Re: Comments on Snoke's approach

From: Cornelius Hunter <ghunter2099@sbcglobal.net>
Date: Thu Sep 22 2005 - 23:22:28 EDT

      What about evolution? Anti-evolution literature often includes someone saying that the probability of occurrence is so low that it couldn't have happened. The simplest form is considering DNA as the random sequence of any of the 4 nucleotides and calculating the probability of a particular sequence occurring. Of course that number is infinitesimal but it has no meaning. On the one hand, DNA doesn't get assembled by a totally random concatenation of nucleotides. On the other, low probability doesn't mean it can't happen. We have to understand the bigger picture of what the possibilities are. One could argue effectively that once there exists a reproducing organism, the probability that in time there would be a vast diverse range of species is close to unity. Far less well understood is the generation of such an initial living reproducing organism from non-organic material. We don't know enough to say it couldn't have happened any more than we can say it was bound to happen.

      Randy
Randy:

I think you make a good point that the probability arguments are often poorly formed. For instance, a 100 residue protein theoretically has 20^100 possible sequences, so the chances of hitting on that sequence are 1 in 20^100. Therefore evolution must be false, right? Wrong. On the other hand, I think we need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The fact that some folks have promoted bogus probability arguments does not mean there is no problem. In fact, there is a big problem. For instance, you mentioned that "DNA doesn't get assembled by a totally random concatenation of nucleotides."

Yes, this is true, but this is because DNA doesn't just "get assembled" period. This is not something that conveniently tends to occur in warm puddles. The assembly of DNA occurs in extremely controlled, contrived environments with very clever machinery. It is not natural (to use a loaded term). This is one of the reasons those probability arguments are bogus. They allow for the random assembly of minor parts of the cell, such as a protein, or a segment of DNA, without accounting for the dilution factors and other reasons why such assembly is unlikely, and even if it did occur, would not go anywhere.

One could (miraculously) have the entire complement of my DNA spontaneously form in a warm puddle, and yet nothing would ever come of it. One could even have all the organelles spontanously appears, again, it would all just degrade.

And yet you wrote: "We don't know enough to say it couldn't have happened any more than we can say it was bound to happen." I certainly agree that we do not know everything, but I do not think it would be accurate to put these two possibilities on equal footing. While we are in the dark about many complexities of the cell, I'm not sure how one would defend the claim that our knowledge is neutral with respect to this question. Frankly, science is clear on this.

You also said that "One could argue effectively that once there exists a reproducing organism, the probability that in time there would be a vast diverse range of species is close to unity." Again, I don't know how one could defend this. Everything we understand about population genetics and adaptation points to limits to adaptation. And there is no effective argument for how the intricate complexities in biology could have arisen from a single cell. All we have are broad speculations based on the presupposition that evolution has occurred.

--Cornelius
Received on Thu Sep 22 23:27:27 2005

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