Defining Terms: Specified Complexity

October 24, 2011

In my post about the Teleological Argument I used the term specified complexity.   I wanted to define it and give several examples of what is specified complexity and how can be used to show that design implies a designer.  It is one of the two main arguments for Intelligent Design (ID) the other being Irreducible Complexity, which I will discuss in an upcoming post.

Specified Complexity  – Specified complexity is a property which can be observed in living things.  Specified complexity is present in a configuration when it can be described by a pattern that displays a large amount of independently specified information and is also complex.

A simple way of explaining it would be through a Shakespearean sonnet. William Dembski who is a Christian apologist put’s it this way; “A single letter of the alphabet is specified without being complex. A long sentence of random letters is complex without being specified. A Shakespearean sonnet is both complex and specified.”  While it might be possible for a bunch of monkeys typing on a computer keyboard to type out a bunch of random letters, you would never assume that they would type out a bunch of words that formed a sentence, a sentence that made sense that also fit into a rhythmic pattern, and composed a larger poem that was understandable to read from start to finish.  The obvious choice is that it was designed that way.

Scientific atheists say that specified complexity is just an illusion of the eye, that it is really “just what occurs” within the transmittal of information in evolution.   They try to down play the idea of specified complexity by claiming that the complexity was already there in the previous DNA and just a copy of what has evolved over billions of years.   Richard Dawkins even tried a computer generated experiment with a type of evolutionary algorithm to try to show that a random program could churn out the following target sequence, a putative instance of specified complexity using 28 letters and spaces.









Starting with the beginning sequence above Dawkins claimed success only after 43 times through the program.  A few of intermediate sequences can be seen above as well.  So you can follow the transformation of the sequence from start to finish.  Well, sounds like Dawkins silenced the (ID) creationists with his experiment right?  Wrong, what Dawkins actually did was show the indisputable fact that intelligence has a role in specified complexity.  Here is what we mean, who or what told the computer to try to reach the Target sequence above, where to put spaces between words, how to rearrange words in a sentence?  Dawkins did.  The computer simulation would not have been possible had not Dawkins give the basic algorithm for the computer to use to create the target sequence.   If you ask a scientific atheist where that evolutionary algorithm comes from, don’t expect an answer.

Now consider DNA that makes up our genetic code.  DNA is so much more complex than a Shakespearean sonnet or a 28 length sequence of letters.  Mapping the entire human genome would be the equivalent of 3-4 volumes of encyclopedias.  There are over 3.1 billion bits of information in the human genome.   The question is where did all this information come from?  It far more complex than any computer program that we have created.  Lastly, who programmed all this code into the human genome?  Darwinian evolution has no answers, but it looks more and more that intelligence was involved in the process.

As always questions, comments, and discussions welcome.