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furshur
SFN Regular

USA
1536 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2005 :  21:10:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send furshur a Private Message
AR said:
quote:
But I could tell you that one end of the data spectrum was definately improbably organized, and the other was random!

I am not interested in showing where this information came from. I am interested in whether or not nature can produce it
.
I guess we are going to get real basic here - could you define nature.
If I understand you correctly, which I am not sure that I do at all, you feel that life is outside of nature. So what exactly are the boundries of nature as you define it?

As far as the random VS ordered discussion.
I think that the atomic structure is a fairly nonrandom configuration.
Quantum mechanics has some pretty precise rules about the energy levels of the different electrons in an atom.
Atoms combine in precise configurations and proportions to make molecules.

To my poor deluded mind this all seems to be very orginized and not even close to random.



If I knew then what I know now then I would know more now than I know.
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ronnywhite
SFN Regular

501 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2005 :  22:23:47   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ronnywhite a Private Message
Hi ar,

Apologies as I've wanted to participate more in this discussion, but it's a hectic week. RE earlier suggestions of "animosity" etc. such is not the case, but the tone of discussion in our posts has sometimes been inappropriately cavalier and joking, with myself frequently being the worst offender.

I'll get back to the posts with more comments a little later tonight or early tomorrow morning, but my initial impressions include:

(1) I take it we have established that the issue at hand is that you wish to examine a creationist claim involving 2LTD as applied in a sense that a relationship is alleged by the theory between entropy (randomness or disorganization) as opposed to order, within a closed system (as the theory requires.)
(2) The term "information" is relevant here because of your implication that "order" equates to "information" being incorporated at a "design" level (as opposed to the same result having been accomplished through undirected "randomness.")

Related thought- there have been exchanges about the concepts of "randomness", "order", and "information"... what "we think" their meanings are, or "should be" is completely irrelevant to the discussion. Likewise for "probability." If a creationist wishes to claim that the 2ndLTD applies to this issue, they must first, satisfactorily demonstrate that the necessary conditions for the theory to apply are met, THEN demonstrate that the data or circumstances they establish as their premises, by virtue of the theory, implies their intended conclusion.

Thus far, (1) and (2) above are "just guesses" BECAUSE we haven't established EXACTLY what aspect of the 2ndLTD the creationist intends to exploit, that the necessary initial conditions have been met so that the theory can be so applied, nor their claimed conclusion (or reasoning such is pertinent.) As I see it, we've been throwing around words without establishing just where the creationist wishes to go with this, under what assumptions, and by virtue of what reasoning- so please show us a picture of "the beach" before we begin counting the "grains of sand"... so that we know where we're supposed to be going, and how.

Ron White
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woolytoad
Skeptic Friend

313 Posts

Posted - 11/01/2005 :  23:46:54   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send woolytoad a Private Message
quote:
Hawks
Lets for arguments sake that we have a number of objects lined up next to eachother. On the left is something that "clearly is organized (really defies probability)". Moving to the right, the objects start to look less and less organized so that on the far right there is something that "does not look organized at all". Where, exactly, would you draw the line of whether something's organization defies probability or not? You may show an algorithm to clarify your position if you wish. When you've done this, please show why this organization must come from an intelligent source.


I would think this would be easy. If said object could not have arose from some combination of natural processes it definitely has some intelligence behind it. eg your computer or a desk.

Of course testing this in a systematic way is useless. It would take an infinite amount of time to check all possible combinations. But a lot of algorithms are this way forcing us to resort to heuristics, so I don't think that lessens the usefulness.

This makes ar's question easy. Can nature produce something that no combination of natural processes can produce? Nope!

Holes?
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ronnywhite
SFN Regular

501 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  01:38:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ronnywhite a Private Message
ar
The argument diverged from 2ndLTD (and you noted you accepted that) and the subsequent discussion of information and randomness has had a lot of interesting input, but because I'm curious, please state "in a nutshell" what the original argument was- exactly- so that I can better see how how 1,2(a,b) fit into it in the larger picture (and certainly don't detract from current discussion.) It might be obvious to others, but not to me. May be just a sentence or 2, if my following assessment isn't accurate...

Putting the posts thus far together, my thought is that it's been established that the argument doesn't meet the initial requirements of the 2LTD criteria because (depending on what your larger picture was) you can't adequately descriminate between randomness/order as you were attempting to define it... a thought-

1a. Nature can produce static AND
2a. Nature cannot produce information AND
Creationism conclusion is that we're within the context of information, so we can't judge whether it exists ("out of it's context"?) SO
we're in no position to judge what is information.

(or in a more general sense...)

One could say that if the Universe was an "intelligent creation" then information is everywhere so there is no context from which information can be descriminated from randomness (or more accurately, if the conclusion is true, then randomness doesn't exist, so there's nothing to judge, making the premise false... if the premise is false, there's no argument... if the conclusion is false, they're wrong.)

(or reinforcing it a bit using the "information" postings...)

Drawing upon prior post mentioning patterns in em radiation (same was essentially stated in other posts) consider a simpler example- AM radio modulation of music. The carrier wave is a sinewave... that's highly-ordered. By modulating it with music, we add information (and energy.) Without a receiver and human ears/brains to interpret it, the electromagnetic energy pattern (if viewed on a scope, maybe) may very well be indestinguishable from background static from "natural" sources. There's a carrier wave "buried" in the modulated signal, which had an "intelligent design" behind it- us. There isn't in the static.

1a. Nature can produce static AND
2a. Nature cannot produce information AND
1b. It's probabilistically demonstrated that static can resemble
information AND
Creationism conclusion is that we're within the context of information, so "using our radio sets" (ears, brains) is "cheating" (we're "in it's context"?)
SO
We cannot judge what is information.
... because we ARE information.

Ron White
Edited by - ronnywhite on 11/02/2005 05:08:57
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Subjectmatter
Skeptic Friend

173 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  07:23:49   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send Subjectmatter a Private Message
If I may, I would like to demonstrate one of the points made here using some basic cryptography:

fmu gabo ttavuk nkdzus

The four words written above are encrypted. In fact they say 'The Dead Parrot Sketch'. Now, I can confidently say that it would be impossible for any cryptographer to conclude that they meant this rather than being 'random' letters.

Why? Because the number of possible encryptions I could have used exceeds the number of possible permutations of letters. In essence, based on the knowledge that the cryptographer has it is equally likely to mean 'The Silence of the Lambs' or 'In the beginning he created mountains, trees and a midget' as 'The Dead Parrot Sketch'.

Of course, if I continue writing using this encryption this would eventually no longer be the case, as the encryption repeats itself after a certain number of letters. However, I could easily use an encryption, based on mathematical principles, which does not do this and no matter how many characters I write it would be entirely impossible for anyone to deduce the message (irrational numbers are an excellent tool for this).

Of course if I were then to tell the cryptographer that I am using the 500x decimal of a cubic sequence, raised to the power of 2/5x, where x is the position of the letter in sequence, then I have dramatically reduced the number of permutations and she might be able to find the message. Or at least, conclude that it is likely the message.


You see, order and randomness both depend on how much you know. You might claim that a given symbol does not mean anything, but all I have to do is claim that it means that collected works of shakespeare; complete with comments from noted proffessors, for that to be true. You just don't know the code, or the language if you will.

This whole discussion is not a scientific one, because any definition of information must relate back to the judgement of the subject, and judgement and subject both are concept that have no scientific meaning. This is true of randomness as well. The pine needles on the forest floor may look random to you, but the physicist will inform you in no uncertain terms that there was absolutely no chance that they landed in any other way - they were determined by the forces operating on them.

Sibling Atom Bomb of Couteous Debate
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GeeMack
SFN Regular

USA
1093 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  12:30:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send GeeMack a Private Message
Subjectmatter showed how an ordered set of data might be misinterpreted as random, and how it would be impossible to tell the difference if one didn't have the "key", or a much larger sampling of the data, or both. The converse, a set of data that appears to be "designed" yet is totally random, can also be demonstrated.

Shuffle a deck of cards to generate a random sequence of fifty-two cards. Next deal all the cards face up in a long straight row. By chance, somewhere along this line of cards we could see a sequence of five adjacent cards consisting of the Ace, King, Queen, Jack, and Ten of Hearts. The odds of this happening are about one in 2.6 million, pretty extreme, but not impossible.

The odds of any particular five cards occurring as a string, for example the Seven of Spades, Five of Diamonds, Queen of Clubs, Two of Spades, and the Nine of Hearts, are the same as the odds of that Royal Flush of Hearts. The main difference is that we recognize the Royal Flush if we know the rules of Poker.

Even someone who doesn't know the rules might believe the Royal Flush has some meaning, in context, because the fifty-two cards aren't all Hearts; the row is comprised of several suits. But that doesn't indicate that something intervened to disturb an otherwise random arrangement. The Royal Flush is only meaningful to one who knows Poker, or at least knows the relative values of the cards. The series of five Hearts is only meaningful to someone who sees the rest of the deck and understands it contains other suits.

Although a deck of cards is a very small data set, the same example would apply with a random set comprised of billions of pieces of data being dealt into hands of millions of items. So Subjectmatter is correct in saying the discussion of random vs. order is only relevant if we are aware of the complete set of data, and/or if we know the rules which make the combinations meaningful.

Regarding evolution: To continue with the analogy of Poker hands, let's say every time we are dealt a Heart we keep it, and discard anything else. Over millions of years we might eventually acquire all the Hearts, which produces a seemingly impossible, yet "meaningful" hand. This happens even though the cards always come from a deck in completely random order.

Interjecting random units, keeping the beneficial ones and discarding the useless or bad ones, can ultimately produce a winning hand. Consequently, a flagellum or an eyeball, although it may take millions of years, can come into being by way of evolution, and doesn't require the intervention of supernatural powers. It may just seem so to those who find it difficult to conceive the largeness of numbers or length of time necessary for it to occur.
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ar
New Member

30 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  12:46:28   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ar a Private Message
First of all, I really appreciate the less personal tone this discussion has taken. The last two pages or so seem to be very objective, detailed analysis of the topic.

Second - at the moment I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information to sift through. I've made a superficial reading of the last 7 or 8 posts, and am indeed seeing serious issues with my approach to the concepts of what "randomness" and "information" really are. I particularily appreciate Dr. Mabuse's and Ronnywhite's contributions as being singularily objective (not to say I don't appreciate others as well!)

With that - I need to take a break from participation, and really dig into this information (no pun intended!). I also picked up a copy of Murray Gell-Mann's "The Quark and the Jaguar : Adventures in the Simple and Complex" as it seemed (from the contents) to be very applicable to the concepts at hand, and hopefully will clarify things for me. Hopefully to the point where I can objectively analyze this data.

Sorry to leave the discussion hanging, but I truly feel my knowledge is not advanced/clear enough to continue - although, as I mentioned, I am seeing non-trivial issues with my tentative position - although I don't quite feel comfortable enough with my understanding to determine my "position" yet.

Hell - I don't even know if I know exactly what the "positions" are anymore.

Thank you.

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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9672 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  13:36:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by ar
Second - at the moment I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information to sift through.
It happens to all of us at one time or another. This time I was lucky enough to have some extra spare time to devote to this thread.

quote:
I particularily appreciate Dr. Mabuse's and Ronnywhite's contributions as being singularily objective (not to say I don't appreciate others as well!)
Thank you! It was a challenge I enjoyed.

quote:
With that - I need to take a break from participation, and really dig into this information (no pun intended!).
I know what you mean... Sometimes the flow of knowledge can be overwhelming, especially when one is out of his field.

quote:
I also picked up a copy of Murray Gell-Mann's "The Quark and the Jaguar : Adventures in the Simple and Complex" as it seemed (from the contents) to be very applicable to the concepts at hand, and hopefully will clarify things for me. Hopefully to the point where I can objectively analyze this data.
The book is unknown to me, but has gotten a few positive reviews at amazon.com. Neither does it appear in our recommended list, but that shouldn't stop you from reading it...

quote:
Sorry to leave the discussion hanging, but I truly feel my knowledge is not advanced/clear enough to continue - although, as I mentioned, I am seeing non-trivial issues with my tentative position - although I don't quite feel comfortable enough with my understanding to determine my "position" yet.
There is a strength in holding all conclusions tentative: Once you are faced with facts that run contrary to your held positions, you can always change your mind.
That is the strength of scientific investigations. And I bet you have met people in real life that are behaving ridiculously stubborn because they have decided not to change their mind.
Adaptive thinking makes it easier to face challenges and solve problems.

quote:
Thank you.
Well, thank you!
I wish you well in your quest for knowledge, and hope you'll come back for some more stimulating discussions when you feel ready for it.

regards,
Dr. Mabuse

Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
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"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  13:49:14   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by woolytoad
I would think this would be easy. If said object could not have arose from some combination of natural processes it definitely has some intelligence behind it. eg your computer or a desk.

You're trying to prove a negative.

quote:
This makes ar's question easy. Can nature produce something that no combination of natural processes can produce? Nope!


Your question, as I read it, is a tautology.

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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Hawks
SFN Regular

Canada
1383 Posts

Posted - 11/02/2005 :  13:53:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Hawks's Homepage Send Hawks a Private Message
quote:
1b. Information can be recognized as a set of data whose organization defies probability, and therefore must have come from an intelligent source.
quote:
I am not interested in showing where this information came from. I am interested in whether or not nature can produce it.

Both of these quotes are from you ar. Just thought I'd point out this inconsistency.

METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL
It's a small, off-duty czechoslovakian traffic warden!
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ronnywhite
SFN Regular

501 Posts

Posted - 11/03/2005 :  00:25:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ronnywhite a Private Message
GeeMac and subjectmatter summarized the statistical problems inherent to discriminating "information" many posts had been driving at pretty well, and a funny "corollary" to all of this might be...

Since God's the only one who can reside outside of the Universe (He must have been "somewhere else" when He created it), He's the only one who's qualified to use the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics to prove that He exists
(sorry, Creationism advocates- the "designated hitter" rule isn't in effect here.)

Ron White
Edited by - ronnywhite on 11/03/2005 00:31:42
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
26000 Posts

Posted - 11/05/2005 :  22:21:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message
Well, I must say it's sometimes a luxury to be able to come into these discussions after they're already over, and just point out some things.

For example, I'm quite surprised that in a discussion of definitions of "information," that nobody has made mention of what the actual field of information theory has to say, or even names of information theorists like Claude Shannon or Chaitin, Solomonoff and Kolmogorov.

It is both instructive and important that information theorists cannot agree upon any sort of "universal" definition of information. And it all depends entirely upon context, there is no sort of transcendental information which is recognizable as information to any potential observer. The daybook example of ar's depends entirely on the assumption (by those examining it) that it represents an attempt to store information, and they only assume that because it appears to be manufactured and the scribbles look like some kind of writing. That's the context within which the daybook becomes information. In the eyes of an alien population which never developed writing, "daybook" might be "decorative fan" and it wouldn't be seen as containing "information" at all, except maybe in a cultural sense. Heck, send the thing back in time 20,000 years, and not a single living Homo sapiens would consider it "information" at all.

One more problem with your definition of "information," ar:
quote:
...a simple, repeating pattern cannot be regarded as information, as I have defined it.
So a flat line on a heart monitor "cannot be regarded as information" that the patient's heart has stopped? Forgive me for sounding sarcastic, but millions of doctors and nurses around the world would be amazed at this revelation. That "simple, repeating pattern" is chock-full of absolutely essential information!

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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ronnywhite
SFN Regular

501 Posts

Posted - 11/06/2005 :  03:15:43   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send ronnywhite a Private Message
[quote]Originally posted by Dave W.
...theorists cannot agree upon any sort of "universal" definition of information...

Add to that the nature of thermodynamics as being a macrophysical, or "experimental" science, and in my mind, that pretty much "closes the book" on such 2ndLTD creationist arguments (if one is claiming to retain objectivity, anyway.) And here I thought... one of the most impressive devices of the old Star Trek series was the "Universal Translator" (which they'd "tie into" unrecognizable (or unencountered) alien communications)... Oh well, "dream on."

Ron White
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frater_memetic_fake
New Member

7 Posts

Posted - 11/06/2005 :  04:06:11   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send frater_memetic_fake a Private Message
quote:
(by ar . . .gg)
1a. Information exists as more than an abstract concept, and can be recognized out of it's context by it's transcendence of random, natural process; by it's transcendence of information-less structure (ordered randomness) (i.e. hurricanes, water waves); by it's transcendence of natural patterns based on the laws of physics (i.e. crystal structure, solar system formations, etc).

1b. Information can be recognized as a set of data whose organization defies probability, [and therefore must have come from an intelligent source.] It can be intuitively recognized (I am aware that that is very debatable), but it can also be recognized algorithmically by complex rules of formulation (i.e. grammer, in written language).

1c. Information cannot be translated out of it's context, but that fact is irrelevant. The question is - can it be recognized, and therefore shown to exist.


2a. Nature cannot produce information. It can produce data that may at superficial glance appear informational, but this "information" consists of regular repeating patterns which are simply manifestations of 1) physical laws and 2) chaos/quantum mechanics.



Actually, not to bad. I would say 1 is essentially correct, (nix the thing bout intelegence, of course) let me re word it like this ->

Yes, 'information' as we are talking about (Something which is being used symbolically to ... make effects? Bah, find good definition.) can be recognized free of context.

If we narrow our definition of information to analyze only repetitive of units, such as in a crystal or alternating polarities of magnetic domains, then some repetitive units should, in principle, clearly contain information, and some should appear to be satisfactorily random, and there should be a wide swath of un-occupide space in between. Now, of course, like with any process we can sometimes be wrong. (covered in previous posts)

Requirements: If there is a much larger 'symbol space' then is generally occupied, and symbolic strings are densely concentrated in very small areas of symbol space and the strings cannot be algorithmically represented with less than a certain amount of information. Picking numbers at random, the symbols are not normally distributed with a confidence of 99.9%, the size of symbol space is at least 10^50th, and the algorithm necessary to represent the information is over 100kb. Then we can be fairly sure that we have information.

Example 1: The repetition of rRNA genes is highly conserved and is actually a little less stable than random DNA. Low G-C content. One could, in principle, with a good nights work, work out the probability that the genes for rRNA would 'randomly' occur twice in the same genome, or in the genome of two different organisms. These probabilities are, of course, absurdly tiny. Coupled with the knowlage that the gene is fairly long, we can reject the idea that the genes coding for rRNA are random 'information free' crystals.

An analysis of most other crystals would determine them to be statistically indistinguishable from thermodynamically favored states + randomness. (no large repeating units.)

I need to adress this one, specifically->
quote:
(by some one. . . )
What? Information is only a set of data that defies probability? That does not make sense. Does that mean when a coin is flipped to see who receives the ball in the Superbowl no one will be able to figure out who will receive the ball?
Quantum mechanics is based on probabilities. Scientist using the probabilities of quantum mechanics designed the computer you are typing on.


Well, I think we can argue that the coin toss does not generate information, and is in fact a function to remove information from the system, specifically the information “who is gana go first” must not be possessed before the game. Clearly we need to define information more closely as symbolic information, so that the computer, (though it does contain symbolic information on disks. Ect.) isn't symbolic information itself, even though it is clearly an extremely improbable assembly of atoms. Lacking anything which could serve as potential symbols, (though I suppose actual symbols by any traditional definition would only occur in information bearing systems, so that the clay crystal is not a symbol, only a potential symbol. So I will arbitrarily define a computer out, because the 'information content' of a computer, 8 ball, golf club, or planet cannot be estimated in any meaningful way I have thought of. With a potential symbol, however, it is very easy. (number of symbols * length of string = symbol space; then you just see if it looks like strings are randomly dispersed over the symbol space. I suppose the symbol space must be sufficiently large as well.)
Now, let us for arguments sake, say that we can find a symbolic unit in sand dunes. Clearly this unit would not be organized in ways that were both energetically neutral, and a highly improbable subset of the symbol space. (There are actually plenty of statistical test that can detect even very subtle variations from randomness in our now razor thin set of things which might be colloquially called 'information'.)
Now, I am going to make a bit of a bold contention here, and I will be interested in any one who disagrees, but I would say that out side of human creations, DNA, RNA and amino acids there are no other examples of this kind of information currently known to science. Should this lake of other examples bother us? Should we expect some natural process other than evolution to be able to produce our narrowly defined symbolic information? I see no reason to think so. In fact, what I believe I am attempting to do is talk about a system where it is only possible for the information to arise as the epiphenomena of evolution, and hopefully I have done so. Future clarification on this point may be beneficial.
I know this is somewhat weak here, but essentially what I am saying is that simple natural laws, such as might require that symbol A is best followed by symbol B, and that symbol B is best followed by symbol A, while it produces a non-random sequence, ABABABABABABABABABA... , is likely information free. We can determine this, I suppose, only if we can find the reason that the sequence is being ordered ABAB... by looking at the properties that allow the sequence to form. If we found them painted on a wall and could not understand how they formed, I have no ready reason to reject their information content. (perhaps we could figure out the minimal amount of information needed to represent the entire sequence, here a very simple algorithim, and if the information content is to low reject it as 'to simple to be interesting.)
Evolution represents a very unique way of exploring symbol space, which does not occur for other natural process. That is because evolving organisms are exploring symbol space with a process of trial and error that only occurs when a system satisfies the three Darwinian requirements 1) over production 2) random variation 3) heredity then the system is evolvable (meaning can under go evolution, not be produced by it, for clarities sake.)
So, brief recap to see if I am making sense: we can recognize non-random ordering of symbols. DNA is one such ordering. Non random ordering of symbols does not occur outside of artificial or biological systems.
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9672 Posts

Posted - 11/06/2005 :  06:12:30   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message
quote:
Originally posted by frater_memetic_fake
Now, I am going to make a bit of a bold contention here, and I will be interested in any one who disagrees, but I would say that out side of human creations, DNA, RNA and amino acids there are no other examples of this kind of information currently known to science.
I disagree. Information is a matter of context.
The emissions of radio from a pulsar is natural, and the period of the pulsar is information of the pulsar's rotational speed.
Just because we perceive the product of a natural phenomenon as random noise, does not mean that it does not contain information. It merely shows that we are unable to derive information from it, or detect the information contained within.

Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

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