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.

Related Link

› Related videos from NASA Goddard’s Scientific Visualization Studio

0 0 votes
Article Rating
375 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
August 10, 2011 1:12 am

All we are, is dust in the [solar] wind…

TMJ
August 10, 2011 1:23 am

I can’t wait to see what Amino Acids in Meteorites has to say about this 🙂

Mark.R
August 10, 2011 1:26 am

“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.

tmtisfree
August 10, 2011 1:31 am

I think what this study proves, is that Chemistry (like Physics) is universal, nothing else.

steveta_uk
August 10, 2011 1:51 am

I thought Fred Hoyle had written about this 40 years ago.

Kasuha
August 10, 2011 1:55 am

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.

August 10, 2011 1:57 am

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.

Keith
August 10, 2011 2:03 am

I can think of a certain poster who will be very interested in this 😉

Fergus T. Ambrose
August 10, 2011 2:12 am

Left or right handed acids?

ClimateC
August 10, 2011 2:32 am

“… have been discovering components of DNA in meteorites since the 1960′s, but [unsure] they came from contamination by terrestrial life…”
Enter the Murchinson Meteorite (1969),
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murchison_meteorite
Already in 1997 ET-amino-acids were more or less confirmed.

Scott
August 10, 2011 2:41 am

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

1DandyTroll
August 10, 2011 2:44 am

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

August 10, 2011 2:46 am

“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?

August 10, 2011 2:52 am

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 …

Kelvin Vaughan
August 10, 2011 2:58 am

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.

DelD
August 10, 2011 3:25 am

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.

steveta_uk
August 10, 2011 3:56 am

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.

Robert of Ottawa
August 10, 2011 4:12 am

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.

Khwarizmi
August 10, 2011 4:21 am

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)

Gorgias
August 10, 2011 4:21 am

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

Mike M
August 10, 2011 4:25 am

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?

Bruce Cobb
August 10, 2011 4:29 am

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.

David Schofield
August 10, 2011 4:31 am

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! 😉

HaroldW
August 10, 2011 4:33 am

The Gray Monk: “We are all the stuff of stars as I think a songwriter put it way back when”
Perhaps you’re thinking of Joni Mitchell? “We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon”
[ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBqodL2OJ1A ]

DocMartyn
August 10, 2011 4:40 am

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.

jaymam
August 10, 2011 4:41 am

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.

August 10, 2011 4:48 am

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.

August 10, 2011 5:01 am

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.

LazyTeenager
August 10, 2011 5:04 am

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.

Ed Fix
August 10, 2011 5:07 am

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.

Dave Springer
August 10, 2011 5:23 am

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.

August 10, 2011 5:34 am

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

Editor
August 10, 2011 5:42 am

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.

Don K
August 10, 2011 6:01 am

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.

Ken Hall
August 10, 2011 6:23 am

I have often wondered what planet these extreme climate alarmists come from?

anorak2
August 10, 2011 6:25 am

@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

August 10, 2011 6:28 am
Armani Watches
August 10, 2011 6:29 am

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.

JimBob
August 10, 2011 6:30 am

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.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 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?”
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?

Esteban
August 10, 2011 6:51 am

Guanine Cytosine etc are complex enough I’m convinced

August 10, 2011 7:07 am

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”…..

Ray
August 10, 2011 7:17 am

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?

August 10, 2011 7:24 am

it seems like NASA’s goal is to explain life without God, Evolution is still the largest scientific fraud.

Ged
August 10, 2011 7:26 am

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

Titus
August 10, 2011 7:38 am

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.

John T
August 10, 2011 7:55 am

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).

kwik
August 10, 2011 7:59 am

“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?

August 10, 2011 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?

Johnnythelowery
August 10, 2011 8:07 am

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.

Jared
August 10, 2011 8:15 am

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.

August 10, 2011 8:16 am

The argument from ignorance is very popular with creationists, that’s obvious.

August 10, 2011 8:17 am

Ok, this is fantastic stuff, all this DNA NASA meteorite business, but maybe you ought to mention, just once, something about the riots in the UK, that began in London, and has now led 2 the death of 4 or 5 people:
http://gnstr.wordpress.com/2011/08/08/london-riots/
http://wp.me/p13vzx-he

Dave Springer
August 10, 2011 8:18 am

“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”.

Dave Springer
August 10, 2011 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

August 10, 2011 8:28 am

May we now begin discussing super-intelligent purple space squid?

Editor
August 10, 2011 8:30 am

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.

DLH
August 10, 2011 8:32 am

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

August 10, 2011 8:34 am

Somebody tell CERN that NASA found the “God” particle!

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 8:49 am

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?

Hoser
August 10, 2011 8:52 am

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.

DaveF
August 10, 2011 8:52 am

Humans go home!!

Nuke
August 10, 2011 8:56 am

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.

noaaprogrammer
August 10, 2011 8:57 am

“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”.

Johnnythelowery
August 10, 2011 9:00 am

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

August 10, 2011 9:07 am

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.

mattweezer
August 10, 2011 9:09 am

“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.

DesertYote
August 10, 2011 9:16 am

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.

Don K
August 10, 2011 9:16 am

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.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 9:17 am

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.

August 10, 2011 9:18 am

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.

rbateman
August 10, 2011 9:19 am

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?

August 10, 2011 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! “

Medic1532
August 10, 2011 9:30 am

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

crosspatch
August 10, 2011 9:34 am

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.

Ray
August 10, 2011 9:35 am

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.

Hoser
August 10, 2011 9:44 am

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.

David Falkner
August 10, 2011 9:46 am

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.

August 10, 2011 10:03 am

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

Robert Austin
August 10, 2011 10:05 am

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.

Logan in AZ
August 10, 2011 10:16 am

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/

Robert Austin
August 10, 2011 10:19 am

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.

Jeremy
August 10, 2011 10:31 am

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”.

August 10, 2011 10:45 am

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?

mattweezer
August 10, 2011 10:50 am

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.

Larry Geiger
August 10, 2011 10:57 am

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.

Jim G
August 10, 2011 11:04 am

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.

Paul Westhaver
August 10, 2011 11:11 am

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.

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 11:15 am

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.)

Jim G
August 10, 2011 11:23 am

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!

August 10, 2011 11:50 am

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.

Johnnythelowery
August 10, 2011 11:51 am

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.

Lady Life Grows
August 10, 2011 11:56 am

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.

August 10, 2011 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” 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.

August 10, 2011 12:45 pm

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?

Chris King
August 10, 2011 12:48 pm

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.

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 12:50 pm

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?

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 12:51 pm

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?

AdderW
August 10, 2011 1:09 pm

Earth is not in space?

August 10, 2011 1:57 pm

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”?

Vince Causey
August 10, 2011 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.

Hoser
August 10, 2011 2:09 pm

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.

Mike M
August 10, 2011 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?
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…

August 10, 2011 2:18 pm

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?

August 10, 2011 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?

Pascvaks
August 10, 2011 2:35 pm

“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.

Eric Anderson
August 10, 2011 2:36 pm

“. . . 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”?

Johnnythelowery
August 10, 2011 2:47 pm

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.

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 2:48 pm

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?

Johnnythelowery
August 10, 2011 3:02 pm

One source of discussions of Science you might like is KITP. (Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics) which records and makes available lectures on a variety of subjects in podcast type fashion.
This was well presented and very interesting. http://online.kitp.ucsb.edu/online/plecture/bbassler11/rm/qttv.html

John B
August 10, 2011 3:05 pm

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…

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 3:23 pm

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.

John B
August 10, 2011 3:33 pm

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

George E. Smith
August 10, 2011 3:56 pm

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.

George E. Smith
August 10, 2011 4:09 pm

“”””” 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.”

August 10, 2011 4:10 pm

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.

George E. Smith
August 10, 2011 4:25 pm

“”””” 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 ?

August 10, 2011 4:26 pm

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.

Theo Goodwin
August 10, 2011 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.

George M
August 10, 2011 6:05 pm

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.

George M
August 10, 2011 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). 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.

Gary Hladik
August 10, 2011 6:29 pm

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

Dave Worley
August 10, 2011 6:33 pm

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

Dave
August 10, 2011 6:38 pm

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.

Dave Worley
August 10, 2011 6:54 pm

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?

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 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. 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.

Paul Westhaver
August 10, 2011 7:28 pm

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.

August 10, 2011 7:33 pm

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.”

Amino Acids in Meteorites
August 10, 2011 8:21 pm

God lives in space. So sure we were seeded with life from space.

Amino Acids in Meteorites
August 10, 2011 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……..

August 10, 2011 8:29 pm

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

August 10, 2011 8:34 pm

Perseid meteor shower due tonight. Go outside. Look up.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 8:53 pm

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.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 8:54 pm

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

August 10, 2011 8:58 pm

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.

August 10, 2011 9:13 pm

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.

August 10, 2011 9:17 pm

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.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 9:22 pm

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.

goldie
August 10, 2011 9:36 pm

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.

Ron Cram
August 10, 2011 9:47 pm

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.

August 10, 2011 9:57 pm

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.

August 10, 2011 10:06 pm

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.

DesertYote
August 10, 2011 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
August 10, 2011 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.

Hoser
August 10, 2011 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?

Eric Anderson
August 10, 2011 11:35 pm

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.

David Falkner
August 10, 2011 11:41 pm

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?

August 10, 2011 11:49 pm

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.

Eric Anderson
August 10, 2011 11:53 pm

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.

RandomReal[]
August 11, 2011 12:54 am

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.

Pompous Git
August 11, 2011 1:01 am

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…

John B
August 11, 2011 2:16 am

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!

John B
August 11, 2011 2:25 am

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).

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 3:17 am

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?

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 4:39 am

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.

LazyTeenager
August 11, 2011 4:47 am

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

Theo Goodwin
August 11, 2011 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.”
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.

August 11, 2011 5:22 am

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?

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 5:26 am

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.

August 11, 2011 5:42 am

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

August 11, 2011 5:49 am

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.

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 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.
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.

Mike M
August 11, 2011 6:16 am

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.

phlogiston
August 11, 2011 6:19 am

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 🙂

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 6:34 am

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.

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 6:53 am

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.

G. Karst
August 11, 2011 6:58 am

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

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 7:01 am

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.

August 11, 2011 7:36 am

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.

Dave Springer
August 11, 2011 7:42 am

“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.

mattweezer
August 11, 2011 8:14 am

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).

Khwarizmi
August 11, 2011 8:16 am

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!

Eric Anderson
August 11, 2011 9:03 am

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.

Jim G
August 11, 2011 9:40 am

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.

John B
August 11, 2011 10:56 am

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.

DesertYote
August 11, 2011 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, 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,

Lex
August 11, 2011 11:16 am

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

John B
August 11, 2011 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

Eric Anderson
August 11, 2011 12:15 pm

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 . . .

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 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.
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

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 12:49 pm

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/

August 11, 2011 1:30 pm

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

August 11, 2011 1:40 pm

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.

Jim G
August 11, 2011 1:54 pm

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.

Myrrh
August 11, 2011 2:09 pm

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.

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 2:13 pm

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.

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 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.

RandomReal[]
August 11, 2011 2:30 pm

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.

BravoZulu
August 11, 2011 2:42 pm

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.

Eric Anderson
August 11, 2011 3:24 pm

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.

DesertYote
August 11, 2011 3:29 pm

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.

John B
August 11, 2011 3:57 pm

@Desert Yote:
you’re

August 11, 2011 4:13 pm

Desert Yote,
You’ve left him speechless!☺

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 5:41 pm

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.

August 11, 2011 5:56 pm

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

Myrrh
August 11, 2011 6:26 pm

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..

Myrrh
August 11, 2011 6:27 pm

Mr Lynn – I thought you might like the last sentence of the Hymn.

August 11, 2011 6:31 pm

mattweezer says:
August 11, 2011 at 8:14 am
I can’t determine what your point may have been in that rambling mess. Sorry.

David Falkner
August 11, 2011 6:41 pm

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

August 11, 2011 6:41 pm

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??

DesertYote
August 11, 2011 6:55 pm

Smokey
August 11, 2011 at 4:13 pm
###
I guess I should have been nicer 🙁

August 11, 2011 8:18 pm

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

Ron Cram
August 11, 2011 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.

Barry Elledge
August 11, 2011 9:10 pm

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.

August 11, 2011 9:10 pm

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.”

Johnnythelowery
August 11, 2011 9:32 pm

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

August 11, 2011 9:32 pm

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?

August 11, 2011 10:17 pm

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.

Henry
August 11, 2011 10:27 pm

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.

George E. Smith
August 11, 2011 10:41 pm

“””””
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.

Eric Anderson
August 11, 2011 10:53 pm

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?

George E. Smith
August 11, 2011 10:55 pm

“”””” 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.

George E. Smith
August 11, 2011 11:16 pm

“”””” 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 !

August 12, 2011 12:43 am

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.

Myrrh
August 12, 2011 1:39 am

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.

August 12, 2011 1:43 am

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?

August 12, 2011 1:59 am

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

anorak2
August 12, 2011 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.
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.

anorak2
August 12, 2011 2:44 am

@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.

Myrrh
August 12, 2011 3:20 am

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?

August 12, 2011 3:57 am

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.

August 12, 2011 4:29 am

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.

mattweezer
August 12, 2011 4:53 am

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……….

Theo Goodwin
August 12, 2011 5:03 am

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

Theo Goodwin
August 12, 2011 6:22 am

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.

August 12, 2011 7:41 am

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…

Myrrh
August 12, 2011 7:50 am

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.

Jim G
August 12, 2011 8:28 am

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.

anorak2
August 12, 2011 8:44 am

@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.

Ron Cram
August 12, 2011 9:13 am

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.

Johnnythelowery
August 12, 2011 9:24 am

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?? ……….”

Ron Cram
August 12, 2011 9:28 am

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.

Ron Cram
August 12, 2011 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?

RandomReal[]
August 12, 2011 10:41 am

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.

August 12, 2011 10:43 am

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….

Eric Anderson
August 12, 2011 11:21 am

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.

Eric Anderson
August 12, 2011 11:25 am

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. 🙂

mattweezer
August 12, 2011 11:28 am

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.

DesertYote
August 12, 2011 11:58 am

#
#
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.

Ron Cram
August 12, 2011 12:05 pm

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.

August 12, 2011 1:01 pm

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

John B
August 12, 2011 1:42 pm

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 🙂

August 12, 2011 1:54 pm

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

Theo Goodwin
August 12, 2011 1:56 pm

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.

John B
August 12, 2011 1:57 pm

@Smokey
Nope:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atheism
What definition of atheism do you use?

August 12, 2011 2:02 pm

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.

August 12, 2011 2:05 pm

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!!!!

August 12, 2011 2:10 pm

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.