Assessing dFSCI (1) digital

Having got the bit in my teeth with the previous post – I thought I would write a series of items assessing different aspects of dFSCI (“digital functionally specified complex information” for the ID illiterate).

Gpuccio, who is an ID advocate who seems very confident about dFSCI and its value, gave me these defining characteristics (I have done some minor editing such as spelling errors)

The definition of CSI, and in particular of dFSCI, is:

a) A string of digital values

b) Scarcely compressible

c) Whose complexity is higher than 150 bits

d) Which conveys the information for a well defined function…

If you want, we can make explicit what is already implicit in b), and add:

e) For which no explanatory necessity mechanism is known.

You are wrong about circularity. The definition is empirical. Each of the conditions can be objectively tested on a specific string (the only point which is not always available is the computation of the complexity).

a) It is rather easy to verify if a string can be read as a series of digital values.

b) We can verify if it is compressible by known compression systems.

c) If we know, at least approximately, both the search space and the target space, it is easy to compute the functional complexity for a function.

d) It is easy to verify if a function has been explicitly and objectively defined for the string.

e) If a necessity explanatory mechanism is know, well, someone has to provide it. Otherwise, none is known

My plan is to write a post on each of these five items.  This is the first – the digital aspect of dFSCI.  This is the easiest and least important.

According to this definition – if something is to exhibit dFSCI then it must be a digital string. This appears to be a clear concept. The outcome must be composed of items that can only have one of a set of discrete values rather than varying continuously.  However, this restriction has some interesting consequences.  At the scale at which humans normally operate the physical world is not digital.  A series of letters is a series of shapes which vary continuously one from another. Even a bit on a silicon chip is a voltage or charge which may vary continuously between set values.  It is we who allocate these analogue values to discrete buckets.  We place a digital interpretation on an analogue world.  It is only at the atomic/molecular level (or smaller) that the world is digital independently of people’s interpretation.  Under normal circumstances an atom is indivisible.


The consequence is that we cannot expect to see digital results in phenomena which do not involve humans except at the molecular level.  If we impose the digital restriction then we remove from consideration our day to day experience of phenomena which are not the product of human endeavour.  We cannot consider examples such as the weather or the orbits of planets.  On the other hand if we look at things that people have designed they will include larger scale things that are digital – plays and music and computers.  But this does not make being digital a signature of design.  It is just a function of how the world is.


The digital restriction is not a fatal flaw in the concept of dFSCI.  But we should be aware of the restrictions it places on non-human examples and why.


4 Responses to “Assessing dFSCI (1) digital”

  1. 1 Toronto September 30, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    It is important for the ID side to portray nature as digital information so that they can show that it is should be considered as an intentional programmed result, such as the output of a computer, or a designer of life.

    The reality is that we ..can’t.. describe these things digitally.

    Take pi as an example.

    Described as a digital string, it looks quite complex and specified, ….and never-ending!

    Does this mean that for a real circle of a given diameter there is no absolute value for it’s perimeter?

    Of course not.

    We can’t describe things like pi ..because.. we try to do it digitally.

    The math we’ve come up with serves a practical purpose, not a philosophical one.

    As far as compression, since DNA is a highly compressed version of a human being, goat, or salmon etc., it does not qualify as dFSCI according to Gpuccio.

  2. 2 marktfrank September 30, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Good point. I think Gpuccio explicitly says that he limits the discussion to things that can be expressed digitally because it is easier to do the maths and generally easier to work with – for him it is just a pragmatic move. He recognises that many things that are designed are not digital. Howeever, there may be a unconsious motivation to digitalise things! And it does have subtle side effects.

  1. 1 Assessing dFSCI (2) scarcely compressible « In Moderation Trackback on October 2, 2010 at 6:37 am
  2. 2 Assessing dFSCI (3) high complexity « In Moderation Trackback on October 3, 2010 at 8:40 am

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