Home » Intelligent Design » Complex Specified Information – It’s not that hard to understand

Complex Specified Information – It’s not that hard to understand

In another thread there’s a discussion about specified complexity. I think the problem with specification is it’s a subjective measure but it shouldn’t be hard to understand. Most people intuitively recognize it and draw conclusions from it. To explain I’ll use a deck of cards and a conclusion that just about any reasonable person, with or without knowing what specified complexity is, will recognize and draw the same conclusion based on it. Then I’ll present a like example from a living thing and ask you be the judge of whether there is specification.

Start with a standard deck of 52 playing cards. You are told that it has been shuffled thoroughly. Upon examination you find that the deck is perfectly ordered by suit and rank. Will you still believe it was shuffled? Probably not. Do you know you’ve based that conclusion on specified complexity? Probably not. Our brains are pattern recognition engines. You reach the conclusion intuitively.

Let’s dissect this with a bit of arithmetic. Any arrangement of 52 cards is as statistically likely as any other. A random shuffle has no preferred order as an outcome. One arrangement is just as likely as any other. My windows calculator says there are 8.0658175170943878571660636856404e+67 possible arrangements. That’s 8 followed by 67 zeroes and is calculated by entering 52 and then pressing the n! button which performs the calculation 52x51x50x49x48…x5x4x3x2. That is the complexity part – the number of possible arrangments is huge and there is no physical law that prefers one arrangement over another. Most people intuitively know the number of possible arrangements is a huge number without knowing precisely how huge.

If any one arrangement is as likely as any other why do we conclude the deck was not shuffled if we find it perfectly ordered by rank and suit? Because we intuitively employ the concept of specified complexity. The perfect ordering is a specification. Specification can be defined as an independently given pattern.

The problem with this is that specification is subjective. It is not a product of nature but rather a product of mind. We can’t, or at least I believe we can’t, come up with an objective formula that distinguishes specification from non-specification. But that doesn’t negate the fact that specification is tangible and can be practically employed to discriminate between chance and design as we can see with the deck of cards example above.

Now let us look at an example of specified complexity that exists in all living things. The video depicts the purpose and action of an enzyme called a topoisomerase. The enzyme is far more complex than a deck of cards. It is a sequence of hundreds of amino acids in a folded chain. Any link in the chain can be any one of 20 different amino acids. The order determines how it will fold and what biological activity (if any) it will possess. Does it have specification? You must be the judge of that.

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33 Responses to Complex Specified Information – It’s not that hard to understand

  1. &ltblockquote>The problem with this is that specification is subjective. It is not a product of nature but rather a product of mind. We can’t, or at least I believe we can’t, come up with an objective formula that distinguishes specification from non-specification.&lt/blockquote>.

    Dave, what’s an example of something in nature that shares this property of subjectivity, but that Darwinists still accept?

  2. what’s an example of something in nature that shares this property of subjectivity, but that Darwinists still accept?

    That’s a good question. I think that by resorting to subjectivity Darwinists should in priciple able to discard every case. However please let’s always remember that they simply CANNOT accept that even one case could be significant. This would be a POSITIVE proof that no conceivable naturalistic mechanism could produce it. And this would mean KO for NDE

  3. The main problem between materialists and IDers, at this present moment, is that materialists don’t believe that ANY sort of information can exist in the “spiritual” realm separate from matter. That is, materialists always believe that information, whether specified or non-specified, must be encoded on some sort of “material” medium, whether it be a computer program written on silicon chips, the DNA code written on DNA molecules, or a novel written on paper. Yet the consciouness of man’s mind that generated the novel and computer program has solid empirical evidence indicating that it is indeed a “spiritualy” based phenomena. Let me illustrate:Neuro-physiological (brain/body) research is now being performed, using a new scientific tool, trans-cranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). This tool allows scientists to study the brain non-invasively. TMS can excite or inhibit normal electrical activity in specific parts of the brain, depending on the amount of energy administered by TMS. This tool allows scientists to pinpoint what is happening in different regions of the brain (functional mapping of the brain). TMS is wide-ranging in its usefulness; allowing the study of brain/muscle connections, the five senses, language, the patho-physiology of brain disorders, as well as mood disorders, such as depression. TMS may even prove to be useful for therapy for such brain disorders. TMS also allows the study of how memories are stored. The ability of TMS for inhibiting (turning off) specific portions of the brain is the very ability which reveals things that are very illuminating to the topic we are investigating.
    When the electromagnetic activity of a specific portion of the brain is inhibited by the higher energies of TMS, it impairs the functioning of the particular portion of the body associated with the particular portion of the brain being inhibited. For example; when the visual cortex (a portion of the brain) is inhibited by higher energies of TMS, the person undergoing the procedure will temporarily become blind while it is inhibited. One notable exception to this “becoming impaired rule” is a person’s memory. When the elusive “memory” portion of the brain is inhibited, a person will have a vivid flashback of a past part of their life. This very odd “amplification” of a memory indicates this fact; memories are stored in the “spiritual” consciousness independent of the brain. All of the bodies other physical functions which have physical connections in the brain are impaired when their corresponding portion of the brain loses its ability for normal electromagnetic activity. One would very well expect memories to be irretrievable from the brain if they were physically stored. Yet memories are vividly brought forth into consciousness when their corresponding locations in the brain are temporarily inhibited. This indicates that memories are somehow stored on a non-physical basis, separate from the brain in the “spiritual” consciousness. Memory happens to be a crucially integrated part of any thinking consciousness. This is true, whether or not consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Where memory is actually located is a sure sign of where the consciousness is actually located. It provides a compelling clue as to whether consciousness is physically or spiritually-based. Vivid memory recall, upon inhibition of a portion of brain where memory is being communicated from consciousness, is exactly what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately self-sufficient of brain function and spiritually-based. The opposite result, a ening of memories, is what one would expect to find if consciousness is ultimately physically-based. According to this insight, a large portion, if not all, of the one quadrillion synapses that have developed in the brain as we became s, are primarily developed as pathways for information to be transmitted to, and memories to be transmitted from, our consciousness. The synapses of the brain are not, in and of themselves, our primary source for memories. Indeed, decades of extensive research by brilliant, Nobel prize-winning, minds have failed to reveal where memory is stored in the brain. Though Alzheimer’s and other disorders affect the brain’s overall ability to recover memories, this is only an indication that the overall ability of the brain to recover memory from the consciousness has been affected, and does not in any way conclusively establish that memory is actually stored in the brain.
    In other evidence, many children who have had hemispherectomies (half their brains removed due to life threatening epileptic conditions) at Johns Hopkins Medical Center, are in high school; and one, a college student, is on the dean’s list. The families of these children can barely believe the transformation; and not so long ago, neurologists and neuro-surgeons found it hard to believe as well. What is surprising for these people is that they are having their overriding materialistic view of brain correlation to consciousness overturned. In other words; since, it is presumed by Materialism that the brain is the primary generator of consciousness; then, it is totally expected for a person having half their brain removed to be severely affected when it comes to memory and personality. This is clearly a contradiction between the Materialistic and Theistic philosophies. According to Materialistic dogma, memory and personality should be affected, just as badly, or at least somewhat as badly, as any of the other parts of the body, by removal of half the brain. Yet, as a team of neuro-surgeons that have done extensive research on the after effects of hemispherectomy at John Hopkins Medical Center comment: “We are awed by the apparent retention of the child’s memory after removal of half of the brain, either half; and by the retention of the child’s personality and sense of humor.” Though a patients physical capacities are impaired, just as they were expected to be immediately following surgery; and have to have time to be “rewired” to the consciousness in the brain, the memory and personality of the patient comes out unscathed in the aftermath of such radical surgery. This is exactly the result one would expect, if the consciousness is ultimately independent of brain function and is spiritually-based. This is totally contrary to the results one would expect if the consciousness were actually physically-based, as the materialistic theory had presumed. In further comment from the neuro-surgeons in the John Hopkins study: “Despite removal of one hemisphere, the intellect of all but one of the children seems either unchanged or improved. Intellect was only affected in the one child who had remained in a coma, vigil-like state, attributable to peri-operative complications.” This is stunning proof of consciousness being independent of brain function. The only child not to have normal or improved intellect is the child who remained in a coma due to complications during surgery. It is also heartening to find that many of the patients regain full use, or almost full use, of their bodies after a varying period of recuperation in which the brain is “rewired” to the consciousness.

  4. I can accept that this enzyme, in so far as it gives the appearance of teleology, corresponds to in some way to a specification similar your description of the card ordering.

    That is, my mind has the capacity to recognize when “stuff” is arranged in a rare and, apparently, purposeful manner. I suspect that it’s the apparent purposiveness, the teleological nature, that evokes the subjective mental categorization of “special ordering of stuff.”

    Fine so far. But to make the ID design inference, given the evidence of biological life, a second premise seems necessary. Namely, that there are no unguided (i.e. non-intelligent) processes that can generate an assemblage of material objects in a fashion that gives the appearance of purposefulness to the subjective observer.

    That is the key premise and one that ID and evolutionists do not share. For evolutionists, it is possible for unguided processes to yield the appearance of teleology. I think this is the crux of the matter and not whether the definition of complex specification can be nailed down and put into practice.

    Do we have any examples of teleological arrangements that are not assembled by an intelligence?
    The IDist would say no, there are no such things in human experience. The evolutionists would say yes. A tree. A marmoset. And so on.

    The IDist says unfair, you can’t make the assumption that these living things are generated by unguided processes and use them as an example. You must provide some other example.

    The problem is that fundamental process in nature that yields teleology by unguided means is, we think, evolution itself. And evolution yields organic life. So taking that off the table–which I must agree is the fair thing to do–leaves nothing for the evolutionists to work with in the “show me an example” game.

    So I think what’s needed is to show, generically, how unguided processes can generate “specified complexity.” Or for someone to definitively show that they can’t (across any timescale and given the raw materials of nature). The problem, again, though is what’s allowed on the table. If we evolutionists try to point to those little microevolutionary events (gene duplications, gain of function muations, etc) that might be used to make the case for building CSI over the long haul, then IDists can cry foul saying a)the CSI was already programmed in the system and just needed to unfurl, etc. And of course temporal obstacles due to human timescales pretty much preclude demonstrating (in an undeniable fashion, at least) any more dramatic feats of evolution. So yet another avenue for possible resolution between camps appears unworkable.

    Basically, I think, it comes down to IDists saying that we evolutionists must prove that unguided processes (i.e. evolution) can generate CSI. And evolutionists saying that IDists must prove otherwise.

    As for myself, since I take common descent as a given (see, for example the endogenous retrovirus thread) and am familiar with the little genomic events that seem to build teleology, in what appears to me, at least, to be a sporadic (I’ve developed a fear of using the word random) fashion, I put my money on the evolution camp. Maybe a touch of panspermia as well, though I’m not committed to that. In any case, I supect teleology/CSI evolved at sometime, somewhere to get the ball rolling.

  5. great_ape

    Do we have any examples of teleological arrangements that are not assembled by an intelligence?
    The IDist would say no, there are no such things in human experience. The evolutionists would say yes. A tree. A marmoset. And so on.

    That’s not the right question. Here’s the right one (emphasis added):

    Do we have any examples of teleological arrangements where the origin can be determined that are not assembled by an intelligence?

    The answer is no. The retort is that the only origin we can determine is human origin. That’s correct. A human is an intelligent agent. Therefore it is true that the only teleologic arrangements where the origin is known is via intelligent agency.

    The unintelligent process that supposedly created the topoisomerase is based on a symbolic code. Convince me that an unintelligent process can create a symbolic code and I’ll concede the rest of evolution to the same process.

  6. I think most people properly recognize function as a specification, whether it’s a motor that supplies propulsion or a ribosome that reads instructions and assembles a protein. It actually takes quite a bit of fancy footwork and philosophizing not to recognize this, which is why the vast majority of Americans rejects the blind-watchmaker thesis, and why engineers in particular tend to be more amenable to the logic, evidence, and argumention of ID.

  7. In reply to great ape and GilDodgen;

    I think functionality is the measurement that brings CSI into clear focus. Evolutionists must prove that randomly added information to the DNA increases its functionality in a stepwise fashion. The principle of genetic entropy, which is different than material entropy is in fact proving to be more rigorous than material entropy, prevents the evolutionists from ever demonstrating this requirement.
    Great ape points to ERVs for his proof of unbroken common ancestry, Yet, other functions for ERVs are still very much in play and have not been ruled out. In any case, the similarities of ERVs are trumped by the evolutionists failure to clearly demonstrate a gain in Genetic Information for any organism in the lab. This should be very easy for evolutionists to do if evolution was indeed true, yet, upon close examination every example they offer for evidence the evidence always ultimately falls within the rule of Genetic entropy.
    So as a rule CSI is being clearly demonstrated by the functional whole of each organism studied since Genetic Entropy has yet to be refuted.

  8. Do we have any examples of teleological arrangements where the origin can be determined that are not assembled by an intelligence?

    Yes, this is admittedly a better question. But it’s a lot easier to establish the origin of something that we intelligent beings made ourselves (and can recognize as such) than it is to establish the origin of something if, for the sake of argument, it had no intelligent creator and was forged by unguided processes in the depths of time. A lot more legwork involved. How to establish that it happened that way beyond a reasonable doubt is a task that may forever remain undone regardless of the truth of the matter.

    Convince me that an unintelligent process can create a symbolic code and I’ll concede the rest of evolution to the same process.

    The possibility of a transition between “literal” interactions among physical substrates and the advent of something akin to symbology is an interesting subject on several levels. I have no good explanation for how this might happen, but neither do I have a good reason to believe it could not, in principle, happen without guidance.

  9. Somebody well known to us once said.

    “It appears to require many years of uncritical academic brainwashing for highly intelligent people to sincerely arrive at any other than the intuitively obvious conclusion that complex machines don’t design themselves out of thin air. Or have they simply a blind uncritical faith in consensus science? I’m a pretty hardcore materialist but I know a complex machine when I see one and I know how complex machines get designed and it isn’t through unintelligent agency. Anti-theists should stop kicking and screaming like little kids who don’t get their way. Intellectual honesty demands you go where the evidence leads.”

  10. But it’s a lot easier to establish the origin of something that we intelligent beings made ourselves (and can recognize as such) than it is to establish the origin of something if, for the sake of argument, it had no intelligent creator and was forged by unguided processes in the depths of time. A lot more legwork involved. How to establish that it happened that way beyond a reasonable doubt is a task that may forever remain undone regardless of the truth of the matter.

    That’s not quite the case. We don’t care to establish the origin of all phenomena, only the ones which are interesting – that is, display CSI. This appears to be the case throughout science.

    Luckily, we don’t have to worry about it. It is an empirical fact that every observable phenomenon which has exhibited CSI, and its causal history was fully known, its causal history originated with a designing intelligence. Hence, by uniformitarianism, we make the warranted inference that every phenomenon which exhibits CSI was likewise the product of intelligence.

    To claim otherwise – that CSI can arise naturalistically (re: naturalistic evolution) – becomes the extraordinary claim (counter-inductive) requiring extraordinary evidence to support it; evidence which, to date, has not materialized, pun intended.

    If all crows discovered to date have been black, one has warrant to conclude that all future crows will likewise be black, and this claim is open to refutation by producing a non-black crow. Materialists have as yet failed to produce a non-black crow. We have theoretical reasons to believe that such a crow cannot, in principle, exist.

  11. “And of course temporal obstacles due to human timescales pretty much preclude demonstrating (in an undeniable fashion, at least) any more dramatic feats of evolution.”

    What about Dr. Richard Lenksi’s experiments with e-coli bacteria? Last time I checked, he had been trying for something like 35,000 generations to produce something other than e-coli from e-coli.

  12. jaredl,

    They used to use your examples of crows in logic except it was applied to swans that they were always white until they found some black ones in Australia.

    The problem with inference is that it can be destroyed by just one counter example. And the argument in evolution is to say that we just have not yet found a natural self replicating, contained system, that can access a source of energy from outside itself except for life. So because is hasn’t been found does not mean it does not exist or could not have existed. It is just that it hasn’t been discovered yet like the black swan or possibly a white crow.

    I have no problem with the evolutionists use of the God of the Gaps argument, if they would just state the immensity of the problem and that they are no where near a solution. Instead the immensity is suppressed and instead the impression is given that a solution is just around the corner.

  13. CSI is an interesting property. But in addition to CSI of a given biotic feature is the temporal sequencing specification that builds the CSI, which IMO, may be more stupendous than the CSI itself. Has anyone taken a stab at rigorously formalizing this?

  14. great_ape

    How to establish that it happened that way beyond a reasonable doubt is a task that may forever remain undone regardless of the truth of the matter.

    Personally I think y’all are threatened by the fact that evolution via intelligent agency is already proven. Hundreds or thousands of genetic engineers tamper with DNA every single day. They knock genes out to see what happens, they customize viruses to insert new genes – intelligent agency has already altered the course of evolution on this planet. The only question for us to answer is whether we were the first kids on the block with this technology. To presume we are is hubris on steroids. Darwin pundits are forced to discard the Copernican Principle of Mediocrity which otherwise forces us to presume there’s nothing special here including the ability to direct evolution to suit our purposes.

    How long will it be before we decide there’s no life on Mars and start colonizing and terraforming? The plans are already on the books. Knock on wood we’ll both live to see a permanent human presence on another planet. The capabilities of intelligent agency operating within the known laws of physics are already pretty well established and everything about life on this planet from the word go is within that capability. No supernatural operation outside the bounds of known physics are required. Other possible intelligences in the causally connected universe had billions of years before we showed up to tinker with things. Meanwhile the “life came about by chance” crowd isn’t any closer to showing that an unintelligent process can do it than they were a century ago. Zero progress there, bro. That must suck. I feel your pain. :-)

  15. great_ape,

    I watched a video today put out by Stanford on Itunes which talked about evolution. The guy giving the talk was named Matthew Scott. It was pretty much underwhelming in support of gradualism, paying a lot of homage to Darwin as an innovator. Scott presented little evidence and essentially made assertions that there is nothing that hasn’t been over come. It was billed as the use of evolution in medicine and there were a few interesting examples at the end.

    One was using the analogy that cancer cells were an example of evolution and as they develop they often mutate to add signaling devices to themselves which call out for the building of blood vessels or other things to supply themselves with capabilities that were not there originally.

    Now these cells are certainly not good for the organism but Scott was making the analogy that the cells were taking steps to increase their viability by mutating and it sounded like they were adding capability. Obviously there is no teleology involved, just random mutations that increase the likelihood that the cells will propagate and once that happens they take over.

    Are you familiar with this process? If this is really an example of evolution, then it is a different one than the standard ones since the population is a subset of the organism and the result is to kill the organism. Do the cells in question have any increase in information during this mutation process before the organism is killed?

    Do you have any thoughts on this?

  16. great_ape

    It’s not akin to symbology. Coding DNA is a symbolic code. Even more, it’s a digital symbolic code composed of triplets of base 4 numerals represented by 4 nucleic acids. It even has start/stop symbols like human designed serial codes. The codes go through a lookup table to determine what action to take. This is all very familiar stuff for computer science buffs but even 50 years ago people who saw it immediately compared it to morse code. Mathematic symbolism is a product of mind and a relatively advanced mind at that given of all the animals with complex brains only one is able to employ numeric symbology.

  17. jerry

    Cancer cells don’t evolve new capabilities. They break control mechanisms to expose capabilities that all cells have – the main one being able to divide forever. What can a cancer cell do that an embryonic stem cell cannot? An embryonic stem cell can grow into a complex animal with a brain that can perform surgery, build rockets, make new drugs, and all sorts of things. Given that a cancer cell, like every other cell with human DNA in your body, descends from an embryonic stem cell and has the exact same DNA as the ESC then it’ follows that it has the potential to do any of the same things. They don’t evolve, they break free of their restraints and wander off the reservation, so to speak.

  18. russ

    Dave, what’s an example of something in nature that shares this property of subjectivity, but that Darwinists still accept?

    Macroevolution via non-telic processes. It’s a gigantic extrapolation. Observed is a process that can make small changes in a small amount of time and an intuitive leap is made that the same process can make large changes over a large amount of time.

    Engineers, chemists, and physicists all understand that few structures or processes scale up or down in a linear fashion without bound. Discontinuities are the rule, not the exception.

    That fact of life seems to escape biologists but I don’t know quite why since examples abound in living things. Ants scale pretty well in the milligram regime and can perform incredible feats of strength for their size but they don’t scale up without limit and it’s a good thing too. Imagine an ant the size of a dog. If they scaled that big in a linear fashion it could snip the head off a 1000 pound grizzly bear in a split second, be impervious to its teeth and claws, and carry the dead body away at 120 mph. If a fruitfly could scale up linearly we could ride them like a flying horse. Of course these things are impossible because many of the structures and processes they employ scale well inside a limited range but things become non-linear outside that range.

    Gross extrapolations are the stuff of bad science fiction not good science. Macroevolution via non-telic processes is science fiction. At least with intelligent agency we know for a fact today it can purposely tinker with DNA. Every day hundreds or thousands of genetic engineers are knocking out blocks of DNA to see what happens or use customized viruses to insert pieces of DNA for a planned purpose. Intelligent agency is altering the course of evolution on this planet more and faster every day that passes. The only question is whether we’re the only intelligence in the universe with this capacity. It seems the epitomy of hubris to presume we’re the only intelligence in the universe and even worse it’s abandoning the principle that launched The Enlightenment – the Copernican Principle of Mediocrity – which states that there is nothing special about humans or the earth.

  19. From a philosophical point of view, some say that our minds impose this order (CSI) subjectively, that the order isn’t really in the things themselves. If that is the case, then we lose all of knowledge, not just Intelligent Design. For knowledge just is the discovery of how things work, or what things are, not just in themselves, but also in relation to other things. The process of coming to know anything is analogous to the process of putting a jigsaw puzzle together. Our minds must be capable of “imposing” orderly connections, or we would not be able to put the jigsaw puzzle together. It is equally true that if a puzzle’s pieces did not exhibit orderly connections we would not be able to put a jigsaw puzzle together. Try to imagine a world in which none of the pieces fit together. Think of putting everything in a blender… everything you know. And think about how you would put your knowledge back together. Or try putting a jigsaw puzzle into a blender and then try putting it together. This is the project of modern naturalistic science.

  20. Hi Guys:

    Interesting folow-up thread.

    I highlight just one point:

    Jerry: The problem with inference is that it can be destroyed by just one counter example.

    Let’s rephrase:

    The problem with inference SCIENTIFIC REASONING is that it can be destroyed by just one counter example.

    For, the body of accepted science at any given time is based on inference to best current explanation relative to observed credible facts, which are in turn themselves open to correction. [Indeed, this has been turned into a cornerstone of understanding why Science is "self-correcting."]

    In short, though many scientists don’t like to phrase it this way, science aptly illustrates just how inextricably intertwined faith and reasoning are, once we engage the world of empirical facts.

    It gets deeper.

    For as Dave Scott can amplify, ever since Kurt Goedel’s break-through work in Mathematics in the 1930′s, we have known that no set of axioms in a rich enough mathematical system can be complete and logically coherent, and that there is no constructive procedure to create a set of axioms that are known to be coherent, even if they are incomplete.

    Further, if we take an abstract claim A, why do we accept it? Because of evidence and argument B. But why accept B? Well, C. Then, D, E . . .

    So the skeptical request for proof beyond rational dispute ends up in either infinite regress or else a circle, neither of which are credible.

    What we can do instead is to acknowledge that we all have a stop-off at a point F, our faith point,then we can look at alternatives on a basis of comparative difficulties on factual adequacy, coherence and explanatory power [simplistic, elegant or ad hoc?].

    In short, we ALL walk by faith, the issue is, which faith and why. Reasonable faith, in short.

    Cf my basic introductory presentation here.

    GEM of TKI

  21. Dave,

    I am just reporting what an evolutionary biologist said who works in medicine and cancer research. What he said was that many cancer cells never cause any harm but that some of the cancer cells mutate and after some of the mutations they may develop new capabilities. And one of the mutations was the developing of a signaling process that caused the development of new blood supplies for the cancer cells. At which point they have the capability of growing out of control.

    This process was used as a justification for why the study and understanding of evolution was important for those involved in medical research. If it is bogus, then it is interesting since it was made at a very visible way to the Stanford community.

  22. One last point – it is interesting to me that nobody cares about the origin of things which don’t display CSI. Science, qua science, is the investigation of designed phenomena.

    We care about the outcome of stochastic processes, such as lottery drawings, but precious little interest in the process by which they are derived, unless the outcome exhibits CSI.

  23. but precious little interest in the process by which they are derived, unless the outcome exhibits CSI. –jaredl

    Some people purport to be interested in meteorology, oceanography, geology, etc. So I don’t think your assessment of what science is interested in holds.

  24. Are you familiar with this process? If this is really an example of evolution, then it is a different one than the standard ones since the population is a subset of the organism and the result is to kill the organism –jerry

    Jerry, personally I think cancer cells do exhibit an increase in information. And here is a good example of when a firmer definition of “biological information” would prove useful. Some leukemias, for instance, acquire fusions of proteins which let them achieve processes associated with metastasis and survival. Some cancers acquire the ability to actually reprogram other cells to assist them. The argument, as offered by DS above, that these capacities were latent in the original stem cell DNA is difficult to completely refute, however. But I’m not persuaded by it. A lot of hurdles need to be over come. Yes, it’s a matter of breaking restraints, but these restraints are often overcome via positive acquisitions. In short, I think tools are developed to break the restraints, and these tools represent new information.

    I can tell you that, having transitioned from evolutionary biology to cellular biology, the evolutionary paradigm is frequently invoked in cancer research. The tumor or set of tumors is conceived of as heterogeneous changing population. People are starting to think about how not just to kill the cancer cells but how to slow their evolution such that they are less able to evade treatments. As such, I consider this evolutionary approach to cancer important.

  25. It’s not akin to symbology. Coding DNA is a symbolic code. –DS

    I face the predicament that I’m not certain I can call it symbology proper when working on the assumption of no mind being involved. Does symbology require mind by definition (I honestly don’t know.) One faces the same issue when dealing with the concept of teleology/purpose. I must presume translations between physical events (A,B,C) and corresponding physical events thing (X,Y,Z) may be established without the intervention of intelligence.

    I vaguely suspect there’s some argument to be made from neural network-like physical systems, but I’m not event going to try.

  26. G-A

    All that is required is to observe the fact that we are looking at a digital code.

    GEM of TKI

  27. great_ape or anyone else,

    I thought this was posted but it seems to have disappeared. How are the ribosome and tRNA constructed? Since they are not proteins, how does the genome construct these elements and other non protein elements of the cell?

  28. per #27

    modern organisms currently use proteins (polymerase enzymes) to produce rna transcripts that, in the case of tRNAs, fold to assume their functional status, and, in the case of ribosomes, both fold and associate with other folded transcripts (and proteins) to form a large and complex structure.

    How to accomplish these or analogous functions without proteins–if one assumes this had to be done at some point in the history of life–is anyone’s guess. But the fact that the ribosome is largely composed of RNA is considered to be remnant of a pre-protein phase in the history of organic life. I really don’t have any strong opinions on the matter as the evidence concerning what occurred around the time of the origin of life is scant at best, and this is clearly a highly speculative subject matter.

  29. per #27

    I should also add that, unlike DNA, which is fairly inert and stable, RNA is a more reactive substance and can assume structures (ribozymes) that have enzymatic properties. The downside is that it’s a much more fragile substance. As anyone who has worked with RNA can attest, it will disintegrate if looked at funny.

  30. great_ape,

    It sounds like a complicated process where by little machines (proteins) then build bigger machines (ribosomes) and then working parts (trna) for that machine that are used to make the little machines (proteins) that build the big machine.

    Sort of like a perpetual motion machine. Amazing!!

    Thank you very much. You are a fantastic source of information on this area.

  31. great_ape: The possibility of a transition between “literal” interactions among physical substrates and the advent of something akin to symbology is an interesting subject on several levels.

    First of all, I commend you on recognizing this distinction. Too many fail to grasp that there is a special issue here regarding going beyond “literal” interactions.

    I also commend the courteous and thoughtful manner in which you contribute, whether you agree or are skeptical.

    You later wonder “I’m not certain I can call it symbology proper when working on the assumption of no mind being involved. Does symbology require mind by definition (I honestly don’t know.)”

    No, it doesn’t require mind by definition. DNA coding sequences clearly qualify as coded symbol sequences regardless of whether unguided processes can create them. What matters is that the codons represent something other than themselves, i.e. an amino acid sequence. The retrieval and decoding mechanisms establish this association, regardless of their origin.

    great_ape: I have no good explanation for how this might happen, but neither do I have a good reason to believe it could not, in principle, happen without guidance.

    One good reason it could not happen without guidance is that unguided processes cannot pursue a goal whose benefits are only in the future (while intelligent agents regularly do this).

    The distinct mechanisms required for a functioning symbolic message processing system are meaningless when considered in isolation. Why build storage, retrieval or decoding mechanisms in a universe where there is no symbolic information? Why build encoding mechanisms (to create the first messages) if the other machinery to process symbols does not exist?

    A second good reason that unguided processes cannot accomlish this is that Before Language, only physical replication is available. There would be No help from symbolic reproduction to build the molecular machinery for the first symbolic processing. That is severely limiting.

  32. madisonthacker: From a philosophical point of view, some say that our minds impose this order (CSI) subjectively, that the order isn’t really in the things themselves.

    I would say those people are confusing a question about how we think with an issue about the objective real world.

    Since Orgel it has been clear that living organisms exhibit arrangements that are both complex, i.e. not regularly ordered (as crystals are) but yet specified, i.e. not randomly arranged.

    IOW, the arrangement matters. If something happens so that the right arrangement is not present, things die. Clearly that dependency on proper yet irregular arrangement is not just in our minds.

  33. great_ape, regarding post #4, I believe the evolutionists have another route (in principle) that is not an impasse.

    While it would be question begging to just point to examples of living organisms as examples of the success of unguided processes, that does not exclude them from all consideration.

    Evolutionists would need to show that starting from first principles and demonstrated properties of evolution — recognizing its inherent boundaries and limitations — that applying these provides us with an explanatory causal path to that organism or feature.

    For example, recognizing the limitations of physical replication (no information yet) and of selection according to present function (not future benefit), does application of our understanding of evolutionary processes lead to an explanation for moving beyond literal to symbolic processing?

    The issue is not proving that a particular scenario occurred, but rather whether evolutionary principles clearly and reasonably lead us to one or more detailed, supported unguided scenarios, as distinct from an ad hoc assumption taken on faith (e.g. “It happened, so evolution must be able and our lack of an answer is nothing more than a gap in our knowledge.”).

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