Granville Sewell’s Mathematical View of Evolution

In “A Mathematician’s View of Evolution,” (The Mathematical Intelligencer, Vol 22 (4) (2000)), mathematician Granville Sewell explains that Michael Behe’s arguments against neo-Darwinism from irreducible complexity are supported by mathematics and the quantitative sciences, especially when applied to the problem of the origin of new genetic information.

Sewell notes that there are “a good many mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists who …are appalled that Darwin’s explanation for the development of life is so widely accepted in the life sciences.” Sewell compares the genetic code of life to a computer program–a comparison also made by computer gurus such as Bill Gates and evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins. He notes that experience teaches that software depends on many separate functionally-coordinated elements. For this reason “[m]ajor improvements to a computer program often require the addition or modification of hundreds of interdependent lines, no one of which makes any sense, or results in any improvement, when added by itself.”

Since individual changes to part of a genetic program typically confer no functional advantage (in isolation from many other necessary changes to other portions of the genetic code), Sewell argues, that improvements to a genetic program require the intelligent foresight of a programmer. Undirected mutation and selection will not suffice to produce the necessary information.

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