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. Upright,

    When someone asks about the distinction you’re drawing between concepts X and Y, it is customary to respond by listing characteristics that X possesses but Y does not, and vice-versa.

    What characteristics distinguish “a semiotic state” from “the transfer of recorded information”, if any?

  2. Upright,

    Your request is not unreasonable, but I am out of time just now. And quite frankly, outlining the argument is basically what I have been doing all throughout this thread.

    But we need a concise, explicit summary of your argument, and this thread definitely does not qualify. Why not come up with a synopsis using mine as a starting point? It won’t take more than five or ten minutes. Then we’ll know exactly what you’re claiming.

  3. UB:

    You asserted that a fatal logical flaw…

    …But this effectively eliminates the ability to make any claim…

    …But when I bring this little problem to your attention, you return to take me on a tour of how it’s only the evidence which can increase or decrease our confidence in claims. Hello?

    Hello!

    …Then you turn right back around, and once again try to use the bogus objection to separate the claim from the evidence.

    There is nothing mysterious about any of this. When reasoning regarding evidence exhibits a fatal logical flaw, as does yours, no examination of the evidence can repair the argument. When one’s reasoning is not beset by fatal logical flaws, the evidence is back in play, and may (or may not) support an argument in the way I describe above, with the limitations I describe above. What is so hard to understand about that?

  4. Upright BiPed

    You might want to also keep in mind that the conclusion of the argument is that protein synthesis is observably semiotic and requires a mechanism capable of creating a semiotic state. That is the conclusion which is appropriate to the evidence.

    No, that is not a conclusion from the evidence.  That is your unsupported initial assumption.

    You continue to make the fatal logical error of assuming protein synthesis is observably semiotic when you have yet to demonstrate such a thing.

    It’s amazing how many times this has been pointed out to you, and how many times you ignore the flaw only to repeat your same baseless claims.

  5. Upright,

    Perhaps this will help.  To reach a guaranteed true conclusion, you need two things:

    1) a logically valid argument; and
    2) true premises.

    You need both of these. A logically valid argument cannot guarantee a true conclusion by itself.  It needs true premises. True premises cannot guarantee a true conclusion by themselves.  A logically valid argument is also necessary.

    An argument of the following form is logically invalid:

    1. Every occurrence of A implies an occurence of B.
    2. We observe an occurrence of B.
    3. Therefore A occurred.

    This argument remains logically invalid regardless of what is substituted for A and B.  Logical validity is an abstract quality.  Therefore, we know that the conclusion cannot be trusted regardless of whether the premises are true or false.  As Bill said, no examination of the evidence can repair the argument if the argument is logically invalid.

    On the other hand, if you withdraw the invalid argument and substitute a logically valid one, then  (and only then) the truth of the premises becomes relevant to the truth of the conclusion. 

    Correct your argument, and the evidence comes into play.  Fail to correct your argument, and the evidence remains irrelevant. 

  6. Upright BiPed,

    UPB: “The word semiotic is a term used to describe a system that operates via representations and protocols.”

    UPB: “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?)”

    Information can be transferred without a protocol, and without codes.

    Go to a barbershop anywhere in the world and get a haircut.

    Without knowing the barber’s language or any other protocol, the information regarding the success of your haircut will be transferred through your eyes and into your brain for further processing when the barber holds up a mirror so you can nod and leave a healthy tip.

    No transfer of prerecorded matter as the information transfer was carried out by stray photons trying to get to the other side of the room, but instead they bounced off your face, your head and your hair without even being told what the protocol for the information transfer was.

    No protocol, no code, no semiotic process of any kind involved.

     

     

  7. One way of testing whether DNA translation is semiotic is to ask if  — given the physical status of the mechanisms involved — whether any alternate readings of the code could.

    If the interpretation is mandatory, it’s just chemistry. 

  8. petrushka on May 17, 2012 at 11:20 pmsaid:

    One way of testing whether DNA translation is semiotic is to ask if  – given the physical status of the mechanisms involved — whether any alternate readings of the code could.

    If the interpretation is mandatory, it’s just chemistry. 

    And if there are alternative sets of molecules that could give a different reading, then we still don’t have a reason to infer design.

  9. Quick note…. I have checked back in, and read the responses.

    I will respond as quickly as I can.

    Thanks…

  10. Maybe you should also get to the point – if there is a point – as quickly as you can.

     

    You took umbrage at the question of whether or not “procedures and protocols” had anything to do with atoms condensing into stars.  You have refused to answer whether or not your “theory” of “procedures and protocols” applies to any atomic/molecular systems other than protein molecules.

     

    So we have at least established two ends of a range of increasing complexity, going from where you claim your “theory” doesn’t apply to where you claim it does.  Somewhere along this chain of increasing complexity, you apparently think that physics and chemistry cease to apply and “procedures and protocols” take over to push atoms and molecules around; or perhaps that “procedures and protocols” somehow make use of the laws of physics and chemistry to push atoms and molecules around.  You never say where or how.  You don’t even appear to understand the question.

     

    It’s all pretty murky at best.  It appears you are asserting nothing more than a complex and contorted reintroduction of vitalism.  I can assert with confidence that there is absolutely nothing to your “theory.”  It never converges, and you can’t make it converge; a familiar characteristic of pseudo-science and the pseudo-philosophical arguments used to make it appear legitimate.

  11. Well it’s always going to be some variation on vitalism, essentialism, gaps, or irreducible complexity. The game hasn’t changed since Paley.

    What we get are new buzzwords every decade or so.

    I guess what puzzles me is that if this is such a devastating argument, why aren’t Dembski, Wells, Behe, et al making it? And why is it being pitched to us rather than to them?

     

  12. I guess what puzzles me is that if this is such a devastating argument, why aren’t Dembski, Wells, Behe, et al making it? And why is it being pitched to us rather than to them?

    If my interpretation of Upright’s argument is correct, then it’s just a rehash of the argument from irreducible complexity, applied specifically to semiotic systems: Semiotic systems are irreducibly complex; therefore, semiotic systems are designed.

  13. What is the difference between “recorded information” and “genuine recorded information”? Seems to me that this is the core of UPB’s quote, theory, unquote; there is some sort of Information which is ineffably incapable of being produced by mere mindless matter and forces, and therefore a sentient mind must needs be involved in the production of this ineffable Information. Alas, there is stuff which looks like ineffable Information except it’s not—because this other stuff bloody well is produced by mindless matter and forces, with nary a sentient mind needed—so how does one distinguish between ineffable Information and very-effable-indeed non-Information? Thus far, it’s not clear from UPB’s posts whether he realizes that this is an issue for his quote, theory, unquote.

    Now that I think of it, UPB’s quote, theory, unquote, is basically a re-run of a hoary old line of argument that’s been used by Werner Gitt, among others: Start by defining ‘information’ as something that has characteristics X, Y, and Z—and can only be created by intelligence. Then cite something which you demonstrate has characteristics X, Y, and Z; assume (not demonstrate, but assume) that intelligence was needed to create whatever-it-is; and on that basis, confidently conclude that of course whatever-it-is was the product of intelligence.
    So far, I haven’t seen anything from UPB that would indicate he’s not doing this. [shrug]

  14. Upright,
    Publish or perish.  Given that you’ve been arguing this since at least 2009 don’t you think it’s about time that you did something with it, if it’s so fantastic an observation?

    December 1, 2009 at 1:27 am 
     

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

     

    March 23, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    R0b, if you’ve skimmed any of my comments, you’ll not be surprised if I don’t like to play words game while there is an elephant in the room. I think what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. Popper would be proud. A code is data (meaning) sent from one entity, through a channel, to another entity to be interpreted as meaning. In the case of DNA, the data is digital (AGTC) and provides the information necessary to create function in protiens and processes within the organism. You have some non-designed examples of that?

    Yawn.

  15. In the case of DNA, the data is digital (AGTC) and provides the information necessary to create function in protiens and processes within the organism. You have some non-designed examples of that?

    Yes, DNA.

  16. Hello Allan,

    It is observably a mechanism of repeatable transfer of sequential information from one form into another…

    Correct, and the transfer ‘from one form into another’ involves the translation of a representational arrangement of matter into a material effect, via an isolated protocol.

    …if that is what you mean by ‘semiotic’, then yes, and it is self-evident that that state requires a mechanism of coming-into-being.

    With those caveats, agreed.

    Analogous states come into being by various means – from the mind of a single or several designers with a specific intent (eg EBCDIC, ASCII), or by evolutionary change from simpler precursors with no overall plan (eg human language).

    You give two examples of how such a system comes into being. You described these means as “various”, but they are the same thing. ASCII is an extension of human language. To observe the expansion of human symbol systems and call it evolution is perfectly fine, but it doesn’t rid the observation of the human agent involved. The salient point is that the individual examples (of information transfer) span across the entire living kingdom, but are not documented to appear anywhere in the remaining inanimate world. 

    All very interesting, but hardly a foolproof guide as to how ‘semiotic’ relationships in biological macromolecules would be expected to arise.

    A material process (leading to unambiguous function) governed by arbitrary relationships instantiated within the process, is a unique material state in chemistry. The observation of a unique material state appearing only within a singular material event may very well be considered ‘foolproof’ to the extent of the observation. The conclusion of the semiotic argument is that ‘protein synthesis is semiotic’ and ‘requires a mechanism capable of creating a semiotic state’.

    It is an interesting fact that biological macromolecules are almost exclusively built upon template. DNA is template-copied and transcribed, RNA is reverse-transcribed and theoretically capable of direct copying to its complement. Never mind protein; is this is a ‘semiotic’ relationship? A means T (or U); T(or U) means A; C means G; G means C.

    You are drawing a distinction between the physical processes of transcription versus translation. You are correct that transcription is reducible to its material properties. The pair bonding which exists in DNA and RNA control the arrangement of nucleotides which will be presented for translation, but neither pair bonding nor the arrangement of those nucleotides physically determines which amino acid will appear at the peptide binding site. The amino acid that appears there in not controlled by the physical arrangement of nucleotides, but by the physical arrangement of the protocol.

    In the ribosome, these relationships hold true. The tRNA anticodon follows those ‘rules’. It just so happens that the tRNA anticodons are at one end of a complex RNA that has an amino acid at the other. That amino acid could be any acid, naturally occurring or synthetic, and the ribosome will still clip it to the growing chain. So there is nothing ‘semiotic’ going on there.

    tRNA is a passive carrier of the protocol established in the system. It plays a role in allowing the representations to induce the production of specified effects, and it does so by physically bridging the gap between input and output while allowing them to remain by discrete. It can accomplish this role because tRNA itself does not establish the protocol. If tRNA set the protocol, the required arbitrary nature of the system would collapse, and the translation of recorded information would not exist in the system.

    aaRSs are the real ‘lookup table’ in this setup – the closest approach to a ‘semiotic’ state.

    You recognize the role by its material consequences.

    But that state – a set of acid-specific protein aaRSs, and a rather slack one-way linkage from codons – is entirely derivable from a non-semiotic one – an even slacker single (non-protein) aaRS analogue.

    I understand this is your belief.  You believe that an arbitrary protocol (in protein) can rise from a directly-templated precursor (in RNA). Such a system would fall within the conclusions of the semiotic argument; that is, a mechanism capable of establishing a semiotic state is required to establish a semiotic state. The observation of such a system would establish that a semiotic state needn’t be exhibited only by the already-existing complex organizations that make up the living kingdom (as it does in every example ever observed) but can precede them from the inanimate world as well. In effect, a complex organization is required to exhibit semiosis, except where semiosis creates the complex organization it requires to exist – a conundrum powered by no observation of any kind.

  17. Dr Liddle,

    So can you give an example of a transfer of information (“recorded” or otherwise) that does not “entail the use of representations and protocols”?

    Or are you saying that all information transfer is semiotic?

     You ask this question after:

    BIPED: 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?)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?)

    EL: No

    EL: I think that is true regardless of what definition of information you are using.

  18. RB,

    The transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect. A semiotic state entails the use of representations and protocols.

    That doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

    Yes, it does. The transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect. A semiotic state entails the use of representations and protocols. If your want to assert an argument which requires something more from the accurate descriptions of these terms, then your argument must be flawed.

  19. Keiths,

    But we need a concise, explicit summary of your argument, and this thread definitely does not qualify. Why not come up with a synopsis using mine as a starting point? It won’t take more than five or ten minutes. Then we’ll know exactly what you’re claiming.

    I think there are posts within this thread that do a fairly admirable job of summarizing the issues at hand. In any case, here is an abbreviated summary:

    Definitions

    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 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.

    Premises:

    1. Recorded information exists, and the production of unambiguous function can expose its existence to material observation.

    2. Information (form about something) requires a material medium in order to be recorded and transferred, and therefore has material consequences.

    3. The capacity to transfer ‘form about something’ via a material medium is facilitated by the transfer of an arbitrary representation of that form instantiated in an arrangement of matter.

    4. A representation is arbitrary to the form it represents because the medium the form is transferred in is not the form it represents to the system.

    5. To produce a material effect from the transfer of a representation requires a second arrangement of matter (a protocol) to physically establish the otherwise arbitrary relationship between the representational arrangement and the effect it induces in the system.

    6. The arbitrary relationship between a representation and its effect is maintained throughout the transfer of recorded information; therefore neither the representation nor the protocol becomes the effect.

    Argument:

    Recorded information is transferred within a system when a physical representation induces an effect within the system, and a materially-isolated protocol determines what that effect will be.

    There are four material entailments which can confirm the existence of recorded information transfer, a) the existence of an arrangement of matter acting as a physical representation, b) the existence of an arrangement of matter (a protocol) to establish the relationship between a representation and the effect it induces, c) the existence of unambiguous function being driven by the input of the representations, and d) the dynamic property that neither the representation nor the protocol becomes the effect.

    These entailments are demonstrated to exist in the transfer of recorded information during protein synthesis. Protein synthesis therefore demonstrates a semiotic state

  20. Would you just give a straight answer to my question, Upright BiPed?

    If I wasn’t clear about your position, I wouldn’t have asked.

     

  21. Keiths,

    An argument of the following form is logically invalid:

    1. Every occurrence of A implies an occurence of B.
    2. We observe an occurrence of B.
    3. Therefore A occurred.

    This argument remains logically invalid regardless of what is substituted for A and B.

    1. Every occurrence of Death implies an occurrence of Life.
    2. We observe Death.
    3. Therefore Life occurred.

    We are not talking about square circles here. Evidence mediates claims.

  22. Toronto,

    Information can be transferred without a protocol, and without codes.

    Go to a barbershop anywhere in the world and get a haircut.

    Without knowing the barber’s language or any other protocol, the information regarding the success of your haircut will be transferred through your eyes and into your brain for further processing

    Your ability to repeatedly tangle yourself in flawed reasoning is becoming legendary, but it’s entirely unnecessary. If the “success of your haircut” is dependent on ‘what it looks like to you’, then the “success of your haircut” is not dependent on the language of your barber, but is instead dependent on your ability to see your haircut.

    You cannot see your haircut without the use of representations and protocols.

    When you see your haircut, it is not your haircut traveling through your optic nerve; it is instead a representation of that image which has been instantiated (transcribed) into a material representation (neural impulses). There are now two material realities; one is the haircut, and the other is a transcribed representation that will result in “Hey, it’s my haircut”. The relationship between the representation and the effect “Hey it’s my haircut” is arbitrary because the medium the form is transferred in is not the form it represents to the system. For you to interpret that transcription and translate it into “Hey it’s my haircut” requires a protocol instantiated in your visual cortex.     

    If you’ll calm yourself and attempt to hear to what is being told to you, it is likely that you’ll stop throwing out these flawed objections.

  23. Petrushka,

    One way of testing whether DNA translation is semiotic is to ask if  – given the physical status of the mechanisms involved — whether any alternate readings of the code could [take place].

    If the interpretation is mandatory, it’s just chemistry. 

    Why do you keep returning to this absolute nonsense that information processing can only take place if there is an ‘alternate meaning’ that could come from the representation being represented to the system? This is completely and totally an anthropomorphic understanding of information. It’s a fallacy. When you push the “a” key on your keyboard, is there an alternate meaning that your computer will “decide”?

    The answer is no. The protocol for the keyboard key “a” is set within the system. It is, as you say, mandatory. Are you now going to say that your computer does not process recorded information by the use of representations and protocol – i.e. semiosis

    As I had to demonstrate to Dr Liddle, you are a natural-born human symbol-maker – you are able to make a symbol of anything you wish, and have the capacity to make an alternate meaning of any symbol you encounter. Stop projecting your uniquely human capacities onto the remaining world. You must remove yourself from the sample.

  24. “4. A representation is arbitrary to the form it represents because the medium the form is transferred in is not the form it represents to the system.”

    So you are saying that the components of a chemical reaction represent themselves, and that this representation COULD be in just any medium or form, but just happen to be in the form of the molecules involved in the reaction?

    Just out of curiosity, if the medium is arbitrary, what other medium other than molecules would store the information involved in a chemical reaction?

    Seriously, all I see is complex chemistry here. I see no abstract protocols or representations beyond the chemistry, and I don’t see how there could be.

    Keep it simple, hydrogen and oxygen. Which one “represents the arbitrary abstraction” of oxygen? Of hydrogen? To form water, what abstract representations OTHER THAN hydrogen and oxygen would you require? Why?       

  25. Dr Liddle,

    And if there are alternative sets of molecules that could give a different reading, then we still don’t have a reason to infer design.

    This is incoherent to both logic and observation; changing the protocols in a computer system is no indication that the system wasn’t designed. There is no principle involved that says designed things can only be interpreted as designed if they must appear as they do, with no alternatives being possible.

    ?!?!

    Your conclusion does not follow from your premise. Moreover, the conclusion of the semiotic argument is that protein synthesis is semiotic.  Its semiotic state is established by the observation of physical representations and physical protocols operating within the system.

  26. Mike Elzinga,

    You took umbrage at the question of whether or not “procedures and protocols” had anything to do with atoms condensing into stars.  You have refused to answer whether or not your “theory” of “procedures and protocols” applies to any atomic/molecular systems other than protein molecules.

    It is not umbrage I took; it is simply the recognition that your comment has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic. I have read some of the comments you’ve posted on this forum, where you clearly enjoy promoting yourself as the ol’ man who has seen and heard it all. I have also taken note of the actual content of your several of your posts. I interpret your position being more akin to being a stick stuck in the mud.

    One of the topics of considerable interest and study in my background is the contest of opposing force, i.e. strategy. I see that you do not attack my argument on its actual content, but wish to change the terms in order to seek an advantage elsewhere. This is a dead give-away.

    If you can produce a coherent response to the argument presented, at that time I will engage it.  

  27. Petrushka,

    I guess what puzzles me is that if this is such a devastating argument, why aren’t Dembski, Wells, Behe, et al making it? And why is it being pitched to us rather than to them?

    Behe and Wells are biologists, and Dembski is a mathematician. They engaged the issue from the perspective of their individual interests. The gentlemen you cited would be the first to agree that they are no different than anyone else making a claim about material reality; they hold no authority over the observations they’ve made beyond the fact that they have made the observations. The semiotic argument is being presented here (and elsewhere) to critics of various stripes for the very purpose of exposing it to criticism.

  28. Cubist,

    What is the difference between “recorded information” and “genuine recorded information”?

    To my knowledge I have never attempted to make a distinction between “recorded information” and “genuine recorded information”. The distinction I have made elsewhere is one between the actual observation of “recorded information” versus the concept of “physical information” – which is the distinction between matter being used as a medium arranged to record information, and the wholly anthropocentric interpretation that all matter contains information. The latter is a reification of “information” for the express purpose of making the mere state of any object “information”, so that it becomes calculable to human investigators. Not only does this view take no account of the actuality of ‘matter arranged to record information’, but it also destroys the term “information” by making the unique phenomena of recorded information ubiquitous among all matter. We are left to create a new word for “information” because we’ve effectively destroyed the one we had. The premise that “all matter contains information” is easily debunked, and we gain nothing by accepting the premise.  

    Start by defining ‘information’ as something that has characteristics X, Y, and Z—and can only be created by intelligence. Then cite something which you demonstrate has characteristics X, Y, and Z; assume (not demonstrate, but assume) that intelligence was needed to create whatever-it-is; and on that basis, confidently conclude that of course whatever-it-is was the product of intelligence. So far, I haven’t seen anything from UPB that would indicate he’s not doing this.

    You might start with the recorded conversation here, where none of those things you’ve assigned to me have occurred. If you think they have, then name them individually with supporting evidence.

  29. OMTWO,

    Publish or perish.  Given that you’ve been arguing this since at least 2009 don’t you think it’s about time that you did something with it, if it’s so fantastic an observation?

    Have you been researching me? 🙂

    If you keep looking you’re bound to find some factual gaffs and poorly worded comments, if not outright mistakes and outbursts. 🙂

  30. Yes, I know that the conclusion of your semiotic argument is that protein synthesis is semiotic.

    So what?

    Are you ever going to address the question as to what this has to do with an argument for intelligent design?

  31. UBP: “A representation is arbitrary to the form it represents because the medium the form is transferred in is not the form it represents to the system.”

    This is not a logically valid argument. The representation of the form may or may not be in the same medium as the form. This has no bearing on whether or not the representation is arbitrary to the form. As I have pointed out before, if the representation were indeed arbitrary to the form, it could not actually represent the form in any meaningful way. 

  32. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “Your ability to repeatedly tangle yourself in flawed reasoning is becoming legendary, but it’s entirely unnecessary. If the “success of your haircut” is dependent on ‘what itlooks like to you’, then the “success of your haircut” is not dependent on the language of your barber, but is instead dependent on your ability to see your haircut.”

    I have to agree that the reason you don’t understand me is solely my fault.

    So, let’s try a step at a time.

    Imagine that a stray photon hits my face and bounces off a mirror into my eye.

    I am using the term “protocol” below as it is used in “data communications”.

    What “protocol” had to be agreed upon before this transfer of information?

    If the “agreed upon protocol” in question does not do some sort of check on the validity of the photon striking my eye, or allow me to re-request the “transmission”, then what does this “agreed upon protocol” do if anything?

    Does the single photon represent a code?

    Is the photon compressed?

    Note that the photon could strike anywhere on my body and thus the “destination” is not part of the “protocol” either.

    Also note there is no requirement that my body have a means of detecting the photon since the photon’s direction is in no way dependent on anything that gets hit by it.

    If you have read this far, I have another request.

    Instead of implying how dumb your opposition is, just state your point.

    We can move faster that way and get you actually understanding what evolution is, from the point of view of those who actually call themselves  evolutionists.

     

     

     

  33. Upright,

    You’re being downright careless.

    Your Life/Death argument isn’t equivalent to the one I presented. If you would slow down and think a bit more carefully, I think you could avoid these embarrassing mistakes.

    Substitute ‘Death’ for ‘A’ and ‘Life’ for ‘B’ in the example I presented of an invalid argument:

    1. Every occurrence of A implies an occurrence of B.
    2. We observe an occurrence of B.
    3. Therefore A occurred.

    Now substituting:

    1. Every occurrence of Death implies an occurrence of Life.
    2. We observe an occurrence of Life.
    3. Therefore Death occurred.

    The argument is logically invalid.  The conclusion does not follow from the premises. The substitution makes no difference.  Evidence is irrelevant when the argument is logically invalid.

    Now look at your version of the Life/Death argument:

    1. Every occurrence of Death implies an occurrence of Life.
    2. We observe an occurrence of Death.
    3. Therefore Life occurred.

    That is a completely different argument.  Unlike your earlier argument regarding information transfer, this one is logically valid.  Since the argument is valid, the evidence is relevant.

    You’ve just reinforced the point your critics have been making throughout the thread:  Evidence is relevant to the truth of the conclusion only if the argument is logically valid.

    To use your terminology, evidence mediates logically valid claims.  It does not mediate logically invalid claims.

      

  34. Upright BiPed on May 20, 2012 at 11:09 pmsaid:

     

    As I had to demonstrate to Dr Liddle, you are a natural-born human symbol-maker – you are able to make a symbol of anything you wish, and have the capacity to make an alternate meaning of any symbol you encounter. Stop projecting your uniquely human capacities onto the remaining world. You must remove yourself from the sample

    Can you really be unaware that this is exactly what you seem to be doing yourself in inferring “intelligence” from “semiosis”?

  35. You are correct and I was mistaken. Mea culpa. Which only emphasizes my earlier warning that arguing in the abstract can lead to errors. Moreover, there is no need to argue in the abstract, and nowhere did I do so in my argument. 

    You asked for a summary of the argument I was presenting, and I provided an abbreviated summary as you asked. Now, the abstraction you are focusing on is supposed to indicate (by abstract analogy) a flaw in the conclusion “Demonstrating a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state” where the physical consequences of information transfer are the demonstrated use of representations and protocols, and the definition of a semiotic state is a process using representations and protocols.
     

    Apply your keen eye to that conclusion and demonstrate (without abstraction) the flaw in the statement so egregious that it needs no evidence to mediate.

     

  36. I hope we agree that the representation is not arbitrary. As has been pointed out, that would mean it can be represented in any way that can be encoded and decoded by some protocol. It could be encoded in anything from ASCII codes to arrangements of ice cream cones to shapes of clouds, and it would STILL work if there were protocols to recast it into and out of these forms. But in the case of biology, there is no such arbitrariness. The information is “encoded” in specific molecules, and ONLY in those molecules, or the reaction won’t take place. The very opposite of arbitrary.

    And as Elizabeth keeps repeating, so what? How do we get from organic molecules to intelligence? I don’t think this question, which lies at the very heart of UPB’s argument, has even been addressed. I agree with Petrushka that UPB takes it so much for granted that if he can represent something as “semiotic” according to his ideosyncratic definition, THEREFORE intelligence must be involved. He must consider this so obvious that he needn’t even say so! 

  37. Upright,

    Your summary is still very murky, so let me attempt to distill it to its essence:

    A1. A system involving representation(s) and protocol(s) is a semiotic system.
    A2. Protein synthesis involves a representation and a protocol.
    A3. Therefore, protein synthesis is a semiotic system.

    B1. All semiotic systems are designed.
    B2. Protein synthesis is a semiotic system (by A3).
    B3. Therefore, the protein synthesis system is designed.

    Having stated it clearly, I can see why you might prefer to keep your argument murky.

    The problem is with premise B1. Without premise B1, the argument collapses. How do you know that premise B1 is true? What evidence is there that all semiotic systems — that is, all systems involving representations and protocols — are designed?

  38. RB (times many):

    What does “a semiotic state” entail that “the transfer of recorded information” does not?

    UB:

    The transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect. A semiotic state entails the use of representations and protocols.

    RB:

    That doesn’t really answer the question, does it?

    UB:

    Yes, it does.

    No, UB, it doesn’t. As Keiths points out, when someone asks about the distinction you’re drawing between concepts X and Y, it is customary to respond by listing characteristics that X possesses but Y does not, and vice-versa. 

    The transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect. A semiotic state entails the use of representations and protocols. If your want to assert an argument which requires something more from the accurate descriptions of these terms, then your argument must be flawed.

    I’m interested in what a “semiotic state” entails that “the transfer of recorded information” does not, information not supplied by your “accurate descriptions.”  

    Rather than being evasive, why not answer this straightforward question. It goes to how you are using terms central to your argument.

  39. Madbat,

    UBP: “A representation is arbitrary to the form it represents because the medium the form is transferred in is not the form it represents to the system.”

    This is not a logically valid argument. The representation of the form may or may not be in the same medium as the form. This has no bearing on whether or not the representation is arbitrary to the form. As I have pointed out before, if the representation were indeed arbitrary to the form, it could not actually represent the form in any meaningful way.

    Firstly, a representation of form – which is the form itself – is not a representation. In other words, the nose on your face is not a representation of the nose on your face. For one thing to represent another, it must be separate from it. Keep in mind the transfer of information (i.e. the form about something) is a transfer of the form about something, not a transfer of the thing itself. But let us set that aside for the moment.

    I think I might now understand the roadblock between us, so allow me to give a couple of examples in order to explain it.

    Since it’s on the table, let us take Toronto’s example of seeing his haircut. When Toronto sees his haircut it is not his haircut traveling through his optical nerve, it is a representation of that haircut (transcribed into neural impulses) which will result in a cognitive effect, “Hey, it’s my haircut”.

    To result in that effect, the representation must be translated from the neural impulses into the cognitive effect which it represents to the system: “Hey it’s my haircut”.

    Therefore, the neural impulses are arbitrary to the effect “because the medium they are transferred by is not the form they represent to the system.”

    This is just as it was in the earlier example (you and I discussed) regarding the letter “a” being arbitrary to the “ahh” sound that people make in speech.

    When the “ahh” sound first became represented by the letter “a”, it was intended that the letter “a” would evoke the “ahh” sound in the recipient viewing the letter.

    When the recipient sees the letter “a”, it is not the letter “a” which is traveling through his/her optical nerve, it is a representation of that letter (transcribed into neural impulses) which will result in evoking the “ahh” sound in the recipient.

    The letter “a” is therefore arbitrary to the “ahh” sound “because the medium [neural pattern/impulses] it is transferred by is not the form [the “ahh” sound] it represents to the system.”

    Perhaps this explanation highlights where I believe you and I might be talking past each other. Reading your comments, I get the impression you are saying that transcription cannot be arbitrary. If that is indeed what you are saying, then you are correct. If I have said something to make you think otherwise, then I apologize because that was not my intent. When I say that the letter “a” is arbitrary to the “ahh” sound, I am referring to the representation being arbitrary to the effect it represents in the system, as I’ve stated several times in this thread already. And as for transcription, I have also stated several times that transcription can be reduced to its physical make-up.

    This issue is perfectly reflected in protein synthesis; the transcription of DNA to mRNA to tRNA is controlled by the purely physical process of pair bonding between nucleotides. But the pair bonding of nucleic acids does not determine what the effect within the system will be (i.e. which amino acid will appear at the peptide binding site). That result is controlled in isolation by the protocol instantiated in the system (the aaRS).  As I have state several times on this thread:

    The amino acid that appears [at the binding site] is not controlled by the physical arrangement of nucleotides, but by the physical arrangement of the protocol”.

    Therefore, the relationship that exists between the nucleic acid (the representation) and the resulting amino acid (the form it represents to the system) is not materially determined by the nucleic acid; it is arbitrary to the nucleic acid, and is established by the aaRS instead.

  40. Toronto,

    I have to agree that the reason you don’t understand me is solely my fault.

    So, let’s try a step at a time.

    Imagine that a stray photon hits my face and bounces off a mirror into my eye.

    I am using the term “protocol” below as it is used in “data communications”.

    What “protocol” had to be agreed upon before this transfer of information?

    Here you are talking about sensory input from your environment, specifically the visual transcription of those surroundings into a neural representation to be translated in your visual cortex. The protocol (which exists in order to facilitate that translation) does not play a role in transcription.

    Since you are trying to see this through the eyes of computer technology, allow me to put it this way. Let us say I hook a camera to a computer. The camera has an output signal (a pattern) which the computer will receive and translate into an image it displays on the screen. The protocol which allows the computer to translate the input signal into the screen image does not play a role in the photons of light hitting the CCD sensor of the camera.

    I think this understanding will clear up several of your follow-on questions.

    If you have read this far, I have another request.

    Instead of implying how dumb your opposition is, just state your point.

    I’ve stated my point several times, Toronto. On the other hand, your stated purpose here with regard to me is to “show onlookers how bad [my] arguments are”. In that pursuit, you have indicated that in dealing with someone like me, “logic and reason” are useless. To the contrary, I am defending my argument using exactly those. If you feel I have been unfair to you in the competition, then I apologize. It is not my intent to call you “dumb”, but only to defeat your counter arguments.  Having said that…

    We can move faster that way and get you actually understanding what evolution is.

    This last comment of yours is fairly dumb. But you earned it. 🙂

  41. Dr Liddle,

    Can you really be unaware that this is exactly what you seem to be doing yourself in inferring “intelligence” from “semiosis”?

    Let’s look past the fact that you’ve added something to the semiotic argument here that it does not include. The semiotic argument presents four physical entailments that can confirm the existence of recorded information transfer, and it specifically states “the descriptions of these entailments make no reference to a mind. Certainly a living being with a mind can be tied to the observations of information transfer, but so can other living things and non-living machinery.” Furthermore, the conclusion of the argument states only the requirement that a mechanism capable of creating a semiotic state is inferred by the observations.

    Having said that, we can certainly agree that to make any claim as a human will at least have the potential to humanize the conclusion in one way or another. But claims are made all the same. The distinction is in the details. Please provide the details to your assertion, as opposed to simply making it.

  42. Keiths,

    Your summary is still very murky, so let me attempt to distill it to its essence:

    A1. A system involving representation(s) and protocol(s) is a semiotic system.
    A2. Protein synthesis involves a representation and a protocol.
    A3. Therefore, protein synthesis is a semiotic system.

    B1. All semiotic systems are designed.
    B2. Protein synthesis is a semiotic system (by A3).
    B3. Therefore, the protein synthesis system is designed.

    You spent several posts arguing for the validity of RB’s claim that my conclusion contained a logical flaw which was so fatal that the evidence supporting the conclusion wasn’t even required in order to defeat the argument. Then in my last post to you, I asked you to drop the unnecessary “argument by analogy” and simply argue your point based upon the actual conclusion itself. I asked:

    …the abstraction you are focusing on is supposed to indicate (by abstract analogy) a flaw in the conclusion “Demonstrating a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state” where the physical consequences of information transfer are the demonstrated use of representations and protocols, and the definition of a semiotic state is a process using representations and protocols.

    Apply your keen eye to that conclusion and demonstrate (without abstraction) the flaw in the statement so egregious that it needs no evidence to mediate.

    You then abandoned that argument, and returned instead with a complete rewrite of my summary. I can only assume now that you do not see the “fatal flaw” in the conclusion of my argument, otherwise you would have stated it. After all, it has been the repeated core of your and RB’s posts thus far.

    As for your rewrite, I have a very simple question to ask of you. Do you think it is relevant to this conversation that the semiotic argument does not contain a B1, or a B2, or a B3? Moreover, do you think it is relevant to the validity of my argument that you ignore the opportunity to challenge the actual premises of the argument, only to inject foreign material into the argument and challenge those instead?

  43. RB,

    Rather than being evasive, why not answer this straightforward question. It goes to how you are using terms central to your argument.

    Bill, it seems as though you are stuck at a crossroad, unable to formulate a counter-argument and blaming that failure on my avoidance of your questions. Yet hardly avoiding your questions, I have answered them several times. You have asked what the term “transfer of recorded information” entails. I have answered that the transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect within a system. You have asked what a semiotic state entails. Again I answered; it entails the use of representations and protocols within a process. Apparently the accurate descriptions of these terms do not give you the detail you need to finish formulating an argument. Also, apparently the whole swath of additional comments made regarding the argument (from all over this thread) does not provide you the required detail either. In fact, at this point I have summarized the argument all over again for Keiths, and yet still here you are, unable to articulate your argument without asking me for additional detail. You state that in these instances, “it is customary to respond by listing characteristics that X possesses but Y does not”. But you have yet to tell me why making the argument, restating the argument, defending the argument, and summarizing the argument (now three times) does not provide you with the detail you require to make your case. If your claim that you need more detail is true, then we have to assume that the content of the argument given to Dr Moran, plus the content of the argument given to Dr Liddle (which you are aware of), plus the content of the arguments given to Dr Rec, Nick Matzke, etc (and any others you are aware of), plus the entire content of the three threads on this website devoted to the argument, plus the entirety of all comments passed directly between you and I, still does not prepare you with enough detail to state your case. Like a comedy routine, it’s as if you could hit it out of the park if I would just be kind enough to feed you the straight lines.

    The simple fact is that you are unable to articulate a valid counter-argument. You are unable to do so, and are therefore likely going for a draw. A claim of ‘avoidance’ on my part is the perfect candidate for the job. And if not that, then something else.

    Prove me wrong. Show me you have a valid counter-argument to make. Thats why I’m arguing with you. 

  44. The simple fact is that you are unable to articulate a valid counter-argument. You are unable to do so, and are therefore likely going for a draw. A claim of ‘avoidance’ on my part is the perfect candidate for the job. And if not that, then something else.

    Prove me wrong. Show me you have a valid counter-argument to make. Thats why I’m arguing with you.

    Prove what wrong, exactly? That the modern transcription/translation system contains a representational element – within certain limits, the absolute specificity of aaRSs to amino acids, and their approximate specificity to tRNAs, allows us to call it a ‘representational’ relationship?

    Or that reaching that first conclusion necessarily demands a designer to cause that state to arise?

    You can have the first, but given that there are unguided mechanisms (I have elaborated one such) by which this (approximate) representational relationship could arise, I don’t see a requirement to prove your conclusion wrong, given its shaky premise. Even with a valid premise, the conclusion would be debatable. But we don’t need to go that far. Unless “semiosis” is rigorously defined, cannot exist without a designer AND translation is semiotic in that rigorous sense, you have proven nothing by invoking it.

  45. UPB: if it is a code and not just chemistry, demonstrate this by making a novel, meaningful utterance in the “language.”

    Design us a new, meaningful sequence. 

    That’s what we mean by a code or language. a symbol system having a syntax that allows new utterances.

    Put up or shut up. You claim that it is possible to design in this language. Prove it. 

  46. Upright BiPed – several very clear questions have been put to you. 

    Please give clear answers to them.

  47. UB:

    Yet hardly avoiding your questions, I have answered them several times.

    Not this one.

    You have asked what the term “transfer of recorded information” entails. I have answered that the transfer of recorded information entails the transfer of form in order to produce an effect within a system. You have asked what a semiotic state entails. Again I answered; it entails the use of representations and protocols within a process.

    I’ve asked neither of these questions. What I’ve asked is what a “semiotic state” entails that “the transfer of recorded information” does not.

    You insist that these are separate elements in your argument. You state that, for that reason, the characterization of your argument as invoking invalid logic (“A entails B therefore B entails A”) reflects a broken analogy on its face, because there is a third element (“C”) we’ve omitted. Yet you also claim that the transfer of recorded information is “by necessity a semiotic state,” clearly asserting they are very closely related.

    Given that you insist both that these are separate elements and that one cannot occur without the other therefore being present, I’m asking you to distinguish them.

    But you have yet to tell me why making the argument, restating the argument, defending the argument, and summarizing the argument (now three times) does not provide you with the detail you require to make your case.

    Because that particular detail is not there.

    …if I would just be kind enough to feed you the straight lines.

    Is requesting a straight answer to a simple question too much to ask? I would think a few sentences, a response half the length of your most recent would do it. 

    What does a “semiotic state” entail that “the transfer of recorded information” does not?

  48. Exactly this. I’ve asked ID supporters many times to translate some DNA into English for me. 

    Languages/codes have the property that they can be translated into other languages and retain their meaning (mostly). If DNA is in fact such a “code” then it should be possible to translate it into English. 

    Yet “STOP” is about all that anybody can come up with.  

  49. The basic problem, as I’ve been harping on for some time, is that there is no syntax or grammar. There is no way to decipher the code except to do chemistry.

    One of the things that ID proponents simply won’t acknowledge is that chemistry is emergent. You simply can’t predict the properties of new molecules, at least not to the degree necessary to design life.

    When pharmaceutical companies are looking for new functional molecules, they do exactly what living things do — they make batches that are variations of known  functional molecules and sieve them for new function.

    This is not analogous to the way symbol using intelligent beings make new utterances in language. 

  50. Please give clear answers to them.

    No answer is clear to those ideologically committed to that which the answers demonstrate false.

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