Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Creation Game

So it came to pass that the Lord in Heaven gave the angels a treat. Lacking omniscience, the angels dearly love a game of chance (especially Michael, John Travolta’s guardian angel). The Lord described His gift as the “creation game.”

The game would begin with God’s creation of a universe, something new that would then evolve over the eons governed only by the laws of physics and random chance. Michael immediately began taking book on what would occur. (Yes, gambling is OK in Heaven.)

In order to facilitate ordered predictions, and more fun, God created time and started the clock moving at the instant of creation. He created the simplest interesting universe with just three dimensions and Euclidian geometry. Objects would move in straight lines at constant speed except when influenced by the few forces the Lord allowed. Objects could have mass, or not, and massless objects (say light) would move at constant speed (even when measured by moving coordinates) also in straight lines except when influenced by massive objects.

That’s about it. The angels were giddy with anticipation.

Then the Lord started the game with a spectacular fireworks show, as the new universe burst on the scene at an infinitesimal point filled with stupendous energy. Gabriel called it the Big Bang. For a few instants the blast of light energy expanded superluminally. (God allowed light to move faster than its normal speed for a while -- it made for a spectacular sight.)

Then elementary particles (Thomas called them “quarks”) began to form. Strange things these were and the angels were delighted. By one second on the clock, quarks had come together to form protons and neutrons and those had begun to fuse together to form the nuclei of helium, deuterium and lithium. This hot process continued for about three minutes when the temperature fell to one billion degrees and nuclear reactions shut down. Not an angel predicted any of these events, still they were well pleased.

Michael speculated that the nuclei might become more interesting and indeed they did after about 10,000 years when they accumulated little electrons and became atoms. The angels wondered how big the atoms would get. Then they all took naps.

When they awoke the clock said three million years and a new fireworks show began. Here and there in the expanding universe stars blinked on and the angels were enthralled. The angel Judy won her bet with angel Millie (also known as Snuggles). The angel Maggie predicted that some stars would get close enough to become sort of bound together and she won a big prize when galaxies began to form.

But then the game got boring. For billions of years nothing much different happened. Oh, most of the stars became surrounded by big chunks of matter (someone called them planets). While their motions were pretty ellipses, not much else was happening. The angels asked the Lord if the game was over, and begged Him to make the universe do something else. So the Lord took one of the planets and said “Watch this.”

The planet He called Earth was formed at about 10 billion years on the clock. It was very hot, but after half a billion years had cooled enough to support what the Lord called life. He asked the angels if they thought life would arise by the random interactions of the Earthly particles. Would it happen spontaneously? Most of the angels said “Yeah, sure it will… NOT!” But angel Burt was ambitious and he bet angel Bill that it would happen, so the Lord said to wait and see. And they waited and napped and waited and… … nothing. Bill won.

So God created these amazingly complex single-celled living organisms. Contrary to what the angel Charles (aka Darwin) assumed, the cells were not “simple lumps of protoplasm.” They were neat information processing machines comprising some 50,000 proteins in fabulously intricate algorithms of communication and synthesis, or so said Heaven’s librarian, the angel Mary Jo. The Lord said it was nap time.

When the angels awakened nearly three and a half billion years had elapsed. Sleepy heads all. They looked at the Earth and what they saw was surprising. Nothing had changed at all, still only single celled life, lots of it, but no more complex than before they napped. The angel Ginger asked God if there would ever be creatures on Earth that looked like angels (cute ones like Ginger). Again God asked the angels if they thought it could happen by chance, and something He called natural selection.

Angels Dori and Merna argued that it would take an explosion of complexity and information to go from single cell-ers to creatures with bodies and feet and ears and stuff. Angel Doc said “No way, Jose.” He was right. So it came to pass that the Lord created the Cambrian Explosion, when nearly all the animals were born. The angels noticed there were even hairy creatures that were shaped like them, though somewhat short of forehead. The Dinosaurs were neat, especially the Velociraptors.

But the animals did not develop angelic traits. No poets, no paintings, not even duplicate bridge. They were boring and went on their hunting-gathering ways for 500 million years. Angel Dave insisted that the apes were getting smarter and would some day become Britney Spears, but angel Skip did not see the point. Angel Melanie begged the Lord to breathe some humanity into one of the best looking lineages.

The Lord said He would do that one better by giving them souls, so they would be in His likeness, and like the angels.

And here we are.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

1. You're explanation is not Bibilical.
2. If God is omnipotent, why did he need to "create" the Cambrian explosion? Why didn't he do what it simply says in Genesis?
3. Francis Collins still doesn't believe in this creationism dressed up in a cheap suit.
4. Sorry Bill, Francis Collins is right. Almost all scientists accept Darwinian evolution. It would be dishonest for teachers to teach that there is some "disagreement" (this is the same tactic global warming denialists like yourself use, manufacturing non-existent dissent in the scientific community). I quote Dr.Collins for you again "“You will not find today a mainstream biologist or human geneticist who is not absolutely convinced that Darwin’s theory is correct.” Are you saying you disagree with this eminent scientist whose very expertise is in genetics? I guess you prefer an out of touch physicist who thinks biology is "the field of an endless and unimaginably expensive quagmire of bad experiments". I guess Professor Laughlin would not have approved of Dr.Collins field of study, nor his wasted "Human Genome Project". I don't even think your friends at the Discovery Institute would agree with this nut. Michael Behe, anyone?

8:31 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Gee whiz, my explanation is not Biblical. Who woulda thunk it? Since God is omnipotent, He can do it any way He wants, including the way I described. See how it makes sense?

You keep quoting Frank Collins. Who gives a rat's pitootie what he says? I'll take a Nobel physicist (Laughlin) over a Nobel biologist any old day. And Gilder puts them all to shame.

By the way, after asking me to answer your question about teaching evolution, I gave you 12 points. You answered with a tiny url. How pathetic.

If you don't improve the quality of your criticism, I will start deleting your posts. You're wasting my space, not to mention my time.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

09 06 06

Well Bill that sure was creative and I agree with your point; that if GOD is omnicient, he can create the universe in any way he sees fit using whatever processes he sees fit. One correction though, according to a lot of theoretical physicists nowadays we have more than just three dimensions, but that is a minor point because you were discussing the macroscopic world of our reality:)

Next, regarding the anonymous statement I don't think they are thinking that flexibly. There is strong evidence that evolution occured, however other assumptions such as that of the biological clock are woefully contentious. Also the structure-function paradigm is on tenuous footing as well.

In the end, there is no one that can answer our question of how and why the universe began. Frankly I think that it is unbelievably arrogant of biologists to champion something that cannot be PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT and check out this paper to see where the contentions lie, you will see that the theory of evolution explains some things but not others.

Oh, I have rambled but enjoyed reading your creative article:) Warmest Regards for a great week.

11:52 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

09 06 06

OK Bill, here are a couple of articles and abstracts from the
Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences website. They specifically question the validity of the molecular clock hypothesis, which is what many evolutionists use:

1.Erratic overdispersion of three molecular clocks: GPDH, SOD, and XDH (Rodriguez Trelles et al.)

The neutrality theory predicts that the rate of neutral molecular evolution is constant over time, and thus that there is a molecular clock for timing evolutionary events. It has been observed that the variance of the rate of evolution is generally larger than expected according to the neutrality theory, which has raised the question of how reliable the molecular clock is or, indeed, whether there is a molecular clock at all. We have carried out an extensive investigation of three proteins, glycerol-3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GPDH), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and xanthine dehydrogenase (XDH). We have observed that (i) the three proteins evolve erratically through time and across lineages and (ii) the erratic patterns of acceleration and deceleration differ from locus to locus, so that one locus may evolve faster in one than another lineage, whereas the opposite may be the case for another locus. The observations are inconsistent with the predictions made by various subsidiary hypotheses proposed to account for the overdispersion of the molecular clock.

This article says that random mutations across lineages were observed, contradicting the constancy of the molecular clock hypothesis.

2.The rate of DNA evolution: Effects of body size and temperature on the molecular clock (Gillooley et al)

Observations that rates of molecular evolution vary widely within and among lineages have cast doubts on the existence of a single "molecular clock." Differences in the timing of evolutionary events estimated from genetic and fossil evidence have raised further questions about the accuracy of molecular clocks. Here, we present a model of nucleotide substitution that combines theory on metabolic rate with the now-classic neutral theory of molecular evolution. The model quantitatively predicts rate heterogeneity and may reconcile differences in molecular- and fossil-estimated dates of evolutionary events. Model predictions are supported by extensive data from mitochondrial and nuclear genomes. By accounting for the effects of body size and temperature on metabolic rate, this model explains heterogeneity in rates of nucleotide substitution in different genes, taxa, and thermal environments. This model also suggests that there is indeed a single molecular clock, as originally proposed by Zuckerkandl and Pauling [Zuckerkandl, E. & Pauling, L. (1965) in Evolving Genes and Proteins, eds. Bryson, V. & Vogel, H. J. (Academic, New York), pp. 97–166], but that it "ticks" at a constant substitution rate per unit of mass-specific metabolic energy rather than per unit of time. This model therefore links energy flux and genetic change. More generally, the model suggests that body size and temperature combine to control the overall rate of evolution through their effects on metabolism.

So this article says that there is a clock but it ticks via energetics not time, which would still make many of the claims of evolutionary distances incorrect.

Ultimately what I have learned in science is that we really don't know much and so much of the time, we accept axioms as truth whereas they are really statements in faith upon which our disciplines are based.

Seems like faith isn't just relegated to the religious community.

Excellent post Bill Lama:)

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Frankly I think that it is unbelievably arrogant of biologists to champion something that cannot be PROVEN BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT" Wow, what an inane comment from someone who purports to be interested in science. You are correct that there is much we don't know, but in science, if you really knew what you were talking about, never, ever claims to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. There simply is no such thing as proving something beyond a reasonable doubt in the natural sciences, particularly in the explanatory sciences like biology. There are always doubts, but we have to use the best information we have. Darwinian evolution provides the best model for the differentiation of the species. Inserting supernatural causation just because we don't yet have all the answers beyond a reasonable doubt is what is at stake here. I know many religious folks desperately want their spiritual views confirmed by the most respected tool of knowledge we have, but they are looking in the wrong place.

8:53 AM  
Blogger fetching jen said...

Great post Bill. Anon is obviously threatened with this. And Anon should check out Mahndisa's credentials before he calls her comments inane.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Fetching Jen! Actually, can you tell me just exactly what Mahndisa's credentials are? Thanks again!

12:22 PM  
Blogger Mattress said...

I guess the main problem with Macroevolution is that it has yet to to be observed, or tested/reproduced in a laboratory experiment.

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mahndisa said "One correction though, according to a lot of theoretical physicists nowadays we have more than just three dimensions, but that is a minor point because you were discussing the macroscopic world of our reality:)" Turns out Bill's favorite physicist not only denies Darwinian evolution, but also takes issue with string theory and quantum computing as “the tragic consequence of an obsolete belief system”. Wow. I guess he just doesn't like anything exciting done in theoretical physics either. And Bill takes this guy seriously?

5:56 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

09 07 06

Hello there:
Anonymous you misunderstood my comment completely. I am a student at SFSU in the Physics department finishing up a degree for the spring 2007. No I am not denying the existence of other dimensions and if you read my posts on measurements of G, as well as other posts on stringiness and loop quantum gravity you would see that I know a bit more that what you are alluding to. When I talked about his three dimensional view, what I am saying is that in the MACROSCOPIC world, all we can perceive as human beings is three Euclidean dimensions, where time is a parameter.

GR goes to Minkowski space and things get a bit more complicated, String theorists need 26 dimensions, the extras being compactified but that is for the bosonic string case and 26 simply emerges due to the Virasoro anomaly, mathematical conviencience or point based in fact?

Next, other string theories admit eleven dimensions, but none have been measured and there is an experiment underway now that will use optics to measure any G deviations which may indicate other dims. However so far this has not been proven.

I also disagree with you about proving things beyond a reasonable doubt; sure in the QM regime that uncertainty principle is there but macroscopically there is nothing philosophically deep about knowing if you woke up in the morning or not-there is no macroscopic uncertainty there. Generally this is because the wavefunctions are so peaked for macroscopic particles that any deviations away from the mean peaked value are on the order of something smaller than a Planck length. See my article on DeBroglie wavelengths for baseballs via google.

Lastly anonymous, you have evaded the main point of my post in that as scientists we always use axioms which cannot be proven. Linus Pauling and Zuckerkandl were incorrect in their thoughts on the molecular clock are suspicious because they assume a zero divergence system and one of the articles I cited below challenges that via EXPERIMENT.

Furthermore, if you read anything in Cosmology you will see that we can never really know how the Universe or why the Universe began. We can take educated guesses which are wonderful based upon anisotropic background radiation or WMAP dark matter interpretation of results.

Anonymous I invite you to discuss some interesting thoughts in cosmology, loop quantum gravity, string theory and other theories of the cosmos on my blog. Many physicists start looking at the beautiful symmetries present in the universe that we see over and over again and say that this order in scale must have a creator. I am not the only one, but that does not mean that I let my personal beliefs take away from scientific rigor.

Have a good day Bill and Jen:0

3:33 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

09 07 06

Lastly Anonymous, why not respond to the PNAS articles I cited below? These are certainly rigorous articles done by PhD scientists of note who have challenged the mc view.

3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you are studying physics. I think you may have misinterpreted me. My point was to show that Bill was quoting a physicist who believes that string theory is fool's errand. I just thought it ironic that you discuss this very important theory. What is interesting is that people who are interested in Intelligent Design like to quote famous scientists. The person he quotes (Robert Laughlin) thinks that what you are studying is complete nonsense (I'm assuming theoretical physics, in which string theory is the big thing nowadays. I just thought that was kind of funny. I will challenge you however. It's sounds like you're interested in string theory, as I am. You criticize Darwinian evolution and those scientists who study as arrogant for championing something that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. You must already realize that string theory has never been experimentally verified. Ever. For over 20 years we have been told that found the Unified Theory, but as of yet, it is simply a set of highly complex math equations that have no experimental basis upon which to prove their validity. So there you have it, a theory you champion that has never been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and yet you would like us to believe that there are 11 dimensions as called for by Prof.Witten's M-Theory? I smell a little hypocrisy here. I don't mean to offend, but your statements are bit contradictory. I agree with you, the symmetry of the cosmos is awe inspiring, but it does not prove the existence of Intelligent Design nor of supernatural causation. As a good scientist, I would expect that you would continue to use that great brain of yours to seek out natural explanations to what is definitely beautiful and awe-inspiring in this great universe.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Mahndisa S. Rigmaiden said...

09 07 06

Hello Anonymous:
Now you are seeing me for a bit more of what I tried to convey. However, I didn't say that I believed in string theory as the end all be all precisely because without good experiment, those extra compactified dimensions are mathematical conviences might not be necessarily somthing physically realizable. Like I said see the posts I did on G measurements to see how extra dims might be measureable.

There are many people in the physics community who don't believe in string theory precisely because it has no predictive qualities now. And certainly string theory isn't the only theory of unification. I study a bit of stringingness and loop quantum gravity to broaden the perspective. There are many well credentialed physicists out there who think string theory is a bunch of garbage and they have good reasons for questioning this latest orthodoxy, see Woit-Not Even Wrong or Smolin The Trouble with Physics.

For that reason please note that I neither champion string theory or LQG as being the answer to the underlying structure of the universe, simply two approaches that have a similar goal. When it comes to the origins of the universe we cannot know beyond a resasonable doubt what happened then! A biologist can look up homologies between species until they are blue in the face, but the competing fossil record finds and the variation of the mclock via different proteins etc is not a good way to quantify evolutionary distance imho.

BTW you have misunderstood my other points from before in that the whole point of Bill's piece was to say that if God created the universe, God could employ any method to do so.

Ultimately I have no problem with the concept of evolution because we see things evolve all the time, and we often discuss time evolution of some system or another. what I DO have a problem with is the smug self righteouss attitude I have seen biologists adopt when discussing these matters.Any question of evolution or the molecular clock they get their panties in a bunch, and like I said you still haven't addressed the articles I cited that directly experimentally challenge the mc view.

I just completed a programme in computational biology with some training at NCSA. You will concede that phylogenetic analysis is a bunch of snake oil and highly contentious. Yes? Just try doing a phylo tree in Bioworkbench, then Clustal W and play around iwth the algorithms and you will see a big variation that sometimes is on the order ofmillions of years! Again read the articles I cited to see where I am coming from.

I believe in many possibilities and that not all may be within our realm of understanding but only a fool would think that they can exactly figure out what happened when our universe began and then go from there. Anyone will tell you we can only make educated guesses, which is why I wonder why you didn't respond to the criticisms on the molecular clock hypothesis.

In any event thanks for the comments. It is clear that you don't know very much about string theory or competing alternatives, come by my blog or Christine Dantas's blog or Peter Woits blog or Robert Hellings blog to get a feel for some hard physics. Lastly there is Matti Pitkaanen who is Finnish and has another theory of everythin for which consciousness is a part! Best Regards.

10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole taking billions with a “b” years to cool down sounds a lot like entropy to me. Steven Hawking argues that a creature like us can only exist in a universe like the one we find ourselves in. Just enough expansion to allow for us to have these, some might say silly, conversations. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. I always did like the Goldilocks rule.


7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Dave.

8:03 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home