Re: Comments on Snoke's approach

From: Cornelius Hunter <>
Date: Sat Sep 24 2005 - 10:23:17 EDT


I agree that these sorts of arguments from physics can be helpful. Let's take you increasing entropy approach for searching the DNA design space. Let's assume a genome of hundred thousand base pairs. This is more than four orders of magnitude smaller than the human genome, so leaves more than enough wiggle room to account for non functional DNA, and so forth.

Since there are 4 nucleotides, then the DNA design space contains 4^100000 sequences, or about 10^60000 sequences. We have no more than 5 billion years to work with, or about 10^17 seconds. So you'd need to perform about 10^59983 evolutionary experiments per second. Or in other words, conservatively assuming an average generation time of these higher life forms of 1 day, then each evolutionary experiment takes on the order of a day, or about 10^5 seconds. Since you need 10^59983 evolutionary experiments per second, and each experiment takes 10^5 seconds, you'll need a population size that is on the order of 10^59988. Of course, this is something like 10^59909 times the number of electrons in the universe, or 10^59858 times the number of electrons that could *fit* into the universe.

All this of course assumes that you've got different populations of self-replicating organisms and an environment to start with, but that too runs into this kind of problem. The bottom line is that the Darwinian notion that functional designs are produced by an unguided search process (that just happens to be in place) is not a good scientific theory.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Randy Isaac
  Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 5:15 PM
  Subject: Re: Comments on Snoke's approach

  Cornelius, I was hoping you'd go for the bait and give me a chance to explain further. This is an argument from physics and physicists have to grossly oversimplify the world in order to deal with it. So we need to keep it very very simple. First we need two assumptions:
  1) There exists an organism(s) at some point in time which reproduces at some rate. (could be a single cell or multi-cell organism)
  2) The DNA within the organism has a very small but non-zero error rate of replication.

  The first assumption is pretty obvious from observation. Organisms exist today and there is evidence they existed in the past. The second is also observed but it is something we would expect on thermodynamic grounds since it is energetically too costly to have error-free reproduction.

  From these assumptions, the second law of thermodynamics tells us that after a time much longer than the reproduction rate, the population of organisms will display all possible variations of the DNA. It's a simple result of the tendency for all systems to increase in entropy. For these systems, that means all viable variations of DNA. Since we observe that individuals and species are differentiated by variations of DNA, it follows that the world will develop a vast diverse range of species.

  It is left to chemists and biologists to figure out the gory details! How long a period of time? How many species? Which ones? Details, details, details. The main vulnerability is whether conditions might change to the point where no organism can reproduce. That would of course halt the process. There seems to be no fundamental reason why organisms have to be able to exist so the conditions necessary for life might not occur at some point in time. But for the last few billion years, it seems that conditions have been peculiarly favorable on this planet. So if we could only figure out how the first organism(s) got going, there's at least no fundamental reason why a large number of species couldn't eventually evolve. Figuring out how and why and when is the fun that biologists are having these days.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Cornelius Hunter
    Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 11:22 PM
    Subject: Re: Comments on Snoke's approach

      You also said that "One could argue effectively that once there exists a reproducing organism, the probability that in time there would be a vast diverse range of species is close to unity." Again, I don't know how one could defend this. Everything we understand about population genetics and adaptation points to limits to adaptation. And there is no effective argument for how the intricate complexities in biology could have arisen from a single cell. All we have are broad speculations based on the presupposition that evolution has occurred.

Received on Sat Sep 24 10:28:37 2005

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