by Denyse O'Leary
Hubert Yockey's Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life , described in his National Review article by Gilder as "definitive," shows the significance of hierarchy in information. Put simply, you can't interpret a signal like "Two Left Lanes Must Exit" unless a hierarchy of information above the signal tells you how to interpret it.
Gilder also wonders whether NASA's search for proteins on exoplanets is worthwhile, for the same reason. Proteins are a product of information. His 1989 book on microchips, Microcosm: The Quantum Era in Economics and Technology discussed the difficulty of getting scientists who were trained in the 19th century science of material particles to accept the quantum world of the computer. He thinks that the life sciences now face a similar crisis because the cell is not the simple "lump of protoplasm" that would have been of such use to Darwin's theory but "a microcosmic processor of information and synthesizer of proteins at supercomputer speeds." He explains,
No evolutionary theory can succeed without confronting the cell and the word. In each of the some 300 trillion cells in every human body, the words of life churn almost flawlessly through our flesh and nervous system at a speed that utterly dwarfs the data rates of all the world's supercomputers. For example, just to assemble some 500 amino-acid units into each of the trillions of complex hemoglobin molecules that transfer oxygen from the lungs to bodily tissues takes a total of some 250 peta operations per second. (The word "peta" refers to the number ten to the 15th power so this tiny process requires 250x1015 operations.)
He points out that the capacity for information processing in a single human body for a single exceeds the total computing power of the 200 million personal computers that are produced every year by about 25%.
This raises an interesting question: Under the circumstances, doesn't it take just as much faith to believe that everything happened by chance as to believe that it happened by design? Or perhaps more?
But, he says, there's more: Computers don't do what cells do. The computer model of how the cell works decodes the DNA and converts it to information that can be used by proteins, somewhat like converting it from digital to analog. And then it stops.
The models do not begin to accomplish the other feats of the cell, beginning with the synthesis of protein molecules from a code, and then the exquisitely accurate folding of the proteins into the precise shape needed to fit them together in functional systems. This process of protein synthesis and "plectics" cannot even in principle be modeled on a computer.
And without that, information does not become life. Clearly, there is so much that we don't know about the way life overtakes matter that only a commitment to radical materialism could explain the intense attachment to Darwin's theory, which was elaborated long before any of this was discovered.
Next: Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part Four: The hierarchy of information vs. "nothing but"
Posts in this series
Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part One - "Information does not bubble up from random flux"
Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part Two - Life as architecture of ideas or information
Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part Three - The cell as supercomputer
Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part Four - The hierarchy of information vs. "nothing but"
Why is tech guru George Gilder not a Darwinist?: Part Five Why complexity can be irreducible
Toronto-based Canadian journalist Denyse O'Leary (www.designorchance.com) is the author of the multiple award-winning By Design or by Chance? (Augsburg Fortress 2004), an overview of the intelligent design controversy. She was named CBA Canada's Recommended Author of the Year in 2005 and is co-author, with Montreal neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of the forthcoming The Spiritual Brain (Harper 2007).
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