Evolution Intelligent Design

Why a rabbit is not like a can of Coke: PZ Myers’ own goal

Spread the love

PZ Myers is incensed at the publication of a Bible tract by Ray Comfort, who argues that it’s just as absurd to believe that the human body evolved by chance as it is to believe that chance processes could generate a can of Coke, such as the one pictured above (public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia). Over at Pharyngula, Myers wastes no time in demolishing this argument:

The thing is, we know how coke cans (and bible tracts) are made: these are objects that are constructed by human beings. They do not have an independent capability to replicate.

We also know that that is not how biological organisms are made. If we see something like, say, a rabbit, we know and have evidence for the fact that … it doesn’t even require any kind of external agency to make copies of rabbits: just put two of them together and wait….

Furthermore, we know that rabbit replication is imperfect, and that reproduction produces variants. These variants are naturally selected in their environment, and … the properties of the population as a whole gradually change over time…

…[Y]ou’d have to be a fool or have an ulterior motive … to try and imply that aluminum cans and rabbits have to be built by similar designed mechanisms.

In a nutshell: rabbits reproduce, and Coke cans can’t. Additionally, rabbit reproduction generates random variation, which is culled by natural selection, thereby enabling rabbits (but not Coke cans) to evolve. QED.

Now, most readers know that I accept the common descent of living things (unlike Ray Comfort, who is a creationist). However, I would agree with Comfort on one vital point, which Professor Myers appears to have overlooked in his article. You haven’t really explained the appearance of rabbits until you’ve explained the appearance of the very first living organism, from which they are descended. And to do that, you need a theory of abiogenesis: that is, you need to explain how life arose from non-living matter.

Funny, that point sounds very familiar … where have I heard it before? Oh, that’s right. PZ Myers made the very same point himself, back in 2008, in a post titled, 15 misconceptions about evolution. Here’s what he had to say:

I know many people like to recite the mantra that “abiogenesis is not evolution,” but it’s a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don’t understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.

Except that there’s one little problem: scientists haven’t a clue how life evolved. Don’t take my word for it: ask Professor James M. Tour, a synthetic organic chemist, specializing in nanotechnology, who is also is the T. T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry, Professor of Materials Science and NanoEngineering, and Professor of Computer Science at Rice University in Houston, Texas. In addition to holding more than 120 United States patents, as well as many non-US patents, Professor Tour has authored more than 600 research publications. He was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015, and he was named among “The 50 most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools.org in 2014. Tour was named “Scientist of the Year” by R&D Magazine in 2013, and he won the ACS Nano Lectureship Award from the American Chemical Society in 2012. As if that were not enough, Tour was ranked one of the top 10 chemists in the world over the past decade by Thomson Reuters in 2009. Clearly, the man knows what he’s talking about.

Earlier this year, Professor Tour gave a talk titled, The Origin of Life – An Inside Story, which I blogged about here. Professor Tour did not attempt to demonstrate the impossibility of abiogenesis as a scientific theory, in his talk. Rather, his aim was more modest: to show that the Emperor has no clothes, and that current theories about how life might have evolved are mere speculation, unsupported by a shred of evidence. The take-home message of his talk was that currently, scientists know nothing about how the ingredients of life originated, let alone life itself. For the past sixty years, scientists have been “telling lies for Darwin” (to adapt a phrase coined by Ian Plimer) and presenting the problem of life’s origin as a work in progress, when in reality, the progress made to date by scientists in the field is virtually zero.

Professor Tour was refreshingly candid about how little scientists know, not only about the origin of life, but also about the origin of the basic building blocks of life. In his own words:

We have no idea how the molecules that compose living systems could have been devised such that they would work in concert to fulfill biology’s functions. We have no idea how the basic set of molecules, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, were made and how they could have coupled in proper sequences, and then transformed into the ordered assemblies until there was the construction of a complex system, and eventually to that first cell. Nobody has any idea on how this was done when using our commonly understood mechanisms of chemical science. Those who say that they understand are generally wholly uninformed regarding chemical synthesis.

From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system. We cannot even figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. Chemists are collectively bewildered. Hence I say that no chemist understands prebiotic synthesis of the requisite building blocks, let alone assembly into a complex system.

That’s how clueless we are. I’ve asked all of my colleagues: National Academy members, Nobel Prize winners. I sit with them in offices. Nobody understands this. So if your professor says, “It’s all worked out,” [or] your teachers say, “It’s all worked out,” they don’t know what they’re talking about. It is not worked out.

In his talk, Professor Tour decided to focus on the origin of just one of the four basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates. He then proceeded to list eleven enormous hurdles faced by any blind, unguided process, in generating these compounds, and concluded:

Therefore, small changes in ultimate functioning require major rerouting in the synthetic approaches. All changes, when doing chemistry, are hard and cannot be done by the usual hand-waving arguments or simple erasures on a board. Laborious and intentional elements of forethought are required…

How could this have happened in prebiotic chemistry? How do you go from a starting material to a product that’s a complex product? What we do is we work our way back slowly. But Nature doesn’t know what its product is going to be at the end! It doesn’t know! It’s just blindly going along.

Near the end of his lecture, Professor Tour administered the final coup de grace in his expose of current scientific theories regarding abiogenesis. It turns out that even if you could get all the ingredients of life together, at a high level of purity, and store them over long periods, they can’t assemble without enzymes:

Let us assume that all the building blocks of life, not just their precursors, could be made in high degrees of purity, including homochirality where applicable, for all the carbohydrates, all the amino acids, all the nucleic acids and all the lipids. And let us further assume that they are comfortably stored in cool caves, away from sunlight, and away from oxygen, so as to be stable against environmental degradation. And let us further assume that they all existed in one corner of the earth, and not separated by thousands of kilometers or on different planets. And that they all existed not just in the same square kilometer, but in neighboring pools where they can conveniently and selectively mix with each other as needed.

Now what? How do they assemble? Without enzymes, the mechanisms do not exist for their assembly. It will not happen and there is no synthetic chemist that would claim differently because to do so would take enormous stretches of conjecturing beyond any that is realized in the field of chemical sciences…

I just saw a presentation by a Nobel prize winner modeling the action of enzymes, and I walked up to him afterward, and I said to him, “I’m writing an article entitled: ‘Abiogenesis: Nightmare.’ Where do these enzymes come from? Since these things are synthesized, … starting from the beginning, where did these things come from?” He says, “What did you write in your article?” I said, “I said, ‘It’s a mystery.’” He said, “That’s exactly what it is: it’s a mystery.”

Readers who wish to view Professor Tour’s talk may do so here:

God of the gaps?

Now, at this point, PZ Myers might interject: “Aha! You’re appealing to the argument from ignorance! That’s God-of-the-gaps reasoning. Just because we don’t know how life originated, doesn’t mean we’ll never know. And given the track record of science in solving mysteries, it’s a pretty good bet that we will one day resolve this problem. So there!”

I would reply that science generates new mysteries as fast as it resolves old ones, so the notion that the list of unsolved scientific problems is shrinking is a triumphalistic myth. (Dark energy, dark matter, and the problem of reconciling quantum gravity with general relativity are just a few examples that spring to mind of problems that have arisen within the past few decades.) The origin of life is a new mystery – and a particularly intractable one at that. Thinkers like Aristotle and Aquinas took spontaneous generation for granted: for them, it wasn’t a mystery, but an everyday occurrence. They had no idea of the staggering odds against life originating via unguided processes – a subject I have blogged about in my 2014 articles, The dirty dozen: Twelve fallacies evolutionists make when arguing about the origin of life and It’s time for scientists to come clean with the public about evolution and the origin of life.

I should add that Intelligent Design theory makes no claim to be able to scientifically demonstrate that the Designer of life is God, although many (including myself) believe Him to be.

Finally, I’d like to quote a short passage from the highly acclaimed book, Seven Days That Divide the World (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2011) by John C. Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford:

That brings us back to the matter of gaps. There would appear to be different kinds of gap, as I have argued in detail elsewhere. Some gaps are gaps of ignorance and are eventually closed by increased scientific knowledge – they are the bad gaps that figure in the expression “God of the gaps.” But there are other gaps, gaps that are revealed by advancing science (good gaps).

[T]he nature of life itself militates strongly against there ever being a purely naturalistic theory of life’s origin. There is an immense gulf between the non-living and the living that is a matter of kind, not simply of degree. It is like the gulf between the raw materials paper and ink, on the one hand, and the finished product of paper with writing on it, on the other. Raw materials do not self-organise into linguistic structures. Such structures are not “emergent” phenomena, in the sense that they do not appear without intelligent input.

Any adequate explanation for the existence of the DNA-coded database and for the prodigious information storage and processing capabilities of the living cell must involve a source of information that transcends the basic physical and chemical materials out of which the cell is constructed… Such processors and programmes, on the basis of all we know from computer science, cannot be explained, even in principle, without the involvement of a mind. (2011, pp. 171, 174.)

A thought experiment: Does nearly-perfect replication undercut the inference to design?

As we have seen, Professor Myers contends that the reason why we infer design in the case of the Coke can but not in the case of the rabbit is that rabbits reproduce (with minor variations accumulating in lineages over the course of time), whereas Coke cans don’t. But what if astronauts arrived on a strange planet and found robots that looked very much like Coke cans, which were capable of reproducing? And what if reproduction in these robots turned out to be controlled by an internal program that was capable of undergoing variations? Would the astronauts still infer that the robots were designed, and would they still be justified in doing so? I’d be interested to hear readers’ opinions on these questions, and if PZ Myers wants to weigh in, he is of course welcome to do so. For my own part, I think the answer to both questions is yes. If we found such replicating robots, we would be sure of one thing: some intelligent agent designed them.

Here’s the kicker: is it rational to continue to believe that life on Earth arose naturally, if the odds of its having done so are even lower than the odds of a replicating robot having arisen naturally?

How William Paley rebutted the skeptical argument from reproduction, back in 1802

It may interest readers to know that the “reproduction objection” to biological design inferences was anticipated and rebutted over 200 years ago, by the Christian apologist and philosopher William Paley, in his Natural Theology. Paley is popularly known as the author of the “watchmaker argument,” which likens the organs of living things to watches, in order to argue that these organs must have been designed. For Paley, both organs and watches were contrivances, composed of parts working together to perform a function. Contrivances, argued Paley, were invariably the work of an intelligent mind.

Perhaps the silliest myth about William Paley’s Natural Theology is that he overlooked a rather obvious dissimilarity between living things and artifacts: that living things reproduce and are therefore capable of gradually improving or refining their design, whereas artifacts such as watches don’t reproduce, which is why they are utterly incapable of improving their design on a step-by-step basis. The fact is that Paley spent four whole pages refuting this argument in Chapter II of his book, where he imagines what a person would rationally infer, if he found a watch that was capable of making a copy of itself:

Suppose, in the next place, that the person who found the watch, should, after some time, discover that, in addition to all the properties which he had hitherto observed in it, it possessed the unexpected property of producing, in the course of its movement, another watch like itself (the thing is conceivable); that it contained within it a mechanism, a system of parts, a mould for instance, or a complex adjustment of lathes, files, and other tools, evidently and separately calculated for this purpose; let us inquire, what effect ought such a discovery to have upon his former conclusion.

I. The first effect would be to increase his admiration of the contrivance, and his conviction of the consummate skill of the contriver. Whether he regarded the object of the contrivance, the distinct apparatus, the intricate, yet in many parts intelligible mechanism, by which it was carried on, he would perceive, in this new observation, nothing but an additional reason for doing what he had already done, — for referring the construction of the watch to design, and to supreme art. If that construction without this property, or which is the same thing, before this property had been noticed, proved intention and art to have been employed about it; still more strong would the proof appear, when he came to the knowledge of this further property, the crown and perfection of all the rest.

II. He would reflect, that though the watch before him were, in some sense, the maker of the watch, which was fabricated in the course of its movements, yet it was in a very different sense from that, in which a carpenter, for instance, is the maker of a chair; the author of its contrivance, the cause of the relation of its parts to their use. With respect to these, the first watch was no cause at all to the second: in no such sense as this was it the author of the constitution and order, either of the parts which the new watch contained, or of the parts by the aid and instrumentality of which it was produced.

III. Though it be now no longer probable, that the individual watch, which our observer had found, was made immediately by the hand of an artificer, yet doth not this alteration in anywise affect the inference, that an artificer had been originally employed and concerned in the production. The argument from design remains as it was. Marks of design and contrivance are no more accounted for now, than they were before. In the same thing, we may ask for the cause of different properties. We may ask for the cause of the colour of a body, of its hardness, of its head; and these causes may be all different. We are now asking for the cause of that subserviency to a use, that relation to an end, which we have remarked in the watch before us. No answer is given to this question, by telling us that a preceding watch produced it. There cannot be design without a designer; contrivance without a contriver; order without choice; arrangement, without any thing capable of arranging; subserviency and relation to a purpose, without that which could intend a purpose; means suitable to an end, and executing their office, in accomplishing that end, without the end ever having been contemplated, or the means accommodated to it. Arrangement, disposition of parts, subserviency of means to an end, relation of instruments to a use, imply the presence of intelligence and mind. (Natural Theology. 12th edition. J. Faulder: London, 1809, Chapter II, pp. 8-11)

Readers who are curious to learn more about Paley’s argument may be interested to have a look at my 2012 article, Paley’s argument from design: Did Hume refute it, and is it an argument from analogy?

Did Darwin refute Paley’s argument?

Portrait of Charles Darwin, by George Richmond. Late 1830s. Image courtesy of Richard Leakey, Roger Lewin and Wikipedia.

Modern-day evolutionists often claim that Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species, published in 1859, decisively refuted Paley’s argument for a Designer, once and for all. For my part, I think Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection made a relatively minor dent in Paley’s case.

In a nutshell, Paley’s argument is that intelligent agency is the only process adequate to account for the origin of what he calls contrivances – that is, systems whose parts are intricately arranged and co-ordinated to subserve some common end. (For the purposes of Paley’s argument, it is utterly irrelevant whether this end is intrinsic to the parts in question, as in a living organism, or extrinsic, as in an artifact.) What Charles Darwin did was to put forward a mechanism (natural selection) which is capable (in principle) of explaining how one complex, highly co-ordinated system of parts which assists an organism’s survival could, over millions of years, gradually evolve into another complex system serving an altogether different purpose, through an undirected (“blind”) process. (Of course, such an evolutionary transformation can only occur if there is a viable pathway between the two systems, which blind processes are capable of traversing without any intelligent guidance.) What Darwin did not show, however, is how the fundamental biochemical systems upon which all organisms rely for their survival, could have came into existence, in the first place. We might refer to these fundamental systems in Nature as Paley’s original contrivances. These contrivances cannot be explained away as modifications of pre-existing biological systems, since by definition, anything that preceded them was not viable.

I conclude that in the absence of a Darwinian explanation for the origin of life, Paley’s argument remains perfectly valid, for biochemical systems which are universal to living things, and which go back to the dawn of life on Earth. These “original systems” are “contrivances” in Paley’s sense of the word, and as they were not modified from other systems found in living things, Paley’s argument would still apply to them.

In order to successfully rebut Paley’s argument, then, evolutionists therefore need to explain the emergence of life itself – something which they have so far signally failed to do.

Conclusion

Professor PZ Myers writes that “you’d have to be a fool or have an ulterior motive … to try and imply that aluminum cans and rabbits have to be built by similar designed mechanisms.” While it’s true that rabbits are constructed very differently from cans, the assembly process for a rabbit – or even for the 4 billion-year-old one-celled organism from which it descended – is vastly more complicated than the assembly line process for an aluminium can. To infer design in the latter case, while denying it in the former, strikes me as intellectually obstinate.

What do readers think?

51 Replies to “Why a rabbit is not like a can of Coke: PZ Myers’ own goal

  1. 1
    mk says:

    “these are objects that are constructed by human beings. They do not have an independent capability to replicate.”

    so according to prof myers logic if the coke cane will have a self replicating system- we will need to conclude that this kind of cane evolved by itself.

  2. 2

    It really doesn’t take a genius to be able to understand what the nanotechnological wonder of a living cell clearly indicates. Darwin had sleepless nights wondering how unintelligent forces could produce an eye; he’d have fallen to his knees in acceptance of the divine if he could see the wonders of the “mere” cell, thought by materialist reductionists at the time to necessarily be a simple protoplasmic building block of life.

    Darwinists are the new flat-Earthers. Their myth has been utterly debunked by wave after wave of unrelenting increases of interdepedent, functioning complexity, yet still they cling to their faith.

  3. 3
    ppolish says:

    A can of coke is of Nature. Has a biological beginning. Emerged because of human DNA. And an idea. That was important too.

  4. 4
    tommy hall says:

    PZ Myers: “Furthermore, we know that rabbit replication is imperfect, and that reproduction produces variants. These variants are naturally selected in their environment, and … the properties of the population as a whole gradually change over time…”

    ah yes….gotta love the accidentalist, PZ Myers, who in the face of overwhelming evidence that organisms operate as functional, purposeful wholes and generate adaptive traits on-the-fly via top-down causation and in response to environmental challenges, still clings to his commitment to naturalism and how nature supposedly built populations by the lucky piece-meal of random variants. His child-like faith in accidents and belief “imperfect replication” being able to unintelligently-construct rabbits, humans, worms, bacteria — or anything really — is as cute as it is pathetic. Myers, laughably, assumes that because animals change that it necessarily proves universal common descent. Darwin made the same silly assertion because he noticed finches had varying beak shapes. The whole foundation of evolutionary theory is based on this logic. But does mere change over time prove universal common descent?

    We’ve all heard Behe’s “The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution”:….Break or blunt any functional coded element whose loss would yield a net fitness gain – Michael Behe – December 2010….but another interesting quote is from
    Stephen Meyer: (I think I got this from Born Again.)

    ‘Now one more problem as far as the generation of information. It turns out that you don’t only need information to build genes and proteins, it turns out to build Body-Plans you need higher levels of information; Higher order assembly instructions. DNA codes for the building of proteins, but proteins must be arranged into distinctive circuitry to form distinctive cell types. Cell types have to be arranged into tissues. Tissues have to be arranged into organs. Organs and tissues must be specifically arranged to generate whole new Body-Plans, distinctive arrangements of those body parts. We now know that DNA alone is not responsible for those higher orders of organization. DNA codes for proteins, but by itself it does not insure that proteins, cell types, tissues, organs, will all be arranged in the body-plan. And what that means is that the Body-Plan morphogenesis, as it is called, depends upon information that is not encoded on DNA. Which means you can mutate DNA indefinitely. 80 million years, 100 million years, til the cows come home. It doesn’t matter, because in the best case you are just going to find a new protein some place out there in that vast combinatorial sequence space. You are not, by mutating DNA alone, going to generate higher order structures that are necessary to building a body plan. So what we can conclude from that is that the neo-Darwinian mechanism is grossly inadequate to explain the origin of information necessary to build new genes and proteins, and it is also grossly inadequate to explain the origination of novel biological form.’–Stephen Meyer – Functional Proteins and Information for Body Plans – video”

    So just because a rabbits engage in imperfect replication, (and errors happen in dna) does that necessarily prove organisms get built up that way? Seems to me that the changes that Dr. Myers is referring to are the types of changes that break, blunt, delete and degrade pre-existing information. Evolutionists experimented with fruit flies for decades…and what sort of convincing evidence did they come up with that random mutations could construct anything new? Nothing. Myers may not like the coke can analogy, but his theory is nothing but philosophical nonsense.

  5. 5
    PaV says:

    William J. Murray:

    Darwin had sleepless nights wondering how unintelligent forces could produce an eye; he’d have fallen to his knees in acceptance of the divine if he could see the wonders of the “mere” cell, . . . a simple protoplasmic building block of life.

    Poetic, and powerful!

    tommy hall:

    PZ Myers: “Furthermore, we know that rabbit replication is imperfect, and that reproduction produces variants. These variants are naturally selected in their environment, and … the properties of the population as a whole gradually change over time…”

    Back in the 60’s, an experiment was run where they bombarded the Drosophila genome with all kinds of radiation in the hope of bringing about a mutation of every known gene. The result: ALL the mutations were harmful.

    That should have constituted the end of neo-Darwinism. But, like a vampire, it requires a stake through its heart. (You see, just like a vampire, “evolution” can transform itself into many different forms—-if needed—-and ‘when’ needed)

    vjtorley:

    Very good post. I’m glad we’re not beating the CD issue to death anymore.

    I like Paley’s argument. It really is no surprise that he made it back then. And Darwin, when he argues in the OOS, does so using a kind of a “strawman argument.” There were plenty of scientists in his time, and well before he published the OoS, who easily accepted the changing of forms. For Heaven’s sake, breeders were in their heyday; and how long have the donkey and mule been around? So his use of “but on the principal that every form is brought into existence on its own,” or some such phrase, simply shuts down any attempt at addressing nuanced argumentation.

    You gave your own thought experiment, here’s another: what if the astronauts on the strange planet were to notice (1) that there were, in fact, two types of objects: watches that reproduce themselves, and sewing machines that reproduce themselves; and (2) that every once in a while, a watch would produce a sewing machine.

    Now, here’s the question: can the ‘watch’ produce the ‘sewing machine’—even if it takes a billion years—without the watch losing a vital function? You see, Darwinian gradualism is logically untenable!

    P.S. I’m taking a look at your article on Darwin and Hume. I don’t subscribe to Hume’s arguments generally.

    [He says, e.g., there is no such thing as causation. But, you know what, when I shut off the alarm clock (I know this isn’t Paley’s argument: 🙂 ), I know I caused it to turn off. I can’t deny that reality, because when I don’t shut it off, it keeps on ringing. Just as when Descartes said he can’t deny his own existence, I cannot deny my role as a causal agent. I know what I do, and I know that I’m the one doing it.]

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Was the can of coke found below the k-t line?? A cambrian coke!
    its a good point about the coke/rabbit. Myers saying its debunked by reproduction misses the incredible complexity claim of evolutionism to create things.
    Rabbits breed like rabbits and never are they selected today and able to form a new population. Did they ever/ Probably not.
    I do rabbits are just a varient on something else off the Ark.
    It shows how unlikely this selection on mutation etc is in real nature and instinct.
    Its a line of reasoning that is unreasonable.

    Think of all the rabbits and all the environments they live on earth. They still are rabbits and its hard to see how they ever evolved in any direction much less a origin. Nature doesn’t evolutionism.
    Its all coming apart this stuff.

  7. 7
    rvb8 says:

    But that still leaves ID open to the, ‘don’t know, don’t bother’, accusation. An accusation I believe which is mightily warranted. The flat out lack of curiosity displayed here is mind bogglingly mind boggling.
    It’s good that you renounce Ray Comfort. However, in the same thread you embrace Augustine (a fine thinker with what he had to go on, but he also humbly left one of his theses on a church alter for God to read; God couldn’t read it without the asistance?), and Willaiam Paley? Again Paley’s writings are wonderful, articulate, and poppycock.
    “Perhaps the silliest myth..”, the one that living things reproduce, differ, compete, and die, is exactly the idea Paley ignored. Like the absurd ‘typhoon in a junkyard’ metaphor beloved of creationists and IDists alike, it makes no consideration of time, natural selection, sexual selection, gene transfer, and yet to be discovered mechanisms.
    Mr Torley, your posts are invariably really, really long. This is problematic, as it seems to imply your ideas are weighed down by needless complication. Might I suggest a healthy dose of Mr Occam? If your idea takes thousands of words to explain, it’s probably a good time to look for a simpler answer, we have one; RM+NS=Evolution. Abiogenesis? A very interesting work in progress. I sit wth baited breath reading each new facinating research effort into ‘proto cells’ and the ‘RNA’ world. Look forward to your promised upcomming publications here at UD.

  8. 8
    Polanyi says:

    //Thinkers like Aristotle and Aquinas took spontaneous generation for granted//

    Dr Torley, a minor point, but I’m not sure if this is true for Aquinas, here is what I take to be a critique of abiogenesis (interestingly advocated by Muslim philosopher at the time):

    “It was laid down by Avicenna that animals of all kinds can be generated by various minglings of the elements, and naturally, without any kind of seed. This, however, seems repugnant to the fact that nature produces its effects by determinate means, and consequently, those things that are naturally generated from seed cannot be generated naturally in any other way. It ought, then, rather to be said that in the natural generation of all animals that are generated from seed, the active principle lies in the formative power of the seed, but that in the case of animals generated from putrefaction, the formative power is the influence of the heavenly bodies [directing intelligence].” (ST 1.71.1)

  9. 9
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Polyani,

    Thank you for your query. Aquinas did indeed believe that the spontaneous generation of animals that reproduced sexually (i.e. animals generated from seed) was biologically impossible. However, he also believed that the action of the heavenly bodies on dead or decaying matter was capable of generating simpler animals, such as flies. Avicanna, on the other hand, had suggested that all kinds of animals could be generated naturally from the elements.

    See also Summa Theologica I, q. 91 art. 2, Reply to Objection 2 (Whether the human body was immediately produced by God):

    “Reply to Objection 2. Perfect animals, produced from seed, cannot be made by the sole power of a heavenly body, as Avicenna imagined… But the power of heavenly bodies suffices for the production of some imperfect animals from properly disposed matter: for it is clear that more conditions are required to produce a perfect than an imperfect thing.”

    Such a view would imply that if the world had a beginning in time (which Aquinas was unable to prove in his day), then “perfect” animals must have had a Creator.

    In his Summa Contra Gentiles Book II chapter 43, paragraph 6 (That the distinction of things is not caused by some secondary agent introducing forms into matter), Aquinas draws precisely this conclusion:

    “…[A]ll motion toward form is brought about through the mediation of the heavenly motion… There are, however, many sensible forms which cannot be produced by the motion of the heaven except through the intermediate agency of certain determinate principles pre-supposed to their production; certain animals, for example, are generated only from seed. Therefore, the primary establishment of these forms, for producing which the motion of the heaven does not suffice without their pre-existence in the species, must of necessity proceed from the Creator alone.”

    I discussed this at further length in a five-part essay, here: http://www.angelfire.com/linux.....omas1.html (scroll down to Smoking Guns number 8, 9 and 10).

    Cheers.

  10. 10
    vjtorley says:

    rvb8:

    I’d like to ask you a question. You think my posts are too long, and maybe you’re right. OK. Here’s my challenge. Imagine you’re an editor. Consider the post I wrote above, which is actually one of my shorter ones. You suggest wielding Occam’s razor, so my question is: what would you cut, in order to make it punchier and more readable?

  11. 11
    PaV says:

    I proposed another thought experiment up above. It doesn’t seem to have been noticed, so I’ll give it another try:

    . . . [W]hat if the astronauts on the strange planet were to notice (1) that there were, in fact, two types of objects: watches that reproduce themselves, and sewing machines that reproduce themselves; and (2) that every once in a while, a watch would produce a sewing machine.

    Now, here’s the question: can the ‘watch’ produce the ‘sewing machine’—even if it takes a billion years—without the watch losing a vital function? You see, Darwinian gradualism is logically untenable!/i>

  12. 12
    john_a_designer says:

    From the OP:

    [W]hat if astronauts arrived on a strange planet and found robots that looked very much like Coke cans, which were capable of reproducing? And what if reproduction in these robots turned out to be controlled by an internal program that was capable of undergoing variations? Would the astronauts still infer that the robots were designed, and would they still be justified in doing so? I’d be interested to hear readers’ opinions on these questions… For my own part, I think the answer to both questions is yes. If we found such replicating robots, we would be sure of one thing: some intelligent agent designed them.

    As a former real life designer (I’m retired) who designed machinery and equipment used in the construction industry I’ve spent several years thinking and imagining what would be required to build a true self-replicating machine.

    There are two ways to think about the problem:

    (1) A machine that replicates itself from pre-manufactured parts, or…

    (2) A machine that replicates itself by manufacturing its own parts from raw materials that it must prospect, retrieve and transport etc.

    #2 in my opinion is the scenario that is most analogous to the origin of life from non-life and therefore the more relevant of the two possibilities to our present discussion. It may even have some practical application. For example, using self-replicating machines (robots) to terraform another planet, like Mars in our solar system, or sending these kind of machines decades or centuries ahead of a human colonists to terraform a suitable planet in another star system.

    However, I don’t think on the common macroscopic level (the everyday world in which we live and work) that a true self-replicating machine is possible. But, even if it were possible, I don’t see that it would be the most practical way to approach the problem. In my thinking self-replication is a symbiotic process that requires a number of different kinds of machines working together in a purposeful way to achieve a common goal.

    In other words, self-replication requires a kind of “super factory,” parts of which remain stationary in a fixed location (plants) while other machines (robots) rove freely around the planet surface, scouting and prospecting for raw materials, which are then retrieved and transported by other robots back to manufacturing plants where the raw materials can processed to make new parts or new robots and new manufacturing plants. Try thinking through this and I think you’ll see how very complex the problem becomes.

    Even the simplest living cell is staggeringly complex. Indeed, it is best described not as a self-replicating machine or robot but a very sophisticated self-replicating factory. In other words, it’s Paley’s watch on super-steroids.

  13. 13
    GBDixon says:

    Thank you for discussing the God-of-the-Gaps argument. Regarding the gap of where origin-of-life information came from, I would point out that not only is the gap (now chasm) impossibly wide, but with each new relevant discovery it increases. Though some expect materialist explanations to eventually close gaps, this one continues to open more.

    At what point must an unbiased observer conclude that there will never ever be a materialistic explanation for the origin of information? I (and others such as Antony Flew)believe we have crossed that threshold already.

    The standard materialistic argument that we will eventually figure it out and close this gap has been shown, I think, to not apply.

  14. 14
    bill cole says:

    Hi VJT
    I think this article is well written complete and the right length. If I think it is to long in the future I will make a specific suggestion.

    Now, most readers know that I accept the common descent of living things (unlike Ray Comfort, who is a creationist). However, I would agree with Comfort on one vital point, which Professor Myers appears to have overlooked in his article. You haven’t really explained the appearance of rabbits until you’ve explained the appearance of the very first living organism, from which they are descended. And to do that, you need a theory of abiogenesis: that is, you need to explain how life arose from non-living matter.

    If you read Yockey’s 1977 paper on the problem of origin of life he focuses on the origin of sequences. Can a cell make new sequences? This has never been experimentally validated and no clear explanation has ever been brought forth.

    If I were to ask you to design hemoglobin from scratch and come up the 1800 DNA sequences to make this protein how could you do this. 4^1800 power of sequential space.

    4^1800 is orders of magnitude larger then the age of all the sub atomic particles in our universe.

    How could a process inside cells create this functional sequence given the age of the universe?

    The key problem of creating the sequential information does not end with the first cell it even gets worse. Lets look at the first eukaryotic cell. Imagine designing a spliceosome from scratch with 4^150000 of sequential space to organize to make an atomic splicing machine that can be reproduced in 20 minutes.

    Yes, the first eukaryotic cell is a separate origin event.

    The design inference is required for the whole journey and is a level of design beyond all human comprehension.

  15. 15
    Dionisio says:

    VJTorley
    Very good OP. Thank you.

    BTW,

    What’s the LUCA for the rabbit?
    What other biological system diverged from that LUCA?
    Let’s say we call the rabbit ‘d1’ and the other descendant ‘d2’ and their LUCA ‘ca’.

    Then their evolutionary divergence could be described as:

    Dev(d1) = Dev(ca) + Delta(d1)
    Dev(d2) = Dev(ca) + Delta(d2)

    Where:

    Dev(x) is the developmental process of any given biological system x

    Delta(y) is the whole set of spatiotemporal procedural differences from Dev(x) required to produce Dev(y).

    Assuming all the Dev(x) are well known, what theoretical (hypothetical) Delta(d1) and Delta(d2) could be suggested?

    Just point to the literature that explains this in details.
    The explanation must be comprehensive, logically coherent and it must hold water under any kind of thorough examination.

    Thank you.

  16. 16
    vjtorley says:

    Hi PaV,

    Sorry for not responding to your question last night. You asked:

    . . [W]hat if the astronauts on the strange planet were to notice (1) that there were, in fact, two types of objects: watches that reproduce themselves, and sewing machines that reproduce themselves; and (2) that every once in a while, a watch would produce a sewing machine.

    Now, here’s the question: can the ‘watch’ produce the ‘sewing machine’—even if it takes a billion years—without the watch losing a vital function? You see, Darwinian gradualism is logically untenable!

    I’d like to draw your attention to a passage in my OP (highlighting is mine):

    What Charles Darwin did was to put forward a mechanism (natural selection) which is capable (in principle) of explaining how one complex, highly co-ordinated system of parts which assists an organism’s survival could, over millions of years, gradually evolve into another complex system serving an altogether different purpose, through an undirected (“blind”) process. (Of course, such an evolutionary transformation can only occur if there is a viable pathway between the two systems, which blind processes are capable of traversing without any intelligent guidance.)

    Personally, I am highly skeptical that a watch could transform itself into a sewing machine, even over a period of one billion years, without losing its original function, long before acquiring its new one. And off the top of my head, I can’t think of any intermediate functions that would enable the gap between the two kinds of mechanisms to be bridged more easily.

    However, I don’t trust my intuitions so readily, when it comes to judging whether one organ could evolve into another, precisely because organs aren’t as easy to understand as watches and sewing machines. For instance, some biologists believe that feathers may have originally been adapted for sexual display, and later they may have proved useful for thermoregulation. Over the course of time, as they grew larger, these feathers also helped their tree-dwelling possessors to glide from one branch to another, as they had a parachuting effect. Eventually, an increase in feather size and area led to the development of feathers that proved suitable for flight. Now, I must admit that parts of the foregoing account sound rather lame: in particular, it doesn’t explain the distinctive structure of birds’ feathers very well. Nevertheless, the evidence that feathers actually evolved is very, very good – see here: http://people.eku.edu/ritchiso.....lution.htm .

    So I can’t rule out the possibility that Darwin’s theory may be able to explain the origin of feathers. Instead, I think it’s better to focus on the first living things, and on systems (e.g. developmental regulatory networks) which are so fragile that any changes would likely prove fatal.

    I hope that answers your question.

  17. 17
    vjtorley says:

    Hi Dionisio,

    Thank you for your post. I did a quick search on rabbit evolution, and here’s what I came up with:

    https://www.quora.com/How-did-rabbits-evolve-What-are-their-closest-relatives-Where-could-I-find-a-phylogenetic-tree-of-their-evolution

    The answers by the two scientists are quite detailed.

    It looks like hares are rabbits’ closest relatives, and after that, pikas.

    According to timetree.org, rabbits and hares diverged 20 million years ago, while rabbits and pikas diverged about 50 million years ago. Rabbits and mice diverged about 85 million years ago.

    Hope that helps.

  18. 18
    Daniel King says:

    The standard materialistic argument that we will eventually figure it out and
    close this gap has been shown, I think, to not apply.

    Hi, GBDixon.

    Do you believe that every scientific question has to be answered during your lifetime?

  19. 19
    bornagain77 says:

    God of the Gaps vs. Materialism/Naturalism of the Gaps:

    Although Theists are often accused of making ‘God of the Gaps’ style arguments, the fact of the matter is that, as science has progressed, it is the Atheist himself who has had to retreat further and further into ‘Materialism/Naturalism of Gaps’ style arguments. i.e. into “Science will figure a materialistic answer out to that profound mystery some day” style argument.

    Of related note, the materialistic and Theistic philosophy make, and have made, several contradictory predictions about what type of science evidence we will find.
    These contradictory predictions, and the evidence we have found by modern science, can be tested against one another to see if either materialism or Theism is true.

    Theism compared to Materialism/Naturalism – a comparative overview of the major predictions of each philosophy – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1139512636061668/?type=2&theater

    1. Naturalism/Materialism predicted space-time energy-matter always existed. Theism predicted space-time energy-matter were created. Big Bang cosmology now strongly indicates that time-space energy-matter had a sudden creation event approximately 14 billion years ago.

    2. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the universe is a self sustaining system that is not dependent on anything else for its continued existence. Theism predicted that God upholds this universe in its continued existence. Breakthroughs in quantum mechanics reveal that this universe is dependent on a ‘non-local’, beyond space and time, cause for its continued existence.

    3. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that consciousness is an ‘emergent property’ of material reality and thus should have no particularly special position within material reality. Theism predicts consciousness precedes material reality and therefore, on that presupposition, consciousness should have a ‘special’ position within material reality. Quantum Mechanics reveals that consciousness has a special, even a central, position within material reality. –

    4. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the rate at which time passed was constant everywhere in the universe. Theism predicted God is eternal and is outside of time. – Special Relativity has shown that time, as we understand it, is relative and comes to a complete stop at the speed of light. (Psalm 90:4 – 2 Timothy 1:9) –

    5. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the universe did not have life in mind and that life was ultimately an accident of time and chance. Theism predicted this universe was purposely created by God with man in mind. Scientists find the universe is exquisitely fine-tuned for carbon-based life to exist in this universe. Moreover it is found, when scrutinizing the details of physics and chemistry, that not only is the universe fine-tuned for carbon based life, but is specifically fine-tuned for life like human life (R. Collins, M. Denton).-

    6. Naturalism/Materialism predicted complex life in this universe should be fairly common. Theism predicted the earth is extremely unique in this universe. Statistical analysis of the hundreds of required parameters which enable complex organic life to be possible on earth gives strong indication the earth is extremely unique in this universe (G. Gonzalez; Hugh Ross). –

    7. Naturalism/Materialism predicted it took a very long time for life to develop on earth. Theism predicted life to appear abruptly on earth after water appeared on earth (Genesis 1:10-11). Geochemical evidence from the oldest sedimentary rocks ever found on earth indicates that complex photosynthetic life has existed on earth as long as water has been on the face of earth. –

    8. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the first life to be relatively simple. Theism predicted that God is the source for all life on earth. The simplest life ever found on Earth is far more complex than any machine man has made through concerted effort. (Michael Denton PhD) –

    9. Naturalism/Materialism predicted the gradual unfolding of life would (someday) be self-evident in the fossil record. Theism predicted complex and diverse animal life to appear abruptly in the seas in God’s fifth day of creation. The Cambrian Explosion shows a sudden appearance of many different and completely unique fossils within a very short “geologic resolution time” in the Cambrian seas. –

    10. Naturalism/Materialism predicted there should be numerous transitional fossils found in the fossil record, Theism predicted sudden appearance and rapid diversity within different kinds found in the fossil record. Fossils are consistently characterized by sudden appearance of a group/kind in the fossil record(disparity), then rapid diversity within that group/kind, and then long term stability and even deterioration of variety within the overall group/kind, and within the specific species of the kind, over long periods of time. Of the few dozen or so fossils claimed as transitional, not one is uncontested as a true example of transition between major animal forms out of millions of collected fossils. –

    11. Naturalism/Materialism predicted animal speciation should happen on a somewhat constant basis on earth. Theism predicted man was the last species created on earth – Man (our genus ‘modern homo’ as distinct from the highly controversial ‘early homo’) is the last generally accepted major fossil form to have suddenly appeared in the fossil record. (Tattersall; Luskin)–

    12. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that the separation of human intelligence from animal intelligence ‘is one of degree and not of kind’(C. Darwin). Theism predicted that we are made in the ‘image of God’- Despite an ‘explosion of research’ in this area over the last four decades, human beings alone are found to ‘mentally dissect the world into a multitude of discrete symbols, and combine and recombine those symbols in their minds to produce hypotheses of alternative possibilities.’ (Tattersall; Schwartz). Moreover, both biological life and the universe itself are found to be ‘information theoretic’ in their foundational basis.

    13. Naturalism/Materialism predicted much of the DNA code was junk. Theism predicted we are fearfully and wonderfully made – ENCODE research into the DNA has revealed a “biological jungle deeper, denser, and more difficult to penetrate than anyone imagined.”. –

    14. Naturalism/Materialism predicted a extremely beneficial and flexible mutation rate for DNA which was ultimately responsible for all the diversity and complexity of life we see on earth. Theism predicted only God created life on earth – The mutation rate to DNA is overwhelmingly detrimental. Detrimental to such a point that it is seriously questioned whether there are any truly beneficial, information building, mutations whatsoever. (M. Behe; JC Sanford) –

    15. Naturalism/Materialism predicted morality is subjective and illusory. Theism predicted morality is objective and real. Morality is found to be deeply embedded in the genetic responses of humans. As well, morality is found to be deeply embedded in the structure of the universe. Embedded to the point of eliciting physiological responses in humans before humans become aware of the morally troubling situation and even prior to the event even happening.

    16. Naturalism/Materialism predicted that we are merely our material bodies with no transcendent component to our being, and that we die when our material bodies die. Theism predicted that we have minds/souls that are transcendent of our bodies that live past the death of our material bodies. Transcendent, and ‘conserved’, (cannot be created or destroyed), ‘non-local’, (beyond space-time matter-energy), quantum entanglement/information, which is not reducible to matter-energy space-time, is now found in our material bodies on a massive scale (in every DNA and protein molecule).

    As you can see when we remove the artificial imposition of the materialistic philosophy (methodological naturalism), from the scientific method, and look carefully at the predictions of both the materialistic philosophy and the Theistic philosophy, side by side, we find the scientific method is very good at pointing us in the direction of Theism as the true explanation. – In fact science is even very good at pointing us to Christianity as the solution to the much sought after ‘theory of everything’

    The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from Death as the “Theory of Everything” – video
    https://www.facebook.com/philip.cunningham.73/videos/vb.100000088262100/1143437869002478/?type=2&theater

  20. 20
    PaV says:

    vjt:

    For instance, some biologists believe that feathers may have originally been adapted for sexual display, and later they may have proved useful for thermoregulation. Over the course of time, as they grew larger, these feathers also helped their tree-dwelling possessors to glide from one branch to another, as they had a parachuting effect. Eventually, an increase in feather size and area led to the development of feathers that proved suitable for flight.

    I “believe” lots of things.

  21. 21
    bornagain77 says:

    On the Diversification of Fur, Feathers, and Scales, the Mystery Remains
    Michael Denton July 6, 2016
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....02975.html

  22. 22
    Dionisio says:

    VJTorley @17

    Thank you for the information. I can use it.

    Do you know of anyone who could help with the questions posted @15 using
    d1 = rabbit
    and
    d2 = haras or pikas or mice?

  23. 23
    Dionisio says:

    Daniel King @18

    Do you believe that every scientific question has to be answered during your lifetime?

    I think many scientific questions are being answered now.

    For example, you may look at some of the over 1,500 paper references posted in the thread pointed by the below link 1.
    Also there are over thousand papers referenced in the thread pointed by the below link 2.
    Total over 2,500 paper references with lots of scientific questions answered.

    Here’s the link 1:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....t-of-life/

    Here’s the link 2:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....evolution/

    With every new answer, the emerging big picture is beyond fascinating, at least to some of us.

    BTW, you may want to help to answer the question posted @15 here in this thread. You may use the information provided by VJTorley @17. Let me know if you have any questions, though it shouldn’t be difficult at all.

    Enjoy it!

    🙂

  24. 24
    bornagain77 says:

    Although I’m not a YEC like Comfort, (nor a Theistic Evolutionist like Torley), but an OEC like Dr. Stephen Meyer and Dr. William Dembski, I have enjoyed the Ray Comfort films:

    Evolution Vs. God Movie – 7:00 minute mark PZ Myers
    https://youtu.be/U0u3-2CGOMQ

    “180” Movie
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7y2KsU_dhwI

    Comfort has a new one coming out that looks to be just as interesting if not more so

    The Atheist Delusion Official Trailer (2016) HD
    http://www.livingwaters.com/ou.....t-delusion

  25. 25
    rvb8 says:

    I’m not a fan of PZ, I agree with his science but not his ‘forgive Islam because it is part of cultural diversity’, nonsense. BUT, his argument is clear, made in the first paragraphs, easy to digest, and makes infinately more sense than dragging ones self through your drawn out speil.
    ‘What to cut?’, you ask! OK! How about the paragraph beginning, “Except that there’s one little problem: Scientists haven’t a clue how life evolved.” I’m sorry, and I don’t want to insult you, as you are man of ethics, honesty, and good morals; no sarcasim! But unfortunately I have caught you here, ‘lying.’ Yes! Scientists actually ‘do have a clue’, how life evolved. In fact they have an abundance of ‘clues’. So many in fact that they are constantly arguing over the most likely, ‘clues’. The fact that none of these ideas, or ‘clues’, involves anything that contradicts scientific laws is what relly gets your goat. Scientists simply refuse the miraculous, that is why PZ’s comment is so short and clear, and yours are so long and vague.

  26. 26

    Scientists simply refuse the miraculous…

    Don’t be so naive. They embrace the miraculous that serves their purposes … and avoid the evidence that their priors are stupendously wrong.

  27. 27
    rvb8 says:

    ‘Naivety’, resides in those who yearn for an ‘after life’, it resides in those who believe we are anything other than what we plainly are, part of nature!
    We see a rabbit, and know it has close kniship with the hare; they no longer breed with one another, therefore we know they are seperate species, with a common ancester; soak and repeat.

  28. 28
    Origenes says:

    rvb8,

    rvb8: ‘What to cut?’, you ask! OK! How about the paragraph beginning, “Except that there’s one little problem: Scientists haven’t a clue how life evolved.” I’m sorry, and I don’t want to insult you, as you are man of ethics, honesty, and good morals; no sarcasim! But unfortunately I have caught you here, ‘lying.’ Yes! Scientists actually ‘do have a clue’, how life evolved. In fact they have an abundance of ‘clues’. So many in fact that they are constantly arguing over the most likely, ‘clues’.

    Talking about naivety ….. Either you are unaware of the fact that the subject here is abiogenesis, as in ‘Scientists haven’t a clue how life evolved from inorganic or inanimate substances’, or you hold that you know something that Professor Tour does not.

    We have no idea how the molecules that compose living systems could have been devised such that they would work in concert to fulfill biology’s functions. We have no idea how the basic set of molecules, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins, were made and how they could have coupled in proper sequences, and then transformed into the ordered assemblies until there was the construction of a complex system, and eventually to that first cell. Nobody has any idea on how this was done when using our commonly understood mechanisms of chemical science. Those who say that they understand are generally wholly uninformed regarding chemical synthesis.

    From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system. We cannot even figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life: carbohydrates, nucleic acids, lipids and proteins. Chemists are collectively bewildered. Hence I say that no chemist understands prebiotic synthesis of the requisite building blocks, let alone assembly into a complex system.

    That’s how clueless we are. I’ve asked all of my colleagues: National Academy members, Nobel Prize winners. I sit with them in offices. Nobody understands this. So if your professor says, “It’s all worked out,” [or] your teachers say, “It’s all worked out,” they don’t know what they’re talking about. It is not worked out.
    [Profesor James Tour]

  29. 29
    rvb8 says:

    There are theories about clays forming templates upon which organic molecules attached themselves, about organic molecules concentrating around sub sea vents. But you are corrrect hard evidence is lacking. Your answer is to throw up our hands and say, ‘don’t know, can’t know’? No thank you! The science magazines are full of hypotheses about ‘origins’, they sre full of experiments in creating various possible ‘origins’ environments. These speculations and experiments will not stop, and as each experiment adds to ‘origins’ science your hand waving will become less and less coherent.
    40 years go extra solar planets were thought innevitable by scientists, and ridiculed by creationists, apparently earth is just too special. Now the creationists are left saying, ‘oh, they’re there, they just can’t support life’. That hole you’re backing yourself towards is looking mighty deep. I believe only a few years ago News was mocking the LHC as giant tax fraud, that the Higgs is a pointless phantom; Oh dear!

  30. 30
    bornagain77 says:

    Of related interest to “Why a rabbit is not like a can of Coke” is the related of issue of “Why a pre-Cambrian rabbit would not falsify Universal Common Descent (UCD)”.

    The evolutionist J. B. S. Haldane, one of the founders of population genetics, when asked what would convince him that evolution was false, replied that finding a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks would do quite nicely.

    Richard Dawkins, following Haldane, stated:

    “However, if there was a single hippo or rabbit in the Precambrian, that would completely blow evolution out of the water. None have ever been found.”4
    The evolution wars, Time, 7 August 2005
    http://creation.com/precambria.....-evolution

    Yet a pre-Cambrian rabbit, or hippo, as Dembski relates, would not falsify UCD:

    Five Questions Evolutionists Would Rather Dodge
    5. Testability
    What evidence would convince you that evolution is false? If no such evidence exists, or indeed could exist, how can evolution be a testable scientific theory?,,,
    The evolutionist J. B. S. Haldane, when asked what would convince him that evolution was false, replied that finding a rabbit fossil in pre-Cambrian rocks would do quite nicely. Such a fossil would, by standard geological dating, be out of sequence by several hundreds of millions of years. Certainly such a finding, if rigorously confirmed, would overturn the current understanding of the history of life. But it would not overturn evolution.
    Haldane’s rabbit is easily enough explained as an evolutionary convergence, in which essentially the same structure or life form evolves twice. In place of a common underlying intelligent design, evolutionists invoke evolutionary convergence whenever confronted with similar biological structures that cannot reasonably be traced back to a common evolutionary ancestor.
    So long as some unknown or unexplored evolutionary pathway might have led to the formation of some biological structure or organism, evolutionists prefer it over alternative explanations such as intelligent design. And since the unknown and unexplored allow for an infinity of loopholes, the committed evolutionist regards Darwinian and other materialist explanations of life’s origin and subsequent development as always trumping alternative explanations, regardless of the evidence.
    – By William A. Dembski
    http://www.brianauten.com/Apol.....ons_Ev.pdf

    Even a Darwinist admitted that a ‘pre-Cambrian rabbit’ would not falsify Darwinism:

    “In 2009, Steve Meyer and I spoke at the Sam Noble Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma. The day before, the museum’s curator of invertebrate paleontology, Dr. Stephen Westrop, made a pre-emptive strike by giving his own talk about why the Cambrian explosion poses no challenge to Darwinian theory. He concluded by taking exception to J.B.S. Haldane’s claim that finding a fossil rabbit in the pre-Cambrian would prove Darwin’s theory wrong. If such a fossil were found, Westrop said, paleontologists would simply revise their reconstruction of the history of life. During the Q&A, one student asked him whether any fossil find could falsify Darwin’s theory, and Professor Westrop said “No,” since Darwin’s theory is really about natural selection, which operates on a much shorter time scale than the fossil record.”
    – Jonathan Wells
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....o-problem/

    The claim that a pre-Cambrian rabbit would falsify Universal Common Descent was an interesting claim for J.B.S. Haldane (and Dawkins) to make for two reasons. One reason is that, by all rights, the Cambrian Explosion should, by itself, be more than enough to falsify the hypothesis of UCD.

    What Types of Evolution Does the Cambrian Explosion Challenge? – Stephen Meyer – video – (The Cambrian Explosion challenges Universal Common Descent and the Mechanism of Random Variation/Natural Selection)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AaF7t5wRFtA&list=UUUMhP2x7_7psVO-H4MJFpAQ

    Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, PhD talks about the Case for Intelligent Design – video (excellent lecture on the Cambrian Explosion – Oct. 2015)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl802lHAk5Y

    The second reason that the claim that a pre-Cambrian rabbit would falsify Universal Common Descent was an interesting claim for J.B.S. Haldane to make is that J.B.S. Haldane was one of the founders of population genetics. Population Genetics, supposedly, had finally given Darwinian evolution some semblance of mathematical respectability.

    Yet here, with the pre-Cambrian rabbit example, J.B.S. Haldane was basically punting on the math and was not offering to put the mathematics of population genetics up for testing (like other overarching theories of science base their falsification criteria on math)

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    – Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003

    Without such a rigid falsification criteria based in math, Darwinian evolution does not even qualify as a hard science in the first place but is, in reality, more properly classified as a pseudo-science:

    “In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.”
    Karl Popper – The Two Fundamental Problems of the Theory of Knowledge (2014 edition), Routledge

    More interesting still to the fact that Haldane did not submit the math of population genetics to empirical testing, but instead laughably submitted a pre-Cambrian rabbit, is the fact that population genetics, from Haldane’s own work, had basically cast natural selection, which was Charles Darwin’s main claim to fame, under the bus.

    Haldane, (in a seminal paper in 1957—the ‘cost of substitution’), was the first to recognize there was a cost to selection which limited what it realistically could be expected to do. He did not fully realize that his thinking would create major problems for evolutionary theory. He calculated that in man it would take 6 million years to fix just 1,000 mutations (assuming 20 years per generation).,,, Man and chimp differ by at least 150 million nucleotides representing at least 40 million hypothetical mutations (Britten, 2002). So if man evolved from a chimp-like creature, then during that process there were at least 20 million mutations fixed within the human lineage (40 million divided by 2), yet natural selection could only have selected for 1,000 of those. All the rest would have had to been fixed by random drift – creating millions of nearly-neutral deleterious mutations. This would not just have made us inferior to our chimp-like ancestors – it surely would have killed us. Since Haldane’s dilemma there have been a number of efforts to sweep the problem under the rug, but the problem is still exactly the same. ReMine (1993, 2005) has extensively reviewed the problem, and has analyzed it using an entirely different mathematical formulation – but has obtained identical results.
    John Sanford PhD. – “Genetic Entropy and The Mystery of the Genome” – pg. 159-160

    Walter ReMine on Haldane’s Dilemma – interview
    http://kgov.com/Walter-ReMine-on-Haldanes-Dilemma

    Kimura’s Quandary
    Excerpt: Kimura realized that Haldane was correct,,, He developed his neutral theory in response to this overwhelming evolutionary problem. Paradoxically, his theory led him to believe that most mutations are unselectable, and therefore,,, most ‘evolution’ must be independent of selection! Because he was totally committed to the primary axiom (neo-Darwinism), Kimura apparently never considered his cost arguments could most rationally be used to argue against the Axiom’s (neo-Darwinism’s) very validity.
    John Sanford PhD. – “Genetic Entropy and The Mystery of the Genome” – pg. 161 – 162

    Kimura (1968) developed the idea of “Neutral Evolution”. If “Haldane’s Dilemma” is correct, the majority of DNA must be non-functional.
    – Sanford

    A graph featuring ‘Kimura’s Distribution’ being ‘properly used’ is shown in the following video:
    Evolution vs Genetic Entropy – Andy McIntosh – video – 59:27 minute mark
    https://youtu.be/-GLJE4FbHnk?t=3567

    In other words, Neutral theory, and the concept of junk DNA, was not developed because of any empirical observation, but was actually developed because it was forced upon Darwinists by the mathematics of population genetics. In plain English, neutral theory, and the concept of junk DNA, is actually the result of a theoretical failure of Darwinism within the mathematics of population genetics!

    It is also interesting, and important, to point out that Neutral Theory effectively casts what is considered Charles Darwin’s main contribution to science, i.e. Natural Selection itself, under the bus.

    “many genomic features could not have emerged without a near-complete disengagement of the power of natural selection”
    Michael Lynch
    The Origins of Genome Architecture, intro

    “the uncritical acceptance of natural selection as an explanatory force for all aspects of biodiversity (without any direct evidence) is not much different than invoking an intelligent designer”
    Michael Lynch
    The Origins of Genome Architecture, p 368

    “a relative lack of natural selection may be the prerequisite for major evolutionary advance”
    Mae Wan Ho
    Beyond neo-Darwinism – Evolution by Absence of Selection

  31. 31
    bornagain77 says:

    And without Natural Selection as a major player in evolution, basically all that is left of Darwin’s original theory is, effectively, blind random chance all by itself:

    (With the adoption of the ‘neutral theory’ of evolution by prominent Darwinists, and the casting aside of Natural Selection as a major player in evolution),,,
    “One wonders what would have become of evolution had Darwin originally claimed that it was simply the accumulation of random, neutral variations that generated all of the deeply complex, organized, interdependent structures we find in biology? Would we even know his name today?
    What exactly is Darwin really famous for now? Advancing a really popular, disproven idea (of Natural Selection), along the lines of Luminiferous Aether?
    Without the erroneous but powerful meme of “survival of the fittest” to act as an opiate for the Victorian intelligentsia and as a rationale for 20th century fascism, how might history have proceeded under the influence of the less vitriolic maxim, “Survival of the Happenstance”?”
    – William J Murray

    On Enzymes and Teleology – Ann Gauger – July 19, 2012
    Excerpt: People have been saying for years, “Of course evolution isn’t random, it’s directed by natural selection. It’s not chance, it’s chance and necessity.” But in recent years the rhetoric has changed. Now evolution is constrained. Not all options are open, and natural selection is not the major player, it’s the happenstance of genetic drift that drives change. But somehow it all happens anyway, and evolution gets the credit.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....62391.html

    Majestic Ascent: Berlinski on Darwin on Trial – David Berlinski – November 2011
    Excerpt: The publication in 1983 of Motoo Kimura’s The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution consolidated ideas that Kimura had introduced in the late 1960s. On the molecular level, evolution is entirely stochastic, and if it proceeds at all, it proceeds by drift along a leaves-and-current model. Kimura’s theories left the emergence of complex biological structures an enigma, but they played an important role in the local economy of belief. They allowed biologists to affirm that they welcomed responsible criticism. “A critique of neo-Darwinism,” the Dutch biologist Gert Korthof boasted, “can be incorporated into neo-Darwinism if there is evidence and a good theory, which contributes to the progress of science.”
    By this standard, if the Archangel Gabriel were to accept personal responsibility for the Cambrian explosion, his views would be widely described as neo-Darwinian.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....53171.html

    Indeed, besides casting Natural Selection under the bus as a major player in evolutionary theory, the mathematics of population genetics has not been kind to Darwin’s theory in the least:

    Waiting Time problem and Evolutionary Argument against Reality
    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....ent-612349

    Thus Darwinists, (and even Theistic Evolutionists such as Torley), basically ignore any empirical evidence that might falsify their belief in UCD, and, as in the case of Haldane himself, ignore what their own math is telling them about Darwinism. Namely, that Darwinian evolution, and its first born offspring of UCD, are ‘not even wrong! as far as science itself is concerned”

  32. 32
    Origenes says:

    rvb8,

    rvb8: But you are corrrect hard evidence is lacking.

    We seem to be talking past each other. The claim wrt abiogenesis is NOT that “hard evidence is lacking”. It is far far worse than that.
    Do read professor Tour again:

    We have no idea … From a synthetic chemical perspective, neither I nor any of my colleagues can fathom a prebiotic molecular route to construction of a complex system…. We cannot even figure out the prebiotic routes to the basic building blocks of life … Chemists are collectively bewildered… That’s how clueless we are …

  33. 33
    GBDixon says:

    DanielKing@18:

    Hi Daniel,

    My point is that the particular gap mentioned has been, I believe, provably (scientifically) shown to be unsolvable by materialistic means, using entropic arguments.

    I recognize that there are many problems that may be solved by materialistic explanations after my lifetime, and that there are many problems that may never be solved by any means but cannot be decisively shown to be beyond materialistic explanations.

    The origin of information I think, falls into neither of these categories, but instead has been truly shown to be impossible for materialistic methods to explain. Not today, not ever. Committed atheist Antony Flew recognized the unique nature of this particular gap and thus became a deist.

  34. 34

    rv@27,

    Rabbits are related to hares, so a coupled information system might rise from the surface of clay.

    I’m not sure you could have illustrated my point in #26 any more clearly.

  35. 35
    PaV says:

    vjtorley:

    Here’s the critical remark:

    Now, here’s the question: can the ‘watch’ produce the ‘sewing machine’—even if it takes a billion years—without the watch losing a vital function? You see, Darwinian gradualism is logically untenable!

    The whole point here is about what Darwin insisted upon: gradualism.

    Logically, how is it possible for a watch to continue to be a watch while, at the same time, turning itself into a sewing machine. I can ONLY see a scenario in which, at some point, the watch loses its function, and then proceeds to become a sewing machine. This scenario, however, is not permitted by Darwin since the loss of function in the watch means, in Darwinian terms, its elimination: i.e., death.

    There’s then another alternative, one which is almost, if not completely, unimaginable: i.e., the watch retains the function of being a watch, and, at the same time, develops the ability to function as a sewing machine.

    Now we have a different cunundrum: if the newly transformed object can function as BOTH a watch and a sewing machine, then why did it develop this function, and why does it decide to give up its “watch” function?

    Either way, there are problems here.

  36. 36

    Brings joy to my heart to know that PZ Myers is incensed. Kudos to Ray Comfort.

  37. 37
    Mung says:

    Rabbits are related to hares, so a coupled information system might rise from the surface of clay.

    A little clay hare, a little clay thare. Clay reproduces like rabbits.

  38. 38
    tommy hall says:

    Any rabbit found in the pre-Cambrian, if it was reported at all, would be considered a hoax, a fraud, an “anomaly,” etc. Nothing can touch the theory of evolution, or moreover, universal common descent. These were both assumed and promoted as “facts,” even before the “facts” came in….. There’s a huge volume (some 900 pages) of out-of-place fossils here: https://www.amazon.com/Forbidden-Archeology-Hidden-History-Human/dp/0892132949/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1467939881&sr=8-1&keywords=forbidden+archeology…only to be completely ignored by evolutionists.

  39. 39
    rvb8 says:

    Origenes, I’m well aware that, as Professor Tour says, “we have no idea”, with respect to the first chemicals forming biological life. I am well aware that this area of study frigthens the religious because it would displace God as being at all necessary. However, your position appears to be, ‘don’t know, don’t try’. This mentality is medieval and we have come further; or perhaps you believe we should follow the ID system of investigation, twiddle our thumbs?

  40. 40

    rv, why are you so afraid of physical evidence?

  41. 41
    rvb8 says:

    Heh:) “Why are you so afraid of physical evidence?”
    You mean as in the evidence of vestigial expressions, or the cases of innumerable redundent organs, or incompitent design, or biogeography, (why did God create different dry wtather flora and fauna for desert continents with the same climate?), or fossils, or DNA similarities, and DNA Junk, or or or…
    Sorry! Now your turn; physical evidence for ID please?

  42. 42

    Do you think the capacity to organize the cell implies the capacity to specify one thing from another? In other words, if you are going to replicate a thing made of a, b, and c, do you have to have the capacity to specify a, b, and c from alternatives?

  43. 43
    rvb8 says:

    I’m sorry, and I don’t want to appear thick but what the hell was that you just wrote? I said, ‘living animals have sex, during sex genes are matched and mangled, this matching and mangling produces variants, some of these variants are better suited to their respective environments than others, and increase the possibility of more sex, soak and repeat.’ If you want to argue about how the first cell, ‘organized’ itself fine, but I, and people far smarter than you or I are still puzzling over this solvable problem; I prefer to wait for their pronouncements than listen to ID speculation as to its impossibility; it’s not, because it obviously happened, probably many times, independently, in many environments.
    You said what exactly? Nobody, ‘organizes a cell’, where did that flim flammery come from? “You”, or I for that matter, ‘specify’ nothing, Nature selects! “If you are going to replicate”, again, what? The genes bind through physical known forces, the cells divide according to the understood laws of physics. No intention or will is required, it all works perfectly badly, and wastefully by itself.

  44. 44

    You poor thing. You just can’t stand physical evidence, can you?

    Now that you’ve got that out of your system, does the organization of the cell require the capacity to specify a thing among alternatives? It’s a simple question, don’t let it get the best of you. If the first amino acid in a protein is valine, does the cell have to have the capacity to specify valine among alternatives, or not?

  45. 45
    rvb8 says:

    ‘dry weather’; Doh!

  46. 46
    Origenes says:

    rvb8 @39,

    rv: I’m well aware that, as Professor Tour says, “we have no idea”, with respect to the first chemicals forming biological life. I am well aware that this area of study frigthens the religious because it would displace God as being at all necessary.

    Nope, it would not and I’m well ahead of you. Do you understand the law of conservation of information? Applied here, it means that if it were the case that matter self-organizes into the specified complex structures of life, then the all-pervading question ’where does the information come from?’ still requires an answer. Naturalists, like you, don’t seem to be aware of the fact that the best they can do is pushing the inevitable conclusion (intelligent design) one level back.
    Now that you aware of this fact, does that frighten you a little?

    rv: However, your position appears to be, ‘don’t know, don’t try’.

    Oh no, by all means, give it your best. However, do understand that, in the meantime, the best explanation for life is intelligent design.

  47. 47

    rv, your posts at #45 and #43 are a defensive maneuver.

    Your desire to avoid physical evidence is made evident.

  48. 48
    rvb8 says:

    ‘Conservation of information.’Heh:) You mean the ‘law’, devised by Sir Peter Medawar, adopted by Dembski and rejected by the Scientific community? Yes, I know this unsubstantiated, impossible to varify law. I still prefer physical evidence; you know stuff we can measure, unlike ‘information’, stuff that causes a respons in nature. But you follow this, ‘law’, it is a chimera:)

  49. 49

    stuff we can measure, unlike ‘information’, stuff that causes a response in nature.

    double facepalm

  50. 50
    Origenes says:

    rvb8: ‘Conservation of information.’Heh:) You mean the ‘law’ … rejected by the Scientific community? Yes, I know this unsubstantiated, impossible to varify law.

    Citations please.

  51. 51
    bornagain77 says:

    “Citations please.”

    What, you don’t trust rvb8’s emotionally driven rhetoric as proof enough to refute any law of science that he may personally find distasteful to his own atheistic preferences?

    Well, that is just even more evidence that you are a anti-science religious nut Origenes! 😀

    Evidence smevidence, science is what rvb8, an his atheistic brethren, say it is!

    For daring to doubt him, and his ilk, we can all hang our heads in shame now. 🙁

Leave a Reply