Monday, September 19, 2005

Complexity, "design" and watching Weasel Boy embarrass his species.

As much as I have other things I can be blogging about, it's just too much fun to slap Weasel Boy around the room. Consider one of his recent illiterate rants here, which I will dissect sentence by sentence to show WB for the ignorant buffoon that he is. No, no, don't thank me -- the satisfaction I get out of this is reward enough. Let us begin:

Apparently, some people think I've ended up arguing for their own case here. My point obviously went over their heads.

Ah, so WB's analysis was simply too sophisticated for my meagre mathematical background. Yeah, that's going to happen in my lifetime, isn't it? Whatever. Onward.

See, you and I recognize the difference between the Gettysburg Address and random gibberish.

Do we? Do we really? And why would that be?

That's because the Gettysburg Address is obviously designed.

It is? And what leads one to make that claim? Recall from previous posts here that we can measure "complexity". We can also, in a sense, mathematically measure "randomness." But what is this "design" thing, so that it can be measured? More to the point, what is it about the Gettysburg Address (GA) that makes it so "obviously designed"? Amazingly, WB gets it right, for all the wrong reasons:

Plus, we understand the English language.

This appears to be WB's fundamental argument for why the GA is "designed" -- because, since we understand the English language, it looks designed. In short, Weasel Boy can't define "design" -- he just knows it when he sees it. How thoroughly wishy-washy. WB's next statement is utter rubbish and doesn't appear to have any connection with what came before it:

Could a person who does not understand English see the difference between "fourscoreandsevenyearsago" and "klasmcoyqwebnkqwoiblklswq?" Of course not.

If that's the case, then is there anything about that first phrase that is inherently more "designed" than the second phrase? If you don't understand English, not at all -- they'd both be gibberish and equally meaningless. But here's where it gets good, as Weasel Boy decides to quote Shakespeare:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

Now, based on WB's own logic, the above would be an example of "design" (a word that WB bandies about with great abandon without having made any attempt to define it, unlike my use of the word "complexity" which I can, in fact, mathematically calculate. See the difference? Unlike WB, I don't just make shit up.)

Now, if the above is an example of meaningful and obvious design, I challenge Weasel Boy to explain why what follows is somehow less of an example of that very same thing. If I read WB correctly, the fact that the following is not English (or any other existing language) somehow makes it less designed. I want him (or anyone else) to explain why that is.


So ... who wants to explain why this second chunk of prose has less "design" than the first? (Having you first define the word "design" would be just ducky but I'm being charitable here.)

Any takers? The answer may surprise you.

SPOILER: If you want to know what's going on above, keep reading.

Let us now explain why Weasel Boy's rantings are so much gibberish. Recall that, in an alleged explanation of "design," WB wrote the following idiocy:

See, you and I recognize the difference between the Gettysburg Address and random gibberish. That's because the Gettysburg Address is obviously designed. Plus, we understand the English language.

In short, Weasel Boy claims that the GA clearly differs from "random gibberish." And why is that? Why, because it was "designed". And what is about the GA that makes it "designed"? I'm assuming it's because, since we know English, we understand it. And how is it that we understand it? Naturally, because it's designed. (Yes, it's a circular argument and, yes, WB is a moron. But let that not stop us from explaining what happened above.)

So ... if we examine the two passages above, we can ask what is fundamentally different between them and the answer is -- absolutely nothing. In fact, the second passage is simply an encoding of the first one, using a circular mapping with the space character just happening to be mapped to "M". And what exactly does this mean?

First and foremost, it means that those two passages have exactly the same complexity. A simple remapping of a character set cannot possibly change the complexity of a sequence, in the same way that just remapping colours in an image can't change its complexity. Either sequence would require precisely the same minimal amount of information to transmit it to another person so, to that extent, from an information theoretic perspective, the two passages are equivalent.

But how is that possible if, as WB proposes, the first clearly shows "design" while the second does not? Simple. WB is a moron. (Yes, we've established that.) The only reason one ascribes "design" to the first passage is that
we understand English and, therefore, it makes sense to us. Conversely, if an alien race had evolved which had created an alphabet with the same circular transformation I used above, they would think the second passage was designed while the first was random gibberish. Isn't that special?

In short, the concept of "design" as proposed by Weasel Boy is simply a figment of his imagination. Not only can he not even define the term, he can't even recognize similar design when it walks up to him and kicks him in the nuts.

And so endeth today's lesson in information theory.

COMING SOON: The universe, order, chaos and why creationists are imbeciles.


Mike said...

Tricky boy!

Let me work out your encoding scheme and then we can conclude that the seeming gibberish is ACTAULLY 'designed'

Well done. Keep kicking this guy's ass until he gets it.

CC said...

The encoding scheme is not that hard, of course. And, on a totally unrelated note, it's unlikely that Weasel Boy is ever going to "get it." I think we've established that already.

huitzilin said...

I just don't even know what to say, except that I would hate to be on a debate team opposing you. Really (to quote a favorite film of mine), "your intellect is dizzying" (I don't mean it sarcastically).

Keep it up! Thanks for having the patience to entertain us this way.

mergenow said...

cc, between the poker hand analogy and the example here, I've got to give you some serious props.

Nicely done.

mk said...

Close, but no cigar:


public static said...

The encoding is Rot12, the person who wrote the php code forgot to include the space in their rotation. Or,

main(argc, argv)
char *argv[];
if (argc != 3) exit(1);
unsigned char *st1, *st2, ch;
char cmap[177];
for (ch = 0; ch < 177; ch++) cmap[ch] = (char)(ch);
st1 = argv[1];
st2 = argv[2];
while (ch = *st1++) if (*st2) cmap[ch] = *st2++; else cmap[ch] = *st2;
ch = cmap[getchar()];
if (feof(stdin)) break;
if (ch) putchar(ch);

And this:

#!/bin/csh -f
# myrot13 ./mytr 'abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz
(without the line breaks between the z and A on the first set of characters, and the space and N in the second set of characters.)

Looks designed to me. But what do I know?

CC said...

The encoding is Rot12, the person who wrote the php code forgot to include the space in their rotation.

That person would be me, and it wasn't PHP code -- it was a simple Linux "tr" command to translate one character set to another, character by corresponding character:

$ tr "[a-zA-Z ]" "[n-za-m N-ZA-M]" ...

For those not familiar with the "tr" command, simply map each character in the first quoted sequence to its corresponding character in the second quoted sequence. So 'a' gets mapped to 'n', 'b' to 'o' and so on. (Note how the final character, the space, gets mapped to 'M'.)

It should be clear that this is just a special case of the "cryptoquote" puzzles you find in newspapers, where the mapping is just a circular shift (see "trivial shift cipher" or "Caesar cipher").

Remember -- don't make anything more complicated than it has to be. :-)

public static said...

cc, I was refering to the url with the rot13.php that mk put up. You did it right way, who ever wrote the rot13.php did not do it right, they missed the space in their mapping. FYI the first segment I put up is a basic re-write of the tr command, in fact the file name is mytr.c, mainly written because I was bored, and I wanted to show how the seeming randomness of the second set of characters can easily be derived from the first.

My sad little point still remains. Those 14 lines of code make something that "looks" like gibberish and by running the mytr program along with two strings on the command line translates the characters in the first string to the characters in the same position in the second string.

The simple fact that patterns can be distingished if one studies and/or understands something does not make anything "designed". Infinite randomness leads, quite simply put, to the highly inprobable occuring. Of course I don't expect anyone who does not want to understand this to actually conceed this point.