Complex systems, random and maths for biology

The Nobel prize in physics includes Giorgio Paris “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales”.

It also includes work on climate change, but in view of the many discussions on random and evolution, I wonder if those trained in physics, biology and maths of complex systems would comment on how this approach may clarrify/deal with random events within the biological evolution theory.

Parisi’s techniques aren’t applicable.

He certainly found hidden structure in complex disordered systems.

Fig5_Parisi_Complex disordered systems (

Fig6_Frustration_ENG (

Fig7_Spin_glass (

The difference between such systems and evolution is that in the former all individuals of a given type are identical and of an average type, as can be seen in the images, whereas the latter is characterised by diversity at the mutational level and all above that.

The complex disordered system of evolving life on earth is infinitely more complex than the minimal ones he looked at.

I agree that biological systems are very complex, and yet specific systems have been studied at a level that would enable mechanisms to be considered (even if at a lower level). For example, papers dealing with protiens and drugs have been studied using molecular dynamics, and Gibbs free energy values have providd good insights. for example:

Structural and free energy landscape of novel mutations in ribosomal protein S1 (rpsA) associated with pyrazinamide resistance | Scientific Reports (

Often, mutations may occurr far from the active site, causing some drastic changes in binding pocket volume. These distant sites may have a good communication with enzyme function in signal transmissions from one functional site to far site through a series of pathways during biological function. Any change to the binding pocket may lead to the loss of interaction with inhibitors. Resistance to the drug may be developed due to change in the binding pocket. The binding affinity of RpsA to POA may also be lost due to alteration in pocket size. In the binding pocket, the primary interactions accounted with ligand are, hydrogen bonds, van der Waals and electrostatic forces. The three-dimensional structure of a protein has hydrogen and hydrophobic interactions playing a vital role in interactions. Weak interactions have fewer hydrogen and hydrophobic interactions. WT protein has more and MT, D342N, D343N, A344P, and I351F, has significantly fewer interactions indicating the strength of protein folding and binding stability. Hydrogen bonds support the core, which is comprised of α-helices and β-sheets.

Sorry, I can’t see a connection.

I am assuming that once the various factors on mutations are understood and perhaps quantified, than suitable mathematical treatments may be applied to address the question of randomness in evolution (since mutations are considered central to biological evolution).

Does this make sense to you?

As it stands, yes. Here is some understanding on non-random mutation. 10th line down: ‘Importantly, the variation is not random’, ‘the mutation rate has been evolutionarily optimized to reduce the risk of deleterious mutations’. I still can’t see a connection to Parisi’s work.

I have asked if anyone with a suitable background would see Paris’s work as relevant since it has been applied to a number of complex systems. You do not see it as relevant.

On the question of random mutations and biological evolution, I refer you to numerous discussions on this site and discussion of the subject by Collins in his book, “The Language of God”.

I have looked at a few papers that discuss non-random mutations and from what I can see, they examine samples that have undergone changes, note frequencies (or bins), and then discuss the data as non-random. This is fine, but as these also note, the mechansims may not be well understood.

In any event, the notion of random evolution has been discussed by many so I would ask where you stand on this.

As the extract above shows, that’s what evolution does. As EC would agree. Which doesn’t help TE-ID-YEC at all. Evolution, aka life, protects itself as best it can.

On this one I am with @Klax and Darwin. Darwin was clear that evolution is based on both Variation (genetic change) and Natural Selection (selection of positive changes over negative one.)

Sadly evolution has become primarily the story of genetics or mutations, which is false. Natural selection governs the direction of evolution, but we do not understand how it works because it is not survival of the fittest.

One thing that seems strange to me is that we do not appreciate the way that SEX stimulates variation for evolution. This is God/Natures most interesting inventions.

@Klax is right! Evolution or natural selection is way more complicated than genetics, which is maybe why it seems we have not seriously tried to understand it.

Why did the dinosaurs and many other species die out?

Because their time was over and it was time to move on. God is guiding evolution and life toward higher forms though changes in the environment. However, now climate change is determined primarily by humans, which means that WE are primarily responsible for the results. God forgive us for our hardness of heart.

The notion of random and variation has been accepted by biologists for many years - the statement by Gould is often quoted (if it is started again, we would get a different result).

Collins in his book, The Language of God states:

Darwin proposed that all living species are descended from
a small set of common ancestors—perhaps just one. He held
that variation within a species occurs randomly, and that the
survival or extinction of each organism depends upon its ability
to adapt to the environment. This he termed natural selection.
Recognizing the potentially explosive nature of the argument,
he hinted that this same process might apply to humankind,
and developed this more fully in a subsequent book, The Descent
of Man… and … descent from a common ancestor with natural selection operating
on randomly occurring variations. and

The most major current objections to BioLogos arise, however,
from believers in God who simply cannot accept that God
would have carried out creation using such an apparently random,
potentially heartless, and inefficient process as Darwinian
evolution. After all, they argue, evolutionists claim that the
process is full of chance and random outcomes. If you rewound
the clock several hundred million years, and then allowed evolution to proceed forward again, you might end up with a very
different outcome.

I would appreciate comments that dealt with these notions of random. The conclusions adopted by TE/EC advocates has been that evolution is random to us but not to God. So I cannot see how this argument is developed by denying that it is random from the outlook of biologists.

My personal view is that biological processes and mechanisms are extremely complex and the Darwinian paradigm is too primitive to provide a scientifically satisfying (or adequate) understanding, notwithstanding the arguments from biologists. Extensions of this theory to other areas is thus inappropriate. However, should a mathematical formulation that may deal with such extreme complexity be developed, we may obtain a greater understanding of biological processes.

I would never start from there. I can see that TE somehow believes that meaningless oxymoron, but not EC. Unless you can show otherwise?

God’s guidance and direction through his providence in people’s lives, not breaking any natural laws and undetectable by science, is a macroscopic view of how he guides and directs in evolution. Even though we have good evidence for the former, it is deniable and there certainly will be deniers, so too his sovereignty over biological evolution (and cosmological, as well).

Collins was mistaken about this statement about Darwin. Darwin’s view was survival of the fittest which is not about adaption to the environment, but the struggle for survival against others of one’s own species.

The one of the basic problems that Christianity had from the beginning was the ruthless struggle for survival which found a voice in Social Darwinism, which was not an aberration. Adaption to the environment solves this problem, and it seems that there was a time during the last 100 years when “science” seems to have accepted this as the definition of Natural Selection. Why it reverted to Darwinian old time religion I can’t say, since it was the time of the Selfish Gene I suspect Dawkins had a lot to do with it.

The process is random according to Dawkins, and cruel since might make for fitness, and inefficient because it is not rational, but it is not science vs anti-science as both ID and Dawkins try to make it. It is science that offers a good explanation as adaption vs. that which does not, survival of the fittest.

Again the aspect of evolution that brings order into the randomness of variation is natural selection. Until we try to understand this, and adaptation is a great place to start, we will be cursed with the confusion, distrust, and division that plague our society.

Randomness I think is a tricky business. If you represent any set of events, either finite or infinite, you can always develop a function or number for them that conforms to a particular logical structure. For example, pi is irrational (infinite with non-repeating digits) but it can be written down mathematically as a compact, logical and rational mathematical expression (an infinite series expression, although all the terms can’t be written out, only to any finite number of digits). God would evidently know (as an omnipotent being) what the mathematical expressions for all events expressed as an infinite series are.


Be that as it may, Darwinian evolution (biology) is presented as a theory that has been verified by mountains of data (or evidence). My view is that any theory of science that makes such claims will (is) inevitably treated at a mathematical level that encompasses fundamental events.

The paradigm of biology is inevitably reduced to semantics and the question of the random nature is caught up in these semantics. Instead, research has shown a complex series (or sets) of factors are in play, and I would have expected that these would (or should) bring about a shift from semantics (variation and natural selection), to a mathematical treatment that unifies all observations - this is more or less a standard development in the physical sciences, even as early approximations.

I have assumed that theistic evolution (TE) is similar or the same as evolutionary creationism (EC). Perhaps you may clarrify.

I am afraid I cannot follow your reasoning -variation is thought to be grounded in random events and natural selection seems to mean that any variations that survive their changes are somehow selected. I think you may have a novel outlook. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

Here is the problem with what you say. You are assuming that evolution is a single linear system, when it is not.

Evolution is actually the result of the combination of two very different systems, Variation and Natural Selection. These differences and complexities, given to us by the wisdom of God, prevent evolution from being reduced to mathematics.
One is random and the other is not.

It’s about the word order.

Theistic Evolution makes evolution primary.

Evolutionary Creation makes creation primary.

I like my reality layered, superpositioned, perichoretic not either or. Like God, immanent and transcendent.

God creates nature as if He didn’t. How He creates the transcendent is something else, we have no idea, apart from the fact that it will be somewhat obvious He’s doing it. Unlike nature.

God is the transcendent ground of being, natural and supernatural, which is immanent in Him. Natural being does what it has to do by the prevenient laws of physics, which are none of God’s humble business, apart from eternally instantiating them. God’s only intervention in nature apart from that is by incarnating, and by the Spirit, including resurrection from natural oblivion. He doesn’t do evolution. Nature does, autonomously. He does nature.

God intervenes with >50-sigma lottery wins, changing lives. Rich Stearns has a cool sequence of them. Many others do, too.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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