Missing genetic information refutes neo-Darwinism
by Wolfgang G. Gasser
is a fact that the information of the genetic make-up of a human is a far cry
from what is needed in order to transform a fertilized egg only into a human
body, let alone into a person with intelligence and consciousness.
There are two approaches to this problem:
1) The dogmatic approach either ignores (i.e. psychologically suppresses) the argument or assumes a miraculous (logically impossible) information increase during ontogenesis.
2) The logically consistent (i.e. scientific) approach leads to the simple conclusion, that apart from the material information another kind of information must exist.
Nowadays, most personal computers have a primary storage (RAM) of around 1 gigabyte. I don't know what the information of the used parts of the human genome is, but I suppose that this information can be compressed to less than 0.1 gigabyte, or maybe even to less than 0.01 gigabyte.
"The estimated number of genes in
the human genome has been repeatedly revised downward since the completion of
the Human Genome Project; current estimates place the human genome at just
under 3 billion base pairs and about 20,000–25,000 genes. A recent Science
article gives a final number of 20,488, with perhaps 100 more yet to be
"Broadly, the science of functional genomics has developed widely accepted techniques to characterize protein-coding genes, RNA genes, and regulatory regions. In the genomes of most plants and animals, however, these together constitute only a small percentage of genomic DNA (less than 2% in the case of humans). The function, if any, of the remainder remains under investigation. Most of it can be identified as repetitive elements that have no known biological function for their host (although they are useful to geneticists for analyzing lineage and phylogeny). Still, a large amount of sequence in these genomes falls under no existing classification other than 'junk'." (Wikipedia)
"Nuclear genome sizes are well known to vary enormously among eukaryotic species. In animals they range more than 3,300-fold, and in land plants they differ by a factor of about 1,000." (Wikipedia)
"In order to store the entire human genome on a computer without compression would require around 3,000,000,000 / 4 = 750,000,000 bytes of storage or 750 megabytes. The human genome requires 750 megabytes of storage compared to 1,500 megabytes of storage for Windows XP. Microsoft’s latest operating system requires twice the storage space than the genetic blueprint of the human species. This does not imply that Windows XP is more advanced or complex than the human genome, in fact, there is little correlation between the complexity of an organism and the length of its DNA sequence. A simple creature known as amoeba dubia has a genome that is over 200 times larger than the human genome." ('Man vs. Windows XP', tmsoft.com)
The belief that, despite all
evidence to the contrary, (mostly repetitive) junk DNA represents information
concerning the human body, instinctive behavior, intelligence and consciousness
is comparable to the belief in logically impossible miracles. Thus the concept
'functional DNA' ("less than 2% in the case of
humans") is the relevant genetic information of a human. Even
without compression it turns out to be less than 15 megabyte (i.e. less than
one percent of Windows XP). This is less than 1 kilobyte per gene.
Maybe even more than in the case of software, there is a lot of evidence of inefficient use of this genetic information. Yet there is not even the slightest hint of how additional information concerning a human being could arise out of these 20,000 genes during ontogenesis.
If it is true that out of these 20,000 genes "we probably make at least 10 times that number of different proteins" then the genetic information per protein reduces to less than 100 bytes. One can dispute whether 100 or 1,000 bytes are enough to determine folding and behavior of proteins, but we can be sure that this information is not enough to describe in a halfway complete way a protein capable of carrying out several tasks.
"For an enzyme to develop in a cell, various specific tasks (e.g. the complex transcription initiation) have to be carried out. If every task required a specific enzyme type, every enzyme type would require several other types, something that is logically impossible. One concludes that many enzymes are able to carry out several tasks. This hardly can be explained by reductionist causal laws, as even one task depends on various conditions, such as e.g. 'allosteric' changes in the enzyme form." (Psychon Theory, Arguments against Reductionism)
So if we cannot even be sure that there is enough genetic information in order to determine all the proteins working in our body, then it becomes (sorry for the expression) completely absurd to assume that there is enough genetic information for the human body with all its anatomical features, let alone for human intelligence and consciousness.
Therefore, neo-Darwinism is refuted insofar as it excludes non-material information. There remain however at least these three logically viable hypotheses:
1) The missing information comes from God
2) The missing information comes from morphic fields (Rupert Sheldrake)
3) The missing information comes from psychons (the 'units' of evolution)
The psychon hypothesis leads to the most and the most precise predictions (e.g. demographic saturation).
Yiab in #3:
What about the fact that gene expression will have extremely different large-scale results depending on the environment the genes are situated in?
If a computer program can perform "extremely different" tasks depending on input parameters, then from a purely logical point of view we must conclude: either the program contains the information corresponding to all tasks which can be switched on by parameters, or the parameters themselves constitute the information needed for the tasks. In the latter case we simply have additional information which is added to the program in order to perform the corresponding task.
The fact that a fertilized human egg grows into a human shape within the womb of a human mother (or an environment almost identical to it) is a necessary part of the process, as is the nutrition transferred to the growing fetus through the umbilical cord.
Do you suggest that the growing egg somehow creates from the womb-environment additional information concerning the construction plan of the human being? Even if this were possible, there remains the problem addressed once by Richard Harter as an objection to a similar argument of PZ Myers:
"The problem is that development is not heritable. Consider a parent organism creating an egg. The parent not only passes on a genotype, it also passes on an environment in which the child organism will develop. Fine, this apparently is information that is not in the child's genotype. Consider, however, what happens when the child in turn creates an egg. It must supply the same developmental environment to its offspring. Now where does that information come from?" (from)
BTW, do you know that from a
logical viewpoint reductionism implies, that a just hatched chick is less
ordered (complex) than the just fertilized egg, because only processes which
increase entropy are possible? (The open/closed-system confusion is pointless
in this context.)
Panpsychism takes the fact seriously that enzymes do not conform to the laws of thermodynamics and Brownian motion, and therefore are able to increase order by working as purposefully as termites when constructing termite mounds.
The main insight of panpsychists such as Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464) was the recognition that plants and animals do not grow from dead matter, but are built up by invisible animated entities with the involvement of perception and intelligence. See
A 'Critical Thinker' in #4:
Without reading anything ... I'm sure I can ...
Isn't it a strange result of evolution that dogmatic souls believing in the orthodox mainstream worldview tend to consider themselves to be critical and sceptic?
Too bad PZ Myers doesn't have time to participate in this forum.
Once I felt entitled to defended myself against attacks from PZ Myers: posting
Isn't it an irony of evolution, that many of the most advanced souls of terrestrial evolution deny their own existence?
Garrette in #8:
alphabet, 26 letters.
English dictionary, 100,000 words.
English literature, more than a few books.
A better analogy could be this one:
Genetic alphabet, 4 letters
Genetic dictionary, 64 words with 21 different meanings
A human's genome, 20'500 recipes
Yet the interesting part is the following:
Workers and work-groups use these 20'000 recipes to create tens or hundreds of thousands of different types of workers and work-groups. In the process of generating and upbringing (chaperones) a next generation, the current generation of workers and work-groups is able to ignore errors in the recipes or to correct the impact of such errors at different stages, able to create new recipes by combining (parts of) recipes, able to perform several other tasks such as e.g. to add ingredients not mentioned in the recipes or to modify ingredients already incorporated in accordance with the recipes.
Here we must ask: where does all this information come from?
I see only one reasonable answer within reductionist materialism: this information comes from the recipes and from the information built into the current generation of workers and work-groups by the previous generation.
But can the quantity of this additional information, provided by previous generations of enzymes, be bigger than the genomic information? I don't think so.
In order to resolve the missing-information problem however, this additional information, built into the current generation of enzymes, would have to be orders of magnitude larger than the genomic one.
From the ontogenesis of birds I conclude that information outside the developing egg/embryo cannot have a relevant impact. How should a human embryo scan its environment and profit from this information? The same is valid for the umbilical cord.
- - -
"The Levinthal paradox is a thought experiment in the
theory of protein folding dynamics. In 1969 Cyrus Levinthal noted that, because
of the very large number of degrees of freedom in an unfolded polypeptide
chain, the molecule has an astronomical number of possible conformations. ...
If the protein is to attain its correctly folded configuration by sequentially
sampling all the possible conformations, it would require a time longer than
the age of the universe to arrive at its correct native conformation." (Wikipedia)
"The maturation of a protein from the corresponding amino acid chain can happen in the following way: In important (evolutionarily older) sequences of the chain, amino acids become active, that is they get animated by psychons. Because of environment continuity these psychons are the ones which have built up the same protein (or the same sequence of different proteins) innumerable times. These psychons build up protein parts which can be animated as a whole by other psychons which then build up the complete protein. So it also becomes comprehensible that RNA sequences (introns) are able to cut out themselves or that order is maintained during DNA recombination." (from)
Earthborn in #25:
In other words: suppose a Star Trek like transporter scans an entire human being and places all necessary information to rebuild a human in its buffer. You would need a whole lot more memory space than the 750 MB needed to store the human being's DNA sequence, even when compressed. If you believe (a view wogoga attributes to "neo-Darwinists") in the misleading analogy that DNA is a sort of computer program to build a human, you might get the impression that
TransporterBuffer - 750 MB = MissingInformation
Of course, the information is not really missing. It is just that nobody in his right mind argued that it was to be found in DNA.
human body of 100 kg consists of around 1028 atoms. 5 Bit are enough
to specify the atom by its atomic number, and 93 Bit are needed to give an
unambiguous reference number to each of the 1028 atoms. Let us
ignore gaseous regions e.g. in the lungs and assume that every atom has direct
neighbors, on average 14. This results in 1028 ∙ 14/2 pairwise
connections. Also a few Bit are probably needed in order to specify the
connection or the chemical bond.
This results in a "TransportBuffer" of around 1030 bytes, and is obviously not an adequate starting point to estimate the missing genetic information. In order to do that, we must deal with the number of freedom degrees of the relevant properties. We can also ask how many degrees of freedom have for instance bolts and nuts, and how much information is used in the production process of a bolt or a nut. If bolts and nuts belong together, they can share some information. Sharing information however can also entail new problems, e.g. undesired dependencies.
If we take seriously our close relationship with chimpanzees, we must conclude that a continuous spectrum of bodies ranging from chimpanzees to humans has existed, all of which with genetic information of around 750 MB (or less than 15 MB, if we exclude non-functional DNA). The difference between a chimpanzee body and a human body is quite substantial. Let us only deal with the macroscopic level:
"The human skeleton consists of both fused and individual bones supported and supplemented by ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilage." "At birth a newborn baby has approximately 300 bones, whereas on average an adult human has 206 bones (these numbers can vary slightly from individual to individual)." "There are approximately 650 skeletal muscles within the typical human. However, the exact number is difficult to define because different sources group muscles differently." (Wikipedia)
many degrees of freedom has one single bone, one single muscle? How many ways
exist to combine the bones, ligaments, tendons, muscles and cartilages with
The environment of a developing egg/embryo cannot provide relevant (constructive) information concerning the ontogenetic design of a primate. And the genetic information present in the fertilized egg is obviously not enough to determine all the relevant degrees of freedom. So why should the hypothesis, that non-material information could be involved, not at least be taken into consideration?
Wuschel in #42:
Apart from how vague and unscientific the "more than 20 000 properties" claim is, one would at least need to establish that these claimed "more than 20 000 properties" are indeed "more than 20 000" independent degrees of freedom, because otherwise it looks just like the apparent "Complexity" of the decimal expansion of "PI", which, in fact, is the result of a rather simple algorithm.
is assumed that the 20'000 genes give rise to more than 20'000 different types
of enzymes. And should we not attribute to each of these enzymes at least one
property resp. "independent degree of freedom"?
The HIV-1 protease for instance cleaves the viral polyprotein at eight
different sites during the maturation process of the virus. HIV-1 proteases
also have learned to defend themselves from protease inhibitors. We may
nevertheless dispute whether 20'000 properties are enough to determine all
human enzymes. However, we can be sure that 20'000 properties are not enough to
determine the ontogenesis of a human at all levels.
"It is relevant to point out that a gene on average consists of a thousand base pairs, thereby supplying many bits of information. However most of this supply of information is a mirage. The vast bulk of a protein is devoted to folding up into the right shape. The region of interest is the hot spot which only consists of a handful of amino acids. It should also be noted that a fair percentage of the genome is devoted to house-keeping machinery for the eukaryote cell." (see)
The main problem with information increase by means of algorithms or 'elementary cellular automaton rules' is the complete lack of degrees of freedom. Whereas a given phenotype has a continuous spectrum of neighbors, fractals and the decimal expansion of the square root of prime numbers have no neighbors.
- - -
"Reductionists have resolved the problem of the missing genetic information by an argument, which is based on a famous philosophical error. They confuse the category of information size with the category of combination number. If some information is condensed to a 1 million bit, one needs a million bit to store it. It is nonsense to argue that 20 bits are enough because 20 bits give more than a million (220) combinations. One must clearly distinguish between the information size and the number of combinations that can be stored in a memory of a given size." (from)