Categories

Natural Production of New Information

One of the key arguments for Intelligent Design (ID) is that new information cannot be produced by natural processes, and thus there must be intervention by an intelligent designer for this new information to appear. That’s a crude statement, but it covers the ground pretty well.

One problem I saw with the argument when I read Darwin’s Black Box, was one that was implicit in Behe’s writing, but which he did not acknowledge: Science discovers new things all the time. In the midst of describing how much we know now that was unknown in Darwin’s day, Behe suddenly seems to expect the reader to accept a stop sign in this one direction. For the production of an IC system, there must be intelligent intervention. There are at least two branches to that argument. First, no new information can be produced and second, that information can’t be organized as an IC system. Creating an IC system would require both, and that view has been challenged in both directions. Systems that appear to be IC have been proved to be no such thing, and many ways of producing new information through natural evolutionary processes have been demonstrate.

Art has a post on the Panda’s Thumb that discusses such a structure in about as much detail as a non-biologist can take. It’s pretty clear writing, however, so if you’re willing to look up a couple of terms to make sure you’re on track, you should be able to follow it in its essentials. The key point can be summarized:

The take-home message of all this is: portions of the maize mitochondrial genome that do not normally encode any protein were shuffled, extensively, so as to cobble together an expressed gene that encodes, not just any old polypeptide, but a multimeric gated ion channel. In other words, an irreducibly complex structure arose in one fell swoop, using DNA sequences that do not encode proteins. Basically, this is a case of IC from scratch.

Much of the information that refutes Behe’s arguments was already available when he wrote, and much has appeared since. I appreciate those folks who are willing to write up this sort of complicated material for the rest of us.

If I might add my theological note, as is expected of me as a theistic evolutionist, my question for my fellow Christians is why they would assume that a universe designed by God would be incapable of producing pretty much anything. I do not mean by front-loading for specific elements, but simply the design of a universe that functions. This is not an argument for or against intervention. It’s simply an observation that special intervention is not required. (By special intervention I mean action that contravenes the normal processes. As a theist, I believe that all things happen “because God,” but that God’s will is so consistent that we can call it natural law.)

6 comments to Natural Production of New Information

  • First IC requires several components. T-URF13 is only one. That alone refutes Art’s argument.

    Also the ID argument says that IC cannot arise via stichastic processes like culled genetic accidents. That would be the next pece Art requires- to demonstrate that T-URF13 arose via culled genetic accidents. he has failed to do so.

    Also I would love to see the data that shows that systems once thought to be IC proved to be no such thing.

    I bet this wasn’t founded on actual experimental data.

  • First IC requires several components. T-URF13 is only one. That alone refutes Art’s argument.

    I’d be curious as to just what you mean by a “component” in IC. It seems a bit odd.

    However, as to the rest, I see you’re in a tangle with the folks over at The Panda’s Thumb, and I’m going to refer readers to that interesting discussion, starting with your comment #173495 there.

    Your argument there seems to be a bit different.

  • An IC system contains several parts/components in which the removal of one (or a few) results in a loss of functionality.

    As for the the thumbies they don’t know what is being debated and as such always revert to strawman arguments.

    IC- A system performing a given basic function is irreducibly complex if it includes a set of well-matched, mutually interacting, non-arbitrarily individuated parts such that each part in the set is indispensable to maintaining the system’s basic, and therefore original, function. The set of these indispensable parts is known as the irreducible core of the system.

    Numerous and Diverse Parts If the irreducible core of an IC system consists of one or only a few parts, there may be no insuperable obstacle to the Darwinian mechanism explaining how that system arose in one fell swoop. But as the number of indispensable well-fitted, mutually interacting,, non-arbitrarily individuated parts increases in number & diversity, there is no possibility of the Darwinian mechanism achieving that system in one fell swoop.

    Minimal Complexity and Function Given an IC system with numerous & diverse parts in its core, the Darwinian mechanism must produce it gradually. But if the system needs to operate at a certain minimal level of function before it can be of any use to the organism & if to achieve that level of function it requires a certain minimal level of complexity already possessed by the irreducible core, the Darwinian mechanism has no functional intermediates to exploit.

    That is from “No Free Lunch” by Wm Dembski.

    And in the end it is best to know what it is you are arguing against. Neither you nor the thumbies appear to understand the debate.

  • And in the end it is best to know what it is you are arguing against. Neither you nor the thumbies appear to understand the debate.

    Actually, I think we all understand the debate quite well, and that’s your problem. It’s much easier to move the goalposts if somebody doesn’t know where they were supposed to be.

    You haven’t posted anything here that I haven’t read before. Since you’re getting thoroughly thrashed over on the thumb, I’ll leave it to those guys.

  • From Art’s article T-URF13 is a result of intentional breeding- ie ARTIFICIAL selection.

    IC only argues against NATURAL selection.

    Evolution and reproduction go hand in hand. Sterile males do not reproduce.

    One component- the fungal toxin- is a pathogen. Meaning it is not created by the maize.

    Without a membrane there isn’t a requirement for any type of channel. Therefore the membrane is also a component and must be accounted for via culled genetic accidents.

    And actually I have yet to meet an anti-IDist who understood the debate at all. Those thumbies are only thrashing a strawman. Artificial selection is not natural selection. And to think that nature would preserve sterile males or that sterile males could pass on their genes is just plain nuts.

  • From Art’s article T-URF13 is a result of intentional breeding- ie ARTIFICIAL selection.

    IC only argues against NATURAL selection.

    This is a standard ID argument, but it is logically flawed. If variation can produce the option, it doesn’t matter whence comes the selection. It’s quite appropriate to use unnatural selection to speed the process and show how various things can happen.

    Evolution and reproduction go hand in hand. Sterile males do not reproduce.

    So? Are you incapable of reasoning by analogy?

    One component- the fungal toxin- is a pathogen. Meaning it is not created by the maize.

    Are you arguing that such pathogens wouldn’t function in natural selection? Have you never heard of symbiosis?

    Without a membrane there isn’t a requirement for any type of channel. Therefore the membrane is also a component and must be accounted for via culled genetic accidents.

    You are, as usual creating an artificial combination. Whenever a scientist demonstrates one part of a process, we find an ID advocate to claim that it is not enough. ID apparently wants science to progress without an evolutionary process. Only an detailed presentation of the entire (whatever the ID advocate chooses) will do.

    Don’t be surprised when scientists don’t try to kick the ball through the goalposts that you have placed well outside the field of play.

    And actually I have yet to meet an anti-IDist who understood the debate at all. Those thumbies are only thrashing a strawman.

    And ID advocates seem to spend their time whining about being misunderstood. I understand the ID argument quite well and reject it. Much more importantly, however, there are quite a number of folks with the appropriate scientific qualifications who reject ID and who do an excellent job of explaining it, Kenneth Miller and Howard van Till, for example.

    Artificial selection is not natural selection. And to think that nature would preserve sterile males or that sterile males could pass on their genes is just plain nuts.

    Good lord! And I was referring you to Kenneth Miller and
    Howard van Till. Perhaps you need to do some more basic work. You could also read the comments on the Panda’s Thumb post that started all this, perhaps starting about here.

    You’re getting shredded in both places. I don’t know whether you don’t understand ID yourself, or whether you just enjoy keeping the concept slippery.