Someone sent me some questions about information theory; or actually,
about some questions raised by a bozo creationist arguing about information
theory. But the issues raised are interesting. So while I’m
nominally snarking at a clueless creationist, I’m really using it
as an excuse to talk about one of my favorite mathematical subjects.
The creationist is confused by the information theory idea of information and complexity. That is somewhat confusing.
Intuitively, we think of information in terms of semantics and communication. We think that information is related to semantic content. And our understanding of semantic content comes from language. So we expect
things that are rich in information to be highly structured, like language.
Someone sent me another stupid Jewish article. It’s still not the
wonderful relativity denial that I lost, but it’s pretty delicious as
stupidity goes. This time it comes from Chabad. For those who aren’t
familiar with it, Chabad is a Chasidic organization, which originally
formed around people following a very famous Rabbi from the town of
Lubav after he emigrated to the US. Chabad grew into a very large
fundamentalist organization that is very devoted to what they call
outreach. (I call it proselytization.)
Anyway – on to the article: “Are Science and Religion a Contradiction?”. Large swaths of it are just rehashes
of standard fundamentalist crap – indistinguishable from the kinds of
rubbish we routinely hear from the various Christian fundies, but with
a bit of low-budget hebrew mixed in. For example:
In the 19th Century it was the prevailing view of scientists and
modernists that human reason was infallible in “scientific” deductions
and that sciences such as physics, chemistry, mathematics etc., were
absolute truth, that is to say, not merely accepted truths but
absolute. Speaking in Jewish terms this meant the establishment of a
new idolatry, not of wood and stone, but the worship of the
contemporary sciences and philosophies.
In fact, in the face of dogmatic and deterministic views of
science prevailing at that time, a whole apologetic literature was
created by well-meaning religious advocates and certain rabbis who saw
no other way of preserving Torah heritage in their “enlightened”
communities except through tenuous and spurious reinterpretations of
certain passages in the Torah in order to accommodate them to the
prevailing world outlook. No doubt they knew inwardly that they were
suggesting interpretations in Torah which were at variance with Torat
Emet, but at least they felt they had no alternative.
See, it’s just another version of the old “science is a religion” shtick. No better than the dreck you’ll find on, say, James Dobson’s website.
Of course, if all that they did was rehash the same-old christian dreck, there’d be no good reason to waste my time writing about this
meshugas. But they’ve got a few unique touches that are worth a moment or two.
Once again, you, my readers, have come through with some really high-grade crackpottery. This one was actually sent to me by its author, but I didn’t really look at it until several readers sent me the same link because they thought it was my kind of material. With your recommendations, I took a look, and was rewarded. In a moment of hubris, the author titled it A Possible Proof of God’s Existence from Multiverse Assumptions.
This article is basically a version of the classic big-numbers probabilistic argument for God. What makes this different is that it doesn’t line up a bunch of fake numbers and saying “Presto! Look at that great big probability: that means that it’s impossible for the universe/life/everything to exist without God!”. Instead, it takes a more scientific looking approach. It dresses the probability argument up using lots of terms and ideas from modern physics, and presents it as “If we knew the values of these variables, we could compute the probability” – with a clear bias towards the idea that the unvalued variables must have values that produced the desired result of this being a created universe.
Aside from being an indirect version of the big-numbers argument, this is also a nice example of what I call obfuscatory mathematics. See, you want to make some argument. You’re dead sure that it’s right. But it doesn’t sound convincing. So you dress it up. Don’t just assume your axioms – make up explanations for them in terms of math, so that it sounds all formal and mathy. Then your crappy assumptions will look convincing!
With that said, on to his argument!
I’ve been sent Yet Another Proof of God. This one goes to rather a lot of trouble
to appear to be mathematical. I thought that it would be fun to rip it apart. For a change, this one is from an Islamic moron, rather than the usual Christian moron.
Alas, it’s pretty much as stupid and shallowly wrong as the usual christian one.
A few weeks ago, I received an email about a new book, “The Faith Equation”, by Marvin Bittinger. Bittinger is an author of math textbooks – including, I think, my first calculus text. The book is supposed to be Bittenger’s explanation of how mathematics validates christianity. Needless to say,
I asked for a review copy – this is something right up my alley.
I’ve taken longer to get around to reviewing it than I intended, but life’s been busy
lately. I’m going to review it in several parts: it’s too dense, full of bad arguments of so many different kinds that I can’t possibly do it justice with only one post.
Today, I’ll cover the introdution and first two chapters: “The Beginning of a Mathematician’s Journey”, “Apologetics and Faith Axioms”, “Paradoxes in Mathematics and Christianity”.
Much to my professional shame, PZ recently pointed out David Plaisted, a Computer Science professor at
the University of North Carolina, who has an anti-evolution screed on his university
website. Worse, it’s typical creationist drivel, which anyone with half a brain should know is utter
rubbish. But worst of all, this computer scientist’s article is chock full of bad math. And it’s
deliberately bad math: this guy works in automated theorem proving and rewrite systems – there’s no way
that he doesn’t know what utter drivel his article is.
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?.
Apparently, Michael Egnor just can’t get enough of making himself look like an idiot. His latest screed is an attack on me, for criticizing his dismissal of evolution as a tautology.
A couple of weeks ago, I revisited George Shollenberger, the creator the alleged “First Scientific Proof of God”, and commented on his pathetic antics on amazon.com, trying to explain just why no one had bothered to post a single review of his book. (If you’ll
recall, according to George, it’s because everyone is too busy considering the impact that his proof is going to have on their activities.)
Normally, I wouldn’t revisit a two-bit crank like George after such a short interval, but he showed up in the comments again to specifically point at a post he made on his own blog, which he claims justifies his position that all of mathematics needs to be reconsidered in light of his supposed proof.
And it’s just too silly to pass up.
So, over at the DI’s media complaints department (aka evolutionnews.org), it appears that Casey Luskin has noticed how we SBers have managed to tear apart his buddy Dr. Egnor. Given that we did it so thoroughly, though, there’s no legitimate way to defend him. He’s repeatedly made incredibly idiotic statements, and many people have, quite rightfully, called him on the stupidity of his statements, the degree of ignorance that he’s demonstrated, and his astonishing arrogance as he spouts nonsense.
But since when have Casey and friends at the DI ever worried about doing the right thing? Or responding to any kind of argument in a legitimate way?
So for humour’s sake, I thought I’d address the part of Casey’s post that was directed at me.: