Mutations Cannot Produce the Type of Change Necessary for Darwinian Evolution
Debate Rounds (4)
Round One - Acceptance
Round Two - Opening Arguments
Round Three - Rebuttals
Round Four - Closing Arguments
Lets look at some commonly cited examples of evolution in action via mutations:
1.) Sickle cell anemia: confers a resistance to the malaria parasite by producing deformed hemoglobin molecules.
2.) Aerobic citrate digestion by bacteria: this involves the loss of control of the normal anaerobic citrate digestion.
3.) Nylon digestion by bacteria: this involves a loss of substrate specificity in one enzyme contained on an extra
chromosomal plasmid (http://creation.com...)
4.) Antibiotic resistance of bacteria: in the case where resistance is due to mutation, this involves a rearranging or deleting
of information resulting in a change in which the antibiotic is not able to be transported into the bacteria or in which
the antibiotic is not able to bind and consequently kill the bacteria.
All of the above commonly cited example of mutational change are all examples of a scrambling or deleting of genetic information. These examples do not exhibit the type of change necessary for macro-evolution. I challenge you to provide examples or evidence of mutational changes which increase genetic information. Recombination, random letter changes, inversions, duplications or deletions do not count as they are not mechanisms for introducing new genetic information. Mutations can produce new alleles (variant forms of a gene) and certainly add variety. However, Darwinian evolution requires the generation of new information to build new, complex, interdependent biochemical pathways. Introducing randomized errors into the genome, whether it be recombination or otherwise, is not conducive to macro-evolution, but in fact demonstrates the true nature of mutations: they are degenerating and deleterious. Remember, new traits or functions do not count as new information because the examples studied always show a degradation or scrambling of information, not an adding of information.
Now, firstly I would like to clear some things up. My opponent has used the wrong definitions for much of his argument. If we're talking about Darwinian evolution, we should use the Darwinian definition, which is simply: "changes in population allele frequencies over time."  But my opponent's real definitive transgression comes from their usage of the word information.
To be clear: information is a mathematical property that we impose on something. When we make a claim, that claim can either be true or false. Information is simply a number of truth claims, or binary choices of some kind. But notice that when you try to apply this concept to the physical world, the epistemic rules are completely different. DNA, for example, only contains information in the aspect that we use the configuration of it to figure out the truth of claims about a person's traits. Again, this is what we impose on DNA, it is not a property that is innately part of DNA. If I claim that the slope of a cliff is 500 meters long, then the slope could technically contain the information necessary to confirm or rebuke that claim. But again, this is an imposed property. 
Additionally, Darwinian evolution, or evolution of any kind, has nothing to do with information. Unless you can cite a specific passage form Darwinian literature that unambiguously states that Darwin's theory of evolution is based on information, you are only grossly misrepresenting evolution.
Also, even supposing that evolution does involve information in some way, why would adding information be necessary? If an organism has an unnecessary limb, a mutation that deletes the information for that limb would be beneficial, as the organism needs less energy to sustain the limb that was useless. Additionally, because as I've already mentioned the properties of information, it is impossible to change any piece of the genetic code without adding information in some way. Because by definition, a change in the genetic code, even one that deletes chromosomes, will change the truth of a claim about an organism's traits, thus adding new information.
http://en.wikipedia.org...). I'm sorry you do not seem to realize the imperative role mutations play in evolution. I clearly stated other mechanisms of change such as migration, genetic drift and natural selection; I am definitely not under the impression that mutations are the only mechanism for evolution. My contention though is that mutations by all accounts cannot produce the type of change necessary (or useful) for the "tree of life" idea of neo-Darwinian evolution. I realize what the definition of evolution is and I know that definition does not involve Darwin's tree of life or the idea that all life has a common ancestor, but this is why I say Darwinian evolution. Sorry for the misunderstanding. Mutations, by the way, are an integral part of evolution. "Mutation is the ultimate source of genetic variation" (http://evolution.berkeley.edu...).
Now as to your complaint about the word "information," I guess I should define what I mean since, just like evolution, it can mean different things depending on the context. I believe Dr. Werner Gitt's definition of information is suitable to describe the information-adding changes I am referring to. "To fully characterize the concept of information, five aspects must be considered"statistics, syntax, semantics, pragmatics and apobetics. Information is represented (that is, formulated, transmitted, stored) as a language. From a stipulated alphabet, the individual symbols are assembled into words (code). From these words (each word having been assigned a meaning), sentences are formed according to the firmly defined rules of grammar (syntax). These sentences are the bearers of semantic information. Furthermore, the action intended/carried out (pragmatics) and the desired/achieved goal (apobetics) belong of necessity to the concept of information. All our observations confirm that each of the five levels is always pertinent for the sender as well as the receiver" (http://creation.com...).
You say "Additionally, Darwinian evolution, or evolution of any kind, has nothing to do with information. Unless you can cite a specific passage form Darwinian literature that unambiguously states that Darwin's theory of evolution is based on information, you are only grossly misrepresenting evolution." You might argue that Darwin's theory has nothing to do with information because it has nothing to do with mutations, maybe that is why I should have said neo-Darwinian evolution. But you say I am "grossly misrepresenting evolution," which only tells me that you are not very familiar with the theory of evolution, or more likely, you do not understand my premise. If the former is the case, it might do you some good to check out UC Berkeley's website on evolution (http://evolution.berkeley.edu...). You say evolution has nothing to do with information: here is the Smithsonian's take on evolution, "Evolution occurs when there is change in the genetic material -- the chemical molecule, DNA -- which is inherited from the parents, and especially in the proportions of different genes in a population. Genes represent the segments of DNA that provide the chemical code for producing proteins. Information contained in the DNA can change by a process known as mutation" (http://humanorigins.si.edu...). Using Gitt's definition of information, clearly our genome contains information and mutations are what alter the information. My argument is that this change is not the type which will change, say a dinosaur, into a bird, no matter how many years you want to give it.
Your last paragraph is really quite silly. You mention an organism loosing a limb. I am not concerned with deleterious or recombinant types of mutations because those occur. I am contending the idea that mutations can change a scale into a feather, a fin into a leg, etc. This type of change requires additional information which no amount of deleting, duplicating, or scrambling of the DNA can bring about. I don't think we can get anywhere if we can't agree on the definitions of evolution and information. Your last claim is that any type of change is adding information, but this is only using your definition of information which you say is imposed on DNA. Using Gitt's definition, you are only speaking in terms of statistics and syntax. You are equating any genetic change to an informational change, but according to Gitt's definition, this is not true. Consider Konrad Lorenz's quote from his Nobel lecture, "In any of these systems, adaptation has been achieved by the process, already mentioned, which hinges on the gaining of information by means of genetic change and natural selection, as well as on the storing of knowledge in the code of the chain molecules in the genome" (http://www.nobelprize.org...). Please cite one example of a gain-of-information (using Gitt's definition) change which was brought about by genetic mutation. I posit that there is no such example to cite, and that all examples which are commonly cited involve a loss or scrambling of information. Gain-of-function, or loss, are irrelevant to the topic as a fish might lose an eye due to mutation, but if it is in a cave environment, this might be beneficial, but no new information was added. I hope we can agree on definitions, let me know if you take issue with any of mine.
Normally I don't trust Wikipedia, but even this source says that before Neo-Darwinism, evolution still wasn't defined in terms of a tree of life. Darwin didn't even make a conjecture that there was a tree of life (although that was likely due to fear of religious backlash). All that Neo-Darwinism is, is an application of Mendelian genetics to changes in trait frequency. That's why Darwin said "trait frequency" and we say "allele frequency".
"I'm sorry you do not seem to realize the imperative role mutations play in evolution. I clearly stated other mechanisms of change such as migration, genetic drift and natural selection; I am definitely not under the impression that mutations are the only mechanism for evolution."
When have I ever said mutations are not important for Darwinian evolution?
"My contention though is that mutations by all accounts cannot produce the type of change necessary (or useful) for the "tree of life" idea of neo-Darwinian evolution. I realize what the definition of evolution is and I know that definition does not involve Darwin's tree of life or the idea that all life has a common ancestor, but this is why I say Darwinian evolution. Sorry for the misunderstanding."
Again, Darwin never defined evolution in terms of a tree of life.
"I believe Dr. Werner Gitt's definition of information is suitable to describe the information-adding changes I am referring to."
His definition describes not what information is, but how it is used and the role it plays in language. For a real solid definition of information, I would use the source I cited. And although this is nitpicking, I do have a .edu source for this. Information is the value of the output of processes. The process here is the genetic mutation, and because what an organism values is the perpetuation of its genes, then any mutation which is beneficial to an organism's gene perpetuation can be said to have added information.
"You might argue that Darwin's theory has nothing to do with information because it has nothing to do with mutations"
This is a straw man. I never said this.
The quote you took from the Smithsonian that mentions information is using it as an imposed property. Again, information does not exist as an innate part of an object. Information is a descriptive property that changes via its relevance to verifying specific claims, see my cliff example.
"I am not concerned with deleterious or recombinant types of mutations because those occur. I am contending the idea that mutations can change a scale into a feather, a fin into a leg, etc. This type of change requires additional information which no amount of deleting, duplicating, or scrambling of the DNA can bring about."
The problem is, you haven't explained to me why changing a fin into a leg is "adding information" or why you are so convinced that deleting, duplicating, or scrambling DNA can't make these changes. Where is your distinction between adding information to an organism and removing information? If I see that a luminous fish has evolved to have a slightly redder light, is that adding information? Why or why not? Ultimately, these questions are futile because information simply verifies or falsifies claims. You could compile an infinitely long list of claims about an organism like this:
It is multicellular.
It has radial symmetry.
It has bilateral symmetry.
It lives unattached to the ocean floor.
It has light-sensitive cells.
It has a vascular system.
It has leaves.
It has cells that perform specialized functions.
It is tube-shaped.
It has a four-chambered heart.
And then you could tell what "information" is in an organism by a long chain of zeroes and ones, and this would mean that any change in traits which you dismiss as deleterious can't be, because any and all changes essentially add some information and also lose some by definition. All of these lists, though, are essentially arbitrary because we can add any claim we like to them.
Which brings me to my final point. You need to, and I cannot stress this enough, NEED to define what an "information-adding change" is, because until you do this debate will be unwinnable for me because any examples of trait changes I give you can be dismissed as "information-removing changes" or "information-scrambling changes". The fact of the matter is, evolution does care about supposed adding of information, it cares about changes in allele frequencies and that is it.
You say, "Darwin didn't even make a conjecture that there was a tree of life (although that was likely due to fear of religious backlash)." This is incorrect. "Charles Darwin was the first person to draw a Tree of Life that showed that all species on Earth are related and that they evolved from a common ancestor" (http://www.nhm.ac.uk...).
You say, "When have I ever said mutations are not important for Darwinian evolution?" Upon re-reading your round-two response, I realize that you never said or implied mutations are not important for Darwinian evolution. I probably said that because I felt like you weren't understanding my argument and the "evolution" I was referring to.
You say, "Again, Darwin never defined evolution in terms of a tree of life." Again you are wrong. "The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth. The green and budding twigs may represent existing species; and those produced during former years may represent the long succession of extinct species. At each period of growth all the growing twigs have tried to branch out on all sides, and to overtop and kill the surrounding twigs and branches, in the same manner as species and groups of species have at all times overmastered other species in the great battle for life. The limbs divided into great branches, and these into lesser and lesser branches, were themselves once, when the tree was young, budding twigs; and this connection of the former and present buds by ramifying branches may well represent the classification of all extinct and living species in groups subordinate to groups. Of the many twigs which flourished when the tree was a mere bush, only two or three, now grown into great branches, yet survive and bear the other branches; so with the species which lived during long-past geological periods, very few have left living and modified descendants. From the first growth of the tree, many a limb and branch has decayed and dropped off; and these fallen branches of various sizes may represent those whole orders, families, and genera which have now no living representatives, and which are known to us only in a fossil state. As we here and there see a thin straggling branch springing from a fork low down in a tree, and which by some chance has been favoured and is still alive on its summit, so we occasionally see an animal like the Ornithorhynchus or Lepidosiren, which in some small degree connects by its affinities two large branches of life, and which has apparently been saved from fatal competition by having inhabited a protected station. As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these, if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications" (Darwin, Charles.1872. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 6th ed., London: John Murray. p 104-05).
I don't think we are going to agree on a definition for information. For the sake of getting somewhere in this debate, I will, for this debate, concede that information is "the value of the output of processes," and therefore "any mutation which is beneficial to an organism's gene perpetuation can be said to have added information." This still doesn't change the nature of the argument I posited itself. I will reiterate my argument within the context of "the idea that all life descends from a common ancestor" and your definition of information in my last paragraph of this round.
I said, "You might argue that Darwin's theory has nothing to do with information because it has nothing to do with mutations," and you say, "This is a straw man. I never said this." I said "might" as in "hypothetically, you might argue." Darwin's theory was not concerned with genetic mutations because he has no idea about genetics. His main thesis was about natural selection and the idea that successive, slight modifications over vast eons of time could allow a fish to become a reptile, a reptile to become a mammal, etc. So I said you "might" argue that his theory has nothing to do with information because it really had nothing to do with genetic mutations.
You say, "The fact of the matter is, evolution does care about supposed adding of information, it cares about changes in allele frequencies and that is it." I assume you meant "doesn't care?" Well, here we are again with this word "evolution." I believe you are using an equivocation fallacy. If evolution only involved changes in allele frequencies, then I would have no problem with it. In fact, all of the mechanisms for evolution are realities, including mutations. My contention arises when one attempts to say "all organisms have developed from a common ancestor" based on these mechanisms. We can demonstrate that Chihuahuas, Great Dane's and Akitas are all related, not simply based on their homologous genomes but because these canine species developed as a result of man-made selection. We can see selection in action when we bred animals, but never do we see animals changing from one kind to another. Uh oh, another word to argue about, "kind." The reason we don't see this type of change is not time. Evolutionists have said we do not see evolution in action because it takes a lot of time. Of course they would be referring to the definition of evolution I intended to discuss here, that all life forms descend from a common ancestor. The real reason we do not see the types of changes that will change a fish into a reptile is that the mechanism which introduces new information or structures (i.e. fins to legs) is unable to produce such changes. All examples of mutations to date have not demonstrated the ability to introduce new structures or "information" previously not there.
So to reiterate my argument without referring to information and in the context of evolution being "all organisms have descended from a common ancestor," I posit that genetic mutations, beneficial or otherwise, are not able to give organisms the new structures which evolution requires. Consider just a few of the drastic changes a dinosaur would have to go through in order to become a bird: a whole new skeletal system, a whole new lung system, and feathers would have to be developed. These changes are not possible for mutations to make. All observable examples of changes within organisms can be classified as micro-evolution. To give evidence of micro-evolution or speciation and then hypothetically extrapolate backwards is not evidence for the possibility of macro changes. I would like you to do two things for me if you will: please explain how changes in allele frequencies can change a dinosaur into a bird, and please provide one demonstrable example of a mutation(s) which can provide a new, previously unknown structure.
Consider a fish that finds its way into a predominately green coral reef. It would be beneficial for it to transform into a green colored fish. But this particular fish does not have the genetic ability to become green. The only hope for him, in an evolutionist view, is for a mutation to give rise to new chromatophores in the fish's scales which produce green pigment. But mutations cannot do this as they only work to delete, scramble, or recombine the letters of an organisms genome. No amount of mutational change can enable an organism to produce new genetic instructions which are not already in its genome (http://creation.com...)
Okay, so Darwin did make a tree of life. However, this is not how he defined evolution. Although I suppose that that's moot now.
Nice long quote you've got there. What I notice is one missing word. Evolution. Just because Darwin believed in a tree of life doesn't mean that's how he defined evolution. But, again, that's moot.
Okay, so you conceded my points on information. Well, you yourself provide examples of beneficial changes, so there you have it. There are information-adding changes right in your opening argument.
Okay, you bring up the word "kind" and refuse to define it. So I really need you to define your terms before using them, especially if you know that they might be controversial.
Anyway, I guess the meat of your argument is about changing fins into legs. This is based upon a big misunderstanding, which I will attempt to illustrate with an analogy.
Imagine, if you will, a sheet of clay. Drop a ball on it and it will dent it. Drop a ball and miss it and you will not make a dent. Drop a ball in a place where there is a big dent and you'll push through the sheet. Two people see the sheet and and there is a hole going through it. One of them says "The hole wasn't made by the random balls falling. You see, one drop of a ball and it only makes a little dent. It doesn't go all the way through. See? Dropping the balls can't push all the way through."
Dropping the ball is a mutation. Making a dent is a slight change. Pushing through is something like changing a fin to a leg. Missing is being selected out by natural selection. Basically, what I'm saying is that evolution never proposes drastic mutation changes between large taxonomic groups. It instead proposes a slow buildup of changes via mutations that eventually lead to larger changes. When creationists look at individual changes, of course they don't see big changes. Big changes don't happen immediately. Just because the ball only makes a little dent doesn't mean it can't make a hole.
Now you can't just fix up your argument by swapping information for structures without defining structures. I could say that even the tiniest change in a bacteria is a structure change, and because you haven't defined your terms you can't combat that claim. You could say it isn't changing the bacteria into more advanced forms but again, ball makes a little dent.
Also, dinosaurs would not need a new skeletal system. Birds and dinosaurs have very similar skeletons. So are the respiratory systems. Additionally, many dinosaurs already had feathers.
For the first thing, the allele that causes feathers is more frequent in birds than in the average dinosaur, so changing that allele's frequency in dinosaurs and also the alleles for wings, beaks, talons, etc. and you have yourself a bird.
For the second, I once again refer to the examples you yourself gave.
Mutations can change an organism's alleles. Mutations change the DNA, which changes the alleles, which changes the traits, including the chromatophores. Obviously, the mutation would have to occur in the fish's non-autosomal, or sex, cells, and even then the phenotype would only be present in its offspring. Yet even so, the change in allele frequency still occurs.
In conclusion, my opponent is arguing from a misunderstanding, having made misconceptions about information, mutations, evolution, alleles, phylogenetic gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, and genetic changes.
Vote Con, if only to further the proper usage and definition of terms.
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