Sunday, May 6, 2012

A claim that a big effect from "mutation" makes "new information" irrelevant is simply definitional hocus pocus

Trixie has started a new thread at EvC titled No "new information" required:
A new paper pubished in Cell has serious implications for IDist arguments of "no new information" and "mutation only breaks things".
Why limit the complaint to IDists? I'm a Young Earth Creationist and I also believe that "mutation only breaks things" in a sense, and does not provide new genetic information.
The researchers have found that a gene responsible for neuron development has been duplicated twice in humans only. One of the copies produces a truncated peptide at high levels which interferes with the original protein. This interference has the result that neurons form more connections and over longer distances.

The duplication etc is seen only in humans. It demonstrates how a duplication of existing information, followed by a "breaking" of the gene can have profound events.
[I'm sure you mean "effects" rather than "events"]. I really can't visualize what this is supposedly describing. Are you saying that human beings happen to have a pair of a gene that occurs only singly in animals? It would help if this were more clearly spelled out, perhaps graphically illustrated. When you say it is "duplicated" do you mean there are two of this gene strung end to end along a strand of DNA or what? What do you mean by "breaking" and how does it relate to "duplication?" Are you saying that the gene that occupies this same position in animals is a continuous line of "code" whereas in humans this "code" isn't the same continuous line or something like that? I'll probably have the same questions as I read the article.

Here is the link she gives to the original article, Scientists Show How a Gene Duplication Helped Our Brains Become 'Human'
A team led by Scripps Research Institute scientists has found evidence that, as humans evolved, an extra copy of a brain-development gene allowed neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections.
(Credit: Photo courtesy of The Scripps Research Institute)ScienceDaily (May 3, 2012) — A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that an extra copy of a brain-development gene, which appeared in our ancestors' genomes about 2.4 million years ago, allowed maturing neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections.
This is the caption to the photo on the page. 1) Again I need a way to picture what this is referring to. Where does this "extra copy" of this gene show up? Does it just follow an identical copy in marching order along the DNA strand as it were? 2) I must point out that the statement that this "appeared in our ancestors' genomes about 2.4 million years ago" is tendentious and would be better stated as a simple descriptive fact (unless of course the intention is purely to mystify and pre-empt opposing opinions). My attempt at translation would go something like this: Human beings have two copies of a gene that occurs only singly in animals, which allows [maturing?] neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections than occurs in animals. {I put "maturing" in brackets because I really don't know what this means.]
What genetic changes account for the vast behavioral differences between humans and other primates? Researchers so far have catalogued only a few, but now it seems that they can add a big one to the list. A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has shown that an extra copy of a brain-development gene, which appeared in our ancestors' genomes about 2.4 million years ago, allowed maturing neurons to migrate farther and develop more connections.

Surprisingly, the added copy doesn't augment the function of the original gene, SRGAP2, which makes neurons sprout connections to neighboring cells. Instead it interferes with that original function, effectively giving neurons more time to wire themselves into a bigger brain.
Again we have a tendentious statement, an interpretive statement from the evolutionist point of view, which of course begs the question of interest to a creationist. I assume by "original gene" what is meant is the gene that occurs in animals [all animals? some animals?] at the locus being discussed for humans. If humans were separately designed then there is no "added copy" there is simply a different genetic design at this locus. The statement should read something like: In animals the single gene makes neurons sprout connections to neighboring cells, but in humans the extra gene at this same locus interferes with that function, giving neurons more time etc. I also need to ask exactly-what-neurons-where are governed by this gene or pair of genes? All over the body, in the brain or what?
"This appears to be a major example of a genomic innovation that contributed to human evolution," said Franck Polleux, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute. "The finding that a duplicated gene can interact with the original copy also suggests a new way to think about how evolution occurs and might give us clues to human-specific developmental disorders such as autism and schizophrenia."
The very idea that this is a "duplicated" gene or a "genomic innovation" is tendentious, that is, it is an interpretation based on the assumption of evolution, as is the idea that one of the genes is "original" and the other a "duplication" of it. But of course if human beings did not evolve from some earlier form of life then this genetic difference between humans and animals is in reality a difference in design. In any case, descriptive language is always clearer and less mystifying than interpretive language. How about something like: The finding that two identical genes can interact with each other in such and such a way that is different from what would be expected ...

This is all crucial to the point of this thread. If this is simply a design difference and not a mutation from some previous or "original" gene, which of course the researchers assume in keeping with their evolutionist bias, if it's not a "duplication" of some "original" but simply a way the human genome is different from animal genomes at this particular genetic location, then it's not a mutation in any sense at all and has nothing to do with the question about whether a mutation can bring about new information.

It's nevertheless interesting that the presence of a copy of a gene in humans that occurs singly in animals codes for or governs such a difference in neuronal function or development. This fact can be just as well discussed -- and scientifically investigated -- from this creationist perspective as from the evolutionist perspective.

I could go on demonstrating the tendentious language of this article and attempting to rewrite it in simple descriptive terms, demonstrating that the design paradigm works just as well for the scientific purpose of showing the different function of this genetic formation in humans as compared to that in animals at the same locus. In this paradigm we have simple difference, not the assumed duplication of an assumed original, and there is no "mutation" involved and therefore the whole question of "new information" is irrelevant.

All that is going on here is that the evolutionist bias assumes these things must have occurred. But you can't prove your evolutionist assumptions by simply tendentiously defining away the creationist assumptions. That's called begging the question.

Just one last remark: That there should be big effects from a mutation -- and again, this topic is not an example of a mutation -- does not contradict the creationist position. There can be big effects indeed -- protection from malaria through sickle cell is a pretty big effect, as are all the thousands of other genetic diseases mutations bring about. This is not "new information." A method of generating new genetic information is necessary if evolution is true, "big effects" is not the criterion for new information.

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