Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Menuge on Dretske II

Dogtown, on his new blog Dretske forum, quotes Dretske as saying:

"It rests on a confusion, the confusion of information with meaning. Once this distinction is clearly understood, one is free to think about information(though not meaning) as an objective commodity, something whose generation, transmission, and reception do not require or in any way presuppose interpretiveprocesses."

Angus Menuge responds:

Victor,This is an interesting passage. Darwinists and naturalists cannot deny the existence of information, since the information in cellular communication systems and developmental programs is crucial to understanding how they work.But they have to treat informational signals as like a swarm of fish, some of which can be caught by the nets of artificial selection and used to make useful responses to the environment.What's puzzling about the passage below is how we can specifiy what the information that is being transmitted is without talking about its meaning. Some, like Dennis Stampe, argue that a trees rings do objectively containinformation about the age of the tree (i.e. it is not in the eye of the interpretive beholder). One could follow Grice by saying that is what the rings "naturally mean" as natural signs, or meanN, even though the tree has no beliefs and regardless of whether or not anyone else has beliefs about the tree's age. In this sense certain kinds of clouds meanN rain and mouse droppings mean mice.So it is quite true that you can talk of information without bringing in beliefs and interpretive agents, but is still seems like some sort of account of meaning is required, enough that we can say that the tree rings meanN that the tree is 100 years old. This seems inevitable given that we talk of "the information that..." which seems to be a content clause of some kind although not a propositional attitude like "believes that...."


Steven Carr said...

Is Dembski's formulation of Complex Specified Information intended to be a nauralistic method of detecting CSI without any need to consider of the 'meaning' of any such information?

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