The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism

I stumbled across a very interesting article today that touched on a lot of the mathematical arguments against evolution that occasionally appear here. Perhaps a little harsh, but not unreasonably so.

This makes you wonder why anti-evolutionists insist on padding their work with so much irrelevant and erroneous mathematical formalism. The answer is that their literature has far more to do with propaganda than it does with serious argument. Mathematics is unique in its ability to bamboozle a lay audience, making it well suited to their purposes. But for all its superficial sophistication, anti-evolutionary mathematics is not even successful at raising interesting questions about evolution.

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Hi Curtis
This article seemed very weak to me as it puts the burden on the ID guys to prove evolution wrong vs showing how evolution is feasible. The one area of positive argument is gene duplication however that argument is weak as it compares copying a gene and it mutating with inserting a disc drive with pre existing information in a computer. We know from the Behe Lynch discussion that getting new viable information in a population from mutation in a gene is a very difficult problem based on waiting time.

I have had several friends(a book club) read both Dawkins and Behe to compare arguments. Not one person including agnostic/atheists thinks Dawkins arguments are a viable challenge to Behe’s argument for design.

AND here I was thinking about posting a Jason Rosenhouse article as a relevant add-on! :laughing:

For those who don’t know, Rosenhouse is the author of Evolutuionblog, and several books, including “Among the Creationists.”

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We know evolution is feasible because we can directly observe it. Since small evolutionary changes are directly observable, it would require a special argument to determine that those directly observable small changes cannot result in larger changes over time. Mathematics is often invoked in those attempts, but as you can see from the article, those mathematical arguments are not what they are cracked up to be.

Yes, an analogy is provided and all analogies fail. Regardless, gene duplication and divergence directly contradicts that argument that natural processes cannot increase genetic information.

I don’t know what your point is here. Are any of the arguments in the article drawing directly from Dawkins? I’m not convinced your argument here is relevant.

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And this forum is full of scientists who are Christians who think Behe’s arguments fail. What value do you find in these kinds of appeals to “someone X doesn’t find someone Y convincing”?

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What specifically do you mean by" larger changes".

Mathematics can be invoked because we are dealing with sequences and populations. There are mathematical models that exist for changes in populations. The models do not however show how the populations came into existence in the first place.

How about the claim that gene duplication/mutation can generate the new information we are observing in unique populations. This is the claim that needs support.

The book that the group read is the blind watchmaker where Dawkins tries to show a model where new genes can be generated by mutation and selection. The group understood the problem with Dawkins model.

Check the article for examples.

Mathematical modeling is certainly not a specialty of mine, but it seems you are putting the cart before the horse. Are you suggesting that something without a mathematical model cannot occur without divine action?

I think we can both agree that genes contain “information”, any way you want to define that term. When an information-containing gene is duplicated, and then the duplicates diverge (the multiple globin genes, for example), I don’t see any way to argue that the information content of the cell has somehow not increased.

I understand this was discussed in your book group. What I don’t understand is what Dawkins has to do with the article I posted.

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The populations came into existence from the prior populations. How else? Its turtles all the way down, and changes have always been part of that.

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Using their logic, we should have to wait for millions of lottery drawings before we get a winner. It appears you still don’t understand the Sharpshooter fallacy.

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What do you mean by “unique populations”?

If memory serves me right, the results of the Lenski LTEE so far unambiguously showed the capacity of gene duplication and other mutations to create and optimize novel traits.

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Thanks for the interesting comments on my article. This article is based on my new book The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism, which will be released by Cambridge University Press in the next week or so.

I should also mention that I retired from blogging several years ago, so EvolutionBlog is no longer active.

This article seemed very weak to me as it puts the burden on the ID guys to prove evolution wrong vs showing how evolution is feasible.

Neither my article, nor the book on which it is based, have anything to do with whether or not evolution is correct or even feasible. Let’s imagine that tomorrow those fabled pre-Cambrian rabbits show up, and we decide that evolution as we know it is just fundamentally wrong. Absolutely none of my arguments would be affected in the slightest.

The point of my article is that the mathematical arguments used by anti-evolutionists are nonsense. I consider a few of the major arguments in my article and obviously go into far more detail in the book. Their arguments are nonsense regardless of whether or not evolution is correct.

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Thanks for responding to my invitation, and welcome to Peaceful Science. :slight_smile:

This last point is one of the things that originally drew me into the argument. So many of the claims are just bad math, and no one should be persuaded by nonsense.

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Is that not a “burden” the ID guys have voluntarily accepted, by creating many books, articles and videos in which claim to have proven evolution wrong? Are you admitting that they have failed in that endeavor?

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HI Jason
Your claim in your paper that new genes are created by duplication and random mutation. I think this claim is challenged by mathematical arguments given genes are functional sequences which exist in exceedingly large mathematical spaces…

The fact that these functional sequences exist opens up the argument that a new function is unlikely (low probability) if the source of change is random.

Your counter argument is that selection or a non random process is involved in directing the mutational process. This claim needs more support as selection cannot occur until a beneficial change happens. What we are observing is a very diverse set of sequences in different animals. In order to make the selection process work Dawkins needed the information or sequence to pre exist in his Weasel model.

The mathematical arguments of Axe, Dembski and Behe are not perfect but they pose a real challenge to the theory. These arguments have not at all failed. They are clearly persuading some very bright people I am associated with that previously accepted evolutionary theory

I look forward to reading your book and sharing it with a larger group assuming the arguments are convincing… I hope you propose a more robust solution for new genes then duplication and random change prior to selection as this mechanism only works with very unrealistic assumptions.

Welcome @Jason_Rosenhouse, glad you could join us!

Here we go again. This is well supported.

And we have a mechanism that allows the acquisition of new functions in manner that is biased: natural selection.

Selection doesn’t direct the “mutational process”.

All that is needed for selection to happen is a disparity in fitness between two genotypes.

How does this relate to anything?

Super yawn.

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If creationist “math” done with numbers fails, creationist “math” done vague terms like “exceedingly large” in lieu of numbers fails doubly hard.

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Your claim in your paper that new genes are created by duplication and random mutation. I think this claim is challenged by mathematical arguments given genes are functional sequences which exist in exceedingly large mathematical spaces…

Gene duplication with subsequent divergence is an empirical fact. It is a well-understood process, and it plainly has the ability to account for information growth in the genome by any reasonable definition of “information.” Therefore, any assertion that known genetic mechanisms cannot account for information growth is false. That is my claim.

As it happens, anti-evolutionists routinely make precisely that assertion. I pointed to Werner Gitt and Andrew McIntosh in my article, but I could as easily have pointed to many others.

Since I don’t even mention Behe and Axe in my article, I don’t know why you keep bringing them up in this thread. I do devote some space to the mathematical aspects of their arguments in my book, however.

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We have evidence that Bill is immune to math and other reasoning. No need to give him any more of your time.

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I agree assertion that known genetic mechanisms cannot account for information is problematic as it sets up the person making the claim to have to prove a negative.

The claim that is problematic for evolution (Behe) is that duplication and divergence is unlikely to explain the new information we are observing. Random change is more likely to lose information then gain it. The empirical evidence supports that most changes in protein sequences are deleterious.