Information generation

From: John W Burgeson (
Date: Fri May 03 2002 - 13:38:00 EDT

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    I note that in a recent post Howard writes: "What I was actually pointing
    out was that, contrary to earlier pessimistic estimates regarding the
    formational capabilities of atoms and molecules, the universe's
    formational economy was in fact sufficiently robust to do things that
    chemists and astronomers had once thought highly improbable. My
    suggestion was, therefore: Don't underestimate what the universe (by its
    Creator's creativity and generosity) has been equipped to do."

    Now as Howard knows, I do not "buy into" his "gifted universe" concept --
    but I do not reject it either. Seeing the universe, the earth and us more
    in the sense of a violin being played by a master artist (and violin
    manufacturer) (i.e. a variant of a progressive creation approach)
    continues to hold first place in my favored models.

    But over the past couple of years I find in Howard's thinking more and
    more that resonates. The post from which I clipped the above is rich in
    his thinking, and I must take it seriously.

    Howard says there is not a single measure of "information." That the
    markings in the encyclopaedia on his bookshelf "just sit there," and that
    only through action is information actuated (I think that's what he says
    -- I am not sure yet that I have my head around all that). Yet -- there
    ARE measures of information, perhaps imperfect and certainly plural.

    Suppose I do a GEDANKEN experiment, by travelling in time to precisely
    December 19, 1930, and I perform a (non-invasive of course) examination
    of the entity which is to be born 9 months later and called me. I measure
    its information content. What I find is a very simple single cell
    (simple, of course, being a comparative comment) and whatever measure of
    its information content I make of it at that time I will call X.

    On August 19, 1931, I reexamine the entity which is now me. Again I
    measure the information content and find it to be Y.

    Today I measure the entity which has now been me (at least the pattern
    has been -- the original atoms are long ago dispersed) and find an
    informational content of Z.

    Is there anyone who would assert, on any grounds, that X>Y or Y>Z? I
    think not. So this entity which was to be me and who now is me has
    clearly been gaining information over the past 71 years.

    Look at the entity which was me on Dec 19, 1937. The teacher has just
    explained to me how math works -- for the first time I understand WHY 4+3
    must equal 7 and can use that understanding to do all sorts of wondrous
    things. Any measure of me before the explanation is given must show an
    informational content less than afterwards. I GAINED informational

    So did the universe. Clearly the teacher lost none by her action. So in
    this one instance, at least, we see the entropy (or other informational
    measure) of the universe "going the wrong way."

    I mean nothing profound by all the above, and, indeed, to some (all?) it
    may be trivial. But it does seem to support, in a small way at least,
    Howard's overall thesis.

    Burgy (speculating again -- this could be dangerous). And I apologize if
    all of this is trivial. It does not seem so to me.
            (science/theology, quantum mechanics, baseball, ethics,
             humor, cars, philosophy and much more)

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