Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Atheist's Riddle - attempt to solve

Longtime no write... oh well, here I go again:
This time, it's about something I read a long time ago and namely The Atheist's Riddle. To put it simply it states that information can only be created by a conscious entity and since DNA is also information (genetic one), it MUST have been created and not spontaneously/randomly appear. Here are two examples of it, the first is the original one I received on an email and that got me thinking, the second one is just another restatement of it I found on the net.
"Messages, languages and coded information never,
ever come from anything else besides a mind.
No one has ever produced a single example of a message 
that did not come from a mind.
Nature can create fascinating patterns - snowflakes,
sand dunes, crystals, stalagmites and stalactites.  Tornados 
and turbulence and cloud formations.
But non-living things cannot create language. They
*cannot* create codes.  Rocks cannot think and they
cannot talk.  And they cannot create information.
And the second:
Proof that DNA was designed by a mind:
1. DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism. 2. All codes we know the origin of are created by a conscious mind.
3. Therefore DNA was designed by a mind, and language and information are proof of the action of a Superintelligence.

This has kept itself on the back of my mind for I guess around an year since I first received the email with it.
In that time, I came up however with two possible theories to explain it:

My first attempt was based on the interesting property of DNA (and RNA for that matter) that is to replicate. I thought that given the right conditions you can obtain a molecule that is stable and that can interact with other matter around it, creating copies of itself. This consumes work and thus the molecule would probably have to unbind some part of it in order to have energy to make the replication. It could then reform itself to it's complete state by re-assimilating the missing part using some sort of external energy (solar, geothermal, etc).
Problem with this theory is that after you get enough copies of this molecule, nothing happens so then I though that maybe it could sustain modifications and still retain it's properties, then you could have something very similar to RNA.
Still, it requires the chance to have spontaneous creation of the first molecule, but it's pretty decent as a first explanation of the riddle.

My second attempt was a few days ago, when I asked myself "what is information?". The riddle states that
"[rocks] cannot create information". But as it turns out information can spontaneously appear in nature, even more often than you might think about. This is based on a definition of information I came up with:
A region in space that has an entropy value different than the rest of it's surroundings.
Note that I do NOT know if it is a correct definition, but it seems that everything that has a lower/higher entropy contains some sort information.

Oh, I'm assuming you know what entropy is, if not I strongly recommend you look it up on the internet, but in case you prefer to continue reading, entropy is basically a measurement of how much something is disorganized. So, for example a row of soldiers has a lower entropy (is more organized) than a crowd of people.

The key is to note that information in this form occurs very often in nature, take for example a tornado it leaves a mark on the terrain it traversed, it obeys the first law of thermodynamics, as it does work (spins) in order to leave a mark on the ground. That mark is information: information that a tornado passed, it contains maybe the side and speed of it. Now there may be a big step from tornadoes to the creation of life, but I've shown that there nature is capable of producing information. This information could take form in RNA (though I admit it's a big leap) or DNA