email - October 2005

Gene Duplicatioioion

Added genes don’t add information.

Last month, we shared Jeff’s email about gene duplication with you. Argumentative Alex responded immediately with an email titled, “Gene Duplicatioioion”. We presume the doubly repeated “io” in the title was intentional. It was funny, but it helps make our point, not Jeff’s. The repeated letters do not increase information.

In our column we had written, “We hope he got the point.” Alex picked up this phrase and responded:

We hope he got the point.
We hope he got the paint.
We hope she got the paint.
We hoped she got the paint.
He hoped she got the paint.
He hoped she got the paints.
She hoped she got the paints.
She hopped, she got the pants.
She shopped, she got the pants.
She shopped, she’d got the pants.
She shopped, she’d get the pants.

How long would [you] like me to go on?

Best wishes       Alex

We didn’t believe that all of those changes were random. We thought that Alex cleverly (dare we say, “intelligently”?) made each change with the expressed goal of changing the meaning to prove a point. When we challenged the randomness of the process, Alex replied,

No, I confess, the changes were not random - I don't have geological time and had to use a bit of intelligent design. However, if you don't mind waiting for a bit I could do the same thing by changing or deleting one letter at random. If I deleted the 'failures' and sent you only the sentences that pass my 'natural selection' test, you would not be able to tell the difference!

Alex has confused an inefficient process with a random process. If I didn’t mind waiting a bit, I could have a monkey randomly press keys on my keyboard. Every time the monkey presses the wrong key, I could delete it. Eventually “the monkey” could write this whole column “randomly.” But, in fact, I would have been guiding the process all the way, making the monkey write what I wanted it to write. It would just take a lot longer than pressing the keys myself.

Each of Alex’s intentional modifications was syntactically correct. That is, all of the words were spelled correctly. Each intentional modification was semantically correct. That is, the nouns and verbs were in the correct positions. But information did not increase.

We hoped he got the point. We didn’t hope he got the PAINT. Alex’s first modification did not accurately express anything about our hopes. Therefore, it did not convey information. We didn’t hope SHE got the paint, either.

Truth matters, at least in the context of information transfer. There are two things present in any transmission channel. One is “signal,” the other is “noise.” Signal is defined (by engineers) to be the information one wants to transmit. Noise is defined as anything that prevents that information from being transmitted. What Alex actually did was to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio by changing “point” to “paint.” Because of that increase in noise, information was lost. The receiver no longer knows that “We hope he got the point.” The receiver incorrectly thinks “We hope he got the paint.” Each of the changes Alex made to our transmission simply increased the noise, so that the message was totally garbled at the end.

You may have played a party game, where a dozen or so people line up. The first person whispers “We hope he got the point,” to the second person in line. The second person whispers it to the third person, who whispers it to the fourth, etc. Finally the last person says the message was, “She shopped, she’d get the pants.” Inaccurate transmission from one person to another caused information to be lost.

Engineers never intentionally introduce noise into a communications channel in the hopes that more information will appear.

There was information in “We hope he got the point.” There was meaning that we wanted to convey. There is no truth to the statement, “She shopped, she’d get the pants.” Since it isn’t true, there isn’t any information. Information was lost in the modification of the message.

The claim is made by evolutionists that random insertion, deletion, and modification, of the bases in a DNA molecule changed reptile DNA into mammal DNA. That is, these random changes caused breasts to form, and furthermore, random changes caused these breasts to lactate at the end of pregnancy. People like Alex think that, given enough time and enough lizards, this could happen. They think we just didn’t see all the lizards with non-functional breasts because natural selection eliminated them immediately. We think this is an unscientific belief.

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