Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Granville Sewell on the first “self-replicating” cardboard box


Which, of course, tests claims about “the first simple self-replicator” in nature:

I do not believe scientists actually have any clue as to how the first living things evolved into intelligent, conscious human beings (see my video “Why Evolution Is Different“). However, to appreciate that the first step is not a small problem you only have to realize that with all our advanced technology we are still not close to designing any type of self-replicating machine. That is still pure science fiction. So how could we imagine that such a machine could have arisen by pure chance?

A Self-Replicating Box

To understand why human-engineered self-replicating machines are so far beyond current human technology, let’s imagine trying to design something as “simple” as a self-replicating cardboard box. Let’s place an empty cardboard box (A) on the floor, and to the right of it let’s construct a box (B) with a box-building factory inside it. I’m not sure exactly what the new box would need to build an empty box, but I assume it would at least have to have some metal parts to cut and fold the cardboard and a motor with a battery to power these parts. In reality, to be really self-replicating like living things, it would have to go get its own cardboard, so maybe it would need wheels and an axe to cut down trees and a small sawmill to make cardboard out of wood. But let’s be generous and assume humans are still around to supply the cardboard. Well, of course box B is not a self-replicating machine, because it only produces an empty box A.

So, to the right of this box, let’s build another box C which contains a fully automated factory that can produce box B’s. This is a much more complicated box…

Granville Sewell, “The First “Simple” Self-Replicator?” at Evolution News and Science Today (September 13, 2021)

But then people wouldn’t dare say anything as silly about the origin of boxes as they feel free to say about the origin of life forms …

Excellent narrative. polistra

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