Respectful Insolence

More hilariously off-base genetics denialism

Things have been a bit too serious around here lately. After all, yesterday I wrote about obesity and chemotherapy, while the day before that I did an even lengthier than usual deconstruction of some claims by anti-Obamacare activists, which seemed particularly appropriate to me given that a group of wingnuts has just succeeded in mostly shutting down our government because they are opposed to Obamacare. Come to think of it, given the nastiness that’s going on in Washington right now, I could use something light, an easy target even. And who better to serve that role than everyone’s favorite combination all purpose New World Order conspiracy theorist wingnut and pure quack, Mike Adams?

I realize that Mike Adams is often an easy target, but hear me out as I briefly justify my decision to go after this particular piece of spew by him before I actually, well, go after this particular piece of spew. As I’ve described before, gene theory denialism is a strain of “thought” (if you can call it that) running through a lot of alternative medicine and quackery (but I repeat myself). You hear it all the time, be it Deepak Chopra attacking determinism or others claiming that epigenetics implies, in essence, that thinking makes it so. Basically, when you boil it down to its core essence, the complaint against genetics by woo-meisters is that, well, they don’t like genetics determinism. The fancy themselves to be the complete masters of their own destiny and don’t like the idea that everyone has genetic baggage that could predispose to disease regardless of how “healthy” a lifestyle you live. Remember, one of the favorite delusions among alt-med believers is that you are completely in control of your own health. If you only eat the right foods, live the right lifestyle, and take the right supplements, flu can’t touch you (one of Bill Maher’s favorite delusions), nor can other diseases. Anyone with some grounding in—oh, you know—reality knows that this is not true, but it is a pervasive strain of thought running through all of alt med. Using epigenetics to justify it is but one misuse of science to justify such beliefs.

Even though Mike Adams is completely off the deep end, it is precisely because he is so delusional that I find him a useful foil to demonstrate fallacies in alt-med thought. The reason is that he cranks the crazy up to 11 and beyond. Often he cranks up the crazy for common alt-med ideas that, in other hands (for instance, Deepak Chopra’s or Andrew Weil’s) might sound semi-reasonable. In this case, take a gander at what Adams claims in his article The big lie of genetics exposed: human DNA incapable of storing complete blueprint of the human form. Indeed, the very “lie” about genetics that is believed by so many alt-med aficionados is embodied in that very title inadvertently in such a way that Adams probably has no clue what he has done. First, however, he hilariously assures us that he really, truly is a “critical thinker”:

The curse of being a critical thinker is that you can’t turn it off, I’ve discovered. So you become a critical thinker about everything you’ve been told or taught, and as it turns out, most of what we’ve all been taught about genetics is a lie.

But don’t take my word for it. Join me as we take an honest, critical look at genetics using the same kind of skepticism scientists demand we invoke when looking at medicinal herbs or acupuncture.

Um, no. Adams has no idea what kind of skepticism scientists invoke when looking at medicinal herbs or acupuncture. He really has no clue whatsoever. Indeed, as has happened so many times before, Adams has blown my irony meter into a thousand steaming, smoking, quivering shards. Skepticism? He has no idea what skepticism really is, just as he really has no idea what science is, as he demonstrated to such hilarious effect when he tried to examine Chicken McNuggets under the microscope or made a movie declaring science to be irredeemably evil.

The basic thrust of Adams’ argument, if you can call it that, is that the “genetic inheritance theory” has been “shattered,” and the Human Genome Project has similarly “shattered” the mythology of genetic materialism, or, as Adams put it it, “sending nearly the entire scientific community into a tailspin and forcing ‘the great genetic cover-up’ to begin.” Personally, one wonders how there can be a “great genetic coverup” in an age of so much genomic information. But, then, that’s me. In any case, the central “argument” behind Adams’ genetics denialism is that “there isn’t enough data storage in 20,000 genes to hold a blueprint for a human being.” Boiled down to its essence, it’s a massive logical fallacy akin to the same logical fallacy beloved of creationists everywhere, namely an appeal to personal credulity. Just as creationists can’t understand how selective pressures can lead to gradual changes over many generations and thus speciation, Adams simply can’t believe that there is enough “information” in the human genome to provide a blueprint for the human organism.

While making this argument, he mangles genetics using computer terminology. He begins by pointing out that there is approximately 750 MB of “information” in the human genome. Now, behold the argument from personal incredulity:

It turns out this number is shockingly small. 750MB is smaller than the file of a typical modern video game. It’s smaller than a movie on a DVD, in fact. It’s so small that a typical miniature thumb drive you might buy at Best Buy can actually store over 20 times as much data (that’s merely a 16 GB thumb drive). You can buy a 16GB SD card right now on Amazon.com for a mere $12.

750MB of data is so small that no one can explain how it could possibly account for a human body with extraordinary complexity while somehow encompassing physical, structural, functional and behavioral inheritance as well.

To get a grasp of the complexity of the human body, realize that your body is made of 60 – 90 trillion cells. Each cell is its own ecosystem with highly complex functions including cell energy production, waste removal, cell membrane function, the nucleus command control center, and so on.

Your body manufactures 10 million red blood cells every hour. It has a capacity to heal damaged tissues almost everywhere. Your skin and intestines are being slowly replaced with new cells every minute. Your immune system is incredibly complex and highly capable, representing the most advanced system of nanotechnology that modern science has ever witnessed.

So, in other words, just because the Great Mike Adams can’t conceive how the human genome can encode all the information necessary to result in a human being, it can’t possibly encode all the information necessary to result in a human being. Because, of course, Mike Adams is the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining what is and is not possible in science. In any caes, let’s leap to the core of Adams’ claim. Based on his own personal incredulity that the information content of the human genome is sufficient to result in the development of a human being, Adams declares:

Your body and its functions are unimaginably complex. Simply cataloging the structure and function of all the cells in your body right now would take countless terabytes of data — more than a million times larger than “megabytes” of data.

Yet the entire human genome delivers only 750MB worth of data storage. Obviously, this is wholly insufficient to describe the entire structure, function and development of a human being. No matter how the desperate materialists try to keep us focused on human genes, it flat-out isn’t possible to store a full blueprint of the human form in 750MB of data.

The human genome, therefore, is not the entire blueprint of human development. Although some genes do obviously code for some physical characteristics (such as eye color), genes alone do not contain the full blueprint. There must be something else that also contributes morphological information in addition to DNA.

Hmmmm. What, pray tell, could that “something else” be? We’ll get to that in a minute. First, let’s have some fun pointing out Adams’ ignorance. First off, he assumes that DNA is the be-all and end-all of human biology, which is a straw man argument. Even the most die-hard, dogmatic genetic determinist doesn’t argue that everything devolves to genes. Moreover, the number of genes doesn’t necessarily correlate with complexity. Adams scoffs at the observation that a roundworm has about the same number of genes as a human and that a fruit fly has about three quarters as many genes as a human does. Because he relates a crude count of the number of genes to “complexity,” Adams is shocked by this information and views it as evidence that the Human Genome Project was an “epic fail.” It’s not. Worms and flies are quite complex creatures, and it’s a fallacy to assume that they must be so much more “simple” than human beings. Heck, there are a number of plants with genomes much larger than that of humans!

Then, of course, another observation shoots Adams’ nonsense down. We don’t just have 20,000 genes. there are around 20,000 or 25,000 protein-coding genes, but there are at least 10,000 more genes that make noncoding RNAs. Non-coding RNAs are RNAS that, well, don’t code for a protein. Remember, the “central dogma” of molecular biology (which is really not a dogma but is true in a majority of cases) is that genes make RNA, which makes protein. In any case, it’s been increasingly appreciated over the last 15 years that these noncoding RNAs are very important in regulating gene expression. For example, one type of noncoding RNA is know as microRNA. MicroRNAs are small (around 20 nucleotides) and regulate gene expression by binding to complementary sequences in various genes and shutting those genes down (silencing them). A single microRNA can regulate hundreds of difference genes, and a single gene can be regulated by dozens of microRNAs. The interacting combinations form a regulatory network that is quite complex.

Another issue that Adams neglects is that around 90% of our genes are alternatively spliced. Basically, that means that different sections of RNA are sliced out of the RNA made by the genes before the RNA is translated into protein. That means that many, if not most, genes can make multiple variants of a protein. The number of gene products is thus likely to be over 100,000. Moreover, many of these protein products interact. Their enzymatic activity allows them to propagate signals, and these signals form pathways that can become quite complex. The number of possible permutations of these signaling pathways is enormous. Moreover, we’re learning that it is the pathways that determine a cell’s behavior much more than any one gene. Indeed, it’s fairly uncommon for a phenotype or cell behavior to be strongly effected, particularly at the organism level, by any single gene. Not only are there many signaling pathways, but there are redundant and overlapping pathways. There are also epigenetic influences. True, the quacks try to hijack epigenetics to mean that you can control the expression of your genes with just thought or with diet or with whatever woo du jour the quacks are selling.

So, in Adams’ view, if he can’t believe that the human genome alone is sufficient to result in the development of a cell into the human organism, what, I wonder, does explain it. That’s easy. In Adams’ world, it’s magic:

To this very day, they are pouring over human genome data, desperately trying to find some “meta data” that would explain all inheritance. What they refuse to acknowledge is that there is a non-physical field of inheritance patterns that functions as an overlay to the human genome, interacting with it and enhancing its scope with non-physical encoding of additional information needed to develop a complete human form.

That field is called the “morphic resonance” field, and it was proposed by one of the most brilliant, revolutionary scientific thinkers of our time, Rupert Sheldrake, a biologist and author of “Science Set Free.”

Rupert Sheldrake? Now, that’s hilarious:

This idea that your body as a whole, as well as each cell in your body, can tap into a field of information which encodes the “memory” of what a human form is supposed to be threatens the very pillars of materialistic science, upon which nearly the entire pharmaceutical industry is based, by the way. This is why materialist scientists are desperately attempting to defend the human genome as the single source of all the information needed to develop a human body, even though the human genome clearly doesn’t have the storage capacity to represent an entire body (not to mention inherited physiological functions and behavioral inheritance).

The best place to read and learn about morphic resonance is at Rupert Sheldrake’s website:

http://www.sheldrake.org/Articles&Papers/papers/morphic/morphic_intro.html

As I said before, because Adams can’t imagine how the human genome can provide enough information to produce a human being, to him it can’t. Because he can’t imagine how genes can control inheritance, to him, they can’t. Because he can’t imagine how amazing biology is, he has to make up magical energy fields to understand the amazing processes that control the fantastically complex functions of the cell and the even more complex functions of cells that lead them into forming organisms. Although Adams is obviously on the nutty fringe of these beliefs, the very same beliefs undergird a lot of alternative medicine: When they can’t understand or accept something that science tells them, then it must be magic. While someone like Deepak Chopra can make such a message seem plausible, at least to the science-illiterate (and sometimes even to some doctors), Adams does skeptics the favor of taking the message to its full, magical conclusion. He’s kind of like the Michael Egnor of genetics.

Comments

  1. #1 ProgJohn
    UK
    October 2, 2013

    Adams also fails to understand that our genes are not a blueprint for a complete person, they are a program for making one. It is well understood in maths and IT that huge data sets can be generated by very small programs, e.g. phenomenally complex Mandelbrot sets from a program that would fit into a space millions of times smaller than that required to record it’s output.

  2. #2 Richard Abbott
    Atlanta, GA
    October 2, 2013

    Morphic resonance is wonderfully satirized by Terry Pratchett in the Discworld Series. It is implausible to an extreme, but makes for good comedic writing.

  3. #3 Yerushalmi
    October 2, 2013

    I suggest somebody introduce Mr. Adams to the concept of procedural generation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_generation).

  4. #4 StrangerInAStrangeLand
    October 2, 2013

    Thanks Orac for sharing these hilarious “thoughts” of Mr Adams with us. I completely missed the fact that genetics have been discredited and I now have to start working on the “great genetic cover-up”, being obviously part of the genetic establishment.

    As I am not working on humans or in the medical field I often feel left out when the cranks accuse doctors and scientists who debunk them to be in the pockets of big pharma or a shill of “the establishment”, but now I am obviously also part of a big evil conspiracy. Makes me feel so proud.

    “What they refuse to acknowledge is that there is a non-physical field of inheritance patterns that functions as an overlay to the human genome, interacting with it and enhancing its scope with non-physical encoding of additional information needed to develop a complete human form.

    That field is called the “morphic resonance” field,…”

    No, it´s not, it is called “the Force” and they even made movies about it!

  5. #5 Becca Stareyes
    October 2, 2013

    I take it Mike Adams doesn’t bake, or think much about it. Baking is another simple process where a command like ‘place in a 350° F oven for 15 minutes’ leads to a lot of chemistry and a bit of physics as the many chemical compounds that make up cake batter react. A recipe doesn’t specify all of the reactions that occur, because they will happen on their own when you introduce heat.

  6. #6 Mary
    October 2, 2013

    Wha? “the “memory” of what a human form is supposed to be”

    Is that some kind of Homo homeopathy??

    But yeah–there’s so much of this genetic denialism among the alt-med adherents and frequently the eco-minded anti-GMO types it cracks me up. At the same time they think that a single gene carries all of the information to turn a tomato into a fish or something.

    When they try to spout the fallacy of the “central dogma” I can tell where they are going. And they don’t seem to like to hear about what Crick actually meant there. If you haven’t read it, you have to see this: Use of the term “dogma”:

    “My mind was, that a dogma was an idea for which there was no reasonable evidence. You see?!” And Crick gave a roar of delight.

    They latch on to some antique idea in a field and can’t get past it. It’s the same thing they try on other fronts, genetics is just their new one.

  7. #7 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    Because I enjoy sharing the wealth with my sceptical brothers and sisters:

    last week I discovered that Mikey has a new profile at his new(er) Health Ranger.com site. It is a sparkling gem of mindless, bragadocious, long-winded self-promotion nearly achieving the heights of grandiosity hitherto only observed regularly at PRN.

    Mike is “an extremely high-IQ person” who is “believed to have been born in 1967 in Lawrence, Kansas”. He has a “4 year degree”, a BS, naturally, from a “prominent university in the midwest”, scoring in the “99.9th perentile” of his entrance exams for both undergraudate and graduate school.”Acing” math, science and English on the SATs. With minors in math and economics, he also studied genetics and microbiology amongst many other subjects, being “gifted in music composition”. He refused a scholarship to MIT.

    He sold his software ( spam creation) company in 2003, founded Natural News and now lives on his ranch in Austin, Texas, where he raises chickens and goats and practises “permaculture and self-sufficiency”. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and possibly a bit of English.

    This *tour de force* ends with a profound recitative proclaiming his *philosophy* – for some ung-dly reason, the image of the volcano on the Scientology books just kept popping into my mind as I read about Consciousness et al.
    I don’t know why that is.

    It’s always hilarious to me when a dabbling woo-meister like Mike or Gary regales their audience with tales of their far-ranging education** in English, economics, psychology et al and then presents the most superficial smattering of names and terms to impress his audience:
    pro-tip- reading an article in a magazine or watching a television show about a topic is not
    “an education” . Usually also, mispronunciations and malapropisms abound amidst the quotes from Voltaire and Diderot.

    ** I unabashedly admit that I can be an adequate judge of their backgrounds because I actually did the hard time in arts, life and social science. Also have the degrees.

  8. #8 AnObservingParty
    October 2, 2013

    We all need an easy target every once in a while.

    “Basically, when you boil it down to its core essence, the complaint against genetics by woo-meisters is that, well, they don’t like genetics determinism. The fancy themselves to be the complete masters of their own destiny and don’t like the idea that everyone has genetic baggage that could predispose to disease regardless of how “healthy” a lifestyle you live. ”

    This, right here, sums up all the quacks, anti-vaxxers, CAM proponents, conspiracry theory nuts…truly, it all comes down to control. They don’t like the idea that someone/something is/can/should be dictating what they do.

    “Morphic resonance.” I saw those movies. The prequels sucked though. I have a bet going with a coworker about NaturalNews legitimately likening some nutjob theory about life to midichlorians. The bet is not so much whether it will happen or not, so much as whether the word will actually be used.

  9. #9 AnObservingParty
    October 2, 2013

    “Basically, when you boil it down to its core essence, the complaint against genetics by woo-meisters is that, well, they don’t like genetics determinism. The fancy themselves to be the complete masters of their own destiny and don’t like the idea that everyone has genetic baggage that could predispose to disease regardless of how “healthy” a lifestyle you live. Remember, one of the favorite delusions among alt-med believers is that you are completely in control of your own health.”

    This, right here. It’s what everything from every quack, anti-vaxxer, conspiracry theorist, or CAM-advocate boils down to. They don’t like being told what to do. Everything is control. Nobody/nothing is/can/should be allowed to dictate what they do or how they stay healthy. They don’t like the idea of authority, even if it’s simply the authority of scientific evidence.

    “Morphic resonance.” I love those movies. Well, not the prequels, they sucked. I have a bet going with a coworker about NaturalNews eventually likening some nutjob theory to midichlorians. Not whether or not it will happen, but if they’ll actually use the word midichlorians.

  10. #10 JKW
    Danville, Tri-state area
    October 2, 2013

    “The curse of being a critical thinker is that you can’t turn it off, I’ve discovered. So you become a critical thinker about everything you’ve been told or taught, and as it turns out, most of what we’ve all been taught about genetics is a lie.”

    Hahahaha! The curse of being a pR0n star is that you can’t turn it off, I’ve discovered. So you become a pR0n star about everything you’ve been told or taught, and as it turns out, most of what we’ve all been taught about Electromagnetic Theory is a lie.

  11. #11 AnObservingParty
    October 2, 2013

    Well, I thought I lost my first comment, so I posted again. Sorry everyone, it’s essentially the same thing.

  12. #12 palindrom
    October 2, 2013

    While someone like Deepak Chopra can make such a message seem plausible, at least to the science-illiterate (and sometimes even to some doctors) …

    Many physicians are excellent scientists — our host is a shining example.

    But unfortunately, it seems that some medical practitioners never liked science that much and simply memorized what they needed to know to pass tests, without thinking any more than they had to.

    These folks — hopefully a minority of physicians — are as vulnerable to woo-speak as anyone else.

  13. #13 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    Now here’s frightening thought that has been haunting me:
    I believe that now Mikey, Alex Jones, Andrew Wakefield and Jake Crosby all live within the same city limits.

  14. #14 Chris Hickie
    October 2, 2013

    Methinks Adams has an overabundance of microRNAs downregulating genes necessary for long-term memory formation.

  15. #15 Nick Theodorakis
    October 2, 2013

    While someone like Deepak Chopra can make such a message seem plausible, …

    Chopra’s “thoughts” are indistinguishable from a stream of Chopra-uttered words strung together by a random quote generator; see:

    http://www.wisdomofchopra.com/

    Getting back to Adams, I wonder if thinks the same thing about those images generated by a Mandelbrot set: that the image is too complex to be generated by a simple set of rules, so there must be some kind of Madelbort-morph filed out there.

  16. #16 The Midwesterner
    In the sunshine for one more day
    October 2, 2013

    Denice Walter – I’ve never seen the show about the dome that covers a town (or something like that) just the commercials, but perhaps we could all chip in to get one and contain the mess.

  17. #17 Andrew Dodds
    October 2, 2013

    I’d also add..

    750Mb may be ‘small’ nowadays for distributed software, but that’s because of data files – graphics, sound, video and the like. If you look at the actual *code* – the stuff that you actually run, 750Mb is huge. A quick check on my system gave the full Oracle Database software – a huge industrial strength product – at 88Mb.

    So.. even if you take their argument at face value, it’s wrong.

  18. #18 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    I completely believe that Mike Adams has a very high IQ. You need a very high functioning brain to power such a creative imagination as he clearly has. The error, of course, lies in assuming this means he is usually right about things.

    His most basic error is in confusing an instruction set with a blueprint and then judging the blueprint’s completeness as if it had to be the actual thing. Though interestingly, he’d also find that blueprints generally do not contain enough data to possibly produce the thing they describe. This is because blueprints *are not used to produce things*. They usually exist primarily for review and reference purposes.

    The technical drawings (“blueprints”) for one of the computers we make at my company consume many megabytes of storage. However, as important as those drawings are, they are not used by manufacturing to actually create the computers; it’s instructions that they mainly rely on. Even the digital files they use to machine parts are really instruction sets rather than blueprints; they tell the machine where to grind and how much. Nobody builds from a blueprint; it’s really not set up for that. The blueprint is used for design, not assembly.

    Or, consider this.

    CO120. Join. Working in the round, K2P2 5 rnds. st st 15 rnds. *K19, SSK*, rep from * to end of rnd. st st 4 rnds. *K18, SSK*, rep from * to end of rnd. st st 4 rnds. Continue dec every 5 rnds, with one less st between decs, utnil 6 sts remain. Draw sts together and tie off.

    You have just made a hat. Possibly a rather ugly one: I made that up as I went and didn’t bother to think much about shaping. ;-) But to actually draw that hat to the standards of a technical drawing would take far more bytes than the instructions to make it did.

  19. #19 Shay
    October 2, 2013

    Calli: you forgot the gauge!

  20. #20 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    If you read a lot of older patterns, you’ll see that gauge is often left as an exercise for the knitter. Another example of a piece of instruction that may not need to be included. ;-)

  21. #21 Curious
    Third rock from the Sun
    October 2, 2013

    Quit picking on Mikey. He can’t help himself, he’s special – at least that’s what his Mom told him every day….

    as she strapped on his helmet!

    Seriously Adams is too easy a target. Why not Sayer Ji or Joseph Mercola for a change?

  22. #22 Old Rockin' Dave
    October 2, 2013

    Midwesterner, I had a similar thought, although limited to a wall.
    Just as an off-topic aside, “Under the Dome” has been my guilty pleasure all summer. I enjoy watching Dean Norris ham it up as the chief villain, but he’s not alone. They’d better lift that dome soon; in such a small area it won’t be long before the cast chews up all the scenery.
    On another note, look how much complexity a chess set generates with 32 pieces of six types on 64 squares – at least 10^40 possible legal games, and that’s just under restrictive competition rules.

  23. #23 Dangerous Bacon
    October 2, 2013

    “Methinks Adams has an overabundance of microRNAs downregulating genes necessary for long-term memory formation”

    It must take a staggering amount of DNA to keep the conspiracy center in his limbic cortex functioning.

  24. #24 oldmanjenkins
    Wooville Florida
    October 2, 2013

    Denice (#7), his “autobiography” almost sounds like L. Ron Hubbard’s. It has been reported that someone listening to Hubbard spin his yarns about his accomplishments calculated he would need to be in his late 80′s or 90′s (at the time he was in his 40′s) to have had enough time to have completed half of what he was alleging to have done. Sounds the same for poor little deluded Mr. Adams.

  25. #25 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    @ Calli:

    I disagree; I doubt that Mikey has a very high IQ. As a matter of fact, I doubt most of what he says in his bio- I would guess that he has a degree ( maybe not quite) in a tech subject or business and little liberal arts or hard science.

    I’d take the “math and economics minor… psychology..microbiology..” and languages all with a grain of salt. Actually, more than a grain.

    If you read his daily screed, you’ll notice that the analogies and parodies he formulates are neither very subtle nor sophisticated- he uses obvious, mundane references and pedestrian comparisons.. His basic written language is simplistic structurally as well as content-wise; he attempts to convince others of his worth by *telling them* not by demonstrating his abilities. He organises material along a paucity of dimensions and uses abstractions in rote fashion- forever bringing up “spirit” and “universals” or suchlike. There’s even more but I’m short on time.

    However he, like Null, masquerades as a brilliant person, which fits in perfectly with his cargo cult science posturings. They toss around references from literature, art and science because they realise that most of their loyal followers never studied these subjects- putting teacher and students on equal footing- except that the followers are probably more honest about their lacks. I find it hilarious when a woo-meister, bragging of his erudition, mispronounces basic terminology from science. If you stumble over a word like “synapse” or ” amygdala” I doubt your studies of neurology were very throrough or even existent: words like “cesium” and “doppler” shouldn’t really be that difficult either.

    Intelligence is not a prerequisite for imagination or mendacity. I assume that Mike also mimics successful woo-meisters’ methods and practises.He’s a scavenger of pseudo-science who creates montages of bad ideas.

  26. #26 rork
    October 2, 2013

    I found the HealthDeranger’s use of “obvious” telling.
    Next time when I have no clue about why a thing is, maybe I’ll try that.

  27. #27 Jerry A.
    United States
    October 2, 2013

    Has anyone noticed how much alt-med woo thinking has in common with creationism/ID and climate change denialism?
    Step 1: Deny science and reality. Lots of “I can’t imagine how, therefore X does not happen.” Lots of conspiracy theories.
    Step 2: Magical thinking.
    Step 3: Profit.

  28. #28 Eric Lund
    October 2, 2013

    750Mb may be ‘small’ nowadays for distributed software, but that’s because of data files – graphics, sound, video and the like. If you look at the actual *code* – the stuff that you actually run, 750Mb is huge.

    Mikey is old enough to know better. The first version of Microsoft Word I owned came on two 400k floppy disks, one for the program and one for extras such as the dictionary. That’s 0.1% of the program size Mikey derides as preposterously small. It’s true that more recent programs are larger than that, for a number of reasons: expanding computer memory has reduced the need for compact code, today’s software has more features, graphical user interfaces have become significantly more complex, etc. But a genome does not require a graphical user interface.

    For a more recent benchmark, 750 MB is approximately the capacity of a music CD. You can fit a fair amount of complexity into that space, as fans of a number of different musical genres will be happy to tell you at great length. And the format on an audio CD, unlike the human genome, is uncompressed. Compress that data and your files get significantly smaller.

  29. #29 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    Denice,

    It is a dangerous mistake to think that because a person peddles nonsense they must be low IQ — because it implies that a high IQ would be protective against nonsense, when in fact it is nothing of the kind. And that’s without even going into the very real possibility that Adams doesn’t actually believe any of this and is merely engaged in a lifelong trolling operation. (He certainly wouldn’t be the first.)

    Also, you contradict his claims of IQ by pointing out that you doubt he is well educated; yet education and IQ do not correlate all that strongly, especially given that many educational institutions have rather low standards.

    Lastly, IQ and intelligence aren’t the same thing either. I said I believe he has a high IQ; you said you don’t think he’s intelligent. IQ is supposed to be a measure of intelligence, and yet distinguished neuroscientists have cast a considerable amount of doubt on it. The whole IQ thing is based on unscientific assumptions, and has been found to correlate rather poorly with academic success. It doesn’t seem to be a very good measure of intelligence at all. Rather like BMI, it doesn’t really tell you what its proponents claim. Just look at the people who walk around lauding their MENSA credentials. They aren’t a good subset of the best and brightest, yet they have high IQs — it’s a requirement for entry into MENSA.

    I agree it doesn’t take intelligence to be imaginative, but it does take a good functioning brain, which was my actual claim. Adams is sneaky, in my opinion, rather than brilliant. I’ll close with one of my favorite Doctor Who bits, from “The Masque of Mandragora” (a great serial for skeptics, even if it does mess up the historical state of science in the period a bit):

    HIERONYMOUS: Now, answer me this. What does it signify when Venus is in opposition to Saturn and a great shadow passes over the Moon?
    DOCTOR: This is all a great waste of time.
    FEDERICO: Answer him.
    DOCTOR: Well, it depends, doesn’t it.
    HIERONYMOUS: On what?
    DOCTOR: On whether the Moon is made of cheese, on whether the cock crows three times before dawn, and twelve hens lay addled eggs.
    HEIRONYMOUS: What school of philosophy is that?
    DOCTOR: I can easily teach him. All it requires is a colourful imagination and a glib tongue.

  30. #30 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    BTW, I tend to think most people who get off into conspiracy theories and rubbish like what Adams spouts don’t do it because they are crazy or stupid. They do it because they are intellectually lazy. It’s one thing to have the capacity. It’s another to use it.

  31. #31 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    I didn’t say “low IQ”- I suspect he’s somewhere around the average for people who attended college. More than average but not anything outlandish.

  32. #32 Shay
    October 2, 2013

    Calli, I don’t think they’re crazy or stupid. They’re establishing a niche market.

  33. #33 Tom
    United Kingdom
    October 2, 2013

    The scientific community needs to take a long hard look in the mirror…..

    Politics, greed, pride and arrogance are rife.

    Although I don’t necessarily disagree with “Orac” the self righteous arrogance of the writer is clear.

    The scientific community is as bad as the religious community….

  34. #34 Narad
    October 2, 2013

    Boiled down to its essence, it’s a massive logical fallacy akin to the same logical fallacy beloved of creationists everywhere

    It’s almost as though Adams rejects “complex specified information” but accepts the “law of conservation of information.”

    (I wonder if he’s going to score his predictions for 2013 in a couple of months.)

  35. #35 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    No one assumes that IQ and intelligence are the same- in fact we can argue about the various types of ‘intelligence’ that we can measure – social and emotional intelligence amongst them, as well as academic, practical or vocational success. Verbal ability, quantitative ability et al.

    But we do have a convenient measuring rod that can be applied to estimate the general ability people have in seeking patterns across a wide variety of situations-
    or as someone noted “seeing conceptual identity despite superficial diversity”.

    Tests are structured to sample a range of these abilities- it’s easy to delve into standardised tests and see EXACTLY what they do measure- it’s not one thing. Believe me, there are people who construct these things, analyse them and instruct others how to use them. Believe me.

    Mike talks about his “ace” verbal ability ( that’s the one that can be most easily seen). Sorry, I don’t see him as the exemplar he claims to be. And I would venture that most people who aren’t deficient themselves can identity a person who has truly superior verbal ability. It can be described by how they use language ( simple vs complex forms). It’s just gonna show.
    Everyone’s heard or read it. There are some people here at RI who shine like the sun. And most likely did when they were 6 years old. It’s facile for them. It’s the that one person in ten or in twenty.
    Not the average.

    Similarly most adults can judge ( to a degree) when kids’ writing is average, better or worse than their age group. Looking at adult abilities, we can compare them to average abilities over the developmental sequence: a break occurs around the time of adolesence when an increase in ability to abstract, generalise and hypothesise occurs ( formal operational thought). Not all people develop this. Not all do this well. This capacity is one of the key markers of higher intelligence in adults and a necessity for understanding science on anything other than a basic concrete level.

    The degree of abstraction that people use in writing is measurable. If you meet a person with an SMI, you might be surprised how literally they take your speech. Compare a 5 year old’s writing with a 16 year old’s.

    I could obviously go on and on. But here’s an illustration. Read any thousand words by Orac, Gary Null and Mikey. Don’t judge them on how realistic they are or their SB status but PURELY on their lingusitic skills- and not what you know about them- are their verbal skills average, above average or much above average? Do you estimate their IQs ( without a test) to be average, above averge, much above average ( verbal ability is just part of the score)?

    I know it’s difficult to separate what we already know but people estimate intelligence every day in social interactions- it’s part of what we call ‘person perception’ and it determines our own responses to others.

    Mike and Gary attempt to portray themselves in ways to trick people into over-estimating their abilities, educations and honesty.

  36. #36 T.
    October 2, 2013

    Since I can see how 26 letters can make make a book as complicate as War and Peace, War and Peace can’t exhist.
    Oh, wait…

  37. #37 Daniel Corcos
    October 2, 2013

    It is irrational to think that everybody can be convinced by rational argument, and certainly not quack patients.

  38. #38 SkepticalSlug
    On the internet
    October 2, 2013

    What Mike fails to understand is that the 750mb of data stored in the human genome is compressed using PKZIP.

  39. #39 herr doktor bimler
    October 2, 2013

    human DNA incapable of storing complete blueprint of the human form.

    Isn’t that noted in every basic biology textbook?
    Some animal phyla are eutelic — the exact number and location of every body cell is programmed during development. We aren’t.

  40. #40 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    Denice:

    I didn’t say “low IQ”

    I know you didn’t. But I did, and then you responded saying you disagreed that he was intelligent. ;-) See my point now?

  41. #41 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    Ack, I bungled that.

    I said he claimed to be high IQ and I believed it. You argued he wasn’t intelligent, as if this contradicted my statement, which I think we both agree it really doesn’t since IQ is, frankly, junk science. There. I think maybe that clears up the confusion. ;-)

  42. #42 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    Calli, I wouldn’t call psychological testing ‘junk science’ but it doesn’t measure what people think it measures…i.e. real life outcomes, actual performance, practical achievement.
    It’s not nothing though.

    Still I wouldn’t trade either my tested skills or my real world skills for either Mike’s or Gary’s.

  43. #43 Calli Arcale
    October 2, 2013

    Psychological testing is not, in general, junk science, but IQ testing *specifically* is . . . well, maybe junk science is too strong a term, but it’s certainly not all it gets made out to be by the MENSA folks.

  44. #44 Richard Smith
    La Brea data storage unit
    October 2, 2013

    Very early genetic information was compressed into TAR files.

  45. #45 Roadstergal
    Actually did minor in math (and chemistry)
    October 2, 2013

    “And I would venture that most people who aren’t deficient themselves can identity a person who has truly superior verbal ability”

    And can also identify a person who is trying to write above their own verbal skills. Mark Twain said it well – “When a person has a poor ear for words, the result is a literary flatting and sharping; you perceive what he is intending to say, but you also perceive that he does not say it. ” I do see a certain amount of that in the alt-med crowd.

  46. #46 herr doktor bimler
    October 2, 2013

    Taq-polymerase is the new PKZip.

  47. #47 Mark Thorson
    October 2, 2013

    Those of you discussing Adams’ intelligence as determined from his writings are assuming that he sincerely believes all that crap. How do you know he doesn’t think “that should appeal to the rubes” with every sentence he writes? He has identified a niche market and crafted material perfectly suited to that audience. That is genius, whether or not you consider it to be evil.

  48. #48 herr doktor bimler
    October 2, 2013

    assuming that he sincerely believes all that crap

    Someone capable of writing about himself in the 3rd person as “believed to have been born in 1967 in Lawrence, Kansas”? Sounds as if he is (a) trying to draw a romantic veil of mystery about this International Enigma whose origins and powers are cloaked in concealment, and (b) does not trust his readers to notice the enigma if it is any more subtle than a bang on the head with a shovel.

  49. #49 Kemist
    October 2, 2013

    People who fap on and on about information theory in a biological / chemical context as if it made any sense always crack me up.

    First we got the creationists who tried to bamboozle people with the idea that “information cannot be created” as if it was a really smart and profound thing. We waited and waited for them to come up with a way to measure “information” in a biological or chemical context. We’re still waiting.

    Then we’ve got those guys, again fapping on and on about these two subjects they know nothing about.

    What does it even mean to use a measure in memory bits for things that aren’t binary and aren’t memory ? They’re mind-numbingly huge molecules, which exist in 3D, in different conformations according to surrounding chemical and physical conditions and interact with themselves and other molecules. They’re not an ASCII file full of A,G, C and T’s that you feed to a compiler.

    You can safely assume that people who try to invoke information theory in a context other than computer science or very exotic physics are just as knowledgeable about both as those who bring up quantum physics in a conversation about health. Both kinds are hopeless kooks.

  50. #50 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    @ Mark Thorson:

    Oh, I certainly believe that he’s writing ad copy. Does he believe it? Most likely *partially*, as he claims to follow all of his own arcane, bizarre and baroque regimes and he has that wild eyed crazed look that denies self-doubt.

    And he DID actually move to Ecuador for two years in hopes of starting his own utopian, green *colonia*.

    I am attempting to figure out where he *actually* lines up- in spite of the ad copy. I think a more skilled writer could be more seamless and a smarter person wouldn’t leave so many obvious gaps between his own woo and the actual science that he bastardises. A better writer might dream up more believable prose – someone who can write dialogue the sounds like people, not a random phrase generator.

    Also Mike thinks that he can rap and sing. Problems with self-evaluation are no joking matter.

  51. #51 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    @ Kemist:

    “fap” is the correct term.

  52. #52 Denice Walter
    October 2, 2013

    @ Calli:

    Oh, MENSA!
    A loon ( and a member) who was trying to get admitted into grad school tried to get yours truly to join up. Obviously, I declined; she was eventually consumed nearly whole by the resident pirahnas at said grad school.
    Good times.

  53. #53 Alain
    October 2, 2013

    @Denice,

    I don’t have Mensa IQ (119 for the latest test) but I do have some chance of not being eaten (unless sexually) based on my latest encounter with a grad student (pesky ethic rule prevented a romantic relationship).

    Alain

  54. #54 c0nc0rdance
    October 2, 2013

    There are a mere 47,904 words in “Great Gatsby”…. not nearly enough to tell such a complex story. There are only 884,421 words in all the recorded works of Shakespeare.

    Take “Source Lines of Code” (SLOC), a standard computer program metric. Windows NT has 4 million SLOC. Windows XP has ten times as many at 45 million. The Mac OS-X is at 86 million, and Debian 5.0 clocks in at almost 100 times Windows NT: 324 million lines of code.

    Look, Mr. Adams, the devil is in the details, the context, and the order. In the case of DNA, the information is not linear and continuous. An enhancer or a splice site or a promoter or a CpG island are not strictly a function of sequence… if they were, we wouldn’t need to study chromatin structure. It’s a three dimensional real chemical (gasp, chemicals!) in your cells.

    … bleah… why bother? If he had the capability to understand this stuff, he wouldn’t be Mike Adams.

  55. #55 herr doktor bimler
    October 3, 2013

    We can all agree that there is not enough information in Mark Adams to produce his self-descriptive profile.

  56. #56 Khani
    October 3, 2013

    #33 It doesn’t really matter whether Orac is arrogant; it matters if he’s *right.* Is he right, and if not, explain why.

  57. #57 herr doktor bimler
    October 3, 2013

    The scientific community is as bad as the religious community….

    The wine is better.

  58. #58 JustNuts
    October 3, 2013

    I wonder how soon Dana Ullman will be using “Morphic Resonence” to describe homeopathy?!

  59. #59 dingo199
    October 3, 2013

    What’s Adams after, yottabytes?

    I recall that we sent man to the moon on 64 KB memory.
    That is the equivalent of 52 pages of written text.

  60. #60 Shay
    October 3, 2013

    If anyone wants to start a band called “Morphic Resonance,” I used to play a pretty mean guitar.

    Not so hot on vocals, though.

  61. #61 VCB
    Hiding from Tokyo Rain in a Starbucks
    October 4, 2013

    A minor but I think telling point — I am one year younger than Mr Adams, and the SAT when I took it had 2 sections, not 3 (Verbal and Math, not English/Math/Science). In my long track through name-brand universities, I came across numerous people who inflated their education and achievements in conversation, and usually it was a small tick like that that was the thread to unravel (I remember one guy collapsing after a long discussion of his time at the British boarding school Rugby fell apart when he could not answer the question “what house were you in?”). Anyway, it’s not a Nigerian scam level tell, but it suggests to me everything is a lie.

  62. #62 Lou
    October 4, 2013

    “750MB is smaller than the file of a typical modern video game.”
    Mike Adams just demonstrated that video games are that awesome. 8D
    jk

  63. #63 Dangerous Bacon
    October 4, 2013

    From the Dept. of We Knew This Was Coming, Mike Adams is blaming antidepressant and antipsychotic medications* for the Capitol incident/shooting.

    He has termed it “the assassination of a young mental patient with bad driving habits”.

    *naturally, he is also blaming Obamacare.

  64. #64 Bob G
    Los Angeles
    October 4, 2013

    So many issues, so little time . . .

    I once heard a talk about extinction by an expert on the subject. His argument was that when you talk about a species, you are talking about more than just the current adult members — you are talking about the developmental biology of the current members, and you are talking about the entire evolutionary history of the current species. When the modern species goes extinct, the whole evolutionary line is obliterated.

    There is a similar, though slightly complicated argument when it comes to genetics and physical development. The information inherent in the system includes the structures of the amino acids. What’s important about this is that there are lots of possible amino acids, but life and natural selection have whittled the active number down to twenty or so (you have to add chemical modifications to some of the standard amino acids). This is in itself a huge amount of information, in the theoretical sense of the term, because the fact that lysine and serine exist in their current configurations, rather than some other variants, means that proteins can be built to perform catalytic tasks such as specific proteolytic functions (which we term serine proteases) and likewise for enzymes that use lysine at the catalytic site. The information built into the system involves not only the existence of these amino acids, but the non-existence of thousands of others.

    Likewise, the genome has to be viewed not only in terms of its current state (approximately 6 billion bits of binary information for the human, for example), but in terms of all the other states that it could have been, but is not. The path of natural selection involves many, many variants, only some of which live to see another era. The current state of the genome, with its multiple redundancies and intersecting pathways, is itself a selection out of millions of possibilities and previous failures.

    One technical point. Back in the 1970s, Roy Britten and Eric Davidson published a theoretical paper postulating what they called gene banks (ie: what we would call pathways and gene families) and further suggested the possibility that regulation was accomplished by RNAs. The latter point was largely ignored, as gene regulation through protein transcription factors and regulators was discovered. However, the current work on microRNAs is somewhat analogous to that earlier model. However, the microRNAs function at the direct level by negative regulation of messenger RNAs. When a microRNA (miR in the current jargon) neutralizes a messenger RNA that codes for a transcription factor or other genomic regulator, then the effect is ultimately similar to that original Britten & Davidson hypothesis. The reason the field is so complex, difficult, and ultimately fascinating is that any one miR may theoretically be capable of neutralizing dozens or even hundreds of different mRNAs, and any one mRNA may be susceptible to regulation by several different miRs. The computer programs that do this kind of modeling are fun to play with, but you tend to end up a little confused by the complexity of it all.

  65. #65 JGC
    October 4, 2013

    I’m with Adams. Given a limited set of possible bits of information (for example, only a 1 and a 0) it would be impossible to create complex instructions (for example, instructions that would let an unthinking construct defeat a human chess grandmaster).

    Oh, wait…

  66. #66 Dan J. Andrews
    October 4, 2013

    ….or defeat champions in Jeopardy…..

  67. #67 Mark McAndrew
    United Kingdom
    October 6, 2013

    MIT has no record of offering him a place which he turned down. I’d put money on all his claims of 99.99% SAT scores, etc being also impossible to back up.

    His existing business partner – and the real brains behind it – bought him out of their shared software biz. Hardly the great triumph Mikey likes to portray.

    I once programmed a ZX81 to play chess in 1K of machine code. Mikey ain’t got a clue what 750MB of optimized code can really do. Not a clue.

  68. #68 Alain
    Offtopic
    October 6, 2013

    New blog post; the first in a weekly serie:

    http://www.securivm.ca/2013/10/jobs-part-one-of.html

    Alain