Here we have the Discovery Institute's favorite biologist, Doug Axe, demonstrating his ignorance of information theory:
"... So, really, you put all that together, we now understand something about digitally-encoded information in cells, encoded in the genome. We understand why it's there: to encode proteins. And we understand how the proteins function to do the chemistry of life. And we also have the ability to measure, to some degree, how much information is there. If you put all that together, we now see something that looks very much like human designs, where we use digitally-encoded information to accomplish things, and we know that it's impossible to get information on that scale through a chance process that Darwinism employed."
This is false. We don't "know" any such thing. Axe cannot point to a single paper in the peer-reviewed literature that correctly explains why one can't "get information on that scale through a chance process that Darwinism employed". This is just something that creationists repeat over and over again without real justification.
In fact, just the opposite is true. Ironically, I am lecturing about Kolmogorov's theory of information today in my class CS 462. In that class we show that it is, in fact, while it is possible to produce information through a deterministic process (for example, by iterating the map x → xx), it is even easier to produce as much information as you like through a random process -- precisely the opposite of what Axe is claiming.
"I remember thinking at the time that this looks like something, not just the product of engineering but the product of brilliant engineering. And that was the point where it occurred to me that someone needed to do the experiments to test whether that was really the case or not."
No experiment that Axe has done has tested the question of whether life occurs through the process of "brilliant engineering" or not. No one has a testable definition of "brilliant engineering" and no one has a procedure to test whether something is "brilliant engineering". Wes Elsberry and I gave eight challenges related to this kind of claim back in 2003. Ten years later, and not a single creationist has taken up our challenges.
We recognize human engineering because we are good at recognizing artifacts: the characteristic products of human activity.
"It's strange how your preconceptions really color the way you process data. And some people just went along with what they were taught, and I never tended to do that. I was always questioning what I was taught, including Darwinism."
And of course, creationists are miraculously free of preconceptions. That's what they're known for!
Here are a few other conventional ideas Axe has rejected:
- It's not a great idea to publish your papers in a vanity journal where you yourself are the managing editor.
- If you're a scientist, it's not a great career move to work for a "scientific" institute that gets most of its funding from the Discovery Institute --- a group with a documented history of misrepresentations, and driven by religious and political goals.
- It's not a great idea to have your colleagues extol the brilliance of your work, especially when referring to papers that have received few, if any, citations.
"If you believe that everything was cobbled together through random processes, then there would be a lot of junk, there'd be the residue of cobbling sitting there and that's why people jumped to this junk DNA hypothesis. They found out that a very small fraction of the genome actually encodes proteins --- that was the one aspect of genomes that we understood well, is that they encode proteins --- so they assumed all the rest of it is junk. Well, the truth is, we didn't know what the rest of it was doing, but that doesn't mean it's junk. And it's becoming increasing clear that it
Axe misrepresents the history. Junk certainly could arise from an evolutionary algorithm, but it need not. It's logically possible that junk could have such a high evolutionary cost that it would tend to be weeded out. Acceptance of junk DNA came from data, not just theory. If you maintain that there is little or no junk in the genome, you have to explain exactly why different species of Allium have such wildly different genome sizes.
Axe likes to claim that he questions everything. But he hasn't questioned the ENCODE claims, even though they've been widely criticized. I guess that's due to his miraculous lack of preconceptions.