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. Reciprocating Bill

    Postscript to the above:


    …he has been forced to concede the inappropriate application of those operators to the argument…

    Wrong. I acknowledged the obvious fact that if A denotes necessary and sufficient conditions for B, then A entails B and B entails A. I also allowed that you can sensibly use “entail” in that context. 

    It doesn’t follow that I agreed that that this formulation correctly describes your argument as you had stated it to date. Nor have I ever said that.

    Quite the contrary: I’ve never stopped arguing otherwise. So the concession you’ve been crowing about occurred only in your fevered imagination.

  2. Flint

    Bill, you seem to have lost sight of the fact that you are trying to argue with a creationist. The rule of thumb is, IF you say anything that can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misrepresented, or quote-mined into the opposite of what you meant, the creationists will find it. They are masters at this. Saying “IF and ONLY IF a bunch of stuff you haven’t shown happened to be true, then I’d agree this is what you say it is”, this will come back as “I agree this is what you say it is”. Over and over and over. This is called leading with your chin.

  3. Mike Elzinga

    It appears from UB’s long self-pity party in his last comment that he has been carrying on this game for over a year now. He apparently is spending most of his time keeping score on who he thinks is persecuting him.

    Rather than clarifying his “arguments” and assertions, he appears to be copying comments of others and compiling a set of records that he uses as “proof” that he is being persecuted and martyred. Pointed questions that he doesn’t understand or refuses to answer are being portrayed as materialist hostility.

    It fits the same profile as “I have wasted 11 years of my life (sob!).”

  4. petrushka

    I predict he will refrain from posting until he can accumulate a list of intemperate posts that are unrelated to the questions he can’t answer or which he refuses to answer.

    Anything but clarify his position.

  5. keiths

    Upright doesn’t realize how obvious his predicament is to the rest of us.

    Suppose he had a strong argument (or at least thought that he did).  Then he would have every reason to make his position clear and to answer questions forthrightly, secure in the knowledge that his argument would stand up to scrutiny and criticism.  On the other hand, he would have no reason to evade or obfuscate, as doing so would only create the impression that his position was weak.

    Now suppose that his argument is weak, and that Upright knows this. Clarifying his position in this case would be disastrous, as it would lay bare the flaws in his argument and render it vulnerable to decisive refutation. Evasion looks weak, but at least it allows him to pretend that his argument is strong and that the only problem is that people have failed to understand it properly. 

    So far Upright’s behavior matches the second scenario perfectly.  We thus have every reason to believe that Upright’s argument is weak and that he knows it.

    You can choose to evade and obfuscate, Upright, but be advised that we know exactly why you do it.

  6. RichRich

    Seems to be an adaption of ‘the courtier’s response’ in some ways; create a voluminous, self-referential boot-strapped pile of clap trap. Keep pointing at it as if it’s meaningful. Accuse others of not understanding it or misrepresenting it. Talk about the dialogue, but not the core argument. Keep it very abstract. Boast on other fora how’s your thing has totally whupped scientists A, B and C.

  7. Elizabeth Post author

    I’m going to do this in teaspoonfuls:

    Upright BiPed on July 10, 2012 at 12:30 amsaid:

    Mike’s latest: “Honest people don’t insult their hosts and her guests the way you do.”

    Mike’s contribution to the discussion from the very start:

    your effort seem like a naive and pretentious attempt to replace well-understood phenomena with something woo-woo … I find both UBP and WJM excruciatingly boring; and I suspect that the reason is that there is a remarkable similarity to other crackpots … one begins to wonder if there is any thought process there at all.  I would suggest not … they hone their marketing shtick for their presentations to the gullible … There is another frequent correlation one sees among crackpotists; they often quote scripture from the Christian bible … has an instinctive hatred and distrust of science and any other perceived “competing authority” … don’t even appear to understand the question … a familiar characteristic of pseudo-science … you have no idea what you are talking about or what it is that you are attempting … Your obvious distain for age, experience, knowledge, and the female gender … YOU – I repeat – YOU were the one … you don’t have the slightest clue … You have no idea … you really have no clue … You have made no “material observations” … You have never taken a chemistry or physics class … comes from the socio/political culture of ID/creationism … The words don’t matter … bury his reification of ID/creationist misconceptions … an increasingly complex labyrinth of obfuscation and condescension … simply gussies it all up … an air-tight bundle of circular reasoning … Another would be ID “theorist” bites the dust … it too dissolves into nothingness … such lengthy, turgid prose … a quagmire of words … Crackpots never let go voluntarily; they will ride you to death”.

    And what was the undertow of Mike’s pointless hostility? It was potentially several things. First and foremost, as can be seen from his words, he is violently resistant to any novel concepts which might threaten his ideology, so he attacks those who may hold those ideas.

    Upright, it is perfectly true that you have been extremely insulting to me, repeatedly, on this blog.  Mike’s point is valid.  But let us suppose that it is not: let us suppose that it is mere “pointless hostility” on his part.  From your diagnosis of “pointless hostility”, you infer that “he is violently resistant to any novel concepts which might threaten his ideology”.

    Now, I think that you have been “pointlessly hostile” to me.  Would it be valid for me to infer that you are “violently resistant to any novel concepts which might threaten his ideology”?

    Clearly the validity of that inference, and yours, rests on whether our respective perceptions of the behaviour in question are accurate – whether, in fact, “pointless hostility” has, or has not, been displayed.

    Is it the case that you think you have not shown “pointless hostility” towards me, and that your behaviour could not reasonably be construed as such?

    If so, I would appreciate clarification, and perhaps an apology for creating a false impression.

    On the other hand if you agree that you have been pointlessly hostile towards me on this blog, would you not agree that we should infer that you are being violently resistant to novel concepts that might threaten your ideology?  And that Mike, being in fact correct, is merely pointing out true facts, and thus gives you no grounds for inferring that he is violently resistant to novel concepts that might threaten his ideology?

    Think about it, Upright BiPed.  You don’t seem to be as good at logical inference as you seem to think you are.

    It’s possible of course, that you think you have been hostile, but not pointlessly so, because you think I have behaved badly.  In which case, I submit that Mike has been hostile, but not pointlessly so, towards you, because he thinks you have behaved badly.

    In neither case, therefore, can we infer that either of you is “violently resistant to novel concepts that might threaten [your respective ideolog[ies]”

    We are all simply becoming extremely frustrated.  You could solve this at a stroke by addressing keiths’ post above.


  8. Mike Elzinga

    I haven’t been following UB’s “arguments” for the entire time that they have apparently been going on.  They don’t make any sense anyway – especially that protein thing – and he pretty quickly ducks any questions that people ask.

    I noticed in his most recent comment that UB is questioning Elizabeth’s understanding back in May of 2011.  He hasn’t been posting on this blog that long, so I am guessing this must go back to some long, drawn out mud-wrestle over on UD; is that correct?

    Has he also been pushing this shtick on some other blog as well?  He certainly appears to have an awfully delicate ego that takes gratuitous offense at every question that someone asks.  He apparently is accustomed to unquestioning adulation for completely opaque assertions.

    He sure seems to hate “materialism;” and he appears to be engaged in some kind of fantasy war in which he is “analyzing” the tactics of his enemies and imagining himself deftly defeating and terrorizing all us demon materialists who are assailing him.

    There appears to be more going on with him than just this “semiotic theory of ID.”  Perhaps he is trying to find a way to justify not having to learn any science while building an air-tight “argument” for ID that rejects “materialism” altogether.  Obviously it can’t work; he has to type on computer keys in order to deny materialism.

    His behavior has many of the same obsessive/compulsive characteristics as those of someone who has convinced himself that he has built a machine that generates more energy than it uses; but who will never allow anyone a close look at how it works.

    These characters still exist; and they think that anyone with a “hoity-toity” education is a fool.  UB appears to have a similar distain for anyone who has an education and asks hard questions.  I find his treatment of Elizabeth absolutely appalling; especially in the light of her hospitality.

  9. Upright BiPed


    As anyone can see, a serious problem with your defense* immediately arises…

    In a blog post I exchanged with Larry Moran, I made a claim regarding the transfer of recorded information, and provided material examples consistent with that claim from three domains of information transfer, as well as descriptions of four material entailments which form the basis of the claim.

    In response, you did not advance an argument over the validity of the material observations themselves, but instead launched objections along four lines of argument, with two objections serving as your main focus and two others which you have voiced sparingly. In the response you: a) applied logical operators to the language which did not encompass the particulars of the argument, b) attacked the use of the word entailment as invalid, c) objected to an assumed conclusion stemming from definitions, and d) made a material counter-claim without providing an example to substantiate its validity.

    a) This in not my problem. It never seemed to occur to you that the reason your argument was just so obvious to you is because you were using the wrong formulation. Why do you think I said the things I was saying, including the examples taken from the relationships between fire, fuel, heat, oxidizer, and combustion? Did any of this alter your formulation in the least? Hell no, that would have screwed it up for you. Not my problem now.   

    b) You were right about one thing; your a) and b) are two sides of the same mistake. Every time you went into your bachelor speech, you strategically chose to only include the male entailment, and completely ignore the others. The fact that the others were obvious (and being repeatedly pointed out to you) did not matter. Most people here probably don’t know how badly you wanted ‘entailments’ to stick. That was always your deal, right, entailments. Now you have some. Two arrangements of matter within a system, sharing an arbitrary relationship, leading to unambiguous functional constraint. And the kicker is that it is the arbitrary part of the system that is creating the function. And the second kicker is that the two arrangements of matter form an irreducibly complex system. You’ll need some smelling salts for Elzinga.

    c) How many times do you think I’ve posted a description of the terms used in my argument on this thread? It seems like five or six times to me. Not a peep from you. But you can fix that now. Here they are again: 1. The etymology of the word “information” comes from the Latin verb informare, meaning ‘to give form’, to in-form. To transfer information, it must be recorded in a material medium. To transfer recorded information is to transfer form about something via a material medium. 2. Semiosis/semiotic are the appropriate and accepted words used to describe a process which includes the use of representations and protocols. 3. A representation is something that induces a specified effect within a system. Materially, a representation is an arrangement of matter that induces a specified effect within a system. 4. A protocol is a rule established within a system to facilitate the proper function of that system. Materially, a protocol is an arrangement of matter that physically establishes the otherwise arbitrary relationship between a representation and the thing it represents within a system.

    d) You have made a material counter-claim that a non-semiotic process could demonstrate the material entailments as given in the argument.  Here we are making statements about physical objects in the real world. To support your claim would require a demonstration of a physical system that exhibits the same material consequences as given in the argument, which does not also involve the transfer of recorded information. Do you have an example of such a material system, or not? If not, then your counter-claim is useless in supporting your counter-claim.

  10. Upright BiPed


    I’m going to do this in teaspoonfuls.

    Whom among the contributors were you talking about, that are ‘prepared to concede’ semiosis in biology?

  11. Elizabeth Post author

    Upright BiPed on July 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm said:

    And what about you Elizabeth? Are you prepared to affirm that semiosis exist in protein synthesis?

    I am prepared to accept that the word “semiosis” as you are defining it covers protein synthesis.

    Or are you affirming the material observations, as you seem to suggest, but still playing the silly game of arguendo.

    I am affirming the material observations, but I do not play silly games.

    Am I supposed to be watching this hand, but not that one? Why did you put scare quotes on the word “semiosis”?

    You are supposed to be listening to the point I am making.  And I didn’t put “scare quotes” on the word “semiosis”, I simply used them to indicate that I was referring to the word qua word, not the its referent.  I could have used italics.  Let me rephrase and repunctuate : I agree that the word semiosis as you are defining it, covers protein synthesis. What I want to know is why this is an argument for Intelligent Design.

    Why? Are you leaving yourself a rhetorical escape? Are you leaving yourself a rhetorical escape from material observations from independent sources?

    No.  I am simply and honestly trying to understand your argument.  You seem unable to conceive of the possibility that your interlocutors are honest.  If you make a coherent argument that I find persuasive, I will change my mind.  So far I find your argument incoherent, and therefore not persuasive.  To try to help matters along, I am willing to accept your definition of semiosis for the purpose of this discussion (I can’t actually find it right now, but I recall you linked to an article by someone who extended the concept in such a way that it covered protein synthesis). In other words, I accept it as an operational definition.  Using that definition, I accept that it covers protein synthesis.  

    Have you come to a new understanding that didn’t exist in May of 2011? Have you now come to realize that the transfer of recorded information must have material consequences?

    I have always accepted a definition of information transfer that included material consequences, as you know.  We both agreed that the Merriam-Webster definition cited by Meyer was a useful one in this context.  Here it is again:

    the attribute inherent in and communicated by one of two or more alternative sequences or arrangements of something (as nucleotides in DNA or binary digits in a computer program) that produce specific effects

    As I am a materialist, obviously I stipulate that those effects aka consequences are material.

    Do you now see that material representations are required in order to transfer the form of a thing outside of the thing itself?

    Of course.

    Has the logical necessity of this finally been joined with the demonstrated fact?

    You clearly have not understood much of what I have posted.  I have never disputed this.  How could I?  My position is that everything has a material substrate.  I am a materialist.

    You certainly didn’t feel that way a year ago. In fact, you even stated that there is “nothing semiotic” about protein synthesis on this very thread just a few weeks ago.

    Absolutely, because at that point I was using the word semiotic in the Peircian/Saussurian sense.  However, if we expand the definition of the word semiotic as you and the author of that article have done, then it does indeed cover protein synthesis.  What I would like to know is why expanding the definition of semiosis in that way amounts to an argument for ID.  I have no problem in agreeing that information transfer (as defined in Merriam-Webster above) takes place in the cell during protein synthesis, as well as during reproduction.

    Has that changed? Have you come to realize that a material representation must be arbitrary, given that it is not the thing it represents?

    Not at all.  Given your expanded definition, then a material representation (something that carries the information from “sender” A to “receiver” B) may or may not be “arbitrary”.  In a linguistic system, a sign is usually an arbitrarily agreed symbol, but what Peirce calls an “index” is not arbitrary, and yet can also carry information from “sender” A to “receiver” B.  In the case of protein synthesis, the system is “arbitrary” in the sense that other systems are almost certainly possible that would do the job as well, and indeed, some exist. And so, if we reserve “semiotic” for an arbitrary system of signs, then protein synthesis would be covered.  However, information can be transferred using non-arbitrary media, for example, via moulds or templates.

    Have you come to realize that if a representation is required, then it is a logical certainty that a material protocol exist in order to actualize that arbitrary representation back into a meaningful effect?

    Of course.  I have never disputed this.

    Have you perhaps done a little searching on your own, perhaps a little reading, and come to a new conclusion. After all, these objects and their roles are not only demonstrated to exist, but they are all but a logical necessity to accomplish what must be accomplished.  

    I can only say that you have clearly misunderstood almost everything I have posted.  I’ve suspected this for a long time – you seem to be persistently arguing against what seemed to be a complete straw man, on the one hand, and proposing a tautology on the other.

    I am still waiting to hear what your argument for ID actually is.  All I’ve heard is an argument that there is a defensible definition of semiosis that covers protein synthesis.  I accept that definition as the operational definition we shall use during this discussion.  By that definition we can deem that protein synthesis is semiotic. 

    Drop the other shoe.


    I have no romantic ideas when it comes to internet materialists acknowledging material observations they dislike.

    I’m sure you haven’t.  I don’t have much either when it comes to IDists and creationists doing likewise, although it occasionally happens. But in this case, the acknowledgement is granted freely, so you don’t need any romantic ideas.

    And frankly, I have no reason to believe you now.

    Believe me?  It’s not a question of “belief” – I’m saying that I am willing to accept your operational definition of semiosis.  You don’t have to “believe” that – you just have to proceed on the basis that I have done so.

    It is too easy to remember how you claimed that no argument of any merit existed for ID, while simultaneously trying to build a simulation in order to refute one.

    As far as I know this is incorrect.  I certainly claimed that I knew of no argument of merit for ID.  I also claimed that I could readily show that evolutionary processes generated information (where I was assuming that “information” was defined as Dembski’s CSI, aka Specified Complexity).  I’ve actually done that, incidentally.  You challenged me, but offered a different definition (essentially the Merriam-Webster one cited by Meyer).  And I offered to try to build a simulation that would demonstrate that using that definition, and without assuming an initial population of self-replicators, a population of Darwinian-capable self-replicators could emerge, and generate information (by that definition). I didn’t promise I could, but I thought (and still think) it would be an interesting challenge.

    But we failed to agree on an operational definition of information.

    You instead wanted people to believe the stupendous claim that you would be working for months to refute an argument that had no merit.

    No, I simply said I was prepared to work on a simulation that would demonstrate that even starting with a population of non-self-replicators, information could be generated by non-intelligent processes. 

    The mere assertion that it cannot be so generated is not an “argument for ID” but, well, a mere assertion.  If you want to elevate it into an argument you have to actually make the argument.  You haven’t.

    What a ridiculous claim. You also once claimed that there was no definition of “information” that could not be produced by Darwinian evolution.

    Absolutely.  Once you have Darwinian evolution, information by any definition can be generated (I would still claim).  The challenge was to start without a Darwinian-capable population.

    You specifically stated this was to encompass ANY definition of information.

    Yes.  Within reason.  For example, if you, like Humpty Dumpty, defined “information” as “a snowball in hell”, clearly Darwinian evolution couldn’t generate it.  But by any normal English usage, sure.  Darwinian evolution is an excellent information generator.

    Later you admitted that Darwinian evolution required the existence of recorded information prior to coming into existence,

    Well, it requires self-replicators.  And self-replication means that information embodied in one entity is transferred to another.  So yes, in order to have Darwinian evolution, you need an information transfer system.  But those are ten a penny in the universe.  I’ve never been quite sure what the word “recorded” adds to the word “information”.  Information that isn’t transferred is scarcely information (by Merriam Webster anyway).  And once it has been transferred, then, by definition, it has also been recorded.  Why not just say “information”?

    but yet you refused to recant your claim.

    Of course.  I don’t recant it.

    You blatantly obfuscated instead, directly in front of the text of your own comments.

    Not sure what you are referring to here.  You clearly think I have something to hide.  If so, I don’t know what it is.  I’m not hiding anything.  On the contrary, I’m desperate to make myself understood.

    And you still do this, as evidenced by your response to being presented today (on this very thread) with your previous acceptance of the operations required to confirm the existence of information transfer.

    I simply do not understand what you are saying.  I have not changed my position at all, except in two senses:

    1. I originally was defining information as CSI; I then realised that you had your own non-CSI definition, which was something like that in Merriam-Webster/Meyer, and so I worked with that to try to get an operationalised version.
    2. I originally regarded the word semiosis as being used in the strict Saussurean sense – then I decided to accept your expanded definition as the operational definition for this discussion.

    Apart from that, my position has not changed, except the time available to do the sim has expired.  It’s still something I’d like to have a shot at one day.

    (And need I remind you again that there is no other operation in existence that can confirm the transfer of semiotic content other than the process provided)

    I find this completely meaningless.  Given your operational definition of semiosis, it boils down to: semiotic content can only be transferred by the operations I have defined the transfer of semiotic content as requiring.  If it doesn’t, please present your operation definition of “semiotic content” in a manner that does not refer to the processes by which it is transferred.

    Yet, you deny it as you read it.

    I don’t deny it.  It’s not even wrong.


  12. Elizabeth Post author

    I don’t actually recall, Upright BiPed, but I seem to remember at least one other poster agreeing to accept your definition of semiosis for the purposes of this discussion.

    However, I could be wrong.  I may be in a minority of one.

    But it really makes no odds – agreeing on an operational definition is not a concession of any kind.  It’s merely a necessary stage in constructing an empirical study.  In this case, it allows us determine whether protein synthesis fulfils the criteria for semiosis as operationally defined.  While I can’t find the actual definition, or your link (I’ll have a search, but this is a long conversation, so if you could provide it, that would be cool), I do recall reading it, and agreeing that if we use that definition, protein synthesis is covered.

  13. Toronto

    Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “4. A protocol is a rule established within a system to facilitate the proper function of that system. Materially, a protocol is an arrangement of matter that physically establishes the otherwise arbitrary relationship between a representation and the thing it represents within a system.”

    You finally got the first part, almost right.

    You got the second part completely wrong.

    A protocol is a “set of functions” governing the relationship between two or more intelligent entities. This could be computer data communications or the behaviour of nobles in a medieval court.

    A protocol is NOT material and it does NOT serve as a “coder/encoder”.

    Protocols don’t exist as anything that you could touch, they are simply pre-defined functions known to all parties during a communications session.

    You can’t re-define the term “protocol” or any other simply to help your case.


  14. junkdnaforlife

    Not speaking for Upright, but in my own rogue offering:

    A1.Chance and Necessity cannot generate a semiotic system, whereas the necessary and sufficient conditions of a semiotic system consist of arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.
    A2. The necessary and sufficient conditions of a protein synthesis system consists of arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.
    A3. A protein synthesis system is a semiotic system
    A4. Therefore Chance and Necessity cannot generate a protein synthesis system.

    B1. Chance, Necessity and intelligent causation can generate a semiotic system, whereas the necessary and sufficeint conditions of a semiotic system consist of arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.
    B2. Chance and Necessity cannot generate a semiotic system, whereas the necessary and sufficient conditions of a semiotic system consist of arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.
    B3.Therefore the origin of a semiotic system is best explained by chance, necessity and intelligent causation.

    The challenge of premise 1 (A1) was made over a year ago: 

    Results not in.

  15. Elizabeth Post author

    Thanks!  I think we could condense that:

    P1.Chance and Necessity alone cannot generate an semiotic information transfer system where “semiotic information transfer” is defined as arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.
    P2. A protein synthesis system requires semiotic information transfer
    C. Therefore Chance and Necessity alone cannot generate a protein synthesis system, and we must infer Intelligence in addition.

    If you are happy with this, I would readily grant P2, but would dispute P1.  P1 was what I was prepared to refute with my proposed simulation.

    However, I would also dispute the premise that causation can be partialled into Chance, Necessity, and Intelligence.

    But perhaps we could have another thread for that :)

  16. petrushka

    We really need a new thread with some ground rules that forbid opening wounds from previous threads.

    Anyone interested in participating needs to state their propositions clearly, and their argument needs to be directly tied to an argument for or against ID. 

  17. Elizabeth Post author

    Well, the ground rules are the site rules.

    Upright BiPed has broken them from the beginning.  I haven’t had the heart to action them though, because he seems incapable of doing anything else, and I actually wanted to have this conversation.

    An independent moderator would be cool.  Any volunteers?

  18. Mike Elzinga

    A1.Chance and Necessity cannot generate a semiotic system, whereas the necessary and sufficient conditions of a semiotic system consist of arrangements of matter that produce specific functional effects by means of inert intermediary patterns.

    Well, this is stated pretty clearly in the language of the ID/creationist community; and it doesn’t try to hide the assertion behind other undefined terms.

    It was the questioning of that assertion that apparently infuriated UB. The question of where along the spectrum of complexity in condensed matter that physics and chemistry get replaced by “representations and protocols” triggered a pretty nasty response from UB; yet he never answered the question.

    The only thing we could determine was that it was ludicrous to use “representations and protocols” for the formation of elements in stars, but it was ok for proteins. So, apparently chance and necessity can produce the periodic table, but we don’t know where UB would place the cutoff for anything else.

    And Elizabeth’s question about what any of this has to do with being a “theory of ID” has never been answered either. The two questions are closely related to each other; and UB seems to sense this. All we know is that the questions made UB hopping mad.

  19. petrushka

    I would be too tough. Any post that includes references to personalities or references to other threads would go straight to guano.

    In general it’s nice to have flexible rules, but this topic needs to be rebooted and have a tyrant. I don’t particularly want the job, but if I did it, I would refrain from posting.

    Just to be clear, about 90 percent of the posts on this thread would qualify for guano. I have in mind a thread dedicated to the kind of argument you would submit in a college course, if not to a journal. I’m not referring to quality, just to style.

    I wouldn’t want this to be a standard for the whole blog. 

  20. Reciprocating Bill


    Why do you think I said the things I was saying, including the examples taken from the relationships between fire, fuel, heat, oxidizer, and combustion?

    Your memory is a bit gauzy on the matter.

    On April 16 I observed that your argument has the form A -> B. B, therefore A:

    Murder victims invariably entail a dead person who does not walk, talk, respirate, or exhibit a heart beat. In every instance of a murder the world over, throughout all history, these entailments have invariably obtained.

    Therefore every time we encounter a dead person, who does not walk, talk, respirate, or exhibit a heart beat, we can conclude the person has been murdered.

    Over the subsequent six weeks you alternately defended that invalid reasoning, denied using it, and repeated further instances of it.

    You repeated a beautifully preserved example on June 2:

    I argued that there are material consequences which become observable in each instance of the transfer of recorded information. Observations were undertaken from human interaction, animal interaction, insect interaction, and the interactions within information processing machinery. By the sheer preponderance of physical evidence from these observations, and by the entirely unique material nature of the phenomenon itself, and by the striking lack of even a conceptual alternative, a claim was made that if these specific material consequences are observed, then the transfer of recorded information has taken place…

    Let us dissect this juicy specimen:

    – Note that you state “there are material consequences” of the transfer of recorded information (your “entailments”). There is no reading of your characterization of “the entailments” as “material consequences” above that supports your current claim that what you intended to assert, all along, was that “the entailments” are necessary and sufficient conditions for, and causes of, the transfer of recorded information. Indeed, you stated nothing (that I can recall) over that entire six weeks that supports such a reading.

    – As you did in the samples I examined above (Missive to Moran, etc.), you here enumerate examples of A -> B: human interaction, animal interaction, insect interaction (insects aren’t animals?), and interactions within information processing machinery – “every example of information transfer known to exist.” Essentially, “All A -> B.”

    – You then claim “B, therefore A”: “If these specific material consequences are observed, then the transfer of recorded information has taken place.”

    – You buttress your argument with assumed conclusions: “by the striking lack of even a conceptual alternative.”

    So. All the worst features of your argument are present. Conspicuously absent is anything resembling the notion that the entailments are necessary and sufficient conditions for the TRI/a semiotic state. Indeed, that is directly contradicted by the above, as you characterize them as “material consequences” of the TRI/a semiotic state (and here begins your nonsensical, alternating claim that the entailments are both necessary and sufficient conditions for and necessary results of the TRI/a semiotic state).

    Later, on June 2, at last, a full six weeks after my opening illustration, you hit on citing fire, and eventually the fire tetrahedron:

    We know that to cause certain physical reactions to take place requires heat at a certain temperature. We know that metabolic organisms must respire, or die of toxicity. We know that an occurrence of fire requires heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent.

    You then groped your way to your new, borning argument that your “entailments” are entailments in the sense that they are necessary and sufficient conditions for a semiotic state:

    I have just observed that every fire requires a fuel, a heat source, and an oxidizing agent. If any of these three elements are removed, then no occurrence of fire will take place. When an occurrence of fire does take place, there is a chain reaction of rapid oxidation called combustion, which is an exothermic reaction between the oxidant and fuel producing heat and usually light. I claim that the presence of these three elements, involved in combustion, confirms the existence of a fire.

    On June 10th came your clearest expression of this new line of reasoning:

    Bill, if a specific thing only exist under specific conditions, then does it existence entail the existence of those specific conditions?

    Which brings me once again to the argument that you managed to omit from your summary:

    You now assert that “the entailments” are entailments in the sense that they are necessary and sufficient conditions for a given state of affairs, and therefore the presence of those conditions are “entailed” in the presence of that state of affairs (TRI/a semiotic state).

    However, to arrive at inferences founded on this claim, one must establish that “the specific conditions” are, in fact, necessary and sufficient conditions. But you’ve offered no argument either from theory or observation to support that claim. Therefore your revised inferences fail because you haven’t begun to independently establish that your “specific thing exists only given those specific conditions” – other than supplying mutually reinforcing definitions that assume your conclusions.

    An accurate history of this exchange would therefore acknowledge:

    1) For six weeks you alternately denied, defended, and repeated arguments that can only be interpreted as “A -> B. B, therefore A.”

    2) The notion that you actually intended to characterize your “entailments” as “necessary and sufficient conditions” for TRI/a semiotic state wasn’t given explicit voice until June 2 – the same day you reproduced a beautifully preserved specimen of “A -> B. B, therefore A.” That notion is largely absent from statements of your argument such yours to Moran; those few passages that hint at this notion are dwarfed by the number of statements that say otherwise, including that of June 2, dissected above.

    3) Your revised claim regarding what you intended as “entailments” (that they are necessary and sufficient conditions) is met by an immediate objection that I have repeated multiple times. You again find yourself unable to muster a response.


    You have made a material counter-claim that a non-semiotic process could demonstrate the material entailments as given in the argument. Here we are making statements about physical objects in the real world. To support your claim would require a demonstration of a physical system that exhibits the same material consequences as given in the argument, which does not also involve the transfer of recorded information.

    I’m content to show that your own definitions, applied to real biological systems, result in yet another contradiction that is fatal to your argument:

    – Information contained in DNA is acquired through a templating process that does not meet your definition of “the transfer of recorded information.” During cell division DNA unwinds and, by means of non-arbitrary templating, duplicate strands are assembled containing identical information. No protocols or arbitrary encoding are involved in the descent of these duplicates, the materials involved are not physically separated and there is nothing arbitrary in the templating at any point in this process.

    – Therefore DNA cannot not contain “recorded information,” because there has been no “transfer of recorded information.” It follows that the transcription of DNA into amino acids/proteins cannot be an instance of “the transfer of recorded information” because no “recorded information” is present in DNA to transfer.

    -Ergo, the transcription of DNA into proteins itself therefore exemplifies a process that displays the claimed “entailments” of (necessary and sufficient conditions for) “the transfer of recorded information/a semiotic state,” yet there is no transfer of recored information. This all follows directly from your definitions. You’ve omitted any response.

    Give it a go. Maybe I’m missing something.  

    Icing on the cake:


    Every time you went into your bachelor speech, you strategically chose to only include the male entailment, and completely ignore the others.

    Again demonstrating that you don’t understand entailment. You raised this objection once before, nicely deflected by Flint:

    You are right, being a bachelor DOES entail being alive, being single, and being marriageable. But being alive does NOT entail being a bachelor, and being single does NOT entail being a bachelor, and being marriageable does NOT entail being a bachelor. Your very examples illustrate your repeated logical fallacy. Over and over.

    [Edits for clarity]

  21. Flint

    Are you kidding? If the ground rules for this forum are that everyone argue in good faith, you’re asking someone to judge good faith. How? If the goal is to trick a creationist into being honest, you must be patient, clever, and have a hide like an elephant. If you’re going to take action against lies, you’ll drive every creationist back into their ghetto, where they can pound their chests and declare victory behind the safety of the ban-hammer.

    We must always be aware of the Benetta Doctrine here: “In all of these efforts, the creationists make abundant use of a simple tactic: They lie. They lie continually, they lie prodigiously, and they lie because they must.” At best, this forum serves as a place where they are encouraged to lie in public, where the lies can be exposed in detail. And to do that, you must be willing to tolerate lies, personal attacks, misrepresentations, distortions, slander, fabrication and the whole creationist debate arsenal. They lie because they MUST.

    I think it was a mistake to ban Joe just because he posted pornography. Just delete the pornography. Joe, more than anyone else, epitomized the bankruptcy of the ID “theory”.   

  22. Elizabeth Post author

    I think what I might do is to start a new thread, in which the rules of this site are more strictly enforced.  However, rather than send violating posts to guano, I will move them here.

    Upright BiPed, please read the forum rules here.  They are not onerous, and I have no wish to censor ideas.  I do want to ensure that emotional baggage and assumptions about other posters’ motivations are rigorously excluded.  Let’s conduct this in an academically rigorous way.

    Let everyone address questions presented to them as clearly as they can, and read the responses as carefully as they can.

    Then we may make some progress.  junkdnaforlife has made a good start, and I’ll repost his/her post above in the new thread.



  23. Upright BiPed

    Note that you state “there are material consequences” of the transfer of recorded information (your “entailments”). There is no reading of your characterization of “the entailments” as “material consequences” above that supports your current claim that what you intended to assert, all along, was that “the entailments” are necessary and sufficient conditions

    Did you resist the explicit language?

    The original argument:

    There is a list of physical entailments of recorded information that can therefore be generalized and compiled without regard to the source of the information. In other words, the list is only about the physical entailments of the information, not its source. I am using the word “entailment” in the standard sense – to impose as a necessary result (Merriam-Webster). These physical entailments are a necessary result of the existence of recorded information transfer. And they are observable.

    That list includes the four material observations as discussed in the previous paragraphs: a) the existence of an arrangement of matter acting as a physical representation, b) the existence of an arrangement of matter to establish the relationship between a representation and the effect it represents within a system (the protocol), c) the existence of physical effects being driven by the input of the representations, and d) the dynamic property that they each remain discrete. Observations of systems that satisfy these four requirements confirm the existence of actual (not analogous) information transfer.

    My response in April, after your comments:

    By my suggestion that a ‘demonstration of recorded information is also a demonstration of a semiotic state’, I make the claim that recorded information is – by necessity – semiotic. I make that claim squarely upon material observation, and I challenge you or anyone else to demonstrate otherwise.

    Continuing response from April:

    I have established a correspondence between “heat dissipation” and the Second Law by virtue of the material observations. It is very much my intent to establish the same correspondence between semiosis and recorded information by virtue of the material observations. Recorded information must be semiotic in the same way that heat dissipation must travel from hot to cold.

    What you’ve failed to recognize in your objection is that I have materially demonstrated that recorded information transfer is necessarily semiotic.

    Your response on April 28th:

    Adding “of necessity” doesn’t strengthen the claim in the absence of a demonstration of that necessity.

    Having heard it, and rejected it, did you not then scoff at it? May 3rd:

    Wrong question. The question is, “can a process other than the necessarily semiotic [your emphasis] transfer of recorded information result in an arrangement of matter to represent an effect within a system, as well as an arrangement of matter to establish the relationship between the representation and the effect within that system?”

    We say yes. You don’t believe it (so what?). That’s the question at issue.

    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    You see Bill, what you (as a human being) add to the observation of evidence (by your treatment of it) is not my problem. It never has been. In any case, you’ve established that the question at hand is whether or not your non-semiotic process is a reality or not. You plainly say “can a process other than” and then answered “yes” to your own question.

    So my question is “What is it Bill?” You asked the question two months and nine days ago.

    You’ve also stated that you think the claim of necessity needs some strengthening – something to fill the absence, as you call it. This is an incredible statement, like you’ve just landed on this planet for the first time, and haven’t the foggiest idea; as if you have no concept of the issues whatsoever. You apparently think there’s an absence of evidence that the transfer of information requires representations and protocols. Perhaps you think that this absence is both logical and evidentiary. Since you’re new around here, allow me to ask you a couple of questions. Because we live in a material universe, do you think the transfer of information (about something) must be accomplished through some material medium? In other words, would the ‘transfer of information’ actually be the transfer of form by a material means, where the medium is one thing and the form is another? If the answer to that is yes, then wouldn’t it then be necessary for that form to be somehow recorded or instantiated into the material medium in order to be transferred? In other words, would this transfer require some system of constraint in order to evoke ‘that form’ from ‘that medium’?

    Now if you answered in the affirmative to each those questions, then the next thing you need to ask yourself is if the way we find it is a sufficient demonstration. And if not, then what should we rely on?

    Of course, as an alternative to that question, you can always ponder whether or not observing the “necessary condition” of a thing is a “material consequence” of that thing existing.

    That’s where the really tough research goes on.

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