Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How big is the hole?

In an earlier post I likened the production of a protein with a new function to a blind man playing golf. One commenter wondered how large the hole was. I thought of this again while reading Stephen Meyer's recent book "Signature in the Cell". He presents the figure of 1 out of 10^74 as the number of possible proteins 150 amino acids long which have any function whatsoever. If this is correct then the hole is very small indeed...roughly equivalent to finding a single marked atom blindfold from all the atoms in the milky way. This figure also assumes that all the amino acids are left handed and only peptide bonds are formed.


Blogger Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Andrew,

For the umpteenth time - your maths is wrong.

Evolution does not claim that such a protein appeared all at once - that is your claim.

This kind of thing is covered in GCSE maths probability theory.

You might as well deal out a deck of cards and claim it is impossible when you work out that the odds that it could have happened are so small!

- - -

We have observed evolution in action - for a clear example see Lenski.

- - -

How many times will you just start a fresh page and repeat the same claims that have been shown to be silly on a previous one?

Is this really honest begaviour?



7:52 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


It is not my maths that is wrong (if it is wrong) it is Meyer's who got it off Axe who has actually done some good work on this subject.

Evolution to be truly macro-evolution cannot just start with variations on current proteins all the time. It needs to be able to build genuinely new ones from scratch.

Can you help with a bit more detail on 'Lenski'

Can you link to the place where this same claim has been made and shown to be silly.

8:51 am  
Blogger Psiloiordinary said...

Hi Andrew,

It's really a very simple error.

The maths assume that the hole thing has leapt into existence at once.

The various individual probabilities (fractions less than one) are therefore multiplied together giving such a massively small number.

Evolution works by preserving each individual "improvement" in a population. A population of billions of organisms say over millions of years. When the next " improvement" comes along it can also be preserved (it survives and comes to dominate in the population).

So instead of just having one really tiny number which implies the whole thing happened by magic in one go, we see lots of small fractions multiplied by large numbers of organisms and generations of organisms. Revealing the probability more realistically.

I strongly recommend Dawkins latest book for a summary of the Lenski's work.

But here it is from the horse's mouth;




PS do you get the cards analogy?

9:04 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...


This number is for any functional protein at all.. ie capable of forming a 3d shape. This must be in place before you can select for anything.

From the last comment:
Can you link to the place where this same claim has been made and shown to be silly?

Can you summarize the Lenski work? I looked on the site and there is was not a quick and easy way of seeing your argument... is there a summary of the results somewhere?

10:38 pm  
Anonymous Cedric Katesby said...

Thowing around bogus numbers doen't help anybody.
The Discovery Institute is always doing this. Old news.
Ken Miller very effectively debunks this.
See 7:30.

Psiloiordinary is quite correct to point out Lenski's work.

5:21 pm  
Blogger Psiloiordinary said...

Here you go;




9:50 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...



Can you demonstrate its bogicity for me?

>Ken Miller very effectively debunks this....

No he doesn't... not there anyway.
You could have put the relevant sentences in and saved me a whole lot of time! :-(

11:11 pm  

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