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“Specified Improbability” and Bill’s letter to me from way back

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I finally found the phrase “Specified Improbability” in Bill’s recent writings:

The design inference, as I developed it, looks to a marker of design, what I call specified complexity or specified improbability, and from there reasons to a designing intelligence as responsible for this marker. –

See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/10/design_inferenc064871.html#sthash.Af6bmEbu.dpuf

I thought he used the phrase in a letter he wrote to me a long time ago which he gave permission to publish. He did not use the phrase in that letter, so my recollection was wrong. But the letter was interesting in its own right.

The letter was trying to resolve 2 questions. Here is what I said:

>There are 4 different diagrams of the EF:
>
>http://www.arn.org/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=13;t=001726#000034
>
>They seem essentially equivalent, but could you clarify that or mention
>which one you prefer. The critics are burying us because of that point.
>
>2. mention whether detecting the gentically modified foods is candidate
>model for the explanatory filter. I completely see that it is, but the
>critics disagree.
>
>I hope it won’t take too long for you, but if you can help me, I and the
>IDEA members and fellow IDists at ARN would be deeply grateful.
>
>Thank you.
>
>Salvador

Bill’s response on 12/05/2004 which he gave permission to publish:

Dear Salvador,

I saw essentially only two explanatory filters, one which appeared in THE DESIGN INFERENCE, and the other which appeared in NO FREE LUNCH. They are equivalent. But more importantly, the filter is just a tool for assessing specified complexity. That’s why in my current writings in which I summarize my work on design detection, I don’t even mention the filter. Instead I’ll refer to the “complexity-specification criterion.” Complexity here refers to improbability, specification to a particular type of pattern.

As for genetically modified foods being a candidate for a design-theoretic
analysis (in terms of the complexity-specification criterion or, equivalently, in terms of the explanatory filter), my first reaction is to say “sure they are.” The issue then is whether whether a successful design-theoretic analysis can be carried out on these foods showing that they are indeed designed.

You are free to post the two previous paragraphs on the ARN site.

Best regards,
Bill

When I complained about the critics “burying us on that point”, I was new to the ID debate. I didn’t realize it was a standard tactic for critics to mince words and stress irrelevancies because the critics had really no substance to their position — all they could do was make a big deal of the same concept being expressed in various ways. To their credit, they wasted a lot of my time, created a lot of trouble for me by highlighting the differences in the diagrams of the Explanatory Filter.

15 Replies to ““Specified Improbability” and Bill’s letter to me from way back

  1. 1
    Mapou says:

    On a related note, what principle or methodology do archaeologists use to determine whether an object is artificial or natural? Do they have an explanatory filter similar to Dr. Dembski’s?

  2. 2
    Alan Fox says:

    So Sal,

    Do you still claim that the GMO testing laboratory, Genetic-ID, are using Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter” in their work?

  3. 3
    scordova says:

    Do you still claim that the GMO testing laboratory, Genetic-ID, are using Dembski’s “Explanatory Filter” in their work?

    That’s a leading question, like, “are you still beating your puppy, Alan?” Unless of course you are beating your puppy.

    I claim Genetic-ID is an instance of an EF, whether you want to characterize this as “using Dembski’s EF” is up to you.

    I expressed my thoughts here:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....revisited/

    Of course, since you don’t think the space shuttle is intelligently designed, it’s kind of hard to argue with you about anything regarding ID.

  4. 4
    Alan Fox says:

    Of course, since you don’t think the space shuttle is intelligently designed…

    Now where on Earth did I say that, Sal? Is that a complete, in context, quote? Can you provide the link?

  5. 5
    Alan Fox says:

    Oops, this site could really do with an edit feature!

    Of course, since you don’t think the space shuttle is intelligently designed…

    Now where on Earth did I say that, Sal? Is that a complete, in context, quote? Can you provide the link?

  6. 6
    Alan Fox says:

    I claim Genetic-ID is an instance of an EF, whether you want to characterize this as “using Dembski’s EF” is up to you.

    My view is they are looking for traces of GMO material. They have samples of such material as targets. Were someone to give them a sample with a GMO DNA sequence inserted which was not in their database, they wouldn’t find it.

    Dembski’s EF claims to distinguish between “Designed” and not-“Designed” material without having a sample to match.

  7. 7
    scordova says:

    Sal: Is a man-made design an example of intelligent design?

    Alan Fox: NO!!!

    Sal: Given what you said, is the Space Shuttle an example of intelligent design? How about GMOs?

    Alan Fox: Nothing is an example of intelligent design unless you want to tell me what “intelligent design” is other than the creationist ploy we both know it to be.

    Horrible Implications

    Space Shuttle Denying Darwinists

  8. 8
    Alan Fox says:

    That’s not an in-context quote! For shame!

    Let’s see the original!

  9. 9
    scordova says:

    That’s not an in-context quote! For shame!

    Let’s see the original!

    No need Alan, we can ask your opinion here. Are man made designs intelligent designs?

    Is the space shuttle a man-made design?

    Are features of the GMO’s man-made designs?

    If man made designs are intelligent designs, are space shuttles then intelligently designed?

    If man made designs are intelligent designs, are features of the GMO then intelligently designed?

    Feel free to set the record straight.

  10. 10
    Mapou says:

    Horrible Implications

    What are these horrible implications that Alan Fox is referring to? Let me see if I get it right. I suspect that the anti-ID camp would be horrified if it could be proved that life on earth was designed because it would give credibility to everything else that Christians believe in and teach others to believe in.

    You know, even though I am a Christian, I too would find this outcome horrible because there is a lot about mainstream and not so mainstream Christianity that I find appalling. But I refuse to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The fact that living organisms were designed does not mean that Christians are right about everything and the fact that Christians are wrong about many things does not mean that life was not designed.

  11. 11
    scordova says:

    “Horrible Implications” was a link to the now dead ARN forum where the exchange between Alan and I took place. N. Wells (a die hard Darwinists) insisted that if the EF detected man-made designs, this was a horrible implication for ID. I was calling N. Wells on his illogic.

  12. 12
    scordova says:

    Alan,

    Here you go, here is your chance to set the record straight and point out where maybe I misrepresented your own views.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-straight/

    Sal

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    The fact that living organisms were designed does not mean that Christians are right about everything and the fact that Christians are wrong about many things does not mean that life was not designed.

    Mapou, my friend, you finally said something I agree with. 🙂

  14. 14
    scordova says:

    Genetic-ID is the process of identifying man-made GMOs. I believe Genetic-ID is an instance of the EF.

    Since I believe man made GMOs are an example of intelligent design, then I believe the Genetic-ID process detects intelligent design, and thus Genetic-ID is an instance of the abstract Explanatory Filter that Dembski defined.

    From the Genetic-ID website:

    Genetic ID can reliably detect ALL commercialized genetically modified organisms.

    In the book Design Inference

    The key step in formulating Intelligent Design as a scientific theory is to delineate a method for detecting design. Such a method exists, and in fact, we use it implicitly all the time. The method takes the form of a three-stage Explanatory Filter.
    ….
    The Explanatory Filter faithfully represents our ordinary practice of sorting through things we alternately attribute to law, chance, or design. In particular, the filter describes

    how copyright and patent offices identify theft of intellectual property
    ….
    Entire industries would be dead in the water without the Explanatory Filter. Much is riding on it. Using the filter, our courts have sent people to the electric chair.

    Bill clearly is not saying people read his book and then sent people to the electric chair using the methods outlined in his book. Although some Darwinists have said that is what Bill is claiming, and there has been no end of postings on the internet to that effect. 🙄

    He is showing that the EF as described in the design inference, makes an abstract description of ordinary practice.

    I highlighted that the EF covers detection of copies of designs. Detecting a GMO is detecting a copy of a design, detecting a copy of a design is to detect an intelligent design in an artifact. In this case the GMO itself is the copying machine that makes copies of the man-made design.

    Monsanto, for example, considers it theft of intellectual property if a farmer is producing GMOs with the Monsanto copyright and not paying Monsanto royalties. When genetic-ID detects such a copyright infringement, then according to Dembski’s list, Genetic-ID detects intelligent design as defined by the Explanatory Filter.

    N. Wells and other at ARN couldn’t seem to comprehend this simple fact. As always they stressed all sorts of irrelevancies because they refused to give I or Bill Dembski a charitable reading.

    Genetic-ID is an instance of the EF if we view the EF as part of ordinary practice in detecting design.

    PS
    For historical purposes, as far as UD goes, DaveScot protested my description and then suspended my thread.

    Bill Dembski overruled him because I was right, DaveScot was wrong. 🙂 My thread was restored. This is the thread Alan was referring to:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....revisited/

  15. 15
    Alan Fox says:

    Sal

    Can you make up your mind where you want to defend the claim that Genetic-ID are doing anything remotely comparable to “an instance of the Explanatory Filter”?

    Is that here or the other thread you started and now seem to be posting duplicate comments.

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