Monday, February 27, 2012

Waiting for a substantive response from Marks and Dembski

Robert J. Marks II and William A. Dembski have been mouthing off publicly about the grand progress they've made in IDC theory. It's not so much that they annoy me as that they make it clear that they're preparing for the next judicial test of public education in creationism. The recent approval of a "scientific strengths and weaknesses" bill by the education committee of my state's house of representatives has got me thinking that the next court case may not be all that far in the future.

A "Darwin or Design?" podcast interview (read on while it loads in a new tab, and then skip to 7:52) with Marks includes this cute little exchange:

Question: Are you getting any kind of response from the other side? Are they saying this is kind of interesting, or are they kind of putting stoppers in their ears? What's going on?

Answer: It's more of the stoppers in the ears thus far. We have a few responses on blogs, which are unpleasant,* and typically personal attacks, so those are to be ignored. We're waiting for, actually, something substantive in response.

The fact is that I contradicted a key claim of Marks and Dembski 16 years ago, in my very first paper regarding the "no free lunch" theorems. I proved that a search algorithm cannot gain exploitable information by processing samples of the fitness function. Yet Marks and Dembski insist on characterizing fitness functions as "oracles" that "guide" searches to satisfactory solutions by providing "warmer-colder" information. The burden is not on me to demonstrate that this is hooey, but instead on them to prove me wrong. You should not wait with bated breath for them to do so, any more than you should gamble on seeing the refutation of the coevolutionary free lunch theorem that they supposedly have in the works.

As for publishing direct criticism of their work, it's harder to do than you might suspect. Engineers and scientists are not paying attention to Marks and Dembski, and thus there's little reason for a journal to accept an article that does nothing but debunk their claims. The trick is to develop valuable new results that naturally give rise to critical analysis of so-called "active information."

* Yes, I am plenty annoyed with Marks and Dembski. I gave them ample benefit of the doubt, and they demonstrated that they are liars for God. I've learned that people who fob off defense of religious faith as research usually exhibit other unsavory behaviors. In my early days of IDC watching, I emailed Dembski to explain politely that he had misunderstood the "no free lunch" theorem, and he replied, "OK, but don't expect me to admit to that." When I found Marks' name on the signature page of a master's thesis plagiarizing his own publications with Dembski, I was shocked, though I should not have been. Sure, I've posted a lot on the character of these apologists who sow confusion in a field that I worked hard to plow. But I've also posted plenty of technical substance. Don't expect them to acknowledge points other than those they absolutely must.

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