Not enough info for your brain (was Re: Dawkins video)

Glenn R. Morton (
Mon, 15 Jun 1998 19:52:41 -0500

At 02:13 PM 6/15/98 GMT, David J. Tyler wrote:
>The forwarded message below was sent to me with permission to post it
>in this forum. My own attempt to put a response together has been
>beaten by lack of time, so I am glad to send something! Glenn should
>note that some of us do not accept that certain mathematical
>formulations of information theory have a direct bearing on the issue
>of biologic information and complexity. They are appropriate in
>their own context, but their relevance to biological issues has not
>been demonstrated.

A comment on the last sentence. Yockey has shown the relevance in his book
Information Theory and Molecular Biology, which is often quoted by
anti-evolutionists. They seem to accept its relevance.

>------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
>Carl Wieland's comment on Glenn Morton's claim that the
>information question has been answered:
>It would seem that the technical definition of information is
>somewhat outmoded. For a clearer picture of the difference between
>real information and the statistical level (which
> is the subject of Claude Shannon's useful, but inadequate theory), I
>suggest you read the book by Werner Gitt, who is a specialist in
>information science, and more than familiar with the issues.

Nearly everything done in geophysics is based on information theory.
Shannon's view is not outmoded but it is nice to get Weiland's take on this.

It is called
>'In the Beginning was Information'. Gitt is Professor and Director (BTW,
>Professor in Germany is not like the US definition where every junior
>lecturer is a professor) at the Federal Institute of Physics and
>Technology. Also, you could usefully read Spetner's book (the one shown in
>the video.) It admittedly does not go into the technical details like
>Gitt's. Spetner, who has looked at all the biological examples usually
>cited of 'evolution happening', (and declared that in each case the point
>mutation causes an information loss) studied signal/noise relationships in
>DNA as a Johns Hopkins fellow, and has published on the subject in the
>Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical biology.

Why is there no reference with this? No one can check him out if he
doesn't give references. It always gets me when people make statements that
can't be verified, like this above.

Dawkins' neo-Darwinism insists that random mutations
>filtered by selection have raised the information in the biosphere (and in
>lines of phyletic descent). As Spetner points out, to have a net increase
>in information, one needs to demonstrate that the processes one is relying
>upon to generate this are capable of individually increasing information.
>Going back to when there were no feathers or lungs, one could double and
>triple all the chromosomes one likes, or merge two lots of information from
>all the protozoa then existing, there still would be no increase in
>information overall.

Once again no definition of what Weiland means by information. He needs to
give one, a mathematical definition or point us to an article that he is

I would point out that creationists claim that information is necessary for
everything biological. But there is not enough information in the DNA to
define the wiring diagram of your brain. Each brain has about 10^10 neurons
each with an average of 10000 dendrites (branches). (Michael C. Corballis,
The Lopsided Ape, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 71-72;
Terrance W. Deacon, "The Human Brain," in S. Jones et al, editors, The
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution, (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 1992), p. 115)

Some neurons have many more than this.

"Each Purkinje neuron has an enormous DENDRITIC APPARATUS, which spreads
like a fan above a bulb-like cell body. A typical Purkinje cell may form
as many as 100,000 synapses with other neurons, more than any other neuron
studied. Each Purkinje neuron also emits a slender AXON, which connects to
other cells in the deep cerebellar nuclei.
" The development of spatial organization, then, is critical for the
proper functioning of the cerebellum. all impulses eventually regulate the
activity of the Purkinje cells, which are the only output neurons of the
cerebellar cortex." ~ Scott F. Gilbert, Developmental Biology, 3rd ed.
(Sunderland: Sinauer Assoc. 1991), p. 169.

In order to define the wiring of the brain, you have to give the starting
and ending position of each neuron. This means 3 numbers(x,y,z) for each
end or 6 numbers for each dendrite. This means that you need 10^10 x 10000
x 6 = 600,000,000,000,000 numbers to determine how your brain is wired.
But the human DNA has only 3,500,000,000 nucleotides. If you have only 1
nucleotide per number (and for the kind of precision required one needs
several nucleotides to determine each x, y, and z) you need approximately
170,000 times more information to determine the brain's wiring diagram than
is contained in the entire human dna!

So where does this information come from? What most biologists believe is
that each brain is the result of various parts competing for connections in
an evolutionary competion. Given the fact that there is not enough info for
your brain, have you considered that they might be correct?


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