RE: Shannon

From: Glenn Morton <>
Date: Mon Sep 06 2004 - 17:10:58 EDT

Hi Randy,

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf Of Randy Isaac
> Sent: Monday, September 06, 2004 3:09 PM

> 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.

I would disagree. The reason you can quantify the error rate in a
modern communication channel is because you have an ability to compare
the original transmission with the message received.

If all you have is the message received, you know one thing that Shannon
knew. The received message is a function of both the signal sent (S) and
the noise(N). Which Shannon expressed as E =f(S,N). But you don't know
the noise. You don't know which bits are wrong and which are correct.
Only by knowing S can you determine N after you have compared it with E.
Now if I receive a message but I don't have the original and can't
communicate parity bits back to the original for comparison, I simply
have to trust that there is enough information redundancy in the signal
for me to understand the message. For those who don't know what
information redundancy is, one doesn't hav tu spill thinx kuructly fur
the mssage too git ther. English has enough reduncancy that when
occasional errors occur, total understanding isn't lost. But with
compacted codes like sending winzip files, which remove the redundancy,
a single bit lost means lost information.

We are not left with a conceptual analogy we are left depending upon a
noise-free communication system and there are none of those. The noise
is there whether we can quantify it or not. The physics goes on whether
or not we actually measure it.

Consider the first communication from Betelgeuse planet #429. It takes
several hundred years (1040 to be precise) before we can send them the
parity check or send them a message " I say, Ole chap, did you really
mean to say, 'Your mother has the face of a horse!'?" We know that
noise will have affected the transmission, we will know that noise
affects our recievers but we can't quantify it for another 1040 years.
Does that mean all we have is a conceptual analogy and that the Laws of
communication don't apply for the next 1040 years?. I don't think so.

On the receiver end, this is important for when we discuss inspiration
below, all we know is that some signal stimulated our radio antenna.
God may stimulate our brains via electrons, protons, nannobots or
whatever inspiration consists of, the guy receiving the message from God
is in the same situation that we are with our radio antenna. Something
stimulated the machinery and now we have a message and we have no way to
verify that it is the proper message.

In geophysics our signals are a convolution of the wavelet and a spike
series plus an additive level of noise. Our goal is to get back to the
spike series. We can deconvolve the wavelet, we can remove the system
distortion, but we can't remove the random noise. All we can do is
lessen it by making numerous measurements and adding them together to
reduce the noise level. If it is coherent noise, this procedure doesn't
do a thing to reduce it.

 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.

Here I must strenuosly disagree. While God is not physical, our brains
are,our books are, the soundwaves are. The moment God's message enters
the realm of the physical (and it must unless we say that the bible
itself isn't physical) then the laws of Shannon apply in no uncertain
terms. Like the guy above you received a message from Betelgeuse #429
that his mother had a face like a horse, the antenna has been stimulated
but the transmitter is way out of site and way out of any parity checks.

Let's say that God causes thoughts. Those thoughts are a form of
physical information in the human brain. Now the guy has to understand
the idea, convert it to a sentence and then write it on an old
sheepskin. If God is causing thoughts which don't get his truth across,
then I would say that he is adding noise to his system. Physically, if
inspiration starts in the brain, then the brain is the transmitter for
God. And if that transmitter is not transmitting what God is wanting
(because of the hardness of their heart or a numb brain or even the
creation of another universe in this vast multiverse causing a temporary
attention lapse on God's part because his is doing too many things at
once), then that is source noise.

There is an analogy here to what god is trying to do. God is trying to
communicate to us how to be saved, via using a brain as his reciever to
humanity. God modulates the neurons to give a guy a thought. This
situation is no different than if I want to tell you how to go to a
wonderful restaurant in Scotland called Lhair Hillock via a radio. I
modulate the electrons in the antennae to convey a message to you; god
modulates a brain. Now if I accidentally tell you to go north from the
Aberdeen bus and train station, rather than west along south Deeside, I
have added noise to the transmission side of the system which is trying
to get you to a wonderful eatery. You will never get there going north.
This is no different than God telling the ancient hard hearted fellows
that they must not eat pigs, when in fact there is no problem eating
pigs. The point is that the purpose of the communication has been
destroyed by improper communication. It is destroyed by the noise of
God saying the wrong thing and that is what noise is. If a transmitter
says 0 when it should have said 1, the actual channel may correctly
convey the transmitted 0, but the correct message, a 1, is not received.
Accommodation is transmitter noise--god saying the wrong thing. Reciever
noise is us receiving the wrong thing--misinterpretation etc. This is
not merely analogical. As I said, I think you can classify this as using
long duration symbols in the channel capacity theorem.

> 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.

I am impressed that you were able to know these guys. I have watched
some of the quantum developments and indeed, we discussed them on this
list back in May or June 2003 in the multiverse thread. I think quantum
computation will have profound philosophical, theological as well as
societal implications.

As to resoving my problems of the nature of truth, that is a life time
of study. But I know that we won't come to the truth as long as we think
falsehoods are ok for God to transmit.
Received on Mon Sep 6 17:28:57 2004

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