|Have you seen me?|
Over at the intelligent design website Uncommon Descent, the virtual community has been universally stumped by a commenter, and now posting contributor, called MathGrrl.
She makes an eminently reasonable request of the ID proponents:
In the abstract of Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence, William Dembski asks “Can objects, even if nothing is known about how they arose, exhibit features that reliably signal the action of an intelligent cause?” Many ID proponents answer this question emphatically in the affirmative, claiming that Complex Specified Information is a metric that clearly indicates intelligent agency. As someone with a strong interest in computational biology, evolutionary algorithms, and genetic programming, this strikes me as the most readily testable claim made by ID proponents. For some time I’ve been trying to learn enough about CSI to be able to measure it objectively and to determine whether or not known evolutionary mechanisms are capable of generating it. Unfortunately, what I’ve found is quite a bit of confusion about the details of CSI, even among its strongest advocates.
My first detailed discussion was with UD regular gpuccio, in a series of four threads hosted by Mark Frank. While we didn’t come to any resolution, we did cover a number of details that might be of interest to others following the topic.
CSI came up again in a recent thread here on UD. I asked the participants there to assist me in better understanding CSI by providing a rigorous mathematical definition and showing how to calculate it for four scenarios:
- A simple gene duplication, without subsequent modification, that increases production of a particular protein from less than X to greater than X. The specification of this scenario is “Produces at least X amount of protein Y.”
- Tom Schneider’s ev evolves genomes using only simplified forms of known, observed evolutionary mechanisms, that meet the specification of “A nucleotide that binds to exactly N sites within the genome.” The length of the genome required to meet this specification can be quite long, depending on the value of N. (ev is particularly interesting because it is based directly on Schneider’s PhD work with real biological organisms.)
- Tom Ray’s Tierra routinely results in digital organisms with a number of specifications. One I find interesting is “Acts as a parasite on other digital organisms in the simulation.” The length of the shortest parasite is at least 22 bytes, but takes thousands of generations to evolve.
- The various Steiner Problem solutions from a programming challenge a few years ago have genomes that can easily be hundreds of bits. The specification for these genomes is “Computes a close approximation to the shortest connected path between a set of points.”
The ID-ers seem unable to provide MathGrrl with what should be very simple to provide. Nevertheless, the obvious question is where is the presiding ID mathematician William Dembski? His absence is now conspicuous.
I predict that he is busy furiously writing a carefully worded response to MathGrrl, in which he says she has misunderstood his work