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In the Beginning was Information DVD
by Dr. Werner Gitt

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Feedback archive Feedback 2009

The creation information argument—how does it stand up to the charge of circular reasoning, and more?

Philip Bell and Carl Wieland respond to a young but very determined critic.

Published: 1 August 2009(GMT+10)

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Paulo R contacted our UK CEO, Philip Bell, with very intense claims that the information argument as used by creationists is invalid. As you will see, despite being only 14 years old, and English being his second language, Paulo is extremely well-informed and articulate—and as forthright in his hostility to creationism as any adult we’ve come across. He responded further to Philip Bell’s response, to which Philip suggested Dr Carl Wieland might like to respond, as Paolo was critiquing one of Carl’s articles.

Paolo’s first email:

Hi,

I have a question for your creationist people. Creationists (and more recently, those who adhere to the Intelligent Design Movement) like to use the “argument of information”. Many of them, including the folks here at CMI, have stated that this argument completely destroys any “materialistic explanation of life” and is “at the heart of the evolution issue”. I, as an 14-year-old skeptic and critic of creationism who has researched this question for a while, and seeing various YEC and IDers presentations of this argument, as well as evolutionists supposed “refutations”, will offer here my own evaluation of this important topic of this debate. You hope you friend creationists will respond.

Speaking in a simple way, this “information” argument is simply a tautological claim that begs the question that is under discussion.

The debate between creationists and evolucionists is if biological species were created supernaturally by a God [this is the Spanish coming through; their word for “evolution” is evolución—Ed.]. Evolutionists say “no”, creationists say “yes”. Obviolously, the only way of resolving this question is examining the biological structures and see if they exhibit some trace of “design” or “intention”.
So, let´s see how this works in the information argument. The point of the creationists is that the “code” of the DNA is the project of some Maker.

But this question itself that is the heart of the issue! Of course there is a “code” in living organisms, but that doesn’t mean that such “code” is intentional, that is, the project of a God. The information “is simply there” in the evolutionist’s mind. It has “maked” itself. There is no INTENTIONAL information, which is EXACTLY what the creationist is trying to prove! So the argument of information isn’t a good argument for creationism, because it doesn’t “prove” a Designer behind the information. The “information” is accidental.

But here we must define “information”. This word, in its larger sense, is very much linked to Communication, but in the genetic sense no. When scientists/biologists say “genetic information” what is meant is the standard mode of construction of an organism, based on the DNA. But the creationist meaning is another.
The creationist claim that mutations do not add information is simply false. We don’t need to go much far. Look, the DNA is a base of instructions that (for example) has the “standard code” of saying for your organism: make 5 fingers! Unusually, a mutant is born with 6 fingers. For this to happen, it doesn’t need to “add information”? The code of this person must have saying something like MAKE ONE MORE FINGER!

The creationist answer is obvious, and is precisely this that reveals the fallacy of the argument. He will say that the idea of the “finger” was ALREADY there! Clearly, and in the spite of the fact that it IS an additional instruction, is just a variation about the same information, or something like that. Of course it IS IMPOSSIBLE that such mutation occurs without some kind of additional instruction, and it is a simple inference that such thing happening over long periods of time can result in very different structures.

So, the creationist argument of “information” crumbles, beacuse the evolucionist can say that the “information” (in the CORRECT sense, not the creationist one) is accidental, because nothing, aside from the creationist definition of the term, that presupposes an intentional agent reponsible for this information, can show why this is impossible.

In the end, the creationist information argument is just tautogical, circular reasoning, because it assumes exactly what it is trying to prove. The point is: the evolucionist can just say “the information is not intentional” and reject the creationist definition.

That’s all. I look forward for your response.
Thanks,
Paulo.

Philip’s response is interspersed with Paulo’s email:

Hi,

I have a question for your creationist people. Creationists (and more recently, those who adhere to the Intelligent Design Movement) like to use the “argument of information”.

Many of them, including the folks here at CMI, have stated that this argument completely destroys any “materialistic explanation of life” and is “at the heart of the evolution issue”. I, as an 14-year-old skeptic and critic of creationism who was researched this question for a while, and seeing various YEC and IDers presentations of this argument, as well as evolutionists supposed “refutations”, will offer here my own evaluation of this important topic of this debate. You hope you friend creationists will respond.

Speaking in a simple way, this “information” argument is simply a tautological claim that begs the question that is under discussion.

PB—A tautology is defined as saying the same thing twice in the sense that the repetition is needless. In what way is the information argument tautologous?

The debate between creationists and evolucionists is if biological species were created supernaturally by a God. Evolutionists say “no”, creationists say “yes”. Obviolously, the only way of resolving this question is examining the biological structures and see if they exhibit some trace of “design” or “intention”.

PB—In fact, the evidence for design in living things is inescapable. See, e.g., http://creation.com/cuttlefish-inspire-tv-design and if you still need more, then look at this: Design Features Questions and Answers. Of course, when confronted by this, sceptics often will then challenge creationists to show evidence that God exists (i.e. not just evidence for a creator). On this point, there is actually no way of ultimately resolving this question by empirical scientific method, which cannot, by definition, legislate on the existence or non-existence of God. CMI makes it very clear that our belief that God is Creator is an axiom, a pre-suppositional belief. The naturalistic assumption that God did not specially create is also a religious belief—though it should be possible in principle, if evolution did happen, to see evidence supporting it. I recommend you read:

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The information carried on DNA demonstrates, in addition to specified complexity, all the requirements of a true code or message (See Werner Gitt’s book In the Beginning was Information)

The information carried on DNA demonstrates, in addition to specified complexity, all the requirements of a true code or message (See Werner Gitt’s book In the Beginning was Information)

Presuppositionalism vs evidentialism, and is the human genome simple?

Also these articles from our Q&A page on Philosophy:

Is there proof of God’s existence?

So, let’s see how this works in the information argument. The point of the creationists is that the “code” of the DNA is the project of some Maker.

PB—Yes, information (which is what a code consists of) always comes from an intelligent source—a basic law of information science:

“There is no known law of nature, no known process and no known sequence of events which can cause information to originate by itself in matter.” A conclusion of the 7th International Conference on the Origins of Life, Mainz, July 1983.

Gitt, Werner. 1997. In the Beginning was Information. CLV, Bielefeld, Germany. pp. 64-67, 79, 107. (available from CMI’s webstore; see below)

Physicist Paul Davies (no creationist) says:

‘We now know that the secret of life lies not with the chemical ingredients as such, but with the logical structure and organisational arrangement of the molecules. … Like a supercomputer, life is an information processing system. … It is the software of the living cell that is the real mystery, not the hardware.’ But where did it come from? Davies framed the question this way: ‘How did stupid atoms spontaneously write their own software? … Nobody knows … ‘.

Davies, P., Life force, New Scientist 163(2204):27–30, 18 September 1999.

But this question itself that is the heart of the issue! Of course there is a “code” in living organisms, but that doesn’t mean that such “code” is intentional, that is, the project of a God. The information “is simply there” in the evolutionist’s mind. It has “maked” itself. There is no INTENTIONAL information, which is EXACTLY what the creationist is trying to prove! So the argument of information isn’t a good argument for creationism, because it doesn’t “prove” a Designer behind the information. The “information” is accidental.

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PB—What makes you so certain ‘There is no INTENTIONAL information’? Does that include the information in your own statement? Your claim begs the question: How do you know? In human experience (e.g. computing, engineering, literature, arts etc.), meaningful information and codes (and that which we see in living organisms is unarguably meaningful, leading as it does to a definite phenoytype) have never been observed to come about without intentionality on the part of other human beings.

But here we must define “information”. This word, in it’s larger sense, is very much linked to Communication, but in the gentic sense no. When scientists/biologists says “genetic information” what is meant is the standard mode of construction of an organism, based on the DNA. But the creationist meaning is another.

PB—Can you be certain that genetic information is in no sense intended to communicate information? That also begs the question. How could you prove that empirically? However, creationist biologists and geneticists do not disagree that the coding on DNA is primarily designed to bring about the construction of a particular organism, its maintenance throughout life, its repair etc. Thus, creationists do not have a different definition of information at that level.

In this case, the “information” is PRESUPOSED to contain the project of someone!

PB—Again, let me be emphatic: this is a Law of Information! Code implies sender and recipient, semantics, intentionality, a language system and many other things besides. The book In the beginning was Information is required reading for anyone who wants to honestly evaluate the subject of information.

When the only thing that such code contains is a group of molecules, which have the ability to reproduce themselves, because if this does not happen, then this “organism” will die.

PB—definitions of information do matter, as you say above. Please read: That depends on what your definition of information is

Of course, in the creationist sense, there could be in no way an “increase of information” in the genome, because if the information is BY DEFINITION said to be the intent some Designer, then if there is an increase of information, there would be the same, or another designer, to have add more information!

PB—Quite apart from our belief in a Designer, the onus (burden of proof) is actually on the evolutionist/naturalist to demonstrate an example (more than one would be nice!) of information coming about by purely random, unguided means—if evolution is to be elevated to the status of ‘proven’. Mutations (that some (certainly not all) evolutionists claim are responsible for creating novel proteins) should be known that do more than simply duplicate existing base pair sequences or reduce the specificity of the active site of an enzyme (so that, in spite of being less able to do its job, can digest a related substrate). NeoDarwinism requires there to be mutations that generate entirely new information in term of new proteins and enzymes, eventually new tissues, organs and organism body plans. Don’t just take my word for it (!)—listen to this leading biologist (evolutionist):

“Evolution also results from the accumulation of new information. In the case of a biological mutation, new information is provided an error [sic] of genetic transmission (i.e. a change in the DNA during its transmission from parent to child).”

Luigi L. Cavalli-Sforza, Genes, peoples and languages, North Press, New York, 2000, p. 176.

The trouble for the NeoDarwinist is that this doesn’t happen—ever.Again, let me quote a well-known evolutionist—this lady is the person who invented the idea of endosymbiosis to account for the origin of mitochondria and chloroplasts in eukaryotic cells so she is not someone that her fellow evolutionists can easily dismiss:

“Mutation accumulation does not lead to new species or even to new organs or tissues.” (p. 11)

“Mutations, in summary, tend to induce sickness, death, or deficiencies.” (p. 29)

Margulis, L. & Sagan, D., Acquiring genomes. A theory of the origins of species, Basic Books, New York, 2002.

Mutation effect

Far more mutations are deleterious than advantageous. Individually, most have too small an effect to be acted upon by natural selection (John C. Sanford, 2005, "Genetic Entropy & The Mystery of the Genome", p. 32).

The second statement of Margulis and Sagan certainly agrees with my own observations and experience in nine years of cancer research—all mutations that cause cancer and add to its aggressiveness are bad news. No mutation has, to my knowledge, ever resulted in a cancer becoming easier to treat or cure. The same goes for several thousand non-cancer diseases in human beings that are known to be caused by one or more mutations. In all these cases, the mutations messed up existing complex coded information so that form and function was disrupted.

The creationist claim that mutations do not add information is simply false. We don’t need to go much far. Look, the DNA is a base of instructions that (for exemaple) has the “standard code” of saying for your organism: make 5 fingers! Unusually, a mutant borns with 6 fingers. For this to happen, it doesn’t need to “add information”?

PB—Quite right. But you have just undermined your statement at the beginning of your paragraph where you said ‘The creationist claim that mutations do not add information is simply false.’ The mutation that causes an extra finger (termed polydactyly) does not add information, as you say.

[Ed note: Paulo’s was actually a rhetorical/sarcastic question, he believes that they do add information.]

The code of this person must have saying something like MAKE ONE MORE FINGER!

The creationist answer is obvious, and is precisely this that reveals the fallacy of the argument. He will say that the idea of the “finger” was ALREADY there! Clearly, and in the spite of the fact that it IS an additional instrution,

PB—actually, it’s a case of deregulation of the information that controls the production of the fingers—so is an example of a loss of information. And having extra fingers is usually associated with many other health defects because genes are what we term pleiotropic; [i.e. code for more than one feature]. Commonly, extra toes or fingers is just one feature of a syndrome of congenital anomalies. [Ed: Another example of pleitropy is some cases of loss of eyes in cave fish because the same gene that allows larger jaws restricts eye development. See Christopher Hitchens blind to salamander reality.]

is just a variation about the same information, or something like that. Of course it IS IMPOSSIBLE that such mutation occurs without some kind of additional instruction, and it is a simple inference that such thing happening over long periods of time can result in very different structures.

So, the creationist argument of “information” crumbles ,

PB—you have not made your case, Paulo, because, as shown above, you have misunderstood both what creationists believe and what is happening with respect to mutations like the ones that result in an extra finger.

beacuse the evolucionist can say that the “information” (in the CORRECT sense, not the creationist one) is accidental, because nothing, aside from the creationist definition of the term, that presupposes an intentional agent responsible for this information, can show why this is impossible.

In the end, the creationist information argument is just tautogical, circular reasoning, because it assumes exactly what it is trying to prove. The point is: the evolucionist can just say “the information is not intentional” and reject the creationist definition.

PB—There is a great deal more to this topic than this. Granted, you have done some ‘research’ but I trust that you will look more carefully at what creationists are saying—and not saying (i.e. look carefully at what creationists actually say, not what you think they are saying). If you are serious about finding out the truth (rather than simply justifying your position) I urge you to read the following papers by Alex Williams which unpack this issue of biological information a lot more carefully than you have so far given credit for:

That’s all. I look forward for your response.

PB—No problem. I encourage you to keep reading and to try to do so with an open mind.

Thanks,
Paulo.

Paulo then came back to Philip as follows:

Hi, Philip!

Thank you very much for your reply. I wanted along ago to talk with a creationist about the issue of information. Your response was very thoughtful and intelligent, and I feel sincerity and good-will in your words. I have done some further reading as you suggested, but, all in all, my position remains the same, which is: creationists have defined “information” as long as [Ed. note—“so as to”] make impossible, even in theory, increase in the genetic information content.

Now, in light of your comments and my new insights about this matter, I will try to make more clear my position a bit, and explain how I do think that it is ultimately right. For this I will make use of one article on your website: The marvellous message molecule

So, let’s see. My main point is that it is absurd for creationists to ask evolutionists to provide examples of information increasing, since by their own definition of information, such thing cannot happen, even in theory. Examining the first article, we can see this very clearly. In his discourse, Dr Carl Wieland makes it painfully clear that there cannot be an increase of information by natural means, because information only originates in mind:

“2. During this transfer, the fate of the information follows the dictates of message/information theory and common sense. That is, it either stays the same, or decreases (mutational loss, genetic drift, species extinction) but seldom, probably never, is it seen to increase in any informationally meaningful sense.”

That was my point in the previous message. I have written:

“Of course, in the creationist sense, there could be in no way an ‘increase of information’ in the genome, because if the information is BY DEFINITION said to be the intent some Designer, then if there is an increase of information, there would be the same, or another designer, to have add more information!”

You see now? My argument was that it is deceitful for creationists to ask for something that they known couldn’t happen—even in theory; you see that Wieland a priori excludes any possibility of information increase—it either “stays the same or decreases”.
But of course, if this can’t happen, then it is the evolutionist’s problem, not creationists—this basically was your answer to this part of my message quoted above. But now we have reached the crux of the matter. My point is that, if information is intended in the communicative sense, then the argument is right—but it does not need to be intended in this manner, and indeed is not so by scientists.

Creationists frequently use the analogy of the letter. That is, if I write a letter and make copies of it, obviously the information stays the same – it does not increase because I have make one or thousand more. In the same way, biological organisms tend to copy the “information” already present, but the reproductive process will never increase the information—it will stay the same. If there is a change in the letter, the right information will not be there anymore—it has been corrupted. As creationists say, it has lost “meaning”.
In the same way, a change in the information of the organism—be it caused by mutations, genetic drift, or recombinations—will “corrupt” the code present, and thus will frequently cause prejudice to the organism.
You see that this argument perfectly makes sense, until we leave the domain of analogy and see the “real” thing.
As I said, this only makes sense if “information” is intended in the sense of communication, but is far from clear that it should be understood in this way. And it is in this sense that the argument is being used by creationists. If the information is already presupposed to be intentional, like it was a link of communication between intentional agents (as in the example of the letter) then of course it wouldn’t occur an increase of informational because this would require that this increase was also intentional, that is, the agent would have to write more information in the letter.
But in the pure biological sense, the “genetic information” is nothing more than an amount of molecular chains, that having nature to duplicate, have as a result well-succeeded organisms, because those that do not have such results will be condemned to extinction.

Again, the creationist is ignoring the principle of natural selection, because we could create a virtually infinite quantity of genetic “codes” with the most diverse and distinct informations where almost all would result in “organisms” of unviable “fitness”.
That’s the only way to understand why your friends don’t think that there is an increase of information, because if we understand it in the simple sense of “content” that serves as a rote for the construction of a organism, then saying that this doesn’t occur is so insane as to say that are no transitional fossils. With this it becomes clear the behavior of the argument. We could show innumerable stages between an animal that walks and an animal that flies, and besides using the famous “argument of discontinuity”, the creationist will say that the ‘feather’ was ‘already there’ in the genetic material.

You can show even a “macromutation” that adds something entirely new, and will receive the same answer: “it was already there”.

All this could be solved by an aristotelic distinction between potence and act. Being it obvious that every and each subsequent structure in the universe is already present potentially in the previous structures, the question is to known how this turns out to be actualized, that is, converted in act, fact. But while evolutionists are in the world of actualities, in all the senses, creationists are always thinking about the potentialities, and if you shown the most incredible emergency of a new organ (for example), it is evident that the argument of impossibility of increase of information has already the answer, and this by itself denounces its circular and fraudulent pretention.

Resuming all of the above, the concept of “information” is applicable, but in a specific sense that is never highlighted by creationists; there exists an increase of information, because if a mutation that adds a new structure to an organism (which is a common occurrence) is not an increase of information, then what it is?
As always, creationists are asking for an abrupt and absurd change, like that old story of a dinosaur mom that gives birth to a bird!
Don’t deceive yourself! in their vast majority mutations are neutral.
They add information that stays inert in the inactive parts of the DNA, and then they associate with recombinations and other mutations and later generate relevant phenotypes, which then are “selectionable”.

Aside from mutations, we have clear examples of symbiogenesis, as well as material addition by viruses. None of this is new information? How possible? Explain to me.
The “information argument” is just another way for the creationist to say the same thing, that is, that there MUST be an agent responsible for the information in living things.
But why? As I like to put it, there is kosmos in the universe, that is, order, but there is no telos, which means intention, purpose. The order into which the living things are arranged in no way evidences purpose behind it. It could have formed by itself.
That’s all. I look forward for your response and, if this is the case, I am ready to learn more.
Thank you,
Paulo.

To which Carl Wieland responded as follows:

Dear Paulo

Since you have referenced my layman’s article about DNA (which is actually as old as you claim to be), I thought I would accede to Philip’s invitation to reply to you, even though you appear, I respectfully suggest, not to have taken Philip’s comments properly on board.

I think I can see why you have some ongoing confusion on the matter, and perhaps I can clear up the misunderstanding.

I will intersperse my comments below in the same way as Philip did.

Hi, Philip!

Thank you very much for your reply. I wanted along ago to talk with a creationist about the issue of information. Your response was very thoughtful and intelligent, and I feel sincerity and good-will in your words. I have done some further reading as you suggested, but, all in all, my position remains the same, which is: creationists have defined “information” as long as make impossible, even in theory, increase in the genetic information content.

[CW] I will try to address this issue of alleged circular reasoning for you, as I think this is where your misunderstanding lies, and it seems to be the crux of the argument. So I will attempt to show you that that is not the case.

Now, in light of your comments and my new insights about this matter, I will try to make more clear my position a bit, and explain how I do think that it is ultimately right. For this I will make use of one article on your website: The marvellous ‘message molecule’

So, let’s see. My main point is that it is absurd for creationists to ask evolutionists to provide examples of information increasing, since by their own definition of information, such thing cannot happen, even in theory. Examining the first article, we can see this very clearly. In his discourse, Dr. Carl Wieland makes it painfully clear that there cannot be an increase of information by natural means, because information only originates in mind:

[CW] The claim of circular reasoning might be valid if we used this as an AXIOM (or presupposition—something which cannot be proven to be true, but is accepted in the absence of proof as a starting point in the reasoning). All deductive reasoning, including from axioms, is circular.

But I will attempt to show shortly that this is not what creationists are doing. Overall, we take the truth of the Bible as axiomatic, because all reasoning must start with axioms. An unbeliever can follow the reasoning very simply, it is like saying, “Assume the Bible is true, just for the moment, for the sake of the argument, in order to see how it fits the evidence.”

”2. During this transfer, the fate of the information follows the dictates of message/information theory and common sense. That is, it either stays the same, or decreases (mutational loss, genetic drift, species extinction) but seldom, probably never, is it seen to increase in any informationally meaningful sense.”

[CW] This is an observation, not an axiom. And note how the above quote already undermines your claims. You said that creationists define information so that it can “never” increase, and the above sentence already allows for at least the possibility of a rare instance of genetic information increase.

That was my point in the previous message. I have written: “Of course, in the creationist sense, there could be in no way an “increase of information” in the genome, because if the information is BY DEFINITION said to be the intent some Designer, then if there is an increase of information, there would be the same, or another designer, to have add more information!” You see now? My argument was that it is deceitful for creationists to ask for something that they known couldn’t happen—even in theory;

[CW] I would like to see where we state that information is ‘by definition’ the intent of a designer. However, some of the confusion here may be understandable, because there are actually quite a few definitions of information. For example, so-called Shannon information is used in statistical information theory, but is not a measure of meaning in a code, for instance. A string of symbols may have an increase in Shannon information while suffering a loss of meaning. As an example, if one were to read out a sentence like:

This was their finest hour

It would take only six words. But if this were randomized to:

Htsi wsa hrtie rouh tsefni

the Shannon information would be higher, in that one would need to read every letter to communicate that sequence. But all the information of Churchill’s famous sentence would be lost.

So despite the adulation of the likes of Dawkins, this information measure is deficient.

A more useful definition is specified complexity, and that is normally what creationists talk about when they say that information is seldom, if ever increased. That is an observational fact, not dependent on the axiom. Even the late chemical evolutionist Leslie Orgel said:

Living things are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals such as granite fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; mixtures of random polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity.

There are forms of specified complexity which can increase in a machine process, even very rarely by ‘chance’. Creationists have gone on record as saying that in a complex world, one might see a little bit of information increase by a random process—but to give the NeoDarwinian theory mathematical credibility, one would need to be able to point to hundreds of such information-increasing mutations happening all around us. One or two would not be enough. We know of one possible example, and even that is interesting and in some respects debatable. I refer to the ability of some bacteria to digest nylon, a manmade material. See www.creation.com/nylon . See also the related Bacteria ‘evolving in the lab’? about citrate-digesting bacteria.

Natural selection by itself gets rid of the unfit, but it does not create the fit, and no competent evolutionist biologist would deny that

Note that even at this point already, since I have said to you that creationists acknowledge the possibility of information increase without a mind, you should realize that you are wrong about the circular reasoning. It may be in part because in a layman’s article one does not want to get too obscure, losing the main point in a forest of caveats.

The sort of information increase being pointed to in the case of mutation/selection discussions has to do with specified complexity, not with discussions of meaning or of message. I.e. it normally refers to the specificity of an enzyme, which is coded for by DNA, and is not looking at the DNA itself. To refer to meaning and message involves the existence of a code, and enzymes (all of them proteins), though they are specified by a code, do not themselves constitute a code. But DNA itself is different—it has more than specified complexity. It fits the five levels of information specified by information scientist Dr Werner Gitt (call it therefore ‘Gitt information’) so it carries a message in every definition of the word, in addition to having specified complexity. (For detailed discussion on the five levels of information, all of which are present in DNA, see Gitt, W, In the Beginning was Information, (see below), and his paper Information, Science and Biology).

To put it simply—a message (i.e. conveying Gitt information, rather than Shannon information) requires specified complexity, but specified complexity is not enough to have a message. So the confusion is because you hear us saying in discussions about DNA that every message requires a sender. This is so consistent with all our observations that one can call it a law of nature, but again it is a conclusion from observation, not an axiom, and for your charge of circular reasoning to apply, it would have to be used as an axiom.

A machine can be programmed to program another machine, and so on. But at the beginning of such a chain… there has to be an intelligent programmer

And then you transpose this to the argument about specified complexity, which is that we don’t see random changes doing that to enzymes (increasing their specificity) on a scale which could possibly account for all of life’s specified complexity.

To explain further by analogy—take the law of gravity. We observe so uniformly and consistently that things fall down, not up, that we are justified in referring to this as a law. But to then assume the validity of this law as an axiom is not an example of circular reasoning, because it has been proven as much as any law can be, and in any case, it remains potentially falsifiable. In the same way, Gitt has formulated the message/sender argument as a law of nature—and throws out the same challenge as in the case of gravity—“If it is not a law, falsify it if you can”. I.e. point to an example in nature where a message/code has arisen without an intelligent source. If you were to point to living things, then you would yourself be guilty of the charge you level against creationists, because you would be assuming (without proof) that living things have arisen naturalistically—a fallacy known as ‘begging the question’.

you see that Wieland a priori excludes any possibility of information increase—it either “stays the same or decrease”.

[CW] Note that even if it were the case that information (of any sort, no matter how defined) is always seen to decrease in the absence of either programmed machinery or a mind, with mind being necessary to program the machinery, or at least the first machine in a chain of machines designed to program other machines, then the charge of circularity would not be able to invalidate the creationist use of it, either. Circular reasoning does not preclude something being TRUE—it just means that it cannot be used to establish something outside of itself without other supporting links in the chain of reasoning. For instance, take these three statements:

—The fittest survive.

—Who are the fittest?

—Those who survive.

This makes for a perfectly circular argument, but it does not mean that natural selection (which informed creationists, even prior to Darwin, have understood to be a simple fact) is therefore untrue.

In the real world, arguments which are true but circular can generally be restated so as to avoid the charge. For example, one could phrase the argument about the message as follows:

The observation that a true message of code—Gitt information—never arises by random processes is consistent with the statistical improbability of the ordered arrangements required to originate such a message arising in a stochastic system (i.e., randomly). This statistical improbability underlies the well known 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (2LT), which expresses the overwhelming tendency of all systems of matter and energy to head to a more disorderly state. Note that the 2LT does not forbid order increasing without intelligent interference. But for this to happen, special conditions must apply. An automatic watch is capable of converting the energy of random movement into the increased order required to wind up the watch. But random energy (e.g. a hammer blow) applied to an electric watch will not increase its order, but the opposite. Similarly, the sun shining onto a green plant will cause the plant to increase in order—because it, too, has the right programmed machinery (see Green power: God’s solar power plants amaze chemists)—but the sun shining onto a dead twig will only hasten the relentless tendency to disorder which will eventually overtake every green plant when the order breaks down irreversibly in its machinery. Life’s mechanisms can be seen as a programmed set of machinery which functions to keep living things locally and temporarily away from thermodynamic equilibrium, which is the state at which there is no further interaction between a system and its surroundings—“dust to dust” expresses that well. Note, too, that in both instances, the watch and the green plant, the system plus its surroundings, i.e. the universe as a whole, does increase in entropy/disorder in the process. This is in fact so for any process that happens—without exception. Hence one can say without fear of contradiction that the universe must have had a beginning, that the beginning was more “orderly” overall than at present, and that it is winding down to an end, its future “heat death” when everything will be at the same (cold) temperature, no more processes will be possible because everything is at equilibrium, maximum “disorderliness”.

See also Some thermodynamics criticisms (by anti-creationist science writer Jonathan Sherwood)—and answers:

—Observation indicates that it is universally true (in both biological and non-biological systems) that a message (Gitt information) always requires an intelligent source.

—Hence one can state it as a law of nature, with no known exceptions.

—Examining the function of DNA in living things indicates that it has all the characteristics of a message. Therefore:

— (Conclusion) DNA must have had an original intelligent programmer.

Any living thing today is programmed to pass on its programs (including the programs for the machinery/coding that permits it to pass on its programs). Similarly, a machine can be programmed to program another machine, and so on. But at the beginning of such a chain, experience and observation indicates that there has to be an intelligent programmer or message sender. So it is very scientifically appropriate to conclude that the first groups of living organisms were intelligently programmed, which is consistent with the Genesis account.

Please note that in the above, the thing you said was presupposed is actually a conclusion. So your statements which purport to show that the creationist case is based on circular reasoning (my father used to use the Italian expression una catena senza fine = a chain without end) are not applicable. I will insert a few more comments where required in the rest of your email below, ignoring those parts which repeat the charge of circularity (i.e. that information can’t increase because we start by defining it as non-increasable).

But of course, if this can’t happen, then it is the evolutionist’s problem, not creationists — this basically was your answer to this part of my message quoted above. But now we have reached the crux of the matter. My point is that, if information is intended in the communicative sense, then the argument is right — but it does not need to be intended in this manner, and indeed is not so by scientists.

[CW] It does need to be in the case of DNA. It does not in the case of enzymes, that is specified complexity, as already stated. But even in those cases, it is almost never (one can for all practical purposes say “never”) seen to increase. See for example Special tools of life, which explains that new apparent enzyme abilities are often the result of loss of specificity, or fine-tuning to one particular substrate. This is again an observation, not an axiom.

Creationists frequently use the analogy of the letter. That is, if I write a letter and make copies of it, obviously the information stays the same — it does not increase because I have make one or thousand more. In the same way, biological organisms tend to copy the “information” already present, but the reproductive process will never increase the information — it will stay the same. If there is a change in the letter, the right information will not be there anymore—it has been corrupted. As creationists say, it has lost “meaning”.

Comparison of ribitol, xylitol and arabitol activities of wild and mutant ribitol dehydrogenase

Comparison of ribitol, xylitol and arabitol activities of wild and mutant ribitol dehydrogenase (from Lee Spetner, True Origins website ).

[CW] More precisely, it has lost specified complexity, or more simply, specificity. Note that a loss of specificity by mutation can be a beneficial change—for example if the descendants of a beetle on a windy island inherit the information to make wings in a corrupted way such that no wings form in any of them, they will all be at a great advantage. Because flying beetles in such a place tend to get blown into the sea and drowned. But the point is that to go from microbes to microbiologists would have required a large increase in specified complexity (information defined that way).

In the same way, a change in the information of the organism – be it caused by mutations, genetic drift, or recombinations—will “corrupt” the code present, and thus will frequently cause prejudice to the organism.

[CW] But not always, as discussed above.

You see that this argument perfectly makes sense, until we leave the domain of analogy and see the “real” thing.

[CW] Not so, as will be apparent.

As I said, this only makes sense if “information” is intended in the sense of communication,

[CW] Not true. It also makes sense if information is intended in the sense of specificity.

but is far from clear that it should be understand in this way. And it is in this sense that the argument is being used by creationists. If the information is already presupposed to be intentional, like it was a link of communication between intentional agents (as in the example of the letter) then of course it wouldn’t occur an increase of informational because this would require that this increase was also intentional, that is, the agent would have to write more information in the letter.

[CW] As indicated earlier, there are evolutionary scientists who agree that DNA has the characteristics of a code (message), but claim that the agencies involved were not intentional. The creationist argument is that such codes require intelligence, as far as observation goes.

But in the pure biological sense, the “genetic information” is nothing more than an amount of molecular chains,

[CW] That is like saying that in the pure material sense, Scrabble letters are nothing more than an amount of plastic and paint. Or the works of Shakespeare are nothing more than ink and paper.

that having nature to duplicate, have as a result well-succeeded organisms, because those that do not have such results will be condemned to extinction.

[CW] This is the classic argument from selection. Natural selection (NS) is not in doubt, the issue is, where does the raw material for selection come from? For selection to favour something with an increase in specificity (information in that sense, as I am using it here) that increase has to be there to begin with. So the question boils down to this—does mutation give rise to such increases in specificity? This is an empirical or observational question, which I have already answered earlier.

Again, the creationist is ignoring the principle of natural selection,

[CW] Not at all. But you are ignoring something—that NS cannot create anything, it simply gets rid of the lesser option. NS by itself gets rid of the unfit, but it does not create the fit, and no competent evolutionist biologist would deny that.

because we could create a virtually infinite quantity of genetic “codes” with the most diverse and distinct informations where almost all would result in “organisms” of unviable “fitness”.

[CW] So even though you have not mentioned mutations to this point, they are in fact what you are relying on. You need information-increasing (as in specified complexity) mutations to arise, and in sufficient numbers to be present at the right time and place for the next ‘step’ in evolution.

And talk of NS creating a huge variety of codes raises the question: how would a hereditary line of organisms go from one code to another without messing up the information and ending the line? It would be like switching keys on the keyboard of a computer.

That’s the only way to understand why your friends don’t think that there is an increase of information,

[CW] It’s not that we ‘think’ there is no increase, it’s because the world still waits for a demonstration of such increases being as common as the neo-Darwinian theory requires.

because if we understand it in the simple sense of “content” that serves as a rote for the construction of a organism, then saying that this doesn’t occur is so insane as to say that are no transitional fossils. With this it becomes clear the behavior of the argument. We could show innumerable stages between an animal that walks and an animal that flies, and besides using the famous “argument of discontinuity”,

[CW] We have long ago expressed our corporate caution about the way this ‘no transitional fossils’ argument has been used, and how creationists should approach this question. See www.creation.com/dontuse.

the creationist will say that the ‘feather’ was ‘already there’ in the genetic material.

[CW] If it could be demonstrated that a line of reptiles without feathers had given rise to a line of birds with feathers, there is no creationist I know of who would say that. What we do say is that in the evolutionary story, the problem is how to get the program for ‘feathers’ written in a world where there is no such preexisting program—this is almost the exact opposite of what you claim creationists say. May I respectfully suggest that you seem to have not yet spent significant time finding out what we do teach and believe concerning not only transitional fossils, but also selection and mutation and information. I would also highly recommend you read Dr Gitt’s book In The Beginning was Information, in addition to spending more time on the Q and A section on creation.com in order to avoid these sorts of fundamental errors and incorrect allegations, etc.

You can show even a “macromutation” that adds something entirely new, and will receive the same answer: “it was already there”.

[CW] ?? Not at all. We have never given that answer in such a case, and have never had to, because there is no known macromutation which has added any sort of structure or functional complexity that has ever been documented. Most evolutionists would believe that a macromutation is going to be overwhelmingly likely to produce a “hopeless monster”.

All this could be solved by an aristotelic distinction between potence and act. Being it obvious that every and each subsequent structure in the universe is already present potentially in the previous structures, the question is to known how this turns out to be actualized, that is, converted in act, fact. But while evolutionists are in the world of actualities, in all the senses, creationists are always thinking about the potentialities, and if you shown the most incredible emergency of a new organ (for example),

[CW] I will ignore the tangential intermingling of early Greek ideas into a discussion of creation vs evolution as somewhat of a non sequitur, except to point out that Aristotle rejected evolutionary ideas of the likes of Empedocles because the latter hadn’t explained the origin of what we today would call the information-reproducing system. But I will repeat—can you show us this “incredible emergence of a new organ?” None of the handful of evolutionist biologists I have debated ever provided anything like it, and I am rather confident (to put it very mildly indeed) that it does not exist.

it is evident that the argument of impossibility of increase of information has already the answer,

[CW] Not at all. Note though that where there is a mutation in say homeobox (Hox) genes, such that a fruitfly gets a leg growing out of where an antenna is supposed to be, Every evolutionary biologist I know of would agree with me that the information for ”leg” did not emerge as a novel piece of information in that example, but was already there, it has been ‘relocated’ so that “leg” emerges in the wrong place.

and this by itself denounces its circular and fraudulent pretention.

[CW] Respectfully again, your circular argument has totally collapsed. I will try to overlook the impolite use of “fraudulent”

Resuming all of the above, the concept of “information” is applicable, but in a specific sense that is never highlighted by creationists; there EXISTS an increase of information, because if a mutation that adds a new structure to an organism (which is a common occurrence)

[CW] Given that you show evidence of not only high intelligence, but of having read widely, this is frankly amazing—where is the evidence for this “common occurrence”? Dr Lee Spetner is an Israeli biophysicist who spent years at Johns Hopkins University in the US studying signal-noise relationships (i.e. information issues) in DNA. He wrote in his book Not by Chance that at that point in time, not even one mutation had been documented that adds a little bit of information (he was referring to specified complexity).

is not an increase of information, then what it is?

[CW] This would be a very fair question-once there were evidence of a mutation doing that. But it is embarrassing to have to point out repeatedly that neither you nor anyone challenging creation have actually been able to point to such a thing.

As always, creationists are asking for an abrupt and absurd change, like that old story of a dinosaur mom that gives birth to a bird!

[CW] Again respectfully, it would be more impressive if you actually showed evidence for this allegation against “creationists”—where is the article on our site, for instance, that makes this claim? In fact, it was the evolutionists Goldschmidt and Schindewolf who felt they had to postulate that something like this must have happened, in order to explain the pattern of discontinuity in the fossil record.

Don’t deceive yourself! In their vast majority mutations are neutral.

[CW] We are very familiar with Kimura’s neutral theory of evolution. But this does not further your cause, obviously. Rather, as Dr John Sanford, inventor of the gene gun, showed, this is a serious problem, because natural selection cannot eliminate most harmful mutations, which would therefore accumulate with every generation. This means the human genome would have degenerated catastrophically if we had existed for millions of years. This is explained further in his book Genetic Entropy & The Mystery of the Genome (see below).

They add information that stays inert in the inactive parts of the DNA, and then they associate with recombinations and other mutations and later generate relevant phenotypes, which then are “selectionable”.

[CW] No, they don’t add information in the sense of specified complexity.

Aside from mutations, we have clear examples of symbiogenesis, as well as material addition by viruses. None of this is new information? How possible? Explain to me.

[CW] Certainly. Examples of two organisms merging their information, or information being transferred from one species to another by viruses, is merely a reshuffling of existing information. Think about it, please—the important question, asked within the belief system of the evolutionist is, how did a world without the information for feathers give rise to this information? Remember that to answer this, it is no use appealing to combining two bits of existing information (hybridization), or to a process of doubling existing information (polyploidy) or viruses transferring the existing information to another creature—because in each case the information was existing. The only explanation given is random genetic change filtered by selection—and that has all the drawbacks already referred to herein.

The “information argument” is just another way for the creationist to say the same thing, that is, that there must be an agent responsible for the information in living things.

[CW] Not so. Here you are simply restating your ‘circular’ charge—the detailed earlier refutation. The creationist argument uses the analogy with manmade systems, plus the laws of nature, to show that telos (purpose) is a rational deduction from the evidence. Other arguments can be built presuppositionally—and are by us—but these are of the sort that says, for example, “Say for the sake of the argument that Genesis is true history—what would you expect to find?” and then show that the evidence is largely and consistent with those expectations.

But why? As I like to put it, there is kosmos in the universe, that is, order, but there is no telos, which means intention, purpose.

[CW] This sounds like the statement of a belief system—i.e, the axiom of your thinking.

The order into which the living things are arranged in no way evidences purpose behind it. It could have formed by itself.

[CW] You and anyone else can state such a thing, but stating it is not the same as demonstrating it. (And there is much evidence against it, as shown on this site). I could just as easily claim that there was a big purple frog behind the moon, despite the evidence against it.

That’s all. I look forward for your response and, if this is the case, I am ready to learn more.

[CW] I hope so, though there is a limit to how much we can carry out individual “teaching lessons”. I hope I have at least provided enough to show you that your assumptions about creation are not matched by the reality, and I hope that you will take the trouble to truly check the whole matter out for yourself, using our actual materials, rather than relying on some erroneous beliefs about what we are supposed to claim.

Thank you,

Paulo.

[CW]

Sincerely yours,

Carl W.

Dr Carl Wieland

Managing Director

Creation Ministries International Ltd (Australia)

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