Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Random changes in life forms are just as successful as random changes in typing!


Laszlo Bencze, photographer and philosopher, asks us to reflect on the claim:

I’ve just reread two marvelous books dealing with this topic. The first, Undeniable, by Douglas Axe explains in meticulous detail why the probabilities are so preposterously stacked against the creation of information by accident. He truly bends over backwards to make his point as simple as possible via analogy and easy math. The second, Genetic Entropy, is by John Sanford and details the work of many evolutionist geneticists who demonstrate that virtually all mutations are not only nearly neutral but also non selectable. As for positive mutations, if they exist at all, they exist in such small numbers as to not be capable of being shown on a chart. As for those undetectable, near neutrals they all fit on the deleterious side of the chart and they steadily accumulate in the genome, hence the title of his book.

So all this brings to mind literary thoughts about how changing single letters might affect our writing. Most single letter substitutions are so far off they are easily detectible as typographical errors. “Throw the ball to qim,” is a sentence we easily change in our minds to “Throw the ball to him.” I suppose this would be the equivalent of nearly neutral mutation, slightly deleterious but no big deal. But what about a typo that changes meaning? “Throw the ball to ham.” Now the resolution is not so clear. Maybe the sentence was supposed to be “Throw the ball at the ham.” Changing ham to him might not be the solution even though it seems to be most likely. In this case I think we’ve stepped out of the near neutral area into the realm of actually deleterious.

If we begin with a sound sentence then just about every single letter change will degrade its meaning. In biology this works out as “Any random change to a living thing is far more likely to harm than help it.” As both Axe and Sanford point out, this admission is hardly an insight. It’s just common sense. Any highly complex functioning entity whether machine or alive can easily be harmed by random fiddling. (Try poking a ballpoint pen into the workings of a fine Swiss watch.) But it is just about impossible to conceive of any small change that could improve function. As for a long sequence of small changes leading to new entity with different functions, the mind boggles. Without a goal and intelligent guidance it just won’t happen.

Hmmm. Does a small random change never improve function? Perhaps a worm could benefit from more or fewer segments, especially if the change can be just as easily reversed. But that is hardly what we usually mean by “evolution.”

Of course, everyone knows that until Darwinism takes over their brain.

See also: Do random mutations never increase information? Ever? Consider the case of a smalltown newspaper…

I believe the inventor cited by vmahuna is John Ericsson who is generally acknowledged as the inventor of screw propulsion for ships. However, though the story of the broken screw is delightful, I can find no reference to such a trial neither in the life of Ericsson nor of anyone else. The notion that any maritime inventor would not, at an early stage, have noticed the impracticality of a long screw with many turns strikes me as suspicious. Laszlo
Thank you Mr. Berlinski for posting that excerpt from The Deniable Darwin. I recall it quite well and consider it the most clever explication of the fallacy upon which Darwinism is founded. Laszlo
From David Berlinski:
On the Derivation of Ulysses from Don Quixote: I imagine this story being told to me by Jorge Luis Borges one evening in a Buenos Aires cafe. His voice dry and infinitely ironic, the aging, nearly blind literary master observes that "the Ulysses," mistakenly attributed to the Irishman James Joyce, is in fact derived from "the Quixote." I raise my eyebrows. Borges pauses to sip discreetly at the bitter coffee our waiter has placed in front of him, guiding his hands to the saucer. "The details of the remarkable series of events in question may be found at the University of Leiden," he says. "They were conveyed to me by the Freemason Alejandro Ferri in Montevideo." Borges wipes his thin lips with a linen handkerchief that he has withdrawn from his breast pocket. "As you know," he continues, "the original handwritten text of the Quixote was given to an order of French Cistercians in the autumn of 1576." I hold up my hand to signify to our waiter that no further service is needed. "Curiously enough, for none of the brothers could read Spanish, the Order was charged by the Papal Nuncio, Hoyo dos Monterrey (a man of great refinement and implacable will), with the responsibility for copying the Quixote, the printing press having then gained no currency in the wilderness of what is now known as the department of Auvergne. Unable to speak or read Spanish, a language they not unreasonably detested, the brothers copied the Quixote over and over again, re-creating the text but, of course, compromising it as well, and so inadvertently discovering the true nature of authorship. Thus they created Fernando Lor's Los Hombres d'Estado in 1585 by means of a singular series of copying errors, and then in 1654 Juan Luis Samorza's remarkable epistolary novel Por Favor by the same means, and then in 1685, the errors having accumulated sufficiently to change Spanish into French, Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, their copying continuous and indefatigable, the work handed down from generation to generation as a sacred but secret trust, so that in time the brothers of the monastery, known only to members of the Bourbon house and, rumor has it, the Englishman and psychic Conan Doyle, copied into creation Stendhal's The Red and the Black and Flaubert's Madame Bovary, and then as a result of a particularly significant series of errors, in which French changed into Russian, Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. Late in the last decade of the 19th century there suddenly emerged, in English, Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, and then the brothers, their numbers reduced by an infectious disease of mysterious origin, finally copied the Ulysses into creation in 1902, the manuscript lying neglected for almost thirteen years and then mysteriously making its way to Paris in 1915, just months before the British attack on the Somme, a circumstance whose significance remains to be determined." I sit there, amazed at what Borges has recounted. "Is it your understanding, then," I ask, "that every novel in the West was created in this way?" "Of course," replies Borges imperturbably. Then he adds: "Although every novel is derived directly from another novel, there is really only one novel, the Quixote."
The Deniable Darwin ET
Is there a link to Bencze's article? Dick
vmahuna @ 3: Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Truth Will Set You Free
Um, well, SOMETIMES you DO get improvements. Someplace back in the 1800s guys who would now be "engineers" were mostly tinkerers. Tom Edison was a tinkerer. But the one I am reminded of had to do with designs to replace the steamship paddle wheel with a screw propeller. For decades, all of the successful Atlantic steamers had side-mounted paddle wheels, which were known to be inefficient. So, a man whose name escapes me (but must surely be named on Wikipedia, the source of all human knowledge), built a steamer in New York with a single large stern-mounted propeller that really did look like a screw (i.e., a long spiral). And so a "race" was arranged between the "screw-ship" and a paddle-wheeler. The ships chugged along nicely, neither ship having any clear advantage. Suddenly, there was a loud BANG!, and the screw-ship shot ahead and easily won the race. But no one knew why. When the screw-ship was inspected after the race, it was discovered that the screw had broken off just after the first turn in the spiral. The guess was that the propeller had hit a floating log. So, yes, the spiral was a great idea, but the long version simply created more drag. All of the thrust came from the first turn. There are lots of other cases where accepted designs were proven wrong by accident. Although most of these date from well before modern testing and simulation. vmahuna
This was posted in another thread, but maybe it fits in this one too. Are the Darwinian folks referring to the embedded variability framework (EVF) that operates within the biological systems? Don’t birds remain birds? Bacteria remain bacteria? Plants remain plants? Amphibians remain amphibians? Apes remain apes? Humans remain humans? Many ethnic groups but all equally humans. The evo-devo fundamental conundrum remains unresolved: Dev(d) = Dev(a) + Delta(a,d) That’s the bottom line. The rest is speculation. Without Delta(a,d) there’s no way to get Dev(d) from Dev(a). That’s daydreaming illusion. Figment in their imagination. Pie pie in the sky. It’s time to get serious. A couple of years ago a science professor claimed to know exactly how morphogen gradients form, but even today the research papers point to the complexity of such an important process that still is poorly understood. As outstanding questions get answered new ones are raised. However, as every new discovery sheds more light on the elaborate cellular and molecular choreographies orchestrated within the biological systems, the emerging big picture points more and more to marvelously designed systems. BTW, ‘a’ stands for ‘ancestor’ and ‘d’ for ‘descendant’. Dev(x) is the entire developmental process of a given biological system ‘x’. Delta(x,y) is the entire set of spatiotemporal changes required in Dev(x) in order to get Dev(y). All the bells and whistles have to be included. The whole enchilada. The point is to show how to get Delta(x,y) assuming that we know Dev(x) and Dev(y). I challenge that professor and his cousins to show me one example that satisfies the above formulation. We can sweep and mop the floor with all their baseless ideas. With every new discovery their situation will get even worse. Dionisio

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