Sunday, February 10, 2008

Philosophical Foundations of ID to Conservation of Information

My understanding of the foundation of ID Theory. This could also be looked at as the philosophy of ID (upon which the SCIENCE OF ID [link] is founded).

Disclaimer: This post is not philosophical in its entirety, as it does borrow from information theorems and scientific experiments with information and programming (evolutionary algorithms). However, this post and Part II [link] do argue for the basic philosophical foundation necessary to be able to point to intelligence, being independent of the physical laws which arise from or govern matter, as a cause when investigating certain phenomenon.

1. Highly improbable (far beyond UPB), algorithmically complex, specified, coded information (ie. sequential arrangement of nucleotides in RNA) is not caused by the physical properties of the materials (the nucleotides) which are merely used to *transfer* information from DNA to Proteins. IOW, it is not the physical attractive properties of the nucleotides in DNA or RNA or the letters on a page which causes their sequential arrangement. Therefore, at the least, this information is not caused by and transcends the physical properties of matter. This information is caused by a non physical-chemical law.

Furthermore, certain systems exist which follow engineering control principles which are not defined by laws of physics or chemistry, yet control or bound laws and chance to produce function:

“A shaping of boundaries may be said to go beyond a mere fixing of boundaries and establishes a ‘controlling principle.’ It achieves control of the boundaries by imprinting a significant pattern on the boundaries of the system. Or, to use information language, we may say that it puts the system under the control of a non-physical-chemical principle by a profoundly informative intervention.”

--Michael Polanyi, “Life Transcending Physics and Chemistry,” Chemical & Engineering News (21 August 1967): 64.

“In the face of the universal tendency for order to be lost, the complex organization of the living organism can be maintained only if work – involving the expenditure of energy – is performed to conserve the order. The organism is constantly adjusting, repairing, replacing, and this requires energy. But the preservation of the complex, improbable organization of the living creature needs more than energy for the work. It calls for information or instructions on how the energy should be expended to maintain the improbable organization. The idea of information necessary for the maintenance and, as we shall see, creation of living systems is of great utility in approaching the biological problems of reproduction.”

George Gaylord Simpson and William S. Beck, Life: An Introduction to Biology, 2nd ed. (London: Routledge and Kegan, 1965), 145

At the top of this post is Hubert Yockey’s diagram published in the “Journal of Theoretical Biology” showing how life actually follows engineering principles and makes use of an actual communication channel and information processor.

From here on, I am using the term “information” to describe low thermodynamic entropy/high improbability systems, which are not defined by laws of physics or chemistry, that cause functional or semantic specificity.

Function can simply be referred to as the transfer of energy to perform work as a by-product of organized units as per the above quote by George Gaylord Simpson. In man-made structures, function defines the purpose for which that structure was created and in biology function defines that which aids in reproductive and survival success as a result of natural selection.

And, no, this is not a circular definition, since organized units are not necessarily information. IE: snowflakes are highly organized units however they are defined by laws of physics and chemistry and do not cause any functional or semantic specificity.[link]

2. If information is precluded by intelligence (as has been observed), and if intelligence is necessarily founded upon CSI and these systems which follow engineering principles (so far this is the case), then …

3. We have a closed loop traveling from information (not caused by properties of material as per #1) to intelligence (which is then subsequently also not caused *only* by material properties) and back to information, with no room for strictly material causation. Material is only used as a conduit to transfer information.

4. Thus, both information and intelligence may be non-material or at the very least must contain or be caused by a non-material property or law (good bye philosophical materialism). After all, what we observe is that information and intelligence flows through material yet is fundamentally not caused by the properties (physical or chemical laws) of that material.

“But,” you may ask, “when the material is removed, doesn’t the information cease to exist? Isn’t information necessarily dependant on the material which ‘contains’ it? What happens to the information held by the 99% of now extinct species? Does the information still exist?”

Well, it does seem upon first glance that information is necessarily linked to material. Ie: destroy the material conduit and information is destroyed. However, this point does not negate the observation that physical properties of material do not cause information (ie: in biology), which is the main point. Since intelligence does cause information and since intelligence is founded upon information, there must exist some aspect of at least one of these two properties which is not material.

And now a new thought jumps across my mind. Does the destruction of the conduit actually destroy the information? If material only acts as a conduit, and intelligence is actually the source/cause of the information, this means that the information existed within some intelligence or non-material information transferring law before it was sent through the conduit. Destruction of the conduit (material) would only seem to destroy that specific *transfer* of the information.

For example, if I write a coded note which reads “meet at bridge at 0900,” have it delivered to an undercover agent, and upon reading it the agent then burns the note. Has the information been destroyed? No, it most definitely has not been destroyed. The information has actually been transferred and stored within another intelligence. However, let’s say that something went wrong and upon arriving at the bridge, the undercover agent is gunned down. Now, is the information destroyed? No, since I (as the intelligent source) still possess all the necessary information to create the exact same message. The information existed within intelligence before it was transmitted and it continues to exist in the source intelligence after transmission and destruction of the pen and paper note – the transferring medium (material).

In the case of biology, if life and evolution are a necessary result of and are guided by the laws of nature, then wouldn’t the information at the foundation of our universe and its natural laws contain the information necessary for the creation of life and evolution?

IOW, if life is a guided search program, the space it is searching as it evolves is a space set up by the laws of nature. Thus any information that life discovers and the guiding, active, problem specific information needed to arrive at those targets (according to the [NFL Theorems [link]) already existed within the program of our universe and the search space upon which our universe’s natural laws operate.

“Unless you can make prior assumptions about the ... [problems] you are working on, then no search strategy, no matter how sophisticated, can be expected to perform better than any other”

--Yu-Chi Ho and D.L. Pepyne, "Simple explanantion of the No Free Lunch Theorem", Proc. 40th IEEE Conf. on Decision and Control, Orlando, Florida, 2001.

This indicate[s] the importance of incorporating problem-specific knowledge into the behavior of the [search] algorithm.”

--David Wolpert and William G. Macready, "No free lunch theorems for optimization", IEEE Trans. Evol. Comp. 1(1) (1997): 67-82.

“The [computing] machine does not create any new information, but it performs a very valuable transformation of known information.”

--Leon Brillouin, Science and Information Theory (Academic Press, New York, 1956).

The understanding that information is never destroyed or created by a computing machine, only transferred is consistent with Conservation of Information theorems, one of which is explained here by Dr. Dembski. The theorem basically shows that, if problem specific information must be added to a search in order to find a target (solve an optimization problem) efficiently – better than chance -- then the information necessary to find that problem specific information is actually just as unlikely or more unlikely and therefore has a higher improbability of being discovered. Thus, the same or larger amount of problem specific information is needed to locate the problem specific information to find the target, ad infinitum.

This is analogous to a library cataloguing system. The catalogue has to be organized in such a non-random way that you can use its organization (problem specific information) to find the information you were looking for at better than random search. Furthermore, that organization (cataloguing system) itself most likely would not have come about through random processes since it would require at least or more than the same amount of problem specific information to find that specific cataloguing organization (information) as that cataloguing system is able to output (measured as an information theoretic probability in bits). COI Theorems show that in order to get better than chance results you must input better than chance results. How do you guarantee better than chance results? According to NFL Theorems, with problem specific information. How do you get problem specific information? Back to COI Theorems: with previous problem specific information ad infinitum, or as observed, from intelligence.

Appeals to non-explanatory “chance of the gaps” in this case are mere hand waving and grasping at straws, and IMO intellectually unfullfiling, especially when the original targets in question are highly improbable, algorithmically complex, specified, not defined by law, yet exert a control aspect on a lawful system and who's operation is highly analogous to observed intelligently designed systems.

Now, we just need to discover how intelligence could have possibly tuned (programmed) and used the universe’s laws of nature to evolve life. In discovering this, we will be discovering how evolution does what it does and the actual amount of fine tuning necessary for different aspects of life. Or is there merely some sort of teleological law inherent in our universe which “just is”? – similar to the intellectually unfullfiling infinite regress of problem specific information. These are some points which can be philosophically debated, while the scientists discover how this intelligence or teleological law designed life.

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