[asa] None Standard Information (Theory) in ID

From: Dave Wallace <wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com>
Date: Fri Nov 20 2009 - 18:56:04 EST


I am about half way through reading Signature in the Cell by Dr. Stephen
Meyer. He takes very great pains to indicate that what he is talking
about is not communications channel capacity and he does not mention
compression or other aspects of Information Theory at all, at least as
far as I have read. He specifically says that what he is talking about
is not Shannon information. As best I understand him, he is talking
about a functional design specification at the most basic reduced level.

 From your online discussion with Del Tackett
Rich Blinne on May 22nd, 2008 10:16 pm
> It is also presumed that DNA is a design specification. A more complex
> design requires a more complex specification. But, there are two
> paradoxes in biology known as the c-value and g-value paradoxes. More
> complex life does not necessarily have a higher DNA weight nor higher
> numbers of gene. The Human Genome Project overestimated the number of
> genes going in with estimates of 80-140,000 genes when the real number
> is around 30,000. What’s going on is there is a lot of “random”
> alternative splicing producing multiple proteins from the same gene.
> Before you say a ha, note that humans do not have the record for
> alternative splicing. The fruit fly does with 38,000 splice variants.
> Thus, evolution does not need to generate new “information” because
> ID’s concept of information is simply flawed.

In my mind I relate the information that Meyers is talking about to the
functional content of a working program of say a couple of hundred
thousand lines of Fortran code. Lets assume that we have another really
smart program that compresses the Fortran source as much as possible.
This means that dead code is eliminated, comments go, variable names are
shortened and on and on applying language rules till all the redundancy
in the program is gone and the program is totally unreadable by humans.
Now we compress what is left using the normal compression tools,
although I wonder how much compression one would get. As I see it the
information the ID folks are talking about would be proportional to the
final compressed program size plus the restriction that the results
computed by the code must be correct ie the chemical strings/proteins in
the cell must be able to function/reproduce whatever. Now the older
programmers here know that replacing

DO 3 I = 1,3
DO 3 I = 1.3

could well result in a broken non functional program as a loop is turned
into an assignment statement. Thus the compressed size is only part of
the issue as the program must also function correctly. (note to none
programmers what I illustrate reflects extremely bad programming
language design but when it was designed back in the 1950s people did
not know any better, it is doubtful that we have come very much further
but I won't get started on that issue)

AFAIK this kind of information is NOT what people talk about in
Information Theory. Sure the compressed size, transmission
characteristics are covered in Info Theory but not the requirement to
execute properly.

It seems to me that the kind of process I have described would get rid
of the equivalent of spliced variants, none coding regions.... We also
know that a totally different algorithm might also produce a properly
functioning program and have a much shorter length. Thus Meyers is
trying to estimate the approximately minimal amount of
information/machinery needed to make the first working cell(s). The
complexity is staggering since the dependencies are circular. Maybe you
don't think so but I do. I think you are being a little unfair to people
who are not information theorists and should postulate the most
favorable interpretation of their meaning.

Dave W

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Received on Fri Nov 20 18:56:50 2009

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