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Monday, September 14, 2009

Logical Practicum 2 - Evolution part 4

Now, the final bit in this practicum (yes, it's been a long one, but hey, biology's a complicated subject) looks at some of the more interesting logical issues and consequences of evolution.

Understand that evolution posits random, undirected processes ever so slowly leading up to amino acids, then RNA, then DNA, then the first self-unicellular organism, then so on until we reach Homo sapiens. To be sure, I don't really know that they consider us the top of the evolutionary ladder, but it seems a reasonable enough conclusion.


  1. The logical consequence here is that random, undirected processes led to systematic, directed processes (life itself, along with all that makes up metabolic and other cellular activities). This is the logical equivalent of saying that a soused drunkard's random meanderings across the streets of Jaipur can lead to his conducting groundbreaking physics research resulting in his Nobel Prize win. Forgive me if I say this sounds less than plausible, of even possible. No offence to people from Jaipur.
  2. Further, another logical consequence is that ultimately meaningless activity leads to meaningful activity. What I refer to by meaningful is actually looking at reason, purpose, as well as information. Every living being both acts and reacts, and always with a reason and a purpose - more importantly, an understandable cause. The usual analogy here is that a few million monkeys pounding away at typewriters for a few eons can produce Shakespeare. Which may be true - but tell me, without human intelligence to decode their output, would Shakespeare's works have any meaning? Certainly not to the monkeys, and not to the worms that will eventually swallow their output. For information to be transceived, you ultimately need both an intelligent sender and an intelligent receiver. Otherwise, the information is useless and meaningless - but as we can see all over the place, genetics proves RNA and DNA far from meaningless.
  3. The final logical consequence that can be drawn here is that unthinkingness led to consciousness. This is the most laughable consequence of all, because nowhere else will you find this being seriously put forward. For example, the SETI project's main idea is that you can find signs of intelligent life simply by monitoring radio signals. If in the midst of random, generally undifferentiable noise you pick up a prime number sequence, or Fibonacci's sequence, or the Borg transmission "We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile", that is a prima facie case for intelligent life, because only intelligent beings can transmit that kind of stuff. Yeah, okay, but the clear evidence for intelligence in the biological computers and mechanisms we call living beings doesn't constitute proof of Intelligence.
Putting all three together, you can see that the general chain of thought is that random and undirected processes can lead to processes with increased direction and complexity. In other words, disorder -> order. This is called breaking the laws of thermodynamics, and you will not believe the ridiculous arguments put forth for why this is possible. You see, the concept of entropy guarantees that the state of the universe will gradually go from highly ordered to highly disordered - or more pragmatically, the amount of useful and usable energy in the universe is running out. Due to energy conversion from one form to another not being 100% efficient, some of that energy gets lost and it cannot be recovered without expending even more energy. Now, there are some people who think the universe is not in a closed state, where this is true. But take a look at why they think so. Yup, some kind of anti-theist or whatever.

In an open system, where external energy is added into the system, you can then have more energy available for useful work, and therefore the laws of thermodynamics do not apply, so goes the argument. However, in every known case where external energy goes into creating and maintaining highly complex systems, there already exist highly complex systems. Where these preexisting systems are not there, adding additional energy doesn't help; rather, it adds to the general disorder.

Furthermore, and this can form the content of some other post, the very model itself relies on several assumptions and requirements that may or may not be valid.

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