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The Critic's Resource on AntiEvolution

Specified Complexity and Reliability


(Originally posted to, retrieved via Google Groups.)

From: "Wesley R. Elsberry"
Subject: Re: Designer as a Scientific Theory
Date: 1998/09/07
Message-ID: #1/1
X-Deja-AN: 388825198
Organization: Online Zoologists

In article ,
Ivar Ylvisaker wrote:
>Wesley R. Elsberry wrote:
>>In article

IY>[with much snipping]

Me too.


IY>I don't think that Dembski will accept Wesley's version of
IY>a filter that detects intelligent designers. Wesley's
IY>filter stage 3 passes only those phenomena that we know are
IY>caused by intelligent designers. I assume that Wesley is
IY>referring to man and, maybe animals as designers but not to
IY>unknown supernatural beings. Dembski wants to go further.

Yes, Dembski *wants* to go further. Unfortunately, we do not
have in hand the justification to do so. Is it contained in
Dembski's forthcoming book? Somehow, I doubt it, but I do
look forward to seeing Dr. Dembski try.

As noted before, we can test the reliability that Dembski
claims for his inference via matching phenomena with a
knowledge set that does not have a causal design/physical-law
relationship in place and then applying the inferential method
with that knowledge set. I argue that Dembski's inferential
method does make false positive identifications under this
test, which is counter to Dembski's claims. Michael Behe
recently invoked the pattern of flowers seen in a neighbor's
yard as opposed to the sprinkling of dandelions seen in his as
evidence of intelligent design on the part of his neighbor.
Rebecca Flietstra responded with the example of circular
sproutings of mushrooms, or "fairy rings", since the
postulated cause in folklore was the dancing of fairies in
those places. A circle is about as specified a geometric
arrangement as you can get. In the absence of knowledge of
how a spreading fungus puts its sporulating bodies at the
periphery, I think Dembski's filter clearly comes down on the
side of the fairies, and that is but one of many examples of
application that result in false positive identifications of
a designer/design relationship.

What I have proposed concerning testing of Dembski's filter is
familiar to any software engineer as "regression testing". I
find it notable that thus far Dembski and others who express
support for the ID inference have conspicuously avoided
applying Dembski's Explanatory Filter in this way. If it were
a reliable detector, it would be a fine point for
argumentation to be able to say that past false attributions
of design could have been avoided by application of Dembski's
EF. However, as one can see by examination, the outcome does
not support that, and that is why I think that we don't see
such testing of Dembski's EF. (Although I anticipate that
this point will be the focus of much special pleading in the
future, with many fine distinctions made concerning specified
complexity. Consider it a prediction.) On the other hand, I
welcome such testing for my EF, which would not have posited
fairies in the fairy rings.

IY>Also, I don't think that Dembski is too concerned with the
IY>need for the mechanism that RJP writes about. The
IY>capabilities of supernatural, intelligent designers might
IY>seem almost miraculous to us.

Ivan can poo-poo Bob's idea all he wants, but I find it worthy
of consideration, and I suspect that others will find it so as
well. Part of how we recognize human design is through
knowledge of the mechanisms by which designs are implemented.
To claim that this information is unnecessary to identify
novel designer/design relationships requires justification,
and beyond that even if it can be shown to be unnecessary for
detection, it still has a bearing on the confidence with which
we can hold a determination of intelligent design.

Wesley R. Elsberry, Student in Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Tx A&M U.
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