LCI or No LCI, Information Can Appear by Chance

(Preamble: I apologize in advance for cluttering TSZ with these three posts. There are very few people on either side of the debate that actually care about the details of this “conservation of information” stuff, but these posts make good on some claims I made at UD.)

To see that active information can easily be created by chance, even when the LCI holds, we’ll return to the Bertrand’s Box example. Recall that the LCI holds for this example, and all choices are strictly random. Recall further that choosing the GG box gives us 1 bit of active information since it doubles our chance of getting a gold coin. If we conduct 100 trials, we expect to get the GG box about 33 times, which means we expect 33 bits of active information to be generated by nothing but chance.

But before we say QED, we should note a potential objection, namely that we also expect to get SS about 33 times, and each such outcome gives us negative infinity bits of active information. So if we include the SS outcomes in our tally of active information, the total is negative infinity. Be that as it may, the fact remains that in 33 of the trials, 1 bit of information was generated. This fact is not rendered false by the outcomes of other trials, so those 33 trials produced 33 bits of information.

4 thoughts on “LCI or No LCI, Information Can Appear by Chance”

  1. Joe Felsenstein

    In my 2007 article I gave a simple numerical example where there were 4 possible bases at a DNA site, and one of them had higher fitness (10% higher).   Of course it then increases in frequency in the population.   That was a simple case to show that specified information could be put into the genome by natural selection.

    In the Dembski-Marks Search For A Search argument they seem to hold that the differences in fitness are there only because a Designer has put them there, and that this is true even in the simple one-site case that I used.   That is utterly strange — why can’t differences in the fitness (the quantity used to decide where the search goes) arise from ordinary chemistry and physics?

    Similarly, I have argued that the relative smoothness of the fitness surface can be simply the result of ordinary physics and chemistry — it does not necessarily mean that a Designer is plying her trade.

    Do such considerations appear in your argument?  In it someone called “we” appears to be setting up the search.

  2. keiths

    That is utterly strange — why can’t differences in the fitness (the quantity used to decide where the search goes) arise from ordinary chemistry and physics?

    My guess is that Dembski and Marks would acknowledge the role of physics and chemistry in determining the fitness landscape, but would argue that there is “active information” in the laws of physics and chemistry, originating from the big-D Designer.

    One of the many problems with this idea is that the fitness landscape doesn’t merely aid evolution in finding a predetermined ‘target’; it determines the target. Change the fitness landscape and you change the target.

  3. Joe Felsenstein

    Yes.   And even simple models of evolution, with fixed fitness landscapes, do not regard evolution as successful only if it finds the single highest peak on the fitness landscape.  As long as there is a net movement uphill, adaptation has increased.  Evolution could be successful by climbing a subsidiary peak.   In fact, we can be reasonably sure we are such suboptimal solutions.  So the analogy of evolution with search is flawed even when one stays within the framework of fitness landscapes.

    The physics and chemistry of the real world do constrain the fitness landscapes, and I think that they impose some smoothness on them that makes them atypical of the kind of landscapes you would get by randomly associating fitnesses with genotypes.  If I am right in that, the Search For A Search takes place back when the physical laws of the universe are set up.

    Given that, once we have our present universe and present physical laws there is no LCI. Most biologists will be happy to skip the part where we play theocosmologist and figure out how the physical laws came to be.

  4. Patrick

    I’ve been avoiding all of UD except for R0bb’s thread on Dembski’s non-law of non-conservation of ill-defined-information.  I’ve also been training my eyes to automatically skip over anything written by Joe, but I nonetheless inadvertently stumbled across this gem:

    So this tells us that when we observe CSI in the real-world and did not observe it arising, we can safely infer some agency was present to make it so. 

    There we have CSI (and intelligent design creationism) in a nutshell — we didn’t see it happening, therefore Jesus.

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