XI. Quantum Mechanics and Evolution

“We are the cosmos made conscious and life is the means by which the universe understands itself.” – Brian Cox (~2011) Television show: “Wonders of the Universe – Messengers”

Attempts to describe evolution in quantum mechanical terms run into difficulties because quantum mechanics does not care about ‘fitness’ or ‘survival’ – it only cares about energy states. Some states are higher energy, some are lower, some are more or less stable. As in the solution of the quantum measurement problem (chapter VI), we may not need anything outside our present understanding of quantum mechanics to understand evolution. The key is recognizing: quantum entanglement itself factors into the energy of biological quantum states. Just like quantum entanglement in the electron clouds of DNA allows the electrons to more densely pack in their orbits in a cooperative quantum superposition thereby achieving a more stable energy configuration, we expect entanglement throughout the organism to lead to lower, more stable energy states. Coherence between the whole system, DNA oscillating coherently together, coherent with RNA, coherent with protein vibrations, in-synch with the EM field, all are coherent and entangled together. All that entanglement affects the energy of the system and allows for a more stable energy state for the whole organism. Moreover, it incentivizes life to evolve to organisms of increasing quantum entanglement – because it is a more stable energy state. Increasing entanglement means increasing quantum computational horsepower. Which, in turn, means more ability to find even more stable energy states in the vast space of potential biological organisms. This, as opposed to natural selection, may be the key reason for bias in evolution toward more complex creatures. Natural selection may be the side show. Very important, yes, absolutely a part of the evolutionary landscape, yes, but not the main theme. That is much deeper!

Recall our example of fullerene (a.k.a. buckyballs) fired through a two-slit interferometer. When this experiment is performed in a vacuum a clear interference pattern emerges. As we allow gas particulates into the vacuum, the interference fringes grow fuzzier and eventually disappear (hat tip “Quantum physics meets biology” for the example). The gas molecules disrupt the interference pattern. They are like the stresses in the environment – heat stress, oxidative stress, lack of a food, …whatever. They all muddle the interference pattern. There is no interferometer per se’ in a living organism, but there are holographic effects throughout the organism and every entangled part of the organism can feel it (this feeling can be quantified mathematically as the entropy of entanglement through something called an entanglement witness). The stresses erode the coherence of the organism and induce instability in the energy state. The organism will probabilistically adapt by undergoing a quantum transition to a more stable energy state – clarifying the interference pattern, clarifying the organism’s internal holography. All within the mathematical framework of dynamical quantum mechanics. This could mean an epigenetic change, a simple change to the genetic nucleotide sequence or a complex rearrangement. The whole of DNA (and the epigenetic feedback system) is entangled together so these complex transitions are possible, and made so by quantum computational power.

In J. McFadden’s book “Quantum Evolution” (2000) he describes one of the preeminent challenges of molecular evolutionary biology: to explain the evolution of Adenosine monophosphate (AMP). AMP is a nucleotide in RNA and a cousin of the more well-known ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) energy molecule. Its creation involves a sequence of thirteen steps involving twelve different enzymes. None of which have any use other than making AMP, and each one is absolutely essential to AMP creation (see here for a detailed description). If a single enzyme is missing, no AMP is made. Furthermore, there is no evidence of simpler systems in any biological species. No process of natural selection could seemingly account for this since there is no advantage to having any one of the enzymes much less all twelve. In other words, it would seem, somehow, evolution had this hugely important AMP molecule in mind and evolved the enzymes to make it. Such an evolutionary leap has no explanation in the classical picture, but we can make sense of this in the same way that quantum mechanics envisioned completion of the Fibonacci quasicrystal. The twelve enzymes represent quasicrystal layers along the way that must be completed as intermediate steps. In holographic terms, organisms, prior to having AMP, saw via far reaching path integrals a distant holographic plan of the molecule comprised of many frequencies of EM interference: a faint glow corresponding to the stable energy configuration of the AMP molecule, a hologram formed from the intersection of the amplitudes of infinitely many path integrals at many relevant biological frequencies. A hint of a clever idea toward a more stable energy configuration. The enzymes needed for its development were holographic interference peaks along the way. Development of each enzyme occurred not by accident, but with the grand vision of the AMP molecule all along. This is same conceptual process that we as human beings execute all the time having a distant vision of a solution to a problem, like Roger Penrose’s intuition of the Penrose tiles, Feynman’s intuition of the quantum computer, or Schrödinger’s vision of quantum genes. Intuition guides us. We know from learning theory (chapter II & III) that learning is mathematical in nature, whether executed by the machine, by the mind, or by DNA. The difference is the persistent quantum entanglement that is life, that is “Oneness”, and the holographic quantum computational power that goes with it.

Because the entire organism is connected as one vast quantum entangled network, mutation via UV photon induced tautomerization (Chapter VIII) can be viewed as a quantum transition between the energy states of the unified organism. So, when the organism is faced with an environmental stress, it is in an unstable energy state. Just like a hydrogen atom absorbing an incident photon to excite it to the next energy level, the organism absorbs the UV photon (or photons) and phason-shifts the genetic code and the entire entangled organism. Isomerization of occurs. This is made possible in part by the marginal stability of proteins (chapter IV) – it takes very little energy to transition from one protein to another. In other words, a change to one or more nucleotides in the DNA sequence instantaneously and simultaneously shifts the nucleotide sequence in other DNA, RNA, and the amino acid sequences of proteins. Evolutionary adaptations of the organism are quantum transitions to more stable energy configurations.

In chapters II and III we talked about the importance of simplicity (MDL) in the genetic code, the importance of Occam’s Razor. Simplicity is important for generalization, so that DNA can understand the process of building organisms in simplest terms. Thereby, it can generalize well, that is, when it attempts to adapt an organism to its environment it would have a sense of how to do it. The question then arises, how does this principle of Occam’s razor manifest itself in the context of quantum holograms? A lens, like that of the eye, is a very beautiful object with great symmetry, and must be perfectly convex to focus light properly. If we start making random changes to it, the image will no longer be in focus. The blueprint of the lens must be kept simple to ensure it is constructed and functions properly. Moreover, the muscles around the lens of the eye that flex and relax to adjust its focal length, must do so in a precise choreographed way. Random deformations of its shape will render the focused image blurry. The same concept applies to the genetic code. DNA serves as a holographic focal lens for many EM frequencies simultaneously. We cannot just randomly perturb its shape, that could damage it and leave the organism’s guiding hologram out of focus, unstable. The changes must be made very carefully to preserve order. This is a factor in the quantum calculus of mutation, it’s not simply a local question of does the UV photon interact with a nucleotide and tautomerize it. Rather, it must be non-local involving the whole organism and connecting to the stress in the environment while also keeping the DNA code very organized and simple. If a DNA mutation occurs that does not preserve a high-state-of-order in the blueprint, i.e. does not preserve a short MDL, it could be disastrous for the organism.

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