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Not by Chance!
by Dr Spetner

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Feedback archiveFeedback 2005, 2008

CMI and Spetner questioned on soundness of science

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In Vol. 20, Issue 3 of Creation, the article “How would you answer” states that mutations don’t add information. Lee Spetner, who I have not found biographical information on, says that point mutations in DNA cannot add information. I would say that they can, because point mutations are “alterations of a single base in a DNA sequence.” This usually means that a nucleotide is being switched with another, not deleted. These are either replacement or silent substitutions, depending on the phenotypic effect. Also, there are loss-of-function mutations. These result from the addition or deletion of single or sets of base-pairs into a DNA sequence. This can knock out some genes, but they can also add new functions where there once were none. Thus, the article was not scientifically sound. I do not understand why your website does not present the most accurate information available. Please explain why this is.

R.P.
USA


In Vol. 20, Issue 3 of Creation, the article “How would you answer” states that mutations don’t add information. Lee Spetner, who I have not found biographical information on,

Are you implying that because you could not find any ‘biographical information’, that Dr Spetner is not bona fide? I don’t think you looked very hard. If you searched Pubmed for papers published by Dr Spetner you would find a number, which include his affiliation at the time of writing the papers. Furthermore, you will find some biographical information about Dr Spetner on this website in our review of Not By Chance!

says that point mutations in DNA cannot add information.

Spetner does not actually say that, quite like that. He does say that the likelihood of it happening is so remote that it cannot be the mechanism that could have generated the encyclopedic quantities of information of all living creatures. It is just possible that some trivial cases of increased information could occur amongst the billions of mutations that occur (see some caveats at Weasel, a flexible program for investigating deterministic computer ‘demonstrations’ of evolution, The adaptation of bacteria to feeding on nylon waste and The Unsuitability of B-Cell Maturation as an Analogy for Neo-Darwinian Theory).

[Spetner] says that anyone who thinks that an accumulation of mutations (information-losing processes) can lead to macroevolution (a massive net gain of information) ‘is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.’

But the problem is that the process is overwhelmingly negative (information loss). He says that anyone who thinks that an accumulation of mutations (information-losing processes) can lead to macroevolution (a massive net gain of information) ‘is like the merchant who lost a little money on every sale but thought he could make it up on volume.’

I would say that they can, because point mutations are “alterations of a single base in a DNA sequence.” This usually means that a nucleotide is being switched with another, not deleted. These are either replacement or silent substitutions, depending on the phenotypic effect. Also, there are loss-of-function mutations. These result from the addition or deletion of single or sets of base-pairs into a DNA sequence. This can knock out some genes, but they can also add new functions where there once were none. Thus, the article was not scientifically sound.

It is clear that you do not understand the concept of information (specified complexity), in spite of it having been explained on this website and elsewhere (Spetner also explains it, so clearly you have not read his book, although you cite what he supposedly says). Please see: Is the design explanation legitimate? and How is information content measured?

I just wanted to thank you for the careful and technically accurate work you do. The articles addressing the mechanics of the Flood and the problems with the geologic timescale are particularly helpful to me.

I am a geology major at Pacific Lutheran University and struggle constantly with the evolution based theories taught in every class. Though PLU has a Christian heritage it can no longer honestly lay claim to Biblical Christianity.

So I am very grateful for your newsletter and website reminding me why I fell in love with geology in the first place and that there are scientists out there who believe in the Creation and the Flood.

Thank you.
Rachelle Nordman
USA

This link might be a little difficult, so here is a brief explanation as to why addition of a nucleotide base to a gene does not necessarily add information. The information on the DNA is like written language: the sequence of base pairs, like the letters in written language, codes for something meaningful (often an amino acid sequence for a protein, like insulin or hemoglobin). Take the sentence: ‘The cat sat off the mat’ (the choice of 3-letter words was deliberate, because it reflects the triplet genetic code, explained below). Now let us insert a letter (like a base insertion in DNA): ‘The ciat sat off the mat.’ The sentence now has an extra letter. Does it now have more information? No, it is basically meaningless; it no longer specifies anything meaningful. The insertion has destroyed the information, not added to it. Actually, it’s worse than that with DNA, because insertion of a base (‘letter’) results in all the information downstream from the insertion being garbled. Because each ‘word’ in the DNA is fixed at three letters, it would now read as the completely nonsensical: ‘The cia tsa tof fth ema t.’ Deletions have a similar effect of creating garbage downstream from the deletion.

Substitutions can be neutral, due to the clever way in which the DNA code was invented by the Creator, with redundancy (see The Unity of Life). With three DNA ‘letters’, of which there are four, being read together as a single codon (‘word’), there are 64 possible codons, meaning that there are several possible codons for most of the 20 amino acids. This means that some substitutions are possible without changing the amino acid coded for. This also explains why, in contrast, insertions and deletions mess up the following DNA sequence, because the wrong triplet codons are now read by the cellular reading machinery. Take the letter sequence CTGCTGCTGCTG. This would be read as CTG CTG CTG CTG, but insertion of an A in the sequence: CTGACTGCTGCTG now results in the triplets being read as CTG ACT GCT GCT, which changes the meaning entirely. So I hope you can see how an insertion, in spite of having an extra ‘letter’ actually destroys the information.

I do not understand why your website does not present the most accurate information available. Please explain why this is.

R.P.
USA

I hope this explains why the article you criticize is scientifically sound and is actually ‘the most accurate information available’.

Don Batten, PhD
CMI–Australia

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Published: 2005; Revised and reposted 29 March 2008 (GMT+10)

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