Can Computers Prove Evolution?

My brother sent this article to me (Paul G. Humber) on 2/19/15. He was not agreeing with it, but he thought I might want to consider its contents. It was written on Jan 3, 2015, and the title is God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified A young MIT professor is finishing Darwin's task — and threatening to undo everything the wacky right holds dear.

 

It is by Paul Rosenberg [“Paul H. Rosenberg is Senior Editor at Random Lengths News, an alternative bi-weekly newspaper in the Los Angeles Harbour Area. Prior to that, he freelanced primarily as a book reviewer, specialising in serious non-fiction - history, science, culture, politics, public policy, etc. Rosenberg runs the site, Merge Left - a community of progressive thinkers free to submit their own content”.]

 

PGH’s approach is to quote portions and to offer comment in [brackets]. If you would like a link for the full article, see the bottom or write to paulhumber@verizon.net:

 

The Christian right’s obsessive hatred of Darwin is a wonder to behold….

 

[They do not hate Darwin per se but his godless philosophy.}

 

…Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

 

[Okay, let us temporarily go to that Quanta article before continuing with Rosenberg. Again, write back if you would like the URL. The article is called “A New Physics Theory of Life” and is by Natalie Wolchover, January 22, 2014. It begins:

 

Why does life exist?

 

[PGH’s procedure is the same as above, and his answer to her starting question is—because God wanted to create life and all creatures, etc. But let’s see if Natalie answers her own question.]

 

Popular hypotheses credit a primordial soup, a bolt of lightning and a colossal stroke of luck.

 

[Oops, Natalie, you are answering “how”, but you started with “why”! Moreover, your word “hypothesis” is roughly equivalent to “guess.” The popular view is far from a theory, since it is unsupported by real science. Pasteur proved scientifically that you cannot get life from nonlife.]

 

… according to the physicist proposing the idea, the origin and subsequent evolution of life follow from the fundamental laws of nature and “should be as unsurprising as rocks rolling downhill.”

 

[Really?]

 

…Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. …

matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life. “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant,” England said.

 

[Not surprising? It’s impossible, Jeremy, but let’s see your formula.]

 

…The “big hope” is that he has identified the underlying physical principle driving the origin and evolution of life, Grosberg said.

 

[If life merely happening by chance and randomness, then why is this a “big hope”? Could it be that people want to believe that they can be free from God’s claim on them?]

 

…Eugene Shakhnovich, a professor of chemistry, chemical biology and biophysics at Harvard University, … not convinced. “Jeremy’s ideas … at this point are extremely speculative, especially as applied to life phenomena,” Shakhnovich said.

 

[Agreed!]

 

England’s theoretical results are generally considered valid. It is his interpretation — that his formula represents the driving force behind a class of phenomena in nature that includes life — that remains unproven. But already, there are ideas about how to test that interpretation in the lab.

 

(There is a photograph at this point, “Courtesy of Jeremy England”, which says, “A computer simulation by Jeremy England and colleagues shows a system of particles confined inside a viscous fluid in which the turquoise particles are driven by an oscillating force. Over time (from top to bottom), the force triggers the formation of more bonds among the particles.)

[There is a photograph at this point, “Courtesy of Jeremy England”, which says, “A computer simulation by Jeremy England and colleagues shows a system of particles confined inside a viscous fluid in which the turquoise particles are driven by an oscillating force. Over time (from top to bottom), the force triggers the formation of more bonds among the particles.)

 

[“computer simulation”??????? Did someone make the computer? Was it created by human design? Who is the author of the program used by the computer, or did it just come about by randomness and chance?]

 

… “We can show very simply from the formula that the more likely evolutionary outcomes are going to be the ones that absorbed and dissipated more energy from the environment’s external drives on the way to getting there,” he said.

 

[formula????? Generally, in mathematics, we get data first and then try to get a formula of best fit. Here, however, we “show very simply from the formula”? Did the formula come from actual data or from an imagination?]

 

… “This means clumps of atoms surrounded by a bath at some temperature, like the atmosphere or the ocean, should tend over time to arrange themselves to resonate better and better with the sources of mechanical, electromagnetic or chemical work in their environments,” England explained.

 

[“should tend”???? If one places proteins and other biotic units into an ocean, they tend to dissipate and disintegrate. They do not progressively gather. The “should” is an imagined hope, but it does not comport with reality!]

 

…  As England put it, “A great way of dissipating more is to make more copies of yourself.”

 

[“copies of yourself”????? An inanimate object tends to fall apart—does not make copies of itself !]

 

… The chemistry of the primordial soup, random mutations, geography, catastrophic events and countless other factors have contributed to the fine details of Earth’s diverse flora and fauna. But according to England’s theory, the underlying principle driving the whole process is dissipation-driven adaptation of matter.

 

[“adaptation of matter”????????? Picture one pebble saying to another pebble, “Let’s adapt!”]

 

… He is currently running computer simulations to test his theory that systems of particles adapt their structures to become better at dissipating energy.

 

[Again, who made the computer, and who was its programmer? Letting a programmed computer say how life should have evolved is philosophical-chair speculation—not lab science.]

 

[We now resume with the Rosenberg article.]

 

… The first truly living organism could have had hundreds, perhaps thousands of siblings, all born not from a single physical parent, but from a physical system, literally pregnant with the possibility of producing life.

 

[“physical system, literally pregnant with the possibility of producing life”—wow, does Rosenberg have faith in matter!]

 

If England’s theory works out … it will also be a fitting rebuke to pseudo-scientific creationists, who have long mistakenly claimed that thermodynamics disproves evolution … the exact opposite of what England’s work is designed to show — that thermodynamics drives evolution, starting even before life itself first appears, with a physics-based logic that applies equally to living and non-living matter.

 

[Wow! What unbelievable faith Rosenberg has! His motivation? Apparently to attack creation and intelligent-design scientists.]

 

Paul Rosenberg is a California-based writer/activist, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Al Jazeera English. …

 

The URL for his article is here: http://www.salon.com/2015/01/03/god_is_on_the_ropes_the_brilliant_new_science_that_has_creationists_and_the_christian_right_terrified/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialflow, and the URL for the embedded article is : https://www.quantamagazine.org/20140122-a-new-physics-theory-of-life/