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In Defense of Frontloading


In a recent UD thread, several UD members have taken issue with the ID concept of frontloading. Frontloading is a question which certainly merits more discussion than it usually gets, and here I want to clear up a few things regarding frontloading that are usually missed.

I am a big fan of frontloading even though I don’t believe it is entirely true. The reason for this is that, first of all, I think that there are many theoretical systems which are good in a limited scope, but bad in a larger scope. However, it takes the people dedicated to fleshing out the widest scope of their theories in order for the rest of us to see where exactly the theory succeeds and fails, and what its limitations are. I take the approach to watch the frontloaders cook up their most grand of theories, and for myself to take the practical step of eating the meat and spitting out the bone. And, because I find value in their work, I am also willing to help them a little in the kitchen.

Therefore, I wanted to clear up at least a few issues with regards to frontloading. The version of frontloading I am defending here is that of a frontloading to a first organism, which is the universal ancestor to all other organisms. Most of the complaints regarding frontloading in the previous post mentioned have to do with the idea of frontloading into physics prior to the advent of the original organism. Here we will be concerned only with the idea of frontloading as the creation of the first living being with the information to make all the rest.

Mostly, I don’t think that frontloading, at least with regard to the genome, is a theoretical problem. In fact, Hubert Yockey showed using Shannon’s channel capacity theorem that it was certainly within the realm of possibility. I would think anyone who has used a computer would understand this.

Imagine a bare computer. Now imagine a Windows install disk. The Windows install disk is the front-loaded ancestor to all of the applications that come on the Windows operating system. It is a program which contains all the information necessary to create all the programs needed to run a Windows environment. (I use Windows only as an example everyone is familiar with – if you are not using a Mac you should be!)

An additional complaint is that of the size that the genome would have to be to accomplish this. However, it seems that genomes can get almost arbitrarily large without causing organisms metabolic problems. For instance, the amoeba genome (Amoeba dubia) is 100 times the size of the human genome! Given the amount of genetic overlap among genes among various species, it is not inconceivable that an original genome could be built which contained all of the necessary pieces for future diversification.

Note also that frontloading can be used to solve the mystery of the fossil record. With frontloading, organisms can appear suddenly, precisely because the information to build them was already there!

I am often amused at the evo-devo crowd which thinks that evo-devo somehow saves Darwinism. But in reality, every new discovery within the realm of evo-devo actually aids the argument of an intelligently frontloaded system, and moves biology further away from the idea that organisms can increase complexity like magic.

Now, although I find frontloading a possibility for the genome, I have to wonder at its usefulness in other areas, such as consciousness. Just like our hypothetical frontloaded ancestor requires more genetic material than any modern organism, so would it require a greater consciousness than any modern organism, if only latently. I don’t think that the pioneers of frontloading have put much thought into this question, but I think that, at least on its face, this seems to point away from frontloading as being a total solution.

My own opinion is that we will find frontloading of major groups of animals and plants, but not a universal common ancestral frontloading. But nonetheless, I wish the frontloaders well in their endeavors, as they pave the way for new ways of understanding the unfolding of life on earth.

This is a test, please ignore (having trouble posting in another thread). MathGrrl
Thank you for posting that link kuartus. Extremely interesting. Makes me want to take some computer science courses! tragic mishap
VJTorley - I think Sheldon is talking about something else. Sheldon says, "TE claims that front-loading is indistinguishable from chance, making the designer inscrutable." The front-loading I am describing is quite distinguishable from chance. There is frontloading as an excuse not to question Darwinism (which is what the TEs and liberal theologians like to do), and then there is frontloading which says that the frontloading process is a distinguishable event, with real consequences, whose processes could at least potentially be discernable. He addresses this case a little in "(b) the functionalism dilemma", but I don't quite follow his argument. He may just be saying just that there is going to be signal degradation. I don't disagree with that - that's where Shannon's channel capacity theorem comes into play - Shannon tells how much redundancy is needed for a noisy channel to reach the destination. This means that it is not only designed but also timed (i.e. there is a maximum shelf life). Again, if the goal is to have an evolution which is always reaching upwards, then this version of frontloading doesn't help. If it is simply common ancestry, then it does. I also don't entirely grasp how his fractal argument applies to the argument. johnnyb
VJT: God be with you as you try to cope with dire circumstances. StephenB
Vincent, I hope all is going well for you and your friends/family. What a tragedy. Upright BiPed
Hi johnnyb Just a quick question. What do you think of Rob Sheldon's arguments against front-loading in The Front-Loading Fiction ? vjtorley
The version of frontloading I am defending here is that of a frontloading to a first organism, which is the universal ancestor to all other organisms.
If the evolutionary-model is correct, then front-loading would be a good solution to a lot of problems like convergence and saltations and entropy. Darwinian theory falls apart when trying to prove linear, sequential development from a single ancestor. Everything has to be derived through a step-by-step gradualism. A first front-loaded common ancestor would carry a lot of the same problems that Darwinism has though -- because everything would have to be traced back to a single organism and a single set of programming instructions, all embedded in the first genome. Personally, I don't think the diversity and variation that we find in life and in nature looks at all like it came from a single organism -- even one with a massive amount of sophisticated code. Although there are universal characteristics like carbon-based and all life forms are DNA-based. Actually, considering entropy we'd have to accept that the first organism would have far more potential than the sum of all life that follows since the development path would be one of unravelling and dissipating from a single origin. Just the opposite of Darwinian claims that innovations and new features increase over time due to mutations. proponentist
Hey johnnyb, I recommend this paper which discusses how living organisms are designed to vary and adapt but also supports the notion that the amount of variatin which can be created is limited. It discusses this from the point of view of a computer programmer. Its an interesting read: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/arj/v4/n1#accurate-model-variation-DNA kuartus
tragic mishap, johnnyb The best evidence would be if someone could take a rat and trigger something in the genome that makes its offspring a clearly different species. Collin
The main issue for me will be evidence. If frontloading programs exist, you can't just say those programs disappeared from genomes after they were used up. Otherwise you'd be in the position of the defenders of Darwinian evolution who say the fossil record doesn't support the theory, so the fossil record must therefore be incomplete. tragic mishap

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