Semiotic theory of ID

Upright BiPed has been proposing what he has called a “semiotic” theory of Intelligent Design, for a while, which I have found confusing, to say the least.  However, he is honing his case, and asks Nick Matzke

…these three pertinent questions regarding the existence of information within a material universe:

  1. In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible to record transferable information without utilizing an arrangement of matter in order to represent that information? (by what other means could it be done?)
  2. If 1 is true, then is it even conceivably possible to transfer that information without a second arrangement of matter (a protocol) to establish the relationship between representation and what it represents? (how could such a relationship be established in any other way?)
  3. If 1 and 2 are true, then is it even conceivably possible to functionally transfer information without the irreducibly complex system of these two arrangements of matter (representations and protocols) in operation?

… which I think clarify things a little.

I think I can answer them, but would anyone else like to have a go? (I’m out all day today).

1,027 thoughts on “Semiotic theory of ID

  1. Joe G:
    The problem is that “evolutionary” explanations do not appear to be testable.

    Ya see the problem with your “inference” is that it is based on your world-view and they cannot be tested. Change your world-view and the inference changes.

    What if a person changes their worldview to believe that Fred the giant frog god designed and created the universe and everything in it? Would that be testable?

    Exactly how would believing in or inferring a designer/creator god change the way science is done?

  2. What if a person changes their worldview to believe that Fred the giant frog god designed and created the universe and everything in it?

    That would influence that person’s inference

    Would that be testable?

    How is that relevant to whether or not a person’s world-view influences their inferences?

    Exactly how would believing in or inferring a designer/creator god change the way science is done?

    Why would it? However ignoring reality, which is what you do, changes the way science is done.

  3. Max Planck agrees with me:

    “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this minute solar system of the atom together . . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.”

  4. Toronto:
    Upright BiPed,

    But it’s not arbitrary.

    If you put a pin “there”, you will get “that” note at “that” time.

    What you claim as “information” in the music box, is “hard-coded” as there is no level of indirection involved.

    There is no “protocol”, as it is in effect hard-wired.

    Living cells work because of chemistry, not “code”.

    The cell and the music box only contain “information” after the fact, as we humans try to come up with a description of them.

    Yea, and it’s the same mistake to call the card (Jacquard head) loom “arbitrary”. The cards are not in the least symbolic or arbitrary – they literally lift or depress physical threads in the warp of the fabric being woven. No alternate arrangement of cards could produce the same tapestry – it’s literally hard wired, err hard threaded.

    Now, it’s true that the hard-wired Jacquard loom cards did, historically, stimulate ideas about using punch cards for computing. And I don’t know enough about punch-card computer programming to speculate if they would be a valid example of UB’s premise that “arrangement requires a mechanism capable of creating it – it being an arbitrarily instantiated representation of something the representation has no physical relationship with.”

  5. We (humans) have synthesized a part of a ribosome:

    Taking a stride toward synthetic life and now the ribosome only cranks out one protein.

    Try taking out a programmed EPROM from a functioning circuit board and replace it with a blank EPROM (same part number) and see what happens.

    Much of today’s technology will not function without non-material information.

    Living organisms will not function without non-material information- most likely because we wouldn’t even exist.

  6. What we are looking at today is what worked in the past.

    So no evolution, then? LoL!

    No, what we are looking at today is descended from what worked in the past. Descended with modification.

    If DNA is a representation of information that was created by a designer perhaps Upright would care to translate a few thousand sentences into English?

    No, DNA gets transcribed. The mRNA gets translated. And only ribosomes can translate the mRNA.

  7. Upright BiPed, I’m aware that you have posted several long responses to my post, which I appreciate, and will endeavour to respond to (though up to my ears in alligators right now).

    But I do not see where you have addressed this question that I asked earlier:

    If you want to map that use of the word symbol/representation onto cell reproduction, can you explain who/what is the sender of the information, who the receiver, which bits are the symbols, and what is the analogy of the community of language speakers in which those symbols can be interpreted?

    You may have told me in another conversation, but I do not recall it, so I’d be grateful for a recap.

    Thanks.

  8. Joe G

    The problem is that “evolutionary” explanations do not appear to be testable.

    Ya see the problem with your “inference” is that it is based on your world-view and they cannot be tested. Change your world-view and the inference changes.

    Worldview? Learnt a new word for your repetitive schtick from WJM, I see. My inference is based upon my knowledge of biochemistry, evolution and informatics. I know what needs to be explained, and I am not so lazy as to shrug and say “designer!” at every event horizon.

    There is a real question, independent of worldview: either there was, or there was not, a series of organisms prior to LUCA. They either did, or did not, use the 20-acid code in ribosomal protein construction right from the very OOL. You have given no reason to discard the hypothesis that a simpler system and code predated the ‘modern’ one. It is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis, with considerable support from the relationships of the amino acids, their biosynthetic pathways, codon patterns, and tRNAs and their aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, both sequentially and structurally. And a worldview prejudice that ID-er and materialist share: that complex interacting systems are highly unlikely to arise spontaneously. I have sketched one means by which a 20-acid code, with fault tolerance, could arise by evolutionary sequence from a simpler precursor (which is how all complexity must arise in a ‘natural’ scenario). It may be incorrect, but it cautions against basing one’s worldview upon scenarios that insist that the full 20-acid code be present on Day 1. It ain’t necessarily so, and much strawman-bashing is wasted in strenuously disbelieving the possibility that this scenario (which no-one promotes) actually occurred.

    If designed, it is not clear why the Designer would design a fault-tolerant code in preference to a perfect ribosome that did not need a fault-tolerant code.

  9. Joe G:
    Great- perhaps some day someone will do that.

    If I construct a computer it isn’t going to work until I add software.

    Sure. But if let’s say that software is in the form of punchcards, which you replicate along with the rest of the machine, then once you have the bits, it will work. Same with the bits of a cell.

    I’m not saying we can do it, but I am saying that if we could (and it’s probably not beyond the with of chemists to build a basic cell, eventually), then it will work.

    Or do you think it would just lie there, like Frankenstein, waiting to be jolted into action?

    When Venter synthesized DNA he needed everything else the cell contains to make it work.

    So no, Liz, I doubt a living organism is so reducible.

    Clearly there is far more to a cell than the DNA molecule. But the remainder is “just” more molecules. Or do you think something other than molecules makes up a cell?

  10. Upright BiPed: So after months of arguing from the standpoint that the genome contained information (which you could simulate the rise of) you will now need to equivocate on the use of the term “information”, or, concede that the information transferred from the genome requires physical representations and physical protocols. And if it uses representations and protocols, then it is semiotic. You are certainly free to wring your hands over the terms “representation” and “protocol”, but as I have said a number of times – you may call them anything you wish, it is their dynamic physical roles that are at issue. And while you admonish me for pointing out what I see as disingenuous in many of the objections coming from your side of the fence, I’ll remind you that descriptors such as “transcription” and “translation” (which are 100% communication/language terms) are used as standard definitive terms in every biology textbook on the planet without even a peep of concern, or the slightest bit of ambiguity.

    Yes, I do dispute that there is anything “semiotic” about the genetic code.

    Or rather, if you want to persuade me that there is, then you will have to address the question I ask above!

  11. Joe G: Much of today’s technology will not function without non-material information

    How’s this information stored?

  12. Joe G: Try taking out a programmed EPROM from a functioning circuit board and replace it with a blank EPROM (same part number) and see what happens.

    Joe, you seem to be saying that the act of programming an EPROM imparts it with “non-material information”. But if you need a program (which physically exists) and you need to program (a physical act) the EPROM then where does your “non-material information” come in? It does not seem to be needed.

    And so, Newtons first rule and all that…

    The configuration of a programmed EPROM directly corresponds to the program it was programmed with, where is your “non-material information” required?

    Much of today’s technology will not function without non-material information.

    Why don’t you give a few examples then? Should be easy, if what you say is true.

  13. Joe G: The problem is that “evolutionary” explanations do not appear to be testable.

    Red rabbit, blue rabbit.

  14. Joe G: However ignoring reality, which is what you do, changes the way science is done.

    What specific thing would you change? Name one…

  15. sez upright biped:

    I have maintained throughout my conversations with you that the “state of an object is no more than the state of an object. If it is to become information, it requires something to bring it into being”. When your geologist observes the varves, he is doing just that. There is no information in the rock itself.

    So varves don’t contain ‘information’. A varve is nothing more than a collection of brute matter which has a ‘state’. There is no ‘information’ in/around/about the varve until a sentient mind (that of a human geologist, in UPB’s example) observes the varve; before that act of observation occurs, the varve contains no ‘information’, merely ‘state’.
    Fine.
    In that case, there’s no ‘information’ in the molecules of a living cell. Those molecules are nothing more than a collection of brute matter which has a ‘state’. It may well be possible for ‘information’ in/around/about the molecules of the living cell to be created when a sentient mind (a biologist of some stripe, perhaps?) observes those molecules; before that act of observation occurs, those molecules contain no ‘information’, merely ‘state’.
    Since the overwhelming majority of physical processes (reproduction, etc) that occur in living cells are not, in fact, observed by sentient minds, it follows that the overwhelming majority of physical processes that occur in living cells cannot involve any ‘information’ whatsoever.

  16. Joe G:
    Max Planck agrees with me:

    Yet another useless, irrelevant appeal to authority.

    I didn’t ask you or Max Planck. Are you worried that uprighbiped will disagree with you?

    And I don’t see anything about non-material information in your quote of Planck. Try to stay on topic.

  17. Joe G: That would influence that person’s inference

    How is that relevant to whether or not a person’s world-view influences their inferences?

    Why would it? However ignoring reality, which is what you do, changes the way science is done.

    Way to avoid the questions, joe. Try again.

    Here they are:

    What if a person changes their worldview to believe that Fred the giant frog god designed and created the universe and everything in it? Would that be testable?

    Exactly how would believing in or inferring a designer/creator god change the way science is done?

    And you’ve avoided many other questions, including these:

    Asteroids are an arrangement of matter. Specifically describe and demonstrate the non-material information, and the origin of the non-material information, in an asteroid that has never been detected or seen by humans or any other living thing.

    After you do that, consider and respond to this:

    An undetected asteroid is coming toward this planet. When it enters the atmosphere it ‘burns up’. It is no longer an arrangement of matter, is it? Where did the matter go? What happened to the non-material information? Does that non-material information still exist?

  18. Upright BiPed: 2. Everything material thing in the universe operates under the regularities we call laws, so to claim that the transfer operates within those regularities (and therefore the conclusion is false) is a non-answer. You might as well suggest that the content of your post owes its existence to the forces at work in your CPU.

    Well, of course the content of my post owes its existence in part to the forces at work in my CPU. It also owes its existence to a whole host of other material forces, like for example those at work in my brain and my hands. I don’t understand your point?

    3. The relationship between a bee’s dance and the other bees flying off in a particular direction is not a material relationship (between the representation and its effect).

    What part of the relationship between a bee’s dance and the other bees’ behavior is not material? As far as I can tell (and you yourself described), all the chemical and electrical processes of perception, signal transfer, and behavioral action taking place in the bees are perfectly material.

  19. Joe G:
    Software, ie information to make all the parts start working.

    Describe and demonstrate the software, and the origin of the software, that is programmed into an asteroid.

  20. Joe G: So no evolution, then? LoL!

    You seem to have missed the word “process” that was in Allan Miller’s comment, and that OMTWO was responding to.

    No, what we are looking at today is descended from what worked in the past. Descended with modification.

    Then why are you pushing ID?

    No, DNA gets transcribed. The mRNA gets translated. And only ribosomes can translate the mRNA.

    It’s funny that you nitpick the words other people use, yet your grasp of the English language and scientific terminology is laughable.

  21. Joe G: Evos avoid reality…

    Joe, given that you just said

    LoL! We were talking about BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION, not the OoL. And BIOLOGICAL EVOLUTION does NOT require any intervention.

    You are now an evo.

  22. …these three pertinent questions regarding the existence of information within a material universe:

    1.In this material universe, is it even conceivably possible to record transferable information without utilizing an arrangement of matter in order to represent that information? (by what other means could it be done?)

    2.If 1 is true, then is it even conceivably possible to transfer that information without a second arrangement of matter (a protocol) to establish the relationship between representation and what it represents? (how could such a relationship be established in any other way?)

    3.If 1 and 2 are true, then is it even conceivably possible to functionally transfer information without the irreducibly complex system of these two arrangements of matter (representations and protocols) in operation?

    1) No.

    2) Yes. Autocatalysis.

    3) Yes, it’s conceivable, and it happens.

  23. OMTWO: Joe, given that you just said

    You are now an evo.

    Yep.

    And he also finally admits that there’s a difference between the origin of life and biological evolution.

  24. Nope- evos think that necessity and chance can construct new, functional multi-protein configurations whereas I say that requires design.

    But anyway neitehr ID nor baraminology are anti-evolution in the broadest sense of the word.

  25. Umm YOUR position makes claims that YOU never support. YOUR position claims that asteroids are reducible to matter and energy- support it.

  26. Allan- I see you still cannot support anything your position says.

    YOU have not provided a testable hypiothesis.

  27. No the software is not like a punch-card- and yes there are more than molecules that make up a cell just as there is more than hardware to make up a PC.

  28. Grab a blank EPROM and weigh it. Take that EPROM and program it. Then weigh it again. I bet it weighs the same as a blank EPROM.

    Yes it takes matter and energy to transmit, receive and store information but that does not mean the information is matter/ energy.

    Information is neither matter nor energy.

    Computers could not function without non-material information- anything that requires software could not function witjout non-material information. That includes most trasportation.

  29. In storage devices. That does not mean the storage devices are the information.

    Does a blank disk weigh more, less or the same as a programmed disk?

  30. Yes there is a difference between the OoL and evolution. However if you decouple the two then you have nothing.

    Ya see, as any child can tell you, how living organisms arose determines how they evolved. That means if living organisms arose by design then they evolved by design. And if living organisms arose from non-living matter via necessity and chance then necessity and chance is what drove their evolution.

  31. Joe G,

    Congratulations on walking across the floor to our side!

    Your first assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to explain our position to kairosfocus.

    Good luck!

  32. LoL! ID is not anti-evolution. Even baraminology is OK with evolution is the broadest sense of the word.

    I will NEVER just blindly believe that necessity and chance can give rise to a living organism from non-living matter nor will I believe necessity and chance can construct new functional multi-protein configurations.

    Also I have explained your position to KF-

    Father Time + Mother Nature + some unknown processes = living organisms and their diversity.

  33. Joe G: Yes asteroids are an arrangement of matter. But they wouldn’t exist without that non-material information.

    Creodont: Prove it.

    Joe G:
    Refute it.

    Joe is still missing the point of science I see. Nevermind the burden of proof fallacy, Joe seems not to understand that scientists are only going to investigate those phenomenon they a) perceive b) find interesting.

    Scientists don’t study everything just to do so; we study what we find fascinating enough to want to understand and explain.

    Thus far, NOBODY (and this includes Joe apparently) finds the idea of non-material information interesting enough. Heck, I’m not aware of any actual scientists who even perceive “non-material information”, so I can’t imagine why any would be trying to study it.

    However, it is quite odd that if Joe perceives this “non-material information” phenomenon he isn’t testing. Until he does, no one is going to bother.

  34. Joe G: No the software is not like a punch-card- and yes there are more than molecules that make up a cell just as there is more than hardware to make up a PC.

    What do you mean it’s “not like a punch-card”? In old computers it was a stack of punchcards!

    Or try this computer:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dr._NIM

    And that’s the point. If you assemble the molecules of a cell into a replica of some cell, it will work exactly like that cell. You don’t need to poof it into life after you’ve finished building it, you’ve already programmed it with the assembly of molecules.

  35. Liz- with old computers punch cards had to be manually entered. We do not see that with living cells- meaning the cell’s information is self-contained.

    And we have tried to do that- assemble the molecules and guess what? they do NOT work exactly like the molecules in a living cell.

  36. LoL! Non-material information runs our world Robin.

    Information Technology relies on non-material information.

    IOW once again you do not know what you are talking about, and it shows.

  37. Yes there is a difference between the OoL and evolution. However if you decouple the two then you have nothing.

    Ya see, as any child can tell you, how living organisms arose determines how they evolved. That means if living organisms arose by design then they evolved by design. And if living organisms arose from non-living matter via necessity and chance then necessity and chance is what drove their evolution.

    There is no reason to couple them. Perhaps you should stop getting your conclusions from children.

    Even if they arose by design, the designer could then simply piss off elsewhere – his science project was just to create a self-replicating system, and he got an A. They may have been designed to stay exactly the same, but he got that bit wrong and chance mutation took over. A-.

    Alternatively, a ‘materialistic’ Ool may have been followed by an extended period during which nothing much happened until an Intelligent Designer happened upon these replicators and decided to guide the natural process to create something interesting.

    No EVIDENCE for these scenarios, you say? Yeah well, not my problem. I think the Designer created Adenine but not Cytosine, whales and bats but not penguins or artichokes, Casey Luskin but not my mum, and designed rennet so we could make cheese. Using the Explanatory Filter, I win.

  38. Joe G:
    Liz- with old computers punch cards had to be manually entered. We do not see that with living cells- meaning the cell’s information is self-contained.

    And we have tried to do that- assemble the molecules and guess what? they do NOT work exactly like the molecules in a living cell.

    Guess what?
    I don’t think you can cite any evidence to show that an exact replica of a functioning system doesn’t function.

    Hundreds of thousands of times a day, scientists all over the place conduct in-vitro experiments using molecules extracted from living cells (or exact copies of those molecules)
    And guess what? – the processes that ensue are exactly the same as in the living cells.
    It’s called chemistry, Joe – chemistry and biochemistry. It’s what life is

  39. There is a reason to couple them and I provided it. And all I said is that the reason is so easy to understand that even children get it.

    And guess what? Neil Shubin went to children to ask about Tiktaalik.

    Also what you are saying is like saying that automobiles were designed, but the way they get around is just by chance gear interactions- it doesn’t make any sense at all. But you are welcome to it.

  40. Joe G:
    Liz- with old computers punch cards had to be manually entered. We do not see that with living cells- meaning the cell’s information is self-contained.

    Your choice of words is indicative of your confusion disorder but what you’re essentially saying is that no designer is detected or necessary. If the alleged “information” in a cell is “self-contained” and did not have to be “manually entered” there’s no need for a designer/programmer/enter-er.

    And we have tried to do that- assemble the molecules and guess what? they do NOT work exactly like the molecules in a living cell.

    Citation please.

    “we”?? What part did you play in assembling molecules?

    And there you go again with the time limit mindset. Do you think that assembling molecules is as easy as repairing toasters? Do you think that scientists have given up on assembling molecules into whatever assemblages they find interesting or useful? Do you think, at all?

    Don’t bother with answering that last question.

  41. Umm we tried that with a ribosome- that is we (humans) have synthesized a ribosome and it didn’t function.

    Then we (humans) took the ribosome apart, synthesized one ribo RNA, put the ribosome back together and it did not function as it did before it weas tinkered with.

    Also we tried genetic engineering in order to make proteins that we need. Yet strangely enough it only worked for a few proteins, like insulin.

    Also why is it that no one has synthesized a living cell if, according to you and Liz, it should be easy to do?

  42. LoL! The confusion is all YOURS, as usual.

    What I said means the designer(s) does (do) not have to be around to keep entering the information. The point being is all the required information was designed in from the start.

    And I have already provided the citation. Go figure….

  43. Joe G:
    LoL! ID is not anti-evolution. Even baraminology is OK with evolution is the broadest sense of the word.

    In the broadest sense and in any sense, ID is okay with anything IDiots feel like conjuring up. That”s the thing about sky daddy magic; any assertion can be manipulated to fit with it.

    I will NEVER just blindly believe that necessity and chance can give rise to a living organism from non-living matter nor will I believe necessity and chance can construct new functional multi-protein configurations.

    Well goody for you. The things is, what you believe or not is of no interest to science or reality.

  44. Here is a rather cool paper, for those oddballs like me who find such things cool. It might help to scroll through this in conjunction with it, if one is unfamiliar with the relationships between amino acid structures.

    It may seem a derail, but it is related to the ‘semiotic’ issue. It also sheds some light on apparently unrelated topics such as Common Descent and ‘Islands of Function’.

    The authors, using a bit of educated guesswork, created a minimal amino acid set for a specific E Coli protein. They had to retain the ‘core’ conserved sequence, so that they could assay their results for function. Beyond that, they just chose additional acids for the set to be representative of their particular group, and then from this minimal set, they engineered genes coding for the appropriate peptides and checked them for function. They were able to get function from a reduced set of 13. Given that they have chosen a protein from a modern, 20-acid creature, this is much more impressive than it may sound. The huge numbers of combinations in this 213-acid protein means that they could not examine sequence space exhaustively – yet they still found function by randomisation, in what we may term a ‘natural genetic algorithm’.

    So:

    1) The code is not as ‘information-rich’ as it may seem.

    2) Support is lent to the hypothesis that LUCA and the OoL do not mean the same thing.

    3) You don’t need 20 acids for function. How many you do need as a minimum is not known, but the groupings of the modern set are very likely to preserve some ‘information’ from pre-LUCA days regarding historically more general codon assignments, from which the modern set crystallised. For example, with 3 exceptions a U in the middle position specifies ONLY Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine – 3 closely related amino acids sharing the same biochemical pathways and structures. An early code specifying just one of these, via 13 different codons, would be more error-tolerant, but less ‘informational’, than the modern derivative.

    4) With an amalgamated acid set, the number of different DNA sequences that could code for the same functional protein is enormous. This gives a huge amount of sequence space doing more-or-less the same thing, rendering these bogus Hoyle-style ‘probability’ calculations somewhat … well, bogus.

    5) Taking the above, if we find two proteins in different organisms, with very similar sequences, it is a very shaky position to say that they had to be that way because of “Common Design” or, even more laughably, “Convergence”. Such broad regions of functional sequence space render it highly unlikely that any explanation other than Common Descent is the correct one.

  45. UB is making the same silly mistake made by thousands of Creationists before him.He’s assuming that the molecules that make up a genome are abstract symbols, but they’re not.They aren’t abstract representations of anything, and the only ‘protocols’ that apply to them are the laws of chemist and physics. They pass ‘information’ only because we define the results of the self-sustaining chemical reaction they’re in to be information.

    UB is just repackaging the same Creationist PRATT argument, except he’s a lot more verbose and long-winded than most.

    I concur. I’ve seen UB in action at a couple of venues, and he will use 5 paragraphs to answer a yes/no question. He gets it from his intellectual mentor of sorts, David Abel, who is a tremendous offender in that respect. wow them with volume when you have no facts on your side. And without analogies, this whole “theory” of his is nothing.

  46. Allan, There isn’t any evidence that E. coli can evolve into anything but E. coli and your position can’t explain the 13 AA code. You can’t explain transcription and translation except to say “it just happened”.

    And we observe common design in our world- it works. We have also observed convergence.

  47. In the broadest sense and in any sense, ID is okay with anything IDiots feel like conjuring up.

    Nope, unlike your position ID has made its claims and has even told you how to test them.

    That”s the thing about sky daddy magic; any assertion can be manipulated to fit with it.

    YOUR position requires the magic- magical mystery mutations.

    The things is, what you believe or not is of no interest to science or reality.

    I understand that but your position doesn’t have anything to do with science nor reality. So what is your point?

  48. ….. ah, just me, then! :) The science of the genetic code less interesting than the opportunity it provides to peek into the mind of the Designer, or what a given word REALLY means!

Leave a Reply