Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Darwin’s demon


There are many perspectives and arguments showing the absurdity of Darwinism. One of them consists in analyzing the so-called Darwin’s demon. Here I don’t mean the devil suggesting to Charles Darwin that God was non necessary because evolution created the beings. To know what I mean with “Darwin’s demon” we have to compare a thermodynamic scenario and a biological scenario. Let’s start with the former:


A box B1 containing gas molecules is divided in two zones by a central wall. A zone is filled with gas and the other is void. If in this wall we create a hole h the gas diffuses in both zones. The hole doesn’t increase the degree of organization of the gas molecules, which paths are entirely random. We can express this with O(h)=0, O(randomness)=0. In these conditions, if a turbine, or something like that, is installed into the wall, the turbine doesn’t run (left and right zones have the same pressure).

A box B2 is identical to B1 but instead of the hole there is a so­-called Maxwell’s demon Md. Md is an “intelligent organizer” controlling the hole as a gate. It controls the molecules: if it sees a molecule directed from the right zone to the left zone then Md opens and lets the molecules pass; if it sees a molecule directed from the left zone to the right zone then Md closes. This way a pressure difference is again created between left (+) and right (-), and the turbine runs. Md produces organization and work: O(Md) > 0. Md provides the control, the molecules provide the power. Control + power give organization. See my previous post on this topic.

Now consider a similar biological scenario of Darwinian evolution:


A system capable of self replication (self­-replicator) C1 contains organic molecules and has O(C1) degree of organization. According to the definition of Darwinian evolution, C1 evolves (increase in organization) by means of random variations inside itself. This is illustrated in the self-­replicator C2, which has in the middle an equivalent of a Maxwell’s demon. For this reason, let’s call this equivalent “Darwin’s demon” Dd. Eventually if Dd succeeds, a new organized function F arises (F is somehow equivalent to the above turbine). The Dd’s successful job can be written:
O(C2) > O(C1).

Darwin’s demon impotency

If we compare the two scenarios we could think they are equivalent. But we would be wrong. While Md is an “intelligent organizer”, Dd is an “unintelligent non organizer”. In fact, according to the definition of evolution, Dd is unguided unintelligent “random variations”, i.e. pure randomness. We have seen before that O(randomness)=0, then O(Dd)=0. Therefore a Dd is incapable to increase organization in a replicator. So the C2 situation is not similar to B2, rather to B1. In brief, a Dd is like the hole in B1. Like a turbine doesn’t run in B1, a new function F cannot arise in C2.

This observation has consequences:

(a) Darwinian evolution (or any unguided unintelligent evolution), aka random increase of organization, is thermodynamically absurd. “Random organization” is an oxymoron.

(b) To deny that, as evolutionists do, means to claim – in the above thermodynamic scenario – that a random Md, i.e. a hole, is capable to increase organization and produce work. This means to refute the thermodynamics laws, and believe that a perpetual motion machine can exist.

Possible objections from evolutionists

Objection 1. Evolution is random variations + natural selection. Natural selection (NS) selects the more organized replicators in a population and this makes evolution work.

Answer. No. NS is a post-processor. NS takes replicators as input. If no replicator is more organized than the others (as the above argument shows), NS cannot output the more organized replicator. In informatics jargon this is the GIGO principle: garbage in, garbage out. As most evolutionists rightly say, the true engine of evolution is chance. If chance inputs garbage into NS, NS is fully impotent, and in turn outputs garbage.

Objection 2. Differently from a box of gas, a ­replicator contains instructions, and random variations on these instructions could create organization.

Answer. No at all. To reason in terms of instructions instead of molecules changes nothing. In fact, for both molecules, instructions or whatever, the disorganized states are always far more numerous than the organized states. Given the former are more numerous than the latter, the former are far more probable, and this causes all systems always tend in both cases (molecules and instructions) toward disorganization. (This is the meaning of the 2nd law, or entropy’s law, in its statistical mechanics sense.) A self­replicator, or any system processing information, is not exception, because the 2nd law applies to all systems.

Objection 3. A Maxwell’s demon cannot exist, thus the conclusion “a” about the absurdity of evolution is wrong.

Answer. Non sequitur. A gratis Maxwell’s demon contra the thermodynamics laws cannot exist in principle. But a “no free lunch” computerized Maxwell’s demon consuming energy and respectful of the thermodynamics laws, is thinkable. Therefore my argument about the two scenarios (thermodynamics, biology) and the conclusion about the absurdity of evolution are ok.

Objection 4. The job of a Darwin’s demon is different from the job of a Maxwell’s demon then the argument is flawed.

Answer. Indeed the opposite. The different jobs reinforces the argument, because Dd’s job is far more complex than Md’s. In fact while Md has to control only the direction of the molecules, Dd has to control a series of qualitative properties of the molecules to decide if they are useful to increase organization. If a random/hole Md is incapable to do its easy job, to greater reason a random/hole Dd is incapable to do its difficult job.

Bottom line: while a Maxwell’s demon represents intelligence, Darwin’s demon represents chance, aka ignorance. While the former works in principle, the impotency of the latter symbolically represents the nonsense of Darwinism.

It is a terrible error to portray the sorting of coins as being “due to gravity”. Gravity is the least important element here. The same sorting might take place in a machine which used centrifugal force. But the two elements which are far more important than either gravity or centrifugal force remain the same: 1. An intelligently-designed “machine” and 2. An intelligent effort to “feed” the machine with the right resources at the right time and in the right way. This feeding process works contrary to the laws of nature; gravity, entropy and everything else. Once you apply this knowledge, the origins of life and the origins of all major kinds of life, with their complex information contents, makes belief in universal common ancestry (a.k.a. Darwinism or Neo-Darwinism) irrational. Thinkright
Remember that Natural Selection (NS) must have genetic choices, in order to select one versus the other. Over time, NS reduces those choices (especially at so-called population bottlenecks). NS causes extinctions; it is not capable of creating the genetic choices. So, what process created the zillions of unique genes as well as the zillions of unique epigenetic elements in Nature? If you think that random chemistry and mutations might be capable of doing the job, you need to re-study the science, with particular focus on known chemistry and cell biology. Try simulating mutations on existing genes and then see what the results are, paying close attention to the ubiquitous stop codons. Thinkright
In the analogy of the coin-sorter, what is the biological equivalent to lifting up handfuls of coins against the force of gravity, in order to allow the sorting process to start? If you subscribe to Naturalism, the only answer can be: random chemistry and random mutations, which of course would have needed to occur before any selection process could begin. In fact, the complex cellular and genetic machinery which so-called Natural Selection (NS) uses must have been created by these same primitive forces (random chemistry and mutations) which then presumably go on to feed it. This type of magical thinking pervades the minds of Darwinists and Neo-Darwinists. Yet, where is the evidence that such incredibly-complex up-hill chemistry and up-hill genetics is even remotely possible by random processes? For example; has random chemistry ever been witnessed to produce just one complete nucleotide molecule? No. Thinkright
Thanks scordova and nightlight for the clear explanations. While I'm familiar with the 2nd law, this is what I was looking for:
The difference between a coin sorter and the complex molecules of life is the strength of the disorganizing forces.
To simplify in chemical terms . . . It seems that in addition to increasing the "heat," you must also consider the fragility and complexity of the molecule (I'm sure that there's an equivalent in Physics). An underlying issue in my mind has to do with generating "information" and what constitutes information. I'm admittedly both skeptical and ignorant of a lot of the work in this field. I appreciated your insights. -Q Querius
@Querious #5 -- there is no problem regarding 2nd law of thermodynamics in sorting out (increasing order) of a system by investing work into the system (see wiki). Consider the Maxwell demon setup of the gas in a two part box separated by a wall with a hole in the middle. You don't need a demon to make all molecules go into one half, if you simply make the middle wall movable and invest some work into the system. For example, you move the wall all the way to the left side, while leaving the hole open. All gas will end up on the right side (by leaking through the hole). Then you close the hole and move the wall back to the center of the box. You will have all gas molecules in the right half, no molecules in the left half i.e. a perfect separation, lower entropy without a demon. Of course, external system performing the above movements of the separator wall against the gas pressure must invest work into the system and that is what reduced the entropy of the system. Note also that the overall entropy of the full system (the box and its controller & environment) has total entropy increased. You can go the other way, too -- open the hole, put a little wind turbine in between the partitions and let the air leaking from right to left half drive the turbine until the pressures equalize. The gas entropy increases, back to its max value, and the system has performed a work (on the turbine which is considered a separate system). nightlight
By the way, I found a photo of Darwin's demon in the website of the prestigious scientific journal Nature: Darwin's Demon scordova
Sometimes, I play the devil’s advocate. Not that he needs one or doesn’t have plenty already . . .
Well, I understand that. We've dispensed with a lot of Darwinists in debate recently, so who do we have left to debate? scordova
The difference between a coin sorter and the complex molecules of life is the strength of the disorganizing forces. A person that is dead even a couple of hours will be so biologically compromised and damaged that re-organization is effectively impossible. By way of comparison, re-sorting of coins is much easier than resurrecting a dead creature. Why? The organization of coins is not critical to perpetuity of the sorter, but the organization of life is critical to the perpetuity of life. The coin sorter can probably tolerate a little damage here and there, but not so the genome. Starve a human of oxygen for 30 minutes, and then try to reboot the system :shock: -- not quite the same with passive coin sorters. As pointed out the coin sorter is passive, whereas living system are active and must stay active (eat and breathe) to keep the system going. Macro-molecules of life need life to create them, but life needs macro molecules. It is the chicken and egg problem. The disorganizing forces of nature preclude evolution of living systems, that's why dead dogs stay dead dogs. Darwin's demon fails for slightly different reasons than Maxwell's demon. Maxwell's demon cannot locate molecules without expending energy (energy the demon doesn't have) whereas Darwin's demon fails because he has no information or incentive to build more complex structures. I gave one of Darwin's servants (Dave Thomas) an opportunity to solve a password, he could not even though I offered him $100. He failed because his Darwinian demons did not have access to the necessary information. The problem of protein evolution is like solving a password -- the evolutionary system gets little to no feed back as to whether the system is close to a solution or not. Darwin's demon has been exorcized by exorcists like the Michael Behe. scordova
Niwrad: “How does it tend toward disorganization?” As anything, given enough time, your coin sorter will be finally destroyed by the countless forces operating in the cosmos (..)
I don't see how this is an answer to Querius question. How about this youtube video on self-essembly with regard to disorganization? Box
Querius: How is this different in principle from a hypothetical set of molecules “ratcheting” themselves up to a more complex molecule, given the right initial conditions?
It's a vacuous question. How can anyone answer it without a definition of this molecular "ratcheting" that you speak of? CentralScrutinizer
The coin sorter has a built-in design that automatically ratchets up the level of order in a random set of coins through the action of gravity. How is this different in principle from a hypothetical set of molecules "ratcheting" themselves up to a more complex molecule, given the right initial conditions? The entropy increase cannot be attributed to the eventual degradation of the shape---imagine three identical coin sorters: one sorts 1000 coins, the next only 100 coins, and the third one, only 10 coins. Then all three sorters are allowed to randomize over time . . . -Q Querius
Querius You are not a devil’s advocate because what you wrote is not an objection, rather a confirmation. Yes, your coin sorter works as sort of sui generis “Maxwell’s demon”. It filters the coins based on their different properties. If your coin sorter were only a big hole, it wouldn’t be capable to order the coins. “How does it tend toward disorganization?” As anything, given enough time, your coin sorter will be finally destroyed by the countless forces operating in the cosmos (if you as kid just didn’t do it :) ). niwrad
Differently, Darwin’s demon, given its purely stochastic nature, will never produce organization.
Sometimes, I play the devil's advocate. Not that he needs one or doesn't have plenty already . . . When I was a kid, I had a plastic coin sorter. It was completely passive---there were no moving parts. It operated by gravity: I'd just scoop coins into its funnel, and, relying on different ramp angles and slot sizes, the jumble of coins would end up neatly *organized* into stacks of dimes, pennies, nickels, and quarters. Obviously, the device was intelligently designed, but how does that device function as a "Maxwell's demon" described previously? How does it tend toward disorganization? Heat? -Q Querius
Thanks bornagain77 Yes, in theory there can be several Maxwell’s demons functioning and producing work. Differently, Darwin’s demon, given its purely stochastic nature, will never produce organization. niwrad
niwrad, this recent paper may be of interest: Maxwell's demon can use quantum information to generate work - Dec. 18, 2013 http://phys.org/news/2013-12-maxwell-demon-quantum.html bornagain77

Leave a Reply