Researching Creation

January 30, 2010

Discussions around the Web / Dr. Faulk's Example of Randomness

As mentioned earlier, Dr. Faulk and Stephen Meyer are having a real debate on the merits of ID.  Dr. Faulk gave what he believes to be a disconfirming example of ID's arguments.  My response, which is also in the comments is below.  In addition, some earlier comments of mine on randomness might be interesting, including:

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Dr. Faulk -

I take issue with your description of the processes of antibody diversity generation.  While there is some statistical randomness at play, I would say that the specificity in the process is huge.  The parts of the antibody gene are segregated into matchable parts (V, D, J, and C), which are rearranged in specified ways, whose rearrangments are managed by the RSS signal between each part.  In addition, after recombination, the cell can generate DNA which are needed to make the final protein fold better (Sanz and Capra PNAS 84(4)).

During the mutation afterwards, the mutations are focused on that gene only, and, for that gene, it focuses on the complementary-determining region and skip the C region (which attaches to the B cell, and thus would be counterproductive to mutate) (Papavasiliou and Schatz Cell 109(2 supplement 1)).

To call this orchestration "random" just because it isn't 100% deterministic is an abuse of the term.  It has never been the position of ID that nothing can find a solution within a search space which _utilizes_ randomness.  But rather that this only works when the search space has already been narrowed by information.  This process works only because, rather than mutations happening at random throughout the cell's DNA, they only happen within a well-defined scope - a scope that _matches_ the environment problem that it is trying to solve.

This is the focus of Dembski's work on Active Information, started with his No Free Lunch book and continuing in the papers he has done with Dr. Marks.

If the process were not so constrained, it would not work.  This is the results of not only the work on the immune system, but also those of bacteria - when you mess up the genes in the SOS pathway, evolution does not occur.  The evolutionary definition of randomness is that "one of the central tenets of Darwinian evolution is that mutations are random with respect to the needs of the organism in coping with its environment" (Templeton, "Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory", 2006, pg 3). 

Well, your example is actually one that contradicts this statement - the gene which is modified is not random with respect to the needs of the organism, and neither is the are of the gene which is mutated.  This is excluded well over 99.99% of the genome.  How a mutation directed to the correct 0.01% of the genome is considered "random with respect to the needs of the organism" just because, within that 0.01% there is some variability, is completely beyond me.