Biological Information

Home Alone Machines

  1. ‘Information’, ‘data’ and ‘media’ are distinct concepts. Media is the mechanical support for data and can be any material including DNA and RNA in biology. Data is the symbols that carry information and are stored and transmitted on the media. ACGT nucleotides forming strands of DNA are biologic data. Information is an entity that answers a question and is represented by data encoded on a particular media. Information is always created by an intelligent agent and used by the same or another intelligent agent. Interpreting the data to extract information requires a deciphering key such as a language. For example, proteins are made of amino acids selected based on a translation table (the deciphering key) from nucleotides.
  2. Information is entirely separate from matter. The same media (matter) may contain data representing information for one or more users, or random noise if the same bits of data have been randomly configured. Furthermore, without a deciphering key, one user’s information is random noise to another (like bird songs to unrelated birds). Information can be encoded in different ways (like distinct languages), resulting in unequal data sets. The size of the data is [in practice] always larger than the information carried due to redundancy which is necessary to maintain the integrity of the carried or stored information.
  3. The biologic cellular system is strikingly similar to human built autonomous information systems and unlike anything else observable in the inert universe. Media can be anything including any collection of atoms and, without a decoding key, the same media can support an infinity of data. For instance, a DNA chain encodes one set of data when read left to right, another when read in reverse, yet another when read pair-by-pair, and so on. But in living organisms, DNA actually encodes specific information that is uniquely decoded with a key. Furthermore, the information in the DNA is also redundantly encoded to ensure its long term integrity. Aside from DNA and RNA, we can observe many other information systems in nature (with decoding keys such as pheromones, antigens, and hormones), but all are limited to the living.
  4. DNA mutations are wrongfully interpreted by some as spontaneous information generation, however the DNA limitations show that DNA is not ‘the code of life’, but only a configurable portion of ‘the code of life’. In addition, the adaptive mutations appear limited in range, reversible when the stimulus is removed, and repeatable, indicating their non-random character (as in “the peppered moth”, “Darwin’s finches”, and antibiotic resistance). This is exactly how advanced human designed computer systems behave – they have been built with adaptability in mind, therefore to the untrained eye these systems seem completely autonomous and infinitely auto-reconfigurable (”Artificial Intelligence” fallacy).
  5. Information cannot just pop into existence in the absence of an intelligent agent. That is why all noise-based information generating attempts including all “infinite monkey” experiments have failed and that is why “Artificial Intelligence” will never “rise”. Separating information from noise has been a very important human activity for thousands of years and success in this endeavor has always been based on two critical elements: deciphering key and redundant encoding.
  6. Information can exist for a long time without an intelligent agent. Information can be stored, transmitted and downloaded into machines that perform certain operations regardless of whether the intelligent agent is still around or not. Based on all our knowledge about information, not observing the intelligent agent at work should never lead to the absurd assumption that the information machine “arose without a designer”. It is no coincidence that teleological terms such as “function” and “design” appear frequently in the biological sciences.
  7. Data is everywhere (including fossil record and marks of past events such as asteroid impacts), but that data becomes information only to intelligent agents like us (organisms) and only when we learn to interpret it and to make predictions (answer questions). When we look at the sedimentation and erosion, we take that data and make information from it based on our knowledge. There is no information in the rocks, just data.

Summary:

  1. ‘Information’, ‘data’ and ‘media’ are distinct concepts
  2. Information is entirely separate from matter
  3. Biologic cellular systems are strikingly similar to human built autonomous information systems and unlike anything else observable in the inert universe
  4. DNA mutations are wrongfully interpreted by some as spontaneous information generation
  5. Information cannot just pop into existence in the absence of an intelligent agent
  6. Information can exist for a long time without an intelligent agent
  7. Data is everywhere (including fossil record), but that data becomes information only to intelligent agents

Links:

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information-biological/

https://evolutionnews.org/2014/08/biological_info_1/

http://www.worldscientific.com/worldscibooks/10.1142/8818#t=toc

https://discourse.biologos.org/t/information-entropy/35327/21

https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/genetic-novelty-conference-errors-cannot-explain-genetic-novelty-and-complexity/#comment-651105

Notes:

Con: Information is just entropy.

Pro: Shannon never said “Information = Entropy”. Wikipedia quote: “Entropy is a measure of unpredictability of the state, or equivalently, of its average information content. Hence Entropy is just an attribute of Information. In addition, information always requires a deciphering key and some redundancy, both of which reduce entropy. Information is meaningful only to the sender and receiver (and the spy). To all others it’s noise.

Con: Random number generators can open any lock.

Pro: The human opens the lock, not the random generator. The random generator is just a tool to the human.

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