Intelligent Design

Is Random Mutation and Natural Selection Part of Abiogenesis?

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In the comments here someone tried to say that RM+NS only applies after DNA and ribosomes have already appeared on the scene. This is nonsense.

Obviously, if you begin with simple chemicals and they interact to arrange themselves into complex organic polymers this is mutation defined as a change or alteration in form or qualities. So we must have mutation happening in ID-free evolution right from the word go.

The next question is whether those mutations are random. Well if they aren’t random then they’re guided by some unknown force and if they’re guided then ID is supported as intelligent agency would appear as an unknown force. Of course ID deniers must propose the mutations are random.

Now we get to natural selection. If there’s no selection happening then how does one complex polymer (DNA) come out on top as the basis for every living thing? Of course selection must be happening if there’s no intelligent agency skipping up to the finished product.

This leaves us with the final question of whether the selection is natural or not. If not natural then it must be unnatural and ID is supported.

You cannot disclaim ID by picking a starting point for evolution where the hardest part is already done!

I am perfectly willing to concede that if RM+NS can create DNA and ribosomes from inanimate chemicals then it can also create baboons from bacteria. Until a plausible (plausible in terms of organic chemistry instead of dictated by philosophic materialism) ID-free pathway can be shown then design by an unknown and possibly unknowable intelligent agency must be a live possibility. After all, we know intelligent agents capable of manipulating organic chemistry exist today so ID is already a proven quantity in nature now, if not in the past too. And if design is a live possibility prior to DNA and ribosomes then it remains alive after that point as well unless there’s some reason to presume that the design agency halted its work when the first DNA-ribosome based cell was finished. Furthermore, if design is a live possibility for that first cell then unless there is a reason to presume the designer halted with a minimal genome required for self-replication then a complex genome (front loaded evolution) with a plan for phylogenesis built into it must also be a live possibility.

15 Replies to “Is Random Mutation and Natural Selection Part of Abiogenesis?

  1. 1
    Doug says:

    I don’t remember who made the comparison but I get the feeling that some people are using the analogy of a human and an intestinal bacteria. Where the bacteria views its host the way we would view the designer. It seems obvious to me that this is an incorrect analogy because humans didn’t design the bacteria.

    Dave, you hit the nail on the head with this post.

    The next question is whether those mutations are random. Well if they aren’t random then they’re guided and if they’re guided then ID is supported. Of course ID deniers must propose the mutations are random.

    Now we get to natural selection. If there’s no selection happening then how does one complex polymer (DNA) come out on top as the basis for every living thing? Of course selection must be happening if there’s no intelligent agency skipping up to the finished product.

    This leaves us with the final question of whether the selection is natural or not. If not natural then it must be unnatural and ID is supported.

    And what about the role of intuition? If we can intuitively know the process is not random, is there a scientific reason to discount that as evidence?

  2. 2
    ftrp11 says:

    How on Earth could we claim to have a solid theory about abiogenisis? The genetic mutations that are theorizeed to foster evolutionary change in organisms cannot possibly hold true for abiogenesis. Certainly the environment played the dominant role in shaping what was possible but the mechanisms for those ancient changes are not known.

  3. 3
    Mats says:

    The consistent removal of the origin of life from the evolutionary debate is not suported by what the Darwinists have in their textbooks. As plainly documented by Dr Jonathan Wells, Darwinists are not shy to use the Miller-Urey experiment when discussing evolution in their textbooks.

    I guess that militant Darwinists try to separate the issues (except in textbooks) since naturalism, which is suposed to be the rule in science, fails right from the start. If naturalism fails on the origin of life, in what else does it fail?

  4. 4
    Michael Tuite says:

    Hello Dave,
    I’d be interested in your thoughts about the relationship between your idea about life on earth having unfolded along a planned course and the contingent nature of earth’s history. Do you suppose that the initial complex genome was sufficiently plastic in it’s conception and design to realize it’s predetermined evolutionary path in spite of the dramatic and seemingly random changes in the earth’s history? Is it possible that the earth’s evolution too was designed?

    In addition to molecular-level design evidence, might design also be manifested in long term patterns of extinction and origination in the history of life (for example, Raup and Sepkoski’s proposed 26 million year extinction cycle)?

    Thanks

    What changes in the earth’s history do you believe to be random? The only thing that occurs to me is the exact timing of large meteor strikes. The inevitability of such events could be taken into consideration. Not only could the earth’s evolution be designed, every motion of every subatomic particle in the universe could be according to design. Waxing philosophic, I think the universe may be deterministic and minutely planned right up to the point where rational man emerges and through free will brings non-determinism into the picture. If you were immortal, omnipotent, and omniscient to the point of knowing everything that was going to happen how boring would that be? Insanely boring is my guess. I’d want to figure out a way for the universe to begin surprising me. Back on track, every species with obligatory sexual reproduction appears to go extinct sooner or later. This follows the same pattern of individual birth, life, and death. I see no reason why the pattern that manifests itself in the individual should not manifest itself in the taxon, in all of phylogenesis, and even in the life cycle of whole living worlds. Meteor strikes which wipe out huge numbers of species is just doing what was going to be done in any case. The biosphere recovers almost like it was designed to recover from such events. Sort of like forest fires that come along and radically modify the terrain so that species not well adapted to old growth can get their turn at bat. Similar patterns that emerge on different scales of time and size are usually related by similar underlying principles. Life follows patterns that repeat on scales as short as a few minutes and a few micrometers for individual bacteria and millions of years and millions of meters for planetwide ecosystems. In a univese destined to be stable for trillions of years it makes sense that this pattern repeats in even longer timescales over even greater distances. -ds

  5. 5
    Deuce says:

    I’ve thought about this issue a bit. As I see it, if Darwinism is supposed to be a general explanation then it must account for abiogenesis, because there’s no starting point after that that isn’t completely arbitrary. There’s also the fact that we don’t know precisely what features the first organisms had. If Darwinism is absolved of explaining the first organism, couldn’t it then simply absolve itself of having to explain a lot of other features, just by postulating that the first organism came with them? And if the first organism can be written off as “not Darwinism’s problem” then there’s no reason why there should be a problem, in principle, with IDists writing off other things, such as IC structures, as likewise not Darwinism’s problem. The problem is that Darwinism is supposed to be a general explanation for life, using random mutations and natural selection. That means that every random mutation in life’s history falls within its purview, and to be consistent, this must include that first random mutation, the one that is supposed to have started it all – abiogenesis.

  6. 6
    great_ape says:

    This will post will likely never see the light of day here, given that ID sites ironically appear unwilling to discuss competing theories to intelligent design, but here it goes…. The Urey-Miller experiments are typically referenced in textbooks in the context of “some people have explored naturalistic mechanisms” but it’s usually pretty darn clear that we don’t know jack about what happened, when it happened, etc.. Nobody I know is claiming otherwise; you’re arguing against a strawman, folks. That’s why we Darwinists don’t wish to argue origins. It’s pointless to do so from either side of the debate. No one knows enough to make that argument anything other than an excercise in loosely grounded, futile speculation. You ID folks lure Darwinists into rational discussions by ostensibly debating evolution theory (the stuff that is being taught in classrooms), then you deftly shift gears to origins. There we all have an equal footing because no one knows anything whatsoever.

    There’s nothing deft about it. The evolution of life is a continuum that didn’t miraculously begin with a cell that popped into existence out of nowhere. Or maybe it WAS a miracle. That seems like a far more important question to me than what’s the proper place in a phylogenetic tree for each new fossil find or each new species discovered. The path of evolution is well enough explored so it now seems like overkill trying to refine phylogenies even more. The mechanism of evolution is exceedingly dependent on how that first cell evolved and what its capabilities were. No matter what the mechanism behind past evolution it works so slowly today that it doesn’t make a bit of difference whether RM+NS can generate endless forms most wonderful as unless we want to plan on observation period millions of years long we aren’t going to see anything new emerge. Dodging the question of origins is a deft move by NDE proponents to duck the most difficult thing for a non-intelligent cause to explain. You don’t get to discount ID by picking a starting point for evolution where the hardest part is already done! -ds

  7. 7
    DLH says:

    “Natural Selection” appears to inherently incorporate “reproduction.” See:
    Definitions: “Natural Selection”
    http://www.biology-online.org/....._selection
    “The hypothesis that genotype environment interactions occurring at the phenotypic level lead to differential reproductive success of individuals and hence to modification of the gene pool of a population.”

    Google see: http://www.google.com/search?h.....8;ct=title

    Before there is a reproducing cell, how can you have “natural selection” which requires reproduction? Thus, I hold that abiogenesis is the “Achilles heel” of NeoDawinian theory.

    Your comments on ID vs mutation etc. are significant. However, how can you address “natural selection” before there is a system with the capability of reproducing?

    Do you think the first cell capable of replication via DNA and ribosomes came straight from inanimate chemicals with no intermediary structures capable of self replication? It appears to me that any non-intelligent evolution theory must posit structures far less complex than the simplest extant cell able to undergo descent with modification in order to arrive at the first simple cell using DNA. I think you’re right that this is the achilles heel but wrong that descent with modification doesn’t begin until the first DNA-using cell comes into existence. -ds

  8. 8
    j says:

    ds: “I am perfectly willing to concede that if RM+NS can create DNA and ribosomes from inanimate chemicals then it can also create baboons from bacteria.”

    Let’s be fair, ds! Everyone knows that RM+NS can’t create the transcription and translation mechanisms, etc.; they’re needed to permit RM+NS to occur.

    (And besides, are you like the last person on Earth to realize that there’s absolutely no evidence that RM+NS can create novel cell types, tissue types, organs, and body plans?) 😉

  9. 9
    glennj says:

    great_ape wrote:
    “…you’re arguing against a strawman, folks. That’s why we Darwinists don’t wish to argue origins. It’s pointless….”

    When did Darwinists stop arguing origins?

    From Wikipedia:
    “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life (1995) is a CONTROVERSIAL book by Daniel Dennett that ARGUES that Darwinian processes are the central organising force not only in biology (WHICH IS NOT CONTROVERSIAL), BUT ALSO IN MOST OTHER ASPECTS OF THE UNIVERSE, including the human mind (see Neural Darwinism)….People “used to think of meaning coming from on high and being ordained from the top down,” Dennett says, but we MUST now “replace the traditional idea of God the creator with the idea of THE PROCESS OF NATURAL SELECTION DOING THE CREATING.””

    (MY EMPHASIS)

    Daniel Dennet was just the first name that appeared as a link in Wikip’s article on Evolution under the heading: Darwinian Process where the following topics are discussed:
    1. Self-replication/Inheritance:….
    2. Variation:….
    3. Selection:….

    Either great_ape doesn’t understand Darwinism or Dennett is a strawman.
    One or the other. Hmmmm.

  10. 10
    Farshad says:

    It is a known darwinian tactic when they meet someone with no or little understading of science they speak with great authority on behalf of the Abiogenesis as if it’s an established fact and science has already solved the myth of origins. On the contrary if they meet a well-informed individual who will not buy cliches like Miller-urey experiment, then the darwinian tactic will switch to its B-plan which is their claim that Abiogenesis is not a part of their theory.

    ^^^^^ Excellent observation! ^^^^ -ds

    It’s hard to imagine how RM+NS could work in molecular level. What is the meaning of survival where there is no life at first place? After all the whole story of Natural Selection remains as a great myth for me. There are certain conditions that NS could help species to improve themselves, but trying to explain all aspects of the inconceivable comlexity in life forms with NS is simply madness. It’s like saying “Why people fall in love? Because the ones who felt in love survived but the rest extincted”. It is oversimplifying what is actualy going on in reality.

  11. 11
    Farshad says:

    Oops!->falled in love 🙂

  12. 12
    ftrp11 says:

    Thats just it. There is no way random mutation holds true before life or probably in very primitive life. Abiogenesis is beyound the bounds of ET. It is true that evolutionary biologists will give there best guesses as to how life started but these guesses are just that and not part of evolutionary theory. If Einstein ventured an opinion on the origin of life that wouldn’t make the issue part of General Relativity.

    Perhaps you could then describe exactly for me where abiogenesis ends and evolution begins. Given the defintion of evolution as “descent with modification” what are the characteristics of first thing that meets that definition? Help me out here because I’m having a wicked hard time figuring out where abiogenesis ends and descent with modification begins. I don’t think anyone knows and until we do then saying RM+NS begins only after a hideously complex DNA/ribosome pair become extant is simply dodging the most difficult question in evolution – where did the basic but hideously complex machinery of the simplest form of independent living thing today come from? You don’t get to disclaim ID by beginning your theory of evolution after the hardest part to explain has already evolved. -ds

  13. 13
    Gandalf says:

    Placing abiogenesis outside the scope of evolutionary biology is like saying the big bang is outside the scope of astronomy.

    You ain’t gonna get very far when it comes to answering the really important, interesting, paradigm-forming questions.

  14. 14
    mjb99 says:

    Placing abiogenesis outside the scope of evolutionary biology is like saying the big bang is outside the scope of astronomy.

    I’m not sure that this is entirely accurate. I’d say placing abiogensis out of the scope of biology is like saying the big bang is outside the scope of astronomy. Evolutionary biology is just a subset of a broader category with implications towards origins but not implicitly inclusive of them. In the same way, studying star formation does not depend upon the big bang but certainly leads one to ask some questions.

    mjb99 – there’s a certain word in your email address that is causing your comments to be automatically dumped into the unwanted spam bucket. I’m sure you can figure out which word it is. You’ll need re-register using a different email address. Sorry and thanks in advance for understanding. -ds

  15. 15
    Emkay says:

    This might be somewhat of a “stupid” question. Perhaps it’s been raised and addressed before – but I wasn’t in school that day. So, please, anyone, indulge my ignorance: How does Darwinian RM+NS account for the anomaly of death?

    With all the billions of years available to it, RM+NS should have long ago mutated a mechanism capable of overriding the inconvenience of death. Reproduction as we know it is patently a very inefficient method of perpetuating a species’ genes. It is entirely wasteful, totally counter-productive, for the parent entity to have to undergo slow and time-consuming maturation, only for that entity to be expended and extinguished just when it has accumulated a wealth of life-information.

    Everyone (and presumably every sentient organism) has an innate desire to live forever. Why have RM+NS been unable to fulfill this primeval instinct?

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