Re: more on `quantum evolution'

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Wed Mar 01 2000 - 19:53:57 MST

At 08:00 AM 1/03/00 -0500, Brian Atkins <> wrote:

>You did read Teranesia?

In proof, almost before anyone else, as it happens.

That was a novel. This is a scientific claim.

I should add that Johnjoe's page obviously has many rhetorical defects; his
arguments have holes; I don't care to nitpick on that level. The core idea
itself might be a cool addition to what's going on, even though other
partial explanations help account for some of the effects he's describing.
(You've gotta love those superposed buckythangs, BTW.) As a critique, I'm
more impressed by a line of thought a pal sent me, which I'll paste in to
advance the discussion:


Anyway, Egan and this author pull the same stunt with evolution (at least
Egan's version was speculative; he wasn't saying evolution had followed
this course, just that it could in the future). That is, in order to
explain the remarkable rise in evolutionary complexity, he calls on quantum
uncertainty and talks about quantum collapse/multiple universes. But what
he has completely failed to do is provide the slightest reason *why* the
quantum field should collapse on an outcome that is evolutionarily
superior. After all, in the double-slit experiment, it's still random which
slit the photon/electron/fullerene atom goes through. The amazing feature
of the double-slit experiment (and it is genuinely amazing) has nothing at
all to do with selective pressure on the photon/electron/fullerene atom to
go through a "good" slit preferentially to a "bad" slit. If you want to
make electrons pass preferentially through one of the slits, you need to
apply an EM field gradient across the slits. Then it will preferentially
collapse on one of the slits. But this is the same as having selection
pressure in biological evolution.


And let me put it a third way, this time drawing on evolutionary theory
rather than QM. If this multi-universe/quantum collapse evolution was real,
then presumably we'd see evolution being the result of the best mutations
anywhere in the multiverse leaking into our reality. To me this would tend
to indicate that evolution should have provided almost perfect gene pools.
After all, why would we have sub-optimal peroxidase enzymes (you know what
I'm talking about Damien) if we had access to all the possible mutations?
We've managed to "evolve" better-than-natural peroxidases in laboratories,
so how come these brilliant super-potent enzymes haven't sprung into
existence naturally? So the quantum multiverse argument really starts to
look a lot like the God arguments again, only not the God of the Gaps here
but the Perfect God creating Imperfect Beings. Why did the Creationist God
make so many silly desogn errors of he was an omniscient omnipotent
designer? It is the most telling argument against Creationism. Likewise,
with an infinite (or at least cosmically large) supply of parallel
universes to choose from, why did we get so many dud features? In fact,
given that probability goes out the window in the multiverse, why didn't we
end up in a Universe where complex life arose spontaneously as soon as
organic chemicals entered the universe? Why have evolution at all? Surely
somewhere in the multiverse the complete DNA for an organism as complex as
a human spontaneously came together? Egan's TERANESIA does actually answer
this question by making it clear that quantum evolution was only possible
once a bizarre gene came into existence -- an event that took 4 billion
years of evolution on Earth. It's a fascinating concept (even if Egan does
push the teleology into the red) when presented as speculation about future
evolutionary trends. But it's a terrible explanation for the living
complexity that already exists on the planet.

As you can see, I'm with Paul Davies on this one. However, it's still a
fascinating idea and I hasten to add that I can't absolutely *exclude* its
possibility either.


Call this the `no way, Dr Pangloss' critique.


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