Monday, March 11, 2013

What Darwin Didn't Know- Ch 1 - The Scope of Challenges Pt 3 - The Genes


Book Cover: What Darwin Didn't Know
I've dove into Geoffrey Simmon's "What Darwin Didn't Know" (2004), to evaluate an anti-evolution book.

I'm maintaining an index of my responses here.

Today's Chapter - 1: The Scope of Challenges - Part 3: The Genes

Review/Rebuttal

Let's talk about the genes.

Simmons spends his opening paragraph discussing just how complicated DNA is. I don't feel a need to fact check it, so let's just go ahead and accept as true that DNA is vewy vewy compwicated.

Wow! That's a lot of information. I guess evolution can't explain that

He marvels at how "a particle smaller than dust have enough knowledge to, as it were, multiply into a trillion-room skyscraper"... I'm smelling another Argument from Personal Incredulity. As I explained in an earlier post, scalable, repeatable structures are actually very easy, but he continues, "and also know the color, shape, and size of every room, every worker who would ever be employed in it, and every speck of furniture, wiring and plumbing?" Wasn't he just explaining to us just how complicated this DNA thing is? How did it get all the "information" (for lack of a better term)? Evolution. Billions and billions of years of evolution... with the first one or two billion being high generational-rate single celled organisms, with thousands per mL of water, across the Earth's oceans.

That's how.

He continues in the next paragraph, "Did these all-knowing genes come about through a series of accidents?" 

He's evolving. He's gone from single-mischaracterization sentences to multi-mischaracterization sentences. They're not "accidents", because mutations are normal in evolutionary theory. They're not "all knowing". Sure, DNA contains a lot of "information", but to call it "all knowing" is merely rhetoric - a way of making it sound more unlikely. DNA doesn't "know" anything. Most of it is for producing different proteins on a biochemical level, and they then chemically do their thing. 

Also, there's a lot that DNA doesn't even need to store. Is the shape of the rhinoceros horn dictated by DNA? It could be that the genetics only dictates where the "horn follicle" patch will be on the face, and the shape is dictated by incidental events. The basic icicle that forms on the edges of roofs is not dictated by any DNA at all, and yet, they'll typically form with a consistent pattern, that is mostly driven by physics and chemistry. Likewise, we could expect the rhinoceros horn to develop based on rules of the universe, and to some degree, the behavior of the rhinoceros itself, and the DNA doesn't need to "know" any of that.

Let's look at another analogy.

Lineage of a Recipe for Bread

There's a recipe for making loaves of bread. It's a simple one, that goes from throwing together a specific amount of sugar, flower, yeast and water into a bowl, let it sit for 20 minutes, put it into a bread pan, and put it in the oven preheated at 350 degrees (I'm not much of a cook, so don't get nitpicky on me here), and remove at 15 minutes, and let cool.

Now, that loaf of bread will come out the same basic way, each time. The recipe didn't dictate that. It doesn't  describe, in painstaking detail, the shape of the loaf of bread. That's just how it tends to come out. Simmons' mistake would be to look at the loaf of bread, and conclude that every aspect must be described in the recipe... when the recipe was actually very simple.

Further, let's say that this recipe is handed down from parents to children, from generation to generation, but it's not always communicated perfectly. Maybe one descendant recipe spends another 30 seconds in the oven. Maybe another uses less yeast. Maybe the person decides to throw in a small dash of cinnamon, as well.

The recipe isn't aware of anything. It doesn't know anything. Like a program, it's simply ran. Those recipes that resulted in fantastic food are more likely to be passed down to the next generation than those that aren't. The recipe doesn't "know" what the output even is - it's a blind process. From it's "perspective" (I put that in quotes because it's a freaking recipe, not a being), it's born from a previous version, with slight alterations, additions or subtractions, and it may or may not be used. Eventually, a version of it may be passed down.

All the changes occur from generation to generation, and the filtration is external. Some change are good (adding cinnamon), while some are not (adding dog piss). The end result of this progression is that, hundreds or thousands of generations down the road, we've got a recipe for  one yummy loaf of bread. Some may be simple recipes. Some may be complicated. One recipe can spawn many different versions that diversify into their own unique lineages.

And no, there's no particular limit to the length of this recipe. 

If so, that would mean that an average of two bases were added to our chromosomes per year throughout the presumed three billion years of life.
First, it's not "presumed." It's factually established. We didn't just pluck that number out of thin air.

Besides that... and? Yes, I see you know how to average numbers. Taking a few things into consideration, the "problem" here isn't really a "problem." 

First, in the first couple billion years that were mostly single and multi-cellular life forms, with an exceedingly high generational rate, we'd expect to see, not just lots of point insertion mutations, but entire genes being duplicated, with each gene being about 125 base pairs (I did the math at 3.2M / 25K).

Why is this a problem again? Maybe it wasn't a problem... he just randomly stated a factoid and left it.

Genes in the Right Order

They were also placed int he right order at the right time on the correct chromosomes, and were fully capable of coordinating with the other genes. For example, the genes that control human eye color and shape must either reside close by each other or have a way of communicating ... A major challenge to evolution has been whether repeated mutations could truly have created changes in the correct order.
He doesn't appear to know what a "challenge to evolution" is - again supporting my hypothesis that Simmons doesn't know how to falsify things.

Let me try to put this in perspective.

How did the genes for the eye color-perception arrive the way they are now? We don't know the exact history. Do you know what that means? That means that, not only don't we know the exact history, but we don't know that it didn't happen either, according to evolution. Sure, it's possible color eyesight was programmed into us by aliens.

The fact we don't know the exact genetic history is not a refutation of evolution. That just means there's something we don't know. Simmons' personal incredulity is not a problem for evolution.

On the other hand, we do have a very well researched and established theory, that is supported from multiple independent lines of evidence, from genetics, to phylogeny, to the fossil record, that unambiguously supports common ancestry, and an ever-diversifying of an increasing sophisticated evolutionary tree. The fact there are spots that are blurry or blank isn't a problem for what we do know.

You can't use ignorance as a basis for asserting something... anything. That'd be what we would call an Argument from Ignorance.

In reality, eyesight fairly easily. It's not that "the correct genes were placed in the correct order." It's more like, a lot (A LOT) of descendants cast their dice, and the ones that had them in the correct order were the ones to survive better with their new fancy capacity to detect whether they were in a lit area or not (photosensitive patch).

From that initial simple patch, it was only a matter of time before descent with modification, coupled with natural selection, would refine that photosensitive patch into a sophisticated eye... and all the descendants of those initial photosensitive patched creatures would all have that trait, because beneficial mutations tend to be retained. Guess what happened to those creatures that didn't have those two genes right next to each other, and it was beneficial to have that genetic setup... they were more likely to die compared to the ones that did. It's not an "accident". That's what evolution does.
I always love when the eye is brought up as a "problem" for evolution, since it's one of the most researched and well understood evolutionary developments.

Conclusion / Personal Annotations


Dice
Simmons' reasoning error here seems to be that he's looking at the 100 dice that are all showing 1 pip, and assuming, because of his ignorance of evolutionary theory, and inability to conceive of ways that it could have happened naturally, that it was but one single roll with no selection process, and since the possibility of that happening is so low (1:6.5331862e+77), that therefore some intelligence must have purposely set them up that way. He can't personally grasp how it could have happened on its own, so therefore it's a "challenge for evolution" - whereas it makes sense and is predictable to people like me that this sort of thing would happen, but apparently that's not relevant.

Yes. That's his entire argument - his own personal incredulity and ignorance - and that's apparently a problem for evolutionary theory. It's the classic "this is so unlikely it couldn't have happened on its own" perspective.

Believe it or not, natural things can exist that can produce wildly complex and sophisticated outcomes that we have a difficult time gasping. That doesn't make them false.


I'm wondering how long he's going to drag out this "accident" misrepresentation. Should I just dismiss any premise that includes it? If I don't, my rebuttals will start looking like:

"It's not an accident, it's to be expected.... it's still not an accident... nope, it didn't magically change into an accident this time.... not an accident... N.A.A. ... n.a.a. ... naaa naaaaaaaaaa"


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