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“Made from Scratch”??

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As you read this article from the Washington Post, ask yourself how far such research would get without enzymes and a host of other materials “borrowed” from existing life-forms. “From scratch” properly should mean “made only with chemicals available in a realistic prebiotic environment.” That’s not what we’re dealing with here. And even if we were getting back to chemicals available in a realistic prebiotic environment, could the same be said for the investigator inteference of Craig Venter and his colleagues? Wouldn’t it be safer to say that they are acting as intelligent designers and not as mere accelerators of existing blind evolutionary processes?

Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms
By Rick Weiss | Washington Post Staff Writer | Monday, December 17, 2007; A01

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life’s most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA — an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

Scientists in Maryland have already built the world’s first entirely handcrafted chromosome — a large looping strand of DNA made from scratch in a laboratory, containing all the instructions a microbe needs to live and reproduce.


the way I read nochange is that reproduction is statistically unlikely and needs help from intelligence in order to make it likely. The entropy books may be balanced but that doesn't mean we have any right to assume that a machine could reproduce itself without outside help. ari-freedom
More simply, to paraphrase Morbo: "Thermodynamics do not work that way!" Corey
nochange Food isn't without order. The dead meat you reference has some order - less order than live meat to be sure but not much less if it's fresh. The process of digesting it decreases that order as it's broken down into simpler components. Some of the simpler components are then reordered into living tissue while most of the bulk is excreted out the other end of the digestive tract with far less order than when it entered. There is no net change in entropy. The flaw in your argument is you didn't consider the increase of entropy in the food as it is digested which balances the decrease in entropy of the newly formed living tissue. Another point is you seem to be saying that entropy cannot ever decrease in an open system. This is not true. Decreases in entropy are probabalistic. It's not impossible for order to flow from lesser to greater across a given boundary it's just unlikely. Order tends to flow from greater to lesser across a boundary. Statistical mechanics describes the probabilties involved. For instance, it's theoretically possible to melt a gold watch, shake the molten metal as it cools, and have it reform into a gold watch again. It's just so statistically unlikely that it's practically impossible. Darwinian evolutionists tend to discount the enormous statistical improbability and focus on the theoretical possibility saying - in effect - that given enough time and chance the seemingly impossible is possible. What they say is true and if the universe's size and age were infinite then they have a valid point. Unfortunately for them the universe, as far as we know (and even more so for the fraction of it that is the sun and earth) is not infinite in either age or size. The opportunities for time and chance are thus bounded and by all reasonable statistical measures it just isn't big enough or old enough for time and chance to have any reasonable possibility of overcoming the odds in creating life from non-living matter. The fallback position when they realize this and are determined to expel intelligence is panspermia (life, or some rudiments of it) formed outside the earth where there was more time and space for chance to operate. When they further realize that still isn't enough they start blathering about an infinite number of universes. That said, where the probabilities in thermodynamics are seemingly defied is when intelligent agency enters the picture. For instance, the laws of thermodynamics for all practical purposes prohibits a space shuttle from forming by chance alone in a finite universe. Yet a whole fleet of them has been flying for decades. Intelligent agency routinely makes the practically impossible actually happen. An evolutionist might tell you that the earth isn't a closed system and order is imported from the sun and that's how life was able to form. Maybe so. But absent intelligent agency would there be cities and computers and the library of congress? Granted that sun's energy was requisite to the formation of these things but so was intelligent agency. Leave everything else the same and the sun's energy by itself is not enough. The odds against the chance formation of computers and libraries and cities in a finite universe such as ours are simply too remote for chance alone to have any reasonable possibility of producing that kind of order. Yet it exists. The key element in why they do indeed exist is intelligent agency. The hallmark of intelligence agency is discerned through statistical probability. When something is observed that statistical probability predicts shouldn't exist in a finite universe such as ours (like a space shuttle or a living cell) then the action of intelligent agency is indicated. This is where Dembski comes in. He's got a PhD in statistical probability. His mathematical analysis of the situation is over my head so I seldom if ever comment on it. I'm a retired computer hardware/software engineer. Abstract math makes my eyes glaze over so I defer to his expertise beyond this point but as a design engineer I, more than anyone who isn't a design engineer, realize that complex machines dont' design and build themselves out of thin air. That's simply preposterous. DaveScot
I've tried to stay out of this as long as possible but curisosity has overtaken my will to resist. In regard to whether or not bacteria are machines or some life force exists it just strikes me as odd why so many people are quoting the Bible as a scientific refrence. Now Personally, from what I know of the Bible, of Kabbalah, psi research, and mysticism in general, I support the existence of a life force that permeates the universe. To me it makes sense that there would be a force through which God tools around with living things. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy greatly reading news and opinion on the cutting edge of seperating materialism from science from UD but it just seems weird that so many ID supporters would quote the Bible as a scientific refrence. Establishing ID as a legitimate science and saturating talk on ID with Biblical quotes doesn't seem to go together in my opinion. UrbanMysticDee
I'm not really sure if that's a fair assumption to make. Corey
you understand something when you can actually build the machine. Not by simply stating that a bacteria is a machine and giving a story ari-freedom
Well, we're those machines, and we understand how thermodynamics allows these processes to happen in livings systems. Corey
corey if they were so understood then we'd have machines that eat and then copy themselves while at the same time, continuing to function. nochange could be more helpful by giving a formalism but he is not really helpful by going off on cancer and ruling the universe. ari-freedom
Nochange #50:
*This* will be where we will make breakthroughs that materialists will fail at. *This* is how we will bring our science to the forefront. By defeating diseases like cancer. Then the materialists will have to take us seriously!
I'm a materialist and I have trouble taking YOU seriously. Seriously. Daniel King
"and yet somehow we create more order in our bodies." That is, through well understood processes. Corey
Corey, Exactly! Breaking down food *does* create more disorder, and yet somehow we create more order in our bodies. That is clearly breaking a law of thermodynamics. To understand that, we *have* to defeat this materialistic science. I can't help wondering if understanding cancer will be a part of this process. After all, cancer is just a break down of order in our bodies. If we can understand the energy source that allows us to break the laws of thermodynamics, we can understand how to defeat cancer (after all, cancer is merely following a thermodynamic law). *This* will be where we will make breakthroughs that materialists will fail at. *This* is how we will bring our science to the forefront. By defeating diseases like cancer. Then the materialists will have to take us seriously! Nochange
Breaking down food even creates more disorder Corey
Atom, What you’re writing is ridiculous. If it were true, then for each bit of turning food into human you’d have to have a corresponding change of our DNA into garbage.
I don't follow your argument. When information is copied (from a template to another material), we don't double the amount of information. If my body applies inherent information to another substrate (say food, or what have you), I didn't just increase the information content. Two copies of a newspaper don't have twice as much information. I think you're missing that subtlety. To be honest, I don't get your whole food argument either way. Our body breaks down food into component parts (no net increase of order), it then uses pre-existing information templates to build what it needs (again, no net increase in information, since we're using a template). Where is this increase in order you're seeing? Atom
As wikipedia says: "In sciences such as biology and biochemistry, however, the application of thermodynamics is well-established, e.g. biological thermodynamics." Corey
Atom, What you're writing is ridiculous. If it were true, then for each bit of turning food into human you'd have to have a corresponding change of our DNA into garbage. There's no free lunch, remember! Every decrease in entropy has to have a corresponding increase somewhere else. If what you're saying is correct, you'd have to have an increase in entropy of the information/genetic content for each decrease in entropy of turning food into a person. We'd essentially be eating ourselves apart. Clearly that doesn't happen. That's why we're violating the second law of thermodynamics (hence the requirement for a life force to keep things moving along). Nochange
nochange wrote: They are increasing the amount of order in the system - oh you mean an increase in the amount of CSI when something reproduces. ari-freedom
descreases* = decreases transforations* = transformations Atom
Nochange, The 2nd Law isn't violated in human organisms. Even if we're not talking about heat specifically (which the 2nd law does) and are extending the underlying concepts to all types of order (as Graville Sewell does with his Sewell's Law), then we can demonstrate that the laws are not violated, since the total amount of order either remains constant or descreases. In humans, we already come pre-loaded with information; the egg and sperm together with the host (mother) contain all the necessary information to "unpack" the human. The same with food transforations: our molecular machines have the information to do the transformations. So the information/order doesn't necessarily increase and the second law says that the amount of order can only remain constant or decrease. Atom
ari, Here's the thermodynamic problem (I'm going to assume that you really don't understand this, and aren't being sarcastic): When a human eats something (a plant, a dead piece of meat) they are turning that something into human tissue, into human energy, etc. They are increasing the amount of order in the system (making the dead meat into organized brain tissue). Now take a pregnant woman, she's turning the food she's eating into a brand new human. That's thermodynamically impossible (to go from disordered, to higher order). For this to be possible requires some kind of life force. I believe that God provides us with this life force, but clearly here at Uncommon Descent, we are supposed to respect all opinions, so I'll try to be open-minded, and think that the aura readers at various new age events are also able to see the energy force that keeps us alive, and allows us to break the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Does this extend to lower organisms? I think it has to, but clearly the level of energy force required is not as serious as the energy required to organize a human brain. Just because science hasn't detected it yet doesn't mean it doesn't exist. They'll find it as soon as they take off their materialist blinders. Bob O'H, Thanks. That's what I meant. Nochange
Jstanley, Thanks for clearing that up for me, I was a bit fuzzy on that. Though I don't read the Bible as a science text, I do believe that Genesis has more than earned its respect by correctly predicting the creation of the universe as well as correctly predicting the creation of time itself. No other philosophy in the world even dared predicting that event. bornagain77
DaveScot, Re:
I’d bet dollars against donuts that there’s no mysterious “life force” in bacteria which prevents the artificial construction of one from non-living components. Bacteria are machines that operate entirely on known electro-chemical and mechanical principles just like any other machine.
At risk of propounding the untenable, and indeed, wholly indefensible notion that the first chapter of Genesis might be able to inform science, I'd note the following: Although everyone talks about "the seven days of creation," there's nothing like it in the Bible. In fact, there are only three occasions recounted there when God "created" (Hebrew bara, Strongs #H1254): 1:1 ("In the beginning God created [bara] the heaven and the earth"); 1:21 ("And God created [bara] ... every living soul"); and finally 1:27 ("So God created [bara] man in his own image..." c.p. John 4:24, "God is spirit"). Note that "the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit" in Verse 12, before God created soul life in Verse 21. Hence, Genesis posits three categories of life on earth: 1) Growth life, made up wholly of the physical elements created in 1:1 (no "mysterious life force" needed here); 2) Soul life shared by all higher-order animals (debates regarding the nature of the mind, consciousness, and intelligence go here); and 3) Spirit life which is unique to mankind (nothing suffices here but knowledge revealed by God). Biblically speaking, plants and microbes have growth life, animals have growth life plus soul life, and human beings as originally designed had growth life, soul life plus spirit life. Body-soul-spirit. jstanley01
I didn’t make any ad hominid attacks,...
Would that be calling someone an ape? As opposed to the ad homonym attack, which only sounds like an insult. :-) Bob (FWIW, I guess you meant ad hominem. I had to look it up first though!) Bob O'H
"From scratch" is misleading and even more it's not the first time long functional strings of DNA have been artificially assembled from simple codon snippets. A few years ago researchers assembled a functional polio virus genome using mail-order DNA snippets and a written sequence obtained from a real polio virus. The problem in the past has been that the artifical assembly process is error prone and the longer the sequence being constructed the more likely a catastrophic error is in it. The error rate is merely being reduced by improved equipment and process controls so longer error-free DNA strings become feasible. The "from scratch" part is really misleading. Nature is being heavily plagiarized. No one has solved the problem of predicting how a protein will fold and what biological activity it will have given nothing but its coding sequence. None of these artificial life experiments have used proteins designed from scratch. They are all using proteins that were found in nature and the biological activity of said proteins was discovered through reverse engineering rather than designed from scratch. It's equivalent to stripping down a fully loaded Cadillac until you have a go-cart. The go-cart wasn't designed by you but rather is simply the result of trial and error - stripping parts from it until you can't remove anything else and still have a functional self-powered vehicle. You can strip tons of components like windows, doors, radio, dashboard gauges, and power steering but you can't take away axles, wheels, motor, throttle, steering, brakes, and frame. That said I'd bet dollars against donuts that there's no mysterious "life force" in bacteria which prevents the artificial construction of one from non-living components. Bacteria are machines that operate entirely on known electro-chemical and mechanical principles just like any other machine. The only difference is we don't know how these machines were designed or who did the initial design and assembly. All machines where the origin can be positively determined are the result of intelligent agency. I have little doubt that if and when the origin of biological machinery can be positively determined it will be found to also be a result of intelligent agency - complex machines don't self-assemble from random collections of component parts. Anyone that actually designs complex machinery knows this and most thinking individuals who don't engage in the design of complex machinery easily intuite it. DaveScot
It certainly is Corey
corey it's one thing to study but it's another thing to actually design a machine that reproduces itself ari-freedom
Reminds me of Dawkins recently saying something stupid like “we’re just another form of animal so we should all be vegetarians” in the same breath as admitted he eats meat. What hypocrisy! And if he’s right, he shouldn’t eat pineapples because we share a common ancestor with the pineapple, don’t we?
As well, wouldn't that suggest that nature gives no selection advantage to predators? Or if it does, then it works enough in nature. If nature works with like creature eating like creature, what is Dawkins proposing that would be so much better? It's a "wha???" proposition. jjcassidy
I didn't make any ad hominid attacks, and I take offense to you calling me an elitist materialist when I'll I've done is come here to help find the truth, whatever it may be. I hope that others here don't agree with you when you tell me to get lost. More importantly, I hope they don't agree with you about thermodynamics. Thermodynamics in living systems has been studied for a long long time. It works. Corey
nochange, why don't you just explain what the thermodynamics problem is? ari-freedom
Corey, Clearly *you* don't understand thermodynamics and are just a troll come here to muck about and cause trouble. Clearly you're just another elitist materialist. If you really had something substantial to say, you'd say it, instead of your ad hominid attacks. Why don't you go back to one of your blogs where you all think you're smarter than people who actually do work for a living. I understand thermodynamics. I've read lots of basic science, and I use science in my work. So, respectfully, get lost. Nochange
Magnan...shamanic healing? These esp abilities are outside the realm of normal experience. We can identify with design and intelligence because we see it in action every day. ari-freedom
You don't understand thermodynamics, Nochange. Don't feel bad though, somebody once said "Thermodynamics is a funny subject. The first time you go through it, you don't understand it at all. The second time you go through it, you think you understand it, except for one or two small points. The third time you go through it, you know you don't understand it, but by that time you are so used to it, it doesn't bother you any more." Corey
Magnan, I've thought about this subject before. You forgot the most important element of all in all those experiments you listed...The Human Element. I truly believe that could be the source for the phenomena we see. As well, I believe when Almighty God created man, if I remember correctly from sunday school, He made us different than all the other animals. Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. No where else is this direct breath of God mentioned in the Genesis account of creation. As well this "specialness" of man fits very well into the overall picture of the Anthropic Hypothesis which is surprisingly very very strong in its scientific validation at the present moment. bornagain77
ari-freedom, why? magnan
magnan be careful ari-freedom
What if the evolution from ape to man was sequentially true but- not physically accurate?! Meaning what if their wasn’t just random mutation and natural selection involved but in fact incorporation of new parts through co-option and sc assembledge instuctions? It has been recognized that a man's brain and mind are in fact much more complex than an apes so what if the parts that make up the human soul are in fact built into the apes genome. This would mean that man really isn’t all that much like an ape after all (what a surprise)- in fact man has new parts and SC assemblage instructions. This would mean that man did not evolve directly from apes and therefore, indirectly, man was designed from scratch - New SC and novel parts assemble into an IC. Part ape in the image of God. In this case the assembledge instructions would be absolutly paramount. I feel that by just going back and seeing what means it took to reach the ends - you are doing and proving nothing except finding a story that works and fits the picture. But you have not explained how the enivroment reached the state that it did. This is the whole problem with these expeirements and the natural selection simulations on the computers that claim to prove Darwin right. This all took the mind of an intelligent agent to figure out- you have no program, no proteins, no chromosomes,- nothing with out a mind to realize their existence- Also there remains another problem in the case of the computer it will never be able to surpass the SC of a human because it is the result of a human intelligence. In other words we program it so it is incapable of developing novel abilities- even if we progam it to have the "synthetic" ability to design novelty we still were the ones who implemented those algorythims and therrfore its novelty is really not novel but just exponential (we can regress its SC and understand it perfectly) But a computer cannot understand a man, nor can it tell us anything that we arent already capable of understanding or designing- a computer is really a simple mind that is capable of holding huge numbers and mking huge calculations. It is an extention of human intelligence but nothing without it. This logic is transferable to the expieremnt above. By designing an enviornment we fool ourselves into believing that we have designed greater novelty when there is in fact none. We still did not design those conditions on earth originally and therefore the simulation tells us absolutly nothing about whether life is designed or not. This simulation is nothing but a recreation or redesign except we cant do it from scratch like the intelligent designer did. And as it has been pointed out, the problem gets worse when we look at what if anything is behind the simulation of the earth- human SC intelligence-We have another frustrating example and proof of brilliant design engineering. Frost122585
p.noyola (#15): "(m):...a lot of evidence that also shows that dualism should include all living organisms This view, IMHO, smacks of common descent and contradicts any special status for humans, which is nonsense." It doesn't imply common descent, just that all life somehow seems to have a common nonphysical underlying nature. That in itself could be the case regardless of the history of origins. It doesn't contradict a special status for human beings, since humans could very well have spiritual natures over and above the common living continuum. What is, is, and needs to be accommodated by the world view for that world view to be valid. The evidence I was referring to is the results of numerous controlled studies conducted by legitimate researchers. The following is a short list of some of the most interesting ones. I can give you references if you are interested. -Psychokinetic effects on plant growth A. Saklani -Shamanic Healing and Wheat Seeds (& Further Studies) A. Saklani -Algae and Psychokinesis C. M. Pleass and N. Dean Dey -Psychokinesis and Bacterial Growth C. B. Nash -Psychokinesis and Fungus Culture J. Barry -Psychokinesis and Red Blood Cells W. Braud, G. Davis and R. Wood -Red Blood Cells and Distant Healing W. Braud -Wound Healing in Mice and Spiritual Healing (& subsequent replication) B. Grad, R. J. Cadoret, G. I. Paul -Malaria in Mice: Expectancy Effects and Psychic Healing G. F. Solfvin -Arousing Anesthetized Mice Through Psychokinesis G. K. Watkins and A. M. Watkins magnan
well we're talking about bacteria. They don't think thoughts. Machines already move around (though just sticking them in the sun won't really do anything). Why can't a machine procreate? ari-freedom
If life followed the second law of thermodynamics, we'd all end up being puddles of used up goo. The fact that we're able to move around, think thoughts, and even procreate suggests that we are all in violation of the second law of thermodynamics. Nochange
nochange, life doesn't ignore the second law of thermodynamics Corey
The Dawkins veg comment is here: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins#Speciesism_and_Vegetarianism p.noyola
nochange explain the last sentence because usually the 2nd is cited as an obstacle to the origin of life but once there's life it can continue to operate ari-freedom
heh heh p.noyola, “we’re just another form of animal so we should all be vegetarians” is hilarious, where did he say that? Corey
Everything living has a life force. That's what makes us more than just sacks of chemicals. It's what allows life to ignore the 2nd law of thermodynamics. Nochange
well if there was a necessary vital force then it would be theoretically *impossible* for it to emerge from natural means. Instead it would be practically impossible but evolutionists will take anything they can get. ari-freedom
Soon every known occasion that life has been observed to arise from non life will involve Intelligent Design. We will have the proof that ID can produce life. It will then be up to the materialists to demonstrate life can arise otherwise than by Design. Notice that new life's inVenter has a capital V. Does that mean Artificial Life is a new religion? idnet.com.au
Magnan in #13:
a lot of evidence that also shows that dualism should include all living organisms
This view, IMHO, smacks of common descent and contradicts any special status for humans, which is nonsense. Reminds me of Dawkins recently saying something stupid like "we're just another form of animal so we should all be vegetarians" in the same breath as admitted he eats meat. What hypocrisy! And if he's right, he shouldn't eat pineapples because we share a common ancestor with the pineapple, don't we? p.noyola
I don't think that: "This program will eventually add additional proof to ID by showing the enormus complexity in the design of life. Hey, I just made an ID prediction. I thought ID isn’t a science?" is any better a prediction than: "I’m quite sure they won’t be able to. God won’t allow these half-artificial/half-real bacteria to be alive. They’ll put their fake chromosomes in the bacteria, and the bacteria will lie dead, inanimate, “soulless” if you will." Corey
As mentioned by some posters on this, the key issue is the complex specified information content of the DNA of the chromosomes. As molecular biology and chemistry progress, it should become possible to synthesize long stretches of DNA base pairs completely from atomic constituents, not requiring as precursors any life-created biological materials whatsoever. In other words, totally from "scratch". The point is that this feat would be a monument to the keen intelligence and creativity of man as an intelligent agent to analyze the incredibly complex machinery of living organisms, modify the design, and recreate it from constituent chemicals. But this would certainly not give any support to the fantasy that this originated by random variation plus selection. The other issue is whether there is some sort of "elan vitale" or vital force in living organisms that would prevent such a totally synthetic organism from really coming "alive". I think modern biology is right in rejecting this notion, because so far as far as I know biological research hasn't uncovered anything in living organisms that isn't "machinery". But it is a deeply puzzling area. Of course, biology is only looking for machinery. But the main reason this is puzzling is that whatever the nature of consciousness, it is ultimately not (just) the body and brain. In that sense it is of a fundamentally different nature, along the lines of the philosophy of mind called dualism. There is a lot of evidence that also shows that dualism should include all living organisms, which down to the smallest cell seem to engage in a life energy field which has some aspects of consciousness (intentionality). This is shown by numerous experiments demonstrating human intentional effects on living organisms from single cells to animals to other humans. So this at least superficially looks like a contradiction that needs to be resolved. Whatever the truth is, it has to encompass all the data. magnan
why should bacteria have a life force? ari-freedom
It says they haven't tried to boot up the chromosome yet. I'm quite sure they won't be able to. God won't allow these half-artificial/half-real bacteria to be alive. They'll put their fake chromosomes in the bacteria, and the bacteria will lie dead, inanimate, "soulless" if you will. (No, I'm not a retard, I don't think bacteria have souls - but they do have a life force around them, and that will be missing here). Nochange
This is all ridiculous in a way- what if I wanted to see if the New England Patriots could have a perfect season without intelligent design- so then I go out and got all of the players necessary to recreate their current season matching them against all of the inferior teams that they played- What on earth would this prove? I have a better experiment; take all of the pats of the flagellum and put them in a test tube then say hocus-pocus! and see if they become a functioning flagellum. They wont. It would be equivalent to going out on the streets of Boston and picking a team of random citizens who mostly have never even played competitive football- women, men and children- then put them all in uniform and see if they can go 14 and 0. That is the real test. Frost122585
The article reminds me of the story of the king asking five blind beggars to describe an elephant. The narrative never takes notice of the king, fully capable of seeing the elephant he asks the beggars to describe. It seems specious to me. toc
you see even if a human redesigns the original enviornment- it still doesnt answer the question- why or how that original enviornment got to be the way it was without a designer? Frost122585
Human beings did all those things. Frost122585
While I'm not sure whether the words "from scratch" are appropriate when used on essays, (since it's hardly used in written or verbal context in the first place) even given the benefit of doubt, I would say that starting "from scratch" does not necessarily mean starting from some natural condition. If I said that build a house "from scratch", would it imply that I manufactured my own nails, concrete and wood? However I recongise the concern Dr. Dembski has over the language used in the article. I would say the words "from scratch" are an informal, and not scientific term, that can be interpreted many ways, and are thus prone to misinterpretation. By saying from scratch, you can mean: a. The information content only. (as in essays) In other words, without plagiarism. b. Without modification of existing structure(s). c. Complete synthesization and planning of both structure and materials from nature. I did not reread the article, although from my impression of it I thought the most appropriate meaning of the words "from scratch" in this case would be a. However even with this interpretation I could have been wrong, judging from bornagain77 comment it might have instead been b. The article is written as a form of media to the general public, and not in a prose suitable for scientific analysis, thus the tendency for to pass with thius degree of ambiguity. WinglesS
I doubt we will hear of the many failures this program will produce. When their created life forms show a greater tendancy to harmful consequences than RM, the end result will most likely be one disaster after another. This program will eventually add additional proof to ID by showing the enormus complexity in the design of life. Hey, I just made an ID prediction. I thought ID isn't a science? Peter
I don’t think it’s fair to impose such a high standard on the words “from scratch”. If I said I’m going to write an essay “from scratch” I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that I manufactured the paper I wrote the essay on, or made my own pencil or pen.
If a person were to say they were going to write an essay from scratch, this would not mean they plan to manufacture the paper. It would mean they plan not to plagiarize form any other written book. So, for the claim of making DNA from scratch, it would imply best that they intend not to copy from any other existing work (ie. known DNA). So, in any case of attempting to make DNA from scratch, they should avoid plagiarising (copying) genetic sequences (sentences) from one life form (one existing book) and inserting them into their own synthesized (scribed) DNA (book).
but I don’t think it’s fair to pick on their use of the words “from scratch” in this case.
Teh analogy can obviously be argued around the semantics.. and so, the idea of saying from scratch can and would have a misleading sound. I would guess that Dembski's concern is that this would be like the Miller-Urey experiment exhaggerations, where people not in the know (so to speak) began to spread the word that life was created in the lab... so, use of verbiage is important. I think WmD has a point. So, what will this story "telephone" [implying the concept behind the game 'telephone'] into? JGuy
I agree with you Dr. Dembski, They state in the article: "And while the first synthetic chromosome is a plagiarized version of a natural one, others that code for life forms that have never existed before are already under construction." Although I am really excited with this line of research; I have to ask: How much plagiarism will the new "life forms that have never existed before" contain? I believe the answer will be that 100% plagiarism will be found in the "new life forms". As the old saw goes, God said ‘Get your own dirt’. In other words to stay true to the term "From Scratch" you must actually "create new life" without cheating from other life forms. To show how drastic the hurdle is to actually create "New Life". If any combinations of the 20 L-amino acids that are used in constructing proteins are equally possible, then there are (20^100) =1.3 x 10^130 possible amino acid sequences in proteins being composed of 100 amino acids. That is just the possible combinations from a 100 L-amino acid chain, The average sequence of a typical protein is about 300 to 400 amino acids long. Yet many crucial proteins are thousands of amino acids long. On top of that, trying to figure out what a totally novel protein will actually look like will take too long: In the year 2000 IBM announced the development of a new super-computer, called Blue Gene, that is 500 times faster than any supercomputer built up until that time. It was built specifically to better enable computer simulations of molecular biology. The computer performs one quadrillion (one million billion) computations per second. Despite its speed, it is estimated it will take one entire year for it to analyze the mechanism by which JUST ONE “simple” protein will fold onto itself from its one-dimensional starting point to its final three-dimensional shape. “Blue Gene’s final product, due in four or five years, will be able to “fold” a protein made of 300 amino acids, but that job will take an entire year of full-time computing.” Paul Horn, senior vice president of IBM research, September 21, 2000 And actual functional proteins are a extreme rarity as far as total proteins possible go for a particular length of amino-acids. “From actual experimental results it can easily be calculated that the odds of finding a folded protein (by random point mutations to an existing protein) are about 1 in 10 to the 65 power (Sauer, MIT). Michael J. Behe, The Weekly Standard, June 7, 1999, Experimental Support for Regarding Functional Classes of Proteins to be Highly Isolated from Each Other A totally novel cell with totally novel proteins AND DNA “from scratch”??? Not even remotely possible in this lifetime! Shoot, that is just finding compatible novel proteins that might work together, thats not even touching the complexity that would have to be mastered and go into crafting a novel genome of thousands upon thousands of base pairs of DNA that would actually control those novel proteins. Now of course they can peek over the “Designer's Shoulder”, all they want, and do lots of rearranging of proteins and DNA (which is what they are actually doing) and that would be really cool! But that's not totally from scratch as they are insinuating in the headline, that is merely rearranging stuff that has already been created. bornagain77
WinglesS: I beg to differ. Nobody talks about writing an essay "from scratch." Evolutionists do, however, talk about showing how something could evolve "from scratch," e.g., Tom Schneider. And when he does so, it's explicitly for the purpose of refuting ID (see his 2000 Nucleic Acids Research paper in which he takes on Behe). "From scratch" in these contexts is misleading. "From preexisting biological materials refashioned by design" would be accurate. William Dembski
I don't think it's fair to impose such a high standard on the words "from scratch". If I said I'm going to write an essay "from scratch" I don't think it's reasonable to assume that I manufactured the paper I wrote the essay on, or made my own pencil or pen. For the purpose of everyday usage, "from scratch" is probably understood as "without reference to other material" or in other words, without copying, which in this case, I believe has been used appropriately. Fair enough, that the researchers have not proven that viable strands of DNA can be produced via a blind evolutionary process, but instead acted as "intelligent designers" in this case, but I don't think it's fair to pick on their use of the words "from scratch" in this case. WinglesS

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