Joined: May 2002
Here's a post I wrote that I'm archiving:
I was reading recent comments on the Schneider/Strachan discussion, and it suddenly occurred to me that the arguments of both authors are a bit beside the point.
To wit, the mod posted,
Well, if you take notice, Strachan has taken Schneider to task, and it is far from clear whether Schneider has shown much of anything. [...] He's got a Ph.D. in the field and is an expert in both genetic algorithms and neural networks. He deserves to be taken seriously.
And similarly Micah or someone at ISCID went to the trouble of putting Strachan's modified METHINKS-type simulation up on the web, here:
...so clearly someone thinks that Schneider's paper draws a conclusion that is worth debating.
Here is my question: isn't the central question "Can evolution increase 'information' in the genome?" or something similar?
It seems to me that, if this is the question that people are interested in, Schneider's simulation is pretty small potatos. At most it was a modified 1984 computer program that showed that variation and selection for binding strength could produce strong binding, with the interesting side-conclusion that binding strength has an interesting information-theoretic property such that information measures Rfreq and Rseq ended up matching. This information amounted to a few bits per binding site. Schneider threw into his paper some incindiary anti-ID remarks and has similarly promoted the paper, so it has gained attention in ID circles.
But really, is the proposition "evolution can increase 'information' in the genome?" really in any doubt at all? I mean, Dembski himself (see Intelligent Design, for example), argues that chance alone can produce small amounts of specified information, and that selection can preserve these small amounts. The only reason that this process can't build up to produce large amount of specified information, i.e. complex specified information (CSI), is basically irreducible complexity (IC).
Perhaps people will cite Dembski's supposed "Law of Conservation of Information", but that is similarly said to apply only to CSI, not mere SI. One could additionally argue that the information that increases in genomes is gathered from the environment (so no "conservation" is being violated) although I think that this is a fairly confused position: IMO information can't really be said to "exist" until it is encoded somewhere.
Apart from Dembski's admission, we have reams of evidence in biology for the creation of new genes by duplication and modification of old genes, which I think would have to be intepreted as increases in information on any reasonable definition. Behe similarly concedes such processes (e.g. hemoglobin), he just objects when it comes to IC.
The only people would I can think of who've really asserted that evolution really can't increase information in the genome are Phil Johnson and creationists such as Spetner.
So, what's the big deal?
An Evaluation of "Ev"