Information Originates in Symmetry Breaking

John Collier
University of KwaZulu-Natal
We find symmetry attractive. It interests us. Symmetry is often an indicator of the deep structure of things, whether they be natural phenomena, or the creations of artists. For example, the most fundamental conservation laws of physics are all based in symmetry. Similarly, the symmetries found in religious art throughout the world are intended to draw attention to deep spiritual truths. Not only do we find symmetry pleasing, but its discovery is often also surprising and illuminating as well. For these reasons, we are inclined to think that symmetries are informative, and that symmetries contain information. On the other hand, symmetries represent a kind of invariance under transformation. Such invariance implies that symmetrical things contain redundancies. Redundancy, in turn, implies that the information content of a symmetrical structure or configuration is less than that of a similar nonsymmetrical structure. Symmetry, then, entails a reduction in information content. These considerations present us with somewhat of a paradox: On the one hand, many symmetries that we find in the world are surprising, and surprise indicates informativeness. On the other hand, the surprise value of information arises because it presents us with the unexpected or improbable, but symmetries, far from creating the unexpected, ensure that the known can be extended through invariant transformations. How can this paradox be resolved?
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,489
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Biosemiotics and Applied Evolutionary Epistemology: A Comparison.Nathalie Gontier & M. Facoetti - 2021 - In In: Pagni E., Theisen Simanke R. (eds) Biosemiotics and Evolution. Interdisciplinary Evolution Research, vol 6. Springer, Cham. Cham: pp. 175-199.

View all 8 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles


Added to PP index

Total views
4 ( #1,283,432 of 2,520,847 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes