Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Ultimate Proof of Creation - Chapter 1 - Section 1

This is a book by Dr. Jason Lisle of Answers In Genesis (AiG). Here is a short background on him posted on Amazon's page for this book.

"Dr Jason Lisle is a research scientist and speaker with Answers in Genesis Ministries. He holds a bachelor's degree in physics and astronomy from Ohio Wesleyan University and a master's degree and PhD in astrophysics from the University of Colorado in Boulder. Dr Lisle is currently planetarium director at the Creation Museum near Cincinnati, and written a number of books and journal articles, as well as the programs currently being used in the planetarium."

I was able to see his talk on this same subject while visiting the Creation Museum in Kentucky run by AiG. I know PZ has covered the first chapter but I wanted to take a shot at, especially after hearing Lisle's speech. Chapter 1 of his book is available online here. I will be using part of this book in accordance with the Fair Use Copyright Laws within the United States of America.

Now into the Chapter.

It starts off claiming that creationists and evolutionists use the same evidence but come to different conclusions based on their presuppositions or worldview. This is the standard canard for AiG. They forget to mention all the facts that creationists ignore when looking at the evidence. I will get to that later when he is actually talking about the evidence. This is also a straw man argument by Lisle. Creationists do insist that the Bible trumps the facts and that you should make the facts fit what the Bible says, but this is not how science works. If it was then we would all still believe in special creation, geocentric universe, a young earth, humors, leeching to get rid of "bad blood", etc. Instead science, all science, looks at the facts and follow them to the conclusions wherever they may lead. This is basic stuff, and Lisle, having a PhD from Colorado, knows this. Which leads me to believe that he is a liar for Jesus.

"One of the most compelling, commonly used scientific arguments for creation involves the field of information science. In this technological age, we are inundated with all sorts of information every day, but few people stop to consider what information really is, and where it comes from."

Well, I have a degree in Management Information Science so this should be good. Except for the first sentence, I am in total agreement.

"Scientifically, we can define information as a coded message containing an expected action and intended purpose."

Anyone can guess where he is going with this. I want to point out that he is already affirming the consequent in his definition. By calling it coded, he can say it needs a coder, much like Ray Comfort's 'creation requires a creator' bullshit.

Wikipedia has a good article on Information. Here is just a bit of it but will become important as we go here.

"Information is a term with many meanings depending on context, but is as a rule closely related to such concepts as meaning, knowledge, instruction, communication, representation, and mental stimulus. Simply stated, information is a message received and understood. In terms of data, it can be defined as a collection of facts from which conclusions may be drawn. There are many other aspects of information since it is the knowledge acquired through study or experience or instruction. But overall, information is the result of processing, manipulating and organizing data in a way that adds to the knowledge of the person receiving it.

Information is the state of a system of interest. Message is the information materialized.

Information is a quality of a message from a sender to one or more receivers. Information is always about something (size of a parameter, occurrence of an event, value, ethics, etc)."

This is what Lisle will use, information as a message. Here is Lisle on DNA.

"DNA also contains information. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a long molecule found within living cells and resembles a twisted ladder. The rungs of the ladder form a pattern of base pair triplets that represent amino acid sequences — the building blocks of proteins. DNA contains the “instructions” to build the organism. So different organisms have different DNA patterns. DNA qualifies under the definition of information: it contains an encoded message (the base pair triplets represent amino acids) and has an expected action (the formation of proteins)and an intended purpose (life)."

At first glance this seems right, but he has changed the definition of information. In this sense information is "a type of pattern that that influences the formation or transformation of another pattern" (from Wikipedia). For this definition there is no need for a sender or receiver, in essence it is a chemical reaction or like the cogs of clock. When one moves the other has to because of the interlocking relationship. This is similar to how chemical reactions work, in which DNA is a chemical (two polymers with sugar and phosphate bonds to be specific). There is a lot of work going on in understanding DNA and I don't want to get bogged down in technicalities here, so I differ to Wikipedia (DNA) again.

"Whenever we find any sort of information, certain rules or “theorems”
apply. Here are two such theorems:

1. There is no known law of nature, no known process, and no
known sequence of events that can cause information to originate
by itself in matter.

2. When its progress along the chain of transmission events is
traced backward, every piece of information leads to a mental
source, the mind of the sender."

Lisle's wonderful source for these theorems (which I never heard either of these in college) is Werner Gitt (I wish I was making that name up). They are both from Gitt's book In the Beginning Was Information. It is a creationist book. Gitt is a yec and amazingly works for AiG, just like Lisle.

Both of these theorems are garbage. Scientists have observed the duplication or doubling of strands of DNA, followed by mutation affecting a single one of those strands changing it into something entirely different than what was there originally. This would be the adding of "information." As for actually originating "information" this would be covered under abiogenesis. In which some remarkable studies are going on. Recently a new article was published on a very likely way in which RNA (a precursor for DNA) could have formed on a very young Earth. This would be a complete natural origin for "information".

Theorem number two is just weird. Every source of information? Well I guess it again depends on what you mean by information. Where is the source of the "information" that tells an oxygen atom and two hydrogen atoms to bond together to form water? This is yet another straw man.

"In one sense, these theorems are hardly profound; we take for granted that when we read a book it has an author. No one reading this book would conclude that it was generated by a sequence of typos that gradually accumulated over time. Now certainly this book might be a copy of a copy of a copy, but you take it for granted that a mind is ultimately responsible for the information therein (regardless of whether you agree with the information!). The theorems of information science confirm this."

Argument from personal incredulity or argument from common sense, yet another logical fallacy. First it is a false analogy. Books do not reproduce on their own. Humans guide the process of recreating books, often at great extent. Yet they still get transmission errors. I guess in Lisle's world God is actually guiding every chemical reaction that is involved in reproduction, no wonder he has no time to answer prayers.

Lisle has also set up Gitt's theorems like they are the widely accepted in the field of Information Science, this is far from the truth. From Wikipedia on Gitt and Tom Schneider's works:

"Tom Schneider of the Molecular Information Theory Group at the National Institutes of Health, an expert on the application of evolution to biology similarly criticizes his use of unproved 'theorems', use of circular reasoning, self-contradiction, 'Gitt has gotten Shannon backwards' and that Gitt falls into a 'standard misunderstanding that information is not entropy, information is not uncertainty'"

To trot out Gitt's work like it is highly respected and contains actual theorems (theorem - a statement that can be demonstrated to be true by accepted mathematical operations and arguments) is deluded at best and dishonest at worst. Thus going back to my original opinion that Lisle is intentionally lying for Jesus.

"Likewise, these theorems tell us that life cannot have come about as the evolutionists claim. The information in DNA cannot have come about by mutations and natural selection because the laws of information science tell us that all information comes from a mind. But the information in DNA makes sense in light of biblical creation. It was by the mind of God that the initial information was placed in the DNA of the original organisms on earth. That information has been copied many times, and some of it has been lost. But the information in our DNA ultimately comes from God, not by a random chance process. The laws of information science confirm creation."

This is only true if these "theorems" are true, which Gitt nor Lisle have done anything to prove them. Thus this argument relies on a faulty premise and fails before it even starts.

Also by the definition of information as a message (information is a message received and understood), the second part of that definition requires the receiver to be able to understand the message. In other words the receiver has to have a mind also. Otherwise it would be akin to a person writing detailed messages and then throwing them into a furnace to be destroyed without anyone ever reading them. So by Lisle's definitions each cell of our or any living body must have a mind.

"Sometimes evolutionists will object to this and will point out that mutations occasionally have survival value; they “improve” the organism under certain circumstances. This is true, but it is not relevant to the argument. Mutations have
never been observed to add brand-new information, and thus they cannot be the driving mechanism of evolution. Sometimes mutations will cause a section of DNA to get duplicated, but does this really increase the information? Not at all. By analogy, a copying error in a book may cause a paragraph to get duplicated. But surely it adds no new information. After all, could you learn anything from the duplicated paragraph that you couldn’t learn from the original? Creative information cannot spontaneously increase by chance. It is always the result of intelligence. The theorems of information science tell us this, and our experiences confirm it."

Now Lisle, you are just being obtuse. Ever thought about combining these two processes?

1. We take a sentence:
The dog hates cats.

2. We duplicate it:
The dog hates cats. The dog hates cats.

3. We add a beneficial mutation to the addition:
The dog hates cats. The dog hates cars.

UH-OH! We now have new information about the dog, through the two processes you just said couldn't create new information. You might want to rethink things.

That is it for Information Science section of Chapter 1, next section the thoroughly debunked idea of Irreducible Complexity.

I also want to add, I love the pictures. Notice he pulls a Jack Chick, not as prominent as Chick does though, in that he makes the evolutionist look uglier than the Christian.


ExPatMatt said...

I like it!

That was a really nice deconstruction, Beams. I look forward to the next chapter of inanity.

It is worrying that these hacks are actually going through college just to get the credentials that make them sound like an 'authority' on the subject, and with no real desire to learn or - most importantly - to do new research that adds to the body of scientific knowledge.

You're adding new information bit was nicely put too - I may have to steal it if the opportunity arises...


Whateverman said...

I agree with EPM: nice deconstruction.

I'm not an expert, but as you said, Lisle's arguments seem to be based on a limited definition of 'information". Sure, some kinds of information necessitate a Sender/Mind (ie. FM radio broadcasts), and some necessitate a Receiver/Mind (stop light signals); some even require both (telephone conversation). However, I can envision information that requires no mind whatsoever, such as a supernova; no mind caused it to occur, and the information transmitted will exist and produce tangible effects regardless of whether there's a mind to receive it or not (ie. shit nearby is gonna get whacked, yo).

EriK said...

I thought it was interesting that you should use the cats-->cars example, not to mention the whole sentence. I am of course referring to the fact that your entire sentence (and the duplicate) is in English. It only makes sense to someone who understands English. It is intriguing to recognize that you exquisitely demonstrate the need for a language in order to understand information and get anything meaningful out of it. As a corollary, DNA is information, but it is useless without a language software that can 'understand' it and make something meaningful as a result.

Thanks for the illustration!

BeamStalk said...

Well analogies are far from perfect. Saying that DNA contains information is not quite right either, but I like the example and proves Lisle's premise to be completely false.