5.1 What Is Information? The View of Information Science (OB17)

The transfer of information is one of the fundamental principles of life.

The origin of life has always been a subject of speculation. The questions “Whence? Why? and Whither?” are directly involved. If our answer to “Whence?” is incorrect, then we will also be wrong about the purpose of life and the way to reach our destiny. Very many diverse and complex life-forms exist, and even the simplest unicellular organism is so purposefully constructed and so much more complex than anything that man can invent or design. B.O. Küppers regards the question of the origin of life as of equal significance as the problem of the origin of biological information [K4, p. 250]. The present author can agree with this, but with the following reservation: The solution to the problem of the origin of biological information is unquestionably a necessary prerequisite for the clarification of the problem of the origin of life, even though it may not be a sufficient requirement. For this reason we devote a separate chapter to this topic.

The transfer of information is one of the fundamental principles of life. When insects carry pollen from one flower to another, it essentially comprises a transfer of information (genetic information); the actual substance being used is unimportant. A general rule is that any piece of information that has to be transmitted requires two conditions, namely

  • a physical carrier for storage and for the control of processes and
  • an unambiguously defined coding system for representing ideas in the form of symbols that can be copied.

We thus establish:

THEOREM 1: Physical carriers are necessary for the storage of information.

THEOREM 2: Every code is based on a volitional agreement. The necessity of having a physical storage medium has deluded many to regard information as only a material entity. But it is clear from Theorem 2 that a code is an intellectual concept; the information conveyed by the code definitely has a mental character. All structural operating and communication systems in a living organism are always based on a very effective coding system. The origin of these codes is fundamentally an unsolvable problem for evolution, because, although codes represent mental concepts, only material causes are considered. In evolutionary circles, this problem is acknowledged, even though the causes of this dilemma are not mentioned. J. Monod, for instance, writes [M3, p. 135]: “But the major problem is the origin of the genetic code and of its translation mechanism.” Some of the fundamental theorems of the concept of information now follow (the author has discussed these extensively elsewhere [G3, G7, G9, G10]).

THEOREM 3: Several hierarchical levels characterize all information [G3, G7, G9, G10], namely syntax (code, grammar), semantics (meaning), pragmatics (action), and the apobetics level (teleological level, result, purpose). All these categories are structurally non-material.

THEOREM 4: Every piece of information implies the existence of a sender, and every piece of information is intended for a single recipient or for many receivers.

THEOREM 5: Information is inherently not a material entity, but a mental or spiritual one. Material processes do not qualify as sources of information.

Information is also essentially not a probabilistic concept, although one may study symbols from a statistical viewpoint (as in Shannon’s theory). Information is always established by volition. Consequently three further theorems can be formulated:

THEOREM 6: Information is not a probabilistic entity.

THEOREM 7: Every piece of information requires a mental or spiritual source (a sender).

THEOREM 8: Information only originates voluntarily (intention, intuition, disposition). Stated differently: Every piece of information has a mental (intellectual or spiritual) source.

Theorems 6 to 8 lead to a fundamental theorem that excludes evolution by means of the mechanisms mutation and selection which are so frequently mentioned.

THEOREM 9: Mutation and selection cannot produce new information.

According to theorems 3, 7, and 8, information represents something that is mental or intellectual (semantics). This fact corners all evolutionary concepts, as is accepted by B.O. Küppers:

A theory of the origin of life must necessarily include the origin of semantic information. And exactly here lies the basic difficulty of any theory of the origin of life. The fundamental empirical sciences in their traditional form exclude semantic phenomena from their intended range of application. . . . The central question pertaining to the problem of the origin of life is therefore: To what extent can the concept of semantic information be made objective and become an object of study of a mechanistically oriented science as molecular biology is purported to be?

When only material causes may be considered, as in evolution, even as a source for information, then one has a point of departure which fails when it comes to the empirical laws of information science. Cyberneticist D.M. McKay describes such a viewpoint by saying that it is impossible to sail toward a beacon which we have nailed to the bow of our own ship.

Information may conveniently be differentiated into three groups according to purpose:

THEOREM 10: The origin of any construction is volitional and conceptual. The conceptual solution in the shape of structural information implies the presence of intelligence (an abundant supply of ideas).

THEOREM 11: Operational information is a necessary prerequisite for the preordained functioning of a system.

THEOREM 12: The communication of information requires an agreement between the sender and the recipient.

We can now summarize some of the important theorems which satisfy scientific criteria S7 and S11:

  1. There can be no information without a code.
  2. There can be no information without a sender.
  3. There can be no information without a mental (spiritual) source.
  4. There can be no information without volition.
  5. All information comprises five hierarchical levels (statistic, syntactic, semantic, pragmatic, and apobetic).
  6. There is no such thing as random information.

Did God Use Evolution?

According to the view of theistic evolution, God started the process of evolution and guided and steered it over millions of years. As an information scientist, Werner Gitt critically analyzes and rejects the assumptions and consequences of the doctrine of theistic evolution.

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