Dear Pedro, Terry and Fellow FISers - 

I was composing the email below when your email appeared asking us not to 
respond any further to Terry's final remarks. I disagree with this arbitrary 
cutoff as I was about to send out what follows below. It also seems an 
abridgement of free speech to ask us not to discuss an issue we might be 
interested in. Perhaps I am unfamiliar with the ground rules of the FIS list 
but the other listservs I belong to have never attempted to cutoff a topic. 
There have been occasions where they have asked an individual who posts too 
often to not turn the list into their own bully pulpit. Anyway as the guy who 
suggested that we ask Terry to lead a FIS conversation I will exercise the 
perogative to share my thoughts one more time. I would also be prepared to 
accept your restriction if you had given us advanced notice with an exact 
deadline of shutting down this thread.
Here is what I had written when you sounded the bell as a death knell to this 
discussion which is submitted with respect and the undertaking to abide by the 
referee's decision and not comment on Terry's final remarks although I would 
love to hear from my colleagues their final thoughts on Terry's teleodynamic 
approach - Bob 

In order to respect the "only 2 per week" constraint here are my comments to 
the flurry of recent posts in this thread. There is one caveat with which I 
wish to preface my remarks and it is this:
 I am a member of Terry research team and therefore I am biased, but I would 
like to share with my FIS  colleagues why I believe the teleodynamic approach 
that Terry has developed is the best game in town for understanding the origin 
of life and the nature of information.

Pedro wrote on Jan 30:
"At your convenience, during the first week of February or so we may put an end 
to the ongoing New Year Lecture --discussants willing to enter their late 
comments should hurry up. Your own final or concluding comment will be 

Bob's reply: Since Pedro issued the above call for the end of the discussion of 
Terry's provocative paper there has been a flurry of activity. As The English 
author Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) once wrote: "Nothing so concentrates the mind 
as the hangman's noose!" I hope we can carry on a week or two more as some of 
us are just warming up. The first of the year is a logical starting point for  
a new discussion thread but it also corresponds to the beginning of a new 
semester here in Canada and other places in North America. I for one was 
focussed on launching the new semester and my courses so I respectfully request 
that we keep the conversation going for awhile longer before we start a new one.

Now I have a few comments to support Terry's teleodynamic approach which I 

Joe Brenner wrote later on Jan 30:
"we can all easily understand and agree that the incorporation of ‘homunculi’, 
that is, unproven mechanisms, as explanatory, should be avoided. In my view, 
however, Terry has a small army of homunculi at work (sic!) who insure that his 
processes of self-organization, self-reconstitution and ‘spontaneous’ 
self-assembly can take place! The finality of using his simulated autogenic 
systems is “a rigorous physical foundation upon which” future complex theories 
of information may be based. If, as I contend, Terry’s approach has failed to 
take into account the fundamentally dualistic physical properties of real 
systems, it is hard to see how it could do so."

Bob's reply:  As much as it pains me to disagree with my friend Joe who is in 
general in support of Deacon's approach I have to counter his accuasation that 
"Terry has a small army of homunculi at work": There are no homunculi in the 
autogen model. According to Deacon's approach an incredible co-incidence has 
occurred in which the two self organizing processes of auto-catalysis and the 
self assembly of the crystal-like membranes became self-supporting. It is only 
by a chance event that one can explain how an organization of molecules with 
properties so different from abiotic matter suddenly became alive, able to 
propagate its organization and emerge as a self that acts teleonomically in its 
own interest. That co-incidence is the one in a billion or more chance that the 
by product of a particular autocatalytic set were also the ingredients for the 
self assembly of a bi-lipid membrane that could encase the autocatalytic set in 
a protective membrane and that the by products of that self-assembly process 
provided the raw materials for the very same autocatalysis. This is not a 
homunucli but just plain dumb luck or to give it a fancy name an aleatoric 
event, a one in a trillion event, but given the billion year (or multi-trillion 
second) time scale it becomes inevitable that such a rare event will occur. The 
two self-organizing processes that combined to form the purported autogen are 
due to first order extrinsic constraints. That these two constraints could be 
mutually self-supporting and hence create a second-order intrinsic constraint 
provides a non-magical mechanism for how an autogen and subsequently life might 
have emerged. Deacon's claim is not that this is an indisputable fact, but, as 
I read him, it is a valid hypothesis that is worthy of further study such as 
computer-based model building. Given that it suggests a plausible model for how 
a living self might have emerged it is worthy of investigation and serious 
conversation and thought. It has the added feature that it provides a mechanism 
of how information that possesses significance for some agent might have 
arisen. Shannon information theory, which I prefer to regard as signal theory, 
does not deal with reference or significance as Shannon himself has admitted in 
the past. Shannon is no shannonian. And Deacon nor I are no deaconians. Terry 
is offering us a hypothesis, which I believe offers some hope that we can 
understand how reference, significance, values have emerged from abiotic matter 
without invoking a dualistic-based explanation. My favourite line from 
Incomplete Nature, which to my mind sums up Terry's approach is:  “There is 
more here than stuff. There is how this stuff is organized and related to other 
stuff (p. 544).” 
In essence what Terry offers us in Incomplete Nature is a hypothesis of how 
stuff (abiotic matter) is organized  to create information that has 
significance and reference for agents that are selves, which act in their own 
self interest and propagate their organization. 

Just recently (Feb 3) Ericsson-Zenith challenged Terry's use of dynamic  
constraints. The autocatalysis and the self-assembly just alluded to are 
dynamic constraints in that they constrain the dynamics among certain molecules 
to form the structures they do. The second order constraint is a constraint on 
the first order constraints that assures that the autogen is self-repairing. 
and hence self-sustaining. 

Joe in his remarks that I quoted above also talked about  'unproven 
mechanisms.' All scientific explanations make use of 'unproven mechanisms" 
because a mechanism that is framed within a scientific proposition has to be 
unproven because if it were a proven mechanism it would constitute a scientific 
proposition that cannot be falsified because it was proven to be true. As Karl 
Popper pointed out a proposition to be considered scientific must be 
fallsifiable, which would be impossible if it purports a proven mechanisms. In 
other words we must regard all scientifically based mechanisms as 'unproven 
mechanisms' constantly subject to challenge. The autogen mechanism is a 
hypothesis - nothing more and nothing less. 


Robert K. Logan
Prof. Emeritus - Physics - U. of Toronto 
Chief Scientist - sLab at OCAD

On 2015-01-30, at 12:31 PM, Terrence W. DEACON wrote:

> Thanks to Pedro and Bob for these last few comments. Indeed, like
> Darwin in 1859 we are still just beginning to formulate "one long
> argument" that will need to be progressively refined in the decades to
> come. The question is where best to begin the task of synthesizing. I
> too find the metaphor of searching for lost keys quite apropos, but I
> would beg your indulgence while I add an elaboration to this metaphor
> that sheds light on the perspective I have offered.
> Yes, we must at first search close to the light, even though there we
> will only find vague hints. But, importantly, as we cover more and
> more territory we will discover that the light progressively
> brightens. So long as we keep searching and don't walk out into the
> dark too quickly, skipping over important territory in between, the
> entire territory will become more and more thoroughly illuminated,
> searchable, and familiar to us.
> I believe that the light is brightest in the domain where we can see a
> clear relation between the two quite different concepts of entropy and
> the relationship of both to the concept of work. Admittedly, starting
> so minimally as I have in this essay seems remote from the interests
> of psychologists, anthropologists, economists and their kin, who
> demand an account of human-scale information processes, while at the
> same time appearing to introduce the messiness of semiotic concerns
> into the seemingly pristine world of information as a simple physical
> parameter. But of course the problem is to find the best illuminated
> middle ground between these two extremes, both still bathed in the
> darkness of simplifying assumptions that make them seem mutually
> exclusive— separated by darkness.
> This is what I am trying to accomplish. Though deceptively simple, I
> believe that the autogenic model system is just sufficiently complex
> to provide complete illumination of each of the critical defining
> features of the information concept—sign medium properties (entropies,
> uncertainty, constraint), reference (aboutness), significance
> (function, value, normativity), and interpretation (adaptation,
> intelligence)—while not artificially simplifying the issue by ignoring
> one or the other of these facets.
> Because of its simplicity none of these basic concepts are left in the
> dark as black boxes or excluded as taboo concepts. But of course,
> working at such a basic level means that the nature of more complex
> phenomena as thinking, subjectivity, language, and culture (to mention
> only a few) are not yet well illuminated by this light. This isn't to
> suggest that other pursuits in these other domains should be
> abandoned—for they at least clear away some of the underbrush creating
> paths that will help to ease the linkage between the different
> subterritories when finally the light brightens (to continue the
> metaphor). I just believe that this middle level is where the light
> best illuminates all the critical foundational issues.
> I don't expect agreement, but so far I haven't felt that the specific
> components of this proposal have been addressed in this thread. And in
> these closing days of discussion (as well as in future privately
> shared emails after this window closes) I hope to receive some
> suggestions and constructive criticisms pointing to where I might go
> next with this approach.
> Thanks for all your inputs.  Terry
> On 1/30/15, Bob Logan <> wrote:
>> Thanks Pedro for your remarks. We have not reached our destination as you
>> point out but the important thing is to enjoy the journey which I certainly
>> have. It is inevitable that with such a slippery concept as information that
>> there will be different destinations depending on the travellers but what I
>> like about FIS in general and the dialogue that Terry prompted in particular
>> is the interesting ideas and good company I encountered along the way. As
>> for your remark about searching where there is light I suggest that we pack
>> a flashlight for the next journey to be led by our tour guide Zhao Chuan.
>> One common theme for understanding the importance of both information and
>> intelligence for me is interpretation and context (figure/ground or
>> pragmatics). Thanks to all especially Terry for a very pleasant journey. -
>> Bob
>> ______________________
>> Robert K. Logan
>> Prof. Emeritus - Physics - U. of Toronto
>> Chief Scientist - sLab at OCAD
>> On 2015-01-30, at 8:25 AM, Pedro C. Marijuan wrote:
>>> Dear Terry and colleagues,
>>> At your convenience, during the first week of February or so we may put an
>>> end to the ongoing New Year Lecture --discussants willing to enter their
>>> late comments should hurry up. Your own final or concluding comment will
>>> be appreciated.
>>> Personally, my late comment will deal with the last exchange between Bob
>>> and Terry, It is about the point which follows:  "...there was no thesis
>>> other than the word information is a descriptor for so many different
>>> situations and that it is a part of a semantic web - no roadmap only a
>>> jaunt through the countryside of associations - a leisurely preamble."
>>> In my own parlance, we have been focusing this fis session on the
>>> microphysical foundations of information (thermodynamic in this case)
>>> which together with the quantum would look as the definite foundations of
>>> the whole field, or even of the whole "great domain of information." But
>>> could it be so? Is there such thing as a "unitary" foundation? My
>>> impression is that we are instinctively working "where the light is",
>>> reminding the trite story of the physicists who has lost the car keys and
>>> is looking closest to the street lamp.  The point I suggest is that the
>>> different informational realms are emergent in the strongest sense: almost
>>> no trace of the underlying information realms would surface. Each realm
>>> has to invent throughout its own engines of invention the different
>>> informational & organizational  principles that sustain its existence. It
>>> is no obligate that there will be a successful outcome.... In the extent
>>> to which this plurality of foundations is true, solving the microphysical
>>> part would be of little help to adumbrating the neuronal/psychological or
>>> the social information arena.
>>> The roadmap Bob suggests is an obligatory exploration to advance; we may
>>> disagree in the ways and means, but not in the overall goal. It is a mind
>>> boggling exercise as we have to confront quite different languages and
>>> styles of thinking. For instance, the next session we will have at FIS (in
>>> a few weeks) is an attempt of an excursion on "Intelligence Science".
>>> Presented by Zhao Chuan, the aim is of confronting the phenomenon of
>>> intelligence from a global perspective amalgamating science (artificial
>>> intelligence), emotions, and art (poetic and pictorial). Not easy, but we
>>> will try
>>> Anyhow,  Terry, we much appreciate your insights and the responses you
>>> have produced along the Lecture. It was a nice intellectual exercise.
>>> Best wishes to all---Pedro
>>> -------------------------------------------------
>>> Pedro C. Marijuán
>>> Grupo de Bioinformación / Bioinformation Group
>>> Instituto Aragonés de Ciencias de la Salud
>>> Centro de Investigación Biomédica de Aragón (CIBA)
>>> Avda. San Juan Bosco, 13, planta X
>>> 50009 Zaragoza, Spain
>>> Tfno. +34 976 71 3526 (& 6818)
>>> -------------------------------------------------
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Fis mailing list
> -- 
> Professor Terrence W. Deacon
> University of California, Berkeley

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