Thursday, February 3, 2022

Mathematical Challenges to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution

Larry wrote:

>You'll probably find this discussion to be garbage, but I think you will enjoy the discussion, the discussion style, and the men involved....

If I were a believer in creationism I would probably take this argument as definitive proof.

The claim is that the chance of producing a useful protein is around 10 to the 77nth power, making it too improbable.  I was going to make the following points:

"The fallacy here is obvious. Gelernter assumes there is a useful, pre-specified target protein that must be reached from a "nonsense" sequence of amino acids. Then he multiplies together the small probabilities needed to convert each amino acid in the starting "gibberish protein" into the ones in the final target. The resulting probability is so minuscule that, he concludes, the Darwinian evolution of useful proteins is impossible.

This argument rests on several big errors. First, evolution doesn't start with "gibberish proteins"; it continues with what it had before: useful proteins that evolved via natural selection from earlier sequences, but can still improve further. Second, evolution doesn't drive proteins toward pre-specified target sequences. All that's required for evolution to work is a mutation changing a gene (and its protein product) in such a way that the new gene leaves more copies than its antecedent. It's an incremental form of improvement, not a narrowing-in on a specified target.

In fact, we have plenty of examples, in our species and others, in which a small change in an existing protein leads to a better protein."

Even if you could make the argument that this is extremely improbable, there are 10^25 estimated planets in the Universe.  One of these could produce intelligent life that remarks on how unlikely their existence is.  We could be the only one, although I very much doubt it.  I think that the natural forces that produced us are likely to be found everywhere in the universe.

I shouldn't need to mention this since it is obvious, but we have seen the rapid evolution of the COVID virus.

It is a fallacy to say that evolution occurs gradually.  It is my understanding that modern theory claims that evolution occurs in spurts, usually in response to environmental changes.

The simplest argument for evolution goes like this:

1. The Earth is very old.

2.  Simpler organisms came before more complex ones.

3.  Therefore the complex organisms came from the simpler ones.

For 40 years I have seen arguments about why the Theory of Evolution couldn't happen, but the fact is that we know that it did happen.  It is history.  Otherwise, you would have to assume Divine Intervention every step along the way, which would still be evolution by a different means.  However, science isn't in the business of supernatural explanations.  We can leave that job to the philosophers.  Science is in the business of explaining natural causes.

One argument that I have heard is that there hasn't been enough time for all the genetic changes to accumulate in us.  This argument ignores that massive parallelism that occurs in evolution where we all might have up to billions of human ancestors.  Combinations of genes that didn't work died off, leaving the combinations that did work.  Roughly half of all pregnancies spontaneously abort before the mother knows that she is pregnant.  This is one way nature eliminates bad genetic combinations.

I was skeptical about evolution until I became a Biology major.  I studied and dissected enough animals to understand how similar we are on the inside.  The biggest differences are morphological.


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