Take this challenge about evolution

After watching the recent debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, it occurred to me both sides are missing a huge piece of the puzzle.

The theory of evolution was imagined before science understood DNA. Charles Darwin only saw the physical properties of plants and animals that he examined. Therefore, he was able to imagine the physical differences between various kinds of plants and animals as being evolutionary differences. Now, that we know these physical characteristics are controlled by genomes in the DNA, the problem gets much more complicated than Charles ever imagined.

In order to evolve from one physical trait to another:

  • The underlying DNA has to evolve one genome at a time
  • The result of each change must be able to thrive
  • The result of each change must be able to procreate

This is much more complex than imagining that finch beaks can evolve longer or shorter. To get an understanding of the complexity of this problem, I propose the following evolution simulation challenge. Evolve the first paragraph one letter at a time into the second paragraph.

A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
by Charles Dickens
The Gospel according to the Apostle John (God’s Word Translation)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was already with God in the beginning. Everything came into existence through him. Not one thing that exists was made without him. He was the source of life, and that life was the light for humanity. The light shines in the dark, and the dark has never extinguished it. God sent a man named John to be his messenger. John came to declare the truth about the light so that everyone would become believers through his message. John was not the light, but he came to declare the truth about the light.

The ground rules for this evolutionary challenge are:

  • The underlying sentences have to evolve one character at a time
  • Each change must result in real  words (in the Oxford English Dictionary)
  • Each change must be grammatically correct and make sense

The first printout of the human reference genome presented as a series of booksIf you don’t think this challenge is fair, please see Reference genome to get an idea of the complexity of the real human DNA. This challenge is almost trivial in comparison to the millions of genomes in human DNA.

Ready, set, go…

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