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. William J. Murray on May 21, 2012 at 2:07 pmsaid:Edit

    Please give clear answers to them.

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

    No answer is clear if it hasn’t actually been given. Those of us accustomed to marking exam scripts are capable of distinguishing between:

    1. A wrong answer
    2. A valid answer
    3. An answer that demonstrates why the question is invalid
    4. A response that does not address the question at all.

    Upright BiPed has produced lots of Ds.

  2. Upright,

    You are evading two crucial questions:

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

    2.  What evidence is there that all semiotic systems — that is, all systems involving representations and protocols, by the definition you supplied — are designed?

    Without a sensible answer to #1,  your “semiotic theory of ID” collapses due to a logical flaw.  Without a sensible answer to #2, it collapses due to an unsupported premise.  You seem unable to provide either answer.

    Things are not looking good for the “semiotic theory of ID”.

    Can you deliver answers to these questions, or will you continue to evade them? 

  3. Upright BiPed on May 21, 2012 at 8:52 amsaid:Edit

    Dr Liddle Elizabeth,

    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.

    Well, if you are not inferring “intelligence” in your argument, then in what sense is it an “argument for Intelligent Design”?

    You call your argument “a semiotic argument for intelligent design”.  But you insist that your argument is only an argument that cell processes are semiotic.

    And that therefore a mechanism capable of producing a semiotic process must be responsible.

    Fine.

    For the gazillionth time, why is this a “semiotic argument for Intelligent Design“?

    When you reject my assumption that you are inferring intelligence from observed semiosis?

  4. The fact that you can’t seem to articulate any molecular structure that exemplifies your “theory” – other than your example of protein – is pretty clear evidence that you have no idea what you are talking about or what it is that you are attempting to replace with your “theory.”  Your “theory” of only one thing is not a replacement for biology, chemistry, and physics.  Yet you seem to think that proteins are special in some way.

     

    So rather than making folks here jump through hoops asking for ranges of molecular complexity to which your “theory” applies, why don’t you just list a bunch of molecules that you claim illustrate your “theory” and explain why these particular molecules are examples while some others, that you can also specify, are not..

     

    Your obvious distain for age, experience, knowledge, and the female gender, is quite evident from your insults of your host and her guests.  But it doesn’t convey the message you apparently think it does.

  5. There’s an OP by Upright BiPed on his argument here, I’ve just discovered.

    Quite helpful to see the whole thing laid out for a fresh audience.

    I still do not see, however, an argument for Intelligent Design, as some posters on that site have also noted.

  6. If we agree that the basic processes of life are semiotic in nature, and the only thing we know of that produces semiotic states is intelligence, it then becomes the best explanation until we find something else that generates a semiotic state.

    I think UBP has answered your question several times, and I think what has ensued is an ideologically-driven, subconscious campaign to “not understand” some exceedingly simple answers.

    In the O.P. a clear distinction is made via the UBP quote, between the mere transfer of information (hoof leaving a print in the mud), and the functional transfer of information via protocols and representations (hunter processing that information into behaviors intended to locate and sneak up on his prey).

    The hoof made an impact on the mud = transfer of information. All it is without a translation protocol that treats that impression as a symbol of something else (an animal moving through the area) that in turn activates function (what to do in relationship to the thing that left the print) is just some arbitrarily shaped mud. When water happens upon the print, it fills it up like it would an impression, also taking on the information of the print, but not translating it according to a representation of something else that is not mud and generating function in accordance with what it is representing.

    There is nothing difficult to understand here. When function is in reference to what information symbolizes (hunter), instead of the physical form of the information substrate itself (water filling in the print), you have a semiotic state.  When the fawn nuzzles up to it’s mother, nothing in that physical interaction necessarily means “feed me, I’m hungry”; it is only because the activity represents “I’m hungry” symbolically to the mother that it reacts the way it does.  “Hunger” and “Fawn nuzzling” are two entirely different material things.

    UBP hasn’t argued that the processes of the hunter or the mother are not physical, only that the resulting function is necessarily based upon protocols that interpret the physical phenomena as a representation of something other than the thing itself. Water filling up the print reacts to the print only as the thing itself; a hunter reacts to the print as a representation of something else, and his function after seeing the print has to do with the represented thing, not the thing (hoofprint) itself. The hunter doesn’t shoot  the mud.

    In terms of matter, there are three sets of matter in question:

    (1) the hunter,

    (2) the mud,

    (3) the animal.

    How is it that the matter we call “the hunter” can functionally react to the mud in ways that are not caused by the nature of the mud itself when the hunter comes in contact with it, but rather reacts to matter we call “the animal” when that set of matter is not even present? There’s nothing necessary about the mud itself that generates such a functional reaction – the water doesn’t react to “the animal” via interaction with the mud; neither do insects, bacteria, leaves, the wind, etc.

    Only a few sets of matter protocols transform the shape of the mud into a reaction about something other than the mud and makes it about something else entirely. This is a semiotic state, if I understand UBP correctly, and the difference between the transfer of information in matter an the transfer or functional information in a semiotic state.

    UBP can correct me if I have anything wrong here.

     

     

  7. If we agree that the basic processes of life are semiotic in nature, and the only thing we know of that produces semiotic states is intelligence, it then becomes the best explanation until we find something else that generates a semiotic state.

    Yes indeed. There are only two problems here.

    1) Nobody agrees that the basic processes of life are semiotic, as the word is normally applied. Nonetheless, people are willing to stretch the word enough to cover biological processes if that’s the only way to get Upright BiPed to continue trying to make an argument.

    2) If we DO accept his definition of semiotic, then this applies to almost every process one can imagine, and probably most one can’t even imagine. I personally can’t think of a single process that is NOT semiotic according to his definition.

    And THEREFORE, according to his definition, we cannot conclude intelligence simply because a process can be labeled “semiotid”. He needs to support this claim by showing the intelligence, not just redefining words. He has failed to do so despite  many dozens of requests.

  8. William J. Murray on May 21, 2012 at 4:26 pmsaid:

    If we agree that the basic processes of life are semiotic in nature, and the only thing we know of that produces semiotic states is intelligence, it then becomes the best explanation until we find something else that generates a semiotic state.

    I think UBP has answered your question several times, and I think what has ensued is an ideologically-driven, subconscious campaign to “not understand” some exceedingly simple answers.

    No, William, this is quite evidently not the case.  We have several times put it to Upright BiPed that this is his argument (that ” the only thing we know of that produces semiotic states is intelligence, it then becomes the best explanation until we find something else that generates a semiotic state”), and indeed most of us assumed that was his argument, and have rejected it on the grounds that it is not valid to assume that because A causes B, then if we observe B, we must infer A.

    But he protested, and said this was not his argument, and indeed has berated us for being “anthropomorphic” about semiosis.  Only a few posts above yours, he responded to me, thus:

     

    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.

    So if his argument does not include an inference of intelligence from the observation of semiosis, then you do not need to postulate “an ideologically-driven, subconscious campaign to “not understand” some exceedingly simple answers” to explain why we still want to know why his “semiotic argument” is “an argument for intelligent design”.

    Now that you have stated the intelligence inference, perhaps he will acknowledge it, and we will all be in your debt.  Or perhaps he will reject it, just as he has rejected it from us.

    We will see. 

    But we have, most of us anyway (me, certainly), been perfectly happy to accept that by Upright BiPed’s definition of semiosis (which I will denote semiosisUBP), translation processes in the cell are semioticUBP.

    All we are asking for him to explain why, given the observation of semiosisUBP in cells, why we should infer Intelligent Design.

    And, if we should, to tell us why he is advancing his semiotic argument as an argument for Intelligent Design.

    But he won’t. 

    Perhaps he will now that you have put the words in his mouth.

     

  9. Flint on May 21, 2012 at 5:49 pmsaid:

    If we agree that the basic processes of life are semiotic in nature, and the only thing we know of that produces semiotic states is intelligence, it then becomes the best explanation until we find something else that generates a semiotic state.

    Yes indeed. There are only two problems here.

    1) Nobody agrees that the basic processes of life are semiotic, as the word is normally applied. Nonetheless, people are willing to stretch the word enough to cover biological processes if that’s the only way to get Upright BiPed to continue trying to make an argument.

    2) If we DO accept his definition of semiotic, then this applies to almost every process one can imagine, and probably most one can’t even imagine. I personally can’t think of a single process that is NOT semiotic according to his definition.

    Well, I did ask UBP to give some indication as to where, on a continuum from a direct template to some kind of catalytic process, he thought semiosisUBP kicked in, but I don’t think he answered.

    But I’m even willing to grant that there is a meaningful, if fuzzy-bordered category (after all, most categories have fuzzy borders) of process, which I am happy to call semiosisUBP, in which information is transferred by means of some kind of arbitrary (in the sense that another item could do the job, given a different protocol) object that could be therefore said to “stand for” the information during transfer. 

    But that leaves Upright BiPed no forrarder, unless he is willing to embrace the argument as stated by William in your quote.  In which case, all the points we have made regarding the flaw in that argument stand.

  10. I think UBP has answered your question several times, and I think what has ensued is an ideologically-driven, subconscious campaign to “not understand” some exceedingly simple answers.

    When two people are in disagreement one way to resolve that disagreement is to see who has the most useful position.

    Only a few sets of matter protocols transform the shape of the mud into a reaction about something other than the mud and makes it about something else entirely.

    Care to design an experiential procedure that can test this claim?

  11. But he protested, and said this was not his argument, and indeed has berated us for being “anthropomorphic” about semiosis.

    That’s not part of the argument here; the argument here is only that the process is semiotic. It can be used as an argument for ID only after one accepts/understands. that the process in question is semiotic. IOW, you’re getting the cart before the horse; this argument is that what we are looking at is by definition a semiotic state.

     

  12. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: `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.

    No, I am not.

    This is where problems in communication between you and I occur, and that is at the protocol level.

    I said that a random photon, without any protocol, can transfer data to me, without having the intention of doing that.

    To follow protocol, you should have addressed that, but you did not.

    You instead focused on  a neural representation.

    This occurs after information has been transferred.

    Information transfer has nothing to do with its meaning to the recipient.

    I can transfer an MP3 file to you which you never actually play, but the transfer has occurred successfully.

    So, information can be transferred without a protocol by stray photons.

    Prove me wrong by showing the transfer by photons, not the ultimate use of the information, requires a protocol.

    If you can`t show me the protocol the photons must follow to transfer the information, then you are wrong.

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

    Upright BiPed: This last comment of yours is fairly dumb. But you earned it.

     

    Why is it dumb to get you to understand what evolution actually means to the people who support it.

    This is why it is necessary to stop your side in the courts since you obviously don`t understand what you are criticizing and have no intention of ever learning.

     

     

  13. As I said, the argument here is simple and uses simple definitions and is easy to comprehend as long as one is not consciously or subconsciously trying to avoid what they think (or know) UBP imight ultimately making an argument about.

    I run into the same thing all the time.  Some refused to even accept/understand that humans employ ID because of where that argument would lead, and the concession it ultimately makes. One guy insisted on calling it “human engineering” instead of ID so he wouldn’t have to concede that ID exists and obviously generates some features that are distinguishable as such.

    You and others here appear to be doing the same thing; denying obvious semiotic states in order to avoid the problem it contains for your position.

    Semiotic states exist, period. Unless it is your contention that semiotic states do not exist at all, one questions why you are even arguing whether or not something in particular is a semiotic state or not.  The question isn’t if there are physical processes that are semiotic states, the question is how does one explain their existence, since they are irreducibly complex? 

  14. Care to design an experiential procedure that can test this claim?

    I’m not going to argue that out of **most things** (living or inanimate) that might interact with the mud indention, there are relatively few that would functionally react in an “an animal went through here” way. You can tilt at that windmill by yourself all you want.

  15. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: Semiotic states exist, period.

    Show me one example of a single semiotic state of your choosing, and show me what makes it semiotic.

     

  16. The question isn’t if there are physical processes that are semiotic states, the question is how does one explain their existence, since they are irreducibly complex?

    Show your working.

  17. Show me one example of a single semiotic state of your choosing, and show me what makes it semiotic.

    I already described one, which is all I can do in a forum.

  18. William J. Murray on May 21, 2012 at 6:04 pmsaid:

    But he protested, and said this was not his argument, and indeed has berated us for being “anthropomorphic” about semiosis.

    That’s not part of the argument here; the argument here is only that the process is semiotic. It can be used as an argument for ID only after one accepts/understands. that the process in question is semiotic. IOW, you’re getting the cart before the horse; this argument is that what we are looking at is by definition a semiotic state.

    Fine.  I’ve been saying for pages now, OK, by Upright BiPed’s definition of semiotic, it’s semiotic. 

    What now?

  19. William J. Murray on May 21, 2012 at 6:41 pmsaid:

    As I said, the argument here is simple and uses simple definitions and is easy to comprehend as long as one is not consciously or subconsciously trying to avoid what they think (or know) UBP imight ultimately making an argument about.

    Well, we aren’t “subconsciously” doing any such thing.  We’ve been trying for many months now, as explicitly as possible, to find out what UBP “might ultimately [be] making an argument about”.  He claims it’s a “semiotic argument for ID”.  We are asking him for the ID part.  Or, as I said, to “drop the other shoe”.

    I run into the same thing all the time.  Some refused to even accept/understand that humans employ ID because of where that argument would lead, and the concession it ultimately makes. One guy insisted on calling it “human engineering” instead of ID so he wouldn’t have to concede that ID exists and obviously generates some features that are distinguishable as such.

    Well, as far as I’m concerned, of course there is intelligent design, and I haven’t seen anyone here make the argument that there isn’t.  So you can dispose of that straw man.

    You and others here appear to be doing the same thing; denying obvious semiotic states in order to avoid the problem it contains for your position.

    Whether a “semiotic state” is “obvious” depends on how you define “semiotic”.  If “semiotic” concerns symbols (as in Peirce), then there are no symbols in the cell.  However, if we extend the notion of “representation” to cover segments of a DNA molecule that “code for” proteins, then, sure, we can call it semiotic.  Or, to be clear, semioticUBP.  Nobody is attempting to “deny obvious semiotic states in order to avoid the problem it contains for [their]” position.  What we have asked for are rigorous criteria for a semiotic (or semioticUBP) state.  We still don’t have a very rigorous set, but I’m happy to stipulate that genetic translation falls within the category.

    Semiotic states exist, period. Unless it is your contention that semiotic states do not exist at all, one questions why you are even arguing whether or not something in particular is a semiotic state or not. 

    This is a very strange passage from someone who promotes philosophy and logic, William!  “Semiotic” is a word.  A symbol, in fact.  We use it to denote a category of process.  Where we draw the boundaries of that category is a question of utility, not of fact.  That’s what semiotics is all about – what symbols are understood (by a community of symbol users) to denote.  In this context and community I am happy to use that “semioticUBD” to denote a category of process that fulfils Upright BiPed’s criteria, and also to stipulate that, using those criteria, genetic translation falls within it.

    The question isn’t if there are physical processes that are semiotic states, the question is how does one explain their existence, since they are irreducibly complex?

    Right, and I suggested several pages back that Upright BiPed’s argument might be that semiotic states are necessarily irreducibly complex.  I don’t think he responded.

    However, you have, so, cool.

    Explain, then, William, why a semiotic state must be irreducibly complex.  Please refer to the arguments that have been presented in this thread to show that the specific semioticUBD state found in the cell is not irreducibly complex.

     

    Note, not that it is “not semioticUBD“, but that it is not irreducibly complex.

    I’ll say this for you, William: unlike Upright BiPed, you are at least prepared to make his arguments explicit.

    Cool.

  20. Well, I’ve read all through the thread now at The Thinking Atheist, and it does seem that Upright BiPed’s argument is that it is not clear how a semiotic system could evolve.

    So I guess we’d better evolve one for him 🙂

     

  21. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: Only a few sets of matter protocols transform the shape of the mud into a reaction about something other than the mud and makes it about something else entirely. This is a semiotic state, if I understand UBP correctly, and the difference between the transfer of information in matter an the transfer or functional information in a semiotic state.

    I really need clarification here.

    A state, of anything, is simply a state.

    A state cannot be semiotic, only a label for that state may be considered semiotic.

    For example, we might say that THE STATE OF MUD AFTER BEING STEPPED IN BY THE ANIMAL = S9.

    S9 is a code for stepped in mud, and so the label may be considered semiotic but NOT the state of the mud.

    IN short, i do not understand what *you* mean by semiotic state.

    Do you mean a symbol can be in a state, or do you mean a state reflects symbols for matter and not the matter itself.

     

     

  22. A state, of anything, is simply a state.

    A state cannot be semiotic, only a label for that state may be considered semiotic.

    This concisely describes the problem I have with this entire argument as it appears to me that William and UBP are confused on that point.

  23. William J Murray,

    William J Murray: Only a few sets of matter protocols transform the shape of the mud into a reaction about something other than the mud and makes it about something else entirely.

    What do you mean by matter protocol.

    A protocol is an agreed upon beforehand, formal means of communication between multiple parties.

    This could be a case of not speaking until a monarch speaks first, or kneeling until told to rise.

    The point is that sender and receiver understand the meaning of predefined symbols or states.

    I do not see a protocol for stepping in mud.

    There is no predefined semiotic code that both the animal and hunter know is a placeholder for stepping in mud.

    The hunter analyzes the mud after the fact to determine whether an animal has stepped into it.

    The animal did not think that it should leave the code for stepping in mud so that the hunter could follow it.

    Inform me as to how how the term matter protocol is used here.

     

     

  24. Robin,

    Robin: This concisely describes the problem I have with this entire argument as it appears to me that William and UBP are confused on that point.

    Thanks,  I thought I was the only one confused by what they were talking about. 🙂

     

  25. It seems to me that if Upright BiPed’s argument is simply that the genetic code is unevolvable, the “semiotic” part of it is irrelevant, or rather whether or not we call it semiotic, is irrelevant.

    Unless he has some reason for thinking that “semiotic” things are are intrinsically unevolvable, but he has presented no such argument (and William has simply asserted that they are unevolvable, also without presenting an argument).

    So could we cut out the middle man, as it were, and simply ask: why should the DNA translation/transcription system be unevolvable?

    Upright BiPed?  William?

     

  26. Believe me, we who do not understand them are legion.  We are Spartacus.

  27. Elizabeth: It seems to me that if Upright BiPed’s argument is simply that the genetic code is unevolvable, the “semiotic” part of it is irrelevant, or rather whether or not we call it semiotic, is irrelevant.

    I think his whole argument is based on the implication that any process that has as components, semiotic codes and protocols for the transfer of recorded information, is clearly the work of an intentional intelligent agent.

    I give him huge credit for actually trying to make a positive case for ID, even though it has failed.

     

  28. That means we need some operational definitions in order to determine whether or not a system is semiotic.

    Haven’t we seen this movie before?
     

  29. I don’t see the value added. The origin of the genetic code has been a mystery since the code was discovered. Creationists haven’t added anything new to the problem.

  30. But not that big a mystery.  I don’t see why such a code shouldn’t evolve.  A part-code should work.

  31. Depends on whether you accept “looks evolvable” as a satisfactory stopping place. I think we have a ways to go, and I see no reason to obscure this fact.

    Gravity has eluded the best minds for many centuries, but intelligent falling doesn’t have people trying to influence school boards.  

    No kin to monkeys seems top be the rallying cry for the anti-evolution movement. When you peek under the big tent flap, that’s what you see. It all eventually boils down to fear that humans are animals.

  32. petrushka: It all eventually boils down to fear that humans are animals.

    Yes, I agree.

    For the IDists, we need to be special.

     

  33. For the IDists, we need to be special.

    That’s not quite right. Both TEs and IDists agree that human beings are special, yet disagree on the acceptance of “neo-Darwinian” evolutionary theory.

    In general, the ID proponents’ theology is that (1) God periodically intervenes in the natural progression of life, and (2) said intervention must be empirically detectable. In addition, evolutionary theory (as they see it) “hides” the evidence for God. Intelligent Design theory, however, reveals the necessarily “visible” physical evidence for God’s direct involvement in Life.

    The theology of TEs, however, does not require God’s periodic intervention in Life any more so than in the formation of our unique solar system or the predestined fusing of the sperm and egg that created our unique body (that is, none). While God may have intervened, there is no a priori theological mandate for God intervention in physical processes – random or otherwise – and no convincing scientific evidence to date. Finally, because God is visible in every natural process and random event, every aspect of Creation is Prima facie evidence of God (IOW, evolution can not hide God).

  34. Elizabeth, please keep one of these posts (it’s a reply to petrushka & Toronto)

    For the IDists, we need to be special.

    That’s not quite right. Both TEs and IDists agree that human beings are special, yet disagree on the acceptance of “neo-Darwinian” evolutionary theory.

    In general, the ID proponents’ theology is that (1) God periodically intervenes in the natural progression of life, and (2) said intervention must be empirically detectable. In addition, evolutionary theory (as they see it) “hides” the evidence for God. Intelligent Design theory, however, reveals the necessarily “visible” physical evidence for God’s direct involvement in Life.

    The theology of TEs, however, does not require God’s periodic intervention in Life any more so than in the formation of our unique solar system or the predestined fusing of the sperm and egg that created our unique body (that is, none). While God may have intervened, there is no a priori theological mandate for God intervention in physical processes – random or otherwise – and no convincing scientific evidence to date. Finally, because God is visible in every natural process and random event, every aspect of Creation is Prima facie evidence of God (IOW, evolution can not hide God).

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

    Mirrorworld. Do you understand the answers given by the ‘science side’ relating to the potential path of evolvability of the code without intelligent intervention? Or of the ‘philosophy side’ relating to the logical fallacy of defining the desired conclusion into the premises?

    All known A’s are also B. This (someone insists) is an A. Therefore, it MUST also be B. There are two potential sources of logical fail in that reasoning. Should be a matter of moments for an unbiased, gimlet-eyed philosopher like yourself to spot ’em. 

  36. Well, I’ve read all through the thread now at The Thinking Atheist, and it does seem that Upright BiPed’s argument is that it is not clear how a semiotic system could evolve.

    So I guess we’d better evolve one for him

    With care! If you use any human device, or intentional action anywhere in the process, it will not be a demonstration of the ‘natural’ evolution of semiosis!

  37. So UPB has discovered a gap. It’s the same gap that has been apparent for 40 years and has inspired everyone from Miller to Szostak, but UBP has added value to the argument by finding a new way to package the information/irreducible/entropy argument.

    His basic problem is that whenever he explains it so that people can understand it, it becomes transparently a god of the gaps argument. 

  38. It seems to me that if Upright BiPed’s argument is simply that the genetic code is unevolvable, the “semiotic” part of it is irrelevant, or rather whether or not we call it semiotic, is irrelevant.

    Yes, I think the ‘semiotic’ part is much more readily addressed than the fundamentals of polypeptide synthesis. I have argued that charging a single tRNA with one amino acid by a single aaRS would constitute a ‘not-very-semiotic’ precursor. That is, ‘meaning’, that loosely-defined wedge for Designer insertion, is largely absent. One sequence produces the peptide bond, all others do not, but gradually, ‘meaning’ can arise by duplication of tRNAs and aaRSs, without Design.

    But even that simplified system is bogglingly elaborate – which brings us back to IC. Semiosis is a red herring, IMO; there is a bigger problem in explaining the path to a functional ribosome. Not one that has me inserting a Designer (what a lazy non-answer that would be!), but one that I would like to live to see explained.

  39. RB:

    Is a straight answer to a simple question too much to ask?

    Eight days have passed. I guess we have our answer.

  40. He seems to have disappeared from The Thinking Atheist thread too.

    I do understand that he is only intermittently available.  On the other hand, he didn’t like it when I unstickied the thread (which I had expressly stickied for his benefit) and is, moreover, prone to write things like this:

    Also in the chain was Dr Elizabeth Liddle, a Neuro-Scientist in the UK. She debated the topic for a period of several months, only to eventually retract her original claim (she claimed she could simulate the rise of recorded information like that in DNA), and ceased responding to the debate.

    which is a bit irritating, especially as he knows perfectly well (because he has posted here) that I set up this thread specifically to continue the debate.

    Sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, I think.

    When I have a moment, I’m going to reorganise the links so that old-but-onging threads have a direct link from the front page.

  41. I was glad to see you refute his dishonest summary.  The comment you excerpt from includes this as well:

    This second post is an argument I made to the Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Toronto, Dr Larry Moran; a very hardened materialist whom treasures any chance to beat his opponents down with his superior intellect. After all, he has eight collegiate-level textbooks on biochemistry to his credit. His response was direct – he immediately evacuated himself from the conversation. The same argument was presented to biologist and NCSE operative Nick Matzke. His response was just as direct, he immediately refused to engage the evidence, and tried repeatedly to change the conversation. Also in the chain was Dr Elizabeth Liddle, a Neuro-Scientist in the UK. She debated the topic for a period of several months, only to eventually retract her original claim (she claimed she could simulate the rise of recorded information like that in DNA), and ceased responding to the debate. Also there was Dr Robert Collins at the Department of Molecular Biophysics at Yale, who presented no contrary evidence, and ultimately, simply said anything in order to have anything to say. Others have given the same general response.

    I would be interested in hearing Dr. Moran’s, Mr. Matzke’s, and Dr. Collins’ view of what really happened.

  42. I don’t remember you withdrawing any claims, although you may have withdrawn an offer to do the simulation because you couldn’t get agreement on the definition of “information” in the context. (I’m willing to admit that my memory might be faulty on this)

    I shouldn’t get Uptight ’bout Upright. His whole argument, however prettily written, revolves round a bastardised definition of “semiosis”; when it’s really just a gussied-up argument from incredulity, with a dose of irreducible complexity.

    I do see, though, how you might get irritated at his habit of accusing you of things of which you are demonstrably not guilty 

  43. damitall2 writes:

    I don’t remember you withdrawing any claims, although you may have withdrawn an offer to do the simulation because you couldn’t get agreement on the definition of “information” in the context.

    That’s exactly my memory as well, supported by the thread surrounding this comment.
     

    While Upright Biped may simply lack the scientific and engineering background to understand the importance of rigorous operational definitions, his or her behavior during the latter part of that discussion was indistinguishable from that of someone desperately attempting to avoid making a testable claim.

  44. Thanks, Damitall and Patrick.  Yes, that link seems to corroborate what I wrote on The Thinking Atheist here:

    Also in the chain was Dr Elizabeth Liddle, a Neuro-Scientist in the UK. She debated the topic for a period of several months, only to eventually retract her original claim (she claimed she could simulate the rise of recorded information like that in DNA), and ceased responding to the debate.

    This is untrue, Upright BiPed, as you are aware. I did retract my claim to be able to “simulate the rise of recorded information” having failed to get agreement from you on an operational definition.

    However, as you well know, so far did I cease from “responding to the debate”, that I actually hosted the conversation on my own blog, and invited you to join me there, which you are currently doing.

    please do not post untruths about me on the internet.

    and here:

    I will also add, which you will be able to corroborate, that my original claim was made on the assumption that “information” would be defined as Dembski defines “complex specified information”. I have actually fulfilled that claim here.

    You then clarified that you were using a different definition. I never claimed to be able to simulate information by your definition, although I indicated that I was willing to have a go, if we could reach agreement on an operational definition.

    I will post a link on TSZ to this thread, as it is good to see you lay out your argument for a fresh audience. I note, however, that you have still not managed to address the question as to why the argument that protein synthesis is semiotic should be an argument for Intelligent Design.

    But we never did, and I ran out of time for the exercise, although I have always been willing to continue the discussion, hence the thread about your argument on my blog, and my invitation to you.

  45. Eight days have passed. I guess we have our answer.

    We had the answer to the issue on the table 8 days ago when you failed to articulate your argument. Actually, we had the answer long before 8 days ago, when you insisted that my argument contained a logical flaw based solely upon the entirely ubiquitous notion that it ‘could be wrong’, and that you could assert this flaw without the need of  evidence to support your counter-claim. In fact, we had the answer 42 days ago when your argumentation suggested that “some instances” of information transfer may demonstrate the entailments given in the argument, while not being semiotic themselves. This suggestion, by its very nature (and as is logically necessary), implies that an examination of material evidence is the only method to mediate the claim and counter claim. My evidence has already been presented, and its validity has been conceded (unwillingly, of course) by virtually everyone here in one fashion or another. Your evidence, on the other hand, is non-existent and remains so to this very moment.

    So, there it is. RB is still trying to resuscitate a dead analogy. Not only does his formulation not demonstrate the three relationships he is trying to refute, but even granting his formulation (which I will not do), it by itself does not create the impenetrable logically fallacy he needs in order to sustain his attack. This is a fact that he’s already conceded. For his formulation to serve as a true logical fallacy needing no evidence to mediate its veracity (i.e. a square circle) it must be shown that it is indeed logically impossible for B to entail A. Specifically, he must show that the conclusion he is objecting to (that the observed entailments of recorded information transfer demonstrate a semiotic state) contains an internal contradiction. That cannot be shown to be true, which means the entire ‘fatal flaw’ gamut is thrown out the window, and (once again) the actual evidence therefore must mediate the claim. RB understands this flaw in his reasoning, and has therefore subsequently added a second line of defense in his effort to not engage the evidence. That second line of defense takes the form of yet another unsupported assertion of a logic fallacy on my part: i.e. for me to suggest that ‘B does entail A’ is just an assumed conclusion. This is the box that RB has been trying to put the semiotic argument in all along, which is a strategy I highlighted long ago. Unfortunately for Bill, it simply does not work. For this second line of defense to be successful, he must undertake the definitions and premises of the argument and show that the conclusion is assumed within them. He has failed to do so.

    As stated 8 days ago, RB is incapable of articulating a valid counter-argument from the evidence and rationale provided within the argument. Consequently, rhetoric is what remains.

  46. Dr Liddle,

    He seems to have disappeared from The Thinking Atheist thread too.

     Dr Liddle, you posted this comment today, May 29th as if it had some contemporaneous value. I haven’t posted on that thread for more than a month and a half, April 14th. I stopped posting when it became clear that the conversation had run its course. Are you suggesting that I must post there forever?

    [He is] prone to write things like (CLIP) “only to eventually retract her original claim (she claimed she could simulate the rise of recorded information like that in DNA), and ceased responding to the debate.” … which is a bit irritating, especially as he knows perfectly well (because he has posted here) that I set up this thread specifically to continue the debate.

    You made no comment in your OP that this thread was to extend the previous conversation, and indeed, it does not do so.

    As for my first claim regarding your retraction: You retracted your claim that you could simulate the de novo rise of information transfer once you recognized that the material observations of the genome would be the actual model of information transfer. And as for my second claim regarding your cessation of the previous conversation: In late 2011, you added my rejoinder to your comments on the 2nd of the 3 threads on this website devoted to the semiotic argument. You then made clarifications both here and elsewhere that you would be responding to my post. But you never did.

    The last installment by you was a remark that you would “get to commenting on UBP’s response”, but again failed to do so, even though you were fully active among the other threads. That was November 16th 2011, roughly 200 days ago. That certainly qualifies as “ceasing to respond”.

    And finally, because of your demonstrated inconsistency on these matters, I unfortunately need to once again address the embarrassment of your repeated calling for an operational definition of information. Prior to your retraction, it had become abundantly clear to all that you would be completely incapable of simulating the rise of information transfer as demonstrated within the genome. Your only face-saving move was to cling fiercely to your complaint that you had not been given an operational definition of information so that we could determine that you had indeed succeeded in causing the rise of information. Perhaps you remember the text. Are you unable to locate it and refresh your memory? The issue had become deadlocked. I had given you a purely material method of determining the presence of information transfer and suggested to you that you would have to do what every other researcher throughout all human history had to do – to prove the presence of information transfer would require you to a) isolate the representations, b) decipher the protocols, and c) document their effects. This is how Nirenberg did it in the genome, and his is the exact same method that had been used by every person to ever live on earth. There are no exceptions to it. None. Not Any.

    BIPED:Dr Liddle,

    The conceptual definition is one that you yourself wrote out, and I agreed with it.
    The only other thing you needed was a set of operations to prove the existence of information.

    Nirenberg et al gave you those:

    Isolate the representations, decipher the protocols, and document the effects.

    And what was your response?

    [Nirenberg’s method] is useless. Except for the last three words.

    Later….you finally understood.

    LIDDLE: …information transfer is going to entail physical arrangements of matter.  And let’s allow “representation” to be the thing-that-is-read, like DNA, or the cylinder of the musical box, or even the pattern of sounds making the word “apple” and let that representation be of something (a whole organism; a melody; an apple).

    It is unfortunate that you play with the truth now, but it is certainly not without precedent.

  47. I was glad to see you refute his dishonest summary.

    Patrick,

    You cannot back up your assertion that my summary was dishonest. Alternately, I am completely capable of defending my comments. If you think otherwise, then by all means cut and paste your evidence right here right now.

    If not, the conversations are there on the internet for anyone to see.

    I would be interested in hearing Dr. Moran’s, Mr. Matzke’s, and Dr. Collins’ view of what really happened.

    It seems you’ve gotten ahead of yourself; you’ve already stated you knew what happened.

  48. UB:

    My evidence has already been presented…

    Further non-response noted.

    But my question, first posed a month ago and times many since, has yet to receive an answer.

    What does a “semiotic state” entail that “the transfer of recorded information” does not? If nothing, why invoke it? If something, then what?

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