INFORMATION IN LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS, QUANTUM PHYSICS, AND .

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Return to: Spirituality and Paranormal Phenomena(Original publication and copyright: -RXUQDO RI 3DUDSV\FKRORJ\, 2011,Volume 75, pages 15-43)INFORMATION IN LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS,QUANTUM PHYSICS, AND PARANORMALPHENOMENABy J. E. KennedyABSTRACT: Information consists of symbols, media for storing and transmittingthe symbols, and an interpretational infrastructure that establishes the meaning ofthe symbols, can generate and decode the symbols, and can take actions based on thesymbols. Information processing in livings systems includes genetics, perception,behavior, memory, learning, communication, imagination, creativity, and culture.For certain hypotheses in quantum physics and most hypotheses in parapsychology,the media and interpretational infrastructures for information processing arebeyond current scientific understanding. After extensive research, the hypothesisthat an observer can sometimes paranormally influence the outcome of quantumevents does not have convincing empirical support. The current experimentalresults in parapsychology do not have the properties of a signal in noise and cannotbe convincingly distinguished from methodological bias. Prospective registrationof experimental protocols could greatly reduce the confounding problem ofmethodological bias; however, the experimental results will likely continue to beinconsistent with the positions of both proponents and skeptics of experimentalparapsychology. The findings of parapsychology may be most consistent with amodel that paranormal phenomena are the result of supernatural informationprocessing agencies with relatively independent motivations that manifest asspirituality and influence the meaning and direction of an individual’s life.Keywords: information, paranormal, spiritual, quantum-to-classical transition,consciousness, origin of lifeConcepts involving information play an increasing role in someof the most challenging problems in science. Two of the most profoundmysteries in science are how life began and how quantum physics should beconceptualized. There are strong arguments that concepts of informationwill have a fundamental role in understanding these mysteries (Greenstein& Zajonc, 2006; Schlosshauer, 2007; Yockey, 2005).However, the relevant literature reveals differing concepts,terminology, and assumptions in discussing information in different scientificcontexts. These differences result in ambiguities and inconsistencies thathinder scientific understanding. For example, the different uses andimplications of the term information in biology and physics are not widelyappreciated.The purpose of this article is to summarize and clarify the conceptspertaining to information as these concepts are emerging in scientificresearch. This discussion may provide a basis for interdisciplinary insights

16The Journal of Parapsychologyabout life, consciousness, creativity, quantum physics, and phenomena thatwould be considered paranormal with current scientific understanding. Thearticle focuses on the current state of concepts about information processingand is not intended to be a thorough review of each topic. The referencesare primarily books and review articles. The scientists who had prominentroles in the development of the topics are generally not identified.Information ConceptsEveryday InformationDictionary definitions of information focus on knowledge, facts,and data. These definitions include several assumptions and implicationsthat need to be recognized if concepts of information are to be productivelyapplied in science. Information has three components.One component of information is symbolic representation. Theknowledge, facts, and data of information are represented in some typeof symbolic form. For humans, words are the most common symbols forconveying information. The evolution of human culture has resulted inincreasing layers of symbolic representation. For example, a video recordingof a scientific lecture is a symbolic representation of the original lecture, whichin turn provided symbolic representations of scientific findings that werepublished in journals and were based on measurements that were symbolicrepresentations of the outcomes of certain experimental conditions.A second component is media for storing and transmitting thesymbols. Different media can be used, such as printed pages, electronicsignals, living brains, and sound waves. The same information can bestored and transmitted in different media and a given medium can be usedwith different information. Media involve matter and energy, whereas thesymbolic representation has meaning that is distinct from the media.The third component of information is an interpretationalinfrastructure that establishes meaning, value, and usefulness for thesymbols, and can generate and decode the symbols. Without consistentmeaning of the symbols, there can be no stable knowledge, facts, or data.The meanings assigned to different symbols are typically arbitrary inthe sense that different symbols could be used equally well for differentmeanings, as occurs with different languages. Language requires theinterpretational infrastructure of the human mind in context of culture. Theinterpretational infrastructure also includes the ability to generate and todecode the symbols in the media, and to take actions based on the symbols.Thus, the interpretational infrastructure also contains other informationprocessing steps. As will become apparent, information processing impliesthe existence and interaction of multiple information processing systems.Unfortunately, the interpretational infrastructure is oftenoverlooked in discussions of information. However, the symbols wouldUpdate after publication: A significantly updated discussion of informationin life and physics is available at http://science.jeksite.org/info1

Information in Life, Consciousness, Physics, and the Paranormal17have no meaning or usefulness without the interpretational infrastructure.Because the symbols and the interpretational infrastructure are bothessential, they must develop or evolve together.One of the primary properties of information is that a relativelysmall amount of mass and energy in the media and symbols can beused to guide much larger amounts of mass and energy through theinterpretational infrastructure. At the time of conception, the amountof mass and energy in the DNA of an elephant embryo is small; however,that genetic information will ultimately guide the development of a largeanimal. Similarly, the amount of mass and energy in a stop sign is muchsmaller than for the vehicles that the sign controls. In general, informationis an innately emergent property that can have strikingly disproportionateinfluences on the distribution and flow of mass and energy.From an everyday perspective, the concept of information appearsto have meaning only in context of living creatures. In particular, theinterpretational infrastructure appears to be a function of living creatures.Quantitative Information TheoryQuantitative information theory was developed to evaluate anddesign electronic communication systems. The theory focuses on quantifyingand optimizing the information transmission rate in a communicationchannel and the reliability of transmission through a noisy channel (Cover& Thomas, 2006). The methods of information theory can be used toquantify information in many areas of investigation, including biology andpsychology.Virtually any probabilistic or statistical model can be expressedmathematically in terms of quantitative information. For example, statisticalhypothesis testing and information theory are closely related (Cover & Thomas,2006). The statistical results of a scientific experiment or an individual scientificmeasurement indicate information obtained about nature.Quantitative information theory ignores interpretationalinfrastructure and focuses on probability rather than on information.The theory does not consider whether the probabilities are for symbolswith meaning, purpose, usefulness to living creatures, or implications forthe distribution and flow of mass and energy (Brillouin, 1962, pp. 9-10;Roederer, 2005, pp. 13, 32–33).Information and LifeDNA and the Genetic CodeDNA and the genetic code are very consistent with the everydayview of information. The medium for storing information is DNA, whichconsists of long sequences of chemical compounds called nucleotides that

18The Journal of Parapsychologycan be of four types: A, C, G, and U (Yockey, 2005). Each sequential groupof three nucleotides is a symbol for an amino acid. This is essentially digitalinformation similar to the sequence of binary electronic states used to storedata in computers. Three nucleotides with four possible types for eachcan code 64 different items. However, there are only 20 amino acids to becoded and some are coded redundantly. For example, CGG, CGC, CGU,and CGA all code arginine, and only UGG codes for tryptophan (Yockey,2005). Proteins constructed from amino acids in the sequences specified byDNA are the basis for life as we know it.The interpretational infrastructure for the symbols in DNA consistsof a complicated, integrated network of biochemical processes for storingand duplicating DNA, reading the sequences, constructing the proteins,and making error corrections. Each new generation must have the sameinterpretation of the symbols in the DNA. As Harold noted “ sequencesare just strings of symbols without intrinsic significance. At the end of theday, the object of the genetic exercise is to specify the shape of a proteinthat performs a biological function” (Harold, 2001, p. 50). Error handlingis particularly important. “The use of multiple, unrelated, and redundantregulatory devices is quite typical. . . . Control circuits are more elaboratethan the processes which are regulated” (Harold, 2001, p. 53). As expected,this interpretational infrastructure involves other layers of informationprocessing, particularly with the regulatory processes.All known living cells, from bacteria to the cells in humans, usethe same genetic code for mapping DNA to amino acids. At the sametime, this mapping appears to be arbitrary like the meanings assigned tosymbols in other types of information (e.g., CGG could have been usedequally well for tryptophan as for arginine). These findings are generallytaken as evidence that all life on earth evolved from one ancestor. If lifespontaneously originated at different times, different genetic codes forconstructing proteins would be expected, much like the different spoken(and computer) languages that have emerged.The origin of life remains a profound mystery because the DNAmedium, the genetic code symbols, and the complex interpretationalinfrastructure all must have originated together. It is difficult to imaginehow the complex interdependent information processing systems that arethe foundation of life could have spontaneously appeared. The principlesof evolution cannot account for the origin of life because genetics andevolution as currently understood cannot occur without all the informationprocessing components functioning in an integrated manner. Evolutioncannot explain the origin of evolution.PerceptionPerception of and response to environmental factors are basicinformation processing capabilities of living organisms. Single-cell bacteria

Information in Life, Consciousness, Physics, and the Paranormal19have the ability “to register cues from the outside world and to respond ina goal-oriented manner” (Harold, 2001, p. 87). The media for perceptionare receptors that respond to certain environmental factors. The outputsignals of the receptors are symbols for the environmental conditions.The interpretational infrastructure consists of biochemical processes thatrespond to the signals.With evolution, the receptors have become more sophisticated andthe processing of signals from receptors has become much more complex.In human vision, over a million individual receptors in the eye respond tospecific details of edges, lines, angles, shapes, color, movement, and depth.The signals from these receptors are sent to several regions of the brainthat perform specific integration functions, such as facial recognition ortracking movement of objects.As you look at someone, the visual information is sent toyour brain as millions of neural impulses, then constructedinto its component features, and finally, in some as yetmysterious way, composed into a meaningful perceivedimage, which is then compared with previously storedimages and recognized. (Meyers, 2005, p. 152).Extensive parallel processing and hierarchical integration are utilized inachieving this result. Again we find many layers of information processingwith different media and symbols.The senses of hearing, smell, taste, touch, and body position aresimilarly based on receptors that generate signals that are processed andintegrated in the brain (Meyers, 2005).LearningDeveloping the capability to learn was a very important step inevolution. The behavior of a simple living organism is determined bygenetic programming of automatic responses to environmental conditions.For these organisms, adaptation to environmental changes occurs at thespecies level through genetic mutations and diversity in the species. Whenenvironmental changes occur, many or most individuals may die whereasa few with favorable genetic mutations survive and reproduce. Of course ifthe environmental changes are outside the range of species diversity, thespecies will become extinct, as has happened for over 99 percent of thespecies that have existed on earth (Guttman, 2002). The ability to learnallows individual organisms to adapt to environmental changes duringtheir lifetimes and thus to delay death.An implied requirement for learning is that an organism cangenerate variability in responses or behavior. Behavior is not limited togenetically programmed automatic responses to certain environmental

20The Journal of Parapsychologystimuli. Neural mechanisms that provide variations in behavior havebecome increasingly sophisticated with evolution.Another implied requirement for learning is that an organismcan identify and remember correlations with and among the signals fromreceptors. Identifying these correlations creates information and requiresan interpretational infrastructure that is dynamic as well as having memory.Similar to the processing of perceptions, learning can utilize groupsor patterns of symbols to form higher level integrated symbols, such asrecognizing an animal and anticipating its movements. Self-awarenessresults from receptor signals from internal processes rather than fromenvironmental conditions.The evolution of language in humans is a pinnacle of both informationprocessing and learning (Deacon, 1997; Donald, 2001). Language allowspeople to share knowledge with others and across generations, as well as tonegotiate and work cooperatively. In a communicating group, the effectivememory and learning capacity can be much greater than for any individual.Language abilities required the evolution of special information processingcapabilities in the brain, enhanced perceptual capabilities, and structuresin the throat for speaking (Deacon, 1997).For spoken words, the information medium is sound waves andthe symbols are the words. The interpretational infrastructure for spokenwords consists of many other layers of information processing, includingthe receptors for the sense of hearing as well as the subsequent processingand integration in the brain. Memory of the meaning of the words learnedfrom culture is another important component of the interpretationalinfrastructure.Imagination and CreativityThe evolutionary trend toward increased information processinghas culminated in consciousness with imagination. The media, symbols,and interpretational infrastructure for imagination initially reside within abrain. The symbols are to a great extent self-generated.Imagination of potential or possible futures goes beyond learningempirical associations and introduces the ability to create new conditions inthe world. The ability to do planning based on hypothetical futures is one ofthe key abilities resulting from the evolution of the human mind (Donald,2001). Imagination allows manipulation of symbols in a way that can resultin creativity and greatly enhanced problem solving. The imagined potentialfutures can include individual or group activities or new technology rangingfrom primitive tools to the complex electronic systems of modern society.Creativity such as developing new technology typically involvesdeveloping new symbols or new meaning for symbols. The newinformation must be learned and distributed, which are adaptations of theinterpretational infrastructure and include culture.

Information in Life, Consciousness, Physics, and the Paranormal21Discussion of Information and Living SystemsLivings systems have layer upon layer of interacting informationprocessing, including within and among genetics, perception, behavior,memory, learning, communication, imagination, creativity, and culture. Thepurposeful nature of living creatures is based on information processing.The interpretational infrastructure consists of other layers of informationprocessing. The information processing is parallel as well as sequential, andoften with hierarchical integration. Information processing is a definingproperty of life.Conceptually distinguishing symbols, media, and interpretationalinfrastructure may clarify the dilemma that our self-aware consciousnessfeels like it is separate from matter, yet appears to emerge from and dependon the matter in the brain. This dilemma is the source of much debate andcontroversy in science and philosophy. The media for information is matterand energy, but the meaning of the symbols is independent of the media.The physical brain serves as media for symbols, but the symbols havemeaning beyond the media function of the physical brain. The basic nature andvalue of information is that it provides meaning beyond the physical propertiesof the media. A type of dualism between meaning and media is implied. This istrue for information in general and for imagination in particular.The ability to symbolically represent hypothetical possibilities aswell as manifest reality is pivotal. Ultimately, most information of interestto living beings pertains to manifest reality, whether current or futureconditions. However, the ability to think about abstract possibilities providesthe power to cause or create the manifestation of a desired possibility. Thisability emerges from many layers of information processing.Information and Quantum PhysicsQuantum Physics and Potential OutcomesIn quantum physics, equations have been developed thatdescribe the outcomes of experiments with great accuracy; however, theinterpretation of the terms in the equations has thus far defied scientificunderstanding (Greene, 2004; Greenstein & Zajonc, 2006; Schlosshauer,2007). The primary equation of quantum physics is in the form of wavesthat include terms for every potential or possible outcome of an experimentor observation. However, there is intrinsic variability and uncertaintyon the quantum level, and the waves indicate only the probability that agiven outcome will occur. The equations do not deterministically specifywhich outcome will actually be found. The actual outcome that manifestsappears to be random. The waves are often described as probability wavesand the equation is called the wave function. There is no known medium orsubstance for the waves.

22The Journal of ParapsychologyTaken at face value, the wave function indicates that the actualphysical state of a particle or system prior to observation is a combination ofall possible outcomes of the observation. Numerous experiments supportthis interpretation (Greenstein & Zajonc, 2006; Schlosshauer, 2007). Themost well known is the double slit experiment whi

QUANTUM PHYSICS, AND PARANORMAL PHENOMENA By J. E. Kennedy ABSTRACT: Information consists of symbols, media for storing and transmitting the symbols, and an interpretational infrastructure that establishes the meaning of the symbols, can generate and decode the symbols, and can take actions based on the symbols.

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