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Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics To Metaphysics (Canto Classics) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 15. Mai 2014

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'This is the anthology we have been waiting for … Philosophers, theologians and scientists all have their say, wrestling with the theme of God as the ultimate informational and structuring principle in the universe.' Professor Sir Brian Heap, President, European Academies Science Advisory Board, German Academy of Sciences

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Many scientists regard mass and energy as the primary currency of nature. In recent years, however, the concept of information has gained importance. In this book, eminent scientists, philosophers and theologians chart various aspects of information, from quantum information to biological and digital information, to understand how nature works.

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232 von 241 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Opening Pandora's box? 21. November 2010
Von Paul L. Nunez - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
Over the past century or so most scientists have regarded mass and energy as nature's primary actors on the universal stage with information allowed only a secondary role. Essays in this book by authors from varied fields advocate a radically different view, one that elevates information as the fundamental entity underlying all of physical reality, implying the conceptual hierarchy: information -> laws of physics -> matter. I will not attempt a comprehensive review here, just hit a few highlights. Check the web for more detailed reviews.

Why should one take this idea of [information-as-fundamental] seriously? A short answer addressed by several authors is that known physical laws, relativity, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics, are all laws about information, especially limits on the speed, quantity, and quality of information transfer. Relativity limits speed; quantum mechanics limits quantity. The wave function of a system of quantum particles encapsulates all that is known about the system; it is essentially an information field. It is not clear (to me at least) if the fundamental information envisioned here might be embedded in space-time (as the usual quantum wavefunction) or if the information may create space-time itself. Probably there are proponents on both sides of this question.

What are the implications of this revolutionary new paradigm? For one thing it is bound to be quite controversial. For some scientists this may be likened to opening Pandora's box (or at least a large can of worms) releasing all kinds of wild ideas about the origins of consciousness, implications for religious beliefs, mysticism, and so forth. Others, especially those interested in the "hard problem" of consciousness, may welcome the new ideas. Consider the implications of the [information-as-fundamental] paradigm for living systems. A gene is a set of coded instructions for a molecular system to carry out a task. Take a step up to the cellular level in the nested hierarchy of living systems. Each cell seems to act much like a natural supercomputer, an information-processing and replicating system of enormous complexity. Furthermore, human brains are even much more powerful information-processing systems. In fact, limits on inter-person information transfer are apparently all that allows us to remain individuals. Minds and information process appear, in the information-based picture, to be integral parts of our universe rather than accidental products of evolution as assumed by many. If information is fundamental, then maybe consciousness is fundamental.

I found many of the ideas in this book to be quite compelling; however, one cannot discount the enormous success of relativity and especially quantum mechanics in describing our physical world. The proposed new information paradigm currently provides no equivalent mathematics to predict the outcomes of specific experiments or develop new technology. Large parts of this paradigm are currently non falsifiable, leaving them beyond scientific purview, at least for now. Also somewhat problematic for me was the last section (five chapters) on philosophy and theology. For example, one chapter raises the concept of God as an informational principle at work in the entire cosmic process (rather than a designer God outside the universe). I suppose the identification of information with God depends critically on one's definition of the "G-word," but this seems like quite a large jump to me. Nevertheless, I was willing to seriously consider the arguments. In any case, this particular God (hopefully) bears little resemblance to the mean old ogre of the Old Testament.

While confronting the mind-brain issue (the hard problem) from several directions, this book has very little to say about neuroscience or its many conscious correlates, which are emphasized in the consciousness literature. I expect much future work to aim for more integration of such brain science with new thoughts about the putative fundamental information. A very modest attempt in this direction is provided in my new book (2010). The critical multiscale nature of life and (apparantly) consciousness is treated from a physical science perspective in Al Scott's Stairway to the Mind: The Controversial New Science of Consciousness (1995). The apparent critical importance to consciousness of nested hierarchy in brain tissue is emphasized from a medical perspective in Todd Feinberg's From Axons to Identity: Neurological Explorations of the Nature of the Self (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology) (2009). A neuroscience-based book that stresses complexity (and by implication information) is Gerald Edelman and Giulio Tononi's A Universe Of Consciousness How Matter Becomes Imagination (2000). A new book that successfully marries graph and complex systems theories to genuine brain (multi-scale) network anatomy is Olaf Spornes' Networks of the Brain (2010).
44 von 47 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen a few great chapters, some less so, with a conclusion needed 6. September 2011
Von Nigel Kirk - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
This is a rich topic with James Gleick's recent and eclectic volume stimulating more popular interest in the perspectives, small and large, that information theory may offer us. This book's treatment of `information' from different perspectives starts well but subsides into unnecessarily complex and discursive verbage. The volume assays a range of topics, and bibliographies accompany each chapter. The topics (chapters) are organised in the themes of history, physics and biology, with philosophy and theology combined at the end. Alas, the detail of this review trails off about half way through as I sped up my reading, finding less rewards and continuing with the main aim of getting it over with. A concluding chapter is definitely needed to wrap up the many strands of thinking. I dislike writing negative reviews, preferring to focus on the positive and noting that preferences vary. However, I felt it important to flag to readers of Paul Davies's books that he is only an editor here, writing one chapter, and that the collection of essays does not deliver the level of exposition that his books usually do.

In Part 1, History, Ernan McMullan surveys the changing theories of matter in Western philosophy. His writing and vocabulary reflect a philosophical review and may be considered poetic or opaque depending on reader preference. More importantly, it offers one of the most concise and intelligible accounts of our perception of matter from Aristotle to dark matter that this reviewer has ever read. As a philosopher reviewing science, his emphases are incisive and clear, and have no doubt benefited from the comments of the editors, as he states. His references break an academic tradition in slightly favouring the more recent and accessible assessments of theories rather than their original proponents. Philip Clayton challenges materialism, and thereby science, with less convincing arguments which give inadequate weight to empiricism and the scientific method.

Part 2, Physics, starts with an eclectic appraisal of information theory in physics by Paul Davies who is always interesting and entertaining. There were loose ends: I am not sure if the `measurement to infinite' precision question was answered in terms of all phenomena, or why the 10 to the power 90 particles in the universe included photons and not gravitons. Davies needs to focus more so that readers can get their head around a discrete topic rather than gain a general impression of a field of study. Please note, this won't stop me buying his books. Seth Lloyd introduces the concept of the universe being a quantum computer where events generate outcomes, each of which may be considered a bit of information and resulting in the "complex order and structure" we know. Henry Stapp made my heart race when he undertook to provide "a non-paradox-laden description of the quantum universe and the place of our minds in it". Stapp's claim that our mind have been conditioned by three centuries of orthodox physics extended this appeal but his arguments became impenetrable, with a conclusion that his analysis is concordant with the "idea of a powerful God" coming out of the blue. I would like to give his interesting theory another chance and a re-read, perhaps with a strong coffee. I also wonder if this is an overly distilled decant of his views in Mindful Universe.

In Part3, Biology, John Maynard Smith examines DNA transcription and central dogma predictably with examples below the par we see from Dawkins and others. He touches on epigenetics, although not by this newer name. Except for statements such as "genes and regulatory proteins carry information, but enzymes do not", one needs to read between the lines to decide what information means in the context of biology. In fairness, more clarity is occasionally offered by Deacon, often through helpful analogy, in his attempt to argue against sceptical paradigms that conclude "either content is fundamentally relativistic, holistic, and ungrounded or else is merely epiphenomenal and ineffectual except in its arbitrary correlation with the physical properties of the signs that convey it". Such word strings are common in this book. Chapters by Kuppers, Hoffmeyer and Rolston unfortunately maintain similarly loquacious arguments, using unnecessarily obscure terms and vocabulary to arrive precipitously at esoteric points. Rolston's treatment of group selection offers promise, but examination through the concept of `caring' is haphazard. These chapters trawl the literature up to a point, but their inefficient arguments make them a chore to read.

Chapters in Part 4, Philosophy and Theology, continued to attempt to answer interesting questions with sophistic and mangled logic, with embarrassing levels of self citation. These chapters would leave any reader concluding that studies of science and religion mix in the manner of oil and water.

I would buy the book again, at least to read a couple of great chapters and for the bibliographies.
30 von 31 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Information: the ground of all being 30. Oktober 2011
Von David J. Kreiter - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
This book is divided into four main Categories: History, Physics, Biology, and Philosophy and Theology, with contributions by 15 prominent authors including the two editors, Paul Davies, and Niels Henrik Gregersen.

Information, like the concepts of matter and energy has been difficult to define. According to Terrence Deacon, the definition of energy wasn't fully realized until it was discovered that energy is not a substance, but rather, a dynamic process of change that is always conserved. Just as with the concept of energy, he said, we must give up the idea of thinking of information as some "artifact" or "commodity". In the broadest sense, says John F. Haught, information can mean whatever gives form, order, pattern, or identify to something.

Today most physicists divide information into two broad categories: syntactic information and semantic information. Syntactic information is sometimes called Shannon information after Claude Shannon who discovered that information can be thought of as a measure of entropy and probability. This is both a quantitative and physical definition, which describes how much information any system can carry and is not concerned with the meaning of the information. The more information a system carries the less entropy it contains, which also happens to be the least probable state of the system. Likewise, the most probable state of a system has a high degree of entropy and carries little information. So we can think of information as a complementarity between the message and the medium. Both are needed for a complete description of information. The second type of information is called semantic information, and it deals with the content of the message--what it means.

Paul Davies says that most physicists now believe that information and not particles and fields are the ground of all being. Beginning with the ancient Greeks up until recent times it has been assumed that the laws of physics, and their mathematically descriptive counterpart were objective aspects of the universe cast in stone, and it was the job of the physicist to uncover these objective truths. This idea was furthered by monotheistic thinking which suggested that the discovery of these objective truths were a window into the mind of God, an idea that has gone unchallenged for three centuries. Davis states: "The fusion of Platonism and Monotheism created the powerful orthodox scientific concept of the laws of physics as ideal, perfect infinitely precise, immutable, eternal unchanging mathematical forms that reside in an abstract platonic heaven beyond space and time. All of these assumptions must be jettisoned to come to an understanding that the laws and states of the universe co-evolve."

For many--from Plato to physicist/ mathematician, Roger Penrose-- mathematics has been assumed to be an objective construct of the universe from which matter and information find expression, but an evolving view among physicists is that information is the basic entity of reality from which the laws of physics, and matter emerge. After all says Davies, "Laws are an informational statement." Mathematics has been successful in describing the laws of physics, not because mathematics is somehow an objective aspect of the universe, but because mathematics and the laws of physics co-emerge from computations carried out since the beginning of time by the ultimate quantum computer--the universe at large.

There can be no separation between the information processing nature of the universe and the information processing revolution of life itself. Both the syntactic and the semantic concept of information are involved in the interplay between organisms and their environment in the sense that far from equilibrium system (organisms) need to be associated with an environment that supports the organisms condition. Both the environment (the signal medium) and the organism (the message) are needed for the co-evolution of the organism/environmental system.

According to Keith Ward and Arthur Peacocke, the information contained in DNA is not semantic information because no understanding is required for the translation and transcription processes that code for proteins. This kind of information belongs to a third category he calls "Shaping" or coded information and it requires no sentience. The functioning of the parts can only be explained by how they contribute to the organism as a whole, and this is true whether we are speaking of the universe as a whole or a living organism. Since consciousness is primordial and contains all possible states, we should not look to the simple to explain the complex, but rather the complex to explain the simple.

John Haught maintains that the idea of "God" as a designer is getting harder and harder to defend in light of the fact that the universe is constantly evolving. Information is a complementarity of order and disorder. Too much order is too rigid and does not allow for novelty and evolution. "If the universe or life were simply designed," says Haught, "it would be frozen in a fixed and eternally unchanging identity. Design is a dead end." Though Haught says that whether or not one calls such a primordial consciousness "God" is partly a matter of taste, it hasn't stopped him and other contributors to the last section of this work in making a desperate attempt to shoe-horn God into the equation.

This work was a very exhaustive and comprehensive treatment of the topic of information, and it greatly informed me on the subject. I would highly recommend this to anyone willing to wade through some fairly dense material in order to get to a clear understanding of the nature of information.

This review by David Kreiter author of: "Confronting the Quantum Enigma: Albert, Niels, and John" (2011), and "Quantum Reality: A New Philosophical Perspective."
11 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Part of my regular rereading diet... 8. Februar 2012
Von Jimmie R. Yoes - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
This book, along with Paul Davies, The Goldilock's Enigma, are part of my rereading diet almost every day. If I had read these books before I published my book, I would have referred to them because they hit on topics about information and consciousness that I consider to be vital to my personal growth. I think any one wanting to graduate from materialistic thinking to more spiritual thinking will find this book invaluable. I found John Haught's chapter, Information, theology, and the universe especially valuable. He states what it takes to make meaningful information flow, i.e. enough, but not too much redundancy and novelty, consistent with a concept of evil as a bifurcated path of erroneous extremes on either side of the good. I can see why the reviewers still mentally stuck in the mud of matter find the book hard to understand. I recommend the book for any one ready to graduate from mind under matter to mind over matter.
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Is our universe pre-ordained with information? 17. August 2011
Von Rama Rao - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
In terms of classical physics, the physical reality may be defined as matter and energy behaving according to the laws of physics in classical spacetime, and the human being is a passive observer of this reality. Consciousness (and the freewill), which operates independently in classical world, determines the ultimate fate. According to quantum physics, matter and energy behave according to the laws of quantum physics in quantized spacetime, and the human observer is an integral part of this reality. Since quantum physics include consciousness as an integral part of its laws, it appears that reality may be pre-ordained with information and the free-will is limited to operating within its domain of quantum reality. In this edited book, the authors propose a fascinating hypothesis that emphasizes information as the primary source of nature, and it is passed on through the laws of physics. This book reviews physical and biological approaches to information and its philosophical and theological implications.

The book starts splendidly with a great introduction to quantum physics and reality but ends in a chapter that claims resurrection of Jesus is supported by the laws of physics. Man-made religions are constructed on the concept of fear; the human being is judged by the morality set by human standards, and he is punished by God for his sin. This immorality of man and mercy of God are highly wired in all faiths. No real connection ever existed between any established religion and physics, and physicists should stay away from fabrication.

Interpretations of quantum physics relates the actual world as rooted in a consciousness that conceives all possible states and actualizes some of them for a reason connected with the evaluation of such states by the consciousness (Many-world interpretation of quantum physics.) This generally results in one set of possible states that gives rise to a universe. We know that consciousness cannot exist without some form of material embodiment. The object of human consciousness is physical or at least sensory, but this may be due to the failure of imagination or human limitation. There may be many kinds of objects of consciousness. Non-physical objects such as mathematical realities and unactualized logical possibilities could be imagined and even experienced. The consciousness that evolved in three spatial dimensions can not comprehend four or higher spatial dimensions of other universes. The caveat is if the consciousness has all possible universes as its object, then it could be a part of all those universes, conversely, it may not be a part of any of them. For quantum physics, cosmic consciousness is a primary ontological reality and it is the supreme principle for constructing the universes and the ultimate ontological reality is information hidden in physics.

The flow of information may also be seen in biological systems. All elementary processes of life are governed by information; the information stored in the genome of the organism is expressed by a process through which the genetic information is continually re-evaluated by permanent interactions with the physical environment to which it is exposed. In this way, the living organism is built up, step by step, into a hierarchically organized network of unmatched complexity. The fact that all phenomena of life are based upon information and communication is indeed the principal characteristic of living matter. Without the perpetual exchange of information at all levels of organization, no functional order in the living organism could be sustained. Natural selection and adaptation modulated the first primitive cells on this planet all the way into the human system.

Keith Ward postulates that an ultimate informational system carried and transmitted by a cosmic mind. For quantum physicists consciousness in a universe is essentially involved in the actuality of that observable universe. But there is one cosmic consciousness that is essentially involved in the actuality of all observable universes. It carries complete information about all possible states and transmits informational code for the construction of this and all possible universes and the consciousness associated with each of them. This principle is called God Almighty, according Keith Ward. Incidentally, the chapter on "God has the ultimate informational principle" by Keith Ward and the introductory part of the book makes some of the best reading.
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