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Date: 2003/12/17 13:45:30, Link
Author: Ivar

I saw your and Shallit's paper referenced on the ARN forum, read it, started thinking about Dembski's use of the word "specification," and have a few comments about it.  This isn't exactly a critique of your paper but it may be helpful.

If we could visit many earth-like planets in the universe, we would expect to see some things that were similar to things on Earth and other things that were different.  For example, we would expect to see life, we wouldn't expect to see George Bush.  We would expect sometimes to hear language, we wouldn't expect to hear English.  The first kind of thing is what I suspect Dembski had in mind when he first defined his "specification."  The second kind of thing is what he would call a chance event.

Dembski's says that his "specification" is the rejection region used in Fisherian statistics.  However, there are usually many possible rejection regions that one might choose when assessing the null hypothesis for a questioned event.  Dembski in The Design Inference says that one of the events in the specification must be the event at issue.  This seems to be cheating since, if the event is in the rejection region, the null hypothesis (that nature did it) is rejected.  However, Dembski claims that this is legitimate providing one can specify the rest of a rejection region using information that is independent of the null hypothesis.  Dembski says he wants to avoid "cherry picking," meaning that he does not want to pick a rejection region merely because it contains the questioned event.  But if many rejection regions are possible and he deliberately picks one that contains the questioned event, what else is he doing?  Put another way, how does he demonstrate that he is not "cherry picking"?

If the null hypothesis is that nature did it and if the information that defines the specification is also derived from nature, would Dembski still conclude that rejecting the null hypothesis implies that the event must be a design event?  Put another way, is it logical to conclude design without using a rejection region that is based on a competing design hypothesis?  Dembski's examples of rejection regions typically postulate that a man or a man-like alien is responsible.  Examples are Caputo and the prime numbers in the film "Contact."  He also said that the bacterial flagellum was like a boat motor.

Having said all that, it is not obvious to me that Dembski actually needs the concept of a specification.  Dembski's goal is to show that there is a designer who might be God.  From the "Intelligent Design Coming Clean" paper on his web site: "... a designer, who for both Van Till and me is God...." Dembski doesn't need a general procedure to do this.  All he needs is a good argument for one event.  A specification is an event (usually, an event that is a collection of other events).  If he can show that an event that is a specification must have been designed, then it is unimportant that the specification specifies other events.  Dembski has the answer he wants.  Put another way, a specification is nothing more than an event that would be interesting to working scientists anyway.

I don't understand "Appendix A.1 A different kind of specification."  Some strings are random and cannot be compressed, some strings can be compressed using a known program, and still other strings could be compressed except that we don't know how.  If there is a program to compress a string, it could be the invention of an intelligent designer or it could be a model of a natural process.  So what does this have to do with specifications?

A suggestion that may be helpful in your quest to shorten your paper:  Focus on issues that Dembski can't repair.  Ignore issues such as the claim that telephone numbers are CSI or the error in the prime number sequence. Discussions about Dembski's gaffes tend to obscure the more significant problems in Dembski's writing.


Date: 2004/08/08 18:19:26, Link
Author: Ivar
Quote (Wesley R. Elsberry @ July 19 2004,16<!--emo&:0)
We haven't so much repaired specification as we have pointed out a better alternative to it.

I don't see the point of this.  Why do you want a "better alternative" to specification?

Dembski had to define a term like specification so that he could justify ignoring those improbable chance events that occur all the time, e.g., strings of coin flips.  His definition of specification is confusing, and, probably for him, that is good.  Now he can write books rather than short and obviously flawed papers.  But I don't see why you want to help him to continue the confusion.

There is another alternative to specification that is less confusing: limit the design question to events that are biological events.  Actually, this may not be a real limitation.  So far as I know, the only possible specified, complex events (as defined by Dembski) are man-made events (which are irrelevant except as examples) and biological events.  (Fictional events are also irrelevant.)

Questions about the origins of biological events are legitimate.  However, Dembski's answer is not.  He asserts that if we do not have a detailed, experimentally verified theory that explains how nature did it, then we can presume that some unknown designer did it.  No experimental evidence confirming a design hypothesis is required.  Dembski seems to believe that this assertion is genuine science.

Incidentally, I assumed that when Dembski wrote that, "Where direct, empirical corroboration is possible, design actually is present whenever specified complexity is present," he was referring to man and to man-made objects.  (See here.)  Maybe this is his experimental evidence confirming that life was designed.


Date: 2004/09/17 10:20:15, Link
Author: Ivar
Quote (scordova @ Sep. 17 2004,08:32)

When I a designer like myself creates an ID artifact there can be no doubt that in many cases there is CSI.  It is the blueprint artifact methaphor.

To reiterate a comment made on the ARN board, an object does not have CSI merely because it was made by man.  Dembski's definition of CSI requires that one show that a non-intelligent nature could not create the object, i.e., that it could not be an object resulting from regular and chance events.

Note that if a non-intellligent nature did create life and, eventually, man, then there has been a chain of regular and chance events that resulted in the objects that have been made by man.  The probability of such a chain can not be smaller than Dembski's Universal Probability Bound of 10^-150, i.e., it cannot be "complex."  One cannot deduce that man is the product of an intelligent designer merely because man is an intelligent designer.


Date: 2004/09/20 03:38:59, Link
Author: Ivar
Ivar originally wrote:

To reiterate a comment made on the ARN board, an object does not have CSI merely because it was made by man.  Dembski's definition of CSI requires that one show that a non-intelligent nature could not create the object, i.e., that it could not be an object resulting from regular and chance events.

Salvador responded:
I ignored your comment Ivar because it was didn't even reflect what I was saying.

page 141 of No Free Lunch
Complex Specified Information:  The coincidence of conceptual and physical information where the conceptual information is both identifiable independently of the physical information and also complex.

Dembski's definition here doesn't look like the definition described by Ivar.

From the text on pages 140 and 141 of No Free Lunch:
This information-theoretic account of complexity is entirely consistent with the account of complexity given in sections 1.3 and 1.5.... It follows that information can be complex, specified, or both. Information that is both complex and specified will be called complex specified information, or CSI for short (see figure 3.2).

From pages 18, 19, and 22 of No Free Lunch:
Since complexity and probability are correlative notions (i.e., higher complexity corresponds to smaller probability), this question can be reformulated probabilistically: How small does a probability have to be so that in the presence of a specification it reliably implicates design? ....

A probability of 1 in 10^150 is therefore a universal probability bound. [Reference section 6.5 of The Design Inference] A universal probability bound is impervious to all available probabilistic resources that may be brought against it. Indeed, all the probabilistic resources in the known physical world cannot conspire to render remotely probable an event whose probability is less than this universal probability bound.

Complexity is calculated assuming that the "known physical world" generated the event, object, or information in question.  If information (or whatever) is too complex, i.e., too improbable, to be generated by the physical world (and is also specified), only then is design inferred.  Dembski is still relying on his Explanatory Filter (page 13 of No Free Lunch).  In Dembski's world, complexity is undefined when one assumes that a designer did it.