Monday, July 02, 2007


Rev'd Dr E.C. Lucus endorses specified complexity criterion

Reading an old Faith & Thought Bulitin for April 1999 (Number 25) I came accross an article by Rev'd Dr E.C. Lucus, debunking 'The Bible Code' - basically the claim that the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament contains hidden fulfilled prophecies that can be decoded by a certain search pattern such as reading every tenth letter. I agree with Lucu's that the Bible Code is unsound - but it is interesting to observe that if the Bible Code were sound it would be an example of what design theoriests call 'specified complexity', or 'complex specified information' (CSI). And the reason Lucus gives for not taking the Bible Code seriously is basically that while the specifications of names etc. can indeed be found in the Hebrew Text when searched for using certain patterns, the probabilities associated with these specifications are too low to implicate design:

'That the Bible Code doess exist, in the sense that by the use of a computer programme using ELS [equidistent letter sequences] one canfind groups of words that can be constued as hidden messages is clear' (p. 4), says Lucus. That's specification (albeit not particularly tight specification). However, 'What is not clear is the significance of this. This is where statistics becomes important.' (p. 4) The rest of Lucus' paper is a review of statistical problems with the Bible Code claims. For example:

'calculations... conclude that in a piece of writing as long as the book of Genesis in Hebrew one would expect, purely on the basis of chance, that a particular seven letter word [specification] would occur some 5-10 times. Words shorter than severn letters will occur more frequently, longer words less frequently... So the finding of a single word by use of ELS will only be significant if it occurs a lot more often than one would expect by chance [complexity].' (p. 4)

Hence here is yet another example of a scholar outside the ID movment (Lucus is a theistic evolutionist) implicitly endorsing CSI as a design-detection criterion.

It is also interesting to note Lucus noting that Bible Code proponent M. Drosnin, whilst (wrongly) convinced of the design inference from the Bible Code, is not convinced of an inference to theism from the same data:

'Despite being convinced of the reality of the Bible Code, Drosnin has not come to believe in God. He says, "I am persuaded only that no human could have encoded the Bible in this way... that some intelligence outside our own does exist, or at least did exist at the time the Bible was written." (p. 50). He has not been moved to take the spiritual and moral challenge of the surface meaning of the Bible seriously, only to become worried that the world might end with a nuclear holocaust in 2000 or 2006, because that is what he thinks the Bible Code says.' (p. 12.)

As design theorists have consistently observed, even a sound design inference does not amount to the same thing as a sound argument for theism (even if it can form the starting point of a theistic argument).

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