IDist Disbelieves Their Information Arguments

For what it’s worth, I don’t agree that evolution, even if conceived in purely neo-Darwinian fashion, can’t add any information at all. If information is lodged in the DNA molecule, and normal processes of variation and mutation can alter the DNA molecule, then in principle the amount of information contained in the DNA could change. I think those ID folks who say that Darwinian processes can produce no new functional information are overstating their case. It might be true that they can’t produce large amounts of functional information – I wouldn’t venture to say, because I’m not an information theorist. But it strikes me as obviously wrong to say they can produce no new functional information, and I wish some ID proponents wouldn’t argue in that way. But what can I do about it? Each ID proponent is a free agent.


Your intuition here is essential correct, even if you aren’t an information theorist. :slight_smile:


@Eddie you deserve a lot a of credit for this.

Why do you think this sort of argument has taken such a prominent role in ID?

You stand up to problems you see in other organizations all the time. It earns more credibility to stand up to the issues in your own camp. I’m sure you find a way to make the ID movement better by helping them walk away from the bad arguments.

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I should point out that at least 2 other major creationist organizations (to be unnamed, and not BioLogos) have confided that they think the information argument is bullocks. It is interesting that the the information arguments are (1) the most important arguments for ID, and (2) have not even convinced professional creationists outside the ID tent. Seems like a very big red flag. Maybe you could help them @eddie.


Well, I’ve here stood against the claim that Darwinian processes can produce no new biological information. So there is now a public record here of one ID supporter who distances himself from that argument. I think I made this point before on BioLogos, discussing Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. I think I conceded that where Meyer slipped in a few spots from the more cautious “can’t produce much new biological information” to “can’t produce any new biological information”, he was committing himself unnecessarily to an extreme position which could easily be falsified (and which in my view ID did not need to take). No doubt I will make this point again in discussions with my ID friends. I may even make it again here.

I’m not sure. I think part of it is that we live in an information age, and arguments in the jargon of information theory have a sort of allure. The danger, of course, is that such arguments may be sloppy, based on superficial analogies. I don’t in principle oppose talking about design in terms of “information,” but I think it needs to be done carefully. My impression is that the degree of care varies widely among the various ID proponents who use information theory arguments.

I’m also not sure that the appeal to information theory is necessary. The example of Behe’s two books shows that one can argue for design without talking about “Shannon information” or “Kolmgorov information” much; Meyer and Dembski seem to talk about information much more than Behe does – or than Denton does in his books. I’m still inclined to think that arguments from “the purposeful arrangement of parts” have not been completely disposed of by Darwin’s blind watchmaker of natural selection, and I still am inclined to think that fine-tuning arguments have some weight, and if I had never heard of Dembski’s or Meyer’s arguments based on information theory, I would still be inclined to think that there was a case to be made for ID.

But I’m not here to actually argue the case for ID. I’ll let others do that. I don’t regard this as an appropriate site for the detailed discussion of ID arguments (there are other sites for that purpose), but as a site where the various camps (and non-aligned people) can discuss science and theology issues with some give and take, in hopes of finding some common ground.

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I always get a chuckle when I see an ID-Creationist make the claim “mutations can’t add information, only lose information”. They haven’t realized yet anything one mutation can do, another later mutation can undo.

If AAC --> AAG is a loss of information then AAG --> AAC must be a gain of information by definition.

Note this is empirically observed in the real word. Such changes are called back mutations or reverse mutations.

This whole “no new information” shtick plays directly into Fundamentalist Creationist beliefs that man and all animals in the world were created “perfect” and their genomes have been degrading since “The Fall”. See Sanford’s “genetic entropy” nonsense as a prime example.

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I agree. You don’t want to get kicked out over this. It takes more courage to stand up to ones friends, does it not?

You could do great good by helping them here.

My impression is different. As has been explained by Eric here, they are all making the same argument. it all traces back to Marks and Dembski.

I concur with this. Dembski argues irreducible complexity is a form of CSI. The basic problem is whether intelligent agency can be empirically detected, and CSI is supposedly how we can do this.

I believe the reason the mathematically oriented ID proponents (Dembski, Marks, Ewert, Me) argue this way is because we believe this is what the math shows. So if we argued otherwise, we’d be lying.

Now a caveat with this sort of claim: CSI is a probabilistic entity. So, there is always a chance that CSI occurs by accident, although this probability drops exponentially with the number of bits.

On the other hand, the expected CSI is always non positive, and that can be said with certainty because it is the negative Kullback-Liebler distance.

This really looks like you are trying to groom ID rebels :wink:

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For the record, that would be the vaguely defined “CSI” concept invented by Dembski solely as a prop for his Intelligent Design claims. It has zero relevance to anything in actual biology and is not used by anyone in the scientific community save for those pushing ID pseudo-science.

Whatever you may think of it, the concept is defined well enough that @swamidass and I had a long discussion on which precise scenarios we could approximate it reliably. So at least it has graduated from the grade of “meaningless” to the grade of “probably wrong” and “probably useless”. A step up in my book!


Well, that is one reason why Meyer shouldn’t have said that Darwinian processes could not produce any functional information, isn’t it?


It has improved but not in this way.

Marks argued that ASC could be objectively given a guaranteed minimum bound. @kirk took this up and developed FSC off of it. No assumptions or qualifications were made.

You did the right and wise thing of explaining that Marks was wrong in this. ASC and FSC are guaranteed to be minimums. In fact, if the background model is off or uncomputable, then ASC and FSC will have frequent false positives.

Then, we looked at cancer, and we can see that it is a false positive for FSC. FSC computes the FI at 6 billion bits.

Moreover, a correct computation of FI shows that substantial amounts of FI can be generated by natural processes. We see a FI of over 300 bits, which falsifies another claim, that evolution can’t produce lots of FI.

None of this was appreciated or acknowledged be people in ID before you @EricMH. So we have made real progress. Ultimately failure to qualify claims has led to very poor thinking in ID. @EricMH, to your credit, you have done what you can to qualify claims. That is respectable and I thank for doing this.

It will be interesting to see how Dembski, Marks and @kirk Durston respond.

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We are in a quagmire now with too many advocacy groups all to happy to attack one another, but unwilling to retract their own mistakes and self-correct. ID is no exception here. The same problem plagues YEC, OEC, ID, and TE/EC. Everyone willing to show integrity by cleaning their own house is to be respected.

If there is any doubt, I’ve done the same with my own camp. As is widely known in ID. Remember, worked hard to correct the overstatements of science by people in the TE/EC camp. I respect with anyone does the same in their own camp.

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It’d be great if you didn’t put words in my mouth. I never said Marks is wrong. In our ASC thread, I pointed out how you misread Marks.

I do not know of anything that ID needs to retract, nor have I said so in any of our discussions.

Your statements to this effect are why it looks like you are trying to breed internal dissent within ID. Not a trustworthy thing to do.

We will have to sort this out later. As I read that paper his entire point is to demonstrate that ASC is always a lower bound on CSI. If that were his point you’d disagree with him. If it was not his point it obviated his paper.

There is internal dissent in every healthy intellectual movement. Do you believe there is no dissent within ID?


That was his point and I agree with him.

If P is correct then ASC always underestimates CSI.

You misread the paper to say that regardless of P being correct or incorrect then ASC is always an underestimate. I’ve corrected you a number of times on this point.

What benefit do you get out of misrepresenting ID?

I’m all for legitimate dissent and cleaning house and what not. But, manufactured controversy like you do with misrepresentation, and this is all I’ve ever seen from ID detractors, just shows ID is on to something if it cannot be fairly refuted.

Btw, it has been many weeks, and I’ve put a fair amount of my scant free time into this site, and you still have not produced a disproof of ID. Clearly you cannot do so.

Sorry but science doesn’t need to disprove things which have never been demonstrated in the first place. You might as well complain science has not produced a disproof of leprechauns and banshees.

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Apologies about the las comment @Timothy_Horton. I was mixing up threads and thought we were talking about something else.

No worries. I’m still getting use to the formatting of this place. :slightly_smiling_face:

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