COVID-19 genome and design detection

This example is at the top of page 23.

Find this in section 7, at the bottom of page 20.

M\cdot N \cdot \phi{(T) \cdot P(T|H)}

The product M\cdot N \cdot \phi{(T)} is an integer and P(T|H) a probability. Dembski uses this as an approximation for the probability of T occuring. BUT it’s not a probability; it’s the binomial expectation for the number of observed T, and can be greater than one…

I have a blog post about it. Notes on the correct calculation appear near the bottom (in the Addendum).


Thanks for the pointers. I was going to work from Dembski’s CSI criterion (2002) and see how close I could come to deriving the 2005 formula from it. Will get to that.

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I spent a lot of time with the 2005 paper, multiple reads reviewing the references. I thought I must be missing something, that Dembski must be doing something I didn’t understand. How else could he have probabilities greater than one? Elberry and Shallit (2011) covered everything else, I’m surprised they missed this.

No doubt he did make that blunder. I would say that Complex Specified Information (a notion not invented by Dembski but by Leslie Orgel, and also used by Jack Szostak and Robert Hazen) is not a senseless notion. It’s just that having it does not prove that something is designed. At Panda’s Thumb I recently posted an argument that using Algorithmic Information Theory in this context is useless. But using a component of fitness does make sense and we can see that lots of adaptations have high specified information. Perhaps we could discuss this in a special thread at PT.


That would be interesting. I’d like to contribute if I can.

A few comments on your post at PT:

  1. If I have to choose, ASC is preferable to CSI because at least the math is correct.
  2. I agree that ASC is not useful for analyzing evolution, at least not in in terms of pure quantity. Extreme large or small amounts of ASC cannot describe a living thing: too simple (a crystal) and it is not alive, too random and it cannot be evolved (I think). What matters is the right amount of information relative to fitness in a given environment.
  3. You touch on “complexity of description” not necessarily being related to fitness, which is correct. ASC is built around the concept of a Universal Turing Machine (UTM) with random input. We cannot guarantee a shorter coding for random input, BUT there may exist coding schemes where shorter (or optimal) coding is possible. We could hypothesize a Biochemical Turing Machine (BTM) that incorporates the laws of chemistry. I don’t think this is useful, I’m only suggesting that it should be true.
  4. I agree that variability in the population is necessary part of any description. Conservation of ASC can only hold with respect to a single genotype.

OK, I will work on a short post, with some links to resources. The intent would be to allow you and I and any sensible other commenter to discuss the relationship between Dembski’s use of CSI in 2002 and his Specified Complexity measure in 2005. I am not much interested in further explication of the ASC measures. I appreciate your comments above, but basically have seen no justification from Dembski and Co. of using measures of simplicity of description to say anything about evolution.

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You don’t need to be, it’s just Mutual Algorithmic Information with a new name slapped on it. (I think, it’s been some time since I read that paper.)

I don’t have Dembski’s 2002 book, so I can’t help you there. (Is that the version with the “Critical Region”?)

Agreed. The closest Dembski (2005) got was calling P(T|H) the probability of the sequence arising through evolutionary processes. No accounting for selection at all.

OK, I have finally put up a post at Panda’s Thumb as the place to have a discussion of the technical issues involving use of CSI and ASC for design detection: here Discussion: Is William Dembski’s CSI argument mistaken or merely useless?


Sorry for my absence - I needed some time off. Will go read-up now.

@Joe_Felsenstein is an effort to edit my post for numerous corrections, I somehow got marked as SPAM. Can I get a little help? :slight_smile:

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I approved it so it is up now, but needs some correction. I hope it lets you “Edit” it.

I did, and I have another reply ready to post in I can get Discus to load. My Internet has been crap lately.

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I’m guessing that the problem is more with Disqus than with your Internet. I’ve been seeing problems with Disqus for a few hours, though my Internet is otherwise fine.

Discus too, but I’ve been having troubles on my end for a couple of days.

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