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The Information Enigma

Unlocking the Darwin Debate



You know Darwinism has problems, but how do you explain them to your friends and family? Well, look no further than a bicycle lock.

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Eric Metaxas

What’s the greatest discovery in the history of biology? If you said “seedless watermelons,” you’re close. Actually, it’s probably the discovery of DNA.

It’s hard to imagine in this age of genetic engineering, but scientists in Darwin’s time saw life as quite simple. Cells were thought to be blobs of primitive chemicals called “protoplasm.” But as technology advanced and scientists were able to peer inside the cell, they discovered something amazing: Every living thing actually contains intricate, microscopic machines, performing functions without which life would not be possible.

The real breakthrough, came in 1953 when Watson and Crick uncovered the structure and function of DNA—the molecule that programs and regulates cells. It revolutionized our understanding of life. And it stretched Darwin’s theory to the breaking point.

DNA is essentially a form of incredibly efficient digital code, uniquely suited for storing the blueprints of living things. And for something microscopic, it’s huge. The human genome contains over a gigabyte of data! Of course, like digital code on a hard drive, DNA can be corrupted. The most recent iteration of Darwin’s theory claims that these corruptions—called mutations—are the engines of evolution. But here’s the problem: We don’t have a single example of a mutation resulting in a net gain of information. Not one.

As intelligent design theorists have pointed out, unguided, natural processes always degrade information—they never increase it. If life at its most fundamental level is a digital code, then mutations are glitches that, if they accumulate, will eventually kill the organism.

Information is at the heart of life, and our uniform and repeated experience tells us that matter, by itself, never produces information. The only known source capable of producing information is a mind.daily_commentary_10_21_15

Okay, fine, you say, but how do I explain this over the dinner table? One great place to start is a new video from the Discovery Institute that condenses the main argument for intelligent design to a snappy 20 minutes. It’s called “The Information Enigma,” and features noted ID authors Dr. Stephen Meyer and Dr. Douglas Axe.

Here are the basics: Using an analogy from Dr. Meyers’ book, “Darwin’s Doubt,” the video compares DNA with a bicycle lock.

“The reason a bike lock works,” explains Meyer, “is that there are vastly more ways of arranging those numeric characters that will keep the lock closed than there are that will open the lock.”

Most bicycle locks have four dials with ten digits. So for a thief to steal the bike, he would have to guess correctly from among 10,000 possible combinations. No easy task.

But what about DNA? Well, in experiments Axe conducted at Cambridge, he found that for a DNA sequence generating a short protein just 150 amino acids in length, for every 1 workable arrangement of amino acids, there are 10 to the 77th possible unworkable amino acid arrangements. Using the bicycle lock analogy, that’s a lock with 77 dials containing 10 digits.

Thus, as the film states, it is overwhelmingly unlikely that a random mutational search would produce even one new functional protein in the entire history of life on earth. In other words, random mutation is not driving the biological bicycle.

It’s a powerful argument, and one I’d love you to understand and use. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and I’ll link you to Discovery Institute’s excellent new video. Then share it with your friends, and start some intelligent conversations about intelligent design.


Further Reading and Information

The Information Enigma: Unlocking the Darwin Debate
Be sure to watch the Discovery Institute's excellent new video, "The Information Enigma"--and then share it with your friends and colleagues.

Resources

The Information Enigma
Center for Science and Culture | The Discovery Institute | October 2015

Available in the BreakPoint online bookstore

Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design
Stephen C. Meyer | HarperOne | 2015

 


Comments:

link to Venema's articles
The link which was supposed to be in my previous comment didn't post, for some reason. Sorry.

Here it is (I hope):
https://biologos.org/blogs/dennis-venema-letters-to-the-duchess/series/evolution-and-the-origin-of-biological-information
Examples of new information arising through mutati
The article references in the first comment above is highly technical. (It does suggest at least three mechanisms for new information coming about through types of mutation.)

A series of six articles, by Dennis Venema, posted on the BioLogos forum, considers the theological implications of new functions arising through mutations, and also gives examples of such, that have been found. The series is easier to read.
See here

Thanks for the post here.
Worst post ever
I read a lot of commentary about evolution, creationism, ID, etc. This is probably the worst one I've encountered. It's hard to pick a place to start, but how about "But here’s the problem: We don’t have a single example of a mutation resulting in a net gain of information. Not one."
He doesn't define what he means by "information" and there are different definitions, but I can't think of any that makes his statement even remotely true. Almost any issue of Science/Nature/Cell/PNAS and many other scientific journals will have examples. But you don't even need to be a scientist, just aware of current events to realize how dumb that statement is. Viruses are constantly evolving to evade both our immune system and drugs, as are bacteria and other parasites such a malaria. Those are all changes in DNA that are "gains of information" that allow them to survive our attempts to eliminate them. But if you want examples of human evolution, here is an easy example. Ancestors of current Tibetans had a mutation that allowed them to thrive at high elevation. Ancestors of certain South American populations also have a mutation that allows them to thrive high in the Andes, but its a different mutation; that is it happened independently and fairly recently. While it is true that mutations are most likely to be detrimental, beneficial ones do occur and are then amplified because they facilitate proliferation. One can make a long list just by reading current literature.
This article should be an embarrassment to breakpoint.org.
Dishonest or Lazy?
I can only assume the author was either incredibly lazy or intellectually dishonest in the claim that mutations have never added information to genomes. Here is a quick video showing exactly how it happens: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfybuMJVWj0

Here is a peer-reviewed article covering 470 times we've seen this happen in the human genome:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16890400

I seriously doubt this comment will be published given that the very author I'm criticizing is the reviewer. I hope though that intellectual honesty prevails and the author not only posts this comment, but a reply and/or rebuttal as well!

Cheers!
Clarification
In the comment I submitted about 5 hours ago (which hasn't been posted yet for some reason), I addressed Dr. Smith and said he gave the results of his calculation but not how he arrived at them. After I did that, I noticed that his comment mentioned an article as well as a video. No doubt the article gives more details about the calculation; I was referring to the video when I said he didn't say how he got those results. Just wanted to clear that up.

As someone famous said more than once, sorry about that, chief!
Dr. Smith,
I have watched your video and have only two comments on it:

1. I don't think it is as unique and original as you seem to think it is. It's basically the usual statistical Creationist/Intelligent Design argument against naturalistic abiogenesis and evolution. Also, it only presents the final results of the calculation, not how you arrived at them. But that's okay. As a mathematician, I know how to at least make a rough estimate of that calculation, and without going through the whole thing in detail, I can believe your numbers are at least in the right ball park.

2. More to the point, your conclusion is based on the assumption that the chemicals that make living things work today (DNA and Polymerase) had to have emerged spontaneously from common basic chemicals in one step. The problem is, there are other ways life could have gotten started, theoretically. Even before I saw what I am about to describe, I speculated that if I were an evolutionist (which I'm not), I might try to claim a multi-step process in which some kind of simple self-replicating chemical(s) might have arisen before life existed, which could not happen now because living things would prevent that, and life as we know it arose from them. In 2009 I found some pro-evolution videos on YouTube, and guess what? That's exactly what they claim!

Since then I have been searching in vain for some Creationist scientist who could answer them. To that end I posted a summary of those videos I just mentioned in my comments on the BreakPoint This Week of Aug. 3, 2013, "Darwin's Doubt", at http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/discourse/discourse-archive/entry/15/23002. I would say at this point that one of the most relevant of them is "The Origin of Life - Abiogenesis - Dr. Jack Szostak" at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6QYDdgP9eg, but there are others.

I am hoping that you could be the scientist I've been searching for for 6 years. If you could take a look at the video I just mentioned and the others listed in my comments two years ago, I would be deliriously happy. This could be the beginning, at least, of a turning point for I.D. vs. Evolution!
Evolution Video
Hi, Eric. I recently released a video and a deatiled article looking the Amoeba DNA which has 670 billion nucleic acid links. I worked out the statistics (which so far have not been done that I could find) for the chance occurrence of an Amoeba DNA and Polymerase and they are staggering. You might be very interested in seeing them here;

https://www.facebook.com/amerechristian

or on my site http://amerechristian.com.

Hope you enjoy it.

-Ron Smith, MD
information
you summed it up right here:


Information is at the heart of life, and our uniform and repeated experience tells us that matter, by itself, never produces information. The only known source capable of producing information is a mind.