Professor Hubert P Yockey is a physicist who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the world’s first atomic bomb.
Professor Yockey does not agree that abiogenesis – the origin of life – could occur in the so-called primordial soup and is one of the first scientists to recognize the role of information in living organism
Professor Hubert P. Yockey (b. April 15, 1916), PhD is a physicist and information theorist. He worked under Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project, and at the University of California, Berkeley.
He has studied the application of information theory to problems in biology and published his conclusions in the Journal of Theoretical Biology from 1974 onwards. He is very critical of the primordial soup theory of the origin of life, and believes that “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.”
The Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy discusses the concept of information in biological systems at : http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information-biological/
In the last paragraph of Section 2 of the article the Encyclopedia says :
At this point, however, it is important to note that there are two ways in which richer notions of information can be introduced. One possibility is to argue that genes and other biological structures literally carry semantic information, and their informational character explains the distinctive role of these structures in biological processes. Another possibility is to treat the appeal to meaning and information as an analogical one. Here the idea is that language, coding systems, computer programs and other paradigmatically information-exploiting systems can serve as useful models for biological systems. If we take this second route, our task then is to identify the similarities between the cases of semantic phenomena used as models and the biological systems we seek to understand, and to show how those similarities are informative. If we think of genes or cells as literally carrying semantic information, our problem changes. Paradigm cases of structures with semantic information — pictures, sentences, programs — are built by the thought and action of intelligent agents. So we need to show how genes and cells — neither intelligent systems themselves nor the products of intelligence — can carry semantic information, and how the information they carry explains their biological role. We need some kind of reductive explanation of semantic information (arguably, we need this to understand cognition, too). One place we might look for such an analysis is naturalistic philosophy of mind.
David Abel discusses prescriptive information (a type of semantic information) and the concept of “the Cybernetic Cut” at : http://www.scitopics.com/The_Cybernetic_Cut.html
The Cybernetic Cut
The Cybernetic Cut (Abel, 2008a) delineates one of the most fundamental dichotomies of reality. Physicodynamics (physicality: Jacques Monod’s “chance and necessity”) lie on one side of a great divide. On the other side lies formalism—the abstract, conceptual, non physical ability to choose with intent what aspects of ontological being will be preferred, pursued, selected, rearranged, integrated, measured, calculated, computed, and organized into pragmatic utility. Cybernetics studies mechanisms of control. But control requires purposeful choice contingency, not chance contingency. To control is to steer toward the goal of pragmatic success. Neither chance contingency nor the fixed laws of physics can participate in purposefully choosing arbitrary controls.
Decision theory, algorithmic optimization, computation, cybernetics, and engineering all originate on the formal side of The Cybernetic Cut. Language, mathematics, logic theory, symbol systems, code bijection, genetic prescription, and the scientific method itself also flow from the formal side of The Cybernetic Cut (Abel & Trevors, 2007).
Purposeful choices can be represented using physical symbol vehicles in a material symbol system (MSS) (Rocha, 2001). Physical tokens can be purposefully selected from an alphabet or phase space of physical objects. In this way non physical choices made with intent can be instantiated into physicality. Another method of instantiation of formalisms into physicality is through the deliberate selection of particular settings of physicodynamically-inert configurable switches (Rocha & Hordijk, 2005). Other terms for physicodynamically inert include “dynamically decoupled, incoherent or indeterminant.” Although the configurable switches are themselves physical, their settings are ultimately determined formally, independent of cause-and-effect physical determinism.
Thus a Configurable Switch (CS) Bridge traverses The Cybernetic Cut. The essence of The Cybernetic Cut principle is that traffic flow is unidirectional across this CS Bridge from formalism to physicality. Falsifying The Cybernetic Cut would require nothing more than demonstrating a bidirectional flow across the CS Bridge. Thus far, no one has ever observed physicality instructing, programming, or instituting non trivial formal organization and function.
Howard H. Pattee originally championed the term “epistemic cut” to describe the symbol-matter, subject-object, genotype-phenotype distinction (Hoffmeyer, 2000; Pattee, 1982, 2001, 2007a, 2007b). But the precise point of contact between formalism and physicality still needed elucidation. Mere description also needed to be differentiated from prescription. How does nonphysical mind arise from physicality to then establish formal control over that physicality (e.g., engineering feats, computer science)? How did inanimate nature give rise to an algorithmically organized, semiotic and cybernetic life? (Barbieri, 2008). Both the practice of physics and life itself require traversing not only an epistemic cut, but The Cybernetic Cut. All known life is cybernetic.
The Cybernetic Cut elucidates the difference between constraints and controls, between laws and rules, and between order and organization. Constraints consist of initial conditions and the orderliness of nature. Controls steer toward the goal of function. Laws describe fixed relationships of invariant physicodynamic orderliness. Rules suggest what voluntary behavior will produce the best formal utility. Rules are regularly broken; laws are not. When rules are voluntarily disobeyed, practical proficiency usually suffers. Rules are formal. Rules are generally made to streamline and optimize pragmatic behavior. Such behavior is choice contingent, not physicodynamically determined.
The self-ordered dissipative structures of chaos theory are technically not organized (Abel & Trevors, 2006). Organization arises only out of choice contingency via prescriptive information (PI) (Abel, 2009). PI instructs or actually produces formal utility. PI contains high numbers of bits of probabilistic uncertainty with low redundancy, order, pattern and probability. Choice contingency adds a whole new dimension invisible to chance and necessity. The physicodynamic side of The Cybernetic Cut provides no mechanism for generating PI. PI arises only on the formal side of the Cut.
Prigogine’s self-ordered dissipative structures are low informational. Bath-tub-drain vortices, hurricanes and tornadoes manifest high redundancy and pattern, high probability and low uncertainty with no imagination, creativity or engineering skills (Abel & Trevors, 2005). Self-ordered chaotic structures typically destroy organization; they do not program it.
Organization requires freedom of deliberate selection for potential function (Abel, 2007). Natural selection is merely selection of existing function. Natural selection cannot program new formal organization. Natural selection is nothing more than the differential survival and reproduction of the fittest already-existing organisms (Abel, 2008b). Organization is accomplished via decision nodes, logic gates, and configurable switch-settings. Decision nodes cannot be reduced to mere bifurcation points or bits of Shannon probabilistic combinatorial uncertainty. Chance and necessity are blind to formal function, and cannot pursue it. Computational halting arises on the formal side of The Cybernetic Cut ravine. To affect physicality, such computation must be transported across the one-way CS Bridge via formal (abstract, conceptual, mental, non physical) programming of physical logic gates.
Table 1. The difference between physicality and those aspects of reality that traverse the Cybernetic Cut into the sphere of pragmatic controls.
|Physicodynamics||Traversing the Cybernetic Cut|
|Physical||Nonphysical & Formal|
|Incapable of making decisions||Decision-node based|
|Constraint based||Control based|
|Natural-process based||Formal prescription based|
|Constraints just “happen”||Constraints are deliberately chosen|
|Forced by laws & Brownian movement||Writes and voluntarily uses formal rules|
|Incapable of learning||Learns and instructs|
|Product of cause-and-effect chain||Programmer produced|
|Determined by inflexible law||Directed by choice with intent|
|Blind to practical function||Makes functional things happen|
|Self-ordering physicodynamics||Formally organizational|
|Chance and necessity||Optimization of genetic algorithms|
|Inanimacy cannot program algorithms||Programs configurable switches|
|Oblivious to prescriptive information||Writes prescriptive information|
|Blind to efficiency||Managerially efficient|
|Values and pursues nothing||Values and pursues utility|
Keywords: Bifurcation points; Configurable switches; Decision nodes; Logic gates; Biocybernetics; Biosemiosis; Biosemiotics; Self-assembly; Self-organization; Sign Systems; Symbol systems.
What is the basis for the atheists’ belief that life arose by a crossing of the Cybernetic Cut – is this mere fantasy ?
With respect to known information theory are atheists more coherent than theists ?