Wednesday, November 2, 2011

#257: Perry Marshall

Perry Marshall is still something of a legend among the more clueless creationists (at least this fellow, one D. Donohew, seems smitten, but I am not sure Marshall can really be blamed on the unnervingly Time Cubish quality of that letter). Marshall’s schtick is “Information theory disproves evolution”. His master argument is 1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism; 2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information; 3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind. It's a pretty decent example of begging the question for intro to critical thinking-students, I’d say. His rant is here, and further underlines the rather question-begging nature of his enterprise: both that DNA is a code (by definition) and that codes cannot occur naturally (by definition – since they are meaningful). Some might even say that there are traces of a fallacy of equivocation in an argument of the kind “DNA is a code; all codes are meaningful (DNA contains information and is meaningful) – that is: some agent with intentions must have meant something by it; if no one meant anything with the code in the DNA, it wouldn’t really be information; thus, evolution is false”. He repeats it here.

Marshall likes himself some ridiculous inferences from math. From a slightly misleading presentation of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, he immediately explains: “This is what it means: Faith and Reason are not enemies. In fact, the exact opposite is true! One is absolutely necessary for the other to exist. […] All closed systems depend on something outside the system. You can always draw a bigger circle but there will still be something outside the circle. Reasoning inward from a larger circle to a smaller circle is “deductive reasoning. […] Reasoning outward from a smaller circle to a larger circle is ‘inductive reasoning.’” That’s not Gödel’s incompleteness theorem and its corollaries, to put it mildly.

Marshall’s real business seems to be some kind of Ethernet guru and expert advisor on Google Adwords (I think it is the same guy, but may be wrong).

If you have the stomach for it, you can read (about) Randy Stimpson writing similar tripe here.

Diagnosis: Pure crackpot, egregious mangler of facts and (apparently) professional Chinese Room – he writes about mathematics, but somehow he seems to fail to grasp what it is all about. In short, Marshall stands to Dembski roughly as Ray Comfort stands to Behe.

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