Re: [asa] ID is scientifically vacuous

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Mon Jun 18 2007 - 18:06:56 EDT

"Vacuous" is a perjorative term, which is why I dislike it so intensely.

The statistical methods adopted by ID-ists (e.g. Dembski's "Complex
Specified Information") might have application in other areas, such as SETI
for example - the detection of complex patterns in data, and so forth. It
is related to many standard techniques in statistics and machine learning,
such as Minimum Description Length techniques for data modelling, all of
which are to do with forming parametric models of probability distributions.

The methods differ from most methods in that they adopted a Fisherian rather
than the main-line Bayesian view of statistics. ("Religious wars" have been
fought between Fisherians and Bayesians in the past).

However that is not to say that such techniques don't have any use, and to
trumpet (at enormous repetitive length) that they are "vacuous" is just to
display one's ignorance of the subject.

Where I have a problem with ID is the assertion that Complex Specified
Information is necessarily an indicator of Intelligent Design. This, it
seems is only done by analogy - speech, and the written word is Complex
Specified Information & hence (it is argued), since DNA is also Complex
Specified Information, it must also be the utterance of an intelligent
creator. I don't think this necessarily follows, because complex, highly
specified probability distributions can arise as a result of
self-organisational principles.

So, the probabilistic methods in ID may, I think have validity in detecting
patterns in data (alongside many other techniques). The scientific bit
isn't vacuous at all. But the inference made (of complex patterns being due
to intelligent design) is where the difficulty lies.

I hope this lays out why I don't accept ID in a way that illuminates rather
than trumpets irritating catch-phrases.


On 6/18/07, Carol or John Burgeson <> wrote:
> Someone wrote "ID is scientifically vacuous.
> I provisionally agree, with the observations that:
> 1. It MIGHT become otherwise given future developments. In a conversation
> with Phil Johnson a few years ago, I suggested that this would be ID's
> greatest challenge; he agreed.
> 2. I am unconvinced that it is PHILOSOPHICALLY vacuous.
> As to whether (or not) it has any theological value, I am on the fence.
> Burgy
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Received on Mon Jun 18 18:07:23 2007

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