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. UB:

    I was raised around nothing but strong, intelligent women. My father (a working architect) was killed when I was two, so my brother and I were raised by a mother, grandmother, and two older sisters. My grandmother operated a vegetable farm of several hundred acres, by herself, as well as a small business in a nearby town…

    The details of my life are quite inconsequential. My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low-grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a 15-year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we’d make meat helmets. When I was insolent, I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds. Pretty standard really. At the age of 12, I received my first scribe. At the age of 14, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it’s breathtaking I suggest you try it.

  2. I had no childhood. I was designed and brought into existence fully formed.

    But ID is uphill in both directions. 

  3. Bill,

    Well, that certainly explains your prudish behavior.

    😐

    Unfortunately Bill, neither your sour grapes nor your comic relief can save you from the evidentiary problem you face. You engaged me on April 16th trying to sell a logical problem which would supposedly alleviate you from having to consider the material evidence. But you couldn’t get it to stick, and 57 days later you were forced to concede that your counter-argument was indeed flawed. Now you are left to nothing more than 1) rationalizing your failure, and 2) making the already lost assertion that the evidence is weak. The first of these is not only bad form, it’s unwise. It gives me the opportunity to force you back into every failed instance of your argument. Given that this thread is now several hundred comments long, that would be a considerable number of instances of being wrong. Fortunately that demonstration is uninteresting to me (unless you force the issue). However, your second response is something I am prepared to test.

    Although you use the word “entailment” and claim to be deriving conclusions from observations, your usage of that term does not denote a entailment in the sense that is useful in generating testable predictions.

    On the contrary, the entailments provided in the argument are perfectly suited to testing the presence of recorded information transfer; the very thing that the argument claims to be able to do. A test which is capable of doing what it is presented to do is not subject to minimalization just because you need to rationalize a failed argument.

    Rather, you use “entailment” in the sense that, if A denotes the necessary and sufficient conditions for B, then B “entails” A. That’s a big if, however

    It’s not a big if; it’s the manner in which logical observations work. The entailments include the observation of four items: two specific material objects, a specific material effect, and a dynamic process. It is claimed that the observation of these four items confirms the transfer of recorded information. If you cannot provide an example of recorded information transfer that does not involve these four entailments, then it is said that the entailments are necessary for the transfer of recorded information, and that the transfer of recorded information is sufficient to infer the presence of the entailments. If you cannot provide an example of these four entailments that doesn’t involve the transfer of recorded information, then it is said that the transfer of recorded information is necessary to the presence of the entailments, and the presence of the entailments is sufficient to infer the transfer of recorded information.

     In the end, you can provide neither an example of recorded information transfer that doesn’t demonstrate the four entailments, or a demonstration of the four entailments that doesn’t involve the transfer of recorded information. The argument stands supported by the evidence.

  4. In the end, you can provide neither an example of recorded information transfer that doesn’t demonstrate the four entailments, or a demonstration of the four entailments that doesn’t involve the transfer of recorded information. The argument stands supported by the evidence.

    You argument is supported by the inability of someone else to provide an example? That is your evidence?

    That, my friend, is not evidence.

    So, what type of ID are you arguing for? Can your designer be a physical being like us, but alien, or is a deity required?

  5. Do you intend to ever answer Lizzie’s simple question about how your argument supports ID?  I, for one, am still interested in your response.
     

  6. I guess we have to be satisfied with long-winded evasions of Bill’s arguments (though I love the self-declared victories after every defeat!). The simple questions Bill and Lizzie asked will never be answered, and it’s becoming pretty obvious why. An argument that CAN not be laid out clearly, isn’t an argument at all.

  7. George Orwell seems appropriate here:

    Good Prose should be transparent—like a window pane. 

    The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. 

  8. Someone on UD:

    If someone left a Stonehenge on Mars I’d bet they left some other traces and evidence.

    Upright:

    Traces and evidence, you mean like the functional control of protein synthesis from symbols-based memory?

    Upright:

    Given your lack of a response, can we assume that this is, as you say, “evidence that you don’t accept?”

    Upright, given your lack of a response to the questions on the table, can we assume that this is, as you say, “evidence that you don’t accept?” And also, what is the functional control of protein synthesis from symbols-based memory evidence of?
    ID?
    If so, why?

  9. It would be nice to see an actual argument laid out, as in a declaration of where the argument is leading and why. Since it has been declared to be an argument for ID, it would be nice to see the connection made explicit.

     

    It is a nice illustration of an isolated island, however. An island of thought unconnected to mainstream biology or mainstream ID theory. So it must have been arrived at intelligently.

  10. Upright BiPed,

    Upright BiPed: ” In the end, you can provide neither an example of recorded information transfer that doesn’t demonstrate the four entailments, or a demonstration of the four entailments that doesn’t involve the transfer of recorded information. The argument stands supported by the evidence.”

    No protocol is required for the visual transfer of information, whether that information is in your words, “recorded”, or not.

    Random photons striking an object and then being reflected into your eye do not rely on any “protocol”.

    If there is a “protocol” in this case, show it to me.

    If you can’t show me a “protocol” in this case, then your argument has been refuted.

     

  11. Actually, the questions on the table seem to have generated a great many words in response. But the words themselves are not responsive to the questions. I’m reminded of a Chatty Cathy on steroids – poke the button and out comes a whole long string of words none of which address any pending questions, and none of which accurately represent a single critique. Poke the button again, Cathy produces another. One almost suspects Cathy isn’t listening for some reason. One almost suspects the reason.

  12. As Lizzie keeps trying to communicate, you can SAY there is a protocol in the reflection of light – that it is encoded into wavelengths, and decoded by your optical equipment into a mental representation of whatever reflected it. If you’ve ever watched an infant learning to see, you’d understand that decoding this protocol takes practice. It’s not something you’re born with, and it IS a protocol.

    So the question here is, is the protocol impossible to decouple from the phenomenon being examined? That is, can that protocal be represented abstractly, in some way having nothing to do with the information itself, and then translated back to the original meaning?

    In the case of your example, I would argue that it can indeed be represented abstractly – for example as a .jpg file, or as an artist’s painting, or as chemical patterns in film emulsion, etc. None of which have anything to do with the actual object. And then your optical equipment (and maybe something like a computer program and screen, or a projector, etc.) converts this abstract representation back into a mental picture of the original object.

    The object is the sender of the message, the storage medium (painting, computer file, etc.) is the abstract representation, and the protocol is the brush and canvas, the compression into a stream of bits and subsequent decompression, etc. And your mind is the receiver, after all these translation steps have been performed.

    So the argument here is that the chemistry involved in creating proteins undergoes no process of abstraction (and neither does Lizzie’s snowy tabletop). And because there is no abstraction process, there is no protocol to encode into and decode out of any abstraction. And therefore, there is nothing semiotic going on here.       

  13. So the argument here is that the chemistry involved in creating proteins undergoes no process of abstraction (and neither does Lizzie’s snowy tabletop). And because there is no abstraction process, there is no protocol to encode into and decode out of any abstraction. And therefore, there is nothing semiotic going on here.      

     

    The claim is simply the reification of an abstraction. The anthropomorphizing of chemistry. There is an underlying assumption that such chemistry could not have evolved, but until this is made explicit, there is nothing to discuss.

  14. Flint,

    Flint: “As Lizzie keeps trying to communicate, you can SAY there is a protocol in the reflection of light – that it is encoded into wavelengths, and decoded by your optical equipment into a mental representation of whatever reflected it. If you’ve ever watched an infant learning to see, you’d understand that decoding this protocol takes practice. It’s not something you’re born with, and it IS a protocol.”

    What you have described is not a protocol at all, it’s a single-ended process of interpreting data.

    If we accept your argument, Upright BiPed is right.

    Protocols are a set of rules governing intelligent node to intelligent node communications.

    This means both the sender and receiver agree beforehand on the meanings, format, and rules that govern the information being transferred.

    As an example, an AD converter digitizing analogue input from an input port is not operating under a protocol while data streamed across an Internet connection does have a protocol associated with it.

    The takeaway point is that a protocol requires “intelligence” and that is Upright BiPed’s argument, that a protocol must have an Intelligent Designer and he would be absolutely right in assuming that, in all cases where a protocol actually exists.

    A child is a single-ended processor of “random” information, in this case, photons being reflected and then interpreted by that child as to what it might mean, even if that child interprets red as a different shade of gray, something which would be impossible if a “protocol” was actually involved.

    I’ll go further and say UPB’s claim of semiotic codes would also be valid in all cases where a “protocol” is involved.

     

     

  15. Toronto,

    I think you have added something here. I have no difficulty, when looking at an object, of thinking of the object “sending” me an image using some format, and me “receiving” that image by decoding the format. I don’t think you need any intelligence on either end.

    To me, the key point is whether the message has undergone a change into some format UNRELATED to the message itself. If the message is an image of an object, and that message undergoes transformation into various patterns of frequences in the electromagnetic spectrum, which are subsequently reconstructed into an image, then this qualifies as a different representation requiring an abstract protocol.

    And chemistry doesn’t do this. There is no conversion to a medium other than chemistry, or to any non-chemistry format which must be translated back into chemistry at the other end. And the essence of semiotics is that of encoding into an unrelated format, capable of being stored in an unrelated format, and then being reconstructed from that format at some later time.

    Maybe a better way to put it is, semiosis involves SYMBOLIC representation – something that “stands for” something else. Nothing in the chemistry of life is symbolic in this way.

    But hey, if you wish, we can consider a one-way interpretation of the encoding as non-symbolic (though hopefully you understand that if the image is stored as a painting, film emulsion, or computer file then it IS being converted into an arbitrary format).

    Anyway, I agree with Petrushka that what UBP is doing is casting chemical reactions as an arbitrary human language, and pretending as hard as he can that if he BELIEVES this hopeless misrepresentation HARD enough, then chemistry becomes an illustration of ID.

    I’m reminded of the old joke that if we CALL a dog’s tail a leg, then how many legs does a dog have? The rational person says “four – a tails is NOT a leg.” The religious person says “five – if we believe it devoutly enough!”               

  16. I’m not convinced calling it a dynamic system a protocol necessarily implies the system is unevolved. Just having abstract similarities to human invented codes does not imply a designer.

    You still face the same problem you had before applying the label. You have to prove it didn’t evolve.

    Word games do not prove the history of a system.

     

  17. Patrick quoting Orwell:

    The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. 

    I have been following UB’s excursion into unmoderated territory with little expectation of anything scientifically novel emerging. But let me be positive! Confirmed as I am in my initial expectations, let me congratulate UB on his self-confidence. I am reminded to some extent of the late Dr. John A. Davison: utterly convinced he had demolished the Darwinian paradigm and utterly unconvincing.
     

  18. UB makes me wonder what it would be like watching a creationist team playing baseball. The ump says UB strikes out, UB walks down and stands on first base. Uh, UB, you struck out. No, I did NOT! I walked, and here I am. See? First base, right under my feet. Did you not see me WALK here? Don’t you care about evidence?

    But, uhh, UB, you aren’t entitled to first base. You didn’t walk, you struck out. You must return to the bench.

    Are you blind? LOOK! Here’s first base, right here. I walked here. Everyone SAW me walk. How can you possibly say I didn’t walk?

    Now imagine a whole team of creationists, simply ignoring the rules of the game, circling the bases while wildly cheering one another, for no particular reason other than that’s how to win. Another example of Monty Python’s Black Knight.     

  19. FWIW:

    Biosemiotics, Volume 1, Number 3 (2008)
    The Scylla and Charybdis of Biosemiotics,
    Marcello Barbieri

    In the Editorial of the very first Issue of this Journal I wrote that Biosemiotics rests on two basic principles. The first is the idea that semiosis belongs to life, i.e., that it does not exist in inanimate matter; this differentiates biosemiotics from Pansemiotics, the doctrine that accepts the existence of semiosis even in the physical world. The second principle is the idea that semiosis and meaning are natural entites; this divides biosemotics from the doctrine of ‘intelligent design’, and from all other doctrines that maintain that the origin of life on Earth was necessarily due to a supernatural agency.

    see also: Information in Biosemiotics: Introduction to the Special Issue

  20. UB:

    You engaged me on April 16th trying to sell a logical problem which would supposedly alleviate you from having to consider the material evidence. But you couldn’t get it to stick…

    Sure it sticks. Your muddle versus entailment arose with your invocation of an argument in the form of “A entails B. B, therefore A,” which you have repeated times many, including in your most recent post.

    UB earlier:

    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.

    Restated:

    As the four physical entailments are demonstrated in every form of information transfer known to exist (A -> B, in every known instance), satisfying each of the four physical entailments confirms the existence of recorded information transfer. (B, therefore A).

    You repeat similar assertions throughout the discussion, including in your post immediately above.

    That critique remains unrebutted.

    Your alternative position is that your entailments (A) are necessary and sufficient conditions for the transfer of recorded information (B), from which you conclude if B, therefore A.

    As above, that inference works only if you already know that there are necessary and sufficient conditions for B, and what they are. Therefore inference based upon that use of “entailment” tells you only what you already know.

    That also remains unrebutted.

    RB:

    Although you use the word “entailment” and claim to be deriving conclusions from observations, your usage of that term does not denote a entailment in the sense that is useful in generating testable predictions.

    UB:

    It is claimed that the observation of these four items confirms the transfer of recorded information. If you cannot provide an example of recorded information transfer that does not involve these four entailments, then it is said that the entailments are necessary for the transfer of recorded information, and that the transfer of recorded information is sufficient to infer the presence of the entailments.

    Here you (astoundingly) reproduce “A -> B. B, therefore A” (an observation that sticks). So we may discard that passage.

    UB:

    If you cannot provide an example of these four entailments that doesn’t involve the transfer of recorded information, then it is said that the transfer of recorded information is necessary to the presence of the entailments, and the presence of the entailments is sufficient to infer the transfer of recorded information.

    A particularly telling example is immediately at hand: The translation of DNA into proteins.

    You define the transfer of recorded information such that templating is excluded. This is because templating doesn’t employ a protocol that separates two physical subtrates in a way that enables arbitrary mapping of the information present in present in one medium onto another, to have a specific effect.

    The DNA in living cells contains information acquired by means of templating. Specifically, during cell division DNA unwinds and, by means of non-arbitrary templating, duplicate strands are assembled containing the identical information. You cannot construe this as “the transfer of recorded information,” because no protocols are involved in creating those duplicates, the materials involved are not physically separated and there is nothing arbitrary in the process.

    Because the duplication of DNA lacks what you maintain are essential entailments of the “transfer of recorded information,” semiotic theory as you describe it requires the conclusion that no transfer of recorded information occurs during the replication of DNA. Therefore, given your own definitions and entailments, a given strand of DNA in a living organism does not contain “recorded information.”

    Because the information contained in DNA is not “recorded information,” the translation of DNA into proteins cannot be “the transfer of recorded information.” Yet all of your entailments are present in that process.

    Presto: the transcription of DNA into proteins exemplifies a process that includes your entailments, yet is not “the transfer of recorded information.”  

  21. The word “arbitrary” strikes me as prominent in Upright Biped’s prose.  What he seems to mean in this context is that the mapping from codon to amino acid could be different.  In fact, a minimal effort online search turns up this paper showing that there are exceptions to the common translations and hypothesizing that these differences are due to particular selection pressures.

    I don’t see how defining the mapping to be “arbitrary” advances Upright Biped’s argument, but my interest in how the one we observe most often came about is piqued.  If anyone can recommend good papers on the topic, I’d appreciate it.

    This also increases my interest in the simulation that Lizzie proposed when she and Upright Biped began their discussion at UD.  I suspect that it wouldn’t take a prohibitively complex model of real physical and chemical processes to observe the emergence of something analogous to protein translation.  I further suspect that in different runs of the simulation we would observe different mappings in the translation.  If anyone tries this before I manage to free up some time, I’d love to hear your results.
     

  22. Petrushka: I don’t see how defining the mapping to be “arbitrary” advances Upright Biped’s argument, but my interest in how the one we observe most often came about is piqued. If anyone can recommend good papers on the topic, I’d appreciate it.

    I like this

    I think people get carried away with “genetic code is one in a million” stuff a la Freland and Hurst, as if that one-in-a-million-ness arose due to a selective competition between codes. It can’t happen, because the code, to be any use, cannot be labile, You can’t slide assignments around like one of those tile puzzles. But you can increase an amino acid set by subdivision of broad groups, and this produces chemically conservative neighbourhoods by default.  

    I think that code expansion almost certainly arose neutrally – chemically conservative subdivision of a codon group sneaks under the selective radar and gives, as a remarkable by-product, misread protection when transaltaion strays between neighbouring codon groups.  

     

    And this I mentioned much earlier in the thread – an examination by an informatician, who gets a a couple of things wrong but is fun to read, and is willing to change his mind – both admirable qualities! ;o).

  23. Attempted a reply but a couple of cock-ups (first: I referred to you as “petrushka; second, I thought I had a PDF link to a nice article but it was just an article about the article!) led to my requesting deletion. Another cock-up: deletion is not instantaneous!

    My attempted repost was beset by format issues … I give up! Will try again tomorrow.

  24. The specific mapping has often been referred to as a frozen accident. It’s not like biologists haven’t been thinking about this for the last 40 years.

    What frosts me most about the UPBs and gpuccios of the world is their assumption that they are the first to notice something.

  25. “Frozen accident” is a great search term, thanks!

    I’m chasing the links from here — that should keep me amused for a few minutes.
     

  26. I have been assuming that “arbitrary” means symbolic, in the sense that there is no intrinsic, or necessarily inherent, relationship between the representation and the object or process represented. The analogy is to human language, where the closest the symbol (the word) comes to whatever is symbolized is probably onamonapia. Words like “meow” or (my favorite) “splat”.

    And in the human language, the language constitutes a protocol – a means of translating meaning into an arbitrary vocabulary of sounds, inflections, gestures, or whatever. I spent my career, among other things, devising arbitrary formats for the storage of bits – as magnetic fields, dipole orientations, grooves in plastic (at the lowest level), organized into logical fields (data structures, at a higher level), along with protocols to translate into and back from every level.

    Importantly, I never knew what the “content” would be, or had any reason to know. A file structure has nothing to do with the file content, as opposed to a DNA structure which IS the content and cannot be decoupled from it. 

  27. Patrick comments:

    I don’t see how defining the mapping to be “arbitrary” advances Upright Biped’s argument…

    This rhetorical question from the OP gives a clue:

    …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?

    As far as I can tell, Upright thinks that:

    1. You need both a representation and a protocol.

    2. Because the system is irreducibly complex, both the representation and the protocol need to arise at the same time in the same individual. Evolving either of them separately would confer no selective advantage.

    3. Not only do you need both a representation and a protocol, in the same individual, but they need to match — that is, they need to conform to the same arbitrary mapping.

    4. The odds of all of this happening in the same individual are vanishingly small.

    5. Therefore the Designer did it.

  28. Backwards. Without knowing the Designer did it beforehand, as axiomatic, no sensible person could swallow any of the four preceding statements. We must never forget that the goal here isn’t to derive, but rather to rationalize.

    Which is why I’ve repeatedly asked UB to reverse his approach, start with his conclusions (which is what he DID), and work backwards to generate his assumptions based on those conclusions, and then to misrepresent his observations to fit the necessary assumptions (which is also what he did). 

  29. UB said:

    We’ve been through this before. A dent in the sand is no more than a dent in the sand. Like the snowflakes collecting on your patio table, to become “information”, that “information” requires a mechanism in order to be brought into existence. And why do we not simply say that a dent in the sand contains information? Because it’s a willful conflation of two very different material events. If we say that the state of a thing “contains information” merely by its existence, then everything contains information, which does not account for the real material phenomena of those things which are actually arranged in order to contain information –  in order to evoke an effect within a system.

    This paragraph nails the coffin shut on UB’s argument, so far as I’m concerned. He’s been consistent in this, and responded similarly in a brief exchange we had on this some time ago, but this is a succinct revelation of the problem. 

    Here’s the witness of reality: everything DOES contain information, or more precisely, “physical is information”. What we mean when we say “physical” is “informational” in a physics context. A particle is extended in space/time; it has/is information. 

    This isn’t controversial, or avoidable. You can’t resolve the physics relationships without incorporate the information of natural entities, from the tiniest, most ephemeral particle to the largest-scale bodies we could identify. 

    And it’s not anthropomorphic. Information obtains, and obtains in exactly the same way, whether a human or any sentient being is around to contemplate it or not. A photon will reflect off a mirror at the same angle as the angle of incidence it had in reaching the mirror. No humans or minds needed. How does that happen? Physical law processes information, continuously. It’s not an accident or random event that the reflection angle is equal to the angle of incidence; this is information that natural physics integrates into ongoing dynamics. The mirror’s spatial situation (information) is resolved against the inbound light vector, to produce a predictable, calculatable reflection.

    This is not physics “doing math” in an anthropocentric fashion. The deep, and at this point, comic irony of UprightBiped’s protests about anthropocentrism in the criticisms he receives is that his view is the one that cannot escape the cage of anthropocentrism. Information is only information on anthropic terms, to his way of thinking. 

    Physics in the natural world does care a fig for that view. It is what is, and isn’t the least concerned (it’s impersonal!) with what humans do or think. It operates on information. Physics is a constantly resolving information processor. For any that have a love of physics, the now legendary problem Maxwell’s Demon reduces the challenge to this: information is physical, and profoundly, physical in information. This is why Maxwell’s hypothetical demon can’t work, even as a non-thinking machine; information must be obtained about molecule states, and it’s thermodynamically more expensive to obtain that information (and keep that information) than such information would produce in separating molecules into high/low temperature reservoirs.

    The example of a “dent in the sand” is a good one for UB to see his error.  If the “dent in the sand” is analyzed by a human, that dent could be the key bit of information that establishes a conclusion about what happened. But yea or nay, the dent in the sand is what it is; it’s not changed by a human contemplating it. If contains no more and no less information if no human had ever looked upon it. When a human uses it as a clue, it’s no more information in terms of what it is than if it was never looked at. It is just contextually more useful for the beholder, the human. The information that UB is concerned with is in the human mind, not in the “dent in the sand”. 

    The dent in the sand is just a dent in the sand. 

    UB continued:

     We take the singularly unique material phenomenon of information transfer (the transfer of form about something) and force it to become ubiquitous among all matter, thereby forcing ourselves to create a new word to describe what the old term can no longer explain. It’s an anthropocentric reification of our human experience, imposed so that our cosmos is calculable to us (a uniquely human goal). To reify information to mean that all things “contain information” is to project our experience of information onto all things, as you yourself demonstrate by your examples. Where does the protocol reside for creating information in your stories of snow and sand? It is in the human observer.

     

    I think this corroborates my earlier diagnosis that UB has a very strong inclination to confuse the map with the territory. When we speak of “information” in physics, we use math and language symbols and other representational conventions to convey meaning.

    But the number is not the natural referent it represents.

    The map is not the territory.

    We have developed human conventions for modelling natural dynamics, and we call this “physics”, but this is the model, the map. The “territory”, the natural world, matter and energy interacting in space/time, is all information, physical information, and obtains wholly apart from any model or math or other symbolics we might deploy as “human information”. 

    Of course this reduces UprightBiped’s argument to, as Rich noted, a conspicuous case of special pleading. A hyper-anthropocentric case of special pleading. Yes, symbolic representations provisioned by humans in (nominally) arbitrary ways exist. The human environment is replete with such  examples. But this is just a miniscule subset of all the information configurations that exist. To the natural world, human words and symbols, as attached to them as we are, it’s just physics. 

    This is a view that does the opposite of what UB decries. It REFUSES to project human subjectivity and experience onto physics, and treats everything as “vanilla physics”. This makes human protocols, or any codes or meta-representational structures designed by sentient creatures… nothing special. It’s all just physics. Nothing anthropocentric, nothing “unique”, nothing romantic or superstitious about it.

    That’s the crusher for UB. This is what animates his frustration with “denying observation”. Human protocols just… seem… unique… because… because from a perspective that cannot escape it’s anthropocentrism, can’t think out of the anthropic box that intuition tries to impose, intuition gives rise to this conceit.  

    Edited to fix blockquote formatting and grammar

  30.  

    eigenstate: A photon will reflect off a mirror at the same angle as the angle of incidence it had in reaching the mirror[…].

    Not only that but, rather exquisitely, the ‘information’ that glues charged particles together (and hence: creates chemistry) is … light! Photons carry the electromagnetic force. They shuttle between nucleus and electron cloud and are the very real ‘information’ that keeps these charged bodies together. The charged elements keep tabs on each other by the physical exchange of light particles.

    And should two atoms with complementary spare valence positions get close, they share electrons in a complex dance, orchestrated by the photons, holding the atoms together in an ionic or covalent bond (or a bit of both). And should the electrons be held a little more tightly by (say) nitrogen or oxygen than by a nearby hydrogen, the hydrogen gets a bit more of a positive outlook, attracting electrons from elsewhere towards itself to redress the balance – again, the ‘information’ in this more complex interaction is shuttled about by light. And this last makes water liquid up to 100 degrees, holds base pairs together, mediates the triplet recognition in the ribosome, folds the protein … it is all a trick of the light.      

    So the wire-frame of the building block molecules, and the weaker interactions of base pairing and folding, and the nature of the solvent in which all this takes place … this is all thanks to unobserved ’information’: photons of light. This is not ‘representational’ light carrying a message from world to brain, but real, physical stuff with a vital role to play in glueing the whole shebang together. The ‘representation’; the ‘protocol’? Not irreducibly complex. Light shuttles between separated charges. If they were not separated, there would perhaps be no light, and no chemistry. But given that they are separated, that very separation gives rise to the dance of chemical ‘information’, light a tireless go-between.

  31. Patrick,

    I see my initial response hasn’t been deleted yet – I don’t know if it is universally visible, or just to me. Say what you like about UD, but it had an excellent ‘live’ post preview facility that I rather miss here!

    This is one link I was attempting to supply: http://www.springerlink.com/content/hl82264664k17513/

    It relates to the error tolerance of the code, which I think points not to the selective advantage of an error-tolerant code, but to the manner in which a code will most plausibly arise from a system with much greater redundancy. It is unlikely that one could have an evolutionary competition between ‘better’ and ‘worse’ codes, with the most fault-tolerant rising victorious. In a curious way, the apparent design of the code is actually good evidence for its stepwise evolution!

    It is reasonable to assume that the earliest code had just one amino acid (and therefore was not a ‘code’ at all, but simply an amino-acid welding system producing a simply polymer – probably polyglycine – for structural purposes). Additions of acids to this code were probably not selected for, but simply not selected against – provided they were chemically conservative. If they were damaging, they did not last. Binary subdivision of codon groups by purine/pyrimidine distinction can progress a certain distance – but the more useful proteins become, the less substitutable the code is.

    Rather than a frozen accident, I would see it as a series of frozen accidents. And at some point, the amino acid set was sufficiently versatile to produce catalysts, and not just structural polymers – a Great Leap Forward was enabled. 

    It is significant that nearly all 9 out of the 64 codons that are not truly universal in ‘meaning’ are STOP codons in at least one group. It is far easier to amend a STOP than an acid that is used internally, and so a small amount of post-LUCA evolution of the code has taken place. Pre-LUCA, this constraint may have been in operation too, and the move towards 20 acids may have been marked by the gradual disappearance of STOPs.

  32. Allan,

    Thanks, that’s exactly the kind of reference I was looking for.

    Unfortunately, when I pasted the link, I was seeing the whole article; I just clicked it, and it is behind a paywall… There is a free full text of it somewhere on the web, i’m sure of it! Or Springerlink have changed their policy. 

  33. UBP: the neural impulses are arbitrary to the effect “because the medium they are transferred by is not the form they represent to the system.”
    […]
    Perhaps this explanation highlights where I believe you and I might be talking past each other. Reading your comments, I get the impression you are saying that transcription cannot be arbitrary. If that is indeed what you are saying, then you are correct. If I have said something to make you think otherwise, then I apologize because that was not my intent. When I say that the letter “a” is arbitrary to the “ahh” sound, I am referring to the representation being arbitrary to the effect it represents in the system, as I’ve stated several times in this thread already.


    No. You seem to still completely misunderstand my objection to your argument. My objection to your claim that the relationship of representations like the letter “a” to the signified sound “ahh” are arbitrary (making the relationship, according to you, “immaterial”) has absolutely nothing to do with whether this arbitrariness occurs at the level of transcription or translation (whatever that would actually mean when talking about letters and sounds…). I have laid out my objection clearly and in detail many times already, but I’ll summarize it here in one sentence again, in the hopes that you might actually address it: 

    If the letter “a” (the representation) was indeed arbitrary to the “ahh” sound (the effect) then it could simply not function as a representation thereof. 

  34. Although he has yet to directly answer Lizzie’s question regarding how his “semiotic argument” actually supports the idea of intelligent design, Upright Biped leaves a hint at UD:

    Would you accept the symbolic control over protein synthesis as an artifact of design?

    It appears that his argument boils down to mere equivocation on the words “semiotic” and “symbol”.
     

  35. I think the clear answer he receiver here is, “No, why do you ask?”

  36. But at least he does there what he would not do here, and that is answer the question of what his argument has to do with ID.

    By reifying an abstraction of the genetic code, he has attempted to argue it is an artifact.

    But he has yet to present a case that it could not have evolved, which is the only thing he’s really interested in.

  37. There have bee a lot of cogent arguments demonstrating UPB’s logic errors, but I tend to think  concretely, and I like analogies — even though analogies cannot be considered proof of anything. Analogies are good for trying to explain concepts, and they are useful if they help bridge a divide.

    When UPB calls the genetic code semiotic, he is abstracting it. He is taking a particular feature of the code and using it to argue about the origin of the code.

    This is a bit like taking a photograph of a rabbit and arguing that the rabbit is obviously an artifact, a product of human manufacture. One points to the obvious signs that the photograph is designed and manufactured, and that one can show examples of photographs known to be made by humans.

    When UPB speaks of the genetic code being semiotic he is ignoring the original embodiment of the code — the actual rabbit. When he argues that the code could not have evolved he is arguing that the photograph could not have evolved. He is ignoring the properties of the original that are not shared by the abstraction. Biology for the rabbit and chemistry for the genetic code.

  38. While I agree with you that Upright Biped is mistaking the map for the territory in parts of his argument, the fatal error in his attempt to tie it to ID is a simple equivocation.

    UB:  I define “semiotic” thusly.

    EL:  I accept that definition for the purpose of this discussion.

    UB:  By my definition, transcription is a semiotic process.

    EL:  Using your definition, I provisionally accept that claim for the purpose of this discussion.

    UB:  Since you agree that transcription is a semiotic process and semiotic processes, by this other definition, are only designed by intelligent agents, I have proved ID!

    To be fair, Upright Biped hasn’t explicitly made that final statement, but based on his refusal to directly answer Lizzie’s question and his statements on UD, I don’t see how else he’s going to close the loop on this one.
     

  39. I think elements of UB’s agenda are clear enough. From the first of the “Cow Squeeze” links on the previous page:

    You see, if you had been able to actually produce the rise of information…it would have shown that recorded information really can emerge from unguided material processes…You withdrew because the observed physical entailments of information transfer is beyond even a conceptual unguided process, and you know it.

    It seems clear enough that he believes that the “observed entailments of the transfer of recorded information/a semiotic state (by which we now know he really means ‘the necessary and sufficient conditions’ for same) cannot arise from unguided material processes. 

    Ergo semiotic states arise exclusively from “guided” processes. Nothing else is even conceivable. And we know it.

    Ergo ID. 

  40. I suspect you are correct.

    However, I take issue with Upright Biped’s claim that “You withdrew because the observed physical entailments of information transfer is beyond even a conceptual unguided process, and you know it.”  As I remember it, and the written record backs me up, Lizzie withdrew her offer to demonstrate that such a system could arise through an evolutionary process when Upright Biped repeatedly refused to commit to any rigorous operational definitions that would allow his claims to be tested.
     

  41. I don’t understand his refusal either. If Lizzie’s simulations show that his operational defintion DOES in fact permit evolutionary processes to lead to the “physcal entailments of information transfer” he still seems to have a very large number of places to move his goalposts – maybe he provided the wrong defintion, maybe Lizzie implemented it wrong, maybe the simulation fails to demonstrate “physical entailments” or “information transfer” to his satisfaction, and maybe since the simulation is itself “intelligent” that “proves” that intelligence is required after all!

    After all, UB is not interested in whether he’s right or even why he’s right. He doesn’t wish his rightness to be examined, because that has evil connotations all by itself. It implies he might NOT be right, which can’t be allowed to be thinkable. 

  42. Well, it does seem that Upright BiPed has lost interest – and certainly shows no sign of answering my question about what his argument has to do with ID.

    But I will say that I am not at all afraid of what “the record shows” regarding this conversation.

    He seems to think I am embarassed about something, or maybe trying to avoid something.  I’m really not.

    I think all the conversation has done is to show just how vacuous the ID position actually is – at least the one that claims that an ID is implied by the evidence.

  43. Too bad. I was interested in hearing his reply to the following:

    – Information contained in DNA is acquired through a templating process that does not satisfy UB’s definition of “the transfer of recorded information.”  During cell division DNA unwinds and, by means of non-arbitrary templating, duplicate strands are assembled containing the identical information. No protocols are involved in creating those duplicates, the materials involved are not physically separated and there is nothing arbitrary in the process. 

    – Therefore DNA does not contain “recorded information,” because there has been no “transfer of recorded information.” 

    – Therefore the transcription of DNA into amino acids/proteins cannot be an instance of “the transfer of recorded information” because no “recorded information” is present in DNA.

    – The transcription of DNA into proteins itself therefore exemplifies a process that displays the claimed “entailments” of (necessary and sufficient conditions for) “the transfer of recorded information/a semiotic state,” yet there is no transfer of recored information. 

  44. He seems to have abandoned that discussion, leaving several questions unanswered.  I’m making enough observations to think about hazarding an hypothesis….
     

  45. UB makes his agenda more clear on the above-linked discussion:

    I am only an occasional lurker on this forum, but I have noticed several comments by materialists regarding the potential existence of a deity (a creative force of some type), but there never seems to be anyone here to counter those comments on the basis of empiricism, logic, or observable evidence. This consequently gives the false impression that there is logic and empiricism on one side of a divide, and mere unsupported belief on the other. This is hardly the case.

    There are rational arguments for such a force in nature that go back throughout antiquity…

    Even so, these older arguments (in various respects) pale in comparison to the evidence that has been gleaned from the material observations made in the past half century, particularly the growing molecular evidence. Biosemiosis and bio-information are two stunning examples of new data that is virtually intractable to purely material causation…

    If anyone is interested, I’ll make the semiotic argument here, and I invite any materialists to refute the observations.

    Xezexal:

    I would like to hear the argument….. Where was that post?

    UB responds first with a sort of primer on protein synthesis, followed by a reposting of his lengthy post to Larry Moran, which has also been linked here.

    So, there you have it: The semiotic theory is purportedly an empirical argument for the “potential existence of a deity (a creative force of some type.)”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.