Moderators: Calilasseia, DarthHelmet86, Onyx8
Mononoke wrote:Hi shrunk I hope u remember me. is there anything that clarifies the use of information in biological system. With examples and pictures
igorfrankensteen wrote:Is there an official name for "changing the definition of the terms mid-argument, in order to win by coy trickery"?
Calilasseia wrote: However, the ultimate reason why creationist canards about information are canards, is simply this. Information is NOT a magic entity. It doesn't require magic to produce it. Ultimately, "information" is nothing more than the observational data that is extant about the current state of a system. That is IT. No magic needed. All that happens, in real world physical systems, is that different system states lead to different outcomes when the interactions within the system take place. Turing alighted upon this notion when he wrote his landmark paper on computable numbers, and used the resulting theory to establish that Hilbert's conjecture upon decidability in formal axiomatic systems was false. Of course, it's far easier to visualise the process at work, when one has an entity such as a Turing machine to analyse this - a Turing machine has precise, well-defined states, and precise, well-defined interactions that take place when the machine occupies a given state. But this is precisely what we have with DNA - a system that can exist in a number of well-defined states, whose states determine the nature of the interactions that occur during translation, and which result in different outcomes for different states. indeed, the DNA molecule plays a passive role in this: its function is simply to store the sequence of states that will result, ultimately, in the synthesis of a given protein, and is akin to the tape running through a Turing machine. The real hard work is actually performed by the ribosomes, which take that state data and use it to bolt together amino acids into chains to form proteins, which can be thought of as individual biological 'Turing machines' whose job is to perform, mechanically and mindlessly in accordance with the electrostatic and chemical interactions permitting this, the construction of a protein using the information arising from DNA as the template. Anyone who thinks magic is needed in all of this, once again, is in need of an education.
As for the canard that "mutations cannot produce new information", this is manifestly false. Not only does the above analysis explicitly permit this, the production of new information (in the form of new states occupied by DNA molecules) has been observed taking place in the real world and documented in the relevant scientific literature. If you can't be bothered reading any of this voluminous array of scientific papers, and understanding the contents thereof, before erecting this particularly moronic canard, then don't bother erecting the canard in the first place, because it will simply demonstrate that you are scientifically ignorant. Indeed, the extant literature not only covers scientific papers explicitly dealing with information content in the genome, such as Thomas D. Schneider's paper handily entitled Evolution And Biological Information to make your life that bit easier, but also papers on de novo gene origination, of which there are a good number, several of which I have presented here in the past in previous threads. The mere existence of these scientific papers, and the data that they document, blows tiresome canards about "information" out of the water with a nuclear depth charge. Post information canards at your peril after reading this.
Mononoke wrote:I'm looking for an answer more in line with information theory. Is there a way to define Shannon information in a biological system.
Test Your Knowledge of Information Theory
Creationists think information theory poses a serious challenge to modern evolutionary biology -- but that only goes to show that creationists are as ignorant of information theory as they are of biology.
Whenever a creationist brings up this argument, insist that they answer the following five questions. All five questions are based on the Kolmogorov interpretation of information theory. I like this version of information theory because (a) it does not depend on any hypothesized probability distribution (a frequent refuge of scoundrels) (b) the answers about how information can change when a string is changed are unambiguous and agreed upon by all mathematicians, allowing less wiggle room to weasel out of the inevitable conclusions, and (c) it applies to discrete strings of symbols and hence corresponds well with DNA.
All five questions are completely elementary, and I ask these questions in an introduction to the theory of Kolmogorov information for undergraduates at Waterloo. My undergraduates can nearly always answer these questions correctly, but creationists usually cannot.
Q1: Can information be created by gene duplication or polyploidy? More specifically, if x is a string of symbols, is it possible for xx to contain more information than x?
Q2: Can information be created by point mutations? More specifically, if xay is a string of symbols, is it possible that xby contains significantly more information? Here a, b are distinct symbols, and x, y are strings.
Q3: Can information be created by deletion? More specifically, if xyz is a string of symbols, is it possible that xz contains signficantly more information?
Q4: Can information be created by random rearrangement? More specifically, if x is a string of symbols, is it possible that some permutation of x contains significantly more information?
Q5. Can information be created by recombination? More specifically, let x and y be strings of the same length, and let s(x, y) be any single string obtained by "shuffling" x and y together. Here I do not mean what is sometimes called "perfect shuffle", but rather a possibly imperfect shuffle where x and y both appear left-to-right in s(x, y) , but not necessarily contiguously. For example, a perfect shuffle of 0000 and 1111 gives 01010101, and one possible non-perfect shuffle of 0000 and 1111 is 01101100. Can an imperfect shuffle of two strings have more information than the sum of the information in each string?
The answer to each question is "yes". In fact, for questions Q2-Q5, I can even prove that the given transformation can arbitrarily increase the amount of information in the string, in the sense that there exist strings for which the given transformation increases the complexity by an arbitrarily large multiplicative factor. I won't give the proofs here, because that's part of the challenge: ask your creationist to provide a proof for each of Q1-Q5.
Now I asserted that creationists usually cannot answer these questions correctly, and here is some proof.
Q1. In his book No Free Lunch, William Dembski claimed (p. 129) that "there is no more information in two copies of Shakespeare's Hamlet than in a single copy. This is of course patently obvious, and any formal account of information had better agree." Too bad for him that Kolmogorov complexity is a formal account of information theory, and it does not agree.
Q2. Lee Spetner and the odious Ken Ham are fond of claiming that mutations cannot increase information. And this creationist web page flatly claims that "No mutation has yet been found that increased the genetic information." All of them are wrong in the Kolmogorov model of information.
Q4. R. L. Wysong, in his book The Creation-Evolution Controversy, claimed (p. 109) that "random rearrangements in DNA would result in loss of DNA information". Wrong in the Kolmogorov model.
So, the next time you hear these bogus claims, point them to my challenge, and let the weaselling begin!
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