Okay, if they insist. Asked for a way of describing that, we would call it… creationism. Look, it’s okay with us. We are not the Darwinian Wokestapo. Say on:
Of course, all this depends on the everything-first idea proving correct. Szostakʼs protocells and the new biochemical insights have won over many researchers, but some pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Perhaps the most persuasive argument is that the simpler ideas donʼt work. As is the case with many things in life, the beginning was probably more complicated than we had thought …
Many ideas have been proposed to explain how it began. Most are based on the assumption that cells are too complex to have formed all at once, so life must have started with just one component that survived and somehow created the others around it. When put into practice in the lab, however, these ideas donʼt produce anything particularly lifelike. It is, some researchers are starting to realise, like trying to build a car by making a chassis and hoping wheels and an engine will spontaneously appear. The alternative – that life emerged fully formed – seems even more unlikely.
Yet perhaps astoundingly, two lines of evidence are converging to suggest that this is exactly what happened. It turns out that all the key molecules of life can form from the same simple carbon-based chemistry. Whatʼs more, they easily combine to make startlingly lifelike “protocells”. As well as explaining how life began, this “everything-first” idea of lifeʼs origins also has implications for where it got started – and the most likely locations for extraterrestrial life, too…
Of course, all this depends on the everything-first idea proving correct. Szostakʼs protocells and the new biochemical insights have won over many researchers, but some pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Perhaps the most persuasive argument is that the simpler ideas donʼt work. As is the case with many things in life, the beginning was probably more complicated than we had thought. Michael Marshall, “A radical new theory rewrites the story of how life on Earth began” at New Scientist (paywall)
“More complicated than we had thought?” But wait, weren’t we just told that the origin of life was not complicated but was rather a Big Bang?
It’s basically a rehash of many wishful theories, united by a single drive: To somehow get an origin of life out of a mindless cosmos. The best thing about such theories is their inventiveness.
See also: The Science Fictions series at your fingertips – origin of life What we do and don’t know about the origin of life.
9 Replies to “At New Scientist: Origin of life happened all at once in a chemical Big Bang”
I believe we’ll get there in the end, even if it winds up pointing to a creator. Unless that creator went to great lengths to hide his or her or its handiwork. But why would they do that? Could they do that?
Some Things Just Don’t Happen Mindlessly and Accidentally
Imagine that a huge complex of interconnected caves have been discovered in a remote area, say, caves in the Gamburtsev mountains of Antarctica, which are roughly the size of the European Alps, but completely buried under the ice. In this complex, running on electricity derived from heat energy from deep within the Earth, is fully programmed, strange robotic equipment that is busily mining, and feeding the mined material into one side of a totally automated, underground factory. After the material is sent through various machines and further processed by robotic equipment, new robotic equipment emerges from the other side of the robot-run factory that goes to work furthering the complex. There would be speculation about the CIA, or the Russians, or space aliens being responsible for this.
In pondering just what the origin of such a mysterious system of self-replicating robotic equipment might be, most people would immediately assume it was designed and built by intelligent beings; it wouldn’t even occur to them to ask if such a system was a natural phenomenon that emerged mindlessly and accidentally. Why? For the same reason that they don’t wonder if that barn they just saw while driving through the countryside was man-made or not; they just assume it was man-made.
Yet exactly why does everyone just assume that? Most people understand something about what it takes for both robotic equipment and barns to be arrived at; they know that the required processes are simply beyond the capabilities of mindless nature alone to engineer. And most people who have expertise in robotic hardware and the software required to run robotic systems, as well as anybody who has ever built a barn, would wholeheartedly agree with this opinion of most ordinary people. You just don’t get robotic equipment or even something as easily understood as a barn mindlessly and accidentally; our common, universal experience is that there are limits to what mindless nature can be expected to produce all by itself, and we intuitively and immediately recognize that which simply can’t be the mere product of the combination of chance and the laws of physics.
Renowned physicist Erwin Schrödinger wrote:
Modern science has developed an amazing understanding of how non-living phenomena are arrived at. Scientists can explain how everything from stars to rocks came to be, why the landscape has the contours that it does, and how a myriad of other phenomena come into being. They apply their understanding of the laws of physics to nature in reaching their conclusions, and provide remarkable detail in their explanation of how non-living phenomena emerge. Life is a single, stark exception to this; contrary to science’s general understanding of how non-living phenomena arise, life’s emergence on planet Earth remains a mystery.
This, I suspect, has something to do with life’s sustaining metabolism, which is a stark exception to the tendency of all other arrangements of matter to immediately and inexorably tend towards equilibrium. Everything else, “comes to a standstill very soon …” and “After that the whole system fades away into a dead, inert lump of matter,” although, as Schrödinger admits, this inevitable process can sometimes take centuries, and in fact takes billions of years in the case of stars, but even a slow transition to equilibrium can “never be mistaken for life.”
Life, on the other hand, as Schrödinger put it, “goes on ‘doing something’, moving, exchanging material with its environment, and so forth, and that for a much longer period than we would expect an inanimate piece of matter to ‘keep going’ under similar circumstances.” Not only that, it “keeps going” by engaging in activity that is not just the chemical reactions that were inevitable under the circumstances, activity that, overall, tends towards equilibrium, but instead engages in activity directed towards obtaining that which sustains its metabolism – and it replicates itself. In doing the latter it passes on to its young not only the ability to resist the tendency of matter to immediately begin the approach to equilibrium, but also to increase their functional complexity as they develop, moving even further away from equilibrium; an organism does this before it, too, ultimately submits to decay like everything else.
Life’s metabolism, its activity directed towards sustaining metabolism, its self-replication and increasing functional complexity, unlike all other matter’s simple, inexorable transition to equilibrium, is an astounding exception to all other arrangements of matter in the Universe. Modern science is nowhere near being able to explain how matter mindlessly and accidentally assembled itself into a system that does these things. There is only far-fetched speculation. Life isn’t just another instance of the explicable results of chance and the laws of physics. It remains inexplicable. It seems that something more than chance and the laws of physics had to be involved in the emergence of life – something like an intellect.
Science is looking for a mindless origin of this astounding exception to everything else in the Universe. It might as well be looking for a mindless origin of those mysterious, self-replicating robots under the Gamburtsev mountains. There is simply no combination of chance and the laws of physics that could have mindlessly produced such robots. Nor is there for life, the digital information-driven functional complexity of which is light years beyond that of our robotic systems and all other man-made technology.
Some things just don’t happen mindlessly and accidentally.
(1) Erwin Schrödinger, What is Life?, pages 69 and 70
The genetic code is not hidden, seversky. Without some sort of Intelligent Designer all there is to explain what we observe is sheer dumb luck. Even Richard Dawkins admits science can only allow for so much of that. Yet that is all you have- sheer dumb luck, all the way down.
The irreducible system of symbols and constraints that enable life on earth was first predicted in logic, and subsequently documented by experiment, Seversky. It is in plain sight. And you know it. The real question, where you are concerned, is why do you ignore the science, deny the history, and spend years of your life attacking those who don’t do either?
Excuse me, Barry or kairosfocus. Can you please take Harry’s comment 2 and make it an OP of it’s own? If Harry is OK with that…
An excellent explication.
The trouble is, closed-minded Darwinists and other closed-minded scientists just say, incredulity is not evidence or a valid argument. An Intelligent Designer is a priori impossible due to the truth of naturalism (obvious from the success of science, material Nature is absolutely all there is).
Sherlock Holmes’s dictum must then be followed: the truth must inexorably be whatever is left over after all that is impossible is eliminated. What is left over is of course that blind purposeless pointless undirected Nature somehow did it, whether that seems humanly incredible or not.
Then the astrophysicist chimes in, “I even have a possible theory to explain it – the Multiverse”. Even if it seems unbelievable, all it takes is great enough probabilistic resources. Somewhere in an uncountable number of different universes over the vastness of space and time, just by chance, all the necessary chemical structures just happened to come together in just the right way to form the first living organisms, no meaning, purpose, design required.
As far as these people are concerned, this sort of response is all that is needed – basically unfounded speculation with no observational evidence even possible in theory. To them, it must be the truth because all other options are impossible per materialism.
ET @ 5,
Thanks for the endorsement! Yes, I would be fine with that.
Exactly. Modern science has lost the relentless objectivity true science requires.
Relentlessly objective science wouldn’t let its a priori assumptions about theism destroy its integrity. It would instead follow the evidence wherever it leads and be frank about the state of the current evidence, regardless of the religious implications of its discoveries. Because scientists, just like everybody else, are not relentlessly objective, some scientists, in particular those working in the areas of cosmology and abiogenesis, haven’t been explaining to the rest of us that the current state of the evidence regarding the origin of both the Universe and the life within it has rendered it simply irrational to just assume that they emerged mindlessly and accidentally.
I second ET @5
What if they simply don’t want to accept what Harry wrote, no matter how reasonably beautiful it’s written?
What if all that matters is “whatever” and that’s it?
What if they don’t care about meaning, truth, reason, logic, facts, evidences?