Intelligent Design

Vernal Equinox Sees Outbreak of DDS

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In his Dead Dog post Sal quotes Jonathan Wells as follows:

If we place a small amount of sterile salt solution in a test tube at just the right temperature and acidity, add a living cell, and then poke a hole in that cell with a sterile needle, the contents will leak out. We will have in our test tube all of the molecules needed for life, in just the right proportions (relative to each other) and already assembled into complex specified DNAs, RNAs, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. But we will not be able to make a living cell out of them. We cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Later Sal specifically addresses Neil Rickert with the following question:

I said “dead dogs stay dead dogs.”  What say you?

To which Neil responds:

In the context of that dreadful quote from Jonathan Wells, I’m not sure what I would say.

Wow!  Who knew we would have an outbreak of DDS (Darwinist Derangement Syndrome; see our glossary for a description of the symptoms) here at UD on the first day of spring.  Maybe there is something about the vernal equinox that, like the phases of the moon for a werewolf, brings on the outbreak.

I would ask Neil a question though.  You say the Wells comment is “dreadful.”  It is most certainly true.  Why, then, do you consider it dreadful?

39 Replies to “Vernal Equinox Sees Outbreak of DDS

  1. 1
    Eric Anderson says:

    I am grateful for Wells’ comment. Several years ago I was thinking of performing this exact experiment, because it is relevant to the question of whether the parts of a cell will naturally come together to form the greater whole on their own. But of course I don’t have access to a lab and the idea languished. Then I ran across Wells’ quote.

    Wells’ point is not “dreadful.” It is extremely interesting and gives the lie to the idea that if all the parts are found together at the right time and place that they will automatically come together as a result of chemistry and physics. It demonstrates that the cell — while being made up of biochemicals — is not just a collection of biochemicals that spontaneously join together. Something else is driving the organization. Something other than purely natural chemical and physical processes.

  2. 2
    Joe says:

    Apply what Wells said (about a cell) to dogs, Barry.

  3. 3
    Joe says:

    Eric,

    It’s all about emergent properties accumulating along the way. Seriously, that is allegedly why artificial ribosomes don’t work and why partially artificial ribosomes only partially function. Meaning there is something mysterious that emerged along the way in an evolving system that a directly designed system cannot mimic.

    Accumulating emergent properties. Bypass at your own peril.

    That is also their way around the OoL and why we can’t do it in a lab.

  4. 4
    Jon Garvey says:

    Accumulating emergent properties. Bypass at your own peril.

    That is also their way around the OoL and why we can’t do it in a lab.

    Might even be true – Michael Denton thinks along those lines, it seems. But if hypothetical, unobserved, laws are allowed into science it may as well be alchemy.

  5. 5
    Neil Rickert says:

    Why, then, do you consider it dreadful?

    It is excellent political rhetoric (if you happen to agree with Wells), but it makes for terrible science.

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    You can see Wells’ quote here:

    Punctured cell will never reassemble – Jonathan Wells – 2:40 mark of video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKoiivfe_mo

    To try to put a number on the impossibility of this, Dr. Morowitz did a probability calculation working from the thermodynamic perspective, with a already existing cell, and came up with this number:

    DID LIFE START BY CHANCE?
    Excerpt: Molecular biophysicist, Horold Morowitz (Yale University), calculated the odds of life beginning under natural conditions (spontaneous generation). He calculated, if one were to take the simplest living cell and break every chemical bond within it, the odds that the cell would reassemble under ideal natural conditions (the best possible chemical environment) would be one chance in 10^100,000,000,000. You will have probably have trouble imagining a number so large, so Hugh Ross provides us with the following example. If all the matter in the Universe was converted into building blocks of life, and if assembly of these building blocks were attempted once a microsecond for the entire age of the universe. Then instead of the odds being 1 in 10^100,000,000,000, they would be 1 in 10^99,999,999,916 (also of note: 1 with 100 billion zeros following would fill approx. 20,000 encyclopedias)
    http://members.tripod.com/~Black_J/chance.html

    Here are a few quotes to put an exclamation point on the preceding calculation:

    The Theist holds the Intellectual High-Ground – March 2011
    Excerpt: To get a range on the enormous challenges involved in bridging the gaping chasm between non-life and life, consider the following: “The difference between a mixture of simple chemicals and a bacterium, is much more profound than the gulf between a bacterium and an elephant.” (Dr. Robert Shapiro, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry, NYU)
    http://www.faithfulnews.com/co.....ing-gospel

    Scientists Prove Again that Life is the Result of Intelligent Design – Rabbi Moshe Averick – August 2011
    Excerpt: “To go from bacterium to people is less of a step than to go from a mixture of amino acids to a bacterium.” – Dr. Lynn Margulis
    http://www.algemeiner.com/2011.....nt-design/

  7. 7
    Barry Arrington says:

    Neil:

    . . . it makes for terrible science.

    That is an assertion, not an argument. Are you suggesting that Wells’ statement is false? If so, put up or shut up. Tell us why you think it is false.

  8. 8
    Barry Arrington says:

    Eric:

    Several years ago I was thinking of performing this exact experiment

    As was I: http://www.uncommondescent.com.....he-undead/

  9. 9
    Barry Arrington says:

    Joe:

    Apply what Wells said (about a cell) to dogs, Barry.

    We lawyers call that an a fortiori argument Joe. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_fortiori_argument

  10. 10
    Mapou says:

    Barry:

    Neil:

    . . . it makes for terrible science.

    That is an assertion, not an argument. Are you suggesting that Wells’ statement is false? If so, put up or shut up. Tell us why you think it is false.

    Rickert has nothing worthwhile to say. This is why he uses that old stupid pet trick known as ‘argument by assertion.’

  11. 11
    Neil Rickert says:

    Are you suggesting that Wells’ statement is false?

    I did not say that it is false.

    As best I can tell, nobody who is researching origin of life expects that life would pop up from the kind of chemical soup that Wells is suggesting. That’s what makes it bad science.

  12. 12
    RexTugwell says:

    But Neil, what Wells suggests is the best case scenario. If not Wells’ chemical soup, then what? RNA World? Protein First? Metabolism First? Meteorite First? Clay crystals? Thermal vents? Panspermia?

  13. 13
    jw777 says:

    This is actually quite simple:

    Starting with the assumption of materialism, the prediction is only matter and the conclusion must be only matter.

    Since “life” doesn’t fit with the prediction or conclusion within that paradigm, the observer is left with only four options:

    1.) redefine the prediction
    2.) redefine the conclusion
    3.) redefine life
    4.) redefine the paradigm

    You’ll notice that among the options is not included 5.) reevaluate assumption. You’ll also notice that 1-4 are all symptoms of the same disease. It’s called ignoring where the data leads.

  14. 14
    Eric Anderson says:

    Neil, the point is that Wells’ approach takes OOL to the 99-yard line — every single molecule required for the cell, even the organelles themselves, all there and completely ready to go — and the self-organization idea still fails. Wells isn’t trying to solve the OOL problem in one experiment. But he is drawing a line in the sand about what self-organization style processes can accomplish.

    You are probably correct that no-one thinks that “life would pop up from the kind of chemical soup that Wells is suggesting.” Because such a chemical soup would never exist. The various cellular parts and organelles would never arise. The ironic part is that even if they all existed at the same time and place in close proximity, you still can’t get a cell to self-organize. It gives the lie to the whole “self-organization” paradigm. That is Wells’ point.

    Of course your response (and that of most materialists) is to say “Well, that isn’t how we think it would happen.”

    Of course not. Because the way materialists think it would happen is through some exceedingly vague, undefined, wholly-speculative, never-before-seen, unreplicable process. Akin to magic, rather than science.

  15. 15
    Mapou says:

    Rickert:

    As best I can tell, nobody who is researching origin of life expects that life would pop up from the kind of chemical soup that Wells is suggesting. That’s what makes it bad science.

    I was right.

  16. 16
    CuriousCat says:

    I think Wells’ suggestion has a point but not the whole story. Ingredients of life in the test may be taken as different variables in a high dimensional space, and a living organism spans only a very small subspace with many constraints between the organic variables. Once, you are out of this subspace (cell dies, constraints between organic variables are distorted), you cannot bring the system to the previous subspace. However, there may still be certain paths (coupled with changes in environmental conditions, which are actually additional variables) which lead from the high dimensional space to this very low dimensional space. Whether these paths are naturalistically possible (and realizable) or not is, I guess, the fundamantal debate between naturalists and ID proponents.

  17. 17
    JGuy says:

    Are you suggesting that Wells’ statement is false?

    I did not say that it is false.

    As best I can tell, nobody who is researching origin of life expects that life would pop up from the kind of chemical soup that Wells is suggesting. That’s what makes it bad science.

    Seems like an observation of something we understand. Which seems hardly a case of bad science.

    And if intelligent scientists can not put together a cell from all the molecular parts. Why should stochastic processes? Perhaps, one might think it just needs more time. Not a very sciency position to take, imo.

    So, I understand it must be uncomfortable for anyone that thinks ambiogenesis has a chance wouldn’t want to be left holding that bag (cool! double meaning there)

  18. 18
    scordova says:

    Thanks Barry for highlighting my discussion.

    Deep down I always felt beginners in the ID community would learn more from such exchanges than all the verbose and difficult arguments from information theory, population genetics, cybernetic theory, bio-chemistry. All those are important, but simple ideas have more force in persuading someone sitting on the fence. Appeal to his common sense first.

    I have focused on these because if an ID proponent is lucky they’ll get one hour to argue their case to a college student and that may be the only exposure they get throughout their college life. They are more occupied with all the wonders and challenges of college life, and the origins issues is sometimes the last place they look for answers regarding how to live.

    My search has been, “if I had one hour to make my case, how would I make it?” UD has been a testing ground for finding unassailable and simple arguments.

    If I were an outsider sitting on the fence (like I was many years ago) such an exchange would have convinced me of the strength of the circumstantial case for ID.

    I witnessed a similar exchange play out live between two Titans of the origins debate: world class OOL researcher Robert Hazen with his multi-million dollar laboratories vs. Jonathan Wells with his Humpty Dumpty illustration. Wells prevailed.

    I have always maintained the basics of ID are best taught with simple illustrations:

    1. flagellum
    2. mechanical gear in insects
    3. 500 fair coins heads
    4. Humpty Dumpty and dead dogs

    God did not intend the design argument to be that difficult to make!

    Thank you for highlighting some of my exchanges from Nick Matzke on Statistics, to Jerad on 500 coins, and now to Neil and Seversky on dead dogs. It tells me you felt I was arguing my case well. And that is what I needed to know because I’ve agonized over what I should say in that brief hour that I may be granted in the next few weeks.

  19. 19
    gpuccio says:

    Neil Rickert:

    As best I can tell, nobody who is researching origin of life expects that life would pop up from the kind of chemical soup that Wells is suggesting. That’s what makes it bad science.

    Maybe you can tell it better, because I am probably too obtuse to understand you. How do those experts who are researching origin of life expect life to pop up? Please, explain us what good science is.

  20. 20
    Neil Rickert says:

    How do those experts who are researching origin of life expect life to pop up?

    I don’t follow the field very closely, so I can’t really say.

    My own expectation is that we should be looking at naturally occuring thermodynamic processes, particularly ones with some degree of persistence. And that’s why some folk are looking at thermal vents and the like.

  21. 21
    Barry Arrington says:

    Darwin: Warm little pond

    Neil: Superheated vent

    Both Darwin and Neil: Fact free speculations. Now that’s good science. As opposed to what Wells was doing. Thanks for clearing that up Neil.

  22. 22
    gpuccio says:

    Neil Rickert:

    Now, let’s go more into detail.

    Wells depicts a clear scenario where, with all informational elements practically present (genome, proteins, membrane, and so on) in a lab context where we can in principle intelligently control a lot of variables, nobody has any idea of how to generate a simple form of like.

    You say that is bad science. Why?

    We know that the main problem of life is that living beings, starting with the simplest prokaryote, are utterly improbable things, not only because of their informational content (which is the main object of the ID speculation), but also because of their completely “far from equilibrium” state. Living being are extremely borderline situations even from the simple point of view of physics and thermodinamics.

    That’s why, even with all the informational components there, nobody can generate life. That’s why life always comes from life. Even Craig Venter, with his artificial genomes (copied from natural genomes) has to use living cells to generate life.

    You say that’s bad science. No. It’s very good reasoning. Life is more than information. And if the information part cannot ever be explained by non design scenarios, the life part is probably even beyond our comprehension of how to design information. It’s as simple as that.

    Ah, no, I forgot. Nothing is beyond the potential of thermal vents. Thermal vents are exotic, we common mortals have never seen one face to face, so who knows what they can really do…

  23. 23
    Axel says:

    Who, indeed?

  24. 24
    Axel says:

    Sorry, GP! I’d just seen the last few words and thought they were Neil’s.

  25. 25
    jw777 says:

    Scordova:

    Your four examples are powerful but do nothing to upset the internal consistency of a panbosonistic (presuppositional materialistic) worldview.

    You must upset the axioms first.

    If I assume that all evidence, no matter what, must enter as a compulsory conclusion of panbosonism (i.e – belief that ALL that is is unguided, mindless, purposeless matter), guess what my conclusions will be.

    Assuming first that the human mind is an illusion of function of matter, it doesn’t matter what engineering-like functions you find in nature, because the assumption has precluded human constructions themselves as products of mind. That is, a Shermer would argue that Mount Rushmore is ultimately an example of random chance and physical forces, not intentional purpose, because WE are not intentional purpose. The flagellum, 500 coins, dead dogs, etc. all fall under the same heading. The inclusion of the conclusion in the assumption does not allow for any alternate interpretations of these examples.

    Thus, we must first encourage the audience to permit an allowance of the possibility of mind, purpose, intelligence, engineering and foresight as realities. Otherwise, you will have fools ( I say this in the literal not pejorative) arguing that no evidence can point to anything but additional proof of panbosonism.

    Consequently, a Matze will see ANY configuration of 500 coins as a product of obligatory panbosonistic property; a Reickert will see the abject failure of all naturalistic origins theories as – not evidence counting against them – but just more Edison filament attempts on the way to the assumed spontaneous generation lightbulb.

    I can sense a shift happening in the ID-denier camp. They know that they’ve been backed into a corner; and now as the evidence is soon finally proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the only tenable explanations of the natural world must of necessity include foresight and planning, be prepared my fellow thinkers. They will simply revise “foresight” and “planning” as illusory functions of matter that were predicted by panbosonism. Shermer is already codifying this approach. And Stenger is already preparing by hoping to sweep the fine-tuning aside.

    Evidence and examples are part of a top-down approach that is pushing a retreat into the foundational assumptions already. It has been a productive warlike route since Kenyon and Denton. Behe dropped a neutron bomb which materialists still haven’t recovered from. But it seems to me that now is the time to sow salt in the fields rather than enter parle.

  26. 26
    Mung says:

    Oh darn, I thought the OP said there was an outbreak of DOS!

    Long live the command line!

  27. 27
    Neil Rickert says:

    Wells depicts a clear scenario where, with all informational elements practically present (genome, proteins, membrane, and so on) in a lab context where we can in principle intelligently control a lot of variables, nobody has any idea of how to generate a simple form of like.

    You see “all information elements practically present”. I see a random mess with zero information. We must be looking at this differently.

    … but also because of their completely “far from equilibrium” state.

    There’s something wrong with that. You wouldn’t be alive if you were far from equilibrium. Living things maintain some sort of equilibrium, even in a hostile environment.

  28. 28
    gpuccio says:

    Neil Rickert:

    The concept of “far from equilibrium” is a well defined concept in physics. I was referring to that. From arXiv.org:

    Far-From-Equilibrium Physics: An Overview

    Heinrich M. Jaeger, Andrea J. Liu
    (Submitted on 24 Sep 2010)
    Isolated systems tend to evolve towards equilibrium, a special state that has been the focus of many-body research for a century. Yet much of the richness of the world around us arises from conditions far from equilibrium. Phenomena such as turbulence, earthquakes, fracture, and life itself occur only far from equilibrium. Subjecting materials to conditions far from equilibrium leads to otherwise unattainable properties. For example, rapid cooling is a key process in manufacturing the strongest metallic alloys and toughest plastics. Processes that occur far from equilibrium also create some of the most intricate structures known, from snowflakes to the highly organized structures of life. While much is understood about systems at or near equilibrium, we are just beginning to uncover the basic principles governing systems far from equilibrium.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.4874v1

    You say:

    You see “all information elements practically present”. I see a random mess with zero information. We must be looking at this differently.

    Sure, only I really don’t understand what you are looking at. For example, there is a whole genome there available and potentially functional. Craig Venter could use it to make a functional cell from a living enucleated cell. The simple point is that nobody could make a functional cell with that genome without a living cell, even if enucleated.

    Do you deny that? Are you affirm that a whole genome, which can be used to make a living enucleated cell functional, is “a random mess with zero information”? I don’t know what your personal definition of information is, but I suppose it is none of the many that I could accept, if those are the results.

    Please, clarify. I think you are an intelligent person, and I hate seeing you say wholly unacceptable things.

  29. 29
    Neil Rickert says:

    Sure, only I really don’t understand what you are looking for. For example, there is a whole genome there available and potentially functional.

    I took Wells to be talking about a bunch of debris floating around. And I don’t see that as information.

    To me, information is abstract, though with a material representation. I don’t see how to get that with floating debris. What you say about information being there seems an extraordinarily materialistic view, especially coming from someone who criticizes materialism.

    The simple point is that nobody could make a functional cell with that genome without a living cell, even if enucleated.

    At least in our current state of knowledge, that seems to be true. But isn’t that the point I made earlier, namely that you have to start with the thermodynamic processes (the metabolism).

  30. 30
    Joe says:

    Neil:

    I took Wells to be talking about a bunch of debris floating around.

    Why, he didn’t dsay anything pertaining to that? BTW metabolism first has been a bust. Protein first has been a bust. and the alleged RNA world has been a bust.

  31. 31
    gpuccio says:

    Neil Rickert:

    “To me, information is abstract, though with a material representation. I don’t see how to get that with floating debris.”

    Just a simple question: is a protein coding gene floating in your debris a material representation of information? Or not?

    Just to understand.

  32. 32
    johnp says:

    Neil Rikert said “I took Wells to be talking about a bunch of debris floating around. And I don’t see that as information.”

    Mr. Rikert I agree with you 100%. 1000%!! (In the sense that “information” is both encoded, sent, and decoded by some form of agency, whether rational conscience beings or cellular machinery).

    Now Neil, please tell us: What is the fundamental difference between Wells’ “bunch of debris floating around” and ANY OTHER OOL scenario? Because EVERY SINGLE ONE I have ever seen started with a “bunch of debris floating around” whether it’s in a warm little pond, thermal vents, a reducing/expanding lagoon, or on the planet Clatuu.

    What say you sir?

  33. 33
    johnp says:

    Pardon me, in my haste to post my previous comment, I was not clear in my last paragraph. When I mentioned “every single” OOL scenario “I have ever seen”, parenthetically I should have stated (with the exception of supernatural creation scenarios). Thanks.

  34. 34
    Neil Rickert says:

    Now Neil, please tell us: What is the fundamental difference between Wells’ “bunch of debris floating around” and ANY OTHER OOL scenario? Because EVERY SINGLE ONE I have ever seen started with a “bunch of debris floating around” whether it’s in a warm little pond, thermal vents, a reducing/expanding lagoon, or on the planet Clatuu.

    At least some of those are starting with active homeostatic thermodynamic processes, rather than random assembly of the right molecules.

  35. 35
    Barry Arrington says:

    Neil at 34. Are you suggesting that non-ID OOL theories do not posit the “random assembly of the right molecules”? Do tell. All this time I thought that is exactly how they thought life got kicked off.

    Now that you have informed us that is not the case, please tell us how non-ID OOL theory posits that the right molecules were assembled in the first life if not through a fortuitous random encounter.

  36. 36
    Barb says:

    In the southern part of the Gulf of California, deep in the Guaymas trench [7000 feet/2000 meters], there are hydrothermal vents that support life. This is part of the mid-ocean ridge system. The vents spew out a toxic, superheated concoction of water and dissolved minerals from inside the earth.

    The hundreds of species living there include bacteria, giant clams—perhaps a foot in length—and, strangest of all, thickets of crimson-plumed tube worms anchored firmly to the seafloor and standing up to six feet [1.8 m] tall.

    Vent water is also highly acidic and contains many metals, including copper, magnesium, iron, and zinc. But instead of barely coping in this environment—which has been compared to a toxic-waste site—tube worms and other creatures thrive.

    Biologists opened up the flaccid sac of a tube worm’s body. Its tissues contained a bacterial culture composed of some 285 billion [10 billion] bacteria per ounce [gram] of tissue.

    In 1980 a biology student theorized that the tube worm lives by means of symbiosis—an arrangement where two species cooperate for mutual benefit. Research confirmed her hypothesis by showing that the tube worm, as host, feeds the bacteria, and the bacteria feed the worm.

    Like gills, the plumes of the tube worm gather the ingredients, such as oxygen and carbon, that the bacteria need to manufacture food. The plumes do not wave directly in the searing vent water—that would be suicide—but in the region close to where near-freezing seawater and vent water mix. Of course, this food-manufacturing process requires energy. On the earth’s surface—and in the upper part of the ocean—sunlight energizes food production by causing vegetation to grow. But sunlight comes nowhere near the abyssal home of the tube worm.

    In order to bind all the chemicals needed by the bacteria, tube worm blood is composed of hemoglobin molecules that are 30 times larger than hemoglobin molecules in humans. The blood transports these chemicals to the hungry bacteria, and the bacteria, in turn, manufacture food for the tube worm.

    Hydrothermal vents can turn on and off sporadically, which makes life around vents a precarious existence. Some creatures, however, may survive by migrating to other vents.

    This is all well and good, but it doesn’t answer the OoL question. Where did the hydrothermal vents come from, if they are the source of energy? Where, when, and how did these energy-producing processes begin in the vent system?

  37. 37
    Neil Rickert says:

    Neil at 34. Are you suggesting that non-ID OOL theories do not posit the “random assembly of the right molecules”?

    It’s not an area that I have studied closely, so I can’t really answer.

    As I understand it, “RNA first” scenarios are, roughly, based on the assumption of random assembly. But “metabolism first” scenarios are not.

    And, of course, that word “random” can be confusing. Some might say that tornados form randomly. Yet the same kind of conditions seem to spawn tornados, so “random” is misleading though partially true in that case.

  38. 38
    Joe says:

    Who sez that tornadoes form randomly? And metabolism first scenarios are a bust, but Neil can keep them if he really wants. RBA first has been a total bust too.

  39. 39
    Joe says:

    Tornadoes are non-random in the same sense as natural selection.

    Just sayin’

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