News

New Paper in Bio-Complexity: “Time and Information in Evolution”

Spread the love

Readers may recall a paper published in 2010 by Wilf and Ewens. A rebuttal to that paper (authors Winston Ewert, William A. Dembski, Ann K. Gauger, Robert J. Marks II) has now been published in Bio-Complexity. From the abstract,

Wilf and Ewens argue in a recent paper that there is plenty of time for evolution to occur. They base this claim on a mathematical model in which beneficial mutations accumulate simultaneously and independently, thus allowing changes that require a large number of mutations to evolve over comparatively short time periods. Because changes evolve independently and in parallel rather than sequentially, their model scales logarithmically rather than exponentially. This approach does not accurately reflect biological evolution, however, for two main reasons. First, within their model are implicit information sources, including the equivalent of a highly informed oracle that prophecies when a mutation is “correct,” thus accelerating the search by the evolu- tionary process. Natural selection, in contrast, does not have access to information about future benefits of a particular muta- tion, or where in the global fitness landscape a particular mutation is relative to a particular target. It can only assess mutations based on their current effect on fitness in the local fitness landscape. Thus the presence of this oracle makes their model radically different from a real biological search through fitness space. Wilf and Ewens also make unrealistic biological assumptions that, in effect, simplify the search. They assume no epistasis between beneficial mutations, no linkage between loci, and an unreal- istic population size and base mutation rate, thus increasing the pool of beneficial mutations to be searched. They neglect the effects of genetic drift on the probability of fixation and the negative effects of simultaneously accumulating deleterious muta- tions. Finally, in their model they represent each genetic locus as a single letter. By doing so, they ignore the enormous sequence complexity of actual genetic loci (typically hundreds or thousands of nucleotides long), and vastly oversimplify the search for functional variants. In similar fashion, they assume that each evolutionary “advance” requires a change to just one locus, despite the clear evidence that most biological functions are the product of multiple gene products working together. Ignoring these biological realities infuses considerable active information into their model and eases the model’s evolutionary process.

4 Replies to “New Paper in Bio-Complexity: “Time and Information in Evolution”

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    Thus the presence of this oracle makes their model radically different from a real biological search through fitness space.

    It’s just a model, they cried.

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    To liken the actual complexity of a genetic locus to one letter in an alphabet is to fail to grasp how profoundly different the two things are.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Although the critique of Wilf and Ewens paper is devastatingly concise and effective, I really would have liked to see them work Godel’s incompleteness theorem, as well as George Chaitin’s work on evolutionary algorithms, into the critique:

    Alan Turing & Kurt Godel – Incompleteness Theorem and Human Intuition – video (notes in video description)
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/8516356/

    Here is what Gregory Chaitin, a world-famous mathematician and computer scientist, said about the limits of the computer program he was trying to develop to prove evolution was mathematically feasible:

    At last, a Darwinist mathematician tells the truth about evolution – VJT – November 2011
    Excerpt: In Chaitin’s own words, “You’re allowed to ask God or someone to give you the answer to some question where you can’t compute the answer, and the oracle will immediately give you the answer, and you go on ahead.”
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/

    Here is the video where, at the 30:00 minute mark, you can hear the preceding quote from Chaitin’s own mouth in full context:

    Life as Evolving Software, Greg Chaitin at PPGC UFRGS
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlYS_GiAnK8

    Moreover, at the 40:00 minute mark of the video Chaitin readily admits that Intelligent Design is the best possible way to get evolution to take place, and at the 43:30 minute mark Chaitin even tells of a friend pointing out that the idea Evolutionary computer model that Chaitin has devised does not have enough time to work. And Chaitin even agreed that his friend had a point, although Chaitin still ends up just ‘wanting’, and not ever proving, his idea Darwinian mathematical model to be true!

    Related quote from Chaitin:

    The Limits Of Reason – Gregory Chaitin – 2006
    Excerpt: an infinite number of true mathematical theorems exist that cannot be proved from any finite system of axioms.,,,
    http://www.umcs.maine.edu/~chaitin/sciamer3.pdf

  4. 4
    DiEb says:

    Just reading the paper: the analogy to the ”Wheel of Fortune” made by Ewert, Dembski, Gaugert and Marks seems to be a misrepresentation of Wilf’s and Ewens’s approach. I don’t say that the authors didn’t understand the approach, the just don’t know the rules of ”Wheel of Fortune”: given a world length of 20,000 and an alphabet of size 40, the ”Wheel of Fortune” game would result in slightly less than 40 guesses on average per game…

Leave a Reply