Cornell Conference Intelligent Design News

The papers of the Cornell Conference on Biological Information (2011) are currently free on Kindle

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In the spring of 2011, a diverse group of scientists gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information. This symposium brought together experts in information theory, computer science, numerical simulation, thermodynamics, evolutionary theory, whole organism biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genetics, physics, biophysics, mathematics, and linguistics. This volume presents new research by those invited to speak at the conference.

The contributors to this volume use their wide-ranging expertise in the area of biological information to bring fresh insights into the many explanatory difficulties associated with biological information. These authors raise major challenges to the conventional scientific wisdom, which attempts to explain all biological information exclusively in terms of the standard mutation/selection paradigm.

Several clear themes emerged from these research papers: 1) Information is indispensable to our understanding of what life is; 2) Biological information is more than the material structures that embody it; 3) Conventional chemical and evolutionary mechanisms seem insufficient to fully explain the labyrinth of information that is life. By exploring new perspectives on biological information, this volume seeks to expand, encourage, and enrich research into the nature and origin of biological information.

19 Replies to “The papers of the Cornell Conference on Biological Information (2011) are currently free on Kindle

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Let’s not forget the story behind the book:

    Censorship Loses: Never Forget the Story of Biological Information: New Perspectives
    Casey Luskin August 20, 2013
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....75541.html

  2. 2
    bornagain77 says:

    Intelligent design: Why can’t biological information originate through a materialistic process? – Stephen Meyer – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqiXNxyoof8

  3. 3
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Every reference to this meeting heavily emphasizes the word “Cornell.” I have read elsewhere that Cornell did not sponsor this event, and that its only connection to the meeting was that the organizers rented space at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.

    Is that true? If so, isn’t it disingenuous to constantly stress “Cornell?” I don’t see any purpose behind it other than to create the apparently false impression that a serious research institution is affiliated with this conference.

  4. 4
    PWall says:

    Disingenuous? False impressions? Welcome to the world of ID.

  5. 5
    JGuy says:

    Pro Hac Vice @ 3

    Should they refer to as ‘Conference’?

  6. 6
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    “Conference on Biological Information” seems to be a unique name. Even if it weren’t, it could be specifically identified by year. I don’t see any purpose to pounding the “Cornell” drum other than to create the (false) impression that Cornell had anything to do with the content of this conference.

    This appears to be a consistent effort to mislead. The background article bornagain77 links makes the same attempt, more explicitly, by claiming that “we present research papers at a scientific conference at a top research university (Cornell)”. Anyone reading that sentence, without further information, would believe incorrectly that Cornell endorsed the conference, rather than renting space to it.

    In other words, calling this the “Cornell” conference is both unnecessary and misleading. Repeating the word “Cornell” in every reference serves no purpose other than to mislead. What other purpose might it have? Can you find any example of mainstream academic conferences named after the venue?

  7. 7
    JGuy says:

    Pro Hac Vice.

    In this blog or other ID forums, it seems fine to refer to it as the Cornell Conference for brevity, imo. I see no problem with that.

    “Conference on Biological Information” seems to be a unique name. Even if it weren’t, it could be specifically identified by year.

    However, that is nearly how the above title was identified by year & venue.
    Cornell Conference on Biological Information (2011)

    Can you find any example of mainstream academic conferences named after the venue?

    With a quick google search I found venue used in identifying several conferences:

    13th Annual Oxford International Conference on the Science of Botanicals April 15th – 17th, 2014

    10th Oxford Dysfluency Conference (ODC)

    3RD ANNUAL STANFORD CONFERENCE ON COMPUTATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE

    75th Annual Cornell Nutrition Conference for Feed Manufacturers October 22-24, 2013

    Caltech Conference on Very Large Scale Integration

    Seventh M.I.T. Conference on Computational Fluid and Solid Mechanics

  8. 8
    bornagain77 says:

    Pro Hac Vice, thanks for your single minded focus on distancing the great name of Cornell from any association with Intelligent Design with that the prestigious institute for higher learning. I appreciate your, and other Darwinists, continued efforts at clearing up any misunderstanding in that regards. Along that line, for the sake of clarity, I was hoping you could clear up a misunderstanding I have about Darwinists reaction to the conference that was held at Cornell. My misunderstanding is this. If Darwinism is such a well supported theory that only the ignorant, stupid, and insane disbelieve it, then why did Darwinists try, and fail, to have the proceedings censored from publication? I find it peculiar that such a supposedly well established theory of science would have to resort to such underhanded tactics. And if you hold that the proceedings were simply ‘not science’ and that is why Darwinists tried, unsuccessfully, to censor them, then can you please show me the exact empirical evidence that refutes the following paper from the proceedings?:

    Multiple Overlapping Genetic Codes Profoundly Reduce the Probability of Beneficial Mutation George Montañez 1, Robert J. Marks II 2, Jorge Fernandez 3 and John C. Sanford 4 – published online May 2013
    Excerpt: In the last decade, we have discovered still another aspect of the multi- dimensional genome. We now know that DNA sequences are typically “ poly-functional” [38]. Trifanov previously had described at least 12 genetic codes that any given nucleotide can contribute to [39,40], and showed that a given base-pair can contribute to multiple overlapping codes simultaneously. The first evidence of overlapping protein-coding sequences in viruses caused quite a stir, but since then it has become recognized as typical. According to Kapronov et al., “it is not unusual that a single base-pair can be part of an intricate network of multiple isoforms of overlapping sense and antisense transcripts, the majority of which are unannotated” [41]. The ENCODE project [42] has confirmed that this phenomenon is ubiquitous in higher genomes, wherein a given DNA sequence routinely encodes multiple overlapping messages, meaning that a single nucleotide can contribute to two or more genetic codes. Most recently, Itzkovitz et al. analyzed protein coding regions of 700 species, and showed that virtually all forms of life have extensive overlapping information in their genomes [43].
    Conclusions: Our analysis confirms mathematically what would seem intuitively obvious – multiple overlapping codes within the genome must radically change our expectations regarding the rate of beneficial mutations. As the number of overlapping codes increases, the rate of potential beneficial mutation decreases exponentially, quickly approaching zero. Therefore the new evidence for ubiquitous overlapping codes in higher genomes strongly indicates that beneficial mutations should be extremely rare. This evidence combined with increasing evidence that biological systems are highly optimized, and evidence that only relatively high-impact beneficial mutations can be effectively amplified by natural selection, lead us to conclude that mutations which are both selectable and unambiguously beneficial must be vanishingly rare. This conclusion raises serious questions. How might such vanishingly rare beneficial mutations ever be sufficient for genome building? How might genetic degeneration ever be averted, given the continuous accumulation of low impact deleterious mutations?
    http://www.worldscientific.com.....08728_0006

    Multiple Overlapping Genetic Codes Profoundly Reduce the Probability of Beneficial Mutation George Montañez 1, Robert J. Marks II 2, Jorge Fernandez 3 and John C. Sanford 4 – May 2013
    Excerpt: It is almost universally acknowledged that beneficial mutations are rare compared to deleterious mutations [1–10].,, It appears that beneficial mutations may be too rare to actually allow the accurate measurement of how rare they are [11].
    1. Kibota T, Lynch M (1996) Estimate of the genomic mutation rate deleterious to overall fitness in E. coli . Nature 381:694–696.
    2. Charlesworth B, Charlesworth D (1998) Some evolutionary consequences of deleterious mutations. Genetica 103: 3–19.
    3. Elena S, et al (1998) Distribution of fitness effects caused by random insertion mutations in Escherichia coli. Genetica 102/103: 349–358.
    4. Gerrish P, Lenski R N (1998) The fate of competing beneficial mutations in an asexual population. Genetica 102/103:127–144.
    5. Crow J (2000) The origins, patterns, and implications of human spontaneous mutation. Nature Reviews 1:40–47.
    6. Bataillon T (2000) Estimation of spontaneous genome-wide mutation rate parameters: whither beneficial mutations? Heredity 84:497–501.
    7. Imhof M, Schlotterer C (2001) Fitness effects of advantageous mutations in evolving Escherichia coli populations. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 98:1113–1117.
    8. Orr H (2003) The distribution of fitness effects among beneficial mutations. Genetics 163: 1519–1526.
    9. Keightley P, Lynch M (2003) Toward a realistic model of mutations affecting fitness. Evolution 57:683–685.
    10. Barrett R, et al (2006) The distribution of beneficial mutation effects under strong selection. Genetics 174:2071–2079.
    11. Bataillon T (2000) Estimation of spontaneous genome-wide mutation rate parameters: whither beneficial mutations? Heredity 84:497–501.
    http://www.worldscientific.com.....08728_0006

    ‘It’s becoming extremely problematic to explain how the genome could arise and how these multiple levels of overlapping information could arise, since our best computer programmers can’t even conceive of overlapping codes. The genome dwarfs all of the computer information technology that man has developed. So I think that it is very problematic to imagine how you can achieve that through random changes in the code.,,, and there is no Junk DNA in these codes. More and more the genome looks likes a super-super set of programs.,, More and more it looks like top down design and not just bottom up chance discovery of making complex systems.’ –
    Dr. John Sanford – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?f.....dM_s#t=31s

    I simply can find no weakness in their argument from the empirical evidence:

    Epistasis between Beneficial Mutations – July 2011
    Excerpt: We found that epistatic interactions between beneficial mutations were all antagonistic—the effects of the double mutations were less than the sums of the effects of their component single mutations. We found a number of cases of decompensatory interactions, an extreme form of antagonistic epistasis in which the second mutation is actually deleterious in the presence of the first. In the vast majority of cases, recombination uniting two beneficial mutations into the same genome would not be favored by selection, as the recombinant could not outcompete its constituent single mutations.
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ach-other/

    Mutations : when benefits level off – June 2011 – (Lenski’s e-coli after 50,000 generations)
    Excerpt: After having identified the first five beneficial mutations combined successively and spontaneously in the bacterial population, the scientists generated, from the ancestral bacterial strain, 32 mutant strains exhibiting all of the possible combinations of each of these five mutations. They then noted that the benefit linked to the simultaneous presence of five mutations was less than the sum of the individual benefits conferred by each mutation individually.
    http://www2.cnrs.fr/en/1867.htm?theme1=7

    A Serious Problem for Darwinists: Epistasis Decreases Chances of Beneficial Mutations – November 8, 2012
    Excerpt: A recent paper in Nature finds that epistasis (interactions between genetic changes) is much more pervasive than previously assumed. This strongly limits the ability of beneficial mutations to confer fitness on organisms. ,,,
    It takes an outsider to read this paper and see how disturbing it should be to the consensus neo-Darwinian theory. All that Darwin skeptics can do is continue to point to papers like this as severe challenges to the consensus view. Perhaps a few will listen and take it seriously.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....66061.html

    Thus Pro Hac Vice, I hope you can see my misunderstanding in all this. I find a paper from a conference, which Darwinists had tried to censor the publication of, that has a very clear critique as to what is claimed for Darwinian processes. Yet instead of forthrightly refuting to critique with empirical evidence, we find Darwinists tried to cover it up. Am I missing something Pro Hac Vice? Any help will be appreciated.

  9. 9
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    In this blog or other ID forums, it seems fine to refer to it as the Cornell Conference for brevity, imo. I see no problem with that.

    Do you think it’s fine because it’s not misleading, or because it’s fine to mislead? Take, for example, the link in BA77’s comment, where the author specifically tries to trade on Cornell’s reputation as an institution. Is that also fine?

    With a quick google search I found venue used in identifying several conferences:

    Thanks for the references. I don’t think these are good counterexamples, though. The MIT, Stanford, CalTech and Cornell conferences seem to actually be affiliated with the named universities. (In fact, they don’t seem to be held AT the universities, but at nearby hotels. The names refer to institutional affiliations, not venues, as far as I can tell.)

    The Oxford Botanicals conference isn’t using Oxford University’s name–it’s using the name of the town where the meeting is held. No one would read their conference proceedings and think it was referring to Oxford University!

    The Oxford Dysfluency Conference might be a good coutnerexample. I can’t tell whether it’s actually affiliated with Oxford University or simply leasing space. Apparently it’s been held at St. Catherine’s College for 30 years; by this point I assume Oxford University doesn’t mind having its name attached to the conference proceedings. Do you think the same thing is true of these proceedings?

    My point stands; the only reason to throw the name “Cornell” around is to make people think that the conference is affiliated with a prestigious university. See, again, BA77’s link.

  10. 10
    PWall says:

    13th Annual Oxford International Conference on the Science of Botanicals April

    Oxford, Mississippi

    Nice.

  11. 11
    JGuy says:

    Pro Hac Vice.

    The point is that location are used in identifying conferences.

    If it was desired, as you implied would be, to have a more unique/identifiable conference title, a more specific location would be a reasonable choice.

    Town name is a large location – a venue is just a more specific location. And if the venue is unique, as Cornell is, then it seems reasonable enough to use for it’s specificity. It could have read the Ithaca Conference… but Cornell is just more specific. Sobeit.

    I think there have been, if not mistaken, conferences identified even by names of hotels they were held at… but I’m not sure.

  12. 12
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    JGuy,

    I don’t think that is the point. Haven’t we established that the much, much more common use of university names is to identify academic affiliation? What seems to be driving our disagreement is that I think that is what IDists–specifically News and Casey Luskin, in this case–are trying to do by calling this the “Cornell” conference.

    If you don’t think they’re trying to mislead people, then sure, you don’t see anything inappropriate about using the name. But that seems like one hell of an assumption, given Luskin’s explicit attempt to tie the conference to “a top research university (Cornell)”. He’s not talking about the School of Hotel Management. He wants people to draw an inaccurate conclusion.

    That’s evidence that convinces me that the name is being used to intentionally mislead people. I also think there’s evidence that this isn’t just an innocent use of a common name to label the conference. The proceedings are published as “Biological Information:New Perspectives – Proceedings of the Symposium.” Why don’t they use the Cornell name, if it’s just a common way of identifying conferences? I think it’s because it’s not a very common practice, and that they don’t want to provoke Cornell and its lawyers. They know that would be seen as implying an endorsement of the legitimacy of the conference, which is an improper use of the name.

    At the end of the day, though, it sounds like this is the cleavage point: if you believe the Cornell name is being used to mislead, this seems like sneaky and improper thing to do. If you don’t, you give it a pass. Fair enough.

  13. 13
    selvaRajan says:

    Pro Hac Vice @12,
    There is no denying the fact that the publication contract was cancelled due to lobbying by Darwin group. That is not the way to oppose contrary views. All that is needed is publish papers countering the contrary views.

  14. 14
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    selvaRajan,

    I don’t follow. Is that a non sequitur?

  15. 15
    bornagain77 says:

    elephant in the living room! what elephant?

  16. 16
    PaV says:

    Pro Hac Vice:

    Here’s the opening sentence from Luskin’s post from August of this year:

    In the spring of 2011, the “Biological Information: New Perspectives” symposium was held at Cornell University. (It wasn’t sponsored by Cornell, though it did take place on the campus.) – See more at: http://www.evolutionnews.org/ . . . .

    Is that good enough for you?

    However, maybe you have a point: maybe it should have been called the “MIT Conference.”

    Let me give you my reaction when I first read, “Cornell Conference.” I thought, “Are you kidding me? Is Cornell now backing up ID?” And the very next thing I did was to read a little further, confirming my hunch that Cornell did not, indeed, ‘sponsor’ the Conference as an institution.

    It wasn’t hard to do. Really.

    If you don’t like “MIT Conference,” then what about the “Somewhere in Manhattan Conference”? Is that better?

    If you don’t get my sarcastic point yet, it’s this: you’re being whiny.

    Why aren’t you, instead, upset that the scientific community saw fit to pressure a publisher not to print something that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy? Are you really happy to live in an academic world that requires a “Nihil Obstat” before something can be published?

    The scientific community bans thought and destroys academic lives. Is this good for science? Wake up, please.

  17. 17
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    PaV,

    Yes, that actually is a good disclaimer. It’s not present in the article BA77 linked, which is inappropriate. Even worse, Luskin specifically tried to use the Cornell name to imply that the conference proceedings were prestigious. It’s not only the failure to make a decent disclosure, it’s the intentional misuse of the Cornell name to mislead readers. Both of those things are wrong.

    Of course, as we’re discussing elsewhere, I’m a moral relativist. Maybe Luskin thinks it’s fine to mislead people as long as it benefits his employer. I disagree.

    Luskin’s intentional effort to attach the conference proceedings to the ID name shows that he really does expect people to misunderstand. Do you not agree? I’m honestly curious–I don’t expect you to jump on a desk and denounce him, but do you really think he’s being straightforward and honest there?

  18. 18
    Pro Hac Vice says:

    Why aren’t you, instead, upset that the scientific community saw fit to pressure a publisher not to print something that challenges the prevailing orthodoxy? Are you really happy to live in an academic world that requires a “Nihil Obstat” before something can be published?

    Because I don’t think that’s what happened. I think what happened is that a conference that generated unserious work* lined up a serious academic publisher, and wanted to use it to give the proceedings an appearance of legitimacy. I think people who disagreed with that tactic, which is just the misuse of the Cornell name writ large, tried to keep the organizers from taking unearned credibility.

    I would indeed be upset if anyone kept the organizers from publishing. But that didn’t happen, was never going to happen, and couldn’t happen. All that happened was they kept a specific name off the imprint. The proceedings were always going to be published, if not by Springer then by some other publisher or the internet.

    * This is obviously a controversial opinion around these parts. I should probably explain why I think the work was unserious. I’m not qualified to judge it myself. But as far as I can tell, no one who is qualified takes this work seriously, other than people who share the authors’ religious biases.

    The stock answer is that ID would be taken seriously if not for the shadowy cabal of Darwinists suppressing information. But these materials touched on mathematics, information science, computer science, physics–and who in those worlds is taking this stuff seriously? Sewell’s work on entropy is well regarded by whom, exactly? If the proceedings aren’t making any waves, it might be because the publisher wasn’t the right publisher. It might be because the work isn’t very good. I think it’s the latter. I understand that you disagree with me on that point, and don’t expect that I’ve persuaded you. But your question deserved an answer.

  19. 19
    selvaRajan says:

    Isn’t it sad that people would be more willing to accept a research paper not for it’s content but because it originates from some specific institution? Imagine if Einstein’s numerous papers were not accepted and debated just because he was employee of a patent office.

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