Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Origin of life challenge: The information challenge is the only one that counts


info, information, tips, icon, support From Brian Miller at Evolution News & Views:

The first issue relates to the comparison of the sequencing of amino acids in proteins to the letters in a sentence. This analogy is generally disliked by design critics since it so clearly reveals the powerful evidence for intelligence from the information contained in life. It also helps lay audiences see past the technobabble and misdirection often used to mislead the public, albeit unintentionally.

The challenge for nucleotide based enzymes (ribozymes) is equally daunting. Stumbling across a random sequence that could perform even one of the most basic reactions also requires a search library in the trillions. So, any multistage process would also be beyond the reach of chance. A glimmer of hope was offered by Jack Szostak when he published a paper that purported to show RNA could self-replicate without the aid of any enzyme. Unaided self-repliation would have greatly aided the search process. However, he later retracted the paper after the results could not be reproduced.

Naturalists are compelled to believe something preposterous about the world we can see all around us – that it arose purely by chance. They are not free to have an alternative perspective any more than Bret Weinstein was free to just teach science or Lindsay Shepherd was free to just teach communication arts. They worship a jealous fraud.

The skeptic could always argue that some materialistic explanation might eventually be found to explain those patterns, so design cannot be proven. Yet, the identification of design is still eminently reasonable. The evidence for design in the simplest cell is unambiguous since it contains energy conversion technology, advanced information processing, and automated assembly of all of its components, to name just a few features. The real issue is not the evidence but whether people’s philosophical assumptions would allow them to deny the preposterous and embrace the obvious. More.

Image result for origin of life NASA

Unless you want to hear the hypothesis of the week for the rest of your life. There is, one supposes, a market for that…

See also: Can the rot of naturalism be stopped? Relating information to matter and energy might help


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

We can be even more specific in respect to explanatory knowledge vs non-explanatory knowledge. Only people can create explanatory knowledge. But not all functional knowledge is explanatory. Both nature and people can create non-explanatory knowledge, which represents useful rules of thumb. critical rationalist
Eric Anderson: Yes, it seems that VJ has made different cognitive choices somewhat recently. But I am sure that they come from some form of intellectual honesty, however badly used. He has always had a rather philosophical approach to issues, as it can be expected by him, of course. The problem is, IMO, that his understanding of technical problems, especially in biology, is probably limited. Or maybe he has reacted to some wrong positions in the ID movement (there are many, of course), and now he also sees wrong where simple truth resides. Who knows? However, I respect his new positions, but I agree with you: it is a little sad. gpuccio
Let me add that I am only referencing Torley's specific claim that "functional information" does not need any of the key characteristics of semantic information -- thus not being much of a problem for the materialist creation story, "given enough time" (nod, nod, wink, wink). I have not yet waded through his entire article, nor have I had time to look at the thermodynamic issue he and Brian have been going back and forth on . . . Eric Anderson
Thanks for highlighting this. Everyone should check out Brian's article. The sad part, for me at least, is that Brian is responding to Vincent Torley's claims at TSZ, including stuff like this:
In fact, functional information is much easier to generate than semantic information, because it doesn’t have to form words, conform to the rules of syntax, or make sense at the semantic level . . .
Torley further thinks that:
Generating something useful by chance – especially something with enough useful functions to be called alive – is a pretty tall order, but because living things lack the extra dimensions of richness found in messages that carry a semantic meaning, they’re going to be a lot easier to generate by chance than (say) instruction manuals or cook books… In practical terms, that means that given enough time, life just might arise.
It is very sad to see Torley go down this path, especially since he has had so much exposure to intelligent design over the years. Why on earth would he think that functional information doesn't need to conform to requirements of arrangement, syntax, or semantics? What novel kind of "information" is he proposing that doesn't need any of these characteristics? Clearly, he doesn't understand the concept of information, which leads him to dismiss what is in living organisms as something less than real information, leading him to then buy into the silly idea that the information in living organisms is "much easier" to generate. Then, just to make sure we understand the thrust of his argument, he claims that "In practical terms, that means that given enough time, life just might arise." No it doesn't. First of all, as noted, he is mistaken in his claims about information in the cell. Second, although the information problem is a key problem with abiogenesis -- arguably the key problem -- it is by no means the only problem. There are so many problems with the materialist story that it doesn't stand a chance. Further, Torley unfortunately doesn't bother to tell us what "enough time" means, nor to do the math. My hunch is that he doesn't really believe the materialistic story is reliable, but his vague, unspecified "given enough time" phrase serves as a convenient olive branch to his materialist colleagues he is courting, including the TSZ crowd. Well, enough on that. Sad to see that Torley has gone down this path. But I'm glad to that Brian has corrected some of the misinformation in Torley's article. Eric Anderson

Leave a Reply