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Guillermo Gonzalez, Robert Hazen and my beer bet


Robert Hazen delivered a talk at Guillermo Gonzalez school entitled: Why Intelligent Design is Not Science. Guillermo gives a thoughtful response in the Ames Tribune here.

Hazen has participated in 2 IDEA events at GMU including one where Jonathan Wells spoke. He’s very respectful in his treatment of IDists, and has said he is open to being proven wrong. He spoke at our IDEA meeting in October 2005 before CBS News camera crews and 90 people (but the news report has never aired). In attendance were my former professor James Trefil (who debated Dembski 2 weeks later) and famous OOL researcher Harold Morowitz.

Hazen published a book Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origin. He believes the origin of life problem will be solved in 20 years. I publicly declared at the IDEA meeting, I’d be glad to buy him a beer if the OOL problem is solved.

He is not a rabid anti-IDist like Dawkins. Hazen considers himself a man of faith. His writings echo something of the Theistic Evolutionary viewpoint:

In the beginning God set the entire magnificent fabric of the universe into motion…In such a universe, scientific study provides a glimpse of creator as well as creation.

However, I think the view that life arose through a law-like process which Hazen envisions is flawed. At the meeting, I pointed him to the recently published pro-ID peer-reviewed article by Albert Voie: Biological function and the genetic code are interdependent. I also mentioned Yockey’s book Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life and the theoretical reasons the OOL problem is unlikely to be solved, and why law-like processes can not make a highly informed structure such as a biological organism.

Yockey actually had strong criticism of Hazen’s approach, and even referred to Hazen’s colleague Morowitz as “Brer Rabbit punching Tar Baby”. Yockey’s likening of Morowitz to Brer Rabit was a commentary how these OOL scientists dig only bigger holes for themselves. I think Morowitz cringed when I mentioned Yockey’s name!

To his credit, Hazen, after hearing Jonathan Wells at our September 21, 2005 IDEA meeting went out and purchased Wells book and read it. Hazen spoke highly of Wells scholarship. I gave Hazen a video copy of Privileged Planet. I hope he enjoyed watching it.

That said, it’s hard telling these guys (Hazen and Morowitz) who have spent a combined 50+ years trying to solve the OOL that they’re trying to build the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. Hazen is a very fine gentelman, and I am deeply grateful for his support of our IDEA activities on his campus, but I think I’m still going to win my beer bet 🙂


Thanks for inviting me to speak at the George Mason IDEA Club in November 2005. In his lecture titled, "Why intelligent design is not science," Professor Hazen maintained that life could have emerged from a sequence of emergent chemical events, each one more complex than the last. Respectfully, this view is conjectural and unsubstantiated. No scientist has been able to synthesize a single nucleotide from a prebiotic environment. Amino acids yes, but nucleotides no. Why not? Many of our brilliant scientists contend that “intelligent design” must be relegated to philosophy or theology and urge the position that it doesn't have anything to do with science. Science, by its very nature, they claim, has no way to prove or disprove intelligent design. I respectfully disagree, though one cannot present such an argument in a blog comment. True, the focus of science has to be: what can be known from the scientific record? True enough, scientific statements must be verifiable, that is, capable of verification. Science restricts itself to the measurable, observable universe of matter and energy in their various forms. Yet I submit that far more can be known from scientific investigation and analysis about ultimate questions than has been recognized by many in the scientific community. In fact, the question “Why is there any matter at all?” is also a scientific question, though we may not yet have an answer to it. Why is there energy? That’s a good scientific question too. In considering the evolution/ID debate, I’d like first to offer a distinction that I offered in my George Mason IDEA Club talk in November. A great deal of the debate, sometimes rather heated, on evolution suffers from confusion because many scientists fail to distinguish two different senses of the term ‘evolution.’ MEANING NO. 1: In one sense, evolution means that all life on Earth shares common ancestors (and that different species share common ancestors, such as for example the hippopotamus, dolphin and whale share a common ancestor). It maintains that all organisms on earth are descended from a single common ancestor(s). Professor Darwin’s theory that living things evolved or descended from common ancestors is true and is proved by the convergence of all of the sciences. MEANING NO. 2: But ‘evolution’ in Dr. Darwin’s sense is taken to mean that a new species originates as a result of "natural selection" – random incremental mutations over millions of years. In this full-blown biological and Darwinian sense, the term ‘evolution’ means a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed and speciated entirely from natural means into Earth’s biodiversity that we can observe today. This is the principal tenet of the neo-Darwinists such as Dr. Hazen. Darwin’s evolution posits that life arose on its own out of inanimate chemical compounds and has gradually evolved over millions of years. Darwin’stheory is that all complex species and organs such as the eye and animalinstincts evolved by the “accumulation of innumerable slight variations ….” (1859, p. 459) It is this second meaning of evolution, the theory of natural selection as a theory of emergence of life and origin of species, that is unsubstantiated and false, I argue. Many point to the extensive evidence of common ancestry and conclude from that that theory of natural selection as the mechanism of evolution has been proved. But that is a non sequitur. Natural selection was Darwin’s Wild Guess back in 1850’s, a brilliant and interesting theory in the 1800’s. But it is less interesting today in view of modern microbiology. Natural selection as theory of emergence of life or of the origin of new species is bad science today; it does not fit observation. No one, not Dr. Darwin or anybody else, has ever observed natural selection lead to the evolution of a single species in the 3.9 billion years since Earth went biotic. To be sure, natural selection (microevolution) is a true force of nature. Natural selection accounts for such things as pesticide resistance of insects (e.g., the mosquitos that survive an application of a given pesticide eventually develop an immunity to it over time), and antibiotic resistance in bacteria. We do have to worry about whether the bird flu will mutate and start killing humans on a large-scale. The Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Wiener cites the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. But no finch ever evolves into a Bald Eagle (or something other than a finch) due to natural selection. That’s what the scientific community would have had to discover to find any scientific corroboration for natural selection as a theory of emergence of life or biological evolution of species. Whatever the correct answer to emergence of life or new species is, it’s not natural selection. I’ve offered a new theory of biological evolution in my book, Creation, on booksurge.com. Since you have offered the Beer Bet, here’s another little wager, my Chihuahua-Wager: We know from mt-DNA studies that all dog breeds evolved from a small group of grey wolves in East Asia. So, why not take a group of grey wolves today and see if the scientific community can come up with anything close to evolving Chihuahuas through whatever selective breeding techniques you choose, but sticking with the group of grey wolves (no introduction of any dog genes permitted)? If the Darwinists are right, surely they would have been able to evolve Chihuahuas by now. I continue to believe that science offers the best hope of finding answers to the Origin of Life questions. Though I am a believer, I do not believe that Holy Scripture was intended to be a science textbook. I also believe we should treat each other with respect in trying to find the answers to these difficult questions and I applaud the efforts in the scientific community to do so. As John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty states, “[T]ruth has no chance but in proportion as every side of it, every opinion which embodies any fraction of the truth, not only finds advocates, but is so advocated as to be listened to." All the best, John Umana Washington, DC jumanabeth
Sorry, Salvador. I somehow missed it on both a first and second reading. Possibly a symptom of having had one too many beers in my life. You might be better off losing the bet. :-) valerie
Valerie, from the post, "He believes the origin of life problem will be solved in 20 years. I publicly declared at the IDEA meeting, I’d be glad to buy him a beer if the OOL problem is solved." jacktone
I pointed out in my post: "He believes the origin of life problem will be solved in 20 years. I publicly declared at the IDEA meeting, I’d be glad to buy him a beer if the OOL problem is solved." Salvador PS FYI for everyone: Morowitz by the way testified in the landmark creationism case McLean vs. Arkansas, 1982: http://www.antievolution.org/projects/mclean/new_site/pf_trans/mva_tt_p_morowitz.html The irony is his OOL work unwittingly did much to further ID. Despite his public repudiations of ID, I think he has closet sympathies.
We study God’s immanence through science. Deep within the laws of physics and chemistry the universe is fit for life. This fitness we identify with God’s immanence…The present study of this fitness take place under the rubric of ‘design'... What emerges from all this is the return of “mind” to all areas of scientific thought. This is good news from the point of view of all varieties of natural theology. For a universe where mind is a fundamental part of reality more easily makes contact with the mind of god than does a mindless world." -- Harold Morowitz
Bill Dembski shares his thoughts on Morowitz, Trefil, and Hazen: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/index.php/archives/295 https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/index.php/archives/404 scordova
scordova wrote: "Hazen is a very fine gentelman, and I am deeply grateful for his support of our IDEA activities on his campus, but I think I’m still going to win my beer bet." Salvador, What is the bet? You didn't explain in your post. Valerie valerie
The latest is yet another failure for Darwin's "warm little pond": http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4702336.stm 200 researcher yet again proved Dr. Yockey's claim that OOL research is a doomed enterprise. Regarding Morowitz, the irony is that his work was referenced many times in the book that began the modern ID movement in 1984: Mystery of Life's Origin by Thaxton,Bradley, and Olsen. Morowitz lab work proved life could not arise in thermodynamically closed systems, that left one other option: thermodynamically open systems. Thaxton, Bradley, and Olsen showed that specified information will not arise spontaneously in thermodynmically open systems. Empirical results are 100% in agreeement with theoretical prediction : "life does not come from non-life." scordova
Sheeez, Dr. Davison. Sounds like you were disfellowshipped worse than a Jehovah's Witness who decided to believe in the Trinity. Sorry to hear about that. I only recently became aquainted with your story. Unbelievable how things actually work in the scientific community. Scott
Debate is for debating teams with which we are blessed to excess. Discovering the truth is for scientists who seem to be sorely lacking from internet forums. For that we should be eternally grateful. The only reason this scientist is here is because he is no longer able to ply his trade in the only place that matters, the experimental laboratory. You can thank the University of Vermont for that. John Davison
Since you've had a chance to speak with these people what's the "latest and greatest" of the research into OOL? Last I heard anything new on the subject of OOL was JPL's conference last year. Patrick

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