Tuesday, February 23, 2016

125 Rebuttals, #1

I came across this article a theist left in a twitter conversation I was having.  I reckon it couldn't hurt to have a read and at least address some.  Maybe I'll address them all. Who knows.

Argument 1: The origin of the genetic cipher.

Neat!  I bet this could be interesting.  What's the first premise? 
1.Triplet codons must be assigned to amino acids to establish a genetic cipher.  Nucleic-acid bases and amino acids don’t recognize each other directly, but have to deal via chemical intermediaries ( tRNA's and  Aminoacyl tRNA synthetase ), there is no obvious reason why particular triplets should go with particular amino acids.
Seems valid enough.  I'm not a molecular biologist, but let's see where it goes from here.

2. Other translation assignments are conceivable, but whatever cipher is established, the right amino acids must be assigned to permit polypeptide chains, which fold to active funcional proteins. Functional amino acid chains in sequence space are rare.  There are two possibilities to explain the correct assignment of the codons to the right amino acids. 
Well, we've got ourselves a possible false dichotomy (which would potentially create a fallacy in the conclusion) at the end there. I'm not even going to worry about the more technical aspects, since it seems I won't need to for this.

3. If it were a lucky accident happened by chance, luck would have  hit the jackpot  trough trial and error amongst 1.5 × 10^84 possible genetic codes . That is the number of atoms in the whole universe. That puts any real possibility of chance providing the feat out of question. Its , using  Borel's law, in the realm of impossibility. Natural selection would have to evaluate roughly 10^55 codes per second to find the one that's universal. Put simply, the chemical lottery lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code. 
Well, now there's a fun statement.  Thus the breakdown begins. The first two statements weren't terrible, but this one is.  First, a false premise fallacy.  We have no information on where the number of genetic 'codes' come from.  Is it supposed to be the number of different species?  Perhaps merely the number of possible combinations of x length?  I can't speculate much further with no further information, in this improperly defined premise.

Moving on to the next statement, 10^84 is probably a few orders of magnitude more atoms than are in the universe.  Let's contemplate for a moment, however, how many strands of DNA there are in the world, probably.  Wikipedia gives a much more definite number, so we'll go with that. 5*10^37 strands of DNA as an estimate.  Let's not forget, life on earth is around 3.7B years old. So, if we presume a DNA cycle on average to last a day (just pulling a number here, bacteria were the dominant thing for an incredibly long time), we'll use about 1.8 trillion days.  So, multiplying those two numbers yields a number around 9*10^46.  This number is considerably smaller, and with good reason: lots of combinations don't work.  Some combinations simply wouldn't form anything, and others lead to sterile creatures, like mules.  Naturally, these creatures won't pass on their genetic combinations, and that eliminates billions or trillions of combinations which will never form spontaneously.

Also, yes, the possible number of combinations of atoms in the universe is greater than the number of atoms in the universe.  There's only 80 numbers on a Keno board, but there's  combinations of those 80 numbers for a 10 spot ticket. That's around 6e18 combinations (e means *10^x for those of you who don't know).  So that's what you'd typically call a bad argument.  Moving on.

Genetic recombination isn't a lucky mistake, it's what happens every time something reproduces biologically.  It would be truly odd if your parents weren't nearly genetically identically to you, at least with regard to the fact that you both share human DNA sequences and not potato DNA sequences.

Borel's law isn't actually a law, so we can disregard the part of the argument that comes with it.  At best it's a false premise, because we already know things with very low probability do indeed occur, such as stars exploding into supernova.

However, if that bores you, you're in luck, because now we're tackling the last part of that statement.  These aren't really premises at all.  They're amalgamations of bad arguments. I'm going to re-quote it right here, to refresh your mind.
Put simply, the chemical lottery lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code.
In this one sentence, we've got a load of fallacies.  First is the false premise that the 'code' had to be 'found.'  As though it was left somewhere for a sentient thing to discover.  Abiogenesis steps in here, but even more fundamentally than that, his premise doesn't even work on how the DNA came to be. In fact, his premise starts far after that.  The chemical reactions that eventually led to something like RNA which can self-replicate don't require being 'found.'  They happen as simply as baking soda reacts with vinegar, literally a chemical reaction.  Remember, his first premise has a few flaws too, but I don't want to keep you here all day.
4. We know that minds do invent languages, codes, translation systems, ciphers, and complex, specified information all the time. 
This is a conflation of the definitions of 'code.' Anyone who is familiar in the least with molecular biology knows that the code we assign to DNA is not the same thing as what's actually going on between those pairs.  It's useful for describing it, but the 'language' the DNA speaks with itself is not a conscious thing.  It's a false analogy, at the very least, and a bit of intellectual dishonesty.

It's a bit like saying that a photon has some sort of code it gives to a leaf, which allows the leaf to engage in photosynthesis.  It's not a conscious thing. The sun isn't telling the leaves anything by sending sunlight, it's a simple chemical reaction.  Also, humans didn't invent physics, we discovered (through observation) the way things seem to work, which we call Laws.  In exactly the same way, we didn't invent the DNA code, we just assign various traits of it parts of language to make it easier to describe.
5. Put it in other words : The task compares to invent two languages, two alphabets, and a translation system, and the information content of a book ( for example hamlet)  being written in english translated  to chinese  in a extremely sophisticared hardware system. 
Actually, it doesn't do that at all.  To expound further, it's more like how we assign negative or positive voltages their designator of positive or negative.  We're not saying someone is consciously determining that positive and negative are intrinsic properties (and they're relative to one another anyway, but more on that later), or that it's any language to be derived from it. However, it's exceptionally useful to assign a value of 1 or 0 to either the positive or negative, so we can run computers.  Again, this analogy isn't great, but neither is his.  We're not simply transcribing some hidden language: we call it a code because it signals various things to happen.  It's not like Morse code or English, in that the bits have any specific meaning.  It's more like a flowchart, which causes reactions that build cells or cell parts.
6. The genetic code and its translation system is best explained through the action of a intelligent designer. 
 Based on what?  Now the leap is made further that there is literally some sort of transcription embedded in the DNA.  It's also not the best explanation.  The best explanation is that DNA/RNA interactions are chemical reactions, and that biology is, more or less, a giant set of physics (of which chemistry is a subset at this exchange).  There's no coherent message intrinsic to the process. This is how 'transcoding' errors occur, when bits interact with bits they shouldn't have.  Like when you're trying to bake a cake, but you accidentally mix everything all at once instead of one at a time.  The resultant mess may not be a cake, but it may be most of the time.  Maybe one time you add something different because you're out of something else, or leave something out because you don't have it.

It's not a great analogy, but it's simple enough to demonstrate the flaw in the premise.  A false premise, since it's got no evidence supporting it.
7. The designer is God. 
I surmise this is to be the conclusion, but it's numbered as though it's a premise.  Letting that slide, it's a false premise.  I mean, the simplest rebuttal is that perhaps it was gods. There's nothing that follows logically which requires it to be a god (humans can encode messages in DNA, after all, if we really feel like it).  Similarly, there's no foundation for asserting that it is a specific god, either.  Also, since the premises before it are incorrect/incomplete/improperly formed/false/unrelated, this conclusion is therefore also unsupported.

If you enjoy my articles, consider following me on twitter @acce245 or dropping a dollar or two at my patreon.  I will still keep the site running like always regardless.  I enjoy writing, but I wish I had more time to do it.  Let me know if there's something you want me to write about!

Peace to you all!