Posts in the Science category

The Pyramids, Skyscrapers and Evolution

(Why Evolution Just Makes Sense: Part 2)

One common argument of the Intelligent Design crowd is that things like the eye, the brain, even the cell are too complex to have arisen by chance.

They say there’s too many moving parts. Too many things to go wrong. Too much infrastructure.

And you know, they’re absolutely right! There is absolutely no way a cell could arise randomly out of nowhere. (Well, ok, there is a finite probability that it could happen, but it’s probably much less than the previous article’s number of die-rolls we arrived at of about 1 in 8x1063).

Allow me to introduce a Pyramid, and a Skyscraper.

pyramid Skyscraper_Lovely

What do these have anything to do with evolution?

Well, the argument that it requires a lot of infrastructure misses one very important point.


In case you’ve forgotten what scaffolding is, here’s a picture:

scaffolding It’s that stuff that lets you build buildings. You put it up, along with all of the other machinery and structure that you need to make the thing. You know, thing like cranes. Diggers. Pile drivers.

And what do you do when you don’t need it any more?

You get rid of it.

Here’s the trick with randomness. I already gave you a pretty straightforward argument as to why things get more complex – and more efficient – in their environments as they exhaust resources. (Namely, because if they don’t, they die off, and it’s the end of the line… so it’s do or die).

Randomness doesn’t care which direction it goes. The only thing is, in a competitive environment, only the efficient solutions will survive.

Nature doesn’t care how long it takes to arrive at a solution though, as long as it doesn’t radically hamper the efficiency/survivability of a random change. And don’t forget, we’re still dealing with a huge number of possible random changes. Most of which, by the way, we’ll never see – again, there’s that efficiency criterion coming into play here. The bad solutions are fleeting – they only last one generation. The good ones? They persist.

But once Nature finds a solution, that solution will stick. It can take as wandering a route as it likes, and the moment it builds that better mousetrap, that solution will take over rapidly. It’ll grow exponentially, killing other things in its niche.

What happens then?

Well, we have an interesting situation. We’ve already got the best of breed. But it has all that nasty scaffolding. It doesn’t need it any more.

But carrying around all that dead weight has a cost – it’s not as efficient as it could be.

You can probably guess where this is going.

What we have here is a gradient. If the random changes get rid of the advantage, then it won’t survive – it’ll get eaten by the other entities. But it’s going to change anyway – it’s not as efficient as it can be. So…

The scaffolding comes down. It has no choice but to. The only changes which make the entity more efficient are those that get rid of it. So slowly, over time, randomly, the scaffolding is taken away. What you’re left with is the building.

Pyramids have a lot in common with evolution. There are those out there – crackpots – who believe that aliens built them. Because there’s no way any human could have done it.

But that’s wrong.

And so is Intelligent Design, for exactly the same reason. The scaffolding has been taken away. All you’re left with now is the end result.


Why Evolution Just Makes Sense

A lot of Intelligent Design proponents believe that cells are too complex to have arisen randomly. They point to the micro-machines of the organelles and say that there is no way this could happen randomly.

This is a total fallacy.

Here’s the trick:
You only need to create ONE reproducing structure for it to multiply. At that point, things are self-sustainable.

Once you have one thing that reproduces, it’ll reproduce like wildfire. Every time it reproduces, you now have two things which can reproduce, until they exhaust their environment.RNA

Now in a small environment, you’ll quickly exhaust the source of raw materials needed to make new things. Which means that unless you provide more raw materials, that particular strain of life is gone.

There is another solution though – more random changes. Until you end up with something that more effectively uses those resources – or can cannibalize the other entities.

This, in and of itself, pretty solidly ensures the direction of evolution – the pressure to more efficiently cannibalize resources form the environment ensures that complexity will increase in the long term. The only other alternative is the whole system stalls and dies out.

So that first guy happens randomly. Pure chance.

And it has millions of years, and changes on the orders of milliseconds within which to do it (chemistry works fast).

That's just for the first one. Once you have one, you can have random variations. But the one that works still exists. And it can change any way it likes, as long as it keeps making new ones that reproduce and compete better. Otherwise, again, something else that competes better will win. And that will gain the upper hand instead.

By the way, on the timeline of the Earth, a million years is nothing. If you have one variation per millisecond, that's about 31,536,000,000,000,000 opportunities for one combination of chemicals to turn into something useful.


Cool it down, and long-range low-entropy effects take hold, allowing some protein machinery to work differently - forming interesting configurations which are necessary for life. (A guy did an experiment a while back with some chemicals in ice (sorry for the pay-only NewScientist link); after 25 years he checked back, and he had amino acids in there. And RNA can replicate without its usual need for enzymes if it’s cold).

But let's ignore the cooling for now. That 31,536,000,000,000,000 opportunities? That's in one place. If we allow one of these experiments to happen per square meter on the earth's surface, the changes we can have over a million years start looking like 6,312,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. Or 6x1036.

The universe started - as best as we can tell - about 1.37x1010 years ago. So if you want the number of chances you have for life to randomly happen in its simplest form, it’s more like 8x1040 opportunities. That’s per Earth-like planet. Assuming that Earth-like conditions are required for life (which they probably aren’t).


There are roughly 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (or 1x1023) Earth-like planets in the universe.

So let’s run that experiment again. We now have 8x1063 chances for life to happen. While you were reading this blog post, life had the chance to spontaneously arise approximately 1x1040 times.

The question you should ask yourself is not how unlikely is it that life would arise purely by chance, but rather, why don't we see it everywhere we look?

Next time… The Pyramids, Skyscrapes & Evolution. I promise you that all these things really do go together - like Peanut Butter & Jelly.


Dino Rossi Campaign uses Subliminal Messaging

Dino Rossi is running for Governor of Washington State right now. Watch the ad though... there's something funny going on here.

Did you catch it? I assure you, there's a subliminal message in there, about 15 seconds in.

What is it?

The woman providing counterpoint to his soundbites is saying "Dino Rossi: A New Direction".

Anyone who has studied subliminal advertising will recognize this phrase. Try saying it fast, and you'll get it - Dino Rossi: A Nude Erection.

Of course, the Democrats were also using this phrase back in 2006. And it has a long history with the Speed Seduction crowd. (Seriously, click that link back there - it's handy training if you want to make sure you don't get manipulated. It'll tell you what to look for).

Note that they're not showing you the phrase - they're saying it. It only works when said; there's ambiguity there otherwise.

These are phrases to look out for, which are designed to affect you on a base, emotional level and bypass your critical brain, to get you to do what other people want you to.

You might want to do more research on this... these sites should get you started:

Pick Up Guide- How to Lay Girls Guide - Speech patterns and how they're used to get you thinking a certain way... - How quoting someone else's words makes your message easier to swallow...

Here's an important one - Anchoring - - or, how people can get their message across via multimodal sensory techniques. (eg. Touching you on a shoulder when they say something nice, so that every time they touch you on the shoulder, you're expecting them to say something you'll like).

The politicians are getting smarter, and they use all of these tricks against you. Please, arm yourself against them, and think for yourself.

ps. I know that most of these links are from speed seduction sites, but seriously, that's the easiest place to learn about it. Once you read a few of the examples - no matter how you feel about why and how they are applied - you should get an idea for how pervasive this stuff is in advertising, marketing and sales. And it'll drive you batty because of it - but at least you'll be much more immune than the average person who doesn't know the techniques.


Super Cool Universe Sandbox Simulator

Digg this up and give the author some love: (and by the way, there's a video linked from the Digg article, so check that out too).

It's a pretty amazing project... everything is controllable via a WiiMote. I've seen this running on a huge projection screen, and it's frankly just dazzling. You could play with this for hours.

Especially the galaxies crashing bits...

Here's a screenshot of a physically accurate Saturn, with all of its moons:

Saturn's moons - Universe Sandbox