“Take the coins and dice and arrange them in a way that is evidently designed.” That was my instruction to groups of college science students who voluntarily attended my extra-curricular ID classes sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ at James Madison University (even Jason Rosenhouse dropped in a few times). Many of the students were biology and science students hoping to learn truths that are forbidden topics in their regular classes…
They would each have two boxes, and each box contained dice and coins. They were instructed to randomly shake one box and then put designs in the other box. While they did their work, I and another volunteer would leave the room or turn our backs. After the students were done building their designs, I and the volunteer would inspect each box, and tell the students which boxes we felt contained a design, and the students would tell us if we passed or failed to recognize their designs. We never failed!
Granted, this was not a rigorous experiment, but the exercise was to get the point across that even with token objects like coins and dice, one can communicate design.
So what is the reason that human designs were recognized in the classroom exercise? Is it because one configuration of coins and dice are inherently more improbable than any other? Let us assume for the sake of argument that no configuration is more improbable than any other, why then do some configurations seem more special than others with respect to design? The answer is that some configurations suggest a like-minded process was involved in the assembly of the configuration rather than a chance process.
A Darwinist once remarked:
if you have 500 flips of a fair coin that all come up heads, given your qualification (“fair coin”), that is outcome is perfectly consistent with fair coins,
But what is the real probability in question? It clearly isn’t about the probability of each possible 500-coin sequence, since each sequence is just as improbable as any other. Rather the probability that is truly in question is the probability our minds will recognize a sequence that conforms to our ideas of a non-random outcome. In other words, outcomes that look like “the products of a like-minded process, not a random process”. This may be a shocking statement so let me briefly review two scenarios.
A. 500-fair coins are discovered heads up on a table. We recognized it to be a non-random event based on the law of large numbers as described in The fundamental law of Intelligent Design.
B. 500-fair are discovered on a table. The coins were not there the day before. Each coin on the table is assigned a number 1-500. The pattern of heads and tails looks at first to be nothing special with 50% of the coins being heads. But then we find that the pattern of coins matches a blueprint that had been in a vault as far back as a year ago. Clearly this pattern also is non-random, but why?
The naïve and incorrect answer is “the probability of that pattern is 1 out of 2^500, therefore the event is non-random”. But that is the wrong answer since every other possible coin pattern has a chance of occurring of 1 out of 2^500 times.
The correct answer as to why the coin arrangement is non-random is “it conforms to blueprints”, or using ID terminology, “it conforms to independent specifications”. The independent specification in scenario B is the printed blueprint that had been stored away in the vault, the independent specification of scenario A is all-coins heads “blueprint” that is implicitly defined in our minds and math books.
The real probability at issue is the probability the independent specification will be realized by a random process.
We could end the story of scenario B by saying that a relative or friend put the design together as a surprise present to would-be observers that had access to the blueprint. But such a detail would only confirm what we already knew, that the coin configuration on the table was not the product of a random process, but rather a human-like, like-minded process.
I had an exchange with Graham2, where I said:
But what is it about that particular pattern [all fair coins heads] versus any other. Is it because the pattern is not consistent with the expectation of a random pattern? If so, then the pattern is special by its very nature.
to which Graham2 responded:
No No No No. There is nothing ‘special’ about any pattern. We attach significance to it because we like patterns, but statistically, there is nothing special about it. All sequences (patterns) are equally likely. They only become suspicious if we have specified them in advance.
Whether Grahams2 is right or wrong is a moot point. Statistical tests can be used to reject chance as the explanation that certain artifacts look like the products of a like-minded process. The test is valid provided the blueprint wasn’t drawn up after the fact (postdictive blueprints).
A Darwinist will object and say, “that’s all well and fine, but we don’t have such blue prints for life. Give me sheet paper that has the blueprint of life and proof the blueprint was written before life began.” But the “blueprint” in question is already somewhat hard-wired into the human brain, that’s why in the exercise for the ID class, we never failed to detect design. Humans are like-minded and they make like-minded constructs that other humans recognize as designed.
The problem for Darwinism is that biological designs resemble human designs. Biological organisms look like like-minded designs except they look like they were crafted by a Mind far greater than any human mind. That’s why Dawkins said:
it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion of living design is so overwhelming.
Dawkins erred by saying “illusion of living design”, we know he should have said “reality of living design”. 🙂
How then can we reconstruct the blueprints embedded in the human mind in such a sufficiently rigorous way that we can then use the “blueprints” or independent specifications to perform statistical tests? How can we do it in a way that is unassailable to complaints of after-the-fact (postdictive) specifications?
That is the subject of Part II of this series. But briefly, I hinted toward at least a couple methods in previous discussions:
And there will be more to come, God willing.
1. I mentioned “independent specification”. This obviously corresponds to Bill Dembksi’s notion of independent specification from Design Inference and No Free Lunch. I use the word blueprint to help illustrate the concept.
2. The physical coin patterns that conform to independent specifications can then be said to evidence specified improbability. I highly recommend the term “specified improbability” (SI) be used instead of Complex Specified Information (CSI). The term “Specified Improbability” is now being offered by Bill Dembski himself. I feel it more accurately describes what is being observed when identifying design, and the phrase is less confusing. See: Specified Improbability and Bill’s letter to me from way back.
3. I carefully avoided using CSI, information, or entropy to describe the design inference in the bulk of this essay. Those terms could have been used, but I avoided them to show that the problem of identifying design can be made with simpler more accessible arguments, and thus hopefully make the points more unassailable. This essay actually describes detection of CSI, but CSI has become such a loaded term in ID debates I refrained from using it. The phrase “Specified Improbability” conveys the idea better. The objects in the students’ boxes that were recognized as designed were improbable configurations that conformed to independent specifications, therefore they evidenced specified improbability, therefore they were designed.