Algorithmic Information Theory and ID continued

Once we frame the discussion in simple AIT terms, the confusion disappears as we recognise that the primary characteristic of these structures that exhibit so-called "functional information", is their distance from the death and decay of equilibrium.   The measure of surprise, then corresponds to the degree of order.   This is the difference between  the massive number of instruction bits given by H(equil) , that generate a decayed equilibrium state, from the far fewer instruction or programme bits needed to generate the ordered functional configuration.   The degree or order is then, Dord = H(equil) – H(p) .   The probability of such a surprise outcome occurring by chance is 2 -Dord = 2 H(p) /2 H(eqil) .   
Yet, replication processes, such as the bacterial illustration below, explain how the highly ordered and highly improbable bacterial system emerges naturally. The order emerges as the DNA instruction and resource bits carrying energy, enter the system.   Replication processes repackage the structures, but in doing so eject massive amounts of waste and heat bits to create or maintain the system distant from the decay of equilibrium.   It is this rejection that leaves the ordered structure behind.

Confusing the technical definition of information with the intuitive definition leads to meaningless hand-waving arguments. E.g.;   “Ontogenetic information is not stored in DNA, but instead in higher-level structures within cells and organisms” (see p. 324   (Meyer(2021)). Rubbish, it is stored in the DNA. The proper question is: “where has it come from?”.   Again, “Neither structural proteins alone, or the genes that code for them, are sufficient to determine the three-dimensional shape and structure of the entities they form” (Meyer 2004) This is also rubbish. Again; “We have seen that natural selection lacks the ability to generate novel information precisely because it can only act after new functional information has arisen” (Meyer 2021, 327).   We have seen no such thing, as the following argues. Implicit is the claim that DNA cannot produce the “body plan” for novel structural types from evolutionary processes (e.g. Meyer 2021, 300). But the body plan, or this so-called ontogenetic information, is actually in the DNA that generates the ordered structure.   The question is where has it come from?

One bacterium in a sea of nutrients will reproduce until the system reaches its carrying capacity based on the nutrient flows as discussed in the section Replication generates order.   If variation in the DNA occurs through natural processes, a variant that uses the resources more efficiently will have a higher carrying capacity.  Given one such bacterium, a more ordered replicating system will emerge to displace the original variant.   Devine (2016) has shown that inter-dependent species will be more efficient.  Inter-dependence might happen when separate systems cluster to become more efficient. Again, this might happen when one replicating system feeds off the degraded waste of another (e.g. the dung beetle reprocesses dung). Another example is when one system consumes the stored energy embodied in another (e.g. the lion eats the antelope). In each case, inter-dependence makes more efficient use of resources. The carrying capacity will be higher, and, from an ID perspective embody more functional information.  

Provided there is variation in the DNA, and a variant path exists from a simple replicating system, to an inter-dependent one, the composite inter-dependent structure will dominate because it is more efficient, requiring less waste to be ejected.   Simple calculations (Devine 2016) show inter-dependence will emerge in preference to alternatives. It is variation that provides a pool of potential structures that can be mined by natural selection to generate novel varieties.   A statement such as; “natural selection lacks the causal ability to generate new order, because it only acts after the order has arisen”, has no substance.

The greater the interdependence, the greater the carrying capacity and the greater the order and therefore the greater the functional information.   Hierarchies of replicated structures would seem likely to emerge as selection processes favour those that waste fewer resources.   Sexual reproduction introduces a greater diversity in a population of living replicated structures generating new variants with a higher carrying capacity.   While these variants appear to be remarkably different structurally or from a functional perspective, the variants have very similar DNA coding.  

While variation determines what structures are possible, natural selection processes within the envelope constrained by the thermodynamic requirements, favour structures that degrade the useful energy more effectively, pumping out more useless energy as heat, at a greater rate than a simple ecology. In so doing, over time, the process drives the system further from equilibrium. The overall degradation of a complex ecosystem or biosystem is greater than would be the case for a non-living system, or even a simpler living system of single species such as grass. A complex replicating system nests replicating systems, which nest replicating systems, and so on down to replicating cells. Schneider and Kay have shown that a complex ecology dissipates more heat than a one-species system and therefore, from the perspective here, is further from equilibrium.

Convergent evolution is therefore not unexpected. Conway Morris (2003) has made this case for the camera eye which has evolved independently at least three times. As there are only a few structural options to make such an eye, selection processes seeking to drive a system further from equilibrium, are likely to use the same building blocks to perform a similar function on an independent evolutionary trajectory.

Nevertheless, it is shown that evolutionary processes have direction in the sense of increasing the diversity of life itself.   If environmental shocks impact on the living system (such as a meteor strike), the emergence trajectory will alter.   However, if the tape of life were to be replayed again, so to speak, with similar shocks, the living systems that emerges are likely to be the similar.

Conway Morris, S. (2003). Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO97805115354

Dembski, William A. 2002b. No Free Lunch: Why specified complexity cannot be purchased without intelligence. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.

Meyer, S. C. (2004), “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories”, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117, 213–239.

Meyer, S. C. (2021), Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe. HarperOne