Friday, December 18, 2009

Fletch DNA: The Proof Of A Creative Mind

I've just been looking at a really interesting web site by a guy called Perry Marshall who is a programmer and author of the book Industrial Ethernet published by ISA, now in its 2 nd edition, and who has written many dozens of magazine articles and white papers on computer networks.

He has investigated the obvious code within DNA and issued a challenge years ago on the atheist Internet Infidels Discussion Board which goes like this -

1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism.
2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.
3) Therefore DNA was designed by a mind.



According to him, no one has satisfactorily been able to punch a hole in the theory. The gist of the argument, put simply, is that DNA is a code which no one can really dispute. It isn't random the way snowflake patterns are. Anything that is created starts with an idea and has a design: like music begins in someone's imagination, is written as notes on paper, and is then performed - or a building is imagined, plans are drawn up and finally the building is built.
It never can work in reverse.
See his website HERE. You can hear and download his lecture (and read along with his Powerpoint notes in downloadable PDF) from HERE.
I find his arguments very convincing.


15 comment(s):

Danyl said...

There's a book about this very question called 'The Blind Watchmaker' written by a famous biologist. His name is Richard Dawkins - perhaps you've heard of him?

Danyl said...

Moreover:

1) DNA is not merely a molecule with a pattern; it is a code, a language, and an information storage mechanism.
2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.


So what 'concious mind' created the modern English language?

ZenTiger said...

I haven't read his argument, but I'm a little surprised at the logic between steps 2 and 3:

2) All codes are created by a conscious mind; there is no natural process known to science that creates coded information.

Except possibly DNA becomes an example of such an "exception", so one cannot use "therefore point 3" as proof until point 2 is adequately addressed.

As for Dawkins, and the Blind watchmaker - he offers an interesting point of view but seems to create a God out of chance. I think he too may be guilty of leaping from point 2 to 3 in a few places himself, but using the God of Chance as his "therefore", along the lines of "it's a billion zillion to one that life happens, but it did happen therefore such a chances of this happening are not in dispute".

Personally, it's the thought that the universe (or at least this planet and the universal rules it lives under) seems to be wired for life, and whether it's from God creating the conditions that lets this unfold, or God actively unfolding - there seems to be a kind of miracle that cannot be put down to blind chance alone.

David said...

Hi Zen,

That doesn't sound like The Blind Watchmaker, that book starts with the (fairly safe?) assumption that life started and explains the seeming improbability that got us from there to here in terms of cumulative selection.

Terry Pratchett has a good line about the sort of anthropic reasoning your talking about:


The universe clearly operates for the benefit of humanity. This can be readily seen by the way the sun comes up in the morning, just when people want to start their day

David said...

Actually, sorry, just grabbed my copy of the shelf and it does have a chapter of abiogenesis.

I'd perhaps forgotten about it because it includes one of Dawkins sillier ideas - that life, once formed, will inevitable march towards intelligence (and radiowaves) so if there was lots of it around we'd know about it.

ZenTiger said...

Hi David, I haven't read the blind watchmaker in a long time, and I've been reading other Dawkins stuff too, so I might be a bit mixed up on what he said where, and my example was not particularly good.

I'm also not saying that this was the sum of Dawkins argument - it was just something I noticed at some point.

If I had more time, it would be the kind of thing to review and then do as a post topic, so I'll add it to my list.

A long list that doesn't seem to be shrinking as real life is taking precedence at the moment :-)

I.M Fletcher said...

Zen, I'm not sure what you're meaning about steps two and three. Could you clarify?

Marshall does mention The Blind Watchmaker but pretty much dismisses it -

--snip--

Just briefly, I want to talk about genetic programs are computer programs that simulate random mutation and natural selection to improve the design of something. The most famous one is one in Richard Dawkins' book The Blind Watchmaker where he starts with random letters and he runs them through a computer program. Every time it finds the wrong letter it throws it away. Every time it finds the right letter it keeps it. And he says, after only 30 or 40 iterations of his program he went from totally random letters to getting this sentence

methinks it is like a weasel

which is a line from Shakespeare. He says it's therefore an illustration of evolution.
Now wait a minute… isn't there something just a wee bit wrong with that example? That's not Darwinian evolution, that's Scrabble! That's what it is. He programmed the desired result into his program first (the sentence ‘methinks it is like a weasel') so he could get it! If you guys sat down and played a game of Scrabble, would that be an example of natural process or would that be an example of Intelligent Design? Absolutely. Dawkins' example doesn't prove anything except Intelligent Design.

--snip--

I.M Fletcher said...

To try and explain what I understand about steps two and three..
He is trying to say that there isn't a natural process (chance etc) that creates code. It's like writing a program - the programmer thinks up an idea, writes code to implement it, and ends up with, say, the Windows XP OS. There is no way that the Windows XP operating system could come into existence fully formed and then create the program that forms itself - it just doesn't work that way - it can't.

It's the same with music, or with building plans - the plan always comes first.

ZenTiger said...

Yep, I get that. And those examples illustrate that nicely. However, there are other examples to consider. As Danyl says - Language evolves not from a single blueprint, but from verbal and physical triggers that advance from a collective response to those. An interesting choice, given it evolves in an environment of a degree of intelligence, but we can see simpler examples of that in natural processes.

Ah, tell you what - I'll read his stuff first and comment then!

ZenTiger said...

Sorry, not "as Danyl says" but more, "continuing from Danyl's point..."

Fletch - just noticed your comment above the one I replied to, especially now:

Zen, I'm not sure what you're meaning about steps two and three. Could you clarify?

Will do so, after dinner sometime - off for food. And I'll have a quick read of your links first too :-)

I.M Fletcher said...

Cool. As I said, he has advanced this theory on Infidel's, the biggest Atheist board on the net, and he reckons no one has successfully argued against it.

http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/iidb.htm

---snip--

If you can provide an empirical example of a code or language that occurs naturally, you've toppled my proof. All you need is one.

Perry Marshall
The discussion continued for more than 4 months and 300 posts. At the end, nearly all participants dropped out, having failed to topple my proof or produce any new objections that had not already been addressed. In the course of a very detailed and vigorous discussion my argument did not suffer the slightest injury.

--snip--

dimpost said...

The discussion continued for more than 4 months and 300 posts. At the end, nearly all participants dropped out, having failed to topple my proof or produce any new objections that had not already been addressed. In the course of a very detailed and vigorous discussion my argument did not suffer the slightest injury.

If you actually click on the discussion thread you'll see that this isn't a very accurate description of the debate. Marshall is a creationist, so his response to every point is to say 'you haven't convinced me'. He doesn't actually put up much of an argument.

I especially like this parody of his initial premise:

1) The Bible is a book
2) The contents of all books are created by man
3) Therefore the contents of the Bible were created by man

If you can provide an empirical example of a book that isn't created by man then you've toppled my proof. All you need is one. Until then I guess you have to accept that I have proven the Bible is not the word of God.

ZenTiger said...

The example Danyl has found points out the error in his logic.

Equally, the example illustrates quite nicely that this can cut both ways - many arguments made from a basis of science when attempting to prove or disprove God fall flat for much the same reasons.

So above, to claim God hasn't been the agent behind the Bible doesn't wash based on the above logic either. The "parody" effectively argues the reverse - that it is possible.

I haven't had time to get to the source material as yet - patience please!

MrTips said...

One simple way to look at it is to follow a basic principle of logic:
is the argument valid? ie. does the conclusion follow from the premises?

So any argument that has books, God/Man and then the two together in the form Zen and Danyl show will be valid.

But then the next step is: is it rationally convincing? ie. analyse the premises.

Neither side accepts the premises (all books are created by man, or all books are created by God).

The problem is, with empirical rationalism the flavour of the month, the robustness of the next stage after validity is poor. In fact, Wikipedia is usually held up as an arbiter of evidence for rationally convincing.

This lack of robustness seems to permeate any important discussion these days from the old chestnut of the Bible through to Climategate. And I would argue that it is because many people have lost the ability to move on the validity stage of rhetoric/logic.

I.M Fletcher said...

Interestingly, there's an opinion piece in today's Herald that relates to the subject of DNA and the bus billboards.

--snip--

DNA itself uses machinery to replicate and is reliant on both proteins and the cell to do the job and protect it from decomposing.

The cell in turn is a marvel of complexity - a miniature city, with information systems, power systems, transportation systems, refuse collection, factories, ambulances, police and gatekeepers.

Each human cell has half a million ribosomes, and to pick just one of the 100,000 proteins: haemoglobin is produced by ribosomes in bone marrow at a rate of 100 million million protein molecules every second.

The biological world is one improbability after another. Like the physical universe, it is unbelievably finely balanced and we have no idea how even the simplest elements came into existence. We can calculate probabilities for one component after another.

They are each totally improbable but when compounded one on another the prospects for the chance to play God fade beyond all possibility.

I could be wrong, but the bus slogan "There's probably no God" is probably, nay, almost certainly, incorrect

-snip--

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