Is Mathgirl Smarter than Orgel and Wicken Combined? Doubtful.
|April 11, 2011||Posted by Barry Arrington under Intelligent Design|
Mathgirl wrote in a comment to my last post: “My conclusion is that, without a rigorous mathematical definition and examples of how to calculate [CSI], the metric is literally meaningless. Without such a definition and examples, it isn’t possible even in principle to associate the term with a real world referent.”
Let’s examine that. GEM brings to our attention two materialists who embraced the concept, Orgel  and Wicken .
. . . In brief, living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.
The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189.
‘Organized’ systems are to be carefully distinguished from ‘ordered’ systems. Neither kind of system is ‘random,’ but whereas ordered systems are generated according to simple algorithms [[i.e. “simple” force laws acting on objects starting from arbitrary and common- place initial conditions] and therefore lack complexity, organized systems must be assembled element by element according to an [[originally . . . ] external ‘wiring diagram’ with a high information content . . . Organization, then, is functional complexity and carries information. It is non-random by design or by selection, rather than by the a priori necessity of crystallographic ‘order.’
“The Generation of Complexity in Evolution: A Thermodynamic and Information-Theoretical Discussion,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, 77 (April 1979): p. 353, of pp. 349-65.]
I assume mathgirl believes Orgel and Wicken were talking meaningless nonsense. Or maybe she doesn’t and that’s why she has dodged GEM’s challenge at every turn.
Be that as it may, both dyed-in-the-wool materialists and ID advocates understand that living things are characterized by CSI. Indeed, the law recognizes that DNA is characterized by CSI. Recently a federal judge wrote:
Myriad’s focus on the chemical nature of DNA, however, fails to acknowledge the unique characteristics of DNA that differentiate it from other chemical compounds. As Myriad’s expert Dr. Joseph Straus observed: “Genes are of double nature: On the one hand, they are chemical substances or molecules. On the other hand, they are physical carriers of information, i.e., where the actual biological function of this information is coding for proteins. Thus, inherently genes are multifunctional.” Straus Decl. 1 20; see also The Cell at 98, 104 (“Today the idea that DNA carries genetic information in its long chain of nucleotides is so fundamental to biological thought that it is sometimes difficult to realize the enormous intellectual gap that it filled. . . . DNA is relatively inert chemically.”); Kevin Davies & Michael White, Breakthrough: The Race to Find the Breast Cancer Gene 166 (1996) (noting that Myriad Genetics’ April 1994 press release described itself as a “genetic information business”). This informational quality is unique among the chemical compounds found in our bodies, and it would be erroneous to view DNA as “no different” than other chemicals previously the subject of patents.
Myriad’s argument that all chemical compounds, such as the adrenaline at issue in Parke-Davis, necessarily conveys some information ignores the biological realities of DNA in comparison to other chemical compounds in the body. The information encoded in DNA is not information about its own molecular structure incidental to its biological function, as is the case with adrenaline or other chemicals found in the body. Rather, the information encoded by DNA reflects its primary biological function: directing the synthesis of other molecules in the body – namely, proteins, “biological molecules of enormous importance” which “catalyze biochemical reactions” and constitute the “major structural materials of the animal body.” O’Farrell, 854 F.2d at 895-96. DNA, and in particular the ordering of its nucleotides, therefore serves as the physical embodiment of laws of nature – those that define the construction of the human body. Any “information” that may be embodied by adrenaline and similar molecules serves no comparable function, and none of the declarations submitted by Myriad support such a conclusion. Consequently, the use of simple analogies comparing DNA with chemical compounds previously the subject of patents cannot replace consideration of the distinctive characteristics of DNA.
In light of DNA’s unique qualities as a physical embodiment of information, none of the structural and functional differences cited by Myriad between native BRCA1/2 DNA and the isolated BRCA1/2 DNA claimed in the patents-in-suit render the claimed DNA “markedly different.” This conclusion is driven by the overriding importance of DNA’s nucleotide sequence to both its natural biological function as well as the utility associated with DNA in its isolated form. The preservation of this defining characteristic of DNA in its native and isolated forms mandates the conclusion that the challenged composition claims are directed to unpatentable products of nature.
Association for Molecular Pathology v. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, 702 F.Supp.2d 181 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).
Maybe mathgirl knows something that this federal court or Orgel or Wicken didn’t when she says CSI is a meaningless concept. But I doubt it.