Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Bertrand Russell and 'Specified Complexity' as design detection criterion

Continuing the theme of my recently published journal article on how 'specified complexity' gets endorsed in the non-ID-friendly literature - here's Bertrand Russell from his notorious paper 'Why I Am Not A Christian' (www.positiveatheism.org/hist/russell0.htm):

"There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design."

So getting double sixes once in a while doesn't occasion a design inference, because it isn't sufficiently unlikely. But getting double sixes every time would occasion a design inference, presumably because exhibiting this specifiction (I think Russell is assuming a context of some game with dice where double sixes has some specific winning significance) time after time is sufficiently unlikely to trigger a design inference.

Even if Russell isn't assuming something about specification in addition to complexity in the background of his comment, then he must be noting something about what Del Ratzsche calls 'counter-flow' - we know the dice should be giving undirected-chance type results, but they are exhibiting a law-like result instead (e.g. they always show double sixes) and this is a fact best explained in terms of design - i.e. the switch or disjunct between the expected undirected chance/contingency behavior and the actual law-like, non-contingent behavior is not best explained in terms of either law (necessity), nor in terms of undirected chance - this isn't just one of those things dice do now and then (!), but rather, by the elimination of these alternatives, in terms of the directed-contingency of intelligent design. Someone deliberately 'fixed' the dice to obey a law-like regularity of nature (perhaps weighting the dice to obey the law of gravity in such a way that they always exhibit the double sixes specification). Once again specified complexity appears to be the underlying criterion of design detection!

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