The original question was:  Creationists claim the natural universe can’t generate information, so you need a creator, but what is information? When a flat rock changes shape due to tumbling down a stream and becomes rounded, surely the new shape is new information?

Answer by John Mackay

The question just asked demonstrates the truth of the following answer: information is meaningful data transferred by otherwise meaningless symbols, from a source to a recipient in such a way that demonstrable action can be taken by the recipient; e.g. I am answering this question.

More ‘information’ is available from the Oxford English Dictionary which states Information is “what is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things:, e.g. genetically transmitted information.” The word can be traced back to late Middle English via Old French from the Latin noun information, or from the verb informare. So please note you have gained information, which has now been transferred to your mind by the preceding set of individually meaningless symbols (roman letters) arranged in such a way that you have become aware of when the word “information” first appeared in English.

Because the information being transferred never arises from the individual symbols or letters used, but is transferred only by the arrangement of the symbols into words and then a further arrangement into sentences, whether it is via an English or Hungarian or whatever. Such highly organised use of symbols to transfer information is always evidence of an external pre-existent intelligence. The same turns out to be just as true for the arrangement of the meaningless symbols such as Thiamine and Adenine seen in a DNA sentence i.e. genetic code.

What about the claim that a flat rock becoming round somehow represents a gain in information? We know you will have trouble believing anyone claimed that, but a University member actually did! But neither the rock nor the waves transmitting the energy producing the roundness are responding to any data claimed to be newly occurring in the rocks changing shape. Nothing is generating any meaningful response via arranging otherwise meaningless symbols to transfer or respond to this alleged new information. So the only conclusion possible is that the change in shape is not information as defined above. Rather the change to a ’rounded shape’ is a built in consequence of the interaction of the natural properties of the system.

It may also surprise you that the property of roundness can only be declared to be information when an intelligent being with a mind, looks at it and associates roundness with some other pre-existing idea such as the number zero, the English letter O, or the geometric shape of a sphere. In all cases such “information” is in the mind of the beholder, and not in the rock. The beholder may then choose to use the round rock to communicate with another mind, e.g. by arranging it next to a stick in order to communicate the number 10, but the rock or any natural processes acting on it, did not produce that information.

Our conclusion, since there is no known instance of meaningless symbols self arranging in order to transmit or respond to a meaningful message, therefore the existence of such information along with the systems to transmit and or react to it, is always the consequence of an external pre-existent intelligence.

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