A psychological state in which the patient is unable to see purpose in nature, or even acknowledge hypocritical use of teleological language.
Our close friends Bob and Angel were dining with us at a barbecue restaurant. Bob was chowing down on a stack of ribs; Angel was nibbling string beans and a tiny square of corn bread.
Angel was 82 pounds and dropping fast. This normally attractive, athletic woman was down to skin and bones. Waging war with an eating disorder – and losing. Her husband Bob was scared. Laura and I were scared for her. Ribs sticking out of her skin. She wore baggy sweaters, her breasts sagged and she was perpetually cold.
“Angel, you’re dangerously skinny! Girl, you’ve gotta eat something!
You could not reason with that eating disorder. You could literally stand with her in front of a mirror. She would look at the reflection of herself with you and say, “You look normal. But I look fat!”
I’d never personally experienced anorexia or bulimia before, so I’d never fathomed of how irrational this was. Even when Angel could see herself right in front of her eyes, standing next to a normal human, she still didn’t see it.
No amount of arguing or logic could convince her she didn’t look fat.
In fact the only argument and logic going on was: People die from anorexia and bulimia. Angel is headed that way.
Intellectually she DID know that. So the one thing that finally got her to defy every screaming cell in her brain and get help was: Her precious kids, all five and under, would be left without a mother if she died.
She sought out a professional. The next six months were grueling but she eventually overcame the beast. Angel has been healthy for the last ten years.
I will never forget how bizarre and twisted her perception of reality was.
It’s hard to not miss the resemblance between Angel and my conversation with PZ Myers and his merry band of blog followers, about randomness vs. structure in nature. (They’re not so merry, actually. Actually it seems PZ’s blog is their daily espresso shot of insults and rage.)
In London recently, I appeared as a guest on the Unbelievable radio show and podcast, opposite my opponent PZ Myers, a notorious Darwinist and Atheist. The tagline of his blog is “Random ejaculations of a godless liberal.”
PZ and his Darwinist friends are furious with me for insisting evolution is a process that follows active logical patterns; and that cells re-engineer their own DNA in response to shocks and threats.
On the show, I explained why evolution is not simply “random.” The facts confirming this have been verified for decades, and Barbara McClintock won the Nobel Prize in 1983 for this very discovery.
Yet some folks still refuse to acknowledge what Barbara took great pains to emphasize in her Nobel Prize speech: cells are smart and they re-arrange their DNA in very specific ways when faced with common threats, and very clever ways when presented with unique challenges.
Again, all this is well documented – even more so in our modern age of genomics. But in my debate with PZ Myers on Unbelievable, and in ensuing blog posts, nothing but a wall of denial. And erratic self-contradiction.
It’s a lot like anorexia. I call it telorexia.
On the show, for example, PZ insisted that transpositions (DNA rearrangements performed by the cell) are simply random.
I posted links to literature that clearly shows how transpositions are used to repair damage. And that cells have extensive systems that correct errors (Nobel Prize 2015).
PZ responds by further describing those systems that correct errors, yet PZ seems unable to see that error correction is by definition purposeful!
There would be no such thing as an error without a preferred state that was correct. What is error correction, after all? It is programmed response to a random external event.
Cells detect when things go wrong and set them right. You can’t avoid purpose in nature, or teleology.
PZ also doesn’t seem to realize that if random copying errors were good, the cell wouldn’t be trying to correct them, so therefore evolution doesn’t come from random copying errors! If random copying errors produced evolutionary events, all we’d need to do is trigger more errors and evolution would happen faster. But that doesn’t work.
This brings up a philosophical question: Is this repair consciously purposeful, the way humans fix things? Or is it just mechanical, like your cell phone?
Personally I suspect cells may possess some level of self-awareness. McClintock even asked, “What does the cell know about itself?” However, for the sake of this article, I’m quite content with “DNA error correction is just mechanical, like your cell phone.”
Some events are random. DNA copying errors are random. No matter how purposeful a cell is, it can’t fix all of them; the white noise you hear on your radio is random; the snow on TV between channels is random; radioactive decay particles are random.
Some things in genetics, like whether your got your father’s blue eyes or your mother’s brown eyes, are also random so far as I can tell.
But they are only random within defined constraints. They are better described as permutations than purely random events.
In my “Synonyms for Random” blog post, I was pinpointing PZ’s crime against science: Declaring something random simply because he does not understand it, and not because it’s demonstrably random.
It’s the atheist equivalent of “goddidit.” A magic wand.
First he said all the mutations are random. Then I corrected him with details about error correction, which is anti-random. Then he reluctantly acknowledged that. Then he went on to assert that transposition locations are still random. Or… well… sort-of random.
Despite the fact that experiments document numerous ways in which many transposon locations follow specific patterns.
We don’t know all the patterns yet. But I’m wagering none of these are truly random at all. Any other wager is anti-science.
What old-school Darwinists do over and over again is acknowledge that the systems we understand do obey rules… but then jump to the conclusion that whatever next layer which we presently don’t understand, does NOT obey rules.
“Oh, but that’s just random,” they say.
Always obscuring the quest for order. Always circumventing the next discovery. In my book Evolution 2.0 I call this “randomness inflation.”
Here’s the problem: Randomness is not provable. It is a non-hypothesis. Formally it’s known as a Null Hypothesis – which simply means you don’t know. You CAN prove non-randomness. You can prove patterns to the nth degree. But you can’t positively assert “random.”
Randomness simply means “no pattern.” So when any complex system exhibits behavior you don’t understand, then you as a scientist have no right to declare it’s “random.” Because as soon as you do so, the scientific method itself – which is the search for patterns – stops.
That kills science. Ironically, the science killers are the very same folks who crow loudest about the dismal state of science education.
There is an old school of thinking in biology, shared by a cadre of people like Larry Moran and PZ Myers, that transposons are essentially random DNA parasites living inside your cells. They allegedly just multiply willy-nilly in the genome, like rats catching a free ride on a steam ship and humping each other in the cargo hold.
McClintock would have thought this preposterous. An alternate school of thought holds a much higher view of the genome. Scientists who write specialized books and papers about transposition counter this view with clear evidence. Barbara would vehemently disagree with Myers; all you have to do is read her Nobel paper and see. A growing contingent of scientists hail from her camp, not PZ’s.
Do some textbooks that say all this is “random”? Sure do. But know that when an industry is undergoing a revolution (bioinformatics and systems biology are rocking the foundations of molecular biology as we speak), textbooks will be the last to broadcast the news.
The question you should be asking is: “OK, so how do I know whether PZ and his Darwinians are right… or if McClintock and her Post-Darwinians are right? After all, Perry’s an electrical engineer, not a biologist.”
This is how I know who’s right: It’s the math. The math of digital code.
If you randomly scramble bits in ANY coding system….
- File formats like .doc, .pdf, .mp3, .wav etc
- Databases like .xls, SQL, etc.
- Transmission formats like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, TCP/IP, Bluetooth, USB
- Languages like English, Chinese, French and Esperanto
If you randomly mutate them, the only thing you accomplish is: You destroy your data. If you don’t believe me, try it. Try it at home if you want.
Data is incredibly fragile. Codes are a million times more fragile than your grandmother’s china cups and saucers. One bad bit can wreck everything.
Beneficial copying errors are so rare, they’re not even worth mention. A copying error may be slightly helpful once in a trillion times. The rest of the time, it’s like smashing beer bottles against a cement wall. Copying errors cause birth defects, cancer, extinction and death.
Man-made codes have layers of redundancy and error correction. It’s the only reason our modern world works. Long before I discovered DNA has error correction, I knew it had to exist. All reliable communication systems possess it. If they don’t, you get disaster.
I knew this from the start. So I was hunting for Barbara McClintock long before I found her. Those fabulous repair systems are the only reason your body works. They’re the only reason life still thrives after 3+ billion years.
In 1948, Claude Shannon showed mathematically why this is so. Randomness is information entropy. Information entropy is mathematically identical to thermodynamic entropy. It erases patterns.
All codes have ergodic patterns. What does “ergodic” mean? Autofill on your cell phone is exhibit “A” of a predictive ergodic pattern. When you text someone:
Autofill gives you three choices:
can are know
If you choose “know,” it gives you three more choices:
what I that
and so on.
Only English words work. Shannon talks about how English has signature patterns. The word “the” appears 6% of the time. The letter “U” almost always follows the letter “Q”.
“E” appears 12.7% of the time. “Z” appears 0.1% of the time.
It is not possible for a random process to produce even one single page of e’s, z’s, the’s and qu’s with the correct ratios (+/-25% let’s say)… let alone also give you accurate syntax and grammar. Random distribution would give you 3.8% e’s, 3.8% z’s (1/26 probability for every letter) etc. etc. and natural selection would never fix it.
English from random mutations will never work… even if we grant you all the replication and selection you could ever ask for, for 13 billion years, and a million extra universes just in case you need them. Chance and necessity don’t evolve codes.
If you think I’m wrong, PROVE ME WRONG. Crunch the numbers. Post your solution for all to see in the comment section below.
In English, non-random patterns are punctuation marks, words, paragraphs and grammar. DNA has ergodic patterns too. In the genome we call them genes, start and stop codons, RNAs, transposons, cassettes, introns, exons, LINES, SINES, telomeres, chromosomes.
Each of these components exhibits particular rules and structure. This is why we recognize them when we sequence DNA. Cells obey these rules.
So evolution is necessarily systematic and structured.
This is also why there’s no such thing as a book called “The statistical case for random mutations.” (The longest chapter in Evolution 2.0 is Appendix 1, “All About Randomness” where I explain in detail why there is no such book in biology.)
So… why does an Electrical Engineer have the audacity to challenge an entire industry and profession and say “I’m right and they’ve been wrong for 70 years?”
Because the Darwinists say 2+2 equals five. But 2+2 is four.
Nobody knows better than an electrical engineer that Neo-Darwinism is a con. Claude Shannon unwittingly proved it.
Crunch the numbers if you doubt me. Report your results in the comment box.
When your math is correct, you can challenge anyone you want.
“Random mutation” is no more scientific than the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. Wholesale fraud. 2+2=5. That’s why old-school Darwinism the most troubled theory in the history of science. Time for a new paradigm.
Sometimes, you just can’t convince the poor anorexic woman that she’s starving herself to death.
Other times you can.
Some will cling to their Telorexia. Others will free themselves and embrace 21st century science.
PZ, it’s not too late. Come join the banquet. Even as you insist nature is just random chemicals, nothing but chance and selection… even as your buddies Jerry Coyne and Larry Moran complain that “finding truly new things—things that surprise and delight other scientists—is very rare… largely tedium.”
You guys are 82 pounds, chewing string beans and crusty cornbread. You don’t have to stay that way. A feast is waiting. Because despite your telorexia, the revolution is underway. As we speak.