The “Hardware” of Life Argument

By Steve Williams 

I can see the fingerprints of God when I look at you I can see the fingerprints of God and I know its true you’re a masterpiece that all creation quietly applauds and you’re covered with the fingerprints of God

~from Fingerprints of God, by Stephen Curtis Chapman

Hardware Lige Argument God

The common scientific view of the “hardware of life” (that is, the physical components of living systems) is, as Biologist Richard Dawkins puts it, “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” (The Blind Watchmaker, 1986).

Unfortunately, Dawkins (like many others in his field) has succumbed to a logically fallacious assumption that a supernatural explanation is not within the “pool of live options” to explain this appearance of design. Why not? Well, to summarize the common opinions of materialists like Dawkins, it’s “not science”. But what is “Science”?

Louis Pasteur once said “Religions, philosophies, atheism, materialism, or its opposite–none of these is relevant to the matter…I might even add that, scientifically speaking, I am indifferent to them all. The question is purely one of fact”. In other words, science should be “the un-biased search for truth” without philosophical preconceptions. That definition was always the ancient understanding of the term.

Since the so-called “Enlightenment” that swept through Europe in the 1700’s, and especially since the proposal of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in 1859, however, intellectual activists have been trying to add the qualifying concept of “within naturalistic explanations” to the definition. What that means, in effect, is the addition of a bias to the search for truth.

This bias first “got its legs” from the writings of an apparently bitter atheistic Scottish philosopher named David Hume in the 1700’s. Hume proposed a set of reasons why the supernatural should be ruled be ruled out of consideration as an explanatory mechanism. Not long afterwards, these reasons were shown to be fallacious (we’ll examine this in a later chapter), but at the time, it was as if Europe was eager to unfetter itself from religion, and atheism blossomed somewhat throughout the continent.

Most modern philosophers (even agnostic ones) find Hume’s arguments to be almost laughably illogical, but many atheists unknowingly cite him today as if he was “the Christ” of their belief system. For a full-length treatment of this subject, see John Earman’s book Hume’s Abject Failure, but suffice it to say for the moment that modern humankind has nowhere near a broad enough scope of reality to eliminate the possibility of the supernatural. To the contrary, there are many things in our experience that defy naturalistic explanations.

The philosophical name of the most common scientific form of atheism is “Materialism”, and it claims that not only is there no God, but that there is nothing even like God in the universe. Although it has taken root within the Biological sciences, it has done so to a much lesser extent within Astronomy, Philosophy, and Physics. Many Americans would probably be surprised to know that polls show that the percentage of PhD’ed scientists overall who identify themselves as Christians and who go to church is roughly the same as the percentage in the population at large. Unfortunately, the small minority who identify themselves as atheists is much louder and more aggressive though, so they exert a disproportionate influence on the media, academic standards committees and the like.

Luckily for all who respect unbiased inquiry, many Philosophers who are experts in logic by definition (logic being a subset of Philosophy), have objected vociferously, especially in the past 40 years, to this effort, and have recognized that the scientific method is at stake. As I wrote before, it seems that the key element that catalyzed this mindset since the late 1800’s is Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Biologists became so enamored with it over the years that they invested heavily in deepening and entrenching their paradigms based on that assumption, and are not willing to consider that major problems have developed within it. Pride in Biology, and a reluctance to admit being wrong might be a factor. One has to wonder if there are spiritual and carnal reasons that admitting the mere possibility of the existence of the metaphysical is so daunting to some. Since Darwinian Evolution seems to be the lynchpin of this type of thinking, let’s take a hard look at it.

The concept of life arising from non-life by random chance is called “abiogenesis”. This concept is the “creation story” of Darwinian Evolution. But what are the odds of the building blocks of life coming together by random chance in a way to provide even the possibility of life? Harold Morowitz, an agnostic Yale University physicist, created mathematical models by imagining broths of living bacteria that were superheated until all the complex chemicals were broken down into basic building blocks. After cooling the mixtures, Morowitz used physics calculations to conclude that the odds of a single bacterium reassembling by chance is one in 10100,000,000,000. (1) Wow! How can we grasp such a large statistic? Well, it’s more likely that one would win the state lottery every week for a million years by purchasing just one ticket each week!

In response to the probabilities calculated by Morowitz, Robert Shapiro, author of Origins – A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, wrote:

The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle. (2)

Sir Frederick Hoyle compared the probability of life arising by chance to lining up 1050 (ten with fifty zeros after it) blind people, giving each one a scrambled Rubik’s Cube, and finding that they all solve the cube at the same moment!

Biological “Hardware” (Complex Structure) Argument

  1. According to a leading Darwinist, the odds of component parts in close proximity assembling into a single-celled creature are 1 in 10100,000,000,000.
  2. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050is mathematically impossible.
  3. Therefore, the spontaneous generation of life is mathematically impossible.

Regarding the origin of life, Francis Crick, winner of the Nobel Prize in biology for his work with the DNA molecule, stated in 1982:

An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. (3)

Crick’s assessment of the hopelessness of the spontaneous generation of life on earth led him to subsequently postulate a theory called “Directed Panspermia”, which held that space aliens “seeded” life on earth. As Philip Johnson observed, “When a scientist of Crick’s caliber feels he has to invoke undetectable spaceman, it is time to consider whether the field of prebiological evolution has come to a dead end.” (4)

Ever since the discovery of DNA in 1953, the Darwinian Theory of Evolution has faced increasing challenges yearly as more and more evidence for the complexity of the cell has been discovered. In 1996, Dr. Michael Behe (professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University) released a book entitled “Darwins’ Black Box”, which detailed an argument against Darwinian Evolution known as the “irreducible complexity” of biological structures and systems. In the 11 years since the publication of the book, it has been attacked from every angle by atheistic scientists, yet its central thesis has only gained strength, as the debate has exposed the weakness of Darwinian counter-arguments, and the naturalistic (atheistic) philosophical biases that lurk behind them.

Have you ever wondered if Charles Darwin himself would still believe in Darwinian Evolution (or macro-evolution) if he knew all of the evidence that has accumulated for and against it up to this time? Well, there is an interesting quote in which Darwin stated his own minimum standard for assessing whether or not his theory would withstand the tests of time:

If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. (5)

In Darwin’s day, it was assumed that cells were very simple. In the last half of the 20th century, however, it has come to light that inside each living cell are vastly complex molecular machines made up of various protein parts. Organs, which are made up of these complex cells, have also been shown to be much more complex than previously believed.

The blueprints for assembling the protein parts for cells and organs in correct timing and order are encoded into our DNA, which is similar to binary computer code, although it is quaternary (having 4 letters instead of 2). The density of the information encoded into DNA staggers the imagination; there is enough information-storing space in a half-teaspoon of DNA to store all of the assembly instructions for every creature ever made, and room left over to include every book ever written!

In addition to the incredible information-storing capacity in DNA, there are machines and systems in biology which vastly exceed mankind’s creative capacity in terms of their complexity. For example, the blood-clotting mechanism requires a sequence of 20 different proteins (each of which has an average chance of 1 in 8.03 x 10 to the 59th power of forming by random chance!) triggering one another like dominoes falling in order, until a fibrin mesh scaffolding is formed for the clot itself.

If you subtract any one single protein (regardless of where in the sequence of 20), this scaffolding fails to form, and no blood clot is possible. Without clotting, any creature with a circulatory system would bleed to death from a tiny wound, similarly to what happens to hemophiliacs.

Now think about how this compares to Darwin’s criterion for his own theory. Macro-evolution requires a mutation for every step, each of which needs to confer an advantage in surviving or creating offspring to be retained by natural selection. Even if we grant the creation of proteins by random chance (which is extremely unlikely), at steps 1, 2 ,3, 4, etc. on up to and through step 19, there is no advantage conferred toward the production of a blood clot until step 20 is completed! If you reduce the complexity by any single component (regardless of where in the sequence the single component is), the system doesn’t work, and has no reason to be retained by natural selection. This is Irreducible Complexity.

Let’s look at another example. The Bacterial Flagellum is a tail-like protein propeller attached to one end of a bacterium that propels the organism through its environment via rapid rotations (like a miniature outboard motor driving a whip in circular motion). It has components that are remarkably similar to a man-made outboard motor, such as a rotor, a U-joint, a stator, a driveshaft, a propeller, bushings, and O-rings.

There are at least 40 different protein parts required for the assembly of a flagellum. Many of the flagellar proteins control the construction process, switching the building phases on and off with chemical triggers at just the right times, and setting up construction in the proper sequence. It is an engineering marvel. If you deduct 1% of the parts, you don’t have a 99% functional bacterial flagellum; it becomes completely dysfunctional, and you have nothing but a hindrance (probably fatal) to any organism attached to it. The following picture hints at its complexity…

http://freethinkingministries.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/

Consider the fact that it is conservatively calculated that the odds of this incredible structure forming by random chance is 1 in 10 to the 1170th power. (6)  According to probability theorists, anything with a chance lower than 1 in 10 to the 50th power is mathematically impossible, so it doesn’t matter how much time you give it—it simply won’t occur by chance alone.

Just recently, a vastly more complex gear-driven, seven-engine, magnetic-guided flagellar bundle was discovered. Here is an piece on it from www.evolutionnews.org:

Souped-Up Hyperdrive Flagellum Discovered

Evolution News & Views December 3, 2012 5:05 AM

Get a load of this — a bacterium that packs a gear-driven, seven-engine, magnetic-guided flagellar bundle that gets 0 to 300 micrometers in one second, ten times faster than E. coli.

If you thought the standard bacterial flagellum made the case for intelligent design, wait till you hear the specs on MO-1, a marine bacterium described by Japanese researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Edited by Howard Berg, Harvard’s mastermind of flagellum reverse engineering, this paper describes the Ferrari of flagella.

Instead of being a simple helically wound propeller driven by a rotary motor, it is a complex organelle consisting of 7 flagella and 24 fibrils that form a tight bundle enveloped by a glycoprotein sheath…. the flagella of MO-1 must rotate individually, and yet the entire bundle functions as a unit to comprise a motility organelle.

To feel the Wow! factor, jump ahead to Figure 6 in the paper. It shows seven engines in one, arranged in a hexagonal array, stylized by the authors in a cross-sectional model that shows them all as gears interacting with 24 smaller gears between them. The flagella rotate one way, and the smaller gears rotate the opposite way to maximize torque while minimizing friction. Download the movie from the Supplemental Information page to see the gears in action.

Electron micrographs included in the paper show that the model is not unrealistic. These flagella really are tightly packed in a sheath, suggesting that the bundle acts like a gear-driven hyperdrive.

Here we have used electron cryotomography to visualize the 3D architecture of the sheathed flagella. The seven filaments are enveloped with 24 fibrils in the sheath, and their basal bodies are arranged in an intertwined hexagonal array similar to the thick and thin filaments of vertebrate skeletal muscles. This complex and exquisite architecture strongly suggests that the fibrils counter-rotate between flagella in direct contact to minimize the friction of high-speed rotation of individual flagella in the tight bundle within the sheath to enable MO-1 cells to swim at about 300 µm/s. (Emphasis added.)

At microbial level, that’s more than 10 body lengths per second. The authors were clearly excited by this engine, sounding like young men checking out high-performance cars, talking thrust, gear ratios and torque.

MO-1 is a magnetotactic bacterium capable of orienting its cell body along the geomagnetic field lines by using magnetosomes. The MO-1 cell has a flagellar apparatus with two lophotrichous [containing numerous flagella in] bundles. In contrast to peritrichously [flagella all over the cell] flagellated bacteria, MO-1 cells swim constantly in a helical trajectory toward magnetic north, and the trajectory changes from right-handed to left-handed without changes in velocity or direction. The cells are able to swim as fast as 300 μm/s, which is nearly 10-fold faster than E. coli and Salmonella. Although the flagella of the other types of bacteria usually work individually or by forming a loose bundle to produce thrust, the flagellar apparatus of MO-1 is a tight bundle of seven flagella enveloped in a sheath made of glycoproteins. This unique architecture appears to be essential for the smooth and high-speed swimming of MO-1.

They can’t see actual gears, of course, but physics demands that the mechanism of rotation must have something like it:

We hypothesize that, whereas each of the seven flagella has its torque-generating motor, the 24 fibrils counter rotate between the flagellar filaments to minimize the friction that would be generated if the flagella were directly packed together in a tight bundle. A schematic diagram representing our hypothesis is presented in Fig. 6. The flagella are represented as large brown gears and the fibrils are represented as small blue-green gears. The flagella and fibrils rotate counterclockwise and clockwise, respectively, as indicated by the arrows, to minimize friction (Movie S1). Although there is no direct evidence that the fibrils can rotate freely in the opposite direction as the flagellar filaments with which they are in direct contact, we think this is the simplest interpretation to explain the superior function afforded by the complex architecture of the MO-1 flagellar apparatus.

Considering the very tight packing of the 7 flagella and 24 fibrils that are in direct physical contact within the sheath, there appears to be no other way for the flagella to rotate at high speed without the counter rotation of the intervening fibrils. Although the fibrils and the surrounding sheath are in direct contact, the friction between them would be small because of the stocking-like flexibility of the sheath. This design must be playing an essential role in the fast, smooth rotation of the flagellar apparatus that allows the rapid swimming of MO-1.

With powerful evidence of design like this, did the researchers become converts to intelligent design? We can’t know, but would PNAS have printed such a paper without an obligatory tribute to unguided materialistic evolution? Evolution is not mentioned until the last paragraph:

Taken together, these features of the MO-1 flagellar apparatus represent an advanced level of evolution of a motility apparatus. It is also intriguing that the same pattern of an intertwined hexagonal array in two evolutionary distant systems: the basal bodies of flagella and fibrils of the MO-1 flagellar apparatus, and the thick and thin filaments in vertebrate skeletal muscle. Similar architectures of filamentous structures presumably evolved independently in prokaryotes and eukaryotes to fulfill the requirements for two very distinct mechanisms to generate motion: counter rotation and axial sliding.

OK, so the Darwinists got their offering, but it leaves a bad aftertaste: now, they have to believe that advanced mechanisms for generating motion evolved not just once, but twice — completely independent of each other. Thanks a lot, guys. Wait till the intelligent-design movement hears about this.

Oops, too late.

(http://www.evolutionnews.org/2012/12/souped-up_flage066921.html).

Going back to our previous subject, what if we just ignored the previously mentioned problems of forming the first cell, and assume that we’re starting the Darwinian process from the bacterial level and advancing to the human level? On page 153 of the book Who Was Adam?, Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross cite one of the world’s most prominent evolutionists, Dr. Francisco Ayala of UC Irvine, as calculating the minimal odds of human beings evolving from the bacterial level  to be 1 in 10 to the 1 millionth power. Three physicists, John Barrow, Brandon Carter and Frank Tipler, did roughly the same calculation but included some important factors that Ayala overlooked, and came up with the number 1 in 10 to the 24 millionth power. Again, according to probability theorists, any event with lower odds than 1 in 10 to the 50th power is mathematically impossible. Therefore unguided Darwinian evolution is mathematically impossible!

Reduced to a propositional argument, it might go like this:

Biological “Hardware” (Complex Structure) Argument

  1. According to leading Darwinists, odds of humans evolving from a single-celled creature are 1 in 1024,000,000.
  2. According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050is mathematically impossible.
  3. Therefore, Darwinian evolution of human beings is mathematically impossible.

Now, these two sets of odds (totaling to 1 in 10100,024,000,000) seem overwhelming to say the least; why would scientists insist that creations like these could have come about by evolution? To re-iterate, it seems that biological science has become dominated by atheistic philosophers. Science is “a search for truth”, but the oligarchy in control in this day and age is trying to change that to “a search for truth by naturalistic (atheistic) means”. To them, the idea of God is unacceptable, so science cannot consider even the possibility that God created this universe and all that is in it.

Take a look at the following quote by prominent Darwinist Richard Lewontin, and consider whether his viewpoint is logically sound. Unfortunately, this quote seems to be representative of how many Darwinists think, and how they want everyone else to think:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. (7)

One wonders why such a concerted effort is made to deny the metaphysical into the pool of live options. Perhaps the following quote by another prominent Darwinist named Aldous Huxley provides some insight:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption … For myself, as no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation.  The liberation we desired was simultaneous liberation from a certain political and economic system, and liberation from a certain system of morality.  We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. (8)

Now, just for fun, look at the following Bible passage, and think about how it relates to the quotes above:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. –Romans 1:20-22.

Perhaps this is a good place to ponder a quote from Nobel-Prize winning organic chemist Christian de Duve:

If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one… Faced with the enormous sum of lucky draws behind the success of the evolutionary game, one may legitimately wonder to what extent this success is actually written into the fabric of the universe. (9)

God has indeed left His signature in nature in its irreducible complexity and fine-tuning. Darwinism has failed repeatedly when tested as an explanation for the existence of life. Hundreds of scientists have recognized this and have signed a document called the “Dissent from Darwinism” (http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/) to express their disagreement with philosophical naturalism dominating science through Darwinism. We simply need to “have eyes to see, and ears to hear”, and stop listening to atheistic philosophers disguised as scientists, who try to insist that the supernatural or metaphysical is off-limits for science. “Reasonable faith” is going in the same direction to which the evidence is pointing. The teachings of the Bible, understood properly, merge perfectly with science.

 


This article is chapter 3 From What Your Atheist Professor Doesn’t know (But Should), by Steve Williams

Original Blog Source: http://bit.ly/2Ch6MsY

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11 replies
  1. KR says:

    “Since the so-called “Enlightenment” that swept through Europe in the 1700’s, and especially since the proposal of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution in 1859, however, intellectual activists have been trying to add the qualifying concept of “within naturalistic explanations” to the definition. What that means, in effect, is the addition of a bias to the search for truth.”
    .
    The accusation of naturalistic bias in science would carry some weight if the accusers were able to give some actual examples of testable hypotheses that have been ignored. I’m not aware of any such hypotheses being presented. Of course, if there were any such examples it would be a bit of a mystery why no-one, not even the people throwing the accusation, is doing anything about it. The ultimate test of whether your propositions are scientific or not is if you’re able to apply the scientific method to them. This requires testable hypotheses. Isn’t it about time that the anti-naturalistic crowd provided some?
    .
    “The philosophical name of the most common scientific form of atheism is “Materialism”, and it claims that not only is there no God, but that there is nothing even like God in the universe.”
    .
    Atheism is a lack of belief in any deities. It’s not a philosophy and it makes no claims about reality. I suppose there may be some scientists that make the positive claim that there is no God but I don’t think it’s anywhere close to being a mainstream position. The fact that not even Dawkins would make that claim makes me suspect that materialists by your definition are very rare.
    .
    “Unfortunately, the small minority who identify themselves as atheists is much louder and more aggressive though, so they exert a disproportionate influence on the media, academic standards committees and the like.”
    .
    So there should be plenty of examples of testable non-naturalistic hypotheses that have been suppressed by those pesky atheists. Considering all the highly motivated on-line outlets that would jump on any such story, the silence is telling. One of the main proponents of the naturalistic bias narrative is the Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based creationist lobby group that is completely dedicated to evolution skepticism and is the main driver of the Intelligent Design movement. They have their own lab (the Biologic Institute) and also their own journal, Bio-Complexity. If there is any place where you would expect to find some examples of this alternative scientific paradigm, it’s there.
    .
    I took the time to go through all the research articles in Bio-Complexity from its inception in 2010 (not as arduous as it sounds, their output is rather modest) but found no examples of any non-naturalistic approach. What I also didn’t find were any articles about the detection of design in nature or any application of ID principles. What conclusion can we draw from this other than the obvious one: people are not doing any non-naturalistic science because it cannot be done. Without any testable hypotheses there’s nothing for the non-naturalist researcher to do – it’s a dead end.
    .
    “Biologists became so enamored with it over the years that they invested heavily in deepening and entrenching their paradigms based on that assumption, and are not willing to consider that major problems have developed within it.”
    .
    Major problems such as…?
    .
    “The concept of life arising from non-life by random chance is called “abiogenesis”. ”
    .
    What is suggested is that life arose through a chemical process. To say that this means it happened by random chance is misleading. On the molecular level, individual molecules may move randomly but on the macro level, the end result always follows the laws of themodynamics. Chemistry clearly isn’t random – if it were, we wouldn’t be able to do any research or engineering within this field.
    .
    “This concept is the “creation story” of Darwinian Evolution.”
    .
    The theory of evolution doesn’t rest on any particular origin of life paradigm. No matter how life started, the evidence clearly shows that it has developed and diversified through an evolutionary process.
    .
    “But what are the odds of the building blocks of life coming together by random chance in a way to provide even the possibility of life? Harold Morowitz, an agnostic Yale University physicist, created mathematical models by imagining broths of living bacteria that were superheated until all the complex chemicals were broken down into basic building blocks. After cooling the mixtures, Morowitz used physics calculations to conclude that the odds of a single bacterium reassembling by chance is one in 10100,000,000,000. (1) Wow! How can we grasp such a large statistic? Well, it’s more likely that one would win the state lottery every week for a million years by purchasing just one ticket each week!”
    .
    Since no-one is suggesting that modern bacteria formed randomly, this calculation is completely irrelevant. It seems much more likely that the evolutionary process started with much simpler structures. All that would have been necessary to get the ball rolling is a lipid vesicle enclosing a replicator, e.g. RNA.
    .
    “The improbability involved in generating even one bacterium is so large that it reduces all considerations of time and space to nothingness. Given such odds, the time until the black holes evaporate and the space to the ends of the universe would make no difference at all. If we were to wait, we would truly be waiting for a miracle.”
    .
    It would indeed be miraculous but since no-one is suggesting that this is what happened it’s not an argument against abiogenesis. I couldn’t find the original quote so I don’t know the context but the blurb for the book from Publishers Weekly makes it clear that Robert Shapiro is not against abiogenesis, just the current hypotheses (he presents his own hypothesis in the book). Clearly, Robert Shapiro does not believe in any supernatural origin of life.
    .
    “Sir Frederick Hoyle compared the probability of life arising by chance to lining up 1050 (ten with fifty zeros after it) blind people, giving each one a scrambled Rubik’s Cube, and finding that they all solve the cube at the same moment!”
    .
    Fred Hoyle was not a biologist, he was an astrophysicist – and a very good one. He was the one who figured out how all the heavy elements are formed inside collapsing stars. As a biologist, however, he didn’t do as well. His calculations concerned the probability of a large protein assembling randomly. To the best of my knowledge, no-one is suggesting that proteins form by randomly mixing amino acids but that they are the result of an iterative evolutionary process, i.e. proteins are unlikely to have been a part of early abiogenesis. To use Hoyle’s numbers as an argument against evolution would make zero sense, since Hoyle is specifically excluding the evolutionary process from his calculations.
    .
    “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”
    .
    Let’s see the full Crick quote, shall we?
    .
    “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.”
    .
    So what Crick is saying is that we don’t have any good reason to think that life couldn’t have started through ordinary chemical reactions but that it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to elucidate exactly how it happened. Not quite what your truncated quote made it look like he was saying, is it? Isn’t it ironic that an obviously doctored quote would start with “An honest man…”?
    .
    “Crick’s assessment of the hopelessness of the spontaneous generation of life on earth led him to subsequently postulate a theory called “Directed Panspermia”, which held that space aliens “seeded” life on earth.”
    .
    You have your chronology wrong. The paper on directed panspermia that Crick wrote with Leslie Orgel was published in 1973, eight years before the truncated quote. In the 70’s, abiogenesis as a research field had not gotten started. Scientists didn’t see any way around the chicken/egg conundrum of which came first, proteins or DNA. Since proteins are encoded by DNA and DNA needs proteins to self-replicate, it seemed they must have formed simultaneusly, which didn’t make any sense. That was the background for Crick’s and Orgel’s panspermia paper.
    .
    Still, it seems that Crick was more optimistic in 1981 than he had been in 1973 and just a year after the 1981 quote, Tom Cech validated that optimism by demonstrating that RNA can serve as a catalyst. The question of which came first, protein or DNA now had a plausible answer: “neither, it was RNA” – a molecule that can both store sequence information like DNA and catalyze chemical reactions like protein enzymes.

    Reply
  2. KR says:

    ” As Philip Johnson observed, “When a scientist of Crick’s caliber feels he has to invoke undetectable spaceman, it is time to consider whether the field of prebiological evolution has come to a dead end.”
    .
    This comes from the book “Darwin On Trial” that came out in 1991, a full decade after Crick had clearly stated that he saw no reason to believe abiogenesis was impossible. To use the 1973 paper on panspermia as an indication of Crick’s views on the matter while ignoring the later quote is clearly disingenuous.
    .
    “In 1996, Dr. Michael Behe (professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University) released a book entitled “Darwins’ Black Box”, which detailed an argument against Darwinian Evolution known as the “irreducible complexity” of biological structures and systems. In the 11 years since the publication of the book, it has been attacked from every angle by atheistic scientists, yet its central thesis has only gained strength, as the debate has exposed the weakness of Darwinian counter-arguments, and the naturalistic (atheistic) philosophical biases that lurk behind them.”
    .
    Irreducible Complexity was weighed and measured during the Kitzmiller v Dover trial in 2005 and came up wanting. In his book “Darwin’s Black Box”, Behe states: “The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.” He reaffirmed this during the trial (as an expert witness for the defense) but when one of the attorneys for the plaintiff placed a pile of publications in front of him which specifically deal with the evolution of the immune system, Behe had to concede that he hadn’t read these articles. Oops. Behe also had to admit that in order to qualify Intelligent Design as a scientific theory he had to use such a loose definition of scientific theory that astrology would also qualify. Double oops.
    .
    There’s been a recurring theme when it comes to claims about irreducible complexity. For every putative example of IC presented, a reduced and fully functional precursor has been found, neatly refuting the claim of IC. Far from gaining strength, IC has gradually lost any traction it may have had outside the Intelligent Design movement and Behe has, if anything, become more isolated. He’s not even a favourite among the Discovery Institute crowd since he heretically accepts the evolutionary principle of common descent. The fact that he seems completely disinterested in doing any research to support his claims doesn’t really help his situation.
    .
    “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”
    .
    The next sentence in that quote is: “But I can find out no such case.” It would seem this still holds true.
    .
    “In Darwin’s day, it was assumed that cells were very simple. In the last half of the 20th century, however, it has come to light that inside each living cell are vastly complex molecular machines made up of various protein parts. Organs, which are made up of these complex cells, have also been shown to be much more complex than previously believed.”
    .
    The essence of this argument from complexity is: look at how complex that is, it couldn’t possibly have evolved! It’s clearly not a scientific argument since no reason is given for why complexity cannot result from an evolutionary process. Rather, it’s an argument from personal incredulity: I don’t see how this could have evolved, therefore it didn’t. The fallacious nature of this argument should be obvious.
    .
    “For example, the blood-clotting mechanism requires a sequence of 20 different proteins (each of which has an average chance of 1 in 8.03 x 10 to the 59th power of forming by random chance!) triggering one another like dominoes falling in order, until a fibrin mesh scaffolding is formed for the clot itself.
    If you subtract any one single protein (regardless of where in the sequence of 20), this scaffolding fails to form, and no blood clot is possible. Without clotting, any creature with a circulatory system would bleed to death from a tiny wound, similarly to what happens to hemophiliacs.”
    .
    This would be one of the debunked examples of Irreducible Complexity. We know that our blood clotting system is not irreducibly complex, since there are other organisms which have similar functioning blood clotting systems with fewer parts. We also have indications from DNA evidence that several of the blood clotting factors have formed through duplication of a common ancestral protein.
    .
    “Macro-evolution requires a mutation for every step, each of which needs to confer an advantage in surviving or creating offspring to be retained by natural selection.”
    .
    This is false. Most evolutionary change is not adaptive through natural selection but the result of genetic drift, i.e. the fixation in a population of mutations that are neutral with resoect to fitness. Statistically, even slightly deleterious mutations have a non-zero chance of being fixated. IOW, it’s perfectly possible to have a series of neutral mutations leading up to an advantageous one.
    .
    “Even if we grant the creation of proteins by random chance (which is extremely unlikely), at steps 1, 2 ,3, 4, etc. on up to and through step 19, there is no advantage conferred toward the production of a blood clot until step 20 is completed! If you reduce the complexity by any single component (regardless of where in the sequence the single component is), the system doesn’t work, and has no reason to be retained by natural selection. This is Irreducible Complexity.”
    .
    You don’t have to grant random generation of proteins since no-one believes that’s how they form. Evolution has random components (mutation and genetic drift) but also a decidedly non-random component (natural selection). If it leads to adaptation, this is clearly a non-random outcome. If we think in terms of duplications, it’s easy to see how a dual-function protein could go through such a duplication where one copy could either gain a new function or the dual functions of the ancestral protein could eventually be split over the two separate proteins. This is a perfectly plausible way that a complex system could evolve without every mutation being immediately beneficial.
    .
    I’m not too familiar with the MO-1 flagellar system but I see no evidence in this presentation that it couldn’t have evolved. It all boils down to the same argument from personal incredulity: this looks really complex! I’m not sure why you would put so much significance on the fact that such systems have evolved twice. We have evidence that an image-forming eye has evolved at least 50 times. Wings have evolved at least 4 times. If there’s a clear survival benefit to be had, we shouldn’t be surprised if there are several evolutionary paths to reach it.
    .
    “On page 153 of the book Who Was Adam?, Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross cite one of the world’s most prominent evolutionists, Dr. Francisco Ayala of UC Irvine, as calculating the minimal odds of human beings evolving from the bacterial level to be 1 in 10 to the 1 millionth power. Three physicists, John Barrow, Brandon Carter and Frank Tipler, did roughly the same calculation but included some important factors that Ayala overlooked, and came up with the number 1 in 10 to the 24 millionth power. Again, according to probability theorists, any event with lower odds than 1 in 10 to the 50th power is mathematically impossible. Therefore unguided Darwinian evolution is mathematically impossible!”
    .
    Here you’re commiting what I would call the Lottery Fallacy. By your logic, lotteries couldn’t possibly work because winning them has such a low probability. Indeed, the probability of a specific individual winning the lottery is very low but the probability of *someone* winning the lottery is 1. Similarly, the probability of a specific outcome of an evolutionary process may be vanishingly low but the probability of *some* evolutionary outcome is 1.
    .
    You seem to operate with the assumption that evolution has been proceeding for 4 billion years with us humans in mind. I see no reason to think that. I also see no reason to doubt that our evolution is a low-probability event – but this certainly doesn’t demonstrate any mathematical improbability of evolution itself. The phenomenon of evolution (changes in allelic frequencies within populations over time) is an observable fact and our current evolutionary theory is the best explanation we have for this observation.
    .
    The contentious part of the Lewontin quote seems to be this:
    .
    “Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.”
    .
    What does Lewontin mean by this? It look s kind of blinkered, like we’re not even allowed to contemplate the possibility of anything divine. Could we be missing some context here? Remember that Lewontin is writing this from the perspective of an active scientist. Let’s try adding just a little qualifaction to the end of his statement like this:
    .
    “Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door – when we’re doing science.”
    .
    This makes perfect sense to me. It’s not a claim about the existence of deities, just that we cannot appeal to any such deity when we’re doing science. Why? Because science is about explaining things – and appealing to the miraculous is the opposite of providing an explanation. It’s the antithesis of doing science – the abandonment of the very idea of scientific investigation. This is accepted by both atheist and theist scientists so I don’t see that it’s controversial in any way.
    .
    “Darwinism has failed repeatedly when tested as an explanation for the existence of life.”
    .
    If by “Darwinism” you mean the theory of evolution (which nowadays is something very different from Darwin’s theory), this is a rather pointless statement since the theory of evolution is not an attempt to explain life but to explain how life develops and diversifies once it exists. The origin of life is, as already acknowledged, a separate field of study called abiogenesis. It’s still in an early stage and nowhere near a comprehensive theory but a lot of progress has been made and I see no reason to think that we won’t be able to find a plausible explanation for the emergence of life which can be verified experimentally and is consistent with what we know of the conditions at the time.
    .
    “We simply need to “have eyes to see, and ears to hear”, and stop listening to atheistic philosophers disguised as scientists, who try to insist that the supernatural or metaphysical is off-limits for science. “Reasonable faith” is going in the same direction to which the evidence is pointing. The teachings of the Bible, understood properly, merge perfectly with science.”
    .
    Yikes. Well, if there was any lingering pretense that this was about science I guess that has been dropped. I’m still waiting for the proponents of this non-naturalistic science to actually produce results. What’s the hold-up?

    Reply
    • Asbjørn Lund says:

      The point with quoting Lewontin was that in spite of where the facts led, he would prefer methodological naturalism in stead. Then the consequence will be to cut away possible explanations. Many historical sciences allow intelligent causes, and science about origins deal about historical events. Evolutionary theory (Et) suppose past events, so should intelligent design (id) be allowed the same-if just treatment is a matter of concern.

      The assumption of mainly junk-DNA in human genom is greatly challenged by id. That portion has reduced from over 80 to less than 20 %, and still reducing. This is in harmony with id, not with Et, the same for orfan genes (15-20%) in most species, and irreducibel complexity, where blood-clotting cannot happen before every step is in place, not to mention the nanomolecular machines mentioned.

      Reply
      • KR says:

        “The point with quoting Lewontin was that in spite of where the facts led, he would prefer methodological naturalism in stead. Then the consequence will be to cut away possible explanations.”
        .
        I already addressed that. Lewontin is committed to methodological naturalism not because of any philosophical bias but because methodological naturalism is the only way to get verifiable results. When you introduce the supernatural, the scientific method simply doesn’t work. If you disagree with this, you need to show that viable research avenues are being ignored. What are the hypotheses and how can they be tested?
        .
        You also need to explain why seemingly no proponents of non-naturalistic science are doing anything about these hypotheses. The alleged atheist consipracy can hardly explain why the Discovery Institute with their own research facilities and trained scientists like Doug Axe and Anne Gauger are using the same methodological naturalism as everyone else and have proposed no testable non-naturalistic hypotheses. What’s stopping them?
        .
        “Many historical sciences allow intelligent causes, and science about origins deal about historical events. Evolutionary theory (Et) suppose past events, so should intelligent design (id) be allowed the same-if just treatment is a matter of concern.”
        .
        Again, what’s stopping you if you have your own labs and your own journal in which to publish your findings? Suppose anything you like but in the end, you’re going to have to demonstrate that you can actually do science with your ideas, i.e. propose testable hypotheses that yield independently verifiable results. ID has had decades to do this and has failed rather spectacularly.
        .
        Any normal scientific project with this dismal record would have been cancelled years ago but as we all know, ID is no normal scientific project. In fact, it’s not a scientific project at all but a religiously motivated political movement with the clearly stated goal of defeating materialism. To quote from the leaked Wedge Document: “Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.”
        .
        Of course, to get active scientists to abandon the current paradigm, ID needs to show that they have something better, something that has more explanatory power and produces more results (and more reliable results). IOW, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In the complete and utter absence of any such results, the only thing that keeps the ID movement going is the capacity of the Discovery Institute to convince their donors that they are doing the Lord’s Work (while pretending to do science).
        .
        “The assumption of mainly junk-DNA in human genom is greatly challenged by id. That portion has reduced from over 80 to less than 20 %, and still reducing.”
        .
        “junk DNA” is not an assumption, it’s a conclusion based on several lines of evidence:
        1) Lack of sequence conservation. The way we know that a particular DNA sequence provides a function is that it’s conserved by natural selection. Any mutation that destroys this function would make the individual organism less viable and natural selection would eventually remove the broken gene from the population. The result is that functional sequences remain very stable both within a species and across different species, indicating a common descent.
        .
        Recent studies have shown that about 8% of the human genome is conserved. The other 92% is evolving neutrally, i.e. it behaves as if it’s completely insensitive to mutation. “junk DNA” neatly explains this observation, while the “no junk” proposition faces a bit of a mystery. Anyone who makes the claim that the 92% of the DNA sequences that are non-conserved are functional would need to explain how this function can be maintained completely independently of the DNA sequence.
        .
        2) The C-value paradox. This is the observation that there is no discernible correlation between organismal complexity and genome size. E.g, there are single-celled amoebae that have a genome which is around 100 times bigger than the human genome. There are also plenty of examples of organisms that are physiologically very similar but have wildly different genome sizes. Again, this can be easily explained by “junk DNA”, while the “no junk” proponents would need to explain what all this DNA is needed for.
        .
        3) The problem of genetic load. We know that every human being is born with roughly 100 new mutations that we didn’t inherit from our parents. We also know through population genetics studies that natural selection can remove 1-2 harmful mutations per generation before they start to accumulate. If the entire genome is functional, this would mean that around 100 mutations would be hitting functional sequences in our DNA. There is simply no way we could survive that kind of onslaught, so why are we still here? Again, this is easily explained if most of our DNA is junk but a complete mystery if it’s all functional.
        .
        Incidentally, it was the knowledge of the genetic load issue that allowed geneticists in the 1960’s to estimate that the human genome could have no more than 30 000 genes. This was considered a surprisingly low number but as the Human Genome Project showed, the number was actually closer to 20 000. Finally, may I ask: if the “junk DNA” proposition holds, would this falsify Intelligent Design?
        .
        “This is in harmony with id, not with Et, the same for orfan genes (15-20%) in most species, and irreducibel complexity, where blood-clotting cannot happen before every step is in place, not to mention the nanomolecular machines mentioned.”
        .
        The designation “orphan genes” simply means that we as yet haven’t found any homologues in other species, not that such homologues don’t exist now or have never existed. Even if they turn out to be true orphans, they represent a vanishingly small part of the genome and have no influence on the total numbers. The irreducible complexity of the blood clotting cascade can be refuted by simply pointing to the fact that different organisms have similarly working systems where the constituent parts show a high degree of homology but are different in number. This is explained nicely by an evolutionary process where parts are added by duplication mutations.

        Reply
  3. KR says:

    I just checked out the Dissent From Darwinism document. This is the statement they’re asking people to sign:
    .
    “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutations and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
    .
    For unclear reasons, they seem to be excluding genetic drift as an evolutionary mechanism. As it stands, this statement could be signed by any active evolutionary biologist. My guess is that the author of the statement isn’t quite up to date on modern evolutionary theory. After all, it’s just half a century since Kimura published his Neutral Theory.

    Reply
  4. Andy Ryan says:

    “According to probability theorists, anything with lower odds than 1 in 1050 is mathematically impossible”
    .
    Sorry, but that’s nonsense. The chance of winning the lottery is about 1 in 14,000,000, but most weeks someone will win. 1 in 1,050 isn’t even that unlikely. If there’s a 1 in 1,050 chance of you getting a disease on any particularly day, chances are you’ll get it at some point in three years.

    “Many Americans would probably be surprised to know that polls show that the percentage of PhD’ed scientists overall who identify themselves as Christians and who go to church is roughly the same as the percentage in the population at large.”
    .
    Where are you getting this claim from? PEW research:

    “A survey of scientists who are members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press in May and June 2009, finds that members of this group are, on the whole, much less religious than the general public.1 Indeed, the survey shows that scientists are roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006.”

    Reply
    • KR says:

      “1 in 1,050 isn’t even that unlikely.”
      .
      I think this is just a formatting glitch where 10E50 became 1050. In the preceding paragraph, Williams uses the number “10 to the 50th power”, which I guess got lost in his propositional argument. Obviously, this doesn’t save the argument since it’s still based on a fallacy.

      Reply
  5. bob says:

    “Unfortunately, Dawkins (like many others in his field) has succumbed to a logically fallacious assumption that a supernatural explanation is not within the “pool of live options” to explain this appearance of design.”
    My gosh – let’s dissect:

    1 – “…Dawkins…has succumbed to a logically fallacious assumption…”
    How can it be “logically fallacious” if any and every discovery scientists have made have been shown to have natural origins? How can it be “logically fallacious” if scientists have never, not once, discovered any supernatural cause to anything?

    2 – “…that a supernatural explanation is not within the “pool of live options”…”
    I am going to make an assumption and accuse the author of being dishonest – I am confident that he would be very, very disappointed if a supernatural explanation was considered, investigated, and the data led scientists to conclude that the cause was supernatural, but the conclusion was Allah, not the Christian God, was the supernatural entity behind the event. Pot-kettle-black.

    3 – “…to explain this appearance of design.”
    In my view, the natural world around us does not in any way appear to be designed – therefor – I do not need to have this supposed design appearance explained to me. If a scientist begins his / her lecture with “Why does the world around us appear to be designed?”, I’ll raise my hand and state, “But it doesn’t…”

    r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

    Reply

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