John:

I have followed your writings for many years - perhaps more than two decades 
now.  

Frankly, from the perspective of a hardcore realist, I find much of your 
written work to be highly metaphysical in nature, including the sentences which 
I cited in the post of May 17, 2013.

Your notion of metaphysics appears to so extremely narrowly restricted that you 
can exempt your own highly metaphysical writings from your definition of 
metaphysics.  In fact, the traditional usage of the term "metaphysics" is not 
narrowly restricted.

On numerous occasions, you assert your views as a MIT trained physicist. Yet in 
this immediate exchange, the responsibility for the assertions are attributed 
to others. Puzzling.  

Have you every given any serious metaphysical thought to the scientific meaning 
of the phrase "it from bit"?  

Perhaps the dichotomy of your perspectives is amply illustrated by the title of 
your book:

"Every Thing Must Go"

This title itself is a simple logical assertion. It expresses logical necessity.

If this assertion is true, what would remain?

Life?
Matter?
Mentation?
John Collier?
MIT style physics?
Mathematics?
Philosophy of science?
Metaphysics?
Nothing?

This title alone expresses a deep and profound metaphysical perspective. 

At heart, I am a simple man, in love with nature, logic and mathematics. From 
my perspective, your voluminous metaphysical writings tend to be contrary to my 
experience of nature, logic and mathematics. 

"It from bit"?  Really?

My question of May 17, 2013 remains open:

> How would a rational realist distinguish this metaphysical perspective from 
> witchcraft or magic?


Cheers

Jerry 



On May 23, 2013, at 2:45 AM, John Collier wrote:

> Jerry, I don’t think I have a metaphysical position on information. I was 
> classifying the way that active scientists use the concept (or concepts). I 
> really don’t know what you are talking about. If you want to know the 
> empirical basis for the uses of information I suggest you read the original 
> authors I refer to.  I use the concept as it has been introduced by others. 
> Some concept I don’t find useful, so I ignore them, but all of the use of 
> information I have made over the years has been in the context of its use in 
> scientific theories. So I really don’t see what your concern about 
> metaphysics is. I don’t think the issue is very important, if there is one. 
> We detect information, we interpret it, we process it, we hypothesize it and 
> its properties in order to explain our observations. It doesn’t seem much 
> different from energy that way, at least to me. I am not even really clear as 
> to what having a metaphysical position on information would be. I suppose 
> that there are several: it is a “stuff”, it is an illusion, it is constructed 
> by us, and so on. I don’t really see much advantage in pursuing these issues, 
> and they have been applied in the past to energy without any gain in 
> understanding.
>  
> The part you pasted you can find the basis of in work by David Layzer as the 
> earliest. Negative entropy was introduced by Schroedinger in the context of 
> explaining how living systems reproduce and maintain themselves, and related 
> explicitly to information in by Leon Brillouin in his studies of measurement. 
> Wheeler introduced the it-from-bit view, and it has been used to study black 
> holes and to explain why they don’t destroy order in the universe (See Leon 
> Smolin, Three Roads to Quantum Gravity). Scientific sources relating 
> information, order and entropy are too numerous to list, but they have been 
> sued to explain how order and disorder can increase together in the universe. 
> I don’t see anything especially metaphysical in any of this work.
>  
> In general, as in the book I participated in, Every Thing Must Go, I prefer a 
> minimalist metaphyiscs that only commits to the kinds of things that are 
> required by our best science. I am not prepared to say to a scientist, “You 
> can’t use that concept; it violates my metaphysical preconceptions.” I don’t 
> really have metaphysical preconceptions except that I believe that there are 
> things in the world that we didn’t make or construct, and that we can have 
> fallible knowledge of them using fallible methodology, and that our best 
> guide to what there is is scientific investigation (pretty much like Peirce, 
> or more recently Sellars, or my sometime coauther C.A. Hooker, or the other 
> authors on the book I just mentioned).
>  
> And that is why I didn’t understand what you were asking when you asked about 
> metaphysics, especially given your quoted section.
>  
> John
>  
>  
> From: Jerry LR Chandler [mailto:jerry_lr_chand...@me.com] 
> Sent: Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:10 PM
> To: fis@listas.unizar.es
> Cc: John Collier
> Subject: Re: [Fis] fis Digest, Vol 571, Issue 5
>  
> John:
>  
> Which does "this" refer to, Jerry? 
>  
> My response was to the section of your post that I pasted / cited in my post.
>  
> Your further assertion that: 
>  
>  Since the scientists involved are among the top in the respective fields, I 
> take that what they are doing with information concepts is reasonable. I 
> can't judge that as I am not a specialist in their fields.
>  
> is really astounding to me!
>  
> As you are well aware, numerous philosophies and metaphysical concepts of 
> information exist in the published literature.
> Given your extensive list of publications in the information sciences over 
> several decades, I find your stance with respect to your judgments to be 
> remarkable.
>  
> Finally, I do not feel that I have a quarrel with anyone.
>  
> As a natural scientist, I merely asked a provocative question about your 
> metaphysical position.
> I use the term "metaphysical" as I do not find a relationship with either 
> mathematics or the sciences of information as I understand them.  
>  
> Does the tone of these posts suggest that you would like to change your 
> position?
>  
> Cheers
>  
> Jerry
>  
>  
>  
>  
> On May 22, 2013, at 3:26 PM, John Collier wrote:
> 
> 
> Which does "this" refer to, Jerry? My paper is about scientists who use 
> information concepts to explain things and make predictions. And then I 
> organized them into a nested hierarchy. Since the scientists involved are 
> among the top in the respective fields, I take that what they are doing with 
> information concepts is reasonable. I can't judge that as I am not a 
> specialist in their fields. If you are, then any quarrel you have is with 
> them, not me. I assume, prima facie, that scientists know what they are 
> doing. I have found Smolin, who uses the it-from-bit view to explain 
> conservation of information around a black hole, very approachable.
> 
> John
> 
> At 05:42 PM 2013/05/17, Jerry LR Chandler wrote:
> 
> John: 
> 
> On May 17, 2013, at 5:26 AM, fis-requ...@listas.unizar.es wrote:
> 
> 
> The vacuum background is random, and hence contains no information in the 
> negentropy sense (see my "kinds" at Kinds of Information in Scientific Use. 
> 2011. cognition, communication, co-operation. Vol 9, No 2 ). However "it from 
> bit" information appears and disappears. It can be magnified in principle, 
> but I know of no detected cases.
> 
> How would a rational realist distinguish this metaphysical perspective from 
> witchcraft or magic?
> 
> Cheers
> 
> Jerry
>  
>  
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