# Can anyone find flaws in this mathematical proof?

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Posts
• #18403
ninjawearingnike
Participant

Hello,

One of my college professors recently sent me this PDF detailing his mathematical/biological proof against the theory of evolution. As I’m just a freshman, my biology/math knowledge isn’t quite up to speed with everything he talks about in the paper, so I was wondering if any of you guys could find flaws in his proof. Before anyone chalks this up to ‘crazy talk’ by a religious fundamentalist, my professor did his undergrad and Masters at Harvey Mudd, so he definitely knows his way around science. Please keep your critiques to strictly science, math, and logic-based arguments.

Thank you!

• #116217
claudepa
Participant

Do not be impressed by mathematical equations. I was trained in mathematics and after I became a biologist. In the begining of my work as a biology researcher I tried to make mathematical models explaining my biological results. And then I found that biology is far too complicated to be mathematically modelised. The important mathematics in biology are statistics in order to be sure that the result obtained is significant and reproducible, because there are many many hidden parameters in a biology experiment that can vary from one experiment to an other. I then understood that it was much more important to have a valid biological result than any sophisticated equation trying to mathematically explain the result obtained. When Albert Einstein used a lot of mathematics for the theory of relativity it finally did not mean much until physicists designed experiments that validated the theory. Here we have mathematics with many starting hypothesis which cannot anyway offer experiments to prove that they are valid. Darwin did not need many mathematics, only to observe nature and then to think about his observations. When Darwin proposed mutations as a motor for evolution a long time was needed after him to discover the structure and nature of DNA and to understand what are really these mutations. This process seems to me rather similar to the physics experiments which confirmed the theory of relativity. Mathematics and Computers are now stronger than chess game players but they are not yet better than intelligent researchers.

• #116218
Jautis
Participant

The proof itself seems fine, but the question is what does this proof actually show. The document argues it is asking ‘What’s the minimum randomly-generated molecule size that can be expected to self-replicate?’ Actually, it says "What is the probability that a circovirus could have been generated by chance?" and then argues that the minimum information content needed for replication is the same as the smallest genome that we know of, the circovirus.

I agree that a circovirus is extremely unlikely to be generated by chance, but a circovirus is also not the origin of life or the starting point for selection and evolution.

When we talk about the origins of life and self-replicating genetic material, we’re talking about RNA strands in the primordial soup. We already know of self-replicating RNA enzymes that are less than 100bp (refer to https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shor … rna-e.html and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943892/, although I’m sure there are more recent findings). Furthermore, the earliest forms of self-replication did not need to perfectly reproduce themselves, just make something that looks sort of similar. Selection would then create more of the most successful of these variants (success here being defined purely as how many copies similar to itself were produced), ratcheting up the amount of fidelity/speed of replication.

So, what do we know about early earth conditions around the time life emerged? We know that there were naturally occurring nucleic acids and RNA strands in the environment. Is it possible that one (or more of these strands) had some self replicating properties? Definitely. We’ve made finite sets of RNA in the lab that have some self-replicating properties. After that point, you’re no longer talking about a random process but one that is influenced by selection.

• #116220
ninjawearingnike
Participant
quote claudepa:

Do not be impressed by mathematical equations. I was trained in mathematics and after I became a biologist. In the begining of my work as a biology researcher I tried to make mathematical models explaining my biological results. And then I found that biology is far too complicated to be mathematically modelised. The important mathematics in biology are statistics in order to be sure that the result obtained is significant and reproducible, because there are many many hidden parameters in a biology experiment that can vary from one experiment to an other. I then understood that it was much more important to have a valid biological result than any sophisticated equation trying to mathematically explain the result obtained. When Albert Einstein used a lot of mathematics for the theory of relativity it finally did not mean much until physicists designed experiments that validated the theory. Here we have mathematics with many starting hypothesis which cannot anyway offer experiments to prove that they are valid. Darwin did not need many mathematics, only to observe nature and then to think about his observations. When Darwin proposed mutations as a motor for evolution a long time was needed after him to discover the structure and nature of DNA and to understand what are really these mutations. This process seems to me rather similar to the physics experiments which confirmed the theory of relativity. Mathematics and Computers are now stronger than chess game players but they are not yet better than intelligent researchers.

I get what you’re trying to say, but can you point out specifically which part of the document went wrong e.g. which "hidden parameters" the doc did not include in the proof? And I would argue that math is the fundamental force behind every single thing, and if something cannot be proven mathematically feasible then it is not feasible at all.

• #116221
ninjawearingnike
Participant
quote Jautis:

The proof itself seems fine, but the question is what does this proof actually show. The document argues it is asking ‘What’s the minimum randomly-generated molecule size that can be expected to self-replicate?’ Actually, it says “What is the probability that a circovirus could have been generated by chance?” and then argues that the minimum information content needed for replication is the same as the smallest genome that we know of, the circovirus.

I agree that a circovirus is extremely unlikely to be generated by chance, but a circovirus is also not the origin of life or the starting point for selection and evolution.

When we talk about the origins of life and self-replicating genetic material, we’re talking about RNA strands in the primordial soup. We already know of self-replicating RNA enzymes that are less than 100bp (refer to https://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shor … rna-e.html and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3943892/, although I’m sure there are more recent findings). Furthermore, the earliest forms of self-replication did not need to perfectly reproduce themselves, just make something that looks sort of similar. Selection would then create more of the most successful of these variants (success here being defined purely as how many copies similar to itself were produced), ratcheting up the amount of fidelity/speed of replication.

So, what do we know about early earth conditions around the time life emerged? We know that there were naturally occurring nucleic acids and RNA strands in the environment. Is it possible that one (or more of these strands) had some self replicating properties? Definitely. We’ve made finite sets of RNA in the lab that have some self-replicating properties. After that point, you’re no longer talking about a random process but one that is influenced by selection.

Ah, those are very valid points you made. I will show this to my professor and see what he says ðŸ™‚