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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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