13 MINUTE READ
In school and university, the Cosmos was portrayed as beginning in chaos at the ‘Big Bang’, then randomly developing order through gravity, leading to the formation of the Solar System, the Earth and finally, life. The interesting thing is that this defies the Law of Entropy which states that systems left to their own devices will move to greater disorder. However, the two concepts were never taught together and it never occurred to me to ask about this apparent conflict.
One of the problems is that we tend to be encouraged to compartmentalise everything and not to join the dots. When we read in Genesis 2: 7: “…the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being…” we are presented with an alternate origin story. So how should we resolve these two histories? I faced this question head on when our eldest child entered Year 9 at school and I knew he would encounter Darwinian Evolution.
Many think science has replaced God as author and architect of the Cosmos but the Information Age is changing the way we understand life, the Universe and science. In particular, the study of the information that is found in life and appears to specify the Laws of the Universe is posing questions. We can conceive that information in the universe might allow matter to combine through random processes to form a comet composed of assorted ices but the profoundly complex and meaningful information that describes the Laws of the Universe is completely different.
“The Law of Entropy which states that systems left to their own devices will move to greater disorder.”
Computers are a useful model to gain further understanding. They have a physical hardware platform that runs nonmaterial software, which is an information code. Meaning can be delivered through the information carried by the software but not the hardware alone. The material hardware platform is a vehicle that has physical existence in our touchable or Tangible Domain. It is very different to the impalpable, intangible software that operates within the hardware in a nonmaterial world that has been referred to for the last 30 years as Cyberspace (whatever and wherever that may be). The vehicle that carries the code is material but the information itself is not. Yet, both the Tangible Domain and Cyberspace are logical, rational, and in quantum terms, “local” (i.e. discrete, not dispersed). The Universe follows a similar pattern with a material platform that we call matter, which is organised by nonmaterial information.
Although, in the 21st century, we live in the Information Age, most of us were educated in the 20th century, and we tend to bring our materialist thinking with us. So recapping, software is non-material information (organised data) which is not the material vehicle that carries it but the source code. Think of the code embedded in DNA; it is not the DNA molecules themselves that convey the information but the order in which the molecules are arranged. Equally, it is the entity that underpins the natural laws that formed and sustains the Universe. I call this non-material code: “pure information”. If this sounds strange, think of the chemical structure of the Universe then take a step back to consider the information describing the structure within the atoms inside the chemicals that compose the Universe. Information all the way down!! (Floridi, L: Information: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford Univ. Press (2010) pp110-111)
Thinking informationally requires us to revisit our understanding of information. According to the orthodox materialist view, mathematical relationships describe the basis of our existence. The physical world is an expression of these mathematical relationships, whereas information is a secondary, or derived, concept that characterises specific states of matter (such as an electron spin being up or down).
The orthodox view: Mathematics – Physics – Information
However, physicist, Professor Paul Davies points out that the laws of physics are information statements: they tell us something about the way the physical world operates. In this view, information uses mathematics to describe the laws of physics from which matter derives. Thus information is the fundamental entity.
The information view: Information – Laws of physics – Matter
(Davies, P: Universe from bit. in Davies, P & Gregersen, NH (Eds.): Information and the Nature of Reality: from Physics to Metaphysics. Cambridge University Press (2010) p.75)
So, thinking more broadly with this new understanding of information, the entire universe is a composite of material vectors (or carriers) and non-material information. In Einstein’s equations, mass and energy are different forms of the same thing, which was shocking to most physicists when he first published this thesis and still sounds counterintuitive to most people but was proven to be true with the detonation of the atomic bomb. So, there are effectively only two fundamental entities in the Universe: mass/energy that does things and information that says what and how to do it.
The information we observe behaves in one of four different ways, suggesting four different forms or domains of information. We have already identified the Material (or Tangible) Domain and Cyberspace when examining computers but that is not all.
The different guises of Information:
A. The physical universe (which led to material science)
B. Information processing in computers (Cyberspace)
C. Thought and memory (information in the mind)
D. Quantum information (‘non-local’ and bizarre)
A. The Physical Universe
Our material universe is composed of atoms constructed from quarks and other fundamental particles. Underlying these is an invisible entity which physicists call the ‘Space-Time Fabric’. We cannot detect it directly but we can infer that it is there as objects called phantom particles constantly materialise out of the empty vacuum of outer space and then vanish back into it, as described by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. This Space-Time Fabric appears to support and/or sustain our material universe. Note that as this domain is logical, rational, and ‘local’, the physical world is deterministic, meaning the same outcome will always occur given the same initial conditions. See Figure 1.
Now that we have some understanding of the Material Domain, to avoid possible confusion when we come to the Quantum Domain, I am going to refer to our familiar physical domain as the ‘Tangible Domain’.
In contrast to the physical Tangible Domain, Cyberspace is non-material and digital. However, like the Tangible Domain, Cyberspace is also logical, rational and, in quantum terms, ‘local’ so they complement each other very effectively. See Figure 2.
Further, we depend upon the Tangible Domain to access Cyberspace. The natural laws of the Universe have similar characteristics in that they too are logical, rational and local. So, the Tangible Domain and Cyberspace seem to be interdependent, with Cyberspace behaving like an application that runs on the physical entity that is the Tangible Domain. In marked contrast, the human mind works very differently.
Research over the past century has shown that our mind is not located in any particular place within the brain but disseminated and operates holographically, suggesting that Cyberspace and Mindspace are very different. (Paul Pietsch, Shufflebrain: the Quest for the Holographic Mind, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, MA (1981)) Mind exhibits consciousness permitting thought and the human mind exhibits self-awareness which (although it remains contentious) appears to provide free will or choice, unlike computers that are deterministic. However, instead of computer hardware, Mindspace requires a complex brain to interface with the Tangible Domain. See Figure 3.
D. Quantum Domain
We do not have the space here to unpack all these terms and if you are not a physicist, you may be struggling with some of these concepts but from the table, it can be appreciated that each of the domains has very different characteristics and is hence distinct. But why do they exist at all and where does all this structured, meaningful information come from? Professor Bernard Olaf- Küppers gives us a clue when he writes:
The fourth information type occupies the Quantum Domain which defies logic and common sense but all modern technology including computers, lasers and smart phones depend upon it. It is disseminated and non-local. These characteristics are compared in Table 1 (below). Note that there are multiple interpretations as to the meaning and implications of the Quantum Domain, so depending on the interpretation, there may or may not be material effects and hence implications for time.
“…Information conveying meaning cannot be compressed without change in, or even loss of, its meaning… This is the case for any meaningful information… this means that no algorithms [or] computer program … can … [expand missing] parts of … [a] message and thus generate the rest of the message. But if there are no meaning-generating algorithms, then no information can arise de novo. … Ultimately, it implies that there are no ‘…machines’ that can generate meaningful information out of nothing.” (Küppers, B-O: Information and communication in living matter in Davies, P & Gregersen, NH: (2010) pp.180-1)
From this realisation we derive The Golden Rule of Information which states:
Any meaningful entity (such as life) requires a meaningful code (such as within DNA) and ALL meaningful code requires an intelligent source.
However, the physical Universe is considered to be a machine (albeit very sophisticated), therefore the Universe cannot have generated its own meaningful information either. Generating meaningful information requires a self-aware mind, therefore there must have been an external information generator to compile the information that formed the natural laws and fabric of the Universe (requiring a physical information generator) as well as to create life (requiring a biological information generator).
“… there must have been an external information generator to compile the information that formed the natural laws and fabric of the Universe.”
Information Map Of The Universe
Going back to our four domains of information, we can now construct an information map of the Universe. See Figure 4.
Underlying the Space-Time Fabric, there appears to be an ‘Information Fabric’ that actualises the rest of the Cosmos. As the Universe is finite and had a beginning, the extraordinary amount of information that specifies the Universe must have come from outside to create it in the first place so there must have been an initial information injection to create the Universe.
On this point, Max Planck, the father of Quantum Physics commented in 1944: “As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together…We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.”
(Das Wesen der Materie (The Nature of Matter), 1944 speech in Florence, Italy. Source: Archiv zur Geschichte der Max‐Planck‐Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797 as quoted in: Braden, Gregg The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, Hay House (2008) p.212 [en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Max_Planck – accessed 15 Oct 2016])
“Chance … has already been shown to be inadequate to explain the extraordinary volume of precisely defined information within the Universe.”
So, Max Planck has sent us on a quest for the intelligent mind that is the matrix of all matter, or re-phrased: the Mind in the matrix!… What are our choices?
We have already seen that there had to be a physical information generator to write the programme for the natural laws that define the Universe and a subsequent biological information generator to compose (at the very least) the digital code for the DNA (or RNA) in the first autonomous cell. However, Occam’s Razor would suggest the existence of a single Universal Information Generator (UIG) instead of separate physical and biological information generators. Further, the UIG must have been outside our Universe to generate the information to create the Cosmos. However, space, time, matter and energy are considered to have only begun at the ‘Big Bang’, so as the UIG lies outside the space-time fabric and is hence outside of time, it has no mass and thus is presumably non-material. (The phenomenon we call mass derives from the space-time fabric, which, by definition, is within the Universe. Before the Universe there was literally nothing!) (Andrews, E: Who Made God? Searching for a Theory of Everything. (2009) p93) Therefore, we cannot use materialistic methods to investigate the UIG. In addition, as the UIG is outside time, it must be timeless so must have had no beginning and will have no end. The options for the identity of the UIG are limited and not new. See Figure 5.
It can be seen from this diagram that the number of possible alternatives for the causation of the Universe is small. Chance has not been included as it has already been shown to be inadequate to explain the extraordinary volume of precisely defined information within the Universe. The ‘Big Bang’ has been included as it is the currently accepted model however it does not provide a mechanism for inducting meaningful information, which is a prerequisite for the formation of the Universe. Likewise, the Neo- Darwinian Synthesis also has a problem with information generation but has been included here to demonstrate the limitation of its scope in an information context.
This has profound implications for those who maintain that truth is defined by materialistic, empirical science alone – a notion that dominated latter 20th century scientific thought. The four discernible information domains show that this reductive notion needs revising to cope with the Information Age and 21st century science because pure information is neither a tangible nor a physical entity.
When God breathed life into the Universe, we do not know exactly what he was imparting but it must have included prodigious amounts of meaningful information. Anyone who would challenge that it was God who caused this activation of the Universe and animation of life needs to offer another information generator of equally awesome capability!
“Anyone who would challenge that it was God who caused this activation of the Universe and animation of life…”
[This paper is an extract from: The Mind in the Matrix: The Origin of Meaning published in 2019.]
Dr Robert Wiles graduated from the University of Sydney before pursuing post-graduate training in the UK. He has been a rural doctor in Cooma, NSW for over twenty-five years and is a senior lecturer in the Rural Clinical School at the Australian National University. He has a passion for exploring and understanding the information that defines our universe.
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