# Algorithmic Specified Complexity in the Game of Life, revisited

In 2015, Winston Ewert, William Dembski and Robert Marks published a paper entitled Algorithmic Specified Complexity in the Game of Life.

The paper was a wreck. We examined it here at TSZ and found well over 20 substantive errors in it.

ID supporter Eric Holloway describes it as a “neat paper”. I describe it as an “abysmal mess”.

Eric has been touting the virtues of ASC here at TSZ, so now is a good time to reopen the discussion of this paper.

## 140 thoughts on “Algorithmic Specified Complexity in the Game of Life, revisited”

1. Eric,

There is a huge difference between “inference to the best explanation” and “inference to a default explanation by ruling out all alternatives”. The explanatory filter is a case of the latter, and that’s where much of the trouble lies.

2. In order to respond to you, it has to be remembered that you believe if someone asks you if your love for your children is physical, the answer is yes, because you are physical, and your children are physical. Thus if someone asked you, is the aura of seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time physical, you would say, yes, the Statue of Liberty is physical. Is the powerful emotion of reading a good book physical, yes, because a book is physical.

This is the level of stupidity I am dealing with, I must keep in mind, in answering your questions.

So when you say you don’t understand a sentence, my best answer to you is, Duh!

Of course this leaves you in conflict with some of your fellow skeptics. Because then you have to say Charlie’s concept of a triangle is physical, since Charlie is physical.

So you must be a good skeptic, and say that when you said your love for your children was physical, you were drunk, and you apologize. Or you should write a long rambling obfuscation, in the mold of keiths and Rummy, that talks about gish gallop, and made up fallacies, and dualism and trioism, and semi-soft compatibilism and Kantabilism. Or you should just be like Neil Degrasse Tyson and say you thought you were being helpful, and sorry if you weren’t.

At any rate, be a good skeptic, would ya?

3. phoodoo: You have energy, universal constants, laws of physics that are unchanging, and material objects that can think and realize their own existence. Assuming this is totally meaningless

Nobody assumes any such thing. First of all nobody think is’s totally meaningless. Even the most die-hard nihilists will say that human life holds meaning to human being. They just don’t think it holds an objective or “ultimate” meaning.

Also, it’s never an assumption. It’s always a conclusion people come to after considering the implications of a large host of facts. Among them what it means to say that something is meaningful or has meaning. When we say that, what are we saying? What does it mean to say, that X has meaning or X is meaningful?

4. phoodoo: I just wanted to save this comment for posterity, in case keiths just realizes what he wrote.

I have to agree with Keiths. Are you seriously suggesting that anything physical has a weight?

5. phoodoo: Why wouldn’t the staunchest of immaterialist deny the existence of matter?

I suppose, for one, it would make him appear insane. That’d be one reason.

6. EricMH: Exactly, so we agree. There is something else besides our own choices that determines the outcome.

Not in the example given. The choice was to define a rule for what a succesion of 1 is. So what constrains your later choice, is your adherence to the first choice. You either follow the rule you made up or you don’t. Either way, it’s you doing it.

Is this thing physical? If so, then, as faded_glory asks, where is it? I posit it is nowhere, thus cannot be physical.

I think it’s a process in your head. A pattern of interactions between physical entities taking place in time and space. Is the last 5-billion year history of the solar system physical? I think it is, but it’s not an object, it is a process. It doesn’t have just one location, it is a series of locations of a huge number of entities in relation to each other, which changes over time.
And for any one instant of time where “it” has a location it may be described as an object, but then it that object is not the preceding 5-billion year history of the solar system.

7. Rumraket: I have to agree with Keiths. Are you seriously suggesting that anything physical has a weight?

Well therein lies the problem. You can’t decide what is a physical thing and what isn’t, so any answer will do. Is a wave a thing. You can’t say. Is air a thing? Electricity? Gravity?

Is ‘your nature ‘ a physical thing? You sure can’t seem to explain why and what. If it is then so is altruism a thing. With no weight. And no location.

And are you a thing? Maybe you are just a concept and a process. Even you materialists don’t know.

8. Is this thing physical?If so, then, as faded_glory asks, where is it?I posit it is nowhere, thus cannot be physical.

Consequently, there is ‘something else’ and it is nowhere, thus the physical world cannot be all of reality.

‘This thing’ is what we call reality, and it consists of bits of physical stuff and the relations and processes that go on between bits of stuff

So the ‘where’ is simple: it is everywhere, all around us, and we can pinpoint the bits of stuff by their locations and the processes of their interactions by our observations and measurements of them.

The abstractions and concepts are still just processes in our heads, though.

9. phoodoo,
Your ranting gets seriously in the way of calmly reading and thinking about what we say, and trying to understand it.

Do you understand the idea of processes and interactions? The relations between bits of physical stuff? Do you think that materialism somehow precludes these?

The ‘aura of the statue of liberty’ (perhaps you mean the ‘awe’?) is a feeling that goes on in your head, and as such it is a process of interactions between the physical bits of stuff that make up your brain (and your other sensory organs) and what you observe in the world around you.

If you deny that this is what it is, then what exactly is this ‘aura’, and where is it?

We all know that you can’t answer these simple questions, so why do you mock those who can?

10. So far I haven’t seen you answer what a wave is. What a person is.

You call things “bits of stuff” but those bit aren’t even made up of bits.

I think maybe you better start doing some pondering of your own before you come up with your grand theories.

11. Rumraket: The aura?

aura
/ˈɔːrə/
Learn to pronounce
noun
1.
the distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing, or place.

12. I have told you what a wave is. It is not my fault that you don’t read the answers people give to your questions.

I use the shorthand ‘stuff’ to designate what all of us, meterialists and non-materialists, consider to be matter. You know, chairs and potatoes and hammers and nails. If you don’t believe in matter, try a hammer on your thumb for clarification.

In other words, your objection is a silly and disingenious way to counter my argument, because you don’t actually disbeleve in the existence of matter yourself.

So let’s book that agreement and then move on to what we are actually talking about: what are abstractions? Do they have an existence somehow (but not, apparently, somewhere) independent and separate from our thoughts? Or are they just that – our thoughts (which are processes of our brains, you know – the stuff in our heads)?

13. faded_Glory: Ultimately, what we call waves is just matter in motion.

Oh ok, so a wave is matter in motion. So you aren’t a thing then right?

The universe isn’t a thing. All living organisms are not things.

But why is a hammer a thing? It’s not bits of things in motion? The distinction is how close you look or something?

You have answered that a wave is not a thing, but you haven’t explained why some things are and some things aren’t other than this is how it feels for you.

In other words, your objection is a silly and disingenious way to counter my argument, because you don’t actually disbeleve in the existence of matter yourself.

I have already stated that I absolutely do believe that matter is an illusion. Its all just energy, moving in and out of different states. To try to call some things actually things and some things not is what I would say is silly. Have you not been following the latest scientific developments for say the last 100 years?

14. This will be my last response to you because frankly it is a waste of time.

Matter, ‘stuff’ – these are things with mass (or do you also deny the existence of mass?). These things exist, we actually call them ‘things’, they have a location, they can and do exist outside of us, are separate, independent form us.

For the purpose of this discussion this contrasts with abstractions, concepts – massless entities. Some people claim that these also exist independently from our thoughts, although they can never explain where these things exist. My position is simply that abstractions exist only as thoughts.

To complete the picture there are also relations and processes – ‘stuff’ isn’t inert, it reacts to and with other stuff. That is why things can happen, for instance how water molecules can adopt the shape of waves. Our thoughts too are processes in our brains, matter in action. If you don’t believe this, remove your brain and see how well your thinking is going. So, the location of abstractions is right there, inside our skulls, and they are not things but processes.

Abstractions existing independently from our thoughts would have neither mass or location, nor be processes. In fact they would be ‘stuff’ without the properties of ‘stuff’. This is quite incoherent.

15. phoodoo:
In order to respond to you, it has to be remembered that you believe if someone asks you if your love for your children is physical, the answer is yes, because you are physical, and your children are physical.

Are you denying this? There’s the further clarification that, of course, those feelings would not exist without us existing ourselves. That, as I said before, as far as we can tell, everything is physical. Thus, our feelings, however mystified, must have a physical basis. It’s beyond obvious.

phoodoo:
Thus if someone asked you, is the aura of seeing the Statue of Liberty for the first time physical, you would say, yes, the Statue of Liberty is physical.

I don’t know what an aura might be. But whatever you’re feeling is physical as far as I can tell. Otherwise how could you possibly feel it? Feelings are sensations, did you know? Like smelling and seeing. I expect that you know that smelling and seeing have both very physical explanations, right?

phoodoo:
Is the powerful emotion of reading a good book physical, yes, because a book is physical.

And because you’re physical. You’re interacting with the book physically, you’re receiving the messages physically through your eyes (and I’d argue also with your tact, because I cannot enjoy books as well when on screen), your neurons are reacting to the contents, interpreting them through elaborate [physical/chemical processes, etc. So, again. What’s the problem you’re having? I understand that you don’t agree with my position, but you should be able to understand why it looks so convincing to me and others.

phoodoo:
This is the level of stupidity I am dealing with, I must keep in mind, in answering your questions.

It just looks like stupidity to you because you’re unwilling to understand. You’d rather try and rhetorically twist it, but rhetoric alone isn’t enough. Sorry.

On the other hand, I don’t think that you’re stupid about this. I just think you are not very keen on understanding our positions (plural because we might differ quite a bit).

phoodoo:
So when you say you don’t understand a sentence, my best answer to you is, Duh!

Well, thank you. That helps (riiight).

phoodoo:
Of course this leaves you in conflict with some of your fellow skeptics.Because then you have to say Charlie’s concept of a triangle is physical, since Charlie is physical.

The concept is physical. It’s mental imagery at best, but the mental processes representing, or imagining the triangle are physical. Nothing conflicting about this. I don’t mistake the image of a tree for an actual tree, like Charlie’s concept of an ideal triangle should not be mistaken for an actual ideal triangle.

phoodoo:
So you must be a good skeptic, and say that when you said your love for your children was physical, you were drunk, and you apologize.

Why would I apologize? I don’t see the problem. care to elaborate making sure that you understand my position?

phoodoo:
Or you should write a long rambling obfuscation, in the mold of keiths and Rummy, that talks about gish gallop, and made up fallacies, and dualism and trioism, and semi-soft compatibilism and Kantabilism. Or you should just be like Neil Degrasse Tyson and say you thought you were being helpful, and sorry if you weren’t.

What? I was being helpful, but conversations go both ways. If you need clarifications you could ask, but you don’t seem to care. You find my answers offensive for reasons beyond my understanding. But I do try and explain my position. You’re welcome to try some understanding if at all possible.

phoodoo:
At any rate, be a good skeptic, would ya?

I am. if you look carefully, I admit that I don’t really know that there’s no supernatural or immaterial. I’m just not convinced that there’s such a thing, and find the rhetoric about them unhelpful, and the attempts at defining them absurd. That’s not my fault. If you had something other than rhetoric and disdain for the material and the physical, then there would be something to discuss. Adjectives, like “meaningless” and “merely” and “nothing but” when referring to the physical/chemical/material nature of our mental faculties doesn’t help me but understand that you despise the idea. Well, good for you, but not convincing to me.

At any rate, if you want to have a conversation, feel free to try. If not, then I’ll have my fun by pointing to the problems with your rhetoric.

See ya.

16. faded_Glory: This will be my last response to you because frankly it is a waste of time.

It sounds as if you are whining because you are being called out for contradictions in your theories. Its a pretty sorry excuse to claim its a waste of time, when you are really just waving the white flag.

I am not calling out your distinction between abstraction and matter, I am calling out your distinction between matter and processes, which is rather ridiculous frankly.

A wave is made up of “parts” just as much as you are made up of parts that are constantly in flux. And just as much as the universe is made up of parts. So its this willy nilly classification that I am calling you out on. You have no justification for calling a wave a process, and you not a process. You have no justification for calling a wave a process and your brain not a process. You are just saying this is what you feel like calling different things, without any way to intelligently articulate why.

If a wave is a process, so are you. And so is a table, just made up of atoms that come and go. Again, maybe read up on what science has learned the last two centuries.

You definition of “things” simply boils down to what you feel like calling something. If that is a solid basis for defining things, then I guess I would be justified in also calling an abstraction a thing, since its just based on personal feelings that are completely inconsistent.

17. If love is physical, you should just be able to list the chemicals it is made out of then. Same thing for hatred. Same thing for decisions. Just tell me the chemical composition, is that so hard?

But you can’t of course. And you won’t be able to, but your skeptic faith will always remain, because this is what a skeptic is, someone who has faith in things they can’t ever see.

Or you can use the excuse of Rummy and keiths and say well, physical things don’t have to have mass (did you pick up on that one faded glory?).

Either way, its physical, but you don’t know what or where or how. And then you think belief in the supernatural is absurd.

18. phoodoo:
If love is physical, you should just be able to list the chemicals it is made out of then. Same thing for hatred.Same thing for decisions.Just tell me the chemical composition, is that so hard?

There was an article about love sometime ago. The scientists found some substances and then designed something to inhibit them. they found that people “fell out of love” when exposed to the inhibitor. this was long ago, and I didn’t care enough to save the reference.

Regardless, as I said, I don’t know everything. So, yes, it is hard for me to list the chemicals and processes involved. Does that mean that I should entertain the idea of the supernatural or the immaterial? Nope. Why not you unthinking godless love-your-sin skeptic!? because, as I said, so far the supernatural and the immaterial are composed of rhetoric and poor philosophical foundations. Why would I entertain such possibilities when there’s nothing to them but poor thinking?

phoodoo:
But you can’t of course.And you won’t be able to, but your skeptic faith will always remain, because this is what a skeptic is, someone who has faith in things they can’t ever see.

faith? Did you read what I said? I have no reason to entertain what’s founded on rhetorical twists and disdain for the physical/chemical/material nature of our mental faculties. Things have the nature they have regardless of our preferences phoodoo.

phoodoo:
Or you can use the excuse of Rummy and keiths and say well, physical things don’t have to have mass (did you pick up on that one faded glory?).

Well, if you check a textbook on physics. A very basic one would suffice. You’ll see that they don’t just talk about the physical things, but also about time, dimensions, positions, events. Those are physical, physical things move around, etc. It’s not ghosts that move around, have positions, etc. It’s physical things, and the dimensions, movements, etc, are all physical. Do events have mass? Does speed have mass? I’d say that it doesn’t look like they do.

In more advanced physics they have loads of particles/waves/fields/etc. which are said not to have mass. That they need the higgs blossom (if I’m not mistaken) to have mass. I don’t know much about that, but they seem convinced that there’s a lot of “stuff” without mass. So. Maybe physical stuff doesn’t have to have mass.

phoodoo:
Either way, its physical, but you don’t know what or where or how. And then you think belief in the supernatural is absurd.

Yep. have you been reading at all?

phoodoo:

Faith? I said “as far as we know,” and I mentioned a few problems with the supernatural and the immaterial. Care to try some good understanding for a change?

19. phoodoo: Well therein lies the problem. You can’t decide what is a physical thing and what isn’t

You mean what is physical, not a physical thing right? Because the word thing can apply to any imaginable entity, it’s famously vaguely defined.

No, not really.

Is a wave a thing.

A thing? Depends on what you mean by thing. Is it physical? Yes.

You can’t say.

I just did.

Is air a thing? Electricity? Gravity?

Are they physical? Yes, yes, and yes. Are they “a thing”? Depends on what usage of “thing” you are employing.

Is ‘your nature ‘ a physical thing?

Yes.

You sure can’t seem to explain why and what.

I’ve done so multiple times. It’s a physical thing in the same way my computer is a physical thing.

If it is then so is altruism a thing. With no weight. And no location.

Altruism is the physical actions of human beings. Any particular altruistic act has a location. Does it have a weight? That’s a strange question. Does me reaching out to pick up my coffee cup have a weight? Well I have a weight, and the coffee cup has a weight, but me reaching out for it is a physical action I do.

And are you a thing?

Yep, definitely.

Maybe you are just a concept and a process.

Oh, so by contrasting “thing” with “concept and process”, you mean “object” when you say “thing”. Am I a physical object? Yes. I am also a process (they are not mutually exclusive).

Even you materialists don’t know.

So you keep declaring diametrically opposite to demonstrable fact. Here I am doing all the things, for the umpteenth time, you have declared we can’t do. It’s really weird. Rather than argue why you think we’re somehow wrong, you strangely just declare we can’t do what we’ve been doing repeatedly before your very eyes.

Some part of you must recognize that your sitting there and insisting what is happening before your eyes can’t be real appears rather insane?

20. Rumraket: Am I a physical object? Yes. I am also a process

This point started because Faded glory claimed there was a distinction between objects and processes. He said something about one being able to be described in terms of time, which was not really coherent, so I won’t get into that.

But we are still down to differentiating what you mean regarding something as being an object and/or a process. You say material things exist as objects, but we also are left with descriptions such as these by Entropy:

You’ll see that they don’t just talk about the physical things, but also about time, dimensions, positions, events. Those are physical, physical things move around, etc. It’s not ghosts that move around, have positions, etc. It’s physical things, and the dimensions, movements, etc, are all physical. Do events have mass? Does speed have mass? I’d say that it doesn’t look like they do.

So events are physical things. Speed is a physical thing. is it an object too, or now physical things and objects are different entities. So what, we have things, physical things, objects, events, processes, and ideas which may or may not be physical…its a hodgepode.

No one has been able to consistently define what they mean by this “material” without completely fuzzying all concepts until they can’t really be recognized and categorized.

So when you say you are both an object and a process, I don’t know what that means, and I suspect you don’t also. When you say “your nature” is a physical object, I am positive you don’t know what you mean.

And more importantly, what part of you is actually you? That’s the hardest part for you materialists to answer. Is it the water inside you? The air you breathe? The atoms that were once building you and are no longer you? When does the water inside you be you and then stop being you?

As long as these conundrums exist, the materialists will have a problem with claiming that physicality is a reality. Energy comes and goes. As far as I am concerned you can just add this to the list of evidences for supernatural existence, that skeptics refuse to ever consider.

“You” don’t actually exist as any well defined entity. But that doesn’t seem to trouble skeptics. I find their lack of being troubled by that troubling.

21. phoodoo,

Why your focus on objects vs processes, when the distinction that matters here is between the physical and non-physical?

“You” don’t actually exist as any well defined entity.

The problem is even worse for you as an immaterialist. Show us your well-defined boundaries, phoodoo.

22. keiths: There is a huge difference between “inference to the best explanation” and “inference to a default explanation by ruling out all alternatives”. The explanatory filter is a case of the latter, and that’s where much of the trouble lies.

Not quite. Explanatory filter has 3 steps: eliminate necessity, eliminate chance, and identify specification.

If it were just the first two you would be right. The addition of the third makes it inference to best explanation.

23. phoodoo: This point started because Faded glory claimed there was a distinction between objects and processes

I doubt that was the point. The point seemed to be that some issues discussed were processes, rather than objects. That does;’t mean that there’s a clear distinction in each and every case. Only that sometimes it’s clear that there’s a discussion about processes that people are mistaking for “objects.”

Happens all the time. Not always with processes. For example, I’m often told that information is not physical, otherwise how much does it weight? My answer is that the information is in the relative positions of objects. Positions are physical, but that doesn’t mean that we can talk about positions without talking about the objects that are positioned. We need references to talk about relative positions. That’s implied in the word “relative.”

So, faded_glory was talking about cases where processes are mistaken for “objects.” That doesn’t mean that there’s always a clear distinction between the two, like with ocean waves, they are difficult to pin into just one, process/object. So what? The point is that if we try and understand a lot can be communicated. but if you focus on twisting such clarifications into: “You think there’s perfect demarcations between objects and processes! Muahahahaha!” rather than understanding the point, then communication won’t be too easy.

24. keiths: The problem is even worse for you as an immaterialist. Show us your well-defined boundaries, phoodoo.

Its worse for immaterialists if the human soul is immaterial and boundary-less?

That’s a humorous take.

25. phoodoo: Its worse for immaterialists if the human soul is immaterial and boundary-less?

That’s a humorous take.

Phoodoo, the point is, if you can’t separate the mind/soul/person from the brain, maybe they are not separate things.

26. phoodoo: You say material things exist as objects, but we also are left with descriptions such as these by Entropy:

You’ll see that they don’t just talk about the physical things, but also about time, dimensions, positions, events. Those are physical, physical things move around, etc. It’s not ghosts that move around, have positions, etc. It’s physical things, and the dimensions, movements, etc, are all physical. Do events have mass? Does speed have mass? I’d say that it doesn’t look like they do.

Woa! I can see why that would be confusing. Thanks for pointing out how much of a mess that was.

Let me try again with, hopefully, a clear version:

If you check a common textbook on physics, you will notice that besides physical objects (the things that have mass), the books also talk about dimensions, space, directions, speeds, momentum, etc. None of which is an object proper. Yet, clearly, all of them are physical.

That might be one reason why materialism was renamed physicalism. To avoid the confusing idea that it was only about matter, when the physical includes more than that.

I hope that was better. Of course, it’s up to you to try and understand.

27. Eric,

Not quite. Explanatory filter has 3 steps: eliminate necessity, eliminate chance, and identify specification.

Which can be rephrased as “eliminate necessity, eliminate chance, and eliminate non-specification”.

It’s still “inference to a default explanation by ruling out all alternatives”.

28. keiths: Which can be rephrased as “eliminate necessity, eliminate chance, and eliminate non-specification”.

That’s actually not possible. ID cannot guarantee true negatives, so it cannot eliminate non-specification. ID can only positively identify specification, which in turn eliminates non-specification. But, ID cannot do the reverse, which is eliminate non-specification and thereby establish specification.

The technical reason for this is because randomness is not computable, whereas lack of randomness can be computable, though not exhaustively.

29. EricMH: ID can only positively identify specification, which in turn eliminates non-specification.

Do you have a list of the times this has been performed?

In a similar vein, you mentioned the Explanatory Filter recently. Are you aware of any worked examples where it has been shown to both pass and reject an item according to it’s designed/non designed state?

I.E. An actual example of it’s usage where each step is performed in plain sight and documented?

30. OMagain: Do you have a list of the times this has been performed?

In a similar vein, you mentioned the Explanatory Filter recently. Are you aware of any worked examples where it has been shown to both pass and reject an item according to it’s designed/non designed state?

I.E. An actual example of it’s usage where each step is performed in plain sight and documented?

Regarding CSI, the only example I have is Dr. Ewert’s game of life paper.

The concept of active information is related, and Dr. Marks et. al. have written a whole book “Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics” analyzing active information being added to evolutionary algorithms by engineers, i.e. tracing active information back to intelligent agency.

Also, one point is that the explanatory filter cannot identify ‘not designed’. As I mentioned to keiths, it cannot guarantee true negatives.

31. EricMH: Also, one point is that the explanatory filter cannot identify ‘not designed’. As I mentioned to keiths, it cannot guarantee true negatives.

Can you point to where it has been used to show where an object we know as designed has been indicated as designed and the inverse?

I’m not asking for a guarantee. I’m saying that is it possible in practice to demonstrate that a four leaf clover is designed and that a stalagmite is not. Or pick whatever you like, or whatever examples are out there, as you prefer.

Has the filter ever actually filtered anything is what I’m asking. Not guaranteed it, just said “this is probably designed, this is not”.

32. William Dembski on December 3, 2008 (emphasis added):

I wish I had time to respond adequately to this thread, but I’ve got a book to deliver to my publisher January 1 — so I don’t. Briefly:

(1) I’ve pretty much dispensed with the EF. It suggests that chance, necessity, and design are mutually exclusive. They are not. Straight CSI is clearer as a criterion for design detection.

(2) The challenge for determining whether a biological structure exhibits CSI is to find one that’s simple enough on which the probability calculation can be convincingly performed but complex enough so that it does indeed exhibit CSI. The example in NFL ch. 5 doesn’t fit the bill. The example from Doug Axe in ch. 7 of THE DESIGN OF LIFE (www.thedesignoflife.net) is much stronger.

(3) As for the applicability of CSI to biology, see the chapter on “assertibility” in my book THE DESIGN REVOLUTION.

(4) For my most up-to-date treatment of CSI, see “Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence” at http://www.designinference.com.

(5) There’s a paper Bob Marks and I just got accepted which shows that evolutionary search can never escape the CSI problem (even if, say, the flagellum was built by a selection-variation mechanism, CSI still had to be fed in).

(Dembski’s point that chance, necessity, and design are not mutually exclusive is entirely correct. In fact, it had long been made by his critics, e.g., Wesley Elsberry.)

Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued in the ID community. On December 10, 2008, Dembski responded with a tongue-in-cheek post, “Reinstating the Explanatory Filter“:

In an off-hand comment in a thread on this blog I remarked that I was dispensing with the Explanatory Filter in favor of just going with straight-up specified complexity. On further reflection, I think the Explanatory Filter ranks among the most brilliant inventions of all time (right up there with sliced bread). I’m herewith reinstating it — it will appear, without reservation or hesitation, in all my future work on design detection.

Emphasis added. As best I can tell, googling, this was the last time Dembski ever referred to the Explanatory Filter. 🙂

Note also that there is no reference whatsoever to complex specified information in “Specification: The Pattern That Signifies Intelligence” (2005), which remains Dembski’s most up-to-date treatment of specified complexity. I think that Dembski was simply a bit rushed and careless in his use of CSI in the December 2008 comment. What he meant was “specified complexity,” as you can see in his subsequent “reinstatement” of the EF. To my knowledge, Dembski has not referred to complex specified information in any of his publications dating from 2009 to present.

The notion that algorithmic specified complexity (Ewert, Dembski, and Marks, 2012) is a kind of specified complexity (Dembski, 2005) is flat-out wrong. For Dembski (2005), a specification is a pattern for which the specified complexity is at least 1. (This is a dramatic revision, inasmuch as specified complexity is defined in terms of specification in his earlier work.) That is, Dembski (2005) measures specified complexity on patterns described by a semiotic agent. There is no notion of a pattern, let alone the notion of a pattern that is categorically a specification, in the work of Ewert et al. Algorithmic specified complexity is measured on individual binary strings, not patterns.

Some takeaways:

1. Dembski’s pre-2005 work, including the notions of CSI and the EF, is obsolete.
2. Dembski (2005) measures specified complexity on patterns. A specification is a pattern with specified complexity greater than 1.
3. Ewert et al. measure algorithmic specified complexity on binary strings. There is no notion of patterns, nor of specifications.
4. Algorithmic specified complexity (Ewert et al.) is not a kind of specified complexity (Dembski, 2005).

33. OMagain: Can you point to where it has been used to show where an object we know as designed has been indicated as designed and the inverse?

Yes, the references I gave in my last response, and ID cannot do the inverse.

34. @TomEnglish it doesn’t seem like any of those points show the EF, CSI or ASC are deprecated. If something shows CSI > 1, then it’ll pass the EF. If something has ASC > 1, then it has CSI > 1, and pass the EF.

What you are pointing out is a refinement of the concept, not a replacement of one thing with another.

35. OMagain: Can you point to where [the explanatory filter] has been used to show where an object we know as designed has been indicated as designed and the inverse?

EricMH: Yes, the references I gave in my last response, and ID cannot do the inverse.

Your references were to “Algorithmic Specified Complexity in the Game of Life” (the topic of the OP of this thread) and Introduction to Evolutionary Informatics. Neither mentions the explanatory filter.

36. Tom English: Neither mentions the explanatory filter.

Doesn’t need to. ASC and CSI are refinements of the explanatory filter. Have you read Dembski’s “The Design Inference”? If so, you’d understand how it maps to the later advancements of CSI and ASC.

37. EricMH: Yes, the references I gave in my last response, and ID cannot do the inverse.

@OMagain here’s an example I’ve made up that seems pretty doable. I can at least imagine how I’d create a proof of concept. Whether it’d be useful is a separate question 🙂

We can use the explanatory filter to identify steganography.
1. Calculate the probability distribution for an image.
2. Identify pixels that diverge greatly from the distribution (eliminates chance and necessity).
3. Identify a message encoded in the pixels (specification), e.g. the pixels’ bits encode ASCII characters that spell “TOO MANY SECRETS”.

If an image passes all 3 steps, then we can infer the image is being used to transmit a hidden message by an intelligent agent.

38. EricMH: ASC and CSI are refinements of the explanatory filter. Have you read Dembski’s “The Design Inference”? If so, you’d understand how it maps to the later advancements of CSI and ASC.

What a shitty thing to say, Eric Holloway. You toss off a bizarre claim, and rather than attempt to justify it, you indicate that I would agree with you if I were not ignorant of subject matter I’ve been addressing publicly for 15 years.

39. EricMH: Doesn’t need to. ASC and CSI are refinements of the explanatory filter. Have you read Dembski’s “The Design Inference”? If so, you’d understand how it maps to the later advancements of CSI and ASC.

As far as I know ASC is one kind of specification, namely the (biologically irrelevant) one of shortness of a computer program that can compute a genome — more precisely, how much shorter the bitstring of the program is than the bitstring which represents the genome.

CSI is a statement that a specification (ASC or fitness or flying speed, or whatever you think is relevant) is sufficiently improbable under the null distribution to be less than .(*)

I am pretty sure that Tom understands all that at least as well as Eric.

(*) To save space I’ll omit my usual rant about how the null distribution has changed since about 2005-2006 and how the role of the Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information changed with it.

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