Klinghoffer Defends ‘Information’

You know about the magical phenomon the Discovery Institute refers to as information. We discussed it in Phlogiston, Vitalism, and Information. Ol’ Hambo likes it — see AIG: Information and the Micro-Macro Mambo — but he attributes it to Yahweh, not the Discoveroids’ designer. Yahweh and the designer are the same, of course, but the Discoveroids claim their designer — blessed be he! — is something different, revealed to them by their peculiar science.

Anyway, the Discoveroids are defending their “science” today in Is There Information in Saturn’s Rings? It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this].

Referring to the question in his title he begins:

Or in a rock? Or a snowflake? This is a common contention from ID critics — that natural, physical objects like these contain information, and they require no recourse to an explanation involving intelligent design. So that means the information in DNA can be explained as the product of purely physical processes, too.

We’ve raised the same objection, so it’ll be interesting to see how Klinghoffer handles this. He says:

In fact I heard this point again in reviewing the Meyer-Krauss-Lamoureux debate in Toronto, referred to the other day by Evolution News [link to the Discoveroids’ blog omitted]. In one of the dramatic debate’s more ho-hum moments, atheist Lawrence Krauss tried to fight back against Stephen Meyer by pointing to the information in snowflakes. Was he correct to do?

Watch carefully, dear reader, as Klinghoffer skillfully deals with the issue. He tells us:

On a new ID the Future episode [Whoopie!], engineer Eric Anderson talks with host and science historian Mike Keas about the challenge. They consider the example of the Saturn and its rings. To describe the rings would entail a great deal of information. Right? Anderson makes the great point that design critics habitually conflate two kinds of information. There is information about a physical object – which an astronomer or astronaut could generate with his instruments and observations. And there is information contained within an object, as in DNA, or a newspaper, book, or other carefully composed or coded text.

Did you follow that? There are two kinds of information — that which we observe about an object and that which is miraculously embedded within an object. Wow — this is complicated! He elaborates:

These are different things. The information about Saturn’s rings does not exist until someone, with his intelligence and intelligently designed instruments, comes along and generates it. By contrast, the information residing in DNA was already there before anyone knew a thing about it. Good conversation. You can listen to it here [link omitted].

Someone needs to explain to your Curmudgeon how the information we observe about Saturn’s rings wasn’t already present within those rings before we observed it. Anyway, let’s read on:

As a side point, this makes me think of something else. I just reread the Arthur C. Clarke novel 2001: A Space Odyssey …The alien monolith that is their object, on one of Saturn’s moons, makes a thought-provoking contrast with the planet’s spectacular rings. … As soon it’s found [the monolith], everyone understands at once that it’s not a naturally occurring thing. No one thinks the same of Saturn’s rings … . There is no information there. The point is that, in this imaginative story, we immediately understand the difference between the designed monolith and the undersigned rings.

[*Groan*] Klinghoffer’s post dribbles on a bit, but he doesn’t say much else. So what did we learn? You may see it differently, but it seems to us that the Discoveroids are in a state of total intellectual collapse. If we missed something, let us know.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “Klinghoffer Defends ‘Information’

  1. Michael Fugate


  2. It seems to be that the information that the IDers are interested in has only one use: that it cannot be generated by natural processes.
    How do we come to know anything about that kind of information?
    Are there experiments done which show something about it?
    Are there observations which show that it is conserved?
    The only observations about it are of this sort:
    It is not conserved in life.
    Small increases – like snowflakes – can occur by natural processes.
    Decreases can occur naturally.
    People can increase it. Unlike all other natural laws, like the laws of thermodynamics, which people cannot violate.

    How do we learn about the properties of the kind of information of interest to IDers?

  3. Double facepalm!

    Reminds me of a theist friend I once had, rabbiting on about the Trinity: “Now, Chris, you’ve got the Holy Trinity, which is three separate things; you’ve got the Son, The Father, and the Holy Ghost; they’re all separate. But at the same time, they’re one indivisible whole……”

  4. There is information about a physical object – which an astronomer or astronaut could generate with his instruments and observations. And there is information contained within an object, as in DNA, or a newspaper, book, or other carefully composed or coded text.

    Er, no. The “information” about a physical object isn’t generated by anyone’s observations–it’s revealed. And Klinghoffer (deliberately?) conflates the information within, say, a book or magazine, which we know was put there by an intelligent entity, with that contained in DNA, which K. merely declares was consciously designed.

  5. Klinghoffer, master at Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  6. Klinghoffer says,
    “I just reread the Arthur C. Clarke novel 2001: A Space Odyssey …The alien monolith that is their object, on one of Saturn’s moons…”

    Saturn? Saturn??? Is the novel different from the film? (Doubtful — the novel and the screenplay were written concurrently.)

    The mission was to Jupiter, not Saturn. Another Klinghoffer Klinker.

  7. Eddie Janssen

    According to (the dutch) wikipedia the book has Saturn, the movie Jupiter.

  8. It was supposed to be Saturn in the movie, too, but there were budget, or time constraints, or something. Jupiter was easier to do, so Kubrick went with that, apparently.

  9. “If we missed something, let us know.”
    You did. Klinkleclapper carefully did not explain which instruments and observations he uses to measure information within an object. So let me give it a try.
    Information about DNA is well adressed by science.


    Klinkleclapper’s information within an object doesn’t have anything even vaguely similar. That’s to be expected, because it’s Oogity Boogity.So we should thank Klinkleclapper for expertedly confirming that IDiocy is not science.

  10. @Anon. asks an important question: “How do we know/come to learn ….”
    Our dear SC already hinted at it. By listening to Klinkleclapper of Ol’Hambo whomever you prefer.

    @EricL objects: “DNA, which K. merely declares was consciously designed.”
    That’s what he has Paley’s False Watchmaker Analogy for. Information within an object is creacrap science at it’s very best – it combines everything it has to offer (an impressive amount of three points).

  11. If you quote him accurately, dear SC, it would appear that his spell-checker doesn’t let him write “undesigned rings”. Discipline must be pretty tight at the Discotute.

  12. Eddie Janssen

    @Chris S: 🙂

  13. When the movie was made, it was not known that there were rings around Jupiter.

  14. Indeed, there is a difference between information that has consequences, and information that does not. It is precisely because the information in DNA _ does_ have consequences, that it can be modified by natural selection.

    So what we are seeing is typical ID logic; make a moderately interesting intellectual point, based in real science, and then draw exactly the wrong conclusion from it.

  15. Mark Germano

    “we immediately understand the difference between the designed monolith and the undesigned rings.”

    Why is the Earth’s moon designed but the rings of Saturn aren’t? It may be that the rings were designed to allow us to learn about Saturn and our solar system.

  16. According to most believers in divine creation, all things are created. The amount of information has nothing to do with it.

  17. docbill1351

    So, the Tooters have Schrödinger information that manifests itself when you observe it, and Heisenberg that you can never pin down exactly it’s position and meaning. It’s brilliant!

  18. Michael Fugate

    How do we know or how would we know if the rings of Saturn had information with consequences? DNA in and of itself has information without consequences – it only has consequences when in certain environments. ID keeps trying to circumvent Hume’s criticisms and it keeps failing.

  19. What ID folks don’t get (really refuse to get) is that information in DNA is easily changed by natural processes, whether it’s a single base change, a duplicated gene, an extra chromosome, or whole-genome duplication. These changes aren’t always lethal as claimed by Hambo, and despite ID denials, the bulk of most plant and animal genomes is indeed junk. Junk which no designer would leave behind, unless he/she/it is deceitful. Perhaps I’ll be persuaded there’s design if as in Sagan’s Contact, a code is found buried in an irrational number such as pi or e.

  20. @Eddie Janssen & ChrisS: Thanks for the enlightenment — I stand corrected and should owe Klinghoffer an apology. So Klings, if you’re reading this, you’re still prostituting your talents writing for the DI, but you were right about “2001 – the book” being about Saturn.

    So now, why don’t you join the rest of the scientifically-literate world and bring your mind into the 21st century?

  21. Don’t worry about it, retiredsciguy. In truth, it’s neither Jupiter nor Saturn. It’s the next planet out there — the one that dare not speak its name. That’s where the intelligent designer resides.

  22. Now, don’t go sticking Uranus into this dispute. The mission was to Jupiter in the movie, and also in the follow-up book and film, “2010”. In “2010”, the mission was specifically to Jupiter’s moon Europa — and that was before it was discovered that Europa is just one frozen-over ocean — which may very well have life under the ice, given the possibility of deep-sea thermal springs like we have on Earth.

  23. Tuttut, Scientist, read Klinkleclapper once again. Carefully. You’re talking information about DNA. Klinkleclapper is talking information within DNA. The differenze is important, ‘cuz reazonz.