Monday, 27 May 2013

Does an intelligent designer solve the ID problem?

Having been reading about the Cambrian Explosion which I mentioned recently, it might be a good time to contemplate the creation of information.

Can information be created without intelligent intervention?

Intelligent Design (ID) proponents claim that the existence of their 'intelligent designer' (who has no link with theology - honestly!) is implied by the diversity of new information created during the Cambrian Explosion.  Something intelligent must have interfered to make life blossom over that short period of 50 million years.  They can't think of any better explanations, so this has got to be the best one.  This idea comes from the Law of Conservation of Information.  That sounds scientific doesn't it, but as Wikipedia explains, it is not really a scientific law at all.  It is an invention of William Dembski, founded on a vaguely related topic by (real scientist)  Peter Medawar in his book The Limits of Science (1984).  Perhaps in the public mind it is also backed up by cherry-picked terminology from some very esoteric quantum mechanics.

Aside from the fact that their 'law' is just made up and that it is mathematically falsifiable, is their argument about information even reasonable?

To the first approximation, the answer has got to be NO!  Snowflakes have structure.  They happen to be created in a random sort of way but their crystal structure is certainly not free of information.  Similarly if you dissolve a lot of salt in hot water and then let the solution cool down, the salt will crystallise.  Surely this is information too - and it was definitely self-created.

Neither of those examples give information that is then read back and used to make a future action happen though, so in a sense they might not count.

Taking the opposite extreme, the creation of different forms of life, the question gets a little more complex.  Let's make the assumption - for the time being - that this new information did come from an intelligent designer in just the way that this blog post is new information created by me.  How did I develop the concept that I want to present, formulate it and publish it?

Obviously some measure of intelligence might have been involved for the latter two stages and I leave it to my intelligent readers to decide how much of it is demonstrated, but just invoking intelligence is not enough is it?  Aside from the fact that intelligence is a quantity that is notoriously hard to define and measure, intelligence in itself does not create new ideas.  Somewhere in the mind of a designer there has to be a 'spark' that starts off a thought process, leading to a train of thought.

Where does that spark itself come from?  Since I am not a dualist I cannot use my soul as an explanation of the source of inspiration.  Therefore I am left with the problem of finding an explanation for the information that has been conveyed by my own intelligence.

In other words, invoking an intelligent designer does not move us forward at all.  I think this condemns Intelligent Design to the realms of pseudo-science, if indeed it had not already managed to do that for itself in other ways.

Or perhaps the idea for this post came from the great Intelligent Designer in the sky?

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