Informatics Naturalism

Oddities from fake news: We didn’t know Uncommon Descent was starving in 2015

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Looking for an odd piece of information in the middle of the night (unrelated to controversies around design in nature), I stumbled across a claim from The Skeptical Zone back in June 2015:

Uncommon Descent is starving

I was naturally curious, as I don’t recall anyone starving at the time. Or anything in particular, really.

Post author Tom English seemed to think it odd that one of our authors, Eric Anderson, and Casey Luskin, then a podcaster with the Discovery Institute, had said nice things about UD. Building on that remarkable discovery, English announces,

Anderson lives up to Jeff Shallit’s characterization of him, revealing that he is laughably far behind the curve. He’s not worth my time. And there’s something wrong if you think that he’s worth yours. Then again, he was about the best choice Luskin had for the interview. More.

Um, … okay… It gets better:

UD degenerated into a madhouse long ago. Barry Arrington has done everyone a favor, having finally gone too far, and given us a clear reason to do what we should have done already. I know that some of you are itching for him to post something that permits you to rationalize a return to UD. Please work to kick your UD habit for good.

We had no idea we were that hard a habit to kick. Could we get rebranded as a social vice?

English probably overestimates how much time, money, and energy an almost completely horizontal organization like ours needs—a common mistake. Officially, we’re just a tax number somewhere in Colorado …

But now, one thing rang a bell; the name Tom English. Oh yes, of course, him:

Shoutout to Tom English: How much of the animus you display against Marks and Dembski is scholarly?

English appears to have more or less retracted his own paper since 1996, as this amended version at his Bounded Theoretics site shows. The Abstract is now heavily edited. A number of pages feature crossouts of the text (explanation appended at [2]).

That perhaps is the context for his comment at Salvo, “conservation of information” turns out to be nothing but obfuscation of statistical independence—a concept that undergraduates encounter early in introductory courses on probability and statistics.

But, whatever the fate of English’s paper, the sense in which Marks and Dembski have used the phrase conservation of information (COI) [3] is well supported by the work of others in the literature.

Okay, so that’s the guy who thought we were starving. English? Barbara Forrest? Must be Old Home Week.

So much water under the bridge.

Note: English’s post is a good example of fake news. There was nothing in it. But hey, it’s a free country. Please never ask the government to protect you from fake news. If good judgement won’t help you, neither will the government.

Return to product information Actually, he’s been ranting about Marks, Dembski, and Ewert (Evolutionary Informatics) for years on end. As readers likely know, Marks, Dembski, and Ewert have a new book out, pictured, that’ll keep English blogging.

See also: Barbara Forrest, metaphysical naturalism, and the End of Science rent-a-riot There are over 18,000 posts here but I remember Forrest from the curious case of her wholly unjustified attack on fellow philosopher Frank Beckwith in a philosophy quarterly a few years back.

and

What is fake news? Do we believe it?

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17 Replies to “Oddities from fake news: We didn’t know Uncommon Descent was starving in 2015

  1. 1
    rvb8 says:

    I regulaly visit TSZ, and I would say his article is more about the fact that over the years the number of writers who contribute here has significantly diminished, and those that do are prolific.

    Now prolific can be good as in the case of Dickens, or Orwell, or it can be anoying as hell, as in the case of Hamm, or Ray Comfort.

    This ‘starvation’ he suggests also includes the repliers, the posters of comments. These people are predictable in their regularity of authorship. The names never change, and with the recent loss of BA77, for whatever reason, a significant voice has once again been lost to the cause. (I hope BA77 is healthy, and still with the living.)

    Also I think his ‘starvation’ metaphor includes counter voices. As largely it is only me, and Seversky who regularly turn up, it is not really adebate about ID, so much as a, ‘chat’, amongst acquiantances.

    He also suggests posters such as myself and Seversky should abandon our contributions, as we are merely shoring up, an imminent collapse.

    He also suggests that the ‘heavy hitters’, of ID Dembsky etc, have long since seen the writing on the wall.

    I stick around for the fun of schadenfreud.

  2. 2
    EricMH says:

    According to Alexa ranking, in 2015 UD’s traffic was either steady or climbing.

    http://www.rank2traffic.com/uncommondescent.com

    Recently, however, traffic has dropped by 2/3 since an all time high in Dec 2016.

  3. 3
    Bob O'H says:

    rvb8 mentions BA77. Whilst I don’t want to intrude on his private life, I agree that I hope BA77 is OK, and I wonder if anyone has tried to contact him to find out.

    (FWIW I largely stick around for the fun & schadenfreude, but sometimes there are interesting discussions. e.g. I’m having one here, with – ironically – Eric Anderson. in amongst the death threats)

  4. 4
    News says:

    EricMH at 2: The metric our provider offered showed no significant change at that time. But we recently (March?) got a different server and use the new company’s metric. So hard to compare. We just got the https certificate recently; issues around that could pay a role. Have not noticed big changes internally.

  5. 5
    Eric Anderson says:

    I don’t visit TSZ unless pointed there for a specific item, so don’t recall if I had seen Tom English’ post previously.

    Having gone there just now to look at the old post, I find it quite disappointing that English chose to engage in an ad hominem attack, rather than addressing the substance of my podcast with Casey Luskin. Of course it is easier to throw insults, rather than address the details, but one might have hoped for better.

    Doubly ironic is the fact that my brief exchange with Shallit was precisely of the same kind, a fact that English seemed completely oblivious to when he swallowed Shallit’s accusation hook-line-and-sinker.

    The Shallit exchange began by Shallit engaging in ad hominems and name calling against Cornelius Hunter, while demonstrating precious little comprehension of the scientific issue on the table. Then when I called him on it, his response was more of the same, this time directed at me.

    As I noted at the time: “It is remarkable that you can point out, with detail, how someone’s debating approach fails and they keep right at it.”

    https://uncommondescent.com/origin-of-life/darwinian-debating-devices-fail-files-2014-09-jeffrey-shallit/

    It is an unfortunate confluence of pride, lack of civility, and lack of understanding of the issues that leads someone like Shallit to make the kinds of personal attacks and statements he made in that exchange. Having experienced just a small portion of the vitriol he has apparently heaped on Dembski and Marks over the years, I’m happy to be in good company. 🙂

  6. 6
    Eric Anderson says:

    rvb8 @1:

    We are glad to have you here and appreciate the opportunity to exchange ideas and, even, strongly disagree — which we do about most things. 🙂

    I’m glad that you, Seversky, wd400, Bob O’H and others are willing to exchange ideas and debate the issues.

    —–

    Incidentally, I’m not familiar with all the history about (nor do I particularly care for) the cross-bashing of UD and TSZ over the number of posts, authors, visitors and rankings. Both are incredibly tiny oases in the broader net and reach only a handful of people.

    It doesn’t matter whether UD and TSZ each ends up being a lone individual crying in the wilderness. They could even revert to nothing more than an occasional rare post, from a single author, with comments closed, and no debate.

    The question is whether the issues raised and the points made are valid and thought-provoking and worth someone stumbling across in their search for information about these important topics.

  7. 7

    Rvb8 and EricMh make valid points, but for me, this site has been (and still is) a treasure.

    The UD community, including its skeptics/debunkers, has enriched my life and expanded my thinking in ways that I never imagined before stumbling upon the site a year ago.

    Long live UD!

  8. 8
    kurx78 says:

    Same for me, I hope the site receives a redesign and new features someday.

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    Back in Dec. 2005 UD founder William Dembski announced:

    I’ve decided to put Uncommon Descent into mothballs indefinitely. Although I’ve enjoyed blogging, I find it distracts from more pressing work that I need to get done…

    Farewell. I enjoyed getting to know some of the regular commenters to this blog (especially DaveScot and Bombadill). Stay in touch.

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/mothballing-uncommon-descent/

    What happened? UD is still here?

    It appears, to paraphrase Mark Twain, “The rumors of UD’s death are greatly exaggerated.”

    But I suppose if you keep announcing the death of something over and over and over… again and again and again… you are someday by pure luck you are going to get it right. Frankly, people with an obsession like that need to do something else, like get a life.

  10. 10
    Eric Anderson says:

    Bob O’H:

    C’mon, you didn’t get any death threats on that other thread. He was using a hypothetical to make a philosophical point, if perhaps poorly made.

    You can joke about it here, and you just gave me a little chuckle too. But please don’t go elsewhere claiming you got death threats at UD. That would be unwarranted smearing and poor taste.

  11. 11
    Bob O'H says:

    Eric – If he was just trying to make a philosophical point, I’m sure he would have said that when I queried his comment. But his response was “No. … But you never know, I could change my mind.”, which is, well, a straight up threat.

  12. 12
    EricMH says:

    I’m not denigrating UD. I greatly value the reporting here, one of the few places you’ll get an alternative to the internet groupthink. I prefer its reporting to ENV.

    Just a stickler for getting at the truth quantitatively, but as News points out my Alexa ranking analysis is faulty due to the new server. I’m willing to accept that, as the drop is clearly anomalous. If we extrapolate from the non-anomolous data, UD viewership should be either steady or climbing.

  13. 13
    EricMH says:

    @BobOH, you sound like the internet commentators that drove me from becoming an atheist to consider ID in the first place. Intentionally tone deaf so you can rant about a trivial point instead of addressing the substance of the argumentation.

    Initially vectored towards atheism after dissatisfaction with standard apologetics, I looked into ID, and found such a huge amount of substance avoidance on the part of its critics that I couldn’t help but believe ID must have a lot of substance indeed.

    Your ranting may sound good in the echo chamber of your mind, but to readers like myself you are persuasive for the other side.

    Of course, there are people on the ID side who rant and rave, and that discredits to some degree. But their frustration is easier for me to understand given the poor argumentation they encounter.

  14. 14
    Eric Anderson says:

    Incidentally, the book Denyse points to, Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics, looks to be an excellent addition to the library of anyone who is sincerely interested in the concept of information. I have looked through the table of contents and chapter summaries and am looking forward to reading it in full.

    Much of the information presented will be familiar to close followers of intelligent design, but it will be valuable to have it all pulled together thoughtfully into one volume and to have the additional insights of the authors on most recent developments.

    —–

    I think Denyse was just helpfully pointing to this new book due to Shallit’s prior antics against Dembski and Marks, but, ironically, my exchange with Shallit (and referenced by English) was precisely about the concept of information, which he completely bungled.

    Now that I think about it, maybe we should take up a collection and send a copy to English and Shallit so that they have some understanding of what the issues are.

  15. 15
    Eric Anderson says:

    EricMH @12-13:

    Thank you for your kind comments. Always refreshing to hear.

    This is precisely part of the reason I think UD can still be of value — not to convince the ardent materialists who have thrown up so many mental roadblocks they can’t be rationally engaged. Rather, to help the sincere seeker.

  16. 16

    #10, #11

    It looks like Bob was given too much credit again.

  17. 17

    I looked into ID, and found such a huge amount of substance avoidance on the part of its critics that I couldn’t help but believe ID must have a lot of substance

    Exactly. That’s precisely what I found as well. And it has never changed.

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