Does approach to higher probability block natural selection?


In his video, which we have discussed ad nauseam in our extremely long recent thread Mark Champneys claims that scientists are ignoring science when they claim that natural selection can result in functional information increasing in the genome. In the subsequent discussion, Champneys insisted that there was a generalized form of the Second Law which made such increase impossible, insisted that it applied not just to isolated systems but to non-isolated populations of organisms, and that it did prevent natural selection from achieving long-term improvement.

In this post, I hope to show a very simple example, and to get away from the issue of whether this has anything to do with the Second Law. If we can focus on discussing whether the approach of a stochastic process to its equilibrium prevents natural selection from having effect, maybe we can avoid having 1,600-plus comments and actually discuss the matter at hand.

Let's try for that focus and relevance. Surely someone who wants scientists to actually grapple with the science must agree with that goal. Right? Let's see ...

Gold of the gaps


Does gold have a purpose? asks an unnamed author in Evolution News & Science Today. The author goes on to observe that there is more gold on earth than astrophysicists can account for and also that gold has risen to the surface of the earth faster than might be expected. They go on to note the “availability of many essential elements at the surface of the earth …” and also discuss the use of gold in medicine. They are somewhat breathless at the discovery that the body can metabolize gold:

Gold nanoparticles, which are supposed to be stable in biological environments, can be degraded inside cells, [boldface in original]

even though, as they note, gold salts have been used for decades in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

At any rate, the article stresses the “mystery of biological gold” and claims several hints why gold may have a purpose: its abundance and seemingly unlikely transport to the surface of the earth, the ability of cells to “metabolize” [sic] gold, the fact that gold persists in the body, and the usefulness of gold for therapeutics. The conclusion of the article is

Since ID advocates are better equipped to think outside the box than are the paradigm-locked materialist scientists, they are more free to consider a positive answer — showing once again that intelligent design is not a “science stopper” but a fruitful way to pursue interesting questions. If the answer is “Yes, gold has a purpose,” the applications could be profound.

Au boy! The author seems a little Au-struck by what seem to me relatively unrelated scientific discoveries and is trying Au-fully hard to weave them together into a fine-tuning argument. Here is my translation of the conclusion:

Since intelligent-design creationists are desperately searching for “hints” of design, they are more likely than empirically based scientists to come up with a positive answer — showing once again that intelligent-design creationists can pretend that any unanticipated scientific discovery leads to “interesting questions.” If the answer is, “Yes, gold has a purpose,” no practical applications will result.

Actually, the answer to the question is, “Yes, gold, like anything else, has whatever purposes we assign to it.”

Thanks to Glenn Branch, who apparently reads Evolution News, so I generally do not have to.

Platalea ajaja L.


Roseate spoonbill, by C. Joseph Long.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Roseate spoonbill
Platalea ajaja L., roseate spoonbill, with young. The photographer writes, "This shot was taken at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. This is a popular place (among the birds, as well as humans) because, while nestlings that fall to the surface are lost, the nests are safe from such predators as raccoons, bobcats, and snakes due to the inaccessibility of the trees’ bases. The color is due, as in flamingos, to carotenoids in the diet. According to Wikipedia, the roseate’s closest relative is the yellow-billed spoonbill, which is found in southeast Australia. They do get around."

Protein chimeras are evidence against ID claims!


Where do novel functional proteins come from? It has become something of a staple of the ID-creationism movement that proteins with novel functions and structures are practically impossible to evolve.

Why? In part because functional protein sequences, that is, protein sequences with functions that are useful to living organisms (such as protecting DNA from damage or promoting essential chemical reactions), are supposedly hyper-astronomically rare among all possible protein sequences. So rare, ID-creationists argue, that even with unrealistically huge population sizes and rates of mutation, not a single functional protein sequence could be expected to evolve in the entire history of the universe.

The intended message is, of course, that since we know of millions of functional protein sequences within the diversity of life on Earth, and since supposedly none of them could have evolved, Intelligent Design becomes the only other plausible explanation for why they exist. And so, you know, evolution must be false and there must be an Intelligent Designer.