December 2000 M-Pathy:
Other resources on the
of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism
Finding Darwin's God
The Triumph of Evolution ... And the Failure of Creationism
by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Engine of Disproof
Lee Helms said in his response to my article that "Real science does not proceed by that kind of process of elimination, it proceeds on the basis of positive evidence."
To this I have to disagree. History is full of theories being overthrown because something happened that eliminated the theory. Often, the theory is clung to for years or centuries because no suitable replacement has been found. Eric Drexler phrased it better than I can:
"Science creates something positive (a growing store of useful theories) through a double negative (disproof of incorrect theories). The central role of negative evidence accounts for some of the mental upset caused by science: as an engine of disproof, it can uproot cherished beliefs, leaving psychological voids that it need not refill."
With this in mind, we have to consider clearly what neo-Darwinism has been unable to prove. It will be my goal to explore different explanations to deal with these gaps.
1. How did life actually originate? (Theories on this vary, ranging from clay-like formations to the textbook explanation of the "primordial ocean" of organic chemicals. Attempts to simulate this have resulted in only non-reactive carbon-based "gunk" which is unlikely to have developed into anything useful.)
2.Once life originated, how did the irreducibly complex biochemical pathways form?
3.How did the thousand protein families form, since no clear development can be traced between them? (Development within a protein family, such as the globin family, is fairly clear.)
4.Why are there adaptive mutations? (Adaptive mutations have been studied with conflicting opinions. Studies that show that the rate of mutation changes, in some circumstances, if the mutation will be beneficial. This is contradictory to neo-Darwinism, because the rate of a specific mutation should be constant and natural selection then determines which genetic traits will be reproduced.)
The explanation that Behe offers is that the irreducible complexity of biochemical systems compel a designer of life. I am not convinced that this is the only explanation, but it cannot be discounted completely, if one is wanting to consider all possibilities.
The typical argument against this explanation is that life isn't perfect. I am currently typing on a computer that was designed by a human being of (presumably) relatively high intelligence and competence. The majority of the time, the computer behaves exactly as it should. Sometimes, it locks up and I have to reboot it. Obviously one can create something without having either the creator or creation being perfect.
If there is a creator, it seems clear that they would have created life with a complex understanding of DNA structures. Indeed, a designer would seem to work within the confines of scientific rules. This implies much more subtlety than the monoliths of 2001: A Space Odyssey. One can image a designer stepping back and watching as the hidden programs in DNA come to fruition. It is possible that the designer was surprised with what ended up developing.
Perhaps life was designed with some purpose in mind. In the novel Calculating God, for example, the imperfections that lead to cancer play an integral part in God's plan for life. (It is interesting to note the passionate objection to this book by an evolutionist on Amazon.com. The commentator was very upset at the "pseudoscience" that it presented, apparently missing the "science fiction" designation on the spine of the book.)
DNA is a string of code that, in the process of replicating, is sent through a pre-determined process to get an end result. In this case, ideally the end result would be a precise copy of the original DNA strand, although there are almost always at least a few mutations.
In mathematics, this bears a similarity to something called an iterated function. With iterated functions you have an equation that you can put a value in for a variable, say X. You then take the answer to the equation and put it back in for X again. You repeat this process. For some of these equations, the end result of doing this will result in a convergent answer, or stable attractor - a solution that, if you keep putting it in for X, will give you the same result back.
It is possible that there is some sort of unknown structure within DNA. Take an initial condition, and it will begin to gravitate toward an attractor state. This yields the possibility of life on other planets being very similar to ours. Unfortunately, this is all completely theoretical, but research in biotechnology and genetics could reveal these principles if they do indeed exist.
From a geological standpoint, life originated almost as soon as the conditions on Earth were capable of supporting it. This could lead one to believe that life is a probable development.
If this is the case, there is the possibility that life originated in more than one location on the Earth. In the time when one replicating entity is spreading, another type could develop elsewhere. Living in different areas, they would not compete with each other. Eventually, their environments would come into conflict. When this happened, perhaps some sort of symbiosis formed or one of the replicating organisms consumed the other, incorporating their structures.
Though evolutionists believe in a single biogenesis, I have been unable to find any real reason for this. It seems to be on the basis that all life uses DNA. It's possible that DNA is the only structure capable of developing into a lifeform and any life form, regardless of where it formed, would have DNA.
Indirectly, current evolution theory supports this idea. It is widely believed that organelles in cells developed from symbiotic bacteria. Evolutionists picture an original replicating structure, which then diverges into various types of cellular bacteria. Then the divergent bacteria somehow integrate through symbiosis, creating cells with organelles. With this in mind, it seems equally possible that completely separate origins can result in lifeforms joining together, to create more complex systems.
DNA is a string of atoms that is put together in a specific way. The mutations that occur are the result of one string of atoms reading the DNA string of atoms and then telling another string of atoms how to make a copy of that first string of atoms. At this level we have to consider quantum mechanics.
For those who are not versed in quantum mechanics, I will not even pretend to explain it here. Explanations of why quantum mechanics work verge on the metaphysical, but there is no real doubt within science that it does work. The mathematical predictions fit the evidence.
In short, quantum mechanics is the study of the smallest increments of matter and energy. The main principle that bears on McFadden's quantum evolution is that tests performed on a quantum mechanical system actually influence the system. Until the measurement is made, not only do we not know what state the system is in, but the system literally does not have a state. Or, more precisely, it is a combination of the probabilities of all possible states, referred to as a "wave function." When a measurement is made, the wave function collapses into a definite state.
Another principle of quantum mechanics is known as the Quantum Zeno Effect (QZE). In this case, a series of dense measurements can actually keep a particle from changing its state. Similarly, there is an Inverse Quantum Zeno Effect (IQZE), where a dense series of measurements can guide a particle into another state.
The QZE brings to my mind cartoons in which someone is being followed by a person disguised as a bush. The character walks, and the bush follows. Turning suddenly, the character sees the bush sit there. If the person were to keep watching the bush, it would never move. The IQZE would be the opposite, if the bush teleported when a person looked at a new location.
With these principles in mind, McFadden outlines the possibility of quantum influences on evolution. He postulates DNA existing as a wave function of possible states, until circumstance requires a measurement. The cases of adaptive mutation can be explained using the IQZE. Irreducibly complex biochemical systems are explained because one of the quantum states would fit what was needed.
Neo-Darwinism proposes that a random process (mutation) is weeded out by a non-random process (natural selection) to create life as we know it. Quantum evolution would be much more intriguing. A probability (the wave function of possible DNA states) is guided by a non-random process (measurements triggered by circumstance, some of which result in the IQZE) and the results are then weeded out by a non-random process (natural selection).
McFadden continues his theory, offering a possible explanation for how sentience developed in human beings. He proposes an entirely new field of quantum biology opening up.
History of Science
It is intriguing to watch the development of the theory of evolution. It began with Darwin, who knew nothing of genetics, biochemistry, or DNA, but knew very well how to classify and observe animals. Years later, it transformed into neo-Darwinism as Mendel's genetics offered an explanation for the mode of the mutations. Explanations would be offered on the macroscopic scale of whole animals, explaining the complexity of body parts.
With the advent of biochemistry, it would be revealed that DNA were the structures through which genes were transferred. But with the understandings of biochemistry would also come complications to the theory, as we see that the minor steps were in fact more significant than previously known. The origin of life would become more difficult to explain, as a greater understanding was gained of what life required. It was these biochemical complications which Behe would draw upon in his argument for a designer.
And then McFadden takes another step. Considering the individual atoms and electrons, he makes the scientific possibilities much richer than previously expected and unifies evolution with other scientific disciplines.
In a century and a half, we see that evolution provides us with a model for all of scientific progress or history itself. It has had its champions, detractors, heretics, traditionalists and revolutionaries. It is that conflict, that endless debating, which brings about new knowledge.
© 2001 by Andrew Zimmerman Jones