Saturday, January 31, 2004

A long response to Mike Davis' post on evolution

I've been reading your alternate explanation for why the 2nd law doesn't apply and I still can't follow it. The reason the 2nd doesn't apply is exactly because we are not in a closed system and for no other reason. Chemical reactions that produce heat are still increasing entropy (disorder) and would eventually fizzle out in a closed system. Heat is energy, but it is non-recoverable as work.

The point you are indicating (which to me seems to be a very different argument) is that certain creationists claim that the complexities apparent in life could not have evolved in the time necessary. This I think is a rather weak argument since any kind of calculation would make so many assumptions as to be meaningless. More interestingly, humans have a built in bias for how to solve problems and what we consider an “easy” or “complex” solution. For us, an easy solution is one that is similar to one used previously, to evolution an easy solution is one which uses a physical configuration similar to the one in currently in use.

I studied this effect when I wrote a computer program to evolve programs to play chess. Without being told the rules, the “chess-bots” were forced to play each other and the worst playing ones got replaced with mutant versions of the better ones. I ran the program for 11 days continuously and churned through (literally) a million chess-bots and you know what? They really sucked. They could only last in the game for about 5 moves, mostly didling with the pawns. However, when I looked at how the chess-bots were making their decisions, I found a baffling array of equations and functions. Evolution had produced a crappy program for playing chess which was almost incomprehensibly complex to me.

I know this isn’t going to convince anyone, but the point is, anyone who tells you that they know that life’s complexities are impossible or even improbable is speaking with the certainty that only blind faith can provide. And quite honestly, God didn’t give us our intellect so we could ignore it. Would it be nice for evolution if this point could be proved? Yes. Is it a fatal stumbling block? Hardly. It is well within reason to believe that it is possible, and certainly much more plausible than believing God would have set up the universe so poorly that he would have had to break his own laws to create life.

On a different note, I have difficulty understanding the faith of those who wish to see physical law breaking miracles everywhere. (This is especially prevalent in the Catholic Italian community) I like to think that every physical law and rain drop and moving electron is a blessing and a miracle. Just because they happen everyday should not lead us to grow jaded and seek out miracles that contradict them. Perhaps it is because I take to heart the warning given to my patron saint, “You see and believe. Blessed are those who do not see, and believe.” Those who build their faith on what they see as physical evidence of God’s existence blind themselves to the true majesty of God’s creation.


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