This Site Gives me 150 Utils of Utility; Panda’s Thumb Gives me Only 3
|May 21, 2008||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
Any effort to give precise gradations of quantification to CSI is doomed to failure. It reminds me of certain economists’ effort to quantify “utility” through a measurement called a “util.” See here.
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the concepts are very much the same. We can all agree that the concept of “utility maximization” is very important and represents a real phenomenon. But while we can say of utility there is a lot, there is a little, or there is none at all, there is no way to measure it precisely. The “util” is useful as a hypothetical measure of relative utility, but it has no value as an “actual” unit of measurement, such as inches, pounds, meters, or grams.
Similarly, of CSI we can say it is present or it is not present. That is what the explanatory filter does. In some cases we can estimate relative CSI if we are able to calculate the bits of information present in the two instances. But not usually. Consider a space shuttle and a bicycle. Both obviously show CSI and a design inference is inescapable with respect to each. It is also obvious that the space shuttle contains vastly more CSI than the bicycle. But if one asks me “how much more CSI is there in a space shuttle than in a bicycle?” the only satisfactory answer it seems to me is “a lot more.” I could posit a measure of CSI – call it an “info” – and say the space shuttle contains 100 infos of CSI and the bicycle contains only 10 infos. But this is certainly a meaningless game. Actually, it is more than meaningless. It is affirmatively harmful, because the game gives an illusion of precise measurement where there can be none.
Why am I going on about this? Because many materialists commenting on this site frequently say, essentially, if one cannot quantify CSI then it is a meaningless concept. This is false. “Utility” cannot be quantified, but surely no one would suggest it does not exist or that it is not a useful concept in the field of economics. Similarly, simply because CSI cannot always be precisely quantified is no reason to suggest that it does not exist or that it is not a useful concept in the study of objects to determine whether design is the most plausible explanation for their features.