You and I are old friends from beyond space and time. We stumble into this Universe from Reality where the laws of physics are different, being eight dimensional with the occasional ninth showing up after overzealous celebration. We’ve done our share, admittedly.
Like everyone in Reality, we’re scientists with standards of objectivity.
We stumble upon Earth and her many species, the odd geologic strata with its sudden “Cambrian Explosion” of complex life forms, and the wildly stressed crust showing lingering scars from extinction level events brought by cosmic impacts and coronal mass ejections of the past.
Suddenly your face lights up with inspiration. I’ve seen that look before.
“What is it,” I ask. “Hemorrhoids acting up?”
“Shut up,” you tell me in that endearing tone of yours. “All this DNA code here was written by ‘random mutation and natural selection’. Somehow I just know it.”
“Fair enough,” I chuckle. “Neo-Darwinism, then.”
You smirk as usual at my neologisms.
I admit that your idea is brilliant, but at the moment it lacks certain rigors of standard science. “Besides, I’ve got a feeling this whole place was designed.”
Your neocortex is thick and dominates your limbic system, quite unlike the creatures dominating Earth below us. As a result, you enjoy my challenge and invite me to set up an appropriate scientific investigation.
I’m thinking that a standard quadruple-blinded, controlled, randomized, prospective, repeatable experiment should do the trick.
Knowing that we’re both sort of defined by the celebrations of love back home in Reality, and totally undefined by intra-cosmic and inter-cosmic paradigms, I know we’ll both be happy with our study’s results no matter what the outcome. That ninth dimension isn’t limited to weekends.
“Here’s our experimental design,” I tell you. “Even the FDA would approve this monster.”
You glance at my thoughts. “Looks pretty standard, but why not do a-“
“I shouldn’t think we need to reinvent the synapse for this. After all, it’s fundamentally a question of inspiration versus hemorrhoids.”
I print out a hard copy of my design, hand it to you, and watch your eyes go over it…
1. We randomly select a significant number of planets in this Universe containing DNA-based life forms. A few hundred thousand.
2. Unbiased robots document the current DNA code of every species on every test planet while we’re not looking.
3. We set up cameras to document the physical changes of the species and any survival advantages the new forms convey.
4. Unbiased robots decode all the DNA genomes and follow their changes over time so we can later see what each gene adaptation did to each life form as it either evolved constructively for survival or devolved in the face of environmental stressors.
5. Grad students will search for intelligent DNA code writers such as humans, and exclude from the study all planets where intelligent life exists because such beings can tamper with DNA and ruin the data. We’ll have the grad students confine all intelligent species to their home planet(s).
6. Robots will be sent to find a few hundred thousand control planets in which the DNA-based life forms do NOT compete for survival. We’ll set up an identical experiment with these worlds for a look at random mutation withOUT natural selection.
7. We’ll wait 13.8 billion years, the possible age of this Universe, before robots collect and analyze the DNA mutation data along with the videos of physical and behavioral changes in the test-planet species as well as the controls.
8. If the DNA changes correlate with the physical changes of the species and these changes provide survival advantages that are not merely epigenetic over the 13.8 billion years of data, and if the control planets don’t throw a wrench into the works, then we will publish our findings and strongly suggest a causal relationship between random mutation with natural selection and new complex DNA sequences creating new morphologic forms of life. Our paper will state that more research must be done to duplicate our findings before your neo-Darwinian postulate becomes a formal theory.
9. If other scientists come to this Universe and are able to duplicate our results several times, then we will have come as close as scientifically possible to “proving” that neo-Darwinism is correct in this unusual Universe, that unguided random DNA mutations plus the “survival of the fittest” can create new complex DNA code that appears to be designed but is not.
You look up from reading with an expression of exhaustion. “First let’s back out of this space-time Universe and send some grad students out to hunt for an intelligent being capable of designing physical laws that would allow a Universe to write its own DNA code.”
“Cold feet, huh?” I laugh and you join in with me, laughing at both of us.
We pop back into Reality, send out some grad students and soon discover a busy, intelligent-looking being leaning over a brand new Universe with his arms stretching down into it. We walk over and I’m about ready to interrupt the work when I hear a booming voice say, “Let There Be Light.”
Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD
See also my post: “Love, Lies and Opposable Thumbs.”