Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Laszlo Bencze offers a thought experiment on whether a random mistake can create information


From Bencze, the plight of the man-moth:

Sometime between 1934 and 1936 American poet, Elizabeth Bishop wrote a poem titled “The Man-Moth” about some sort of strange creature inhabiting the storm drains and subway tunnels of New York city. From the poem:

He flits,

he flutters, and cannot get aboard the silent trains

fast enough to suit him. The doors close swiftly.

The Man-Moth always seats himself facing the wrong way…

She added a footnote to that poem stating “Newspaper misprint for ‘mammoth’.” So the inspiration for this poem came from a random misprint that she had encountered somewhere in the newspapers or advertisements of 1930s New York. The New Criterion (Nov. 2021) devotes a six page article to research on exactly where she might have encountered the misprint and what might have caused it. (“the right shoulder of the ‘m’ may have sheared off or been worn away”)

Can we say that this random mistake created information even though it is clearly a “loss of information” type of mutation similar to those we encounter in the DNA of living things? I suppose we could except for the fact that it required the highly imaginative efforts of a skilled poet to transform it into something meaningful. Of all the millions of intelligent agents reading the misprint only Elizabeth Bishop noticed anything wonderful about it. So even in this rare case of a random mistake seemingly creating information the ability of an intelligent agent to notice and respond was critically important.

We can say that the random mistake altered existing information. ET
The man moth of 1934 clearly evolved into the Moth man of Point Pleasant, West Virginia, sighted in 1966 (though transitional forms seem lacking). https://www.mothmanmuseum.com/ Blastus
If you have an item of complex information, be it a computer code, a book, or a gene, and you copy it imperfectly, changing one character. Does that add information? In one sense yes it does: the new copy is different from the others and can be described (specified?) as the normal copy, plus this one change. E.g. instead of gene XYZ, we now have gene XYZ with Q instead of P. In another sense, no: the information has been degraded, with less-well-specified content. E.g. instead of gene XYZ, we now have gene XYZ minus P, with error Q. Therefore, one can in principle argue that a random change may increase the information content very slightly. However, if we repeat this process several times, it quickly becomes clear that the "new information" is meaningless garbage, and sooner or later, the original information is so degraded as to be unrecognizable or useless. In that sense, it is hard to claim that we have added new information. Rather, we have added noise or confusion, which is usually the opposite of information. In principle, random mutation plus natural selection can make a slight change to a suboptimal gene to make it better. E.g. take a normal gene, damage it at one codon, and let the population grow. Eventually a mutation fixing the damage will occur and, assuming that gene helps "fitness", it should spread through the population. The Darwinian mechanism can therefore improve fitness as long as the improvement is possible and requires only one or perhaps a few minor changes. This has been well known for a long time. What is also well known, but denied by Darwinists, is that, if more than a very few changes are needed to get an improvement, then the improvement will never be achieved via their mechanism. Evolutionists can dance around the meaning of "information" and relate their just so stories all they want, but they cannot get undirected Darwinian mechanisms to do more than tiny changes, and in the real world, those changes usually damage the genetic information rather than improve it. They certainly do not accumulate to create a new gene, function or feature. Fasteddious
ChuckyD states, "I think,,," For crying out loud ChuckyD, will you finally get with the Darwinian program? According to Duke University Professor Alex Rosenberg, a Darwinian atheist, you do not think about anything!
1.) Argument from intentionality 1. If naturalism is true, I cannot think about anything 2. I am thinking about naturalism. 3. Therefore naturalism is not true. Is Metaphysical Naturalism Viable? - William Lane Craig - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzS_CQnmoLQ
Supplemental note on the clash between 'intentionality' and Darwinian metaphysics
Teleology and the Mind - Michael Egnor - August 16, 2016 Excerpt: From the hylemorphic perspective, there is an intimate link between the mind and teleology. The 19th-century philosopher Franz Brentano pointed out that the hallmark of the mind is that it is directed to something other than itself. That is, the mind has intentionality, which is the ability of a mental process to be about something, rather than to just be itself. Physical processes alone (understood without teleology) are not inherently about things. The mind is always about things. Stated another way, physical processes (understood without teleology) have no purpose. Mental processes always have purpose. In fact, purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) is what defines the mind. And we see the same purpose (aboutness-intentionality-teleology) in nature. Intentionality is a form of teleology. Both intentionality and teleology are goal-directedness — intentionality is directedness in thought, and teleology is directedness in nature. Mind and teleology are both manifestations of purpose in nature. The mind is, within nature, the same kind of process that directs nature. In this sense, eliminative materialism is necessary if a materialist is to maintain a non-teleological Darwinian metaphysical perspective. It is purpose that must be denied in order to deny design in nature. So the mind, as well as teleology, must be denied. Eliminative materialism is just Darwinian metaphysics carried to its logical end and applied to man. If there is no teleology, there is no intentionality, and there is no purpose in nature nor in man’s thoughts. The link between intentionality and teleology, and the undeniability of teleology, is even more clear if we consider our inescapable belief that other people have minds. The inference that other people have minds based on their purposeful (intentional-teleological) behavior, which is obviously correct and is essential to living a sane life, can be applied to our understanding of nature as well. Just as we know that other people have purposes (intentionality), we know just as certainly that nature has purposes (teleology). In a sense, intelligent design is the recognition of the same purpose-teleology-intentionality in nature that we recognize in ourselves and others. Teleology and intentionality are certainly the inferences to be drawn from the obvious purposeful arrangement of parts in nature, but I (as a loyal Thomist!) believe that teleology and intentionality are manifest in an even more fundamental way in nature. Any goal-directed natural change is teleological, even if purpose and arrangement of parts is not clearly manifest. The behavior of a single electron orbiting a proton is teleological, because the motion of the electron hews to specific ends (according to quantum mechanics). A pencil falling to the floor behaves teleologically (it does not fall up, or burst into flame, etc.). Purposeful arrangement of parts is teleology on an even more sophisticated scale, but teleology exists in even the most basic processes in nature. Physics is no less teleological than biology. https://evolutionnews.org/2016/08/teleology_and_t/
I think this could be huge. Instead of looking for our origins in Primates, we should have been looking in Lepidoptera all along. Eureka!!! chuckdarwin
Is gobbledygook information? It’s in the same form as Shakespeare. But what does it point to? Every year new words are added to the dictionary. What happens if a word that is added that points to nothing. Yesterday, ChuckDarwin was challenged to define “right-wing” but so far has been silent. Is “right-wing” gobbledygook? Is it information? Not about what it may point to but to those who utter it? jerry
Yup. Information is created by editors, not writers. The broken typeface is unlikely. Typesetters transcribing a handwritten manuscript make this style of error often. http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2012/12/language-oddity-nonims.html http://polistrasmill.blogspot.com/2020/06/whats-prueter.html polistra

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