In his 1973 book The Origins of Life Leslie Orgel wrote: “Living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals such as granite fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.” (189).
In my post On “Specified Complexity,” Orgel and Dembski I demonstrated that in this passage Orgel was getting at the exact same concept that Dembski calls “specified complexity.” In a comment to that post “Robb” asks:
500 coins, all heads, and therefore a highly ordered pattern.
What would Orgel say — complex or not?
Orgel said that crystals, even though they display highly ordered patterns, lack complexity. Would he also say that the highly ordered pattern of “500 coins; all heads” lacks complexity?
In a complexity analysis, the issue is not whether the patterns are “highly ordered.” The issue is how the patterns came to be highly ordered. If a pattern came to be highly ordered as a result of natural processes (e.g., the lawlike processes that result in crystal formation), it is not complex. If a pattern came to be highly ordered in the very teeth of what we would expect from natural processes (we can be certain that natural chance/law processes did not create the 500 coin pattern), the pattern is complex.
Complexity turns on contingency. The pattern of a granite crystal is not contingent. Therefore, it is not complex. The “500 coins; all heads” pattern is highly contingent. Therefore, it is complex.
What would Orgel say? We cannot know what Orgel would say. We can say that if he viewed the “500 coins; all heads” pattern at a very superficial level (it is just an ordered pattern), he might say it lacks complexity, in which case he would have been wrong. If he viewed the “500 coin; all heads” pattern in terms of the extreme level of contingency displayed in the pattern, he would have said the pattern is complex, and he would have been right.
About one thing we can be absolutely certain. Orgel would have known without the slightest doubt that the “500 coin; all heads” pattern was far beyond the ability of chance/law forces, and he would therefore have made a design inference.