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The General Anti-Creationism FAQ

Chaos and Complexity

by Jim Meritt
Originally formatted for the web by Tedd Hadley
The Meritt FAQ has been replaced by Mark Isaak's extensive Index to Creationist Claims which is superior in almost every respect. It deals with topics relevant to this file in its physics section and its intelligent design section. Also see this Archive's thermodynamics FAQs and its irreducible complexity FAQs. The Meritt FAQ is preserved for archival purposes only and its text will not be updated.


Chaos and Complexity

Life is too complex to have happened by chance.

Another is the "randomness argument". What is "random", anyway? We are never told. It says that self organization cannot occur because the process is "blind" and "random" that is supposed to drive it. Never mind that the system has a finite number of states it can occupy and its history can constrain its future states. This borrows from the thermodynamic argument the confusion over entropy and open system states.

The theory of evolution doesn't say it did happen by chance. This argument completely ignores natural selection. Please read:

Life in Darwin's Universe
G. Bylinsky, Omni Sept 79
The Evolution of Ecological Systems
May, Scientific American, Sept 1978
Chemical Evolution and the Origin of Life
Dickerson, Scientific American, Sept 1978
The Evolution of the Earliest Cells
Schopf, Scientific American, Sept 1978
The Evolution of Multicellular Plants and Animals
Valentine, Scientific American, Sept 1978

Complexity from simplicity

``There was no primordial chaos before the big bang - not really. Instead, everything was neatly concentrated in one location. Then it scattered, and is still scattering, a disorderliness far exceeding the structural order of galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms which have appeared in the course of the process.'' [Poul Anderson "Science & Creation" Analog, Sept 1983]

Ref the information example. It is easy to get VERY complicated systems containing a tremendous amount of information starting from very simple, low information systems. Two methods:

  1. fractal structures - start with a very simple rule and repeat it over and over and over. The resulting structure can be (usually is) VERY complicated, but the formation equations can be very, very simple. And the universe has had a long time to do so. Example: Look at a snowflake.
  2. chaos - You can get very, very complicated systems if you use nonlinearities in the progression. That is why weather forecasting doesn't work.

Complexity does not imply design. Recursion or nonlinearity work quite well. And the world is recursive and very non-linear.

I went and got "Theory of Self-Reproducing Automata" by Von Neumann. You know that it was done in 1966 before most of the chaos & fractal work?

As an initial look, I see how this is NOT applicable to life as Micha tried to do in < 10541@dasys1.UUCP &gt. Looking at section 5.3.2 "Self-Reproducing automata" we find that, under his constraints, the secondary (initially quiescent) automaton is identical to the parent, except that the constructing automaton is larger, and in a sense more complex, because the construction automaton contains the complete plan and a unit which interprets and executes this plan. This should NOT apply to biological forms as discussed here because:

The plan IS the unit that executes itself. In Mary's term, the life is the language. and, what I consider more relevant The constructed automaton IS NOT A DUPLICATE of the constructing automaton. No parent unit that I am aware of (excluding fission reproduction, in which the parent unit cannot be identified afterwards) is the child a duplication of the parent. In every case that I am aware of the constructed unit is a simpler and much smaller unit, which grows OF ITSELF into a near-copy of the original. Since the complexity is added AFTER the reproduction process, the reproduction process should not be a limiting factor. Proof: watch almost ANYTHING grow up.

Therefore, while the descent is INITIALLY simpler than the parent, its final state can be more complex. Therefore, the argument that information theory proves that life could not have come from non-life is invalid.

BTW: New systems of cooperating parts have evolved, and they are not even biological. See "The Evolution of Cooperation", in particular the computer simulations in which the routines "decide" ON THEIR OWN that cooperation is "better".

Evolution violates the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

Not true. The 2nd law of thermodynamics applies only to closed systems. The Earth is not a closed system.

That if thermo could somehow forbid evolution, then it would also forbid babies from growing to be adults, and parents from having children. In fact, we are agents of entropy: we organize our bodies at the expense of the organization of our environment, which we digest and burn.

Creationists often (ab)use the Second Law of Thermodynamics, apparently not realizing that it explicitly states, " a closed system...". By definition, a closed system cannot contain anything external to itself. A Creator who is entirely bounded by His own creation seems non-sensical, and I can't imagine that many creationists would accept such a limited God anyway. Thus, God and Thermodynamics are mutually exclusive; to invoke the Second Law is to claim that God left!!!!!

A subsequent portion of the outline again invokes entropy, stating that "all species are degenerating, since disorder must increase". Ignoring the Theological arguments for the moment, we reiterate, " a CLOSED system...". Earth is hardly a closed system. To find a LARGE source of negative entropy, one need only look upward on a clear day. The sun delivers approximately 1 horse-power per square meter (sorry for the mixed units, I don't recall the conversion factor to joules/sec) of free energy to the biosphere. Likewise, meteors shower us with several tonnes per day of extra mass, some of it in pre-biotic form - i.e. complex carbon molecules such as formaldehyde and others. Larger objects such as comets and Icarus class asteroid strikes transfer huge amounts of mass, energy, and momentum to the earth. Orbital perturbations and decay, friction from the moon's gravity, and radioactive decay, all add to the total. Sorry, entropy as a disproof of cosmological and biological evolution simply won't wash. Spread the word. [It appears that, more recently, the creationists have been hammered enough with the inapplicability of the Second Law of Thermodynamics that they have modified it slightly -- the reference is now to a closed universe, not a closed Earth; the rest of the argument remains essentially unchanged.]

Creationists say that systems cannot self-organize because that would violate the second law of thermodynamics, never mind that such systems are not at equilibrium and are open systems.

These laws affirm the fact that the creation of matter or energy is not know taking place, and, in fact, that the available energy of the universe as a whole is continually running down rather than building up.

Point of fact, matter IS being created currently. Also destroyed. See "virtual particles". And the "available energy of the universe as a whole" says nothing about localities within it...

Various conceivable patterns fail to emerge, despite an overwhelming tendency to diversify.

There is always luck. If the mutation does not occur, you cannot select for it. Evolution is not aimed. That's a deity's job. Evolution handles the current entity, not some future not-yet-conceived entity for some not-yet environment.

If life arose by chance, half of the amino acids should be right-handed; in fact, all are left-handed.

Once the preference for one enantiomer over another gets started in nature, it is relatively easy to see how this preference is perpetuated. Biological reactions work much like machines having templates, stamping out the preferred, and ONLY the preferred configuration generation after generation after generation.

As to how one became initially started, there are many possibilities:

  1. Luck. The first one to form just happened to be L, and then the rest followed.
  2. There may be some effect during formation due to coriolis force or the (hemisphere dependent) magnetic field (as lightening went DOWN, the effect may be polarized)
  3. Quantitative calculations indicate that the fundamentally left-handed neutral-weak force with the electromagnetic force could introduce an energy preference (very slight). Aside from any steric preferences, one form could be energetically more stable than the other.

[William C. McHarris Professor of Chemistry and of Physics and of Astronomy at Michigan State University "Handedness in Nature" January 1986 Analog]

Mathematical probability: "it is so improbable that one and only one species out of 3,0000,000 should develop into man, that it certainly was not the case".

Whence the 3,000,000 number, and how is the "improbability" assigned? Some say inevitable... If 500 developed into man, how would you tell? Besides, given the way evolution works, one would dominate and 499 would have (while developing) be suppressed, quite likely into extinction. The "less successful" are extinct or in zoos.

The repeated occurrence of changes calling for numerous coordinated innovations, both at the level of organs and of complete organisms.

First, how do you determine that "numerous coordinated innovations" are required? That may merely be your evaluation. For instance, some of the common examples:

poisonous snakes - fangs & poison glands.
A Gila monster has poison glands with no fangs, and there are snakes with furrowed fangs with no poison glands.
fish to land animal - legs and lungs.
The mudpuppy is a fish without lungs that goes on the land, and the ceoclanth (sp) has almost legs with no lungs. And then there is the African Lungfish, the floridian walking catfish,...

Coral snakes (southern US) don't have a very sophisticated delivery system - they also chew on their victims to deliver the poison. I'm not very familiar with the anatomy of a coral snake, but it does not have the usual "fangs" associated in the popular mind with a poisonous snake - as I recall there is just a small sac or pore at the base of what look like ordinary reptilian teeth.

The last time I studied poisonous snakes (some years ago), it was thought that poison delivery had evolved several times, independently, in snakes. This was based on differences in toxins and in delivery systems, as well as its occurrence in otherwise distantly related snakes, all of which have closely similar non-poisonous forms. The delivery systems cover the whole range from the simple, rather typical, teeth of the coral snake to the elaborate, retractile, tubular fangs of pit-vipers. Some have slightly elongate "fangs" with simple grooves on one side, for instance. Thus, we can see almost the entire range of intermediate anatomies in evolving fangs purely in living species. Gap?? What gap? We do not even need the fossils, which we also have.

And how many of these "numerous coordinated innovations" can be caused by one change? Check out, for instance, the effect of changing the age at which bone growth stops in human beings.

This needs to be elaborated. If a genome is being stressed to some metastable level where its states can multiply, then rapid changes to more than one structure in the organism can occur simultaneously.

Chaos Theory

As far as the brain obeying certain chaotic processes, the brain is too structured and controlled to allow anything like that to occur. Biological processes are very closely controlled in the body and in the brain. That is necessary for survival. Reflexes are something the brain cannot control. Your heart beats regularly and you breathe in your sleep. Your brain releases hormones at just the right moment to allow you to run away from a lion, or, when cornered, fight off an attacker with more strength than you thought you had. When you consider the mind as it is usually defined (the thinking, conscious part of the brain), it must also function properly at all times, or you would not be able to survive. Evolutionary pressures would not favor a mind which works on a process based on chaos theory.

The connection of chaos with complex real living systems is circumstantial, but suggestive. I do not have a firm demonstration that full-blown living processes are adequately described by systems of nonlinear differential equations. Two examples I have heard about, I do not have references, are human brain waves can be modeled with a strange attractor, and a good model of cardiac electrical function and sudden failure has been built using chaos.

The fundamental principle of evolution - the concept of development, with increasing organization and complexity - seems to be essentially contradictory to the impregnably established laws of energy conservation and deterioration.

Huh? If by "development" he means adaption to the environment I have no idea what "increasing organization and complexity" is fundamental for. And maybe by "deterioration" he means "entrophy or enthalpy"?

We have never seen any natural processes which result in a complexity increase.

This is easy. Are you familiar with a small creature called a "Volvox"? This is a small spherical animal that lives in the water and is made up of individual cells of algae.

Separate algae cells have been observed organizing into a Volvox, with the advantage of being able to propel itself in a way similar to an octopus, and capture food inside the sphere. The algae cells operate in a unified manner, just as the cells in a larger organism do.

Here is a clear example of increased complexity for the sake of survival. Since mutation is factual (i.e. we have observed mutation, so it is not conjecture), why do you find it so hard to believe that increasingly complex organizations of cells, combined with favorable mutations, can result in a higher form of life?

I have a biological example. The cat in my house has a pair of extra toes growing inward on both of its forepaws. This is not unknown, and I have seen it before. Even more interesting, I have seen the cat use those extra toes as a human would use a thumb to grip small objects, such as a penny, in a manner that a cat with ordinary forepaws could not. A new part, adapted from an old part that all others of the species has. A new ability that others of the species doesn't have. An increase in complexity in a biological context.

The great complexity of nature shows it was designed. Laws require a lawmaker; organization requires an organizer.

No, it doesn't. The patterns within a kaleidoscope are very complex, and extremely organized (in the sense of symmetrical patterning) but are not designed.

There is not the slightest genuine evidence of biological life as we understand it anywhere else in the universe.

There are a LOT of complex chemicals of extraterrestrial origins composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and I think even a bit of sulfur. And the Viking has found some odd reactions. And if you don't mind taking environmental conditions more alien than mars as "elsewhere", I have seen some dandy pictures of things that sure look like life in eternal blackness, no oxygen, hotter than a pot of boiling water,...

Evolution doesn't explain abiogenesis or how genes are expressed.

To the creationists. And it does explain how to study the unknown, rather than bowing out.

All of my statements, past, present and future express solely my opinions and/or beliefs and do not in any way represent those of any of my employer's unless such is specifically stated in the content of the text.

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