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This is part of a series: Evolution’s Limits

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I made a mistake in my last post.  I wrote that I hadn’t found any research looking for irreducible complexity.  What I meant was that all the research I knew of that claimed to look for irreducible complexity looked for a straw man version, instead of the real thing.

I corrected my post and gave a more detailed explanation, along with some links to some of the research I’m talking about.

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The Practical Limit of Evolution

This is part of a series: Evolution’s Limits

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A few years ago, I tested evolution.  In my simulation, there were 4 main phenomena:

  1. Evolution
  2. The practical limit of evolution
  3. Devolution
  4. Extinction due to devolution

Of these, I was able to find plenty of scientific papers documenting 3 of them.  But I couldn’t find any studies looking for 1 of them – the practical limit of evolution.

EDIT: I phrased this poorly.  There are plenty of scientific papers that claim to debunk irreducible complexity, but as Casey Luskin pointed out, they attack a straw-man version of of irreducible complexity, not the real thing.  This article by Ken Miller references some of them, and gives a good summary of the reasoning behind them.

Here are some more:

I wrote that I couldn’t find any studies looking for irreducible complexity because the ones that I knew of that claimed to were actually looking for the wrong thing.  I had planned to clarify this in a future post, but I realized that if someone only read this post, they would think that there wasn’t any research that even claimed to test the claim of irreducible complexity, which would be a false claim.

We Creationists call this limit Irreducible Complexity.  Basically, if any machine is too complicated to appear by evolution, it’s irreducibly complex.

In this series, I’m going to read up on this limit and summarize what’s been said and written about it so far.  I have the beginning of a way to test in a lab if something can or can’t appear by evolution.  If someone else has thought of it or tried it, I’ll summarize their research.  If not, I’ll explain my idea.

Michael Behe coined the term in his book Darwin’s Black Box.

I’m also going to experiment with smaller posts.  I want to keep each post in this series under 600 words.

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Defining Life – Putting it All Together

Human egg being fertilized

This is part of a series: Define Life

I’ve listed the most common views on exactly what life is – now I’ll try to do better.  But first, I’ll list my biases:

  1. In my opinion, there are a couple of inventions that will likely be created within the next 100 years, that I think should be considered life.  However, most people who I’ve met disagree.  These inventions are:
    • Clanking replicators
      Self-sustaining, fully automated factories made of current human technology, or something not much more advanced.  Each “cell” will be easily big enough to see, and would probably come in the form of a small building or a group of robots that can collectively sustain themselves, and even reproduce.
    • Continue reading Defining Life – Putting it All Together

Defining Life – Is it Only Physical?

This is part of a series: Define Life

As recently as 150 years ago, one of the most common scientific views of life was Vitalism.  This view says that there’s something special about living things that distinguishes them from non-life, and causes them to do things and make substances that are found nowhere in nature.  That “something”, they said, was its life force.

As scientists began to discover the chemical makeup of life, this view fell into disfavor.  Today, if someone calls a biologist a vitalist, he usually means it as an insult.

In its place, most scientists now believe in a form of physicalism, which says that life is a machine.  Furthermore, they tend to focus on the individual parts of living things much more than the whole.  For example, it’s common to hear about someone discovering a gene that causes a disease or disorder, such as the most common type of mental retardation.  But it’s much less common to hear about someone discovering exactly how and why that gene has its effect.

How did this happen?  There were 2 main causes:

Continue reading Defining Life – Is it Only Physical?

Defining Life – Is It A Process?

Pond Scum Conduit

This is part of a series: Define Life

I found an interesting view on what life is: Life is a Process, Not a Thing – The Mantle.  In it, JoJo Brisendine argues that life is best understood not as a system that copies and spreads a particular strand of DNA, but as a system that neutralizes free energy.

It’s a reductionist view that emphasizes the flow of energy in living things above all, and says that every other part and phenomenon related to life is a natural result of that process.  It’s a reaction against 2 other views:

  1.  Ferris Jabr – Life is nothing more than a concept – life does not really exist
  2. The currently popular view among evolutionary biologists that RNA is the original self-copying molecule that eventually turned into us

Continue reading Defining Life – Is It A Process?

Defining Life – Does Its Origin Matter?

Diatom with beautiful symmetry

This is part of a series: Define Life

Over the past week, I asked a few people my question:

“If an inventor says that he’s created a new kind of life, how can you know if he’s right?”

The results were rather interesting.  Even with a small sample size, I had quite diverse answers.  When I think of life, I usually think of it in the same way that I think of cars, computers, houses, etc.  I think of it as a type of machine or system.  Thus, when I ask about an inventor making a new kind, I ask it expecting the same kind of response that I’d expect if I asked how one could recognize a completely new kind of computer.  I expect some attempt to define what processes, characteristics or functions separate life from non-life.  I expect to hear only about the properties of the creatures themselves.

1 person looked at it in this way, but most of the people who had an opinion thought of life in a fundamentally different way.  For them, life is defined not only by the machinery of biology, nor is it defined by the things that only living things can do.  They believe that life only counts as life when it has the correct origin.

Continue reading Defining Life – Does Its Origin Matter?