Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Problem of Design - Part 2

In part 1, I described the recent attempts to objectively recognise design in nature and that those attempts have fallen short. It would appear that we're back to the point of William Paley's watchmaker: we can infer that design surrounds us in nature, yet we cannot provide a framework to objectively recognise it without incorporating subjective parameters. So now what?

Ever get that feeling we skipped a step somewhere?

An engineering design drawing, or blueprint, contains information; a lot of information. Wouldn't it make sense that if design in nature existed, that these natural objects/events would contain a substantial amount of information? What if we could objectively measure this information? IMO, this is the step that ID and the ID Movement (IDM) appear to have skipped*.

Information theory** (IT) has the potential to be such an attempt to objectively quantify (or measure) information. IT is a relatively young discipline - approximately 60 years old - and has been applied to various fields of study (communcation, plagiarism detection, neurobiology, thermal physics, etc.). I am not an an expert in IT, but based on my limited understanding of it (IT contains advanced statistics beyond my ability), using a standard measurement unit of information - such as "bits" - one should be able to quantify the amount of information in every object and/or event in the natural world and universe (to the best of my knowledge, this has not been done).

Once information has been quantified, the work of recognising design in natural objects and events can be performed more efficiently and effectively. In Part 3, I will propose a basic framework for recognising design (heavy emphasis on basic).

* In fairness, Dembski does cover IT in The Design Revolution, but does not attempt to use it to objectively quantify information.

** I am aware of the potential pitfalls of using wikipedia as an unbiased resource, but based on what I know, there is no controversy regarding the definition and study of IT, and thus, the linked wikipedia article(s) should be reliable.

UPDATE: Click here for the wikipedia article on self-information, a method of "measuring" information. I think I may have to tease out the measuring of information a bit more before writing about the proposed design framework.

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