Friday, January 18, 2013

Evolution is False - DNA

Someone decided to list 10 reasons why evolution is false. I decided to go through them. Here's my list addressing them so far:

10. Pagan Origins of Evolution
9. Planetary Habitability of Earth
8. Hoaxes
7. Irreducible Order of Life

Here's today's argument as to why evolution is false.
DNA: People learn and educate themselves to communicate in complex languages and intelligently design complex computer codes. Yet supposedly according to evolution, nature accidentally formulated its own code containing more than a billion bits of data in its simplest life forms. As has been pointed out by others, if SETI received a code a millionth in size to any strand of DNA, then they would declare the existence of intelligent life somewhere else in the Universe. How is it that DNA does not declare intelligent design behind life on Earth?

Ah yes, a classic argument. I don't know that I have a lot to say about this one, mostly because I've completely eviscerated it already.

In short, the logical fallacy is an Argument from Analogy, that presumes that if one equates A to B, that therefore any arbitrarily chosen attribute of A is also shared by B... all without empirical confirmation that the asserted shared attribute is correct.

I can pick through this heap of rusted assertions, though, and see if anything is worth addressing.

People learn and educate themselves to communicate in complex languages and intelligently design complex computer codes.
Yep! That is very true.

Yet supposedly according to evolution, nature accidentally formulated its own code containing more than a billion bits of data in its simplest life forms.
Bingo, my man! Err.. minus the "accidentally" injection again. Nice poisoning of the well there.

He seems to think the two propositions are mutually exclusive. I know there's debate about whether DNA counts as "information" or "code", but I'll go ahead and grant that it is - as long as the definition for "information" and "code" doesn't require an "intelligent designer". That'd be begging the question.

I'll state my favorite example again - penguins. We observe all these other birds and note that they can fly. We see that penguins are birds. It's not irrational to infer that penguins should be able to fly too. The fact is, they don't.

The key is to realize that an inference can be, and often is, wrong.  Inference is a first step in investigating reality. Empirical confirmation is the next step - the required step to demonstrate that the inference is true.

The whole argument presumes that exceptions cannot exist. This particular argument presumes that human-made code isn't the exception in this case. DNA has been around long before humans even existed.

Let's change up my penguin example:

We observe all these other birds codes and note that they can fly were programmed by intelligent minds. We see that penguins DNA are birds is a code. It's not irrational to infer that penguins DNA should be able to fly programmed by an intelligent mind too. The fact is, they don't aren't (just to be grammatically correct). 
That's why this is a logical fallacy.

Within the field of study known as "Genetics", we have laboratory demonstrations of gene duplication, and combined with adaption/mutations, new information is created in DNA all the time - all without a single intelligent mind involved.

On the other hand, this assertion that DNA is programmed by minds has exactly zero positive evidence to support it. The argument is only salient if we've proved that DNA couldn't occur naturally - which, as we know, is trying to prove a negative, which is impossible. Thus, author needs to start finding positive evidence that DNA was programmed by an intelligent mind.

I'm sorry, but your weak inference does not qualify. It's a starting point for investigation, not the conclusion. That's why it's a logical fallacy. The author actually has a burden of proof here to demonstrate that human DNA, for instance, was intelligently designed.

... like he'd have the burden to demonstrate that the penguin can fly. You don't point at the other birds that are flying. You demonstrate that the penguin can fly.

Okay - so I rehashed it more than I thought I was going to do.

As has been pointed out by others, if SETI received a code a millionth in size to any strand of DNA, then they would declare the existence of intelligent life somewhere else in the Universe.
I really wish they had cited a primary source where SETI said this, because if they did, shame on them! More likely, author misrepresented what they actually said.

The size of the code doesn't matter.

If SETI were to pick up a radio signal that was playing out the prime numbers (See movie "Contact"), that would be compelling, because high level mathematics aren't bound to be emitted from a pulsar. Keep in mind, that'd only be the beginning of investigation.

Also, the fact it was "code" wouldn't matter so much as what was contained inside. How we determine whether information is an attempt at communication or not is an interesting question - one not easily answered.

This is distinctly different from what DNA is. DNA is very crude, with lots of "junk DNA", is a physical mechanism that results in proteins being oozed out, and is directly observed to change and modify on its own. There's no indication it's the product of a mind.

This is equivocation. The author has categorized DNA as "code", categorized an intelligent communication as "code", merely equated the two, and assumed that all sub-attributes are also shared (such as whether it was designed)

How is it that DNA does not declare intelligent design behind life on Earth?
Why would it? That case has yet to be actually established.

Why is it that the penguin being a bird does not declare the fact that it can fly?

Maybe because your underlying premises and logic are faulty and nonsensical?


I have one more point to make about Arguments from Analogy, as sort of a recap. In a sense, they're a bit disturbing. To the layman, they appear to be convincing, logical and salient. In reality, it's smoke and mirrors. It takes some effort, critically thinking, to understand why the argument is so vacuous and impotent. There's only so many ways a windbag like myself can explain it, and if I don't manage to pull it off within a few sentences, I risk losing the attention of the listener. That's why this particular logical fallacy is so cunningly deceptive - so sly, so subtle. It's a fake painting that can't be distinguished from the real deal by anyone who doesn't have a trained eye for art. Argument given, the audience believes the apologist successfully demonstrated reality, and they they retire home with nothing but an undemonstrated hypothesis.

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I will award half-credit for a logical connection between DNA and evolution. At least this argument had something to do with evolutionary theory (DNA being a functional basis of the process) - so three points was it? I award no points for it being successful.

Argument score: 4.5 out of 10
Total score: 6 out of 50

I should probably distinguish between the types of points more. Getting 3 out of 50 sounds like he had some success, but it's more like getting a trophy for participation, than actually managing to accomplish something. He showed up to the game and got a pat on the back for managing to dress himself.