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Must there always be an encoder and decoder for information?

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At “Is information, not matter, the foundation for life?”, Commenter OldArmy94 asks,

… would you agree that there ALWAYS has to be an “encoder” and “decoder” for information to exist? To me, the reality of requiring both of those components, along with the information itself, is amongst the highest evidences for a Designer.

Okay, but here’s the hitch: The only source of information that we know of is intelligence. Human intelligences are the only kind of high intelligence we have any regular experience of. We reasonably infer divine intelligence based on that.

But humans are not just intelligent. They are also persons. (Theists usually hold that God is  a Person too.) However, I do not know if an intelligence needs to be a person, with a sense of self, to create information. Perhaps that is not necessary.

The nice thing about getting past materialism and naturalism is that one can start to ask such questions. Readers? – O’Leary for News

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6 Replies to “Must there always be an encoder and decoder for information?

  1. 1

    It is clearly not necessary for an encoder or decoder of information to be “a person, with a sense of self.” RNA polymerase encodes the information in DNA for translation by ribosomes, which decode the encoded information, yet neither could reasonably be described as “persons,” any more than a photocopier is a “person.”

    As to whether a “person” is necessary to create information, that is an entirely different question. Yes, we can create information and we are persons. It may even be the case that all creation of information is done by entities like us. That does not logically entail in any way the conclusion that the creation of information must be done by entities like us. These are two logically separate questions, with little or no bearing on each other.

    (I found the edit/preview function – hooray!)

  2. 2
    awstar says:

    “would you agree that there ALWAYS has to be an “encoder” and “decoder” for information to exist?”

    What about attempts to reach intelligent life in outerspace? If you view earth as the decoder, and the encoded signal the message, does it stop being information because there is no decoder somewhere else in the universe? “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If the universe is full of “information” and we have no ears to hear it, is it still information? Can science even tell us the answer? is SETI a science project or a religeous ritual? Ouch … my mind is hurting, make it stop.

  3. 3
    Jorge says:

    Yes, ALWAYS. The two previous comments (MacNeill and awstar) either do not follow the information chain far enough or they fail to recognize the nature of information. Both of these points are thoroughly addressed in our book Withoutout Excuse.

    Succinctly, following the information chain to its absolute origin will invariably lead to the information originator, i.e., the “encoder”. Likewise, whenever information is recognized as information, it is because a “decoder” has performed this recognition. The process of performing this recognition is an information-rich process in itself.*

    *The “tree falling in the forest with no one around” is not a good scenario to ponder for several reasons.

  4. 4
    Jorge says:

    Errata previous comment:

    Without Excuse (Gitt, Compton and Fernandez, 2011)”

  5. 5
    Andre says:

    News

    I would like to explore this, because intelligence is not the only source of information. There are many natural phenomena that can encode information, pulsars are a fantastic example of a non intelligent encoder. That being said, Intelligence is the the only system that can both encode and decode and I believe that is what sets intelligence apart from non intelligence.

  6. 6
    Eric Anderson says:

    “would you agree that there ALWAYS has to be an “encoder” and “decoder” for information to exist?”

    No. Information can exist regardless of whether there is a decoder around to decode it. But that it must be created by an encoder, yes.

    —–

    There are many natural phenomena that can encode information, pulsars are a fantastic example of a non intelligent encoder.

    Natural phenomena do not contain or encode information by their mere existence. At least not information in any meaningful sense; certainly not in the sense that we are interested in for purposes of design theory. We had a long thread on this issue a while back. If I get some time later today I’ll try to see if I can find it.

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