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“Twentieth century dematerialism”?

Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics

A late 2010 cosmology book features cosmologist Paul Davies as editor. Davies is known for a number of reflections on extraterrestrials.

Information and the Nature of Reality: From Physics to Metaphysics

“This is the anthology we have been waiting for … seminal papers deal with matter through the history of Greek thought, seventeenth-century materialism and twentieth-century dematerialism, the need for a new scientific world view in the light of the quantum nature of the universe, and the storage and transmission of information in biological systems with the new knowledge of their genomes and development … 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, St Edmund’s College, President, European Academies Science Advisory Board, German Academy of Sciences

Product Description

Many scientists regard mass and energy as the primary currency of nature. In recent years, however, the concept of information has gained importance. Why? In this book, eminent scientists, philosophers and theologians chart various aspects of information, from quantum information to biological and digital information, in order to understand how nature works. Beginning with a historical treatment of the topic, the book also examines physical and biological approaches to information, and its philosophical, theological and ethical implications.

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10 Responses to “Twentieth century dematerialism”?

  1. The book consists of four parts:

    Part I. History
    Part II. Physics
    Part III. Biology
    Part IV. Philosophy and Theology

    For the most part it’s been good reading.

  2. Chapter 1. Introduction: does information matter? Pauld Davies and Niels Henrik Gregersen

    Part I. History

    Chapter 2. From matter to materialism … and (almost) back. Ernan McMullin

    Chapter 3. Unsolved dilemmas: the concept of matter in the history of philosophy and in contemporary physics. Philip Clayton

  3. Also of possible interest:

    Information and Living Systems

  4. Another book on information and life. I didn’t read it but looks interesting.

    I couldn’t believe this was free download.
    Werner Gitt , In the beginning was information

    http://www.clv-server.de/pdf/255255.pdf

  5. 5

    #3

    Ah Mung, nice hit.

    I think I will add this to the reading list.

  6. I liked this quote:

    “Since the 1960s at least, it has become clear that we cannot content ourselves with describing living systems, and their life cycles, only in terms of matter and energy. An additional dimension — information — is the necessary complement. However, following an initial enthusiasm for an information-based approach to biology, conceptual developments and practical applications have been slow, to such an extent that doubts have eventually arisen, among biologists and philosophers alike, as to the real relevance, if not the legitimacy, of this approach. How profoundly ill-advised were those concerns is dramatically demonstrated by this excellent collection. Information and Living Systems provides a convincing and healthily fresh overview of this subject area in many of its ramifications, throughout the whole of biology.”

    Could the doubts about the approach stem from the implications about where it might lead?

  7. The reviews at amazon are pretty telling.
    To paraphrase a couple:
    “this book didn’t say the things or come to the conclusions I would have…it’s bad!”
    “this book is good…but mine is better!”

  8. : Chapter 9
    : Information and communication in living matter
    : Bernd-Olaf Kuppers

    9.5 How Does Information Originate?

    But if there are no meaning-generating algorithms, then no information can arise de novo. Therefore, to understand a piece of information of a certain complexity, one always requires background information that is at least of the same complexity. This is the sought-after answer to the question of how much information is needed to understand some other information. Ultimately, it implies that there are no “informational perpetual motion machines” that can generate meaningful information out of nothing.

    At least it is certain that we must take leave of the idea of being able, one day, to construct intelligent machines that spontaneously generate meaningful information de novo and continually raise its complexity.

  9. From Chapter 7:

    Occasionally someone, often a mathematician, will announce that there has not been time since the origin of the earth for natural selection to produce the astonishing diversity and complexity of life we see … The only way I know to give a quantitative answer is to point out that if one estimates, however roughly, the quantity of information in the genome, and the quantity that could have been programmed by selection in 5000 MY, there has been plenty of time. If, remembering that for most of the time our ancestors were microbes, we allow an average of 20 generations a year, there has been time for selection to program the genome ten times over. – John Maynard Smith

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