Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger

Posted: October 18, 2006 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

The Miracles of Darwinism



Marcel-Paul Schutzenberger, a French mathematician was interviewed shortly before his death in 1996 by La Recherche.

In this interview he states:

‘Organisms present themselves to us as a complex ensemble of functional interrelationships. If one is going to explain their evolution, one must at the same time explain their functionality and their complexity.’

Darwinian evolution can be briefly expressed as:

Random mutation + Natural selection + time = observed complexity.

Observed complexity includes: structure, function, homeostasis, developmental cascades, interrelationships of parts, in higher organisms, a suite of neural responses to stimuli, learning, immunity, and reproduction (sexual/asexual) mechanisms of sustaining informational fidelity, to name but a small few factors making up observed complexity.

Schutzenberger though not a biologist, felt the discipline of mathematics had something to offer the debate; this stance was encouraged by Biologist.

His branch of study was Combinatorics. I’ve never heard of it before –apparently it is the study of collections of elements and how they combined –they’re permutations, and the mathematical relations that characterize their properties. Clear? Good.

Schtzenberger further says:

‘We do not have at our disposal physical or chemical rules permitting us to construct a mapping from typographical mutations or modification to biologically effective structures…what is significant is the combination of their interacting. These cascading interactions, with their feedback loops, express an organization whose complexity we do not know how to analyse….Dawkins model (of cumulative selection) lays entirely to the side the triple problems of complexity, functionality and their interaction.’

Schutzenberger is asked to formalise a concept of functional complexity this for me is the most interesting quote, he says:

‘I would appeal to a notion banned by the scientific community, but one understood perfectly by every one else -that of a goal. As a computer scientist, I could express this in the following way. One constructs a space within which one of the coordinates serves in effect as the thread of Ariadne, guiding the trajectory towards a goal. Once the space is constructed, the system evolves in a mechanical way toward its goal.’

This final quote reminds me of the goal directed implication in Mike Gene’s front-loading idea.

A tantalising paper (I haven’t read) only seen a abstract of, is:

Ausio, J. 2000. Are linker histones (histone H1) dispensible for survival? BioEssays 22: 873-877.

Mike Gene puts it like this:

‘In this paper, Ausio covers a lot of evidence whereby histone H1, which functions to link nucleosomes and thus more efficiently package DNA in eukaryotes, is not essential for survival and reproduction in filamentous fungi. If we eliminate H1 function in Ascolobus and Aspergillus, the cells are perfectly viable with no deleterious consequence on the sexual reproduction cycle. The same results were previously seen in the protozoan Tetrahymena. However, in the fungi mentioned, elimination of H1 does result in the cessation of growth within a week or two. In other words, elimination of H1 does not affect viability or reproduction, but only the life-span of the individual organism (however, with Aspergillus, elimination of H1 does not even effect the life span of the organism and has no apparent effect).’

Front loading is goal directed and as such is a teleological theory still to be flesh out. Clearly not everything was front-loaded. Yet frontloading as a concept is goal directed.

  1. edarrell says:

    Chemical “front-loading” is well understood by chemists, and most biologists who work at it, though apparently not clear to Shutzenberger and other modern creationists.

    It is this: Hydrogen and water have rather fixed ways they can combine; chemical reactions are not random at all.

    Got that?

    It means that, if we combust hydrogen and oxygen, we get H2O. We don’t usually get H3O, or H7O, or HO2. The chemical “rules” don’t allow that. So do describe it as “fantastic that water exists” is entertaining, but not really accurate, considering the existence of oxygen and hydrogen in the same areas of the universe.

    Now, does Schutzenberger really impute a “goal” to the hydrogen and oxygen involved? Do they really strive to become a water molecule? Or is that only in passing on their way to becoming H2O2? Or on the way to H2SO4? Which is the higher “being,” and where is the intent?

    The more we learn about biology — and there are huge gaps in knowledge, all real scientists admit, begging for research to be done — the more we find simple mathematical formulae to describe the behavior of molecules, cells, populations and systems. One may argue that it looks designed, but when the studies show there to be few other possibilities, physically and chemically, it’s rather futile to rail at what is described.

    Many of us in the religious camp are quite content to let it be that God’s design is, so far, beyond our ken. Scripture keeps telling us that. It’s always been a mystery to me why they can’t let God be God, but instead insist on drawing difficult to see lines in non-existent sand, and insisting that God must choose one side or the other to be on. It’s all God’s stuff. Who are the creationists to tell Him He must choose?

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