[Fis] To Stan and Bob, on physical information

2011-02-02 Thread Robin Faichney
In the interests of focusing on what I see as the main issues, I've
made quite a few deletions.

Monday, January 31, 2011, 3:26:06 PM, Stanley wrote:

 On Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 7:42 AM, Robin Faichney ro...@robinfaichney.org 
 wrote:

 I'm no mathematician, but I believe that the
 broader  significance  of  Shannon's  work was a method of quantifying
 pure  pattern.  This  was  then  adopted  by physicists who saw that
 material  form  can  be treated as pure patterns, and thus we get such
 concepts as the conservation of information in quantum mechanics and
 in  black  holes.

 Are 'pure patterns' three dimensional?

Sorry, but doesn't dimensionality depend upon interpretation?

 I tend to feel the same way about it from bit, but I think it should
 perhaps  be  taken as implying that the idea of substance derives from
 form,  which to me is highly plausible.

 So, form here is potentiality.  But where could this come from without some 
 constraints?

No, I said the idea of substance. We actually encounter only form,
because that's what our senses convey -- but we find the concept of
substance useful.

 Etymologically,  information is extremely closely related to form,

 Strongly agree. Its function then is to constrain entropy production.

I understand form as a reconceptualisation of qualities, so for me it
does not have any particular function, but is rather an aspect of
material reality (albeit an extremely comprehensive one). The concept
of form as constraint I think might not apply to the lowest levels of
explanation, and might be limited to a subset of all qualities.
(Maybe, if it does not apply to the lowest level, it is necessarily
limited to a subset of qualities.)
 
 and  the  concept  of  information  used in physics simply IS material
 form,  where  that is generalised from shape to encompass all material
 properties.  Just as past and future states of affairs are encoded in
 the  present,

 I suppose this takes into account historicity?  Via statistics?

That snippet concerns physical determinism, not (directly) history,
statistics or any other higher level analysis.
  
  so  genetic  information  is encoded in DNA. Biological
 information  is  just a subset of physical information. DNA molecules,
 like  all  physical  entities,  encode  the  outcomes  of all of their
 potential  interactions,  but  in  the  case  of  DNA the outcomes are
 constrained by the cellular context.

 But we now know that there is a good deal of material manipulation
 and modification in between DNA code and protein complexes.  You
 could say that the DNA information is generic, while what emerges from 
 metabolism is particular.

You're right, I should have said in the case of DNA the outcomes
are constrained by the cellular context as influenced by the extra-
cellular environment.

 I'm  currently  working  on  a paper in which I argue that intentional
 information   --   using   intentional   in  Brentano's  sense,  and
 encompassing  meaning  and  all  mental  content -- is best considered
 encoded  in  physical/biological  information,  being  decoded in use.

 But the DNA stuff is generic, use is particular.

I'm sorry that wasn't more clear. By biological information in that
case I meant not DNA but, primarily, brain structure and function,
which is obviously much more directly related to mental content.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011, 12:10:17 AM, Robert wrote:

 On Mon, Jan 31, 2011 at 7:42 AM, Robin Faichney  
 ro...@robinfaichney.orgwrote:

 Dear Robin,

 I have always wondered what physicists meant when they talked about  
 conservation of information, because Shannon-like measures are  
 definitely not state variables, and hence not conserved. For example,
 information is continually being created and destroyed in ecological  
 systems.

Yes, of course, organisms die and decay. I suppose what physicists
mean is that the sort of information in which they are interested, ie
at the levels that concern them, is conserved.

However, what I'm interested in is the information, not whether,
where or to what extent it is conserved: that is merely an
illustration of the use of information in physics, for me, I'm no
physicist, and I'm afraid I can't help with such issues. We all have
to specialise!

-- 
Robin Faichney
http://www.robinfaichney.org/


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[Fis] FW: The Background to Modern Science

2011-02-02 Thread Pedro Clemente Marijuan Fernandez
From: James Hannam [mailto:b...@bede.org.uk] 
Sent: 02 February 2011 13:17
To: 'fis@listas.unizar.es'
Subject: The Background to Modern Science 
Dear FIS list members,My sincere thanks to Pedro for asking me to contribute to 
a discussion on the origins of modern science.  The subject is vast and so the 
comments below are very much focused on my own areas and period of concern.  I 
hope this is of some interest to list members.Best wishesJames The Background 
to Modern ScienceHowever much we might admire the achievements of the ancient 
Greeks or the celebrated civilizations of China and Islam, modern science as we 
understand it arose in Western Europe within a deeply Christian milieu.  
Historians have now rejected the idea that there has been an inevitable 
conflict between science and religion, preferring what John Hedley Brooke has 
dubbed a “complexity thesis” or what I call “creative tension”.  But the larger 
question of why science flourished when and where it did remains unanswered.  A 
recent attempt by Toby Huff was greeted, rather unfairly, by something 
approaching derision in the history of science community. 
Despite the excellence of their mathematics, the Greeks never produced an 
experimental science which was able to distinguish between hypotheses about 
nature.  As a result, they relied too much on reason.  This led to notorious 
mistakes, such as Aristotle’s belief that heavy objects fall faster than light 
ones and that a moving object must be moved by something else.  In the Middle 
Ages, Greek philosophy was still studied, but there had been important changes 
in several key areas. 
Christian Metaphysics 
Medieval science took place against an entirely different metaphysical 
background from that in pagan Greece.  For medieval Christian natural 
philosophers, such as William of Conches, the world was not a product of 
natural forces but was created by an intelligent and loving God.  This gave 
them sanction to study nature, even though there were no practical advantages 
to doing so.  Today science is justified, in large part, by the technological 
marvels, like computers and medical drugs, which it helps to develop.  But this 
close relationship between science and technology is a product of the 
nineteenth century.  Before that time, the concept of applied science hardly 
existed (at least excepting the esoteric disciplines of alchemy and 
astrology).  The religious sanction of natural philosophy meant that there was 
a good reason for studying it.  Together with mathematics and other subjects, 
it became a compulsory part of the curriculum at the new universities.  Indeed, 
in order to study theology, a student required a thorough grounding in the 
lower sciences. 
The Christian doctrine of creation had other implications for the study of 
nature.  Aristotelian science presupposed an eternal universe which was the 
product of logically necessary relationships.  This meant that the laws of 
nature were necessarily the way that they are and so could be established 
through the exercise of pure reason.  This view was deemed heretical by the 
Bishop of Paris in 1277 and Christians were required to believe that the 
Creator was free to do as he liked.  Thus, he could make the world as he saw 
fit and not as Aristotle said he ought to have done.  This freed natural 
philosophers to consider cases, such as vacuums, that Aristotle said were 
impossible.  It also encouraged them to successfully challenge the most basic 
axioms of Greek science.  In the early twentieth century, Pierre Duhem 
suggested that 1277 represented the birth of modern science because this was 
when the stranglehold of Aristotle was broken.  Although this now seems an 
exaggeration, Edward Grant continues to emphasise the importance of the 
condemnations at Paris.VoluntarismIn the seventeenth century, Descartes 
explicitly stated that the doctrine of divine freedom, known as voluntarism, 
must lead to an empirical science.  If God was free to create the universe as 
he liked, Descartes said, the only way to find out how he had done it was to go 
out and look.   But experimental science needs more than careful observation 
(something at which the Greeks excelled).  Nature must also be put to the 
question, in the sinister phrase of Sir Francis Bacon.  This required that the 
holistic worldview be abandoned.  Nature had to be expected to perform in the 
laboratory in the same way that she did in the wild.  In fact, there is no 
particular reason to believe that the aberrant situation of the controlled 
experiment can yield results that are generally applicable.  This conclusion 
could only be drawn after a good deal of trial and error.Technological 
AdvanceAlthough technology as applied science was practically unknown before 
the nineteenth century, medieval inventions helped to illuminate science and 
provide the apparatus necessary to do experiments.  For example, the invention 
of spectacles in Italy in the late 

Re: [Fis] FW: The Background to Modern Science. Logic

2011-02-02 Thread joe.bren...@bluewin.ch




Dear James,

Welcome to the group from a quondam chemist turned logician. I would be very 
interested in your views on the role of logic, as it is usually conceived of, 
in defining modern science. I recently visited Basel, Switzerland where there 
was an exhibition celebrating the 550th Anniversary of the founding of the 
University of Basel in 1460, the first in this part of Europe, at the onset of 
the Reformation. As I understand it, it was then in Basel (and elsewhere) that, 
in opposition to the more traditional view of logic as close to natural science 
itself, the codification of modern logic as a hard and fast abstract system 
took place.  This Aristotelian logic has had a stranglehold on logic ever 
since. The relevance for the understanding of complex concepts in science like 
information follows. 

I look forward to hearing from you.

Joseph (Brenner)






Ursprüngliche Nachricht

Von: pcmarijuan.i...@aragon.es

Datum: 02.02.2011 17:18

An: 

Betreff: [Fis] FW: The Background to Modern Science



From: James Hannam [mailto:b...@bede.org.uk] 
Sent: 02 February 2011 13:17
To: 'fis@listas.unizar.es'
Subject: The Background to Modern Science
Dear FIS list members,My sincere thanks to Pedro for asking me to contribute to 
a discussion on the origins of modern science.  The subject is vast and so the 
comments below are very much focused on my own areas and period of concern.  I 
hope this is of some interest to list members.Best wishesJamesThe Background to 
Modern ScienceHowever much we might admire the achievements of the ancient 
Greeks or the celebrated civilizations of China and Islam, modern science as we 
understand it arose in Western Europe within a deeply Christian milieu.  
Historians have now rejected the idea that there has been an inevitable 
conflict between science and religion, preferring what John Hedley Brooke has 
dubbed a “complexity thesis” or what I call “creative tension”.  But the larger 
question of why science flourished when and where it did remains unanswered.  A 
recent attempt by Toby Huff was greeted, rather unfairly, by something 
approaching derision in the history of science community. 
Despite the excellence of their mathematics, the Greeks never produced an 
experimental science which was able to distinguish between hypotheses about 
nature.  As a result, they relied too much on reason.  This led to notorious 
mistakes, such as Aristotle’s belief that heavy objects fall faster than light 
ones and that a moving object must be moved by something else.  In the Middle 
Ages, Greek philosophy was still studied, but there had been important changes 
in several key areas.
Christian Metaphysics 
Medieval science took place against an entirely different metaphysical 
background from that in pagan Greece.  For medieval Christian natural 
philosophers, such as William of Conches, the world was not a product of 
natural forces but was created by an intelligent and loving God.  This gave 
them sanction to study nature, even though there were no practical advantages 
to doing so.  Today science is justified, in large part, by the technological 
marvels, like computers and medical drugs, which it helps to develop.  But this 
close relationship between science and technology is a product of the 
nineteenth century.  Before that time, the concept of applied science hardly 
existed (at least excepting the esoteric disciplines of alchemy and astrology). 
 The religious sanction of natural philosophy meant that there was a good 
reason for studying it.  Together with mathematics and other subjects, it 
became a compulsory part of the curriculum at the new universities.  Indeed, in 
order to study theology, a student required a thorough grounding in the lower 
sciences. 
The Christian doctrine of creation had other implications for the study of 
nature.  Aristotelian science presupposed an eternal universe which was the 
product of logically necessary relationships.  This meant that the laws of 
nature were necessarily the way that they are and so could be established 
through the exercise of pure reason.  This view was deemed heretical by the 
Bishop of Paris in 1277 and Christians were required to believe that the 
Creator was free to do as he liked.  Thus, he could make the world as he saw 
fit and not as Aristotle said he ought to have done.  This freed natural 
philosophers to consider cases, such as vacuums, that Aristotle said were 
impossible.  It also encouraged them to successfully challenge the most basic 
axioms of Greek science.  In the early twentieth century, Pierre Duhem 
suggested that 1277 represented the birth of modern science because this was 
when the stranglehold of Aristotle was broken.  Although this now seems an 
exaggeration, Edward Grant continues to emphasise the importance of the 
condemnations at Paris.VoluntarismIn the seventeenth century, Descartes 
explicitly stated that the doctrine of divine freedom, known as voluntarism, 
must lead