Friday, April 23, 2010

Well, I'm just not so sure...

I was told by a friend of a friend that because I am skeptical about "particles to people" evolution, that I must submit a viable scientific paradigm that replaces the Darwinian paradigm of evolution. But surely this is not the case? Just because I am skeptical about something, that does not mean that I must assert a position to the contrary of that which I am skeptical. For example, I may have my doubts about the alleged Alligator that lives in Lake Hickory, but that does not require me to prove that it surely isn't there. How could I check every nook and cranny of the lake in the first place? But it just seems reasonable that alligators don't live in North Carolina lakes just down from the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains.

Why am I skeptical about "particles to people" evolution? Well, because it seems odd to say that literally all of life came from a single-celled organism. That means pine trees, wheat, gnats, people, camels and strawberries all came from this one organism. I think it is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical about that. Don't you?

Besides the oddity of the first idea, there is the problem of genetic information. If the neo-Darwinian theory is correct, then that means that either a) all of the information was "kept" in the first, single-celled organism, or b) new information arose at a certain point during genetic mutation that accounts for all of life as we know it. But genetic mutation isn't new information. "A gene mutation is a permanent change in the DNA sequence that makes up a gene," (U.S. National Library of Medicine: Genetics Home Reference). It is true that some genes mutate and combine with other genes to make new ones, but new information is not created here. Mutations are changes in a gene's sequence, not the production of new information in the DNA.

Now, when skeptics like me ask these questions, the questions are tossed aside, and I am told I am a "creationist." Well, I'm just asking reasonable questions.

17 comments:

Brian said...

You say, “Mutations are changes in a gene's sequence, not the production of new information in the DNA.”

Uhhh, what?? Let’s say you have a genetic sequence

“atggatgtca atccgactct acttttccta aaaattccag” which is a portion of the flu virus.

Let’s say for example there’s a deletion and an insertion …

“atggatgtca atctct actttcccaaatccta aaaattccag”

If this was a protein coding sequence, and the protein which it codes for was altered in some way which produced a change in function, then how would this not be, “new information in the DNA.” Unless you want to get bogged down in semantics of what “information” means, certainly the insertion of base pairs producing a change in function would be tantamount to new information, because you have both a structure and function that did not exist before.

Very controlled experiments like http://myxo.css.msu.edu/ecoli/ have produced real and replicable evidence of E.coli evolving new genetic components that enabled them to proliferate in far more abundance than the other E.coli generations that all started from the exact same E.coli strain. How did they do it, through a mutation which they pinpointed allowed them the ability to use a food source in the petri dish that the other E.coli strains could not use.

“Now, when skeptics like me ask these questions, the questions are tossed aside, and I am told I am a "creationist." Well, I'm just asking reasonable questions.”

Two things: One, your question at least in this blog entry wasn’t reasonable and was grossly misinformed, and could be corrected by just doing a simple google search. I just searched for, “no new information evolution” and the first link was http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13673-evolution-myths-mutations-can-only-destroy-information.html which answers your question.

Two, I’m curious who you ask these questions to, because anyone who even just slightly informed about evolution (which you should be now after all the times I’ve told you about pseudogenes, mutations, etc.) could easily dismiss your concerns about “no new information.”

Cheers,

Brian

Brian said...

Chris my old friend, how greatly you are misinformed.

I don’t agree with your friend of a friend that you have to propose an alternative idea if you’re sceptical, but what I do think is that your scepticism should be more than just arguments from ignorance and incredulity. That’s where the proposition of the alternative idea comes in. Since you’re condemning the one view because it sounds crazy to you, but not proposing an alternative, it seems like you have no reason to say it’s crazy because you can’t think of a better alternative. That’s what I imagine your friend of a friend is thinking.

As for “particles to people;” To quote Bill Bryson, “if you were to pick yourself apart with tweezers, one atom at a time, you would produce a mound of fine atomic dust, none of which had ever been alive but all of which had once been you.” All we are is particles my friend.

“Well, because it seems odd to say that literally all of life came from a single-celled organism. That means pine trees, wheat, gnats, people, camels and strawberries all came from this one organism. I think it is perfectly reasonable to be skeptical about that. Don't you?”

On the face of it, sure it seems odd. But once we dig deeper and see the immense and complex interconnectedness of all of these species of plants and animals, then it’s not so hard. They all have the exact same building blocks, the DNA base pairs. As you the tree branches out, we see nested hierarchies. See here http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/images/phylo.gif Once we had an ancestor that had organs, from there on out, all its descendents had organs. For a further look into nested hierarchies, go here http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/lines/IVDhierarchies.shtml As an aside, read this article I wrote for my school newspaper on what owe to fish, sharks, and other ancestors. http://www.themanitoban.com/articles/28916

I recently wrote an essay specifically on Ancient DNA analysis with this news article as the impetus. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100210131952.htm I looked at the evolutionary relatedness as measured through Mitochondrial DNA and Y-chromosomal DNA between us and Neandertals, and also looked at how Ancient DNA analysis bolsters the fossil evidence for different theories of human evolution. Even before a majority of the fossil evidence was discovered, Darwin and others saw the similarities in form between many different creatures. Now with DNA analysis, we can examine exactly how the different forms are related, and produce reliable divergence dates which align with the dates given by radiometric dating of fossil evidence.

Read this if you’re interested in learning just how related we are to yeast, mice, worms, etc. http://www.hhmi.org/genesweshare/ We can take a patch of human genetic instruction, put it in a faulty yeast cell, and the cell will use it as though it is its own. In a very real sense, it is its own.

You are very sorely mistaken in saying there is a problem of genetic information. Your problem equates to not being able to make new words with a 26 letter alphabet by only using some of the letters and rearranging them in a particular sequence. The “language” of genetics is only 4 letters long, but with that, we can create endless combinations of nucleotide sequences. What you’re saying is completely absurd, and I know you’re a smart guy, so I don’t think you actually thought about it before you said it, but were probably just parroting what you’ve heard others say.

povertyhill said...

Hey Chris, I'm not sure that your friend Brian does himself any favors by starting out with Bill Bryson...his Manitoban article is interesting re: correlations, but doesn't address the details of what you're skeptical about, IMHO. I'm also skepticam my-own-self about the relation between similar DNA and similar bodily structure, as this seems to vary. I share your concern with the lack of explanation re: the creation of the volume of information in later, more complex lifeforms, and I'm puzzled by there being more genetic information in rice than in humans (per what I've heard). And apparently I'd disagree with most biologists on whether "mutations that allow them to continue digesting milk into adulthood" amount to "a gain in information". Keep seeking for information, facts, knowledge, and truth, and wisdom, I say...

chris van allsburg said...

Brian,

The deal with "particles to people" is that it assumes (according to the Bryson quote) metaphysical naturalism. We've debated that before, and it always ends up in a discussion on epistemology.

2ndly, the fact that we share similar genes with the items on the earth that you listed (plants, animals, various food items) and that we share similarities with animals according to skeletal function could be because of design, rather than natural selection acting on random mutation. I wonder if we didn't share the gene similarity if symbiosis would be possible?

As far as the new information thing is concerned, what I mean is, not that viruses or bacteria may borrow pre-existing information, but that a gene, all on its own, morphs into something entirely different--or at least has been shown to morph into something with the capability of morphing into something entirely different, like a whole new life form. The information in the gene as altered is not "new" information. It's taking pre-existing information and "altering" the gene in subject.

Brian said...

Chris,

“particles to people” does not assume metaphysical naturalism. My parents both accept big bang cosmology, and the theory of evolution and whatever else science tells us about the universe we live in, and are both still the most devout Christians I know. Their faith does not prevent them from being intellectually honest with the available scientific information, and see it as a testament to how amazing god is.

“2ndly, the fact that we share similar genes with the items on the earth that you listed (plants, animals, various food items) and that we share similarities with animals according to skeletal function could be because of design, rather than natural selection acting on random mutation. I wonder if we didn't share the gene similarity if symbiosis would be possible? “

Yes, and that highlights the major problem with the argument from design. No matter what the world looks like, or the genetic make-up of the creatures on this world, you could say it’s evidence for design. There is no way to falsify it, because “god can do whatever he wants.”

However, when we test the available evidence, be it fossil evidence or genetic evidence, it bolsters the theory of universal common descent, rather than falsifies it; which is what makes the theory of universal common descent such a good theory.

Take for example the existence of a pseudogene that prevents the biosynthesis (i.e. that we can make it ourselves) of Vitamin C in humans and the other higher primates. The same exact mutation appears in the same sequence of DNA for all of the higher primates. However, all of the other mammals (save Guinea Pigs because of a different mutation) can biosynthesize their own Vitamin C. So, what accounts for us sharing the same genetic defect with all the other higher primates? Well, it makes sense under the theory of universal common descent that we would all share the same genetic defect in this instance (and countless other genetic similarities, endogenous retroviruses, etc.) because we are all descended from an ancestor who had this genetic mutation. Sure you could say that your god put this genetic defect in all higher primates, but he could have just as easily not; and the likelihood of the same genetic defect occurring in all high primates after “the fall” coincidentally is just absurd.

This is I’m sure the 5th or 6th time you’ve heard me mention the Vitamin C pseudogene, and its implications still haven’t sunk in. I suppose I could talk about the chromosomal fusion event seen here http://www.evolutionpages.com/chromosome_2.htm which also provides really solid evidence for common ancestry. Or I could tell you about endogenous retroviruses http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/section4.html#retroviruses . So, what evidence will it take for you accept the theory of universal common descent?


“As far as the new information thing is concerned, what I mean is, not that viruses or bacteria may borrow pre-existing information, but that a gene, all on its own, morphs into something entirely different--or at least has been shown to morph into something with the capability of morphing into something entirely different, like a whole new life form. The information in the gene as altered is not "new" information. It's taking pre-existing information and "altering" the gene in subject.”

Genes morph into something entirely different all the time. Do a bit of reading man, it’s all there on the internet for you. There have been over 100,000 papers published dealing with genetics and evolution, what do you think they’re writing about?

New life forms have evolved and are evolving. The evidence is in the fossil record, look it up!

So taking pre-existing information, and then adding things to it, duplication it, deleting it, doesn’t create new information. What wacky definition of information are you working with?

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

Hey Chris,

Have you had a chance to look into some of the stuff I mentioned?

chris van allsburg said...

Dude, I totally have not! I've been busy with stuff. I haven't forgotten, I've just been really busy with other things. I need to get to these though, sorry.
I'll double up the effort, eh?

chris van allsburg said...

Brian,

The deal is that we're talking about the causes of the information that we see in the genetic material, etc. What you are proposing, along with the common descent theorists (many ID proponents accept this theory btw), is the modalities of the information. In other words, you are discussing how things change.

I'm talking about what causes the change in the first place. that change comes from inherent design.

Brian said...

Chris, do you accept the theory of universal common descent? If not, what evidence do you feel is missing/lacking?

"I'm talking about what causes the change in the first place. that change comes from inherent design."

This statement has no basis in reality, no evidence to back it up, and is essentially you admitting total ignorance of evolution and saying "it must be design."

I'm looking forward to any evidence at all that you offer in favour of intelligent design and that goes against the theory of evolution. As of now, you have given nothing but arguments from ignorance and incredulity.

I'm sorry for being so blunt, but you have not ever offered one piece of evidence that contradicts the evidence from endogenous retroviruses, pseudogenes, chromosomal fusing, fossils, which all point to universal common descent. Nor have you ever offered any positive evidence for design.

As for what causes the change in the first place; mutations. http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/archive/sloozeworm/mutationbg.html

If you think that god is an intelligent designer, read through this list. http://www.freewebs.com/oolon/SMOGGM.htm

chris van allsburg said...

There's no evidence for design at all? That's why Richard Dawkins says that we have the "illusion" of design. It's the same argument David Hume put forth regarding causation. We don't actually observe causation, but we merely accept it because it makes life more readily liveable. It's basically a pragmatic argument. Dawkins says the same thing about design.

As far as not falsifying your claims about psuedogenes, etc., well you haven't dealt with my philosophical arguments, either.

Nevertheless, I'll get back to you on these things.

Brian said...

What is design exactly? It’s a very flimsy concept. Snowflakes look designed but they’re just a product of the temperature, air currents, and humidity on water molecules. I think the break occurs in what we consider as the agent of design. I understand the natural processes of natural selection, mutation, genetic drift, etc. that can lead to things that look designed. But because I take the word “designed’ as implying a purposeful plan, then I wouldn’t call the product of evolution, design. You believe that a designer designed life on earth, and so it fits the definition of design as the product of a purposeful plan.

Philosophical arguments have nothing to do with the evidence for evolution and the denial of reality that occurs when people don’t accept said evidence. But from my recall, I have continually addressed your philosophical arguments, and you’ve continued to repeat them, so there’s no progress there :P I can’t recall you ever offering an alternate explanation for endogenous retroviruses, pseudogenes, chromosomal fusing, etc.

Cheers,

Brian

chris van allsburg said...

Well, regarding HERV's, when scientists Norbert Bannert and Reinhard Kurth say that "A specific retroviral integration site shared by two species is indicative of a common ancestor because the likelihood of independent integrations at exactly the same locus (insertional homoplasy) is negligible," they presuppose CD. Why is it highly unlikely (their meaning of negligible) that independent integrations at the same locus are possible?

Brian said...

I don’t follow how they are presupposing common descent? They are merely stating that the only way it makes sense for the same ERV to be in the same exact spot in the genome of multiple species, is that they shared a common ancestor that had the endogenous retrovirus and passed it on to its offspring. Do you have an alternate explanation for an inactive virus existing in the exact same are of the genome in multiple species?

If the human genome has approximately 3.3 billion base pairs, then it would be a 1 in 3.3 billion chance that the ERV would be inserted in exactly the same spot in another species. Of course the probability goes down when we consider that the insertion must occur in a germ line cell, and that it must then form a zygote and become a healthy offspring capable of reproduction, etc. Couple this with the fact that we have the most ERVs in common with the other higher primates that have been identified with other phylogenetic trees deduced from nested hierarchies and the fossil record, and we have another solid line of evidence for common descent.

chris van allsburg said...

"Do you have an alternate explanation for an inactive virus existing in the exact same are of the genome in multiple species?"

Yes: design

As far as similarities are concerned, while we do share 96% of the DNA with chimps (and rice is a high percentage too). But does that mean chimps are 96% human? Or that rice is 133% human? Hardly.

Our differences are key. The so-called 'junk DNA' is being shown that we have a great deal to learn about them. ScienceDaily points out that the so-called junk DNA may contain sequences that control gene expression, foetal development, and many other things.

Viruses that mutate are still viruses, Brian. There may be a new variety of species, but there is not protein bond created that makes a new biological structure (other than the simply change from the mutation).

chris van allsburg said...

Plus, I'd say the stats you just laid down make the neo-Darwinian hypothesis much more faith-based than anything else. Just reading those stats make me amazed at God's creative power.

All the same--I COULD BE WRONG. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project is a Christian, and he believes in CD. So does Michael Behe. In fact, there are tons of theistic evolutionists out there who are scientists.

For me--it just seems like a silly myth. I see design everywhere. But, you think the same about the doctrine of creation.

I AM reading however, good sir. As you have told me to earlier in this series of comments. So, I've got that going for me.

chris van allsburg said...

On that note:

evolutionary biologists today are thinking of "process pluralism" while remaining "pattern monists."

In other words, they see the Tree of Life more as a thicket, with common ancestors that are individuated from other group species.

Here's the article.

http://www.physorg.com/news92912140.html