Intelligent Design

Contemplating the Undead

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Origin of Life theories attempt to account for the transition from prebiotic matter to biotic matter.  Beginning with Darwin’s warm little pond and continuing through the present day, scientists have tried to explain how this intuitively unlikely jump could have been made.  In his wonderful article On the Origins of Life (here), David Berlinski summarizes some of the more important assumptions scientists must make in trying to resolve this weighty question:

“First, that the pre-biotic atmosphere was chemically reductive; second, that nature found a way to synthesize cytosine; third, that nature also found a way to synthesize ribose; fourth, that nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides; fifth, that nature discovered a self-replicating molecule; and sixth, that having done all that, nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry.”

As I was contemplating this issue, something occurred to me.  Why are scientists taking on such a hard job up front?  Why not start with an easier problem and gradually increase complexity.  Instead of starting from nothing and trying to work forward to a full-blown living being, why don’t they start with “almost everything” and work their way backwards?

This is what I mean.  Some enterprising researcher eager for a trip to Oslo should take the very simplest single-celled critter he can find and bump it off.  Then he can take the recently bumped off critter and zap it with electricity or something and make it come back to life.  The critter was, by definition, not alive, so in a sense we can call it prebiotic matter.  But after the zapping stage of the experiment, the critter will be alive (or at least undead).  This will prove that living things can come from non-living matter.

This experiment should be easy.  There are gazillions of very simple single-celled critters running around who, I am certain, would be honored to help advance our understanding of science.  Some of them may even be publicity hounds and therefore eager to be the subject of a Nobel prize winning experiment.  Not even PETA would object to bumping off a couple of these wee beasties in the interest of earth-shattering scientific progress.

On the other hand, it seems like this experiment would involve a huge risk for metaphysical materialists.  In my experiment the non-living matter has every single building block of life readily to hand.  Unlike present origin of life research, no one has to conjure up any critical ingredients through convenient assumptions.  The only thing that is missing is the mysterious “anima” of living things.  But if the researcher can’t make this stuff come alive (or undead) under such ideal conditions, isn’t the attempt to come up with a plausible origin of life scenario under far less propitious circumstances utterly doomed to failure?

I’m sure I’m not the first person who has thought of this.  What say our intrepid readers?

115 Replies to “Contemplating the Undead

  1. 1
    SatyaMevaJayate says:

    or they can take a puppy & cut the vital arteries… & freeze it for 10 days to preserve the state…

    then defreeze it & rejoin the arteries… technically it should be again begin to work if we are a machine…

    right…

  2. 2
    jerry says:

    Barry,

    From what I understand, there are several programs underway now to create artificial life. I don’t know of any in particular but there was an article earlier this year by a prominent bio ethicist named Glenn McGee in a magazine called The Scientist on the development of artificial cells. In it he also slams Intelligent Design but gets it wrong about what ID is all about. The field is called synthetic biology.

    There is also an audio about this at but it takes awhile to hear McGee as it is at the end. You should hear the nonsense that one of the most prominent bioethicist in the country used to describe ID. The link is

    http://images.the-scientist.co.....060103.m4a

  3. 3
    Hawks says:

    Thoughts?

    1. You wouldn’t be going to Oslo (being swedish, I consider myself a bit of an authority on the subject of the Nobel prize. Aha you say, but there is a Nobel prize handed out in Oslo. Yeah, I know. But I have a hard time understanding why this sort of research would win you a Nobel peace prize. Sorry, just ranting).

    2. Experiments along similar (in a loose sense) sense have been performed (ie going backwards instead of forwards). Some have started with the organism that has the smallest number of genes known (Mycoplasma genitalium, methinks) and eliminated genes one by one until the organism is no longer capable of reproducing. They got down to a minimal of roughly 250 required genes, I seem to remember. This tells us nothing about abiogenesis, however, since you would be a fool to suggest that such a creature could arise from nowhere (by purely natural mechanisms, anyway).

    3. “Bumping off” the simplest organism just to “resuscitate” it would, again, tell us nothing about abiogenesis (not a purely “natural” one anyway). Your suggestion here suffers from the same problem as #2 above. Ie, there is no chance that such a creature could arise from nowhere.

  4. 4
    BarryA says:

    I am so weary of the constant barrage of materialist propaganda in the “artificial life is not different in principle from biological life” mode, especially the treacle that gurgles* out of Hollywood. It seems a whole sub-genre has emerged, with movies like “Bicentennial Man,” “AI,” and “I Robot” and several episodes of Star Trek (next gen) leading the way. But this is a slightly different issue from the one in my post.

    *Denyse, I can’t get the image of sweet sticky goo flowing down a streambed out of my mind; I no longer care if treacle is too viscous to gurgle. I love the image.

  5. 5
    Lurker says:

    Even if they couldn’t get the creature back to life AT LEAST they should be able to tell us what is different about the creature.

    Compare the living one to the dead one and whatever the difference is, that’s the key to life.

  6. 6
    idnet.com.au says:

    Cells are in some ways like computers. Computers need to go through a series of sequenced pre programmed operations during boot up after the power is turned on. I suspect that at least a BIOS equivalent would be needed to seed the enlivening of a cell.

    We would also need to provide a lot of fresh ATP to “jump start” any cell. Is it easy to make a supply of ATP without using the ATPase molecular machine machine?

    To Berlinski’s list I would add the isomer problem. Just like amino acids, sugars have isomers (mirror images). It has been found experimentally that mixing isomers interferes with self replication.

    The isomer problem hss been overlooked because it is hard to understand, and because it seems that in nature there is sometimes preferential destruction, or preferential creation, of small inequalities in different isomers.

    Life is very strict. It has absolute isomer preferences.

  7. 7
    Hawks says:

    BarryA,

    “I am so weary of the constant barrage of materialist propaganda in the “artificial life is not different in principle from biological life” mode, especially the treacle that gurgles* out of Hollywood. It seems a whole sub-genre has emerged, with movies like “Bicentennial Man,” “AI,” and “I Robot” and several episodes of Star Trek (next gen) leading the way.”

    I love science fiction. I think that one of the reasons I do is because SF often, quite convincingly, demonstrate that a sufficiently advanced robot is not all that different from a human being. Saying that, I did not like “AI”. And as for “Bicentennial man” or “I, Robot”… Well.. Phew… What’s that smell?

  8. 8
    Houdin says:

    BarryA: “Some enterprising researcher eager for a trip to Oslo should take the very simplest single-celled critter he can find and bump it off. Then he can take the recently bumped off critter and zap it with electricity or something and make it come back to life. The critter was, by definition, not alive, so in a sense we can call it prebiotic matter. But after the zapping stage of the experiment, the critter will be alive (or at least undead). This will prove that living things can come from non-living matter.”

    Dead cells have been brought back to life, repeatedly. Have you heard of the stem cell debate? Where they remove stem cells from frozen embryos? Those frozen embryos are pretty darn dead! Yet, if you leave the stem cells in place, thaw the embryo and implant it in a womb, it will develop into a perfectly normal baby. When you thaw a cell, it goes from dead to alive.

    Have you heard of the ancient seeds that have sprouted? Look here http://abcnews.go.com/Technolo.....038;page=1 for a story of some 500 year old seeds that have sprouted. Here http://www.hadassah.org.il/Eng.....ent+Seeds/ is a story on some 1200 year and 2000 year old seeds that have sprouted. I would think that if those seeds had been alive for two thousand years, their food would have been pretty well gone by now, right?

    And let’s not forget bacteria, which can form cysts and go into suspended animation. Here’s an article on the controversial re-animation of some 250 million year old bacteria: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/1375505.stm Note that the article talks about the previous record holder, “25-40-million-year-old bacterial spores found in a bee preserved in amber.”

    Your idea of taking something out of a cell and putting it back in and having the cell come back to life also suffers from the problem that other commenters have brought to your attention: you wouldn’t be proving anything at all about the start of life because the first living thing was not a modern cell. All the cells that you can find today (unless you break up rocks – more below on this) are the products of nearly four billion years of evolution.

    A couple of other questions:

    First: Berlinski’s piece is dated 2006, yet he doesn’t even mention the idea that life probably started under the surface of the earth? I’m sure he’s heard the idea, it’s the current rage in science. We now know that living organisms can be found thousands of feet below the surface and these bacteria appear to be VERY ancient. Their chemistry is active at much higher temperatures than terrestrial organisms can stand, higher than the boiling point of water in some cases. (Water boils at a higher temperature when under pressure, such as when it’s a mile underground.) And the subterranean environment certainly has a lot more potential for generating biological molecules than a warm little pond being struck by lighting.

    First, you have much higher temperatures and pressures than on the surface, both of which speed up chemical reactions considerably. In fact, a lot of enzymes that “room temperature” life needs to speed up reactions are unnecessary under hot high pressure. (This makes Berlinski look a little pathetic when he says, “But in the grim inhospitable pre-biotic, no enzymes were available. And so chemists have assigned their task to various inorganic catalysts.”) In the real world, all the enyzmes in terrestrial life may have been evolved over a long period of time to allow high temperature life to colonize the cold, low pressure surface.

    Second, you have a huge number of chemicals in the rocks and constant trickles of water permeating them and dissolving them into a watery solution. You can have any kind of environment you like – reducing, non-reducing, reducing alternating with non-reducing, whatever’s your pleasure.

    Third, you have extraordinary temperature differentials. Chemicals traveling in a trickle of water may pass near a magma pipe one minute, being heated to the boiling point or beyond and then get carried to a much cooler area away from the pipe the next. This heating and cooling mimics what is done in the lab when chemical synthesis is done.

    Second: Do you or anybody else have any idea what Berlinski is talking about when he writes, “The discovery of a single molecule with the power to initiate replication would hardly be sufficient to establish replication. What template would it replicate against? We need, in other words, at least two, causing the odds of their joint discovery to increase from 1 in 10^60 to 1 in 10^120.” Why can’t the template be itself?

    A final observation: NOBODY knows exactly how life began, neither scientists nor ID theorists. BUT ABSOLUTELY ALL OF THE INFORMATION ON BIOGENESIS THAT WE DO HAVE COMES FROM THOSE SUPPOSEDLY BLINKERED SCIENTISTS AND NOT ONE IOTA COMES FROM ID THEORISTS. In other words, ID and science are tied when it comes to knowledge of how life began, but everything that ID does know about biogenesis came from scientists. How this situation came to be might make an interesting topic for discussion on Uncommon Descent.

  9. 9
    Smidlee says:

    “Dead cells have been brought back to life, repeatedly. Have you heard of the stem cell debate? Where they remove stem cells from frozen embryos? Those frozen embryos are pretty darn dead! Yet, if you leave the stem cells in place, thaw the embryo and implant it in a womb, it will develop into a perfectly normal baby. When you thaw a cell, it goes from dead to alive.” Frozen cells isn’t the same as dead cells. Nature itself can preserve (plause) a living cell in seeds.

    Here how someone else decribe death : ” Death occurs when the biochemical reactions of the cell reach their end point, equilibria.” This is true of a frozen embryos or a seed.

  10. 10
    Smidlee says:

    This [b]isn’t[/b] true of a frozen embros or seed ; I meant.

  11. 11
    gpuccio says:

    Barry,

    I completely agree with you. I am one of the many people who have certainly thought about that “experiment” many times, and I think you put it perfectly. It’s really foolish that scientists try to imagine utterly unlikely scenarios to produce the biological building blocks of life through aeons, while nobody has ever been able to assemble a single, simple living cell, even having all the necessary building blocks ready, easily borrowed from already existing living things. I am personally convinced that life is more than mere biological machinery; I think that not all the people in the ID field would agree with that, but anyway the subject should be subject to experimental test.
    I think that, in some way, the statement that “biological building blocks put together with a certain kind of complexity generate life” is very similar to the fundamental belief of Strong AI theory, that “simpler blocks of software put together with a certain kind of complexity generate consciousness”.
    I believe neither. I am still waiting to see a single artificial cell, or a single conscious software, and I think I may have to wait for a very long time. In the meantime, perhaps we should try to build, and possibly test, alternative theories of life and consciousness.

  12. 12
    gpuccio says:

    Frozen cells and seeds are, definitely, not dead. They are a completely different thing.

  13. 13
    Reciprocating Bill says:

    “On the other hand, it seems like this experiment would involve a huge risk for metaphysical materialists.”

    Good. That’s the way science works.

    Now describe an analogous experiment (a thought experiment will do ) that would present a risk for Intelligent Design. An experiment with the power to support/falsify a positive element of the design hypotheses. Draw upon the moving parts of ID’s model of life’s origins, e.g. the specific ID hypotheses offered to date regarding the nature of the designer or designers, or perhaps nature of the design process or processes, or the sorts of events that occur as design occurs, or the temporal dimensions of design, or the settings required for design…Anything. You choose. What unique experimental prediction derived from the ID model, were it to fail to be confirmed, has the potential to put Intelligent Design at risk? Again, a thought experiments will do – something that in principle could falsify the design hypothesis.

    Ok…GO!

  14. 14
    russ says:

    “BUT ABSOLUTELY ALL OF THE INFORMATION ON BIOGENESIS THAT WE DO HAVE COMES FROM THOSE SUPPOSEDLY BLINKERED SCIENTISTS AND NOT ONE IOTA COMES FROM ID THEORISTS. In other words, ID and science are tied when it comes to knowledge of how life began, but everything that ID does know about biogenesis came from scientists.” – Houdin

    Since Big Science seems to know virtually nothing about abiogenesis, I’m not surprised at your defensiveness (“ID and science”). Maybe your blinkers are preventing you from considering that the tools science is using are inadequate to explain abiogenesis?

  15. 15
    Chris Hyland says:

    Barry, It really depends what you mean by ‘bump off’. In a single cell, I suspect by most definitions the cells systems would have been damaged beyond repair.

    “Instead of starting from nothing and trying to work forward to a full-blown living being, why don’t they start with “almost everything” and work their way backwards?”

    Several labs have tried to knock out as many genes as they can in simple organisms to find the ‘minimum gene number’. Which always seemed slightly suspect to me as it gives the false impression that what they came up with is some kind of minimum possibility for a living thing.

  16. 16
    idnet.com.au says:

    Comment by Houdin

    “This makes Berlinski look a little pathetic”

    You feel Berlinski is pathetic, others feel that pathetic best describes those who believe that “life probably started under the surface of the earth”.

    There is no evidence what so ever to back up the claim that a self creating, self replicating molecule may arise in any experiment that starts even with a soup of all the chemicals needed to perform the miracle. Add all the heat, pressure and time you like and junk in gets junk out.

    “ALL OF THE INFORMATION ON BIOGENESIS THAT WE DO HAVE COMES FROM THOSE SUPPOSEDLY BLINKERED SCIENTISTS AND NOT ONE IOTA COMES FROM ID THEORISTS”

    We only have information on experiments that demonstrate that ID is the best theory currently available that explains the origin of specified complexity like self replicating molecules.

    Life comes from life is a scientifically demonstrated fact that has never been falsified. If life is created by living intelligent agents, this fact will remain.

  17. 17
    DaveScot says:

    back and forth bill

    What unique experimental prediction derived from the ID model, were it to fail to be confirmed, has the potential to put Intelligent Design at risk?

    A chemical experiment in which a plausible natural environment is simulated and out of it precipitates complex amino and nucleic acid polymers able to self-replicate and where the formulation of the amino acid polymers is digitally encoded on nucleic acid polymers which are read in sequential fashion through a machine composed of amino and nucleic acid polymers which assembles amino acid polymers one acid at a time as per instructions in the nucleic acid polymer and where the output of the machine is component parts that self-assemble into more machines that assist in the replication of the instruction containing nucleic acid polymer.

    In other words, make a ribosome and a DNA molecule in a proverbial test tube without using intelligently designed assembly procedures or precursors. That, while not falsifying ID per se, makes ID an unnecessary requirement in the origin of organic life as observed on this planet.

  18. 18
    Houdin says:

    Russ: So tell me what ID knows about biogenesis that it didn’t get from non-ID scientists.

    Smidlee, we’ve had to update out definitions of death. Life is a process – you have all those chemicals and molecular machines cooking away in a cell or a seed. If that process stops, especially if it stops for two thousand years, that organism is dead. It’s not metabolizing or changing in any way, it’s dead. Seeds shut down their reactions and machines by getting rid of the water they need to function. Now if you soak it in water, you can bring it back to life. All the chemical reactions and molecular machines will start back up again and presto, it’s restored to life.

    BarryA’s single celled critter is in a similar situation. If he “bumps it off”, he presumably finds some way to stop those chemical reactions and molecular machines. If he then “zaps” it back to life, he has somehow restarted those reactions and molecular machines, just like we restart them in a seed when we soak it in water.

  19. 19
    Houdin says:

    idnet.com.au: “We only have information on experiments that demonstrate that ID is the best theory currently available that explains the origin of specified complexity like self replicating molecules.”

    Okay, tell us about those experiments.

  20. 20
    BarryA says:

    Great comments so far! Thank you.

    To SatyaMevaJayate regarding his puppy experiment: 1. PETA would go nuts. 2. Not being an expert I cannot know for sure, but I don’t think we have the technology to freeze something as complex as a puppy and then bring it back to life.

  21. 21
    BarryA says:

    To Jerry and gpuccio: “I think that, in some way, the statement that “biological building blocks put together with a certain kind of complexity generate life” is very similar to the fundamental belief of Strong AI theory, that “simpler blocks of software put together with a certain kind of complexity generate consciousness”

    When Jerry first started talking about AI, I responded that it was a different from the topic under consideration. I am now not so sure.

    Materialist understand that if their metaphysical presuppositions are correct then at least two things follows:

    1. A living thing, including a man, cannot be anything more than a complicated organic machine, and the first such machine was somehow able to assemble itself from its constituent parts through blind natural forces.

    2. Human intelligence must be reducible to the physical properties of the brain, which is nothing more than an organic computer (someone has called it “smart meat”), and consciousness is an illusion.

    The fact that that neither proposition appears to be remotely tenable never seems to cause them to question their metaphysical commitments. That’s the thing about religious faith, it can be hard to shake.

  22. 22
    BarryA says:

    Hawks: “They got down to a minimal of roughly 250 required genes, I seem to remember. This tells us nothing about abiogenesis, however, since you would be a fool to suggest that such a creature could arise from nowhere (by purely natural mechanisms, anyway).”

    I thought it was wonderful that you put a question mark after the word “thoughts.” Are you drawing attention to the fact that, since consciousness is an illusion, the linguist category of “thought” might not pick out any real world phenomenon?

    Thanks for the reference to the research. But don’t you see that this demonstrates my point?

    “there is no chance that such a creature could arise from nowhere.” Precisely.

  23. 23
    BarryA says:

    Hawks again: “SF often, quite convincingly, demonstrate that a sufficiently advanced robot is not all that different from a human being”

    I’m not sure what you mean by “demonstrates.” If you mean it in the sense of a confirmed empirical test, your statement is simply false. If you mean that SF writers can imagine robots that are no different from humans, I agree SF writers do imagine that. Why should I care what they can imagine. I can imagine green elephants with yellow polka dots, but I’m not going to go looking for one.

    On my first point. Wait a minute. I forgot that evolutionary biology is the only field of science where the imagination of the researcher counts as evidence. Never mind then.

  24. 24
    BarryA says:

    Reciprocating Bill: “Now describe an analogous experiment (a thought experiment will do ) that would present a risk for Intelligent Design.”

    There are lots of experiments that would falsify ID. Any experiment that demonstrated, for example, a plausible mechanism for a abiogenesis. By plausible I mean, well, plausible. Wishful speculations like those in Houdin’s comment don’t count.

    Any experiment that shows that information (I would be willing to settle for fairly simple information – you don’t have to demonstrate anything remotely as complex as that contained in the simplest bacterium) can be generated by blind natural forces would falsify ID.

    Any experiment that shows that an irreducible complex organic system could be constructed by blind natural forces would falsify ID (again, wishful speculations don’t count).

  25. 25
    BarryA says:

    Chris Hyland: “It really depends what you mean by ‘bump off’. In a single cell, I suspect by most definitions the cells systems would have been damaged beyond repair.”

    That is my point. If we cannot even “repair” the very simplest dead singled celled critter, what hope do we have of ever demonstrating that one sprang up fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head?

    “Several labs have tried to knock out as many genes as they can in simple organisms to find the ‘minimum gene number’. Which always seemed slightly suspect to me as it gives the false impression that what they came up with is some kind of minimum possibility for a living thing.”

    Why is this suspect to you. It demonstrates something important to me.

  26. 26
    BarryA says:

    Houdin “life probably started under the surface of the earth”

    I am not sure why the fact that the single celled beasties might have had troglodyte tendencies makes a difference to my thought experiment.

  27. 27
    idnet.com.au says:

    Comment by Houdin

    “Okay, tell us about those experiments. ”

    No experiments have generated any single isomer amino acids, or collections of single isomer amino acids. Life is composed of single isomer amino acids.

    No experiments have produced life like polymers using isomer mixtures.

    Conclusion. 50 years and the promise of a nobel prize and a whole lot of intelligent biochemists can’t think of any way that useful proteins could have self generated without the input of an intelligence higher than ours.

    Thus the standing theory is design. There is no alternative contender as I see it.

  28. 28
    Tom English says:

    idnet.com.au: “We only have information on experiments that demonstrate that ID is the best theory currently available that explains the origin of specified complexity like self replicating molecules.”

    Argumentum ad ignorantiam at its worst. Perhaps you recall that one infers design from observations. There is no way to infer design from speculations. You have no data on putative self-replicating molecules, and your claim that they exhibit specified complexity is purely an argument from ignorance.

  29. 29
    idnet.com.au says:

    A typical “exciting” experiment in prebiotic chemistry is Sol Spiegelman’s QB virus work.

    He used “a test tube full of suitable chemicals”. There is no known way to create and assemble these chemical collections without intelligent design. He adds “RNA’s own replication enzyme” That is very convenient. First we add the ingredients, then we add the molecular machine that replicates RNA. Then he introduces the QB virus and hey presto, surprise surprise, the RNA virus “starts replicating” and even generates variation. After some time the easiest variation to copy starts to predominate and we have proven that Darwinism happens even in RNA.

    The results of these experiments were easily predicted without any reference to Darwin and have nothing to do with prebiosis.

    They simply show that a copy machine supplied with supplies will produce copies.

  30. 30
    Tom English says:

    idnet.com.au:

    Great. You’re back to mocking the work of legitimate scientists trying to gain some insight into abiogenesis. And you have yet to tell us the ID experiments.

    Hint: Try writing a sentence that supports ID but does not contain a negative like “no” or “not.”

  31. 31
    BarryA says:

    Tom English: “There is no way to infer design from speculations.”

    But its OK to infer non-design from even the rankest not-even-remotely-substantiated speculation. Is that your position Tom?

  32. 32
    BarryA says:

    DaveScot: “That, while not falsifying ID per se, makes ID an unnecessary requirement in the origin of organic life as observed on this planet.”

    I’m not sure I understand this statement. If the ID hypothesis is that intelligence is absolutely required to generate what you described (not merely that it is one of many possible mechanisms), then demonstrating that what you described can be produced by natural means would falsify the hypothesis per se wouldn’t it?

  33. 33
    gpuccio says:

    Chris Hyland: “It really depends what you mean by ‘bump off’. In a single cell, I suspect by most definitions the cells systems would have been damaged beyond repair.”

    And yet, evolutionists do believe that those components, after having assembled by chance, were stable enough to randomly associate and form a first living cell. Why shouldn’t we be able, with intelligent technological tools, and preservibg as best as possible the delicate structures derived from existing cells, be able to reproduce at least the last step? Imagine it like an “organ transplantation”, where you transplant the single cell parts, not in a pre-existing living cell, but all together to generate a cell. It should be possible, if it happened in nature by random means. I think we do have the biological technology to attempt that. And yet, nobody has even got near to some result of that kind. If, even trying with all the right methods, such a result can’t be achieved, that would be a strong argument to reject the basic supposition, that is that life is only a complex biological machinery.

    “Several labs have tried to knock out as many genes as they can in simple organisms to find the ‘minimum gene number’. Which always seemed slightly suspect to me as it gives the false impression that what they came up with is some kind of minimum possibility for a living thing.”

    That, although interesting, is in no way the same experyment Barry proposed. And I would say that the correct impression is certainly that what they came up with is the minimun “known” possibility for a living thing. Simpler forms may have existed or exist, but they have never been observed, so they are at present only suppositions, again.

    Houdin (to Barry): “Your idea of taking something out of a cell and putting it back in and having the cell come back to life also suffers from the problem that other commenters have brought to your attention: you wouldn’t be proving anything at all about the start of life because the first living thing was not a modern cell. All the cells that you can find today (unless you break up rocks – more below on this) are the products of nearly four billion years of evolution.”

    I don’t agree with that. Archea, as we know them today, are probably the oldest living cells, and as far as I know they are probably, today, just the same as they were 3,5 billion years ago. They are so old that it is difficult to understand when they could have evolved, given that they were probably already there after only one billion year of earth’s existence, and in that billion year earth’s conditions were not probably such that they could allow evolution of life (I know, there are many “probably” here, but I think that word should be used more often in these topics). Anyway, even if you don’t agree with these times and numbers, it is difficult to deny that archea have been there for a very long time, and that they have not changed, as far as we know. Again I state that any simpler kind of life is, at present, only a supposition, unsupported by any data. Moreover, it seems. from genetic studies, that archea may be more related to us than bacteria.

    Finally, for a discussion about Strong AI theory, and for a possible non-alghorythmic theory of consciousness, I would highly recommend reading Penrose (for instance, “Shadows of the mind”)

  34. 34
    DaveScot says:

    Barry

    If the hypothesis is that ID is strictly required then yes that would falsify it. If the hypothesis is that life came about by intelligent design then it does not falsify it but rather renders it unnecessary.

  35. 35
    Tom English says:

    Tom English: “There is no way to infer design from speculations.”

    Barry: “But its OK to infer non-design from even the rankest not-even-remotely-substantiated speculation. Is that your position Tom?”

    Sad tu quoque, Barry.

    No scientist has inferred anything about the origin of life on earth. My position is that IDists can make a design inference only when science presents them with something poorly explained. But in the case of origins, scientists are so lost that they present IDists with nothing to find design in. In other words, scientists confess their ignorance, and IDists are fools enough to try to infer design from nothing.

    Again, you can’t infer design in something unless you have something in which to infer design. Arguments for intelligent design in the origin of life are arguments from ignorance.

  36. 36
    DaveScot says:

    Tom English

    You’re back to mocking the work of legitimate scientists trying to gain some insight into abiogenesis. And you have yet to tell us the ID experiments.

    Replace “legitimate scientists” with “Keystone Cops” and “abiogenesis” with “snipe hunting” and you might be right. And you have yet to find that snipe. 😛

  37. 37
    DaveScot says:

    Tom English

    Here’s a tip for you. Just because an argument is made from incredulity it doesn’t follow that the argument is wrong. The modern argument for spontaneous generation is incredible. It’s essentially the same argument as maggots spontaneously generating from rotten meat and mice spontaneously generating in grain storage bins. The only difference is that it took billions of years to get from soup to (mouse) nuts instead of days or weeks. The amount of hard evidence in support of either the old or new versions is however about the same.

  38. 38
    tribune7 says:

    BarryA — you raise a good point. If life is just a chemical reaction –as per abiogenesis advocates — then having the DNA molecules ready-to-go would simplify their project you would think.

    Just heat and serve.

    Give the cadaver a jolt from your electrodes and he’ll be doing the Monster Mash.

  39. 39
    BarryA says:

    Tribune 7, and just think of how fun it would be for our hypothetical researcher to run around the lab with a slightly mad look in his eyes and yelling “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Seems like someone would be eager to try.

  40. 40
    Chris Hyland says:

    “If we cannot even “repair” the very simplest dead singled celled critter, what hope do we have of ever demonstrating that one sprang up fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head?”

    “And yet, evolutionists do believe that those components, after having assembled by chance, were stable enough to randomly associate and form a first living cell.”

    Just to clarify, I don’t think abiogenesis involved a whole cell randomly assembling from organic molecules. I also think there’s a distict possibility we will never be able to demonstrate it. That doesn’t mean it was designed however.

    “Why is this suspect to you. It demonstrates something important to me.”

    Its not so much the experiments its the general interpretation I’ve seen of them. Firstly evolution didn’t take place by incremental addition of static parts, so it’s not true that it’s ‘reversing’ evolution. And although the experiments might give the idea of what the earliest ‘modern cell’ might have looked like, it doesnt mean this was the earliest lifeform, or that the several hundred proteins are somehow nessecery for life.

  41. 41
    tribune7 says:

    “It’s alive! It’s alive!” Seems like someone would be eager to try.

    Just imagine the movie that would be made.

  42. 42
    Reciprocating Bill says:

    BarryA said:

    “There are lots of experiments that would falsify ID. Any experiment that demonstrated, for example, a plausible mechanism for a abiogenesis.”

    “Any experiment that shows that information (I would be willing to settle for fairly simple information – you don’t have to demonstrate anything remotely as complex as that contained in the simplest bacterium) can be generated by blind natural forces would falsify ID.”

    “Any experiment that shows that an irreducible complex organic system could be constructed by blind natural forces would falsify ID.

    None of this works. A demonstration of a plausible natural pathway for the origin of life – a demonstration that would emerge from the accumulation of experimental observations confirming predictions of a naturalistic model – would not exclude ID. It would simply establish one possible mechanism for the origins of life (a naturalistic mechanism), while leaving open the question of whether life may also have arisen by means of other pathways, including one resulting from ID. Hence such a finding fails to place ID “at risk.” Nor does it grow in any substantial sense from an ID model.

    Similar logic applies to your second example. To show that information can be generated by blind natural forces (that happens everyday – I assume you mean something like “complex specified information”) does not establish that it cannot also arise by means of ID. Hence this is also not a test of ID.

    To show that irreducibly complex systems can arise by means of natural processes is excluded by the definition of “irreducibly complex.” In essence you are asking, “demonstrate that a system that cannot have arisen by natural selection arose by natural selection.” All such demonstrations can show is that ID theorists were mistaken in characterizing a given structure as “irreducibly complex” in the first place. That process goes forward only as specific predictions of naturalistic models of the origins of particular complex structures/processes are tested and confirmed/discomfirmed, and does not require a whit of additional work by ID experimentalists working from an ID conceptual framework.

    What you have NOT provided is a unique positive experimental prediction that arises from ID’s model of the origins of living systems, one that would place the ID hypothesis at risk. Such a prediction would arise out of the proposed processes, mechanisms, pathways, places, times, agent or agents, etc. (you get to choose) postulated by the ID model of the origins of life.

    Ok…GO!

  43. 43
    DLH says:

    * Try removing or separating all of any “essential component” from a self reproducing cell (aka and irreducibly complex component).

    * e.g. ATP Syntase is posited as irreducibly complex, and is essential to self reproducing cellular function.
    * Mix the separated component and residue in a natural “warm pond” environment.
    * Test for say 1 billion years to see if the formerly self reproducing cell begins reproducing again.

    *References:
    * http://www.trueorigin.org/atp.asp
    * Jerry Bergman, ATP: The Perfect Energy Currency for the Cell, Creation Research Society Quarterly, Vol. 36, No. 1 (1999)

    * http://www.idthefuture.com/200.....t_spr.html
    * Cornelius Hunter, ATP Synthase: Paley’s Secret Spring, [http://www.IDtheFuture.org IDtheFuture] Sept. 12, 2006

  44. 44
    Paul Nelson says:

    Interesting thread. In a major review paper a few years ago, UC-Santa Cruz abiogenesis researcher David Deamer proposed just the experiment described by Barry above. Deamer wrote:

    “Imagine that on the early Earth, a complete system of catalytic and information-bearing molecules happened by chance to come together in a tide pool that was sufficiently concentrated to produce the equivalent of the contents of our flask [with the necessary ingredients for life]. We could model this event in the laboratory by gently disrupting a live bacterial culture, subjecting it to a sterilizing filtration step, and adding the mixture to the flask of nutrient broth. No living cells are present, but entire bacterial genomes are available, together with ribosomes, membranous vesicles, ATP and other energy-containing substrates, and thousands of functional enzymes. Once again, would a living system arise under these conditions? Although [Stuart] Kauffman might be optimistic about the possibilities, most experimentalists would guess that little would happen other than slow, degradative reactions of hydrolysis, even though virtually the entire complement of molecules associated with the living state is present. The dispersion has lost the extreme level of order characteristic of cytoplasm in contemporary living cells. Equally important is that the ATP would be hydrolyzed in seconds, so that the system still lacks a continuous source of free energy to drive the metabolism and polymerization reactions associated with life.”

    D. Deamer, “The First Living Things: A Bioenergetic Perspective,” Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews 61 (1997):239-61; p. 242.

    Deamer argues that any abiogenesis scenarios that does not invoke the immediate encapsulation of replicating molecules will run afoul of chemical realities such as hydrolysis. His thought experiment about killing a modern cell is meant to illustrate the functional necessity of isolating membranes, but arguably it entails much more than that.

  45. 45
    Tom English says:

    DaveScot: “Here’s a tip for you. Just because an argument is made from incredulity it doesn’t follow that the argument is wrong.”

    Are we talking science here?

    Bill Dembski has fought the notion that the design inference is argumentum ad ignorantium, and I actually agree with him that it is not. But what keeps the design inference from being an argument from ignorance is the detection of a pattern in the object or data under consideration. When you simply have a gap in scientific knowledge, and you try to fill it with intelligent design because you believe in intelligent design, you have slipped into the kind of argument I believe Bill meant to avoid. See his opening remarks on “warrant” in his “Specification” paper at designinference.com.

  46. 46
    BarryA says:

    When people use the term “unthinkable” they don’t really mean literally “that which cannot be thought of.” They mean “that which SHOULD not be thought of,” as in “Another holocaust is unthinkable.”

    After seeing some of the comments on this thread, I wonder if the literal meaning might not apply sometimes. Here is an example, “I am a metaphysical naturalist, and it is unthinkable that life originated any way other than spontaneously from the prebiotic soup.”

    Or, if you prefer Houdin’s theory that the first living organism was a spelunker, “It is unthinkable that life did not spontaneously generate in some warm underground environment.”

    It seems that some materialists’ religious faith is so deeply ingrained that anything that is inconsistent with their faith commitment is, for them, quite literally unthinkable.

  47. 47
    BarryA says:

    Tom English, call it “tu quoque” if you like. I call it “sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

  48. 48
    BarryA says:

    Paul Nelson. Wonderful! Thanks for the citation.

  49. 49
    pk4_paul says:

    “First, you have much higher temperatures and pressures than on the surface, both of which speed up chemical reactions considerably. In fact, a lot of enzymes that “room temperature” life needs to speed up reactions are unnecessary under hot high pressure. (This makes Berlinski look a little pathetic when he says, “But in the grim inhospitable pre-biotic, no enzymes were available. And so chemists have assigned their task to various inorganic catalysts.”)”

    What unique property of these putative chemical reactions leads to their selection in the direction of a replicating cell?

  50. 50
    tinabrewer says:

    Here’s a thought from a real non-materialist perspective: Even if we could get all of the correct chemicals and other necessary stuff (I’m obviously a scientist, pardon the lofty jargon) into a tube and watch it start generating self-replicating molecules, this still would not in any way show that the process was unguided by intelligence. It would seeminly demonstrate that IF intelligence is at play, that intelligence is not directly materially visible, which might be sufficient to jettison IDists who are still basically materialits, but thats about all. Help me see where I am wrong on this.

  51. 51
    Tom English says:

    BarryA,

    You’ve still not addressed the fallacy of attempting to draw a design inference from non-existent data. I made it very clear above that no scientist was inferring anything from non-existent results on origins.

  52. 52
    Patrick says:

    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/conten.....04122103v1

    Biological molecular motors have a number of unique advantages over artificial motors, including efficient conversion of chemical energy into mechanical work and the potential for self-assembly into larger structures, as is seen in muscle sarcomeres and bacterial and eukaryotic flagella. The development of an appropriate interface between such biological materials and synthetic devices should enable us to realize useful hybrid micromachines. Here we describe a microrotary motor composed of a 20-µm-diameter silicon dioxide rotor driven on a silicon track by the gliding bacterium Mycoplasma mobile. This motor is fueled by glucose and inherits some of the properties normally attributed to living systems.
    …….
    Mycoplasma mobile, a species of gliding bacteria, is another example of a higher-order unit (cells in this case) with superb motility. M. mobile has a pear-shaped cell body ~ 1 micrometer in length and moves continuously over solid surfaces at speeds up to 2-5 micrometers per second.

    The statement relevant to this thread:

    it is currently impractical, if not impossible, to reconstitute[Bring back from the dead? -P] fully functional motile units from the isolated proteins of M. mobile in vitro. For that reason, we have been attempting to construct micromechanical devices using intact M. mobile cells instead of the isolated proteins. A key benefit of this approach is that hybrid devices into which living cells are integrated enable us to take advantage of preassembled excellent motor units that have the potential for self-repair or self-reproduction when damaged.

    I’m assuming they actually attempted to break down–kill–M. mobile into its functional parts and then “reanimate” them (It’s alive!). Not exactly the same as “zap[ping] it with electricity” but it does qualify as “or something” to “make it come back to life.”

    As for the debate over an argument from ignorance, I imagine that ID can only look at known configurations (artificial model or otherwise) and calculate whether CSI is involved. If people want to posit the belief that there’s an unknown configuration out there that life did indeed first come from then I suppose ID itself cannot go there…but I suppose it can be argued whether such a belief is warranted considering known biochemistry.

  53. 53
    pk4_paul says:

    “You’ve still not addressed the fallacy of attempting to draw a design inference from non-existent data.”

    The inference is based on existing data.

  54. 54
    pk4_paul says:

    “Even if we could get all of the correct chemicals and other necessary stuff (I’m obviously a scientist, pardon the lofty jargon) into a tube and watch it start generating self-replicating molecules, this still would not in any way show that the process was unguided by intelligence. It would seeminly demonstrate that IF intelligence is at play, that intelligence is not directly materially visible, which might be sufficient to jettison IDists who are still basically materialits, but thats about all. Help me see where I am wrong on this.”

    SRMs are not evidence of intelligence unless the intelligence is the guiding hand of a scientist involved in the replication process. The end result of replication specifically, replication of nucleic acids, is evidence for intelligence when sequence specificity is generated and the storage of non-material information thereby enabled. Sequence specificity according to an encoded convention would be data favoring ID.

  55. 55
    Charlie says:

    No scientist has inferred anything about the origin of life on earth.

    National Academy of Sciences ( Science and Creationism, 1999 )

    For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life could have originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components.  The question instead has become which of many pathways might have been followed to produce the first cells.

  56. 56
    DLH says:

    Tom English
    There is plenty of empirical data by which to test origin theories. See:
    “Facts for Biotic Theories” at “Facts for Biotic Theories” at ResearchID.org
    http://www.researchintelligent.....c_Theories

    Current atelic theories appear a bit stretched to satisfactorly account for or predict these facts.
    Abiogenesis in particular appears to be the “Achilles heel” of evolution. Without abiogenesis, no evolution. Berlinski only mentions a few of the more obvious factors needed for self replicating self sustaining cell. ny “minimal genome” must be able to process sunlight or natural biochemicals (“tar”).

    The question is: Can telic theories from “reverse engineering biotic systems” improve on atelic theories?
    “David L. Hagen’s Reseach Questions”

  57. 57
    Tom English says:

    pk4_paul: “The inference is based on existing data.”

    Show me the design inference. I want to see the data, and I want to see the computation of complex specified information (see “Specification,” by Bill Dembski).

  58. 58
    Tom English says:

    Charlie,

    You mined your quote from a passage that essentially says that scientists have many ideas about the origin of life on earth, but that none of them has gained empirical support. Here is your Missing Link:

    http://darwin.nap.edu/html/creationism/origin.html

    “Scientists have concluded that the ‘building blocks of life’ could have been available early in Earth’s history.”

    Not “were,” but “could have been.” How many qualified claims have you seen in the ID literature?

    “Some scientists favor the hypothesis…”

    Only some scientists? Merely a hypothesis? Don’t scientists jump directly to the claim of having a theory, the way IDists do? How do the NAS atheists expect to win the cultural war with such a wimpy stance?

    “Scientists are designing experiments and speculating… The recent speculation includes…”

    Speculating!!! The NAS admits not merely that scientists studying the origin of life have only hypotheses, but that some are speculating?

    Now let’s parse the passage you quoted (with emphasis merited by context):

    “For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life COULD HAVE originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components. The question instead has become which of many pathways MIGHT HAVE BEEN followed to produce the first cells.”

    Read the passage in context, and pay attention to the hedges, and it says little but that origins researchers do not despair of finding natural explanations for the origin of life.

  59. 59
    pk4_paul says:

    Show me the design inference. I want to see the data

    The amino acid sequence of protein AAC73539.1:

    Its translation=MQVSVETTQGLGRRVTITIAADSIETAVKSELVNVAKKVRIDGF

    RKGKVPMNIVAQRYGASVRQDVLGDLMSRNFIDAIIKEKINPAGAPTYVPGEYKLGED

    FTYSVEFEVYPEVELQGLEAIEVEKPIVEVTDADVDGMLDTLRKQQATWKEKDGAVEA

    EDRVTIDFTGSVDGEEFEGGKASDFVLAMGQGRMIPGFEDGIKGHKAGEEFTIDVTFP

    EEYHAENLKGKAAKFAINLKKVEERELPELTAEFIKRFGVEDGSVEGLRAEVRKNMER

    ELKSAIRNRVKSQAIEGLVKANDIDVPAALIDSEIDVLRRQAAQRFGGNEKQALELPR

    ELFEEQAKRRVVVGLLLGEVIRTNELKADEERVKGLIEEMASAYEDPKEVIEFYSKNK

    ELMDNMRNVALEEQAVEAVLAKAKVTEKETTFNELMNQQA

  60. 60
    Karl Pfluger says:

    Paul Nelson wrote:
    “In a major review paper a few years ago, UC-Santa Cruz abiogenesis researcher David Deamer proposed just the experiment described by Barry above.”

    Hi Paul,

    The problem with Deamer’s experiment is that it is really just a variation of Hoyle’s “tornado in a junkyard” argument, without the tornado.

    Deamer:
    1. Take a bunch of cells.
    2. Disassemble them into their component parts.
    3. Add nutrients.
    4. Wait for life to arise.

    Hoyle a la Deamer:
    1. Take a 747.
    2. Disassemble it into a big pile of parts.
    3. Douse the whole thing with jet fuel.
    4. Wait for it to fly away.

    The pile may not fly away, but that does not mean it lacks an immaterial “flight force” that graces working airplanes. Neither does Deamer’s experiment suggest that his pile of cell parts is missing its “anima” (to use Barry’s term) or its “vital force”. It is simply not organized correctly.

    Barry’s experiment is less disruptive than Deamer’s, in that the major parts of the cell do not get mechanically separated and scrambled before the reanimation attempt. Nevertheless, the process of killing the cell thoroughly disrupts its organization at the molecular level, and the effect is the same. You end up trying to reanimate a cell which is not put together the same way as a living cell.

    Hoyle a la BarryA would look like this:
    1. Take a 747.
    2. Leave the large scale structure intact.
    3. Pop some rivets, run the battery run down, reconnect a bunch of the wires, rust out the hydraulics, and let the fuel evaporate.
    4. Try to fly the plane away.

    It won’t happen, but again, there’s no big mystery. The pieces may be in place at the macro level, but the plane is in disarray at the micro level. It is not organized in the same way as a “living” plane.

    P.S. This thread has been an eye-opener. I had no idea there were still so many vitalists around in the 21st century. Explaining consciousness or intelligence by recourse to the immaterial is still common, but I’m quite surprised to see so many folks suggesting that life (as an ongoing phenomenon, setting aside the question of origins for now) cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry.

  61. 61
    BarryA says:

    Karl Pfluger writes: “but I’m quite surprised to see so many folks suggesting that life (as an ongoing phenomenon, setting aside the question of origins for now) cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry.”

    I don’t understand this statement. You seem to be saying you are surprised that people who post and comment on a web site devoted to ID theory would suggest that life cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry.

    Let me get this straight. You are surprised that people who, by definition, believe that life cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry would suggest that life cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry. This one really leaves me scratching my head wondering what I am missing.

  62. 62
    Karl Pfluger says:

    tinabrewer wrote:
    “Even if we could get all of the correct chemicals and other necessary stuff (I’m obviously a scientist, pardon the lofty jargon) into a tube and watch it start generating self-replicating molecules, this still would not in any way show that the process was unguided by intelligence.”

    Hi Tina,

    It depends on what you mean by “unguided”. If you mean “strictly following the laws of physics and chemistry”, then any inteference by a supernatural intelligence should in principle be detectable as violations of those laws.

    If, on the other hand, you propose that there is no violation of the laws of physics and chemistry, but rather that the laws themselves are designed to promote the appearance of self-replicating systems, then you’re correct that this is indistinguishable from the materialist view, at least until we determine where the laws come from and whether this process could reasonably have been expected to produce the laws we see today.

  63. 63
    Karl Pfluger says:

    Barry writes:

    I don’t understand this statement. You seem to be saying you are surprised that people who post and comment on a web site devoted to ID theory would suggest that life cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry.

    Barry,

    It doesn’t surprise me that ID supporters think the origin of life, or of particular biological structures, required the intervention of an intelligence. What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.

    That’s why I specified that I was talking about life as an ongoing phenomenon:

    I’m quite surprised to see so many folks suggesting that life (as an ongoing phenomenon, setting aside the question of origins for now) cannot be explained simply in terms of the unfolding of the laws of physics and chemistry.

    Those who lean toward front-loading theories generally believe that once the front-loaded progenitor was created, it was allowed to develop “hands-off”. Also, don’t forget that some front-loading advocates believe the “front-loader” could have been a non-supernatural intelligence, in which case it could not provide an ongoing “life force” to animate its design.

  64. 64
    filmGrain says:

    In Comment #8 Houdin writes:

    “First: Berlinski’s piece is dated 2006, yet he doesn’t even mention the idea that life probably started under the surface of the earth? I’m sure he’s heard the idea, it’s the current rage in science.”

    In fact, Berlinski mentions it at length in his response to his critics in the “Letters to the Editor” section of Commentary Magazine (May 2006). There, the physicist Lawrence M. Krauss criticized Berlinski for ignoring “the wealth of new data on a wonderful reducing environment associated with thermal vents at the bottom of the sea.” Berlinski mentions German organic chemist Gunter Wachtershauser who promoted that idea (which first appeared in Science 1979) by “imagining a rich series of inorganic catalytic reactions that might have taken place in such environments. A number of distinct …chemical ideas were put in play, the most notable involving iron pyrite acting to promote cyclic chemical reactions among carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. But experiments did not produce a significant yield of crucial biological molecules, and critics (like Gerald Joyce) have complained that some of the experiments themselves were carried out under unrealistic laboratory conditions. Matthew Levy and Stanley Miller have argued in addition that, although a ‘high-temperature origin of life may be possible,’ it ‘cannot involve adenine, uracil, guanine, or cytosine’ – because, at such temperatures, these molecules are notoriously unstable.” Berlinski goes on to say that the iron-sulphur world scenario is neither new nor wonderful and that it is in conflict with the dominant theory to which his original article in Commentary was devoted, the RNA world scenario.

    Regarding Wachtershauser’s ideas, Hubert Yockey, in “Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life” writes that “it shares with other speculations the idea that life is just complicated mechanistic chemistry. I have not found any reference to the handedness of amino acids and the ribose sugars DNA and mRNA. It appears to be ‘proteins first’…and of course that is prohibited by the Central Dogma. He does not address adequately the generation of complexity and of the genetic code…[and]…believes that the information metaphor has led to the unfortunate prejudice that life must have started with a polymer sequence.” Quoting Wachtershauser: “By my theory, life would then have started with analog information and it would have ‘invented’ digital information later…The theory of biological evolution is an historic theory. If we could ever trace this historic process backwards far enough in time, we would wind up with an origin of life in purely chemical processes.” To which Yockey responds: “Speculations based on the formation of sequences of molecules directly on the surfaces of minerals face the problem of the Guru and the two-headed coin*. An unbelievably enormous number of sequences must be formed in order to find the ones that form the minimal essential genome of the first living organism…”

    Earlier in this book, Yockey writes that all proteins-first theories violate Crick’s Central Dogma and should therefore be rejected on that account; for it’s mathematically not possible for an alphabet of 20 (amino acids) to code for an alphabet of 64 (codons).

    [*A practical man and a True Believer watch the latter’s Guru toss a coin 100 times. In under two hours, the Guru generates a sequence of all heads. The practical man suspects a two-headed coin; the True Believer believes that his Guru has merely randomly selected 1 possible sequence out of all 2^100 sequences.]

  65. 65
    steveh says:

    “Frozen cells and seeds are, definitely, not dead. They are a completely different thing.”

    What would happen if you cut a frozen cell in half but kept the two halves frozen? Is it now dead, or does it not die until you thaw it? What happens to the soul or anima (or whatever) while the cell is frozen. Is it bored and/or cold?

  66. 66
    Patrick says:

    What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.

    I may be missing something…but exactly who believes this?

  67. 67
    j says:

    BarryA (hypothetically) @21: ” 2. Human intelligence must be reducible to the physical properties of the brain, which is nothing more than an organic computer (someone has called it “smart meat”), and consciousness is an illusion.”

    P1: Chance and necessity alone cannot produce CSI.
    P2: Human thought routinely produces CSI.
    C: Human thought is not the result of only chance and necessity. 😀

  68. 68
    jerry says:

    Patrick,

    I think that Karl is either ill informed or disingenuous. My guess is that he is ill informed.

  69. 69
    Charlie says:

    Tom, I generally find your comments here helpful and informative but I find your accusation of quote-mining a little disconcerting and uncalled for.
    For your information, I got the quote from here:
    http://www.asa3.org/asa/educat.....ublic2.htm
    but thanks for the reference.

    The quote:

        For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life could have originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components. The question instead has become which of many pathways might have been followed to produce the first cells.

    stands alone, set off from all the other paragraphs. It is intended, as it stands, to make the statement that it makes.
    Which you have parsed for us:

    Now let’s parse the passage you quoted (with emphasis merited by context):

    “For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life COULD HAVE originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components. The question instead has become which of many pathways MIGHT HAVE BEEN followed to produce the first cells.”

    Read the passage in context, and pay attention to the hedges, and it says little but that origins researchers do not despair of finding natural explanations for the origin of life.

    Yes, exactly, Tom. The question is which pathway might have been followed. There is no question but that there is such a pathway, but only a question as to which one is correct.
    No, I think it says not what you claim.

    What other inferences are made in that page to which you’ve so kindly linked?

    These early organisms must have been simpler than the organisms living today. Furthermore, before the earliest organisms there must have been structures that one would not call “alive” but that are now components of living things.

    Life must have been simpler, and must have arsien from non-life.
    These appear to be inferences about the origin of life. They also seem to be claims.
    And to what do we owe these inferences? Apparently to the fact that we believe that life originated from non-life and that evolution proceeds from simple to complex. Just the things we keep being told on this forum that Darwinists do not claim.

    The very next line of the page, from which you claim I’ve quote-mined, asks the question:

    Will we ever be able to identify the path of chemical evolution that succeeded in initiating life on Earth?

    Note the assumption that there is such a path.
    Not, “maybe there is a path, and we’d like to find out what is”, but “there IS such a path of chemical evolution which SUCCEEDED in initiating life on earth.”

    Thanks for your help highlighting this question.

  70. 70
    PaV says:

    Karl Pfluger:

    “It doesn’t surprise me that ID supporters think the origin of life, or of particular biological structures, required the intervention of an intelligence. What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.

    From a biblical point of view, this is the correct position to take. But this is a philosophical/theological position that is perhaps motivated by those ID supporters who are actually Creationists.

    Now, if you were to ask me, “Can anything ‘live’ without God’s active participation?”, the answer would be “no”. But that is because everyone’s “primary substance”, our “being,” not only comes from God, but, apart from God, cannot continue to exist. Again: philosophical/theological.

    The question of whether the Designer (here let’s just assume that it is God) can intervene in the laws of physics and chemistry without detection is a very complicated one. If we deny this possibility entirely, then we have completely ruled out the possibility of ‘miracles’, which is, of course, the position that historically the Rationalists took. This is, in my opnion, an absurd position. Leaving this position to the one side, there remains the question of whether God can intervene without being detected. My answer to that is: it all depends. If God chooses to be detected, then He is; and if not, then He isn’t. Now, the final question is: did God–that is, the Designer–intervene, in time (temporally), to personally bring about the progressive changes detected in living organisms. My personal answer to this is “yes”; but if you ask if that intervention can be definitively detected by science, my answer would be “no”. In other words, I don’t believe we’ll ever find a DNA sequence, for example, that, translated, says, “I did this. Signed God.” (Just like I don’t think we’ll ever find a mammal fossil in the middle of the Devonian.)

    Now, does that invalidate the efforts of ID? No. Why? Because the goal of ID theorists–as oppossed to the broad spectrum of ID enthusiasts–is to make a logical argument demonstrating that the Darwinian mechanism of RM+NS cannot explain the “progressive” evolution documented by the fossil record; and, that biological phenomena, in its complexity, due to the heirarchical information that it contains, is best explained by a “Design Inference.” Why is this important? Because it’s important to have the right tools to work with when you are searching for answers. Would this turn evolutionary biology upside down? I don’t think so. It would create a theoretical lacuna, and would force biologists to explain their results using different language, but I imagine that the current work going on inside of laboratories would continue on just the same as now.

    A little long-winded here, but I wanted to give you a full answer to the wonderment you expressed over what ID supporters think that.

  71. 71
    Tom English says:

    NAS: “Will we ever be able to identify the path of chemical evolution that succeeded in initiating life on Earth?”

    Charlie: “Note the assumption that there is such a path.”

    There is no such assumption. The NAS piece also mentions the hypothesis that life did not originate on earth.

    My original claim stands: Scientists acknowledge that the origin of life on earth is a mystery.

    Sorry to lay into you about quote mining.

  72. 72
    BarryA says:

    j regarding 67, I\’m not sure what your point is. If you read my whole comment it is evident that I agree with you.

  73. 73
    Charlie says:

    Tom,
    Sorry to lay into you about quote mining.
    Thank you, I do appreciate that.
    But I think you mean “alleged quote mining”.

    NAS: “Will we ever be able to identify the path of chemical evolution that succeeded in initiating life on Earth?”
    Charlie: “Note the assumption that there is such a path.”
    Tom: There is no such assumption. The NAS piece also mentions the hypothesis that life did not originate on earth.

    Of course there is such an assumption.
    The path of chemical evolution succeeded in initiating life on Earth, according to the question itself.
    The question did not ask, “if there is a path…”, or “presuming such a path…”
    It didn’t refer to a ‘hypothetical path’, nor a ‘possible path’, but the path

    And Mars?
    NAS:The recent speculation includes the possibility that the first living cells might have arisen on Mars, seeding Earth via the many meteorites that are known to travel from Mars to our planet.
    In this scenario the path of chemical evolution occurred on Mars, where the “first living cells might have arisen”, by (according to the first sentence of the paragraph) “the path of chemical evolution”.
    The result?
    Life on Earth was initiated by the seeding of this life, which evolved from chemicals, confirming, of course, according to a prior paragraph, that life must have evolved from non-life.

    Tom:My original claim stands: Scientists acknowledge that the origin of life on earth is a mystery.
    I didn’t notice this to be your claim. I do not dispute this claim.
    I was responding to your comment #35:
    No scientist has inferred anything about the origin of life on earth.
    Of course my simple quote, and our further investigation, reveals that at least the NAS-authored book does demonstrate such inferences.

  74. 74
    Karl Pfluger says:

    I wrote:

    What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.

    Patrick asks:

    I may be missing something…but exactly who believes this?

    Patrick,

    Unless I am misinterpreting their comments, five people on this thread alone hold such a view.

    BarryA:

    In my experiment the non-living matter has every single building block of life readily to hand. Unlike present origin of life research, no one has to conjure up any critical ingredients through convenient assumptions. The only thing that is missing is the mysterious “anima” of living things.

    SatyaMevaJayate:

    …or they can take a puppy & cut the vital arteries… & freeze it for 10 days to preserve the state…then defreeze it & rejoin the arteries… technically it should be again begin to work if we are a machine…

    gpuccio:

    I am personally convinced that life is more than mere biological machinery…I think that, in some way, the statement that “biological building blocks put together with a certain kind of complexity generate life” is very similar to the fundamental belief of Strong AI theory, that “simpler blocks of software put together with a certain kind of complexity generate consciousness”. I believe neither.

    Tribune7:

    If life is just a chemical reaction –as per abiogenesis advocates — then having the DNA molecules ready-to-go would simplify their project you would think. Just heat and serve. Give the cadaver a jolt from your electrodes and he’ll be doing the Monster Mash.

    Paul Nelson:

    [Deamer’s] thought experiment about killing a modern cell is meant to illustrate the functional necessity of isolating membranes, but arguably it entails much more than that.
    [I have also seen Nelson making vitalistic arguments elsewhere, though I don’t have a reference. Paul, if I’m misrepresenting your views, please correct me.]

  75. 75
    Karl Pfluger says:

    PaV wrote:

    Now, if you were to ask me, “Can anything ‘live’ without God’s active participation?”, the answer would be “no”. But that is because everyone’s “primary substance”, our “being,” not only comes from God, but, apart from God, cannot continue to exist. Again: philosophical/theological.

    PaV,

    To clarify, when you say that life requires God’s active participation, do you mean that God “props up” the laws of physics and chemistry, but that otherwise life is simply the unfolding of those laws for a particular configuration of matter, or do you mean that God overrides those laws (whether in a detectable way or not) in order to allow a living being to continue to live?

  76. 76
    j says:

    BarryA,

    My point was simply to put your claim (with which I agree) into stark terms, for the benefit of those who don’t “get it.”

    Also, the focus is so often on the presence (or lack thereof) of CSI “in nature.” I think it’s worth highlighting the human ability to generate it essentially at will.

    That’s all.

  77. 77
    Houdin says:

    BarryA: “1. A living thing, including a man, cannot be anything more than a complicated organic machine, and the first such machine was somehow able to assemble itself from its constituent parts through blind natural forces.

    2. Human intelligence must be reducible to the physical properties of the brain, which is nothing more than an organic computer (someone has called it “smart meat”), and consciousness is an illusion.”

    1. What do you think the first living thing was? A cell? Try a single molecule that is capable of self replication or a few such molecules inside a membrane. One thing that all scientists in the field are agreed on is that whatever the first living thing was, it was much, much, much simpler than a modern cell. All you really need is self-replication, heredity so the offspring are basically the same as their parents and the ability to make small changes so that evolution can start.

    2. All the people I know who say “consciousness is an illusion”, have heard about Daniel Dennett’s thesis, but have never actually read it. Do you know what he really means when he says, “consciousness is an illusion”?

    BarryA: “There are lots of experiments that would falsify ID. Any experiment that demonstrated, for example, a plausible mechanism for a abiogenesis. By plausible I mean, well, plausible. Wishful speculations like those in Houdin’s comment don’t count.

    Demonstrating a mechanism for abiogenesis would not falsify ID. It’s easy to imagine a world where a designer makes the “big” things while natural mechanisms produce “small” things.

    BarryA: “Any experiment that shows that information (I would be willing to settle for fairly simple information – you don’t have to demonstrate anything remotely as complex as that contained in the simplest bacterium) can be generated by blind natural forces would falsify ID.”

    Now this is more like it! I will now proceed to falsify ID (according to BarryA’s definition of ID) by showing that information can be generated by blind natural forces:

    1: Start with a polymer. We could use DNA, RNA, proteins or something like that, but I’m going to start with a short sentence because it’s easier to see the information appear that way.

    Starting sentence
    “John broke his wand.” Now generate new information by mutating one character:

    “John bzoke his wand.” This is new information. The “r” in “broke” has been changed to a “z”. You started with one sentence, now you have two. Now simulate natural selection. Normally this happens automatically as the organism tries to develop and live with the new information, but for this demonstration, we just look for “bzoke” in the dictionary. It’s not there, so discard it (let the organism die). It’s new information, but it’s not useful information. (Not Complex Specified Information in Dembski’s terminology. It’s Complex, but it doesn’t meet the specification, which is “information that keeps the organism alive and thriving”.) So we’re back to our original information:

    “John broke his wand.” Mutate it again.

    “John broke his wind.” New information again. The “a” in “wand” has been changed to an “i”. Now run it through natural selection (look it up in the dictionary). Success! “wind” is in the dictionary. You can also check the grammer and you’ll find that the grammer is correct, if you want to. We now have a piece of brand new Complex Specified Information: “John broke his wind.” ID is successfully disproven.

    If you doubt my definition of information, read Dembski’s first book, “The Design Inference”. I think he’s also reprinted the salient parts and put them on line somewhere.

    And, it goes without saying, this is exactly the process that evolution uses to generate Complex Specified Information – random mutations to generate complex new information followed by natural selection to see if the Complex Information is also Specified – to see if meets the specification: keep the organism alive and thriving.

    Of course, ID isn’t really falsified by this argument because a Designer could always put in some new information that would pass the natural selection test. But it does falsify CSI as a marker for ID.

  78. 78
    Houdin says:

    BarryA: “That is my point. If we cannot even “repair” the very simplest dead singled celled critter, what hope do we have of ever demonstrating that one sprang up fully formed like Athena from Zeus’s head?”

    Everybody (and not just BarryA): NO scientist investigating abiogenesis thinks that a single celled critter is going to be the first living thing unless you define “single celled critter” as one or a few chemicals inside a bubble.

    Pure statistics dictates that the first living thing has to be simple. Life apparently started just about as soon as the lava solidified in the early earth. You’ll effectively never get any kind of remotely complex cell to self-assemble in the time available. (The odds exceed the Universal Probability Bounds.)

    Think of a simple molecule or a few simple molecules that manage to self-reproduce. (And think of a long stringy polymer when you’re thinking of that molecule, like proteins or DNA, since life is essentially made from long stringy polymers and long stringy polymers are the only molecules we know of today that reproduce easily.)

    Once you have a population of them, evolution will start automatically adding new information to the molecule(s) and, in a few million or a few hundred million (we don’t know which) years, something approaching a modern cell will be produced.

  79. 79
    Houdin says:

    BarryA: “I am not sure why the fact that the single celled beasties might have had troglodyte tendencies makes a difference to my thought experiment.”

    FilmGrain: “In fact, Berlinski mentions it at length in his response to his critics in the “Letters to the Editor” section of Commentary Magazine (May 2006).”

    Remarkable! Berlinski knew about what has become the most likely scenario for abiogenesis, but failed to even mention it in an article on abiogenesis! Thermal vents at the bottom of the sea might be a good spot for abiogenesis, but in the last few years we’ve learned that the possible places for abiogenesis are much huger than that – just about everything under the earth, down to a depth of a mile or more is in play now. Areas where plate tectonics have pulled water deep under the earth are especially likely and that is a huge percentage of our land area. I’m really surprised he didn’t mention that. Is Commentary on line?

  80. 80
    gpuccio says:

    Just a few answers:

    Karl Pfluger wrote:

    “It doesn’t surprise me that ID supporters think the origin of life, or of particular biological structures, required the intervention of an intelligence. What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.”

    and:

    “Unless I am misinterpreting their comments, five people on this thread alone hold such a view.” (including me).

    Well, I think you got it right, at least about me. I confess again that I don’t believe that the laws of physics and chemistry, as they are understood at present, can explain life and/or consciousness. But I am well aware that, probably, most people in the ID field would not agree. That’s perfectly right for me, one of the beautiful characteristics of the ID debate is that it is very pragmatic, and that people with very different views of reality may agree on some fundamental interpretations of things. Moreover, I don’t think my personal philosophical view of reality (which I have no reason to discuss here) would really fit in your idea of “vitalism”. From a strictly scientific point of view, I don’t think that life, or consciousness, need any violation of physical laws, I just think that our understanding of physical laws is at present very limited, and that a future, deeper understanding will naturally incorporate the principles governing life and consciousness. I don’t believe in a mechanical, deterministic view of nature and of physical laws. As you certainly know, the debate in physics is very open about many of these questions. Again, please check Penrose for a non alghorythmic view of consciousness, and all the debates about possible relationships between quantum theory, consciousness and biological phenomena.
    This is just to say that it is not only a question of “vitalism”, in the sense of reviving old fashioned superstitions of the past centuries. The problem is that some scientists think that science (physics, biology, etc.) has already found the answers to most questions, at least in principle, and that only details are missing. Other scientists don’t agree with that, and think that many mysteries are still challenging the human mind. For me, the nature of life and consciousness, the origin and evolution of information in biological beings, the origin of the universe and its true structure, the relationship between relativity and quantum mechanics, are a few very good examples of realities which are still not understood.

    Regarding the concept, repeated by many in this thread, that the first living things would have been much simpler than actual cells, and so on, I am perfectly aware hat most scientists who discuss abiogenesis believe that. I don’t. I want only to state, again, that these are only suppositions, unsupported by any evidence. Again, the truth is that no living thing simpler than archea or bacteria (with the only exception of viruses, which are not autonomous structures) has ever been observed, nor any indirect evidence of its existence, now or in the past, has ever been found. These are the facts.

    Regarding my affirmation that freezed cells and seeds are not dead, I think it should be perfectly understandable in the light of the common meaning given to the word “dead”. To my knowledge, freezed cells have never been considered “dead”. They are more commonly considered in some state of “suspended animation”. I wanted only to state that both seeds (however long living) and frozen cells are something different from “dead” ex-living things. I can’t say what happens in a frozen cell, no more than I can say what life is.

    So, to Steveh’s qestions:

    “What would happen if you cut a frozen cell in half but kept the two halves frozen? Is it now dead, or does it not die until you thaw it? What happens to the soul or anima (or whatever) while the cell is frozen. Is it bored and/or cold?”

    my only possible answer is: I don’t know. Nor, I think, does science. You seem to know, and I respect your faith, but I feel no need to share it.

  81. 81
    tribune7 says:

    Karl Pfluger– What suprises me is that so many seem to think that every living thing requires ongoing immaterial “assistance” to remain living, minute by minute, and that the laws of physics and chemistry are not sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence.

    Karl do you really believe the laws of physics and chemistry are sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence?

  82. 82
    DaveScot says:

    Houdin Think of a simple molecule or a few simple molecules that manage to self-reproduce.

    Are you channeling Darwin or something? You just asked me to imagine a simple blob of protoplasm.

    Thanks for reinforcing my point that the idea of spontaneous generation hasn’t been refined much in the thousands of years since Aristotle said aphids spring out of morning dew.

    Too funny! 😛

  83. 83
    jerry says:

    Houdin,

    I suggest you take your sentence example and try to form a paragraph that makes sense of say 5 sentences. Use addition and subtraction mutations as well and then use the period to be a sentence marker. Use every nano second since the beginning of the universe. See what comes out without any direction. Say a sentence is 8 words long and each word is 5 characters and there are a total of 28 characters including the space and the period. So our paragraph is 40 words long but approximately 245 characters depending upon how you use spaces.

    Now each position could be one of 28 characters, letters, space and period. So the number of possible combinations are 28×28…(245 times) without considering the addition and subtraction mutations. Your mutations or monkeys on a typewriter are never going to produce an English paragraph even with as many universes as you can dream up.

  84. 84
    DaveScot says:

    Houdin,

    “John broke his wind.” New information again. The “a” in “wand” has been changed to an “i”. Now run it through natural selection (look it up in the dictionary). Success! “wind” is in the dictionary. You can also check the grammer and you’ll find that the grammer is correct, if you want to. We now have a piece of brand new Complex Specified Information: “John broke his wind.” ID is successfully disproven.

    Congratuations! I see you’ve finally discovered what all your imagined falsifications of ID really are – breaking wind.

  85. 85
    Patrick says:

    The univeral probability bound is 500 informational bits. As a comparison, “ME THINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL” is only 133 bits of information(as a sentence; the complexity of the items of the set is 16, 48, 16, 16, 32, 8, 48 plus 8 bits for each space). I doubt “John broke his wind.” comes any closer…not to mention the starting point is “John broke his wand.” so that only reduces the change in information content.

    If dismissing ID was that easy none of us would be here.

  86. 86
    PaV says:

    Karl Pfluger:

    To clarify, when you say that life requires God’s active participation, do you mean that God “props up” the laws of physics and chemistry, but that otherwise life is simply the unfolding of those laws for a particular configuration of matter, or do you mean that God overrides those laws (whether in a detectable way or not) in order to allow a living being to continue to live?

    I see this as a false dichotomy. God is the “Lawgiver”; hence any laws of nature come from His hand. Yet, these “laws” work on matter and energy, which have an existence of their own, and nothing can exist outside the primary agency of God. St. Paul: “…the living God, in whom we live, and move, and have our being“. Again, this is theology, not science.

    From a “scientific” point of view, what I state above is almost immaterial (no pun intended). However, the “facts” of nature, newly discovered over the last 50 or so years, leads a thinking person to conclude that in the order, complexity, and structure of biology, some kind of “design” is involved. Rather than making this a “proof of God”, it is better to speak of a “Designer”. But, to stress the point here, this is a ‘rationalistic’ approach, not a ‘theological’ approach. Darwinists should concede on logical grounds without fearing the theological overtones of such a concession. As they said of Clinton in the days surrounding his impeachment: “We can compartmentalize.” I can put on my theological thinking cap, take it off, and put on my scientific thinking cap. It’s not hard to do. Nonetheless, I go back and forth between these two realms. In the Catholic Church, this notion of the realm of science (“reason”) and theology (“faith”) came up over nine centuries ago. This tensions was resolved, more or less, with St. Anselm’s formulation: “Faith that seeks understanding.” The Pope’s recent remarks about Islam that have sparked such an uproar in the Muslim world I believe contained comments along the line that the religion of Islam does not conform with the dictates of reason. Truth is truth; and “theological truth” should not contradict the “truth of science.” There are many physicists who see in the Big Bang Theory, for instance, a substantiation of the biblical account of creation wherein the world is brought into existence ex nihilo. But, again, the Big Bang doesn’t “prove” the Creation accounts; yet, nonetheless, there certainly is a congruence between them. Mitochondrial DNA points to a “mitochonrial Eve”, and the Y-chromosomes point to one, single Adam. Again, there is congruence between science (reason) and theology (faith). But, this doesn’t “prove” there was a single Adam and a single Eve since there is a fair amount of induction involved in the ‘mitochondrial’ argument. But, you get my point.

  87. 87
    Patrick says:

    On that other topic of there being an intrinsic “soul” to life…I’m fairly surprised that the Christian position is that ALL life requires this. For humans, sure, I can understand that belief but for every bit of the animal kingdom down to the lowly bacteria? I don’t see what would prevent a scientist–other than lack of knowledge, capability, etc.–from disassembling a bacteria into its functional parts and then reassembling it.

  88. 88
    PaV says:

    Patrick:

    I don’t see what would prevent a scientist–other than lack of knowledge, capability, etc.–from disassembling a bacteria into its functional parts and then reassembling it.

    When a person dies, his body doesn’t vanish. I was saying that nothing can have beingness without God continuing to hold that being in existence. As to your bacteria example, I think what you propose is unlikely, but, a priori I wouldn’t completely rule it out–since you’re talking about parts, and, at that microscopic level, various parts might persist in functionality for some time. But, again, I wouldn’t bet on it.

  89. 89
    steveh says:

    BarryA, how do you determine if the subject of the experiment is properly dead to begin with? It seems to me that if someone does bring a cell or an animal back to life, you will howl indignantly that it can’t have been quite dead after all. ISTM that whether the subject is an animal or a cell, it is complex and its death is not a single event but a process in which different parts stop working at different times. If you wait for, say, the last sign of brain activity in an animal to cease, there’s a good chance that other parts of the brain will already be well on their way to being goo.

  90. 90
    BarryA says:

    steveh writes: “BarryA, how do you determine if the subject of the experiment is properly dead to begin with?”

    Steveh, I would hold a mirror up to its mouth.

  91. 91
    steveh says:

    Yes, very funny. But how would you do it really?

  92. 92
    Hawks says:

    BarryA.

    “Thanks for the reference to the research. But don’t you see that this demonstrates my point?”

    No, it does not demonstrate your point. A point it DOES demonstrate is your strawman caricature of abiogenesis.

    “I’m not sure what you mean by “demonstrates.” If you mean it in the sense of a confirmed empirical test, your statement is simply false. If you mean that SF writers can imagine robots that are no different from humans, I agree SF writers do imagine that. Why should I care what they can imagine. I can imagine green elephants with yellow polka dots, but I’m not going to go looking for one.”

    No, I did not mean in any sense of confirmed empirical test. That would simply be a ridiculous claim. I was merely pointing out one of the reasons why I like SF. The word demonstrate might have been an unfortunate choice, but at least it gave you the chance to come out with another strawman:

    “On my first point. Wait a minute. I forgot that evolutionary biology is the only field of science where the imagination of the researcher counts as evidence. Never mind then. “

  93. 93
    Patrick says:

    how do you determine if the subject of the experiment is properly dead to begin with?

    We’re a long, long way from being capable of disassembling and reconstituting, say, a mouse. If a microbe is scattered all over the place into its functional parts I’d consider that effectively dead.

  94. 94
    steveh says:

    “If a microbe is scattered all over the place into its functional parts I’d consider that effectively dead.”

    Can’t argue with that. However, AIUI, Barry’s prediction is that even if we then put the parts back together exactly as they were atom for atom (which is not a part of the test), the result could not be re-animated because the “life force” is gone. The problem is, we can’t set up the inititial conditions for this test (confirmed dead but physically identical to a live cell).

    Remember Barry said “This experiment should be easy.” let’s see how easily you or he can accurately reconstruct a cell from its disassembled parts and after you’ve done that we can begin the test proper.

  95. 95
    Hawks says:

    steveh,

    “Remember Barry said “This experiment should be easy.” let’s see how easily you or he can accurately reconstruct a cell from its disassembled parts and after you’ve done that we can begin the test proper. ”

    The experiment shoud be easy for an intelligent designer…

  96. 96
    Karl Pfluger says:

    tribune7 asks:

    Karl do you really believe the laws of physics and chemistry are sufficient to sustain life once it is in existence?

    Yes. If they were not sufficient, then we would find cases where these laws were violated in living things. In other words, we should find cases where the behavior of matter inside a living body is different from the behavior of matter under identical conditions outside a living body. We have never found such a case. Atoms behave the same whether they are inside or outside a living body.

    gpuccio,

    Penrose brings quantum phenomena to bear on the question of consciousness by proposing that microtubules amplify quantum phenomena sufficiently that they influence the firing of neurons. Although this idea has virtually no support among neurobiologists, Penrose can at least argue that it remains possible until neurobiology rules it out. (Reminiscent of ID, isn’t it?)

    You seem to believe that a Penrose-style quantum amplification process may apply to life in general, and not just consciousness. What do you think are the normal functions of living cells (analogous to neuronal firing) that would require this quantum assistance in order to take place?

    By the way, for a cogent critique of Penrose’s ideas regarding consciousness, see

    http://mind.ucsd.edu/papers/pe.....-text.html

  97. 97
    gpuccio says:

    Steveh:

    “Remember Barry said “This experiment should be easy.” let’s see how easily you or he can accurately reconstruct a cell from its disassembled parts and after you’ve done that we can begin the test proper.”

    Obviously, the experiment is not easy. Indeed, from my point of view (and Barry’s, I believe) it can never work. That’s exactly our point. The opposite point (it should be yours) is that it should be easy enough and work, because abiogenesis supporters do believe that something like that really happened, that it happened probably many times, and that it happened by chance. However you conceive abiogenesis, there must have been at least one point in time and space (possibly more than one) when single parts, let us call them precursors, assembled by chance in a living cell (at least an archea in my opinion, but those who believe in simpler cells are welcome to produce a model of them and then try to assemble it). So, an intelligent engineer (for instance, a darwinian biologist of the 21st century who does not believe in any form of vitalism) could well try to duplicate such phenomena in his lab. May be it takes some technological skill still unavailable, but you know, one must start somewhere. Besides, we vitalists are patient people, and can wait.

    To Karl Pfluger:

    Thank you for your kind and documented anwer. I am well aware that many don’t agree with Penrose, but still he is a respected scientist in his field, and his views are discussed at many levels. That’s exactly my view of what should happen for ID: not wars and libel, but discussion, and recognizion that ID’ideas are not stupid and fanatical. They may be wrong (like any idea in the world), but they certainly deserve to be respected and discussed.
    So, thank you again for discussing. Indeed, I don’t necessarily agree with Penrose’s model od neuron activity, although I do believe that a new perspective of physics and quantum mechanics is necessary to understand how neurons work. Personally, I believe that the same advancement will be necessary to really understand how cells work, in general. So, you are right about my point, I believe that new rules are necessary both for understanding consciousness and for understanding life (Penrose would not probably agree on the second point, but I am not sure). What I find really intersting in Penrose is his mathematical argument from Godel’s theorem, to show that consciousness cannot be totally algorhytmic, because it can always observe, in meta-level, its proceedings, at least in mathematics (that’s only my personal philosophical summary of Penrose’s argument, of course).
    Regarding the problem that known physical laws should be violated if some principle not yet understood (life, consciousness) were at work, I don’t agree. There are a lot of models (Penrose’s idea of amplification of quantum phenomena is one of them) that could allow new principles to work without violating known laws. Quantum mechanics is not violating Newton’s laws. Dembski, for instance, has suggested that information could be added to a physical system without any kind of energy, and without any violation of physical laws (I don’t know if he is right, but it is an interesting possibility).
    Moreover, we should remember that biophysics is still a very pioneristic science. You must not think that everything at the cellulare level is well understood chemistry. Quite the opposite is true. Cellular systems are in general far from equilibrium systems, and I believe that understanding of such systems is at present just at he beginnings.
    You ask for an example of some biological process which may require the assistance of quantum phenomena (or, I would add, of any other yet unknown phenomenon). I will try to give you an example: DNA transcription. And I don’t mean just the simple (well, not so simple, indeed) biochemical process of transcription. I mean the regulation of transcription, which is still a complete mystery. That’s the point where, apparently, information is continuosly “added”. That’s the point where, to understand life, we need some kind of answer to at least two fundamental questions:
    1) How is it that, in multicellular beings, each cell succeeds in transcribing jus the part of the genetic information (the same in all cells) which is necessary for that cell and at that moment?
    2) How is it that multicellular beings develop from a single cell, with a single information, which differentiates with a specific order in thousands of different cells, each one with a specific “personalization” of that information, and in a general spacial and temporal frame which is, in itself, extremely complex? (think, for instance, to neuronal spacial connections in the CNS). Where is the information, the code, the regulation for all that?

    At present, the answer to both questions is completely lacking, or is just of the kind: “some lucky network of billions of biochemical feedbacks luckily stimulated and regulated by random interactions with the environment”. hat’s why I believe that future advancements in physics, chemistry, informatics and biology will certainly be of help.

  98. 98
    steveh says:

    “Obviously, the experiment is not easy. Indeed, from my point of view (and Barry’s, I believe) it can never work. That’s exactly our point.”

    Your point seems to be that it’s not possible to do the preparation work (create an cell from constituent parts), Barry’s was that even if we could (or rather if we started with a fully formed but dead cell), it would not be possible to animate it. There’s a difference. My point is that the dead cell is physically not like the living one, even if they look similar to a lawyer bacause there are already lots of physical changes in the dead cell that we can not repair. If you don’t damage the cell enough, it won’t be provably dead, it will be argued that it was just “put on hold” for a while, or it will die over a period of time in which additional non-reversible physical changes will occur.

    The zapping with electricity part is easy – The preparation is difficult. It’s a bit like me claiming that it’s not possible to gargle water on Mars because of the redness of the planet. Gardling water is easy, therefore someone should have done this test by now, but they haven’t, so I win.

    “The opposite point (it should be yours) is that it should be easy enough and work, because abiogenesis supporters do believe that something like that really happened, that it happened probably many times, and that it happened by chance.”

    I don’t know why you are telling me that my point should be that it is easy. We don’t know what the precursors were, and we certainly don’t have those available to hand now to use in this experiment. None of this is easy. If the Standord Protein Folding Project was anything to go by, just figuring out how a simple protein will fold is difficult enough even if you have hundreds of thousands of computers working on it for some years. That’s without working out how they will interact with each other and other parts of a complex environment. Why anyone should think it reasonable to claim victory because their opponents can not produce a step by step mutation history of the first cell or first flagellum or reenact it in the lab less than 60 years after the discovery of the structure of DNA is beyond me.

  99. 99
    gpuccio says:

    Steveh:

    “I don’t know why you are telling me that my point should be that it is easy. We don’t know what the precursors were, and we certainly don’t have those available to hand now to use in this experiment.”

    I’m telling you that for you it should be easy, because you seem to believe that it happened by chance, somewhere, sometime. In my way of thinking, things that are so difficult never happen by chance. And I don’t see how natural selection could be invoked for an event like the assembling of the first cell from precursors, leaving therefore only random – I would not say mutation, shall we say encounters? – as the only causal mechanism for something which is so difficult that we have no idea of how to begin to do it.

    “I don’t know why you are telling me that my point should be that it is easy. We don’t know what the precursors were, and we certainly don’t have those available to hand now to use in this experiment. None of this is easy. If the Standord Protein Folding Project was anything to go by, just figuring out how a simple protein will fold is difficult enough even if you have hundreds of thousands of computers working on it for some years. That’s without working out how they will interact with each other and other parts of a complex environment.”

    That’s exactly my point. I agree with you with all my heart on that. As I have already said, that’s why I don’t believe it happened by chance, unless someone give me evidence.

    “Why anyone should think it reasonable to claim victory because their opponents can not produce a step by step mutation history of the first cell or first flagellum or reenact it in the lab less than 60 years after the discovery of the structure of DNA is beyond me.”

    Here I beg you to really believe me: I am not claiming any victory. As I have tried to say before, for me this is not, or at least should not be, a war. Just an intellectual confrontation. I claim no victory, because obviously you have all the rights in the world to stick to your hypothesis about evolution or abiogenesis, unless we can produce absolute evidence that it is false (I think we will in time, but some more work is needed). But let us admit, serenely, that what you say is true, that is: our “opponents can not produce a step by step mutation history of the first cell or first flagellum or reenact it in the lab”. In other words, you stick to your hypothesis, but when I say that no fact supports it, I am not claiming any victory, only trying to agree with you about known facts. I hope that’s not beyond you.

  100. 100
    Karl Pfluger says:

    gpuccio asks:

    1) How is it that, in multicellular beings, each cell succeeds in transcribing jus the part of the genetic information (the same in all cells) which is necessary for that cell and at that moment?
    2) How is it that multicellular beings develop from a single cell, with a single information, which differentiates with a specific order in thousands of different cells, each one with a specific “personalization” of that information, and in a general spacial and temporal frame which is, in itself, extremely complex? (think, for instance, to neuronal spacial connections in the CNS). Where is the information, the code, the regulation for all that?

    gpuccio,

    The extremely hot field of evo-devo is tackling those very questions. For an excellent overview, see Sean Carroll’s book Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

  101. 101
    Houdin says:

    gpuccio: “Archea, as we know them today, are probably the oldest living cells, and as far as I know they are probably, today, just the same as they were 3,5 billion years ago. They are so old that it is difficult to understand when they could have evolved, given that they were probably already there after only one billion year of earth’s existence, and in that billion year earth’s conditions were not probably such that they could allow evolution of life…”

    Yes, the first living cells that we have fossil evidence for may have had “as little as” 100 million years in which to evolve from the first self-reproducing whatever to something similar to modern cells. So how many gazillion gazillion cells were alive during that period? Take gazillions of organisms, dividing say, once a day and I’d say there was plenty of time for some very complex systems to evolve.

    gpuccio: “Again I state that any simpler kind of life is, at present, only a supposition, unsupported by any data. Moreover, it seems. from genetic studies, that archea may be more related to us than bacteria.”

    So our unsupported assumption is that at time A the earth is molten and that at time B, hundreds of millions of years later it’s covered with rudimentary life and it’s somehow a stretch to hypothesize that something dirt simple (and hence not too unlikely) formed by chance and then had an ample period of time to evolve into crude archaea? What are the alternatives? Seeded from another planet, possibly by sentient beings? Where’s the evidence for that? And where did the original life (and the beings!) come from? Designed and created by a supernatural creature millions of times (if not infinitely) smarter than we are? I realize that ID enthusiasts find this question very annoying, but where did the designer come from and why is it somehow “simpler” to postulate an almost infinitely more complex being as the explanation for a one celled organism? Explaining something simple by postulating something infinitely more complicated is going the wrong way!

    DaveScot: “The modern argument for spontaneous generation is incredible. It’s essentially the same argument as maggots spontaneously generating from rotten meat and mice spontaneously generating in grain storage bins.”

    No it’s not! Maggots have tens of millions of base pairs in their genomes. C. elegans is a worm, probably simpler than a maggot since it doesn’t contain the information for making a fly, and it has 97-million base pairs in its genome. That’s nearly 200 million bits of information and 20,000 genes. For 200 million bits of information to form spontaneously is so unlikely as to be effectively impossible. ALL existing life forms have way too much information in their genomes to appear spontaneously. The first self reproducing thing has to have just enough information to reproduce. When a scientist talks about the first living thing, he’s postulating something that embodies perhaps 50 to 100 bits of information, not 200 megabits.

  102. 102
    gpuccio says:

    Well, maybe this thread is becoming too long…

    Anyway, thanks, Karl, for the book reference. I hope to read it soon, and perhaps we can resume this discussion about evo-devo in the future.

    Houdin makes some interesting statements, for instance that: “For 200 million bits of information to form spontaneously is so unlikely as to be effectively impossible.” So impossible, indeed, that he scales down the first “precrsor” to 50-100 bits. Well, I fully agree with the impossibility for longer sequences. I would like to recall that a small protein (let’s say 100 aminoacids) has an information content of 20^100, which is in the range of Dembski’s universal upper limit (and believe me, that’s really a limit!).
    So, I am really interested to this hypotethical 50-100 bit precursor. I suppose it should be some simple RNA polymerase, or something like that. Well, 50-100 bits are not many. That’s why again I suggest: you who believe in that hypothesis, try to build a real model of such a molecule, and to test it in the lab. Let it reproduce, if possible evolve. Let’s try to get rid of hypothetical, generical assumptions which cannot be tested. We must find experimental answers, or we will go on debating about phylosophy forever.
    I am not saying that an assumption has no value. But we must always remember that it is only an assumption, until we have some true evidence to support it. Archea we can observe. Simpler precursors, we can’t. 50-100 bits is not a hypothesis beyond modern technology. Test it.
    A las note about a philosophical assumption made by Houdin, which I don’t think is justified. He says: “where did the designer come from and why is it somehow “simpler” to postulate an almost infinitely more complex being as the explanation for a one celled organism?”
    Well, that is an old argument, and many have already answered. I would like only to suggest that there is no reason to affirm that the designer (in the sense of God, which is what Houdin is speaking of in that sentence) is infinitely complex. One of the most common phlosophical and religious views about God (one which I agree with) is that God is simple, indeed totally simple. Everyhing else is complex. So, no need to think of God as complex. And I think that nobody should be surprised that one can conceive of the extreme complexity of the world and of life as coming from something totally simple. After all, astrophysics believe just that about the “singularity” which should be the cause of the Big Bang. In philosophical terms, and in many religions, God is conceived as a transcendent entity, beyond space and time, beyond dimensions, beyond cause and effect, beyond reason, beyond anything the human mind can understand and conceive. Beyond, but not in contradiction with all that. That’s the philosophical meaning of “transcendent”. Simple, not complex. And therefore, no need to ask for a cause of that. Causal relations, like space and time and dimensions, are a feature of phenomena. I understand that’s philosophy, but Houdin’s objection was philosophical in its nature, and so it deserved an answer at that level.

    Finally, Occam’s razor. Ah, that’s really funny. I think we should leave Occam alone at last, and let him rest in peace. Two reasons fot that: first, Occam’s razor is not, as far as I know, a law of nature, it is just a methodological principle which may be useful in many contexts, but not necessarily in all. Second, the principle can be, and has been, reasonably applied pro darwinian evolution or pro ID: it depends, again, on your previous assumptions, if you believe that a God can never exist, you will find simpler to postulate evolution, while if you believe (like Dembski, Behe, and many others including me) that complex information of the kind we observe in living beings can never be generated by chance, than it is simpler to postulate God than to believe the impossible. Evidently, we start from different assumptions. So, let’s discuss them, if possible let’s test them, but please, let’s leave Occam’s razor application to more pertinent contexts.

  103. 103
    Charlie says:

    Houdin asked:
    So how many gazillion gazillion cells were alive during that period?
    This seems to me to be a good question.
    How many were there? Does anyone here know? What is the geological evidence left behind of all these cells, and their formation?

    Take gazillions of organisms, dividing say, once a day and I’d say there was plenty of time for some very complex systems to evolve.
    That is a restatement of the theory, time+chance=everything, but is exactly the assertion being questioned. Where is the evidence that some very complex systems would evolve from some very simple ones?
    Houdin is arguing against the charge of making assumptions by restating the assumptions.

    We know that philosophically Darwinists need a simple-to-complex scenario. Darwin said himself that “nature does not make a leap”. And we know that historically, back as far as 2000 years ago, and through Darwin to the modern day, a warm little pond, later Haldane’s hot dilute soup, was the preferred locale for such activity – a philosophically necessary hypothesis, not one based upon evidence.
    As Hubert Yockey said:

    If one looks at the geological record, one finds no evidence that a primeval soup ever existed.

    If the soup were so dilute as to have left no geological evidence it would have been too dilute to have allowed life to advance from mere chemical reactions via chance.

  104. 104
    Houdin says:

    gpuccio: “So, I am really interested to this hypotethical 50-100 bit precursor. I suppose it should be some simple RNA polymerase, or something like that. Well, 50-100 bits are not many. That’s why again I suggest: you who believe in that hypothesis, try to build a real model of such a molecule, and to test it in the lab. Let it reproduce, if possible evolve. Let’s try to get rid of hypothetical, generical assumptions which cannot be tested. We must find experimental answers, or we will go on debating about phylosophy forever.”

    An interesting challenge – duplicate something that we don’t have a sample of, is submicroscopic, existed ~ 4 billion years ago and that was “manufactured” in a “laboratory” that encompasses the entire surface of the earth down to a depth of a mile or so. And you know something? I think that science will do that someday. But I doubt if that will end the philosophical debate. One side of the debate thinks that their immortal soul depends on evolution being false and mere facts aren’t going to change their minds. One thing I guarantee: ID will NEVER do it because they aren’t even trying.

    gpuccio: “A las note about a philosophical assumption made by Houdin, which I don’t think is justified. He says: “where did the designer come from and why is it somehow “simpler” to postulate an almost infinitely more complex being as the explanation for a one celled organism?”
    Well, that is an old argument, and many have already answered. I would like only to suggest that there is no reason to affirm that the designer (in the sense of God, which is what Houdin is speaking of in that sentence) is infinitely complex. One of the most common phlosophical and religious views about God (one which I agree with) is that God is simple, indeed totally simple. Everyhing else is complex. So, no need to think of God as complex. And I think that nobody should be surprised that one can conceive of the extreme complexity of the world and of life as coming from something totally simple. After all, astrophysics believe just that about the “singularity” which should be the cause of the Big Bang.”

    When I speak of “The Designer” (or God – I’m glad that one effect of the Kitzmuller decision is that ID, at least on Uncommon Descent, is dropping the totally unbelievable claim that they mean anything other than the God of Christianity when they say “Designer”), I assume that he is at least intelligent enough to hold a conversation with a human being – something like the famous talking bush, say. We know enough about how intelligence works, both in humans and in less intelligent animals, so that we can say with complete confidence that it requires enormous amounts of carefully arranged information. For instance, just to do something as simple as reply to you, I need to know such things as English grammar, your handle, what your argument means and what humans are like mentally plus such “simple” things as how to type, etc. I don’t know how much information is required, but it’s clearly in megabits or gigabits or maybe even more. How much information is in the human brain, for instance, and how much more information would the designer that made that brain have to have?

    The bottom line is that the ‘God is utterly simple’ argument doesn’t work any more. Utterly simple things are also utterly stupid and are incapable of designing organisms containing hundreds of megabits of information.

  105. 105
    gpuccio says:

    Houdin:

    “An interesting challenge – duplicate something that we don’t have a sample of, is submicroscopic, existed ~ 4 billion years ago and that was “manufactured” in a “laboratory” that encompasses the entire surface of the earth down to a depth of a mile or so. And you know something? I think that science will do that someday. But I doubt if that will end the philosophical debate. One side of the debate thinks that their immortal soul depends on evolution being false and mere facts aren’t going to change their minds. One thing I guarantee: ID will NEVER do it because they aren’t even trying”

    It’s a fair challenge. I don’t suggest to duplicate anything, just to design it, with the intelligence, knowlegde and tecnhology we have, if necessary borrowing the tools from living existing things. Where is the enormous difficulty? we an easily build nucleic acids, DNA emlates, and so on, thogh they are submicroscopic (where is the problem? geneic engineering is all about submicroscopic things). 50-100 bits of information are perfectly manageable, weare not speaking of the last verson of Windows XP… So, again, whee’s the problem? Try! Build a putative RNA precursor, or anything else you believe was formed by chance in the beginning, from your 50-100 bits of information. Try diferent models, if you want. Let’s discuss the results. If one of these putative precursors works (duplicates), let’s put it in a compatible environment (in the lab). Let’s see how it evolves. You have to do that, not ID. The hypothesis is yours, not ID’s. At least, let’s not pretend that the scientific method requires one to prove others’ hypothesis.

    “The bottom line is that the ‘God is utterly simple’ argument doesn’t work any more. Utterly simple things are also utterly stupid and are incapable of designing organisms containing hundreds of megabits of information.”

    Again, this is a philsophical affirmation, and a very debatable one. You can’t pass that for scientific truth. Nobody knows the real nature of consciousness and of cognition, so your decision that everything that produces intelligent information must necessarily be more complex than what it produces is, at least, arbitrary. Again, let’s stick to scientific debate.

    “When I speak of “The Designer” (or God – I’m glad that one effect of the Kitzmuller decision is that ID, at least on Uncommon Descent, is dropping the totally unbelievable claim that they mean anything other than the God of Christianity when they say “Designer”), I assume that he is at least intelligent enough to hold a conversation with a human being – something like the famous talking bush, say.”

    I have no reason to include the God of Christianity in this debate. Or any other God. It was your argument that ID is implying an “infinitely more complex being”, and therefore should explain that complexity. ID is only implying a designer, and in no way stating that it is complex, or “infinitely more complex”. That was your assumption and, as the “infinitely” you used clearly pointed to some Godlike concept, I just remarked that many conceptions of God do not imply that He is complex, but just the opposite. Again, unless you can demonstrate that consciousness or intelligence are complex in their nature (and not only in their operation), your assumption is arbitrary.

  106. 106
    DaveScot says:

    I’m glad that one effect of the Kitzmuller decision is that ID, at least on Uncommon Descent, is dropping the totally unbelievable claim that they mean anything other than the God of Christianity when they say “Designer”)

    Not true.

  107. 107
    Houdin says:

    gpuccio: “50-100 bits of information are perfectly manageable”

    Ah… let’s see, according to the microsoft calculator, 2^50 = 1,125,899,906,842,624 different compounds. Let’s say you can check ten of them each day, that’s only 112,589,990,684,262 days to check them all, given 365 days in the year and assuming no holidays and we’re looking at oh about 300 Billion years to test them all. But, there are five billion people on the planet right now, so put them all to work full time and it would only take sixty years except that we’d all starve to death in year 1 of the search because nobody was growing food. I think it might be a little bit harder than writing Windows XP!

    ME: “The bottom line is that the ‘God is utterly simple’ argument doesn’t work any more. Utterly simple things are also utterly stupid and are incapable of designing organisms containing hundreds of megabits of information.”

    gpuccio: “Again, this is a philsophical affirmation, and a very debatable one. You can’t pass that for scientific truth.”

    There is nothing remotely debatable about it! You’re talking about an INTELLIGENT designer, one smart enough to know how to put a living creature together. That means He or She has to be at least as smart as you and me AND It has to know a huge amount, like how to put all of those atoms and molecules together to make a living, self reproducing organism.

    The Designer has to be extremely intelligent and possess a huge amount of knowledge – and that’s NOT simple!

    Now if you were a Mormon, you might have a response to this challenge, since they seem to believe that Gods become that way through some sort of evolution (caution: most of my knowledge of Mormon theology comes from anti-Mormon tracts) and Darwinian evolution is a ratcheting process that adds information and checks it for “correctness” a few bits at a time. But as far as claims that an Intelligent anything is “simple” or “totally simple” or “always existed” or “just exists” or any other argument that doesn’t account for the incredible complexity of any intelligent thing it’s postulating whatsover is now DOA, at least to anyone that realizes that intelligence is not magic, it’s highly organized information.

    Let me give you an example: do you think that an Intelligent Designer understands English? There are 850 words in Basic English. Let’s say 10 bits of information per word for 8,500 bits. Then you need to know the simplified rules for making plurals – say another fifty bits, regular verbs – at least another hundred bits.

    Now how many bits of information go into understanding the meaning of those 850 words? Or understanding what nouns and verbs are? Or of even simple grammar?

    Let’s not fool ourselves here – we’re looking at tens of thousands of bits of carefully organized information just to understand the simplest form of English possible.

    How about chemistry? I think a designer would have to know what a carbon atom was, and hydrogen and oxygen and all the other fifty or so types of atoms that are found in biological material. How many bits there? And what about the laws of chemistry? There’s several tens of thousands of bits of information right there.

    Let’s make it even simpler: do you think that God knows your name? How many bits of information in an average name? And how many people does God know by name? Five billion? That’s billions more bits of information that have to be carefully filed away so that they cross reference with each other and with the humans they belong to.

    Let me summarize: The idea that ANY INTELLIGENT ANYTHING is in any way simple is DEAD. You can only call Intelligent Designers “simple” if you’re talking to someone who’s never thought what goes into intelligence out.

  108. 108
    Houdin says:

    DaveScot: Reading the messages here makes me think you’re wrong. And why not drop the pretense? It was always a ruse to get a basic religious belief into the schools and since Kitzmiller, that ain’t gonna happen, so drop it and your arguments will automatically improve one hundred percent.

  109. 109
    Houdin says:

    Me: ‘Take gazillions of organisms, dividing say, once a day and I’d say there was plenty of time for some very complex systems to evolve.’

    Charlie: “That is a restatement of the theory, time+chance=everything, but is exactly the assertion being questioned. Where is the evidence that some very complex systems would evolve from some very simple ones?
    Houdin is arguing against the charge of making assumptions by restating the assumptions.”

    The Darwinian “assumption” (brought into congruence with twenty first century knowlege of genetics and information theory) is that random mutations generate new information, of unknown quality, and that natural selection sorts this information out and acts like a ratchet by saving the new information that helps the organism get through life and deleting the information that doesn’t. (As I mention in more detail in a previous message.)

    We can see this “assumption” at work as we look at DNA in differently related ancestors today and there’s no real doubt that it works. It’s resisted by people who think their religion is at stake and by those who don’t understand the argument, which is an unfortunately large group.

    As for the warm pond and the dilute soup, they are as dead as the idea that an Intelligent anything is simple. I’ll write a proper message on why all the action is underground soon, but for now, re-read my message of Sep 14th 2006 at 4:40 am.

  110. 110
    Charlie says:

    Houdin,
    You have restated the assumption once again, this time affirming that you believe it, and stating that those who don’t are ignorant.
    It is still an assumption, unverified and unsupported by scientific experimentation.
    I still ask “Where is the evidence that some very complex systems would evolve from some very simple ones?”

    I see you believe that warm little pond theories, and primeval sea theories are dead. I presume you would include at that funeral deep-sea vent and moist clay theories as well.
    For decades these now dead theories constituted scientific evidence to the informed and were doubted only by the ignorant masses, But, according to you, the ignorant masses were the ones who were right about those theories.

    When your underground abiogenesis theories have been fleshed-out and debunked, and lie dead with the others on the scrap-heap and ‘science’ has moved on to the next all-the-rage hypothesis it will again be the ignorant masses who had it right.

  111. 111
    gpuccio says:

    Houdin,
    I can understand your point of views, but I don’t agree with any of them. What I can’t understand is your dogmatic belief that you are the only one who is right, and that you have all the answers, and that all that you say is truth, and that every diferent idea is DEAD. Maybe your faith about not having an immotal soul is at stake, and that is making you a little bit nervous?
    Just to be clear, you say:
    “The Designer has to be extremely intelligent and possess a huge amount of knowledge – and that’s NOT simple!”
    Again, you have your philosophical views, but they need not be mine, or everybody else’s. And they are not scientific truth. Like many other supporters of darwinism and materialism, you just equate your personal convinctions to scientific truth, and that’s not fair. Try to consider that, for instance, I may well believe in a God who is simple, and who has created all complex things. He has created mathematics, languages, physics, matter, thought, other beings, and so on. In this model, God is utterly simple (let’s say, pure, transcendent consciousness). Everything else is complex, but is produced by that simple transendent consciousness, just like our universe comes out of a singularity in the Big Bang. Space, time, the known forces, all come out ot something much more simple, according to actual theories, or out of God’s consciousness, according to my model (and we could be talking of the same thing, as no one knows what that singularity was or is).
    Your assumption that “The idea that ANY INTELLIGENT ANYTHING is in any way simple is DEAD” is not even bad philosophy, it’s just propaganda. You seem to have solved all controversies about the nature of consciousness and intelligence, and your statements are just in line with the strong AI model. Well, you should accept that the strong AI model is not the only one, that it is not universally accepted, and that I think it is completely wrong. In the best case, it is an arbitrary assumption, just like darwinism. So, you are free to believe that consciousness and intelligence are just organized information, but that’s just your opinion. For me, consciousness and intelligence are in no way explained by the complexity of the things they manage and observe. They are different things, still not understood by scientific thought. This is my philosophy, and it has at least the same right as yours to exist and to be expressed. And, luckily, your affirmation that something is DEAD does not make iy dead at all (you are not God, after all).

  112. 112
    Houdin says:

    Charlie, you bring up an interesting subject. In science, theories are overturned every day with relatively little fuss and no violence. The people who do the overturning are given honors and prizes and become famous. Theories get overturned in religion, too, but it sometimes results in things like the Thirty Years War and people who overturn a religiious theory often get killed for their efforts.

    The warm little pond theory was never very serious. Darwin used it in a private letter by way of describing a protein’s fate today: “[If] a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes, at the present day such matter would be instantly devoured or absorbed, which would not have been the case before living creatures were formed.” He was more interested in showing why you don’t see abiogenesis today than in theorizing about how it happened four billion years ago.

    The problem with warm little ponds (or warm oceans) is that just pouring chemicals into a reaction vessel doesn’t usually do much. If you want to generate complex molecules, you have to change temperatures and pressures, use catalysts, remove by-products, etc, and you just can’t do much of that in a pond or ocean.

    Underground, it’s a completely different world! As I’ve mentioned before, you get high temperatures and pressures, which speed up chemical reactions a thousand fold, you have every kind of mineral in the world (including your moist clay) in contact with hot chemical laden water, plenty of catalytic activity as dissolved chemicals contact minerals and rock surfaces, changes in temperature and pressure, different streams feeding into each other – it’s like a giant chemical factory! You even have your beloved deep sea vents to play with.

    It’s no wonder that the subterranean theories quickly took over once we learned how much life is underground. (Probably more life than is above the ground, by the way, both in number of organisms and in total tonnage.)

    Meanwhile, science continues to furnish the world with a mechanism (variation and natural selection), fossils showing the evolution of life over four billion years, DNA studies showing how present day life is related to each other, lab experiments which show evolution in action and artifical life experiments which show evolution in action in a computer. Of course, that’s not enough to convince every one, especially people who refuse to even look. But it’s a hell of a lot more than ID gives to the world: “It looks designed to me!”

  113. 113
    Houdin says:

    gpuccio, when I say that a designer cannot be simple, it’s not dogma, it’s knowledge. We know too much about minds and intelligence to believe in “simple” intelligence any more. We don’t know exactly how the (human) mind works – yet – but we know beyond any possible doubt that it involves huge amounts of carefully arranged information. Non-human intelligences are the same. Intelligence IS information changing other information.

    This is something new. In the past, as long as we’ve had philosophical and theological discussions about minds and intelligence, people could get away with describing supernatural minds as “simple”. You can’t do that any more. If it’s simple, it’s not a mind. Full stop.

    Which opens up a yawning chasm for religion. Where does God get His information from? From His creator? He’s not supposed to have one. Besides, where did His Creator get his information from? An infinite regress doesn’t answer anything. “He always had it.” Sorry, but whether something has always existed or was just formed, it’s a lot more likely to be something simple than complex. The more the complexity (i.e. the more information it contains), the more unlikely its existence.

    As Dembski has argued, by the time you get even a few hundred bits of information, the odds of its coming into existence (or always having existed) are so low that if every subatomic particle in the known universe was formed into a computer and computed for as long as the universe has existed, you still wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of that information.

    Now this is no problem when we’re talking about human and animal minds. We have a mechanism for slowly adding information to a genome: variation and natural selection will leach information out of the environment and build it into the DNA that runs the organism. And we have plenty of time to do that leaching – billions of years for life and hundreds of millions of years for minds. Religion has neither the mechanism nor the time.

    The complexity of the universe is also easily explained. It’s the complexity you get when you throw a handful of rice down on a table. It’s the result of several simple laws (gravity, Newton’s laws, etc) working over a large period of time.

    The universe’s complexity is accounted for. Our mind’s complexity is accounted for. But The Designer has no way to acquire a complex rational mind.

  114. 114
    Houdin says:

    Just ran into this interesting story, which fits right into this coversation, courtesy of http://www.dvorak.org:

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1879891,00.html?

    Scientists turn dead cells into live tissue.

    Scientists have taken cells from “dead” embryos and made them into stem cells!

    Some problems: how do you know the cells are really dead? If the embryo died, maybe there’s something wrong with the cells?

  115. 115
    Charlie says:

    Houdin:

    Charlie, you bring up an interesting subject. In science, theories are overturned every day with relatively little fuss and no violence. The people who do the overturning are given honors and prizes and become famous.

    I didn’t bring up any such subject, interesting though it may be. I did note that you have dismissed the hypotheses, just as the ignorant masses had prior to your ruling, and thereby any claim to evidence that they provided for abiogenesis. I am glad that you, like me, can see that some of them had no evidence going for them at all and were not even serious theories. I propose that their being forwarded, and accepted, had only to do with providing a rationale for a belief in naturalistic/materialistic evolution, and nothing to do with evidence.
    I guess that you had no belief in a naturalistic chemical evolution until you were made aware of the subterranean version.

    Theories get overturned in religion, too, but it sometimes results in things like the Thirty Years War and people who overturn a religiious theory often get killed for their efforts.

    This is an interesting subject as well, but one I am not interested in researching and discussing. If you truly want to explore the causes of the Thirty Years war, and find out if it had anything whatsoever to do with overturning a religious theory, I am sure you can do so without my help.
    I can’t help but notice that your comments are full of religious statements and pronouncements.
    This often seems to be the case when ‘science-defenders’ try to support their assumptions and their acceptance of what constitutes the evidence for Darwinism.

    Underground, it’s a completely different world! As I’ve mentioned before, you get high temperatures and pressures, which speed up chemical reactions a thousand fold, you have every kind of mineral in the world (including your moist clay) in contact with hot chemical laden water, plenty of catalytic activity as dissolved chemicals contact minerals and rock surfaces, changes in temperature and pressure, different streams feeding into each other – it’s like a giant chemical factory! You even have your beloved deep sea vents to play with.

    Sea vents are not my beloved.
    Since changing pressures, temperatures and catalytic environments etc. can be accomplished in a lab quite easily I guess you have an instance of such resulting in life from non-life as evidence? Or is there some geological evidence left over from the time when gazillions of cells were dividing say, once a day, and evolving from something very simple into some very complex systems?

    It’s no wonder that the subterranean theories quickly took over once we learned how much life is underground. (Probably more life than is above the ground, by the way, both in number of organisms and in total tonnage.)

    No wonder, among those who need such a theory to shore up their philosophical/religious commitments. No wonder given the paucity of evidence for the previous theories.
    There is also life in antarctic ice and high in the atmosphere. Look for theories involving these locales when the latest rage passes.

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