role. So there’s a girl up on stage who is dressed as a boy dressed in a dress pretending to be a girl.”

    Which is exactly the same situation Shakespeare created with the characters of viola/Cesario in Twelth Night and that of Rosalind/Ganymede in As You Like It.

    A young man pretending to be a young woman pretending to be a young man.

  75. #75 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 8, 2007

    Sigh. What do I have to do in order to get Uncommon Descent to notice me? Whom do I have to bite to get a little attention around here? I mean, my posts on The Edge of Evolution are up there in the Google ranks, my tone is uncivil and my diatribes both lengthy and well-referenced. When is DaveScot going to say that it’s below him to criticize me?

    (sings, tune: Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me”)

    Don’t — don’t you fisk me
    You know that your cognition skills are really quite pathetic!
    Don’t — don’t you fisk me
    I’ll trump you on all topics math and bio and genetic!

    Don’t you fisk me, baby. . .
    Don’t you fisk me, oh-o-oah!

    etc.

  76. #76 Blake Stacey, OM
    June 8, 2007

    D’oh! Make that “mathematic and genetic” in the second stanza. Mea maxima culpa.

  77. #77 George Cauldron
    June 8, 2007

    Sigh. What do I have to do in order to get Uncommon Descent to notice me? Whom do I have to bite to get a little attention around here?

    Maybe try picking a fight with DaveScot at FTK’s blog? That’s pretty much the only place where he interacts with the ‘Darwinists’ anymore.

  78. #78 DaveNotScot
    June 9, 2007

    “First, it’s “Chu-Carroll”. I’ve never been able to understand why people have such trouble with a hyphenated name. To do a publication search on me, he had to use Chu-Carroll. Every search result (except for my very first paper, which was written before I got married) has “Chu-Carroll” for the last name. My thesis has “Chu-Carroll”. My old IBM website has “Chu-Carroll”. My blog has “Chu-Carroll”. Every citation of my work cites it as “Chu-Carroll”. So where does this need to chop off the “Chu” come from? Why is the clear and obvious record that I use “Chu-Carroll” as my last name not sufficent for someone like DaveScott? (Sorry, I know it’s off-topic, but it’s a pet peeve.)”

    Same question to you. It’s “DaveScot”, not “DaveScott”. Where does the second ‘t’ come from? I’ve NEVER been able to understand why people have such trouble with writing the names correctly.

  79. #79 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    June 9, 2007

    Same question to you. It’s “DaveScot”, not “DaveScott”.

    There is a huge difference between a causal misspelling and a misconception.

  80. #80 DaveTTard
    June 10, 2007

    Thanks for not addressing any of the review itself, Sgt. Springer!

  81. #81 windy
    June 10, 2007

    And chimpanzees can’t appreciate champagne anyway (no kidding, he said that).

    That comment was so intriguing, I had to look up the original.

    But what does this ape really know about champagne other than “that bubbly yellow liquid that tastes good”?

    Hilarious! That’s about the same as what this ape knows about champagne, too.

    I suppose Dembski means that chimpanzees aren’t champagne snobs. But since apes and monkeys do clearly understand value, it shouldn’t be too hard to rig up an experiment where apes come to think of champagne as “expensive bubbly yellow drink”, which should be close to what the majority of humans know about champagne.

  82. #82 slpage
    June 10, 2007

    BDC writes:

    DaveScot, not an expert on biology, not an expert on religion, not an expert on evolution, not an expert on almost anything he blathers on about is complaining that someone who isn’t an expert in reviewing books, decided to review a book….. a book review that directly focused on the math problems of Behe’s arguments.

    Hilarious.

    Isn’t it amazing? The amount of sheer hypocrisy these fools exude is comically, if not pathetically, gargantuan. To hear Dembski prattle on about someone else’s credentials, and then Jarhead Springer do the same is simply astounding. The arrogance and stupidity of the IDcreationist knows no bounds whatsoever. And the truly pathetic thing about it is that the dimwitted sycophants that read their spew cannot see how idiotic their claims are.

  83. #83 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 17, 2007

    Some good math about the actual DNA of 125 bacterial genomes [14 June 2007]. This also partly answers a question by Sal Cordova discussed at great length on another thread of this blog.

    http://arxiv.org/PS_cache/arxiv/pdf/0706/0706.2077v1.pdf

    Title: Codon Usage Bias Measured Through Entropy Approach
    Authors: Michael G.Sadovsky, Julia A.Putintzeva
    Comments: 15 pages, 1 figure

    Codon usage bias measure is defined through the mutual entropy calculation of real codon frequency distribution against the quasi-equilibrium one. This latter is defined in three manners: (1) the frequency of synonymous codons is supposed to be equal (i.e., the arithmetic mean of their frequencies); (2) it coincides to the frequency distribution of triplets; and, finally, (3) the quasi-equilibrium frequency distribution is defined as the expected frequency of codons derived from the dinucleotide frequency distribution. The measure of bias in codon usage is calculated for 125 bacterial genomes.

  84. #84 Jonathan Vos Post
    June 17, 2007

    I quite like “the metaphor of dark matter to suggest
    the significance of heterochromatin. ‘We don’t know
    what holds the galaxies together, and the same is true
    of the genome.'”

    ====================
    Exploring ‘Junk DNA’ In The Genome

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070615091210.htm

    Source: DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
    Date: June 16, 2007
    Keywords:
    Genetics, Cell Biology, Developmental Biology,
    Molecular Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Biology

    Science Daily — Not so long ago, the
    difficult-to-sequence, highly repetitive, gene-poor
    DNA found in regions of chromosomes known as
    heterochromatin was called “junk.” Like dark matter in
    the universe, the true nature of heterochromatin was
    unknown…

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