Information, analogy, and participation

I’ve read a few posts on disputes about “information”. Apparently, this is a hot word among ID folks. I have no opinion or ability to talk about what “information” must mean in a scientific context (I assume it must have some sort of metrical value, or be related to one), but I do have a few thoughts about the problems of discussing “information” in a philosophical sense.

Some say it is obvious that only mind contains information. The immediate response to this is that all sorts of things contain information that are not intelligent: clouds contain information about approaching weather, tree rings contain information about the age of the tree, the brightness of a star contains information about its distance, etc. This claim and objection is exactly parallel to the following claims and objections:

1.) it is obvious that what is warm, has some heat
1a) Wool blankets are warm, but I left these ones in a freezing car, so what is warm need not have heat.

2.) It is obvious that only intelligent beings can be foolish
2a.) This opera is foolish, but an opera is not an intelligent being, so what is foolish need not be an intelligent being.

3.) It is obvious that only a qualified professional can help with a heart surgery
3a.) These fiber optic tools are a great help in heart surgery…etc.

The difficulty here is with our use of analogy to deal with various relations of participation in reality. Tools participate in the activity of agents, and the action is properly said of both; effects and conditions participate in the actions of causes, and so we use analogy to speak of both, etc. The debate about information, as far as I can tell, does into take participated relations into account, and so neither side of the debate is saying anything decisive. Both these affirmations are obviously true and obviously false: “only what has mind contains information” and “only what has heat is warm”. In order to speak one way or another, we have to at least start by parsing out the intentions of words.

St. Thomas’s opinion would probably be something like this: information has a double participation- on the one hand there is a relation of cause to effect from nature to the human mind; on the other hand there is a relation of effect to cause (and instrument to agent) from nature to the divine mind. The first relation is (more or less) obvious (the information in things causes information in us), the second requires some amount of argument- perhaps not much argument, but a bit more than “information is only in minds”.

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