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I've been butting heads for a year or two on boards with hardcore creationists trying to convince me that information can only be reduced and not added (despite the six-fingered species of humans). Is this the same argument that is typically made about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? If not, what is the typical rebuttal to this question?

 

Also, I would like to read information about the evolution of the precursors to the first single-celled organisms. Can someone direct me to good sources of this type of information?

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The universe is increasing in entropy, but life represents a local decrease in entropy. In doing thermodynamic calculations you must consider the system and surroundings.   The entropy of the syste

Basics of DNA:   There are 4 base pairs: Adenine (A) Thymine (T) Gaunine (G) Cytosine ©   These are combined into triplets (that is 3s) to form a condon like this: AAT : Asparagine AGC : Asp

I've been butting heads for a year or two on boards with hardcore creationists trying to convince me that information can only be reduced and not added (despite the six-fingered species of humans). Is this the same argument that is typically made about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? If not, what is the typical rebuttal to this question?

 

pretty much the same.

 

basically, if you have information and you randomly change it, it will, over time, degrade -- not inprove.

 

however, evolution is not just random changes over time. evolution is random changes over time + a selection mechanism. it is the selection mechanism that basically weeds out the crappy changes and propagates the good ones, thus overcomming the natural 'degredation over time' that would normally be expected with random changes to information.

 

If you look at error catastrophy, which is basically where there are so many random changes that the evolutionary selection process becomes overloaded and stops working, then you can see the natural degredation over time occouring (well, technicly evolution still works during error catastrophy, it's just that evolution slows down the degradation, rather than eliminating it and allowing inprovement).

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...trying to convince me that information can only be reduced and not added (despite the six-fingered species of humans). Is this the same argument that is typically made about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics? If not, what is the typical rebuttal to this question?

 

First I don't know much about the creationism belifes but I can imagine that they argue that 2nd law of thermodynamics suggest that there's no way humans could have evolved. But that's an incorrect application of the law, there is no such conclusion applying to subsystems. Biosynthesis and microbioal growth are all well in compliance with the second law. The balancing entropy of the uinverse is from degrading food (oxidizing carbs etc).

 

Touching what Dak said, I have long suspected that there exists a deeper information theoretic duality between the observed universe and the observer himself, that may be given a creational interpretion, all in compliance with scientifical principles. I am not sure how much is written about it, but I'd expect that perhaps some people that worked on the observer issue in QM has elaborated this. This is pretty fuzzy though but I think eventually more insight into this will come without the need for magic.

 

/Fredrik

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Thermodynamic entropy and Shannon entropy (information) are not the same things. There is no second law of thermodynamics equivalent - you can increase information without adding energy, with a filter, as dak described in connection with evolution.

 

 

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/information/shannon.html

(near the bottom)

"Unlike molecular entropy, Shannon entropy can be locally reduced without putting energy into the information system. Simply passing a channel through a passive filter can reduce the entropy of the transmitted information (unbeknownst to the transmitter, the channel capacity is reduced, and therefore so is the entropy of the information on the channel). The amount of power needed to transmit is the same whether or not the filter is in place, and whether or not the information entropy is reduced. "

 

also

http://www.lecb.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/information.is.not.uncertainty.html

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actually, i've just noticed i sent this thread in slightly the wrong direction (2nd law of thermodynamics, rather than the actual question).

 

with reguards to the question about 'it only being possible for information to be reduced, not added', this claim incorporates the 2nd falicy of thermoinformatics, but also generally revolves around the idea that there is no source of new genetic information. i.e., you can't get new genes.

 

simply put, new genetic information can occour from old genetic information by mutation, misuse of 2nd law of thermodynamics notwithstanding. you can even get new genes without losing the old genes via gene-duplication, whereby a gene is duplicated, one copy of the gene stays as the original gene, and the other mutates into a new gene.

 

otherwize, the claim is usually 'mutations can alter things, but not create new things', meaning that fins can change in shape and design, but not turn into hands. which is ignoring the fact that if you keep changing a fin, you'll get a hand.

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Maybe this discussing starts to diverge away from the original purpose but it's true that there are different versions of entropy measures, I think it's still a universal abstraction and here is another comment.

 

The generalisation would be a kind of generalized relative entropy, which included all priors. If you have a filter, this filter is defined as part of your prior. Otherwise you are not respecting the relative nature of information. How to actually mathematically represent such a general entropy though as a function of an arbitrary filter would be quite complex and is subject of current work. But if you consider this relative entropy (I claim without proof :o) there is indeed a analogous version of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and the general form does not forbid that the entropy decreases, it just concludes that it's correspondingly unlikely.

 

The filter itself can be seen as constraint. This constraint will be added to the stochastic process. So, the outcomes of such a process - given that the constraints are respected, should still obey a generalized form of a 2nd law analogy.

 

The apparent violation of the law is IMHO caused by not considering the proper relative entropy (meaning considering relative information, existenceo f a filter is definitely part of the information).

 

I still agree with Swanson that there are different uses of entropy, and it's important to see the difference. I just wanted to add that I think there is at another abstraction layer again a unification to be found!

 

/Fredrik

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The creationist claim that evolutionary processes introduce new information from nowhere is simply false.

 

Evolutionary theory proposes that novel combinations of existing information arise through selective mechanisms, and the claim is well-evidenced.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Read this:

 

 

The purpose of life is to disperse energy:

 

The truly dangerous ideas in science tend to be those that threaten the collective ego of humanity and knock us further off our pedestal of centrality. The Copernican Revolution abruptly dislodged humans from the center of the universe. The Darwinian Revolution yanked Homo sapiens from the pinnacle of life. Today another menacing revolution sits at the horizon of knowledge, patiently awaiting broad realization by the same egotistical species.

The dangerous idea is this: the purpose of life is to disperse energy.

Many of us are at least somewhat familiar with the second law of thermodynamics, the unwavering propensity of energy to disperse and, in doing so, transition from high quality to low quality forms. More generally, as stated by ecologist Eric Schneider, "nature abhors a gradient," where a gradient is simply a difference over a distance — for example, in temperature or pressure. Open physical systems — including those of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere — all embody this law, being driven by the dispersal of energy, particularly the flow of heat, continually attempting to achieve equilibrium. Phenomena as diverse as lithospheric plate motions, the northward flow of the Gulf Stream, and occurrence of deadly hurricanes are all examples of second law manifestations.

There is growing evidence that life, the biosphere, is no different. It has often been said the life's complexity contravenes the second law, indicating the work either of a deity or some unknown natural process, depending on one's bias. Yet the evolution of life and the dynamics of ecosystems obey the second law mandate, functioning in large part to dissipate energy. They do so not by burning brightly and disappearing, like a fire torching a forest, but through stable metabolic cycles that store chemical energy and continually reduce the solar gradient. Photosynthetic plants, bacteria, and algae capture energy from the sun and form the core of all food webs.

Virtually all organisms, including humans, are, in a real sense, sunlight transmogrified, temporary waypoints in the flow of energy. Ecological succession, viewed from a thermodynamic perspective, is a process that maximizes the capture and degradation of energy. Similarly, the tendency for life to become more complex over the past 3.5 billion years (as well as the overall increase in biomass and organismal diversity through time) is not due simply to natural selection, as most evolutionists still argue, but also to nature's "efforts" to grab more and more of the sun's flow. The slow burn that characterizes life enables ecological systems to persist over deep time, changing in response to external and internal perturbations.

Ecology has been summarized by the pithy statement, "energy flows, matter cycles. " Yet this maxim applies equally to complex systems in the non-living world; indeed it literally unites the biosphere with the physical realm. More and more, it appears that complex, cycling, swirling systems of matter have a natural tendency to emerge in the face of energy gradients. This recurrent phenomenon may even have been the driving force behind life's origins.

This idea is not new, and is certainly not mine. Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger was one of the first to articulate the hypothesis, as part of his famous "What is Life" lectures in Dublin in 1943. More recently, Jeffrey Wicken, Harold Morowitz, Eric Schneider and others have taken this concept considerably further, buoyed by results from a range of studies, particularly within ecology. Schneider and Dorian Sagan provide an excellent summary of this hypothesis in their recent book, "Into the Cool".

The concept of life as energy flow, once fully digested, is profound. Just as Darwin fundamentally connected humans to the non-human world, a thermodynamic perspective connects life inextricably to the non-living world. This dangerous idea, once broadly distributed and understood, is likely to provoke reaction from many sectors, including religion and science. The wondrous diversity and complexity of life through time, far from being the product of intelligent design, is a natural phenomenon intimately linked to the physical realm of energy flow.

Moreover, evolution is not driven by the machinations of selfish genes propagating themselves through countless millennia. Rather, ecology and evolution together operate as a highly successful, extremely persistent means of reducing the gradient generated by our nearest star. In my view, evolutionary theory (the process, not the fact of evolution!) and biology generally are headed for a major overhaul once investigators fully comprehend the notion that the complex systems of earth, air, water, and life are not only interconnected, but interdependent, cycling matter in order to maintain the flow of energy.

Although this statement addresses only naturalistic function and is mute with regard to spiritual meaning, it is likely to have deep effects outside of science. In particular, broad understanding of life's role in dispersing energy has great potential to help humans reconnect both to nature and to planet's physical systems at a key moment in our species' history.

 

SCOTT SAMPSON

Chief Curator, Utah Museum of Natural History; Associate Professor Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah; Host, Dinosaur Planet TV series

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I've been butting heads for a year or two on boards with hardcore creationists trying to convince me that information can only be reduced and not added (despite the six-fingered species of humans).

 

Unfortunately for creationists, one of the most prominent of creationists -- William Dembski -- has shown that natural selection must add information. Natural selection cannot reduce information.

 

Also, I would like to read information about the evolution of the precursors to the first single-celled organisms. Can someone direct me to good sources of this type of information?

 

The first life did not "evolve". Instead, it resulted from chemistry. Start here --http://www.theharbinger.org/articles/rel_sci/fox.html -- and we can discuss it further if you wish.

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The creationist claim that evolutionary processes introduce new information from nowhere is simply false.

 

Evolutionary theory proposes that novel combinations of existing information arise through selective mechanisms, and the claim is well-evidenced.

 

No, new information is also introduced. This is done by 2 means:

 

1. Increasing the amount of DNA by mutations that add more DNA: gene duplication, transpositions, chromosome duplication, etc.

 

2. Selection. Selection actually increases information.

 

Dembski << 1"Suppose that an organism in reproducing generates N offspring, and that of these N offspring M succeed in reproducing. The amount of information introduced through selection is then -log2(M/N). Let me stress that this formula is not an case of misplaced mathematical exactness. This formula holds universally and is non-mysterious. Take a simple non-biological example. If I am sitting at a radio transmitter, and can transmit only zeros and ones, then every time I transmit a zero or one, I choose between two possibilities, selecting precisely one of them. Here N equals 2 and M equals 1. The information -log2(M/N) thus equals -log2(1/2) = 1, i.e., 1 bit of information n is introduced every time I transmit a zero or one. This is of course as things should be. Now this example from communication theory is mathematically isomorphic to the case of cell-division where only one of the daughter cells goes on to reproduce. On the other hand, if both daughter cells go on to reproduce, then N equals M equals 2, and thus -log2(M/N) = -log2(2/2) = 0, indicating that selection, by failing to eliminate any possibility failed also to introduce new information. " >>

 

Let's look at Darwin's formulation of natural selection.

 

"IF, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; IF there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; THEN, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I THINK IT WOULD BE A MOST EXTRAORDINARY FACT IF NO VARIATION EVER HAD OCCURRED USEFUL TO EACH BEINGS WELFARE, in the same ways so many variations have occurred useful to man. But IF variations useful to any organic being do occur, ASSUREDLY individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection." [Origin, p 127 1st ed.]

 

Now, I bolded one of Darwin's "ifs", but this one says that more offspring are produced than those who actually reproduce. So, let's do some calculations on Dembski's equation looking at these numbers.

 

1. In a population, there are 4 offspring born but selection eliminates 3 and only one reproduces. So we have N = 4 and M = 1. -log(2) (M/N) = -log(2) (1/4) = -(-2) = 2. We have gained 2 "bits" of information in this generation. Selection does increase information.

 

2. Let's take a more radical example. An antibiotic kills 95% of the population. So we have 5 bacteria that can reproduce out of 100. N = 100, M =5. -log(2) (5/100) = -log(2) (.05) = -(-4.3) = 4.3. Now information has increased 4.3 "bits". The more severe the selection, the greater the increase in information.

 

3. Let's take a less severe example. A selection pressure such that of 100 individuals, 99 survive to reproduce. -log(2) (99/100) = -log(2) (.99) = - (-0.01) = 0.01.

So now we have only an increase of 0.01 "bits" in this one generation due to selection. But remember, selection is cumulative. Take this over 1,000 generations and we have an increase of 10 "bits". Now, Nilsson and Pelger have estimated, using conservative parameters, that it would take 364,000 generations to evolve an eye. D-E Nilsson and S Pelger, A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. 256: 53-58, 1994. Taking that over our calculations shows that the eye represents an increase of 3,640 "bits" of information.

 

Finally, note that selection must result in an increase of information by Dembski's equation. Any fraction always has a negative logarithm. With the negative sign in front of the logarithm (-log) that means that the value for information must be positive as long as selection is operative. The only way to get loss of information is for the number of individuals that reproduce (M) to be greater than the number born (N). This is obviously not possible.

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Read this:

 

 

The purpose of life is to disperse energy:

 

With all respect to Dr. Sampson, this is garbage. A result of life is to disperse energy. But that is not to say that the "purpose" of life is to do so. To say "purpose" requires some assumptions that Dr. Sampson is hiding.

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No, new information is also introduced. This is done by 2 means:

You misunderstand. I did not say "new information is not added", I said that the claim "new information is added from nowhere" is false.

 

The reason for only addressing the novel combinations in selection is because the "garbled data" argument is the only one I have seen coming from the creationist camp (ref: Phil Fernandes and his buddies).

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You misunderstand. I did not say "new information is not added", I said that the claim "new information is added from nowhere" is false.

 

The reason for only addressing the novel combinations in selection is because the "garbled data" argument is the only one I have seen coming from the creationist camp (ref: Phil Fernandes and his buddies).

 

You made two statements and I was principally addressing the second: "Evolutionary theory proposes that novel combinations of existing information arise through selective mechanisms, and the claim is well-evidenced."

 

You limited evolutionary theory to "novel combinations of existing information". I am disputing that. Evolutionary theory also proposes the addition of new information. I went on to document how this is done.

 

Duplicating chromosomes and genes adds new information that does not arise from different combinations. In that case, you do get DNA de novo!

 

Also, the information equations say that new information does arise from selection. NOT from novel combinations. Instead, information is generated.

 

So relax. Evolution does have mechanisms for adding new information. Don't fixate on the "from nowhere". There is a "where". It's just that the "where" is not direct manufacture by an intelligent entity. Which, after all, is what creationists are getting at, isn't it? Their ultimate claim is that "information" must result from direct manufacture by an intelligent entity.

 

However, if you insist that evolution only rearrange existing information, you back yourself into a dead end. And end up denying data. After all, it is obvious that birds have more information than their dino ancestors in the formation of the beak. In embryological development, birds form teeth (like reptiles) but then have the additional information to resorb them!

 

It is even obvious that antibiotic resistant bacteria have more information than non-resistant bacteria. Tetracycline antibiotic resistant bacteria have ribosomes with all the old information of "bind the mRNA and tRNA" and ADD the information "but do not bind tetracycline". If we were writing this as a series of instructions or software code, that is a separate line that must be added.

 

So my advice is stop conceding "no new information" and simply point out how evolution adds information.

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Then use of entropy by creationists to denounce evolution is based on a fallacy. First of all if the earth had no energy period, I doubt for anything such as geological processes to exist. Second, most life on the surface is based on the sun, which is a constant input of energy, energy that exists it was allows for hurricanes to come about. Basically its a very ignorant argument if you even take two seconds to step outside, or notice that sun block needs to be sold or the fact solar/wind power is an option. Overall it simply is a daft argument really in the face of reality, for taking it seriously basically states that the reality we live in simply cannot exist really, or for instance there could never be a warm or hot day, or that the universe I guess or earth for that matter should have become a Bose-Einstein condensate a long time ago. Though I guess mind over matter could save you from a tornado or something:rolleyes:

 

Energy is also able to work in a system, this is a basic cornerstone of study in physics, the reality that energy can work in a system that is, much like the forces involved in volcanism.

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Then use of entropy by creationists to denounce evolution is based on a fallacy.

 

Very much so. It is based on the strawman of a "closed system". Not that a "closed system" is a strawman, but that when you look at entropy you must look at the total system. Entropy can decrease in a subsystem as long as the total entropy of the entire system increases.

 

Another way to say the same thing is to look at the system (of interest) and the surroundings. The entropy of the system can decrease if the entropy of the system + surroundings increases.

 

This is what happens when you clean your garage. The entropy of the garage decreases, but your body creates energy thru oxidative phosphorylation (essentially combustion) and gives off a lot of (waste) heat. The entropy of the garage + the entropy of your body and the air increases. The increased entropy of the (waste) heat of your body is greater than the decreased entropy of the garage. (Sometimes I think that creationists dreamt up the entropy argument to get out of cleaning the garage. They can tell their wives "Honey, you know I can't clean the garage because that would be a decrease in entropy and you know that can't happen.")

 

As you noted, the solar system can be considered a "closed" system. And, as the sun fuses hydrogen to helium and gives off radiation, the entropy of the solar system massively increases. Some of that energy is trapped on earth and is used for a local decrease in entropy in living organisms. But that decrease of entropy is SO much less than the increase in entropy of the solar system.

 

The universe is the ultimate in a closed system. And yes, 100 billion years from now entropy will reach its maximum and life (and evolution) will cease. I refuse to worry about it.

 

Overall it simply is a daft argument really in the face of reality, for taking it seriously basically states that the reality we live in simply cannot exist really,

 

All creationist arguments are "daft" in one way or another. They can't help it. They are trying to tell people that a refuted or falsified theory is actually valid! You can't do that with real arguments. It's like trying to make flat earth theory valid.

 

Also, there is an equation in chemistry called "Gibbs Free Energy". It tells you whether a reaction will be spontaneous. The equation is: deltaG = deltaH -T x deltaS. DeltaG is the free energy, deltaH is the enthalpy, or heat given off or taken up by the reaction, T is temperature in degrees Kelvin, and deltaS is the change in entropy. For a constant P, constant T, deltaG is a measure of the *spontaneity* of the process.

 

deltaG < 0 means the reaction tends to proceed spontaneously. This can happen even tho you get a decrease in entropy if delta H is a large enough negative number. (remember, -T x deltaS is going to be positive if deltaS is negative or decreasing entropy)

 

DeltaG > 0 means the reaction proceeds spontaneously in the *opposite* direction. If you wish to proceed with the reaction, energy must be added to get the reaction to occur. This can happen even if there is an increase in entropy if delta H is a large enough positive number. This is what happens in DNA unfolding. Entropy increases, but you have to heat the DNA solution (add energy) because the delta H of the hydrogen bonds provides a large positive delta H.

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Very much so. It is based on the strawman of a "closed system". Not that a "closed system" is a strawman, but that when you look at entropy you must look at the total system. Entropy can decrease in a subsystem as long as the total entropy of the entire system increases.

 

Another way to say the same thing is to look at the system (of interest) and the surroundings. The entropy of the system can decrease if the entropy of the system + surroundings increases.

 

This is what happens when you clean your garage. The entropy of the garage decreases, but your body creates energy thru oxidative phosphorylation (essentially combustion) and gives off a lot of (waste) heat. The entropy of the garage + the entropy of your body and the air increases. The increased entropy of the (waste) heat of your body is greater than the decreased entropy of the garage. (Sometimes I think that creationists dreamt up the entropy argument to get out of cleaning the garage. They can tell their wives "Honey, you know I can't clean the garage because that would be a decrease in entropy and you know that can't happen.")

 

As you noted, the solar system can be considered a "closed" system. And, as the sun fuses hydrogen to helium and gives off radiation, the entropy of the solar system massively increases. Some of that energy is trapped on earth and is used for a local decrease in entropy in living organisms. But that decrease of entropy is SO much less than the increase in entropy of the solar system.

 

The universe is the ultimate in a closed system. And yes, 100 billion years from now entropy will reach its maximum and life (and evolution) will cease. I refuse to worry about it.

 

 

 

All creationist arguments are "daft" in one way or another. They can't help it. They are trying to tell people that a refuted or falsified theory is actually valid! You can't do that with real arguments. It's like trying to make flat earth theory valid.

 

Also, there is an equation in chemistry called "Gibbs Free Energy". It tells you whether a reaction will be spontaneous. The equation is: deltaG = deltaH -T x deltaS. DeltaG is the free energy, deltaH is the enthalpy, or heat given off or taken up by the reaction, T is temperature in degrees Kelvin, and deltaS is the change in entropy. For a constant P, constant T, deltaG is a measure of the *spontaneity* of the process.

 

deltaG < 0 means the reaction tends to proceed spontaneously. This can happen even tho you get a decrease in entropy if delta H is a large enough negative number. (remember, -T x deltaS is going to be positive if deltaS is negative or decreasing entropy)

 

DeltaG > 0 means the reaction proceeds spontaneously in the *opposite* direction. If you wish to proceed with the reaction, energy must be added to get the reaction to occur. This can happen even if there is an increase in entropy if delta H is a large enough positive number. This is what happens in DNA unfolding. Entropy increases, but you have to heat the DNA solution (add energy) because the delta H of the hydrogen bonds provides a large positive delta H.

 

That’s neat but my point is simply that the argument using entropy by creationists is based on a fallacy, simply you have to ignore the fact the sun exists among other variables to make it true in any regard. Entropy in a system was proved to be able via entropy to work itself into systems, this has been proved by electrical engineers amongst other people. The founding for this argument was based on an old research project that reached a conclusion using a certain environment that in no way reflects the earth as a system or as you would have it part of the solar system. Yes, I think its called heat death or something, its one of the scenarios of how our universe might simply die out in relation to entropy. I have no idea if this will come true or not, but for relation to organic evolution here on earth, the argument is little more then a fallacy that shows the level of intelligence creationists hold, or simply the level of integrity they hold.

 

As in remarks to your talking on entropy as it applies to reactions, well homeostasis, is it really a word for equilibrium, or am I generalizing such to much? I think the latter, but then again I am still thinking the cell came before the code, so what have you.

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That’s neat but my point is simply that the argument using entropy by creationists is based on a fallacy, simply you have to ignore the fact the sun exists among other variables to make it true in any regard. Entropy in a system was proved to be able via entropy to work itself into systems, this has been proved by electrical engineers amongst other people. The founding for this argument was based on an old research project that reached a conclusion using a certain environment that in no way reflects the earth as a system or as you would have it part of the solar system. Yes, I think its called heat death or something, its one of the scenarios of how our universe might simply die out in relation to entropy. I have no idea if this will come true or not, but for relation to organic evolution here on earth, the argument is little more then a fallacy that shows the level of intelligence creationists hold, or simply the level of integrity they hold.

 

WHOA! I agreed that the 2nd law of thermodynamics argument used by creationists is based on a fallacy. What I was trying to do was show what the fallacy is! And that fallacy is: entropy can only increase, not decrease. The reality is that the entropy of a subsystem can decrease as long as the entropy of the entire system increases.

 

I have no idea what you mean by "Entropy in a system was proved to be able via entropy to work itself into systems, this has been proved by electrical engineers amongst other people. " That makes no sense in terms of thermodynamics.

 

The original definition of entropy is the ability of the system to do work. A later sense of entropy involves the "order" or "disorder" of a system. Your use of entropy in that sentence doesn't fit either of those.

 

As in remarks to your talking on entropy as it applies to reactions, well homeostasis, is it really a word for equilibrium, or am I generalizing such to much?

 

Generalizing too much. They are similar.

 

equilibrium: "A condition in which all acting influences are canceled by others, resulting in a stable, balanced, or unchanging system."

 

homeostasis: "The ability or tendency of an organism or cell to maintain internal equilibrium by adjusting its physiological processes."

 

In chemistry, equilibrium is reached when the reaction is going in both directions to maintain equal amounts of starting material and product. It is stable. Homeostasis is unstable and is an active process trying to maintain the system where it is in the face of forces/processes trying to take it out of equilibrium.

 

I think the latter, but then again I am still thinking the cell came before the code, so what have you.

 

The cell did come before the code. http://www.theharbinger.org/articles/rel_sci/fox.html

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  • 3 months later...
With all respect to Dr. Sampson, this is garbage. A result of life is to disperse energy. But that is not to say that the "purpose" of life is to do so. To say "purpose" requires some assumptions that Dr. Sampson is hiding.

 

I think he was using the term 'purpose' loosely, as unless there is a God it's unlikely anything has a real purpose ultimately...

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I think he was using the term 'purpose' loosely, as unless there is a God it's unlikely anything has a real purpose ultimately...

 

Even being used "loosely", the term is inaccurate. "Purpose" implies a goal, and life does not have the goal of dispersing energy. That simply is a side-effect.

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Even being used "loosely", the term is inaccurate. "Purpose" implies a goal, and life does not have the goal of dispersing energy. That simply is a side-effect.

 

I think you misunderstand what he is saying. He is saying that the reason why life exists at all is due to the fact that it allows energy to be dispersed more effectively. Thusly, life is the side effect (of the 2nd law of Thermodynamics).

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No, new information is also introduced. This is done by 2 means:

 

1. Increasing the amount of DNA by mutations that add more DNA: gene duplication, transpositions, chromosome duplication, etc.

 

2. Selection. Selection actually increases information.

 

Dembski << 1"Suppose that an organism in reproducing generates N offspring, and that of these N offspring M succeed in reproducing. The amount of information introduced through selection is then -log2(M/N). Let me stress that this formula is not an case of misplaced mathematical exactness. This formula holds universally and is non-mysterious. Take a simple non-biological example. If I am sitting at a radio transmitter, and can transmit only zeros and ones, then every time I transmit a zero or one, I choose between two possibilities, selecting precisely one of them. Here N equals 2 and M equals 1. The information -log2(M/N) thus equals -log2(1/2) = 1, i.e., 1 bit of information n is introduced every time I transmit a zero or one. This is of course as things should be. Now this example from communication theory is mathematically isomorphic to the case of cell-division where only one of the daughter cells goes on to reproduce. On the other hand, if both daughter cells go on to reproduce, then N equals M equals 2, and thus -log2(M/N) = -log2(2/2) = 0, indicating that selection, by failing to eliminate any possibility failed also to introduce new information. " >>

 

Let's look at Darwin's formulation of natural selection.

 

"IF, during the long course of ages and under varying conditions of life, organic beings vary at all in the several parts of their organization, and I think this cannot be disputed; IF there be, owing to the high geometric powers of increase of each species, at some age, season, or year, a severe struggle for life, and this certainly cannot be disputed; THEN, considering the infinite complexity of the relations of all organic beings to each other and to their conditions of existence, causing an infinite diversity in structure, constitution, and habits, to be advantageous to them, I THINK IT WOULD BE A MOST EXTRAORDINARY FACT IF NO VARIATION EVER HAD OCCURRED USEFUL TO EACH BEINGS WELFARE, in the same ways so many variations have occurred useful to man. But IF variations useful to any organic being do occur, ASSUREDLY individuals thus characterized will have the best chance of being preserved in the struggle for life; and from the strong principle of inheritance they will tend to produce offspring similarly characterized. This principle of preservation, I have called, for the sake of brevity, Natural Selection." [Origin, p 127 1st ed.]

 

Now, I bolded one of Darwin's "ifs", but this one says that more offspring are produced than those who actually reproduce. So, let's do some calculations on Dembski's equation looking at these numbers.

 

1. In a population, there are 4 offspring born but selection eliminates 3 and only one reproduces. So we have N = 4 and M = 1. -log(2) (M/N) = -log(2) (1/4) = -(-2) = 2. We have gained 2 "bits" of information in this generation. Selection does increase information.

 

2. Let's take a more radical example. An antibiotic kills 95% of the population. So we have 5 bacteria that can reproduce out of 100. N = 100, M =5. -log(2) (5/100) = -log(2) (.05) = -(-4.3) = 4.3. Now information has increased 4.3 "bits". The more severe the selection, the greater the increase in information.

 

3. Let's take a less severe example. A selection pressure such that of 100 individuals, 99 survive to reproduce. -log(2) (99/100) = -log(2) (.99) = - (-0.01) = 0.01.

So now we have only an increase of 0.01 "bits" in this one generation due to selection. But remember, selection is cumulative. Take this over 1,000 generations and we have an increase of 10 "bits". Now, Nilsson and Pelger have estimated, using conservative parameters, that it would take 364,000 generations to evolve an eye. D-E Nilsson and S Pelger, A pessimistic estimate of the time required for an eye to evolve. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. 256: 53-58, 1994. Taking that over our calculations shows that the eye represents an increase of 3,640 "bits" of information.

 

Finally, note that selection must result in an increase of information by Dembski's equation. Any fraction always has a negative logarithm. With the negative sign in front of the logarithm (-log) that means that the value for information must be positive as long as selection is operative. The only way to get loss of information is for the number of individuals that reproduce (M) to be greater than the number born (N). This is obviously not possible.

 

Although I do believe that evolution occured, I don't think this is a good explanation. I have to believe that evolution occured, simply because of the overwhelming evidence, but mathematically speaking, I simply cannot understand it.

 

For instance, your point (3) about the evolution of the eye is incomplete. From what did the eye evolve in 364000 generations? And really, an eye can be described in 3640-ish bits? You must be kidding. Describing an eye, with all its intricaties, its interactions with other subsystems, its chemical composition, etc. etc. would take millions, probably hundreds of millions of bits. Books full of texts are written about the eye... and still, all these books together only capture a tiny fraction of what the eye really is.

 

Now look at the human genome, how many bits are needed for describing it (using the best available compression techniques available)? Still many billions of bits. Assume, that initially, appr. 3.5 billion years ago, there was no information or just a few tens of bits of information (e.g. simple organic molecules), then it would take zillions of years to evolve to human beings, much more than the universe exists now (appr. 14 billion years) and even more than earth exists and could sustain life after its initial very hot period (3.5 to 4 billion years).

 

In some way, I have a feeling that this reasoning is flawed. I do not have the expertise to pinpoint what is wrong, but given the tremendous complexity of current life forms, this mechanism simply is too slow.

 

It is remarkable that evolution has gone so fast. In just a few billions of years it has resulted in what we see now. I personally think that there still remains a lot to be explained and that no definite answers are found. We can fairly well do descriptive evolutionary science, but the underlying mechanisms still are far from being understood near 100%. Selection most likely is an important part of the underlying mechanism, but there must be more than that. I don't believe in a single silver bullet, which explains it all. Probably many different mechanisms are working (have been working) "cooperatively".

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