, Volume 178, Issue 2, pp 237–270

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


DOI: 10.1007/s11229-009-9542-8

Cite this article as:
Elsberry, W. & Shallit, J. Synthese (2011) 178: 237. doi:10.1007/s11229-009-9542-8


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 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lyman Briggs CollegeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.National Center for Science EducationOaklandUSA
  3. 3.School of Computer ScienceUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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