One criticism of ID that tends to come from those who might normally share our worldview (such as Thomists) is that ID attempts to measure meaning, while meaning is unquantifiable.
I argue that this is partially correct – we currently don’t know how to quantify meaning or meaningfulness. Unlike others, I am not about to give up the search for a way to do this, but nonetheless I do agree that at present it is unquantifiable. However, ID doesn’t measure meaning.
Instead, ID measures an indirect indicator of meaning – CSI, active information, etc. Indirect measurements are nothing new in science. In fact, thermometers are a great example of an indirect measurement. We can’t measure temperature directly. So, instead, we take mercury, which reliably expands when its temperature increases, and put it in a tube. We use the expansion of mercury to tell us that the temperature has increased. Likewise, ID doesn’t measure meaning, but instead takes an indirect measurement – dramatic increase of active information, for instance, tells us that someone has added information about the search space.
However, I don’t want to necessarily imply that ID measurements are equivalent to measurements of meaning. It has not been shown that meaning and CSI, for instance, directly vary together. More probably, CSI is a measurement of one aspect of meaning which probably does directly vary with it. However, the current claims of ID is simply that, past a threshold, these measurements accurately indicate the presence of meaning.
Eric Holloway has argued that ID-like reasoning is required for rationally believing in other minds. His argument is basically this:
- Searle’s Chinese Room argument shows that there is a separation between processing and understanding – one may in fact process without understanding
- However, this leads to a problem – if our words can be processed without being understood, how do we know that other minds are actually present and understanding us, rather than just processing what we say?
- CSI allows us to recognize intentionality. Even though it doesn’t give us access to the meaning or even the semantics, it does tell us that the target required intelligence to achieve.
- Therefore, we have an indirect measurement that allows us to infer that the message originated using intentionality.
In short, indirect measurements have often been used to signal the presence of things which are not directly measurable. CSI and active information, while they are not direct measurements of meaning, do seem to serve as reliable reporters of meaning.