Quantum Evolution

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Quantum evolution is the hypothesis that quantum effects can bias the process of mutation towards adaptive genetic variation.[1] The first publication on this subject, which appeared in a peer review journal, is by Vasily Ogryzko.[2] In 1999, biologist Johnjoe McFadden and the physicist Jim Al-Khalili published an unrelated model of adaptive selection for lactose metabolism in non-metabolizing E. coli.[3] in which they proposed a mechanism based on enhanced decoherence of quantum states that interact strongly with the environment. McFadden published his book Quantum Evolution in 2000.[1]


The "classical" Darwinian model of the evolution of cells is based on a mechanism whereby cells individually undergo mutation, with the process of natural selection then culling out those mutations which are less beneficial to the organism. Quantum evolution is an attempt to provide a theoretical mechanism which would skew these random mutations in favor of some outcome beneficial to the cell. It posits that the configuration of DNA in a cell is held in a quantum superposition of states, and that "mutations" occur as a result of a collapse of the superposition into the "best" configuration for the cell. The proponents of this approach liken the operation of DNA to the operation of a quantum computer, which selects one from a multitude of possible outcomes.

Although some have, by analogy to the technique of NMR imaging, posed state coherence times as long as half a second,[1] this analysis has been challenged by Matthew J. Donald[4] (but see also McFadden and Al-Khalili's rebuttal,[5] and Donald's response [6]), and coherence times on the order of 10−13 seconds seems to be a much more realistic outcome. This latter time would be far too short by many orders of magnitude for the protein formation required for a superposition of quantum states to affect mutations.

See also[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 McFadden, Johnjoe (2000). Quantum Evolution. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-255948-X; ISBN 0-00-655128-9
  2. Ogryzko, Vasily V. (1997). "A quantum-theoretical approach to the phenomenon of directed mutations in bacteria (Hypothesis)". Biosystems. 43 (2): 83–95. doi:10.1016/s0303-2647(97)00030-0. PMID 9231907. S2CID 1681515.
  3. McFadden, Johnjoe; Al-Khalili, Jim (1999). "A quantum mechanical model of adaptive mutation". Biosystems. 50 (3): 203–211. doi:10.1016/s0303-2647(99)00004-0. PMID 10400270.
  4. Donald, Matthew J. (2001). "A review of Johnjoe McFadden's book Quantum Evolution". arXiv:quant-ph/0101019.
  5. McFadden, Johnjoe; Al-Khalili, Jim (2001). "Comment on Book Review of 'Quantum Evolution' (Johnjoe McFadden) by Mathew J. Donald". arXiv:quant-ph/0110083.
  6. [1] Archived 2011-09-29 at the Wayback Machine "A response to Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili's reply to my review of Johnjoe McFadden's book Quantum Evolution, by Matthew J. Donald"