CSI has come to refer to two distinct and incompatible concepts. This has lead to no end of confusion and flawed argumentation.
CSI, as developed by Dembski, requires the calculation of the probability of an artefact under the mechanisms actually in operation. It a measurement of how unlikely the artefact was to emerge given its context. This is the version that I’ve been defending in my recent posts.
CSI, as used by others is something more along the lines of the appearance of design. Its typically along the same lines as notion of complicated developed by Richard Dawkin in The Blind Watchmaker:
complicated things have some quality, specifiable in advance, that is highly unlikely to have been acquired by random chance alone.
This is similar to Dembski’s formulation, but where Dawkins merely requires that the quality be unlikely to have been acquired by random chance, Dembski’s formula requires that the quality by unlikely to have been acquired by random chance and any other process such as natural selection. The requirements of Dembski’s CSI is much more stringent than Dawkin’s complicated or the non-Dembski CSI.
Under Dembski’s formulation, we do not know whether or not biology contains specified complexity. As he said:
Does nature exhibit actual specified complexity? The jury is still out. – http://www.leaderu.com/offices/dembski/docs/bd-specified.html
The debate for Dembski is over whether or not nature exhibits specified complexity. But for the notion of complicated or non-Dembski CSI, biology is clearly complicated, and the debate is over whether or not Darwinian evolution can explain that complexity.
For Dembski’s formulation of specified complexity, the law of the conservation of information is a mathematical fact. For non-Dembski formulations of specified complexity, the law of the conversation of information is a controversial claim.
These are two related but distinct concepts. We must not conflate them. I think that non-Dembski CSI is a useful concept. However, it is not the same thing as Dembski’s CSI. They differ on critical points. As such, I think it is incorrect to refer to any these ideas as CSI or specified complexity. I think that only Dembski’s formulation or variations thereof should be termed CSI.
Perhaps the toothpaste is already out the bottle, and this confusion of the notion of specified complexity cannot be undone. But as it stands, we’ve got a situations where CSI is used to referred to two distinct concepts which should not be conflated. And that’s the tragedy.