Biological Information and Intelligent Design: Evolving new information

(system) #1
Generating new information is not a problem for evolution.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Dennis Venema) #2

As always, I’m available to answer your questions. Thanks for reading.

(George Brooks) #3


Nice quote here!:

"While Anglo-Saxon of the 10th century and present-day modern English cannot reasonably be called the “same language”, the process that produced the latter from the former was gradual enough that each generation spoke the “same language” as their parents and their children. "

I wish I had thought of this one !!!

The applicable comparison to a long chain of small changes within a gene pool is immediately understood … When do all those changes mean we have a new kind? Hard to say, right?

Many thoughtful people end up with the idea that when the changes accumulate so much that producing fertile offspring is no longer possible. But then we have the very bizarre situations of Lions and Tigers inter-breeding and the like.

Speciation, like new Languages, are problematic when you freeze the video in one spot. But if you follow along in the historical flow - - we can see that what makes a Whale different from his ancestors is very analogous to what makes Modern English different from Anglo-Saxony centuries before on the mainland!

(Christy Hemphill) #4

You didn’t know linguistics had phylogenic trees too? This is for you @gbrooks9, because I know your inquiring mind always wants to know. It explains where the analogy between diversification of species and diversification of languages holds and where it breaks down.

(Chris Falter) #5

Hi Dennis -

Thanks for the clearly explained, helpful summary!

(Dennis Venema) #6

You’re most welcome!

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7

Although, we know little about this subject, the facts we do know point to the genetic code—the mechanical basis for encoding and transmitting biological information—as having an origin shaped by chemical interactions. Accordingly, we have seen how these findings undermine the Intelligent Design (ID) argument that the genetic code was designed apart from a natural process. - See more at:

What I said before and you failed to respond, was that to say that the genetic is just chemistry seems to say that it is the chemistry of each code that transmits the message which is not the case.

The genetic is a true code or language which means that it transmits messages through its own alphabet and structure. A serious question here is that Nature is generally believed by science to be mechanistic and not rational. The primary disagreement between ID and Darwinism is that for Darwinism Nature is mechanistic and for ID it is organic.

Mechanisms are still rationalistic, but if we make the clear difference between the natural and the supernatural. The rational is on the side of the supernatural and non-rational is on the side of the natural.

God through Nature has programed DNA to give structure to life. How God did that is not clear, but that is how it works.

(George Brooks) #8


Pardon me, Roger, but I don’t “get” the flow of logic you are asserting.

Why would relying on “chemical interactions” undermine Intelligent Design arguments?

By “Intelligent Design”, I don’t want to be misconstrued… I think BioLogos can teach a form of Intelligent design … the issue is whether God’s design is OBVIOUS and OBSERVABLE… or whether God’s design is virtually impossible to distinguish.

And whether we surmise chemical interactions or not… how would that have anything to do with whether God shaped the evolution of life on the earth or not?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #9


First of all what you quote are not my words, but the words of Dennis. I am sorry this is not clear.

The ID argument from before is that the DNA code is not “natural,” so it is evidence of a God’s fingerprints on evolution. He said that because the DNA code was shaped by chemical interactions, which are natural, the code must be purely natural.

I would certainly agree that the DNA molecule was shaped by chemical interactions, but the molecule is the carrier of the DNA code. The molecule is not the DNA code. Chemically I am the same as all other humans and I expect all other mammals, but clearly our DNA is different. All DNA is the same chemically.

God, or Nature, if you prefer has found a way to make people physically or essentially the same, yet each one unique and different. We are all created equal, but each one is special and unique.

It is not natural vs supernatural, but how God works through the natural to create a universe for humanity and all of God’s creatures. The physical, rational, and spiritual all come from God and all included in how God made the universe.

This is how God permeates the universe, but God is not the universe. Pantheism is close, but it is wrong. Dualism makes some good points, but is also wrong.


Hey Dennis

Thanks for the post. In this series are you going to touch on de-novo gene creation?

I’m sure you know what this is, but for others this is the process whereby sequences that once did nothing (Junk) are activated by a mutation which allows then to suddenly be transcribed. While most of these transcripts are neutral and have no effect, occasionally a transcript gets translated to form a protein with a very weak positive effect on the fitness of the individual.

Selection can then act upon that weak effect to improve the fitness of those individuals over time and in this way, new sequences can arise from the ashes of what was once junk DNA.

Further reading:

The continuing evolution of genes (Carl Zimmer)

New genes arise quickly (Jerry Coyne)

Many of our genes have no obvious relatives or evolutionary history. So where did they come from, wonders Helen Pilcher?

(Casper Hesp) #11

Thanks for the resources.

Just a note though. I think linking to a fundamentalist atheist like Jerry Coyne is not going to be of much help to the (primarily) Christian audience of BioLogos. I know atheists can be very good scientists, but people without background knowledge often have to rely on personal trust when reading about these topics. It’s difficult for Christians to muster such trust for someone who is deeply committed to promoting the view that all world religions are nothing more than a bunch of fairy tales.


People should learn to discern between information and the sources of that information. Refusing to read something because you don’t like the author is closed-minded and dismissing information on the basis of it’s source would be to apply the genetic fallacy.

Either way, my question was directed to Dennis and I doubt he has the inability to consider information from Jerry Coyne’s blog and to look through its sources.

Either way, my other two links essentially make the same argument.

(Casper Hesp) #13

I personally take no issue with reading writings from authors like Jerry Coyne. I’m more concerned with the efficiency of science communication. Most lay Christians have zero means of checking the reliability of such pieces of information. In that case, the personal credibility of the author can and should matter to them. This is not a fallacy if there is no other way for someone to assess the value of the information.

You need a certain level of expertise with a topic to be able to reliably distinguish information from its source. It’s unrealistic to expect all people to be able to do that. But of course, as you said, that won’t be any problem for Dennis.

(Dennis Venema) #14

Yep - de novo genes, de novo protein folds, and how Axe and Meyer deny both - coming soon to a series near you. :slight_smile:


Neat! I look forward to it :slight_smile:

(Bill Cole) #16
In this series so far, we have explored what is known about the ultimate origins of biological information. Although, we know little about this subject, the facts we do know point to the genetic code—the mechanical basis for encoding and transmitting biological information—as having an origin shaped by chemical interactions. Accordingly, we have seen how these findings undermine the Intelligent Design (ID) argument that the genetic code was designed apart from a natural process. - See more at:

Hi Dennis
Do you have a link that expands on this argument. It seems logical that random change to a large sequence space would degrade information (functional sequences) over time.

(Benjamin Kirk) #17

Natural selection isn’t random.

(George Brooks) #18


You know, this is a big semantic can of worms, right?

When someone throws dice, they use it as a random number generator… even though all the turns and bounces that the dice produce are according to natural laws.

So people use the word random when technically they shouldn’t … and what they really mean is that something (like evolution or thrown dice) is unguided!

Of course, with BioLogos and the role given to God for guiding evolution, we can’t say Natural Selection, guided by God, is random or unguided.

@Billcole , do you follow this analysis? If God runs Evolution, it is neither ultimately random or un-guided.

(Bill Cole) #19

I agree that the Neo-Darwin mechanism or random mutation and natural selection is limited in its ability to explain the origin of novel genetic information like what is required to build the respiratory system. Although as Ben said selection it is non random, it first must find advantage through a random process prior to selection. This process will almost certainly degrade genetic information.
Selection does not find new features, it selects for features already generated.

How those new features are generated is the great mystery.

(Dennis Venema) #20

Hi Bill - that sentence was a summary of this entire series to date - if you haven’t read the earlier posts, that would be what I would direct you to. Best, Dennis