Biological Information and Intelligent Design: Introduction


(system) #1
Biologists commonly describe biological information with an extended analogy to one of the ways humans use information: language. This approach has its advantages—and drawbacks.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/biological-information-and-intelligent-design-introduction

(GJDS) #2

The notion of random events and some type of selection is used widely, including (as mentioned here) on organic chemistry, as related to forming the building blocks of life. I think that if we extend this line of reasoning to include random reactions that may ultimately lead to proteins, or nucleic acids, or related molecules, we are left with staggering improbabilities. This is a pre-requisite to forming complex biological systems. I am not making a comment on ID or ND, but rather the inadequacy inherent in advocating random events within the current view (or paradigm) of an evolutionary process.


(Larry Bunce) #3

The blog post of 25 May touched on this topic.

The Miler-Urey experiment didn’t create life, but showed that the chemicals known to have existed on the primitive (pre-life) earth could have formed amino acids, the building blocks of life, when struck by lightning. Before that, it was believed that only life could form organic molecules The odds against life’s having begun by natural processes were reduced considerably.


(Doug B) #4

The smallest amino acid (protein) has 10 atoms. No one knows the details of the origins of cellular life; however, it need not have started with enormous complexity.


(Kendall Mallory) #5

Information is quite literally encoded within cells if you use the definition of
information given by Claude Shannon in his 1948 publication on
information theory. Physicist have shown information to be the inverse
of entropy. In this sense biologists are using the word correctly. The mistake
that ID makes is that the universe is not in a state of approximate thermal
equilibrium, (i.e. low information). The probabilities people are throwing around
for life assume the universe is near equilibrium and therefore life represents very
improbably random fluctuations of a near equilibrium background. This is a
complete mischaracterization of the state of the universe. The universe is in an
extremely nonequilibrium state. This can be seen by noting that stars like our
sun possesses a huge amount of information because they harbor
huge amounts of energy in a relatively small space. This energy, and
the information associated with it, is being lost as the sun radiates its energy.
When this energy drives life on Earth, the universe is actually going from a highly
improbably state to a much more probable state. And the process of
evolution is allowing the Earth to spread that information out much
more efficiently leading to states of higher probability. Rather than life being a
highly improbably event in a random background, it is actually taking a really
improbably background state and allowing the universe to move toward much
more probably state with much less information encoded in it.


(GJDS) #6

Any chemistry that is invoked under conditions such as lightning consists of radicals and excited intermediates - we can model the distribution of simper molecules such as H2O, CO2, NH3, subjected to high energy conditions, using computer codes, and obtain a reasonably accurate description of the distribution of such excited states - the chances of making significant amounts of amino acids (and these are racemic products) under these conditions are miniscule. Such mixtures would need to cool and constraints placed on the reaction conditions before even very small amounts of organic compounds are formed. Laboratory conditions may produce intractable mixtures, but again, I repeat, the chances of producing the type of molecules needed for life under any models proposed for a primordial earth (even if people think these are simple molecules) are miniscule, or approaching zero. This has been recognised for years, so much so that some have propose outlandish notions, such as meteorites landing on earth containing things such as optically pure compounds to start biological compounds to form. Most scientists that I know dismiss such outlandish claims.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #7

@DennisVenema

The problem is in the dualistic assumptions built into the concept of Nature.

Nature is believed to be devoid of rationality, because it cannot think. However Nature was designed by God Who is Rational and Who does think. God created life and made living beings who are also able to think, neither of which happened by accident.

Organic molecules are complex natural entities that God created so flora and fauna can exist and life can evolve into human beings. Information is information, whether it is contained in books, on the internet, in brains, or in DNA.

Evolutionary thought is breaking down the barriers between humans and other creatures, which are made by God. It should also break down the barrier between what is natural/physical, that is devoid of rational movement, and natural/organic life which is rational in many ways, including DNA.

In this care ID is more nearly correct! Congratulations.


#8

An amino acid is not a protein. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins.


(Doug B) #9

I’m keenly awaiting the next installment. A bit of a cliff hanger…


(Wm Dawit Wallace) #10

Years ago when I was looking into evolution I read Dembski and Meyer and although I could not easily refute their statistical and information theory arguments, I had enough university courses in those fields to be very uncomfortable. I recall finding critiques of their thinking on the net, one from Univ of Waterloo where I graduated from in engineering and applied math… When challenged on a particular issue from their books they almost always refuse to discuss the technical details. Thus I do not see ID as scientific or mathematical in any way.

Also on Dembski’s blog at a time when he was active I was told, by one of Dembski’s bulldogs, that since I accepted the fact of evolution I was ipso facto an atheist. Thus it is totally impossible for people like you or I to grok their thinking. ;( However, I do accept the argument from design in terms of the universe we inhabit. Things like the shape of the natural laws and their constants established by initial conditions etc.


(George Brooks) #11

Which is why, I think, that the BioLogos position - - in which God is involved in the creation of life - - is compelling.


(GJDS) #12

Science does not have a position on God’s involvement - those of us who profess the Faith in Christ accept as given the Word of God created all. I do not understand why anyone would try to get past this article of faith!

Once we understand our own position, we may seek greater insights on the Creation, and few things are as interesting as life and its creation, and few things are as difficult or as complex (perhaps with the exception of human nature). But this seeking must be motivated by a desire for what is true. Thus, both atheists, and theists, may conduct scientific research on these matters, and be concerned with the veracity of theory. The speculation currently on the origins of life and the bio-world is outlandish from a scientific perspective. This needs to be acknowledged by sober people, otherwise atheists become ideologues who appear ridiculous, and theists are close behind them.


(George Brooks) #13

I trust that you do not think this sentence contradicts any of my thoughts or positions…