• Weaknesses of Evolution – Part 5 – Randomness and Information

    Ah, this is a modern classic.  Indeed, this is what the idea of intelligent design is based on.  I could go for hours on this topic.  I will try to restrict myself to only refutations of this creationist claim.

    There is no known natural source of the information that is present in all life systems.  Random processes are never known to produce information.

    Where to start?  This is a classic example of the Gish Gallop.  In two sentences, there is so much wrong crap, that it will take thousands of words to refute.  Let’s get started.

    First of all, what is ‘information’ in this context?  What is this ‘information’ that is present in all life systems?  DNA?  That’s not in all living things.  RNA?  That (as I’ve already shown) can form by random accumulation of nucleotides.  Something else?

    We really don’t know what to refute here.  In my experience of discussing this particular issue with creationists, is that they will happily change the definition of ‘information’ even within the same sentence in order to support their notions.

    One way to talk about information is how easy is it to transmit.  Note that the rigorous definitions of information do not talk about “meaning”.  In terms of transmitting information the sequence “AAAAAAAAAA” has much less information than “AUTNDMUGHE” .  That’s because it is easy to compress the first one and it’s easy to confirm that the information has been transmitted correctly.  The latter sequence cannot be easily compressed and is more difficult to confirm that it has been transmitted correctly.  If you send 30 minutes of white noise over a phone line, you are sending more information than in a 30 minute political speech.  Not because of the meaning, but because of the ability to compress the information.  Speeches have long pauses, often use the same words/sounds, etc while white noise is completely random.

    I don’t think that this method of discussing information has any meaning for living things.  A living thing is not JUST it’s DNA sequence or the sum of the proteins in its body or whatever.  Scientists have been asking questions of creationists like this for over a decade and no answer has ever been forthcoming.

    What would a ‘natural source’ of information be?

    I have to assume that if no ‘natural source’ can be found, then the assumed alternative is a supernatural source.  But, even if a supernatural entity exists and creates information, that information must still exist in the natural world.  Since no one, at any time, has ever observed something miraculously appearing out of thin air, then we must assume that everything has a natural source.  Including information.

    Most often, this type of statement is used to imply that intelligent sources can produce information, but non-intelligent sources cannot.  This is fundamentally untrue.  Non-intelligent sources can produce highly complex, information rich systems and structures.  Termites for example.  There is a ground termite species in Africa whose mounds are all aligned North-South.  The mounds contain farms, nurseries, and a ventilation system.  All from non-intelligent termites (although, I do know of two creationists who argue that termites are intelligent).

    What is the science ‘natural source’ of information in organisms?  Simply chemistry.  Everything that happens in us, around us, every response that we generate, every sense that we have is all chemical reactions and interactions.  That’s it.

    It’s not meaningful in a moral/cultural way, but that’s all it is.  Thinking is nothing more than sodium and potassium ions being pushed through cell membranes causing a cascade of chemical reactions that travel through the cells in our brains.  And yet, those chemical cascades have produce technology, logic, math, science, and even fantasy.

    Is this sufficient to discredit the first line of the creationist claim?  I don’t know.  It depends on if one is interested in evidence or not.  There is evidence that natural processes produce new information.  We are natural processes, running on wetware.  Termites are natural processes.  Heck, we even use natural processes to generate information (atmospheric white noise, for example).

    Random processes are never known to produce information.

    Really?  Again, we have this problem of defining information. Without understanding what is meant by information, there’s no way to deal with this.

    I have heard, in this context, that ‘information’ is related to function.  I.e.  random processes cannot produce a new function in organisms.

    That’s simply not true.  We previously mentioned human hemoglobin beta.  A random mutation has been found that prevents infection by a deadly disease.  In Lenski’s lab, random mutations have occurred and allowed a bacteria to do something that it has never been able to do before.

    A random process can also just increase the amount of genetic material in an organism.  A mutation can result in the copying of an entire gene.  Asymmetrical crossing over can produce entirely new chromosomes (and this is found in comparing human and chimpanzee chromosomes).

    Finally, one more thing needs to be mentioned.  Evolution is not an entirely random process.  One of the important factors of evolution is natural selection.  Selection is not random.  Yes, a rock slide could have killed that one dinosaur that would have, in a few generations, developed a descendant that was intelligent (in the way that humans are) and the landscape of the Earth was forever changed.

    In general however, traits that appear to have advantages are promoted and traits that have disadvantages are suppressed.  Simply speaking, selection is a part of the process.  It is arguable that selection is a result of the environmental pressures on the genes in the organism.

    Regardless of how one looks at it, the end result is that organisms that have more appropriate genes for the environment tend to survive better than organisms that have less appropriate genes.  This is the opposite of random.

    I’d love to delve into this further, but without a detailed claim, it’s hard to provide specific evidence that refutes it.  Which is why the creationists continue to be as vague as possible.  It let’s them change their definitions in mid-discussion and it prevents specific evidence from directly refuting them.

    That being said, the claim presented by the creationists here, is refuted.  It’s simply not true.

    Category: CreationismOrigins of Life


    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat