Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Emptiness that is Complex Specified Information

Over at Uncommon Descent, the blog where William Dembski and his ID sycophants isolate themselves from the rest of the intellectual world, banning dissenting opinions and patting themselves on the back in premature congratulations for bringing down the big nasty Darwinist Conspiracy (tm), which of course is and has been going to happen any day now for the past 10 years, we get this wonderful illustration from Head Sycophant Dave Scot on how poorly thought out the ID concept of "Complex Specified Information" is.

Over at Dispatches, Ed Brayton beat me to the punch on many of the standard creationist flaws in Davescot's arguments. Davescot's analogy of a deck of cards to the amino acids in an enzyme assumes every arrangement of acids is equally likely (not even close), that every acid is required for the enzyme to function (experimentally disproven), that the function of the enzyme must stay the same over its evolutionary history (ignoring the known event of cooption), and of course, the most glaring and common flaw in creationist arguments, the implicit assumption that the arrangement of amino acids came about in one fell swoop of chance, rather than the actual argument made by evolutionary theory, that it was created incrementally with step-by-step modifications with successive generations over much time.

But there is a more fundamental problem with this line of thinking that goes to the heart of what is wrong with creationist thinking. From Davescot:

Start with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. You are told that it has been shuffled thoroughly. Upon examination you find that the deck is perfectly ordered by suit and rank. Will you still believe it was shuffled? Probably not. Do you know you’ve based that conclusion on specified complexity? Probably not. Our brains are pattern recognition engines. You reach the conclusion intuitively.

Bullshit. We don't reach this conclusion via intuition. Human intuition is an evolved part of us like anything else, but we could not have evolved an intuition about playing card orders. There simply has not been enough time for us to do so, because playing cards have only been around a few hundred years, and evolution requires a lot more time than that. We have, however, evolved a pattern recognition ability which we use for it's obvious advantages. However, it is prone to false positives, which is one of the key problems Dembski and company have still yet to solve. Special pleading to intuition doesn't cut it, especially when, in this case, the solution is much more obvious.

When confronted with a deck perfectly ordered by suit and rank, we doubt the shuffled-chance hypothesis because we have a lot of experience with cards, and we already know there are several ways the cards can end up ordered by suit and rank. Anyone who has ever played solitaire knows this. So does anyone who has opened a fresh pack of cards and examined it. They come ordered that way!

Of course, Davescot gives the game away that ID is not science with the following meandering nonsense:

"Specification can be defined as an independently given pattern.
The problem with this is that specification is subjective. It is not a product of nature but rather a product of mind. We can’t, or at least I believe we can’t, come up with an objective formula that distinguishes specification from non-specification. But that doesn’t negate the fact that specification is tangible and can be practically employed to discriminate between chance and design as we can see with the deck of cards example above."

Sorry Dave, that is exactly what it does. For the concept of CSI to be scientific, it has to be objectively determinable. Otherwise, CSI is just sciency-sounding porn: "I can't define it, but I know it when I see it". Subjectivity is not tangible, and can only be "practically employed", albeit imperfectly, by likeminded individuals. CSI also needs a clear definition of what it means to be "an independently given pattern". Independent of or from what? And "given"?!?! No loaded terms there!

As a final shot at this mess of an argument, take a containder, and fill it with sand, water, and oil, shake well, and then let stand. In a short time you will get very nicely divided contents, sand, oil and water. Very orderly, very nonrandom, and would surely set Davescot's CSI recognition apparatus all a tither. He'd perceive the hand of a designer. And he'd be very wrong, as usual.

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