Looking for resources of ID Rebuttal

I just watched the video in youtube from Biologos’ official youtube channel, called “Distinctions:God as a Scientific Theory.” In it, Dr. David Ussery explains how Creationist Stephen Meyer, in his book Signature in the Cell-DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design, misunderstands what DNA is all about.
I am interested in watching more videos specifically explaining how Creationists misunderstand these scientific principles and how they misrepresent, misinform and promote misconceptions about science to the general public.

You might look at Free Biology Webinars For Students

Scroll down to the video called Science Denial: What can you do about it? where there is lots of good info.

There is also a great site called talkorigins.org . Click on the “index” link and you’ll find all kinds of helpful info in alphabetical order.

For what it is worth, I found the video absolutely atrocious.

(copied here if anyone else is interested, and to make sure i’m responding to the same one you mentioned.)

Firstly, referring to ID as an “evangelical version of science” is flatly wrong on many levels… Some of the most prominent names associated with ID and the Discovery Institute are Jewish or Agnostic, such as David Berlinski, David Klinghoffer, and Michael Denton, not to mention a great many who are Catholic such as Michael Behe. it would be news to them to discover they are supporting an “evangelical version of science.” This is simultaneously most ignorant, uncharitable, and unnecessarily polemical.

More significantly, Dr. Ussery’s specific critiques are downright absurd:

1.Rebutting Meyer’s position that DNA contains information by pointing out that DNA is rather a physical structure is ridiculous. He says “the information in DNA is a structure”. So what? The information in a hard copy of “Encyclopedia Brittanica” is also a physical structure (composed of dry sheets of paper and various physical shapes of ink). The information in old-fashioned computer punch cards was also a “structure”. Point being? This line of argumentation in no way refutes Meyer’s quite unremarkable and commonplace observation that DNA contains information or instructions.

2.Claiming that DNA is “not a pure string of characters that codes for something” is downright absurd. If what he means by adding the word “pure” is simply to observe the existence of “non-coding DNA”, that this is merely a rhetorical diversion, as neither Meyer nor any ID-Proponent would deny the existence of “non-coding DNA”, i.e., those elements of DNA that do not “code for something.”

But there is a reason that codons and their arrangement in the DNA are referred to universally as a “genetic code”, a code which practically every biology text or biologist will describe and acknowledge as one that “codes for something”…

3.He argues that the real purpose of DNA’s “characters” are to create its structure, or shape, which then determines its function. (“the letters in the DNA actually specify the shape of the DNA, and the shape of the DNA determines the function.”) This is absolute nonsensical double-talk. The function of DNA, and the reason that each base along the DNA has a different shape, and why they are arranged the way they are… IS TO ENCODE INFORMATION!

4.If Dr. Ussery wants to “debunk” the idea that DNA contains instructions, or that a string of certain codons “codes” for things, he has a very large uphill battle. the ideas that Dr. Meyer are observing, that Dr. Ussery seems to wish to debunk in order to rebut Dr. Meyer’s claims, are quite common mainstream science…

Resorting to this line of argumentation seems to this observer to border on the desperate; with people appearing so determined so to avoid or refute Dr. Meyer’s observations and inferences from them that they are willing to resort to absurdity. He critiques Meyer for misunderstanding DNA as a “blueprint”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that every mainstream reputable scientific description refers to DNA as containing “instructions” and/or “information”.

DNA, RNA, ribosomes, the genetic code, and protein synthesis are just as Meyer described in the video… nothing less than an information coding, storage, transcription, and processing system, however chemical or “structural” in nature. There’s a reason it is called “transcription” and “translation” for goodness sake.

ID proponents can and should be critiqued on certain aspects of their theories. But the attempt to rebut them when they simply convey and communicate the most basic tenets of mainstream science starts to make ID opponents look desperate… a “circling of the wagons” response that makes them look far more that they are interested in defending a narrative than simply following the scientific evidence and obvious inferences thereof.

For what it is worth, I would encourage you to read Dr. Meyer’s book firsthand, and then go back and see if Dr. Ussery’s response doesn’t then come across just as absurd to you as it did to me.

What he is saying is that the function in DNA is determined by its chemistry, not the shape of some letters. Genetics is chemistry, not reading letters. DNA contains coded information in the same way that H2O is the coded information for water.

Whether you believe it or not, Dr. Ussery is absolutely right. Why do transcription factors bind to DNA at specific sequences of bases? It is because of the physical shape and charge of both the transcription factor binding site and the physical shape and charge of that DNA sequence. Why do stem-loops form?


Again, it has to do with the shape and charge of the molecule itself. How do tRNA’s work? Again, through the physical interaction between charged bases. Everything about genetics is physical and chemical, and none of it is abstract like written language.

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i don’t disagree with really anything you observed there… nor of Dr. Ussery’s baseline observations that at core DNA and all related protein synthesis molecules and chemicals are at base chemicals doing chemical reactions asked on shapes, charges, affinities, etc… This is beyond dispute and remains undisputed. And neither would Dr. Meyer dispute that point. (It isn’t like he thinks that if you look with a powerful enough microscope you’ll actually see the “A”, “C”, “G”, etc…)

But similarly, I could go into great length to demonstrate that the computer you are using to read this is “merely” processing various energy states and positions of electrons across various kinds of circuit boards via electronic pathways, etc., etc. At core, everything that happens inside your device that you are using to read this is “merely” chemistry, energy, and physics… not “information.”

But that would be absurd. it would be utterly absurd to use the fact of what is “really” happening at bottom with the electrons and molecules in the circuit boards and then claim that, ergo, an iphone does not store or process information.

(Not to mention we could do the same with our own brains… if we want to be reductionistic, we can observe that every last thing that happens in our brains has to do with “physical shape and charge” of all the various chemicals all throughout the neurons, etc. none of this is in dispute whatsoever, but neither should it be disputed that all the chemistry, molecular shapes, energy states, and everything in those brains actually functions to store and process information (plus a whole lot more)).

Or consider… if, as some scientists seem to be working on, we figure out how to store raw data in DNA (say, the complete text of Moby Dick), I could then argue, along with Dr. Ussery, that said DNA is “really” just chemicals of various shapes that cause different reactions… which would still not be technically wrong… But it would still be utterly absurd to claim that such an artificially sequenced DNA strand did not contain “information”, just because it was “really” made of various chemicals of various shapes and charges, when the complete text of Moby Dick was encoded therein.

that is the point of dispute, and where i find Dr. Ussery’s argument ridiculous. Dr. Meyer, well aware of all the chemistry involved, also recognizes (as well as apparently most other biologists) that the ultimate function of all the shapes, chemical properties, bonds, affinities, attractions, and reactions, and the overall arrangement, is to store, process, and transcribe information. An idea shared by such not-particularly-ID-sympathetic publications as genome.gov, Encyclopedia Britannica, advancedsciencenews.com, medicineplus.gov, nature.com, National Geographic…

nothing Dr. Ussery stated about the raw science is disputed by me or any ID proponent… it is just that he used these undisputed facts to try to dispute Dr. Meyer’s rather unremarkable observation that DNA and related molecules store and process biological information.

I agree that it is perfectly valid to refer to DNA as information, or as a code, but what Ussery, Carroll, and Oord are responding to is Meyer’s push that computer engineering offers a deeper, guiding parallel to genetics. Analogies are illustrative, not evidence, and the resemblance between the genome and a program is in fact superficial and limited.

The word “information” is itself information, and what is understood by that word must be taken in context. There are subtle differences as used by economists, physicists, spies, tabloids, geneticists, and computer scientists. If an investor picks up the receiver to get a hot stock tip, that is information, but of a different sort than the Shannon theory which governed the electrical signals for that phone call.

Such differences reflect on why development of general purpose natural language computer programming has been such a slog. One bit turned in a computer program can result in a divide by zero or overflow crash; in verbal communication a wrong letter will rarely impair intelligibility. Information in language is nowhere near as brittle as information coded in computer syntax.

The information encoded in DNA was constructed differently than either language or binary code. A non synonymous single nucleotide variation in a coding region typically does not result in a failure to communicate or program crash, rather the result is generally a variation in folding, shape, or polarity of the expressed protein. That change will be then subject to a degree of drift or selection, ranging from immediate death, through neutral, to some significant benefit - it is undoubtedly more common to break than make. Changes to non-coding DNA can modulate the degree and timing of development. So you have analog parameters of protein size, shape, polarity, and degree of expression constructed not by intelligence but by environment. DNA is information, but in the wild it is part of a feedback loop which is not digital or in the least coded.

Whether framed as monkeys at typewriters authoring Macbeth, or monkeys at keyboards authoring Excel, these forms of information do not arise in the same way as genetic information. What is it about information which precludes genome duplication? What in any information theory prevents a virus from a single pair substitution which results in a greater affinity for a human cell receptor? What stops the iterative accumulation of adaptation in environmental niches; as far as that goes, does not selective pressure itself constitute information?

There is nothing about information that is awkward for evolution. Evolution is not teleological, so the information contained in genomes, contrary to Stephen Meyer’s contention, is not analogous or evidential.

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What chemistry occurs in the computer? Do computer files fold into 3D structures to carry out enzymatic function? There really isn’t any comparison between them.

It would also be utterly absurd to say that the information in an iPhone is the same as the information in a DNA molecule, but that doesn’t seem to stop ID proponents.

We can store information in silicon. That doesn’t mean every piece of silicon we see has the same type of information.

You didn’t seem aware that the information in DNA is not abstract information like that found in computers and written books.

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Can you point me to a quote where an ID proponent says that the information in an iphone “is the same as the information in a DNA molecule”. not similar, not like, not analogous to, but “the same as”…? i’d be very interested in seeing that.

Well, now you stand corrected. No worries.

Then you would agree that the information in DNA is not the same as the information in a book or computer code?

Sorry, but I see no correction. Information in DNA can be transmuted into proteins by natural biomolecular means, no abstraction involved.

ID faith cannot be rebutted any more than Lutheranism or Islam can unless the victim has an open, educable mind, which is highly unlikely.

Based on this comment, I suppose I could respond by asking you if you would agree that the information in a *.jpg file is not the same as the information in a physical hard copy of Moby Dick… But since doing so would insinuate a stunning level of ignorance on your part, it would be supremely uncharitable to do so.

So do you agree or not?

Then you would agree that the information in DNA is not the same as the information in a book or computer code?

Would you agree that the information in Moby Dick is not the same as the information in Hamlet?

Not a valid analogy, because the information in the books is abstract. The information in DNA is not, and has direct physical consequences.

It can also be modified directly by nonabstract means.

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Well, I was making a point to the other poster, and didn’t want to respond directly to what sounded like a “gotcha” kind of question.

But for what it is worth… how is the information in a hardcopy of Moby Dick not equally physical? How exactly does the meaning behind the words “Call me Ishmael” in the physical book get into your brain? Is it an “abstract” process? ESP? Magic? Clairvoyance? Spiritual forces?

No, physical photons reflect from the physical text, which has Distinct physical differences due to the way light reflects from the white or plain page as distinct from the different physical absorption of those photons where there is physical ink laid down…

Then those reflected physical photons are concentrated by the physical lens of your eyes, absorbed by the physical retina, which undergo the various electrochemical processes across the physical optic nerve and physical neurons in your brain and only then translate all that long train of physical processes into the abstract “Call me Ishmael” that you grasp with your mind.

Or, put another way, what exactly is the abstract difference between those two books in my shelf? I would maintain that the difference between the copy of “A Tale of Two Cities” and “Moby Dick” on my bookshelf are attributable to physical differences between them… the different physical arrangement of physical ink as arranged on the physical pages, no?

As can the information in my physical copy of Moby Dick. Just give me some good white out and a typewriter… for any of us that remember such things…

(Or, as mentioned elsewhere… it seems that our scientists are not that far away from being able to store, say, the text of Moby Dick in DNA directly. Thus such DNA would indeed contain the “abstract” information about Ishmael’s whaling voyage. The fact that it was encoded into such a bio-chemical/physical storage medium should be irrelevant to that, no? If someone looked at a DNA strand that contained e full text of Moby Dick, but argued that it didn’t “really” contain information, since it was “really”’only physical shapes of bases along a sugar/phosphate chain… would that not strike you as absurd reasoning?)

You have just rendered abstract meaningless.

You have neglected that there is an intelligent agent required who can “convert” the glyphs on the pages of your books into understanding and impute meaning to them. To convert the information in DNA into proteins does not.

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