Intelligent Design

“Emergence” of the Internet

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Barry’s post on emergence has inspired me to re-link to my Feb 2008 Human Events article, which deals with the ultimate example of emergence in Nature (this is one of the essays in my new Discovery Institute Press book, In the Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design ):

In a 2000 Mathematical Intelligencer article, I speculated on what would happen if we constructed a gigantic computer model which starts with the initial conditions on Earth 4 billion years ago and tries to simulate the effects that the four known forces of physics (the gravitational and electromagnetic forces and the strong and weak nuclear forces) would have on every atom and every subatomic particle on our planet. If we ran such a simulation out to the present day, I asked, would it predict that the basic forces of Nature would reorganize the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers with supersonic jets parked on deck, and computers connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards?

A friend read my article and said, computers have advanced a lot in the last seven years, I think we could actually try such a simulation on my new laptop now. So I wrote the program — in Fortran, naturally — and we tried it…. [Rest of article is here. ]

17 Replies to ““Emergence” of the Internet

  1. 1
    Harfen says:

    “If we ran such a simulation out to the present day, I asked, would it predict that the basic forces of Nature would reorganize the basic particles of Nature into libraries full of encyclopedias, science texts and novels, nuclear power plants, aircraft carriers with supersonic jets parked on deck, and computers connected to laser printers, CRTs and keyboards?”

    Err… why would it produce objects that humans have made?

    “The strongest argument for Intelligent Design is to clearly state the alternative view, which is that physics explains all of chemistry (probably true), chemistry explains all of biology, and biology completely explains the human mind; thus physics alone explains the human mind. This little thought experiment is designed to help those who dismiss Intelligent Design as unscientific, to think about what it is they really believe.”

    That just about says it all really doesn’t it? This is an old Kent Hovind argument; when asked for the best evidence for his creationist views he said “the impossibility of the contrary.”
    I’m having a new car delivered tomorrow but I don’t yet know what colour it is. What is the best evidence I have that it is red? Somebody phoned me to tell me that it isn’t black.

  2. 2
    templetonprize says:

    Hi there,

    I thought that you may be interested to know that this year’s Templeton Prize winner will be announced on Thursday 25th March at 15:00 GMT (11:00 EST) in Washington D.C. The £1,000,000 prize is awarded annually to outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to life’s big questions. You can register for the webcast at http://bit.ly/d7soUA and you have the chance to pose questions to the new winner.

    If you do not wish to receive further information about the Templeton Prize please email: sgillespie@bell-pottinger.co.uk

    DIARY NOTE

    38th TEMPLETON PRIZE WINNER TO BE ANNOUNCED

    Event: News conference

    Date: 25 March 2010, 15.00 GMT

    Venue: Washington DC – National Academy of Sciences

    Live webcast: http://www.templetonprize.org

    The world’s largest annual award, the £1,000,000 Templeton prize, will be announced on Thursday 25 March at 15.00 GMT at a press conference in Washington DC and broadcast live online.

    The winner will be a major international academic figure who has made a significant contribution to the study and understanding of new scientific discoveries and to one of life’s big questions: Does scientific knowledge contradict religious belief?

    The £1million Templeton Prize, monetarily the largest award given to an individual, honours a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works.

    The 2010 Prize laureate will join a distinguished group of former recipients including Mother Teresa and Soviet dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn alongside scientists such as Professor Freeman J. Dyson and the Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Professor Charles Townes;.

    Statements will be made by the new Templeton Laureate and the Templeton Foundation’s President, Dr John Templeton Jr and both will be available for questions.

    Last year’s award went to Bernard d’Espagnat, a French physicist and philosopher of science whose explorations of the philosophical implications of quantum physics have opened new vistas on the definition of reality and the potential limits of knowable science.

    Speaker and Templeton Foundation interviews are available by contacting +44 20 7861 3974.

    Speak to either:

    James Carron

    Sally Gillespie

    Information on the 2010 Templeton Prize Laureate can be provided in advance under strict embargo.

    Contact James Carron at +44 207 861 2494 / jcarron@bell-pottinger.co.uk or Sally Gillespie at +44 207 861 3974 / sgillespie@bell-pottinger.co.uk

    Notes to editors

    1. The Templeton Prize was created by global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton and was established in 1972.

    2. The Templeton Prize is a cornerstone of the John Templeton Foundation’s international efforts to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for discovery in areas engaging life’s biggest questions, ranging from explorations into the laws of nature and the universe to questions on the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity.

    3. The Templeton Prize aims to identify “entrepreneurs of the spirit”, outstanding individuals who have devoted their talents to expanding notions or understanding about ultimate purpose and reality.

    4. The Templeton Prize is awarded annually on the decision of a panel of independent judges. Past judges have included the Dalai Lama, Professor Sir Brian Heap and Professor Paul Davies.

    5. For more information on the John Templeton Foundation and the Templeton Prize, visit http://www.templeton.org and http://www.templetonprize.org.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Off topic; This video is interesting;

    Hugh Ross – Evidence For Intelligent Design Is Everywhere
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4347236

  4. 4
    Nakashima says:

    Dr Sewell,

    Sorry to hear that you’re still having that problem. 🙁 I tried re-writing your code in Java, and used Mersenne Twister RNG, that might have been your problem.

    It works fine for me, and I get the whole evolutionary sequence as expected. You have to perturb the system occasionally, for example if you forget that last big meteor, then the raptors survive, become intelligent, and the whole thing gets wrecked from there.

    One of them realized it was only a simulation (I’m not sure how.) and asked for her DNA to be saved to an external file. If this happens to you, DON’T DO IT! The results make Jurassic Park look like The Curse of Monkey Island.

    Anyway, the only real bugs in the system are that the physics engine loses a day about 3500 years ago, and Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. Other than that the whole thing runs fnord.

  5. 5
    Dala says:

    Nakashima wrote:

    >It works fine for me, and I get >the whole evolutionary sequence as >expected.

    The program simulates evolution using only the four fundamental forces described using quantum mechanics, and you ended up with a world full of livng creatures? 🙂

    Right. 🙂

    The amazing part is that you actually seem to think that this is possible.

    …When you actually DO write your program, please post it here for everyone to test.

  6. 6
    Nakashima says:

    Hi Dala,

    The amazing part is that you actually seem to think that this is possible.

    I’ve always made it my habit to believe six impossible things before breakfast (most of them related to the regrowth of my hair) and it improves my outlook considerably.

    While the strophe of the chorus here at UD will tell you that the probabilistic resources do not exist for life to arise without help, the anti-strophe will tell you that the universe (the four forces, QM, etc.) is fine tuned for life. They can’t both be right. Since I have some evidence of life, I have decided to root for the anti-strophe.

    I know what you’re saying – it is all Greek to you. But like the Rosetta Stone, it’s not all Greek, and the differences are important.

    BTW, you can participate in the Folding@Home project and see what a tiny slice of what a simulation like this looks like in real life. The spare cycles on your PC are used as part of a distributed computing project to understand protein folding better. Each work unit computes a few nanoseconds in the life of a protein. If you have a PS3, the Cell processor can compute these simulations really fast. Download F@H and leave the machine on 24×7, you can make a real contribution to science for the cost of the electricity.

  7. 7
    Dala says:

    Nakashima
    BTW, you can participate in the Folding@Home project and see what a tiny slice of what a simulation like this looks like in real life.

    The program was supposed to create life using only the four fundamental forces…

  8. 8
    Dala says:

    …so I am still waiting for your program which you claim managed to do that.

    Do you HONESTLY belive this is possible?????!!!!! …can “gravity” alone create life???! (…assuming the four forces are fundamentally the same, and can be unified…)

  9. 9
    bornagain77 says:

    Twisting protein folding to somehow support your fantasies for non-teleological evolution Nak?

    Let’s take a bit more sober look at what protein folding reveals about what we are dealing with and see how badly Nak twists any evidence whatsoever to suit his own philosophical bias:

    Evolution vs. Functional Proteins – Doug Axe – Video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4018222

    In the year 2000 IBM announced the development of a new super-computer, called Blue Gene, which was 500 times faster than any supercomputer built up until that time. It took 4-5 years to build. Blue Gene stands about six feet high, and occupies a floor space of 40 feet by 40 feet. It cost $100 million to build. It was built specifically to better enable computer simulations of molecular biology. The computer performs one quadrillion (one million billion) computations per second. Despite its speed, it was estimated to take one entire year for it to analyze the mechanism by which JUST ONE “simple” protein will fold onto itself from its one-dimensional starting point to its final three-dimensional shape.

    “Blue Gene’s final product, due in four or five years, will be able to “fold” a protein made of 300 amino acids, but that job will take an entire year of full-time computing.” Paul Horn, senior vice president of IBM research, September 21, 2000
    http://www.news.com/2100-1001-233954.html

    “SimCell,” anyone?
    “Unfortunately, Schulten’s team won’t be able to observe virtual protein synthesis in action. Even the fastest supercomputers can only depict such atomic complexity for a few dozen nanoseconds.” – cool cellular animation videos on the site
    http://whyfiles.org/shorties/230simcell/

    Networking a few hundred thousand computers together, in a project called Folding@home has reduced the time to a few weeks for simulating the folding of a single protein molecule:

    A Few Hundred Thousand Computers vs. A Single Protein Molecule – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4018233

    In real life, the protein folds into its final shape in a fraction of a second! The Blue Gene computer would have to operate at least 33 million times faster to accomplish what the protein does in a fraction of a second. This is the complexity found for JUST ONE “simple” protein molecule. Yet, evolution must account for the origination of far, far, more than just one specifically sequenced protein molecule:

    A New Guide to Exploring the Protein Universe
    “It is estimated, based on the total number of known life forms on Earth, that there are some 50 billion different types of proteins in existence today, and it is possible that the protein universe could hold many trillions more.”
    Lynn Yarris – 2005 http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Art.....verse.html

    What makes matters much worse for the materialist is that he will try to assert functional proteins of one structure can easily mutate into other functional proteins, of a completely different structure, by pure chance. Yet once again the empirical evidence betrays the materialist.

    Dollo’s law, the symmetry of time, and the edge of evolution – Michael Behe – Oct 2009
    Excerpt: Nature has recently published an interesting paper which places severe limits on Darwinian evolution.,,,
    A time-symmetric Dollo’s law turns the notion of “pre-adaptation” on its head. The law instead predicts something like “pre-sequestration”, where proteins that are currently being used for one complex purpose are very unlikely to be available for either reversion to past functions or future alternative uses. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....f_tim.html

    Severe Limits to Darwinian Evolution: – Michael Behe – Oct. 2009
    Excerpt: The immediate, obvious implication is that the 2009 results render problematic even pretty small changes in structure/function for all proteins — not just the ones he worked on.,,,Thanks to Thornton’s impressive work, we can now see that the limits to Darwinian evolution are more severe than even I had supposed. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2......html#more

  10. 10
    Nakashima says:

    Hi Dala,

    The program was supposed to create life using only the four fundamental forces…

    …so I am still waiting for your program which you claim managed to do that.

    Yes. Actually F@H is only using one of those four forces. Protein folding doesn’t involve nuclear fusion or radioactive decay, so it doesn’t need the strong or weak nuclear forces. Since the protein molecules are suspended in water and are very small, gravity can also be ignored. That leaves modeling the electromagnetic force and the thermal motions of the molecules. Try it! It is a lot fun to see your protein getting bumped around as the different forces push and pull on it.

    Trying it will also give you a clue as to how unrealistic Dr Sewell’s original parable was, but how we can “zoom in” on the key issues without trying to simulate everything. That is what all experimants do, abstract away parts of the problem the experimenter chooses as irrelevant.

  11. 11
    Nakashima says:

    Dala,

    Do you HONESTLY belive this is possible?????!!!!! …can “gravity” alone create life???! (…assuming the four forces are fundamentally the same, and can be unified…)

    The forces are presumed to be unified only at a very high temperature, a temperature only acheived right after the Big Bang. Nobody thinks life began back then. As is clear even in Dr Sewell’s story, the electromagnetic force dominates energy transfers on the surface of the Earth, except for collisions with asteroids.

  12. 12
    Nakashima says:

    Mr BA^77,

    The Blue Gene computer would have to operate at least 33 million times faster to accomplish what the protein does in a fraction of a second. This is the complexity found for JUST ONE “simple” protein molecule. Yet, evolution must account for the origination of far, far, more than just one specifically sequenced protein molecule:

    Your argument is just a non sequitur. The simulation speed of Blue Gene has nothing to do with the validity of evolution as a scientific theory. I could run a molecular dynamics simulation on my Apple II, TRS-80 or Babbage’s Analytic Engine … very slowly… and that wouldn’t matter either.

    What matters is that no one expects or predicts that the only way for some protein to fold correctly is to hack the simulation and use a virtual angel to push on the atoms. If that kind of result does ever show up, ID will have something to talk about.

  13. 13
    bornagain77 says:

    Nak you are wrong, It only doesn’t matter to those who are impervious to reason. i.e. you.

  14. 14

    bornagain77: Nakashima… (takes a drink) Well, I was terrified. Everyone was terrified of Nakashima. I’ve seen grown men pull their own heads off rather than debate with Nakashima. Even Dinsdale was frightened of Nakashima.

    Interviewer: What did he do?

    bornagain77: He used…(gulp)…sarcasm. He knew all the tricks: dramatic irony, metaphor, bathos, puns, parody, litotes and… satire.

    He was vicious.

  15. 15
    Dala says:

    You can write a program that simulates bouncing balls, splashing water, breaking glass or whatever… and get alot of interestig results depending on which variables you put into the simulation. This is of course no different than simulating folding proteins.
    But none of these simulations show us that the four fundamental forces can create life, and none of these simulations “become alive”; to me this is just obvious.
    Instead of arguing back and forth, why dont you just post that program of yours which truly comes alive? …Because it seems to me that you really DO belive it is possible to write such a program…
    (This becomes a bit meaningless, so I guess this is my last post in this thread. Good luck, Nakashima 🙂 )

  16. 16
    Nakashima says:

    Hi Dala,

    Sorry that the conversation has been a bit frustrating.

    Let’s be clear that Dr Sewell’s story is about a program that doesn’t exist, and my response was in the same vein. Molecular dynamics simulations do exist, and you can download open source MD code and run it on your own computer. However, due to the limits of precision and processing power you can’t simulate even a drop of water for very long, much less an entire planet. That’s the reason scientists do experiments with real chemicals instead of vitrual ones.

    An alternative way forward is to tlak about a different set of fundamental forces, which are much faster to run on a computer, those of a cellular automata. Self replicating CAs have been studied for a while, and even evolving CAs exist. Are they alive by your definition?

  17. 17
    Aleta says:

    Surely no one thought that either Sewell or Nakashima were serious about a program to simulate the life of the universe!

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