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Origin of life: How we ID folk succeed when we “peddle” doubt about Darwin

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Explained by chemist Addy Pross of Ben-Gurion University, author of What is Life?: How Chemistry Becomes Biology (Oxford, 2012):

Despite the widespread view that Darwinian Evolution has been able to explain the emergence of biological complexity that is not the case….But Darwinian theory does not deal with the question how [life] was able to come into being. The troublesome question still in search of an answer is: how did a system capable of evolving come about in the first place. Darwinian theory is a biological theory and therefore deals with biological systems, whereas the Origin of Life problem is a chemical problem. (page 8)

Significantly, Darwin himself explicitly avoided the origin of life question, recognizing that within the existing state of knowledge the question was premature, that its resolution at that time was out of reach. So the question of how the first microscopic complexity came into being remains problematic and highly contentious. ( page 8)

So paradoxically despite the profound advances in molecular biology in the past half century, we still do not understand what life is, how it relates to the inanimate world, and how it emerged. True, over the past half century considerable effort has been directed into attempts to solve these fundamental issues, but the gates to the Promised Land seem as distant as ever. Like a mirage in the desert, just as the palm trees signaling the oasis seemingly materialize shimmering on the horizon, they fade away yet again…. (Page ix)

So what is the basis of this deeply troubling and persistent dilemma? To clarify in simplest terms where the problem lies consider the following hypothetical tale: you are walking through a field and you suddenly come across a refrigerator – a fully functioning refrigerator in a field with some bottles of beer inside, all nicely chilled. But how could a refrigerator be working in the middle of a field, apparently unconnected to any external energy source, yet maintaining a cold interior. And just what is it doing there, and how did it get there? You take a closer look and see a solar panel on its top, which is connected to a battery, which in turn operates the compressor which all fridges have in order to function. So the mystery of how the refrigerator works is resolved. ….Thus despite Nature’s drive to equalize the temperature inside and outside the cabinet, in this physical entity we call a “refrigerator”, there exists functional design that enables us to keep our food and drinks at a suitably low temperature.

But the mystery of how it got there in the middle of the field remains. Who put it there? And why? Now if I told you that no one put the refrigerator there – that it came about spontaneously through natural forces, you would react with total disbelief. How absurd! Impossible! Nature just doesn’t operate like that! Nature doesn’t spontaneously make highly organized….purposeful entities – fridges, cars, computers, etc. Such objects are the product of human design – purposeful and deliberate. Nature…pushes systems…toward disorder and chaos, not toward order and function.

The simple truth is that the most basic living system, a bacterial cell, is a highly organized…functional system…which mimics the operation of the refrigerator, but is orders of magnitude more complex! The refrigerator involves the cooperative interactions of, at most, several dozen components, whereas a bacterial cell involves the interactions of thousands of different molecules and molecular aggregates, some of enormous complexity in themselves, all within a network of thousands of synchronized chemical reactions ….But what is the function of the bacterial cell with its organized complexity?…every living cell is effectively a highly
organized factory, which like any man-made factory, is connected to an energy source and power generator that facilitates its operation. If the energy source is cut off the factory ceases to operate. This miniature factory takes in raw material, and through the utilization of power from the factory’s power generator, converts those material into the functional components, which will then be assembled to produce the factory’s output…which is more cells!

And here precisely lies the [origin of] life problem. Just as the likelihood of a functional fridge…spontaneously coming together naturally seems inconceivable, even if its parts were all readily available, the likelihood for the spontaneous formation of a highly organized…nano-factory [i.e. bacterial cell] also seems inconceivable. It is not just common sense that tells us that highly organized entities don’t just spontaneously come about. Certain basic laws of physics preach the same sermon – systems tend towards chaos and disorder, not toward order and function. No wonder several of the great physicists of the 20th century…found the issue highly troublesome. Biology [i.e. a naturalistic origin of life] and physics seem contradictory, quite incompatible. No wonder the proponents of Intelligent Design manage to peddle their wares with such success!” (x-xii)

Um, right.

Naturalism, to the extent that it ignores information, is magical thinking. We ID folk can’t help looking good by comparison.

See also:

Suzan Mazur to Larry Krauss: Darwinism now marginalized (In his response Krauss does not mention information, the vast amounts of which chiefly distinguish life from non-life.)

And how information-free naturalism makes a mess of origin of life

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2 Replies to “Origin of life: How we ID folk succeed when we “peddle” doubt about Darwin

  1. 1
    bornagain77 says:

    Refrigerator in a field. Nice illustration. Although I like Dr. Michael Denton’s illustration of a 20 kilometer factory better since it is closer to reality:

    “To grasp the reality of life as it has been revealed by molecular biology, we must first magnify a cell a thousand million times until it is 20 kilometers in diameter and resembles a giant airship large enough to cover a great city like London or New York. What we would see then would be an object of unparalleled complexity,…we would find ourselves in a world of supreme technology and bewildering complexity.”
    Michael Denton PhD., Evolution: A Theory In Crisis, pg.328

    “Although the tiniest living things known to science, bacterial cells, are incredibly small (10^-12 grams), each is a veritable micro-miniaturized factory containing thousands of elegantly designed pieces of intricate molecular machinery, made up altogether of one hundred thousand million atoms, far more complicated than any machine built by man and absolutely without parallel in the non-living world”.
    Michael Denton, “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis,” 1986, p. 250.

    James Shapiro on “dangerous oversimplifications” about the cell – August 6, 2013
    Excerpt: “Depending upon the energy source and other circumstances, these indescribably complex entities can reproduce themselves with great reliability at times as short as 10-20 minutes. Each reproductive cell cycle involves literally hundreds of millions of biochemical and biomechanical events. We must recognize that cells possess a cybernetic capacity beyond our ability to imitate. Therefore, it should not surprise us when we discover extremely dense and interconnected control architectures at all levels. Simplifying assumptions about cell informatics can be more misleading than helpful in understanding the basic principles of biological function.
    Two dangerous oversimplifications have been (i) to consider the genome as a mere physical carrier of hypothetical units called “genes” that determine particular cell or organismal traits, and (ii) to think of the genome as a digitally encoded Read-Only Turing tape that feeds instructions to the rest of the cell about individual characters [4].”

    Passing the baton of life – from Schrödinger to Venter – July 2012
    Excerpt: “All living cells that we know of on this planet are ‘DNA software’-driven biological machines comprised of hundreds of thousands of protein robots, coded for by the DNA, that carry out precise functions,” said Venter.
    “We are now using computer software to design new DNA software.”
    – Craig Venter

    The operating system of life – animated protein robots – video

    Building a Cell: Staggering Complexity: – Feb. 2010
    Excerpt: “All organisms, from bacteria to humans, face the daunting task of replicating, packaging and segregating up to two metres (about 6 x 10^9 base pairs) of DNA when each cell divides,” “,,,the segregation machinery must function with far greater accuracy than man-made machines and with an exquisitely soft touch to prevent the DNA strands from breaking.” Bloom and Joglekar talked “machine language” over and over. The cell has specialized machines for all kinds of tasks: segregation machines, packaging machines, elaborate machines, streamlined machines, protein translocation machines, DNA-processing machines, DNA-translocation machines, robust macromolecular machines, accurate machines, ratchets, translocation pumps, mitotic spindles, DNA springs, coupling devices, and more. The authors struggle to “understand how these remarkable machines function with such exquisite accuracy.”

    When calculating the information content of a ‘simple’ cell from the thermodynamic perspective, the information content of the cell explodes:

    ‘The information content of a simple cell has been estimated as around 10^12 bits, comparable to about a hundred million pages of the Encyclopedia Britannica.”
    Carl Sagan, “Life” in Encyclopedia Britannica: Macropaedia (1974 ed.), pp. 893-894

    but even Denton’s 20 kilometer ‘static factory’ illustration, as mind blowing as that is, still fails to truly capture the complexity inherent in a ‘simple’ cell:

    Problems with the Metaphor of a Cell as “Machine” – July 2012
    Excerpt: Too often, we envision the cell as a “factory” containing a fixed complement of “machinery” operating according to “instructions” (or “software” or “blueprints”) contained in the genome and spitting out the “gene products” (proteins) that sustain life.
    Many things are wrong with this picture, but one of the problems that needs to be discussed more openly is the fact that in this “factory,” many if not most of the “machines” are themselves constantly turning over — being assembled when and where they are needed, and disassembled afterwards. The mitotic spindle…is one of the best-known examples, but there are many others.
    Funny sort of “factory” that, with the “machinery” itself popping in and out of existence as needed!,,,

    DNA – Replication, Wrapping & Mitosis – video

    etc.. etc..

    And remember, this staggering level of complexity in the ‘simple’ cell exists in a world that can’t even be seen by the naked eye:

    Verse and Music:

    John 1:1-4
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

    Big Daddy Weave – The Only Name (Yours Will Be)

  2. 2
    kairosfocus says:

    News, in te spirit of Paley in Ch II of Nat Theol, now consider that the refrigerator was now observed to in the course of its operations, form a second one just as it self, as it also contains a von Neumann Self replicator facility with appropriate coding and a stock of key components. Would we then change our views? Not at all, we would increase the admiration of the contrivance, as this is a major increment in complex, specific interactive functionality indicating both a base of knowledge and skilled effecting of a conceived purpose. And yet, when we see the like in the world of life we see many who refuse to apply the same reasoning. KF

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