Grappling with Evolution and Physics

Discussion in 'Off-Topic Discussions' started by ebbwvale, Aug 1, 2009.

  1. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    I have been reading some physics recently and I find some inconsistencies between some of the theories and evolution. This is not a thread that traditionally has been about acceptance of biblical scripture or evolutionary theory. Although I have always been interested why no other religion (other than Christianity) gets into the fray,there have been endless discussions on that topic. This thread, however, is about a seemingly contradiction between evolution and physics.

    Interesting theories in physics, such as Superstring theory throw possibilities of 11 dimensions, which effectively means 11 universes. This being the case, how can evolution be the origin of the species? Presumably, evolution is a planetary driven explanation, not a universally driven one, let alone 11 universes.

    My observations are the following:
    1. The universe created the basis for the environment which then produced human beings;
    2. The origin of the species has to be determined in the causation of the universe;
    3. Evolution cannot do that. Evolution is a subsidiary and a dependent explanation of the origin of the species, rather than a primary one;
    4. Without an explanation of the origin of the laws governing the universe, evolution is a very weak presentation on the origin of the species;
    5. Physics views the world in terms of forces and, in this model, human beings are seemingly units of bio-electromagnetic energy. How does evolution explain the origins of this energy?
    6. It seems to suggest, at the highest, that evolutionary forces can vary the bio-electromagnetic energy form, but it does not explain its origins.

    Although I am a (very) preliminary reader in physics, is there a case that the biggest test for the evolutionary argument is in the scientific sphere, not the metaphysical one? I would be interested to hear other people's opinions on this. There seems to me an inconsistency between the two branches of science.
  2. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I think that many hard-line Muslim and a smaller number of Jewish traditionalists don't entirely accept the idea that the physical universe assumed its current state gradually over time, by natural processes. Hindu and Buddhist cosmology have always contained ideas that at least superficially resemble physical evolution, so it's not a big departure for them. The significant variable seems to be the amount of doctrinal emphasis that a particular religion places on divine creation and providence.

    I'm a total layman concerning physics, but my impression is that physics is still talking about our one universe. It's just that (very speculatively) there might be more directions, or degrees of freedom for movements, on the microscale than on the macroscale.

    The intention is to reduce the complexity and seeming arbitrariness of observed "fundamental" particles and forces into some simpler underlying order. If anything, doing that increases the scope of evolution, since it suggests that our fundamental particles and forces kind of evolved themselves, in a sense condensing as the very early universe cooled and original symmetries were broken.

    I assume that you are talking about biological evolution and not the evolution of stars, geological land-forms or weather. In its general sense, 'evolution' just means change over time. As science understands it, that means change that's consistent with and explainable by natural processes.

    Biological evolution operates on the level of populations, organisms and genomes. I don't think that physics' fundamental unification stuff on the level of particles and forces is tremendously relevant to understanding biological evolution. Physics is trying to elucidate the mathematical principles that it hypothesizes are at the basic 'machine-language' level of observable events, it isn't trying to make the world go away or turn it into something else.

    I don't think that 2. necessarily follows from 1. We needn't assume that all of the minute details of the future evolution of the universe are already totally implicit within the origins of the particles and forces that prevail in physics today. We needn't be absolute determinists about things. A great deal of the structure and complexity that we see around us might be fortuitous or elaborated by processes of natural selection.

    I assume that by "energy" you are referring the the fundamental particles and forces that some of the physicists are busily trying to get a handle on with their unification theories. My response is that I don't think that theories of biological evolution have ever presumed to account for the nuts-and-bolts physics and chemistry stuff, the atoms, forces, space and time in which biology and its processes take place.

    Evolutionary biology is just trying to elucidate the long history of protist, plant and animal life on this planet, hopefully coming to a better understanding of why we observe the tremendous diversity of lifeforms that we see around us today.
  3. ebbwvale

    ebbwvale Member

    Thank you for structured approach to the question. It was interesting to read that the religion and evolution debate appears to be more a western issue, although I must admit that I really have never heard it argued here to any degree. We are probably too busy surfing.

    There appeared to me to be a discord in the approach to the larger question i.e "how did this all happen?" The macro question seemed to be far from resolved, yet the micro question concerning evolution appears settled in biological science at least. I was trying to get a handle on this apparent inconsistency between the two.

    I guess it was really about a philosophical questioning of the approach.

    1. Can the origins and causation of a part be accurately determined before the causation and origins of the whole are known?

    2. Therefore, any theory of the origin of the part is contingent on the outcome of the larger question?

    4. Is this an argument for a holistic approach? A problem I have seen arise with different medical specialists in treating the same patient, sometimes with a fatal results.

    I thought that this might be outcome of Bacon's philosophy of splitting of science into categories. A category of science may determine something as strongly probable, yet it may be inconsistent with the theories of another. Science becomes schizophrenic, sometimes a criticism levelled at religion. The now scope of science must create these scenarios all the time, yet the same wide scope may prevent it being known. The modern age problem of correlating vast amounts of information. A management and decision-making dilemma.

    Thank you for your informative reply. Now I must re-enter the atmosphere and wash the dog. An integrated and holistic blend of hide and seek, physical restraint, hygiene, and an after wash relationship restoring play.
  4. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    I like Bill's comment in this thread.

    I don't see any conflict between physics and evolution.

    Here's my weak understanding. The 11 dimensions proposed by string theory is really describing a mathematical construct. The scientists are not really currently sure how the mathematics of string theory are related to physics. For example, 11 dimensions could imply multiple universes. I think it is more commonly assumed to be the way that forces can interact in our own universe. For example, gravity might travel through many dimensions where the various forces in the atom might travel through single or other dimensions.
  5. rces618

    rces618 New Member

    With regard to the religion statement above (and I fully understand that this post is not primarily conscerned with that) Hindus also have differing beliefs on the origin of life, the timeline of life, etc. One book concerning this is "Forbidden Archeology" and its condensed version "Hidden History of the Human Race". I am not a hindu and have only breifly glanced at a friends version of this book, but just thought I would throw that out there.

    On the evolution stage it is important to remember that the way evolution is presented to the lay-public is not always in line with the way scientists view evolution. I am sure you are becoming aware of this as you study science, but to really see it hit home watch a nature program intended for mass consumption. The nararator will say thing such as "this bush evolved thorns as a way of protecting itself from predators". No serious evolutionary biologist truely believes that the bush made any decision in "evolving" the thorns. This would require intelligent input for one which most evolutionists would say is not present in the pace and direction of evolution (theistic evolutionists would be the only exception I am aware of). Rather evolutionist would say that a random mutation in the genetic code of an ancestor to this plant caused certain offspring to develop with thorns. Since thorny plants were less palpable to predators those with thorns were more likely to spread their genetic material, and thusly were selected for. There very well could have been a genetic mutation in this same ancestor which made the offspring taste like honey, but since this attracted rather than detered predators this plants genetic material was spread less and thusly was selected against. Evolution deals primarily with random occurance and chance on the population level. A random chance mutation that occurs at the individual level is highly unlikely to cause any major change to the population (or to create a new species or subspecies) even if the change is spreadable via reproduction, because there is a limited amount of genetic material that can be spread from one individual. I said that to say this all origins science is faith-based to one extent or another (I am sure I just upset an armchair evolutionist). Why? Well quite simply you cannot go back before there was a world, and watch and see what happens. Even if you could simulate it successfully you, being an intelligent being, would have had an input in what happened (i.e. starting the experiment) so all you would have successfully proven is that an intelligent being can start a process that leads ultimately to what we see around us today. This does not prove how random chance occurances all added up to what we have today. As such you either place your faith in some form of intelligent being starting the process, or you place your faith in it all starting randomly. Either choice really does nothing to affect the science we can observe from day to day (much to the shagrin of armchair (lay) evolutionists, creationists, and intelligent designers). But my point is not to support or slander any of these people or their beliefs.

    With regards to the physics from what I have heard there is still a lot of debate as to how this affects currently held theories on origins and cosmology. In February my grandfather passed away, and so I went home for the funeral. While I was there I got very sick and spent several days stuck in a bed taking medicine. During one of these days I watched a show on the Discovery or Science Channel (I believe) concerning physics and string theory (I cannot remember the name of the show sorry). At least one of the physicists on that show did in fact state that string theory raised some pretty disturbing questions about currently held beliefs on origins of the solar system and life on our planet. He went on to state that in the next several years string theory might be the downfall of both traditional cosmology and Darwinian evolution.

    I know this has been long winded, but hopefully something I wrote was helpful in some way.

    As always just my two cents worth.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2018
  6. rces618

    rces618 New Member

    Not attempting to come across as degrading or insulting, but the "nuts-and-bolts stuf" is EXACTLY what evolutionary biology is studying and attempting to account for. Life takes place at the molecular level even if it is more readily observable at the individual or population level. Without an understand of molecular genetics, for instance, evolutionary biologists would have no understanding of how the diversity we see around us in life was even possible. Mendallion genetics does little to explain how the real science behind natural selection occurs. It is through random mutation of the genes (i.e. the nuts-and-bolts of life) that changes occur that can be decided for or against by natural selection. Chemistry is not called the central science for nothing. Also evolutionary biologist are very interested in and concerned with time. They are constantly revising the time frames between the arrival of species for instance. If you don't believe it just pick a biology or historical geology textbook for every ten years from about 1960 to the present and you see the ever increases age of the earth and life as determined in part by evolutionary biologists.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 14, 2018

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