Thursday, June 25, 2009
Divine challenge - the eye of a fish
Psa 92:5 O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
Professor D.C. Dennett is an expert on the Philosophy of Evolution and has spent much time studying the theoretical models that are involved in the origins of the species. As mentioned in this blog, we can summarize his view of the evolution of life with the slogan "Daniel C. Dennett - a lucky mutation".
The fundamental idea behind this slogan is the view that random mutations are sufficient to produce complex higher forms of life from simple prototypes with the help of natural selection.
This is a scientific theory that can be also tested mathematically.
Let us assume, for the sake of argument, that things come into existence somehow. Since we want to argue without any supernatural or divine intervention that cannot be studied rationally and scientifically but require faith let us assume also, that we have some sort of environment that is beneficial to the development of life. This - of cause - is quite a tall order since we do not know what is life and we do not know what are all the required elements for life to prosper and life forms to evolve. We only know something about how it has happened in our planet but even that information is full of dark areas that require much additional study. Saturn's moon Titan is one place where we can try to study early state of our planet.
We have now assumed that there is some sort of place where the evolution of higher life forms is possible.
Now, the divine challenge is to show mathematically that random mutations can within a given time frame, any time frame, indeed create a cumulative effect that explains, for example, the evolution of the eye as Professor Dennett so easily assumes in his New York Times article.
As I am not an evolutionary biologist nor a mathematician able to handle fractal geometry or complicated statistics, I leave the divine challenge to those who can.
To formulate a mathematical test case for the evolution of higher life forms by using our own planet as an example. And then to estimate in mathematical terms the statistical probabilities involved in the process.
We need to remember the fate of Drake's law in estimating the probability of higher life in the Universe. He forgot to consider the environment and the deadly radiation that prevents life as we know in large areas of the galaxy, for example. Such unknown factors should be also expressed in the formula.
To make our test a bit more realistic let us also remember that the time frame is not infinite. We could, for example, limit our test case to the probability of life evolving from the Cambrian explosion of life 600 million years ago to the Devonian fish with eyes.
I am just a simple theologian and have been greatly impressed by the advances of modern science, also life sciences. But it looks to me that the closer we look at the evolution of life, which Dennett would like to call the modern god that has shaped life as we know it by itself, is a shaky and mathematically improbable model, sort of faith that that's how it must have happened since it has happened and there is no God.
The ancient Jewish Psalm 92:5 praises the Deep Thinking of God of Israel. In original Hebrew the verse uses the same verb that modern israelis are using for calculations and for computers.
מה־גדלו מעשׂיך יהוה מאד עמקו מחשׁבתיך׃
Not only cold thinking but mathematics of Love!