Complex Specified Information Design inference Intelligent Design

Interesting question: Must the designer be more complex than the design?

Spread the love

Eric Holloway at Applied intelligent Design argues, maybe not: “One of Dr. Richard Dawkins’ favorite arguments against Intelligent Design’s coherence is that ID does not explain complexity because the designer must be even more complex than the design”:

Why does Dawkins say this? For instance, he believes great complexity comes from very simple origins through the process of Darwinistic evolution. But, for some reason introducing a designer implies greater preceding complexity.

While I am not sure why Dawkins makes this claim, I can address a reason why he may, and the problem with this reason.

First, he may be thinking of the designer as some complex physical entity, such as a factory. In this case it is quite obvious that to generate even a seemingly simple object such as a pencil we need an enormously complicated number of processes and mechanisms. So, it is quite easy for me to accept that if the designer were like a factory, then it in turn would require even more explanation than the pencil. In which case, intelligent design theory would not be very helpful.

However, intelligent design theory does not say the designer is like a factory. In fact, it precludes the designer from being like a factory. To see this, we must examine the core concept of ID, which is complex, specified information.

Complex, specified information (CSI) is a mathematical quantification of an entity. The two criteria for an entity to possess CSI is that it must be highly unlikely (complex) given the environment in which it came to exist, while also precisely and concisely described by a specification that is independent from its environment.

For a causal agent to be the intelligent designer responsible for the CSI in the entity, the entity must abide by the two criteria in the context of being generated by a particular agent. Take the pencil factory as an example, since pencils are quite evidently designed, are relatively complex and can be described quite simply as an erasing and writing instrument. Can we say the pencil factory is the designer of the pencil?

Well, let’s look at the criteria for CSI. More.

– β€œMust the designer be more complex than the design?,” July 7, 2012


By the way, we think Richard Dawkins should just retire, and that way he wouldn’t need to worry about getting on an elevator with either the Skepchick or William Lane Craig. Older people need elevators more than younger people, so this is definitely a health and safety issue. πŸ˜‰ See also: More ice please.

10 Replies to “Interesting question: Must the designer be more complex than the design?

  1. 1
    JGuy says:

    Isn’t there a popular position that an effect can not be greater than it’s cause in quantity and quality? Ifso, then for the designer to be designed, that designer would have to be an effect of some other greater cause.

    Unless… that designer is an uncaused cause.

    The biblical God happens to effectively be described as an uncaused cause (e.g. as eternal).

  2. 2
    UrbanMysticDee says:

    No, the designer does not need to be more complex than the design. A simple designer may even demonstrate a certain greatness in designing something more complex than it.

  3. 3
    Blue_Savannah says:

    Well, I know this isn’t talking about God specifically, but a designer in general, but since I believe the designer is God, I will say yes the designer must be more complex than the design.

    The laws of physics that apply to us would obviously not apply to the creator of said laws, which is why only God could be the first cause.

  4. 4
    Jammer says:

    How does the notion that a cause must be greater than its effect — which is what Dawkins’ argument boils down to — gel with another of Dawkins’ beliefs, the notion of an infinite regress?

    If a cause must be greater than its effect, and the chain of cause-and-effect that is existence regresses for infinity, then that logically entails an infinite cause, no?

    That sounds awfully God-like to me.

  5. 5
    Jon Garvey says:

    Needs a philosopher on here to unpack the arguments for the simplicity of God. One is that mind is simple and irreducible, and that God is pure mind.

  6. 6
    JGuy says:


    No, the designer does not need to be more complex than the design. A simple designer may even demonstrate a certain greatness in designing something more complex than it.

    Give an example of a human designer designing something greater in complexity than him/herself. A designer pouring several truckloads of sand into the shape of the words “Hello World” might be more complex in terms of shear numbers of arrangeable atoms, but it will not suffice since the design is not qualitatively more complex.

    A single human hypothetically desinging and building a super computer with more connections than his own brain is still more complex than that computer. Afterall, the software is a whole other magnitude of a problem.

  7. 7
    JGuy says:

    >blockquote>Interesting question: Must the designer be more complex than the design?

    By the way, does this question carry the assumption that the designer also built the thing that he/she designed?

    If we are to think the desinger is the God of the bible, for example, how do you even think of trying to quantify complexity? Wouldn’t that assume then that God could be divided up into factorable ‘components’? or Shall we just how we think in terms of intuition?

  8. 8
    johnnyb says:

    I think there is some confusion. Eric is not arguing that the cause is less powerful, only less complex (i.e. fewer parts). Therefore, causal sufficiency is not problematic because the cause is in fact greater than the effect, it just has fewer parts.

    Interestingly, sometimes it can take *more* parts to get a less interesting effect. For instance, it takes more code to make a simplified interface than to create a complex one. The relationship between simplicity, complexity, power, and causal sufficiency is not a simple one. Eric does a great job at showing why Dawkin’s argument is problematic, because his conclusions do not follow from his premises.

  9. 9
    Gregory says:

    Does ‘intelligent design theory’ in *any* way involve authentic reference(s) of *any* kind to *any* ‘designer(s)/Designer(s)’ in the opinion of anyone here commenting at UD?

    If not, isn’t it sheer speculation that Holloway is engaged in (reacting to RickieDickie), as he seeks (legitimately or not) to stretch ID into yet other (non-biological) realms?

    Broader Implications of ID?

  10. 10
    UrbanMysticDee says:


    I can’t provide you with an example, but I’m working from a philosophical perspective; I leave the practical stuff to the engineers.

    Humans make bad examples because humans are just now beginning to appreciate the complexity of the design of life. Asking for an example of a human designing something like life would be like asking for an example of a baby that can perform integral calculus.

    It’s a matter of intelligence. An intelligence several orders of magnitude greater than humans can design something like a cell (or a human) without necessarily needing to be more complex, just more intelligent.

    I see an enormous potential for things going wrong with greater complexity, so, making a philosophical leap, I can see the advantage of a vastly superior intelligence being very simple. I have my own ideas about different intelligent designer(s) (and the possibility of different levels of design, like a nested hierarchy of designers, that I won’t go into), and nowhere do I find any sort of logical contradiction with the idea of a very simple very intelligent being desigining something of great complexity that is of much lesser intelligence.

Leave a Reply