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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Attention, Creationists!

You're driving me nuts! All over the internet you are confusing Information Science with Information Theory, and using the two interchangeably. Hello, these are two completely different areas of research and study. Do you think you have a right to confuse yellow with purple? Would you please stop it?

This is my future field, Information Science. (It is not William Dembski's field. It is mine.)

And this is Information Theory. (And though he claims to be an expert in it, this is not William Dembski's field, either. Selling William Dembski's books to people taken in by William Dembski is William Dembski's field.)

Okay? Can we at least get our definitions straight?

If you want a really good introduction to Information Theory, check out Mark Chu-Carroll's post on the matter. As he concludes, the argument of the "impossibility" of the creation of new information becomes transparently fallacious.

So - what happens if I take a string in very non-compressed format (like, say, an uncompressed digitized voice) and send it over a noisy phone line? Am I gaining information, or losing information?

The answer is: gaining information. Introducing randomness into the string is adding information.

"AAAABBBB" contains less information than "AAAABxBB".

The way this is used to refute bozos who claim things like "You can't create information" should be obvious.

Shimmies to Good Math, Bad Math

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Anonymous Janine said...

Oh Kristine. There you go trying to define words. If they actually listened to you and engaged in learning, they would no longer be able to engage in arguments from ignorance. This would destroy ID theory.

Have you no respect for their way of thinking? You big meanie!

January 06, 2008 6:20 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Hey, if they're going to walk around saying, "Info Science, Info Science, I'm going to set you evilutionists straight on Info Science" I'm going to insist that they start educating me on this stuff. See how fun that is. (Actually, I do think it's fun!)

January 06, 2008 9:54 PM  
Blogger Joshua said...

"And though he claims to be an expert in it, this is not William Dembski's field, either."

That deserves pointing out very, very often. I'm not an Information Theorist myself, but I did take a few classes in Communications Theory (basically the applied version), and suffice to say even my late-undergrad understanding of the topic is enough to see that any given Dembski rambling is complete crap. It doesn't take a genius to understand the difference between Shannon and Kolmogorov, but apparently Dembski doesn't because he can't seem to decide which definition of information he's using at any given time...

January 07, 2008 2:35 AM  
Blogger Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Hey, hate to pick on ya, but I think that argument's unlikely to be effective, for two reasons:

1) The correct meaning of 'information' is counter-intuitive;

2) The IDevotee will sidestep it by saying, 'add, subtract, whatever, what is the SOURCE of the new information for evolution?'

I have argued before that the example of tree rings is instructive. Obviously, dendrochronologists derive information from the tree rings, and the source of the information is the past interaction between the tree and the environment it occupied. But no one says that, in effect, there is no new source of information---unless they want to argue that all of creation is put into place allowing it----but of course the same thing is true for evolution, yes? Bottom line: this is an argument that plays to folk's intuitive understanding of information, and one that puts the burden on the other side of splitting hairs about what information is, and isn't, and (in my opinion) constitutes a better argument for most audiences.

January 07, 2008 8:20 AM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Introducing randomness adds information. So much for "source."

But Scott, this is not about argumentation. This is about me grabbing my cookie jar and running away with it. ;-)

I crawled all over that Borchert Map Library* so that I could produce a floor plan to scale, because there wasn’t one, and went all over the place finding sources for info that the staff did not have (because they don’t write policies down), and putittogetherinonereport, so they can have a niftyneatofirst-ever preservation survey. And my team for my other class inadvertently stumbled onto a research angle where little work has been done and for which there was not much info (making our literature search a joy), and had to trudge headlong into uncharted territory because it was too late for us to change our project by then. I sweated way too much last semester to have little Sal blat about Info Science! ;-)

And I learned a hell of a lot about how proper research methods prepare one for the unknown like that. Which is what they have not learned at all. Which is really too bad, because once you get past the terror about your grade, it’s really empowering.

It doesn't take a genius to understand the difference between Shannon and Kolmogorov, but apparently Dembski doesn't because he can't seem to decide which definition of information he's using at any given time...

Oh, Dembski knows the difference. He's got to. He's just pulling a fast one, as always. It's not surprising that people don't know this stuff but it is surprising that they don't learn about it before saying "me too!"

*I admit that I loved it. Taking my own temperature/humidity readings, too.

January 07, 2008 9:11 AM  

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