TED Conversations

cst commonsense

This conversation is closed. Start a new conversation
or join one »

How likely is it that DNA was created by nature?

In other words, what is the (mathematical) probability that given the timescale and world conditions at that time (approx 4 billion years ago) that nature could have come up with (or evolved) a structure like DNA.

Given that DNA is a complex molecule that has a very elegant system for holding digital information and a very reliable system to copy itself, with seemingly just the right amount of mutation to help evolution. Can we show that it might have happened within the timescales available or does in look like that it would be extremely unlikely?

Another thing that puzzles me is that DNA is a digital information system. When we look at many naturally occurring systems they tend to work in an analogue fashion. What are the probabilities of other types of systems occurring, such as for example, a potential differences caused by different concentrations of molecules used as a basis for information storage?

LUCA - understood to be all life's universal ancestor - a single cell about 3.5 billion years ago (I think). This does not leave a great deal of time to have evolved DNA from when the earth could have had the conditions to allow this. And, presumably DNA would have needed to have been around for quite some time before it managed to evolve LUCA.

Are there any (computer) models that identify these probability issues, what work has been done on this - anyone know? By the way this is a layman's question - I am not a geneticist!

See also

rgds JP


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Jun 11 2013: Imagine someone coming form another planet and asking: "How likely is for humans to have developed this level of technology by themselves?"... any of us would just laugh, because we know we didn't went to sleep one day as cavemen and woke up the next day civilized and modern, it was a process that took 10,000 years or so. It is the same with DNA, it did not form from one day to the other, it took millions of years to form piece by piece, not all at once, and just like human technology the first steps where extremely slow, but as more and more elements were available the more likely it was for them to assemble themselves into more complex building blocks, which speed up the process gradually but steadily, until the present day.
    • thumb
      Jun 11 2013: “we didn't went to sleep one day as cavemen and woke up the next day civilized and modern”

      Just a point of correction: Actually early prehistoric humans/cavemen did have a civilized social society, the old myth of cavemen being ape like has been disproven. Although our tools, education, language has greatly evolved, humans way of thinking seems to closely match modern humans. I’m guessing if a modern new born was taken back in time a raised by a prehistoric family, he likely fit right in, and vice-versa.
      • Jun 11 2013: I do appreciate you remark, I will take that into account for any further discussion, however you forgot to rephrase my idea in the proper therms. Since you are meaning correcting me, I think to rephrase my idea with the correct words it is the polite thing to do in these cases.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.