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Information vs. meaning: Why physicalism fails

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Physicalism is the point of vew that everything is material, including information, presumably adopted out of despair, as an alternative to saying even dumber things. From philosopher Daniel N. Robinson at the New Atlantis:

In attempts to account for distinctly human endeavors, explanations have a narrative quality. Thus, Jane’s aspiration to be a concert violinist accounts for — that is, explains — the many hours of practice expended over a course of years. Henry wishes to understand the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. The story — the explanation — runs along these lines: Wellington, after the battle of Quatre Bras, moved his forces to Waterloo. The allied Prussians moved to positions drawing a large portion of the French forces away from Waterloo to Wavre. With Prussians attacking Napoleon’s right flank and Wellington attacking the center, Napoleon’s fate was sealed.

Try to translate these two explanations — for why Jane practices the violin, and for why Napoleon was defeated — into terms faithful to evolutionary biology or neuroscience or the concentration of potassium in the human body. Try again. Alas, the thing just doesn’t work. Now adopt the empirical stance and see if you can come up with a theory of any sort that, even if not complete, would still be adequate for explaining these events. This won’t do much for us either, for events of historical moment express the beliefs, skills, powers, and plans of specific persons who, if removed from the narrative, leave us with an entirely different set of events. No doubt, absent a properly functioning nervous system, Jane can’t even hold the bow of a violin. Absent the evolutionary roots and branches, there are neither armies nor nations. We might agree with all of this and, at the same time, acknowledge the unique, personal, individuated character of those responsible for the events in question. There could not be War and Peace had there not been a developed language. But there could not have been War and Peace had there not been Tolstoy. What we search for to account for the great novel is not a causal theory but a deeper understanding. Here, then, is the Verstehen school of historiography, which does not try to find a causal explanation of an event based on objective factors alone, but rather to understand the particular intentions and contexts from the standpoint of the people involved. More.

Can we relate meaning to specified complexity?

See also: A defense of physicalism: Plankton could evolve minds

Niwrad: Consciousness is made of atoms too?

and

Data basic: An introduction to information theory

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47 Replies to “Information vs. meaning: Why physicalism fails

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    In May 2009, M.I.T.’s Technology Review published a brief online essay titled “The Foundation of Reality: Information or Quantum Mechanics?” After citing some leading-edge theorizing, the essay concludes that

    it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

  2. 2
    Dionisio says:

    Let’s repeat it:

    In May 2009, M.I.T.’s Technology Review published a brief online essay titled “The Foundation of Reality: Information or Quantum Mechanics?” After citing some leading-edge theorizing, the essay concludes that

    it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

  3. 3
    Dionisio says:

    OK, let’s say it once more:

    In May 2009, M.I.T.’s Technology Review published a brief online essay titled “The Foundation of Reality: Information or Quantum Mechanics?” After citing some leading-edge theorizing, the essay concludes that

    it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

  4. 4

    The MIT article referenced by Dionisio above — https://www.technologyreview.com/s/413515/the-foundation-of-reality-information-or-quantum-mechanics/ is quite technical and written by scientists, but take a look at how it concludes.

    Excerpt from the article:
    ” … All this work stems from the growing realization that it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived. That really is mind-blowing. … ”

    Now read this from the Bible — Hebrews 11:3:
    ” … Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. … ”
    Think of that “by the word of God” … word as we know from our everyday use implies information, and we also know from everyday use that “word” creates many things in world such as cars, houses, books, blueprints and schematics, music and more.

    More from the Bible — Psalm 33:
    ” … By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
    their starry host by the breath of his mouth.
    He gathers the waters of the sea into jars;
    He puts the deep into storehouses.
    Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him.
    For He spoke, and it came to be;He commanded, and it stood firm. … ”

    Returning to the MIT article … Yes indeed ” … somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived. That really is mind-blowing. “

  5. 5

    And I’ll repeat what Dionisio said once more:

    In May 2009, M.I.T.’s Technology Review published a brief online essay titled “The Foundation of Reality: Information or Quantum Mechanics?” After citing some leading-edge theorizing, the essay concludes that
    it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

  6. 6

    Referring once more to Hebrews 11:3 —
    ” … things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. … ”

    We see a direct refutation of the “materialistic” world view. This tells me that those ancient ignorant goat herders had an understanding of the “materialistic” world view that was active even back then, and rejected it.

  7. 7
    kairosfocus says:

    D, interesting, care to comment? KF

  8. 8
    Origenes says:

    it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

    And I thought that the immaterial laws of physics were the ghostly bedrock of our Universe …

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    KF,
    Yes, will try to comment on this interesting topic, as per your suggestion. Thank you.

    This fascinating information issue is best seen in modern biology-related research. Every new discovery in this area of science sheds more light on marvelous spatiotemporal molecular and cellular choreographies orchestrated within amazing biological systems.

    My main problem with describing the complex functional specified information we see in the biological systems is lack of technical knowledge, but also because the whole thing humbles me to the point of making me speechless.

    Now I must step out for a while.
    I’ll try to continue commenting after I come back.

  10. 10
    Origenes says:

    … it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

    Someone has to explain to me where this idea comes from. It has little or nothing to do with the paper. Nowhere in the paper is mention of the laws of physics or any attempt to show how they are caused by information.
    What is suggested in the paper is way more modest and quite different:

    We suggest that Information Causality, a generalization of no-signaling, might be one of the foundational properties of Nature.

    Might not the laws of physics also be “one of foundational properties of Nature?”

  11. 11

    Origenes @ 10:

    If you read the referenced MIT article, at the end you will indeed read:

    “All this work stems from the growing realisation that it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived. That really is mind-blowing.”

    So, with respect, I for one do not understand your comment.

    I do see that you reference a Cornell paper at https://arxiv.org/abs/0905.2292 which is not the article that Dionisio references. Would you care to comment on the MIT article? Thanks.

  12. 12
    Dionisio says:

    KF,
    I’m back and will try to follow up the commenting started @9 as per your kind request.
    Off topic, thank you for the clarification comment you wrote @3292* in the thread “Mystery at the heart of life” –though I doubt the politely-dissenting interlocutor who barked up the wrong tree understands it. In order to understand something we must have the will to do it. It’s not a sufficient condition, but it’s necessary.
    (*) http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-630199

  13. 13
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius @11:

    Thank you for your insightful comments @4-6 and the timely clarification @11.

    The text quoted @1-3 was copied from the 4th paragraph of the section “Information vs. Meaning” within the article “The Limits of Information” written by Daniel N. Robinson in the webpage pointed to by a link* in the OP News wrote to start this discussion thread.

    I decided to post it three times to highlight its importance. It’s a style borrowed from the Book of books.

    (*) http://www.thenewatlantis.com/.....nformation

  14. 14

    Dionisio @ 13:
    You are most welcome. And your repetition for emphasis was welcome. When I read your comments, the phrase “spoke into existence” or something like that, came to mind so I did a search and found, at least, these verses. Actually, I must have done a different search using a Biblical phrase containing “word”. When I just now searched on “spoke into existence” I came up with more such as:
    https://www.openbible.info/topics/speaking_things_into_existence

    Maybe I should repeat this three or four times.

  15. 15
    Origenes says:

    ayearningforpublius @11

    I do see that you reference a Cornell paper at https://arxiv.org/abs/0905.2292 which is not the article that Dionisio references.

    The anonymously written article that Dionisio references is supposedly based on that Cornell paper — see the reference at the bottom of the article. However, like I said in post @10, I don’t see any basis for these speculative ideas in the Cornell paper.

  16. 16

    Quite true Origenes, but the MIT article does. But thanks for your comments in any case.

  17. 17
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @15:

    Yes, you’re correct on that the anonymous MIT article references the link you provided which references this paper:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....08400.html

    https://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.2292.pdf

    Hence the MIT text is an interpretation of the abstract of the Nature paper.

    Does the MIT interpretation of the abstract of the referenced Nature paper contradicts anything said in that paper?

    It looks as though the abstract of the Nature paper also contains their interpretation of the phenomenon they observed.

    Which interpretation is closer to reality?

    Thanks.

  18. 18
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius and Origenes

    Here’s a link to the PDF copy of the Nature paper:
    https://arxiv.org/pdf/0905.2292.pdf

    It seems like the MIT article is just a review commentary of the Nature paper.

    Does anything in that entire Nature paper contradict what is written in the MIT review?

    BTW, here’s a 2012 paper with a similar title as the Nature 2009 paper, apparently written by one of the authors of the Nature paper:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258600339_Information_Causality_as_a_physical_principle
    Note the 20 more recent papers that cite the 2012 paper.

  19. 19
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius and Origenes

    The 2009 Nature paper has 280 citations in researchgate:
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/38028103_Information_Causality_as_a_Physical_Principle

  20. 20
    Dionisio says:

    @9:

    KF,
    Yes, will try to comment on this interesting topic, as per your suggestion. Thank you.

    This fascinating information issue is best seen in modern biology-related research. Every new discovery in this area of science sheds more light on marvelous spatiotemporal molecular and cellular choreographies orchestrated within amazing biological systems.

    My main problem with describing the complex functional specified information we see in the biological systems is lack of technical knowledge, but also because the whole thing humbles me to the point of making me speechless.

    “Complex Functional Specified Information” is a concept I’ve been exposed to since I studied Control Systems Engineering years ago. Obviously back then that had nothing to do with Biology. It was all about complex information-processing systems purposely designed by human minds.

    On the fifth year my MS tutor suggested that I present an optimized version of a distributed system to keep track of the location and status of cargo containers transported between different locations within a wide geographic area. With the currently available technology that task seems much easier to develop and implement. Actually there are many such systems out there.

    However, as a comparative illustration, let’s just look at the actual task: the managers wanted to know at any moment the location and status of any and all of their cargo containers. There were several issues to resolve: how to classify and identify the different locations, how to classify and identify the different statuses, how to gather, transmit and process the information, how to timely present the information at different management levels, how to develop, test, implement, operate and maintain such a system.

    Years later I was hired to work on a software development project for engineering design. I worked as a software developer under the leadership of a very talented engineer who had the final product in his mind long before it was implemented in the computer. My fellow programmers and I had to understand the technical specifications given by our leader and code the necessary instructions for the computers to do things according to the tech specs that were given to us in certain formats. If any of us had a question about the functioning of the final product before it existed, we could ask our project leader, who knew the entire product and could visualize it in his mind long before anyone else could see it.

    The system we were trying to develop already existed in non-material form, as information, in the mind of the project leader, who wrote and drew his ideas on a whiteboard on the wall in his office or in a conference room or in Word documents that he wrote on his laptop and mailed to us as technical specs. It was a great experience working under such a dedicated engineer who knew so much about what we were working on and also knew how to communicate his ideas to us. Our project leader finally saw the product working on a computer the way he had seen it working in his mind. That must have been quite a thrill for him. The final product became a success very soon. Many engineers used it to design.

    At the time that software product was ready for implementation there were other products available in the market. However, there was something new in the idea of my project leader that had not been tried before in other competing products: flexibility to adapt the system to radically different conditions. A group of engineer-designers could easily “instruct” the software to behave differently than it would do for another group of design engineers somewhere else under different conditions and rules. Sometimes I saw design engineers demo things they could do with that software, which I didn’t know it was possible to do. I was really impressed.

    While I was proudly maintaining that software, one day I looked at a biology-related textbook one of my children had left home after graduating from Medical school. That was it. I could not believe the little I could understand in that textbook. The whole thing seemed magic. I asked people I knew who worked in medical field or in biotechnology or in biology research and they all responded that they did not know the answers to my questions. Then I started to search the answers myself. What started as curiosity gradually turned into fascination and eventually became an irresistible obsession to find answers to my increasing number of questions. I was looking at it all from the perspective of my educational background and work experience.

    However, the new experience kept my mind away from my tasks at work. I recall being in a conference room at a technical meeting and having no idea of what was being discussed there. My mind was out there in the latest things I had read in biology articles. At some point a colleague asked me something about the ongoing technical discussion and I responded that I had seen a much better system than anything we had done. One of the managers jumped and asked me what company made such a product. To calm them all down I quickly clarified that it was not related to our engineering design area at all, it was a completely different field.

    That embarrassing situation in the technical meeting where a colleague woke me up from an uncontrollable “biology” daydreaming trance made me realize that my attention had dangerously drifted too far away from the work I was paid to do. Practically I was stealing money from my employer. After much consultation with colleagues and friends and after unsuccessfully attempting some practical ways to pull my attention back to my software development work, I left that job and started to learn how to develop interactive 4D computer games for science education and also started to study some biology concepts and gather research papers with interesting biology cases that could be included in a collection of scenarios for the educational computer games.

    I believe this is my “Esther” moment. All I have studied and worked on for years was intended to prepare me in order to face this biology challenge in a joyful way.

    Sing Halleluiah and rejoice!

    “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

  21. 21
    Phinehas says:

    I haven’t read either the article or the paper yet, but in Origenes’ defense, there is a fair bit of room between the paper not contradicting the article and the paper actually lending support to the article and its conclusions. If the article is implying that the paper supports it, the paper ought to actually support it, not merely fail to contradict it.

    Now off to read…

    EDIT: After having read both, it seems to me that the article does a decent job in relaying the salient points of the paper. The last paragraph may over-deliver slightly, but I don’t think it is objectionable, especially in light of the entire article, where the author expresses some doubts about what can be concluded. But I’ve got a limited understanding of the subject matter, so YMMV.

  22. 22
    Origenes says:

    Dionisio: It seems like the MIT article is just a review commentary of the Nature paper.

    Does anything in that entire Nature paper contradict what is written in the MIT review?

    Like I said in post @10, in the paper there is no mention of the laws of physics. So, assuming that the MIT article is a review of the paper, why do they write:

    MIT article: …. it is not the laws of physics that determine how information behaves in our Universe, but the other way round. The implication is extraordinary: that somehow, information is the ghostly bedrock of our Universe and from it, all else is derived.

    ?

    ….

    P.s. I regard the immutable laws of physics to be immaterial and deeply mysterious in their existence and causation. What explains the laws? “Where” are the laws? How do the laws cause things to happen? Why does matter obey the laws?
    This article by Paul Davies may be interesting.

  23. 23
    Dionisio says:

    Origenes @22:

    I see your logical point. Don’t the laws of physics have a law giver? As the laws of the land have law giver so it should logically be with any laws, right?
    Aren’t rules and laws informational entities?
    Aren’t they based on procedural or prescriptive information?
    Isn’t the rule that makes an object affecting the space-time configuration to cause gravity force an informational entity?
    Isn’t the rule that makes an electron moving through time-space configuration to produce an electromagnetic field an informational entity?
    Thanks

  24. 24
    Dionisio says:

    Phinehas @21:

    Valid point. Thanks.

  25. 25
    Dionisio says:

    Phinehas, Origenes and ayearningforpublius:

    Note the two researchgate links @18 & @19 with around 300 references to papers that cite the 2009 Nature paper and a 2012 paper with the same title. I haven’t looked to see why the 2012 paper has the same title as the 2009 Nature paper. If any of you finds why then please share it here for the rest? Maybe it’s an obvious reason or a slight difference? Maybe it’s a revision or update of the same paper? The 2012 author is one of the 2009 authors, so that’s a hint. Thanks.

  26. 26
    Dionisio says:

    Just saw two recent research papers on a given topic and emailed the links to friends who do research on the same topic.
    They replied with a list of some of their own publications that are not related to the links I had forwarded.

    Same topic but unrelated research subtopics!!!
    Then subsubtopics and subsubsubtopics and…?
    Biology is so big! It generates so much information that is feeding their Big Data in the clouds. Eventually they might have to store data on the moon? 🙂

    Complex complexity.

  27. 27
    Origenes says:

    Dionisio @23

    The idea that the universe is a computer simulation ticks many boxes. It can explain the laws, the primacy of information, life and the lawgiver/intelligent designer.
    Moreover, I would not know any other concept that could explain the laws of physics.

    I really don’t like this simulation concept, not sure why, but, perhaps, one should consider the possibility.

  28. 28

    Dionisio @ 20:

    Thank you so much for that wonderful story of your passion. Having been a long term software developer on some very complex real-time distributed systems myself, I can almost put myself in your shoes. The parallels between biology and systems engineering are real and they are exciting. I am grateful that I participated hands-on in such a world, and often wish I could have been multiple people so I could have dabbled more into such fields as Biomimetics, Systems Biology and Computational Biology.

  29. 29
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius,

    Thank you for your comment.

    Your software development experience on very complex systems gives you certain advantages when looking at the biological systems. Biologists don’t have that perspective. Maybe that’s why interdisciplinary research teams are becoming more common in university campuses these days.

    If you haven’t watched it yet and find some spare time, you may want to watch the videos for 2014 Systems Biology course by professor Uri Alon (15 parts) and 2014 MIT Systems Biology course by professor Jeff Gore (over 20 parts).

  30. 30

    Hi Dionisio … I’ve thought much over the years on this topic and have also written much, mainly on my blog. A few years back while visiting a niece who lived in down town Seattle, I discovered I was within blocks of the Discovery Institute. At the time I was just finishing up one of my essays and decided to visit Discovery Institute.

    I met Casey Luskin and sent him copies of several essays I had written. By golly he reviewed them gave me feedback. One of these essays was given Front Page status on this blog.

    The essay is https://ayearningforpublius.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/the-origins-of-the-universe-simple-or-complex-part-2-the-problem-of-massively-complex-synchronicity/ and I invite you to look at it as well as (too) many others I have written.

    Edit: Actually, here is the essay that was Front Paged here at UD.:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....in-nature/

  31. 31
    Dionisio says:

    #25 follow-up

    It seems like the 2012 abstract with the same title as the above referenced Nature 2009 paper is just a presentation given by Valerio Scarani at a meeting of the American Physical Society (APS) that took place March 2012 in Boston:

    http://meetings.aps.org/Meeting/MAR12/Event/161927

    That explains it all. It was strange that the same title had been used twice but now it’s all clear. One of the authors of the Nature 2009 paper used the title of the paper he had coauthored for his presentation at a conference 3 years later. That’s fine.

  32. 32

    All: Here is another essay that was “front-paged” here at UD. I try to revisit things I have written in the past as sort of check on my thinking.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....in-nature/

  33. 33
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius @30:

    Saw your interesting blog before. Thank you.
    BTW, congratulations on your 53rd Anniversary!
    Saw the pics. Well done!

  34. 34

    Dionisio @32 — now that’s getting real personal. But I love it. Thank you so much.

  35. 35
    Dionisio says:

    The computational landscape of general physical theories
    Jonathan Barrett, Niel de Beaudrap, Matty J. Hoban and Ciaran M. Lee
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314115451

    There is ever-growing evidence that quantum computers are more powerful than classical computers […]
    However, an understanding of the source of this power remains elusive.

    […] it would be interesting to determine if quantum algorithms can be constructed that estimate the output probability of this quasi-probabilistic computational model.

    Determining how hard it is for a quantum computer to simulate AWPP would provide a way to determining if quantum theory is powerful for computation in the landscape of general theories.

    Having a more rened approach to constructing theories in this landscape may allow us to investigate nonlocality, or other notions of physical relevance, along with the computational power of these theories, which would deepen our understanding of how computation and other information-theoretic advantages are connected.

    […] it is still an open question whether there exists a free theory whose computational power equals AWPP.

  36. 36
    Dionisio says:

    Ruling out higher-order interference from purity principles
    Howard Barnum†, § Ciarán M. Lee‡,1 Carlo Maria Scandolo?,2 and John H. Selby
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316235117

    The assumption that nature is self-dual could also be rejected, this poses the question as to whether it is possible to find and direct experimental test of this principle.

  37. 37
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius @28:

    Dionisio @ 20:

    Thank you so much for that wonderful story of your passion. Having been a long term software developer on some very complex real-time distributed systems myself, I can almost put myself in your shoes. The parallels between biology and systems engineering are real and they are exciting. I am grateful that I participated hands-on in such a world, and often wish I could have been multiple people so I could have dabbled more into such fields as Biomimetics, Systems Biology and Computational Biology.

    Please, help me with this if you will:
    Given that my reading comprehension is rather poor and my communication skills almost nonexistent, I’m learning personal communication –both verbal and written– but still am very far from where I’d like to be.
    Maybe you could tell me from the perspective of a serious reader (in this case also friendly) how it should have been written in order to say what I wanted to say. Thank you.

    Apparently the story @20 does not present the main ideas clearly enough:
    Note that at the start it quotes a previous comment (@9) which had been written in response to this comment by KF @7 (which KF wrote in reference to my comments @1-3):

    D, interesting, care to comment? KF

    My response @9 serves as an introduction to the message @20, because it highlights the amazing effect that my personal encounter with the “complex functional specified information” issue and specially its undisputable preeminence in biology had on me:

    KF,
    Yes, will try to comment on this interesting topic, as per your suggestion. Thank you.

    This fascinating information issue is best seen in modern biology-related research. Every new discovery in this area of science sheds more light on marvelous spatiotemporal molecular and cellular choreographies orchestrated within amazing biological systems.

    My main problem with describing the complex functional specified information we see in the biological systems is lack of technical knowledge, but also because the whole thing humbles me to the point of making me speechless.

    The following 3 paragraphs describe –within the context of the engineering studies at the university– my initial exposure to the “information” concept in association with “complex systems” designed by human minds:

    “Complex Functional Specified Information” is a concept I’ve been exposed to since I studied Control Systems Engineering years ago. Obviously back then that had nothing to do with Biology. It was all about complex information-processing systems purposely designed by human minds.

    On the fifth year my MS tutor suggested that I present an optimized version of a distributed system to keep track of the location and status of cargo containers transported between different locations within a wide geographic area. With the currently available technology that task seems much easier to develop and implement. Actually there are many such systems out there.

    However, as a comparative illustration, let’s just look at the actual task: the managers wanted to know at any moment the location and status of any and all of their cargo containers. There were several issues to resolve: how to classify and identify the different locations, how to classify and identify the different statuses, how to gather, transmit and process the information, how to timely present the information at different management levels, how to develop, test, implement, operate and maintain such a system.

    I was “worldly” proud and bragging about having worked in what I then considered a “complex system” but that frivolous pride didn’t last too long.

    The following 3 paragraphs raise the bar: an engineer designed a software program that serves as a design tool used by other engineers to design complex infrastructure.

    Years later I was hired to work on a software development project for engineering design. I worked as a software developer under the leadership of a very talented engineer who had the final product in his mind long before it was implemented in the computer. My fellow programmers and I had to understand the technical specifications given by our leader and code the necessary instructions for the computers to do things according to the tech specs that were given to us in certain formats. If any of us had a question about the functioning of the final product before it existed, we could ask our project leader, who knew the entire product and could visualize it in his mind long before anyone else could see it.

    The system we were trying to develop already existed in non-material form, as information, in the mind of the project leader, who wrote and drew his ideas on a whiteboard on the wall in his office or in a conference room or in Word documents that he wrote on his laptop and mailed to us as technical specs. It was a great experience working under such a dedicated engineer who knew so much about what we were working on and also knew how to communicate his ideas to us. Our project leader finally saw the product working on a computer the way he had seen it working in his mind. That must have been quite a thrill for him. The final product became a success very soon. Many engineers used it to design.

    At the time that software product was ready for implementation there were other products available in the market. However, there was something new in the idea of my project leader that had not been tried before in other competing products: flexibility to adapt the system to radically different conditions. A group of engineer-designers could easily “instruct” the software to behave differently than it would do for another group of design engineers somewhere else under different conditions and rules. Sometimes I saw design engineers demo things they could do with that software, which I didn’t know it was possible to do. I was really impressed.

    My frivolous pride had moved up several notches. But again, that would not last too long.
    The climax of the story – pop the balloon: bursting any possible frivolous worldly pride for good.

    While I was proudly maintaining that software, one day I looked at a biology-related textbook one of my children had left home after graduating from Medical school. That was it. I could not believe the little I could understand in that textbook. The whole thing seemed magic. I asked people I knew who worked in medical field or in biotechnology or in biology research and they all responded that they did not know the answers to my questions. Then I started to search for the answers myself. What started as curiosity gradually turned into fascination and eventually became an irresistible obsession to find answers to my increasing number of questions. I was looking at it all from the perspective of my educational background and work experience.

    Yes, that was it. My entire professional life was turned upside down. This was serious. Biology showed beautiful complexity no one ever imagined even in their wildest daydreaming after many sleepless nights.

    However, the new experience kept my mind away from my tasks at work. I recall being in a conference room at a technical meeting and having no idea of what was being discussed there. My mind was out there in the latest things I had read in biology articles. At some point a colleague asked me something about the ongoing technical discussion and I responded that I had seen a much better system than anything we had done. One of the managers jumped and asked me what company made such a product. To calm them all down I quickly clarified that it was not related to our engineering design area at all, it was a completely different field.

    I had to make a radical change:

    That embarrassing situation in the technical meeting where a colleague woke me up from an uncontrollable “biology” daydreaming trance made me realize that my attention had dangerously drifted too far away from the work I was paid to do. Practically I was stealing money from my employer. After much consultation with colleagues and friends and after unsuccessfully attempting some practical ways to pull my attention back to my software development work, I left that job and started to learn how to develop interactive 4D computer games for science education and also started to study some biology concepts and gather research papers with interesting biology cases that could be included in a collection of scenarios for the educational computer games.

    I hasn’t been easy at all. It’s been a very difficult challenge. But it’s beyond fascinating.

    I believe this is my “Esther” moment. All I have studied and worked on for years was intended to prepare me in order to face this biology challenge in a joyful way.

    Sing Halleluiah and rejoice!

    “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (ESV)

    True Wonder…
    Unending Revelation of the Ultimate Reality. (c)

  38. 38
    Dionisio says:

    How diverse are physics instructors’ attitudes and approaches to teaching undergraduate level quantum mechanics?
    European Journal of Physics 38(3):035703
    DOI: 10.1088/1361-6404/aa6131
    http://iopscience.iop.org/arti.....aa6131/pdf

  39. 39
    Dionisio says:

    A purification postulate for quantum mechanics with indefinite causal order
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/1611.08535

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Dionisio says:

    Super-Quantum, Non-Signaling Correlations Cannot Exist
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pierre_Uzan/publication/301854415_Super-Quantum_Non-Signaling_Correlations_Cannot_Exist/links/575e76f908aec91374b1edac/Super-Quantum-Non-Signaling-Correlations-Cannot-Exist.pdf

    How device-independent approaches change the meaning of Physics
    Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics ·
    DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsb.2017.03.003

  42. 42
    Dionisio says:

    Narratives of Quantum Theory in the Age of Quantum Technologies
    Alexei Grinbaum

    – oOo –

    String theory and the crisis of particle physics II or the ascent of metaphoric arguments
    Bert Schroer
    DOI: 10.1142/S0218271808014217
    International Journal of Modern Physics D 17(13)
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bert_Schroer/publication/1923501_String_theory_and_the_crisis_of_particle_physics_II_or_the_ascent_of_metaphoric_arguments/links/5548adef0cf26a7bf4dafa53/String-theory-and-the-crisis-of-particle-physics-II-or-the-ascent-of-metaphoric-arguments.pdf

    […] string theory is not what string theorists think and claim it is.

    The widespread acceptance of a theory whose interpretation has been obtained by metaphoric reasoning had a corroding influence on the rest of particle physics theory […]

    There can be no doubt that after almost a century of impressive success fundamental physics is in the midst of a deep crisis.

    Its epicenter is in particle theory, but its repercussions may influence the direction of experimental particle physics and affect adjacent areas of fundamental research.

    They also led to quite bizarre ideas in the philosophy of fundamental sciences, which partially explains why they attracted much general interests beyond the community of specialists in particle physics.

    Nowadays papers in which not only the title but also the content is metaphoric have the best chance to be accepted in career supporting journals especially if their content fits with the socially accepted metaphors of their subject lists and in this way they cause the least amount of work to fashion-conscious referees.

    […] we are presently witnessing a derailment towards an unhealthy metaphoric unrestrained speculative side […]

    […] the conceptual status of string theory has remained as obscure as at the beginning.

    Ironically the new agressive science-based atheists are strong defenders of the metaphors about the string-inspired multiverse.

    The ascend of this metaphoric approach is strongly supported by the increasing popularity of string theory and the marketing skill of its proponents to secure a lavish funding.

  43. 43
    Dionisio says:

    […] the broader scientifically interested public finds the media hype, which highlights its ”revolutionary” achievements highly entertaining.

    The strongest concrete anti-string argument is that string theorists understanding of string-localization (which led to the name) is really a complete misunderstanding.

    String theory and the crisis of particle physics II or the ascent of metaphoric arguments
    Bert Schroer
    DOI: 10.1142/S0218271808014217
    International Journal of Modern Physics D 17(13)
    https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bert_Schroer/publication/1923501_String_theory_and_the_crisis_of_particle_physics_II_or_the_ascent_of_metaphoric_arguments/links/5548adef0cf26a7bf4dafa53/String-theory-and-the-crisis-of-particle-physics-II-or-the-ascent-of-metaphoric-arguments.pdf

  44. 44
    Dionisio says:

    #37 addendum

    The bottom line of the story is that Biology shows that complex functional specified information was before its material implementation was created.

  45. 45

    Dionisio @37: I haven’t forgotten but cant get back to you just yet. Hopefully early next week.

  46. 46
    Dionisio says:

    ayearningforpublius
    That’s fine. Take your time.
    Anyway, it seems like we own this discussion thread now. 🙂
    The playing field is clean. The politely dissenting interlocutors remain on the sideline because they lack what takes to engage in serious discussions here. They know we could sweep and mop the floors with their pathetically weak arguments.
    Just wanted to make sure anonymous readers understand well the message @20, which is about the preeminence of ideas being before matter or energy, within the topic of the OP that opened this thread.

    BTW, in biology as in physics we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. 🙂
    The most fascinating discoveries are still ahead.

  47. 47
    Dionisio says:

    See the latest papers referenced in the thread “Mystery at the heart of life” and note the increasing complex complexity making the case for modern or extended synthesis much harder to build.
    The folks at “the third way of evolution” may want to upgrade their search up a notch to the 4th or 5th way? 🙂

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