Home » Intelligent Design » Why is abiogenesis even mentioned in public education?

Why is abiogenesis even mentioned in public education?

The interesting thing about abiogenesis is that there’s no empirical evidence at all to support it yet it’s taught in a vacuum absent any other explanations of how life may have first appeared on this planet.

The ONLY thing we have empirical evidence of is that living things come from other living things. That is biogenesis. Abiogenesis is a living thing coming from a non-living thing. In point of fact over the course of recorded history there have been billions or trillions of observations of living things coming from another living thing and not a single observation of a living thing coming from a non-living thing. In any other science such unexcepted observations become laws of nature.

Living things come only from living things is indeed a law of nature.   The latin form is  omne vivum ex ovo which literally translated is everything comes from an egg.  Abiogenesis, also known as spontaneous generation is a concept that finally died in 1862 when Louis Pasteur conclusively proved that a truly sterile medium remains sterile.  Today this baseless, falsfied conjecture has been born anew.  Reborn not because there is new evidence of it but because it is required to tie up a big loose end in the philosophically materialist view of evolution.

What should be taught to school children is the law, not the imaginary exception to the law. The exception to the law (abiogenesis) is taught in a vacuum like it was proven to have happened that way and only the details are missing.

Someone needs to explain to me why a conjecture with no empirical support whatsoever (abiogenesis) that violates a law of nature (biogenesis) is taught at all much less taught in a vacuum like it’s a fact instead of a bassless conjecture. The only conclusion I can come to is that abiogenesis is the product of materialist dogma, predominantly if not exclusively driven by a desire to have biology accomodate an atheist worldview.

I suppose it’s time to remind everyone again that over 72% of the National Academy of Sciences is composed of positive atheists and that this organization is the single most influential organization in the country on science education policy. If anyone thinks for a split second that the organization isn’t biased by its super-majority of positive atheists then that someone is clearly in a blind state of denial.

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59 Responses to Why is abiogenesis even mentioned in public education?

  1. What theory of abiogenesis is being taught in public schools? The scientific consensus seems to be that there is, as yet, no convincing theory of abiogenesis, and there may never be one, especially given the fact that, other than the evidence that life is here and has been on Earth for a very long time, there is precious little scientific data to work with.

  2. Alan Fox: What theory of abiogenesis is being taught in public schools?

    The Miller-Urey experiment.

  3. Without a kickoff event, the creation story of materialism is incomplete. This won’t do.

  4. DaveScott, I wholeheartedly agree with you that if schools want to teach science and not religion, and if athiesm is considered to be one of those religions that schools are not to teach, then abiogeneis MUST not be taught until science actually has a bonafide theory.

    The Miller-Urey experiment is so vastly far from an adequate explanation.

  5. This link offers some info on textbooks and Miller-Urey: http://www.arn.org/docs/wells/.....ort900.htm

  6. Oh brother. I really don’t understand approaches such as this. Of course abiogenesis should be discussed is schools. If you are saying that it shouldn’t be discussed dishonestly, then that’s a given. I certainly want abiogenesis discussed in my kid’s biology class.

    If you are basing this on the unfortunate, incorrect, and ultimately counter-productive claim that atheism is a religion, then I am in opposition times two.

    But I’ll take this opportunity to make a point that I have made many times before: abiogenesis is where the ID community should concentrate its efforts, not evolution. God no doubt used evolution as a secondary cause to some extent, a perhaps so much so that any discontinuity that might serve as a smoking gun will never be found. However, abiogenesis is the ultimate discontinuity, the biological equivalent of the big bang. That’s the ticket, if there is one.

  7. The law of biogenesis may state that all livings things come from an egg, but that does not cover all possible sources of eggs. ;) And since when was a scientific law unbreakable? Laws are generalizations of theories meant to be applied under specific conditions in which they will always hold true. The law of biogenesis would break down in a prebiotic era for the same reason Newton’s law of gravity would break down before the Plank time, neither are meant to hold under those conditions. Pascal’s experiment was performed using distilled water, after all.

    “Someone needs to explain to me why a conjecture with no empirical support whatsoever (abiogenesis) that violates a law of nature (biogenesis) is taught at all much less taught in a vacuum like it’s a fact instead of a bassless conjecture.”
    Because there were no bass before the LUCA? They needed to evolve, first. ;) Seriously, I would say that they are taught because they represent an active area of research which the biology student may wish to pursue and Miller-Urey is an important part of the history of biology. It would be like teaching relativity without first discussing Newton.

  8. This is what I said before. If there is one instance of a design event, then the whole materialistic philosophy falls like a house of cards. So they cannot have even one such event.

    If you ask the question “why does anything exist” you never get a good answer. And why does this stuff that does exist happen to be in a universe so exquisitely designed to support life. Looks like a design event. Can’t have that. So in comes the infinite universe concept and we are just the lucky ones.

    However, if life cannot arise by naturalistic means in our little corner of the multiverse then that argument gets flushed down the toilet. So the fight must continue to the origin of life because without a naturalistic origin for life the materialistic philosophy is toast. So we have a dual strategy of infinite universes followed by naturalistic origins of life. The rest is a struggle but they will think it is down hill from there. The fine tuned universe is never mentioned in schools and when abiogenesis is mentioned in any form it is assumed that what has been shown so far is close to solving the problem when in fact they are nowhere.

    If anything is proof of their agenda, then this is it. They cannot admit in the schools that there is no good hypothesis for the origin of life. If they did that then I would have to say they might have honest motives. But they don’t. So if anyone objects to the assessment of the biology community as dishonest this is prima facie evidence.

  9. I thought I did leave a comment, but another is: go Denyse O’Leary. Love your book
    and I hope the computer works this time…

  10. The origin of life “problem” is the biggest card in the hands of intellegent design proponents. In comparison, bacterial flagella can appear by chance in rainwater with a good stir.

  11. 11

    David H:

    “I certainly want abiogenesis discussed in my kid’s biology class.”

    Why? It isn’t science. It is mere conjecture, yet it is still taught as if it must have happened. Please explain why you think it should be taught, avoiding that meaningless rhetoric like “of course it should be taught.” That’s what the post is asking … why SHOULD it be taught?

    “If you are basing this on the unfortunate, incorrect, and ultimately counter-productive claim that atheism is a religion…”

    Atheism has all the earmarks of religion, especially positive atheism (which the post clarifies). It makes a faith-based claim about god. But beyond that, the post is scientific in nature … the claim that abiogenesis isn’t true science. That’s the point! The only reason a non-scientific claim would be taught in school is because it is religious-like, dogma meant to indoctrinate kids to the materialistic worldview.

    “God no doubt used evolution as a secondary cause to some extent”

    This isn’t the point of the post, but my answer to this would be: Not any of the monotheistic gods; if God did “use evolution,” He sure as hell sent a confusing message. If any of the other religions of the world teach that, you might be right!

  12. Faithandshadow:

    “Why? It isn’t science. It is mere conjecture, yet it is still taught as if it must have happened. Please explain why you think it should be taught, avoiding that meaningless rhetoric like “of course it should be taught.” That’s what the post is asking … why SHOULD it be taught?”

    Well first of all, it did happen.

    I’ll gloss over the distinction between “discussed” and “taught.” I wrote the former, you are asking me about the latter.

    I’ll also grant that it’s not science. I also think ID is not science. Yet I would like to see both discussed in science class. Why?

    Because the surefire way to make science class deadly dull is to make it science only. I first learned about (cosmological) ID in a rabbit-trail discussion in a nuclear physics class. And in just about every physics class I ever taught, I talked about cosmological ID (fine tuning) even though it wasn’t on the syllabus, and the discussions were almost always fantastic, with no complaints regardless of the diversity of views. Those were the good ‘ole days. Silly things like demanding useless stickers in text books and curriculum lawsuits have backfired so dramatically that, if I were still a professor, I probably wouldn’t dare discuss ID in the classroom.

    So that’s why I want abiogenesis discussed in my kids class. Though it may not meet some Popperian requirement as “science,” it’s certainly related to science and it’s damn interesting, and the knowledge that it is a very unsolved problem is significant. It’s exactly why I want it and another science-related non-science, ID, discussed. It is extremely stimulating to people of all stripes. At least it was before misguided efforts turned it into a hot potato.

    Sorry, I just don’t buy any acrobatics that turns atheism into a religion, unless you simply make religion a synonym for philosophy. To me, religion is essentially the opposite of atheism. One is concerned with the supernatural, the other denies that any such thing exists.

    I have no clue what you mean by declaring that not any of the monotheist gods used evolution as a secondary cause. This is demonstrably a minority opinion at best. I know of no theist, not one, who believes that God tinkers with genes for the purposes of adapting a species to changes in its environment. Every single one that I know, without exception, accepts what is usually called “microeveolution.” Is God genetically engineering antibiotic resistant bacteria, or are they adapting through natural selection, through the biological mechanism that God provided? Do you think any of these monotheistic gods allow gravity as a secondary cause, or do they all move the planets about micron by micron?

  13. David Heddle:

    So that’s why I want abiogenesis discussed in my kids class. Though it may not meet some Popperian requirement as “science,” it’s certainly related to science and it’s damn interesting, and the knowledge that it is a very unsolved problem is significant.

    As long as abiogenesis is clearly discussed as “a very unsolved problem”, I think we’d all be happy. That is not the impression that is being left by the textbooks however — especially not the very bit. Rather, it seems that ATP synthase is presented to highschoolers as, well, no big issue.

  14. “If you are basing this on the unfortunate, incorrect, and ultimately counter-productive claim that atheism is a religion, then I am in opposition times two.”

    Actually for the purposes of a discussion about “religion” vs “science” and things like that, Metaphysical Naturalism (which is what most people mean when they use the term atheism in such a discussion) is most certianly a religion. It is a poverty stricken and intellectually nihilistic religion, but that does not change its essential nature.

    You would not be able to define the term “religion” to exclude Metaphysical Naturalism in a way that does not exclude things that people do recognise as a religion.

    What is at issue is whether or not it is legitimate to teach a science class from one assumed worldview(that being a better term). And of course, given that worldviews are philosophical and not scientific in nature, it is not going to be easy to insist that metaphysical naturalism be that assumed worldview.

  15. Atheism isn’t a religion but it is a religious point of view. The word is a-theism, not theism. So it is a religious point of view although not a religion. Abiogenesis is taught in schools (both high schools and colleges) as de facto truth that we haven’t as yet figured out. That presupposition that abiogenesis did happen (like David asserts above) is purely the result of a religious based biased philosophical view, not an empirical scientific view. The paradigm which is dominant in schools and the science establishment is that abiogenesis HAD to happen because here we are. That is purely a religious based biased view of the available data. The data points to the extreme (to an almost infinite degree) improbability of abiogenesis. Yet is is accepted as truth solely on anti theistic grounds. But will the establishment admit this?

  16. jwrennie,

    I cannot parse what you wrote, but I’ll just reply with a cut and paste from I comment I just posted on my own blog:

    Semantics aside, isn’t religion about things like ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc? Atheism is about none of those, except in denying them. How can something that denies everything about a label find itself under that label’s umbrella?

    There is no mystery why so many of us want atheism to be a religion–it’s so we can turn some of the their arguments around to use against them. Amusing as that may be, it’s a very weak approach, it seems to me.

    mentok,

    Are you also saying that because atheism (I grasp that it is “a theism”) is all about denying religion, therefore it is a religion, or a religious point of view? Is that your argument? Wouldn’t that make mysticism a scientific point of view?

    You know, I don’t really care what world view you teach science from, as long as you make it interesting. I was taught by atheists and theists, and could always figure out their stand, and it made no difference. Just like history: I had liberals and conservatives, always easy to tell, it made no difference. Students are discerning. I’d rather have PZ Myers teach my kids biology, if he’s a good teacher, than a really boring theist. They can separate the wheat from the chaff.

    Since there was a time when there was no life, and there is now life, abiogenesis happened. Supernaturally, I would argue. That’s what I meant. I am using the definition for abiogenesis that life came from non-life. If everyone here uses it to mean that life came from non-life by natural processes, then I believe that it didn’t happen, hence my comment that ID should focus on it, and also it explains my support for research into abiogenesis. The more it is studied, I believe, the more intractable it will become.

  17. David if life came about due to “supernatural” cause then that supernatural cause would have had to be alive. Only living things have an intellect and it would take an intellect to create living biological life forms. Abiogenesis means something different to you then the majority of scientists who take it to mean random natural causes.

    Atheism by definition is a religious point of view. It is specifically denying any theistic possiblity as it’s raison d’ etre. It doesn’t matter what mysticism is in relation to science. Mysticism is about the experience of “supernatural” reality, it isn’t about a non scientific viewpoint unless you define the essential characteristic of science as being that which is opposed to human experience.

  18. The crux of the problem as I see it: once you dismiss or otherwise do not entertain abiogenesis as your working theory, there remains only one viable alternative for life’s origin: some version of intelligent design. Okay so far. But in whatever form ID is in, it requires there be an intelligence to do the designing. Now just how did that intelligence arise? Do we simply not care? Do we not entertain scenarios at all? Can someone please explain to me why is it so much *less* reasonable to say life came from nonlife (abiogenesis) than to claim that what is necessarily an even *more complex* and *more sophisticated* intelligence (designer) came from…well, we’re not even sure. It’s only pushing the origin of complexity question back another level, a level where we can’t even begin to tackle it scientifically. Despite the admitted limitations of abiogenesis experiments thus far, at least there is a basic notion of how to address the “origin of life’s complexity” question empirically. ID simply sidesteps the real question altogether: from whence comes this wondrous complexity? Please, someone explain to me how this is not a problem.

  19. Mentok:

    That presupposition that abiogenesis did happen (like David asserts above) is purely the result of a religious based biased philosophical view, not an empirical scientific view.

    That abiogenesis happened is a scientific necessity. We all agree, I think, that there was a time when earth was lifeless. The transition from a lifeless earth to an earth containing life had to have happened. There are two possibilities. Life began on earth, or life arrived on earth from space. If life began on earth, then abiogenesis. If life arrived from space, then, as space was surely lifeless back in history somewhere, then abiogenesis still had to have happened somewhere.

    There is only one remaining question, did abiogeneis happen by pure hapenstance — contingency, did abiogenesis happen as a natural and inevitable biproduct of our carefully tuned universe — law, or did abiogenesis happen as the direct result of an intelligent agent — agency.

    However, the assumption of modern biology is the assumption of contingency. The other two options, law and agency, conjurup too much potential for the “G” word for the biological community to accept. (We do remember, however, that the current state of physics is one of law, of a precision-designed universe.)

    If the science texts recognize that there is currently no natural/contingent explanation for abiogenesis, then this thread is pointless. As it is, science texts suggeest that, at best, scientists are a breath away from cracking this nut. That is the IDers complaint.

  20. It seems to me that, if Occam’s razor is applicable, the burden of proof lies on interventionists to argue that life couldn’t have arisen without a bit of outside help.

    Now, either I’ve read way too much of Kauffman, Goodwin, and Varela and Maturana, or I have my head wedged up my a posteriori, because I want to say: why not?

    In any event, the thought that life could have arisen without intervention doesn’t threaten my religious beliefs.

    I don’t think that abiogenesis should be mentioned as something that actually happened, let alone that happened in the way that scientists think it did, but it should be taught as a very interesting and exciting line of research. And in defense of the Miller-Urey experiment: this experiment did something very important, and that is it broke down the boundary between organic and inorganic molecules.

    I’m not a theistic evolutionist, but I play one on the Internet.

  21. By the way, regardless of whether one goes with infinitely many universes with slightly different physical laws (David Lewis meets Lee Smolin?) or with a Creator who set things up so that it’s just right, one has gone beyond the limits of what can be inferred on the basis of scientific evidence. Both are metaphysical speculations, one theistic, the other atheistic, and both go beyond what our current science can support. So in that sense I think that even if one signs off on a non-interventionist account of the origins of life, plenty of room is left open for whatever metaphysical story one prefers.

  22. “Semantics aside, isn’t religion about things like ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc? Atheism is about none of those, except in denying them. How can something that denies everything about a label find itself under that label’s umbrella?”

    Actually the problem is that, if you try to define religion like that you would find some forms of Buddhism or Hinduism as outside of some of those, while something like Marxism would fall in as a religion (Which is probably reasonable ;) ).

    As I said, a better term is Worldview to describe such things, and that is the term that should be used in deciding such things, and not “religion”. But as long as people insist on using “religion” as a synonym for Worldview, I don’t see why “atheism” or “metaphysical naturalism” should be excluded from the religion category.

    If people were willing to be honest there would be a lot less confusion on the issue, but given that all of these metaphysical naturalists have a worldview at stake, they can’t be.

  23. Folks, any philosophy which purports to have a definitive answer to the question “Does God exist?” is a religion. Theists say the answer is Yes, and atheists say the answer is No. Atheism is a religion.

  24. Semantics aside, isn’t religion about things like ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc? Atheism is about none of those, except in denying them. How can something that denies everything about a label find itself under that label’s umbrella?

    Semantics aside, if a philosophy actively denies things like “ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc.” then that philosophy addresses these issues, doesn’t it?

    If you want to find an issue that has nothing to do with “ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc.” then lets bring up the topic of cows. Cows, for the most part have nothing to do with “ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc.”

  25. Regarding this discussion on whether atheism is a religion, both provide answers to ultimate questions regarding the existence and nature of deity. Since they are answering the same questions but differently, they are philosophically related. Traditionally the word “religion” has been reserved for deist answers, but with the attempt to exclude religion from public life and assert that religious people are less objective, it becomes necessary to point out that worldviews excluding deity are no less “religious”.

    Regarding Occam’s razor, “the simplest solution is the best”, since it is basically impossible that abiogenesis could have occured by contingency, then it could be argued that the simplest answer is that it had help somehow.

  26. Carlos wrote:

    “It seems to me that, if Occam’s razor is applicable, the burden of proof lies on interventionists to argue that life couldn’t have arisen without a bit of outside help.”

    Why would Occam’s Razor place the burden on the “interventionist,” as you say?

    Further, even if the burden were initially on the “interventionist,” it seems that Dave has more than met that burden. Namely: (i) intelligent agents are known to possess at least the kind of capability required (not specifically mentioned in this thread, but pointed out elsewhere), (ii) there is not one iota of evidence that natural processes do, and (iii) there is plenty of evidence that natural processes do not.

    Either way you cut it, the burden today, given what is currently known about the requirements for even the simplest reproducing life, should rest squarely with those who argue that some hitherto unknown, as yet undiscovered, principle that flies in the face of all the currently known laws should be regarded as the most likely explanation.

    And, yes, if I may offer my $0.02, you’ve been reading too much Kauffman. Some interesting ideas, but on this issue, I’ve got to believe he is barking up the wrong tree.

  27. Most evolutionists shouldn’t have a problem with removing abiogenesis from the textbooks, considering how often they insist that evolution says nothing about how life began.

    If they were consistent that is…

  28. Religion and atheism –

    A good book (which I haven’t yet finished) is “The Myth of Religious Neutrality”. They define a “religious viewpoint” as “an idea of what the divine is and how it relates to the non-divine”, and defined “the divine” as “that which does not depend on anything else for its existance”. (quotes aren’t quotations, just separators).

  29. The burden of proof would be laid on the interventionist (as I’ve taken to labelling this position) because Occam’s razor suggests that, if all else is equal, the “simpler” explanation — the one that posits the fewest unnecessary entities — is preferable. So if “natural” processes are sufficient, then it’s unnecessary to bring in another entity to account for abiogenesis.

    Now: has it been shown that complexity cannot arise without the intervention of an agent? I suppose that depends on what one makes of far-from-equilibrium chemical systems. This suggests to me that at least some kinds of complexity don’t require intervention.

    The phrase about “the requirements for even the simplest reproducing life” makes me wonder if we’re really talking about the same thing here. The sorts of abiogenetic models I’m referring to don’t assume that bacteria somehow got thrown together in the prebiotic chemical soup.

    Rather, the models posit a sequence of stages in which simple chemicals form larger polymers, larger polymers form into self-replicating molecules, etc. So there’s a gradual transition, on these models, from simple chemicals to proto-cells to cells, and the steps in increased complexity and organization come step-by-step, not all at once. And if each step can be explained in terms of the kind of complexity that one finds in far-from-equilibrium chemistry, then intervention need not be posited.

    Now, is this story verifiable? Not yet — not by a long shot! — and perhaps it never will be. But does that mean it shouldn’t be taught in science classes, even in public schools? Here’s where I’m torn between my strict positivist/empiricist impulses and my sweeping, romantic impulses.

    As a positivist and empiricist, I really should say that only what’s verifiable through observation should be regarded as science, and if it’s not, “commit it then to the flames, for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion” (Hume). By that criterion, abiogenetic research cannot pass the test easily, if at all.

    But as a romantic, I want science, and science education, to inspire awe and wonder in students — and in the rest of us! It would be a tragedy, and a degradation of what’s best in humanity, if science became a collection of facts, of what is already known.

    A good science education should inspire students to think for themselves, and to think that they can make a contribution to the human project as we discover more and more about the world we’ve come to inherit. One way to do that is to show them where the interesting questions are. Abiogenesis is one such area. So that seems like a very good reason to mention it in public education — not because it’s good science, but because it’s good for the soul — because it gives us a sense of being “at home in the universe” (Kauffman), of belonging here.

    Of course there are those who believe, for reasons difficult for me to fathom, that we don’t really belong here, and that the mundane, physical world is a way-station between Where We Came From and Where We’re Going. I’ve never known what to say to such people; they inhabit a metaphysical framework so alien from mine, and mine from theirs, that we are strangers to each other — strangers who, nevertheless, have found a way of living peacefully alongside one another and hopefully will continue to do so for a long time to come.

  30. (28) “the divine” as “that which does not depend on anything else for its existence”.

    By that definition, Mahayana Buddhism is genuinely atheistic, since the doctrine of emptiness means that there is nothing which does not depend on anything else. There is no “substance,” in the Aristotelian or Spinozistic senses.

  31. David Heddle wrote: “Since there was a time when there was no life, and there is now life, abiogenesis happened.”

    How do you know there was a time when there was no life in the universe? That sounds like a baseless assumption to me but feel to lay out your evidence. Without exception we have never observed life coming from non-life. Biogenesis has been observed billions of of times. Therefore it requires extraordinary evidence to claim that the rule of biogenesis can be broken.

  32. I wonder how Jack Krebs feels about this. He doesn’t think kids can learn enough in K12 biology to make a reasonable decision for themselves whether or not evolution by chance is plausible. If that’s the case surely they can’t make a judgement about abiogenesis either. So by that metric it should not be mentioned. It’ll only confuse the poor kiddies. Right Jack?

  33. @ GreatApe

    Abiogenesis may be an hypothesis, fine, I agree… But that’s all… We can spend time and money searching for “ghosts”, but I believe we can have better results if we just follow the evidences… ;-)

    So, to disconsider biogenesis at such an extent that you put a-biogenesis in textbooks and present it as a truth, it’s at least a big (scientific) mistake, imho.

    To try to answer your question… First, I don’t think that anybody considers the origin of God something worthless to look at. It’s an important question. And interesting, as well. But I believe that this is of minor importance in relation to the other question – also very/most important to us – Who Are We & Where Do We Came From ?…

    Let’s answer to this question first, and then will try to focus on the other one… Because this question is of great importance when it comes to MORAL VALUES… These values are priceless when it comes to social behaviour/stability/progress. IMHO, according to TOE approach, we shouldn’t have any MORAL values – survival of the fittest & evolution would be our ultimate goals…

    PS: Does this contradiction seems odd ? – as a species, humans can perform better if they work together & cooperate on various issues (so, respect for each other – “no harm” principle – would work excellent for our species survival & progress), but when it comes to individuals, if my interests contradict yours, I would have to eliminate you, if this means progress for me…

  34. DaveScot wrote:

    “How do you know there was a time when there was no life in the universe? That sounds like a baseless assumption to me but feel to lay out your evidence.”

    Oh brother. It’s a baseless assumption? Hardly. I gather your question presupposes that you are not convinced of any big bang hypothesis, or even that there was a time when the universe had no heavy elements. That’s your choice, but there is a huge amount of data that are reasonably interpreted as such, and there is every reason to believe (including many good arguments from IDers including the owner of this site) that life requires large molecules to store information, hence the idea that there was a time when there was no life in the universe is far, in fact light-years, from baseless.

    bFast wrote:

    “If you want to find an issue that has nothing to do with ‘ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc.” then lets bring up the topic of cows. Cows, for the most part have nothing to do with “ultimate purpose, absolute morality, life after death, God or gods, etc.’”

    Good point. Atheism is as much a religion as is the topic of cows.

    Terrylmiirll wrote:

    “Folks, any philosophy which purports to have a definitive answer to the question “Does God exist?” is a religion. Theists say the answer is Yes, and atheists say the answer is No. Atheism is a religion.”

    That makes no sense. Taking it down a level, is any religion that purports to have a definitive answer to the question “Was Mohammed a true prophet” is Islam? Since atheists, Jews, and Christians agree all purport to have a definite answer to that question, are they all Islamic?

  35. David Heddle writes:

    “life requires large molecules to store information”

    Based on a sample size of exactly one after physically exploring an infintesimal fraction of the universe. Information can be stored in many forms and the densest ways aren’t large molecules. At the instant of the big bang there suddenly existed all the information in the universe today. I know you’re aware that there was structure in the universe at the very beginning. It’s that structure that caused the matter in the universe to not be a homogenous distribution. Where did that information come from? And since you’re a religious person I can’t resist asking you if, in your belief, God is alive and if so requires large molecules.

    The idea that there was a time when life didn’t exist in the universe is unsupported. What’s supported is there was a time when life as we know it didn’t exist on the earth.

  36. David Heddle: “I also think ID is not science.”

    What if an encoded message was found in all human genomes that said in no uncertain terms, “Hello, I am an intelligence and I made humans. Thank you. And by the way, be good to one another.” The fact of it’s existence and detection would certainly fall within the domain of “science.” I’m not saying anyone has found such a message, but conceptually, ID detection is a scientific issue. The problem thus far is that no overwhelmingly obvious evidence has surfaced that would convince all rational people. But it is possible that such evidence exists.

  37. David Heddle: “Sorry, I just don’t buy any acrobatics that turns atheism into a religion, unless you simply make religion a synonym for philosophy. To me, religion is essentially the opposite of atheism. One is concerned with the supernatural, the other denies that any such thing exists.”

    It may be a stretch to call atheism a “religion”. (More accurate to call it an anti-religion). What it is, like theism, is a metaphysical position. And as such, any inferences, implications, dogma, or ideology, based on it should be banned from teaching in public schools, in my opinion.

  38. great_ape: “Despite the admitted limitations of abiogenesis experiments thus far, at least there is a basic notion of how to address the “origin of life’s complexity” question empirically. ID simply sidesteps the real question altogether: from whence comes this wondrous complexity? Please, someone explain to me how this is not a problem.”

    From someone is a ID-friendly, I say, knock yourself out. Scientists should indeed attempt to create theory that could show how abiogenesis could occur without any designer. Who is saying they shouldn’t? But the public schools need to be metaphysically neutral in their treatment of what is actually known.

  39. Great_Ape,

    I had more respect for you till you asked your silly question. The origin of the designer is off the table in the debate. You know as well as I the game that is being played. If you get an ID proponent to admit that somewhere in the distant past the designer had to be either God or designed by God then you and others can huff and puff and yell and scream “There I told you so, ID is nothing more than creationism or some other religious doctrine” and then you can use this admission and the court system to banish any hint of it in the education system.

    We all know that this debate revolves around what the courts will say. Right now one side has the upper hand and is fighting desperately to keep their advantage while the other side is throwing embarrassing information at them. If it weren’t embarrassing then the tone would be much different. The abiogenisis question is the most emabarrassing one but there are many others.

    So ID cannot mention anything about the designer. In truth they are only developing a discipline that tries to detect design and keep it to that. And this is by design. They do not say “who, why, what and how” the design took place. Only that design events did happen. But why can’t people limit themselves to that discussion. Because they know if the average person thinks about it they may make some different judgments then are currently being made. So those who support ID get the incredibly persistent and often obnoxious insistence that ID is religious based.

  40. Carlos: “It seems to me that, if Occam’s razor is applicable, the burden of proof lies on interventionists to argue that life couldn’t have arisen without a bit of outside help.”

    Firstly, Occam’s Razor is not a law. It’s a merely a guiding principle, that often turns out to be helpful, but sometimes does not. The burden of proof lies on anyone making any positive claim about anything. ID may (or may not) require more proof than an non-ID position, but the non-ID position still hefts a substantial burden of proof.

    As for OOL, you seem to be implying that it would be a simpler explanation to say that “unguided nature” produced life. But on what basis can you say this? You first have to demonstrate that nature is unguided in the first place, which nobody can do.

    It all gets back to the issue of what “randomness” in nature actually is: is the universe deterministic or not. If not, then there is the knotty (and irrational) issue of how genuinely undetermined events could arise, and why they arose the way they have in the history of the universe. However, if it is deterministic, everything that’s occurred in the universe had to have happened just the way it did, and was programmed to do so, which means life was destined to occur by whatever existed prior to the universe’s creation.

    OOL is directly related to the question of the *nature* of the universe, and cannot be dealt with in a vacuum. This is yet an open question, and Occam’s Razor doesn’t help.

  41. DaveScot,

    “Based on a sample size of exactly one after physically exploring an infintesimal fraction of the universe.”

    It’s not based on a sample size of one, unless all science is subject to the same criticism given that all science is conducted in just one universe. Vast areas of the universe consist of nothing more than dilute hydrogen and helium. You can break it up into as many sample sizes that you like. Search as many as you care to for signs that their components have arranged themselves into entities that can store information sufficient for life.

    No, it’s not based on a sample size of one, it’s based on the laws of physics and chemsity, which tell us that dilute hydrogen and helium doesn’t do anything except remain dilute hydrogen and helium. It must collapse, form stars, create heavier elements by fusion, and then explode before the surrounding space has the components necessary for, not just life as we know it, but any life.

    So there is indeed strong support for the notion that there was a time when life in the universe, not just life as we know it, but any kind of life, didn’t exist.

    Why ask about what God is made of? The obvious answer is “I have no clue.” By definition God is supernatural and therefore not subject to the physical laws, so it is pointless even to speculate. In the universe he created, however, life is subject to those laws, and life requires information storage and other complex processes, and they require components that were not in existence when the universe was young.

    Mike1962,

    I agree that conceptually ID is scientific–but to be actually scientific it needs either to propose actual experiments or, like Susskind’s String Theory Landscape, another science-like concept and one that is unfalsifiable, it should lobby that the usual definition for science that demands falsifiability is too antiquated. I lobby for the former.

  42. David Heddle: “I agree that conceptually ID is scientific–but to be actually scientific it needs either to propose actual experiments..”

    I agree. The genome should be searched for obvious evidence, like informational messages, signatures, or images. (Imagine, finding a JPEG-like image of a picture of zebra in the genome of zebras? Do you think that would convince most rational people that zebras were produced on purpose?)

    Some people think we’ve already found something akin to this in the machinery of the cell. To me, the cell/DNA system is astounding. Neo-darwinian explanations are not persuasive to me, and since I have no reason to reject an intelligent designer a prioi (Occam aside), I suspect it was indeed was designed.

    At any rate, the astounding complexity of the cell/DNA system it doesn’t convince those (like most in the NAS) who hold an a priori and ideological anti-ID position. Researches need to find evidence that is as obvious as the nose on Jimmy Durante’s face.

  43. Carlos:
    It seems to me that, if Occam’s razor is applicable, the burden of proof lies on interventionists to argue that life couldn’t have arisen without a bit of outside help.

    I would say that Occam’s Razor would favor ONE design over multiple chance events, coupled with multiple atomic accidents all wrapped around multiple universes.

    What we do know is that only life begets life

    Great Ape:
    Now just how did that intelligence arise?

    Good question but one that irrelevant to ID, which is about the detection and study of the design.

    Great Ape:
    Please, someone explain to me how this is not a problem.

    Who designed the designer?

    It also comes down to fundamental entities. It the anti-ID scenario only matter and energy qualify. In the ID scenario information and life are added as fundamental entities- life being separate from living organisms, but living organisms requiring all four.

    To Dave Heddle on falsification:

    Falsificationism

    In summary, then, falsificationism in its various forms is an interesting idea but insufficient either to characterise science or solve the demarcation problem. It suffers from a series of logical and philosophical difficulties that should perhaps give us pause if hoping to find a single answer to what makes good science and what does not.

    Also as Dr. Behe noted:

    “Coyne’s conclusion that design is unfalsifiable, however, seems to be at odds with the arguments of other reviewers of my book. Clearly, Russell Doolittle (Doolittle 1997), Kenneth Miller (Miller 1999), and others have advanced scientific arguments aimed at falsifying ID. (See my articles on blood clotting and the “acid test” on this web site.) If the results with knock-out mice (Bugge et al. 1996) had been as Doolittle first thought, or if Barry Hall’s work (Hall 1999) had indeed shown what Miller implied, then they correctly believed my claims about irreducible complexity would have suffered quite a blow. And since my claim for intelligent design requires that no unintelligent process be sufficient to produce such irreducibly complex systems, then the plausibility of ID would suffer enormously. Other scientists, including those on the National Academy of Science’s Steering Committee on Science and Creationism, in commenting on my book have also pointed to physical evidence (such as the similar structures of hemoglobin and myoglobin) which they think shows that irreducibly complex biochemical systems can be produced by natural selection: “However, structures and processes that are claimed to be ‘irreducibly’ complex typically are not on closer inspection.” (National Academy of Sciences 1999, p. 22)

    Now, one can’t have it both ways. One can’t say both that ID is unfalsifiable (or untestable) and that there is evidence against it. Either it is unfalsifiable and floats serenely beyond experimental reproach, or it can be criticized on the basis of our observations and is therefore testable. The fact that critical reviewers advance scientific arguments against ID (whether successfully or not) shows that intelligent design is indeed falsifiable.

    In fact, my argument for intelligent design is open to direct experimental rebuttal. Here is a thought experiment that makes the point clear. In Darwin’s Black Box (Behe 1996) I claimed that the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex and so required deliberate intelligent design. The flip side of this claim is that the flagellum can’t be produced by natural selection acting on random mutation, or any other unintelligent process. To falsify such a claim, a scientist could go into the laboratory, place a bacterial species lacking a flagellum under some selective pressure (for mobility, say), grow it for ten thousand generations, and see if a flagellum–or any equally complex system–was produced. If that happened, my claims would be neatly disproven.

    How about Professor Coyne’s concern that, if one system were shown to be the result of natural selection, proponents of ID could just claim that some other system was designed? I think the objection has little force. If natural selection were shown to be capable of producing a system of a certain degree of complexity, then the assumption would be that it could produce any other system of an equal or lesser degree of complexity. If Coyne demonstrated that the flagellum (which requires approximately forty gene products) could be produced by selection, I would be rather foolish to then assert that the blood clotting system (which consists of about twenty proteins) required intelligent design.”

    Reality demonstrates that ID is testable and falsifiable. Testable by the IC & CSI observed in living organisms. Falsifiable by demonstrating unintelligent, blind/ undirected processes can account for it.

  44. Joseph,

    Well, this scientist will call it science when I see something that fits this template: do this experiment, and if you get result A then ID is supported, and if you don’t, then ID is false.

    That’s what I’m used to. Kind of like: measure the precession of Mercury’s orbit. If you get this result, General Relativity is supported. If you don’t, GR is false.

    The template: I assert that theory E can never explain this phenomenon does not constitute a scientific prediction. It may constitute a valid attack on theory E, but it doesn’t support any particular counter argument.

  45. sladjo: “…and then will try to focus on the other one… Because this question is of great importance when it comes to MORAL VALUES”

    I believe you are correct that the design question profound implications for morality, but please note that, having simply detected design, we are still left with all the big moral questions that face us. For example, does morality consist in following the purpose of the designer? Is the designed purpose moral? Case in point, as someone who believes himself designed by evolution, I believe my design is not moral and that morality must come from elsewhere.

    jerry: “If you get an ID proponent to admit that somewhere in the distant past the designer had to be either God or designed by God then you and others can huff and puff and yell and scream…”

    That is certainly the game of some, but that is not my game. My game is simply to highlight the tremendous irony of ID proponents harping on the lack of evidence and the associated impossibilities concerning abiogenesis while at the same time the ID position requires a profoundly more incredible claim of a pre-organic-life-intelligence. Only if we try to discuss the plausibility of *that* claim in your own terms of complexity, information, etc, you pick up your ball and go home, citing that your position is precisely constrained such that those very things can’t be discussed. And that’s all fine, you’re certainly free to define the rules in your own game. Only folks shouldn’t be upset or surprised when, much like a bad scrabble knock-off, few people will ultimately want to play. And to get into the curriculum, you need enough people in authority to want to play along.

  46. (43) What we do know is that only life begets life.

    It’s easy enough to concede that abiogenesis has not been unobserved and is most likely unobservable. But if we restrict knowledge to observation, we end up with a truncated and useless theory of science: science becomes a sterile collection of facts, uninspiring and uninteresting.

    In any event, the above assertion implies that life never had a beginning of any sort — that life is eternal. Is that really what you want to say?

  47. David Heddle

    Inferences from data already available are not outside the scope of science. For me, abiogenesis is the falsification of my spot under the ID tent. Granted, the agnostic partition of the tent isn’t very big. There’s a hell of a lot research going on that adds definition to what a minimalist free living cell must consist of at the molecular level and precisely how those structures work. This information is required to define a target for the hypothetical abiogenesis and may weigh either for or against it. Most of the researchers appear to be looking for supportive data and I feel their pain when they fail and the failure adds weight to a hypothesis they spurn.

    Regardless of who finds it under what motivation, no scientific hypothesis owns the data. Anyone may incorporate it in a competing hypothesis.

    There is no great dearth of research into the physical history of the earth and the solar system and even the galaxy. This also weighs either for against a hypothetical abiogenesis either here or in the causally connected neighborhood of here 4 billion years ago. It sets bounds on all kinds of stuff from availability of heavier elements to the kinds of chemical environments available and for how long.

    There is no dearth of research into inorganic and organic chemistry and, as you may have guessed by now, this data too can weigh for or against abiogenesis.

    In fact, I can think of relatively little in experimental science that doesn’t somehow come into the question. Astronomy, planetary exploration, comet intercepts, physics, chemistry, molecular biology, cosmology, stellar evolution, high energy physics, climatology, earth science, deep sea exploration, geology, and etc. Interestingly the most irrelevant science in regard to abiogenesis is any life science concerned with more than a minimalist cell because by definition life science begins where abiogenesis ends.

    In principle abiogenesis can be demonstrated in a lab using simulated natural physical environments and some latitude in accelerating key reactions to make up for small quantities of chemicals over brief time spans in the lab when nature had large quantities and long times to work in.

    In the meantime, biogenesis is the rule and there is no demonstable other way for life to arrive than through pre-existing life. If this ends in a brick wall 4 billion years ago that we can’t see further past in history that’s just how the cookie crumbles. There’s another brick wall 14 billion years ago so it wouldn’t be the first.

  48. David Heddle

    You asked for an experiment.

    Identify a hypothetical natural environment in which the formation of right-handed nucleic acids and left-handed amino acids can form and in which those monomers then come together in homochiralic polymers. Simulate the environment in a lab and show that the polymers do indeed come together and exhibit homochirality.

    Git ‘er done.

  49. Heddle writes:

    “it’s not based on a sample size of one”

    Yes, it is based on a sample size of one (we only know of one form of life) and your rejoinder that all of science must suffer under the same burden small sample size burden because there’s only one universe is a non-sequitur. One universe can contain many disparate instances of life in forms known and as yet unknown. In order to plausibly claim otherwise one would at least need to explain why other instances and forms would be prohibited by the laws of nature.

    I didn’t see your answer to my question of whether you believe God is alive and needs complex molecules for information storage if so. Did I miss the answer or did you miss the question?

  50. Carlos wrote:

    “The burden of proof would be laid on the interventionist (as I’ve taken to labelling this position) because Occam’s razor suggests that, if all else is equal, the “simpler” explanation — the one that posits the fewest unnecessary entities — is preferable. So if “natural” processes are sufficient, then it’s unnecessary to bring in another entity to account for abiogenesis”

    But all else ain’t equal, is it?

    1. We know that intelligent agents can account for CSI.
    2. We are not aware of any natural process that can.
    3.

  51. . . . continuing after computer snafu . . .

    3. We have good reason to believe that natural processes cannot.

    Thus, in another, perhaps abused, formulation of Occam’s Razor: What is the simplest explanation? That a cause we know to exist and to be generally capable of the kind of result in question did it, or that various and sundry unknown and hitherto undiscovered natural processes that defy all of our current experience did it? You want to talk about multiplying entities? How about these: primordial soup, lightning, mud globules, sea vents, volcanoes, cometary panspermia, proto-cells, proto-codes, pre-RNA, etc. The state of naturalistic origin of life scenarios is nothing if not a plethora of problematic musings. Let’s let Occam’s Razor cut away at a few of these.

  52. Shall I interpret (50) and (51) as your “en garde!“?

    Of course I assent to (1) (I have reservations here as well, about what “CSI” really amounts to. I’m leaving these aside, since neither probability theory nor information theory are my forte, so I shall restrict my contributions to things I know somethign about.)

    But I will not assent to (2) or (3), at least in their current form, because it affirms the consequent.

    Moreover, there are too many cases in which known “microevolutionary” processes generate the appearance of design — in lactose-metabolizing enzymes in bacteria, the samurai face on the Heiki crab, speciation among cichlid fishes in Lake Victoria.

    Now, I’ll be usually cautious — that is, unusual for me! — and refrain from asserting that all cases of apparent biological design can be explained through non-telic processes. But there’s at least reason for thinking that some cases of apparent biological design can be explained through non-telic processes. So I reject (2), and so (3).

    More recently there have been some intriguing proposals for the non-telic evolution of the Krebs cycle — I believe this was already mentioned in this topic, or somewhere else on this blog, within the past few days.

    As for the harder cases — the Big Transitions, such as the evolution of eukaryotes and of metazoans, not to mention the problem of abiogenesis itself — such cases should be taken one at a time, in light of what’s available at the time. Before the integration of developmental biology, genetics, and evolution (“evo devo”), the emergence of animals seemed utterly mysterious. Now, though the picture still has considerable gaps, much more has been filled in.

    I don’t want to put myself in the position of legislating from the arm chair as to what some subsequent science could or could not discover. So it would be ill-advised for me to reject interventionist models of abiogenesis ex cathedra. On the other hand, the history of science inclines me to infer that we’re pretty good at discovering non-telic processes between apparent design, and I don’t see why I should suppose that we’ve hit a brick wall.

  53. If *every* class teaching abiogenesis began… “we have *absolutely* no idea how this happened but…” I might have no problem with it.

  54. David Heddle:
    Well, this scientist will call it science when I see something that fits this template: do this experiment, and if you get result A then ID is supported, and if you don’t, then ID is false.

    Dr Behe provided such an experiment pertaining to the bacterial flagellum.

    Let me ask this- If someone went into a lab and designed a functional bac flag, for example, would that be experiment enough to justify ID?

    I say the justifiable experiment would “prove” (in a scientific sense) irreducible complexity is real. And that throwing time at such an obstacle is not a way around it.

    Then we have the predictions made in “The Privileged Planet”. Those are very testable
    ————————————————————————————-

    Carlos:
    In any event, the above assertion implies that life never had a beginning of any sort — that life is eternal. Is that really what you want to say?

    In the word of Rocky Balboa- “Absolutely”

    In my ID scenario we have at least four fundamental entities:
    (in no particular order of importance)

    1) Matter
    2) Energy
    3) Information
    4) Life

    Living organsims require all four to be in the same place at the same time.

  55. Re: (54)

    I interpret this as saying that “life” is an ingredient in “living organisms,” but that implies that there could be “life” without “living organisms.” I find this curious. Would you be willing to elaborate?

  56. Carlos,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I will have to think a bit more about your examples. Nevertheless, I am not sure any of them are good analogies for the kind of problems we are dealing with in abiogenesis. Even assuming the validity of the examples, when we take a system that is already replete with complex specified information and we note, after some reshuffling, that it is still repelete with complex specified information, it seems that we have hardly answered the question of where the complex specified information came from in the first place. Certainly we have not demonstrated that it can arise from natural systems that are initially lacking therein, which is what we need for abiogenesis. On a related note, to the extent there may be a small handful of natural processes in nature (drift, mutations, etc.) that occasionally generate “new” information, in my estimation such changes are trivial and, at least insofar as anyone has been able to demonstrate, bounded, in comparison to the kinds of changes required for abiogenesis.

    Carlos wrote:

    “I don’t want to put myself in the position of legislating from the arm chair as to what some subsequent science could or could not discover. So it would be ill-advised for me to reject interventionist models of abiogenesis ex cathedra. On the other hand, the history of science inclines me to infer that we’re pretty good at discovering non-telic processes between apparent design, and I don’t see why I should suppose that we’ve hit a brick wall.”

    In my estimation, the kinds of design processes we are talking about with cellular systems, DNA, and abiogenesis are a very far cry from showing a natural explanation for the orbits of the planets, or the craters on the moon, or similar kinds of phenomena. One might just as well cite the history of science as standing for the proposition that science has never uncovered a natural explanation for the kinds of systems we are dealing with.

    At any rate, I applaud your honesty, and I think everyone, including die hard ID’ers could take a lesson from your approach, which is certainly reminiscent of Michael Denton’s. I’m a bit more inclined to think that the brick wall has been reached, but certainly respect your cautious wait and see approach.

    Regards,

  57. Carlos:
    I interpret this as saying that “life” is an ingredient in “living organisms,” but that implies that there could be “life” without “living organisms.” I find this curious. Would you be willing to elaborate?

    Following the “conclusion” of science that only life begets life, that is after-all what we do know at this point in time, mine appears to be a logical deduction- that being life is in essence a fundamental entity. And by looking at what we do know about living organisms that at least appears to be a safe inference.

    What is it that makes living organisms come to life? Is it just chemical reactions? If I am correct absolutely not. And the science of today appears to support that premise- that life is not just chemical reactions.

    Then there are other aspects- one being reincarnation. Is it real? My scenario makes sense out of such an occurence. It also makes sense of ethereal beings.

    But I digresss. Mine is a topic under construction…

  58. Joseph,

    By “life,” do you mean something like elan vital, the “vital force” posited by the French philosopher Bergson?

    Eric,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and kind response. The examples I provided were meant to provide a sort of impetus to the philosophical and scientific imagination. Consider, for example, a bacterium which has been experimentally induced to produce a new version of a lactose-metabolizing enzyme, after the old version of the gene has been deleted. One might respond that the organism still has CSI, just not for that making particular enzyme. Granted. But notice: CSI must be specified. The bacteria still have the information they need for making other genes, but not the one that they need. So they evolve another way of making the enzyme. That really looks to me like the emergence of complex specified information.

    So, although the organism is already structured according to the principles of CSI, it still has to create something new in order to compensate for what has been deleted. And so that looks to me like the creation of new CSI.

    One might argue that new CSI can only come into existence through an organism that is already structured that way, and concede that once that’s done, non-telic processes can account for the rest. That, as I understand it, is Michael Behe’s position. Of course there are serious and perhaps even fatal flaws in that position, but no position is without its weaknesses.

    In any event, my interpretation of experiments with lactose evolution in bacteria is that new genes for adaptive functions can evolve under experimental conditions. That’s not enough to demonstrate that abiogenesis happened, of course, but it is enough to show that the emergence of biological novelty is genuine, and not just a matter of reshuffling the deck.

    It’s a long way from simple inorganic molecules to the simplest cell — but is it really such a long way from simple inorganics to simple organics, from simple organics to longer polymers, from longer polymers to crude self-replicators, from crude self-replicators to hypercycles, from hypercycles to protobionts, and from protobionts to cells?

    Well, I suppose it is, at that . . . but the lesson I want to draw here is that abiogenesis isn’t one big problem, it’s a lot of little problems. And in science, when we can break down one big problem into lots of little ones, we call that progress.

  59. Carlos:
    By “life,” do you mean something like elan vital, the “vital force” posited by the French philosopher Bergson?

    That is too vague.

    Carlos:
    It’s a long way from simple inorganic molecules to the simplest cell — but is it really such a long way from simple inorganics to simple organics, from simple organics to longer polymers, from longer polymers to crude self-replicators, from crude self-replicators to hypercycles, from hypercycles to protobionts, and from protobionts to cells?

    What is a “crude self-replicator”? For living organisms self-replication requires an stock pile of nucleotides. Yet nucleotides only exist in living organisms. Which means either a “nucleotide assembly line” is required or other living orgs that the replicating org can engulf and separate its nucleotides from its DNA- then use those.

    Then there are the genes and their corresponding proteins (& enzymes). An organism requires some method of recognizing the genes that will provide the proteins.

    Also Carlos existing CSI can produce CSI- but is it due to unplanned, unguided processes or “built-in responses to environmental cues” ala Dr. Spetner? We know bacteria mutate more frequently under stress. Perhaps that is their mechanism, ie “built-in responses to environmental cues”- to survive.

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