The Atheist’s Riddle, Part 2: Two Kinds of Things & The Infinite Chasm

There is a giant chasm in the world that 99% of people never notice.

But once you see it, you can’t “un-see” it. After today, you will suddenly see that chasm with crystal clarity. From now on, the way you see the entire world will never be the same.

On side 1 of the chasm is: THE MATERIAL WORLD. In it you find:

Matter
Energy
Physical Laws
Light
Gravity
Forces
Rocks
Water
Snowflakes
Weather
Chaos & fractals

On side 2 of the chasm is: THE WORLD OF INFORMATION. In it you find:

Symbols
Copies
Replication
Purpose
Competition
Evolution
Intent
Truth
Falsehood
Judgment
Codes
Messages
Rules (and the possibility of breaking them)
Expectations
Language
Instructions
Meaning

If you were to travel to some distant sterile planet in outer space, everything you find there would be on Side 1 of the Chasm. Material things do not replicate. They don’t make copies of themselves or anything else. Rocks and snowflakes and sand dunes exhibit no purpose. They change but they do not evolve.

They obey the laws of physics and nothing more. There is no meaning, no symbols, no instructions, no information. There is no such thing as “right” or “wrong”. There just “is.”

The material world is “bottom up.”

However in things that process Information, ALL of the features of Side 2 are present.

Information systems (people, computers, TV stations, radios, telephones, DNA) make copies of messages and everything in them serves some kind of purpose, however simple.

Information evolves. Information uses symbols (objects that represent something other than themselves). Information can be correct or incorrect. It can be understood or misunderstood. Information follows rules which can be broken. Data can be corrupted, instructions can be obeyed or disobeyed. Copies can be perfect or imperfect.

Information is “top down.”

Information itself is THE chasm between non-living and living things.

This chasm is, for all practical purposes, INFINITE. It’s not literally infinite… but it’s as close as anyone ever gets to infinity in real science and math problems. Larger numbers than you encounter in any other endeavor. Let me explain why this is so.

Consider the following sentence:

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”

What are the chances of that sentence occurring by random chance?

It’s easy to find the answer. It has 43 letters and spaces. Excluding things like apostrophes and semicolons and numbers, there are 26 upper case letters and 26 lower case letters to choose from. So there are 52 to the power of 43 possible combinations of letters.

52^43 = 6.139652×10^73

Which means the chances of this sentence occurring randomly are 1 chance in

61,396,520,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

(There are only 10^80 particles in the universe.)

So the chances of this sentence appearing by random chance are not much better than painting one atom red, somewhere in the far flung reaches of universe, then having some other person actually find it by accident, blindfolded.

You might be starting to wonder if the old story about monkeys and typewriters eventually producing the works of Shakespeare is true. It’s NOT. As a matter of fact such a thing is far more absurd than accidentally finding one red atom in the universe.

And….

There’s still something I forgot to mention.

We started out by assuming that we had upper & lower case English letters, ready-made to work with. Which is a pretty generous assumption.

What if we didn’t even start with letters? What if all we had was rocks or sand or clumps of matter?

If we couldn’t start with letters, we’d really be in deep doo-doo.

OK, so what do all these numbers have to do with information?

They show us that information is very, very, very specific. Even getting the spelling and grammar exactly right in this silly little sentence is just as specific as the exact coordinates of a single lucky red atom somewhere in the Universe. Even the simplest language is incredibly precise.

And remember, every time you make this sentence one letter longer, you increase the number of possible combinations by 52.

Here’s the easiest biology example I can offer you: There are more than 10^200,000 possible code combinations in the DNA of the simplest known micro-organism in the world, Nanoarchaeum. Many people have never even seen a number that big, anywhere. No one in science or engineering even has use for numbers that big.

So the chasm between information and non-information is truly infinite.

This is why information NEVER happens by chance, never by accident. There isn’t enough time or chance in the whole history of the universe for even the sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” to appear by accident, even once. Nobody in science has ever seen information spontaneously arise by chance.

Many people assume that DNA happened by chance. They were told that surely, given billions of years, and all the planets in the universe, it was bound to happen sometime, somewhere.

But most people never got out a calculator and questioned this; they just accepted it on faith.

Those who did do the math – and this is pretty simple high school math – quickly saw that there was no way this could be true. (You should always be skeptical in matters like this. You should even be skeptical of me. Get out your calculator and check or yourself. BTW the built-in calculator in Microsoft Windows maxxes out at 10^2000.)

I fully understand that you may doubt me, and I encourage you to check my calculations. Furthermore, I encourage you to scour all the world’s scientific literature and find any mathematician or statistician who has a statistical model that shows that the information in DNA had even a fighting chance of occurring by accident.

I invite you to search the entire Internet, every library and science lab for that.

In 5 years of studying this question and discussing this with literally THOUSANDS of people, nobody has ever shown me such a formula.

There is an infinite chasm that separates information from non-information, living things from non-living.

From now on, when you look at something, you’ll ask: “Is that something that processes information?”

Computers, cell phones, TV’s, digital clocks, birds and snails? Yes those things process information.

Rocks, sand dunes, snow flakes, tornadoes and lifeless planets?

Nope.

No information whatsoever. No codes, no instructions, no meaning. Just the uncaring, impersonal laws of physics.

The materialistic worldview has no explanation for the existence of information – because all information we know the origin of comes from intelligent beings.

Therefore the most rational conclusion is that all information ultimately comes from an intelligent source.

Therefore there is so much more for us than just the material world and the laws of physics. There is Spirit and Intelligence.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Everything I just described to you today, also explains why randomness can’t improve information any more reliably than it creates it. I’ll explain more about that in a later installment.

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175 Comments

John says:

Perry,

What about low levels of information that chance can produce? Would that still be considered information? Such as random sticks and rocks lying on the ground which form a small word such as “Hi.” If this random occurence happens to form a word which symbolically represents a real english word, does it not contain real information by an unintelligent process?

Now I know only INTENED words contain real information in the sense that the information is intended to be given to a reciever from a sender. But what about information that is obviously not intended to be sent, such as the example I offered above? I’m having problems with this aspect of it.

Regards,

John

John,

First, you are right, there has to be a sender and receiver. But let’s look at your question.

Sticks laying on the ground that form the word “hi” are by no means statistically improbable. Examples that simple are everywhere.

But there’s no encoding or decoding that has been done.

In this article I haven’t even addressed how remote the chances are of a spontaneously existing encoding system that can write the word “hi” and a spontaneously existing decoding system that can read it. Much less a system that encodes and decodes “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

In this article I only dealt with the information itself, and how extremely specific it is.

So think about what has happened here: if we took the encoding and decoding and the English letters for granted, we still had one chance in 10^73. When we add all those others the situations is probably more like one chance in 10^1000.

By the way… in the scientific Origin of Life literature, it’s been decades since anyone has seriously tried to make a case for random chance being the explanation for this. Everyone knows it’s ridiculous. There is a search for other systematic explanations which has not gotten very far.

When you see people arguing for chance – “surely given that much time anything would be possible” – it’s usually lay people who have never looked closely at the issues involved. When you encounter people like that, just ask them to provide you with a statistical model that says it’s possible.

I’ve conversed about this with some pretty determined people over the last 5 years, but none has pointed me towards a plausible model.

Perry

Jon says:

Again, you are speaking from a standpoint of you having infinite knowledge that spans the cosmos. Your perspective is limited from your understanding of the Cosmos itself. You are letting your faith interfere with your reasoning.

If the Cosmos is infinite, they every possible outcome CAN and WILL happen.
By placing a God or Designer into the equation, you have already limited its outcome. You are place limits to a limitless Universe.

I have already shown you that your information argument is flawed. For there to be a grand intelligence to start this process, would mean that this being has the codes within him as well. And since there has to be someone greater to bestow this information, that means God needs a God.

IF THERE HAS TO BE A BEGINNING, THEN THERE ALWAYS HAS TO BE A BEGINNING…FOREVER.

You say that God is the beginning, then why don’t you ask the next question, where did God come from? You seem satisfied with no asking anymore questions.

But aren’t you the least bit curious on how God got his information for he would have to be given it as well, according to what you are saying.

The cosmos is not infinite or limitless. Space-time has finite size. 13.8 billion years and a finite amount of matter and energy. That we know.

I deal with the question of “who made God” at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/infotheoryqa.htm

Beginnings deal with time. God lives outside of time and created time. The only limitless thing can be something that is immaterial, because materials always have limits.

The questions then begin with theology. Which is not the primary purpose of this site. But the questions only BEGIN there. You must step into that realm to continue your investigation. All your questions about the morality of God and free will are theological questions.

Jon says:

Your statement “God lives outside of time and created time. The only limitless thing can be something that is immaterial” is irrelevant because in the realm of Science and Reason, is untestable. Again, this is a statement of faith and requires knowledge that is beyond human intelligence.

I’ve been trying to make this point clear…

Your argument is that information has to be created. That there has to be a super-intelligent being to create such a code. AKA. God.

BUT…the paradox of that very statement is that your God, and all his intelligence needs an ever super-intelligent being to create him.

Because you just said that “INFORMATION MUST BE CREATED”, so your very logic requires that God needs a God, and that creator needs a creation, forever.

God can’t be just sitting around one day and decide to create the universe, or did God create himself? No, he must then have had a creation because something so infinte and intelligent as God surely couldn’t have come from NOTHING?

Jon says:

The only logical choice is that the Cosmos is infinitely old. It has no beginning and no ending, it has always been here and will always be.

We just inhabit some tiny piece of real estate. It’s up to us to find our way out in the darkness but we have never been alone, we have always had each other.

“The Universe just is.” Stephen Hawking

Jon,

It can’t be infinitely old because entropy exists.

The time-space continuum only exists from the point of the Big Bang forward. It most definitely DOES have a beginning; to assert otherwise is to ignore all of modern cosmology.

This beginning, so far as we can tell, was about 13.8 billion years ago.

The universe came to be, and was not before.

The only logical choice is that an uncaused cause brought it into existence. There are no uncaused causes inside the universe, so it had to have come from outside.

Perry

Jon says:

There is nothing in space or time that makes one believe this is the only universe. Time suggests that there are many dimensions and universes. Only a human would conclude that this entire universe was made just for us and that’s it! If the Cosmos is nothing more than a bubble in an ocean of bubbles, the question of who created all this is meaningless.

Your view of entropy is bias by the fact that the only closed system we know of is the Universe. There isn’t enough evidence to suggest that other universes apply to the same laws of physics and nature.

Of course, the most current universe is the one that is 13.7 billion years old. That the leading theory is that everything (as far as we can see, we can only see out to about 10 billion, light hasn’t traveled far enough yet for us to see it) that space was at one time no smaller than the head of the pin.

Maybe the reason no information exists from the outside of the Universe is that we live in an osculating universe. A Bubble that expands and contracts forever…a process going on forever. With no beginning and no ending.

It all comes down to this…either the universe has a chain of events that has a beginning or the events have no beginning and have been going on forever.

You are invoking exceptions to the laws of entropy. Where is your evidence of these other universes, that they exist? Do you have a photograph?

Jon says:

The absense of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence is absent.

Pita says:

What if you were both right?
Where would the desire of the spirit come from if this one didn`t have a feeling that this point exists? “You wouldn`t look for me if you had not found me alrady”.

cheers,

Pita

IB says:

Where is the evidence of God? ;-)
“The absense of evidence doesn’t mean the evidence is absent.” ??? ;-)

In our universe, information has to be created.

Matter and energy have to be created.

At some point we have the inevitable requirement of an uncaused cause. Ostensibly this cause is not subject to entropy, is outside of time, is immaterial, and produces information.

Nothing ever comes from nothing.

Perhaps Stephen Hawking did say “the universe just is” but he was not saying that the universe is able to explain itself. Kurt Goedel would tell you that it is impossible for the universe, or any system, to explain itself. All systems require something outside the system which you must assume but cannot prove. That is the essence of his incompleteness theorem.

Jesus, who claimed to be God, said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” A statement that He is an uncaused cause. John 1:1: “In the beginning was the WORD and the Word was with God and the Word was God….”

God did not create Himself. God IS. God is as you had been thinking the universe was (limitless and uncaused and eternal), but the universe according to all scientific observations is not that way.

God is the original cause that you are looking for.

Perry

Jon says:

But it is possible for the Universe to explain itself. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself. Every atom and element in our bodies was made on the insides of stars. We are cousins to the stars so in a very real we are a part of the Cosmos.

Well, I was waiting to see how long it would take for you to quote the bible.

Is the bible the word of God or the word of Man?

Jon,

I agree we are part of the cosmos.

Kurt Goedel rigorously proved that no system can explain itself.

The Bible is the word of God, as recorded by man. Jesus Christ is the Word of God.

Perry

Jon says:

Are human beings not systems? Can we not explain ourselves? I think we are the only species on the planet that can explain ourselves.

So if the Bible is the word of God, you believe in every word in the text is the revealed wisdom of God?

Jon says:

Oh and Godel was talking about logic and math, not god and the universe.

Goedel’s theorem applies equally to all things in the universe – systems, machines, bodies of knowledge, physical objects, mathematical statements, logical statements. It certainly applies to the universe itself and undoubtedly has implications about God.

Jon says:

From what I have read and looked up on Godel, his work only dealt with math and the logic that follows. Granted his work was critical for logical thinking but this has nothing to do with the Cosmos or the nature of God. I don’t see anything in his work that implies that he was talking about anything but Math.

You need to study Goedel’s implications on philosophy. There is nothing in the physical or conceptual realms that Goedel’s theorem does not touch. I recommend Rebecca Goldstein’s biography on Goedel, called “Incompleteness.”

Jon says:

Or look at chance like this…

Sperm Cells. How many sperm cells does it take to fertilize the egg? One. How many are available, hundreds of thousands. So it’s logical to assume each of these cells could grow to be a unique different individual from all the others in small changes. Now the cell that became you was the one that won, by chance. You are lucky to be here!

Jon, in your mind does “chance” (as in this sperm example) equate to “random catastrophic accident”?

Sperms chasing the egg sure looks like a pretty deliberate competition to me.

Jon says:

But all it takes is one. Any one of those cells could become ”you” but it’s the one that made it. You could call that survival of the fittest but maybe I sometimes use the word chance too often.

I have been reading the God Delusion and there is an entire chapter about design and chance. I’m sure you enjoyed my other quote from this book! Here is another one I hope you read.

“What is it that makes natural selection succeed as a solution to the problem of improbability, where chance and design both fail at the starting gate? The answer is that natural selection is a cumulative process, which breaks us the problem of improbability up into smaller pieces. Each of the small pieces is slightly improbable, but not prohibitively so.

When large numbers of these slightly improbable events are stacked up in series, the end product of the accumulation is very very improbable indeed, improbable enough to be far beyond the read of chance. It is these end products that for the subjects of the creationist’s wearisomely recycled argument. The creationist completely misses the point, because he insists on treating the genesis of statistical improbability as a single, one off event. He doesn’t understand the power of accumulation.“

Jon says:

In other words, information is not a “top down phenomenon” it could simply have always been accumulating. Meaning the Universe has always produced life, however complex it is.

We’re not the pinnacle of Evolution and we haven’t stopped evolving. The information will, in fact, get better. If we don’t destroy ourselves first.

These are faith statements. I am asking you to prove it.

Taylor says:

I can’t find your personal email but I believe I can answer the Atheist’s riddle pretty efficiantely. I’d have to prepare a small thesis before talking to you but It has to do with quantum mechanics at an atomic scale. Please answer me back, I can fill in the gaps.

You’re welcome to post your answer here.

Please ask Mr. Dawkins show me an empirical, demonstrable example of accumulated chance events resulting in a design.

JohnM says:

Hi jon,

“Now the cell that became you was the one that won, by chance. You are lucky to be here!”

As Perry’s argument demonstrates, information must have an immaterial source. We create information, suggesting we also are immaterial. If we are indeed immaterial, created in Gods image, then our physical body is only our “house / tent” we currently live in here in the physical world. You, Perry or myself could have been housed in any physical body. If we are immaterial, the sperm only represents the physical house “WE* live in. *WE* are not the house.

To argue my house I live in came by chance or luck isn’t to argue Im here by chance or luck.

Jon says:

Thanks for the input!

But what is “immaterial”? If God is immaterial to us than he does not exist. He is supernatural and exists outside of all realms of existence and reality and can not be measured using Science or Logic or Reason. In order for Perry’s argument to be proven truthful, he must produce evidence that exists outside of reality. It’s impossible to prove the unprovable.

We are immaterial? So I guess we don’t exist. That sucks!

Your response is more about faith (faith in being created in God’s image) and there is nothing wrong with having faith. All of Perry’s argument is based in faith and that’s fine.

The laws of the genetic code are immaterial. The laws of physics are immaterial. Yet we both believe they exist. This requires faith. All your arguments ever since you started posting comments have been based on faith. Everything you have said in regards to chance being an explanation for how we got here is based on faith, because you have never seen chance produce any kind of information or DNA. Your belief that the universe has eternally been here is based on faith, because you’ve never seen anything that is exempt from the laws of entropy.

You have a lot of faith, my friend.

I’m being up front about it. You’re not.

Jon says:

This is where you are wrong my friend. First off, there is no such thing as the “law of the genetic code”. But the laws of physics are VERY real. The laws of Nature are VERY real. They explain our universe in so many wonderful ways.

It takes zero faith to believe in the truth. Everything we have learned in Science shows us our true place in the Cosmos, the truth of our existence. Even the truth of our origins.

“Without the tools of Science, the machinery of life would be invisible.” Carl Sagan

Do you want to know something that can create DNA and information? Well, how about Natural Selection and Evolution. You, me and all life on this planet is the PROOF of that. Science has showed this. Do you need faith to prove that YOU are real?

Again, in order for you to prove your theory you must provide evidence that supports it. Just trying to disprove one theory by saying it is not true does not make yours right.

God is a product of our species’ adolescence. When we had yet to figure out how the Cosmos works. When we discovered Science, God got smaller; a “God of the Gaps” is the practice that is now used. When science can’t explain something, creationists say that must be the work of a divine creator. No, it’s just means we don’t yet know.

Faith is used in the absence of truth.

Human beings are systems so Goedel’s theorem applies to us. No we cannot explain ourselves without referring to things outside of ourselves that we know but cannot prove. I think this whole discussion thread is a perfect example of exactly that.

I do not believe that every word in the text is the revealed wisdom of God.

Jon says:

So you can’t explain yourself without saying “God did it”?

As for the bible, so which words are God’s and which ones are Man’s?

IB says:

NOBODY (Theist or Atheist, Evolutionist or Creationist) can explain EXACTLY EVERYTHING. We can use physics, chemistry, etc to explain matter and energy. But it has limit. The Bible has limit too. It claim the written revelation of God to man (only what he wants to reveal since man is limited. I’ll be more theological if I will go on to details w/ this) . It does not explain how the motherboard of this computer works and exactly how DNA works and thousands more. Outside that LIMIT, we use our faith. Theist cannot explain EXACTLY EVERYTHING about God that’s why they use FAITH(e.g, Faith that God exist and when they die, they will be with HIM). Atheist cannot explain EXACTLY EVERYTHING. They too use FAITH(e.g., Faith that one day, they can explain or find proof that Information can come from other sources other than MIND).

ron says:

How do you know that God created time? It seems that you always make definite statements that are unprovable.Why dont you admit that you do not know that God created the universe…you must have been there!!

IB says:

Theist use faith to accept things beyond the limit of what they have. Atheist do the same.

Jon says:

You operate with the logic of Geocentricism. Since we can’t see or detect any other universes but our own, we then conclude that we are the only one. And if there is only one, there is uniqueness and signs of some divine creation.

But this is the very same view point people had 500 years ago. When they assumed Earth was the center of the universe, even the sun rises and sets around us! Little did they know, that was not the case. The reason they didn’t know is that they hadn’t figured it out yet. The evidence wasn’t in. How Earth isn’t the center of anything. Science hadn’t figured it out yet.

By your design and information argument, you are saying that “God did it” you close your mind to the possibility of being wrong. You are drawing a conclusion based on insufficient data, which is just what faith is. Faith has no place in Science, which is simply the pursuit of truth.

All scientific inquiry relies on faith in the process of induction and inference. All scientific inquiry relies on faith in the idea that the universe obeys fixed, discoverable laws.

None of these things are provable.

Science cannot exist without faith. Goedel proved that this is universally true, by the way. That faith and reason are inseparably intertwined.

I operate with the logic of science, which is, as you say the pursuit of truth. No one has ever demonstrated in any way that the statement “other universes exist” is true. They may or may not but we cannot draw any conclusions. We have neither evidence nor inference for those other universes.

Jon says:

But the Universe does obey laws, this isn’t faith, this is SCIENCE. From what we have observed, the laws of nature are the same everywhere in the Cosmos. There isn’t a square planet or stars made of Glass. Every intelligent being anywhere in the Universe would use the same tools in discovering these laws, Science. That’s what makes Science work, not faith. If the universe was different and these aspects were constantly changing, then Science would not work. The Universe is “arranged” in such a way where her secrets can be revealed.

All of these are provable but I understand where you are coming from since you are not a person of Science. You are using your own knowledge and schooling (however impressive it is) and trying to incorporate that into understanding science. Everything we have discussed on here has led me to believe that you really don’t know and understand Science.

Science requires you to leave your personal faith and beliefs at the door. Science keeps us honest despite our tendenecy to project our own personal beliefs into the data, which is what I believe you are doing.

Jon,

I am not sure you know the difference between inference and induction. Jon, please provide proof that the universe obeys physical laws. Please provide proof that the sun will come up tomorrow. By this I mean, formal, logical proof such as used by mathematicians and logicians.

Furthermore I will NOT tolerate any more ad-hominem attacks, i.e. “since you are not a person of Science.” Not permitted here. If you continue to say insulting things I will delete your posts. I expect you to come forward with rational answers to questions not character attacks.

Perry

Jon says:

I meant no offense by when I said a “person of Science” I only meant that from everything you have said, it seems you have a deep mistrust of Science. That was all, I was in no way attacking your level of intelligence or character. If I did, I apologize.

With that being said, if you were a person of Science then you would be betraying your own knowledge and schooling if you did not know that the Universe does obey observable, physical laws. You are experiencing one of them right now, at this very second. Gravity is a universal law that binds all bodies in the universe together. Since you are a part of the universe too, you are the proof there is a universal law of gravity that is keeping you from flying into space.

I guarantee that the Sun will come up tomorrow because it’s not time for the Sun to die yet. The Sun will never blow up! The sun is roughly 5 billion years old. However, in about a billion years the Sun will grow and get hotter and burn off the atmosphere of the Earth. In another 4 billon years, the Sun will finally burn itself out and become a dead star. All of this learned from Science.

And yes, there is plenty of proof for all of this used by mathematicians. Math is the language of Physics, which is the language used to translate how the Cosmos works.

Jon,

I have no mistrust of science. I have an engineering degree. Wrote an Ethernet book (look up my name in Amazon). Wrote the world’s most popular book on Google advertising which, trust me my friend, involves plenty of science. Designed the speakers in the ’95 Jeep Cherokee. Defended all manner of attacks on the information theory argument for the last four years on the Infidels discussion board. (Attacks by atheists who claim to embrace science, but who would have us all believe that DNA isn’t really a code and all those biology book ought not to be taken literally.)

I am not the least bit offended at you saying that I am not a man of science. I think that you are just being backed into a corner and you’re afraid.

Jon, there’s nothing to be afraid of here. All you need to do is follow the evidence where it leads.

For thousands of years nobody knew that the world operated according to fixed discoverable laws. People thought that it was thundering because Zeus was angry at Apollo or something.

Belief that the universe obeys laws originally comes from the Apocrypha, in the book “Wisdom of Solomon” which says “Thou hast ordered all things in weight and number and measure.”

This eventually led theologians in the Middle Ages to hypothesize that the universe was put in place by God and was able to operate without any further interference from God. Which led us directly to modern science.

You CANNOT prove gravity. You can only infer that there is a law of gravity that is consistent. The belief that the force of gravity will not suddenly double overnight is something that we literally take on faith. We CANNOT prove it, we can only infer it based on past experience.

Don’t kid yourself that this is something any different from faith. It’s not provable. You can’t prove the whole universe won’t blow up tomorrow. But we have 100% INFERENCE that it won’t.

We have INFERENCE that the laws of mathematics govern the universe. We cannot PROVE this deductively. We can only conclude it inductively.

You say to me: “Let me prove gravity to you. I’m going to hold my pen up in the air and let go of it and it’s going to fall.” You let go of your pen and it drops. “See, I just proved it to you.”

In everyday layman’s terms, sure, you did prove it. But in formal philosophical terms you only reinforced inference. Formally speaking, you cannot prove gravity without standing outside of space and time and literally knowing the secrets of the universe.

When I say “If you can read this I can prove God exists” I have proven God in the exact same sense that you have proven gravity by dropping your pen on the floor. And the two conclusions are exactly as reliable. 100% supporting inference, 0% data to the contrary.

Jon says:

But isn’t that what you are doing? Inferring that there is a God based on what little evidence you have. You can’t be 100% sure either, because you can’t stand on the outside of space and time and know for sure. And saying “God did it” is another of way saying “You don’t know.”

Again, as well put as your argument has been, nothing has been put forth that is evidence or data. It’s what you have learned of about information theory that has lead to you “believe” that there must be a designer. You are letting your personal beliefs interfere with your research.

But faith is used in the absence of evidence. All you have is a paradoxical theory based on information. The laws of nature are fundamental, observable and testable. Now I admit we do use inference and the Cosmic Variance to describe the universe. But so far from what little we have seen of the Universe, these laws fit the facts.

Then again, no one “believes” in gravity, do they? It’s true.

Also, the Ancient Greeks were the first ones to discover modern science. The Ionian scientist Anaximander discovered the Earth was round 2500 years ago and Democritus, who theorized about the existence of atoms. They discovered the universe was knowable, that there are laws even she has to obey. By the time of the middle ages, most of this knowledge was lost. Blame this loss of information to dark ages, which is when religion ruled. It wasn’t until the enlightenment when this Greek science was rediscovered by the Theologians and found that they were right on.

I have to say that you are wrong about the “Wisdom of Solomon” The term “Apocrypha” means any work that falls outside of religious canon, which wouldn’t make sense to use as a source. The Greek science predates this and from what I have read, the Wisdom of Solomon reeks of theology and not science.

Jyoti says:

Here I am bit Confused what Mr. Marshall is saying, at one point he is exclaiming that gravity cannot be proved if we are outside this universe, and on another point he is saying that there has to be something outside to create this universe. Then he is part of inside the universe, then how can he prove God which is on another side or another dimension?

the law of Gravity is not provable, it is only inferred. Likewise God is not provable, God is strongly inferred. Gödel’s theorem indicates the universe has to be contingent on something you have to assume but cannot prove: http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/blog/incompleteness

Jon says:

You should study Occam’s razor.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occum%27s_Razor

It states the simplest solution tends to be the right one.

For the stuff of life. The chemicals and elements that made life naturally occurred by a number of ways. They were created from the insides of ancient stars. They existed on the early Earth, they were brought to the planet by asteroids and comets. So by random chance, you get life. Given enough time, you get the diversity of life on Earth. This is more or less what probably happened on many other worlds in the Universe but since chance is involved, there are probably many more worlds where life never evolved passed bacteria.

OR…

A super intelligent highly complex being (a being who’s mind no human could comprehend) created everything in the Cosmos. Which of course leads to another series of questions, where did God come from? This solution is based only on one aspect, faith.

John,

I ask you to please research the statistical chances of life occurring by random chance. Please provide a model. With numbers, calculations and assumptions. Then together we can decide if it satisfies the criteria of Ockham’s razor.

Perry

Jon says:

Well there is always the Drake Equation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation

Again, all we have to go with is what we know on this planet. Much like your assumptions with the information theory, so is this because all the data is not in. The drake equation of course demonstrates the chance is simply a part of the game, and not design.

Much like how 99.9% of all life that has ever existed on this planet is now extinct. If the dinosaurs we never wiped out, we would not be here. All of these events that lead up to our one birth speaks only of chance.

Think of Earth if the dInosaurs were never wiped out. We would not be here.

Correct.

In my opinion the following term in the Drake Equation is the most significant:

fℓ is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point

Which number you assign to this variable must be informed by communication theory – which shows us that information is never created by chance. So far as we know, without the action of an intelligent agent, this number is zero.

Jon says:

There you go again with your “communcation theory”…I will give you credit, you are persistant!

In science terms and with the respect to the Drake Equation, you communcation theory is an unmeasureable varable that must be thrown out of the mix. It can’t be tested or validated, and in fact is paradoxical in it’s own right.

Jon,

The unmeasurable variable is the likelihood of life originating by chance.

I am asking you (for the 2nd or 3rd time now) to point us to a reasonably complete statistical model that shows a reasonable probability of life originating by chance.

Jon says:

There isn’t a model yet because as I have said (for the 2nd and 3rd time too!) we are limited because we only know one way life is made.

Do you know other ways life is made? No one does, not yet. You can not make a statisical model because all the data isn’t in yet. Don’t you need all the information in before you make a model? If not, aren’t you inferring then?

Many things in our origins speaks of chance. I keep bringing up the dinosaurs. Life already existed when they died but their extinction allowed us to arise. Now wasn’t it by chance that that asteroid crashed into Earth and destroyed them?

So without that chance encounter, we would not be here.

So Jon are you saying that because chance destroys life that chance can create life, too?

Jon says:

I would say it is one in the same. From what we have learned with Science, destruction goes hand in hand with creation in nature. Granted it is probably easier to destroy life than to create life but then again, we don’t know that yet. We only know of life on Earth.

Jon,

Can you name one consumer item that you have purchased in your entire lifetime (car, computer, house, clothing, microwave oven, coffee mug) that is the result of pure catastrophic accident with no intelligence?

Perry

JohnM says:

Perry,

Just to make things less confusing (if just for me) from now on I will go by JohnM.

Keep articulating Gods truth to a word dim of sight and hard of hearing.

God Bless you Perry,

JohnM

JohnM says:

..”to a *world* dim of sight “(and poor attention to detail,lol)

Shawn says:

Theists love to throw this “random chance” idea around, and espouse big numbers and probabilities. Without exception the complication of DNA comes up, and they think they’ve proven something. It’s a fallacy.

Sure, if you were to get all the components of DNA and randomly insert them, the chances of constructing anything resembling a functional DNA sequence would be infintesimally small. However, DNA is not constructed randomly. The possible configurations of a DNA strand are regulated by the limitations of the weak force. This is a gross oversimplification, but I have neither the time or the academic qualifications to explain (in brief no less) the laws of statistical thermodymanics. Essentially, attributing this massive probability statistics to a DNA strand is pointless, because you’ve simply figured out the probability for a single state, disregarding the natural processes that enable that state (functional DNA) to form.

Imagine doing this with gravity. Say you have a lead ball and are about to drop it off a bridge. What is the probability of the ball dropping downward? For simplicity’s sake, let’s limit the probability to the Y axis and only full degree increments. In this scenario the chance of the ball falling downward in 1/360. The chance of dropping a second ball and having it fall downward would be 1/129,240. The chance of dropping a 3rd ball and having it go downward is 1/46,269,720. Etc. etc. But this is disregarding gravity. When taking gravity into account, the probability drops to 1/1.

So these arguments are cute, and can sway those ignorant in the ways of biochemistry, biology, physics, chemistry, etc. But a deeper look reveals this argument you’ve made doesn’t hold water.

Shawn,

I do not mean to be unkind here… but someone has convinced you that the laws of statistical dynamics somehow allow for DNA to spontaneously form.

I submit to you that when this was told to you, you did not have the time or academic credentials to know that there are no known laws of statistical dynamics which would lead to this result.

If you are going to believe that this thing is true, I challenge you to take the time and study to find out for yourself – and not just take somebody else’s word for it.

Ask the person who told you this to show us these “natural processes.” Show us ONE person who has constructed a mathematical model that says that DNA was likely to have occurred. Where’s their statistical model? Where’s their probability calculations?

You seem to be suggesting that there is something akin to a law of gravity that causes these things to naturally happen. I am saying, I’ve been debating this online for 5 years and Shawn, there is no such law.

The emperor has no clothes. He is naked and his right testicle is hanging just a little lower than his left.

If you say the emperor has clothes, then show us the clothes. And above all – don’t you owe it to yourself to see the clothes for yourself?

Don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself.

Perry Marshall

Shawn says:

” I do not mean to be unkind here… but someone has convinced you that the laws of statistical dynamics somehow allow for DNA to spontaneously form.”

Where did I say they SPONTANEOUSLY form?

You are free to omit the word “spontaneously”: Someone has convinced you that the laws of statistical dynamics somehow allow for DNA to form.

Please back up this statement with empirical evidence.

Shawn says:

” You are free to omit the word “spontaneously”: Someone has convinced you that the laws of statistical dynamics somehow allow for DNA to form.

Please back up this statement with empirical evidence.”

I said, ***However, DNA is not constructed randomly. The possible configurations of a DNA strand are regulated by the limitations of the weak force. This is a gross oversimplification, but I have neither the time or the academic qualifications to explain (in brief no less) the laws of statistical thermodymanics. Essentially, attributing this massive probability statistics to a DNA strand is pointless, because you’ve simply figured out the probability for a single state, disregarding the natural processes that enable that state (functional DNA) to form.***

First of all, I see that I mistakenly wrote weak force instead of electromagnetic force (in the second sentence).

And, perhaps I just stated it poorly, but my reference to statistical thermodynamics was that however improbable, everything has to exist in a state, including DNA. These immense probability statistics (regarding the probability of a DNA sequence to occur) don’t account for the laws of chemistry, which obviously play a role in the formation of nucleotides, polynucleotides, RNA, proteins, etc. The formation of those compounds are not governed by chance. And hat is where my gravity comparison comes in to play.

Shawn,

I don’t see where the electromagnetic force explains the origin of the genetic code.

Perry

Shawn says:

” If you say the emperor has clothes, then show us the clothes. And above all – don’t you owe it to yourself to see the clothes for yourself? ”

And further more, you aren’t going to overturn the unifying theory of biology, that being evolution, with your little website. I often encounter people throwing around the idea of a vast conspiracy among all the worlds scientists and I hope you don’t venture down that path. Regardless…

Is there any scientific hypothesis that’s (in the year 2009) strong enough to become the cornerstone of a Theory of abiogenesis? No? But you speak as if the world (and me in particular) have the slightest inkling as to how non living matter could (over time, not spontaneously) develop into living matter.

I’d urge YOU to study montmorrillonite clay, it’s abundance in a primordial Earth, and the clay’s effects regarding the generation of nucleotides; and nucleotides forming into polynucleotides; and polynucelotides forming RNA; and lipids forming micellae; micellae encased RNA combining to form DNA; as well as montmorillonite’s ability to propogate the formation of polypeptides, another crucial building block.

Now, is the current evidence sufficient to say with any certainty that a process of this type formed DNA? No. I’m not saying it is. But your suggestion that i or anyone else is taking shots in the dark at this is flat wrong. And based on the advances being made in biochemistry regarding some of the processes I mentioned, I see no reason to say research in those areas is a dead and, and the formation of DNA by naturalistic means is impossible. Proven? No. Possible? Certainly.

Shawn,

If we’re talking about chemical pathways, yes the abiogenesis researchers have some things to be proud of.

But chemicals are not enough. Because they don’t explain the origin of the genetic code itself, which is immaterial. If we’re talking about information, they have achieved nothing to date, because information is a top-down phenomenon, not bottom up. So long as they continue to assume that there is no source of intelligent input in the origin of life, they will get nowhere. That is both an observation and a hypothesis going forward.

I don’t buy the montmorriollonite clay story. I think that hypothesis sounds good to some people but it is just wishful thinking.

Shawn says:

” If we’re talking about information, they have achieved nothing to date, because information is a top-down phenomenon, not bottom up. ”

Then explain Nylonase

Adaptation through cellular internal genetic engineering as described by McClintock and Shapiro

Jon says:

Life isn’t based around math, it’s based around chemistry and biology.

Jon says:

You asked about consumer goods. I don’t see how you can relate to manmade products produced with our limited intelligence to INFER that the Cosmos is too complex to not be designed by intelligence.

“Some observed phenomenon-often a living creature or one of it’s more complex organs, but it could be anything from a molecule up to the universe itself-is correctly extolled as statistically improbable. Sometimes the language of information theory is used: the Darwinian is challenged to explain the source of all the information in living matter, in the technical sense of information content as a measure of improbability or “surprise value”.

Natural Selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from, It turns out to be the God Hypothesis that tires to get something for nothing. God tries to have his free lunch and be it too. However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable.”

Richard Dawkins from The God Delusion

Remember, natural selection is not possible without evolution. Evolution is not possible without replication. Replication is not possible without code.

So Mr. Dawkins has not answered this question at all.

I am asking you or Mr. Dawkins to demonstrate that natural selection can produce DNA.

Why do you take Dawkins on faith and then put us down for having faith – and admitting it? Mr. Dawkins has never proven any of these things to you. Where’s the proof, Jon? EVIDENCE. I’m asking for evidence, not platitudes. You yourself should settle for nothing less.

Perry

Jon says:

WE are evidence for Evolution through Natural Selection. Life on this planet is evidence. We may not look like a tree, but deep at the molecular heart of life, we are identical. All of this life is the result of Natural Selection and Evolution. No faith is involved in this, just SCIENCE.

This is what Science has showed us. But did you say that you don’t mistrust science?

Isn’t Science the search for truth? The Law of Physics is NOT immaterial.

凯阳 says:

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”
What are the chances of that sentence occurring by random chance?
It’s easy to find the answer. It has 43 letters and spaces. Excluding things like apostrophes and semicolons and numbers, there are 26 upper case letters and 26 lower case letters to choose from. So there are 52 to the power of 43 possible combinations of letters.
52^43 = 6.139652×10^73
Which means the chances of this sentence occurring randomly are 1 chance in
61,396,520,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

That sentence perhaps, but there are many more sentences that contain exactly 43 characters. Even more if you include other languages.

“DNA might have originated purely by chance.” (43 chars)
“Peut-être ADN a été créé par petite hasard.” (43 chars)
“Forse il DNA e stato creato tutto per caso.” (43 chars)

Every possible 43 character sentence reduces the odds of one of them occurring randomly. Though perhaps given the error correction and auto-correction even more combinations can be added.

“The quick brown fox jumps over teh lazy dog’ is also both understandable and readable. Whilst not perfectly ‘valid’ it is hardly devastatingly invalid. Shades of grey surely exist reducing your value still further.

(Note: I do not profess to know what % of those 10^200,000 possible DNA code combinations of a Nanoarchaeum would yield a valid pattern)

However, even your example is only for the ‘simplest known organism’ perhaps there were predecessors or existing unknown organisms with far simpler patterns that mutated as a successful combination, adding to each other (much like you added a ‘.’ to the ‘quick brown fox’ in another argument), The chances of creating two smaller codes is far less than one long code.

Your quoted value is nothing more than an approximate top end figure for one single outcome.

By example:

The official scrabble dictionary lists 977 possible 3 letter words.
Assuming only the letters a-z and ignoring case that gives us 26 possibles for each of the 3 letters. A total of 26^3 = 17576 combinations.

Your rationality states a 1 in 17576 chance of getting a particular word (the) = 0.0057% chance,
though actually there is a 977/17576 chance of getting an acceptable word = 5.56% chance. Thats quite a difference already.

Sure, I admit that these are just small numbers and that they would grow exponentially as the lengths increase, however this is just one example of reducing your values in favour of a ‘chance’ theory.

Sir,

There are probably BILLIONS of possible correct sentences you can make with 43 characters.

Maybe trillions, quadrillions, quintillions.

But when you divide that into 10^73 possible combinations, the statistically likelihood of producing ANY proper English sentence by randomly generating letters is so small that it’s not worth considering.

More to the point, random mutation is working against 10^73 odds to correct ANY specific error. It’s as close to impossible as one can get.

凯阳 says:

I would have said ‘Random mutation is striving to IMPROVE any particular aspect’.

Perhaps in your weird example of comparing a perfect English sentence to a viable living creature this might mean mutating one of the incorrect letters to be closer (alphabetically) to your expected outcome. I am also pretty sure that the rules and allowances of English in making an acceptable sentence are far more intolerant than the biology of producing acceptable DNA.

You are throwing out huge numbers that only apply to your one ‘favoured’ outcome and I believe you are, somewhat misleadingly, trying to dazzle everyone by their enormity to prove your point (which is almost perhaps as “intellectually dishonest” as you claim “a lot of popular books by people such as Richard Dawkins” are).

Your numbers and arguments seem to only conceive the statistical chance of perfection. Therefore, perhaps your statistical possibility should be better around and applied to the statistical chance of a ‘god/super intelligent being’ having been created in the first place….

Perry Marshall says:

There is no way to calculate the odds of God existing.

I can calculate the odds that the data indicates life being possible without God.

I have 100% inference to Intelligence being behind DNA and 0% inference to chance. Or… as close to 0 as one ever gets in real math and science problems. ie one chance in 10^50 or 10^100 or even 10^1000. Absurdly huge numbers that are beyond all human comprehension.

Whether you accept any of my numbers or not, the bottom line is: Nobody has ever randomly produced instructions of any kind that have ever caused any machine or mechanism to do anything particularly useful. That’s true whether we’re talking about what is “perfect” an “optimum” or even something that is even merely “useful.”

Some have faith in Chance with a capital C; I have faith in God with a capital G.

Perry

Lewis says:

And I had such high hopes…

I’m new to this site, and I was intrigued only by the claim that a belief in a god could be made scientific – could be used to produce measurable hypotheses and rebuttable predictions. I believe completely in a god (the Hebrew god), but I also believe that that belief is irrational. Belief – faith – requires no rationality, and is, indeed, largely incompatible with it.

The “rationality” proposed by this article, the improbability of what the author perceives as “purpose”, is really just awe. One cannot PROVE the existence of purpose, no matter how unlikely the circumstance that one offers as evidence. This is not rebuttable. “It is rare, therefore it must reflect purpose.” This is not logic. This is assumption. And when you make assumptions, you make an ass out of some guy named “Umptions”.

The age-old argument about the complexity of the human eye was similarly flawed (and later debunked by evolutionary biologists). Information can ABSOLUTELY happen by chance, and an assertion that a fact (i.e. “the coin I hold in my hand came up heads when I flipped it last”) can never be accidental is just wrong.

Plato was wrong about the second plane, the plane of ideal forms, as he called them – at least, his assertion was scientifically unverifiable and invalid on that ground. To make the argument again here adds nothing.

It is old hat; the believer says to the atheist, “prove that it isn’t so” and the atheist responds “prove that it is.” This adds nothing scientific to the debate.

Lewis,

My assertion of purpose is not a resort to probability.

My assertion of purpose is:

“In DNA, the code GGG translates to Glycine. Thus the purpose of GGG is to generate Glycine. Because it is a code, we know it has a purpose. Thus purpose exists and life is purposeful.”

To the atheist/materialist, I say: Show me a code that does not come from a mind. Show me a code that you can empirically demonstrate comes from a mindless purposeless process.

Lewis says:

And that is the problem: that a code must come from a mind – that a pattern must, definitionally, be designed – is a raw assumption unsupported by any real evidence.

To insist that I prove that it isn’t so is to fall back on the same argument: “prove to me that god DOESN’T exist,” which of course nobody can do.

GGG causes protiens to build Glycine. Very well. But cold fronts moving across the South China Sea cause rainstorms in Hong Kong. Is the “purpose” of cold fronts in the South China Sea to cause rainstorms in Hong Kong? I think not.

The only difference between the genetic pattern in our DNA and the weather pattern in the atmosphere is that one reminds us of a computer while the other reminds us of … well, something other than a computer. We think of the torrential downpour as a freak occurance, and yet you seem to insist that the DNA is somehow different. I don’t see the difference.

DNA builds a structure from a plan which is encoded in the sequence of base pairs, according to the genetic code.

Weather does not follow any kind of plan or program. DNA is a communication system, weather is not. See http://cosmicfingerprints.com/naturallyoccurringcode.htm

Lewis says:

Again, you assume your conclusion in your proof: that DNA comes from a plan. That DNA is “going somewhere.” That DNA is being steered.

This is where I get off the train. Communication ASSUMES agency (again) – it assumes sender and receiver. You insist that one circumstance of cause and effect is “communication” while another is simple “pattern”, simple happenstance. Is it because of complexity? Rarity? Mundanity? Put another way: no quality of the information encoded in DNA makes it any different from the information encoded in the atmosphere.

The answer to this might be replication; that DNA protiens can copy themselves. But even that is a distinction without a difference. First: the mechanism of DNA self-replication is actually quite random – the two strands happen to be chemically signalled to split apart, and they float around until all of the loose hanging G, A, T and C protiens happen to collide with their free flowing counterparts, thus re-completing the strand.

Second, irrespective of the mechanism involved, that a thing is “copied” does not mean that that thing has any sort of agency, nor does it mean that the thing causing it to be copied has any sort of agency. The cause is the chemical that splits a strand of DNA, the effect happens to be the replication of that DNA. Again, not substantively different from the cold fronts in the South China Sea. Put still another way: cause and effect cannot be proof of agency in one case and not proof of agency in another.

I grant you that DNA is really weird. Almost impossibly so. Almost. But to insist that the inability of a scientist to produce an example of another thing that behaves like DNA does automatically means that DNA is “special” seems kooky to me, especially when you consider how little of the cosmos we’ve ever had the opportunity to measure.

There are whole other levels to this, which involve the inability to prove a unified definition of “improvement”, the inherent unverifiability of the claim that information has a source, and even the lack of any evidence to prove that minds themselves are anything other than random happenstance, any one of which I think damns this argument to the realm of philosophy – firmly outside of science. But I don’t really want to go there.

I want to reiterate, I appreciate the effort here on your part to make this scientific. It would be simply wonderful if one could PROVE that a god were out there, if one could make faith into science. Two problems though: I don’t think it’s possible, and I don’t think it’s the point, either of science or of faith.

Lewis,

DNA has sender and receiver. See the diagrams at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/dnanotcode.htm. They are from Shannon’s paper and Yockey’s superb 2005 book “Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life” (Cambridge University Press)

The only definition of agency I need to have is the question whether the code has been decoded properly or not. Was the attempt to make a copy successful or not? That’s agency right there. The encoder and decoder have implicit purpose which is objectively measurable.

We cannot make such a statement about cold fronts on the South China sea. Weather obeys the laws of physics, period, and there is no code which is sometimes followed and sometimes not.

This quality of information makes it fundamentally different from the “information” in the atmosphere, which is not information by any formal definition which we would use in communication theory.

Unified definition of improvement: Fitness to survive.

Lewis says:

DNA information is certainly eminates from a place and is processed in another place, but you focus too narrowly on the level of abstraction of the replication itself: the mechanisms for sending and receiving the information, indeed, the mechanisms for mutation, are themselves measurably random, and so offer no support for your contention that something is controlling the process.

I would hope that you would immediately see why I would have problems with what you’ve said here. Every single definition you use, in which you attempt to make a subjective thing (say, agency, or communication, or improvement) into an objective, scientific, thing, itself contains another subjective thing (“properly”, “fitness”).

I’ll share a parable with you that I learned in high school. A sabretooth tigress has three kittens. One is normal. One has a mutation that gives him stronger, sharper claws. The fourth has another mutation that fuses his back two knee joints. Which one stands the best chance for survival?

The immediate answer would be the “improved” tiger with the sharper claws, but that would be wrong. Becuase one day, three cavemen run up a stampede of mammoths, killing all of the adolescent tigers except the one with the fused knees, who never left the safety of the cave.

This story does a few things. First, it is an easily believable story of how random “fitness” really is. The sheer happenstance of those humans running up those mammoths past that cave was highly unlikely; without them, the sharper clawed tiger’s genes may well have gone on to become more prolific. Second, it poses your scheme something of a problem: if a “mind” is directing these mutations, why did it waste the effort of giving that tiger better claws if he was just going to die? How does your scheme account for superfluous mutations? Obviously detrimental mutations like Down syndrome? I grant that this second question becomes less of a problem if your god is something other than a “good” god, but that’s for another time.

Your only answer to the scientific view of what happens to DNA – that mutations are random – remains a simple insistence that they are not random. You cannot, no matter how hard you try, PROVE that these things are not random. In science, nobody is every expected to prove a negative – to prove that something is NOT so. One must offer measurable proof before the assumption that the negative fact is real is overcome. Bear in mind: i don’t even necessarily disagree with what you’re saying. I have no problem with you philosophizing about the mechanisms of evolution, but agency is simply not measurable, and therefore is simply not scientific.

Lewis,

I define everything in entirely objective terms according to conventions of engineering communication theory:

Basic definitions of information theory: http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/information-theory-made-simple/

Perry

Jorge says:

Lewis:

You said “I believe completely in a god (the Hebrew god), but I also believe that that belief is irrational. Belief – faith – requires no rationality, and is, indeed, largely incompatible with it.”

This is nothing personal but I think you have been misinformed. I studied cognitive science for my engineer thesis and I can tell you that beliefs are now well know as a scientific matter. The mathematical theory of this is called “Subjective probability”. These degrees of belief are not irrational because they are based on external facts and cause-effect patterns observed by an individual and could be even measured. Even more, almost all science is based in inductive reasoning that could be called “objective beliefs” according to the same mathematical theory.

If you believe in the Hebrew God then you should know that belief in the Bible is not irrational, is based in facts and requires thinking. The whole Bible tells us, several times, “think about the facts of God to believe”. The book of proverbs praise several times the rational thinking. Jesus said “If you don’t believe to me then believe in the facts I do” and so on.

Rob Powys-Smith says:

I have just watched 61 minutes worth of your Evolution presentation and it is the clearest, most convincing demonstration of intelligent design there is going (and believe me, I’ve done some searching). It also shredded my long-held preconceptions that most Americans blindly hold to either Evolution or Creationism, and thus are bigoted, dogmatic and indoctrinated at an early age. I have a book by Ray Comfort, entitled ‘God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists’, which systematically deconstructs the illogicality of refuting the existence of God, even if a person subsequently choses to do so. In essence, it was remarkably refreshing witnessing how you re-visited the basis of ‘traditional’ Christian apologetics and scientifically bought about a reinterpretation of Evolution, that is consistent with the God of the Bible. I may be ignorant of plenty of other examples, but it would appear your approach would be pretty much revolutionary in the UK. Please write a book and get it distributed within the UK. There is a market for people longingly searching for credible answers to the meaning of their existence, and the origin of life in general, and you have hit upon an inspiring, insightful way of answering some of mankind’s deepest existential questions.

You may be interested to know that we are conducting a UK-wide research project to understand people’s journeys to, around, away from and within the Christian faith (see: http://www.faith-journeys.com). We also work closely with a sister organisation in the UK called Theos, who have recently conducted a significant piece of research about the impact of Darwin’s theory of evolution amongst both Christian and non-Christian audiences (see: http://www.theosthinktank.co.uk/mainnav/darwin.aspx).

Thanks again

Every Christian blessing

Rob Powys-Smith

Rob,

Thanks for your very kind words. I do plan on publishing and publicizing this information much more widely. Hope to meet you some day.

Perry

Jim says:

It seems most scientists who say they beleive in God further explain that that means a “God” who is the laws of nature or a universal intelligence. So, OK, there is a designer, but it is an un-supportable leap to that fact meaning anything resembling the Judeo-Christian and Muslim God. “The ‘Universal Mind’ created and programmed the universe; set all this in motion and hasn’t even looked at it since as far as we can determine.”

On the other hand, if the Genesis account is true even in a general sense, it raises questions about the character of God. What kind of God would go to such extraordinary lengths, even suspending the laws of physics and mathematics to palnt overwhelming evidence to mislead his children.

Jim,

You kind of lost me with that last statement. The way I interpret Genesis 1 (day is a loooooong period of time, vantage point of the entire story is terrestrial) requires no suspension of the laws of physics at all but in fact fits remarkably well with modern cosmology. Genesis 1:1 describes the Big Bang perfectly and everything else unfolds as a function of the original design. I hope I’m understanding you correctly (?). I would encourage you to listen to http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/audio/newevidence.htm

Could I invite you to consider that Genesis isn’t really saying what your sunday school teacher told you it was saying?

Perry

Jim says:

What I was trying to say is, accepting God as the originator of the Big Bang and intelligently designed evoloution as the result seems to lead to the idea that there is a God, but not to the conclusion that that God bears any resemblance to the God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Even intelligently designed evolution presents a bitter and cold picture of the development of life, especially human life. So, for 2% of human existance Christ has been an option. It seems to contradict the very concepts upon which Christianity rests.

Jim,

Remember that Judaism and Christianity introduce a “love your neighbor as yourself” ethic, which, YES, is a departure from the dog-eat-dog mentality that preceded it.

I would like to encourage you to listen to Hugh Ross’s presentation http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/audio/newevidence.htm and, hopefully, be open to a different perspective on this question than what you may have been accustomed to.

Perry

Joe Bloggs says:

I think I may have found a flaw in the theory. You say that information can’t conceivably come from nothing, which seems true. I assume you will then go on to say that this proves that intelligence etc must have come from an intelligent source, ie god. But, the problem is: Where did god himself (Presumably a being comprised of pure information) come from? As information, he can’t have come from nothingness, by your argument. It is ludicrous to assume he was himself created by some, larger god, because that would imply an infinite string of gods, each creating the other. If Information cannot come from the material world, where did God come from?

Xiani says:

I read your e-mail and i pretty much understood the difference between living and no living being.But am stuck on one thing you said living things have information in them but you also mentioned electronic items like Radio,Clock and TV also have information.they are not living

Xiani,

Radios and clocks are not living but they operate on codes which are always designed by living beings. Codes are only associated with living things, not non-living things.

Jim says:

I will explain that I make challanging statements with the hope of being proven wrong. I see materials saying that the order of creation in Genesis 1 is consistant with science. However, there are two inconsistant creation stories in Genesis 1 & 2. I understand that Biblical scholars say the writing style indicates two authors. The second Genesis story has man created and being “alone” before the animals. So, to make the argument of consistancy, one has to pick the supporting creation story. We know one of the stories must be wrong. Of course, that does not make the other story right, it instead casts doubt on both stories.

Mark says:

Perry, Your arguments seem to be based on a model of “these events that created us are extremely unlikely, and therefore up for divinic interpretation”.
Should we not think along the lines of “these events happened and we are the result of them”. If this is the mode of thought, then our likelihood of evolution is 100%. We are products of our particular universal model, rather than the universe being “tailored” in some way to create us.
The encoding of information is a natural progression for humanity, and has developed along organic evolution style pathways of trial and error and selection of best design.

Maurog says:

So stripping down all the veils of obfuscation, the only claim here is that a self-replicating pattern cannot arise by chance?

Not sure why you refer to it as “DNA” when RNA is much a simpler replicating pattern. Furthermore we’re not talking about a strand with any actual meaningful “information” on it either. The only concern is that it is capable of replicating itself, period. Which, tiny strips of RNA is capable of, as Tracey A. Lincoln and Gerald F. Joyce demonstrated ( http://www.scripps.edu/newsandviews/e_20090112/joyce.html ).

So, is this what it boils down to? A claim that a self-replicating pattern cannot arise by chance?

Maurog,

This is not a self-replicating pattern because it does not have a code from which the pattern is produced. It’s like a crystal. Not the same thing as DNA self replication at all.

Perry

Maurog says:

Exactly. It’s a self-replicating pattern which is not like DNA self-replication at all. So why do you insist that we should get the full functionality of DNA at random, when here is a start building on which DNA can slowly arise by natural selection (not by chance).

What you did here is claim that this vague “information” is needed for self-replication, then blatantly ignore self-replication which doesn’t deed any. It’s a contradiction right there, Perry.

There is nothing vague about how I have defined information or why pure physics and chemistry does not produce information. Why things like sunlight, hydrogen atoms, electrons, layers of sediment and snowflakes are not codes:
http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/faq/#naturalcodes

Maurog says:

Let me make it very simple for you, Perry. Imagine if you will an environment in which random nucleotides freely float. Let’s say there are only four types – yellow, red, green and blue. Let’s say there is an affinity between yellow and red and green and blue. So not unlike weak magnets, yellow attracts red and green attracts blue.

Now, imagine there is some process which causes some random nucleotides to line up and form a chain. It might involve some other element which sticks them together, but skip that. They can form tiny chains. So here we have a tiny chain which goes Yellow-Yellow-Green. It just float around, it does nothing. Yes because of this “magnetism”, it attracts Red, Red and Blue to its links. And they stick together forming a Red-Red-Blue chain. Now, the magnetism is not very strong, and eventually something causes them to drift apart. Now, the Red-Red-Blue chain due to the same magnetism attracts Yellow, Yellow and Green again and forms a new Yellow-Yellow-Green chain.

Now, what happened here is REPLICATION WITHOUT A PURPOSE. There is no “code”, there is no nothing except this affinity between the “colors”. Do you think the chains carry “information”? I don’t think they do, in your defition of the word. Do you consider the chains alive? Because I do.

I can easily “imagine” that there is some process that causes some random nucleotides to form a chain. However there is no such process known to science, and the order of nucleotides is NOT NOT NOT random. Ever.

There is no “magnetism” such as you describe because the DNA helix has no preference of one nucleotide over another.

This is nothing but pure thought experiment hanging in mid-air. It is not science – unless you can snow an empirical example of these alleged processes producing life in the laboratory.

Maudy says:

Hi Perry, Yesterday I looked at your 61 minutes video and today I read about the second part of the riddle.
You state material things like stones have no code. As far as I understand they are energy and atoms disposed in a certain way, wiht more or less space inbetween them, to be a stone.
They might not have such a complex code as a living thing like a tree, but still they have a code. They do carry information. Why otherwise would they take samples from other planets.
Can you please comment?
Love and light Maudy

Maudy,

They contain information but only in the sense that a human can study it and try to interpret it. A rock is not a communication system; there is no decoding until an intelligent being comes and observes. This is in contrast to DNA which encodes and decodes regardless of the presence of a human.

Perry

Naveen says:

hello sir ,
if i take the eg of a chemical …. it will react in a specific way with another specific chemical regardless of the presence of a human … the new chemical formed after reaction will have a certain code …. and that too will also react with other chemicals in a certain way….. regardless the presence of a human … and this stands true no matter how many times i try the same process regardless of the presence of a human ….. n the decoding that u speak of is a human concept create3d by us t its just a way of denoting that specific pattern(which in itself was complete with no need of a human to decode it ) for our ease to understand it …… i wont call it decoding its just how we denote that pattern in our language which we evolved over the years ……. n i dont understand how it proves the existence of god

coz according to u information needs a creator …. doest the creator need one too ? its a deadlock in the end u also base ur concept of god on something out of nothing

Alfred Amores says:

Two questions:

1. You said that 99% of the people never notice the giant chasm. This
implies the 1% of the people do notice it. The current world population is
estimated 6.7 billion and this means that at least 67 million people see it.
Aside from you who are the rest of the 67 million? Just name a few.

2. The word “INFORMATION ” seems to be the central concept of the material
you presented. This is a commonly used word and people use it to mean a
variety of things or concept. Here’s what wikipedia say about it:

Meaning of data, information and knowledge

The terms information and knowledge are frequently used for overlapping
concepts. The main difference is in the level of abstraction being
considered. Data is the lowest level of abstraction, information is the next
level, and finally, knowledge is the highest level among all three.[citation
needed] For example, the height of Mt. Everest is generally considered
as “data”, a book on Mt. Everest geological characteristics may be
considered as “information”, and a report containing practical information
on the best way to reach Mt. Everest’s peak may be considered
as “knowledge”.

Information as a concept bears a diversity of meanings, from everyday
usage to technical settings. Generally speaking, the concept of information
is closely related to notions of constraint, communication, control, data,
form, instruction, knowledge, meaning, mental stimulus, pattern,
perception, and representation.

Beynon-Davies [11] uses the concept of a sign to distinguish between data
and information. Data are symbols. Information occurs when symbols are
used to refer to something.

According to Mr.Wayne Tomasi, information is knowledge or intelligence
whereas, data is a processed, organized and stored information

My 2nd question therefore Is: In what sense are you using the word “information” in the materials you are presenting. The same question also applies to the other words you used to refer to the “things” we might find side 2 of the chasm. Unless we have a clear and common understanding of what precisely you mean by these words, we can not have an intelligent discussion.

By the way, I too am adherent of the “intelligent design” concept.However I’d rather refer to it as a “purposive design”. I believe that the universe is not only
a product of “intelligent design”, it has been designed for a purpose.

Alfred,

1) To name one: Hubert Yockey, author of “Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life” (Cambridge University Press, 2005, outstanding book). Another: Norbert Weiner, father of Cybernetics, who said more than 40 years ago, “Information is information, neither matter nor energy.”

2) I define all my terms very carefully here: http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/dnanotcode.htm. I am using a very basic and mechanical definition of information and code, not an abstract library-science type definition.

Perry

Jorge Mux says:

(Sorry, my english is bad. My original language is spanish)

I’ve tried to reply some assumptions that I think are erroneous in “If you can read this, I can prove God exists” via EMAIl, but I don’t know if that mail was sent to you. I

These are my arguments:

- It is NOT true that every information implies that there is an intentional entity that have a mind; Information only needs that the intentional entity could INTERPRETE is at information. In fact, there is natural and human information. Natural information: the genetic code. Human information: words, pictures… In both cases, you need a mind that interprete some facts as information; there is NO INFORMATION IN ABSTRACT.

In other words, “information” is only a perspective from an interpreter, an hermeneutic perspective. You can’t conclude that every information needs an intentional “informant”; if you do that, you say that “Information” has a real entity. Are you realist? Do you think that senses, references, Ideas, thoughts, and so have a real and separate existence? That is controversial.

- You say: “But non-living things cannot create language. They
*cannot* create codes. Rocks cannot think and they
cannot talk. And they cannot create information.” . You do not distinguish between natural and human information. Patterns that we (intencional beings) find in nature are our partial interpretation about the “nature laws”; in the world there is only facts and causes and effects, not “information”. We, as conscious systems, can interprete them as “information”. But there is not an abstract information “real” and ontological strong-based; information changes in every mind that think in that information: there is not only one information that transmittes magically between mind and mind, and between nature and every human being.

- You discuss themes that philosophers are actually discussing in vasts areas: philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, epistemology, phylosophy of nature science; and you don’t discuss (in this mail) the main arguments of authors that work in these areas: Lakatos, Dennett, Searle, Kripke, Boden, Chalmers, Hofstadter, Putnam, Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, Kuhn, Popper… And Descartes and Thomas Aquinas! Your information theory seems too similar to theory of David Chalmers. That theory has too much controversials points.

- The only thing that I understand reading this mail is that you have no sufficiente basis to prove that God exists if you use an (erroneous or incomplete) theory of information.
No living things cannot create language, that’s true. But no linving things don’t have intentional attitudes. You cannot project the human intentional attitudes in no living things. They are not conscious information producers. The proof seems the 5º argument of Thomas Aquinas to prove that God exist: it must be an universal intelligence that provide movement and properties (like magnetic stone, that it “knows” that only must attract iron and not other thing) to no living things.
But this proof assumes what wants to prove: If we say that we need understand why every thing in universe has the properties that it haves, that’s not a proof that there is an universal intelligence that gives these properties.

Once again, sorry for my mis-writing; my english is not good.

Jorge,

Thank you for your comments. This is a great question and you are obviously very well read.

First I would suggest you read the Q&A thread that begins at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/prove-god-exists/comment-page-6/#comment-1502 regarding the presence of meaning and intent within the genetic code.

I assert that yes, there really is information in the abstract. I am not saying that it has some kind of separate presence, as though there is a “ghost in the machine.” Rather that the only way we can sensibly work with it is by recognizing that patterns exist and they have ontological status. Let me explain.

If your garage door opener sends a specific pattern to your garage and opens the door, then that pattern has an ontological status, in addition to the physical radio waves themselves. We implicitly refer to this if you say to me, “Make me a copy of that Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ CD.” You’re referring to it when you use the word COPY; you’re referring to it when you refer to ‘Thriller’ which is a specific album. it is a specific sequence of sounds and information. The pattern itself can be identified and it exists. The Michael Jackson album Thriller does exist.

The pattern itself is not material. The pattern is the same pattern regardless of whether it’s on a CD, a DVD, or a sound wave in the air.

It makes no difference that ‘Thriller’ is a human-made pattern. It could just as easily be the DNA pattern GGG which codes for Glycine.

To the extent that decoders exist which will produce a specific measurable result when a specific pattern of code is passed through them, those specific patterns of code have ontological existence. Information is a real cause because it produces real, measurable effects.

It would only be possible to say information is not real if it did not produce a real effect.

When you say “no living things have intentional attitudes” that is not true. They do not have conscious intent but codes have intent as I explain in the link above. Follow that conversation and see my answer at

http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/prove-god-exists/comment-page-6/#comment-1621

This proof does NOT assume what it wants to prove. I did not assume in advance that God exists. I started with the existence or non-existence of God as an open question then offered a syllogism:

1. The pattern in DNA is a code
2. All codes we know the origin of are designed
3. Therefore we have 100% inference to design.

Perry Marshall

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