The Creative Power of Nothingness!!

As I mentioned in a previous post, I had lost my faith by the time I reached the School senior years. Since my greatest ambition at that time was to become a scientist, I devoted all my free time to reading science books — any science book on which I could lay my hand.

I am talking of the late nineteen sixties. The Creation movement was still dormant, and books on creationism or apologetics were scarce. Most people did not know how to think critically and scientifically on evolution.  All what was available was evolutionary indoctrination that permeated all science books. Since there was no substantial challenge from the other side, evolutionist writers were often brash in their claims. They often attributed creative powers to everything conceivable.

Worse, “everything” was considered proof for evolution. If a monkey scratched his head, that was proof of evolution. If a gorilla was attracted to a bald spot on his body (this is an actual incident), that was proof of evolution.  There was no rigor in these evolutionist writings because there was no substantial challenge yet for objective demonstration.

One of the key words seen all around was “randomness”. Every evolutionist spoke or randomness and blind chance — for your are left with nothing else other than these two things once you say goodbye to the idea of God. We were indoctrinated in every nook and cranny of the science books that randomness and blind chance were great creators. They were the great gods of science. I was totally taken by this propaganda for some time. Then one day I read something and everything changed!!

I read about the Law of Biogenesis, which says in effect that  life comes ONLY from preexisting life. Pasteurization of food items and Sterilization of surgical equipment draws from the fact that the atoms in the food or in the medical theater do not just fall upon each other to become germs.

Starting from there it was a long way till my non-theist professor challenged me in public. Surprisingly, he challenged my atheistic presupposition. How thankful am I to him today!

In all these years one thing become clear to me — whether it is rats in a dark corner of your barn, or germs in your wound, life comes only from preexisting life. Blind chance and randomness do not create. Nothingness has only one creative power: that is,  “nothing”!! On the other hand,  Randomness and blind chance definitely “destroy” things.

Abiogenesis was a word coined to counter Biogenesis. The word remains as infertile (or more) today than when it was coined. All the laws of physics and chemistry go against Abiogenesis. Nothingness (randomness and blind chance) is not a creator. It is only a destroyer of order.

[Dr. Johnson C. Philip is a physicist, with expertise inter alia in Quantum-nuclear Physics, and has worked extensively on the inner quark-structure of Protons and Neutrons. He has also specialized in Christian Apologetics, Biblical Archeology, Journalism, Alternative Medicines, and several other fields]

35 replies
  1. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    I think the problem with defining processes like biogenesis and abiogenesis in terms of life and non-life is that the terms are impractical when dealing with matters above that of common conversation. The word ‘life’ is not a discrete entity, it has very fuzzy edges which is why there isn’t any concrete definition for life.

    So to be able to say that life cannot form from non-life, you’d first need to find some way to accurately define these two concepts and then figure out what mechanism could prevent non-life developing into life. Until the terms can be defined though I think it’s a bit hasty to conclude that it’s impossible. Especially considering that replicators (which are considered life in some definitions) have already been observed forming from non-life.

    And as for the whole randomness/blind chance thing, although arguing that those elements only lead to destruction is debatable, the point is irrelevant since selection processes remove the random/blind chance aspect.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  2. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    Hi Mike! It is good to meet you again!

    You have raised some important issues, and let me see if we can get a meaningful discussion going.

    So to be able to say that life cannot form from non-life, you’d first need to find some way to accurately define these two concepts and then figure out what mechanism could prevent non-life developing into life.

    You must realize that it is not I who formulated the Law of Biogenesis. It is the scientific community which has formulated this law. The law is there in most standard biology textbooks at the introductory level.

    Thus if your contention is right, you need to take your argument to the scientific establishment because based upon empirical observations it is they who claim that “life cannot form from non-life”. See whether you can get the Law of Biogenesis removed from science textbooks — assuming your contention is right.

    And as for the whole randomness/blind chance thing, although arguing that those elements only lead to destruction is debatable, the point is irrelevant since selection processes remove the random/blind chance aspect.

    Which selection processes?

    with greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  3. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    Sorry for being unclear. I understand that biogenesis is a scientific concept and not an idea of yours, when I said that “you’d need to define the concepts” I was referring to the informal “you”, not you specifically.

    The ‘law of biogenesis’ only refers to the generation of modern organisms, and has no bearing on how the original lifeforms may have come about. I don’t think any scientist would claim that life cannot form from nonlife, to do so would be pretty irresponsible given that it is a fairly young field with some very promising results already.

    It is an understandable confusion though, as biogenesis has been used to describe the creation of life by a higher power – however, this is not the scientific meaning of the term and it’s the scientific defintion I was commenting on.

    Selection processes? Natural selection.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  4. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    Dear Mike,

    thank you very much for your reply. There are a few more unresolved issues in your reply.

    The ‘law of biogenesis’ only refers to the generation of modern organisms, and has no bearing on how the original lifeforms may have come about.

    What are these “modern” organisms. I could not find anything like that in any text-book introduction to biogenesis.

    I don’t think any scientist would claim that life cannot form from nonlife, to do so would be pretty irresponsible given that it is a fairly young field with some very promising results already.

    How young is the field of bio/abio genesis.

    What are these promising results.

    Selection processes? Natural selection.

    Does natural selection come into play in abiogenesis. Which scientific discovery establishes this claim?

    I appreciate your willingness for entering into this dialog.

    Johnson C. Philip

  5. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:


    How young is the field of bio/abio genesis.

    What are these promising results.

    Does natural selection come into play in abiogenesis.

    Which scientific discovery establishes this claim?

    Why not do basic homework for yourself? It’s expected in scientific discussions, after all…

  6. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    ‘Modern’ organisms refers to ones currently developing. Essentially the law of biogenesis says that all life now comes from current life and that there is no longer new lifeforms being created from nonlife. I’m not sure of the exact reasons for that, I’d need to read more in depth research, but I’d assume that lifeforms being created from nonlife would be less efficient than current organisms and so would lose out in competition for resources.

    Abiogenesis as a serious research area is less than 100 years old. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/01/chemical_replicators.php Here is a good intro into the subject and some research. The promising research is replicators being produced from nonlife; if I get time I’ll find some articles for you but a quick search on google scholar should uncover some.

    I’m not sure about natural selection with regards to abiogenesis. I thought we were discussing evolution? With abiogenesis I assume some sort of selection must take place, otherwise the odds of life forming from nonlife would be infinitely slim I’d imagine since nonlife would have to turn into life in one go, rather than successive stages that gradually move closer to what we recognise as life.

    Thanks for your kind words, I look forward to your reply.

    -Mike.

  7. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    Thanks Mike

    for the last post, and thanks for the answers.

    You said,

    Essentially the law of biogenesis says that all life now comes from current life and that there is no longer new lifeforms being created from nonlife.

    Science deals with “repeatable” events and not with non-repeatables. Non-repeatables usually come under the realm of history. Thus what you say amounts to saying that science cannot make a pronouncement on abiogenesis if it is no longer taking place.

    Also, in the light of the statement that “there is no longer new lifeforms being created from nonlife” I wonder why the presumed abiogenesis that happened in the past is not taking place today. I mean, what exactly is the scientific basis for that claim.

    Further, if it happened in the past, and if it is not taking place today, then what is the evidence that it has taken place in the first place. Scientific evidence should depend upon repeatable experimentation.

    I’m not sure about natural selection with regards to abiogenesis. I thought we were discussing evolution?

    No, my post was not about evolution but about abiogenesis.

    With abiogenesis I assume some sort of selection must take place, otherwise the odds of life forming from nonlife would be infinitely slim I’d imagine since nonlife would have to turn into life in one go, rather than successive stages that gradually move closer to what we recognise as life.

    You have said it right! The odds of abiogenesis is infinitely slim. What is more, it goes contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. That is why I wish to know “What evidence is there that life came here by abiogenesis”.

    Thank you very much the reference you gave me. I loved reading the post because it is all chemistry, an area where I feel at home because of my background. And there lies the trouble also, because the article honestly says that it has not demonstrated that abiogenesis has taken place. Here are some statements

    *** It’s not as straightforward as the simplest scheme one might imagine.
    *** Then they tweaked it to form a minus-strand enzyme
    *** No one is pretending this is an example of the earliest chemical reactions — it’s more like a proof of concept of the idea.
    *** Again, don’t have illusions that this is an example of a resurrected chemical function from the dawn of time — it’s a demonstration of the feasibility of one part of the process of chemical evolution.

    In other words, they “designed” laboratory apparatuses, and directed chemical reactions to take place. This is not a demonstration of abiogenesis as they themselves accept.

    Thanks Mike for the interaction. I feel we are still were we started: nobody has demonstrated that abiogenesis has taken place. All laws of physics and chemistry go against abiogenesis.

    Truly random processes and blind chance only destroy order, and not the other way round.

    Though I am a theist and a creationist, I would be willing to listen to any evidence that you are willing to present to support that abiogenesis has taken place.

    with greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  8. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    Science deals with “repeatable” events and not with non-repeatables. Non-repeatables usually come under the realm of history. Thus what you say amounts to saying that science cannot make a pronouncement on abiogenesis if it is no longer taking place.

    Science makes no comment on whether an event occurred many times or only once. The idea of reproducibility is not to do with the event itself, but to do with the experiments and tests conducted on that event. (Repeatability in science means something completely off-topic so I assumed you were referring to the idea of reproducibility, if I’m wrong then please just correct me).

    When an event has only occurred once, or very rarely, theories are developed to explain them. Then each theory is tested by looking at the specific predictions made by each theory – abiogenesis makes specific predictions, eg all organisms use the same form of DNA. Non-repeatable events can be studied under science.

    Also, in the light of the statement that “there is no longer new lifeforms being created from nonlife” I wonder why the presumed abiogenesis that happened in the past is not taking place today. I mean, what exactly is the scientific basis for that claim.

    Abiogenesis isn’t assumed, but rather natural processes are. This is just the way occams razor works – the ideas with the least assumptions required need to be disproven first before adding more variables. Natural processes require less assumptions than a designer because we can observe natural processes occurring all the time, abiogenesis is just currently the leading theory. If in the future, for some reason, all theories surrounding natural processes as the origin of life are disproven then I assume scientists would need to start formulating a testable, falsifiable God hypothesis (somehow).

    Further, if it happened in the past, and if it is not taking place today, then what is the evidence that it has taken place in the first place. Scientific evidence should depend upon repeatable experimentation.

    Novel predictions made by the theories are able to be repeated in experimentation, as well as the demonstration of mechanisms that explain how life can arise from non-life.

    No, my post was not about evolution but about abiogenesis.

    My apologies, it was starting to get a little late and I was busy with other things at the time so I failed to correctly understand your aim.

    You have said it right! The odds of abiogenesis is infinitely slim. What is more, it goes contrary to the second law of thermodynamics. That is why I wish to know “What evidence is there that life came here by abiogenesis”.

    No Johnson, you misread what I wrote. The odds of abiogenesis occurring without a selection process are infinitely slim. The probability of it occurring WITH a selection process approaches 1 as time increases; in other words it’s inevitable unless there is some mechanism which would stop it.

    *** It’s not as straightforward as the simplest scheme one might imagine.
    *** Then they tweaked it to form a minus-strand enzyme
    *** No one is pretending this is an example of the earliest chemical reactions — it’s more like a proof of concept of the idea.
    *** Again, don’t have illusions that this is an example of a resurrected chemical function from the dawn of time — it’s a demonstration of the feasibility of one part of the process of chemical evolution.

    In other words, they “designed” laboratory apparatuses, and directed chemical reactions to take place. This is not a demonstration of abiogenesis as they themselves accept.

    The only “designing” was to turn one of the enzymes into a minus-strand enzyme – this of course assumes that minus-strand enzymes existed during the time abiogenesis would be taking place but that’s an issue for further study.

    There were no directed chemical reactions, they were autocatalytic – a feature that supported an earlier prediction by Stuart Kauffman.

    I’m sorry if I implied that this is exactly how life began – of course answers like that are probably a long way off. All this study shows is that simple molecules can assemble themselves into replicators.

    I feel we are still were we started: nobody has demonstrated that abiogenesis has taken place. All laws of physics and chemistry go against abiogenesis.

    If you need to observe abiogenesis taking place before you’ll consider the validity behind the research, then I think you’re looking at it the wrong way round. We’re a long way off observing abiogenesis as you wish to see it but that doesn’t make it false until it’s shown.

    What part of physics and chemistry go against abiogenesis?

    Truly random processes and blind chance only destroy order, and not the other way round.

    Even though this point is tangential, I disagree (although it does depend somewhat on your definition of order). Take dice throwing for example, assuming that each throw is random – that is, all numbers have equal probability of occurring – you will get a slightly chaotic looking array of results. However, if you throw them enough times (a number approaching infinity) you will get patterns that repeat themselves over and over again. I’d class that as order.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  9. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides, here is yet more pejorative comments from you:

    Why not do basic homework for yourself? It’s expected in scientific discussions, after all…

    When I ask someone (not you) to furnish evidence, and when they show willingness to do so, you need not direct what we are doing without any problem with each other. (The questions were not directed at you any way).

    What is more, in any discussion, people do ask the other side to furnish information. Nobody other than you has a problem with this, so please leave us to our own thread. (The questions were not any way directed at you).

    Also, going by your methodology, I could easily have asked you to go and find your own answers whenever you asked me for information or answers — but I did not, though it seems soon I will have to request you to follow your own advice.

    Greetings !!

    Johnson C. Philip

  10. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 8 Mike

    Hi Mike !

    It is good to continue our dialogue. Thanks for all the detailed answers!

    You said

    When an event has only occurred once, or very rarely, theories are developed to explain them.

    That is a very good observation. Theories can definitely be developed to “explain” them. However, such an explanation will fall in a category different from the way one studies, say, gravity.

    You are also right in your assertion that one looks at the competing theories to see which of them gives the best fit and the best explanation. I fully agree with you that non repeatable events can be “studied” in this manner.

    At the same time, you will have to remember that such studies can never become “evidence”.

    Abiogenesis isn’t assumed, but rather natural processes are. This is just the way occams razor works – the ideas with the least assumptions required need to be disproven first before adding more variables. Natural processes require less assumptions than a designer because we can observe natural processes occurring all the time, abiogenesis is just currently the leading theory.

    I agree fully with you. What is more, as long as anyone maintains that abiogenesis is a “theory” I have no disagreement with that statement. Disagreement comes in only when people claim that there is “evidence” that abiogenesis has taken place.

    Novel predictions made by the theories are able to be repeated in experimentation, as well as the demonstration of mechanisms that explain how life can arise from non-life.

    Again, as long as it is maintained that a certain mechanism demonstrates how life “can” arise, I have no disagreement. The disagreement comes mainly when someone changes the “can arise” to “has” arisen.

    The odds of abiogenesis occurring without a selection process are infinitely slim. The probability of it occurring WITH a selection process approaches 1 as time increases;

    I fully agree with that !!

    The only “designing” was to turn one of the enzymes into a minus-strand enzyme – this of course assumes that minus-strand enzymes existed during the time abiogenesis would be taking place but that’s an issue for further study.

    I will not go into the details, but thanks for the comment that there was some design

    All this study shows is that simple molecules can assemble themselves into replicators.

    Only if there is some kind of a design to begin with

    Take dice throwing for example, assuming that each throw is random – that is, all numbers have equal probability of occurring – you will get a slightly chaotic looking array of results. However, if you throw them enough times (a number approaching infinity) you will get patterns that repeat themselves over and over again. I’d class that as order.

    While this seems to be a good explanation, it is not. The analogy breaks down when one realizes that throwing of dice ( a process not affected by thermodynamics and entropy) is different from chemical reactions necessary for abiogenesis, which are affected by thermodynamics and entropy from start to finish.

    It has been good to discuss these topics with you. In spite of some unresolved problems that remain, see how many points we agree upon!!

    greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  11. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    You are also right in your assertion that one looks at the competing theories to see which of them gives the best fit and the best explanation. I fully agree with you that non repeatable events can be “studied” in this manner.

    At the same time, you will have to remember that such studies can never become “evidence”.

    We seemed to be agreeing up until that last statement, could you explain why you think that they can’t become evidence?

    I just wanted to be clear, because I was a little confused by the meaning of the inverted commas, that you are using the scientific uses of the word ‘theory’ and ‘explanation’. Theory and explanation here don’t mean hunches or guesses obviously, they are developed through rigorous research and are constantly refined through the work of populations of scientists continually trying to disprove them.

    So if a particular theory made a prediction that we should find no A’s in a particular location, then scientists would spend almost their entire careers trying to find an A in that location. The lack of A’s found in that location is evidence for that theory. Of course that’s a simplistic example and there’d have to be a lot of converging evidence from other predictions such as “no A’s here, but lots of B’s here” etc, but hopefully it gets my point across.

    That is science.

    I agree fully with you. What is more, as long as anyone maintains that abiogenesis is a “theory” I have no disagreement with that statement. Disagreement comes in only when people claim that there is “evidence” that abiogenesis has taken place.

    Again, just be careful not to confused scientific theory with ‘hunch’. Abiogenesis is a theory, yes, it’s a comprehensive explanation of the origin of life from nonlife that is backed by mountains of research (I’ve put them all in a separate post below because I fear that otherwise this post will become too long, so please check them out when you have the chance) and evidence. Because abiogenesis is backed by so much evidence it is currently the leading theory, however, as science is constantly reviewing and testing its ideas this could possibly change with new evidence, as science always weeds out any incorrect information by always looking for faults in theories.

    This is science. Something cannot be a theory without any evidence. If it doesn’t have evidence, then it’s not a theory.

    Again, as long as it is maintained that a certain mechanism demonstrates how life “can” arise, I have no disagreement. The disagreement comes mainly when someone changes the “can arise” to “has” arisen.

    Science should never make such absolute claims about what did happen because that would go against the principles of science, but for the sake of common conversation, given the amount of evidence behind the theory, “can arise” can be interpreted as “has” risen.

    I will not go into the details, but thanks for the comment that there was some design

    I think you’ve misread what I wrote. The “designed” enzyme is assumed to have existed naturally, in a state where it was not designed. This is an assumption yes, one that would need to be backed up by evidence if this method of abiogenesis is to viewed as the method that first produced life.

    While this seems to be a good explanation, it is not. The analogy breaks down when one realizes that throwing of dice ( a process not affected by thermodynamics and entropy) is different from chemical reactions necessary for abiogenesis, which are affected by thermodynamics and entropy from start to finish.

    Even if we were to ignore the fact that entropy can decrease in sub-systems, my analogy still stands. My intent was to disprove your absolute statement that “random processes and blind chance only destroy order” – and I feel that my example disproves this statement, as it shows an example where random processes create order. With regards to chemical reactions and the issue of entropy, you know I disagree with you and I’ve presented all the reasons why I think you’re wrong in the other topic so I don’t think we need to delve into that here. If you wish to continue that discussion I’d be more than happy to contribute, so feel free to counter some of my points in the other topic.

    It has been good to discuss these topics with you. In spite of some unresolved problems that remain, see how many points we agree upon!!

    Yes, I’ve been enjoying our discussions also, however, I fear that many of the points we “agree” on our simply due to a mutual misunderstanding and at the core of things we seem to disagree on pretty much everything..

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  12. Mike
    Mike says:

    A few papers in support of abiogenesis:

    [1] A Production Of Amino Acids Under Possible Early Earth Conditions by Stanley L. Miller, Science, 117: 528-529 (15th May 1953)

    This is the paper that started it all. This paper established that amino acids can be synthesised in prebiotic conditions from simpler molecules via entirely natural chemical reactive processes. This experiment was recently revisited because he kept the original reaction samples, and modern analysis of those samples established that the original experiments had been more successful than Miller had originally claimed;

    [2] A Self-Replicating Ligase Ribozyme by Natasha Paul and Gerald F. Joyce, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 99(20): 12733-12740 (1st October 2002)

    This paper establishes that special RNA molecules can exist known as ligase ribozymes, that are able to catalyse chemical reactions that result in the formation of more ligase ribozymes of the same structure as the original ligase ribozymes – in other words, the existence of self-replicating RNA molecules has been experimentally demonstrated in the laboratory;

    [3] A Self Replicating System by T. Tjiviuka, P. Ballester and J. Reber Jr, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 112: 1249-1250 (1990)

    This paper constitutes an early direct demonstration of the existence of autocatalytic nucleic acid chemical reaction systems, and the systematic analysis thereof;

    [4] Activated Acetic Acid By Carbon Fixation On (Fe,Ni)S under Primordial Conditions by Claudia Huber and Günter Wächtershäuser, Science, 276: 245-247 (11th April 1997)

    This paper contains a direct experimental demonstration of a carbon fixation reaction on a sulphide-rich clay substrate (such as that found around hydrothermal vents) that can be utilised by a chemoautotrophic protocell with the requisite catalysis molecules in place;

    [5] Carbon Dioxide On The Early Earth by James C. G. Walker, Origins of Life, 16: J17-J27 (1985)

    This paper provides a determination of the likely constitution of the atmosphere of a prebiotic Earth based upon geochemical mass balance and stoichiometric considerations, thus providing support for models in which CO2 plays an important role;

    [6] Carbonyl Sulphide Mediated Prebiotic Formation Of Peptides by Luke Leman, Leslie Orgel and M. Reza Ghadiri, Science, 306: 283-286 (8th October 2004)

    This paper provides a direct laboratory demonstration that amino acids in aqueous solution under prebiotic conditions can be joined together to form peptide molecules (in other words, short protein chains) courtesy of the catalysing effect of carbonyl sulphide gas, a gas that is emitted in significant quantity by erupting volcanoes, with product yields of 80% in periods ranging from a few minutes to a few hours at room temperature;

    [7] Cations As Mediators Of The Adsorption Of Nucleic Acids On Clay Surfaces In Prebiotic Environments by Marco Franchi, James P. Ferris and Enzo Gallori, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 33: 1-16 (2003)

    This paper contains a direct experimental demonstration that nucleic acids are adsorbed onto montmorillonite clay surfaces when specific cations such as Na+ or Ca2+ are present (these are common cations in marine environments), and that these cations in combination with montmorillonite clays thus facilitate the concentrating of nucleic acid strands upon these common clay substrates permitting further chemistry to take place;

    [8] Chemistry For The Synthesis Of Nucleobase-Modified Peptide Nucleic Acid by R. H. E. Hudson, R. D. Viirre, Y. H. Liu, F. Wojciechowski and A. K. Dambenieks, Pure and Applied Chemistry, 76(7-8): 1591-1598 (2004)

    This paper demosntrates in the laboratory that alternative nucleic acid structures known as peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are readuly synthesisable from simpler precursors in a prebiotic environment;

    [9] Evolution Of Amino Acid Frequencies In Proteins Over Deep Time: Inferred Order Of Introduction Of Amino Acids Into The Genetic Code by Dawn J. Brookes,

    This paper covers an aspect of the evolvability of the genetic code (an issue I have covered in another thread), namely the order in which amino acids were inserted into the genetic code, using computer simulations of proposed earlier and simpler codes, to establish the validity of the notion that amino acids common in the prebiotic environment were favoured over rarer ones for first insertion into the code;

    [10] Formation Of Bimolecular Membranes From Lipid Monolayers And A Study Of Their Electrical Properties by M. Montal and P. Mueller, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 69(12): 3561-3566 (December 1972)

    This paper demonstrates experimentally how asymmetric lipid bilayer membranes can be formed, that the experimentally constructed bilayers have the exact same dielectric properties as real biological membranes, and provides the foundation for further research into the incorporation of membrane proteins into lipid bilayers, thus facilitating the development of such entities as ion channels;

    [11] The Generality Of DNA-Templated Synthesis As A Basis For Evolving Non-Natural Small Molecules by Zev J. Gartner and David R. Liu, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 123: 6961-6963 (2001)

    This paper demonstrates that specific DNA structures can not only act as a template for protein synthesis, but also as catalysts for a wide range of chemical reactions including SN2 substitutions, additions to ?,?-unsaturated carbonyl systems and additions to vinyl sulphones, along with reactions involving thiols and amines, with excellent yields and excellent specificity, not only pointing to the importance of this with respect to possible catalysis of prebiotic reactions, but allowing the harnessing of these catalysing mechanisms to build a library of biotechnology-integrable synthesis solutions for molecules of interest to chemists that lie outside the normal remit of biochemical synthesis;

    [12] Homochiral Selection In The Montmorillonite-Catalyzed And Uncatalyzed Prebiotic Synthesis Of RNA by Prakash C. Joshi, Stefan Pitsch and James P. Ferris, Chemical Communications of the Royal Society of Chemistry, year 200 issue, 2497-2498 (DOI: 10.1039/b007444f)

    This paper demonstrates experimentally that when montmorillonite clays are used as adsorbent substrates for catalysed RNA synthesis under prebiotic conditions, the catalysis process is biased in favour of the chirality seen in modern day living organisms, that bias in some cases extending to the production of a 96% yield of chiral products exhibiting modern-day biological chiral bias;

    [13] Ligation Of The Hairpin Ribozyme In cis Induced By Freezing And Dehydration by Sergei A. Kazakov, Svetlana V. Balatskaya and Brian H. Johnston, The RNA Journal (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press), 12: 446-456 (2006)

    This paper demonstrates experimentally that formation of ligated ribozymes with yields of up to 60% after 1 hour occurs in systems that involve freezing and dehydration of the requisite RNA templates, thus demonstrating that prebiotic reactions appropriate to the origins of life could have taken place under polar conditions;

    [14] Lipid Bilayer Fibers From Diastereomeric And Enantiomeric N-Octylaldonamides by Jürgen-Hinrich Fuhrhop, Peter Schneider, Egbert Boekema and Wolfgang Helfrich, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 110: 2861-2867 (1988)

    This paper demonstrates that lipid bilayers with specific added sugar ligands form well-defined fibres when they aggregate and self-organise, which provides a means for the formation of subcellular structures such as microtubules in early life forms;

    [15] Molecular Asymmetry In Extraterrestrial Chemistry: Insights From A Pristine Meteorite by Sandra Pizzarello, Yongsong Huang and Marcelo R. Alexandre, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 105(10): 3700-3704

    This paper provides evidence that chirality is present in amino acids and related compounds formed in extraterrestrial environments, and that input from meteoritic material prior to the formation of the first precursor molecules for life on Earth could have been skewed with respect to chirality by the input of extraterrestrial material, and furthermore that chiral asymmetry is not only present in the amino acids found in meteorites, but also in the precursor molecules required for their synthesis;

    [16] Montmorillonite Catalysis Of 30-50 Mer Oligonucleotides: Laboratory Demonstration Of Potential Steps In The Origin Of The RNA World by James P. Ferris, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere, 32: 311-332 (2002)

    This paper provides direct experimental confirmation that montmorillonite clays can provide a stable catalytic synthesis platform for the production of RNA oligomers of 30-50 nucleotides in length, and discusses the implications of this for the RNA World hypothesis;

    [17] Montmorillonite Catalysis Of RNA Oligomer Formation In Aqueous Solution: A Model For The Prebiotic Formation Of RNA by James P. Ferris and Gözen Ertem, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 115: 12270-12275 (1993)

    This paper provides additional direct experimental confirmation that RNA oligomers are synthesised on a montmorillonite clay substrate acting as an adsorbent catalytic medium;

    [18] Nucleotide Synthetase Ribozymes May Have Emerged First In The RNA World by Wentao Ma, Chunwu Yu, Wntao Zhang Jiming Hu, The RNA Journal (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press), 13: 2012-2019 (2007)

    This paper contains a computer dynamic analysis of the likelihood of the formation of a nucleotide synthetase ribozyme as one of the first molecules to appear in the RNA world, based upon earlier direct experimental work by other authors demonstrating that formation of RNA oligomers was enhanced 100-fold in the presence of intercalating molecules;

    [19] Organic Compounds In Carbonaceous Meteorites by Mark A. Sephton, Natural Products Reports, 19:292-311 (2002)

    This paper presents a review of the experimental work that has been conducted to analyse the organic content of chondritic meteorites, work which has alighted upon the presence of no less than 22 different classes of organic compound in these meteorites, establishing that their synthesis readily takes place in outer space;

    [20] Peptide Formation Mediated By Hydrogen Cyanide Tetramer: A Possible Prebiotic Process by Sherwood Chang, José Flores and Cyril Ponnamperuma, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 64: 1011-1015 (25th August 1969)

    This early paper provided direct experimental confirmation that peptide formation (namely, the chemical reaction process that leads to proteins) takes place in aqueous solution if diaminomaleonitrile (a hydrogen cyanide tetramer) is present, this latter compound being readily synthesisable in a prebiotic environment (see the Joyce (1989) paper below, which contains a synthesis mechanism);

    [21] Peptide Nucleic Acids Rather Than RNA May Have Been The First Genetic Molecule by Kevin E. Nelson, Matthew Levy and Stanley L. Miller, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 97(8): 3868-3871 (11th April 2000)

    This paper provides experimental support that Peptide Nucleic Acids (PNAs) can form under prebiotic conditions and therefore could have provided an intermediate step prior to the formation of RNA and the development of the RNA World;

    [22] Peptides By Activation Of Amino Acids With CO On (Ni,Fe)S Surfaces: Implications For The Origin of Life by Claudia Huber and Günter Wächtershäuser, Science, 281: 670-672 (31st July 1998)

    This paper provides direct experimental confirmation that peptides can be formed in prebiotic conditions extant around deep water hydrothermal vents, complete with detailed presentation of the reaction mechanisms involved;

    [23] Prebiotic Amino Acids As Asymmetric Catalysts by Sandra Pizzarello and Arthur L. Weber, Science, 303: 1151 (20th February 2004)

    This paper provides a direct experimental demonstration that certain prebiotic amino acids exert an asymmetric catalytic effect, reinforcing the appearance of the chirality seen in modern biomolecules whenever they catalyse appropriate prebiotic reactions;

    [24] Prebiotic Materials From On And Off The Early Earth by Max Bernstein, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Part B, 361: 1689-1702 (11th September 2006)

    This paper reviews the extant work on determining the presence of appropriate prebiotic molecules both on planetary systems and in deep space, and the relevance of this to the search for life on other worlds;

    [25] Racemic Amino Acids From The Ultraviolet Photolysis Of Interstellar Ice Analogues by Max P. Bernstein, Jason P. Dworkin, Scott A. Sandford, George W. Cooper and Louis J. Allamandola, Nature, 416: 401-403 (28th March 2002)

    This paper demonstrates experimentally in the laboratory that amino acids can be formed in deep space, in interstellar ice clouds, by the ultraviolet photolysis of ammonia, carbon monoxide and water ices, by directly simulating the conditions in those clouds, irradiating the requisite precursor materials with ultraviolet light, and obtaining measurable yields of amino acids, in particular glycine, alanine and serine;

    [26] Ribonucleotide Reductase In The Archaeon Pyrococcus furiosus: A Critical Enzyme In The Evolution Of DNA Genomes? by Joan Riera, Frank T Robb, Robert Weiss and Marc Fontecave, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 94: 475-478 (January 1997)

    This paper proposes that as a result of direct investigation of the gene coding for ribonucleotide reductase in an Archaean species, which exhibits sequence homology along part of its length with the analogous enzyme in eubacteria and eukaryotes, that this enzyme is the closest present-day homologue to the putative ancestral ribonucleotide reductase enzyme that first appeared, and which facilitated the transition from RNA to DNA genomes amongs the earliest life forms;

    [27] Ribozymes: Building The RNA World by Gerald F. Joyce, Current Biology, 6(8): 956-967 (1st August 1996)

    This paper provides the first experimental demonstration of the existence of RNA ribozymes that could have formed in a prebiotic environment;

    [28] RNA-Catalysed Nucleotide Synthesis by Peter J. Unrau and David P. Bartel, Nature, 395: 260-263 (17th September 1998)

    This paper provides direct experimental demonstration that RNA can catalyse the formation of its own nucleotides, thus allowing the first such molecules to ‘bootstrap’ further synthesis of RNA by catalysing the synthesis of the precursor nucleotides;

    [29] RNA-Catalyzed RNA Polymerization: Accurate And General RNA-Templated Primer Extension byWndy K. Johnston, Peter J. Unrau, Michael S. Lawrence, Margaret E. Glasner and David P. Bartel, Science, 292: 1319-1325 (18th May 2001)

    This paper contains direct experimental demonstration that a ribozyme under prebiotic conditions generates a 14-oligomer RNA strand based upon a template with high fidelity (1,088 out of 1,100 synthesised oligomers were an exact match);

    [30] RNA Catalysis In Model Protocell Vesicles by Irene A. Chen, Kourosh Salehi-Ashtiani and Jack W. Szostak, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 127: 13213-13219 (2005)

    This paper contains documentation of direct experimental construction of model protocell vesicles, and a demonstration that they are stable enough to contain encapsulated RNA molecules whilst being sufficiently permeable to appropriate simpler molecules to permit chemical reaction processes to be conducted inside the model vesicles;

    [31] RNA-Directed Amino Acid Homochirality by J. Martyn Bailey, The FASEB Journal, 12: 503-507 (April 1998)

    This paper provides an experimental demonstration that RNA is a chirally directing catalyst in its reactions, and enforces homochirality upon the synthesis products emanating from those catalysed reactions;

    [32] RNA Evolution And The Origins Of Life by Gerald F. Joyce, Nature, 338:217-224 (16th March 1989)

    This review paper covers synthesis mechanisms for a range of precursor molecules for RNA, the prebiotic formose mechanism for the synthesis of sugars, and an examination of the chemistry of the relevant precursors and their analogues in considerable depth;

    [33] Self-Assembling Amphiphilic Molecules: Synthesis In Simulated Interstellar/Precometary Ices by Jason P. Dworkin, David W. Deamer, Scott A. Sandford and Louis J. Allamandola, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 98(3): 815-819 (30th January 2001)

    This paper contains a direct experimental demonstration that numerous organic molecules are formed via ultraviolet photolysis of simulated interstellar and precometary ices under replicated deep space conditions ;

    [34] Self-Organising Biochemical Cycles by Leslie E. Orgel, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, 97(23): 12503-12507 (7th November 2000)

    This paper contains an examination of hypotheses about self-catalysing biochemical cycles;

    [35] Self Replicating Systems by Volker Patzke and Günter von Kiedrowski, ARKIVOC, 5: 293-310 (2007)

    This review paper covers self replicating systems in considerable depth;

    [36] The Origin And Early Evolution Of Life: Prebiotic Chemistry, The Pre-RNA World, And Time by Antonio Lazcano and Stanley L. Miller, Cell, 85: 793-798 (14th June 1996)

    This paper reviews extant work on such research topics as the prebiotic atmosphere and its composition, the chemistry and likely prebiotic biochemistry of submarine thermal vents, and the autotrophic origin theory of Wächtershäuser, two of whose papers I have already cited above.

    I took this from the richarddawkins.net website and it was put together by the member Calilasseia here: http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=75602&p=1820751&hilit=abiogenesis#p1820751

  13. Heraclides
    Heraclides says:

    @9: It’s was straight-forward suggestion (cast as a question). Making it out to be pejorative is your own doing.

    It was a short post with no negative tone, just suggesting that you try cover the basic ground yourself. The material is not hard to find, after all.

    Your reply has you making me out to do negative things, and addresses me, rather than the suggestion made.

    Regards “whenever you asked me for information or answers”, several times you have referring to my points as “questions” but they were not questions. They were statements. I would suggest you correct this. Unless you correct this, you will be (are) effectively in the position of dismissing my statements out of hand by claiming they were questions when they were not.

    (I explained this in some detail a while back. You never did address my points either! You ignored most, and avoided addressing the other few by, ironically given the topic at hand, “replying” with questions.)

    Seeing you are using the word ‘theory’ again, I would suggest that you define what you mean by theory.

    (I see that Mike has taken up this point too; it is rather important.)

    Only if there is some kind of a design to begin with

    (I see Mike has now replied to this while I was writing, but I’ll let my take on it stand.)

    The results don’t depend on “design” in the way you imply. They had to start the experiment at some point, and the initial molecules of course had to be made. The work just isn’t mean to address the points prior to the presence of these molecules, but if these molecules behave in a way that would develop towards “life”.

    The work was not intended “prove” all of abiogenesis all at once (!), including the steps before these molecules were present, but as a “real world” (i.e. non-theoretical) demonstration that parts of abiogenesis are physically possible with molecules of the kind that are expected to play a role in early “life”. What they find is that simple molecules of a type expected to be involved in early life can form “replicators”, these replicators are robust, etc.

  14. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @Heraclides

    Dear Heraclides

    thanks for the bibliography. I am familiar with most of the earlier papers that reported the initial work on production of complex molecules from simple constituents. A good example is the paper “A Production Of Amino Acids Under Possible Early Earth Conditions by Stanley L. Miller, Science, 117: 528-529 (15th May 1953)”

    Interestingly, the work of Stanley Miller only shows what I have mentioned in my posts here — that order always goes to disorder when matter and energy are allowed to interact without some form of control. The experiment also goes to show that order comes only when there is careful planning, designing, and execution.

    This work was extended by others, and all of them only showed that information-carrying order is possible only when there is a blueprint, a mechanism for implementing the blueprint, and proper conditions.

    Only one or two of the papers Mike cited above are new to me and I will surely have a look at them at the nearby University library.

    Since this list was a copy and paste operation on his part, and since neither him nor you assemblee the list yourself, I presume neither of you have had a look at most of these papers. Right?

    Greetings from India!!

    Johnson C. Philip

  15. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 11 Mike

    Dear Mike,

    thanks for your reply. I very much appreciate your assessment in the following words

    I fear that many of the points we “agree” on our simply due to a mutual misunderstanding and at the core of things we seem to disagree on pretty much everything..

    On the contrary, the points on which we agree are basically empirical in nature. I notice that right from the beginning, we tend to reach a point of agreement on empirical matters.

    Our disagreement is at the point of “interpretation” because both of look at the evidence from totally opposite presuppositions. I look at them from a theistic viewpoint whereas you look at them from a non-theistic viewpoint. The final conclusions, therefore, are bound to be different.

    Theistic thinkers have been pointing it out for a long time that science is not done in a vacuum. On the contrary, the outcome of science is definitely influenced by one’s presupposition and worldviews even if there is substantial agreement in empirical matters.

    Thus as long as you remain in your non-theistic framework and I remain in my theistic framework, we are bound to differ on “interpretation”. However, I strongly feel that this should not deter you or me from dialogue. Who knows whether such a dialog will help one of us to see the truth on the other side — for both the sides cannot be true at the same time.

    I want this note to stand alone as it is and will therefore not add anything more, except that even in your last post there are many additional points of observation/agreement between us.

    with greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  16. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the discussion guys. I enjoyed reading both sides and must say that I am impressed with Mike’s presentation. I am especially referring to the cordial nature of his writing along with the lack of insulting arguments. It is a refreshing change when compared to a lot of the evolution web talk around.

    There is an interesting thing that goes on when someone points out the amazing creative power of blind chance. A counter-statement is put that chance could not do it, natural selection does. The smallest change which incurs a benefit gains a preference and thus that change proliferates. As it occurs again and again, you eventually build up complex organisms over a very, very long period of time. This is natural selection. And that does sound extremely reasonable. But there is a niggling issue, which has always troubled me.

    Mike wrote (#1):
    And as for the whole randomness/blind chance thing, although arguing that those elements only lead to destruction is debatable, the point is irrelevant since selection processes remove the random/blind chance aspect.

    If I may offer a small objection here, I do not think that Johnson’s point is at all irrelevant. The question of whether randomness destroys or builds is critical because selection processes do not build … Let me try to explain.

    Natural selection selects based on buildings that have already occurred. Thus the reason for the name “natural selection“. The creative power is not in natural selection. It is somewhere else! As far as I can tell, the only proposed builder is randomness/blind chance, occurring within the strict confines of replication. Blind chance has to build and build and build and build. It has to make a multitude of varieties, an immense number of changes so that it can stumble upon a ‘beneficial’ change. It neither knows what is beneficial, nor what might become beneficial (on the odd chance that it happened to add another three thousand specific little changes in a very specific order). The chaos of blind chance definitely has to build. Either build bad or build good, it has to be building. Note that there is a definite difference between “building bad” and corruption.

    Natural selection is not really even a mechanism. It is a term given to highlight how something that fits better is more useable. This thing over here works and this thing does not so see how the thing that works is working and this thing that does not work is useless. I know that sentence has really dumbed it down, but really, does selection actually do anything more? While replication is essential for natural selection, you need a bit more than only replication for natural selection to be selecting improvements. You need replication which also is inherently creating new structures. Not staying the same, not degrading, not rearranging, but adding. Addition after addition after addition.

    I do not reject evolution because I believe God is real. And I do not believe God is real because I reject evolution. I reject it because I can not see the evidence for it. I do see evidence for adaptations, mutations, variations and even natural selection itself. I have no problem with any of them. I reject evolution because from the smallest single-celled bacteria to the most complex animal, none of them appear to be building. In fact, what is evident is much worse, organisms appear to have mechanisms to prevent changes. And when non-terminating changes do occur, they appear within a confined subsection and are mostly detrimental to the blueprints of the organism.

    Mike wrote (#8):
    Abiogenesis isn’t assumed, but rather natural processes are. This is just the way occams razor works – the ideas with the least assumptions required need to be disproven first before adding more variables. Natural processes require less assumptions than a designer because we can observe natural processes occurring all the time, abiogenesis is just currently the leading theory. If in the future, for some reason, all theories surrounding natural processes as the origin of life are disproven then I assume scientists would need to start formulating a testable, falsifiable God hypothesis (somehow).

    That is such a good paragraph Mike. Natural processes are assumed and they do lead to abiogenesis. Though the God hypothesis does explain the appearance of natural processes (if defined as the existence and properties of the physical world). Natural processes seemingly have a definite starting point and a proposed end point of heat death. Given that natural causes are not eternal and they could not appear from nothing, they need a cause. If there is an intelligent, eternal, absolute being, existing as the cause, then there is an explanation for the existence of the universe and subsequently, of life, of morality and of reason. Evidence may be found in a historical interaction of this being with humans. The test would be whether you can meet this being or not. A falsification may be put that we are dual creatures or not. Specifically whether we have a form of existence after our physical death.

    I certainly concur that abiogenesis/evolution is the only known natural solution. If you require a natural solution, then of course it is the thing for you. There is no other fully natural (using only the properties of the physical universe) proposition that can account for the life we see, and that we are a part of. None at all! It becomes the solution regardless of evidence. As another theist, I have presuppositions that present me with room to reject evolution. I do have the option to follow evidence. If the point comes where evolution has confirming evidence, I will then be happy to accept it. Until then I agree with Johnson, overall, randomness destroys order. And I even agree with Dawkins (brought in via Mike’s references) that chance is not a solution.

    Thanks for the research papers reference Mike. There will be some great reading there for sure. Science is a fantastic thing and people researching, testing and drawing conclusions are to be commended. Cheers!

  17. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    Dear Jonathan,

    thank you very much for your extended comment, clarification and summery. You have helped to make clear the issues involved.

    Thanks for the following paragraph:

    I do not reject evolution because I believe God is real. And I do not believe God is real because I reject evolution. I reject it because I can not see the evidence for it. I do see evidence for adaptations, mutations, variations and even natural selection itself. I have no problem with any of them. I reject evolution because from the smallest single-celled bacteria to the most complex animal, none of them appear to be building. In fact, what is evident is much worse, organisms appear to have mechanisms to prevent changes. And when non-terminating changes do occur, they appear within a confined subsection and are mostly detrimental to the blueprints of the organism.

    They accurately represent current “empirical observations”

    Greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  18. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    I’ve tried replying a couple of times to your posts but it doesn’t seem to be going through, so hopefully this does. My reply was not really integral to the debate so I won’t bother trying to type it all out again but I do hope that I’ve helped correct some of your misconceptions about evolution and abiogenesis to help you realise that it has a lot of validity.

    I’ve enjoyed our discussions and I’m sure they’ll continue.

    @Jonathon,

    Thank you for your kind words. I think a lot of people get heated in discussions like these because they bring along their frustrations from earlier debates and direct them at their new opposition. I think a lot of scientists also get very upset with people who mutilate their professions for their own gains and attempt to use that mutilated version of science to argue against established theories. However, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt in discussions and try to always remain civil.

    Natural selection selects based on buildings that have already occurred. Thus the reason for the name “natural selection“. The creative power is not in natural selection. It is somewhere else! As far as I can tell, the only proposed builder is randomness/blind chance, occurring within the strict confines of replication.Blind chance has to build and build and build and build. It has to make a multitude of varieties, an immense number of changes so that it can stumble upon a ‘beneficial’ change. It neither knows what is beneficial, nor what might become beneficial (on the odd chance that it happened to add another three thousand specific little changes in a very specific order). The chaos of blind chance definitely has to build. Either build bad or build good, it has to be building. Note that there is a definite difference between “building bad” and corruption.

    I don’t quite understand your criticism, you’ve essentially described evolution. You have mutations, which are somewhat random, occurring constantly and if these mutations provide a disadvantage then they are culled off by the environment, whilst the neutral and positive mutations remain. It’s not the ‘randomness’ of mutations that “builds” though, it’s the culling process. Mutations can “build” as many different forms it likes – say it creates red, green, purple, yellow, orange, pink and blue creatures but if the environment is green, then only the green creatures will survive and all other mutations become irrelevant. This is why thinking of mutations as “positive” or “negative” is pointless without context, because what might look like a hugely detrimental mutation in one environment is a life saver in another – for example, the sickle cell mutation can be a huge killer, but in populations of africa sickle cell is becoming common in the gene pool as it protects people against malaria.

    While replication is essential for natural selection, you need a bit more than only replication for natural selection to be selecting improvements. You need replication which also is inherently creating new structures. Not staying the same, not degrading, not rearranging, but adding. Addition after addition after addition.

    Natural selection is one of the main mechanisms of evolution. I don’t see why you think it isn’t a mechanism unless you’re using another definition of the word mechanism?

    Ah, I think one of your problems when thinking about evolution is assuming that it’s about selecting improvements. This isn’t the case. Evolution is about de-selecting/killing traits that don’t work. Addition isn’t the key, it’s adaptation. That’s why we get many creatures that keep similar forms but have obviously undergone some changes genetically (informally known as ‘living fossils’) because improving isn’t necessary, but ‘not dying’ is.

    I do not reject evolution because I believe God is real. And I do not believe God is real because I reject evolution. I reject it because I can not see the evidence for it. I do see evidence for adaptations, mutations, variations and even natural selection itself. I have no problem with any of them.

    Then I’m afraid you accept evolution.. Evolution is defined as a change in allele frequencies over time or more commonly known as descent with modification, and that’s what you’ve just said you accepted.

    I reject evolution because from the smallest single-celled bacteria to the most complex animal, none of them appear to be building. In fact, what is evident is much worse, organisms appear to have mechanisms to prevent changes. And when non-terminating changes do occur, they appear within a confined subsection and are mostly detrimental to the blueprints of the organism.

    So you reject speciation (one species turning into another)? But this has been observed in the lab many times. I can present a list of papers many, many times longer than the one above where scientists have conclusively demonstrated the creation of new species.. And just to preempt a possible retort; if you wish to argue that the new species are still the same “kind” I’d appreciate it if you could define exactly what you mean by kind as accurately as you possibly can.

    I’m not sure what mechanisms you’re referring to that prevent changes? Unless you’re referring to the common misconception that “mutations are bad and kill the organism most of the time” – then all I can say is that is simply untrue. A mutation is simply a change in genetic structure – unless you look exactly like your parents, you have hundreds of mutations currently in your genetic structure and if you have kids you’ve passed along hundreds more.

    Though the God hypothesis does explain the appearance of natural processes (if defined as the existence and properties of the physical world).

    It may provide an explanation in the common sense of the word, but in science god can never be considered an explanation until it is rigorously defined. This isn’t because all scientists are atheists and hate god, but this is just the process that has produced so much knowledge. There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “A theory that explains everything explains nothing”. This basically means that if you come up with something that can explain everything, such as an omni-everything god, then it can never be falsified and you can never learn anything. Suppose a thunder clap goes off in the sky, I claim it might have something to do with electrical charges in the sky, you say god did it. Your theory is unfalsifiable and what’s worse is that even if my theory explains the phenomena perfectly, you can simply say god created it to work that way.

    This kind of explanation is fine in every day usage, people can believe whatever they like. But in science it’s useless and ultimately detrimental to the search for knowledge.

    The test would be whether you can meet this being or not. A falsification may be put that we are dual creatures or not. Specifically whether we have a form of existence after our physical death.

    Sure, that would provide extremely good evidence, for that single person. Unfortunately, it’s unethical and very hard to control an experiment where we systematically kill off a series of people then bring them back to life to see if they saw god. Suppose half of them did and the others didn’t. We could attribute this to the chemical levels in the brain causing them to see visions before dying; or you could argue that god didn’t like the other half.

    To test the idea of god we’d first need a concrete defintion. Suppose we went with the traditional christian god – all good, all knowing, all powerful etc. Then we have to define the word good, before the experiment took place – for example, good is stopping someone kill a bunny if you had the power to. Then we set up a series of experiments where bunnies are potentially killed, unless stopped. If somehow every scientist was stopped before killing the bunny we could use this as evidence for the existence of god.

    But because god is ultimately an unfalsifiable concept there are a million different ways you could ‘refute’ this experiment. (Sorry that discssion was a bit of a tangent..)

    As another theist, I have presuppositions that present me with room to reject evolution. I do have the option to follow evidence. If the point comes where evolution has confirming evidence, I will then be happy to accept it.

    I don’t know how much you understand about science but every single scientist (or at least every competent scientist) in the field of evolutionary biology is constantly trying to disprove evolution. Every single one of them would love nothing more than the find the piece of evidence that absolutely tears down the theory. This is a point that I think many creationists either ignore or miss.

    Science works in the same way evolution does – not by trying to find evidence that confirms their theory, but by discarding everything that doesn’t conform to reality.

    If you could, would you mind giving me a few examples of things that would constitute as evidence in support of evolution from your point of view? Perhaps you just haven’t been looking in the right places, and if that’s the case I’d be more than happy to find you research that can help you. If it’s the case that you’ve misunderstood how evolution works and you are in search of something as patently absurd as a “crocoduck”, then again, I’d be more than happy to help point you in the direction of some resources that could help you.

    Until then I agree with Johnson, overall, randomness destroys order.

    I think one of the main reasons I disagree with Johnson on this point is because “order” is a VERY subjective notion. A chemical may be in ‘order’ but then break down, you can consider this disorder, or the creation and order of two new chemicals.

    I was in a bit of a rush writing this so I apologise if it’s a bit rough in places and sorry it’s a bit long winded but I hope you find it useful and that you get back to me on what would constitute as evidence for you.

    Thanks guys,
    Mike.

  19. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi again.

    Thanks Johnson for the kind remarks.

    And Mike, when someone is as courteous as you, spelling is not an issue. Well done. I have no issue about what people call me.

    To further explain, clarify and answer your questions, let me juggle this a bit into a logical order. You gave such a large response that I fear this is going to get too long. Oh well, bear with me.

    Mike wrote:
    Then I’m afraid you accept evolution.. Evolution is defined as a change in allele frequencies over time or more commonly known as descent with modification, and that’s what you’ve just said you accepted.

    If that is true, neat! We need not discuss any further. Goodbye. (Just joking)

    I have a sneaky suspicion that the two of us define evolution slightly differently. So let us clear this up. If you merely claim that it is the change in allele frequencies over time, then I will agree with you and fully accept your version of evolution. I have no problem with hereditary variation at all. If that totally encompasses evolution, we are done and dusted. Amen! Cheerio. (Yeah, you know it is not)

    If we go to the full-blooded meaning encapsulated by; a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed entirely by natural means … I am at odds and do not agree.

    Maybe it would help if I said that I accept micro-evolution. I have failed to progress on to accepting macro-evolution.

    Mike wrote:
    I don’t quite understand your criticism, you’ve essentially described evolution. You have mutations, which are somewhat random, occurring constantly and if these mutations provide a disadvantage then they are culled off by the environment, whilst the neutral and positive mutations remain. It’s not the ‘randomness’ of mutations that “builds” though, it’s the culling process. Mutations can “build” as many different forms it likes – say it creates red, green, purple, yellow, orange, pink and blue creatures but if the environment is green, then only the green creatures will survive and all other mutations become irrelevant. This is why thinking of mutations as “positive” or “negative” is pointless without context, because what might look like a hugely detrimental mutation in one environment is a life saver in another – for example, the sickle cell mutation can be a huge killer, but in populations of africa sickle cell is becoming common in the gene pool as it protects people against malaria.

    I did not exactly describe evolution as held to by natural evolutionists for what I described works perfectly in reverse. That is, start with perfected organisms, then watch them mutate, adapt and vary with selection. The difference between the two is that (1) one version is building the massive amount of complexity that we see in life all around us and (2) the other version is degrading it. I am drawn to the second for the reason that it fits in with what I know, all the examples that I have seen and common observation. (And this appears to be in harmony with what Johnson was expounding in his blog) In the previous post, I liberally used the word “build” in an attempt to convey that difference. Both of these concepts use exactly the same science. But one requires the miracle of random building and the other a miracle of a designer.

    Yes I know that what I hold is a ludicrous idea without first having the premise of a creator God. Thus the reason why I said that knowing God opens up the possibility of rejecting the “building” version of evolution. You really cannot reject it without some sort of external influence, taken as truth. I know of nothing that can provide a consistency in the rejection of evolution besides a meta-physical being of some sort. Some people have rejected evolution simply on the impossibility of the process. They then conclude a matter-based alien origin. But they have just pushed the problem for the origin of physical life to a place other than earth. It does not seem like a valid action. Now having said that, even with knowing God, if life did in fact build up in the manner that evolution portrays, I am not prevented from accepting it. But as it stands presently, I think the full-blown evolution is in tatters. And as I said previously, for the naturalist, there is really no other option to turn to. Interesting position to be in.

    Yes, I have looked at the sickle cell example. I thought that the general consensus was that the sickle cell mutation is a defect. Two mutations in the HBB gene result in sickle cell disease. If you get only one of the mutations, you have sickle cell trait and you are spared all the major problems of the sickle cell disease. The benefit with only the sickle cell trait is that you are spared the painful death of the disease and the malarial parasite, when contracted, is unable to propagate due to normally stable red blood cells forming sickles, breaking down and consequently destroying the parasite.

    This example fits in with what I hold to be evolution, but it does not seem to provide any sort of good example of the “building” version of evolution. In fact, it matches in with what Johnson was saying about randomness destroying. The small change in an amino acid residue results in compromised haemoglobin. Not any new working structures. My refrigerator has wheels. They are good when I need to move the fridge out of its crevice to retrieve the now-grime-covered jaffa that rolled under it. If the fridge was moved to a slightly sloping floor, I might find that it keeps leaving its new home. In a fit of frustration and fridge abuse, I manage to accidentally break a wheel. Argh! But a solution presents itself by removing all the wheels. The fridge no longer has the tendency to explore the room. It is more ‘fit’ for the environment.

    Your point about positive and negative mutations is well put. How do you decide in a very subjective environment? If you are allowed to be entirely subjective, you could claim that being born without legs is an advantage as you will not trip, fall over, smash your head on a rock and die as easily. A ludicrous example, but hopefully the point is clear. I do not think that merely saying, “Something that changes to fit the environment better demonstrates evolution”. (Ok, it does demonstrate the definition that you gave but it does not demonstrate the definition that I gave)

    The malaria parasite has trouble surviving when sickle cell trait is present due to the compromised haemoglobin, yet the humans have trouble surviving with sickle cell disease for the exact same deficiency. They are, in fact, subjected to a drawn-out painful death. My method of distinction for assigning “positive” and “negative” classifications is not dependent on using the environment. For that is entirely subjective and as you have shown, anything and everything can be called evidence of evolution. (Which is where Johnson started in his blog) I assign a “positive” mark to something that increases information in the genome. Something along the lines of building a totally new function, non-existent before. A step going up mount impossible. I assign a “neutral” mark, to something that just rearranges current information or uses information from elsewhere. And I assign a “negative” mark to something that decreases the level of information. That could be called, rolling down mount definite.

    For a different example, when a protein-binding site is lost in a cell there may be a benefit of some sort by no longer accepting the binding of detrimental agents. Despite being more resistant to that particular detrimental agent, the information level has dropped and the proper function of the binding site is lost as well.

    And now we run into a problem with the definition of information. Hopefully we might be able to agree that information is something non-material that can have a purposeful representation in a material form and acknowledge that it is not random, and it is not cyclic. SETI would be an utter waste of time and money if we could not identify information. Information in chemicals: Proteins are tiny machines. They range from fifty to a thousand amino acids in length. There are twenty different amino acids. The protein “chain” folds into a very specific rigid structure to perform a specific action. One amino acid in the wrong place and the protein is stuffed. Take the brushes out of my electric drill and the drill will not work. Multiple proteins work together to perform various tasks. The simplest cell requires thousands of proteins all working in harmony. There is very specific information encoded in the DNA to build the proteins. Randomness can not create this information as Johnson has attempted to explain.

    And you would probably agree that it does not as above when you wrote, “It’s not the ‘randomness’ of mutations that “builds” though, it’s the culling process.” But you could not actually mean that as the next sentence directly claims that mutations can build as many different forms it likes. And therein you correctly identified that randomness is doing the building. Natural selection culls, yes! But can it build? No. In itself, it is impotent. It relies fully on what randomness can build. It is restricted to use what randomness can produce. It can do nothing other than what randomness provides it with. The question is “What exactly are the limits and constraints of what randomness can produce?”

    “Little step, little step!” Yes. That would be the way to build. And it was reasonable when it was a vague concept. But then the complexity and structure of the cell was unleashed, and the little steps turned into unimaginable leaps.

    Mike wrote:
    Natural selection is one of the main mechanisms of evolution. I don’t see why you think it isn’t a mechanism unless you’re using another definition of the word mechanism?

    Ah, I think one of your problems when thinking about evolution is assuming that it’s about selecting improvements. This isn’t the case. Evolution is about de-selecting/killing traits that don’t work. Addition isn’t the key, it’s adaptation. That’s why we get many creatures that keep similar forms but have obviously undergone some changes genetically (informally known as ‘living fossils’) because improving isn’t necessary, but ‘not dying’ is.

    I understand how natural selection works. I actually agree that evolution is about de-selecting/killing traits.

    Mike wrote:
    So you reject speciation (one species turning into another)? But this has been observed in the lab many times. I can present a list of papers many, many times longer than the one above where scientists have conclusively demonstrated the creation of new species.. And just to preempt a possible retort; if you wish to argue that the new species are still the same “kind” I’d appreciate it if you could define exactly what you mean by kind as accurately as you possibly can.

    The definition of species and kinds can be almost as hazy as the definition of life. *wink wink* (I am leaning on something that I learnt from you there) Yeah, I would love to look at the single best example you know about. It may take me a while, as I have to fit it in to a crowded life. But I am prepared to do the research to get a thorough knowledge, if it is going to be good evidence. Find me one that is building up new genetic structures, which did not exist before. I have no problem with new species being developed by a drop in genetic information. In fact I might expect it. Cheers.

    Mike wrote:
    I don’t know how much you understand about science but every single scientist (or at least every competent scientist) in the field of evolutionary biology is constantly trying to disprove evolution. Every single one of them would love nothing more than the find the piece of evidence that absolutely tears down the theory. This is a point that I think many creationists either ignore or miss.

    Well, that would have to be good news then, for you would expect them to be politely engaging with ‘creationist scientist’ in order to find how they disprove evolution. If that is too far out, maybe we could expect them to be politely engaging the ID proponents on what they hold as evidence to disprove evolution. Do we find these things happening?

    Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection working on variations. (The Origin of Species) He did what you have highlighted as a required part of the scientific method: Provided a way to falsify the theory. Which is to find complex structures that cannot be reached via a series of successive small steps. That the ID proponents have done this is hidden under a barrage of abusive name-calling and motivation inventing. I would suggest a full investigation of the ID position. It appears this is what a “competent” scientist would do.

    Mike wrote:
    Science works in the same way evolution does – not by trying to find evidence that confirms their theory, but by discarding everything that doesn’t conform to reality.

    You have just said exactly what I have said in different words. By claiming God is not real and discarding him, you are fully left with naturalistic evolution, irrespective of any evidence. Yes, you do not need to find evidence to confirm the theory of evolution. By ruling out everything else, it is the only game in town. I agree.

    I differ on your first supposition though. God is reality and provides the only credible view of reality.

    Mike wrote:
    If you could, would you mind giving me a few examples of things that would constitute as evidence in support of evolution from your point of view? Perhaps you just haven’t been looking in the right places, and if that’s the case I’d be more than happy to find you research that can help you.

    As I have indicated, I will surely look at anything you claim as the building of a new species. Link in the best example. And thanks again for the abiogenesis links. There is worthwhile reading in there. I do note that you have previously said abiogenesis has not been proven or demonstrated. It is an active area of research that may yet yield some conclusive results in the affirmative. But there is the distinct possibility as well, that while certain steps of a proposed long road can be identified we may be ignoring the huge impasses that lie in the way.

    So while evidence for evolution is interesting, I am not sure of what evidence could fill the gaps. What can provide the evidence of giant leaps across crevices requiring simultaneous multiple protein creations of specific chains of amino acids hundreds of letters long that combine to produce a new working function that has a tiny visible effect? As you have said, it is the disproving of it that is more conclusive. Therefore I would also suggest that you work through the ID books as they may provide the disproof of evolution that you are looking for. I will certainly be following the debate in that arena.

    Thanks for the willingness to politely discuss Mike. It has been a pleasure to read your view and I agree with Johnson that you two do not really differ as much as you may think. On the actual science, you are pretty much 100%. On the interpretation, you are varying only a small amount.


    From here on it is very tangential to the topic, but no less important, or true. (In my reckoning) I have said that the knowledge of God allows me to reject evolution. If I held the materialists view I assume I would accept evolution in its full sense for there would be nothing else. But knowing God, allows me to reject evolution based on the problems within it. So why do I believe in God? It is not a concept I just pull out of thin air.

    (I do not direct this specifically at you Mike, despite using your writing as a springboard.)

    Mike wrote:
    It may provide an explanation in the common sense of the word, but in science god can never be considered an explanation until it is rigorously defined. This isn’t because all scientists are atheists and hate god, but this is just the process that has produced so much knowledge. There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of “A theory that explains everything explains nothing”. This basically means that if you come up with something that can explain everything, such as an omni-everything god, then it can never be falsified and you can never learn anything. Suppose a thunder clap goes off in the sky, I claim it might have something to do with electrical charges in the sky, you say god did it. Your theory is unfalsifiable and what’s worse is that even if my theory explains the phenomena perfectly, you can simply say god created it to work that way.

    This kind of explanation is fine in every day usage, people can believe whatever they like. But in science it’s useless and ultimately detrimental to the search for knowledge.

    Indeed, I agree with the description that simply throwing out “God did it” is a problematic response, which has no relevance to science. I will extend that and say it is also a problem in every day use. It is not fine to use it as an answer, pulled from nowhere. If God is an illusion, it is not honest to do so. If God were real, you would want to be sure not to do it for it would be all too easy to put the words into God’s mouth. And he probably wouldn’t be too happy about that! I desire truth in every area of life.

    Simply proposing an omni-everything god is not what I am suggesting.

    We are certainly touching on the limits of science by realising that science is restricted to a study of how the natural world operates. If there is something behind this ‘natural world’, can science find it? I am not sure that it can.

    Science does provide a lot of fantastic knowledge about how the matter based universe works. I suggest that there is even more meaningful wisdom behind the knowledge we can glean from the physical universe.

    Mike wrote:
    Sure, that would provide extremely good evidence, for that single person. Unfortunately, it’s unethical and very hard to control an experiment where we systematically kill off a series of people then bring them back to life to see if they saw god. Suppose half of them did and the others didn’t. We could attribute this to the chemical levels in the brain causing them to see visions before dying; or you could argue that god didn’t like the other half.

    To test the idea of god we’d first need a concrete defintion. Suppose we went with the traditional christian god – all good, all knowing, all powerful etc. Then we have to define the word good, before the experiment took place – for example, good is stopping someone kill a bunny if you had the power to. Then we set up a series of experiments where bunnies are potentially killed, unless stopped. If somehow every scientist was stopped before killing the bunny we could use this as evidence for the existence of god.

    But because god is ultimately an unfalsifiable concept there are a million different ways you could ‘refute’ this experiment. (Sorry that discssion was a bit of a tangent..)

    I had a good giggle at the analysis. Killing off a series of people and bringing them back is going to be hard to get past the ethical review board. But the basis for first calling it unethical, is really only found in God. There is a conundrum for you! Given no god, I am sure we could subjectively twist things around and make it ethical. Just call it the greater good, or population controls, or required for the advancement of science. After all, we are happily mutilating to death, innocent babies in the womb in the name of “my right to chose”.

    “How can you get to an idea of God without just pulling the concept from thin air?”

    I am glad you asked. Very briefly: 1) the existence of reason cannot be explained without using reason to do it, or having an intelligent source for the origin of reason. Given that reason just does not pop into existence, it can be concluded to have always been there. In short, it is eternal. 2) I do not hold that matter it eternal. Science tells me that it had a starting point and there will be a heat death. If it is not eternal, it needs a cause. Einstein related matter to energy. There is the distinct possibility that energy has been directed into matter at some point. 3) What I know morality to be, does not fit into a materialist universe. Good and evil are not invented concepts. For this to be true, you need a singular intelligent uncreated entity. To have a real ‘good’ you need a singular entity. You need an absolute that provides the standard. The absolute must be what we know is ‘good’. If there were multiple uncreated intelligent entities, you have the same problem as every evolved morality. You can choose whatever you want to be ‘good’, and it all remains entirely subjective.

    These three things only go so far as indicating the presence of an absolute, intelligent, eternal, pre-matter, singular, un-created, non-physical being. What you might clearly define as God. Reason and real morality also indicate that we may be dual creatures. A foot in the physical world, and a foot in another, unknown world.

    But I am still at a loss! For I know little to nothing about such a being. To know more, I clearly need this being to reveal itself, for it is simply beyond my reach. From examining history, I see time and time again, this other entity appearing in the pages of our lives. A study of the records of Jesus Christ, leave you with no option but to declare him as the physical representation of God. Absurd and outrageous as it may sound. The resurrection and subsequent change in the people, who knew him, is the most prominent evidence in the long list. And finally, by submitting myself to this God and knowing his presence in my life I have become fully convinced. This is one test that is open to everyone. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

    It is a very brief description but you would be able to expound and examine each point in detail via links on this site.

    Further, Jesus does claim that we are spiritual beings inside a physical body. The bible does call God a spirit. Which fits in with the meta-physical requirements of being able to provide reason and morality. The meta-physical state is equivalent to the term spirit. I now conclude a definite integration of the spirit and body. Further allowing for a valid source of intelligence in the ‘mind’. And I find myself in the abhorrent position of breaking a real moral law and being fully accountable to a real justice giver.

    You can probably avoid the ethical problems of killing people and finding out what happens to them by researching the emergency wards of hospitals. The clear problem is that we do not know how the spirit and body are interconnected. We do not know much at all about how the spirit would work and how it interacts with the mind. Hallucinations are a distinct possibility and could explain some accounts. Though, it gets a lot harder to explain via natural chemical brain processes, when the subject who died, and was revived can give extremely detailed and thorough accounts of the procedures that were carried out on them. Accounts given via a third-person perspective, as if they were standing in the room. And then tell how they floated through the ceiling, through other rooms and out of the building. And can verify it with immediate confirmable knowledge, “There is a blue sandshoe hiding on an external ledge of the fifth floor of this building.” But this does not even provide evidence for God. It merely indicates that we may really be spiritual beings in physical houses. It does lend immense weight to the claims of Christ.

    There is a kiwi lad, Ian McCormack who did in fact die, meet God and come back. Yes, it was extremely good evidence for him. You can even go and chat to him. It might become good evidence for you. It is worth looking in to that one. There are plenty of examples that do not fit into a chemical-based explanation. There are some that do. Having some that do does not discount the ones that don’t.

    There is something that you can do for yourself, right now at the desk you are sitting at. You can say something along the lines of “Jesus Christ, I have heard that you are God. I don’t know whether you are real or not. If you are, I want to find you so please reveal yourself to me.” Then see what happens over the next few months.

    I find the Christian worldview to be incredibly cohesive. I find it to be true. God is good. God is love. God is just. God is real.

    Sorry to go into an area that may irritate you and sorry to have written so much. I do not know how to answer you and be more concise. As I mentioned before, I do not reject evolution because I believe God is real. And I do not believe God is real because I reject evolution.

  20. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I enjoyed reading through your reply, lots of good thoughts there but wow, this is going to be a long reply haha. Here we go, with apologies to the admin for adding to the list of long comments:

    If we go to the full-blooded meaning encapsulated by; a process whereby life arose from non-living matter and subsequently developed entirely by natural means … I am at odds and do not agree.

    Hmm.. you can define it that way if you like, I guess. I should warn you that absolutely no scientist or academic would ever define it that way though. This is largely for two reasons: first, it unnecessarily links it with abiogenesis. As I’ve stated here or on another topic, how life began is irrelevant to evolution. Secondly, your definition misses the crucial part of what evolution describes: the diversity of life.

    The definition I gave you above is THE definition of evolution. To argue against anything else is arguing against something nobody else believes – a strawman I think they call it.

    Maybe it would help if I said that I accept micro-evolution. I have failed to progress on to accepting macro-evolution.

    The issue here is that there is no known mechanism that could stop “macro-evolution” from occurring. We can see huge variations within species that cause very dramatic changes in body structure (such as wolf to chihuahua) and we have also observed these variations becoming so great that they become separate species as they can no longer interbreed (as being able to breed is the most common definition of species).

    The common retort to this is that they both belong to the “dog kind”, but nobody has ever been able to accurately define what this means. It seems to simply be that both look like some sort of dog but just a quick browse through any book on animals will show how futile that definition is – e.g. compare the bat and the bird.

    The difference between the two is that (1) one version is building the massive amount of complexity that we see in life all around us and (2) the other version is degrading it. I am drawn to the second for the reason that it fits in with what I know, all the examples that I have seen and common observation. (And this appears to be in harmony with what Johnson was expounding in his blog) In the previous post, I liberally used the word “build” in an attempt to convey that difference. Both of these concepts use exactly the same science. But one requires the miracle of random building and the other a miracle of a designer.

    Both theories appear to describe the same data and fortunately for us they are both falsifiable as they both make very clear and distinct predictions. (1)Evolution predicts that life would start off fairly simple (unicellular) and then develop over time through to multi-cellular life. It also predicts that most species will die off and so most animals we see today should not be found in early history. (2) Your form of evolution would predict that we’d find “perfect” forms of modern animals (hopefully this is a correct interpretation of what you were saying).

    The evidence we have supports evolution from what I can tell. Your idea would also have to explain why god would favour one species of the ape family and (seemingly) reject the others. It’d also have to explain why god would inject both humans and other apes with the exact same virus into the exact same spot on the genetic structure 300,000 times(I can’t remember the exact figure sorry). These are known as Endogenous Retroviruses (ERVs), one of the biggest evidences in support of evolution.

    Some people have rejected evolution simply on the impossibility of the process. They then conclude a matter-based alien origin. But they have just pushed the problem for the origin of physical life to a place other than earth.

    Even though your criticism of this theory is a valid concern, I should point out that this is not generally a genuinely accepted theory (except by a few fringe nutjobs). It was suggested as a counter to ID. As ID stated that the life of earthe was clearly too complex to have evolved by “chance”, then there surely must be a designer. The scientific theory of who this designer is must first be supposed to be a natural entity (as this requires the least assumptions) and this would be aliens of some kind. It also avoids the problem of ID’s self refutation – if god is complex, then he must have been designed also. (Then comes along the problem of “goddidit” as god is eternal and created himself, or something along those lines). The alien hypothesis is only made to explain the complexity of life on earth, if you ignore evolution then aliens are the best explanation for what we see. How the aliens came about is another question separate to life on earth.

    The small change in an amino acid residue results in compromised haemoglobin. Not any new working structures.

    It’s incredibly interesting that you phrased it like this, and then quoted the example of the cell structure further along, as I was going to explain this using the example of the bacterial flagellum. The change in amino acid residue does result in compromised haemoglobin – compromised in the traditional way we view haemoglobin. However, evolution does not work by magicking up new structures from nothing. Evolution can only work with what it has – in this case, instead of changing the genetic structure and creating millions of tiny roman soldiers in the bloodstream to kill malaria, it works with what it has – blood cells. It alters them in such a way to combat the malaria parasite. (I’m speaking very informally here, please forgive that and keep in mind that evolution is not a directional process and cannot “choose” to change it’s structure etc).

    Evolution works by appropriating current structures and using them for different purposes. The best example of this was actually raised by the ID crowd in the Dover trial, where Ken Miller brilliantly demonstrates how new structures are created by using previous structures like scaffolding. Each phase is functional and provides an advantage to the organism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0hW7ddJOWko

    My method of distinction for assigning “positive” and “negative” classifications is not dependent on using the environment. For that is entirely subjective and as you have shown, anything and everything can be called evidence of evolution. (Which is where Johnson started in his blog) I assign a “positive” mark to something that increases information in the genome. Something along the lines of building a totally new function, non-existent before.

    Maybe this is where I’m losing you. Evolution doesn’t create new structures out of thin air, it uses old structures for new purposes.

    The assigning of positive and negative isn’t subjective, it’s contextual. It has a very objective measuring system for whether something is a disadvantage or not – if you die then it was a disadvantage.

    Information. Sounds like a very simple way of defining things doesn’t it? Have a look around on the internet for just 5 mins… Information is an absolutely massive field and unfortunately I don’t even know the basics to even begin to start this debate with you, I’m sorry. However, forgive me if you find this assumption insulting, I don’t think you know a lot about the field either. Information has so many definitions and each one has a very specific meaning that changes things very dramatically. If I’m mistaken and you’re actually a leading scholar in the field of information then I apologise.

    If you really want to continue the debate on information then please provide me with what definition of information you’re using and I’ll try to read up on it. I can forward you to this site though: http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/information/spetner.html It’s TalkOrigins, I’m sure you’ve probably been there before or heard terrible things about it. It’s made by a lot of very smart people though and can be very useful for you. I’ve linked you to one of their sections on information, feel free to give it a read through and if you can understand it, then fair play to you sir.

    “It’s not the ‘randomness’ of mutations that “builds” though, it’s the culling process.” But you could not actually mean that as the next sentence directly claims that mutations can build as many different forms it likes. And therein you correctly identified that randomness is doing the building. Natural selection culls, yes! But can it build? No. In itself, it is impotent. It relies fully on what randomness can build.

    I apologise for my confusing language sometimes, I’ve been told on numerous occasions that I’m terrible at clearly explaining things. Mutations can create a number of different forms, but the species and hence the “genetic pool” is added to, or built, by the culling process. There is a random variable in the process yes, but this does not make it a random process – it’s a deterministic process with a random variable. (Unless you want to get into a very technical debate about the mathematical meaning of the word random and how it applies, but that isn’t important for what we’re referring to).

    The definition of species and kinds can be almost as hazy as the definition of life. *wink wink* (I am leaning on something that I learnt from you there) Yeah, I would love to look at the single best example you know about. It may take me a while, as I have to fit it in to a crowded life. But I am prepared to do the research to get a thorough knowledge, if it is going to be good evidence. Find me one that is building up new genetic structures, which did not exist before. I have no problem with new species being developed by a drop in genetic information.

    Yes, the definition of species is very vague but all intents and purposes we can describe speciation as when a group of organisms are unable to reproduce with the original species. (If you want to suggest another definition of the word speciation then please feel free to, but I’d appreciate it if you chose from the current definitions). The best example I can think of is Richard Lenski’s experiment on E-coli, where the bacteria evolved the ability to utilize citrate as a source of energy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment

    Well, that would have to be good news then, for you would expect them to be politely engaging with ‘creationist scientist’ in order to find how they disprove evolution. If that is too far out, maybe we could expect them to be politely engaging the ID proponents on what they hold as evidence to disprove evolution. Do we find these things happening?

    The problem is that “creationist scientists” don’t actually understand evolution so they present very weird arguments against evolution, the most salient examples I can think of are “if man evolved from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”, “why aren’t there transitional fossils?” etc. (If you aren’t sure why these are bad arguments then the first one is wrong in that man and monkey evolved from a common ancestor, and can be demonstrated absurd by the comparison “if i came from my parents, why are they still alive?”. The second is a misunderstanding of how fossilisation works, what a transitional fossil is and when a transitional fossil is ever found they always argue that there are now two more transitional fossils that need to be found to explain the two new gaps).

    So instead of becoming an interesting exchange of ideas, biologists end up having to try to teach creation scientists basic 3rd form science only to have their help thrown back in their face time and time again. The ID movement currently has no evidence to disprove evolution apart from “some things look too complex to have happened through evolution”… therefore, designer/god. They’ve suggested a number of possible things such as the bacterial flagellum, and the eye, but all have been disproven so far (the beauty of falsification!) and as far as I’m aware they have no evidence at the moment.

    That the ID proponents have done this is hidden under a barrage of abusive name-calling and motivation inventing. I would suggest a full investigation of the ID position. It appears this is what a “competent” scientist would do.

    I addressed most of this quote above, but I wanted to comment on the highlighted part. By “motivation inventing” I can only assume you mean the assertion that was proven in court that intelligent design is simply creationism with the addition of irreducible complexity? If this is so then I can only point you to the ID’s main text “Of Pandas and People” (the text they hoped to get taught in schools). If it wasn’t evidence enough that ID is simply creationism dressed up, there was even a transcription error in the production of their ID version where “design proponent” had been incorrectly copied and pasted over “creationist” to produce “cdesign proponentsists”.

    You have just said exactly what I have said in different words. By claiming God is not real and discarding him, you are fully left with naturalistic evolution, irrespective of any evidence. Yes, you do not need to find evidence to confirm the theory of evolution. By ruling out everything else, it is the only game in town. I agree.

    Hm.. I don’t think any scientist would say god is not real (or at least not from a scientific perspective). We can only work with the evidence we have, and we can’t assume the existence of being before the proper groundwork has been conducted – even if that being is real and the cause of everything. If evolution is not true, then surely it will be ruled out in time by someone finding the damning piece of evidence. There are a multitude of ways to disprove evolution – the most common cited one is a rabbit in the Precambrian. Sooner or later the evidence will appear if the theory of evolution is false, but considering the mountains of evidence we currently have in its favour, I don’t see the theory of evolution ever being proven false.

    What can provide the evidence of giant leaps across crevices requiring simultaneous multiple protein creations of specific chains of amino acids hundreds of letters long that combine to produce a new working function that has a tiny visible effect?

    Evolution is such a huge and complex field, and you’re asking great questions – questions that were asked by brilliant scientists over history. There are many answers to your question, and I’d urge you to read more on this, or even take a class because you seem like a very intelligent person and I think you’d make a brilliant scientist if only you had a bit more information on the subject (that isn’t meant to sound condescending). One answer is that something which you’d think would take a lot of changes in genetic structure to produce effects, only takes one or very few. For example, lizard scales and turtle shells are the same material but the turtle has a genetic mutation which alters the hardness of the scale – a minor mutation. Another answer is that the majority of mutations have zero effect and are essentially neutral, until such a time as they become vital to survival. For example, blue eyes and blond hair require quite a few genetic variations but as they have little to no effect on survival they’ve proliferated through our species, however suppose a giant dragon who loved eating brown haired people appeared, the blond hair blue eye mutations will make up most of the population. This is how changes to a lot of genes can become common without damaging the organism itself.

    Therefore I would also suggest that you work through the ID books as they may provide the disproof of evolution that you are looking for. I will certainly be following the debate in that arena.

    I have read quite a few ID books and taken a couple of papers on the subject at university, and I know you’ll probably disregard my advice as being biased (maybe justifying it by claiming I’m unaware of my bias) but I can honestly tell you that it’s an intellectually vacuous area. I’m not saying this so that you will suddenly accept evolution or anything like that, it’s just that I actually think you’re a very smart person and your intelligence would be much better spent researching evolution and trying to find real flaws in it.

    Thanks for the willingness to politely discuss Mike. It has been a pleasure to read your view and I agree with Johnson that you two do not really differ as much as you may think. On the actual science, you are pretty much 100%. On the interpretation, you are varying only a small amount.

    Yes it’s been fun discussing these things with you too. I still disagree with the notion that me and Johnson are agreeing on a lot of points, but perhaps I’m failing to step back and view it as it is.

    The rest of your post was very interesting to read through, and as much as I’d like to respond, I fear our discussions would get MUCH too long. I don’t know if it’s allowed but perhaps we should continue our off-topic conversations through email?

    Thanks for the discussion though, and I’m sorry if I’ve skipped over any points you thought were important to the debate. I tried to condense it as much as possible so it’s likely that I’ve ignored (unintentionally) some question or point from your reply.

    -Mike.

  21. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Good response Mike. Thanks for it and I shall indeed keep researching and attempting to learn new things.

    And thanks for bringing the diversion somewhat back to the topic. I thought I might have over reached on that.

    You are a fantastic ambassador for your view. Cheers.

  22. Darjo
    Darjo says:

    Thanks Jonathan and Mike for your polited and very good responses!

    “As I’ve stated here or on another topic, how life began is irrelevant to evolution. Secondly, your definition misses the crucial part of what evolution describes: the diversity of life.”

    “The alien hypothesis is only made to explain the complexity of life on earth, if you ignore evolution then aliens are the best explanation for what we see.”

    Mike, I’d like to know what you mean by the second comment. It seems to me as you are talking about the origin of life (back to the topic: the creative power of nothing) by aliens or evolution – so how life began seems to be not so irrelevant to evolution. Should one attribute to aliens only the diversity of life, but not its origin?

    About Talkorigins, have you both ever been here:

    http://creationwiki.org/Category:Anticreation_response

    Thanks again guys!
    Greetings from Brazil

  23. Dr. Johnson C Philip
    Dr. Johnson C Philip says:

    @ 21 Mike

    Hi Mike !

    I have been enjoying the discussion that you and Jonathan were having. This is a comment about the following:

    I still disagree with the notion that me and Johnson are agreeing on a lot of points, but perhaps I’m failing to step back and view it as it is.

    If you can separate the “empirical observations” we discussed from their interpretation (evolution or creation) then you will see the way we agree.

    While I am a creationist, I have tried to limit myself to empirical observations alone (and would surely try to do so in future) in my posts related to science (not in my posts related to human behaviour).

    As I said, interpretation is what “we” bring with us. Each one of us needs to explore which interpretation (creation, evolution, and agnostic stand) we prefer. However, this should not deter us from coming to a clear understanding in empirical matters.

    If the empirical observations are properly placed here, and if there is agreement on these observations, I would feel satisfied in having a job well done. This is where I said that there is a very high degree of agreement as a result of mutual discussion.

    I feel Jonathan’s comment about you and me should also be seen in this framework.

    Greetings from India

    Johnson C. Philip

  24. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Darjo,

    Thanks for your compliments.

    Mike, I’d like to know what you mean by the second comment. It seems to me as you are talking about the origin of life (back to the topic: the creative power of nothing) by aliens or evolution – so how life began seems to be not so irrelevant to evolution. Should one attribute to aliens only the diversity of life, but not its origin?

    Yes, my wording was pretty poor here, so sorry about that. As far as I’m aware, aliens are posited as both an origin of life as well as, sometimes,explaining the diversity of life (sometimes people say that aliens started life and evolution continued from there).

    My statement was intended to show that if we were to ignore natural processes as an explanation for all the different creatures we see on earth, then we must, as the ID crowd suggests, turn to some sort of designer. The most likely designer is aliens.

    Now, you can posit a number of other convoluted hypotheses to explain life on earth – such as, possibly god created life on earth, which was then designed by aliens to appear as if it had evolved. Hopefully you can see that although this may in fact be the ultimate truth, it makes many unfounded assumptions that are unnecessary at this point of our knowledge.

    You can argue that life started somehow and then aliens caused the diversity of life, but evolution has a LOT more support for it than aliens and so we’d have to accept evolution for now. How life started has no impact on evolution as we can see evolution happening. I think one of the worst things the ID movement has done is to try to discredit the ideas behind science and “uneducate” people. The most important point here being their mantra that “evolution is only theory” – not only does this completely misunderstand what a theory is, it also fails to realise that evolutionary theory is the theory that explains the FACT of evolution that we see. That evolution happens is not debatable, the theory is (to a degree).

    Sorry, I have trouble keeping my replies short and to the point… Crux of the matter is, life could have popped on to earth due to a giant invisible pink unicorn sneezing but this wouldn’t change the fact that living beings change over time.

    About Talkorigins, have you both ever been here:

    http://creationwiki.org/Category:Anticreation_response

    I don’t think I’ve ever been there before and I’ve only just had a quick look over the topics listed. Pretty much all of the topic titles show a profound misunderstanding of science and evolution specifically, so I’ll give it a proper read when I get a bit more time but I’m hoping the content of the topics is to show why the titles are nonsense.

    Thanks Darjo, I hope my explanation helped to clarify things and not confuse things further.

    @Jonathan, I wish you well in your research and if you need help finding something in particular then don’t hesitate to ask, I’d be more than happy to help.

    Also, I hope you don’t think I was dismissing the second half of your post. I found it very interesting and am genuinely interested in continuing it further but I fear that further offtopic comments may incur the wrath of the admin.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  25. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Johnson,

    I think I addressed this in the comments that wouldn’t go through the other day so I’ll try to recap what I wrote. I should preface it by saying that I don’t have an emotionally charged reason for believing we disagree, it’s nothing personal against you, I just don’t feel our comments have lined up but this is ultimately a minor thing.

    As I said, interpretation is what “we” bring with us. Each one of us needs to explore which interpretation (creation, evolution, and agnostic stand) we prefer. However, this should not deter us from coming to a clear understanding in empirical matters.

    I think this is where I disagree with you. In science, if any of our interpretations are unfounded without evidence of any kind then they are torn to shreds. And what’s left is what we base our knowledge on, until that too is shown inadequate. I know you will argue that I am still looking at things from an “atheistic” point of view, or a “naturalistic” one but I should point out that, even though anecdotal evidence is poor at best, I was not always a naturalistic atheist.

    I was raised a fairly staunch christian, so I am aware of how different the world looks from that viewpoint. However, in all my years as a christian I could not reconcile my beliefs with the reality around me and could not be honest with myself by pretending to accept the mental acrobatics required to ignore evidence in favour of god. I had no great moment where I became atheist, no tragic death that made me hate god or whatever, just a gradual realisation that I could not continue to believe in something which was at such odds with reality.

    So I understand what you mean by bringing ‘interpretations’ into things but science is the method by which our biases are either eliminated completely or reduced to such a level as to be insignificant.

    That’s just how I feel anyway, I apologise if I’ve said anything that offends you. In spite of it though, I have honestly enjoyed our discussions and I always enjoy the chance to have my opinions challenged and even proven wrong.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  26. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Darjo,

    Thanks for the comment and link mate. I have not been there before, but I am aware of much that it presents. From a short perusal, it seems to be a good effort in addressing claims of anitcreationists. Having a single site is useful. Good to hear from you and I hope things are well for you over in Brazil

    Hi Mike,

    No problems. I did not think you just dismissed my blatant proselytising. I thought it was mature of you to not let the direction go right off course. I was just happy to have explained my position (I think it is clear), ask a few questions, and let you explain yours. It gives any readers a chance to see both sides. I am not sure we would cover too much new ground if we kept going. We would probably just rephrase what we have already said. Thus it seemed like an appropriate place for me to quieten down and let others have room to voice. It would be good for the topic if you could link in an evolutionary example that shows a definite increase in the genome information level. The single best example would be fantastic and would give interested parties something to chase up and dig their teeth into. Cheers.

  27. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I’m glad you understood my nonreply and didn’t take offence.

    It would be good for the topic if you could link in an evolutionary example that shows a definite increase in the genome information level.

    I’ll give it a go, but you’ll have to define what you mean by information. As I stated earlier, it’s a huge field and thus there are many, many definitions of information. So if you could find which one you’re referring to then I’ll do my best.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  28. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I know you probably haven’t had time to search through the literature on information theory yet, but whilst I was waiting I was just looking through some sites and I found a link to these videos on youtube:

    Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I14KTshLUkg
    Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9u50wKDb_4

    In Part 1, the guy shows how even looking at information from an everyday understanding of its usage we can clearly see how information is increased in the genome through evolution. He uses the example of gene duplication – a process we know is common, where a specific strand of genetic material is copied and created, and then mutations act upon that copy. So the organism now has the original gene strand and the duplicated modified one – surely this is an increase in information?

    In Part 2 he delves much more deeply into the mathematics behind information theory and demonstrates conclusively how information increases in the genome in ways that can be quantitatively predicted by evolutionary theory. This video is a bit harder to follow than the first as it’s a bit more complicated, but the first video should be enough to satisfy your questions I think.

    The good thing about these videos is that he presents actual research rather than just hypothetical examples, so you’re able to follow the research yourself if you need further clarification. All in all, I’m pretty happy to have found such a clear explanation on the internet and I hope it answers your questions.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  29. James
    James says:

    It seems clear from the video that the evolutionary process can create new information. Create abilities/functions in the organism that did not exist before. So why do so many of us christians claim that the process can not create new information?

  30. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Well James, I can not speak for “us christians” as we all are free to examine the evidence and decide for ourselves. I can certainly speak for myself though and I have mixed conclusions.

    To explain myself for you: I find myself in total agreement with the scientific definition of evolution (as previously outlined by Mike), yet am in total disagreement with the generally understood, public definition of evolution. This would be defined as abiogenesis and the building of complexity from the first single cells, on and on gradually to more and more complex creatures until we get to the current astounding diversity and complexity in the living world around us.

    Like the difference between those definitions, I also find myself somewhat in agreement with the linked videos presentation of what they call information generation. Though I still maintain that the information-creation required to build specific protein machines as defined by sequences of genome letters hundreds of characters long, is not possible via (the scientific definition of) evolution. The definition of information generation as used in the videos covers small changes such as a single character mutations. And in some respect, they are quite valid to make that assertion. They point out that there is now a new sequence of characters that did not exist before. I personally hold that the information is not tied to the character sequences, it is totally dependent on whether the sequences can build functioning proteins or not.

    Take for example two words ‘information’ and ‘kugabviwuak’. It seems to me that the videos are willing to define both these character sequences as information. They are both comprised of letters from a universal set. There is a distinct, unique arrangement of characters in each and thus we can conclude that both have information. But there is a huge difference between the first and second words, for one conveys meaning to the reader and the other does not.

    Again, thanks to Mike for linking in the video information. It is certainly worth the time to consider what the videos present. In order to balance it out a little where the creationists actually explain their own side, some good references are:

    http://creation.com/feedback-that-depends-on-what-your-definition-of-information-is
    A presentation of both side of the information question

    http://creation.com/the-adaptation-of-bacteria-to-feeding-on-nylon-waste-journal-of-creation-tj
    This looks at the bacterial nylon mutation .. as highlighted in the video

    http://www.arn.org/authors/behe.html
    Behe has a lot of links and a lot of responses to questions put to him. Well worth the read to see how he answers his critics. He is the guy who presents what Darwin himself said would falsify the theory of evolution.

    http://creation.com/refutation-of-new-scientist-s-evolution-24-myths-and-misconceptions-natural-selection
    A series of responses to points raised by evolutionists … with a heap of linked articles.

    Have a look at both sides and make your own mind up. I always find it especially worthwhile to research the view that I do not agree with. Cheers!

  31. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Good to see you back, I hope you had a good time away.

    Take for example two words ‘information’ and ‘kugabviwuak’. It seems to me that the videos are willing to define both these character sequences as information. They are both comprised of letters from a universal set. There is a distinct, unique arrangement of characters in each and thus we can conclude that both have information. But there is a huge difference between the first and second words, for one conveys meaning to the reader and the other does not.

    I can’t figure out what definition of information you’re using sorry.. If you’re using a definition that requires some kind of interpretation by a reader then wouldn’t that make it very subjective and untestable? I mean, with your example above, perhaps to an alien the second string of letters carries more information that the word “information”. That’s why we create strict definitions of concepts so that we can quantify their effects and measure them directly.

    http://creation.com/feedback-that-depends-on-what-your-definition-of-information-is
    A presentation of both side of the information question

    The creationist reply on this site confused me – The article (I thought) was about how, in debates, creationists tend to dance around the definition of information and fail to present their definition. The Ed’s reply then completely ignores the point of the article and goes on to say that all the main findings in evolution show a “loss of information”, all the while never stating what definition of information he was using…

    http://creation.com/the-adaptation-of-bacteria-to-feeding-on-nylon-waste-journal-of-creation-tj
    This looks at the bacterial nylon mutation .. as highlighted in the video

    Was he seriously arguing that bacteria have always had some kind of recessive gene from its ancestors that allows it to eat nylon? Why would an ancient form of bacteria require the genes to eat a substance that won’t be created for decades, centuries..?

    http://www.arn.org/authors/behe.html
    Behe has a lot of links and a lot of responses to questions put to him. Well worth the read to see how he answers his critics. He is the guy who presents what Darwin himself said would falsify the theory of evolution.

    I’m sorry, I don’t really have enough time to go through all the articles on that page. If you could, would you mind linking me to the part where he presents evidence that falsifies evolution? Or even just summarise it for me here.

    http://creation.com/refutation-of-new-scientist-s-evolution-24-myths-and-misconceptions-natural-selection
    A series of responses to points raised by evolutionists … with a heap of linked articles.

    I feel really bad because you’ve checked out all the links and videos you’ve sent me, but I couldn’t make it all the way through this article. I mean, I just can’t stop cringing.. I made it most of the way through but seriously.. I’ve read some bad articles on evolution but I think that one may possibly be the worst ever. And to make it worse, it’s critiquing an article that points out misconceptions of evolution! Sorry, I know it’s bad sportmanship not to read through the whole thing considering all the effort you’ve put into reading my articles, and I hope I haven’t offended you personally, but that article is just bad.

    If possibly you’d accept one tip from me for when you’re reading through articles and assessing their credibility: if the article presents a quote from what they term an “evolutionist” or someone who you’d imagine would be in support of evolution but the quote suggests uncertainty about the truth of evolution, and the quote contains many “…”s that indicate a segment is missing – then find a better article. This is known as quote-mining, the act of taking a set of words out of context and presenting it as if it means something different.

    For example,

    Mike says: I agree with evolution completely, even though science works using a system of falsification so evolution can never be “proven”, I think that it’s a very important part of science and even if, in some bizarre opposite world, Darwin were to completely disagreed with his theory, this would not change the fact that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    Quote-mine says: ..[E]volution can never be “proven”…even… Darwin …completely disagreed with his theory…that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    I’ve found a LOT of creationist sites use this form of dishonesty and even though it may just look stupid and intellectually vacuous, it’s really a terrible disgusting tactic because not only does it make the original authors look foolish, it can also damage their careers and reputation. It’s similar to the “scientific dissent against Darwin” petition where it turned out that only 0.01% of the signatures were from scientists in the field and most of those were tricked into signing by the ambiguous nature of the question posed to them, yet it is heralded as proof that a large proportion of biologists are skeptical of evolution. There are sites around that track all these quote-mines so if you ever find a website that does seem alright despite all the quote-mines, then just google some of the quotes and find out what their authors actually said.

    (And actually one more tip – many people who accept evolution, and especially evolutionary biologists, will take offence at being labeled “evolutionists”. The term is used to make it seem like accepting evolution is a faith position, whereas it’s based on evidence. I didn’t take offence to you using it because I’m sure you’d never intentionally try to offend anyone but I figured I’d let you know in case you talk to others and you can’t understand why they seem annoyed at you or something).

    @James:

    It seems clear from the video that the evolutionary process can create new information. Create abilities/functions in the organism that did not exist before. So why do so many of us christians claim that the process can not create new information?

    I know this isn’t directed at me but I’d like to propose a possible answer. The majority of people (including christian and non-christian) are incredibly ignorant of science. So people try to understand science using laymen concepts (or even worse, they follow people like Kent Hovind’s laymen explanations and then twist it even further from there) and this is just not possible because it leads to much confusion. Information is a rigorously defined concept, but because the concept of information is different depending on what you’re analysing you have to figure out what definition of information is best suited to describe the data. As far as I’m aware, all applicable definitions of information agree that it can increase through evolution.

    I’ve never understood why “anti-evolutionists” are so dead-set against evolution but yet seemingly accept much more unsupported theories in science – like gravity for example. There is a mountainload more support for evolution than gravity. And even if you were to disagree with evolution in general, if you don’t understand it, why would people like Kent Hovind, Ken Ham etc attempt to prove it wrong in debates etc? I mean, I know next to nothing about quantum physics. It sounds very odd to me. But I’d never in a million years try to argue against physicists based on my ignorant understanding of physics because I’d get beaten down… Sorry, random ramblings aimed at noone in particular.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  32. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I’ve written out a big reply to you but it doesn’t seem to be showing up. There might be a bit of a lag but I’ve had this problem before and when I waited it never came through. So I’ve saved my reply to my computer and I’ll check again later to see if it’s come through, if not I’ll try posting it again.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  33. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Good to see you back, I hope you had a good time away.

    Take for example two words ‘information’ and ‘kugabviwuak’. It seems to me that the videos are willing to define both these character sequences as information. They are both comprised of letters from a universal set. There is a distinct, unique arrangement of characters in each and thus we can conclude that both have information. But there is a huge difference between the first and second words, for one conveys meaning to the reader and the other does not.

    I can’t figure out what definition of information you’re using sorry.. If you’re using a definition that requires some kind of interpretation by a reader then wouldn’t that make it very subjective and untestable? I mean, with your example above, perhaps to an alien the second string of letters carries more information that the word “information”. That’s why we create strict definitions of concepts so that we can quantify their effects and measure them directly.

    http://creation.com/feedback-that-depends-on-what-your-definition-of-information-is
    A presentation of both side of the information question

    The creationist reply on this site confused me – The article (I thought) was about how, in debates, creationists tend to dance around the definition of information and fail to present their definition. The Ed’s reply then completely ignores the point of the article and goes on to say that all the main findings in evolution show a “loss of information”, all the while never stating what definition of information he was using…

    http://creation.com/the-adaptation-of-bacteria-to-feeding-on-nylon-waste-journal-of-creation-tj
    This looks at the bacterial nylon mutation .. as highlighted in the video

    Was he seriously arguing that bacteria have always had some kind of recessive gene from its ancestors that allows it to eat nylon? Why would an ancient form of bacteria require the genes to eat a substance that won’t be created for decades, centuries..?

    http://www.arn.org/authors/behe.html
    Behe has a lot of links and a lot of responses to questions put to him. Well worth the read to see how he answers his critics. He is the guy who presents what Darwin himself said would falsify the theory of evolution.

    I’m sorry, I don’t really have enough time to go through all the articles on that page. If you could, would you mind linking me to the part where he presents evidence that falsifies evolution? Or even just summarise it for me here.

    http://creation.com/refutation-of-new-scientist-s-evolution-24-myths-and-misconceptions-natural-selection
    A series of responses to points raised by evolutionists … with a heap of linked articles.

    I feel really bad because you’ve checked out all the links and videos you’ve sent me, but I couldn’t make it all the way through this article. I mean, I just can’t stop cringing.. I made it most of the way through but seriously.. I’ve read some bad articles on evolution but I think that one may possibly be the worst ever. And to make it worse, it’s critiquing an article that points out misconceptions of evolution! Sorry, I know it’s bad sportmanship not to read through the whole thing considering all the effort you’ve put into reading my articles, and I hope I haven’t offended you personally, but that article is just bad.

    If possibly you’d accept one tip from me for when you’re reading through articles and assessing their credibility: if the article presents a quote from what they term an “evolutionist” or someone who you’d imagine would be in support of evolution but the quote suggests uncertainty about the truth of evolution, and the quote contains many “…”s that indicate a segment is missing – then find a better article. This is known as quote-mining, the act of taking a set of words out of context and presenting it as if it means something different.

    For example,

    Mike says: I agree with evolution completely, even though science works using a system of falsification so evolution can never be “proven”, I think that it’s a very important part of science and even if, in some bizarre opposite world, Darwin were to completely disagreed with his theory, this would not change the fact that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    Quote-mine says: ..[E]volution can never be “proven”…even… Darwin …completely disagreed with his theory…that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    I’ve found a LOT of creationist sites use this form of dishonesty and even though it may just look stupid and intellectually vacuous, it’s really a terrible disgusting tactic because not only does it make the original authors look foolish, it can also damage their careers and reputation. It’s similar to the “scientific dissent against Darwin” petition where it turned out that only 0.01% of the signatures were from scientists in the field and most of those were tricked into signing by the ambiguous nature of the question posed to them, yet it is heralded as proof that a large proportion of biologists are skeptical of evolution. There are sites around that track all these quote-mines so if you ever find a website that does seem alright despite all the quote-mines, then just google some of the quotes and find out what their authors actually said.

    (And actually one more tip – many people who accept evolution, and especially evolutionary biologists, will take offence at being labeled “evolutionists”. The term is used to make it seem like accepting evolution is a faith position, whereas it’s based on evidence. I didn’t take offence to you using it because I’m sure you’d never intentionally try to offend anyone but I figured I’d let you know in case you talk to others and you can’t understand why they seem annoyed at you or something).

    @James:

    It seems clear from the video that the evolutionary process can create new information. Create abilities/functions in the organism that did not exist before. So why do so many of us christians claim that the process can not create new information?

    I know this isn’t directed at me but I’d like to propose a possible answer. The majority of people (including christian and non-christian) are incredibly ignorant of science. So people try to understand science using laymen concepts (or even worse, they follow people like Kent Hovind’s laymen explanations and then twist it even further from there) and this is just not possible because it leads to much confusion. Information is a rigorously defined concept, but because the concept of information is different depending on what you’re analysing you have to figure out what definition of information is best suited to describe the data. As far as I’m aware, all applicable definitions of information agree that it can increase through evolution.

    I’ve never understood why “anti-evolutionists” are so dead-set against evolution but yet seemingly accept much more unsupported theories in science – like gravity for example. There is a mountainload more support for evolution than gravity. And even if you were to disagree with evolution in general, if you don’t understand it, why would people like Kent Hovind, Ken Ham etc attempt to prove it wrong in debates? I mean, I know next to nothing about quantum physics. It sounds very odd to me. But I’d never in a million years try to argue against physicists based on my ignorant understanding of physics because I’d get beaten down… Sorry, random ramblings aimed at noone in particular.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

  34. Mike
    Mike says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Good to see you back, I hope you had a good time away.

    Take for example two words ‘information’ and ‘kugabviwuak’. It seems to me that the videos are willing to define both these character sequences as information. They are both comprised of letters from a universal set. There is a distinct, unique arrangement of characters in each and thus we can conclude that both have information. But there is a huge difference between the first and second words, for one conveys meaning to the reader and the other does not.

    I can’t figure out what definition of information you’re using sorry.. If you’re using a definition that requires some kind of interpretation by a reader then wouldn’t that make it very subjective and untestable? I mean, with your example above, perhaps to an alien the second string of letters carries more information that the word “information”. That’s why we create strict definitions of concepts so that we can quantify their effects and measure them directly.

    Website #1
    A presentation of both side of the information question

    The creationist reply on this site confused me – The article (I thought) was about how, in debates, creationists tend to dance around the definition of information and fail to present their definition. The Ed’s reply then completely ignores the point of the article and goes on to say that all the main findings in evolution show a “loss of information”, all the while never stating what definition of information he was using…

    Website #2
    This looks at the bacterial nylon mutation .. as highlighted in the video

    Was he seriously arguing that bacteria have always had some kind of recessive gene from its ancestors that allows it to eat nylon? Why would an ancient form of bacteria require the genes to eat a substance that won’t be created for decades, centuries..?

    Website #3
    Behe has a lot of links and a lot of responses to questions put to him. Well worth the read to see how he answers his critics. He is the guy who presents what Darwin himself said would falsify the theory of evolution.

    I’m sorry, I don’t really have enough time to go through all the articles on that page. If you could, would you mind linking me to the part where he presents evidence that falsifies evolution? Or even just summarise it for me here.

    Website #4
    A series of responses to points raised by evolutionists … with a heap of linked articles.

    I feel really bad because you’ve checked out all the links and videos you’ve sent me, but I couldn’t make it all the way through this article. I mean, I just can’t stop cringing.. I made it most of the way through but seriously.. I’ve read some bad articles on evolution but I think that one may possibly be the worst ever. And to make it worse, it’s critiquing an article that points out misconceptions of evolution! Sorry, I know it’s bad sportmanship not to read through the whole thing considering all the effort you’ve put into reading my articles, and I hope I haven’t offended you personally, but that article is just bad.

    If possibly you’d accept one tip from me for when you’re reading through articles and assessing their credibility: if the article presents a quote from what they term an “evolutionist” or someone who you’d imagine would be in support of evolution but the quote suggests uncertainty about the truth of evolution, and the quote contains many “…”s that indicate a segment is missing – then find a better article. This is known as quote-mining, the act of taking a set of words out of context and presenting it as if it means something different.

    For example,

    Mike says: I agree with evolution completely, even though science works using a system of falsification so evolution can never be “proven”, I think that it’s a very important part of science and even if, in some bizarre opposite world, Darwin were to completely disagreed with his theory, this would not change the fact that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    Quote-mine says: ..[E]volution can never be “proven”…even… Darwin …completely disagreed with his theory…that evolution occurs and accurately describes the diversification of species.

    I’ve found a LOT of creationist sites use this form of dishonesty and even though it may just look stupid and intellectually vacuous, it’s really a terrible disgusting tactic because not only does it make the original authors look foolish, it can also damage their careers and reputation. It’s similar to the “scientific dissent against Darwin” petition where it turned out that only 0.01% of the signatures were from scientists in the field and most of those were tricked into signing by the ambiguous nature of the question posed to them, yet it is heralded as proof that a large proportion of biologists are skeptical of evolution. There are sites around that track all these quote-mines so if you ever find a website that does seem alright despite all the quote-mines, then just google some of the quotes and find out what their authors actually said.

    (And actually one more tip – many people who accept evolution, and especially evolutionary biologists, will take offence at being labeled “evolutionists”. The term is used to make it seem like accepting evolution is a faith position, whereas it’s based on evidence. I didn’t take offence to you using it because I’m sure you’d never intentionally try to offend anyone but I figured I’d let you know in case you talk to others and you can’t understand why they seem annoyed at you or something).

    @James:

    It seems clear from the video that the evolutionary process can create new information. Create abilities/functions in the organism that did not exist before. So why do so many of us christians claim that the process can not create new information?

    I know this isn’t directed at me but I’d like to propose a possible answer. The majority of people (including christian and non-christian) are incredibly ignorant of science. So people try to understand science using laymen concepts (or even worse, they follow people like Kent Hovind’s laymen explanations and then twist it even further from there) and this is just not possible because it leads to much confusion. Information is a rigorously defined concept, but because the concept of information is different depending on what you’re analysing you have to figure out what definition of information is best suited to describe the data. As far as I’m aware, all applicable definitions of information agree that it can increase through evolution.

    I’ve never understood why “anti-evolutionists” are so dead-set against evolution but yet seemingly accept much more unsupported theories in science – like gravity for example. There is a mountainload more support for evolution than gravity. And even if you were to disagree with evolution in general, if you don’t understand it, why would people like Kent Hovind, Ken Ham etc attempt to prove it wrong in debates? I mean, I know next to nothing about quantum physics. It sounds very odd to me. But I’d never in a million years try to argue against physicists based on my ignorant understanding of physics because I’d get beaten down… Sorry, random ramblings aimed at noone in particular.

    Thanks,
    Mike.

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