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Do ID theorists have any predictions about finding life on other planets?

Reader Randy writes me to say,

Given the hooplah over ice being found on Mars, Titan and other places, I wonder if any of the ID guys have come out with predictions that we will not find ancient lifeforms trapped there? Expelled and other venues make much hay out of the odds for randomly chaining amino acids into enzymes and then proteins, and “The Privileged Planet” for the seemingly unique position Earth is in for having life. If those numbers are anything like accurate it would seem absolutely safe money to bet that the next planet over never managed hitting that jackpot. So is anyone using ID to make just that prediction?

One could easily postulate a designer who liked creating life on many planets and thus get around this if extinct life is found on one or both or many planets or moons, but then what is the point in making such a fuss about the odds, if the designer routinely flaunts them?

I offered to start a discussion on it at Uncommon Descent, but replied on my own account:

Strictly speaking, I don’t know that ID predicts that life cannot be found elsewhere than on Earth. For all we know, life actually got started on Mars and came to Earth.

ID would predict that random chaining of molecules will not produce life for the same reason that scattering Scrabble pieces will not produce a novel. In both cases, design is required to arrive at a specific target.

That said, a designer might very well produce life on different planets for the same reasons as a novelist might very well write different novels.

But we usually find that works by a given novelist in a specific genre have key similarities. William Faulkner’s novels are easily distinguishable from those of Ernest Hemingway.

So an ID theorist would probably expect to see that life on other planets shares many characteristics with life on Earth – that is, there will be a similarity of themes and styles (assuming there is only one intelligence involved, but most theists will assume that of course).

See also:

So what if fossil bacteria are found on Mars? Polls show many Americans expect Star Trek!

Water? On the moon? And what else?

Water inferred on Mars

The image of life on Mars is from NASA.

Other recent Colliding Universes posts:

How important did people think Earth was before Copernicus and Carl Sagan came along and set us straight?

Chance – you mean, it isn’t really a “thing”?

Life does not defeat chaos, but outwits it by wisdom (or information)

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60 Responses to Do ID theorists have any predictions about finding life on other planets?

  1. Hugh Ross predicted many moons ago that the solar wind might carry light weight life forms, such as pollen or such, from Earth’s upper atmosphere where such things have apparently been found, to Mars.

  2. Assuming life is found on Mars, either current or past, all that does is extend the shadow of creation. In fact, I would submit that the finding would be more in line with ID thought, as life would have been created under different circumstances. Or, everything was at one time the same – your choice.

  3. I don’t see how the art or science of design detection can make any predictions about whether or not designed objects will be found in any specific location.

    Here’s something I can easily predict. If any out-of-place objects on Mars are discovered that cannot be easily explained by law & chance the explanatory filter will be employed to determine whether it is natural or artificial. A further prediction is that whoever employs the explanatory filter won’t call it by that name.

  4. 4

    DaveScot,
    Would not the very process of finding or noticing the out of place object in the first place be an example of the use of the explanatory filter?

    I mean, if you have already determined the object is “out of place” then by definition you’ve seperated it out from it’s enviroment as “too different to be natural/normal” and hence worth further examination?

  5. 5

    O’Leary

    So an ID theorist would probably expect to see that life on other planets shares many characteristics with life on Earth – that is, there will be a similarity of themes and styles

    Soley judging from external apperances there are creatures already present on earth that if you did not know you could easily believe were from a different planet. Some living things are so very very odd that they are really aliens living among us. No doubt in the deep sea there are many other similar things yet to astound us with their alieness.

    I think one of the themes regarding life on earth is that there is no theme! As such, considering the amazing diversity of life on earth what would be the characteristics you would expect to see common to all life in the universe?

  6. Rita

    Would not the very process of finding or noticing the out of place object in the first place be an example of the use of the explanatory filter?

    Not really. If you notice a rock lying atop a glacier it’s obviously out-of-place. At that point you’d apply the explanatory filter to determine how it might have arrived there.

    I think one of the themes regarding life on earth is that there is no theme!

    There are themes at the molecular level. For instance every living organism examined to date uses essentially the same genetic code. This implies a fundamental connection of some sort between them all. Perhaps the largest question that discovery of life on another planet entails is whether or not it uses the same genetic code. Another common molecular theme is they’re all based on carbon chemistry and require a raft of other heavy elements. Thus when looking at other solar systems as possible hosts for life we focus on those with later generation stars rich in heavy elements. Yet another molecular theme of life on the earth is it all relies on water thus we look for signs of liquid water in the past or present as a prerequisite condition for life. There are some hypothetical scenarios for living things based on non-carbon/water chemistries but they’re not seen as being nearly as likely for a number of reasons.

  7. 7

    Perhaps the largest question that discovery of life on another planet entails is whether or not it uses the same genetic code.

    If it does not, does that provide evidence for or against ID?

    If we find beryllium based life form somewhere, sometime, is that a negative or a positive thing as far as ID goes?

  8. 8

    I forgot to add, DaveScot I asked O’Leary to name characteristics she would expect to see common to all life in the universe.

    Are you saying that the fact that “every living organism examined to date uses essentially the same genetic code” implys that life elsewhere in the universe will also use the essentially the same code?

  9. RitaFairclough:

    If we find beryllium based life form somewhere, sometime, is that a negative or a positive thing as far as ID goes?

    The discovery of a totally different life system would be a slight negitive for ID. It would support the Copernican principle, that we are less special than all that.

    If we found another DNA/protein based life-form, this would support ID in that it would suggest that there may only be one molecular configuration that could produce life. However, it would support the Copernican principle in that it would imply that there are other heavenly bodies which also can produce life, and would imply that if a heavenly body has reasonably correct conditions, life may automatically happen. The latter, proof that life happens spontaneously within certain reasonably flexible parameters, would challenge the OOL objection of the ID community. However, if we found DNA/Protein based life that has the same pattern of nucleotide triplicates matching the same proteins, this would be a HUGE challenge to the naturalists. They would then be obligated to demonstrate that: this pattern of triplicate to protein is somehow an inherent necessity, or that the other found life has the same source as human life (consider the “dust of earth transported to mars” hypothesis stated above.)

    Alas, based upon the incredible variety of life we see on earth, I highly doubt if the designer that creates this much variety would so precisely repeat him/her/them self on another planet.

    The bottom line, however, is that there is a belief within the biological community that finding life elsewhere would be a death-blow to ID. I fail to see their reasoning. If we are the only life in the universe, I personally will be surprised. It seems to me that the world is evidence that there is a life-maker. I don’t know why the life-maker would have only made life in one place.

    This conjurs up a Larry Norman song: “and if there’s life on other planets, and I’m sure that he must know, then he’s been there once already and has died to save their souls.”

  10. 10

    bFast,

    that we are less special

    Seems to me we are not special at all, if anything could be said to be special it would either be stars or dust clouds. If we go by sheer numbers anyway. There are alot more stars then there are people!
    You say:

    The discovery of a totally different life system would be a slight negitive for ID.

    and

    However, if we found DNA/Protein based life that has the same pattern of nucleotide triplicates matching the same proteins, this would be a HUGE challenge to the naturalists.

    Why would one be a HUGE challenge and not the other? I detect a distinct lack of symmetry in your options on this matter! On what basis?

  11. RitaFairclough:

    Seems to me we are not special at all

    This is at the heart of the Copernican principle, and of ID. If we are just reproducing molecules, kinda like the reproducing molecules that smatter the universe, well, we are not special. If we are the product of an intelligent agent that, through careful husbandry, brought us into being, then we are special. If earth has the only life in the universe, in all universes (in case there is any validity to that hypothesis) then we are special indeed!

    I detect a distinct lack of symmetry in your options on this matter! On what basis?

    The discovery of a totally different life system would be a slight negitive for ID.

    This does not cause a fundimental challenge to the metaphysical position of ID. It is not unreasonable for an intelligent agent, one who has had the fine tuning of the big bang attributed to him,her,it,them, to pull of life elsewhere, even to pull off a life with a different foundation.

    However, if we found DNA/Protein based life that has the same pattern of nucleotide triplicates matching the same proteins, this would be a HUGE challenge to the naturalists.

    The mapping of the nucleotide triplicates to protein is seen as contingent. This mapping is, because that’s how the dice rolled. If we find the same mapping elsewhere one of the following must be the case:
    1 – this mapping is inherently “best”, and is determinable as “best” by natural selection.
    2 – our and another planet’s life must come from the same source — common ancestry.
    3 – the dice just, by luck, rolled the same way twice.
    4 – this is the product of intention — a designer.

    Such a discovery would be a serious challenge to the naturalist’s metaphysical position. As the first statement would not challenge the ID metaphysical position, but the latter would challenge the naturalist’s metaphisical position, the lack of symmetry is appropriate.

  12. I predict that the out of place, designed thing, that will be discovered will look like this
    And, following StuartHarris’ lead, I also predict that Darwinist will start explaining this strange discovery by speculating this way, “Imagine a transformer-sensitive spot on Mars”.

  13. Rita

    If it does not, does that provide evidence for or against ID?

    If we find beryllium based life form somewhere, sometime, is that a negative or a positive thing as far as ID goes?

    Rita, please read this ID Defined

    If you understand what ID is then you can answer these questions easily enough for yourself. I’m placing you in moderation for a while due to the rapidity of your comments. All your comments will require the approval of an admin before being posted. As long as they’re thoughtful and civil there won’t be any that aren’t posted. If they remain thoughtful and civil for a period of time I’ll lift the requirement for moderation.

  14. The predictions for life on other planets will be that its biological information will be “semantic, meaningful or functional”?

    That’s it?

  15. Rita, as for common characteristics, I turn that one over to molecular biologists, because it is apt to be a highly technical affair, and my training is in a different area altogether.

    One thing I would suggest looking for is patterns that suggest a sense of future use. One possible example was raised by biochemist Michael Denton: the backwards eye wiring of the vertebrate serves no apparent purpose until you get to mammals and birds, at which point it is critical – it steers blood away from the visual cells.

    I would look for more of those, for example, and perhaps attempt to make predictions.

  16. From “The Privileged Planet” page 329

    14) You haven’t shown that ETs don’t exist.

    “This is true, but we did not intend to. In fact, ironically, design might even improve the possibility of ETs.”

    Well, yeah…

  17. Garamond

    The predictions for life on other planets will be that its biological information will be “semantic, meaningful or functional”?

    That’s it?

    That’s it. Now since I was so kind as to answer your question you can answer one of mine. What does the modern synthesis predict about life on other planets? Anything at all?

  18. Another prediction borne from “The Privileged Planet” is that if we do find intelligent life indigenous to another planet, that planet (and its system) will have most, if not all, of the factors listed in the book.

    And it is those factors which SETI should take into account if they want to find what they say they are listening/ looking for.

  19. 19
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    DaveScot: Perhaps the largest question that discovery of life on another planet entails is whether or not it uses the same genetic code.

    RitaFairclough: If it does not, does that provide evidence for or against ID?

    If alien life used any genetic code, that would be evidence for ID. Machinery that processes an encoded language has never been shown to be the result of natural processes. Any type of abstract code and the machinery to process it has only ever been seen to result from intelligent activity. So, yes, any genetic code would support ID.

  20. 20
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    RitaFairclough: Are you saying that the fact that “every living organism examined to date uses essentially the same genetic code” implys that life elsewhere in the universe will also use the essentially the same code?

    Let me throw a few back at you, RitaFairclough: Does Darwinism predict that all life in the universe will follow a genetic code? And if it does, does it predict that it will follow the same genetic code as on Earth? Does it predict that “independently” evolved life will have the same or different genetic codes?

    What does this most powerful of theories predict? Enquiring minds want to know!

  21. 21
    EndoplasmicMessenger

    Denyse,

    In response to your post about chance, you really should check out, Not a Chance. The author also did a very good interview of Ben Stein. Ben was impressed.

  22. I agree with EndoplasmicMessenger, as any genetic code found would be evidence for ID. Surely the appearance of the SAME type of code for life in isolated ecological (earth and wherever) systems is putting too much pressure on chance? Though on a foreseeable objection/justification, would genetic code be able to survive a meteor impact on earth (and especially the fire-ry atmosphere entry)?

    Also,
    “If the tape of evolution was rewound, then we would have seen completely different results than the world around us.”

    But if the genetic code ‘evolved’ exactly the same, then…? Indeed, if extraterrestrial microorganisms are not dissimilar to those on earth, then…? Wouldn’t there be wild variations, given the different environmental pressures, etc etc?

    So the finding of the same genetic code system is viable evidence for ID, and definately evidence against materialistic ool/macroevolution, etc etc etc (chance approaching 1/infinty).

  23. There still remains a HUGE difference between “the SAME type of code” and “the SAME code”. If dna sequences are interchangeable between us and an alien life, if an alien DNA sequence placed in an earth-lifeform produces the same protein that it produced in the alien life, this would be an EXTREMELY STRONG challenge to neo-Darwinism. The neo-Darwinists, on the other hand, would likely not be that fazed by a DNA-RNA-Protein pattern found in alien life. If there is only one possible way for complex life to work, and if chance is the architect of life on earth, then this is what we would expect from life on another planet.

  24. Hi DaveScot.

    You asked: “What does the modern synthesis predict about life on other planets? Anything at all?”

    Sure. It predicts that life will be imperfect replicators in a resource-limited environment and that variations due to imperfect replication will ultimately lead to speciation (which predicts that all life we find on a given planet will have a common ancestor).

    Or, put another way, discovering life with any of the following would be a significant blow to evolution:

    1) Perfect replication. While this might be occasionally seen, it’s an evolutionary dead-end and any critters in the environment that don’t have this defect would be expected to eventually outcompete it..

    2) No mutations have any effect on fitness.

    3) Little or no common ancestry. I recall being directed to a paper with a mathematical result that showed, given sufficient time, one lineage will eventually win out. I’ll be happy to track down the reference if you’re interested. Finding old lineages where this doesn’t apply would appear to invalidate that result.

    I’m sure there are several more predictions from population biology that are independent of the body chemistry of the critters involved. (Invasibility of one sessile species by another comes to mind.) However, these are a bit more math-intensive.

    Basically, the modern synthesis is not planet-specific. It’s refutable on Earth, Mars or Io.

    Best,

    Garamond

  25. bfast at 23:

    I’m not sure I understand you.

    The ‘meaning’ of DNA is held in tRNA, which determines which amino acid corresponds to which codon. If alien DNA codes for the creation of the same proteins in both alien and Earthly life, then we would know that its pathway to expression, via mRNA, ribosomes, and tRNA, was similar if not the same.

    If it did NOT code for the same protein, then we would have a host of questions to ask. What is the pathway to expression? Are mRNA and ribosomes involved? Or any of the countless other enzymes that mediate and catalyze the process of expression? What does alien tRNA or its analog look like? Are more or less than three bases used in each codon? Does alien life use amino acids other than the 20 now found in proteins? Does it use the same set of 20, but coded differently? If so, is the assignment of DNA (RNA) codons to amino acids random rather than chemically deterministic (and do we not know this answer now)? Are there chemically-deterministic reasons for the codons always being triplets? And so forth.

    Answering these questions would probably shed a lot of light on our understanding of abiogenesis (both here and on that alien world). I’m not smart enough to know which answers spell out evidence for or against Evolution.

  26. Garamond,

    You said the following about the modern synthesis and a prediction:

    It predicts that life will be imperfect replicators in a resource-limited environment and that variations due to imperfect replication will ultimately lead to speciation (which predicts that all life we find on a given planet will have a common ancestor).

    That is total nonsense. Life, as we know it, is much more than imperfect replicators. Also you seem to be implying that if we found a perfect replicator that would falsify the MS. More nonsense.

    And what happens on a planet in which life started more than once and therefore has multiple common ancestors?

    In reality the MS doesn’t predict anything beyond change or stasis. And that is just a fact of life.

    Also you do not seem to understand the debate. “Evolution” is NOT being debated. Blind-watchmaker evolution is.

  27. Tom MH says:
    The ‘meaning’ of DNA is held in tRNA, which determines which amino acid corresponds to which codon.

    Reference please.

    tRNA just “grabs” the corresponding amino acid. But how does a “dumb” molecule “know” how to do that?

    IMHO ID will be “proven” once we figure out that DNA is a medium for carrying information- just like a computer disk is a medium for carrying information.

    Also we shouldn’t be asking too many questions about alleged alien life until we find it.

    To Avonwatches:

    From Unified physics theory explains animals’ running, flying and swimming

    The findings may have implications for understanding animal evolution, Marden said. One view of evolution holds that it is not a purely deterministic process; that history is full of chance and historical contingency. It is the idea purported by Steven Jay Gould and others that if you were to “rewind the tape” and run it again, evolution would proceed down a different path, Marden said.

    “Our finding that animal locomotion adheres to constructal theory tells us that — even though you couldn’t predict exactly what animals would look like if you started evolution over on earth, or it happened on another planet — with a given gravity and density of their tissues, the same basic patterns of their design would evolve again,” Marden said.

  28. Basically, the modern synthesis is not planet-specific. It’s refutable on Earth, Mars or Io.

    It is also untestable on Earth, Mars or Io.

    Or perhaps you can tell us how to test the simple premise that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. My bet is that the “test” you use will be very similar to the test for common design…

  29. Joseph:

    IMHO ID will be “proven” once we figure out that DNA is a medium for carrying information- just like a computer disk is a medium for carrying information.

    Ever since Watson and Crick discovered DNA it was recongnized that it is a medium for carrying information — just like a computer disk is a medium for carrying information. Unfortunately the naturalists have recognized this, but not folded up their belongings and gone home.

    Joseph:

    Or perhaps you can tell us how to test the simple premise that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. My bet is that the “test” you use will be very similar to the test for common design.

    I’ll take you on on that one. There are about 800 known disease causing point mutations that are common between chimp and human (citation needed). These point mutations exist in the exact same place on the matching genes in the two species. Why would a designer repeat these destructive mutations when he redesigned for humanity?

  30. Hi Joseph,

    Let’s start with the easy ones.

    “Or perhaps you can tell us how to test the simple premise that chimps and humans share a common ancestor.”

    Well, assume no written or oral records (perhaps you’re a foundling). I claim that we have a recent ancestor in common and offer a DNA test as proof — I’m going to claim that, if we are indeed related within n generations that the differences between our DNA will be bounded by some f(n). This can be extended to any other organism.

    This test is different from that of common design, as common design is not constrained by similar DNA (unless you want to start putting restrictions on what the designer is allowed to do, and I’ve not seen a good justification for that.)

    Next:

    “And what happens on a planet in which life started more than once and therefore has multiple common ancestors?”

    See Tilman’s work on the R* rule: “Competition for a single resource in a stable environment results in exclusion of all forms other than the one having the lowest resource requirement for zero population growth.” It’s a really cool result. Start with _Plant Strategies and the Dynamics and Structure of Plant Communities_, Princeton UP, 1988.

    And finally:

    “Also you seem to be implying that if we found a perfect replicator that would falsify the MS.”

    The MS is how biologists understand life, and so it predicts that other life could also be explained by the MS. Finding life that lies outside of this — life having perfect replication, for example — means than the MS is no longer universal, and thus would be reconsidered for terrestrial life as well.

    In fact, finding perfect replicators that used front-loading or some such would appear (to my inexpert eye) to be designed — it’s just not a stable evolutionary solution.

    Best,

    Garamond

  31. Or perhaps you can tell us how to test the simple premise that chimps and humans share a common ancestor. My bet is that the “test” you use will be very similar to the test for common design.

    bfast:

    I’ll take you on on that one. There are about 800 known disease causing point mutations that are common between chimp and human (citation needed). These point mutations exist in the exact same place on the matching genes in the two species. Why would a designer repeat these destructive mutations when he redesigned for humanity?

    Common mechanism could readily explain that. That is similar sequences of DNA are subject to similar mutations.

    ID does NOT say that random effects are not present. And ID does NOT say that disease causing mutations cannot occur.

    However why would natural selection keep 800 disease causing mutations over all the alleged generations?

  32. Or perhaps you can tell us how to test the simple premise that chimps and humans share a common ancestor.”

    Well, assume no written or oral records (perhaps you’re a foundling). I claim that we have a recent ancestor in common and offer a DNA test as proof — I’m going to claim that, if we are indeed related within n generations that the differences between our DNA will be bounded by some f(n). This can be extended to any other organism.

    First you have to show that the differences in DNA can account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed.

    IOW your DNA test is flawed.

    This test is different from that of common design, as common design is not constrained by similar DNA (unless you want to start putting restrictions on what the designer is allowed to do, and I’ve not seen a good justification for that.)

    First you don’t know what common design is constrained by. As a designer I would not go around re-inventing every little detail when what is already available works fine.

    I would expect a universal genetic code with many similarities in a common design scenario.

    However I have never seen any justification for a genetic code arising via nature operating freely.

    “And what happens on a planet in which life started more than once and therefore has multiple common ancestors?”

    See Tilman’s work on the R* rule: “Competition for a single resource in a stable environment results in exclusion of all forms other than the one having the lowest resource requirement for zero population growth.” It’s a really cool result. Start with _Plant Strategies and the Dynamics and Structure of Plant Communities_, Princeton UP, 1988.

    Nice non-answer.

    Who said these life forms would be competing for the same resources? There could be many resources available to each population.

    “Also you seem to be implying that if we found a perfect replicator that would falsify the MS.”

    The MS is how biologists understand life, and so it predicts that other life could also be explained by the MS.

    The MS doesn’t explain anything. And our “understanding” of life leaves much to be desired.

    For example we don’t even know what makes an organism what it is. And we certainly don’t know if any amount of mutations can account for the diversity of life on Earth.

    Finding life that lies outside of this — life having perfect replication, for example — means than the MS is no longer universal, and thus would be reconsidered for terrestrial life as well.

    Then how does the MS explain all the error correction that goes on inside of cells?

    In fact, finding perfect replicators that used front-loading or some such would appear (to my inexpert eye) to be designed — it’s just not a stable evolutionary solution.

    Unless acquired traits are found to be more relevant than inherited traits.

    BTW stasis is the rule of the fossil record.

    Also “perfect replicators” is a misnomer. The DNA could be designed to evolve. That is the differences from generation to generation are NOT mistakes and the DNA replicated as perfectly as it was programmed to.

    (and DNA is much more than a replicator- life is much more than a replicator)

  33. Garamond

    It predicts that life will be imperfect replicators in a resource-limited environment and that variations due to imperfect replication will ultimately lead to speciation (which predicts that all life we find on a given planet will have a common ancestor).

    As an engineer I can’t imagine a perfect replicator of any significant complexity so that’s a given just based on physics. Any closed system is ultimately resource limited so that’s a given based on physics too. Your first two predictions thus hold true for designed objects as well as undesigned objects.

    ID neither requires nor excludes common ancestry and neither does neo-Darwinian theory. There are at least a few mainstream biologists who believe that life on earth originated several times so you won’t find consensus among non-IDists on that prediction.

  34. Tom MH says:
    The ‘meaning’ of DNA is held in tRNA, which determines which amino acid corresponds to which codon.

    Reference please.

    Plenty of web-based resources are available; try searching ‘transfer RNA’ in Wikipedia, or just google it. While searching, be sure to look up Francis Crick’s ‘Adapter Hypothesis’.

    To get a little closer to primary literature, try the RCSB Protein Data Bank:
    http://www.pdb.org/pdb/home/home.do

    tRNA just “grabs” the corresponding amino acid. But how does a “dumb” molecule “know” how to do that?

    It doesn’t. Charging of tRNA with the appropriate amino acid payload is done by other factors.

    The important thing is that tRNA must be charged with the correct amino acids or else the DNA code will be translated into nonsense. Fortunately, tRNA and the governing synthetase’s and other mediating enzymes are themselves coded in our DNA. [And my meagre knowledge runs out at this point, but I think it is true that all genomes don't carry the genes for all types of tRNA, but all tRNA translates the same codons to the same amino acids. I would be glad to know if this were true or not.]

    Alien DNA that uses different tRNA assignments would likewise code for nonsense if injected virus-like into a ‘Earthling’ cell. To use the much-belabored computer analogy, it would be like trying to run 8080-complied code on a 6502 processor.

    BTW if alien DNA used different tRNA assigments, aliens would be invulnerable to Earhling viruses. So much for ‘War of the Worlds’.

    Also we shouldn’t be asking too many questions about alleged alien life until we find it.

    I thought ‘what if’ was the premise of this thread.

  35. Joseph,

    “First you have to show that the differences in DNA can account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed.”

    And yet no court considers this information relevant in establishing relationships using DNA. Neither do I. Neither does Behe.

    “Who said these life forms would be competing for the same resources? There could be many resources available to each population.”

    Would the population have a positive growth rate? If so, how many generations would pass before competition began? Think “reproducing like rabbits”.

    “Then how does the MS explain all the error correction that goes on inside of cells?”

    MS not only offers an explanation as to the existence of error correct, it also explains how it ends up being so highly conserved and why it doesn’t end up continuing to improve. Alberts’ _The Molecular Biology of the Cell_ covers this in great detail, and it’s very readable. I splurged for the reference edition, but whatever you can find at the library will probably be fine.

    I appreciate your eagerness in wanting to take part in this discussion, but I think you’d be better served by reading up a bit on biology first. If there’s a specific point you’d like me to address, let me know, but this format isn’t particularly well suited to long replies for several questions.

  36. Tom MH,

    I know what tRNA is. What needs to be shown is how blind watchmaker-type processes can account for it.

    I also know about the charges that occur that allow for the amino acid to latch onto the tRNA. Wet electricity- just another bit of evidence for ID.

    You said:

    The ‘meaning’ of DNA is held in tRNA, which determines which amino acid corresponds to which codon.

    The CODE has already determined which amino acid goes with which tRNA. The meaning of DNA is held in the DNA. the tRNA is just a helper molecule to allow that meaning to be expressed.

    Amd in the ID scenario the tRNA knows what it is doing. It does exactly what it is programmed to do.

    Alien DNA that uses different tRNA assignments would likewise code for nonsense if injected virus-like into a ‘Earthling’ cell. To use the much-belabored computer analogy, it would be like trying to run 8080-complied code on a 6502 processor.

    Right the system wouldn’t function very well. I am sure an interupt or two would occur.

    Ever throw a monkey wrench into moving machinery?

    BTW if alien DNA used different tRNA assigments, aliens would be invulnerable to Earhling viruses.

    Umm the virus gets inserted into the DNA. Then that alien DNA starts churning out junk and the next thing you know it dies because of all the excess junk it made.

    IOW no one knows what would happen in your differing tRNA scenario.

  37. Hi DaveScot,

    You’re far too modest. The simplest way to engineer perfect replication is to make sure that any deviation from perfection is lethal. Whatever population exists would then be homogeneous.

    Implementing a chemical equivalent of an MD5 sum wouldn’t be trivial, but that’s the benefit of having an all-powerful designer.

    You’re correct in that many biologists hold that life probably arose many times (and there’s nothing in my understanding of abiogenesis research that says life doesn’t continue to arise — it just turns into somebody’s lunch pretty quickly). The Tilman result concerns two contemporaneous lineages: given sufficient time, one will prove more efficient than the other and drive the other to extinction.

    Best

    Garamond

  38. “First you have to show that the differences in DNA can account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed.”

    And yet no court considers this information relevant in establishing relationships using DNA. Neither do I. Neither does Behe.

    There is a HUGE difference between establishing relationships between organisms of the SAME species and then extrapolating that into universal common descent.

    The FACT remains that neither you, Behe, nor anyone else on this planet can account for the physiological and anatomical differences observed.

    “Who said these life forms would be competing for the same resources? There could be many resources available to each population.”

    Would the population have a positive growth rate? If so, how many generations would pass before competition began? Think “reproducing like rabbits”.

    Cooperation rules exitence on this planet. Think.

    “Then how does the MS explain all the error correction that goes on inside of cells?”

    MS not only offers an explanation as to the existence of error correct, it also explains how it ends up being so highly conserved and why it doesn’t end up continuing to improve.

    Nonsense. MS doesn’t explain it. Biologists might but the MS had nothing to do with it.

    Alberts’ _The Molecular Biology of the Cell_ covers this in great detail, and it’s very readable. I splurged for the reference edition, but whatever you can find at the library will probably be fine.

    Is it testable? IOW can someone start with an imperfect replicator and then have error correction just appear? I doubt it.

    I appreciate your eagerness in wanting to take part in this discussion, but I think you’d be better served by reading up a bit on biology first.

    Been there, done that. And that is why I know that universal common descent via blind watchmaker-type processes is total nonsense.

    If there’s a specific point you’d like me to address, let me know, but this format isn’t particularly well suited to long replies for several questions.

    Account for those physiological and anatomical differences. Otherwise you don’t have a clue about biology.

  39. The simplest way to engineer perfect replication is to make sure that any deviation from perfection is lethal.

    More nonsense. Deviation could be programmed in.

  40. Joseph,

    Thanks for narrowing this down to a single question, specifically “Account for those physiological and anatomical differences.” Here’s an example of what’s out there in the literature.

    Stedman, H. H. et al. “Myosin gene mutation correlates with anatomical changes in the human lineage.” Nature v428, 2004, pp415+.

    From the abstract:

    “Here, we show that the gene encoding the predominant myosin heavy chain (MYH) expressed in these muscles was inactivated by a frameshifting mutation after the lineages leading to humans and chimpanzees diverged. Loss of this protein isoform is associated with marked size reductions in individual muscle fibres and entire masticatory muscles. . . .This represents the first proteonomic distinction between humans and chimpanzees that can be correlated with a traceable anatomic imprint in the fossil record.”

    Does your local library carry Nature? It’s just a 4-page article, but even if you have to pick it up by interlibrary loan I think it’d be worth it.

    Best,

    Garamond

  41. joseph

    The CODE has already determined which amino acid goes with which tRNA. The meaning of DNA is held in the DNA. the tRNA is just a helper molecule to allow that meaning to be expressed.

    The instructions to assemble tRNA are in DNA, but those instructions cannot be expressed without tRNA. A chicken and egg dilemma. My point is that both DNA and the ribosome must agree on the assignment of codons to amino acids. Alien DNA might be based on some different agreement. It would be interesting to see in what ways that might be possible.

    Amd in the ID scenario the tRNA knows what it is doing. It does exactly what it is programmed to do.

    You’re anthropomorphizing. And tRNA isn’t perfect. (Nor is it a computer.)

    Umm the virus gets inserted into the DNA. Then that alien DNA starts churning out junk and the next thing you know it dies because of all the excess junk it made.

    Yes, one dead cell. But no copies of the virus, therefore no further infection of the host.

  42. Garamond,

    The myosin differnce could be a design implementaion.

    My bet is the scientists first assumed common descent and then sought out data to help confirm this.

    What you need is to show how mutations can accumulate in such a way as to give rise to the number of differences observed- like upright, bipedal walking.

    Ya see if experience and observation has told us anything it has told us that sexual reproduction puts an end to common descent on the scale you need:

    Sexuality has brought joy to the world, to the world of the wild beasts, and to the world of flowers, but it has brought an end to evolution. In the lineages of living beings, whenever absent-minded Venus has taken the upper hand, forms have forgotten to make progress. It is only the husbandman that has improved strains, and he has done so by bullying, enslaving, and segregating. All these methods, of course, have made for sad, alienated animals, but they have not resulted in new species. Left to themselves, domesticated breeds would either die out or revert to the wild state—scarcely a commendable model for nature’s progress.

    (snip a few paragraphs on peppered moths)

    Natural Selection, which indeed occurs in nature (as Bishop Wilberforce, too, was perfectly aware), mainly has the effect of maintaining equilibrium and stability. It eliminates all those that dare depart from the type—the eccentrics and the adventurers and the marginal sort. It is ever adjusting populations, but it does so in each case by bringing them back to the norm. We read in the textbooks that, when environmental conditions change, the selection process may produce a shift in a population’s mean values, by a process known as adaptation. If the climate turns very cold, the cold-adapted beings are favored relative to others.; if it becomes windy, the wind blows away those that are most exposed; if an illness breaks out, those in questionable health will be lost. But all these artful guiles serve their purpose only until the clouds blow away. The species, in fact, is an organic entity, a typical form, which may deviate only to return to the furrow of its destiny; it may wander from the band only to find its proper place by returning to the gang.

    Everything that disassembles, upsets proportions or becomes distorted in any way is sooner or later brought back to the type. There has been a tendency to confuse fleeting adjustments with grand destinies, minor shrewdness with signs of the times.

    It is true that species may lose something on the way—the mole its eyes, say, and the succulent plant its leaves, never to recover them again. But here we are dealing with unhappy, mutilated species, at the margins of their area of distribution—the extreme and the specialized. These are species with no future; they are not pioneers, but prisoners in nature’s penitentiary.—geneticist Giuseppe Sermonti in “Why is a Fly Not a Horse?”

    And loss of muscle fiber is supposed to be a good thing?

    You will believe anything…

  43. The “furrow of its destiny”? I thought we were discussing biology.

    I’ll leave you to your furrow.

    Garamond

  44. Garamond

    The furrow quote is from an accomplished geneticist, dummy. I suggest you refrain from empty smartass retorts if you want to continue commenting here.

  45. TomMH

    My point is that both DNA and the ribosome must agree on the assignment of codons to amino acids.

    Of course. That’s Information Theory 101. The transmitter and receiver must have a language of some sort in common. Just as we must agree on the meaning of words in order to communicate here so must the DNA transmitter have a language in common with the ribosome receiver.

    The real chicken/egg problem is which came first, DNA or protein?

    Alien DNA might be based on some different agreement. It would be interesting to see in what ways that might be possible.

    Yes, it would. But if I were forced to bet on it I’d bet that our solar system (save for the earth) and all that are ever within our practical reach are as sterile as Pasteur’s flasks. The only way we’re ever going to see a different genetic code is through intelligent design (human intelligent design to be precise).

  46. Garamond

    The simplest way to engineer perfect replication is to make sure that any deviation from perfection is lethal.

    That would require a perfectly replicating error checking mechanism. Therein lies the problem – the mechanism that does the error checking is itself subject to imperfect replication. If it gets corrupted then what? This is a constant problem in my line of business – information processing systems. While you can design in redundancy (an error checking mechanism that checks the error checking mechanism or guards to guard the guards) in various ways to acheive acceptable data integrity for any practical length of time, increasing entropy is in an inescapable law of nature and it will always prevail in the long run.

  47. Let’s see- we have Garamond spouting off about competition and then he comes back and says that a physically inferior individual not only survived but thrived.

    The modern synthesis is a wonderful idea in which anything can happen.

    I will leave you to your untestable fantasy.

    Then I had Tom MH tell me that I am anthropomorphizing just because I told him how it is.

  48. BTW Garamond- The muscle difference is a perfect example of common design with modification.

    IOW common design is at least as scientific as common descent- same type of tests….

  49. Joseph, back in post #29 I present a challenge to the common design hypothesis. You have skipped over this challenge. Please explain a common design interpretation of diseases caused by point mutations which are common between humans and chimps.

  50. DaveScot,

    My point is that both DNA and the ribosome must agree on the assignment of codons to amino acids.

    Of course. That’s Information Theory 101.

    Agreed, it was not a particularly profound insight. I was trying to get to the question of whether or not the codon-aa pairing of the genetic code was biochemically constrained, or optimal in some sense, or could it be arbitrarily assigned. If alien DNA used the same coding, that might reveal some clues, but it seems to me that the question could pursued in the absence of handy ETs to test.

    The real chicken/egg problem is which came first, DNA or protein?

    The OOL question. A problem for both natural and artificial (ID) abiogenesis btw. How does one assemble a living cell from scratch? Cells have no off state, or boot procedure. Everything is currently in place and doing its thing. How does one get there from a cold start?

    joseph,

    Then I had Tom MH tell me that I am anthropomorphizing just because I told him how it is.

    I was responding to this comment:

    Amd in the ID scenario the tRNA knows what it is doing.

    That’s anthropomorphizing. Unless you wish to maintain that tRNA posesses awareness? Reference, please.

  51. bFast- please read comment 31- I answered your challenge in that post.

    To Tom MH-

    Amd in the ID scenario the tRNA knows what it is doing.

    That’s anthropomorphizing.

    No, that is telling it like it is.

    Unless you wish to maintain that tRNA posesses awareness?

    It does. It posesses the awareness that was programmed into it. The awareness to grab the proper amino acid, bring it to the right place and then let it go, all at a given time.

    What’s your explanation? tRNA just does what it does…

    And how do cells get there from a cold start? By design. Duh…

  52. The OOL question. A problem for both natural and artificial (ID) abiogenesis btw. How does one assemble a living cell from scratch?

    I take it that you have never designed anything in your entire life.

    I say that because anyone who has, has the understanding that they know what they are designing and what it takes to get it done.

  53. Sorry Joseph, I missed your earlier response.

    Common mechanism could readily explain that. That is similar sequences of DNA are subject to similar mutations.

    We are not dealing with “similar” mutations here, we are dealing with identical mutations. If you compare the chimp and human genes side by side, there will be some differences, but there is a clear alignment. Where point mutations are conserned the alignment is really easy to find. Where insertions and deletions occur, it gets a little more difficult. However, on many of these genes there are only point mutations. When a particular gene has say 300 nucleotide bases, and exactly one is hit with a particular change, the chance of that happening randomly is very small. However, you do have a testable hypothesis. If your hypothesis, that paraticular specific locations in the DNA are vulnerable to specific mutations, this should be testable. What happens when this unlikely hypothesis is tested and found wanting?

    However why would natural selection keep 800 disease causing mutations over all the alleged generations?

    First, all of these point mutations are in ressive genes. In resessive genes, a destructive point mutation has very little evolutionary pressure because it only shows in the phenotype when two individuals carrying the same mutation get together. Therefore, for the most part, these drift in the genome very like random drift. The genome is very poor at purging desctructive point mutations.

    Additionally, there are hundreds of disease-causing point mutations that exist in humans and not in chimps. There are hundreds that exist in chimps and not in humans. Of both of these varieties, the point mutation also exists in gorillas. The conclusion drawn is that the mutation existed prior to the CA of the gorilla and the human/chimp lineage, and that the mutation was purged from the human or chimp lines respectively.

    With reguards to these disease causing point mutations, they seem to me to do a good job of following the expectations of chance in the genome, and they do a good job of supporting common descent. Specifically, they do a good job of supporting common descent above common design.

  54. bFast-

    Until you or anyone else can start accounting for the physiological and anatomical differences observed between chimmps and humans via genetic differences, then you have nothing but speculation based on the assumption of UCD.

    Convergence explains similarities just as well as divergence- and that is within the UCD paradigm.

    Common mechanism could readily explain that. That is similar sequences of DNA are subject to similar mutations.

    We are not dealing with “similar” mutations here, we are dealing with identical mutations.

    There are only 4 nucleotide possibilities. And similar mutations would include identical mutations.

    If you compare the chimp and human genes side by side, there will be some differences, but there is a clear alignment.

    No one has done that yet.

    When a particular gene has say 300 nucleotide bases, and exactly one is hit with a particular change, the chance of that happening randomly is very small.

    Nonsense. We know there are mutational “hot spots”.

    And what is the testable hypothesis for UCD? How about UCD via genetic accidents?

    It was also nice of you to avoid the rest of my post:

    ID does NOT say that random effects are not present. And ID does NOT say that disease causing mutations cannot occur.

    And your point mutations only support UCD if you have already assumed it. Until you can account for all the differences observed it is obvious yours is a position of speculation based on the assumption.

    It is untestable and unfalsifiable.

    Ya see bFast, as I posted in comment 42, sexual reproduction put an end to UCD. That is because half of each genome is discarded and there isn’t any guarantee that any mutation- not matter how beneficial- will get passed on.

    IOW reality does a good job of refuting UCD.

  55. Eric,

    The question was about ID Theorists, not ID. And as I stated above (see comments 16 & 18) from “The Privileged Planet” we can get at least one prediction- that is the factors that allow for our existence will be present for another planet with intelligent life.

  56. If life is found on Mars ID can tell us if it exhibits hallmarks of design. Until then ID doesn’t weigh for or against the possibility. ID examines patterns to determine if they are the result of design vs. the result of law & chance. Until there’s a pattern to examine there’s nothing for ID to work with.

  57. That said there’s certainly a lot of knowledge that ID proponents use that do weigh on the question.

    In the book “Life Itself” (1981) Francis Crick (Nobel Prize winning discover of DNA) wrote:

    An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.

    Nothing has changed since 1981 that diminishes Crick’s statement. In fact, in light of knowledge gained since 1981, the difficulties in chemical evolution are far greater than Crick knew. Crick had a hard time believing that even the earth could have been the place where life began.

    For reasons that are tangentially related to ID I think Mars, the rest of our solar system, and anywhere else we’ll ever be able to look are as sterile as Pasteur’s flasks. This is a radical change in opinion for me as I used to take the Copernican Principle of Mediocrity as gospel. But an honest man must go where the evidence leads. SETI has found nothing but a sterile universe after 40 years of looking. 55 years after Miller-Urey managed to create three of 22 amino acids in vitro there’s really no significant progress in experimental demonstration of chemical evolution. The Copernican Principle of Medicrity now appears to me to be wrong. Unlike many people I had no religious experience or conversion that changed my thinking in this regard. It’s entirely due to what science has discovered (or failed to discover as the case may be).

  58. AvonWatches

    If life were found on Mars and it was based on the same genetic code as life on earth that wouldn’t really bolster ID nor would it detract from it in my opinion. It would add weight to non-Darwinian theories of evolution such as process structuralism and similar theories where life is constrained to limited forms by physical law. The most likely explanation I think would be that Mars was contaminated with life that first appeared on the Earth. The notion that life is inevitable wherever conditions are marginally suitable has become quaint – good stuff for science fiction plots but not in the real world.

  59. True. Except I am unsure how bacteria/DNA/anything organic would surive intact, let alone fragments, when having to transit through the Earth’s atmosphere (apparently the friction gets pretty hot), and impact, that sort of stuff. I don’t understand how organisms/etc could transit from planet to plant (by accident), except with enormous difficulty.
    Tell me I’m wrong if I’m wrong though – I did believe humans came from apes prior to this year.

  60. Avonwatches

    You obviously aren’t cut out to be an evolutionist. The improbability of life being accidently transported from one planet to another is no obstacle to evolutionists. Nothing is too unlikely when it comes to fabricating stories to support accidental creation. Process structuralism you see discounts chance as the creative force behind life, the universe, and everything and replaces it with highly constraining natural laws. As law becomes more constrained and specific it tends to make people think there was a creator with a purpose behind those laws. Nothing is too absurd if it contests that horrible thought. The height of the absurd lengths they’ll go to is seriously speculating about the existence of 10^500 different universes, all spawned by accident, all with different laws that govern how they operate, and we just happen to be in one where the laws were such that life was possible. Therefore I predict that, should DNA based life be found on Mars, contamination will be given precedence over structuralism as the best explanation. Normally they’d go for the standard contrivation – convergent evolution. If you rewound the tape on chance evolution, don’t you know, it wouldn’t come out the same way again. Except in cases where it does come out the same way again, then we call that convergent evolution. Chance, you see, explains everything. I’m beginning to think that “chance” is just the word atheists use for “God”. Instead of saying “God did it” like religious folk they say “chance did it” and don’t capitalize “chance” to hide the fact it’s an object of worship for them.

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