rhetoric sans pareil

November 24, 2008

More from cdk007: The Origin of the Genetic Code

Filed under: Reference, Refutation — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Ubiquitous Che @ 12:01 am


Another link to one of cdk007’s many excellent videos. This one is the sequel to the Abiogenesis video I linked to earlier in this blog.

The reason I went sniffing around in cdk007‘s archives again was down to a post I read over at Apologia: Abiogenesis: The Atheist Creation Story.

Eric Kemp’s piece was far better written than Pastoral Musing’s latest piece. However, Pastoral Musing managed to do more with less. Despite his superior grasp of argument and prose, Eric managed to do less with more.

First and foremost, his blog is Aplogia: Standing in defense of the Christian Worldview. It seems odd to me that under the umbrella of that theme, Eric is choosing to attack abiogenesis. Simply put, abiogenesis and the Christian Worldview are entirely compatible. I think it would be really nice if abiogenesis disproved God. But unfortunately, it doesn’t. So that’s the first problem. His attack on abiogenesis is simply misguided – it was never a threat to the Christian Worldview in the first place.

Secondly, Eric’s very comprehensive and well-written post basically boiled down to a giant straw-man. The term ‘straw-man’ gets bandied about a lot these days, so I’ll take some time out to back that up.

The Current State of Abiogenesis

Obviously, much has happened in the fields of molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry since Huxley reinvented spontaneous generation. [emphasis not in context] For the past 150 years, scientists have been attempting to experimentally create life from non-living matter. Also, several theories that could explain the possibility of abiogenesis have been postulated. Let’s discuss the most popular theories and experiments and how current molecular biology, genetics and biochemistry show the impossiblity of each.

But to quote from cdk007’s Abiogenesis video:

Spontaneous generation was actually scientifically tested and proven false in 1668 by Francesco Redi, in 1765 by Lazzaro Spallanzani, and in 1859 by Louis Pasteur – and has never been claimed by scientists since…

Way to be current.

- The Origin of Life – Abiogenesis, 1:25 – 1:50, cdk007

Eric is trying to present the modern theory of abiogenesis as if it were identical to the older, falsified theory of spontaneous generation. The modern theory of abiogenesis is very, very different to spontaneous generation. In actual fact, the two theories are entirely distinct. Eric is presenting them as if they are not.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

And again:

1. The First Protein Formed from Pure Chance

Among secular academia, this theory has been completely rejected as an explanation for the origin of life. However, it is still popular in normal circles, and as such, deserves some attention.

The section under this heading even acknowledges that it is a straw man in its opening paragraph. No-one who is qualified to comment on the subject of abiogenesis actually thinks that the first protein formed from pure chance. The fact that some people who are not so qualified believe this – which is plausible – says nothing about abiogenesis. So why does Eric waste precious page-space in discussing it?

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

And again:

2. DNA Formed Itself

Another problem with the “protein first” theory is that it is common knowledge that proteins need DNA and RNA to form their structure and tell them what to do. As such, it has been postulated that DNA formed itself first.

To the best of my knowledge, this hypothesis is not widely regarded as very likely, for most of the reasons that Eric lists. For this reason, it has few proponents.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

The problem for the atheist is this; if you can’t explain where this information came from, you haven’t explained life because it’s the information that makes the molecules into something that actually functions.

Here, he’s making claims about biology and information that are totally incorrect. ‘Information’ in the sense Eric is discussing is the kind of information examined in the recent past by Claude Shannon and in the present by people such as Dr. Mark Titchener. However, this kind of ‘information’ can be perfectly well produced by blind evolutionary models. Eric has decided that information means something else – something that ‘makes the molecules into something that actually functions’, which is entirely false. ‘Measurable potential to do work’ is the definition of energy, not information. Eric is using the term ‘information’ to invent a problem that does not exist.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

A. Natural Selection Acted Upon DNA, Allowing It to Adapt Over Millions of Years

In fact, this was the premise of Richard Dawkins’ 1996 book Climbing Mount Improbable…

Natural Selection requires a self-replicating organism to work. To have reproduction, you must have cell division. Cell division requires DNA and proteins which are the very things they are trying to explain in the first place! You cannot a postulate an explanation presupposing what you are trying to explain.

Abiogenesis is the theory of how very simple, replicating, single-celled organisms came to be. At no point do the modern theories of abiogenesis involve a process that is entirely analoguous to evolution. This is not a position supported by abiogenesis.

Admittedly, all biology is messy, and there is usually a blending of slight gradients between any two points. The processes of abiogenesis would probably have started off looking very different to evolution – but slowly, as additional pieces of the puzzle are slotted into place, the process would start to look more and more like evolution until eventually it becomes evolution. First you get simple cells with highly imperfect ‘replication’ through mechanical intervention with the environment, then you get horizontal transfer of genetic information between cells, and then finally you get something that passes for descent with modification. Then you get evolution. But no-one is suggesting that strict evolution was operating right from the start. Abiogenesis and evolution are intimately related, true. But they cover different circumstances. Evolution would be true even if abiogenesis was false and the original organisms really did come about by magic. And abiogenesis could be true even if evolution didn’t work.

Eric has tried to present abiogenesis as requiring evolution in order to function, and then has quite rightly pointed out that this would be inconsistent. It would be, if his claim was true. But it isn’t. Abiogenesis does not require evolution, and neither does evolution require abiogenesis.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

And again:

B. Chemical Affinities Explain How DNA or Protein Formed Itself

Inherent chemical attraction could explain how the four base pairs of DNA or the amino acids of a protein are able to form themselves.

What Eric is describing is part of the way certain kinds of molecules can self-polymerize. He points out that this alone is insufficient for the creation of a single-celled organism that can reproduce. This is the very problem that research into abiogenesis is attempting to solve by presenting plausible mechanisms by which a self-polymerizing ‘organic’ molecule could become the genetic basis for a single-celled organism. Self-polymerizing molecules are a necessary but not sufficient prerequisite for abiogenesis, and contrary to the argument Eric presents in this paragraph, no-one is claiming otherwise.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

C. RNA Formed First

The idea is that since RNA is much less complex than DNA, it’s more likely that RNA formed itself first. In order to subscribe to this theory, you must ignore that none of the above described problems have been solved just because the required lenghth of an RNA sequence is shorter than a DNA’s sequence.

In fact, you’ve added two problems. The first one being that RNA needs DNA to know in which order to form, so you’re back to square one, the second being that in order for single strand of RNA to replicate, there must be an identical RNA strand (that also formed itself exactly like the first) right next to it. So you’ve doubled your problem.

Here Eric has actually inched a little bit closer to actual theories of abiogenesis by refering to the hypothesis that RNA came before DNA (but not necessarily first – Szostak’s work suggests that stable vesicles could have formed first when hydrophilic/hydrophobic lipids were suspended in the pre-biotic oceans under the correct range of PH levels that were permeable to the building blocks of self-polymerizing molecules, but not the larger molecules themselves… but I digress). However, he throws in a fallacy while he’s doing it. In most mainstream, complex, modern eukaryotic cells, he’s right – the RNA is taken out of the DNA. But no-one is saying that the original replicating cells looked and behaved in the same way that modern cells do. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

Conclusion

Every belief system has their creation story. The supernatural event that started it all. Atheism is no different with abiogenesis.

And this is just incorrect. The entire point of abiogenesis is that it provides a naturalistic explanation for the origins of life. Yes, it is an emerging field of study. Yes, any such research is highly provisional. Yes, there is still a long way to go before abiogenesis can be considered a mature theory the way that the Theory of Electromagnetism, Germ Theory, or the Theory of Evolution are mature theories. But the actual science being done is far stronger than Eric is presenting it to be in his article.

Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.

Once you remove all the straw-men from Eric’s article, we’re left with a string of probing and interesting ‘how could such-and-such happen’ kinds of questions. One of the more interesting ones is ‘How could RNA come about first, when in modern cells RNA usually requires the equipment used by DNA in order to replicate itself?’ Most of Eric’s questions along these lines are answered in the video referenced above.

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19 Comments »

  1. You say “Eric is trying to present the modern theory of abiogenesis as if it were identical to the older, falsified theory of spontaneous generation. The modern theory of abiogenesis is very, very different to spontaneous generation. In actual fact, the two theories are entirely distinct. Eric is presenting them as if they are not.”

    Sorry to break it to you. But Abiogenesis IS “spontaneous generation.”

    It holds that life came from non-livin matter.

    “Eric has tried to present abiogenesis as requiring evolution in order to function, and then has quite rightly pointed out that this would be inconsistent. It would be, if his claim was true. But it isn’t. Abiogenesis does not require evolution, and neither does evolution require abiogenesis.”

    Granted, Theistic evolutionists don’t believe in Abiogenesis. But the Evolution was proposed as an attempt to explain away God, mush like Athiesm (which is an attempt to explain away something that isn’t there.) — But the fact is ATHIESTIC evolution DOES require abiogenesis. They don’t want to accept that they were created. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if weren’t created, then we are accidents.

    If we are accidents, then how did the first matter come into existence? — Obviously by accident as well. But that would therefore make it “spontaneous” by definition. Therefore anything else would come by accident spontaneously.

    “The entire point of abiogenesis is that it provides a naturalistic explanation for the origins of life. Yes, it is an emerging field of study.”

    Nsturalistic explanation of the origin of life? — If this were true then we should be able to kow of cases where life came from non-living matter. But so far no such thing has been observed.

    Comment by krissmith777 — November 24, 2008 @ 8:19 am

  2. Sorry to break it to you. But Abiogenesis IS “spontaneous generation.”

    It holds that life came from non-livin matter.

    It is true that both abiogenesis and spontaneous generation propose that life came from non-living matter. But at that point, the similarity stops.

    Spontaneous generation is the hypothesis that complex organisms – for example, flies or complex single cells – can be produced spontaneously from the environment, all in one go. For example, flies emerging from a corpse, or disease bearing germs being formed out of nothing because someone performed an immoral action.

    Abiogenesis, on the other hand, is the hypothesis that very simple single celled organisms (i.e., not complex ones such as modern single cells) could have formed from a discrete and knowable chain of chemical interactions in the prebiotic environment of Earth.

    The theories could not be more different.

    Saying that abiogenesis and spontaneous generation are the same thing because they both hold that life can come from non-life is like saying that the flat-Earth theory and the globe-Earth theory are the same thing because they both hold that there is such a thing as the Earth. It’s a non-sequitur.

    But the Evolution was proposed as an attempt to explain away God…

    No. Evolution was proposed because it is the best explanation for all the available evidence. Good science never requires us to take an ideological stance and then find a way of backing it up. Good science requires us to look at all the available evidence and find the explanation that best fits it. Evolution is good science.

    But the fact is ATHIESTIC evolution DOES require abiogenesis.

    No it doesn’t. Even if we didn’t have any plausible models for how abiogenesis could have happened, that in and of itself would not be a refutation of atheism. A refutation of atheism requires direct proof that there is a God or Gods. Even if we were totally ignorant of how early life could have arisen, that ignorance itself would not be evidence for theism.

    If we are accidents, then how did the first matter come into existence?

    I am afraid you have confused abiogenesis with cosmology.

    To give you the quick answer: The matter in the universe is currently understood to have ‘frozen’ out of the initial energy of the big bang as that energy expanded and cooled.

    And because you’re about to ask: There are currently many theories for how the initial energy of the universe came to be. At present, we do not have the data to distinguish between them. So I cannot take the path of a religious person and arrogantly claim to know that which is currently unknowable.

    However, even if a cosmic consciousness did set off the big bang, that is an entirely separate issue from abiogenesis. Abiogenesis exists at the overlap between chemistry and biology. Asking where the matter in the universe came from is a question for cosmology, not chemistry or biology.

    Nsturalistic explanation of the origin of life? — If this were true then we should be able to kow of cases where life came from non-living matter. But so far no such thing has been observed.

    Actually, all the steps indicated in both this video and cdk007’s previous Abiogenesis video have been confirmed in Dr. Szostak’s lab. They are not to be expected to be observed in nature in present times, because the Earth’s environment has changed too dramatically since prebiotic times.

    Now that your hollow rhetoric is out of the way: Do you actually have a reason to argue with me? Or are you simply disagreeing with me because I’m providing an explanation for how life comes about that is counter to your pre-existing ideological standpoint?

    I’d like to reinforce the point that if (in my opinion, when) abiogenesis becomes a mature science, this will in no way act as a disproof of God. God and abiogenesis are totally compatible. If you are a Christian theist – or a theist of any stripe, or even a deist – abiogenesis is no threat to your ideology whatsoever. You have no reason to attack it on ideological grounds, save pre-existing bias.

    And I’d like to point out that you have attacked it on ideological grounds:

    But the Evolution was proposed as an attempt to explain away God, mush like Athiesm… But the fact is ATHIESTIC evolution DOES require abiogenesis. They don’t want to accept that they were created. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if weren’t created, then we are accidents.

    Actually, no – accident implies a choice-making agent that performs an action that leads to an unintended result. If no such agent exists, then we cannot be accidents.

    You’re using the word ‘accident’ because it carries strong negative emotional overtones. You’re trying to make the existence of life look meaningless in the absence of a cosmic creative consciousness. It isn’t. Life is meaningful for its own sake. Life is just as meaningful if there was a cosmic creator as it would be if there was not.

    I just want to emphasize this point: You don’t need to believe in a cosmic creator in order to accept that life is meaningful. Neither do you need to deny the existence of a cosmic creator in order to accept that life is meaningful – although I find it helps if you do. But hey, that’s just me, right?

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 24, 2008 @ 9:07 am

  3. ” Sorry to break it to you. But Abiogenesis IS “spontaneous generation.”

    It holds that life came from non-livin matter.

    It is true that both abiogenesis and spontaneous generation propose that life came from non-living matter. But at that point, the similarity stops.”

    Wait, you really do not have to go any further. This is all you need to show how irrational both abiogensis and spontaneous generation are. I do not care if one can seem more plausible down the “long stretch” of things. Both come from something that does not happen: Something from nothing. I understand what you are saying from both, but you place an incorrect analogy with the “earth” statement.

    Comment by B — November 24, 2008 @ 10:48 am

  4. It’s nothing to do with things being more plausible down the ‘long stretch’ of things.

    Spontaneous generation and abiogenesis are describing completely different processes. Although those processes can be said to fall under a similar label – life from non-life – they are nonetheless dramatically different in the details of their description.

    Flat-Earth cosmology and round-Earth cosmology are describing completely different systems. Allthough these systems can be said to fall under a similar label – there is an Earth – they are nonetheless dramatically different in the details of their description.

    My analogy holds, and you’ve completely missed the point.

    Spontaneous generation says that complex organisms can emerge, whole and complete, from the nonliving environment.

    Abiogenesis says that very, very simple organisms can form from the kinds of complex molecules that were naturally occurring in the Earth’s pre-biological environment. The kinds of proto-cells abiogenesis describes barely even look like life by modern standards, and wouldn’t survive naturally for any time at all if they were reintroduced now – they would be utterly consumed by more modern bacteria. However, abiogenesis does get us to a proto-cell that can get started on the evolutionary path to becoming a complex, modern cellular organism. It provides us with plausible mechanisms for every step of the way. Dr. Szostak has even demonstrated the formation of such protocells this in his lab!

    Spontaneous generation, on the other hand, has never been demonstrated. To the contrary, it has been falsified. And there was never a plausible mechanism proposed by which spontaneous generation could have occurred. If spontaneous generation were to be observed, it would rock the biological world to its very core. It could even turn out to be proof of the supernatural – perhaps God.

    Spontaneous generation involves complex living organisms poofing into existence by magic. Abiogenesis shows us a chain of boring, humdrum chemical processes by which a proto-cell capable of descent with modification could arise from readily available complex molecules in the pre-biological environment.

    It’s the difference between astrology and astronomy. They’re completely different things.

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 24, 2008 @ 11:12 am

  5. “I do not care if one can seem more plausible down the “long stretch” of things. Both come from something that does not happen: Something from nothing.”

    I find it hilarious how the argument is over the idea that something can not come from nothing. Abiogenesis is trying to explain just that: that life came form a long natural process and didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It’s the ones who believe in creationism that are trying to push the idea that god just snapped his fingers and the universe appeared.

    Comment by Zhatt — November 24, 2008 @ 11:30 am

  6. I know. I’m kinda perplexed about the whole thing myself. Of all the problems to have with abiogenesis, the fact that it explains the thing that it sets out to explain seems like the wrong place to target.

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 24, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  7. You say:

    “Actually, all the steps indicated in both this video and cdk007’s previous Abiogenesis video have been confirmed in Dr. Szostak’s lab.”

    Really? Notice ihe doesn’t confirm though hard science that is is possible for life to just apear. If a soul gets created by this process (which is life) then I will be impressed.

    “They are not to be expected to be observed in nature in present times, because the Earth’s environment has changed too dramatically since prebiotic times.”

    That’s funny! What a way to hide uder the sheets. “We cannot observe it all to confirm it and we do not have any hard evidence. But he know it happened.” — My sides ach.

    “Now that your hollow rhetoric is out of the way:”

    Lol! You post a video that’s nothing but hollow rhetoric and you say that I’m giving hollow rhetoric?

    “Do you actually have a reason to argue with me? Or are you simply disagreeing with me because I’m providing an explanation for how life comes about that is counter to your pre-existing ideological standpoint?”

    Until Abiogenesis is actally observed when a true living being or animal is created from non-living matter, there is NO reason to accept it as an explanation. None, Zip, Zero!

    “I’d like to reinforce the point that if (in my opinion, when) abiogenesis becomes a mature science, this will in no way act as a disproof of God.”

    I garantee you, It will never be a “mature science.” — It’s not even science. Pure speculation is not science. And until Abiogenesis is shown to have happened, it will not be.

    “God and abiogenesis are totally compatible. If you are a Christian theist – or a theist of any stripe, or even a deist – abiogenesis is no threat to your ideology whatsoever. You have no reason to attack it on ideological grounds, save pre-existing bias.”

    — Okay, ow this forces me to go philosophical – Yes actually it is a threat to the Christian god. If a living thing can come from non-living matter than that makes God a liar because he claims to have created ALL living things.

    Comment by krissmith777 — November 24, 2008 @ 12:44 pm

  8. kris, I find that I’m powerless to influence you in argument. Because you don’t have an argument. What you have is a list of excuses for why you choose to believe as you do despite all the evidence to the contrary.

    Allow me to back that up:

    Notice ihe doesn’t confirm though hard science that is is possible for life to just apear [edit: I have assumed you mean ‘just appear in the modern Earth’s environment’, because I’ve already stated that Szostak has demonstrated his protocells can form under the conditions of the pre-biotic Earth].

    Of course not. For abiogenesis to be applicable it must be shown how it could function in the pre-biotic earth’s environment. The chemistry of the models involved actually predict that this kind of a process could not happen in the modern Earth’s environment, because that environment no longer provides the correct conditions.

    For example, the necessary compounds to form a protocell are already mostly bound up in existing life forms. And even if such a cell were to form, it would be consumed very quickly by some form of more complex modern bacteria.

    The science of abiogenesis predicts the very situation you are trying to use as ammunition against it.

    If a soul gets created by this process (which is life) then I will be impressed.

    Define soul. Give me an empirical method of measuring it. Then make such a claim.

    Also, a soul getting created by such a naturalistic process is not life. Algae is alive. Does that mean you consider algae to have a soul?

    To suggest that abiogenesis needs to show how a soul could be formed in an organism isn’t even wrong. It’s just not a coherent point to be making.

    That’s funny! What a way to hide uder the sheets. “We cannot observe it all to confirm it and we do not have any hard evidence. But he know it happened.” — My sides ach.

    Already mentioned this. You’re using a confirmed prediction of abiogenesis – that it is almost certainly not possible in the modern Earth’s environment – as if that confirmation was somehow undermining to the theory. This is nonsense.

    Lol! You post a video that’s nothing but hollow rhetoric and you say that I’m giving hollow rhetoric?

    You responded to my accusation that you were engaging in hollow rhetoric by asking a rhetorical question and then not backing it up with any actual evidence or reasoning. So yes, I stand by my accusation.

    Until Abiogenesis is actally observed when a true living being or animal is created from non-living matter, there is NO reason to accept it as an explanation. None, Zip, Zero!

    This is the third time now you’ve tried to use a confirmed prediction of abiogenesis to invalidate abiogenesis. You have no argument.

    I garantee you, It will never be a “mature science.” — It’s not even science. Pure speculation is not science. And until Abiogenesis is shown to have happened, it will not be.

    Pure speculation is what our ancestors did in the past when they tried to work out what lightning was and decided that a big bearded man in the clouds was throwing a hammer into the ground.

    Szostak’s work is not speculative. It is plausible, testable, consistent with all existing evidence, and demonstrable.

    Okay, ow this forces me to go philosophical – Yes actually it is a threat to the Christian god. If a living thing can come from non-living matter than that makes God a liar because he claims to have created ALL living things.

    No. It would only be one more tiny straw to the towering mountain of evidence that shows that a literal interpretation of bronze-age scripture is utterly preposterous. That mountain of evidence will still be there, regardless of whether or not abiogenesis is shown to be true. Abiogenesis changes nothing.

    And it is not a threat to theism to insist that a literal interpretation of scripture is intellectually indefensible. Ask around. I have almost every sophisticated believer and theologian with me on that score. It is possible to be a Christian without having to adopt a literalist interpretation of genesis. Or Noah’s flood. Or Exodus, for which there is not a scrap of archaeological evidence. You can accept that these things are not literally true and still be a believer. Abiogenesis changes none of that.

    Just because scripture is not literally true does not show that God, if he exists, must have lied about it. This is unfortunate. I rather wish it did, but it doesn’t.

    Anyway, that’s your whole post dissected and dealt with. You made not a single coherent point. You repeated one piece of nonsense three times, asked a rhetorical question without follow-through, incorrectly attempted to label Szostak’s work as ‘speculative’, and then tried to imply that scripture has to be interpreted literally or else ‘God lied’.

    This is a pile of steaming tosh.

    This is not why I argue with creationists online. I try and pick people who know what they’re doing, so I can have fun teasing out the argument. It’s not about winning or losing. It’s about enjoying the argument. And your arguments, kris, are so terrible they just give me a splitting headache.

    I’ve already given you more attention than I care to. I’m happy to engage with you again if you can provide an actual argument for me to engage with. But I flatly refuse to empower you further by lowering myself to address any more of the drivel you’re trying to pass off as argument.

    That said, neither am I going to censor you. Take all the rope you need.

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 24, 2008 @ 1:36 pm

  9. Sorry if I’m giving you a headache. But put yourself in my place. If you were me and reading your own arguments, you’d still be getting the same headache.

    But let me pose a few questions so I can better understand:

    1. Why do you prefer abiogenesis to an intelligent designer? — And I mean an answer other than “a designer isn’t scientific” because I fully accept that. Besides, the same can be said about abiogenesis.

    2. Why do you think abiogenesis is more likely than a disigner?

    3. Even if you were to get all the components that a living thng needs, when does a living thing start to live and have a sence of awareness.

    4. When did Pasteur’s law of Biogenesis go into effect?

    I guess I should have asked you these from the beginning.

    Comment by krissmith777 — November 24, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

  10. I guess I should have asked you these from the beginning.

    Yes, you should have. :P

    1. Why do you prefer abiogenesis to an intelligent designer? — And I mean an answer other than “a designer isn’t scientific” because I fully accept that. Besides, the same can be said about abiogenesis.

    I don’t prefer abiogenesis to an intelligent designer.

    What I prefer is whatever hypothesis/theory is best supported by the weight of all the evidence. Abiogenesis is supported in this way. Not as overwhelmingly as evolution, but its getting there. [edit: check out an example of Szostak’s research]

    Spontaneous Generation and Special Creation (the idea that a divine entity ‘poofed’ life into existence by magic) are equally validated by the evidence: Not at all. Neither hypothesis has sufficient evidence based support to reject the null hypothesis.

    2. Why do you think abiogenesis is more likely than a disigner?

    Because it is supported by the evidence.

    There is no evidence to support the hypothesis that a cosmic intelligence poofed life into existence by magic.

    If a sufficient weight of hard empirical evidence could be accumulated to show that life was poofed into existence by magic, I would change my position upon being presented with such evidence. But it takes a majority of evidence to achieve this. The evidence would have to be so good that it completely overturns much of the accepted scientific paradigm. This is not an impossible task – it has been done before, and could well be done again.

    3. Even if you were to get all the components that a living thng needs, when does a living thing start to live and have a sence of awareness.

    There would be no one ‘magic line’ under which organisms had no self-awareness and above which other organisms did. Biology is messy. It works by degrees. As an organism develops a complex enough computational system slowly it will become capable of processing a cognitive, symbolic representation of not only the world around that organism, but also that organism itself. Once it has a concept of self, it is ‘self aware’. If it can interpret, predict, and react to its surroundings, then it has a sense of awareness. That’s all that ‘a sense of awareness’ means.

    4. When did Pasteur’s law of Biogenesis go into effect?

    Now I suspect you’re not reading what I’m posting. I’ve already answered that question in my original post:

    Spontaneous generation was actually scientifically tested and proven false in 1668 by Francesco Redi, in 1765 by Lazzaro Spallanzani, and in 1859 by Louis Pasteur – and has never been claimed by scientists since…

    Way to be current.

    – The Origin of Life – Abiogenesis, 1:25 – 1:50, cdk007

    But since you’ve raised Pasteur’s law specifically, lets consider it:

    Omne vivum ex ovo. [latin: All life from eggs]

    – Louis Pasteur

    This is a refutation of spontaneous generation. Essentially, it tells us that before there can be a chicken, there must first be an egg. Abiogenesis just shows us how the first egg got there.

    And secondly, all science is provisional. If someone did a study tomorrow proving that spontaneous generation does actually happen, Pasteur’s Law of Biogenesis would be overturned. However, overturning Pasteur’s Law is not a requirement of abiogenesis. Pasteur’s Law is a footnote to abiogenesis, not a showstopper.

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 24, 2008 @ 6:34 pm

  11. You say:

    “I don’t prefer abiogenesis to an intelligent designer.”

    Okay. Glad that got cleared up.

    You say:

    “What I prefer is whatever hypothesis/theory is best supported by the weight of all the evidence. Abiogenesis is supported in this way. Not as overwhelmingly as evolution, but its getting there. [edit: check out an example of Szostak’s research]”

    Thanks for posting the link. That makes it easier. — It’s much easeir to read a paper than flashing letters on a video with classical music. :P

    I’ll read it when I have the oppertunity. — Now I have Hostory of Mexico then Physical Anthropology.

    Comment by krissmith777 — November 25, 2008 @ 5:38 am

  12. Ubiq

    First, I’d like to say thank you for taking my article seriously and that you are able to separate our disagreement from cordiality.

    I will respond to your notion that abiogenesis isn’t in opposition to the Christian worldview on my blog.

    “The modern theory of abiogenesis is very, very different to spontaneous generation. In actual fact, the two theories are entirely distinct. Eric is presenting them as if they are not.”

    The theory of abiogenesis is absolutely different and distinct from spontaneous generation. However, in the context that I was comparing the two theories, Huxley was CERTAINLY just renaming sponteneous generation so that he would not be laughed out of scientific circles. He had no knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics or anything of the sort. He just flat out assumed that it happened. I would argue that you are doing the same but that’s a different argument.

    “Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.”

    If I had argued against Huxley’s abiogenesis, then certainly. However, I was fair and admitted that many advances had been made in the field. Although these advances only made matter worse for abiogenesis, in my article, I brought the theory into the modern age.

    “No-one who is qualified to comment on the subject of abiogenesis actually thinks that the first protein formed from pure chance. The fact that some people who are not so qualified believe this – which is plausible – says nothing about abiogenesis. So why does Eric waste precious page-space in discussing it?”

    Like I said in my article, I discuss it because many layman atheists still find this viable despite where science is on the subject.

    “To the best of my knowledge, this hypothesis is not widely regarded as very likely, for most of the reasons that Eric lists.”

    I’ve actually been in several conversations where DNA-first was steadfastly defended. The arguments that cbk007 brings forth are new to me, but are just a rehashing of the old speculations.

    ” However, this kind of ‘information’ can be perfectly well produced by blind evolutionary models.”

    Speculative models, yes?

    “‘Measurable potential to do work’ is the definition of energy, not information. Eric is using the term ‘information’ to invent a problem that does not exist.”

    Work? Whoa, when did I talk about work? I’m talking about the genetic language, the genetic digital code, that IS DNA. This is information, how else would you describe it?

    “At no point do the modern theories of abiogenesis involve a process that is entirely analoguous to evolution. This is not a position supported by abiogenesis.”

    I said nothing about it being analogous to evolution. However, cbk007 and others like him, use the word “selected” constantly in the explanation of abiogenesis. They are unable to do this without begging the question and completely violating the definition of Natural Selection. “Selection” cannot be used in regards to prebiotic chemicals, aminos, RNA or anything of the sort because “selection” REQUIRES a sexually recombinating, fully formed cell to work.

    “Eric has tried to present abiogenesis as requiring evolution in order to function, and then has quite rightly pointed out that this would be inconsistent.”

    I’m not presenting it to be anything. This is exactly how abiogenesis is explained by cbk007, anyone who watches the video can see that. Now, cbk007 never said that evolution acted upon the prebiotic chemicals, but he did say they are “selected” and that they “evolved”. This is the language associated with Natural Selection and there is just no way around the fallacious nature of this claim.

    “Evolution would be true even if abiogenesis was false and the original organisms really did come about by magic. And abiogenesis could be true even if evolution didn’t work.”

    Sure, you could come up with all kinds of frameworks in which abiogenesis can take place. But the speculative nature of these frameworks has never been over come. None of these phenomena that cbk007 describes have ever been observed or recreated without intelligence (which is what abiogenesis requires). You’re right, abiogenesis “could be” true along the same lines as ANYTHING could be true.

    “Eric is attacking a caricature of a scientific theory and calling that caricature ‘abiogenesis’. He is not attacking the real theory. This is a straw man argument.”

    Actually, what I’m doing is attacking several common EXPLANATIONS of abiogenesis that have been shown to be false or insufficient for some reason or another. I’m NOT saying that my article is all encompassing, or that I’m completely up to date with EVERY explanation of abiogenesis, or that those explanations entirely encompass the theory of abiogenesis. I’ve claimed no such strawman. In fact, my main point is to show how speculation is trying to be passed off as testable science, even while the speculation is completely opposite to observed phenomena. I made this point more clear in my response to cbk007’s video, which is forthcoming.

    “But no-one is saying that the original replicating cells looked and behaved in the same way that modern cells do. Quite the opposite, in fact.”

    But don’t you see that all we can observe is modern cells? Any behavior that ancient cells could or could not have had is pure speculation?

    “And this is just incorrect. The entire point of abiogenesis is that it provides a naturalistic explanation for the origins of life.”

    Just because you call iy “naturalistic” doesn’t mean it is. The phenomena described by origin of life theorists violates currently observed phenomena, in fact, they violate a current biological law (the Law of Biogenesis). Violating observable phenomena and law is the DEFINITION of supernatural. You can call it “natural” all you want, but if it looks like a duck . . .

    “Yes, it is an emerging field of study. Yes, any such research is highly provisional. Yes, there is still a long way to go before abiogenesis can be considered a mature theory the way that the Theory of Electromagnetism, Germ Theory, or the Theory of Evolution are mature theories.”

    Alright, so the next time you ask me a question I don’t have an answer for regarding Christianity I’ll just say, “Well, it’s an emerging field of theological study” and you’ll see how well that flies with you.

    “But the actual science being done is far stronger than Eric is presenting it to be in his article.”

    The science is strong if you consider speculation done by scientists as science.

    “‘How could RNA come about first, when in modern cells RNA usually requires the equipment used by DNA in order to replicate itself?’ Most of Eric’s questions along these lines are answered in the video referenced above.”

    You’re right, the question was answer by PURE speculation. Not exactly that answer that science should accept or be putting forth.

    Comment by Eric Kemp — November 26, 2008 @ 11:17 am

  13. Eric,

    I’m no chemist nor a biologist and I have not read all papers on the subject, but as I understand it, abiogenesis may, in fact, have a lot of speculation in it. There’s still a lot of hypotheses in the theories that have to be tested. But, the point is that the working theories under abiogenesis take into account all the evidence so far and are currently most likely to be true. And that’s all you can ever expect from a theory. At any point something could show it inadequate, but usually the theory just changes and isn’t completely destroyed. No one is saying that any of the theories under abiogenesis are the ultimate truth.

    While Christianity isn’t an “emerging” field, it is a field of theological study and it is constantly being reworked to account for new evidence. Problem is most forms of Christianity don’t account for all the facts.

    On another note, evolution may require “selection”, but selection doesn’t require evolution and it doesn’t require sex. This may not be the best analogy, but the planets in orbit right now were “selected” as they had properties that let them survive while others had properties that removed them (such as being in the path of other planets). The difference here is that the planets don’t multiply nor do they mutate.

    Comment by Zhatt — November 27, 2008 @ 8:02 am

  14. Zhatt

    “At any point something could show it inadequate, but usually the theory just changes and isn’t completely destroyed.”

    But see, that’s my point. Since there is no physical evidence that abiogenesis is even possible, believing that it’s possible is a statement of faith. The belief that life can create itself without God won’t ever be destroyed, because people want to believe it, people MUST believe it in order to deny God. In the past they called it sponteneous generation, now they call it abiogenesis. Our methods have become more sophistated, but the lack of physical evidence and the faith the position requires hasn’t changed.

    “While Christianity isn’t an “emerging” field, it is a field of theological study and it is constantly being reworked to account for new evidence. Problem is most forms of Christianity don’t account for all the facts.”

    Could you please explain what doctrine of Christianity has been changed to “account for new evidence”? Also, could you show me which facts Christianity doesn’t account for?

    “On another note, evolution may require “selection”, but selection doesn’t require evolution and it doesn’t require sex.”

    I usually don’t like to say this, because I feel like an explanation should always be warranted, but in this case it’s not, because you’re just plain wrong. There is no “selection” for planets because, as you said, they don’t multiply. The principle just doesn’t apply. Planets aren’t evolving and neither did the universe evolve. Evolution and selection are purely biological distinctions. In order for traits to be selected, there MUST BE sexual recombination. It’s just the definition of the term.

    Comment by Eric Kemp — November 27, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  15. Eric:

    Hey man. I’ve actually been flat out today. I have a move coming up this Sunday. Thought I’d have time to write up a decent reply tonight, but it’s now gone 10:20pm and I’m still packing… Doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen.

    I’ll have to get back to you later on in the week, so sorry for the delay. I mean no disrespect.

    In the meantime, I’ve been putting together in the back of my head a response based around this idea that abiogenesis is speculative. I’m planning to argue that speculative and provisional mean very different things, and that abiogenesis is the latter but not the former.

    I have a feeling this discussion might degenerate into a lot of bickering over semantics, and I’d like to avoid that. So I’d take it as a kindness if you were to present your take on what you mean by ‘speculative’ and what you would accept as a passable definition of ‘provisional’. Don’t know if I’ll agree with you, but I’d like to set up as much common ground on our terminology early on to try and prevent the semantics thing.

    Comment by Ubiquitous Che — November 27, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

  16. […] I posted my explanation of abiogenesis as the atheistic creation story, Ubiquitous Che, over at rhetoric sans pareil, posted a video, and an article, in rebuttal.  I’ve already responded to his article on his […]

    Pingback by An Atheistic Creation Story in Action; “The Origin of the Genetic Code” « Apologia — November 29, 2008 @ 4:28 am

  17. Ubiq

    I apologize, I didn’t check this thread until now.

    Take your time, I completely understand. These conversations can get lengthy and it’s better to be thorough anyway.

    About speculation: I’ll take the American Heritage Dictionary definition.
    a. Contemplation or consideration of a subject; meditation.
    b. A conclusion, opinion, or theory reached by conjecture.
    c. Reasoning based on inconclusive evidence; conjecture or supposition.

    I’m attempting to say that the atheistic creation story is not based upon empirical evidence or any other logical reasoning. It’s pure conjecture with a base of, “well, the beginning of life COULD have happened like this.” It’s analogous to saying “flying pink unicorns COULD exist and let me give you a framework within which my conjecture is possible.”

    Now, there being no empirical evidence for the beginning of life is understandable because it happened (according to you) 4.5 billion years ago. Empiricism is limited to our sense experience and it’s impossible to have a sense experience regarding the unobservable past. Abiogenesis is attempting to be passed off by cbk007 as empirical evidence equal to the growing of penecillin. Even if he isn’t saying this directly, it’s blatantly implied.

    Also, you could chalk abiogenesis up to educated inference, except that you have no reason to believe that such a thing as life coming from non-life is possible. That it is why the entire basis of abiogenesis is speculation and conjecture. I hope that helped explain what I mean.

    Comment by Eric Kemp — November 30, 2008 @ 3:51 am

  18. any updates coming ?

    Comment by male pee hole — July 19, 2009 @ 2:50 pm

  19. Quick points:

    Spontaneous generation and abiogenesis describe different concepts.

    Zhatt,

    Regards “there is no physical evidence that abiogenesis is even possible”: There is plenty of evidence it’s possible, it’s which particular way that it happened that needs to be resolved.

    Comment by Heraclides — October 15, 2009 @ 2:12 pm


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