Re: [asa] EIC (Evolutionar[il]y Informed Christian)

From: Gregory Arago <gregoryarago@yahoo.ca>
Date: Sun Dec 14 2008 - 12:43:43 EST

David Clounch wrote: 
"For the record, I utterly disbelieve that randomness produces information. There is only one way I can conceive of it doing so: if information pops out of empty space much like a virtual particle.

But materialists surely must believe that information comes from somewhere. I am confused about that source may be.  If it isnt symmetry (where symmetry is pre-existing information, not new information)  and isnt created randomly (ie, isnt randomness )  then what is it?" (my bold)
 
Randy responded:
"Steve Meyers has championed the idea that it is information and most of the ID community has gone along with that. The arguments for information lie in what they consider the analogy between DNA and its functions and the kinds of information that humans produce, such as computer codes. Sometimes Carl Sagan's arguments for identifying SETI are invoked as a test as well. What they usually don't say is the key difference between DNA and information produced by intelligent agents. Simply put, one of those key differences in that true information is independent of its physical embodiment while complexity IS its physical embodiment. We've discussed this in previous threads but it bears repeating." (my bolding)

First, just a small correction: it is Steve Meyer (not to be mixed up with PZ Meyers).
 
I agree with you, Randy, that what you say bears repeating and also that the IDM's arguments depend heavily on the analogy "between DNA and its functions and the kinds of information that humans produce." I don't think they have succeeded in bridging the natural and applied sciences with social sciences and humanities on this issue, which is still gravely holding them back. We have agreed on this in the past as well. Though, in some ways the fact that several engineers and programmers are IDists attests to the strength of the 'design' metaphor in those realms.
 
Let it be admitted that many spheres of the academy are 'invested' in talk about 'information.' I'm glad you speak, Randy, about 'one of the key differences' on this topic because I doubt anyone could say what 'the' key difference is. David's question about where information comes from is poignant, and any kind of human-made information cannot be considered as having 'a random source' if human intention is taken into account (this was discussed recently here with Mike Gene about 'mind using evolution').
 
“I don’t see how information can be produced from non-information without intelligence.” – John Lennox
 
That said, I think it only fair to say how important such thinkers as Daniel Bell, Manuel Castells, and most importantly imo, Marshall McLuhan are to our understanding of 'information.' These thinkers include intelligence 'by nature' or 'by the character of' being human-social thinkers. Claude Shannon may be a significant figure for some people with his mathematical theory of communication and information for others (cough, sputter) William Dembski. But these two both pale in comparison to any of the three names listed above with respect to understanding our present *environment* in an 'information-electronic age.' Sometimes when discussing information the cart is easily put before the horse.
 
Bell was speaking about 'post-industrial society,' which he later called 'information society.' His views help to provide a broader or higher-level understanding of phenomena that are now also being considered at lower-levels of complexity. What has caused the term 'information' to be used should be included for context; according to Neil Postman, the word 'information' doesn't even appear in Euro-Enlightenment literature. 
 
"By information I mean data processing in the broadest sense; the storage, retrieval, and processing of data becomes the essential resource for all economic and social exchanges. ... By knowledge, I mean an organized set of statements of facts or ideas, presenting a reasoned judgment or an experimental result, which is transmitted to others through some communication medium in some systematic form." - Daniel Bell (1979)
A bit empirical and data-processing-centric, but that's after all part of the contemporary ideology reflected in the academy and in science in general. Even before Bell, however, in the 60's and early 70's, Marshall McLuhan was speaking about information, media, technology and culture. Of course, what he was saying doesn't count as 'scientific' in the naturalistic sense, but that doesn't really matter because it still helps us to understand what is going on. It is also why the IDM's 'appeal to information' seems to have had such a strong gravitational pull on people in America (whether that pull has lessened in the past couple of years due to higher priority being placed on public relations and culture war strategy is open for debate).
 
"Learning and teaching go hand-in-hand. Teachers never stop learning. Learners never stop teaching. That’s key. That’s education. That’s the stuff that makes the world go twirly-whirly, right?  … Wrong. Today, the stuff that makes the world go round is I-N-F-O-R-M-A-T-I-O-N!" - McLuhan
 
“Since electronic man lives in a world of simultaneous information, he [sic] finds himself increasingly excluded from his traditional (visual) world, in which space and reason seem to be uniform, connected and stable. Instead, Western (visual and left-hemisphere) man now finds himself habitually relating to information structures that are simultaneous, discontinuous and dynamic.” … “At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” - McLuhan
 
And for what may be my favourite McLuhanism:
"For your information let me ask you a question."
 
(I know at least Bernie often doesn't like it when I employ this strategy with him!)
 
Yet, what T.S. Eliot famously said in the opening verses of The Rock, still resound today:
 
"Knowledge of speech, but not of silence
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word,
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death
But nearness to death, no nearer to God.
Where is the life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
(1934)
 
So, now they also say we are living in a knowledge society! ;) And who knows, with hope, even someday a wisdom society?! __________________________________________________________________ Instant Messaging, free SMS, sharing photos and more... Try the new Yahoo! Canada Messenger at http://ca.beta.messenger.yahoo.com/

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Received on Sun Dec 14 12:44:10 2008

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