Last month I began a review of “Programming of Life” by Donald E. Johnson (paperback, video, quotes) with summaries of the first five chapters This month I will summarize the final chapters and offer my thoughts and recommendation.
Chapter 6: Prescriptive Programming Information in Life
Johnson now discusses another type of information that is found in both computer code and the programming of life: prescriptive information. This is information that goes beyond merely describing something; it contains options to be chosen at different decision points in a deliberate effort to achieve a certain goal. It is purposeful. However, to communicate this information between transmitter and receiver, the receiver must be aware of the language used by the transmitter. This requires a formal set of rules that ensure the transmitted data is read and understood as it was intended at transmission. Not only must the rules exist prior to the origin of life, but it must have originated on its own naturalistically. Johnson explains that formal systems cannot be the product of merely naturalistic processes because of the fact that the rules could be otherwise, meaning that they too contain contingent data that describe something. As explained above, this cannot arise through a simpler, naturalistic system because the information is distinct from its physical storage medium. Origin-of-life researchers must explain the origin of the rules of the language which generates prescriptive information by merely naturalistic means. This has yet to be done, and is not expected by Johnson because to expect a non-physical result from a physical source commits a category error. Finding the source of the rules of the language will only be achieved when origin-on-life researchers abandon their presupposition of strict naturalism. [Read more…]