Genes that operate like managers and directors of other genes

From a longish article in today’s New York Times on the evolution of flowering plants, a subject about which biologists admit they know far less than the evolution of animals because plant fossils are so rare:

The genes, it turns out, are related to the genes that build Arabidopsis flowers. In Arabidopsis, for example, a gene called AP3 is required to build petals and stamens. Poppies have two copies of a related version of the gene, called paleoAP3. But Dr. Irish and her colleagues found that the two genes produced different effects. Shutting down one gene transforms petals. The other transforms stamens.

The results, Dr. Irish said, show that early flowers evolved a basic tool kit of genes that marked off different regions of a stem. Those geography genes made proteins that could then switch on other genes involved in making different structures. Over time, the genes could switch control from one set of genes to another, giving rise to new flowers.

Thus, the petals on a poppy evolved independently from the petals on Arabidopsis, but both flowers use the same kinds of genes to control their growth.

If Dr. Irish is right, flowers have evolved in much the same way our own anatomy evolved. Our legs, for example, evolved independently from the legs of flies, but many of the same ancient appendage-building genes were enlisted to build those different limbs.

“I think it is pretty cool that animals and plants have used similar strategies,” Dr. Irish said, “albeit with different genes.”

Hmm, geography genes that tell other genes to do specific things depending on where they are located on the stem. And these geography genes, which direct the overall formation of the plant, came into existence … how? While the article uses the word mutation in a couple of other passages, it does not use the word here, as it would make too evident the absurdity of the Darwinian explanation of evolution, which says that all new genes and new gene functions come into existence through randomly occurring accidental mutations, consisting of bad copies of existing genes. It would be like saying that an architect who puts the kitchen in one part of a house, and the living room in another, and the boiler room in an another, and the bathroom in another, himself came into existence as the result of a random accident.

Darwin defenders frequently mock intelligent design proponents for claiming that various evolutionary innovation were very unlikely. The ID’ers, argue the Darwinians, are not taking into account the marvelous ways evolution can overcome various challenges and get from point A to point B.

Also, if you say that something is highly unlikely, you’re conceding that it could happen. Thus Michael Behe, in his embarrassing, unserious testimony at the Dover, Pennsylvania intelligent design trial in 2005, admitted under pressing cross examination that some evolutionary innovation he was discussing (it may have been his favorite example of the bacterium flagellum, it may have been some other example) could have come into existence by Darwinian processes after all, if given enough time.

However, I am not saying, Behe-like, that the appearance of the geography gene in flowering plants by a random mutation is extremely unlikely or that the odds are wildly against it. I am saying that it is inherently impossible.

- end of initial entry -

Leonard D. writes:

You wrote:

” I am not saying, Behe-like, that the appearance of the geography gene in flowering plants by a random mutation is extremely unlikely or that the odds are wildly against it. I am saying that it is inherently impossible.”

Genes are in no way supernatural. They are strings of chemicals (DNA base pairs). If a DNA base is like a letter, then a gene is like a paragraph or a page of text. No gene is “inherently impossible”; it is like saying a paragraph is inherently impossible. (And yes, we have ten million monkeys feverishly typing. Not architects; monkeys.)

LA replies:

God bless Leonard. He is truly a man of faith and loyalty. He just keeps repeating the Darwinian orthodoxy, sound-proofed against all the arguments that have been made.

D. from Seattle writes:

It seems to me Leonard D. is failing basic reading comprehension in his reply to you. Clearly your paragraph that he quoted means “appearance (of genes) by random mutation is inherently impossible.” Leonard interprets that as “genes are inherently impossible.” I’m not a master of English grammar, but I think he’s confusing subject and object of a sentence—feel free to correct my grammatical interpretation as needed.

And speaking of ten million monkeys feverishly typing, let’s examine the old argument that a monkey, typing for a very long time, could type the complete works of Shakespeare. As an aside, I’d love to use this as an interview question for any type of a quant job. Let’s estimate the probability that a monkey could type completed works of Shakespeare as P:

P = (1/x)^N, i.e. a monkey needs to type a correct character (one of x) N times in a row

- where x = number of characters, including letters and punctuation (let’s say this is 30; 26 letters, space bar, shift for capitalization, and only two punctuation signs, comma and point; in reality you would need enter for new line/paragraph, colon, semi-colon, dash, etc, so x is more likely to be 34 or 35, but 30 is good enough);

- and N = the total number of characters in all of Shakespeare’s works combined, including every letter, punctuation mark, space between words, etc. As a very rough estimate, one page of a Microsoft word document, at 1.5 line spacing, could have 2000-2500 characters including spaces. How many pages are there? I’ve Googled this and the estimates go from 1436 to 2576, depending on the edition. Let’s say 2000 pages, at 2000-2500 characters per page, that’s 4-5 million characters.

Using Wolfram Alpha search engine, the result for x = 30 and N = 4M is: app. 0 followed by 5.9 million zeros and then 4.

Using Wolfram Alpha search engine, the result for x = 30 and N = 5M is: 0 followed by 7.4 million zeros and then 1.

This search engine gives the alternate number form as ZERO.

Even ten million monkeys typing would only shave 7 zeros off of those 5.9 million or 7.4 million zeros—far less than a rounding error.

Bottom line, next time a Darwinian tells you “it took a very long time” or some such BS, ask them to give you a number estimate, and then feel free to hit them with these probabilities. These probabilities are so low we can’t even comprehend them. As an illustration, Wolfram Alpha gives an estimate for a number of atoms in the universe as paltry 10E80, or 1*10^80. That’s 1 followed by measly 80 zeros, compared to 5.9 or 7.4 million zeros AFTER A DECIMAL POINT in the monkey-typing-Shakespeare probability.

Ben W. writes:

Leonard: “And yes, we have ten million monkeys feverishly typing.”

Typing on what? Where did their typewriters come from?

Where did the paper for the typewriters come from?

Where did the ink and the ribbons for the typewriters come from?

How did the the ten million monkeys come to type in the first place?

When and how did it occur to the monkeys to strike the keys of the typewriters?

Who assembled all of the typewritten pages into a Shakespearian manuscript?

When did the monkeys end the typewriting or could they have inadvertently typed over an unrealized portion of the paper that did come out as a Shakespearian monologue as they typed away?

Why are the monkeys “feverishly” typing rather than lackadaisically or intermittently What would cause one monkey (never mind ten million) to “feverishly” bang away at the typewriter keys?

However Leonard does persuade me that there is one monkey “feverishly” typing…

Ben continues:

BTW my last line in the previous email that “Leonard persuades me that there is one monkey feverishly typing” is not an insult in purely Darwinian terms. Are we not all kin to apes?

If Leonard objects to this last line (and responds to this trap), we should ask him what is offensive and insulting in it since it follows the Darwinian line of descent and we are supposed to honor our forefathers…

Todd White writes:

You might be interested in this section of Wikipedia’s article, Infinite monkey theorem…

In 2003, lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth MediaLab Arts course used a £2,000 grant from the Arts Council to study the literary output of real monkeys. They left a computer keyboard in the enclosure of six Celebes Crested Macaques in Paignton Zoo in Devon in England for a month, with a radio link to broadcast the results on a website. One researcher, Mike Phillips, defended the expenditure as being cheaper than reality TV and still “very stimulating and fascinating viewing”.[28]

Not only did the monkeys produce nothing but five pages[29] consisting largely of the letter S, the lead male began by bashing the keyboard with a stone, and the monkeys continued by urinating and defecating on it. The zoo’s scientific officer remarked that the experiment had “little scientific value, except to show that the ‘infinite monkey’ theory is flawed”.

Leonard D. writes:

Your correspondent D. from Seattle has just the sort of argument from incredulity that I thought might happen. He correctly computes the probability of the random typing of the complete works of Shakespeare as very, very small, given certain assumptions. But this is just the thing: it is not impossible, as his own calculations show. (And of course a gene is nowhere near as large as the complete works of Shakespeare; an average gene is maybe 10-15 kilobytes, and some of that is non-coding. Nor are novel genes fully synthesized from nothing on the fly, as his calculations assume.) So, although D. thinks he is supporting your side of this, he is supporting mine. “Impossible” has a meaning: not “unlikely”, but “not possible”. This was the same “trap”, if you want to call it that, that Behe fell into.

Ben W. must learn to unpack the analogy himself. I could do it, of course, but doing so (a) is not so hard, (b) is basically evolution advocacy, not my point nor yours, and (c) misses the semantic point I am making here. Would Ben W/ say it is “impossible” for a monkey to type “to be or not SQUORK?” As for his attempted insult, I don’t mind being called an ape, for as he correctly points out, I am one. Do let us honor our ancestors! But of course that was not the intended insult. I don’t care if he suggests I am stupid, or for that matter if you suggest I am simpleminded. This is par for the course in holding an unpopular viewpoint, and one must have thick skin to engage in the rough and tumble of debate. But he must learn style. Your jibe was stylish and even generous; his was not.

LA replies:

You write: “This was the same ‘trap’, if you want to call it that, that Behe fell into.”

I was thinking of saying the same to D., but didn’t get around to it. This may be just my own mental bent, but odds don’t impress me with the force of truth, but the nature of things. This doesn’t mean that the kinds of odds D. was giving don’t add up to practical impossibility; they do add up to practical impossibility. But for me, piling zeros on zeros is not my preferred argument, because it doesn’t get to the nature of things. Rather I would say that it’s inherently impossible in the nature of things for randomness to produce complex order, unless there is something guiding things into that order, in which case it’s not randomness.

September 10

D. from Seattle writes:

I appreciate your last posted comment on this topic, saying that you prefer to argue topics based on the nature of things, not just the numbers. One of the main reasons I enjoy reading your site is exactly that—discussing things from their very nature. I can’t make those arguments nearly as effectively as you do, but I enjoy reading them and at least trying to remember them, for future use.

Back to the topic: I believe that, even if you focus on the nature of things, you shouldn’t give Darwinists/HBDers/whatever an easy pass on the numbers, and here’s why. I’m sure you’ve read many Darwinian arguments over the years along the lines of “it took a very long time,” “there were many small changes,” “it took millions of iterations” and other probabilistic arguments ad nauseam. But how often have you seen Darwinists actually assign any real probability values to their models? I would bet not many at all. And I believe that the reason is, if they were to do that, those probabilities would be so extremely low they would be laughable.

The Darwinian arguments may sound reasonable in principle to the uninformed, the undecided, or the uninterested, but only because the probabilities aren’t mentioned. If they were, any reasonable person would have to conclude that a supposedly random event, or series of events, with such an extremely low probability of occurrence, COULD NOT POSSIBLY BE RANDOM.

Case in point: Leonard. Imagine that all atoms in the Universe, all 1*10E80 of them (that’s 1 with 80 zeros after it) were neatly arranged in a warehouse. Imagine that there is one single unique atom of Unobtanium (Un). There is 1/1*10E-80 chance of randomly picking that one atom from the warehouse (that’s 0.[80 zeros]1).

The probability that a monkey could type the complete works of Shakespeare is approximately 41E-5,400,000, or 0.[5.4 million zeros]4. And what did Leonard say? That, even if very unlikely, it’s not impossible. Well of course it’s not impossible, because it’s probabilistic. The only things that are impossible are things that are defined as impossible ahead of time, such as throwing a single dice and getting 0, or 7, or 3.14, or any other number apart from 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Point being, if you demonstrate to someone that picking a single atom in the Universe is more than 10E5,000,000 times more likely than a monkey typing Shakespeare, and they tell you that a monkey still COULD type Shakespeare, they are not engaging in a serious or honest argument.

To repeat: if Darwinists provided honestly estimated and calculated probabilities for the supposedly random events that led to the evolution of species, any reasonable person would likely conclude that those evolutionary events could not possibly be random. Which is why Darwinists don’t provide those probabilities, and are for the most part able to get away with it (but I don’t know why, since they shouldn’t be able to get away with it).

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 08, 2009 09:59 AM | Send

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