Intelligent Design

Is Design Intelligent?

Is Design Intelligent?

 

The popular media presents to the general population many instances of ‘design’ through TV, advertisements and even news reports.  Many things, items or concepts are referred to as ‘a wonderful design’, or it is said that they are ‘designed to’ accomplish some specific end, such as keeping warm, attracting a mate, enabling flight, or whatever.  Who, or what, is responsible for that design.

‘Design’ carries with it the idea of purpose—indeed, it is essential to the very concept of design, which must be a teleological act.  If it is not purposeful, it is no longer design, but merely accident.

If we acknowledge that ID is not an acceptable concept, then the only alternative is ‘Unintelligent Design’.  This does not mean ‘bad’ design (good design and rubbish design both qualify as design), but the absence of any intelligence behind the design.  Hume actually failed in his attempt to discredit teleology, and ended up affirming it. His ‘multitude of creators’, his ‘stupid mechanic’ and his ‘creator of evil’ are all intelligent agents working towards future purposes (however obscure, inadequate or distasteful they may appear to the naturalistic observer).

‘Design’ carries with it the idea of purpose—significantly, purpose is essential to the very concept of design, which must be a teleological act (explaining present structure in terms of its future purpose).  If it is not purposeful, it is no longer design, but merely an accident.  Some modern ‘art’ appears to be the result of random accidents.  Some would say there is no way that those paint splotches thrown on a canvas or ugly chunks of clay piled on top of each other can be said to be ‘designed’.  The individual holding the tubes of paint and the individual tearing off chunks of clay from a block of it would disagree, they thought about what they were going to do and then did it, so they in some way ‘designed’ it.

We can be reasonably certain that design is not logically possible without intelligence, at some level.  The alternative to design by an intelligent agent is design by evolution—which, one assumes, must be ‘Unintelligent Design.’

How are we to resolve the paradox?  According to most dictionary definitions, evolution is a blind stochastic (having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely) process, simply a description of what allegedly happened in the past without any intelligent input.

However, a process cannot design anything.  That would require evolution to be more than a process.  It is supposed to be a non-material entity, maybe it has mysterious powers to direct and select which we are unaware.  That seems the same powers that theists ascribe to a Creator God are simply being ascribed to evolution, but not calling it that.  That makes belief in evolution a faith, a creed, just as surely as any other faith.  If one is to dispense with an intelligent designer (which exists outside the material realm that it designs), one must believe that we exist and think as the consequence of a completely random set of very unconnected, arbitrary events.  We become nothing more than the fleeting flotsam in the middle of an eternal cosmic accident.

 

Advertisements
ID Author, ID Scientist, Intelligent Design

Douglas Axe

Douglas Axe

Director of Biologic Institute and author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed (HarperOne). His research uses both experiments and computer simulations to examine the functional and structural constraints on the evolution of proteins and protein systems. After a Caltech PhD, he held postdoctoral and research scientist positions at the University of Cambridge, the Cambridge Medical Research Council Centre, and the Babraham Institute in Cambridge. His work and ideas have been featured in many scientific journals, including the Journal of Molecular Biology, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Nature( which have been described on RationalWiki as inconsequential publications).  His research has been included in such books as Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt by Stephen Meyer.

Throughout his distinguished and unconventional career, engineer-turned-molecular-biologist Douglas Axe has been asking the questions that much of the scientific community would rather silence. Now, he presents his conclusions in this brave and pioneering book. Axe argues that the key to understanding our origin is the “design intuition”—the innate belief held by all humans that tasks we would need knowledge to accomplish can only be accomplished by someone who has that knowledge. For the ingenious task of inventing life, this knower can only be God.
Starting with the hallowed halls of academic science, Axe dismantles the widespread belief that Darwin’s theory of evolution is indisputably true, showing instead that a gaping hole has been at its center from the beginning. He then explains in plain English the science that proves our design intuition scientifically valid. Lastly, he uses everyday experience to empower ordinary people to defend their design intuition, giving them the confidence and courage to explain why it has to be true and the vision to imagine what biology will become when people stand up for this truth.
Armed with that confidence, readers will affirm what once seemed obvious to all of us—that living creatures, from single-celled cyanobacteria to orca whales and human beings, are brilliantly conceived, utterly beyond the reach of accident.
Our intuition was right all along.

 

 

ID Scientist, Intelligent Design

How we get this stuff

From the real scientific news, not the liberal, progressive left or that belief that has a politico/socio/economic point of view.  Real news, not fake news, not alternative news but you now the actual facts that happened.  Such as:

1)   Professor Peter Ridd heads up the Marine Geophysical Laboratory at James Cook University in Australia. He has over a hundred scientific papers to his name and has spent thirty years studying the Great Barrier Reef. But he wrote a chapter in the volume Climate Change: The Facts 2017 for a think tank, critiquing claims that the Great Barrier Reef is nearly dead due to global warming and other factors. When he talked about the article on television last August, his university went ballistic.  Ridd wrotw: “Rather than measured argument, I was hit with a charge of academic serious misconduct for not being “collegial.”

University authorities told me in August I was not allowed to mention the case or the charges to anybody — not even my wife.

Then things got worse. With assistance from the Institute of Public Affairs, I have been pushing back against the charges and the gag order — leading the university to search my official emails for examples of where I had mentioned the case to other scientists, old friends, past students and my wife.

I was then hit with 25 new allegations, mostly for just mentioning the case against me. The email search turned up nothing for which I feel ashamed. You can see for yourself.

We filed in court in November. At that point the university backed away from firing me. But university officials issued a “Final Censure” in my employment file and told me to be silent about the allegations, and not to repeat my comments about the unreliability of institutional research.

But they agreed that I could mention it to my wife, which was nice of them.

I would rather be fired than accept these conditions. We are still pursuing the matter in court.

2)    Darwin himself said, in a scientific context, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.” But through intimidation and silencing of views counter to evolutionary orthodoxy, such a “fair result” is possible.

Intelligent design poses an ultimate question: Does nature offer evidence of purpose and design, or not? All thoughtful people must ask themselves that. Today, the natural first recourse for the questioning individual is to turn to Google. Looking up ID online will bring you immediately, the first entry, to the Wikipedia article. It commences with a lie:

Intelligent design (ID) is a religious argument for the existence of God, presented by its proponents as “an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins”, though it has been discredited as pseudoscience.

Actually, three lies. Here’s the truth: ID is a scientific not a religious argument. It is a theory of evolution, of why the forms of life originated and changed over the past 3.9 billion years. An alternative to the increasingly shaky neo-Darwinian theory of blind churning, it argues exclusively in scientific terms, never from religious authority. It’s an argument for design in biology and cosmology, not for the “existence of God.” Compatible with methodological naturalism, it candidly professes that science sheds no light on the source of the design in life, other than to say that source operates with purpose and forethought. And while it has certainly been attacked in scabrous terms, it hasn’t been “discredited.” Far from it. Even an atheist philosopher like Thomas Nagel concedes that ID poses a “fiendishly difficult” challenge.

Yet anyone looking up ID on the Internet, or asking Amazon’s Alexa, which simply regurgitates Wikipedia, will be instantly turned off and likely give up investigating. That is, unless you already know how Wikipedia works, about the pseudonymous volunteer editors who run the place, with their axes to grind, standing ever ready, on a moment’s notice, to erase changes to pages they care about. The number of innocent people who have been misled by this article alone is beyond calculation.

We’ve been aware of the problem, of course, for years. But the erasure of notable paleontologist Günter Bechly, after he came for ID, was the occasion of much discussion of censorship on the part of this ubiquitous source of information and disinformation, both here and among Darwinists and ID critics too. (https://larryemarshall.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/rabid-censorship-wikipedia/)

Another ID scholar, Walter Bradley, similarly saw his entry disemboweled.

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, who personally rejects intelligent design, has blasted the editors for the “appallingly biased” article on ID. He adds, “I completely despair of persuading Wikipedians of the error of their ways. I’m just officially registering my protest.”

On the subject of Bechly, our view is echoed by ID critics including Alex Berezow, a founding editor of the popular news aggregator site Real Clear Science, by the Darwinist group blog Panda’s Thumb, and as far afield as the liberal, secular Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Berezow writes:

If a respected scientist endorses a controversial view, should he or she be erased from history? The editors at Wikipedia think so, but only if the controversial opinion is one they personally dislike.

That’s precisely what happened to a respected German paleontologist, Günter Bechly. His biography on Wikipedia has been deleted. Poof. Gone. It’s like he never existed….

Dr. Bechly… is guilty of committing a thought-crime, and his sentence is to be purged from the Internet. This is deeply troubling, and any true free speech and free thought advocates should be alarmed.

Wikipedia stands out for being widely recognized as a censor, not only by us. Wiki editors, behind their masks, also depart from the ways of past censorship editors in how frank they are, on their User pages, in admitting their biases.

 

3)    In the upcoming April 14, 2018 March for Science, many will march out of the sense of amorphous, infantile left-wing discontent that has driven violence, screaming, and censorship on university campuses lately. But those won’t be the actual scientists in the protest, who will no doubt be a minority.

What do scientists participating in the event want? As expressed by the organizers, many of their goals are vague or unobjectionable. When you come right down to it, what they want above all is your money.

Writing in the Washington Times, Discovery Institute biologist Jonathan Wells casts an unsentimental eye on these motivations. More research funding sounds nice, but in fact it does the search for truth no favors:

Organizers describe the Washington march as “a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists.” In this atmosphere “it is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.” But unlike the imaginary Moscow marchers in 1950, the Washington marchers are risking nothing more than a few blisters. Scientists in America today are a privileged class. American taxpayers support them with billions of dollars every year.

Take, for example, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). The current NIH budget is $32.3 billion, all of it from taxpayers. The Trump administration proposes to reduce that amount, though the decision is up to Congress. A scientist quoted in a recent article in The Atlantic says the proposed reduction would “bring American biomedical science to a halt.” But the NIH budget has been reduced several times in the past eight years without that happening.

The 2017 March for Science is not about protecting experimental science, which is in no danger — at least, no danger from the U.S. government. It’s about pressuring lawmakers to vote for more money.

But throwing more money at the NIH may not be such a good idea. Science journalist Paul Voosen wrote in 2015 that “science today is riven with perverse incentives,” most of them financial. Universities and financing agencies reward scientists based on their publication records. This encourages the submission of results that have not been carefully checked and often cannot be replicated. Mr. Voosen quoted biologist Arturo Casadevall: “Scientists themselves are playing this game because once they succeed, the rewards are so great they basically force everyone to do it.”

The result has been a dramatic rise in the number of scientific papers retracted because of shoddy work. In 2011, Nature assistant editor Richard Van Noorden reported that “in the past decade, the number of retraction notices has shot up 10-fold, even as the literature has expanded by only 44 percent.” In 2016, scientists Paul Smaldino and Richard McElreath called this “the natural selection of bad science.” They wrote that “selection for high output leads to poorer methods and increasingly high false discovery rates.”

According to Mr. Voosen, solving the problem will require changing “an entire scientific culture.” Scientists would do better to focus on reforming their discipline rather than marching for more money.

How many more instance do you want to know about.  The information available is vast, covering censorship of published articles, removal from tenured positions, security clearances downgraded.  You name it, if your research reasonably questions the existing paradigm (especially if it is known in pop culture) and you even mention that it might possible cause other individuals to question any portion it, then count yourself out of your job.

Intelligent Design

ID vs Science

ID vs Science

I continue to be amazed at how those who claim to be tolerant become so intolerant when information presented to them questions their heavily entrenched values and beliefs.  Understanding Intelligent Design (ID) is the current problem that non-believers, atheists, agnostics, evolutionary believers need in order to play mental gymnastics in order to fit ID into a comfortable place in their psyche. They, unfortunately and unfailingly, consider ID to be a bastardized form of “religion.”

By any reasonable definition of the term, intelligent design is not “religion.”  When the majority of people think of religion, their understanding is of an institutionalized form of worship or meditation based upon a comprehensive system of beliefs about the ultimate reality.  Religions also typically involve various formal structures, practices, and ritualistic observances, including “formal services, ceremonial functions, the existence of clergy” and “the observance of holidays.”  That is not to say that intelligent design, like its materialistic evolutionary counterparts, does not address questions about the origin of living things.  As a result, therefore, ID may have implications for metaphysical questions about ultimate reality; however, it does not proffer a comprehensive system of belief about that reality.  What Intelligent Design does due is answer questions about the nature of God or even make claims about God’s existence.  The theory of intelligent design does not preach a system of morality or affirm a body of doctrines about the afterlife.  ID does not require a belief in divine revelation or tries to tell adherents how to achieve higher consciousness or how to get right with their god.

ID simply argues that an intelligent cause of some kind played a role in the origin of life.  ID is a theory about the origin of biological information and other appearances of design in living systems.

What is confusing to ev-illusionist is that the theory of intelligent design does not involve any of the practices nor does it have any of the institutional structures or features typically associated with religions.  Religious structures involve: a)  worship or meditation or a recommend a system of spiritual disciplines;  ) sacred texts, ordained ministers, rabbis, or priests;  and c) ID does not support or encourage liturgies, prayer meetings, or intelligent-design holidays (however Darwinism does).

Advocates of intelligent design have formed organizations and research institutes, but these resemble other scientific or professional associations and can in no way be misconstrued as churches or religious institutions.

Despite this, some critics, such as Robert Pennock and Gerald Skoog (“A view from the past”, https://ncse.com/library-resource/view-from-past)  have gone so far as to characterize the theory of intelligent design as narrowly “sectarian.”  Upon examining this claim, it evaporates into nothing more than the observation that the theory of intelligent design is popular with some Christians and not others.  No matter what, the theory of intelligent design does not affirm sectarian doctrines such as: 1) the virgin birth; 2) the immaculate conception; 3) predestination; 4) infant baptism; 5) the validity of Islamic law; 6) salvation 7) original sin; 8) the reality of reincarnation; or any of a dozen or more “religious” doctrines.

Stating that intelligent design is NOT a religion does not exclude evidence for intelligent design in biology that might have religious or metaphysical implications.  Theories, especially origins theories, need not be either scientific or religious. They could be both.  Some scientific theories— although not themselves religions— might have philosophical or religious implications.

Intelligent design is a scientific theory of this kind it addresses a major philosophical question that most religious and metaphysical systems of thought also address, namely, “What caused life and/ or the universe to come into existence?”  ID inevitably raises questions about the ultimate or prime reality, “the thing from which everything else comes”   Intelligent design has specifically theistic implications because intelligent design confirms a major tenet of a theistic worldview, which is, life was designed by a conscious and intelligent being, a purposive agent with a mind.  If (and like any theory it is only an if) intelligent design is true, it follows that a designing intelligence with some of the attributes typically associated with God acted to bring the first living cells into existence.  The evidence of intelligent design in biology does NOT prove that God exists (or that a being with all of the attributes of a transcendent God exists), since it is at least logically possible that an immanent (within the universe) intelligence rather than a transcendent intelligence might have designed life.  Insofar as a transcendent God (as conceived by theists) does possess conscious awareness and intelligence, it possesses the causal powers necessary to produce and explain the origin of specified biological information.  The activity of a theistic God could provide an adequate explanation of the evidence of intelligent design in biology, though other entities could conceivably do so as well.  As far as the evidence for intelligent design in biology increases the explanatory power of theism as a kind of metaphysical hypothesis, it makes theism more plausible or more likely to be true than it would have been otherwise in the absence of such evidence.  Those who believe in a transcendent God may find support for their belief from the biological evidence that supports the theory of intelligent design.  They may cite this and other evidence as a reason to identify the designing intelligence responsible for life’s origin with the God of their religious belief.  Therefore, it is fair to say that intelligent design has theistic implications or implications that are friendly to theistic belief, even though the theory is not itself a religion or a proof of God’s existence.

In keeping with standard blogging practice to keep each page short and concise, I will stop this discussion here.  Coming up next is:

Metaphysical Implications   

Motive-Mongering

Intelligent Design

The Majesty of the Double Helix

THE MAJESTY OF THE DOUBLE HELIX

 

The information revolution in biology officially began in 1953 with the explication of the structure of the DNA molecule.  I will present a brief history of this remarkable origination of DNA understanding and how it inaugurated a vast increase in our knowledge of microbiology.  Then we will discuss various aspects of the molecule.

For scientists trying to explain the origin of life, one of the most important clues we have is life itself— its structure, function, and composition.  That is why Aleksandr Oparin, the first scientist to propose a comprehensive scientific theory of the origin of life, said, “The problem of the nature of life and the problem of its origin have become inseparable,” (Oparin, Genesis and Evolutionary Development of Life, 7).

From ancient times, humans have known a few basic facts about living things.  The first is that all life comes from life. Omne vivum ex vivo ( Latin for “all life [is] from life.” A related statement is Omnis cellula e cellula, “all cells [are] from cells;” this observation is one of the central statements of cell theory).  The second basic fact in all sexual reproductions (asexual is somewhat different) is that when living things reproduce themselves; the resulting offspring resemble their parents.

It is fair to seek the answer to the question; what inside a living thing ensures that its offspring will resemble itself?  What, where and how does the capacity to reproduce reside and initiate itself?  This was one of the long-standing mysteries of biology, and many explanations have been advanced over the centuries.

The history of the search for the origin of life is inextricably intertwined with the advancement of the microscope.   The small spherical enclosures called cells, only recently have been able to be seen by the best microscopes of the day.

800px-Old-microscopes

Figure 1   18th-century microscopes from the Musée des Arts et Métiers, Paris.

Micrographia_title_pageRobert Hooke’s Micrographia had a huge impact, largely because of its impressive illustrations.

A significant contribution came from Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who achieved up to 300 times magnification using a simple single lens microscope. He sandwiched a very small glass ball lens between the holes in two metal plates riveted together, and with an adjustable-by-screws needle attached to mount the specimen.  Then, Van Leeuwenhoek re-discovered red blood cells  and spermatozoa, and helped popularize the use of microscopes to view biological structures.

In 1839, Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann proposed the “cell theory,” which asserted that cells are the smallest and most fundamental unit of life.  This was picked up by many Darwinists and is why prominent scientists like Ernst Haeckel then described the cell as “homogeneous and structure-less globules of protoplasm.” (Hacekel,  The Wonders of Life, Translated by J. McCabe, London, Harper 1905, p 111).

However, scientists began to notice that the transmission of hereditary traits— wherever the capacity for producing these traits might be stored— seemed to occur in relation to some predictable patterns.  The long forgotten work of Gregor Mendel in the 1860s became particularly important in this regard and was quickly re-evaluated to see what could be applied to current thinking.

Mendel’s discovery had raised an obvious but overlooked at the time question: Where and how was this hereditary memory or signal being stored?  Biologists began to focus on the cell nucleus in experiments done in the years after the Civil War.  In 1869, Friedrich Miescher, the son of a Swiss physician, discovered what would later be called DNA.  Miescher was interested in the chemistry of white blood cells.  To find such cells, he collected pus from postoperative bandages.  He then added hydrochloric acid to the pus, dissolving all the material in the cell except the nuclei.  After that, he added alkali and then acid to the nuclei.  Miescher called the gray organic material that formed from this procedure “nuclein,” since it was derived from the nucleus of the cell.

Extensive chemistry experimentation developed techniques that soon isolated banded structures from the nucleus.  These came to be called “chromatin” (the material we now know as chromosomes) because of the bright color they displayed once stained.  Later when it was shown that chromatin bands and Miescher’s nuclein reacted to acid and alkali in the same way, scientists concluded that nuclein and chromatin consisted of the same chemicals.  It was easy to conclude that chromatin was responsible for heredity when biologists observed that an equal number of chromatin strands combine when an egg and sperm coalesce into a single nucleus (Jenkins, John B,. Genetics, 2nd edition, Houghton Mifflin,  p. 238-239).

In 1902 and 1903, Walter Sutton published two papers suggesting a connection between the laws of Mendelian genetics and chromosomes- now known as the Boveri-Sutton chromosome theory.  When observing chromosomes during reproduction, Sutton suggested that Mendel’s laws would explain how offspring receive an equal number of chromosomes from each parent.  That they were receiving the capacity for different characteristics— Mendel’s trait— from separate maternal and paternal chromosomes was a distinct possibility.  Since traits often occurred in pairs, and chromosomes occurred in pairs, perhaps chromosomes carried the capacity for producing these traits.

Some scientists thought that this idea could be tested by altering the composition of the chromatin bands to see what effect various changes would have on whatever creatures that possessed them.  What was needed was a creature that reproduced quickly, possessed a relatively simple set of features, and could be bathed in change-producing or “mutation-inducing” radiation without raising ethical concerns.  Fruit flies were the perfect choice-PETA or the ASPCA would not be clamoring about fly abuse.  They have a fourteen-day life cycle and only four pairs of chromosomes,

Beginning in 1909 at Columbia University, Thomas Hunt Morgan undertook experiments with large populations of fruit flies, subjecting them to a variety of mutagens (i.e., substances that cause mutations), increasing their mutation rate tremendously.  After studying many generations, Morgan found that some traits were more likely to occur in association with others.  Specifically, he noticed four linkage groups, suggesting that information-bearing entities responsible for passing along these mutations were located physically next to each other on the chromosome. Morgan devised a number of experiments to show that genes have a definite, linear order on the chromosome. (Morgan, Thomas Hunt. The Physical Basis of Heredity. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1919.)

*****  (Insert link to the 4 fruit fly linkage groups)  *****

Drosophila_array_no_labels

By 1909, scientists had been able to separate an acidic material from other proteinaceous material in the chromatin bands. Chemists soon determined the chemical composition of this acidic material. They called it a “nucleic acid,” because it had come from the nucleus. They called it a “deoxyribose nucleic acid,” because they were able to identify a deoxygenated sugar molecule called ribose in the molecule.

Here you see the one oxygen atom that means the difference between pond scum and you.  We will discuss that later.

deoxy and ribose

Scientists also determined that the molecule was made of phosphates and four bases, called adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, the chemical formulas and structures of which had been known for a while.  Shown is how they pair up in the DNA molecule.

There is a difference from Thymine called Uracil that is used exclusively in RNA.

T_vs_U

 

This is a molecular view of the DNA structure and the individual parts of it.

DNA_Structure+Key+Labelled.pn_NoBB

Below is representation of that which is probably a bit easier to understand.

image.axd

By 1909, the composition and structure of the chemical parts of DNA were mostly known, but that is it.  How and why it worked and what it looked like was still a secret to be discovered.

NEXT  –>

Intelligent Design, The Science of it All

Rabid censorship = wikipedia

Rabid censorship


One of Europe’s leading paleontologists was just erased from Wikipedia … for doubting Darwin.
Here’s how it went down. It was the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species. Günter Bechly. set up a display at the highly prestigious State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany, where he served as a curator. The display showed Darwin’s book on one side of the scales. On the other were ID books by Michael Behe, William Dembski, and others. Darwin’s lone book outweighed theirs.
Bechly the Darwinist was quite pleased with his little display. But then he decided to actually read the ID books–in part to be ready for questions from the media. He says what he found there was nothing like the silly caricature of intelligent design he’d been fed. After careful consideration, he rejected Darwinism. Not long after this he became a proponent of intelligent design and, some years later, he made his changed views public.
The Orwellian Empire Strikes Back
Bechly had done the unthinkable. A trusted curator of one of the most significant paleontological collections in Europe; a paleontologist who has named species, and had species named after him … a Darwin doubter? An ID proponent? Such a person is not supposed to exist!
And so the dogmatic Darwinists went to work disappearing Günter Bechly.
He was forced to resign from his position at the museum. And now this month, his English language Wikipedia page has disappeared. And no, it’s not a glitch. They admit to doing it intentionally.

Intelligent Design, Philosophy, The Science of it All

How did life begin?

The naturalistic origin of life is also known as abiogenesis or sometimes-chemical evolution.

The origin of life is an exasperating problem for those who insist that life arose through purely natural processes.  Some evolutionists try to claim that the origin of life is not a part of evolution –it is a separate problem- once life began then it evolved.  Probably every evolutionary biology textbook has a section on the origin of life in the chapters on evolution.  The University of California, Berkeley, has the origin of life included in their ‘Evolution 101’ course, in a section titled “From Soup to Cells—the Origin of Life”.[1]  Some high-profile defenders of ‘all-things-evolutionary’, such as P.Z. Myers and Nick Matzke, agree that the origin of life is part of evolution, as does Richard Dawkins[2].

A well-known evolutionist of the past, G.A. Kerkut, did make a distinction between the General Theory of Evolution (GTE), which included the origin of life, and the Special Theory of Evolution (STE) that only dealt with the diversification of life (the supposed topic of Darwin’s 1859 book).[3]

So, what do we need to get life?  How did life begin?

Explaining the origin of life by solely physical and chemical processes is proving to be extremely difficult.

First: What is it that we have to have to produce a living cell?  Well what is a living cell?  Basically, a living cell is capable of acquiring all the resources it needs from its surroundings and reproducing itself.  We will not get into a discussion of what resources were necessary.  That is still debatable and under strong discussions in the scientific community.  We will assume that all of the necessary components (whatever they may be) were there in an available form to use.

Second: The first cell had to be free-living; that is, it could not depend on other cells for its survival because other cells did not exist.  (Some evolutionists try to state that a prokaryote cell ingested a eukaryote cell and then became a viable living cell.  However, this begs the question; they are already starting with a cell in one form or another). We have to stretch to imagination (well, maybe not) to believe that whatever process occurs, didn’t just happen in one area- maybe it happened a billion times over throughout the existing world. Too often, the Ider’s (Intelligent Designers) and creationists go with the concept that it happened once, somewhere, but it is possible that probably many different types of cells developed about the same time throughout the world and only certain ones survived.  I will not rule that out.

Third: Parasites cannot be a model for ‘first life’ because they need existing cells to survive.  This also rules out viruses and the like as the precursors to life as they must have living cells that they can parasitize to reproduce themselves.  It also brings up the question of how the parasite or virus developed.  Portions of genetic-like material may have been within the resources necessary for a cell to develop, however, the still would have needed a living cell to become activated.

Fourth:  Prions, misshaped proteins that cause disease, have nothing to do with the origin of life because they can only ‘replicate’ by causing proteins manufactured by an existing cell to become misshaped.  Fewer and fewer scientists are exploring this particular dead end street.

Right here there is a major problem for chemical soup approaches to the origin of life-The so-called primordial soup has been the laughing stock of creationists and the wastage of millions of taxpayer dollars by evolutionists in attempts to create it.  For without it, their concept fails.  Below is how they would like to imagine it having happened.

I want to play fair.  NOBODY was there to know or understand what the start of our Earth was- if you are an evolutionist.  If you are a Christian it was Adam, but the exact details of the oceans, continent, and atmospheric conditions are not written down so it is guessed by both sides.  I will stipulate, as above, that the resources for the necessary components for life were available in whatever form necessary.

This then begins to bring out several problems though.  Some of the necessary components of life, have carbonyl (>C=O) chemical groups that react destructively with amino acids, and other amino (–NH2) compounds.  Such carbonyl-containing molecules include sugars, which also form the backbone of DNA and RNA. (Sugars have linear forms that contain carbonyls—see Fig. 2 below.  The cyclic forms that occur in nucleic acids also predominate in solution form, but in equilibrium with the linear form. When something reacts strongly with the aldehyde, then more of the linear form is regenerated to replace that which is reacted, so all the sugar molecules will end up being consumed).  Living cells have ways of keeping them apart and protecting them to prevent such cross-reactions, or can even repair the damage when it occurs to the credit of the cell.  How this is accomplished in the natural resource environment we are discussing is anyone’s guess.

Cells are incredibly complex arrangements of simpler chemicals.  I am not going to cover every chemical that a first cell would need; it would take and has several books to cover the topic.  I will highlight some of the basic components that have to be present for any origin of life scenario.

a. Amino acids

Living things are loaded with proteins; linear strings of amino acids.  Enzymes are special proteins that help chemical reactions to happen (catalysts) without being consumed in the process.  For example, the enzyme amylase is secreted in our saliva and causes starch molecules from rice, bread, potatoes, etc., to break up into smaller molecules, which can be then be broken down to their constituent glucose molecules.  We cannot absorb starch, but we are able to absorb glucose and use it to power our bodies.

Some reactions necessary for life go so slowly without enzymes that they would effectively never produce enough product to be useful, even given billions of years.  In 2003, Wolfenden found another enzyme exceeded even this vast rate enhancement.  A phosphatase, which catalyzes the hydrolysis of phosphate dianions, magnified the reaction rate by 1021 times.  That is, the phosphatase allows reactions vital for cell signaling and regulation to take place in a hundredth of a second. Without the enzyme, this essential reaction would take a trillion years—almost a hundred times even the supposed evolutionary age of the universe (about 15 billion years)[4].

Other proteins form muscles, bone, skin, hair and all manner of the structural parts of cells and bodies.  Humans can produce well over 100,000 proteins (possibly millions; we really do not know how many), whereas a typical bacterium can produce one or two thousand different ones.

Figure 1. Leucine, (Chemical formula: C₆H₁₃NO₂) the most common amino acid, which is a specific arrangement of atoms of carbon (C), hydrogen (H), oxygen (O), and nitrogen (N).  It is essential in humans—meaning the body cannot synthesize it and thus must obtain from the diet.  In addition, natural selection cannot operate until there are already living organisms to pass on the information coding for the enzymes, so it cannot explain the origin of these enzymes to be used by other cells.

Actually, it should make one wonder about the faith commitment to evolution from goo to you via the zoo, in the face of such amazingly fine-tuned enzymes vital for even the simplest life!

Proteins are made up of 20 different amino acids (some microbes have an extra one or two).  Amino acids are not simple chemicals and they are not easy to make in the right way without enzymes (which are themselves composed of amino acids); see Figure 1.

The 1953 Miller–Urey experiment is still presented as having managed to make some amino acids without enzymes.  It is often portrayed as explaining ‘the origin of life’.  Although tiny amounts of some of the right amino acids were made, the conditions set up for the experiment could never have occurred on Earth; for example, any oxygen in the ‘atmosphere’ in the flask would have prevented anything from forming.  Furthermore, some of the wrong types of amino acids were produced, as well as other chemicals that would ‘cross-react’, preventing anything useful forming.

When Stanley Miller repeated the experiment in 1983 with a slightly more realistic mixture of gases, he only got trace amounts of glycine, the simplest of the 20 amino acids needed.  Crucial to the success of the experiment was Miller’s water trap in which the amino acids generated could dissolve and thus be protected from subsequent destructive contact with the spark.  However, on the hypothesized primordial Earth with no oxygen (and therefore no ozone), the products would have been exposed to destructive ultraviolet rays.

The origin of the correct mix of amino acids remains one of many unsolved problems.

Figure 2. Glucose, linear form.

b. Sugars

Some sugars can be made just from chemistry without enzymes (which remember are only made within the cells themselves).  However, mechanisms for making sugars without enzymes need an alkaline environment, which is incompatible with the needs for amino acid synthesis.

The chemical reaction proposed for the formation of sugars needs the absence of nitrogenous compounds, such as amino acids, because these react with the formaldehyde, the intermediate products, and the sugars, to produce non-biological chemicals.

Ribose, the sugar that forms the backbone of RNA, and in modified form DNA, an essential part of all living cells, is especially problematic.  It is an unstable sugar (it has a short half-life, or breaks down quickly) in the real world at near-neutral pH (neither acid nor alkaline).

c. The components of DNA and RNA

How can we get the nucleotides that are the chemical ‘letters’ of DNA and RNA without the help of enzymes from a living cell? The chemical reactions require formaldehyde (H2C=O) to react with hydrogen cyanide (HC≡N). However, formaldehyde and cyanide (especially) are deadly poisons. They would destroy critically important proteins that might have formed let alone poison the cell from inside if not neutralized correctly.

Figure 3. Cytosine, one of the simpler of the five nucleotides that make up DNA and RNA. In this form of chemical diagram, each unlabelled bend in the ring has a carbon atom at the bend.

Cytosine (Figure 3), one of the five essential nucleotide bases of DNA and RNA, is very difficult to make in any realistic pre-biotic scenario and is also very unstable. I could write an entire chapter on how difficult producing a stable version of cytosine is – maybe I will some day.  DNA and RNA also have backbones of alternating sugars and phosphate groups.  The problems with sugars have been discussed above.  Phosphates would be precipitated by the abundant calcium ions in seawater or cling strongly onto the surfaces of clay particles.  Either scenario would prevent phosphate from being used to make DNA.

d. Lipids

Lipids (‘fats’) are essential for the formation of a cell membrane that contains the cell contents, as well as for other cell functions.  The cell membrane, comprised of several different complex lipids, is an essential part of a free-living cell that can reproduce itself.  Some evolutionary theorists will claim that some lipids came together and formed a bubble that contained some other proteins and amino acids and was the start of an original cell that grew big enough to divide for the efficiency of transport of nutrients within it.  Way too many ifs, ands or buts involved in this concept.

Lipids have much higher energy density than sugars or amino acids, so their formation in any of the possible necessary resource situations is a problem for origin of life scenarios.  The reason is high energy compounds are thermodynamically much less likely to form than lower energy compounds.

The fatty acids that are the primary component of all cell membranes have been very difficult to produce, even assuming the absence of oxygen (a ‘reducing’ atmosphere).  Even if such molecules were produced, ions such as magnesium and calcium, which are themselves necessary for life and have two charges per atom (++, i.e. divalent), would combine with the fatty acids, and precipitate them, making them unavailable.  This process likewise hinders soap (essentially a fatty acid salt) from being useful for washing in hard water—the same precipitation reaction forms the ‘scum’.  Arthur V. Chadwick, Ph.D.  a Professor of Geology and Biology  states “All phenomena are essentially unique and irreproducible. It is the aim of the scientific method to seek to relate effect (observation) to cause through attempting to reproduce the effect by recreating the conditions under which it previously occurred. The more complex the phenomenon, the greater the difficulty encountered by scientists in their investigation of it. In the case of the scientific investigation of the cause of the origin of life, we have two difficulties: the conditions under which it occurred are unknown, and presumably unknowable with certainty, and the phenomenon (life) is so complex we do not even understand its essential properties.[5]

Figure 4. A potassium transport channel from Wikipedia commons.  The red and blue lines show the position of the lipid membrane and the ribbons represent the transporter, which comprises a number of proteins (different colors).  To give some idea of the complexity, each loop in each of the spirals is about four amino acids.

Some popularizes of abiogenesis like to draw diagrams showing a simple hollow sphere of lipid (a ‘vesicle’) that can form under certain conditions in a test-tube (mentioned above under Lipids).  However, such a ‘membrane’ could never lead to a living cell because the cell needs to get things through the cell membrane, in both directions.  Such transport into and out of the cell entails very complex protein-lipid complexes known as transport channels, which operate like electro-mechanical pumps.  They are specific to the various chemicals that must pass into and out of the cell.  Many of these pumps use energy compounds such as ATP to drive the movement against the natural gradient.  Even when movement is with the gradient, from high to low concentration, it is facilitated by carrier proteins.

The cell membrane also enables a cell to maintain a stable pH, necessary for enzyme activity, and favorable concentrations of various minerals (such as not too much sodium).  This requires transport channels (‘pumps’) that specifically move hydrogen ions (protons) under the control of the cell.  These pumps are highly selective and are beyond the scope of this article-source for another probably.

Transport across membranes is so important that “20–30% of all genes in most genomes encode membrane proteins”.[6]  The smallest known genome of a free-living organism that of the parasite Mycoplasma genitalium, codes for 26 transporters[7] amongst its 482 protein-coding genes.

A pure lipid membrane would not allow even the passive movement of the positively-charged ions of mineral nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, etc., or the negatively-charged ions such as phosphate, sulfate, etc., into the cell, and they are all essential for life.  A pure-lipid membrane would repel such charged ions, which dissolve in water, not lipid. Indeed, a simple fat membrane would prevent the movement of water itself (try mixing a lipid like olive oil with water)!

Membrane transporters would appear to be essential for a viable living cell.

In the 1920s the idea that life began with soapy bubbles (fat globules) was popular (Oparin’s ‘coacervate’ hypothesis) but this pre-dated any knowledge of what life entailed in terms of DNA and protein synthesis, or what membranes have to do.

Figure 5. The chirality of typical amino acids. ‘R’ represents the carbon-hydrogen side-chain of the amino acid, which varies in length. R=CH3 makes alanine, for example.

e. Handedness (chirality)

Amino acids, sugars, and many other biochemical’s, being 3-dimensional, can usually be in two forms that are mirror images of one another, this is called handedness or chirality (Figure 5).

Now living things are based on biochemical’s that are pure in terms of their chirality (homochiral): left-handed amino acids and right-handed sugars. One problem though:  chemistry without enzymes (like the Miller–Urey experiment), if they can get anything to happen, produces mixtures of amino acids that are both right-and left-handed. It is likewise with the chemical synthesis of sugars (with the formate reaction, for example).[8]

Origin-of-life researchers have battled with this problem and all sorts of potential solutions have been suggested but the problem remains unsolved.  Even getting 99% purity, which would require some very artificial, unlikely mechanism for ‘nature’ to create, does not cut it.  Life needs 100% pure left-handed amino acids.  The reason for this is that placing a right-handed amino acid in a protein in place of a left-handed one results in the protein having a different 3-dimensional shape. None can be tolerated to get the type of proteins needed for life.

 

[1] http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evosite/evo101/IIE2aOriginoflife.shtml (accessed 17 October 2013).

[2] Myers, P.Z., 15 misconceptions about evolution, 20 February 2008, scienceblogs.com; Matzke, N., What critics of neo-creationists get wrong: a reply to Gordy Slack, pandasthumb.org. Dawkins tries to deal with the origin of life in his book The Greatest Show on Earth, where he claims to ‘prove evolution’. See Sarfati, J., The Greatest Hoax on Earth? ch. 13, 2010, Creation Book

[3] Kerkut, G.A., Implications of Evolution, Pergamon, Oxford, UK, p. 157, 1960 (available online at ia600409.us.archive.org/23/items/implicationsofev00kerk/implicationsofev00kerk.pdf); creation.com/evolution-definition-kerkut

[4] Lad, C., Williams, N.H. and Wolfenden, R., The rate of hydrolysis of phosphomonoester dianions and the exceptional catalytic proficiencies of protein and inositol phosphatases, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 100(10):5607–5610, 13 May 2003.

[5] http://origins.swau.edu/papers/life/chadwick/default.html

[6] Krogh, A. et al., Predicting transmembrane protein topology with a hidden Markov model: application to complete genomes, Journal of Molecular Biology 305(3):567–580, 2001; dx.doi.org/10.1006/jmbi.2000.4315

[7] Transporter Proteins in Mycoplasma genitalium G-37; membranetransport.org/index.html (accessed 1 Aug. 2017).

[8] The ‘right’ and ‘left’ in terms of chirality refer to the position of the amino group (NH2) as displayed on a standardized diagram (Fischer projection) of an amino acid.