Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yet Another Creationist Misunderstands Information Theory

It's always funny to see a creationist try to use information theory, because they almost always get it wrong. Here we have Joseph Esfandiar Hannon Bozorgmehr, who posts under the name "Atheistoclast", demonstrating his ignorance:

"Matzke misunderstands what is meant by "new information".

He apparently thinks that new genes, produced by duplication, represent novel information. But if you copy one gene 1000 times over, the information content remains the same even though you have created many more genes.

Poor Bozorgmehr needs to sit in on my course CS 462 at the University of Waterloo, where we will shortly discuss this very issue. Then he can prove the following theorem:

Theorem: If K denotes Kolmogorov information, then K(xn) - K(x) is unbounded as n tends to infinity.

This would be regarded as a relatively simple exercise in my course.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Yet Another Black Eye for the Pascal Lecture Series

The Pascal lecture series at my university, the University of Waterloo, has a history of inviting really terrible speakers. (Why a public university should be sponsoring an explicitly evangelical lecture series is a good and legitimate question, but not one I'll address today.)

You can read about last year's embarrassing choice, Mary Poplin, here, here, and here.

I didn't think it was possible, but this year's choice seems even worse than last year's. It is Charles E. Rice, an emeritus professor of law at Notre Dame. Rice is a big believer in "natural law", which (big surprise) just so happens to coincide with the Catholic Church's stance on everything from contraception to abortion to gay marriage. Here you can read Professor Rice's enlightened views about homosexuality.

You can watch 10 minutes of Rice in action here on Youtube. How many distortions and misrepresentations can you find? It'd be great to see the rest of this lecture, but I haven't been able to find it anywhere. Maybe some reader can help out.

Rice, by the way, is a director of the Thomas More Law Center, the legal organization that lost the Kitzmiller v. Dover intelligent design case. Here you can read Professor Rice's deep and penetrating analysis of the issues involved in that case.

While not an outright birther, he seems to have some sympathy with the birther movement, as evidenced by this column. Money quote: "The American people do not know whether the current President achieved election by misrepresenting, innocently or by fraud, his eligibility for that office."

I've been reading Rice's book, 50 Questions on the Natural Law. Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Functional Equation

You might know the gamma function, which is one way to extend the factorial function to the complex plane. It obeys the functional equation

Γ(1) = 1

Γ(z + 1) = z Γ(z).

In fact, if we demand that it be logarithmically convex and obey the rules above, then the ordinary gamma function is in fact the only way to extend the factorial function to the positive reals. (Here Γ(n) = (n-1)!.)

Now the successor function zz + 1 is on the lowest level of the Grzegorczyk hierarchy. The next higher level includes the function z → 2z. So, in analogy with gamma function, suppose we demand that

f(1) = 1

f(2z) = z f(z).

Then what's a "reasonable" function that satisfies this functional equation? My answer in the comments tomorrow, unless someone comes up with the same answer I did.

More Evidence that ID Isn't Science

Are you a young religious fundamentalist who feels threatened by the theory of evolution? Then this summer program run by the Dishonesty Institute may be right for you!

Of course, you'll need to prove that you are devoted to the Truth. That's why you'll need a "recommendation from a professor who knows your work and is friendly toward ID, or a phone interview with the seminar director."

Copy here, for when it disappears down the DI memory hole:

Yes, that's exactly how real science works. I remember well when I wanted to study theoretical computer science at Berkeley: one of the requirements was that I get a recommendation from someone who knew my work and was friendly toward computational complexity.


I mean, could it be any plainer that ID is a religious and political movement? It's just like when politicians set up "free speech zones" to keep out protesters, or when creationist organizations demand statements of faith.

No real scientific organization demands a "statement of faith" or that applicants to educational programs be "friendly" to the prevailing view. That kind of stuff is reserved for areas where questioning the evidence is not tolerated -- like intelligent design.