Mass/Energy and Information

            When a famous author like Agatha Christie sits down at her typewriter, or today at her laptop computer, and begins to write a murder mystery novel such as And Then There Were None, the creative inspiration inside her mind is abstract and non-material…being in the form of information only.

            During the entire time of the writing of this fictional novel the creative process remains informational and not actual, Agatha Christie not having to commit real murders as part of the research to inspire the story as it progresses chapter-by-chapter.

            But the writing of this new murder mystery novel changes character as Agatha Christie puts her ideas down on paper, making the fundamental transition from the abstract and intangible nature of informational ideas to the physical, material medium of paper and ink. 

            The interesting observation here is that the letters, words, punctuation marks, spaces, paragraphs, and book chapters could be on any subject.  It could be a murder mystery, foreign agent suspense thriller, romantic comedy, historical biography, or a cookbook filled with recipes.

            The medium of the ink and paper, or the ones and zeros of the word processing computer language code are entirely indifferent and neutral as to the genre category of the information being presented.

            But then another interesting transition takes place.  After the murder mystery novel is completed and enters the published book phase, physical copies now sit on shelves in bookstores waiting for someone like me to see it in its material form, buy it, and take it home to read.

            Then another amazing thing happens.  I open up the physical book and begin to read the text in the form of letters arranged as words and sentences in the English language, and the information that Agatha Christie created has passed through the material medium of ink on paper to become once again information that is the fascinating and engrossing murder mystery story And Then There Were None.    

            This has huge implications for a more accurate and up-to-date scientific understanding of the phenomena in the natural world.

            The non-material nature of information should tell both professional scientists and laymen like me that a purely materialistic worldview of the universe, absent the input of agency, is unnecessarily and nonsensically limited. 

            The organized complexity of the system of information that comprises a murder mystery story is not the same thing as that same story in physical print form in a book I can hold in my hands.

            The abstract and intangible creative thought behind the murder mystery story is not the same as the hands and fingers of Agatha Christie physically typing-out the story day-by-day using the materials of ink and paper.

            Information is abstract and non-material…and mass/energy by contrast is physical and material.  

            Information and intelligent agency go together.

            Mass-energy on its own cannot create complex, specified, and coherently integrated systems of information.

            The worldview of scientific materialism is nonsensical because it attempts to tell modern audiences that And Then There Was None typed itself…that it did not need the intelligent agent Agatha Christie as the explanation of its origin.

The present is the key to understanding the past

                The great geologist Charles Lyell in the 1820’s provided the general methodology for doing research in what are now called the historical sciences, of making reasonably accurate inferences about the past by observing what occurs in the natural world today…because the past is not directly accessible to us.

            Thanks to the present-day understanding of molecular biochemistry due in large part to the unraveling of DNA through the ten-year long Human Genome Project, and the advancement of computers and computer programs, we now can identify in living cells the developmental gene regulatory networks that instruct the molecular machines inside cells to assemble the different cell types and then tells them specifically where to go in the developing embryos…to produce elephants, lions, hawks, and human beings.

            The material properties of the typewriter keys, the ink ribbon, and the sheets of paper that translate the abstract creative storytelling from the mind of the book writer into the physical medium of paper and ink, is an easily understood reality analogous to the translating of the abstract creative information from the genetic code in DNA into the material “flesh and bones” of living organisms.

            Scientists correctly study the material mechanics of the processes taking place inside living cells, and we can make reasonably accurate inferences going back in time regarding the increasing complexity of life-forms on earth following the gradually linear addition of differing new cell types to support increasingly more complex architectural body-plans.

            But in the same way that the physics and chemistry of how ink bonds to paper to create the rough drafts typed by Agatha Christie cannot explain the inspired artistic creation of the fictional murder mystery story itself, a complete understanding of how the material mechanics of the nanotechnology occurring within living cells will not explain the translation of the material parts of flesh and bones coordinating together as a whole functioning unit, into the adult instinctual lifestyle habits of a charging African bull elephant chasing lions away from a watering hole.

            Not only do developmental gene regulatory networks and epigenetic factors now tell us how different cell types are constructed on-time and in the proper sequence from the DNA code and then sent-off to their specific xyz-coordinate locations in their unique body-plans during embryonic development, but there is another source of information that matches flesh and bones with extremely fine-tuned lifestyle habits…to successfully function as mature organisms within differing past geological eras, within the interrelated biodiversity of predator/prey relationships, and within the unimaginable complexity of diverse ecosystems. 

            Like Charles Lyell’s program of using the present to study the past in geology, we now today have a large part of the understanding of the molecular biochemical processes in living organisms.

            During a particular season every year in Africa functional baby elephants are born.  This is just one amongst enumerable examples of the present-day phenomena we can scientifically study, extrapolating backwards through the embryonic development phase to genes, chromosomes, and DNA.

            In other words, science has an enormous sample size of finished products in the form of ten million living species to study, working backwards through the completed architectural body-plans and lifestyle habits…to the initial genetic information contained in the paired chromosomes of the male and female parents.

            In plain language, we know that the material mechanisms in operation inside living cells can produce finished organisms that can survive and reproduce, because we see these living organisms all around us in action.

            The challenge since Darwin in the scientific field of biology is to figure-out how this all works.

            But the worldview of scientific materialism that attempts to reduce the charge of a full-grown African bull elephant to its flesh and bones material parts is as nonsensical as saying that the book And Then There Were None can write itself.

            Science cannot exclude agency and still be fully explanatory.  The creative origin of information cannot be reduced to a mass/energy causation.

            The charge of an elephant or a lion is a very physical action having a purely empirical outcome for whatever creature is being chased, but this full-speed charge at its fundamental essence is information-based…is an intangibly abstract form of an instinctual lifestyle habit in action.

            We therefore make a categorical mistake when we confuse abstract information with material mass/energy.

            One of the themes of this book is that no matter where the current research in the field of molecular biochemistry finally lands in terms of a more complete understanding of the material mechanisms at the genetic level in living cells, the complexity of these coordinated and integrated mechanical molecular systems has already left the unguided and undirected program of naturalistic materialism miles behind.

            Intelligent agency is not only required at the front-end to furnish the information needed inside living cells to produce over time the vast diversity of material life we see in the natural world, but also the abstract and intangible end-point functions that differentiate between the instinctual lifestyle habits of an elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, water buffalo, rhinoceros, and giraffe…to name some of the large mammals in Africa.

            Returning to the analogy of the writer Agatha Christie, abstract creative information not only enters in at the front-end of the process, passing through the required material medium of ink, paper, and the finished book form, but then expresses itself to the book reader as again the creative storyline of the murder mystery Agatha Christie intended, as the intelligent designing agent.

            The God of the Bible, who can introduce all of the material mass/energy and the non-material laws of physics, chemistry, and mathematics in the first split-seconds of the creation of the universe at the Big Bang, into the incredibly operational realities of the force of gravity, the speed of light, and the expansion rate of the universe…to my thinking is also therefore capable of inputting all of the information, the instructions, and the timetables inside living cells to create the remarkable material mechanisms now being studied by molecular biochemists.

            I need to say here at the outset of this book that I am not a theistic evolutionist, and I am not a deist. 

            Having worked in building construction as a career, I am skeptical of complex things falling into place on their own, especially living organisms that must be up-and-running with operational function in-place at a minimum just to be able to survive and to reproduce.

            To my thinking, the informational package within living cells beginning 3.8-billion years ago has the preprogrammed agenda to pump-out increasing complexity starting with the single-cell bacteria, by adding new and different cell types over time to support new and innovative architectural body-plans.

            But one of the themes put forward in this book is that this ever increasing complexity that has produced the vast diversity of life-forms we see today…is always introducing living organisms that are at the leading edge of specified refinement within what could otherwise conceptually be within a possible range of incomplete and unfinished expression on one side of a continuum-line…to functionally complete and fully operational at the other side of the continuum-line.

            What is staring us in the face, when we look at biology, is the reality that human designed and manufactured products are always complete and functional…are at the forward edge of specified, refined completion for their intended use.

            Human agency universally produces functionally complete objects, from fully cooked baked lasagna at our favorite Italian restaurant, to a bicycle that has two wheels, to a new automobile that has brakes, to computer software programs that are debugged and operational, and to completed murder mystery books that are spell-checked.

            We do not see in the vast diversity of life today any organisms that are in major transitional development part-way towards some future outcome.  We presently do not see “works-in-progress.”

            Using Charles Lyell’s dictum of using the present to interpret the past in the historical sciences like geology, this present-day evidence then tells us that living organisms enter into existence with specified, refined maturity at the forward edge of their conceptual essence…functionally complete enough to smoothly fit into their biodiverse and ecologically balanced niches, to be able to survive and to reproduce “right out of the box, no assembly tools required.”

            This line of thinking is in direct contrast to the simple-to-complex ideology of scientific materialism that must, in order to plausibly work, replace intelligent agency with the gradual small steps of incremental progressive development over time, through the Darwinian mechanism of accidental, trial-and-error, unguided, and undirected naturalistic processes.

            I see the nearly saltational (miraculous) transitions of early life at 3.8 billion years ago from the single-cell bacteria to multi-cellular algae floating on top of the oceans, to the Precambrian jellyfish having 10 to 12 new and different cell types, to the radiation of new creatures with architectural body-plans having 30 to 40 different cell types during the Cambrian Explosion at 535 million years ago, throughout geologic history to our present day…always occurring at the guided and directed level of putting-out functionally mature organisms able to adapt and survive at the first moments of their introduction…factoring-in the genetic mutations that also over time put-out beneficial variant traits to be chosen by natural selection to enhance adaptation to changing environments.

            This non-Darwinian thinking encompasses large leaps in development without transitional intermediates, which empirically is the fact-based evidence in the fossil record.

            This non-Darwinian approach requires the well-timed, physical expressions of information that consistently produce fully functional living organisms…of strategically released inputs of information coming from within living cells, that could not plausibly be explained through an accidental, trial-and-error, naturalistic gradual process over long stretches of time that would be easily detectable to molecular biochemistry today.

            Because we see in the present the “miracle” of information in living cells using material molecular mechanisms to build and place the different cell types in architectural body-plans to create such diverse organisms as hawks, spiders, sea crabs, whales, wolves, and humans…conceptually we can extrapolate backwards to envision this same high quality of functionality producing new phyla types in their completed form through the introduction of massive inputs of information released according to prearranged timetables…the same quality of actualized information that can produce the architectural body-plan of the African bull elephant but also the instinctual lifestyle habit of its intimidating full-speed charge. 

            Again, this line-of-reasoning rejects the trial-and-error, incremental small steps of gradual development progressing from the simple to the complex…which is the accidental, unguided, and undirected methodology of the atheistic worldview of naturalistic materialism applied to the living and non-living world…absent intelligent agency.

            It is inconceivable that Agatha Christie would sit in front of her typewriter or laptop computer and randomly hit the keys with her eyes closed and her mind on other things, hoping through a trial-and-error, accidental process that she could produce a classic murder mystery who-done-it story.    

            It is inconceivable that the complexity and specificity we find inside living cells could be the product of random and undirected processes.

            Finally, the sequential logic of writing a book using arrows…goes from abstract information from the author→to physical ink on paper in the form of a book→to abstract information being read by the book reader.

            Another way of expressing this is to say that the “ought” of the potentially captivating storyline progresses to the actual “is” of the story in print-form, and again back to the “ought” of the unfolding story being read by the book reader late into the evening beyond bedtime.

            In a nutshell this philosophically sums up the human enterprise of scientifically investigating the natural world…encompassing the two realities of mass/energy and information.

            Even the skeptic David Hume said that the “is” of how things actually are cannot transition to the “ought” of how they should be…the actual existence of an ”is” and the moral concept of an “ought” being in two entirely different realms of reality.[1]

            Boiling this down further, another way of expressing this is to say: that the abstract information of DNA and developmental gene regulatory networks inside cells→translates into the architectural body-plan of an African bull elephant→expresses itself materially in the instinctual lifestyle habit of an intimidating elephant charge.

            In understanding how we get from biological embryonic development to full physical maturity the arrows go in only one direction…forward.

            But by adopting the program of Charles Lyell for use in the historical sciences, in which the field of biological origins belongs, the arrows describing the process can go in both directions backwards and forwards…in the same way that a published book on the shelf in a bookstore tells us that the author of it exists, but also gives us their name on the front cover of the book and the date of printing on the copyright page…pointing backwards in time when the book was in its creative writing phase.

            That there are no partially completed books for sale in bookstores, or on the bookshelves in university or public libraries…also tells us that for new books to be able to enter into the marketplace of ideas, they must be functionally complete.

            That the gradualism of unfinished projects part-way along their progressive development toward becoming fully functional, is not what we observe in the natural living and non-living world, then we can reasonably conclude that naturalistic materialism cannot be the ruling paradigm that is workable in either scientific investigation or in our philosophical worldview.

            Darwin’s brilliant extrapolation in 1859 from microevolution to macroevolution in his book The Origin of Species as an explanation for the vast diversity of life on earth…no longer works because the discovery of the complexity and specificity of information in the natural world is now recognized and understood in this modern Age of Information.

            This is how science works.  New more correct information clarifies or replaces earlier theoretical hypotheses.


[1] John Lennox: Socrates in the City in Labastide, France, Part 2, Jan. 23, 2018 on You Tube.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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