Darwinian Debating Device #4: “Desperate Distractions”
|October 10, 2014||Posted by Barry Arrington under Darwinian Debating Devices|
Darwinists frequently employ the debating device that I call “Desperate Distractions.” This occurs when the Darwinist has lost the debate beyond any hope, and instead of admitting they have lost, the Darwinist continues to throw mud at the wall to see if anything will stick. Apparently, their determination never to cede a micro-millimeter impels them to continue to post even the most outrageous foolishness rather than be seen as ceding the field. I suppose they believe that as long as they continue to respond nobody will notice they have lost.
Our example of this debating device is drawn from a comment posted by a Darwinist defending Jeffrey Shallit, who ran a string of gibberish through a compression program and then ran the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy through the program and concluded that “String #2′s compressed version [i.e., the compressed version of the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy] is bigger and therefore more random than string #1 [i.e., gibberish achieved by haphazardly banging at a keyboard].”
Barry Arrington responded:
Sure, the compressed version of Hamlet is bigger than the compressed version of gibberish. And if one insists on defining relative randomness in terms of relative compressibility Hamlet is “more random.” Here’s the problem with that approach. It is glaringly obvious that Hamlet is not in any degree “random” whatsoever as that word is used by English speakers. Therefore, by its very nature it is not subject to a relative randomness analysis except to the extent one observes that it is totally non-random and any string that is even partially random is therefore more random. So what did Shallit accomplish when he insisted that under his esoteric definition of “random” Hamlet is “more random” than gibberish? He made a trivial mathematical point, and in the process made himself look foolish.
There followed a back and forth in the combox, but at the end of the day no one was able successfully to defend Shallit’s calling Hamlet more random than gibberish. That did not stop DiEb from continuing the debate long after the debate was lost, and he posted this gem:
J. Shallit said:
String #2′s compressed version is bigger and therefore more random than string #1: exactly the opposite of what Arrington implied!
That’s quite different from
“[Hamlet’s] compressed version is bigger and therefore more random than [gibberish].”
1. String #1 is not “Hamlet”, just an excerpt of ca. 500 bytes.
2. It’s not about gibberish in general, but about your special version of “gibberish”, represented by string #2.
First, let us fisk DiEb’s comment [DiEb gets the strings confused; I will correct this with brackets]:
1. String # is not “Hamlet”, just an excerpt of ca. 500 bytes.
And the point of this observation is what exactly? Sure, Barry used “Hamlet” for a shorthand reference to the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy. So what? DiEb has drawn a distinction that makes no difference.
In other words, in order for DiEb’s comment to have any force it would have to make a difference that String # 2 is merely the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy instead of the entire play. He is essentially saying “Oh sure, the entire play of Hamlet may not be “more random’ than a string of gibberish, but the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy surely are.” And that statement is just plain foolish.
2. It’s not about gibberish in general, but about your special version of “gibberish”, represented by string #.
DiEB again draws a distinction that makes no difference. He is essentially saying “Oh sure, the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy might not be “more random” than gibberish in general, but it is certainly more random than the special version of gibberish in string 1.” No, the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy is not random at all. It follows that it is never “more random” than any gibberish, whether gibberish in general or the specific example of gibberish in string 1, and to suggest otherwise is, again, just plain foolish.
So what is going on here? DiEb has made a fool of himself. He obviously thought that making a fool of himself served some purpose. What purpose might that be? The purpose is to continue debating long after the debate is lost. It makes no difference that the actual words border on the idiotic. The point is to keep going in a desperate attempt to distract attention away from the fact that the debate has been lost, thus, “desperate distractions.”