Below is Lucien's original reply. Sorry this is out of order as my reply to
this just left here before I could get this one forwarded. In a few hours I
will forward Lucien's response to my note which just left here.
for lots of creation/evolution information
personal stories of struggle
>From: Lucien Carroll [mailto:email@example.com]
>Sent: Thursday, May 09, 2002 2:29 PM
>To: Glenn Morton
>Subject: Re: Emergence of information out of nothing?
>Glenn Morton wrote:
>> >"puckle". If you weren't using it as support for your argument, I would
>> >assume that "Puckle is a clearly defined word with no imprecision" was
>> >said tongue-in-cheek.
>> Of course you wouldn't assume it had any meaning. Indeed, for all most
>> people in the US know, I might have made up the entire idea of Doric
>> english. I didn't however, but I had never heard of it until I
>> It is a dialect of Aberdeenshire. There is another one for the Orkney
>> Islands. I know no words from it, but was told of it's existence while
>> visiting there last month.
>I didn't mean that puckle was a made up word (ie, made up by you,
>without semantic value outside your mind), but that its semantic value,
>by convention, is that of an _imprecise_ quantity. I had googled the
>word to find its meaning. I don't see how this is an example of
>non-ambiguity of language. Even technical language, designed to be
>non-ambiguous, is full of ambiguities. So much more words like "puckle"
>or "stuff" from common speech. The very same speaker, in just a slightly
>differenct context will use the same word for something quite different.
>The production and interpretation of language is informed by context,
>both internal and external to the interlocutors. Thus, some meaning
>(particularly pragmatics) is subjective, but still there is meaning
>which we can objectively say is carried by the utterance, by design.
>There is a meaning that an utterance does carry and a multiplicity of
>meanings that the utterance does not carry.
>> There is a structure which determines its meaning, but it is an agreement
>> between lots of people. It is internal to them but NOT inherent in the
>> sounds or inherent in the letters. It is a mental state, like my thoughts
>> about my boss or the thoughts of my employees about me. I can't quantify
>> their mental states (nor do I really want to know what they
>think about me).
>You are correct in saying it is not inherent in the sounds, but in the
>context of an interaction between speakers of the same language, its
>meaning is determined. And there are sounds which cannot be speech in
>any language. Because of our physiological features, our speech does not
>sound like the languages of the odd life forms from star trek. Because
>of cognitive features (presumably) human speech does not include all the
>permutations of grammar that are mathematically possible. Because of the
>conventions of speech communities, there are permutations of sounds you
>will never encounter in speech, in any of the worlds languages. These
>first two things that determine the structure of acceptable speech are,
>I think you would agree, objective features of the environment from
>which speech sprouts. The third thing, conventions, is likewise an
>objective feature of the environment.
>> The problem, as I see it, is that in order to know something exists, you
>> must be able to recognize it. When I put out those sequences
>and have asked
>> people who claim that it exists, they can never recognize in
>> it exists. This is analogous to the claim that there is some sort of
>> 'biological' information in molecular sequences, but they can't tell you
>> what it is or that it exists a priori. I think I have a perfect right to
>> doubt the existence of this supposedly objective 'semantic'
>> no one can even recognize it when it is put before them.
>They may not be able to recognize in which sequence it exists, but were
>they go to the terrible effort of interviewing a million people if they
>recognized semantic content in the strings, the more conventionally used
>strings would recieve a much higher response rate than the random or
>cyphered strings. The investigator would not have to know anything about
>the strings in order to determine that the mandarin phrase held semantic
>content. The biological information in molecular sequences "tells" you
>about the workings of the biological system, but it can't be verbalized
>at your request because the thing is such a monstrously complicated
>system. Drug creation and testing is all about this kind of
>investigation. They "interview" a biochemical about the semantic value
>of umpteen million virtual molecules, and then try moderately successful
>ones again with real-world versions.
>> >If I understand correctly, semantic information was the only kind of
>> >information people talked about until Shannon came along. That alone
>> >should tell you this is not a useless concept.
>> Language is an agreement that a particular sound REFERS to a particular
>> object. It is a grandiose table of connections which ties the
>sound to the
>> referant. The sound itself contains NO semantic information.
>The table, in
>> the mind of the individual, contains the information of which you speak.
>ok fine. We can say the source of the information is in the mind. But
>the speech sounds bear the imprint of that information, and mediate the
>exchange of information.
>> CHinese provides some really interesting examples of this (the only
>> technical flaw is that I will omit the tones and they might not
>be the same.
>> But to the western ear, at first one doesn't hear the tonation anyway).
>> ee shou ge is a song.
>> ee ge shou is a hand.
>There is nothing remarkable about how exchanging the order of words
>changes the semantic value of an utterance. The sentence "The guy bit my
>dog" and the sentence "my dog bit the guy" are different because of the
>semantic importance of syntax. I prefer the case of when we deal with
>different conventions. A couple years ago i was in paris with my family,
>and we went into a chinese restaurant. The lady asked, i think in
>english, "how many people," and one of us either held up our hand or
>replied "five" in english. As she headed off toward the table, she said
>"cinque", but i because i was expecting chinese rather than french, i
>heard "san ge" and tried to correct her, "wu ge". The same sounds under
>one convention filled the same grammatical role as under the second, but
>had different lexical value.
>> There is absolutely NO information semantically in the word shou or ge.
>The semantic value of counter words is primarily grammatical
>rather than lexical.
>> >I don't, however, think that there is anything incredible about the
>> >accumulation of semantic information. It is interesting to me that it is
>> >so, but it appears to me to be the natural result of a functioning
>> >process that we get forms that bear the imprint of what works.
>> There is a correlation with biology and language that I believe
>> defend it really hard right now). That is we see that any sound
>> of characters can be used to refer to a particular object. This is the
>> equivalent in biology where MANY gazillions of different sequences will
>> perform the very same function. The only difference is that in
>> sound will do. In biology there are some restrictions.
>As mentioned above, there are limits in speech sounds too. And like
>alternations in protein forms that all perform similar functions,
>language has synonyms and varying levels of specificity that may
>I think it is quite unfortunate that laypeople misunderstand entropy
>(for pete's sake, its definition uses so many words that outside of
>technical contexts have such different meanings), but i think there is
>plenty of confusion about information theory even among people who
>should know better. I for one, still have really poor thermodynamic
>intuitions, even though i did fine in my thermo/statmech courses.
>Perhaps Shannon information would be easier to explain to people if
>semantic information were better understood.
>Lucien S Carroll firstname.lastname@example.org
>"All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge."
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Sun May 12 2002 - 14:08:12 EDT