KF Cuts to the Chase (Again)
|October 5, 2014||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
My last post elicited some extremely interesting responses. As a reminder, we are considering the following two strings of text, the first of which resulted from haphazard banging on a keyboard and the second of which is the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy:
To be, or not to be, that is the question—
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep—
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end
The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Jeffrey Shallit is on record saying:
String #2’s [Shakespeare] compressed version is bigger and therefore more random than string #1 [keyboard pounding]: exactly the opposite of what Arrington implied!
In my last post I asked various ID critics the following question: Do you agree with Shallit that the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy are ‘more random’ than a string of characters resulting from haphazard banging on a keyboard?”
My thinking has evolved on this point, and upon reflection I have decided it was a meaningless question (to which I also got the answer wrong). I have decided the question is like asking which is more blue, the sky on a cloudless day or Beethoven’s 9th Symphony? Only one of those things partakes of blueness at all. Therefore, asking which of the two things is “more blue” is meaningless.
Similarly, only one of the two strings in question partakes of randomness at all. Therefore, asking which is “more random” is meaningless. It follows that Shallit was more wrong than I thought when he said string #2 was more random than string #1. Shakespeare carefully arranged every single letter in string #2. Therefore, with respect to any meaningful definition of “random,” string #2 exhibits ZERO randomness. Therefore, to speak of it as exhibiting “more” randomness than any other string, much less a string generated by haphazard keyboard banging, is absurd.
KF, as he so often does, cut to the heart of the matter and helped me think this through with his comment 107:
If one has a proposed definition of randomness that assigns the first twelve lines of the Hamlet soliloquy to being even remotely regarded as random, on the face of it, the definition (as used . . . abused?) fails.
KF also points us to this excellent paper: Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information:
Genetic algorithms instruct sophisticated biological organization. Three qualitative kinds of sequence complexity exist: random (RSC), ordered (OSC), and functional (FSC). FSC alone provides algorithmic instruction. Random and Ordered Sequence Complexities lie at opposite ends of the same bi-directional sequence complexity vector. Randomness in sequence space is defined by a lack of Kolmogorov algorithmic compressibility. A sequence is compressible because it contains redundant order and patterns. Law-like cause-and-effect determinism produces highly compressible order. Such forced ordering precludes both information retention and freedom of selection so critical to algorithmic programming and control. Functional Sequence Complexity requires this added programming dimension of uncoerced selection at successive decision nodes in the string. Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC. FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization. Organization invariably manifests FSC rather than successive random events (RSC) or low-informational self-ordering phenomena (OSC).
A final note: Mark Frank  and RObb  point to Bill Dembski’s work and appear to suggest that Dembski would agree with Shallit, i.e., that the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy are “more random” than a string of text achieved by banging away at a keyboard, and Daniel King  mocks me for failing to realize this.
Gentlemen, when your conclusion is absurd on its face, you really should stop and re-think it before you post it. And Daniel, you should be careful to ensure that you are correct before you mock someone. Otherwise, you look foolish. In response I will state the obvious and give you a clue.
The obvious: Dembski would not agree that the first 12 lines of Hamlet’s soliloquy are random in any meaningful sense of that word. He would conclude those lines were, without the slightest doubt, designed.
A clue: Re-read Dembski’s work. Here is a line you should start with from one of the papers linked by Robb. “As with Shannon information, there is a disconnect between Kolmogorov complexity and conceptual information.”