There’s an interesting exchange of emails on this blog between the author of that blog and Michael Egnor. It provides a perfect example of how this whole “increase in information in the genome” argument heard incessantly from IDers is nothing but a shell game. The whole thing started when Egnor demanded to know “how much new information Darwinian processes can generate.” In order to answer that question, of course, one must have a means of measuring information in that context. And before you can have a means of measuring whether there is any new biological information as a result of “Darwinian processes”, one must be able to define biological information. So the author of that blog wrote to Egnor and asked him to define the terms of his challenge. Here was Egnor’s reply:
I asked Darwinists to define biological information, because Darwin’s theory hinges on it. Darwin asserted that all natural functional biological complexity (information) arose by non-teleological variation and natural selection. ID theory asserts that some natural functional biological complexity (information) arose by teleological variation and natural selection. By ‘teleological’ I mean a process that is most reasonably understood as the result of intelligent agency, analogous to human intelligent agency, with which we have ample experience.
These assertions are the whole issue in the ID/Darwin debate.
I think the best definition is Dembski’s CSI, but there remains a lot to understand. What appalled me is that Darwinists don’t even know how to measure the property on which their entire theory turns.
I can’t help them prove their theory. That’s their job. What kind of scientist asserts that his theory is a fact, and when you ask him for the data on which his theory turns, he demands that you tell him how to prove it?
Darwinism is a scandal.
But as the author there points out, when he asked his question he was given examples of new traits developed through the well understood process of gene duplication and diversification, a process that results in new traits in a population. And he said that wasn’t what he was looking for. So the author pressed on and asked the question in a different way:
Perhaps an easier question is, if a process did increase (or decrease) biological information in the way that you ask, how would we know? What would we have to measure?
And predictably, Egnor dodged it yet again:
No one knows how to measure biological information in a meaningful way. The current ways of measuring information (Shannon, KC, etc) are relevant to sending signals, and are not of much help in biology.
Gene duplication is not a source of significant new information. It obviously changes the way things work in the cell, to some extent, but it can only copy what’s there, and we’re asking how it got there to begin with.
Even though we can’t measure it (and serious investigators like Dembsky are trying to figure this out), we know biological information when we see it. The genetic code, molecular machines, seamless integration of physiology are all obviously the kind of biological information that we are trying to understand. The only source of such information (or functional complexity or whatever) that we know of in human experience is intelligent design. There are no ‘natural’ codes, aside from biology, which is the topic at issue.
Darwinists have a responsibility to show that undesigned mechanisms can produce sufficient biological information to account for living things. If they don’t even know how to measure it, how can they assert that random variation and natural selection can account for it, and why is the design inference ruled out?
all of this is utter nonsense. The only thing that his question could possibly mean – the only way it could possibly be answered – is by showing specific examples of evolutionary processes resulting in the development of a new trait. After all, that is what the “biological information” in the genome actually does. But that is a trivially easy question to answer because we observe the development of new genes coding for new traits in genomes, both in the lab and the wild, virtually every day.
What else could “biologically meaningful information” mean than that? If you’re asking for examples of new biologically meaningful information, then what can that possibly mean other than new genes producing new traits in a population of organisms? It simply can’t mean anything else. But they can’t just say that because they know full well that there are limitless examples of that throughout the scientific literature. That’s why they refuse to define “biologically meaningful information”, and why they have to play these word games and keep it as vague as possible so that it can never be answered to their satisfaction.
It’s a very similar game to the one that has long been played by creationists regarding transitional fossils. They make the bold claim that there are no transitional forms in the fossil record, but if you ask them what a transitional form might look like if you did find one – demand that they give some criteria for defining a transitional form that, if met, they would accept as being one – you will never, ever, ever get a straight answer. And that’s for the same reason you will never get a straight answer on this, because any specific answer they give is easily met – and they know it. So the definitions are like the pea under the shell as they move around the table. Yet another game of three card monty with the creationists.