"Evolution's Achilles' Heels" video


(Ken Poole) #1

Has anyone else seen this trailer? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9TCtmoyBaI

I believe the first person’s comments about evolution not creating anything new can be debunked by pointing out gene duplication. The other people are pushing for the idea that if one accepts evolution, then one cannot accept God.


#2

Having read the book, it becomes obvious that evolution not creating anything new is a misnomer… I believe he said that natural selection cannot produce anything new, because natural selection can only select from what is there. Evolution hypothesizes that natural selection selects from the pool of random mutations and in that way produces something new. The speaker hints at the fact that many more mutations are very harmful, slightly harmful, and neutral, than are beneficial. Therefore selecting from this pool of harmful and useless mutations will not lead to new useful information. Evolution needs to produce new information, not just duplicate or activate existing information. Gene duplication is a method of reproduction, which means to re-produce something similar to what is already there. Gene duplication does select arbitrarily various options from an already existing pool. Gene duplication does not produce new information in the sense of increasing the options within the pool. Gene duplication also does not add genome information of the sort that would put an eye on an earthworm, or a leg on a bacteria, or a wing on a horse.


#3

@JohnZ, you are repeating a common misunderstanding of polyploidy and why it does lead to information increases. Polyploidy is very common in plants, including the field and sweet corn we humans consume. If you don’t think gene duplication and polyploidy are one of multiple ways information increases take place in genome evolution, you need to spend some time with a basic evolutionary biology textbook. You are repeating a common mantra of anti-evolution propaganda, an example of popular creationist propaganda and pseudoscience. Like it or not, gene duplication is a step towards important information increases in genomes. Denying it does not stop information-increasing evolution from happening.

When I was a Young Earth Creationist activist back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I had similar struggles in understanding how simple biological processes could lead to complex structures. Frankly, it didn’t really “click” in my brain until I started using evolutionary algorithms in my software engineering. Only then did my sense of intuition (which often guides our “feelings” about what makes sense) fall into place and it suddenly became clear.


#4

I wrote the following material for the Bible.and.Science.Forum auto-reply database. It is somewhat redundant to what I just posted but has some additional explanations and a website where non-programmers can play around with an evolutionary algorithm which builds more and more efficient “wheeled vehicles”:



As I’ve often mentioned, I didn’t have a full grasp of the failure of “the presence of complexity requires the involvement of intelligence” argument until I started writing evolutionary algorithms. My sense of intuition, that inner voice of what does and doesn’t make sense, didn’t really grasp that simplicity really can produce complexity until I saw that I could write a program using very simple rules to solve problems where the solution was something very complex which I never anticipated when I wrote the program.

Of course, Young Earth Creationist deniers of evolution would tell me “You wrote intelligence into the program. After all, a program can only do what the programmer instructed it to do.” They refuse to understand that I did not write a lot of intelligence into my programs. I didn’t even think very much about possible solutions at all. I simply told the program how to apply the simple rules–and then sat back and watched what solutions my program produced. I found that my program could quickly solve problems that I couldn’t have solved in a lifetime. Only after I had used such programs for a while did I realize that simplicity can indeed produce complexity without requiring lots of intelligence. Now evolution feels right to me in ways it didn’t previously.

So I have some modicum of sympathy for those who think complexity in and of itself demands that an intelligent agent directly implemented a solution to a problem. I can’t expect them to write their own evolutionary algorithms but they can get some of the “feel” for them with an on-line animation like this one. It shows how just a few simple rules from physics can “evolve” efficient car designs:

http://rednuht.org/genetic_cars_2/

Many such program exists on-line and I think it is one of the best ways to help a person grasp how something as “blind” [not necessarily] and “random” [but not really] as natural processes can produce amazing solutions to the problem of survival.

When I was a Young Earth Creationist, I complained about the imaginary evils of “random chance” but I eventually recognized the truth of the scriptures which tell us that God’s sovereignty over all includes “random chance” and so we shouldn’t be surprised that God uses “random chance” for his glory throughout the created universe. Indeed, as a scientist I had learned in both physics and in the study of statistics that “random chance” is often incredibly predictable and can operate in ways quite contrary to our “untrained intuition.” That’s why correcting our intuition through simple simulations we can observe and more readily understand helps us understand how and why God can use it to diversify life on earth.

One of the best examples of “predictable random chance” is in radioisotopes where we can’t predict when an individual atom will decay but if we have a significant number of atoms in a sample, we can predict quite reliably when HALF of the atoms will have decayed. That’s why a radioisotope’s half-life can be relied upon to make remarkably accurate and dependable date determinations of various materials.

When I was a big fan of The Genesis Flood, I had memorized the standard complaints about radiometric dating. But when I actually started checking out the scientific journals I realized that radiometric laboratory methodologies are incredibly well executed and take into account all sorts of contamination and “statistical noise” scenarios which might impede accuracy. Even without specializing in that field of physics, it was not difficult to see how the RATE Project showed an embarrassingly absurd incompetence at even the most elementary radiometric methodologies which scientists had worked out over the last half century. However, they were remarkably successful in demonstrating what happens when a “science project” announces it ideologically-driven conclusion first and then tries to find data to support that predetermined goal. One of the project participants had told me that the only reason “creation science” has produced no scientific discoveries was because “creation scientists” lack the necessary funding. Yet, the RATE Project had well over a million dollars to work with and managed to produce nothing which could survive peer review for publication in a major scientific journal. Reviewers noted that the RATE project made the kinds of procedural and quality control errors that even undergraduate majors commonly avoid.

Of course, when one is contractually obligated by one’s employment contract to ignore any data which does not support the presupposed theological position, that is the very opposite of the scientific method of following the evidence wherever it leads. That’s why most “creation scientists” have no academic freedom or scientific independence to do legitimate scientific research. If they published anything which contradicted their organization’s position on the date of its founding, they would lose their jobs. I spent enough years working for Christian institutions to know how quickly some of my colleagues saw their employment terminated if they dared change their mind on a sensitive science topic.

The Ben Stein movie, EXPELLED, lamented an alleged lack of academic freedom at various secular institutions, but after a lifetime of employment at both evangelical and secular universities, I can say that academic freedom is far more often violated at Christian institutions. Even those schools with faculty tenure can and do fire professors within hours of stating their opinion, while secular universities have due process and I never saw a professor removed in the middle of a term unless guilty of a felony. The irony of EXPELLED was that no effort was made to present the other side of the stories investigated and they completely ignored the mistreatment of faculty at Christian institutions. Moreover, when I investigated the various incidents portrayed in the movie, not one checked out. That fact is well documented in multiple online reviews of the movie.

As a Christ-follower, these trends disturb me greatly.


#5

I am afraid your response did not address the essence of my previous post, which still stands.


#6

To give a more complete look at the “Achilles Heels” book, which I assume is similar to the the coming video, I will give a brief synopsis. The book is written by nine PhD scientists, in the fields of Plant Physiology, Marine Biology, Physical Chemistry, Geology, Mechanical Engineering, Experimental Nuclear Physics, Physics, Agronomy, Engineering. It is edited by a medical doctor (MB., B.S.) I understand that in the video, more scientists (up to 15) have been added into the mix.

The topics include Natural Selection, Genetics, Origin of Life, Fossil Record, Geologic Record, Radiometric Dating, Cosmology, Ethics and Morality. There is a panorama of issues within the larger issue of evolution as “microbes to microbiologists”. Occasionally they also point out some of the older creationist arguments which are no longer held on to, and which creationists should not use, and anti-creationists should not attempt to debunk, as they are “straw-men” arguments.

Apparently they have a new production (230 pages) called Busting Myths, which highlights 30 creationist scientists.

On their website, there is also an extensive list of “false arguments” that creationists should no longer use, and they spend some time debating with Kent Hovind about some of these arguments that should not be used. Some of this is because of semantics, some of this because of inconclusive data, and some of this because of revised interpretations of fossils or other data. http://creation.com/arguments-we-think-creationists-should-not-use

Getting back to Ken Poole’s comment, he suggests that gene duplication is “something new”. However, from an information point of view, it is not new. While using the blueprint for one boat to build another would result in a “new” boat, it would not result in a new design. Something new, would be equivalent I think, to having a blueprint replicate itself, and in the process, change itself so that instead of producing a boat, it now produced a boat on wheels. Whether there is one copy of the gene code, or two, or four, does not result in a significant change in overall information, although it allows for more diversity in the population, given the possibility of additional recessive genes. The source for new information would be mutations, except that it must be demonstrated that the new information is additional, not mere revision of existing stuff, such as activation or deactivation, and not only that it is possible, but that it must have happened, and that it is beneficial, and not neutral or deleterious, nor merely temporarily beneficial with as many or more deleterious side effects.

So we would expect beneficial mutations to produce the ability to see better, rather than worse, to run faster, rather than slower, to hear with the acuity of dogs, rather than the deafness of old people, to live longer lives (without medical interference), rather than die younger. And these beneficial changes would need to occur without harmful side effects, such as a person who could run faster dying younger, or a person who could see much better, but losing long-term memory.

Gene duplication certainly does not debunk the lack of new information.


#7

I may have understated in my previous post, what “newness” really means. I may have to retract “seeing better”, “hearing better” and “running faster”, although it seems to demonstrate what is “beneficial”. New information would add a wing or two, not just make the lung or leg work better. New information would potentially add a rumen to human physiology, or allow cows to exist for four months without food, as some other animals do. An extension or simple improvement in an existing structure or function might not actually be new information… although it would be beneficial.