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#10 of 2011 for ID community: Limits to self-organization of life identified


Every year, Access Research Network publishes a list of the 10 most significant science news stories for the year, for the intelligent design community – in consultation with theorists and writers. Here’s #10:

10. The Limits to Self-Organization Identified. University of British Columbia professor, Richard Johns, published an article in the philosophy journal Synthese, which argues that there are “limitations on the kinds of structure that can self-organize.”* Evolutionists have increasingly turned to theories of self-organization to explain the origin of life as previous theories such as the prebiotic soup have been discarded for lack of evidence.

Johns’ primary argument is to prove a “limitative theorem” that certain types of objects cannot self-organize through the laws of nature. His limitative theorem entails ideas very much like Dembski’s conservation of information. According to Johns, just as there are logical limits to the amount of information that can be derived from a given set of axioms or premises, there are physical limits to the kinds of structures can be derived from a given set of physical laws. At the Uncommon Descent blog Johns goes on to comment on the implications of his theorem: “While the paper doesn’t address intelligent design as such, it indirectly establishes strict limits to what such evolutionary mechanisms as natural selection can accomplish. In particular, it shows that physical laws, operating on an initially random arrangement of matter, cannot produce complex objects with any reasonable chance in any reasonable time. … My argument is not especially concerned with the creative powers of natural selection, since it covers self-organisation in general. But the limitative theorem does entail that natural selection cannot have the powers that are often claimed. In this respect my argument is similar to, for example, Michael Behe’s argument involving the notion of irreducible complexity (e.g. in Darwin’s Black Box).”

Essentially, self-organization as a mechanism of evolution can only have a place in science if some limits to its function can be identified. Otherwise, it’s just a great big attic into which people can kick challenging findings.

See also Liane Gabora, “Self-Other Organization: Why Early Life Did http://tinyurl.com/d7a6qwz Evolve Through Natural Selection” (Philpapers, 2011), making the point that back then “there is no strict distinction between alive and dead; one can only infer that an autocell was alive if it replicates. These features of early life render natural selection inapplicable to the description of its change-of-state because they defy its underlying assumptions.”

* Richard Johns, Self-organisation in dynamical systems: a limiting result, SyntheseVolume 181, Number 2, 255-275, DOI: 10.1007/s11229-010-9801-8

See also:

#1 of 2011 for ID community: 50th Peer-Reviewed Pro-ID Scientific Paper Published.

#2 of 2011 for ID community: The Design of the Butterfly Continues to Inspire and Amaze.

#3 of 2011 for ID community: Woodpecker Drumming Inspires Shock-Absorbing System.

#4 of 2011 for ID community: “Stylus” Computer Program Aims to Bridge Gap Between Real World and Artificial Evolutionary Simulation.

#5 of 2011 for ID community: Explosive Radiation of Flowering Plants Confirmed

#6 of 2011 for ID community: Golden Orb-Weaver Fossil Spider Provides New Evidence for Stasis.

#7 of 2011 for ID community: Complexity in the Universe Appears Earlier Than Thought.

#8 of 2011 for ID community: An Identity Crisis for Human Ancestors.

#9 of 2011 for ID community: DNA Repair Mechanisms Reveal a Contradiction in Evolutionary Theory.

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