Curmudgeon Computes Specified Complexity

Calculating Specified Complexity

Calculating Specified Complexity

The Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page — claim that something they call specified complexity is at the core of their theory of intelligent design. According to Wikipedia:

Specified complexity is an argument proposed by William Dembski and used by him and others to promote intelligent design. According to Dembski, the concept is intended to formalize a property that singles out patterns that are both specified and complex, in specific senses defined by Dembski. Dembski states that specified complexity is a reliable marker of design by an intelligent agent, a central tenet to intelligent design which Dembski argues for in opposition to modern evolutionary theory.

Unfortunately for the Discoveroids, there has never been any strict definition of this esoteric phenomenon, and no clear method of detecting or computing it has ever been proposed. Yet the Discoveroids claim that they can somehow recognize its presence. They’ve tried numerous times to describe the concept, but always to no avail. We posted about one such attempt here: Casey Defines “Complex and Specified Information”, but Casey’s efforts left us totally bewildered.

In our Curmudgeonly benevolence, we decided to deploy our formidable talents to assist the Discoveroids by bringing much-need mathematical rigor to their speculations. Thus we have been toiling in our secret, underground la-BOR-a-tory to crack this bedeviling problem. And now we can proudly announce that our efforts have been rewarded with success.

With the aid of thousands of hours of non-stop super-computer runs, we have isolated the mathematical expression that defines specified complexity. It’s an irrational number (we knew it would be), so like pi it’s worthy of a symbol. We have decided upon ■▓■ as being most appropriate. It’s made of ASCI characters, so it should be readable on your computer. We modestly call it the Curmudgeon’s Constant.

Using ■▓■, we can easily identify the presence and precise quantity of specified complexity in any object, large or small, living or otherwise. As our revolutionary formula above this post clearly illustrates, the specified complexity of anything — represented by (X) in our formula — is the square root of that thing, multiplied by the Curmudgeon’s Constant, and divided by zero.

What results have we obtained? We calculated the specified complexity of the flagellum. It’s infinite! Of the existence of life? That too has an infinite amount of specified complexity. Of the whole finely-tuned universe? Again, the specified complexity is infinite. This is solid science! We proved it with math. It’s been peer-reviewed and published — here in our humble blog.

Our results are beyond refutation. Our logic is undeniable. We now await our Discoveroid fellowship, a lifetime pass to ol’ Hambo’s Creation Museum, and then … the rapture!

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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16 responses to “Curmudgeon Computes Specified Complexity

  1. longshadow

    What results have we obtained? We calculated the specified complexity of the flagellum. It’s infinite! Of the existence of life? That too has an infinite amount of specified complexity. Of the whole finely-tuned universe? Again, the specified complexity is infinite.

    Infinite, eh? Countably infinite, or uncountably infinite?

  2. Dembski has multiple definitions of ID, but the bottom line is that there is NO equation ever presented by IDers which has these three properties simultaneoulsy:

    1. Found in biological structures

    2. Can’t be produced by natural processes

    3. Known to be produced by invisible spooks

    In order to infer intelligent design in life or any part of life (e.g. DNA), the IDiots need an equation which has properties 1, 2, and 3 simultaneously. Needless to say, they do not have any such equation.

    If you ask them, they will blather on about analogies, “DNA is just like a Shakespearean sonnet” or “like Mount Rushmore– you look and you know it’s intelligently designed.” But a sonnet or poem does not have property 1: we have no evidence that any biological structure has anything analogous to a sonnet, or any human grammar or language.

    Or they will blather on about how “DNA in living things is very improbable, if you compute probability by the random scrambling of parts.” We know that, but evolution is not the random scrambling of parts, and that improbability does not have property 2: we know for sure that natural processes produce structures that have low probability, if probability is computed (incorrectly) as the random scrambling of parts.

    So all their definitions of “information” are either not-1 or not-2, or both; and the challenge for the IDiot is to equivocate by baiting and switching rapidly between multiple definitions. If we complain “But your definition of information does not have property 1”, the blather on about some analogy that may have property 1 but doesn’t have property 2. If we complain “But your re-definition information does not have property 2”, the blather on about a different analogy that may have property 2 but doesn’t have property 1. And round and round they go, forever equivocating.

    Here is one of my favorite threads: MathGrrl shows up at Uncommon Descent and asks them how to compute Complex Specified Information for very simple processes, like gene duplication. The IDiots pile abuse and insults on him/her for HUNDREDS of comments, questioning his/her motivations but not answering the question. At long last, VJ Torley does the math (based on Dembski’s 2005 paper) and instantly concludes that natural processes like gene duplication DO can create CSI! Oops!

    Later MathGrrl asked the same question as a guest poster at UD and was subject to still more insults and abuse, but no clear answers, except when an IDer like VJ Torley admits natural processes can create CSI.

  3. longshadow asks: “Countably infinite, or uncountably infinite?”

    I have transcended The Time Cube. To me you are little more than an amoeba. Don’t bother me with trivia!

  4. longshadow

    I have transcended The Time Cube. To me you are little more than an amoeba. Don’t bother me with trivia!

    Countably trivial, or uncountably trivial?

  5. I notice the denominator in your equation is set to equal the probability of a supernatural designer.

  6. Oops – did not intend to be anonymous.

    The Drake equation, for all it’s flaws, is a good way to organize one’s thinking about extraterrestrial life. It seems reasonable that the DI should come up with an equivalent. Perhaps we could help them – there must be a way of structuring a discussion of the odds of an Intelligent Designer, for example. It annoys me that the DI always assumes that a Designer is possible, when in my view the odds are zero of a supernatural realm even existing.

  7. To use demski’s own example if I throw a dart at a wall and it hits it, that is complexity. If I aim for a spot and hit it that is specified complexity. His argument presumes god “aimed for” the specific configuration of current life on earth making it “specified” complexity rather than it evolving naturally (non-specific complexity) and therefore concludes that there is a god. In other words god created life therefore life is specified complexity which PROVES there is a god.

    Circular logic convoluted to obfuscate it’s perfectly round edges.

  8. The big problem with ID is that biological systems with the capability to replicate (whether molecules or cells) do not need for information to be added. Any replicative system can generate information by random processes, which when acted upon by natural selection (again molecules or cells) will simply result in the proliferation of molecules and cells adapted to whatever conditions exist in the environment. We have purely chemical systems in which RNA molecules are generated in the test tube that are capable of replication, mutation, and proliferation. Where’s the information coming from? Does the “Great Designer” wave his magic wand over every test tube in such an experiment? I doubt that. There’s a lot of molecular research that the IDers ignore (or are not aware of) that makes their whole argument moot.

  9. Doctor Stochastic

    Some will remember (from the Crevo Wars 6, The Umpire Strikes Out), I did post a short note on a Creationist-Oriented site demonstrating that addition or removal of things (objects, people, traits, …) could add information. Likewise, either addition or removal could subtract information.

    Information describes Shannon’s work, not that of Number Six.

  10. @agnophilo You bet. And no matter how you set it up, if you call the hit a posteriori, you’re nothing but a Texas sharpshooter. But I’m willing to forgive because what else have they got? You can’t predict anything with a theory that has specification as a premise.

  11. The important thing about complexity (whether specified or irreducible) is not its value, but the change, d▓/dt. We know that natural causes cannot produce an increase in complexity (that’s the Law of Conservation of Information), and we know that the first appearance of life/bacterial flagellum/vertebrate eye involved a (non-zero) increase in complexity, and that’s how we know that these things are intelligently designed.
    But if ▓=infinity for the first life, and also for the first bacterium with a flagellum, and also for the first vertebrate with eyes, then there is no change in the value for a flagellum or eye.
    One might also wonder about the amount of complexity in space-time itself, whether that is also infinite, so that there is no increase with the appearance of matter and energy in space-time, or the appearance of life in matter.

  12. Have never seen the IDiots use the Fibonacci sequence as an argument for design…..obviously used for the design of various things from the chambered nautilus and the shape of Africa 🙂

  13. I can remember hearing the argument from design being used to “explain” why
    (1) water expands on freezing, so that ice floats on water, which means that lakes don’t freeze all the way to the bottom, so that fish survive the winter
    (2) the cells of a beehive are hexagonal
    (3) the planets have separate orbits instead of crashing into one another
    and on and on. And I don’t recall many people breaking into laughter about those explanations.

  14. TomS: The law of conservation of information is bogus. For example, when genome duplication has occurred in an organism by chance more information is produced. Duplicate genes are now free to mutate and selection takes them down different evolutionary pathways depending on the environment (natural selection). Entire gene families have arisen by such processes.

    Water expands on freezing because of the structure of the molecule. Hydrogen bonding during crystal formation (freezing) results in the water molecules being slightly further apart than in the liquid state and therefore ice has a lower density and floats.

    Beehive cells are round when they are formed by the bee. Only later as the wax flows do they assume the hexagonal shape. The bee does not create the hexagonal shape. I guess they didn’t take geometry. This was only recently reported in a scientific journal.

    Planets have separate orbits because by chance planetoid material accrets and sweeps out a region around a star and a planet is formed. The number and nature of the planets in a solar system is a product of chance and the particular dynamics of that solar system.

    None of these things require the Intelligent Designer to wave his/her magic wand for them to happen.

  15. The law of conservation of information is bogus.
    In how many different ways? Here are a few:
    (1) Even the ID advocates allow that “information” can decrease spontaneously, by natural processes, so “conservation” is the wrong word.
    (2) What experimental evidence do they have for “conservation”? You can’t just promulgate a law of nature because it seems right, you have to have evidence for it. Just to make it more ridiculous, what do they point to but cases in which “information” increases? The only evidence that they claim to have shows that there is no such law.
    (3) And one has to point out that they don’t have a description of “information”. Even elementary questions, such as whether it is an extensive or an intensive property, or what it is a property of, are not addressed.
    (4) Anyway, what if the whole history of life up to and including the Cambrian diversification was “intelligently designed”? What “increase in information by non-natural cases” has happened in the last few hundred million years? After the appearance of the vertebrate eye, the bacterial flagellum, and all of those other “intelligently designed” things, the designer(s) retired from their design business.

    As far as those three examples of “design”, I chose them because they were so ridiculous. For example, what if lakes froze to the bottom, killing off all of the lake fish? There are plenty of environments which do kill off any possibility of life and they don’t accept that as an argument against design, do they?

  16. You can’t just promulgate a law of nature because it seems right? Even if it really, really seems right? Please? It’s awful science-y, with equations and everything.