Common Design and Information

Have you studied Shannon information theory, @saludovencedores? You don’t seem to be using the term information in a manner consistent with Shannon.


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Per Shannon, information is created when a transmission reduces uncertainty. More reduction of uncertainty == more information.

When a gene is about to be transcribed, the transcriptor “believes” that each DNA letter could be one of four different possibilities. As transcription occurs, the uncertainty about the sequence is reduced. That reduction is information, per Shannon.


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Have you ever looked at the contents of an encrypted zip file in a text editor? Complete gobbledygook!

Well I have actually written software to compress an image file, but that was when Bill Gates was still playing with tinker toys.

And since a zip file can’t be compressed any further I think it contains a maximum amount of information even if it is gobbledygook.

The driver of evolution is generally held to be genetic variation, through base pair substitution, relocation of DNA sections whereby expression will be amplified or dampened, incorporation of genetic material from viruses or bacteria, duplication of strands, or other mechanisms. Mutation is not exceptional, there is a predictable degree of occurence inherent to DNA duplication. Most random mutations are deleterious to the organism, others have no effect, and a few confer some phenotype benefit which favour the odds for survival and reproductive success. These add up over time, so that, for example, mudfish eventually adapt to more terrestrial conditions, eventually becoming recognizable as salamanders. So now you have ecological niches filled with fish and salamanders, and obviously their DNA codes for the differences between these animals.

Now YEC comes along as says, “Hold on. Amphibians have lungs and legs, and these are new features. You can’t have new features, because, you know….INFORMATION” You can lose information, but to gain new information requires an intelligent designer.”

OK then. So my question becomes this. What, exactly, does this take on information actually forbid in the real world molecular basis for evolution? Does information forbid base pair substitution? DNA strand duplication? Does information forbid that any DNA variation ever be beneficial? Does information forbid that environments will favour the success of various traits? What is it in the DNA story that information supposedly such a problem for? If that cannot be identified and specified in terms of biology, then it would seem that information theory as an objection to evolution is a red herring, misconstrued, or misapplied.

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Please address the fact that a process of mutation and selection generates the new information needed to form antibodies against specific pathogens.


I’m not familiar with the microbiology of antibodies, so… My point, however, has nothing to do with agents.

And yet you are quite confident that they don’t represent the generation of new information. See the problem?


I don’t know what you mean by ‘agents’, but the processes involved in generating antibodies are the same processes that drive adaptive evolution. The nice thing about antibodies is we can watch large amounts of new information being generated in real time.


When I teach immunology many students have an “aha” moment when they see the parallels between evolution and antibody formation. Then we have even more fun by looking at the (very good) evidence for the transposon origin hypothesis for the enzymes involved.

I’ve always wondered what Doug Axe thinks about antibody formation.

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I don’t think I said that. What I said was information does not create itself (not that no agency can create information). I am quite confident that no one can provide a proof that this statement is incorrect.

Frankly, I would love to find someone who has debated this point on fundamental grounds – say in the Philosophy of Information community, or elsewhere. So far, no luck. Best regards.

Information has a variety of definitions depending on whether you are talking about black holes, economics, signal analysis, computing, and many other contexts. Agency is also subject to various definitions; do you mean a conscious, purposeful agency or including undirected natural processes? So far, I do not see where DNA variation fails as an explanation “of where the information embedded in the design(s) originated”, as you suggest.

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Since, as far as I can tell, there is no information—as you define it—in the whole field of biology, you may be right.

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I see in this whole conversation that this seems to be your precious stronghold in favour of evolution. One needs to ask how the immune system itself came about from an evolutionary point of view or even if one skips that issue then one needs to answer the question of by what actual mechanism does the immune system indulge in its evolutionary dance? I’m not a biologist so I’m happy to throw rocks at people who claim that we evolved - simply because I know they cannot say how it happened.
Perhaps you should look at this video here to see what I’m getting at:

Good luck with trying to get to a coherent and scientifically acceptable statement of process.

Dear Prode, thank you for taking the time to reply. But i must be honest, I find the rhetoric you are deploying troubling on many levels.

As I’m not a biologist either, not in any formal or qualified degree. However, coming out of a YEC background and beginning to explore the scientific evidence put forward for evolution, I was stunned by two things:

  1. The scope of the evidence, that is the number of fields it drew from (biology, chemistry, anatomy, embryology, etc.)
  2. The humility of those who presented the imformation.

I grant you that item 2 is not reflected in many popular level writers on the subject (Dawkins, etc), but I have seen great humility in the writings of people like George McGavin and Earnest Mayr. Both have been very honest about gaps in our knowledge regarding the evolutionary process or evidence or the fossil record. This is good science and good academic writing. As Christians, I think we should applaud such shows of humility not see it as ‘weaknesses’ to attack.

In closing, may I ask you an honest opinion, do you see the same humility and openness about that which is not yet known from people like Ken Ham and the folks over at Answer in Genesis?


You personal lack of knowledge says nothing about the actual state of knowledge. A simple Google Scholar search for “evolution immune system” yields 45,200 results including such papers as " Ancient duplications and functional divergence in the interferon regulatory factors of vertebrates provide insights into the evolution of vertebrate immune systems" which addresses the how question. Now is the state of knowledge perfect, no, but it seems to be fairly robust to this non-biologist.


James Tour seems to be becoming a favoured go-to for antievolution types.

Dr. Tour is a noted and leading organic chemist, to be sure - but he’s not well informed about evolution, alas. His usual angle is to ask exactly how evolution works at the level of organic chemistry - molecule to molecule, as it were - where there is very little knowledge at that level (there is some, but not much). He also avoids the abundant evidence we do have for evolution at other levels.

If I wanted to, I could ask Dr. Tour to explain the chemistry of bond formation at the level of elementary particles - how do quarks and muons, for example, interact when bonds form or break? When I’ve put this question to organic chemists I know, they say they have no idea, and that no one has an idea. They know they’re in there, but they don’t know how things happen at that level of detail.

Now, if I were to give a lecture about how “there is no known mechanism for bond formation” because no one knows how muons do their thing do you think that would be sufficient to cast doubt on organic chemistry as a whole? That’s the equivalent of what Tour is saying here. He’s also not speaking to an academically trained audience - rather, he’s speaking to Christians who are predisposed to uncritically accept his statements on evolution because they themselves already doubt it or reject it.


Quite a bit is known about the evolution of the immune system. I’m (slowly) working on a second book and a big chunk of it is trying to make the cool stuff we know about how the immune system works and how it evolved accessible to non specialists.


I don’t think you know what that means

Then we disagree. :wink:

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