To facilitate discussion, we are publishing the abstracts and conclusions/summaries of the 24 papers from the Cornell Conference on the Origin of Biological Information here at Uncommon Descent, with cumulative links to previous papers at the bottom of each page. You can get from anywhere to anywhere in the system.
Note: A blow-by-blow account of the difficulties that the authors experienced from Darwin lobby attempts to censor the book by denying it publication with Springer are detailed here. Fortunately, the uproar resulted in an opportunity for readers like yourself to read the book online. That said, the hard cover version is now shipping.
An excerpt from “Biological Information and Genetic Theory: Introductory Comments” by John C. Sanford:
Given all the theoretical evidence that the mutation/selection should yield to a net loss in functional information, it’s very reasonable to ask if there are living systems that actually show this might be happening. This is generally difficult to demonstrate experimentally, because most biological systems change very slowly, especially on the level of the whole genome. Brewer, Smith, and Sanford have chosen to study RNA viruses, which have short replication cycles and extremely high mutation rates, and so they can change rapidly in short intervals of time. They examine such viruses to better understand loss of information in real biological systems. They examine pandemic histories which suggest that some human pandemics involving RNA virus may come to an end because of mutation accumulation leading to natural genetic attenuation of the virus. They then do a series of numerical simulations that confirm that based upon known RNA viral mutations rates and based upon the biology of pandemics, a significant fitness decline in the virus should be expected during the course of a typical pandemic. These authors then go on to use numerical simulations to examine what factors might accelerate such natural genetic attenuation. They show that use of pharmaceuticals that are known to enhance the viral mutation rate should be highly effective in reducing both the extent and the duration of pandemics. Other practices which should accelerate genetic attenuation would include reducing inoculum levels during disease transmission (stronger bottlenecking), and reducing titer levels in the infected host (lower selection efficiency).
These papers, along with many other lines of evidence (i.e., see Behe’s paper in the following section “Biological Information and Molecular Biology”), clearly show that the explanatory power of the classic Darwinian mechanism is suddenly collapsing. This is happening at exactly the same time that we are being overwhelmed with evidence that the actual amount of biological information that requires explanation is vastly deeper and richer than we could have imagined. Surely this is an exciting time to be a biologist!
See also: Origin of Biological Information conference: Its goals
Open Mike: Origin of Biological Information conference: Origin of life studies flatlined
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference— Can you answer these conundrums about information?
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Is a new definition of information needed for biology? (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—New definition of information proposed: Universal Information (Chapter 2)
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three, Dembski, Ewert, and Marks on the true cost of a successful search
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Three on the true cost of a successful search—Conservation of information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four: Pragmatic Information
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference—Chapter Four, Pragmatic information: Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Five – Basener on limits of chaos – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter Six – Ewert et all on the Tierra evolution program – Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 7—Probability of Beneficial Mutation— Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 8—Entropy, Evolution and Open Systems—Conclusion
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 9—Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems—Abstract
Open Mike: Cornell OBI Conference Chapter 9—Information and Thermodynamics in Living Systems—Conclusion