Friday, February 04, 2011

Under the Microscope: "In the Beginning was Information": Chapter 6 Sample

It's a nice cold day, so I thought I'd have a little fun with one of the sources Gabriel considers authoritative: Answers in Genesis. I decided to type "genetic algorithms" into their search bar, and I clicked on the first result.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't take long before the fallacies show up:
There is an extreme multiplicity of life-forms around us, and even a simple unicellular organism is much more complex and purposefully designed than anything that human inventiveness can produce.
Already, we have an implied argument from personal incredulity. Complexity is not a sign of design: Simplicity is usually a better indicator. One of the principles of engineering I often hear is that you're not done when there's nothing left to add, but when there's nothing left to take away.
Matter and energy are basic prerequisites for life, but they cannot be used to distinguish between living and inanimate systems.
There's a bit of implied vitalism right there. Life can be difficult to define precisely, but that doesn't mean anything for the argument.
The central characteristic of all living beings is the “information” they contain, and this information regulates all life processes and procreative functions. Transfer of information plays a fundamental role in all living organisms. When, for example, insects carry pollen from one flower to another, this is in the first place an information-carrying process (genetic information is transferred); the actual material employed is of no concern. Although information is essential for life, information alone does not at all comprise a complete description of life.
So, how do you define and measure this information? This is a classic problem many Creationists avoid. Of course, skeptics have had a lot to say about IT as it relates to Creationist claims.
Man is undoubtedly the most complex information-processing system existing on earth. The total number of bits handled daily in all information-processing events occurring in the human body is 3 x 1024. This includes all deliberate as well as all involuntary activities, the former comprising the use of language and the information required for controlling voluntary movements, while the latter includes the control of the internal organs and the hormonal systems. The number of bits being processed daily in the human body is more than a million times the total amount of human knowledge stored in all the libraries of the world, which is about 1018 bits.
I smell a standard Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy in progress. After this, they get into a lot of nitty-gritty details which seem uncontroversial, based on my knowledge. It doesn't last, though:
Figure 20: A simplified representation of the cyclic information controlled process occurring in living cells. The translation is based on pragmatics, but it is involved in the cyclic process of semantic information, since the DNA synthesis can only take place under enzymatic catalysis. This sketch clearly illustrates that such a cyclic process must have been complete right from the start, and could not have originated in a continuous process. The structure of this example of a complex information transfer system also corresponds to Figure 24.
I was pretty sure this was on Talk Origin's Index of Common Creationist Claims, but I must have missed it. Naturally, though, I found they had a different page that covers it.
Perhaps lipid synthesis, in a precursor form of modern synthesis, could have made the system more independent. The RNA system could have, bit by bit, ‘invented’ protein synthesis – as mentioned, the modern ribosomes still contain ribozymes (catalytic RNA) that catalyze the formation of peptide bonds which eventually result in proteins. In a compelling study (Wolf and Koonin 2007) the authors propose a stepwise model for the origin of the protein translation system, in which each step confers a distinct advantage onto an ensemble of co-evolving genetic elements. The goal of development of translation would not have been required, a foresight which evolution does not have. The initial cause for the emergence of translation would have been the ability of amino acids and peptides to stimulate reactions catalyzed by ribozymes (for peptides experimentally shown, see Robertson et al. 2004). Even if it will turn out that several steps in the evolution of translation probably have been different from the proposed model, the study clearly demonstrates that there is nothing in the emergence of the translation system that would represent a case of ‘irreducible complexity’, incapable of being subject to stepwise Darwinian evolution.
Granted, this looks like a fair bit of hypothetical stuff, but the fact that scientists can devise hypotheses is a blow against the IC argument of incredulity. Alleged weaknesses and unknowns in abiogenesis or evolution do not constitute evidence for Creationism.

Back to the AiG page:
In accordance with the theorems formulated in chapters 3 to 5, in particular the impossibility theorems at the end of chapter 4, it is clear that the information present in living organisms requires an intelligent source. Man could not have been this source; so, the only remaining possibility is that there must have been a Creator. We can now formulate the following theorems:

Theorem 26: The information present in living beings must have had a mental source.

A corollary of Theorem 26 is:

Theorem 27: Any model for the origin of life (and of information) based solely on physical and/or chemical processes, is inherently false.

Guess I'll have to check back on those theorems... Huh. Looks like this is just a sample from a book, and those other chapters aren't available.

Oh well, I can already see fallacies: Argument from incredulity, false dichotomy. You can't put "I don't know" in an evidence locker for a positive hypothesis like "Magic man done it." Knowing what I know of Creationist, the "theorems" described are probably also arguments from incredulity.

Anyway, let's move on ahead to the bit about genetic algorithms, since that's what I searched for:
Genetic algorithms: The so-called “genetic algorithms” are yet another way of trying to explain how information could originate in matter [F5, M4]. The combination of words is deliberately chosen from biology and numerical mathematics to suggest that evolutionary events are described mathematically.
This is rather stupid to say.

1. They're called genetic algorithms because they simulate genes. Random number generators simulate mutations of the genes, and if sex is programmed in, recombination of the parents' chromosomes. The selection criteria, fitness landscapes, etcetera act like natural selection. What else would you call it?

2. Of course evolutionary events are described mathematically! Mathematics is what we use to describe the universe when we get precise. What made the modern synthesis of evolution the modern synthesis was the inclusion of population statistics. Statistics is a branch of mathematics.
What is actually involved is a purely numerical method used for the optimization of dynamic processes. This method can be used to find, by repeated approximations, the maximum value of an analytic function numerically (e.g., f(x,y) = yx - x4), or the optimal route of a commercial traveler. The effects of mutation and selection can thus be simulated by computer. Using predetermined samples of bits (sequences of noughts and ones), each position is regarded as a gene. The sample is then modified (mutated) by allowing various genetic operators to influence the bit string (e.g., crossover). A “fitness function,” assumed for the process of evolution, is then applied to each result. It should be pointed out that this genetic algorithm is purely a numerical calculation method, and definitely not an algorithm which describes real processes in cells. Numerical methods cannot describe the origin of information.
They're not being used to describe the origin of information as a whole, but they do produce new information, novel features, and such when executed, which many Creationists say is impossible. Genetic algorithms simulate evolution once you've got reproduction. What you're asking for is abiogenesis, and even if you reject all abiogenesis theories, you still don't have a good argument for Creationism.
Evolutionary models for the origin of the genetic code: We find proposals for the way the genetic code could have originated in very many publications [e.g., O2, E2, K1], but up to the present time, nobody has been able to propose anything better than purely imaginary models. It has not yet been shown empirically how information can arise in matter, and, according to Theorem 11, this will never happen.
Again, argument from incredulity and ignorance. Just because scientists don't know the answer with great confidence at this time is not a good reason to believe a magic man did it.

So, I looked over a decent chunk of a "semi-technical" article hosted by AiG, and it still looks like standard fallacious Creationism. I skipped over a lot, but if any Creationists would like to bring up specific parts, feel free.


Anonymous said...

Terrific, you discard it by default because... Well, Bronze Dog is right, he says so.

Awesome, The Scientific Method in Action.

Bronze Dog said...

What part of "argument from ignorance" and "argument from incredulity" do you not understand, Gabe?

It's wrong because the logic is invalidated by those logical fallacies. I have nothing to do with it, aside from pointing them out.

Of course, we are talking about a troll who considers logic an "excuse."

Anonymous said...

The irony of you complaining that I accept the existence of the Almighty Lord which we have evidence for (read the Bible) whiles you believe in trolls.

Irony I say, but you wouldn't see it.

Gabriel - One of Jesus divine apostles

Bronze Dog said...

Wow, not even bothering to keep a conversation in any sort of progression. Methinks Gabe is moving into Gish Gallop mode: Change subjects at maximum speed.

1. Reading the Bible is a leading contributing factor in atheism. What's your take on the biblical genocides?

2. I notice you avoid any criticism of my pointing out of the logical fallacies.

3. This post is about me looking at a sample of the evidence you offered. It failed spectacularly on the logical structure alone. Care to give ONE good example, rather than leaving me trying to look for high-hanging fruit in a shrubbery?

4. The bible isn't terribly good evidence. Hearsay written by a bunch of people from a very superstitious culture. Got any experimental evidence?

Anonymous said...

Global Flood, known to have happened, Find it in the Bible, QED

Bronze Dog said...

Wow. Gabe dives off into the deep end.

What's the corroborating physical evidence for this global flood, then, Gabe?

Bronze Dog said...

So, let's take a look at the logical structure of the information argument:

Premise: Scientists don't know something for sure, yet.

Conclusion: Therefore we can be lazy, roll the dice, and randomly conclude that the Christian god did it, and summarily dismiss all other gods as well as any natural processes scientists haven't imagined or tested yet.

According to Gabriel's subversive, drug-addled mind, there is nothing wrong with this line of argumentation, known to the entire civilized world as an "argument from ignorance fallacy."

And as we all know, thanks to prophet Gabriel, logic is an "excuse" not to be lazy.

Anonymous said...

Your Jealousy is clear, You dream of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the Creator of our World but instead you live in Darkness and Ignorance because of your need to follow Darwinism.

Your jealous because you see my intellect and understand the truth (but do not want to admit it, of course) and realize that I am one of Jesus Prophets and one of the chosen ones.

Whiles you are nothing.

Gabriel - The Light of the World

Bronze Dog said...

Gabriel goes for the uncreative ad hominem fallacy instead of admitting to and correcting his dishonesty.

Wow. Color me surprised.

Rhoadan said...

One problem that creationist have with information theory is that Claude Shannon and those other two guys that MarkCC like to cite basically decoupled information from meaning. The creationists simply can't cope wit the idea that a random string of characters contains more information than some a string of the same length with any kind of somewhat predictable pattern.

BTW, have you ever tried pointing Gabe at the Fallacy Files?

Chakat Firepaw said...

It's more than that: Creationists tend to jump back and forth between the two kinds of information theory.

One kind talks about the transmission of information. In it you are measuring based on how well the message received matches the message sent.

The other talks about compressability. In it you are measuring based on how little redundancy is in the signal.

Combining them you get claims like 'information cannot be created, because information can only be lost' that are applied to systems where fidelity to an original signal is not a concern.

OH: Gabe, why should people trust a source which regularly contradicts not only the real world, but itself?

Anonymous said...

Jesus told me that you would not accept the word of God, He told me that you would do JUST WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

I think that says a lot, and makes the world rather clear. Of course, as you deny basic reality, you wouldn't accept that, you accept nothing other then Evolutionism and deny all others.

And irony at its best, Jesus told me that this is what you would do.

Christ knows Everything but yet wants me to Learn for myself and SEE your hatred and ignorance with my own eyes, this makes the Lords way of Teaching truly amazing.

Bronze Dog said...

And Gabriel once again spits on my use of "white" "Western" philosophy to refute the article I quoted:

The article boils down to a formal version of the argument from ignorance: An affirmative conclusion from a negative premiss.

We don't know what caused X (Negative premise)

Therefore we know P (god) caused X. (Affirmative conclusion).

He pretends to worship American science, but when I use the foundations of modern philosophy, science, and mathematics, which brought America into prosperity, suddenly he goes hippie-dippie postmodernism to support his witch doctor anecdotalism.

Rhoadan said...

@ Chakat Firepaw:

But of course to a creationist, fidelity to an original signal is a concern; as far as they're concerned the original signal was sent by God. They have trouble with a lack of teleology too.

Bronze Dog said...

But of course to a creationist, fidelity to an original signal is a concern; as far as they're concerned the original signal was sent by God. They have trouble with a lack of teleology too.

And a paramount concern for many "ethnic cleansers." They have to believe in a super-duper magical purity of super-duper god-men who once existed in order for them to talk about it being "diluted" by inferiors.

MWchase said...

Wait, Gabe is postdicting our application of basic rhetorical caution?

... There is really no good way for me to elaborate on that. He's in balls-to-the-wall poe-mode now.

Anonymous said...

Just look at yourselves, you have a man who communicates with the Creator and points out that he (I) was told that this would be your behavior, and no reaction, you feel no sense of "perhaps I am wrong" or "perhaps this man, a follower of Jesus and a man communicating with the Lord is worth listening to", it is truly amazing how deep in the Darkness you must be,

It is sad, really.

Bronze Dog said...

1. Argument from Authority.

Subtype: Unnecessary

An appeal to authority may be inappropriate in a couple of ways:

It is unnecessary. If a question can be answered by observation or calculation, an argument from authority is not needed. Since arguments from authority are weaker than more direct evidence, go look or figure it out for yourself.

Instead of pinky swearing that you've got a direct, prophetic pipeline to the truth, how about you propose a testable hypothesis about what god does and perform an experiment to see if the predictions come true?

2. Begging the question / Circular argument

Gabe, how do you know you're communicating with a god, and not deluding yourself? You're using your premise as your conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Instead of pinky swearing that you've got a direct, prophetic pipeline to the truth, how about you propose a testable hypothesis about what god does and perform an experiment to see if the predictions come true?

Oh, like the WORLD?
The "experiment" seems to work quite well, it is currently even DENYING its existence and its Creator, well, some of them accept Reality and are Trying to Spread the word of Love and what is needed from them to Enter the Gate of Heaven, but generally they are met by Hatred and Anger.

So what would any other experiment do? Cause more denial? And you know this, no evidence supplied would ever be accepted by Evolutionist, so why demand more and more whiles denying all that has been given?

Gabe, how do you know you're communicating with a god, and not deluding yourself? You're using your premise as your conclusion.

How do you know You exist and are not deluding yourself? you're using your premise as your conclusion.

But only you are allowed to make pointless semantic games denying reality. I was told your kind would not accept Reality and Deny Him, it is amusing how all His prophecies come true.

You deny all, by default, if it does not suit your faith it is not true, thats the Evolutionist Dogma, plain and simple, and however many times I point it out, you will never accept it / understand it / or even know it, thats how good your cult is.

Follow Dawkins, the Lord.

Bronze Dog said...

If I did not exist, there would be no "me" to be deluded.

As for the world, try again. Big Bang cosmology, the modern synthesis of evolution, and all our other scientific theories predict the same world. You need a prediction that's different from what mainstream science predicts. Here's where Occam's razor suggests we avoid multiplying entities unnecessarily. I do not see the necessity of gods to produce the world we are currently living in.

Of course, you continuously refuse to provide a testable, predictive theory of god, and thus you effectively refuse to provide me with an explanation of his necessity.


But how about I propose an experiment:

Since you claim to have a line of communication with your god, and I presume that he is omniscient and omnipotent, please request that he produce (by teleportation or spontaneous creation) a 20 oz can of Longview Cane Sugar at 10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM, United States Central Standard time on my kitchen counter with a bright flash of light, a loud clap of thunder, and a fog of sublimating dry ice.

This provides very little material wealth and three replications at the requested times would be sufficient predictability and regularity to dismiss simple coincidence or naturalistic explanations known to me. Because I do not specify where I live, I can reasonably conclude that you would not be able to hire a magician of enough skill to pull off this demonstration through trickery. It also calls for a particularly specific item, making the difficulty of such a naturalistic explanation even greater.

Bronze Dog said...

On the circular argument, Gabe: There are LOTS of people out there who claim to have a direct line of communication with gods. They're called cult leaders, radical Islamic terrorists, witch doctors, serial killers, and mentally ill people who bother random skeptics on the internet. (Hi, Dennis!)

Like you, they are all absolutely and irrevocably convinced that they are superhuman, godlike, and 'special' enough to "just know" that the voice they perceive is telling the truth.

What makes you any different?

DwellerinDarkness said...

Hey, any chance I can forward you an article from AiG that some of my creationist friends have been pestering me with? It's about accelerated atomic decay and, as I'm an English major, it's well outside of my specialty. I can handle some of the larger issues with the article, in that even if it's possible to accelerate atomic decay that rapidly, there's no mechanism or proposed mechanism to deal with the incredible heat that would result, but I'm ill-equipped to criticize the article's bona fides.

Bronze Dog said...

I'll give it a look over, sometime. Sounds like this'll be one of those silly things the deceiver god archetype allegedly does when no one's looking.

DwellerinDarkness said...

Thanks - honestly, what killed creationism for me were linguistics and astronomy. The biology fascinates me, but the rest of the sciences are generally just too over my head for me to get to the point where I can understand the science and explain it.