Intelligent Design

Arsenic-Based Biochemistry: Turning Poison Into Wine

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Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news. If new species appear abruptly in the fossil record, that just means evolution operates in spurts. If species then persist for eons with little modification, that just means evolution takes long breaks. If clever mechanisms are discovered in biology, that just means evolution is smarter than we imagined. If strikingly similar designs are found in distant species, that just means evolution repeats itself. If significant differences are found in allied species, that just means evolution sometimes introduces new designs rapidly. If no likely mechanism can be found for the large-scale change evolution requires, that just means evolution is mysterious. If adaptation responds to environmental signals, that just means evolution has more foresight than was thought. If major predictions of evolution are found to be false, that just means evolution is more complex than we thought. So today’s falsification, though it falsifies one of evolution’s most treasured predictions, will be no different. Once again, evolutionists have great news.  Read more

29 Replies to “Arsenic-Based Biochemistry: Turning Poison Into Wine

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    On the other hand Intelligent Design can easily be falsified:

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    …For a broad outline of the ‘Fitness test’, required to be passed to show a violation of the principle of Genetic Entropy, please see the following video:

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – ‘The Fitness Test’ – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity: David L. Abel – Null Hypothesis For Information Generation – 2009
    To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it: “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit integration.” A single exception of non trivial, unaided spontaneous optimization of formal function by truly natural process would falsify this null hypothesis.
    http://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf
    Can We Falsify Any Of The Following Null Hypothesis (For Information Generation)
    1) Mathematical Logic
    2) Algorithmic Optimization
    3) Cybernetic Programming
    4) Computational Halting
    5) Integrated Circuits
    6) Organization (e.g. homeostatic optimization far from equilibrium)
    7) Material Symbol Systems (e.g. genetics)
    8) Any Goal Oriented bona fide system
    9) Language
    10) Formal function of any kind
    11) Utilitarian work
    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/ag

    The GS (genetic selection) Principle – David L. Abel – 2009
    Excerpt: Stunningly, information has been shown not to increase in the coding regions of DNA with evolution. Mutations do not produce increased information. Mira et al (65) showed that the amount of coding in DNA actually decreases with evolution of bacterial genomes, not increases. This paper parallels Petrov’s papers starting with (66) showing a net DNA loss with Drosophila evolution (67). Konopka (68) found strong evidence against the contention of Subba Rao et al (69, 70) that information increases with mutations. The information content of the coding regions in DNA does not tend to increase with evolution as hypothesized. Konopka also found Shannon complexity not to be a suitable indicator of evolutionary progress over a wide range of evolving genes. Konopka’s work applies Shannon theory to known functional text. Kok et al. (71) also found that information does not increase in DNA with evolution. As with Konopka, this finding is in the context of the change in mere Shannon uncertainty. The latter is a far more forgiving definition of information than that required for prescriptive information (PI) (21, 22, 33, 72). It is all the more significant that mutations do not program increased PI. Prescriptive information either instructs or directly produces formal function. No increase in Shannon or Prescriptive information occurs in duplication. What the above papers show is that not even variation of the duplication produces new information, not even Shannon “information.”
    http://bioscience.bio-mirror.c.....6/3426.pdf
    http://www.us.net/life/index.htm

    Dr. Don Johnson explains the difference between Shannon Information and Prescriptive Information, as well as explaining ‘the cybernetic cut’, in this following Podcast:

    Programming of Life – Dr. Donald Johnson interviewed by Casey Luskin – audio podcast
    http://www.idthefuture.com/201....._life.html

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    BA77,

    You know, I’m going to be such an odd-man-out here, but I have to ask: Is there a place for unfalsifiable hypotheses?

    Naturalism is not falsifiable (it hardly has any content to note, other than “not the Christian God’s doing in any way”.) Maybe there really is a place for the unfalsifiable.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Is there a place for unfalsifiable hypotheses?

    Yes, my first hunch is, the more ‘unfalsifiable’ a hypothesis is the more extreme should be its placement into the pseudo-science category:

    Is evolution pseudoscience?
    Excerpt:,,, Thus, of the ten characteristics of pseudoscience listed in the Skeptic’s Dictionary, evolution meets nine. Few other?pseudosciences — astrology, astral projection, alien abduction, crystal power, or whatever — would meet so many.
    http://creation.com/is-evolution-pseudoscience

    ,,, and yet Nullasalus as bad as they are, Darwinian evolution in particular, and naturalism in general, can have a somewhat practical effect in science in refining the correct theories to a more proper form by forcing elucidation of a more formal defense of the proper theories from every outlandish consideration for falsification from the ‘pseudo-theories’ that arise from naturalism. At least that is how I’ve seen ‘the battle’ play out between Intelligent Design and Naturalism.

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    OT; here are some pictures of extremely ancient ‘living fossils’ (some of the oldest, and best, examples I’ve seen so far)

    LIVING FOSSILS REFUTE EVOLUTION
    http://www.facebook.com/home.p.....1761813789

  5. 5
    bornagain77 says:

    Better link for those who don’t have facebook accounts:

    Living Fossils Refute Evolution
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1p-ZI-ipQCoS-IHkZNEVN6EMFTgS0yuseO2r_ANzp51k

  6. 6
    Chris Doyle says:

    Good link, Bornagain77!

    Living fossils are a fantastic example of evolutionists moving the goalposts. They are exactly what we expect to find if evolution wasn’t true but they are magically explained away as a species in stasis.

    Are all species not in stasis? “No, of course not!” they tell us, “It’s just that we can’t find fossils of the missing links for species that have evolved”.

    What about extinct species? Why should we believe they left any descendants? “They must have done” they tells us, “Or else, where did we all come from?”.

    Literally, unbelievable.

  7. 7
    Heinrich says:

    Now the paper is out, we find that the Big News is that a bacterium has been found which can use arsenic instead of phosphorus. In other words, it can replace one element with another similar element. It’s certainly exciting, but I don’t see how it’s a falsification. Indeed one of evolution’s predictions is that life adapts.

  8. 8
    Granville Sewell says:

    Why? Yes, why? The question…was put to Nobel lauereate George Wald. “Various organisms try variaous things,” he finally answered, his words functioning as a verbal shrug…

    But suppose the manifold of life were to be given a good solid yank, so that the Chilean sea bass but not the Pacific salmon required fresh water to spawn, or that ants but not fireflies flickered enticingly at twilight, or that women but not cats were born with lush tails. What then? An inversion of life’s fundamental facts would, I suspect, present evolutionary biologists with few difficulties. Various organisms try various things. This idea is adapted to any contingency whatsoever…The theory of evolution is incapable of ruling anything out of court.

    David Berlinski, in The Deniable Darwin

  9. 9
    PaV says:

    I was just looking at something on PhysOrg.com, and it appears that it is not a life based completely on arsenic, but one which functions on arsenic. There aren’t a lot of details in the article, but it looks like Paul Davies and others want to make a big deal about how “life” can be so adaptable, and then he wants to link this to SETI. A bunch of grasping at straws if you ask me.

  10. 10
    johnnyb says:

    Null –

    I think we should be fine with unfalsifiable hypotheses. However, they should be labelled as such, and people should feel free to disagree with them.

  11. 11
    nullasalus says:

    I think we should be fine with unfalsifiable hypotheses. However, they should be labelled as such, and people should feel free to disagree with them.

    I agree. In fact, I could even agree that what is unfalsifiable shouldn’t be considered a scientific hypothesis. I just suggest that if ID is going up against unfalsifiable ideas – and I think in some very important ways that’s true – it just shows that falsifiability isn’t as much a concern.

    Sure, plenty of ID critics say “ID is unfalsifiable”. Plenty of ID critics will say whatever they have to so long as it gets the results they want.

  12. 12
    PaV says:

    Dr. Hunter:

    What is the best/easiest way of posting on your blog? Do you have to have your own blogsite in order to post?

  13. 13
    Upright BiPed says:

    PAV,

    I had the same question. As I remember it, I created a Google account and used it to sign on.

  14. 14
    tragic mishap says:

    Arsenic is similar to Phosphorous in its chemistry. If you look on the periodic table it is directly below Phosphorous and has the ability to form AsO4- just like PO4- which is the compound needed to form DNA’s sugar phosphate backbone. What they found was a bacteria, on earth (so don’t ask me why this has anything whatsoever to do with alien life except in the publicity crazed minds of a NASA in serious danger of being defunded after Obama basically told them their primary mission is to make Muslims feel like they are awesome), that appears to be capable of utilizing arsenic instead of phosphorous in DNA. No really solid evidence yet but from existing evidence it appears this might be the case.

    Arsenic is an element that is normally poisonous because normal biochemistry has a hard time distinguishing it from phosphorous to begin with, but is more unstable than phosphorous. So in other words when it gets used instead of phosphorous in most organisms the organism gets screwed because the arsenic compounds later break down. At least that’s my understanding.

    The bacteria actually grows slower in the presence of arsenic and only trace amounts of phosphorous, but it does grow instead of dying altogether.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine......ut-aliens/

    Honestly this sounds a lot like another example of evolution by breaking things, thus reducing fitness overall but the selective pressure is so severe that reduced growth rate, probably signifying molecular machines that perform worse than normal, is better than dying off completely. The bacteria were subjected to ever-increasing levels of arsenic instead of phosphorous, giving the bacterial proteins time to adjust to their new reduced but arsenic compliant forms.

  15. 15
    tragic mishap says:

    In other words with the existing evidence, it’s even a stretch to say that this type of biochemistry is even fundamentally different from normal. Although the photosynthesis which utilizes arsenic instead of water might be.

  16. 16
    AussieID says:

    I saw a news-bite on this on TV this morning. It wasn’t, though, coming from an evolutionary model but instead it was ‘evidence’ for alien life!

    Yep, something so incredible had to be seeded here(!) Or, the story goes, if this arsenice-eating creature is here then contemporaneous creatures MUST be elsewhere in the universe.

    Has there been any update on the alien theory as spun by the media?

    It seems, once again, that evo’s/SETI enthusiasts will try anything to prove a theory.

  17. 17
    Heinrich says:

    I saw a news-bite on this on TV this morning. It wasn’t, though, coming from an evolutionary model but instead it was ‘evidence’ for alien life!

    Yep, those of us on the evolution side are finding that angle stupid too. NASA are trying too hard to sell the story, I think. *sigh*

  18. 18
    Shogun says:

    bornagain77,

    Nice link for the living fossils. By the way, I noticed they are from Harun Yahya who is a muslim creationist and probably the greatest anti-Darwinism authority in the Islamic world. He also keeps volumes of pictures of living fossils in what is known as The Atlas of Creation, he made 3 volumes so far. You can look it up for many more examples of living fossils.

  19. 19
    DonaldM says:

    How often have we been told that no one (so serious scientist anyway)doubts that evolution occurred. The only debate is about the details of how it took place. Yet time and time again the how fails to explain what it is supposed to explain, but still there’s no reason for any “serious” scientist to harbor doubts about the theory.

    Well, when every single hypothesized mechanism for the theory runs aground, perhaps its time to abandon ship. It is quite obvious that what is being protected is NOT the theory (or more accurately the hypothesis of evolution, but the philosophical naturalism behind it. After all, we simply can not “allow a divine foot in the door”!!!!

  20. 20
    gpuccio says:

    Cornelius Hunter:

    Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news. If new species appear abruptly in the fossil record, that just means evolution operates in spurts. If species then persist for eons with little modification, that just means evolution takes long breaks. If clever mechanisms are discovered in biology, that just means evolution is smarter than we imagined. If strikingly similar designs are found in distant species, that just means evolution repeats itself. If significant differences are found in allied species, that just means evolution sometimes introduces new designs rapidly. If no likely mechanism can be found for the large-scale change evolution requires, that just means evolution is mysterious. If adaptation responds to environmental signals, that just means evolution has more foresight than was thought. If major predictions of evolution are found to be false, that just means evolution is more complex than we thought.

    That’s quite a brilliant portrait. You certainly know your evolutionists! 🙂

  21. 21
    uoflcard says:

    DonaldM [19]:

    …when every single hypothesized mechanism for the theory runs aground, perhaps its time to abandon ship.

    Great point, one that has been made before but should continuously be pointed out. How many rolls of duct tape (which aren’t doing anything to address the real problem) until you abandon the useless kludge?

  22. 22
    tragic mishap says:

    I think it’s kind of a cheapshot to portray this bacteria as evidence against evolution. It makes more sense as evidence for evolution. I do not believe these bacteria were created to use arsenic instead of phosphorous. It looks a lot like a Behe-style trench warfare adaptation.

    But not a lot is known about them yet so it’s probably too soon to draw conclusions. If it turns out this bacteria requires special machinery specifically designed to handle arsenic than I’d have to change my mind. But it could just be that this particular bacteria lacks the machinery that is normally susceptible to arsenic poisoning.

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....41181.html

  23. 23
    Lock says:

    Nothing here as far as I see (if I understand the find- and I really know little about the story thus far).

    So what if we find an animal with a new food source. Does that mean that life could take almost any form? Not in the least. But that is the story-line by some, and the implied story-line by many.

    Does this ‘alien’ creature still use ATP as an energy currency like every other ‘known’ creature’?

    Who cares about the food source for the purpose of showing something ‘really different’?

    Is it still not limited to extraordinarily narrow parameters in terms of environment?

    It’s a non-issue…

  24. 24
    tragic mishap says:

    Does this ‘alien’ creature still use ATP as an energy currency like every other ‘known’ creature’?

    That’s the million dollar question. Can it live with no phosphorous at all? If so it would probably live up to the hype. My guess is these researchers don’t believe it can, otherwise they would have tried a no-phosphorous diet by now.

  25. 25
    Mung says:

    Being an evolutionist means there is no bad news.

    That’s true, but it also means there is no good news either.

  26. 26
    Mung says:

    A bunch of grasping at straws if you ask me.

    If only that straw was arsenic laden.

  27. 27
    tragic mishap says:

    Looks like Carl Zimmer thinks the paper is just wrong and will be proven wrong in further studies.

    http://www.slate.com/id/2276919

  28. 28
    Upright BiPed says:

    From the Slate column…

    “We cannot indiscriminately wade into a media forum for debate at this time,” declared senior author Ronald Oremland of the U.S. Geological Survey. “If we are wrong, then other scientists should be motivated to reproduce our findings. If we are right (and I am strongly convinced that we are) our competitors will agree and help to advance our understanding of this phenomenon. I am eager for them to do so.”

    “Any discourse will have to be peer-reviewed in the same manner as our paper was, and go through a vetting process so that all discussion is properly moderated,” wrote Felisa Wolfe-Simon of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. “The items you are presenting do not represent the proper way to engage in a scientific discourse and we will not respond in this manner.”

    That is just too damn funny…

  29. 29
    tragic mishap says:

    The skeptics argument is that arsenate dissolves in water and the experiment dipped DNA in water…

    Pardon me but I don’t think that holds water. *ahem*

    Being in a double helix structure could have stabilizing effects and besides, cytoplasm is mostly water but it’s a far cry from regular water.

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