Re: virus: Re : Did Darwin's plane go down?
Mon, 25 Nov 1996 21:14:02 -0600 (CST)

On Tue, 19 Nov 1996, David McFadzean wrote:

> At 10:51 PM 18/11/96 +0000, Hakeeb A. Nandalal wrote:
> >Darwin's Black Box : The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
> >by Michael J. Behe
> >
> > Books:
> >Michael J. Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, presents here a
> >scientific argument for the existence of God. Examining the evolutionary
> >theory of the origins of life, he can go part of the way with Darwin--he
> >accepts the idea that species have been differentiated by the mechanism of
> >natural selection from a common ancestor. But he thinks that the essential
> >randomness of this process can explain evolutionary development only at the
> >macro level, not at the micro level of his expertise. Within the
> >biochemistry of living cells, he argues, life is "irreducibly complex." This
> >is the last black box to be opened, the end of the road for science. Faced
> >with complexity at this level, Behe suggests that it can only be the product
> >of "intelligent design."
> >Something tells me this one won't make the David M. "suggested reading" list.
> That would be a good bet. Is it just me or does this sound like
> a "failure of imagination" argument? I don't have a degree in biochemistry
> but I still have trouble seeing how the biochemistry of cells could
> be "irreducibly complex." Are there any list members who can enlighten me?

There's a fallacious concept floating around, it landed in that book, and
it has at least one advocate in the Ivy League, judging by a recent lecture
that was mandatory for me to attend. [I don't think its originator was a

"Physics is simple; biology is complex."

I have played with both fields. The above results from a myopic view:

Physics has relatively few definitions, that can be easily translated
into math. Fudge constants usually require conceptually simple
measurements to define. [As CERN demonstrates by its very existence,

Biology has relatively many definitions, that are difficult to translate
precisely into math: many fudge constants are necessary, and (almost?) all
must be determined empirically rather than from a few simple measurements.
[Formally speaking, each species requires its own specialization of a
definition, at least.]

[Myopic view ends here]

Physics has phenomenally complicated interactions. The math describing
these interactions is almost invariably a system Partial Differential
Equations, where the first question is "does the @#?! solution exist?"

Biology [insofar as its interactions are understood], usually ends up on
large scales as a [possibly time-dependent] system of Ordinary
Differential Equations. This is much more tractable than the interactions
in physics. Existence and/or uniqueness of solutions is easy to
determine, even if actual computation is extremely difficult.
Probability complicates the computation at small scales.


I don't know which field is more complex. I *do* know that the complexity
in Physics lies in the interactions, while the complexity in Biology lies
in the definitions.

Undoubtedly, as biochemistry is reduced to normal physics, the complexity
will shift from the definitions to the interactions. This will "reduce
the complexity", for the definitions. The complexity moves over to the

/ Towards the conversion of data into information....
/ Kenneth Boyd