Intelligent Design - Signs

Last updated Fri Sep 27 15:18:29 EDT 2002

An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. Matthew 12:39 KJV

Complexity and Specification

Last time we saw that for the entropy of a system to be low (and the information to be high), there must be many possible states, and only a few of those states must be chosen. This week, we will look at pre-modern logic for gauging the significance of an event. Once again, specificity and extraordinariness are important ingredients for a sign to carry information. However, new factors come into play for signs. To be effective in communication, a sign must have a meaning attached and be unique.


For words to communicate between persons, they must have a meaning assigned to them that is known to both parties. For a sign to be useful, there must be a meaning attached. When God is a party, once you have determined a meaning, then God knows the meaning you have attached (perhaps better than you do).


While recognizing Intelligent Design is not that hard, knowing who did the design is harder. If you see some writing in the sand on the beach, you don't know who wrote it - only that they were intelligent. A sign that is unique to a person provides assurance that the sign was not forged by an imposter.

It may seem that a miraculous sign would be unique to God, but Satan also has some power in that regard: "And [he] deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast." [Rev 13:14] Arthur C. Clark's proverb is also relevant here: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinquishable from magic."

True Signs

Here are the canonical ingredients of an effective sign:


Dembski looks at a number of examples of signs, to see whether they meet these criteria, and whether these criteria in fact match up with effective signs in the Bible. For this class, we will review Dembski's examples, and look at some addition ones. For each sign, ask yourself if it is specified, extraordinary, meaningful, and unique.

Modernity, Pre-Modernity and Post-Modernity

A weakness of modern science is the desire to reduce all causes to efficient causes. Pre-moderns recognized that intelligent agents act in the world along side natural causes. Moderns try to reduce intelligence to natural causes. Post-moderns doubt the existence of any causes at all.

Intelligent Faith

Some people have a rather irrational view of faith. In Miracle on 34th Street, faith is defined as "believing what you know ain't true". Miguel de Unamuno defined faith as wishing something were true, and acting as though it was. Christian faith is believing what you know is true based on solid evidence, and not wavering in that belief. "For he that wavers is like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think he shall receive anything of the Lord." [James 1:6,7]