Evolution and Statistics

You hear a lot about the evolutionary origin of the universe from biologists, physicists, etc. But you almost never hear from statisticians. Why is that? Because the odds of life evolving into its present form are so remote that the numbers would simply embarrass the scientific establishment.

Today, we have a statistical analysis of DNA complexity over time.  Applying Moore’s Law, they concluded the following:

“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,” they say.

And since the Earth is only 4.5 billion years old, that raises a whole series of other questions. Not least of these is how and where did life begin.

The article suggests some possibilities, but they all sound pretty far-fetched to me. This reminds me of the Time Magazine article from a few years back titled, “The Death of Cosmology?” It turns out scientists discovered stars five billion years older than the age of the universe. Awkward…

In any of these statements, there are assumptions. The question is always, “what are the assumptions?” A star is 5 (or 10 or 50) billion years old. How did you take the raw information (Data from the Hubble Space telescope) to establish that number? Since the method is filled with physics and math, few people in the world can understand the equations, let alone evaluate the process. We just have to trust (or not) the conclusions. But those assumptions are not without critics. We just don’t hear about it, and if we did, who would even understand the conversation?

Anyway, in this case, it turns out life might be twice as old as the rock on which it developed. This should cause some ruffled feathers.

HT: The good folks over at Geekpress

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