An alert reader pointed out that William Brookfield posted a response to
my two part debunking of his argument for design based on a mangling of the second law of thermodynamics. I debated whether it was worth responding to; Mr. Brookfield’s got so little readership that I never noticed his response in my referals, even though it was posted on July 3rd! I check my referals regularly (I’m obsessive about seeing who is linking to my blog), and I’ve never seen ICON-RIDS show up.
But, today, I’m sitting in the hospital while my mother has knee surgery; I’m bored; and I have a throbbing headache. So I’m not up to doing much that requires any serious exercise of my brain. So mocking a moron seems right up my alley this afternoon.
To refresh your memory, Mr. Brookfield was cited by William Dembski as evidence that Intelligent Design is really catching on as serious science. Mr Brookfield is a “non-religious ID scientist” –
otherwise known as “a sex-toy shop owner who self-publishes crackpot articles”. (Actually, Brookfield
describes himself as a “Trans-cultural, trans-paradigmatic, cognitive monistic infodynamicist”. He’s
very into self-promotion, giving himself grandiose titles. His self-published work is attributed
to the “The Brookfield Institute of Transparadigmatic Science”, for which he and a friend have
written a complete charter. (Scroll down; Mr. Brookfield is apparently unable to write multiple web-pages, and just mashes everything together into one hideous mess on his personal website.)
Mr. Brookfield’s article was based on a critique of the second law of thermodynamics. Like many wretched cdesign proponentsists,
Brookfield tries to make the argument that without a creator or designer, the Universe couldn’t exist, because it violates the second law of thermodynamics. Unlike the more common 2nd law arguments,
Brookfield argues that it’s the common statement of the 2nd law that’s the problem. To be more precise,
he doesn’t dispute that there’s no conflict between reality and the common statement of the second law; he argues that the statement of the second law is wrong, and that if you correct it, then you find that
all sorts of things in our universe must violate it, and that therefore there must be a designer, because
otherwise these things would be impossible. What Brookfield proposed as a better statement of the “true” second law of thermodynamics was… Murphy’s law.
Needless to say, I tore in into him mercilessly for spouting this nonsense. And so he’s attempted to defend himself. He responds on two points. First, my critique of his basic claim that order requires a source; and second, my critique of his argument about probabilities. In the first case, his response is
to simply restate his claim; in the second, it’s to go into a long and irrelavant bout of babbling about the difference between “internal order” and “external order”. These distinctions are, unfortunately for him, completely meaningless, and his attempt to explain and justify his arguments do nothing but demonstrate what an ignorant ass he is.
Brookfield argued in his original article that there can be no order in chaos without a source of order, just like there can be no light in darkness without a source of light. I pointed out that that’s what we scientific types call “an unsupported assertion”, and that if he wanted to make that argument, he needed to actual provide some justification for it, rather than just blindly asserting it as self-evident. His response?
WB- My initial argument/claim was indeed “that order(constraint) can’t arise from randomness(the absence of constraint).” I also claimed that light (photons) cannot arise from darkness (the absence of photons). What is needed instead is a source of order and a source of light respectively.
Umm.. Yeah, that’s what you said the first time, and also exactly what I said you said. Alas for
your argument, repeatedly asserting it doesn’t make it any more true. Until you justify that statement,
your entire argument is circular: there is no order in our universe without a source, there is order in our universe, therefore there is a creator. How do we know that there is no order without a creator? Because the only ordered things we see were created. How do we know that? Because order can’t emerge from chaos without a source of order.
Now that, while mildly amusing, is really trivial. If that’s all that there was, then I wouldn’t have bothered responding. But the other part of his response is notable both for its cluelessness, and as
a splendid example of a waffling argument. A waffling argument is something all too common from
pseudo-scientists (and in fact, from people in general). It’s an argument that tries to depend a clearly incorrect statement. Since the statement, viewed as originally presented, is clearly wrong, the only way to defend it is to make the argument that it doesn’t say what you said it said. It’s like a child,
who gets told “No candy before dinner”, who then eats a piece of chocolate, and argues “But you said no candy, and it’s a piece of chocolate, not a candy!”.
Brookfield made the argument that order never emerges naturally from chaos. But that’s obviously wrong, provably wrong by things like Ramsey theory. That’s what I pointed out in my original critique of his nonsense: that order inevitably emerges from chaos. If you start generating a sequence of random characters, eventually your sequence will have to have two identical sub-sequences of length one million. It might take a very long time, but you’ll find that – and that’s structure. Keep generating random bits using a uniform probability distribution for long enough, and you’ll eventually find a sequence of alternating 1s and 0s.
Brookfield’s response? Pure weasel:
There is no information contained in a random string of letters. “Randomness” is by definition the absence of order/information. The word “information” is based on the root word “form” and is synonymous with the word “order” the opposite of “randomness.”
Right. First, assert that even though you were making an information theoretic argument, that
when you say “information”, it doesn’t mean what information theorists say it means. So all of those information theoretic criticisms can’t possibly apply, because they aren’t talking about the same thing that you’re talking about. Sorry, Brookfield, but I don’t care what the etymology of “information” is: information theorists have a clear definition of it, and a random string most certainly does contain information: in fact, a truly completely random string, by definition, has the maximum information content for its length: truly random string is completely non-compressible.
And then, the weaseling gets worse…
Luckily, I happen to be actually be Brookfield, so I can explain what my real argument is/was. In McC’s example Monotonically Increasing Sequences (MIS) are members of the “system set” (see page #4 fig #1). Given “an infinite number of infinite sequences of numbers” monotonically increasing sequences (MIS) will not only occur, but they are certain to occur. Contra Mark Chu, my claim is not that you can’t get monotonically increasing sequences “order” but instead that their frequency-of-appearance will fail to diverge from the uniform probability distribution (randomness). Without a divergence from randomness there is no internal order/information here at all. Such rare internal states may appear to be more ordered than other sequences (to Hawking and Mark Chu) but this is an illusion.
What Brookfield has done here is say that if you have something random, and there’s a section of
it which has ordered properties, that it doesn’t count: it’s not really ordered, because it emerged from a random process. It’s only ordered if it doesn’t emerge from randomness. If
it’s consistent with a random distribution, even if it has local ordered properties, even if it has
properties that are indistinguishable from something that Brookfield says is ordered, it doesn’t matter: it emerged from randomness, therefore it isn’t real order. It’s just illusory order.
Surprise! If you define “order” as “order that doesn’t emerge from randomness”, then you can conclude that order never emerges from randomness.
of course, the entire argument is just words: despite the fact that his original argument purports to be mathematical, there’s not a trace of math here. There’s a good reason for that: because
Brookfield’s new definitions of “information” and “order” have no mathematical basis – in fact, I’d make the argument that they are fundamentally incapable of being defined mathematically.
And after this weaseling, Brookfield’s entire argument doesn’t address the point that
it originally purported to address. Brookfield started by arguing against the idea (proposed by Hawking)
that our Universe could appear ordered because it’s a small ordered part of an infinite expanse – that
it’s a pocket of order that emerged from chaos, and that it was inevitable that some pockets like this
would emerge. Brookfield originally argued that that was incorrect, because order can’t emerge from
randomness. Now, he’s arguing that when order emerges from randomness, it isn’t true order, but
merely apparent order. But that doesn’t refute Hawking at all: from the inside of the system, the
two are indistinguishable. From the outside of the system, you can see the difference between the
apparent order and “real” order, where the distinction is that “real” order didn’t emerge from chaos. But
that’s a stupid and meaningless distinction – and put the desired conclusion (that order can’t emerge from chaos) right into the definition of order, making the entire thing a shallow exercise in circularity.
It’s just pure weaseling. Unsupportable, meaningless distinctions that save the argument at the expense of making it completely empty, completely meaningless. The only thing left is Brookfield’s ego: he can tell himself that his argument stands. And that’s the best that he can do: to reduce his argument to a meaningless exercise in mental masturbation.
And so, once again, I wonder… Is there any lower limit to the stupidity of what Bill Dembski will endorse? This moron, this scientifically illiterate jackass who piles together heaps of steaming gibberish, and presents them as “scientific research” – was invited by Demski to join ISCID – in 2002. So he wasn’t a new discovery by Bill this past June. Dembski’s known him, and his “work” for at least 5 years. He knows full well who Brookfield is, and what he does. And still he endorsed him – and dishonestly pretended that he had just noticed his work. Pathetic.