Monday, April 15, 2013

Surprise! Science "Proves" Life is Older than the Earth

By 2X!

An article in MIT Technology Review [which is based on Life Before Earth by Alexei A. Sharov and Richard Gordon ( )]  says that the evidence is clear. “Linear regression of genetic complexity (on a log scale) extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life = 9.7 ± 2.5 billion years ago..."
Since the Earth is only 4.5 billion years old, the authors and scientists in general are in a bit of a pickle. If their methodology is sound, one is left with the question, "Where then did life begin?" Apparently it wasn't on earth.
So just how did these well respected, at least until now, scientists dive into this particular pickle barrel?
Their diving board is the curious intersection of genetic evolution and computer development. Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore, described the trend of increasing complexity in integrated circuits in his 1965 paper. His paper stated that the number of components in integrated circuits had doubled every year from the invention of the integrated circuit in 1958 until 1965. He then predicted that the trend would continue "for at least ten years." This prediction became known as Moore’s Law. 
It's been about forty years beyond his predicted ten and his law still holds. There has continued to be an exponential increase in the number of transistors on microchips.
The MIT article states " if an observer today was to measure this rate of increase, it would be straightforward to extrapolate backwards and work out when the number of transistors on a chip was zero. In other words, the date when microchips were first developed in the 1960s." 
Applying the law in reverse (reverse extrapolation) does, in fact, provide the date of the first integrated circuits.
In a similar fashion one can apply the reverse extrapolation methodology to scientific publications. Using a known pair of dates, 1990 and 1960, one can determine the doubling rate.  Scientific publications doubled in number about every 15 years during that period. Using reverse extrapolation one can find the date for the origin of scientific publication. The date  is 1710. This is about the time of Isaac Newton - a reasonable date for the origin of scientific publication.
Having successfully applied this reverse extrapolation methodology to two deterministic domains, it seems reasonable to apply it to another.
Alexei Sharov at the National Institute on Aging in Baltimore and Richard Gordon at the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Florida, decided to apply the method to complexity and life.
They argue that they can measure the complexity of life and the rate at which it has increased. They use as their basis data from the development of life's complexity from prokaryotes to eukaryotes to complex animals such as worms, fish and eventually mammals. They state that the data produces a clear exponential increase identical to that behind Moore’s Law. Of course the doubling time is a bit longer than two years -  376 million years to be exact - well, if not exact, approximately 375 give or take a million or two.

Having this data they can reverse extrapolate the complexity of life. The results should give an origin data - plus or minus a few million or billion years.

Unfortunately for science, evolutionary biologists, and our intrepid researchers, the results are unsettling.  “Linear regression of genetic complexity (on a log scale) extrapolated back to just one base pair suggests the time of the origin of life = 9.7 ± 2.5 billion years ago...”

One attack on their finding is that it is unreasonable to assume the complexity of life has increased at the same rate throughout Earth’s history. Some argue that the early steps in the origin of life created complexity much more quickly than evolution does now. Thus, the timescale can be squeezed into the lifespan of the Earth.

According to the MIT article, "Sharov and Gorden reject this argument saying that it is suspiciously similar to arguments that squeeze the origin of life into the time span outlined in the biblical Book of Genesis." 

Ah, isn't it interesting to see the Intelligent Design skeptics hoisted on their own scientific petard? 

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