Another Paper for the CV

Back around 2001, Jeff Shallit of the University of Waterloo asked me about collaborating on a critique of various claims made by William Dembski. Late in 2002, we had a completed manuscript. However, Dembski is not considered a hot topic most places, given that his claims have almost entirely appeared in popular rather than academic venues. In 2006, though, Glenn Branch became a co-editor for a topical issue of Synthese, which was to take up the subject of religious antievolution, and our submission there went through the revision process and finally page proofs quite recently. The paper is now published and available for about $35. Don’t believe the submission date listed there; our submission was complete as of early October, 2006.

Of course, the original, longer version is still available for free.

Information theory, evolutionary computation, and Dembski’s “complex specified information”

Journal	Synthese
Publisher	Springer Netherlands
ISSN	0039-7857 (Print) 1573-0964 (Online)
DOI	10.1007/s11229-009-9542-8
Subject Collection	Humanities, Social Sciences and Law
SpringerLink Date	Thursday, April 16, 2009

Information theory, evolutionary computation, and Dembski’s “complex specified information”

Wesley Elsberry1, 2 Contact Information and Jeffrey Shallit3 Contact Information

(1) Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48825, USA

(2) National Center for Science Education, 420 40th Street, Suite 2, Oakland, CA 94609-2509, USA

(3) School of Computer Science, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, N2L 3G1, Canada

Received: 23 March 2009 Accepted: 25 March 2009 Published online: 16 April 2009

Abstract Intelligent design advocate William Dembski has introduced a measure of information called “complex specified information”, or CSI. He claims that CSI is a reliable marker of design by intelligent agents. He puts forth a “Law of Conservation of Information” which states that chance and natural laws are incapable of generating CSI. In particular, CSI cannot be generated by evolutionary computation. Dembski asserts that CSI is present in intelligent causes and in the flagellum of Escherichia coli, and concludes that neither have natural explanations. In this paper, we examine Dembski’s claims, point out significant errors in his reasoning, and conclude that there is no reason to accept his assertions.

Keywords Information theory – Evolutionary computation – Artificial life – Pseudomathematics – Complex specified information

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.