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. Some weeks back now, I requested that Upright BiPed invert his approach. Instead of starting with his assumptions which he confuses with observations, it might be helpful if he started with his conclusions and worked backwards.

    His conclusion has been clearly stated, I think: that Intelligent Design’s claims are supported by his “semiotic theory”. Which ID claims those are, and how they are supported, would be the next step in working backwards.

    As I read it, Elizabeth has bent over backwards in her willingness to grant Upright BiPed’s claims of a “biological semiotic process” (whatever that might be, but if granting his definitions is the only way to move forward, then let’s grant him his ideosyncratic terminology and move forward).

    I fully agree with Mike Elzinga’s (and others’) insistence that chemical processes aren’t even remotely semiotic as anyone but Upright BiPed defines the word, but hey, let’s move forward! WHY does Upright BiPed find it necessary to discover that chemistry is semiotic? Exactly what conclusion, or path to that conclusion, requires such a discovery?

    If we had something as simple as “Intelligent Design requires a Designer, a Designer’s fingerprints show certain invariable hallmarks, semiotic processes are one of those hallmarks, protein formation is a semiotic process”, at least we’d have a conceptual framework to understand the point of all this.  

  2. UB:

    Being shown that one entails another does not signify a logical fallacy; it signifies a claim – a claim mediated by evidence.

    Now you flatly contradict yourself.

    You earlier, repeatedly stated that the transfer of recorded information always entails a semiotic state “by necessity.” Now you describe this as “a claim mediated by evidence.” Relationships that are asserted to arise “by necessity” – that is due to logical necessity, or by definition – are NOT defeasible by means of empirical investigation. They are precisely those terms that are NOT “mediated by evidence.” You flatly contradict yourself – unless you would like to retract or revise the claim that “the transfer of recorded information” is “by necessity” also a “semiotic state.”

    You and others routinely (and correctly) view these two concepts (information transfer and semiosis) as descriptions of separate phenomenon.

    You have stated definitions of these terms and claimed a relationship between them that obtains “by necessity.” Having defined your terms and related them in this way, you no longer have access to my construal of these concepts, which differs from yours, particularly the notion of semiosis.

    What I describe above – the fact that they cannot be uncoupled – follows from your own definitions and claimed relationships. You’re stuck with that.

    Unless, of course, you are able to state what “a semiotic state” entails that “the transfer of recorded information” does not.

    Which, I don’t gather you are. 

  3. UB:

    To support that claim, we have on one side the observations of every example of information transfer ever known to exist, and on the other side we have the fact that not you (nor anyone else) can even conceive of a method to record and transfer information that does not entail the very observations which you are trying to refute.

    *Facepalm*

    And here, a bit astonishingly, you recapitulate (most of) the fatal error to which I have been referring. Just add, “to make these very observations successfully confirms a semiotic state,” and you’re gold.  

  4. I’m also amazed. Let’s say our “observation of information transfer” is water running downhill. Yes, water does this. Yes, information about uphill conditions is contained in the water. I suppose we could say that this information is “recorded” in the water in a variety of ways. So does this water therefore represent a “semiotic” state or process, or is it just running downhill?

    If it DOES represent a semiotic state or process, then what does not? We’ve broadened that term to include essentially everything that happens, rendering it meaningless. And if it does NOT represent a semiotic state or process, then we have a good illustration of a transfer of information that is not semiotic. And THAT means that we can’t observe such a transfer and conclude semiosis, because not all information transfers are semiotic.

    Chemical reactions are an excellent illustration of non-semiotic processes. Information is surely transferred, but nothing is abstracted (i.e. recorded in some way unrelated to the process itself). No semiosis here. 

  5. Checking back in… I see that Bill has responded.

    I will be more than happy to respond in the next 24-36 hours (time permitting).

    cheers

  6. Upright wrote: 

    Checking back in… I see that Bill has responded. I will be more than happy to respond in the next 24-36 hours (time permitting).

    Does that mean you’ll actually answer Bill’s question this time?

  7. Being shown that one entails another does not signify a logical fallacy; it signifies a claim – a claim mediated by evidence.

    Now you flatly contradict yourself.

    You earlier, repeatedly stated that the transfer of recorded information always entails a semiotic state “by necessity.” Now you describe this as “a claim mediated by evidence.” Relationships that are asserted to arise “by necessity” – that is due to logical necessity, or by definition – are NOT defeasible by means of empirical investigation.

    Good grief. Are you reading what you write? Bill, do yourself a favor; think for a moment about all of the things that mankind has come to know as physical necessities. We know (and have come to know) a great many things which are now understood to be necessary conditions for certain material events to occur. We know that to cause certain physical reactions to take place requires heat at a certain temperature. We know that metabolic organisms must respire, or die of toxicity. We know that an occurrence of fire requires heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent. The list is long. Now focus on any of these discoveries (these things which we properly describe with the word “necessity”) and go back to that time in the history of knowledge when we first discovered them. 

    Now go back to the day before we discovered them.

    Does it strike you as rational to suggest some flaw exist in our reasoning if we rely on the material evidence of our discovery in order to make novel claims regarding that evidence? Does it strike you as rational to suggest that after a proposition of physical necessity is made, its explanatory value should “NOT” be defeasible by empirical observation?  Not only are both these positions completely irrational, they are entirely misplaced as well. The argument I presented is based upon material observation, not armchair logic or tortured definitions.

    Not only are you laboring to maintain your position (forcing you to make suggestions which don’t survive the slightest scrutiny) but you’re swinging at an argument I didn’t even make. And all for what… to resuscitate the failed assertion of a logical fallacy?

    Take a good look at the argument Bill. I argued that there are material consequences which become observable in each instance of the transfer of recorded information. Observations were undertaken from human interaction, animal interaction, insect interaction, and the interactions within information processing machinery. By the sheer preponderance of physical evidence from these observations, and by the entirely unique material nature of the phenomenon itself, and by the striking lack of even a conceptual alternative, a claim was made that if these specific material consequences are observed, then the transfer of recorded information has taken place. I’ve given you the premises of the argument to test, and to eliminate any ambiguities, I’ve defined the objects involved solely in terms of their material roles in the process. To all of this you say nothing; only to repeatedly posit a “fatal” logical fallacy which you’ve already conceded doesn’t exist.  And now you’ve retreated into making dizzying statements, such as the conclusion that if we come to understand a unique material state is necessary to accomplish a unique material process, we contradict ourselves if we recognize that relationship through the observation of the material evidence. Further is the issue of being able to determine that one thing is a necessary condition for another, without them being the same thing. You seem to be lost on the concept, even as you treat them as entirely unrelated things. Did you not say “your follow-on claim that systems that exhibit those minimum characteristics are also necessarily semiotic is no more than that – a claim … but nothing in that compels one to accept that definition, or that claim”. I think that this is what troubles you most; these objects and their relationships are necessarily instantiated in matter, and they have material characteristics which coherently identify them. A representation is an arrangement of matter that induces an effect within a system, and a protocol is an arrangement of matter that physically establishes the otherwise arbitrary relationship between the representation and its effect. Both of these are entirely observable in every instance of the transfer of recorded information. When the horse is dead, get off.

    You have stated definitions of these terms and claimed a relationship between them that obtains “by necessity.” Having defined your terms and related them in this way, you no longer have access to my construal of these concepts, which differs from yours, particularly the notion of semiosis.

    That’s beautiful. Because I’ve made a claim, you are somehow precluded from challenging it. How careless of me.

    Actually this is great. You have a problem with the definition of “semiosis” as the phenomenon is described by its physical consequences? By all means, let’s hear it.

  8. You took an 1800 word argument and removed the first 1600 words in order to assert a logical fallacy that does not exist, and never did. You and others routinely (and correctly) view these two concepts (information transfer and semiosis) as descriptions of separate phenomenon. Being shown that one entails another does not signify a logical fallacy; it signifies a claim – a claim mediated by evidence. To support that claim, we have on one side the observations of every example of information transfer ever known to exist, and on the other side we have the fact that not you (nor anyone else) can even conceive of a method to record and transfer information that does not entail the very observations which you are trying to refute.

    *Facepalm*

    And here, a bit astonishingly, you recapitulate (most of) the fatal error to which I have been referring. Just add, “to make these very observations successfully confirms a semiotic state,” and you’re gold.  

    Let’s see. I have just observed that every fire requires a fuel, a heat source, and an oxidizing agent. If any of these three elements are removed, then no occurrence of fire will take place. When an occurrence of fire does take place, there is a chain reaction of rapid oxidation called combustion, which is an exothermic reaction between the oxidant and fuel producing heat and usually light. I claim that the presence of these three elements, involved in combustion, confirms the existence of a fire. While at the same time, no one can even conceive of a way to create a fire without each of these three requirements involved in combustion, nor can anyone provide an example of the rapid oxidation of fuel causing the production of heat and light in an exothermic reaction that isn’t a fire. Therefore, to follow your thinking, it is a face-palming “fatal error” to observe that an occurrence of these three requirements involved in combustion successfully confirms the existence of a fire.

    – – – – – – – – – –

    While this little analogy is not by any means intended to be perfect, it illustrates what I have been saying to you since the start of this conversation – you must engage the evidence for the claim. If you had done so, you’d realize that one of the entailments provided goes beyond the mere presence of elements as an indicator of an event. It requires those elements to be involved in the very process that confirms the event taking place.  Now, you can always claim there is another process that could lead to the same observations but without the event taking place. Sure. You can also say that you can have the rapid oxidation of a fuel producing heat and light (including all the specific chemical reactions known to be involved in phenomena of fire) that is not a fire.

  9. UB:

    Think for a moment about all of the things that mankind has come to know as physical necessities…Does it strike you as rational to suggest some flaw exist in our reasoning if we rely on the material evidence of our discovery in order to make novel claims regarding that evidence?

    Unfortunately, your chain has jumped a sprocket vis the fatal logical flaw identified above.

    Fortunately, we have a recent (partial) example of same: From your recent previous:

    To support that claim, we have on one side the observations of every example of information transfer ever known to exist, and on the other side we have the fact that not you (nor anyone else) can even conceive of a method to record and transfer information that does not entail the very observations which you are trying to refute.

    Parsing the above:

    “We have on one side the observations of every example of information transfer known to exist.” [observations that show that such transfers are always accompanied by the ‘entailments.’]”

             Transfer of recorded information -> the ‘listed entailments.’

             A -> B.

    “and on the other side we have the fact that not you (nor anyone else) can even conceive of a method to record and transfer information that does not entail the very observations which you are trying to refute.”

             Again, A -> B. Not you (nor anyone else) can imagine otherwise! 

    From elsewhere: “The entailments presented in the argument successfully confirm the existence of a semiotic state.”

    This includes the wholly unjustified slide from “transfer of recorded information” to “a semiotic state.” To treat these problems separately, let us simplify that claim to:

    “The entailments presented in the argument successfully confirm the existence of the transfer of recorded information.”

             B -> A

    Taken together:

             A -> B therefore B -> A.

    Which is invalid logic.

    “B -> A” doesn’t work as a guaranteed conclusion from “A -> B, unless you define “the transfer of recorded information” as that which is present when the “listed entailments” are present. In the later case you have simply offered a definition, and the fact that you always see “the transfer of recorded information” when you see “the listed entailments” is no more than a circular exercise of your definition, not an empirical observation.

    Those are your fatal logical flaws. Your argument is beset by invalid logic and circularity. All your spongiform prose notwithstanding, that problem stands.

    The issue of the your wholly unjustified slide from “transfer of recorded information” “by necessity,” to “a semiotic state” is an additional problem. (continued)…

  10. Continuing the above: 

    The issue of the relationship between “transfer of recorded information” and your unjustified and unsupported lateral slide, “by necessity,” to “a semiotic state” is an additional problem. 

    Let C = “semiotic state.” You claim that “the transfer of recorded information” is, by necessity, also “a semiotic state.” Therefore: 

                  A -> C.

    Taken together, your argument is: 

                  A -> B.  Therefore B -> A. 

                  A -> C.  Therefore B -> C (because B -> A)

    Because the first step is invalid, the second does not follow. You have failed to establish A. 

    I claim that the presence of these three elements, involved in combustion, confirms the existence of a fire.

    Sure it does. Because “these three elements involved in combustion” are essentially the definition of “fire,” not “entailments” of fire. (Indeed, “fire” is a colloquial synonym of “combustion.”)

    An more apt illustration of an empirical entailment of combustion would be to observe that the occurrence of combustion always yields combustion products. (A -> B.) Because combustion always entails combustion products, one may test the hypothesis that combustion has occurred by observing whether the requisite combustion products are present. For example, one may test the hypothesis that hydrogen/oxygen has occurred by looking for the water vapor. However, It does not follow from A -> B that B -> A. In this instance the presence of water vapor does not “successfully confirm” combustion, as other processes may also yield water vapor (maybe evaporation from a lawn wetted by a rainstorm.) 

    I’ve been discussing two issues. Earlier, repeatedly, the above invalid logic, central to your reasoning. More recently, your unjustified lateral slide from “transfer of recorded information” to, “by necessity” “a semiotic state.

    To clarify this slight of hand, I’ve posed the following question: 

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

    I don’t gather you have an answer.  

  11. By the way, throughout the discussion we’ve many times allowed that “semiotic state” follows from your “listed entailments” (and “the transfer of recorded information) if you define“semiotic state” as “that which displays the listed entailments.”

    March 30: “‘Entailment’ is misplaced in a sentence such as ‘There are four ‘entailments’ of any such recorded information.’ What he is stating, awkwardly, is that recorded information, as he defines it, has four characteristics. Characteristics =/= entailment. Characteristics may be simply asserted, and that all UB has done: made definitional assertions. Entailments do more work, because they necessarily or logically follow from a set of statements or theoretical framework, and hence may generate empirical predictions that test the generating theory. There is no set of statements or theory from which Biped’s assertions necessarily flow, and the above are not “entailments” with predicted empirical consequences. Just assertions, or perhaps proposed descriptions. So while Biped thinks he has demonstrated something empirical about the exchange of information, he has not.”

    April 26: “The only sense in which “semiotic status” follows as an entailment of your “material entailments of the transfer of recorded information” is in the sense that you have defined “semiotic state” as “a system that exhibit these minimum characteristics.” But nothing in that compels one to accept that definition, or that claim.”

    May 4: “2) is wholly unsupported, with the exception of instances in which you have defined semiosis as “that which demonstrates the entailments of recorded information.”

    May 11: “At other times you also veer into the circular: After defining semiotic as ‘demonstrating these material entailments,’ you conclude that systems demonstrating those entailments are semiotic. Big whoop.”

    Lizzie has made many similar observations.

    “And so, if you define a “semiotic state” as being the state in which A and B are present, then if you observe A and B, then yes, you have evidence of a “semiotic state”.”

    Your analogy to the elements of fire of which, by definition, fire is comprised “successfully confirms” the argument that all you’ve done is offered are definitions, not empirical support of your argument.

  12. Sooner or later, we always seem to reach the point in discussions with ID proponents where it becomes clear that they simply DO NOT draw a distinction between a definition and an observation. I wonder if this is an entailment of faith in ID.

  13. UB, A further BTW:

    Since you are now claiming that “transfers of recorded information” are also always “semiotic states” “by necessity” only in the sense that this is an extremely reliable, well confirmed empirical regularity, rather than as a logical necessity (or necessity by definition), it follows that it must be possible at least in principle (logically possible) for “transfers of recorded information” to occur without instantiating a “semiotic” state, and that a “transfer of recorded information” that does not instantiate a semiotic state should be in principle empirically distinguishable from one that does.

    That is to say, you must be able specify how these two states of affairs differ in principle in order to claim that it has been empirically shown that all transfers of recorded information examined to date are also semiotic states – even if a transfer sans semiosis has never actually been observed. If you can’t specify this difference, you can’t claim to have made observations confirming one state versus the other at all (because you can’t state what finding confirms one instance versus the other.)

    Shorter: for “the transfer of recorded information is always, by necessity, a semiotic state” to have been an empirical conclusion, the presence of a “semiotic state” must entail something that “the transfer of recorded information” does not.

    Which prompts the question: What does a semiotic state entail that the transfer of recorded information does not?

  14. Which prompts the question: What does a semiotic state entail that the transfer of recorded information does not?

     

    I think I can answer that question.   Upright Biped in earlier discussions insisted that I needed to demonstrate that information was transferred by means of “representations and protocols”, in which the “representations” must be unchanged, physically by the transfer process.

    And so mere templating doesn’t count.

    So one of the problems I’ve had in this discussion is that on the one hand Upright BiPed claims that all information transfer is semiotic, and on the other hand, if I offer to demonstrate transfer of information that doesn’t involve “representations and protocols” it doesn’t count.

    So I think he’s trying to have his cake and eat it.

    However, I don’t actually think that matters.  The real problem with his argument is not the issue as to whether information transfer in the cell is semiotic or not, but why what we observe in the cell (whatever name we give it) should be evidence for ID.

     

    He simply has not articulated why his “semiotic argument” is “an argument for ID”.

    That’s why I’m willing to accept his definition of semiotic for the purposes of the argument.  What I want to know is why the argument is an argument for ID.

     

  15. Well, his cohort has been arguing that the process involves encoding and decoding of a code, with (I think) the implication that since he can’t believe such codes can develop naturally, they must be artificial and therefore evidence of the engineering talents of the Designer.

    But he still runs into the same circularity problem, because he DEFINES the chemical processes in cells as a code, uses his definition as evidence of a code, and argues that such evidence implies a Designer. Another example of using definitions to assume one’s conclusion. 

  16. Well, he says that’s not his argument.

     

    But he hasn’t said what it is.

  17. RB,

    Unfortunately, your chain has jumped a sprocket vis the fatal logical flaw identified above.

    You haven’t identified a fatal logical flaw. You’ve wrenched the argument in every direction you could, and what you’ve come up with is that the conclusion could be wrong. This particular characteristic of my argument (the possibility that it’s wrong) is a characteristic it shares with every claim that has ever been made, by anyone, anywhere, within the institutions of science. If I go outside and pick up a brick, and I begin to argue that if thrown into the air, gravity will return that brick to the earth and it will hit the ground – it is logically possible that I could be wrong. The distinction between a) looking to see if I was right or wrong, and b) not looking to see if I was right or wrong, is based solely on one thing. And that one thing is the observation that all the bricks before this one also hit the ground. When it comes to material claims, we know virtually nothing without the observation of evidence. It is the observation of evidence which we pour into our framework of logic and rationale. Even the collective disregard we have for the “square circle” is a product of observation. If you ask someone why a “square circle” is illogical, that person will most certainly provide you with the evidence. As it turns out, that evidence is the fundamental requirement for our collective disregard. Evidence mediates material claims. But here you are, with your twisted version of my argument in hand, claiming that the argument I’ve presented falls into this very unique class of claims which isn’t logically impossible, but can be ruled out without any need of evidence either way. And the reason it can be ruled out is for no other reason than because it was claimed to be true (supported by evidence) and could be untrue. This is an incredible position to take Bill. And for a good measure, you even attempt to sell this deformity in reason as a product of logic.   

    Let me make an observation of the real world, and propose to you that a life (any life) implies a forthcoming death.  And let me also propose that a death implies a life as well. (A -> B, B -> A)

    Now, if it is possible for you to resist the temptation to start asking what someone might mean by the words “it’s alive” or “it’s dead”, then allow me to ask a question; where is the logic in this?

    Does it logically follow that death is implied by life? Why is that so? There is no intractable reason that life without death is not materially possible, after all, life is materially possible. So why can’t living things just keep on living? There seems to be no obvious logical reason why they must die. There may be reasons why they could die, or reasons why they do die, and maybe even reasons why they should die – but no reason why they must die. Yet they die. All of them. And because of that universal observation, it is perfectly valid as the premise of an argument to state that a life implies a death. In other words, observation (not logical necessity) mediates the claim, and in the case of death following life, the observation is of our unbroken universal experience of the issue.

    From the very start, you have maintained that the conclusion of my argument (i.e. “Demonstrating a system that satisfies the entailments (physical consequences) of recorded information, also confirms the existence of a semiotic state”) contains a logical fallacy. And after the liberal shuffling of words to suit yourself, you state that the argument “A -> B, therefore B-> A” is fatally flawed. You make this claim without engaging any evidence whatsoever, and in fact, have repeatedly stated that no observation of evidence is even necessary. I therefore asked a simple question in order to demonstrate the central problem with your objection. I asked you to provide evidence that the physical consequences observed in the transfer of recorded information could not confirm a semiotic state.  After all, if you could show that it’s logically impossible, then your claim would have bite. However, if you cannot show that it’s logically impossible, then it must be logically possible. This, of course, leads us right back to the exiled rationale that the evidence itself must mediate the claim. But instead of addressing this critical question to support your claim, you’ve come back to simply repeat your failed position. But at the same time, I kept throwing real world counter-examples at you. And this is where you openly contradict yourself. You concede that the three necessary elements of fire (involved in combustion) i.e. the fire tetrahedron, confirms the existence of a fire. But if there is ANY condition in which you will accept A -> B, B ->A as valid (which you have shown to be the case) then your argument that it’s a “fatal logical fallacy” (needing no evidence) evaporates in front of your very eyes.

    Of course, knowing this, you have sought to establish a back door by positioning my argument as circular based upon definition. You describe it as “no more than a circular exercise of your definition” But you fail here as well. Specifically, you say that you accept “A->B, B->A” in the case of the fire tetrahedron because “these three elements involved in combustion are essentially the definition of fire”. Of course, this glaring contradiction completely invalidates your previous objection. You then attempt to camouflage this contradiction by suggesting that the elements of the fire tetrahedron are the very definition of fire – not its entailments. However without even the slightest bit of ambiguity on my part, the word entailment has been used throughout this argument as the required material conditions for the existence of information transfer (i.e. we will find these conditions as the “necessary consequences” of the existence of recorded information transfer). “Entailments” has not even once been used in the perspective of “what the product of that transfer will be” (i.e. the result of the information transfer). In this same exact perspective, the fire tetrahedron is a listing of the required material conditions for the existence of fire, and has nothing whatsoever to do with what the product of the fire will be (i.e. combustion products, as you attempt to suggest).  In short, your attempt to change the perspective of the word “entailment” in the middle of the dialogue is a blatant equivocation. I recognize that you had misgivings about the use of the word “entailment” from the start, but those misgivings were shown to be unfounded. I can use the term in its textbook definition and have a completely valid dialogue, but I cannot equivocate on it once I establish its usage – but neither can you.

    And just in case you have not been keeping tabs on your progress; you have now progressed from a terribly short-sighted application of “logic” and reason, to a demonstrated contradiction on the acceptance of B->A, to a blatant equivocation on the term entailment. If it has not yet occurred to you, you will fail in this line of argumentation as well. Bill, your horse is dead. Now, I know that it is not possible for you to concede this argument. So your options are becoming limited, and I’m not sure how you can bring this to an end.   

    For crying out loud, what’s in your head? You cannot take an argument, skip all the evidence in support of that argument, move to the conclusion, take a statement of that conclusion, claim it’s a logical fallacy because it could be wrong, and then refuse to engage the evidence that supports it. There are no scientific claims in existence which could be sustained under that rationale. Frankly Bill, you can keep on serving these up to me and I can keep on hitting them back to you. And with each passing, I will continue to stack the examples on top of one another.

    The semiotic argument stands. The material observations are correct. There are no unsupported assumptions, no internal contradictions, and no logical fallacies.

    The issue of your wholly unjustified slide from “transfer of recorded information” “by necessity,” to “a semiotic state” is an additional problem.

    Since you’ve chosen to ignore the material evidence as your primary response, you can hardly be in a position to make claims about what is or is not “unjustified”. Further, in your previous response, you indicated that you had a problem with the definition of “semiosis” as the phenomenon is described by its material existence. I asked you to clarify your issue with that description, but you came back without that clarification. Since it appears to be senseless to proceed on this issue without it, I will be happy to address your remaining comments as soon as you clarify your position. At that point we can discuss if its “unjustified” to view a phenomenon following our unbroken universal experience with that phenomenon.

  18. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “Let me make an observation of the real world, and propose to you that a life (any life) implies a forthcoming death.  And let me also propose that a death implies a life as well. (A -> B, B -> A)”

    “Life” is defined as something that is NOT “dead”.

    Something that is “dead”, is NOT “alive”.

    These are simply definitions of A and (NOT A).

     

  19. Upright BiPed,

    A->B, therefore B->A is not logically true.

    The fact that you may find any instance of a real case scenario where State1 flip-flops to State0, does not allow you to reach that same conclusion in other cases.

    I may have a latch that allows transitions from S0 to S1, but not the other way.

     

     

     

  20. He simply has not articulated why his “semiotic argument” is “an argument for ID”.

    That’s why I’m willing to accept his definition of semiotic for the purposes of the argument.  What I want to know is why the argument is an argument for ID.

    Upright BiPed,
    for the sake of argument, Elizabeth is willing to accept your semiotic framework, and I for one am interested in your response.

  21. In other words, UB has asserted that A AND (NOT A) is true.  Didn’t the UD crowd object to that rather vehemently; even to the point of banning a whole bunch of folks?

    Better not tell Arrington over at UD.  This will get UB banned.

  22. For some reason, I’m reminded of a Candid Camera skit where there were two rest rooms in some busy building. On one door was the sign WOMEN and on the other the sign LADIES. And the camera watched as every single woman looked at either door and immediately went in, and every single man looked at either door and immediately went into the other! Nobody looked at the sign on the other door, because they already “know” what it HAD to say.

    I suspect BiPed is making just this sort of error. 

  23. UB:

    You’ve wrenched the argument in every direction you could, and what you’ve come up with is that the conclusion could be wrong.

    Actually, I’ve pressed just two points, again and again. Your bound volumes of prose notwithstanding, you’ve failed to address either.

    The first:

    Your argument is as follows:

    1) All transfers of information entail your “listed entailments.” (We cannot even imagine otherwise). 

    2) All transfers of information are by necessity also semiotic. 

    3) Therefore observation of the listed entailments “successfully confirms” the presence of a semiotic state.

    It has the form: A -> B

    B. Therefore A.

    Which is invalid logic.

    A -> B, yet B doesn’t necessarily entail A, as we have demonstrated every which way but loose. For that reason, although you claim that the observation of B “successfully confirms” a semiotic state, that doesn’t follow; that is invalid logic.

    what you’ve come up with is that the conclusion could be wrong.

    Right. Due to the invalid logic you employ, it is false that an observation of the “listed entailments” “successfully confirms” a semiotic state.

    This particular characteristic of my argument (the possibility that it’s wrong) is a characteristic it shares with every claim that has ever been made, by anyone, anywhere, within the institutions of science.

    Don’t be so modest.

    But now you’ve jumped levels. It is not your argument that I assert “could be wrong” due to your logical error. Rather, more narrowly, it is the conclusion drawn from any given observation of “the listed entailments” that the transfer of recorded information/a semiotic state has been “successfully confirmed” that can be wrong. If that conclusion can be wrong, then the entailments cannot be said to “successfully confirm” semiotic states. Because that step is at the heart of your argument (that your material entailments “successfully confirm” semiotic states), your invalid logic is fatal. The immediate consequence of this is that even if we grant that the “listed entailments” are present in the translation of DNA into proteins, those entailments do not “successfully confirm” that this process is semiotic.

    Unless, of course, you define semiotic as “demonstrates the listed entailments.” If so, big whoop.

    That’s most of what I’ve been asserting. As I said, one need find just one hole in a bucket to know that it doesn’t hold water.

    At the level of theory, I am not saying that you’ve made a well formed claim that may nevertheless be wrong, as is the case with other well formed scientific claims. Rather, I am saying that you have employed invalid logic, and therefore created a malformed argument that is neither right or wrong as measured against the data. It won’t be amenable to such empirical validation or invalidation until you correct, or abandon, your invalid logic.

    And the second point:

    Your claim that “the transfer of recorded information” is also, by necessity, “a semiotic state” is hopelessly muddled (at every level, including “by necessity”), for reasons I cite above (and which you seem to have forgotten to address).

    Were it not muddled, you’d have no trouble answering the following:

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

    [The above edited a bit for clarity]

  24. UB:

    I will be happy to address your remaining comments as soon as you clarify your position.

    LOL!!

    Shark, meet Biped. Biped, meet shark.

  25. Let’s try a slightly different wording. Maybe that will work.

    Your argument is as follows:
    1) All transfers of information entail your “listed entailments.” (We cannot even imagine otherwise).
    2) All transfers of information are by necessity also semiotic.
    3) Therefore observation of the listed entailments “successfully confirms” the presence of a semiotic state.
    It has the form: A -> B B. Therefore A. Which is invalid logic.

    OK, now let’s try this:
    1)  All transfers of information, and possibly multiple other things, result in the listed entailments.

    2) All transfers are by necessity also semiotic.

    3)  Therefore, observation of the listed entailments neither requires nor rules out semiotic processes, which remain ONE of the candidates for producing the listed entailments.

    Now, as for disentangling “semiotic” from “the transfer of recorded information”, I suspect we’d need some more rigorous definitions. We don’t even know whether these terms are being defined as synonymous. As far as I can tell in all UBP’s prose, they are used interchangeably. 

  26. I asked you to clarify your issue with that description, but you came back without that clarification. Since it appears to be senseless to proceed on this issue without it, I will be happy to address your remaining comments as soon as you clarify your position.

    I’ll open that discussion by quoting my very first post on this blog, nearly a year ago. Note that this is repeated verbatim, and wasn’t written in response to the discussion in this thread. It does speak to my thoughts on the matter, however.

    With respect to the question, “whence meaning beyond Shannon information,” I am put in mind of “one if by land, two if by sea”: one lantern in the steeple “means” the British army has chosen a land route, two signal a crossing at the Charles River. Obviously, the two bits of information required to specify these three three values (including “no lantern” = “no-troops”) don’t themselves bear the “meaning” of the signal at all. “British troops are crossing the Charles” is a hugely complex proposition that can only be understood upon being embedded in a language community with intimate experience with holistic notions such as “British” and “troops crossing the Charles.” The “protocol” by means of which the state of the two bits in question are assigned to these propositions (“we will agree that one lantern designates a land approach”) is just the beginning of meaning in the semantic sense, a pointer to the much more elaborate, holistic meanings embedded in this shared experience. In short, for meaning of this sort to be conveyed by the states of shannon bits, and for the protocol to work, both sender and receiver must have the right sort of shared history. That history provides a shared ground of knowledge and practice that is external to the message itself, yet essential to an exchange of meaning.

    The question then becomes: do exchanges of information observed in living organisms resemble the expression of meaning in this sense? As the above linked article indicates, some have taken seriously various forms of that notion while others disparage it. Advocates of ID desperately want it to be so, in the full sense that “DNA is a just like a language,” because they wish to compel their assumed conclusion that a designing agency originated both ends of the conversation. Prior UD discussions make this clear; for an example, see this discussion, starting with Mark Frank’s comment:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-odds-that-end-stephen-meyers-rebuttal-of-the-chance-hypothesis/#comment-343377

    However, given that there are no candidate designers, and advocates of ID are (for strategic and political reasons) unwilling to speculate on the characteristics of such designers, operationalizing this notion isn’t likely to get far.

    If “a designer communicating” is therefore not a workable model of the origins of semantic information in living organisms, what sort of natural history can result in shannon bits bearing semantic information in this way? Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantic theory (expressed in her mind-bending book “Language, Thought, and other Biological Categories”) proposes one kind of history that fits the bill, namely the right sort of history of selection. However, I am confident that nothing short of a fully semantic definition of meaning that assumes the notions of intelligent senders/receivers will satisfy Biped and the others at UD, because it is that sense of meaningful information that compels their assumed conclusion. This is the circularity you repeatedly encounter. As in all of these discussions, they are working backward from that conclusion and crafting their definitions accordingly. Not a process that lends itself to neat operationalization.

    (BTW, in the linked UD discussion I was “Voice Coil.” Earlier “Diffaxial,” one of UB’s favorite participants.)

  27. rhampton7 on June 6, 2012 at 12:29 amsaid:

    He simply has not articulated why his “semiotic argument” is “an argument for ID”.

    That’s why I’m willing to accept his definition of semiotic for the purposes of the argument.  What I want to know is why the argument is an argument for ID.

    Upright BiPed,
    for the sake of argument, Elizabeth is willing to accept your semiotic framework, and I for one am interested in your response.

    It’s like he just doesn’t see this question.  I’ll try all-caps, bold:

     

    UPRIGHT BIPED: WHY IS YOUR “SEMIOTIC ARGUMENT” AN ARGUMENT FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN?

  28. Interesting that StephenB, in that linked thread, does answer a question that UP deemed irrelevant (but isn’t), namely, if DNA is a message, who is it from and who is it to?

    StephenB suggests it’s from the Creator to a) us (to tell us how great the creator is) and b) the organism (to make something).

     

     

  29. If Upright Biped would answer this question and Reciprocating Bill’s

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

    clearly and concisely, it would go a long way to making his argument more understandable.

    I understand that s/he is dealing with a number of interlocutors, but these essential questions have remained unanswered for quite some time.
     

  30. RB:

    Your argument is as follows:

    1) All transfers of information entail your “listed entailments.” (We cannot even imagine otherwise). 

    2) All transfers of information are by necessity also semiotic. 

    3) Therefore observation of the listed entailments “successfully confirms” the presence of a semiotic state.

    It has the form: A -> B

    B. Therefore A.

    Which is invalid logic.

    No Bill, that is not my argument and it never has been. My argument is that the transfer of recorded information (the transfer of form about something) must necessarily be instantiated in matter and have material consequences. Those material consequences necessarily include physical objects which can be identified by their material roles in the process. Those roles include an arrangement of matter to evoke a response within a system, where the arrangement of matter is arbitrary to the effect it evokes because the material that it’s instantiated in is not the effect it evokes in the system. That is the material definition of a representation, and we recognize that object in ourselves, in many of the creatures around us, and in the information processing devices we build. The material consequences also include a second arrangement of matter which is required to establish the otherwise arbitrary relationship between the representation and the effect it evokes. This object physically facilitates the transfer of form from the representation, and it accomplishes this by allowing the representation to be isolated from the effect, making a functional result possible from a necessarily arbitrary arrangement of matter. There may be various words within the English lexicon which could appropriately describe the systematic role this material object serves, but it is that material role that is of importance. This is the material definition of a systematic formality; a transfer protocol. And again, this is something we recognize among ourselves, other living things and information systems. Finally, this list of material consequences also includes the material effect itself, which must be driven by the input of the first arrangement to the second arrangement, providing the unambiguous observation of a functional effect. Without that effect, we could not identify these things by their material existence, but they can be coherently and reliably recognized by their operation.

    This is the foundational argument, Bill, which concluded not at the observation of semiosis in the 13th paragraph (from which you have quoted), but at the observation of representations and protocols being a necessary condition of the transfer of recorded information, as stated in the 7th and 8th paragraphs. The statement regarding semiotics in the 13th paragraph stems only from the unambiguous definition of semiosis (the use of representations and protocols) as it is demonstrated to materially exist in the real world.

    What you’ve done is taken a purely evidentiary argument and applied propositional logic to it, but you intentionally equivocate on your application of that logic. When you attack, you allow only implicative operators in your statements. Yet upon responding to counter-arguments (which you yourself consider valid) you quickly switch to equivalent operators. Then upon your next attack, you simply remove them again. You’ve vacillated in this contradiction for weeks now. It’s an intellectual scam, set in motion for the sole purpose of protecting your position from material evidence.

    You argument is illegitimate. It’s time to bury the horse.

  31. RB:
    I asked you to clarify your issue with that description, but you came back without that clarification. Since it appears to be senseless to proceed on this issue without it, I will be happy to address your remaining comments as soon as you clarify your position.

    I’ll open that discussion by quoting my very first post…

    lol

    That’s just rich. I have been wondering how you might like proceed. Before even the first period in the first paragraph, you high tail to the tall grass of Shannon and meaning. Material objects operating in a observable system, be damned.

  32. Upright,

    Everyone following this thread knows that you are actively avoiding Bill’s and Lizzie’s questions.  This creates the distinct impression that you have no confidence in your argument and are unable to defend it.  

    If you’d like us to take your argument seriously, you’re going to have to show us that it can withstand critical scrutiny.  So far, you haven’t done so.

    If you can’t answer the questions, be honest and acknowledge it.  If you can, then supply the answers.

    Evasion doesn’t cut it.  Stop wasting our time. 

  33. Specifically, it is STILL not made clear why UB’s theory is a “Semiotic Theory of ID
     Even if ” the transfer of recorded information (the transfer of form about something) must necessarily be instantiated in matter and have material consequences.” is true, what does that have to do with Intelligent Design?

  34. Upright said this on UD recently:

    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. but I can find out no such case.”

    Mr Darwin was not aware of the discovery of DNA which would take place 100 years later. It is the transfer of information from DNA that makes the production of biomolecules possible, and it is that information which is evolving. The transfer of genetic information (or any other form of recorded information) requires two physically arbitrary arrangments of matter, a representation and a protocol. One arrangment is entirely useless without the other. They must both exist, and must be coordinated together despite their inherent arbitray nature. If not, then no information will be conveyed. The “complex organ” which Mr Darwin refers to, turns out to be a process; the transfer of recorded information. The very thing driving the observations for which he is famous.

    That seems to be why he thinks his argument is an ID argument.

  35. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “..but at the observation of representations and protocols being a necessary condition of the transfer of recorded information,…”

    Why do you say “recorded information” instead of simply “information”.?

     

  36. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “Upright BiPed: “..but at the observation of representations and protocols being a necessary condition of the transfer of recorded information,…”

    Protocols are agreements between parties governing the behaviour of communications and responsibilities.

    What two parties agreed to the “protocol” required to “transfer information” in the case of DNA?

     

  37. Upright Biped,

    I have a suggestion that I hope you will take in the constructive vein in which I offer it.  Set your browser so that you can see the entirety of your comment, including what you quoted from Reciprocating Bill.  Note the difference between his itemized list and your long, dense paragraphs.

    This strikes me as a style issue that is interfering with your ability to effectively communicate your position.  Rather than replying with “No Bill, that is not my argument and it never has been” followed by a wall of text, it would have been much more helpful to your readers if you had responded to each point of his summary, as succinctly as possible, to identify where he misstated what you intended to convey.

    Alternatively, you could have provided your actual argument in a similar concise, structured format.  Unfortunately, your prolix prose serves more to conceal than to illuminate your underlying thoughts.  I am, apparently like many others here, genuinely interested in understanding your argument.  I parse what you have written here and on UD quite similarly to the way that Reciprocating Bill and others do.  Apparently my understanding does not reflect your intent.  Please consider modifying your presentation to make that intent more clear.

    It would also be very helpful if you would answer Lizzie’s question about how your argument supports ID and Reciprocating Bill’s question about the difference, if any, between “semiotic state” and “transfer of recorded information.”

    Sincerely,

    Patrick
     

  38. Some of the folks here evidently have a history of interaction with UB that goes back a few years, and they may have a little more familiarity with UB’s shtick than I do.

    However, the impression I get from his recent “comment” is that UB is attempting to construct an entire “philosophical argument” using long sentences and as many words as possible that sound highfalutin and philosophical but say absolutely nothing.

    Reading Kant is much easier; but in reading UB, one finds that any glimmer of a concept that begins to appear in the first half of a sentence begins to immediately dissolve as the sentence continues.  The next sentence appears to promise some elaboration and clarification of the concept in the previous sentence, but it too dissolves into nothingness.  By the time one gets through a paragraph, one is out in the wilderness with no compass and no landmarks to get back to where one started.

    If this is a deliberate game on UB’s part, one has to admit that it takes some talent to produce such lengthy, turgid prose that attempts to appear profound on its surface yet constantly dissolves into nothing by the end of every sentence.  Politicians would love this charcter.

  39. It’s fairly obvious that UPB’s argument is of the chicken and egg variety. He’s saying that the code and the code interpreter must exist simultaneously for anything to work.

    It’s a variation on irreducible complexity, and though it’s neither a new argument nor a compelling one, it does point out that Szostak et al have some work to do.

    What’s interesting is that UPB hasn’t responded at all to any of the discussing of possible histories for the evolution of the code. the failure to respond to detailed counter arguments is what makes the whole thing dishonest.

    In an honest discussion, someone points out an unsolved problem and someone responds with possible solutions. there is an exchange of ideas regarding the details. UPB has had a couple of years now to respond to counter arguments.

    My only contribution is the observation that in the centuries since science developed its current methodologies, gaps arguments have fallen wherever the research technology has permitted investigation into a mystery.

  40. UB:

    No Bill, that is not my argument and it never has been. My argument is that … <merciful snip>

    Oops, UB, you forgot this:

    Satisfying each of the four physical entailments confirms the existence of recorded information transfer, as it is demonstrated in every form of information transfer known to exist.

    Slightly rearranging for clarity:

    – The physical entailments are demonstrated in every form of information transfer known to exist.

            A -> B.

    – Satisfying each of the four physical entailments confirms the existence of recorded information transfer.

            B. Therefore A.

    Which is logically invalid.

    As this malformed reasoning is at the heart of your argument (the “successful confirmation” of semiotic states), the error is fatal to your argument.

    But now you omit it. Are you retracting that particular claim?

    UB: 

    You argument is illegitimate.

    I can assure you that I am the father.

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

    And what does any of this have to do with ID?

  41. For those on this thread who think I have not answered Dr Liddle’s utterly laughable question as to why I think this is an argument for ID – here’s a clue. Dr Liddle and I started this conversation more than a year ago. At the time we began, she basically denied every observation I was making regarding the material consequences of information transfer. Over the course of that year, she has now come to concede basically every one of those material observations. In that entire time she never once questioned why I think that the argument is one for ID. She did not question it (not even once) because she knew all along. Bottom line: She has conceded the material observations (not for the sake of argument, but because of it) yet she is ideologically prohibited from acknowledging the possible implications of those observations. Simply put, she would now like to talk about something else.

    For those who think that I have not answered Reciprocating Bill’s question: I have given him coherent descriptions of both terms, which are not even controversial. The transfer of recorded information is the transfer of form (about something) via a material medium. Semiosis is the descriptive term for the use of representations and protocols. Moreover, the material issues regarding these terms have been explained in appropriate detail over and over again. If Bill is unable to articulate an objection, it is not because he needs additional information, it’s because his objection would be immediately contradicted by examples of normative language use which are too numerous to mention.  We call a fire a “fire”; we call a fire tetrahedron a “fire tetrahedron”. One describes the other. But because a fire tetrahedron describes a fire does not mean that they are the same thing, nor does it introduce a logical error into the dialogue about fire.

    For those who cannot understand the text, or those who are left only to complain about my prose – please allow me to express my most sincere condolences.

  42. RB,

    As noted in my last post, you allow equivalence modifiers in your formulation when given counter-examples (such as fire and the fire tetrahedron), then when back on the attack you simply remove them because it suits your argument to do so. That’s called an equivocation in logic. So it is not my logic that is in question, it is yours.

    Allow me to break it out for you, again:

    Transfer of recorded information: the material transfer of form about something.

    Representation: an arrangement of matter to evoke a material response within a system, where the arrangement of matter is arbitrary to the effect it evokes because the matter it’s instantiated in is not the effect it evokes in the system.

    Protocol: an arrangement of matter to establish the otherwise arbitrary relationship between the representation and the effect it evokes within the system; it physically facilitates the transfer of form from the representation by isolating the representation and the effect, thereby preserving the necessarily arbitrary arrangement of the representation.

    Condition: to be materially identifiable, representations and protocols must be operating within a system, producing an unambiguous functional effect.

    X is necessary for Y          Negation: Examples of Y but not X

    X is sufficient for Y          Negation: Examples of X but not Y.

    ·         The use of representations and protocols is a necessary condition for the transfer of recorded information. Negation: An example of the transfer of recorded information that does not use representations and protocols.

    ·         The use of representations and protocols is a sufficient condition for the transfer of recorded information. Negation: An example of the use of representations and protocols that does not involve the transfer of recorded information.     

    ·         The transfer of recorded information is a necessary condition for the use of representations and protocols. Negation: An example of the use of representations and protocols that does not involve the transfer of recorded information.     

    ·         The transfer of recorded information is a sufficient condition for the use of representations and protocols. Negation: An example of the transfer of recorded information that does not use representations and protocols.

    Conclusion: The argument is valid if there are no examples of the transfer of recorded information that do not use representations and protocols, or, if there are no examples of the use of representations and protocols that do not involve the transfer of recorded information?

  43. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “Semiosis is the descriptive term for the use of representations and protocols.”

    Who are the two parties that agreed to the “protocol” regarding “information transfer” as it pertains to biology?

     

  44. What is recorded informationand how is it different from evolved information? Is information accumulated through trial and error learning recorded?

    In what sense is it recorded? Does “recording” imply the existence of a creator of the information, in addition to the physical copying? If so, how does the creator create the information, and why does the process look like evolution?

  45. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “The use of representations and protocols is a necessary condition for the transfer of recorded information. Negation: An example of the transfer of recorded information that does not use representations and protocols.”

    Looking in a mirror requires no protocol or representation yet “information” is transferred.

    Photons “randomly” bounce off the object or “information” that will be transferred to me yet no protocol is required.

    This assertion has been negated.

     

     

  46. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: “Protocol: an arrangement of matter to establish the otherwise arbitrary relationship between the representation and the effect it evokes within the system; it physically facilitates the transfer of form from the representation by isolating the representation and the effect, thereby preserving the necessarily arbitrary arrangement of the representation.”

    This is not a definition of “protocol” as it is commonly used.

    A “protocol” is an agreed upon set of procedures which must be followed by the parties involved in a form of communication.

    This could be the “protocol” followed in social groups or communications between nodes in computer communications.

    “Protocols” are dynamic not static.

     

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