at ENV to get up to date on the Law of Conservation of Information:
So, what is the difference between the earlier work on conservation of information and the later? The earlier work on conservation of information focused on particular events that matched particular patterns (specifications) and that could be assigned probabilities below certain cutoffs. Conservation of information in this sense was logically equivalent to the design detection apparatus that I had first laid out in my book The Design Inference (Cambridge, 1998).
In the newer approach to conservation of information, the focus is not on drawing design inferences but on understanding search in general and how information facilitates successful search. The focus is therefore not so much on individual probabilities as on probability distributions and how they change as searches incorporate information. My universal probability bound of 1 in 10^150 (a perennial sticking point for Shallit and Felsenstein) therefore becomes irrelevant in the new form of conservation of information whereas in the earlier it was essential because there a certain probability threshold had to be attained before conservation of information could be said to apply. The new form is more powerful and conceptually elegant. Rather than lead to a design inference, it shows that accounting for the information required for successful search leads to a regress that only intensifies as one backtracks. It therefore suggests an ultimate source of information, which it can reasonably be argued is a designer. I explain all this in a nontechnical way in an article I posted at ENV a few months back titled “Conservation of Information Made Simple” (go here).
So what’s the take-home lesson? It is this: Stephen Meyer’s grasp of conservation of information is up to date. His 2009 book Signature in the Cell devoted several chapters to the research by Marks and me on conservation of information, which in 2009 had been accepted for publication in the technical journals but had yet to be actually published. Consequently, we can expect Meyer’s 2013 book Darwin’s Doubt to show full cognizance of the conservation of information as it exists currently. By contrast, Felsenstein betrays a thoroughgoing ignorance of this literature.
It seems to me that Dembski has still entirely missed the point of Felsenstein’s (and others’) critique of his “Law of Conservation of Information”. But perhaps it’s worth tackling Dembski’s newer formulations here? The Dembski-Marks published papers, or perhaps the For Dummies article at ENV he links to above.
(Link to previous discussion of Dembsi’s Specification paper here, now re-un-stickied)