Relevant extracts from my posts of June 1999

Re: Definitions of evolution

Re: Thermodynamics and Evolutionary Mechanism Theory Challenge

Einstein's work on Brownian motion is based on the most fundamental principles of statistical physics. My reliance on Einstein therefore is not an argument from authority but an argument from basic principles.

If somebody can show me convincingly that the theory of Brownian motion is wrong I can accept this. But I cannot accept (within reductionism) that despite the theory being correct, proteins and other biological molecules may deviate from it by some orders of magnitude.

Re: Point Well Taken

The existence of souls can be tested by several means, e.g. by their limitation in number. The demographic evolution of mankind makes it more and more evident that there are less than 7 billion human souls. If there won't be major catastrophic events, the next decades will refute the demographic predictions based on neo-Darwinism even stronger than the last years have done.

Re: Definitions of evolution

Abigenesis IS a prerequisite for a neo-Darwinian evolution, it is (in its technical sense) no prerequisite for a theistic evolution.

If abigenesis is not a prerequisite for evolution, then mutation and selection are no prerequisites as well. The obvious increase in complexity of the terrestrian ecosystem can also be explained by a continous intervention of God.

Re: Point Well Taken

'Subjective truth' has always dominated and still dominates in religion and science. Subjective truth is what fits best (the least contradictorily) one's own world view. That's understandable because this world view has a very concrete basis in our soul and our brain.

The prevailing 'objective truth' is nothing more than the subjective truth of the (relevant) majority.

The current scientific mainstream world view will appear to future generations at least as wrong as past religious world views and more distant from reality than the world views of persons who lived some centuries ago.

Re: Thermodynamics and Evolutionary Mechanism Theory Challenge

His method is the same as the one of other defenders of orthodoxy. He starts from the statement in question and derives (necessary) premises. Because he is convinced that the conclusion (the statement in question) must be true, he feels entitled to present these premises as facts proving the statement.

The same thing is true for many scientific papers which claim for instance that (correctly bonded) amino acids or single (parts of) nucleotides can appear by chance in substantial quantity in plausible prebiotic environments. That's a correct logical consequence of their reductionist world view, but not a result of their highly artificial experiments

Diffusion has been characterized by Einstein as "aimless wandering around of the molecules (planloses Umherirren der Moleküle)".

Look for instance at DNA replication, where lots of different enzymes and proteins work together in a very complex and coordinated way! Do you really think that random bouncing around of the involved molecules, leading from time to time by chance to enzyme-substrate-meetings, are consistent with what we observe?

Or take the case of self-assembly of multienzyme-complexes. Even if the enzymes of such a complex fold in the same region of the cell, the probability that they will not drift apart by diffusion is rather low. Active sites must meet in the right way. That the physical principles of molecular recognition are not yet mastered, is normally admitted.

In real science the burden of proof should lie on those who make counter-intuitive claims, and not on those who claim what agrees with simple facts and logical reasoning. It is a fact that during evolution more and more complex patterns have emerged in the universe (e.g. solar systems) and on earth. It is also an undeniable fact that the second law is rather consistent with a decrease in patterns than with an increase.

Re: Definitions of evolution

Richard E. Dickerson (Sci.Am., 9/1978) about the reaction from formaldehyde to ribose: "However, the product is not resistent in water, and the conditions under which the reactions occur in laboratory do not correspond to the conditions on the early earth." (translated back from German)

But don't forget, the existence of ribose in substantial quantity and qualitity (optical activity) is only one of many conditions which much be fulfilled at the same time and at the same location for a living proto-cell to appear.

Even highly educated persons such as ... have been misled into assuming that so-called 'self-replicating proteins' are capable of reproducing themselves from spare amino acids. And orthodox t.o. posters may feel entitled to accuse of dishonesty creationists denying the existence of self-replicating proteins.

Reference throwing VS quote mining

I think that REFERENCE THROWING corresponds rather to a dogmatic and QUOTE MINING rather to a critical or (genuinely) sceptical approach.

Re: Reference throwing VS quote mining

Only if a quoted statement is misleading out of context, it is dishonest to use it for (honest) quote mining. But I don't think that the use of the following quote from Darwin is really misleading:

"To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree."

That's a clear statement and no distortion emerges by taking it out of context. Darwin admits that according to common sense his explanation is not very convincing at least in the case of the eye. That Darwin continues by trying to explain away the apparent absurdity is a different matter:

"Yet reason tells me, that if ... and ...; if further ... and ... ; and if ..., then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, can hardly be considered ..."

Maybe future generations will fully agree with the original quote and be amused by its continuation?

Darwin's writings are of full of excellent rhetoric. He succeeded in convincing the majority of the scientific world that trivial well-known FACTS (offspring differs from parents, different survival rates for different properties) can explain the tremendous creativity of life, if more scientific names are given to these FACTS.

Re: Evolution vs. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2nd Edition)

If the formation of a chemical bond needs energy, then this energy must be provided somehow. If thermal motions cannot provide energy quantas high enough, then this energy must come from radiation or from other chemical reactions releasing at least as much energy as is needed for the desired bond.

The interesting thing is that such high energy chemicals are used in an astonishingly efficient way to build up exactly the vital bonds of living cells. As far as I know, living organisms use chemical energy substantially more efficiently than thermal machines.

Generally, it is easier to use energy in a destructive than in a constructive way. So why is the available energy in living organisms almost exclusively used to construct and so rarely to destroy (the own structure)?

Does this refute the second law? I suppose, yes.

Re: Definitions of evolution

1) X is defined by "a change in allele frequencies".
2) The theory of X explains the fact of X.

3) The theory of X explains the fact of a change in allele frequencies.

Joseph's main point is that it does not matter whether you replace X by evolution or by creation.

Re: Definitions of evolution

Evolution has been proposed as the explanation of the "origin of species" problem. Therefore it is wrong (maybe even misleading or dishonest) to exclude speciation from the definition of evolution in order to avoid other problems.

Re: Why I Rejected Evolution

Denton objects to abiogenesis that there is no trace of a prebiotic soup which is (or has been) considered necessary for microorganisms to emerge by chance. The article, however, deals with supposed effects of microorganisms.

Re: The second law is about power plants and jets

The problem is that there are two very different concepts with the name 'information':

  1. the common sense interpretation of information
  2. Shannon 'information' (entropy)

This ambiguity leads to a strange situation with respect to statements concerning information and life. In the case creationists unconsciously use the first definition in order to validate creationist statements or to invalidate evolutionist statements, evolutionists use the second definition in order validate evolutionist or invalidate creationist statements, and the other way round.

This post, you are reading now, contains information which is difficult to quantify. On the other hand, it is possible to quanity the compressed 'information' of the bit stream corresponding to the post in a Shannon like way (not without additional assumptions concerning compression; the uncompressed 'information' content only would equal the bit number of the post).

If we start changing randomly bits of the post, the following happens: the actual information continuously decreases as more and more words and sentences become unintelligible, but the Shannon like 'information' continuously increases until each bit is statistically independent of the others, and 1's are exactly as frequent as 0's.

So the maximal Shannon 'information' content corresponds to a total loss of any useful information, and we must conclude that at least in one respect Shannon 'information' (also called entropy) is the opposite of useful information, where bits (characters, words, base pairs) cannot be independent of the others.

Re: Why I Rejected Evolution

You had suggested that an online reference refutes Denton's and Griffith's claim that there is no evidence for a primordial soup. I read the article and noticed that its rather questionable conclusion is not only irrelevant to the point you are trying to make but can even be interpreted as evidence against abiogenesis. Therefore your invocation of this reference seems to me a case of "reference throwing" (see the thread "Reference throwing VS quote mining").

If already shortly after crust formation, microorganisms had emerged on earth, then there is less time for abiogenesis. Chance inventions of all the very complicated chemical pathways, indispensable for any self-replicating organism, become even more unlikely.

So the existence of very early life on earth is rather evidence for a creation of these microorganisms than for their evolution by chance.

According to the psychon theory, the existence of such early life leads to the conclusion that important chemical pathways and the genetic code (or a related one) were not invented for the first time on earth.

Re: Entropy and supercooled water (was: Evolution vs. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics)

Re: Evolution vs. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

What about persons like Ockham, Copernicus, Kepler, Spinoza who were essentially right (in limited areas) whereas almost the whole religious and scientific community was wrong? Do you really think that for the first time in history the mainstream world view of the 'most developed civilization' is essentially correct?

Are you sure that YOU understand the second law, or do you rely only on the authority of others? Are you sure that these authorities really understand the second law and all its logical implications?

Isaac Asimov's argument seems to me an argument from authority of the worst kind: it must be true because the (scientific) majority believes it is true.

The dichotomy between evolutionism and creationism you imply does not exist. There are a lot of aspects which should be treated separately such as:

  1a) randomism (in QM and ToE)               VERSUS
   b) some form of creativity

  2a) continuity                              VERSUS
   b) discontinuity

  3a) consciousness a side effect of matter   VERSUS 
   b) consciousness as fundamental as matter

  4a) life from dead matter                   VERSUS
   b) no dead matter

  standard evolutionist: 1a, 2a, 3a, 4a
  standard creationist:  1b, 2b, 3b, 4a
  my personal view:      1b, 2a, 3b, 4b

Evolutionists often take evidence for continuity (2a) as evidence for the whole evolution concept (1a, 2a, 3a, 4a).

Re: Evolution vs. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

The same high temperatures which lead to chemical uphill reactions also destroy the products. This results in a chemical equilibrium where the uphill molecules appear at the same rate they disappear but where they can NOT reach a substantial proportion.

That's the reason why it is impossible to produce such a simple and fundamental molecule as ribose in substantial quantity by chemical means (even if one starts with a concentrated formaldehyde solution). I suppose that nobody ever has succeeded in producing RNA nucleotides by purely chemical means, but I'm sure only in the case we add "in substantial quantity" to my supposition.

The original second law states that the universe will undergo 'heat death', as temperature differences will continue to disappear. On the other hand, billions of years have not been enough to remove a difference of a few thousands degrees Kelvin from such a tiny object as our planet.

When solar systems (or galaxies) emerge from interstellar (inter- galactic) material, huge temperature differences do appear. In the same way, at least according to common sense, order does not decrease but does increase during the formation of solar systems and galaxies.

Our solar system can be considered as a closed system for most purposes. If the matter our solar system orginitates from had been the only matter in an infinite universe, the emergence of our solar system and of life would have been possible all the same, because no input from outside the solar system is required.

So your statement "it is disorder of the UNIVERSE that must increase", leads to the conclusion that disorder has been increasing in our planetary system (galaxy) since its very beginning as an interstellar (intergalactic) cloud.

Your statement "it is disorder of the UNIVERSE that must increase" also entails by logical necessity a typical creationist statement: "The universe has been decaying ever since it's creation was completed" (A. Biele in a very instructive post of this thread).

Re: The second law is about power plants and jets

In the case of the highly compressed message the information lies not in the (apparently random) bit sequence alone but primarily in the compression algorithm.

Re: Creationist claim. Comment please

Re: Evolution vs. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

Re: The second law is about power plants and jets

The problem is that probability is never given in an apriori way. The digits of the number pi '314159...' are on the one hand an example of a genuinely random sequence and on the other hand fully deterministic.

Take for example the 1000 bit long binary sequence '101010...'. What is its Shannon information in bits? Is it 1000 bit or is it less? It depends on additional hypotheses. Or take the sequence consisting of at first 500 1's and then 500 0's.

The more general a theory is, the more additional hypotheses, principles and facts are used in its application to concrete situations.

There is no compression algorithm which can compress all (binary) messages to MAXIMAL S-info. In order to compress a message so that all bits (bit sequences) are statistically independent of all other bits (bit sequences) a lot of information about the original message is required.

Take the case of a long poem where single words, expressions and whole sentences are often repeated (in slightly modified forms). If we want to avoid that these repetitions lead to a certain predictability of bits (bit sequences) in the compressed message, we must integrate information about the uncompressed poem in our compression algorithm.

The problem is that a theory dealing with technical problems of data transmission and having almost nothing to do with information (which until then had always implied meaning or at least some form of interpretation) was called 'information theory'.

Re: Evolution vs. the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics

One cannot exclude that a very careful and unprejudiced examination of the conceptual basis of so-called well-established theories or even 'facts' (e.g. constancy of speed of light) can confirm original common-sense objections.

It is neither trivial nor self-evident that downhill processes involving simple high-energy-molecules lead exactly to such uphill processes which build up the needed chemical bonds of organic macromolecules. And this is a prerequiste not only for abiogenesis but even for extant life.

The objection that this simple and convincing argument is a 'creationist' strawman is nothing more than an 'evolutionist' strawman. It's rather amusing to see how thoughtlessly all sides here on t.o. declare arguments of the opposite side strawmans.

In nature there is no obvious selection process which hinders 'useful' molecules from decaying again by transporting them to areas optimal for their stability. Ribose for instance is not even resistent to water of normal temperature.

A huge discrepancy exists in abiogenesis research between what is actually possible and what is generally reported to be possible.

Imagine: the abiotic creation of peptide chains of up to six glycine residues (the simplest amino acid of proteins) under highly artificial conditions (a 100 mM glycine solution dissolved in pure water) is still in 1999 considered such a sensation that this result can be published in _Science_, one of the two most widely read scientific journals!!!

Julie Thomas has written an excellent short post on this subject.

Re: Theory of Natural Selection VS Reality

If every position of a 393 aa long protein can have one of 5 amino acids without loss of function, then this is equivalent to a 393 long sequence consisting of only 4 (20/5) different 'amino acids'. The 5 of 20 amino acids which are equivalent at a given position are considered as 1 of 4 'amino acids'. There are 4^393 = 10^237 'different' sequences and only one of them is functional.

The low number of actual alleles of most proteins together with the fact that 10^237 is incomparably higher than the number of atoms of the whole earth (around 10^50) makes it clear that in most cases continuous transitions between proteins must be impossible at present.

Two conclusions are possible:

  1. Proteins were designed.
  2. The amino acid sequence does not represent the whole information of proteins. Sequences which were functional in the past do not fold at present and sequences which are functional at present did not fold in the past.

The basic 'evolutionist' error consists in assuming that the combinations corresponding to different conditions can be added. Normally such combinations must be multiplied. Suppose that thirty conditions must be fulfilled for a self-replicating system to appear. Suppose that every of these conditions implies that a special combination of 100 possible combinations must be fulfilled. Normally one would calculate the probability in this way:

p = 1 / 100^30 = 10^-60

'Evolutionist' calculations are directly or indirectly based on that calculation:

p = 1 / 100 x 30 = 1 / 3000

Re: Engimas --- Recombination

Within neo-Darwinian framework, recombination, especially during meiosis, seems rather enigmatic to me.

How can order be maintained? Why do chromosomal DNA chains not break apart and join together arbitrarily? If enzymes are involved, why do they know which locations can be separated and which sequences must be put together so that functional chromosomes can reemerge.

A similar problem is self-splicing of introns and inteins.

According to the psychon theory, the fact that DNA, RNA or amino acid sequences separate not arbitrarily but rather at locations which represent the border between functional units can easily explained by analogy: if a long queue consisting of groups of persons breaks apart, normally the separation takes place between groups and not within groups.

In a similar way, groups of persons join other groups not arbitrarily but depending on their degree of familiarity.

Continuity between Creationism and Evolutionism

Creationism and evolutionism are generally viewed as diametrically opposed. I try to show that the relation between evolutionism and creationism goes beyond a simple dichotomy. Several aspects must be treated separately and there are even continuous transitions from the creationist to the evolutionist point of views.

In my opinion important aspects of the creation-evolution-debate are:

    1a) Randomism
 vs  b) goal-directed creativity 

    2a) Continuous emergence of life
 vs  b) discontinuous emergence of life 

    3a) Reality of souls
 vs  b) consciousness as a pure side effect of matter 

    4a) General validity of 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, 
        evolution of life considered consistent with 2LoT
 vs  b) general validity of 2LoT, 
        evolution of life considered inconsistent with 2LoT
 vs  c) life itself violates 2LoT 

The first two aspects are at the heart of the debate. Whereas standard evolutionists subscribe 1a and 2a, standard creationists subscribe 1b and 2b.

The impact on current discussions (at least on t.o.) of the third aspect concerning the reality of (human) souls is rather small. Maybe even creationists fear to make a fool of themselves by talking about souls. It seems to me that a majority of creationists has accepted basic principles of materialistic reductionism: living organisms are viewed as complex self-replicating machines designed and originally produced by God.

The forth aspect is interesting insofar as the positions of evolutionism (4a) and creationism (4b) are generally viewed as complete opposites, despite the fact that both positions agree in supposing that extant life does not violate the second law.

According to standard creationism only discontinuous interventions of God can circumvent the second law. Based on 4b, the existence of complex life is considered as evidence of God.

Standard evolutionists are forced to claim that despite the apparent increase in common sense order during the evolution of our universe, its real 'order' has been decreasing since its very beginning (i.e. configurations of lower probablitity have been transformed into configurations of higher probability).

This evolutionist view is in some respect even more creationist than the view of old earth creationists: the universe appeares suddenly with the highest order, and from that moment on, order only decreases. Global decrease in order can lead (by chance, aimlessly) to a local increase such as e.g. to a complex ecosystem on earth.

Old earth creationists however admit that there is some kind of progressive development of the universe. They see it as the result of discontinuous interventions of God. The creation of humans is considered the latest and most important event of a long chain of separate progressive creations.

Now we can ask how did God create e.g. elephants (within OEC view). Did he create complete elephants by violating the law of mass-energy conservation? Did he put together existent molecules in agreement with all known physical laws (apart from 2LoT)? Did he use a yet existing similar species in order to give birth to the first elephants? If yes, did he change the hereditary information in a discontinuous way, resulting in a huge macro-evolutionary step? Or did he intervene continuously over several generations in a rather small population, so that a continuous transformation to the new species was possible? (Artificial inseminations with fertilized eggs of other species or populations do not work at all or work the better, the more related the involved populations are.)

Whether we explain order creating acts or processes (violating the 2LoT) such as e.g. the appearance of new biochemical pathways rather abstractly by postulating some kind of natural law or by interventions of God does not make a difference in predictive power.

In my opinion the existence of order creating principles in nature is a fact. So why should we prefer the view that

to view that

I personally prefer the notion of God as the sustainer of nature to the notion of God as a pure creator.

Re: Population - The Demographic Saturation Theory

The central ENIGMAS of neo-Darwinism

The selection theory makes the survival of enigmas concerning life and its evolution rather difficult. It's always possible to find aspects under which apparently strange properties of living organisms are advantageous. By declaring these aspects relevant, natural selection can triumph over the enigma.

However, every explanation based on natural selection is based on reproduction. So, if reproduction can be shown to be an enigma within neo-Darwinism, then the number of neo-Darwinian enigmas explodes.

Selection reduces the number of objects. Reproduction increases the number of objects. The mystery of life is not death, because all objects tend to decay. Reproduction must at first create the objects selection can get rid of.

If one knows that the real problem of evolution is not selection but reproduction with inheritance, then one must wonder why simple selection experiments (or computer-simulations) can be interpreted as proof for the effectiveness of the neo-Darwinian mechanisms. In such experiments the really hard work is the production (with mutations) of entities and not selection.

Here an example of such an experiment which is considered as evidence that natural selection could have triggered the emergence of life on Earth:

"They then carried out the lab equivalent of natural selection. They plucked out the few successful candidates and made millions of copies of them using protein enzymes. Then they mutated those RNAs, tested them again, replicated them again, and so on to 'evolve' some ultra-effective new RNA-snipping ribozymes."

Two other central enigmas of neo-Darwinism:

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