Pharyngula

We have another M.D. spouting off against evolution using bogus creationist arguments. Jeffrey Dach may also be embarrassing lefty-liberal types, since his page is hosted on Salon. It’s very confused and poorly argued.

He first says that he believes in evolution, but that Darwin’s ideas are outdated, and the new evidence suggests new theories of evolution, because Darwin’s theory can’t answer some big questions. OK, I thought, there are many unanswered questions…but then I read his four questions and realized he didn’t have a clue about the subject.

1) How does random change (mutation) in the genome add information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms? It Doesn’t.

It Does. Errors in DNA replication and recombination can produce DNA strands that are longer and contain more information than the parent strand. This is trivial.

2) How is evolution able to bring about drastic changes so quickly? An example is the Cambrian Explosion. It Can’t.

His example of “quickly” is a span of about 15 million years. This may be news to some creationists, but that is a long, long time. If you’re a young earth creationist, it’s a period of time approximately 2,000 times longer than you believe the whole earth existed.

Dr Dach needs to review some population genetics. We have nice algorithms that can be used to estimate how long it takes genetic changes to sweep through populations.

3) How could the first living cell arise spontaneously to get evolution started? It couldn’t.

It didn’t. The first living cell would have been the product of millions (quick!) of years of chemical evolution. It did not arise spontaneously.

4) The Human Genome Project showed that only 1-2% of Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes. These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism. What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.

This is fast becoming one of the most popular assertions by creationists. Exactly how many genes would be sufficient to account for the complexity of a human being? Show your work. How many genes do we need to have to make you happy, and why should your sense of self-worth be a reason for us to have more?

Less than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome. I don’t quite get the point of complaining that it’s not enough, becaust obviously, it is enough, or we wouldn’t be here.

They always seem so dismayed that humans have that number — it’s never shock that mice or birds have that many, or that flies have about half as many. It’s apparently a very personal issue to them, sort of like how many millimeters long their penis is. Come on, creationists! Be proud of your 25,000 micrometers!

They also seem to take it as a personal insult that so much of their genome is junk. We do know what a lot of the non-coding DNA does: a small percentage of it is regulatory, and most of it does nothing at all. It really doesn’t detract from the importance of the tens of thousands of genes to see that there’s also a lot of filler surrounding them. Perhaps they think there is a secret stash of super-special hidden genes to fluff up the mere 25,000 they find so inadequate?

He throws in another problem for evolution: the lack of transitional fossils. You know you’re dealing with a rube when they make a paleontological argument against evolution and simultaneously reveal that they’ve never looked at the paleontological data.

All right, so what are his “new theories of evolution”? Now it’s my turn to embarrassed: tossed into his superficial list of alternatives is evo-devo. No. Evo-devo is cool, but it isn’t driven by any of his unanswered questions. We don’t have any argument with the idea that mutations can add information, or that they can spread through populations “quickly”, we don’t dabble much in the issues of abiogenesis, and no, evo-devo does not create new jobs for long stretches of junk DNA, nor does it postulate any additional secret genes.

But then, all he is really doing is tossing about a few ideas he’s heard about, but knows nothing about, simply to give the impression that he’s fairly assessing the possibilities. We can all guess where he is really going with all of this:

This brings us to the “Intelligent Design” argument and the question of “is there a creator of the universe?” This is an obvious question raised from biology, which reveals DNA, the genetic code, and complex life forms in the world. All life forms share the same underlying genetic code which translates base pairs into proteins. The existance of a code, or “alphabet” is a language which implies an underlying intelligence for its creation. Coded messages do not happen by random happening. This DNA code was either designed by an intelligence, or not. I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.


My Own Opinion

My own opinion is that Life did not happen by itself. It is self evident that everything in the Universe is the product of an intelligence, which can be considered as “the creator”. This may not be self evident to everyone, however.

Ho hum. The genetic code is not simply the product of ‘random happening’, nor do we need to invoke a designer to create it. It certainly is not self-evident that the universe is the product of intelligence — that is a conclusion derived from the abundant ignorance Jeffrey Dach demonstrates in his argument.

Comments

  1. #1 Nerd of Redhead
    January 27, 2009

    That was a long way for him to go to acknowledge he is a stupid idiot. (Shakes head) Sigh.

  2. #2 Michael X
    January 27, 2009

    An article on Salon is poorly written trash journalism?

    *Shock*
    *Horror*

    I think Glenn Greenwald should just start his own site and let Salon finish its slow collapse like a flan in a cupboard.

  3. #3 mad the swine
    January 27, 2009

    Off topic, but cool (and probably completely bogus, given the source):

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/4357829/Immortal-jellyfish-swarming-across-the-world.html

  4. #4 Jadehawk
    January 27, 2009

    *facepalm*

    don’t they teach basic biology to future M.D’s anymore?!

    actually, don’t answer that. I’ve taken an anatomy class with a bunch of future Nurses and Medical Assistants/Technicians. Most of them couldn’t get basic chemistry right. It was bad… this Art History student aced the class, the lot of them barely passed :-/

  5. #5 Lurkbot
    January 27, 2009

    This “25,000 genes: OH NOEZ!” crap drives me crazy. Somebody years ago, speculated on how many genes there are in the human genome and pulled the figure 100,000 out of his ass. That got handed down from textbook to textbook, and became graven in stone. Then we discover there are 25,000: SHOCK! HORROR! NOT ENUFFS! Geez, people: 100,000 was a wild-ass guess to begin with! Cripes!

  6. #6 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2009

    Um, Sachs, we don’t care about your “opinion” (really, it should be called a prejudice). Show us the intelligent design cause, and its effects, match the two up as closely as evolutionary cause and effect are matched up, and then we might think you’re more than an IDiotic pseudoscientist.

    Above all, how is ID supposed to explain the “fact” that 25,000 genes “aren’t enough” to account for the complexity of life (enough for what? Try to even understand what you are writing, Sachs)?

    So far it’s “I don’t understand” both the legitimate questions and the BS fed to you by the IDiots–so God. It’s the way to avoid answering anything meaningfully.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  7. #7 Valor Phoenix
    January 27, 2009

    After reading this, I’m starting to think the idea that Creationists get their science from comic books is pretty solid. It’s like they believe all beneficial mutations must come from gamma ray bombs and radioactive spiders.

    …does this mean the New Atheists are supposed to be the X-Men, PZ Myers is a combination of Xavier/Magneto, and the creationists would be the anti-mutant movement with giant tacky purple robots?

  8. #8 Johnny Vector
    January 27, 2009

    Gah! That 25,000 genes ain’t enough argument is the stupidest one yet. How much brain damage does it take to not see that it’s an argument against development, not an argument against evolution?

    It started out as a semi-reasonable if slightly misguided argument, and then halfway through suddenly careered completely off the tracks and turned into a wacky zombie movie. Which is something really best left to Robert Rodriguez.

  9. #9 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    Ignorance, ignorance, willful ignorance, talking out of the ass, incredulity, faux-profundity. Like a damn broken record, these screeds are.

    “My own opinion is that Life did not happen by itself.”

    Wow. Give him a cookie.

    We’re really gonna have to destroy this meme, this “I think there must be something more, therefore I’m a big deep thinker who capitalizes nonproper nouns” meme. It’s just a big cop-out. I prefer the three words from PZ’s rebuttal*, Show Your Work.

    * Funny, because those used to be my three most dreaded words in the English language back when I was in school.

  10. #10 Shaden Freud
    January 27, 2009

    My own opinion is that Life did not happen by itself. It is self evident that everything in the Universe is the product of an intelligence, which can be considered as “the creator”. If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are PYGMIES + DWARFS? This may not be self evident to everyone, however.

    Fixed.

  11. #11 Barry
    January 27, 2009

    Medical student reporting in…

    Jeffrey Dach as stated on Salon.com is founder of TrueMedMD, a clinic in Hollywood Florida SPECIALIZING IN NATURAL MEDICINE AND BIO-IDENTICAL HORMONES

    You already know this is pure shit.

    Fact: 50% of people with the name MD at the end of their name graduated in the bottom half of their class.

    Fact: Medical students get little or no training in evolutionary biology.

    This guy is an embarassment. He sells woo now because nobody trusted him to do anything else.

  12. #12 Rey Fox
    January 27, 2009

    Also: If absolutely every gene had a documentable function, then they’d be trumpeting that as evidence for intelligent design too.

  13. #13 Glen Davidson
    January 27, 2009

    BTW, it’s Dach. I wrote “Sachs” because PZ did later in the article, and I’m writing in the hope that others won’t follow (and PZ maybe will correct his post).

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  14. #14 Krubozumo Nyankoye
    January 27, 2009

    Might this be the same Dr. Dachs who bloviated over at T.O. for a couple of months a while back and then evaporated like a puddle in a pothole? If so someone should ask him about the toxicity of di-hydrogen monoxide just for the fun of watching him blow a fuse…

  15. #15 Barry
    January 27, 2009

    I’ll be damned, he was an interventional radiologist for 20 years. Scratch my last post, or some of it. This is another case of someone who has absolutely no training in evolutionary biology, baptized in scripture, with the cerebral software to both argue and compartmentalize information. Remind anyone of Michael Egnor anyone?

    Though I wonder why he dropped out of radiology to pursue a career in selling woo…

  16. #16 Robert
    January 27, 2009

    3) How could the first living cell arise spontaneously to get evolution started?

    …But ‘God’ spontaneously arriving is totally logical

  17. #17 Valor Phoenix
    January 27, 2009

    Nat Geo is advertising a new series on Evolution for February 8, ‘Morphed’.

    The schedule is 3 one hour episodes that night with each using computer animation to replicate fossil transitions.

    -Raptors to Turkeys
    -Mammals to Whales
    -Before they were Bears

    http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/series/morphed

    Just an FYI, the preview/commercial looked good, but no telling how much fluff it will end up being.

  18. #18 Adam
    January 27, 2009

    Fun fact: 25,000 microns is slightly less than one inch.

  19. #19 Longtime Lurker
    January 27, 2009

    Now, wouldn’t that 98% of the genome is junk argument tend to argue against ID?

    Could you imagine a watch or airplane (two of their favorite examples) in which 98% of the material were superfluous?

  20. #20 GILGAMESH
    January 27, 2009

    I have never been able to reconcile; “Then a miracle happens” as being “Self evident.”

  21. #21 Gotchaye
    January 27, 2009

    That’s a worthwhile point, Rey.

    I’m curious about the origin of the stuff that does nothing. Is it that it used to regulate or produce something? Is it stuff that would produce something if it weren’t ‘turned off’ by some other regulating gene? Or is it really just filler?

    I’m actually slightly heartened by the number of genes argument from creationists. It’s dumb, yes, but it at least makes a falsifiable claim (in principle). I read it as hypothesizing that humans work by magic – they’re saying that, if we were to carefully observe a human organism as it develops or as it goes about its daily existence, we’d see events in the body that don’t seem to have been naturally caused. Because it’s ultimately an empirical claim, it’s much easier to argue with, and it’s much easier for people on the fence to see that they can’t prove it.

  22. #22 Greg Peterson
    January 27, 2009

    I can imagine few things less “self-evident” than the notion that the universe is designed. Looking at little bits and pieces, sure, we see some cool localized order that gives an appearance of design–which can be explained brilliantly by natural processes. But taken as a whole, the universe is mostly dark and chaotic, born of an explosion and headed toward icy oblivion. It is simply not cogent to generalize from a few tribes of organisms on a freakish warm wet spot to an intelligently designed universe. Taken as a whole, even the appearance of design is a radical exception. And as previously noted, it is an exception with a perfectly wise explanation. These points are just silly…even I know that.

  23. #23 John Morales
    January 27, 2009

    Barry @15, yeah, it’s pretty Egnorant and PZ skewered it.

  24. #24 Jim Bob Cooter
    January 27, 2009

    I like the argument about how since DNA is a code, someone must have made the code and the stuff to translate it. And obviously, conveniently, it was God.
    Because since transcription machinery is highly conserved, it can’t possibly have ALSO evolved along with every other biochemical process in our bodies.
    Actually I doubt that’s their actual argument since the chance of any of the IDiots even knowing what transcription machinery is is vanishingly small.

  25. #25 Jeff Lestina
    January 27, 2009

    Just take a quick look at his references to know you need thigh-high boots for his bullshit.

  26. #26 Ompompanoosuc
    January 27, 2009

    Lurker,
    You beat me by this “” much. Some design. You just have to realize that consistency is not their strong point.

  27. #27 JD
    January 27, 2009

    Isn’t 100 trillion cells enough for them to shut the fuck up?

  28. #28 chuckgoecke
    January 27, 2009

    Any chance that the genetic code-base triplets that translate into amino acids for a protein chain- is related to the base surface chemistry, charge distribution and configuration. The proteins and DNA sequences evolved simultaneously.

  29. #29 Goldenmane
    January 27, 2009

    My brother is a doctor, and from what I can tell knows sweet fuck all about evolutionary biology. Given that my brother only recently graduated, from one of the better medical schools in Australia, I’d say that provides ample evidence that evolutionary biology isn’t often taught in medical degrees.

    So it’s a little sad that people still have a tendency to think a doctor automatically knows what they are saying on any particular subject. I, personally, am working to get the sentiment, “What the fuck does he know? He’s a doctor, not a scientist!” to become as commonplace as, “He’s an accountant, not a mechanic!”

  30. #30 Ki
    January 27, 2009

    I was just watching some show on one of the religious channels where they had an MD on talking about the “myth” of cholesterol being bad for you. It doesn’t actually cause heart attacks. Afterall, why would God put something bad for you in your body? (Heart attacks happen because the ice canopy melted and now free radicals get in our atmosphere and “rust” our cell membranes).

    He said the only reason we think we need to lower our cholesterol is because pharmacetical companies want to make money. And all those dirty money-grubbing scientists are playing along to get their grant money. And journals won’t publish the correct articles because they don’t want to alienate their biggest source of ad revenue.

    This guy, Dale Peterson, graduated from University of Minnesota Medical School.

  31. #31 Kimpatsu
    January 27, 2009

    I get the impression that one of the things these woo-woos secretly expect from junk DNA is that it will prove to endow people with superhuman powers if activated. It’s sort of an “only 10% ofthe brain” argument for the 21st century.

  32. #32 Jim Bob Cooter
    January 27, 2009

    Gotchaye, a lot of the junk is the result of mutations, transposition events, or recombination. Genes that may have once have been functional are now non-functional because of these types of events. A mutation or transposon might insert into the middle of a gene and cause a reading error like a frame shift that causes the gene to be unusable.
    Some (very small) part of the code are regulatory elements like promoters or transcription factors.
    Others are “fillers” of a sort as you said; examples of these are GC elements of telomeres that keep DNA from being degraded.
    There are also often long stretches of repeating or poly-NTP sequences that are essentially gibberish.

  33. #33 Skeptico
    January 27, 2009

    He’s a total woo. From his website we know he:

    specializ[es] in Natural Medicine and Bio-Identical Hormones

    … so he’s not even a real doctor. OK he may have qualified as one once but he practises quackery.

  34. #34 Bjørn Østman
    January 27, 2009

    About the 25,000 genes, people always forget (or are ignorant of) alternative splicing. Exons can be spliced in many ways to make more than one protein from one gene. 25,000 genes make perhaps 100,000 proteins. Is that enough, then?

  35. #35 Jeanette
    January 27, 2009

    All of that useless DNA seems like more of an argument against intelligent design. It’s in a class with all of the wasted space in the universe and wasted time before our arrival on the scene. Either there is no designer, or the designer works in arbitrary and incompetent ways. Either way, no intelligent design.

  36. #36 Barry
    January 27, 2009

    There is something really strange about this guy. On his website (www.truemedmd.com), the physician group he claims to work for no longer claims that he works for them… http://www.rahradiology.com/ Additionally, the hospital at which he claimed to work no longer lists him under “Find a physician” (http://www.memorialregional.com/). It’s possible that he just plain quit his job as a real MD and found Jesus.

    Additionally, he cited conservapedia. You automatically lose the argument.

    Seriously. He might have written that whole article while undergoing a manic episode. It explains the drastic changes in his life and the frantic, illogical citations.

  37. #37 Foggg
    January 27, 2009

    And, for the trifecta, an HIV => AIDS denialist…
    http://barnesworld.blogs.com/barnes_world/2006/11/jeffrey_dach_on.html

  38. #38 Scrabcake
    January 27, 2009

    Yes, but it’s an ANGRY inch, Adam.

    Posted by: Adam | January 27, 2009 8:27 PM

    Fun fact: 25,000 microns is slightly less than one inch.

  39. #39 Sastra
    January 27, 2009

    “It is self evident that everything in the Universe is the product of an intelligence, which can be considered as ‘the creator.’ This may not be self evident to everyone, however.”

    Self-evident: a. Evident without proof or reasoning; producing certainty or conviction upon a bare presentation to the mind; as, a self-evident proposition or truth.

    ‘You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.’

    For crying out loud, you don’t bring in scientific data in order to argue for a “self-evident” truth. You don’t write an entire article pretending to reason your way to a conclusion which turns out to be “self-evident.” Everything else you wrote is mere flourishing, if this is where you’re going.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be an altie. They put enormous weight on intuition, personal experience, and having the kind of immovable certainty that comes from being dead sure of some spiritual Something greater than yourself (because you’re so humble.)

  40. #40 Foggg
    January 27, 2009

    Posted by: Ki

    I was just watching some show on one of the religious channels where they had an MD on talking about the “myth” of cholesterol being bad for you. Afterall, why would God put something bad for you in your body? (Heart attacks happen because the ice canopy melted…

    Dachs has that one covered too.

    http://barnesworld.blogs.com/barnes_world/2007/01/jeffrey_dach_on.html

  41. #41 Ward S. Denker
    January 27, 2009

    The basis of his argument seems to be the same as “The Atheist’s Riddle” which I provided a concise (for me, anyway) answer to some time back.

    Queue up upset folks that I linked to my position in my blog instead of posting it all here in 3…2…

  42. #42 amphiox
    January 27, 2009

    Keep in mind that a significant fraction of us doctors attend 2 to 3 years of undergraduate science, get accepting to medical school, and then quit (ie, drop out) of our BSc programs to attend said medical school.

    So unless we’ve made a conscious individual effort to keep up with the basic science, we actually have less science training than anyone with a B.Sc.

  43. #43 Phillip Law
    January 27, 2009

    omg what a moron, it’s a miracle he got his MD.

  44. #44 Rupert
    January 27, 2009

    I had a run-in with Jeffrey Dach a while back on talk.origins. He really is utterly clueless. His clinic appears to have changed its description, although I suspect he continues to specialize in diagnosing non-ailments of the elderly, wealthy and gullible residents of Florida.

    If you want to see him explode, try asking him if his mother is a virgin. The man wants to talk about inheritable variation, but not if it involves sex.

    Oh, he’s also an HIV-denialist. And an internet stalker.

  45. #45 Gotchaye
    January 27, 2009

    Sastra:

    For crying out loud, you don’t bring in scientific data in order to argue for a “self-evident” truth. You don’t write an entire article pretending to reason your way to a conclusion which turns out to be “self-evident.” Everything else you wrote is mere flourishing, if this is where you’re going.

    You also don’t say

    This may not be self evident to everyone, however.

    I’ve never understood the willingness of the most religious people to jump head first into the relativism that they claim to hate so much.

  46. #46 Bradley Jones
    January 27, 2009

    Michael X @2

    An article on Salon is poorly written trash journalism?

    In all fairness, Salon did not commission Mr. Dach to write this and it is no way reflective of their journalistic standards. Open Salon is just a blogging community equivalent to wordpress or blogspot, so it shouldn’t be _that_ surprising that a creationist would write something like this.

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=5700

  47. #47 Somnolent Aphid
    January 27, 2009

    “How many genes do we need to have to make you happy…?”

    Because whatever that number is, I’d like to have that number. But seriously, I really like this question, albeit framed differently than PZ put it. How many genes does it take to make you happy? To make happiness? What is happiness made of? Proteins? Brain chemicals? 70% water? The state of happiness had to evolve, and the reasons are pretty obvious to the lay person. I pity the poor protozoa, not understanding or experiencing happiness. I’m all for the number of genes it takes to make you happy, even if it is out of context of the original quote.

  48. #48 Desert Son
    January 27, 2009

    Went to his website (against my better judgment).

    From: https://truemedmd.com/

    After leaving radiology because of declining visual acuity, Dr. Dach became Board Certification by the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Dr. Dach has been licensed to practice medicine in the state of Florida since 1981.

    Anyway, another question that occurs to me in light of all the ID nonsense: if the whole thing was intelligently designed, why go into medicine? Is macular degeneration (or whatever afflicts him) part of ID? If so, what makes degeneration in the primary sense we rely on as humans intelligent? I’d’ve thought instant regeneration of lost or degenerative tissue would’ve been much more intelligent. Unless the purpose behind the intelligent design was intelligent ways of ensuring the degeneration and death of organisms?

    In which case, the intelligent designer is the dude from the Saw series of films?

    I suppose the better question is, why am I trying to figure out how Dr. Mister Magoo rationalizes all this?

    No kings,

    Robert

  49. #49 Inquisitor Numad
    January 27, 2009

    I scrolled down to post a comment to the effect that Dach doesn’t know what self evident means, but it appears that I’ve been beaten to the point several times over.

    It looks like the abusiveness of Dach’s use of the word self evident is self evident.

  50. #50 ggab
    January 27, 2009

    I tried to read some of the comments but he jumped straight to the 747 in a junkyard crap.
    I couldn’t read any further.
    He has no shame.

  51. #51 Alan Kellogg
    January 27, 2009

    A Point to Consider

    Evolution is not a random process, evolution is a random process with constraints.

  52. #52 Intelligent Designer
    January 27, 2009

    It Does. Errors in DNA replication and recombination can produce DNA strands that are longer and contain more information than the parent strand. This is trivial.

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.

  53. #53 Gotchaye
    January 27, 2009

    Intelligent Designer:

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.

    That’s not necessarily true, though, is it? One set of random changes, at least, will result in the full text of Hamlet in place of the paragraph. That’s more information. Of course, if we were to make changes slowly, preserving only those which brought the paragraph closer to Hamlet, we’d be almost guaranteed to eventually have it.

  54. #54 camille
    January 27, 2009

    My partner and I just finished watching the Nova special on creationism: “Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial”. Would highly recommend it, especially because it deals with teaching i.d. in schools and basically (in the Court of Law) disproves Creationism, and/or Intelligent Design as anything related (even distantly) to science or scientific theory. Creationists / ID-believin’ folks seem to think that the word ‘theory’ means “idea” or even “unsupported religious jargon”.

  55. #55 Valor Phoenix
    January 27, 2009

    #52

    I started with simple sentence forms such as ____ is ____.

    Then because I lack a random word generator, I went to webster.com and found that the Jan 27, 2008 word of the day is ‘obtuse’. Then filling in the other blank with something obvious, we get:

    The Intelligent Designer is obtuse.

    Look, novel new information from a constrained random process!

    …or for the Yoda fans, “Obtuse, the Intelligent Designer is.”

  56. #56 Pteryxx
    January 27, 2009

    What about the rather intricate system of absorption spectra as an example of a “code” that not only arises directly from the mathematics of atomic orbitals, but has nothing whatsoever to do with living things? That should be great evidence against a “code” requiring a hands-on designer.

  57. #57 Patrick
    January 27, 2009

    He got all that information from a pamphlet he picked up at the creation museum. Good stuff. It’s true you know. I read it once. :)

  58. #58 chaos_engineer
    January 27, 2009

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.

    If the “No.” at the end of the sentence were randomly modified to “Yes.”, then the sentence would be one character longer and would contain more information (in the form of an additional true statement).

  59. #59 Intelligent Designer
    January 27, 2009

    Gotchaye … Kel presented the same argument on his blog and I destroyed it.

    Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct (symbolizing viable life forms). In that case I don’t think there is a path from my original paragraph to Hamlet or even this paragraph.

  60. #60 Rat Bastard
    January 27, 2009

    PZ, one thing the linear time part doesn’t even consider- the millions of years taken by the biota to develop into a more viable organism or two were performed by the biggest array processor man could ever imagine. The fact that there were likely quadrillions+ of short-lived primitive organisms in the early stages of the development of our planet’s biota certainly ought to help reduce the time it would take. Obviously, the development was slow. But all those processes running in parallel had to help.

  61. #61 gypsytag
    January 27, 2009

    one of his arguments is that evolution can’t be falsified and therefore you have to just believe it.

    well bless his little brain for not knowing how easy it would be to falsify evolution. and yet in 150 years nothing….

    it looks like he’s closed his comments though as a result of him having his ass handled to him on a plate.

  62. #62 jb
    January 27, 2009

    #29….Medical Doctor = mechanic. I have seen many pre-med students flame out during the required chemistry courses. They don’t get science. The ones that make it through are only, for the most part, slightly better.

    My experience with doctors (the medical kind) is that the best ones are outstanding mechanics. They know a lot of rote stuff about diseases and lab tests, and the surgeons among them are very skilled at dissecting whatever needs to be removed from your diseased body. If you have localized cancer, you want the best mechanic possible working on removing that lesion.

    But generally, doctors (the medical kind) are not scientists. Their training has very little to do with the way scientists think and analyze data. I’m not surprised that someone with an MD behind their name can come up with pap like this. And it still galls me that people think MDs are the only “real” doctors.

    jb, PhD, Chemistry

  63. #63 Gotchaye
    January 27, 2009

    Gotchaye … Kel presented the same argument on his blog and I destroyed it.

    Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct (symbolizing viable life forms). In that case I don’t think there is a path from my original paragraph to Hamlet or even this paragraph.

    What argument? That a random change could produce more information? That there exists an evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet from that paragraph in a reasonable length of time? Do you deny either of these?

    Your point seems to be that, with the right constraints on the evolutionary algorithm, parts of Hamlet are seen to be ‘irreducibly complex’. Of course, that in itself is pretty meaningless. You can just as easily produce a set of constraints for which no part of Hamlet is irreducibly complex. The question is which is the case for biological evolution, and the track record of irreducible complexity claims is not a good one.

  64. #64 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2009

    Intelligent Designer:

    Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct (symbolizing viable life forms). In that case I don’t think there is a path from my original paragraph to Hamlet or even this paragraph.

    Or, more constructively, we can stop trying to equate in any reasonable fashion English language sentences with strands of DNA…

  65. #65 EnEmEe
    January 27, 2009

    Thanks, New Scientist!

  66. #66 SteveC
    January 27, 2009

    Dachs: “My own opinion is that Life did not happen by itself. It is self evident that everything in the Universe is the product of an intelligence, which can be considered as ‘the creator’.”

    “So, is, or was your ‘creator’ ever alive?” is the first question which pops into my mind.

    Actually, it seems this obvious question was asked in the comments over there.

    The answer of Dachs:

    “Since we have accepted the idea that the features of the Designer are unknowable, it would seem presumptous to assume the Designer to be a complex collection of parts. What if the Designer was simplicity itself? What if the Designer is One?

    After we have considered the Designer to be One, to then assume that the Designer is broken into small parts that make up an entire Universe that requires another Designer, is simply a futile thought experiment that leads nowhere. We can know that there is a Designer, but we cannot know the Designer.”

    What a cop out. And shortly after, comments were predictably closed, with Dachs thoroughly trounced.

  67. #67 anonymouroboros
    January 27, 2009

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.
    Let’s take us a bit further then to have a better analogy.

    Say that a program does copy your paragraph a few hundred times, but it is error-prone. After copying most correctly, some copies it makes are incorrect, incomplete or repetitious.

    An easy example of this would be if, for example the program accidentally recopied the last two letters of information, so now you have “information on” instead of “information.” The sentence is given a new member that adds meaning (though the sentence now seems incomplete). If you disagree, we can go further until we arrive at “information on format” using the same error as we had before (i.e., repetition of a set of characters), but the sentence has attained a new and different meaning from those mistakes that led up to the result. In DNA replication, similar errors (and many more different types of errors) can be made where the information in DNA becomes accidentally modified in a meaningful way through the error.

    I can go elsewhere with this example, but honestly the original analogy itself is too inaccurate to really bother with again, showing a systemic ignorance of both evolution and DNA replication in the person who asked it. It is no wonder that you understand neither, it seems.

  68. #68 llewelly
    January 27, 2009

    4) The Human Genome Project showed that only 1-2% of Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes. These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism. What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.

    I know! I know! Maybe the parts of the genome that don’t do anything have something to do with god! After all, god doesn’t do anything.

  69. #69 Tom Gray
    January 27, 2009

    1) How does random change (mutation) in the genome add information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms? It Doesn’t.

    It Does. Errors in DNA replication and recombination can produce DNA strands that are longer and contain more information than the parent strand. This is trivial

    Note that the original statement used the term “complexity” and the answer used the term “information”. These are quite different concepts

    A random sequence contains more “information” than an ordered one but it contains less “complexity”. A “complex” sequence can be used to encode for structures while a “information” rich random structure cannot.

    This was the entire point of the book “Teh Plausability of Life” and is the idea behind ‘evo-devo”. The genome has evolved to be evolvable. It has evolved so that random changes in some sequence can create plausible structures.

    Much more thought has to be given to answer this objection since it one of the unsolved problems of evolutionary theory. Incorrect quips, such as the one above, do a disservice to evolutionary science and breed skepticism about it.

  70. #70 Nentuaby
    January 27, 2009

    They always seem so dismayed that humans have that number ? it’s never shock that mice or birds have that many, or that flies have about half as many. It’s apparently a very personal issue to them, sort of like how many millimeters long their penis is. Come on, creationists! Be proud of your 25,000 micrometers!

    I do have to admit I had to plug “25000 micrometers in inches” into a search engine to confirm my suspicion, but… Yep… Snap, PZ.

  71. #71 salon_1928
    January 27, 2009

    Dachs said the following:

    “What if I told you that a Boeing 747 jet was the result of a tornado in the junkyard, created at random, you wouldnt believe it . Nobody would. The human embryo is millions of times more complex than a 747. Yet,you still insist on randomness? Could this insistence on randomness be a form of self deceeption, the result of cognitive dissonance?”

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the theory of evolution and kind of embarrassing in my opinion…

  72. #72 Celtic_Evolution
    January 27, 2009

    Tom Gray:

    Note that the original statement used the term “complexity” and the answer used the term “information”. These are quite different concepts

    Huh?

    Please read the statement you quoted again:

    1) How does random change (mutation) in the genome add information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms? It Doesn’t.

    It Does. Errors in DNA replication and recombination can produce DNA strands that are longer and contain more information than the parent strand. This is trivial

    Now, I’m no expert, but it looks to me like the word “information” is used quite clearly in both the point and the counterpoint…

    Read the statements again, Tom… PZ’s response counters the point specifically and correctly. That you want to argue the semantics of whether one can define “complexity”, conceptually, as “added information”, is in fact, trivial.

  73. #73 Steve
    January 27, 2009

    So this guy mentions introns (which may have functions, such as priming the immune system) and then says that we must have been created? Why would god, in whose image we are created, have produced such a huge number of genes that he says are doing nothing? Is god imperfect, or did he create imperfection?? I wonder where viruses fit into the whole ID thing….

  74. #74 Michael X
    January 27, 2009

    Bradley @46

    While that may be true, I still wouldn’t be surprised to see such an article fully supported by Salon, given the level of journalism on regular display there. So, if it just so happens that a creationist screed linked to by Salon fits their regular level of journalistic quality, well, all the worse for Salon.

  75. #75 Marion Delgado
    January 27, 2009

    Salon’s not liberal. it’s cyberlibertarian like wired. and that’s opensalon, which is their wikinews and has no editorial oversight at all.

    they gave david horowitz, camille paglia, andrew sullivan, etc. their big boosts in life. oh, norah o’donnell …

    I always call the Salonistas Silicon Valley Crunchies, but really, they’re mostly preppier than that.

  76. #76 Marion Delgado
    January 27, 2009

    Also, they closed comments really quickly.

  77. #77 AndyD
    January 27, 2009

    From his comments: “We can know that there is a Designer, but we cannot know the Designer.”

    This kind of breaks the watchmaker analogy doesn’t it? After all, we CAN know the watchmaker. We can even get him to make or mend watches on request.

    As for the tornado in the junkyard – it may not make a 747 but it could dump the contents into a pile at the bottom of the sea where millions of critters will happily make it their home and insist, in years to come, that such a useful structure could only have been divinely inspired.

  78. #78 Bart Mitchell
    January 27, 2009

    Heh, comments closed. Typical creationist, as soon as the criticisms start rolling in, start the censorship.

    I was frustrated with the first paragraph. When he said “… the Big Bang when all matter was created from nothing.”

    When will they get tired of this old canard? Cosmology does not suggest that ‘all matter was created from nothing’. It clearly states that THIS universe originated from a singularity. A singularity is not ‘nothing’.

    /cry

  79. #79 Kel
    January 27, 2009

    *sigh* another straw man argument against evolution.

    *sigh* another person who decided to open his mouth without knowing what he was talking about.

    *sigh* another news outlet more than willing to air the views of someone spouting obvious falsehoods.

  80. #80 Andy James
    January 27, 2009

    Will they give anyone a medical degree?

    If this man is so horrible investigating things for which facts are so readily available, how can he be trusted to diagnose anything but a drippy nose?

    Goddamn Idiot.

  81. #81 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 27, 2009

    I have to chuckle at the comment that Mr. Dach’s views might prove an embarrassment for ‘lefty-liberal types’. The presumption that the left has a knee-jerk support for our side in scientific question is…well…presumptuous. There are plenty of left-leaning pseudoscientists.

    I can hear you saying, though, “But this is evolution!”

    Ah, but Allan Mazur et al did a study, published in Science two years ago, that showed that even when you controlled for religious belief, that 14 percent of non-fundamentalists with a graduate degree who were self-described liberals were skeptical of evolution. Liberals, mind you.

    So the problem isn’t just religious, but conceptual in nature….and that’s why guys like Mr. Dach’s simply aren’t that uncommon.

  82. #82 Nile
    January 27, 2009

    What’s scary about this is that he’s prescribing antibiotics and is wilfully blind to the evolution of resistance by bacteria.

    We’ll draw a kindly veil over the manifest failure of his scientific education and his medical training: the result of all that effort was supposed to be a finely-honed ability to gather evidence, balance probabilities, diagnose disease and prescribe the most effective treatment… And we have no way of knowing what this doctor will choose to set aside in favour of fallacious arguments and received doctrines constructed to to obscure the discoveries of science and bypass evidence and logic.

  83. #83 Her Reference Ron Sullivan
    January 27, 2009

    Dachs said the following:
    “What if I told you that a Boeing 747 jet was the result of a tornado in the junkyard, created at random, you wouldnt believe it . Nobody would. The human embryo is millions of times more complex than a 747.

    The imp on my left shoulder always whispers, when I see something like this, that the perpetrator might well be sentenced with growing a 747 inside (usually) his womb.

    Just for educational purposes, of course.

  84. #84 Intelligent Designer
    January 27, 2009

    Gotchaye said:

    What argument? That a random change could produce more information? That there exists an evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet from that paragraph in a reasonable length of time? Do you deny either of these?

    Random change does not produce more information. Where is this evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet? Please don’t show me a variation of Dawkin’s stupid Weasel program that is nothing more than a convergence algorithm.

  85. #85 Ian Monroe
    January 27, 2009

    @Designer Well the information is being produced via natural selection. Random mutations and then select for the mutations that do useful things.

    I think this sort of information science “debunking” just breaks the evolutionary process down into abstract nonsense and loses sight for whats actually happening.

  86. #86 Kel
    January 27, 2009

    Where is this evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet? Please don’t show me a variation of Dawkin’s stupid Weasel program that is nothing more than a convergence algorithm.

    Just how do you think evolution works? It’s unguided, it won’t produce hamlet. Dawkins program actually works to build the Hamlet-manuscript because if you want Hamlet you need to provide a selector to get Hamlet – i.e. Hamlet to begin with. But because organisms aren’t Shakespearian plays, what matters is survival. So whatever formations mean better ability to survive, then those will pass on. Using specified information like language is a straw man attack on evolution in two ways – the order of language can never be more than analogous, and evolution won’t produce specified creatures that already exist. You are asking in effect to build a human from scratch, something of which is impossible to do again.

  87. #87 catgirl
    January 27, 2009

    “Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes. These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism.”

    This is completely a non sequitur. If that amount of genes is not enough, then it’s not enough no matter how we got here. If we were created or intelligently designed, then the designer didn’t put in enough genes for us to work. This argument says nothing about evolution. If anything, it suggests that we simply do not exist. Maybe he thinks that genes aren’t completely responsible for development, and that some magical force must intervene every time our cells divide, grow, or carry out a reaction to make up for the genes we need but don’t have.

  88. #88 TheThree
    January 27, 2009

    Less than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome. I don’t quite get the point of complaining that it’s not enough, becaust obviously, it is enough, or we wouldn’t be here.

    Not to agree with Dach, but that’s sounds like a bit of a tautology.

  89. #89 386sx
    January 27, 2009

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.

    What’s with the analogies? Try using the real thing instead of analogies. What’s with kooky people and their endless analogies?

  90. #90 386sx
    January 27, 2009

    Random change does not produce more information.

    You can’t imagine a random change to a sentence that would produce more information?

  91. #91 Malcolm
    January 27, 2009

    Intelligent Designer,
    Do a little reading up on red/green colour vision, globin genes, and the PEG10 gene. Then come back and explain again how random change doesn’t produce more information.

  92. #92 Endemic
    January 27, 2009

    I’ve been puzzled over the creationists’ fixation on the 25,000 gene thing for a while. My guess is that they have only heard generalities like “there is a gene that determines your eye color” and “DNA is the blueprint for your body,” and simply taken it way too far. They seem to think that there is a 1:1 genotype:phenotype ratio for every gene, and find it impossible to believe that they were built off of only 25,000 discrete bits of information.

    When I say “discrete bits”, I mean they probably think there is a gene encoding say, the position of one hair on their body, or some other silly thing. So it would appear right to them to reject this notion, and in a way they are correct… but the creationists never question their original (wrong) assumptions. Then again, given the amount of ignorance and obtuseness they display during other arguments, this really comes as no surprise.

  93. #93 ambulocetus
    January 28, 2009

    I need to find a doctor, but I’m scared I’ll find one of these jesus-junkies. Does anyone have an idea how to find a good doc who knows that science works better than prayer?

  94. #94 Alex
    January 28, 2009

    It’s depressing how you seem to have such obvious, sexist tendencies towards men. I remember you posted about your students taking a test a while ago, and you asked them to name a female scientist. The way you wrote about the male students writing Marie Curie as their answer was condescending, and you congratulated the female students on writing their own names. Here’s a hint for you: Next time include another question asking them to name a male scientist. Or better yet, just any scientist. It’s almost like you’re trying to appear to conform to some stereotype of liberals as feminists who value men over women.

    And worse yet, you’re always quick to point out that SCIENTISTS are female as well when it appears someone is implying scientists are only male (example: “One other very important omission: the cartoonist keeps using ‘he’. A lot of scientists are women, too, you know.”), but when it’s a Creationist, it’s perfectly OK to imply all of them are male:
    “It’s apparently a very personal issue to them, sort of like how many millimeters long their penis is. Come on, creationists! Be proud of your 25,000 micrometers!”

    How is it that you can get away with implying all Creationists are males who are upset about having small penises, but someone else can’t get away with using the pronoun “he” to refer to scientists. Given that English lacks a singular gender-neutral pronoun, that’s understandable, but what’s your excuse, hm? I’d love to hear it.

  95. #95 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    Alex, are you done yet?

  96. #96 Intelligent Designer vs PZ
    January 28, 2009

    What’s with the analogies? Try using the real thing instead of analogies. What’s with kooky people and their endless analogies?

    So it’s ok for Richard Dawkins to do it but not me?

  97. #97 Mothra vs 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    So it’s ok for Richard Dawkins to do it but not me?

    Dawkins has been known to talk about real biology from time to time. (He is a biologist, I believe.) Just sayin…

  98. #98 Michael X
    January 28, 2009

    So it’s ok for Richard Dawkins to do it but not me?

    Your problem is you’re putting the cart before the horse. Before you get to use an analogy, you have to be able to explain it to those who actually know what they’re talking about, in terms of the actual subject at hand. Not through analogy.

    You are surrounded by people who know the evidence for evolution. So you don’t get to create a hackneyed analogy, and then claim to have overturned anything. If you have actual evidence for your claims, feel free to present it here with no sugar coating.

    Once your assertion is well supported by evidence, then you can feel free to help explain it through analogy.

  99. #99 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    So it’s ok for Richard Dawkins to do it but not me?

    Just curious, have you read The Blind Watchmaker? Immediately after the weasel program, Dawkins talked of the trappings of the analogy – where it went wrong and why it couldn’t be anything more than analogous. The point of the analogy was to show how selection works with randomness to create the appearance of complexity, but it’s by no means a simulation of evolution. The difference is that you Stimpy use the analogy as a straw-man argument, dismissing concept of evolutionary theory through analogy.

    If are going to argue against evolution, please don’t think that using an analogy is going to be anything more than a straw man attack, especially when the analogy you give is a bad one in the first place.

  100. #100 Arthur Dent
    January 28, 2009

    I read the good doctor’s article and was puzzled from the very beginning when he referred to Darwin’s notion of Evolution being represented as a form of “tree truck”. While I often saw ‘tree trucks’ hauling logs during the 8 years I lived in Oregon and more recently on the roads in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where I have a second home, I don’t see the connection with Darwin’s views. I was also unable to see anything resembling a ‘tree’ or ‘logging’ truck in the illustration from Darwin’s notebook. The article went downhill from there.

  101. #101 Marion Delgado
    January 28, 2009

    Okay, paul zachary myers, i was willing to agree with you science fascists while reading his article.

    but then i saw these credentials:

    Jeffrey Dach MD is founder of TrueMedMD, a clinic in Hollywood Florida specializing in Natural Medicine and Bio-Identical Hormones.

    and now i realize you have nothing but envy for this fine doctor and he probably knows little creatures and their evolution within created kinds better than you ever will.

  102. #102 Wowbagger
    January 28, 2009

    Marion Delgado,

    Even if you are attempting to remind us of why Poe’s Law exists, I beg you to tell me that a barely coherent dimwit like yourself is in no way related to the late, great Dr Who actor Roger Delgado.

  103. #103 Jack Kolinski
    January 28, 2009

    This comment incorporates a comment just submitted on a discussion of Science fighting the “elitism” battle, but seems appropriate here as well. That is, instead of blabbering back and forth with creationists, can’t science come up with ways to show creationists the error of their ways in language or using “new” methods that will have a better chance of un-brainwashing them?

    In one respect, science shouldn’t be concerned about ignorant people considering science “elitist.” “Sticks and stones will break my bones . . .” and all that. In a DIFFERENT respect, science needs to be VERY concerned about attempting to communicate in “every day English” what it has and is accomplishing. Thus, the importance of James F’s comment about communicating through “non-scientist science communicators” although they do not really have to be “non-scientists,” just good communicators. We need more Carl Sagans and Richard Dawkinses and Neil Shubins (?) (“Your Inner Fish”). Someone on one of these blogs or comments thereto mentioned Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” as being criticized as somehow “middlebrow” or some similar phrase apparently meaning more than a children’s book but “less” than scientifically thorough and acceptable (I’m both guessing and paraphrasing–not very scientific, I know, but my point might still be valid!). NOBODY did more to disabuse me of any final vestiges of my thorough Christian brainwashing than Dawkins in The God Delusion. We need LOTS more of these efforts by ALL scientists in ALL scientific disciplines including at least a few people who can actually tie a lot of it together to explain why it has improved our lives, saved lives and will continue to do so. IF it is OBVIOUS to most of us that science saves more lives and empowers more people and does more good than all the religions and prayers throughout history, SURELY the scientific community together with the freethinker community can come up with a few people and/or new methodologies to tell OUR story in a positive way that DEMONSTRATES (“shows” would be a better word for many of the people we are trying to “show”) the helpfulness and usefulness and importance of science, including “evolution” and “stem cells” and other aspects of science which are troublesome to our religious brethren and sistren. Science has made tremendous strides in enlarging our knowledge of our Earth and Universe down to our DNA and quarks. Can it not figure out a way to un-brainwash millions and millions of otherwise decent and intelligent people from the various god-myths?!? The Human Genome Project was an AWESOME accomplishment. Why not a “Save the Humans From Gods and Religion” project? I would donate money to such a cause. If one exists, please let me know how to get in touch with it. We need more than blogs about the “Culture Wars.” What better time than at the election of our first Afro-American president who acknowledged “unbelievers” in his (First) Inaugural Address?
    Can’t science (genetics, behavioural psychology and several other “ologies” I can’t even pronounce) help us to understand what makes these people tick? Somewhere on one of these blogs there is a discussion of a “religious” gene. Elsewhere there is an interesting article about research demonstrating how minority views can be turned into a unanimous consensus! Surely some of you scientist types can figure out how to put some of this stuff together to convince otherwise pretty ordinary and normal people to stop believing in Santa Claus, especially when Santa keeps telling people to kill each other for believing in the WRONG Santa!

    Posted by: Jack Kolinski | January 28, 2009 12:32 AM

  104. #104 Liberal Atheist
    January 28, 2009

    If he’s an M.D. then he should know more about evolution than the general population.

  105. #105 bobxxxx
    January 28, 2009

    This brings us to the “Magic” argument and the question of “is there a magic fairy of the universe?”

  106. #106 robotaholic
    January 28, 2009

    I fucking HATE salon magazine

  107. #107 robotaholic
    January 28, 2009

    The people who are so quick to dismiss evolution because of the words random, mutation, chance..really crack me up…because in the same breath when they spout their ‘hypothesis’ it’s even more rediculous:
    a person with no body who always existed and who has an intricate personality which is similar to our own and who is all powerfull and made humans so they will worship him and when they didn’t want to, he sent himself to pretend to be a person and who had to die like a regular human but then came to life again and then went back to being invisible just so people would think he’s actually worth worshiping…i mean come ON you STUPID MOTHERFUCKER QUIT PRETENDING YOU’RE SMART OR LOGICAL-Quit acting like you’re so much smarter than people who reject your bullshit. I think a tornado making a bowing 747 is MORE FUCKING LIKELY THAN YOU’RE BULLSHIT!!!

  108. #108 Riley282
    January 28, 2009

    Looks like he responded. Check out the first comment for some high quality comedy.

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94071

  109. #109 Josh
    January 28, 2009

    25,000 micrometers = 2.5 centimeters. Seems like an overestimate to me.

  110. #110 Militant Agnostic
    January 28, 2009

    This designer was sure a piss poor engineer to produce the kluge that is the human body. Not mention the fact the 99.a bunch of 9s percent of the universe is unsuitable for life inidcates remarkable innefficiency.

    As for the idea that intelligent life is the pupose of the universe – it may be, but we are no it. As George Carlin said “If humanity is the purpose of the universe, then the universe aimed low and was satisfied with very little.

    Maybe the universe has a purpose, but it could be just to produce spiral galaxies and we are just an annoying side effect, irritating the creator with our prayers.

    I cannot undestand how an engineer or and MD could believe in intelligent design since such a belief requires and appaling ignorance of both anatomy and biology as well as what constitutes good design.

  111. #111 robotaholic
    January 28, 2009

    hey Riley282, i just commented his page and it took! – you all should go there and demolish him

  112. #112 Alex
    January 28, 2009

    Rey Fox, yeah, I’m done, for now. Mind replying to my comment if you disagree with it?

  113. #113 Jadehawk
    January 28, 2009

    TheTreeLess than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome. I don’t quite get the point of complaining that it’s not enough, becaust obviously, it is enough, or we wouldn’t be here.

    Not to agree with Dach, but that’s sounds like a bit of a tautology.not a tautology, an example of the weak anthropic principle: we are the way we are; we have a certain number of genes; therefore, that number of genes is enough to make us what we are, or else we wouldn’t be what we are.

  114. #114 Rey Fox
    January 28, 2009

    I don’t know where to begin. It’s pretty much just a load of whingey bollocks.

  115. #115 Jadehawk
    January 28, 2009

    grr, bockquote fail let’s try again:
    TheTree

    Less than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome. I don’t quite get the point of complaining that it’s not enough, becaust obviously, it is enough, or we wouldn’t be here.
    Not to agree with Dach, but that’s sounds like a bit of a tautology.

    not a tautology, an example of the weak anthropic principle: we are the way we are; we have a certain number of genes; therefore, that number of genes is enough to make us what we are, or else we wouldn’t be what we are.

  116. #116 Azkyroth
    January 28, 2009

    I don’t know where to begin. It’s pretty much just a load of whingey bollocks.

    There you go being sexist again… :P

  117. #117 CatBallou
    January 28, 2009

    Reply to TheThree:
    What sounds like a tautology to you is simply a statement of the obvious.

    If you count the number of bricks in a building, you can’t then (reasonably) say “that isn’t enough bricks to make a building.” Obviously, it is.

    Similarly, if Dachs actually understands that our genes shape our bodies, he can’t (reasonably) argue that we don’t have enough genes to shape our bodies.

  118. #118 Cubist
    January 28, 2009

    alex, the reason PZ refers to Creationists as men is that pretty much all creationists are men. And white men, at that. Whitcomb and Morris, authors of YEC opus THE GENESIS FLOOD? White males both. Duane Gish, he of the Gallop? White male. Ken Ham? White male. Kent Hovind? White male. Jonathan Sarfati? White male. Etc etc etc.
    And since ID is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Creationism, it’s worth noting that the ID movement, too, is mostly/entirely made up of white males. Dembski, Behe, Casey Luskin, Philip Johnson, George Gilder… white males all.
    Therefore, when PZ refers to Creationists exclusively as males, he is accurately reflecting the gender makeup of Creationists. But when people refer to scientists exclusively as males, they are leaving out a highly non-trivial segment of the scientific community.
    Catch the difference, alex?

  119. #119 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    Maybe he thinks that genes aren’t completely responsible for development, and that some magical force must intervene every time our cells divide, grow, or carry out a reaction to make up for the genes we need but don’t have.

    Well, let’s see what he said…

    “These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism. What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.”

    Weeeelllll… I dunno. I dunno what the hell he’s saying. No idea what his point is. Oh well.

  120. #120 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    according to the author bio:

    Jeffrey Dach MD is founder of TrueMedMD, a clinic in Hollywood Florida specializing in Natural Medicine and Bio-Identical Hormones.

    awesome.

  121. #121 Anton Mates
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer,

    Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct (symbolizing viable life forms). In that case I don’t think there is a path from my original paragraph to Hamlet or even this paragraph.

    Sure there is; you can even do it in single-character additions, deletions and substitutions. You started with:

    This paragraph contains information. If we start to randomly modify this paragraph could it get longer? Yes. Will it have more information? No.

    English grammar does not constrain the spelling of a proper noun, so capitalize the first instance of information. (Who knows who or what Information is, and who cares?) We are then free to mutate the proper noun Information into, say, the proper noun James. We can then add an apostrophe and produce the possessive substantive James’, meaning, perhaps, “an aforementioned sentence written by James.” We can now add another apostrophe and produce the quotation ‘James’. A written quotation may contain any string of symbols in the English language–it doesn’t have to obey the rules of grammar, because you may be quoting someone else’s ungrammatical writing. So we’re free to convert ‘James’ gradually into ‘[Insert the text of Hamlet here]‘.

    The Moral?: You have, I assume, been using English grammar all your life; yet some grammatically valid pathways didn’t occur to you. When you say, on the basis of far less experience, that an evolutionary pathway from genotype A to genotype B is impossible, what makes you think you’ve done a better job of ruling out all the possibilities?

    Hubris, thy name is ID.

  122. #122 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    ? This paragraph contains information.
    ? This paragraph only contains information. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only contains select information. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only contains select information rules. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only contains selected information rules. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only contains tonally selected information rules. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only contains tonally selected informational rules. (insertion)
    ? This paragraph only tonally selected informational rules. (deletion).
    ? Let’s add to this paragraph only tonally selected informational rules. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add to this paragraph. Only tonally selected informational rules. (insertion, and wobble if you’re worried about the capitalization)
    ? Let’s add to this paragraph. Only tonally selected informational rules are correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule to this paragraph. Only tonally selected informational rules are correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only tonally selected informational rules are correct. (deletion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only tonally selected informative mutation rules are correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only ally selected informative mutation rules are correct. (deletion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only grammatically selected informative mutation rules are correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only selected grammatically informative mutation rules are correct. (inversion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only select grammatically informative mutation rules are correct. (deletion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Only select grammatically informative mutation rules that are correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only grammatically informative mutation rules that are correct. (inversion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only grammatically informative mutation rules that are also correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only grammatically informative mutations that are also correct. (deletion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only informative mutations that are also correct. (deletion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only informative mutations that are also grammatically correct. (insertion)
    ? Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct. (deletion)

    “Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct”

    So, since I’m too lazy to do the whole paragraph, anyone else want to finish it off? Point being, lack of imagination is your problem, not reality’s.

    (btw, grammatically correct is a bad example – all sorts of genetically ‘grammatically incorrect’ mutations are viable – eg, a misplaced stop codon (aka, a period ‘.’))

  123. #123 Anton Mates
    January 28, 2009

    Alex said:

    It’s almost like you’re trying to appear to conform to some stereotype of liberals as feminists who value men over women.

    Man, I hate feminists who value men over women almost as much as those white supremacist Nation of Islam types!

  124. #124 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer sez:

    Random change does not produce more information.

    This statement is false. Please show a rationale for this.

  125. #125 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    I’ll just add this:

    THE DISCRETE SOURCE OF INFORMATION

    Conversely, any stochastic
    process which produces a discrete sequence of symbols chosen from a finite set may be considered a discrete
    source.

    PART V: THE RATE FOR A CONTINUOUS SOURCE
    27. FIDELITY EVALUATION FUNCTIONS
    In the case of a discrete source of information we were able to determine a definite rate of generating
    information, namely the entropy of the underlying stochastic process.

    http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/ms/what/shannonday/shannon1948.pdf

    go ahead and explain why this isn’t correct.

  126. #126 Peter Ashby
    January 28, 2009

    Hmm he has obviously never seen an old fashioned Northern Blot gene expression analysis. Back in the day they all had a lane for Brain. Why? because in humans especially pretty much everything is expressed in the brain so you always get a nice big signal to compare with your faint ones in Liver, kidney, skin etc. Works a bit for mouse stuff but nowhere as well as for humans. That is how you make humans with basically the same toolkit as a mouse has, in administrative terms it’s called cooption. Outside of the brain there are not so many differences between humans and mice, ten fingers, ten toes, eyes etc. Reduce the hair, tail and whiskers and change some proportions and you get what Walt Disney essentially did.

  127. #127 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/ms/what/shannonday/shannon1948.pdf

    Wasn’t Bell Labs the ones who invented Unix when Bill Gates was working there? And then he took that and made Windows with it or something like that?

  128. #128 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Wasn’t Bell Labs the ones who invented Unix when Bill Gates was working there? And then he took that and made Windows with it or something like that?

    something like that ;-)

  129. #129 Sigmund
    January 28, 2009

    ‘Posted by: Riley282 | January 28, 2009 1:42 AM
    Looks like he responded. Check out the first comment for some high quality comedy.
    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94071

    Flippin’ heck, we’ve got another Egnor on our hands.
    Despite years of witnessing these intellectual trainwrecks I still cannot get used to their absolute confidence in dismissing the points of experts in genetics or cell development while simultaneously proving they know absolutely nothing about the subject.
    The whole “gene duplication does not lead to increase information” argument is ridiculous if you know anything about genetics.
    Two prime examples are
    1. Changes in the copy number of chromosome 21 genes caused by a mistake in cell division that gives rise to trisomy 21.
    There is no ‘new’ genes added to the cell, just copy number changes but they certainly add a lot of information – the end result being Downs syndrome.
    2. CCL3L1 copy number variations are associated with resistance to HIV infection. Thats a clear information change in the individuals with this resistance but is only apparent in the appropriate environment – where HIV prevalence leads to their selection.

  130. #130 Fred
    January 28, 2009

    So because this guy is an MD we’re supposed to believe he has some opinion worth listening to? The guy cites Conservapedia for Christ’s sake… no one who is serious about their argument would quote a source so biased and full of science loathing/logical fallacies as Conservapedia.

  131. #131 Intelligent Designer
    January 28, 2009

    It looks to me like Jeffrey Dach effectively refuted PZ’s arguments. But wouldn’t it be funner to have an online debate between the two of them in a single place instead of on seperate blogs. I don’t think PZ would be game for it, though. PZ is like hit and run. Then stay above the fray and let his minions debate. I’d really like to see these two guys go toe to toe in an online debate. But where would it happen and what would the rules be?

  132. #132 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    It looks to me like Jeffrey Dach effectively refuted PZ’s arguments.

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94071

    I’d really like to see these two guys go toe to toe in an online debate.

    Me too!

  133. #133 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94071

    He’s even managed to squeeze in an image of the infamous New Scientist “Darwin was Wrong” cover in there. Great…

  134. #134 AJS
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer @ #59:

    Gotchaye … Kel presented the same argument on his blog and I destroyed it.
    Let’s add one rule. Select only mutations that are also grammatically correct (symbolizing viable life forms). In that case I don’t think there is a path from my original paragraph to Hamlet or even this paragraph.

    ….. and at this point, the analogy has already been stretched so thin, it breaks. Grammatical correctness in an English sentence is not really analogous to viability in DNA.

    But anyway, this is another manifestation of the generalisation of which Schneier’s Law is a special case: just because you can’t see how to solve a puzzle you have created, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

  135. #135 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer:
    So what, you just “like hit and run. Then stay above the fray and let [others] debate”? Couldn’t even acknowledge the nice transitional mutations I made in your sentence for you.. You *are* a dedicated troll, truly!

    As far as Dach ‘refuting’ PZ’s arguments – can’t really say either of them have refuted each other. They’ve both been preaching to the choir as it were; neither of them has shown any evidence (in these posts) for their side.

    OTOH, at least PZ hasn’t mutilated/avoided Dach’s questions and answers. Nor has he gone on a Gish Gallop.

  136. #136 amph
    January 28, 2009

    I recently discovered that the English alphabet consists of only 26 letters. Clearly, this can?t be enough to explain the complexity of literary works such as those of Shakespeare, the King James Bible, The Origin of Species and Moby Dick. What is the function of the white space between the words? We don?t know.

  137. #137 Sigmund
    January 28, 2009

    “He’s even managed to squeeze in an image of the infamous New Scientist “Darwin was Wrong” cover in there. Great…”
    That issue of New Scientist has only been out a week or so and already its become an icon of creationism. Graham Lawton must be so proud that he’s becoming as much a hero of creationism as Ernst Haeckel.

  138. #138 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer: An addendum:
    My mutable response to your challenge: click

    A nice paper on Shannon Information by – wouldn’t you know it? – Shannon as excerpted and cite by Brain Hertz: click. Rather defeats both your and Dach’s arguments regarding randomness and information content. Particularly since Shannon info is the type favored by ID.

  139. #139 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94071

    He’s citing Gerald Schroeder (from 10 years ago) as an authority on the Cambrian Explosion. Wonderful…

  140. #140 bobxxxx
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent Designer @131 = drooling stupidity.

  141. #141 Intelligent Designer
    January 28, 2009

    Hi dreikin,

    Couldn’t even acknowledge the nice transitional mutations I made in your sentence for you.

    I didn’t see your comments at #122 until just minute ago. Your mutations were not random. They were intelligently designed.

    You *are* a dedicated troll, truly!

    Yes I am.

  142. #142 Escuerd
    January 28, 2009

    People who suggest that random changes don’t add information have a mistaken notion of what information is. A random string of characters contains more information than a block of text of equal length written in any language. That is to say, languages are more compressible.

    The real crux of the issue, though, is the failure to understand that evolution isn’t seeking a specific outcome, and the way things turned out, likely isn’t the only way they could have turned out. Mutation together with natural selection is a convergence algorithm, but with many local attractors that change with time. Genetic algorithms operate on the same principle.

    Of course selecting for grammatical correctness won’t reproduce Hamlet. Who suggested anything like that? But if you have a bunch of competing sets of data that interact in a complex way to optimize certain variables (e.g. reproductive success), then you can get lots of novel solutions through random variation and selection (again, this is exactly what’s done in genetic algorithms).

  143. #143 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Your mutations were not random. They were intelligently designed.

    Alas, that is beside the point – you stated you couldn’t see a path by which it was possible, and I showed it to you (well part of it – like I said, I’m too lazy to do the whole thing).

    Besides, as long as such a piecewise path exists, randomness can follow it. Particularly if selection is also occurring (in this case, for grammatical correctness).

  144. #144 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Dach…seems a bit oblivious..

    The short form, for those of you not watching his rebuttal to PZ:

    1. the post
    2. first comment (not me)
    3. Dach’s reply to first comment
    4. First commenter replies to Dach

    My oh my, how marvelous that is..

  145. #145 Intelligent Designer
    January 28, 2009

    People who suggest that random changes don’t add information have a mistaken notion of what information is. A random string of characters contains more information than a block of text of equal length written in any language. That is to say, languages are more compressible.

    kjhks dfh kjhsdf kjh sdfkjh sadfkjh asduifhweibwqejkndfgij3wruh83274o34tp 9if gelr;m 0a8wer 34jr[0asu fi3q4j rv08uwqe r0j23 -9=wfe 9 q23-4ur =09uefij23rq8u-0afej23q4-9 r029j3 dfgjer09u3490iue0rkjg 0w49t 83r4-8u 3q04j rq3084 098ujt-34 qti9 3429j -9kf3q-94 t-9k3q-4ti 08u23975rij3409t09ui34q-tk -ok34-0r-]0k123po4jpo21k ;l,m;lferkwe-0k9

    Let’s take a vote. Which of the above two paragraphs contain more information?

  146. #146 Fernando
    January 28, 2009

    Someone can spend hours explaining the Evolution, how hapened and how is hapening, showing extinct species and today species, but a creationist/inteligent design suporter only sees this: “God created everything, and if we cant explain something right now, was God the origin of that!”

    This people`s brains worked in a diferent way…

    If some “holy” book, writen for science-ignorant people some centuries ago says that a god created everything, why the scientist spoil all by telling the truth!?

  147. #147 Escuerd
    January 28, 2009

    The problem here, Randy, is that you don’t really get what information is. You’re using it in a colloquial sense that has no objective definition. If you want to have a serious discussion, you need to define exactly what kind of information you’re speaking about.

    In any case, for all objective definitions (the kinds that information theorists study), a random string of characters would contain more information than a compressible one (e.g. one written in a language with all of its associated patterns). Science is not done by democracy, but if you were interested in taking a vote, an ideal population to ask would be one of information theorists.

    Brain Hertz @122 did apparently give an excerpt from an actual paper in the field, if you’re interested.

  148. #148 John Morales
    January 28, 2009

    ID @145:

    Let’s take a vote. Which of the above two paragraphs contain more information?

    It’s not a matter of voting, it’s a matter of fact.

    Using RAR, I compressed each paragraph; the first one (English text) comes to 265 bytes, the second (pseudo-random text) comes to 329 bytes*.

    Clearly, the second one has more information.

  149. #149 Escuerd
    January 28, 2009

    Pardon me, I meant “Brain Hertz @125″.

  150. #150 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    Gotchaye … Kel presented the same argument on his blog and I destroyed it.

    You destroyed it? lol. Methinks it is hyperbolic fantasy. Though you linked your comments for all to see, so you are at least putting your name to your inanity. That’s something I guess.

  151. #151 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    Stimpy, disproving an analogy doesn’t disprove the science of which the analogy is analogous to. It just means the analogy is bad, not the science.

    How are you going on your scientific paper to disprove evolution? Are you tackling all the major lines of evidence? ERVs? Morphology? Genetic similarity? Observed mutation and selection? The fossil record? Fused chromosome? Behavioural similarities? Geographic spread? Or are you just trying to disprove an analogy that was obviously limited (and talked of as much) when it was first written?

  152. #152 Escuerd
    January 28, 2009

    John Morales @148:

    Ah, it’s good to see someone actually do the obvious experiment. Just like a true scientist. :)

    I think that one part of the misunderstanding might be that he hasn’t connected compressibility to information, though. But then, since he’s not using the word in any well-defined sense, it’s easy to equivocate.

    Dreikin @144:

    That was hilarious.

  153. #153 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Well, dunno yet. Have to figure out the randomness in the two paragraphs. Lemme go see what gzip and bzip have to say..

    cat sample\ 01.txt ;echo “”; cat sample\ 02.txt

    People who suggest that random changes don’t add information have a mistaken notion of what information is. A random string of characters contains more information than a block of text of equal length written in any language. That is to say, languages are more compressible.

    kjhks dfh kjhsdf kjh sdfkjh sadfkjh asduifhweibwqejkndfgij3wruh83274o34tp 9if gelr;m 0a8wer 34jr[0asu fi3q4j rv08uwqe r0j23 -9=wfe 9 q23-4ur =09uefij23rq8u-0afej23q4-9 r029j3 dfgjer09u3490iue0rkjg 0w49t 83r4-8u 3q04j rq3084 098ujt-34 qti9 3429j -9kf3q-94 t-9k3q-4ti 08u23975rij3409t09ui34q-tk -ok34-0r-]0k123po4jpo21k ;l,m;lferkwe-0k9

    bzip2 -k sample\ 01.txt

    bzip2 -k sample\ 02.txt

    gzip –suffix=.gzip -9 sample\ 01.txt

    gzip –suffix=.gzip -9 sample\ 01.txt

     ls -al
    total 24
    drwxr-xr-x 2 n n 4096 2009-01-28 05:24 .
    drwxr-xr-x 5 n n 4096 2009-01-28 05:20 ..
    -rw-r--r-- 1 n n  214 2009-01-28 05:19 sample 01.txt.bz2
    -rw-r--r-- 1 n n  208 2009-01-28 05:19 sample 01.txt.gzip
    -rw-r--r-- 1 n n  281 2009-01-28 05:19 sample 02.txt.bz2
    -rw-r--r-- 1 n n  269 2009-01-28 05:19 sample 02.txt.gzip
    

    Well, looks like sample 02 contains more info!

  154. #154 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    John Morales @148:
    Drat – beat me to it!

  155. #155 Stephen Wells
    January 28, 2009

    PZ, you said that random change can produce longer DNA strands with more information. I’ve seen it pointed out lately that it’s also possible for a shorter strand to have more information too- for example “ATATATATATATAT” compresses well, say to “7(AT)”, whereas the shorter sequence “ATATATAATATAT” is less compressible- “3(AT)A3(AT)” and has more information. :)

    But the creationists will never grasp any of this anyway.

  156. #156 Africangenesis
    January 28, 2009

    Escuard@142,

    People don’t have a mistaken impression of what information is, they just have the vernacular definition, which has an element of “meaning”. They haven’t dealt with the extreme difficulty of defining information in a rigorously defensible way. Unfortunately, mathmaticians prefer rigor to preserving some semblence of the vernacular definition. Once the technical definition of information is explained to the layman, often at some length, can only conclude, that it is not what he means but an abstraction which doesn’t capture “meaning” or “usefulness” at all.

    First we have to acknowledge that random sequences and randomly modifying something that was working, is not information nor an increase in information at all, by their definition. It isn’t evolution yet either.

    But if an organism has the redundancy of overlapping function in its genome and the homeostatic capability to adjust and compensation for internal and external changes, then the random modification of some of the information, or the addition of random instructions can be survivable. The accumulation of the vernancular information comes through the accumulation natural selection screens. There can be loss of critical function due to mutations or random information. Those organisms don’t survive and reproduce. Successive generations of survival in different external environments and different internal environments perhaps in the company of other genes introduced horizontally or through sexual reproduction provide additional screens. If at some generations it is in the company of other information and actually improves fitness, then the might provide positive selection pressure that actually preserves the new information and a fertile environment for further mutations to provide opportunity for selection of enhancements of the newly acquired role or function.

    It is redundancy, homeostasis, niche reduction, etc that contribute to the evolvability of an organism.

  157. #157 Intelligent Designer
    January 28, 2009

    Escuerd,

    I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics. Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from. If I want to communicate the results of a million flips of an unbiased coin it will take 1 million bit of information. However, that information will have no sematic meaning.

    Lifeforms have DNA with meaningful information. If it lives its meaningful. If the DNA is randomized in such a way that it dies it is nonsense.

    John said,

    It’s not a matter of voting, it’s a matter of fact.

    No. Its a matter of definition.

  158. #158 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics. Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from. If I want to communicate the results of a million flips of an unbiased coin it will take 1 million bit of information.

    Fail. It will only take 1 million bits in the worst case scenario. The best case scenario is “all heads” or “all tails” (or maybe even “odd heads, even tails”) – everything else is in between those two extremes. Where’d you get your degree from?

    Lifeforms have DNA with meaningful information. If it lives its meaningful. If the DNA is randomized in such a way that it dies it is nonsense.

    Not quite right, but close enough. Either way, it points out that utility is defined after the mutations alter information, not before – if the mutation allows life and reproduction, it can continue, else it goes away. And that’s all evolution needs.

  159. #159 Leanstrum
    January 28, 2009

    If it makes the creationists feel any better, while we have about as many protein-coding genes as a fruit fly, our systems for regulating expression are much more complex – i.e. much more RNA-interference, and the like. So, it’s not the size of your genome, it’s what you can do with it…

  160. #160 T_U_T
    January 28, 2009

    Lifeforms have DNA with meaningful information. If it lives its meaningful.

    Do you ever know that any information is information about something ?

    There is indeed meaningful information in organisms DNA.

    Could you explain us what is that information about then ?

    Can you ?

  161. #161 Kel
    January 28, 2009

    I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics. Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from.

    It’s too bad you have no idea on how to apply it to evolutionary theory.

  162. #162 TomS
    January 28, 2009

    @Johnny Vector
    -and-
    @catgirl

    I’d like to add my voice to yours.

    This is really more of an argument for Scientific Storkism. (Or its Big Top variation, Intelligent Delivery, that doesn’t identify the Intelligent Deliverer as being The Stork.)

  163. #163 TheThomas
    January 28, 2009

    I am grateful to you, PZ, for posting material like this. I always feel more content after sending a scathing letter to an editor for producing junk science articles.

  164. #164 jennyxyzzy
    January 28, 2009

    Oh please, not the whole information theory debate again.

    Just last month, I used a genetic algorithm to produce a piece of software that can do speech recognition. I personally have no idea how to take a digital representation of a sound wave, so it wasn’t me putting the information into the system.

    When, after about 3 weeks, the computer finally spat out a model capable of recognising about 50% of the words that I tested it on, it was evident that some information had been added into the system. Yet, as the programmer of the system, I know that the only added information was indeed random mutation. I can’t help wondering how people espousing Randy’s view explain that. My speech recognition program just poofed into existance? God interfered in my computer? (maybe this is really how you should pray – write a GA that should evolve what you want, and it forces God’s hand! He HAS to come to the party – a bit like summoning a demon in D&D).

  165. #165 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 28, 2009

    Pee Zee,

    Are you afraid to “debate” me?

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

    JAD the men in the White Coats are coming for you.

  166. #166 Robyn Slinger
    January 28, 2009

    “The first living cell would have been the product of millions (quick!) of years of chemical evolution. It did not arise spontaneously.”

    Are you saying something created the first cell? According to my favourite dictionary, spontaneous means:
    1 unplanned and voluntary or instinctive, not provoked or invited by others.
    2 occurring naturally or by itself, not caused or influenced from outside.
    3 said of a manner or style: natural; not affected or studied.

    In particular, “spontaneously” doesn’t mean that the cell was created instantly. Of course if a creationist uses the word, it may well mean ‘quickly’ (or not, according to the well-polished creationist technique of redefining words as they go).

    But serious people really should try their best to stick to proper definitions, otherwise some might claim, ‘look, PZ Myers said that life didn’t arise spontaneously! Therefore, God exists’.

  167. #167 AJS
    January 28, 2009

    Let’s take a vote. Which of the above two paragraphs contain more information?

    And since when have scientific matters been decided by voting? Suppose a bunch of people got together and decided that it would be more intuitive if the period of a pendulum depended upon its mass, would that make it so? Science is merely the quest to describe, quantify and enumerate that which is true whether or not we believe it or like it.

    However, a simple scientific measurement of the amount of information in each paragraph shows that the first contains less information: it can be compressed to 206 characters; whereas the second, compressed using the same algorithm (GNU gzip 1.3.12), requires 266 characters.

    I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics.

    Which you obviously bought by mail order. I have a bunch of stuff I bought by mail order, too.

    Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from. If I want to communicate the results of a million flips of an unbiased coin it will take 1 million bit of information.

    Only in an absolutely pathological case. A stream of 1 million ones and zeros probably will contain repeating patterns and so ought to be highly compressible.

    However, that information will have no sematic meaning.

    The uncompressed stream of zeros and ones will have meaning: it represents the results of 1 million random coin tosses. It’s meaningful to anyone interested in the outcomes of random events.

    I think you should go ahead and perform this experiment, just so you can show the whole world what a tosser you are!

  168. #168 Christie
    January 28, 2009

    OK, this brings up an interesting question (that someone with a lot more genetics experience might be able to answer):

    Is is possible the “98%” are genes/etc that we no longer use… I mean, bits of old information from times past that we have stopped using, like the blueprints for a fully-functioning appendix? I’m just curious. And is it really 98% we don’t use, or a lot that we simply haven’t accounted for the uses of (ie genes only turned on when in extreme environments, as a fetus, as a [insert obscure cell type here], etc)

  169. #169 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Randy Stimpson (aka: Intelligent Designer) is an example of the “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail” adage.
    He’s a math/computer geek who thinks he’s a biologist. He assumes coincidentally derived assumptions between he and other creationists ID proponents =proof.
    He may know math, but he’s the obnoxious wackaloon with a masters who who thinks he’s smarter than any Ph.D., especially those outside his chosen field, that you were unlucky enough to get as a teacher for your Computer Science class.
    Just treat him as you would your crazy conspiracy theorist uncle. This has been a “sematic” alert. (is that redundant?)

  170. #170 Africangenesis
    January 28, 2009

    Chrisie@169,

    No, we can recognize genes that are no longer transcribed, such as the remnant of the gene for synthesizing vitamin C, unless they have degenerated too much. We may not understand all the regulatory and other functions in the non-protein coding portion, but there is almost certainly a lot of junk.

  171. #171 Linda
    January 28, 2009

    Looks like Dach has written a counter-reply to PZ’s comments. Just more of the same woo though. Although, it does seem to be what he does for a living:

    “TrueMedMD was founded with the idea of offering medical services ignored or not offered by mainstream medicine.”

    Ah, magical thinking.

  172. #172 T_U_T
    January 28, 2009

    He’s a math/computer geek who thinks he’s a biologist.

    Hey ! stop insulting computer geeks who poke in biology.
    Someone completely and utterly lacking any understanding of genetic algorithms, artificial life ans stuff is definitely NOT one of us.

  173. #173 No One Of Consequence
    January 28, 2009

    If each of the 25,000 genes could only represent 2 values, that would be enough genes for 56, 220, 098, 157, 654, 597, 749, 731, 354, 686 ,682 * 10^7488 options/variations*.

    * yes I know this is a completely BS argument, but sometimes it is best to show that even if we accepted the BS argument, the conclusion would still be wrong.

  174. #174 Jeanette
    January 28, 2009

    Re: amph @136: Ingenious way of putting that.

    Considering that Dach’s arguments have been thoroughly destroyed in this thread, it’s incredible that there are still trolls turning up to support such a vapid load of crap.

  175. #175 AJ Milne
    January 28, 2009

    Someone completely and utterly lacking any understanding of genetic algorithms, artificial life and stuff is definitely NOT one of us.

    And someone who makes naive argumentum ad populum appeals to colloquial conceptions of what constitutes quantity of information just because he realizes he’s been called on a hilarious howler of a claim by someone who does know useful definitions for that purpose isn’t either… And more a propos to the tone of our discussion here, if indeed he is what he claims to be, he’s lucky mathematicians aren’t vulnerable to malpractice suits.

    (Speaking of, for said useful definitions, as opposed to those supplied by tendentious cons hoping to deceive with said appeals to populism, do see Shannon’s information theory, and related material on source coding… Note that yes, there are folk who’ve tried to add a bit–shameless pun intended–to Shannon, so there may be grist for discussion there, but generally, such discussions do not begin and end with ‘let’s take a vote’… Necessarily obsessed compression/crypto geek signing off.)

  176. #176 Codswallop
    January 28, 2009

    P. Z., I’m surprised that you rose to the bait of #3. How life began is a very interesting question to be sure, but it is only tangentially relevant to the discussion of evolution.

  177. #177 Sigmund
    January 28, 2009

    “Is is possible the “98%” are genes/etc that we no longer use…”
    No, we are pretty sure we know where most of the genome came from – its mostly composed of repetitive viral sequences that have integrated into an ancient ancestor of ours and then gradually multiplied. It seems to be a rather common feature of most eukaryotic genomes and we can even trace particular integration events to specific points of evolution (such as the Alu repeats which integrated into the genome of a primate ancestor of ours).

  178. #178 Nemat O. Stella
    January 28, 2009

    Mmmmm….”thigh-high boots.”

  179. #179 CG
    January 28, 2009

    dreikin@144

    I started out reading that first comment before the second one was posted and I kept thinking to myself “Wow, that just has to be a parody, it’s so ridiculous” but by the time I got to the end bit I just wasn’t sure. Now that the second post is up I just have to laugh, it’s so perfect!

    P.S. I can’t believe no one has appreciated the time you took to engage in wordplay @122, I hereby acknowledge and appreciate it :)

  180. #180 TheThree
    January 28, 2009

    not a tautology, an example of the weak anthropic principle: we are the way we are; we have a certain number of genes; therefore, that number of genes is enough to make us what we are, or else we wouldn’t be what we are.

    Mmmm. I suppose. Still seems like a “X=X” type of statement. Logical rather than rhetorical.

  181. #181 Stephen Wells
    January 28, 2009

    @180: I don’t think you’ve adjusted your mind to the fact that creationists appear in all seriousness to be arguing that we don’t have enough genes to be us; in other words, that X is not X.

  182. #182 Interrobang
    January 28, 2009

    Shit, Intelligent Designer, I have a Master’s Degree in Rhetoric and I can tell you’re full of shit just based on what I already know. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that semantic meaning is largely context-dependent? An English sentence may look like it has a lot of semantic meaning to you, but I guarantee, I could put your two example paragraphs down in front of an illiterate speaker of Amharic and they’d have exactly the same semantic meaning; that is to say, practically none.

    To use another very clumsy analogy, because that’s largely what I’ve got to work with, that sequence of Gs, Ts, Cs, and As might not look like a lot if you’re a creationist moron, but it looks like quite a bit from the standpoint of part of the genetic transcription system.

    It’s also damn near useless to argue dictionary definitions, because, as you may have heard somewhere, words mean things, and (as I mentioned above about semantic meanings) they often mean subtly or vastly different things depending on context. (“I need a break” is wonderful if you’re talking about Aruba, not so much about your fibula.) The problem is that people (like you) are misapplying words by attempting to transfer their contextual meaning (in this case, the vernacular meaning) into an inappropriate context (a particular area of science where a precising definition applies). If you don’t like this, do the work and become an expert in the field, and maybe you can lobby to have the terminology changed so it doesn’t offend your peculiar notions about multivalency.

  183. #183 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Anyone catch Dach’s replies to comments @ Salon? He is one prissy wag snarky dude. I keep expecting him to write , “Oh snap beyotches! I told you.”

    Alternative Medicine too? -Not an intellectually honest bone in his body.

  184. #184 Nerd of Redhead
    January 28, 2009

    For all entropy discussions, Gibb’s free energy must be considered, but usually isn’t. Anyone who took general chemistry should know that, right Randy?

  185. #185 Karl Withakay
    January 28, 2009

    Forgive me if this has already been addressed, but I don’t have time to read all 182 commenst.

    The statement,

    “The Human Genome Project showed that only 1-2% of Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes. These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism. What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.”

    Doesn’t really relate to his position. He claims that 25,00 genes isn’t sufficient for an organism’s complexity. It seems to either be a denial that the other 98% of the genome is inert, or a denial of genetics in general.

  186. #186 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Intelligent designer,

    are you planning on responding to my post @ 125 which contains a cite from one of the foundational papers of information theory? It sort of demonstrates that you’re full of it.

  187. #187 Rob St. Amant
    January 28, 2009

    I was one of the people arguing with Jeffrey Dach on his Open Salon blog about the Darwin flap. I see that a couple of contributors here have gone over to add comments there, too. I’m impressed, and I’ve learned from them. (I’m not a biologist, just an interested onlooker.) Thanks.

  188. #188 Watchman
    January 28, 2009

    Apparently, one man’s “self-evident” is another man’s “purely the product magical thinking.”

  189. #189 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    I prefer, “Apparently, one man’s “self-evident” is another man’s “delusion” influenced by magical thinking.”

  190. #190 OsakaGuy
    January 28, 2009

    Holy Smokes, check out the two comments by “Logan Strain” in the docs newer “Panties in a Twist Over Darwinism” blog post. The wooshing sound is deafening.

  191. #191 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    I was one of the people arguing with Jeffrey Dach on his Open Salon blog about the Darwin flap. I see that a couple of contributors here have gone over to add comments there, too. I’m impressed, and I’ve learned from them. (I’m not a biologist, just an interested onlooker.) Thanks.

    I commented there too last night (my screen name there is “Oregon Sky”). I don’t see the comment there now.

  192. #192 Dianne
    January 28, 2009

    The Human Genome Project showed that only 1-2% of Human DNA codes for proteins, or about 25,000 genes.

    Er…does that number include express tags (DNA sequences that appear to be translated but we don’t have the slightest idea what the related protein, if any, does) or is it just identified genes? (Not that it matters, really, to the argument. Just curious about this 25K number and what it really means.)

    These are not enough to account for the complexity of the organism.

    Why not? What basis does anyone have for saying that there need to be X number of genes to produce an organism as compplex as a H sapiens or similar large mammal? If the 25K genes are not the whole story then what’s the hypothesis for where the rest of the information comes in? Certainly epigenetic changes are important as are alternate splice sites producing multiple proteins from a single gene, etc. But the quote makes it sound like the author thinks that fairy dust is involved in producing humans.

    What is the other 98% of the genome’s function? We don’t know.”

    Not entirely true. Some of it is probably junk. For example, integrated retroviruses. Some of it is certainly spacers, necessary for the correct placement of a gene in relation to its promoter. (See beta-globin for example.) Some of it is unknown. So what? We don’t know what causes glioblastoma either but that doesn’t make it necessary to postulate a supernatural etiology.

    (Yes, I know that Dr. Dach is unlikely to join the thread and defend his position.)

    Doctors are, essentially, engineers rather than scientists (unless they make a specific effort to obtain scientific training and keep current in research–hi, orac). So it’s no particular surprise that some of them get a little off on current scientific theory. However, it does worry me that someone who might be in charge of deciding which antibiotics to give an infected patient doesn’t believe in evolution. I hope he at least believes that MRSA and VREF exist, even if he isn’t willing to admit to how they got the way they are.

  193. #193 Benny the Icepick
    January 28, 2009

    Oh, goodness. Dr. Dach lists his phone number and address on his page on Salon. Anything to drum up business for his Bio-Identical Hormone Therapies (though I can find no mention of how they’re different from synthetic hormone).

    His website is http://www.drdach.com, and reads like a desperate plea for attention. “Oh, look, I have a spot on local TV! Hey, check out my art gallery of pathetic oil pastels I did all by myself! Aren’t I just great?!”

    The fact that he painstakingly responds to EVERY comment on his blog – though without actually reading or learning anything – indicates to me that he is a lonely, lonely man.

  194. #194 elin
    January 28, 2009

    I’m most confused about how such people get their MDs. Well, not confused, per se, but annoyed. Because, seriously, I’m working so hard to build up a good resume for med school, which involves takings tons of science classes, getting lab jobs, and generally acting competent. Of course, my school doesn’t have a pre-med major, so I have to complete the med requirements in addition to my majors… and therefore I can major in Biology with a concentration in Evolutionary Ecology, and know something about science. But what is up with our educational system that some schools have rigorous requirements and some have ridiculously lax ones, but the end result for both is the same degree? ARGH I’ve been reading so much anti-science stuff this week, and my brain’s exploding. I’ve gotta take a break.

  195. #195 arensb
    January 28, 2009

    Less than 25,000 genes is simply the number. It’s what has been counted in analyzing the genome.

    Question: IIRC before the Human Genome Project was complete, biologists expected something on the order of 100,000 genes. Since the actual number is much lower, presumably that means that there’s a lot more reuse going on than expected, i.e., genes play roles in several different systems.

    But doesn’t that mean that many mutations should affect several disparate areas? I.e., shouldn’t it be common to see mutations that affect, say, finger development and neuron formation and hair color?

    (Or perhaps we do, but mutations involving genes with a limited number of effects are easier to study, so those are the ones I hear about.)

    Is there a geneticist in the house?

  196. #196 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    The fact that he painstakingly responds to EVERY comment on his blog – though without actually reading or learning anything – indicates to me that he is a lonely, lonely man.

    It’s worse…

    As it turns out, he isn’t responding to all of the comments, just the ones that he thinks he can refute with snark.

    I reposted my comment (from last night) that had disappeared this morning. Just now when I went back and hit refresh (I left the page in another tab) to see if he had responded this time, I saw my reposted comment still there, but at least two other substantive posts which were critical (but not offensive) had been deleted.

  197. #197 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Dr. Dach is an aging New Ager with a titanic ego who is more concerned with selling than science.

    Ouch, he really shouldn’t feature his artwork so prominently. The pastels look like they were done by a marginally talented amateur, but I’m sure the blue hairs in Boca love ‘em. I wouldn’t call this an ad hominem attack since his drawing deficiencies do not speak for his ability to perform as a medical doctor.
    Of course, Salon and TV News Mags will promote him for the same reason they grant air time and column space to Sylvia Browne -to incite those who know better and to reassure the credulous, who represent the majority in this country and consume the most goods.

  198. #198 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    saw my reposted comment still there, but at least two other substantive posts which were critical (but not offensive) had been deleted.

    Who says you can’t learn anything from Conservapædi?

  199. #199 Scotty B
    January 28, 2009

    5) How can life be created by God when God is just pretend? It can’t.

  200. #200 eddie
    January 28, 2009

    Sorry to go OT but this came up on the Random Quote when I came here;

    ?I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

    [Stephen F. Roberts]

    and it struck me: That’s why we have trouble persuading some religiots towards reason!

    Many theists actually disbelieve in other gods because they think their god is the right one. This leads them to project that atheists think that our god (science, reason, whatever) is the right one and so they see atheism or science as just another rival religion.

    I think the quote above was a bit of a ‘foot shot’.

  201. #201 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    arensb @195:
    Your hypothesis is correct – genes that affect only a single element are the most frequently heard about because they’re easier to study, but many genes also affect a huge variety of different systems. The HOX (homeobox) genes are one group, and I believe PZ has a few posts on them in this blog.

    CG @179:
    Thanks :-) I’m a bit disappointed too, but fortunately it wasn’t too much of a waste – I wrote it up while I helped a friend with their physics homework. (and I almost fell out of my chair by the time I got the “Poe’s Law is still in effect” line on Dach’s blog XD)

  202. #202 Alex
    January 28, 2009

    Rey Fox, well, here’s an idea: You could begin with the beginning of my comment. Or is that too hard for you?

    Anton Mates, #123, I meant women over men. Didn’t bother to proofread since I was kind of tired.

    Cubist, #118, what are you going on about? Unlike with scientists, the only requirement for being a Creationist is that you hold certain beliefs; while I don’t know the number of female Creationists, I’m certain there are millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions depending on what form of Creationism you’re referring to. The reason there are fewer prominent female Creationists may be because Christianity discriminates against women, I honestly don’t know. However, a lack of prominent female Creationists does not imply a lack of female Creationists. If you were to ask someone name some prominent scientists, I doubt they’d list even one female (assuming, of course, the person isn’t going out of their way to name a female scientist).

    You and PZ provide evidence for the belief that feminism has resulted in many people becoming “reverse” sexists. What you said about Creationists being “mostly/entirely” white is “reverse” racism as well. Did you consider that perhaps most Creationists that you know of are white because most Christians in the U.S. are white? Again, ask someone to name some prominent scientists. I doubt they’d name any non-whites.

    People like you and PZ are oh so eager to make it seems as though scientists are a diverse group of people, but when it comes to Creationists, they’re all white males, of course.

  203. #203 daanvanrijswijk
    January 28, 2009

    “The existance of a code, or “alphabet” is a language which implies an underlying intelligence for its creation. Coded messages do not happen by random happening.”

    Freakin’ genious!
    Even man made coded messages are emergent properties of results of random happening…
    I could forgive the lack of knowledge in genetics and biochemics.
    But the sheer lack of logic.. MD?!

  204. #204 daanvanrijswijk
    January 28, 2009

    Which god created the god that created god to create a god to…
    Think!

  205. #205 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    January 28, 2009

    People like you and PZ are oh so eager to make it seems as though scientists are a diverse group of people, but when it comes to Creationists, they’re all white males, of course.

    fail

  206. #206 Howard A. Landman
    January 28, 2009

    Dach appears to have taken the genetic code argument from Dr. Werner “such a stupid” Gitt, whose magnum opus In The Beginning Was Information makes this argument at great length. Or rather, FAILS to make it, at great length. Gitt’s book contains over 50 “theorems”. What it doesn’t contain is a single proof. I don’t know about you, but where I come from (U.C. Berkeley math BA), it’s considered polite to accompany purported theorems with actual step-by-step proofs. I suppose he didn’t want to bother trying to prove any of his “theorems” because so many of them are just flat-out false.

    To give you the full flavor of Gitt’s inanity, it is sufficient to note his final conclusion: that the information in DNA was created by Jesus specifically (not God or the holy spirit). This despite the fact that Jesus didn’t exist when DNA came into existence, even by the biblical account.

    Gitt claims to define a form of information, but in fact no mathematical definition is ever given. He invokes Shannon, but whatever “Gitt information” is, it is clearly different from Shannon information. Therefore, by Shannon’s theorem which Gitt restates, Gitt information must violate one of Shannons 3 assumption, such as monotonicity. It would be hugely important to know which one, but Gitt seems blissfully unaware that there is even a question to answer there. He appears not to understand the consequences of Shannon’s theorem at all, while pretending to build on top of it.

    Of course, the origin of the genetic code is a difficult question, one that may never be completely unraveled. But we have some partial answers; we know that the code itself must have evolved (because there are at least a dozen different ones), and we know that early version must have used fewer amino acids; we can see dimly how nucleic acids may have learned to exploit the catalytically more powerful amino acids by grabbing on to them like tools (see e.g. the work of Eors Szathmary); and we know how loopy tRNA-like structure evolve spontaneously in RNA-world-like replication experiments. We still have a lot of connecting the dots to do, but there ARE some dots to connect. It is still plausible that it all happened naturally; ID proponents to the contrary, at the moment there don’t seem to be any unbridgeable gaps.

  207. #207 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    we know that the code itself must have evolved (because there are at least a dozen different ones), and we know that early version must have used fewer amino acids; [...] and we know how loopy tRNA-like structure evolve spontaneously in RNA-world-like replication experiments.

    – Howard A. Landman (above)

    That reminds me – tRNA-synthetases come in a variety of different structures. These are proteins that attach the amino acids to the tRNA structure (which the ribosome uses later).

    Pretty pics with some explanation here

    (check out more cool protein stuff from here

  208. #208 Rob St. Amant
    January 28, 2009

    Holy Smokes, check out the two comments by “Logan Strain” in the docs newer “Panties in a Twist Over Darwinism” blog post. The wooshing sound is deafening.

    He’s pretty hilarious. With apologies for copying (in case Logan cares) I’ll repost his last comment here (in case it gets deleted):

    That isn’t really fair. Intelligent Design is a perfectly legit theory. While Evolution states that life evolved through random mutations and natural selection over the course of the last three and a half billion years, Intelligent Design postulates that an unknown designer did an unknown thing to life at an unknown time through unknown means. I really don’t understand what’s so objectionable about that to scientists.

  209. #209 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Rob St. Amant @208 said:

    He’s pretty hilarious. With apologies for copying (in case Logan cares) I’ll repost his last comment here (in case it gets deleted):

    Speaking of which, I’ve got screen caps of Logan’s first comment, Dach’s reply, and Logan’s reply to that, in case they’re needed (along with the top of the page). My name @gmail.com ;-)

    (tried to export a pdf of the page, but firefox wasn’t cooperating, alas – but I have a big screen, so I still got the entire first comment in one pic)

  210. #210 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Just checked back in. My second copy of my post is still up, but unreplied to. In the meantime, several other comments have appeared and disappeared.

    Apparently he’s been studying Uncommon Descent…

  211. #211 Alex
    January 28, 2009

    Rev. BigDumbChimp, #205, no, I’m sorry, when you’re unable to detect blatant sarcasm, you’re the one who fails. It’s even more obvious given the context. That was a horrible attempt at quote mining.

  212. #212 Marion Delgado
    January 28, 2009

    Yet another science denialist I could easily replace with a Perl script.

    Too stupid to realize his pat lies have been around the block for about 20 years now.

    He didn’t like the fact that I didn’t answer all his “who” questions right away.

    If Yahweh the God of David and Moses didn’t create the genetic code, which patriarchal Earth-bound deity DID? HUH, SMART GUY? HUH?

  213. #213 Marcus Ranum
    January 28, 2009

    What a fucking idiot. If he thinks 25,000 genes is small – but believes in an intelligent designer – then he’s saying, uh, that the designer got it wrong? Why is 25,000 genes too small for evolution but just right for goddidit?

    The stupid… The stupid…

  214. #214 386sx
    January 28, 2009

    People, who made the snow in my driveway today? That was a really really lot of snow. Who made it? I want to know who (or what) is responsible for this. Who? Who? Whooooooooooo…?

  215. #215 who386sx
    January 28, 2009

    He didn’t like the fact that I didn’t answer all his “who” questions right away.

    Is that dude like, an owl or something? Who who who who who who who who who who who who whoooo…

  216. #216 Marion Delgado
    January 28, 2009

    386sx if you were to pay a crew of 10,000 people to make those snowflakes AND MAKE SURE EACH AND EVERY ONE WAS UNIQUE, you would have to spend $1 billion every hour. Yet, somehow, we’re expected to believe that random chance prevents there from being a duplication? Why wouldn’t the same initial conditions produce the same snowflake? it’s like saying rain drops are custom-made, but by chance. Can I go into some designer’s shop and say, random chance made that dress and walk out with it?

    People are ungrateful. When there’s a snow, they ask “who is going to clean it up?” not “Who gave us this snow to begin with!?”

  217. #217 Jeff Bertrand
    January 28, 2009

    I had the same experience as Brain Hertz – I posted a comment on Salon referring people back to Pharyngula to see PZ’s response, and stating that Dach’s claims had been refuted several times over. Nothing impolite, just pointing interested readers to more/better information (given Dach’s extensive list of creationist URLs)

    The post lasted a few hours, then disappeared. I’ve just tried one more time, cribbing directly from PZ’s response instead of including a URL. We’ll see…

  218. #218 dreikin
    January 28, 2009

    Marion Delgado @216:
    Well, I can’t remember where you stand on the overall subject, though I recall seeing your name several times, but just in case anyone thinks about using that to argue for ID:

    * Not all snowflakes are unique. Given the amount of snow that’s occurred on JUST Terra, and the fact that snowflakes are (roughly) bound by the properties of water crystallization, there must be quite a number of snowflakes that have been duplicated. Also, the same conditions throughout the lifetime (not just initially) of the snowflake WOULD be expected to produce the same snowflake – but coming from the same cloud does not necessitate having the same initial conditions.

    * Or, to paraphrase and translate, ‘Can I go into a nursery and say, random chance made that baby and walk out with it? Even if it was the result of a broken condom?’ Hmm..

    As far as the two who’s of snow, 1) the first person to step in it, and 2) Angels who drank too much beer on a cold day ;-)

  219. #219 Marcus Ranum
    January 28, 2009

    Where is this evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet?

    It’s right next to the one that gives you an all-powerful creator ex nihilo, tardwad.

  220. #220 Marcus Ranum
    January 28, 2009

    WTF is with all the cretards who say “couldn’t write shakespeare using randomness..” as an example against evolution?? Don’t they understand that the reason the English in Macbeth sounds a bit funny is because the English we speak today, uh, “evolved” away from what Shakespeare wrote in? And that the language Shakespeare wrote in, “evolved” from friesian dialects, germanic roots, roman-inspired latin, etc?

    It just seems really weird to try to argue against evolution using something that’s such a delicious example of adaptation over time, itself. Sure, languages don’t change through natural selection but – even William Shakespeare was, himself, a combination of randomly shuffled stuff…

    Where do these morons think they got the language that they’re using to write such foolishness? It wasn’t handed down by god, for damn sure…

    What an analogy built of pure fail.

  221. #221 E.V.
    January 28, 2009

    Where is this evolutionary algorithm that produces Hamlet?

    It’s right next to the one that gives you an all-powerful creator ex nihilo, tardwad.

    Dammit Marcus, you made me blow snot. *searches for kleenex*

  222. #222 Marcus Ranum
    January 28, 2009

    People, who made the snow in my driveway today?

    It was Fenrir!
    No, wait, maybe it was Boreas.
    Or perhaps it was Chione.
    I don’t think the Indian and African pantheon have gods specifically assigned to snow but I guess it coulda been Ganesh.

    Is there a diety of stupid? Where does all the stupid come from? That’s what I want to know. ‘Cuz I will build a little altar to the god of stupid in solidarity with all the cretards.

  223. #223 Sigmund
    January 28, 2009

    I notice he’s returned to his blog and deleted almost every question that exposed his complete ignorance of basic genetics. I’d posted one asking him about horizontal gene transfer (he thinks getting a viral sequence in your liver is horizontal gene transfer!) I also asked him to explain how his claim that gene duplication doesn’t change the information content of a cell fits in with the effects of trisomy 21 in Downs syndrome and CCL3L1 duplications in HIV resistance. This was clearly a scientific point he was asked to address. I certainly didn’t use any insulting terms in the post yet the response was so reminiscent of the textbook Uncommon Descent response to reasonable scientific points I’m beginning to wonder if DaveScot may have a new rival in internet ethical limbo dancing.

  224. #224 Marion Delgado
    January 28, 2009

    Since being deleted is a kind of prize in those “articles” I have to say that I have acquitted myself well, as did Paris Pace.

    I don’t know how open salon works, yet, not entirely. but apparently you can delete as you like.

    Who volunteers to be Dr. Dach’s Dave Scott?

    You’d get to delete posts, or even bring them back with bold face commentary. or rewrite them. or ban people and then discuss it.

  225. #225 Alan Kellogg
    January 28, 2009

    Consider this: Evolution is not measured by years, evolution is measured by generations.

  226. #226 Marion Delgado
    January 28, 2009

    Okay, my comments that he deleted:

    It’s not “panties in a twist” (and really, that shows how little interested in science Dach is, and how interested in culture warring), it’s the display of not even a high school science education that’s so unnerving. A case in point is the citation of conservapedia – it was created as a cut and paste project for fundamentalist high school students who were deliberately not being taught biology. It includes gems like the statement that neither photons nor neutrinos are found on Earth.

    A lot of the pamphlet rhetoric that Dach is regurgitating has been very patiently and definitively answered, and in most cases, repeatedly. PZ Myers is quite right about what an embarassment that “article” was. It didn’t even rise to the contortionist level of a Dembski or Behe, or even close.

    As for the New Scientist article, which was dreadful, if Dach had read it, he would have noted that the entirety of what Darwin was supposed to be “wrong” about was the tree of life early in the development OF life – that it was more of a tangled bank than a tree. But given that Darwin was only talking about the organisms for which the tree of life is well-evidenced, it’s entirely bizarre to claim he was wrong. The parallel we on the science side of the world use is to Newton. Was Newton “wrong” about light being bended in the presence of a gravitational field? Was he wrong about the laws of motion when you approach the speed of light? Was Democritus’ model of the atom wrong because it didn’t include quantum tunneling?

    The big incompletion in Darwin’s work was the lack of genetics, not his tree of life. Modern evolutionary biology includes the contributions of Darwin, Wallace, Mendel, etc. But not of Lysenko or the Discovery Institute.

    Marion Delgado
    JANUARY 28, 2009 01:47 AM

    No, I didn’t join just for you; no one designed the genetic code and using “who” is unjustified so the question itself is flawed; the mother made the typical embryo with the help of the father; the person with no science on their side, depending on name-calling (and projecting it out onto others) is you, not PZ. Hope that helps.

    Marion Delgado
    JANUARY 28, 2009 10:40 AM

    And I totally deserve a cookie for working TANGLED BANK into the first comment.

  227. #227 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Since no doubt it will shortly be deleted, I’ll copy here without further commentary the comment I just submitted over at Salon (under my screen name “Oregon Sky”):

    Well, surprisingly enough, it seems that my second copy of the same comment* has been deleted, without any kind of response from you. Since it was (entirely politely, an attribute notably lacking in your own comments) asking you to provide a basis for your very first claim, I would have expected you to be keen to provide it. Do you not stand behind your assertions?

    It appears that the same happens to many other comments here.

    Perhaps I should just send my comments here to the Salon editorial staff, since you’ll no doubt delete this as soon as it appears. There’s no reason for them not to host discussion on controversial topics, of course, but one would expect that blog owners would at least debate points raised in good faith, rather than resort to the utterly pathetic antics displayed here.

    They should be ashamed. And so should you.

    * here was my comment in its entirety, for reference. I kept a copy after the first one was deleted:

    “1) How does random change (mutation) in the genome add information to a genome to create progressively more complicated organisms? It Doesn’t.”

    This statement about information generation is false. What is your basis for the claim that random change does not generate information?

  228. #228 Brain Hertz
    January 28, 2009

    Unsurprisingly, my comment above had been deleted in the time it took me to crosspost it here.

    I guess we can add “gutless poseur” to the list.

  229. #229 Sigmund
    January 28, 2009

    Is there some sort of creationist training camp these guys are obliged to attend? I think most of us here could manage to put together a Poe that includes all the correct points – mangling thermodynamics and information theory, the 747 probability and complex eye arguments, the watchmaker and transitional fossils, claim censorship of creationist views while simultaneously censoring all scientific points that you have difficulty in addressing. The average member of the public, however, would never manage to get even close to the level of IDiocy shown by Jeffrey Dachs, not without an in depth training program. Or maybe a prefrontal lobotomy.

  230. #230 Pieter B
    January 28, 2009

    I posted three comments on DocDach’s blog tonight, none of which were impolite, though the temptation was great. All three were deleted within minutes.

  231. #231 Logan Strain
    January 29, 2009

    I can’t believe my comments are still up on his newest post. Maybe he really doesn’t understand when someone is poking fun of him.

  232. #232 Pieter B
    January 29, 2009

    Too bad you didn’t work “Intelligent Falling” into that marvelous send-up.

  233. #233 Linda
    January 29, 2009

    I also posted three non-offensive comments on Dach’s blog yesterday which despite being printed at first, rapidly disappeared.

  234. #234 Anton Mates
    January 29, 2009

    Intelligent Designer | January 28, 2009 5:44 AM
    Randy,

    I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics. Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from. If I want to communicate the results of a million flips of an unbiased coin it will take 1 million bit of information. However, that information will have no sematic meaning.

    I have a master’s degree in mathematics, and information theory pays virtually no attention to semantic meaning.

    Do you think it’s possible that people with degrees and research experience in biology maybe know more than either of us about what random mutation + natural selection can accomplish? Just maybe?

  235. #235 Stephen Wells
    January 29, 2009

    Paul Revere received a message containing one bit of information (one lamp or two?). Quantify the semantic meaning of the message :)

  236. #236 slpage
    January 29, 2009

    I’ve left 3 messages for Dach in the comments section, but they all disappear after an hour or so. I didn’t violate any rules, as far as I can tell. Anyone else having a problem like this?

  237. #237 Steve_C
    January 29, 2009

    It’s not a problem. It’s craven deleting of posts he doesn’t like.

  238. #238 Paris Pace
    January 29, 2009

    Hi all you troublemakers! :)

    Thank you, Prof. Myers and those who commented at Open Salon for addressing this doctor’s continued lies. I was outraged that someone who is trained in medical sciences could be so intellectually dishonest in the presentation of information.

    (btw, Open Salon, or OS, is simply a blog spot that is hosted by Salon)

    Because Dachs can put “MD” after his name, I thought he would have some allegiance to the scientific method and to the validity of peer-reviewed sources. I held him to a higher standard than a Sean Hannity wannabe. Unfortunately, he has shown that he is simply a hack with an agenda that has nothing to do with science and everything to do with the lies to promote a political agenda.

    I’m sure I missed many good comments because I stopped checking his blog after he deleted every comment I posted – but the point was made to anyone who has any ethical foundation or grounding in basic science that the guy is an utter and total hack. He is a one man National Enquirer in regard to evolution.

    I’m surprised Bat Boy didn’t make a appearance in pictures, right below the picture of an embryo (which, to me, revealed the agenda behind his lies – he must be anti-choice – which is yet another reason to know he deserved the intellectual whup ass he got.

  239. #239 Linda
    January 29, 2009

    Heh. If you get one post through, then post another comment he doesn’t like he goes back through and deletes *all* your posts. How childish.

  240. #241 OsakaGuy
    January 29, 2009

    Oh man, it looks like Logan’s comments finally got the axe, including the beautiful reply from the Doc thanking Logan for his insightful comments. HO HO HO. I’m glad Dreikin saved them.

    Dreikin you should post them somewhere for others to see!

    Thanks.

  241. #242 Paris Pace
    January 29, 2009

    I saved the comment too on a post about him.

    http://open.salon.com/content.php?cid=94361

    Just so you know… he didn’t figure out he had been taken down on his own. He didn’t delete the comment until I posted it, and his reply, in my comments to save for posterity (and even then I edited for brevity.)

    fwiw, someone informed me that he is a scientologist. this explains his cultish behavior.

    did he really threaten to sue?

    he already has a defense ready because he claims the Dover trial was “fixed” ala O.J. – which means the “bad doctor” has to ignore every scientific body that has weighed in on the subject.

    he also expressed his reason for insisting on promoting his lies (this is a paraphrase) – because children are growing up and learning about randomness and this deprives them of a purpose for life.

    in other words, his entire argument is creationism. yet he claims he is not a creationist.

    one “fact” that assures me of god’s non-existence is that people like him do not spontaneously combust after spreading lies “for our own good.”

  242. #243 Ethanol
    January 29, 2009

    Interesting… After my deleting my previous post questioning his understanding of the very concept of science, he let my re-post, complete with an accusation of censorship, stand. He even responded, kindly telling me that I was wrong but he didn’t have time to explain why.

  243. #244 sconnor
    January 30, 2009

    Yep, he erased one of my posts and his answer to it and then he censored my second post.

    Here is my first post:

    Dr. Dach

    Dach — Although religious fanatics on school boards seem to be the only proponents of Intelligent Design in the classroom, I.D. is not a religion. Discussing I.D. in the classroom is not the act of practicing a religion.

    S — I suggest that you do a little more research on the subject matter before you splatter ignorance all over the web again.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District#Decision

    Please review the findings and decisions made at the Dover trial. You will see that ID is religious and is just a thinly veiled redo of creationism. Your ignorance — in this matter — is staggering.

    This was my second:

    Dach — I have spent many hours reading the documents, so I am well aware of the courts ruling which was politically motivated

    S — And how was it politically motivated?

    Additionally, I highly doubt you spent many hours reading the documents and if you did you did not digest the information. How do you reconcile the findings with regard to creationist books being used where all they did was substitute creationism for ID?

    Dach — Courts have an uncanny way of coming to the wrong verdict, so I wouldn’t consider them to be entirely reliable sources. Example, the OJ verdict can be cited as an example of the court’s verdict at variance with the events.

    S — Non-sequitur. Just because other court decisions have been in error does not erase the validity of the findings from the Dover case. This is your only argument? It’s nothing but a diverging tactic where you don’t have to argue the Dover trials findings, which tells me you are simply ignoring them so you can be secure in your feeble religious beliefs.

    Dach — In my opinion, a discussion in school about the idea of an intelligent design is a philosophical discussion.

    S — Well, good, then we are in agreement, it is not science and it shouldn’t be taught as science, correct? What ID boils down to is “god did it”. All the other Philosophical arguments are nothing but an extension of that one argument — whether you allow yourself to see it or not, it is religious in origin.

    Bottom line, either you have been hoodwinked by the pro-ID movement or you are in cahoots with them, to push a silly superstition. You are ignorantly, validating a philosophy that doesn’t deserve to even be heard. While you are at it, why not have discussions about alchemy, in lieu of chemistry, and let’s have students discuss the merits of astrology over astronomy and you might as well let pre-med students discuss the validity of phrenology in relation to neuroscience.

    Point is, the discussion has already taken place. Science has already acquired mounds of evidence, in support of evolution, in several differing scientific fields. Stacks of peer-reviewed science papers and the consensus of the majority of scientists have determined ID to have ZERO credibility. Teaching ID, (just like astrology, alchemy or phrenology) would be a monumental waste of time and would be a major disservice to educating our youth.

    You have simply bought into — hook, line and sinker — the “teach the controversy” claptrap, perpetrated by religionist, like the Discovery Institute, that only have one goal in mind — to get their Christian PHILOSOPHY taught in public schools. And evidently, you are one of their lackeys, who is blindly shoveling this crap. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    And here is my third (no doubt to be censored) post:

    S — Now you are a massive hypocrite. You grandstand — trumpeting the virtues of philosophical discussion in public schools and yet posts are being censored left and right. I know my posts were within the parameters of the website and many others have made the same observation — what are you afraid of? You need to take a good, hard, look at your world-view.

    –S.

  244. #245 kjg28
    January 30, 2009

    As a medical student I am appalled by this. Luckily about 85% of the students in my medical school class are atheist/agnostic and DO believe in evolution. But that could be due to the fact that I am at one of the top 3 medical schools in the country. At least there’s some hope for physicians though.

  245. #246 kjg28
    January 30, 2009

    As a medical student I am appalled by this. Luckily about 85% of the students in my medical school class are atheist/agnostic and DO believe in evolution. But that could be due to the fact that I am at one of the top 3 medical schools in the country. At least there’s some hope for physicians though.

  246. #247 Linda
    January 30, 2009

    @sconner
    Yup, looks like he deleted your post a few minutes ago. He must have ‘not had time to answer it’.

  247. #248 Bosch's Poodle
    January 30, 2009

    I tried responding to the bad doctor’s post, about 5 responses in all, and he deleted every last one of them. As you would expect.

  248. #249 Bosch's Poodle
    January 30, 2009

    I post, without additional comment, the entirety of one of his recent blog posts:

    What if there was a new people who lived forever and never had to eat, breathe, or eliminate. They would all love each other and never fight. There would be no cancer or other disease since the healing powers of the body would heal everything. What if….

  249. #250 Bosch's Poodle
    January 30, 2009

    Wow, PZ. He says he’s going to sue you for criticizing him. There we have it, final proof he’s a Scientologist.

  250. #251 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 30, 2009

    Is is possible the “98%” are genes/etc that we no longer use… I mean, bits of old information from times past that we have stopped using, like the blueprints for a fully-functioning appendix? I’m just curious. And is it really 98% we don’t use, or a lot that we simply haven’t accounted for the uses of (ie genes only turned on when in extreme environments, as a fetus, as a [insert obscure cell type here], etc)

    Over half of the genome consists of retrovirus corpses in various stages of decay. Obviously, they serve no useful purpose (for us).

    Most of the rest is repetitive (think GAGAGAGAGAGAGAGAGA a few million times); looks like the result of copying errors.

    Pseudogenes — stretches of DNA that can be recognized as former genes which are corrupted, like that broken gene in the vitamin C synthesis pathway — make up 10 % of the human genome as far as known today two years ago or so.

    I forgot the exact figure, but there’s less than 15 % of the entire human genome that could potentially do anything (mostly gene regulation).

    There is one function that junk DNA does have: cell size is (to some extent) correlated to genome size, so the size of the genome has an influence on things like the speed of the metabolism. But for that it’s completely irrelevant what the junk actually is. It’s a bit how like alternative splicing requires the existence of introns, but makes few constraints on their size and none on their composition (except of course they shouldn’t contain a start codon preceded by a TATA box and a promoter and so on…).

    People like you and PZ are oh so eager to make it seems as though scientists are a diverse group of people, but when it comes to Creationists, they’re all white males, of course.

    fail

    WTF, Right Rev? Do Turks not count as white in the USA!?! Then how about people from southern France!?!

    This despite the fact that Jesus didn’t exist when DNA came into existence, even by the biblical account.

    You’ve missed a big chunk of Christian theology: the preexistence of Jesus. You see, Jesus is “begotten, not created” (Nicene Creed), and the one who (alone) begets in Aristotelian philosophy is the man. So, the whole Trinity is eternal, and what happened was that Jesus became flesh, not that he started existing.

    The same concept, BTW, exists in Islam, except there the Word of God became ink on paper, not flesh: the Master Copy of the Qur’?n — “spoken, not created” — is eternal and lies around in heaven, and what happened is that it got dictated, not that it started existing.

    Funny things happen when you try to apply logic to religion.

  251. #252 Marion Delgado
    January 30, 2009

    Neither PZ nor I nor anyone else dealing with Dach actually descended to name-calling.

    http://planetologist.net/2009/01/29/another-physician-displays-crippling-ignorance-about-evolution/

    The planetologist gives him an indication of what [i]tending[/i] to name-calling would be.

    Seriously, though. I often say I could replace denialists with a Perl script. I think it’s time to look into it. I may start registering accounts for a denialism bot.

  252. #253 Sven DiMilo
    January 30, 2009

    a new people who lived forever and never had to eat, breathe, or eliminate

    A thermodynamics denialist!

  253. #254 E.V.
    January 30, 2009

    a new people who lived forever and never had to eat, breathe, or eliminate…

    …or cogitate, feel, hear, smell, taste, see…

  254. #255 Marion Delgado
    January 30, 2009

    “I have a Masters degree in applied mathematics. Information theory is a branch of applied math and I know exactly where you are comming from. If I want to communicate the results of a million flips of an unbiased coin it will take 1 million bit of information. However, that information will have no sematic meaning.”

    The other thing is, what if there are enough sections where a randomly created meaningful pattern exists (in a million flips) such that you’d be able to tell someone in advance that the first 10 or 100 bits of your representation were simply coding where the compressed information was and selecting from a menu of patterns?

    To theoretically convey all potential million flips results, yes, you’d simply reproduce them. But most actual flips would contain at least some patterns long enough to raise the possibility of usefully representing them with fewer than a million bits.

    Also, to what degree would you want to represent the flips? Maybe describing it as a typical random result with, however, a really long chain of heads after the 567,244th flip, and an odd HTHTHT that went on for 14 flips right near the end would be enough.

    That’s the flip side – sorry – of randomity. Think of the bulk of the flips as junk DNA if you want. Anyway, it’s a quasi-pointless example, however you slice it.

  255. #256 Africangenesis
    January 31, 2009

    #255, run length encoding should work well.

  256. #257 Marion Delgado
    February 1, 2009

    Looking at PZ’s latest post, I would say we’re all on the same page, and that’s all independently.

    I guess years of gagging on Dembski’s nonsense has actually helped us all get a better handle on information theory and probability.

  257. #258 Marion Delgado
    February 17, 2009

    We have another M.D. spouting off against evolution using bogus creationist arguments. Jeffrey Dach may also be embarrassing lefty-liberal types, since his page is hosted on Salon. It’s very confused and poorly argued.

    Actually, PZ called that, too. Dach’s in general very liberal/progressive and also seems like a nice guy. He’s just very gullible about woo, very unwilling to think or criticize and even not very bright when it comes to the science outside his field he comments on. If he were a more Christiany guy and less New Agey, he’d be like Jimmy Carter’s liberal evangelical base, IMO.

    So it’s a little embarassing, to the degree I mentally equate conservative with stupid.

  258. #259 hery
    January 25, 2010

    The question is which is the case for biological evolution, and the track record of irreducible complexity claims is not a good one

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