Apr 26, 2011

ID: CSI, Mutations as a Vehicle for Information Increase

CSI is also different from the traditional information of information theory in that it seems bound up with function. In a recent essay, Casey Luskin states that the string:


has CSI, whereas the string:


does not. “[CSI] requires both an unlikely sequence and a specific functional arrangement,” he writes. And we can readily see that, indeed, the first string conveys a meaning whereas the second does not. We would probably be correct in concluding that the first was the product of 'intelligent design' whereas the second was randomized—however, we would be concluding this based on our knowledge of the Latin alphabet and the English language, and not on the basis of CSI

Unfortunately, 'meaning' is a bad analogy for information, just as genes are a bad analogy for language. DNA is far more flexible in its 'semantics' than human writing could ever be: change around letters in a sentence, and the new sequence won't have any function or meaning in the system. Change around the 'letters' of DNA coding (point mutations, insertions, deletions, frame shift mutations, what have you), and the new sequence will generally still code for a protein—a different protein than before, that might do nothing, do the same thing as the old one (perhaps better or worse or with no change), be harmful, or be helpful. To illustrate this point, consider the following example. Image a simple computer program that generated a line on a graph by plugging five numbers into an equation: a * xb + c * yd = e. These numbers will be input as four digit binary sequences followed by an 'end string' code consisting of lots of zeros. So we might input a string like this one, which I derived from coin flips:
Graph of the first inputs

Graph of the second inputs

This would break down into the numbers:

0001 0000 1111 1010 0101 0000000000

1       0       15     10    5        lots of zeros = end string

Now, let's say that we had a frame shift mutation, and that one of the digits got lost somehow, scooting the other digits leftward. For simplicity, let's say it was the first one. This leaves us with this string:


It breaks down like this:
0010 0001 1111 0100 1010 000000000
2      1        15     4      10      lots of zeros = end string

Instead of {1,0,15,10,5}, we now input {2,1,15,4,10}. The resulting line will have a radically different shape: whereas the first sequence produced two horizontal lines extending to infinity, the second produced a parabola with an end-point at [5,0].* This is exactly how frame shift mutations work—DNA is read in three 'digit' codons, which correspond to amino acids. Scoot the 'digits' one place left or right, and you wind up with a radically different sequence of amino acids, just as when we 'scooted' the binary digits one place to the left it made a completely different set of numbers: new information. An equivalent 'mutation' in English produces garbage:

ne quivalent' mutation'i nE nglishp roducesg arbage.

But in math, it still produces number strings, and in genetics, it still codes for a sequence of amino acids, which form proteins, and the same holds true of other kinds of mutations as well. The output of a function can be dramatically changed by even 'simple' mutations, whether the function is mathematical or a cellular mechanism.  Why the adamant insistence that the results of this process cannot be called 'new information'?  Just look at the graphs of the different outputs: believing the ID proponents that frame shift mutations cannot produce new information requires you to believe that graph 2 contains no information that was not already present in graph 1, as it is was produced by a frame-shift mutation.

Proteins produced by altered genetic sequences will be different. Sometimes the function will remain essentially unaltered or the new protein will be detrimental, and, sometimes, as in the case of nylonase, the new sequence will be quite different and beneficial. However, when a genome codes for A, and the is modified in such as way as to code for both A and B, that's NEW INFORMATION. If you have any reason for disputing this other than argument by false analogy—English syntax to genetics and 'meaning' (in English, no less) to function—then do please share.
*Sorry for the weird colors on the graph; I was using the free calculator here, which requires everything to be in the format y=____.  Since with a round exponent in these equations y can be both positive and negative, that calculator required me to graph two different lines for positive and negative, and insisted on their being different colors.

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