Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

George C. Williams

arroba Email

George C. WilliamsGeorge Williams died September 8th, 2010. An evolutionist, he had insightful things to say about biology’s information problem. Commenting on the “separability of information and matter,” he wrote: “You can speak of galaxies and particles of dust in the same terms because they both have mass and charge and length and width. You can’t do that with information and matter. Information doesn’t have mass or charge or length in millimeters. Likewise matter doesn’t have bytes. . . . This dearth of shared descriptors makes matter and information two separate domains.” He saw that computer programmers transfer “information from one physical medium to another” and then “recover the same information in the original medium.”

The key qualitative factor that differentiates information from matter is "specificity." Specificity is the notion that some object, objects or arrangement of objects are formed in such as way so that it is "specific" to some other purpose outside itself. That is there must be an arbitrary relationship that transcends that subject being investigated. In statistics we have the notion of independent variables- such as two separate coins being flipped at once. The out come of one does not generally effect the outcome of the other. However in biology we have many independent variables working together for some arbitrary purpose. This is the specific relationship that begins to define what information is. Therefore information is more about relationships than it is about the nature of purely material things- and this begs the question of whether information and matter are in fact different, independent things altogether. Frost122585
Largely off-topic: Amazon is now advertising to me a new anthology from Cambridge University Press edited by Paul Davies and Niels Hendrik Gregersen, http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=9780521762250 Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics. It's due out on 31 October in the US and 30 September in the UK. I note that Jesper Hoffmeyer is evidently a Copenhagen-Tartu stalwart. anonym

Leave a Reply