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July 2001
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Hyper Design

This was a typical "trolling" contribution to the talk.origins newsgroup where they argue about evolution vs creationism. The purpose of the article was to stir up the troops. However the difficulty pointed to is real.


According to the latest figures the human genome has approximately 35,000 genes, each approximately 1000 base pairs in length. This implies that the effective genome is approximately 35,000,000 base pairs in length. Since there are four possible choices for a base pair the number of bits in the genome is 70,000,000. We observe that there is redundancy in the genetic code since 64 possible sequences of three nucleotides maps into 20 amino acids. We must allow, however, for genes which are not transcribed into proteins. Making that allowance and taking into account genetic code redundancy the number of bits in the effective genome is approximately 24,000,000. Since there are 8 bits to a byte the size of the effective genome is 3,000,000 bytes or 3MB. That is a truly remarkable number, particularly if we compare it to computer programs. Modern operating systems and user applications typically are larger - much larger if they are coded by Microsoft. And yet this small amount of information, small by the standards of modern software technology, contains the "blueprint" for the human body, including the human brain. Some large part of the credit for the creation of the complexity of the human body must be attributed to the development process.

We must be careful here though in attributing complexity to the development process. The genome does not directly specify the multiplicity of organs and tissues that comprise the human body. None-the-less the development process is driven by the genome. So, in effect, the effective genome is a compressed description of the human body which, after all, would require gigabytes of data for a direct description.

We know, however, that the effective genome is not maximally compressed. It is robust - most mutations have little or no observable effect whereas maximally compressed strings are fragile. This means that there is a considerable amount of redundancy in the genome beyond that which we have already addressed. It also means that the compression is efficient in the sense of error correction; most errors have little or no consequence.

Now if we compare the genome with software produced by human beings it is quite strikingly superior to the efforts of the software technologists. Programs produced by human beings are bloated in size by comparison, are considerably less robust, and are enormously less complex in functional capability.

In short, the design (using the word in a non-teleological sense) of the genome is markedly superior to human designs using the criteria that humans use for judging design. Again, using the word "design" non-teleologicaly, it is fair to say that the genome not only reflects design, it reflects hyper-design, i.e., design of a competence inordinately beyond the capabilities of human beings.

How could such a quality of design come about. The traditional answer is that it is due to evolution, i.e., to a combination of mutation (random variation) and selection applied over an enormous period of time to an enormous number of individual instances of varying genomes. This answer is nowise satisfactory. Natural selection, aka the genetic algorithm, is a hill climbing optimization algorithm. The difficulty is that this type of design compression is an exponentially hard problem. In consequence the difficulty of determining efficient designs of the caliber of the genome grows exponentially with the size of the genome. The salient feature of exponential growth is that it grows enormously fast, so fast that numbers like 10^100 (a plausible estimate of the number of genome trials that have occurred during the history of the Earth) are insignificant in comparison.

It follows, therefore, the present genome is not and cannot be the product of evolution. Such an enormously elegant design, a hyper-design, needs must have been produced by a hyper-designer, a designer whose capabilities are far greater than those of human beings, a designer whose abilities are god-like in comparison with ours.

The determination of the nature of this hyper-designer is left as an exercise for the reader.


This page was last updated July 18, 2001.

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