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Falk’s fallacy

Over on the Biologos Website, Dr. Darrel Falk has posted a response to Dr. Stephen Meyer’s claim in “Signature in the Cell,” that only intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information. Dr. Falk cites a counterexample:

“Consider the generation of antibody diversity for example. When a bacterium invades the body, a process results in a whole lot of random rearrangements of DNA sequence, and this eventually produces trillions of highly specific antibodies which specifically recognize and bind to the invading bacterial cells. The antibodies are highly specified. They bind only to that one type of bacteria. We go from a state of lower complexity to higher complexity—higher specified complexity!”
 
As I understand it, the refining of antibody/antigen bond is achieved through a process of initial best fit clone selection followed by the application of a specialised bacterial homologue mutator enzyme to specific bounded loci on the binding site coding region of the antibody coding gene, then there is repeated testing by specialised cells, of the strength of the new antibody binding site/antigen binding strength of the resulting mutated cell lines, followed by clonal selection for the best fit cell line and proliferation of the selected best clone. 

This is one of the most amazing processes ever described. Very little is known of the fine details. Whatever may be said about it, it is a highly regulated, specified, directed and choreographed process. It is obviously the product of overwhelmingly brilliant design and Falk is using a designed process to demonstrate that design is unnecessary.

Even if Dr Falk were right to assert “randomness” as the generator of specified diversity here, a paper by D. J. Smith  estimates the size of the shape space involved as between 10^10 and 10^16, which equates to less than 54 bits of information. On page 294 of his book, Dr. Meyer stipulates 500 bits as the maximum that could be generated by undirected processes. (Dr. Meyer also modestly restricts his COI law to non-biological processes, which would exclude the generation of antibody diversity.)
 
We must conclude that Dr. Falk has failed to offer a genuine counterexample to Dr. Meyer’s claim about the very limited power of unintelligent processes to generate specified complexity.
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7 Responses to Falk’s fallacy

  1. “For completeness, I should mention one other mechanism that introduces diversification of antibodies through continued, targeted mutation within the rearranged antibody genes.

    This happens when clones of stimulated B cells are rapidly dividing in the immune organs such as the spleen and lymph nodes. Here, single base mutations are introduced within the antibody genes, which may or may not result in amino acid changes. There is apparently a competition within these immunological organs for B cells with increased antigen binding affinity, and those cells with mutations resulting in higher affinity have a selective advantage over their non-mutated siblings.

    This final level of antibody diversification, known as somatic hypermutation has been reviewed in detail recently,and the chief enzyme responsible, a cytidine deaminase, has been identified. http://depts.washington.edu/ma.....n_2005.pdf
    This mechanism helps explain so-called affinity maturation, where antibodies appearing after multiple booster immunizations have greatly increased binding affinity compared to those arising after a single immunization. This is another example of randomness with a purpose; it is a microcosm of evolutionary competition and survival of the fittest on a cellular scale.”

    This is not an example of randomness with a purpose, it is an example of a complex interactive system using a specific targeted maturation process which applies a mutational enzyme to optimise a particular part of the binding site.

    http://faculty.gordon.edu/ns/b.....gyPSCF.pdf

  2. The problem of Darrel Falk consists in his uncritical neodarwinian conviction. Biologos is the most curious forum I’ve ever come across. Falk adresses contributors as brothers and sisters, then invokes darwinism only to conclude his curious contributions by “Amen”.

    No wonder I have been banned after several days. I dared to criticise an SciAm article that according Falk refuted Myer’s argumets. Darwinists in the article used quite alchemical terminology – they speculated how some chemicals “evaporated” only to “condense in purified form”. Obviously for Darrel Falk such alchemy constitutes real science that solve the mystery of the origin of life.

    Ayale published at Biologos another speculations. One of his attacks against ID was this emotive one (“On Reading the Cell’s Signature” Jan 7):

    ““The birth canal is too narrow for the head of the newborn to pass easily through it, so that millions of innocent babies—and their mothers—have died in childbirth throughout human history.”

    I noticed darwinists that in fact this argument refutes Natural selection more than anything else. Because natural selection should have given advantage to woman with wider canals. Actually it was professor Adolf Portmann who mentioned this argument against natural selection.

    The problem of origin of information is veiled in mystery so far. Professor John Davison has emphasized in his latest essay that life originated polyphyletically – something I fully agree with. Post #235 here:
    http://jadavison.wordpress.com.....mment-2594

  3. I met Darryl Falk when he visited Australia. I heard him lecture and read his book. He is a very nice person. This quote is from the end of his blog entry.

    “Just because I believe Steve Meyer and his colleagues are really smart, really sincere, and really have integrity does not mean that they cannot also be really wrong.”

    I hope that Dr Falks believes there is a real possibility that he may also be “really wrong” about whether the universe we inhabit has been shown to posess the intrinsic generators of specified complexity that are necessary for life to begin and develop the way it has.

  4. “Just because I believe Steve Meyer and his colleagues are really smart . . “

    Hey, progress :-)

  5. “Ayale published at Biologos another speculations. One of his attacks against ID was this emotive one (”On Reading the Cell’s Signature” Jan 7):

    ““The birth canal is too narrow for the head of the newborn to pass easily through it, so that millions of innocent babies—and their mothers—have died in childbirth throughout human history.”

    This is very silly. For many years prior to germ theory, doctors would perform autopsies before delivering babies. Doesn’t Ayala think that contributed to the statistics for death of mothers and babies in childbirth, or does he ignore it in view of the fact that it doesn’t direct support evolutionary theory?

  6. If the designer is responsible for antibiotic resistance, I may have a bone to pick with her…

  7. they speculated how some chemicals “evaporated” only to “condense in purified form”.

    Does that mean I was practicing alchemy back in the good old days when I was making moonshine? Quality stuff too, no headaches.

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