In part 3 of this vlog, Dr. Stephen Meyer, Director of the Discover Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, concludes his discussion regarding the faults in the beliefs of the Neo-Darwinism movement. Speaking from his own published book, “Darwin’s Doubt”, Meyer shares how Neo-Darwinism does not explain the complex genetic circuitry needed to generate life.
Problem gets worse. This is the second problem. When we realize that to build an animal, a new form of animal life. We not only need new genes and protein, but we need networks of genes that are interacting. They form a kind of a circuitry. They’re called gene regulatory networks and when scientists map out the functional relationships between genes and their gene products called proteins, they get patterns like this that look like integrated circuits. And what’s going on is something like this-you have a gene that codes for building a protein, and that protein then will bind to another part of the DNA and cause another gene either to be expressed or to be so suppressed or turned on or turned off. And then the ones that are expressed will then bind someplace else and turn on another gene. And you have this beautifully choreographed system in which information that’s being used to build different proteins is turned on and turned off at just the right time as cells are going through division and making new animals. So this is brilliant choreography taking place and the scientists who study these networks call them gene regulatory networks. And what they’ve learned about them is very interesting is that the gene regulatory networks cannot be altered without shutting down animal development. If you change them even a little bit you get a dead animal.
And that raises a big problem because if you want to build a new form of animal life. We now know that you need a gene regulatory network. So you’ve got gene regulatory network one that’s coordinating all the expression of all the genetic information to build the animal. But you want to build a new animal. So you need to have gene regulatory network too. But we know that gene regulatory networks don’t change without destroying animal development. So you start to mutate that gene regulatory network animal development shuts down. No more evolution and you never get to gene regulatory network to an animal to get the problem and the leading scientists have worked on this one. Eric Davidson at Caltech simply describes this is a grave problem for neo-darwinism and he actually says that neo-darwinism is a catastrophic error in thinking, because it can’t solve this problem. So this is just simply has been left unsolved. Now skip over another problem that’s very interesting. But in my book. It’s about the need for very specific kinds of mutations. It turns out if you want to get a mutation to build a new animal has to happen early in the development of the animal cause only those kind of mutations will cause major change. But those are the very mutations that we know also invariably kill animals in development. So it’s a kind of catch-22. The kind of mutations we need we don’t get the ones that act early and produce beneficial change. The kind we get we don’t need. Those are the minor mutations that might be heritable but don’t change very much. So that’s another problem. But here’s an even deeper one. And this is what’s called genetic or antoh genetic information. We all know about the information in the DNA molecule, but it turns out. That’s not the only information that’s needed to build a form of animal life. There are other layers of information in organisms and cells that are needed to build an animal form. But according to neo-darwinism the information necessary to build a new animal is all contained in the DNA and the mutations that accrue in it. But if you need other levels of information then genetic mutations alone aren’t going to be sufficient. Here’s a boy looking at this DNA builds for builds proteins. But proteins are only parts of cells. And you also have to make an animal, you have lots of new types of cells that are needed and new types of tissues formed of those new types of cells and new organs formed those new tissues and organs and tissues. Yeah the tissues and cell types. So the DNA makes the proteins. The proteins have to be organized into distinctive cell types, the cell types have to be organized into distinct tissues. The tissues and organs and organs and tissues into body plans. But DNA only is responsible for the lowest level in that hierarchy for the building of the new proteins. So where’s that other information. Well, we don’t know entirely. We know some of the other sources of that information. But the key point is that we know information beyond DNA is necessary and yet neo-darwinism says you build organisms by mutating DNA alone. We know and we now know that’s just simply not sufficient. It’s not an adequate explanation. So in other words, if body plan building building new animals requires information beyond DNA then you could mutate DNA and definitely not worry about the odds. And you’re still in the best of cases, only build information for making proteins. Not all animals. So you got another really deep and profound problem. Now all of these problems have kind of added up and they’re sifting and sifting through the literature. And so what’s happening quite contrary to what you hear when you really listen to Bill Nye the Science Guy or you read of an article in the New York Times or you hear the media or you take a biology class in a mainstream university. Scientists are no longer satisfied with the Darwinian explanation for the origin of major forms of life. Evolutionary scientists are no longer satisfied. And one way you know that is that they are formulating and positing new theories and new mechanisms hoping to complement the mechanism of mutation and natural selection. And in my book Darwin’s down. I look at these new proposals and many of them are really interesting and they add to our knowledge or biological knowledge and they provide some insights that are not present in a neo-darwinian framework. But they too. It turns out, are insufficient to explain this fundamental mystery of the origin of information. Many of these new theories let me illustrate with one there’s a brilliant new theory called natural genetic engineering and it’s based on the observation that many of the mutations that occur in living organisms are not random at all. They seem to be under a kind of preprogrammed adaptive capacity. So if an organism gets an environmental stress of some kind. It activates the turn it causes the organism or the cells to turn on the production of certain kinds of proteins to help that organism respond to their environmental stress. So this preprogramed adaptive capacity is it’s one of the scientist James Shapiro who’s most well known for this theory says it’s under algorithmic control. It’s fascinating the description he has of these non random evolutionary mechanisms. Non-mitt random mutational processes. But even Shapiro doesn’t explain where that preprogramming comes from. And so he gives a really interesting enriching look at how biology actually works. It’s non Darwinian. But the fundamental question of the origin of the information is still left unsolved. In his new theory. And I’ve shown in my book that each of these new theories is subject to that same problem. And so many of us have been thinking about these issues in biology have been thinking, well, maybe we’re looking for the wrong kind of answer as we look for an evolutionary materialistic explanation for the origin of information. Maybe there’s this preprograming actually suggests a programmer and this is the idea. We call the theory of intelligent design or just intelligent design. And I first encountered it in the mid 1980s here in Dallas. In fact, at a conference that was held in Dallas in 1985. And I met at that conference a scientist named Charles Thaxton who had just written a book called The mystery of life’s origins. He wasn’t concerned about the origin of new forms of life from preexisting forms. That’s biological evolution. He was concerned about an even deeper question. Sometimes called the theory of chemical evolution. How do you get the first life from the simple chemicals in the so-called prebiotic soup and those theories of evolution were also being confronted with an information problem. You can’t build even a single cell without the DNA and the information in DNA necessary to build the proteins to keep us alive. And so professor facts was suggesting well, maybe what we’re looking at with this problem the origin of information isn’t evidence of an undirected chemical or biological process. Maybe it’s evidence of a mind of an intelligence because intuitively, we think any information is a mind product. It’s something that we know from experience always comes from an intelligent agent or what he called an intelligent cause. Well, I was in my last year in Dallas when I first met Dr. Thaxton and we spent a lot of time talking about these ideas and a year later, I went off to Cambridge to do my graduate work. And I ended up deciding to do a thesis on the origin of life problem. And I left for England intrigued with Dr. Jackson’s ideas, but not entirely convinced. And I I was asking myself a question could this design hypothesis or the idea of an intelligent cause is the explanation for the information in life. Could that be formulated as a rigorous scientific argument. Was there a way to try to go beyond an intuitive connection to a scientific case. And ironically, the person who helped me most in thinking that through is another Charles. Named Charles Darwin because Darwin showed that there were different kinds of scientific methods and when you’re investigating events in the remote past you use a different kind of scientific method than you do when you’re say trying to get things to repeat themselves under control laboratory conditions like a chemistry a chemist or a physicist would do in the laboratory. And the method that he used has a name. It’s called inference to the best explanation or sometimes the method of multiple competing hypotheses and that raises a really important question. If what scientists are doing is they’re trying to infer that cause, which would best explain some event in the remote past. The question is what makes something a best explanation. How do we know which explanation is the best. And it turned out that the historical scientists of the 19th century kind of worked out some practical criteria for answering that question. Let me illustrate. If you go to I went to college in eastern Washington. And if you go out into what’s called the police country where they grow the wheat there are still these little patches of white powdery stuff sprinkled around that you can stumble upon. And if you happen to stumble upon one of these patches of white powdery stuff, and you didn’t happen to be around on May 18, 1980, you would have to use the historical method of reasoning you’d say, well, what caused this white powdery stuff to get here. And you. Well, what you do is you generate a number of competing hypotheses. Maybe it was an earthquake maybe it was a flood maybe it was a storm maybe it was a volcanic eruption. Of those four hypotheses, which is best. I’m hearing volcanic eruption is that OK. That’s right. Why Well, because we know that volcanic eruptions produce white powdery stuff. In fact, 1. Did on May 18, 1980 that was the famous mount st. Helens eruption. But we have not seen floods or earthquakes or storms do that. They produce other kinds of disruptions. But not white powdery stuff. OK, so what’s the principle here, the principle is that our present observation of cause and effect should guide our reasoning about what best explains what happened in the remote past. And I encountered this principle in the work of Charles Lyell the famous 19th century geologist and he had this long Victorian subtitle whose book the principles of geology went like this being an attempt to explain the former changes the Earth’s surface by reference. I was about to fall asleep and then I came across this phrase by reference how do we explain things by reference to causes. Now in operation we look around us and see the cause and effect structure of the world. We look for the causes that are now in operation. And we use those causes to explain similar effects in the remote past and suddenly I realized that applies to this whole question of the origin of information because what is the cause of the origin of information. What is the presently acting cause the cause now in operation for the origin of information. What do we know about where information comes from today. From a mind right. Right Bill Gates our local hero in Seattle says DNA is like a computer program only much more complex than any we’ve ever devised. Where does that program come from. In Microsoft Word wind and erosion random number generators no it comes from programmers. Whenever we see information and we trace it back to its source we always come to a mind, not a material process. Whether we’re talking about a hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or information embedded in a radio signal or even the information that so-called genetic algorithms developed. These are simulations of how the evolutionary process would work that computer programmers design and they do it to try to simulate the mutation selection process. But they also give the computer the criteria to guide its search and they tell it what sequence they want it to end up on. So whereas the information really coming from the programmer. OK So whenever we see information it always comes back to an intelligence source. And I came across this principle in the writings of an early information scientists who had applied information theory to molecular biology and he said that the creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity. It’s a presently acting cause it’s a cause now in operation. It’s the only cause of which we know that generates information. So when we find information at the foundation of life in the DNA molecule. And we recognize that new innovation in the history of life. And in events like the Cambrian Explosion would require big infusions of information. I argue that what we’re looking at is evidence of intelligent design. New information requires intelligence. We see evidence of new information infused into the biosphere at different times that I argue in my two books signature in the cell in Darwin’s Doubt is evidence of intelligent design acting in the history of life. Now in closing you might be wondering, what do the critics say about this argument. Seems like almost common sensical right. What’s commonsensical in this sense is based on our uniform and repeated experience the basis of all scientific reasoning. So that’s good. It’s commonsensical that makes it also scientific. So what do the critics say. Well, I wondered about this myself for a while in my book first came out in the summer of 2013. There were a number of really facile off point crid reviews that were critical, but they weren’t criticizing the argument I actually made. And finally, I got a review that took the argument head on. It was in the preeminent American scientific journal Science. And it was written by a leading evolutionary biologist for whom I have a great deal of respect. Charles Marshall. He’s also a Cambridge paleontologist and he wrote in science the following. He said Meyer’s case depends upon the claim that the origin of new animal body plans building new animals requires vast amounts of new novel genetic information. And I thought yes. Finally someone is saying what I is critiquing what I’m actually saying. That was my argument. And they said, in fact, our present understanding of morphogenesis that just means body plan building indicates that the new animals were not made by new genes, but emerged largely through the rewiring of the gene regulatory networks. Now let me translate because that’s all scientific terminology but I think once you understand what he’s saying you’ll realize you don’t need a PhD in biology to assess whether he’s right or not. He’s saying that we don’t need new information to build new forms of animal life. All we need is for the evolutionary process to rewire those gene regulatory networks. I was talking about the circuits that determine how the different genetic information is expressed at different times. Right but wait a minute gene regulatory networks are made of genes. Genes are sections of DNA that contain what genetic information. And that genetic information determines the expression of other genes for building the parts of animals. So Marshall’s critique presupposes unexplained sources of genetic information the genetic information in the gene regulatory networks the genetic information that acts in those in the information in those regulatory networks that acts on other genetic information in other sections of the DNA. And he says, you need to rewire the regulatory networks. Well, that would require multiple changes coordinated changes in code, which would be another source of information. So in order to answer my information challenge he presupposes three significant sources of unexplained genetic information. And so if that’s the best that the critics of intelligent design can do to answer our argument and I’m inclined to think that Marshall is one of the best on the other side, then I think the theory of intelligent design is on very secure footing indeed. And that’s my lecture. Thank you very much.
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