Over at Uncommon Descent, Jonathan McLatchie calls attention to an interview that Scottish Christian apologist David Robertson did with him. The 15-minute video is available there.
The issue is scientific evidence for intelligent design. As so often occurs, they very quickly ran off to the origin of life, and from there to the origin of the Universe. I was amused that from there they tried to answer the question of where God came from, by saying that it was unreasonable to push the origin issue quite that far back. There was also a lot of time spent being unhappy with the idea of a multiverse.
But for me the interesting bit was toward the beginning, where McLatchie argues that the evidence for ID is the observation of Specified Complexity, which he defines as complex patterns that conform to a prespecified pattern. He’s made that argument before, in a 2-minute-long video in a series on 1-minute apologetics. And I’ve complained about it before here. Perhaps he was just constrained by the time limit, and would have done a better job if he had more than 2 minutes.
Nope. It’s the same argument.
His Specified Complexity argument is William Dembski’s pre-2005 argument. It turned out that the argument required a conservation law to show that natural selection could not put this Specified Complexity into the genome. Dembski did have such an argument, but it turned out not to work (see my 2007 article for the details).
In 2005-2006 Dembski changed the argument, by redefining Specified Complexity to have an additional condition. Now you could only call a pattern Specified Complexity if it was not only complex and conformed to a prespecified pattern but also could not be brought about by natural evolutionary forces such as natural selection. A number of people here and at Panda’s Thumb pointed out that this fails to show us how this condition is to be evaluated. It makes SC something that comes in after one has somehow decided that an adaptation cannot have been achieved by natural selection. In short, it has been safeguarded against the criticism that evolution could bring about SC by defining the issue away. That makes SC a useless criterion.
But McLatchie has somehow missed all this history. He is back where Dembski was in the book No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased Without Intelligence, published in 2002. McLatchie has totally missed both the refutations of Dembski’s original criterion, and the 2005-2006 fix that rendered the SC criterion useless. In spite of having 15 whole minutes to clean up the mess, McLatchie and Robertson preferred to spend the extra time back at the origin of the Universe.