Intelligent Design

Shallit’s Chronic Foot-in-Mouth Disease

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Jeff Shallit | Thomas Nagel | Steve Meyer

I knew Jeffrey Shallit as a reasonable computational number theorist at the University of Chicago in the 1980s. When it comes to ID, however, he simply can’t think straight. Repulsed by Thomas Nagel’s high praise of Stephen Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL (noted here at UD), Shallit calls Nagel a fool and then cites as evidence Nagel’s acceptance of Meyer’s claims about information:

Meyer claims, over and over again, that information can only come from a mind — and that claim is an absolutely essential part of his argument. Nagel, the brilliant philosopher, should see why that is false. Consider making a weather forecast. Meteorologists gather information about the environment to do so: wind speed, direction, temperature, cloud cover, etc. It is only on the basis of this information that they can make predictions. What mind does this information come from? SOURCE

Perhaps Shallit has not read Meyer or is just being willfully obtuse, but Meyer stresses over and over again in his book the difference between specified and unspecified information. Shallit here confuses the two.

55 Replies to “Shallit’s Chronic Foot-in-Mouth Disease

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    Yup, anyone who understands computer software well should know the difference between the measurements that are taken of chaotic events and the precision sequencing required to get a job done right. I think that this is why so many of us software developers are avid IDers.

  2. 2
    steveO says:

    Shallit:

    Meteorologists gather information about the environment to do so: wind speed, direction, temperature, cloud cover, etc. It is only on the basis of this information that they can make predictions. What mind does this information come from

    Perhaps he’s a conspiracy theorist who thinks sinister foreign goverments are using weather control as a weapon 🙂

  3. 3
    Borne says:

    How is it even possible that highly educated and supposedly intelligent people, like Shallit, can also be so incredibly lame-brained at the same time?!

    The guy needs to go back to school and take “Information 101”.
    Such an glaring error of conflation is inexcusable from Shallit.
    However, it isn’t surprising, since most materialists make that mistake everywhere in their thinking. And that is because the metaphysical nature of information surpasses their own metaphysical concepts! :-O
    Go figure.

  4. 4
    Matteo says:

    Yup, anyone who understands computer software well should know the difference between the measurements that are taken of chaotic events and the precision sequencing required to get a job done right. I think that this is why so many of us software developers are avid IDers.

    Darwin proponents again and again display a particular form of obtuseness which betrays a near complete lack of understanding of the nature of human design, let alone design as a general concept. Shallit is a case in point. They have no understanding of design, but by gum, they know when they don’t see it!

    I’d say that the apparent crappiness of the CRU climate modeling source code doesn’t exactly illustrate a genius-level understanding of design, either.

  5. 5
    trekky says:

    Stephen Meyer’s Honesty Problem
    ________________________________

    Like most intelligent design advocates, Stephen Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture, has a little problem telling the truth.

    I first encountered his dissembling at an intelligent design conference held at Calvin College in May 2001. Meyer had written in 2000 that “Systems that are characterized by both specificity and complexity (what information theorists call “specified complexity”) have “information content”.”

    The only problem is, information theorists don’t use the term “specified complexity” and they don’t refer to “specificity” when discussing information. At the time, there was precisely one mathematician who was pushing the term “specified complexity”, and that was William Dembski, who tried (but failed) to create a new, mathematically-rigorous definition at information which (were it coherent) would be at odds with how information is defined by other mathematicians and computer scientists.

    I went up to Meyer at the conference and asked him, “You wrote that ‘information theorists’ (plural) talk about specified complexity. Who are they?” He then admitted that he knew no one but Dembski (and Dembski himself is not much of an information theorist, having published exactly 0 papers so far on the topic in the peer-reviewed scientific literature).

    So the use of the plural, when Meyer knew perfectly well that information theorists do not use the term “specified complexity”, was just a lie – and a lie intended to deceive the reader that his claims are supported by the scientific community, when they are not.

    (Another anecdote: while I was waiting in line to ask Meyer this question, I was behind a woman who couldn’t wait to meet Meyer. She gushed as she shook his hand, saying she was so honored to meet the man who was responsible for recruiting so many people for Christ through his work. He smiled and thanked her. And they claim ID is not religious!)

    Meyer was also caught dissembling about the “No Child Left Behind” education bill, falsely claiming that it obligated Ohio to teach about alternative theories.

    Now Meyer is back with a new book, and an op-ed in the Boston Globe to help flog his book. In the op-ed, Meyer claims, “Information – whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal – always arises from an intelligent source.” But this is the same old bogus ID claim that is repeated endlessly and endlessly, and it’s not true. At least it’s not true if you understand “information” in the sense that it is understood by mathematicians and computer scientists. For example, in the Kolmogorov theory, any random source produces information.

    But then again, Meyer, with his little honesty problem, doesn’t seem too concerned with the truth. What’s important is, as that woman ahead of me in line told him, saving souls for Jesus.

    Martin Luther once said, “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church…a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.” It seems that Stephen Meyer would agree.

    http://recursed.blogspot.com/2.....oblem.html

  6. 6
    trekky says:

    Oh btw my previous post isn’t my opinion

  7. 7
    Gage says:

    Trekky: Those are the closest things to lies you can come up with? You make a pretty weak case if you ask me. And I don’t believe many ID people or Christians would agree with your Martin Luther quote. If you are looking for “ends justify the means” thinking, its the other side where you’ll find much more of that (try Climategate for starters!)

    Instead, what your rant demonstrates is a philosophical incompatibility between your worldview and ID.

    Bottom line: Steve Meyer is far more gracious and respectful of his opponents and their arguments than perhaps anyone on the other side is (Michael Ruse being one of the better ones).

  8. 8
    Mung says:

    Repulsed by Thomas Nagel’s high praise of Stephen Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL (noted here at UD), Shallit calls Nagel a fool and then cites as evidence Nagel’s acceptance of Meyer’s claims about information

    I love stuff like this. And Nagel if he chooses to responds will make Shallit look like a fool.

  9. 9
    trekky says:

    Gage

    That wasn’t my rant, I just posted it because I wanted to show what Shallit was saying about Stephen C Meyer. Personally I love Steve Meyer’s work, I’ve just begun reading his book.

    I wanted to know whether ID proponents have a good rebuttal to evolutionists’ arguments when they say that specified complexity is only recognised by Dembski and Meyer. I’ve seen them ridicule ID’s definition of information and instead talk about concepts such as Kolmogorov complexity etc. If anyone can refute their argument here, I would love to read it.

    Thanks

  10. 10
    Mung says:

    trekky, they have no rigorous concept of their own which they can show to be relevant to biology, so they ridicule Dembski instead, who at least makes an attempt at rigour, even though his work is independent of biology.

    You have to unparse what they say. You can’t rebut/refute something that isn’t there. Until they come up with a theory of their own, the theory of Dembski and Meyer is the only thing going, which makes it the best thing going.

  11. 11
    Borne says:

    trekky: Sheesh! You just demonstrated the meaning of the word “obtuse”. You are both confused and ignorant of the subject you attempt to address.

    So let me try and help you out here by laying some ground work explanations:

    Semantic (meaningful) information has two subsets: Descriptive and Prescriptive. Prescriptive Information (PI) instructs or directly produces nontrivial formal function (Abel, 2009a). Merely describing a computer chip does not prescribe or produce that chip. Thus mere description needs to be dichotomized from prescription. Computationally halting cybernetic programs and linguistic instructions are examples of Prescriptive Information. “Prescriptive Information (PI) either tells us what choices to make, or it is a recordation of wise choices already made.” (Abel, 2009a)

    Not even Descriptive semantic information is achievable by inanimate physicodynamics (Pattee, 1972, 1995, 2001). Measuring initial conditions in any experiment and plugging those measurements appropriately into equations (e.g., physical “laws”) is formal, not physical. Cybernetic programming choices and mathematical manipulations are also formal.

    Shannon measured only probabilistic combinatorial uncertainty. Uncertainty is not information.

    PI prescribes and controls physical interactions so as to create and engineer sophisticated formal function. The latter is the subject of both cybernetics and systems theory.

    No random number generator has ever been observed to generate a meaningful message or a non trivial computational program. No physical law can determine each selection either. If selections were dictated by law, all selections would be the same. This would make recording PI impossible. Uncertainty (measurable in bits) is necessary at bone fide decision nodes. But bits of uncertainty cannot measure purposeful choices, the essence of PI. The regularities described by physical laws oppose uncertainty and information potential. Law-like behaviors manifest a probability approaching 1.0, while maximum binary uncertainty approaches a probability of 0.5 in the opposite direction. Maximum quaternary uncertainty (with four independent and equiprobable possibilities) approaches a probability of 0.25. Neither physicodynamic law (necessity) nor random coursing through mere “bifurcation points” can explain the formal semiosis and pragmatic controls of PI.

    Formal rules, not laws, govern the combinations and collective meaning of multiple tokens in a Material Symbol system (MSS) (Rocha, 1997 6069).
    ————
    Sign systems do not arise spontaneously from highly-ordered, low-informational, law-like behavior. In addition, sign systems do not arise from the heat agitation of molecules. Sign systems in human experience arise only from choice contingency at successive decision nodes, not chance contingency or necessity (Trevors and Abel, 2004).

    Get it? It isn’t hard.
    You seriously need to learn how the word “information” is used in reference to biological information systems – look up “semantic biology” or “biosemiotics”.

    Hint: DNA is an information processing system. It has not only “bits and bytes” as it were, but programs – programs never write themselves!
    It has syntax, semantics, pragmatics and every other attribute of natural language.
    Thus no language can arise by random processes. Do you see it?

    “Information – whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal – always arises from an intelligent source.” But this is the same old bogus ID claim that is repeated endlessly and endlessly, and it’s not true. At least it’s not true if you understand “information” in the sense that it is understood by mathematicians and computer scientists.

    As a computer scientist, I can say that this is utterly false! So where’s your own honesty?
    The kind of information that arises from random processes is not semantic and it is not prescriptive. It is merely statistical.

    Artificial life investigators and most applied biologists accepted this reality early on. Steering is required to achieve sophisticated function of any kind. Much of the life-origin research community, however, continues to “live in denial” of this fact.

    And this last part applies to you and your mentors in Darwinism very well.

    There is no such thing as semantic information without a mind at its origin. That is true by very definition of “semantic information”!
    Shannon info is one thing Descriptive Information is another and Prescriptive information something else altogether as shown above.

    If you can’t see the difference then at least stop blaming ID’s for your own intellectual incapacities.

    DNA also contains another kind of info. – meta information. Do you have a clue what that implies?
    Hint: meta-information is information about other information. Like a recipe for making a cake. The ingredients are not themselves the information, the algorithm for using them is. Can you not see that such information can only exist or come from a mind with purpose?

    Like most Darweens you, have a one track, mind with no understanding of either “honesty” – your useless and false ad hom against Meyer – or information as applied to bio.

    As for your “And they claim ID is not religious!”, can you say irrelevant?! What does Meyers views or even motives have to do with anything?! Do your own questionable motives have anything to do with whether what you say is true or not?

    Dawkins is an adamant atheist, so? Does that mean nothing he says ever makes sense? Does that change whatever is true of his biology?

    Do actually think before writing? Does not appear so.
    Maybe you should check the context and then, without checking your brain at the door, look again at your inane ID/religious statement.
    Do you even understand why your statement is both irrelevant and false?

  12. 12
    trekky says:

    Hey Borne,

    thanks for your response. Please read my follow up comment after my first one. I am not a darwinist. I’m someone who is trying to learn about ID, I’ve just received and begun to read Meyer’s book, “signature in the cell”. I really love his writings, ideas and his general charismatic and ideal behaviour as a respected scientist. I watched that debate he had with Ward, Ward came off like a typical darwinian fool who hardly had any relevant scientific arguments. Anyways thanks ever so much for more explanation on information theory, I now have more direction in my studies. Casey Luskin has also been very helpful by emailing me some papers/articles also. Anyways, thanks again.

  13. 13
    Gage says:

    Trekky: Sorry for the “friendly fire” I sent your way. I misunderstood when you said the above opinions were not your own. Any friend of Casey is a friend of mine!

  14. 14
    Mark Frank says:

    #11 Borne

    Is the piece you quote from Meyer’s book? It contains a number of references to what are presumably items in a bibliography or notes – but as you do not include the bibliography or notes it is hard to follow them up.

  15. 15
    Wellington says:

    Thomas Nagel also wrote a very interesting article in Philosophy & Public Affairs entitled, Public Education and Intelligent Design.

    Here’s the link:

    http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/.....pa_132.pdf

    (I apologize if this was already covered in an earlier post.)

  16. 16
    Mark Frank says:

    #12 trekky

    In the course of your studies here are two things to think about:

    1) Being prescriptive is not a property of an object or the information it embodies – but is a function of the use of that information or the effects it has. Indeed an item of information can be both descriptive and prescriptive and sometimes both at the same time. For example, if you discover an ancient recipe in an old book – for some people this is a description of how food was made, for others it is a prescription for making that item of food.

    2) There is an important ambiguity in the use of the word “prescribe”. A vast range of natural phenomena determine how other natural phenomena turn out. The precise position of a pattern of rocks in a stream may determine the flow of water downstream and consequently the pattern of erosion on the shores. You could say that the pattern of rocks is information which prescribes the pattern of erosion.

    On the other hand we normally use “prescribe” not just to mean “determines” but to imply there are one or more people who deliberately arranged the information with the end goal in mind. E.g. if someone cleverly positioned the rocks to get exactly the pattern of erosion they wanted.

    The question is what kind of prescriptive information is found in DNA. Is it a vastly more complicated version of the rocks in the stream or is it planned with an objective in mind. To label the DNA as prescriptive information does not do anything to settle this question and may cause confusion between the two senses.

    I would like to write a small essay on “semantic” as well. But this will do for the moment.

  17. 17
    jitsak says:

    Mung,

    trekky, they have no rigorous concept of their own which they can show to be relevant to biology, so they ridicule Dembski instead, who at least makes an attempt at rigour, even though his work is independent of biology.

    That is bad news for the thousands of scientists working in the field of bioinformatics.

  18. 18
    jitsak says:

    Sorry, the last two lines are mine.

  19. 19
    jitsak says:

    Borne,

    As a computer scientist, I can say that this is utterly false! So where’s your own honesty?

    You are a computer scientist? What’s a computer scientist? In what journals can we find your major publications? Thanks for your honesty!

  20. 20
    Mung says:

    That is bad news for the thousands of scientists working in the field of bioinformatics.

    You seem just as uninformed about bioinformatics as Zachriel. Guess I’ll have to find that and re-post it.

  21. 21
    jitsak says:

    Mung,

    You seem just as uninformed about bioinformatics as Zachriel. Guess I’ll have to find that and re-post it.

    Please do. While you’re at it, could you also provide a rigorous definition of active information? Thanks for your help.

  22. 22
    Joseph says:

    I have been over on Shallit’s blog- man that dude is totally clueless!

    I ask him how many bits of information are required for “wind” and he responds with weathermen use thousands of bits of information to make their forecat!

    This guy is sooo stupid it makes me wonder how he made it this far in life…

  23. 23
    Joseph says:

    jitsak,

    If the theory of evolution is any type of example then no one needs rigorous definitions as that “theory” sure as heck doesn’t have any.

  24. 24
    hummus man says:

    Joseph:

    I ask him how many bits of information are required for “wind” and he responds with weathermen use thousands of bits of information to make their forecat!

    Wow, that is pretty silly. Good thing you didn’t ask him the number of bits of information in a cake. He probably would have just counted up the alphanumeric characters in the recipe and given you that number.

  25. 25
    Joseph says:

    hummus man:

    Good thing you didn’t ask him the number of bits of information in a cake. He probably would have just counted up the alphanumeric characters in the recipe and given you that number.

    Why would he do that?

    He would first have to break down those characters into bits.

    And then, as I have said before (several times) that would only give you the minimum amount of information required.

    measuring information/ specified complexity

    So easy only an evolutionitwit couldn’t do it…

  26. 26
    Joseph says:

    hummus man,

    I take you that you don’t understand the concept of information.

    No surprise there…

  27. 27
    jitsak says:

    Joseph,

    And then, as I have said before (several times) that would only give you the minimum amount of information required.

    Whoa, are you seriously claiming that the minimum amount of information in a cake is the sum total of the bits in the characters of the recipe?

    But I can make the number of characters in a recipe arbitrarily large by breaking down steps into ever smaller steps. For example,by replacing “add a spoonful of sugar” with

    “add a grain of sugar
    add another one
    and another one
    and do it again
    another one please
    please one more
    throw in another sugar grain baby
    .
    .
    .
    and another grain if you please”

    and so on.

    Therefore, a cake contains infinite bits of information.

    So much for conservation of information I guess.

  28. 28
    hummus man says:

    Joseph:

    He would first have to break down those characters into bits.

    And then, as I have said before (several times) that would only give you the minimum amount of information required.

    Well, you know how those Darwinists like to think up trick questions. He would have probably just asked if a cake made in an English speaking country (where it takes multiple alpha characters to make up a word) would have more information than a cake made in Japan (where a single character represents the same word). Maybe we could ask Nakashima-san.

  29. 29
    Joseph says:

    hummus man,

    Thank you for helping me make my point.

    Ya see the language thingy is explained on my blog.

    The information is just a capturing of the actions required to bring about the cake.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    hummus man says:

    So, I see. You were clever to avoid discussion of the bits of information in the manufactured ingredients, like flour. Turtles all the way down.

  32. 32
    Joseph says:

    You don’t see.

    By the time one gets to that level of detail it should already be obvious that agency involvement was required.

    However if one really wanted to one could go into as much detail as one wants in order to get a more comprehensive estimate as to how much information is required to make any specific cake.

  33. 33
    R0b says:

    Dr. Dembski,

    Meyer’s claim that information always originates from intelligence certainly applies to specified information. But it’s not clear to me that he applies this claim only to specified information.

    For instance, in his op-ed in the Boston Globe, he says:

    Information – whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book, or encoded in a radio signal – always arises from an intelligent source.

    There is nothing in the op-ed about specified information. I hope we all can agree with Shallit that weather information does not arise from an intelligent source, even when that information is conveyed in hieroglyphics, a book, or a radio signal.

    I also note that in the first chapter of his recent book, he points out that there are several different conceptual approaches to information. He introduces Shannon’s and Gilder’s approaches as examples, and says:

    So should we think of information as thought — as a kind of mental chimera etched in stone or burned onto compact discs? Or can we define information less abstractly as, perhaps, just an improbable arrangement of matter?

    Whatever information is — whether thought or an elaborate arrangement of matter — one thing seems clear. What humans recognize as information certainly originates from conscious or intelligent activity.

    This seems to indicate that his claim applies even to Shannon’s definition of information. If that isn’t Meyer’s intent — and I don’t think that it is — then his words are misleading.

    Meyer’s account of information is confusing at best. He talks of “specific” information in his book, but I don’t recall him telling us what he means by that. Your (Dr. Dembski’s) concept of specificity isn’t explained until almost the end of the book, in a chapter entitled “Another Road to Rome.”

    Furthermore, it seems that in Meyer’s mind, the terms “complexity” and “information” indicate both irregularity and improbability. That is, they indicate an intersection of algorithmic and classical information. Contrast this to CSI, which indicates an intersection of low probability (under natural hypotheses) and a lack of algorithmic information.

    In summary, Meyer’s usage of the term information is unclear and inconsistent. Perhaps Meyer is guilty of poor articulation rather than mistaken ideas. If so, he might consider explaining to Shallit and other critics exactly what it is that he’s claiming.

  34. 34
    R0b says:

    Borne @ 3:

    The guy needs to go back to school and take “Information 101?.
    Such an glaring error of conflation is inexcusable from Shallit.

    If you know of any information theory curriculum that teaches the distinction between “specified” and “unspecified” information, I’d love to hear about it.

    What makes you think that Meyer’s claim applies only to “specified” information? What does “specified” information even mean to Meyer?

  35. 35
    Joseph says:

    R0b:

    What does “specified” information even mean to Meyer?

    He- Meyer- says it refers to biological function.

    And Shallit is clueless.

  36. 36
    Joseph says:

    R0b:

    I hope we all can agree with Shallit that weather information does not arise from an intelligent source, even when that information is conveyed in hieroglyphics, a book, or a radio signal.

    The weather information arises from hard work- mainly observations and computer modeling.

  37. 37
    Upright BiPed says:

    “I hope we all can agree with Shallit that weather information does not arise from an intelligent source”

    Then exactly where does weather information come from?

    Does it come from the atoms of hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen?

    Is information actually contained within a thing of interest, or is it about a thing of interest?

    And if it is about a thing of interest, then what must take place for that information to be realized?

  38. 38
    Joseph says:

    jitsak:

    Whoa, are you seriously claiming that the minimum amount of information in a cake is the sum total of the bits in the characters of the recipe?

    Yes I am.

    As I said the recipe captures the actions required to make the cake.

    But I can make the number of characters in a recipe arbitrarily large by breaking down steps into ever smaller steps.

    Sure you can.

    However that goes against what I said.

    Perhaps you should read what I posted- just click on the links in comments 25 & 30.

    As a said “so easy an evolutionitwit couldn’t do it”.

    So thanks for proving my point.

  39. 39
    Joseph says:

    From The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories By Dr Meyer:

    Thus, we can pose a question, not only about the origin of genetic information, but also about the origin of the information necessary to generate form and structure at levels higher than that present in individual proteins. We must also ask about the origin of the “specified complexity,” as opposed to mere complexity, that characterizes the new genes, proteins, cell types and body plans that arose in the Cambrian explosion. Dembski (2002) has used the term “complex specified information” (CSI) as a synonym for “specified complexity” to help distinguish functional biological information from mere Shannon information–that is, specified complexity from mere complexity. This review will use this term as well.

  40. 40
    Voice Coil says:

    Joseph:

    He would first have to break down those characters into bits.

    And then, as I have said before (several times) that would only give you the minimum amount of information required.

    This may have been discussed in the amusing thread to which you have linked, but I haven’t time to read the whole thing right now.

    A fatal problem with your definition is that to attain the “minimum amount of information required” typically entails assuming knowledge in the user of the recipe. You may express an instruction minimally as “whip two eggs” and boil down the bit content of that statement. However, that assumes that the reader knows what eggs are and how to whip them. Knowledge of chicken eggs, how to attain them, and how to whip them must reside somewhere or no cake will be made; hence that information too is properly part of the minimal information required to make a cake. Squeezing your instructions down to a minimum does nothing more than assume that the reader is a repository of some required information. The information content of your recipe will therefore vary with these assumptions and the resulting detail and resolution of each step.

  41. 41
    Joseph says:

    Voice Coil,

    Yes it was an amusing thread seeing that the evolutionitwits who posted there didn’t have a clue.

    A fatal problem with your definition is that to attain the “minimum amount of information required” typically entails assuming knowledge in the user of the recipe.

    It is a capturing of the actions- that is all I am trying to do.

    I explained that.

    It appears that you have reading comprension issues.

  42. 42
    Joseph says:

    So let me explain-

    The causal tie between an artifact and its intended character — or, strictly speaking, between an artifact and its author’s productive intention — is constituted by an author’s actions, that is, by his work on the object.- Artifact

    It is obvious by reading my post on Measuring Information/ specified complexity, that I am talking about reproducing the ACTIONS of the designer(s) in order to get a representation of the information the designer(s) imparted onto/ into their design.

    One way of figuring out how much information it contains is to figure out how (the simplest way) to make it.

    Data collection and compression. (six sigma DMAIC- define, measure, analyze, improve, control)

    A recipe is nothing more than a capturing of actions. The baker is the artist, the cake is the art.

  43. 43
    Voice Coil says:

    Joseph:

    It is a capturing of the actions- that is all I am trying to do.

    That does nothing to solve the problem. Your instruction may read “Whip two eggs,” but correct execution of the action specified (“whip”) still depends upon background knowledge of the user of the recipe – e.g. how one whips an egg, with what tool, for how long, to what end, etc. Again you’ve depended upon off-loaded knowledge of actions such as “whip,” which can be assumed/described with varying degrees of resolution.

  44. 44
    Joseph says:

    It is a capturing of the actions- that is all I am trying to do.

    VC:

    That does nothing to solve the problem.

    What problem?

    I fully understand that it is information all the way down.

    I also understand that someone can try to make things more difficult then they are or have to be.

    That problem I do not care to solve. And as far as I can tell that may be the only problem here.

  45. 45
    Voice Coil says:

    Joseph:

    What problem?

    The fact that you’ll never be able to arrive at an objective value describing the CSI of your cake because the content of the description of the actions required to make that cake varies depending upon an arbitrary decision (dictated by pragmatic concerns) regarding how much of this required background information you include (do you include instructions for growing sugar cane?)

  46. 46
    Joseph says:

    VC:

    The fact that you’ll never be able to arrive at an objective value describing the CSI…

    That is OK.

    Getting an exact number isn’t important when dealing with objects.

    All that needs to done is to show what is required to get it accomplished- for example to make the cake.

  47. 47
    Eugene S says:

    To be more precise, one first needs to introduce a language with which we can describe an object. Then all essential (desired) properties of the object one wants to measure information about, are cast into strings in that language. Information theory showns it is always possible. Then you measure the length of the shortest string amongst all possible strings that describe the object to the required level of accuracy. BTW, ‘the shortest’ already assumes possible legitimate compression (i.e. compression without loss of information). The length of the shortest string gives us Kolmogorov complexity of information associated with the object.

    In practice, e.g. JPG format achieves a high compression rate without any noticeable image quality loss, so we can accurately enough say that the size of a JPG image file is a good measure of information complexity of the look of the portrayed object(s) with respect to the relevant alphabet (binary understandable by the relevant applications).

  48. 48
    Eugene S says:

    “Squeezing your instructions down to a minimum does nothing more than assume that the reader is a repository of some required information.”

    Yes, indeed. That is a prerequisite of semiotic information processing. The receiver necessarily has some initial tuning, i.e. knowledge of the alphabet, the syntax, some initial vocabulary and the semantics. The receiver already anticipates some information input. E.g. if I say “tree”, this will mean a plant in English but the number 3 in Russian, for example. So context is crucial. And until such times as you resolve possible ambiguities, no semantic information is actually passed.

  49. 49
    gpuccio says:

    Mark:

    Your points are correct. But Abel’s point is that prescriptive information is completely different in form and properties from simple matter configurations that determine results.

    Distinguishing the two main subsets of semiotic information as descriptive and prescriptive is very useful, but I agree with you that in some cases the distinction is not so clear cut. But for DNA, I have no doubts that it is essentially prescriptive information.

    Moreover, DNA protein coding genes have all the characteristics of true semitoic prescriptive information: they are symbolic (based on a mapping based on a symbolic code), they are very complex (high dFSCI), they are pseudorandom in form and highly functional in meaning, and they are essentially the result of the functional setting of individual configurable switches (the individual nucleotides in the sequence), whose configuration cannot be detemined by any biochemical laws, but only by functional expectations.

    I know what you will say: you will say that the neo darwinian algorithm can explain all those things. As you know, I strongly believe that that is false. We have discussed that many times in detail.

    But here I would only want to emphasize that DNA information is, in form and substance, prescriptive information of the best kind. The weak attempts to explain it in a different way can be dealt separately.

  50. 50
    lastyearon says:

    All that needs to be done is to prove that Jesus is the son of God. Information and specified complexity and complex specified information and semiotic and DNA prove that Jesus is the son of God, so you can take all your dumb criticisms, and your stupid requests for clarity and mathematical rigor and just shut-up! Just shut-up, because Jesus is the son of God!

  51. 51
    Upright BiPed says:

    LYO, you seem to have come unhinged by the observable physical evidence of a semiotic state in protein synthesis.

    If you have a “request for clarity”, the I am all ears.

  52. 52
    lastyearon says:

    No thanks. I already understand your arguments and concluded that they are wrong.

  53. 53
    Upright BiPed says:

    …and I bet if you are pressed on the issue, you would be able to articulate how they are wrong…is that right?

  54. 54
    Upright BiPed says:

    or….is this the point (articulating how the physical observations are wrong) where you’ll regress into silence?

  55. 55
    Upright BiPed says:

    I suppose that answers that question…

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