Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Self-Published Creationist Book?

Oh, lookie!

Our local creationists at the University of Guelph, Kirk Durston and David Chiu, have teamed up with wacky David Abel and Donald Johnson on a book!

(Kirk Durston is the creationist who thinks that his god magically calms angry bulls, and David Chiu is the guy who stuck in an irrelevant citation to Dembski's work in a paper having nothing to do with Dembski, and told me he did it as a "courtesy".)

Judging from this excerpt, it's not likely that real scientists will take it seriously, with laughably bogus claims such as
- "Fifteen years ago, it started to be realized that `junk DNA' was a misnomer."
- "All known errors during replication result in a decrease of both Shannon and functional information"

I wondered who would publish this drivel. It's a place called "Longview Press". Never heard of it? I hadn't either. But this page suggests that it's just David Abel's private little enterprise. Wow, what a surprise.

It's in keeping with the intelligent design vanity journal, Bio-Complexity, which seems to have a hard time finding papers to publish (7 in 2 years). But hey! It has no problem publishing papers by people who are on the editorial team. And look: David Abel is there, too.

And they wonder why we call it pseudoscience.

Addendum 1: even the University of Guelph library, where Durston and Chiu are based, doesn't have the book in its collection.

Addendum 2: Thanks to Bayesian Bouffant for pointing out the self-congratulatory description of the book on Amazon. I especially love this part: "Change in the FSC of proteins as they evolve can be measured in “Fits”— Functional bits. The ability to quantify changes in biofunctionality during evolutionary transition represents one of the most important advances in biological research in recent decades. See especially, Durston, K.K.; Chiu, D.K.; Abel, D.L.; Trevors, J.T. 2007, Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins, Theor Biol Med Model, 4, 47".

Well, if it's "one of the most important advances in biological research in recent decades", then it's amazing how few citations there are to this groundbreaking paper. ISI Web of Science lists exactly 4 citations, 3 of which are self-citations by Abel and Trevors. Wow, that is sure important and groundbreaking.


Bayesian Bouffant, FCD said...

But it's peer-reviewed. It says so right in the book description. And every Amazon customer review is 5 stars.

From the review by Darbesio Eugenio:
"In practice, why, for example, a biological cell doesn't think simply: "I need some amino acids to make a protein, I take them directly from my materials repository"?

I hate to go out on a limb, but might it be because cells don't think?

Takamas said...

> "ISI Web of Science lists exactly 4 citations, 3 of which are self-citations by Abel and Trevors"

Now I'm curious about that fourth one.

Rumraket said...

I sometimes read David Abel's papers as entertainment fiction.

They contain the most hilariously silly and convoluted semantic fabrications you can think of, to make what is essentially theological creationist assertions sound sciency.

Check out this gemstone: "Functional Sequence Complexity (FSC)
A linear, digital, cybernetic string of symbols representing syntactic, semantic and pragmatic prescription; each successive sign in the string is a representation of a decision-node configurable switch-setting – a specific selection for function."

Rarely do you find bullshit so tortously byzantine as this, which I guess is by intention. When you point out it's incomprehensible, the Dr. Dr. Dr. IDcreotardiot will declare you too uneducated to understand it, and his acolytes (who don't understand it either) will swallow it hook line and sinker(He has so many PhD's, after all) because it sounds so sciency.

Verne said...

"Kirk Durston is the creationist who thinks that his god magically calms angry bulls"

But in your May 21, 2009 post, you wrote: "Then again, you also believe that some sky fairy gave you magical powers to calm angry bulls."

So which is it? Or was Kirk saying that he believes that God sometimes answers prayers? Even if you reject that, NTTAWWT, believing that God answers prayers sounds so much more normal than believing that God answered an anomalous prayer about calming a bull. Of course, you wouldn't dare portray Kirk as normal, which is why you honed in on the "calming angry bulls" angle.

Jeffrey Shallit said...

Congrats, Verne! You win the Single Dumbest Objection Contest for November.

Roberto Aguirre Maturana said...

[This is pretty much the same comment I have made in other blogs regarding this subject, sorry if you are growing tired of this]

I think that in it's core, all of the ID arguments can be distilled in the claim that "prescriptive information/specified complexity cannot arise by an undirected process", and ID proponents seem to believe that this is an axiom that even transcend the material world.

Therefore, one single, non-trivial and unambiguous counter-example for that claim, and any attempt from ID proponents to self-proclaim ID as the "best explanation" becomes meaningless.

I've been trying to tackle that subject, and that's why I made the following application:


The purpose of this application is to test the claim that "prescriptive information" cannot arise from undirected natural laws.

For this purpose, I provide an environment for simple molecules called "molboxes", which interact each-other according to some physical laws that can be either user-defined or random. The still unfulfilled main goal of the simulation is to achieve a set of "natural laws" that result in the formation of some non-trivial structure with the ability to transcribe it's own replication.

Hopefully, if this application is available for a large number of users, eventually someone will get the right combination of natural laws (it would be wonderful if such combination is achieved by a process of natural selection over the success of random-generated natural laws configurations).

Among my influences to develop this application is this site

Currently, MolBox is in a less-than-alpha status, yet it's already functional. It was programmed with Visual C# 2010 Express and XNA 4 graphic library. Source code and executable can be downloaded from here:

Source Code

You may also see a screenshot HERE

cody said...

Roberto, I'm under the impression that "prescriptive information/specified complexity" are weasel terms that evolved from scientifically accepted terms through the selection pressures of not suiting the ID-creationists' motives, in combination with the critical remarks of actual experts explaining that the science does not support their claims.

I suspect that no example can "disprove" them because the survival mechanism of these terms is to be too ill-defined to be satisfactorily tested (from the proponents point of view). Maybe first asking the proponents what sort of test they think could show the spontaneous emergence of "specified complexity" or "prescriptive information" could help, though I doubt this will produce anything coherent, since simply asking them to define the terms has been unsatisfactory.

Have you followed John Koza's work in genetic programming? In particular, Spontaneous Emergence of Self-Replicating and Evolutionarily Self-Improving Computer Programs seems in line with your project.

(After some digging I see I only knew of this paper because Jeffrey linked to it previously.)

(Apologies if I have misunderstood your post.)

Roberto Aguirre Maturana said...

Cody, I partially agree with you in the sense that it is very likely that ID proponents will try to move the goal posts rather than admit they were wrong. However, there is a point where even an ID proponent has to admit that the goal posts cannot be moved any further. That's why any creationist who want to be taken seriously has to admit that "microevolution" is a fact.

Thanks a lot for the publication of John Koza you suggested, is quite interesting, it's on the same line with what I'm trying to achieve. However, I still think an ID proponent will have room to retort that the basic logical functions were prescribed by a designer and they will not be happy until they see a self-replicating program emerging from a string of random characters. That's the kind of emerging complexity I'm trying to achieve with my model, were the only "prescriptions" are the equivalent of elastic/plastic collisions and chemical reactions, something that even the most stubborn IDist will admit as natural phenomena.

Anonymous said...

David Abel now running his own press? I'm shocked! After all, the "institute" he runs is in his house....

cody said...

Roberto, check out this video too, video on Dr. Jack Szostak's research into abiogenesis. It might not be exactly how life on Earth originated, but it seems to me a plausible and believable story. So effective that, to my surprise, I now consider the question of abiogenesis to be rather uninteresting—the grand mystery is gone (always been a physicist at heart).

(As a child I recall thinking it would never be satisfactorily resolved, a prediction I also mistakenly applied to the dinosaurs. Also I should note that, to those people more interested in these topics, many huge mysteries remain.)

Gromit said...

Cody, 'plausible and believable' stories should not be confused with doing science. We don't need to rely on creative stories anymore to explain the origin of life. Evolutionary biologist, Eugene Koonin has, I think, a much better, certain way for life to originate. He does concede that the origin of self replication is so improbable it is not likely to ever occur anywhere in our universe. However, his theory is that there are an infinite number of universes. So even though the origin of life is virtually impossible if our universe is a one-off deal, the fact that it happened in our universe, right here on earth, is perfectly explainable if there are an infinite number of universes.

For further reading see Eugene Koonin, The Logic of Chance: The nature and origin of biological evolution, Pearson Education, 2011 ... or his earlier paper,‘The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life’, Biology Direct, 6/27/2007

Jeffrey Shallit said...

I think it would be fair to say that Koonin's model is not seriously considered by those actively working in abiogenesis.

Anonymous said...

Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”
(John 18:23 ESV)

Jeffrey Shallit said...

"Never trust a man who reads only one book."