Nick Matzke posted Entry 2195 on April 9, 2006 03:52 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/2190

It looks like Jerry Adler of Newsweek has seen the same problem I did with the reaction of the “leading researchers” of ID to Tiktaalik. See “Evolution: If It Walks Like a Fish…

PS: See also this cartoon from Kansas, and also this cartoon.

Evolution: If It Walks Like a Fish…

Newsweek

April 17, 2006 issue - Darwin predicted that the “missing links” of evolution – gaps in the fossil record between related species – would come to haunt his theory. He was right: even today, they’re a major theme in the effort to discredit evolution with the public. Which is why there was such a stir about a paper in the journal Nature last week describing a 375 million-year-old creature dug from rocks in the Canadian Arctic. It’s a four-foot-long, crocodile-headed fish with scales, gills – and primitive wrist- and fingerlike bones in its fins. Given the Inuit name Tiktaalik, the specimen neatly splits the gap between fossil fish that lived about 385 million years ago and the four-legged amphibians that came 20 million years later.

Until recently, scientists believed that legs evolved when a warming climate dried up ponds and swamps. But Tiktaalik supports the view that legs evolved in water, among fish living in what was then a tropical river delta – perhaps to help them crawl to shallows where larger predators couldn’t follow. “It really blurs the distinction between land and water animals,” says Neil Shubin of the University of Chicago, who led the team that found the fossil.

Shubin didn’t set out to score points for Darwinism, but the implications of his find are obvious: Tiktaalik could turn out to be as iconic as Archaeopteryx, the fossil link between dinosaurs and birds. The Discovery Institute, which promotes “intelligent design” as an alternative to Darwin, was quick to assert that Tiktaalik “poses no threat to [ID] … Few leading [ID] researchers have argued against the existence of transitional forms.” Those “leading researchers” may know better, but the fossil gaps are cited many times in the controversial ID textbook “Of Pandas and People.” The book takes particular note of the large difference between “the oldest amphibian” and “its presumed [fish] ancestor.” It’s a gap wide enough for a fish to walk through – and now we know that one did.

—Jerry Adler
© 2006 Newsweek, Inc.

Long before Tiktaalik, of course, we had a decent collection of transitionals for fish to early tetrapods – see a summary from 1997 – but, given how ID appears be over the hill at this point and sliding back down to the dustbin of history, it’s nice to get in a few parting shots while there’s still time.

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Comment #95740

Posted by steve s on April 9, 2006 4:33 PM (e)

If I could draw cartoons, I’d draw one of Tiktaalik giving the finger to Paul Nelson.

Comment #95742

Posted by Arden Chatfield on April 9, 2006 4:44 PM (e)

Few leading [ID] researchers have argued against the existence of transitional forms.

IDC advocates constantly claim that there are no transitional forms.

Note the weasel words: ‘Few leading [ID] researchers’. So that means that SOME leading ID ‘researchers’ say they don’t exist, many ID ‘researchers’ who aren’t ‘leading’ say they don’t exist, and thousands of ‘grassroots’ ID doofuses continue to make that claim. My prediction is, they’ll continue to make that claim forever.

Anyway, it’s amusing that these people are having to whittle away their position in the face of evidence. You can smell their discomfort.

Comment #95744

Posted by Bruce Thompson GQ on April 9, 2006 4:54 PM (e)

No one here has mentioned the fact the Rob Crowther uses the term “claim” in his article. Specifically, “..a group of researchers claim to have uncovered the skeleton of a 375-million-year-old fish.”(emphasis mine). Not even AIG questions the find, just the age. Several papers in a mainstream scientific journal with plenty of photographs substantiates their claim in my book. Their tangible claims carry several orders of magnitude more credibility than any claims I’ve read from the DI.

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

Comment #95746

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on April 9, 2006 5:08 PM (e)

Few leading [ID] researchers ….

Zero. There aren’t any, in any scientific sense.

Comment #95753

Posted by steve_is on April 9, 2006 5:46 PM (e)

Bruce,

This…

“No one here has mentioned the fact the Rob Crowther uses the term “claim” in his article. Specifically, “..a group of researchers claim to have uncovered the skeleton of a 375-million-year-old fish.”

…is because, as you know, no one in the scientific community will accept the evidence until it has been checked, redated, redated with other methods, rechecked and redated with even newer methods and so on…

Vive la Methodé!

steve_is

Comment #95754

Posted by Graeme Carle on April 9, 2006 5:51 PM (e)

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

Comment #95756

Posted by PvM on April 9, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

Nope, you will be referred to research that shows how you are wrong. Such as the work by Tom Schneider Evolution of biological Information

ABSTRACT

How do genetic systems gain information by evolutionary processes? Answering this question precisely requires a robust, quantitative measure of information. Fortunately, fifty years ago Claude Shannon defined information as a decrease in the uncertainty of a receiver. For molecular systems, uncertainty is closely related to entropy and hence has clear connections to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. These aspects of information theory have allowed the development of a straightforward and practical method of measuring information in genetic control systems. Here this method is used to observe information gain in the binding sites for an artificial ‘protein’ in a computer simulation of evolution. The simulation begins with zero information and, as in naturally occurring genetic systems, the information measured in the fully evolved binding sites is close to that needed to locate the sites in the genome. The transition is rapid, demonstrating that information gain can occur by punctuated equilibrium.

No lynching, just ‘straightening out’ :-)

The evolution of information in DNA is actually not that hard to understand, variation and selection is all that it takes. Science indeed is openminded but ID has had much chance to present its case and failed showing its scientific vacuity.

Comment #95757

Posted by gwangung on April 9, 2006 6:05 PM (e)

However, people WILL get testy if someone continues to claim that mutation decreases information never increases it, we’ve never seen speciation, evolution is only a theory, etc., after being show evidence to the contrary.

Comment #95758

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 9, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

why the hysteria?

why the hysteria?

seems the hysteria has always been coming from the folks who purport to support ID, or haven’t you checked out some of their sites lately?

Have you seen any scientists recently hysterically claiming that IDers are going to destroy 90% of humanity?

can you say, “chicken little”?

Comment #95759

Posted by RBH on April 9, 2006 6:09 PM (e)

Graeme Carle asked

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate?

Ask the creationists trying to cram flat lies about science into Ohio schools, pushing a fundamentalist religious agenda in public schools. Sooner or later a person gets tired of ignoramuses telling him that his professional life’s work is a fraud.

Graeme Carle asked

I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria?

Science is about rationality and honesty and tough criticism and actual evidence. And you don’t want to be so openminded that your brains fall out.

Graeme Carle asked

I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

Depends on the context. Do so in church and you’ll be applauded by equally ignorant parishioners in the pews. Do so in front of an audience composed of people who actually know something about it and you’ll be laughed at or pitied, particularly when the basis for your doubt is merely “I just can’t see …”. Your ignorance is not evidence; it’s just ignorance.

As to how information is added to “DNA”, that’s a meaningless question. If you want to ask “How does information (in any of the technical definitions of “information”) get added to the genome of a population, try random variation and natural selection. They work just fine. And ever hear of “gene duplication”? Read TalkOrigins. It’s full of answers to questions like that. Learn something. Ignorance is forgiveable. Willful ignorance is an intellectual sin. Imagining that one’s ignorance constitutes an argument is a fallacy.

RBH

Comment #95762

Posted by steve s on April 9, 2006 6:35 PM (e)

Comment #95754

Posted by Graeme Carle on April 9, 2006 05:51 PM (e)

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

There are certainly things you don’t understand about quantum field theory. Do you therefore assume that theory is wrong?

Comment #95765

Posted by Pete Dunkelberg on April 9, 2006 6:57 PM (e)

(I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)

Do you have a definition of information such that mutations can avoid adding information?
Can you explain how normal processes such as gene duplication and natural selection may occur without massive increases in functional DNA, aka “information”?

Comment #95767

Posted by mark duigon on April 9, 2006 7:00 PM (e)

It’s great to see that some members of the media are aware of some of those embarassing statements such as are made in OPaP. Perhaps, before too long, enough of the media will be aware of the disingenuous and deceitful work of the Intelligent Design movement to render their PR campaigns useless (although by then ID may have evolved yet again, perhaps into Purposeful Arrangement of Parts (PAP)).

Comment #95768

Posted by Andrew McClure on April 9, 2006 7:02 PM (e)

Few leading [ID] researchers ….

Zero. There aren’t any, in any scientific sense.

The DI was right, then. No leading ID researchers have ever argued against the existence of transitional forms. Hooray for logic!

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

Depends on how polite you are about it, how honest you are about it, and whether you intend to just express legitimate doubts and questions or whether you intend to just repeat urban legends you heard somewhere and then get defensive and nasty if people point out the urban legends are wrong.

This said, this is the internet. Whereever you go on the internet, there is unfortunately the constant risk of people going crazy vindictive on you for no good reason at any time. You should see some of the things I’ve been accused of lately because I don’t like the same video games certain other people like :O I don’t think that’s a very good reason to hold back, though. After all, you could remain silent and quiet about your personal thoughts on “information” for years to avoid conflict, then suddenly find yourself with a website full of people trying to lynch you because they don’t like your choice of cat food.

Comment #95769

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 9, 2006 7:10 PM (e)

You should see some of the things I’ve been accused of lately because I don’t like the same video games certain other people like

You’ve seen nothing until you’ve seen a Playstation 2 vs. XBox vs. Gamecube fanboy argument. It’s probably the best hillarity and one of the most viscious arguments you can see on the internet. If you think religions have passionate defenders that are often devoid of ‘logic’, you haven’t seen what console fanboys will do in defending their choice of video games console.

It’s pandemonium! PANDEMONIUM MAN!

Comment #95770

Posted by Russell on April 9, 2006 7:13 PM (e)

Graeme Carle wrote:

I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

RBH wrote:

Depends on the context. Do so in church and you’ll be applauded by equally ignorant parishioners in the pews. Do so in front of an audience composed of people who actually know something about it and you’ll be laughed at or pitied

Do so in a high school science class, or at a school board meeting, and, no, I won’t lynch you or get hysterical, but, yes, I will be mightily exasperated, perhaps even to the point of pissed-offedness.

Comment #95771

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 9, 2006 7:16 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #95772

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 9, 2006 7:18 PM (e)

Graeme Carle wrote:

I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

RBH wrote:

Depends on the context. Do so in church and you’ll be applauded by equally ignorant parishioners in the pews. Do so in front of an audience composed of people who actually know something about it and you’ll be laughed at or pitied

Russel wrote:

Do so in a high school science class, or at a school board meeting, and, no, I won’t lynch you or get hysterical, but, yes, I will be mightily exasperated, perhaps even to the point of pissed-offedness.

If you do it on this blog it could lead to Pandamonium.

Oh I do so kill me.

Comment #95773

Posted by Alexey Merz on April 9, 2006 7:29 PM (e)

Graeme Carle:
I just can’t see how information is added to DNA.

Pete Dunkelberg:
Do you have a definition of information such that mutations can avoid adding information?

It is unlikely that Mr. Carle can define “mutations” or, indeed, knows anything about the chemical structure of DNA or how this structure works in the context of a living cell. I say this with some confidence because if he understood anything substantial about molecular biology (never mind evolution) he would probably not have asked the above question.

I’m not saying this to insult Mr. Carle, but rather to point out that (1) Mr. Dunkelberg’s question above is probably already over Mr. Carle’s head, and (2) to warn Mr. Carle that he is likely doing the equivalent of voicing an opinion about how a Formula 1 engine ought to be tuned, when he can’t tell a piston ring from a crankshaft.

Biology, like F1 racing, is a technical subject, and there’s really no point to forming an opinion until one has mastered the field’s technical fundamentals (and, perhaps, until one’s gone a bit beyond the fundamentals). To form and voice such an opinion anyway is to risk making a fool of oneself in a very public way. If Mr. Carle is genuinely interested in this subject, I and many others would be delighted to point him toward books, web sites, etc. that will provide the technical background required to form a useful opinion.

Comment #95774

Posted by Jeff McKee on April 9, 2006 7:42 PM (e)

The Disco Institute has let Dembski back in the door with this:

“This latest fossil find poses no threat to intelligent design.” So says Discovery Institute senior fellow and leading intelligent design theorist Dr. William Dembski, adding:

“Intelligent design does not so much challenge whether evolution occurred but how it occurred. In particular, it questions whether purposeless material processes–as opposed to intelligence–can create biological complexity and diversity.”

But then why the “evidence challenging evolution” and the “Darwinist” monicker they label us with?

Not to worry … the DI is slipping into the same irrelevancy that characterizes the ICR.

But as the evidence mounts for evolution, who and what will be next to obscure the judgements of school boards around the country?

Cheers,
Jeff

Comment #95775

Posted by khan on April 9, 2006 7:45 PM (e)

Another cartoon:

http://news.yahoo.com/comics/060409/cx_bday_umedia/20060904

Comment #95778

Posted by Moses on April 9, 2006 8:21 PM (e)

Comment #95754

Posted by Graeme Carle on April 9, 2006 05:51 PM (e)

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

I think you’re confused. I don’t recollect scientists spending huge amounts of time and money, setting up PR “Think Tanks” and spending MILLIONS OF DOLLARS every year on press releases and bullshit to attack creationists. Rather, for the most part, they just want to do their science in peace. And if they weren’t constantly being attacked by creationists, and their messages of hatred and contempt, by-and-large, nothing would ever make the news.

Let’s not forget, scientists pretty much rebut creationism on a shoe-string budget, mostly for free, while the fundies have an annual multi-million dollar funding advantage. The fundies also have much better media contacts, media savvy, hire public relations firms plus every bully pulpit from Maine to Hawaii AND the generally ignorant American population which, for the most part, revels in its ignorance and eschews any thought too long to be put on a bumper sticker.

When it comes to resources, it’s like a boy-scout troop going against the 101st Airborne. Unfortunately for the well-heeled fundies, science is about facts not mythology and PR. Therefore, the creationist ideas have been consigned to the bronze-age dustbin from whence they originated. And no amount of propaganda or name calling will put the genie back in the bottle and make those discredited proclamations “true” again.

As for the exasperation and sniping, creationists (IDers) haven’t said anything new about evolution in nearly 150 years. Nothing. It’s the same old “God did it” argument that (actually) existed before Darwin and has been unsuccessful since Darwin. Which also reflects on “open mindedness.” Who’s not being open-minded? The scientists that abandoned, or at least substantially refined and modernized, a BRONZE AGE religious world view? Or those that tenaciously cling to it?

Comment #95780

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on April 9, 2006 9:09 PM (e)

I can see a variant of the “Darwin fish” car emblem right now:

> Tiktaalik >
   L     L

Comment #95782

Posted by Henry J on April 9, 2006 9:29 PM (e)

Re “In particular, it questions whether purposeless material processes — as opposed to intelligence — can create biological complexity and diversity.””

When did material processes and intelligence become opposites?

Doesn’t our intelligence use material processes all the time?

Come to think of it, what makes material processes “purposeless”?

If an unguided material process (I’m assuming that’s what they meant) would produce an acceptable result, why would the one wanting that result be obliged to micromanage the process just because the ID pushers want it to have done so?

(Or am I being picky?)

Henry

Comment #95784

Posted by Andrew McClure on April 9, 2006 9:41 PM (e)

When did material processes and intelligence become opposites?

Doesn’t our intelligence use material processes all the time?

Come to think of it, what makes material processes “purposeless”?

Personally I think it’s pretty clear that most or all of Dembski’s scholarship is founded on an attempt to quietly smuggle into mathematics the assumption of the existence of the immortal soul.

He’s just being a little less subtle about it than normal, in this case.

Comment #95786

Posted by natural cynic on April 9, 2006 9:55 PM (e)

The name Tiktaalik and the general body plan reminds me of a crocodile. Maybe the one that snagged the hand of Capt. Hook and got stuck with an alarm clock.

Maybe that Tiktaalik talk is just a reminder that time is running out for creationism.

Comment #95789

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 9, 2006 10:01 PM (e)

I just can’t see how information is added to DNA

My standard respose to the “genetic information can’t increase” baloney:

According to the creationists, all humans alive today are
descended from 8 people who got off a Really Big Boat. Anyone who
understands junior high genetics will know that 8 people have between
them a maximum possible of 16 different alleles for each genetic
locus (in reality, the 8 people on the Big Boat would have had even
FEWER, since some of them were descended from others and thus shared
alleles, but for the sake of argument we will give the creationists
every possible benefit of the doubt and assume that they were ALL
heterozygous and shared no alleles at all in common). That means, if
the creationists are correct that “most mutations are deleterious”
and that “no new genetic information can appear through mutation”,
there can not be any human genetic locus anywhere today with more
than 16 alleles, since that is the MAXIMUM that could have gotten off
the Big Boat.

But wait ———- today we find human genetic loci (such as
hemoglobin or the HLA complex) that have well over *400* different
alleles (indeed some have over *700* different alleles). Hmmmm.
Since there could have only been 16 possible on the Big Boat, and
since there are over 400 now, and since 400 is more than 16, that
means that somehow the GENETIC INFORMATION INCREASED from the time
they got off the Big Boat until now.

That raises a few questions —– (1) if genetic mutations always
produce a LOSS in information, like the creationists keep telling us,
then how did we go from 16 alleles to over 400 alleles (perhaps in
creationist mathematics, 400 is not larger than 16). (2) if these
new alleles did not appear through mutations, then how DID they get
here.

But wait – there’s more:

Not only, according to creationists, must these new alleles have
appeared after the Big Boat, but, according to their, uh, “theory”,
all of these mutations must have appeared in the space of just *4,000
years* – the period of time since the Big Flood. That gives a rate
of BENEFICIAL MUTATIONS, which add NEW GENETIC INFORMATION, of one
every 10 years, or roughly two every generation ——- a much higher
rate of beneficial mutation than has ever been recorded anywhere in
nature. Nowhere today do we see such a rate anywhere near so high.
So not only would I like to know (1) what produced this
extraordinarily high rate of non-deleterious mutations, but (2) what
stopped it (indeed, what stopped it conveniently right before the
very time when we first developed the technological means to study
it).

But wait — we’re not done YET ……

Since less than 1% of observed mutations are beneficial (the vast
majority of mutations are indeed deleterious or neutral and have no
effect), that means for every beneficial mutation which added a new
allele, there should have been roughly 99 others which did not. So
to give us roughly 400 beneficial mutations would require somewhere
around 40,000 total mutations, a rate of approximately 100 mutations
in each locus EVERY YEAR, or 2,000 mutations per locus for EACH
GENERATION. Do you know what we call people who experience mutation
rates that high? We call them “cancer victims”. The only people
with mutation rates even remotely comparable were victims of
Chernobyl.

But wait, we’re STILL not finished ……

In order for any of those mutations to be passed on to the next
generation to produce new alleles, they MUST occur in the germ cells -
- sperm or egg. And since any such high rate of mutation in a
somatic cell (non-sperm or egg) would have quickly produced a fatal
case of cancer, if the creationists are right this mutation rate
could ONLY have occurred in the germ cells and could NOT have
occurred in any of the somatic cells.

If one of our resident creationists can propose a mechanism for me
which produces a hugely high rate of mutation in the germ cells while
excluding it from any other cells, a Nobel Prize in medicine surely
awaits — such information would be critically valuable to cancer
researchers. But alas, no such mechanism exists. The rate of
mutations made necessary by creationist “arguments” would certainly
have killed all of Noah’s children before they even had time to have
any kids of their own. In order to produce 400 beneficial alleles in
just 4,000 years, humanity would have been beset with cancers at a
rate that would have wiped them all out millenia ago.

Comment #95790

Posted by W. Kevin Vicklund on April 9, 2006 10:05 PM (e)

It’s great to see that some members of the media are aware of some of those embarassing statements such as are made in OPaP. Perhaps, before too long, enough of the media will be aware of the disingenuous and deceitful work of the Intelligent Design movement to render their PR campaigns useless (although by then ID may have evolved yet again, perhaps into Purposeful Arrangement of Parts (PAP)).

Does that mean we should be preparing for the inevitable PAP smear campaign? Not to stirrup a controversy, or anything. Oh, now I’ve gyne and done it.

Comment #95792

Posted by minusRusty on April 9, 2006 10:10 PM (e)

I can see a variant of the “Darwin fish” car emblem right now:

> Tiktaalik >
L L

BWAH!!! I want one!

-Rusty

Comment #95798

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 9, 2006 10:20 PM (e)

Kevin takes the ball down court; he shoots

he scores!!!

yikes that was punny.

Comment #95803

Posted by Joseph O'Donnell on April 9, 2006 10:39 PM (e)

although by then ID may have evolved yet again, perhaps into Purposeful Arrangement of Parts (PAP)

I’m betting on them changing their name to the Church of the Butt Propellar myself. E. coli would be their first patron saint.

Comment #95806

Posted by Stevaroni on April 9, 2006 11:00 PM (e)

… I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

No, you asked a real question, and you deserve a fair answer.

It’s late, and I have a business trip tomorrow morning, or I’d provide more detail, but the simple answer is that information increases, decreases and changes all the time, and flipping a few bits here and there has little mathematical significance (though it may dramatically change the encoded meaning to a specified observer).

The old “information can’t increase”, argument, as it is used by ID advocates, is intuitive but wrong for much the same reasons that the “it’s only a theory” argument is wrong.

It purposely confuses the common meaning of everyday words with their use in a completely different context.

“Information in the genes” to most people means something like “blueprints to build an animal”, but mathematically, this isn’t the case. “Information” in data streams is a non-intuitive thing. For instance a television showing static is streaming much, much more information than a television showing color bars, though it feels like it has much less.

Most of what’s in your genes is random junk, every once in a while there’s a string of characters that makes a useful protein.

It’s much like the way a page of random typewritten gibberish will still contain a several real words.

Randomly change a couple of letters on this page and but you might now have more or fewer words, but from the papers’ point of view you didn’t create or destroy information (there are still just as many letters, it’s just as complex as it ever was). The idea that there’s no absolute information difference there can be shown in part by its dependance on the observer, someone who speaks Spanish will find different words than someone who speaks English.

But none of this change in “useful information” took any directed effort. It can be done truly randomly and still have an effect.

Living creatures couple this simple mutation mechanism with natural selection, a mechanism that strongly favors automatically keeping any page that pops up with better “words”

I’m sure that others will point you to pages and pages of useful examples written by people much better at information theory than I am, but that’s the basic idea

Comment #95813

Posted by Inoculated Mind on April 10, 2006 12:57 AM (e)

I thought this would be an excellent example to bring to this table. Some recent news about “Anti-Freeze Fish”, their anti-freeze protein came from JUNK DNA. If Graham Carle is still looking for an answer for how you can get “information” (in the sense he may be using) from non-information, there you go.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/04/060404090831.htm

I talked about it on my show last week, I find it significant because it demonstrates that genes don’t have to come from other genes. They can leap out of the genetic junkyard!

Comment #95817

Posted by Corkscrew on April 10, 2006 3:41 AM (e)

Quick summary of what “information” means for the benefit of Graeme Carle :)

Shannon information (used in information theory) is basically defined as the improbability of an event - it’s also known by the evocative term of “surprisal”. Say you go down to breakfast and greet your wife, who’s sitting at the table. About half the time you’ll say “hi”, about half the time you’ll say “good morning”, and one time in a million you’ll scream and run out the room. The information content of the third option is drastically higher than the others - because it occurs so rarely your wife can learn a lot from it. In particular that there’s something horribly wrong with her appearance and that you’re sleeping on the couch tonight.

Now, there’s two things to note here. Firstly, the information content of doing something twice works out to twice the information content of doing it once, so gene duplication will massively increase information. Secondly, if you pick one of your three options at random then a third of the time you’ll pick the high-information option, so the average amount of information you convey will be higher. By the same reasoning, random mutation increases Shannon information.

Kolmogorov-Chaitin information is basically a measure of the length of the shortest description for a string - the shortest program (with data) that can generate it. So, for example, the information content for “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” would be very low - the program would basically boil down to “As. Lots of As”. On the other hand, a completely random string would probably not be describable by any program much shorter than itself - there wouldn’t be any patterns to exploit. Thus, once again, random mutation will in general increase information content.

The problem arises when people confuse these precise mathematical definitions with what laymen think of as information. This comes in two forms, which ID proponents are wont to conflate:

Data that means something, such as the works of Shakespeare, is a completely subjective quality. As such, it will in general not be produced by objective processes. Fortunately for evolution, there is no evidence of the genome possessing much of this type of information. There are no great sonnets encoded in our DNA. There aren’t even any dirty limericks. So not a problem.

Data that does something, on the other hand, is a thoroughly objective quality. And fortunately for evolution, there’s considerable evidence that this can arise quite easily by evolutionary processes such as random mutation and natural selection. If you want proof that it happens on a regular basis then I suggest reading up on genetic algorithms (which regularly produce useful programs and systems ex nihilo). For an example of it arising in the real world, however, you just can’t beat the Nylon bug, a bacterium in which a single frame shift mutation gave it the capacity to digest a substance that didn’t even exist 71 years ago.

So no, worries about how evolution adds information don’t exactly keep me awake at night.

Comment #95819

Posted by a maine yankee on April 10, 2006 5:46 AM (e)

“But wait ————— today we find human genetic loci (such as
hemoglobin or the HLA complex) that have well over *400* different
alleles (indeed some have over *700* different alleles). Hmmmm.
Since there could have only been 16 possible on the Big Boat, and
since there are over 400 now, and since 400 is more than 16, that
means that somehow the GENETIC INFORMATION INCREASED from the time
they got off the Big Boat until now.”

But what if the Great Turtle waved its magic turtle tail and bobbed its magic turtle head and “sploquaf” (the noise such magic waving and bobbing make) and all that genetic “stuff” just “magically” appeared? Remember we are not dealing with science here but Great Turtle waving and bobbing.

Comment #95825

Posted by wamba on April 10, 2006 7:47 AM (e)

Few leading [ID] researchers have argued against the existence of transitional forms.”

Ha! It’s a trick question. Is anyone actually doing ID research?

Every ID book I’ve read has argued against transitional fossils to some extent, from Davis & Kenyon to Johnson to Denton to Behe.

Comment #95827

Posted by Inoculated Mind on April 10, 2006 8:30 AM (e)

Actually, according to the dubious myth itself, It was a father, three sons, and their four wives. Therefore, since the sons inherited their genes from their parents, (assuming no hanky-panky) then you only have 5 effective genomes - the father, mother, and three wives of the sons. So now it has been reduced to 10 possible alleles. But since they would have come from a particular population, it is likely that they would have shared many alleles.
There are some folks running around claiming that genetics support the ark myth, notably Reasons to Believe, but they never pony up the data, while there’s tons of stuff that gives evidence to the contrary.

Re: few leading ID researchers - Don’t you get it, everyone? They are talking about how few ID researchers there are in the first place! Any proportion of the total ID researchers would still qualify as “few.”

Comment #95828

Posted by Freud_wore_a_slip? on April 10, 2006 9:07 AM (e)

Seems to me Graeme deserves a bit more respect. By my read he asked politely, and with some temerity, if he’d be flayed for expressing some lack of understanding while in search of some answers. A couple of the latest posts gave him some useful and respectful information, I’d say, but I’m not sure he’ll read down far enough to come to them because he’ll have to wade through some pretty shrill responses. Yeah, we’re all tired of the idiocy and the dishonesty, but our responses to his post kinda prove his point, doncha think?

Comment #95830

Posted by steve s on April 10, 2006 9:22 AM (e)

Our? Who are you exactly? I haven’t seen you around here.

Comment #95831

Posted by GvlGeologist, FCD on April 10, 2006 9:42 AM (e)

With respect to Graeme Carle’s question,

Am I the only one worried about the sheer vindictiveness of the evolution or creation debate? I thought science was about open mindedeness and rationality so why the hysteria? I admit I’m a doubter (I just can’t see how information is added to DNA)but if I go public, am I likely to be lynched?

I think by now he should understand some of the reasons that scientists and pro-science lay people can get so angry about the debate, especially Moses’ comment #95778, Lenny’s #95789, Stevaroni’s #95806, and Corkscrew’s #95817.

Freud_wore_a_slip?’s comment #95828,

Seems to me Graeme deserves a bit more respect. By my read he asked politely, and with some temerity, if he’d be flayed for expressing some lack of understanding while in search of some answers. A couple of the latest posts gave him some useful and respectful information, I’d say, but I’m not sure he’ll read down far enough to come to them because he’ll have to wade through some pretty shrill responses. Yeah, we’re all tired of the idiocy and the dishonesty, but our responses to his post kinda prove his point, doncha think?

suggests we should cut Mr. Carle some slack. The big question is, is he in fact listening or is he simply stirring the hornet’s nest? I seem to remember (I could, of course be wrong) that LalaLarry started this way, with an “innocent” question.

So, Mr. Carle, are you still listening? What do you think of the responses to your “doubting” question? Do you understand why the responses sometimes can become rather strident? And, most importantly, do you understand the substantive counterarguments to ID?

All of us who regularly read Panda’s Thumb, I think, have seen all too often people who write in with “innocent” and “polite” questions, who in reality have no intention of actually listening. Are you? And are you learning from the responses?

Comment #95834

Posted by apollo230 on April 10, 2006 10:11 AM (e)

Graeme Carle brought up the subject of DNA and information in this discussion thread.

The weak link in Darwinism’s reasoning is not the ancient earth, common ancestry, descent with modification or natural selection, but rather its reliance on strictly random variations to produce novel changes. This particular tenet violates a law of information conservation that is adhered to by living metabolic systems at all times:

1) Protein and RNA synthesis requires data transmission from a precise DNA template to succeed.

2) Countless metabolic pathways and reactions work only because the right information (coded in molecular structure, placement and timing) is brought to bear at the proper junction by the proper agents.

3) The products of each metabolic reaction convey information from prior reactants to new bio-junctions where yet another “chemical handshake” perpetuate a transfer.

In all these cases, it is clear that information is not created ex-nihilo. Rather, every metabolic source is transferring some non-zero quantity of information to a subsequent metabolic sink. If energy and mass conservation apply to these systems, so does information conservation.

Random mutations cannot convey any more information than random nucleotide sequences or randomly-chosen metabolic reactants. Living systems implicitly reject the participation of random DNA codes and random chemical reactants from their metabolic organization because these parties lack the structured information needed to perpetuate matters. Therefore, it safely follows that all genetic changes would require meaningful information, and hence coordination, if viable changes and species were to arise.

Comment #95839

Posted by wamba on April 10, 2006 10:20 AM (e)

If energy and mass conservation apply to these systems, so does information conservation.

Information conservation? Bwa-ha-ha! Where did you find that concept? Does it seem at all odd to you that someone could write a book about “conservation of information” without copping to plagiarism?

Comment #95841

Posted by gwangung on April 10, 2006 10:24 AM (e)

In all these cases, it is clear that information is not created ex-nihilo. Rather, every metabolic source is transferring some non-zero quantity of information to a subsequent metabolic sink. If energy and mass conservation apply to these systems, so does information conservation.

I think you need to do the math to show this.

Right now, you’re telling us this, not showing us. It’s not supported by either math or by hard evidence derived from research.

Comment #95853

Posted by Lixivium on April 10, 2006 11:13 AM (e)

appolo230 wrote:

Random mutations cannot convey any more information than random nucleotide sequences or randomly-chosen metabolic reactants. Living systems implicitly reject the participation of random DNA codes and random chemical reactants from their metabolic organization because these parties lack the structured information needed to perpetuate matters. Therefore, it safely follows that all genetic changes would require meaningful information, and hence coordination, if viable changes and species were to arise.

I don’t know why you’re so hung up on this “meaningful information” business. If you took random handfuls of letters out of a Scrabble bag, most of the combinations you pick out will be garbage, but occasionally you’ll get a combination that forms a word. When this happens you recognize that combination and put it on the board. This is the very role of natural selection, to pick “meaningful information” out of random mutations.

Furthermore, you don’t have to just use the letters you have, you can use the letters already on the board. In the same way organisms co-opt existing systems to perform new functions. This is a very common occurance in evolutionary biology.

Comment #95854

Posted by Lynn on April 10, 2006 11:21 AM (e)

Arden Chatfield said: “Note the weasel words: ‘Few leading [ID] researchers’. So that means that SOME leading ID ‘researchers’ say they don’t exist, many ID ‘researchers’ who aren’t ‘leading’ say they don’t exist, and thousands of ‘grassroots’ ID doofuses continue to make that claim. My prediction is, they’ll continue to make that claim forever.”

Well, what proportion of “none” constitutes “few”? This is a safe claim for them to make, seeing as how there are literally *no* “leading [ID] researchers” to choose from.

Lynn

Comment #95858

Posted by BWE on April 10, 2006 11:37 AM (e)

Few leading [ID] researchers have argued against the existence of transitional forms.” Those “leading researchers” may know better, but the fossil gaps are cited many times in the controversial ID textbook “Of Pandas and People.” The book takes particular note of the large difference between “the oldest amphibian” and “its presumed [fish] ancestor.” It’s a gap wide enough for a fish to walk through — and now we know that one did.

I’ve got three things to say:
1. that quote (above) says something important. Pandas is wrong. IDers are wrong to use it to prove ID. It should not be used in any sort of science curriculum other than a history of science.

2. ID has pretty much fallen by the wayside. Note UD has only a few real commenters. (except the 30 or so identities that I use). Find anything written promoting ID and you won’t have to go far to find the DI. No groundswell. The idea isn’t taking. No tipping point.

3.> Tiktaalik >
L L
(How did you get the L’s to line up?)
Unsympathetic reader, you are brilliant. I truly hope such a thing goes on convenience store racks. I chuckled heartily (I’m at work so I couldn’t LOL.)

Comment #95860

Posted by Lynn on April 10, 2006 11:58 AM (e)

Lixivium said: “I don’t know why you’re so hung up on this “meaningful information” business. If you took random handfuls of letters out of a Scrabble bag, most of the combinations you pick out will be garbage, but occasionally you’ll get a combination that forms a word. When this happens you recognize that combination and put it on the board. This is the very role of natural selection, to pick “meaningful information” out of random mutations.”

This is supposing that the only useful letter combinations are those which you recognize as words. “Useful” or “meaningful” combinations are determined simply by cultural context. There’s no reason other combinations of letters couldn’t be meaningful for someone utilizing another perspective–ie, coming from a different language background.

But more significantly, there’s no reason new words can’t be invented. Sticking to the language analogy, this happens all the time. Combinations of letters which meant nothing 100 years ago are now meaningful. To borrow from a reference cited above, consider the letter combination “nylon.” And that “y” scores lots of points, too ;^)

Lynn

Comment #95861

Posted by B. Spitzer on April 10, 2006 11:59 AM (e)

From apollo230:
In all these cases, it is clear that information is not created ex-nihilo. Rather, every metabolic source is transferring some non-zero quantity of information to a subsequent metabolic sink. If energy and mass conservation apply to these systems, so does information conservation.

Random mutations cannot convey any more information than random nucleotide sequences or randomly-chosen metabolic reactants. Living systems implicitly reject the participation of random DNA codes and random chemical reactants from their metabolic organization because these parties lack the structured information needed to perpetuate matters. Therefore, it safely follows that all genetic changes would require meaningful information, and hence coordination, if viable changes and species were to arise.

Hi apollo230,
If I understand it correctly, your argument is that random mutation and unguided selection cannot increase the information content of an organism. This argument may seem reasonable on the surface, but unfortunately it has already been disproven many, many times. Try this thought experiment:

Suppose that an ancestral organism produces an enzyme that catalyzes two different chemical reactions (which is quite common in nature). Now compare that to a different organism, in which each of those two reactions is carried out by two distinct enzymes. I would argue that getting from that first organism to the second one is a step upwards in “information”, however you decide to define “information”.

Now suppose that part of the ancestral organism’s genome gets duplicated, so that it now has two copies of the gene for the enzyme described above. These two copies start out identical, of course. (Whether or not doubling a gene adds information isn’t important right now. What is important is that we know that duplication events can happen without any special invervention by an intelligence.)

It’s possible, indeed likely, that the original enzyme was not particularly good at doing either of its two jobs. That’s because a mutation that allows the enzyme to catalyze Reaction A more efficiently is likely to decrease the enzyme’s ability to catalyze reaction B. Jack-of-all-trades, master of none is the phrase that comes to mind here.

After the duplication event, however, there is no longer a trade-off. If a mutation on copy 1 of the duplicated gene allows that enzyme to become more efficient at carrying out Reaction A, the mutation will still make the enzyme less useful at carrying out Reaction B. But that’s no longer a problem– copy 2 of the gene is still moderately efficient at carrying out Reaction B.

Any mutations that happen to make copy 1 better at Reaction A, and that happen to make copy 2 better at reaction B, will be favored by natural selection. No input of special information is required for this to occur. We know that mutations often alter the affinity of an enzyme for a specific substrate, even when those mutations are occurring at random.

After several rounds of mutation and natural selection, you end up with two genes that have different functions. One specializes on Reaction A and the other specializes on Reaction B. You’ve got an organism with more genes than you started with. It has increased in functionality and complexity. And at no point in this scenario did any intelligence need to intervene.

This example is a relatively small, simple one. It does not prove that all features on all living organisms are products of natural selection, but it does point out that your argument is incorrect. Here’s the weak point in your argument:

Random mutations cannot convey any more information than random nucleotide sequences or randomly-chosen metabolic reactants.

No, random mutations can’t cause an increase in “information” as you’ve defined it. But you’ve left out half of the story: natural selection. (Lixivium’s post about Scrabble is an excellent way of putting it.) Natural selection generates information– or, if you prefer, it reshapes populations of organisms in a very non-random way. It’s true that random nucleotide sequences have little information, in the sense that you’re using the term. But when selection takes place, the sequences that survive and reproduce are not “chosen” at random. In fact, natural selection is an anti-random force.

Here’s an example: Peter and Rosemary Grant have been studying finches on the island of Daphne Major for decades now. If you were to tell them that average beak size among the finches on Daphne Major dropped by 0.3mm last year, they would say, “Wow, it must have rained an awful lot last year!”

You see, the Grants know that, in times of heavy rain, there are lots of small seeds on Daphne Major. Birds with small beaks are more efficient at eating small seeds, and so finches with small beaks fledge more offspring after a wet year. Information about last year’s weather is now encoded in the population of finches. By telling the Grants about the finches, you’re giving them information about what the weather has been doing.

If you still feel that random mutations and selection can’t produce anything complex or increase an organism’s “information content”, I suggest that you browse the Web for examples of selection algorithms. Some industries are now using blind mutation and unguided selection to come up with solutions to very complex problems. In some cases, their “evolved” solutions are better than anything that human engineers are capable of.

One final note: the term “information” is very slippery and can be used to mean many different things. You might be best off avoiding that term entirely. It is possible to describe how natural selection works without ever using the word “information” at all. IMO, that’s a wise thing to do. “Information” is often in the eye of the beholder.

Comment #95863

Posted by mark on April 10, 2006 12:04 PM (e)

apollo230 wrote:

The weak link in Darwinism’s reasoning is not the ancient earth, common ancestry, descent with modification or natural selection, but rather its reliance on strictly random variations to produce novel changes. This particular tenet violates a law of information conservation that is adhered to by living metabolic systems at all times:…

What great scientist came up with the “law of information conservation” and applied it to biological systems? Surely it must have been someone with the insight of an Isaac Newton!

Therefore, it safely follows that all genetic changes would require meaningful information, and hence coordination, if viable changes and species were to arise.

This might be true if particular changes and species characteristics were specified in advance; but since they are not, it is unsurprising that many individuals acquiring mutatations die or are unaffected, whereas there may be an occasional benefit. It follows that cumulated neutral mutations provide material of which some can provide positive fitness. Horizontal gene transfer is another mechanism that can provide additional advantage (sort of like switching a high-performance carburetor into a car–the mechanic need not build one from scratch).

Comment #95864

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 12:05 PM (e)

after a lenghty discussion about information theory, and why that isn’t a problem for evolutionary theory, and why posters like Graeme sometimes garner ire, Apollo goes and does exactly what pisses so many of us off so much;

presents uninformed and incorrect misinterpretations of evolutionary theory as “darwinism”.

*sigh*

look, kiddo, we cut you a lot of slack here, explained several things to you, but you are starting to look like all you want to do is screech.

I hereby proclaim you a troll (duly note the time and date).

good luck with that.

On the odd chance that you really want to learn something, feel free to ask questions rather than proclaim your ignorance so loudly; or go to the talkorigins archive to learn the answers yourself.

in the meantime, let me disabuse you of one thing, since you seem to ignore the presentations on information theory already presented:

ToE does not rely on random mutation being the single force for genetic change.

If you want to criticize ToE, the least you could do is actually learn the details of it from somewhere that doesn’t refer to it as “darwinism”, for starters.

Comment #95865

Posted by steve s on April 10, 2006 12:07 PM (e)

2. ID has pretty much fallen by the wayside. Note UD has only a few real commenters.

Indeed, we discovered recently that my thread Officially Uncommonly Dense Discussion Thread, at AtBC, where we just point and laugh at UD, has received more comments since its inception than UD itself has, by a factor of a lot. UD averages around 100 comments/month, and our thread is getting 500 or so a month.

Comment #95868

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 12:13 PM (e)

What great scientist came up with the “law of information conservation” and applied it to biological systems? Surely it must have been someone with the insight of an Isaac Newton!

ROFL.

nicely done.

I wonder if Apollo will give credit where credit is due, or has WD40’s schtick become so legendary now that it no longer requires reference when posted on creationist websites?

Comment #95875

Posted by Arden Chatfield on April 10, 2006 12:36 PM (e)

I wonder if Apollo will give credit where credit is due, or has WD40’s schtick become so legendary now that it no longer requires reference when posted on creationist websites?

In publishing that’s called ‘entering the public domain’. :-)

Comment #95877

Posted by wamba on April 10, 2006 12:47 PM (e)

I can see a variant of the “Darwin fish” car emblem right now:

EvolveFish has a product they call the “Empty Fish Emblem with Feet”. The fish center is empty and black, and you could paint “Tiktaalik” in there yourself.

Comment #95878

Posted by AD on April 10, 2006 12:48 PM (e)

In response to Graeme:

Have you taken any college level biology or something equivalent, like physical anthropology?

Comment #95885

Posted by CJ O'Brien on April 10, 2006 1:25 PM (e)

apollo230 simply makes the elementary mistake of conlating the ‘random’ in ‘random mutation’ with high Kolmogorov complexity or some other information-theoretical metric. But that’s not what we mean. ‘Random’ in context means only ‘without respect to selective effect.’

The Scrabble analogy is apt. The letters you select are selected ‘randomly’ in that the specific letters picked are chosen without reference to the letters you already have or the likelihood that the new combination will form a given word.

It’s quite remarkable, really, just how much mileage ID seems to get out of glossing over simple distinctions like this.

Comment #95887

Posted by Moses on April 10, 2006 1:44 PM (e)

apollo230 wrote:

The weak link in Darwinism’s reasoning is not the ancient earth, common ancestry, descent with modification or natural selection, but rather its reliance on strictly random variations to produce novel changes. This particular tenet violates a law of information conservation that is adhered to by living metabolic systems at all times:…

What law? A google search leads me to believe that there are just a few websites, out of millions, that have this term in it. Most of them point out the self-styled “Law of Conservation of Information” is nothing more than a shoddy piece of mathematics based on a fallacy. A brief summation of its flaws include:

1. Dembski defines his information as Shannon uncertainty, which is equivalent to entropy. We know that entropy can and does increase. Dembski’s law of conservation of information is simply wrong.

2. No recognized theory of information (i.e., the statistical theory of Shannon et al, and the algorithmic theory of Kolmogorov, Chaitin, and Solomonoff) has a law of conservation of information. William Dembski and Werner Gitt have each invented their own nonstandard information theories, but neither of these theories is used in science or engineering, and their claims are not supported by the vast body of research into information theory.

3. Even if there were a law of conservation of information, it would not necessarily invalidate evolution. Information is transferred from the environment to organisms by natural selection and other processes.

4. Normally, physical laws get to be considered laws after they are tested and verified by independent sources under very many various conditions. For Dembski to claim a new physical law without any testing whatsoever is hubris of the highest magnitude.

http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CI/CI010.html

The first three points explain why this self-styled “law” has gotten no where. The 4th points out Dembski’s arrogance. You just don’t get to “make up a law” and declare it true and accurate. You must prove it. And he fails miserably.

Comment #95891

Posted by Gav on April 10, 2006 1:55 PM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #95894

Posted by Gav on April 10, 2006 2:01 PM (e)

Sorry, I was just going to say that if Apollo230 can demonstrate that CI010 is wrong, no doubt it could be changed. That’s science for you.

And to make the rather picky remark that Tiktaalik doesn’t actually have feet as such, but I messed up the italics which only goes to show.

Comment #95901

Posted by jeanlain on April 10, 2006 2:43 PM (e)

Steve, it’s “vive la méthode” in French, not “vive la methodé”. ;-)

Comment #95904

Posted by Henry J on April 10, 2006 3:09 PM (e)

Inoculated,
Re “I find it significant because it demonstrates that genes don’t have to come from other genes. They can leap out of the genetic junkyard!”

Just as long as no tornado was involved… ;)

maine,
Re “Remember we are not dealing with science here but Great Turtle waving and bobbing.”

So it really is turtles all the way down? Who knew!?!?!?

apollo230,
Re Comment #95834,
Information in genomes is not a conserved quantity. See Comment #95817 Posted by Corkscrew, Spitzer’s #95861, and several others.

Henry

Comment #95907

Posted by Corkscrew on April 10, 2006 3:38 PM (e)

apollo230 wrote:

This particular tenet violates a law of information conservation that is adhered to by living metabolic systems at all times

Dude, I went into some depth as to why information is not a problem for evolution. In particular, there is no such thing as conservation of information, unless you’re referring to the purely subjective variety (in which case, as I pointed out, it’s completely irrelevant to biology).

If you can present a coherent definition of information plus a mathematical proof (or a large amount of empirical evidence) that it can’t increase, I’ll happily look it over for you. Until then, though, you’re only going to make yourself look daft loudly proclaiming something that is demonstrably not true.

It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. – St. Augustine of Hippo

Comment #95909

Posted by David B. Benson on April 10, 2006 3:44 PM (e)

Conservation of information — Some physicists write about this, but whatever they mean is not what a computer scientists means by ‘information’, neither Shannon nor Kolmorgorov. See L. Smolin, “Three Roads to Quantum Gravity”, Basis Books, 2000, for a good introduction written for laypeople. Some sort of information is being conserved in one chapter.

Comment #95938

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 10, 2006 6:01 PM (e)

Actually, according to the dubious myth itself, It was a father, three sons, and their four wives. Therefore, since the sons inherited their genes from their parents, (assuming no hanky-panky) then you only have 5 effective genomes - the father, mother, and three wives of the sons. So now it has been reduced to 10 possible alleles. But since they would have come from a particular population, it is likely that they would have shared many alleles.

Yeah, I know – but I wanted to give the whackos every possible benefit of the doubt.

Of course, if I *really* wanted to be mean, I’d point out that (1) all humans are supposed to come from a population of TWO, and one of those was a clone of the other. That leaves just TWO possible alleles.

But hey, even with all the free gifts I grant them, the creationuts STILL can’t come up with an explanation for where all those alleles came from. (shrug)

Comment #95942

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 10, 2006 6:06 PM (e)

The weak link in Darwinism’s reasoning is not the ancient earth, common ancestry, descent with modification or natural selection, but rather its reliance on strictly random variations to produce novel changes.

Wrong. Evolution depends on **natural selection** for that. And selection is, by definition, absolutely NOT a random process.

This particular tenet violates a law of information conservation

There is no such thing as any “law of information conservation”. (shrug)

And I’m still waiting for a creationist/IDer, any at all, to explain to me how humans went from 16 alleles to over 400 without any new genetic information.

Care to give it a go?

Comment #95943

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 10, 2006 6:07 PM (e)

Information conservation? Bwa-ha-ha! Where did you find that concept?

It’s part of the BS put out by the, uh, Isaac Newton of Information Theory. (snicker) (giggle)

Comment #95946

Posted by David B. Benson on April 10, 2006 6:12 PM (e)

Lenny — Did you read #95909 just above?

Comment #95949

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 6:18 PM (e)

Lenny is referring to the term as Dembski uses it, which is completely unique, your references to actual legitimate uses aside.

Comment #95955

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 10, 2006 6:49 PM (e)

Lenny —- Did you read #95909 just above?

Yep, I did. It has nothing to do with the term as the, uh, Isaac Newton of Information Theory uses it.

The whole ID “information can’t increase” is just a rehash of the old creationut canard about the “Second Law of Thermodynamics”.

Once again, ID has produced nothing – nothing at all whatsoever – that wasn’t already put out by the creation “scientists” thirty years ago. (shrug)

Comment #95958

Posted by Richard Simons on April 10, 2006 7:15 PM (e)

Comment #95789
“Not only, according to creationists, must these new alleles have
appeared after the Big Boat, but, according to their, uh, “theory”,
all of these mutations must have appeared in the space of just *4,000
years* — the period of time since the Big Flood. That gives a rate
of BENEFICIAL MUTATIONS, which add NEW GENETIC INFORMATION, of one
every 10 years, or roughly two every generation ———- a much higher
rate of beneficial mutation than has ever been recorded anywhere in
nature.”

Surely this is only true if we are talking about 400 mutations at different loci in the one genome, which is not the situation. Starting from the population being homozygous, if the population reached 1000 and half the population had a different (non-lethal) mutation at the same locus this would give 501 alleles with a lot less than one mutation every 10 years.

I am not disputing that the required mutation rate is high, merely that it is not as high as is made out.

Comment #95959

Posted by apollo230 on April 10, 2006 7:24 PM (e)

Sincere thanks does go to B. Spitzer, mark, CJ O’Bryan, Moses, Henry J, Corkscrew, and David Benson for taking the time to respond to my comments regarding “information conservation”. I have noted the civil, business-like tone of these particular responses and thank these parties for it.

I was writing my original post in a relative hurry before work - so I did neglect to credit William Dembski (everyone’s favorite around here, I’m sure) for the “information conservation law” idea that was mentioned in his book “No Free Lunch”. I do regret any misunderstandings that were caused by this omission.

Best regards,
apollo230

Comment #95961

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 7:28 PM (e)

no misunderstandings were taken, to be sure.

It was quite clear who you were apeing (er, no pun intended?).

Comment #95962

Posted by apollo230 on April 10, 2006 7:30 PM (e)

I forgot to thank gwangung and lixivium as well for their input.

Comment #95966

Posted by Doc Bill on April 10, 2006 7:35 PM (e)

apollo230,

Be sure to thank Dembski for nothing for that’s what he brings to this discussion.

Comment #95967

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 7:39 PM (e)

did you ever check out the responses to WD40’s NFL concept over at talkorigins?

or anywhere?

did you understand them?

did you actually have questions?

your post implied you are already all-conversant on the subject; enough so to proclaim WD40’s interpretations of information theory and evolution without question.

so, do you have questions now, or do you prefer to take WD40’s synthesis at face value still?

here to learn or to preach?

I personally could care one whit over whether you think the responses to your post are civil or not, because you have yet to show you care about what they actually said, and not how they said it.

Comment #95969

Posted by Unsympathetic reader on April 10, 2006 8:42 PM (e)

BWE asks: (How did you get the L’s to line up?)

Use the “code” KwickXML markup tag. That forces an output with evenly spaced fonts. It’s good for keeping indents in posted programming code and retaining exact spacing.

> Tiktaalik >
   L     L

Comment #95974

Posted by Glen Davidson on April 10, 2006 9:04 PM (e)

Some physicists write about this, but whatever they mean is not what a computer scientists means by ‘information’, neither Shannon nor Kolmorgorov.

It is when they speak of the problem of conservation of information in black holes. The problem is not that information doesn’t increase, because of course it does, rather it is that information is not supposed to decrease. Thus the black holes should not annihilate information, yet it seems that they do in many models. Some propose other stellar entities than black holes so that information will continue to be either conserved or to increase.

This helps Dembski and the like not at all, of course. The need of life to conserve hereditary information enough to maintain the integrity of cell functions across generations might seem slightly better suited to ID intentions, however they add nothing new to the ideas that evolutionary biologists have already been discussing with regard to those issues.

So far the hereditary information only points to the sort of evolution that occurs via mutation plus natural selection, with a few other mechanisms thrown in. Each evolutionary “solution” to a “problem” appears to be selected from contingent possibilities and random mutations of those possibilities. It is, of course, nothing like what we could expect from the intervention of a designer, except one limited to using evolutionary algorithms.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #95982

Posted by apollo230 on April 10, 2006 10:08 PM (e)

I have taken the time to read the responses to my original post regarding information in biological systems, and I have considered them at length. One thing I definitely learned: the conviction that random mutations generate useful fodder for natural selection runs strong among the rank and file of Panda’s Thumb. You gentlemen are clearly entitled to your opinions, and I (sincerely)do not condemn you for your dispositions on the matter. It would be silly of me to troll you with ridicule for holding your beliefs. Many of you are clearly well-educated in biology. May you continue to enjoy the many exciting details of the science - I know I do! I confess I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order (cancer, cystic fibrosis, down’s syndrome, hemophilia, the list goes on). But that’s my opinion, it need not be yours. No need for a “holy war.” :)

I can see how my refusal to change my position could disenchant those who put effort into getting me to see things their way. On the other hand, I too, worked hard on my posts and swayed nobody. In a debate where opinions are strongly held by both sides, the making of lengthy posts directed to opposing viewpoints yields (unsurprisingly) meager results at best. That is why I thank people for their responses, to keep hard feelings at a minimum. And I will stress again, my objection to Darwinism remains very specific - there is no wholesale objection to evolutionary theory in this camp (if that’s of any concern to anyone).

Maybe I will share a bamboo beer with some of you when we all get over the next hill. Until then, best regards, apollo230!

Comment #95984

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 10:15 PM (e)

the conviction that random mutations generate useful fodder for natural selection runs strong among the rank and file of Panda’s Thumb

Whaaa?

so after several of us tried to clarify for you that ToE does not rely on random mutation as a singular force for genetic change, your conclusion is that random mutlations are the primary driving force, and we are the ones promoting that.

fascinating.

Ok, I’m done with you.

you’ve answered all my questions:

Q: here to learn or preach?

A: preach.

Q: Ever read any refutation of Dembski’s NFL?

A: nope, and don’t want to.

Q: Accept Dembski’s drivel at face value?

A: yup.

Are you just a troll?

yup.

Comment #95986

Posted by Glen Davidson on April 10, 2006 10:33 PM (e)

You gentlemen are clearly entitled to your opinions, and I (sincerely)do not condemn you for your dispositions on the matter. It would be silly of me to troll you with ridicule for holding your beliefs.

Oh right, the “non-troll” bows out disparaging science as “opinions” and “beliefs”. Sorry, if that were all that we had, we would not be entitled to them at all, except as fireside stories–and not as any kind of science.

What is silly is that the troll ridicules us for having “beliefs” (calling science “belief” is ridicule), when we prefer to hold onto science. Evolutionary algorithms are not used for no reason, of course, and they belie the idiocy of the close-minded. Should I point out the obvious? Evolutionary algorithms come first and foremost out of evolutionary theory, and from the empirical evidence of how it was that organisms developed out of RM+NS, etc. We have learned from nature how to “design” using evolution, though we need computers to move such “designs” through the generations of “random mutation” and “natural selection”.

Well, no matter. Hidebound prejudice will out the IDist/creationist every time, as will the general ignorance of his “critique of Darwinism”.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #95992

Posted by Andrew McClure on April 10, 2006 10:53 PM (e)

Mr. Carle never came back. Pity, I guess we’ll never get to find out what he thought “information” meant…

Comment #95993

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 10, 2006 10:57 PM (e)

no worries, i think he and apollo meant the same thing, and aped the same source.

you can just reply to apollo; he’s still hanging about.

Comment #96014

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 11, 2006 7:21 AM (e)

Syntax Error: mismatched tag 'kwickxml'

Comment #96016

Posted by Edin Najetovic on April 11, 2006 7:25 AM (e)

the conviction that random mutations generate useful fodder for natural selection runs strong among the rank and file of Panda’s Thumb.

Conviction? You insult science. People have posted many links to experimental evidence in support of this ‘conviction’. There has never been a theory of evolution without natural selection.

You gentlemen are clearly entitled to your opinions, and I (sincerely)do not condemn you for your dispositions on the matter. It would be silly of me to troll you with ridicule for holding your beliefs. Many of you are clearly well-educated in biology. May you continue to enjoy the many exciting details of the science - I know I do!

Thanks I guess. Except I’m not well versed in biology at all.

I confess I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order (cancer, cystic fibrosis, down’s syndrome, hemophilia, the list goes on). But that’s my opinion, it need not be yours.

And the funny thing about this opinion is that it’s right! Good thing that we also get natural selection, eh?

I can see how my refusal to change my position could disenchant those who put effort into getting me to see things their way.

Not changing your position is fine, as long as you acknowledge that you made errors in reviewing evolution, which you did. You misrepresent evolution and then say you don’t believe in it… well, if evolution was what you say it is, noone would.

On the other hand, I too, worked hard on my posts and swayed nobody.

You just pontifically state your opinion without evidence. This is science we’re talking about, not politics.

In a debate where opinions are strongly held by both sides, the making of lengthy posts directed to opposing viewpoints yields (unsurprisingly) meager results at best.

Science doesn’t care about opinions. If you have one, go somewhere else.

That is why I thank people for their responses, to keep hard feelings at a minimum. And I will stress again, my objection to Darwinism remains very specific - there is no wholesale objection to evolutionary theory in this camp (if that’s of any concern to anyone).

You have no objection to evolution as it exists. You oppose a strawman version of it. Have fun with that.

Your actions and words are not congruent. You thank people for their posts but totally disregard the (valid) points they bring up. Meanwhile you arrogantly ask respect for your uninformed opinion. You ask nicely, and that is why this post is civil. But your posts and the implications they make are far from civil.

Kind regards,

-Edin Najetovic

Comment #96036

Posted by Kate on April 11, 2006 12:42 PM (e)

apollo230,

the phrase that keeps coming to mind on reading your posts is:

You are entitled to your own opinion. You are not, however, entitled to your own FACTS.

Until you learn to distinguish between a fact and an opinion, you will find yourself consistently at odds with those who cleave to facts and eschew opinions when at all possible.

Helpful definitions
Fact: something that has actual existence; a matter of objective reality

Opinion: a belief or conclusion held with confidence but not substantiated by positive knowledge or proof

Comment #96038

Posted by CJ O'Brien on April 11, 2006 12:53 PM (e)

Apollo:

I confess I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order (cancer, cystic fibrosis, down’s syndrome, hemophilia, the list goes on).

Add Sickle-cell Anemia to your list, and think hard about how it might fit into your ideas.
Also, remember that neutrality is the most common “acheivement” of random mutation.
Think also about the divergence of alleles due to neutral mutations, and what happens when a further mutation occurs to make one of the varients not-neutral anymore.
Finally, try *gasp* considering evolution by natural selection –brace yourself– without reference to “information” at all.
See, the IDers like to pretend that evolutionary biologists are trying to pull a fast one by glossing over the information content of replicators. But it is, in fact, Dembski and his ilk who have intentionally muddied the waters with ill-defined appeals to information-theoretical concepts that are much better applied to a signal in a wire. If you insist on continuing to view the problem in terms of information, ask yourself: who or what is the sender, and who, or what, is the receiver?

Comment #96041

Posted by Gav on April 11, 2006 1:50 PM (e)

“Add Sickle-cell Anemia to your list”

Cystic fibrosis too. Some evidence of heterozygote advantage as regards diseases such as cholera, tuberculosis, influenza, asthma. Cruel.

Comment #96042

Posted by AD on April 11, 2006 3:02 PM (e)

I think Kate hit the nail on the head.

One thing I’m curious about, however. Apollo - how much college level coursework have you done in Biology?

Thanks.

Comment #96044

Posted by AC on April 11, 2006 3:09 PM (e)

apollo230 wrote:

I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order (cancer, cystic fibrosis, down’s syndrome, hemophilia, the list goes on).

Then you’re just being obstinate. If you can conceive of a mutation causing a disease, you can conceive of a mutation conferring an advantage. Lay down your ego and try.

Comment #96059

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 11, 2006 5:47 PM (e)

I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order

And you are absolutely positively one-thousand percent correct.

And no biologist anywhere on this planet would disagree with you. Random mutations cannot, absolutely cannot, achieve anything but disorder.

But random mutations plus natural selection, can.

Do you understand the difference?

Comment #96061

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 11, 2006 5:51 PM (e)

I remain unpersuaded

I am a bit curious, though — why on earth do you think it should be anyone’s job here to persuade you?

With all due respect, why on earth should anyone here give a flying fig WHAT you are persuaded of or not?

You don’t like evolution. OK. So what? Why should anyone care?

If you didn’t like gravity, should anyone care? If you didn’t like the value of pi, should anyone care?

What on earth do you think gives you the right to demand that the rest of the world persuade you that your uninformed opinion about science is wrong? Why are we all supposed to jump when you demand it?

If you want basic tutoring in tenth-grade biology, I charge $75 an hour. (shrug)

If you want to do it less expensively, then (1) stop getting all your “science” information from creationist religious tracts, and (2) go to a library (the big building with all the books in it) and read the entire “biology” section.

Comment #96088

Posted by Moses on April 11, 2006 8:35 PM (e)

Apollo:

I confess I remain unpersuaded that random mutations can acheive anything other than dis-order (cancer, cystic fibrosis, down’s syndrome, hemophilia, the list goes on).

Myopia. Can confers both strong positive and strong negative attributes, or a weaker positive result, depending if homozygous or heterozygous in expression.

Comment #96091

Posted by Jim Harrison on April 11, 2006 10:01 PM (e)

Dr. Tartakower used to say that every chess game was won by a mistake, sometimes a mistake committed by the loser but often one committed by the winner. The false step breaks the equilibrium and decisive results become possible. This pattern seems to also hold true for mutations in living things. What looks like a defect turns out to be advantageous, especially after further mutations and natural selection have compensated for the bad effects. Quite a few mutations that cause the loss of a cell membrane feature prevent viral infections, for example.

Comment #96095

Posted by Arden Chatfield on April 11, 2006 11:11 PM (e)

Well, that seems to have chased Apollo away pretty effectively…

Comment #96107

Posted by Carol Clouser on April 12, 2006 2:26 AM (e)

Lenny wrote:

“If you want basic tutoring in tenth-grade biology, I charge $75 an hour.”

Considering how you have been going about the business of elucidating the concepts of biology (and the scientific method) to various posters, and the degree of motivation and encouragement you have conveyed to them with your hair-trigger polemics, you are grossly overpriced.

Would it not have been much more effective to ask apollo230 to explain how he/she would go about defining and measuring the amount of disorder when a gene is caused to mutate? How would the the changed genetic material be construed as more or less disorderd ompared to the original form?

Such a discussion and the following give and take and carefully listening to what apollo230 was saying would have led you, and the other teacher-posters here, to realize that apoolo230 was not really talking about order but about “improvement”. He/she found it hard to accept that a random process would inexorably lead one way - ever improved forms. And at first glance it is a reasonable question, in the absence of natural selection.

But you missed an opportunity (what educators refer to as a “teachable moment”) to engage in some quality teaching due to your desire to mow down a suspected “creationist”. You failed apollo230 and so did the other teacher-posters here.

Comment #96108

Posted by Renier on April 12, 2006 3:12 AM (e)

Carol, I don’t think apollo was really here to learn, do you?

Comment #96112

Posted by Corkscrew on April 12, 2006 5:23 AM (e)

I can see how my refusal to change my position could disenchant those who put effort into getting me to see things their way. On the other hand, I too, worked hard on my posts and swayed nobody.

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but your posts didn’t actually make any arguments of a form that could actually have persuaded anyone. They basically boiled down to “this is my opinion; I have no reasoning to back it up. It just seems right“. On the other hand, I, for example, presented you with a clear instance of immensely useful functionality arising purely from random mutation (the nylon bug).

Regards the idea that random mutation can’t give rise to order, you’re mostly correct. Let’s take an analogy, though: water. Water mostly destroys stuff. It wears down rocks. It makes people slip. If you hit it with an earthquake it washes away major cities. It’s causing many parts of my nation’s coastline to slip into the sea. Water does not give rise to order.

Unless, of course, you stick a turbine in its path. Now its effects can be channeled - it can generate large amounts of electricity. By using well-designed tidal barrages, for example, you can get a lot of power from it no matter which way the water itself is moving. And that power can fuel constructive activity - everything from cars to computers.

Random mutation on its own will not generally give rise to what you’d probably think of as order. However, when harnessed by natural selection, there’s practically no end to what it can achieve. This can actually be demonstrated on computer by using genetic algorithms - in this context, random mutation plus a selection criterion can often achieve results significantly better than anything a human could come up with.

The above is not (just) an opinion. It’s an opinion backed up by fact. If you think the facts are wrong or the logic is faulty, feel free to challenge it. You’re right, however, that just saying “well, you’re entitled to your opinion” is extremely frustrating for the rest of us.

Comment #96117

Posted by 'Rev Dr' Lenny Flank on April 12, 2006 7:24 AM (e)

But you missed an opportunity (what educators refer to as a “teachable moment”) to engage in some quality teaching due to your desire to mow down a suspected “creationist”. You failed apollo230 and so did the other teacher-posters here.

As I’ve already said, I don’t bother any more with attempting to “teach” fundies. The payoff simply isn’t worth the effort.

If they really and truly wanted to learn something, they could go to any library and learn as much as they want. For free. And absolutely nobody can stop them.

Apollo was here to (1) pick a fight and (2) feed his massive martry complex.

He succeeded at both.

He should thank us for giving him exactly what he wanted. (shrug)

Just like you, Carol.

Comment #96158

Posted by Sir_Toejam on April 12, 2006 12:23 PM (e)

Such a discussion and the following give and take and carefully listening to what apollo230 was saying would have led you, and the other teacher-posters here, to realize that apoolo230 was not really talking about order but about “improvement”.

Carol:

1. he was no more here to learn than you are.

2. he damn near direct quoted from Dembski’s NFL, and didn’t expect we would catch him on it.

3. Just how dumb are you, anyway?

4. Go away.

Comment #96230

Posted by fnxtr on April 12, 2006 7:04 PM (e)

Just as an aside, today is the 373rd anniversary of Galileo’s conviction for heresy. All he did was explain the facts.

Comment #96233

Posted by Glen Davidson on April 12, 2006 7:51 PM (e)

Just how dumb are you, anyway?

Now come on, Sir TJ, surely you must know by now that Carol doesn’t answer the really relevant questions.

Glen D
http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Comment #96310

Posted by J. Biggs on April 13, 2006 10:05 AM (e)

C. Clouser wrote:

Such a discussion and the following give and take and carefully listening to what apollo230 was saying would have led you, and the other teacher-posters here, to realize that apoolo230 was not really talking about order but about “improvement”. He/she found it hard to accept that a random process would inexorably lead one way - ever improved forms. And at first glance it is a reasonable question, in the absence of natural selection.

Evolution is not about “improvement”. Natural selection only explains the ability of certain individuals in a population to pass on their genes more effectively than other individuals which are not as well adapted to a particular environment. In a sense that is in an improvement, but only for one particular environment placing a selective pressure. A characteristic that imparts adaptive advantage in one environment may be a tremendous disadvantage in another. Improvement is a subjective human concept that has no place in ToE; just as ID and Dembski’s “Law of Conservation of Information” (cough) have no place in science.

Comment #96423

Posted by the pro from dover on April 13, 2006 8:58 PM (e)

I finally got to read the Newsweek article and there’s something I find puzzling that perhaps can be clarified. Since I’ve learned all I know about paleozoic vertebrate evolution from the right reverend archbishop sitteth on the right hand Leonardo Franko MD phD FOTHB, I am confused about the description of eusthenopteron as being “a distant ancestor of todays mudfish and coelacanth”. My understanding is that mudfish (translated in several dictionaries as “bowfin”) are in fact actinopterygian and not sarcopterygian which the eusthenopteron must be. Perhaps either 1. the writer meand to use “lungfish” or 2. that “mudfish” means something different in the UK as opposed to the USA. TPFD.

Comment #96429

Posted by Anton Mates on April 13, 2006 11:33 PM (e)

Perhaps either 1. the writer meand to use “lungfish” or 2. that “mudfish” means something different in the UK as opposed to the USA.

A cursory Googling indicates that people use “mudfish” for a variety of, well, fish that hang out in mud. Lungfish is probably the meaning intended here, but mud minnows and mudskippers are also referred to that way, apparently.

Comment #96992

Posted by Graeme Carle on April 17, 2006 6:00 PM (e)

Sorry for my delay in replying - I’ve been out of town. Thanks for your responses. I’m glad I waded through to some substantive answers that I need to think on.

Comment #101399

Posted by Courtney Gidts on May 19, 2006 12:34 PM (e)

I’ve managed to save up roughly $40680 in my bank account, but I’m not sure if I should buy a house or not. Do you think the market is stable or do you think that home prices will decrease by a lot?