# August Awake on DNA... A (probably somewhat informal) proof of incorrect logic

by cognisonance 7 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

• ##### cognisonance

I sometimes look at articles still to see what my parents are learning and how that frames their view of me (former member, atheist, computational evolutionary researcher).

Anyway for the proof using propositional logic:

p -> q (if we have p, then also have q)

p = information

q = attributed to intelligence and not mindless processes.

So the proposition is if there is information in something then it must be attributed to intelligence.

We can provide proof that this proposition is false. To do so all we need to do is provide a counter example where we have p, but do not have q. In fact I'll provide three for overkill.

1. Snowflakes. The exact structure of each snowflake contains information, information about the environment in which it forms. In fact this information can be said to have come about by "mindless processes," in that it is a form of order that was achieved by stochastic mechanisms. This example shows no intelligent agent was needed to encode a snowflake

2. Tree rings. Each ring of a tree contains information not just about the age of the tree, but also its growth each year (and probably other things). There is no need to attribute this information to some intelligent agent, as the mindless processes of the growth of a tree are sufficient to generate the information.

3. Ocean Floor. The layers sand on the ocean floor contains information about the environment of the sea over multiple years. There was not intelligence to the creation of this information. Rather it was generated by once again the stochastic mechanisms that are at play in ocean.

So here are three examples of "information" where people don't attribute to God or aliens. Clearly, then the Awake article is making a generalization where such is not warranted. The logic is clearly incorrect.

Of course there is the other problem of the examples they provide being weak analogies (comparing man-made, not living things to DNA). There is also the problem of incorrectly applying information theory (no sender/receiver, no predetermined alphabet, etc).

• ##### besty
what did the awake actually say that was problematic for you? can you provide a quote pls.
• ##### cognisonance

From 2015 Awake, bold for emphasis:

As is often the case, when scientists explain one mystery, they open a door to another. That was true regarding the discovery of DNA. When it was understood that DNA contains coded information, thoughtful people asked, ‘How did the information get there?’ Of course, no human observed the formation of the first DNA molecule. So we have to draw our own conclusions. Even so, these conclusions need not be speculative. Consider the following comparisons.

• In 1999, fragments of very ancient pottery with unusual markings, or symbols, were found in Pakistan. The marks still remain undeciphered. Nevertheless, they are considered man-made.

• A few years after Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, two physicists proposed searching for coded radio signals from space. Thus began the modern-day search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

The point? People attribute information to intelligence, whether that information is in the form of symbols on clay or signals from space. They do not need to see the information being created to draw that conclusion. Yet, when the most sophisticated code known to man—the chemical code of life—was discovered, many shoved that logic aside, attributing DNA to mindless processes. Is that reasonable? Is it consistent? Is it scientific?
• ##### Vidiot

Funny, since most of the "information" in DNA is apparently "junk", i.e. gibberish.

• ##### cognisonance

Funny, since most of the "information" in DNA is apparently "junk", i.e. gibberish.

Most of my current research is on "junk dna." Science is showing that a great deal of the non-protein-coding sections of dna are highly conserved, such as sections that involve transposable elements (TEs). For example, about 20% of the junk dna in the mustard plant are TEs.

I bring this up because that assertion is not a good one to use in argumentation regarding creationist claims.

• ##### Vidiot

Ah, I didn't know that.

What would be a good way of framing that information in layman's terms with the purpose of refuting creationism, then?

(not being snarky, genuinely curious)

• ##### cognisonance

I would simply say that while it is true people often attribute information to intelligence when we are taking about archeological digs or possible messages from space, it isn't the case that people will always attribute information to intelligence in other situations, for example, snowflakes, tree rings, sand on the ocean floor, ice core samples, and so on. What is happening here is the Awake is making an hasty generalization, which simply is wrong (like so many other types of over generalizations [think about racism]). It's easy to disprove by simply providing a counter example[s].

• ##### besty

"As is often the case, when scientists explain one mystery, they open a door to another."

This sentence prepares the reader for the insertion of "god must have done it" into the newly created mystery gap.

It also smacks of an argument from ignorance - ie we can't (won't) explain this 'mystery' therefore god.

With a slight hint of poisoning the well and a complete disrespect for the scientific method with the 'as is often the case' insult at the start.

What a piece of work these writers are...