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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Origin of life research: A perfect circularity

Here is neuroscientist Michael Egnor, who has said such kind things about The Spiritual Brain on on origin of life research:
The National Research Council’s report — The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems — is a must read. Not for the science — what there is of it can be summed up simply: we have no clue how life began. No, the report is a must read for the insight it offers into the current state of origin of life research:

For generations the definition of life has eluded scientists and philosophers. (Many have come to recognize that the concept of “definition” itself is difficult to define)… Indeed, because the chemical structures of terran biomolecular systems all appear to have arisen through Darwinian processes, it is hardly surprising that some of the more thoughtful definitions of life hold that it is a “chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution.” [emphasis mine]

Aside from jargon that would make Derrida squirm— “the concept of definition is itself difficult to define”— the Council claims to see, through post-modern haze, a more thoughtful definition of life: life is defined as “a chemical system capable of Darwinian evolution”! This more thoughtful definition of life is an even grander tautology than 'survivors survive': Darwin’s theory must explain life because life is defined as ‘what Darwin’s theory explains.’ You've got to admire the audacity.

Here's a backgrounder on why origin of life is such a difficult problem. Oh, and here is a $1 million dollar prize if you can figure out how the genetic code arose spontaneously.

And the theory that life began in outer space has fallen on hard times, according to recent reports:
For the first time, there are solid data to refute a popular theory that life came to the Earth aboard a comet, Rutgers researchers said Monday.
Deteriorated DNA from microbes, frozen for millions of years in the Antarctic ice, shows that organisms could not have survived the bombardment of cosmic radiation during deep space travel from outside the solar system, said Paul Falkowski, a Rutgers biologist and oceanographer.

Toronto journalist David Warren comments,
Like every other pointy-head Darwinoid theory, the idea behind "Panspermianism" is to transfer the problem of life's origin on earth, out of the finite space & time of the earth's own geological history, & into some abstract place where the laws of chance have an infinite amount of time to do whatever is necessary. But the game is up. We can now roughly date the origin of our universe, & 15 billion years is WAY too short a time for random processes to produce a non-random result. Verily, 15 billion times 15 billion years is still not nearly enough time.

There are some miracles that just cannot be explained away.

Note: If you are looking for the story about the major film about the ID guys, starring Ben Stein, go here.

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Blogger Pat Sullivan tries to understand intelligent design controversy

Some interesting notes from Pat Sullivan, a blogger who is trying to understand the intelligent design controversy. He agrees with me that Francis Collins's "why can't we all just be nice to each other in a vague sort of way" approach will not in fact work.

In fact, I spent several hours recently listening to scientists who had lost their jobs for insufficient support for Darwinism. Francis, THAT'S why.

Anyway, Sullivan says this:
I was not impressed with Collin's book. His arguments for religious belief and evolution did not satisfy me at all. He (and most other evolutionists) use bad logic in my opinion. If something can somehow be described (not proven in a lab mind you) that "could" have happened by natural, evolutionary means, it proves that it DID happen by natural means. Over and over, he describes how evolution could have created and assembled something "irreducibly complex" and then adds that this has never been been proven in a lab. Then the huge jump is made to say it DID happen that way. And thus, according to him, intelligent design is proved wrong.
I read and re-read what he wrote and I shook my head and said "this is really stupid!" There HAVE to be stronger arguments than what he makes! I was incredulous as he repeated this nonsense over and over. I was actually angry. I wanted something that forced me to say "hmmmm, that is a really good argument." But not once did I think this. His illogic seemed so evident and his admissions as to the lack of actual "proof" left me dumbfounded. Maybe I am just dumb. There, I said it for you!

Noi, Pat, you are not dumb. The problem is that, as genome mapper Francis Crick has announced , your brain evolved to leave descendants, not to understand scientific truths. The fact that pronouncements by a scientist sound flaccid or vapid is strong evidence for of that fact.

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Service note

If you are looking for the story about the major film about the ID guys, starring Ben Stein, go here.

If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?, or my book of essays on faith and science topics, Faith@Science: Why science needs faith in the 21st century (Winnipeg: J. Gordon Shillingford, 2001). You can read excerpts as well.

My other blog is the Mindful Hack, which keeps tabs on neuroscience and the mind.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

NEW!! My review of Mike Behe's Edge of Evolution

Evolution in the light of intelligent design - look up intelligent design topics here.

Animations of life inside the cell, indexed, for your convenience.

Anti-God crusade ... no, really! My recent series on the spate of anti-God books, teen blasphemy challenge, et cetera, and the mounting anxiety of materialist atheists that lies behind it.

Catholic Church A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

Collins, Francis My review of Francis Collins’ book The Language of God

Columnists weigh in on the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

Darwinism dissent Lists of theoretical and applied scientists who doubt Darwin

Gilder, George A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

Intelligent design academic publications.

Intelligent design-friendly students should be flunked, according to bio prof Evolutionary biologist’s opinion that all students friendly to intelligent design should be flunked.

Intelligent design controversy My U of Toronto talk on why there is an intelligent design controversy, or my talk on media coverage of the controversy at the University of Minnesota.

Intelligent design controversy timeline An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

Intelligent design and culture My review of sci-fi great Rob Sawyer’s novel, The Calculating God , which addresses the concept of intelligent design.

March of the Penguins A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

Origin of life Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.

Peer review My backgrounder about peer review issues.

Polls relevant to the intelligent design controversy A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

Stove, David O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

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