Disappointed Again !!

When I wrote to the effect that Abiogenesis (genesis of living thins from the nonliving) is not a fact of science, many anti-creationist visitors of this blog asked me to read certain books. They claimed that these books demonstrated how abiogenesis was possible in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

I Felt Cheated. Then all of them said that I should read “Frontiers of Complexity” and that is exactly what I have been doing among other things. Surely this a good book, a very good book at that, but again it does not address the issue my friends claim as addressed.

imageFrontiers of Complexity has been authored by Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield. Contrary to the impression that this is a textbook, this is actually written more like an autobiographical introduction. That makes the book easy to read, but the more I searched for the scientific basis of simple-to-complex, or abiogenesis in the presence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the more I was disappointed.

The essential thesis of the book is this: “All these centuries we were busy to simplify everything. That was fine so far. But now we also need to study the complex phenomena around us because the real world is incredibly complex. Let us develop objective approaches to study that complexity”.

That is a great goal, and I do endorse that. But then the book does not in any way deal with simple-to-complex phenomenon that we have been discussing. Nor does it tell anything about abiogenesis.

I have some more books lined up for reading — all recommended by the anti-creationist friends who were magnanimous to comment upon my posts. A word to all of them: instead of asking me to read books that do not introduce what you claim they do, would it not be better for you to read these books first, digest the real thesis of the book,  and then tell me which book really to read to get at a scientific justification of your arguments?

[Keep posting book-suggestions even if you have no time to read them yourself. Thanks to these recommendations, I ordered them all and then some more, and have around 20 of the latest books at arm’s length for the ongoing reading].

[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]

49 replies
  1. Simon
    Simon says:

    Hi Johnson,

    Ignoring abiogenesis for the moment. Do you claim that the second law of thermodynamics disallows the formation of complex things from simpler things?

  2. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Thanks Simon for your question. I believe we are interacting with each other for the first time.

    I look forward to a productive time of discussion with you!

    Do you claim that the second law of thermodynamics disallows the formation of complex things from simpler things?

    If matter and energy are allowed to interact randomly with each other, then formation of complex, information-bearing molecules, from atoms is impossible. Yes, I do claim the above and the claim is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics!

  3. Simon
    Simon says:

    Yes, hello!

    Ah, yes then I think this is where you’ve gone wrong. In a closed(isolated) system entropy increases. But in an open system it can decrease. If you consider just the earth, then entropy can increase because the earth is not a closed system – it has energy from the sun flowing in. But in the system of the earth AND the sun entropy must increase as this is a (relatively) closed system.

    Or you can think of it in another way: The entropy of the earth is allowed to decrease, but only if entropy increases by more in another part of the system.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_law_of_thermodynamics#Applications_to_living_systems

    :)
    s

  4. Simon
    Simon says:

    Blast! Sorry Johnson. One sentence above is wrong. It should read “If you consider just the earth, then entropy can decrease because the earth is not a closed system..”

  5. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    Thanks Simon for your reply.

    First, let me remind you that Wikipedia is not to be used to document anything. People contribute anonymously, and citing research is forbidden. So the reference you gave is not of any value.

    I appreciate the comment you made. However, there is a fallacy in it, and I can explain it by asking the following question:

    “What are the minimum terms and conditions for a net increase in the entropy of an open system”?

  6. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    My post was from my own knowledge, and the link was just info.

    Your question in post 5 seems irrelevant to the contention that entropy can decrease in an open system. What the minimum terms are is irrelevant. All that is relevant is whether entropy can decrease in an open system!

    An air conditioner decreases entropy locally (open system).

    I agree that the question you pose is extremely pertinent to the phenomenon of life; and the asking of that question is what has led to the writing of the books you are reading. But there is no violation of the second law of thermodynamics by life. Entropy can decrease locally, period.

    s

  7. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Dear Simon,

    if my question “seems” irrelevant to you, and if you are not going to answer my question on the basis of what “seems” irrelevant to you, then we will end our discussion here.

    NO discussion can progress on the basis of subjective judgements. More so if your subjective judgement causes you to refrain from answering objective questions.

  8. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    Nothing is refuted by asking a question.

    I take it, then, that you agree that an air conditioner decreases entropy locally, and does so without violating any laws, as it is an open system. The earth is similarly an open system.

  9. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    I did not say, Simon, that I tried to refute something.

    Rather, that I tried to steer the discussion into an objective direction. However, you did not respond to my question.

    I did not agree to your statement on AC because my question looks at the foundation of the question. Unless we look at the roots, it is not time yet to look at the application part in air conditioners.

  10. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    Well, okay, you said there is a fallacy in the assertion that in an open system entropy can decrease. But an air conditioner does exactly that, and there is no serious physicist that would dispute this. In any case, I think that we agree on the air conditioner and that entropy can decrease locally.

    But I AM interested in your question. An air conditioner is a very contrived situation; it is hardly natural, is it! It takes a very particular kind of set-up to achieve. On the other had, though, it is very easy for something to lose entropy by losing heat. The sun, an open system, loses heat very fast, and it also loses entropy according to dS = dQ/T. The surrounding universe gains entropy according to dS = dQ/T by ‘receiving’ the sun’s expended heat, but because the surrounding universe is cooler dQ/T = dS will be a larger number ensuring that the entropy of the entire system increases.

  11. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    Dear Simon

    an Air-conditioner is a “contrived” system, designed specifically to take heat and throw it out of the room. So forget it. Let us go back to the original question:

    “What are the minimum terms and conditions for a net increase in the entropy of an open system”?

  12. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    There are many examples in nature of entropy decreasing. The sun, for one, as explained in my last post. So decreasing entropy systems needn’t be designed or contrived.

    Your question: I don’t understand your question, really. It seems to me like asking “What are the minimum terms and conditions for Work to be done” Well, for Work to be done physical objects have to be in particular configurations…..potentials….forces……etc. This is an absurd question to ask in many ways.
    Do you have a formative answer in mind to your question?

  13. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    “What are the minimum terms and conditions for a net increase in the entropy of an open system”?

    My guess would be that the minimum terms and conditions for a net increase in the entropy of an open system are that the energy going in is less than the energy going out.

    Reading in with interest,
    Stuart
    :-)

  14. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Stuart

    Thanks Stuart for trying to lead the discussion into something.

    What you mentioned is the minimum expected “outcome” and not the minimum terms and conditions.

    I asked Simon to specify this because in any discussion, the person who puts forth a proposal should also try to work it out to the final conclusion.

    Greetings from India !!

    Johnson C. Philip

  15. Simon
    Simon says:

    Okay, so if abiogenesis has to meet particular terms and conditions to occur, then so does the sun. I don’t get it.

  16. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    Simon, for your benefit and for the benefit of many others, I will very soon make a post on the second law of thermodynamics.

  17. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    There is something different about life, compared to say a hot body cooling or a crystal forming or an air conditioner. And it is this feeling – that life is somehow different – that motivates us to ask questions like the one you ask here.
    However the answers do not lie in entropy, as I think I have demonstrated. Nor do they lie in information theory; a similar and related field. Rather, the answers lie in complexity – the very topics of the books you are reading.

  18. Darjo
    Darjo says:

    From Dr. David L. Abel’s paper:

    “To focus the scientific community’s attention on its own tendencies toward overzealous metaphysical imagination bordering on “wish-fulfillment,” we propose the following readily falsifiable null hypothesis, and invite rigorous experimental attempts to falsify it:

    “Physicodynamics cannot spontaneously traverse The Cybernetic Cut [9]: physicodynamics alone cannot organize itself into formally functional systems requiring algorithmic optimization, computational halting, and circuit ntegration.”

    http://mdpi.com/1422-0067/10/1/247/pdf

    I found this interesting, although the paper wasn’t written for uninitiated people like me.
    I’ll be waiting for Dr. Johnson’s post for my benefit.

  19. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    Just wondering how you’re getting on investigating the 2nd Law. I find it a very elusive topic – just wondering what you’re currently thinking.

    s

  20. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    Dear Simon, I stopped responding to you because — as you yourself acknowledged in several comments — you do not understand the second law. No meaningful discussion is possible in such a case.

  21. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Darjo

    Thanks Darjo for that reference.

    It is a 45-page, open-access, research paper in PDF format. I loved reading it, but it might be a bit too technical for the average readers of this blog.

    The paper is very very good, and I might present a summary here after I check for the references.

  22. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    No, I do understand it. Better than most, anyway.

    I’m just waiting for proof of this – I have to say – nonsense:
    “If matter and energy are allowed to interact randomly with each other, then formation of complex, information-bearing molecules, from atoms is impossible. Yes, I do claim the above and the claim is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics!”

  23. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    It was good interacting with you, but it will not be possible to interact further because you claim to understand the second law of thermodynamics, but you deny many of the fundamentals.

  24. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Simon,

    Johnson has already said that he is planning to make a post on the second law of thermodynamics. That would be a really good place to get an understanding of what Johnson is talking about. (And continue your objections if you so wish) I guess a little bit of patience is in order.

    Meanwhile, you could read the book this topic is about and write a response on how accurate you think Johnson’s analysis was. Does the book just wax lyrical about complexity and avoid any practical exploration on how the simple could become complex? (I hope that is a sufficient summary of your book review Johnson)

    Cheers
    Jonathan

  25. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Hi!

    Yes, but see post 22; I don’t think it’s coming.
    It is I who is towing the established line on the 2nd Law, and Johnson who is challenging that. The problem is that he is reading books which assume the 2nd Law to begin with, and then complaining they don’t address it. This is rather like reading Spectrometric Identification of Organic Compounds and then complaining that it doesn’t address the theory of NMR machines. Of course it doesn’t, the topic has moved on; so too with complexity theory. Johnson is wasting his time readig these books. He needs to go back to an undergradute chemistry or physics text: There is nothing about simple->complex that defies thermodynamics.
    (I havn’t read this book but I have read others addressing complexity. E.g. Reinventing the Sacred, At Home In The Universe. Complexity is not specifically about abiogenesis. It is about how order can come about from chaotic systems; and, indeed, how order is even necessarily an outcome of chaotic systems – for instance, life from non-life!)

    Some thoughts:
    – There are organic molecules on Titan. These are complex molecules formed from simpler ones.
    – Craters on the moon are a form of coded information.

  26. Ian
    Ian says:

    Since I recommended the book in question I suppose I should make a brief appearance in the thread. A few things come to mind.

    Firstly Johnson is to be commended for reading some books that were recommended. However he should not have been surprised he didn’t find what he was looking for in this book because myself and others have told him where to find what he is looking for after he claimed he didn’t find it in the first book he read. This post was essentially a waste of time after the previous book review but it gave Johnson a chance to say “disappointed again” as if it meant something so good for him.

    Secondly I happen to think the history and development of theories is important to understanding them properly but YMMV. If Johnson just wants numbers and science then fair enough – he should ignore my recommended list and instead read Kauffman, or any of a large number of journal articles dealing with thermodynamics, complexity and the like, as suggested in the previous discussion.

    Thirdly it is well established that nothing we have observed to date contradicts the laws of thermodynamics. We observe complexity emerging out of simpler systems on a frequent basis (the computer you are reading this on is a wonderful example). The claim that abiogenesis necessarily contradicts the second law is a serious claim and is contrary to general consensus. The proof is on the claimant to demonstrate that fact.

    Others might claim that it is the “evolutionist” who is making a positive claim that abiogenesis is possible within the second law but actually most people acknowledge we do not know how life originated so we explore possible avenues such as autocatalytic sets or random molecule formation or other theories, all of which are subject to and not disproven by the second law. They may or may not be true but they are consistent with thermodynamics. Therefore the positive claim that abiogenesis necessarily contradicts the second law of thermodynamics is a substantial claim and needs to be developed significantly. I look forward to the possibly upcoming post on the topic.

  27. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Ian

    Welcome Ian! It is good to meet you again!

    Thanks for your suggestion that I go to certain books out of the books that you suggested.

    Well, I invested a fortune to buy books at your recommendation and I am going to read them ALL in a certain order. Each one that turns out to be offering a bogus claim will be mentioned here as a book with a bogus claim — either by those who wrote it, or by those who promoted it.

    You must realize, Ian, that I would like to educate inquirers who read my posts. I wish to tell them which claims are false, and which claims made by people who oppose me in these pages are right — if I ever find something that is right.

    The post was NOT a waste of time for those who do not have time to waste reading 400 to 500 pages of a recommended book, only to realize that the claim was false. It might surely be a waste for many of my evolutionist friends who thought that the name of these books would do the trick.

    Coming now to the second law of Thermodynamics, I appreciate your statement that never has nature been seen violating it. That is EXACTLY what I also claim.

    It is the proponents of abiogenesis who make an ADDITIONAL claim that in this one instance, nature did violate its laws. You are free to make that proposal, but now please do give the supporting material for that!!

    Ian, it is good to meet you again. I am sure that you will keep watching this blog. I do not have all the time in the world. Yet, I intend to read EVERY book that you proposed and review those book — and many more.

    Johnson C. Philip

  28. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    thanks for your comment addressed to Jonathan. You have made some AMAZING observations, and one of these is:

    Johnson is wasting his time readig these books.

    Well, it is those opposed to my posts who told me that I ought to read these books. Now you come and tell me that it is a waste of time reading them. Now let my readers discern what is happening!!

    Thanks for the following statement:

    He needs to go back to an undergradute chemistry or physics text: There is nothing about simple->complex that defies thermodynamics.

    Fortunately, I have all the standard undergraduate textbooks at arm’s length. But they do not say what you wish to say. So here is a question: which other books do you wish me to read???

    Johnson C. Philip

  29. Ian
    Ian says:

    Well then it is important that you understand what we who promoted it were claiming, something you have assumed but got quite wrong I believe. My belief is that complexity theory explains the notion of how systems transition from simple to complex (within the laws of thermodynamics) and how complex behaviour can emerge from simple systems. This gave me a basis and an intuition for understanding how (among many other things) abiogenesis could have occurred. If you are looking for a description of how abiogenesis did occur then “disappointed” could become your new life motto I suspect.

    I trust in your upcoming post about thermodynamics you plan to enlighten us (with more than just claims to your own authority) just how abiogenesis necessarily violates the laws of thermodynamics? Or even where a single author has claimed that their theory of abiogenesis requires violation of the second law? If not then this whole discussion is going to go around in circles.

    I don’t plan on any further substantial comments until you do so.

  30. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Ian

    Ian, thank you very much for this very prompt reply.

    I will surely write about thermodynamics, and be assured that it will not be based upon claims about MY authority. None of my posts were based upon my personal authority because in the world of science everything has to be based upon the authority of empirical observation.

    You have made two very very interesting observations:

    This gave me a basis and an intuition for understanding how (among many other things) abiogenesis could have occurred.

    Excellent!!!!

    “Could have occurred”. Could have occurred does not automatically mean “would have occurred”, “should have occurred” or “has occurred”.

    You also said:

    If you are looking for a description of how abiogenesis did occur then “disappointed” could become your new life motto I suspect.

    YES! I am looking for how abiogenesis DID occur, if it did occur the way you claim!!!

    I am an empiricist and would like to see evidence for things that you claim did occur.

    You said,

    I don’t plan on any further substantial comments until you do so.

    Unfortunately, none of your comments so far have been substantial any way. Books you mentioned turned out to be bogus. Claims you made have been revised by you any number of times and were more like images in shifting sand. Once I started peeling the onion you provided, you feel that you would not want to make any more substantial comments.

    Let me repeat — and here is the million dollar question — give me a single empirical evidence that abiogenesis has taken place!!!

  31. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hey Simon. Nice to hear from you again.
    (I did start writing before I saw the additional posts.)

    Yes, but see post 22; I don’t think it’s coming

    From all the responses and actions in the all posts that I have seen Johnson make, I have no reason to believe that he will not write up a topic on the 2nd Law. In fact, I have every confidence that he will. Johnson appears to be a man of his word. It may take a while, but it will come. What do you base your opinion on, that it is not coming?

    It is quite clear in post 22 that Johnson wants to clear up your 2nd Law differences before moving on. I guess that is why he will make a topic of it.

    It is I who is towing the established line on the 2nd Law, and Johnson who is challenging that.

    That is yet to be seen. No doubt Johnson is well educated and I suspect he would have a good handle on the 2nd Law (as well as undergraduate physics). When he posts his topic, we will ascertain the validity of both your claims.

    Johnson is wasting his time readig these books.

    Personally, I reckon he is wasting his time as well … but that is because I do think abiogenesis is impossible. But Johnson is a far better man than me because he is willing to investigate in detail his opponents view.

    Complexity is not specifically about abiogenesis. It is about how order can come about from chaotic systems; and, indeed, how order is even necessarily an outcome of chaotic systems – for instance, life from non-life!

    There is some sense in there. Likes and opposites, attraction and repulsion. There is some ‘order’ in chemical reactions. An atomic ‘chaotic’ system can easily form groups or chains in a number of different categories. Crystalline structures are a good example. But moving to a claim of “life from non-life” is just pure speculation. (I give you that it is the only possible option in a restricted naturalists worldview) Saying order can come out of chaos does not come anywhere near justifying the claim that life springs from non-life. It is a belief system.

    There are organic molecules on Titan. These are complex molecules formed from simpler ones.

    Are you talking about the interaction of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen ions? Yeah, these chemicals react together, but it is not life, they did not come from life and do not appear to be on their way to life. This is light years away from the simplest life form. We can do these chemical reaction here on earth.

    Craters on the moon are a form of coded information.

    This sort of claim I find very interesting. What is the non-intelligent object that extracts (or makes use of) the information in the moon craters? If the information content is restricted to intelligence deducing historical occurrences, then coded information is everywhere and anywhere. The coins on my desk are coded information.

    Gone way off topic. Johnsons request for empirical evidence is entirely reasonable and fully scientific.

  32. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    We are simply not talking about abiogenesis. We are talking about complexity from the simple and the second law. Your last post seems to attack my abiogenetic stance. But I have made no such stance. All I have objected to is Johnson’s absurd claims about the 2nd Law.

  33. Ian
    Ian says:

    “Could have occurred”. Could have occurred does not automatically mean “would have occurred”, “should have occurred” or “has occurred”.

    Congratulations, you got the point I was trying to make.

    YES! I am looking for how abiogenesis DID occur, if it did occur the way you claim!!!

    How do I claim it occurred? I seem to recall pointing out no-one knows how it actually occurred.

    I am an empiricist and would like to see evidence for things that you claim did occur.

    How do I claim it occurred? I seem to recall pointing out no-one knows how it actually occurred.

    Unfortunately, none of your comments so far have been substantial any way.

    *yawn*

    Books you mentioned turned out to be bogus.

    If by bogus you mean “didn’t specifically answer a question they never set out to answer” then yes they are bogus books. So is the bible.

    Claims you made have been revised by you any number of times and were more like images in shifting sand.

    As pointless as this is to ask because you are going to ignore me, please show evidence of any claim I have made changing.

    Once I started peeling the onion you provided, you feel that you would not want to make any more substantial comments.

    Once you identify what my actual claims are perhaps this might make sense. As it stands I have no idea what you think I claimed.

    Let me repeat — and here is the million dollar question — give me a single empirical evidence that abiogenesis has taken place!!!

    Abiogenesis all comes down to the fact that there is life now and there probably wasn’t life some time in the past. With that in mind we need to understand how a complex thing like life can emerge from a simpler system. In the absence of the supernatural, the evidence suggests abiogenesis occurred somehow. You (yes you Johnson, not me, not Simon, not complexity scientists) need to show how such an event is not possible and I look forward to your earth shattering revelation with bated breath.

    Oh and finally, I agree with Simon that Johnson’s statement about the 2nd law is nonsense. I’ll repeat the statement here for clarity:

    “If matter and energy are allowed to interact randomly with each other, then formation of complex, information-bearing molecules, from atoms is impossible. Yes, I do claim the above and the claim is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics!”

  34. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    Simon, you came very late on the scene, and that is why you are not aware of what has been going on.

    Abiogenesis has been the issue, and all my evolutionist friends are so upset (read their posts) because in this one point they have reached the achilles heel of evolution.

    Since you came in between the argument, you are not oriented yet to what has been going on. Therefore please do not try to explain what has been going on here on the basis of a single post from me.

    @Ian

    Thanks Ian for the following speculation

    Abiogenesis all comes down to the fact that there is life now and there probably wasn’t life some time in the past

    That is not the way science works. Give me empirical proof and I will accept it.

    Thanks for the last quote. I stand by it:

    “If matter and energy are allowed to interact randomly with each other, then formation of complex, information-bearing molecules, from atoms is impossible. Yes, I do claim the above and the claim is based upon the Second Law of Thermodynamics!”

    Johnson C. Philip

  35. Simon
    Simon says:

    Johnson,

    Then you are recanting post 2. Complex things can form from simple things, and entropy can decrease. Whew! – you aren’t crazy after all!

  36. Johnson
    Johnson says:

    @Simon

    Thanks for the certificate that I am not crazy!! I appreciate every certificate — good or bad!!

    However, do not count your chicken before they hatch!!

  37. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hi Simon,

    For the sake of clarity, can I make a small reply.

    (1) We are simply not talking about abiogenesis. (2) We are talking about complexity from the simple and the second law. (3) Your last post seems to attack my abiogenetic stance. (4) But I have made no such stance. (5) All I have objected to is Johnson’s absurd claims about the 2nd Law. (Indexing mine)

    (1) I am sure we were not meant to be talking about abiogenesis. Though I do protest, for you raised this topic before me (post 29) and I directly responded to you (post 35). I am struggling with the idea that you are allowed to “talk” about it and then I get “corrected” by you, when I respond to it.

    (2) Yes, I will happily agree with you. And much has to be uncovered in this area. It seems like this needs a new topic. ;-)

    (3) My sincere apologies if I offended. I was not trying to attack you at all. I simply thought that a couple of your stated conclusions were baseless and quite unfair. Those conclusions would be (a) Johnson is not going to respond to you on the topic of the 2nd Law (b) the example given of “life from non-life!”. (This looks to be a conclusion from a theory based on the presupposition that it is true.) Both of these conclusions were first raised by you, not me, and were penned in post 29. I responded to them.

    (4) I disagree with this. Firstly, your main stance clearly was that “the simple can become more complex” and “order can come out of chaos”. I agree with you that this is your stance. And on how I think you are using these terms, I believe that I agree with you as well. I gave examples of this previously. What I am not sure about is whether this is the proper use of the terms. There is a lot of groundwork that has to go on here. Secondly, you did have a stance that abiogenesis (life from non-life) was an example that “order is even necessarily an outcome of chaotic systems” (post 29). Since you bought it into the discussion as an example, I addressed it. I disagree with your new statement because it appears to me that you did indeed have an “abiogenetic stance”. ie a stance that abiogenesis is necessarily true! (In the materialists worldview, you would be correct. But the “necessity” is fully based on the unfounded claim that matter is all that exists. If this is not true, abiogenesis is no longer “necessary”)

    (5) Yes. This has been your main objection, among the others. It has been repeated a few times. I believe Johnson will clarify exactly what he means when he blogs the topic. I hope we can give him some time. I know my life is very full and I would assume his is the same. Patience is the key.

    Sorry again if I offended buddy. Never the intent. I trust you will see that I was simply pulling out a couple of your stated conclusions and saying that they were unfounded.

  38. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    If you want to understand these books on complexity, you have to understand the 2nd Law properly first( or accept it, at least). I brought abiogenesis up again because these books are about abiogenesis. But Johnson’s problem is more fundamental than that.

    Life coming from non-life most certainly IS a conclusion from a theory based on the presupposition that it is true. (Mind you, what conclusion isn’t?). I certainly agree that it is far from proven, but complexity is the only sensible candidate for how life started. Even if it is an incorrect theory, to understand it you can’t be denying the 2nd Law.
    (4) Do you seriously think that I am trying to use abiogenesis as an example-proof of the validity of complexity theory to people who don’t accept abiogenesis?

    “Matter is all that exists” It occurred to me earlier when you commented about organic molecules on Titan. I feel that you would always want to say that life is more than just chemicals, while I would always want to say that that is all that it is. I suppose I think that both are true. Have you read Kauffman’s Reinventing the Sacred?

  39. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Hello again Simon,

    From your last response, I will just take it that you agree some of your previous claims were wrong. You did talk about abiogenesis. You did make an “abiogenetic stance” and you did bring it into the conversation before me.

    Do you seriously think that I am trying to use abiogenesis as an example-proof of the validity of complexity theory to people who don’t accept abiogenesis?

    I was only commenting on what you wrote. No, I did not think you were trying to use abiogenesis as an example-proof of the validity of complexity theory. I think you agree with complexity theory on different grounds. Well OK, if you want to have a good look at it then, you wrote:

    Simon wrote (#29): Complexity is not specifically about abiogenesis. It is about how order can come about from chaotic systems; and, indeed, how order is even necessarily an outcome of chaotic systems – for instance, life from non-life!

    So you correctly identify that complexity is not specifically about abiogenesis. And then you give us a fair enough, super-brief description about what complexity theory is: order can come out of chaotic systems. Then you step further and claim that order is necessarily an outcome of chaotic systems. Giving us an impression that chaotic systems are always going to produce order. And finally, you hold abiogenesis as an example of this “necessity” of order coming from disorder. “ for instance, life from non-life!” Since, as you stated, complexity is not specifically about abiogenesis, I took it that you were holding abiogenesis up as an example of the complexity theory in action. But since you used the word “necessarily”, I took it that you were saying abiogenesis is what actually happened. Maybe you should have just left the whole “– for instance, life from non-life” part out.

    Now it is not entirely clear whether you were holding complexity theory as true and using that to justify your claims of abiogenesis or whether you were saying abiogenesis is simply true and using that as a prime example of complexity theory. Either way, it appeared to me that you held abiogenesis as true with no real basis for that claim.

    I feel that you would always want to say that life is more than just chemicals, while I would always want to say that that is all that it is. I suppose I think that both are true

    I think a bacterium is only comprised of chemicals. I think a worm is only comprised of chemicals. Are these things life? Yes, we do call them life. I do not always say that life is more than just chemicals. There is this massive chemical (robotic) paradise all around me. Yet, I do say that life is more than chemicals for I hold that the real “life” made the chemical robotic life.

    It occurred to me earlier when you commented about organic molecules on Titan.

    My comment was to balance the word “organic”. While the molecules you seem to be talking about are combinations of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen ions, and these are the same elements found in life, the inference that these molecules have something to do with life arising is unsubstantiated. They are called organic because they use the same elements as life, but they neither came out of life nor appear to be headed towards life.

    Have you read Kauffman’s Reinventing the Sacred?

    No I have not. Should I? And what would it tell me?

    Right at the start of your last post, you did identify a proper understanding of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as a prerequisite to Complexity Theory. I am happy to defer until said topic arises.

  40. Robin Boom
    Robin Boom says:

    Its been an interesting discussion with a lot of polemics, but not too much substance (scientifically). I am no expert in this area, and you may have thrashed this is out in previous discussions, but is not Stanley Miller and Harold Urey’s experiment an example of abiogenesis, and a counter to thermodynamics, where basis chemicals combine naturally to form more complex molecules that are themselves building blocks to proteins and ultimately to life?

    I realise that proteins themselves are not magically formed through the mindless coming together of amino acids, but the fact is that we see a plethora of amino acids occurring in nature. Although these again over time will break down through the law of entropy to basic elements and compounds, does not preclude them again combining and again becoming parts of amino acids in a pre-biotic world.

  41. Simon
    Simon says:

    Robin,

    We have not seen abiogenesis happen. But I agree entirely with you that the writing is on the wall. If life was magicked by some supernatural being, why do we see organic molecules extra-terrestrially? Why does the Urey-Miller experiment yeild anything at all? Why do we have such an evolution-supporting fossil record and much other evidence?

    As always, religious dogma has people clinging and pointing at the gaps; gaps which, given history, are certain to close.

  42. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    If it is scientific substance you want Robin, it is probably best to avoid the topic of abiogenesis. It is not testable, it is not observable and it is not repeatable. Our only recourse at present is to make a decision based on an interpretation of the evidence.

    As Simon said, the Miller and Urey’s experiment does not prove abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is the unaided formation of life from the inanimate. The experiment is not an example of this.

    Science acknowledges the impossibility of reaching a minimal cell via undirected chemical processes and has moved away from the chemical fluke to the first cell idea. It is not possible. They are now looking for pre-cursors to the first cell.

    _____
    Simon, as “organic” molecules are defined as carbon-based molecules, we find “extra-terrestrial organic molecules” because carbon is not limited to earth and the properties of carbon mean that it will join to other elements around it. There is no great wonder here.

    If you are trying to make a claim along the lines that “if God made life here on earth, he would not make it anywhere else”, I would like to see the reasoning behind that.

    The Miller-Urey experiment yields a result due to the properties of the elements. There are physical laws that matter follows. These elements can combine under very, very specific conditions. And they fall apart much more easily.

    If the fossil record is a progression (as often assumed), it makes great leaps from one form to the next. Species appear without warning, persist in fixed form, and disappear, leaving no descendants. There is no gradual change as is predicted and demanded by the extrapolation of natural selection to all of life.

    As always, religious dogma has people clinging and pointing at the gaps; gaps which, given history, are certain to close.

    Simon, you identify a condition that should be avoided. Well done. Yet, you yourself are promoting a religious dogma that holds faith in evolution, that has a belief in naturalism to justify such faith. In short, you are no different from the religiously coloured people whom you deride.

    I take abiogenesis to be true or false based on the science. If it is shown to be possible, I will accept it. Follow the science and let the chips fall where they may! At the moment, there are very prominent indicators that convince me of the opposite. By all accounts, life looks designed, and there is very little to suggest otherwise.

  43. Simon
    Simon says:

    Jonathan,

    Yes, of course carbon will do ‘out there’ what it does ‘here’. If naturalism was incorrect I would expect us to be made of – I dunno – flogiston or ‘spirit’ or something. Instead we find that we are made of molecules (like everything else)…join the dots! We find that the Urey-Miller experiment yields organic molecules….join the dots! We find the fossil record…join the dots!

    BTW. I’m not a biologist (are you?) How do you explain these dinosaurs with feathers or these fish with swim-bladders? I was amazed to learn from a biologist recently that cell membranes are bi-lipid – I never knew!

    Re: Religious Dogma.
    Strictly, I actually agree with you. Well, I woudn’t call naturalism a religious dogma, but it is a dogma. After all this is how we humans model the world; by instantiating models of it, and a model is crystallised, static.
    On the other hand, if you make your point too strongly, I can just argue that Islam is a valid as christianity – it’s just another dogma.
    I think I take quite the opposing view to yourself. I demand that everything that is real is measurable. And that thinking is, thus far, the posterchild of human achievement.

    I put it to you that – If you give it considered thought – if you were not religious, you would presently be an abiogenesis advocate. Not necessarily an ardent supporter, but you’d be ‘rooting’ for it. Therefore it is your religious belief that holds you back from it. It has very little to do with the science, just as my assuming abiogenesis has little to do with science. But history on the other hand…….

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