Shannon

From: Randy Isaac <rmisaac@bellatlantic.net>
Date: Mon Sep 06 2004 - 16:09:20 EDT

Glenn,

    I'm glad you raised the topic of Shannon's theorem and especially that you cited Rolf Landauer's profound observation that "information is physical." The application of Shannon's theorem to God's communication with us has two (at least) problems. Firstly, there seems to be no way of quantifying the noise. In our communications business we can measure the noise in terms of bit error rates and then introduce a coding scheme that permits the maximum data rate for that channel. Without a means of quantifying "noise" in God's communication, we are only left with a conceptual analogy. Secondly, and most critical, Rolf was quite emphatic in pointing out that the underlying presupposition of Shannon's theorem is that the information at the starting point is in a physical embodiment, the information is transmitted through a physical medium, and the receiver also has a physical embodiment of the information. Those three embodiments may all be different, but they are all physical. We believe that God is not physical and, hence his information that he wishes to reveal to us is not physical either. At some point that non-physical information must be converted to a physical embodiment. But such a communication is not consistent with the presupposition for Shannon's theorem and, again, we can only draw conceptual analogies.

    It was a great privilege to have Rolf Landauer report to me at the TJ Watson Research Center until his death. He was a tremendous influence on our lab and on me. He had a strong Jewish heritage and was a renowned skeptic of unsubstantiated ideas. Charles Bennett continues to lead the group at IBM Research and they have made great progress in the last 5 years in applying Shannon's theorem to quantum information transmission. I still look forward to the day I can retire and spend time thinking about how to apply all these observations to our Christian faith. But unfortunately I doubt that it will resolve your question of the extent and nature of the truth in Gen. 1-11.

Randy
Received on Mon Sep 6 16:26:15 2004

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