Re: [asa] Artificial molecule evolves in the lab

From: David Clounch <>
Date: Sat Jan 10 2009 - 22:49:56 EST


On Fri, Jan 9, 2009 at 12:44 PM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:

> Perhaps overclaiming, but still not without implication I think, even
> though it is basically a subset of an RNA or RNA-like structure, as I
> understand it. I first heard of this yesterday on NPR (All Things Considered
> - listen at
> ). You can hear a little more of the sense of what happened in the
> interview.
I wish I had a computer that has audio. Sadly, I havent installed linux
drivers for audio.

> In the mention of complexity, I was simply alluding to the entropy argument
> often advanced broadly by the creationist community.
I sort of suspected that. And you may be correct that the creationists think
complexity is an anti-evolutionist argument. But that misunderstanding of
theirs has nothing to do with Dembski or Behe or any of the IDT thinkers who
never said any such thing.

>When folks talk so simply about the vector space, those discussions often
seem so incomplete to me, apparently ignoring the various mechanisms of
selection that are operative in the real case.

I know. I dont know how to describe it any better. Here's how I think. I
had in mind a state space that includes the possible states of all
particles. The space is partially populated with real particles with real
states, but they are always changing of course.

If we were describing this in a computer (if it were possible to do so) then
we could take a snapshot of all the particles at time t. The snapshot would
contain all the actual particles at that time. At time t-1 the previous
snaphot would contain almost the same population. But if it did not contain
certain molecules it would contain the precursor molecules. (Which are most
likely reactants?) So if we had enough snapshots we could play a movie of
how chemicals form other chemicals. Thats the way I think of a liquid soup
of molecules or a gas of molecules. But thats the actual population.
There's also the states that aren't occupied, but that could become
populated. We could make movies of that too!

 This has nothing per se to do with selection. To select something the
thing being selected must first exist.

>The mutations are only one necessary half of the evolutionary process. The
other is the complementary part that "challenges" the mutational products
with respect to robustness or functionality or???

I wouldnt disagree.

What Behe was trying to point out, as I think of his book (and I could be
wrong), is that if to meet a selection rule you need 20 parts, then indeed
all 20 parts must be present. And if just one is missing the rule isn't
invoked. Now why would analyisis of complexity come into it? Well, one
could postulate that only 19 parts are actually needed. But that would be a
different rule. I think whats being proposed there by Behe's objectors is
that Rule #1 with 19 parts easily leads to Rule #2 with 20 parts. Behe's
argument isnt that the combination of Rule #1 followed by Rule #2 is too
complex. Although one could look at that, and it needs to be calculated.
His argument is the entire population containing Rule #1 died before Rule #2
could be concatenated/combined with Rule #1.
To disprove Behe's hypothesis what one is supposed to do is show that Rule
#2, which requires all 20 parts, is not fatal to the organism. That
supposedly ought to be easy to do. But instead what we usually hear is
that Behe is merely saying the 20 parts are too complex, and he is thus
making a complexity argument. And, that Behe is thus presenting an
inherently false hypothesis. But that wasn't his argument! His argument
was that the 20 parts were necessary. I don't see why that makes him evil,
even if creationists do misunderstand him. The man believes in common
descent. That makes him anaethema to anti-evolutionists. So I see the mud
slinging that his hypothesis is some form of creationism as extraordinarily
unfair and suspect.

>And just repeat an earlier question that I have posed from time to time,
without much in the way of response, ...what might be the most simple
explanation we can think of to explain the enormity of Creation other than
to render more probable, or give greater opportunity to the unlikely??

On the enormity of creation:

Remember Carl Sagan's movie with Jodie Foster? I remember the repeated
remarks about "there is all that stuff out there". Meaning we humans are
totally insignificant and irrelevant. I cringed because it is sooooo stupid.
In reality there isnt all that much stuff out there. But there is a lot, and
some physicists (whose names I wont mention) have tried to show that one
needs at least that much material in order to have even a tiny finite
probability of having even one earth-like planet. If thats true, then, for
me, it all fits. if I were building a universe I'd do pretty much the same
thing as what has happened. Wouldn't you? Even God would! So cosmological
evolution doesn't argue against Christianity. And never did so. The fact
that Sagans followers and the YECers happen to agree on some fantasy view of
a fake Christianity....? Well, what are we to do with them? Like
contractors, they are too big to lob into a dumpster. (To quote Dilbert). :)

May I ask, do I sound like some kind of creationist?

-Dave C


David Clounch wrote:


You seem to be saying this report has implications. If so, I think you are

Can you point to someone who made the argument about complexity that you
claim to refute? It wasn't Behe's argument, for example. Might have been
someone else's. But who? You are probably correct that someone out there
does make such a claim but why does that matter? I'd be willing to bet that
it isn't anti-evolutionists who make this claim about complexity, but the
anti-anti-evolutionists (who arent the same thing as pro-evolutionists,
whatever that might be) who are putting words into the mouths of

This is why it is important to put the report, and it's implications, if
there are any, in the context of an actual claim about the phenomena of
complexity when one uses it.

I don't think the report has any implications that can be applied to the
claims of groups. It's a real stretch.

Am I making any sense?

Now, down to what I think of the report. I think the approach of Mike Gene
is correct. A bunch of engineers came up with a mechanism that might or
might not occur in nature all on its own. So engineering principles were

I also think of it mathematically. The reported mechanism is a vector in a
space consisting of all possible mechanisms. The engineers populated part of
that space that previously was empty. To me, thats all normal. It doesn't
address the question asked by Behe. The question asked by Behe has to do
with whether a set of curved lines in that space are all likely to
intersect at a certain point. Is there a solution? Might be. But Behe never
claimed the math proves there is no solution. He merely said it is not
likely for there to be a natural process that produces the solution. So it
is reasonable to believe that it takes engineering to create the
intersection. To refute this, and show that it is not reasonable to believe
there must be engineering, one has to show either that the solution is
necessary, or that it is likely in the absence of engineering.
The report has nothing to do with either. If anything, the report supports
Mike Gene's assertions about engineering. (but I already said that above,
didn't I?).


On Sat, Jan 10, 2009 at 9:38 AM, Jim Armstrong <> wrote:

> This has the apparent effect of conclusively negating a pivotal
> anti-evolutionist argument to the effect that more complex entities cannot
> evolve from less complex - JimA [Friend of ASA]
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Received on Sat Jan 10 22:50:31 2009

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