The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
9 Points

Do genomes create new information?

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Post Voting Period
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after 2 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/14/2013 Category: Science
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,355 times Debate No: 38900
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




My argument is this: that no process exists which gives rise to the formation of new genetic information. Any information that exists in the genome, whether it be in use or compressed, has always existed. Of course species may change and develop new traits, but these traits are not the result of the addition of new genetic information. They are only changes in sequence or deletions of preexisting genetic information. Furthermore, the genome does not mutate such that it codes for new proteins and protein folds with new, favorable properties, as this would entail adding new information.

Pro must argue in favor of the rise of new genetic information.

Information - An encoded message conveying action and purpose.
Gene - Section of DNA that codes for a protein.
Mutation - Change in the sequence of DNA.
Duplication - Duplication of a DNA chromosome.
Evolution - Gradual development of an organism from a simple to a more complex form.

In the first round, Pro may present his rules, definitions, and initial arguments.


Since it is my opponent who has created this debate, I will not add any more rules, although I think it would benefit the both of us if we have a no forfeiting rule. Getting more to the point, I am not entirely satisfied with con's defintions, so I will provide two, and possibly more if need be:

Genome - "The total genetic content contained in a haploid set of chromosomes in eukaryotes, in a single chromosome in bacteria, or in the DNA or RNA of viruses."[1]

Infomation (in the context of the genone) - "The precise order of bases–A,T,G,C–in a segment of DNA, gene, chromosome, or an entire genome."

Now that some definitions have been established, I will now present my opening arguments.

Basically, in a nutshell, my opponent's arguments don't make any sense whatsoever. He believes that mutations and evolutions can occur, but they cannot create new genetic information. Evolution requires a recombination of the genome to create new features. If new genetic information had never been created, life would still be prokaryotic.

"By any reasonable definition, increases in information have been observed to evolve. We have observed the evolution of
  • increased genetic variety in a population (Lenski 1995; Lenski et al. 1991)
  • increased genetic material (Alves et al. 2001; Brown et al. 1998; Hughes and Friedman 2003; Lynch and Conery 2000; Ohta 2003)
  • novel genetic material (Knox et al. 1996; Park et al. 1996)
  • novel genetically-regulated abilities (Prijambada et al. 1995)"[3]

In any capacity, genetic duplications, recombinations, and mutations are the entire basis for evolution, and they occur everyday:

"A mechanism that is likely to be particularly common for adding information is gene duplication, in which a long stretch of DNA is copied, followed by point mutations that change one or both of the copies. Genetic sequencing has revealed several instances in which this is likely the origin of some proteins. For example:

  • Two enzymes in the histidine biosynthesis pathway that are barrel-shaped, structural and sequence evidence suggests, were formed via gene duplication and fusion of two half-barrel ancestors (Lang et al. 2000).
  • RNASE1, a gene for a pancreatic enzyme, was duplicated, and in langur monkeys one of the copies mutated into RNASE1B, which works better in the more acidic small intestine of the langur. (Zhang et al. 2002)
  • Yeast was put in a medium with very little sugar. After 450 generations, hexose transport genes had duplicated several times, and some of the duplicated versions had mutated further. (Brown et al. 1998)"[3][4]
Genetic duplication is the creation of genetic information itself because it allows for the recombination of existing genetic material to create new information. Even if all of the genome is coded, this form of information creation can still happen. In general, "The process of mutation and selection is observed to increase information and complexity in simulations."[3]


Debate Round No. 1


Pro accuses my arguments of being inconsistent with themselves. Mutations may occur, but I never said anything about evolution occurring. If anything, it is the degradation of the genome that occurs which causes loss of information. New traits may come about, but only in respect to loss of usable information.

My argument was not against genetic duplications, recombinations, or mutations. It is against that creation of new information occurs in nature. The presented examples of supposed increases of genetic information copied from TalkOrigins are baseless assertions until Pro can provide me with accessible statistics that proves said increases of information. They seem to all be examples of pre-existing information being copied and examples of mutations that change information.

Remember, information must convey action and purpose. Creating new information cannot simply be duplication and random mutations of genetic information without furthering the complexity of the genome.

What we're looking for is "the generation of totally new useful genetic information within the DNA code of an organism… which results in a completely new function that has never occurred before. We are not talking about small functional changes, but radical ones."[1] In other words, changes that require brand new information.

Adaptive immunity is not an example of new genetic information. "Here we have an example of a mechanism that takes DNA modules and scrambles those modules in complex ways in order to generate antibodies for antigens to which the organism has never been exposed… The DNA changes in adaptive immunity occur only in a controlled manner among only a limited number of genes in a limited subset of cells that are only part of the immune system, and these changes are not heritable."[2]

"In Lenski’s work, the adaptive mutations that have been detected are mostly loss of a particular genetic function."[3] " Thus, the mixing of portions of the two genes is not providing a “new” gene, and is no different (with respect to genetic “information”) than a simple duplication of a single gene. There was no subsequent mutation of the duplicate “hybrid” gene; i.e., it did not become a “new” gene with a “new” function. In fact, it seems most likely that the “hybrid” is simply two genes returning to the original one gene — viz., “backwards” evolution."[3]

Genetic duplication is not the creation of new genetic information, but rather the creation of genetic material. The genetic information has already existed. Recombination uses preexisting genetic information to create limited combinations. Neofunctionalization has still yet to be proven.




I would like to thank DragonTech for presenting his rebuttals, although I feel like he doesn't even attempt to disprove my argument.

First, my opponent claims he did not mention evolution, even though he said this: "Of course species may change and develop new traits..." This is microevolution in a nutshell. Essentially, "The random variation that mutations add to populations is the variation on which selection acts. Mutation alone will not cause adaptive evolution, but by eliminating nonadaptive variation, natural selection communicates information about the environment to the organism so that the organism becomes better adapted to it. Natural selection is the process by which information about the environment is transferred to an organism's genome and thus to the organism." In essense, this creates new information because the organism originally did not have that information, but through its sensing of the environment, it created new information to adapt to it and to help its offspring adapted to it if blessed with that desirable trait.[1][2]

Duplication creates new information. The genome is made up of four nucleic acids that have been arranged in very complex ways to write the genetic information of an organism. By combining and transforming the existing genome into something new, new information is created. "Nevertheless, genes duplicate frequently enough that they can provide sufficient raw material for genetic novelty... Even if only a few percent of these survive inactivation, that’s a lot of raw material for evolutionary change." So new information can arise simply by genetic duplication.[3]

"..most often the duplication of an ancestral gene or its RNA followed by extensive genetic divergence, so that the gene acquires a brand new function." In other words, new genetic information can be formed by using just ancestral information into the new information that is required for that organism.[3][4]

My opponent's quote in his fifth paragraph actually explains why I am right. Let me repeat the part in question: "Here we have an example of a mechanism that takes DNA modules and scrambles those modules in complex ways in order to generate antibodies for antigens to which the organism has never been exposed." This scrambling of DNA allows for that antibody to be created. That antibody could never be created unless that DNA had been scrambled, and thus, replication and transformation creates new information. The latter part of the quote concedes DNA changes, which pretty much proves my case further.[5]

In my opponent's sixth paragraph, he uses a quote that is sadly confused about how new genes can actually be created. "The authors identified 566 new genes that arose over this period. That’s about 4% of the total genes in the D. melanogaster genome... In further support of the above scenario for the evolution of new genetic information, the authors found that in young and new “essential” genes, there was a strong signature of natural selection having acted, as suggested by the high rates of DNA substitution." In other words, there is a such thing as new genes that arise as a result of substitution (another word for changes in existing DNA).[3][4]

"...the specification apparatus very frequently also includes transcriptional repressors, which, within the specified spatial domain, target key regulatory genes whose expression is required for alternative regulatory states that could have been available to these cells. This is a so-called "exclusion effect," and numerous examples can be found across species...In each developmental case, the identity of the specific transcription factor that executes the repression is distinct, as are the specifically excluded target transcription factors. The design is the same, the biochemical actors diverse.

Of course, building these species-specific transcription factors necessary to animal development requires genetic information. And the origin of these proteins in the first place would have required the origin of new genetic information."[6][7]

Essentially, this proves my case. That transcription of existing genetic information requires new genetic information for organismal development. While recombination does use existing genetic material, it creates new genetic information.


[4]: Chen, Sidi, Yong Zhang, and Manyuan Long. "New Genes in Drosophilia Quickly Become Essential."
[7]: Paolo Oliveri and Eric H. Davidson, "Built to Run, Not to Fail," Science 315 (2007): 1510-11.
Debate Round No. 2


A new DNA base sequence does not necessarily mean new information that conveys action and purpose. And that's what I'm looking for.

"In the last decade or so a host of scientific essays and books have questioned the efficacy of selection and mutation as a mechanism for generating morphological novelty, as even a brief literature survey will establish."

"Starting in the 1970s, many biologists began questioning its (neo-Darwinism's) adequacy in explaining evolution. Genetics might be adequate for explaining microevolution, but microevolutionary changes in gene frequency were not seen as able to turn a reptile into a mammal or to convert a fish into an amphibian. Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest."

"We can pose a question, not only about the origin of genetic information, but also about the origin of the information necessary to generate form and structure at levels higher than that present in individual proteins. We must also ask about the origin of the 'specified complexity,' as opposed to mere complexity, that characterizes the new genes, proteins, cell types and body plans that arose in the Cambrian explosion."

"Functionally more complex animals require more cell types to perform their more diverse functions. New cell types require many new and specialized proteins. New proteins, in turn, require new genetic information. Thus an increase in the number of cell types implies (at a minimum) a considerable increase in the amount of specified genetic information."

"Building a new animal from a single-celled organism requires a vast amount of new genetic information. It also requires a way of arranging gene products--proteins--into higher levels of organization. New proteins are required to service new cell types. But new proteins must be organized into new systems within the cell; new cell types must be organized into new tissues, organs, and body parts."

"Axe (2000) has shown that multiple as opposed to single position amino acid substitutions inevitably result in loss of protein function, even when these changes occur at sites that allow variation when altered in isolation. Cumulatively, these constraints imply that proteins are highly sensitive to functional loss as a result of alterations in sequencing, and that functional proteins represent highly isolated and improbable arrangements of amino acids -arrangements that are far more improbable, in fact, than would be likely to arise by chance alone in the time available (Reidhaar-Olson & Sauer 1990; Behe 1992; Kauffman 1995:44; Dembski 1998:175-223; Axe 2000, 2004)."

"Yet the extreme specificity and complexity of proteins presents a difficulty, not only for the chance origin of specified biological information (i.e., for random mutations acting alone), but also for selection and mutation acting in concert. Indeed, mutagenesis experiments cast doubt on each of the two scenarios by which neo-Darwinists envisioned new information arising from the mutation/selection mechanism (for review, see Lonnig 2001). For neo-Darwinism, new functional genes either arise from non-coding sections in the genome or from preexisting genes. Both scenarios are problematic."

"In the first scenario, neo-Darwinists envision new genetic information arising from those sections of the genetic text that can presumably vary freely without consequence to the organism. According to this scenario, non-coding sections of the genome, or duplicated sections of coding regions, can experience a protracted period of 'neutral evolution' (Kimura 1983) during which alterations in nucleotide sequences have no discernible effect on the function of the organism. Eventually, however, a new gene sequence will arise that can code for a novel protein. At that point, natural selection can favor the new gene and its functional protein product, thus securing the preservation and heritability of both."

"The scenario has an overriding problem, however: the size of the combinatorial space (i.e., the number of possible amino acid sequences) and the extreme rarity and isolation of the functional sequences within that space of possibilities. Since natural selection can do nothing to help generate new functional sequences, but rather can only preserve such sequences once they have arisen, chance alone--random variation--must do the work of information generation--that is, of finding the exceedingly rare functional sequences within the set of combinatorial possibilities. Yet the probability of randomly assembling (or “finding,” in the previous sense) a functional sequence is extremely small."

"Other considerations imply additional improbabilities. First, new Cambrian animals would require proteins much longer than 100 residues to perform many necessary specialized functions… Reasonable extrapolation from mutagenesis experiments done on shorter protein molecules suggests that the probability of producing functionally sequenced proteins of this length at random is so small as to make appeals to chance absurd, even granting the duration of the entire universe."

"DNA mutation rates are far too low to generate the novel genes and proteins necessary to building the Cambrian animals, given the most probable duration of the explosion as determined by fossil studies (Conway Morris 1998b). As Ohno (1996:8475) notes, even a mutation rate of 10-9 per base pair per year results in only a 1% change in the sequence of a given section of DNA in 10 million years. Thus, he argues that mutational divergence of preexisting genes cannot explain the origin of the Cambrian forms in that time."

"Dawkins (1986:139) has noted that scientific theories can rely on only so much “luck” before they cease to be credible. The neutral theory of evolution, which, by its own logic, prevents natural selection from playing a role in generating genetic information until after the fact, relies on entirely too much luck. The sensitivity of proteins to functional loss, the need for long proteins to build new cell types and animals, the need for whole new systems of proteins to service new cell types, the probable brevity of the Cambrian explosion relative to mutation rates--all suggest the immense improbability (and implausibility) of any scenario for the origination of Cambrian genetic information that relies upon random variation alone unassisted by natural selection."

"In the second scenario, neo-Darwinists envisioned novel genes and proteins arising by numerous successive mutations in the preexisting genetic text that codes for proteins… Recent experiments show that, even when exploring a region of sequence space populated by proteins of a single fold and function, most multiple-position changes quickly lead to loss of function (Axe 2000)… Axe's results imply that, in all probability, random searches for novel proteins (through sequence space) will result in functional loss long before any novel functional protein will emerge."

"Thus, although this second neo-Darwinian scenario has the advantage of starting with functional genes and proteins, it also has a lethal disadvantage: any process of random mutation or rearrangement in the genome would in all probability generate nonfunctional intermediate sequences before fundamentally new functional genes or proteins would arise."

"Evolving genes and proteins will range through a series of nonfunctional intermediate sequences that natural selection will not favor or preserve but will, in all probability, eliminate. When this happens, selection-driven evolution will cease. At this point, neutral evolution of the genome (unhinged from selective pressure) may ensue, but, as we have seen, such a process must overcome immense probabilistic hurdles, even granting cosmic time."

"Therefore, the neo-Darwinian mechanism appears to be inadequate to generate the new information present in the novel genes and proteins that arise with the Cambrian animals."




I would like to thank DragonTech for this debate.

My opponent starts out with a statement that is obviously not true. I have shown empirical evidence of new information with a different action and purpose that was the result of a recombination of existing genetic material. A simple look at my first argument should prove my point here. Finally, for the whole rest of his argument, he presents excerpts from an article. While being partially irrelevant to the debate, it is still necessary of me to point out its flaws.

I don't want to go too much into it though. It is riddled with misconstrued sources ("The papers and books cited by the Discovery Institute do not make a good case for peer-reviewed intelligent design for one or more reasons,"[1] see source 1 for specific examples), extremely underestimates the time of the Cambrian explosion ("The data clearly shows a long fuse of evolution extending well into the Precambrian. The pattern does not show a rapid radiation condensed into a very short time frame and it certainly doesn't show that all of the major animal phyla sprang into existence without any obvious relationships."[2]), and made a significant number of errors in his science ([3]). Overall, his work is not very credible here.

Paring down specifically to the important part about genetic information, he gets this point extremely wrong as well: "[Meyer's] case against the current scientific explanations of the relatively rapid appearance of the animal phyla rests on the claim that the origin of new animal body plans requires vast amounts of novel genetic information coupled with the unsubstantiated assertion that this new genetic information must include many new protein folds. In fact, our present understanding of morphogenesis indicates that new phyla were not made by new genes but largely emerged through the rewiring of the gene regulatory networks (GRNs) of already existing genes."[4][5]

As I mentioned in the last round, genetic rewiring requires new information: "...rewiring" genetic circuitry would require reconfiguring the temporal and spatial expression of genetic information... altering the temporal and spatial expression of pre-existing genetic elements assuredly would require the addition of new taxon-specific genes or gene products, and thus, new genetic information." Empirical evidence can back this point up: "Indeed, experiments on dGRNs in modern representatives of the animal phyla show that different organisms use taxon-specific DNA-binding proteins to regulate the expression of genetic data files."[4][6]

I've given a few examples of how quickly new genetic information can arise in the last round, but the main hypothesis behind my opponent's argument is that it does not arise quickly enough to make a difference, specifically to the Cambrian explosion. I also refuted the notion that it was a true "explosion", but the point is wrong as well: "Emerson et al. (2008) found that in only fifteen lines of D. melanogaster from nature there were several hundred duplicate genes segregating as polymorphisms (that is, some individuals had one copy of a gene, some had two or more). " This makes about a 2% difference. In the last round, I talked about D. melanogaster, and here is an addition to that: " least 7% of the genome comprises brand new genes." So it doesn't arise very quickly, but it does arrive steadily.[7][8]

Overall, my opponent's entire argument has been very misguided and soulfully misguided on its science.


[5]: Shannon, Claude. "A Mathematical Theory of Communication," Bell System Technical Journal 27 (1948): 370-423, 623-29.
[6]: Rasmussen, Nicolas. "A New Model of Developmental Constraints as Applied to the Drosophila System," Journal of Theoretical Biology 127 (1987): 271-99.
[8]: Emerson, J. J., M. Cardoso-Moreira, J. O. Borevitz, and M. Long. 2008. "Natural selection shapes genome-wide patterns of copy-number polymorphism in Drosophila melanogaster." Science 320: 1629-1631.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Subutai 4 years ago
It's not like you're going to get banned, but ask anyone, and they will tell you that you should either post in the unvoted debates forum or a single-person PM (no mass-PMs), and certainly don't create a whole debate whose sole argument is for someone to vote on a debate. I don't determine DDO etiquette; I simply tell other people its principles.
Posted by DragonTech 4 years ago
This is an apology to Subutai (Pro) for using a rather devious method to acquire points on this debate. To those who don't know what I did, I posted a debate in the Religion section which purpose was to lead others to this debate to vote for Con. This was apparently in direct violation of Subutai's self-determined DDO etiquette, and for that I'm sorry. However, since I don't seem to have broken any DDO rules, I will leave the debate up.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by bsh1 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: Interesting topic. Both debaters had contrasting styles. I liked Pro's calm, evenhanded approach more so than Con's proclivity of offering long lists of quotes. But, that is a stylistic preference. I felt Pro's sources were both more numerous and more reliable. I felt Pro's explanations were SLIGHTLY superior to Con's. I preferred Pro's formatting style too. One critique of Pro though: Pro takes issue with Con's definitions, but never explains (a) why Con's choices were bad, and (b) why Pro's were better. I tend to give the definitions to the person who initiates the debate, so to switch and go with the contender's definitions, I need a good reason--none is forthcoming. Nonetheless, I still, in light of the entirety of the arguments, vote Pro.
Vote Placed by Enji 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro shows that gene duplication combined with mutations can result in novel genetic information without a loss of previous information or function. Pro could have done a better job at selecting and emphasizing specific examples over general theory, however the examples provided in R1 are sufficient and correct, winning Pro convincing arguments.