Re: Not enough info for your brain (was Re: Dawkins video)

Glenn R. Morton (
Fri, 19 Jun 1998 06:15:06 -0500

At 11:25 PM 6/18/98 -0400, Brian D Harper wrote:
> I would
>tend to agree that information induced from the external environment would
>not be amenable to the ID position. But it seems that your own position
>has been weakened somewhat. It seems to me anyway that there is a much
>greater potential for information storage if one considers the DNA and the
>developmental context. Is it enough to completely specify the
>structure of the brain? My own view is that it is not. But there
>seems to be another alternative to your competition scenario, although
>I must admit that that idea is really interesting. The alternative
>is that the developmental process itself generates new information.
>I doubt though that this alternative would be appealing to the
>ID'er as the spontaneous generation of information by a natural
>process is probably somewhat counter to what they are hoping for :).

I wouldn't have a big difficulty with your suggestion that development
creates information and that may be the only real way to solve the problem.
A slight correction, the competitive view of brain development was
suggested by those who actually study brain development, not me. They
deserve the credit. If they are wrong, I deserve the blame for believing
them. :-)

>The quote of Behe regarding Yockey's position is very interesting.
>Let's divide into two separate statements as follows:
>< 1) "Information theorist Hubert Yockey argues that the information
>< needed to begin life could not have developed by chance;"
>< 2) "he suggests that life be considered a given, like matter or energy."
>There is no doubt that each of these statements, taken separately,
>accurately describes Yockey's views. He does not believe life could
>have originated by chance. This does not mean that he does not
>believe life could have originated by natural means and without
>the intervention of an intelligent agent, i.e. for Yockey there are
>more than two possibilities (chance and intelligent design).
>Paradoxically, Yockey actually proposes multiple origins of life
>as a possibility.

I agree with you and this is why I am always a bit surprised at Yockey for
letting himself be misrepresented by the ID group. He can be quite caustic
to others who don't understand his position yet he appears to let the ID
group do it with no comment.

>The second statement is more difficult to understand. The term
>Yockey uses is axiom, "life must be accepted as an axiom." This
>has the same meaning of course as life being "considered a given".
>Hopefully people will have some recollection of our previous
>discussions of undecidability. Another way to express Yockey's
>position is to say that life is undecidable. What does he mean by
>this weird statement? Life is undecidable? Really? Here we are, surely
>everyone can decide on that :). [snip

>Creationists seem to enjoy this quote by Yockey, but seem to
>forget that undecidable means undecidable, it is not a synonym
>for intelligent design.

This is the best explanation of Yockey's undecidable position:

"Organisms are often characterized as being 'highly ordered' and in the
same paragraph as being 'highly organized'. Clearly these terms have
opposite meaings in the context of this chapter. The first message
discussed in section 2.4.1 is highly ordered and has a low entropy.[the
first message is '0101010101010101010101' the second message a higher
organized one is '0110110011011110001000' --GRM] Being 'highly organized'
means that a long algorithm is needed to describe the sequence and
therefore higly organized systems have a large entropy. Therefore highly
ordered systems and highly organized ones occupy opposite ends of the
entropy scale and must not be confused. Since highly organized systems
have a high entropy, they are found embedded among the random sequences
that occupy the high end of the entorpy scale."
"Kolmogorov (1965, 1968) and Chaitin (1966, 1969) have called the entropy
of the shortest algorithm. needed to compute a sequence its complexity.
Chaitin (1975b) proposed a definition of complexity that that has the
formal properties of the entropy concept in information theory. Chaitin
(1970, 1979) and Yockey (1974, 1977c) pointed out the applicability of this
concept in establishing a measure of the complexity or the information
content of the genome.
"Thus both random sequences and highly organized sequences are complex
because a long algorithm is needed to describe each one. Information
theory shows that it is fundamentally undecidable whether a given sequence
has been generated by a stochastic process or by a highly organized
process. This is in contrast with the classical law of the excluded middle
(tertium non datur), that is, the doctrine that a statement or theorem must
be either true or false. Algorithmic information theory shows that truth
or validity may also be indeterminate or fundamentally undecidable."~Hubert
Yockey, Information Theory and Molecular Biology, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), p. 81-82

>Oh, I forgot what one of my points was going to be :). The two
>statements above are both accurate but difficult to understand
>and thus very easy to arrive at the wrong conclusion. Things
>are made worse when you combine the two. For example, your
>assesment "that something needs to kick-start the system" may
>very well be what Behe is driving at but it is not in any way
>a conclusion that Yockey would endorse. Undecidable is undecidable.

Agree. And I am still of the opinion that life may need a kickstart also.
But if Yockey is correct, that the question is undecidable, then in the
year 12,567,456 A.D., we will still be trying to make up our minds.

>GM quoting Behe:==
>> " "Future research could take several directions. work could be
>>undertaken to determine whether information for designed systems could lie
>>dormant for long periods of time, or whether the information would have to
>>be added close to the time when the system became operational. Since the
>>simplest possible design scenario posits a single cell- formed billions of
>>years ago--that already contained all information to produce descendant
>>organisms, other studies could test this scenario by attempting to
>>calculate how much DNA would be required to code the information (keeping
>>in mind that much of the information might be implicit). If DNA alone is
>>insufficient, studies could be initiated to see if information could be
>>stored in the cell in other ways-- for example, as positional information."
>>Behe, Darwin's Black Box, p. 231
>In view of this quote, I think I'll have to retract, to some extent anyway,
>my criticism that you were being overly simplistic. It does seem that Behe
>is proposing just what you suggested, at least as a starting point.

Yeah, I think he is and there is absolutely no way that that much info
could be crammed into the original cell.

>This is true but this skirts the point I was trying to make wrt the
>complexities of developmental processes posing potential problems
>for neo-Darwinism. The potential problems have to do with developmental
>constraints. These would obviously not show up in a model like yours
>as there is no analog to development in the model. One goes directly
>from genes to phenotype in one fell swoop without an intermediate
>developmental stage. This is not really a criticism of your models,
>just a comment that they do not model the type things I'm interested
>in here.

Well, I would have to agree that my computer models probably do miss the
developmental pathway. Any ideas how to model that?

>>When I saw you use that argument several months ago, I was absolutely
>>astounded that nobody had thought of that before (at least no body that I
>>had read and I read a lot). I was very impressed with your argument and
>>have used it a couple of times (always saying I saw a guy observe that
>>biological systems are too complex to be designed.). Unfortunately, it
>>always gets silence (which is often a sign that an argument is a real
>>stumper to the anti-evolutionist.
>Thanks Glenn. In humility though I must also point out that the
>silence may be due to the fact that everyone is too polite to
>tell me what a stupid idea it is ;-). Just kidding. The argument
>is paradoxical and for that reason perhaps difficult to answer.
>Part and parcel of this argument is another paradoxical idea that
>I've been working on, namely that organisms do not have the typical
>features that one generally associates with machines. IOW, the
>machine metaphor as part of the argument from design is not
>particularly good. I'm continuing to work on this idea and,
>interestingly enough, I think I will have some new ammunition for
>the argument from Denton's new book.

I look forward to hearing these new ideas.

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