Information Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

Is origin of life a fluke, physics… or just not a science question at present?

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From Ian O’Neill at LiveScience:

Understanding the origin of life is arguably one of the most compelling quests for humanity. This quest has inevitably moved beyond the puzzle of life on Earth to whether there’s life elsewhere in the universe. Is life on Earth a fluke? Or is life as natural as the universal laws of physics?

Jeremy England, a biophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is trying to answer these profound questions. In 2013, he formulated a hypothesis that physics may spontaneously trigger chemicals to organize themselves in ways that seed “life-like” qualities.

Now, new research by England and a colleague suggests that physics may naturally produce self-replicating chemical reactions, one of the first steps toward creating life from inanimate substances.

Aw, not this again. Jeremy England is the Hollywood summer pix idea of what a successful origin of life scientist should be. Assuming that his subject even is a science topic. In that case, in the ongoing war between it just happened and it had to happen, any blip is news.

Under certain initial conditions, he found that these chemicals may optimize the energy applied to the system by self-organizing and undergoing intense reactions to self-replicate. The chemicals fine-tuned themselves naturally. These reactions generate heat that obeys the second law of thermodynamics; entropy will always increase in the system and the chemicals would self-organize and exhibit the life-like behavior of self-replication. More.

About that, our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon noted earlier,

What Prigogine said (and many [including England] have repeated), is that for systems that have energy flow through them—think of a pot of water boiling on the stove—the system finds a structure that moves the most amount of heat and entropy the fastest. In the case of the pot, it is convection cells that form spontaneously.

Is this order?

Of a sort–the sort that maximizes disorder. It’s called the Maximum Entropy Production Principle. The “structure” that has England all excited, spontaneously forms to make things disorganized really fast. It’s what designs tornadoes, hurricanes, and mushroom clouds. This is not particularly useful for life, despite many hopeful scientists.

It is, however, useful for science stories at the tag end of the summer.

info, information, tips, icon, support Also, to say that life somehow organizes or self-organizes is to miss the point. Snowflakes organize into complex patterns too and they don’t seek to avoid the shovel that smashes them. What differentiates life forms is their constant effort to remain in a high state of organization. Perhaps that effort is a driving force behind evolution. But it is treated as if it did not exist or is of philosophical interest only. Anyway, it is too much to recognize, especially for an idle summer’s tale. And maybe too much altogether.

Understanding the origin of life requires understanding the origin of information. But origin-of-life scientists keep orbiting the twin poles of Chance and Law, leaving out any plausible demonstration of how high levels of information can be generated. And why not? Their public is content with elegant, slightly dismissive essays in Quanta, Nautilus, or Aeon, ever hopeful about the ever hopeless.

The question looms: Is origin of life a degenerate science research program? Will the idle tales of Jeremy England and his confreres ever give way to serious investigation of the realities?

Note: Devolution sometimes works for life forms such as parasites, but it depends on other life forms retaining and possibly increasing complexity.

See also: Does nature just “naturally” produce life?

Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place?

Rob Sheldon: Sara Walker is criticizing Jeremy England for the wrong reasons

Chemist James Tour calls out Jeremy England’s origin of life claims – in a nice way

Chemist James Tour writes an open letter to his colleagues

Biophysicist [Jeremy England]: Order can arise from nothing! I have evidence! – Rob Sheldon replies

and

What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

61 Replies to “Is origin of life a fluke, physics… or just not a science question at present?

  1. 1
    J-Mac says:

    When an experimental scientist of Craig Venter’s caliber doubts common ancestry by publicly stating:

    “One question is, can we extrapolate back from this data set to describe the most recent common ancestor. I don’t necessarily buy that there is a single ancestor. It’s counterintuitive to me. I think we may have thousands of recent common ancestors and they are not necessarily so common.

    If scientific evidence indicates thousands of recent common ancestors, how many times would life had have originated on it’s own to keep the preconceived theory of abiogenesis alive?

  2. 2

    J-Mac @ 1: “If scientific evidence indicates thousands of recent common ancestors, how many times would life had have originated on its own to keep the preconceived theory of abiogenesis alive?”

    Great question. On one hand, Venter doubts that there is a single common ancestor, i.e. a single abiogenesis event, and on the other hand he thinks there may be thousands of recent common ancestors. Without saying it directly, Venter is leaving the door open for thousands of abiogenesis events.

    I have no problem with any of this so long as Venter, and his ilk, admit that it is mere speculation unsupported by empirical evidence. That it is philosophy…not science.

  3. 3
    J-Mac says:

    Nobody will admit anything…They have too much to lose…

    It must be hard to support preconceived ideas when the evidence is pointing against it…

    The way this world works is that if you stick out your head too much, you can get squashed…

  4. 4
    Axel says:

    As William J Murray set forth discursively but with astonishing precision (since we take the banal and quotidian so much for granted), life, not to speak of ratiocination, is demonstrably (by default) supernatural ; not natural.

  5. 5

    J-Mac @ 3: “The way this world works is that if you stick out your head too much, you can get squashed…”

    Agreed. But the tide is turning in that regard. I am noticing more and more young people openly questioning Darwinian evolution. That will only increase as evidence against the doomed theory continues to mount.

  6. 6
    awstar says:

    J-Mac @ 3

    The way this world works is that if you stick out your head too much, you can get squashed…

    Until a scientist does precisely this with his origin-of-life theory/philosophy and is raised from the dead the third day to vindicate his position, I think I’ll just keep believing the Bible still has the best explanation.

  7. 7
    Otangelo Grasso says:

    Physical necessity & Physical laws

    http://reasonandscience.heaven.....in-of-life

    Physical laws which result in physical constraints, where chemical reactions are forced into taking a certain course of action is an often cited possible mechanism for the origin of life.
    We are moving from chemistry to biology. Henceforward, life, it goes without saying, is independent of its chemical substrate, and its evolution does not follow paths that are predictable solely based on the laws of physics.
    M. Gargaud · H. Martin · P. López-García T. Montmerle · R. Pascal Young Sun, Early Earth and the Origins of Life, page 95

    Laurent Boiteau Prebiotic Chemistry: From Simple Amphiphiles to Protocell Models, page 3:
    Spontaneous self-assembly occurs when certain compounds associate through noncovalent hydrogen bonds, electrostatic forces, and nonpolar interactions that stabilize orderly arrangements of small and large molecules. The argument that chemical reactions in a primordial soup would not act upon pure chance, and that chemistry is not a matter of “random chance and coincidence , finds its refutation by the fact that the information stored in DNA is not constrained by chemistry. Yockey shows that the rules of any communication system are not derivable from the laws of physics. He continues : “there is nothing in the physicochemical world that remotely resembles reactions being determined by a sequence and codes between sequences.” In other words, nothing in nonliving physics or chemistry obeys symbolic instructions.

    Stephen C. Meyer observed:
    “There are neither bonds nor bonding affinities—differing in strength or otherwise—that can explain the origin of the base sequencing that constitutes the information in the DNA molecule”
    (Signature in the Cell, 243).

    As Paul Davies lamented,
    “We are still left with the mystery of where biological information comes from.… If the normal laws of physics can’t inject information, and if we are ruling out miracles, then how can life be predetermined and inevitable rather than a freak accident? How is it possible to generate random complexity and specificity together in a lawlike manner? We always come back to that basic paradox”
    (Fifth Miracle, 258).

    Werner Gitt summarized it this way:
    “A necessary requirement for generating meaningful information is the ability to select from alternatives and this requires an intelligent, volitional entity.… Unguided, random processes cannot do this—not in any amount of time because this selection process demands continuous guidance by intelligent beings that have a purpose”
    (Without Excuse, 50–51).

    The Genetic Code
    http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.g.....ncode.html
    DNA contains a true code. Being a true code means that the code is free and unconstrained; any of the four bases can be placed in any of the positions in the sequence of bases. Their sequence is not determined by the chemical bonding. There are hydrogen bonds between the base pairs and each base is bonded to the sugar phosphate backbone, but there are no bonds along the longitudional axis of DNA. The bases occur in the complementary base pairs A-T and G-C, but along the sequence on one side the bases can occur in any order, like the letters of a language used to compose words and sentences. Since nucleotides can be arranged freely into any informational sequence, physical necessity could not be a driving mechanism.

    Abiogenesis is the process by which life arises naturally from non-living matter. Scientists speculate that life may have arisen as a result of random chemical processes happening to produce self-replicating molecules.
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Abiogenesis

    Paul Davies conceded, “Unfortunately, before Darwinian evolution can start, a certain minimum level of complexity is required. But how was this initial complexity achieved? When pressed, most scientists wring their hands and mutter the incantation ‘Chance.’ So, did chance alone create the first self-replicating molecule?” (Fifth Miracle, 138).

    If design or physical necessity is discarded, the only remaining possible mechanism for the origin of life is chance/luck.

  8. 8
    Dionisio says:

    Otangelo Grassy,

    Interesting comment. Thanks.

  9. 9
    Dionisio says:

    “Now, new research by England and a colleague suggests that physics may naturally produce self-replicating chemical reactions, one of the first steps toward creating life from inanimate substances.”

    “one of the first steps toward creating life from inanimate substances”?

    “one of the first steps”?

    Ok,

    How many “first steps” are required toward creating life from inanimate substances?

    How many steps overall?

  10. 10
    Dionisio says:

    “Now, new research by England and a colleague suggests that physics may naturally produce self-replicating chemical reactions, one of the first steps toward creating life from inanimate substances.”

    I can’t imagine telling my project director that the computers and software development team were the first steps toward creating the engineering design program he envisioned and later explained to us so we could develop and implement it. That would have been bad joke.

    Without his ideas we wouldn’t have created anything comparable to what was done.

    The best computers and the best software development teams together wouldn’t have created the successful software product my director designed in his mind long before the first programming code was written.

    The very first necessary step was his idea.

    Please, next time let’s be more respectful of certain technical and engineering professions, ok?

  11. 11
    J-Mac says:

    @astar

    “Until a scientist does precisely this with his origin-of-life theory/philosophy and is raised from the dead the third day to vindicate his position, I think I’ll just keep believing the Bible still has the best explanation.

    Providing an accurate definition of life, that the majority of scientist would agree on would be a good way to start…

    There is never going to be “until”…

    The life sustaining energy that makes the inanimate matter animate or alive, is probably hidden someone at the most subatomic levels of quantum mechanics or even beyond that…
    Dark energy is a good candidate but nobody knows what it is and how to detect it and yet we know it is there…just like life…nobody knows what it is or how to define it and yet it is here…

  12. 12

    Otangelo Grasso @ 7: Excellent comment.

  13. 13
    Dean_from_Ohio says:

    Jeremy England would profit far more by researching the meaning of his own name.

  14. 14
    J-Mac says:

    @Otangelo Grasso

    Physical laws which result in physical constraints, where chemical reactions are forced into taking a certain course of action is an often cited possible mechanism for the origin of life.

    Whoever makes this claim need serious help…If that were true, life would spontaneously arise today many times in the lab and out…

  15. 15
    Dionisio says:

    Otangelo Grasso

    I apologize for misspelling your last name in my comment @8.

    The type ahead auto editor changed the spelling but I didn’t notice it until now. If a word is typed anywhere after the first word with capital initial, the autocorrect tool shouldn’t change it, but it does.

  16. 16
    awstar says:

    Dionisio @ 15

    Don’t apologize for a typo. That’s how evolution works! Random mutations in a string of letters can lead to amazing advancements in our complex and sophisticated world.

  17. 17

    he found that these chemicals may optimize the energy applied to the system by self-organizing and undergoing intense reactions to self-replicate.

    Was it translating encoded information?

    Oh, that’s right – the ability to specify a thing among alternatives by translating a medium of information (and all that unnecessary complexity) comes much later, after it first organizes itself into a system that can specify a system that can translate encoded information.

    Or, did whatever system it organized itself into not need to specify a system that can translate encoded information? If that’s the case, then where did all that organization and complexity come from? Oh, that’s right – the ability to specify a system that can specify a system that can translate encoded information comes much later …

    – – – – – – – –

    In any case, someone should tell Mr England that Life’s ability to specify something from a medium of information requires a description of its interpretive constraints embedded in the medium. That is what physically establishes the medium of information and allows the constraints to persist over time.

    A long time ago a couple of fellows named Alan Matheson Turing and John von Neumann described this “threshold of complexity” in a prescriptive self-replicator. Perhaps Jeremy England could convince Turing and von Neumann that the system doesn’t really need a set of state transformations or a medium of information.

  18. 18
    Axel says:

    ‘….just not a science question’ – but without the qualification, ‘at present.’

  19. 19
    LarTanner says:

    Upright Biped,

    What are some examples of “a description of its interpretive constraints embedded in the medium”?

    I ask because I don’t understand the concept and hope some real-life examples will help.

  20. 20

    LT,

    The nascent gene sequences for the set of aaRS is a real-world example (i.e. the protein constraints that establish the genetic code). A system than cannot provide a description of itself cannot start the cell cycle, and neither can a system that is unable to properly interpret the description.

  21. 21
    LarTanner says:

    Upright Biped,

    Thanks for the response. Are you saying these sequences describe the interpretive constraints embedded in some medium?

    If so, what are the constraints, specifically? Is “the medium” an individual cell, or what exactly is the medium you mean?

    Thanks again for shedding light on this.

  22. 22

    LT,

    Are you saying these sequences describe the interpretive constraints embedded in some medium?

    Yes.

    If so, what are the constraints, specifically?

    The constraints are the aaRS molecules they describe.

    Is “the medium” an individual cell, or what exactly is the medium you mean?

    The medium is a nucleic sequence.

    – – – – – – –

    There are a great number of resources on the web if you do not understand the basics of genetic translation. Sequences of DNR/RNA serve as a medium of information within a system. aaRS operate within that system to establish the code for interpreting the medium. Proteins (like aaRS) and other various molecules are the products of that interpretation.

  23. 23
    Heartlander says:

    DNA has the following:

    1. Functional Information

    2. Encoder/Packer

    3. Error Correction

    4. Decoder

    Consider that these 4 items are basic and necessary. It’s a closed system dependent on all operations to be functioning – and as UB states @ 22, codons only represent amino acids if you have the system in place to interpret the functional relationship of the medium (aaRS). This is a simple example of the more complex…

  24. 24
    LarTanner says:

    Upright BiPed @22,

    Thanks again. Part of my confusion stemmed from what’s probably an inconsequential discrepancy in terms. I would have considered a nucleic sequence to be a code (or an allowable syntax of a code), not a medium.

    In my understanding, a medium is the material used for making communication perceptible. In writing the medium might encompass ink, orthography, and paper. In speech, sound, air, and inflection might together comprise the medium. Google offers this definition, which pretty much matches what I was thinking: “the intervening substance through which impressions are conveyed to the senses or a force acts on objects at a distance.”

    In any case, I think I now see more clearly your point: these organic codes include instructions for doing ‘life-things’ (e.g., growth, re-generation); moreover, to be successful, the communication process (encoding, decoding, acting upon the message) requires an operative syntax.

    Is the ID position that these syntaxes cannot have arisen naturalistically?

  25. 25

    LT,

    I see your post, but I am not free to respond just now. I will circle back later today or this evening.

  26. 26
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    “Is the ID position that these syntaxes cannot have arisen naturalistically?”

    Of course.

    The whole system is incredibly complex, and is based on an abstract system of symbolic representation, which could never arise in a non designed way.

    Just as an example, consider that, as UB has pointed out, the component of the system that really “decodes” the information is the set of 20 highly complex proteins, the Aminoacyl-tRNA Synthetases. See, for example, here:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK22356/

    or here:

    http://pdb101.rcsb.org/motm/16

    Please, consider that each of these molecules is very complex, that each is hundreds of AAs long (up to more than 1000), that they work by independent specific sites for the aminoacid and for the corresponding tRNA, and that as far as we know no translation is possible without those molecules, in all living organisms.

    Of course, darwinists believe that the system arose in some way from simpler systems, by some gradual evolutionary process. They believe it. But it is mere belief, without any support from facts, and without any reasonable, or even imaginary, pathway for the supposed process itself.

  27. 27
    LarTanner says:

    gpuccio,

    Thank you for the additional information. Just as a matter of curiosity, I quickly searched and found (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14665676), “On the evolution of structure in aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases.”

    The abstract reads, in part:

    We present a structure-based phylogeny of the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases. By using structural alignments of all of the aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases of known structure in combination with a new measure of structural homology, we have reconstructed the evolutionary history of these proteins. In order to derive unbiased statistics from the structural alignments, we introduce a multidimensional QR factorization which produces a nonredundant set of structures. Since protein structure is more highly conserved than protein sequence, this study has allowed us to glimpse the evolution of protein structure that predates the root of the universal phylogenetic tree. The extensive sequence-based phylogenetic analysis of the tRNA synthetases (Woese et al., Microbiol. Mol. Biol. Rev. 64:202-236, 2000) has further enabled us to reconstruct the complete evolutionary profile of these proteins and to make connections between major evolutionary events and the resulting changes in protein shape. We also discuss the effect of functional specificity on protein shape over the complex evolutionary course of the tRNA synthetases.

    At the very least, would this not count as an imaginary, if not reasonable pathway for an evolutionary process? I think we could at minimum grant this.

    I wish I had more technical knowledge to understand the article itself. I suppose the most responsible thing I can say is that it seems to reinforce the idea that aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases have an evolutionary history. If nothing else, there is a real argument here, not “mere belief.”

    And all this raises the obvious question: What is ID’s “pathway for the supposed process itself” when it comes to the emergence of aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases? Does ID hypothesize that on a certain day millions of years ago, a group of designers congregated someplace on Earth and got to work building these tiny structures? I don’t mean to sound un-serious but am rather genuinely curious as to what ID supposes designers actually did in executing their design work. Could you please shed some light on this?

  28. 28
    ET says:

    LarTanner- ID is not about the designer(s) nor the process(es). ID is about detecting and understanding design in nature.

    And no, imagination is not evidence. They “reconstructed” an evolutionary history only because they believe there was one.

  29. 29
    LarTanner says:

    ET —

    ID is not about the designer(s) nor the process(es). ID is about detecting and understanding design in nature.

    Would you agree that a full understanding of design in nature includes knowing something of the designer(s) and the process(es) they use? To me, it seems unnecessarily limited to confine ID to the question of whether design has been detected. In fact, I don’t think you actually can say definitively that design has been detected unless you also say something about the designer and design process. As I say, it’s an obvious question. I don’t know why ID shies away from it.

    They “reconstructed” an evolutionary history only because they believe there was one.

    Of course. The question will be how well the reconstruction conforms to available data and conforms to new data that becomes known in the future.

  30. 30
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    “At the very least, would this not count as an imaginary, if not reasonable pathway for an evolutionary process? ”

    No. Reconstructing the natural history of proteins is in no way an explanatory pathway of how the information in those proteins arose.

    This is the false idea that darwinists have tried to nurture: that having a supposed history explains the origin of information.

    But that is not the case. The model of RV + NS requires a deconstruction of the information into steps that are simple enough to be in the range of what a natural random system can achieve, and that are, each of them, naturally selectable. Such a pathway has never been shown for any complex protein, least of all for aminoacyl tRNA synthetases.

    I believe in common descent, and more specifically in protein descent by design. The relationship between proteins is a reality for which a lot of evidence exists. On the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence for the origin of functional information in proteins by any pathway that does not include design, that is the input of new original functional information by some conscious intelligent agent.

    The specific point with aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, moreover, is that those 20 proteins are necessary for translation: indeed, they are, with their complex aminoacid structure, the depository of the genetic code.

    Therefore, it is a clear case of chicken and egg paradox: no 20 proteins, no translation. No translation, no proteins from nucleotide sequences. Therefore, no genetic information, no evolution. Nothing at all.

    Now, think: how was the sequence in the 20 proteins originally determined? We are speaking if thousands of AAs, a sum total of information vastly beyond any probabilistic power of the universe. And yet, without that information, in one form or another, no translation can be observed on our planet. No translation has ever been observed.

    So, you need 20 complex proteins, each of them with a specific site for one aminoacid and a specific site for the corresponding tRNA: that is where the symbolic coupling takes place.

    And, of course, you also need the ribosome, and a lot of other components, including all the enzymes necessary for DNA existence, duplication, and so on.

    But the symbolic coupling is in the 20 proteins. Without those proteins, without the specific sequence information in them, no living cell could have any idea of what aminoacid corresponds to some specific codon. The genetic code would be completely useless, it would practically not exist at all.

    You asked:

    “Is the ID position that these syntaxes cannot have arisen naturalistically?”

    You bet it is! And I have tried to explain why.

  31. 31
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    “Would you agree that a full understanding of design in nature includes knowing something of the designer(s) and the process(es) they use?”

    Yes. But the design inference can be affirmed even if we know nothing of the designer and of the methods of design implementation. Of course, after a design inference has been accepted as best explanation, then the questions about the designer and implementation methods become perfectly legitimate scientific problems.

    “To me, it seems unnecessarily limited to confine ID to the question of whether design has been detected.”

    I have never confined ID to that. But it is important to remember that the questions about the designer are not necessary to the design inference.

    “In fact, I don’t think you actually can say definitively that design has been detected unless you also say something about the designer and design process.”

    This is wrong. The design inference is independent. It can safely be done even if we know nothing of the designer or of how the design was implemented. That can easily be shown.

    “As I say, it’s an obvious question. I don’t know why ID shies away from it.”

    I have never shied away from it. Indeed, I have discussed many times what can be reasonably be hypothesized about the nature of the designer, and about the ways of implementation.

    For example, I have proposed many times that one of the main ways to implement design in biology could be by guided transposon activity, which is consistent with many facts we have. And I have debated many times that the implementation can probably take place by some mind-matter interface at quantum level, exactly as it probably happens in the human brain.

    The simple fact is that, while we have tons of data that allow a design inference for biological information, we have still only scarce data to understand the nature of the designer(s) and the methods of design implementation.

    But they certainly remain legitimate scientific questions.

    The intentional error of darwinists is to state that we cannot infer design unless we know who the designer is or how the design was implemented: that is completely false.

  32. 32
    LarTanner says:

    gpuccio,

    Reconstructing the natural history of proteins is in no way an explanatory pathway of how the information in those proteins arose.

    How can the natural history of proteins not also be the history of the information in them?

  33. 33
    ET says:

    Would you agree that a full understanding of design in nature includes knowing something of the designer(s) and the process(es) they use?

    And yet we don’t have that for all artifacts or crimes. Yet we know they are artifacts and crimes. We do what we can with what we are given.

    In fact, I don’t think you actually can say definitively that design has been detected unless you also say something about the designer and design process.

    And yet we do. As a natter of course the who and how come well after design has been determined,

  34. 34
    ET says:

    “Once specified complexity tells us that something is designed, there is nothing to stop us from inquiring into its production. A design inference therefore does not avoid the problem of how a designing intelligence might have produced an object. It simply makes it a separate question.”–
    Wm. Dembski- pg 112 of No Free Lunch

  35. 35

    The conversation has moved on. Sorry for having to bail out.

    LT, you say that you are “rather genuinely curious as to what ID supposes designers actually did in executing their design work.

    A design proponent would want to describe that evidence in a way that is empirically verifiable to anyone. So I wonder if your curiosity extends to understanding and acknowledging the way that an agent must arrange matter in order to achieve the effect – i.e. to establish a prescriptive, open-ended self-replicating system, the basic unit of life.

    Unless you take the position that the unique organization required by life is irrelevant, then understanding that organization suggests what an agent had to accomplish. It suggests that an agent had to establish a medium of information and organize the semantic closure required to start the system.

  36. 36
    Dionisio says:

    Where did the first RNA polymerase come from?

  37. 37
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    “How can the natural history of proteins not also be the history of the information in them?”

    There is a big difference between history and explanation. History just tells us that some protein, with its information, appeared at some time, and then changed more or less through time, while retaining its function. That’s what we know of many proteins.

    That’s what darwinists, or in general evolutionary biologists, do. They trace the connections between proteins, some of the differences or similarities. They build trees, that’s all.

    But they never explain how the information came into existence.

    Take ATP synthase, for example. We know, as I have debated many times, that the alpha and beta chains have been conserved for billion of years for great part of their sequence. There are hundreds of AA identities between bacteria and humans. Other components of the molecule have changed more.

    So, we can safely say that those conserved sequences were already present in the common ancestor of bacteria and humans, billions of years ago. Any evolutionary biologist would agree on that.

    OK, so we have reconstructed some of the natural history of the protein, no doubt about that. But have we explained in any way how that information came into existence billions of years ago? Not at all.

    That’s the difference between history and explanation.

    That information had to be designed in the beginning. There is absolutely no chance that it could come into existence by chance.

    Now, for the 20 aa tRNA synthetases, the problem is much bigger:

    a) First of all, it’s not one protein, but a set of 20 proteins. Each of them very big. Each of them different.

    b) Second, each of them is necessary for translation, because each protein is the depository of one symbolic association, of pone specific aminoacid with its specific codon. The whole set of proteins is the depository of the genetic code symbolism, nothing less.

    c) Third, and this is the incredibly strong chichen and egg problem, each of those 20 proteins is a protein. IOWs, the information for each protein comes from a gene, though the process of transcription and translation. Exactly the process for which the 20 proteins are necessary.

    Is that clear? Without the 20 proteins, no genetic code can work. Without them, no translation can happen. And yet, the information for those proteins is encoded in genes, by the genetic code, and genes and the genetic code have no meaning or utility or function unless there is the translation apparatus working. Unless the symbolic coupling is deposited physically somehwere.

    And the neo-darwinist theory tells us that the information for a protein, for any protein, must evolve through random variation and natural selection in the genetic material, that is in the gene, in the nucleotide sequence. The same sequence that has no meaning and no utility unless the 20 proteins are working.

    Is that clear? Do you understand why I say that we have no trace of an explanation of how the 20 proteins came into existence by non design processes? Can you find in that paper, pr in any other paper, any explanation about that that is not completely imaginary and absolutely vague or contradictory?

  38. 38
    gpuccio says:

    ET:

    ““Once specified complexity tells us that something is designed, there is nothing to stop us from inquiring into its production. A design inference therefore does not avoid the problem of how a designing intelligence might have produced an object. It simply makes it a separate question.”–
    Wm. Dembski- pg 112 of No Free Lunch”

    Exactly my point. Thank you! 🙂

  39. 39
    Mung says:

    Of course, darwinists believe that the system arose in some way from simpler systems, by some gradual evolutionary process. They believe it. But it is mere belief, without any support from facts, and without any reasonable, or even imaginary, pathway for the supposed process itself.

    So? Why can’t they have belief without evidence?

  40. 40
    Mung says:

    Lar Tanner:

    Would you agree that a full understanding of design in nature includes knowing something of the designer(s) and the process(es) they use?

    I would agree with that.

  41. 41
    Mung says:

    The model of RV + NS requires a deconstruction of the information into steps that are simple enough to be in the range of what a natural random system can achieve, and that are, each of them, naturally selectable. Such a pathway has never been shown for any complex protein, least of all for aminoacyl tRNA synthetases.

    “poof” + NS + “poof” + NS + “poof” + NS -> AN EYE!

  42. 42
    ET says:

    LarTanner:

    Would you agree that a full understanding of design in nature includes knowing something of the designer(s) and the process(es) they use?

    So carpenters have to know who designed their tools and how they were manufactured before they can fully understand them? Really?

    Do auto mechanics have to know who designed the cars and how they were manufactured before they understand how cars operate and how to repair them?

    Perhaps your “full understanding” isn’t required.

  43. 43
    gpuccio says:

    Mung:

    “So? Why can’t they have belief without evidence?”

    You know well that I am not criticizing them, just describing what goes on! 🙂

    Lucky them, that they have you who defend their human rights! 🙂

  44. 44
    LarTanner says:

    gpuccio @37: Thanks for your explanation. Based on this, is it fair to say that you (1) believe the ultimate origin of proteins is an intentional, creative act by one or more designers; and (2) conclude not only that modern evolutionary biology avoids addressing the origin of proteins but also that modern evolutionary biology cannot explain the origin, even in principle?

    Also, you seem to be knowledgeable in the topic of information, so I want to ask: generally speaking, how does information originate?

    ET @ 42:

    So carpenters have to know who designed their tools and how they were manufactured before they can fully understand them? Really?

    Sure. A full understanding of a hammer’s design should include knowing the designer and manufacturer. With such knowledge, you could see why it’s dimensions are just so, how it’s materials were forged together, and how it relates to other hammers available in the marketplace. This knowledge may not help you wield the hammer, of course, but we are talking about understanding the design, not using the thing.

  45. 45
    ET says:

    Umm using the thing properly demonstrates an understanding of it. Knowing what it is for and all uses of it demonstrates a deeper understanding of it.

    So being able to use tools properly and fully, knowing how they work such that you can repair it if needed, demonstrates a full understanding of the tools without knowing who designed it nor how it was manufactured.

    You would have such an understanding of it that you could duplicate it, again without knowing who and how it originally came to be.

  46. 46
    ET says:

    Based on this, is it fair to say that you (1) believe the ultimate origin of proteins is an intentional, creative act by one or more designers; and (2) conclude not only that modern evolutionary biology avoids addressing the origin of proteins but also that modern evolutionary biology cannot explain the origin, even in principle?

    Modern evolutionary biology doesn’t deal with origins. Biology is the study of the living. So modern evolutionary biology doesn’t address the question, even in principle.

    But that doesn’t mean that no one can try to address the origins of proteins and living organisms. I would think that in order to fully understand evolution you would have to know how it all started. 😉

  47. 47

    It appears that the question of what an agent must do to execute their design has been dropped.

  48. 48
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    “Based on this, is it fair to say that you (1) believe the ultimate origin of proteins is an intentional, creative act by one or more designers; ”

    Yes.

    “and (2) conclude not only that modern evolutionary biology avoids addressing the origin of proteins but also that modern evolutionary biology cannot explain the origin, even in principle?”

    Yes. Absolutely.

    “Also, you seem to be knowledgeable in the topic of information, so I want to ask: generally speaking, how does information originate?”

    OK, in brief. The concept which is appropriate for ID theory is not “information” in general (which is, indeed, a vague and misleading word, IMO), but rather Specified Information.

    In particular, I have always used in my reasonings a specific subset of Specified Information, that is Functionally Specified Information, and a specific sub-subset of it, that is Digital Functionally Specified Information.

    To be more clear, let’s stick to digital forms of information, that is information stored as a sequence of digital values.

    Let’s say we have a string which is a sequence of n values in some alphabet, for example a binary alphabet.

    In this case, the information potential of the string is by definition 2^n, which is usually expressed as the exponent, that is n bits. That is the maximum information we can store in such a string. It is also the total number of states the string can have. In this sense, as Dembski has clarified just from the beginning of his reasonings, giving a specific string is information in the sense that we specify one instance among 2^n possible instances. In that general sense, as in Shannon’s theory, information is a reduction of uncertainty. That also corresponds to the probability of finding the string by a random search in the search space of 2^n strings of that type, which is 1:2^n, or 2^-n, IOWs, the information potential is -log2 of the probability, which is consistent with Shannon’s ideas.

    But, again, that is not what ID is dealing with, even if those concepts are necessary to go on with the discussion.

    So, let’s go on with some simple definitions:

    a) Specified information, for some digital string, is the subset of the search space (all possible strings of that type and length) which is part of a “target space”. A target space is any specific search space generated by some explicit binary partition on the set of all possible strings.

    So, let’s say that we have a search space of all binary strings of length 100. The search space is therefore 2^100, 100 bits.

    Now, we give an explicit specification: for example:

    “All strings which are made of only one value”.

    That specification generates a binary partition in the search space. Now, we have two different subsets in it:

    1) The target space, made of 2 strings, one with 100 0s and one with 100 1s.

    2) The complementary set, made of all the other strings (2^100 – 2).

    More in next post.

  49. 49
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    So, now we have defined Specified Information. Here, the information related to one specification can be expressed as -log2 of the probability p of finding one instance of the target space by a random search. For example, in the case discussed before, that probability is 2:2^n, which is always of the order of magnitude of n bits.

    The problem with Specified Information is that it is rather heterogeneous in regard to the type of specification we can use. For example, the specification we used before is based on some kind of order: a string made only of 0s is more ordered than most strings. Therefore, ordered strings can be the result of design, but they can also be the result of necessity. For example, if we toss a coin that can only give 0, because it is not fair, we will get an ordered string all the time or most of the time.

    With regard to the application of ID to the biological world, it is better to restrict the reasonings to a specific subset of specified information, Functionally Specified Information. Here is the definition:

    b) Functionally Specified Information, for some digital string, is the subset of the search space (all possible strings of that type and length) which is part of a specific “target space” created by an explicitly defined function which generates a binary partition on the set of all possible strings.

    IOWs, the target space is defined as the set of all the strings of that type and length that can implement the function as defined, and the complementary set is made of all the other strings.

    The information linked to that function is, again, -log2 of the probability (target space/search space).

    Let’s call this subset FSI, and in particular dFSI (because we have restricted the discussion to digital strings).

    Now, the point is that dFSI is perfectly appropriate to discuss biology, because most biological information of which we are aware (genes, proteins) is in that form: it is digital, and it implements specific functions.

    c) Now, very briefly, the main point of ID theory is: any object that exhibits dFSI beyond some appropriate threshold (in general, 500 or 1000 bits), linked to some explicitly defined function (any explicitly defined function will do), originates from a design process.

    This is not a logical statement: it is an empirical observation. No object in the whole universe is known that exhibits dFSI in a complex form (let’s say mote than 500 bits) and is not designed. Indeed, the only known objects which exhibit those levels of DFSI are human artifatcs.

    Except, of course, biological objects. Whose origin is the object of our debate.

    So, we infer design for biological objects because only design, in the whole universe, seems to have the capacity to generate dFSI which is really complex.

    The reason for that is simple: only the conscious experiences of understanding meaning and having purpose can guide to the implementation of highly complex functional configurations of matter. That is not only empirically true, but also perfectly reasonable: natural processes have not the probabilistic resources to generate that kind of information by random search, and there is no known necessity law that can generate that kind of information.

    Of course, neo-darwinism is the only theory which states the opposite. Unfortunately, it is a theory which is both unreasonable and unsupported by any fact.

    This is a very, very brief summary. I am available to discuss in detail any specific aspect, as I have always done here.

  50. 50
    Mung says:

    > It appears that the question of what an agent must do to execute their design has been dropped.

    He just didn’t have the tools to deal with it.

  51. 51
    Dionisio says:

    Does somebody here know the answer to the question @36?

  52. 52
    LarTanner says:

    gpuccio @48 and 49–

    While I appreciate the explanation of specified information, it appears that the question is unanswered: “generally speaking, how does information originate?”

    Sorry if I missed it, but I am looking for an explanation of how specified information originates. This is, of course, the very same question we ask of evolutionary biology.

    I get that ID “infers” a designer, but that avoids the question of how the information originated in biological objects, which as you say are “the object of our debate.” By analogy, in a murder case, we infer a murderer but what we are interested in is what the perpetrator did to cause the fatal injuries. That’s roughly like what I am asking you when I request to know how specified information originated in biological objects. And, again, the question is the same as the one ID asks evolutionary biology to answer.

    Based on your comment in #38 (and other comments), I take it that you believe it is settled that a designer produced the specified information in biological objects. Therefore, you should now be free to address the ‘separate’ questions of the designer’s identity and means of production.

    One argument is curious to me:

    c) Now, very briefly, the main point of ID theory is: any object that exhibits dFSI beyond some appropriate threshold (in general, 500 or 1000 bits), linked to some explicitly defined function (any explicitly defined function will do), originates from a design process.

    This is not a logical statement: it is an empirical observation. No object in the whole universe is known that exhibits dFSI in a complex form (let’s say mote than 500 bits) and is not designed. Indeed, the only known objects which exhibit those levels of DFSI are human artifatcs.

    If — by observation — specified information only comes from design, and design — by observation — only comes from humans, is it fair to infer that the designer is a human being? It may seem like a strange question, but I am trying to understand how the design inference is being applied. It seems rather arbitrary to use it to affirm a designer but then not also employ the other essential feature –i.e., humans — of the observation.

  53. 53
    ET says:

    If — by observation — specified information only comes from design, and design — by observation — only comes from humans, is it fair to infer that the designer is a human being?

    And if it could not have been a human being we infer it was some other intelligent agency. What we do not do is assume mother nature magically got the capability to do it. Is that difficult to understand?

  54. 54

    LarTanner @ 52: Good comment.

    As an IDer, I am content with not fully understanding how the design was implemented or even who/what the Designer is. I have my ideas about both, but those ideas are philosophical and faith-based, extending beyond the empirical evidence.

    The only difference between my journey and the a/mat journey is that my “inference to the best explanation” results in a Designer, theirs results in natural causes. Both of us have ideas that extend beyond the empirical evidence. Both of us have faith in something unseen, unproven, and perhaps unprovable.

    I can’t explain how the Designer created things any more than a/mats can explain the singularity, abiogenesis, or the Cambrian explosion (just to name a few). It all comes down to where we place our faith.

  55. 55
    Origenes says:

    LarTanner: Sorry if I missed it, but I am looking for an explanation of how specified information originates.

    If GPuccio were to say ‘specified information originates from intelligence’ would you consider your question to be answered? If not, what is it that you are asking?

  56. 56
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    Thank you for your comments and good questions.

    Now, you essentially ask two different things:

    1) Who is the designer or designers of biological information?

    2) How did he act to generate that information in biological objects?

    I will address point 1 first, also because that includes a discussion of your specific question about humans.

    First of all, I want to clarify that my answer is given only from a scientific point of view, and in no way depends on a particular world-view. So, I will try to rely on facts.

    The question is: considering the model of the design process that we can derive from human design, what can we infer of the biological designer?

    To understand that, we must try to look better at the properties of a human designer that allow him to design.

    If we observe with attention the human process of design, we can understand better what design is, and define it with some precision. That’s what I have tried to do in my first OP here:

    https://uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/defining-design/

    You can read that OP for further reference, but I will try to sum up my definition of design here:

    Design is a process where a conscious agent subjectively represents in his own consciousness some form and then purposefully outputs that form, more or less efficiently, to some material object.

    We call the process “design”. We call the conscious agent who subjectively represents the initial form “designer”. We call the material object, after the process has taken place, “designed object”.

    The basic point is: in all design processes, the final configuration of the designed object derives, more or less directly, from conscious representations of the designer.

    That brings us to the first basic requirement for any designer:

    a) A designer must necessarily be a conscious being, capable of conscious representations.

    But that’s not enough. The act of design is a purposeful act. There must be a desire to output the represented form into matter. That brings us to the second basic property of a designer:

    b) A designer must necessarily be capable of conscious purpose.

    But that is still not enough. While many processes of design are rather simple, many of them, as we have already seen, can generate very complex specific configurations of matter: language, software, machines, works of art. Indeed, the complexity of the specific information is exactly what allows us to infer a design process even when we have no direct knowledge of the process itself, just by observing the designed object.

    That brings us to the third basic property that any designer must have:

    c) A designer must necessarily be capable of conscious understanding, IOWs he must have the conscious experience of meaning.

    That’s very important, because it’s this cognitive experience that allows the designer, together with his purposeful desire, to find, understand, try, shape the information that has to be outputted to the final object.

    So, to sum up, we can certainly say that the biological designer, being a designer, must necessarily be:

    d) Some conscious being, capable of conscious representations that include the understanding of meaning and the experience of purpose.

    Of course, there is a final point. To implement the design, the designer must also be:

    e) An agent capable of interaction with the object to be designed.

    IOWs, he must be able, in some way, to output his representations to the designed object.

    OK, that is all that we can say, in principle, and with certainty, of the biological designer. If we accept the design inference, we must also accept that the designer is a designer, and therefore must have those basic requisites.

    But you ask: can we infer that the biological designer must be human?

    And the answer is: no, not at all.

    Being human is not a requisite to be a designer, even if all the designed artifact that we can observe, of whose origin we are certain, are human artifacts.

    Why? Because we have no reason to believe that only humans can be conscious intelligent purposeful beings.

    First of all, some animals certainly display some level of conscious and purposeful intelligence. That can not be enough to generate complex designs, but in principle it is there.

    But, even more important, we can easily imagine (and indeed most people do imagine) that in other parts of the universe other conscious intelligent purposeful beings may exist, who are not humans at all. Let’s call them “aliens”.

    So, if aliens can be conscious and intelligent and purposeful, as most would happily admit, why shouldn’t they be able to design? For example, to build languages, software, machines, works of art?

    So, I would definitely say that being humans does not seem to be a requisite to be a designer.

    But there is more. The theory that aliens can be the designers of biological information is a perfectly appropriate ID theory, but frankly I am not a fan of it, for many reasons that I will not detail now.

    I think that all that we know makes much more likely the idea that the biological designer(s) should be some conscious intelligent purposeful agent that has not a physical body as we usually conceive it.

    Does that mean God? Not necessarily. Remember, I am reasoning only from a scientific point of view, from facts. What we know of the history of out planet does not suggest the continuous present of specific physical beings, so it seems more likely that the biological designer is not of that kind.

    So, the correct question is: have we any evidence that only physical beings as we know them are capable of consciousness and of conscious processes?

    I strongly believe that we have no evidence of that. I could argue that we have a lot of evidence of the contrary, but that would bring us to discussions which cannot be really solved with the scientific understanding we have now.

    In the meantime, it is a fact that humans are conscious. Can science explain why they are? Absolutely not. Science cannot explain in any way the existence of subjective experiences. That’s exactly what Chalmers means with the hard problem of consciousness. I am certainly not alone in believing that the hard problem has not been solved at all, least of all by Chalmers himself.

    There is no doubt that human consciousness is expressed by a physical brain, and is strongly linked to it and constrained by it. But does that mean that it originates from it, and that without a physical brain no consciousness is possible?

    I certainly believe differently. But my point here is not that anyone should believe what I believe: it is simply that there is no objective reason to believe that consciousness always needs a physical body to exist.

    I think you will agree that many human beings, in the past and now, have believed or believe that the opposite is true. The vast debate about NDEs is just an example of how support to the existence of non physical conscious experiences can come from scientific observations of facts, and not only from philosophical or religious convictions. But again, I will not go into details of that. My point is: only a dogmatic position can state that we have answers to that kind of question, least of all that those answers come from scientific facts.

    So, my answer to your first question is:

    We can safely say that the biological designer(s) must be a conscious being, capable of intelligent and purposeful experiences and representations.

    IMO, we should seriously consider the hypothesis that the biological designer is not a physical being as we usually conceive it.

    OK, that answers the first question. I don’t think we can say much more about that, form the scientific point of view, with the facts we have today. But, of course, science goes on, and probably in some time we will have a better understanding of some of these problems. In my next post, I will try to answer your second question, and to show how some of that further understanding could be gained.

  57. 57
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    The second question is:

    How did the biological designer act to generate the functional information in biological objects?

    Remember, my last point about the requisites of a designer was:

    “An agent capable of interaction with the object to be designed.”

    That is specially important, because if we admit that the biological designer could not have a physical body, the question naturally arises: how can he interact with matter?

    Luckily, we are not left to mere conjectures about that. We have, indeed, a very promising potential model to understand more about that.

    That model is us. Human beings.

    Indeed, if we admit, even as a tentative hypothesis, that our consciousness is not a byproduct of our brains (and, as I have tried to explain, there are many serious reasons why we should seriously consider that possibility), then we have in human a very good model where a non physical consciousness interacts, constantly and in both direction, with biological physical matter.

    Now, I am personally very much in favor of a quantum interface between human consciousness and mind and the human brain. In the sense pioneered by Eccles, and debated by many others, including Penrose.

    I understand that this field is at present highly conjectural, but this is certainly something about which we can acquire better understanding as science goes on. I am very confident about that.

    Now, if our consciousness can interact with the biological brain by some quantum interface, why shouldn’t some other conscious being be capable of interacting with biological matter through a similar quantum interface? It is certainly a possibility.

    OK, so what do we see in the history of biological information on our planet?

    We see a lot of rather sudden jumps in information, where tons of new functional information appear in biological beings in the form of new genes, new proteins, new protein domains, new regulatory networks, and so on.

    We already know, from ID theory, that there is no “non design” explanation for that.

    Therefore, the functional information must come from the guidance of some conscious intelligent being.

    How can that happen?

    Again, we have to rely on facts. And on the human model of design.

    Indeed, the whole idea is that the biological designer has been implementing biological engineering, exactly as we humans do today, but probably much better.

    So, what are the tools of human protein engineering?

    We can use top down methods, or bottom up methods. We can use random mutations followed by intelligent selection. Or just guided intelligent mutations.

    Facts can tell us a lot about the strategies used by the biological designer(s). At present, I believe that a lot of available facts point to an important role for guided mutations, and in particular guided mutations through guided transposon activity.

    That is very reasonable, because the random activity of transposons is a very good candidate to be an interface for guided quantum events, exactly as neuronal synaptic activity is a good candidate for the interface between human mind and human brain.

    OK, that’s really a general discussion to try to answer your questions, Mere conjectures will bring us nowhere (after all, we are not darwinists!). So, we must rely on facts and on the good interpretation of scientific evidence to get answers to our deeper questions.

    The point is: if biological objects are really designed, as all evidence suggests, it will be impossible to pursue an explanation of their origin based on a completely wrong theory like neo-darwinism or, for that, on any other non design scenario.

  58. 58
  59. 59
    LarTanner says:

    gpuccio —

    I have read your three most recent posts. Thank you for these. I cannot say confidently that I grasp every detail and argument, but I think I have the broad outline. You have answered my questions.

    If I could shift focus, I want to summarize my understanding of your view, which is that you see the appearance and development of life on Earth as a series of moments (or is it periods) where the designer directly interacted with certain organic populations at the micro-biological level. Connecting these moments are millions and millions of years where genetic populations interacted, competed to persist, adjusted to environmental disruptions, and also evolved at a small scale.

    Assuming I have the story straight, this raises a question for me. If you are tired of my questions, please don’t answer. It’s OK, and I would not fault you or anyone. But my question is, what do you think life on Earth would be like right now if the designer had built life initially but then had not intervened at all afterwards? In other words, I wonder how far you think life on this planet could have gotten on its own, and why.

    You must see that I find the ID view fatally flawed. The “ghost in the machine” interventions seem a highly problematic position to take. Why this or that population, and not a different one? Why this moment and not another — or why take so long at all? I am not someone versed in the hard activity and data of evolutionary biology, yet when I read people saying that evolution can’t do this or couldn’t have done that, I think of that famous quip attributed to John von Neumann —

    You insist that there is something that a machine can’t do. If you will tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.

  60. 60
    gpuccio says:

    LarTanner:

    Thank you for your thoughts.

    Yes, you get my ideas right enough. The chronological history of design interventions cannot be decided a priori: it must be inferred from facts, and I am confident that, as our understanding of the history of information development increases, we will be able to get more details about that aspect. One of the beautiful things of a design perspective is that it is wholly open to empirical inquiry.

    “But my question is, what do you think life on Earth would be like right now if the designer had built life initially but then had not intervened at all afterwards? In other words, I wonder how far you think life on this planet could have gotten on its own, and why.”

    Tha answer is simple enough: without design interventions, life on this planet can go on on its own as much as its inherent information potential allows. So, if the design intervention had stopped at prokaryotes, we would have prokaryotes. Of course, some microevolutiom and differentiation and diversification is probably in the range of adaptation and of its inherent algorithms: for example, prokaryotes are very good at that.

    But the limit would be at any major chnge that requires huge quantities of new functional information. We would certainly not have eukaryotes: they are a major step requiring a huge jump in information, new concepts, new proteins, new networks.

    But probably, even the diversification in prokaryotes would ne much less than what has been in real history, where design interventions have certainly gone on at that level, as they have at other levels.

    Remember, we have 2000 protein superfamilies: I firmly believe that each one of them can be considered a specific design intervention. That is the minimal design inference we can start from.

    “You must see that I find the ID view fatally flawed.”

    Of course, you are entitled to that! 🙂

    “The “ghost in the machine” interventions seem a highly problematic position to take. ”

    Strange idea, coming from ghosts in the machine as we all are! 🙂

    “Why this or that population, and not a different one?”

    Have you ever thought that looking at the populations of cars, or computers, or simply to a bookshelf in a library?

    “Why this moment and not another — or why take so long at all?”

    Why did Shakespeare write Hamlet at that moment? Why did he wait so long?

    One thing that is obvious from the history of biological design is that the designer(s) is certainly acting under constraints: he is not acting as some omnipotent dictator who can do anything he likes, but rather as an artist who is trying to create something beautiful against all the difficulties coming form the outer world, from the limitations of the tools he can use, from time, and space, and so on.

    ” I am not someone versed in the hard activity and data of evolutionary biology,”

    That’s probably one of the problems: you have to really know what we are seeing today, to understand that design is not just an option, it’s the only realistic option left to honest thinking.

    “yet when I read people saying that evolution can’t do this or couldn’t have done that, I think of that famous quip attributed to John von Neumann —”

    Just think what is my reaction when I read people saying that evolution did this or that, without giving any support to the ludicrous statements they are making!

    “You insist that there is something that a machine can’t do. If you will tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.”

    Two points:

    a) Machines are a product of design, and only of design. They can certainly do what they have been designed to do. If I ask you to build a machine that can print the following sonnet from Shakespeare:

    Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
    So far from variation or quick change?
    Why with the time do I not glance aside
    To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
    Why write I still all one, ever the same,
    And keep invention in a noted weed,
    That every word doth almost tell my name,
    Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
    O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
    And you and love are still my argument,
    So all my best is dressing old words new,
    Spending again what is already spent:
    For as the sun is daily new and old,
    So is my love still telling what is told.

    It’s very easy to do that. You just feed any simple printing software with the sonnet itself, and the deed is done!

    b) Of course there is something that no machine cand do: generate new original complex functional information: a new specification, new complexity linked to that specification.

    IOIWs, a machine cannot generate new original language beyond a very trivial level of complexity.

    Ask a machine to generate the above sonnet, or anything really equivalent, without feeding it to the machine, without simply remixing existing pieces of language or concepts.

    Ask a machine to generate a new complex software to do something that has never been inputted in the machine itself, neither directly nor indirectly.

    Any machine has huge limitations, because machine are not conscious: they understand nothing, they desire nothing. Understanding and purpose are subjective experiences, and machine do not have them.

    No original functional information beyond the limit of 500 bits can be generated without conscious intervention. It’s as simple as that.

    Of course, any machine can output a lot of complex functional information, if that information has been, in some way, programmed in it.

    Another thing machines can easily do is compute new information which can be derived by necessity laws that have been embedded in the machine itself. My example is generally a software which can compute the decimal figures of pi. After a certain number of computations, the output can potentially be more complex than the software itself, and it is specified.

    But the problem is: it’s only “apparently” so. Indeed, the Kolmogorov complexity of the output tops at the complexity of the machine itself: IOWs, it is the complexity of the tool that can compute it.

    But computation cannot generate any original language. It cannot generate any original software. Computation is necessity, or at most necessity plus randomness.

    Complex functional information is not the result of mechanical computation, or of randomness. It is not the product of both.

    It is the result of conscious processes guided by understanding, by desires that produce new functions and define them, and by represented meanings that can find a way to get what the agent desires.

    No machine can do that.

    The simple trick in von Neumann’statement is in that simple word: “precisely”.

    “If you will tell me precisely what it is that a machine cannot do, then I can always make a machine which will do just that.”

    IOWs, if you tell me what is the information you want to achieve, then it’s easy for me to put that information in the machine, and the deed is done!

    Well, I have told you what a machine cannot do, what no machine in the world will ever be able to do: writing the equivalent of the sonnet I gave above.

    Dawkins will be good at finding some software that can generate it painstakingly through random variation and intelligent selection: that’s useless work, there is an easier way to do that, just copy it!

    If you have the sonnet as an oracle, you can do whatever you want.

    If you haven’t it, you will never get it!

    However, as I said, you are entitled to your opinions, just like anyone else.

    But, if you go on asking, I will go on answering! 🙂

  61. 61
    ET says:

    LarTanner:

    You must see that I find the ID view fatally flawed.

    And yet compared to evolutionism it is the only testable scenario. So you must see that we find evolutionism as still-born.

    You guys have all of the power and still can only manage special pleading and misconceptions about ID. If you and yours could only step up and demonstrate that natural selection is as advertised then ID would be a non-starter. All the universities and all those labs and you still have nothing to support evolutionism’s grand claims.

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