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Information Enigma: Where Did the Information in DNA Come From?

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Information Enigma: Where does information come from? Information drives the development of life. But what is the source of that information? Could it have been produced by an unguided Darwinian process? Or did it ...
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I find myself more and more intrigued by this question, that I've now seen presented in many ways by many brilliant scientists, computer specialists, and others. As a biology major with a life-long interest in "most things science," aka the best of human reasoning, I have been steeped in what I can only but hesitatingly call scientific dogma. I have studied evolution since my college days, and even before, when I had a class in evolution in Catholic high school, taught by a new but most thoughtful lay person. Mr. Raefel is at least the phonetic spelling of his name. Everyone in the class had to research some topic in the area, circa 1964, and give a serious presentation to the class. I can't even recall my own project, but do remember a spectacular one on sponges--invertebrates with some amazing abilities, such the ability to reassemble after being forced through a screen.

I've been a virtual student of the late Stephen Jay Gould, personally corresponded with him, and read damn near everything he wrote, articles in Natural History every month for years, and a number of captivating books. All superbly written and eye opening to many. Richard Dawkins, as in The God Delusion, and Gould had a big blow-out about something I don't recall, but I do remember Dawkins saying he only wished Gould could think as well as he wrote. I respected them both and many others, such as the late Lynn Margulis.

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So as near as I can tell, this is a new wave of scientific thinking raising a major question about the very heart of evolution, which even Darwin saw as an inexplainable. I think it bugged him as much as the peacock tail, which had no conceivable evolutionary advantage, though it has long since been recognized as useful for attracting mates.

 

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In my run for U.S. Senate against Utah's Orrin Hatch, I posted many progressive ideas and principles that I internalized over the years. I'm leaving that site up indefinitely, since it describes what I believe most members of our species truly (more...)
 

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6 people are discussing this page, with 16 comments


nelswight

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Appreciate your work, Daniel.

Submitted on Monday, Jul 1, 2019 at 10:43:37 PM

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Daniel Geery

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This isn't work, however; it fascinates me and makes me appreciate our amazing universe all the more!

Submitted on Monday, Jul 1, 2019 at 11:39:26 PM

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Jerry Lobdill

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I read this and watched the video by Stephen Meyer. It is disturbing. I was in graduate school majoring in physics at UT Austin from August 1963 till June of 1966. I took 3 courses in quantum mechanics (QM). I got to attend a lecture by Paul Dirac once.

I could not make sense of QM then, precisely because physicists had acknowledged that Schrodinger and Heisenberg had two vastly different ways of getting correct answers to the same questions about sub-atomic physics, but they didn't touch the third rail...the issue of why so? We studied what seemed to be inexpicable theories like "The Eightfold Way", and it all seemed like voo-doo. It still does. Classical mechanics and Lord Rayleigh's wave equation became my tickets to a career.

I dropped modern physics, as it seemed like a faith-based topic. Now I'm looking a little closer at where they've gone with the modern physics. As Einstein said, it seems spooky to me. Consciousness? Entanglement? Reality and separability or universal connectedness? These issues seem unreal, but I'm open to proof.

Submitted on Wednesday, Jul 3, 2019 at 7:25:05 PM

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Amazing bio info. Good for you, really. My foundation still goes back to the article I wrote about "dropping out the back door of the universe." I think that's the title and should be easily found. Anecdotal I know but for me it is as real as I'm sitting here, even more so. And the many studies that have been done that are linked to in that article testify to the same experience or very similar from I think about seven thousand others. And for every one of those I guarantee you there's at least 10 more and probably a lot more than that. I do like Rupert Sheldrake a great deal and see him a superb scientist who doesn't get credit for the serious issues and major studies that he's done, from all I can see. I guess we'll know before too long or not about what's on the other side of the curtain! Houdini promised to come back but he never made it...

Submitted on Thursday, Jul 4, 2019 at 12:59:20 AM

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Michael Fairchild

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I find Stephen Meyer's statistics dubious at best and would love to see his assertions regarding the impossibility of natural selection confirmed by real scientists scientists. I think I'll have a long wait.

He comes across as credible and I don't think he is lying, only deluded. If you look into his background you will see a dyed in the wool Bible beating creationist.

From my perspective the universe is mysterious, far more mysterious than most scientists would care to admit. I believe there is a creator, but he doesn't fiddle with the unfolding oh his creation. He established the rules, including the 26 +or- universal constants. His rules result in universal evolution both physical and life based, including random selection of DNA sequences for viability.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 12:09:13 PM

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I have doubts about the guy, I didn't know about the bible thumping. Major turn-off. I post these to get feedback like this.


The stats on DNA mutations do have me baffled. I'd like to get some serious feedback but have yet to see it.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 5:57:25 PM

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Jerry Lobdill

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You said, "I find Stephen Meyer's statistics dubious at best and would love to see his assertions regarding the impossibility of natural selection confirmed by real scientists scientists. I think I'll have a long wait"

and this: "If you look into his background you will see a dyed in the wool Bible beating creationist.

This 2nd statement is always a red flag. However, my concern is his statement that the Cambrian explosion brought about many new life forms that had no connection to previous ones. I am a newbie to this information. Is it true? If so, his interpretation that this implies intention on the part of an otherwise impossible creation story has non-faith-based credibility by probability considerations.

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Submitted on Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 6:16:14 PM

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From my recollections on the Cambrian explosion which I read an awful lot about, particularly from Stephen Jay Gould a major Harvard paleontologist, world-renowned, I tend to think that could be accurate.

One of the problems is that the earlier life-forms had no hard parts and so did not take to fossilizing well. It's extremely rare to get a decent fossil as in almost astronomical minus a few exceptions like the California tar piits or major ice slides, mudslides and the like. Dinosaur National Park comes to mind where they had a bend in the river that deposited a lot of dinosaur fossils. You can still see the scientists digging out the parts in a great big glass building were the scientists are chipping away. Quite amazing.

But to answer your question, I really don't know except it does seem possible. And bible thumper or not, even the stopped clock is right twice a day.

Submitted on Friday, Jul 5, 2019 at 9:35:35 PM

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I found this video very interesting.

He talked about the number 10 to the 77th; a VERY big number. That reminded me of a comparison of three particular VERY big numbers that I think is very interesting.

Rank in order the following 3 numbers:

- The number of estimated possible moves in one game of chess.

- Google.

- The estimated number of atoms in the Universe.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 6, 2019 at 6:16:07 PM

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I am actively searching for more on this. Need to get hold of a few scientists I greatly respect, starting with Sheldrake, Brian Cox, and a number of others.

Submitted on Sunday, Jul 7, 2019 at 12:39:26 AM

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10120 - Number of estimated possible moves in one game of chess

10100 - Google

1080 - Estimated number of atoms in the Universe

Submitted on Sunday, Jul 7, 2019 at 4:07:24 PM

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Josh Mitteldorf

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This is a piece of propaganda, not an educational video. It's a sales pitch for Intelligent Design.

That said, the central premise is valid: the mechanism of blind mutation and natural selection that Darwin proposed seems not to be able to account for the efficiency with which evolution generates new functions and new species.

"God did it" doesn't help anyone understand the great mysteries of how life grew to be so complex and diverse in a mere 4 billion years. It's just giving up on the problem, stating that no understanding is possible.

Yes, the standard Darwinian theory doesn't work. But no, evolutionary science is not bankrupt. The most conservative solution is that evolution has found ways to be Lamarckian. We see a lot of hints - mostly from epigenetics - that this is true. Lamarckian mutations are not blind -- they are directional, based on information gained during a parent's lifetime. This makes evolution ever so much faster.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 13, 2019 at 10:25:34 PM

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Greatly appreciated and it certainly makes sense. The central problem looks to be the speed of the Cambrian evolution, which of course is difficult to fully grasp given the soft body parts involved. As I'm sure you're well aware I'm just noting that for other readers here. Thanks again, Josh.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 13, 2019 at 11:21:05 PM

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Here's the conventional view of the Cambrian explosion. I don't know enough to know whether I thin it's plausible.

The great majority of our genes are functional for cell chemistry. Making membranes, converting sugar to energy, protecting against invaders, translating DNA, reproducing, sharing genes (sex)...

Once all these pieces were in place, there was a basis for cells cooperating with one another in multi-celled organisms, and they didn't need to invent a lot of new proteins to create new and very different forms. So progress was able to happen very rapidly.

To me this is qualitatively plausible, but I haven't seen anyone work out the numbers in a way that is rigorous and convincing.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 13, 2019 at 11:46:50 PM

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Josh Mitteldorf

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The most deceptive part of this video is the idea that evolution needed to try every one of 10 to the 77th power DNA arrangements before coming up with one that works. Here's an analogy:

He talks about a combination lock with 77 dials. If you have to get all 77 numbers right before you get a reward, then the odds against that are clearly astronomical.

But suppose you could try spinning just the first dial, and someone would say, "Yes - you've got that right", and then you could move on to the next dial and do the same thing. You'd find the combination in less than 400 tries.

This corresponds to a situation where fitness improves very gradually, so natural selection is giving constant feedback. THIS was Darwin's model--small changes, each one incrementally better than the last version.

So which is it? Is the real world closer to the first scenario (no reward until you get all 77 dials right) or the second (partial reward for each dial you get right)? The answer is clearly somewhere in between. If it's closer to the first, Darwinian evolution can't work. If it's closer to the second, Darwinian evolution works splendidly. And we don't know what the answer is.

Submitted on Saturday, Jul 13, 2019 at 11:42:40 PM

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Brilliant. The kind of answer I was hoping to see. Still vast room for thought, particularly on the first reproductive "units." I am thinking the line between geology and biology is certainly blurry and even virtually non-existant.

Submitted on Sunday, Jul 14, 2019 at 12:22:43 AM

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