Monday, May 14, 2007

Information

Recently an individual known as Eric has contributed some incisive commentary at Telic Thoughts. I've included some remarks from one of his comments in this blog entry. It concerns an exchange that touched on the topic of information within a thread that focused on the origin of life. Eric's comments are in blue.

Zachriel: Random noise *is* Shannon Information. There is more Shannon Information in a random sequence than in the text of Hamlet. …

Shannon Communiation doesn't require a coding algorithms.


But in a different note, you also wrote about "specified information". Just to be sure we are clear, I trust that you do realize and agree that random noise is never specified information, correct? And that a random sequence is an unspecified sequence, making "random" and "specified" mutually exclusive attributes, correct?

So, I am a bit surprised that you should separately ask "What odd definition of information are you using?" as though you hadn't referred to specified information or to coded information, or as though Shannon Information were the only possible meaning of "information".

I would have hoped that by now it would be plain that I am not talking vaguely about Shannon Information and especially not random noise. The context of my remarks was the genetic information that holds coded instructions for specifying amino acid sequences. This information is specified and it is in a code, which means that coding is required. Since you yourself have said


Zachriel: The genome is considered the coded information. The genome is decoded into proteins.

then I trust you shouldn't think it odd to refer to coded information, and I expect that everyone, including yourself, will agree that we should not expect to be able to decode random noise and get a functional protein. Its obviously not "odd" to refer to coded information with decodable, functional meaning.

Zachriel: We already know that genomes can evolve, creating new information in response to the environment.

is a question begging argument. Since the question is how unguided natural processes can create symbolic instructions that code for proteins in the first place, you can't appeal to an evolving, functional genome as any part of the explanation. That begs the question.

Well before the coded instructions in DNA can change through evolution, there must first be some coded instructions in DNA to begin with. My statement points out that you cannot get coded instructions for the creation of proteins out of DNA if you have never first encoded such instructions into DNA.

Neither does adding random noise provide a viable starting point. The fact that random noise might be counted as Shannon Information is irrelevant for the purposes of explaining the origin of coded information that can be decoded into proteins.

At this point I want to be careful not to attribute to you a position you do not hold, but I cannot help get the impression that you seem to hold that nature does not (ever?) encode from proteins to coded instructions. So I'd like you to please clarify this point.

If that were always true about nature, there would be no source for the intial protein instructions of the first genome, rendering it impossible to populate. That would make it impossible for a genome to get started by unguided natural processes. Hence my reference to "Game. Set. Match."

Mindless matter has no imagination and cannot creatively invent the coded instructions prior to the creation of proteins. It could not anticipate proteins. Nor could it start with random noise and evolve that into coded instructions for protein construction. A mindless process would necessarily be required to derive the coded specified amino acid sequence from the only available source for that information, namely by encoding the symbolic sequence from an actual amino acid sequence.

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