by Denyse O'Leary
As Gilder explains in his National Review article, the tormented computer genius Alvin Turing stressed that a computer is not wires and metal but "its architecture of ideas."
Most writers understand this concept quite easily, actually. A book for which the publisher has forwarded $50 000 advance can be lodged on a computer whose market value is $500 - and whose scrap value is 50 cents. The ideas give value to the computer, not the other way around.
Really, it was no different in the days of pen and paper or clay tablets. It was always the ideas that gave value to the material objects, not the other way round.
Gilder notes that the computer is "intrinsically an object of intelligent design." Someone designed it and someone programmed it and someone set it all up. And then someone else decided to write a program, hoping to show that complex information can arise through merely random assemblies - the Darwinist explanation of life. And that someone set the rules the random assemblies follow in order for the program to work at all.
Using the computer to prove the dogma of Darwinism is inherently self-contradictory, Gilder argues:
I came to see that the computer offers an insuperable obstacle to Darwinian materialism. In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate. No possible knowledge of the computer's materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations. In the usual hierarchy of causation, they reflect the software or "source code" used to program the device; and, like the design of the computer itself, the software is contrived by human intelligence.
So the computer runs on intelligence all the way through?
Consider Shannon's concept of entropy. "News" or information cannot be described by purely physical or chemical theories. We can easily see why this is so if we think about it. To you, information is what your mind accepts as information. For example, the discovery via an e-mail that someone you love really prefers someone else [!] is information to you. To the computer, the key information was only more bits 'n bytes. As Gilder says, "Information is defined by its independence from physical determination: If it is determined, it is predictable and thus by definition not information."
(Note: Many Darwinists vigorously deny that consciousness, free will, or the mind really exist, which gets around this problem as long as you are willing to concede that you are not really conscious, do not have a mind, and do not exercise free will.)
Declaring that Darwinian science, an attempt to reduce all of nature to material causes, is merely a materialist superstition, Gilder found that
in all the sciences I studied, information comes first, and regulates the flesh and the world, not the other way around. The pattern seemed to echo some familiar wisdom. Could it be, I asked myself one day in astonishment, that the opening of St. John's Gospel, In the beginning was the Word, is a central dogma of modern science?
At the time Gilder was not particularly religious; just someone looking for answers. But thirty-five years later, having had an opportunity to study the problem in detail, he began to see a pattern:
I can now affirm the principle empirically. Salient in virtually every technical field from quantum theory and molecular biology to computer science and economics is an increasing concern with the word. It passes by many names: logos, logic, bits, bytes, mathematics, software, knowledge, syntax, semantics, code, plan, program, design, algorithm, as well as the ubiquitous "information." In every case, the information is independent of its physical embodiment or carrier.
But what about DNA?, one might ask. Isn't our DNA a deterministic code that just happened to evolve and create us? Well, the chemistry of DNA is irrelevant to its message. The four DNA code letters - A,C,G,T - do not, in themselves, tell a creature what to be, any more than letters of an alphabet tell you what to write. Additional information does that. For example, the simple nematode worms that survived a recent space shuttle disaster and were returned to their owners have only somewhat fewer genes than humans (20 000 vs. 30 000) - which basically tells you that most of what is really happening is not happening in the genes.
Like a sheet of paper or a series of magnetic points on a computer's hard disk or the electrical domains in a random-access memory or indeed all the undulations of the electromagnetic spectrum that bear information through air or wires in telecommunications DNA is a neutral carrier of information, independent of its chemistry and physics. By asserting that the DNA message precedes and regulates the form of the proteins, and that proteins cannot specify a DNA program, Crick's Central Dogma unintentionally recapitulates St. John's assertion of the primacy of the word over the flesh.
In other words, life should be understood as information, not matter.
Next:Why tech guru George Gilder is not a Darwinist Part Three: The cell as supercomputer
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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