DiaLogos issue #15
The Creator's Software:
An Extensive Interpretation of Information
in Natural Science and Philosophy
by Peter Thoma
Editor's Note: In keeping with the conviction that any realistic philosophy and, consequently, any viable theology largely depend on an accurate view of the universe, this issue of DiaLogos features a paper by a German physicist who has devoted his retirement years to the the field of "information theory". In this paper, Peter Thoma explores the implications of an overreaching source of "information" or guidance existing beyond the "speed-limits" of data transfer imposed by the conditions of space-time. For those of us who may be thrown off balance by Thoma' s opening statement, let it be known that the Greek word "lemma" generally means any assumption, but especially, in mathematics and logic, one invoked to facilitate the development of a hypothesis -- in this case, a universal set of laws or conditions governing the entire cosmos, including those portions of which are likely to remain beyond the bounds of empirical investigation. (RWK, editor)
Under the lemmatic assumption that the entirety of nature obeys a conservation law (it does not change and does not vanish) it is proposed to designate this complete set of laws of nature as the "primary information density" or "Ip" . In this way a discrimination between a higher order information controlling nature and the conventional data transfer information carried by energy is achieved.
1. Physical aspects.
W.Heisenberg (Gesammelte Werke, Band 3, Piper Verlag, 1985) had first explained the key role of symmetries for all processes in the phase spaces of physics (a closed space of thermodynamical variables) and led his student Weizsaecker to describe symmetry as the basic element of information in nature. (.C.F.v.Weizsaecker: Aufbau der Physik, DTV Verlag 1988).
H.Lyre, one of Weizsaecker's students, recently has formulated a quantum theory of information (H. Lyre: Quantentheorie der Information. Zur Naturphilosophie der Theorie der Ur-Alternativen und einer abstrakten Theorie der Information, Springer Verlag, Wien 1998) using Weizsaecker's Ur theory ( "Ur" is translated here as "prime"). He shows that the symmetries of nature are built up by prime alternatives or "yes-no" decisions (primes) and that such a prime is the unit of quantum information or a quantum bit. This is probably the first complete description of quantum information in nature. The primes are nonlocalizable; they do not carry energy, but gauge symmetry per unit volume (1/m3). Using a different approach Collier (J.Collier: Information originates in Symmetry Breaking, Science and Culture 7, 247 (1996)) affirms these results.
Following these conclusions this work proposes to include the basic laws of nature into a more general conception of information and to introduce in this way the primary information density Ip as one of three constituents of nature. The other two are the total energy H represented by a multitude of elementary particles and Einstein's space-time tR . Ip contains all (known and unknown) laws of nature including evolution and autopoiesis (self-organization) and controls nature by means of its four basic forces and it has a sequential priority, since the process follows the program. The probable "first" control commands in the moment of the Big Bang "create symmetries and evolute" ("fiat lux") which do not exclude the antisymmetric, but rare, command "devolute", tempting the observer to attribute a vectorial property to Ip, but this is speculative. Independently of the expansion speed of the universe it extends throughout its space. Here tR is a differential operator in the set of equations governing the four basic forces with a (preset) array of initial conditions.
Looking at physics we note that Ip does not need H for its availability and conservation and looking at biology we note that we know only a very small part of the valid laws of nature within our own living environment of very weak gravity. The larger, unknown part of Ip governs nature under strong and extreme gravity. The elementary particles interacting in the first seconds of the universe and the particles in the present universe are identical or, in other words, there is no evolution of elementary particles and therefore no evolution of the interactions between them.
Not excluding evolutive processes in highly organized substances this underlines the priority claim of Ip; it should be regarded as the Creator's "software" -- in today's language -- or as spiritual energy. Since we know only an extremely small part of the existing nature, we spiritually see only a small section of the reality or "truth". As the reality we understand the entirety of the universe including all its known and unknown properties. Life is the most enigmatic part of the reality; it is based on unknown parts of Ip and it is characterized by two essential properties:
a) it is connected with a structurally higher order organization of matter;
b) autopoiesis leads to an adaptive evolutive optimization of living ensembles within their environment.
This self-organization as an evolutive and directional process is a part of Ip, thus evolution is a prime determined adaption and optimization process. Living organisms exchange information by means of emission and absorption of energy. This energy carried information we designate as secondary information Is.
All important religions including the pre-Christian ones agree with us Christians that God is the source of the spiritual energy. The greater part of scientists and thinkers including religiously indifferent ones speak of a creating spirit, whom they sometimes call the "great programmer", who does not play dice. Especially the biologists like it to speak of "creatures and concreatures".
2. Valuation of information between philosophy and natural science.
Information theory conventionally describes entropy (J/K) as an amount of energy carried information. Questions of its purpose and origin, however, cannot be answered. The most convincing description of the present understanding of information has been given by W.T.Grandy in his Resource Letter ITP1 (Information Theory in Physics. American Journal of Physics, June 1997) :
" It has long been understood that physics and the notion of information are intimetely related -- indeed, information is the lifeblood of all science. In a very real sense the differential equations of physics are simply algorithms for processing the information contained in ini tial conditions. Data obtained by experiment and observation, sense perceptions, and communication either are, or contain information forming the basis of our understanding of nature, Yet, an unambiguous clear-cut definition of information remains as slippery as that of randomness, say, or complexity. Is it merely a set of data? Or is it itself physical? If the latter, as Einstein once commented upon the ether, it has no definite spacetime coordinates. While most physicists would agree that the only valid means of knowing the physical world is by obtaining information through observation and measurement, a general definition of the term is elusive, even though much effort has been devoted to the task without reaching any definite conclusions" .
The proposed "primary information" is not a new kind of information as such; it is only the consequence of an extension of existing but incomplete definitions. The primary command "create symmetries" generates Ip and thus the entirety of all primes; this model requires the dimension primes/m3 or symmetry Quanta per cubic meter, if the universe is to be seen as a closed system. The proposed priority feature of Ip does not include the condition tR = 0 physically, but philosophically, and here exactly begins the faith, attributing a divine nature to Ip.
Writing this should not all give the impression of hubris, but the inclusion of the basic laws themselves into a generalized system of symmetry density -- a higher order information density -- is plausible, since the natural laws should not be bound to the propagation of light. Solid state science sees an ideal crystal consisting of a rigid lattice of particles whose free and bound electrons are coupled by probability density functions (wave functions). Analogously we may see the (finite) universe as a "soft" crystal with an expanding lattice of galaxies; the interactions of its free and bound particles are controlled by symmetry density functions. Thus Ip has a spatially general availability and controls energy transformation and propagation and thus Is.
According to Weizsaecker, evolution is sufficiently described by information increase. The increase of Is thus achieves adaptive optimization. A living creature with consciousness can intuitively perceive Ip and interact with it, at least by recognizing it. Its consciousness (C) may be related philosophically to three states of mind: information (I), knowledge (K), and wisdom (W). Since C is based on I we may define an information chain I - C - K - W and this again reminds one of a directionality within an universal information field. The chain however has a serious limitation : Light signals of living creatures propagate with the very small (as compared to the present size of the universe) velocity c =300000 km/s. For a living individual this means a serious limitation of Is.
Thinking of information exchange with extraterrestrial intelligences, TV signals emitted in 1950 from earth nowadays reach perhaps the planets of the nearest two neigbouring stars (J.Achenbach, National Geographic; millennium issue, January 2000, p.30). Let us thus define a sphere of human information range with a diameter of 20 light years around earth (roughly half of a human working lifetime) and insert it into the computer drawn scheme of concentric time spheres (Kathy Sawyer, National Geographic, Oct.99 p.30) : we see that a "conversation" with aliens is practically impossible, not to speak of more distant parts of the Milky Way or even the nearest neigbour galaxy, whereas a reception of alien signals seems to be posssible, at least in principle. Sawyers drawing, however, may been seen as a proof that we are living within our own past.
Comprising the basic laws of nature into the primary information density Ip includes the following conditions and consequences:
a) The two other basic constituents of the universe H and tR are not depending on a propagation of Ip.
b) Ip controls H and tR and not vice versa.
c) Ip controls the energy carried secondary
information Is which propagates at light
Compared to the size of only our own galaxy, c is extremely small, tempting an observer to see this as an intended property to limit the information sum being accessible for a single individual with conscience during a lifetime. It underlines , however, the independence of Ip from H and tR and its dominance as a kind of controlling program. In fact c is so small on a cosmic scale that light is meaningless for the general availability of control information. This affirms the discrimination between the higher order control information Ip and the conventional data tranfer information Is. Moreover the metric of a single individual on earth is limited by its gravity determined lifetime and this determines the human information sum during a lifetime. The discrimination between Ip and Is allows us to refrain from any discussion of a propagation velocity of the natural laws after the Big Bang. The priority claim of Ip is based on a logical conclusion only, not on a physical one.
After his retirement as a solid state physicist with the German civil service in 1995, the author has devoted his time to information theory. He especially appreciates valuable discussions held on the subject with G. Krocker, N. Knoepffler, O.Lechner and C.F.v. Weizsaecker.
Thoma can be contacted at the following addresses:
Peter Andreas Thoma
Noerdliche Auffahrtsallee 23
80638 Munchen, Germany
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