I have worked for several years as an engineer, making gadgets of various sorts. For years I’ve sat in front of my computer, studied diagrams, scribbled notes, attended meetings, and worked with a team of sometimes dozens of people, to produce something that will be useful to people. The end result is usually satisfying, and we know we have worked well to design something good. Someone looking at our work probably would not appreciate everything that we did to make it work. But they would know that humans created it.
Being an engineer, I also take particular interest in the natural world surrounding us, viewing it through engineering eyes. Everywhere I look, I see things with amazing design. But not designed by humans. The world of plants and animals is full of wonderful designs of great variety and complexity. And, as an engineer, I must admit that these plants and animals are more complex than anything I’ve ever designed myself. Not just a little bit more complex, but hundreds of times more complex.
It’s enough to convince me. I am in awe of a great being who is a brilliant engineer (among other things).
“....viewing it through
There’s the problem. You can’t equate living, reproducing, mutating organisms with the things that mankind design and build.
No, not “design”, form, structure, morphology... all evolved. But yes, isn’t it marvelous? Also try looking into space...it will blow your mind!
There you go again :)
Sorry, non sequitur. Was the swine flu virus created by god or did it evolve?
Engineering eyes not allowed?
Can I compare living organisms with genetic algorithms that mankind design and run on a computer? Software engineers sometimes consider using a "genetic algorithm" for finding good software solutions to certain difficult problems. These algorithms are:
Evolved, or perhaps I should say, arose through genetic change. You may be surprised, but creationists aren't in denial about genetic change of populations over time, and natural selection. The issue is whether such mechanisms are able to go from ancient goop to complex life as we see it today.
“Can I compare living organisms with genetic algorithms that mankind design and run on a computer?”
Of course, people are very clever at designing and modifying things to produce outcomes that would never occur naturally. This is the very basis of the effectiveness of medical and industrial biological science. The fact that man can produce these tools and manufacture these things doesn’t mean they would have evolved naturally. Neither does it follow that because man was a necessary requirement to their design and manufacture then all things complex must have been designed. All cats have a head but not everything with a head is a cat.
“Evolved, or perhaps I should say, arose through genetic change.”
I think ‘evolved’ describes it accurately.
“You may be surprised, but creationists aren't in denial about genetic change of populations over time, and natural selection. The issue is whether such mechanisms are able to go from ancient goop to complex life as we see it today.”
I’m not surprised you accept such theories at all. Given the spectrum of acceptance of science among creationists I don’t think any presumption can be made about their particular beliefs other than there was a creator. What is interesting is what evidence you can put forward to support your claim that genetic mutation (as a mechanism for change) is insufficient to produce the complexity of life presently observed. Given genetic change, speciation and huge amounts of time what is your limiting factor?
If I understand correctly, the idea of evolution is that everything around us is not designed by a great designer, but by the mindless processes of genetic change, natural selection (survival of the fittest). Then all you need is huge amounts of time to let this happen, and, ta-da, mind-bogglingly complex creatures that human beings struggle to comprehend.
I see design, but evolutionists do not. Let's call it something else... encoded in DNA is a "recipe for a creature". At the beginning, the recipe must have been basic, and now it's complex. So there must have been a net increase in "information" in the recipe over time. What I am still trying to hunt down is evidence of mutations and natural selection improving the recipe and giving a net increase in information.
Speciation is given as evidence: new species = improvement. But that seems a crude and inadequate measure of increase in information. I question whether speciation implies increase in information.
Furthermore, in many examples of natural selection given, they seem to actually show natural selection from a pool of pre-existing genetic material, not natural selection of mutations. Thus, no net improvement in the recipe, and no genuinely new information, just picking the best combination out of the available pre-defined options that suits the prevailing conditions. Darwin's finches and the peppered moths would be the classic examples.
In summary, as far as I can see it:
Thus, to answer your original question, I reckon the limiting factor is the inadequacy of micro-evolution to actually increase information, never mind how much time it's got.
But maybe I'm missing something... please point me to the biology textbook that contains the piece of the puzzle that I'm missing.
The whole "information" argument is a red herring. Evolution is neither planned nor does it have a goal in mind, therefore “information” does not exist nor does it need to. Rather it is the useful adaptation to changing conditions of miniscule but natural mutations that occur in every species, every generation, all the time. The fact is that in whatever sense of “information” you are referring to it has been observed to have increased, specifically in these ways:
— increased genetic variety in a population (Lenski 1995; Lenski et al. 1991)
— increased genetic material (Alves et al. 2001; Brown et al. 1998; Hughes and Friedman 2003; Lynch and Conery 2000; Ohta 2003)
— novel genetic material (Knox et al. 1996; Park et al. 1996)
— novel genetically-regulated abilities (Prijambada et al. 1995)
There are more than 400 alleles at some genetic loci in the human body.
Evolution is probably the most solidly established fact in science, and yet the same inane arguments against it come up almost daily, each time the author thinking they are being original and clever. Physicists have to deal with cranks writing letters to say they have proved Einstein wrong. They can openly call these people cranks. But, because of the respect shown to religion, biologists who deal with cranks denying evolution who are equally dismissive are called 'militant'. Evolution deniers are ignorant kooks.
Creationists often demand a high level of evidentiary proof from non-believers and scientists yet they require almost none from their church. A clear double standard.
Information certainly does need to exist, because our bodies are complex and the "recipe" for making it is encoded in our DNA. Evolution had to make the recipe when none existed in the beginning, according to the theory. I understand evolution is not purposeful, but it still has to explain the origins of the complexity and the code for it in our DNA.
Thanks for the links (from TalkOrigins). Unfortunately, such references are usually frustratingly inaccessible to outsiders (unless I'm prepared to pay US$15 for a single article). But some are there so I'll have a look.
As for the rest of the comment, I try to ignore ridicule when I see it (though it's tough to take). I'm trying to stick to the facts and reason.
The abstracts from the papers are freely available at no cost. It is not my intent to ridicule, just state the case plainly. No offence is intended. Your questions about "information" are a rehash of points debated a few years ago (and I've lost my references) and they've been thoroughly thrashed out. A precise definition of information may have helped earlier but I think your use of the word is consistent with your argument so there is no need to descend into discussions of semantics. My difficulty is that I cannot see the rationale of doubting the plausibility of increasing complexity and information when all other mechanisms are accepted. Especially when the evidence is all around us. What is the alternative? God did it! I'm not being flippant, but serious. Is this a discussion about god’s position - the god of gaps?
New Information - New genes
A very common type of mutation is duplication, and it happens a lot during crossing over in meiosis. How could duplication possibly not be increase in information? You might think two copies of the same information doesn’t increase information. It is just a matter of time before DNA Polymerase (the enzyme that copies DNA) creates another mutation by changing a nucleotide of one of the two copies. We now have two genes, coming from a single gene. These changes are called SNP’s - Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, and are used in DNA tests that identify who is the father of a given child. Mutations are caused by natural copying errors, and chemical/physical mutagenics. If you deny this you deny the existence of the many children who are born with genetic diseases every year. You deny the existence of those prostitutes in Kenya who are resistant to HIV, those people in Italy who are immune to dangerous cholesterol accumulation in the walls of their arteries, and so on… Well, prostitutes who resist HIV and Italians who eat a lot of pork without being worried about heart attack are seriously more likely to survive and have more children than those people who die with AIDS and cholesterol in the aorta. How can that be denied? These mutations are in the same population with the so-called wild type of the gene, and they increase in the environment these human populations live.
Duplication not information increase
Duplication isn't an information increase—e.g. you won't make your friend twice as happy by buying them two copies of the same CD.
Mutations are random, and randomness also doesn't contain "information". But I see that natural selection can pick useful data out of randomness. Hence genetic algorithms. But to create life as we know it, in the time available? I'm sceptical that that can be achieved.
I think you're missing the point. It's like shining a torch in your face and asking you to see the light but with your eyes firmly shut you're telling me you can't see it.
"There are more than 400 alleles at some genetic loci in the human body."
Craig, if you believe in the "Adam & Eve" creation story how do you account for this except for evolution - and it would require extremely frequent mutation beyond that rate which is known to occur.
Of course it rather points to evolution over millions of years (or at least hundreds of thousands and that biblical Adam & Eve are mythical.
Hmm a significant argument. If I understand correctly, the idea is that in comparison to the Biblical accounts of both flood and creation of Adam and Eve, this would demand (1) acknowledgement that mutations occur, and (2) an extremely high rate of mutations assuming the historical timeline generally taken from the Bible.
(1) seems fine (I don't know how many creationists might deny mutations); (2) is a challenge.
Or maybe God (or Satan) has been doing some post-Noah tinkering to test our faith (lead us astray).
If you believe in the supernatural then you can use it to explain absolutely anything/everything.
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