Notable Book Reviews (by Jason Rosenhouse) shows that attempts are being made to discredit Hubert Yockey’s work, particularly his last book on the origin of life published in 2004:
reviewer Chris Adami:
many derivations in this book (all of them already present in the 1992 version) are deeply flawed either mathematically, or by the use of inappropriate biological assumptions, or both.
What is most surprising is that such a volume could pass an impartial peer review process. Cambridge University Press would do well to examine the circumstances of this and the previous book’s approval and editing process.
Adami is recommeding an investigation into Yockey’s 1992 book, Information Theory and Molecular Biology? Come on guys, why wait this long?
Now it turns out Yockey’s peer-reviewed work has been cited by many creationists and some IDists. Is that the real reason? Is there a move now, 14 years after the fact, to discredit him and his literature?
Well, if I may offer a speculation, in addition to giving inadvertent aid and comfort to the enemy (IDists and creationists) with his writings, Yockey’s last book managed to ruffle a lot of feathers, particularly in the origin of life community. And the fact his ideas have been peer-reviewed in mainstream theoretical biology journals, and then cited by creationists and IDists after acceptance makes him a good target I suppose.
First of all, I have Yockey’s book, and being a student of the information sciences I can say his ideas and literature are far superior to any of Adami’s literature that I’ve seen. (Adami by the way is an author of the make-believe world of Avida which we IDists routinely take sport in bashing because it’s so filled with bugs, misconceptions, and circular reasoning. Adami should be one to talk about the use of inappropriate biological assumptions. )
How about a cursory look of claims by Adami:
The sequence data for much of the presentation in Chapter 6Ã¢â‚¬â€unchanged since its 1992 inceptionÃ¢â‚¬â€is ostensibly from the Protein Information Resource 2003, but checking with the 1992 book reveals that the source is a 1986 paper.
Oh really, what does Yockey really say in his 2004 book:
for example page 80:
Found by Data from Protein Information Resource (2003)…
phage T4 Lyxozyme 157 from Alber et al. (1987). Nature 330…..
phage k from Reidharr-Olson & Sauer (1988). Science 241…
phage lambda sites 84-91 from Reidharr-Olson & Sauer (1988)…
Uh, Adami, did you fail to read the the data source notes?
And what did Yockey actually say about the Protein Information Rescource (2003)
The Protein Information Resource (2003) has provided an alignment of iso-1-cytochrome c sites from a number of organisms, together with replacements from other studies, that were found to be either functionally equivalent at that site or not functionally equivalent http://pir.georgetown.edu
That’s right, he even provides in his book the website the reader can visit to check the data for himself. I went to the pir.georgetown.edu site and fumbled through some of the cytochrome sequences. The site was impressive.
One thing to consider, even if the principal source is a 1986 paper, some data points will appear exactly as in the 2003 database as they did in the 1986 papers. Uh, gee, the kind of amino acid in sequence position 4 of human cytochrome-c in 1986 would probably be the same kind of amino acid in sequence position 4 in human cytochrome-c in 2003. As Adami points out: “The sequence data for much of the presentation in Chapter 6Ã¢â‚¬â€unchanged since its 1992 inception.” Well Duh!
Yockey was listing the number of variants in each position. But here is something to consider in comparing 1986 to 2003 data: would we expect that there would be any radical changes, especially if a lot of these positions are “conserved”? No. For example we may have more data for cytochrome-c in primates, but would we expect the number of variants in position 4 to change simply because we’ve added more primate sequences to the database? No.
Furthermore, could Adami point to one deeply flawed calculation or concept? He could have been more specific and said, “Oh Yockey incorrectly applies the Shannon-McMillan-Breiman Theorem in his analysis of sequence space…..” or “Yockey is inccorect that evolution requires an increase in Kolmogorov-Chaitin algorithmic entropy”. But, no, just vague generalizations.
Ok, what was it that possibly got Yockey in hot water? Yockey summarizes the conclusion of his book, which if true, would show why OOL money (like Harvard’s multi million dollar initiative) will be good only for keeping scientists employed, not for solving any scientific questions:
from his website www.hubertpyockey.com:
The origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem…..
To give flavor of the jabs he takes at OOL researchers in his book, here is his criticism of Stanley Miller who once said, “We believe that there must have been a period when the Earth’s atmosphere was reducing”
The reverent words “we believe” are clearly based on faith and a qausi-religiosity will to believe. They are appropriate to apologetics but not in scientific literature.
And Yockey has harsh words for NASA:
These facts do not discourage faith in the official NASA policy for the origin of life (Morrison, 2001). That policy is based on the Marxist dialectical materialism of Engels and Oparin. NASA policy follows Engels “proteins first” from dialectical materialism….
Most origin of life projects supported by NASA and other funding agencies are “proteins first” and are due to to go the way of perpetual motion machines
And then takes shots at self-organizational theorists:
the thrust of many origin of life scenarios has been to attempt to show how to generate “order” out of “chaos” (Morowitz et al., 2000). Those who pursue this approach are caught up by the Tar Baby, like Br’er Rabbit, and get into more and more trouble…
I must admit, I rather enjoyed the irreverent tone he conveyed toward the origin of life industry. He shows why the life work of many and the tens of millions of dollars spent will ultimately be for naught.
I concede, all this is a speculation, but I’m sensing Yockey’s very fine work will be subject to some harsh criticism and rejection by the scientific community. I presume, Dr. Yockey is effectively retired, and this was his parting shot. Good for him….
Yockey’s also lashed out at IDists as pointed out by Bill here A Pox on all your houses except mine. (Yockey loves Darwin).
Amusingly, I learned something from reading Yockey, “Irreducible Complexity” was apparently a term coined by Alan Turing to describe a computation that runs indefinitely.
Yockey equivocates Turing’s definition with Behe’s definition of “Irreducible Complexity” and forms a consequently fallacious based on the equivocation. Yockey was wrong about ID, but was correct about the eventual failure of OOL….
(thank you to Jason Rosenhouse for breaking the news of the review)