Posted by PvM on September 16, 2007 12:41 PM

It seems that ID has chosen to rekindle the ‘how does evolution create information’ question. See for instance “Richard Dawkins on the Origin of Genetic Information” at EvolutionNews.org where spokesperson Luskin presents this question. And yet, the question has been answered many times, so why are ID activist ignoring these explanations or pretending that it has not been answered succinctly and successfully?

One of the basic claims of ID is that processes of regularity and chance cannot create complex specified information. ID relies here on an equivocation of the term ‘information’ since ID’s definition of information is merely a measure of our inability to explain it. In other words, unlike the complexity and information that science can explain, ID relies on that which science cannot explain (yet?) and calls it complexity or information.

Confused? I bet… Many ID proponents have similarly fallen victim to the bait and switch approach here.

So whenever ID states that science cannot explain complex specified information, all one has to do is point out the tautological nature of the claim. When ID then switches to the more common definition of information and complexity, it is trivial to show how evolutionary processes can indeed generate in principle information and complexity.

The real question then becomes: Where these processes indeed involved in the evolution of life on earth? While science provides a rich framework to study these questions, ID is left at the sidelines, unable to contribute anything relevant since it refuses to constrain its designer, it refuses to provide pathways and processes.

And remember, whenever science proposes a pathway, all ID can do is reject a strawman version of it, namely a pathways based on pure chance. Of course, any non trivial scientific pathway is inaccessible to the calculations needed by ID to make its case.

Back to the question of information and complexity. How does science explain it? Not surprisingly via very simple processes of regularity and chance: namely selection and variation. As many have shown, these simple processes are sufficient to explain the information in the genome. So now the question is not “how does science explain information in the genome” but “how well do science’s explanations perform”? For that we have to take existing genetic data and determine actual pathways. This historic reconstruction is not simple, although there now exist a handful of examples where science has indeed reconstructed the pathways, consistent with evolutionary theory.
ID may of course argue that science still has not provided all the answers, but the mere fact that contrary to ID’s predictions of an Edge, science finds why evolution succeeded.

A good example comes from the work on evolvability and RNA. Contrary to ID’s predictions, RNA shows scale free networks, which themselves can be explained by simple processes of gene duplication and preferential attachment. These scale free networks provide a rich environment for evolution to succeed since it both contributes to the robustness as well as the evolvability of RNA.
The reason is that most RNA structures are close to most other RNA structures in sequence space. In other words, most any RNA structure can, via mutations in its sequence, reach any other RNA structure where most of the mutations are in fact neutral. Such findings help understand why evolution appears to proceed in stasis followed by rapid changes. This is exactly what the evidence suggests and the work on RNA has explained this evidence.

So perhaps ID proponents can help us understand how ID explains the origin of information in the genome? But it is unlikely that we will here any further details on this matter. ID has chosen to remain scientifically vacuous

Dembski wrote:

As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories. If ID is correct and an intelligence is responsible and indispensable for certain structures, then it makes no sense to try to ape your method of connecting the dots. True, there may be dots to be connected. But there may also be fundamental discontinuities, and with IC systems that is what ID is discovering.”

Finally, I would like to remind the reader that even if ID were correct that evolutionary algorithms cannot do better than random search, random search is an almost trivially effective search
See for instance this link

Tom English wrote:

The obvious interpretation of “no free lunch” is that no optimizer is faster, in general, than any other. This misses some very important aspects of the result, however. One might conclude that all of the optimizers are slow, because none is faster than enumeration. And one might also conclude that the unavoidable slowness derives from the perverse difficulty of the uniform distribution of test functions. Both of these conclusions would be wrong.
If the distribution of functions is uniform, the optimizer’s best-so-far value is the maximum of n realizations of a uniform random variable. The probability that all n values are in the lower q fraction of the codomain is p = qn. Exploring n = log2 p points makes the probability p that all values are in the lower q fraction. Table 1 shows n for several values of q and p.
It is astonishing that in 99.99% of trials a value better than 99.999% of those in the codomain is obtained with fewer than one million evaluations. This is an average over all functions, of course. It bears mention that one of them has only the worst codomain value in its range, and another has only the best codomain value in its range.