Posts tagged ‘information theory’

August 27th, 2012

The Language of God

by Max Andrews

In our experience, intentions get actualized any number of ways[1]: A sculptor by chiseling at stone, musicians by writing notes, engineers by drawing up blueprints. In general, all actualizations of intentions can be realized in language. Precise enough sets of instructions in a natural language can tell the sculptor how to form the statue, musician how to record the notes, and engineer how to draw up blueprints.

Why should an act of speech be God’s mode of creation? Language is the universal medium for actualizing intentions. The language that proceeds from God’s mouth in the act of creation is the divine Logos (Jn. 1.1-5). In the act of creation God the Father speaks the divine Logos in the power of the Holy Spirit. The divine Logos is not just language in the ordinary sense (utterances that convey information), but the very ground and possibility of language. Words need power to accomplish their end and God’s Word has that power (Is. 55.11).

Given that we are made in God’s image, the Trinitarian structure of creation is reflected in human speech.

“The word [goes] out of the mouth of God in such a manner that it likewise ‘[goes] out of the mouth’ of men; for God does not speak openly from heaven, but employs men as his instruments, that by their agency he may make known his will.”[2]

April 18th, 2012

Information Theory

by Max Andrews

Information theory is the branch of probability theory that deals with uncertainty, accuracy, and information content in the transmission of messages. It can be applied to any system of communication (electric signals, fiber optic pulses, speech, etc.). Random signals, known as noise, are often added to a message during the transmission process, altering the signal received from that sent.  Information theory is used to work out the probability that a particular signal received is the same as the signal sent.  In transmitting a sequence of numbers, their sum might also be transmitted so that the receiver will know that there is an error when the sum does not correspond to the rest of the message.  The sum itself gives no extra information, simply a confirmation.  The statistics of choosing a message out of all possible messages (letters like the alphabet or binary digits for example) determines the amount of information contained in it.  Information is measured in bits (binary digits). If one out of two possible signals are sent then the information content is one bit.  A choice of one out of four possible signals contains more information although the signal itself might be the same.

For more information see John Daintith and John Clark’s The Facts on File Dictionary of Mathematics (New York: Market Book House, 1999), 97.

February 7th, 2012

Junk DNA Isn’t Necessarily Junk

by Max Andrews

The argument from junk DNA suggests that a designer would be maximally efficient in his use of information.  There appears to be some information that does not execute or have any meaningful coding.  Darwinism takes this issue and uses it as the result of the prediction that there would be left over information not being used due to natural selection and random mutation.  However, it doesn’t appear that all junk DNA is actually junk.

The classical model of the genome was developed to support the Darwinian New Synthesis and was based on these assumptions:

  • Genetic determinants are discrete physical units
  • Only the collection of genes (genotype) is real; organismal development and traits (the phenotype) are epiphenomenal
  • The structure of gene can be explained solely in terms of population genetics (mutation and selection/genetic drift)

The presuppositions of the model

  • Genomes are the only carriers of phenotypic determinants; no laws of form exist à phenotypes mirror genotypes
  • Genomes are aggregates of simple entities that are constantly changing entails that phenotypes are always transforming
  • Genomes can be recombined and mutated in an unlimited way à morphological evolution is “open-minded”
  • Any two sets of genomes are connected by a finite number of mutations à morphological gaps are illusory
    read more »

October 1st, 2011

Metaphysical Implications of Intelligent Design

by Max Andrews

The truth is that now all theories of origins, theistic or atheistic, involve speculation as to the nature of what it was that created a universe so fine-tuned for life.  The question is only, was it an intelligent or an unintelligent cause that created time, space, matter and energy out of nothing?[1]  With regards to the argument from design, Columbia University astronomer, Robert Jastrow discussed what he calls “the most theistic result to ever come out of science”:

According to the picture of the evolution of the universe developed by the astronomer and his fellow scientists, the smallest change in any of the circumstances of the natural world, such as the relative strengths of the forces of nature, or the properties of the elementary particles, would have led to a universe in which there could be no life and no man…

It is possible to make the same argument about changes in the strengths of the electromagnetic force, the force of gravity, or any other constants of the material universe, and so come to the conclusion that in a slightly changed universe there could be no life, and no man.  Thus according to the physicist and the astronomer, it appears that the universe was constructed within very narrow limits, in such a way that man could dwell in it.  This result is called the anthropic principle.

Some scientists suggest, in an effort to avoid a theistic or teleological implication in their findings, that there must be an infinite number of universes, representing all possible combinations of basic forces and conditions, and that our universe is one of an infinitely small fraction, in this great plenitude of universes, in which life exists.[2]

The design argument is quite modest by simply stating that intelligent causation can be detected in the natural world.  The argument does not and cannot infer the identity of the designer alone.  In order to identify the designer one must seek external evidences, such as other scientific, philosophical, historical, and theological evidences.  A cumulative case argument would fulfill this need.  The extent of what can be known is that the designer is an agent.  Agency is inferred by the ability to create brand new information, to initiate and cease a causal chain of events.  Also, this agent must not be organic since it too would require a cause of its information.  No regress is necessary since there is only one entity that must be identified as the cause.  Whether there is a regress doesn’t really matter at all since only one phenomena, that of the origin of information in living matter, only requires that one entity be instantiated.


            [1] Granville Sewell, In the Beginning (Seattle, WA:  Discovery Institute Press, 2010), 25.

            [2] Robert Jastrow quoted by Roy Varghese, The Intellectuals Speak About God, (Regenery Gateway), 1984.

August 2nd, 2011

Inferring Design From Data

by Max Andrews

The data presented must be evaluated as either being the result of necessity, chance, a combination thereof, or design (intelligent causation).  How may one infer design?  As William Dembski advocates in his work, The Design Inference, there must be a relay of specified complex information.[1]  In the 1940’s, Claude Shannon at Bell Laboratories developed a mathematical theory of information.  The information-carrying capacity of a sequence of a specific length can then be calculated using the expression I=-log2p.[2]  When this formula is applied to genetic sequence probability formulas the information being conveyed is more than mere Shannon information.  The word information in this theory is used in a special mathematical sense that must not be confused with its ordinary usage.  In particular, information must not be confused with meaning.[3]

Since the late 1950’s, biologists have equated the “precise determination of sequence” with the property “specificity” or “specification.”  Biologists have defined specificity tacitly as “necessary to achieving or maintaining function.”  They have determined that DNA base sequences are specified, not by applying information theory, but my making experimental assessments of the function of those sequences within the overall apparatus of gene expression.[4]  The same application of specificity would be applied to complexity.  Given the complexity of the components need for and to sustain life, the complexity is that which maintains function, a specified complexity.[5]

When arguing for design, the argument cannot take one to Christianity or even God.  All one can purport is an intelligent cause.[6]  The evidence cannot identify who or what the cause is.  This is constructive empiricism.  Constructive empiricism states that one can only refer to the aspects of that being, in this case, the intelligence of the cause, respective to the issue and evidence at hand.  It is only be a cumulative case argument can one infer that the intelligent cause is God.

By experience, it can be deduced that mind originates information (as previously described) and that the other competing hypotheses do not have the explanatory scope and power as design does.  It is by the means of abduction one can infer that design, or intelligent causation, is the best explanation for the data.  Chance and randomness cannot substantially account for the data.  The improbability alone is infinitesimally improbable.  The necessity explanation has no support and the physical variations of the cosmic landscape place the explanation at implausible.


            [1] William A. Dembski, The Design Inference (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1998).

            [2] This equated the amount of information transmitted with the amount of uncertainty reduced or eliminated by a series of symbols or characters.  Claude Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Bell System Technical Journal 27 (1948):  379-423; 623-656.

            [3] Claude Shannon, W. Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Champaign, IL:  University of Illinois Press, 1998), 8.

            [4] Stephen C. Meyer, “ A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.”

            [5] Ibid. To avoid equivocation, it is necessary to distinguish “information content” from mere “information carrying capacity,” “specified information” from mere “Shannon information,” “specified complexity” form mere “complexity.”

            [6] Intelligent causation is entirely consistent with the scientific method.  For example:  The design inference begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex specified information.  The hypothesis would follow with predictions of design.  For experiments, one would one need to test whether scientific data has complex specified information.  The conclusion may follow as:  Because X exhibits high levels of complex specified information, a quality known to be a product of intelligence, therefore, life was designed.