Why do creationists lie?

Here’s an old example of lying creationists:

Basically, some creationists lied to get an interview with Dawkins. They later edited together some footage to make it appear like Dawkins couldn’t answer a simple question: “Can you give an example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information in the genome?” After a long pause (which was unrelated to the overdubbed question), the dishonest creationists paste in some footage of Dawkins answering an unrelated question. It’s patently silly.

So what’s the answer? Dawkins explains the situation and answers the question here. But I’m going to simplify the answer.

An example of a genetic mutation or an evolutionary process which can be seen to increase the information is Down’s Syndrome. Here’s a karyotype for the genetic defect. Look at chromosome 21. It should have two copies but it actually has three. Bam. That’s more information. That is precisely the question creationists want answered: how can information increase in the genome? Mutation.

Of course, the way the question is worded is stupid. Evolution is all about increasing (and sometimes decreasing) information. Duplications do this: one gene is copied twice, one copy diverges to participate in some other function, and bam, we not only have more information, but we have more useful, advantageous information. We see this all the time, all the way down to minute differences in snails.

Let me put in another way. DNA is composed of 4 letters: A, C, T, G. These are in triplet form. That means it takes three letters to make an amino acid. For example, GGC is the amino acid glycine (so is GGA and GGG). A change in one of these letters is a mutation. In most instances, a mutation will change an amino acid. Let’s say the first G in GGC is changed to a C. That makes CGC, which codes for arginine. The gene in which this mutation occurred will now have one amino acid replaced. It is possible that it was have the same basic function as the previous amino acid, but often enough it has a different function. It may make a more ideal protein or an entirely new one. This is a change in information. In order for this information to be maintained, natural selection must act on the organism (or gene, depending on your view). That is the evolutionary process which maintains, increases, and decreases information in the genome. It happens every single day.

I should apologize to my non-creationist readers who didn’t need me to be so basic, but these creationists keep asking questions that are answered in the first weeks of every spring and fall in any intro to bio course.

Anyway, here’s a video of Dawkins talking about dishonest creationists.

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15 Responses

  1. Okay, I just about had enough of this bullshit. Could please anyone, creationist, evolutionist, Merry-friggin-poppinist, WHATEVER, please tell me what they mean by “Genetic Information”?! I went through (and passed with high marks) a course in Genetics so far, I’m no professor, but I’m still a biology undergrad with lots of book-reading history –

    and I have *never* run into any use of the term to denote anything useful in biology. At best, it can be used as a metaphor for stuff that happens in the genetics of evolving species. That creationists use this term drives me nuts. It’s like inventing a complete bullshit term, and then using it as a straw man. Straw men are better used when you simply lie about what you’re trying to rebuttal, you don’t actually have to make shit up.

    Listen – there IS no such thing as information. Frankly, it doesn’t even matter if the genome increases or decreases – the whole thing is friggin pointless! There are amoeboids out there with genomes dozens of times greater than ours – does that mean that they have no information? Is having more genes constitute having more information?

    It doesn’t matter! It’s not even relevant to evolution! The only reason intelligent, rational, well-informed people address this term is because idiots with a degree in math (hence the relation to information theory) enjoy stumping laymen with stupid red-herrings which mean nothing.

    The minute you observe *any* change in the genome, especially the kind that constitutes phenotypical modification that is heritable – the logical outcome of that is cumulative evolution, which could very well be evidence for the common descent of all species.

    You can call it “Shawarma” for all I care – but that people still use that term “information” as if it means anything (and this happens all the time!) just makes my blood boil.

    Sorry for the tirade, but I just can’t believe that the “information” argument is still an issue.

  2. *
    P.S – obviously there IS such a thing as information – but the application of information theory in biology is only useful if it’s SYNONYMOUS to ideas that have been well accepted in evolutionary theory for yonks. Evolutionary theory doesn’t need it, and doesn’t expire as soon as the application of information theory fails.

  3. I considered addressing this issue, but decided to assume a definition for the sake of argument – and hopefully offer some knowledge.

    Basically, you’re right, it doesn’t actually mean anything. The definition I was assuming was pretty much: amino acid = information. That’s all it really can mean, if anything at all.

  4. freidenker85, it seems you have dismissed the possibility that DNA is a code.

    I would say a code is, “a shared set of rules or conventions by which signs can be combined to permit a message to be communicated from one person to another” (Answers.com). For DNA a code is not for communications between people, but rather for informing on how to construct proteins.

    If you agree that DNA’s production of proteins is an informed process (as opposed to something that happens in a useful way by blind luck every time) then you must agree that the DNA code is information.

    What say you?

  5. Far be it from me to steal the spotlight from the good freidenker, but I suspect our answers will be roughly the same.

    DNA is not a process which occurs by blind luck every time. Evolution is a gradual process (though not necessarily at a specific rate) which builds upon previous populations. That is, natural selection weeds out or selects for the genes which are most advantaeous. It’s much the same way humans select the best crops or livestock (cows today produce far, far more milk than they did 10,000 years ago). The pressure put on these organisms results in genes which reflect advantage (usually higher productivity). Nature does much the same, but in much slower and, clearly, without intent.

  6. Uh .. was that an answer to my question?

    Does freidenker85 reject the notion that DNA is a code or not?

  7. I am not answering for freidenker. My statements represent my views.

    You jumped from DNA being a code to it being “an informed process”. DNA is a code in the sense that it is something which is translated from one form into another. That is, DNA represents and corresponds to peptide chains or proteins and is translated as such by biochemical instructions. There is no need for there to be “an informed process” involved simply because the language is such that it lends itself to too much personification.

    Also, I just basically interpreted the definition of “genetic code” for you.

  8. I don’t see any reason to deny that a code has information. Your definition backs this up:

    genetic code

    the biochemical instructions that translate the genetic information present as a linear sequence of nucleotide triplets in messenger RNA into the correct linear sequence of amino acids for the synthesis of a particular peptide chain or protein.

  9. I said it was not an informed process. That is not the same as saying it is not information.

    However, as I discussed with freidenker above, “information” doesn’t really have much of a definition in biology. At best it can reference amino acids.

  10. It seems a fairly useless distinction to make, has information, but is not informed. Why would you say that?

    If you’re talking about theoretical Information then it has a definition wherever the math can be applied. If you’re talking about information as a layman would then it’s just your opinion against another.

    Either way, I do not see any reason to reject the idea that DNA has information.

  11. I know the creationist position and the creationist tricks. “Informed” is meant to indicate intention. “Information” avoids that pitfall.

    At any rate, as I said, “information” is a very loose term. As a means of not distracting from my main point (how genomes change in size, resulting in evolution), I did not question the term. However, it can really only reference amino acids. Other than that, it isn’t very useful.

  12. I don’t see any difference between describing something as having information and describing something as informed.

    But, you’re right, speaking about information is not very useful for evolution.

  13. Coy.

  14. At least I’m not lying :)

  15. Maybe Stripe doesn’t get that it’s pointless to talk about information as more than just a synonym for a code. “More information” doesn’t mean anything, it sounds like saying something is “more evolved”.

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