You and I are old friends from beyond space-time. We stumble into this Universe from Reality where the laws of physics are different, eight dimensional with the occasional ninth after zealous celebrations. We’ve done our share.
Like everyone in Reality, we’re scientists with a few standards of objectivity.
We stumble upon Earth and her many species, the odd geologic strata with its “Cambrian Explosion” of life forms, and the wildly stressed crust showing extinction scars from cosmic impacts and solar micronovas.
Your face lights up with inspiration.
“What?” I ask.
“All this DNA code came from ‘random mutation, genetic drift, and natural selection’. I just know it!”
“Fair enough,” I say. “We’ll call it, ‘Neo-Darwinism’.”
Your idea seems brilliant, but it lacks the rigors of standard science. “Actually,” I confess, “I’ve got a feeling someone designed this whole space-time thing.”
Your thick neocortex dominates your limbic system, unlike the creatures of Earth, so you enjoy my challenge and invite me to set up a standard quadruple-blinded, controlled, randomized, prospective, reproducible experiment.
“Here’s our design,” I say and print out a hard copy for you. “Even the FDA would approve.”
1. We randomly select a significant number of planets in this Universe containing DNA-based life forms. A few hundred thousand should do.
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 or devolved in the face of mutation and environmental stressors.
5. Grad students search for intelligent DNA code writers such as humans and exclude any planets from the study with DNA altering technology because such beings would contaminate the data. We’ll have the grad students confine all intelligent species to their home planet(s).
6. Robots find a few hundred thousand control planets in which the DNA-based life forms do NOT compete for survival. We set up an identical experiment in these worlds for a look at random mutation without natural selection.
7. We 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 and 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 theory, then we will publish our findings and strongly suggest a causal relationship between random mutation with natural selection and new complex DNA sequences that code for entirely new morphologic life forms. Our paper will call for replication of our work by other scientists.
9. If other scientists come to this Universe and duplicate our results several times, then we will have come as close as scientifically possible to “proving” that neo-Darwinism is correct in this space-time realm, that unguided random DNA mutations plus, genetic drift and “the survival of the fittest” can truly create new complex DNA code that appears intelligently designed.
“But first let’s send some grad students to hunt for someone who could design a Universe that writes its own DNA codes,” I suggest.
We pop back into Reality, send out the grad students and find a busy old fellow leaning into an uncharted Universe. We walk up to question him when a booming voice startles us, “Let There Be Light.”
Morrill Talmage Moorehead, MD
See also my post: “Love, Lies and Opposable Thumbs.”