Re: [asa] Re: [asa] Rejoinder 6D From Timaeus for Iain Strachan, Jon Tandy and Others

From: Iain Strachan <>
Date: Tue Oct 21 2008 - 08:36:11 EDT

Perhaps I can expand on the point I made in the last post of the error
of comparing DNA with a computer code like Word Perfect or Quattro

I simply don't think it's a valid comparison at all, because the
essential difference is between parallel and serial operation.

A program like Word Perfect is, as I said before, a set of algorithms,
which operate sequentially on a computer. A single CPU operates one
instruction at a time and then moves onto the next instruction in the
list, or jumps elsewhere in the code (if the last instruction was a
jump instruction). Modern CPU's can do a certain degree of
parallelism by "pipelining" instructions, but the effect is the same
as if they were executed sequentially.

If a program like Word Perfect suffers a "mutation" to a critical bit
of code, then the whole operation will stall - the program may crash,
or "hang" in an infinite loop.

However, with DNA operation, in addition to my point that it's not
running an algorithm based on executing instructions, it is also the
case that all sorts of different things are all happening in
parallel. In some cases the nucleotide sequence is being employed to
transcribe onto RNA the blueprint for a protein. In other cases,
inhibitor proteins are binding onto the recognized parts of the chain
in order to switch off replication etc. This is replicated billions
of times over the body in all the different cells. The operation is
intrinsically parallel in nature (and much of it is to do with
pattern recognition of specific sequences of nucleotides). A
well-known property of "massively parallel" computing systems (and,
yes, neural nets can be implemented as a massively parallel
architecture), is that they exhibit "graceful degradation". They are
fault-tolerant, in that if you blow out one bit of the system, the
rest of the system can still carry on (albeit somewhat less

Hence a zap of a bit of such a massively parallel system isn't going
to have the disastrous effect that it would if you did that to the
code of Word Perfect, and the analogy is quite false.

We really need to drop the analogy between DNA and Computer code if
we're to get anywhere, or at least to recognize its limitations. The
only similarity between the two is that the underlying code is
digital. But the digital code is _data_ not program. One wouldn't
call, for example, the sequence of bits on an audio CD a "program".


On Tue, Oct 21, 2008 at 2:18 AM, John Walley <> wrote:
>> Rejoinder 6D From Timaeus for Iain Strachan, Jon Tandy
>> and Others
>> If someone is writing code for Word
>> Perfect, and makes a mistake in one line, you don't get
>> Quattro Pro as a result. What you get is Word Perfect with
>> some feature disabled, or Word Perfect that is busted and
>> won't launch at all. The thought that Word Perfect
>> might, given a couple of billion years, evolve into Quattro
>> Pro through a series of inadvertent errors by programmers,
>> and during all the intervening stages function acceptably as
>> various other sorts of computer program ..., is so preposterous that
>> no one with any education in computer programming would
>> accept it as a possibility.
> This flawed anolgy reveals the blindspot and weakness of the "strong" ID argument. It shows a stubborn insistence on God only being involved in the end results (Word Perfect and Quattro Pro) but not in between.
> Granted if I wrote intelligent program A and then subjected to random mutations of the code which would almost surely be deleterious it would not result in intelligent program B. But no one who accepts TE is suggesting this.
> If however as a programmer, I wrote supernaturally intelligent program A, that had the embedded design to anticipate changes (even random ones) and use those changes to possibly alter my program A's behavior, it is impossible to rule out the possibility that I may wind up with intelligent program B, without knowing what the supernatural intelligence was that was embedded, which we can't know.
> But you can't deny that as a programmer I have the ability to write a program that modifies its behavior at runtime based on external inupts. We see this everyday.
> This is what TE is saying and the strong ID crowd refuses to see it.
> Thanks
> John
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Received on Tue Oct 21 08:36:31 2008

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