Evolution and Functional Information

Here, one of my brilliant MD PhD students and I study one of the “information” arguments against evolution. What do you think of our study?

I recently put this preprint in biorxiv. To be clear, this study is not yet peer-reviewed, and I do not want anyone to miss this point. This is an “experiment” too. I’m curious to see if these types of studies are publishable. If they are, you might see more from me. Currently it is under review at a very good journal. So it might actually turn the corner and get out there. An a parallel question: do you think this type of work should be published?


I’m curious what the community thinks. I hope it is clear enough for non-experts to follow too. We went to great lengths to make the source code for the simulations available in an easy to read and annotated format. My hope is that a college level student could follow the details. And even if you can’t, you can weigh in on if the scientific community should publish this type of work.

Functional Information and Evolution


“Functional Information”—estimated from the mutual information of protein sequence alignments—has been proposed as a reliable way of estimating the number of proteins with a specified function and the consequent difficulty of evolving a new function. The fantastic rarity of functional proteins computed by this approach emboldens some to argue that evolution is impossible. Random searches, it seems, would have no hope of finding new functions. Here, we use simulations to demonstrate that sequence alignments are a poor estimate of functional information. The mutual information of sequence alignments fantastically underestimates of the true number of functional proteins. In addition to functional constraints, mutual information is also strongly influenced by a family’s history, mutational bias, and selection. Regardless, even if functional information could be reliably calculated, it tells us nothing about the difficulty of evolving new functions, because it does not estimate the distance between a new function and existing functions. Moreover, the pervasive observation of multifunctional proteins suggests that functions are actually very close to one another and abundant. Multifunctional proteins would be impossible if the FI argument against evolution were true.

The Arrival of the Fittest: a book review

Andreas Wagner’s book,The Arrival of the Fittest has been mentioned many times (just try a site search as I’ve just done) since it was published. Petrushka pointed it out in a comment

For anyone interested in whether RMNS can create stuff, I recommend a relatively new book, Arrival of the Fittest. I just bought the Kindle version an haven’t finished, but it has a lot to say about how goldilocks mutations occur.

Much later Mung writes:

Reminds me of petrushka, who is always plugging Andreas Wagner’s Arrival of the Fittest, but will never post an OP on it for discussion.

So I’ve taken the hint and bought the book at last. I can see why people have recommended it. Continue reading

Testing Evolutionism (the alleged theory of evolution)

Testability is the main thing a concept needs in order to be considered science. If your claims cannot be tested then science doesn’t care about them. Enter evolutionism, also mistakenly called the theory of evolution, ie the concept that all biological diversity evolved via natural selection, drift and neutral construction starting from some much simpler biological replicator, which in turn evolved from much simpler molecular replicators.

None of that can be tested. Not only that the sub-claims are also untestable. Biology is full of biological systems, subsystems and structures. These too need to have testability, yet they do not. Evolutionists hide behind father time and think that excuses them from the testability criteria science requires. All that does is prove theirs is not a scientific position.

No one knows how ATP synthase arose and no one knows how to test the claim that natural selection, drift and neutral construction did it. Dembski tried to help by formulating a conditional probability but he was shrugged off. Evolutionists are fine failing on their own and don’t need no steenking help from Dembski!

So how can we test your claims, evolutionists? And why, in the absence of testability, do you think your position qualifies as science?



Eugene Koonin – Evolution Skeptic?

The edifice of the Modern Synthesis has crumbled, apparently, beyond repair.

– Eugene Koonin (2009)

Does this make Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?

The summary of the state of affairs on the 150th anniversary of the Origin is somewhat shocking: in the post-genomic era, all major tenets of the Modern Synthesis are, if not outright overturned, replaced by a new and incomparably more complex vision of the key aspects of evolution. So, not to mince words, the Modern Synthesis is gone.

I’m still struggling to incorporate Alan Fox’s allegation that I am an evolution skeptic. I still don’t really know what it means to be an evolution skeptic. Eugene Koonin rather obviously rejects the view of evolution held by Alan Fox. Is Eugene Koonin an evolution skeptic?

Or is this just another example of Creationist quote mining. Maybe it’s both.

What say you, “skeptics”?

The Origin at 150: is a new evolutionary synthesis in sight?

Jerry Falwell Jr, a Trump appointee.

I’m sure the name Jerry Falwell Jr means more to US members than it does to me. A friend passed on a link where I read:

Donald Trump appoints creationist college president to lead higher education reform taskforce

According to Salon:

The focus will be on “overregulation and micromanagement of higher education,” according to university spokesman Len Stevens. This would be consistent with Falwell’s past positions, in which he has opposed federal regulations on funding and accreditation for American schools of higher learning.

Following the appointment of (Calvinist?) Betsy DeVos as Education secretary, should we be concerned for the future of public education in the US?

Is anatomy the evidence that theropod dinosaurs evolved into birds? No!

On another forum the claim was strongly put that the anatomy of theropod dinosaurs was so similiar to moderrn birdds that its excellent evidence for birds to have evolved from dinosaurs. So some evolutionists  say birds today are really the end game of dinosaur evolution.

yEC say birds wewre created in their kinds on creation week and were on the ark in kinds. So were creatures we call dinosaurs and so these theropod ones.

So its impossible birds evolved from theropod dinos.

The only evidence they have is the anatomy of theropods . Some say they had feathers.

I have another hypothesis. That it is only a convergence of bone structures(anatamy) for the same needs. It is not that these dinos have bird bones but thart birds don’t have bird bones. they both only have bones to join body with physics. the theropods needed to be liught on their feet and the only answer is size and structure of bones to allow this. birds have the same need and so have the same bones. Yet its physics that determoines the bone structure and not a biological ancestry. there is no ancestry. they were created in whole right away. Perfect. its just the right and only conclusion .

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Darwin’s House of Cards

In this provocative history of contemporary debates over evolution, veteran journalist Tom Bethell depicts Darwin’s theory as a nineteenth-century idea past its prime, propped up by logical fallacies, bogus claims, and empirical evidence that is all but disintegrating under an onslaught of new scientific discoveries. Bethell presents a concise yet wide-ranging tour of the flash points of modern evolutionary theory, investigating controversies over common descent, natural selection, the fossil record, biogeography, information theory, evolutionary psychology, artificial intelligence, and the growing intelligent design movement. Bethell’s account is enriched by his own personal encounters with of some our era’s leading scientists and thinkers, including Harvard biologists Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin; British paleontologist Colin Patterson; and renowned philosopher of science Karl Popper.

Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates

Of course, no real skeptic will want to read this book.

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In the 1970s, when scientists compared the sequences of DNA in genes with the sequences of RNA encoded by those genes, they made a puzzling discovery: the DNA of most genes in animals, plants, and other eukaryotes contains too much information. The extra segments of largely useless information were named introns, and they must be cut out of RNA before the protein is made. Exons are the portions of the gene that remain in the RNA after the introns have been removed.

  • Relics of Eden

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Junk DNA munged

Salvador seems to have successfully hijacked the early embryonic mutations thread and turned it into a discussion of junk DNA. So I thought I’d share my thoughts on the subject of junk DNA. Why care?

Various strains of creationism hold that the earth and life started out perfect, then came the fall, and it all went downhill from there. Both young earth and old earth forms can easily accommodate the presence of junk in DNA. So the presence of junk DNA does not mitigate against the creationist position. But what of it’s absence?

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Miracle of Evolution – The Appendix

In a recent thread here at TSZ the question was raised as to whether naturalism is comfortable with highly typical events. My answer to that question was quite so. Exhibit: the appendix.

Although it is widely viewed as a vestigial organ with little known function, recent research suggests that the appendix may serve an important purpose. In particular, it may serve as a reservoir for beneficial gut bacteria. Several other mammal species also have an appendix, and studying how it evolved and functions in these species may shed light on this mysterious organ in humans.

But wait. There’s more…

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The Glories of Global Warming and the Faint Young Sun Paradox

It is a little known fact that scientists who argue that the paleontological record of life is hundreds of millions of years old, when confronted with astrophysical facts, must eventually rely heavily on the hypothesis of finely tuned, large scale global warming. The problem is known as the Faith Young Sun Paradox. A few claim they have solved the paradox, but many remain skeptical of the solutions. But one fact remains, it is an acknowledged scientific paradox. And beyond this paradox, the question of Solar System evolution on the whole has some theological implications.

Astrophysicists concluded that when the sun was young, it was not as bright as it is now. As the sun ages it creates more and more heat, eventually incinerating the Earth before the sun eventually burns out. This is due to the change in products and reactants in the nuclear fusion process that powers the sun. This nuclear evolution of the sun will drive the evolution of the solar system, unless Jesus returns…
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There have been a number of interesting comments lately here at TSZ that referred to viruses.

Are viruses pre-biotic entities, and did they contribute to the origin of life?

Are viruses alive?

Do viruses evolve?

Are viruses an example of what evolution is capable of?

Did viruses contribute to the evolution of life?

Should be fodder for some discussion.

Who’s Skeptical of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis?

Is anyone here skeptical of the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) in biology/biological sciences? If so, why? If not, why not?

Background: A couple of days ago I interviewed one of the participants in the Royal Society’s recent ‘New Trends’ meeting (audios now available), who is obviously pro-EES ,as part of a nearly completed research project from the past couple of years.

My interviewee gave the (ahem) ‘brilliant’ answer of a stone when asked to speak about ‘things that don’t evolve’ (one of those interviewer places where it’s really hard to mask a delighted smile with neutrality!) after claiming not to understand the question: “What are the limits of evolution as a scientific theory?” (we had already been discussing its ‘possibilities’ and I explained earlier that I would ask both about the possibilities and the limits of evolutionary theories). Undergrad students around the world chuckle when they hear the Rock answer (as if geological evolution doesn’t exist in the minds of biologists)!

It’s just a ‘play of scales,’ after all, that slips us into the ‘evolution of everything,’ don’t forget 😉

Carl Woese – Evolution Skeptic

Carl Woese

b. July 15, 1928
d. December 30, 2012

“Thus, we regard as rather regrettable the conventional concatenation of Darwin’s name with evolution, because there are other modalities that must be entertained and which we regard as mandatory during the course of evolutionary time.”

“I have concerns about scientists thinking that they’re God when it comes to biology.”

“A future biology cannot be built within the conceptual superstructures of the past. The old superstructure has to be replaced by a new one before the holistic problems of biology can emerge as biology’s new mainstream.”

“I do not like people saying that atheism is based on science, because it’s not. It’s an alien invasion of science.”

  • Carl Woese

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Evolution Skeptics!

In a recent post here at TSZ, participant Alan Fox made some comments and asked some questions which might make for interesting discussion, but first I need to challenge some of his assumptions.

First, his claim that I find evolutionary theory unbelievable.

Second, his claim that I find a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life theory unbelievable.

Third, his his claim that I mock attempts at scientific hypotheses.

Fourth, I thought being skeptical is a good thing.

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Mouse Utopia, Mutational Meltdown, Extinction by Natural Selection

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) sponsored the work of John Calhoun on social behaviors. Here were the results of one of his experiments:

On July 9th, 1968, eight white mice were placed into a strange box at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Maybe “box” isn’t the right word for it; the space was more like a room, known as Universe 25, about the size of a small storage unit. The mice themselves were bright and healthy, hand-picked from the institute’s breeding stock. They were given the run of the place, which had everything they might need: food, water, climate control, hundreds of nesting boxes to choose from, and a lush floor of shredded paper and ground corn cob.

This is a far cry from a wild mouse’s life—no cats, no traps, no long winters. It’s even better than your average lab mouse’s, which is constantly interrupted by white-coated humans with scalpels or syringes. The residents of Universe 25 were mostly left alone, save for one man who would peer at them from above, and his team of similarly interested assistants. They must have thought they were the luckiest mice in the world. They couldn’t have known the truth: that within a few years, they and their descendants would all be dead.
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Take the Evolutionary Turing Test!

The challenge, for all and sundry but especially for “Darwin doubters”, should you wish to take it, is to submit a one-paragraph summary of the theory of evolution. The idea is to see if you understand it well enough to fairly summarize the theory so that you pass as a proponent of evolution. We also need some examples from proponents to test the null hypothesis!

To ensure anonymity, please submit your paragraph by private message to me or another admin and we will add it in edit. (Or email it to me at alanfox@free.fr if you prefer.) Continue reading

Evolution’s Puzzle & Trans-Evolutionary Change

In lead-up to the recent Royal Society’s “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical and Social Sciences Perspectives” meeting in London, which courted the terms ‘extension,’ ‘replacement’ and ‘amendment’ in regard to the (neo-)Darwinian evolutionary ‘Modern Synthesis’ in biology, as presented by active and leading members of the (mainly Anglo-American) biological scientific community as well as philosophers (and a couple of largely physical rather than cultural anthropologists), including several members of The Third Way of Evolution, this was one of a few trans-evolutionary change preparations aimed at liberating the social sciences and humanities from positivist, reductionist, evolutionist, atomist & naturalist (PREAN) ideologies (none of which, of course, refers to a single soul at TSZ because almost everyone here is – by definition of being a ‘skeptic’ – skeptical about even their own admittedly personal ideologies that are often so easily identifiable by their words made in public?), which display hegemonic tendencies by capital-capture political positioning scholars & dehumanising ‘public understanding’ gurus coming from oftentimes highly specialised natural-physical sciences fields that have become an unfortunate burden in collaborative science, philosophy and theology/worldview discourse, to everyone.

Cheers to moving beyond (neo-)Darwinian evolutionism with trans-evolutionary li-ber-a-tion!

Solving Wallace’s Problem and Resolving Darwin’s Doubt

I want to consider, in light of fairly new philosophical and scientific research, two long-standing conceptual objections to evolutionary theory: Wallace’s Problem and Darwin’s Doubt.

It is well-recognized that Wallace saw the need for some supernatural intelligence in explaining human evolution, in contrast to Darwin’s naturalistic speculations in Descent of Man. What is less recognized is that Wallace was, in an important sense, right. He squarely faced the problem, “can natural selection alone account for the unique cognitive abilities of human beings, such as abstract thought, self-consciousness, radical reshaping of the environment (e.g. clothing, building), collective self-governance by ethical norms, and the symbolic activities of art, religion, philosophy, mathematics, logic, and science?”  Whereas Darwin thought there was continuity between humans and non-human animals, his evidence is primarily amount emotional displays, rather than the genuinely cognitive discontinuity.

A closely related problem, however, was squarely faced by Darwin: the question, nicely phrased in his famous letter to Asa Gray, as to whether it is plausible to think that natural selection can have equipped a creature with a capacity for arriving at any objective truths about the world.  (It is not often noted that in that letter, Darwin says that he believes in an intelligent creator — what is in doubt is whether natural selection gives him reasons to trust in his cognitive abilities.)

These two questions, Wallace’s Problem and Darwin’s Doubt, are two sides of the same coin: if natural selection (along with other biological processes) cannot account for the uniquely human ability to grasp objective truths about reality, then we must either reject naturalism (as Wallace did) or question our ability to grasp objective truths about reality (as Darwin did).

Call this the Cognitive Dilemma for Naturalism. Can it be solved? If so, how?

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Does Puncuated Equilibrium actually destroy evolutionary biology? Yes!

I just read, skimmed, struggled with Stephen Gould’s ” Structures of Evolution theory”  Its really one long argument for Punctuated Equilibrium.

Aside from many interesting observations on the substance and style the surprising thing i note is how PE actually disproves all of evolutionary biology if you think about it. No wonder Dawkins and the rest smelled it as trouble and resisted. Wikipedia also resists it on this subject. Continue reading