While perusing my sitemeter stats for the page, I noticed that I’d been linked to in a discussion at creationtalk.com. Expecting amusement, I wandered on over to see who was linking to me.
Someone linked to my index of articles debunking Dembski and Berlinski. The moderator of the creationtalk forum responded to my series of articles on information theory and Dembski with:
No offense to you or him, but his arguments kind of suck. I looked at his response to Behe on IC, and Dembski on Specified Complexity , to Behe’s he didn’t refute it, and to Dembski’s his only arguement was basically summed up to “I don’t know the definition of specified complexity oh mercy”.
For readers who remember, my critique of Behe was that the entire concept of “irreducible complexity” is mathematically meaningless. It’s true that I didn’t refute Behe, in the sense that I didn’t waste any time arguing about whether or not irreducible complexity is indicative of design: there’s no point arguing about the implications of an irreducibly complex system if, in fact, we can never recognize whether a system is irreducibly complex. Sort of like arguing about how many steps it takes to square a circle, after you’ve seen the proof that it can’t be done in a finite number of steps.
But the Dembski line is the one that’s particularly funny. Because, you see, my critique of “specified complexity” was that you can’t mathematically refute specified complexity because Dembski never defines it. In paper after paper, he uses obfuscatory presentations of information theory to define complexity, and then handwaves his way past “specification”. The reason for this is that “specification” is a meaningless term. He can’t define it: because if he did, the vacuity of the entire concept becomes obvious.
A complex system is one which contains a lot of information; which, in information theory, means a system which can’t be described with a brief description. But specification, intuitively, means “can be described concisely”. So you wind up with two possibilities:
- “Specification” has a mathematical meaning, which is the opposite of “complexity”, and so
“specified complexity” is a contradiction; or
- “Specification” is mathematically meaningless, in which case “specified complexity” is a meaningless concept in information theory.
The problem isn’t that “I don’t know the definition of specified complexity”. It’s not even that there is no definition of specified complexity. It’s that there cannot be a definition of specified complexity.
I’ll probably drag out my original Dembski and Berlinski tomorrow, polish them up a bit, and repost them here at ScienceBlogs.