email - October 2009

Specified Complexity

Is Specified Complexity worth considering?

We would like to address an email we received which began as follows:

Subject: Problem with Specified Complexity
From: John
Date: 9/26/2009

In September's Disclosure, you made a reference to Specified Complexity.  I would like to think that this theory was watertight, but I have seen one problem with it which I can't resolve, so I was wondering what you made of it.

The rest of the email was a polite, well-reasoned explanation of the problem he had with an article he had read. The article in question wasn’t really about specified complexity—it was about trial-and-error design of electronic circuits using the so-called “genetic algorithm” approach. John’s conclusion was,

Nevertheless, as far as I can see, it's still a documented, repeatable example of specified complexity without a designer.

We have previously discussed genetic algorithms so we won’t go over that same ground in detail again. Suffice it to say that the genetic algorithm really does involve a designer. The designer has simply chosen to use a rather ineffective, brute force approach to solving a problem.

John’s email gives us an opportunity to clarify a related issue, however. We really want to drive this point home.

We do not advocate creationism or Intelligent Design. We evaluate the arguments for evolution. An evolutionist who calls himself “Wowbagger” made an argument for evolution based on his ignorance of the concept of specified complexity.

It was not our intention to describe or defend the notion of specified complexity. That is still not our intention; but since any mention of specified complexity is forbidden in American public schools, there are many people who don’t know what we are talking about. Basically, specified complexity is the notion that when a function can be performed only by a system consisting of a highly improbable complex arrangement of components, the existence of that system is evidence of design. If you want a better description of specified complexity, you can find it on an Intelligent Design website.

Our position is merely that Intelligent Design advocates have some criteria which they think can be used to distinguish actual design from the mere appearance of design. We take no stand on whether or not those criteria are valid. You are free to debate whether or not those criteria are valid or not, unless you are in an American public school. Evolutionists have gone to court to prevent those debates.

It is our position that science is not advanced by prohibiting discussion of how to detect intentional design.

At one point in my career, I was involved in the design of guided missiles whose seekers distinguish man-made objects (buildings, trucks, airplanes, etc.) from naturally occurring objects (trees, rocks, lakes, etc.). Details are, of course, classified; but one can make some general statements about target recognition at the unclassified level. Target recognition is nothing more than a particular type of pattern recognition. Pattern recognition involves looking for a specific collection of attributes. The probability of false detection depends upon how complex that collection is, and how probable that collection of attributes is.

Evolutionists argue that students who are never permitted to consider the concept of specified complexity receive a superior education than students who are exposed to the evil influence of Intelligent Design. We disagree. Insights that students receive when pondering the validity of specified complexity might be of some value if their career path takes them into a branch of science that involves pattern recognition.

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