To facilitate discussion, we are publishing the abstracts and conclusions/summaries/Introduction excerpts of the 24 papers from the Cornell Conference on the Origin of Biological Information here at Uncommon Descent, with cumulative links to previous papers at the bottom of each page. You can get from anywhere to anywhere in the system.
Note: A blow-by-blow account of the difficulties that the authors experienced from Darwin lobby attempts to censor the book by denying it publication with Springer are detailed here. Fortunately, the uproar resulted in an opportunity for readers like yourself to read the book online. That said, the hard cover version is now shipping.
An excerpt from “Can Purifying Natural Selection Preserve Biological Information?” by Paul Gibson, John R. Baumgardner, Wesley H. Brewer, John C. Sanford:
The primary findings of this study are that the selection threshold problem is real and that it is more serious than generally recognized. These findings are very robust. Our basic conclusions do not depend on a narrow range of parameter settings; rather the same picture emerges under all reasonable biological settings, indicating that the basic phenomenon is fundamental. Our most realistic simulations (see Figures 7 and 10) still employed extremely conservative parameter settings, based upon the premise that most mutations are entirely neutral, the premise of partial truncation selection, and the premise of a very high fitness heritability. We do not believe any of these assumptions are reasonable–they were applied only to define the lower range of the deleterious selection threshold for a model human population. Simulations with what we consider to be more realistic parameter settings have indicated an even more serious erosion of genetic information than is presented here.
We suggest that, unlike many phenomena in the realm of physics, the biology of population dynamics is too complex to be reliably reduced to a small set of equations. The primary deficiency we observe in prior mutation accumulation studies is the extreme simplification that has been required both in mathematical formulations and in numerical simulations. Common simplifying restrictions include assuming that all mutation effects are equal and that environmental variance is zero; usually also assuming perfect probability selection or perfect truncation selection. These simplifications may be why previous analytical models have not fully illuminated the phenomenon of mutation accumulation.
Such extreme simplification is no longer required. Today’s rapidly expanding computational resources and much more sophisticated numerical simulations provide the capacity for comprehensive numerical simulations that can address population genetic systems in their entirety, simultaneously considering all the major variables that affect mutation accumulation. Mendel’s Accountant was programmed to be a comprehensive numerical simulation, reflecting biological reality as closely as possible for all the primary variables known to influence selection effectiveness [14, 15]. Mendel empirically and mechanistically tracks the basic biological processes of mutation, meiosis, crossover, gamete formation, mating, zygote formation, and selection. During the course of thousands of generations, millions of individuals are simulated, and hundreds of millions of mutations are tracked individually and continuously — an approach we call genetic accounting.
This approach allows us to observe empirically how different biological factors interact as they influence selection efficiency, requiring far fewer prior assumptions and far less abstraction than the conventional algebraic analysis. We have repeatedly seen that, given parameter settings that correspond to the standard simplifying assumptions, Mendel supports the expectations of classic population genetic theory. However, in simulations that more realistically reflect the complexity of living populations (i.e., multiple sources of noise), Mendel’s Accountant illuminates some fundamental problems in standard theory that were previously clouded by unrealistic simplifications. More.
See also: Origin of Biological Information conference: Its goals
Open Mike: Origin of Biological Information conference: Origin of life studies flatlined
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference— Can you answer these conundrums about information?
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Is a new definition of information needed for biology? (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—New definition of information proposed: Universal Information (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three, Dembski, Ewert, and Marks on the true cost of a successful search
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three on the true cost of a successful search—Conservation of information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four: Pragmatic Information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four, Pragmatic information: Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five – Basener on limits of chaos – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 9—Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 9—Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems—Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 10—Biological Information and Genetic Theory: Introductory Comments—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 10—Biological Information and Genetic Theory: Introductory Comments— Excerpt
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 11—Not Junk After All—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 11—Not Junk After All—Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 12—“Can Purifying Natural Selection Preserve Biological Information?”—Abstract