Information theory proves design (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Sunday, December 06, 2020, 00:47 (410 days ago)

An exposition:

"When I first began to look into intelligent design (ID) theory while I was considering becoming an atheist, I was struck by Bill Dembski’s claim that ID could be demonstrated mathematically through information theory. (my bold)


"Dembski applies this line of reasoning in “The Explanatory Filter.” It is motivated by a similar consideration: how to distinguish a typical random sequence from non-random sequences after the fact. The standard way of testing hypotheses, developed in the 1920s by Ronald Fisher and thus called “Fisherian hypothesis testing,” requires that any hypotheses to be tested must be stated before the experiment is performed. Fisher did not provide a way for patterns to be detected after the fact. If we are wondering whether our universe or life forms show evidence of design, we must, of course, examine them after the fact. However, Kolmogorov’s theory of information shows that we can detect patterns after the fact because sequences that can be concisely described are rarer than sequences that require lengthy descriptions.

"Additionally, I found Dembski’s key indicator of intelligent design, “complex specified information (CSI)”, to be a more refined form of the information theory concept of “mutual information,” with the additional constraint that the random variable for specification is independent of the described event. This additional constraint results in the second keystone of intelligent design theory: the conservation of information.

"Dembski proved that searching for a good search algorithm (the “search for a search”) is no easier than performing the search for the primary target in the first place. The implication is that there is no shortcut by which natural processes of law and chance can produce information from chaos or increase the amount of existing information. Thus natural processes such as the various means by which evolution may occur cannot be said to create information.


"Intelligent design theory is sometimes said to lack any practical application. One straightforward application is that, because intelligence can create information and computation cannot, human interaction will improve computational performance. Addressing this observation there is a growing field known as “human computation” which investigates whether human-in-the-loop computation is more effective than a purely computational approach. It turns out that the answer is yes.


"After the years of study, I found that, rather being at odds with established information theory, Dembski’s Explanatory Filter is very much in line with well-known theorems. This left me wondering why there was so much controversy around his theory in the first place. I have still not been able to answer this question, but whatever the cause of the controversy, it is not lack of theoretical and practical justification."

Comment: Funny, this guy and I with clear research and careful analysis came to believe in ID. Why don't others? In fairness I should note I've been at a conference where Dembski presented.

Information theory to find cancer genes

by David Turell @, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, 20:25 (274 days ago) @ David Turell

Studying acute lymphatic leukemia in children's genomes by using information theory finds probable genes responsible:

"Using a widely known field of mathematics designed mainly to study how digital and other forms of information are measured, stored and shared, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say they have uncovered a likely key genetic culprit in the development of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

"ALL is the most common form of childhood leukemia, striking an estimated 3,000 children and teens each year in the United States alone.

"Specifically, the Johns Hopkins team used "information theory," applying an analysis that relies on strings of zeros and ones -- the binary system of symbols common to computer languages and codes -- to identify variables or outcomes of a particular process. In the case of human cancer biology, the scientists focused on a chemical process in cells called DNA methylation, in which certain chemical groups attach to areas of genes that guide genes' on/off switches.


"By assigning zeros and ones to pieces of genetic code that were methylated or unmethylated and using concepts of information theory and computer programs to recognize patterns of methylation, the scientists were able to find regions of the genome that were consistently methylated in patients with leukemia and those without cancer.

"They also saw genome regions in the leukemia cells that were more randomly methylated, compared with the normal genome, a signal to scientists that those spots may be specifically linked to leukemia cells compared with normal ones.

"One gene, called UHRF1, stood out among other gene regions in leukemia cells that had differences in DNA methylation compared with the normal genome."

Comment: Since life relies on the coded information in genes, using information theory makes perfect sense.

Information theory solves entropy problem

by David Turell @, Friday, April 23, 2021, 20:27 (272 days ago) @ David Turell

It all started with Maxwell's demon:

"...the inexorable rise in entropy, or disorder, as quantified by the second law of thermodynamics, takes on an almost mathematical certainty. So of course physicists are constantly trying to break it.

"One almost did. A thought experiment devised by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1867 stumped scientists for 115 years. And even after a solution was found, physicists have continued to use “Maxwell’s demon” to push the laws of the universe to their limits.


"What if, suggested Maxwell, a tiny imaginary creature — a demon, as it was later called — sat at the door. Every time it saw a fast-moving particle approaching from the left-hand side, it opened the door and let it into the right-hand compartment. And every time a slow-moving particle approached from the right, the demon let it into the left-hand compartment.

"After a while, the left-hand compartment would be full of slow, cold particles, and the right-hand compartment would grow hot. This isolated system would seem to grow more orderly, not less, because two distinguishable compartments have more order than two identical compartments. Maxwell had created a system that appeared to defy the rise of entropy, and thus the laws of the universe.


"In 1982, the American physicist Charles Bennett put the pieces of the puzzle together. He realized that Maxwell’s demon was at core an information-processing machine: It needed to record and store information about individual particles in order to decide when to open and close the door. Periodically it would need to erase this information. According to Landauer’s erasure principle, the rise in entropy from the erasure would more than compensate for the decrease in entropy caused by the sorting of the particles. “You need to pay,” said Gonzalo Manzano, a physicist at the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information in Vienna. The demon’s need to make room for more information inexorably led to a net increase in disorder.

"Then in the 21st century, with the thought experiment solved, the real experiments began. “The most important development is we can now realize Maxwell’s demon in laboratories,” said Sagawa.


"Others wondered if there might be less demanding ways to use information to extract useful work from a similar system. And research published in February in Physical Review Letters seems to have found a way to do so. The work makes the demon into a gambler.

"The team, led by Manzano, wondered if there was a way to implement something like Maxwell’s demon but without the information requirements. They imagined a two-compartment system with a door, as before. But in this case, the door would open and close on its own. Sometimes particles would randomly separate themselves into hotter and colder compartments. The demon could only watch this process and decide when to turn the system off. In theory this process could create a small temperature imbalance, and therefore a useful heat engine, if the demon was smart about when to end the experiment and lock any temperature imbalance in place, much as a smart gambler on a hot streak knows when to leave the table. “You can either play all night on the roulette table, or you can stop if you win $100,” said Édgar Roldán, a physicist at the International Center for Theoretical Physics in Italy who was a co-author on the study. “We’re saying we don’t need such a complicated device as Maxwell’s demon to extract work in the second law. We can be more relaxed.” The researchers then implemented such a gambling demon in a nanoelectronic device, to show it was possible."

Comment: Just to show information is everywhere. In our reality information is required, and can be descriptive or instructive. An originating mind is required.

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