by Werner Gitt
Note: This review is a bit technical. Sorry.
I was looking forward to this book for a couple of reasons. First, the mysterious concept of "information" has been showing up in some of the physics books I've been reading. For example, The Black Hole War was largely concerned with whether information is conserved when something falls into a black hole. I got the feeling that "information" is some new, fundamental concept in the universe, right up there with matter or momentum. Second, some of the more reasoned critiques of evolution question whether random selections and mutation can really generate "information" for more complex life. That appears to be a profound claim, but I needed some background on information in order to evaluate it. This particular book was recommended by Answers in Genesis, and I'd hoped that it would give some good background as to what this mysterious information concept circulating both physics and biology is, and then apply it to evolution.
I was sorely disappointed.
The book is written in an excessively methodical manner, where one statement after the next is written in almost an outline for a formal proof. This is great if you're trying to make a formal proof, and perhaps Werner Gitt is, but it makes for terribly dry reading. It also provides the appearance of correctness, as most of us are scared of this kind of writing. Only really smart people do it, so he must be smart, right?
Gitt then wastes over thirty pages before getting to information. There's some groundwork on physical laws, but really it's nothing useful unless you're new to science, in which case this is the wrong book for you!
The actual content begins in chapter three and continues in its propositional format. It quickly becomes clear that Gitt views information as intricately tied to intelligence, not just a property of the matter involved, calling it a "mental quantity". He may, at first, just mean that it's non-material, but by "Theorem 2" (see, it reminds you of a math class!) we're told that "Information only arises through an intentional, volitional act." By the next chapter information requires a sender and a recipient and "every piece of information leads to a mental source, the mind of the sender." We're also treated to a section on syntax and semantics of a code, and it felt eerily similar to the Theory of Computation course I took last year (and not at all pleasant considering my experience!).
At this point it became clear that whatever this book is talking about is not the same "information" as science, certainly the physics, is talking about. (That might be something mentioned briefly called "Shannon's information", but I need to do more research still.) Black holes couldn't care less whether the falling object has a code to it or not, and certainly no willful messages are being exchanged. And yet the conservation of that information is critically important to physicists. Clearly we're talking about two different things.
On the evolution front, this book is equally worthless. The simplified argument I've heard is that genes have information content, random mutations won't form information, therefore evolution can't happen and you need a designer. But Gitt's book kills evolution without a hearing by assuming the very thing he is trying to prove: that information requires a designer. So of course evolution's absurd when you decree, as an unproven proposition, that all information requires a mind. This is the "begging the question" fallacy, and committing it throws all credibility out the window.
I also note that a quick Google search (*after* reading the book, while writing this review) yields similar criticism on this and his other work:
Errors in Werner Gitt's work with Information Theory
Information Theory and Creationism: Werner Gitt
("If we use a semantic definition for information, we cannot assume that data found in nature is information. We cannot know a priori that it had an intelligent source. We cannot make the data have semantic meaning or intelligent purpose by simply defining it so.")
After a few pages of this, I gave up. The argument is fundamentally flawed, and I'm not sure there's anything left to salvage from this book. Future chapters were going to apply his knowledge against evolution (trivial given how he defined his terms) and show that there is information being sent from God to man in the Bible, which is also trivial considering, at the very least, there were human minds involved in writing it...
And being so incredibly boring and reminiscent of the more frustrating parts of math/computer science courses... I can find something way better to read. (I'm getting hints from other books that God's Undertaker, by John Lennox, might in part discuss information. Added to my pile. And I'll probably add a secular, physics-y book on the topic too.) So after about seventy pages, I put this one down.
It appears the entire book is readable online over here on Answers in Genesis's site.
1/5 stars, for masquerading as technical and damning when it's really just a fallacy
Review also posted to LibraryThing