First, welcome aboard Eric and thank you for your first UD post .
Eric uses the rings of Saturn to illustrate his point that natural objects, in and of themselves, do not “contain” information by their mere existence. I disagree. I am certainly not an information theorist, but I do have the advantage of having read an advance copy of Bill Dembski’s Being as Communion, a Metaphysics of Information (which I understand is due out in August).
Eric says that the act of measurement of a state of affairs by an observer creates information; that the state of affairs in itself has not produced information. You will need to wait for the book for a more complete explanation (the wait will be worth it; I believe this book is truly groundbreaking). For now I will just say that Dembski’s thesis is that “information” is a much broader concept than that formulated by Eric.
Dembski starts with Eric’s more limited view of information:
In everyday life, information is associated with intelligent agents who form statements to convey meaning. Accordingly, intelligent agents convey information to other intelligent agents by making meaningful statements within a system of language. Information, therefore, customarily presupposes intelligence, language, and semantics.
That conception is fine as far as it goes. But in a broader sense Dembski says “information is about realizing possibilities by ruling out others.” Therefore, “Nature produces information when it comes down on one side or the other of a contingency (an event is contingent if it is possible but not necessary, in other words, if it can happen but alternatives to it can also happen).”
To Eric’s point about the rings of Saturn, I take it that Dembski would say that the orbits of each particle of the rings exist within a matrix of other possible orbits and therefore create information. Indeed, Dembski uses the orbit of the earth’s moon to illustrate information. If the matrix of possibilities is stable orbit/non-stable orbit, the earth’s moon’s orbit comes down on a particular side of a contingency and thus information has been produced.
To sum up, Eric is using an “everyday” definition of information and that is fine as far as it goes. But information need not be defined so narrowly, and for certain purposes it can be defined extremely broadly, as Dembski has done. To see why this is important and how it fits into a broader metaphysics of information, we will need to wait until August.