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Saturday, December 16, 2006 CE

Dissecting Intelligent Design Number 2: “The Shakespeare Sonnet”


In January of 2006, I wrote the Number 1 of this series, called “ The Mousetrap” in which I explained and criticized the idea of “irreducible complexity”. In this post I will concentrate in the Intelligent Design (ID) idea called “specified complexity.”

Specified complexity states that information that is “specified” can just be characterized as just a single informational unit. The example that is given is the one of the single letter of the alphabet. It could also be a bit or a pixel. A phrase, a novel or an article could also be regarded as units. By complex I understand “a group of single informational units”. A sequence of random letters would be complex, but not specific. A Shakespearean sonnet would be specified and complex, because it can be regarded as a unit on its own and it is composed of smaller units (letters of the alphabet). When something is specified and complex, ID says, it has to be designed by intelligence. The creator of the concept even defines specified complex information as anything with a less than 1 in 10150 chance of occurring by (natural) chance. So, the Shakespearean sonnet, by being specified and complex, would have a less than a 1 in 10150 chance to occur in nature without the intervention of a designer.

ID states that the DNA base sequences of living beings are specified and complex. According to it, they have a less than 1 in 10 to the power of 150 chance of being a consequence of random mutations aided by natural selection. ID implies that 4.6 billion years of molecular history is not enough to produce the genetic code of a bacteria or a human being.

First of all, this theory is not taking into account the actual nature of DNA. DNA is made by protein-coding exons and non protein coding introns. The introns, are located in between exons, interrupting coding sequences. Since their genetic code is not transformed into protein, mutations that locate in them are not subject to natural selection so they remain part of the DNA of any given species. This has given rise to a genetic tool called the molecular clock, which attempts to establish the temporal relationship between different species and their hypothetical common ancestor. This makes the DNA look more like puerile writing, corrected by a teacher than a Shakespearean sonnet.

Secondly, the creator of this theory has chosen the power of 150 to define when we are in front of creation by intelligence. He probably did some math, taking into account the mutation rates and the proofreading mechanisms; however, the theory cannot be tested by experiment, cannot generate any predictions, and cannot propose new hypotheses of their own.

My third argument against specified complexity is logical. If we take the statement: “Complex specified information does not occur without the aid of a designer, or the chances of it occurring without that aid are less than 1 in 10 to the power of 150”. The statement seems correct, so now we have to determine if it is a validity or a tautology. The definition of complex specified information involves what is mentioned in the second sub-statement. It is the same as saying that “oranges are not cubes, or they are spherical”, i.e., a tautology.


As a conclusion, I must say that it is clear that specified complexity cannot be counted as an argument against evolution by natural selection or for the existence of a designer. It fails the biological and the logical sense. In addition, it cannot be tested, like all other scientific theories, by the scientific method.

28 Comments:

Blogger Diane S. said...

It seems to me that the "scientist" who composed this theory did it with a two part agenda: 1) insisting that there is a god; and 2) insisting that Darwin's theory was wrong. Anyone with an agenda can grab enough random critera to prove their point. This is how you come up with a theory (that)cannot be tested by experiment, cannot generate any predictions, and cannot propose new hypotheses of their own.

As you know, I happen to believe there is a God. I just also happen to believe that God set things up so that there would be random mutations in DNA so that other species could evolve if a particular mutation is helpful, and would die off if a particular mutation isn't of value to the mutated life form.

Why Christians find it so necessary to rail against Darwin is beyond me. It's like saying "There are no Japanese Cars!" You can say it all you like, but look around baby. Here they are.

2:20 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

First, the fact that something can't be proved by the "scientific method" (which is as arbitrary as picking the power of 150 because it is limited to our level of intelligence) does not mean it isn't correct.

Second, I agree that intelligent design and specified complexity cannot disprove evolution or prove God.

Third, less than 2 weeks ago I was listening to NPR and a Phd from Cambridge shared some personal letters written by Darwin. Darwin said - (my best paraphrase - the actual information can found at gutenburg.com sp?) "In my most extreme fluctuations I am not an atheist." Darwin did not think that evolution was at conflict with God.

Fourth, I think that evolution is part of the intelligent design. I think that God created all the components of the universe including universal laws and evolution was part of it.

Q

PS - Sunday I had dinner with a former astronaut that lived on MIR for a while. I was lucky to have him as my boss for many years in San Antonio - he is a facsinating person.

He is overwhelmed by 2 things.
1. The Earth is a dot compared to the Sun. The Sun is a dot compared to Alpha Centauri (or may be he said Rigel). In other words we are a miniscule part of the universe.

2. He is overwhelmed by a picture taken by the Hubble. It has an extremely narrow 2 degree field of vision. In one picture over 1,500 galaxies can be seen representing 1 trillion stars.

When he reads the Bible he is convinced that God has created life in other places.

Q

12:10 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

Oh yeah, the fact that something can be proved by the scientific method doesn't mean it is right either. It means that with our limited intelligence and knowledge it is the best we can do.

Q

12:12 AM  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Q:
First, the fact that something can't be proved by the "scientific method" (which is as arbitrary as picking the power of 150 because it is limited to our level of intelligence) does not mean it isn't correct.
That, my friend, is the Negative Proof fallcy.
Second, I agree that intelligent design and specified complexity cannot disprove evolution or prove God.
Neither of them stand up, especially since 'Divine Wind' Dembski is none too good at structuring his hypothoses.
Darwin did not think that evolution was at conflict with God.
Here's the exact quote:
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext00/1llcd10.txt
"What my own views may be is a question of no consequence to any one but myself. But, as you ask, I may state that my judgment often fluctuates...In my most extreme fluctuations I have never been an Atheist in the sense of denying the existence of a God. I think that generally (and more and more as I grow older), but not always, that an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind."
I don't think Darwin's views were relevant to the theory, as it is a conglomerate of facts & observations.
Fourth, I think that evolution is part of the intelligent design. I think that God created all the components of the universe including universal laws and evolution was part of it.
I think everything just is. No need for a father surrogate.
Oh yeah, the fact that something can be proved by the scientific method doesn't mean it is right either.
Clearly an appeal to wonder.
Define what you mean by 'right', if you would be so kind?

3:05 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Ka,

When I used right in this opinion I mean universally true and timeless. In other words, it will stand up under any conditions and won't be invalidated when we learn more in a few years or even a billion years.

I, like you, do not need a surrogate father. My real father was just fine. But, like it or not, the father analogy was the way that creation was described to half of the West (Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Mormons all agree on the Old Testament). I believe that much of the Bible is analogy.

The Bible was forced to be vague because, just like today, we do not have the intelligence or knowledge to explain creation.

I believe that the Theory of Evolution will stand up over time. It is right. More data will not invalidate it. To me the ToE is not hard to understand or explain. I'm shocked that people try to make such a big deal out of it. I'm also shocked that people try to deny it. Everything in the universe affects, or has the potential to affect, everything else in the universe. Over time gravity, competition, weather, etc. result in change. Whoop tee damn dooooo da!

The primary importance of the ToE is that it disproved how the Bible has been interpreted by the various religions which tried to use their interpretations to stop the advancement of knowledge and to retain power over the people against their will. That is not the same thing as disproving God (Which I define as an "all powerful" and "all good" entity).

What humans "know" will not fill a thimble compared to what we "do not know" which will fill an ocean.

My father was a lawyer and he found it very easy to manage doctors on the witness stand (no offense meant Marco I know that you are smarter than me and my father combined) by asking them questions that nobody can prove to be right. He ended up making them say "It is just my opinion."

Despite a knowledge base that doubles multiple times per year, all good doctors know how little we understand about life relative to what can be known.

Q

10:28 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Diane S:

I think your comment is extremely important. In your first paragraph you summarize the whole purpose of ID. In your second paragraph, by telling us that you believe in a divinity and by stating your acceptance of a scientific theory, you clearly show how science and religion cannot be mixed. The can coexist in a person's mind, without interfering with each other.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q:

I agree with Kristalline Apostate about the Negative Proof Fallacy.

Intelligent Design does not reach the level of scientific theory so, by definition, it cannot be tested, generate predictions or propose new hypotheses. So, it cannot disprove evolution. It cannot prove the existence of gods because the world of the gods is the supernatural.

Darwin was not an atheist in the sense of a denier of God, as he said. He described himself as an agnostic.

If you believe that a god created the laws of physics and that the Universe is intelligently designed, it is your personal and respectable belief. It will never be proven right or wrong.

The scientific method is just a tool to achieve truth. With no doubt it is the best tool we have to describe the natural (and for me the only) world.

Doctors use more judgement than knowledge in clinical decision making. I do not consider myself smarter than anyone here. Most of the knowledge I show is what I just learned and want to share.

9:56 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

KA

I agree with the fact that Darwin's views with respect to divinity had nothing to do with his theory of evolution.

10:00 PM  
Blogger farmgirl said...

Well hello folks, what a nice conversation you have generated, Marco.
Q, I listened to this on NPR the other day, one of the "I believe" series, and it's the nicest one I have heard so far:

Utterly humbled by mystery

I think you, and Marco, and Diane may all appreciate it as well. I like it better listening, rather than reading. Q, you and I are perhaps far closer in our points of view than we may have thought in the past :)

-S

11:38 AM  
Blogger The Intolerant One said...

I have NO time to get in on this one but I just had to stop in and wish you a Merry Christmas. All the best to you Marco.

This debate will always resurface. I will hope to catch it next time around.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Farmgirl,

What I don't like about blogging is that most of it drives polarity and becomes uncivil. I suspect that you and I agree on 100% on ideals (freedom of speech, good health, financial security, etc.), 100% on problems of the day (poverty, crime, education, etc.), and 90% on how to solve them. But, as "they" say the devil is in the detail... Blogs drive people to their differences.

Merry Christmas,

Q

10:48 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Farmgirl,

I will try to make time to listen! Thanks for the reference.

Q

10:49 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco and Ka,

I did not use "negative fallacy". I wrote that the limitation of "scientific method" is human knowledge.

The fact that we can prove something with the knowledge we have does not mean that it is correct. We may learn one day that we are wrong.

Example: Newton's laws apply at the macro level (planets, stars, ect.) but not at the subatomic level. We did not learn this until we learned that there is a subatomic level! Now even Einstein's theory's are being challenged...

What else might we learn one day that ends up disproving Newton?

Q

10:55 AM  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Q:
I did not use "negative fallacy". I wrote that the limitation of "scientific method" is human knowledge.
Oh, yes you did, & I quote:
"First, the fact that something can't be proved by the "scientific method" (which is as arbitrary as picking the power of 150 because it is limited to our level of intelligence) does not mean it isn't correct."
The Bible was forced to be vague because, just like today, we do not have the intelligence or knowledge to explain creation.
I really, really have problems w/statements like these, because that book is by far, the least scientific, least historic, least accurate ancient work of all time.
I understand what you're saying quite well: if I were a believer, I might even call it wise.
But I am not, & it isn't. That's another thinly veiled appeal to incredulity, based on presuppositionalism.
I mean, really: in Leviticus, gawd couldn't even get bats straight, or figure out that birds only have 2 legs.
Back on subject: ID & creationism are not falsifiable.
I'm hardly going to accept a proposition based on 'oh, lookit how much we DON'T know'.

1:30 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Ka,

You are either a poor reader, lack imagination, or are highly arrogant about human knowledge.

I'll try to reword it for you so you can get my meaning.

Theory's proved using the scientific method ASSUME that we have all germane data. With some imagination it is possible to conceive that we do not have all germane data. Therefore it is possible that theory's will be disproved with new data.

That is why I shared the Newton example. When Newton realized that apples, just like planets and stars, are affected by gravity he drew the conclusion, using data available, that there is order to the universe that applies universally. Hence, an object at rest..., an object in motion..., for every action there is...

Only problem is that he was wrong. These rules do not apply at subatomic levels.

In addition, just like Christians, scientists have been known to ignore data that does not fit their expectations or desires. So the scientific method is only as good as 1.) the data, and 2.) the people.

Q

10:06 AM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Ka,

Since nobody understands creation, even today's greatest thinkers have to describe it in vague terms like the "big bang" which still don't explain how nothing became something. So, I'll stick by my statement that Bible had to be vague for the same reason. Today it is beyond our (that includes you) mental capacity to understand. So, that does not discredit the explanation in the Bible.

Q

10:16 AM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Intolerant:

Thanks for the good wishes. I also wish you the best for you and your family in these holidays.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Q:

Do you know something better than the scientific method for arriving to the truth in matters related to the natural world?

9:30 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

Farmgirl:

I read it since I am having trouble with the sound in my computer. There is something that I liked about what the author said/wrote. It was that related to dealing with ambiguity. It is close to what I have said before, which is about dealing with uncertainlty. Fortunately for me, the medical profession is one in which decision making is almost never clear cut. I am learning to deal with uncertainty every day

9:36 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Marco,

I do not know anything better, or as good. Just pointing out its limitations...

Q

3:37 AM  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Q:
You are either a poor reader, lack imagination, or are highly arrogant about human knowledge.
Like most poor debaters, you automatically go for the ad hominem at the 1st sign of actual dissent.
Do you ever tire of being consistently wrong? I am none of the 3 you’ve listed.
I'll try to reword it for you so you can get my meaning.
I did understand you the 1st time. You may want to get your psychology degree somewhere other than Sear & Roebuck.
Theory's proved using the scientific method ASSUME that we have all germane data. With some imagination it is possible to conceive that we do not have all germane data. Therefore it is possible that theory's will be disproved with new data.
You can bite my ass, fella. It’s YOUR side that demands certitude.
That is why I shared the Newton example. When Newton blah-de-blah-blah-blah
Yeesh, do you have ANYTHING new to say? Which page of the Dancing Wu Li masters is that on?
Since nobody understands creation, even today's greatest thinkers have to describe it in vague terms like the "big bang" which still don't explain how nothing became something.
See, this is where not only your reading comprehension, but your long-term memory, AWA your distinct lack of scientific acumen shows.
First off, we had this discussion. Your side says ‘something from nothing’. Unless you provide a distinct quote, I call bullshit on that.
Second off, the latest findings show that there WAS a universe that preceded ours: http://www.world-science.net/othernews/060514_bouncefrm.htm
Third off, & I quote: “What I don't like about blogging is that most of it drives polarity and becomes uncivil.”
If you’re whining about this sorta thing, it behooves you to at least TRY to refrain from being uncivil: otherwise you’re a hypocrite.
So, I'll stick by my statement that Bible had to be vague for the same reason. Today it is beyond our (that includes you) mental capacity to understand. So, that does not discredit the explanation in the Bible.
Of course, since you have little else to offer other than vacuous homilies and pious platitudes.

3:24 PM  
Blogger Truth Seeker said...

Ka,

I originally directed my comments here to Marco - not you.

I got tired of you a long time ago. Hence, I stopped viewing your blog and I stopped directing comments.

I made the mistake of responding to you here and for that I am very sorry.

Q

10:24 PM  
Blogger Krystalline Apostate said...

Q:
I originally directed my comments here to Marco - not you.
For someone who claims to be a 'truth seeker', you sure are selective about who you listen to.
I got tired of you a long time ago. Hence, I stopped viewing your blog and I stopped directing comments.
???? You've never commented at my blog, for 1 thing. For another, I'm a little sick of your smarmy comments. So boo-hoo, you won't be missed.
The 1st time we tussled, you immediately started attacking my character. You've consistently attacked my character & my intelligence.
Short version: you can dish it out, but you sure can't take it.
I made the mistake of responding to you here and for that I am very sorry.
I suggest then, that since you have such a fragile constitution, & very little outside of some pseudoscientific psychobabble, that perhaps you retire from this game.
Because you're none too good at it, bucko.
Nor none too smart I might add.
& here it is again, since your fragile little ego seems to get in the way of your 'search for truth':
What I don't like about blogging is that most of it drives polarity and becomes uncivil.
Practice what you preach, or stop preachin'.

3:04 AM  
Blogger David said...

I love the blog that you have. I was wondering if you would link my blog to yours and in return I would do the same for your blog. If you want to, my site name is American Legends and the URL is:

www.americanlegends.blogspot.com

If you want to do this just go to my blog and in one of the comments just write your blog name and the URL and I will add it to my site.

Thanks,
David

7:01 PM  
Blogger Doctor Marco said...

David:

Thanks for your nice words, I will place the info in a comment in your blog

10:15 PM  
Blogger Chris Bradley said...

Hello!

A guy actually won a Nobel Prize for stuff like this -- Ilya Prigogne. He demonstrated that in systems in a high state of thermodynamic disequilibrium that are open that they tend to resolve themselves at ever higher levels of order. One of the systems that we see every day in a state of great therodynamic disequilibrium is called "life".

It's good stuff. Like it a lot when things like this get trotted out. The evidence for a purely natural development of life is staggeringly overwhelming.

1:16 AM  
Blogger Chris Bradley said...

Intelligent Design does not reach the level of scientific theory so, by definition, it cannot be tested, generate predictions or propose new hypotheses. So, it cannot disprove evolution. It cannot prove the existence of gods because the world of the gods is the supernatural.

One of the most frustrating things to me about ID is WHY it's not a science. It could be! If they looked for the creator!

Of course, that's where they really reveal themselves. UFO nuts are way closer to being scientists than ID people -- they say, "Aliens made people." Sure, they're almost certainly wrong but at least they're collecting and analysing "proof" and looking for the actual aliens. This is just universes better than what the ID people do!

But, of course, looking for a creator is what got us on evolution in the first place. We know what happens when you seriously look for a creator. You find one. It's just a bunch of physical processes.

1:22 AM  
Blogger TUNCEL ERGÜN said...

very beatiful blog. thank you.

my blog: http://sadberk.blogspot.com

1:24 PM  

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