Saturday, July 7, 2012

Must the designer be more complex than the design?

One of Dr. Richard Dawkins' favorite arguments against Intelligent Design's coherence is that ID does not explain complexity because the designer must be even more complex than the design.

Why does Dawkins say this?  For instance, he believes great complexity comes from very simple origins through the process of Darwinistic evolution.  But, for some reason introducing a designer implies greater preceding complexity.

While I am not sure why Dawkins makes this claim, I can address a reason why he may, and the problem with this reason.

First, he may be thinking of the designer as some complex physical entity, such as a factory.  In this case it is quite obvious that to generate even a seemingly simple object such as a pencil we need an enormously complicated number of processes and mechanisms.  So, it is quite easy for me to accept that if the designer were like a factory, then it in turn would require even more explanation than the pencil.  In which case, intelligent design theory would not be very helpful.

However, intelligent design theory does not say the designer is like a factory.  In fact, it precludes the designer from being like a factory.  To see this, we must examine the core concept of ID, which is complex, specified information.

Complex, specified information (CSI) is a mathematical quantification of an entity.  The two criteria for an entity to possess CSI is that it must be highly unlikely (complex) given the environment in which it came to exist, while also precisely and concisely described by a specification that is independent from its environment.

For a causal agent to be the intelligent designer responsible for the CSI in the entity, the entity must abide by the two criteria in the context of being generated by a particular agent.  Take the pencil factory as an example, since pencils are quite evidently designed, are relatively complex and can be described quite simply as an erasing and writing instrument.  Can we say the pencil factory is the designer of the pencil?

Well, let's look at the criteria for CSI.  Would we consider it highly unlikely for a pencil factory to generate pencils?  Probably not, unless it is a particularly bad pencil factory.  Next, do we consider the pencil's description to be independent from the factory?  In other words, does the pencil factory produce something that is better described as totally unlike a pencil?  Again, probably not, unless it is a particularly bad pencil factory.  As such, the pencil factory cannot be said to be the designer of the pencil.

In this way we see that if the supposed intelligent designer is to a designed entity like a pencil factory is to a pencil, then ID states the supposed intelligent designer is not the real designer.  Rather than disagreeing with Dawkins, ID actually agrees and says the designer cannot be like a pencil factory in relation to its design, ever growing in complexity.

Instead, the designer must be quite independent from its design.  This means that a design implies nothing about the complexity of the designer.  While it may well be the case that the designer is more complex, this is not necessitated by ID and the designer may be much, much simpler than the design.

In fact, the foregoing argument logically entails that there is more to intelligent design than just complex specified information: