Sunday, 21 October 2012

Refuting Evan Wigg V

Greetings again dear reader. We enter now a realm of non-biology, a dark and scary place where Schrodinger's Cat lurks behind each and none of the rocks, and people say things about waves without referring to the difficulties of Kate Middleton. I, as an unashamed Biologist, may struggle with some of this. I may make errors. This said, Mr Wiggs wrote an entire article without any expertise, so I'm happy that I'll be ok.
Information Theory is not Evolution's friend
Once again, we delve into the difference between ordered and planned text (such as wot you is reading) and the evolutionary process of ordering organic molecules (such as DNA chains). Mr Wiggs sees no distinction here, and as such believes evolution to be too good to be true. Once again, he evokes the word of the mysterious amateur evolutionist: ". . . However, not only is life irrelevant to the 2nd law [of thermodynamics], but order from disorder is
common in non-living systems, too. Snowflakes, sand dunes, tornadoes, stalactites, graded river beds, and lightening [sic] are just a few examples of order coming from disorder in nature; none require an intelligent program to
achieve that order. In any nontrivial system with lots of energy flowing through it, you are almost certain to find order arising somewhere in the system. If order from disorder is supposed to violate the 2nd law of thermodynamics, why is it ubiquitous in nature?” This draws on aspects of Turing's Theory of spontaneous chemical equilibrium, and as
such is a reasonable point to pose to someone, such as Mr Wiggs, building their argument based on evolution breaking the laws of thermodynamics.

As an aside at this point (and a weak rhetorical point, I'll admit), it never ceases to amaze me that anti-evolutionists base their arguments on the line of "this theory violates that theory." They rarely seem to consider
which is more likely, that a 150-year old theory has maintained despite such a glaring error in its basis, or that their grasp of the relevant theories is loose at best.

Mr Wiggs proceeds to dissect the evolutionist’s claims by attacking the analogies, leaving thermodynamics for his discussion of physical laws (tune in next time for such exciting titbits). Wiggs claims these examples are simple information: a crystal is a crystal is a crystal, and can be broken down to a like structure (I’m unsure of quite how far such reduction could go, but we’ll leave that), whereas biological information must vary to encode and as such is complex. Wiggs uses some God-bothering phrase as an example here, which is tiring in an argument that has frankly little to do with religion, but his point is valid to an extent… the pile of sand is a pile of sand, whereas a string of bases is not necessarily a specific protein. However, Horn-Monkey now has an opportunity to test his new Ultra-Horn, as Wiggs claims next that crystallisation is a natural process dictated by circumstance, whereas the structuring of DNA
could not possibly happen by physical processes. *WEEE-AHHHHH* Nice, Horn-Monkey, I like that one, you may keep it. The process of a string of nucleotides forming a relevant monomer is entirely possible, and it is this difference of
opinion that lies at the heart of Mr Wiggs' failure to accept evolution. The issue is that nucleotides can be shown to assemble, in realistic conditions recreated in the laboratory, which makes the biogenetic assembly hypothesis
considerably more than just hand waving, as Mr Wiggs condescendingly puts it.

Wiggs follows up by stealing Paley’s watchmaker argument and not crediting it; bad Wiggs, that’s plagiarism. He goes a little further as well: “if you saw 500,000 sand particles all lined up in a row you would suspect intelligent design, because wind can carve and grade a dune but it won’t line up the particles”. Well no… you could perform a series of experiments to attempt to discover a reason for the line… if you assumed intelligent design because one hypothesis was untrue, then frankly you lack the critical thinking to be a scientist, and should stay away from studying how the world works. By this thinking, I would assume electric lighting at night is the work of a creator god because the presence of light cannot be explained by the presence of the Sun.

Wiggs then moves to the crux of the issue, namely the ordering of information in DNA (he calls it “specific complexity”, although God only knows who he’s quoting). He’s going pretty well, comparing DNA to the written word, with the importance of both in translation, rather than the nitty-gritty of the information itself… *WEE-AHHHHHHH* What’s that, HM? Have you spotted something? “The DNA molecule… [has] been made by a higher intelligence that can ‘read’ the message as well as ‘create’ the message” I quite agree HM: what the actual fuck? No it hasn’t, it is a mindless replication process without deliberate targeting. It contains instructions for its reproduction and encodes the relevant machinery, but it is not the work of a higher intelligence!
Wiggs wraps up there, presumably because he has defeated the evil ones for another section. He references a paper for further reading, but frankly it comes from a journal called Creation Science, and I’ve already got three papers to read from (Real) Science, and a book called “The Awesome Book of Comic Fantasy” that probably contains more
correct science, so I’ll give that one a miss…

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