Does information theory support design in nature?
|October 23, 2018||Posted by News under Computing, AI, Cybernetics and Mechatronics, Design inference, Intelligent Design|
When I first began to look into intelligent design (ID) theory while I was considering becoming an atheist, I was struck by Bill Dembski’s claim that ID could be demonstrated mathematically through information theory. A number of authors who were experts in computer science and information theory disagreed with Dembski’s argument. They offered two criticisms: that he did not provide enough details to make the argument coherent and that he was making claims that were at odds with established information theory.
In online discussions, I pressed a number of them, including Jeffrey Shallit, Tom English, Joe Felsenstein, and Joshua Swamidass. I also read a number of their articles. But I have not been able to discover a precise reason why they think Dembski is wrong. Ironically, they actually tend to agree with Dembski when the topic lies within their respective realms of expertise. For example, in his rebuttal Shallit considered an idea which is very similar to the ID concept of “algorithmic specified complexity”. The critics tended to pounce when addressing Dembski’s claims outside their realms of expertise.
To better understand intelligent design’s relationship to information theory and thus get to the root of the controversy, I spent two and a half years studying information theory and associated topics during PhD studies with one of Dembski’s co-authors, Robert Marks. I expected to get some clarity on the theorems that would contradict Dembski’s argument. Instead, I found the opposite.
Intelligent design theory is sometimes said to lack any practical application. One straightforward application is that, because intelligence can create information and computation cannot, human interaction will improve computational performance.
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