Algorithmic Information Theory and Intelligent Design

W. Dembski claims to have established a decision process that can determine when highly unlikely events observed in the natural world are due to intelligent design or, in effect, have an intelligent cause.   My article in Zygon argues that, as no implementable randomness test is superior to a universal Martin Löf randomness test, the universal test should replace the flawed Dembski decision process.   This test can identify order, as an ordered outcome, such as 100 heads in a row, is based on the test a surprise. 

See S. D. Devine (2014), Zygon 49 (1) 42-65.  Click here to download

In summary my approach makes the following points.

  • The Dembski’s decision process for design should be replaced by the robust Martin Löf randomness test.

  • Confusion over the different meanings of information are resolved.

  • The paper refutes the claim by Dembski that a 4th law of thermodynamics (his “law of conservation of information") is needed to explain the emergence of complex structures.   If one defines information in such a way that more ordered structures have more information, as Dembski attempts to, algorithmic information theory can be used to show that Dembski’s fourth law is just the second law in disguise.   The second law requirement that the entropy of a closed system cannot decrease, corresponds to the requirement that information, as defined above, cannot increase.

  • The paper argues that even such a simple thing as the magnetization of lodestone could not have happened by chance in the life of the universe.   Yet it does happen because natural laws, not chance, ensure that, below the Curie temperature , magnetization is inevitable.   Any biological process that can eject disorder  has the capability to create order by natural processes. 

The conclusion is that, to date, the specific injection of order or information is unnecessary to explain biological structures. Most of the order observed in the universe existed in its initial state. Later, about 400,000 years after the big bang, a symmetry breaking process gave rise to further order. This happened as a more ordered universe emerged when disorder, embodied in the cosmic microwave background radiation, was separated out. These early processes are the source of currently observed order. Order, such as life on earth, is just a repackaging of existing order using available energy and a process to eject disorder. The paper concludes that any discussions on the possibilities of design interventions in nature should be articulated in terms of the algorithmic information theory approach to randomness.

My  personal opinion is that a creator who established the universe in a way that allows a myriad of ordered structures to emerge makes more sense than one who intervenes during the history of the universe to give rise to specific ordered structures.   The real question is how is it that the universe is structured in such a way that order arises naturally? The claim of the Intelligent Design community is a side track to this fundamental question.