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Monday, October 06, 2008

Further to a friend's comment on how intelligent design is applied to crime detection ...

I've been rummaging my files for this design inference, and finally found it:

Excerpt from a recent Canadian Broadcasting Corporation report

The CBC report (October 25, 2006), which aired Wednesday night, says of the roughly 60,000 lottery ticket sellers in Ontario, retailers won nearly 200 times in the past seven years, with an average prize of $500,000.

A statistician with the University of Toronto called those numbers a statistical anomaly, saying there is a "one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion" chance of that many retailers winning. Dr. Jeffrey Rosenthal said the number of wins should be closer to 57. In fact, an investigation was held and a number of persons were later charged.
Meanwhile, Michael Josem (for whom see here) writes to disclaim any association with intelligent design, and to insist that the sheer number of stars in the universe makes the origin of life more plausible than poker cheating.

Huh? I think Josem better stick to ratting out poker cheats, and go Josem! His note is appended, below the book ads.

Meanwhile, a legend in his own lab wrote me to announce that he is "a scientist, thus trained in evolutionary thinking, but as a christian wondered whether intelligent design had anything to offer." Apparently, he decided to try to find out not by reading Michael Behe's Edge of Evolution or Bill Dembski's No Free Lunch or Mike Gene's Design Matrix or anything challenging like that.

No, he decided to hang out at this news and culture blog, so he could decide there was nothing in it without engaging in any serious science thinking. I wonder what he really does for a living?

Just for the record, I am a journalist, not a scientist, and this is a news and culture blog. Years ago, I realized that most of what you'd hear in legacy media about the intelligent design controversy is not written by anyone who follows ID as a beat. So I decided to just start following it as a beat.

I am now about 1000 news stories behind, but fortunately, the first seven hundred have been reclassified as "recent archaeology." Meanwhile, many thanks to generous donors at the PayPal button!

From Michael Josem:
I saw your blog post about chance, online poker and intelligent design.

I think that your argument that this case of online poker cheating has any relevance to your argument about intelligent design is incorrect.

My claim with the poker data was simply to highlight one of two possibilities - either this poker player's run of hot luck was one of the luckiest streaks of luck in the history of the planet, or that there was cheating happening here. That is clearly sufficient proof for further investigation, which resulted in the cheating being uncovered.

The same principle can be applied to the creation of life - either it was incredibly lucky, or there was some intelligent design by a greater power. Neither option appears to be disproved by the data.

Now, in the online poker example, there are only a few million players, and thus, a freak result is still incredibly unlikely. By contrast, there are many, many, many, more stars in the universe than there are online poker players. This would mean that such an event (even at 15 standard deviations) is more likely to happen over the whole universe of possible events.

I hope that you'll be able to correct your article with this clarification.

Michael Josem

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