Creating Information Naturally, Part 1: Snowflakes, Chess, and DNA

(Matthew Pevarnik) #101

I think the appendix discussion is a little distracting, as again a vestigial organ or gene is the remnant of something that once had more function. I am not sure why you can’t admit that while it may have some function, 11+ million cases of appendicitis say in 2015 with 50,000 deaths is not a good thing! In the US alone we’ve got some 300,000 appendices (plural of appendix lol?) removed each year. A ticking time bomb for many people around the world is yeah, something that may be a leftover from a more useful appendix.

But would you be able to address some of the other questions I had above? It seems that what you believe can falsify the theory of evolution actually tells me that unfortunately you don’t quite understand it-hence why the first article you read on how to falsify had so many disclaimers since many people do not actually understand what they are trying to argue against.

(Phil) #102

Since you mentioned removing the appendix, it brings to mind that not only whether the appendix is functional or not, is not part of whether it is vestigial, but also is irrelevant in medicine, as in modern medicine, you only remove diseased appys. (At one time they took our appys at the time of hysterectomies etc, but that is no longer the case. Not because of loss of function, but due to increased complications due to infection etc due to opening the gut. There is a debate about whether you can treat some appendicitis with antibiotics alone, and that goes to whether it may up later again and cause problem. Anyway, it is interesting, but ultimately off topic. Sorry for the rabbit chase.

(GJDS) #103


I have to admire your persistence, especially on this site that accepts evolution as “ordained” or such expressions.

However I would make two points that may be related to your comments.

  1. Biology is probably more complicated that physics and chemistry, and I am not surprised if the current theory of evolution appears inadequate to some scientists, as myself.
  2. Intelligence as a way of obtaining a very broad outlook (and I think in neo-platonic thought) has been recognised and invoked for thousands of years. I think ID advocates have made a fundamental mistake in promoting ID as a scientific discipline. Neo-platonic philosophy, when incorporated into theology, ends up with pantheism among other things - so I think ID advocates need to exercise care regarding their outlook/belief wrt Orthodox doctrine.

(Ashwin S) #104

Cancer happens too… So are cells which develop cancer vestigial?
I agree this is distracting. However since you claimed that saying the appendix is not vestigial is “anti-evolution” etc… I wanted to make the current scientific situation absolutely clear.

For your claim to be valid. You have to prove the below.
That the appendix had an important function that disappeared.

Can you cite papers showing what it was…
As far as I understand Darwin’s argument. He assumed the appendix was a cecum that had become useless in apes and human beings because we consume less cellulose. This does not seem to be the case.

As to evolution being falsifiable. My main point is that it is inherently unfalsifiable.Aspects connected to evolution can be proven wrong (such as neo Darwinism). But not the over arching idea…
Hence I feel it’s more of a philosophy than a theory.
I would love it if you could point to some actual scenarios that would falsify evolution.
Other than rabbits in the pre- Cambrian… with an added disclaimer that discounts all practical challenges.

(Lynn Munter) #105

The literal definition of the word ‘evolution’ is merely something like ‘change over time.’ In biology it more specifically means ‘change in population genepools over time.’ Nowhere in either definition does it specify that the changes have to be random, and indeed they are not random even from a purely naturalistic point of view. Natural selection is the opposite of random, and even mutations are biased in various ways.

Furthermore, I believe many people here subscribe to a view of God that incorporates God’s dominion over what we mere humans see as all the ‘random’ aspects of life. Is there truly such a thing as randomness? And if so, does it belong to God? These questions might help you to parse some of the positions under the Biologos tent.

On another note, I’m pretty sure my toenails are vestigial.

(Ashwin S) #106


I also see the tendency towards pantheism. However, I think this is more a result of how the materialistic world view is becoming increasingly shown to be wrong by recent discoveries.
If at any point, materialism becomes unfeasible as a worldview, I expect the world to shift to pantheism… and perhaps a few people to deism.
Seeing the ID movement as a “Christian movement” would be an error. Though there are many Christians in it, it’s a bigger tent including people of other religions and even agnostics. And so, it has tendencies to all kinds of philosophies.
I think It’s not yet mature enough to take on any predominant philosophical foundation.

(Lynn Munter) #107

Hey, you’re sounding like that’s a bad thing! As the resident pantheist, seems reasonable to me …

Now we’re talking!

(Matthew Pevarnik) #108

So a vestigial gene or organ again is one that has since lost its main function or purpose that it once had (all or at least some of it). Cancer would not fit that category at all so no, cancer is not a vestigial gene or organ for human beings.

It seems that the appendix is quite more interesting than I imagined! So I do genuinely thank you for helping to learn more about it. This paper is quite interesting to me and I think relevant for what I want to say next:

That paper suggests 32 independent appearances of the appendix, 7 of which have been lost completely. But out of the 361 mammalian species included in the analysis, only 50 actually have an appendix. If it’s so useful, then why did not more lineages get it and keep it? Certainly though whatever Darwin thought about it was wrong. It’s certainly less clear whether it fits the true vestigial structure as it would be dependent on each species. But…

Who cares what Darwin thought exactly? I mean I get that you are in part arguing against Darwin’s ideas on the appendix which are certainly more complex and nuanced than he could have ever known. He was a smart guy, but I have found this odd tendency for folks to kind of well argue against the theory of evolution based off of what he said over a hundred years ago. As nicely outlined in this blog post:

(Ashwin S) #109

Your ideas of randomness are interesting.
In classical physics, very few things are really random. Everything has a chase and effect controlled by natural laws.
In quantum physics, there seems to be no matter (some thing with mass/ a position) without consciousness.
And both are rules that govern the universe.
If evolution works in the realm of classical physics. There is no real randomness. Everything is determined by cause and effect and we end up with a deistic God at best.
As of now, most scientists treat evolution in a purely classical sense.

I would expect some quantum effects to be involved in life sciences for God to be involved with creation from beginning to end as taught in the Bible.
I seriously doubt any evolutionary model can coherently support a theistic God.

Glad to know… I will ask @jpm to remove them and confirm if they are indeed vestigial :slight_smile:

(Ashwin S) #110

It’s a valid question… I could also ask, if intelligence is so useful, why are there not more species as intelligent as human beings…
If the opposable thumbs is so useful… Etc etc…
I am sure that if you think about it, you can easily formulate an “evolutionary” explanation.
From the creationist POV (which we share , if not in the details)… The basic answer would be …
God created diversity.

The only explanation that I could find for the function of the appendix that was lost was Darwin’s… If somebody else identified the original function of the appendix, that got lost… I would love to learn.

(Ashwin S) #111

The reason I said that was not positive… it’s because, I believe human beings are basically sinful/averse to acknowledging God… And so it’s a natural progression…

No offence intended.

(George Brooks) #112


Since Ashwin has declared that Evolution can only refer to the Neo-Darwinist formulation of Evolution…

if a replacement for Neo-Darwinist Evolution were developed that was more adequate, what would we be able to call it, if Ashwin won’t allow us to append qualifiers to the word Evolution?


I also think you have the concept of evidence a bit wrong. The whole point is that we inherited our appendix from our ancestors, and that is true whether the appendix has important function or a very unimportant function. We still observe a nested hierarchy of shared features which is what evidences common ancestry and evolution. If humans had feathers that would be evidence against evolution, whether those feathers are vestigial or provide a vital function.

Darwin proposed that organs which fell into disuse would accumulate changes that shrink the size of the organ or cause it to lose the function it had in the ancestral populations. Darwin thought that the human appendix was an example of this process. Whether the human appendix turns out to be a result of this process or not has little to do with the possibility of this evolutionary pathway occurring.


That’s not what is really happening in science. No one is excluding any scientific hypotheses that are based on a creator. The problem is that no one is putting forward hypotheses based on a creator, and that includes the ID crowd. It is the ID crowd that is excluding themselves from the scientific arena because they refuse to do the science to support their ideas. You can hardly blame the scientific community for suppressing science that doesn’t exist.

Intuitions are not scientific hypotheses. That would be the first problem. For science, what matters is the methodology.

(GJDS) #115

I cannot imagine how any scientist could practice his/her discipline without relying on intuition. :worried:

(Ashwin S) #116

Hi T_aquaticus,

I agree. I have already stated that evolution will not be falsified even if all vestigial organs turn out not to be vestigial.

We had to go into this long discussion because @pevaquark was of the opinion that claiming the appendix is non-vestigial was anti-evolutionary nonsense. So I had to establish that there is scientific reason for making this claim.

Things like feathers in human beings happen often in evolution. It’s doesn’t falsify it in any way. It’s called convergent evolution.

(Ashwin S) #117

Actually, we have court judgements that say, any theory that posits a creator is not science by definition.
This happened in a case with respect to ID. As you said, even though they don’t mention a creator directly, and stick tot he idea of a designer, it was concluded that it was not science as the idea was too close to creationism.
So yes, Science suppresses all hypothesis connected to a creator/the possibility of the supernatural within its field of influence by its very nature.

(Matthew Pevarnik) #118

Can you show us what it would look like to make God a scientific hypothesis? By what mechanisms does He interact? How can we build models that describe exactly what He does and does not do? When you do this, then it can make sense to call the handiwork of God science.

What are you referring to? We certainly do not spontaneously generate the genes for making feathers. Do you mean atavisms?

This was my main point before. Where do you get this idea from? My point before, asking about vestigial organs or genes is that you have a very similar understanding of them to most anti-evolution literature. Most anti-evolutionists commonly believe and write that vestigial structures cannot have any use/function/purpose. Therefore they use anything that is/was labeled as vestigial, find some potential use, and then write their anti-evolution article. Some may not have any function (i.e. remnants of the GULO gene that cannot make Vitamin C for us- that would be a vestigial gene) but others may have greatly reduced function or have a different function than what they once had. Vestigial structures can certainly be complex but it is a myth that they cannot have any function- that was my point all along. I apologize for confusion of what my main point was.

(Ashwin S) #119

By God, we mean an immaterial, intelligent consciousness that is infinite in nature. Hypothesis can be made involving God.
ID theorists have tried to make predictions of things that result from intelligence being found in nature. Information is something that is demonstrated to arise from intelligence…
So that would be one prediction that is already verified.
The mathematical/logical nature of the universe would also be predicted by intelligence… so that’s another one.
It’s not very difficult.
Immaterial phenomenon such as consciousness interacting with matter would also be a prediction because God is assumed to be immaterial.

I don’t mean Atavism. I was referring to the concept he pointed to… of evolutionary features such as feathers being found in places not predicted by the evolutionary tree. This happens often enough to have a name for it- convergent evolution.

My main point has always been that both sets of facts can and will be explained through evolution. If something is vestigial , it supports evolution. If it is not… then it evolved.
Hence facts like vestigiality or non vestigiality cannot falsify evolution… no fact really can.

(T J Runyon) #120

You aren’t taking into account the history of the theory. I agree there isn’t much that could disprove the theory, TODAY. That’s a sign of strength. 150 years ago? There was tons! But an overwhelming amount of evidence gathered since then have come to the same conclusion. Common ancestry. The odds are of so many disciplines coming to the same conclusion just by coincidence is extremely low. we aren’t going to throw out a crazy successful theory because of a few anomalies. No theory in the history of science has EVER agreed with every empirical observation. The fact that evolutionary theory can accomodate new and unexpected data so well is because it’s been so successful in explaining a wide range of data. Also, I’m not sure the human appendix is vestigial either due to the number of times its evolved independently but it’s something I haven’t put much time into thinking about. Finally, vestigial is defined independently of evolutionary theory. A vestigial trait is a reduced and rudimentary structure compared to the same structure in other organisms. If functional, they perform relatively simple, minor, or inessential functions using structures that were clearly designed for another purpose