Home » Intelligent Design » My Final Post at UD

My Final Post at UD

Last evening I posted the following, and within a short period of time the Darwinbots descended upon it, challenging my expertise in two highly sophisticated areas of computational science, AI and FEA, fields in which I have the goods to demonstrate that I know what I am talking about. One commenter even asserted that the physics involved in an LS-DYNA simulation cannot be represented with mathematical precision. Yes they can. And it works.

At this point I decided that I have nothing further to offer. If some people cannot recognize that the information-processing systems encoded in biological systems defy naturalistic explanation and suggest a design inference, I cannot help them, and they are free to continue to pursue a phantom.

Farewell, and best wishes to all.

Gil

A number of years ago I developed an interest in AI (artificial intelligence) games-playing programming, and pursued a research project in that arena with so much success that I eventually lost interest, because there were no remaining human opponents to challenge. You can read about the project at my website. Real-world experience demonstrated the success of the project.

I now earn my living as a software engineer in aerospace R&D with a specialty in computer simulations, and as a result have pursued another interest: transient, dynamic, nonlinear, finite-element analysis (FEA) using a simulation program called LS-DYNA, originally developed in the 1970s at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to simulate underground nuclear tests.

My company sent me away to LS-DYNA school after I volunteered, but I was warned that it would be really, really difficult, and that I had better bone up on the relevant math and engineering concepts. I took this advice to heart, and spent at least 200 hours preparing for the five-day course. Even with vast experience in software engineering and this preparation, it took everything I had to keep up with the instruction. The LS-DYNA course was a huge eye-opener concerning computer simulations and reality.

On the first day of the course our instructor, Dr. John D. Reid, who was absolutely fantastic, commented that it is really easy to make “cartoons” with LS-DYNA. (Dyna not only produces vast quantities of data, but generates AVI animations of the simulation.) By that he meant that without a thorough understanding, it is easy to make a Dyna simulation produce whatever results you like, that might look cool, but have no correlation with reality.

LS-DYNA has been under development for more than 30 years by the most brilliant scientists in the field, and its simulations have been compared repeatedly against real-world results. Material physical properties are well known, tested, and quantified (Young’s modulus, Poisson’s ratio, mass density, area moment of inertia, etc.), and the physics involved can be simulated and represented with absolute mathematical precision.

Yet with all of this, the results of a simulation must be scrutinized and evaluated against reality, because a single erroneous assumption or programming error can render the simulation completely invalid.

Which brings me to the point of this essay: The notion that any computer simulation of biological evolution has anything to do with reality is a complete fantasy. And the notion that any computer simulation of the earth’s climate into the distant future can be relied upon is an equivalent fantasy.

These computer simulations are cartoons.

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77 Responses to My Final Post at UD

  1. Gil,

    There were some pretty ignorant remarks on that thread. While, I think the more relaxed mod policy is a good thing that doesn’t mean there can’t be too much of it.

    It’s funny how when they can’t dispute the science they make it personal.

    It’s becoming more of a spiritual battle than a science one. I guess that means we won the science :-)

    Hang in there. Illegitimis non Carborundum (yeah, I know it’s bad Latin).

  2. Mr Dodgen,

    I hope you will reconsider at some point in the future. I am very sad to see a tilt of UD away from discussions of science and important methods of investigation such as simulation, towards amorphous arguments about religion and personal philosophy.
    I apologize if you feel I have shown any disrespect to your obvious accomplishments in game AI, or your learning in FEA.

    Best regards,
    Namkashima

  3. 3
    AmerikanInKananaskis

    Darwinist pigs.

    Just stop letting them post here already.

  4. :(

  5. 5

    Gil, that’s too bad.

    FWIW, I was looking at Jonathan Schaeffer’s book One Jump Ahead: Computer Perfection at Checkers recently (it had been acquired by my university library, and I check the new books regularly). Schaeffer says some nice things about you there.

  6. I didn’t save my comment before Gil deleted the thread, so I can’t repost it verbatim.

    However, it made two points:

    1. Of course it’s true that simulations must be carefully tested and debugged, but that’s true of all complex software. We know how to do it; we have the technology and the methodology.

    2. Even complex and messy biological systems can be modeled with stunning accuracy, as this excerpt from Carl Zimmer’s book Microcosm shows (page 42):

    Bernhard Palsson, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, has overseen the construction of a model of E. coli‘s metabolism. As of 2007, he and his colleagues had programmed a computer with information on 1,260 genes and 2,077 reactions. The computer can use this information to calculate how much carbon flows through E. coli‘s pathways, depending on the sort of food it eats. Palsson’s model does a good job of predicting how quickly E. coli will grow on a diet of glucose and how much carbon dioxide it will release. If Palsson switches off the oxygen, the model shunts carbon into an oxygen-free metabolic pathway, just as E. coli does. If Palsson leaves out a particular protein, the model metabolism rearranges itself just as the metabolism of a real mutant E. coli would. It predicts E. coli‘s behavior in thousands of conditions. The model and E. coli alike make the best of whatever situation they face, adjusting their metabolism in order to grow as fast as they can.

  7. I can’t even imagine what people could have said that would have challenged Gil’s credentials as much as he says they did. People might have disagreed about the inability to model biological systems, as mauka did, but that’s a disagreement about an idea, not an attack on Gil.

  8. Gil,

    Hate to see you leave UD, but hopefully your absence here will open up the door for you to do some more research in ID.

    I wouldn’t let personal insults get to you. They don’t know you from Adam.

    Furthermore, if the world can treat the most perfect human as garbage, how would you expect them to treat you? It is enough for a servant to be like his master. :)

    But as for us, we have work to do. Let them laugh while we build…the time for laughter is quickly running out.

    Atom

  9. Just goes to show that Darwinists are incredibly religious people. They have strong opinions of how designs should work (what is suboptimal in their mind), yet ironically they know little about engineering principles nor do they really care to apply it to biology if they did. What we find at UD is a history of the Darwinians dodging and/or ignoring threads dedicated to how biological information processing systems (molecular machines) work and how they infer design from engineering and purely logical based POV. DaveScot and GilDodgen have plenty of those if one were to look back in the archives. You’d be lucky to find over 50 comments much less over 550.

    From an engineering POV, how do the Darwinians reconcile a base 4 system as opposed to NS utilizing the much more simpler base 2 system. For some odd reason NS skipped over 2 bases and implemented the magnitudes more complex base 4. That sounds like a design decision. We all know that if we were to step up to a base 4 system from the binary base 2 we’d need to re-engineer all computer circuitry (logic gates etc…) and subsequent software from scratch, starting from point A. Could biological systems driven by NS and RV have had this same opportunity to start all over? The base 2 system works quite well, and I see no reason for a gradual,step-by-step mindless and purposeless process to jump to a base 4 system since a base 2 system works quite well (as is evident) and is much more simpler to implement. The logical conclusion here doesn’t look good for Darwinian evolution.

  10. hazel wrote:

    I can’t even imagine what people could have said that would have challenged Gil’s credentials as much as he says they did. People might have disagreed about the inability to model biological systems, as mauka did, but that’s a disagreement about an idea, not an attack on Gil.

    That’s the problem with the wholesale deletion of threads and comments. It leaves the readers of this blog with no way of judging the appropriateness of either the comments themselves or of the moderator’s response to them.

    Were the comments over the line, or is Gil overreacting? We’ll never know, unless someone has the comments archived somewhere and can post them.

  11. G’day Gil,

    I would take on Atom’s pholosophical bent, Gil. Take a step back, devote some time to this area in study, and publish. You already know what the arguments are since the same ones reoccur here everytime simulations are mentioned, and you have the background and knowledge to make a decent response. Take a working holiday!

    I’d also like to see you team up with Atom for a bit of ID music. Atom can lay down the beats and you bring it home with some classical ivory tinkling. Don’t know if it’ll work, but I’d give it a listen!

    I like your writing style, Gil, and you’ve always taken the higher ground. It’s something we could all consider in our striving to understand the same evidence.

  12. Hi Gil,

    Barry is running the show now here, but I trust that if you ever change your mind, you’ll be welcome.

    Blessings,
    Bill

  13. Gil, since I am a fan of yours, I will miss your contributions. Part of the reason is because I feel that I have so much in common with you. Like you, I was fortunate enough to rise from the ashes of agnosticism/atheism and restore some semblance of a life of the mind. Like you, I devoted a significant part of my life trying to master the piano and develop myself as a professional musician. Like you, I discovered that life is bigger than any one vocation or avocation.

    I sincerely hope that you take William Dembski’s advice and feel free to return at any time. You have given much of yourself on this blog, and I can tell you without hesitation that you have made a positive difference with your presence here. Our world is a better place because men like you are willing to enter into a pubic forum and provide intellectual balm for those poor souls who have been brainwashed in the very same ideology from which you and I barely escaped. Let us be grateful for our blessing. Best wishes.

    Stephen Bussell

  14. Gil and friends of music. I am not the tech engineer you guys are, but have been given a fairly decent songwriting gift – you may like and can hear at
    mortaldreamer.me or alanpomper.me

  15. I am sorry to hear this news, but I understand what you mean. I offer you a story as a parting gift (you may have heard it):

    There was a man who was convinced that he was dead. Despite his friends pointing out that dead people don’t speak, or breathe, or think, this man was convinced he was dead. “I am dead,” he would wail.

    So they decided to do an experiment to show him his wrong belief. “It is true that living people bleed. It is true that dead people cannot bleed,” they said to him, and used all sorts of graphs and charts to illustrate this well known fact. “You are right,” he agreed. “But I do not see the relevance because I am dead”.

    Having established this, they then proceeded (with his consent) to prick his thumb and forefinger with a needle – and sure enough this man started bleeding.

    “You are bleeding,” they said to him. “Given what we’ve established in our premesis, that only the living bleed, what do you say now?”

    To which the man replied, “Wow. I guess dead people can bleed too.”

    I think it is relevant.
    Best wishes.

  16. 16

    Gil,

    As a reader of UD, and more importantly as your cousin, I’m sorry to see you leave this blog. As you know, I also work in simulation software (in the telecom world at http://www.portagecommunications.com), and it’s frustrated me to no end over the years to see the Darwinian claims about so-called “simulations” that are no more than trial-and-error programs made to reach for predetermined goals. This nonsense is then presented as being proof for undirected evolution.

    Perhaps you and I should author or edit a book on what simulation is and is not, what trial-and-error search algorithms are, and what the scope and limits of purported “genetic algorithms” are.

    Best,

    Stuart Harris

  17. Dear Gil,

    You are a great and valuable mind in the ID debate. By all means take a holiday but please reconsider returning.

  18. Gil,

    I do hope you reconsider. I have the greatest esteem for you and for your deep contributions, which go even beyond your deep knowledge in your fields, and reveal an original and creative mind and a beautiful personality. If you can, please stay with us.

  19. 19

    Gil,

    I understand your frustration.

    This is what can happen when a forum decides to become a flame pit where every unfulfilled, wannabe, mightabeen, nobody is encouraged to vent his bilious, ignorant spleen to his heart’s content.

    “The one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”
    anonymous?

    Gil Dodgen will always be welcome at my weblog.

    jadavison.wordpress.com

  20. Gil:

    Please reconsider.

    Maybe, take a break to recover from the impact of the painful exchanges that seem to unfortunately dominate this area. (And note that the attack to the man is a strong indicator of weakness on the merits.)

    Then, recovered in mind and heart, PLEASE return.

    But, if you decide that enough is enough and the point on the merits has been adequately made, I understand.

    And, the shamefully disrespectful conduct of your detractors is plain for us to all see. (The triumphs of ideological rhetoric of derogation over respectful dialogue on the merits is no commendation to those who so triumph by uncivil conduct. And, the now increasingly common reducing of public discourse to shouting-down and slander does not bode well for our civlisation. Already, vultures are circling and many more are rapidly flying in for the anticipated feast. We are failing the France 1930s — a house divided cannot stand — test, with many heirs of Hitler rising on the near and far horizons. But then, Mrs Tuchmann was right on the ever recurrent march of stubborn, suicidal folly; from Troy to Rehoboam to today.)

    However, we at UD should never forget your closing late cut to the boundary for six [or homer to the pointed out location in the stands; using the terms of "your" ballgame]:

    If some people cannot recognize that the information-processing systems encoded in biological systems defy naturalistic explanation and suggest a design inference, I cannot help them, and they are free to continue to pursue a phantom . . . .

    [As] Dr. John D. Reid . . . commented . . . it is really easy to make “cartoons” with LS-DYNA. (Dyna not only produces vast quantities of data, but generates AVI animations of the simulation.) By that he meant that without a thorough understanding, it is easy to make a Dyna simulation produce whatever results you like, that might look cool, but have no correlation with reality . . . .

    The notion that any computer simulation of biological evolution has anything to do with reality is a complete fantasy. And the notion that any computer simulation of the earth’s climate into the distant future can be relied upon is an equivalent fantasy.

    Well said, and I hope that your detractors take the rebuke to heart.

    GEM of TKI

    PS: A recent exchange in this blog on Weasel is aptly illustrative of the problems also; anticipating a possible rhetorical tactic — and not claiming that my case is anywhere near as outrageous as the one outlined above. (For shame!) [Interested onlookers may wish to cf my summary of the matter on the merits here.]

  21. PS: Maybe I need to paraphrase Machiavelli:

    >>Political disorders are like wasting diseases: at the first they are hard to diagnose but easy to cure. When, at length, for want of prompt diagnosis and proper treatment, the course of the disease becomes obvious to all, it is then far too late to cure.>> [The Prince]

    As the Greeks said [and my Mom so often cited] “a word to the wise . . . “

  22. kf writes,

    And, the shamefully disrespectful conduct of your detractors is plain for us to all see.

    Well, no, it’s not plain to see, because the comments were deleted. But I remember reading the first few responses to Gil’s post before it was retracted and I don’t remember seeing anything “shamefully disrespectful.” Of course many of us would disagree with Gil’s conclusion that “the notion that any computer simulation of biological evolution has anything to do with reality is a complete fantasy,” but disagreement with someone is not an attack on the person.

    I respect Gil’s decision to no longer post here – all of us are here voluntarily, and can have many reasons for deciding to no longer participate – but unless there is evidence to the contrary I don’t think it’s fair to blame those who made comments for driving him away.

  23. 23

    Someone’s widdle feelings get hurt? Maybe this is for the best then.

  24. Barry, here is the problem with the mod policy.

    You boot Nakashima who has been challenging but generally respectful, yet Mirrortothesun remains.

  25. Gil,

    I too understand your frustration.

    But unlike you I want a fight because it has become painfully obvious that is the only way to “resolve” this issue- let natural selection sort it out…

  26. hazel,

    You may disagree with Gil on computer simulations and biology but you cannot support your position.

    IOW your disagreement is personal and not based on anything except ideology.

  27. I second tribune7. Nakashima gone, but MacNeill (who sounds suspiciously like Baghdad Bob) remains.

  28. Gil, certainly you haven’t been posting on this weblog to convince the shuttered of a design inference. Now that is pursuing a phantom. I suggest you consider us lurkers who read your stuff and nod in agreement or at least get to pondering something we might not otherwise. That’s your audience, really. And that should be good enough.

  29. Mr Mirrortothesun,

    Your comment appears designed to be an incitement. Please retract and apologize.

  30. Gil,
    Your leaving is a loss to this forum. Although you’ve evidently made up your mind about this I hope you reconsider. As a software developer myself, I have found your posts insightful and respectful of opposing views, even while vehemently disagreeing with them.

    It is a shame that discourse has become this uncivilized. I have certainly seen it on the opposing forums.

    Godspeed, sir.

  31. 31

    Trib 7 re your [24]: Nakashima has been unbooted, and Mirrortothesun is no longer with us.

  32. 32

    SpitfireIXA, MacNeill has not crossed any bounds of civility. He will remain with us until he does. He argues tough, even brutally, but I have not seen him be mean.

  33. 33

    Gil, please read Barrett at 28 and reconsider. Yes, you will get pounded by our opponents and even when you respond with sweet reason, they will not change their minds. But you must keep in mind that changing our opponents’ minds is not the purpose of this blog. We get 6,000 to 8,000 unique visitors a day, 99% of whom will never leave a comment. These lurkers are the audience for whom we write.

    And you speak with vast authority when it comes to computer simulation issues. Onlookers compare your authoritative and completely persuasive arguments to the “Oh huh” type of arguments on offer from the other side (see Hazel at 22, for instance), and they come away knowing the truth. “Do not be weary in well doing, for in due season you will reap if you faint not.”

    Also: “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Please do not do nothing. Your loss is a great blow to UD and I hope you will come back.

  34. I wasn’t making an argument in 22 – I was merely making the point that there is a difference between disagreeing with someone and attacking them personally.

  35. Gil,

    A moment when I am really disappointed in the reactions of ignorant people is not a good time to make a decision about throwing in the towel.

    Remember, these people are sick, spiritually sick. I usually do not get upset with people who are physically sick. The question is, “How can I be helpful to them?”

  36. Barry writes,

    We get 6,000 to 8,000 unique visitors a day, 99% of whom will never leave a comment. These lurkers are the audience for whom we write.

    That’s very interesting, and more than I would have expected. I’m glad I have that large an audience. :)

    More seriously, in a post about moderation on March 12, Barry wrote,

    We have no interest in censoring viewpoints, because we believe ID is true and consequently in any full and fair debate we will win — and if we don’t win we either need to learn to debate better or change our position.

    … Our role is not to censor ideas but to provide a forum where hard questions can be discussed calmly, fully, and fairly, and we trust that when that happens truth will prevail.

    I agree with all that is being said here about the value of discussion. I do my best to put my best arguments forward, and to describe my beliefs as well as I can. At least some of the critiques I get inspire me to respond, and doing so helps me both examine and defend my understandings. I am confident that many lurkers find something of value in what I have to say.

  37. Gil,

    I was a lurker. Your post make a difference to me. I’m not in your shoes, but can understand how it gets old seeing senseless arguments being made especially by many not as qualified(including myself).

    You know, even Christ left the crowds to get away at times. And even he lost patience with crowds of unbelievers. Besides their walks from town to town I wonder how often Christ walked into the mountains on his own for peaceful quiet and meditation.

    There is a reason for the Sabbath.

    Thank you Gil for you work here. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m sure I speak for many readers who never commented. I speak as someone who once blindly believed in evolution.

  38. Well done, Barry :-)

    Gil, come back. We miss you!

  39. Spitfire, Allen can be ornery but no more so than the rest of us.

    And his posts are generally substantive and interesting.

  40. Barry says,

    And you speak with vast authority when it comes to computer simulation issues. Onlookers compare your authoritative and completely persuasive arguments to the “Oh huh” type of arguments on offer from the other side…, and they come away knowing the truth.

    Gil regularly engages in the logical fallacy of appeal to authority — sadly, his own authority. In my last comment in the deleted thread, I observed that he had not gotten to the putative point until the next-to-last paragraph. The opening post was almost entirely about Gil and his authority. Therefore it was entirely appropriate for me to respond by challenging his claim to authority.

    Gil deleted that challenge, and resorted to labeling me a “Darwinbot.” Now UD teammates who have no idea what I wrote are piling on. One says, “Remember, these people are sick, spiritually sick.” I would like for onlookers who have read this far to know that I am a follower of Jesus who believes that ID is both bad science and bad theology. What do you make of people who resort to name-calling when they cannot control a discussion?

    I offered Gil a debate of simulated evolution, should he evince greater interest in that topic than himself. Instead he deleted the thread, and bade farewell to UD.

  41. Here is an approximation to the first of my two comments in the deleted thread:

    Gil says that

    the physics involved can be simulated and represented with absolute mathematical precision.

    This is patently absurd. Einstein correctly observed,

    As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.

  42. To extend #41, I will mention what IDers gpuccio and scordova understand much better than Gil, namely that the so-called “laws of nature” are themselves imprecise relations on empirical observations. Furthermore, the fact that mathematical language (formalism) is used in some sciences to express these relations does not mean that the sciences themselves have “absolute mathematical precision.” This perhaps gives a bit better idea of what Einstein was driving at in the statement I quoted.

    I should mention also that computers store numbers only with limited precision, and that this is of great concern in nonlinear finite-element analysis. Understanding that the effects of slight numerical imprecision may be huge in simulation of some nonlinear systems is crucial to proper application of the LS-DYNA package. One must question Gil’s authority when he writes that “the physics involved can be simulated and represented with absolute mathematical precision.”

  43. P.S.–Is that the response of a “Darwinbot,” or of someone who a) has been in the computational trenches addressing nonlinear systems and b) thinks carefully about the differences in understanding and sophistication of the various IDers posting at UD? I just said that gpuccio and scordova understand something very important that Gil does not.

  44. All of Hamlet’s points are quite good, and Einstein’s quote is quite relevant. As has been discussed elsewhere recently, models, no matter how thorough they are, cannot completely represent the world. Models are abstractions that, if done well can represent broad swath of nature, but never completely.

    Also, given that Gil does believe “the physics involved can be simulated and represented with absolute mathematical precision”, it is odd that he also declares that “The notion that any computer simulation of biological evolution has anything to do with reality is a complete fantasy.”

    No matter what you think about where life came from or came to have the diversity it does, it is without a doubt true that some aspects of evolution concern primarily physics and chemistry, and as such are amenable to mathematical modeling, albeit necessarily imperfectly so, just as are the examples of physics modeling that Gill has declared can “be represented with absolute mathematical precision.”

    It just doesn’t seem to me that Gil’s position is consistent – if mathematical modeling is as powerful as he says it is (and I am not doubting his credentials), then I don’t see why some aspects of biology can’t be modeled as well.

  45. Hamlet–Gil regularly engages in the logical fallacy of appeal to authority — sadly, his own authority.

    No, he does not do that. What he does is testify about his own experience. Personal or expert testimony– and we should all accept that Gil is an expert on AI & simulations — is not a logical fallacy.

    What you are attempting to do is to rebut his testimony through sophistry — i.e. claim what he says should not be considered by improperly citing a debating rule — rather than take issue with what he has seen and has done.

    Further, you misunderstand, or perhaps misconstrue Gil’s point– namely that far more detail is required than is found in computer evolution simulations.

  46. Alright Gil, check this out. Go to youtube and search for Foster Brooks on the Dean Martin roast of Don Rickles. If you can keep from laughing, then by all means, stay in seclusion. But if you get to giggling, you are on your honor to return to this fine group.

  47. —-Hamlet: “I would like for onlookers who have read this far to know that I am a follower of Jesus who believes that ID is both bad science and bad theology.”

    Ah yes, the design hating, emergence-loving, Creator-phobic Darwinist plays the old, “You’d-never-know-it-but-I’m-really-a-Christian” card. You guys are so funny, you really are.

  48. That is really unkind.

  49. And unfair. I see nothing in Hamlet’s post to warrant your accusations.

    There are plenty of Christians who think, as Hamlet does, that “ID is both bad science and bad theology.”

    As far as I can see Hamlet’s posts have been reasonable points about the power of computer simulations from someone who works in the field. Furthermore, he references two ID supporters here as agreeing with him.

    So why the unkind and unfair slam?

  50. Oh, I don’t know, I suppose it might have something to do with the rather classless act of not allowing a classy man to say goodbye in peace.

  51. Gil, You are tops in my book. A genuine scientist, with a earnest desire to seek and know the truth. You definitely honor God sincerely in truth and spirit. I honestly respect you and hate to see UD give people with no respect for truth such freedom to disrupt this site. I will miss you on this site.

  52. Gil, I’ve been an avid lurker here (posting only very occasionally) for many years. I’ve always found your posts to be a beacon of absolute clarity and fresh air, and they will be missed!

  53. Gil, You are tops in my book. A genuine scientist, with a earnest desire to seek and know the truth. You definitely honor God sincerely in your life through such a spirit to know the truth. I believe Jesus said God seeks as such to worship Him. I honestly respect you and hate to see UD give atheists with no respect for truth, nor any desire to find it, such freedom to disrupt this site as they do. I will miss you on this site, and I definitely miss the old UD too. The old UD where greater levels of understanding were encouraged and sought after, instead of the petty arguing over mundane points that atheists have turned UD into.

  54. What I would like to see, particularly from those who are critical of the use of computational modeling in evolutionary theory, is a computational model of design. Creating such a model forces one to concretize the “moving parts” of one’s model.

    I’d have to imagine an computational model of ID would consist of an endless series of assignment statements, and nothing more.

    Anyone have a better idea?

  55. Mr Diffaxial,

    My ‘better idea’ is to let this thread close. If the moderators want to open a new one to discuss the merits of a position on simulation or another topic, fine. But right now I feel this thread is become somewhat inappropriate, since it is discussing Mr Dodgen as a person, when he has said he no longer wants to comment.

  56. tribune7 says,

    we should all accept that Gil is an expert on AI & simulations…

    That is merely how Gil presents to the thousands of lurkers who know too little about AI and simulation to distinguish expertise from techno-babble.

    Gil is a programmer who tweaked a program for playing a particular two-adversary game of perfect information, checkers, into a high level of performance. He published no novel technique. Google Scholar yields one reference to a technical paper available at his website. The brute-force techniques he implemented are quite unlike those that succeed in other areas of AI. And Gil has never given any evidence that he has studied other areas of AI. He labels computational checkers-playing as AI, and then presents himself as an AI expert.

    Gil, according to his posts here at UD, got his job in the aerospace industry two or three years ago. He did not have simulation experience, but a hang-gliding buddy emphasized that “Gil will get the job done.” The upshot is that he has gotten on-the-job training in simulation for a very limited application domain. For those of us who have seen many applications of simulation models, how little he actually knows is apparent in how makes much of having received one week of instruction in the use of one particular package for finite-element analysis.

    As I said in my second comment in the deleted thread, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your [simulation].” Gil’s notion of validating a simulation model is to determine if it accurately predicts the trajectory of parachute-and-payload under powered guidance. He has demonstrated in the past that he has no appreciation for the enormous range of ways in which simulation models may be developed and applied.

    Gil is a very bright guy, but considering how he reports having spent much of his life, I would say that his area of expertise is hang gliding.

  57. By the way, I spoke with the Nobel laureate Tom Cech — the guy who discovered that RNA could catalyze reactions — last week. He, like most people who know a great deal about a topic, was quite unassuming. I’ve met quite a few outstanding researchers, and only one of them expected me to listen because of who he was.

    Anyone who tries to persuade you he’s right by portraying himself as an expert is probably engaged in manipulation. The best folks simply do not operate that way.

  58. That is merely how Gil presents to the thousands of lurkers who know too little about AI and simulation to distinguish expertise from techno-babble.

    OK, this is the sort of stuff that probably ticked off Gil. A guy who calls himself Hamlet makes a rather personal — and unsubstantiated attack on a fellow with experience and notable real-world success in the field of simulations and AI.

    He has demonstrated in the past that he has no appreciation for the enormous range of ways in which simulation models may be developed and applied.

    Or he has demonstrated that he has little tolerance of those who try to techno-babble their way to authority.

    Gil is a very bright guy, but considering how he reports having spent much of his life, I would say that his area of expertise is hang gliding.

    Again, an anonymous poster makes a personal attack on someone with a record of achievement.

  59. The best folks simply do not operate that way.

    No, they simply drop names.

  60. Nakashima,

    I hope Gil will resume commenting, but will focus on arguing his points rather than arguing for his authority.

    I don’t expect to see Gil return, however, because I think he is actually protesting Barry Arrington’s policy on dissenting opinion. It has been evident for some time that he has been frustrated by non-IDers having their say.

    I have complimented Barry before, and I do so again. It was big of him to reverse his decision to ban you.

    This is a much more difficult forum for IDers now than it was when the Expelled were expelling dissidents at every turn. But if you want freedom of expression, you’ve got to show the way.

  61. No, they simply drop names.

    I juxtapose names, and leave it for the reader with half a wit to wonder how much Tom Cech sounds like Gil Dodgen.

  62. and leave it for the reader with half a wit to wonder how much Tom Cech sounds like Gil Dodgen.

    Assuming he accepts the appeal to your authority as to how Tom Cech sounds.

  63. 63

    Hamlet is no longer with us. After repeated warnings to stop beating Gil personally, he just could not seem to help himself.

  64. There is a fine line between attacking people and attacking their arguments. This is particularly the case if part of their argument consists of arguments from authority, and the authority cited is themselves. Under such conditions, it becomes difficult to attack such an argument without seeming to attack the person.

    Consequently, I have attempted to frame my own arguments in such a way as to cite only published evidence, and to omit references to my own expertise in a field. I am the first to admit that this is not always possible, and even that I have been tempted (and sometimes have given in to the temptation) to cite my own knowledge or training in a particular field when discussing some bit of evidence from that field.

    Ergo, mea culpa, and I will attempt to stick to arguments of substance, rather than resort to arguments from authority (including my own) henceforth, and would hope that the rest of us will do the same.

  65. As for this being Mr. Dodgen’s last post, I do find that unfortunate. I am not conversant in the field of computer simulation, and therefore have found the debates about the various merits and limitations of this technique to be generally enlightening, especially when they have focused on substance, rather than personalities or questions of authority.

    That said, I must also state that I am generally skeptical of any claims for the usefulness of mathematical or computer simulations on either side of the EB/ID divide. I have written elsewhere of my own belief that the reduction of evolutionary biology to mathematical models (i.e. the epistemological core of the “modern evolutionary synthesis”), while it served a useful purpose at the time, has now outlived that usefulness and may in some cases now represent a stumbling block to further progress in evolutionary theory.

    All of that is beside the point when considering Mr. Dodgen’s withdrawal from the fray here at UD. I have often strenuously disagreed with him, especially when he has posted unsupported condemnations of evolutionary theory, but due to my lack of expertise in the field of computer simulation, I have generally withheld commenting on his posts.

    That said, I do believe that having him contribute here has merit, and hope that he changes his mind and decides to re-enter the lists, fully armed and ready for combat.

    To paraphrase a well-known quote,

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of ignorance is for those with knowledge to remain silent.”

    This is why I take out a significant portion of my days to comment here and to post on my blog, and hope that the rest agree that knowledge is always a good thing, no matter how painfully attained.

  66. Mr MacNeil,

    I think most people who have worked with simulations are painfully aware of their limitations. I would take a comment that simulation has outlived its usefulness in evolutionary theory much more seriously from someone who claimed some familiarity with them.
    However, I am intrigued – what are the areas in which you feel evolutionary theory needs to progress, and why is mathematical and computer simulation not likely to help in these areas?

  67. Forgive me if I seemed to imply that mathematical models or simulations of evolution are not likely to help us understand how evolution works. What I meant to say is that they are of limited utility in understanding how particular cases of descent with modification have occurred. Furthermore, I find that there is a tendency among some theoreticians (i.e. folks who do mathematical modeling and simulations, but do not actually test them against reality in the nature) to assume that, if something observed in the field does not fit the model, it is the observation that is the problem, rather than the model.

    IOW, I always remember that there is a world of difference between the moon and the finger pointing at the moon…

  68. If I may, could I add my voice to those calling for a separate “meta” thread on the subject of moderation, and also suggest (based on our experience with the thread on “Bleak Conclusions” that a “meta” thread on the subject of “natural law” might also be quite interesting and productive? I believe that evolutionary biologists (and indeed, most other empirical scientists) have a very different idea of what “natural laws” might be, and it would be instructive for all of us to see what such differences might be. These threads could live in the sidebar with the Moderation Policy and the “What Arguments Not To Use” policy. It would certainly be helpful to people just joining the conversation, and might help to reduce the level of rancor here.

    Just a suggestion…

  69. It’s unfortunate that Gil’s competence was challenged, but those things happen, even on this board. For instance, recently a well-published computer scientist/mathematician, whose work has been cited in support of ID, was told, “trying to explain computational number theory to you would be as futile as trying to explain calculus to someone who can’t add fractions.” We all need to work on being more respectful.

  70. Gil, Please don’t let a handful of bad mannered Darwin-bots (to quote Denyse) run you off. Barrett in post #28 is right. There are many visitors here who never post and your expertise adds much to the discussion.

    I’m formally asking you to re-consider!

    Donald M

  71. Allen suggests “that a “meta” thread on the subject of “natural law” might also be quite interesting and productive?”

    I agree. There does seem to be a langauge gap between those who appeal to that term in a design vs. non-design context. Is it possible that confused definitions are responsible for some of the less-than-civil (sometimes coming from my corner) interchanges and accusations of “stonewalling?” I, for one, would like to find out.

  72. Allen (68),

    There are big differences between analytic modeling (think in terms of classical population genetics) and simulation modeling. As you are well aware, theoretical biologists often introduce rather extreme simplifying assumptions in order to make mathematical analysis tractable. It is commonly possible to simulate conditions much more realistic than those that permit analysis.

    Simulation results do not prove anything, in the ordinary sense of proof, but they sometimes establish that analytic results are incorrect under realistic circumstances. For instance, so-called evolutionarily stable strategies are sometimes not stable under evolutionary dynamics (Fogel GB, Andrews PC, and Fogel DB, 1998, “On the Instability of Evolutionary Stable Strategies in Small Populations,” Ecological Modelling, Vol. 109, pp. 283-294):

    Abstract

    Evolutionary stable strategies (ESSs) are often used to explain the behaviors of individuals and species. The analysis of ESSs determines which, if any, combinations of behaviors cannot be invaded by alternative strategies. Two assumptions required to generate an ESS (i.e. an in?nite population and payoffs described only on the average) do not hold under natural conditions. Previous experiments have indicated that under more realistic conditions of ?nite populations and stochastic payoffs, populations may evolve in trajectories that are unrelated to an ESS, even in very simple evolutionary games. The simulations are extended here to small populations with varying levels of selection pressure and mixing levels. The results suggest that ESSs may not provide a good explanation of the behavior of small populations even at relatively low levels of selection pressure and even under persistent mixing. The implications of these results are discussed briefly in light of previous literature which claimed that ESSs generated suitable explanations of real-world data. [full text]

    The assumptions I’ve emphasized often underlie theorems in genetics beloved by “Mendel good, Darwin bad” IDers. Replacing a random variable with it’s expected value is often mathematically convenient, but is usually dubious. And reproductive isolation of small populations has been a key component of theories of speciation since the 1950′s, IIRC.

  73. The question marks in my last comment are ligated “fi” in the text I copied and pasted. The messed up words are crucial ones: finite and infinite. They looked fine in the preview.

  74. sal gal:

    You are quite correct, and if I erred in overstating the similarities between mathematical modeling and simulations (as it appears to me on reading your comment), the error was entirely my own.

  75. Furthermore, I find that there is a tendency among some theoreticians (i.e., folks who do mathematical modeling and simulations, but do not actually test them against reality in nature) to assume that, if something observed in the field does not fit the model, it is the observation that is the problem, rather than the model.

    Allen,
    That was the point of my essay, and you have summarized it far more eloquently and succinctly than I did. In any event, I’ve decided to move on and invest my time in stuff that really matters, like family and ministry that edifies individual human lives.

  76. Gil,
    Clearly there are good reasons for spending your time elsewhere, and there are good reasons for staying. For my part, I have been edified, encouraged, and strengthened by your posts. Your presence would be missed. If you leave here shaking the dust off your feet, you would be following good precedents. I definitely agree that family is more important than writing to a web audience, and other more personal ministries may be much more in line with where the Captain is directing you to spend your effort in the ongoing race.
    Whatever you decide, thanks for your past contributions and for investing your gifts in this area.
    Lars

  77. Dear lars,

    Thanks much. My calling is to follow the Captain to the best of my ability. Life is ephemeral and I have only one wish when it is over, to hear the words:

    “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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