Emergence of information out of nothing?

From: Peter Ruest (pruest@pop.mysunrise.ch)
Date: Wed May 01 2002 - 13:16:51 EDT

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    A recent paper by C.J. Hogan confirms what could be expected, that right
    after the big bang, the universe was extremely poor in information. This
    is of interest in connection with Howard Van Till's claim that God
    gifted "biological systems", among other things, "from the beginning,
    when the creation was brought into being from nothing", with all of the
    capacities needed (H.J. Van Till, "Special Creationism in Designer
    Clothing: A Response to 'The Creation Hypothesis'", PSCF 47 (1995),

    The amount of meaningful or semantic information contained in a system
    may be defined as the minimal length of an algorithm capable of
    specifying it (M.V. Volkenstein, "Punctualism, non-adaptionism,
    neutralism and evolution", BioSystems 20 (1987), 289). This would
    exclude all features irrelevant for meaning or functionality. The
    meaningful information contained in today's biosphere may be
    approximated by a (purely theoretical) minimal set of genome parts
    "streamlined" to include the code for whatever is really required for
    the organisms represented in the biosphere, but nothing else. Its amount
    is such that the improbability of its generation by random-variation /
    natural-selection processes, starting with a prebiotic universe, is
    vastly transastronomical.

    In Howard's model, there are just two alternative possibilities to
    account for the presence of this information: either: (A) it was given
    by the Creator in "the beginning" and was somehow "stored" in the
    prebiotic universe, or: (B) it emerged at least 10 billion years later,
    at and after the beginning of life, without any external input of
    information. (A) is what Howard seemed to prefer in the quote above,
    which is contradicted by Hogan, while (B) looks at least as unlikely.

    C.J. Hogan, "The Beginning of Time (Perspectives: Cosmology)", Science
    295 (22 March 2002), 2223-2225, writes: "... The holographic principle
    [L. Susskind, J.Math.Phys. 36 (1995), 6377] limits the amount of
    information carried by quanta during inflation to less than [pi]/H^2 in
    Planck units. This bound is greater than about 10^10 bits, but it is
    certainly not infinite; indeed, the amount of information needed to
    specify literally everything during inflation may be small enough to fit
    onto a compact disc. The universe thus began with rather little
    information, and practically all the complex structure we see now
    developed from within in the absence of external influences. Entire
    galaxies developed from almost structureless single quanta..."
    (inflation would have occurred within the first 10^(-32) s after the big
    bang; H is the Hubble constant).

    This implies that a concept of "creation's functional integrity" must
    assume that all of the biological information contained in the biosphere
    emerged by self-organization, by random processes, out of nothing, and
    in the absence of external influences. Biological systems, therefore,
    cannot be counted among the entities "gifted, from the beginning, with
    all of the capacities needed". So far, this doesn't even take into
    consideration the fundamental distinction between the maximum
    information carrying capacity, which Hogan talks about, and the
    (smaller) functional information relevant for biological systems.

    In "Creative Providence in Biology", PSCF 53/3 (Sept.2001), 179
    (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Ruest.pdf), I wrote regarding
    the mechanisms of evolution: "The amount of information a biological
    system can glean from the environment, by means of the process of
    mutation and natural selection, is vastly insufficient, and this process
    operates much too slowly... to date, the talk of 'emergence of
    information by self-organization' is not supported by any relevant
    theoretical, observational, or computational evidence and is therefore
    rather vacuous." This applies to all genuine novelty during evolution,
    and, a fortiori, to the origin of life.

    In his "Does God Choose Among Hidden Options?" PSCF 54/1 (March 2002),
    67, Howard suggests the synthesis of simple compounds like
    glycolaldehyde in space as an indication that life could very well
    emerge spontaneously. E.L. Shock, "Seeds of Life? (Astrobiology)",
    Nature 416 (28 March 2002), 380 writes:
    "... It appears that nearly every experimental scenario produces organic
    compounds of some form... complex organic compounds should be expected
    in any sector of the Solar System that is rich in volatile elements...
    Studying the chemical building-blocks of life shows that they are
    ubiquitous and can exist in the absence of life... it follows that
    process-driven investigations into the emergence of life may need to be
    cast in a different way, which takes into account the materials involved
    but is not directly tied to them. This, I believe, is a major challenge
    for the fledgling field of astrobiology."

    And of more traditional origin-of-life research, we might add. The
    presence of abiotic organic compounds doesn't even address the question
    of biologically relevant coding/coded information. I eagerly await the
    first appropriate publications in this "fledgling field" - which, during
    the last 50 years, has not produced any results relevant for the
    emergence of semantic information.

    As the only solution to Howard's conundrum I could think of, I proposed
    (in my paper quoted above) "God's hidden options".

    Does anyone have a better suggestion?


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