, Volume 178, Issue 2, pp 237-270

First online:

Information theory, evolutionary computation, and Dembski’s “complex specified information”

  • Wesley ElsberryAffiliated withLyman Briggs College, Michigan State UniversityNational Center for Science Education Email author 
  • , Jeffrey ShallitAffiliated withSchool of Computer Science, University of Waterloo

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Intelligent design advocate William Dembski has introduced a measure of information called “complex specified information”, or CSI. He claims that CSI is a reliable marker of design by intelligent agents. He puts forth a “Law of Conservation of Information” which states that chance and natural laws are incapable of generating CSI. In particular, CSI cannot be generated by evolutionary computation. Dembski asserts that CSI is present in intelligent causes and in the flagellum of Escherichia coli, and concludes that neither have natural explanations. In this paper, we examine Dembski’s claims, point out significant errors in his reasoning, and conclude that there is no reason to accept his assertions.


Information theory Evolutionary computation Artificial life Pseudomathematics Complex specified information