ID Prediction #1

“No undirected process will demonstrate the capacity to generate 500 bits of new information starting from a nonbiological source.”

This prediction relates to the causal powers of materialistic mechanisms. It is derived from the primary claim of ID which, according to Meyer, is that information, in particular complex specified information, can only be generated by an intelligent agent. It follows that undirected processes, or those without the influence of an intelligent agent, cannot generate such information. Meyer selected the target of 500 bits to roughly correspond to Dembski’s assessment of the threshold of the universal probability bound. Fewer bits could conceivably arise by chance given the full resources of the universe.

“This prediction can be clearly falsified by the discovery of an undirected physical or chemical process that can generate over 500 bits of functionally specified information,” says Meyer. While at first glance this seems to be a very straightforward and simple test, closer examination reveals it won’t be that easy. There is no specification for the specified information so it isn’t clear just what kind of information is required. Does this refer to full-scale DNA information with all nucleotides and related biomolecules in place to show that replication takes place? Or would a simpler set of information suffice? We’ll assume the former. If one were to believe that life originated through naturalistic processes, it probably took a hundred million years to occur. In order for the process to be demonstrated in our lifetime, it would have to be accelerated by eight orders of magnitude. Such acceleration would have to be accomplished by human intelligence and would undoubtedly be interpreted as a violation of the “undirected” aspect. It may therefore be impossible to falsify.

Fulfillment of the prediction is also likely to be inconclusive. Predictions of null results are notoriously problematic since too many alternative factors can lead to null results. Most origin of life projects are aimed at understanding specific chemical reactions that might be a part of the big picture. Few, if any, are focused on a full-scale demonstration of the type predicted. A null result need not be due to the impossibility of materialistic processes.

In summary, it seems very likely that this prediction will be fulfilled but that it will not persuade anyone that it is due to the validity of ID.

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March 2010
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