Seeds of life on Earth may have originated in space

NASA finds proof that amino acid components in meteorites originate in space.

This is exciting news. NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life. We may all be immigrants on Earth.

By Bill Steigerwald

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

artistic representation of a meteorite and nucleobases

Artistic representation of a meteorite and nucleobases. Meteorites contain a large variety of nucleobases, an essential building block of DNA. (Artist concept credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Chris Smith)

NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space. The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.

“People have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960’s, but researchers were unsure whether they were really created in space or if instead they came from contamination by terrestrial life,” said Dr. Michael Callahan of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. “For the first time, we have three lines of evidence that together give us confidence these DNA building blocks actually were created in space.” Callahan is lead author of a paper on the discovery appearing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.

The discovery adds to a growing body of evidence that the chemistry inside asteroids and comets is capable of making building blocks of essential biological molecules.

For example, previously, these scientists at the Goddard Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory have found amino acids in samples of comet Wild 2 from NASA’s Stardust mission, and in various carbon-rich meteorites. Amino acids are used to make proteins, the workhorse molecules of life, used in everything from structures like hair to enzymes, the catalysts that speed up or regulate chemical reactions.

In the new work, the Goddard team ground up samples of twelve carbon-rich meteorites, nine of which were recovered from Antarctica. They extracted each sample with a solution of formic acid and ran them through a liquid chromatograph, an instrument that separates a mixture of compounds. They further analyzed the samples with a mass spectrometer, which helps determine the chemical structure of compounds.

The team found adenine and guanine, which are components of DNA called nucleobases, as well as hypoxanthine and xanthine. DNA resembles a spiral ladder; adenine and guanine connect with two other nucleobases to form the rungs of the ladder. They are part of the code that tells the cellular machinery which proteins to make. Hypoxanthine and xanthine are not found in DNA, but are used in other biological processes.

Also, in two of the meteorites, the team discovered for the first time trace amounts of three molecules related to nucleobases: purine, 2,6-diaminopurine, and 6,8-diaminopurine; the latter two almost never used in biology. These compounds have the same core molecule as nucleobases but with a structure added or removed.

It’s these nucleobase-related molecules, called nucleobase analogs, which provide the first piece of evidence that the compounds in the meteorites came from space and not terrestrial contamination. “You would not expect to see these nucleobase analogs if contamination from terrestrial life was the source, because they’re not used in biology, aside from one report of 2,6-diaminopurine occurring in a virus (cyanophage S-2L),” said Callahan. “However, if asteroids are behaving like chemical ‘factories’ cranking out prebiotic material, you would expect them to produce many variants of nucleobases, not just the biological ones, due to the wide variety of ingredients and conditions in each asteroid.”

The second piece of evidence involved research to further rule out the possibility of terrestrial contamination as a source of these molecules. The team also analyzed an eight-kilogram (17.64-pound) sample of ice from Antarctica, where most of the meteorites in the study were found, with the same methods used on the meteorites. The amounts of the two nucleobases, plus hypoxanthine and xanthine, found in the ice were much lower — parts per trillion — than in the meteorites, where they were generally present at several parts per billion. More significantly, none of the nucleobase analogs were detected in the ice sample. One of the meteorites with nucleobase analog molecules fell in Australia, and the team also analyzed a soil sample collected near the fall site. As with the ice sample, the soil sample had none of the nucleobase analog molecules present in the meteorite.

Thirdly, the team found these nucleobases — both the biological and non-biological ones — were produced in a completely non-biological reaction. “In the lab, an identical suite of nucleobases and nucleobase analogs were generated in non-biological chemical reactions containing hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water. This provides a plausible mechanism for their synthesis in the asteroid parent bodies, and supports the notion that they are extraterrestrial,” says Callahan.

“In fact, there seems to be a ‘goldilocks’ class of meteorite, the so-called CM2 meteorites, where conditions are just right to make more of these molecules,” adds Callahan.

The team includes Callahan and Drs. Jennifer C. Stern, Daniel P. Glavin, and Jason P. Dworkin of NASA Goddard’s Astrobiology Analytical Laboratory; Ms. Karen E. Smith and Dr. Christopher H. House of Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa.; Dr. H. James Cleaves II of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Washington, DC; and Dr. Josef Ruzicka of Thermo Fisher Scientific, Somerset, N.J. The research was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, the Goddard Center for Astrobiology, the NASA Astrobiology: Exobiology and Evolutionary Biology Program, and the NASA Postdoctoral Program.

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375 thoughts on “Seeds of life on Earth may have originated in space

  1. “NASA-funded researchers have evidence that some building blocks of DNA, the molecule that carries the genetic instructions for life, found in meteorites were likely created in space.”
    But have not found any DNA.

  2. So… well, NASA’s fighting for funds so they need to make it sound great.
    Yes it’s nice to have yet another piece to the puzzle but I don’t see anything really new in this research, just more accurate confirmation of already existing hypotheses based on data known for tens of years.
    And DNA was very probably not the very first building block of life.

  3. Why assume we’re all immigrants? That attitude seems to imply that Earth couldn’t possibly be the source of its own life. Makes no more sense than the attitude that Earth must be the only place where life originated.
    More likely, life arose on lots of planets.

  4. Well now, this news gives pause to put “god” back on the scientific menu, at the very least “humility”.

  5. Huh, where else would stuff originate from on a planet that originated from the same space and stuff itself? :p

  6. “twelve carbon-rich meteorites”
    So these meteorites brought not only life but death; the evil, evil carbon that has doomed us all.
    Was this the first recorded carbon exchange?

  7. We are all the stuff of stars as I think a songwriter put it way back when …
    That life, as we know it, exists at all seems, to me, to pretty miraculous, given that the random combinations of all the various nuceotides, DNA strands and so on that are necessary for a fairly simple organism, number in the billions. Roughly the equivalent of throwing a boxfull of car parts randomly into the air and getting a fully assembled Rolls-Royce …

  8. I remember Carl Sagan going through a formula to work out if there was alien life in the universe. At the end he said If there was alien life where are they? They should be here now! I shouted at the TV “It’s us!” but you know scientists, they don’t listen to us mere mortals.

  9. We might all me immigrants but I’m sure I come from the rare Stony-Iron meteorite and not the common Stone meteorite like most of you do.

  10. Kelvin, if the scientist in the TV ignores you when you shout at him, this may be because TV tends to be a uni-directional information transfer system.

  11. I don’t think the significance is that life came to Earth, rather that the basics of life can develop everywhere. Next question is if single cell organisms develop elsewhere.

  12. Fred Hoyle’s “panspermia” hypothesis wasn’t ridiculed or discarded per se, but was considered an unnecessary entity in the explanation of origins, given that the same building blocks could have been produced here, and can be reproduced in experiments.
    On the other hand, this research with multiple efforts at corroboration looks pretty solid, in contrast with the extra-terrestrial offerings from NASA in the recent past. The article is also well written, and not laden with ambiguities. Good stuff.
    “…the way whereby one can learn the pure truth concerning the plurality of worlds is by aerial navigation.” –P.Borel (1657 CE)

  13. Ah.. proof perhaps of a primary cause or prime mover? Perhaps science and religion will end up at the same result despite their pretenses.

  14. Is there any possibility that some asteroids with DNA components may have originated from Earth having been ejected into space by meteorite or comet impacts?

  15. It’s a nice fantasy, but more likely, all the building blocks were already here. All that was needed were the right conditions. When it comes to life, scientists as a whole are somewhat dim.

  16. I’m sure some pro agw commenter/blog/alarmist said the other day that ‘agw deniers were in the same league as creationists, flat earthers and those that believed life came to earth on a comet….’ or similar. Anyone remember so I can shove this back at him! 😉

  17. There is nothing magic about DNA, it is just a long term information store. It is pretty damned likely that RNA was the prior storage medium. Before RNA, who knows.
    An analogy here, in the stone age we had the same mineral resources available as we do now, but our ancestors didn’t use sand to make glass-clad ferro-concrete sky scrapers.

  18. So, life started somewhere else in the universe, then travelled a huge distance through a near vacuum and managed to survive a high temperature through the Earth’s atmosphere and survive the crash on the surface, where suitable food was found for that life to breed.
    I think it’s much more likely that life started here on Earth. Maybe after millions of years at a deep sea vent.

  19. They found “building blocks” of life on meteorites, ipso facto those building blocks were created there. Are there any grade school students who can tell the class, and these “expert” scientists, what is wrong with that logic? (Now, if we just accept this claptrap, we have not only Mother Earth, but Mother asteroids — congratulations all, pantheism is back.) This is just another example of the crisis of incompetence, particularly in the earth and life sciences, which my research has shown a bright light upon. You can’t afford to believe blindly in the “exciting news” of scientists snuggled in their comfortable paradigm, of undirected evolution of, not just life, but everything; it will stunt your growth. Correction, it has stunted everyone’s growth, ever since Darwin. The fact — fact — is, our solar system has a real history — of deliberate past design(s) — not just a vague, undirected “evolution”, where rocks in space can create the complex building blocks of life.

  20. Scott says:
    “Well now, this news gives pause to put “god” back on the scientific menu”
    Well Scott, if I read you right, it does the exact opposite, what better “proof” that God sent the origin (building blocks) of life everywhere?
    Not that I put too much stock into intelligent design.

  21. NASA finds proof that amino acids in meteorites originate in space.
    ———
    The title is wrong. It should read:
    NASA finds proof that nucleobases in meteorites originate in space.

  22. Is there something about the earth’s primordial environment that inhibited the formation of those same compounds?
    Accepting the notion that amino acids do indeed form in space, and came to earth in meteroites (and I have no reason to doubt it), that still is not evidence that those same amino acids didn’t also form on earth at the same time. At least after the earth’s crust had cooled enough for delicate chemical compounds to form.
    In other words, the alien invader amino acids could have found earth already occupied by native amino acids.

  23. The really controversial subject is about fossil bacteria possibly found in carbonaceous chondrites:
    http://aquapour.com/alien-bacteria-fossils-found-in-meteorite-by-nasa-scientist/556290/
    You see this would turn everything topsy turvy. A small subset of amino and nucleic acids in exceedingly dilute amounts is one thing. That’s some pretty simple chemistry that just happens when you have the proper chemicals in contact. Miller-Urey did that in a lab 60 years ago. Problem is you can’t make a living thing out of it because the component set of acids is far from complete and the molecules need to be greatly concentrated. No one has yet figured out a credible way for a big enough subset of these molecules to get concentrated in one place so they can bump around into each other and do interesting things,
    Someone else on the thread asked about whether the molecules in OP were left or right handed. He was referring to the chirality problem. Life on earth uses only left or right handed molecules. One handedness for amino acids and the other for nucleic. I forget which is left and which is right. The problem is that nature these acids are produced in more or less equal quantities of right and left handed.
    Rob Sheldon, a UAH astrophysicist colleague of Roy Spencer’s has an interesting hypothesis that the most simple forms of life like bacteria, phages, and viruses inhabit comets and these of course have rained down upon the earth over the course of deep time. Moreover he postulates that when two stars pass within about 2 light years of each other their outer cometary halos mingle and exchange genetic materials in the process thus life spreads and mingles between stars.
    The topsy turvy part is for evolutionary dogma which is based on a biologically closed system (the earth) where there isn’t strange and different genetic material coming from elsewhere in cosmos. The whole thing is based upon life emerging one time in one place and then the first rudimentary genes and proteins they code for undergoing descent with modification. Thereby all extant genes today can be traced back in time one little change at a time to universal common ancestors. If unique and quite different genes that didn’t evolve on this planet in that fashion can just rain down from the sky at any old time in any old place it throws everything we think we know about evolution over deep time right out the window.

  24. Our old friend (and misleadingly the patron saint of Warmists) Svante Arrhenius was an advocate of Panspermia, the hypothesis that life came to Earth in the form of bacterial spores. Of course amino acids and nucleobases are a far cry from such organisms, but it is neat to find an old idea gradually growing in plausibility.
    /Mr Lynn

  25. Umm, amino acids are not used in DNA. The story makes things clear, but amino acids have been identified in radio astronomy spectra, comets, and meteorites.
    I’m not familiar with nucleobase research by astronomers, there may well be some, it’s not a field I keep up with well. Certainly this study will be a welcome addition.

  26. I used to know a lot more about this than I do now, but basically, creating complex organic molecules from simple precursors doesn’t look to be all that difficult. The Urey-Miller experiment is one example, but there are others as well that create complex molecules in different environments than Urey-Miller. The early Earth (and Moon and Mars and whatever) probably had diverse environments and probably there were diverse organic chemicals present. What’s difficult to deal with is how a (probably dilute) organic soup in the oceans managed to bridge the gap to self replicating systems. The simplest self replicating systems we know of are pretty complex. Moreover there isn’t any obvious path from a bunch of proteins that somehow assemble more of themselves, to even the simplest lifeform.
    There is still a lot to be learned.

  27. @Kelvin Vaughan
    I remember Carl Sagan going through a formula to work out if there was alien life in the universe.
    That would be the Drake Equation.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drake_equation
    At the end he said If there was alien life where are they? They should be here now!
    The Fermi Paradox:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_paradox
    The answer is of course that one or several of his assumption for the variables in the Drake Equation must have been too optimistic. Unfortunately we don’t know which one(s). Or it could be that the Drake Equation as such is faulty, that too is something we don’t know.
    “I shouted at the TV “It’s us!” but you know scientists, they don’t listen to us mere mortals.”
    Well they do, they came up with that answer long before. And they refuted it themselves. The fact that we are here and are able to reason about the probability of life in the universe proves that life must be possible at all – because otherwhise there would be no-one reasoning about it -, but it says nothing about its occurrence in the rest of the universe. It could be extremely rare, it could even be that we are the only ones reasoning about it. The fact alone that we are able to do so that there must be many other species in the universe doing the same.
    See Anthropic Principle
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropic_principle

  28. The part about the 2,6-diaminopurine occurring in a virus – that was one of the compounds found on the meteorite – scares me..very creepy.

  29. Maybe I’m getting more cynical as I get older, but I don’t get much from the story. Finding the building blocks of DNA is much different than finding DNA. What drives the amino acids to link up into DNA in life? That is the big question for me. It’s like saying we’ve found evidence of water in space because we detected hydrogen and oxygen, the “building blocks” of water.
    Someone needs to show the mechanism that assembles the building blocks into real DNA before I get too impressed.

  30. This story reminds me of my college biology professor’s view that life (probably in the form of blue-green algae) came to planet Earth on a meteorite or space ship to start the evolutionary process.
    My professor had just concluded lecturing on how life cannot come from non-life. Then he asks us to turn the page to begin his lecture on evolution. I raised my hand to mention that the two points of view were in opposition to each other. “You cannot hold that life cannot come from non-life and also believe in evolution, can you?”
    He responded that the two ideas were not incompatible if you realize life could have come to Earth from a meteorite or space ship. I asked “How did that life originate unless there was a creator?”
    “Oh, that question goes beyond the bounds of science because we don’t have anything to observe to decide the question.”
    This was not a satisfying answer coming from a man who believes in space ships but had never seen one.
    My other problem with evolution in that class was the complete neglect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Grant Sewell authored a peer-reviewed paper this year on this very subject. See http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/AML_3497.pdf
    Darwinists complained and the paper was withdrawn. The paper was not withdrawn because of “any errors or technical problems found by the reviewers or editors,” but because it was more philosophical than mathematical. After the withdrawal, the publisher provided an apology and a cash payment to the author. See http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/sincere-and-heartfelt-apologies-to-granville-sewell-from-the-math-journal-that-dumped-his-article-due-to-darwinist-pressure/
    Science disputes are interesting, are they not?

  31. I think this has been known for a while…… seeing that one of the long-time readers commentators here has the moniker……“Amino acids in meteorites”…..

  32. When I put a few chemicals in a test tube they never multiply. From a few simple amino acids to complex LIFE is a huge step. Most likely, the same (and more) amino acids where already here. And who’s to say that those meteorites are not coming from other planets or moon inside our own solar system?

  33. Why is the under-title about amino acids when the article (and the picture!) is about nucleobases? I am amused!

  34. Hm ‘Seeds of Life”?. This theory depends on the evolutionary theory to end up with life as we know it. Seeing the questions and holes opening up in evolution these days I think this is a bit of a stretch.

  35. Just a nit to pick (for accuracy)…
    “NASA finds proof that amino acids in meteorites originate in space.” was followed by a paragraph on DNA, which left me wondering for a bit.
    Just to be clear, amino acids are the building blocks for protein, nucleobases are the building blocks for DNA. The new discovery is of finding nucleobases, not amino acids (that’s old news).

  36. “nine of which were recovered from Antarctica”
    I am not 100% convinced, until that meteorite is picked up on the moon.So please,
    NASA, go to the moon and find it. But first, stop all your fiddling around here on earth.
    That is for other organisations to do, remember?

  37. Robert,
    The next question would be, how often would complex life develop from the single celled life forms.
    That process seems to have taken some 3 or 4 billion years on this planet. On how many planets will the conditions necessary for life remain stable enough over a 4 billion year period?

  38. The origin of life story just got a boost because without Pan Spermia there isn’t one. You see, the cell is a complex, organised, wet-ware chemical information management system acting as a logical computational machine of linked logical modules acting on matter, information and energy guided by digitally encoded information on tracks which, in total in the avg human, would stretch to the sun and back 600 times. Is the Peacock an expert in light phase shift Quantum offset? It’s feathers are. There is no pigment in Peacock feathers. How do you answer that? What more do you have to see out there before you realize…………..the obvious.

  39. They forgot one thing. These meteorites fell threw the AIR before hitting the ice, Earth Contamination could have easily taken place before it hit the ice. Impossible to prove this on Earth, they have to go into outer space and get a sample and do the study there to truly prove it.
    I wouldn’t call this finding the proof, just more data that supports the theory.

  40. “My other problem with evolution in that class was the complete neglect of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Grant Sewell authored a peer-reviewed paper this year on this very subject. See http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/AML_3497.pdf
    That’s Granville Sewell. Great guy. Wonderful sense of humor. We’ve had many conversations. I always recommend his papers on the subject beginning with “A Mathematician’s View of Evolution”.

  41. Is there some specific reason my first comment:
    Dave Springer says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    August 10, 2011 at 5:23 am
    has been sitting in moderation for 3 hours while 25 comments after it have been approved?
    REPLY: Yes, sleep. And when I wake up and log on the comment list in WP is from newest to oldest. Then I had to take a break to go to loo and get coffee before resuming. Any other complaints? – Anthony

  42. The ‘prebiotic’ chemicals found in the meteorites can be made in any chemistry lab –> “… an identical suite of nucleobases and nucleobase analogs were generated in non-biological chemical reactions containing hydrogen cyanide, ammonia, and water.” Thus this report is a big ‘so what’. We believe that Earth chemistry holds for most of the known universe wherever conditions are similar — we should not be surprised that non-biological chemical reactions that form amino acids can happen elsewhere. This ‘discovery’ does not mean that Earth life may have originated in space, as the same chemical reactions can just have easily have occurred in an Earth environment. Chemistry does not mean life –> exactly what makes a live cat different from a dead cat is still a deep mystery, and I suspect it will remain so as long as science denies itself the right to investigate the spiritual.

  43. Nucleobases being formed on earth or in space is essential but insufficient for self replicating “life”. That requires DNA replicating and error correction systems, protein expression, material processing, photosynthesis, and energy processing – all working together to begin with. The probability of that is astronomically remote by all known physics and chemistry laws.
    Furthermore, the four laws of nature provide no basis for the “information” found in the genome.
    See Hubert P. Yockey Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life.
    William Dembski, No Free Lunch, Why Specified Complexity Cannot be Purchased without Intelligence.
    Werner Gitt, In the Beginning was information

  44. Ron Cram says:
    August 10, 2011 at 6:37 am
    ‘This story reminds me of my college biology professor’s view that life (probably in the form of blue-green algae) came to planet Earth on a meteorite or space ship to start the evolutionary process.
    My professor had just concluded lecturing on how life cannot come from non-life. Then he asks us to turn the page to begin his lecture on evolution. I raised my hand to mention that the two points of view were in opposition to each other. “You cannot hold that life cannot come from non-life and also believe in evolution, can you?”’
    You had him at this point.
    DNA is not life but a component of life as we know it, namely, the communicator of hereditary structure in biological beings. The only story that DNA can tell is a story of evolution, not a story about the beginnings of biological life.
    When the asteroid theorists say that life might have come from space, all that they can mean is that DNA might have come from space. The claim that biological life came from space requires that something “having life as we know it” came from space, whether or not it contained a hereditary structure like DNA.
    So, no, there is no evidence that biological life came from space in the fact that precursors of DNA might have come from space.
    DNA might have come from space. This DNA might have become the mechanism for communicating hereditary structure in biological life on Earth, but there is in all this no evidence that the biological life came from space.
    The point of view that I am exploring was created by Richard Dawson in The Selfish Gene and then replicated in many other books. He treats genes as directing the course of life through evolution for the benefit of genes. This point of view is entirely Platonic rather than Aristotelian. We end up, as Dawson has, with DNA a non-living thing directing life for its benefit. There is no explanation of how the DNA and Life got together.
    So, on Dawson’s view, it makes perfect sense that some beings sent DNA to Earth as a means of replicating themselves or some lesser thing. However, this DNA need not exist in biological life but could exist in electronic life or whatever kind of life you care to imagine. There remains the problem of explaining why the DNA became a vehicle for biological life on Earth rather than some other kind of life.
    In summary, what Dawson has wrought is a reification of hereditary communication in DNA and its accidental existence in biological life on Earth. And this kind of thinking is supposed to be simpler and more scientific than religious thought?

  45. The take-home message is only abiotic purine synthesis is possible. Makes a better case for life arising spontaneously. It would be ridiculous to imagine that the origin of life depended on purines or amino acids coming from meteorites. What we need to find are conditions on early Earth that could easily produce amino acids, purines, pyrimidines, and ribose all connected via phosphates. We need RNA floating in chemical soup containing nucleotides. Very likely the conditions needed were found underground.
    Here’s how purines and pyrimidines get made in the body.
    http://www.gout-aware.com/Synthesis-of-Purine-Nucleotides.html
    With RNA and maybe some proteinaceous goo acting as a pseudo enzyme, chemical evolution could have occurred. Eigen hypercycles develop spontaneously; i.e. a chemical process that creates local order by using available energy more efficently and thereby developing a growth advantage over other competing processes. Mutation and cooperation are key factors.
    At some point, the processes have to become compartmentalized and still be able to gather raw materials, eliminate waste, and reproduce. That is, they must form cells. Where are the lipids in meteorites?
    After forming cells, DNA might be needed.
    We are discussing Earth life. Exobiota might use other bases if they have an D/RNA analog. What made Earth life pick the five bases we use (A,C,G,T and U)? Why do we have the carbohydrate and amino acid stereochemistry we observe? Local conditions? Random selection? It would seem reasonable that all possible combinations were tried. There may have been life on Earth that had a very difference genetic code and didn’t even use the same bases or amino acids. One type of life eventually out-competed the rest.
    Life elsewhere may be constructed quite differently from us, using different bases (if any) and different amino acids (if any). We have no idea what the range may be for biochemical diversity in the universe. The Star Trek idea that DNA is the basis of all life is almost certainly wrong and very naive.

  46. Mark Wilson says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:06 am
    Robert,
    The next question would be, how often would complex life develop from the single celled life forms.
    That process seems to have taken some 3 or 4 billion years on this planet. On how many planets will the conditions necessary for life remain stable enough over a 4 billion year period?

    Wasn’t it billions of years before this planet was capable of supporting life? It took billions of years (perhaps as much as 4 billion years) to cool.

  47. “The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.”
    I’m still waiting for the instructions that accompanied the “kit”.

  48. BTW—
    The story of the Origin of just the basics:
    —————————————-
    1. Atomic Nitrogen—Pre-Life Molecules Present In Comets ScienceDaily (July 27, 2006) — Evidence of atomic nitrogen in interstellar gas clouds suggests that pre-life molecules may be present in comets, a discovery that gives a clue about the early conditions that gave rise to life, according to researchers from the University of Michigan and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
    “A lot of complex and simple biotic molecules have nitrogen and it’s much easier to make complex molecules from atomic nitrogen,” Bergin said. “All DNA bases have atomic nitrogen in them, amino acids also have atomic nitrogen in them. By that statement what we’re saying is if you have nitrogen in its simplest form, the atomic form, it’s much more reactive and can more easily form complex prebiotic organics in space”. These complex organics were incorporated into comets and were provided to the Earth. (Sébastien Maret, research fellow in astronomy at the University of Michigan, and Edwin Bergin, a professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan–ScienceDaily (July 27, 2006))
    ——————————————
    2. Chirality — Possible Mechanism For Creating ‘Handedness’ In Biological Molecules
    ScienceDaily (Dec. 2, 2008) — The basic molecules that make up all living things have a predetermined chirality or “handedness,” similar to the way people are right- or left-handed. This chirality has a profound influence on the chemistry and molecular interactions of living organisms. The inception of chirality from the elementary building blocks of matter is one of the great mysteries of the origin of life. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory have discovered a way to induce this handedness in pre-biological molecules. “Understanding how the molecules necessary for life originated is one of the most basic scientific questions in biochemistry,” Argonne chemist Richard Rosenberg said. “Chirality plays a fundamental role in biological processes and researchers have been trying to discover the mechanisms that led to this property for years.”
    Rosenberg used X-rays from the Advanced Photon Source to bombard chiral molecules adsorbed on a magnetic substrate and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy to track changes in the molecular bonds.
    He found that changing the magnetization direction in relation to the high-intensity X-ray beam created an excess of one chirality over another. Changing the magnetization direction reverses the spin polarization of the secondary, or low-energy, electrons emitted from the substance. Iron is a common element and is magnetic in many form and ionizing radiation and magnetic fields are prevalent throughout the universe. Based on the Argonne results, it is conceivable that chirality could have been introduced by irradiation of molecules as they traveled through the universe while adsorbed on a magnetized substrate in a dust cloud, meteor, comet or on a primitive planet. “Our study shows that spin-polarized secondary electrons interacting with chiral molecules could produce a significant excess of a given chirality in pre-biological molecules,” Rosenberg said. A paper on
    ————————————————
    3. RNA had no enzymes to catalyze — . RNA, the single-stranded precursor to DNA, normally expands one nucleic base at a time, growing sequentially like a linked chain. The problem is that in the primordial world RNA molecules didn’t have enzymes to catalyze this reaction, and while RNA growth can proceed naturally, the rate would be so slow the RNA could never get more than a few pieces long (for as nucleic bases attach to one end, they can also drop off the other). Ernesto Di Mauro and colleagues examined if there was some mechanism to overcome this thermodynamic barrier, by incubating short RNA fragments in water of different temperatures and pH. They found that under favorable conditions (acidic environment and temperature lower than 70 degrees Celsius), pieces ranging from 10-24 in length could naturally fuse into larger fragments, generally within 14 hours. The RNA fragments came together as double-stranded structures then joined at the ends. The fragments did not have to be the same size, but the efficiency of the reactions was dependent on fragment size (larger is better, though efficiency drops again after reaching around 100) and the similarity of the fragment sequences. The researchers note that this spontaneous fusing, or ligation, would a simple way for RNA to overcome initial barriers to growth and reach a biologically important size; at around 100 bases long, RNA molecules can begin to fold into functional, 3D shapes.
    ————————————————-
    What are the other problems to overcome for the origin of life story to have one aside from:
    1. Atomic Nitrogen
    2. Chirality
    3, RNA Had no Enzymes to Catalyze

  49. It’s been known for a long time that interstellar space shows the absorption spectra for simple amino acids, sugars, and nucleic base. They just form naturally over the eons in the cold of space. Thus, when a star forms, planets will accrue quite a bit of organic material, already biased in its composition. These space compounds, in their most stable forms, are also those used in biology mostly for the same reasons. Glucose is the sugar of choice, for example, as it is the lowest energy hexose.

  50. “Well Scott, if I read you right, it does the exact opposite, what better “proof” that God sent the origin (building blocks) of life everywhere?
    Not that I put too much stock into intelligent design.”
    Not sure I put too much stock in non-intelligent randomization. Origin of life will always be a discussion of philosophy and science. The science is the process we use to study our surroundings, but can we ever prove what we theorize? We cannot go back in time and we as yet cannot explain how we go from a single cell organism to a full human body, which has so many parts that it cannot exist without (I would hate to be the guy without a liver or left arm halfway through the evolution cycle). You could say that each new replication was improved, but that goes against what we witness in life now, humans bear humans, cats bear cats, and so on. Yes there are different variations, but the basics are the same. Then if you figure that all out, what is next, what is the purpose of life? Most people have a hard time being told they exist due to accidental or even probable but purposeless causes (then again we always have EVO). Even then all the “right ingredients” still just happen to magically exist in space as if they were always there, which brings infinity into the question and with that is more philosophy. Science is a process linked to our environment which we are a part of as well, so areas tend to cross as some point.

  51. anorak2
    August 10, 2011 at 6:25 am
    ###
    Thanks to moonbats like Carl Sagan, you and everyone else misses the point of the Drakes Equation. Its purpose was NOT to show that ET probably exists, but to point out the futility in calculating the probability of his existence. It also demonstrate, by the multiplication of a string of very tiny numbers, that the chance of ETs existence is pretty damn small, < 10^-20.

  52. Nuke says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:56 am
    “Wasn’t it billions of years before this planet was capable of supporting life? It took billions of years (perhaps as much as 4 billion years) to cool.”
    ======
    No, it apparently cooled pretty quickly. What is more of a mystery is how the sun — which we believe was substantially weaker 4 billion years ago managed to keep liquid water sloshing around. But it apparently did as we can find sedimentary deposits back to 3.8B ma and probably before (I’m too lazy to look it up). The earliest possibly organic remains in sediments date to about 3.8B ma. It seems pretty solid that life on Earth has been around for at least 3 billion years and very likely longer.

  53. I’ve been thinking about my college biology class some decades ago and remember that we discussed the possibility blue-green algae came to Earth on a meteorite but I remember now that my professor had rejected the meteorite idea in favor of the space ship. In his view, algae would probably not have survived the heating it would undergo as the meteorite came through an early Earth atmosphere. For this reason he favored the view that the algae was brought here by aliens in the safety of the inside of their space ship. Being a careful scientist, he was unwilling to speculate on whether the aliens brought the blue-green algae here intentionally or unintentionally.
    And yes, the author of the paper I cited earlier is Granville Sewell, not Grant Sewell. My mistake.

  54. Nuke,
    The earth itself is only around 4.3 to 4.5 billion years old.
    I’ve read of recent research that claims to have found evidence for single celled life within a few hundred million years of the earth’s creation.

  55. Does this have anything to do with the orange stuff found floating on both coasts a couple of days ago?
    The same stuff identified as microscopic eggs that came with the rain that fell?

  56. I note that some of you made general comments on the idea of life having been created by a greater power (God)
    but no-one was specific.
    So let me ask a specific question from:
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/why-do-i-believe-in-god
    I quote
    “Nevertheless, you say that you still believe there is no God or you don’t know if there is a God. You think it is reasonable to believe that everything you see around you came by accident. Life did not come forth by creation (a plan) but by evolution. You believe in Murphy’s law (Murphy’s law = given that there is a chance that something will happen, then, if there is enough time available, eventually it will happen). You refuse to accept that the creation of the whole universe was part of God’s plan for us to be born. Now I will ask you: never mind the question about how life came into being and how incredibly small the chance is that you are alive today. What about the next question: where does matter itself come from? Where did all the atoms that form the person that you are and the earth that you are living on and the air that you are breathing, came from? If you believe there is no God, then obviously in the beginning there must have been absolutely nothing. Good for you if you believe in the Big Bang theory. But the question still remains: where did all the matter that forms the universe, originate from? You see what the problem is? It does not make sense to believe that there is no God because it is not logical. In fact, if you believe there is no God, you are actually saying that you believe that out of absolutely nothing and guided by absolutely nobody, an incredible intelligent and intellectual person (like yourself) with a material body came into being. Now, for you to believe that such a miracle could have happened, you must actually have a much bigger faith than that of a person simply believing and admitting that there is a Higher Power, a God who created him for a specific plan and purpose! “

  57. Some believe that life here began out there that there are still brothers of man fighting for survival ….
    never mind wrong forum I miss BSG …LOL

  58. While I don’t doubt such compounds exist in meteorites, I believe that the amount of them would have been fairly inconsequential compared to the amounts of them that would have been formed on Earth with the environment we had here. There would have been significant UV radiation as Earth wouldn’t have had much/any ozone layer, a lot of lightning, a lot of geothermal activity, etc. Earth’s atmosphere would also probably have been much thicker at the time, too, as most of our water would have been in the form of vapor as the surface would have been too hot for it to really accumulate much.
    So yeah, we might have collected a few of these sort of molecules here and there but I believe those would have been swamped by the amount of such molecules being formed on a daily basis right here.

  59. Kip Hansen says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:30 am
    If the same amount of money they put in anthropogenic global warming science was put into research to find God, I am pretty sure they would come down to the same conclusion. Of course models would show otherwise. Some people put too much trust in models and others in God.

  60. Dave Springer says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:18 am

    http://www.physik.uzh.ch/groups/aegerter/teaching/Biophys/eigen.pdf
    http://jaguar.biologie.hu-berlin.de/~wolfram/pages/seminar_theoretische_biologie_2007/literatur/schaber/Eigen1978Naturwissenschaften65a.pdf
    There are things we don’t understand yet. Just because we don’t have all the answers, it doesn’t follow that there must be a supernatural cause. People once thought diseases were caused by demonic possession. How many people still believe that? Today, given our knowledge of pathogens, the notion of disease from demons is obviously silly.
    The process that gave us medicine is in progress with questions like the origin of life, evolution, the origin of the universe, and the basis of consciousness. We don’t have all the answers yet. There is no guarantee that we will ever know all the answers, but that doesn’t mean we need to resort to a supernatural cause just because someone demands an answer now.

  61. DesertYote says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:16 am
    Thanks to moonbats like Carl Sagan, you and everyone else misses the point of the Drakes Equation. Its purpose was NOT to show that ET probably exists, but to point out the futility in calculating the probability of his existence. It also demonstrate, by the multiplication of a string of very tiny numbers, that the chance of ETs existence is pretty damn small, < 10^-20.
    The probability of our existence can also be described as ‘vanishing’. It is an absurdly small probability. Glad to see we beat the odds.

  62. HenryP,
    That always leaves the question of “Where did God come from?”.
    Personally, I find the whole discussion rather tiring.

  63. Theo Goodwin says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:49 am
    Do you mean Dawkins, not Dawson? Anyway, finding complex organic molecules extra terrestrially shows the building of organic molecules essential to life is natural and ubiquitous in the universe.
    The Gray Monk says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:52 am
    The Grey Monk’s analogy “Roughly the equivalent of throwing a boxfull of car parts randomly into the air and getting a fully assembled Rolls-Royce … ” is simplistic and easily countered. What if those parts have a natural affinity or there are physical mechanisms assisting the the assemblage and there were a billion years available to achieve the assemblage. And once a component is assembled, say a carburetor, it does not unassemble during the following tosses into the air. This type of intelligent design argument is facile but fundamentally weak.

  64. A note on the fallacy of presentism is appropriate for some of the comments above. The term originates in ordinary historical scholarship, and there is a short definition in the wikipedia —
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presentism_%28literary_and_historical_analysis%29
    In regard to the classic “origin of life” problem, some polemicists will point to the extreme complexity of contemporary organisms and conclude that life cannot start by natural means. The simple comment about a sterile world is that there is no competition, so the early life form can be as simple and slowly growing as possible. For example, if a net doubling of mass takes a million years, then the environment will be dominated by the life form in a geologically short period of time. Ten million years would multiply the mass by 1024 or ~3 orders. So, 20 million is 6 orders, 40 million is 12 orders, and so on. Soon — in the geological sense — the new environment will supply a substrate for a mutant life form that can take advantage of the changed conditions. Early organisms would not even be recognized as life in a contemporary laboratory, since the incorporation of labeled precursors would be near the noise level.
    Ironically, the creationist Dean Kenyon wrote one of the better books on early conditions — Biochemical Predestination — along with Gary Steinman. The early world was nothing like ours.
    And, if one is interested in concepts of panspermia, the wikipedia article is pretty good, and there are a number of essays at the panspermia website —
    http://www.panspermia.org/

  65. HenryP says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:23 am
    This type of argument always invites the question of what created “God”. Saying that God “always was” is no more satisfying than saying that God “never was”. Maybe it’s circular, a chicken and egg problem; did God create man or man create God? Anyway, a creator, the concept of an intelligent designer, is not science since it is not falsifiable. Meanwhile, man pokes away at the secrets of life and advances in scientific knowledge, all be it slowly.

  66. Life is everywhere. Get over it.
    Fred Hoyle may have been right.
    We still suffer from the delusion that Man and the Earth is a very special exciting place when in reality it is well known that Earth is “an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the galaxy”.

  67. Harry Dale Huffman says:
    August 10, 2011 at 4:48 am
    our solar system has a real history — of deliberate past design(s)
    were all the other star systems with the multitude of planets also deliberately designed? or only ours?

  68. Robert Austin says:
    “is simplistic and easily countered. What if those parts have a natural affinity or there are physical mechanisms assisting the the assemblage and there were a billion years available to achieve the assemblage. And once a component is assembled, say a carburetor, it does not unassemble during the following tosses into the air. This type of intelligent design argument is facile but fundamentally weak.”
    Actually his argument still stands as your counter assumes a natural affinity or physical mechanism exist to make this happen. The problem still lies on where the heck all this stuff came from in the first place. And to add to your later argument on arguing about where “God” came from we can easily turn the tables and say where did “Space” come from and all these wonderful elements and mechanisms we enjoy so much (however much we take them for granted). Even if we figure out all this and the rest of the secrets to life, at the end of the day one must ask what the practical advantage it to it all. Whether we find Noah’s Ark or the Missing Link, when the crowds of curiosity die down, what can we take from it? I still have to go to work and earn money and provide for my family. I’m sure plenty of practical things will come from all this research, but I doubt any of it will be connected to the theory evolution and how it brought us to be. That will leave us with the same circular argument of whether there is a God or not, as you say, science cannot touch that, science merely remains a process in which we study nature or creation, whichever you choose. So while some try to figure out how we came to be and what it means, some will settle on what that is and make use of it. Scientific knowledge is great, but what can be made of it, that is where wisdom lies, and wisdom is better than a host of knowledge.

  69. I dunno. I’m not convinced by what I read that they found organic stuff from space. Just saying. Life is everywhere on this planet and finding traces of life chemicals on something lying aroud on earth is not totally convincing. YMMV.

  70. And who says selected carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and/or phosphorus components can only be assembled in this complex manner in “space”, whatever that means. The Earth is also in “space” and so is everything else so the statement is not an Aha of any proportion. We already know we are only “dust in the wind” and will return to same. NASA is no doubt continuing to look for $$$. Nothing new here. It would be more surprising if only here on Earth are these combinations possible. And said combinations may be the “building blocks of life” but are no more alive than the individual molecular components.

  71. I was watching Ben Stein’s interview Richard Dawkins about this. here is the clip:

    Time stamp 3:45 mins
    Dawkins seems to think that complex molecules were seeded here on earth from “an extraterrestrial being” BUT.. here is curiously odd part….That they evolved naturally from nothing on some other world. ummm wha?
    In my view, the lack of evidence of the genesis of life on earth, does not inspire me to think that there is evidence elsewhere. It seems to me that believing in aliens as designers, like Dawkins does, is less likely than a God of creation.
    In essence, the priests at NASA don’t want any of us to accept any other religion then the baseless belief that they have in aliens and anthropogenic global warming.

  72. Robert Austin says:
    August 10, 2011 at 10:05 am
    “Do you mean Dawkins, not Dawson? Anyway, finding complex organic molecules extra terrestrially shows the building of organic molecules essential to life is natural and ubiquitous in the universe.”
    Yes, I meant Dawkins. Thanks. DNA is necessary for life as we know it. But DNA is not alive. Organic molecules essential to life are not alive. To have a science of biology, or biology as we know it, you must have something that is alive. If you are a Dawkins, you treat DNA as if it has an existence independent of living things. In addition, Dawkins treats DNA as if it were the secret of life, yet it is not alive. In all his talk about DNA and organic molecules Dawkins does not arrive at something that is alive.
    Here is a different approach to Dawkins’ error. Some people believe that their human intelligence could be preserved in a fancy digital computer. Such a belief treats human intelligence as independent of the human exercising the intelligence. That is what I object to. Aristotle would also object. To me, such thinking is fully outside the realm of science and worthy of the name religion. Dawkins’ God just happens to be DNA. Now he needs to tell us about the “living thing” that the DNA “created,” “combined with,” or whatever.
    In case readers have lost my track, I am discussing claims from the article such as:
    “The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life.”
    Is it not evident from this sentence that we could have a DNA kit delivered by InterGalactic UPS and still not have a clue what biological life is? If we do not have a clue what biological life is, how are we better off than the theists?
    And before someone accuses me of being a religious fanatic who is embarrassing WUWT, please note that I have asserted nothing about religion. What I have done is what any good scientist (sceptic) must do, criticize the science (or at least this formulation of it.)

  73. HenryP says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:23 am
    I note that some of you made general comments on the idea of life having been created by a greater power (God)
    but no-one was specific.
    So let me ask a specific question from:
    http://www.letterdash.com/HenryP/why-do-i-believe-in-god
    I quote
    “Nevertheless, you say that you still believe there is no God or you don’t know if there is a God. You think it is reasonable to believe that everything you see around you came by accident. Life did not come forth by creation (a plan) but by evolution. You believe in Murphy’s law (Murphy’s law = given that there is a chance that something will happen, then, if there is enough time available, eventually it will happen). You refuse to accept that the creation of the whole universe was part of God’s plan for us to be born. Now I will ask you: never mind the question about how life came into being and how incredibly small the chance is that you are alive today. What about the next question: where does matter itself come from? Where did all the atoms that form the person that you are and the earth that you are living on and the air that you are breathing, came from? If you believe there is no God, then obviously in the beginning there must have been absolutely nothing. Good for you if you believe in the Big Bang theory. But the question still remains: where did all the matter that forms the universe, originate from? You see what the problem is? It does not make sense to believe that there is no God because it is not logical. In fact, if you believe there is no God, you are actually saying that you believe that out of absolutely nothing and guided by absolutely nobody, an incredible intelligent and intellectual person (like yourself) with a material body came into being. Now, for you to believe that such a miracle could have happened, you must actually have a much bigger faith than that of a person simply believing and admitting that there is a Higher Power, a God who created him for a specific plan and purpose! “
    That is an easy answer, we are in a rebounding universe that always existed and intermittantly recycles itself. Of course, then one must ask if this is easier to believe in than a God who always existed and created the universe. More to the point in my mind is the Goldilocks nature of physical laws which allow everything to exist as they are. What a coincidence!

  74. At 11:11 AM on 10 August, Paul Westhaver writes about “watching Ben Stein’s interview Richard Dawkins about this” and embeds a clip from Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, going on to write:

    In my view, the lack of evidence of the genesis of life on earth, does not inspire me to think that there is evidence elsewhere. It seems to me that believing in aliens as designers, like Dawkins does, is less likely than a God of creation.

    Mr. Westhaver apparently missed my earlier reference to super-intelligent purple space squid, so I guess I’ll have to pull a direct quote from Ronald Bailey’s Reason magazine article (15 July 2008) based on the remarks he’d given in the FreedomFest 2008 debate “Is There Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design in Nature?” I begin:

    Near the end of the silly new anti-evolution film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — in which fellow panelist Steve Meyer appeared — host Ben Stein asks Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the best-known living evolutionary biologist on the planet, if he could think of any circumstances under which intelligent design might have occurred. Incautiously, Dawkins brings up the idea that aliens might have seeded life on earth; so-called directed panspermia. This idea was suggested by biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel back in the 1970s. In the film, Stein acts like this is a great “gotcha,” like it’s the silliest thing he’s ever heard. Of course, the irony is that this is precisely what proponents of intelligent design are claiming — that a higher intelligence has repeatedly created life on earth.
    So, since our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the “source of design,” and because intelligent design cannot rule out the hypothesis that super-intelligent purple space squids are not the “source of design” of life on earth, I will provisionally accept that hypothesis for the remainder of my talk.

    Mr. Bailey had concluded his remarks with:

    The point of the foregoing is that intelligent design proponents do not have good answers to the questions I have posed. But evolutionary biologists do. In his new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, Brown University biologist Kenenth Miller argues, “Design rests ultimately on the claim of ignorance, upon the hope that science cannot show evolution to be capable of producing complex organs, assemblies of molecules, or novel biological information. If evolution cannot achieve that, the argument goes, then design must be the answer.
    “Since any field of biology, including evolution, is filled with unsolved problems, intelligent design can be invoked as the default explanation for any one of them,” adds Miller. “The hypothesis of design is compatible with any conceivable data, makes no testable predictions, and suggests no new avenues of research.”
    Ultimately, the intelligent design hypothesis just leaves everything up to the ineffable whims of the moral equivalent of super-intelligent purple space squids or whoever else is the alleged “source of design.”

    I strongly recommend that readers in this forum review Mr. Bailey’s article from Reason and consider just what this “intelligent design” contention necessarily implies.
    Speaking, of course, as a Pastafarian, I condemn all you heretics to the cheese-less, sauce-less cold beyond the Table of Feasting in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  75. The question of a whether there is a God is Science. It is the single most important question of Science. (IMHO). Because Science, in everyone’s definition, is the physical description of the physical world…..not a process. It’s a shame that the vast brain trust in the Science community and their resources are shut off from approaching this subject by prejudice, semantics. mis-conceptions, bias, fear. Etc. Etc. The Sophistication of the designs around us and within us (whether designed or not) begs the question.

  76. JimBob says:
    August 10, 2011 at 6:30 am
    . What drives the amino acids to link up into DNA in life?
    (He means the nucleotides link up)
    I have studied the literature on origins of life and found an embarassment of riches–there is no need to evoke some extraordinary measure to result in polymerization of carbonaceous molecules. It happens spontaneously, and the keynote of evolution can be better phrased as
    “Some chemical species are more reactive than others, and some are more stable. Over time, some species persist both from luck and from stability. It is not all chance, but some favorable forms have occurred that made some living organisms much more likely than others to persist.”
    We know that life began, not on the surface where humans live today, but at the ocean bottom, at ocean vents. Today vents have more variety of life forms (I lost the ref here and desperate to find it) and the Cambrian Explosion showed that shelled forms, at least, began in the abyss, not the surface.
    The most relevant reference, overlooked by nearly all fascinated by this subject is Martell’s paper, showing that radioactivity causes nucleic acid precursors, nucleotides, to polymerize. The Earth itself is radioactive, and the oil from last year’s Macondo disaster released a lot of radioactivity into the Gulf of Mexico.
    We know also in chemistry that reactions are driven until equilibrium is reached. Vents have strong gradients of acid/base and many other things, so the march from nonliving to living forms was energized.
    The ref for Martell’s paper is
    Martell, Edward A., Radionuclide-induced Evolution of DNA and the Origin of Life, J. Mol. Evol. 35:346-355. 1992.

  77. I think it’s appropriate to ring in an article prepared for a lay audience in December 2007 by retired rocket scientist (and emphatic AGW skeptic) Dr. Jeff Glassman, titled “Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law: The Basis of Rational Argument,” in which he addressed both the AGW fraud and the “intelligent design” hoo-raw in his closing paragraphs:

    But many more citizens will be acutely interested in whether their school board puts “intelligent design” into its grade school curriculum or into its text book criteria, and how. And a majority of citizens will be personally affected should the United States adopt the Kyoto Accord. Here the charlatans and demagogues are trying to exploit the public vulnerability created by a public school system that has replaced science and mathematics with recycling and self-esteem curricula.
    The notion of intelligent design belongs in the public school program. The science curriculum should show that, because science builds on facts (measurements compared to standards as explained above) and because God and the supernatural can never be measured but must remain mysterious and otherworldly, intelligent design and creationism are matters of faith, not science. To a scientist–believer, science takes the measure of what God appears to have done, not of God. Science can never figure out what size Birkenstock God takes.
    Just as intelligent design is a threshold question between nonscience and conjectures, anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is a threshold question between conjectures and hypotheses. AGW is a centuries-old conjecture elevated to an established belief by a little clique of quacks who proclaim themselves the Consensus on Climate, guardians of the vault of exclusive knowledge. Does this sound familiar? Is the Consensus patterned after the Council of Trent? As a matter of science, as opposed to a matter of belief, the AGW conjecture is gathering more contradictory evidence than supporting. The layman can test it and understand its failings by applying just the few principles outlined here.
    AGW fails the test because it is proclaimed by a consensus. Science places no value on such a vote. A unanimous opinion, much less a consensus, is insufficient. Science advances one scientist at a time, and we honor their names. It advances one model at a time. When the article gets around to saying “most scientists believe…,” it’s time to go back to the comics section. Science relies instead on models that make factual predictions that are or might be validated.
    AGW fails on the first order scientific principles outlined here because it does not fit all the data. The consensus relies on models initialized after the start of the Industrial era, which then try to trace out a future climate. Science demands that a climate model reproduce the climate data first. These models don’t fit the first-, second-, or third-order events that characterize the history of Earth’s climate. They don’t reproduce the Ice Ages, the Glacial epochs, or even the rather recent Little Ice Age. The models don’t even have characteristics similar to these profound events, much less have the timing right. Since the start of the Industrial era, Earth has been warming in recovery from these three events. The consensus initializes its models to be in equilibrium, not warming.
    And there’s much, much more.
    Anthropogenic Global Warming is a crippled conjecture, doomed just by these principles of science never to advance to a hypothesis. Its fate would be sealed by a minimally scientifically literate public.

    I strongly recommend Dr. Glassman’s brief article, and will continue merrily to cite it to the distress of los warmistas and other politically malevolent whackjobs.
    Like the creationists.

  78. I know, it is a difficult concept
    God says: I am who I am
    He (3 person) also admits He was always there, and He created us because He was alone,
    similar to you being without a mate
    Be in-lightened (full of the knowledge given by God) or be enlightened (by your own knowledge)
    –it is your choice.
    I commend WUWT for not cutting remarks which are clearly religious rather than scientific
    I have always said:
    religion and science are two roads leading to the same thing: the truth
    note the answer given by Jesus when asked by Pilate: What is Truth?

  79. Ok, I wish people could separate this stuff. Then they would not have as many conflicts over it.
    Science fails when it delves into belief (by delve I mean to practice). That is not to say that there is no room for “belief” in science. After all science is a search, and it starts with an intelligent desire to understand something observed. The hypothesis is something that a scientist “believes” is a plausible explanation for the observed phenomena. So, all science starts with some sort of faith that what is searched for exists. However, this is the only place for belief in the practice of science.
    Science starts to fail to be “science”, when the search becomes biased. Evidence that what is searched for doesn’t exist is often difficult to accept by a scientist and any normal “human” scientist who invested in something they believed to be true would have such difficulty. However, if the scientist is actually engaged in the practice of science and their are no errors in obtaining the they accept the contrary evidence presented and must modify what they believe, and come up with a new belief that explains the old observations as well as the new.
    Science is limited to explaining the observed world and no other. If a religious belief transcends the natural world, then Science can’t say anything about it period.
    Religion on the other hand is a philosophy. I does not have the limitation of explaining what is observed by experimentation. This does not mean that Religion does not engage in observation and logical reasoning. It does, but only to the point of evangelical salesmanship to others. Religious explanations must simply be tested by an individual and if they make sense to such an individual (which could be non-sense to someone else) they are believed to be true. There is no “science” behind it at all. Religious tolerance is simply allowing others to believe things that don’t make since one self.
    So, can we please limit the discussion to science. Leave Religion out of it.
    There are some really good articles and research on the possibility of replicating RNA. RNA can fold like a protein to create macroscopic structures. In fact, James Ferris at the Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute has successfully been able to have RNA strands spontaneously assemble themselves into strands on a clay substrate. Niles Lehman, and his colleagues at Portland State RNA can self replicate.
    Here are the links to the papers. Good stuff, and strictly science.
    Astrophysics Magazine online, http://www.astrobio.net/exclusive/2646/how-did-life-get-started
    Zenisek, S. M., Hayden, E. J., and Lehman, N. 2007. Genetic Exchange Leading to Self-Assembling RNA Species upon Encapsulation in Artificial Protocells. Artif. Life 13, 3 (Jul. 2007), 279-289. DOI= http://dx.doi.org/10.1162/artl.2007.13.3.279
    Catalysis and Selectivity in Prebiotic Synthesis: Initiation of the Formation of Oligo(U)s on Montmorillonite Clay by Adenosine-5′-methylphosphate, 2005, Kong-Jiang Wang and James P. Ferris, Origins Life Evol. Biosphere 35, 185-226
    Now, what I’d like NASA to show me is the infra red spectra of gas clouds with a sufficient density of Nucleic Acids to have enough RNA for the odds to be right.

  80. Tucci78 Quotes:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:50 am
    “So, since our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the “source of design,” and because intelligent design cannot rule out the hypothesis that super-intelligent purple space squids are not the “source of design” of life on earth, I will provisionally accept that hypothesis for the remainder of my talk.”
    Actually, he had accepted it earlier. If you buy Dawkins’ work, you certainly accept that DNA exists independently of biological life as we know it on Earth. If you accept that, why not just go the full monty and call DNA God? There is no need for space aliens, though the idea inspires some such as Tom Cruise.
    Excellent post, Tucci. May I call you Tucci?

  81. The belief that life can form from non-life requires more faith than I have. People say amino acids are the building blocks of life. Certainly that is true, but water can also be called a building block of life since life is not possible without water. What do you get when you mix amino acids with water? A protein shake. You certainly do not get life.
    Another interesting discussion around origins is the story of the Big Bang. Non-scientific types may think the Big Bang disproves the existence of God. Actually, the opposite is true. The Big Bang provides strong evidence a Big Banger is at work. Where did all that energy come from? I strongly recommend the book by Robert Jastrow – God and the Astronomers. It is a fascinating story of the discovery of the Big Bang and what it means for the origin of the universe.
    Scientists now understand the universe had a beginning and will have an end. So, the next question is – What does that mean?

  82. Regarding my draw from Ronald Bailey’s article “Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators” (Reason magazine, 15 July 2008), at 12:50 PM on 10 August we read Theo Goodwin asserting that:

    Actually, he [Bailey] had accepted it earlier. If you buy Dawkins’ work, you certainly accept that DNA exists independently of biological life as we know it on Earth. If you accept that, why not just go the full monty and call DNA God? There is no need for space aliens, though the idea inspires some such as Tom Cruise.

    Oopsie. Theo (may I call you Theo?), the only thing Mr. Bailey had stated prior to the initial paragraph of his that I’d quoted was:

    Let me begin by acknowledging that the Discovery Institute website states: “Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.” So far so good.

    That’s it. Mr. Bailey hadn’t “accepted” anything of the Discovery Institute’s contention other than what he’d specifically quoted, which he recapitulates as follows: “our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the ‘source of design’.
    And what of “Dawkins’ work” is there that you’re expecting anyone to “buy“? In that interview from Mr. Stein’s abysmal failure of a movie (as Mr. Bailey make explicitly clear), Dr. Dawkins responded to Mr. Stein’s request for “any circumstances under which intelligent design might have occurred,” and Dr. Dawkins mentioned the widely-known conjecture of directed panspermia, an idea – definitely not Dr. Dawkins’ own, and not one he has ever endorsed to the best of my appreciation – that’s been knocking around for more than three decades.
    On the mistaken premise that Mr. Stein was making a reasonable and honest request, Dr. Dawkins responded reasonably and honestly. There are a lot of dubious – even whacky – conjectures floating around in every scientific discipline, and to fail of acknowledgement that these conjectures have been advanced is to violate the standards of intellectual integrity.
    Such a violation was perpetrated by Mr. Stein when he played a “gotcha!” game on Dr. Dawkins in that execrable excuse for a movie.
    Jeez, Theo, haven’t you yet learned about how the manipulation of interview footage can be used “to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”?

  83. DesertYote says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:16 am
    Thanks to moonbats like Carl Sagan, you and everyone else misses the point of the Drakes Equation. Its purpose was NOT to show that ET probably exists, but to point out the futility in calculating the probability of his existence. It also demonstrate, by the multiplication of a string of very tiny numbers, that the chance of ETs existence is pretty damn small, < 10^-20.
    ==========================================
    Where do you get 10 to the -20 from? The whole problem with the Drake equation is that it contains terms – the fraction of planets that develop life, the fraction of those that evolve intelligent life, the fraction of those that develop technology, the average life expectancy of such technological civilizations – whose values are completely unknown and may range from probable to vanishingly small. Your assertion is no better than a wild guess.

  84. Lady Life Grows says:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Living things do not reach equilibrium and continue to be alive. You reach (static) equilibrium when you achieve room temperature. I don’t want to do that for many, many years. We only appear to have static form, but that appearance is dynamic equilibrium produced by a balance of inputs and outputs. The process maintaining our form and function is energy consuming. And entropy beats us all in the end.
    There are social and political forces that mistake dynamic equilibrium for static states. Living systems, like civilizations, are changing constantly and can’t be made to stay the same and expect to survive for long. This basic misunderstanding of static state versus balanced process creates deep divisions within our society.
    Policy makers these days don’t seem to understand the concept of dynamic living systems, and voters certainly don’t get it. That makes doing the right thing difficult sometimes. Voters may have to learn hard lessons. The system may have to crash and reboot. It would be better if little crashes occurred so the lessons could be learned on smaller scales.
    Those who believe in absolute Truth can always attack science. In natural philosophy, there is no such thing as Truth, only approximations. Every theory has error. But so what? These approximations of truth can be very useful. We don’t have to prove our theories or models of reality are absolutely correct; that is never possible. If they are not proven to be completely wrong, we can only show they are useful. That is, they explain observations and are useful in making predictions. And we should expect better ideas to come along in time. Science is also not static.

  85. Ron Cram said: “The Big Bang provides strong evidence a Big Banger is at work. “

    Not necessarily, it’s true the Big Bang provides evidence of a “Big Banger” but why the need to assume anything else was left to be “worked on” after Big Bang?
    There are two paths you can take post Big Bang to explain the existence of our universe. One is to accept the idea that all of physics was created and perfect as of that very instant. The other is that the physics was not quite perfect and required some tweaking here and there along the way in order for everything to turn out as it did. With that latter path it becomes easy to say all kinds of things were adjusted, added, subtracted, etc along the way and there’s really no reason to not think such modification is going on at this very moment. It also implies that we are some sort of ‘afterthought’.
    So I believe the former path is true. I think the Big Banger is not restricted by time at all so the outcome ‘was’ known ‘before’ it ‘happened’ – and the Big Banger saw that it ‘was’ good. I also recognize that I cannot possibly imagine the degree of precision required for the exact values of such things as say the constants for gravity or the other three known forces needed at time zero for a continued successful universe outcome umpteen billions of years later. So I take that on faith and also conclude that I also cannot discount the possibility that the eventual outcome of life via evolution was also perfectly foreseen at time zero along with everything else thus requiring no further intervention at all. In other words, if the Big Banger had no problem getting gravity right to 10^n! decimal places then maybe creating a universe that included the emergence of life was relatively simple?
    But it’s only my guess…

  86. I am totally nuetral on evolution and the “where life came from” question. Whether or not life took place in a second or over over billions of years, I still find the beauty of the universe a miracle. I accept that the theory of evolution makes sense and is more than just a little bit probable.
    Having said that, can any one answer this question? How complex is the DNA of the simpliest forms of life, other than viruses, now in existance and do scientists know the complexity of the DNA in the earliest known forms of life?

  87. Previous commenters asked what the “handedness” or Chirality of the amino acids were. I also ask that question.
    While it has been known that amino acids could be created in nature or experimentally there have not been any created that had the correct one handed chirality that life on earth requires without using biological materials WITH the correct Chirality. (life creates life)
    This article did not make clear whether the chirality issue has been overcome. I would think if it had it would be a BIG DEAL and would be trumpeted around!!
    Does anyone know if this has been answered?

  88. “Let There Be Light!”
    (Some of the Angels in the back of the infinite throng thought He said ‘Life’, and seeds of life were strewn about in random fashion. The rest is history.)
    PS: If you think I’m being disrespectful, you’re wrong.

  89. “. . . some building blocks . . . were likely created in space . . .”
    Uh, yeah. So were the other building blocks: carbon, iron, magnesium, etc. They all came from space, and at some point they all had to be on earth before life started (setting aside panspermia for the moment).
    “The research gives support to the theory that a “kit” of ready-made parts created in space and delivered to Earth by meteorite and comet impacts assisted the origin of life. We may all be immigrants on Earth.”
    Hmmm. Now just exactly how do a bunch of nucleotides landing on the earth in comets “assist the origin of life”?

  90. Science is merely the frontier of the end of your knowledge. Let me explain: If Anthony comes into the 1st degree burn unit and heals everyone…….everytime….through prayer. (He did heal us of the case of AGW). That is now the frontier of Science. Even if it’s a religious transaction. Because it’s real. And real requires Science to explain it. What I feel we are all saying is this: The Question should be tabled so that serious discussions by the brain trust in the scientific community together with the resources available for inquiry can be made. It’s not good enough for an emminent biologist to say “it’s as if the Peacock is an expert on light phase quantum offset” and leave it at that. Following the trail further where that is leading should be Science.

  91. Eric Anderson says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:36 pm
    “Uh, yeah. So were the other building blocks: carbon, iron, magnesium, etc. They all came from space, and at some point they all had to be on earth before life started (setting aside panspermia for the moment).”
    If you are taking apart an asteroid, in the careful way that scientists do, and you find something that has exactly the appearance of a ball bearing, can you infer that the Model T came from space?

  92. Tucci78 says:
    August 10, 2011 at 12:38 pm
    I think it’s appropriate to ring in an article prepared for a lay audience in December 2007 by retired rocket scientist (and emphatic AGW skeptic) Dr. Jeff Glassman, titled “Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law: The Basis of Rational Argument,” in which he addressed both the AGW fraud and the “intelligent design” …
    ——————-
    I have seen before this attempt to draw parallels between AGW and creationism, and thus paint AGW as anti-science. However, just scanning this thread one can see that it is among the so-called “skeptics” that creationist ideas are common, if not overwhelming. You won’t find many practising scientists (climate or otherwise) supporting creationist views. And this brings to mind another paradox: skeptics often accuse AGW proponents of “GAIA worship”, yet it is the skeptics who talk about self-regulation and magical mechanisms like “the recovery from the Little Ice Age”. Hmmm…

  93. Tucci78 says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm
    Tucci,
    Yes, please call me Theo.
    “…Dr. Dawkins responded to Mr. Stein’s request for “any circumstances under which intelligent design might have occurred,” and Dr. Dawkins mentioned the widely-known conjecture of directed panspermia, an idea – definitely not Dr. Dawkins’ own, and not one he has ever endorsed to the best of my appreciation – that’s been knocking around for more than three decades.”
    I did not intend to criticize your criticisms of the movie/documentary. My point is a logical point about Dawkins’ position. If you buy his position on DNA then you have bought the position that DNA is independent of biological life as we know it on Earth. That is, Dawkins’ fundamental position, however theoretical, implies that aliens, Intergalactic UPS, or whatever could have delivered DNA to Earth. Now, his next tasks (2) are to explain how the first living thing came about and (2) how the first living thing and DNA got together.
    My criticism of Dawkins is that he is the most out-of-control Platonist since Plato. If you read Plato’s basic works, you learn that he had an incredible tendency to reify abstractions. For example, Plato argued that Heaven is real and causes events in human experience. In particular, he argued that learning is recollection of Heaven. That position implies that you learn because you have been in Heaven and have directly experienced what you are now recalling at the hand of the good teacher, Plato. Well, what is Heaven but where the aliens live?
    Dawkins reifies DNA in the same way that Plato reified ideas and the World of Forms (ideas). Aristotle refused to do this and took the individual living thing as the fundamental posit of his biology (Plato had none) and his metaphysics. I do not find Platonism congenial.

  94. kuhnkat says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm
    Previous commenters asked what the “handedness” or Chirality of the amino acids were. I also ask that question.
    While it has been known that amino acids could be created in nature or experimentally there have not been any created that had the correct one handed chirality that life on earth requires without using biological materials WITH the correct Chirality. (life creates life)
    This article did not make clear whether the chirality issue has been overcome. I would think if it had it would be a BIG DEAL and would be trumpeted around!!
    Does anyone know if this has been answered?
    ———————–
    The nucleobases (not amino acids in this case, the title is wrong) are almost certainly racemic, i.e. not one single chirality but an equal mix. Chemical processes create racemic mixes. Life favours one chirality over the other (homochirality) because biological processes, such as the action of enzymes, are driven by molecular shape as well as chemistry. Thus, once life gets going, one chirality is favoured. The only debate is whether the “choice” of chirality was random or if one particular chirality is favoured because of, perhaps, the action of circular polarized light in the early universe.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homochirality

  95. I take it that NONE of those species of Amino Acids, that appear in Meteorites, EVER has appeared in any of those laboratory experiments, in which electrical discharges take place in flasks containing some synthetic primordial soup concoction.
    If they could be simply made in the lab thusly, it wouldn’t be of much significance, that they can be found in space materials.

  96. “”””” Mike M says:
    August 10, 2011 at 2:16 pm
    Ron Cram said: “The Big Bang provides strong evidence a Big Banger is at work. “
    Not necessarily, it’s true the Big Bang provides evidence of a “Big Banger” but why the need to assume anything else was left to be “worked on” after Big Bang? “””””
    Well “The Big Bang” is simply a possible model that appears to explain certain Astronomical observations. The “evidence” supporting such a model supports nothing additional; especially some “big banger”, which is every bit as conjectural as is “The Big Bang.”

  97. polistra says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:57 am
    More likely, life arose on lots of planets.

    That proposition does not make sense. We know exactly nothing about the likelihood of abiogenesis. From the existence of terrestrial life alone it can not be inferred. We only know the conditional probability of the event our first progenitor somehow emerged in an inanimate environment, provided we are wondering right now. Its value is one (1).
    The proof is rather easy. First a bit of notation. Let proposition C
    be “our first progenitor somehow emerged in an inanimate environment” and proposition A be “we are wondering right now”. Probability of the full conditional proposition above can be written as P(C|A). Now, P(C|A) = P(C·A)/P(A), and since A implies C, it follows that C·A = A. QED.
    As you can see, P(C) (likelihood of abiogenesis) does not even enter the equations. The weak anthropic principle is just like that, it is weak.
    The other way to assign a likelihood to abiogenesis would be through a detailed model of the process. Unfortunately we do not have such a model so far, just some pseudo scientific hand-waving.

  98. “”””” Vince Causey says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    DesertYote says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:16 am
    Thanks to moonbats like Carl Sagan, you and everyone else misses the point of the Drakes Equation. Its purpose was NOT to show that ET probably exists, but to point out the futility in calculating the probability of his existence. It also demonstrate, by the multiplication of a string of very tiny numbers, that the chance of ETs existence is pretty damn small, < 10^-20.
    ==========================================
    Where do you get 10 to the -20 from? The whole problem with the Drake equation is that it contains terms – the fraction of planets that develop life, the fraction of those that evolve intelligent life, the fraction of those that develop technology, the average life expectancy of such technological civilizations – whose values are completely unknown and may range from probable to vanishingly small. Your assertion is no better than a wild guess. """""
    Well the problem with Drake's Equation, is that it is missing a whole raft of important factors; namely the product of ALL of the improbabilities of each of the necessary sequentially occurring chemical syntheses that are necessary to get from some mixture of say, H2, O2, N2, H2O, CO2 plus some energy source to ALL of the building blocks of life.
    It is known for example, that some of the isomers of intermediate organic molecules, whose synthesis is energetically favored, lead eventually to dead ends; while other isomers that can lead to known components of living organisms, are energetically unfavored in common synthesis processes..
    The necessary sequence of syntheses required to get to DNA, is every bit as unlikely as is the near infinity of earthlike planets, with suitable atmospheres for earthlike life, suitably disposed about suitable stars.
    So what does zero times infinity get you ?

  99. At 3:05 PM on 10 August, John B gripes about Dr. Glassman’s comparison of the preposterous AGW bogosity to the religious whackjob nonsense of creationism, complaining:

    I have seen before this attempt to draw parallels between AGW and creationism, and thus paint AGW as anti-science.

    And you’re going to see it a boatload more times, John, because it’s precisely apt.
    Inasmuch as the “Cargo Cult Science” of the hideous, duplicitous, incompetent, wasteful, invidious, criminally thieving AGW fraud has been, from its inception, an elaborate deception wholly devoid of genuine conformity with scientific method, just what the hell do you expect?
    Personally, I’m hoping for both criminal prosecutions and tort lawsuits out the kazoo, the latter seeking compensatory and punitive damages enumerated with way more zeroes than the more than 79 billion bucks ripped off by the AGW charlatans in these United States from 1989 through 2009.

  100. John B says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm
    “I have seen before this attempt to draw parallels between AGW and creationism, and thus paint AGW as anti-science. However, just scanning this thread one can see that it is among the so-called “skeptics” that creationist ideas are common, if not overwhelming.”
    Well, what a sweet little bigot you are. You just are not going to miss an opportunity to bash people for talking about religion, are you? You are going to use every tool in your bigoted little arsenal to stop talk of religion, aren’t you? What would you do if you had all the power you need? Would you outlaw religious expression? Would you press criminal charges against the religious? If you are not a hardcore Marxist, if you do not believe in Mao’s New Socialist Man, then you are really missing a bet. Their views on religion are remarkably similar to yours.

  101. The real problem with the Drake equation is that it is pseudo science. It simply can’t be tested. Writing down some variables with an equals(=) between them means nothing when the only way to evaluate the expression is by guessing some numbers for them. Since we have only one example of a planet with intelligent : ) ? life on it that makes the whole rest of the equation meaningless. With only one example there simply is no way to intelligently establish a probability greater than 10^(- # of stars in the universe during the last 14 billion years), or something close to 1 less than 10^-infinity.
    The Drake equation bears a strong resemblance to the kind of thinking that has gone into establishing AGW theory.

  102. The whole point of believing in God is that God exists outside the universe. The Big Bang theory is one way of concieving how the Universe started. But any theory in this universe can’t prove anything about what exists or doesn’t exist outside the universe(one of Goedal’s theorems). Every system of thought can generate questions or theorems(speaking mathematically) that cannot be proven within the system. In other words, God is not something we can prove, but only can believe.

  103. First line of the US President’s inaugural address, January 2013:
    “My fellow Cosmic-Americans…”

  104. Rabid environmentalists trying to prove we are an invasive species so they have an excuse to eradicate us!

  105. Hate to introduce the “duh” factor. But…since the earth is in space. And space was around for 14 billion years before the Earth formed.
    The seeds of life on Earth had to have originated in space.
    Duh.

  106. So we’ve once again wandered into the creation argument.
    “You refuse to accept that the creation of the whole universe was part of God’s plan for us to be born.”
    It’s a common belief, but it strikes me as really cocky, self centered and humanistic.
    Surely in an infinite universe there are life forms far more advanced than ourselves.
    Can’t we simply be creatures blessed with the gift of observing and enjoying the wonder of it all?
    And why speculate as to the meaning of the gift, the motive or the identity of the giver? Perhaps the giver of the gift prefers to remain anonymous.
    Why not just explore it and enjoy it to the fullest as you would any gift?

  107. George E Smith writes:
    “Well ‘The Big Bang’ is simply a possible model that appears to explain certain Astronomical observations. The “evidence” supporting such a model supports nothing additional; especially some ‘big banger’, which is every bit as conjectural as is ‘The Big Bang.’”
    George, I encourage you to read the book “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow, the first head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a brilliant astronomer. The book describes not just the rise of the theory of the Big Bang but also observations which led to the theory being confirmed. Jastrow, an agnostic, also discusses very briefly the meaning of mass and energy coming into existence which did not exist before.
    The following is a quote from Catholic Reverend Bill Zink: “Jastrow was not alone in evoking the supernatural to explain the beginning. Athough he found it personally ‘repugnant,’ General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, ‘The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.'” See http://frbill.stmarysmarne.org/2011/06/big-bang-theory.html
    If you do not have ready access to the book, the website above does provide some interesting insights into Jastrow’s thought and conclusions.

  108. I propose the WESTHAVER equation…
    Unity = N = R* . fp . ne . fl . fi . fc . L . (fa . fb … . fn)
    where:
    N = the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;
    and
    R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
    fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
    ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
    fℓ = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
    fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
    fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
    L = the length of time for which such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
    and
    (fa . fb … .fn) all number of special circumstantial variables which = sufficient a small enough number to offset the enormity of the universe to yield one special case for life, and all of which we have yet to discover their importance.
    All evidence shows that human life is unique.

  109. At 6:29 PM on 10 August, Gary Hladik had written:

    First line of the US President’s inaugural address, January 2013:
    “My fellow Cosmic-Americans…”

    Nope. It’s going to be:
    “All right, Obama – or whatever in hell your name really is – you and your little ACORN buddies are all under arrest.”

  110. TMJ says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:23 am
    I can’t wait to see what Amino Acids in Meteorites has to say about this 🙂
    LOL!
    What do I have to say? Well, it’s about time NASA catches up with the rest of the science world that has known about this for years. Now if they can just get caught up with the real science of global warming……..

  111. Reading this thread on what is purportedly a science blog, it is amusing how quickly the modest discovery of a few nucleobases in meteorites explodes into the realm of Belief—whether belief in natural, undirected origins or extra-natural directed ones. But Belief is really antithetical to Science, which is all about speculation, supposition, enquiry, hypothesis, theory—but never the rock-solid certainty that Belief implies. It is odd how uncomfortable people are with the simple assertion that, “We don’t know.”
    But that’s the impetus behind the whole endeavor of Science: we don’t know, so let’s try to find out. The proper attitude of the scientist is one of Wonder, not Belief, wonder at the all-eveloping mystery that surrounds us, despite all that we have learned in recent years, wonder at how little we really do know, wonder at the immensity of our ignorance itself.
    Those little nucleobases are just a bit of a clue, another tiny piece of the gigantic picture-puzzle we face, in contemplating the nature and origin of the universe, of life, of ourselves. Almost all of the puzzle is blank. We don’t even know what the picture is supposed to look like. But it’s wonderful when we find another piece.
    /Mr Lynn

  112. Tucci78,
    Thank you for the link to the article by Dr. Jeff Glassman. It was an interesting read, even if I do not agree with all of it.
    I like this part:
    3. A theory is a hypothesis with at least one nontrivial validating datum. Candidates:
    • Relativity.
    • Big Bang cosmology.
    • Evolution.

    However, he continues in a way which indicates he is not familiar with intelligent design. He writes:
    Some familiar models fail even to be ranked because they are beyond science, usually for want of facts. Candidates:
    • Creation science or notions of “intelligent design.”
    • Astrology.
    • Parapsychology.
    • UFO-ology.

    The problem, of course, is that intelligent design is very much aligned with Big Bang cosmology. In other words, it is grounded in science. Intelligent design does not lack for facts. Instead it has adequate facts to show the universe cannot have come existence with a Big Banger. In a similar fashion, life cannot have come into existence without a life-giver. Life simply does not come from non-life. It is beyond the realm of science to make any proclamations that it can. Life from non-life has never been observed. To believe that life can come from non-life is an act of faith which has never and will never be confirmed by observation. Such a belief is strictly non-scientific.

  113. Oops. One line should have read:
    “Instead it has adequate facts to show the universe cannot have come into existence without a Big Banger.”

  114. The following is a quote from Catholic Reverend Bill Zink: “Jastrow was not alone in evoking the supernatural to explain the beginning. Athough he found it personally ‘repugnant,’ General Relativity expert Arthur Eddington admitted the same when he said, ‘The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.’”

    If you have to resort to the supernatural (e.g. “god”) it simply means you don’t have enough information.

  115. Scientists now understand the universe had a beginning and will have an end. So, the next question is – What does that mean?

    It means everything that happens in the middle is totally meaningless.

  116. The problem, of course, is that intelligent design is very much aligned with Big Bang cosmology. In other words, it is grounded in science. Intelligent design does not lack for facts. Instead it has adequate facts to show the universe cannot have come existence with a Big Banger. In a similar fashion, life cannot have come into existence without a life-giver. Life simply does not come from non-life. It is beyond the realm of science to make any proclamations that it can. Life from non-life has never been observed. To believe that life can come from non-life is an act of faith which has never and will never be confirmed by observation. Such a belief is strictly non-scientific.

    By that logic, there can’t have been a “life-giver”, for two reasons, 1) who gave that life-giver life? 2) the life-giver can’t make like from non-life (e.g. a man from clay, or out of thin air).
    Again, if you have to resort to the supernatural, it means you don’t have enough information. How did life originate? I don’t know, and neither do you. But we can keep trying to find out instead of attributing it to an invisible sky daddy.

  117. Jeff,
    You write: “If you have to resort to the supernatural (e.g. “god”) it simply means you don’t have enough information.”
    I disagree. In some cases one must resort to the supernatural simply because natural processes are not up to the task. The Big Bang is one example. Again, please read God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow. It is a fascinating story of an important episode in the history of science and the ending may be a bit of a surprise for you.

  118. Isn’t it funny how we want to use the physical to determine the presence (or absence) of the spiritual. The physical (by definition) can be measured using physical instrumentation, whereas (of course) the spiritual can only be sensed spiritually. We may choose to infer the the spiritual from the physical, but we can never prove it. Pretty much why half the people in this blog want to use this to prove the presence of God and the other half want to do the opposite.
    I would be very interested to know by what mechanism these chemicals formed and whether it is possible they could form without invoking life elsewhere – presumably goes to the question of whether they are left, right or both handed.

  119. I think it is interesting to see some of the quotes by non-Christian and agnostic scientists regarding the Big Bang.
    “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced sharply and suddenly at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy” (Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers, p. 14).
    Scientist George Smoot (who was the scientist who lead the team of scientists who first measured ripples in the cosmic background radiation) says: “There is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event and the Christian notion of creation from nothing”. (quoted in Fred Heeren, Show me God, p. 139.)
    Agnostic (or Atheist) non-Christian scientist Arthur Eddington states: “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural”. (Arthur Eddington, The Expanding Universe, p. 178)
    Speaking of the big bang, agnostic astronomer Robert Jastrow states: “That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.” (A scientist caught between two faiths: Interview with Robert Jastrow, Christianity Today, August 6, 1982).
    Lots of other interesting quotes on origins can be found at http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/origins/quotes/universe.html
    When you read these quotes, it seems all of the great scientists would not be shocked by the basic tenets of Intelligent Design. One has to wonder how Intelligent Design came to have a bad name when so many Nobel Prize winners have spoken in this way.

  120. I disagree. In some cases one must resort to the supernatural simply because natural processes are not up to the task. The Big Bang is one example. Again, please read God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow. It is a fascinating story of an important episode in the history of science and the ending may be a bit of a surprise for you.

    I disagree, Ron. If it seems like natural processes aren’t up to the task, then it means we don’t know enough about them, or there are some we haven’t discovered. We know from experimentation and observation that rain occurs not because we’ve satisfied the gods, but due to natural processes.

  121. Jeff Alberts,
    “If you have to resort to the supernatural (e.g. “god”) it simply means you don’t have enough information.”
    Ya think??
    So, tell me exactly how we have the information on how mass, energy, gravity, and all their properties came into being again? OK, tell us how the singularity got there and decided to expand really fast/explode??
    OK. God it is.

  122. George E. Smith
    August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    ###
    I think you need to ask Dr. Drake regarding his equation and why he formulated it. There is no problem with it. It show just what it was intended to show, the futility of it all. The 10^-20, Is a number I pulled from a very dark place, that was tiny, yet larger then the actual number. That is why I said LESS THEN. As it is, 10^-20 is incredibly small. Do you have any idea how small it is? Its small enough to be zero.

  123. George E. Smith
    August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    ###
    And furthermore, depending on what you are doing, zero*inf is equal to some real number.

  124. John B says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    The bases are planar, there is no chirality. Double bonds take it out.
    Good grief! Did some of you guys do anything useful today?

  125. Jeff Alberts: “By that logic, there can’t have been a “life-giver”, for two reasons, 1) who gave that life-giver life? 2) the life-giver can’t make life from non-life (e.g. a man from clay, or out of thin air).”
    Several issues with your comments, but the above one jumped out at me, because it is a non-sequitur. Are you saying that it is not possible life could be created in the lab one day? Or are you just having fun with Ron Cram’s words — perhaps he didn’t phrase it quite right, but I read his statement about life not coming from non-life as referring to a strictly naturalistic scenario.

  126. Jeff Alberts says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:13 pm
    It means everything that happens in the middle is totally meaningless.
    Lol, Nietzsche would be proud! Indeed, let’s analyze the universe without a context of actual meaning. No wait, let’s not. It’s not really that important anyway, is it? Is there a lazier intellectual/logical position to hold?

  127. Well let me keep a bit to more to the science. How exactly do we think was the first living cell formed? What came first, the chicken or the egg? This actually is a relevant scientific question. Scientists have been able to do modifications on existing cells and seeds by genetic engineering but no scientist has ever been able to produce a living cell or seed out of the (dead) atoms and molecules that they consist of. Namely, if you mix all the atoms and molecules that make up the first living biological cell or seed together, and you have the right conditions of temperature, light, concentration, electrical charge, radiation etc, then apparently you would still have to wait for millions and millions of years for a “chance reaction” to take place that would produce the first living cell. So, in fact no one has ever been able to make a “living” cell or seed synthetically from the dead molecules and atoms…
    What I find interesting is that when man starts throwing nuclear bombs or plays around with nuclear energy the next generation (eggs) is misformed. yet when human life started, they all came perfect out of the formed eggs. I wonder, but seems to me Someone has the right formula to make (human) life.
    That same Someone claims that there is yet a final big river to cross to get to eternal youth and eternal life and that only He can pass it (John 13&14) He promised to leave a simple bridge for us, it is called faith. It is your free ticket to Heaven. He gives it for free. I am puzzled why anyone would not hold on to that ticket – seeing that it costs you absolutely nothing…
    The funny thing is, once you sign that ticket and hold on to it somehow it does start changing your life. Better be ready for a few unexpected adventures.

  128. Tucci78 @11:50 a.m.
    Interesting quotes. Unfortunately, the primary thing they demonstrate is that Ronald Bailey doesn’t know what he is talking about when it comes to the design argument. Kenneth Miller should know better, but he continues to obfuscate and misrepresent the design argument, even though he knows he is putting up a strawman.
    BTW, just as a general comment on this thread, whether there are nucleotides (or amino acids for that matter) in meteorites is completely irrelevant to the question of whether life arose naturally or was designed.

  129. We will likely not find out precisely how life began here on Earth. That would require building a time machine. However, inquiries into the origin of life are important because to make any progress and headway, we must challenge many of our long held, cherished assumptions and biases. By doing so, we will come to a deeper understanding of the world around us.
    Nature is always more interesting than you can imagine. Our imagination is partly constrained by what we have discovered in our inquiries, imagination in a straitjacket. There are several currently unavoidable limitations that we have concerning the origin of life. The first is that we have the n=1 problem: we only have one example. The second is that life here is abundant. Life has transformed Earth so much that the primordial conditions from which life arose no longer exist. Nevertheless, we can build plausible models from studies in geology and astronomy. These models will change over time as we find out more of what is possible by observing what has happened in the distant past (geology) and what has happened elsewhere (astronomy/space exploration).
    In recent years, several discoveries have loosened our imaginative straitjacket. Organisms have been found living in environments few thought could have supported life. Bacteria and Archaea have been found living in the rocks of the deepest, darkest mines; living in the rocks in Death Valley; living in the rocks of the walls of the dry valleys in Antarctica with other bacteria on the valley floor feeding off the organic material contained within those rocks that fall to the valley floor; living in the glaciers of Antartica and Greenland; living in the hydrothermal vents deep in the ocean; and living in the hot springs of places like Yellowstone. Even though these studies have openned our eyes to a new range of possibilities, all of these organisms are related, genetically and biochemically, to organisms that are more familiar to us: cute, two-eyed mesofauna.
    One common approach to uncovering life’s origin has been to examine the workings of the cell and extrapolate backwards in time to present plausible scenarios as to how they might have arisen. This is molecular archaeology. With the development of DNA sequence technology and other biochemical and biophysical techniques, we can trace our genetic history back a long way. Such an approach has led to the popular notion of a Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). However, defining the genetic makeup of LUCA has been difficult. While sequences of many individual genes can be assembled into consistent phylogenetic trees, any collection of genes cannot be assembled into a self consistent tree at the deepest branches. In other words, the history of some gene pairs is consistent with having a common ancestor but the history other gene pairs seem to be consistent with a different common ancestor. This begs the question of whether there was a unique LUCA or whether our current extant organisms condensed out of a community whose genetic makeup was fluid. Rather than a community of organisms, early life could have been communities of genes living within cells with the genes capable of moving from one community to another. One important thing to understand is that these are not cells in the way that you have learned in biology class. Rather they are membraneous enclosures containing genes and enzymes that catalyze each other’s synthesis. Physical isolation would lead to ever increasing incompatibility between communities due to genetic drift and stochastic fixation of alleles. Eventually, genes in the different communities could only exist within their community of origin or close relatives, eventually leading to the three known domains of life: Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryotes. The Tree of Life may be more like a mangrove forest than an isolated live oak.
    Such a process is still at work today. Genes in bacteria are on the move, a process called horizontal transfer. Indeed, applying the terms genus and species to bacteria today is problematic. The E. coli that colonize your gut are related to the E. coli that will make you sick, but the E. coli that will make you sick has ~25 % more genes than the ones in your gut.
    So far, genetics can take us back to the time of genes, but how did these arise? We now get into a murky world of theory for which experimental constraints and results leave few clues to build upon. This is somewhat analogous to the surface/time of last scattering that leads to the cosmic microwave background and sets a limit on the what we can see with light. To delve into this murky world, we have to look at the basic biochemistry of nucleic acids, proteins, and membranes. These are all macromolecular structures made up of individual building blocks: nucleotides, amino acids and fatty acids, respectively. Each macromolecule participates in the synthesis of the others: proteins synthesize the nucleotides and the nucleic acids, which in turn synthesize proteins, which synthesize membranes that function with proteins to capture energy to drive the synthesis of the building blocks and macromolecules, etc., etc.
    The first important advance was in the recognition that proteins can act as catalysts, i.e. enzymes. Moreover, enzymes act with amazing specificity, making organic chemists jealous. Their specificity is due to their amino acid sequence and structure, folding in such a way to bring together particular amino acids (and cofactors) in such a 3D arrangement to specifically bind its preferred substrates and facilitate a chemical reaction. Early on with respect to origin of life theory, it became evident that enzymes could not directly synthesize other enzymes since each peptide bond would require an enzyme for its catalysis, which would in turn require different enzymes to catalyze their synthesis: an infinite regression…major problem.
    RNA to the rescue? The discovery of the structure of DNA and the subsequent elucidation of mechanisms of replication, transcription and translation removed the infinite regress problem for protein synthesis. Moreover, RNA was found to have catalytic potential of its own: it could catalyze the cleavage and rejoining of RNA molecules, and more importantly, rRNA catalyzes the formation of peptide bonds in the ribosome, carries the amino acids on tRNA to the ribosome, and through the interaction of the tRNA with the mRNA decodes the sequence of the message. Thus, a sequence of nucleic acid could specify the sequence of a protein. Given that RNA replication is template directed along with the expanded catalytic potential, it took only a small logical leap to propose what has become the RNA World hypothesis: RNAs could drive their own synthesis as well as several other reactions.
    There is much going for this hypothesis. For me, some version of the RNA world existed prior to the RNA directed protein synthesis, the RNP world. However for me, there are a few nagging questions and a few thermodynamic bridges to cross. The basic one is how were the first nucleosides and nucleotides synthesized? Was it merely random chemistry, or were there pre-existing self-sustaining and perhaps replicating metabolisms that predated the rise of the RNA world?
    A metabolism first perspective, my personal bias, is motivated by what is perhaps the weakest link in the RNA world scenario: the concentration problem. How could you accumulate a high enough concentration of building blocks to kick start the RNA world? Sure, chemistries on Earth, in comets, in meteors, in molecular clouds, and on other worlds produce amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, etc., but the problem is one of dilution. If the primordial soup is too dilute, nothing will happen.
    To begin to address this obstacle, we again must examine current organisms for hints. Some of the most deeply branching known organisms are the methanogens and acetogens (makers of methane and acetic acid) that fix CO2, supplying all of their carbon needs by using H2 and other reduced compounds as electron donors to reduce CO2 and generate ATP. More importantly, the core of the process in these organisms involves the citric acid cycle (TCA cycle, Kreb’s cycle). If you have taken any biology, you were likely forced to memorize the cycle and usually in one direction, from citric acid to oxaloacetate. But in these chemoautotrophs (organisms that fix CO2 using non-organic chemical energy) the TCA cycle runs in reverse, incorporating CO2 at the steps that release CO2 when run in the familiar forward direction. Since forward and reverse are somewhat arbitrary, it is better to talk of the oxidative (forward) and reductive (reverse). There are a few extra steps that connect to the rTCA cycle that I won’t get into, but I just point out that each of the compounds is required for the cycle and is generated by the cycle. In other words, the compounds are autocatalytic. To put things in terms more familiar to the oxidative TCA cycle, one can call oxaloacetate a catalyst since it emerges unchanged in one turn of the cycle.
    Interestingly, many of the enzymatic reactions of this cycle are catalyzed by enzymes that have iron-sulfur compounds at their catalytic core. These sorts of transition metal-sulfur compound natually occur at hydrothermal vents and form structures with micro compartments, potentially an ideal environment providing the energy and raw material for the catalysis and concentration of compounds required to get a more robust metabolism started leading to the origin of life.
    Certainly, there are huge gaps in knowledge both in our understanding of our current world and of the deep past. At its core, science is an inquiry into the unknown, imagination in a straitjacket.

  130. Theo Goodwin said @ August 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm
    “My criticism of Dawkins is that he is the most out-of-control Platonist since Plato. If you read Plato’s basic works, you learn that he had an incredible tendency to reify abstractions. For example, Plato argued that Heaven is real and causes events in human experience. In particular, he argued that learning is recollection of Heaven. That position implies that you learn because you have been in Heaven and have directly experienced what you are now recalling at the hand of the good teacher, Plato. Well, what is Heaven but where the aliens live?
    Dawkins reifies DNA in the same way that Plato reified ideas and the World of Forms (ideas). Aristotle refused to do this and took the individual living thing as the fundamental posit of his biology (Plato had none) and his metaphysics. I do not find Platonism congenial.”
    Well said; I could not agree more…

  131. Hoser says:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:04 pm
    John B says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:33 pm
    The bases are planar, there is no chirality. Double bonds take it out.
    Good grief! Did some of you guys do anything useful today?
    —————————–
    Yes, you are right, planar molecules cannot be chiral. What I wrote applies to amino acids not to these nucleobases. A pity that incorrect subtitle got everyone off on the wrong foot. Probably too late to bother changing it now.
    My bad!

  132. Theo Goodwin says:
    August 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm
    John B says:
    August 10, 2011 at 3:05 pm
    “I have seen before this attempt to draw parallels between AGW and creationism, and thus paint AGW as anti-science. However, just scanning this thread one can see that it is among the so-called “skeptics” that creationist ideas are common, if not overwhelming.”
    Well, what a sweet little bigot you are. You just are not going to miss an opportunity to bash people for talking about religion, are you? You are going to use every tool in your bigoted little arsenal to stop talk of religion, aren’t you? What would you do if you had all the power you need? Would you outlaw religious expression? Would you press criminal charges against the religious? If you are not a hardcore Marxist, if you do not believe in Mao’s New Socialist Man, then you are really missing a bet. Their views on religion are remarkably similar to yours.
    ———————————
    I’m not bashing anyone. Just pointing out an apparrent correlation. I never even mentioned religion (most of the religious folk I know would not consider creationism to be a necessary part of religion).

  133. Jeff Alberts,
    You write:I disagree, Ron. If it seems like natural processes aren’t up to the task, then it means we don’t know enough about them, or there are some we haven’t discovered.
    This is a statement of faith in atheism. I have quoted agnostic scientists like Robert Jastrow and many others who admit we know enough about the physics and natural processes to know they are not up to the task. This is the basis of the Intelligent Design argument. To continue to assert some other unseen force of nature must be at work is a statement of faith in atheism.
    We know from experimentation and observation that rain occurs not because we’ve satisfied the gods, but due to natural processes.
    Yes, and the point is?

  134. Dave Springer says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:23 am
    Is there some specific reason my first comment:
    Dave Springer says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    August 10, 2011 at 5:23 am
    has been sitting in moderation for 3 hours while 25 comments after it have been approved?
    REPLY: Yes, sleep. And when I wake up and log on the comment list in WP is from newest to oldest. Then I had to take a break to go to loo and get coffee before resuming. Any other complaints? – Anthony
    REPLY to REPLY: Thanks for taking the time to reply. I know how much work it is as I used to do it myself. It’s just that when a comment gets buried that deep awaiting moderation approval it’s far less likely that anyone will read it. Youngest to oldest approval order is essentially like having a line of people waiting to get into a crowded theater and letting the people at the back of the line get in first.

  135. NASA finds proof that amino acid components in meteorites originate in space
    ———–
    Still wrong. I think what you are looking for is
    NASA finds proof that amino acid precursors in meteorites originate in space

  136. RandomReal[] says:
    August 11, 2011 at 12:54 am
    Your post is very interesting. Thanks for the update. I have no trouble with the science that you describe. I hope that we learn some good things from it. However, you too seem to suffer just a bit from Dawkins’ Platonism, his tendency to reify abstractions, as in the following:
    “This is molecular archaeology. With the development of DNA sequence technology and other biochemical and biophysical techniques, we can trace our genetic history back a long way.”
    Actually, we cannot. The human genome does not contain a record of human evolution. For it to contain such a record, it would be necessary that each step in human evolution is caused by a unique change in the evolving species’ genetic structure. No biologist has ever claimed that only changes in genetic structure drive evolution.
    The temptation to reify the genome and make it the one causal force in evolutionary history is exactly what drives Dawkins’ account of DNA. Scientifically, this is backwards, as Aristotle explained to his teacher Plato. Biology is about individual living organisms and to treat them as vehicles for “that which is really living” is to make the abstraction, the genome, more real as a cause than the organism that carries it. The actual work of science supports my point. The use of computers to map the human genome is quite an accomplishment but the real work in understanding genes as causes is done by the scientists who are studying gene expression. In other words, the real work is still done with arms immersed in vats of chemicals and not with fingers on the keyboards. Here is a mnemonic to help one remember this: Crick and Watson. Crick was the mathematician who made the brilliant leap to the Double Helix, Watson lived with his arms in vats of chemicals. Crick did the math and Watson did everything else.

  137. At 11:53 PM on 10 August, <b.Eric Anderson writes of the quoted paragraphs drawn from Ronald Bailey’s “Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators” (Reason magazine, 15 July 2008):

    Interesting quotes. Unfortunately, the primary thing they demonstrate is that Ronald Bailey doesn’t know what he is talking about when it comes to the design argument.

    The “interesting quotes,” of course, do not constitute the whole article, to which I have courteously – and repeatedly – linked.
    Mr. Anderson, would you care to make some kind of reasoned argument detailing just why anyone reading here should accept your opinion that Mr. Bailey’s characterization of “the design argument” shows that he “doesn’t know what he is talking about“?
    Or is your style of discourse completely Pythonesque?

  138. Hoser says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:44 am
    Dave Springer says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:18 am
    “There are things we don’t understand yet. Just because we don’t have all the answers, it doesn’t follow that there must be a supernatural cause.”
    I have no objection to that so long as we understand that what something today we describe as supernatural may not be supernatural tomorrow. We don’t know everything that exists in nature quite yet. Maybe “God” is a natural part of the universe. It certainly appears, at the least, that intelligent agents are a natural part of the universe. You and I are intelligent agents. We exist as a part of the universe. The scientific consensus is that we came to exist through the natural interplay of physical law and probability.
    What law or probability prohibits intelligent agency vastly older and more capable than ourselves in the universe? The answer is that nothing prohibits it. So if you observe something that exhibits the hallmarks of intelligent agency it’s not at all unreasonable to presume it is indeed the result of intelligent agency since we already know that intelligent agency exists in at least one instance as proof that it happens.
    You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  139. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 3:17 am
    . . . I have quoted agnostic scientists like Robert Jastrow and many others who admit we know enough about the physics and natural processes to know they are not up to the task. This is the basis of the Intelligent Design argument. To continue to assert some other unseen force of nature must be at work is a statement of faith in atheism.

    Maybe today’s physics is not up to the task, just as the physics of 1711 could not have described electromagnetism (do we fully understand that yet?), but how about tomorrow’s physics? The phrase “not up to the task” is just another variant on the old Argument from Ignorance. As I asked earlier, what is it about “We don’t know” that discomfits so many?
    I don’t think confidence in, or hope for, scientific progress is the same thing as “faith in atheism.” The Scientific Method is the best tool we have for investigating the natural world. Are there other kinds of reality, and other sources of knowledge about them? Who knows? But the question of the origin of life is, at bottom, a question about the natural world. To introduce a Designer is just to throw a deus ex machina into the story, short-circuiting the inquiry. It’s cheating.
    /Mr Lynn

  140. At 8:53 PM on 10 August, Ron Cram takes issue with some of the content of a brief article written for the lay audience by Dr. Jeff Glassman in 2007, titled “Conjecture, Hypothesis, Theory, Law: The Basis of Rational Argument,” asserting his contention that Dr. Glassman: “…is not familiar with intelligent design,” having stated in the cited article that:

    Some familiar models fail even to be ranked because they are beyond science, usually for want of facts.

    Dr. Glassman then lists as the candidates for consideration in this category:

    • Creation science or notions of “intelligent design.”
    • Astrology.
    • Parapsychology.
    • UFO-ology.

    Mr. Cram continues:

    The problem, of course, is that intelligent design is very much aligned with Big Bang cosmology. In other words, it is grounded in science. Intelligent design does not lack for facts. Instead it has adequate facts to show the universe cannot have come existence with a Big Banger. In a similar fashion, life cannot have come into existence without a life-giver. Life simply does not come from non-life. It is beyond the realm of science to make any proclamations that it can. Life from non-life has never been observed. To believe that life can come from non-life is an act of faith which has never and will never be confirmed by observation. Such a belief is strictly non-scientific.

    Far be it from me to defend Dr. Glassman’s contentions, briefly stated in the cited article. As he has proven repeatedly in other online fora (chiefly Dr. Curry’s Climate Etc. Web log), he does just fine all by himself, and I suggest to Mr. Cram that he take this non-issue up with Dr Glassman directly. His own Web log is the Rocket Scientist’s Journal.”
    What I will observe here and now is that Mr. Cram’s leap-of-faith assertion “that intelligent design is very much aligned with Big Bang cosmology” is wholly unsupported and therefore unacceptable. There is, in point of fact, nothing of “intelligent design” that is “grounded in science” in any way whatsoever.
    Like the AGW conjecture, the non-scientific assertions of “intelligent design” proponents have perpetrated “Cargo Cult Science” clumsily to attach the seeming of scientific validity to a premise that has nothing to do with the sciences.
    Science fiction, perhaps. Ever read James Hogan’s novel Code of the Life-Maker (2002), Mr. Cram?
    Anent your “Big Bang” assertion, Mr. Cram, please expatiate – with supporting references, if possible – or make your proclamation of faith in a virtual venue where the scientific method is not valued.

  141. John B says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:16 am
    “Yes, you are right, planar molecules cannot be chiral. What I wrote applies to amino acids not to these nucleobases. A pity that incorrect subtitle got everyone off on the wrong foot. Probably too late to bother changing it now. My bad!”
    You were right the first time.
    http://www.ks.uiuc.edu/Training/Tutorials/science/structurecheck/tutorial_structurecheck-html/node3.html

    Nucleic acids also have chiral centers. For example, in DNA the atoms C1′, C3′, and C4′ are chiral, while RNA has an additional chiral center at C2′. Chirality is central to all molecular interactions in biological systems.

    Nucleic acids in DNA are indeed chiral and homochirality is essential to complimentary pair bonding in the DNA double-helix.
    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0014579386800369

    Chiral purity of nucleotides as a necessary condition of complementarity
    V.I. Goldanskiia, V.A. Avetisova and V.V. Kuz’mina
    Institute of Chemical Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Ulitsa Kosygina 4, Moscow 117334, USSR
    Received 10 August 1986.
    Available online 12 November 2001.
    Abstract
    This work discusses the question about the role of chiral purity (homochirality) of nucleotides in the formation of complementary replicas. A qualitative answer to this question can be obtained from molecular models constructed to simulate the chiral defect in the polynucleotidic chain. It shows the necessity of homochirality of nucleotides for the complementarity preservation. The necessity of the strong mirror-symmetry breaking in the abiogenic formation of the self-replicating oligonucleotide structures is discussed in the context of prebiological evolution.

  142. Jeff: “We know from experimentation and observation that rain occurs not because we’ve satisfied the gods, but due to natural processes.”

    Well Jeff, I think it would be fair to assume that you are as satisfied as I am by the mere fact that there is rain. The difference between believers and non-believers is that the former are thankful for rain no matter why it happens because it brings life; the latter don’t seem to be able to make that connection or have any reason to be thankful at all.
    So I ask to myself questions such as, where did those ‘natural processes’ come from or why does water have such unique properties? To me it seems that there’s scientifically too much perfection in our universe to be explained without God. The further we delve into science – the more it seems to reveal that confirms my belief.

  143. Amino Acids in Meteorites says:
    August 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm
    TMJ says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:23 am
    I can’t wait to see what Amino Acids in Meteorites has to say about this 🙂
    LOL!
    What do I have to say? Well, it’s about time NASA catches up with the rest of the science world that has known about this for years. Now if they can just get caught up with the real science of global warming……..

    How about a name change to “Nucleic Acids in Meteorites”? (It wouldn’t be your first name-change if I remember rightly 🙂

  144. Jeff Alberts says:
    August 10, 2011 at 9:17 pm
    “By that logic, there can’t have been a “life-giver”, for two reasons, 1) who gave that life-giver life? 2) the life-giver can’t make like from non-life (e.g. a man from clay, or out of thin air).”
    Oh my! The “who designed the designer” argument. Classic.
    While I’m trying to figure out who designed the designer why don’t you work on trying to figure out who or what provided the material for materialism.
    Infinite regressions such as these invariably run into a brick wall called “The Big Bang”. Usually when you run into infinities in mathematics or physics it is labeled “undefined” where the usual first example we learn is division by zero. There’s a rational reason for the theologic belief that God is infinite. One might say that 1/0 = GOD. Infinities are irrational yet they appear to exist and where we find them we find the end what modern physics can explain.

  145. Eminent living theoretical physicists say:
    In the early 1990′s, a creeping realization swept through the theoretical physics community that the probability for the universe to even exist was vanishingly small. Indeed, the only “theory” around that seemed able to explain the universe’s existence was Intelligent Design. This was not something physicists and cosmologists liked to talk about.
    ~Carl Frederick, 2008
    Which Way Out?
    There are four possible solutions to the problem, schemas if you will.
    1) God tuned the parameters for our benefit.
    2) There are a very large number of universes each of which has random parameters.
    3) There is a “unique mathematically consistent theory of the whole universe”.
    4) The parameters evolve in time – in the Darwinian sense.
    A good number of very intelligent people have argued for schemas two, three, and four above. At the moment there is nothing resembling a consensus among physicists.
    ~Lee Smolin
    A good number of very intelligent people have argued for schema one as well, Lee. Maybe you don’t run into them in your atheist circle of friends but surely an accomplished physicist such as yourself must have stumbled upon some of them in the history of science and philosophy. People like Isaac Newton and Albert Enstein for instance.

  146. There is a lot of discussion on the possibility, of nucleobases somehow forming amino acids, somehow rubbing and forming RNA, then assembling to DNA. This then miraculously forming a living organism.
    However, lets consider a simple situation, where all the amino acids, RNA, and DNA is already present in the exact proportions and alignments required. This would be the case in a simple organism such as a living bacteria or amoebae. Now starve the creature until dead or kill it via the least destructive means. Almost all proteins, acids, DNA, RNA, nucleus, H2O is in place correctly. Now re-animate this dead organism.
    We cannot! We just don’t have any way to express the life force. Resuscitation is possible up until death, but that is all. Beyond deaths door we cannot travel.
    Assembling complex building blocks, into scaffold, seems to have little or nothing to do with the life force, other than allowing it to act in this particularized universe.
    Why speculate on the origins of organic building blocks, when we cannot re create life from the intact or repaired scaffolding. Seems like we are in the wrong ball park entirely. Only life begets life, and NO ONE knows why. GK

  147. George M says:
    August 10, 2011 at 6:15 pm
    “The whole point of believing in God is that God exists outside the universe. The Big Bang theory is one way of concieving how the Universe started. But any theory in this universe can’t prove anything about what exists or doesn’t exist outside the universe(one of Goedal’s theorems).”
    Yes but the observable universe is bounded by the observer. As our ability to observe grows so may the universe to what we consider to be outside the observable universe today may be inside the observable universe tomorrow.

  148. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 3:17 am
    This is a statement of faith in atheism. I have quoted agnostic scientists like Robert Jastrow and many others who admit we know enough about the physics and natural processes to know they are not up to the task. This is the basis of the Intelligent Design argument. To continue to assert some other unseen force of nature must be at work is a statement of faith in atheism.

    I’m sure alchemists 500 years ago thought they knew it all as well. I didn’t mention an unseen force, I mentioned processes we don’t understand, or don’t fully understand, or haven’t discovered yet. If you want to call that an unseen force, I can’t stop you.

    Yes, and the point is?

    The point is that the more we learn, the less we have to rely on the supernatural.

  149. “Supernatual” has a really negative and undeserved connotation with respect to science.
    There are two realms of science – experimental and theoretical. Experimental science deals with what we are able to observe. Our ability to observe grows daily at both the smallest and largest scales. Theoretical science is about inferences from what we observe.
    For instance, The Standard Model neither predicts nor explains so-called “dark energy”. We can’t observe it. We infer it from what we can observe, in particular the observation that the rate of expansion of the universe is itself accelerating. Indeed, we also infer from the observed acceleration that dark energy comprises some 70% of the stuff that makes up the universe. Right now dark energy appears to meet the definition of “supernatural”.
    The notion that science must be divorced from the supernatural is nonsense. Science is rife with inferences to things which cannot be observed at present. A creator is one of those things that cannot be observed, at least not yet, but it doesn’t follow that science cannot infer the existence of a creator by the nature of what can be observed. This is what intelligent design is all about. Unfortunately it has a bad rap too because so many people have gone beyond what can be inferred (intelligent agency) from observation to what cannot be inferred (the agency in question is the God of Abraham, for instance). Intelligent Design does not infer a personal God. It infers intelligent agency and no more. It does that through observation of what law and chance can reasonably accomplish given the opportunity available in a finite universe. Law and chance can accomplish anything physically possible in an infinite universe but to the best of our knowledge the universe is finite in both age and constituent matter/energy so we do the probability analysis within those bounds.
    Science should be and rightly is guarded about this lest the quest for explanations be abandoned to hasty suppositions of supernatural causes that operate outside of what The Standard Model can explain. The Standard Model is incomplete. We already know that. It lacks a theory of quantum gravity for one thing and it collapses into undefined territory upon encountering infinities such as the central mass in a black hole where density becomes infinitely large and volume infinitely small.

  150. Jeff Alberts says from “Yes, and the point is?”:
    “The point is that the more we learn, the less we have to rely on the supernatural.”
    Oh really? That’s interesting considering we all die eventually which forces us, or many of us to consider the supernatural. Science has allowed us to live longer (not too much) sometimes at the expense of not being able to really function as a human (brain dead so to speak), but can it ever cure death? Is death natural? Science may say so, but our minds and wills don’t want to accept that, so what is the point? Even if science proves evolution by duplicating it the masses will say, “what is the point?” and very possibly go back to religion as an “opium of the masses” just to give themselves a point, which makes me wonder if there is a point to begin with. Tell me how many times in the face of uncontrollable events such as hurricanes and tornadoes do someone pray (to whomever). Can scientific knowledge save you in this instance? Maybe someday, but I really don’t think we will control nature (so far we affect it but that is different), and if we could to what adverse affect? Laws are in place. At the end of the day we still must face life and death and science isn’t life, just a way to observe it, sometime explain it, and hopefully affect it, but we still must live it. If life doesn’t really have a point beyond what society makes of it, then we end up in that whole “everything is relative” argument which really isn’t true as we all make conclusions and decisions to the contrary and are still driven to the supernatural to support it, whether it is believing in a god or a lack of god (evolution isn’t fact, not yet so it still delves way to far into the philosophical realm).

  151. RandomReal[] – Your 12:54 am post was fascinating, informative, and very professionally crafted. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and it is bookmarked it for future reference.
    Thank you!

  152. Tucci78 @5:22 a.m.
    Thanks for the link to The Argument Clinic – long one of my favorites.
    Bailey’s “article” is a mess. His entire sarcastic hatchet job assumes that ID (which he, in typical strawman fashion, pejoratively labels “intelligent design creationism,” even while acknowledging that the leading ID proponents do not view ID as a form of creationism) is focused on the identity of the designer. It is not. Leading ID proponents have from the start been, and continue to be, very clear that ID addresses a very limited question: is it possible to reliably detect the artifacts of intelligent activity in physical systems. The whole business about who the designer is or designers are, or where the designer came from, is not part of the argument from design.
    You may be right, though. Perhaps Bailey does understand the design argument. In which case instead of being mistaken he is being purposely deceptive.

  153. Dave Springer,
    Very logical analysis and concepts. The one that cannot be resolved without intelligent design is why everything is so perfect for the existence of our universe, from the atomic scale and energy levels, to the fine structure “constant”, to the expansion rate of the universe. Change any of these values, even slightly, and there would be nothing here, assuming that the rules are the same everywhere. Big assumption! I am sure someone will point out that in a sufficient number of universes probabilities alone would create one that is like ours but then we are back to where did it come from if it has not always been here?
    . Remember also that the big bang is a theory. The universe could be infinite in age if not also in size and simply expand and contract, or be a part of a multiverse which collides with other universes creating the equivalent of a big bang. Many possibilities.
    As to a personal God, that is an Item of faith, which I happen to believe is the way He wants it.

  154. Dave Springer says:
    August 11, 2011 at 6:00 am
    John B says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:16 am
    “Yes, you are right, planar molecules cannot be chiral. What I wrote applies to amino acids not to these nucleobases. A pity that incorrect subtitle got everyone off on the wrong foot. Probably too late to bother changing it now. My bad!”
    You were right the first time. …
    —————–
    No, I think I was wrong. The chiral centres in DNA are in the sugar part of the nucleoside/nucleotide. The molecules found here were bases only, which are planar hence no chiral centres.
    http://www.blc.arizona.edu/molecular_graphics/dna_structure/dna_tutorial.html
    As an aside, this whole “non-life cannot beget life” / “life can only come from life” argument is being contorted dreadfully. It comes originally from Pasteur, who did a neat experiment to show that flies on rotting meat came from flies laying eggs, and that if the meat were kept sealed from the atmosphere, no flies would appear. He was showing that life *as we know it* could only come from reproduction, not just appear “by magic”. It did not have anything to say about how life got started millions or billions of years ago. What he showed is that complex life (like flies) was not “spontaneously generated”. Which, of course, modern evolutionary scientists would toally agree with.

  155. Vince Causey says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    ###
    Did you even read my post or are you just stupid. You obviously missed what I was asserting. To recap:
    1) calculating the probability is futile, because of the number of unknowables, and two
    2) The number will be really really really small, e.g. LESS THEN 10 to the negative 20. Do you have any idea how small that number is? Do you know what less then means? BTW the number was a SWAG, but based on a very forgiving approximation of the largest possible number. I seam to remember that are some 10^24 stars in the universe. Multiply my ridiculously huge number and the result is still less then 10000 stars in the entire universe with life.
    3) the Drakes equations does not demonstrate that extra terrestrial intelligent life probably exist, but that it probably does not exist,

  156. Wow talk about jumping to conclusions, it’s like someone found a brick and said wow cities can evolve out of dust. What a joke

  157. DesertYote says:
    August 11, 2011 at 11:03 am
    Vince Causey says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    ###
    Did you even read my post or are you just stupid. You obviously missed what I was asserting. To recap:
    1) calculating the probability is futile, because of the number of unknowables, and two
    2) The number will be really really really small …
    ———————————-
    Seems to me you can’t have it both ways, DY

  158. John B @ 10:56 a.m.
    You are right that we should distinguish between abiogenesis and spontaneous generation (a la Pasteur). There is a strong parallel, however, between the two ideas, and what keeps the hopes alive for proponents of abiogenesis is the thought that life, oh so long ago, would have been some kind of simple organism, different from life “as we know it.” There is no evidence that this is the case, but it does keep the hopes alive.
    However, as time goes by we have started to more clearly recognize that even the simplest form of life must nevertheless have contained a number of functional, integrated systems and a relatively sophisticated control mechanism. As a result, we creep ever closer to bumping up against the law against spontaneous generation . . .

  159. Tucci78,
    I seem to have struck a nerve. I’m sorry for that but I must stand by what I have written. You have asked for citations for my statement that Intelligent Design is grounded in science. I have already provided you with the first book I think you should read on the subject – “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow. Jastrow was an astrophysicist with NASA and the founder of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. (BTW, I think the work of Jim Hansen would cause Jastrow to roll over in his grave.) His short book describes a very interesting episode in the history of science – the confirmation of the Big Bang theory – and Jastrow’s discussion of what this means.
    I have also provided you with a number of quotes from famous scientists and Nobel Prize winners who have spoken about the scientific evidence for the supernatural at work. Many of these scientists are agnostic or atheist, but they are honest. If you missed them and the link I provided to other quotes, please scroll up.
    In addition I provided a link to a peer-reviewed paper by Granville Sewell titled “A Second Look at the Second Law.” His argument appears to defeat the argument put forward by Isaac Asimov that the Second Law does not apply to evolution. After complaints by Darwinists, the paper by Sewell was withdrawn by the journal – but the journal’s publisher and editor made it clear the paper was not withdrawn because of any error or misconduct. Rather, it was decided the paper was more philosophical than mathematical and was withdrawn for that reason. But the argument put forward by Sewell is compelling. The paper is here – http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/AML_3497.pdf

  160. John B,
    You write:
    As an aside, this whole “non-life cannot beget life” / “life can only come from life” argument is being contorted dreadfully. It comes originally from Pasteur, who did a neat experiment to show that flies on rotting meat came from flies laying eggs, and that if the meat were kept sealed from the atmosphere, no flies would appear. He was showing that life *as we know it* could only come from reproduction, not just appear “by magic”. It did not have anything to say about how life got started millions or billions of years ago. What he showed is that complex life (like flies) was not “spontaneously generated”. Which, of course, modern evolutionary scientists would toally agree with.
    Yes, it was the meat experiment we were discussing in biology class many years ago. I could not remember the man but could only remember he was French. You are correct that he was not trying to learn anything about origins with his experiment, but that does not mean his experiment did not change the way in which people thought. And this change in thinking is equally applicable to origins. For example, you say that “complex life” cannot be spontaneously generated. But I say all life is “complex.”
    Even if, by some miracle of nature, all of the chemical compounds and biological structures (cell membrane, cytoplasm, etc) needed to form the simplest form of life (my biology prof thought this would be blue-green algae), there is no way nature could bring it to life. Life does not spontaneously begin. Researchers have claimed to “create” artificial life by transplanting manmade DNA into a living cell, but this experiment only reinforces the importance of an intelligent designer. When one letter out of a million was wrong, it did not work. And the DNA had to be transplanted into a living cell. It would no work if transplanted into a dead cell. http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/05/20/scientists-announce-produce-living-cell-using-manmade-dna/

  161. For all the fans of the Big Bang hypothesis here, it should be remembered that, despite its appeal to religionists who like to think that it validates the principle of Creation (that there was a Beginning), it hangs on the tenuous thread of Hubble’s explanation of the shift to the red in the spectra of celestial objects as evidence that they are receding from us, and each other, at increasing speeds, hence an ‘expanding universe’. But there are other explanations; cf. Halton Arp’s hypothesis, based on observation, that redshift can be an intrinsic property of some objects (namely quasars, which he thinks may be young galaxies). Despite his eminent qualifications, Professor Arp has been ostracized by mainstream astronomical societies for his views, much as climate Realists have been by ‘consensus’ climatologists. See: Seeing Red: Redshifts, Cosmology and Academic Science, (1998).
    /Mr Lynn

  162. At 9:03 AM on 11 August, Eric Anders snarks:

    Bailey’s “article” is a mess. His entire sarcastic hatchet job assumes that ID (which he, in typical strawman fashion, pejoratively labels “intelligent design creationism,” even while acknowledging that the leading ID proponents do not view ID as a form of creationism) is focused on the identity of the designer. It is not. Leading ID proponents have from the start been, and continue to be, very clear that ID addresses a very limited question: is it possible to reliably detect the artifacts of intelligent activity in physical systems. The whole business about who the designer is or designers are, or where the designer came from, is not part of the argument from design.

    As I had specified when I first made mention of Mr. Bailey’s “Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators,” the article published in Reason magazine (15 July 2008) was the content of his remarks in a debate at FreedomFest 2008 titled “Is There Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design in Nature?” That it was a “hatchet job” I merrily concur. The creationists – pardon; the “intelligent design” advocates – deserve getting the proverbial hatchet, whenever and wherever they present themselves.
    When Mr. Bailey quoted the Discovery Institute’s website statement (“Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text“), it was obvious that Mr. Bailey was making the point that the participants in the Discovery Institute were hypocritically – hell, duplicitously – flying a completely false flag by claiming to be “agnostic with regard to their intention to advance the Judeochristian creation myth.
    We see, after all, something precisely similar in the claims of organizations like FactCheck and Snopes and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which function as extremely supportive of “Liberal” fascist political machinations and profoundly adverse to government under the rule of law while explicitly claiming to be “nonpartisan.”
    People taking a position and defending it is one thing. People doing so while lying about being “agnostic” or “nonpartisan” is not to be countenanced.
    The purpose of enterprises like the Discovery Institute – and the co-religionists of those pushing such crap – is to attack the reasoned scientific approach to the development of life and to biological evolution because as such examinations of observable aspects of objective and verifiable reality proceed, these fellahin conceive such advancements to impair their ability to “bask at the warm fire of faith.”
    In his remarks, Mr. Bailey was arguing that if one were credulous enough to accept the utterly unscientific proposition that some kind of supernatural “Big Banger” were to have intelligently designed “life, the universe, and everything,” then it’s just as appropriate to ask the credulous to accept the equally unscientific notion that “Super-Intelligent Space Squid” (or some other such putative sapient physical entities of extraterrestrial origin) had done the engineering.
    For Mr. Anders to argue that Mr. Bailey was committing a “strawman” fallacy in his explicit discernment of the real purpose of this “intelligent design” religionist attack upon the scientific method is an error at best and a duplicity – not to be countenanced – most likely.
    I consider Mr. Bailey’s point to have been made, and to stand firm despite Mr. Anders‘ inadequate effort to evade it.

  163. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm
    Tucci78,
    “I seem to have struck a nerve. I’m sorry for that but I must stand by what I have written. You have asked for citations for my statement that Intelligent Design is grounded in science. I have already provided you with the first book I think you should read on the subject – “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow. Jastrow was an astrophysicist with NASA and the founder of the Goddard Institute of Space Studies. (BTW, I think the work of Jim Hansen would cause Jastrow to roll over in his grave.) His short book describes a very interesting episode in the history of science – the confirmation of the Big Bang theory – and Jastrow’s discussion of what this means.”
    Depends upon what you mean by “the confirmation of the big bang theory”. Have not read your citation but if we are referring to the big bang coming from an infinitesimally small point as in a singularity or from nothing at all then I do not believe there is confirmation. The possibility still exists that the universe has been here all along and simply rebounds after a big crunch causing the microwave background that we can see then expands only to crash again. I have never seen any proof either way, only theory. Kind of like dark energy and dark matter are not fact but often stated as such. This does not cancel out intelligent design for the reasons I have posted above. However, we should not start taking theory as fact to fit our beliefs, no matter what they are.

  164. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 3:17 am
    . . . I have quoted agnostic scientists like Robert Jastrow and many others who admit we know enough about the physics and natural processes to know they are not up to the task. This is the basis of the Intelligent Design argument. To continue to assert some other unseen force of nature must be at work is a statement of faith in atheism.
    Mr Lynn says:
    August 11, 2011 at 5:42 am
    Maybe today’s physics is not up to the task, just as the physics of 1711 could not have described electromagnetism (do we fully understand that yet?), but how about tomorrow’s physics? The phrase “not up to the task” is just another variant on the old Argument from Ignorance. As I asked earlier, what is it about “We don’t know” that discomfits so many?
    I don’t think confidence in, or hope for, scientific progress is the same thing as “faith in atheism.” The Scientific Method is the best tool we have for investigating the natural world. Are there other kinds of reality, and other sources of knowledge about them? Who knows? But the question of the origin of life is, at bottom, a question about the natural world. To introduce a Designer is just to throw a deus ex machina into the story, short-circuiting the inquiry. It’s cheating.`

    One of you might like this:

    A time is envisioned when the world was not, only a watery chaos (the dark, “indistinguishable sea”) and a warm cosmic breath, which could give an impetus of life. Notice how thought gives rise to desire (when something is thought of it can then be desired) and desire links non-being to being (we desire what is not but then try to bring it about that it is). Yet the whole process is shrouded in mystery.
    Where do the gods fit in this creation scheme?
    http://public.wsu.edu/~wldciv/world_civ_reader/world_civ_reader_1/rig_veda.html
    ——————————————————————————–
    Creation Hymn
    The non-existent was not; the existent was not at that time. The atmosphere was not nor the heavens which are beyond. What was concealed? Where? In whose protection? Was it water? An unfathomable abyss?
    There was neither death nor immortality then. There was not distinction of day or night. That alone breathed windless by its own power. Other than that there was not anything else.
    Darkness was hidden by darkness in the beginning. All this was an indistinguishable sea. That which becomes, that which was enveloped by the void, that alone was born through the power of heat.
    Upon that desire arose in the beginning. This was the first discharge of thought. Sages discovered this link of the existent to the nonexistent, having searched in the heart with wisdom.
    Their line [of vision] was extended across; what was below, what was above? There were impregnators, there were powers: inherent power below, impulses above.
    Who knows truly? Who here will declare whence it arose, whence this creation? The gods are subsequent to the creation of this. Who, then, knows whence it has come into being?
    Whence this creation has come into being; whether it was made or not; he in the highest heaven is its surveyor. Surely he knows, or perhaps he knows not.

    This, according to the tradition I was told, came to India about 10,000 years ago.
    I think belief in God the creator is pretty much essential to get through life – can always be pulled out when needing someone to blame..
    As it is, the argument here between ‘God and Atheist’, is very much an outcome from Western Christian dogma and antis – not all christians and not all other people who think in terms of a ‘creator’ have such restrictions in concepts of the relationship between ‘god’ and ‘created’ which came out of the Augustinian misreading of Genesis and Paul – Augustine’s ‘death as punishment for original sin’ restricts the ‘created in image and likeness’, by putting God outside of creation, separate from us.
    Some Christians have never had that teaching, for them we are God in creation as God is Us in the uncreated (a synergistic relationship between the two in free will, God as uncreated energy), and others such as majority Hindus have each of us a manifestation of God in the play of creation. ‘Atheist’ is pretty much meaningless for both these latter groups.

  165. Tucci78,
    I’m afraid your latest comment is an ad hominem attack on certain men on the basis of their religious faith. This is considered rather foul play among polite society. Unfortunately, it does not advance your position at all because it does not address the facts supporting the argument for Intelligent Design in the least.
    I happen to be a believer in the Christian faith, a follower of Jesus Christ. An imperfect follower, to be sure, but I am a follower. Does this fact preclude me from being involved in a scientific discussion? Is an atheist precluding from discussing science because of his faith? I think it is far better for people to publicly state their own backgrounds and biases so others can take that into consideration, but no one is precluded from discussing science.
    I have never once appealed to the Bible as the authority during this discussion. My perception is that my personal beliefs will not matter to you and I would not expect them to be persuasive. But I had hoped you would be willing to look at scientific facts. Was I wrong?
    I have pointed to the science and to scientists who are agnostics and atheists who have come to the realization that the supernatural was at work in the Big Bang. I have pointed you to scholarly works to explain some of the science underlying Intelligent Design hypothesis. From my perspective, it does not appear you have even attempted to engage these materials or seek a better understanding of why so many Nobel Prize winners would speak in a way Intelligent Design scientists would applaud.

  166. Jim G,
    You write:
    Depends upon what you mean by “the confirmation of the big bang theory”. Have not read your citation but if we are referring to the big bang coming from an infinitesimally small point as in a singularity or from nothing at all then I do not believe there is confirmation. The possibility still exists that the universe has been here all along and simply rebounds after a big crunch causing the microwave background that we can see then expands only to crash again.
    The confirmation is found in the book “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow. He describes how they discovered the location of the Big Bang. It has been a while since I read the book, but I believe Jastrow considered confirmation at the time. I suppose the theory of a rebounding universe is possible, a theory which arose after the events described by Jastrow. In my view, the rebounding theory is a grasping at straws by men who desperately want to NOT believe in an Intelligent Designer. This was the only method the atheists could come up with to get back to the view the universe was eternally existent.

  167. Theo & Khwarizmi:
    Thanks for your replies.
    Khwarizmi,
    Because of your interest in mathematics, you might find the work of Robert Rosen, immensely clairified by Athel Cornish-Bowden, of interest. Just use Google Scholar and their names to get the papers. (warning: industrial strength topology and set theory mixed with biochemisty)
    For those interested in reading more on the origin of life, I have not come across (nor have I searched) popular accounts of the subject. Over the years, I’ve followed the works of:
    Harold Morowitz
    George Cody
    Eric Smith
    Tom Cech
    William Martin
    Michael Russel
    just to name a few.
    Theo,
    We probably agree more than we disagree. The paragraph you quoted was my poor attempt to say what you said, “The only story that DNA can tell is a story of evolution.” I also mixed some metaphors, specifically the “Royal We”. There is the “We” of the scientific community, and the “We” as in “our history”, by which I was referring to all known living organisms: Bacteria, Archaea and Eucharya. The genes to which I refer are the protein coding sequences, sometimes called structural genes. Specifically, the most useful genes in deciphering the evolutionary history are the mundane “housekeeping” genes whose function is necessary for cell survival, e.g., the genes encoding the large and small subunits of RNA polymerase, RecA, pyruvate kinase, aspartate aminotransferase. The number of changes in their DNA/protein sequence reflect the evolutionary time to the last common ancestor.
    With regard to Dawkins, years ago, several of my friends encouraged me to read “The Selfish Gene”. For me, I had trouble figuring out what he meant by the word “gene”. He was rarely talking about a single genetic locus, rather he seemed to be talking about inheritance and selection of phenotypic traits. Since many of the traits he talked about likely involved multiple genetic loci whose expression is influenced by gene products of other genetic loci which in turn are influenced by the internal and external environments, I found many of his examples interesting but none really rising above the level of Just-So stories. In short, I learned very little. I have never read any of his scholarly papers and have never come across a reference to them.
    Let me clarify what I mean by gene, since its meaning is very context specific. Let’s start with insertion (IS) elements of bacteria. These are genes that can catalyze their own movement from one place in a genome to another or to another autonomously replicating genome in the same cell, a process called transposition. The insertion element encodes a promoter sequence that directs the transcription of the structural gene called transposase, tnp, for short. The protein product binds specifically to sequences upstream and downstream of the promoter-tnp DNA. It is then able cut the DNA out of the genome remaining attached to its ends. It is then able to bind to a different segment of DNA, cut it, and join its ends to the target DNA. With a little help from the cell’s DNA repair machinery, the element becomes fully integrated. This is a simple cut and paste operation, but there are other elements that move by other means.
    Now consider what happens when two IS elements (of the same kind) insert upstream and downstream of a gene. Here, I will use as an example the gene for tetracycline resistance, tetA, and the insertion element IS10. Given the structure, IS10-tetA-IS10, transposase can bind to the ends of the backeting IS10 element and catalyze the movement of the IS10-tetA-IS10 to another location within the genome or to another genome, such as a plasmid. There are some plasmids that can catalyze their transfer from one cell to another, often crossing “genus” and “species” boundaries. Once in the recipient cell, the IS10-tetA-IS10 cassette can then transpose itself into the recipient genome or remain on the plasmid. In either case, the cell is now resistant to tetracycline.
    There is a whole plethora of such mechanisms of cell to cell movement of genetic material: integrons (mobile multi-cassette players), viruses that replicate by transposition, viruses that are plasmids but occassionally package chromosomal DNA, just to name a few. I am rarely surprised but often amazed by the sheer variety and dynamics of DNA/gene movement in bacteria.
    So, for me, genes are not an abstraction conferring vague traits but are real, biochemical entities that interact with the cellular environment, conferring subtle and not so subtle phenotypic traits on their hosts.

  168. This is a meaningless study. They are very simple compounds and would be created and destroyed by processes on the early earth. It is also meaningless because DNA was logically not present in the earliest life. It is present in the most primitive known existing life on earth today but before life was based on DNA it was logically based on RNA and that probably took countless generations before it started using RNA. Finding those molecules is no big deal. It was getting them to form specific orientations with sugar and phosphate as a backbone that makes DNA. That could only happen by natural selection that started in chemical systems that were vastly more primitive than any life today.
    There is no evidence at all of any DNA seeding the earth. DNA by itself isn’t life. Someone needs to explain that to those people. It is just a way to store templates to make proteins and RNA. It is completely useless without the translation apparatus. That can only logically form from countless generations of natural selection. If they are saying that constituents that made life possible on earth came from meteors, then they should be laughed at for stating the obvious. It certainly doesn’t follow that those chemicals primarily came from meteors. If they implying that DNA came from meteors then they are making wild unjustified assumptions.

  169. Tucci78: “For Mr. Anders to argue that Mr. Bailey was committing a “strawman” fallacy in his explicit discernment of the real purpose of this “intelligent design” religionist attack upon the scientific method is an error at best and a duplicity – not to be countenanced – most likely.”
    What a hoot! Thanks for the good laugh, though.
    Let’s see. Mr. Bailey ignores the explicit and repeated explanations by leading ID proponents as to what ID is about, because he is able to “discern” the real purpose of this “religionist attack upon the scientific method.” Yeah, that’s it.
    Look, we need to distinguish between the *limited and perfectly valid scientific question* about whether design is detectable in natural systems, and the broader implications of the answer to that question. I realize that some people, for their own philosophical reasons, have a strong and occasionally knee-jerk aversion to the potential implications of the answer, but that is simply an unfortunate deficit on their part, not a problem with the question itself.

  170. John B
    August 11, 2011 at 11:18 am
    DesertYote says:
    August 11, 2011 at 11:03 am
    Vince Causey says:
    August 10, 2011 at 1:59 pm
    ###
    Did you even read my post or are you just stupid. You obviously missed what I was asserting. To recap:
    1) calculating the probability is futile, because of the number of unknowables, and two
    2) The number will be really really really small …
    ———————————-
    Seems to me you can’t have it both ways, DY
    ###
    Seems to me your not very bright.
    “I don’t know how big that polly bear is charging me, but I do know he is really really big.” Just because a quantity is unknowable is not the same as saying that it is completely uncharacteristically.

  171. Myrrh,
    I am not entirely clear on what you were trying to say. Let me see if I can clarify the way I see the situation. On one side, you have the Intelligent Design people. Here in the US, many of these are Christian, but some are Hindu or belong to other faiths. And some of these are agnostic. They are not sure if God (or a god) exists, but they see the work of some Intelligent Designer.
    On the evolutionary side, you have a mixture of atheists, Christians and members of other world religions.
    Based on my experience, people of faith are able to look at the Big Bang and see the evidence for what it is – just as Robert Jastrow and others at NASA did when the location of the Big Bang was found. However, atheists have a much more difficult time with this. Some have changed from atheist to agnostic based on the evidence but many more tend to reject the plain interpretation of the facts and postulate some unseen natural force at work or make tangential statements of faith supporting atheism. These people are generally not willing to take a look at the scientific evidence – taking a “Don’t confuse me with facts” approach to the discussion.

  172. Myrrh says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Not sure of your point, since the thrust of my response to Ron Cram was that the distinction between ‘atheist’ and ‘theist’ is pretty much irrelevant to science, which is the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world by means of the Scientific Method. However, apropos of your quotation from the Vedas, a friend once said (speaking of Quakerism) that “The hypothesis that there is a little bit of divinity in every human being is not a bad thing.” It is not a scientific (falsifiable) hypothesis, but it may be one that helps to ameliorate ennui, suffering, and discord in society. And maybe that is enough.
    /Mr Lynn

  173. Ron – as I see it, the ID has come out of the Western Christian tradition via the arguments within that tradition which resulted in the creation of Atheists. That this, ID, has now become an umbrella into which other faiths have come, it is still an argument between Atheists and God as Western Christians had him out of which were born “Atheists” – that is, that God is separate from mankind ontologically.
    Taking a step back, to original doctrines, I’m saying that some Christians never had the God of the Western Augustinians which separated God from his creation, there wasn’t any ‘need’ to become an ‘atheist’ when the teaching is that you are God.. Traditional Hindu teaching has a variation, that everyone of us is a manifestation of God. That’s hardly going to rile anyone to declaring themselves atheist either.
    I’ll stick with the at least 10,000 year old Hymn of Creation for my God..
    … maybe he doesn’t know how all this happened either..

  174. RE: Thread
    I always wondered what happened when you mixed religion, politics, and AGW. 😉

  175. Tucci78,
    You need to explain to us why the FACTS on Intelligent Design should be different because they are promoted by a Religious Person or an Agnostic/Atheist. By your intimations the fact that a Catholic started Big Bang theory, which still requires an act of Supernatural Creation from our point of view, would mean it should be ignored or ridiculed or simply thrown out.
    Is the issue that the FACTS are not ones you can easily deal with??

  176. Myrrh says:
    August 11, 2011 at 6:27 pm
    Mr Lynn – I thought you might like the last sentence of the Hymn.

    Sorry, I skimmed over it. But re-reading, it’s marvelously apropos; thanks for highlighting it:

    Whence this creation has come into being; whether it was made or not; he in the highest heaven is its surveyor. Surely he knows, or perhaps he knows not.

    Those old mythmakers were savvy enough to understand that even The Surveyor may share our humility before the Ultimate Mystery.
    /Mr Lynn

  177. Myrrh,
    You write:
    Ron – as I see it, the ID has come out of the Western Christian tradition via the arguments within that tradition which resulted in the creation of Atheists.
    I don’t think this is correct. As I see, the beginnings of ID came from the confirmation of the Big Bang and its leading proponents were Robert Jastrow and his contemporaries, almost all of them agnostic or atheists. More recently, this thinking has been embraced by William Dembski, Michael Behe and others who have brought their own insights to the hypothesis.

  178. This post has provoked massive speculation on the greatest unsolved problem in science, the origin of life… but Anthony, you really should correct the subtitle. The summarized report discusses evidence for extraterrestrial origin of nucleotides, not amino acids.
    I don’t have an answer for the great question, but correcting the minor detail at least helps keep the evidence at issue clear.

  179. At 2:13 PM on 11 August, Ron Cram makes a truly egregious error – prompting me (almost) to use the “Al Gore Word” – in writing:

    I’m afraid your latest comment is an ad hominem attack on certain men on the basis of their religious faith.

    This is, of course, bloody nonsense. I realize that it is common among the illiterate who make a pretense of education to use the Latin tag “ad hominem” when the meaning they’re trying to convey is “insulting,” but the phrase “argumentum ad hominem” has a specific meaning in logic and rhetoric, and to use it as Mr. Cram has done in this instance is a howling idiocy. It’s clear that Mr. Cram wants to convey nothing more than that he is personally cheesed off by my expressions of contempt for the religious whackjobs trying clumsily to peddle their attack on scientific method as “intelligent design,” and that Mr. Cram doesn’t know what the hell “argumentum ad hominem” actually means. He goes on to write:

    This is considered rather foul play among polite society.

    I am, of course, determined not to deal with liars like the Discovery Institute and Ben Stein particularly, or “intelligent design” peddlers generally, as if they deserve the respect accorded honest participants in “polite society.” They are not “polite” people in that their designs are clearly political, to impose aggressively upon their neighbors the treatment of an absolutely unscientific concept – “intelligent design” – in government schools as part of the science curriculum.
    Setting aside for a moment the fact that politically-administered, coercively-funded, compulsory schooling (“public education”) is not a lawful function of government (which is “not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master”), to bleed the innocent taxpayer at gunpoint in order to push this absolutely and undeniably religious assault upon the sciences as if it were – in any way – a legitimate substitute for the consideration of objective evidence reflecting physical phenomena is fundamentally destructive of the legitimate purposes of pedagogy.
    Even in our hideously awful government schools. Mr. Cram goes on:

    Unfortunately, it does not advance your position at all because it does not address the facts supporting the argument for Intelligent Design in the least.

    Wrong again, Mr. Cram. It advances my position perfectly. There are absolutely nofacts supporting the argument for Intelligent Design,” and handling the liars pushing this blithering idiocy as what they are – instead of pretending that they’re a part of “polite society” – makes pikestaff-plain that their intentions are clearly perceived and uncompromisingly condemned. To return to Mr. Cram‘s post:

    I happen to be a believer in the Christian faith, a follower of Jesus Christ. An imperfect follower, to be sure, but I am a follower. Does this fact preclude me from being involved in a scientific discussion?

    You got it in one, Mr. Cram. To the extent that you predicate assertions based on your peculiar ghostly fixations, you’re not discussing anything “scientific” whatsoever. That’s clear enough from your nonsensical question:

    Is an atheist precluding from discussing science because of his faith?

    The answer to that one is “no.” The atheist, per se, is not expressing any kind of “faith” at all. In approaching questions addressed in “scientific discussion,” the atheist is coming forward with the sort of “clean slate” which you, Mr. Cram, do not wish honestly to bring. Only to the extent that a “believer” in religious whackjobbery can set aside his “follower” debilitation can he be expected to function as a genuinely rational participant in the sciences.
    Lots of religious whackjobs manage that pretty well. They might be ranked as high-functional psychotics if I were interested in getting psychiatric about the matter. But on this “intelligent design” nonsense, we seem to get quickly and ineluctably to the core of their thought disorder and evoke the dysfunctionality To continue with Mr. Cram‘s post:

    I think it is far better for people to publicly state their own backgrounds and biases so others can take that into consideration, but no one is precluded from discussing science.
    I have never once appealed to the Bible as the authority during this discussion. My perception is that my personal beliefs will not matter to you and I would not expect them to be persuasive. But I had hoped you would be willing to look at scientific facts. Was I wrong?

    Well, Mr. Cram, you’re wrong if you’re trying to hold that you’ve presented any “scientific facts” at all. What you have done instead is to commit the logical fallacies of appeal to belief, appeal to authority, and bandwagon, notably in your claim:

    I have pointed to the science and to scientists who are agnostics and atheists who have come to the realization that the supernatural was at work in the Big Bang. I have pointed you to scholarly works to explain some of the science underlying Intelligent Design hypothesis. From my perspective, it does not appear you have even attempted to engage these materials or seek a better understanding of why so many Nobel Prize winners would speak in a way Intelligent Design scientists would applaud.

    The putative quality of the authorities to whom you wish to appeal in your explicit endorsement of “the supernatural” matters not one bloody little bit because neither they nor</b you have "pointed” to any “science” at all.
    And “Intelligent Design,” per Dr. Glassman’s appreciation, barely rises to the level at which it can be called a legitimate conjecture, much less a “hypothesis.”
    To get a hypothesis, Mr.
    Cram, you’ve got to have “a novel prediction yet to be validated by facts,” and the moment the word “supernatural” comes in, there is acknowledgement that there are no facts at all to be presented.
    To give Dr. Glassman his due yet again: “intelligent design is a threshold question between nonscience and conjectures.”

  180. Some time last year here on WUWT it was divulged that there was news regarding decay rates of certain elements oscillated according to the position of the Sun. The notion of entanglement was raised. It was not laughed out of hand by Leif. He doubted it based on the relatively weak force that Entanglement is. Not that physics forbids it…………..but that it was unlikely.
    1. Not so funny When miraculous healings was done by Jesus (for sake of argument lets assume true)–it isn’t quite so funny when we determine that each cell has the plan for every other in the entire body.
    2. Not so funny when gospel states Jesus was at dinner…..and then.dissappeared because….. the LHC is going to try to make matter, it’s mass, it’s information, it’s nuclear energy also dissappear. Completely.
    3. Not so funny when we realize the flagellelum is designed but can’t agree on the design process(divine? Refine? Divine Refinement?)
    4. Not so funny when the opening salvo in the debate:: ‘… In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth Ex-anilho. (……out of nothing)’ and the Big Bang which can be summarized by changing the word ‘God’ to ‘Something’..
    5. Not so funny when Peter Jackson of LOTR fame sees a Ghost in his bedroom in NZ and tells his wife later and she finishes his sentence of his description of it because she’d seen it before herself.
    6. Not so funny when the Apostle Peter looks you in the eye and says ‘…. and the earth was formed out of water and by water…’ and you say bolox, run to your computer and google ‘water in early earth formation’ only to be shown to NASA and other sites and articles upholding the view that some how, water had a crucial role in the formation of the earth.
    7. Not so funny when the historians talk of the first t photographic negative being in what….the late 1800’s. ignoring the Shroud of Turin…..what ever it is….is a photo negative with information of a third dimension dating to 120 AD or so(?).
    8. Not so funny when the basics needed for a functional minimal cell was found to be a lot more complex than previously thought. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=11&ved=0CBUQFjAAOAo&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.sciencedaily.com%2Freleases%2F2009%2F11%2F091126173027.htm&ei=OadETr3cO8Tk0QGCoeXQBw&usg=AFQjCNEBYj_nCKqII6vJGdFYZV1OD2SQ5A
    The horizon of our knowledge of the physical world slides toward the basic notions of a Judeo-Christian defined reality of the of God and it’s nature:
    1. Omni-present – Entanglement suggests connectedness.across distance possible
    2. Jesus Dissappearence – suggests a local parallel universe (to dissappeare into)
    3. Jesus Dissappearence – precedes the LHC experiment to dissappear mass
    …………..etc etc etc

  181. At 6:41 PM on 11 August, kuhnkat writes that I supposedly:

    …need to explain to us why the FACTS on Intelligent Design should be different because they are promoted by a Religious Person or an Agnostic/Atheist. By your intimations the fact that a Catholic started Big Bang theory, which still requires an act of Supernatural Creation from our point of view, would mean it should be ignored or ridiculed or simply thrown out.
    Is the issue that the FACTS are not ones you can easily deal with??

    Nope. See my botched HTML at 9:10 PM, addressed to Mr. Cram‘s post.
    To put it concisely, there have been absolutely noFACTS” advanced ever to have supported the “Intelligent Design” contention (why all this gormless inappropriate capitals use among True Believers all the frelkin’ time?), and as long as that word “supernatural” keeps creeping in, there never will be.
    And who gives a damn whether “Big Bang theory” was first advanced by “a Catholic” or by a Satanist?
    Do you have some misconception, kuhncat, that there is any validity in either the sciences particularly or reasoned discourse generally that is specially conferred (or disallowed) by citing a particular attribute of the person to whom an idea is attributed?

  182. At 3:24 PM on 11 August, Eric Anderson claims that in his cited article:

    Mr. Bailey ignores the explicit and repeated explanations by leading ID proponents as to what ID is about, because he is able to “discern” the real purpose of this “religionist attack upon the scientific method.” Yeah, that’s it.
    Look, we need to distinguish between the *limited and perfectly valid scientific question* about whether design is detectable in natural systems, and the broader implications of the answer to that question. I realize that some people, for their own philosophical reasons, have a strong and occasionally knee-jerk aversion to the potential implications of the answer, but that is simply an unfortunate deficit on their part, not a problem with the question itself.

    Nope. It’s profoundly dishonest for the religious whackjob “intelligent design” creationists to imply that honest skepticism of their pseudoscience is any kind of “unfortunate deficit” on the part of the critics giving the razzberrry to this Great Sky Pixie yammering.
    This “strong aversion” to the creationists’ dereliction of the duty to adhere to scientific method is, in fact, precisely what the scrupulously conscientious person must insist upon – not reflexively but by virtue of hard-wrought discipline – in order to keep the “question” in any way at all “scientific.”
    I have to keep repeating that as long as the religious whackjobs operating behind the “intelligent design” false front want to invoke the supernatural in a primum movens substitute for an objectively evidence-validated explanation of the origins of the universe, life, and/or sapience, then they’ve dumped even the least shred of pretense that what they’re attempting is “scientific” and they’re nothing more than a bunch of charlatans.
    Better for them to have stuck honestly to the treatment of this notion as an article of faith, and not tried to pretend that their position is in any way “scientific” at all.
    That they do not do this appears reliably to be due to their intention not to advance the discipline of science but rather to attack and degrade it, almost certainly because they conceive – mistakenly – that the advances in the various sciences have, especially over the past century, so “invaded” the realms they’d relegated comfortably to the control of their deity that faith itself is threatened.
    What good, they think, is the witch doctor if his invocations of the gods are demonstrably less efficacious than the elucidations of tinkerers and theorists who observe aspects of reality accessible to anybody and make them apprehensible to any member of the tribe willing to learn?
    It’s nonsense, of course. The witch doctor – or other species of religionist – will continue to be of real value to members of the community as long as there are uncertainties and adversities imposing any emotional load on human beings. There are jobs that can’t (yet?) be accomplished by way of scientific method, and as long as the religious whackjobs don’t engage the coercive machinery of government aggressively to force their ghostly peculiarities upon their neighbors, they might even be doing something beneficial.
    Who knows? Laissez-faire.

  183. I recently took some graduate level biochemistry courses ( at a liberal university) and was taught that even if you were able to combine a series of amino acids every pico-second it would take many trillions of times the age of the universe to randomly generate the composition and structure of several mid-size proteins. There simply isn’t enough time for these compounds or the RNA that codes for them to randomly combine or evolve (and how could they evolve since the are chemical compounds, not living organisms). Its interesting that some carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen atoms were linked together into some amino acid structures and other organic compounds on some meteorites, but saying that is equivalent to finding the seeds of life is false. The math just does not support the contention that life could have randomly developed in several billion years even if you were provided with more amino acids than you could fit into all the worlds oceans. I’m more likely to be killed by a meteorite while typing this comment than for multicellular life to have had time to randomly develop from amino acids carried to Earth on meteorites.

  184. “””””
    DesertYote says:
    August 10, 2011 at 10:48 pm
    George E. Smith
    August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    ###
    I think you need to ask Dr. Drake regarding his equation and why he formulated it. There is no problem with it. It show just what it was intended to show, the futility of it all. The 10^-20, Is a number I pulled from a very dark place, that was tiny, yet larger then the actual number. That is why I said LESS THEN. As it is, 10^-20 is incredibly small. Do you have any idea how small it is? Its small enough to be zero.
    DesertYote says:
    August 10, 2011 at 10:57 pm
    George E. Smith
    August 10, 2011 at 4:25 pm
    ###
    And furthermore, depending on what you are doing, zero*inf is equal to some real number. “””””
    You must be an engineer.
    zero*inf might be equal to some real number in your scheme of things; but in the clearly understood language of mathematics, zero times infinity is quite indeterminate.
    And if you think that 10^-20 is small enough to be zero, then you need a refresher course in modern Physics at least. According to current experimental observations, the upper bound for the dipole electric moment of the electron is not more than 10^-28 e.cm, and may be as small as 10^-35 e.cm
    So these days, 10^-20 is a huge number; and it definitely isn’t zero. Indeed all the really interesting things that happened in the history of Physics; the realm of “Archeo-Physics” happened in the first 10^-34 seconds after the big bang. Or was it the first 10^-43 seconds ?
    And no I don’t need to talk to Frank Drake about anything. As a Nobel Physics Laureate recently told me; you can make any absurd claim you like about something that can never; even in principle be measured or observed; and who is going to call you on it; or indeed pay any attention to such rantings.

  185. Tucci78:
    Well, I’m not sure there is much more worth discussing. It is clear that you are very angry and upset about the idea of intelligent design, seeing an imagined evil religious conspiracy under every rock. Perhaps the discussion can continue when you are ready to address the following simple, legitimate, scientific question: Given that some things are designed and some things are not designed, is it possible to identify artifacts of design in particular physical systems that would allow us to conclude such system was designed?

  186. “”””” Theo Goodwin says:
    August 11, 2011 at 5:16 am
    RandomReal[] says:
    August 11, 2011 at 12:54 am
    Your post is very interesting. Thanks for the update. I have no trouble with the science that you describe. I hope that we learn some good things from it. However, you too seem to suffer just a bit from Dawkins’ Platonism, his tendency to reify abstractions, as in the following:
    “This is molecular archaeology. With the development of DNA sequence technology and other biochemical and biophysical techniques, we can trace our genetic history back a long way.”
    In other words, the real work is still done with arms immersed in vats of chemicals and not with fingers on the keyboards. Here is a mnemonic to help one remember this: Crick and Watson. Crick was the mathematician who made the brilliant leap to the Double Helix, Watson lived with his arms in vats of chemicals. Crick did the math and Watson did everything else.”””””
    “”””” Crick was the mathematician who made the brilliant leap to the Double Helix, “””””
    Gee, is that a fact. I could have sworn that there was a certain lady X-ray Crystallographer, who really did the donkey work. It was she who in effect had her arms immersed in the vats and pretty much did the keyboard work as well.
    Long after the fact, at least one of the two “others” was man enough to admit to her key contributions. Long after they had bathed in the glory denied to her.

  187. “”””” Ron Cram says:
    August 10, 2011 at 7:01 pm
    George E Smith writes:
    “Well ‘The Big Bang’ is simply a possible model that appears to explain certain Astronomical observations. The “evidence” supporting such a model supports nothing additional; especially some ‘big banger’, which is every bit as conjectural as is ‘The Big Bang.’”
    George, I encourage you to read the book “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow, the first head of Goddard Institute for Space Studies and a brilliant astronomer. The book describes not just the rise of the theory of the Big Bang but also observations which led to the theory being confirmed. “””””
    Well that is very welcome news; that the big bang has been confirmed. That would be a first for science; that one of its theories would be confirmed.
    As to Jastrow’s book; well I do believe in Astronomers; but the rest is just conjecture.
    Should we abandon the notion that science is about that which is observable, and testable; and admit any crackpot idea, even though we know a priori that it is not testable ?
    Can you describe just one performable experiment, that would confirm the existence of multiple universes; when ALL available observational evidence shows us only one. Maybe that is why we call it the UNI-verse !

  188. Tucci78,
    apparently youu have no conception at all of pattern recognition and analyzing complex data for indications of repetitive, non-random, coherent information that is highly unlikely to be created by chance. Patterns of intelligence. I would be willing to bet that you think SETI, (I ran a few boxes processing their data for a while), is gee whillickers whiz bang stuff, but, putting a similar type of processing in conjunction with something that MIGHT be aligned with some religious person somewhere you would curse them and try to run them out of business!!
    Nothing like biased hypocrisy.

  189. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm
    Myrrh,
    You write:
    Ron – as I see it, the ID has come out of the Western Christian tradition via the arguments within that tradition which resulted in the creation of Atheists.
    I don’t think this is correct. As I see, the beginnings of ID came from the confirmation of the Big Bang and its leading proponents were Robert Jastrow and his contemporaries, almost all of them agnostic or atheists. More recently, this thinking has been embraced by William Dembski, Michael Behe and others who have brought their own insights to the hypothesis.

    Ah, I thought it was a theory from non-Atheists/Agnostics. OK, here’s what I’ve found and it’s more interesting than that, but still my conclusion holds, I just have to include believers in God (Western tradition as per Augustine) in with the set of other faiths who have embraced this theory. http://www.ideacenter.org/contentmgr/showdetails.php/id/832
    My conclusion holds, I think, because my premise is that it came out of the Western Augustinian tradition which created Atheists (as a reaction to its concepts about God, as Dawkins is ever at pains to point out). In doing so Atheists took the opposite extreme to ‘Intelligent Designer’ by subsituting with random chance (which if I recall properly was the concept held by Darwin’s father and the original basis of the theory of evolution). And from this grew all the arguments which pitted ‘believers in God’ against ‘atheists/agnostics’, in the idea that science was against supernatural etc. (So resulting in such responses that those like Newton believed in God and the supernatural and were still scientists, exploring how God’s creation worked, etc.).
    Now, for some Christians as I’ve said, there never was an ontological dichotomy between creator and created, nothing to rebel against because intelligence wasn’t ever denied to them as a reality in their beliefs about God. Where Western Augustinians had a God who punished for daring to acquire intelligence, these other Christians held that the concept of being created in image and likeness with free will couldn’t be violated and so did not read into Genesis the Augustinian separation of being and read instead that the injunction not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which is shorthanbd for ‘everything’, was a warning of consequence, knowledge includes knowing life and death. These other Christians say If we have free will God cannot demand we obey him, and therefore a God which does so violates his own being which is Us in creation, so death as a punishment for desiring to aquire intelligence is illogical. These Christians still hold that God cannot ever violate our free will and that the object of life is to realise our ‘godhood’, so they never had a separation between ‘supernatural’ and ‘natural’, it’s all natural. (And the relationship between God the uncreated creator and God the created in image and likeness is synergistic will, i.e. working together the sum is greater than its two parts.)
    Perhaps Intelligence Design, as described in the link I’ve given here, is Atheists/Agnostics out of the Augustinian tradition about God, trying to find their way back to this…? Certainly appears from this description to be still the same reaction against the Augustinian God who denied intelligence to mankind, but now disagreeing with the earlier substituted random chance theory.

    The Science Behind Intelligent Design Theory
    Intelligent design is a scientific theory which has its roots in information theory and observations about intelligent action. Intelligent design theory makes inferences based upon observations about the types of complexity that can be produced by the action of intelligent agents vs. the types of information that can be produced through purely natural processes to infer that life was designed by an intelligence or multiple intelligences. It makes no statements about the identity of the intelligent designer(s), but merely says that intelligent action was involved at some points with the origins of various aspects of biological life.

  190. At 12:43 AM on 12 August, kuhnkat eschews inappropriate capitalization to write of me that:

    apparently you have no conception at all of pattern recognition and analyzing complex data for indications of repetitive, non-random, coherent information that is highly unlikely to be created by chance. Patterns of intelligence. I would be willing to bet that you think SETI, (I ran a few boxes processing their data for a while), is gee whillickers whiz bang stuff, but, putting a similar type of processing in conjunction with something that MIGHT be aligned with some religious person somewhere you would curse them and try to run them out of business!!
    Nothing like biased hypocrisy.

    Considering that “biased hypocrisy” is the essence of the “intelligent design” idiocy, I’d have to agree that there’s not much like it. We find it, of course, in the preposterous bogosity of the AGW fraud, too, as well as in Keynesian economics.
    I’m not trained or experienced in the theories of “pattern recognition” per se, but I’ve sure as hell gotten to see lots of “repetitive, non-random, coherent information that is highly unlikely to be created by chance” over the decades.
    Under the microscope and in the pathology laboratory particularly, and in clinical medicine generally. And these reliable findings are supposed to be proof of some kind of “Patterns of intelligence” precisely…how?

  191. Re: so called “building blocks” falling from the sky. Well, “what goes up must come down”, yes ? Why look to something being ejected from another source when our own planet is perfectly capable of quite naturally putting rocks (etc) into space ?
    Re: the “life appeared out of non life and despite the laws of physics (etc) evolved and there is no greater of more capable intelligence out there than our own” vs “God Did It and He Did It because it is fun to do so”, well I tend to lean towards the notion of “run universe.cmd” … and execution of that particular program wasn’t all that long ago relatively speaking.
    Now please excuse me, but it is time for me to enjoy a nice game of “Age of Empires 2” where *I* get to do a version of “run universe.cmd”.
    Deem “all your bases are belong to us” included. 😉
    regarDS

  192. @Ron Cram
    If it seems like natural processes aren’t up to the task, then it means we don’t know enough about them, or there are some we haven’t discovered.
    This is a statement of faith in atheism.

    No it isn’t. It’s a statement of faith in the scientific method as the best tool to investigate nature. Bringing god into the equation whenever something inexplicable comes up is unscientific, and rejecting that notion is defending science.
    It is, however, not a statement about the existence or non-existence of god. God is outside the realm of science, and science makes no statement about him at all.
    Even believing Christian (or ) scientists ought not to involve god in their work. That would make them bad scientists, as well as Christians. The latter, because religion is not about god interfering with natural processes. It is about much more fundamental issues outside the realm of science.

  193. @Henry
    even if you were able to combine a series of amino acids every pico-second it would take many trillions of times the age of the universe to randomly generate the composition and structure of several mid-size proteins.
    The math just does not support the contention that life could have randomly developed in several billion years

    This is a very common fallacy. Yes the likelyhood that the very same biochemistry we have on earth should come up again independently is infinitesimally small. But that was never nature’s “job”. It just had to come up with any biochemistry that “works”, of which there are many possible combinations. Any other would have done. And that is not so unlikely.
    Your argument is like saying that if a brick falls down from a roof and splinters in thousands of chips and pieces, the breaking up of the brick must have been by design, because the likelihood of the same chips and pieces in their exact shapes and locations forming by chance is microscopically small.

  194. Henry says:
    August 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/08/10/seeds-of-life-on-earth-may-have-originated-in-space/#comment-717326
    I recently took some graduate level biochemistry courses ( at a liberal university) and was taught that even if you were able to combine a series of amino acids every pico-second it would take many trillions of times the age of the universe to randomly generate the composition and structure of several mid-size proteins. There simply isn’t enough time for these compounds or the RNA that codes for them to randomly combine or evolve (and how could they evolve since the are chemical compounds, not living organisms).
    There are two things here I find interestig. Doesn’t ‘science’ already say that matter can’t be created or destroyed, that doesn’t preclude changing form I take it from the energy = matter, so isn’t the question still to be answered – what is matter?
    Not sure about the ‘hasn’t been the time for complex evolution’ – limiting time frame to the length of existence of our ‘uni’ verse is only saying that random is ‘zilch’ within that limit, it can’t say anything about random in time as time is an unknown, isn’t it?. Also, even if all existence came into being with the big bang, somehow, what’s to say that intelligence wasn’t the first thing out of random chance? And, that still leaves the question, ‘what is all possibilities’?
    A question for the mathematicians here, or any that know of this, is it still said that only infinite and nothing are infinite? If so, where have all the numbers gone if nothing is infinite?

  195. At 2:34 AM on 12 August, in response to religionist Ron Cram‘s achingly maladroit assertion about “…a statement of faith in atheism,” we have anorak2 writing:

    No it isn’t. It’s a statement of faith in the scientific method as the best tool to investigate nature.

    I have to wince at the use of the word “faith” in that sentence, where “confidence” would be more sensible. Anybody who claims to “believe” in the scientific method is behaving about as unscientifically as the fellah who sincerely professes his belief that his crops will grow – or not – insh’Allah. But the rest of anorak2‘s post is pretty good, especially:

    Bringing god into the equation whenever something inexplicable comes up is unscientific, and rejecting that notion is defending science.

    It’s the point I’ve been trying to make anent this “intelligent design” hogwash throughout.

  196. At 10:53 PM on 11 August, Eric Anderson had written:

    Well, I’m not sure there is much more worth discussing. It is clear that you are very angry and upset about the idea of intelligent design, seeing an imagined evil religious conspiracy under every rock. Perhaps the discussion can continue when you are ready to address the following simple, legitimate, scientific question: Given that some things are designed and some things are not designed, is it possible to identify artifacts of design in particular physical systems that would allow us to conclude such system was designed?

    Considering, Mr. Anderson, that you entered this exchange as a partisan of religious creationism masquerading as “intelligent design” and therefore with no intention of honestly focusing on any scientific concepts whatsoever, yeah, I’ve got to agree that you’ve got zilch “worth discussing” at all.
    Whether the “religious conspiracy” behind the aggressively coercive political effort to degrade the teaching of scientific method by passing off your Great Sky Pixie hokum as part of the government educationalist gulags’ science curricula is “evil” or not is a wonderfully fit subject for discussion, however. I’ll take the “affirmative” side in that debate, and with gusto.
    As for your fumbling grope to couch your continuing assault upon scientific method in the seeming of sweet reason (as a “simple, legitimate, scientific question” that lacks both legitimacy and scientific validity), you and your co-religionists are advancing the proposition that there is in real natural physical phenomena convincing evidence of “intelligent design,” meaning that you’ve got the burden of proof, not me.
    Asking me, as a disputant, to define for you the parameters by which it might be “possible to identify artifacts of design in particular physical systems that would allow us to conclude such [a] system was designed” is a tactic of debate so bereft of both principle and art that it is – almost – beneath contempt.
    Just what the heck d’you think you know about either scientific method or rhetoric, anyway?
    For the sake of clarity, Mr. Anderson, permit me to inform you that you haven’t yet seen me “very angry and upset.”
    Scornful, certainly. But my emotional response to you and your fellow religious whackjobs in this forum is rather more that of a man discovering that he’s got to scrape something malodorous off his shoe.
    It’s a necessary job, and it needs to be done well lest that crap get tracked all over the place, but it’s hygiene, not hatred.

  197. Jeff Alberts Says:
    August 11, 2011 at 8:14 am
    “I can’t determine what your point may have been in that rambling mess. Sorry.”
    No problem, most of the time I can’t even make straight the rambling mess in my brain. I keep telling myself that is why I should blog, but I got ahead of myself. This is me signing off……….

  198. George E. Smith says:
    August 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm
    Yes, you are correct. Others were involved.

  199. RandomReal[] says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm
    “So, for me, genes are not an abstraction conferring vague traits but are real, biochemical entities that interact with the cellular environment, conferring subtle and not so subtle phenotypic traits on their hosts.”
    You and I have no disagreement. What you wrote about Dawkins identifies what I see as his main error. He removes the concept of gene from its scientific context and waxes philosophical about it. I find your posts helpful and admirable in all ways.
    The kind of error that Dawkins makes, not necessarily Dawkins’ version, leads to a lot of BS. I am reminded of the claim that humans and chimpanzees share something like 97% of their genetic structure. When I hear or read this claim, my response is that the 3% of genes in question must be one hell of a powerful and efficacious set of genes. (For those new to this topic, my point here is that the claim that 97% of genetic structure is shared takes the concept of gene out of its scientific context and reifies it, assigning causal power to a snapshot of genetic structure. To avoid such error, we must remind ourselves, constantly, that “genes…are real, biochemical entities that interact with the cellular environment, conferring subtle and not so subtle phenotypic traits on their hosts.” I want to emphasize that they do not exist apart from cellular environments.)
    Please do one favor for me. You write:
    “The number of changes in their DNA/protein sequence reflect the evolutionary time to the last common ancestor.”
    Give me one reference that will help me understand this point as it bears on my claim that the human genome does not contain a record of human evolution. I want to know “how much” of a species’ evolutionary record can be mined through study of these sequences.

  200. David Falkner says:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm
    Lol, Nietzsche would be proud! Indeed, let’s analyze the universe without a context of actual meaning. No wait, let’s not. It’s not really that important anyway, is it? Is there a lazier intellectual/logical position to hold?

    Stop the presses! David Falkner has discovered the Meaning of Life!!
    My stance is that there is no inherent meaning, other than what we attribute to it, unless one can show otherwise. You got proof that there is a “meaning” to the universe? I’ll wait…

  201. anorak2 says:
    August 12, 2011 at 2:34 am
    @Ron Cram
    If it seems like natural processes aren’t up to the task, then it means we don’t know enough about them, or there are some we haven’t discovered.
    This is a statement of faith in atheism.
    No it isn’t. It’s a statement of faith in the scientific method as the best tool to investigate nature. Bringing god into the equation whenever something inexplicable comes up is unscientific, and rejecting that notion is defending science.

    Well, that’s a faith position. You don’t have any scientific proof by the scientific method that the scientific method is even capable of being the best tool to investigate nature. That is you have bounded nature into the constraints of science method and then claim that is nature.
    It is, however, not a statement about the existence or non-existence of god. God is outside the realm of science, and science makes no statement about him at all.
    Because you have excluded God from nature is no proof that God is outside the realm of science, and science can make no statement about him at all.
    Even believing Christian (or ) scientists ought not to involve god in their work. That would make them bad scientists, as well as Christians. The latter, because religion is not about god interfering with natural processes. It is about much more fundamental issues outside the realm of science.
    That comes from a particular view of God which ‘excludes God from creation’. The majority in the West may well believe there isn’t any other view of God, but they are wrong. You are imposing your view of God on your view of science and nature and that is merely faith, a belief system posing as reality when it isn’t even a hypothesis – provide a falsifiable hypothesis offering proof that God is as you say and that nature is as you say otherwise you can’t make the claim that God isn’t amenable to the scientific method, but only that your God isn’t amenable to scientific method in your belief system.

  202. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 2:23 pm
    “Jim G,
    You write:
    Depends upon what you mean by “the confirmation of the big bang theory”. Have not read your citation but if we are referring to the big bang coming from an infinitesimally small point as in a singularity or from nothing at all then I do not believe there is confirmation. The possibility still exists that the universe has been here all along and simply rebounds after a big crunch causing the microwave background that we can see then expands only to crash again.
    The confirmation is found in the book “God and the Astronomers” by Robert Jastrow. He describes how they discovered the location of the Big Bang. It has been a while since I read the book, but I believe Jastrow considered confirmation at the time. I suppose the theory of a rebounding universe is possible, a theory which arose after the events described by Jastrow. In my view, the rebounding theory is a grasping at straws by men who desperately want to NOT believe in an Intelligent Designer. This was the only method the atheists could come up with to get back to the view the universe was eternally existent.”
    Many “religious” people need a concrete answer. But, in fact, God could have set up the universe in any way he wished. That is why it is called faith, no proof required. An eternal universe does NOT obviate the necessity of a God and I continue to believe He wants us to continue to grow by making the search go on.

  203. @Myrrh
    Well, that’s a faith position. You don’t have any scientific proof by the scientific method that the scientific method is even capable of being the best tool to investigate nature.
    Yes, I have to agree. The scientific worldview is “just another belief system”, it cannot be “proven” in any meaningful way. Nor is it necessarily superior to other belief system.
    That said, it has many advantages over other belief system, such as being open to criticism, being based in rationality and observation, and that it’s vastly expanded our knowledge. Also, while it cannot be proven to be “correct”, it can theoretically be refuted, e.g. by an observation of supernatural phenomena. But so far none has materialised. Humanity has attempted to investigate an endless number of subjects using the scientific method, and they all were open to it and produced results. That is quite a good cause for that method.
    Because you have excluded God from nature is no proof that God is outside the realm of science, and science can make no statement about him at all.
    I agree. I can’t prove that god is outside the realm of nature or the observable universe. All I’m saying is that it would be unscientific to consider god as a valid explanation for natural phenomena. If we allow supernatural explanations any time we feel like it, we can as well give up and stop doing science, because the answer “it’s god” always fits. But I believe the scientific method is worth defending. And anyone who thinks so must never allow unscientific explanations at all.
    Even believing Christian (or ) scientists
    This should have read (or any other religion), the system swallowed it because I used <HTML-like> markup there.
    That comes from a particular view of God which ‘excludes God from creation’.
    Agree again. The defense is that it’s a well working view which so far has produced excellent results, and that it could easily be refuted by the observation of a god doing something obviously god-like in our universe, which has never happened.
    You are imposing your view of God on your view of science and nature and that is merely faith, a belief system
    I’d prefer the wording “belief system” and agree. I do strongly believe that involving god to explain natural phenomena is a naive view of science as well as religion, but I cannot “prove” this to you.
    For your comfort, I also believe that supposed “rationalists” who believe that they refute the existence of god by refuting creationism or any similar belief of “god did it”, which unfortunately the Christian curches used to defend for centuries, are exactly as naive. They have not refuted god, but merely a naive fairy-tale belief system. But actual religion is not about that, and it cannot be refuted. Believing in god is still worthwhile even with a scientific world view.

  204. Tucci78,
    Regarding your comment of 9:10 last night, I can see you are very emotional about this topic and it is affecting your ability to think clearly. I think I can see why you are so emotional. You have been lied to. It is very disconcerting to find out that you have been lied to, very emotionally upsetting. But believe me, it is much better to face facts than to try to deny them.
    So let’s go over the lies you have been told.
    1. You were told Intelligent Design was an idea put forward by Christians (a group of people you obviously don’t like and feel you have every reason to distrust and insult at every turn) to advance creationism in schools.
    I have demonstrated that Intelligent Design did not really start with Christians at all, but with agnostic astrophysicists and rocket scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies several decades before the founding of Discovery Institute. (Some might argue a philosophical precursor existed in the Watchmaker Analogy of William Paley in 1802, but the existence of this analogy had zero affect on Jastrow and others at NASA. The work of Jastrow and others was the first that was strictly scientific.)
    2. You were told Intelligent Design had zero scientific backing.
    I have demonstrated that Intelligent Design comes from the confirmation of the Big Bang, when the actual location of the Big Bang was discovered. Again, Jastrow’s short book tells the story in a fascinating way and can be enjoyed by all no matter their religious point of view (although some atheists have become agnostic after reading it). I have also provided a peer-reviewed article by Granville Sewell title A Second Look at the Second Law. It is very definitely worth reading and considering. Yes, the paper was withdrawn but not because of any errors in it. See http://www.math.utep.edu/Faculty/sewell/AML_3497.pdf
    3. You have been told that those who affirm Intelligent Design and/or are involved at Discovery Institute are all Christian.
    This is not true. I suggest the book “Nature’s IQ: Extraordinary Animal Behaviors That Defy Evolution,” by Hungarian Hindus Istvan Tasi and Balaz Hornyansky. See http://www.arn.org/arnproducts/php/book_show_item.php?id=129
    4. You have been told the atheist comes to the question of origins with a “clean slate.”
    Nothing could be further from the truth. Atheists come to the question with a strong bias against any evidence of the supernatural. Arthur Eddington, an expert in General Relativity Theory and an atheist, found it personally “repugnant” to admit “The beginning seems to present insuperable difficulties unless we agree to look on it as frankly supernatural.” He made that comment about the Big Bang BEFORE the theory was confirmed by observation as described in Jastrow’s book. Eddington is rather unusual in his ability overcome his personal bias. Jeff Alberts, in comments above, made statements confirming his belief in atheism regardless for what the evidence showed. Jeff would rather put his faith in unseen natural forces than admit the laws of physics were broken at the Big Bang. Without doubt, atheists come at the evidence with their own biases. Some are able to overcome them and some are not.
    I wish you success in your quest for the truth. If you are on such a quest.

  205. from KITP biology presentations
    “……where is it that biology chooses selectively the physics it follows. It is consistent but of a narrow range…”
    “………..THere is a concentration gradient across the membrane. Lots of calcium outside and none inside. And there is a pump and gradient level sensing system–if calcium is detected in the cell, the pump switches on and pumps out the calcium. Question is: what (or who) sets the intra-cellular gradient?? ……….”

  206. Jeff,
    You write:
    My stance is that there is no inherent meaning, other than what we attribute to it, unless one can show otherwise. You got proof that there is a “meaning” to the universe? I’ll wait…
    I believe it is possible to demonstrate meaning to the universe, but such a discussion goes beyond science into history, psychology and other topics. It would be off topic to this blog, but if you are serious about having the discussion we can do it by email or Facebook. I comment under my real name and invite you to send a friend request on Facebook if you are interested in discussing it.

  207. JimG,
    You write:
    An eternal universe does NOT obviate the necessity of a God and I continue to believe He wants us to continue to grow by making the search go on.
    If you are saying we need to continue the search for scientific truth, I fully agree. Was there something I said that made you think I would not agree?

  208. Theo,
    Here is a summary of many of the things that I have been talking about:
    Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics by Eugene Koonin
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2651812/pdf/gkp089.pdf
    also,
    The fundamental units, processes and patterns of evolution, and the Tree of Life conundrum
    http://www.biology-direct.com/content/4/1/33
    Note that this paper was subject to open review: four reviewers with their comments and author responses.
    A final comment. One must always be careful with analogies and metaphors in scientific writing. Their meaning in the context of science is related to but is not equivalent to their meaning in everyday language. Nevertheless, they are useful and probably necessary in communication. When I made the transition from mathematics to biology, analogies were useful in understanding the new concepts which I was exposed to. But, I knew the analogies were not the real thing, and thus, my usual approach would be to bash the analogy with experimental results until it broke. Gradually, my analogies to everyday life grew into analogies derived from experimental results. Catchy terms such as “junk DNA”, “selfish genes”, and “tree of life” find their way into popular and scientific writings, but along the way, their link to observation and rigorous abstraction gradually becomes more and more tenuous. For me, the classic example is from thermodynamics: a “spontaneous” reaction, i.e. a reaction that releases free energy. To understand the term “spontaneous”, we have to throw out our common notion of what spontaneous means. Perhaps, scientists in the past should have just stuck to exergonic, but spontaneous is easier to say and remember, and it is now so much a part of scientific language that it is here to stay. Perhaps, Dark Energy should have been called Upsidaisium. 🙂 Just remember to keep bashing analogies, metaphors, hypotheses, models, and theories until they break. Nature is always more interesting than you can imagine.

  209. At 8:44 AM on 12 August, anorak2 had written:

    The scientific worldview is “just another belief system”, it cannot be “proven” in any meaningful way. Nor is it necessarily superior to other belief system.

    Egad. And this is supposed to be a Web site that cozens the readership and participation of the scientifically literate?
    anorak2, have you considered that your confusion of science as “just another belief system” might be resolved by simply defining your terms? You might ask yourself what the word “science” means and what the expression “belief system” signifies. They’re different.
    Then you might try thinking of science as a tool of thought, the abstract equivalent of a micrometer or a set of Johansson blocks, setting a standard of conduct in reasoned consideration of the phenomenal universe that tends with good confidence to guide the user toward the acquisition of new information providing greater insight into the understanding of how things work.
    Just as there’s no need to vest “belief” in a Johansson gauge for it to work within specified parameters, there’s no need to profess a “belief” in science for scientific method to operate successfully.
    One of the great advantages conferred by Jo blocks and science is that – within their respective parameters of function – they’re utterly and wonderfully indifferent to “belief” so that anybody – Christian or Muslim or animist or Satanist – can follow the instructions, do the work, and get results that a colleague should be perfectly capable of duplicating at some time or place else.
    A “belief system,” on the other hand…. Well, what with witch-burning and temple prostitutes and apostate-decapitating and ritual circumcision and child brides and human sacrifice and suchlike, that hasn’t been working out so well down through all of recorded history, has it? Consider expressions like “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius,” f’rinstance.
    Another difference between “science” and most every “belief system” is that in doing “science” “no one would have to get nailed to anything.”
    Takes a lot of the excitement out of your average “belief system,” but as I’ve said, I’m an individual-human-rights-respecting kind of guy with a high regard for the non-aggression principle. Continuing with anorak2‘s post, right into where it gets really bloody awful:

    That said, it has many advantages over other belief system, such as being open to criticism, being based in rationality and observation, and that it’s vastly expanded our knowledge. Also, while it cannot be proven to be “correct”, it can theoretically be refuted, e.g. by an observation of supernatural phenomena.

    Nope. Wrong-o. LOUD RUDE BUZZER NOISE! and if you’re not ashamed of yourself, anorak2, you really ought to be. Tsk. Not “theoretically,” not hypothetically, not conjecturally, not even yanking-it-out-of-the-proverbial-prat and proclaiming that it smells like Chanel No. 5. Science and the supernatural have nothing at all to do with each other, and that’s by definition of both terms. If it’s “supernatural,” it ain’t “science,” and nothing of “science” is ever “refuted … by an observation of supernatural phenomena.”
    That’s because “science” – real science done by honest and disciplined people instead of “Cargo Cult Science” clowns peddling that “intelligent design” crap – doesn’t pertain to the evidence-bereft hallucinatory confabulations of the mentally unhinged that religious whackjobs classify as “supernatural.” To be “phenomena,” anorak2, stuff has to be real, and that which lucid folks term “supernatural” are at most pure abstractions without material instantiation in the natural physical universe, which is how the word comes by that “super” prefix.
    Do you think you might be less prone to errors like this if you were to substitute the expression “extranatural” for the term “supernatural“? Both convey the connotation that they have nothing to do with the real, natural world in which human beings are born, live, and die, and there’s a bunch less of the hoodoo connotation to “extranatural.” But then back to your post:

    … Humanity has attempted to investigate an endless number of subjects using the scientific method, and they all were open to it and produced results. That is quite a good cause for that method.

    Yep. Same argument for micrometers and telescopes and Jo blocks and power tools. Not so much, of course, for any “belief system” unless you’re trying for a “Kill ’em all! God will know His own!” excuse for slaughtering people who’ve surrendered to you instead of fighting to the death. But there’s a nugget of the laudable in anorak2‘s post:

    I can’t prove that god is outside the realm of nature or the observable universe. All I’m saying is that it would be unscientific to consider god as a valid explanation for natural phenomena. If we allow supernatural explanations any time we feel like it, we can as well give up and stop doing science, because the answer “it’s god” always fits. But I believe the scientific method is worth defending. And anyone who thinks so must never allow unscientific explanations at all.

    While I’d advise the replacement of “I believe” with “I think,” it works fairly well, the sentiment continuing in:

    I do strongly believe that involving god to explain natural phenomena is a naive view of science as well as religion, but I cannot “prove” this to you.
    … I also believe that supposed “rationalists” who believe that they refute the existence of god by refuting creationism or any similar belief of “god did it”, which unfortunately the Christian churches used to defend for centuries, are exactly as naive. They have not refuted god, but merely a naive fairy-tale belief system. But actual religion is not about that, and it cannot be refuted. Believing in god is still worthwhile even with a scientific world view.

    It’s correct that “railing against god” with the tools of science is an exercise in stupidity, analogous, I suppose, to using a Jo block instead of a sugar cube to sweeten your coffee. With regard to that last sentence, though, absent some very convincing exegesis, I’m still inclined to go with Smith’s wager, of which we read in one of the concluding paragraphs:

    …if you’re going to make the wager, you might as well wager on what your reason tells you, that atheism is correct, and go that route because you won’t be able to do anything about an unjust god anyway, even if you accept Christianity. My wager says that you should in all cases wager on reason and accept the logical consequence, which in this case is atheism. If there’s no god, you’re correct; if there’s an indifferent god, you won’t suffer; if there’s a just god, you have nothing to fear from the honest use of your reason; and if there’s an unjust god, you have much to fear but so does the Christian.

    Well, let’s see how I’ve screwed up the HTML this time….

  210. anorak2: “Your argument is like saying that if a brick falls down from a roof and splinters in thousands of chips and pieces, the breaking up of the brick must have been by design, because the likelihood of the same chips and pieces in their exact shapes and locations forming by chance is microscopically small.”
    You are misunderstanding the design argument, so your analogy doesn’t hold. Of course improbable things happen by chance all the time. The question is whether, in addition to being improbable, there is specification (which can be an integration of functional parts, specified information, etc.). Only then can design be inferred. To take your example, if the brick falls and breaks into splinters and the splinters fall into place spelling the first half dozen lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet, then we would have a closer analogy. In the protein case, it is not simply that the arrangement of amino acids is improbable; it is that the arrangement results in a functional protein (the vast majority of arrangements do not) that integrates with other proteins into a functioning whole.

  211. Eric @10:53 p.m.: “Well, I’m not sure there is much more worth discussing. It is clear that you are very angry and upset about the idea of intelligent design, seeing an imagined evil religious conspiracy under every rock. ”
    Tucci78 @ 4:29 a.m.
    Exhibit A. Thanks for proving my point. 🙂

  212. Sorry, I was supposed to be signing of, but I’m still getting the emails and I’m curious on this one:
    Tucci78 says (from anorak2’s post)
    “Just as there’s no need to vest “belief” in a Johansson gauge for it to work within specified parameters, there’s no need to profess a “belief” in science for scientific method to operate successfully.”
    Can we define “belief?” It seems we create and use tools such as micrometers and Johansson Gauges, and the such; but even though we’ve proven they work, don’t you still have to use the tool? Where I work we have to calibrate tools and even a gauge can be manufactured wrong or worn down over time. So don’t you put a little trust into that device that it is going to give you what you need (plus you have human error in everything so you are placing trust in the person doing the measurement, or if we have to the person who wrote the computer program which takes the measurement).
    It goes back to the chair example I’m sure most of us have heard: we can take a chair and analyze it to death. Verify its support structure and materials and put weights on it to make sure it will hold the maximum amount of weight, but in the end you still have to sit in it. Sure the analyzing it proves it will hold you, but I think you will find words like trust and faith always hold a certain amount of understanding first (otherwise it is blind and possibly foolish). See the link http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/belief and you will find one definition of belief is “a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.” Seems even science requires a certain amount of belief, otherwise we would never launch ourselves into space just because math and science shows we can.

  213. #
    #
    George E. Smith says:
    August 11, 2011 at 10:41 pm
    You must be either a liberal, have problem with English, or you are insufferably dense. You have a nasty tendency of re-framing everything I write, so as to supply your own distorted interpretation, reading into it things I am not saying and even thing that are opposite to what I am saying.
    Frank Drake proposed his equation explicitly to demonstrate the absurdity of it all. How many time to I have to say it? It you brain dead liberals who are trying to read into it other stuff. BTW, that is straight from Frank Drake himself. SHEESH!
    For the record, I work in an area of engineering that is at the cutting edge of mathematics, because, even though I work as an engineer, I am trained as a mathematician. What part of “depending on what your are doing” don’t you understand ( or did you just do the liberal trick of seeing what you want and ignoring the data that is inconvenient)? Anyways, in most branches of mathematics, zero*inf IS a real which does not preclude it being indeterminate (confusing existence with indeterminacy looks like an example of the liberal penchant for invalid dichotomy). I use this property all the time. The fact that a number exists, even though that value is unknown, permits the employment of some very powerful theorems.
    If you bothered to read any of my other posts, I explain were the 10^-20 comes from. What part of “less then” don’t you understand? I suspect that I could have easily have said 10^-200, knowing that this number would also be larger then the actual, but I SWAGed a number that would give the benefit of the doubt to the moonbats, yet was small enough to demonstrate what I was saying. But I guess some are just too dense to understand. Seeing as you think you are such the hot mathematician, you should realize that, considering the domain we are in, this is a frigging small number, or did you suddenly forget granularity. OY! There are only 10^23 stars. That means that even given my obnoxiously large number, there would only be 10000 star systems in the entire universe with intelligent life! A more realistic number would result in less then 1. Considering the absurd misreading of my post, I suspect that the number of stars supporting intelligent life is zero.
    I don’t think you have anything to tell me about modern physics because you fail at basic science, which is predicated on the ability to accurately observe.

  214. RandomReal[],
    Regarding your post at 10:41 this morning, thank you for the links to Dr Koonin’s paper and his opinion piece. Both are interesting reading.
    It appears Dr. Koonin is going through the same type of mental exercise experienced by Jastrow and Eddington before him – trying to find a way to cling to science without mentioning the supernatural. Koonin sounds like he was very surprised (and maybe a little upset) to discover that many mutations over time did not lead to significant changes in the genome or greater complexity of life. Koonin is still clinging to a shred of hope that a modified evolutionary theory will emerge which can survive further scrutiny. You might call this future theory Darwin Plus, although he prefers Evolutionary Biology in the Light of Genomics.
    I found this quote interesting:
    For instance, recent genome sequencing of primitive animals, sea anemone and Trichoplax, revealed extensive conservation of the gene repertoire compared to mammals or birds, with the implication that the characteristic life span of an animal gene includes (at least) hundreds millions of years (84–86).
    If the genome persists unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, what does that observation do to the theory of evolution?
    I take the opposite view from Koonin. I believe the evidence discussed by Koonin shows Darwin was likely wrong and that future research will prove Darwin wrong.
    Koonin appears to be an atheist whose faith in atheism may have been shaken but he is not willing to give up on it yet. Thank you again for both articles.

  215. Tucci78,
    “I’m not trained or experienced in the theories of “pattern recognition” per se, but I’ve sure as hell gotten to see lots of “repetitive, non-random, coherent information that is highly unlikely to be created by chance” over the decades.
    Under the microscope and in the pathology laboratory particularly,”
    Funny thing Tucci, none of us saw your paper describing where they EVOLVED!!!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  216. Ron Cram says:
    August 12, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Koonin appears to be an atheist whose faith in atheism may have been shaken but he is not willing to give up on it yet.
    ——–
    Atheism is a faith only if “bald” is a hair colour 🙂

  217. John B conflates atheism with agnosticism. Atheism is every bit as much of a belief system as any religion.

  218. RandomReal[] says:
    August 12, 2011 at 10:41 am
    Thanks so much to you. I will read what you suggest.
    Your advice is excellent. In fact, I give the same advice at every opportunity. The key is to bash the analogy with experiment.
    I hope to see many more posts from you.

  219. Serves me right for posing an analogy in the knowledge that analogies are always suspect. At 11:28 AM on 12 August, mattweezer finnicks:

    Can we define “belief?” It seems we create and use tools such as micrometers and Johansson Gauges, and the such; but even though we’ve proven they work, don’t you still have to use the tool? Where I work we have to calibrate tools and even a gauge can be manufactured wrong or worn down over time. So don’t you put a little trust into that device that it is going to give you what you need (plus you have human error in everything so you are placing trust in the person doing the measurement, or if we have to the person who wrote the computer program which takes the measurement). […] …I think you will find words like trust and faith always hold a certain amount of understanding first (otherwise it is blind and possibly foolish).

    Of course you “still have to use the tool.” Neither a Jo block nor scientific method is going to do your measuring – or your thinking – for you. That’s not what they’re for, nor did I make any such implication. As for “words like trust and faith,” the proper response is “Not really.” Anybody who puts uncritical “trust” in anything or anyone – a tool or a person – is setting himself up for trouble. Maybe disaster.
    And if what he’s doing with that tool (or that person) is of importance to the health, lives, safety, or even the comfort of other people, he’s failing in his duty to those folks. That’s malpractice, plain and simple.
    In clinical medicine, too, there is always the need to calibrate and re-calibrate instruments and systems, to test and to validate the testing method, lest diagnosis and treatment go astray. I drew the analogy to simple gadgets of which most of us have either direct experience by way of high school shop classes or conceptual appreciation predicated on didactic education and/or independent reading because I kinda doubt that most folks know the nuts and bolts maintenance required to keep an arterial blood gases analyzer or a hemodialysis machine running.
    The real moral of the “chair” story, remember, is simply the old Russian proverb: “doveryai, no proveryai” (“trust, but verify”).
    Even in “shipbuilding-in-a-bottle” laparoscopic surgical procedures, we still do instrument and sponge counts. Verify, verify, verify, and even then something will slip past. I’m old enough to remember when the surgical team to which I’d been assigned had to go back into a belly to retrieve a laparotomy sponge that’d gotten tucked into the wound while the patient was being exigently (and bloodily) managed in the Emergency Department prior to getting him up on the table in the operating room.
    Ever wonder why doctors have this reputation for calm in a crisis? I suspect it’s because we’re always anticipating worst-case scenarios, something going horribly wrong. Hell, I can’t even pick up one of my infant grandchildren without making sure my hold on the kid can’t be quickly converted to a cervical-spine-protecting airway-clearing position suitable for resuscitation.
    It is therefore profoundly wrong to speak about “trust and faith” in real-world activities, particularly as they bear upon the well-being of real human beings, and that includes not only machine tooling and surgery but science, too.
    The doctor who accepts a proposition on “trust and faith” – like, for example, Dr. Wakefield’s effort to link childhood vaccinations to autism in 1998 – is failing of his professional duty to his patients. Ditto for the scientist who neglects to keep hard hold on his observational and/or experimental and analytical procedures so as to conform consistently to scientific method.
    Oh, yeah. That a dictionary reflects popular imprecision in the interpretation of a word like “belief” is nothing more than the acknowledgement of a lamentable tendency seen among large numbers of people. Might be considered a form of the argumentum ad populum fallacy. It has damn-all to do with what the word really means in scrupulously precise usage, and to assert otherwise is deliberately to defeat the purpose of language as a tool for the accurate conveyance of conceptual information.
    Key to the concept of “science” is that it does not require “a certain amount of belief,” but functions instead by doubting everything, considering every accepted proposition as susceptible to disproof if the evidence supports that contention.
    Done properly. science is self-correcting. That’s one of the reasons for my hatred of the creationists. They’re trying to screw up that self-correcting function by introducing their unquestionable Great Sky Pixie crap as if it were in any way a legitimate part of science curricula in the schools.
    In matters such as this, I tend perhaps to over-quote, but I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not only not much of an original thinker but that others before me have put their cases well. I can’t take credit for their work. With that in mind, let me plug in a careworn pull from the writings of Richard Feynman:

    Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers in the preceding generation … Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

    So much for the religious whackjobs’ incessant idiocies about citing respected scientists’ opinions on the “supernatural” as primum movens.

  220. Ron Cram,
    ” Jeff would rather put his faith in unseen natural forces than admit the laws of physics were broken at the Big Bang.”
    Mostly I agree with what you are stating. There are a couple of exceptions. This is one. It would be more correct to state that current laws of physics were not in existence at the time of the Big Bang, at least, that is how I understand the many writings of Cosmologists. They were set during the BB.
    Another issue is that finding the location of the Big Bang tends to detract from the currently accepted Cosmology. In theory every direction we “observe” from earth should show us a consistent pattern little different from any other direction. A Cosmological equality of outcomes. Being able to tell where the BB happened would conflict with this theory. Just finding that the Cosmic Background Radiation is not within very narrow limits has set up quite a bit of consternation in the community to the point that some are now claiming that the CBR is locally generated all over the universe and should not be considered as the “afterglow” of the BB. After all, it was not found in the range it was predicted anyway!!
    Here are a few explanations of the BB which seem to be congruent with current Cosmology.
    http://en.allexperts.com/q/Astronomy-1360/2008/1/big-bang-5.htm
    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=126881
    http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/980327a.html
    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?p=2473921
    In other words, finding a center for the BB would actually disprove current thinking!!!!

  221. At 1:01 PM on 12 August, kuhnkat finally decompensates completely (heck, you could see it coming, couldn’tcha?), gibbering:

    Funny thing Tucci, none of us saw your paper describing where they EVOLVED!!!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Well, there goes kuhncat, proving that if he can’t think and speak and write in a rational manner, he can always blow chunks all over the keyboard of his Amiga.
    How wonderfully evocative of the religious whackjob creationist – can we call it “intelligent design” when the proponents in the forum keep demonstrating how stupid they are? – position on life, the universe, and everything.

  222. John B says:
    August 12, 2011 at 1:42 pm
    Atheism is a faith only if “bald” is a hair colour 🙂
    Bad analogy. You are conflating a belief in something with the actual existence or nonexistence of said thing.
    No god is analogous to no hair. Atheism is analogous to a worldview of someone who grew up in a small village of bald men and who had never seen or heard of hair. Such a person could be called an ahairist.
    An atheist is analogous to an ahairist. Both are a belief system or worldview.

  223. kuhncat,
    I invite you to read the book God and the Astronomers. It is a short book and very well written. I think you will find it enlightening.

  224. John B,
    Wikipedia says “Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3] Atheism is contrasted with theism,[4][5] which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.[5][6]”
    These are all descriptions of a belief system in which God or gods do not exist.

  225. Smokey says:
    August 12, 2011 at 2:52 pm
    John B,
    Atheism is a Belief. Deal with it.
    ——————-
    Atheism is often defined as a *lack* of belief in deities, as it is in the wikipedia entry I posted. That is certainly my position. I am British, I get the impression you are American (correct me if I am wrong). I suspect the term is popularly interpreted differently in our respective cultures.

  226. Eric Anderson says:
    To take your example, if the brick falls and breaks into splinters and the splinters fall into place spelling the first half dozen lines of Shakespeare’s sonnet, then we would have a closer analogy.
    I understand that perfectly well. You missed my point that the analogy is flawed. The current biochemistry on earth is not equivalent to “Shakespeare’s sonnet”. It’s just a chance development that took place, among many other possible chance developments which just didn’t happen, but for all we know could have, and maybe do on some other planets.
    If in your mind it’s like a “work of art”, you merely perceive it that way because it’s the only one you know. Incidentally life on earth is not “perfect” even on the macroscopic scale. There are many organisms around whose design leaves a lot to be desired. That includes humans by the way. 🙂 If an engineer would redesign humans, he’d change a couple of obvious blunders.

  227. I found an interesting cosmology paper titled UNDERSTANDING OUR UNIVERSE: CURRENT STATUS AND OPEN ISSUES by T. Padmanabhan, an senior researcher in India. See
    http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/0503107v1
    While discussing questions cosmologists may face after a public lecture, he writes:
    The second question is: How (and why!) was the universe created and what happened before the big bang? The cosmologist giving the public lecture usually mumbles something about requiring a quantum gravity model to circumvent the classical singularity — but we really have no idea! String theory offers no insight; the implications of loop quantum gravity for quantum cosmology have attracted fair mount of attention recently45 but it is fair to say we still do not know how (and why) the universe came into being.
    He admits we do not know how or why the universe came into being, an important aspect of theoretical physics. Others have said it a bit differently by admitting the beginning of the universe requires a cause – the existence of something or Someone before the universe – the supernatural. I do not know Padmanabhan’s position on Intelligent Design, but current knowledge of cosmology certainly cannot rule out ID and ID certainly could be the answer to important questions.

  228. John B,
    Note that I am not getting into philosopical or religious arguments, but rather, simply clarifying definitions. Atheists have a true belief system with a faith just as strong as any religious person’s, and they proselytize just as much. An agnostic, on the other hand, just isn’t sure; more of a skeptic.

  229. Tucci78:
    Great response, though it still seems that your own definition of “faith” and “trust” are as you say ” nothing more than the acknowledgement of a lamentable tendency seen among large numbers of people.” My idea of “faith” is far from placing blind trust in someone, it implies a great understanding in fact. We as a society have faith in the scientific method because we have observed it to hold true, just as we hold 1 + 1 to equal 2. For me to use even a method of something still shows I have faith in that system because I know it to work. Faith is not devoid of fact, that is blind faith which really isn’t faith. I double and triple check my work because I don’t have complete faith everything is correct, does faith disapear when I finally do verify it?
    I actually bounced my response of someone else I know and we agreed the science in my chair experiement was in performing the observations and tests, the use of it falls more into trust, faith, philosophy, what have you. Having followed this thought I agree with you that creatinism, however much they try the scientific method, always end up in the philosophical realm with their conclusions, which I why I would never bother to call is science. I also think many of the conclusions of evolution are just as so, this article is a great example. If the “Seeds of life on Earth ” had been left off as one commenter stated, you woudn’t necessarilly have all this debate on origins, because science cannot as yet prove it. Not to say the question is wrong, it just may be better kept to oneself until science can prove it (if it can). I would like to see the school system teach less complicated science (like gravity, how cows work, chemical reactions) and leave the origin of life to philosophy for now. Let’s set the basics first.
    As a last note I would tone down on the “Great Sky Pixie crap,” just because you may not like belief in God (sorry if I assume wrong), you still may be a little more discrete and save a little face if you end up like the man opposite Lazarus. If anything you can still take from the phrase “a soft answer turns away wrath.” People don’t like name calling.
    On a lighter note someone I knew that gave the chair example actually sat in it and it fell apart, much to his shock. He should of employed a little more science into his observation of the chair before trusting it.

  230. anorak2:
    “If an engineer would redesign humans, he’d change a couple of obvious blunders.”
    And like any engineer he would miss a few things and have to go through a revision, only to realize his got a part mirrored and it doesn’t work right, so another darn engineering change notice. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  231. Smokey says:
    August 12, 2011 at 4:09 pm
    John B,
    Note that I am not getting into philosopical or religious arguments, but rather, simply clarifying definitions. Atheists have a true belief system with a faith as strong as any religious person’s, and they proselytize just as much. An agnostic, on the other hand, just isn’t sure; more of a skeptic.
    ——————–
    No, you are making up your own definitions. Wikipedia, which is at least a bit more mainstream than Smokeypedia, says “Atheism is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.[1] In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.[2] Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist.[3]”
    I go with [3] (or [1] if you will accept that rejecting a belief is not the same thing as holding the opposite belief).

  232. anorak2: “There are many organisms around whose design leaves a lot to be desired. That includes humans by the way. 🙂 If an engineer would redesign humans, he’d change a couple of obvious blunders.”
    Perhaps there are things that could be improved, but: (i) that does not mean the system was not designed, and (ii) I have seen evolutionists claiming design blunders for a long time, but never, not once, has the individual ever been able to put forth a concrete, engineering standard explanation of exactly what should be changed and how it would affect other engineering constraints. At the same time, one by one over the years the alleged design defects turn out to be either a reasonable engineering decision or downright ingenious (like the so-called backwards wiring of the eye, for example).
    The “poor design” argument fails on multiple levels.

  233. Tucci78,
    “Done properly. science is self-correcting. ”
    This is a Utopian statement. Science is done by excitable types like you also. When you are screaming at people, judging others with basis, you probably aren’t making the best judgements. Same thing happens in Science when we regular HUMANS find we have conflicting needs and desires. We do not always make the best judgements that allow Science to be self correcting. It can take generations for a perversion to work its way out, especailly if the social milieu supports that perversion.

  234. Eric Anderson says:
    August 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    The “poor design” argument fails on multiple levels.
    ————–
    It’s not “poor design” that ID propenents should have a problem with, since evolution will weedle out really bad “designs” anyway. The question I think the ID crowd have the most problem with is this: if each species were designed, why are their similarities and differences exactly what you would expect form evolutionary relationships? For example, why do all mammals have hair and all birds have feathers? If they had been designed, you might have expected a bat to have feathers. Why do arms, legs, wings and fins all have the same basi bone structure? Everywhere you look you see families of species, sharing traits with modifications exactly as if they had evolved. And now we can look at the genetic level, those relationshuips are seen even more clearly.
    So why would “the desgner” make it look so much like all life evolved from one or a few common forms (as Darwin put it)?

  235. @Eric Anderson
    Perhaps there are things that could be improved, but: (i) that does not mean the system was not designed
    You’re right. But it means we weren’t designed by an intelligent being, much less a loving, caring an omnipotent one. Have you got any suggestion for a dumb, uncaring being who could have designed us?
    and (ii) I have seen evolutionists claiming design blunders for a long time, but never, not once, has the individual ever been able to put forth a concrete, engineering standard explanation of exactly what should be changed
    The human eye, or really the the eye of all vertebrates, whose basic design is the same, because we all evolved from the same original vertebrate which was some sort of primitive fish you know *wink* *wink* 🙂
    It’s designed backwards. Having the optical nerves in front of the retina where they block some of the light, then punch a hole through the retina to allow the nerves through thus creating the famous blind spot, and then apply some crude image processing to cover up the blunder is really stupid. It’s the equivalent of a video camera with the wiring in front of the CCD chip, with extra circuitry added to remove the shadow of the wiring from the image.
    Eyes evolved several times independently, the other designs are not as stupid. But we’re stuck with the silly one.

  236. @Anorak2
    Very well put. And the real question is not whether the human eye is “good” or “bad”, but why it is the same “design” as in all other vertebrates, but different to insects, which are different to cephalopods, and so on.

  237. Anorak2,
    “If in your mind it’s like a “work of art”, you merely perceive it that way because it’s the only one you know.”
    A couple of questions please. How do you explain the accidental through random combination fo a backup system that copies and replaces damaged strands?
    How do you explain the fact that on genome controsa the expression of some features in the other genome where there are two parent contributing?
    How do you explain the interim steps when the organism is quite sensitive to damage or severely reduce in their capacity to move or whatever when one limb or organ type is changing into another? Doesn’t Evolution require a certain amount of survivability and Natural Selection that would wipe out these partial changes from random mutations?
    How do you explain that 150 Years later we do NOT see ANY transitional forms?? Actually my questions answer that question, but leave open how the heck evolution actually works.
    I am still laughing about intelligent people desperately trying to get the Punctuated Equilibrium hypothesis accepted as a replacement for the old Mutation/Survival of the Fittest hypothesis.
    Oh, and anorak2,
    whenever you are ready to present your complete, self replicating, widely adaptable, self aware design, I am sure we will all be eagerly waiting to take a look at it!!! For me, I am not quite so willing to claim something is bad if I don’t understand all the parameters that were used, why, or even if we are looking at the original!!
    Oh my, you didn’t consider that we may have DEVOLVED???
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  238. Jeff Alberts, in comments above, made statements confirming his belief in atheism regardless for what the evidence showed. Jeff would rather put his faith in unseen natural forces than admit the laws of physics were broken at the Big Bang. Without doubt, atheists come at the evidence with their own biases. Some are able to overcome them and some are not.

    Again, Ron Cram says Jeff said a lot of things that Jeff didn’t say. For the record, I have no opinion on the Big Bang. It’s never sounded right to me, but I’ve never really studied it. I’ve always thought that the laws of physics as we know them would probably have to thrown by the wayside for such a thing to happen. So, I’ll accept your apology, Ron, for your unfounded assumptions about me.

  239. John B,
    the best programmers and engineers I know do not try for unique every time they do something, that is an artist at work. Not that a great engineer can’t be a great artist also. it is simply efficiency to reuse excellent ideas and subsystem/modules. Since they are all designed to operate within the same general energy/biochemical environment, there will be similarities in the completed units. I would point out that the range of organisms we have seen from the bottom of the mines seas and thru to the atmosphere is pretty large. Why replicate basic modules of the control system that are already a work of genius/art, the double helix!! Who knows, this could be the signature of our designer!!
    8>)

  240. John B:
    “So why would “the desgner” make it look so much like all life evolved from one or a few common forms (as Darwin put it)?”
    You asked the question, one possible non-scienitific answer (for a non-scientific question) is perhaps he wanted to confuse you. Trust me you wouldn’t be the first, and I’m not the last.
    Of course science shows that bats and birds are different in many ways, even if they share some commonalitites. They operate diffrently. Why would you design a bat with feathers anyway? Seems science can at least explain that one.

  241. anorak2, you are standing out as a great example of the kind of person I was talking about. Complaining about the wiring of the eye, that’s a good one! Time to get up to speed. Go spend some time learning about how the wiring actually works, instead of repeating nonsense anti-design talking points. And as I said, those who think it is poor, including you, do not propose any kind of better solution based on actual engineering considerations. There is zero evidence that a different wiring scheme would be better, and plenty of good engineering reason for having it the way it is.
    At the end of the day, however, it is irrelevant to the question of whether it was designed. But it is another great example of the failed “poor design” argument.

  242. Jeff Alberts,
    Again, Ron Cram says Jeff said a lot of things that Jeff didn’t say. For the record, I have no opinion on the Big Bang. It’s never sounded right to me, but I’ve never really studied it. I’ve always thought that the laws of physics as we know them would probably have to thrown by the wayside for such a thing to happen. So, I’ll accept your apology, Ron, for your unfounded assumptions about me.
    I apologize for offending you. It was not intentional. In the midst of a conversation about the Big Bang, I mentioned that agnostic NASA astrophysicists were forced to the conclusion the supernatural was at work. You replied “If you have to resort to the supernatural (e.g. “god”) it simply means you don’t have enough information.”

  243. John B,
    Regarding atheism, you write:
    I go with [3] (or [1] if you will accept that rejecting a belief is not the same thing as holding the opposite belief).
    No one has ever lived without some kind of a worldview. Some worldviews are not very well strong or do not strongly guide one’s actions. A belief in God or gods is one strong worldview (or can be). Billy Graham was strongly guided by his belief in God. Atheism, a belief that God or gods do not exist is another strong worldview (or can be). Madelyn Murray O’hair was strongly guided by her atheism. Agnostics actually have two possible outlooks: one is they simply do not know if God exists (not a strong worldview because people rarely reorder their lives based on not knowing); a second is view it is not possible to know if God exists (a strong worldview). If an agnostic holds the second position, they may feel entitled to judge both Christians and Atheists as being gullible or stupid.
    Atheism is definitely a strong worldview or faith.

  244. anorak2 says:
    August 12, 2011 at 4:01 pm
    I understand that perfectly well. You missed my point that the analogy is flawed. The current biochemistry on earth is not equivalent to “Shakespeare’s sonnet”.
    The current biochemistry on earth is many, many times more complicated (contains more information) than a sonnet by Shakespeare. If you had read the article I linked to above about scientists “creating” artificial life, you would have read that when one letter out of a million was out of place in the artificial DNA – then it didn’t work. And we were just talking about the DNA portion. The DNA portion then had to be transplanted into a living cell with all of its constituent structures (cell membranes, cytoplasm, etc).

  245. Ron Cram says:
    August 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm
    I apologize for offending you. It was not intentional. In the midst of a conversation about the Big Bang, I mentioned that agnostic NASA astrophysicists were forced to the conclusion the supernatural was at work. You replied “If you have to resort to the supernatural (e.g. “god”) it simply means you don’t have enough information.”

    You misunderstand. I wasn’t offended, I just don’t appreciate having words placed in my mouth when I didn’t say them.
    I still stand by my statement. The philosophical views of agnostics, whether astrophysicists or otherwise, are irrelevant to the facts.

  246. @Kuhnkat and others
    All the creationist canards (no transitional fossils, intermediates would be unviable, homochirality, all the rest) have been dealt with a thousand times. Sure, there are gaps in our knowledge, but not one gap for which “design” has been the best answer. For a list of answers to creationist claims, kind of like a “skepticalscience” for evolution, try here:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/
    Bring on the flames…

  247. Eric Anderson says:
    And as I said, those who think it is poor, including you, do not propose any kind of better solution based on actual engineering considerations.
    Put the nerves behind the retina of course.
    There is zero evidence that a different wiring scheme would be better, and plenty of good engineering reason for having it the way it is.
    The debate is not about how good it works. It’s about if the vertebrate eye was designed by an intelligent being.
    At the end of the day, however, it is irrelevant to the question of whether it was designed.
    No it isn’t, it’s highly relevant. An intelligent engineer wouldn’t do that: First make a bad choice for the wiring and then come up with an adjustment to his original blunder. An engineer would avoid the bad choice from the beginning. The fact that our eye is designed so bizarrely is strong evidence that it developed from a series of trials & errors, not organised planning.

  248. mattweezer says:
    “So why would “the desgner” make it look so much like all life evolved from one or a few common forms (as Darwin put it)?”
    You asked the question, one possible non-scienitific answer (for a non-scientific question) is perhaps he wanted to confuse you.

    If you want to assume all natural phenomena to be a smoke screen put up wilfully to be impenetrable to human understanding, you can as well give up rational thought and go right to superstition. Go right ahead and do it, it’s a self consistent world view that cannot be rationally refuted.
    The only argument against it is that it’s a wilflul departure into cultural and mental immaturity, everything that we have overcome since the age of enlightenment, which has done endless good to us, both materially and culturally.

  249. @John B & Kuhnkat
    All the creationist canards (no transitional fossils, intermediates would be unviable, homochirality, all the rest) have been dealt with a thousand times.
    I didn’t understand most of Kuhnkat’s questions directed at me, so I skipped the answer. Could anyone (Kuhnkat or someone else) please rephrase them?
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/
    Oh yes, talk.origins. Is that still around? Excellent FAQ.

  250. Having already proven that he’s not sane (what other kind of critter does the online equivalent of maniacal “HAHAHA…” gibbering?), now at 5:47 PM on 12 August we find kuhnkat responding to my observation that “Done properly, science is self-correcting” with further divergence from sanity:

    This is a Utopian statement. Science is done by excitable types like you also. When you are screaming at people, judging others with basis, you probably aren’t making the best judgements. Same thing happens in Science when we regular HUMANS find we have conflicting needs and desires. We do not always make the best judgements that allow Science to be self correcting. It can take generations for a perversion to work its way out, especailly if the social milieu supports that perversion.

    How is science – “done properly” – not self-correcting? From kuhncat: “blank out.”
    The noise made by kuhncat and his fellow religious whackjobs in this forum when confronted by the straightforward adherence to reason and what writer George H. Smith (1976) characterized as “the habit of reasonableness” on the subject of theism has been the rejection of reason combined with the recitation of formulae which appear to have been milled by the creationist priests of the “intelligent design” cult in much the same way that we observe scientifically illiterate AGW True Believers” regurgitating propaganda fabricated by online charlatans like Joe Romm and refusing real engagement in logical argumentation.
    F’rinstance, in that contemptible scrawl from kuhncat recapitulated above, we have six sentences of squalling unreason that support nothing that any reasonable reader could receive as anything except evidence that kuhncat is really, really angry at me. Probably feels threatened, the poor yutz.
    Not without good reason, of course. I’ve got his number, he knows it, and it’s driving him bugnuts.
    The reasonable person, literate in science as kuhncat keeps demonstrating that he really is not, knows that there’s nothing of scientific method that admits of emotion. The process of scientific investigation has been, in fact, devised deliberately to minimize (ideally, to eliminate) the effects of such emotional loading as critters like kuhncat are demonstrating in this forum. The purpose is the ensure as much of an unprejudiced and dispassionate approach to the particular subject under examination as can be managed.
    This is one of the reasons – perhaps the most important reason – why theism and a fixation on the “supernatural” are incompatible with science. Indeed, “done properly” science simply disregards concerns such as those of our religious whackjobs in this discussion. The “supernatural” is no more a primary concern of science than is the artistic concept of “beauty.”
    And that gets us back to the reason why the aggressive political designs of religious whackjobs like kuhncat and his fellow creationist clowns gibbering and capering in this venue must be condemned and opposed.
    It’s not simply that their peculiar form of unsanity is execrable. kuhncat has the perfect right to go to hell in his own personal handbasket, and it looks as if he’s there already. What neither he nor his co-religionists have, however, is the right to impose their unsanity coercively – by way of government thuggery – upon other people.
    The whole purpose of this “intelligent design” religious jerking-off is political, to induce government schools to incorporate creationism (doesn’t matter whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, animist [“it’s turtles all the way down!”] or Satanist [“and when you get to the bottom, you’ll find our Dark Lord waiting for you, ha-ha!”]) as part of the science curriculum.
    The reasonable reader – as well as the religiously unsane, like kuhncat – know full well the results of this malignant political effort, if allowed to go forward. Children and adolescents condemned to suffer the comprachico indoctrination of government schooling will emerge with a debilitated and wrongful understanding of what science is and how it works.
    As I’ve said, it’s not simply that aggressive religious whackjobs like this kuhncat clown seek to have their Great Sky Pixie indoctrination rammed down kids’ throats at taxpayer expense but that they wish to impose upon scientific thought a degree of fundamental debilitation rendering it much more difficult for people in these United States to perceive the difference between reason and unreason.
    In this, kuhncat is proving himself to be morally equivalent to the AGW fraudsters. Heck, precisely equivalent. To the extent that the god premise is without objective proof, it has to be considered in the same light as the AGW contention, and dismissed by scrupulously reasonable scientifically literate people on the same basis.
    Hm. Is kuhncat also a warmista? Don’t recall, but it wouldn’t surprise me none.
    By the bye, just for lagniappe, the position of atheism is not predicated on any form of belief, but on the exact opposite of belief – the insistence upon verifiable evidence before accepting an assertion of fact. The “supernatural” being by definition devoid of such verifiable evidence, the whole of that category must be accepted on the basis of unfounded credulity, and the incredulous – the nonbeliever – simply and honestly reject it as “not proven.”
    No “belief system” involved. Really seems to fry the clabbered oatmeal between the ears of religious whackjobs like the contemptible kuhncat, doesn’t it?

  251. Ah, the “bad design” argument. Another classic. This argument is religious in nature. Those making it conflate bad design and no design. They justify it with a presumption that the designer is perfect. This is a presumption based on a belief about the nature of the designer. The belief has no empirical rationale behind it.
    The more often-used canard is the Problem of Evil which has vexed philosphers and theologians for thousands of years i.e. why would a loving and caring God allow evil to exist. Intelligent design doesn’t speak to this problem. It makes no conclusions about the nature or intent of the intelligent agency. Maybe our universe is a forgotten science fair project in the basement of some really advanced intelligent agent who has since moved on the other projects. The bottom line remains one of assessing law and chance and making an inference to what is reasonably possible for law and chance to accomplish given a finite universe.
    The hallmark of intelligent agency is exceeding improbable things happening in routine succession. For instance it is not impossible for a spacecraft that can carry men into space and return them safely to be formed by law and chance alone. The odds however make it so unlikely we very righty assume that when we encounter such a craft it there was intelligent agency involved. The probability is explained by comparing the number of arrangements of matter that can perform a certain function to the number of arrangements that cannot perform the function. In this case there are far more arrangements of the atoms in a spacecraft that will not produce a working craft than there are arrangements that do. So many more that given a finite number of opportunities for law and chance alone to make a working arrangement is absurd in our finite universe.
    Determining the probability for law and chance to accomplish something versus the ability of intelligent agency to produce very improbable outcomes is the basis for all forensic sciences. A flint might splinter in the shape of an arrowhead but where you find many of them close together all very similar to each other you rightly expect intelligent agency was involved. It’s all a matter of assessing the odds just like you assess the odds in a game of chance to determine if there was cheating involved. At some point “luck” or “chance” becomes an unreasonable explanation. There are many things in the nature of the universe ranging from finely tuned laws and physical constants that allow it to exist in the first place to the complexity of the molecular machinery and information processing systems in even the simplest living cells that makes law and chance alone appear to be an unreasonable explanation.

  252. Intelligent design does not dispute common descent. Neither does it require a designer that is still around today nor one that has stuck around and tinkered with the design along the way. Indeed it appears to be the case that all the information in the universe today was extant at the instant of the big bang. If the universe is a closed system then by the laws of thermodynamics there cannot be more order in it today than there was at any time in the past. It may only become less ordered. This is required by the law of entropy which has not been overturned as far as I know. So all the complexity, all the thoughts and dreams and aspirations of 6 billion human minds was woven into the fabric of the universe at the instant when it was born.
    One might justifiably question whether it’s reasonable to view that initial tapestry as an accidental happenstance as purely the result of law and chance alone.

  253. Tucci78 says:
    August 12, 2011 at 10:43 am
    “I’m still inclined to go with Smith’s wager”
    That’s because you haven’t thought through the risk/reward inherent in the wager.
    What are you risking and what’s the payoff?
    Try Pascal’s Wager instead. It has a much better risk/reward ratio.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal%27s_Wager

    Pascal’s Wager (or Pascal’s Gambit) is a suggestion posed by the French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal that even if the existence of God could not be determined through reason, a rational person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose. Pascal formulated his suggestion uniquely on the God of Jesus Christ as implied by the greater context of his Pensées, a posthumously published collection of notes made by Pascal in his last years as he worked on a treatise on Christian apologetics. The Wager was set out in note 233 of this work.
    Following his argument establishing the Wager, Pascal addressed the possibility that some people may not be willing to sincerely believe in God even after acknowledging the enormous benefit of betting in favor of God’s existence. In this case, he advises them to live as though they had faith, which may subvert their irrational passions and lead them to genuine belief.
    Following the publication of Pascal’s Wager, some have argued that the Wager may also apply to conceptions of God within different religious traditions or belief systems, and as such has been used in traditions other than Christianity, such as Islam. Historically, Pascal’s Wager was groundbreaking because it charted new territory in probability theory, was one of the first attempts to make use of the concept of infinity, marked the first formal use of decision theory, and anticipated future philosophies such as existentialism, pragmatism, and voluntarism.

  254. Ron Cram says:
    August 12, 2011 at 9:33 am
    “JimG,
    You write:
    An eternal universe does NOT obviate the necessity of a God and I continue to believe He wants us to continue to grow by making the search go on.
    If you are saying we need to continue the search for scientific truth, I fully agree. Was there something I said that made you think I would not agree?”
    No, but your book citation seemed to indicate that without a proof of a beginning, as in the big bang, God was not necessary to the equation. My point is that the perfection of physical laws in their minute details, though not a scientific proof, leads a logical mind to believe in God unless one accepts the anthropomorphic principal, which is not scientific at all.

  255. Ron Cram says:
    August 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Myrrh,
    You write:
    Ron – as I see it, the ID has come out of the Western Christian tradition via the arguments within that tradition which resulted in the creation of Atheists.
    I don’t think this is correct. As I see, the beginnings of ID came from the confirmation of the Big Bang and its leading proponents were Robert Jastrow and his contemporaries, almost all of them agnostic or atheists. More recently, this thinking has been embraced by William Dembski, Michael Behe and others who have brought their own insights to the hypothesis.

    Good grief! There’s so much being said here that is patently wrong.
    The “Argument from Design” saw the light of day (at least in writing) 500 years before the birth of Christ.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleological_argument#Classical_and_early_Christian_writers

    According to Xenophon, Socrates (c. 469-399 B.C.) argued that the adaptation of human parts to one another, such as the eyelids protecting the eyeballs, could not have been due to chance and was a sign of wise planning in the universe.[5]
    Plato (c. 427–c. 347 B.C.) posited a “demiurge” of supreme wisdom and intelligence as the creator of the cosmos in his work Timaeus. Plato’s teleological perspective is also built upon the analysis of a priori order and structure in the world that he had already presented in The Republic.
    Aristotle (c. 384–322 B.C.) argued that all nature reflects inherent purposiveness and direction. In his Metaphysics, he demonstrated the existence of God, not a creator (for Aristotle the cosmos always existed) but as a “Prime Mover” who kept nature in motion. He described the prime mover as ‘self-thinking thought,” but believed that it did not lower itself to consider nature or relate to human beings.
    Cicero (c. 106–c. 43 B.C.) presented an early teleological argument in De Natura Deorum (On the Nature of the Gods). He stated, “The divine power is to be found in a principle of reason that pervades the whole of nature”.
    “When you see a sundial or a water-clock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers?” (Cicero, De Natura Deorum, ii. 34).

    The argument was famously restated about 200 years ago by William Paley in The Watchmaker argument. Poorer students of history, as opposed to the abysmally ignorant who don’t know Paley from Picasso, attribute the argument from design to Paley. In point of fact Cicero made the first watchmaker argument before the birth of Christ.
    Modern science has done nothing to weaken the argument. Pundits of an accidental universe call it an illusion of design. Unfortunately for them the way that illusions work out is they are revealed as illusion upon closer examination. In all scientific inquiry into the universe, at both the smallest and largest scales, the so-called illusion of design does not disappear. The intricate machinery in living cells that requires an electron microscope to resolve is so complex that it still defies the ability of our supercomputers to tease out how it works. As we looked to the edge of the observable cosmos we found recently that Einstein’s cosmological constant, which Einstein called the biggest blunder of his life, actually does exist. Einstein (eventually) concluded that its value was zero and should be dropped out of the equation. Further inquiry, within the past twenty years, has discovered that it isn’t quite zero but is rather 0.0000000000000000000000000000001. Moreover any tiny deviation in that exquisitely tiny number would result in universe that either expanded so fast that stars and galaxies could not form or collapsed back in on itself so quickly that stars and galaxies could not form.
    The more we learn from science the stronger the design argument becomes. The so-called illusion just won’t disappear no matter how closely it is examined.

  256. John B says:
    August 13, 2011 at 1:28 am
    @Ron Cram
    My worldview can best be summed up as “I don’t know, and neither do you”
    That seems to put you squarely in the “It’s not possible to know” side of the agnostic camp. My only question is “How do you know?” Seriously. Isn’t it possible someone else may have information you don’t have?

  257. JimG,
    You write:
    No, but your book citation seemed to indicate that without a proof of a beginning, as in the big bang, God was not necessary to the equation.
    I see what you mean. No, I think there are many evidences for God, but for people with scientific minds the proof the universe had a beginning was enough to convince even agnostics and atheists.

  258. Jeff Alberts says:
    August 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm
    I still stand by my statement. The philosophical views of agnostics, whether astrophysicists or otherwise, are irrelevant to the facts.
    But the quotes I provided by Jastrow, Eddington and others were not philosophical statements, but statements of theoretical physics.

  259. Ron Cram says:
    August 13, 2011 at 8:35 am

    John B says:
    August 13, 2011 at 1:28 am
    @Ron Cram
    My worldview can best be summed up as “I don’t know, and neither do you”

    That seems to put you squarely in the “It’s not possible to know” side of the agnostic camp. My only question is “How do you know?” Seriously. Isn’t it possible someone else may have information you don’t have?

    Again, Ron, you’re attributing statements to people that they didn’t make.
    If someone says “I don’t know”, that in no way means “It’s not possible to know”. It also in no way means something supernatural must be the cause.

  260. Jeff Alberts says:
    August 13, 2011 at 8:55 am
    Again, Ron, you’re attributing statements to people that they didn’t make.
    If someone says “I don’t know”, that in no way means “It’s not possible to know”. It also in no way means something supernatural must be the cause.
    Jeff, he said “I don’t know, and neither do you.” Now, either he thinks I am incapable of knowing or he thinks it is not possible to know. I chose to understand his statement in the least offensive form possible. If he was intending to offend me and not all of mankind, he can make that clear in his next comment.

  261. @Ron Cram
    I didn’t mean that you nor I know nothing at all. I meant that I don’t know anything about God, the ultimate origin of the universe or anything supernatural, and neither do you. You might have made up some story that helps you sleep at night, but that is all it is, unless you have some evidence to the contrary.
    What helps me sleep at night is that all the evidence points to me being a member of an evolved, social species and that it therefore makes me feel good to do things that are good for my children, family, friends and the species. I accept that many (maybe most) people harbour supernatural thoughts, which makes me sad but doesn’t make we want to do them harm, except when those thoughts lead them to stupid acts like flying planes into skyscrapers.
    All of which has little to do with nucleobases on meteorites 🙂

  262. John B,
    But you did not answer the question. It seems clear you do not think God is knowable or that it is even possible to know if God exists.
    I’m wondering how you came to this conclusion? Have you ever examined the question in a systematic way? Ever studied the texts of world religions? Ever studied the lives of people who claim to know God personally? Ever studied the claims of Jesus Christ or the historical evidence he rose from the grave?
    It is one thing to say “I don’t know.” Not knowing things is part of the human condition. There are plenty of things I don’t know. But to say “I don’t know, and neither do you.” Well, that kind of statement indicates you have studied the question in detail. Have you? If so, please tell me what you have studied.

  263. Demonstrating that you can put a reference right to hellangone in front of religionists with the expectation that they won’t hit the frelkin’ link, at 7:54 AM on 13 August, Dave Springer writes in response to my inclination to go with Smith’s wager(1976):

    That’s because you haven’t thought through the risk/reward inherent in the wager.
    What are you risking and what’s the payoff?
    Try Pascal’s Wager instead. It has a much better risk/reward ratio.

    Nope. For the benefit of Mr. Springer and others who don’t seem to know how to use a “hotlink,” let me quote a greater length from the source cited:

    As one final argument or satire on an argument, you may have heard of Pascal’s wager at some point. Blaise Pascal was the famous French mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He came up with this argument which consequently became quite famous, which went something as follows. Reason can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. Weigh the odds. If the atheist is correct, we’re going to die, nothing will happen, and nothing is lost. But if the Christian is correct, the nonbelievers are going to believe in Hell for eternity. So it seems like the practical odds would lie with Christianity. We would wager on Christianity because the practical odds are so important. If you wager on Christianity and there is no god, you don’t lose anything.
    The first obvious problem with this is it completely shoves aside the whole issue of intellectual integrity, as if you can just do a complete turn-about in your beliefs willy-nilly without suffering any psychological damage, which simply isn’t possible. It would require such a gross miscarriage of intellectual integrity to do this kind of thing that it’s inconceivable that someone with Pascal’s kind of mind would even offer it.
    But I want to offer you a kind of counter-wager, called the “Smith’s wager.” Here are the premises of my wager:
    1. The existence of a god, if we are to believe in it, can only be established through reason.
    2. Applying the canons of correct reasoning to theistic belief, we must reach the conclusion that theism is unfounded and must be rejected by rational people.
    Now comes the question, “But what if reason is wrong in this case?”, which it sometimes is. We are fallible human beings. What if it turns out that there is a Christian god and He’s up there and He’s going to punish for eternity for disbelieving in Him. Here’s where my wager comes in. Let’s suppose you’re an atheist. What are the possibilities? The first possibility is there is no god, you’re right. In that case, you’ll die, that’ll be it, you’ve lost nothing, and you’ve lived a happy life with the correct position. Secondly, a god may exist but he may not be concerned with human affairs. He may be the god of traditional Deism. He may have started the universe going and left it to its traditional devices, in which case you will simply die, that is all there is to it, again, and you’ve lost nothing.
    Let’s suppose that God exists and He is concerned with human affairs — He’s a personal god — but that He is a just god. He’s concerned with justice. If you have a just god, he could not possibly punish an honest error of belief where there is no moral turpitude or no wrongdoing involved. If this god is a creator god and He gave us reason as the basic means of understanding our world, then He would take pride in the conscientious and scrupulous use of reason the part of His creatures, even if they committed errors from time to time, in the same way a benevolent father would take pride in the accomplishments of his son, even if the son committed errors from time to time. Therefore, if there exists a just god, we have absolutely nothing to fear from such a god. Such a god could not conceivably punish us for an honest error of belief.
    Now we came to the last possibility. Suppose there exists an unjust god, specifically the god of Christianity, who doesn’t give a damn about justice and who will burn us in Hell, regardless of whether we made honest mistakes or not. Such a god is necessarily unjust, for there is no more heinous injustice we could conceive of, than to punish a person for an honest error of belief, when he has tried to the best of his ability to ascertain the truth. The Christian thinks he’s in a better position in case this kind of god exists. I wish to point out that he’s not in any better position than we are because if you have an unjust god. The earmark of injustice is unprincipled behavior, behavior that’s not predictable. If there’s an unjust god and He really gets all this glee out of burning sinners and disbelievers, then what could give him more glee than to tell Christians they would be saved, only to turn around and burn them anyway, for the Hell of it, just because he enjoys it? If you’ve got an unjust god, what worst injustice could there be than that? It’s not that far-fetched. If a god is willing to punish you simply for an honest error of belief, you can’t believe He’s going to keep his word when He tells you He won’t punish you if you don’t believe in Him because He’s got to have a sadistic streak to begin with. Certainly He would get quite a bit of glee out of this behavior. Even if there exists this unjust god, then admittedly we live in a nightmarish universe, but we’re in no worse position than the Christian is.
    Again, if you’re going to make the wager, you might as well wager on what your reason tells you, that atheism is correct, and go that route because you won’t be able to do anything about an unjust god anyway, even if you accept Christianity. My wager says that you should in all cases wager on reason and accept the logical consequence, which in this case is atheism. If there’s no god, you’re correct; if there’s an indifferent god, you won’t suffer; if there’s a just god, you have nothing to fear from the honest use of your reason; and if there’s an unjust god, you have much to fear but so does the Christian.

    Mr. Springer will recognize the last paragraph as having been quoted in my post of 10:43 AM on 12 August.
    So thanks, Mr. Springer, but I came into this discussion with an appreciation of Pascal’s wager, and when I made mention of Smith’s rejoinder thereunto (see his Atheism: The Case Against God, 1979, in which “Smith’s wager” is recapitulated) it was to spike the intellectually untenable nonsense of Pascal’s wager in anticipation of some religious whackjob bringing it up.

  264. I’ll tell you what, Ron. Give me your top 10 reasons for believing God exists from this list, then we’ll talk:
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm
    But seriously, are you of the “my religion is right, the others are all wrong” school? As in, if Jesus was the son of God, then all other religions that don’t accept this are worshipping the wrong guy. Or, are you of the “all religions are valid ways to know god” school? Or maybe the “even atheism is a religion” school? You see, religionists can be slippery customers, as whatever flavour of God one argues against the existence of, they will say “oh no, that’s not my God, of course I don’t believe in creationism/resurrection/Hell/diviene conception/virgins for martyrs/whatever”. In other words, you’ll have to give me something to go on.

  265. Sorry, but this one made me laugh out loud:
    121. ARGUMENT FROM PERSECUTION (II)
    (1) Jesus said that people would make fun of Christians.
    (2) I am an idiot.
    (3) People often point that out.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.

  266. At 11:25 AM on 12 August, the morally degenerate and intellectually contemptible Eric Anderson evades address of points made in my post at 4:29 AM on the same date, writing nothing more than:

    Exhibit A. Thanks for proving my point.

    …so I’ll shove the flamethrower all the way up this sphincter by recapitulating much of what these religious whackjobs are ducking. Let’s begin with a specific paragraph that Mr. Anderson is sliming away from:
    Whether the “religious conspiracy” behind the aggressively coercive political effort to degrade the teaching of scientific method by passing off your Great Sky Pixie hokum as part of the government educationalist gulags’ science curricula is “evil” or not is a wonderfully fit subject for discussion, however. I’ll take the “affirmative” side in that debate, and with gusto.
    Readers here will take note that I’ve brought this point up repeatedly in this forum, including at 5:52 AM on 13 August, where I’d written:
    The whole purpose of this “intelligent design” religious jerking-off is political, to induce government schools to incorporate creationism (doesn’t matter whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, animist [“it’s turtles all the way down!”] or Satanist [“and when you get to the bottom, you’ll find our Dark Lord waiting for you, ha-ha!”]) as part of the science curriculum.
    The reasonable reader – as well as the religiously unsane… – know full well the results of this malignant political effort, if allowed to go forward. Children and adolescents condemned to suffer the comprachico indoctrination of government schooling will emerge with a debilitated and wrongful understanding of what science is and how it works.
    …it’s not simply that aggressive religious whackjobs … seek to have their Great Sky Pixie indoctrination rammed down kids’ throats at taxpayer expense but that they wish to impose upon scientific thought a degree of fundamental debilitation rendering it much more difficult for people in these United States to perceive the difference between reason and unreason.
    Got that folks? This is the objective behind all of this “intelligent design” garbage, and this is what all of the religious whackjobs polluting this Web site are sweating and squirming and weaseling to avoid addressing.
    Don’t let ’em get away with it.

  267. Tucci78 quotes:
    August 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm
    “As one final argument or satire on an argument, you may have heard of Pascal’s wager at some point. Blaise Pascal was the famous French mathematician, philosopher, and theologian. He came up with this argument which consequently became quite famous, which went something as follows. Reason can’t prove or disprove the existence of God. Weigh the odds. If the atheist is correct, we’re going to die, nothing will happen, and nothing is lost. But if the Christian is correct, the nonbelievers are going to believe in Hell for eternity. So it seems like the practical odds would lie with Christianity. We would wager on Christianity because the practical odds are so important. If you wager on Christianity and there is no god, you don’t lose anything.”
    Tucci, I am much impressed with your noble efforts in defense of your position. However, on Pascal’s wager, you want to read William James’ “The Will to Believe” (1896) in which he explains that Pascal’s argument works only for people who hold belief in God as what he calls a “live option.” James’ address is available for free all over the internet.

  268. At 2:57 PM on 13 August, after recapitulating the first paragraph of my most recent draw from George H. Smith’s 1976 speech “How to Defend Atheism,” Theo Goodwin writes:

    I am much impressed with your noble efforts in defense of your position. However, on Pascal’s wager, you want to read William James’ “The Will to Believe” (1896) in which he explains that Pascal’s argument works only for people who hold belief in God as what he calls a “live option.” James’ address is available for free all over the internet.

    or the sake of economy, Theo, be advised that William James’ effort was addressed in Smith’s Atheism: The Case Against God (1979), previously cited. See page 185, where it reads in part:

    In his famous essay, “The Will to Believe,” William James presents a voluntaristic theory of faith that is modeled after Pascal’s wager in some respects, although it is more thoroughly argued. Also, unlike Pascal, James appeals to happiness in this life rather than in an afterlife as the primary motive of belief.
    “The Will to Believe,” states the author, is “an essay in justification of faith, a defence of our right to adopt a believing attitude in religious matters, in spite of the fact that our merely logical intellect may not have been coerced.” In other words, James contends that some propositions are worthy of belief even though the evidence in their favor is insufficient to compel our rational assent.

    You want I should look the book up on Amazon.com for you? It’s still in print, and they’ve got it in stock. The Kindle version is available for direct download, only $9.59.
    Now, inasmuch as James’ contention “is insufficient to compel our rational assent” per Smith’s assessment, and I concur, just why d’you think that going back and reading William James’ “The Will to Believe” yet another time is going to change my position on this subject?
    It hasn’t yet.

  269. JohnB,
    I see you still haven’t answered my question. But it appears you promise to answer mine if I answer yours first. Okay. By the way, I don’t think these arguments prove absolutely the existence of God, but I do think they show why it is reasonable for a well-informed and rational person to believe in God.
    First, I would say it is rational to believe in the existence of God because the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang. The beginning indicates there has to be a Cause, the Supernatural – an actor who is above the laws of physics. Even atheist and agnostic astrophysicists have agreed to this point, even though it was “repugnant” to them. Prior to the confirmation of the Big Bang, the Cosmological argument did not have much power because some embraced the position the universe always existed. We now know that is not true. But this argument does not tell us much about the nature of God, except that he is big and he likes color and variety. We need more.
    Second, it is rational to believe in God because life does not come from non-life. The matter of timescales is unimportant. Whether in a short time or long time, life cannot spawn from non-life. To believe it does is the same as believing in fairy tales. There is no evidence to support such a belief. So, it is reasonable to believe in a Life-giver. This argument tells us a little more about the nature of this supernatural being, his love for living things and his ability to plan for their needs. This points us to the next argument.
    Third, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Botany. Food producing plants and trees have one main purpose, to produce food. There are lots of plants and trees which do not produce food which survive and propagate the species. But consider food producing trees – apple, orange, apricot, plum and thousands more. Why? If trees evolved, wouldn’t the trees just be concerned with their own survival? It is rational to believe fruit bearing trees, vines, vegetables, etc are the design of the intelligent designer to provide food for his creatures. This tells us a little more about the Designer, that he cares for his creation.
    Fourth, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Genomics. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2651812/pdf/gkp089.pdf As you read this paper, written by an atheist, you will see he is grasping at straws to redefine neo-Darwinism. Genomics has taken us into the post-neo-Darwin era. There is a vast difference in genome organization between these different organisms. I especially like when he discusses “the fallacy of evolutionary progress.” The author is proposing a series of biological “big bangs” which shake up the “Tree of Life” each time. As far as I can tell, he has not proposed any mechanism by which these “big bangs” come. To me, his ideas look like a grasping at straws to maintain a belief in atheism. It is far more reasonable to accept the fact that evolution does not provide “progress” or increase the complexity of life.
    Fifth, it is reasonable to believe in God because he has acted in human history. The most telling and powerful action is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most well-attested event in ancient history. Do you believe Julius Caesar visited Britain? There is far more evidence of Jesus rising from the dead than there is that Caesar ever lived. Several people, including CS Lewis and Lee Strobel, attempted to prove that Jesus never rose from the grave. Instead, their study convinced them to become Christians. If Christ rose from the grave, then this tells us very much about the nature of God.
    Sixth, it is reasonable to believe in God because I have a personal relationship with him.
    BTW, my favorite from your link was #625:
    C.S. LEWIS’ ARGUMENT FROM LOVE AND HUMAN KINDNESS
    (1) Humans can love and be kind to each other.
    (2) This doesn’t make sense in the nasty world of survival of the fittest.
    (3) The only possible source for love and kindness is God.
    (4) Therefore, God exists.
    That’s actually not bad. Okay, your turn.

  270. Ron Cram says:
    August 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Third, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Botany. Food producing plants and trees have one main purpose, to produce food. There are lots of plants and trees which do not produce food which survive and propagate the species. But consider food producing trees – apple, orange, apricot, plum and thousands more. Why? If trees evolved, wouldn’t the trees just be concerned with their own survival? It is rational to believe fruit bearing trees, vines, vegetables, etc are the design of the intelligent designer to provide food for his creatures. This tells us a little more about the Designer, that he cares for his creation.

    —————
    Hi Ron, I will try and answer your whole post tomorrow, but right now it is nearly 2am in the UK, and I need my beauty sleep. So I’ll just take the point above…
    Surely, you cannot be serious! Fruit trees produce fruit so that animals will eat them, and then excrete the seeds some distance away with a nice little packet of fertiliser. Of couse, evolution does not really do things with a plan in mind, but the “purpose” of fruit is effectively what I wrote, i.e. to be eaten in order to disseminate seeds. Do you get it? Fruits contain seeds, fruits evolved to be attractive to animals, the animals eat the fruits, the animals distribute the seeds, the animals excrete the seeds, the seeds germinate, the seeds produce new plants. I learnt that at school. Didn’t you?

  271. JohnB,
    yes, all of the claims from both side have been dealt with interminably by both sides and outsides. In the end, there is no Scientific Evidence for evolution that you or anyone else can present, just the same kind of speculation that Darwin presented, but, based on more extremely advanced information compared to his knowledge base.
    You didn’t include the issue with one parents genes controls the expression of the others. Could this be an issue that has NOT been dealt with. I believe genetics has offered a couple of others if you have a good link where that one is reasonably dealt with.

  272. Anorak2,
    while I am obviously not the most gifted communicator or writer, I believe my questions are rather straight forward. I would suggest you research the areas in detail and possibly learn something. Who knows, you may find I missed something or am simply wrong and can point that out for a WIN!!

  273. Tucci78,
    You have apparently run out of talking points. Your last response to me had nothing on the subject, only on your low opinion of those different or disagreeing with you.
    That would seem to be the end of the discussion. You have lost through withdrawal.

  274. Theo Goodwinn,
    unfortunately the wager is biased to the beliefs of the person making the wager. It is often characterized as a “What have yo got to lose” argument. Well, for people who enjoy murdering, philandering, theft, lying (presumably to gain something), and don’t want to waste their time bowing to God…, there is a lifetime of enjoyment to lose with no guarantee that they will get anything after death. For many people there is only NOW whether it is this minute, hour, day, year…, they cannot, or will not, see the possibilities of later.
    If the person is already in tune with the morality and way of life, and only needs to express a belief, then it would seem to be a slam dunk!!

  275. John B,
    Fruits contain seeds, fruits evolved to be attractive to animals, the animals eat the fruits, the animals distribute the seeds, the animals excrete the seeds, the seeds germinate, the seeds produce new plants. I learnt that at school. Didn’t you?
    Yes, I did learn that in school and I rejected it. It is nonsensical to me. I simply cannot wrap my head around how fruits would “evolve to be attractive to animals.” How could the tree possibly know if a given mutation made the fruit more attractive or less attractive to animals?
    My professors were never able to answer that question. If you have an answer, I would love to hear it.

  276. At 6:29 PM on 13 August, demonstrating that he’s not only unsane but a liar, kuhnkat evades my post of 5:52 AM today (see link), weaseling like the morally and mentally incompetent jerk he’s always been:

    You have apparently run out of talking points. Your last response to me had nothing on the subject, only on your low opinion of those different or disagreeing with you.
    That would seem to be the end of the discussion. You have lost through withdrawal.

    Only in your own diseased little excuse for a mind, schmucklet. Just so your stench can be made even more obvious, let me recap a bit of what you’re running away from:

    The reasonable person, literate in science as kuhncat keeps demonstrating that he really is not, knows that there’s nothing of scientific method that admits of emotion. The process of scientific investigation has been, in fact, devised deliberately to minimize (ideally, to eliminate) the effects of such emotional loading as critters like kuhncat are demonstrating in this forum. The purpose is to ensure as much of an unprejudiced and dispassionate approach to the particular subject under examination as can be managed.
    This is one of the reasons – perhaps the most important reason – why theism and a fixation on the “supernatural” are incompatible with science. Indeed, “done properly” science simply disregards concerns such as those of our religious whackjobs in this discussion. The “supernatural” is no more a primary concern of science than is the artistic concept of “beauty.”
    And that gets us back to the reason why the aggressive political designs of religious whackjobs like kuhncat and his fellow creationist clowns gibbering and capering in this venue must be condemned and opposed.
    It’s not simply that their peculiar form of unsanity is execrable. kuhncat has the perfect right to go to hell in his own personal handbasket, and it looks as if he’s there already. What neither he nor his co-religionists have, however, is the right to impose their unsanity coercively – by way of government thuggery – upon other people.
    The whole purpose of this “intelligent design” religious jerking-off is political, to induce government schools to incorporate creationism (doesn’t matter whether it’s Christian, Jewish, Muslim, animist [“it’s turtles all the way down!”] or Satanist [“and when you get to the bottom, you’ll find our Dark Lord waiting for you, ha-ha!”]) as part of the science curriculum.
    The reasonable reader – as well as the religiously unsane, like kuhncat – know full well the results of this malignant political effort, if allowed to go forward. Children and adolescents condemned to suffer the
    comprachico indoctrination of government schooling will emerge with a debilitated and wrongful understanding of what science is and how it works.
    As I’ve said, it’s not simply that aggressive religious whackjobs like this kuhncat clown seek to have their Great Sky Pixie indoctrination rammed down kids’ throats at taxpayer expense but that they wish to impose upon scientific thought a degree of fundamental debilitation rendering it much more difficult for people in these United States to perceive the difference between reason and unreason.
    In this, kuhncat is proving himself to be morally equivalent to the AGW fraudsters. Heck, precisely equivalent. To the extent that the god premise is without objective proof, it has to be considered in the same light as the AGW contention, and dismissed by scrupulously reasonable scientifically literate people on the same basis.
    Hm. Is kuhncat also a warmista? Don’t recall, but it wouldn’t surprise me none.

    The day that an inflamed pucker like this kuhncat specimen can claim victory over individual human rights and the habit of reasonableness” will come only in this incontinent fraud’s masturbatory fantasies. To finish up with a quote from George H. Smith’s speech (1976, op cit, emphases in the original):

    …atheism is important only when viewed in this larger context which I will call the “habit of reasonableness.” Atheism is significant only if and when it results from this habit of reasonableness. The American child who grows up to be a Baptist simply because his parents were Baptist and he never thought critically about those beliefs is not necessarily any more irrational than the Soviet child who grows up to be an atheist simply because his parents were atheist and because the state tells him to be an atheist. The fact that the Soviet child in this particular case may have the correct position is irrelevant. So it’s no so much what one believes, or the content, as it is why one believes as one does. So the issue of reasonableness pertains to the concern for truth, concern for the correct methodology of reasoning. And just because a person espouses atheism is no guarantee that person is necessarily reasonable.
    This is basically why I never crusade for atheism per se outside of a wider framework. Atheism is significant, to be sure. But it’s significance derives entirely from the fact that it represents the application of reason to a particular field, specifically the area of religious belief. Atheism, unless it is ingrained within this greater philosophical defense of reason, is practically useless. When, however, it is the consequence of the habit of reasonableness, then atheism stands in opposition to the wave of supernaturalism and mysticism we are currently experiencing. In other words, irrationalism in any form it may occur.

    The “irrationalism” this kuhncat and his fellows in this delusion-driven political thuggery are trying to peddle under the guise of “intelligent design” is nothing more than “creationism in a cheap lab coat,” the degradation of scientific method and the blotting-out of lucid, honest reasoning applied to human understanding of the phenomenal universe.
    As I’ve observed, it’s obvious that these self-crippled unsane critters feel threatened by the continued prevalence of “the habit of reasonableness” for reasons emotional and political. Possibly economic as well.
    There’s much of that “habit of reasonableness” which makes of the prospective victims of the religious whackjobs’ various frauds much less vulnerable.
    Clearly, that gets right under kuhncat‘s hide and makes him claw at himself ’til he bleeds.

  277. Giving reason to ask whether Ron Cram is also un warmista, we’ve got him asking (swelp me, he’s really asking this about how “fruits evolved to be attractive to animals, courtesy of John B, and I’m quoting it verbatim):

    Yes, I did learn that in school and I rejected it. It is nonsensical to me. I simply cannot wrap my head around how fruits would “evolve to be attractive to animals.” How could the tree possibly know if a given mutation made the fruit more attractive or less attractive to animals?
    My professors were never able to answer that question. If you have an answer, I would love to hear it.

    Ooh, you had “professors,” Mr. Cram? Did you keep track of your tuition costs and other charges? That’ s because I think you’re making the case for claiming at least a partial refund if, in fact, those “professors” of yours were genuinely “never able to answer that question.”
    Although, like a lot of other guys doing pre-med, I got my undergraduate degree in Biology, and I don’t recall any student asking “that question” because most of us had gotten the answer either by way of instruction in grade school, discussion with grown-ups as kids (I was raised in farm country), or in the course of self-directed reading.
    I don’t know if I can put it in terms apprehensible to a cement-headed religious whackjob like you, Mr. Cram, but the reason why sessile plants which associated their seeds with materials that various motile life forms found not only nutritious but attractive in scent and flavor was that it proved to be of benefit to propagation, as had been observed by John B and which you had ignored.
    The sessile plants didn’t have to “know” anything about the attractiveness of what it was attaching to their seeds, any more than they had to “know” it was necessary to surround the seeds’ germinal contents with a coat adequate to protect the stuff against gastric acid and the digestive environment of animals’ small intestines.
    Those which didn’t achieve these and other beneficial mutations either didn’t propagate as well or didn’t propagate at all, and had fewer succeeding generations, being “out-competed” for space and sunlight and water and other resources by plants which did. No Great Sky Pixie required, thanks.
    Since the invention of agriculture, plants and animals which have characteristics found to be useful or otherwise pleasing to human beings have been “un-naturally” selected by purposeful husbandry, and even more recently modified by direct manipulation of their genetic material to demonstrate traits that confer upon them an even greater propagational benefit because those characteristics give reasoning human beings cause sufficient to see that their numbers increase (if their days are not necessarily long in the land).
    The dire wolf became extinct, but there are circa 23 billion specimens of Gallus gallus domesticus clucking about the planet, propagating out the kazoo.
    Again, neither Great Sky Pixie nor Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid nor Flying Spaghetti Monster necessary.

  278. Ron,
    I always got a kick out of the tortured explanations of how “things” evolved to improve the organisms chances of survival. First the chances of a mutation that is not negative is very small. Then there is the issue that each mutation is one tiny step toward, what?? Without intelligence driving it how many ATTEMPTS are necessary for each individual mutation required to make up an organ, limb, or even just a part way development that isn’t wildly against survival.
    Then, you may have gotten part way there and the survivability deficit kills it off so has to be started from scratch yet again!! How many times would this false start happen?? We are told the earth is only 4 billion years old and the conditions weren’t appropriate for higher organisms for less than half of that!!!
    Most who argue this path make attempts to suggest that the survival rate will somehow be good with a fin partially mutated to a foot or whatever. They never make the slightes bit of sense with all the organs. I believe the clotting of blood is one of the popular arguments. The current generations tout statistical based quantum mechanics as the top of the heap of physics, yet, expect us to believe in odds that are impossible being achieved over and over and over…. I almost FDL when they then claim that the eye or some other organ actually evolved a second or third time because it fits the environment. Dudes and Dudettes, it doesn’t matter whether it fit AFTER evolving, it only matters whether the organism was able to survive for millions of years with half developed THINGS hanging off them!!! The issue I never noticed was that some of these THINGS would have had to develop in parallel, that is, there would have been multiple things that were half baked at best hurting the survival of the critter for a full change from one to another.
    If I believed in evolution I would understand that critters with partially evolved parts simply would not last long and would be unlikely to be found in the record. Of course, since the record is only for two long periods with fully developed animals in them and no signs of the animals between, fully evolved or not, it really shows that it simply didn’t happen.
    The simplest issue is where on earth is there an animal that has any indication of some part of it evolving. There simply isn’t any. Every animal is complete and functional. Not with partial organs or functions. Did evolution stop because we are here so there is only natural selection left??
    Richard Dawkins and other of the top dogs in Atheism and evolutionary theory understand that evolution is a failed theory for earth. It is why he allowed himself to be filmed saying he would have no issue with earth being designed as long as the aliens or whatever did the designing EVOLVED!!!! Why would he say that if there was any reasonable way to interpret the data here on earth as showing evolution?!?!?!?!
    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

  279. Tucci78,
    “The process of scientific investigation has been, in fact, devised deliberately to minimize (ideally, to eliminate) the effects of such emotional loading as critters like kuhncat are demonstrating in this forum.”
    Well Tucci78, I think I will leave it to everyone who has read your insults and outbursts as to who is having an emotional issue with the issue.
    Bye!

  280. kuhnkat says:
    August 13, 2011 at 8:16 pm
    Ron,
    I always got a kick out of the tortured explanations of how “things” evolved to improve the organisms chances of survival. First the chances of a mutation that is not negative is very small. Then there is the issue that each mutation is one tiny step toward, what?? Without intelligence driving it how many ATTEMPTS are necessary for each individual mutation required to make up an organ, limb, or even just a part way development that isn’t wildly against survival.
    Exactly. As difficult as it is to believe that mutations are likely to be positive, it is impossible to believe when the mutation relates to a fruit being attractive to animals. Are the trees hiring market researchers to do focus groups or what? I’m sorry but I’m just not buying it. I just do not have enough faith to be an atheist.

  281. Fleeing for his worthless virtual life, at 9:12 Pm on 13 August, the cowardly kuhnkat evades address of a critique he obviously cannot confront much less rebut, pounding his pud against the keyboard of his Amiga to produce nothing more than:

    …I think I will leave it to everyone who has read your insults and outbursts as to who is having an emotional issue with the issue.

    Oh, were we conducting a scientific investigation of kuhncat‘s duplicity, weaseling, moral depravity, and incompetence? Inasmuch as the dispassionate consideration of kuhncat‘s flagrant disregard for honest disputation was getting no response from him but more of the same stuff one might inadvertently squeeze out of a rabbit’s entrails while gutting it for the pot, we might as well keep adding a little napalm to the dissection of kuhncat‘s hideous pathology.
    Let’s again make explicit what this “intelligent design” garbage – “creationism in a cheap lab coat” – is aimed at, folks. The purpose of what kuhncat and the rest of these lying sons-of-indeterminate-parentage are pushing for is the aggressively coercive political imposition of a program specifically designed to destroy the teaching of scientific method in the government-run school systems in these United States.
    Nothing else, really. All the dancing around they’re doing in this forum is what these stupid theocrats seem to think will sucker reasoning people into believing that people like kuhncat are educated. Or even sane. They’re neither.
    Indoctrinated, certainly. But educated? Imagine kuhncat laughing maniacally as he frenziedly rubs his smegma’d prepuce over that Amiga down in his mother’s basement.
    And definitely bereft of sanity.
    Now what’s the proper emotion with which the honest, reasonable, honorable individual – the man or woman who respects and defends the unalienable individual human rights of his fellow innocent members of species H. sapiens – should respond to a lying sack of excrement like this kuhncat critter?
    Speaking reasonably, I’d have to say that “hatred” is right up there at the top of the selection, with “contempt” a close second, and “revulsion” working its way into the top five. Anybody else care to chime in with their own response?

    Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins a movie by telling you how it ends. There are some things we don’t want to know. Important things.
    — Ned Flanders

  282. Tucci78,
    Those which didn’t achieve these and other beneficial mutations either didn’t propagate as well or didn’t propagate at all, and had fewer succeeding generations, being “out-competed” for space and sunlight and water and other resources by plants which did. No Great Sky Pixie required, thanks.
    Fruitless trees, plants and shrubs have survived and propagate just fine. Or perhaps you didn’t notice that part? It is just silly to think trees and plants have to produce food to propagate.
    The questions I asked in college were along this line: How can the tree “know” when a fruit mutation is positive? According to the theory, the first apple was not as big, red and delicious as we see them today. So how in the process of natural selection can the tree “learn” that “Hey, that was a good move. The animals seemed to like it. We should do more of that! Let’s make it even bigger, redder and tastier next time!” I mean the tree would have to go through millions of mutations over billions of years of development. It just does not make any sense because we know most mutations are not positive.
    Perhaps in an earlier age, this theory would not seem quite as nonsensical as it does today. We live in the age of post-neo-Darwinism. Dr. Koonin likes to call it the age of “Evolutionary biology in the light of genomics.” Koonin writes:
    On the whole, the theoretical and empirical studies on the evolution of genomic complexity suggest that there is no trend for complexification in the history of life and that, when complexity does substantially increase, this occurs not as an adaptation but as a consequence of weak purifying selection, in itself, paradoxical as this might sound, a telltale sign of evolutionary failure. It appears that these findings are sufficient to put to rest the notion of evolutionary ‘progress’, a suggestion that was made previously on more general grounds.” See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2651812/pdf/gkp089.pdf
    When presented with any speculation, you have to ask three questions: Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it probable? When you ask these questions regarding fruit trees and other food sources developing by natural selection, the answers are “maybe,” “not really” and “absolutely not!”
    Any reasonable person has to admit that if an Intelligent Designer was at work on this planet, designing trees and plants to grow food for other creatures is a sign of intelligence.

  283. DNA “Life Building Block”?
    Meteorites contain chemicals linked to life
    Space rocks could have delivered DNA building blocks to Earth.
    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/333171/title/Meteorites_contain_chemicals_linked_to_life
    No end to pious obsequious AAAS trade-union religion devotees…
    It’s time for introversion:
    RNAs are Earth’s primal organisms.
    Each and ALL other Earth’s self-replicating bio formats-conformations are products of evolution of RNAs.
    Earth’s life has always been and still is an RNA world!
    Dov Henis
    (comments from 22nd century)
    http://universe-life.com/2011/06/10/update-comprehension-of-universelife-evolution/

  284. At 10:47 PM on 13 August, Ron Cram blithers:

    When presented with any speculation, you have to ask three questions: Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it probable? When you ask these questions regarding fruit trees and other food sources developing by natural selection, the answers are “maybe,” “not really” and “absolutely not!”

    Tsk. You’re skipping over the first question, which is “What’s happening?
    Without valid, repeatable, and therefore verifiable observations of factual reality, your “speculation” is without value, and fatally susceptible to a disconnect from the standard of scientific inquiry – the evidence.
    The leap to laying some kind of claim as to whether or not a conceptual model posited to explain a happening is “possible” or “plausible” or “probable” without information as to what is and can be observed is emphatically not science. Stupidity, certainly. Stupidity compounded by credulity – in your case – it’s to be confidently inferred.
    Er, your real name wouldn’t happen to be “Andrew Wakefield,” would it?

  285. Ron Cram says:
    Fruitless trees, plants and shrubs have survived and propagate just fine. Or perhaps you didn’t notice that part? It is just silly to think trees and plants have to produce food to propagate.
    There is not one true way of evolving. Features that help one creature in its environment, impede a different creature in a different environment. In the context of fruit: While it’s beneficial to have one’s seeds eaten by animals, they also cost the plant energy and nutrients to produce. For some plants the cost is worthwhile, for others it isn’t. Obvious example non-seeding plants. Mosses and fungi do not seed, therefore they don’t need to attract animals to spread their seed, therefore they don’t produce fruit.
    The questions I asked in college were along this line: How can the tree “know” when a fruit mutation is positive? According to the theory, the first apple was not as big, red and delicious as we see them today. So how in the process of natural selection can the tree “learn” that
    Tastier apples are more likely to be eaten, therefore they are more likely to seed.
    It just does not make any sense because we know most mutations are not positive.
    The trees with adverse mutations (e.g. no apples, degenerate apples, too small apples) don’t get a chance to procreate thus die out. Only the trees with beneficial mutations seed, so those are the ones that survive. It’s really simple.
    On the whole, the theoretical and empirical studies on the evolution of genomic complexity suggest that there is no trend for complexification
    Evolution is not about “more complexity”. It’s only towards better adaptations, but otherwhise undirected. Evolutionary adaptations can happen towards simpler forms, and often do. The notion that evolution must always strive for “higher”, “more complex”, “superior” beings is a popular misconception. So refuting it proves nothing.
    When presented with any speculation, you have to ask three questions: Is it possible? Is it plausible? Is it probable? When you ask these questions regarding fruit trees and other food sources developing by natural selection, the answers are “maybe,” “not really” and “absolutely not!”
    The talk.origins FAQ calls this notion the “argument from incredulity”: What you’re really saying here is “I cannot conceive how this or that feature evolved, therefore it can’t have.” All this proves is a lack of knowledge or logical rigour of the person making that point. This entire thread is riddled with arguments of the same nature, and they’re all fallacies.

  286. Anorak2 , Tucci78, thsanks for saving me the time it would have taken to educate Ron and Kuhnkat as you have done. Though, I fear, you have been casting pearls before swine.
    Kuhnkat does claim, however, that nobody answered his question “You didn’t include the issue with one parents genes controls the expression of the others. Could this be an issue that has NOT been dealt with. I believe genetics has offered a couple of others if you have a good link where that one is reasonably dealt with.”
    The answer is trivially simple. A sexual animal always has the full set of genetic material, from both parents. A mutation that beneficially alters the expression of a gene can be selected for. It doesn’t matter where that gene comes from. The effect may be more pronounced if the mutation and the gene it affects are close together on the same chromosome (known as linkage), but it is not necessary. A grat example of this is that the peacock (male) introduces mutation not only to create that impressive tail, but also induce the peahen (female) to prefer a large tail. The appearance of “design” is strong, but it is only that, an appearance. The evidence for that is that we never see structures or organism that can only have been designed, there are always evolutionary pathways. Evolution is falsifiable, “rabbit fossils in the pre-cambrian” would do it, but don’t hold your breath.
    A good introduction to this for you might be something like “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins. Or just use Google, there is plenty of information out there.
    And Kuhnkat went on to say “I mean the tree would have to go through millions of mutations over billions of years of development.” Well, Kuhnkat, guess what, the Earth has been around for billions of years, not 6000. And flowering plants (the kind that produce fruit) have been around for over 100 million years. Here a link:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flowering_plant

  287. John B says:
    August 14, 2011 at 3:27 am
    “The answer is trivially simple. A sexual animal always has the full set of genetic material, from both parents.”
    Actually, that’s very wrong. First of all there are two kinds of DNA – nuclear and mitochondrial. All your mitochondrial DNA comes from your mother. Second, you have only half of each parent’s nuclear DNA and the makeup of that half isn’t the same from one fertilized egg to another as the half contributed is randomized during recombination.
    This doesn’t speak to a whole raft of other mechanisms of inheritance grouped into a class called epigenetics. Things like methylization of DNA, billions of RNA molecules floating around in the cytoplasm, microtubule network structure, and so forth. All those things pretty much come from the mother as well.
    .

  288. @JohnB
    “A mutation that beneficially alters the expression of a gene can be selected for.”
    A fundamental mistake there again, John. But unlike your previous blunder this one is quite common among Dawkin’s worshippers. Selection happens on the entire genome at once, not on individual genes. The concept of the selfish gene is fundamentally flawed outside of bacteria and simpler single celled eukaryotes like the malaria parasite. The malaria parasite, for instance, has a small genome of some 27 million base pairs and an asexual reproductive phase. In the asexual phase some 95% of all cell divisions produce a perfect replica of the parent. Some 5% will have a single point (nucleotide) mutation and some very tiny fraction will more than one SPM which is why it’s duecedely difficult for it to acquire resistance to drugs where that resistance requires more than one SPM for resistance. In those cases single genes can be readily selected. In more complicated plants and animals where there is so much DNA that there’s seldom a perfect copy and where recombination scrambles things up to begin with (no clones) it’s the performance of the whole genome, the full monty, the whole animal, which undergoes selection not individual genes.

  289. John B, Tucci78 and anoraks,
    So far, you have all found fault with just one of the six evidences I put forward. But even the one you attacked is still standing. The argument put forward by anoraks was the best. Yes, it makes sense that mutations in one locale might be “positive” but in another locale “negative.” But adaptations are supposed to explain complexity and progress. Your view this is not true is counter to neo-Darwinism.
    Did any of you bother to read the paper I liked to “Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics?” While the author discusses the problems genomics present for neo-Darwinian evolution of animals (and it certainly has shaken his worldview because he is thinking the entire Tree of Life idea should be replaced), he did not address genomics and plant evolution. If the same observations hold true in plants and trees, the problems arising to explain food production are much, much greater.
    I apologize if I have not expressed my thoughts clearly on the issue, but I think if you actually read the paper I provided you it would help you understand what I am saying.
    In the meantime, I am willing to hear your thoughts on the other five evidences I have put forward.

  290. anorak2 says:
    August 14, 2011 at 2:18 am

    On the whole, the theoretical and empirical studies on the evolution of genomic complexity suggest that there is no trend for complexification
    Evolution is not about “more complexity”. It’s only towards better adaptations, but otherwhise undirected. Evolutionary adaptations can happen towards simpler forms, and often do. The notion that evolution must always strive for “higher”, “more complex”, “superior” beings is a popular misconception. So refuting it proves nothing.

    Ahem. I’m gonna have to call bullshit on that claim. Give me some examples of those “simpler forms” that often happen. I don’t know if you just made that up or are parroting someone who did. There are no examples of phyletic migration to much simpler forms. Eukaryotes don’t go backwards into prokaryotes. Multi-cellular forms don’t revert to single celled forms. Mammals don’t devolve into reptiles. Reptiles don’t devolve into fish. Evolution is composed mostly of parking lots where nothing happens except eventual extinction with a very small number of parking lots wihch have a one way exit which leads to a more complex parking lot.

  291. dovhenis says:
    August 14, 2011 at 12:49 am
    “Earth’s life has always been and still is an RNA world!”
    Interesting thought but inevitably flawed. RNA is not chemically stable enough for long term information storage. Think of RNA as the volatile memory in a computer and DNA as the non-volatile memory. Here’s a decent introduction to the chemical differences:

    The main reason DNA is better for ‘safe’ storage of information is its stability. There are several different ways DNA resists change more than RNA; here are some:
    First, as you noted, the deoxyribose sugar in DNA is less reactive than the ribose sugar. In general C-H bonds are less reactive than C-OH (hydroxyl). Also, RNA is not very stable in alkaline conditions, while DNA is.
    More broadly speaking, the double-strand DNA (dsDNA) has relatively small ‘grooves’ where damaging enzymes can attach, which makes it harder for them to ‘attack’ the DNA. Double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) has much larger grooves, so it would more subject to being broken down.
    Second, the connection between the strands of dsDNA is tighter than dsRNA — it’s easier to ‘unzip’ dsRNA than it is to unzip dsDNA.
    Overall, it’s easier (faster, requires less energy) to break down and reform RNA than DNA — since we want our genetic material to be stable, we want the substance that’s harder to break down.
    As an interesting side note, it is well known that DNA can be damaged by UV, but RNA is actually more resistant to damage by UV. Also, the sequence of DNA and its physical conformation (the shape the strands are folded into) seems to play a role as well.
    This might be a chicken-egg point, but it’s important to note that the body actively destroys enzymes that cleave DNA (called nucleases) — when it needs to cleave DNA, it makes its own specific enzymes. It’s one of several ways DNA is protected against damage. The body can actually “identify” foreign DNA and destroy it, and not destroy its own DNA.

    Unlike DNA, RNA strands are continually made, broken down, and reused. If you add up the chemical stability, the energy it takes to break or make DNA and RNA bonds, and the availability of enzymes to do this work, a compelling case for DNA over RNA can be made.

  292. Hey Tucci (I pronounce that Tushy for obvious reasons), why not just cut to chase and call anyhone who doesn’t agree with you a Nazi. Don’t drag it out.

  293. Dave Springer
    Give me some examples of those “simpler forms” that often happen. I don’t know if you just made that up or are parroting someone who did.
    Axolotls for example, amphibia who basically remain tadpoles all their lives. They must have evolved from some species who went through the usual amphibian metamorphosis from tadpole to grown individual, but somehow lost it on the way.
    Any number of animals who live in caves or in the deap sea without light, who are blind with dysfunctional eyes, apparently evolved from creatures with functioning eyes.
    Non-flying birds who must have evolved from flying birds, with now useless wings (ostriches, kiwis, but not penguins). Likewhise many insect species who lost their wings, the stubs still being discernible.
    There are no examples of phyletic migration to much simpler forms.
    I didn’t constrain my claim to entire phylums, so I don’t need to defend it. However I could mention viruses. The evolution of viruses is still under debate, but several theories assume they evolved from cellular organisms.
    Eukaryotes don’t go backwards into prokaryotes. Multi-cellular forms don’t revert to single celled forms. Mammals don’t devolve into reptiles. Reptiles don’t devolve into fish.
    That of course is not the claim. Evolution to simpler forms does not mean the exact ancestral forms reemerge. The likelihood of that happening are minuscule. It just means that organisms loses abilities their ancestors had, that organs become dysfunctional or degenerate, etc. Of course the new organisms will still be different from anything that existed before.

  294. Ron Cram says:
    Did any of you bother to read the paper I liked to “Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics?”
    I had a glance just then. It’s a bit long and lacks a synopsis :). Also I know almost nothing about genetics (of which genomics is a specialised field), so I will have trouble understanding it. It would help me if you could state your main point in your own words.
    About genetics, in the introduction (which I read) the paper rightly states that the understanding of evolution does not presuppose knowledge of the underlying microbiology. Evolution is a macroscopic process which we observe, regardless of our understanding of the genetic mechanisms. So I don’t see how a paper on genetics, whatever it might say, could refute evolution. Again, please reiterate in your own words.
    In the meantime, I am willing to hear your thoughts on the other five evidences I have put forward.
    This entire thread is getting more and more confusing. 🙂 What five evidences, in which of your posts (date, time)?

  295. kuhnkat says:
    August 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm

    Theo Goodwinn,
    unfortunately the wager is biased to the beliefs of the person making the wager. It is often characterized as a “What have yo got to lose” argument. Well, for people who enjoy murdering, philandering, theft, lying (presumably to gain something), and don’t want to waste their time bowing to God…, there is a lifetime of enjoyment to lose with no guarantee that they will get anything after death. For many people there is only NOW whether it is this minute, hour, day, year…, they cannot, or will not, see the possibilities of later.
    If the person is already in tune with the morality and way of life, and only needs to express a belief, then it would seem to be a slam dunk!!

    Yes, that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. If you have innate sense that love is preferable to hate, kindness preferable to cruelty, then the only question left is which of many religions which emphasize those things to choose for your wager. Christianity isn’t a bad choice provided you actually model your life after its founder who was man who wouldn’t harm a fly and whose most aggressive act in life that we know of was cursing a fig tree. Ghandi is another good example. Some branches of Buddhism are just as good. The bottom line remains that if whatever comes naturally to you is copacetic with some religion then you have little to lose and much to gain. A favorable risk/reward ratio is the essence of any good wager. Perhaps the chances of winning a lottery are slim but if the tickets are free then only a bonehead would refuse to hold one.

  296. anorak2 says:
    August 14, 2011 at 8:03 am
    “Axolotls for example, amphibia who basically remain tadpoles all their lives. They must have evolved from some species who went through the usual amphibian metamorphosis from tadpole to grown individual, but somehow lost it on the way.”
    must have evolved
    That is a just-so story predicated on the logical fallacy of assuming that which is to be proven.
    It also says nothing about whether the perpetual tadpole’s genotype is any less complex than the frog’s. It very likely isn’t and it’s just a change in gene expression rather than any actual step backward in complexity. I’ll give a counter-example. The domestic canine gets most of the attributes that makes it different from a wolf by arrested development. It retains many of the characteristics of puppies into adulthood. A Russian guy recently demonstrated this by domesticating foxes in a small number of generations by selecting those adults which exhibited kit-like trust of humans. Genotypically and phenotypically the dog and domesticated fox are no less complex than their wild cousins. Another example is cave fish which have underdeveloped eyes from many generations living in the dark. These fish rapidly regain their sight in the presence of light. These are simply examples of gene expression not a fundmental reduction in genotype complexity.
    I realize you don’t have examples of real backwards evolution where a phylum regresses to a simpler phylum because there is absolutely no evidence that such a thing has ever happened. The radiation of life on this planet is a one-way street of increasing complexity. Your point about phylogenetic regression to some ancestral form is a straw man. I merely used those as examples of complexity. The only requirement is that the new phylogenic category be simpler than its progenitor.
    FYI – viruses aren’t generally considered to be living things. They are not a kingdom of life and do not appear in any phylogenetic trees. They are simple machine-like constructions entirely dependent on more complex forms of life for their survival. In fact when someone asks how any “creator” might have guided the process of evolution I point out what a wonderful tool the retrovirus particle is for inserting or modifying a selected genetic payload into entire populations in a short space of time. Indeed, we use them for that ourselves in a purposeful manner.

  297. @Dave Springer
    Thanks for the genetics lesson, though I didn’t really need it. I have a Master’s in bioinformatics, which involves a lot of genertics, so I know all about MtDNA and the difference between mitosis and meiosis. I was trying to keep it simple for the sake of lay readers. Yes, of course, it is the whole organism that survives or not, but selection acts on individual mutations – itf the mutation is beneficial it spreads through the population, if not it doesn’t. Unless it is linked (i.e. is at a similar locus) to another mutation, in which case even a detrimental mutation might spread. And lots of other scenarios besides, but the main point is that individual beneficial mutations tend to spread across a population. Yes, I know all that stuff and a whole lot more. But thanks anyway.
    And to answer Ron’s other 5 “evidences”:
    “First, I would say it is rational to believe in the existence of God because the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang.”
    Nonsense. Big bang theory simply describes that the universe expanded from being very hot and very dense. That is all!
    “Second, it is rational to believe in God because life does not come from non-life. ”
    Nonsense. That we have yet to produce life in the laboratory does not mean we never will. Everything we know about life, which is a lot, suggests it is nothing more than complex reproducing chemicals. Now consciousness is another story…
    “Third, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Botany. ”
    We covered that one.
    “Fourth, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Genomics. See http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2651812/pdf/gkp089.pdf … ”
    Nonsense. Of course we are post-Darwin, he died over a hundred years ago. Science progresses. The author is saying that horizontal transfer and neutral mutation may be more important that we previously thought. So what?
    Fifth, it is reasonable to believe in God because he has acted in human history. The most telling and powerful action is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the most well-attested event in ancient history.
    OK, now you are talking specifically about Jesus, but anyway… Rubbish! There is not a single written account of the life of Jesus until around 40 years of his supposed death. The bible can’t even get it’s geography right. And the earliest non-biblical reports talk about Christians, not Christ. But even if the bible stories were based on a real person, so what?
    “Sixth, it is reasonable to believe in God because I have a personal relationship with him. ”
    My children had a personal relationship with Santa Claus, but they grew out of it.

  298. Ron Cram says:
    August 14, 2011 at 7:51 am
    Dave Springer,
    “I always enjoy reading your thoughts. I would also like to know what you think of the paper by Koonin. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2651812/pdf/gkp089.pdf
    Horizontal gene transfer has been found to play a larger role than though in more complex organisms. I don’t find this surprising. Horizontal gene transfer is a way of life for bacteria. I’m not in the habit of denying capabilities that simpler organisms have to their offspring. Viruses routinely snag pieces of DNA from one organism and insert it into others. Our genomes are littered with the inactivated remnants of viral invaders. In fact commonality of retrovirus remnants by location and sequence is one of the most compelling bits of evidence in evolution of primates – i.e. that humans and apes once shared a common ancestor. We both have retrovirus remnants in exactly the same locations. Explanations for this other than the common ancestor infected with a retrovirus in a germ cell then passing that unique marker down to its progeny appear highly contrived to me.
    Lynn Margulis is a prominent name in this area famous for formulation of endosymbiosis which places horizontal gene transfer as the principle mechanism underlying the radiation and diversification of life.
    What I find even more interesting is what’s known as the global gene pool. This is the set of all unique genes from every living thing. Craig Venter recently circumnavigated the globe (a few times) collecting microbes from all the oceans at various depths and sequencing them aboard the ship as it travelled. He catalogued millions of new genes and is using that as a component library for construction of synthetic life forms.
    What I wonder is that if you compared the global genome of a couple billion years ago when there was nothing but microbial life on the planet, before the evolution of multi-cellular forms emerged, would you get a global genome that was any smaller or larger than what you’d get today? The dogma is that you would get a smaller catalog but that’s just one more of the great many just-so stories that are found in the Darwinian narrative. It’s ruled out by nothing more than a priori rejection of the possibility that phylogeny was a predetermined process. That would require a plan and random evolution doesn’t make plans. Evolutionary dogma is a narrative where the forces directing is reactive-only. Evolution in that context can’t guess about what might be useful in the future. It’s a trial & error process where failures are erased from memory and successes preserved. In no case can it plan for the future it can only react to the present.
    I recommend reading the following collection of papers I assembled in 2006 by one of the more vocal (and qualified, Emeritus Professor of Biology, University of Vermont, 50 years experience in comparative physiology) who proposes a hypothetical prescribed evolution:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/collected-evolutionary-papers-of-john-a-davison/
    He’s a cantankerous old coot but he knows an awful lot about experimental biology.

  299. John B says:
    August 14, 2011 at 8:55 am
    “I was trying to keep it simple for the sake of lay readers.”
    It wasn’t simple, it was WRONG. Individuals in obligatory sexual reproducers DO NOT inherit the entire genome of both parents. Man up and admit it was a mistake.
    “Yes, of course, it is the whole organism that survives or not, but selection acts on individual mutations – if the mutation is beneficial it spreads through the population, if not it doesn’t.”
    No John. That is patently false. It only spreads if it confers a differential reproductive benefit to the organism as a whole. Keep in mind such mutations occur by definition in a single individual and the process of fixation is a long one and requires more than a small amount of luck, especially in the early days, that some unconnected random evironmental insult like a flood, fire, drought, and so forth won’t wipe out the sub-population where it arose before it can become fixed.
    Moreover there are few actual examples of progressive evolution by random mutation in obligatory sexual reproducers with large genomes and phenotypic plasticity. It’s recombination and up expression or down experession of pre-existing genes that causes changes in populations. You probably heard it called allele frequency. Random mutations where creating unique alleles, where we know about them, are almost always examples of trench warfare. Take the sickle cell mutation which is fixed in certain sub-populations of humans. It would quickly disappear if it wasn’t for a slight advantage in conferring some resistance to malaria parasites. Interestingly uncounted trillions of trillions of malaria parasites with extremely rapid response to selection pressure haven’t managed to mutate any ability to deal with the sickle cell mutation. This is trench warfare where the winner is determined by which can tolerate the greatest amount of injury.
    The take home lesson from that is that the gene pool of any one species is very highly optimized as a whole and random mutations that create new improved alleles are exceedingly rare and the net benefit to an organism with regard to differential reproduction is so tiny that fixation is the result of a crap shoot where that original mutation in a single organism just happened to be one of the lucky ones whose genes spread for a whole host of reasons, some due to better luck in recombination with regard the environment and some due to better luck in not getting killed by some random external event. Fixation is a crap shoot with very little due to any discernable increase in survival value.

  300. Insatiably curious, I read up a bit on these purported perpetual tadpoles used for an exceedingly weak example of devolution. It was weaker than I thought. My emphasis:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axolotl#Axolotl.27s_neoteny

    Axolotls exhibit a property called neoteny, meaning that they reach sexual maturity without undergoing metamorphosis. Many species within the axolotl’s genus are either entirely neotenic or have neotenic populations. In the axolotl, metamorphic failure is caused by a lack of thyroid stimulating hormone, which is used to induce the thyroid to produce thyroxine in transforming salamanders. The genes responsible for neoteny in laboratory animals may have been identified; however, they are not linked in wild populations, suggesting artificial selection is the cause of complete neoteny in laboratory and pet axolotls.[citation needed]
    Unlike some other neotenic salamanders (Sirens and Necturus), axolotls can be induced to metamorphose by an injection of iodine (used in the production of thyroid hormones) or by shots of thyroxine hormone. Another method for inducing transformation, though one that is very rarely successful, involves removing an axolotl in good condition to a shallow tank in a vivarium and slowly reducing the water level so that the axolotl has difficulty submerging.[citation needed] It will then, over a period of weeks, slowly metamorphose into an adult salamander. During transformation, the air in the vivarium must remain moist, and the maturing axolotl sprayed with a fine mist of pure water. The odds of the animal being able to metamorphose via this method are extremely small, and most attempts at inducing metamorphosis lead to death.[citation needed] This is likely due to the strong genetic basis for neoteny in laboratory and pet axolotls, which means that few captive animals have the ability to metamorphose on their own. Artificial metamorphosis also dramatically shortens the axolotl’s lifespan if it survives the process. A neotenic axolotl will live an average of 10–15 years (though an individual in Paris is credited with achieving 25 years), while a metamorphosed specimen will scarcely live past the age of five. The adult form resembles a terrestrial Mexican Tiger Salamander, but has several differences, such as longer toes, which support its status as a separate species.[citation needed]

    So they still retain the capability for metamorphisis. As I suspected it is supressed not absent and reemerges in individuals subjected to the right environmental pressures.
    As for the other species without any known stimuli capable of causing metamorphisis there’s nothing at all that says their ancestors had the ability and they lost it. In any case they’re still salamanders. An immature salamander is still a salamander just as an acorn and an oak tree are no more or less genotypically complex than the other. It’s all a matter of gene expression not gene invention.

  301. More on Axolotls… same source:
    “The feature of the salamander that attracts most attention is its healing ability: the axolotl does not heal by scarring and is capable of the regeneration of entire lost appendages in a period of months, and, in certain cases, more vital structures. Some have indeed been found restoring the less vital parts of their brains. They can also readily accept transplants from other individuals, including eyes and parts of the brain—restoring these alien organs to full functionality. In some cases, axolotls have been known to repair a damaged limb as well as regenerating an additional one, ending up with an extra appendage that makes them attractive to pet owners as a novelty. In metamorphosed individuals, however, the ability to regenerate is greatly diminished.”
    So upon metamorphosis they gain the ability to live on land but lose the ability to regenerate lost body parts. Seems to me like the ability to regenerate lost body parts can come in pretty handy for a salamander. I wouldn’t call that tradeoff either backward or forward with regard to complexity. It’s simply trading off one thing for another which may or may not be advantageous in any given circumstance.
    I have to say this example is a FAIL with regard to it supporting the claim that evolution has no preference with regard to increasing or decreasing complexity. The claimant is going to have to do better. Much better.

  302. Dave,
    Yes, sexual organisms receive only half a genome from each parent. but since the full genome is paired up, they do receive a copy of each gene from each parent (X and Y chromosomes excepted). My point was that a reguloator from one parent can act on a gene inherited from the other. That’s all. I’ll admit what I wrote was misleading. On the inheritance of mutations, I said “if the mutation is beneficial it spreads through the population” and you said “It only spreads if it confers a differential reproductive benefit to the organism as a whole.” Same thing isn’t it? What else do you think I was referring to it being beneficial to?
    I’m not sure what the point of the rest of your post was. Could you put it more succintly? I can’t work out if you are trying to make the case for intelligent design.

  303. Tucci78 says:
    August 10, 2011 at 11:50 am
    “host Ben Stein asks Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the best-known living evolutionary biologist on the planet”
    Has Dawkins actually published any papers in a peer reviewed journal in the field of evolutionary biology?
    As far as I know he only writes books and never did a lick of original work in experimental biology, evolutionary or otherwise. All hat, no cattle, in other words.

  304. So who ya gonna believe? Some pontificating Oxford windbag far more famous as the world’s most well known atheist, a man who never spent a day of his life outside undergraduate school in lab or doing field work or the greatest evolutionary biologists and paleontologists of the 20th century, men famous for their science not their religious convictions?
    Gene Centric Evolution
    Prominent opponents of this gene-centric view of evolution include evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould, biologist and anthropologist David Sloan Wilson and philosopher Elliott Sober.
    Writing in the New York Review of Books, Gould has characterized the gene-centered perspective as confusing book-keeping with causality. Gould views selection as working on many levels, and has called attention to a hierarchical perspective of selection. Gould also called the claims of Selfish Gene “strict adaptationism”, “ultra-Darwinism”, and “Darwinian fundamentalism”, describing them as excessively “reductionist”. He saw the theory as leading to a simplistic “algorithmic” theory of evolution, or even to the re-introduction of a teleological principle.[17] Mayr went so far as to say “Dawkins’ basic theory of the gene being the object of evolution is totally non-Darwinian”.[18]
    Gould also addressed the issue of selfish genes in his essay ‘Caring groups and selfish genes’.[19] Gould acknowledged that Dawkins was not imputing conscious action to genes, but simply using a shorthand metaphor commonly found in evolutionary writings. To Gould, the fatal flaw was that “no matter how much power Dawkins wishes to assign to genes, there is one thing that he cannot give them – direct visibility to natural selection”.[19] Rather, the unit of selection is the phenotype, not the genotype, because it is phenotypes which interact with the environment at the natural-selection interface. So, in Kim Sterelny’s summation of Gould’s view, “gene differences do not cause evolutionary changes in populations, they register those changes”.[20] Richard Dawkins replied to this criticism in a later book, The Extended Phenotype, that Gould confused particulate genetics with particulate embryology, stating that genes do “blend”, as far as their effects on developing phenotypes are concerned, but that they do not blend as they replicate and recombine down the generations.[10]
    Since Gould’s death in 2002, Niles Eldredge has continued with counter-arguments to gene-centered natural selection.[21] Eldredge notes that in Dawkins’ book A Devil’s Chaplain, which was published just before Eldredge’s book, “Richard Dawkins comments on what he sees as the main difference between his position and that of the late Stephen Jay Gould. He concludes that it is his own vision that genes play a causal role in evolution”, while Gould (and Eldredge) “sees genes as passive recorders of what worked better than what”.[

  305. @Dave Springer
    I don’t understand why you’re getting so worked up about the axolotl thing. It seems you’re missing the point. I was explaining that evolution has no direction, it’s not towards “more complexity”. It has no purpose,it’s just what happens when natural processes do their thing. Therefore arguments which suppose it is directional or has a goal are moot. Hope that clears it up.

  306. anorak2 says:
    August 14, 2011 at 8:15 am
    Ron Cram says:
    Did any of you bother to read the paper I liked to “Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics?”
    I had a glance just then. It’s a bit long and lacks a synopsis :). Also I know almost nothing about genetics (of which genomics is a specialised field), so I will have trouble understanding it. It would help me if you could state your main point in your own words.
    Rather than put it into my own words and chance a mistake, let me quote a few selected passages I think are important to this discussion with a comment or two to explain how I interpret what he is saying:
    From the abstract
    Major contributions of horizontal gene transfer and diverse selfish genetic elements to genome evolution undermine the Tree of Life concept. An ade- quate depiction of evolution requires the more complex concept of a network or ‘forest’ of life. There is no consistent tendency of evolution towards increased genomic complexity, and when complexity increases, this appears to be a non- adaptive consequence of evolution under weak pur- ifying selection rather than an adaptation.
    From pp 1011-1012
    Now, 50 years after the consolidation of the Modern Synthesis, evolutionary biology undoubtedly faces a new major challenge and, at the same time, the prospect of a new conceptual breakthrough (15). If the Modern Synthesis can be succinctly described as Darwinism in the Light of Genetics (often referred to as neo-Darwinism), then, the new stage is Evolutionary Biology in the Light of Genomics.
    He is saying neo-Darwinism is wrong and the current theory of evolution has to be modified.
    Page 1013
    The (nearly) neutral theory is a major departure from the Modern Synthesis selectionist paradigm as it explicitly posits that the majority of mutations fixed during evolution are not affected by Darwinian (positive) selection (Darwin seems to have presaged the neutralist paradigm by remarking that selectively neutral characters would serve best for classification purposes (1); however, he did not elaborate on this idea, and it has not become part of the Modern Synthesis).
    Most mutations are not positive. The mutations which become fixed are usually nearly neutral (negative but not so negative the organism recognizes them as bad and eliminates them through purifying selection).
    Page 1013-1014
    In other words, from the organism’s standpoint, much of its genomic DNA should be consid- ered junk. This view of the genome dramatically differs from the picture implied by the selectionist paradigm under which most if not all nucleotides in the genome would be affected by (purifying or positive) selection acting at the level of the organism.
    Page 1015
    However, the advent of full-fledged genome sequencing qualitatively changed the entire enterprise of evolutionary biology. The importance of massive amounts of sequences for comparison is obvious because this material allows researchers to investigate mechanisms and specific events of evolution with the necessary statistical rigor and to reveal even subtle evolutionary trends. In addition, it is worth emphasizing that collections of diverse complete genomes are enormously useful beyond the sheer amount of sequence data. Indeed, only by comparing complete genomes, it is possible to clearly disambiguate orthologous (common descent from a single ancestral gene) and paralogous (gene duplication) relationship between genes; to convincingly demonstrate the absence of a particular gene in a genome, and to pinpoint gene loss events; to perform a complete comparison of genome organizations and reconstruct genome rearrangement events (68–71).
    This is important because it explains the new data available.
    Page 1015
    Complementary to the advances of traditional genomics is the more recent accumulation of extensive metagenomic data. Although metagenomics typically does not yield complete genomes, it provides invaluable information on the diversity of life in various environments (78,79).
    Beyond genomics and metagenomics, one of the hall- marks of the first decade of the new millennium is the progress of research in functional genomics and systems biology. These fields now yield high quality, genome-wide data on gene expression, genetic and protein–protein interactions, protein localization within cells, and more, opening new dimensions of evolutionary analysis, what is sometimes called Evolutionary Systems Biology (80–82). This new field of research has the potential to yield insights into the genome-wide connections between sequence evolution and other variables, such as the rate of expression, and to illuminate the selective and neutral components of the evolution of these aspects of genome functioning.

    More on new information available.
    Page 1015
    A fundamental observation supported by the entire body of evidence amassed by evolutionary genomics is that the sequences and structures of genes encoding proteins and structural RNAs are, generally, highly conserved through vast evolutionary spans.
    Not much evolution actually going on.
    Page 1016
    Conservative recon- structions of the gene sets of the common ancestors of the two domains of prokaryotes, bacteria and archaea, seem to indicate that these ancestral forms that, probably, existed over 3 billion years ago, were comparable in genetic complexity, at least, to the simpler of modern free-living prokaryotes (88,93). From an evolutionary biology perspective, it appears that the sequences of many genes encoding core cellular functions, especially, translation, transcription, replication and central meta- bolic pathways, are subject to strong purifying selection that remained in place for extended time intervals, on many occasions, throughout the 􏰀3.5 billion year history of cellular life.
    Prokaryotes have the same basic gene set they had 3.5 billion years ago. Not much progress or increasing complexity there.
    Page 1017
    The observations of extensive, ubiquitous and occurring via multiple routes HGT (Horizontal Gene Transfer) outlined above lead to a fundamental generalization: the genomes of all life forms are collections of genes with diverse evolutionary histories. The corollary of this generalization is that the TOL (Tree of Life) concept must be substantially revised or abandoned because a single tree topology or even congruent topologies of trees for several highly conserved genes cannot possibly repre- sent the history of all or even the majority of the genes (146–149). Thus, an adequate representation of life’s history is a network of genetic exchanges rather than a single tree, and accordingly, the ‘strong’ TOL hypothesis, namely, the existence of a ‘species tree’ for the entire history of cellular life, is falsified by the results of comparative genomics.
    Koonin here is discussing a possible total rejection of the LUCA (Last Universal Common (Cellular) Ancestor) and TOL (Tree of Life) concept. He is not yet committed to rejecting these (no doubt he is afraid of being ostracized by other evolutionary biologists), but he is raising the question.
    The figure and caption on page 1018 is important. He is proposing a series of biological “big bangs” which start with LUCAS defined as “A pre-cellular Last Universal Common Ancestral State.” In essence he is proposing that life came from non-life not just once, but many times. He is forced to this position because he simply cannot support the view all life can be traced back to one living cell. He explains on page 1019.
    Page 1019
    However, the sets of genes assigned to LUCA in these reconstructions lack certain essential components of the modern cellular machinery. In particular, the core components of the DNA replication machinery are non-homologous (or, at least, non-orthologous) in bacteria, on the one hand, and archaea and eukaryotes, on the other hand (176). In another sharp divide, the membrane lipids have distinct structures, and the membrane biogenesis enzymes are accordingly non-homologous (non-orthologous) (177).
    These major gaps in the reconstructed gene set of LUCA support the idea that different cellular systems ‘crystallized’ asynchronously and are suggestive of ‘phase transitions’ in the early phases of cellular evolution…In this case, the very concept of a distinct LUCA becomes ambiguous, and it might be more appropriate to speak of LUCAS, the Last Universal Common Ancestral State (181)

    This appears to be highly contrived.
    Page 1020
    Considering the genome-scale study of evolution, the next series of important questions has to do with the dis- tribution of selection coefficients across genomes: how much of the non-coding DNA is actually junk, what is the pressure of purifying selection in different genes, and how common positive (Darwinian) selection actually is?
    The evidence so far is that positive Darwinian selection is not common at all.
    Page 1021
    A genome-wide search for positive selection (measured as the gene-specific dN/dS ratio) in protein-coding genes from six mammalian species revealed 􏰀400 genes (􏰀2.5%) that seem to have experienced positive selection in at least one branch of the phylogenetic tree of the analyzed spe- cies; the values for most of the individual branches were very small (188). These estimates, although conservative, show that, at least, in mammals, positive selection affecting entire gene sequence is quite rare although many genes that are, generally, subject to purifying selection are likely to include positively selected sites.
    Page 1023
    The next big question that begs to be asked with regard to complexity, both organizational and genomic, is: was there a consistent trend towards increasing complexity during the 􏰀3.5 billion years of life evolution on earth? The most likely answer is, no.
    This statement occurs in the section discussing the fallacy of evolutionary progress.
    Page 1023
    Furthermore, reconstructions for some indi- vidual groups, and not only parasites, point to gene loss and genome shrinking as the prevailing mode of evolution (249).
    Actually gene loss and genome shrinking is usually thought of as devolution, not evolution.
    Page 1023
    Certainly, episodes of major increase in complexity are known, such as the origin of eukaryotes, and the origin of multicellular forms, to mention obvious examples. However, these seem not to be parts of a consistent, gradualist trend, but rather singular, more or less cata- strophic events triggered by rare, chance occurrences such as the domestication of the endosymbiont in the case of the origin of eukaryotes.
    This observation seems to be the catalyst for Koonin’s ideas regarding biological “big bangs.” If Koonin advances a mechanism for these big bangs, I missed it. Are big bangs an evidence of design? Is there a big banger at work biologically? Is there an alternative explanation to why the usual path of devolution would be overthrown?
    Page 1024
    It appears that these findings are sufficient to put to rest the notion of evolutionary ‘progress’, a suggestion that was made previously on more general grounds.
    I believe he is here rejecting the idea evolution occurs slowly.
    Page 1028
    Collectively, the developments in evolutionary genomics and systems biology outlined here seem to suggest that, although at present only isolated elements of a new, ‘postmodern’ synthesis of evolutionary biology are starting to be formulated, such a synthesis is indeed feasible. Moreover, it is likely to assume definitive shape long before Darwin’s 250th anniversary.
    Here is Koonin statement of faith in evolution. He thinks it is possible to salvage evolutionary theory in a post-neo-Darwinist age. He does not yet know what form this new theory may take but he has faith it will happen in the next 100 years.
    I tried to be fair to Koonin’s evidence and ideas. He is obviously committed to evolution and atheism, in spite of the evidence he presents. I think everyone will see it as interesting reading.

  307. @Ron Cram
    Found your six points, here’s my go at them
    First let me say I’m not here to prove or disprove god. Personally I’m agnostic, but I have no intention to proselytize.
    My intention is to protect science from intrusions by religion, including its camouflage called “ID”. Not because I’m against religion, but because I think the two deal with separate spheres who never intersect. Some of your points are of purely religious nature, to which I find it difficult to respond at all, as I don’t see the relevance to the subject of science. I’ll try to respond to them in a way that deals with the scientific aspect only.
    First, I would say it is rational to believe in the existence of God because the universe had a beginning at the Big Bang.
    That does not follow. There is no relation between the origin of the universe and the existance or non-existance of god. If it has an origin, it could have a natural cause. Likewhise an eternal universe does not exclude the existance of a god outside of it.
    Besides we don’t currently know if the universe is eternal or had a beginning, but that is really irrelevant to the god question.
    The beginning indicates there has to be a Cause, the Supernatural – an actor who is above the laws of physics. Even atheist and agnostic astrophysicists have agreed to this point,
    This agnostic doesn’t agree to this point.
    Second, it is rational to believe in God because life does not come from non-life.
    Just because we haven’t observed the process doesn’t mean that life can’t originate from non-living things. We currently don’t know the origin of life on earth, because there are no fossils from that time and the time machine hasn’t been invented yet. The subject is open to research, and that research may produce results in the future.
    Gaps in our current knowledge – of which there are undoubtedly many – do not prove god anyway. That fallacy has been put forward by the Christian curches over and over again, much to their chagrin after the gaps had been filled. They’ve abondoned that strategy meanwhile, and so should everyone else. Besides don’t you think it’s unworthy to reduce god to the role of a craftsman who fills in the gaps we can’t currently explain?
    To believe it does is the same as believing in fairy tales. There is no evidence to support such a belief.
    There currently is no evidence for any belief about the origin of life. I’m not giving any specific answer to the question, so I’m not guilty of the argumentum ad ignorantiam you accuse me of, while at the same time you’re committing it. 🙂 All I’m saying is we should not abandon the scientific method and insert “god did it” as a joker when it comes handy, because doing so would be unscientific. It would be straight back to the middle ages, where they did that all the time.
    Third, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Botany. Food producing plants and trees have one main purpose, to produce food.
    That is like saying noses have been designed for one main purpose, namely to support glasses. After all they do the job perfectly.
    It’s completely the other way round. We adapted to eating plants. Plants were there first. Later creatures evolved who cannot feed on sunlight, but are reduced to eating other living beings. We call those newer creatures “animals”. They adapted to the food available around them, namely plants and other plant-eaters. Third stage is that some plants evolved to be eaten because it gives them certain advantages, we’ve already been through that.
    There are even fourth and fifths stages, and probably more, it gets very complicated from then on, and it takes a biiiig imagination not to be tempted to see it as “designed”, even though it isn’t.
    Chili pepper is an interesting example. Do you know why it tastes so hot? The purpose of its fruit is to spread its seed, but for some reason mammals destroy the seed in digestion, while birds don’t. So the plant evolved to synthesize a substance that mammals find painful in their mouths, but birds cannot taste. Unfortunately, for the plant, there’s a mammal who likes the taste of pain, namely us. We’ll have to wait and see how that influences chili pepper evolution.
    Fourth, it is reasonable to believe in God because of Genomics.
    If I understand you correctly, your point is that modern science has in part abandoned Darwin. That may be so. Certainly Darwinism has been expanded on, in parts modified, in some parts maybe even refuted. And if it hasn’t it may be refuted in the future. That is old news.
    And irrelevant. Evolution does not rest on Charles Darwin, and his specific interpretation and explanation is not sacrosanct. Evolution itself may even one day be refuted, as it’s a falsifiable theory. Not very likely, but possible.
    That is still not the point. The point is that whatever science knows, or says, or retracts, or where its knowledge has holes, there is never an excuse to put “god did it” in the equation, because that is always unscientific.
    Fifth, it is reasonable to believe in God because he has acted in human history.
    My goal is not to stop you believing in god, so that is off the point. If you think you have proof he exists you would be wrong though.
    The most telling and powerful action is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    For all we know it could be a legend.
    It is the most well-attested event in ancient history.
    Certainly not.
    Do you believe Julius Caesar visited Britain?
    Do you believe Beowulf fought a dragon? Do you believe Odysseus struggeld Skylla and Charybdis? So you think dragons and sea monsters are real?
    There is far more evidence of Jesus rising from the dead than there is that Caesar ever lived.
    Not really. Verification of sources is a vital part of historical research, and you failed to do that in your analogy. We know of Julius Caesar mostly from scribes whose goal was to report what went on and most of whom had no specific axe to grind, so those sources are for the most part trustworthy. Besides none of them tells Caesar was immortal or could perform miracles. He’s described as a regular human being.
    99% of what we know about Jesus is from the bible, whose authors foremost aim was to proselytize. They wanted readers to admire Jesus and to believe in him as a deity. So they were not exactly neutral. As believers themselves they may have uncritically reported miracles they heard from elsewhere, or they might even intentionally have bent the truth a bit. Furthermore they report supernatural acts that stretch their trustworthiness quite a bit. It takes unusual evidence for such unusual claims, and some writing of a couple of missionaries doesn’t quite fit the bill.
    We do have some sources outside of Christian scripture who report about Jesus, but miracles and resurrection are not mentioned in those source. The majority of historians agree that Jesus probably existed and that he was a Jewish preacher in Palestine with a large following. Everything else is still a matter of faith.
    Sixth, it is reasonable to believe in God because I have a personal relationship with him.
    For you only, and nobody here wants to stop you believing it.
    C.S. LEWIS’ ARGUMENT FROM LOVE AND HUMAN KINDNESS
    (1) Humans can love and be kind to each other.
    (2) This doesn’t make sense in the nasty world of survival of the fittest.

    Oh yes it does. Altruism can be beneficial for survival of the individual as well as his kin, especially in social species like us. It’s perfectly compatible with a scientific worldview, and specifically with evolution.
    (3) The only possible source for love and kindness is God.
    I surely hope not. On the contrary, I find it a bit depressing that some people only want to be kind to others because they believe god wants them to. I’d rather they be kind out of their own impetus.

  308. Demonstrating yet again that one must necessarily be really, really stupid to push this creationist crap anywhere – much less in a forum purpose’d for the discussion of the sciences – at 11:06 AM we find the psychotic and morally depraved Dave Springer idiotically looking at my post from 11:50 AM on 10 August and writing that I’d said:

    “host Ben Stein asks Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the best-known living evolutionary biologist on the planet”

    …continuing:

    Has Dawkins actually published any papers in a peer reviewed journal in the field of evolutionary biology?
    As far as I know he only writes books and never did a lick of original work in experimental biology, evolutionary or otherwise. All hat, no cattle, in other words.

    Obviously incapable of discerning the meaning of quotation marks or the HTML “blockquote” function which indents and italicizes marked sections to denote their status as quotations, this flaming Springer screw-up seems to think – does he think at all, we wonder? – that the line he’d recapitulated from that 10 August post of mine was my own assertion and not drawn from Ronald Bailey’s Reason magazine article (titled: “Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators,” 15 July 2008) based on the remarks he’d given in the FreedomFest 2008 debate “Is There Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design in Nature?”
    Now, we’ve all seen how this Springer schmuck loves Wiki-bloody-pedia, sucking upon it for everything he knows (or will ever know) about the axolotl. Does anybody therefore conclude that the cement-headed lying bastich – that’s Springer, not the axolotl – might look into the article there concerning Richard Dawkins to satisfy what we’ll laughingly call Springer‘s curiosity about the fellow to whom Ronald Bailey was referring in the cited article? Had this willfully ignorant Springer putz bothered to do so, he might have found access to Dawkins’ full curriculum vitae, which includes a listing of the man’s publications and other works, to discover that Dawkins has, indeed, “published … papers in a peer reviewed journal in the field of evolutionary biology.”
    So let us consider yet again not only the technical and scientific illiteracy of Dave Springer, so perfectly representative of the scum who are pushing “creationism in a cheap lab coat” within this forum, but also the smelly putz’s laziness.
    And therefore to hell with Dave Springer, and every one of the other vicious religious fanatics clumsily fumbling to masquerade as honest disputants in this venue.

  309. At 7:54 AM on 14 August, the “creationism in a cheap lab coat” blithering idiot Dave Springer pointlessly but diagnostically vomited up as his total contribution to discourse:

    Hey Tucci (I pronounce that Tushy for obvious reasons), why not just cut to chase and call anyhone who doesn’t agree with you a Nazi. Don’t drag it out.

    Inasmuch as the term “Nazi” refers to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP, or “National Socialist German Workers’ Party”) and – thus far – this Springer specimen hasn’t revealed himself to be adherent to the doctrines of that particular sociopolitical perversion – not that such would be all that surprising, given Springer‘s intellectual degeneracy – I have had no reason yet to classify him or his co-religionists as “Nazi.”
    Lying religious fanatics, sure. Contemptible dolts incompetently second-handing the promulgations of genuine scientists, the contents of which neither Springer nor the rest of these fellahin have even the last desperate chance of apprehending, no question. But “Nazi“?
    Nah. For one thing, it’s becoming possible to infer that this Springer nudnik couldn’t so much as march in step, even if his worthless excuse for a life depended on it.

  310. Dave Springer,
    I enjoyed your much more erudite and informed explication of the joys of genomics!!
    “Christianity isn’t a bad choice provided you actually model your life after its founder who was man who wouldn’t harm a fly and whose most aggressive act in life that we know of was cursing a fig tree.”
    Actually I would point to an incident in Jesus earlier life when he went to the temple where they had the money changing tables that may have included gambling. He blew his top telling off the priests and flipping stone tables estimated to weigh in the neighborhood of 200lbs based on archaeological work!! Matthew, Chapter 21, Mark, Chapter 11, and Luke, Chapter 19 are the tales.
    I would also point to the night of Jesus’ arrest in the garden where he told his followers if they didn’t have money to sell their garments and buy swords. My belief is that he was saying he would no longer be around to protect them. Luke 22:35-38
    I would also suggest that the command to turn the other cheek was on the basis of interpersonal relationships and other situations where it is simply better to reduce the intensity of the situation to allow the other person to calm down and give them the maximum chance to recover form their ire. I do not believe it was ever intended to be the response to a mob burning and raping the village… Mat 5:39 It is instructive to read the rest of the chapter to see the context in which it is stated as it would appear to be civil situations.
    Finally Ghandi has an inflated reputation based on the civilization he was going against. Britain, while being money grubbing and expansionist was not particularly violent and brutal compared to less civilized or more focused groups. For example, what do you think might have happened if Ghandi had lain in front of a group of tanks led by the SS. Can we all say SQUIIIIIIIIIISH together?? I can even imagine a particularly brutal SS commander having the tank go as slow as possible to extend the lesson. Then there was Papa Stalin and Mousey Tongue who also would not have hesitated to erase this man on the spot and machine gun his followers with no hesitation from their soldiers to do the deed.
    Thanks again for the excellent posts on genetics.

  311. Tucci78 says:
    “Oh, were we conducting a scientific investigation of kuhncat‘s duplicity, weaseling, moral depravity, and incompetence? Inasmuch as the dispassionate consideration of kuhncat‘s flagrant disregard for honest disputation was getting no response from him but more of the same stuff one might inadvertently squeeze out of a rabbit’s entrails while gutting it for the pot, we might as well keep adding a little napalm to the dissection of kuhncat‘s hideous pathology.”
    “this flaming Springer screw-up seems to think – does he think at all, we wonder?”
    Come on Tucci78. There you go calling names again. It seems this science stuff has you all worked up. I think a softer answer could have squelched Springer’s post easily enough. Being passionate about something is one thing, but I think your insults are not very helpful and they stand out more than any of your arguments. Your language, whether you mean it or not, infers superiority over others just because they misread a quote wrong, or do not hold the views you do (or the “consensus” if we must go there, which I think society has proven as well as this post there is no consensus on origin of life). I honestly think that the most important thing to learn here is some respect for others, even if they don’t deserve it (I speaking more of myself than anyone here). This will take you a lot farther in life than the arguments we’ve all been making on this post, at least I believe so, otherwise no one would listen to each other and learn anything. If you think I’m a fool and all for even posting this, then that is fine, I can take it; but I would recommend letting go of this post for your own sake.

  312. Tucci78 says:
    August 14, 2011 at 4:34 pm
    Is 78 the year you were born, son? That’s the year I was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps at the rank of sergeant and enrolled in college under the GI bill. Your flames are lame and roll off me like water off a duck’s back. Grow up, son.

  313. anorak2 says:
    August 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm
    @Dave Springer
    “I don’t understand why you’re getting so worked up about the axolotl thing. It seems you’re missing the point. I was explaining that evolution has no direction, it’s not towards “more complexity”.”
    I’m not worked up. It’s calle due diligence. I asked you for examples of evolution going backwards in complexity to support your claim that it has no general direction towards increasing complexity. You gave me Axotyl. I would be remiss if I didn’t look into it. As it turns out it wasn’t a very good example and I still believe that evolution has a trajectory from less to more complex as evidenced by the fossil record of life beginning as prokaryotes and gradually over the course of billions of years producing more and more complex forms with the pinnacle being the awesome complexity of the human mind. Evolution has a vector. Get used to it.

  314. John B says:
    August 14, 2011 at 10:57 am
    “Yes, sexual organisms receive only half a genome from each parent. but since the full genome is paired up, they do receive a copy of each gene from each parent (X and Y chromosomes excepted).”
    This is misleading. Genes aren’t split off and copied. The diploid number of chromosomes is split to haploid number from each parent in the creation of germ cells and then the two haploid numbers are recombined into diploid number upon fertilization. The paired chromosomes of each parent contain genes in the form of alleles which are variations on the gene, one variant on each chromosome in matching locii. The alleles may or may not be identical on each chromosome. The diploid daughter cell ends up with a copy of one variant from each parent. This explanation is not for your benefit but rather to make clear to readers unfamiliar with reduction division and recombination.
    “On the inheritance of mutations, I said “if the mutation is beneficial it spreads through the population” and you said “It only spreads if it confers a differential reproductive benefit to the organism as a whole.” Same thing isn’t it? What else do you think I was referring to it being beneficial to?”
    You were espousing gene-centric theory in my understanding. In that context the benefit goes to the gene. The gene propogates like an entity onto itself. As Gould said “The one thing you cannot give to an individual gene is exposure to natural selection”. Selection works on whole organisms.
    The gene-centric theory dates back the days when the paradigm in molecular biology was “one gene, one function”. This was before we anything about things like transcription editing, introns, exons, polymorphism, polyfunctionality, reverse transcription of the same gene to yield a totally different product, reading frame shift to yield different products, and so forth. Fixation of new alleles is not so simple that you can view it as some kind of fitness improvement in and of itself. In many if not most cases it’s just carried along for the ride. Random mutation and natural selection is a conservation mechanism. Random mutations that produce an overall fitness improvement are rare as hen’s teeth. At best they are very near neutral and are far more often quite destructive. This huge imbalance between beneficial and catastrophic random mutations serves to keep the species from wandering too far off the reservation, so to speak. Indeed when we look to the fossil record we see a record of new species emerging fully formed and then enduring for an average of about 10 million years with little change then disappearing from the record as abruptly as they entered. Again as Gould stated “the trade secret of paleontology is that it disproves the very theory upon which it is based”. He was referring to gradualist theory, the accumulation of small changes which in toto over time lead to the emergence of new species. The fossil record is one of SALTATION. The prevailing theory of evolution cannot explain saltation and instead of questioning the dogma the fossil record was instead impeached first by Darwin and then carried on in that tradition through today. The theory of evolution CAN’T be wrong, thus the data must be wrong. A rather familiar refrain that echoes within the hallowed walls of anthropogenic global warming punditry.
    Truth be told it appears to me that the chromosome is the basic unit of heritable change and that speciation is the result of very rare chromosomal reorganizations rather than the very common point mutations in individual genes. Rare chromosomal reorganizations would produce saltation of new species and explain why the fossil record has, in the past 150 years since Darwin first impeached it, been explored in far greater extent and detail and has still not told us a different story. The “incomplete record” excuse is wearing very thin.
    “I’m not sure what the point of the rest of your post was. Could you put it more succintly? I can’t work out if you are trying to make the case for intelligent design.”
    My position on intelligent design is that when you divorce it from the religious and anti-religious rhetoric and get down to actually asking whether design is something that can be reliably discriminated from non-design it has enough merit that we should at least pursue the question in the context of math, science, and engineering instead of fighting it out in pulpits and courtrooms.

  315. Dave Springer,
    Evolution has a vector. Get used to it.
    I understand your point of view. But I am still very intrigued with the Koonin paper I asked you to look at because he discusses “the fallacy of evolutionary progress.” Genomics tells us most mutations/selections are not positive. Koonin thinks he sees biological “big bangs” which he thinks happen by chance to cause the progression. These “big bangs” are not selections in the normal sense. I really think his paper deserves more study. I excerpted a selection of his quotes above. The paper is about a lot more than just horizontal gene transfer and I would love to read what you think about it. My own reading is that Koonin’s biological “big bangs” are highly contrived. Evolution has a vector but it does not seem to have a mechanism.

  316. John B says:
    August 14, 2011 at 11:52 am

    @Dave Springer
    Dawkins published plenty, but latterly moved on to become a scince communicator rather than a coalface scientist:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_publications_by_Richard_Dawkins

    I know the list is long when I sampled a promising title:
    Hurst, L.D.; Dawkins, R. (May 1992). “Evolutionary Chemistry: Life in a Test Tube”.
    I found it was an editorial not a research paper. My question was about whether he’d actually done any actual original research in the area of evolutionary biology and published it. Editorials, review articles, stuff published in Philosphy, and so forth don’t count.
    I looked through the list to see if he’d written any textbooks used in biology courses and it doesn’t appear he’s done that either. It would appear his scientific and academic accomplishments are in the discipline of Regurgitation & Bloviation with a minor in Cherry Picking.

  317. Dave Springer says:
    My position on intelligent design is that when you divorce it from the religious and anti-religious rhetoric and get down to actually asking whether design is something that can be reliably discriminated from non-design it has enough merit that we should at least pursue the question in the context of math, science, and engineering instead of fighting it out in pulpits and courtrooms.
    You can’t divorce “intelligent design” from religious rhetoric and courtrooms because that’s what it is. It’s creationism relabelled for political reasons, specifially to circumvent US legislation. The concept “intelligent design” is virtually unknown outside the United States, because elsewhere the same political circumstances don’t exist. Creationism under its original name is of course known in other parts of the world, but there are few places where it has any political weight comparable to the United States. In Europe it’s regarded as lunatic fringe and has no political influence.
    “ID” has been dealt with and refuted by scientists, so no need to reexamine it. People on this thread have been kind enough to reiterate the main points that speak against it. It’s no coincidence that those are the same points that speak against creationism, because the two are identical.

  318. Ron Cram says:
    August 15, 2011 at 6:49 am
    “Dave Springer,
    Evolution has a vector. Get used to it.
    I understand your point of view. But I am still very intrigued with the Koonin paper I asked you to look at because he discusses “the fallacy of evolutionary progress.” Genomics tells us most mutations/selections are not positive. Koonin thinks he sees biological “big bangs” which he thinks happen by chance to cause the progression. These “big bangs” are not selections in the normal sense. I really think his paper deserves more study. I excerpted a selection of his quotes above. The paper is about a lot more than just horizontal gene transfer and I would love to read what you think about it. My own reading is that Koonin’s biological “big bangs” are highly contrived. Evolution has a vector but it does not seem to have a mechanism.”
    It has a mechanism. It just doesn’t appear to be contained in the Darwinian dogma.
    An example of the dogma: if evolution were to start over from scratch the results would be quite different.
    Really? That sounds like a typical just-so story to me. We’re just supposed to accept it without question. It hasn’t been tested or confirmed. It’s not falsifiable since we can’t just set the clock back 3 billion years and see what happens. On the flip side, physics predicts it would play out the same way given the same starting conditions. Indeed, given identical starting conditions 14 billion years ago the evolution of the entire universe would perfectly repeat. Cause and effect is a harsh mistress. Randomness is an illusory artifact of incomplete information. Nature herself has complete information.
    As far as Koonin and the section dealing with the fallacy of evolutionary progress he doesn’t try to make it’s a fallacy. Increasing genomic complexity over the course of evolution is a fact not a topic for debate. In fact he lists the facts in the opening paragraphs where he discusses the increasingly complex genomes from prokaryotes to protozoa to pineapples to primates and everything in between. His point, which I agree with, is that mutation and selection are not the source of increasing complexity.

  319. anorak2 says:
    August 15, 2011 at 7:54 am
    “You can’t divorce “intelligent design” from religious rhetoric and courtrooms because that’s what it is.”
    I disagree. I can talk about design detection all day long and never once venture outside math, science, and engineering. Your inability to do the same is your problem, not mine.
    Let’s review again the working definition of intelligent design which I use and which I personally placed on arguably the most widely read website dealing with the topic:
    http://www.uncommondescent.com/id-defined/

    The theory of intelligent design (ID) holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.
    In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection — how to recognize patterns arranged by an intelligent cause for a purpose. Design detection is used in a number of scientific fields, including anthropology, forensic sciences that seek to explain the cause of events such as a death or fire, cryptanalysis and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). An inference that certain biological information may be the product of an intelligent cause can be tested or evaluated in the same manner as scientists daily test for design in other sciences.
    ID is controversial because of the implications of its evidence, rather than the significant weight of its evidence. ID proponents believe science should be conducted objectively, without regard to the implications of its findings. This is particularly necessary in origins science because of its historical (and thus very subjective) nature, and because it is a science that unavoidably impacts religion.
    Positive evidence of design in living systems consists of the semantic, meaningful or functional nature of biological information, the lack of any known law that can explain the sequence of symbols that carry the “messages,” and statistical and experimental evidence that tends to rule out chance as a plausible explanation. Other evidence challenges the adequacy of natural or material causes to explain both the origin and diversity of life.

    It’s not my fault that neither the religious right nor the areligious are willing to put aside their politics and focus on the core question of whether design is something that can be reliably discriminated from non-design. As an engineer I know the lines can be blurry. Something that looks like a stone ax head might be just coincidental. Something that looks like and performs the function of a space shuttle is not blurry. Asking the same question about living things is a valid question and can investigated entirely within the confines of math, science, and engineering.

  320. At 5:09 AM on 15 August, the odious Dave Springer (and remember, folks, “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog“) jerks:

    Is 78 the year you were born, son? That’s the year I was honorably discharged from the United States Marine Corps at the rank of sergeant and enrolled in college under the GI bill. Your flames are lame and roll off me like water off a duck’s back. Grow up, son.

    Ah, getting specifically personal. Grinding into your guts like a power drill, ain’t it?
    Nah. ’78 was the year I got into the practice of medicine. While you were sucking at the government trough, I was part of the productive sector of the economy, employing people, providing services folks needed, and incidentally paying your way through “college under the GI bill.” So you claim to have worn stripes on your sleeves? Mine were on a few sets of shoulderboards.
    Grow a pair, son.

  321. Anorak2,
    ““ID” has been dealt with and refuted by scientists, so no need to reexamine it.”
    This statement does not address qualitatively or quantitatively the status of the “scientists’ who have dismissed Intelligent design. It totally ignores the “scientists” who support intelligent design. This statement is a perfect example of a RELIGIOUS belief system that brooks no other accepted facts than what THEY promote. Y’all are simply closed minded bigots that ignore the real scientific process that CANNOT reject a hypothesis without at least one FACT that disproves it. So far the burden of proof is still on you. The only thing you have disproven is that people who attack intelligent design actually PRACTICE the scientific method.

  322. I apologize if this has been posted before. I haven’t had time to read all the “wonderful” comments. It is very sad as I probably could have learned much about my own mental state, family history, genetics, personal habits, etc. which had heretofore escaped my notice from Tussi78’s posts!! 8>)
    Here is an article about the acceptance, withdrawal, and apology for withdrawal of a very good paper on the 2nd Law and Evolution by Sewel. It contains links to both the paper and statements from both sides as to the appropriateness of the paper.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/the_first_law_of_darwin_lobbyi044561.html
    Basically, like all other areas of current science, we appear to have gatekeepers limiting our access to the ideas outside of the mainstream. They then, of course, use the fact that those outside the mainstream are NOT getting published as proof that their ideas lack ANY usefulness. Circular Logic? Bias Confirmation? Controlling the Propaganda?? You decide.
    Can’t wait for your colorful response Tushi78!! Maybe you could start including at least 10% factual argumentation in those books you are writing?

  323. Dave Springer,
    “On the flip side, physics predicts it would play out the same way given the same starting conditions. Indeed, given identical starting conditions 14 billion years ago the evolution of the entire universe would perfectly repeat.”
    But, isn’t this the issue that freaks out most people about Quantum Mechanics? Due to its statistical nature a replay with exact starting conditions would PROBABLY be true, but, MAYBE NOT?? (or is this one of many things I am misunderstooding about it??)

  324. Tushi78,
    “Nah. ’78 was the year I got into the practice of medicine.”
    Ahh, now I understand. You have my deepest sympathy Tushy78. You and the rest of the medical profession are looking at having your careers turned into slave labor by the leftard ideas you probably espoused and voted for. If you are conservative, it is hard to see so apologies if the dig is incorrect.

  325. At 5:21 AM on 15 August, TB-mod expunges my response to these religious whackjobs infesting a virtual forum for the specific purpose of simulating adherence to the principles of scientific inquiry in order to peddle the destruction of lucid reasoning under the guise of “intelligent design,” writing:

    Way too many bad words to deal with each one and preserve the comment. – Tone it down and try again.

    Tsk. There are no “bad words.” There are clearly distinguished aggressively and morally evil intentions, to be sure, and that’s what we’re dealing with in the political purposes of these “intelligent design” fellahin.
    If nothing else, let us please pay scrupulously consistent attention to the purpose of these malefactors, which has never been anything but the antithesis of honest inquiry. As anorak2 put it so cogently at 7:54 AM on 15 August:

    You can’t divorce “intelligent design” from religious rhetoric and courtrooms because that’s what it is. It’s creationism relabeled for political reasons, specifically to circumvent US legislation. The concept “intelligent design” is virtually unknown outside the United States, because elsewhere the same political circumstances don’t exist. Creationism under its original name is of course known in other parts of the world, but there are few places where it has any political weight comparable to the United States. In Europe it’s regarded as lunatic fringe and has no political influence.

    This is the rotting, stinking corpse of the elephant going liquescent and puddling on the floor around the conference table, and which (most recently at 8:36 AM today) is being evaded by the contemptible fraudsters posing as persons with honest interest in the sciences, this particular critter claiming some sort of ex cathedra ability “as an engineer” to divert the focus from the political perversion of education to what he calls “the core question of whether design is something that can be reliably discriminated from non-design.”
    That is – as this Springer specimen knows good and well – not the “core question” either in this specific discussion or in the clumsy shovelsful of prevarication being peddled by these “creationism in a cheap lab coat” clowns generally, but rather whether or not scientific method will be taught in the government school systems as the examination of objectively observable and mensurable physical phenomena without the pernicious influence of the primum movens concept, whatever the peculiar religious source of that Great Sky Pixie foreclosure of intellectual integrity might be.
    To repeat from my expunged post the quotation I’d redrawn from Dr. Glassman’s article on “The Basis of Rational Argument,” “The notion of intelligent design [does belong] in the public school program,” but only to serve in this role:

    The science curriculum should show that, because science builds on facts (measurements compared to standards as explained above) and because God and the supernatural can never be measured but must remain mysterious and otherworldly, intelligent design and creationism are matters of faith, not science. To a scientist–believer, science takes the measure of what God appears to have done, not of God. Science can never figure out what size Birkenstock God takes.

    In other words, Mr. Springer‘s vicious deviation from adherence to the principles of science – and he claims to be an “engineer“! – neither can nor should enter any child or adolescent’s educational purview except as an example of what science emphatically is not, as a warning to arm the young and the impressionable about the methods of liars intent upon disabling their capacity to reason.
    And – ain’t it neat? – that lesson applies to the “man-made global climate change” fraud, too.

  326. At 11:45 AM on 15 August, kuhnkat dumps a link to a load of creationist crap on the board as if any reasonable, intellectually honest person is expected to accept it in any way other than as one receives the stool specimens harvested of any other diseased dog.
    The whole point of this vapidity – which kuhncat could possibly have simply stated, had that spirochete connecting the two functioning neurons in his cerebrum been cooperating – seems to be that a religious whackjob’s submission to a mathematics journal had been rejected by the proponents of the dominant “Darwin lobby” orthodoxy because the author had allegedly “argued that the basic principles underlying the second law of thermodynamics, when properly applied, might be a bar to Darwinian evolution after all.
    There was subsequently much lawyerly yelping and squealing and raping and pillaging and “Because of the journal’s inappropriate treatment of Dr. Sewell, it has now issued an apology to Dr. Sewell and paid his attorney’s fees in the matter to the tune of $10,000.
    Great. May we hope that this case will establish a precedent under which Nature and Science may be hammered for compensatory and punitive damages anent the “pal review” promulgation of the AGW bogosity and the suppression of material debunking the “man-made global climate change” fraud?
    So the point (to the extent that kuhncat has one except for that literal prominence at the peak of his microcephalic cranium) might possibly be:

    Basically, like all other areas of current science, we appear to have gatekeepers limiting our access to the ideas outside of the mainstream. They then, of course, use the fact that those outside the mainstream are NOT getting published as proof that their ideas lack ANY usefulness. Circular Logic? Bias Confirmation? Controlling the Propaganda?? You decide.

    Had kuhncat the least semblance of decency, he’d thank me for amending his failure to make cogent the teensy remnant of possible interest to frequenters of this Web site in his excuse for a post.
    But let’s not expect too much of kuhncat and the rest of the sick, the lame, and the lazy.

  327. At 12:43 PM on 15 August, kuhnkat writes about how I:

    …and the rest of the medical profession are looking at having your careers turned into slave labor by the leftard ideas you probably espoused and voted for. If you are conservative, it is hard to see so apologies if the dig is incorrect.

    Inasmuch as I’m vehemently dedicated to the preservation of individual human rights and therefore the strict enforcement of the rule of law to prevent government thugs from invading the private citizen’s bookshelves and bedroom as well as his bank account, I’m a helluva lot more “conservative” than any politically invasive religious whackjob will ever be.
    And it’s not simply that the “Liberal” fascist goons have sought to turn the “healthcare industry” into a command-economy favor they can preempt and dispense to buy votes but that their actions have degraded (and will continue to degrade) the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of the provision of medical and nursing care to the people of these United States.
    The price of their perverted power-grabbing is being paid by our patients more than anybody else, and any physician who evades recognition of this fact isn’t worth the strychnine required to exterminate him.
    This kuhncat‘s so-called “apologies” are accepted for what they’re worth.
    Not much.

  328. Dave Springer says:
    August 15, 2011 at 8:36 am
    I disagree. I can talk about design detection all day long and never once venture outside math, science, and engineering. Your inability to do the same is your problem, not mine.
    I am religious but I can talk about detection without appealing to religious texts for evidence. If I venture outside of “math, science and engineering” it is because someone asked me about my religious beliefs. People who preclude the possibility of design a priori are displaying faith in atheism. Such people are not agnostic, even if they claim to be.

  329. Tucci78:
    I don’t think there is any people, professions, institutions, philosophy left for you to insult!
    As a MD, you should recognize, when it’s time to withdraw, and go tend your torn & bleeding self. As a witness, it was hard to watch, your arguments destroyed… so… so… thoroughly. And by someone out of the ranks too! Tsk Tsk

  330. Dave Springer says:
    I disagree. I can talk about design detection all day long and never once venture outside math, science, and engineering. Your inability to do the same is your problem, not mine.
    No you can’t do that. When you talk about “intelligent design” you’re not talking about science at all. It’s cargo cult science at best, dressed up to look like science but lacking the essence. Here’s why: The motivation. ID or creationism is not motivated by the unbiased search for truth. Its followers are keen to give one and only one specific answer, and they search supposed evidence for its support, and ignore all evidence contradicting it. That is the exact opposite of science, which must be open to the outcome, and which must not ignore unwelcome evidence. Also science must state falsifiable theories, but creationism is not falsifiable. Even the term “theory” for creationism or ID or whatchumacallit is therefore presumptous.
    And while you’re talking about it everything you do is religiously motivated. Because the answer you strive for is fixed, and it’s “an omnipotent god has created everything”.
    And your last sentence is a classical rhetorical fallacy. I am addressing the problem with your point of view. Projecting the problem with an ideology onto its critics is intellectually dishonest.

  331. anorak2 @5:11 p.m.
    What a hoot! I can assure you that Dave Springer’s motivation is most definitely *not* “an omnipotent god has created everything.” I think you’re projecting.
    While we’re at it, once you get over your religious antagonism, perhaps you will be able to see that the following questions (which form the basis of ID as it relates to living systems) are purely objective and scientific in nature, with no religious basis whatsoever:
    1. Is it possible that some living systems were designed?
    2. If so, is there a way that we could tell they were designed?

  332. Eric Anderson says:
    I can assure you that Dave Springer’s motivation is most definitely *not* “an omnipotent god has created everything.”/i>
    You mean there are people who think life on earth was “designed” by some being, but they don’t think it was a deity? Who else do they suggest, extraterrestrials? That would mean all creationists are Christian fundamendalists, or islamists or whatever, but some are ufologists? Is that what you’re saying? I’m baffled. 🙂

  333. >>
    Eric Anderson says:
    August 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm
    anorak2, you are standing out as a great example of the kind of person I was talking about. Complaining about the wiring of the eye, that’s a good one! Time to get up to speed. Go spend some time learning about how the wiring actually works, instead of repeating nonsense anti-design talking points. And as I said, those who think it is poor, including you, do not propose any kind of better solution based on actual engineering considerations. There is zero evidence that a different wiring scheme would be better, and plenty of good engineering reason for having it the way it is.
    At the end of the day, however, it is irrelevant to the question of whether it was designed. But it is another great example of the failed “poor design” argument.
    <<
    I like comparing the vertebrate eye “design” with the cephalopod eye “design.” My guess is the designer of eyes preferred cephalopods to vertebrates. The cephalopods in question are the octopuses, squids, and cuttlefishes. The nautiluses have pinhole eyes that lack lenses.
    In the cephalopod eye, the blood vessels and nerves are routed outside the back of eye and plunge through at various points to connect with the retina. This effectively pins the retina to the back of the eye and makes detached retinas very unlikely. It also removes the need for a “blind spot” where all the blood vessels and nerves plunge through the retina at one point. All the neural circuitry used to hide the blind spot in vertebrates is unnecessary in cephalopods. The vertebrate nerves are transparent because they are collocated in the retina. This type of nerve has a slower frequency response than normal opaque nerves–the ones used in cephalopod eyes. Vertebrate cones and rods point toward the back of the eye. Cephalopod light sensing cells point toward the eye opening (pupil). (If backward pointing light sensing cells isn’t a design flaw, then nothing is.) As a last hurrah, cephalopod lenses are rigid and move backward and forward as in a real camera. Cephalopods don’t have to worry about stiffer lenses as they age. Vertebrate lenses have muscles that alter the thickness which adjusts the focus. As vertebrates age, the lenses become stiffer and the muscles have greater difficulty focusing the lens.
    I would say that compared to cephalopod eyes, vertebrate eyes are poorly “designed.”
    Jim

  334. In an exchange with Eric Anderson, at 11:24 PM on 15 August anorak2 writes:

    You mean there are people who think life on earth was “designed” by some being, but they don’t think it was a deity? Who else do they suggest, extraterrestrials? That would mean all creationists are Christian fundamentalists, or Islamists or whatever, but some are ufologists? Is that what you’re saying? I’m baffled.

    Which brings us back to Ronald Bailey’s “Attack of the Super-Intelligent Purple Space Squid Creators” (Reason magazine, 15 July 2008), the points of which our invidious religious whackjobs have never yet addressed. Hell, they’ve flop-sweatily avoided even acknowledging ’em.
    Plainly, there’s the notion that their “intelligent design” horsehockey must necessarily imply that life on Earth (or even in this solar system) might could have been the result of directed panspermia undertaken by sapient entities from some planet other than our own. This “Nurmee-nurmee-nurmee-I’m-not-listening!” evasion on the part of these duplicitous dorks when so confronted provides strong presumptive evidence that every single one of them is simply (per my original diagnosis) a religious whackjob intent upon peddling the “supernatural” – whatever he conceives that to be, “Hairy thunderer, or cosmic muffin” – as the only possible primum movens option left to the victims of this concerted effort to destroy the intellectual validity of scientific method in the minds of the young and innocent.
    Bailey had written that in the course of the FreedomFest 2008 debate for which Mr. Bailey had prepared the remarks which later became his Reason magazine article, one of his religious whackjob opponents from the Discovery Institute had in the course of his presentations “…claimed several times that evolutionary biology somehow undermined the notions of freedom and economics. He just couldn’t seem to get his head around the concept of bottom-up order. This so frustrated me that I eventually quipped, ‘Intelligent design is to evolutionary biology what socialism is to free-market economics.’
    Yep. Thoroughly dishonest and morally depraved to extents that necessarily require them to be characterized and condemned as liars in general and enemies of intellectual integrity in particular.

  335. anorak2 says:
    August 15, 2011 at 5:11 pm
    Regarding Dave Springer’s comment that he can talk about design detection without leaving math and science, you write:
    No you can’t do that. When you talk about “intelligent design” you’re not talking about science at all. It’s cargo cult science at best, dressed up to look like science but lacking the essence. Here’s why: The motivation. ID or creationism is not motivated by the unbiased search for truth. Its followers are keen to give one and only one specific answer, and they search supposed evidence for its support, and ignore all evidence contradicting it.
    I don’t believe this is true for David, but if it was the argument cuts both ways. If you cannot evaluate science involved in design detection, if that evidence is not a live option for you, then you are allowing your faith in atheism to limit your search for truth as well. You claim to be agnostic but a priori refuse to consider evidence other agnostic have found convincing regarding an intelligent designer. I’m talking about Jastrow, Eddington, and many others long before Discovery Institute came on the scene. You seem to be completely unaware of the many statements made by agnostics on this subject, especially as it relates to the Big Bang. I recommend God and the Astronomers by Robert Jastrow and the quotes on this website.
    http://www.veritas-ucsb.org/library/origins/quotes/universe.html

  336. Earlier I introduced the paper by Granville Sewell here titled “A Second Look at the Second Law.” I was impressed by the paper and its argument against Isaac Asimov’s idea that energy from the Sun means evolution is not precluded by the 2nd Law.
    I would like to propose an experiment that would test Asimov’s hypothesis. I would like to give Asimov’s idea the best chance of success possible. Regarding origins of life, the critical time period is pre-cellular life. The question is “Will energy from the Sun counter entropy with regard to complex biomolecules required for the earliest and simplest forms of unicellular life?”
    The null hypothesis is that a container of artificially compiled primordial soup (containing complex biomolecules, nucleobases, water, etc) will suffer entropy and degradation regardless of the presence of direct sunlight, indirect sunlight, warming from the sun or absence of sunlight. An alternative hypothesis is the more complex the molecule, the more vulnerable it is to entropy.
    I have found one paper so far which seems to touch on the experiment I am proposing.
    http://www.jsbi.org/pdfs/journal1/IBSB07/IBSB07019.pdf
    Does anyone have any practical tips on how this experiment can be conducted?

  337. Dave Springer is 100% correct. Design detection is an idea based entirely on empiricism and rational thought. Contrary to the dishonest claims of I.D. detractors, intelligence isn’t a “supernatural” phenomenon, but a repeatedly observed, recognizable force operating inside of nature. It’s no more supernatural than gravity.
    The real “problem” with Intelligent Design is that the notion of design being not only detectable, but detected, in biology can be used to support theistic belief, thus it’s viewed as a huge threat by atheists and, to a lesser extent, agnostics. It magnifies their insecurities and disrupts their faith in deep time coupled with chance.
    All of these claims that I.D. is simply repackaged creationism (it’s actually rejuvenated teleology, as Dave Springer previously mentioned), and that it’s somehow a threat to science, are nothing more than those aforementioned threatened people trying to discredit it. The claims have no basis in reality and are in no way made to protect science, but to protect atheistic materialist beliefs.

  338. anorak2: You mean there are people who think life on earth was “designed” by some being, but they don’t think it was a deity? Who else do they suggest, extraterrestrials? That would mean all creationists are Christian fundamendalists, or islamists or whatever, but some are ufologists? Is that what you’re saying? I’m baffled. 🙂

    Is this a new concept to you? If it is, I can tell you, quite bluntly, that you’re knowledge on the subject is quite lacking.
    Who the designer(s) is/was is a secondary question. The primary question is if there’s design in the first place. If the answer is no, then that secondary question is nullified, obviously.
    As I noted above, design detection doesn’t require any religious faith nor any religious arguments. It’s entirely secular. With that said, those with previous religious commitments are going to find it appealing, and will, naturally, believe that the designer is “their” God. That’s their right, and has no bearing on the question of whether or not there’s intentional design in nature. As long as they’re able to separate the science of design detection with the personal faith of religious conviction (unless they present scientific evidence to support that conviction), there shouldn’t be an issue.
    From my experience, religious I.D. proponents have done just that. Unfortunately, all this has done is given I.D. detractors new ammo, as they can now claim that this purposeful separation of scientific reasoning and religious belief by I.D. proponents is all a part of the conspiracy to hide the fact that it’s “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” This sets up a “Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.” scenario:
    Heads: Religious I.D. supporters state that they believe the designer is “their” God. I.D. detractors claim this is evidence that I.D. is religion. I.D. loses.
    Tails: Religious I.D. supporters separate their belief that their God is the designer from their methodology for detecting design. I.D. detractors claim that by not addressing who the designer is/was, religious I.D. supporters are trying to hide their belief that God was the designer, which is evidence that I.D. is “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.” I.D. loses.
    It’s all quite silly and is nothing more than a rhetorical game designed to discredit I.D., all while ignoring the important questions of whether or not design is detectable, and if it is, has it been detected.
    Imagine if someone claimed that an intelligence-free origin of life and Darwinian evolution were both false because they’re ideas strongly supported by atheists. You’d rightly recognize that just because an idea is supported by atheists, that doesn’t make it untrue. The same logic applies here. It’s a textbook non-sequitur.
    Bottom Line: I no more need to know who life’s designer was to conclude it was designed than a detective needs to know who killed Jimmy before he concludes murder. All the detective needs to know is that there are potential murderers out there.
    Likewise, all we need is the simple possibility that there is even one advanced intelligence out there which preceded our own and is capable of bio-engineering. Once we accept that possibility (does anyone reject it?), it makes intelligent design a very real possibility. This remains true even if nature, itself, is capable of producing life, a very crucial point that seems to be lost on most people. After all, a single intelligence with the capability to create life could seed more planets with life in a (relatively) short time-span than blind forces could in a much larger time-span.

  339. Return of the Jam,
    What you write makes a lot of sense. But I am confused by this portion where you say:
    Contrary to the dishonest claims of I.D. detractors, intelligence isn’t a “supernatural” phenomenon, but a repeatedly observed, recognizable force operating inside of nature. It’s no more supernatural than gravity.
    The agnostic and atheist astrophysicists at NASA came to the conclusion the Big Bang was the result of the supernatural. I have mentioned Robert Jastrow’s book God and the Astronomers several times on this thread. Of course, the origin of the universe is a unique thing. But I think it uniquely shows the supernatural.
    I am guessing that when you speak of intelligence as “a repeatedly observed, recognizable force operating inside of nature” you are referring mainly to biology. Is this correct? Or are there other areas where intelligence is just as readily found? Did you happen to read the Koonin paper I linked to above? He discusses a series of biological “big bangs” as he calls them but credits “chance” with their appearance. To me, chance is not a mechanism (especially when he had just gone out of his way to show the fallacy of evolutionary progress!) and it seems to me to possibly be a sign of design. How would one go about confirming or refuting this hypothesis?
    I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

  340. ReturnoftheJam,
    You won’t be able to get through, the line is busy.
    These guys are afraid. They are afraid that someone or something really DID design them and might come back and not appreciate the mess we have made!! Or worse, not care and just gather data, autopsies, terminate the experiment, sterilize the equipment… Religious types have an advantage in thinking we know who did it and what our chances ultimately are. 8>)

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