Evolution Information Intelligent Design

Steve Meyer on the information enigma in evolution

Spread the love

Steve Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt, offers a handy illustration of the sort of specified complexity that life forms show, which indicates design, in an April 2018 essay:

Cryptographers distinguish between random signals and those carrying encoded messages, the latter indicating an intelligent source. Recognizing the activity of intelligent agents constitutes a common and fully rational mode of inference. More importantly, [design theorist William] Dembski explicates criteria by which rational agents recognize or detect the effects of other rational agents, and distinguish them from the effects of natural causes. He demonstrates that systems or sequences with the joint properties of “high complexity” (or small probability) and “specification” invariably result from intelligent causes, not chance or physical-chemical laws.

Dembski noted that complex sequences exhibit an irregular and improbable arrangement that defies expression by a simple rule or algorithm, whereas specification involves a match or correspondence between a physical system or sequence and an independently recognizable pattern or set of functional requirements. By way of illustration, consider the following three sets of symbols:




The first two sequences are complex because both defy reduction to a simple rule. Each represents a highly irregular, aperiodic, improbable sequence.

The third sequence is not complex, but is instead highly ordered and repetitive. Of the two complex sequences, only the second, however, exemplifies a set of independent functional requirements — i.e., is specified.

English has many such functional requirements. For example, to convey meaning in English one must employ existing conventions of vocabulary (associations of symbol sequences with particular objects, concepts, or ideas) and existing conventions of syntax and grammar. When symbol arrangements “match” existing vocabulary and grammatical conventions (i.e., functional requirements), communication can occur. Such arrangements exhibit “specification.” The sequence “Time and tide wait for no man” clearly exhibits such a match, and thus performs a communication function.

Thus, of the three sequences only the second manifests both necessary indicators of a designed system. The third sequence lacks complexity, though it does exhibit a simple periodic pattern, a specification of sorts. The first sequence is complex, but not specified. Only the second sequence exhibits both complexity and specification.

Thus, according to Dembski’s theory of design detection, only the second sequence implicates an intelligent cause — as our uniform experience affirms. In my book Signature in the Cell, I show that Dembski’s joint criteria of complexity and specification are equivalent to “functional” or “specified information.”

I also show that the coding regions of DNA exemplify both high complexity and specification and, thus not surprisingly, also contain “specified information.” Consequently, Dembski’s scientific method of design detection reinforces the conclusion that the digital information in DNA indicates prior intelligent activity. Stephen C. Meyer, “Happy New Year! #1 of Our Top Stories of 2018: Yes, Intelligent Design Is Detectable by Science” at Evolution News and Science Today:

Darwinism is not really compatible with information theory but that doesn’t matter as long as most people don’t know information theory.

See also: Can cities serve as cauldrons of evolution (speciation)? For spiders, raccoons, and such? Big, high-tech cities are new and different. But you don’t get remarkable results from these independent theatres of evolution. That’s clear from a recent long article, well worth reading, mostly for the fascinating information but also for the need, so common these days, to assert that something is happening which obviously isn’t.

Follow UD News at Twitter!

7 Replies to “Steve Meyer on the information enigma in evolution

  1. 1
    ET says:

    Right. And to refute the design inference all one has to do is step up and demonstrate that materialistic, ie non-telic, processes are capable of producing what ID says is intelligently designed-

    From Darwinism, Design and Public Education page 92:

    1. High information content (or specified complexity) and irreducible complexity constitute strong indicators or hallmarks of (past) intelligent design.

    2. Biological systems have a high information content (or specified complexity) and utilize subsystems that manifest irreducible complexity.

    3. Naturalistic mechanisms or undirected causes do not suffice to explain the origin of information (specified complexity) or irreducible complexity.

    4. Therefore, intelligent design constitutes the best explanations for the origin of information and irreducible complexity in biological systems.

  2. 2
    News says:

    Readers, apologies for the fact that for a couple of hours, the article above had no internal paragraph structure. We are still getting used to the new WordPress here.

    More surprises to come, doubtless, but please be patient with us in the meantime.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    a few notes:

    Dr. Stephen Meyer: What Kind of Information Does DNA Contain? – video

    Fully Random Mutations – Kevin Kelly – Jan. 2014
    Excerpt: What is commonly called “random mutation” does not in fact occur in a mathematically random pattern. The process of genetic mutation is extremely complex, with multiple pathways, involving more than one system. Current research suggests most spontaneous mutations occur as errors in the repair process for damaged DNA. Neither the damage nor the errors in repair have been shown to be random in where they occur, how they occur, or when they occur. Rather, the idea that mutations are random is simply a widely held assumption by non-specialists and even many teachers of biology. There is no direct evidence for it.,,,
    Mutations have also been shown to have a higher chance of occurring near a place in DNA where mutations have already occurred, creating mutation hotspot clusters—a non-random pattern.,,,
    ,,,the lack of direct evidence for actual random mutations has now reached a stage where the idea needs to be retired. There are several related reasons why this unsubstantiated idea continues to be repeated without evidence. The first is fear that non-random mutations would be misunderstood and twisted by creationists,,,

    Fred Sanger, Protein Sequences and Evolution Versus Science – Are Proteins Random? Cornelius Hunter – November 2013
    Excerpt: Standard tests of randomness show that English text, and protein sequences, are not random.,,,

    Complex grammar of the genomic language – November 9, 2015
    Excerpt: The ‘grammar’ of the human genetic code is more complex than that of even the most intricately constructed spoken languages in the world. The findings explain why the human genome is so difficult to decipher –,,,
    ,,, in their recent study in Nature, the Taipale team examines the binding preferences of pairs of transcription factors, and systematically maps the compound DNA words they bind to.
    Their analysis reveals that the grammar of the genetic code is much more complex than that of even the most complex human languages. Instead of simply joining two words together by deleting a space, the individual words that are joined together in compound DNA words are altered, leading to a large number of completely new words.

    (December 2018) (the physical reality of immaterial information)

    Assessing the “Algorithmic Origin of Life” (Paul Davies) – December 18, 2012
    Excerpt: It is the functionality of the expressed RNAs and proteins that is biologically important. Functionality, however, is not a local property of a molecule. It is defined only relationally, in a global context, which includes networks of relations among many sub-elements,,
    One is therefore left to conclude that the most important features of biological information (i.e. functionality) are decisively nonlocal. Biologically functional information is therefore not an additional quality, like electric charge, painted onto matter and passed on like a token. It is of course instantiated in biochemical structures, but one cannot point to any specific structure in isolation and say “Aha! Biological information is here!”,,,
    ,,,For example, mechanical stresses on a cell may affect gene expression. Mechanotransduction, electrical transduction and chemical signal transduction — all well-studied biological processes — constitute examples of what philosophers term “top-down causation”, where the system as a whole exerts causal control over a subsystem (e.g. a gene) via a set of time-dependent constraints.

    Recognising Top-Down Causation – George Ellis
    Excerpt: ,,,However there are many topics that one cannot understand by assuming this one-way flow of causation. The flourishing subject of social neuroscience makes clear how social influences act down on individual brain structure[2]; studies in physiology demonstrate that downward causation is necessary in understanding the heart, where this form of causation can be represented as the influences of initial and boundary conditions on the solutions of the differential equations used to represent the lower level processes[3]; epigenetic studies demonstrate that biological development is crucially shaped by the environment[4],,,
    Life and the brain: living systems are highly structured modular hierarchical systems, and there are many similarities to the digital computer case, even though they are not digital computers. The lower level interactions are constrained by network connections, thereby creating possibilities of truly complex behaviour. Top-down causation is prevalent at all levels in the brain: for example it is crucial to vision [24,25] as well as the relation of the individual brain to society [2]. The hardware (the brain) can do nothing without the excitations that animate it: indeed this is the difference between life and death. The mind is not a physical entity, but it certainly is causally effective: proof is the existence of the computer on which you are reading this text. It could not exist if it had not been designed and manufactured according to someone’s plans, thereby proving the causal efficacy of thoughts, which like computer programs and data are not physical entities.

    The “Hard Problem” of Life – Sara Imari Walker and Paul C.W. Davies = June 23, 2016
    Excerpt: ,,,in the same way that Chalmers identified qualia as central to the hard problem of consciousness. To that end we propose that the hard problem of life is the problem of how ‘information’ can affect the world. In this essay we motivate both why the problem of information is central to explaining life and why it is hard, that is, why we suspect that a full resolution of the hard problem will not ultimately be reducible to known physical principles.,,,
    ,,, There are some indications for a potentially deep connection between information theory (which is not cast as a physical theory and instead quantifies the efficacy of communication through noisy channels), and thermodynamics, which is a branch of physics(5) due to the mathematical relationship between Shannon and Boltzmann entropies. Substantial work over the last decade has attempted to make this connection explicit, we point the reader to [22, 20] for recent reviews. Schrodinger was aware of this link in his deliberations on biology, and famously coined the term “negentropy” to describe life’s ability to seemingly violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics(6) . Yet he felt that something was missing, and that thermodynamic considerations alone are insufficient to explain life [26]:
    “. . .living matter, while not eluding the ”laws of physics” as established up to date, is likely to involve ”other laws of physics” hitherto unknown . . . ”
    – Erwin Schrodinger
    We suggest one approach to get at these “other laws” is to focus on the connection between the concept of “information” and the equally ill-defined concept of “causation” [34, 17, 9]. Both concepts are implicated in the failure of our current physical theories to account for complex states of the world without resorting to very special initial conditions. In particular, we posit that the manner in which biological systems implement state-dependent dynamics is by utilizing information encoded locally in the current state of the system, that is, by attributing causal efficacy to information. It is widely recognized that coarse-graining (which would define the relevant ‘informational’ degrees of freedom) plays a foundational role in how biological systems are structured [12], by defining the biologically relevant macrovariables (see e.g. Chapters by Flack, Dedeo and by Wolpert et al. in this volume). However, it is not clear how those macrostates arise, if they are objective or subjective [27], or whether they are in fact a fundamental aspect of biological organization – intrinsic to the dynamics (i.e. such that macrostates are causal) rather than merely a useful phenomenological descriptor. A framework in which coarse-grained information-encoding macrostates are causal holds promise for resolving many of the problems discussed herein. This is the key aspect of the hard problem of life.
    There are many difficult open problems in understanding the origin of life – such as the ‘tar paradox’ [2] and the fact that prebiotic chemistry is just plain hard to do. These problems differ qualitatively from the ‘hard problem of life’ as identified here. Most open problems associated with life’s origin such as these, while challenging right now, will likely ultimately reduce to known principles of physics and chemistry and therefore constitute by our definition “easy problems”. Here we have attempted to identify a core feature of life that won’t similarly be solved based on current paradigms – namely, that life seems distinct from other physical systems in how information affects the world (that is, that macrostates are causal).,,,
    To quote Einstein, ‘One can best feel in dealing with living things how primitive physics still is.’
    ( A. Einstein, letter to L. Szilard quoted in [25]).

    Darwinian Materialism vs. Quantum Biology – video

  4. 4
    ScuzzaMan says:

    Can we talk about SETI again for a moment? You know, the big expensive useless program promoted by the closet creationist, Sagan?

    The whole foundation of SETI is that you can derive evidence of a remote intelligence by analysing the information content of the signal they’re sending.

    I don’t really care what darwinists choose to pretend to believe, but can they please make up their minds?!?!

  5. 5
    ET says:

    Scuzzman- You don’t understand. That intelligence detected by SETI would also be the result of blind and mindless processes. So it’s OK. 🙄

  6. 6
    PeterA says:

    Perhaps ScuzzaMan is referring to the conspicuous inconsistency in inferring intelligence from the informational complexity of a signal received from far away in cosmic space, while ignoring it in the mind-boggling complex functional specified information seen in the biological systems right here in this planet.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    Yes, PeterA, hence the roll eyes emoticon at the end of my comment. Dawkins is OK with the intelligent design of life on earth as long as it was done via organisms that arose by means of blind and mindless processes.

Leave a Reply