Sunday, February 27, 2011

A severe lack of imagination and research skills

Wild Bill Dembski, who seems to think anything he utters are instantly gospel and no one in the known universe would think about disagreeing with him. So over on his website -- which I can't call a blog because he refuses to allow comments -- he's getting pretty lame. I mean he doesn't seem to have any imagination and he certainly doesn't exhibit the research skills expected of high school student, let alone a supposed educator.

So what is he up to this time? His target is ants: "Ants Solve Steiner Problem". Here is a large quote:

" . . .Colonies of ants, when they make tracks from one colony to another minimize path-length . . . In ID terms, there’s no problem — ants were designed with various capacities, and this either happens to be one of them or is one acquired through other programmed/designed capacities. On Darwinian evolutionary grounds, however, one would have to say something like the following: ants are the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process that programmed the ants with, presumably, a genetic algorithm that enables them, when put in separate colonies, to trace out paths . . . In other words, evolution, by some weird self-similarity, embedded an evolutionary program into the neurophysiology of the ants that enables them to solve the Steiner problem (which, presumably, gives these ants a selective advantage)." (italics added)
Now as I read this, all I could say is "BS". First off all his comment trying to explain this activity through ID is a joke. ID offers no explanatory power because no one has managed to produce anything remotely supporting ID. He makes stab at an explanation, but then, typically, offers nothing in the way of support. He compounds his error by building a straw-man of a supposed evolutionary explanation. First question to Wild Bill is why does he use the phrase "one would have to say something like". I don't know what you think when you read something like that, but my thought was "Why would evolution have to say something like that?" The only answer that strikes me is that one would have to say that because Dembski says so.

So Wild Bill, a philosopher and supposed mathematician, is claiming that evolutionary biologists would agree with his straw-man. See what I mean about a lack of imagination? It took less than 30 seconds to realize how utterly ridiculous is his little straw-man.

As for the complete lack of research skills. Doesn't Dembski know about Google? Enter something like 'Ant Navigation' and there are hundreds of returned links. The evolutionary explanations involve a number of areas -- ALL WITH SUPPORTING EVIDENCE. Many ants use pheromones and the evolutionary explanations say quite a bit more than Dembski's little unsupported straw-man. In fact if you follow just one of the links you can even get an incredible example of natural selection concerning pheromones, pheromones fading over time, dessication and even death is dry climates.

In my 30 seconds of research I also came across the Myrmecos Blog who also took Dembski to task for his lack of research.
"As ants zing back and forth down trails, pheromone levels build up. Long trails take more time to travel, so long-trail ants makes fewer overall circuits, more pheromone dissipates between passes, and the trails end up poorly marked. Short trails enable ants to make more trips, less time elapses between passes, so these trails end up marked more strongly. The shortest trail emerges."
The comments there are also an interesting read. Apparently Jerry Coyne commented with
"I think you’re bending over too far backwards when you say, “In Dembski’s defense, his error is a common one.” If a guy makes a claim about biology on an Intelligent Design website, asserting that a trait couldn’t have evolved by natural selection, then it behooves him to do a bit of analysis and study before making his pronouncement. "
I can only agree. If Wild Bill is going to say things like this, he should do a tiny bit of research first. But as we have seen, he makes pronouncements -- research isn't one of Bill's strong suits.

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