Someone posed the following questions to me:
“"Dembski’s characterization of design as a third mode of explanation apart from chance and/or law is one of the most fundamental problems with his approach. How do you formally (i.e. mathematically) describe chance and law such that their disjunction doesn’t characterize all conceivable events? How do you show that design, or intelligent agency as you say, isn’t an instance of chance and/or law? More importantly, how do you show that it could possibly not be an instance of chance and/or law?"
Those questions bear the same weight as the following question: “Will a random set of laws (that is, only law and chance) generate information processing systems, CSI, evolutionary algorithms, systems based on engineering principles (control nature without being defined by law), and intelligence?” Some theorists state that based on the NFL Theorems and COI Theorems, the answer is a resounding “NO!” Thus, we need another known causal phenomenon which has been observed creating those types of systems and our investigation into ID Theory continues.
You don’t need to formally describe law and chance, unless by formally describe you mean formally analyse how to measure law and chance. Either way, all you need to do is formally describe CSI and show that neither chance (measured and described as randomness) nor law (measured and described as regularities) can characterize this event (which can be made as a potentially falsifiable hypothesis). Once it is shown that intelligence does produce algorithmically complex CSI, and it is shown that intelligence itself is necessarily founded upon this information, then you have a closed loop from intelligence to information to intelligence, with no room for *only* law and chance. Thus, you must tentatively include intelligence as a third mode of explanation until the above hypothesis -- that a random set of laws (merely law and chance) will not generate information processing systems, etc. and intelligence is a necessary cause of those systems -- is falsified. In fact, we see many systems every day which we know are not and most probably could not have been created by mere chance and law not being “filtered” through intelligence as previously defined. Thus, such systems do exist.
Furthermore, you don’t have to completely negate law and chance operating within a system in order to arrive at the conclusion that the system itself is intelligently designed. In fact, that is not how reality works. Even a car, although it is intelligently designed, can show the effects of law and chance. Look at a rusty old beater car. You can’t explain the “rust” feature by design, but that doesn’t negate the fact that the car itself was intelligently designed. Furthermore, you can’t point to the rust as a “faulty feature” and thus arrive at the conclusion that the car could have or must have been created by only chance and law.
Another example is if random processes create a new function or strengthen an older function by damaging or clogging a system, does that prove that the original system was the result of only chance and law? Let’s look at a lock and key mechanism. Just because natural processes can increase the security function of an ancient castle door by “gunking” up the lock, making it unopenable even with the original key, does that mean that unguided law and chance can create the castle, the door, the lock, and the key? Of course not!
I have a further question for you. How can you show that chance and law are possible apart from an intelligently designed system? It seems that you need an information processing system to generate law and you must have law first, to generate chance. Are information processing systems possible without intelligent programming? Just some food for thought. I personally don’t think that you can define any one causal phenomenon at the pure exclusion of the others.
In fact, we see intelligence, law, and chance working together the best within evolutionary algorithms, since intelligence inputs the information necessary to arrive at optimization problems efficiently by programming the laws to make use of controlled chance and do all the dirty work for him/her.
Of course, intelligence needs to be defined, and that may be the hardest part, yet not intractable. I personally define intelligence as “a system which can plan into the future and then sufficiently engineer a solution to accomplish a goal.”
Intelligence can basically be summed up in the ability to produce a goal oriented procedure by utilizing (sufficiently organizing/programming) stochastic (law and chance) processes. We know that we as humans can do this and so intelligence does exist as a causal entity alongside chance and law.
Furthermore, if it is true that the NFLT and Conservation of Information Theorem both show the necessity of prior problem specific information (attained by neither law nor chance) in order to produce CSI, then it can be argued that active information is the formal measurement of that (problem specific information) which is neither law nor chance. In this case, active information is a measurement of one aspect of intelligence in a specific situation (efficient optimization algorithms).
The above stands until anyone else can show that problem specific information (and thus evolutionary algorithms) necessary to generate intelligent systems can be generated by a random assortment of laws – that is laws which are not organized by previous intelligence -- pure law and chance. Until you show that intelligence is not necessarily the result of intelligence, it is quite obvious based on observation, that intelligence is indeed a causal phenomenon alongside chance and law.
1. Intelligence as a foresight using system does exist. The ability to organize law and chance for a future determined goal does exist. Just to be clear, this has nothing to do with “free will.” This only concerns the ability to plan into the future. Whether this ability is a free choice or not is a completely different issue than the fact that this ability exists.
2. There does exist systems which are only generated if “run through” intelligence. Intelligence does generate system where forethought is a necessity.
3. CSI has been formally described such that, in accordance with NFL Theorems, it is for all practical purposes not attainable through only chance and law (random set of laws), just as perpetual motion free energy machines or the past hour of the universe running in reverse are practically not attainable based on our understanding of cause and effect and the flow of energy and information. This has been put foreward as a hypothesis that intelligence is a necessary cause of CSI, since CSI has been observed being created by intelligence. This is obviously potentially falsifiable.
4. Therefore, Intelligence must be tentatively included alongside chance and law until point 3 is falsified.