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Dean Pomerleau

The Ultimate Purpose of Life

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19 hours ago, Ron Put said:

I am actually rather surprised to see creationism alive and well on a forum like this, with the requisite talking points about "gaps in the fossil record" (it's a poor argument contradicted by current knowledge, the fossil record itself and the fact that only specimens with specific characteristics are likely to be preserved as fossils).

Actually, the fact that only specimens with specific characteristics are likely to be preserved as fossils would imply that the living specieses would have been in actuality far more numerous than those we see in the earth's layers and that the diversification, the evolutionary burst, has been even greater than the one we can infer from fossil records, and so this would make even less mathematically likely the hypothesis of this evolutionary burst caused by random mutations, that is it would give far more credence to the ID hypothesis.

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On 2/6/2020 at 5:09 AM, Gordo said:

As for power sources - again this is showing the limitation of your imagination.  As you noted, this universe may even be a hologram - perhaps our idea of its "power requirement" is greatly misguided,

Uhm, it wasn't me, it was some dumbass theoretical physicists from Oxford.... ( https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/9/e1701758 )

And I really don't think that the Oxford folks are misguided, but I do have an inkling that some here are mightily confused.

On 2/6/2020 at 5:09 AM, Gordo said:

BUT THE MOST HILARIOUS THING ABOUT the video you posted is that it seems you didn't actually watch the whole thing?  Remember I asked you for your hypothesis on how a big bang happens - an entire universe springing out of "nothing".

Jump to 24:32 in your above video where it says "We could create simulated virtual universes, or with enough energy, create another one just like our own" !!!


Oh, boy.... I thought I should note that while I found the video mesmerizing on the big screen and it generally tracks based on sort of current knowledge, it is done by a talented freelance videographer who does veer occasionally into pop-sci areas. But if this is what someone takes out of it, who am I to judge ;)

 

On 2/6/2020 at 12:59 PM, mccoy said:

We may take traditional religions aside and speak of some intelligence, or entity, or observer, or simulator, or sentient machine, without any a priori attributes. This might be defined as deism but probably goes even beyond such a definition.

I am starting to feel like I am at a Kansas Board of Education hearing, circa 2005.... :D

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14 hours ago, Ron Put said:

I am starting to feel like I am at a Kansas Board of Education hearing, circa 2005.... 😄

I had to google that, before grasping your quote...

Fact is that everyone today has a very basic understanding of what computer codes are and what a simulation is and how engrossing it can be. Everyone who ever tried an interesting videogame. The simple, logical inference that the universe may be a simulation is becoming more and more credible, and who says that the hypothesis is not testable?

I'll repeat that James Gates has very publicly and very explicitly stated that into the Adinkra mathematics model, related to supersymmetry and string theory,  are embedded error programming codes. Now, who planted those codes into a mathematical model used to describe what theorists claim is the very basic component of reality?

Is string theory testable? NO. Is it science? YES. Will it become testable in the future? Maybe. will ID become testable in the future? Maybe, with the same likelihood that string theory will be.

 

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mccoy, I think part of the problem is that you, as many others, lapse into anthropomorphism when trying to understand the universe. Just like religions ascribe all sorts of human traits to their gods, even when they otherwise insist that they are transedentent.

Religious folks are pushing really hard to give legitimacy to the various "intelligent design" arguments by equating them to theoretical physics, with the goal of creating enough confusion so that "intelligent design" seems reasonable to casual observers. A bunch of casual geeks have also become excited by watching Youtube videos with funny math purportedly "proving" the extreme likelihood of this being a Matrix world. But they are not the same. The simulation narrative is the stuff of fantasists, metaphysics, science fiction and the occasional philosopher freely expounding, not of science. As you can see from the calculations of the few actual physicists who bother to address this nonsense spread on the internets, such simulation would violate some fundamental laws. Just like walking on water would.

String Theory may or may not turn out to be correct, but it is built upon strong mathematical framework foundations, just like other competing theories. It makes testable predictions, just like other  theories in physics. It's just that currently we lack the technology to achieve the extremely high-energy processes necessary to prove or falsify its predictions. No different than something like Relativity.

There are currently experiments which may provide some answers about the validity of aspects of string theory. I already mentioned one:
 

On 1/1/2020 at 12:00 PM, Ron Put said:

String Theory makes predictions for space dimensions and a weak force, in addition to gravity, which would affect objects made of different materials (with different electromagnetic energy). These predictions are testable, with sufficiently precise instruments — this is an example:

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/11/galileos-400-year-old-theory-free-falling-objects-passes-space-test


Here is another opportunity, made possible by the detection of gravitational waves in 2015 (a full century after the prediction made by Einstein):

"Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Potsdam found that hidden dimensions – as predicted by string theory – could influence gravitational waves. In a recently published paper they study the consequences of extra dimensions on these ripples in space-time, and predict whether their effects could be detected." 
https://phys.org/news/2017-06-hints-extra-dimensions-gravitational.html

I suppose one can argue that the Abramic sects have made predictions too . Both Christianity and Islam foretold the imminent apocalypse and judgment day, and both predictions were proven wrong long ago. But true believers keep believing, so I doubt I would really convince anyone....

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On 2/10/2020 at 11:42 PM, Ron Put said:

mccoy, I think part of the problem is that you, as many others, lapse into anthropomorphism when trying to understand the universe. Just like religions ascribe all sorts of human traits to their gods, even when they otherwise insist that they are transedentent.

Ron, antropomorphism is a natural inclination of man. Why should I not attribute to some transcendent entities the traits I fancy better? Or hate better? It is in my personal freedom to do so and dictators like Stalin have tried to eradicate in any way this freedom. they were successful for a while, but now in Russia people are back to their orthodox religion. Back to freedom. 

On 2/10/2020 at 11:42 PM, Ron Put said:

Religious folks are pushing really hard to give legitimacy to the various "intelligent design" arguments by equating them to theoretical physics, with the goal of creating enough confusion so that "intelligent design" seems reasonable to casual observers. A bunch of casual geeks have also become excited by watching Youtube videos with funny math purportedly "proving" the extreme likelihood of this being a Matrix world. But they are not the same. The simulation narrative is the stuff of fantasists, metaphysics, science fiction and the occasional philosopher freely expounding, not of science. As you can see from the calculations of the few actual physicists who bother to address this nonsense spread on the internets, such simulation would violate some fundamental laws. Just like walking on water would.

Religious folks are pushing ID for sure, but the arguments are very valid regardless of religious connotations. A Simulator must have no link to religions. He just exists. Religions came after the Simulator. Religions have been simulated by the Simulator. Religions are not relevant to our issue.

Again, James Gates denied that we can conclude rationally that we live in a matrix-like universe, but he did insist that the Adinkra mathematics contains an error-correcting code and he has no clue about its origin. James Gates just states an observation and does not infer the existence of a Simulator. His credentials are very good and he's been a science advisor for the Obama administration. So we are left with the inherent code and it is not a logical fallacy to infer that where there is a program, there is a programmer. On the contrary, it appears a very logical way of reasoning.

 

 

 

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On 2/10/2020 at 11:42 PM, Ron Put said:

String Theory may or may not turn out to be correct, but it is built upon strong mathematical framework foundations, just like other competing theories. It makes testable predictions, just like other  theories in physics. It's just that currently we lack the technology to achieve the extremely high-energy processes necessary to prove or falsify its predictions. No different than something like Relativity.

It makes testable predictions? Testable how? By mathematics? Is mathematics testable? Yes but only by its own logical constructs, which do not exist in reality, but have been made up by men. So mathematics may not be basically different from  anything theoretical made up by men, any religious model with a minimum of inherent rules has the same logic validity of mathematics.

The fact that we lack the technology means that string theory is presently just a very complex intellectual exercise. It has been so for 20 years, withouth a conclusion reached. Until we have that technology, we can state nothing as to the reality of strings. Otehrwise I may say that currently we lack the technology to see very far to the extreme boundaries of the universe and recognize the throne of God. Same logic. Today string theory is a theory with the same logical validity of God with a white beard.

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On 2/10/2020 at 11:42 PM, Ron Put said:

Here is another opportunity, made possible by the detection of gravitational waves in 2015 (a full century after the prediction made by Einstein):

"Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute/AEI) in Potsdam found that hidden dimensions – as predicted by string theory – could influence gravitational waves. In a recently published paper they study the consequences of extra dimensions on these ripples in space-time, and predict whether their effects could be detected." 
https://phys.org/news/2017-06-hints-extra-dimensions-gravitational.html

I suppose one can argue that the Abramic sects have made predictions too . Both Christianity and Islam foretold the imminent apocalypse and judgment day, and both predictions were proven wrong long ago. But true believers keep believing, so I doubt I would really convince anyone....

Dear Ron, but, with all due respect for science, that's just amusing mumbo-jumbo, good for the cognitive challenge we need to stimulate secretion of BDNF and slow down the degradation of neural cells. I love science fiction books and today that appears to be the only practical application of such scientific creativity.

 

 

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An interesting article on Forbes reviews in layman terms string theory. The article is well written since it appears to be concise and unbiased and it almost conveys the idea that the efforts so far might even be considered a waste of the taxpayers' money. If this construction of extremely complex mathematical models without any possible confirmation can be called science, then the simulation hypothesis, ID, and the creationist hypothesis must also be coherent with the scientific method.

Why String Theory Is Both A Dream And A Nightmare

Quote

...However, every turn where we have looked for an observable that might be connected to string theory, in the sense that it would go beyond the Standard Model, we've come up empty. The cosmological constant is the wrong sign. Supersymmetric particles are nowhere to be found. Extra dimensions or a non-infinite Brans-Dicke parameter have no evidence to support them. And the fundamental constants, as well as the masses of the particles that exist in our Universe, have not been successfully predicted....

...

So long as we don't have evidence that demonstrates string theory must be wrong, people will continue to pursue it. But disproving it would require something like demonstrating that no superparticles exist all the way up to the Planck scale, something far beyond the reach of experimental physics today.

We can all agree that string theory is interesting for the possibilities it holds. Whether those possibilities are relevant or meaningful for our Universe, however, is something science has yet to affirm.

Anyway, I pretty much like the hypercomplex abstract concepts and illustrations, like the Calabi-Yau manifold. Again, string theory remains a pretty good cognitive challenge for the health of our neurons.

image.png.5f0120f4b9d430de4b96d3306bffff34.png

 

 

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On 2/14/2020 at 8:37 AM, mccoy said:

...Again, James Gates denied that we can conclude rationally that we live in a matrix-like universe, but he did insist that the Adinkra mathematics contains an error-correcting code and he has no clue about its origin....

 

 

Yep, it's human classification of mathematical patterns commonly found in nature, generally the result of optimization. James Gates is flamboyant and bombastic, and writers in the blogosphere often exaggerate and sensationalize stuff like this "error-correcting code" as clickbait.

String theory (all of its variations) is just a mathematical model. It does make a number of testable predictions (I have already posted examples above). Like all such models, it's likely incomplete, and likely wrong in (maybe even large) part.

People believe lots of things without evidence. It's like Nostradamus or biblical prophecies or like me claiming that "intelligent" clouds make bunny shapes on purpose, because I can count three right now above me.

While there are scientists who strongly disagree on whether particular proposed mathematical descriptions are valid or not, please do not confuse the generally sound foundations of such proposed models with the science fiction and religious nonsense lurking on the internets.

Edited by Ron Put

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Ron, I've listened to Dennet's talk about the brain being a computer. I complain his lack of synthesis, he talks a lot but seems not to be able to define clear bottom lines. Maybe I should listen to it a second time. But I listened to another podcast, where he debates with another philosopher and there he's more clear.

Now, there is a whole field of science and philosophy, called the 'computational theory of the mind', or CTM. I'm not sure we want to get bogged down in this issue. It is pretty complex and controversial. For example, is the Church-Turing thesis a broad result that puts a limit on any discrete and finite algorithmic process ? Big controversy. If yes, the mind is not a computer, if no, it might be.

Penrose does not favor the mind being a fruit of algorithm, whereas he proposes a neo-platonic model where mind and mathematics are part of the world of ideas of Plato, existing notwithstanding the brain and individual mental processes.

James Gates does not favour the concept that human intelligence is reducible to algorithms and cites imagination and the process of dreams which inspire imagination and correlations of concepts, going on to describe one of his personal experiences on dreams. This process which acts in dreams is explained at length by Matthew Walker and is not reducible to algorithms.

Now, you can criticize Gates and Penrose as much as you want, but they remain some very eminent theoretical physicists, whose realm is pure logic and mathematics. If they deny the validity of a computational theory of the mind, I tend to believe them.

Besides, there are many logic and ethical problems with the CTM. How mental software could evolve by Darwinian evolution without being pre-programmed. Pure Darwinian evolutionism creates colossal problems of complexity and even ethical issues. If we accept psychological evolutionism, we must accept that we are what we are out of pure randomness and are not responsible for our actions, we have no freedom hence we can commit the most brutal crimes and we cannot be held responsible for that.

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This is a concise and state-of-the-art talk about CTM. Donald Hoffman, a computational psychologist (had not the palest idea such a specialty existed) explains the rationale and the issues with CMT, citing also the possible immortality if consciousness might be downloaded, this is the aspect which Dean has been discussing. He concludes that no one has shown yet that algorithms can create consciousness. He's skeptical about any future positive outcomes in regard.

 

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On 2/29/2020 at 5:53 PM, Ron Put said:

String theory (all of its variations) is just a mathematical model. It does make a number of testable predictions (I have already posted examples above). Like all such models, it's likely incomplete, and likely wrong in (maybe even large) part.

This discussion gave me an opportunity to do some research. Many eminent physicists believe that the physical world has a strangely coherent underlying mathematical structure.

Eugene Wigner in 1960 published an article titled

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

Wigner begins his paper with the belief, common among those familiar with mathematics, that mathematical concepts have applicability far beyond the context in which they were originally developed. Based on his experience, he says "it is important to point out that the mathematical formulation of the physicist's often crude experience leads in an uncanny number of cases to an amazingly accurate description of a large class of phenomena". He then invokes the fundamental law of gravitation as an example. Originally used to model freely falling bodies on the surface of the earth, this law was extended on the basis of what Wigner terms "very scanty observations" to describe the motion of the planets, where it "has proved accurate beyond all reasonable expectations".

Another oft-cited example is Maxwell's equations, derived to model the elementary electrical and magnetic phenomena known as of the mid 19th century. These equations also describe radio waves, discovered by David Edward Hughes in 1879, around the time of James Clerk Maxwell's death. Wigner sums up his argument by saying that "the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and that there is no rational explanation for it". He concludes his paper with the same question with which he began:

The miracle of the appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift which we neither understand nor deserve. We should be grateful for it and hope that it will remain valid in future research and that it will extend, for better or for worse, to our pleasure, even though perhaps also to our bafflement, to wide branches of learning.

Roger Penrose, by someone believed to be presently the brightest mathematical mind, believes in a model similar to that expounded by Plato, where mathematics is part of the world of ideas. Mathematics exists regardless of human conceptualization and we just draw the concepts from that intellectual dimension.

James Gates says that mathematics is a lens, sort of an extremely powerful microscope by which we can see what happens at the sub-particle scale.

Max Tegmark writes similar things in his 'mathematical universe'.

Paul Erdos, the eccentric, most prolific mathematician of all time, wrote that he drew his mathematical ideas from 'The Book', a repository where such ideas were saved.

Considering the above, I was eventually convinced that string theory has its value. Most important, since the mathematical framework is evidently a blueprint of the universe, there must be some intelligence (a Simulator, God, an Observer) which organized the whole cosmos  by way of such a conceptual framework. Hence the conceptual framework, if correctly grasped, explains all natural phenomena. 

This is the real TOE (Theory of Everything). The Simulator, the Programmer. The code of the Universe is mathematics. String theory might be eventually able to explain the texture of the universe if mathematics can figure out the original blueprint at the most infinitesimal scales. I agree on that. It's taking so long but maybe it's worth trying.

There is evidently an Intelligent Agent beyond all mathematical and physical sciences. The most eminent minds have just had s glimpse of this truth.

Edited by Dean Pomerleau
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On 3/15/2020 at 6:18 AM, mccoy said:

... Wigner begins his paper with the belief, common among those familiar with mathematics, that mathematical concepts have applicability far beyond the context in which they were originally developed.  ...

Roger Penrose, by someone believed to be presently the brightest mathematical mind, believes in a model similar to that expounded by Plato, where mathematics is part of the world of ideas. Mathematics exists regardless of human conceptualization and we just draw the concepts from that intellectual dimension....

I was going to drop this, but what the heck :)

Mathematics is a human language, like English but more formal. It was and still is developed by humans, as human needs arize. It's certainly not the language of the universe or Zeus, or Sky Woman.

The above is a bit like wondering how uncanny it is that the English language described the world five centuries ago and how many of the same descriptions describe new phenomenon today. I mean, just think of the word "wave." :) Given the uncanny adaptability of English to describing the known world, I guess we can also argue that English is the divine language of the universe and that the burning of John Wycliffe's corpse was a mistake.... :D

Mathematics develops tools and theories as needed for a specific application, or because mathematicians found a problem they are interested in. The first attempts at describing the atom resulted in a whole "knot" theory of mathematics, based on the mistaken assumption that knots can help represent and classify different atoms. While it did not help on the atom front, some of the ideas developed in the process are applied to string theory today. Kind of like that mysterious word, "wave."

 

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On 3/20/2020 at 9:35 PM, Ron Put said:

Mathematics is a human language, like English but more formal. It was and still is developed by humans, as human needs arize. It's certainly not the language of the universe or Zeus, or Sky Woman.

Ron, no offense meant, but I'm inclined to believe to the reasonings of extremely eminent and bright scientists such as Roger Penrose and the Nobel prize Eugen Wigner , who are of the opposite opinion to yours.  The list can be longer. These illustrious scientists have pondered about the issue and their reasonings are that mathematics is not a language developed by humans, but adopted and pre-existing  to them as a cosmic conceptual framework.

Edited by mccoy

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This is an excerpt from the Wiki voice on Paul Erdos, the most prolific, most eccentric mathematician of all time, with about 1500 mathematical articles published.Erdos, in his own typical highly eccentric expressions, realized that there is some repository ('the book') of objective mathematical truths and ideas outside of the human mind. He realized that mathematics has not been invented and developed by men, it is an objective conceptual framework inherent in the universe which human beings can sometimes tap into, given enough concentration and logic capabilities.

Quote

He had his own idiosyncratic vocabulary: although an agnostic atheist,[26][27] he spoke of "The Book", a visualization of a book in which God had written down the best and most elegant proofs for mathematical theorems.[28] Lecturing in 1985 he said, "You don't have to believe in God, but you should believe in The Book." He himself doubted the existence of God, whom he called the "Supreme Fascist" (SF).[29][30] He accused SF of hiding his socks and Hungarian passports, and of keeping the most elegant mathematical proofs to Himself. When he saw a particularly beautiful mathematical proof he would exclaim, "This one's from The Book!" This later inspired a book titled Proofs from the Book.

 

Edited by mccoy

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In this podcast with Joe Rogan, Roger Penrose, from minute 6:00, on the basis of Goedel's theorem explains why according to him understanding cannot be an algorithm, it can be defined a quasi-conscious appreciation of what we are thinking about. Thinking is a conscious thing and understanding si a conscious activity....Conscious activities are not computations...

In a few words, according to Penrose, human consciousness cannot be reduced to algorithms the way the computer codes can. Please note that Penrose is an agnostic or maybe an atheist like the other scientists I cited above, sure not a theologist or a religious man.

 

Edited by mccoy

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Over on another thread folks are back to talking about Intelligent Design and "god of the gaps" arguments. It seems like this is a better place to be pursing these discussions, or at least to make the point I want to make.

Previously in this post in this thread, I said that one version of Intelligent Design (which I'm somewhat partial too) is interesting because of its falsifiability:

On 2/5/2020 at 6:23 PM, Dean Pomerleau said:

Here is another scientific approach that could bolster the simulation hypothesis (and at least one version of Intelligent Design), which I haven't seen proposed elsewhere. 

Imagine we are living in a simulation, and the creator(s) of the simulation actually run several instantiations of the simulation in parallel, which are initially identical but diverge over time as a result of random (e.g. quantum) variations. When the parallel simulations have diverged enough so that one (or a few) is (are) more interesting than the rest (for some definition of "interesting"), the creator terminates the less interesting branches and replaces them with many, initially identical, copies of the interesting one(s). In this model, we are part of a giant genetic algorithm operating over simulated universes to maximize the objective function of "interesting complexity".

How might we discover via the scientific method that we are living in this type of simulation? What if our understanding of evolution improves to the point where we can definitively determine that there hasn't been enough time since life began on earth for the process of evolution by natural selection to discover something complex, like the hemoglobin molecule. In other words, we determine that the likelihood of discovering hemoglobin is infinitesimally small given the number of generations and the population size of each since life emerged - there just hasn't been enough time for random variation (given known mutation rates) and selective survival of the fittest to come up with hemoglobin. 

This seems to me like it would be reasonably strong evidence that while evolution by natural selection may be the force driving progress in the universe, someone or something has her/its "finger on the scale" to accelerate the process in one way or another, perhaps via the kind of parallel search over universes described above.

Conversely, suppose we discover that once through the ~2 billion years since life emerged is plenty of time for all the complexity of life on earth to evolve naturally given estimates of mutation rate, generation size and selection pressure. Such a discovery would represent evidence against a "parallel search over universes" model as well as other versions of Intelligent Design.

I still think this is an interesting idea, and the latest discussion prompted me to look if any scientists are actively pursuing the question of whether there has been enough time since life began on earth for evolution to create the level of complexity and variety we observe.

I was pleased to find [1], an paper from 2010 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), a very prestigious journal with the obviously relevant title: There’s plenty of time for evolution. 

Here are some interesting passages from the paper:

One of the main objections that have been raised holds that there has not been enough time for all of the species complexity that we see to have evolved by random mutations. Our purpose here is to analyze this process, and our conclusion is that when one takes account of the role of natural selection in a reasonable way, there has been ample time for the evolution that we observe to have taken place.

...

It has recently been estimated (1) that a newborn human carries some de novo 100–200 base mutations. Only about five of these can be expected, on average, to arise in parts of the genome coding for genes or in regulatory regions. In a population admitting a million births in any year, we may expect something on the order of five million such de novo mutations, or about 250 per gene in a genome containing 20,000 genes. There is then little problem about a supply of new mutations in any gene. However only a small proportion of these can be expected to be favorable. [Later they say -  "a rough estimate that only one mutation in 10,000 is selectively favored over the resident gene type."] We formalize these considerations in the calculations below...

They basically argue that rather than flipping a coin (via random mutation) for each position of each gene on each new experiment (i.e one organism in a generation), you should model the evolutionary process as "locking in" good solutions in one gene and holding that good solution constant while searching for good solutions in other genes, since the "good" first gene will be evolutionarily dominant. They say:

But this argument in effect assumes an “in series” rather than a more correct “in parallel” evolutionary process. If a superior gene for (say) eye function has become fixed in a population, it is not thrown out when a superior gene for (say) liver function becomes fixed. Evolution is an “in parallel” process, with beneficial mutations at one gene locus being retained after they become fixed in a population while beneficial mutations at other loci become fixed. In fact this statement is essentially the principle of natural selection.

With this assumption of locking in a good solution once it is found via mutation, they say:

Seemingly, exponential numbers of mutations are needed [if you assume uncorrelated mutations in each generation - DP]. We show that such estimates ignore the effects of natural selection, and that the numbers of necessary mutations are thereby reduced to about K log L, rather than K^L, where L is the length of the genomic “word,” and K is the number of possible “letters” that can occupy any position in the word.

There model of locking in good solutions makes reasonable sense when considering independent, fitness-enhancing new traits like a complete gene for better eye function or liver function. In other words, once such a fitness enhancing gene is discovered (via random search) it could get locked in to future generations because organisms that possess it survive better, outcompeting those that don't.

But the problem I see with the authors argument is that discovering complete fitness-enhancing genes that eventually gets "locked in" requires an exponential (K^L) number of gene mutations that the authors acknowledge is unrealistic to expect to happen given the number of generations and the number of individuals within a generate that have occurred on earth.

Concretely, complex proteins consist of many base pairs and the vast majority of them need to be right in order for the protein to function correctly. For example, hemoglobin has 1600 base pairs. A single mutation in one of those base pairs (substituting a T for an A at one location in that 1600 base pair chain) changes the wild-type hemoglobin molecule the gene transcribes into the variant of hemoglobin that results in sickle-cell anemia, with seriously deleterious effects (except perhaps less susceptibility to malaria).

This illustrates how finally tune the hemoglobin molecule is, and therefore how difficult it would be to find a good oxygen-carrying genetic solution to lock-in in the first place. Naively, as the authors suggest it would take K^L rolls of the genetic dice, where K is number of genetic letters (i.e. 4: A, T, C, or G) and L is the length of the genomic "word" or gene, which in the case of hemoglobin is 1600. While it might not be as bad as finding a single solution in 4^1600 possibilities, since some molecules nearby in design space to hemoglobin might have some ability to carry oxygen and thereby confer some selective advantage, nevertheless the search would seem extremely daunting.

So I'm skeptical that the authors' model of "locking in" good genes correctly captures just how hard the genetic search problem is.

Note though, I'm not arguing that my criticism of the authors' model is a knock-out refutation of the idea that a "single-pass" through earth's history of darwinian evolution is sufficient.

Instead, what I think is interesting about this paper is that it illustrates how biologists and mathematicians are taking seriously the question of whether evolution has had enough time to evolve the variety and complexity of life we observe. It gives me hope that as such models are criticized and refined we may one day be able to confirm or refute the idea that there has been enough time for darwinian evolution to produce what we see.

As I explained in my previous post, such efforts could potentially falsify (or support) the hypothesis that we living in a multiverse of parallel worlds over which a parallel search for "interesting complexity" is occurring, whether or not this parallel search is happening "naturally" or is being assisted by some conscious agent. This counters the criticism that multiverse / Intelligent Design theories are merely "god of the gaps" speculation and could never be falsified, so they are unscientific.

Put another way, my version of the multiverse / Intelligent Design argument makes the prediction that one pass through darwinian evolution will prove not to be sufficient to explain the complexity and variety of life we observe once we understand better the details and the time course of the evolutionary process. If my prediction proves false (i.e. there has been plenty of time for evolution to do its things as the authors of [1] try to claim), then my prediction has been falsified, making my model implausible, or at least much less plausible.

--Dean

------------

[1] Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 28; 107(52): 22454–22456.

There’s plenty of time for evolution
Herbert S. Wilf and Warren J. Ewens

ABSTRACT
Objections to Darwinian evolution are often based on the time required to carry out the necessary mutations. Seemingly, exponential numbers of mutations are needed. We show that such estimates ignore the effects of natural selection, and that the numbers of necessary mutations are thereby reduced to about K log L, rather than K^L, where L is the length of the genomic “word,” and K is the number of possible “letters” that can occupy any position in the word. The required theory makes contact with the theory of radix-exchange sorting in theoretical computer science, and the asymptotic analysis of certain sums that occur there.

Keywords: mutations, natural selection, geometric distribution

Published online 2010 Dec 13. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1016207107

Full text: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3012492


PMCID: PMC3012492
PMID: 21149677

 

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