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Creationists terrified again?

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Remember the last time creationists were terrified? In 2014: “Naturally, I thought they had discovered a man actually morphing into a fly.” It turned out be just Chief pom pom steward Chris Mooney claiming a 98% genetic similarity between humans and chimps, etc. Which mainly shows what genes don’t do for a life form.

At some point, he really should get around to the bottlenose dolphin. Maybe he should get out more generally…

Well, the current frite is “God is on the ropes: The brilliant new science that has creationists and the Christian right terrified,” by Paul Rosenberg over at Salon. This one is even more exotic, as the title suggests:

Darwin also didn’t have anything to say about how life got started in the first place — which still leaves a mighty big role for God to play, for those who are so inclined. But that could be about to change, and things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary. “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life,” he was quoted as saying in an article in Quanta magazine early in 2014, that’s since been republished by Scientific American and, more recently, by Business Insider. In essence, he’s saying, life itself evolved out of simpler non-living systems.

Here’s the Quanta piece:

Self-replication (or reproduction, in biological terms), the process that drives the evolution of life on Earth, is one such mechanism by which a system might dissipate an increasing amount of energy over time. As England put it, “A great way of dissipating more is to make more copies of yourself.” In a September paper in the Journal of Chemical Physics, he reported the theoretical minimum amount of dissipation that can occur during the self-replication of RNA molecules and bacterial cells, and showed that it is very close to the actual amounts these systems dissipate when replicating. He also showed that RNA, the nucleic acid that many scientists believe served as the precursor to DNA-based life, is a particularly cheap building material. Once RNA arose, he argues, its “Darwinian takeover” was perhaps not surprising.

The chemistry of the primordial soup, random mutations, geography, catastrophic events and countless other factors have contributed to the fine details of Earth’s diverse flora and fauna. But according to England’s theory, the underlying principle driving the whole process is dissipation-driven adaptation of matter.

This principle would apply to inanimate matter as well. “It is very tempting to speculate about what phenomena in nature we can now fit under this big tent of dissipation-driven adaptive organization,” England said. “Many examples could just be right under our nose, but because we haven’t been looking for them we haven’t noticed them.”

So why hasn’t England gotten the Nobel yet?

The claim that the emergence of life is “necessary” (an outcome of law) isn’t itself new. See, for example, Does nature just “naturally” produce life? It’s a respected position, and England attempts to concoct such a law.

That was when the wheels fell off. As Casey Luskin puts it at The Blaze,

The fundamental problem with England’s theories, and Rosenberg’s polemics, is that sunlight and other forms of energy do not generate new genetic information, nor do they produce new types of biological machines.

It’s one thing to observe that energy keeps a machine running; it’s quite another to claim energy produced the machine in the first place. You could shine light on random Scrabble tiles or disassembled computer components for billions of years, and you’ll never produce a Shakespearean Sonnet or a functional computer. No wonder Harvard biophysicist Eugene Shakhnovich called England’s proposals “extremely speculative, especially as applied to life phenomena.”

Yes, if we leave out the very high levels of information, we can explain life. A friend notes, “To say a theory that leaves it out is wrong is a grave disservice to  wrong theories everywhere.” Most wrong theories do attempt to account plausibly for all the facts.

In fact, leaving out high information, we don’t even need a law-based theory. Chance-based theories will do. See: Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place? We can even just throw enough models at the origin of life and hope some of them will stick.

As a general rule, a would-be theory marketed as a terror  to creationists is a scambo. For one thing, if a guy could really get the Nobel for whatever he found, why would he care what creationists think? If he can’t, his supporters can whip up their base, but no one is fooled. And that’s pretty much what is happening here, it seems.

Old news hack tip: Check whether creationists act like they view the theory as a threat. Most have probably hardly noticed it.

Idea!: Get back to the creationists for a comment when the Boltzmann brains begin to appear, floating over people’s desks … because if England were right, well, see vid below:

See also: Salon, on the utter triumph of Darwin — NOT

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28 Replies to “Creationists terrified again?

  1. 1
    Joe says:

    Darwin terrified Creationists by misrepresenting their position not by showing it to be false. And this is just more of “Well life exists, we know (wink, wink, nod, nod) it wasn’t due to any Designer, so any other alternative is good.”

  2. 2
    tjguy says:

    “…things could get a whole lot worse for creationists because of Jeremy England, a young MIT professor who’s proposed a theory, based in thermodynamics, showing that the emergence of life was not accidental, but necessary.

    I’m confused. How do you “propose a theory”?

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate scientifically to say he proposed a hypothesis?

    How has it risen to the level of a theory so quickly?

    It seems materialists play fast and foot loose with the word theory. When they want something to sound authoritative, they use the word “theory”, but every time a creationist points out that it is only a theory, they then give us a lecture about what the scientific meaning of the word “theory” is. They are correct to point that out, but they also need to point the same thing out to their own peers who misuse the word as well.

    Does Mooney have some evidence to back up his claim that creationists are terrified by this newly proposed “theory”? If so, I’d like to hear it!

  3. 3
    Axel says:

    I think such a fantasy could reasonably be viewed as a form of onanism, though possibly uglier than the metaphor.

  4. 4
    Querius says:

    tjguy,

    How has it risen to the level of a theory so quickly?

    You’re too late. It’s already a fact, at least it is in the mind of Jeremy England.

    Guildenstern: I don’t believe in it anyway.
    Rosencrantz: What?
    Guildenstern: England.
    Rosencrantz: Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then?
    — Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)

    – Q

  5. 5
    humbled says:

    I would say you just cannot make this stuff up but it seems you can 😉

    Absolute and utter bollocks. If anything, this reaffirms what every Creationist knows, that being, these buffoons haven’t a clue.

  6. 6
    EDTA says:

    Isn’t this the same Maximum Entropy Production Principle that people have been tying to evolution for over 20 years now?

    See “Natural Selection for Least Action” by Kaila and Annila, “Evolution as entropy: toward a unified theory of biology” by Brooks and Wiley (1988), “Planets, Life and the Production of Entropy” by Lorenz (2002), “Life as a manifestation of the second law of thermodynamics” by Schneider and Kay (1994), “Life and the production of entropy” by Ulanowicz and Hannon, et al.

    Why should this new guy get the credit? (And can’t they come up with something new?)

  7. 7
    Dionisio says:

    The word ‘clickbait’ seems to come to mind, doesn’t it?

    🙂

    “[U]nder certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with…”

    …producing the myriad signaling pathways, regulatory networks, the whole nine yards, conforming the elaborate mechanisms, precise cellular and molecular choreographies orchestrated in the biological systems?

    Is that what they meant? Really?

    🙂

  8. 8
    Me_Think says:

    As I said in thread started by KF, we are no where close to solving OOL problem. Jeremy England’s formula is naive.

  9. 9
    wallstreeter43 says:

    “”I would say you just cannot make this stuff up but it seems you can

    Absolute and utter bollocks. If anything, this reaffirms what every Creationist knows, that being, these buffoons haven’t a clue.””

    Humbled , why do you think I ended up leaving evolution 6 years ago after being indoctrinated and brainwashed into believing it for 41 years ?

    The grandiose claims are more science fiction and philosophy then science and if you question evolution , it’s almost like u committed a heresy against the almighty Darwin.

    As I started to investigate the claims I was appalled to find out that I was being hoodwinked in college biology courses of all places where I thought those folks had an unwavering commitment to unbiased truth seeking .
    Wow was I ever wrong .

    What I really hate is being fooled

  10. 10
    Querius says:

    EDTA — Is that how one is now supposed to solve horrendously difficult problems–by claiming that the solution is inevitable and that the details are left as an exercise for the reader?

    Me_Think — Thank you for a refreshing attitude and great starting point, IMHO. There’s something so freeing and exciting when you hear something like, “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” I guess it’s not what you’re supposed to admit when you’re trying to get a grant, though. 😉

    Dionisio —

    …producing the myriad signaling pathways, regulatory networks, the whole nine yards, conforming the elaborate mechanisms, precise cellular and molecular choreographies orchestrated in the biological systems?

    Apparently this is supposed to be trivial. I don’t think one can understand the solution without first understanding the problem. And wishful thinking is not a solution.

    wallstreeter43 — Yep! Those were my feelings and experiences as well.

    -Q

  11. 11
    Dionisio says:

    What are we trying to argue about here?
    Hasn’t the OOL debate been long settled?
    Don’t we all know that it just happened, somehow?
    That’s it. What else do we want to know?

    Gimme a break!

    Still remember the verse I memorized in my younger years, which I could easily recite anywhere anytime: ‘matter is not created or destroyed, just transformed’.
    Even tried -delicately- to persuade my girlfriend at the university, after noticing she believed in God. I kind of let her get away with her ‘pie, pie in the sky’ beliefs, but made it clear that all evidences pointed in the opposite direction. Or at least that’s what I believed in.
    Now, looking back, it all seems like a terrible nightmare.
    How could I?
    Perhaps this can provide a hint on how that story ended:
    [skip the ad]
    http://youtu.be/Y-4NFvI5U9w

  12. 12
    Joe says:

    Well the origin of life directly impacts its subsequent evolution. It is only if the OoL was via unguided/ blind processes would we say that those same types of processes produced its subsequent diversity. OTOH if the OoL was intelligently designed then we would say its subsequent diversity evolved by intelligent design. That is organisms were intelligently designed to evolved and evolved by intelligent design. This concept is exemplified by evolutionary and genetic algorithms.

    And if we don’t know- as ID’s opponents readily admit- then we have to stop pushing unguided/ blind watchmaker evolution in public schools as it is totally unwarranted, misleading and wrong.

  13. 13
    Joe says:

    I see the point made regularly here and elsewhere that there is as yet no scientific explanation for the arrival of living organisms on Earth.

    You are obviously confused as here we say that there isn’t any scientific materialistic explanation for the arrival of living organisms on earth. And there isn’t any scientific materialistic explanation for its diversity, either.

    Please do try to follow what is being said here.

  14. 14
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Joe

    OTOH if the OoL was intelligently designed then we would say its subsequent diversity evolved by intelligent design.

    The reason we hear so often that “evolution has nothing to do with OOL” is because the opposite is true. If you can build a wall between evolution and OOL, you can then (somewhat) claim unguided forces for the diversity of life. You can then pretend that the same forces caused the origin of life, based on evolutionary (in other words, “no OOL”) evidence. It’s an illusion or like magic. Software produces “unguided, unintelligent” results if you build a wall between the software output and OOSC (origin of the software code).

    When someone admits that we’re “no where close” to solving OOL, they’re admitting that we’re “no where close” to validating unguided, unintelligent evolution. But we won’t hear that because it will expose the magic trick.

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    Silver Asiatic- I have been told that since we have scientifically “proven” that life evolved via unguided processes that we can say that the OoL was also via similar processes. Yet when asked how science “proved” that I was told something about never seeing the designer in action is all the evidence needed. D’oh

  16. 16
    Silver Asiatic says:

    Joe –

    Yet when asked how science “proved” that I was told something about never seeing the designer in action is all the evidence needed. D’oh

    We don’t know who wrote Beowulf or the I Ching, so they must have evolved via unguided processes.

  17. 17
    Joe says:

    Didn’t you know? There has only been one book ever written. Every other book came from that via kept copying errors from it:

    On the Derivation of Ulysses from Don Quixote

    I imagine this story being told to me by Jorge Luis Borges one evening in a Buenos Aires cafe.

    His voice dry and infinitely ironic, the aging, nearly blind literary master observes that “the Ulysses,” mistakenly attributed to the Irishman James Joyce, is in fact derived from “the Quixote.”

    I raise my eyebrows.

    Borges pauses to sip discreetly at the bitter coffee our waiter has placed in front of him, guiding his hands to the saucer.

    “The details of the remarkable series of events in question may be found at the University of Leiden,” he says. “They were conveyed to me by the Freemason Alejandro Ferri in Montevideo.”

    Borges wipes his thin lips with a linen handkerchief that he has withdrawn from his breast pocket.

    “As you know,” he continues, “the original handwritten text of the Quixote was given to an order of French Cistercians in the autumn of 1576.”

    I hold up my hand to signify to our waiter that no further service is needed.

    “Curiously enough, for none of the brothers could read Spanish, the Order was charged by the Papal Nuncio, Hoyo dos Monterrey (a man of great refinement and implacable will), with the responsibility for copying the Quixote, the printing press having then gained no currency in the wilderness of what is now known as the department of Auvergne. Unable to speak or read Spanish, a language they not unreasonably detested, the brothers copied the Quixote over and over again, re-creating the text but, of course, compromising it as well, and so inadvertently discovering the true nature of authorship. Thus they created Fernando Lor’s Los Hombres d’Estado in 1585 by means of a singular series of copying errors, and then in 1654 Juan Luis Samorza’s remarkable epistolary novel Por Favor by the same means, and then in 1685, the errors having accumulated sufficiently to change Spanish into French, Moliere’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, their copying continuous and indefatigable, the work handed down from generation to generation as a sacred but secret trust, so that in time the brothers of the monastery, known only to members of the Bourbon house and, rumor has it, the Englishman and psychic Conan Doyle, copied into creation Stendhal’s The Red and the Black and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, and then as a result of a particularly significant series of errors, in which French changed into Russian, Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Anna Karenina. Late in the last decade of the 19th century there suddenly emerged, in English, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, and then the brothers, their numbers reduced by an infectious disease of mysterious origin, finally copied the Ulysses into creation in 1902, the manuscript lying neglected for almost thirteen years and then mysteriously making its way to Paris in 1915, just months before the British attack on the Somme, a circumstance whose significance remains to be determined.”

    I sit there, amazed at what Borges has recounted. “Is it your understanding, then,” I ask, “that every novel in the West was created in this way?”

    “Of course,” replies Borges imperturbably. Then he adds: “Although every novel is derived directly from another novel, there is really only one novel, the Quixote.”- D. Berlinski

  18. 18
    Silver Asiatic says:

    That’s the Darwinian story. Language and words evolved. Mutations caused one sound to be expressed and received as a meaning. Words are physical outputs that can be found in neuron activity. Each combination of words is an evolutionary development via mutation and selection.

    We could then trace the specific mutations that moved word combinations from Cervantes to Tolstoy. Novels are produced as necessary/determined physical outputs from biochemical activity.

  19. 19
    Querius says:

    Aurelio Smith @ 12,

    Well put!

    This insane desire to pretend that we know everything worth knowing is anti-science and discourages people from scientific careers.

    In contrast, mysteries excite and motivate people, at least those whose mission isn’t indoctrination or politics.

    What makes science exciting is observing, recognizing, wondering, reasoning, hypothesizing, experimenting, and wondering some more. Instead, many science classes, especially those in basic biology, are focused mostly on . . . vocabulary.

    After all, inquiry and new discoveries are disturbing and disruptive! 😉

    -Q

  20. 20
    Zachriel says:

    Querius: There’s something so freeing and exciting when you hear something like, “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” I guess it’s not what you’re supposed to admit when you’re trying to get a grant, though.

    Virtually all scientific research starts with “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” Then a hypothesis is proposed and tested.

    Aurelio Smith: I see the point made regularly here and elsewhere that there is as yet no scientific explanation for the arrival of living organisms on Earth. There are plenty of ideas but there is a lack of evidence of what was going on 3 – 4 billion years ago. Yet scientific endeavor starts by trying to find explanations for things we don’t know. you dould indeed say that ‘“We really don’t understand how this works or what happened” so let’s try and find out’ is the driving paradigm for pure scientific research.

    Yet it is evolutionary biologists who apply science to “try and find out” how life began.

  21. 21
    Querius says:

    Zachriel,

    Virtually all scientific research starts with “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” Then a hypothesis is proposed and tested.

    Maybe. But at the university level, scientific disciplines are often taught as “my way or the highway.” It’s more like a collision between meeting the requirements for a degree, mass production techniques from the industrial revolution, and the struggle for personal dominance in the field. Oh yeah, there’s also the political hijacking of science for a variety of causes.

    What would annoy me is how science, especially in biological disciplines, was taught with such certainty. In contrast, I really appreciated the professor in a modern physics class, who employed the historical approach, leading students through the various ideas and blind alleys that physicists went through to arrive at current theories. One was left with the clear realization that scientific knowledge is a journey, not a destination.

    This is why I believe that in teaching a science discipline, one can motivate and excite students more with what we don’t know than what we do know. And you provide the students with the scientific method and examples of how it has been employed.

    And that’s another reason that darwinism should not be taught as “a fact” at any level.

    -Q

  22. 22
    AVS says:

    Q, what exactly was your reason that the theory of evolution shouldn’t be taught as fact at any level? The “teaching focus on what we don’t know more than what we know” thing, or the “scientific method and its employment” thing?

  23. 23
    Zachriel says:

    Zachriel: Virtually all scientific research starts with “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” Then a hypothesis is proposed and tested.

    Querius: Maybe.

    Not maybe, but yes.

    Querius: But at the university level, scientific disciplines are often taught as “my way or the highway.”

    On the undergraduate level, you are learning the basics, but post-graduate work depends on new discovery. That means starting with something we don’t know.

    AVS: The “teaching focus on what we don’t know more than what we know” thing, or the “scientific method and its employment” thing?

    Same problem. The only way to determine what we don’t know is to understand what we do know, how we know what we know, and the limitations of that knowledge. That’s how science works, including the biological sciences. That means teaching the current theory of evolution, which is the foundation of modern biology, how we arrived at that knowledge, and the limitations of the current theory.

  24. 24
    Querius says:

    The problem with teaching science as “facts” is that they have a bad habit of changing every few years. So, in your discipline, what major “facts” have changed or been called into question in the last 10 years?

    Here’s an interesting perspective:

    http://notrickszone.com/2015/0.....5Al9n.dpbs

    Why would Prof. Dr. Horst-Joachim Lüdecke say such things?

    -Q

  25. 25
    Joe says:

    Zachriel:

    Virtually all scientific research starts with “We really don’t understand how this works or what happened.” Then a hypothesis is proposed and tested.

    Evos seem to be too afraid to propose testable hypotheses for unguided evolution.

    That means teaching the current theory of evolution…

    How can we teach that which doesn’t exist? What do teachers teach wrt this alleged theory of evolution?

  26. 26
    Joe says:

    AVS:

    Q, what exactly was your reason that the theory of evolution shouldn’t be taught as fact at any level?

    The “theory of evolution” doesn’t exist. So that would be an issue when it comes to teaching it at any level.

  27. 27
    Axel says:

    Your # 27, Joe’…. an(!) issue.’

    You sure have a way with words, even unspoken.

  28. 28
    Moose Dr says:

    Dr. Moran has commented on this Salon article on Sandwalk (http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/20.....-been.html) I can’t believe his title, “The problem of the origin of life has been solved and creationists are terrified.” I just waded through a 1 hour lecture posted on his site which is the source lecture for this discussion. (I do like to know what I am talking about before being too critical.)

    Oi. Really?! Boy we “creationists” sure are fradycats, aren’t we.

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