What is the ID Definition of Information?

Stephen Meyer gave one in Signature in the Cell. Do you have the book?

Note: I didn’t agree with his definition, but he gave one. :slight_smile:

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Can you please repeat it here for us? Is that the accepted “official” ID definition?

No reason to. If Patrick starts a thread setting out the precise definitions of information used in information theory I’m sure it will be included in them. Then we’ll know it’s not something that Meyer just made up.

I’m pretty sure the answer is some combination, by definition rather than demonstration, of:

  1. That which is uniquely produced by conscious intelligence.
  2. Complex Specified Information (CSI)
  3. Algorithmic Specified Complexity (ASC)
  4. The entropy of entities (on the one hand)
  5. The mutual of entities (on the other hand)

4 and 5 are opposite sides of the coin, a type of catch-22. We see shared entropy? That is “order,” and can only produced by a mind. We see entropy that isn’t shared? That is “complexity,” and can only be produce by a mind. This mutually contradictory sort of reasoning is the source of much confusion and makes the whole effort self-defeating.

As far as I know, no one has put forward the right amount of complexity vs. order to expect in design. It is, however, a zero sum game between complexity and order. So the reasoning does not make sense to me.

It is echoed in the FT vs. D argument:

Isn’t it clear that this is the situation? I’m not sure what the value on pressing for a definition is? Seem like the “on the spot fallacy” https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/On_the_spot_fallacy. I’d just drop it if I were you, and focus instead on explaining better the argument, so it becomes clear what the problem is.

Also, none of this is ultimately against “design” as a concept, which is important to remember when communicating with religious audiences. Whether or not design is true, these arguments for design do not seem coherent. I fall ack on:

Understanding the beauty, complexity, and order of life should bring us all to awe and wonder, and it usually does. Whether our not we can “explain” the mechanisms, it should never explain away our surprise. It can and should and does welcome us into the grand.


I’m not interested in the definition used in information theory. I’m interested in the definition used by ID proponents as it pertains to biological life. When an ID proponent claims “natural processes can’t produce the information to create the new body plans in the Cambrian” I want to know specifically how they are defining information in that usage.

It’s been my experience in that context the ID definition of information is the completely circular “the thing which evolution can’t produce” which they then use for an argument. I’m giving the IDers here a chance to correct me if I am mistaken.

But doesn’t ID have to link it with Information Theory that now has a formalism for 70 years? Even the physists doing black holes talk about Information Theory in the same way as Shannon did. Even computational biology uses Information Theory in the same way. If ID is working to extend Information Theory, it needs to be anchored in traditional Information Theory. It can’t be just floating there in a cloud not anchored to the mathematical formalism of 70 year old Information Theory.


Yes they do, or they they have to walk back thousands of pages of their published arguments.


I would be okay with that one, if “conscious” were removed. We don’t really have a clear meaning for “conscious”.

I seriously doubt anyone in the ID camp has thought about extending Information Theory to cover their design claims. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Um, really @Timothy_Horton? That is Dembski, @EricMH, Marks, @Kirk, and several other people who argument. So yes, they have been trying to extend information theory to cover design arguments. Dembski goes so far as to say that all design arguments are reducible to the CSI argument.


Allow me to clarify. I haven’t see anyone try to extend Information Theory concepts to their claim “evolution can’t produce new biological information”. I followed Eric’s attempts to mathematically disprove evolution but as many people pointed out, applying his math to real world biology fails completely.

They certainly have tried. I do not think they have been successful. They certainly have tried. You don’t think Eric was trying?

I followed the thread closely but honestly saw no attempt by him to map his theoretical claims to real world biology. It is possible I may have missed if he did so.

You can see it more clearly in @Kirk’s work. Also try take a look at this paper, which was referenced early on.

You might think it is obvious they failed, but trust me, it is not obvious to most people. This is usually what they are referring to when they talk about “information”. I agree with you, that they have not made their case. However they certainly are trying. If not trying, it is because they are claiming such total victory that there is no more reason to do research on this (yes, that can be the rhetoric).


SIM = Spetnerian Information Metric

"When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean —neither more nor less.” “The question is ,” said Alice , “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is ,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”


To put it another way, it often boils down to: “information” is what evolution cannot add or increase in an organism but which ‘intelligences’ like God or humans can.


iirc, the definition Meyer used in Signature in the Cell came straight from Merriam Webster.

As we have seen in the mathematical discussions, “Information about what?”, is a crucial question. Until you can define what it is you are describing it doesn’t have any meaning.


A fundamental, but somehow forgotten fact, is that information is always information about something

  • Jan Kahre. The Mathematical Theory of Information. p. 3
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Yep. Which is why we still haven’t seen what IDers mean by information when discussing biological entities. I suspect we’ll never get an answer.

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