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Causal Philosophy - Are CDs Materialists?


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#101 pantrog_*

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 10:57 AM

OK, here we are sunday - as promised.

So I'm sure you've registered my objection that the word 'Information' refers to a human record of something going on in the universe. The real issue is that there are complex codes and relationships in the universe .. that are there for us to observe!. So whether or not 'information' is the enumeration of complex parts of the universe or the complex parts themselves - Lets talk about the complex parts. Back to the ZEBRAFISH.

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There are 1700 million bases in the zebrafish genome (about 1/3 the size of the human genome). To recap: Each base can be Adenosine, Thymidine, Guanine or Cytosine. Therefore 1700 million bases can encode a vast amount of 'information'.

QUESTION - how much Information?.

Well we could describe it in the minimum number of binary digits that would be required. A=10, C=01, T=00, G=11 ... => 2 bits/base position

But cf. 'information theory' we could have caluclated this from Shannon's informational entropy (H) {summed for all nucleotides,i} = -p{i} * log2 (p{i}) . If we assume each nucleotide occurs with roughly equal frequency, i.e. p(A) = 0.25, p(T) = 0.25, etc. This equation resolves to: Informational entropy (H) {for a base position} = [ -0.25 x log2 (0.25) ] * 4 = 2 bits.

=> The Zebrafish genome has an information capacity of 3400 million bits or 425 Megabytes (2/3 of a CD-ROM).

Redundant information

A random sequence of DNA, 1700 million bases long would also have an 'information capacity' of 425 megabytes. However there is most certainly a complex stucture in the arrangement of the Zebrafish genome, that would be missing from the hypothetical random sequence. The Zebrafish genome is arranged in chromosomes, genes, promoters, start codons, stop codons, exons and introns - complex patterns. Have a look for yourself.

By the very fact that there are patterns - the sequence is not random - BUT remember - even complex patterns are more predictable than random sequence - therefore the Zebrafish genome contains quite a bit of redundant 'predictable' sequence. In Information theory terms - this redundancy, this reduced 'suprise factor' means it is further away from using its maximal information capacity.

Granted it is no where as simple or redundant as 1700 million 'A' nucleotides in a row {see how such a hypothetical 'All-A' system is so 'ordered', so 'simple' or so low-in-information that I can describe it in one line of text}- But the Zebrafish genome is also not as unpredictable/informaton dense as to be totally random.

Fascinatingly complex natural systems like genomes, earthquakes and traffic jams are often characterised by fractal patterning called '1/f' or 'pink noise' rather than being totally random which is called 'white noise'.

An old friend

Now I'm sure its obvious to us all that there are a number of special things about the Zebrafish genome - that a random sequence would be useless at. Making Zebrafish for example...

So to ask your question for you - and if I may - speaking Teleologically - Some DNA makes people, some makes fish. Where do these useful biological codes come from ... :D

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Edited by pantrog, 26 June 2005 - 10:58 AM.


#102 Fortigurn

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 08:34 PM

So to ask your question for you - and if I may - speaking Teleologically - Some DNA makes people, some makes fish. Where do these useful biological codes come from ... :D

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Speaking teleologically, I'm sure you already know my answer to that.

#103 Fortigurn

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Posted 26 June 2005 - 08:38 PM

Oh spare us! Now you're trying to argue cosmology from surrealist art!


:)

Just pointing out the difference between social/mental constructs such as writing, laws, pictures, data, records, values ... and the things they represent.

1. Knowledge derived from study, experience, or instruction.


Can 'deriving' knowledge invlove perceiving it?

2. Knowledge of specific events or situations that has been gathered or received by communication; intelligence or news.


Can 'gathering' or 'recieving' data invlove perceiving it?

3. A collection of facts or data: statistical information.


Can 'collecting' facts involve perceiving it?

4. The act of informing or the condition of being informed; communication of knowledge:


Can being 'informed' of something involve perceiving it?

etc, etc, etc

Yes to all of these. But this does not mean that the knowledge, the data, the information which was perceived, communicated, or collected, did not exist until it was perceived, communicated, or collected (circular reasoning).

None of the defintiions in the dictionary gave the definition you did.

This for a given value of 'information'.

Information exists whether or not it is observed. Amazing as it may seem, the information in a DNA strand existed before we discovered it. We do not bring things magically into existence by observing them (which is itself a contradiction in terms).


If I am correct in my definition that information is a human mental construct for enumerating and recording the phsyical universe - my assertions are logical - so you need to prove that your definition is the correct one. Firstly you would also need to express that definition to us so we could examine it.


I have already proved that my definition is the correct one. Information exists whether or not we perceive it. Our perception of it and our arrangement of it in a manner which makes sense to us, does not alter the fact that it was already there to be perceived.

DNA exists without it being observed.


Thank you. So does the law of gravity. Case closed.

Edited by Fortigurn, 26 June 2005 - 08:38 PM.


#104 pantrog_*

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 08:23 AM

I have already proved that my definition is the correct one. Information exists whether or not we perceive it. Our perception of it and our arrangement of it in a manner which makes sense to us, does not alter the fact that it was already there to be perceived.


Your original question "I suppose that depends on whether or not we actually recognise information as necessary for a material world." must be answered depending on your defintion of information - given that you have not yet provided a formal definition for 'information' (apart from broadly suggesting it exists even when the fridge door is closed) I answered logically in respect to a reasonable interpretation.

I hope I have already illustrated the Nuance in difference between for example 'the law of gravity' and gravity itself. - we may possess a mathematical set of descriptions of gravity (called laws) - but they are subject to occasional change. On the other hand the observable phenomemon of gravity itself appears constant and has existed for some time.

To expedite further discussion let us accept the word 'information' to describe biological organization (e.g. DNA). Care must be taken though - the term 'information' is potentially loaded with connotations - human-derived information (e.g. TV signals) usually has a sender, a reciever and semantic content.

Biological 'information' can have a reciever (us) - it often has semantic content ... but as to whether it has a 'sender' is the very subject of this debate. I'm sure we both want to avoid burdening terminology with loaded definitions.

Information and Semantics.

Random DNA and a fish genome can carry similar amounts of 'information' - in terms of bits - but their 'meaning' is entirely different. Shannon's Information theory tells us nothing about the meaning of signals, only their information (bit) content.

I think at this stage we've all realised that we are having a 21st century version of the 'Argument by design'. - We have shown complexity in a biological system, we could infer 'meaning' or 'intention' in that system. Therefore - where has the 'meaning' come from?

As a fun addition we have also encountered the 'Argument from Entropy' - I think the two are separate but neatly handled together. However I am not a proponent of either - so to avoid a protracted definition squabble I'll hand over to the other team - Forti would you like to provide a formal definition of either (or both) of these.

... if not ... I've got the straw-men all lined up and ready to pummel!

#105 Fortigurn

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 10:55 AM

I have already proved that my definition is the correct one. Information exists whether or not we perceive it. Our perception of it and our arrangement of it in a manner which makes sense to us, does not alter the fact that it was already there to be perceived.


Your original question "I suppose that depends on whether or not we actually recognise information as necessary for a material world." must be answered depending on your defintion of information - given that you have not yet provided a formal definition for 'information' (apart from broadly suggesting it exists even when the fridge door is closed) I answered logically in respect to a reasonable interpretation.

'Information' (or 'data', as I would prefer to call it), is definable as material constructs and the inherent principles by which they function.

Both the material constructs and the inherent principles exist independent of observation.

Descriptions of these material constructs (and the inherent principles by which they function), is metadata.

I hope I have already illustrated the Nuance in difference between for example 'the law of gravity' and gravity itself.  - we may possess a mathematical set of descriptions of gravity (called laws) - but they are subject to occasional change. On the other hand the observable phenomemon of gravity itself appears constant and has existed for some time.


Yes, I have recognised this distinction you draw. But I believe that the 'observable phenomenon of gravity' is itself data. The phenomenon is data (or 'information' as you would say), and our description (the laws of gravity), are metadata (or 'information', as you would say).

To expedite further discussion let us accept the word 'information' to describe biological organization (e.g. DNA). Care must be taken though - the term 'information' is potentially loaded with connotations - human-derived information (e.g. TV signals) usually has a sender, a reciever and semantic content.

Biological 'information' can have a reciever (us) - it often has semantic content ... but as to whether it has a 'sender' is the very subject of this debate. I'm sure we both want to avoid burdening terminology with loaded definitions.

Information and Semantics.

Random DNA and a fish genome can carry similar amounts of 'information' - in terms of bits - but their 'meaning' is entirely different. Shannon's Information theory tells us nothing about the meaning of signals, only their information (bit) content.

I think at this stage we've all realised that we are having a 21st century version of the 'Argument by design'. - We have shown complexity in a biological system, we could infer 'meaning' or 'intention' in that system. Therefore - where has the 'meaning' come from?

As a fun addition we have also encountered the 'Argument from Entropy' - I think the two are separate but neatly handled together. However I am not a proponent of either - so to avoid a protracted definition squabble  I'll hand over to the other team - Forti would you like to provide a formal definition of either (or both) of these.

... if not ... I've got the straw-men all lined up and ready to pummel!


You're not actually using a definition of 'information' with which I am familiar, and you are continually equating information with data, in a way which has rendered it impossible for me to distinguish the two as they should be distinguished.

In my post-grad studies in information management, I was never presented with the defintions you appear to be using, and distinctions were made which you appear not to recognise.

It is true that this discussion has become enmired in semantics, but I suspect that it will be difficult to redefine the paramters of the discussion constructively.

You did come close when you established a distinction between information and meaning.

#106 pantrog_*

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Posted 27 June 2005 - 11:39 AM

You did come close when you established a distinction between information and meaning.


:) OK ... but the concepts of 'phenomena' and 'data' (which I agree is a synonym for information) are not synonymous.

You are welcome to define phenomena as information.. but I think you strain the links to modern technical definitions you'll find it difficult to draw sensible conclusions, particularly from information theory.

Metadata seems more suggestive of library systems or computer file systems. e.g. "where do I find a book in this room that contains information about gravity".

I don't think that we are 'enmired' in the discussion of semantics , I think this conversation is specifically about the origin of apparent 'meaning' in for example .. DNA.

With my objections registered lets move onwards - you choose : Argument by design or Argument from Entropy.




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