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When science writers can’t cope with honesty among scientists …

Bio_Symposium_033.jpg

credit Laszlo Bencze

In “Faye Flam: Atheist Writer Who is Long on Graciousness, Long on Civility….Short on Reason, Short on Scientific Realities” (Algemeiner Daily, January 12, 2012), Moshe Averick, author of The Confused, Illusory World of the Atheist, comments on the need for science writers to defend atheist materialism well beyond what its pioneer exponents even try to do:

In my communication with Ms. Flam, I made it clear that (a) I was not trying to portray Szostak as a supporter of Intelligent Design theory, that (b) if it appeared that way it was unintentional and (c) I apologized for any confusion. The disputed citation from Dr. Szostak’s Scientific American article – “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines…could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter”- was brought as an illustration of the enormous challenges Origin of Life researchers face in trying to find a naturalistic process which would explain how life emerged from non-life, not to demonstrate Jack Szostak’s belief in God. I urge the reader to look at my email that appeared in Planet of the Apes and the full disclaimer I printed in my Algemeiner.com column of 12/22/11. I don’t see how I could have been any clearer.

But it doesn’t really matter how clear Moshe Averick is. The awful clarity that spooks Flam is this: When the By Chance Alone lobby are being honest among themselves, they no more implicitly believe their spiel than anyone else does. To stay real, they must admit that to anyone listening.

That leaves Flam grasping at claims that they were misquoted.

That should have been the end of it, but for some strange reason Faye seemed unable to let it go: “I appreciate your apology but the Szostak quote you included in your story can’t be reasonably interpreted in any way except as an attempt to connect him to the belief that life can’t possibly have come from non-life through a natural process…the sentiment expressed by this quote is the absolute antithesis of what Dr. Szostak has said many times…” In other words, Ms. Flam felt there was something inherently disingenuous about the fact that I used Szostak’s description of the awesome level of functional complexity of the simplest bacterium to support my position that it is the product of Intelligent Design, while being fully aware that Szostak himself completely denies the possibility of Intelligent Design. Faye, I appreciate your giving me the space in your column to explain my side of the controversy but it seems you have a fundamental misunderstanding of what the real problem is here. Please allow me to elaborate.

The real problem is that what – for Szostak – is a dream, an ambition, and imperishable hope, must be for Flam an easily demonstrable wooden reality. He’s the investigator; she’s the script writer.

So the story conflict is this: Szostak can’t cope with Flam’s demands for certainty because they interfere with rational thinking. Flam can’t cope with the reality Szostak sees.

So, of course, Reb Moshe is to blame for drawing attention to the problem.

The late Dr. Harold P. Klein, of NASA, once wrote something that was remarkably similar to Szostak’s statement: “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.” I quoted Dr. Klein in my book (by the way Faye, are you going to review it?), and in at least one other article. Do you think I was trying to imply that Dr. Klein supported Intelligent Design theory or was a believer in God the Creator? I certainly was not, and he most certainly did not and was not. One of the greatest chemists alive today, Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, also said something remarkably similar to Szostak’s statement.

Yes, that’s an additional complicating factor: The amazement and doubt are all par for the course in origin of life studies. If Flam has a lot of trouble with that, she might consider, say, evolutionary psychology, where conundrums or wrong answers are very rare indeed because contact with meaningful evidence is almost non-existent.

See also: Urgently needed: A random Darwin generator

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16 Responses to When science writers can’t cope with honesty among scientists …

  1. Some similar consternation was seen when Jerry Fodor and his co-author (“What Darwin Got Wrong”) made it clear that there is no certainty about how evolution’s proposed mechanisms work. It’s a simple question: Is it driven by adaptation, genetics, or some combination? Their disagreements are very real.

  2. I like the entire context of the Szostak quote:

    The Origin of Life on Earth
    Excerpt: Every living cell, even the simplest bacterium, teems with molecular contraptions that would be the envy of any nanotechnologist. As they incessantly shake or spin or crawl around the cell, these machines cut, paste and copy genetic molecules, shuttle nutrients around or turn them into energy, build and repair cellular membranes, relay mechanical, chemical or electrical messages—the list goes on and on, and new discoveries add to it all the time.
    It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines, which are mostly protein-based catalysts called enzymes, could have formed spontaneously as life first arose from nonliving matter around 3.7 billion years ago.
    Dr. Jack Szostak – Nobel Laureate and leading Origin of Life researcher who, despite the evidence he sees first hand, still believes ‘life’ simply ‘emerged’ from molecules
    http://www.scientificamerican......e-on-earth

    Methinks Szostak needs to buy a vowel! :)

    John 1:4
    In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

  3. Or eliminate the word ‘virtually’ from his quote. They admit that they cannot imagine how it happened, but they believe that it happened.

    This is akin to saying that you cannot imagine that the Loch Ness monster exists but that you believe that it does exist. It is an article of blind faith, not a scientific fact.

  4. Cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin of Tufts University in Boston presented evidence that the universe is not eternal after all …

    However,

    According to Craig … a scientific explanation … can explain events occurring within the universe, but not the coming-to-be of the universe itself …

    I agree with Craig — cosmologists like Vilenkin cannot draw any proper scientific conclusions about the coming-to-be of the unverse – such as its having a beginning.

    Therefore, Craig’s premise that the universe had a cause needs to be established on some other grounds besides cosmology.

    Cheers

  5. Oops – wrong thread. Apologies all.

    Cheers

  6. “The amazement and doubt are all par for the course in origin of life studies.”

    Exactly. Perhaps this is why the late atheist philosopher Anthony Flew changed his view toward the end of his life. He couldn’t ignore the evidence. Szostak and Flew see the same, or at least similar evidence. They just came to different conclusions. It shows that even in science, evidence has to be interpreted. And, it shows that sometimes to remain intellectually honest, a person may actually have to change his worldview to accomodate the evidence.

    Even atheists are amazed by the cell. Although the origin of life remains a huge mystery, they choose to place their faith in chance.

    We choose to place our faith in an intelligent Cause which seems a much more intelligent choice than believing in random chance.

  7. Bornagain, OT. I thought you’d be interested in this article.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/new.....-robe.html

  8. OT Collin, Thanks buddy I saw that. I even pieced together a few notes I had in response to it:

    Though a bit dated (a few weeks ago) Here is a press release video of recent Turin Shroud ‘laser test’; (with references following)

    Scientists Claim ‘Shroud of Turin’ Could Not Have Been Faked – Press release video – December 2011
    http://www.5min.com/Video/Scie.....-517232561

    Article mentioned in preceding video:

    Scientists say Turin Shroud is supernatural – December 2011
    Excerpt: After years of work trying to replicate the colouring on the shroud, a similar image has been created by the scientists. However, they only managed the effect by scorching equivalent linen material with high-intensity ultra violet lasers, undermining the arguments of other research, they say, which claims the Turin Shroud is a medieval hoax. Such technology, say researchers from the National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Enea), was far beyond the capability of medieval forgers, whom most experts have credited with making the famous relic. “The results show that a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation can colour a linen cloth so as to reproduce many of the peculiar characteristics of the body image on the Shroud of Turin,” they said. And in case there was any doubt about the preternatural degree of energy needed to make such distinct marks, the Enea report spells it out: “This degree of power cannot be reproduced by any normal UV source built to date.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/n.....79512.html

    further notes:

    A Quantum Hologram of Christ’s Resurrection? by Chuck Missler
    Excerpt: “You can read the science of the Shroud, such as total lack of gravity, lack of entropy (without gravitational collapse), no time, no space—it conforms to no known law of physics.” The phenomenon of the image brings us to a true event horizon, a moment when all of the laws of physics change drastically. Dame Piczek created a one-fourth size sculpture of the man in the Shroud. When viewed from the side, it appears as if the man is suspended in mid air (see graphic, below), indicating that the image defies previously accepted science. The phenomenon of the image brings us to a true event horizon, a moment when all of the laws of physics change drastically.
    http://www.khouse.org/articles/2008/847

    THE EVENT HORIZON (Space-Time Singularity) OF THE SHROUD OF TURIN. – Isabel Piczek – Particle Physicist
    Excerpt: We have stated before that the images on the Shroud firmly indicate the total absence of Gravity. Yet they also firmly indicate the presence of the Event Horizon. These two seemingly contradict each other and they necessitate the past presence of something more powerful than Gravity that had the capacity to solve the above paradox.
    http://shroud3d.com/findings/i.....-formation

    Particle Radiation from the Body – M. Antonacci, A. C. Lind
    Excerpt: The Shroud’s frontal and dorsal body images are encoded with the same amount of intensity, independent of any pressure or weight from the body. The bottom part of the cloth (containing the dorsal image) would have born all the weight of the man’s supine body, yet the dorsal image is not encoded with a greater amount of intensity than the frontal image. Radiation coming from the body would not only explain this feature, but also the left/right and light/dark reversals found on the cloth’s frontal and dorsal body images.
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/19tGkwrdg6cu5mH-RmlKxHv5KPMOL49qEU8MLGL6ojHU/edit?hl=en_US

    Shroud Of Turin Is Authentic, Italian Study Suggests – December 2011
    Excerpt: Last year scientists were able to replicate marks on the cloth using highly advanced ultraviolet techniques that weren’t available 2,000 years ago — nor during the medieval times, for that matter.,,, Since the shroud and “all its facets” still cannot be replicated using today’s top-notch technology, researchers suggest it is impossible that the original image could have been created in either period.
    http://www.thegopnet.com/shrou.....ests-87037

    Scientific hypotheses on the origin of the body image of the Shroud – 2010
    Excerpt: for example, if we consider the density of radiation that we used to color a single square centimeter of linen, to reproduce the entire image of the Shroud with a single flash of light would require fourteen thousand lasers firing simultaneously each on a different area of linen. In other words, it would take a laser light source the size of an entire building.
    http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_22597_l3.htm

    “The shroud image is made from tiny fibres that are (each) 1/10th of a human hair. The picture elements are actually randomly distributed like the dots in your newspaper, photograph or magazine photograph. To do this you would need an incredibly accurate atomic laser. This technology does NOT exist (even to this day).”
    Kevin Moran – Optical Engineer

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy, and The Shroud Of Turin – updated video
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

    Turin Shroud Enters 3D Age – Pictures, Articles and Videos
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1gDY4CJkoFedewMG94gdUk1Z1jexestdy5fh87RwWAfg

  9. cont. Collin;

    Also of note as to providing a viable ‘mechanism’ for the apparent ‘burst of light’ emanating from the body of Christ:

    Cellular Communication through Light
    Excerpt: Information transfer is a life principle. On a cellular level we generally assume that molecules are carriers of information, yet there is evidence for non-molecular information transfer due to endogenous coherent light. This light is ultra-weak, is emitted by many organisms, including humans and is conventionally described as biophoton emission.
    http://www.plosone.org/article.....ne.0005086

    Biophotons – The Light In Our Cells – Marco Bischof – March 2005
    Excerpt page 2: The Coherence of Biophotons: ,,, Biophotons consist of light with a high degree of order, in other words, biological laser light. Such light is very quiet and shows an extremely stable intensity, without the fluctuations normally observed in light. Because of their stable field strength, its waves can superimpose, and by virtue of this, interference effects become possible that do not occur in ordinary light. Because of the high degree of order, the biological laser light is able to generate and keep order and to transmit information in the organism.
    http://www.international-light.....hotons.pdf

    Are humans really beings of light?
    Excerpt: “We now know, today, that man is essentially a being of light.”,,, “There are about 100,000 chemical reactions happening in every cell each second. The chemical reaction can only happen if the molecule which is reacting is excited by a photon… Once the photon has excited a reaction it returns to the field and is available for more reactions… We are swimming in an ocean of light.”
    http://viewzone2.com/dna.html

    Coast to Coast – Vicki’s Near Death Experience (Blind From Birth) part 1 of 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e65KhcCS5-Y

    Quote from preceding video: ‘I was in a body and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head. It had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And ‘it’ was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.’ -
    Vicky Noratuk

    “Miracles do not happen in contradiction to nature, but only in contradiction to that which is known to us of nature.”
    St. Augustine

    further notes refuting carbon dating:

    Many solid lines of evidence pointed to the Shroud’s authenticity back in the 1980’s, yet one line of evidence, the carbon dating of 1989, indicated a medieval age. In spite of many other, more reliable, lines of evidence establishing the Shroud as authentic, many people unquestionably, before the present ‘laser test’, accepted the one questionable line of evidence, the carbon dating, as valid and presumed the Shroud to be a medieval fake. Here are some of the other more reliable lines of evidence;

    THE SHROUD AS AN ANCIENT TEXTILE – Evidence of Authenticity
    http://www.newgeology.us/presentation24.html

    Shroud Of Turin – Sewn From Two Pieces – 2000 Years Old – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4109101

    The Sudarium of Oviedo
    http://www.shroudstory.com/sudarium.htm

    Here is a interesting video interview with Bruno Barberis, director of the International Center of Sindonology in Turin, Italy, who states that the Shroud is the ‘actual burial cloth of Jesus’;

    Expert: Shroud ‘actual burial cloth of Jesus’ – interview with video
    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?f.....eId=151025

  10. cont. Collin:

    Moreover, in a fairly recent breakthrough, prior to this ‘laser test’ the carbon dating question has been thoroughly addressed and refuted by Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford in 2000. Their research, with textile experts, showing the carbon testing was done with a piece of the Shroud which was subject to expert medieval reweaving in the 1500’s had much historical, and photographic, evidence behind it. Their historical, and photographic, evidence was then scientifically confirmed by chemical analysis in 2005 by Raymond Rogers. Thus, the fact that a false age was shown by the 1989 carbon testing has been accepted across the board as far as the scientific evidence itself is concerned.

    New Evidence Overturns Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating – Joseph G. Marino and M. Sue Benford – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4222339

    Discovery Channel – Unwrapping The Shroud of Turin New Evidence – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWyiZtagxX8

    The following is the main peer reviewed paper which has refuted the 1989 Carbon Dating:

    Why The Carbon 14 Samples Are Invalid, Raymond Rogers per: Thermochimica Acta
    Excerpt: Preliminary estimates of the kinetics constants for the loss of vanillin from lignin indicate a much older age for the cloth than the radiocarbon analyses. The radiocarbon sampling area is uniquely coated with a yellow–brown plant gum containing dye lakes. Pyrolysis-mass-spectrometry results from the sample area coupled with microscopic and microchemical observations prove that the radiocarbon sample was not part of the original cloth of the Shroud of Turin. The radiocarbon date was thus not valid for determining the true age of the shroud. The fact that vanillin can not be detected in the lignin on shroud fibers, Dead Sea scrolls linen, and other very old linens indicates that the shroud is quite old. A determination of the kinetics of vanillin loss suggests that the shroud is between 1300- and 3000-years old. Even allowing for errors in the measurements and assumptions about storage conditions, the cloth is unlikely to be as young as 840 years.
    http://www.ntskeptics.org/issu.....oudold.htm

    Rogers passed away shortly after publishing this paper, but his work was ultimately verified by the Los Alamos National Laboratory:

    Carbon Dating Of The Turin Shroud Completely Overturned by Scientific Peer Review
    Excerpt: Rogers also asked John Brown, a materials forensic expert from Georgia Tech to confirm his finding using different methods. Brown did so. He also concluded that the shroud had been mended with newer material. Since then, a team of nine scientists at Los Alamos has also confirmed Rogers work, also with different methods and procedures. Much of this new information has been recently published in Chemistry Today.
    http://shroudofturin.wordpress.....s-of-time/

    This following is the Los Alamos National Laboratory report and video which completely confirms the Rogers’ paper:

    “Analytical Results on Thread Samples Taken from the Raes Sampling Area (Corner) of the Shroud Cloth” (Aug 2008)
    Excerpt: The age-dating process failed to recognize one of the first rules of analytical chemistry that any sample taken for characterization of an area or population must necessarily be representative of the whole. The part must be representative of the whole. Our analyses of the three thread samples taken from the Raes and C-14 sampling corner showed that this was not the case……. LANL’s work confirms the research published in Thermochimica Acta (Jan. 2005) by the late Raymond Rogers, a chemist who had studied actual C-14 samples and concluded the sample was not part of the original cloth possibly due to the area having been repaired. – Robert Villarreal – Los Alamos National Laboratory
    http://www.ohioshroudconference.com/

    Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating Overturned By Scientific Peer Review – Robert Villarreal – Press Release video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041193

    Further notes on the enigmatic, photographic negative/3-D hologram, image of the Man on the shroud:

    “the closest science can come to explaining how the image of the Man in the Shroud got there is by comparing the situation to a controlled burst of high-intensity radiation similar to the Hiroshima bomb explosion which “printed” images of incinerated people on building walls.”
    Frank Tribbe – Leading Scholar And Author On Shroud Research

    Kevin Moran, a scientist working on the mysterious ’3D’ nature of the Shroud image, states the ‘supernatural’ explanation this way:

    “It is not a continuum or spherical-front radiation that made the image, as visible or UV light. It is not the X-ray radiation that obeys the one over R squared law that we are so accustomed to in medicine. It is more unique. It is suggested that the image was formed when a high-energy particle struck the fiber and released radiation within the fiber at a speed greater that the local speed of light. Since the fiber acts as a light pipe, this energy moved out through the fiber until it encountered an optical discontinuity, then it slowed to the local speed of light and dispersed. The fact that the pixels don’t fluoresce suggests that the conversion to their now brittle dehydrated state occurred instantly and completely so no partial products remain to be activated by the ultraviolet light. This suggests a quantum event where a finite amount of energy transferred abruptly. The fact that there are images front and back suggests the radiating particles were released along the gravity vector. The radiation pressure may also help explain why the blood was “lifted cleanly” from the body as it transformed to a resurrected state.”

    If scientists want to find the source for the supernatural light which made the “3D – photographic negative” image I suggest they look to the thousands of documented Near-Death Experiences (NDE’s) in Judeo-Christian cultures. It is in their testimonies that you will find mention of an indescribably bright ‘Light’ or ‘Being of Light’ who is always described as being of a much brighter intensity of light than the people had ever seen before. All people who have been in the presence of ‘The Being of Light’ while having a deep NDE have no doubt whatsoever that the ‘The Being of Light’ they were in the presence of is none other than ‘The Lord God Almighty’ of heaven and earth.

    In The Presence Of Almighty God – The NDE of Mickey Robinson – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4045544

    Near Death Experience – The Tunnel, The Light, The Life Review – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4200200/

    The Scientific Evidence for Near Death Experiences – Dr Jeffery Long – Melvin Morse M.D. – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4454627

  11. From Szostak’s own web site:

    We are interested in the chemical and physical processes that facilitated the transition from chemical evolution to biological evolution on the early earth. As a way of exploring these processes, our laboratory is trying to build a synthetic cellular system that undergoes Darwinian evolution. Our view of what such a chemical system would look like centers on a model of a primitive cell, or protocell, that consists of two main components: a self-replicating genetic polymer and a self-replicating membrane boundary.

    They have envisioned a target, and just as all intelligent designers do, they are dividing the larger problem into smaller, more solvable ones which can then be combined to achieve the greater goal.

    Who cares what Szostak says he thinks about the possible role of intelligent design? He’s attempting to achieve his goal by means of intelligent design, not without it.

    If he achieves his stated goal he will be no closer to demonstrating the possibility of abiogenesis than he is now. Having determined the steps that must occur and how to achieve them he will be much farther from it. Relating his results to abiogenesis would involve finding a way for his life’s work to repeat without him.

    How could anyone even imagine that Szostak is researching undirected abiogenesis?

  12. True, collinb. The disagreements are real, and ten to get slimed over by the science writer’s “Once upon a time, there was this creative little ooze … “

  13. Scott’s points are well made. If undirected abiogenesis is the true goal of the lab, then place all the components of a cell in one general area and then shut the lab door and wait and see how long it takes for them to combine into a fully functional cell. That is what they believe happened billions of years ago.

    Off-topic: This CAPTCHA thing is really annoying.

  14. Bornagain77, it seems that physical light forms a continuum with spiritual light and its self-existent source, the creator God. Somewhere in the breviary, presumably in one of the Readings, God is actually referred to as ‘the source of light and creator of light,’ which seems to me suggestive of just such a continuum.

    One thing that the absolute speed of light establishes beyond all peradventure is that even the physical-light pole of the continuum is exogenous to space-time, manifestly including the imperfect vacuum which apparently is still, seemingly, considered without dispute as its reference-frame. It’s as if God were say, ‘Oh no you don’t. You don’t get out of it that way.’

    Now that it has been established that there is no perfect vacuum, particles keep appearing and evanescing, one would have thought that, at least, the philosophers of science would have pointed out that the reference-frame of light had now, once again, receded from our understanding into mystery, a mystery akin to the Singularity at the Big bang. – the one certainty being that it is not proper to space-time.

  15. There seems to be more than a possibility that the physicists working with the Hadron Collider are try to access the self-same Singularity, enclosing the universe as a matrix.

    An uncreated, spiritual light-created, physical light continuum seems evocative of the Incarnation, and more specifically the Cosmic Christ posited by the Jesuit palaeontologist, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, and before him I believe, the Apostle Paul, if not in so many words.

  16. ScottAndrews:

    If he achieves his stated goal he will be no closer to demonstrating the possibility of abiogenesis than he is now. Having determined the steps that must occur and how to achieve them he will be much farther from it. Relating his results to abiogenesis would involve finding a way for his life’s work to repeat without him.

    I disagree to this extent: If he can show that his designed protocell could possibly have arisen within the probabilistic resources available and the conditions that likely existed on the early earth, then he will have at least made a case. These, however, are huge hurdles. But of course even then, he is still faced with the problem of demonstrating that his protocell is capable of “evolving” into a cell as is currently understood, again within the probabilistic resources available.

    Personally, I don’t think he has a prayer.

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