How NOT to Convince People that ID is Meaningful

UPDATE: Well, that thread is up to 400+ posts now.  And the original poster has decided that’s enough.  She made 4 salient points, which I will quote here.

1) There is no agreed definition of CSI. I have asked from the original post onward for a rigorous mathematical definition of CSI and have yet to see one. Worse, the comments here show that a number of ID proponents have definitions that are not consistent with each other or with Dembski’s published work.

2) There is no agreement on the usefulness of CSI. This may be related to the lack of an agreed definition, but several variants, that are incompatible with Dembski’s description, and alternative metrics have been proposed in this thread alone.

3) There are no calculations of CSI that provide enough detail to allow it be objectively calculated for other systems. The only example of a calculation for a biological system is Dembski’s estimate for a bacterial flagellum, but no one has managed to apply the same technique to other systems.

4) There is no proof that CSI is a reliable indicator of intelligent agency. This is not surprising, given the lack of a rigorous mathematical definition and examples of how to calculate it, but it does mean that the claims of many ID proponents are unfounded.

Even after all of the effort expended by numerous participants, no one has directly addressed the five straightforward questions I asked, no one has provided a rigorous mathematical definition of CSI, and no one has provided detailed examples of how to objectively calculate it.

Perhaps I should post this to our local Texas ID bill proponent…


I wasn’t going to post about this… but it’s just too damn funny.

Someone at a website called uncommon descent made a guest post that suggested that someone in the ID camp explain to her about how to calculate CSI (Complex Specified Information).  300 comments later and not a single regular at UD has even attempted to show the calculations.

In fact the regulars are spending time arguing about

  1. The motives of the original poster
  2. What the units are
  3. What things actually exhibit CSI
  4. Whether the original poster can understand the math

That last is truly funny as the original poster has a master’s and a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Duke University.

Then, the reason I’m making this post, someone named “Tulse” posted what has got to be the penultimate (yes, I know what that means) smackdown on these guys.  For your reading pleasure”




11:56 pm

I’m a visitor here, so perhaps I’m not familiar with the conventions of this blog. But if this were a physics blog and an Aristotelian asked how to calculate the position of an object from its motion, I wouldn’t expect the respondents to spend time arguing about the motives of the poster, or whether objects remain in motion or naturally come to rest — I’d expect someone to simply post:

y = x + vt + 1/2at^2

y = final position
x = initial position
v = initial velocity
a = acceleration
t = time

If an alchemist asked on a chemistry blog how one might calculate the pressure of a gas, one wouldn’t argue about the nobility of gold or the Philosopher’s Stone — one would simply post:


p = absolute pressure of the gas
N = number of gas molecules
k = Boltzmann’s constant
T = temperature of the gas
V = volume of the gas

And if a young-earth creationist asked on a biology blog how one can determine the relative frequencies of the alleles of a gene in a population, one wouldn’t argue about the literal interpretation of Genesis — one would simply post:

p² + 2pq + q² = 1

p = population frequency of allele 1
q = population frequency of allele 2

These are examples of clear, detailed ways to calculate values, the kind of equations that practicing scientists uses all the time in quotidian research. Providing these equations allows one to make explicit quantitative calculations of the values, to test these values against the real world, and even to examine the variables and assumptions that underlie the equations.

Is there any reason the same sort of clarity cannot be provided for CSI?

There is a reason.  No one can.  It can’t be done, even in theory because there is no formal definition for ‘C’, ‘S’, or ‘I’… much less how they interact.

If anyone wants to see the truth of Intelligent Design… it’s all right there.

The Intelligent Design movement seems to be exploding just as much as the Republican Party.  Even a week ago, if anyone had told me a post like this would appear at UD, I’d call them a liar to their face.

I was banned there after one post in which I said that one of their proponents was wrong and provided link and quote to show why.  One post of dissent and pifff, no message, just ‘comment held for moderation’ and it never appeared.

I truly can’t imagine how this happened, but it has got to be the funniest thing ever to happen to the ID crowd.

This entry was posted in Creationism / ID, Education, Kookiness, Skepticism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to How NOT to Convince People that ID is Meaningful

  1. Venture Free says:

    The response from the ID crowd amounts to little more than The Courtier’s Reply (Google it if you don’t recognize the term). As you point out, it’s especially funny in this case, not only because of the education level of the person asking (many IDists have similar education levels), but because of the actual relevance of her education (most IDists that have similar education levels have them in completely unrelated subjects).

  2. ogremkv says:

    I called it the “Artist’s reply to the critic” before I read about the Courtier’s Reply.

    Basically, the artist claims that the art critic can’t judge his work because he doesn’t know anything about art. If he knew about art, then the critic would be an artist instead.

    My wife is a professional artist and was a gallery manager for about 6 years. Many a time, I’ve been on the recieving end of a steaming pile of bull cookies from an artist with lots of imagination and self importance and little actual skill.

    I find it funny that many ID proponents I’ve dealt with dismiss my comments because I do not have a Ph.D., yet they will accept the comments from a Ph.D. in an unrelated field, while ignoring the thousands of Ph.D.s in the field that have different opinions than there own.

  3. That is indeed “too damn funny”. I am tempted to chime in on the side of light and reason, but I really ought to get some work done.

  4. Pingback: This Week in Intelligent Design – 29/03/11 « Homologous Legs

  5. Tomato Addict says:

    I have since posted two brief comments, just to see if I can provoke a rational response (other than MathGrrl).

  6. ogremkv says:

    It’s so cute when you act all naive.

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