UD commenter ericB issues a Challenge!!!

I thought I would give a comment by a poster with the handle “ericB” a little more publicity as it was buried deep in an old thread where it was unlikely to be seen by passing “materialists / evolutionists”.

§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§

Calling all evolutionists / materialists! Your help is needed! Alan Fox has not been able to answer a particular challenge, but perhaps you know an answer.

The issue is simple and the bar is purposely set low. The question is whether there exists one or more coherent scenarios for the creation of a translation system by unguided chemicals.

The translation system in cells indicates intelligent design. I would submit that, regardless of how many billions of years one waited, it is not reasonable to expect that unguided chemicals would ever construct a system for translating symbolic information into functional proteins based on stored recipes and a coding convention.

[I realize people have thoughts about what happened earlier (e.g. that might not need proteins, for example) and what happened later (e.g. when a functioning cell provides the full benefits of true Darwinian evolution). For the purposes here, attention is focused specifically on the transition from a universe without symbolic translation to construct proteins to the origin of such a system. Whatever happened earlier or later, sooner or later this bridge would have to be crossed on any path proposed to lead to the cells we see now.]

One of the key considerations leading to this conclusion is that a translation system depends upon multiple components, all of which are needed in order to function.

+ Decoding

At the end, one needs the machinery to implement and apply the code to decode encoded symbolic information into its functional form. (In the cell, this is now the ribosome and supporting machinery and processes, but the first instance need not be identical to the current version.) Without this component, there is no expression of the functional form of what the symbolic information represents. The system as a whole would be useless as a translation system without this. Natural selection could not select for the advantages of beneficial expressed proteins, if the system cannot yet produce any. A DVD without any player might make a spiffy shiny disk, but it would be useless as a carrier of information.

+ Translatable Information Bearing Medium

There must be a medium that is both suitable for holding encoded information and that is compatible with the mechanism for decoding. Every decoding device imposes limitations and requirements. It would be useless to a DVD player if your video was on a USB thumb drive the DVD player could not accept instead of a suitable disk. In the cells we see, this is covered by DNA and ultimately mRNA.

+ Meaningful Information Encoded According to the Same Coding Convention

One obviously needs to have encoded information to decode. Without that, a decoding mechanism is useless for its translation system purpose. If you had blank DVDs or DVDs with randomly encoded gibberish or even DVDs with great high definition movies in the wrong format, the DVD player would not be able to produce meaningful results, and so would have no evolutionary benefit tied to its hypothetical but non-functioning translation abilities. In the cell, this information holds the recipes for functional proteins following the same encoding convention implemented by the ribosome and associated machinery.

+ Encoding Mechanisms

This is perhaps the least obvious component, since the cell does not contain any ability to create a new store of encoded protein recipes from scratch. Indeed, this absence is part of the motivating reasons for the central dogma of molecular biology. Nevertheless, even if this capability has disappeared from view, there would have to be an origin and a source for the meaningful information encoded according to the same coding convention as is used by the decoding component.

(For the moment, I will just note in passing that the idea of starting out with random gibberish and running the system until meaningful recipes are stumbled upon by accident is not a viable proposal.)

So there has to be some source capable of encoding, and this source must use the same coding convention as the decoding component. To have a working, beneficial DVD player, there must also be a way to make a usable DVD.

+ Meaningful Functional Source Material to Represent

It would do absolutely no good to have the entire system in place, if there did not also exist in some form or other a beneficial “something” to represent with all this symbolic capability. If you want to see a movie as output, there needs to be a movie that can be encoded as input. If you want functional proteins as output, there needs to be access to information about proper amino acid sequences for functional proteins that can serve as input. Otherwise, GIGO. Garbage In, Garbage Out. If there is no knowledge of what constitutes a sequence for a functional protein, then the result produced at the end of the line would not be a functional protein.

+ Some Other Way To Make What You Want The System To Produce

If we supposed that the first movie to be encoded onto a DVD came from being played on a DVD player, we would clearly be lost in circular thinking, which does not work as an explanation for origins. Likewise, if the only way to produce functional proteins is to get them by translating encoded protein recipes, that reveals an obvious problem for explaining the origin of that encoded information about functional proteins. How can blind Nature make a system for producing proteins, if there has never yet been any functional proteins in the universe? On the other hand, how does blind Nature discover and use functional proteins without having such a system to make them?

The core problem is that no single part of this system is useful as a translation system component if you don’t have the other parts of the system. There is nowhere for a blind process to start by accident that would be selectable toward building a translation system.

The final killer blow is that chemicals don’t care about this “problem” at all. Chemicals can fully fulfill all the laws of chemistry and physics using lifeless arrangements of matter and energy. Chemicals are not dissatisfied and have no unmet goals. A rock is “content” to be a rock. Likewise for lifeless tars.

The biology of cells needs chemistry, encoded information, and translation, but chemicals do not need encoded information or biology. They aren’t trying to become alive and literally could not care less about building an encoded information translation system.

§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§

I’m hoping ericB will find time to respond to any comments his challenge might elicit.

0

547 thoughts on “UD commenter ericB issues a Challenge!!!

  1. Actually it doesn’t make any difference if they presume to use ID/creationist debating points. Their debating points identify their “knowledge base.”

    Either they are ignorant of their own history or they are being willfully deceitful. In either case, their arguments are based on well-documented misconceptions and misrepresentations. They are still responsible for their own misconceptions and misrepresentations whether they are ignorant or deceitful.

    0
  2. Speaking broadly to the general comments in the thread about the second law, I am amazed that some are trying rewrite the issue as one about whether Creationists have ever claimed that evolution or abiogenesis violates the second law. Or that there was ever a question about that. Or that I was ever unaware of the history about this. Perhaps they came in late and just missed where I pointed this out myself when I asked for documentation that anyone asserts that “life” violates the second law.

    ericB: What I expect is that many have claimed that evolution or that the undirected origin of life violates the 2nd law. And I would find it sadly unsurprising if their critics misrepresented such statements as if they were claiming that “life” violates the 2nd law.

    So please note — statements about abiogenesis or evolution vs. the second law are neither relevant to the issue of misrepresentation that was raised, nor are they surprising in any way. They were never the issue that was raised, as I explained and documented here.

    It would be an ironic confirmation if those trying to show that there has been no misrepresentation of Creationists or ID proponents attempted to do so by misrepresenting what has already been stated explicitly on the record.

    keiths understands the difference. We’ll have to see who else does understand, and who else cannot or will not understand.

    0
  3. ericB,

    How is evolution not a part of life? Horizontal gene transfer and point & chromosomal mutations, for example, are known physical phenomena and are part and parcel of life – that is, among the many functions that constitute the life of an organism.

    0
  4. rhampton: Two more quotes about evolution after life’s origin violates the 2nd law:

    Throughout Chapters 7-9 we have analyzed the problems of complexity and the origin of life from a thermodynamic point of view. Our reason for doing this is the common notion in the scientific literature today on the origin of life that an open system with energy and mass flow is a priori a sufficient explanation for the complexity of life. We have examined the validity of such an open and constrained system. We found it to be a reasonable explanation for doing the chemical and thermal entropy work, but clearly inadequate to account for the configurational entropy work of coding (not to mention the sorting and selecting work). We have noted the need for some sort of coupling mechanism. Without it, there is no way to convert the negative entropy associated with energy flow into negative entropy associated with configurational entropy and the corresponding information. Is it reasonable to believe such a “hidden” coupling mechanism will be found in the future that can play this crucial role of a template, metabolic motor, etc., directing the flow of energy in such a way as to create new information?

    Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, (1984)

    Thanks for quoting from The Mystery of Life’s Origin. I don’t know whether you have read it. I have, and I recommended it earlier in this very thread (e.g. here) for any who want to read further (e.g. for any who want to know where my own leanings on the topic are).

    Besides the review of the scientific literature regarding the topic over three chapters (7-9), Thaxton et al have more to say about this in Chapter 11 Summary and Conclusion and a bit more in the Epilogue under their discussion of the idea of New Natural Laws as a possible explanation.

    For the purposes of the limited digression within this thread, the main point of relevance is that they clearly do not assert that life violates the second law. They don’t even say that the origin of life or its evolution would necessarily violate the second law. What they do point out is that the openness of the system is not by itself a sufficient condition. To get the necessary work done, there is a need to couple the energy flow to the required work. Their issue is all about whether the prebiotic world has access to such a suitable coupling sufficient for the work required to build living systems. The living systems that exist now already have this, so there is no issue there with living systems. Life itself does not violate the 2nd law.

    (In fact, the video of physicist Peter M. Hoffmann’s lecture on Life’s Ratchet provides a nice depiction and explanation of how the nano scale molecular machinery of the cell couples the energy to work, as well as explaining how it would stop working if it were not for the imbalance of ATP and ADP.)

    Therefore, none of their statements are examples of anyone asserting what Mike and cubist claimed that ID/Creationists assert, i.e. that life violates the second law.

    As a segue to the topic of the Triplet-Reading System, which is very relevant to this thread, the issue raised by Thaxton et al about coupling the energy flow to the work required is the very same issue that came up in the Question and Answer time for Hoffmann.

    To put the issue in terms of Hoffmann’s acknowledgement, there is no question about the ability of the molecular machines to operate, once they exist. Nevertheless, when asked “Where did the machines come from?”, he answered (emphasis added):

    So… [pause] um… [pause] This is always the big question, of course, where scientists don’t have a good answer, is once we have the machines how do we get the variety of them? That’s evolution. But where the first machines start from, that goes back to the origin of life and basically I would say we have no idea at this point. There is a lot of origin of life research. People have found out that you can make all kinds of organic molecules in a situation like a [inaudible] on mineral surfaces. Some even pretty complex molecules, but nothing that approaches like a molecular machine, … But nobody has an answer for that.

    What is highly relevant to the topic of this thread is the question, “Where did the machinery of the Triplet-Reading System come from?”

    Allan Miller did not supply an answer that justified its origin, so we’ll have to see whether any of the suggestions from others helps out in this regard.

    0
  5. The fact that they don’t realize or admit that chemistry can’t violate the 2nd law, even when embodying differential reproductive success, pretty much disqualifies them as serious thinkers.

    0
  6. ericB,

    It seems to me that the authors make two claims, one for the origin of life and one for its complexity thereafter, but since I deliberately quote-mined, I may have misunderstood. Let’s remove that quote from consideration then.

    Here’s another:

    …The process of evolution requires that “atoms organize themselves into increasingly complex and beneficial, ordered arrangements… thus, over eons of time, billions of things are supposed to have developed upward, becoming more orderly and complex.”

    This idea is completely contradicted by the Second Law, which stipulates that all real “systems and processes” including all biological and physical processes, naturally diminish to lower levels of organization and complexity—regardless of whether the system is open or closed. According to Dr. R. B. Lindsay, Ph.D. in physics, the Second Law reveals that the “natural tendency of complex, ordered arrangements and systems is to become simpler and more disorderly with time.” In summary, there is an irreversible downward trend at work throughout the universe.

    Dr. Roger Gallop, Physical Scientific Evidence for Creation: De-Evolution CreationSciencetoday.com

    0
  7. The Triplet-Reading System and Appeals to Duplication

    When trying to account for the origin of new features without losing existing functionality, natural selection might present an obstacle to change if creating the new function meant impairing or eliminating old function that was providing benefit.

    A typical appeal is to suggest that gene duplication (or the equivalent in a pre-gene organism) solves this by allowing one copy to continue providing the function while the other is free to change. Does this help solve the problem for the origin of the Triplet-Reading System?

    OMagain: You are obviously not a computer programmer then.

    Computer programs typically are in a state of broke. Sometimes “broke” means “won’t run at all”. Sometimes it means “you’ll find out in a year what the problem is”.

    Every day I make a change in a working system and try not to break it into dysfunction. If I do, I can of course roll back the changes. Sometimes it’s more complex then that, but in essence the same type of task to recover.

    Where there a trillion of me I could probably proceed via totally blind trial and error. I don’t type that much on an average day. And sometimes I’m reduced to trial and error, to my discomfort.

    But there is no “huge new problem” of trying to change a working system into something else without breaking it. Nothing is “trying” to do it. Nothing. A space is being explored.

    For example, gene duplication. One gene continues to perform the original function, the other is free to mutate.

    I am delighted to discover you are a developer. Let’s put the idea to a thought experiment involving software evolution to see how well it might hold up. I propose two versions: one without duplication and another with duplication.

    If there is no duplication, random changes that impair or remove the benefits of current function will tend toward being weeded out by natural selection. This is good for the sake of preventing degradation, but it becomes an obstacle to the development of novel functionality.

    So, you (and many others) suggest the solution of duplication. This does free a copy from the constraints of the preserving influence of natural selection. However, the other edge of that sword is that the duplicate is no longer protected against degradation.

    If you make a copy of a software routine and make it exempt from the scrutiny of natural selection, the consequence is that any and all damaging changes are allowed to accumulate without restraint. In the long run, unguided random changes to information or to a functional component — without the benefit of filtering for function by natural selection — will randomize the content. In the long run, the overall major tendency is toward random gibberish. By definition, there is no pursuit of a plan or goal or making it “better” — just unrestrained random change.

    The exceptional case would be one where just a very few lucky changes skipped from one functional sequence to some other functional and beneficial sequence, so that natural selection could kick back in before degradation sets in.

    But even if we suppose an amazing amount of luck that would allow a part to free fall into some individual part that could make up part of the Triplet-Reading System. That still doesn’t reach the safety of natural selection until it begins to provide a selectable benefit or advantage. Nonfunctional parts waiting for assembly are not yet providing any of the benefits of the Triplet-Reading System.

    I don’t see how anything you’ve said changes the inherent problem of trying to get to a Triplet-Reading System from something that doesn’t read triplets and doing so without any guidance or benefit from natural selection along the way.

    You would still need to essentially trust to blind random change and then suppose that the parts of the system discover a functional arrangement of interacting. Yet, the space of interacting parts is extremely sparse with regard to function as opposed to nonfunctional arrangements.

    Did you read that paper (freely available online) on

    The Levinthal paradox of the interactome.
    Tompa P, Rose GD.
    Protein Sci. 2011 Dec;20(12):2074-9. doi: 10.1002/pro.747. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

    that I wrote about in The Triplet-Reading System and the Exponential Space of Interacting Parts?

    0
  8. EricB,
    I do not have the expertise to answer your question regarding the Triplet-Reading System. However I have enough skill to see that many Creationists use the same talking points regarding life “devolving” by way of Dr. Henry Morris’s 4 necessary conditions:

    Thus entropy in an open system always at least tends to increase, no matter how much external energy is available to it from the sun or any other source. To offset this tendency, the external energy must somehow be supplied to it, not as raw energy (like a bull in a china shop) but as organizing information. If the energy of the sun somehow is going to transform the non-living molecules of the primeval soup into intricately complex, highly organized, replicating living cells, and then to transmute populations of simple organisms like worms into complex, thinking human beings, then that energy has to be stored and converted into an intricate array of sophisticated machinery by an intricate array of complex codes and programs. If such codes and mechanisms are not available on the earth, then the incoming heat energy will simply disintegrate any organized systems that might accidentally have shown up there…

    …If science is to be based on fact and evidence, rather than metaphysical speculations, then entropy does not explain or support evolution at all. In fact, at least until someone can demonstrate some kind of naturalistic comprehensive biochemical predestinating code and a pre-existing array of energy storage-and-conversion mechanisms controlled by that code to generate increased organized complexity in nature, the entropy law seems to preclude evolution altogether.

    I suppose if you exempt evolution from life’s processes, then your claim re:creationists holds true. But then you have just turned your challenge into a self-fulfilling tautology.

    0
  9. ericB: Speaking broadly to the general comments in the thread about the second law, I am amazed that some are trying rewrite the issue as one about whether Creationists have ever claimed that evolution or abiogenesis violates the second law. Or that there was ever a question about that. Or that I was ever unaware of the history about this. Perhaps they came in late and just missed where I pointed this out myself when I asked for documentation that anyone asserts that “life” violates the second law.

    So far, all we have seen is evasion and word-gaming on your part.

    What you have NOT done is demonstrate that you even have clue about anything involving the chemistry and physics of living organisms.

    Does Sewell, or Dembski, understand the second law of thermodynamics?

    Does Sewell, or Dembski, understand the concept of entropy?

    Do YOU understand the second law of thermodynamics?

    Do YOU understand the concept of entropy?

    Why does abiogenesis violate the second law of thermodynamics?

    Why do you believe that “having an open system allowing energy flow is not sufficient to make an unguided natural process origin of life plausible in light of the 2nd law”?

    YOU said that. In light of the 2nd law? In light of the 2nd law? Remember, YOU said that.

    YOU also said the following:

    The probability of blindly picking the right location to dig is then exactly equal to the probability of randomly generating one particular sequence of 24 RNA nucleotides, which is the length of just 8 triplets that might correspond to a “poly”peptide of only 8 amino acids.

    Picking 1 (or 4^0) winning sequence for 24 nucleotides =
    picking any of 4 (=4^1) winning sequences for 25 nucleotides =
    picking any of 16 (=4^2) winning sequences for 26 nucleotides =
    picking any of 4^N winning sequences for N+24 nucleotides.

    Do the following sequences have the same probability?

    ACTGACTG

    GCTTATGC

    AAACCTGT

    AAAAAAAA

    AAAACCCC

    Do you have any recollection of having shown us how you calculate probabilites of molecular assemblies? Why do you do it that way?

    What does this kind of calculation have to do with the behaviors of atoms and molecules?

    I am saying that you cannot, under any circumatances, offer any justification for calculating the probability of molecular assemblies in this manner. You don’t even know the misconceptions and misrepresentations that are at the heart of such nonsense.

    Furthermore you have no clue what a fitness landscape is. Your caricature of one has no basis in physical reality; but it is obvious that you don’t know that.

    As to your quote-mine of Peter Hoffmann’s video, you obviously ignored this part:

    I think we will figure it eventually out but it could take 100 years. It could take 1000 years. It could take 10 years. Maybe some genius will figure it out in 10 years. But nobody has an answer for that. But once they are there, we know how they evolve; we know how they work.”

    If you had read for comprehension Hoffmann’s book, you would have had more insight into the reason behind that optimism. But you scanned that video for quote-mines; you did not read for comprehension.

    The above questions will remain on the table awaiting your answers and explanations. As long as you cannot provide a solid justification for any of your answers and any of your calculations, everything you assert is meaningless. Your “challenge” is simply a taunt in order to get someone to prove your misconceptions and misrepresentations can’t be answered.

    In the mean time, your “challenge” has been answered. ID/creationism bends and breaks scientific concepts to fit sectarian dogma, by design; however, ID/creationist concepts no longer have anything to do with the real world.

    It is actually that simple.

    0
  10. Mike Elzinga:

    So far, all we have seen is evasion and word-gaming on your part.

    So far all we have seen from you, Mike, is unsubstantiated assertions about what Granville Sewell asserts. And when challenged all you manage to do in response is assert that if ericB cannot answer all your questions then your assertions about Granville Sewell must be true.

    But you can rest secure in the knowledge that no one else here at TSZ is going to point out the obvious hypocrisy.

    You’ve been give links to the paper more than once. Please do let us know when you’ve read it and where in that paper Granville Sewell asserts that life violates the second law.

    Mike E.

    ID/creationists assert that life violates the second law of thermodynamics; just ask Granville Sewell.

    Ask him what, Mike?

    0
  11. Mike Elzinga:

    If you had read for comprehension Hoffmann’s book, you would have had more insight into the reason behind that optimism. But you scanned that video for quote-mines; you did not read for comprehension.

    ericB never claimed to have read the book. How does one read a video for comprehension?

    I’m the one who has the book, Mike. I am the one who suggested you create an OP to discuss it. But you didn’t. And you probably won’t. Maybe you haven’t read it.

    0
  12. Mike Elzinga:

    Do the following sequences have the same probability?

    who knows?

    if you take a sample from a randomly generated set of sequences, what is the probability that one of your sequences would be selected?

    0
  13. Mung: But you didn’t. And you probably won’t. Maybe you haven’t read it.

    Do you have any proof of that assertion?

    0
  14. Mung: if you take a sample from a randomly generated set of sequences, what is the probability that one of your sequences would be selected?

    You are now on the hook to explain it.

    0
  15. lol. you’re a bit slow on the uptake mike. but i suppose that hope springs eternal. you created an op? i have no proof that you didn’t. please provide the link.

    0
  16. Is there something magical about an OP? Sounds like more poof thinking to me. I challenged all ID adbocates to respond to a new peer reviewed paper on OOL, and no one answered the challenge.

    Poof. I win.

    0
  17. rhampton: I suppose if you exempt evolution from life’s processes, then your claim re:creationists holds true. But then you have just turned your challenge into a self-fulfilling tautology.

    You seem not to have understood what I objected to. I was objecting to misrepresentation. Both Mike and cubist made the claim that creationists themselves assert that life violates the second law. That misrepresentation is false.

    But if we remove the misrepresentation (my one objective in consenting to the limited digression), that doesn’t make any particular claim by any particular creationist true or false. The truth or falsehood of their actual position is not the issue (and not the topic of this thread, and not within the scope of the digression). The issue is whether they themselves assert that life itself (i.e. not the process of non-life to current life, but the current operation of living organisms) violates the second law.

    If I am correct that this is a misrepresentation (with a partial qualified exception at least for the one Robert Sheldon quote), it has no effect whatsoever on the current challenge. It also does not show whether any of the actual creationist positions — when not misrepresented — is true or false.

    So there is no tautology. This whole business about clearing away a misrepresentation is an independent rabbit trail from the main topic of this thread. It doesn’t change or affect the challenge in any way, either positively or negatively.

    0
  18. p.s.

    ericB: The Triplet-Reading System and Appeals to Duplication


    So, you (and many others) suggest the solution of duplication. This does free a copy from the constraints of the preserving influence of natural selection. However, the other edge of that sword is that the duplicate is no longer protected against degradation.

    If you make a copy of a software routine and make it exempt from the scrutiny of natural selection, the consequence is that any and all damaging changes are allowed to accumulate without restraint. In the long run, unguided random changes to information or to a functional component — without the benefit of filtering for function by natural selection — will randomize the content. In the long run, the overall major tendency is toward random gibberish. By definition, there is no pursuit of a plan or goal or making it “better” — just unrestrained random change.

    I should add that there is one way that natural selection can enter in even while the duplicate is not yet providing any selectable benefit or advantage. It could easily be the case that an altered duplicate of some sequence could be harmful to an organism. It might interfere with its operations in any number of ways, including but not limited to having its transcribed copies becoming ineffective counterfeit substitutes that get in the way of the operation of the genuine original versions.

    Whatever the nature of the disadvantage to the survival and reproduction of an organism, natural selection could work to weed out those organisms in favor of others that don’t have that disadvantage — either because they don’t have the defective duplicate or because they have hit upon a remedy that avoids the disadvantage. One of the simplest remedies that would be easily accessible to undirected change is to just not transcribe the rogue copy any more. As a software analogy, that would be something like commenting out a section of code.

    Turning something off is the easiest solution of all, one that an evolutionary process would almost surely be able to find. It could just become junk that is copied during replication (with more and more errors), but never transcribed, never put into action.

    Just as with comments in software, degrading changes to the junk would be completely free to accumulate, thereby further randomizing its contents over time.

    So far, this does not yet sound like a plausible recipe for explaining the origin of a Triplet-Reading System.

    0
  19. ericB: So there is no tautology. This whole business about clearing away a misrepresentation is an independent rabbit trail from the main topic of this thread. It doesn’t change or affect the challenge in any way, either positively or negatively.

    No matter how many times ericB wants to try to deny that ID/creationists think life violates the second law, he won’t answer any direct, unambiguous questions.

    And his own arguments reveal that he himself has tapped into these ID/creationist beliefs.

    It is not just ericB’s method of calculation that gives it away. I asked him why ID/creationists are so fond of the tornado-in-a-junkyard argument, and he refused to answer.

    Yet he himself uses this argument; he just happens to choose the technology surrounding a DVD instead of a 747 assembled from junkyard parts by a tornado.

    This is a typical line of ID/creationist thinking; but none of them, including ericB, know why they do it.

    If ericB wants to deny this, look as his “challenge.”

    “The translation system in cells indicates intelligent design. I would submit that, regardless of how many billions of years one waited, it is not reasonable to expect that unguided chemicals would ever construct a system for translating symbolic information into functional proteins based on stored recipes and a coding convention.

    Notice the similarity to the tornado-in-a-junkyard argument; “regardless of how many billions of years one waited, it is not reasonable to expect that a tornado will assemble a 747 out of junkyard parts.”

    Look how he frames it in order to disguise the “argument.”

    At the end, one needs the machinery to implement and apply the code to decode encoded symbolic information into its functional form. (In the cell, this is now the ribosome and supporting machinery and processes, but the first instance need not be identical to the current version.) Without this component, there is no expression of the functional form of what the symbolic information represents. The system as a whole would be useless as a translation system without this. Natural selection could not select for the advantages of beneficial expressed proteins, if the system cannot yet produce any. A DVD without any player might make a spiffy shiny disk, but it would be useless as a carrier of information.

    The rest of the “challenge” goes on to talk about all the things that go into making a DVD “useful”; in other words, the construction of all the peripheral technology.

    It is the old tornado-in-a-junkyard argument that focuses on all the technology that needs to be in place to build a 747. Tornados don’t build 747s out of junkyard parts “regardless of how many billions of years one waited.” So ericB has generated a detailed scenario using a DVD instead of a 747 to drive home his “argument” that “machinery” and other technology must be in place.

    But it is still the tornado-in-a-junkyard argument gussied up with some drama details of why tornados can’t do the job.

    EricB’s challenge boils down to, “explain, you materialists, why a tornado can do it.”

    Put this “challenge” together with ericB’s methods of calculating the probabilities of molecular assemblies and his refusal to address direct questions about his and Sewell’s knowledge of entropy and the second law. The only conclusion one can draw is that ericB is drawing from the same “knowledge” base that every ID/creationist since Morris and Gish draws from.

    So I will add another question for ericB:

    Tell us how the charge-to-mass ratios of technological parts and junkyard parts compare to the charge-to-mass ratios of protons and electrons. In other words, justify the use of technological and junkyard parts as stand-ins for the properties and behaviors of atoms and molecules.

    I claim that ericB won’t even understand the significance of this question. This particular question goes way over the heads of all ID/creationists. It is the high school level physics/chemistry problem that none of them can do.

    As I already pointed out, and which ericB chooses to ignore, ID/creationism bends and breaks scientific concepts to fit sectarian dogma, by design; however, ID/creationist concepts no longer have anything to do with the real world.

    His phony “challenge” has been answered many times over the last fifty years.

    0
  20. An added note:

    EricB doesn’t yet recognize that he has reified a number of metaphors in his descriptions of “translational” systems.

    ID/creationists tend to reify such metaphors because they not only don’t understand their usage by scientists, they also appeal to their prior commitments to a deity and “intelligent design.”

    There is far more to their misconceptions about entropy and the second law than any of them know. EricB is a babe lost in the woods on this topic. Science has moved far beyond him.

    0
  21. ericB:
    Speaking broadly to the general comments in the thread about the second law, I am amazed that some are trying rewrite the issue as one about whether Creationists have ever claimed that evolution or abiogenesis violates the second law.Or that there was ever a question about that.Or that I was ever unaware of the history about this.Perhaps they came in late and just missed where I pointed this out myself when I asked for documentation that anyone asserts that “life” violates the second law.

    So please note — statements about abiogenesis or evolution vs. the second law are neither relevant to the issue of misrepresentation that was raised, nor are they surprising in any way.They were never the issue that was raised, as I explained and documented here.

    You are skipping over the first comment of yours, here in this thread where you stated:

    The idea that “ID/creationists assert that life violates the second law of thermodynamics” is completely false. There is no issue about “life” violating any thermodynamic laws, including not by Granville Sewell. This indicates you don’t understand his position (or that of other ID proponents).

    This is where Mike asked his questions about Sewell’s and your understanding of thermodynamics. Since the points Sewell raises in his paper are dependent on his claims about thermodynamics, Mike’s questions are very pertinent.

    You claim to understand Sewell’s position. Please answer Mike’s questions to demonstrate that you have the requisite knowledge of thermodynamics to support that claim.

    0
  22. ericB: I was objecting to misrepresentation.Both Mike and cubist made the claim that creationists themselves assert that life violates the second law.That misrepresentation is false.

    Whatever, ericB. You’ve already established that you won’t accept a Creationist assertion which is based on the implicit presumption that Life violates the @LoT; you’ve already established that you won’t accept a Creationist assertion which entails, as a logical consequence, that Life violates the 2LoT; no, what you want is an example of a Creationist directly, explicitly asserting, in so many words, Life violates the 2LoT.
    In short, you could care less about concepts, because you’re only interested in the presence or absence of certain specific character strings—what you want is a proof-text.
    What you want is for ‘form’ (the presence or absence of specific character strings in text) to trump ‘content’ (the concepts that are expressed, or logically implied, by text). Homey don’t play that.

    0
  23. Both Mung and eric have abandoned the scientific argument and have reverted to apologetics.

    Rather than argue the merits of the science, they are word lawyering. Was the wording of a post precise and without flaw.

    Not a peep from anyone about the merits of the science.

    0
  24. Exegesis, hermeneutics, etymology, and generalized word-gaming are among the major defining characteristics of ID/creationism. Most ID/creationists have grown up being saturated with these practices that have been used for centuries to justify who are the chosen ones in the eyes of a deity. Even precisely worded sentences will be haggled over endlessly.

    They bring these methods to “debates” about science because they don’t know any science. Scientific concepts are meaningless to them. Word lawyering is all they have and know. EricB is resorting to these tactics.

    0
  25. The Programmer’s Experiment

    Consider a computer programmer who notices that he is not able to type very much in a single day, but muses that if there were a large number of software bots working on the code, then they might be able to proceed via totally blind trial and error. So he decides to try an experiment.

    In the initial version of his experiment, he establishes the following process.

    1. The software is reproduced by an imperfect method of replication, such that it is possible for random copying errors to sometimes occur. This is used to create a new generation of versions of the software.

    2. Every new instance of the software is subjected to a rigorous test suite to determine which copies of the software perform the best. The worst performers are weeded out, and the process is repeated by replicating the best performers.

    The initial results are dismal. The programmer notices that any change to a working module tends to immediately impair function, since the software loses the existing function long before it gains any new function. So, the programmer adds another aspect — duplication.

    3. Rather than have the code’s only copy of a function be jeopardized by the random changes, he makes copies of the content in functional modules and adds these to other parts of the code. In order to not immediately impair function by the inserted new code, in this next version the programmer decides to try placing the duplicates within comments in the software during the modification process. (Later, the changed code might be applied to serve new purposes.)

    Since the software is not depending on the duplicates for its current functioning, this makes the duplicates completely free to mutate due to the random copying errors without causing the program to fail the selection process. Changes to the duplicated code cannot harm the functionality of the software and thereby cause it to be eliminated. Thus, in this version, the mutations to the duplicated code are neutral with regard to the selection process.

    Under these conditions of freedom to change without being selected out for loss or impairment of current function, what should we expect to happen to the duplicated code sequences over time and over many generations of copying?

    And why?

    0
  26. Overextended metaphor.

    But given a suitable space, multiple computers running genetic algorithms can find solutions that your programmer cannot.

    Just depends on the space to be explored.

    0
  27. cubist:

    Whatever, ericB. You’ve already established that you won’t accept a Creationist assertion which is based on the implicit presumption that Life violates the @LoT;

    Evolution News and Views (propaganda arm of the right-wing theo-fascist Creationist Front Organization “The Discovery Institute”):

    Life does not violate the second law of thermodynamics

    who cares about facts. Facts are for non-skeptics.

    0
  28. ericB: Under these conditions of freedom to change without being selected out for loss or impairment of current function, what should we expect to happen to the duplicated code sequences over time and over many generations of copying?
    And why?

    Explain how computer codes are stand-ins for the properties and behaviors of atoms and molecules.

    What is the charge-to-mass ratio of a piece of computer code? How do the “interactions” between two computer instructions act as stand-ins for the interactions between atoms and molecules?

    Are you denying you made this grand proclamation at the beginning of your “challenge”?

    The translation system in cells indicates intelligent design. I would submit that, regardless of how many billions of years one waited, it is not reasonable to expect that unguided chemicals would ever construct a system for translating symbolic information into functional proteins based on stored recipes and a coding convention.

    I claim you made this statement; it is right up there at the top of this thread. But you haven’t justified the statement; you seem to believe it is true and that we are expected to take your word for it.

    WHY do you believe that “regardless of how many billions of years one waited, it is not reasonable to expect that unguided chemicals would ever construct a system for translating symbolic information into functional proteins based on stored recipes and a coding convention”?

    Your entire “challenge” is based on an assertion you are trying to foist off onto us. Shouldn’t you at least provide some proof that it is, in fact, true?

    You haven’t done that. All your scenarios with DVD technology and computer codes are NOT demonstrations of the truth of your assertion. You haven’t shown the relaltionship between DVD technology and computer codes to atoms and molecules.

    You have handed us a pig in a poke for a challenge.

    You also haven’t answered those other questions I have asked.

    0
  29. It’s probably too late to make it a full post, since there are so many replies. But I’ll leave those author privileges there for future consideration.

    The thing about your “Programmer’s Experiment” challenge, is that it combines many of the common misunderstandings that creationists and ID proponents have about evolution. So I thought it might be a good place to discuss those misunderstandings. In any case, you now have replies pointing out some of the various problems.

    0
  30. The simplest way to describe the error is to point out the difference between chemistry and programming when a typo occurs.

    With protein coding, something upwards of 70 percent of single character changes will be nearly neutral. Or at least code for a similar function. Most typos in a computer program will halt the compiler. So there’s a huge difference in the ability to feel your way to new function.

    0
  31. Mike Elzinga:

    Explain how computer codes are stand-ins for the properties and behaviors of atoms and molecules.

    Explain how your posts here at TSZ are comprehensible without “computer codes.”

    You haven’t shown the relaltionship between DVD technology and computer codes to atoms and molecules.

    And you haven’t shown the relationship between what you post here ar TSZ and computer codes to atoms and molecules.

    0
  32. petrushka:

    The simplest way to describe the error is to point out the difference between chemistry and programming when a typo occurs.

    With protein coding, something upwards of 70 percent of single character changes will be nearly neutral. Or at least code for a similar function. Most typos in a computer program will halt the compiler. So there’s a huge difference in the ability to feel your way to new function.

    I don’t recall ever encountering an ID/creationist follower – especially one that wants to debate – that has any remnant of a high school level of science understanding; if they ever took any science classes. No biology, no chemistry, no physics; and I think that is what we are seeing here. That is usually the first and last place I have ever had to check.

    There is no apparent recognition on his part about how inappropriate his “analogies” are. A high school chemistry/physics student would spot the problems with his assertions.

    I suspect he has spent considerable time developed this “argument” and is relying on “debate training” to get him through. His avoidance of direct questions about his and Sewell’s knowledge of science suggests that he really doesn’t know. So he just plunges ahead with his pre-programmed “debating program.”

    Duane Gish and the debaters that trained at the ICR did this. If they were asked to justify an erroneous assertion they had made – and they made oodles of them – they would simply ignore the question and steal time from their debating opponent to go on to the next items on their list. Now they all do it to the point that it has become simply a hackneyed tactic. It didn’t take watching a lot of debates, back when they were “big events” in the 1970s an 80s, to pick up on this tactic.

    EricB’s basic assertion is stated in a cock-sure way that essentially accuses scientists of believing that, given enough time, tornados can assemble a 747; or DVD technology in his case. So his “challenge” is for “evolutionists” to prove it.

    The point is that his assertion is what HE believes about science and scientists; but it has absolutely nothing to do with science or scientists. But he is ignoring direct questions and refusing to justify his assertion.

    This is a serious problem for him. He invented this canned “challenge” and convinced himself that it was sure to stump the “materialist evolutionists”; but then he discovers he is expected to know some science at the high school level at the very least. What can he do now?

    A frequent tactic is to appear to be able to jump into advanced topics and continue to bamboozle. But when pressed on fundamental concepts at the high school level – and often at the middle school level – they suddenly fall silent and avoid the science altogether.

    I doubt that EricB understands that most of us have done plenty of programming over the course of our careers. But his shtick has already been exposed; and it’s just another boring repetition of the same old routine.

    People with good science questions to explore would be in the lab checking them out; not attempting to debate and word-game them on the internet.

    0
  33. Mike Elzinga:

    People with good science questions to explore would be in the lab checking them out; not attempting to debate and word-game them on the internet.

    It follows that if you had any good science questions to explore you would be in the lab checking them out; not attempting to debate and word-game them on the internet.

    0
  34. On the contrary, Mindless Machinegunning Mung. I have had a long and fruitful career in science; and in retirement, I can look back with some reasonable satisfaction.

    You, on the other hand, will only be able to look back at the millions of piles of feces you have deposited all over the internet. But I am quite sure that will make you very proud.

    0
  35. petrushka: With protein coding, something upwards of 70 percent of single character changes will be nearly neutral. Or at least code for a similar function. Most typos in a computer program will halt the compiler. So there’s a huge difference in the ability to feel your way to new function.

    You’re missing two key points.

    1. In passing, don’t forget this point. Our discussion is in the context of considering whether it is reasonable to attribute the origin of the cell’s translation system in general, or the Triplet-Reading System in particular, to an unguided natural process. In Allan Miller’s proposed solution, proteins don’t even exist yet. They are at best a future possibility, if the translation system becomes functional, beneficial and selected.

    2. More importantly, although you attempt to contrast the fragility of computer code to modification with the predominant neutrality of biological (e.g. protein) changes, it seems you are missing the key point that this allegorical case is specifically targeted at a question about the effect of changes that are indeed neutral. That’s the whole point of the question. What will happen to the sequences that are subject to neutral modifications that are free from the constraining influence of restrictive selection?

    ericB [emphasis added]: Under these conditions of freedom to change without being selected out for loss or impairment of current function, what should we expect to happen to the duplicated code sequences over time and over many generations of copying?

    And why?

    Those duplicated code sequences are specifically the ones where it is explicitly not the case that “typos in a computer program will halt the compiler”. So, while your point is true in general about changes to code in operation, in this allegory it does not apply to the question at hand.

    The question I asked isn’t about the fragility of the rest of the code (where detriment is weeded out by the selection process). It is focused on the neutral cases — exactly the type of changes you indicated are common in proteins.

    0
  36. ericB: The Programmer’s Experiment


    Under these conditions of freedom to change without being selected out for loss or impairment of current function, what should we expect to happen to the duplicated code sequences over time and over many generations of copying?

    And why?

    To any who are not catching the relevance, there are three possible categories of outcomes to any copying error that modifies the “genomic” sequence of the supposed pre-protein organism.

    1. The copying error is harmful to its reproductive success compared with other instances that do not have that copying error. Copies with such an error will tend to be weeded out by natural selection.

    2. The copying error is advantageous or beneficial to its reproductive success compared with other instances that do not have the copying error. The frequency of copies with the copying error will tend to increase due to the influence of natural selection.

    3. The copying error is neutral — it has no significant advantage or disadvantage with regard to the reproductive success of the organism.

    The point of the question is to focus on the third category of neutral copying errors. Anyone who thinks natural selection may be relevant to pre-protein evolution will be able to see the relevance of being able to describe the effects of neutral random copying errors.

    What should we expect to happen to the duplicated sequences of code under such conditions?

    Why?

    0
  37. Mike Elzinga:

    On the contrary, Mindless Machinegunning Mung. I have had a long and fruitful career in science; and in retirement, I can look back with some reasonable satisfaction.

    You, on the other hand, will only be able to look back at the millions of piles of feces you have deposited all over the internet. But I am quite sure that will make you very proud.

    If whatever morals you have prevented you from turning feces into dollars I can only pity you. I have no such scruples. Your point, if you have one?

    0
  38. Re: The Programmer’s Experiment

    Neil Rickert: Would you like to make that a full post? (I have given you author privileges, so you should be able to do that).

    Neil, I’ve been meaning to say Thanks for that suggestion. A fresh thread for that topic was a good idea that has been more conducive to attracting discussion about random neutral copying errors.

    For anyone interested, see The Programmer and N.E.C.R.O., i.e. Neutral Errors in Copying, Randomly Occurring.

    0
  39. ericB,

    Eric,

    From 12th Sep to 30th I was yomping my way round the mountains of Norway, so I missed this and other comments relating to my arguments. I’m not sure how productive it would be to address everything from that period now, but I noted this after following your link from the NECRO thread:

    Allan Miller: But you can conceive of a Designer assembling major molecular complexities without entropic catastrophe?

    Eric: I’d genuinely and sincerely like to understand better what kind of catastrophe you are alluding to. For example, what would it take for Craig Ventor et al to trigger such a catastrophe?

    I only mean that when you bring atoms close together, and they have a path whereby the current configuration can shed energy, that path will be followed – a reaction will occur. When you are trying to assemble a large collection of atoms, and are asserting that only that large collection will work, I do not see how Design helps you manoeuvre this configuration into place without it dissipating that potential energy and collapsing into an ‘entropy well’. I liken it to assembling a jumbo jet in mid flight, fuel spraying everywhere as you try and get the wings on and simultaneously hook up the DVD equipment, with components that variously are attracted or repelled by water, react in very different ways to oxygen, and require vast energies to maneouvre. As Mike E frequently points out, the energies of interaction are important, and they are not scale invariant. Engineers, soft and hard, tend to think in terms of macro scale objects that they can bolt together and then test. Atoms aren’t like that. Shrink yourself to that scale and have a look around.

    0
  40. Allan Miller: I only mean that when you bring atoms close together, and they have a path whereby the current configuration can shed energy, that path will be followed – a reaction will occur. [etc.]

    Thanks, Allan. That makes it much more clear than just your earlier cryptic remark. Thanks for clarifying that.

    I hope you had a great time in Norway! The absence of your contributions was missed.

    0

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.