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Weasel Ware at EvoInfo.org

I share concerns expressed here that this blog is becoming too political. I’m of a mixed mind about this. I see the upcoming presidential election as pivotal for our nation and for the place of ID in the wider culture (I foresee an Edwards v. Aguillard type case going against ID if Obama gets to choose the next Supreme Court justices). At the same time, I don’t want to see ID’s intellectual program getting short shrift here. Let me therefore encourage UD contributors to balance political postings with straight-up ID postings (we need a lot more of the latter).

With regard to the latter, Bob Marks and I continue hammer away at our work on evolutionary informatics. We’ve recently had a major paper accepted in a peer-reviewed computational-intelligence journal (I expect to be saying more about this soon, though given the the Saul Alinsky tactics of the NCSE, I probably won’t be giving full details until the article is actually out).

In the meantime, you might be interested in our online interactive critique of Richard Dawkins’s weasel program, Tom Schneider’s ev, and Richard Lenski et al.’s AVIDA. We call it Weasel Ware, and we’ve been enormously helped in its development by a UD participant who has implemented Bob Marks’s Matlab code on our evolutionary informatics lab website. Here’s the link:

marksmannet.com/EILab/WeaselWare.html

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18 Responses to Weasel Ware at EvoInfo.org

  1. Thanks for the update, Bill, and the call for more ID related posts. I certainly do not feel qualified from the scientific perspective, but theology is more my bag, so many thanks for the work on the Patristic Understanding of Creation. I especially grateful for the succinct notes on each of the fathers at the beginning of their sections and the selection from Irenaeus was very helpful. There certainly needs to be more thinking and theological unpacking along this root as well as scientific appreciation for ID concepts.

  2. I just want to make sure I understand you correctly. ID should not have a political agenda? Because I could have sworn a few weeks ago I read you saying we should form “political and cultural strategies”.

    Congratulations on your newfound faith in the scientific process. Perhaps it was brought on by your forthcoming paper? Either way, I think this is a better position to take, and I think the existing framework will eventually accept ID as it has incorporated every other scientific revolution: through scientific breakthroughs. I believe you referred to them as “miracles” in a previos comment.

  3. 3

    How Expelled did in the theaters allows us to see how mainstream cultures feels about ID.

    With that said, we all know deep in our bones that the country as a whole seems to be turning to the left – politically, culturally and economically.

    Ever the pessimist, I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel for us.

  4. tragicmishap: Are you addressing me? If so, watch your step. Just this week I was reading Francis Collins’s book THE LANGUAGE OF GOD with my class. There he explains that science is progressive and self-correcting and thus that we should take evolutionary theory as a given. I explained to the class that contemporary science is about as self-correcting as the mafia.

    I am ambivalent about the connection between politics and ID. In a better world, the ideas would speak for themselves and receive fair consideration. As things stand, enormous political pressures are used to suppress ID and unbiased discussion of evolution. Thus politics becomes unavoidable.

  5. Dr Dembski,
    Given that the majority of the population of most countries in the world believe in a telic origin for life, do you think it’s simply a matter of time before the elected politcians are forced to confront and deal with that fact? Or do you think the power of the materialistic lobby too strong for that to happen in the forseeable future, whatever the outcome of the upcoming election?

    contemporary science is about as self-correcting as the mafia.

    I have to disagree slightly here – contemporary science has given us the computers we are using to communicate, the cars we drive etc. It’s obviously got something going for it. The problem arises only when issues like OOL are simply excluded from rational debate and conclusions assumed from the start and stuck to without fail. Contemporary science itself cannot be faulted, but the uses it’s put to can (supression of ideas etc).

    Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!

  6. Dr Dembski,
    Very interesting site, thank you for creating such an accessable example.

    Is this the right place to discuss your work on that site? I cannot find a comment option there, so please feel free to delete this comment if it’s off-topic.

    In the Weasel Ware page you note

    In the search proposed by Dr. Dawkins, letters are chosen randomly. For each letter, we can envision spinning a roulette wheel and randomly selecting a letter. Once a letter hits at a location, we keep it.

    That does not jibe with my understanding of Dawkins’ weasel, that’s not how he describes that it works in watchmaker.

    Could you clarify where Dawkins specfies this is how his example works? I’ve got the 1988 edition of Watchmaker handy, the closest I can find is where is says

    It now ‘breeds from’ this random phrase. It duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error – ‘mutation’ – in the copying. The compute examines the mutant nonsense phrases, the ‘progeny’ of the orginal phrase, and chooses the one which, however slightly, most resembes the target phrase.

    Thanks in advance for you paitence with my, I’m sure, incomplete understanding of your example.

  7. First, thanks a lot Atom for your great work. Richard Dawkins uses his math magic to fool the ignorant.

    Second, Stelios, the way that Dawkins describes his search is effectively the same as ” For each letter, we can envision spinning a roulette wheel and (by this method) randomly selecting a letter. Once (by this random mutation simulator) a letter hits at a location (that is corresponds to the letter we know belongs in that location), we keep it.”

  8. 8

    I meant to write “mainstream culture”.

    While the near future doesn’t look to good for bringing ID to the mainstream of American culture. Ultimately, the liberals after they fail. When this happen we will catch up.

  9. 9

    Perhaps instead of trying to win over people who are not interested, maybe ID’ers should flesh out a coherent alternative to the Darwinian fairy tale.

  10. idnet.com.au,
    Understood, but it seems to me that the right “letter”, when found, is still and continues to be subject to random mutation as per the rest of the letters. The concept of a letter becoming “fixed” in place and unchangable from that point on simply does not appear.

    I’ll re-read that chapter, but can you substantiate via a quote from Dawkins in the meanwhile?

  11. Dr. Dembski, when could we expect to hear something new about your new paper?

    Thank you.

  12. Stelios, I am absolutely sure about this. I have studied Dawkins work. Have a look at the strings that he includes in the text. You can see that once selected, a letter becomes fixed.

  13. idnet,
    I think I know what you mean. As I happen to have the book here allow me to explain what I mean.

    Here is the string at generation 40

    METHINKS IT IS LIKE I WEASEL

    Which Dawkins introduces as “Generation 40 takes us to within one letter of the target:”

    He then says “And the target was finally reached in generation 43″

    So my question to you is, if each letter was “fixed” in the way I believe I understand you mean, why did it take until generation 43 to reach the target from one letter distance, instead of generation 41?

    I believe this quote from Watchmaher should illustrate what I mean

    “It now ‘breeds from this random phrase. It duplicates it repeatedly, but with a certain chance of random error – ‘mutation’ – in the copying”
    page 47 last para.

    If as you suggest all the letter in correct postions were fixed why the need for more then one generation?

    And the strings included in the text, out of necessity, must only represent a small fraction of the “population” so I can see how you get the impression the letters are fixed once hit upon.

  14. So my question to you is, if each letter was “fixed” in the way I believe I understand you mean, why did it take until generation 43 to reach the target from one letter distance, instead of generation 41?

    I’m supposing that by the time gen 40 was reached, and the target phrase was one letter off, the only letter place allowed to ‘mutate’ was the ‘incorrect’ one.

    This would reduce the chances of reaching the target in each generation to 27^-1; or 1/9 for the generations between 40 and 43. Those are pretty good odds, relatively speaking.

  15. Stelios:

    “So my question to you is, if each letter was “fixed” in the way I believe I understand you mean, why did it take until generation 43 to reach the target from one letter distance, instead of generation 41?”

    Because, when we are within one letter of the btarget, we still have to get the last letter by random mutation. I am really surprised that Dawkins got it in only two steps!

    Apollos:

    “I’m supposing that by the time gen 40 was reached, and the target phrase was one letter off, the only letter place allowed to ‘mutate’ was the ‘incorrect’ one.

    This would reduce the chances of reaching the target in each generation to 27^-1; or 1/9 for the generations between 40 and 43. Those are pretty good odds, relatively speaking.”

    I perfectly agree with the concept, but not with the calculation. When we are within one letter of the target, the chances for each generation are 1:27^1, that is 1:27. Again, I am surprised at Dawkin’s luck.

    I have just tried to get that phrase in the GUI. With an estimated median of 98 queries, I have almost always had a worse result (maybe I am particularly unlucky today…). Finally I got a good result, after many attempts: I got it in 64 queries! (Dawkins is still “best player”).

    Here is my final history for the last letter:

    61. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEN
    62. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEU
    63. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEP
    64. METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL

    By the way, my heartfelt compliments to Dembski, Marks and Atom for the wonderful realization. The GUI is really useful to illustrate tangibly the folly ofbtrying to abtain even a very short piece of specified information by random, unassisted search. You just have to look at the last search line, which in my example still looked as follows:

    WGYOHHFRNIOOOQVPBEOZJJGJLS M

    after 1120 queries, and will probably look something like that forever!

    This kind of tangible examples are perhaps the only way to heal people from “number numbness”.

  16. gpuccio, forgive the dumb question, but I was figuring that 3 trials (generations 41, 42, and 43) of 1:27 odds were 3:27 or 1:9. Is this an incorrect way to assess the odds for 3 trials of 1 in 27 odds? Regardless, it’s still good luck.

  17. Apollos,

    I apologize, I hade read your post in a hurry, and believed that you were speaking of the odds for one query, and not for 3.

    As you raised the problem, I have checked, and if I am not wrong, the correct solution for 3 trials has to be calculated according to the binomial distribution, and in our case, with p = 1/27 for each trial, the cumulative probability of getting at least one correct solution in 3 trials should be 0,10704669, which is just slightly lower than 1/9 (0,111111111). So, your calculation was approximately correct.

    Again, I apologize for misunderstanding your post.

  18. gpuccio, thanks! This is a learning process for me. My math studies are autodidactic, and at best, high school level. Your patience and generosity are greatly appreciated. Admittedly, I could have presented a clearer post.

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