Creationism · Intelligent Design

Information vs. Other Stuff

One common creationist objection to evolution is “where did the information come from?“.

There are many responses to this. But one thing that often gets lost in the noise is: it doesn’t matter.

What matters is, how do new organs appear? How do new body parts, behaviors, genes, chromosomes appear? As long as that happens, it matters not one whit whether “information” goes up, down, or sideways. In fact, if you define “information” as “the entropy of the universe, with a minus sign in front”, it’s easy to demonstrate that evolution requires a decrease in “information”.

The problem is that it’s fairly easy to show with a few examples that “new” organs, aren’t actually new, but really just variations on a theme. Think of bat wings and human hands, for instance. There are also many known types of mutation, including gene duplication, that can plausibly lead to the sorts of variation we see.

These examples are simple and clear enough that lay people can understand them. So creationists focus on “information” and play the same game as with “kind”, “God”, and “designer”: use a word that everyone thinks they understand, at least somewhat, rely on handwaving, intuitive arguments to make their case, and stubbornly refuse to provide a formal, testable underpinning for this intuition.

There’s a big difference between understanding a thing, and merely knowing the name for it. The “where does information come from?” argument plays on the fact that you can have a name for an ill-defined concept. So my advice is to treat “information” the same way as “quantum charm” or “GDP” or “melanoma”: if you don’t have a good idea of what the term means, ask your interlocutor to clarify until you’re sure you’re talking about the same thing.

And if it turns out that under some definition, an increase in “information” is impossible, well, who cares, as long as it doesn’t prevent the evolution of limbs and organs?

2 thoughts on “Information vs. Other Stuff

  1. Don’t forget to savor the irony when you ask a creationist to define exactly what he means by “information” or “entropy” or “kind” and he accuses you of playing word games.

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