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

Brian D Harper (
Wed, 17 Jun 1998 14:42:21 -0400

At 06:18 AM 6/17/98 -0500, Glenn wrote:
>At 12:20 AM 6/17/98 -0700, Greg Billock wrote:
>>> I agree, but it flies in the face of the argument presented by Intelligent
>>> design folks as proof that information is necessary for evolution to

>>In the simplest case, for sure. Taking into account environmental
>>'information' seems more of a hard job than DNA information, even, so
>>it's hard to see what would come of such an attempt. Perhaps it would
>>be fruitful, though.

>but if you have information in the environment affecting development and
>morphology, then you are an evolutionist. :-) This is precisely what the ID
>folks are trying to evolve. And besides, information in the environment is
>fluid as opposed to their concept of a static set of info in the DNA.

Glenn, I think this is overly simplistic and unfair. There are a
number of creationists with background in developmental biology
and I find it hard to believe they don't understand the importance
of context in development.

I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) your conclusion comes from
the following type of argument: Against the claim that irreducible
complexity cannot arise by natural mechanisms someone gives the
counter example of the development of an oak from a seed. The
counter to this is that the development is directed by an
intelligently designed irreducibly complex genetic program. The
fault here lies in not thinking carefully enough about the
answer. In my understanding of ID, the cell and its biochemical
machinery is irreducibly complex and thus designed. Thus, from
the ID point of view both the genetic information and its context
(the cell) are part of the irreducibly complex system.

Truth be known, I believe the type things you and Greg are
discussing are at least as problematic (probably more so)
for the ultra-Darwinian. Here the concept of a genetic
program which directs development seems to me to be crucial.
I haven't kept any statistics on this, but my reading
suggests that an inordinately large proportion of anti-Darwinist
evolutionists come from a background of developmental or structural
biology. Is this coincidental? I don't think so. Come to think
of it, I found out something about Denton that I hadn't
known previously. For some reason I thought his training was
in molecular biology, but according to the jacket of his
new book his PhD is in developmental biology. Another data
point :).

>>> much like a message in a known language, with chemicals acting as letters
>>> and combining in defined sequences to form words, phrases, and sentences.
>>> The 'message' is decoded by the cell much the same way the dots and dashes
>>> of messages in Morese Code cann be decoded by anyone who knows
>>> it."~Percival Davis and Dean H. Kenyon, Of Pandas and People, (Dallas:
>>> Haughton Publishing Co., 1993), p. 6
>>As we've been saying, this is a hyper-simplistic view. (Even
>>in 1993.) Cells are tuned for the DNA they want to 'decode' and the
>>DNA builds up some of the decoding mechanism itself (meaning there is
>>a kind of blurriness about code and decoder).
>But this is there argument that it is too complex to have occurred and
>required a designer. While I agree that the universe had a Designer, I
>think the design was much more subtle than the way we humans design. In
>other words, they are anthropomorphizing God's technique of design.

On this we agree. In fact, if we are discussing design in the
engineering sense I think organisms are much too complex to
have been designed.

Brian Harper
Associate Professor
Applied Mechanics
The Ohio State University

"It appears to me that this author is asking
much less than what you are refusing to answer"
-- Galileo (as Simplicio in _The Dialogue_)