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Mathematician John Lennox asks, Is information evidence of something beyond nature?

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At the Veritas Forum at Harvard, Oxford Mathematician John Lennox argues that there is evidence of transcendence beyond nature. Semiotics – signs like letters and numbers – cannot be explained in a purely reductionist fashion but require an appeal to the mind. Do you agree with Lennox’s argument or do you think reductionism can still be defended? Hat tip: Timothy Kershner

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19 Replies to “Mathematician John Lennox asks, Is information evidence of something beyond nature?

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Dr. Meyer makes much the same point as Dr. Lennox does here,,

    Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video

    “One of the things I do in my classes, to get this idea across to students, is I hold up two computer disks. One is loaded with software, and the other one is blank. And I ask them, ‘what is the difference in mass between these two computer disks, as a result of the difference in the information content that they posses’? And of course the answer is, ‘Zero! None! There is no difference as a result of the information. And that’s because information is a mass-less quantity. Now, if information is not a material entity, then how can any materialistic explanation account for its origin? How can any material cause explain it’s origin?
    And this is the real and fundamental problem that the presence of information in biology has posed. It creates a fundamental challenge to the materialistic, evolutionary scenarios because information is a different kind of entity that matter and energy cannot produce.
    In the nineteenth century we thought that there were two fundamental entities in science; matter, and energy. At the beginning of the twenty first century, we now recognize that there’s a third fundamental entity; and its ‘information’. It’s not reducible to matter. It’s not reducible to energy. But it’s still a very important thing that is real; we buy it, we sell it, we send it down wires.
    Now, what do we make of the fact, that information is present at the very root of all biological function? In biology, we have matter, we have energy, but we also have this third, very important entity; information. I think the biology of the information age, poses a fundamental challenge to any materialistic approach to the origin of life.”
    -Dr. Stephen C. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin-of-life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences.

    Here are few more quotes along that line,,,

    “Those devices (computers) can yield only approximations to a structure (of information) that has a deep and “computer independent” existence of its own.” –
    Roger Penrose – The Emperor’s New Mind – Pg 147

    “Information is information, not matter or energy. No materialism which does not admit this can survive at the present day.”
    Norbert Weiner – MIT Mathematician -(Cybernetics, 2nd edition, p.132) Norbert Wiener created the modern field of control and communication systems, utilizing concepts like negative feedback. His seminal 1948 book Cybernetics both defined and named the new field.

    As well, it is important to note that, counter-intuitive to materialistic thought (and to every kid who has ever taken a math exam), a computer does not consume energy during computation but will only consume energy when information is erased from it. This counter-intuitive fact is formally known as Landauer’s Principle.

    Landauer’s principle
    Of Note: “any logically irreversible manipulation of information, such as the erasure of a bit or the merging of two computation paths, must be accompanied by a corresponding entropy increase ,,, Specifically, each bit of lost information will lead to the release of an (specific) amount (at least kT ln 2) of heat.,,, Landauer’s Principle has also been used as the foundation for a new theory of dark energy, proposed by Gough (2008).

    It should be noted that Rolf Landauer himself presumed that the information in a computer was merely ‘physical’. i.e. “Information is physical!”.
    In other words, Landauer held that the information in a computer was merely an ‘emergent’ property of a material basis, and thus he held that the information programmed into a computer was not really it’s own independent entity. Landauer held this materialistic position in spite of objections from people like Penrose and Weiner who held that information is indeed real and has its own independent existence separate from matter-energy.
    Yet the validity of Landauer’s materialistic contention that ‘Information is physical’ has now been overturned, because information is now known to be erasable from a computer without consuming energy.

    Scientists show how to erase information without using energy – January 2011
    Excerpt: Until now, scientists have thought that the process of erasing information requires energy. But a new study shows that, theoretically, information can be erased without using any energy at all. Instead, the cost of erasure can be paid in terms of another conserved quantity, such as spin angular momentum.,,, “Landauer said that information is physical because it takes energy to erase it. We are saying that the reason it is physical has a broader context than that.”, Vaccaro explained.

    Quantum knowledge cools computers: New understanding of entropy – June 2011
    Excerpt: No heat, even a cooling effect;
    In the case of perfect classical knowledge of a computer memory (zero entropy), deletion of the data requires in theory no energy at all. The researchers prove that “more than complete knowledge” from quantum entanglement with the memory (negative entropy) leads to deletion of the data being accompanied by removal of heat from the computer and its release as usable energy. This is the physical meaning of negative entropy.
    Renner emphasizes, however, “This doesn’t mean that we can develop a perpetual motion machine.” The data can only be deleted once, so there is no possibility to continue to generate energy. The process also destroys the entanglement, and it would take an input of energy to reset the system to its starting state. The equations are consistent with what’s known as the second law of thermodynamics: the idea that the entropy of the universe can never decrease. Vedral says “We’re working on the edge of the second law. If you go any further, you will break it.”

    Also contrary to materialistic presuppositions, information is a measurable quantity.,,

    Demonic device converts information to energy – 2010
    Excerpt: “This is a beautiful experimental demonstration that information has a thermodynamic content,” says Christopher Jarzynski, a statistical chemist at the University of Maryland in College Park. In 1997, Jarzynski formulated an equation to define the amount of energy that could theoretically be converted from a unit of information2; the work by Sano and his team has now confirmed this equation. “This tells us something new about how the laws of thermodynamics work on the microscopic scale,” says Jarzynski.

    Maxwell’s demon demonstration turns information into energy – November 2010
    Excerpt: Scientists in Japan are the first to have succeeded in converting information into free energy in an experiment that verifies the “Maxwell demon” thought experiment devised in 1867.,,, In Maxwell’s thought experiment the demon creates a temperature difference simply from information about the gas molecule temperatures and without transferring any energy directly to them.,,, Until now, demonstrating the conversion of information to energy has been elusive,,,, they describe how they coaxed a Brownian particle to travel upwards on a “spiral-staircase-like” potential energy created by an electric field solely on the basis of information on its location. As the particle traveled up the staircase it gained energy from moving to an area of higher potential, and the team was able to measure precisely how much energy had been converted from information.

    “Is there a real connection between entropy in physics and the entropy of information? ….The equations of information theory and the second law are the same,,,”
    Siegfried, Dallas Morning News, 5/14/90, [Quotes Robert W. Lucky, Ex. Director of Research, AT&T, Bell Laboratories & John A. Wheeler, of Princeton & Univ. of TX, Austin]

    And when measuring the total information content of a bacterial cell from the thermodynamic perspective, the information content of the cell is found to be far larger than just the information that is encoded on DNA,,

    Biophysics – Information theory. Relation between information and entropy: – Setlow-Pollard, Ed. Addison Wesley
    Excerpt: Linschitz gave the figure 9.3 x 10^12 cal/deg or 9.3 x 10^12 x 4.2 joules/deg for the entropy of a bacterial cell. Using the relation H = S/(k In 2), we find that the information content is 4 x 10^12 bits. Morowitz’ deduction from the work of Bayne-Jones and Rhees gives the lower value of 5.6 x 10^11 bits, which is still in the neighborhood of 10^12 bits. Thus two quite different approaches give rather concordant figures.

    “a one-celled bacterium, e. coli, is estimated to contain the equivalent of 100 million pages of Encyclopedia Britannica. Expressed in information in science jargon, this would be the same as 10^12 bits of information. In comparison, the total writings from classical Greek Civilization is only 10^9 bits, and the largest libraries in the world – The British Museum, Oxford Bodleian Library, New York Public Library, Harvard Widenier Library, and the Moscow Lenin Library – have about 10 million volumes or 10^12 bits.” –
    R. C. Wysong

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    To further solidify this position, in the following paper, Andy C. McIntosh, professor of thermodynamics and combustion theory at the University of Leeds, holds that non-material information is what is constraining the cell to be so far out of thermodynamic equilibrium. Moreover, Dr. McIntosh holds that regarding information as independent of energy and matter ‘resolves the thermodynamic issues and invokes the correct paradigm for understanding the vital area of thermodynamic/organisational interactions’.

    Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems – Andy C. McIntosh – 2013
    Excerpt: ,,information is in fact non-material and that the coded information systems (such as, but not restricted to the coding of DNA in all living systems) is not defined at all by the biochemistry or physics of the molecules used to store the data. Rather than matter and energy defining the information sitting on the polymers of life, this approach posits that the reverse is in fact the case. Information has its definition outside the matter and energy on which it sits, and furthermore constrains it to operate in a highly non-equilibrium thermodynamic environment. This proposal resolves the thermodynamic issues and invokes the correct paradigm for understanding the vital area of thermodynamic/organisational interactions, which despite the efforts from alternative paradigms has not given a satisfactory explanation of the way information in systems operates.,,,

    Here is a recent video by Dr. Giem, that gets the main points of Dr. McIntosh’s paper over very well for the lay person:

    Biological Information – Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems 11-22-2014 by Paul Giem (A. McIntosh) – video

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Moreover, Dr. McIntosh’s contention that information is constraining the cell to be so far out of thermodynamic equilibrium is now empirically verified. Quantum entanglement is now found in life on a massive scale, i.e. in every DNA and protein molecule,

    Quantum entanglement holds together life’s blueprint – 2010
    Excerpt: When the researchers analysed the DNA without its helical structure, they found that the electron clouds were not entangled. But when they incorporated DNA’s helical structure into the model, they saw that the electron clouds of each base pair became entangled with those of its neighbours. “If you didn’t have entanglement, then DNA would have a simple flat structure, and you would never get the twist that seems to be important to the functioning of DNA,” says team member Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford.

    Quantum Information/Entanglement In DNA – short video

    Coherent Intrachain energy migration at room temperature – Elisabetta Collini and Gregory Scholes – University of Toronto – Science, 323, (2009), pp. 369-73
    Excerpt: The authors conducted an experiment to observe quantum coherence dynamics in relation to energy transfer. The experiment, conducted at room temperature, examined chain conformations, such as those found in the proteins of living cells. Neighbouring molecules along the backbone of a protein chain were seen to have coherent energy transfer. Where this happens quantum decoherence (the underlying tendency to loss of coherence due to interaction with the environment) is able to be resisted, and the evolution of the system remains entangled as a single quantum state.

    And even more contrary to materialistic thought, besides quantum entanglement being able, contra Landauer, to erase information from a computer without using energy, quantum entanglement can also be used as a ‘quantum information channel’,,,

    Quantum Entanglement and Information
    Quantum entanglement is a physical resource, like energy, associated with the peculiar nonclassical correlations that are possible between separated quantum systems. Entanglement can be measured, transformed, and purified. A pair of quantum systems in an entangled state can be used as a quantum information channel to perform computational and cryptographic tasks that are impossible for classical systems. The general study of the information-processing capabilities of quantum systems is the subject of quantum information theory.

    And by using this ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, ‘quantum information channel’ of entanglement, such as they use in quantum computation, physicists have reduced material to quantum information. (of note: energy is completely reduced to quantum information, whereas matter is semi-completely reduced, with the caveat being that matter can be reduced to energy via e=mc2).

    Ions have been teleported successfully for the first time by two independent research groups
    Excerpt: In fact, copying isn’t quite the right word for it. In order to reproduce the quantum state of one atom in a second atom, the original has to be destroyed. This is unavoidable – it is enforced by the laws of quantum mechanics, which stipulate that you can’t ‘clone’ a quantum state. In principle, however, the ‘copy’ can be indistinguishable from the original,,,

    Atom takes a quantum leap – 2009
    Excerpt: Ytterbium ions have been ‘teleported’ over a distance of a metre.,,,
    “What you’re moving is information, not the actual atoms,” says Chris Monroe, from the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland in College Park and an author of the paper. But as two particles of the same type differ only in their quantum states, the transfer of quantum information is equivalent to moving the first particle to the location of the second.

    Quantum Teleportation – IBM Research Page
    Excerpt: “it would destroy the original (photon) in the process,,”

    In fact an entire human can, ‘theoretically’, be reduced to quantum information and teleported to another location in the universe:

    Quantum Teleportation Of A Human? – video

    Will Human Teleportation Ever Be Possible?
    As experiments in relocating particles advance, will we be able to say, “Beam me up, Scotty” one day soon? By Corey S. Powell|Monday, June 16, 2014
    Excerpt: Note a fascinating common thread through all these possibilities. Whether you regard yourself as a pile of atoms, a DNA sequence, a series of sensory inputs or an elaborate computer file, in all of these interpretations you are nothing but a stack of data. According to the principle of unitarity, quantum information is never lost. Put them together, and those two statements lead to a staggering corollary: At the most fundamental level, the laws of physics say you are immortal.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Thus not only is information not reducible to a energy-matter basis, as is presupposed in Darwinism, (and as was originally held by Landauer himself), but in actuality both energy and matter ultimately reduce to a information basis as is presupposed in Christian Theism (John1:1).

    Verse and Music:

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

    Casting Crowns – The Word Is Alive – Live

    of supplemental note: here is the evidence that quantum information is in fact ‘conserved’;,,,

    Quantum no-hiding theorem experimentally confirmed for first time
    Excerpt: In the classical world, information can be copied and deleted at will. In the quantum world, however, the conservation of quantum information means that information cannot be created nor destroyed. This concept stems from two fundamental theorems of quantum mechanics: the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem. A third and related theorem, called the no-hiding theorem, addresses information loss in the quantum world. According to the no-hiding theorem, if information is missing from one system (which may happen when the system interacts with the environment), then the information is simply residing somewhere else in the Universe; in other words, the missing information cannot be hidden in the correlations between a system and its environment.

    Quantum no-deleting theorem
    Excerpt: A stronger version of the no-cloning theorem and the no-deleting theorem provide permanence to quantum information. To create a copy one must import the information from some part of the universe and to delete a state one needs to export it to another part of the universe where it will continue to exist.

    Besides providing direct empirical falsification of neo-Darwinian claims as to the generation of information, the implication of finding ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, and ‘conserved’ quantum information in molecular biology on a massive scale is fairly, and pleasantly, obvious:

    Does Quantum Biology Support A Quantum Soul? – Stuart Hameroff – video (notes in description)

  4. 4
    Andre says:

    And John Lennox puts it into perspective, I have always held that intelligent agents are distuinghuised by the fact that the can encode and decode…… This is the universal charactaristic of intelligence.

  5. 5
    keith s says:


    I have always held that intelligent agents are distuinghuised by the fact that the can encode and decode……

    You think codecs are intelligent agents?

  6. 6
    Andre says:

    Keith S

    You don’t have to play dumb……… 🙂

    Codec is a fusion of “coder-decoder” We are coders and decoders…..

  7. 7
    keith s says:

    Come on, Andre. A codec can be a piece of software or a device.

    Since devices can encode and decode, intelligent agents are not distinguished by their ability to encode and decode.

    Your statement is a mistake:

    I have always held that intelligent agents are distuinghuised by the fact that the can encode and decode……

  8. 8
    Andre says:

    Keith S

    You are hardware and software with the ability to encode and decode…..

    You are an encoder and a decoder……

  9. 9
    Andre says:

    Keith S

    Here is the Encode-decode model for speech….

    Follow the evidence, the article will take you to the problems with the encode-decode model and if you are really willing to learn it will teach you about inferences….. a word you guys really struggle with.

  10. 10
    wallstreeter43 says:

    BA77, it was this point made by Stephen Meyer 6 years ago that had such a profound effect on me that I ended up leaving theistic evolution for intelligent design. It is also probably the strongest argument for intelligent design.

    I hold a debt of gratitude to Doctor Meyer till today for opening my eyes up to this point, while most of my relatives are still theistic evolutionists.

  11. 11
    Me_Think says:

    wallstreeter43 @ 10
    You left theistic evolution for intelligent design because a loaded disk and empty disk weighed the same ?!

  12. 12
    R0bb says:

    Andre, keith’s point is that, according to your logic, devices such as camcorders are intelligent agents.

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    Well R0bb, everything camcorders do can be traced back to the intelligent designers that designed them.

  14. 14
    Joe says:


    Since devices can encode and decode, intelligent agents are not distinguished by their ability to encode and decode.

    LoL! Talk about being dim- devices that can encode and decode due so because they were intelligently designed to do so. That means the encoding and decoding can be traced back to intelligent agents. Duh.

  15. 15
    wallstreeter43 says:

    Me_think, Don’t think for one minute that I believe that even u are truly that dumb. Or maybe I left evolution because of the one who loaded that empty disk and kept adding information 😉

  16. 16
    Andre says:

    The idiocy of some knows no bounds. I know they know what I mean and yet………


  17. 17
    EugeneS says:

    Specially for Keith:

    Human mind has the ability to create symbols (Henry Poincare, “On the foundation of science”).

  18. 18
    keith s says:


    Specially for Keith:

    Human mind has the ability to create symbols (Henry Poincare, “On the foundation of science”).

    I agree. Did you think I wouldn’t? If so, why?

  19. 19
    keith s says:


    I know they know what I mean and yet………


    We assumed that you meant what you wrote. What you wrote is clearly wrong, as we explained and as you now understand.

    Would you like to revise it?

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