Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Jerry Coyne proven wrong by physicists about the eye

Coyne is not an engineer. He’s sort of a glorified fruitfly farmer. He doesn’t have engineering insights and it shows. He’s also one of the most militant ideologues out there ( protesting the appointment of Francis Collins MD,PhD as head of NIH because Collins was a Christian). Jerry Coyne argues the human eyes is poorly designed: The human eye, though eminently functional, is imperfect—certainly not the sort of eye an engineer would create from scratch … the nerves and blood vessels that attach to our photoreceptor cells are on the inside rather than the outside of the eye, running over the surface of the retina. … The whole system is like a car in which all the wires to the Read More ›

Gordon Davisson’s Talk Origins Post of the Month (October 2000)

I’m not aware of any policy restriction on providing links to TalkOrigins at UD. I’ve linked to TalkOrigins a lot since I’ve criticized it so much in the past. In this case, I actually concur with one of Gordon Davisson’s essays there, and I think it rightly earned Post of the Month 14 years ago at TalkOrigins. When I teach ID, I feel the ideas must defensible to science undergraduate and graduate students and science faculty (physics, chemistry, mathematics, engineering). The internet has been an opportunity to vet some of my ideas. Gordon has been of great assistance with his balanced and insightful critiques of my essays at UD. I link to the Gordon’s essay because we independently arrived at Read More ›

Shannon Information, Entropy, Uncertainty in Thermodynamics and ID

This essay is intended to give a short overview of textbook understanding of Shannon Information, Entropy, Uncertainty in thermodynamics and Intelligent Design. Technical corrections are welcome. The phrases “Shannon Information”, “Shannon Uncertainty”, “Shannon Entropy” are all the same. The most familiar every day usage of the notion of Shannon Information is in the world of computing and digital communication where the fundamental unit is the bit. When someone transmits 1 megabit of information, the sender is sending 1 megabit of Shannon information, and the receiver is getting a reduction of 1 megabit of Shannon Uncertainty, and the ensemble of all possible configurations of 1 megabits has 1 million degrees of freedom as described by 1 megabit of Shannon entropy. The Read More ›

BA77’s Off Topic Thread, Volume 5 — Aerobatic Ballet, what ID has done for me, Cyd Charisse, Tango jealousy, Butterfly

This is a thread for UD commenters to speak their mind. Please keep it civil. Off topic #1 If I could be a ballet dancer, I’d be this man: [youtube VQKfvwoKc6w] Off topic #2 It’s no secret I’m rather chummy with agnostics, atheists, free-thinkers and academics, and even some of the less reputable elements of society (professional gamblers). My love of the arts and drama often touches on realms the church sometimes frowns on. The irony is I’m a right wing conservative young earth creationist. Why is this so? First I wasn’t always a YEC. I was raised in a Roman Catholic home, my lifestyle was worldly and I found church often boring and suffocating, and this persisted to some Read More ›

Jerry’s Question — Crash Course in Base Pairs and Complementary Strands

Our longtime commenter Jerry several months ago asked a question about DNA (regarding complementary strands). I presume he got an answer by now. At the time, I wanted to respond to his question with this video, but I just never got around to it! But the video would still be incredibly valuable to all our readers. If I showed this video to ID sympathizers, it’s rather easy to persuade them of ID. It’s only about 13 minutes long, but you’ll learn a lot about DNA, chemistry, and ID (indirectly if you know what I mean), and the history of Rosalind Franklin’s contribution. I love the narrator’s fast talking. Slow talking puts me to sleep! [youtube 8kK2zwjRV0M]

Rube Goldberg Complexity Increase in Thermodynamically Closed Systems

A thermodynamically closed system that is far from equilibrium can increase the amount of physical design provided it is either front loaded or has an intelligent agent (like a human) within it. A simple example: A human on a large nuclear powered space ship can write software and compose music or many other designs. The space ship is closed but far from equilibrium. But complexity can still increase because of the human intelligent agent. Consider then a robot whose sole purpose is to make other robots like it or even unlike it in a similarly thermodynamically closed system. It can do this provided the software is front loaded into the robot. Can the robot make something more irreducibly complex than Read More ›

Cocktails! Small number of “genes”, but large number of protein isoforms

A good number of proteomic researchers believe there are millions of protein isoforms. A protein isoform is a slight variation of a basic protein. I’m not averse to thinking there are only a limited number of “genes” that govern a basic number of limited protein classes, but that there are millions or billions of protein isoforms. Consider something like the DSCAM gene which has 38,016 alternative splices and presumably 38,016 isoforms. And how about the Dystrophin gene that consist of 2.5 million base pairs and codes for a protein with 3,500 amino acids? There are only a few isoforms so far identified, but with a gene that gigantic, one might guess there is much to discover about the Dystrophin gene. Read More ›

Vodka! Speculating on purposes of untranslated RNA transcripts

In eukaryotic organisms and especially humans, large amounts of the DNA are transcribed into RNAs that never end up getting translated into proteins. This has led some to argue human DNA is mostly junk. I speculate otherwise. The supposed junk DNA that transcribes to supposed junk RNA is not junk at all. I recently discovered that RNA is an excellent chemical basis for molecular level sensing, logic, computation and communication. Because of these facts I speculate RNAs are important in navigation, organization, computation and processing of information in the eukaryotic cell. I contrast my view with that Darwinist Steve Matheson who debated Stephen Meyer regarding claims in Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell. Matheson had a dismissive view of DNAs Read More ›

ID’s grand quest, the search for steganography in biology

Courtesy Wikipedia’s entry on steganography, this photo has an encrypted photo within it: The hidden image is revealed by removing all but the two least significant bits of each color component and a subsequent normalization. The hidden image is shown below. Steganography Finally, we come to the research theme that I find most intriguing. Steganography, if you look in the dictionary, is an archaism that was subsequently replaced by the term “cryptography.” Steganography literally means “covered writing.” With the rise of digital computing, however, the term has taken on a new life. Steganography belongs to the field of digital data embedding technologies (DDET), which also include information hiding, steganalysis, watermarking, embedded data extraction, and digital data forensics. Steganography seeks efficient Read More ›

80 megabytes seems too small to specify a human

Dan Graur and Larry Moran argue that most of the human genome of 3.2 giga base pairs is junk. I will appeal to engineering intuition and say these guys are awfully premature in their pronouncements since their estimates would imply that a mere 80 megabytes would be enough specify not only an adult human but all the developmental forms that have to be implemented along the way from conception to adulthood. Where did I get the 80 megabyte number? The human genome is about 3.2 giga base pairs. Evolutionnews reports Graur is arguing 5% to 15% of the human genome is functional. For simplicity I’ll suggest the mid range figure from Graur as 10%. That means then 3.2 billion * Read More ›

Linguistics of biological systems

We’re honored to have Piotr as part of the UD discussions. Though I most certainly disagree with his views about biological evolution, I salute his devotion to the important discipline of linguistics. I would like to acknowledge and promote his blog http://langevo.blogspot.com/. One of my current research interests is in the linguistics of DNA and biological systems in general. There is an ongoing and public dispute over the question of junk DNA in humans. If DNA is shown to be mostly functional in humans, it would suggest most DNA follows some sort of language. In fact, ID proponents are sympathetic to the idea that there are multiple overlapping languages in DNA. If there are multiple languages in DNA, then it Read More ›

Question about languages (for Piotr)

Piotr is a professor of linguistics. I was curious to hear his view on the phylogeny of human languages. It is clear many human languages evolve and split off into dialects and maybe form their own new language from a common ancestor language. However, I’m of the opinion despite some language phylogeny, there is not one universal common ancestor language. In Harold Morowitz’s book Emergence he points out the general belief language appeared suddenly on the scene in human history in several widely dispersed geographical regions at around the same time. Even he found such a coincidence astonishing. Many people of faith accept the Tower of Babel account which essentially says there are independent language lines that emerged suddenly by Read More ›

Inessential does not mean non-functional! Gene guns, transposons, some polyploids, programmed apoptosis, etc.

Strictly speaking gene guns are inessential for living organisms, but does being inessential for life make this tool of genetic engineering non-functional? If there are tools for innovation and exploration, they might not be essential, but does that mean they are non-functional? Of course not! In like manner transposons and some forms of polyploidy might not strictly speaking be essential, but they might be important for evolutionary innovations and may useful for exploring and innovating. As James Shapiro suggested, the statistics suggest living organisms have some capability for natural genetic engineering, and if they are natural genetic engineers, tools like transposons and some forms of polyploidy may be functional because they are used as part of the process of natural Read More ›

Too much of something can be a good thing for ID

One reason I’ve hammered the 500 fair coin illustration and the law of large numbers is that it illustrates how to use the binomial distribution to reject chance as a mechanism. In certain contexts, the law of large numbers is much easier to use than the more generalized design detection methods discussed here. When looking for non-random patterns, excessive appearances of certain symbols may indicate non-randomness, and thus too much of something can be a good thing for ID. If something is randomly distributed like the DNA bases Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, Guanine (A,T,C,G), we should see creatures and DNA regions have nearly equal parts of each. But this is clearly NOT the case on several levels. It sort of crushes Read More ›

No universal Transition-Transversion mutation bias

Occasionally evolutionary biology tries to inform chemical theories, but given the shaky foundation of certain evolutionary claims, maybe this isn’t a good idea. Years ago, in a debate, an evolutionist said something to the effect, “Sal you’re clueless, transition mutations happen 10 times more frequently than transversion mutations.” I’m sorry now I took that evolutionist’s word about basic chemical processes. It turns out he was wrong, and I was duped into believing an evolutionary claim. Here are the 4 bases that are the alphabet of the DNA and how they can mutate from one letter to the other. From wiki: In genetics, a transition is a point mutation that changes a purine nucleotide to another purine (A ↔ G) or Read More ›