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There are 2 guys named Tom English in the ID debate

Since many IDEA members read this weblog and this could be a point of confusion for other readers, I wanted to clarify something. Thomas D. English is a part of the IDEA Center Advisory Board. Thomas M. English is the Tom English that frequents Uncommon Descent.

Thomas D. English has introduced ID into some of his college courses. He was featured in a Fox News report described here.
Thomas D. English

Dr. English is the President of the TESSI Endangered Species Institute, and teaches at Palomar College. He is an Advisory Board Member of the IDEA Center, the Restoring Creation Enabler for the Presbyterian Church’s Synod of Southern California and Hawaii, and the Chair of the Peacemaking & Social Concerns Ministry of the Presbytery of San Diego. He frequently lectures to university, civic, industrial and church groups. His current lectures include “ Navigating the Future,” “Endangered Species, Food Supply, and War,” and “The Bible and the Environment.” He produced a 50-minute video for television entitled “Past, Present & Future of Endangered Species.” He is Coordinator of the Science & Religion Group, and the Chairman of the Environmental Task Force of the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church. He and his task force have won the following awards:

Congregational Award from Presbyterians for Restoring Creation;
Energy Star Congregation Award from the US EPA;
EARTH Award 2000, from San Diego EARTH Works.
Daniel W. Martin Award for Engineering as a Christian Vocation, from the Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology, and the Christian Faith.

He co-led the campaign to have the Presbyterian Church adopt a policy “On Preserving Biodiversity and Halting Mass Extinction.” The California Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has subsequently adopted a similar resolution. He has directed major environmental programs for IBM, GE, JPL, EPA, and the Silicon Valley Manufacturing Group. At the Manufacturing Group, he led an effort to voluntarily reduce toxic environmental releases by 86%. “This reduction led the entire world,” according to William Reilly, former Administrator of the U.S. EPA. His legislative accomplishments include improving the California Clean Air Act, which resulted in savings of several billion dollars.

Dr. English advised President Carter’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Government of Sweden on high-level nuclear waste disposal. At the U.S. EPA, he directed an epidemiological study of 40,000 people to determine the human health effects of air pollutants. He received a Presidential Award for leading the recovery program to fix the F-111 fighter/bomber after the wings fell off the aircraft.

His academic background includes a postdoctoral MS in environmental engineering, a Ph.D. and a MS in electrical engineering, and a BS in physics. He taught environmental courses at Santa Clara University, San Jose State University, the University of North Carolina, West Coast University, and UC Santa Cruz. Dr. English presented a three-day environmental management seminar in Moscow. He was an Assistant Professor in electrical engineering at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Dr. English likes to walk the beach, and is a fledgling sea kayaker. He and his wife Jan live in Carlsbad, California and have four grown children and seven grandchildren.

Thomas M. English is Tom English the computer scientist whom we see here at Uncommon Descent who poses many objections to ID. He is not the same Tom English as the Tom English of IDEA.

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12 Responses to There are 2 guys named Tom English in the ID debate

  1. My vita is available, as it has been, at my web site. I am not going to counter with a biosketch — I hate the things. But I will hint at why my work is more relevant to ID than is that of a creationist interested in biodiversity.

    In 1996, six years prior to the release of Bill Dembski’s No Free Lunch, I argued that “no free lunch” in search is a consequence of conservation of (Shannon) information. This should have a familiar ring for many of you here. I also established that, contrary to intuition, optimization is easy under the assumptions of the “no free lunch” theorems. It took some time for IDists to catch on to that — there are still some who have not. (By the way, this was the first theoretical paper I ever wrote, and it is far from my best work on “no free lunch.”)

    I gave well-publicized tutorials at major conferences when Bill was completing NFL:

    • “Introduction to ‘No Free Lunch’ in Optimization and Learning,” 2001 Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC2001), Seoul, 2001
    • “No Free Lunch: A Gentle Introduction to Conservation in Optimization andLearning,” Sixth International Conference on Parallel Problem Solving from Nature (PPSN VI), Paris, 2000

    In 2000, I showed that almost all fitness functions are algorithmically random. This is definitely something that IDists need to comprehend, but that most have not. Bill seems to deal with it now by stipulating fitness functions “of interest” in his work. Presumably a function is of interest only if it is compressible.

    I hope IDists will understand that what drew me into the debate over ID was an overlap in Bill Dembski’s interests and my own. I am more comfortable with the topics of search, information, and complexity than are most IDists. In fact, I have spent considerable time studying Bill Dembski’s arguments, and I would be highly surprised if Thomas D. English can relate them more accurately than I can.

  2. Tom,

    Thank you for your response. I’d like to point out my post wasn’t a slant against you, but many IDEA members or IDists may be reading these weblogs and may not be cognizant of what is going on. I recently received an e-mail with “Tom English” as one of the recipients. Then I realized it was the other Tom English.

    I would not want people in ID and IDEA circles reading your writings and concluding our Tom English suddendly jumped ship and became sympathetic to neo-Darwinism and was critical of ID literature!

  3. Scordova: “our Tom English suddendly jumped ship and became sympathetic to neo-Darwinism and was critical of ID literature!”

    I do appreciate clarifying this issue, I wonder about claiming one of the Tom Englishes as “ours”. However, that said, I have appreciated many of Tom M. Englishes posts, though he is not ID, he does take the topic seriously, offering valid challenges to the ID arguments. We need more like him, and fewer who try to diminish ID simply as religious fanaticism.

  4. bFast,
    If you are not affiliated with IDEA as are Tom D. English and Sal then “our” may not mean the same to you as it does to Sal and the IDEA members he is concerned about .

  5. I don’t think the homology of their names is purely coincidental.

  6. Douglas: “I don’t think the homology of their names is purely coincidental.”
    I, actually, expect that they have a common ancestor with the surname of English. I therefore claim that their two views on evolution/ID are both adaptive, and can be fully accounted for by NDE.

  7. bfast,

    Absolutely brilliant. It’s always a joy to find another mind that works like and is so compatible with mine.

  8. Douglas,

    I don’t think the homology of their names is purely coincidental.

    Common ancestry is a viable hypothesis, though I wouldn’t call it a theory just yet.

    Thomas D. professes outright his belief in creation, and so do I. Chances are good that creation means something different for him than for me, and that he believes for different reasons than I. But I have always respected people who are passionate and open in their beliefs. “If thou art lukewarm, I shall spew thee out of my mouth.” “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.”

    Back to my ancestry. Almost everyone in my family is Southern Baptist. I have been in debates over evolution with my father (at one time a deacon of his church), my brother (who goes on extended missions to serve the poor), and my nephew (youth minister in a large church). A passerby might think we were on the verge of a fistfight, but the situation is of course never really that dire.

    Many at UD feel like kin to me. My first two degrees came from a Southern Baptist institution. When I began my undergraduate work, I planned on going to seminary. I did not change my plans because science undermined my faith. Indeed, as I have posted here before, an introduction to the philosophy of science made it clear to me that science could pose no threat to faith. It was my study of the Bible that caused me to discard one aspect after another of the dogma I had been raised with. Unfortunately, there had been little but dogma in my Christian education.

    Perhaps readers will understand why I am strongly opposed to protecting the “weak in faith” from ideas that might challenge their beliefs. The fruit of the fairytale dogma I assimilated as a child was a spiritual house of cards. When the structure collapsed, I was extremely angry with the adults who misled me. It took me seven years to find for myself a mature belief that my church should have inculcated in me. To this day, I fault the adults who taught me as a child for not playing it straight with me.

    I would suggest to everyone that the most important thing to teach your children is that they are in this world, but not of it. Clearly there are many Americans who believe that their little corner of the world is or should be Christian. But “Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” In all sincerity, I do not see what has changed since Jesus’ time to vindicate the efforts of the cultural warriors of the ID movement.

  9. P.S.–Forgive my mixed metaphor.

  10. Tom, or Mr. English:

    “But ‘Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.”’ In all sincerity, I do not see what has changed since Jesus’ time to vindicate the efforts of the cultural warriors of the ID movement.”

    Did you not also read what Jesus said about “Go[ing] into all the world and preach[ing] the Gospel to every creature”? Do you not recognize the fact that the quote of Jesus you provided only deals with PHYSICAL confrontations, not “cultural” or “ideological” or “truth/error” confrontations?

    By the way, I would be interested in hearing what aspects of the Bible and Gospel caused you to reject them. If you like, you can email me your response at [email protected] (please include your name in the subject heading, so that I don’t accidentally toss it in the trash bin).

  11. Tom,

    Or never mind about my email address – I found yours, if you don’t mind keeping an eye out for an email from me. Either way is fine, if you were interested in continuing this topic of conversation via email.

  12. I’ve noticed something lately. It seems I have the ability to kill a thread quite quickly. I have yet to come to terms with this awesome power, but I assure everyone I will heed the wisdom found in the Spiderman movies: “With great power comes great responsibility”.

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