Sunday, June 23, 2013

Evolution's Five Fundamental Assumptions--Are they Scientific or Philosophical? Part Four (cont.)

Assumption Four, Part Three:  Information Theory  *

When molecule biologists Francis Crick and James Watson discovered the structure of DNA in 1953, evolutionists were certain they had, at last, uncovered the mechanism that fueled naturalistic evolution. DNA transmits instructions for building the protein molecules and the various “machines” that enable cells to function and survive. When DNA replicates itself, there is sometimes a foul-up in these instructions and a mutation occurs. Hence, as we saw in part one of assumption four, evolutionists believe that “good” mutations plus eons of time has allowed evolution to proceed from single-celled organisms to the human race.

However, as more and more knowledge came to light on how DNA functions, it turned out that DNA provides far greater support for creation by design than it does naturalistic evolution. Studies have revealed that DNA is a vast storehouse of information. This information is the source of the instructions for building protein molecules and cellular machines. The information stored in DNA, Crick and Watson discovered, is encoded in the form of a four-character alphabetic code. These chemical “letters” (called nucleotides) act like a written language. As such, they must be “written” in a proper sequence in order to accurately transmit the information needed to construct specific proteins and the cell’s molecular machinery—just as letters in a word must be arranged in a certain order to correctly spell the word.

The information content of DNA and how it’s transmitted creates a problem for evolution. Why? Because information is immaterial, it’s non-matter. It cannot be identified as merely the chemical properties of DNA. In other words, DNA is matter but the information stored in DNA is not matter—it’s immaterial. The challenge facing evolution is to demonstrate where the information stored in DNA originated. Since, without exception, intelligence is always the source of information, it appears that an intelligent agent must have programed information into DNA.

Here is an analogy that may help you understand how information can be distinct from matter and yet be directly associated with it—just as the information in DNA is distinct from the physical matter of DNA, even though it’s stored in the chemical properties of DNA.

Most naturalistic evolutionists are materialists. They assume that all mental states, including tastes in music, moral values, religious beliefs, feeling of love and fear, political opinions, and so on are merely chemical and neurological activities within our brains—everything can be explained in terms of pure matter. There are no immaterial or supernatural realities; there is no soul; there is no such thing as a mind existing independent of the physical brain. But is this true?

If you were to crack open a skull and looked inside, what would you see? Gray matter. If you put a piece of brain tissue under a microscope, you would only see brain cells. What you won’t see are abstract thoughts, memories, emotional feelings, and information.  Why? Because these are immaterial components of our minds and distinct from our physical brains. Matter has shape and size, it can be measured, weighed, and observed—thoughts, memories, feelings, information, and other non-material activities can’t. It is impossible to reduce the non-physical (immaterial) functions of our minds to the physical matter of our brains. The brain is not the source of information and mental activities; it is the vehicle that receives, stores, and transmits them. In the same way, DNA stores information that is transmitted as instructions within cells, but the information itself is not the chemical elements of DNA. Matter and information are two distinct features of reality.

Now, if you’re having trouble getting your mind around the idea that information contained in DNA can be transmitted through the physical properties of DNA—and yet remain distinct from the chemical language itself—perhaps another analogy will be helpful.

Right now you are reading my blog article. It contains thoughts I’ve generated from research and reflections on this topic. These same thoughts were originally typed into my computer and backed up on a USB storage device. Now, suppose I later include this article in a book. I will email the entire manuscript to an acquisitions editor who will make hard copies to distribute to proofreaders and other editors—or scan it and email it to them. If the book is published, the information (my thoughts) will then be printed with ink on paper, and possibly published electronically for Kindle or Nook readers. But notice that in all these various mediums—computer program, electronic transfers, ink on paper, and so on—my thoughts remained unchanged and distinct from physical matter, in whatever form they appeared. If you examined the printed page with a magnifying glass, you would still see only ink and paper—not my thoughts. If you looked in my computer you’d just see circuits, wires, etc. The thoughts (information) themselves not only existed prior to being recorded in physical form—but they also continued to exist unchanged apart from paper and ink and every other physical carrier in which they were stored and transmitted. 

So it is with the vast amount of information housed in DNA, in our genes. DNA stores far more data than several sets of all 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together—the equivalent of many thousands of books. Just as the information in a set of encyclopedias originated from an outside intelligence and is not the physical properties of the paper and ink itself, so information encoded in DNA cannot be reduced to merely the molecules of matter itself. The source of information is always intelligence. Thus, the source of the information in DNA is intelligence, not matter.  The evolutionary concept that the vast amount of information assembled and stored in DNA is merely matter—mindless molecules—is a philosophical assumption of evolution. It is far more reasonable, and supported by the scientific evidence, that an intelligent Designer is the origin of the information input into DNA.

My next blog article will finish our series on “Evolution’s Five Fundamental Assumptions.” We’ll examine evolution’s claim that the fossil record supports evolution.

 *  This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, blog, or Facebook. I explore information theory (and other Intelligent Design evidences) more fully in my book The Christian Combat Manual (AMG Publishers). My sources are documented there.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Evolution's Five Fundamental Assumptions--Are They Scientific or Philosophical? Part Four (cont.)

Assumption Four, Part Two:  "Irreducible Complexity"  *

In assumption two, “Order Evolved from Disorder,” I pointed out that the entire universe is “fine-tuned” with incredible precision to support life on earth (the Anthropic Principle). This is demonstrated by the fact that there are several dozen fundamental constants—precise physical parameters—in place throughout the cosmos, including our solar system, that are essential to sustain life on earth. If any of these constants differed even minutely, life would be impossible. This remarkable phenomenon is powerful evidence for creation by intentional design (teleology).

Since the development of the electron microscope in the late 1930s, research into the structure of the cell has progressively revealed that the same incredible design observed throughout the universe is also found in the smallest particles of living matter. Even at a molecular level, single-celled organisms are comprised of numerous complex, precisely constructed, interacting parts, which biochemist Michael Behe calls molecular machines. These tiny protein “machines” are structures within a cell that have no evolutionary pathway and, therefore, could not have evolved through natural, random processes (chance). Behe refers to this evolutionary black box as “irreducible complexity.” 

In order to see why there is no evolutionary pathway for these molecular machines, it’s necessary to understand how natural selection works. According to the evolutionary paradigm, all the individual parts of a cell (or of an entire organism, for that matter) are a product of natural selection, which works by making tiny, random improvements in function. Natural selection itself has no power to create new structures from scratch; it only acts on existing designs already built into a system.  In the case of a cell, this means natural selection can’t begin to operate until at least a minimum number of molecular machines are already operational and thus have function. The challenge for evolutionists is demonstrate how these preexisting machines originated. They cannot be products of evolution because natural selection can’t kick in until after the integrated parts comprising a molecular machine are fully developed and operating as a unit. If any part is missing or had no function, there would be nothing on which natural selection could act. This is irreducibly complexity.

Behe illustrates this concept by comparing it to a mousetrap, which is comprised of five parts (base, spring, hammer, holding bar, and trigger). If any one of these parts is missing, or not fully formed and functioning, the mouse trap wouldn’t work. A part spring or part trigger would have no function, so it couldn’t “evolve" to become a more improved part spring or part trigger. Only a fully formed mousetrap would have function.

Behe and other researchers provide a variety of examples of irreducible complexity. They point out, for example, that some bacteria cells have a microscopic protrusion (a molecular machine) called a flagellum, which allows the cell to move about—something like an outboard motor. This protein machine is composed of numerous interacting parts, which must all be in place and fully functioning before the flagellum can operate. The bacteria flagellum is irreducibly complex. The individual parts could not have evolved bit-by-bit because each stage would have no function on which natural selection could operate. In other words, if any one of the individual parts comprising the flagellum was not fully formed and working at the very beginning, there could be no flagellum. Thus, like a mousetrap, only after the flagellum is fully operational would it have function and natural selection could begin—but of course (like the mouse trap) the flagellum is already complete and there is nothing to evolve. I never heard anyone claim bacteria flagellum evolved into something else.

The inability of natural selection to create molecular machines because of a lack of function in precursor parts may be easier to understand if considered on a larger scale. Think of a reptile leg evolving into a bird wing.  A part leg/part wing at any stage of development would not benefit either a reptile or an evolving bird. It would have no survival value (or function) to permit natural selection. Try to imagine a lizard successfully chasing insects with legs slowly developing feathers and feet designed for perching rather than running. It would hinder the lizard, not help it catch prey. Furthermore, the leg-to-wing scenario is only one of countless other features that would have to evolve simultaneously during the whole evolutionary process of a reptile changing into a bird. Along with wings and feathers and perching feet, an evolving bird would also have to slowly, over eons of time, develop hollow bones, a unique and entirely different respiratory system, and change from being cold-blooded (like reptiles) to warm-blooded. None of these intermediate stages would have any function in terms of survival value. Again: no function, no survival value, no evolution. (By the way, there is no fossil evidence of intermediate stages between reptiles and birds—as you’ll see in a future blog article.)

A typical cell contains many thousands of different kinds of proteins, and the human body has around a100 trillion cells—all of them working in harmony to maintain our bodies. Since evolution cannot account for irreducibly complex protein machines like the flagellum—let alone a lizard leg evolving into a bird wing—the only other option for their origins is a designer who created them. Irreducible complexity provides additional compelling evidence, especially at a cellular level, that naturalistic evolution is a philosophical assumption—not demonstrable science.  This will become even more obvious in my next blog article, which will explore a relatively new evidence for creation by design called “Information theory”—which demonstrates the inability of material properties to create information.  

 *  This and the other blog articles in this series are copyrighted material and may not be reproduced electronically or in print. But feel free to link this blog to your own website, blog, or Facebook. I explore irreducible complexity (and other Intelligent Design evidences) more fully in my book The Christian Combat Manual (AMG Publishers), and my sources are documented there.