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Dr. Ewert Answers

A few weeks ago I solicited questions on Google Moderator as an experiment. Unfortunately, the experiment was not very successful as I only got a few questions. However, I will answer the questions that did get listed. During this time Dr. Thomas English posted some questions at the skeptical zone, and I’ll be answering those here as well. DieB asks: What happened to the erratum of “The Search for a Search” Looking at internet archive, it looks like I inadvertantly reverted the evoinfo.org website back to an earlier version sometime around December 2012 losing the erratum. I have put the erratum back in place. DieB asks: Take Ω={1..100}, fitness function “distance to a target”. Now you have a search which Read More ›

Ask Dr. Ewert

I recently spent some time answering questions in a comment thread here at Uncommon Descent. It seems that people appreciated me taking the time to do this. Unfortunately, this is not something that I typically have the time to do. So, I thought I’d try an experiment. I have created a Google Moderator page, where you can submit and upvote questions you’d like to see me answer. https://www.google.com/moderator/#15/e=21afd2&t=21afd2.40 Some ground rules: Don’t be abusive or insulting: I will simply pull the plug on the experiment. Don’t ask non-research questions: I’m here to talk about my research, not where I grew up. Don’t ask questions about research unrelated to mine: I’m sure biogeography is a wonderful subject, but its outside of my area. Read More ›

Aurelio Smith’s Analysis of Active Information

Recently, Aurelio Smith had a guest publication here at Uncommon Descent entitled Signal to Noise: A Critical Analysis of Active Information. Most of the post is taken up by a recounting of the history of active information. He also quotes the criticisms of Felsentein and English which have responded to at Evolution News and Views: These Critics of Intelligent Design Agree with Us More Than They Seem to Realize. Smith then does spend a few paragraphs developing his own objections to active information. Smith argues that viewing evolution as a search is incorrect, because organisms/individuals aren’t searching, they are being acted upon by the environment: Individual organisms or populations are not searching for optimal solutions to the task of survival. Organisms are passive Read More ›

Has Specified Complexity Changed?

When I wrote my recent post on the alleged circularity of specified complexity, I did so in a deliberately provocative way. I wrote it emphasizing my agreement with keith s, in an attempt to shake things up and make people think. I felt that both sides of the debate here on uncommon descent were speaking past each other. I wanted to people to re-evaluate their understand of specified complexity. It seems many people found the result confusing. I’m sorry about that. My attempt was prompted by this portion from a recent post: We can decide whether an object has an astronomically low probability of having been produced by unintelligent causes by determining whether it has CSI (that is, a numerical value Read More ›

The Circularity of the Design Inference

Keith S is right. Sort of. As highlighted in a recent post by vjtorley, Keith S has argued that Dembski’s Design Inference is a circular argument. As Keith describes the argument: In other words, we conclude that something didn’t evolve only if we already know that it didn’t evolve. CSI is just window dressing for this rather uninteresting fact. In its most basic form, a specified complexity argument takes a form something like: Premise 1) The evolution of the bacterial flagellum is astronomically improbable. Premise 2) The bacterial flagellum is highly specified. Conclusion) The bacterial flagellum did not evolve. Keith’s point is that in order to show that the bacterial flagellum did not evolve, we have to first show that Read More ›

Avida’s EQU in 18 instructions

The evolutionary model, Avida, is best known for evolving the EQU function. In the supplementary materials for the 2003 Nature paper, the authors presented the shortest known program to compute EQU taking 19 instructions. They note that it hasn’t been proven that it was the shortest program. In fact it is not, and I present a program that computes EQU only using 18 instructions. IO IO nop-C push pop nop-A nand push nand swap nop-C swap nand nand pop nop-C nand IO  

Where do we get the probabilities?

What is the probability of a structure like the bacterial flagellum evolving under Darwinian processes? This is the question on which the entire debate over Darwinian evolution turns. If the bacterial flagellum’s evolution is absurdly improbable, than Darwinism is false. On the other hand, if the flagellum is reasonably probable than Darwinism looks like a perfectly plausible explanation for life. Dembski’s development of specified complexity depends on having established that the probability of structures like the bacterial flagellum is absurdly low under Darwinian mechanisms. Specified complexity provides the justification for rejecting Darwinian evolution on the basis of the absurdly low probability. It does nothing to help establish the low probability. Anyone arguing the Darwinian evolution has a low probability of Read More ›

The Tragedy of Two CSIs

CSI has come to refer to two distinct and incompatible concepts. This has lead to no end of confusion and flawed argumentation. CSI, as developed by Dembski, requires the calculation of the probability of an artefact under the mechanisms actually in operation. It a measurement of how unlikely the artefact was to emerge given its context. This is the version that I’ve been defending in my recent posts. CSI, as used by others is something more along the lines of the appearance of design. Its typically along the same lines as notion of complicated developed by Richard Dawkin in The Blind Watchmaker: complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by random Read More ›

CSI Confusion: Who Can Generate CSI?

In my first post, I discussed the importance of mechanism. In order to compute CSI you have to take into account the mechanism. Computing CSI without a mechanism is wrong. I deliberately focused on the use of specified complexity in evaluating various possible mechanisms. This is how Dembski uses CSI in his Design Inference argument. However, we are often interested in a system: a collection of artefacts and the mechanisms that operate on those artefacts. This is the context in which Dembski argues for the Law of Conservation of Information. Many of the questions that have come up are related to the context systems and who or what can generate CSI. With a large probability, closed systems do not exhibit Read More ›

CSI Confusion: Remember the Mechanism!

A number of posts on Uncommon Descent have discussed issues surrounding specified complexity. Unfortunately, the posts and discussions that resulted have exhibited some confusion over the nature of specified complexity. Specified complexity was developed by William Dembski and deviation from his formulation has led to much confusion and trouble. I’m picking a random number between 2 and 12. What is the probability that it will be 7? You might say it was 1 in 11, but you’d wrong because I chose that number by rolling two dice, and the probability was 1 in 6. The probability of an outcome depends on how that outcome was produced. In order to calculate a problem, you must always consider a mechanism and an Read More ›

Questioning Information Cost

Di.. Eb.., or Dieb,  on the blog DiEbLog, has posted a number of questions, relating to the paper A General Theory of Information Cost Incurred by Successful Search. He raises a number of questions and objections to the paper. Firstly, Dieb objects that the quasi-Bayesian calculation on Page 56 is incorrect, although it obtains the correct result. However, the calculation is called a quasi-Bayesian calculation because it engages in hand-waving rather than presenting a rigorous proof. The text in question is shortly after a theorem and is intended to explicate the consequences of that theorem rather than rigorously prove its result. The calculation is not incorrect, but rather deliberately oversimplified. Secondly, Dieb objects that many quite different searches can be Read More ›