Boltzmann Brains and evolution

In the “Elon Musk” discussion, in the midst of a whole lotta epistemology goin’ on, commenter BruceS referred to the concept of a “Boltzmann Brain” and suggested that Boltzmann didn’t know about evolution. (In fact Boltzmann did know about evolution and thought Darwin’s work was hugely important). The Boltzmann Brain is a thought experiment about a conscious brain arising in a thermodynamic system which is at equilibrium. Such a thing is interesting but vastly improbable.

BruceS explained that he was thinking of a reddit post where the commenter invoked evolution to explain why we don’t need extremely improbable events to explain the existence of our brains (the comment will be found here).

What needs to be added is that all that does not happen in an isolated system at thermodynamic equilibrium, or at least it has a fantastically low probability of happening there.  The earth-sun system is not at thermodynamic equilibrium.  Energy is flowing outwards from the sun, at high temperature, some is hitting the earth, and some is taken up by plants and then some by animals, at lower temperatures.

It is really the same argument that can be made against Granville Sewell’s nonsensical “Second Law” arguments against evolution.  Sewell makes it sound absurd that random evolutionary particles could form buildings and computers.  He does this by leaving out the intermediate steps where the particles aggregate into atoms, those into molecules, those into rocks, those into planets, and then energy flow from the sun to those planets enables life to exist.  All processes that are far from thermodynamic equilibrium.  Life lives by harnessing some of that energy flow.  All of this has been understood since … well, since Boltzmann.

Boltzmann Brains are too improbable to worry about, but single-celled organisms do develop sensitivity to their environment, involving waves of excitation that involve electrochemical potentials  across their cell membranes.  And when multicellular animals developed, some cells specialized in doing that, leading ultimately to Ludwig Boltzmann’s own brain.

Those processes do not simply result from thermodynamic fluctuations in an equilibrium system.

77 thoughts on “Boltzmann Brains and evolution”

  1. BruceS

    Allan Miller:
    keiths,

    Well – I reject it thus!

    Is it possible, in an infinity of universes or time? Quantum effects are soon wiped out even when you get up to the atomic scale, let alone the molecular and supra-molecular. I think, in both cases, people are envisioning an infinitely shrinking probability that never gets to zero. But why doesn’t it?

    And the other issue remains – as a Boltzmann Brain of whichever cause, why would I experience, in my illusory perceptual world, the very behaviour which caused my existence in the ‘real outer world’? Quantum fluctuations happen ‘in here’, not ‘out there’.

    The sequence of events needed is not infinite, thought is somewhat large, I admit. So that is why the probability does not shrink to zero. The time in which they have to occur is infinite, by hypothesis.

    Now, I do have one caveat. I did say assuming the joint probability is zero. If there is some thermodynamic reason which make that not so, ie not only are the events not independent but they become mutually exclusive, then my argument fails. But since real brains get built all the time, it must be thermodynamically possible, though of course I understand that in our world it happens by means other than via fluke.

    Something similar to your second point bothers me as well, and I just posted about it.

  2. Allan Miller

    BruceS,

    I (and Carroll, I guess) are missing something in your argument. After all, brain configurations can exist. The brain in which I am having this thought exists now.

    For sure, and it arose through a particular thermodynamic path, involving stellar nucleosynthesis, supernovas, solar accretion, and evolution. You’re suggesting there is a thermodynamic short cut, a path that that exists that goes some other way. But it doesn’t really make physical sense to me, because I can’t envision the precursor conditions that are supposed to precede the exploration of this path, in any universe. It’s obviously not possible to get a brain out of a box full of hydrogen, of whatever size, by simply fluctuating thermodynamics ‘the wrong way’, no matter how many times one tries – yea, even up to infinity. Nor a box full of the precise atomic or molecular constituents of a brain – where did they come from? Obviously, you can do it the way it’s been done. But the proposal is that, in an infinite uni- or multi-verse, there are rather vague ‘other ways’.

    We are not talking about some state made impossible eg by the gravitational attraction of its components.

    Well, we could be, though that’s not the whole of my argument. During heat death, when no further useful work can be extracted, among the likely scenarios will be the accretion of matter in black holes. High entropy means accretion when there is mass. In fact, could be one super-supermassive black hole, gradually evaporating with a faint hiss for another 10^100 years till a final ‘fffft’.

  3. keithskeiths

    Bruce:

    Having a thought is a process, not a state, and I don’t know if a BB randomly assembled can exist long enough to have a thought. I guess you have to assume enough of the required biological support to allow the time for that process to occur.

    That works, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    We don’t actually know that we have thoughts extending over time.

    At any given moment, all we have is the present state of our brains, plus whatever memories (both short-term and long-term) are encoded in that state. Those memories could be Boltzmanned just like the rest of the brain.

    So a Boltzmann brain that fluctuated into existence — even if only for a moment before dissolving into chaos — could still account for the experience you are having right now, at this instant.

    ETA: To put it more succinctly, only the present is present.

  4. keithskeiths

    Allan,

    It’s obviously not possible to get a brain out of a box full of hydrogen, of whatever size, by simply fluctuating thermodynamics ‘the wrong way’, no matter how many times one tries – yea, even up to infinity.

    That’s not clear. Nucleosynthesis is physically possible, so to rule out a BB in your box of hydrogen, you would need to establish that it could never evolve through states in which suitable nuclear reactions took place, followed by the necessary interactions by which the resulting atoms could be assembled into a brain.

  5. GlenDavidson

    BruceS: The sequence of events needed is not infinite, thought is somewhat large, I admit.So that is why the probability does not shrink to zero.The time in which they have to occur is infinite, by hypothesis.

    Now, I do have one caveat.I did say assuming the joint probability is zero.If there is some thermodynamic reason which make that not so, ie not only are the events not independent but they become mutually exclusive, then my argument fails.But since real brains get built all the time, it must be thermodynamically possible, though of course I understand that in our world it happens by means other than via fluke.

    Something similar to your second point bothers me as well, and I just posted about it.

    You’ve got infinite time, but, in the meantime, you’ve got a universe changing from one in which a Boltzmann Brain is extremely unlikely at a given time, to one in which a Boltzmann Brain is becoming fantastically less likely throughout time as everything expands through decreasing density alone.

    Then you have issues like atoms being destroyed by black holes, and I believe that, although protons haven’t been shown to decay, they’re still thought to decay over time. Assuming that’s true, eventually there will be no carbon atoms. How does a brain spontaneously arise then? But even if atoms do manage to persist, they’re slowly going to change into iron and nickel 62 as chance fusions and other changes occur.

    So infinite time doesn’t get you very far if the chances of Boltzmann Brains appearing is decreasing rather faster than the time it would take for a Boltzmann Brain to appear in the first place. And I believe that the chances would drop precipitously during the time it takes for a single brain to self-assemble, both from decreasing densities and the destruction of atoms needed for life. If it takes longer on average to get a Boltzmann Brain than it takes for there to be too few carbon atoms to make a single brain, infinite time hardly matters. An extra 10^20 years might get you a little greater chance (carbon atoms presumably could assemble spontaneously as well), but it might be more like an asymptote, getting closer forever without ever reaching the goal, except perhaps by extraordinary chance during the atom-rich and relatively dense years.

    Quantum fluctuations might be another matter, but I certainly don’t see how classical Boltzmann Brains are a sure thing in a single universe.

    Glen Davidson

  6. Joe FelsensteinJoe Felsenstein Post author

    BruceS:
    Joe, do you have any thoughts on this paper on Hughes’s version of The Neutral Theory of Evolution?

    Since it involves evolution and randomness, I am hoping it is not too far off topic.

    Sorry for the delay in answering.

    I don’t think I ever met Austin Hughes (but then, I often think that, and people point out that they have met me before). The article is a nice, and admiring, piece by Chase Nelson, who was a student of Hughes. I guess that my only reaction is that many of the arguments attributed to Hughes seem to largely be about semantics and whether one can declare a theory to be “non-Darwinian”. It is quite possible that Hughes was right in his generalizations. Does that make his views revolutionary? Well, semantically …

  7. keithskeiths

    Glen:

    Then you have issues like atoms being destroyed by black holes, and I believe that, although protons haven’t been shown to decay, they’re still thought to decay over time. Assuming that’s true, eventually there will be no carbon atoms. How does a brain spontaneously arise then?

    That’s where fluctuations in the quantum vacuum would come into play. The question is whether such fluctuations are actually possible at that point.

    Boddy, Carroll, and Pollack argue (against the prevailing opinion) that the answer is “no”:

    We will argue that some of this conventional wisdom is wrong. Although a patch in the Hartle-Hawking vacuum is in a thermal state, we argue that it does not experience any kind of time-dependent fluctuations.

  8. Allan Miller

    keiths,

    That’s not clear. Nucleosynthesis is physically possible, so to rule out a BB in your box of hydrogen, you would need to establish that it could never evolve through states in which suitable nuclear reactions took place, followed by the necessary interactions by which the resulting atoms could be assembled into a brain.

    Yeah, that burden of proof thing. A cosmologist (Carroll) with no particular specialism in chemistry or biology but an excellent grasp of the concept of infinity, opines ‘it’s possible’, and I must prove them wrong!

    Certainly there is a possibility of incidental nucleosynthesis without a star’s gravitational field. A helium atom or so, maybe lithium. Can the result last long enough to fuse again, sufficient to eventually produce the elements and molecules of a brain, let alone order them, given the half-life of such species vs a typical length of existence for a universe? Let’s see some numbers, not hand-waving.

    Let’s not forget that the claim is made that Boltzmann Brains are fatal to certain proposals about cosmology, because they are supposedly massively more likely than brains made in the potentially illusory but ‘conventional’ manner, over infinite trials. Like Creationists determining that the probability of OoL is X, I’d challenge people to justify their numbers. Lotsa zeroes then a digit? How many zeroes? The digits? The answer “doesn’t matter, it’s infinity, stupid” does not satisfy. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all zeroes.

    And, again, why would one accept an entity like a brain, made of atoms and energy acting according to rules operating inside the BB – ie, extension of illusory rules to infinite trials generates the very thing that has the illusory rules? This seems the densent point to me. What a hell of a coincidence that the mechanisms for generating both BB’s and ‘real’ (ie illusory) brains exist in a BB’s illusion!

  9. keithskeiths

    Allan,

    Just to be clear, I’m not actually a Boltzmann Brain Believer. I suspect that the BB problem has a solution, perhaps the one proposed by Boddy, Carroll, and Pollack.

    But I do want to give the problem it’s full due, so I’m trying to make my best case for BBs in the face of your skepticism. I think Bruce may be doing something similar.

    You write:

    Yeah, that burden of proof thing. A cosmologist (Carroll) with no particular specialism in chemistry or biology but an excellent grasp of the concept of infinity, opines ‘it’s possible’, and I must prove them wrong!

    What’s interesting, and somewhat counterintuitive, is that you don’t need to be an expert in biology or chemistry to study Boltzmann brains. Any configuration of matter that is allowed by the laws of physics can fluctuate into being from the quantum vacuum. The larger the configuration, the less likely it is. Beach blankets, codpieces, diamond-encrusted quiches with bullfrogs sitting in the middle, plus all kinds of unnameable monstrosities — they can all fluctuate into existence. They’re just particular configurations of matter.

    So are brains. To predict what will happen to them after they fluctuate into existence — that’s where you need the chemistry and the biology.

    More tomorrow in response to your comment, though Bruce may very well beat me to the points I’m planning to make.

  10. Allan Miller

    The central thing which bugs me is related to a challenge I have previously placed before people who insist that there is a minimal configuration for life, and it is approximately of the order of a modern cell, so someone has to build it.

    Suppose one is right and the minimal requirement for a cell approximates the complexity of the simplest cells one has today. One knows exactly where every atom and molecule must go. Here are all the required raw materials. You can only use possible physics. Now do it. But remember your basic chemistry.

    The point is that, in making a cell or a brain, one is not simply putting together a 3D jigsaw puzzle. Moving reactive atoms and molecules past others without them reacting is pretty much impossible. Things happen differently on the molecular scale. And that is not fully grasped, even by cosmologists (I’m thinking Fred Hoyle here). Now, I had to add the ‘pretty much’ caveat because of inherent uncertainties, both quantum and thermodynamic. And it’s that hole that people want brains to crawl through. But it’s not just a question of ‘fluctuating’ a set of atoms into the right configuration, you have to move these reactive species past each other without them reacting – ie, without them following their entropic gradient. You want to appeal to thermodynamics to get them ‘ordered’, but suspend it while you do so. One could appeal to quantum tunnelling, I suppose, but that doesn’t help with the molecules. The whole point of the living system is that it is a coordinated reaction system. You can’t ‘build’ one and then switch it on.

    As far as a brain is concerned, the only known way to get one is through a developmental process in a multicellular system. So first you need a replicating cell, which is probably more likely than a brain. And if such cells can pop up against the thermodynamic wind, they can be covering entire planets with their ooze while the much more complex problem of a BB is being fumbled on and failed. That is, if the BB argument had any merit, it would apply with more force to making cells-that-can-evolve-brains than to brains.

    Sez me.

  11. Allan Miller

    keiths,

    Any configuration of matter that is allowed by the laws of physics can fluctuate into being from the quantum vacuum.

    Prove it!

  12. BruceS

    GlenDavidson: You’ve got infinite time, but, in the meantime, you’ve got a universe changing from one in which a Boltzmann Brain is extremely unlikely at a given time, to one in which a Boltzmann Brain is becoming fantastically less likely throughout time as everything expands through decreasing density alone.

    Then you have issues like atoms being destroyed by black holes, a

    Glen Davidson

    I am assuming that the universe has reached an unchanging state (ETA: except for random fluctuations, of course) due to maximized entropy and that that will be the eternal end state of our universe (I am aware that that view used to be commonplace but is now being re-examined).

    The black hole situation bothered me too in the sense that I don’t know how they apply to the assumed eternal heat dead state. Here I am relying on an argument from authority; that is, Carroll is a cosmologist and he takes BB seriously enough to provide a paper that rejects them based on something other than black hole arguments or arguments like Allan’s.

  13. BruceS

    Joe Felsenstein: Sorry for the delay in answering.

    I don’t think I ever met Austin Hughes (but then, I often think that, and people point out that they have met me before).The article is a nice, and admiring, piece by Chase Nelson, who was a student of Hughes.I guess that my only reaction is that many of the arguments attributed to Hughes seem to largely be about semantics and whether one can declare a theory to be “non-Darwinian”.It is quite possible that Hughes was right in his generalizations.Does that make his views revolutionary?Well, semantically …

    Thanks Joe. That reply was philosophical, I suppose!

  14. BruceS

    keiths

    Just to be clear, I’m not actually a Boltzmann Brain Believer.I suspect that the BB problem has a solution, perhaps the one proposed by Boddy, Carroll, and Pollack.

    As per the other thread, I take the IBE approach to dealing with your disjunction.

    When IBE is applied to the case of ordinary objects versus BBs, I think BBs are a much worse explanation of my current phenomenology of perception. Not only do BBs seem scientifically dubious (but not on Allan’s grounds) but even if they are possible there is the philosophers stability argument against them being the reason for that phenomenology (as described in other thread).

    More tomorrow in response to your comment, though Bruce may very well beat me to the points I’m planning to make.

    My response would just be more of the same: highly unlikely is not impossible and infinity is a long, long time.

    But now the argument seems to have reach the equilibrium of standoff due to different intuitions.

    So I will use some free energy to do the work to pass the baton to you, if you care to continue.

  15. Allan Miller

    BruceS,

    This would be my ‘philosophical’ objection:

    And, again, why would one accept an entity like a brain, made of atoms and energy acting according to rules operating inside the BB – ie, extension of illusory rules to infinite trials generates the very thing that has the illusory rules? This seems the densent point to me. What a hell of a coincidence that the mechanisms for generating both BB’s and ‘real’ (ie illusory) brains exist in a BB’s illusion!

    That alone is reason enough to reject the idea that I was a BB. There is absolutely no reason to expect physics observed and evaluated inside the illusion to operate to create the illusion itself.

  16. BruceS

    Allan Miller:
    BruceS,

    This would be my ‘philosophical’ objection:

    That alone is reason enough to reject the idea that I was a BB. There is absolutely no reason to expect physics observed and evaluated inside the illusion to operate to create the illusion itself.

    Yes, something along that line makes sense to me. As I understand your view, it is similar to David Albert’s stability argument, as summarized by Carroll in his latest book:

    Such a scenario [BBs] is cognitively unstable, in the words of David Albert. You use your hard-won scientific knowledge to put together a picture of the world, and you realize that in that picture, it is overwhelmingly likely that you have just randomly fluctuated into existence. But in that case, your hard-won scientific knowledge just randomly fluctuated into existence as well; you have no reason to actually think that it represents an accurate view of reality. It is impossible for a scenario like this to be true and at the same time for us to have good reasons to believe in it.


    But I think that this is not so much about whether BBs are possible as about whether my current thoughts can be coherently explained as being those of a BB.

  17. waltowalto

    BruceS,

    As I’ve said, I think the argument for BBs is actually ns a somewhat worse condition even than that:

    my general sense is that all the info that we use to determine the likelihood of the premises in our argument for BB being true are now being used to deduce that those premises are actually false. I.e., I’d think that cosmological theory and other parts of physics–which we seem to be depending on when we make this argument– would seem to be inconsistent with us currently being in a heat death phase. So if the conclusion is correct, we have no reason for believing the premises.

    [I think I should have said, not that “those premises are actually false,” but that the data apparently leading us to those premises is entirely illusory.]

  18. GlenDavidson

    BruceS: Yes, something along that line makes sense to me. As I understand your view, it is similar to David Albert’s stability argument, as summarized by Carroll in his latest book:

    Such a scenario [BBs] is cognitively unstable, in the words of David Albert. You use your hard-won scientific knowledge to put together a picture of the world, and you realize that in that picture, it is overwhelmingly likely that you have just randomly fluctuated into existence. But in that case, your hard-won scientific knowledge just randomly fluctuated into existence as well; you have no reason to actually think that it represents an accurate view of reality. It is impossible for a scenario like this to be true and at the same time for us to have good reasons to believe in it.



    But I think that this is not so much about whether BBs are possible as about whether my current thoughts can be coherently explained as being those of a BB.

    What’s bizarre is that you can only “correctly” judge that the odds indicate that you are in all probability a BB if you in fact are not.

    Glen Davidson

  19. BruceS

    walto:

    [I think I should have said, not that “those premises are actually false,” but that the data apparently leading us to those premises is entirely illusory.]

    I agree with your points, but as I understand them, not as an argument for BBs being possible, but rather against the possibility that you and I are BBs. Probably one could extend that point to all posters at TSZ.

    (If you made this previously point in thread, I missed it).

  20. Tom EnglishTom English

    Steve:
    Tom,

    The fact that you write so much in opposition to Dembski and Marks to me seemsa blatant admission that they are on to something (which offends you in some shape or form).Otherwise, I don’t think you would spend so much time looking for nano-gaps in their caculations.

    Sure criticisms are not a bad thing.It sharpens the senses on both sides of the equation.But you are still on defense. Perpetually it seems.

    So its easy to forget who is in possession of the ball. Hint:Its not Tom English or Joe Felsenstein.

    In 1994, I proved independently what came to be known, the following year, as the “no free lunch” (NFL) theorem for search. (My proof was much simpler than that of Wolpert and Macready. I initially sketched it off the top of my head, interacting with a student during the Q&A of his thesis defense.) In 1996, I proved an NFL theorem much more general than the NFL theorem. That was in the first of six papers I published on NFL. I also gave tutorials on the topic at two of the leading conferences on evolutionary computation, back in 2000-2001.

    It is the work of Dembski, Ewert, and Marks, beginning with Dembski’s book No Free Lunch (2002), that is derivative, not mine. You can see Dembski and Marks (misleadingly) relate their work to mine on the very first page of their very first publication.

    I respond out of a sense of social responsibility, assuming that my efforts will help expert witnesses — it’s conceivable that Joe Felsenstein would be one — in the next court case (if any) come up with persuasive arguments. If Clinton wins the election, and it’s clear that crypto-creationism will have no chance of prevailing in the Supreme Court for 15-20 years, I’ll probably stop bothering with ID. I’m not interested in culture war. For me, it’s all about maintaining a two-way wall of separation between church and state. There’s nothing anti-religious in that. I genuinely believe that there is no better approach to providing freedom of religion to citizens of all religions.

    I have nothing to say to you on matters of substance, because there is nothing but vagueness and pugilism in your comments. You’ve prompted me to say why I do what I do. Nothing I’ve written here is news to folks who know me. But I can’t recall having assembled the pieces before. So there you have it.

  21. Allan Miller

    On whether quantum fluctuation rescues the physical possibility of BBs (assuming one rejects the thermodynamic argument, which I think one should, after considering the likely state of matter in a heat-dead universe – hint: it’s not a gas): all that appears to come out of quantum vacuum theory are particle-antiparticle pairs. While I can buy the notion that an entire universe of simple particles might arise from such a fluctuation, by somehow removing the antiparticles to some mysterious ‘elsewhere’, the notion of condensed matter arising in this way seems an over-extension.

    We get brains in this universe because there was ‘crystallisation’ from an initial simplest-particle state into, initially, protons and electrons, with limited association into molecular hydrogen. Higher-order structures comprised of these intermediate units arose via stellar nucleosynthesis, and higher-order structures of those by further gravitational accretion of stellar debris and evolution.

    The notion that condensed matter can shortcut the process-based components of this recipe is wild speculation. Rocks, brains, cheese sandwiches, whales plunging earthwards, from ‘quantum fluctuation’, is not merely improbable.

  22. Steve

    Well for starters Prof., take this little gem of yours…

    …Life lives by harnessing some of that energy flow. All of this has been understood since … well, since Boltzmann.

    ….cribbin’ from design. non-teleological evolution doesn’t do harnessing. seems actually nothing has been ‘understood’ since Boltzmann.

    and this one…

    .”….but single-celled organisms do develop sensitivity to their environment…”

    No they don’t develop jack shit. Non-telelogical evolution doesnt do sensitivity. Design does.

    Sensativity to the environment presupposes pre-existing capabilities before any developing or sensing can be done.

    It is the non-teleological evolutionary narrative that glosses over the actual intermediate steps required to be able to articulate ‘harnessing’ and ‘developing’ and ‘sensing’. For the obvious reason that no thinking being is able to explain it without recourse to design.

    I have yet to see one adherent of non-teleological evolution be able to articulate their position in non-teleological language.

    Yes, well we know we can count on keiths to blurt the usual excuse that for convenience’ sake, well biologists just ‘naturally’ fall into desing speak, even though they are adament design does not exist.

    Its the old, ‘whoyagonnabelieve, me or your own eyes”.

    I’ll go for my own eyes, thank you.

    So the moral of the story is, a rational thinking being starts with ‘its got to be information. Its the only thing that makes sense. We can see it happening in our own human activity. Damn thats gonna be a bitch to prove, though.. And those atheists are gonna lambast us for going out on a limb like that. But so what. They’re getting nowhere with their shit happens routine. We know there is no such thing as coincidence. So we gotta gor for it.

    The ‘God’s silence is evidence of his non-existence’ crowd starts with ‘and then out of nowhere something extraordinary happened with this one . It just started dancing. And you didn’t you ‘see’ any friggin’ god pushing molecules around now, did you?? No. of course not. So there.!!! We don’t need no stinkin’ gods. We just gave you an explanation, dammitall. That molecule just felt like dancing. Nothing more.

    A clear and stark difference.

    I’ll go for the information behind door no. 3

    Joe Felsenstein: “Now exactly what was it that was wrong with our argument, Steve? Be specific, we’re happy to go into details. I realize that you don’t engage in “pedantry” but there is the issue of backing up your arguments. Is it “pedantry” when people ask you to do that?”

  23. Steve

    FYI, Joe your argument is that there is no need to explain ‘harnessing’, ‘developing’, ‘sensing’, ‘defending’, ‘searching’, ‘avoiding’. They are just words of convenience.
    These words in no way imply that organisms do any ‘sensing’, or do any ‘defending’, or do any ‘searching’. Its just all physics and chemistry.

    That is what is wrong with your argument. It flying in the face of rationality and logic.

    If it quacks like a duck, well f*&k, its a duck.

    Lets not make this harder than it has to be.

    Life was embedded with a fantastic operating system from the get go. STFW? Enough with the grumbling about God’s apathy, silence, mean streak. He’ll whisper in your ear when he’s good and ready.

    Until then, lets get on with dissecting that operating program. Hell, He prolly can’t figure out what is taking us so damn long.

  24. RumraketRumraket

    Steve: Life was embedded with a fantastic operating system from the get go.

    Google “congenital deformity” or “birth defect” and see your “fantastic operating system”‘s countless fuckups. And contemplate how many there have been through human history of such fuckups.
    I remember reading that in total human history, at least 100 billion people have lived and died. Over 50% (that is over 50 billion) of them were children that died before the age of 8 years. A significat fraction of which will be deaths due to birth and developmental defects that are the faults of noone.

    Then add the fuckups of all the species that ever lived.

    Not really all that fantastic tbh.

  25. Allan Miller

    Steve,

    I have yet to see one adherent of non-teleological evolution be able to articulate their position in non-teleological language.

    Where there is a consistent excess of mean offspring numbers for one type in an ecological competition with another, the former will tend to replace the latter. Where there is no consistent differential, one type at random will tend to replace the other.

    There you go.

  26. RumraketRumraket

    Steve: Non-telelogical evolution doesnt[sic] do sensitivity.

    It did in the LTEE. Since your foundational premise is wrong, the entirety of the rest of your rant based on this premise can be summarily dismissed.

  27. Joe FelsensteinJoe Felsenstein Post author

    Steve, you missed the whole point of my OP. Although people argue whether Boltzmann Brains could come into existence at thermodynamic equilibrium, the evolution of life has occurred in a situation far from thermodynamic equilibrium.

    You invoked reproduction to “defeat entropy”. That reproduction cannot happen at thermodynamic equilibrium, but can only occur because energy flows through organisms on its way from the sun (or from chemoautotrophy based on concentrations of chemicals) out to space.

    Do you not understand whether we, here in the biosphere, are at thermodynamic equilibrium?

    And you seem to think that cells cannot start out with no chemical excitation at their membranes, and end up sensitive to events in their environment. I don’t see why you think that this can’t occur.

    You have given no reason for these statements, instead giving only a demand for lots of details.

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