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# Rob Sheldon: Increasing the heat energy leads to decreasing the information

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Further to Origin of complex cells: Can energy create information? (Lane seems to think that energy can create or substitute for huge amounts of information. This seems wrong but it is apparently acceptable to The Scientist, Rob Sheldon, noting that reader’ thoughts were solicited, writes to say,

In thermodynamics, we have the fundamental thermodynamic relation or defining equation dU = dQ + dW = TdS – PdV, where U=internal energy, Q=heat, W=work, T=temperature,S=entropy, P=pressure, V=volume, and “d” means “the change of”. In a closed system that is “reversible” , (no eddies, turbulence etc) and the volume doesn’t change much (incompressible like water), then we can eliminate the work and get the equation dQ = TdS, which is to say, the change in heat energy of our system is equal to the temperature times the change in entropy of the system. Or we can rewrite this dQ/T = dS.

What does this mean?

Well, since S is the entropy, and using Shannon’s definition, -S = Information, then dQ/T = -d(Info)

So addressing Lane’s book, heat energy is not information. Increasing the heat energy leads to decreasing the information. The same amount of heat energy at higher temperature has more information than the same heat at lower temperature. For life to extract information from a heat source, it must be a heat engine, extracting high temperature energy and excreting low temperature energy. Heat engines do this feat by incorporating carefully constructed linkages and machinery to prevent the work from vanishing in the turbulent, diffusive, entropic working fluid. If the machinery has to be made out of the same material as the working fluid, then it is like saying “a high information dense state can process heat energy to extract information”.

Well, doesn’t this process produce more information than at the beginning? Wouldn’t this allow for an infinitely great amount of information inside the system, the “Borg” of cellular automata?

No, because entropy is a fluid property, and it wants to diffuse away. The more information that gets concentrated, the greater the gradients, and the more work expended keeping those gradients. Therefore for a fixed energy flow, there is a maximum entropy gradient, a maximum entropy density, where all the effort is expended just staying alive. For heat engines like your car, this is given by the maximum temperature the engine can run at before it melts, and Sadi Carnot used the formula (Ti-Tf)/Ti to describe this “Carnot efficiency”. For cells, we’ll call this maximum achievable entropy gradient “the life efficiency”, and I think it is fair to argue that the more efficient a heat engine, the more information it must contain. (Have you looked at the number of sensor wires under the hood of a late model car and compared it to, say, a VW bug engine?)

But one thing it cannot do, cannot allow, is “a low information state can process heat energy to spontaneously become a high information state that processes heat energy”. This is the proverbial “perpetual motion machine” now operating on entropy, it is the “perpetual information machine”. For just as Clausius and Kelvin showed that heat engines that produced too much work (too efficient) could be linked together to produce a perpetual motion machine, so also fluid “life” machines that produce too much information can be linked together to produce perpetual motion. This proves that no such machine is possible or else biology would long ago become a perpetual motion machine that never eats.

So why do these erroneous views keep propagating, having spontaneous information arising from energy gradients?

Because they fudge the bookkeeping. Entropy is notoriously hard to measure, and so for example, they might underestimate the information in the cellular machinery and think that a temperature gradient has more than enough entropy to create the cellular machinery. Or as Granville Sewell argues, they have an open system that allows entropy to arrive and disappear without proper accounting, so that information accumulates inside the cell, which they then misattribute to temperature gradients. But if any of these papers were even within hailing distance of being correct, then perpetual motion would be commonplace by now, and you and I would spend our days wondering what to do with all our free time.

The same amount of heat energy at higher temperature has more information than the same heat at lower temperature.
Huh? The same amount of heat energy at a higher temperature??? Did I miss something there? EDTA
Seversky, I believe that Dr. Sheldon and Gordon Davisson are talking about Shannon information whereas I'm looking for an increase in non-trivial functional biological information.
Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information - Abel, Trevors Excerpt: Three qualitative kinds of sequence complexity exist: random (RSC), ordered (OSC), and functional (FSC).,,, Shannon information theory measures the relative degrees of RSC and OSC. Shannon information theory cannot measure FSC. FSC is invariably associated with all forms of complex biofunction, including biochemical pathways, cycles, positive and negative feedback regulation, and homeostatic metabolism. The algorithmic programming of FSC, not merely its aperiodicity, accounts for biological organization. No empirical evidence exists of either RSC of OSC ever having produced a single instance of sophisticated biological organization. Organization invariably manifests FSC rather than successive random events (RSC) or low-informational self-ordering phenomena (OSC).,,, http://www.tbiomed.com/content/2/1/29 Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins - Kirk K Durston, David KY Chiu, David L Abel and Jack T Trevors - 2007 Excerpt: We have extended Shannon uncertainty by incorporating the data variable with a functionality variable. The resulting measured unit, which we call Functional bit (Fit), is calculated from the sequence data jointly with the defined functionality variable. To demonstrate the relevance to functional bioinformatics, a method to measure functional sequence complexity was developed and applied to 35 protein families.,,, http://www.tbiomed.com/content/4/1/47 Mutations, epigenetics and the question of information Excerpt: By definition, a mutation in a gene results in a new allele. There is no question that mutation (defined as any change in the DNA sequence) can increase variety in a population. However, it is not obvious that this necessarily means there is an increase in genomic information.,, If one attempts to apply Shannon’s theory of information, then this can be viewed as an increase. However, Shannon’s theory was not developed to address biological information. It is entirely unsuitable for this since an increase of information by Shannon’s definition can easily be lethal. http://creation.com/mutations-epigenetics-information The Law of Physicodynamic Incompleteness - David L. Abel - 2011 Excerpt: "If decision-node programming selections are made randomly or by law rather than with purposeful intent, no non-trivial (sophisticated) function will spontaneously arise." If only one exception to this null hypothesis were published, the hypothesis would be falsified. Falsification would require an experiment devoid of behind-the-scenes steering. Any artificial selection hidden in the experimental design would disqualify the experimental falsification. After ten years of continual republication of the null hypothesis with appeals for falsification, no falsification has been provided. The time has come to extend this null hypothesis into a formal scientific prediction: "No non trivial algorithmic/computational utility will ever arise from chance and/or necessity alone." https://www.academia.edu/11759341/Physicodynamic_Incompleteness_-_Scirus_Sci-Topic_Page
bornagain77
So what is the definition of "information" in these cases? It's being bandied about as if it's some sort of widely-accepted unitary concept but it sounds nothing like what I would recognize as information. Seversky
While I don't know enough about the equations of thermodynamics to say one way or the other whether Dr. Sheldon's claim, i.e. 'Increasing the heat energy leads to decreasing the information', is right from the mathematical, i.e. theoretical, perspective, I do know that his claim is right from the empirical perspective. Simply put, just pouring raw energy into a system (as with the sun pouring energy onto the earth or as with boiling water) actually increases the disorder of a prebiotic system. i.e. less biological information.
Nick Lane Takes on the Origin of Life and DNA - Jonathan McLatchie - July 2010 Excerpt: numerous problems abound for the hydrothermal vent hypothesis for the origin of life,,,, For example, as Stanley Miller has pointed out, the polymers are "too unstable to exist in a hot prebiotic environment." Miller has also noted that the RNA bases are destroyed very quickly in water when the water boils. Intense heating also has the tendency to degrade amino acids such as serine and threonine. A more damning problem lies in the fact that the homochirality of the amino acids is destroyed by heating. Of course, accounting for the required building blocks is an interesting problem, but from the vantage of ID proponents, it is only one of many problems facing materialistic accounts of the origin of life. After all, it is the sequential arrangement of the chemical constituents -- whether that happens to be amino acids in proteins, or nucleotides in DNA or RNA -- to form complex specified information (a process which requires the production of specified irregularity), which compellingly points toward the activity of rational deliberation (Intelligence). http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/07/nick_lane_and_the_ten_great_in036101.html Refutation Of Hyperthermophile Origin Of Life scenario Excerpt: While life, if appropriately designed, can survive under extreme physical and chemical conditions, it cannot originate under those conditions. High temperatures are especially catastrophic for evolutionary models. The higher the temperature climbs, the shorter the half-life for all the crucial building block molecules, http://www.reasons.org/LateHeavyBombardmentIntensityandtheOriginofLife The origin of life--did it occur at high temperatures? Excerpt: Prebiotic chemistry points to a low-temperature origin because most biochemicals decompose rather rapidly at temperatures of 100 degrees C (e.g., half-lives are 73 min for ribose, 21 days for cytosine, and 204 days for adenine). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11539558 "Accordingly, Abelson(1966), Hull(1960), Sillen(1965), and many others have criticized the hypothesis that the primitive ocean, unlike the contemporary ocean, was a "thick soup" containing all of the micromolecules required for the next stage of molecular evolution. The concept of a primitive "thick soup" or "primordial broth" is one of the most persistent ideas at the same time that is most strongly contraindicated by thermodynamic reasoning and by lack of experimental support." - Sidney Fox, Klaus Dose on page 37 in Molecular Evolution and the Origin of Life. "Despite bioenergetic and thermodynamic failings the 80-year-old concept of primordial soup remains central to mainstream thinking on the origin of life, But soup has no capacity for producing the energy vital for life." William Martin - an evolutionary biologist - New Research Rejects 80-Year Theory of 'Primordial Soup' as the Origin of Life - Feb. 2010 Chemist explores the membranous origins of the first living cell: Excerpt: Conditions in geothermal springs and similar extreme environments just do not favor membrane formation, which is inhibited or disrupted by acidity, dissolved salts, high temperatures, and calcium, iron, and magnesium ions. Furthermore, mineral surfaces in these clay-lined pools tend to remove phosphates and organic chemicals from the solution. "We have to face up to the biophysical facts of life," Deamer said. "Hot, acidic hydrothermal systems are not conducive to self-assembly processes." http://currents.ucsc.edu/05-06/04-03/deamer.asp
Besides the implausibility of the 'hot' origin of life scenarios, some Darwinists have instead opted for promoting a 'cold' origin of life scenario with ice. Yet the cold origin of life scenario is also found to be implausible for several reasons.
The Peculiar Properties of Ice - August 2012 Excerpt: As we reported here, there are some fundamental problems that still need to be addressed for an ice-packed origin of life to be feasible. A cold origin-of-life scenario may seem to solve some difficulties with molecular stability and nucleotide concentration, but the tradeoffs, including a slower reaction rate, make this scenario untenable. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/08/the_peculiar_pr_1062861.html
Nick Lane himself notes a 'significant conceptual flaw' in some origin of life research regarding 'equilibrium'.
Origin-of-Life Theorists Fail to Explain Chemical Signatures in the Cell - Casey Luskin - February 15, 2012 Excerpt: (Nick) Lane also notes that the study has a significant conceptual flaw. "To suggest that the ionic composition of primordial cells should reflect the composition of the oceans is to suggest that cells are in equilibrium with their medium, which is close to saying that they are not alive," Lane says. "Cells require dynamic disequilibrium -- that is what being alive is all about.",,, Our uniform experience affirms that specified information-whether inscribed hieroglyphics, written in a book, encoded in a radio signal, or produced in a simulation experiment-always arises from an intelligent source, from a mind and not a strictly material process. (Stephen Meyer - Signature in the Cell, p. 347) Per Evolution News and Views
In this regards Nick Lane is right. Biological life is dramatically characterized by its thermodynamic dis-equilbrium with the environment not by its equilibrium. Professor Harold Morowitz has shown that the Origin of Life 'problem' escalates dramatically over the oft quoted 1 in 10^40,000 figure when working from a thermodynamic perspective:
"The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 in 10^340,000,000. This number is 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering since there is only supposed to be approximately 10^80 (10 to the 80th power) electrons in the whole universe!" (Professor Harold Morowitz, Energy Flow In Biology pg. 99, Biophysicist of George Mason University)
Dr. Morowitz did another probability calculation working from the thermodynamic perspective with a already existing cell and came up with this number:
DID LIFE START BY CHANCE? Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias) http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html Punctured cell will never reassemble - Jonathan Wells - 2:40 mark of video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKoiivfe_mo
Also of related interest is the information content that is derived in a ‘simple’ cell when working from a thermodynamic perspective:
"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, suggesting that the idea of entropy is something fundamental..." 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] 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. https://docs.google.com/document/d/18hO1bteXTPOqQtd2H12PI5wFFoTjwg8uBAU5N0nEQIE/edit '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 HISTORY OF EVOLUTIONARY THEORY – WISTAR DESTROYS EVOLUTION Excerpt: A number of mathematicians, familiar with the biological problems, spoke at that 1966 Wistar Institute,, For example, Murray Eden showed that it would be impossible for even a single ordered pair of genes to be produced by DNA mutations in the bacteria, E. coli,—with 5 billion years in which to produce it! His estimate was based on 5 trillion tons of the bacteria covering the planet to a depth of nearly an inch during that 5 billion years. He then explained that,, E. coli contain(s) over a trillion (10^12) bits of data. That is the number 10 followed by 12 zeros. *Eden then showed the mathematical impossibility of protein forming by chance. http://www.pathlights.com/ce_encyclopedia/Encyclopedia/20hist12.htm
Thus, for someone to suggest that there is no problem between thermodynamics and the increase of non-trivial biological information is simply to be out of touch with the empirical realities of the situation.
"To get a range on the enormous challenges involved in bridging the gaping chasm between non-life and life, consider the following: “The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium, is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant.” (Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, NYU) - The Theist holds the Intellectual High-Ground - March 2011
bornagain77
Excellent choice of topic Rob Sheldon. I found this section from A.Dalela's Moral Materialism, in which his semantic/informational theory of matter is applied to the problems in statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, to be relevant to the discussion. Main point: he proposes that energy is information, and it exists on a continuum, from abstract (concepts) to contingent (objects). I highlighted the points I found most salient.