Intelligent Design Origin Of Life

Is calling the origin of life an “almost miracle” a creationist position?

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One doesn’t use the word “miracle,” of course, but a friend pointed recently in passing to an older paper by Israeli philosopher of science Iris Fry, arguing that “near miracle” is a form of creationism:

This paper calls attention to a philosophical presupposition, coined here “the continuity thesis” which underlies and unites the different, often conflicting, hypotheses in the origin of life field. This presupposition, a necessary condition for any scientific investigation of the origin of life problem, has two components. First, it contends that there is no unbridgeable gap between inorganic matter and life. Second, it regards the emergence of life as a highly probable process. Examining several current origin-of-life theories. I indicate the implicit or explicit role played by the “continuity thesis” in each of them. In addition, I identify the rivals of the “thesis” within the scientific community — “the almost miracle camp.” Though adopting the anti-vitalistic aspect of the “continuity thesis”, this camp regards the emergence of life as involving highly improbable events. Since it seems that the chemistry of the prebiotic stages and of molecular self-organization processes rules out the possibility that life is the result of a “happy accident,” I claim that the “almost miracle” view implies in fact, a creationist position. (paywall) – “Are the Different Hypotheses on the Emergence of Life as Different as They Seem?” Biology & Philosophy 10 (1995):389-417. More.

From Evolution News & Views,

Life, Dennett thinks, “created itself, not in a miraculous, instantaneous whoosh, but slowly, slowly.” So it’s not a matter of a “miracle” exactly, but you might say, and some have put it this way, a “near miracle.”

On such “near miracles” and the origin of life:

Israeli philosopher of science Iris Fry has written very insightfully about the concept. She argues that the “near miracle” position, widely held in evolutionary theory (e.g., by Crick, Mayr, Dawkins, Monod), amounts to what she calls a kind of secular creationism. Note the language in The New Yorker that comes close to acknowledging this. In fact, she goes further, contending that “near miracle” actually implies creationism, and renders impossible any empirical study of the origin of life.More.

Fry seems to belong to the “law” school of the origin of life as opposed to the “chance” school. Seemingly, anything will do in that field, even secular creationism, but not design. Readers?

See also: Is there a good reason to believe that life’s origin must be a fully natural event?

Does nature just “naturally” produce life?

Can all the numbers for life’s origin just happen to fall into place?

and

What we know and don’t know about the origin of life

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28 Replies to “Is calling the origin of life an “almost miracle” a creationist position?

  1. 1
    asauber says:

    Life, Dennett thinks, “created itself…

    But who created the life that created itself?

    Behold ‘ere I goeth with this.

    Andrew

  2. 2
    john_a_designer says:

    The origin of life is like the origin of the universe. It appears to be a singular, non-repeating, highly improbable event which occurred very early in earth’s history. Furthermore all the clues of how and why it occurred have been lost. But then added to that problem are other problems: how does chemistry create code? What is required to create an autonomously self-replicating system which has the possibility of evolving into something more complex? The naturalist/ materialist then compounds the problem by demanding a priori that the origin of life must be completely natural– undirected without an intelligent plan or purpose.

    That does seems like it was a miracle… Well, maybe it was.

  3. 3
    bill cole says:

    Is the origin of life any more spectacular then the origin of

    -eukaryotic cells
    -multicellular life
    -vertebrates
    -mammals
    -man
    ?

  4. 4
    Phinehas says:

    Is a slow miracle less miraculous than an instantaneous one?

  5. 5

    On this youtube presentation the author argues quite persuasively that life, living organisms, humans, minds are genuine scientific miracles.

    The idea is that these entities: any living organism, humans in particular, their brains and minds are not merely almost miracles nor even merely miracles but rather scientific miracles that can be objectively, scientifically qualified as such.

    And the arguments are seemingly irrefutable.

    An acceptable scientific theory of naturalistic origin of life must provide strong, persuasive explanations not only of a singular life apparition event but a plethora of sequenced, cohesive, choreographed events that include:

    * events for apparition of plants – that serve as food for animals, birds, fish

    * events for apparition of insects and birds that pollenize or spread seeds of plants

    * events for apparition of higher level animals – that serve as food for other animals

    * events for the apparition of our Sun, our Earth, our planetary system that provide the perfectly tuned environment where the events above may happen and have a successful outcome and life and living organism can perpetuate.

    * event for the apparition of human mind that can observe all these realities, thinks about the probability of such “natural events” and meditate about reasonableness of such theories.

    In short, it was not really necessary to wait to the year 2017 and all acquired scientific insights into the complexity of all life forms, into the impenetrable mysteries of how human brain works or even more mysteriously how human mind works to reach an unmistakable conclusion: the single standing scientific theory of origins is the scientific theory of creation. A conclusion that is being reached absolutely independently of any religious bias, revelations or texts, but only using the mind: the reasoning instrument that we humans happen to enjoy having it and (sometimes) using it.

    The arguments in the video presentation above are expanded into the Methodological Naturalism and its Creation Story chapter of this rather new book title

  6. 6
    J-Mac says:

    No… Not as long as you are set to believe that some vents have more intelligence and creative power than the intelligence that discovered it and can’t replicate their vent’s creative ability beyond what science accomplished… I personally thin that the next many Noble Prizes should go to either dumb luck or creative vents that are so much more intelligent than the nonsense writing/publishing”experimenting” scientists…
    BTW: If I had the power, I would put ALL the lying scientist in jail… including ID….

  7. 7
    LocalMinimum says:

    Phinehas:

    Is a slow miracle less miraculous than an instantaneous one?

    Yes! Is it even possible to carefully trod the mortal gap between non-functionality and sufficient functionality? Or must it be a daring leap of faith?

    Or is it as the space between the Earth and Moon, where careful steps and daring leaps result in the same net velocity?

    Got some homework to do, Dennett!

  8. 8

    Reading now more carefully Denise’s quote from the paper abstract:

    This paper calls attention to a philosophical presupposition, coined here “the continuity thesis” which underlies and unites the different, often conflicting, hypotheses in the origin of life field. This presupposition, a necessary condition for any scientific investigation of the origin of life problem, has two components. First, it contends that there is no unbridgeable gap between inorganic matter and life. Second, it regards the emergence of life as a highly probable process. Examining several current origin-of-life theories.

    First “presuposition”:

    it contends that there is no unbridgeable gap between inorganic matter and life

    This is an absurd presuposition. It is basically an unsupportable statement of faith of the materialism catechism

    Not only that the “inanimate matter” cannot ever bridge this gap. The most brilliant scientists and researchers in the field of naturalistic origin of life (abiogenesis) have no clue – with all their brilliance and know-how – on how to build a real bridge between the two.

    No surprise here: an absurd secularist religion cannot be founded but only on an absurd statement of faith (article 1 of their religious dogma)

    Second “presuposition”:

    it regards the emergence of life as a highly probable process

    Another hugely ridiculous presuposition, totally removed from reality and from accumulated scientific experience.

    In the mentioned youtube presentation: the argumentation is based on using the machine model (machine metaphor) to look objectively, empirically and comparatively to the Man-Made Machines (MMMs) and Living Organism Machines (LOMs).

    After a systematic comparison between the two categories of machines from the points of view of number of components and integrated sub-systems, number and sophistication of functions, autonomy and self-sufficiency and observing that certain functions: self-replication, self-repair are manifest only in LOMs, the conclusion is that living organisms, (LOMs) are super, super machines, are built with transcendental engineering and fundamentally are genuine scientific miracles, characterized as such from an objective, empirical and scientifically sound perspective and understanding.

    In other words, the reality is that living organisms machines, “artifacts” that are accessible to our unmediated observation, examination and investigation (actually what the science was preoccupied with for at least last 4 centuries) and are the objects of maximum interest for medicine, biology, genetics, biochemistry, neurobiology, artificial and natural intelligence, these artifacts are classes and classes of complexity and intricacy beyond the most advanced human artifacts (MMMs). Then only an absurd, ridiculous secular religion: the bankrupt materialism may take seriously such irrational articles of faith in the naturalism catechism: there is no unbridgeable gap between inorganic matter and life and the emergence of life as a highly probable process.

    Fake science built on fake axioms.

    The presentation affirms that living organisms are exceedingly complex super-machines with millions, billions or trillions of sub-systems and moving parts.

    There is a rather trivial demonstration that nature (i.e. the inanimate nature) is incapable to create or build even the most trivial machine with only 4 or 5 parts.

    This truth demolishes definitively the grotesque statement that: emergence of life as a highly probable process.

  9. 9
    john_a_designer says:

    One of my pipe dreams as a real life (now retired) machine designer is to design a self-replicating machine or automata– the kind that was first envisioned by mathematician John von Neumann. My vision is not a machine that could replicate itself from already existing parts but a machine– well actually machines– which could replicate themselves from raw material they would find on a rocky planet in some distant star system.

    One practical advantage of such machines is they could be sent out in advance of some far in the future expedition to terraform a suitable planet in another star system preparing it for colonist who might arrive centuries or millennia later.

    By analogy, this is what the first living cells which originated on the early earth had to do.

    Even the simplest prokaryotic cell is on the sub-cellular level a collection of machines networked together to replicate the whole system. To suggest that somehow the first cell emerged by some fortuitous accident is betray an ignorance how really complex primitive cells are.

    Try thinking this through on a more macro level, as I have described above, and I think you will begin to appreciate how really daunting the problem is.

  10. 10

    john_a_designer

    Interesting to learn that you are dreaming of building real machines that can self-replicate and help us set foot in a well-planned manner on a rocky planet.

    And, yes, this will be an attempt to do at a macro scale some of the things life and living organisms: microorganisms and plants are doing successfully on a routine basis.

    You might already know that NASA had such a futuristic project in the eighties: NASA Advanced Automation for Space Missions Project described in chapter 1 of its final report: Mission IV – Self-Replicating Lunar Factory. Information is available on-line: Freitas, A.R. Jr., Gilbreath, W.P., Editors, Advanced Automation for Space Missions, Proceedings of the 1980 NASA/ASEE Summer Study, here

    Freitas, A.R., Jr. proposed also A Self-Reproducing Interstellar Probe, in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 33, 1980

    Thinking on how we humans would build a material self-replicating machine is what started me on this intelligent design inquiry.

    I am also a machine designer, more specifically a software machine designer. My thoughts about what problems I would need to resolve in order to build the simplest possible material self-replicating machine are illustrated in this youtube presentation: The Design of the Simplest Self-Replicator.

    Contemplating and analyzing what functions and machinery need to be developed in a machine to be able to self-replicate I reached the following conclusions:

    • A machine that is able to materially, accurately self-replicate itself is an incredible complex machine

    • The technical challenges posed by designing and constructing such a physical artifact appear to be much, much beyond the most advanced technical and engineering capabilities of humankind

    • Any living organism that has the ability to successfully self-replicate or sexually self-reproduce most probable achieves this function only because there is some transcendental engineering at work inside.


    The better scientists (and machine designers besides them) understand the inner workings of the living organisms the stronger become the understanding that we are faced with super, super machines, transcendental engineering, and, yes, miraculous artifacts that do not seem to have an Earthly origin – properly and figuratively speaking.

    Isn’t then an aberration and an insult to reason to say that the emergence of life is a highly probable process?

    The topic in the youtube video above is presented in significant detail in three of the chapters of this book: Engineering and the Ultimate

    John_a_designer

    Try thinking this through on a more macro level, as I have described above, and I think you will begin to appreciate how really daunting the problem is.

    You are perfectly right!

  11. 11
    Bob O'H says:

    asauber @ 1 –

    Life, Dennett thinks, “created itself…

    But who created the life that created itself?

    Elephants, obviously.

  12. 12
    Jon Garvey says:

    I’m reminded of Stephen Meyer’s discussion with the TE Keith Fox a while back on the origin of life. Fox ventured, “We’re inferring events billions of years ago that may have been a fluke event.” God would be behind it, he agreed, “but there’s nothing irrational or unscientific about it.”

    Whatever that “fluke event” might be, it would (like all flukes) look like something unique and unusual happening. That makes it necessarily irrational (in the sense that it cannot be explained by antecedent events – it’s a fluke, right?) and unscientific (because science is entirely about studying the reproducible and calling it “natural”, not about inexplicable flukes).

    The only real choice would be either to explain such a fluke by Epicurean chance (stuff just happens) or by invisible divine creative action (God makes it just happen). These would be indistinguishable empirically: water might, or even must, spontaneously turn into wine at the same time as Jesus’s command in some part of an infinite multiverse, and the event would appear just the same as an intentional divine miracle.

    But the two can’t logically exist in the same universe. God cannot be “behind” Epicurean chance, any more than “intention” can be behind “luck”. So the whole concept of “scientific miracle” is an oxymoron, and not even a scientific question: such a one off event must either be an unintelligible act of chance, or an act of God (call that a miracle if you like, or just “creation” would do). And the choice is entirely dependent on whether or not you believe in God, simpliciter.

    As I wrote at the time “The difference in the conclusions is largely semantic: Meyer says God did it, Fox says God was behind it but it’s natural, which means what, exactly?”

  13. 13
    asauber says:

    Elephants, obviously.

    But who made the elephants, Bob?

    Andrew

  14. 14
    Bob O'H says:

    Elephants, obviously.

    But who made the elephants, Bob?

    Andrew

    Well, more elephants. Clearly.

  15. 15
    asauber says:

    Well, more elephants. Clearly.

    An infinite number of other universes say you’re wrong.

    Andrew

  16. 16
    J-Mac says:

    The bottom to top concept of OOL is not achievable and someone like Szostak knows about… C. Venter too…
    The top to bottom concept is more realistic but implies creationism/ID, so it is not very popular…

    BTW: I’m working on the post at theskepticalzone.com called:

    “How Did The Designer/God do it?”.

    While I admit that I’m not the best speller, especially under stress, I’m also not the brightest mind that has ever come along… I can take the heat for that… sure I don’t know everything…

    I would like to gather as much as possible information about how the creationist/ID believers on how their “creator” did it…

  17. 17
    Axel says:

    Of course, the creation of any and everything from nothing has to be a miracle. The very nature of life never mind its creation has proved absolutely beyond our comprehension. One of a kind.

  18. 18
    Jon Garvey says:

    I would like to gather as much as possible information about how the creationist/ID believers on how their “creator” did it…

    Just one set of thoughts, J-Mac. “Design inference” is the assertion that material efficient causes (aka “natural causes”) are insufficient to account for life. “Design” is, definitionally, a non-material aspect of the question of life’s emergence.

    Therefore, to ask (or attempt to answer) the question “What material efficient causes are used in design” is simply irrational, akin to asking “If your God is immaterial, then, what material is he made of?”

    But be warned – scientistic minds simply can’t accept this, because to them there are only material efficient causes, despite their own constant teleological activity even in planning their posts and, subsequently, using whatever means are at hand to get them on to TSZ.

    I’d be tempted to suggest, in reply, that the designer might well have instantiated his design using mutations of all kinds, population genetics, and environmental selection.

    That would certainly elicit scornful replies along the lines that all these are “natural” or “random” things, in which case I’d insist on precise definitions of “natural” (for which no scientific definition is even possible) and “random” (scientific meaning = “unknown”).

  19. 19
    bb says:

    J-Mac,

    I have no idea how God “did it”, to use a phrase from your question, but that He did is so blatantly obvious only a fool would deny.

  20. 20
    john_a_designer says:

    Last Thursday (1/30/17) Space-X landed a re-used first stage rocket booster it was using for the second time on a drone ship pre-positioned off the Florida coast in the Atlantic Ocean. That’s amazing! (This is the ninth time they have recovered a first stage booster.) However, if you asked me how they did it, I would have to confess that I don’t know. I am not saying that I don’t know in a broad general sense. Yes, I do know the basics about Newton’s laws, parabolic ballistic trajectories, how modern rocket engines burn and consume fuel and the need of computer controlled guidance etc. However, if you asked me to explain to you with pen and paper, blackboard or nay other tools I wished to avail myself (including a state of the art computer) exactly how they did it I would be at a loss. I simply lack the mathematical, engineering and programming skills to explain to you how they did it.

    If I were a hyper-skeptic, like those skeptics who deny the moon landing ever happened, I could use the fact that I don’t understand “how they did it,” to come up with some cockeyed conspiracy theory– “Oh, it was all just camera tricks and special effects.” They’re in it for the money– which they are. I have even seen a few comments on-line like that. However, I haven’t seen anyone say, it was all just dumb luck.

    When it comes to explaining the origin of life there are at present two explanations: (1) it was natural (2) life is intelligently designed. Neither side presently can explain exactly how. But how does that make nature somehow did it, a better explanation than an intelligent designer (or perhaps designers) somehow did it? I don’t see that it does. However, I think it the “somehow nature did it” side is even at more of a disadvantage because all they have to appeal to is a lot of dumb luck. As we have seen above that is not just hyper-skepticism it is an absurd level of hyper-skepticism.

  21. 21
    LocalMinimum says:

    J-Mac:

    I would like to gather as much as possible information about how the creationist/ID believers on how their “creator” did it…

    A potential creator only need to study dirt sufficiently, as it is apparently capable of performing such a task. Unless you expect that creating life is the providence of dirt alone, there’s no reason not to believe that we will eventually have the tools to do it ourselves; then such questions can be trivially answered.

  22. 22
    J-Mac says:

    What if the designer of life left some pieces of evidence that prove He had done it? Would it make a difference?
    I doubt it !

  23. 23
    Bob O'H says:

    Well, more elephants. Clearly.

    An infinite number of other universes say you’re wrong.

    Sorry for the delay in responding. I spent the weekend checking these universes. They really need to check their custard more carefully – it’s full of elephants.

  24. 24
    bb says:

    J-Mac doesn’t believe in elephants so will disregard all evidence that doesn’t fit his presupposition. Even when it’s standing on his toes.

  25. 25
    Eric Anderson says:

    InVivoVeritas @10:

    Your link is broken. I’d like to see your YouTube video about the simple self replicator.

    I know you’ve put a fair amount of thought into this topic, as mentioned in this prior thread:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....-paradigm/

  26. 26
    Eric Anderson says:

    LocalMinimum @21:

    A potential creator only need to study dirt sufficiently, as it is apparently capable of performing such a task.

    Nope. You gotta shine light on the dirt to make it work. You know . . . energy from the Sun coming into Earth’s “open system” and all that jazz . . . 🙂

    Then the dirt can get going!

  27. 27

    EA

    Then the dirt can get going!

    chuckle, chuckle

  28. 28

    Here are the corrected links to replace the broken ones in my Entry @ 10 above.

    The Design of the Simplest Self-Replicator youtube presentation

    The Engineering and the Ultimate

    The book linked above extends the topic of the above presentation on three chapters.

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