Home » Biology, Self-Org. Theory » David Berlinski’s “On the Origins of Life” in This Month’s Issue of Commentary Magazine

David Berlinski’s “On the Origins of Life” in This Month’s Issue of Commentary Magazine

Go here to read the article.

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

29 Responses to David Berlinski’s “On the Origins of Life” in This Month’s Issue of Commentary Magazine

  1. I doubt very much if any “pathway” was followed at all. Life either existed full blown or not at all. In other words it was Created and did not “evolve.” To continue to assume that the origin of life was incremental is without foundation. To do so is to assume a role for chance, which as far as I am concerned is anathema. Only after creation did life evolve and that was entirely an endogenous process driven from within just as is the development of a complex organism from a single cell, the fertilized egg.

    I am acutely that this view is unacceptable to the evolutionary community in general but it is my present perspective nevertheless. It is a mandatory corollary of the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis which recognizes no role for the environment or for chance in either ontogeny or phylogeny.

    “Here I stand. I can do no otherwise.”
    Martin Luther

    “Sir, I would rather be right than be President.”
    Henry Clay

    “First make yourself unpopular, then people will take you seriously.”
    Konrad Adenauer

    I am doing my level best Konrad.

  2. Excellent article, Crandaddy. Berlinski is one fine writer and thinker. I checked into the credibility of the RNA world hypothesis a year ago and found it riddled with holes. I think Crick had it right with directed panspermia. It’s the only plausible way for evolution to have gotten a start on this planet. Thereafter Davison has it right in that phylogenesis was a prescribed saltational process like ontogenesis – self-limiting and self-terminating. Dembski and Behe have it right that the hallmarks of design are evident at the level of cellular machinery. Dawkins has it wrong. The appearance of design isn’t the illusion. The appearance of randomness is the illusion.

    This of course leaves us hanging with the difficult and possibly unanswerable question of how the first cell was constructed and directed to the young earth.

    Nothing in the history of life makes sense except in the light of directed panspermia and prescribed evolution.

    And of course direction needs directors and prescriptions need prescribers… :-)

  3. He does an excellent job, in this treatment, of demonstrating just how much speculation and hand-waving surrounds Origin of Life “theories”.

  4. DaveScot: “Dawkins has it wrong. The appearance of design isn’t the illusion. The appearance of randomness is the illusion.”

    Perhaps, to turn the phrase one more time: the appearance of randomness is by design…

  5. Panspermia is a cop out without a shred of evidence. There is absolutely no reason to believe that life ever existed anywhere except right here. The idea of panspermia can be traced back to the physical chemist Svante Arrhenius and it keeps getting resurrected every now and again for no good reason. It is nothing but one more demonstration of the unlimited powers of the human imagination. It is also fundamentally atheist Darwinian mysticism in essence, based as it is on the notion that given enough planets and enough time that chance will produce life. If that were the case it would have become obvious long ago.

    Speaking to both the development of the individual (ontogeny) and evolution
    (phylogeny):

    “Neither in tbe one nor in the other is there room for chance.”

    Leo Berg, Nomogenesis, page 134

    “Panspermia is a cop out without a shred of evidence.”

    So is the miraculous creation of multiple common ancestors. Why is your copout any better? Oh hold it. Scientists don’t ask why. How is your copout any better? -ds

  6. could someone clarify for me why, theoretically, it is impossible, as John Davidson writes, for life to have been developed incrementally by an intelligent creator? If the movement of elements and the surrounding environmental conditions were somehow manipulable by some agent of creative activity (the ancients called them gods, or elementals) could they not engage in the slow and DIRECTED process of bit by bit setting in motion the necessary changes? Just from a logical perspective I don’t see how this is a conflict?

  7. tina

    It isn’t impossible at all for life to have evolved in small bits. Each tiny step could have been predetermined at the instant the universe was created. What doesn’t make sense is that serendipity can explain it all. Maybe some, but not all.

  8. Thanks for the clarification, because at an intuitive level it has always been the accidental and random aspects of Darwinian evolution which seem so absurd to me. I know that this is the point in the debate where it gets theoretically difficult for ID, because the creative hand must somehow be able to make contact with matter, and this step or mechanism is inexplicable. What does Dembski mean when he talks about a natural intelligence, or one which does not necessarily lie outside of nature? Has a coherent picture of this possibility formed?

  9. If someone doesn’t like the evidence I have produced that life had multiple origins that is fine with me. Enjoy.

  10. Off Topic – IEEE Spectrum (their umbrella magazine) has a short article this month on a discovery of how some butterflies display their colors using 2 concepts that were invented (apparently later) by engineers to improve LED-s. I believe the 2 structures are called Bragg reflectors and Photonic Crystals. The article continued to discuss that whereas the engineering designs used uniform periodicity, which led to some angles not displaying as well as others, the butterfly used something they called something like “quasi-periodicity” which gave consistent display, so they are learning to improve their design. The sub-title of this article was “Intelligent Design” and while it gave a nod to “what nature put into the butterfly”, there was no sign of the word evolution anywhere.

  11. tinabrewer wrote:
    “could someone clarify for me why, theoretically, it is impossible, as John Davidson writes, for life to have been developed incrementally by an intelligent creator?”

    Theoretically and philosophically speaking, I suppose, it is not impossible for life to have been developed incrementally by an intelligent creator. The Creator can theoretically do anything, of course.

    However, the irreducible complexity of systems in nature such as the flagellar rotary motor, shows that life did not develop incrementally. An irreducibly complex *functioning* system has no precursor. “Precursors” devoted to different functions are not real precursors. “Precursors” with no function a lethally detrimental to systems in which they reside. An irreducibly complex system either works perfectly from its instantiation or it does not survive to a second generation. Or as Dr. Davison puts it: “Life either existed full blown or not at all.”

    ….
    On Pansperia:
    The lack of success of the SETI project is evidence of one of two things:
    1) the life out there somewhere that somehow seeded our planet is now dead, or
    2) no life out there somewhere that somehow seeded our planet ever existed.

    Because:
    If life out there somewhere seeded our planet, a lack of simultanious frequency monitoring isn’t the reason we we haven’t heard from them.

    Plus, in my opinion, it makes just as much sense to believe “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth….”: it may actually make MORE sense because we have as touching all related historical and archeological points verifiable written records of persons who claim to have received information about the Creation directly from the Creator!

    That’s another field of study, however, unrelated to ID theory.

  12. I see what you are saying about irreducible complexity negating the extreme gradualism of Darwin. However, if organisms did change saltationally (is this a word?) in some process whereby a creative/intelligent agent could bring about the appropriate genetic modifications which allowed for developments in particular directions, this would still be a relatively gradual process, just not a random one. I think John Davidson’s view makes great sense, though, that it is not necessarily true that a single common ancestor is proved by the universals in the genetic code. If the creative intelligence works with the materials at hand, having brought said materials into being in the first place, then it makes sense that multiple starts would bear striking similarities.

  13. Red

    “1) the life out there somewhere that somehow seeded our planet is now dead, or”

    Are you saying God is dead?

  14. Tina

    If life is the result of design Occam’s Razor is still in effect. All else being equal the simplest explanation is usually the right one. One design is simpler than many designs. Especially when we don’t know how that first design started. What Professor Davision is doing in hypothesizing multiple ancestors and worse, calling them miracles and saying one miracle is no different than a thousand miracles, is on the slippery slope that leads to saying “God did it” for everything and just giving up science. Quite frankly I’m appalled that he’s so quick to invoke miracles when he can’t explain something.

  15. John Davison, you are correct. Life was created as a functioning system, and the only ‘evolution’ has
    been limited divergence. Those who don’t see this fact are resistant to evidence.
    Now why that is, is a real question.

  16. [OFF-TOPIC - Panspermia is the last life saver left in the naturalistic God-denying sinking ship. I know that this forum is about ID, but it's disturbing when people claim that life "might have come from outer space" and call that "science", but when a theistic says that a Supernatural Personal Being created life on Earth that is "religion" and "unscientific". Good grief. Seems to me that the dices are fixed against God, no matter what]

    Dr Berlinski must great in debates. Does anyone know where I can download any of his debates?

    Cheers

    Most religions place God in the heavens. If God in heaven placed the first life on the planet it would be directed panspermia. -ds

  17. Dave said
    “Are you saying God is dead?”

    Hmmm. No. I admit I didn’t understand panspermia.
    I thought panspermia meant extraterrestrial (but natural as opposed to supernatural) beings of some kind seeding the planet with life in a way that’s similar to a farmer seeding a cornfield.

    Just looked it up to discover that panspermia is just a hypothesis that the “seeds of life are prevalent throughout the Universe, and furthermore that life on Earth began by such seeds landing on Earth and propagating.”

    OK. I retract almost all I said for now. More later.

  18. Oops. I don’t retract what I said about specified complexity nuking step-wise development.

  19. Panspermia which was also Fred Hoyle’s idea is a non-starter. The theory simply moves the problem of the origin of life to elsewhere in the universe. Berlinski has done a very well-organized essay but leaves out one other major stumbling block to organized life. Cells are filled with folding machines, setting up strings of amino acids into functional shapes. So DNA/RNA isn’t just a code. Those folding machines developed how and from what? The more biochemists discover about functional life machines the more complicated it all gets. Behe’s Irrreducible Complexity, everyone?? All the books on origin of life, the latest Gen-e-sis, have as much faith in chance as the Bible has in intelligent design. It just depends upon which faith you choose.

  20. Incidentally, I resent having my posts interrupted right in the middle of them by comments from someone, even anyone else. I find that intrusive, arrogant and disruptive. Critique should be expressed after presentation and not during it. It is like being heckled during a lecture. I suspect this will provoke some kind of hissy fit but I felt I had to express my feelings about it so I just did. Of course if that is standard procedure here let that be made clear.

    It’s far more convenient for me to respond in that manner. I’m sorry if you find it intrusive, arrogant, and disruptive but not sorry enough to do it differently. -ds

  21. The big advantage of panspermia is that it gives life more time to get started elsewhere. That may be what happened, but it is still much too speculative to be considered a valid scientific hypothesis. Dr. Turell is right. Speculation as to who or what the designer(s) is/are exists within the realm of faith–at least for the time being. We just don’t have the empirical data at present to go in any direction, but with time and research, we may get a lead. All we can do is wait and see.

  22. Dave said:
    “Most religions place God in the heavens. If God in heaven placed the first life on the planet it would be directed panspermia”.

    If God is in the heavens, then He is Bound by matter. The Judeo-Christian God is beyond the matter He created, so He is not literally inside heaven.

    God bless

    Panspermia doesn’t define the source. It only posits that the origin of life was not the planet earth. Directed panspermia posits that the arrival of life on the planet was not accidental. I fail to see how this is incompatible with Judeo-Christian revelation.

  23. mmadigan in, post 15#

    Thank you for realizing what so few seem able to grasp. As for why that is, I suggest it is because they are “born that way.” There are still millions of poor souls running around that believe the environment has shaped life. It is life that has made the environment. How wrong can an hypothesis possibly be? The whole Darwinian model is upside down and backwards. Life in all its many forms unfolded from within with no reference to the environment whatsoever just exactly as a fertilized egg transforms itself into a fully formed plant or animal. The environmnet and all the selection in the world can elicit nothing that is not already there in latent form. St George Jackson Mivart knew it, William Bateson knew it, Leo Berg knew it, Reginald C. Punnett knew it, Grasse knew it, Robert Broom certainly knew it, I suspect Henry Fairfield Osborn knew it, I know it and now you know it too. Don’t let anybody talk you out of it. I can guarantee that they will sure try because they are unable to recognize what Einstein knew as well.

    “Everything is determined.. . by forecs over which we have no control.”

    That includes the way people think which he also recognized as I have posted here before. Sometimes I feel that people don’t really think at all. They just seem to knee jerk react like pathetic little automatons, oblivious to the world around them, tragic victims of their “prescribed” destiny. You want to see knee jerk? Observe your typical internet forum and this one is no exception.

    How do you all you homozygous ideologues like all them overcooked mashed potatoes with all that greasy cholesterol loaded gravy dripping off the plate? Disgusting isn’t it? Well you can eat it anyway or I won’t let you watch TV for a week.

    mmadigan, you get an A from this old retired physiologist. Don’t go away.

    “The applause of a single human being is of great consequence.”
    Samuel Johnson

  24. Dave,
    I’ve thought about panspermia and my conclusion is this:

    Irreducible complexity not only nukes directed evolution and prescribed evolution, it also nukes panspermia.

    Panspermia says the seeds of life are prevalent throughout the universe and that the “seeds” of life found fertile “soil” or fertile “soup” here on earth and then evolved. The evolution of the seeds of life could have been guided or unguided. Panspermia appears to be an alternative to abiogenisis that preserves the evolutionary investment in common descent. (Panspermia doesn’t solve the problem of how the first life “happened”, it only pushes it back in time and off the planet earth.)

    But, irreducible complexity shows that complex structures could not have arisen over multiple generations by means of step-wise development. IC shows that complex structures were fully formed and fully functional at their instantiation. Neither abiogenesis nor panspermia can account for fully formed complex structures that are fully functional at their instantiation.

    With the discovery of IC, the intellectual necessity for SOMETHING that accounts for the first life form in the primordial soup–abiogenisis or panspermia–has disappeared.

  25. Well J.D., thanks for the ‘A’, but I don’t believe erverything is determined and we can’t change minds. I used to be a darwinite!

  26. Red

    “IC shows that complex structures were fully formed and fully functional at their instantiation.”

    You continue to exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of ID, IC, and CSI.

    A whole automobile is an irreducibly complex structure. The assembly is virtually impossible to arrive at devoid of intelligent agency. Yet automobiles didn’t magically appear fully formed. There is a long history of the evolution of the automobile and an even longer history of the evolution of its component parts like the wheel. All of it the very essence of ID, IC, and CSI. ID isn’t about the physical attributes it’s about the virtual impossibility of assembling a structure like a flagellum without an abstract plan preceding it.

  27. DaveScot:
    “Yet automobiles didn’t magically appear fully formed.”

    The automobile assembly is an excellent analogy.

    Automobiles do not replicate.

    Conversely, biological systems replicate. They are not made by external hands on an assembly line.

    Irreducibly complex systems, being irreducible, must work perfectly the first time or they do not survive to replicate. They must also replicate perfectly the first time or there is no second generation.

    Irreducibly complex systems have no precursors: therefore, they cannot form over “a long history of evolution”.

    Dave, my friend, you say again and again I do not understand ID or IC.
    That’s not fair to say.
    I plainly demonstrate in every post that I do understand.

    Respectfully:
    IC means *no* precursors. Behe.
    No precursors means fully formed, fully functional at first instantiation.
    Fully functional at instantiation means no “long history of evolution”.
    No “long history of evolution” means no common descent.
    No common descent means no panspermia.

    IC demolishes them all.

    Always with great respect….

    IC means no precursors available with fitness advantage for natural selection to act upon. In a designed object the precursors, or component parts, need have no independent fitness advantage. Consider the windshield wipers in a car. They have no function absent a windshield. But they were designed and built separately from the other components of the automobile. Design can proceed without needing natural selection to filter results by survival advantage. The Darwinian theory is nothing without natural selection. ID does not depend on natural selection to conserve useful things that will be useful in the future. -ds

  28. No long history certainly does not mean no common descent. It only means a prescribed result and nothing more. I never heard of such reasoning and I am grateful for it. A predetermined evolution is in no way incompatible with common descent. Evolution without common descent is not evolution, only mysticism.

  29. The only thing that natural selection ever did was to preserve the status quo long enough to allow deleterious genes to overtake its purely conservative capacities and kill the organisms so that the next wave of creatures could emerge to enjoy the same fate. In violation of every thermodynamic principle, life has ascended to its final state with the production of a rational creature, the last evolutionary product to ever be produced on this planet. Trust me but of course you won’t because you can’t because you were “prescribed” not to be able to see the world the way that I and my sources see it. When the opposed factions in this idiotic debate finally get through butchering one another, I, with my several brilliant prececessors, will still be standing here saying “we told you so, but you wouldn’t listen.” At this point I couldn’t care less. Carry on, waste your time playing can you top this and enjoying seeing your words temporarily ensconsed in the ephemeral world of cyberspace.

    I am going to write a paper explaining exactly HOW the cowardly Darwinians have managed to maintain, for nearly 150 years, the biggest intellectual disaster in the history of mankind. It is not a pretty story but it needs to be told and I was “prescribed” to be the one to tell it. I am salivating with anticipation.

    How do you like them hideous heresies? Not very pleasant are they. I hope they give everybody dyspepsia and worse, intellectual apoplexy.

    “War, God help me, I love it so!
    General George S. Patton, like myself and Albert Einstein a convinced determinist.

Leave a Reply