William Dembski’s Design Inference

Dembski-1,jpg

Intelligent Design and the Bible

We just read what is possibly the biggest Ark-load of nonsense ever published at the blog of the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

It’s by William A. Dembski, who is best known for his central role in Intelligent Design’s Brief Shining Moment. His picture above this post originally appeared here: Dembski’s Creationist Revival Meeting. The title of his new post is Design Inference vs. Design Hypothesis.

Dembski has written a long, mind-numbing essay about what he calls the “design inference,” and it includes a lot of blather about “specified complexity.” It would take too much time to refute it paragraph-by-paragraph, and it’s not worth the effort. Instead, we’ll pull out a few excerpts that present what seems to be his central argument. This isn’t quote-mining because you can follow our link to his complete essay if you care to do so. Okay, here we go, with bold font added by us:

The design inference, as I developed it, looks to a marker of design, what I call specified complexity or specified improbability, and from there reasons to a designing intelligence as responsible for this marker.

[…]

Specified complexity is an information-theoretic property exhibited by certain systems. A combination of mathematical and empirical factors characterizes it. Specified complexity is a sign. A sign of what? An intelligent cause.

When we cut through all the verbiage, he’s talking about improbability, or what he calls the “logic of dealing with small probabilities.” Bear in mind that improbability doesn’t mean impossibility — he never claims that. Mere improbability is the heart and soul of his “theory.” If something were literally impossible, then its occurrence would be a miracle, but none of Dembski’s improbable phenomena are ever claimed to be that. Improbability is all he has to go on. Then he unintentionally gives the game away:

A design inference having this logic seemed to me necessary for reinstating design in science since without it design would be scientifically undetectable — how can you detect something unless you know what you are looking for?

Indeed. If one starts out on a quest for the magic designer, he’s likely to see the designer’s fingerprints everywhere. But unless one begins with that ghostly concept as a goal, the fingerprints are always invisible. A bit later he says:

The point is that intelligent design does not posit God as a theoretical entity. Rather, it infers that intelligence acts in nature, and in the biological world in particular, yet without prejudice for the metaphysics or theology that might say who or what that intelligence is. This is not duplicitous. It is simply being honest about how far the evidence of nature can take us. Intelligent design can infer that a designing intelligence has been active in nature. Such an intelligence, simply in virtue of the tools that ID uses to study intelligence, will have to be characterized in highly generic terms. Identifying that intelligence with God will always require additional philosophical or theological moves extrinsic to ID.

Got that? The idea is to search for clues (improbable things or events) which signal that the magic designer has been active, but not to be prejudiced beyond that point. It’s a delicate attitude to achieve, and we suspect that no one attracted to Dembski’s thinking is likely to practice it — even if he claims to be doing so. Let’s read on:

As far as any scientific theory of intelligent design is concerned, however, the intelligence or designer active in cosmology and biology does one key thing, namely, create novel information — and not just any information, but specified complexity.

Whatever that is. He continues:

Intelligent design therefore does not start with positing God as a theoretical entity for science. Rather it starts with finding specified complexity in nature and using this to infer that an intelligence is operating in nature, an intelligence especially implicated in cosmological fine tuning and various forms of biological complexity.

Dembski claims he doesn’t begin by positing God, but he certainly assumes that God is a possible — indeed, likely — cause to haul out whenever it’s convenient to do so. His design inference is all about finding something that seems improbable, and then making an inference (an assertion, really) that some magic intelligence is responsible.

Then he repeats himself, but the repetition is useful because it emphasizes just how circular the whole “design inference” really is:

The logic of the design inference moves from a marker of intelligence (specified complexity) to an intelligence as causal agent responsible for that marker.

Okay, that’s enough. Now, with our customary humility, we’ll demolish the whole shaky mess. As we said — and as Dembski himself says — it all hinges on the detection of something that is both complicated (whatever that means) and also improbable. Everything follows from there. However, as we’ve stated before, virtually everything is improbable. Consider our favorite example — your own existence. How improbable is that?

Human conception is preceded by the release of roughly 20 million sperm per milliliter, and the number of milliliters varies with age and other factors. The average for a healthy young male is estimated to be 300-500 million spermatozoa, per, ah … event. To be on the conservative side, let’s say that a specific human zygote has less than a one-in-100 million chance of being conceived. And that’s for one particular fertile moment for the female. A month earlier or later, the zygote will be different. In other words, dear reader, considering the odds against your turning out to be precisely you, it’s obvious that your existence is quite improbable. Nevertheless, there you are.

The same improbability analysis applies to the conception of each of your parents, and their parents, and so on, going back as far as you care to go. The odds against the whole multi-generational drama is a factorial computation, with the mathematical conclusion that your existence is so very improbable as to be virtually impossible — by Discoveroid reasoning. The same is true for each one of us, yet we’re all here — the good, the bad, and the ugly. But only a creationist would claim that every improbable individual in the whole human population is a “marker of design” (Dembski’s term), implying that each of us was exquisitely planned from the beginning.

Our point is one we’ve made before (see Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment). We’ve even given it a name: the Rule of Reality. It goes like this:

If each event in a causal chain is a natural occurrence, then the historical totality of the whole chain of events is also natural — and not at all impossible. This is a chronological corollary of that well-known principle: The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.

In other words, there is no reason for Dembski’s design inference. None at all. It’s an unnecessary, unevidenced, and unproductive pollutant, gratuitously injected into and befouling any attempt to understand reality.

Now go ahead and read Dembski’s essay in its entirety. If you see things differently, let us know.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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38 responses to “William Dembski’s Design Inference

  1. Dembski is right and I’m a living example!

    I am full of BS, everybody tells me so, so I am Intelligently Designed and Brilliant, Special, Deserving of Purple Participation Ribbons and plastic bowling trophies.

    Yea, me! I am Specially Complex!

  2. But your previous article, “Discoveroid Says Science is Myth,” shows that science cannot possibly be used to detect Dembski’s supposed complexity. How can two Discoveroids from the same Dishonesty Institute make opposite claims and still make any sense?

  3. Doc Bill said:

    I am full of BS

    At times, yes, you are. But we love you anyway, especially those times when you’re NOT full of BS. Which is the vast majority of the time.
    Here’s your finger paint. Go make me something to hang on the fridge.

  4. Ceteris Paribus

    I especially appreciated Dembski’s humble admonition that even ID has limits.

    “Such an intelligence, simply in virtue of the tools that ID uses to study intelligence, will have to be characterized in highly generic terms. Identifying that intelligence with God will always require additional philosophical or theological moves extrinsic to ID”

    This is in complete accordance with the reality that
    Science will eventually reveal that the intelligent agent Dembski is looking for is truly the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but to learn the secrets of the recipes for the meatballs and sauce we must leave Science behind and go forth and inquire at the celestial kitchen door.

  5. Either Demski is a terrible writer with a good idea that he just can’t express clearly, or he is an excellent writer working to obfuscate the fact he has no valid idea to work with. This phrase makes me believe the latter is the case:
    “Specified complexity is an information-theoretic property exhibited by certain systems. A combination of mathematical and empirical factors characterizes it.”

    Shades of Professor Irwin Corey!

    Invent a bunch of sciencey-sounding buzz phrases that have no real meaning, and the public will be fooled into thinking that you must really be smart, because they can’t understand what you’re talking about. Continue doing it, however, and they will understand that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    If the science is there and it’s backed up by the evidence, even a mediocre writer can make it understandable. On the other hand, if you know there’s no valid science behind your claims, throw together a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and it might look convincing to those who really, really want to believe.

  6. The whole truth

    “The design inference, as I developed it, looks to a marker of design, what I call specified complexity or specified improbability, and from there reasons to a designing intelligence as responsible for this marker.”

    What the hell does “look to a marker of design” mean? It looks designed to me so it must be designed?

    “specified improbability”

    LMAO

    “as I developed it”

    ROFLMAO! The only thing dumbski has developed is a parasitic and laughable career of making up sciency sounding excrement that’s not even wrong, bashing Darwin and so-called “Darwinists”, pushing the biblical fairy tales, and blatant lying.

    “simply in virtue of the tools that ID uses to study intelligence”

    WHAT tools? WHAT study? And what do you brain-dead, science and reality denying IDiots know about “intelligence”? If you knew anything about intelligence you wouldn’t believe in and push antiquated, ridiculous, creationist fairy tales.

    “The point is that intelligent design does not posit God as a theoretical entity.”

    Oh. Come. On. The point is that you IDiots “posit” that “God” (the imaginary abrahamic god) is the one and only designer-creator-god without any evidence that your bald assertions have any merit.

  7. These scam artists are playing you people like a Stradivarius. They want you to jump and say “you mean God!” and “ID is too creationism!” And they are prepared with even more word games when you do. Their screeds are only mind-numbing if you evaluate them under the assumption that they seriously think they have a better theory. But if you evaluate it under the assumption that they are deliberately playing word games, it’s actually fun to spot the constant subtle baits-and-switches.

    The first thing you need to know about Dembski is that, in 2001 he plainly said that ID can accommodate all the “results” of “Darwinism.” Now you can speculate all day as to how he defines the words in quotes, but the fact is that he, along with Behe, who has plainly and repeatedly admitted ~4 billion years of common descent (Dembski admits only the billions and plays dumb on the common descent), are telling their Biblical literalist fans in no uncertain terms that their fairy tales are just that. But Discoveroids are shrewd; they know that committed Biblical literalists, whether YEC, OEC, geocentrist, etc., tune out what they don’t like, and eat up all the anti-“Darwinism” language. Plus their approach attracts many who find Biblical creationism unconvincing, but are otherwise incorrigible pseudoskeptics – those who claim to have “no dog in the fight,” yet love to attack the “Darwinism dog” while merely ignoring the mutually contradictory Biblical “dogs.”

  8. Gabriel Hanna

    What the DI does is essentially rhetoric. They wish to give people who do not want to accept the findings of science an excuse to refuse to examine those findings. Modern day Sophists. It doesn’t matter if you are wrong or right, if people won’t give you a hearing at all.

    Dembski is annoying to me because he’s an out-and-out liar and he knows it. If this were actually true:

    Specified complexity is an information-theoretic property exhibited by certain systems. A combination of mathematical and empirical factors characterizes it.

    then he could indicate how to calculate the CSI of something, anything. He can’t and says he shouldn’t have to. It’s all words, with no content other than

    Intelligent design, on the other hand, readily embraces the sacramental nature of physical reality. Indeed, intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory.

    He’s given the game away so many times, it’s like he doesn’t know there such a thing as the Internet, where pretty much anything anyone ever said publicly in the last twenty years is going to show up.

    And another thing I think we need to be aware of is that not every instance of design we see in nature needs to be directly attributed to God. Certainly as Christians we believe there is an angelic hierarchy – it’s not just that there’s this physical material world and there’s God. There can be various hierarchies of intelligent beings operating, God can work through what can be called derived intelligences – processes which carry out the Divine will, but maybe not perfectly because of the fall.

    And that’s why he bailed out of the Dover hearing at the last minute–not without cashing his paycheck, mind you.

  9. Gabriel Hanna

    There’s a Newspeak word, blackwhite:

    Applied to an opponent, it means the habit of impudently claiming that black is white, in contradiction of the plain facts. Applied to a Party member, it means a loyal willingness to say that black is white when Party discipline demands this. But it means also the ability to believe that black is white, and more, to know that black is white, and to forget that one has ever believed the contrary. This demands a continuous alteration of the past, made possible by the system of thought which really embraces all the rest, and which is known in Newspeak as doublethink.

    This is why Dembski is not embarrassed by these quotes. To creationists, it is a good thing to lie for Jesus. The quotes are sometimes inconvenient when dealing with the secular who are familiar with him, but they just make creationists like him better. They know what he’s up to, and they approve, but then they’ll go out on comment boards and try to justify CSI and get their asses handed to them, when they don’t even believe it themselves–or more accurately, it is just irrelevant whether or not it is true..

  10. Dembski “defined” CSI in one of his books, and calculated with it that evolution was impossible. Mathematicians thoroughly trashed his definition, so he re-defined it a few more times, each of which was again shown to be specious. Currently CSI has no definition.

    So Dumbski can say it proves anything he likes, since neither he nor anyone else can say what it is.

  11. Gabriel Hanna wrote: he could indicate how to calculate the CSI of something

    He could take a small, beginning step in this direction by indicating, for example, what kind of quantity CSI is (extensive or intensive), or where CSI resides (in molecules, or atoms, or electrons and quarks), or what are the units that CSI is measured in.

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    @TomS: I was going to link to it, but it was largely a waste of time. At a blog David Klinghoffer used to have, where he wasn’t allowed to forbid comments, I challenged several ID supporters to outline how to calculate the the CSI of an English sentence drawn at random from a Scrabble bag. None of them could or would do it, though they did a lot of huffing and puffing about how there was no reason they needed to do it. So I never really got to rub their noses in the point, which was this:

    In order to do that calculation, you have to make assumptions about how the Scrabble tiles that formed the sentence got there. Drawing letters with equal probability gives you one estimate. Drawing letters from a real Scrabble bag, with the appropriate frequencies of letters, gives you a different one. Drawing them in an evolutionary process ala Dawkins’ “Weasel” program gives you a very different, much lower estimate.

    But all you have to look at is the sentence produced by the letters. That’s where we are with biological systems. We have only the end result to look at. You can’t get anywhere with Dembski’s CSI unless you know how the sentence got there.

    An example: a snowflake produce by natural processes has, according to Dembski, no CSI whatever, because they ARE produced by natural processes. But suppose I assert the snowflake was designed? If God can assemble ACTG into DNA, why can’t He assemble water molecules into snowflakes? All I have is the snowflake to look at. How do we know they are produced by natural processes, how do we know they are not all individually created–or maybe some are and some not? CSI cannot test snowflakes to see if they were designed, because the assumption is already built in that they were not. Remove the assumption and you have no way to do the calculation, Dembski carefully refuses to provide us with an outline.

    He could take a small, beginning step in this direction by indicating, for example, what kind of quantity CSI is (extensive or intensive), or where CSI resides (in molecules, or atoms, or electrons and quarks), or what are the units that CSI is measured in.

    Even better: if CSI is conserved, as Dembski says, then he can find conjugate variable. For example, energy is conserved if the laws of physics don;t change with time. Momentum if they don’t change with position.

    So, if he finds the conjugate variable for CSI he can test the laws of physics to see if they change with that variable. If they are invariant, then CSI is proved. QED. I don’t think he has any idea what I’m talking about, but this would not be hard to do once the variable was identified. Any physics grad student could do it.

  13. Gabriel Hanna:

    Dembski is annoying to me because he’s an out-and-out liar and he knows it. If this were actually true […snip…] then he could indicate how to calculate the CSI of something, anything.

    Yup, this is a key point. The same is true for Behe. Both claim to have already detected this complexity. So they must have had a methodology for doing the detection. Share it. Show us what algorithm you followed, so we can independently apply it to your cases an verify your results, and so we can apply it to other cases too. Without a methods section, ID’s results are useless.

    Dembski:

    A design inference having this logic seemed to me necessary for reinstating design in science since without it design would be scientifically undetectable

    ID’s design inference is only necessary because they refuse to form testable hypotheses about the designer (because that would give the game away). But if you look across all the other sciences, that is how they detect design: (1) hypothesize a designer, (2) determine what evidence you might find if that hypothesis was either correct or incorrect, and (3) go look for this evidence of either correctness or incorrectness. Example: IF this arrowhead-looking stone was carved by stone-age humans (a hypothesized designer), THEN we might expect to find campfires around, because humans build campfires. So; look for old campfires.

    So, in a way they are right, but only because they are deceptive. They are right that they can’t find design any other way than improbability. But that is because they want to deceive people about the properties of their putative designer. If they didn’t want to deceive anyone, they could just describe their designer as an hypothesis and then go look for evidence for/against that hypothesis.

  14. TomS says: “He could take a small, beginning step in this direction by indicating … what are the units that CSI is measured in.”

    I believe the basic unit of CSI is the flagellum. From there, it’s all measured in multiples of flagella. This is routine stuff for a design theorist.

  15. @Gabriel Hanna concerning the “conservation of information”. I believe that “conservation” is the wrong word (from the ID point of view), because they admit that “information” can spontaneously
    decrease.
    Thus Noether’s theorem doesn’t apply (that is, there is no associated symmetry).

  16. Our Curmudgeon suggests

    I believe the basic unit of CSI is the flagellum. From there, it’s all measured in multiples of flagella.

    That is the correct unit of measure, but only in the microscopic scale, e.g. a paramecium contains 28.58 flagella of Irreducible Perplexity

    But for a macro scale, one uses other units of convoluted perplexity. For example, Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake contains a whopping 6,789,789 gigaluskins of befuddlement.

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    @TomS:they admit that “information” can spontaneously
    decrease.

    So they do, good catch. Guess I’ll never get one of those coveted DI postdoc spots.

  18. The design inference, as I developed it, looks to a marker of design, what I call specified complexity or specified improbability, and from there reasons to a designing intelligence as responsible for this marker.

    I agree with Gabe that there is no clear definition of CSI, and the means to measure it, such that independent investigators could examine anything and calculate its CSI, much less come up with the same result. The ability to duplicate results, at least theoretically, is central to the scientific process, and ID’s lack of such capability is one major reason why it cannot be deemed science.

    However, with respect to CSI, I believe its greatest failure is in the logic that underlies it. Essentially, CSI is meant to distinguish something that occurs naturally from something that is “intelligently designed” based on their relative probabilities, however CSI advocates only attempt to measure one of the two probabilities, that of something occurring naturally. ID advocates state that there is no scientific means of studying the alternative, supernatural cause and avoid any attempt to do so. Therefore, the CSI calculation is a comparison between a calculated (however imperfectly) probability for natural causes and an unknown probability for whatever the alternative might be. That’s not science, it’s not reproducible, and ultimately the result is simply an opinion dependent upon whether one believes in a designer. Which is, of course, descriptive of ID as a whole.

  19. Gabriel Hanna

    @eric: If they didn’t want to deceive anyone, they could just describe their designer as an hypothesis and then go look for evidence for/against that hypothesis.

    I think that would be problematic. We can ascribe design to human artifacts because we know all about human abilities and motivations. We do not need to speculate whether a clay pot we dig up was produced by woolly mammoths, we know they were not very skilled at making pots and they never had much use for them.

    But with God no one can agree on what God’s intentions or abilities are–except that His abilities are unlimited by anything we can understand, and His motivations are so wise as to be hopelessly unfathomable by mortals. Not much hook to hang testable predictions on.

  20. In the time that I worked on my response, off and on, it appears my arguments have already been made by others… didn’t mean to duplicate

  21. My grandmother once told me as a child that one shouldn’t leave ones shoes on top of a piece of furniture as it brought bad “luck”.
    The inference was that ones actions could effect the behavior of some unseen and unknowable force in the world. One day I did briefly set my shoes on a dresser, and sure enough, later that day, it was overcast. So, there is just one more piece of proof of Dembski’s concept. I love science.

  22. What is the probability that intelligent designers, about whom we know nothing of their goals or methods or materials, except that we assume they are capable of doing more things than merely natural processes can do – what is the probability that they would design the world of life as it is?
    Here is a rough estimate of the probability, the ratio of the number of “favorable” outcomes to the number of “possible” outcomes: The number of “favorable” is the same for both “designers” and “natural”, but the number of “possible” is greater for “designers” than for “natural”; for “designers”, the divisor is larger, hence the probability is less.
    In the extreme case, where the “designers” are capable of anything at all, such that the number of “possible” outcomes is infinite, then the probability is zero.

  23. Gabriel:

    But with God no one can agree on what God’s intentions or abilities are–except that His abilities are unlimited by anything we can understand,

    Well, that’s part of why they don’t do it. The moment they say who their designer is and describe his capabilities, it becomes perfectly clear that ID is not a scientific hypothesis. Their designer’s capabilities make it an untestable claim. Since they want to claim ID is a scientific idea, they have to play this game of never describing their hypothetical designer.

    Now, they could certainly hypothesize and test for other, more limited designers. Like aliens or intelligent dinosaurs or something. But that does not accomplish the real, underlying purpose of movement – evangelism. So its a waste of their time and effort. Let’s be blunt here; Ahmanson is probably not giving the DI millions per year to test whether aliens or some other designer meddled with ape DNA. He’s giving them millions to promote God did it.

  24. Is it possible to turn the improbability factor against the intended use of the ID salesmen? I personally don’t believe aliens have ever visited earth, but there has been indications of the building blocks of life observed at considerable distance from earth. Given that information, the improbability of a divine entity being responsible for the design of all things on earth is far higher than it would be for highly evolved alien life forms to have done so. We all know they are selling snake oil, can their arguments be turned against them by shoving better quality snake oil in their face?

  25. Gabriel Hanna

    @Dean:We all know they are selling snake oil, can their arguments be turned against them by shoving better quality snake oil in their face?

    I wonder if they don’t think the same thing. They are surprisingly hostile to the notion that life might exist elsewhere in the universe. Of course that’s because it goes against the idea that humans were created by the God of Abraham. If they really cared only about design, they should be indifferent, or willing to predict that life found elsewhere was also designed.

    The key point is this: God > Man > everything else. That’s the thing you can’t touch. They can accommodate–or pretend to–a universe older than Genesis, they can give up the Flood (except when they badly need a job a Bible college) but they can’t give up anything that might imply that human life is somehow not unique. That’s why they are so coy about common descent, when that shouldn’t matter from a design perspective either.

    But the thing is you are never going to convince an audience susceptible to creationism that aliens designed life on Earth, because the God of Abraham is what’s on their minds and they are only interested in a rationalization that lets them reject inconvenient evidence. They can–and do–say “could be aliens, sure, wink wink nudge nudge say no more”.

    You can’t fight snake oil with snake oil, because it doesn’t work–that’s what “snake oil” MEANS. You have to nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

  26. Your dismissal of probability arguments goes too far.

    Suppose you are flying over a deserted island. You see the word “Help” written in large letters on the sand. Do you say:
    (i) This is a sign of intelligence. Someone down there needs help.
    or
    (ii) The probability of the sand grains being in this configuration by chance is clearly non-zero, so I choose to believe that’s how it happened.

    Your arguments would seem to be able to justify (ii).

    Note: I am not saying Dembski and colleagues have found anything so improbable, just that you shouldn’t rule out a priori the possibility that they might.

  27. David Evans frames the hypothetical:

    Suppose you are flying over a deserted island. You see the word “Help” written in large letters on the sand

    I see the point (and its merit here), but would also like to suggest some related scenarios to consider, viz., suppose you are flying over a deserted island, and see the word “artichoke” written in sand, in Times New Roman font.

    I’m not trying to be cute, just trying to frame a scenario in which fewer presuppositions might apply. Among the many things that annoy me about Dembski’s ‘design inference’ is the door it opens to no end of silliness; if you buy Dembski’s argument, then I don’t see how you can avoid taking at face value idiotic claims like Virgin Mary appears on a piece of toast, or Message from Allah found in tomato.

  28. Gabriel Hanna

    @David Evans:(i) This is a sign of intelligence. Someone down there needs help. (ii) The probability of the sand grains being in this configuration by chance is clearly non-zero, so I choose to believe that’s how it happened.

    You’re stealing some bases here. I’m familiar with humans, their abilities and motivations. I have a great deal of information besides the mere configuration of the rocks to base an inference about whether this was done by a human.

    For example, if I knew in some other way that there were currently no humans on the island, (suppose it’s just flat sand with no cover, all parts of it easily visible) I would not conclude that ants or beavers or space aliens had arranged the rocks. Instead, I would assume that specifically a human had been there in the past. Supposedly a test for design can tell design in the absence of any information about the designer. This is false.

    Humans do not have the ability to design biological structures from the DNA up. We know we didn’t do it. We know of no other designers at all, much less know of no other intelligence with the ability.

    Dembski’s CSI also requires an infinite regress. God (oh okay a “designer”) had to put CSI in, it can’t come about through natural processes by definition. So the designer had to have been designed. If we can assume a designer we can assume CSI.

  29. Gabriel Hanna

    Another rock example: I fly over the island and I see the rocks arranged to spell PAIN.

    From the configuration of the rocks alone, if I infer this was designed, what do I infer about the designer’s motivation?

    And why does my answer change if I my mother tongue was French?

    It’s because my design inference is highly dependent on the sort of designer I have in mind.

  30. Gabriel Hanna: “That’s why they are so coy about common descent,…”

    Actually that would be reason to say “Humans do not share common ancestors with any other species, period,” just like the Biblical YECs and OEC say. They reason that Discoveroids are merely coy – when they’re not conceding common descent outright – is they know that the alternative is the more extraordinary claim, with no evidence whatever to support it.

  31. What is the probability that humans would be marooned on a desert island and write “HELP” in stones? It’s greater than the probability that that would appear by some accidental arrangement.
    What is the probability that some unspecified intelligent designers who are capable of doing just about anything would choose to design life on Earth?
    Does anyone have any estimate better than the one that I suggested? What is the probability that those designers would have put the “HELP” message on the desert island?

  32. David Evans wrote:

    Your dismissal of probability arguments goes too far.

    To this I reply Nonsense and Poppycock!

    And to the creationists who use fallacious “probability” arguments I call BS. And to the degreed mathematicians, Dembski, I say shame on you, you are a disgrace to the human species.

    According to the way creationists use math to fool their audience, rather, marks, nobody would ever win a lottery. Nobody could get dealt a full house. Light from the Sun would never reflect off the surface of Jupiter and hit you in the eyeball. Rain would be impossible. Yet, all these things occur.

    Just for fun I’ll play the game. Suppose you fly over a desert island and you see a crude circle with a dot in the center. Could be drawn in the sand or arranged with rocks. I don’t care. What do you make of that? Natural formation? Sure, I’ve seen things like that while hiking. Doesn’t mean a thing, does it?

    Or does it?

    Turns out that a circle with a dot in it is a hiking sign meaning “gone home.” If you were meeting up with someone on the trail and you found this sign you would know that they have “gone home.”

    So your “probability” argument is totally worthless, as are ALL “probability” arguments put forth by creationists and totally dishonest when put forth by degreed creationists who know better, Dembski, Meyers and others.

    I’m not going to lecture anyone on probability. If you want to learn statistical analysis take a course or read some books. But don’t piss on my back and tell me it’s raining or, closer to a true lying creationist say that the probability of you pissing on my back is infinitely small.

    Gone too far dissing creationists about probability arguments? Probably not.

  33. Next time I find myself on a small desert island, I will not be able to resist gathering up the rocks to compose the following message:

    THIS ISLAND HAS BEEN LEFT BLANK INTENTIONALLY

  34. No time for the long rant today – here is the short one:

    With CSI, Dembski has taken the idea of a Likelihood Ratio Test (LRT) and deliberately misuses/misinterprets it. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Likelihood-ratio_test)

    The mathematics is more than most people need, but it is a basic principle of statistical inference, and the applications are everywhere. Someone should ask Dembski why his interpretation of the same mathematics is entirely different.

    And if you bother to chase the correct interpretation down the rabbit-hole of CSI, the only way it can make sense is to assume your conclusion with a probability of 1.0.

    The longer version of this rant is something I really ought to write up, and it’s on my very long list of things-to-do, just after re-painting the doors.

  35. A longer version of the same rant can be found on the comments here: http://sensuouscurmudgeon.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/the-new-theory-of-improvident-design/

    … also with reference to other spirit based entities.

  36. The problem about design inference is simply that humans decide what to consider special aggangement and what is not special. We may recognize a word in a string of random letters, but by no means it would be sign that the word has been inserted there by force. I intentionnaly inserted the word ‘design’ in the middle of the following string:
    “adhakjhflskfgshdfhskldesignjhdwkajhffhaiwud”
    and one could really come up and say, that the distribution of the letters is somehow unsteady, this and that, and than come up with some difference factor, which would distinguish the letter sequence ‘design’ from other letter sequences in the string. But in case that i don’t understand english language – i would never recognize the word ‘design’. I would never give it a special meaning, even if the pure analysis would point it out. I would than rather say that this is some random unevenness. So is our (human) attitude to what we observe the key, not the observation itself.
    If I can recognize a face or an elephant looking at the clouds, then according to improbability i would have to say there is an intelligent design in the air? Surely not.
    The humans are intelligent,and so they can recognize patterns and thus look for patterns.
    Let me quote Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Only mankind can do the impossible: He can distinguish, He chooses and judges,”
    Paraphrazing it to fit te context of my comment, i want to say: “Only mankind can see the improbable…”

    The whole randomness is dependent on our perception. Is there something special about the number sequence 726746425? No? Is it random? No it’s not! It’s an octal representation of 123456789. Hence all is question of how the human interpret what they see.

  37. Alexej S. observes, “If I can recognize a face or an elephant looking at the clouds, then according to improbability i would have to say there is an intelligent design in the air? Surely not.”

    A perfect example that refutes the whole idea of “Design Inference”. Unfortunately, not many will see it way back here in the archives.

  38. I saw it, and ended up re-reading nearly everything. I had intended to follow up on this, but forgot about it. Maybe over the break …