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PZ Myers: “Abiogenesis is not evolution” is a cop-out

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As kairosfocus pointed out in a recent post, my 2013 article on macroevolution skeptic Professor James Tour seems to be doing the rounds on Facebook and Reddit. Some commenters have accused Professor Tour of confusing macroevolution with the scientific problem of how life originated. To make such an accusation against one the world’s leading chemists is not only extremely impertinent but also factually wrong, as the skeptics would have realized if they had read my follow-up post, Macroevolution, microevolution and chemistry: the devil is in the details. (While they’re at it, they might also like to read my post, Could the eye have evolved by natural selection in a geological blink?)

On a deeper level, however, the skeptics’ attempt to divorce to the theory of evolution from the origin of life is fundamentally flawed. “Says who?”, you ask. Says evolutionary biologist PZ Myers, that’s who – in his 2008 post, 15 misconceptions about evolution. Myers was responding to a list of common myths about Darwin’s theory of evolution, drawn up by Listverse founder Jamie Frater. For the most part, Professor Myers thought Frater’s post was excellent, but on a couple of points, he differed sharply with Frater’s responses to these myths about evolution. Frater had argued that evolution doesn’t deal with the origin of life, but PZ Myers argued that this compartmentalization of the two issues was tantamount to “cheating”:

[Myth] #15 is also a pet peeve [of mine]: “Evolution is a theory about the origin of life” is presented as false. It is not. I know many people like to recite the mantra that “abiogenesis is not evolution,” but it’s a cop-out. Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation. Abiogenesis research proposes similar principles that led to early chemical evolution. Tossing that work into a special-case ghetto that exempts you from explaining it is cheating, and ignores the fact that life is chemistry. That creationists don’t understand that either is not a reason for us to avoid it.

Well, there you have it. If you accept that “life is chemistry,” as any card-carrying materialist surely does, then you cannot honestly maintain that the evolution of life should be studied in isolation from the question of how it originated.

Finally, I’d like to thank kairosfocus for drawing readers’ attention to my article once again.

Het Dr. Torley, you 15 minutes of fame keeps going. J. Warner Wallace tweeted this post, and WinteryKnight picked it up: https://winteryknight.wordpress.com/2014/03/06/darwinist-and-atheist-p-z-myers-thinks-that-origin-of-life-is-part-of-evolution/ Of note: J. Warner Wallace is the best selling author of 'Cold Case Christianity': J. Warner Wallace Lectures on the Evidence for Christianity - video Description: Cold-case detective J. Warner Wallace, and author of Cold-Case Christianity, presented this lecture via Skype at Reasonable Faith Belfast on Monday, 3rd December 2012. He talks about the nature of evidence, possibility and reason, the chain of custody for the New Testament documents, and much more. The lecture is about an hour (with great visuals), followed by about 30 minutes of Q&A. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiYQzOypD9o Jim Warner Wallace - God's Crime Scene (Author of "Cold Case Christianity") - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=a9zEqyi1c7Q#t=1264s bornagain77
PZ is right, of course. But what he doesn't realize is that he has just raised the bar a heck of a lot higher. If macroevolution really does work, even given the lack of empirical evidence or identification of plausible processes that can overcome the incredible improbabilities, it would mean that living cells have tremendous capabilities based on yet undiscovered mechanisms. But then evolution has the even more daunting task of explaining how how life, itself incorporating such incredibly powerful mechanisms, originated in the absence of the same. See my piece at http://forgetevolution.com/#different. RalphDavidWestfall
bevets: Good quotes. Huxley, in particular, was clear about the materialistic assumption and taught that "all reality is a single process of evolution." Everything from the formation of stars, to the formation of life, to the formation of fish and flowers, is all just a manifestation of the evolutionary process -- change over time. Ultimately, that is the required materialist position. Everything we see is the result of a long series of accidental particle collisions. Eric Anderson
The origin of the first Monera by spontaneous generation appears to us as a simple and necessary event in the process of the development of the earth. ~ Ernst Haeckel The origin of life was necessarily the beginning of organic evolution and it is among the greatest of all evolutionary problems. ~ George Gaylord Simpson Evolution, from cosmic star-dust to human society, is a comprehensive and continuous process. ~ Julian Huxley The reasonable view was to believe in spontaneous generation; the only alternative, to believe in a single, primary act of supernatural creation. There is no third position. For this reason many scientists a century ago chose to regard the belief in spontaneous generation as a "philosophical necessity." It is a symptom of the philosophical poverty of our time that this necessity is no longer appreciated. Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing. ~ George Wald bevets
Molecular biases. In other words its a working thing that only allows certain options and not happanchance as evolution demands. Robert Byers
The reason it's a cop-out to claim that evolution and abiogenesis are unrelated is because abiogenesis is the linch pin of secular materialism. If intelligence is required to lift life from non-living materials, then the entire secular materialist philosophy tumbles into ruins. EvilSnack
Eric: "So there must be some kind of selection going on there — we just need to discover it." I've already discover it. Smidlee
Mapou @9:
In order for there to be selection, there has to be a reproductive population from which to choose from.
Well, there are number of people who are trying to assert that selection can happen before formal reproduction. Ideas like "chemical selection" and so forth that are allegedly able to whip those recalcitrant chemical precursors into RNA strands or proteins or at least some vague, unspecified "proto" biomolecule. Chance obviously isn't cutting it. Anyone who knows what they are talking about knows necessity doesn't cut it. So there must be some kind of selection going on there -- we just need to discover it. So the thinking goes . . . Eric Anderson
It gets even worse, IMO, because reproduction is not sufficient. You need a repair mechanism that prevents the good changes from being destroyed by subsequent mutations. This mechanism, too, must evolve but it cannot do so before reproduction is already there. Abiogenesis never gets off the ground. The whole concept is silly to the extreme. It makes the flat earth hypothesis look brilliant. Darwinists are the true anti-science religionists, IMO. They continue to exist only because of cowardly politics. Mapou
Mapou, don’t you mean: “The problem is that there cannot be mutation before there is reproduction.”
Well, mutation/change is assumed to be happening all the time. In order for there to be selection, there has to be a reproductive population from which to choose from. The mechanism of selection picks the traits that will be reproduced and eliminates the others. If there is no reproduction (duplication), the traits will not survive. Mapou
Mapou, don't you mean: "The problem is that there cannot be mutation before there is reproduction." Seqenenre
Myers and the rest of the brain-dead Darwinists have a chicken and egg problem.
Evolution is about a plurality of natural mechanisms that generate diversity. It includes molecular biases towards certain solutions and chance events that set up potential change as well as selection that refines existing variation.
The problem is that there cannot be selection before there is reproduction. And for there to be a reproductive mechanism, there has to be a selection mechanism in place to evolve it. This snake is eating its own tail. Myers is a fool. Mapou
I'm glad to see him acknowledge that it is a cop-out. Nearly every biology textbook that discusses OOL or the Miller-Urey experiment does so under the heading of "evolution." The word "evolution" covers many different things, much to the frustration of anyone trying to pin down its meaning, one of which is certainly origin of life. Eric Anderson
VJ: Interesting post. For once, I agree with PZ. OOL and evolution of life after its origin are obviously strictly related issues. And the question is not to define what life is, either it is chemistry or else. The question is, as it always has been, the origin of biological information. Now, there is no doubt that a lot of biological information is needed to start life. And there is no doubt that another lot of biological information is needed to transform life forms, giving origin to new and more complex biological structures. To think that the origin of the biological information implied in OOL and the origin of the biological information implied in the evolution of life should be traced to completely different explanations is, IMO, and without any intention to offend anyone, simply stupid. The kind of functional information implied is exactly the same. The difficulties in explaining it are exactly the same. It is certainly true that OOL poses the biggest obstacles to any materialistic explanation, but it is equally true that the appearance of any new basic protein is in essence as insurmountable, in a non design context, as the OOL question. So, if reductionist materialists are right (and they are not!) then they must be able to explain both OOL and the evolution of life with similar arguments. PZ is right about that. If, on the other hand, reductionist materialists are wrong (and they are wrong!), then design by a conscious intelligent being is the only possible explanatory context for both OOL and the evolution of life. IOWs, for all the appearance of complex functional information in the biological world. gpuccio
Here is an old thread that gives some details as to why abiogenesis and evolution go hand-in-hand. johnnyb
//life is chemistry// Well then - that same concept should work elsewhere if its true. Does it? "Computers are chips". Do chips self-assemble themselves into a working computer? Design
Well, there you have it? Because Myers says so? Sorry, Materialists are correct when they say the two are fundamentally different questions. Okay, they do share this: Materialism does not provide the answers. chris haynes
The origin of life and its subsequent evolution are directly linked as it is only if blind watchmaker type proceses produced living organisms from matter and energy would we infer blind watchmaker processes produced the diversity of life. If the OoL was designed then the inference would be they were designed to evolve and evolved by design. The only role the blind watchamker has is breaking and deteriorating the design. Joe

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