Currently in a debate on Facebook with a creationist friend... as per usual haha.
The latest reply is this:
even if the mutations were slow and slight, they never consisted of NEW genetic information being introduced or forming itself out of nowhere, only mutation of whatever was there already.
I mean for the whole grand/mega-coplex of evolution concept built up nowadays, there sould be at least a few tiny minuscule examples in the billions of living organism today where we can see this slight process at work,
there is like.... not even ONE such example??
that kindda settles it for me.
Now I've heard this argument plenty of times, but I'm not confident in giving an answer as I don't feel I have enough knowledge on this specific point. So... will someone enlighten me? Thanks :)
On my reading, they appear to me making two assertions.
The first is that evolution can't produce new information.
But the second seems to be that, even if it could produce new information, mutations can only act on what is already there, and that evolution doesn't explain where this already existing material came from.
In reverse order:
It's not a knock against evolution to say that evolution doesn't explain where the first molecules on which selection could act came from. Evolution doesn't do ever claim to provide an explanation for this. To suggest that this is a failure is no different than saying that quantum mechanics doesn't provide an explanation for where these first molecules came from. Quantum mechanics is intended to explain where those first molecules came from in the same way that evolution is intended to... not at all.
BUT, that's not to say that we don't have very plausible answers for how complex molecules on which selection could act, thereby creating still more complex molecules that could self replicate and eventually be capable of metabolism etc., eventually creating what we'd recognize as simple unicellular organisms. Abiogenesis is the name for the group of hypotheses that come from biochemistry and seek to explain how life came from non-life, to explain where the material upon which selection could initially act came from.
Now, the second assertion is of the same type as when Creationists say that there are no transitional fossils: they either are ignorant of their existence or choose to willfully ignore the fact that they exist, having been shown many examples of them repeatedly by those that have no ideological bias that prevents them from accepting evolution. As the philosopher of science Maarten Boudry has pointed out, the criterion of complex specified information is simply a very bad filter for detecting design, because it singles out biological phenomena that present no problem whatsoever for standard evolutionary explanations.
But the bigger problem is the whole notion of "information" as it is understood within Creationist circles. William Dembski is largely responsible for these assertions about information (complex specified information, to use his specific name). About Dembski's work on this subject, Mark Perakh points out the problem when he highlights Dembski's habit of switching back and forth between the technical mathematical definition of "information" (as elucidated by C.E. Shannon), which is just a measure of randomness (and therefore insignificant), and the common understanding of information as "meaningful message." (Perakh 2004, as sited by Boudry. Here's Perakh on Dembski Also see Boudry's papers here)
So even if some understanding of information was a problem for evolution, information as understood by Creationists while attacking evolution is muddled and poorly formed as an idea that they themselves can't seem to nail down. As such, this doesn't present a problem for evolution at all. And that's again only for the sake of argument since new information is "created" by evolution all the time!
This irks me. People who have just enough knowledge to be annoying with these questions that would be answered in 9th grade biology class.
Unfortunately, the ID crowd will interpret that line as just another appeal to an arbitrary authority. They don't understand what science is, so explaining that scientists have reached a consensus sounds to them just like millions of ignorant Xtians have reached a consensus.
Yes but trying to reason with a lunatic is lunacy. So I will say that and walk away.
A mutation IS new genetic information. Genes are not single, discreet units. They are made up of a sequence of amino acids. If any of those acids are out of order, or swapped with another, that makes an entirely new gene, which might kill the creature, might be irrelevant, like hair color, or might give it an edge in reproducing, thus propagating the new sequence on to future generations.
Also, we now know that genes can be swapped from one organism to another. When you get a virus, it injects it's dna into your cells to reproduce more viruses. Some of that dna can combine with yours, thus altering your genetic code. What that gene does in a virus could be quite different from what it does in your body.
People get hung up on this deal about new information. The truth is, new information isn't really needed. Look into fruit fly research. They can get rid of wing, change colors, and multiple other things simply by turning genes on or off. A lot of information is already there. It is simply recessive or turned off. Whales have hips and manatees have three toe nails on there from flippers. Why hips or toe nails on sea creatures that have no back legs or toes? They once walked on land obviously. Enough changes will make DNA non compatible over time with the original because of genetic changes. People that deny this either are to....dim or they are lying to themselves. You can't change there mind because they will deny the truth, even when it's in there face. Ask him about the whale and manatee. I bet they say " it's god design."
If I understand correctly they are talking about not evolution of current or even past organisms but the arising of new life or radically new types of life in living creatures. If this is the case then just respond that A) evolution has nothing to do with the origins of life and doesn't even address that and B) even if it did then the reason new life has not come about like the life we see evoked around us now is because the conditions that allowed for the origins of life are no longer present on the earth.
The inherent problem in this specific argument is the notion of 'new information.' As has been pointed out, information in this instance is coming from arguments by Dembski, and ultimately it (in my view) steers the conversation towards the inevitable goal of information = design. Other problems arise that anything you get that answers the question being posed, is that they will either not understand, or ignore what you present. You could talk about polyploidy, which doubles (or triples, etc) the genetic information, which just by itself can lead to speciation (which is what many creationists call 'macroevolution'). You can see that in many plants, like dandelions. However this won't satisfy the question as its a doubling (or more) of the information that is already there, and would be dismissed as not introducing 'new' genetic information. Dave G's suggestion of bacteria digesting nylon is an excellent example, but more than likely it will be ignored as well (having had this same conversation myself with a creationist).