An astute reader pointed me towards a monstrosity of pompous bogus math. It’s an oldie, but I hadn’t seen it before, and it was just referenced by my old buddy Sal Cordova in a thread on one of the DI blogs. It’s a “debate” posted online by Lee Spetner, in which he rehashes the typical bogus arguments against evolution. I’m going to ignore most of it; this kind of stuff has been refuted more than enough times. But in the course
of this train wreck, he pretends to be making a mathematical argument about search spaces and optimization processes. It’s a completely invalid argument – but it’s one which is constantly rehashed by creationists, and Spetner’s version of it is a perfect demonstration of exactly what’s wrong with the argument.
When I’m bored, I’ll periodically take a look at the blogs published by
the bozos at the Discovery Institute. I can generally find something good for a laugh. So I was doing that tonight, and came across yet another example of how they try to distort
reality and use slimily dishonest math to try to criticize the evidence for evolution. This time, it’s an article by “Logan Gage” called What exactly does genetic similarity demonstrate?.
So over at the DI whiners blog, Egnor is, once again, trying to pretend that he’s actually making a case for why evolution is irrelevant to antibiotic resistance. It’s really getting silly; he repeats the same nonsense over and over again, desparately doing the rhetorical version of sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting “La La La! I can’t hear you!”:
As usual, Casey Luskin over at DI’s media complaints division is playing games, misrepresenting people’s words in order to claim that that they’re misrepresenting IDists words. Nothing like the pot calling the kettle black, eh? This time, he’s accusing Ken Miller of misrepresenting Dembski
in a BBC documentary.
So the Discovery Institute’s most recent addition has chosen to reply to my post about
tautologies. (Once again, I’m not linking to him; I will not willingly be a source of hits for the DI website when they’re promoting dangerous ingorance like this.) Typically, he manages to totally miss the point:
Darwinist blogger and computer scientist MarkCC (why don’t they use their real names?) called me a lot of names a couple of days ago. The most profane was that I am a ‘bastion of s***headed ignorance.’ Profanity seems to be a particular problem with the computer-math Darwinists. A dysfunctional clad, perhaps. They’re dysfunctional because, as Aristotle wrote, effective rhetoric has three characteristics: logos, ethos, and pathos. Effective rhetoric appeals to the best in reason, ethics, and emotion. When I’m called unprintable names merely for expressing my skepticism about the relevance of Darwin’s theory to the practice of medicine, I’ve already won the ‘ethos’ and ‘pathos’ skirmishes. I can concentrate on the logos.
Yes, Dr. Egnor. Let’s make sure that we focus on issues of style rather than substance. Because we both know that you have nothing to say in response to the substance of my criticism of your pigheaded ignorance.
Today’s bit of basics is inspired by that bastion of shitheaded ignorance, Dr. Michael Egnor. In part of his latest screed (a podcast with Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute), Egnor discusses antibiotic resistance, and along the way, asserts that the theory of evolution has no relevance to antibiotic resistance, because what evolution says about the subject is just
a tautology. (I’m deliberately not linking to the podcast; I will not help increase the hit-count that DI will use to promote it’s agenda of willful ignorance.)
So what is a tautology?
A tautology is a logical statement which is universally true, by nature of its fundamental structure. That is, even without knowing anything about what the statement means,
you can infer that it must be true.
This isn’t really math, but I can’t resist commenting on it. I was looking at Evolution News and Views, which is yet another “news” site run by the Discovery Institute, because the illustrious Dr. Egnor had an article there. And I came across this, which I found just hysterically funny:
If You Have Laws, Don’t You Have to Have Punish Lawbreakers?
The Advocate today gives a big hip-hip-hooray for Darwin’s “process.” They worry that the public doesn’t accept Darwinian evolutionary claims to explain the complex diversity of life and the universe. Must be that they just don’t understand. Their solution?
Perhaps the “law of evolution” would be more easily understood by the public than the “theory” of evolution.
It’s interesting that evolution is so solid, so proven, that it will only survive if it is declared a law. When evolution is the law of the land, what will happen then to those who dissent?
Yeah. The reason for talking about the law of evolution is so that we can throw anyone who disagrees with it in jail. Just like we do with the law of gravity, or the laws of thermodynamics.
PZ has already commented on this, but I thought that I’d throw in my two cents. A surgeon, Dr. Michael Egnor, posted a bunch of comments on a Time magazine blog that was criticizing ID. Dr. Egnor’s response to the criticism was to ask: “How much new information can Darwinians mechanisms generate?”
I haven’t taken a look at Uncommon Descent in a while; seeing the same nonsense
get endlessly rehashed, seeing anyone who dares to express disagreement with the
moderators get banned, well, it gets old. But then… Last week, DaveScott (which is, incidentally, a psueudonym!) decided to retaliate against my friend and fellow ScienceBlogger Orac, by “outing” him, and publishing his real name and employer.
Why? Because Orac had dared to criticize the way that a potential, untested
cancer treatment has been hyped recently in numerous locations on the web, including UD.
While reading the message thread that led to DaveScott’s “outing” of Orac, I came
across a claim by Sal Cordova about a new paper that shows how Greg Chaitin’s work in
information theory demonstrates the impossibility of evolution. He even promoted it to
a top-level post on UD. I’m not going to provide a link to Sal’s introduction
of this paper; I refuse to send any more links UDs way. But you can find the paper at
In my discussion with Sal Cordova in this post, one point came up which I thought was interesting, and worth taking the time to flesh out as a separate post. It’s about the distinction
between a Turing equivalent computing system, and a Turing complete computation. It’s true
that in informal use, we often tend to muddy the line between these two related but distinct concepts. But in fact, they are distinct, and the difference between them can be extremely important. In some sense, it’s the difference between “capable of” and “requires”; another way of looking at it is
“sufficient” versus “necessary”.