Home » Origin Of Life » Uncommon Descent Contest Question 9: Is accidental origin of life a doctrine that holds back science?

Uncommon Descent Contest Question 9: Is accidental origin of life a doctrine that holds back science?

For a free copy of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell (Harper One, 2009), help me understand the following:

Accidental origin of life is the basic thesis of origin of life researchers. Life all just somehow sort of happened one day, billions of years ago, under the right conditions – which we may be able to recreate. But there is a constant, ongoing dispute about just what those conditions were.

Here is the problem I have always had with accidental origin of life: It amounts to spontaneous generation. However, banishing the doctrine of spontaneous generation played a key role in modern medicine’s success. If we assume that life forms (for medical purposes, we focus on pathogens) cannot start spontaneously, then they must have been introduced. Hence, we can develop procedures for a sterile operating room or lab.

If life can be spontaneously generated, why isn’t it happening now? Conditions for life today are probably as good as they have ever been, and maybe better. For over 500 million years they have obviously been good for complex life forms, and for billions of years they have been good for simple ones.

If you wish to contribute to this question, you may advisedly wish to read this recent article in the math and engineering literature by Dembski and Marks:

Abstract—Conservation of information theorems indicate that any search algorithm performs, on average, as well as random search without replacement unless it takes advantage of
problem-specific information about the search target or the search-space structure. Combinatorics shows that even a moderately sized search requires problem-specific information to be successful. Computers, despite their speed in performing queries, are completely inadequate for resolving even moderately sized search problems without accurate information to guide them. We propose three measures to characterize the information required for successful search: 1) endogenous information, which measures the difficulty of finding a target using random search; 2) exogenous information, which measures the difficulty that remains in finding a target once a search takes advantage of problemspecific information; and 3) active information, which, as the difference between endogenous and exogenous information, measures the contribution of problem-specific information for successfully finding a target. This paper develops a methodology based on these information measures to gauge the effectiveness with which problem-specific information facilitates successful search. It then applies this methodology to various search tools widely used in evolutionary search.

Index Terms—Active information, asymptotic equipartition property, Brillouin active information, conservation of information (COI), endogenous information, evolutionary search, genetic algorithms, Kullback–Leibler distance, no free lunch theorem (NFLT), partitioned search.

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72 Responses to Uncommon Descent Contest Question 9: Is accidental origin of life a doctrine that holds back science?

  1. The main reason life cannot be spontaneously generated (I’m using that term because you did, not because I think it’s accurate – “life” has a spectrum associated with it) is to do with the existence of bacteria – in short, any complex biomolecules that may be the precursors to some sort of primitive metabolism will be quickly metabolised by the already-living bacteria in the ecosystem. You have to have a sterile environment for abiogenesis to take place.

    Of course, this assumes that solutions of precursor molecules still exist that are stable enough to last the millions of years it would take to gradually produce proto-life. I don’t think those exist anymore, or at least not ones that have no bacteria or other living creatures in them.

    So, that’s why life does not spontaneously form in the lab or hospital (other than the fact that you don’t run a lab for millions of years). I hope you found that revelatory.

  2. If life can be spontaneously generated, why isn’t it happening now? Conditions for life today are probably as good as they have ever been, and maybe better. For over 500 million years they have obviously been good for complex life forms, and for billions of years they have been good for simple ones.

    I would have expected somebody addressing the issue of OOL would at least have a basic knowledge about the subject?

    It cannot now, and could not happen again as soon as life was etablished on the planet.

    Accidents are known to happen in laboratories; maybe creation was a designer’s accident?

  3. naontiotami at 1: You wrote, “You have to have a sterile environment for abiogenesis to take place.”

    So it is happening in operating rooms all over North America?

    Details please. A Nobel Prize awaits you if you are the first to explain.

    It is all very well to say that some special conditions must exist, but how do we know that they ever really did?

    I am not sure what the word “revelatory” means. If you mean “shedding light,” no, it really didn’t.

    Neither you nor anyone else has a single useful idea about how life began on Earth, but lots of people can explain how it did NOT happen.

  4. Off Topic:

    New Images Capture Cell’s Ribosomes At Work:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....135106.htm

    Excerpt:
    Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have for the first time captured elusive nanoscale movements of ribosomes at work, shedding light on how these cellular factories take in genetic instructions and amino acids to churn out proteins.
    Ribosomes, which number in the millions in a single human cell, have long been considered the “black boxes” in molecular biology. “We know what goes in and what comes out of ribosomes, but we’re only beginning to learn about what is going on in between,” said the study’s principal investigator, Jamie Cate,,,,,,To help elucidate the ribosome’s movements as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA, the researchers used X-ray crystallography to obtain a highly detailed picture of the ribosome – a mere 21 nanometers wide – from an Escherichia coli bacterium. In addition to revealing atomic level detail, the technique allowed the researchers to capture the ribosome mid-action, a challenge because it acts fast, adding 20 new amino acids to a protein chain every second.

    “Scientists used to think that the ribosome made a simple two-stage ratcheting motion by rotating back and forth as it interacts with mRNA and tRNA,” said Cate, who is also a member of the California Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) at UC Berkeley. “What we captured were images of the ribosome in intermediate stages between the rotations, showing that there are at least four steps in this ratcheting mechanism.”

    “We suspect that the ribosome changes its conformation in so many steps to allow it to interact with relatively big tRNAs while keeping the two segments of the ribosome from flying apart,” said Cate. “It’s much more complicated than the simple ratcheting mechanism in a socket wrench.”

    Cate said that while this study marked a major accomplishment in cracking open the “black box” of ribosomal function, there are far more details yet to be revealed. Advances in imaging techniques over the next decade should allow researchers to go beyond the snapshots taken in this study to high-resolution movies of a ribosome’s movements, he said.

    “I’m looking forward to producing a movie of a ribosome with enough resolution and enough frames per millisecond that we can see what is happening at a molecular level,” said Cate. “It would be great to watch and really understand how the ribosome makes a protein, how antibiotics interfere with a bacterial ribosome, or why a strand of genetic code in a hepatitis C virus is so effective at hijacking a human ribosome. We still have a long way to go, but we’re working hard.”

    Did you notice evolution was not mentioned once?

    Maybe they will allow this imaging to be used by ID proponents instead of the fiasco Harvard lawyers created when Dr. Dembski dared showed “Inner Life Of a Cell” without proper evolutionary spin…

    The inner life of a cell – Harvard University
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtZEqQ1cpmk

    The images they are trying to capture sure would make a great addition to this video:

    Journey Inside The Cell
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1fiJupfbSpg

  5. O’Leary:

    “So it is happening in operating rooms all over North America?”

    Did you read what I wrote immediately after that sentence? Because that answers your question perfectly. If not, here it is again: ‘Of course, this assumes that solutions of precursor molecules still exist that are stable enough to last the millions of years it would take to gradually produce proto-life. I don’t think those exist anymore, or at least not ones that have no bacteria or other living creatures in them.’

    Operating rooms don’t produce life because they have none of the right precursor molecules. I don’t need to identify what *exactly* they would be (eg. amino acids, nucleic acids etc.), but biomolecules, even simple ones, do not abound in sterile, human environments like operating rooms.

    “It is all very well to say that some special conditions must exist, but how do we know that they ever really did?”

    This is a different question to what you asked in the main post. I’m not an expert in prebiotic chemistry, so I can’t cite papers for you. Perhaps you should do a little research yourself in that area, dig through the literature.

    Your other points are irrelevant to the main point of this post, so I’m not sure why you brought them up.

    You asked a question, and it was answered. Are you satisfied, within the context of that specific question alone? ;) Or are there other things that were part of the question that have been hidden from the readers of the post?

  6. Clearly, naiontiotam, you are a believer in accidental origin of life, and no impediments will dissuade you.

    As a non-believer, I have no reason to believe that your proto-life molecules ever existed.

    Look, you can believe what you want, but don’t call it science.

    That just complicates things.

  7. naontiotami @ 5

    You seem to be willing to accept the best available answer that complies strictly with naturalism. This is not the same as looking for the best available answer. Suppose I ask you the sum of ’1+3′ (and you belive all even numbers should be excluded to satisfy the first ammendment). Your answer may be entertaining, but not useful.

  8. The doctrine of accidental origin of life absolutely holds back scientific progress. Isaac Newton accomplished more for the sciences than perhaps any other man on his own because he saw nature as something that was perfectly intelligible and therefore made for comprehension and discovery. This position of purposive design presets a person towards an optimistic view of science and nature and is therefore encouraging. Also the design perspective brings one towards an engineering view of nature- that is it requires a person to seek a more complex and specific understanding of nature. This causes people to think synthetically- that is above and beyond the present material they have been dealt- which in turn should elucidate even clearer how things originate and work. Francis Crick very much used this kind of thinking to synthetically construct- or reverse engineer- the code of life.

    The idea that nature could not be a thing in which there is purposive design essentially means that the comprehensibility of nature may not be as fruitful as we hope. In other words if things like life are to be viewed as not designed then perhaps there is little more that we can learn from them. This view clearly is a science stopper- it kills the spirit of discovery and wonder that has lead so many great minds to profound individual achievements.

    “The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenetrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties – this knowledge, this feeling … that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself among profoundly religious men.”

    -Albert Einstein

  9. I am a proponent of ID. I don’t think spontaneous generation in itself is a great argument. It seems to me in order for the accidental formation of life to work, it has to factor specified information into it. (Read the part on Francis Crick’s sequence hypothesis in chapter 4.) You can have all the right ingedients in a primordial soup but if the nucleotides are not arranged in specified orders, how is it going to work? You can miracle all of the working ingredients together but the molecules will still probably only have shuffled Shannon information. Is this right? If this is right then, I fail to see how origin of life models have any merit.

  10. “and in this sense alone”

    Amen to that.

  11. Denyse,

    If life can be spontaneously generated, why isn’t it happening now? Conditions for life today are probably as good as they have ever been, and maybe better. For over 500 million years they have obviously been good for complex life forms, and for billions of years they have been good for simple ones.

    One issue is thought to be the presence of large amounts of molecular oxygen in our present-day atmosphere. While that’s convenient for us, it’s not so conducive to the formation of precursor molecules necessary for abiogenesis.

  12. You have to have a sterile environment for abiogenesis to take place.

    By definition un-sterile means contaminated with living micro-organisms. If an environment is not sterile then you can’t tell if abiogenesis has taken place because of all the pre-existant living organisms. Sterility is not required from a prospective replicators point of view, it just helps from an observers point of view – sterile equipment is critical for OOL experiments!

  13. yakky d, The liberation of oxygen into the atmosphere by early life is also, if I recall correctly, hypothesised to be linked to the 70-80 million year long episode referred to as the Cambrian explosion. I seem to recall that there is some geochemistry that backs this up.

  14. Scientists have at times used the term ‘accident’ or ‘cosmic blunder’ to describe the rise of life on Earth. This presents an odd dichotomy; on the one hand, they regard humans as nothing special in a hostile universe, however, when a Christian kindly points out that perhaps they were created in God’s image or that the planet Earth was specially designed for life, they respond that this is hubris. Self-esteem issues, perhaps?

    Can anything as complicated as life arise purely from accident or random chance? The answer, whether scientist or layman, is an obvious ‘no,’ based both on empirical evidence (see the experiments of Pasteur) and common sense. Our universe is not ‘something that happens from time to time,’ and anyone with a brain knows this. Only the marginalized atheist feels uncomfortable since the burden of proof (that life arose from nothing) rests squarely on his (or her) shoulders.

  15. Barb,

    Can anything as complicated as life arise purely from accident or random chance? The answer, whether scientist or layman, is an obvious ‘no,’ based both on empirical evidence (see the experiments of Pasteur) and common sense.

    How are Pasteur’s experiments relevant to the possibility of abiogenesis in a reducing atmosphere?

    Billb: Thanks for the additional info.

  16. Skew,
    Since you fancy yourself such a scientific intellect,,,and oh so much superior to us imbeciles who dare believe in almighty God…do you mind citing your evidence for an oscillating universe…I know you probably think this beneath you to actually back up your arrogance with scientific evidence,,,,but please do humor us will you?

    Evidence against the oscillating universe- Michael Strauss – video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5A9G8k02vpI

    Evidence For Flat Universe Reported By Boomerang Project
    http://www.lbl.gov/ScienceArti.....-flat.html

    Fine-Tuning For Life In The Universe
    http://www.reasons.org/fine-tuning-life-universe

  17. Yakky: “How are Pasteur’s experiments relevant to the possibility of abiogenesis in a reducing atmosphere?”

    Pssteur’s experiments proved that life only comes from life. Scientists don’t know for sure whether or not the atmosphere was reducing.

    Skew: “Barb, would you mind sharing with the rest of us your conclusive lab data on the non-emergence of life over the course of countless universe birth and deaths?”

    Care to first prove that there are multiple universes being born and dying?

    “You would think that the camp that is constantly foisting the image of god upon themselves is the one with self-esteem problems. Were you picked on by the science geeks in high school or something?”

    Actually, no and no. Healthy self-esteem is necessary to be a well-adjusted person. It’s arrogance and obstinance that make people unlikable.

  18. Barb,

    Pssteur’s experiments proved that life only comes from life. Scientists don’t know for sure whether or not the atmosphere was reducing.

    Do Pasteur’s experiments rule out the possibility of abiogenesis under whatever conditions prevailed on earth billions of years ago? No.

  19. Do they rule out the possibility? No, statistical probability does that. There is simply no positive evidence that life simply happened.

  20. Barb,

    Do they rule out the possibility? No, statistical probability does that. There is simply no positive evidence that life simply happened.

    It seems like it would be very difficult to calculate the probability of abiogenesis, given that at this point no one knows how it occurred or how may possible pathways there were. Do you have a source?

  21. No one knows that it occurred, period.

  22. Barb,

    No one knows that it occurred, period.

    I would agree to that. What about the probability calculation, though?

  23. Harold Morowitz calculated the odds as being 1 chancein 10^100,000,000,000 (as noted by Mark Eastman in Creation by Design).

    Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the odds as being 1 chance in 10^40,000 (and this is considering only the proteins of an amoeba). From this, we get the “tornado in a junkyard” quote.

    Harold Marowitz, an atheist physicist, created mathematical models by imagining broths of living bacteria that were superheated until all the complex chemicals were broken down into basic building blocks. After cooling the mixtures, Marowitz used physics calculations to conclude that the odds of a single bacterium reassembling by chance is one in 10^100,000,000,000.

    Anyone willing to play this lottery?

    In response to the probabilities calculated by Marowitz, Robert Shapiro, author of Origins – A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, wrote:

    “The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle.”

  24. Consider this, also: if matter acting on matter for a sufficient period of time can create anything, I should (theorectically) be able to go to the Everglades and find a naturally-occuring telephone. After all, that is a less complex device than the bacterial flagellum pictured at the top of this webpage.

  25. Barb,

    Thanks for those cites. I don’t have the book by Mark Eastman, so I can’t look up Harold Morowitz’s calculations; is he the biophysicist at Yale? If so, he provided this testimony in McLean v. Arkansas. I’ve reformatted it slightly to make it more readable here. The original is at this page.

    Morowitz: Well, I find the use of probabilistic arguments to be somewhat deceptive.

    Q: Would you explain what you mean?

    Morowitz: In general in the creation science literature, they start out by assuming, by making statements about the complexity of living systems. These will generally be fairly accurate statements about the complexity of living systems.

    They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability, and they then assert that therefore life by natural processes is impossible.

    But the fact of the matter is, we do not know the processes by which life has come about in detail. To do the probabilistic calculations, we would have to know all the kinetic and mechanistic details by which the processes have come about, and, therefore, we would then be able to do the calculations. We are simply lacking the information to do the calculations now, so to present them on the basis of the random model is somewhat deceptive.

    I’ll check out your other references a bit later.

  26. Yes, I believe he is the physicist at Yale.

  27. Well, I think the Morowitz stuff is pretty clearly a series of quotemines. First, note that Morowitz coauthored a paper entitled “Energy flow and the organization of life” in which he states:

    Life is universally understood to require a source of free energy and mechanisms with which to harness it. Remarkably, the converse may also be true: the continuous generation of sources of free energy by abiotic processes may have forced life into existence as a means to alleviate the buildup of free energy stresses. This assertion — for which there is precedent in non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and growing empirical evidence from chemistry — would imply that life had to emerge on the earth, that at least the early steps would occur in the same way on any similar planet, and that we should be able to predict many of these steps from first principles of chemistry and physics together with an accurate understanding of geochemical conditions on the early earth.

    See also:

    http://www.bioedonline.org/news/news.cfm?art=2930

    which is an article entitled “Biology News: Was life on Earth inevitable?”, which further describes Morowitz’ research. Here’s a quote:

    In other words, say biologist Harold Morowitz of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, and physicist Eric Smith of New Mexico’s Santa Fe Institute, the geological environment “forced life into existence”.

    To address the particular calculation that Eastman quoted, as far as I can tell, this comes from a book entitled Energy Flow in Biology, and it has nothing to do with the origin of life. In particular, it assumes an environment which is in thermal equlibrium. A little more here:

    http://www.infidels.org/librar.....l#Morowitz

  28. Denyse,

    Thanks for the reference to Marks and Dembski’s paper, which establishes the accounting principles by which they later prove mathematically that nothing can create information.

    Unfortunately for ID, this means that not even intelligence can create information. So if abiogenesis entails the creation of information according to Marks and Dembski’s accounting, it’s mathematically impossible for it to occur spontaneously or otherwise.

  29. Barb,

    Sir Fred Hoyle calculated the odds as being 1 chance in 10^40,000 (and this is considering only the proteins of an amoeba). From this, we get the “tornado in a junkyard” quote.

    As for Hoyle’s argument, there’s a wikipedia page devoted to it, Hoyle’s fallacy. Here’s one pretty devastating criticism from that page:

    They calculate the probability of the formation of a “modern” protein, or even a complete bacterium with all “modern” proteins, by random events. This is not the abiogenesis theory at all.

  30. O’Leary,

    I think you are confusing a theory of spontaneous generation which has been out of date for 200 years with the modern theories of abiogenesis, the “primordial soup” theories. As other posters have mentioned, the conditions in an operating theater are very unlikely to be the same as when life began.

    Also, question for everybody, if life did spontaneously start in an operating theater, how would anyone know?

  31. Barb,

    Consider this, also: if matter acting on matter for a sufficient period of time can create anything, I should (theorectically) be able to go to the Everglades and find a naturally-occuring telephone. After all, that is a less complex device than the bacterial flagellum pictured at the top of this webpage.

    One difference is that telephones don’t have parents, so they would have to arise in one step via a tornado in a junkyard scenario, which is extremely unlikely. Organisms with flagella do have parents, so there is the possibility they could arise in a number of steps.

  32. Yupcont 32: If life spontaneously arose in an op theatre, we would know.

    Patients would die of bacterial infections despite the best efforts of staff who stay up all night to ensure a clean op theatre. And new species of patho bacteria would swiftly be identified.

    Hasn’t happened that often recently.

    Show me a real live primordial soup that produces real life proto-cells, and I will listen to your theory with more interest.

  33. 34

    O’Leary,

    The theory of abiogenesis does not postulate that modern complex cells such as bacteria suddenly appear spontaneously. The process is slow. Millions of years slow. Simple molecules which slowly become more complex.

    Maybe this will help you understand the idea.

  34. Mrs O’Leary:

    Your contest attempts 8 and 9 are being overwhelmed by waves of darwinist distractive talking points. (It does not matter that hey have long since been adequately answered, the intent is to distract, distort and polarise.)

    Perhaps you should propose a format for recognising entries and distinguishing them from commentary; then moderate those who abuse it.

    GEM of TKI

    ++++++++++++++

    Here is my entry (and one suggestion on format):

    Q9: Is accidental origin of life a doctrine that holds back science?

    ANS:

    It is one thing to investigate and discuss the scientific hypothesis that it is possible that life may have arisen spontaneously.

    It is another — and indeed not only an UN-scientific but an ANTI-scientific — thing to willy-nilly impose the worldview level assumption or assertion that life MUST have come about by this means; especially through the sleight of hand of suggesting that to do other than to stuff science into a materialistic, atheistical, censoring straitjacket is to improperly inject “the supernatural” into science.

    (Such a rhetorical move, of course not only raises the potent myth of the god of the ever-retreating gaps, but also works to suggest that investigation of the evidence without materialistic blinkers is the thin edge of the wedge of a sinister, tyrannical theocratic conspiracy. So, then, what does that tell us about the largely — but plainly not completely — SUCCESSFUL attempt to impose materialistic assumptions into the very definition of science in recent decades?)

    Nor is the issue of censorship, blinkering and straight-jacketing a matter of rhetorical flourishes by one or two over-enthusiastic would be public spokesmen. We may read, for instance, in the US National Academy of Sciences’ 2008 pamphlet, Science, Evolution and Creationism, p. 10:

    In science, explanations must be based on naturally occurring phenomena. Natural causes are, in principle, reproducible and therefore can be checked independently by others. If explanations are based on purported forces that are outside of nature, scientists have no way of either confirming or disproving those explanations.

    By “nature” of course, the Academy wishes us to understand both: (i) the sum total of foundational reality, and (ii) such reality must be viewed/ treated as if it were a material world of matter and energy in space and time affected only by forces tracing to blind mechanical necessity and/or chance. (Thus, they have conveniently suppressed the alternative to a natural vs supernatural dichotomy: nature vs art, where ART-ificial things are intelligently caused, e.g. the very sentences the NAS uses to impose its censorship on science.)

    That is, against all history, against the counsels of sound philosophy of science — and against the empirical fact that there are reliable empirical signs of intelligence which just happen to be relevant to the origin of the complex functional information required for cell based life to come into being — censoring materialism has been smuggled into the roots of science.

    And so the answer to the question becomes obvious: insistence on the ACCIDENTAL spontaneous origin of life theough chance and necessity only acting on matter and energy in one or another form of Darwin’s imaginary warm pond is indeed an imposed ideological doctrine that holds back science from being “an unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) progressive search for the truth about our cosmos based on evidence and reasoned discussion of its significance.”

    It turns it, instead, sadly, into the thin edge of a destructive ideological wedge, as we can ever so easily see in ever so many situations all across our culture.

    But, we therefore know the solution: liberate science to be what is ti at its best: “an unfettered (but intellectually and ethically responsible) progressive search for the truth about our cosmos based on evidence and reasoned discussion of its significance.”.

    And, that is the liberation struggle of our time. END

    ++++++++++

  35. PS: Ouch, missed this: . . . origin of life theough through chance and necessity only . . .

  36. Yes, I would say that any doctrine that demands we live with lies, that we blinker ourselves to real possibilities, that we sever science from its theistic origins—that of course holds back science.

    It holds it back because it corrupts it. A dishonest culture that accomodates lies is not likely to have a passion for truth.

  37. Things have been going down hill ever since Aristotle and like-minded Greeks severed science from theism.

  38. Yakky: Abiogenesis as defined in the dictionary means ‘spontaneous generation.’ Literally, life just happened. Mathematically, it’s improbable. That’s the point I was trying to make. To suggest that abiogenesis must have occurred because ‘well, here we are’ is circular reasoning. At best, it involves educated guesses by chemists, biologists, and physicists as to what the early Earth looked like and what the atmosphere was like. Nothing can be said for certain. It does hamper science because it doesn’t have a solid foundation to build on.

    What is the probability of a bacterial flagellum arising on its own? Also, where did its parents come from?

  39. Barb,

    Yakky: Abiogenesis as defined in the dictionary means ‘spontaneous generation.’ Literally, life just happened. Mathematically, it’s improbable. That’s the point I was trying to make.

    I don’t think we have enough information to say abiogenesis is mathematically improbable. Morowitz proposes that it was inevitable, given the conditions on the young earth. Michael Denton, an IDer and former senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, theorized that “… all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes.” in his book Nature’s Destiny; even though he believes in design, he essentially accepts that abiogenesis occurred.

    To suggest that abiogenesis must have occurred because ‘well, here we are’ is circular reasoning.

    I wouldn’t call it circular reasoning; abiogenesis is just one hypothesis which could explain our presence.

    At best, it involves educated guesses by chemists, biologists, and physicists as to what the early Earth looked like and what the atmosphere was like. Nothing can be said for certain.

    I basically agree with that. This is science, so nothing is known with absolute certainty. And with more work, the educated guesses can either be rejected or refined as appropriate.

    It does hamper science because it doesn’t have a solid foundation to build on.

    What’s the alternative? Suppose we abandon the hypothesis of abiogenesis. What, if anything, will take its place? What foundation will this new research program be based on?

    What is the probability of a bacterial flagellum arising on its own? Also, where did its parents come from?

    I have no idea what this probability is, and I doubt that anyone does. I would guess that the parents of an organism with a flagellum had flagella themselves or at least the majority of the components present, possibly serving other functions. I’m definitely not a biologist, by the way. You can find a detailed proposal for the origin of the bacterial here:

    http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/flagellum.html

  40. Yakky D at 40:

    “I would guess that the parents of an organism with a flagellum had flagella themselves or at least the majority of the components present, …”

    They had flagella themselves? . But then that only shoves the problem back further …

    Look, I’d love to own a car, and would gladly make do with an older model. So where is my car?

    Majority of the components present?

    In that case, I would get all the crap towed to the local Canadian Tire, and get them to supply the rest, via auto parts dealers.

    And THIS is an origin of LIFE theory?

    The fundamental rule of Darwinian evolution is that the auto parts dealers that the guys at CT would just e-mail don’t exist.

    Aw come on.

    As a local cop once said to a perp: You are going to have to come up with some better explanation than this.

  41. Denyse,

    Barb asked:

    What is the probability of a bacterial flagellum arising on its own? Also, where did its parents come from?

    I had to do a little interpreting here. Flagella don’t have parents. So, I assumed she was asking, if we consider an organism with flagella, what can we say about its parent(s)? My answer is that the parent(s) either had flagella themselves, or had features which could be converted through mutation to flagella in one step. If you go back far enough, you would reach a point where flagella were absent, of course. Do you dispute that this is what mainstream researchers hypothesize?

    Nobody knows in detail how flagella came about. It’s an area of ongoing research. There are hypotheses, but the question is still up in the air. “Darwinists” would hypothesize that flagella arose through a series of steps rather than in a junkyard-in-a-tornado fashion; that was all I was saying.

  42. LOL Please make the obvious correction to “junkyard-in-a-tornado”.

  43. Yakky, “I don’t think we have enough information to say abiogenesis is mathematically improbable. Morowitz proposes that it was inevitable, given the conditions on the young earth. Michael Denton, an IDer and former senior fellow of the Discovery Institute, theorized that “… all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes.” in his book Nature’s Destiny; even though he believes in design, he essentially accepts that abiogenesis occurred.”

    But several scientists, including those that I posted above, have suggested that it is mathematically improbable.

    “I wouldn’t call it circular reasoning; abiogenesis is just one hypothesis which could explain our presence.”

    Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion that is to be proved is assumed in a premise. Abiogenesis is circular reasoning by definition, and this is primarily because scientists cannot—or will not allow a divine foot in the door. By ruling out design, they are left with abiogenesis. And they are left with an argument that is philosophically invalid.

    “This is science, so nothing is known with absolute certainty. And with more work, the educated guesses can either be rejected or refined as appropriate.”

    One of the problems with abiogenesis is that scientists stubbornly hold to it despite the lack of evidence. They claim that the atmosphere must have been reducing because that would better support evolution. That is circular reasoning and it stalls science.

    “What, if anything, will take its place? What foundation will this new research program be based on?”

    The foundation would likely be that design is detectable in nature.

    “I would guess that the parents of an organism with a flagellum had flagella themselves or at least the majority of the components present, possibly serving other functions.”

    But this again leaves the issue unresolved: where did the parents come from? How did their flagellae arise from an evolutionary standpoint? Were all the components in place or not? Remember, Dr. Behe explained in his book “Darwin’s Black Box” that all the components need to be in place and functional before the flagellum can work properly. Evolution has no explanation (that I know of) as to how this happened.

  44. 45

    Denyse:
    “If life can be spontaneously generated, why isn’t it happening now?”

    Indeed. If Evolution were true from an origin of life perspective, spontaneous generation should be happening all over the place; but it’s not. Something else must have happened as a one time event.

  45. CannuckianYankee,

    Indeed. If Evolution were true from an origin of life perspective, spontaneous generation should be happening all over the place; but it’s not. Something else must have happened as a one time event.

    Maybe we’re just always looking the other way when it happens today :)

  46. Barb,

    But several scientists, including those that I posted above, have suggested that it is mathematically improbable.

    As we saw above, Harold Morowitz, far from believing abiogenesis is improbable, actually suggests that it could be inevitable given conditions on a young earth. I’m not blaming you, to be clear, but whoever first decided to use Morowitz’ calculation as an anti-abiogenesis argument is guilty of the most spectacular example of quotemining I’ve ever seen. His actual view is quote literally the opposite of the representation given by Eastman.

    Whatever Hoyle’s opinions were on the origin of life, his calculations involved assumptions that bear no resemblance to abiogenesis, so whatever probabilities he arrives at are not relevant.

    I didn’t say anything about Robert Shapiro earlier, but he most certainly does not believe that abiogenesis is unlikely. His area of research is metabolism-first OOL, after all. Here is a quote:

    There’s nothing freaky about life; it’s a normal consequence of the laws of the universe

    which you will find here:

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/ga.....-life.html

    Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy in which the conclusion that is to be proved is assumed in a premise. Abiogenesis is circular reasoning by definition, and this is primarily because scientists cannot—or will not allow a divine foot in the door. By ruling out design, they are left with abiogenesis. And they are left with an argument that is philosophically invalid.

    Abiogenesis is one possible explanation for our presence. The action of a Designer is another. Whoever can provide the most compelling evidence for their side wins. There is no circularity here.

    The foundation would likely be that design is detectable in nature.

    Ok, we’ll see how it works out.

  47. Barb,

    Forgot this part:

    But this again leaves the issue unresolved: where did the parents come from? How did their flagellae arise from an evolutionary standpoint? Were all the components in place or not? Remember, Dr. Behe explained in his book “Darwin’s Black Box” that all the components need to be in place and functional before the flagellum can work properly. Evolution has no explanation (that I know of) as to how this happened.

    The development of the bacterial flagellum is an unsolved problem. However, Matzke at least gives us a testable hypothesis which can be used to guide further research. What does ID tell us about the origins of flagella?

  48. Adel:

    I suggest a read here first as a 101. Surely, you know that modern science was founded overwhelmingly by theists working in a theistic worldview. And, that the imposition of so-called methodological naturalism in the past few decades has had a censoring impact on origins science studies, as I explained above in brief.

    Then, please read Newton in his General Scholium to the Principia:

    ______________

    >> . . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. And if the fixed stars are the centres of other like systems, these, being formed by the like wise counsel, must be all subject to the dominion of One; especially since the light of the fixed stars is of the same nature with the light of the sun, and from every system light passes into all the other systems: and lest the systems of the fixed stars should, by their gravity, fall on each other mutually, he hath placed those systems at immense distances one from another.

    This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God pantokrator , or Universal Ruler; for God is a relative word, and has a respect to servants; and Deity is the dominion of God not over his own body, as those imagine who fancy God to be the soul of the world, but over servants. The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, absolutely perfect; but a being, however perfect, without dominion, cannot be said to be Lord God; for we say, my God, your God, the God of Israel, the God of Gods, and Lord of Lords; but we do not say, my Eternal, your Eternal, the Eternal of Israel, the Eternal of Gods; we do not say, my Infinite, or my Perfect: these are titles which have no respect to servants. The word God usually signifies Lord; but every lord is not a God. It is the dominion of a spiritual being which constitutes a God: a true, supreme, or imaginary dominion makes a true, supreme, or imaginary God. And from his true dominion it follows that the true God is a living, intelligent, and powerful Being; and, from his other perfections, that he is supreme, or most perfect. He is eternal and infinite, omnipotent and omniscient; that is, his duration reaches from eternity to eternity; his presence from infinity to infinity; he governs all things, and knows all things that are or can be done. He is not eternity or infinity, but eternal and infinite; he is not duration or space, but he endures and is present. He endures for ever, and is every where present; and by existing always and every where, he constitutes duration and space. Since every particle of space is always, and every indivisible moment of duration is every where, certainly the Maker and Lord of all things cannot be never and no where. Every soul that has perception is, though in different times and in different organs of sense and motion, still the same indivisible person. There are given successive parts in duration, co-existent puts in space, but neither the one nor the other in the person of a man, or his thinking principle; and much less can they be found in the thinking substance of God. Every man, so far as he is a thing that has perception, is one and the same man during his whole life, in all and each of his organs of sense. God is the same God, always and every where. He is omnipresent not virtually only, but also substantially; for virtue cannot subsist without substance. In him are all things contained and moved [i.e. cites Ac 17, where Paul evidently cites Cleanthes]; yet neither affects the other: God suffers nothing from the motion of bodies; bodies find no resistance from the omnipresence of God. It is allowed by all that the Supreme God exists necessarily; and by the same necessity he exists always, and every where. [i.e accepts the cosmological argument to God.] Whence also he is all similar, all eye, all ear, all brain, all arm, all power to perceive, to understand, and to act; but in a manner not at all human, in a manner not at all corporeal, in a manner utterly unknown to us. As a blind man has no idea of colours, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things. He is utterly void of all body and bodily figure, and can therefore neither be seen, nor heard, or touched; nor ought he to be worshipped under the representation of any corporeal thing. [Cites Exod 20.] We have ideas of his attributes, but what the real substance of any thing is we know not. In bodies, we see only their figures and colours, we hear only the sounds, we touch only their outward surfaces, we smell only the smells, and taste the savours; but their inward substances are not to be known either by our senses, or by any reflex act of our minds: much less, then, have we any idea of the substance of God. We know him only by his most wise and excellent contrivances of things, and final cause [i.e from his designs]: we admire him for his perfections; but we reverence and adore him on account of his dominion: for we adore him as his servants; and a god without dominion, providence, and final causes, is nothing else but Fate and Nature. Blind metaphysical necessity, which is certainly the same always and every where, could produce no variety of things. [i.e necessity does not produce contingency] All that diversity of natural things which we find suited to different times and places could arise from nothing but the ideas and will of a Being necessarily existing. [That is, implicitly rejects chance, Plato's third alternative and explicitly infers to the Designer of the Cosmos.] But, by way of allegory, God is said to see, to speak, to laugh, to love, to hate, to desire, to give, to receive, to rejoice, to be angry, to fight, to frame, to work, to build; for all our notions of God are taken from. the ways of mankind by a certain similitude, which, though not perfect, has some likeness, however. And thus much concerning God; to discourse of whom from the appearances of things, does certainly belong to Natural Philosophy. >>

    ________________

    Do you see why for many such founders, ithas been said tha they viewed science as thinking God’s creative and sustaining thoughts after him? That is, science was viewed as reverse engineering nature as the handiwork of a rational, thus intelligible, Creator.

    Or, in the terms of the current debates, Logos theology sets up a view of the world that expects to find rational order. It takes the risk in the Judaeo-Christian tradition of positing such.

    THAT RISKY PREDICTION IS NOW BEING DEEPLY CONFIRMED, NOT LEAST ON OOL: Life turns out to be based on programming, digital code, and algorithms.

    When last have you seen such writing itself out of say the electrical noise on an INTERNET connexion? (And what is the commonly observed source of such functional, complex, specific information?)

    GEM of TKI

  49. The accidental origin of life idea hurts science because it militates against the vital principle of causation, the rational and indispensible standard on which science is based. The first question any researcher asks is this: “How did it happen? or—What caused it? Yet, the concept of spontaneous generation popularizes the idea that physical events can occur without causes—that there need not be a “how”—that they can “just happen.”

    Consider the following proposition: Streets don’t just “get wet.” Using the scientific and philosophical principle of causation, we understand that something had to cause the streets to get wet. So, we say that if the streets are wet, then it must be raining, or else someone turned on a fire hydrant, or we look for some other reason. But if, as Darwinists or postmodern cosmologists claim, physical events do not always need causes or necessary conditions, that is, if something really can come from nothing, then streets can indeed just get wet. With this mind set, science is severely compromised. If, indeed, something can appear spontaneously or without a cause, why cannot it happen again somewhere else in some other situation?

    In keeping with that point, if one thing can “just happen,” then why cannot anything just happen? Why not everything? Under these circumstances, how could the scientist know which things were caused and which ones were not? Science would become an intellectual madhouse where the impossible is affirmed with confidence and the obvious is dismissed with disdain, which, come to think of it, is not a bad description of Darwinst epistemology. For Darwinists, and for postmodern cosmologists, a universe can pop into existence, life can come from non-life, and, yes, streets could, in principle, just “get wet.” Science cannot survive this irrational mind set indefinitely.

    As all reasonable people know, facts and evidence do not just interpret themselves. One reason why Darwinists cannot or will not follow where the evidence leads is because they refuse to interpret evidence according to the principles of right reason, one of which is the aforementioned principle of causation. How can scientists interpret evidence reasonably when they are hell bent on rejecting reason itself? As we already know, those dedicated to this principle of selective causation will avoid all the relevant questions about the information code in a DNA molecule. Perhaps it, too, was just another one of those events or circumstances that needs no cause—perhaps it, too, “just happened.”

    Thus, in order to preserve their paradigm, Darwinsts practice selective causation, that is, they pick and choose which events need to be explained, which ones do not, and at what times an explanation is needed at all, without, of course, explicitly admitting that they have abandoned causation at the preferred times. To keep everyone confused, they play with the language and use words that sound like, but really are not, explanations —words like, “spontaneous generation,” or “emergence,” or “vitalism,” or anything else that creates the illusion of intellectual rigor. The doctrine of accidental origins, complete with its deceptive language, provides Darwinists with the anti-intellectual framework for institutionalizing the practice of selective causation. Of course, aggressive deception cannot survive without a protective front and a strong institutional barrier. Thus, Darwinists practice “selective causation” on offense and “methodological naturalism” on defense.

    Science is, or should be, about pursuing truth, and the search begins with an honest admission of the relevant evidence and a willingness to interpret it reasonably. Scientific research stands on the metaphysical assumption that our universe is rational and its physical components can be reasonably understood in light of their cause-effect relationships. That is why the practice of appealing to accidents in lieu of causal explanations harms science. By treating these alleged accidents as explanations, partisan scientists challenge the assumption of a rational universe, corrupt the practice of science, and politicize the institutions that support it.

  50. StephenB,

    Your distinction between accidents and causes looks spurious to me.

    If you should be struck by lightning, would you argue that it was a purposeful action of an agent, or would you consider it a random event? If the latter, a random event can be causal.

    Similarly, given the appropriate conditions, the random interactions of molecules often result in the synthesis of new molecules or the degradation of the old ones, or a variety of other outcomes. All causal.

    (If I have misunderstood you again, just ignore me, thanks.)

  51. 52

    Clive: “Maybe we’re just always looking the other way when it happens today.”

    Or maybe it’s so preposterously unlikely that it miraculously only happened once. :)

  52. Here is the problem I have always had with accidental origin of life: It amounts to spontaneous generation.

    If you think abiogensis and spontaneous generation are the same thing then you need to brush up on your basic biology.

    If life can be spontaneously generated, why isn’t it happening now? Conditions for life today are probably as good as they have ever been, and maybe better. For over 500 million years they have obviously been good for complex life forms, and for billions of years they have been good for simple ones.

    Conditions today are good for complex life. New simple life may be forming all around us but if it cannot compete with the life forms already here it’s not likely to stay around long enough to be noticed.

  53. Meriam-Webster definition of abiogenesis:

    the supposed spontaneous origination of living organisms directly from lifeless matter

    The Free Dictionary definition of abiogenesis:

    The supposed development of living organisms from nonliving matter. Also called autogenesis, spontaneous generation.

    Biology-Online definition of abiogenesis:

    (Science: study) The study of how life originally arose on the planet, encompasses the ancient belief in the spontaneous generation of life from non living matter.

  54. @ShawnBoy:

    Using non-specialist dictionaries to define an often-misunderstood scientific term is a cheap tactic. What a dictionary writer and what a biologist has to say on the matter should not be equated.

  55. Stephen:

    Great to see a second actual contest no 9 entry!

    I would only note that you need to underscore a little more strongly — per the comeback above by AD — that it is evolutionary materialists who [especially at UD!] have defended the notion of causeless events.

    I would also distinguish the issue of directed/purposeful and undirected/stochastic contingency: design vs chance, and the third factor, mechanical necessity, in so doing. 9Seems the materialists want to put in a blank cause of the gaps to be taken on unacknowledged faith.)

    GEM of TKI

  56. PS: Shawn is right. Indeed in his famous warm little pond discussion, Darwin specuated as to how a spontaneously originating life form or component in today’s world would be at once seized upon as food by an existing organism. He then suggested that in the imaginary prebiotic world of his salt-rich electrically active pond, since there were no such predators, prebiotic evolution could proceed without hindrance. Of course this reflects a C19 ignorance of the information rich complexity and information systems base of life. Once that is factored in, we see that it is maximally implausible for such complexity to spontaneously originate ont eh gamut of the observed universe.

  57. kairosfocus, #57

    Of course this reflects a C19 ignorance of the information rich complexity and information systems base of life. Once that is factored in, we see that it is maximally implausible for such complexity to spontaneously originate ont eh gamut of the observed universe.

    Why do people think they can assign probabilities to a process that they don’t understand?

  58. Caman:

    Please note the distinction between probability and plausibility.

    In context, once a complex, specified function uses at least 1,000 bits to carry out its function, we are looking at a configuration space in excess of 10^301 cells.

    The observed universe, in its thermodynamically credible lifespan will go through 10^80 atoms x 10^-43s/state x 10^25 s ~ 10^150 states. That is, less than 1 in 10^150 of the configs for 1,000 bits.

    A blind random walk based search of 1 in 10^150 of a space is not credibly different from zero fraction. It simply has not got enough coverage to be plausible in terms of landing us on shorelines of function so we can climb up to peak functions by the various hill-climbing mechanisms so beloved of evolutionary biologists and computer simulation writers.

    he only entities routinely observed to find functionality in such vast spaces is intelligence. Starting with posts in this blog thread.

    Life systems as observed use at minimum 100′s of kilo bits of DNA storage. And novel body plans come in at 10′s to 100′s of mega bits of novel functional info.

    THAT is what the implausibility is about.

    GEM of TKI

  59. O’Leary:

    How will you tell if the code is genuine, given that it will be just pasted into this discussion?

    Should I just write out the algorithm Dawkins describes in Apple Basic and submit it? It would produce the results he published.

  60. Oops, this is the wrong thread!, sorry, Its been a very long day.

  61. —-Adel Dibagno: “Your distinction between accidents and causes looks spurious to me. If you should be struck by lightning, would you argue that it was a purposeful action of an agent, or would you consider it a random event? If the latter, a random event can be causal.”

    I see where there could be some confusion. I think it’s a problem with vocabulary. I am using the word “accidents” in the context that I perceive Denyse is using it, that is, the idea of a causeless event. On the other hand, plenty of random events can occur in the context of causality. So, in that sense, accidents happen all the time. If necessary and sufficient conditions are met, then randomness can occur, as in quantum events and the principle of causation is in operation. The issue I am addressing is this: Can physical events occur without any cause at all? As I already indicated, Darwinists think they can. I am saying that they can’t. If that is not what Denyse had in mind, then I am on my own. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify.

    —-“Similarly, given the appropriate conditions, the random interactions of molecules often result in the synthesis of new molecules or the degradation of the old ones, or a variety of other outcomes. All causal.”

    All causal, yes. The conditions are a necessary cause. In order for a causeless event to occur, both the necessary and sufficient causes must be absent. A quantum void is not nothing, so something is not coming from nothing.

  62. —-kairosfocus: “I would only note that you need to underscore a little more strongly — per the comeback above by AD — that it is evolutionary materialists who [especially at UD!] have defended the notion of causeless events.”

    Hi KF: Yes, indeed. Most evolutionary biologists think anything at all is possible—-except design.

    —-“I would also distinguish the issue of directed/purposeful and undirected/stochastic contingency: design vs chance, and the third factor, mechanical necessity, in so doing. 9Seems the materialists want to put in a blank cause of the gaps to be taken on unacknowledged faith.)

    See my comment to Adel.

  63. Stephen:

    Yes, I agree.

    GEM of TKI

  64. PS: Looks like this contest has been abandoned too. I think my contest entry format suggestion might help.

  65. StephenB,

    Thanks for the clarification. However,

    The issue I am addressing is this: Can physical events occur without any cause at all? As I already indicated, Darwinists think they can.

    In the context of the original post, the aim of scientific investigations into the origin of life is an investigation into causes, physical and chemical. It is an experimental endeavor based on testable hypotheses. Whoever those “Darwinists” to whom you refer may be, they would not be practicing science if they eschewed causality

  66. —Adel: “It is an experimental endeavor based on testable hypotheses. Whoever those “Darwinists” to whom you refer may be, they would not be practicing science if they eschewed causality.

    That’s right. Darwinists, for the most part, are not doing science. They are doing ideology in the name of science. They interpret all evidence in the light of their unwarranted assumption that life had to occur spontaneously and without a directive cause, meaning that they insist on the conclusion even before the investigation begins. So, to make their dubious scheme work, at least in their own minds, they accept causality when it serves their purpose and deny it when it doesn’t. That may be convenient, but it isn’t rational.

  67. I would simply point out that to ascribe origins of the universe, the origins of life on earth, or the evolutionary directions taken by life over the last ~3.5 billion years either to “accident” or “not an accident” is a category error (or category mistake), pure and simple.

    It is defensible to ascribe to persons and perhaps a few other higher organisms “intent” to engage in some behaviors. To do so is to ascribe to them the ability to represent behavioral options prior to behaving and hence “intend” a given behavior. As a component of this ascription, we say that for them it is possible to exhibit “accidental” behaviors or results, when their behavior results in an unanticipated outcome. A person may “accidently” knock the cup from the table. Or may do so intentionally.

    An earthquake, however, neither behaves intentionally nor causes results “by accident.” It may cause many cups to fall from many tables, but these are neither accidents nor not accidents. They are not “acts” at all. Such an ascription is simply inappropriate for a natural event such as an earthquake, and represents a category error.

    It is similarly inappropriate to ascribe either intention or lack of intention (“accidents”) to other natural phenomena, outside of the actions of organisms (particularly human beings) that may employ representations to guide their behavior. Hence the course of evolution is neither accidental nor non-accidental. Such an ascription is a category error. It is also a category error to describe the origins of the universe either as “accidental” or as “intentional.” However universes originate, it is unlikely to be by means of “actions” analogous to human actions.

  68. StephenB said the following:

    In keeping with that point, if one thing can “just happen,” then why cannot anything just happen? Why not everything? Under these circumstances, how could the scientist know which things were caused and which ones were not? Science would become an intellectual madhouse where the impossible is affirmed with confidence and the obvious is dismissed with disdain, which, come to think of it, is not a bad description of Darwinst epistemology.

    Dembski once wrote the following:

    To require prediction fundamentally misconstrues design. To require prediction of design is to put design in the same boat as natural laws, locating their explanatory power in an extrapolation from past experience. This is to commit a category mistake. To be sure, designers, like natural laws, can behave predictably (designers often institute policies that end up being rigidly obeyed). Yet unlike natural laws, which are universal and uniform, designers are also innovators. Innovation, the emergence to true novelty, eschews predictability. Designers are inventors. We cannot predict what an inventor would do short of becoming that inventor.

    Personally, I sense a disconnect. In Dembski’s words, I see that madhouse.

    Also, I think the assertion that any biologists assert that something “just happened” is overtly ludicrous.

    As I see it, something-alive coming from something-not-alive is simply not the same thing as an “uncaused” something-from-nothing, flagrantly violating logic by “poofing” into air.

    ID insists not only that abiogenesis of a sort occurred (unless the designer is defined as an organism, which the ID designer usually isn’t), but that it occurred by means material scientists have absolultey no hope of figuring out, so they may as well give up now and… start researching the problem with an ID mindset? How, exactly? Aren’t designers unpredictable? Or was I simply quote-mining, and in fact, a system has been figured out for describing/predicting the designer’s means?

    If it’s the year 4 billion BC, and the designer wants life to occur, what are the odds that it successfully occurs? 100%? How could they be any less?

  69. —-Lenoxus: “Personally, I sense a disconnect. In Dembski’s words, I see that madhouse.”

    Apples and oranges. Dembski is saying that predictability is not a function of design. The dynamic with which Mozart composes music is not the same dynamice that causes a musical sound when a hammer hits a string. The second is a function of mechanical laws, the first is not.

    Either way, that point has nothing at all to do with the Darwinist fantasy that events can occur without a cause.

  70. ARGH ABIOGENESIS IS NOT THE ABSENCE OF A “CAUSE” ARGH

    I think you mean “that life can occur without a living cause”, or something. Or are you talking about the Big Bang, and including the notion that it was a causeless event in the realm of “Darwinism”?

  71. kariosfocus, #59

    The observed universe, in its thermodynamically credible lifespan will go through 10^80 atoms x 10^-43s/state x 10^25 s ~ 10^150 states. That is, less than 1 in 10^150 of the configs for 1,000 bits.

    A blind random walk based search of 1 in 10^150 of a space is not credibly different from zero fraction. It simply has not got enough coverage to be plausible in terms of landing us on shorelines of function so we can climb up to peak functions by the various hill-climbing mechanisms so beloved of evolutionary biologists and computer simulation writers.

    If life consisted of a single organism blindly searching for a single specific configuration, your argument might actually make some sense.

    However, a single parent cell can produce 10^150 daughter cells in less than 500 generations, so finding any of the peak functions in your search space is almost a certainty.

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