Evolution

268


Discussion by: dinc12964

I shared (on Facebook) the post from RDFRS that said "Evolution is just a theory? Well, so is gravity and I don't see jumping out of buildings"  I received plenty of comments but was stumped by this one:

1. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible. Most evolutionist start in the middle of the puzzle. They begin with comparative anatomy, which is very impressive. They fail to start at the very beginning.



2. How did inorganic material evolve into organic material? This is where the water is very muddy and this is where evolution must start.



3. The universal genetic code consist of an 8 by 16 matrix of amino acid elements. Each element is known as a codon. There are 128 (8 x 16) codon elements in the universal genetic code of life. Each codon element consists of 3 different kinds of amino acid molecules, known as coding triplets. Therefore, there are 7,680 required different amino acid molecular arrangements for life's universal genetic codes.



4. The problem that natural selection must solve is summed up very well by biophysicist, Hubert Yockey. The question addressed in his book, Information Theory and Molecular Biology, is: “If the genetic code could change over time to yield a set of rules that allowed for the best possible error-minimization capacity, then is there enough time for this process to occur?” He determined that natural selection would have to explore 1.4 x 10 raised to the 70th power (1.4 followed by 70 zeros, a very, very large number!) different genetic codes to discover the universal genetic code found in nature. The maximum time available for it to organize the universal code-of-life was estimated 6.3 x 10 raised to the 15th power seconds or 200 million years. Natural Selection would have to evaluate roughly 10 raised to the 55th power, codes-per-second to find the one that’s universal. Put simply, natural selection lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code.



5. Other work places the genetic code’s origin coincidental with life’s start. Operating within the evolutionary paradigm, a team headed by renowned origin-of-life researcher Manfred Eigen estimated the age of the genetic code at 3.8 +/- 0.6 billion years. Current geochemical evidence places life’s first appearance on earth at 3.96 billion years ago. This timing means that the genetic code came out of nowhere, without any time to search out the best option. That conclusion coincides precisely with the biblical genesis account of creations.



6. Other major changes in the theory of evolution were caused by the DNA genetic testing of fossil remains. It was determined by DNA testing that the human hominid did not evolve from the Neanderthal hominid. Before DNA testing technology came on the scene, evolutionists asserted that the human hominid directly evolved from the Neanderthal hominid. Because of new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in DNA molecular biology, many evolutionary theories will gradually fall by the wayside and be disproved as time passes




 

268 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s a critique concerning the lack of Origin Of Life theory. I think. I need a drink.

  2. . ” Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible. “

    Just one point I will comment on. These people obviously never took statistics and they are the ones starting at the wrong end. You do NOT calculate odds of something happening backwards. What these people are saying, in a general sense, is that the 80 something woman that won the big Powerball contest recently could not possible have won it because the odds were astronomically against her.

    Just simple innumeracy on creationists/IDiots part.

  3. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible.

    If you want to calculate your existence with the same method they’re using, then you yourself are mathematically impossible. Even if they just believe all humans came from Adam and Eve, then they’re still relying on the chance that two people are meeting at the right time, in the right place, and then the right sperm had to successfully fertilize an egg and that birth had to be successful and that person had to meet someone at the right time, in the right place… and so on and so on thousands and thousands of times. What are the chances of that happening? And yet, here you are and here I am.

    Codons

    I’m not sure where the 8×16 matrix is coming from. There are four bases in RNA – cytosine (C), gaunine (G), adenine (A), and uracil (U). Three of these together make up a codon.

    The codon GUU (guanine uracil uracil) would code for the amino acid valine.

    Because of a bit of wobble in the third position, valine can also be coded by GUC, GUA, and GUG. Some amino acids are okay with the third part of the codon being a bit different and will make use of two or more different codons. Phenylalanine will use two – TTT and TTC. Tryptophan only uses one – TGG.

    There are three different codon positions, and each one uses one of four bases. Four possible bases for each position in the codon is 4x4x4 = 64 possible combinations, not 7,680

    Here’s a codon table

    this is where evolution must start

    I would liken this to saying that we can’t understand the history of the United States unless we start at the formation of the continent. Or operating a car must start with an understanding of the invention of simple machines.

    Because of new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in DNA molecular biology, many evolutionary theories will gradually fall by the wayside and be disproved as time passes

    I wonder if they would be as willing to disregard all of the Bible because of a few changes in the history of thinking about its morals and its claims.

  4. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible.

    Based on what?

    How did inorganic material evolve into organic material

    Abiogenesis, not evolution.

    [A load of spurious maths]

    Needs to demonstrate why those numbers are correct and actually justify the conclusion that evolution is false. Yockey, I believe supported evolution.

    Before DNA testing technology came on the scene, evolutionists asserted that the human hominid directly evolved from the Neanderthal hominid

    Did they? Source please. Even if they did at some point, I think it’s now understood that Neanderthals and Humans evolved from a common ancestor, so this argument is irrelevant.

  5. Don’t bother arguing with such people. There’s no point in using logic to demonstrate truth to people who have no regard for either logic or truth.

  6. Their points are so fraught with error it would take a lifetime to undo their ignorance. They haven’t even done a cursory wikipedia glance to see that there are 64 codons, not 128… The reason there are 64 codons is because there are 4 possible bases at each of three different loci. Therefore, the calculation would be 4 to the third power = 64.

    The rest of the math this person proffers is now in serious question and the numbers that they generate are ridiculous. Evolution is actually mathematically proven. I suggest reading Sean Carroll’s awesome “The Making of the Fittest” to get a small introduction to just how mathematically sound the theory is.

    I’d also suggest brushing up on the self assembly of chemical systems and how powerfully natural selection influences the combinations that work. And, most importantly: EVOLUTION IS NOT RANDOM. FUCK ME, how many times does it have to be said??? (I do not know how Richard constantly holds his temper and remains polite when these know it all jerk offs spout the same tired bullshit)…

    So, the thing is, this moron actually makes the case FOR evolution because if it were random combination, perhaps there wouldn’t be enough time (again, I do not trust the math, especially since it sits on the initial error regarding the number of codons). However, with the influence of SELECTION, the randomness is taken out of the process and in a billion years of time and an earth’s volume of space PRESTO — LIFE!!!

  7. Oh and,

    1. The universal genetic code consist of an 8 by 16 matrix of amino acid elements. Each element is known as a codon. There are 128 (8 x 16) codon elements in the universal genetic code of life. Each codon element consists of 3 different kinds of amino acid molecules, known as coding triplets. Therefore, there are 7,680 required different amino acid molecular arrangements for life’s universal genetic codes. >>

    This is a heinous indictment of this persons education and indeed our educational system as a whole. I mean, basics, man, basics. There are 20 amino acids. There are 64 codons. Amino acids are assembled into proteins. The codons are triplets along a linear piece of mRNA. These codons interact with anti codons, present on tRNA’s. The assembly of the protein occurs in the cytoplasm on a little molecular machine called a ribosome. The genetic code is stashed away in the nucleus. I just can’t believe the stunning ignorance coupled with the unfounded bravado and confidence. This is hubris at it’s absolute worst.

    To be ignorant of one’s own ignorance is the plight of the truly ignorant.

    1. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible. Most evolutionist start in the middle of the puzzle. They begin with comparative anatomy, which is very impressive. They fail to start at the very beginning.

    So, they recognise there’s a beginning, a middle, and presumably, therefore, an end. I.E. they recognise life has changed. What more needs to be said?

  8. Regarding the calculated probability of abiogenesis, we need to keep in mind that there are numerous paths that could lead from inorganic material to a final living entity of some sort. Each individual path will have its own probability of success, To calculate the total probability of any life form arising from inorganic materials you have to calculate all these individual probabilities and then add them together.. Obviously, nobody has ever taken the time to come up with anything even close to the true probability.
    When someone tells you that the probability of life arising is too low to be realistic, they have already tacitly assumed a certain path and shown nothing more than the probability of that specific path succeeding. The number is totally worthless.

  9. In reply to #9 by Ulven:

    Regarding the calculated probability of abiogenesis, we need to keep in mind that there are numerous paths that could lead from inorganic material to a final living entity of some sort. Each individual path will have its own probability of success, To calculate the total probability of any life form…

    Wasn’t it Francis Crick who said something to the effect that “the probability of the cellular form arising by chance (in the timescale available) is about the same as a wind blowing through a junkyard spontaneously assembling a 747?” I recall reading something to that effect.

  10. TanyaK,
    I do not think it was Crick who said that (originally — he may have reiterated it). Nor, does it matter if a scientist loses their mind after contributing to our global body of knowledge. If you’d like to read some hilarious (scratch that– it is not funny at all) shit about a Noble laureate, research Crick’s partner James Watson and what he was up to after the discovery!! It is unbridled racism and sexism and insulting not just to women but all mankind. He links skin color to libido and takes creepy pictures of women in bikinis on beaches… He badmouths the Irish race for being ignorant. He is an ass.

    If you go to wikipedia and enter “Junkyard Tornado” you can read about the origins of said quote and you’ll also be able to read the reasons why it is pretty much a useless analogy and why 99.9% of biologists reject the argument. I would cut and paste it, but it is kind of specialized and a little long to include here. Read it (and google James Watson) and get back to me.

  11. In reply to #11 by crookedshoes:

    TanyaK,
    I do not think it was Crick who said that (originally — he may have reiterated it). Nor, does it matter if a scientist loses their mind after contributing to our global body of knowledge. If you’d like to read some hilarious (scratch that– it is not funny at all) shit about a Noble laureat…

    The reason I thought it was Crick was because the context of the material I was reading was in connection with his adoption of the theory of some form of extra-terrestrial Pangenesis to explain the origin of life. But it was something I read a few years ago while still at school.

  12. Mathematically I don’t exist because I am the result of a direct line; from me to my mother to her mother to her mother………………going right back to the first cell billions of years ago. Completely impossible. Clearly I am just a figment of my own imagination.

  13. He very well may have said it, even preached it…. But, it is attributed to Fred Hoyle… And is really just a rewording of the old “a million chimps typing on a million typewriters, how long before one typed a Shakespearian sonnet…” Anyway, if you have the time, check out the few items — James Watson is nuts!

  14. In reply to #14 by crookedshoes:

    He very well may have said it, even preached it…. But, it is attributed to Fred Hoyle… And is really just a rewording of the old “a million chimps typing on a million typewriters, how long before one typed a Shakespearian sonnet…” Anyway, if you have the time, check out the few items — Jame…

    Yes – I remember now it was a theory of Fred Hoyle – a rather ‘passing the buck’ theory, I think…and yes, James Watson did seem to go a little strange, lol.

    The quote has a point though – the cellular structure IS hard to account for in orthodox terms. It is a defined and complex dynamic structure which has the basic aspect that ‘nothing simpler works’ – without the entire thing, the whole context falls apart.

  15. … evolution is mathematically impossible …

    I can’t answer this without more information.

    How did inorganic material evolve into organic material? This is where the water is very muddy and this is where evolution must start.

    Biopoiesis (a.k.a. Abiogenesis) has nothing to do with the later stage of evolution by natural selection.

    The exact nature of the process by which life arises from simple organic compounds is not known – and probably not knowable. This is because evidence will be very difficult to find. For example, if biopoesis is happening on Earth now (which is highly probable) it is producing compounds that would be considered food my trillions of highly evolved organisms – and all the evidence is being eaten!

    The vast majority of – post Darwin – biologists, zoologists and related disciplines, regard Biopoesis as trivial.

    The possible sources for Biopoesis are so numerous that the scientific hypotheses about the origins of life may be divided into several categories. Now I’m bored of searching the Net. If you want a detailed answer, stop pretending to be clever on the Net – and in the process parading your ignorance for all to see. GO AND STUDY REAL BIOLOGY!

    The universal genetic code consist of an 8 by 16 matrix of amino acid elements [etc.]

    Really. Your point would be?

    … If the genetic code could change over time to yield a set of rules that allowed for the best possible error-minimization capacity …

    It did, get over it. Although I’m not convinced that 1 error in 50M replications is the best possible.

    … [Yockey] determined that natural selection would have to explore 1.4 x 10 raised to the 70th power (1.4 followed by 70 zeros, a very, very large number!) different genetic codes to discover the universal genetic code found in …

    Genetic codes do not explore. The organisms built by genetic codes do not explore genetic variations. The evolution of organisms is not explained by anthropomorphising their biology. Existing DNA sequences were not arrived at via every possible combination, they were arrived at via natural selection. How did Yockey define a “universal genetic code”?

    The maximum time available for it …

    What “it”? What is doing the organising? ‘Organising’ DNA sequences is not a part of the theory of evolution via natural selection. It can’t be, because of the element of natural selection.

    … to organize the universal code-of-life …

    No such thing.

    Natural Selection would have to evaluate …

    No it wouldn’t. The point of natural selection is that evaluation, organisation and exploration are not required. There is no intelligent agent in evolution via natural selection – that’s the whole point.

    Put simply, natural selection lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code.

    Put simply, you have just proved that both you and Hubert Yockey know nothing about evolution via natural selection.

    Other work places the genetic code’s origin coincidental with life’s start.

    Sources please.

    Operating within the evolutionary paradigm, a team headed by renowned origin-of-life researcher Manfred Eigen …

    Manfred Eigen, a German biophysical chemist who won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on measuring fast chemical reactions – not for studying origins of life. His life’s work revolves around the theory of self-organisation in chemistry, where it has often been taken as being synonymous with self-assembly. As such, self-organising is key to many hypotheses of biopoesis, and is also central to the the viability of biochemistry. These are not the same as studying “origin of life”.

    … estimated the age of the genetic code at 3.8 +/- 0.6 billion years. Current geochemical evidence places life’s first appearance on earth at 3.96 billion years ago.

    Given that both were estimates, and that the timescales involved are so enormous, that’s pretty much agreement then.

    … his timing means that the genetic code came out of nowhere …

    You need to go back one step, and re-read your own tripe.

    … without any time to search out the best option.

    No searching required. Learn the real process.

    That conclusion coincides precisely with the biblical genesis account of creations.

    How, I heard the chronology of the history of the world calculated from a literal reading of the Bible by James Ussher, the Archbishop of Armagh, is that the World is only 6,000 years old?

    Other major changes in the theory of evolution …

    I am not aware of any “major” changes to the theory of evolution – do tell.

    … were caused by the DNA genetic testing of fossil remains. It was determined by DNA testing that the human hominid did not evolve from the Neanderthal hominid.

    Why would the fact that humans are not descended from Neanderthals be pertinent to the theory of evolution via natural selection?

    Before DNA testing technology came on the scene, evolutionists asserted that the human hominid directly evolved from the Neanderthal hominid.

    New evidence creates new science. Nothing to see here.

    Because of new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in DNA molecular biology, many evolutionary theories will gradually fall by the wayside and be disproved as time passes

    That’s an interesting prediction. Given that you’ve just proved you don’t understand what evolution via natural selection is, I think I can be forgiven for not giving a Tinker’s cuss what you predict.

    Peace.

  16. The idea that any structure has to come into existence in one step is the “orthodox” stance. But, that is not how it works. There are latticeworks and buttresses and intermediates and “baby steps” along every development. There are failed attempts and extinctions, there are dead ends and changing situations….

    Anyway, there in this concept called exaptation that kind of blows the “irreducible complexity” argument out of the water. Richard does a spectacular job explaining the process using the development of eyes as his topic. You can go to you tube and watch if you enter “Richard Dawkins and evolution of eyes” (or something like that).

    Ken Miller uses one of the most clever props during the Dover Pennsylvania intelligent design trial and he steals the show! You can find that on Nova’s website… It is so great! I hope you enjoy it if you find a couple minutes to watch.

  17. In reply to #17 by crookedshoes:

    The idea that any structure has to come into existence in one step is the “orthodox” stance. But, that is not how it works. There are latticeworks and buttresses and intermediates and “baby steps” along every development. There are failed attempts and extinctions, there are dead ends and changing…

    Quote: “using the development of eyes as his topic.”

    Yes, I am aware of all this to quite a marked degree. The flaw in this is that an eye requires not only supporting skeletal, muscular and other structures, but also requires relevant interpretive and supportive nervous system structures to be present simultaneously to the degree of complexity of the structure – or it will simply not work, lol. Something serious is missing from the orthodox theory.

  18. I think I am not communicating effectively. The example of the eye is simply a vehicle to illustrate that this type of developmental pathway (baby steps etc…) is applicable to many if not all things that have developed. I wasn’t looking to widen the discussion, but rather to focus it. The thing is, ALL of the structures you are demanding to come into existence simultaneously — did NOT. Go back and watch Richard’s talk again, we are talking about EYES. Not human eyes. But eyes. From a single layer of photosensitive cells up through the single layer forming a cup and the developing neural pathways becoming more and more complex as the story unfolds.

    An eye does NOT require supporting skeletal elements; a HUMAN eye does. There are and have been tons of other eyes. It could be said that there is a continuum of “eyes” from the single cell that detects light to the magnificent insect eye…. You are focused on the human eye. The human eye did not evolve in one sitting. There is a pattern to the development. Research it. You will “see”! HAHAHA.

    Anyway, i am really enjoying our interaction, but I have a few things I have to go out and do, so see ya’ later!
    crooked

  19. This is in support of the very first comment by Neodarwinian.

    Much of the original writer’s (very poor) argument is based on the idea that “the odds against such a thing happening are so huge that it is effectively impossible”. An old argument. Now consider: you have 52 playing cards, which you shuffle and deal out a hand of 13 cards. What is the chance that you will deal a complete suit (all hearts, say)? It’s a little over 635 billion to one – very remote indeed. Now change the question – what were the odds that you would deal the particular 13 cards that you have in fact dealt? Answer – 635 billion to one too! But you dealt them! There they are on the table. The probability that it might happen is no longer miniscule but is actually 1.

    All this is telling us is that the odds that something might happen in the future are very different from the odds that it already has happened. Unthinking people regularly confuse the two.

    A second point is that evolution does not result in “the best”, only in something that is “adequate”. To reach the best, natural selection might need to test all possible permutations, but that’s not what happens (of course in reality, natural selection doesn’t test anything – things either survive or they don’t). There is no advance testing, and the measure is only one of sufficient adequacy to survive.

    Point 6 of the original writer’s article is true enough, I suppose. We now know conclusively that homo sapiens didn’t evolve from neanderthals. And? I suppose the point being made is that science is “always changing its mind” and that it might announce tomorrow that everything it said about evolution is wrong. No, that’s not very likely. Evolution, being a theory (in the scientific sense), is just too huge for that to happen (excepting fossil rabbits in the Cambrian!). What will continue to happen, though, is more refinement – daily, weekly, yearly – as we understand things even better.

    “Inorganic things turning into organic things” in an example (this is not evolution, of course, but abiogenisis, but let’s not be pedantic). Firstly, words like ‘inorganic’ and ‘organic’ are human constructs, not absolutes. We may yet understand a closer link between them. But already we have clues about this transition, silicon-based organisms and other things. Much of it has come from the chemistry of deep-sea vents. We know of stromatolites, which are as near as you can get to ‘living’ rocks that produce oxygen – there’s a large group of them off the west coast of Australia. Do we expect our understanding of this to diminish in the next few years?

    This doesn’t cover all the points, but I hope it helps.

  20. In reply to #19 by crookedshoes:

    I think I am not communicating effectively. The example of the eye is simply a vehicle to illustrate that this type of developmental pathway (baby steps etc…) is applicable to many if not all things that have developed. I wasn’t looking to widen the discussion, but rather to focus it. The thing…

    You are communicating perfectly – but if you wish I can communicate in 3 other languages, lol.

    The eye is a very closely balanced structure – you are aware, of course, that the eye in most organisms is set in a very complex muscular, or, in more complex organisms, a skeletal/muscular combination resulting in proper functional accommodation. Proper muscularity is required to focus the lens for instance, as well as to move the eyeball, and other functions – all essential to effective vision. Now, assuming some ‘random factor’ acts to adjust the structure of the eyeball, and somehow this also ‘coincidentally’ acts to adjust the entire structure of the retinal structure also, how does it adjust the skeletal and muscular controlling and supportive structures to allow for the change?

    I look forward to your explanation.

  21. The authors are welcome to propose an alternative scientific theory to evolution, just one that doesn’t involve superstition, gods, faith, or reliance on untestable claims. Put it up for peer review in recognised scientific journals. They don’t? oh well I guess its just rubbish then. Evolution (=changes in gene frequency over time), in contrast, is daily massively supported by evidence and science. Also the claimants misuse (abuse?) of statistical gobbledegook is yet another example of the wilful mendacity typical of religious anti-evolutionary arguments. If the religious confined themselves to always to being truthful then we could possibly respect the morality of their position. They hardly ever do and so they deserve our scorn. And of course, they would have nothing to say.

  22. In reply to #21 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #19 by crookedshoes:

    I think I am not communicating effectively. The example of the eye is simply a vehicle to illustrate that this type of developmental pathway (baby steps etc…) is applicable to many if not all things that have developed. I wasn’t looking to widen the discussion,…

    ” It ” doesn’t adjust anything.

    The blind watchmaker chooses among a population of variations that have a plethora of skeletal/muscle, retinal and every other variation here and natural selection confers reproductive success successively through the ages until the adaption is a very good fit against the immediate environment and spreads through the whole population.

    Simply put and devoid of the niggling details.

  23. In reply to #23 by Neodarwinian:

    In reply to #21 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #19 by crookedshoes:

    I think I am not communicating effectively. The example of the eye is simply a vehicle to illustrate that this type of developmental pathway (baby steps etc…) is applicable to many if not all things that have developed. I wasn’t looki…

    You do realise, I hope, that nothing can function out of context? All systems are co-operative, so all require relevant timely adjustment.

  24. Others have already pointed out the utterly ignorant confused stuff in some of these supposed points, so I will deal with this one:-

    @2. How did inorganic material evolve into organic material? This is where the water is very muddy and this is where evolution must start.

    This is very unclear. First of all organic molecules are generated from their constituent atoms in space, in nebulae. The nebulae come from exploding stars and interact with background radiation.

    Some of this organic matter would fall to Earth as part of the Solar System accretion process, some would be generated by solar radiation in the atmosphere, in the seas, and by volcanic action in deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

    I have probably lost the evolution denying pseudo-scientists who concocted the OP already. (Accretion of solar systems from nebulae, planetary formation, plate tectonics, and organic chemistry, are not usually among of their more studied subjects)

    Abiogenesis then happened – probably in some primordial sea, somewhere in thousands of square miles of sea-floor, sometime during a few million years, – on the early Earth.

    The Origin of Life – Abiogenesis by Dr. Jack Szostak – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J1XWtezOTvY

    This has been CONFIRMED in Dr. Jack Szostak’s LAB. 2009 Nobel Laurette in medicine for his work on telomerase.

    It’s been 55 years since the Miller-Urey Experiment, and science has made enormous progress on solving the origin of life. This video summarizes one of the best leading models. Yes there are others. Science may never know exactly how life DID start, but we will know many ways how life COULD start. Don’t be fooled by creationist arguments as even a minimal understanding of biology and chemistry is enough to realize they have no clue what they are talking about.

    Note on how competition works. Water will flow across a membrane to try to equalize the ion concentration. If there is a lot of polymer in a vesicle it will be surrounded by many ions, thus causing water to flow into the vesicle, increasing the internal pressure and stretching the membrane. Fatty acids are in equilibrium between the vesicle and solution. If 2 vesicles are near one another they will gradually swap fatty acids. If one membrane is under tension, the fatty acid “on rate” will be greater than the “off rate” (move to a lower energy state by relaxing the pressure). It will suck up fatty acids from solution. The other vesicle will still give them off, but they will disappear (sucked up by neighbor) and not return. Therefore, the vesicle with high internal pressure will grow and the neighbor will shrink.

    This sort of explanation is usually lost on people who dredge their “imponderable-science-cannot-answer” questions, from creationist evolution-denial websites.
    They did not know that their questions are confused rubbish written by scientific illiterates, so when they are given detailed correct answers, they will either fail to understand, wilfully refuse to understand, or simply be too ignorant to know what is being talked about!

    Anyway most will try to dispute it or dismiss it, with shambolic mental contortions of shifting semantics, or simple incredulous denial, in line with their simplistic indoctrinated preconceptions. – (God-did-it-by-mysterious-magic.)

  25. In reply to #18 by TanyaK:

    The flaw in this is that an eye requires not only supporting skeletal, muscular and other structures, but also requires relevant interpretive and supportive nervous system structures to be present simultaneously to the degree of complexity of the structure – or it will simply not work, lol. Something serious is missing from the orthodox theory.

    Nothing missing from the evolutionary theory of eyes. Study The Evolution of the Mollusc Eye. Present day Molluscs show a whole range of development stages of their eyes.

    Many eyes and types of eyes have evolved during millions of years in many sorts of animals.

  26. In reply to #24 by TanyaK:
    “nothing can function out of context? ”
    Your argument is of irreducible complexity.
    It has been shown, by richard in particular how eyes can evolve from simple light sensing cells becoming more complex over time to the variety we see today. You are obviously ignorant of these explanations. I suggest you read about evolution and in particular do a search on eye Evolution. You will ‘see’ that all the complexity can be easily explained through evolution.

  27. In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #18 by TanyaK:

    The flaw in this is that an eye requires not only supporting skeletal, muscular and other structures, but also requires relevant interpretive and supportive nervous system structures to be present simultaneously to the degree of complexity of the structure – or it will si…

    Just explain my points Alan. I know the rest ad nauseam.

  28. In reply to #10 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #9 by Ulven:

    Regarding the calculated probability of abiogenesis, we need to keep in mind that there are numerous paths that could lead from inorganic material to a final living entity of some sort. Each individual path will have its own probability of success, To calculate the total pr…

    I’m not concerned about what Crick said. It is a foolish statement whomever it came from. My point was simply this: in order to evaluate the probability of abiogenesis, you actually have to consider every conceivable pathway leading from inorganic material to something that could be defined as life. To conclude that abiogenesis is too unlikely to have occured you have to demonstrate that not a single one of these conceivable pathways has a significant probability. If you believe Crick has done that, or Hoyle has done that, then that’sfine by me.

  29. In reply to #29 by Ulven:

    In reply to #10 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #9 by Ulven:

    Regarding the calculated probability of abiogenesis, we need to keep in mind that there are numerous paths that could lead from inorganic material to a final living entity of some sort. Each individual path will have its own probability of succes…

    [Removed by moderator to bring within Terms of Use.]

    The important point is that the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure, acting in concert with other similar structures, is an unlikely scenario in the extreme. I wouldn’t bet on it at the bookie’s.

  30. In reply to #28 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #26 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #18 by TanyaK:

    The flaw in this is that an eye requires not only supporting skeletal, muscular and other structures, but also requires relevant interpretive and supportive nervous system structures to be present simultaneously to the degree of comple…

    At the risk of repeating something you’ve already heard ad nauseum, the original “eye-like” structure was not part of a complex organism. It was part of a simple organism that merely had the ability to sense the presence of light vs non-light. This ability enabled the organism to more in a direction either towards or away from the light source, thus giving it an advantage in evolutionary terms.

  31. I find this funny. Evolution and Abiogenesis is highly improbable… Compared to what exactly?

  32. Uh Oh,
    It is happening. The questions that have been answered and answered with support and laid out logically are clearly lost on you and now you are going to do that thing where you assert your intelligence and start correcting people’s grammar.

    So you are tri lingual? Great that means you don’t understand evolution in three different languages.

    Next you’ll tell me that I need anger management and then that you do not like it when I use profanity to describe the utter ridiculousness of the irreducible complexity stance. It is bullshit, bullocks, conneries There that’s three languages.

    Actually listen to and read and watch the excellent resources that have been laid out here and THEN make your mind up. You are a smart person, you will get it, I promise. Do not give up, as the world becomes ultra interesting once you have the correct paradigm to observe it through. Keep reading and thinking!

    BTW, we are all smart here. Or at least we all treat one another like we are all smart, and I think you are smart, no need to drop hints.

    In reply to #18 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #17 by crookedshoes:

    The idea that any structure has to come into existence in one step is the “orthodox” stance. But, that is not how it works. There are latticeworks and buttresses and intermediates and “baby steps” along every development. There are failed attempts and extinctions…

  33. In reply to #24 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #23 by Neodarwinian:

    In reply to #21 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #19 by crookedshoes:

    I think I am not communicating effectively. The example of the eye is simply a vehicle to illustrate that this type of developmental pathway (baby steps etc…) is applicable to many if not all things th…

    That is why natural selection works on the individual so the population evolves.

    ” You do realise, I hope, that nothing can function out of context? All systems are co-operative, so all require relevant timely adjustment.”

    I realize that you do not know what I am talking about. ” Adjustments?!?! ” Nothing is adjusted, except by the action of natural selection on variations in populations of individuals which is, of course, heritable. The context is the immediate environment, which IS natural selection. All systems are more than cooperative they are represented innumerable times in different degrees of reproductive selectivity in myriad individuals of the population. This is the ” adjustment. “

    You wouldn’t be an engineer, would you?

  34. In reply to #30 by TanyaK:

    “the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure”
    Who says the first replicating organism was a complex and unified structure?
    As far as I know it’s only creationists that claim that!

  35. Who said we evolved from Neanderthals? Neanderthals were around at the same time as ‘we’ were. Anatomically modern humans were fully evolved at that time. You might as well say that we evolved from chimpanzees.

  36. It is wrong, because it implies that evolution has to try all of the combinations to end up where we are today. Evolution, at any step, has to try only a comparative few mutations, to come up with one that is of advantage, (given that an advantage is to be had). At each step the same applies.

    On the PowerBall example, the odds against a win are huge, yet one could be a winner on the FIRST try.

  37. A creationist friend of mine claims that evolution simply can’t be true because the genetic code is finite and mutations never add anything to it. For this reason, he argues, increasing complexity cannot be generated through the process of the evolving code. I’d appreciate a response to this argument which I suspect is biologically naive.
    Ta

  38. Hi,

    I’m not an expert but here are my thoughts:

    1, 3, 4 all seem to be probability arguments. These usually completely misunderstood the process of natural selection and invent numbers based on some idea of “if I throw atoms together at random it will never be a human”.

    2 is abiogensis not evolution. We have some good theories but nothing definitive yet.

    5 “That conclusion coincides precisely with the biblical genesis account of creations. ” Precisely ? Well except for the fact that 6000 years doesn’t equal 3.8 billion years.

    6 Yes as science gathers new evidence it updates it’s theories. But that is very unlikely to mean an change to the “theory of evolution as natural selection”. This is the disadvantage of science. If you base everything on an old book you need have to update your theories you can just go on being confidently wrong for ever.

    Michael

  39. Hey,
    First, the genetic code has four bases arranged in 64 different three nucleotide codons. It, however, is not finite. The number of iterations of different possibilities of one of four bases at any of 3 billion loci (and that’s just humans). The number of bases in a genome varies from the low of a symbiotic bacterium called Carsonella ruddii, which lives off sap-feeding insects, has taken the record for smallest genome with just 159,662 ‘letters’ (or base pairs) of DNA and 182 protein-coding genes, to a high of a slow growing plant boasts more than 150 billion base pairs, over 50 times the number in humans. The estimates of total number of species runs from about 10 million to about 100 million (with the lower being more often cited). Also bear in mind that every chloroplast and mitochondria has their own genes as well. Is this number infinity? No, but it certainly behaves like a limit as it approaches infinity.

    Second, there are several ways that mutations can add to the genome. Tell your friend to read about transposons. they are mobile genetic elements that have the capacity to duplicate themselves and cut and paste their duplicates all throughout a genome. Human beings have an interesting transposon called the mariner whose explosion in copy number seems to coincide with our becoming “human”. Really cool stuff.

    Entire chromosomes can be present in extra copy numbers. Through a process deemed non-disjunction, where a pair of sister chromatids or a homologous pair of chromosomes fail to separate during meiosis. Arms of chromosomes can be stuck together and even stuck together in an upside down orientation — called inversion.

    More mundane examples include frame shift mutations which occur when an extra base is inserted — Viruses insert themselves into a genome during infection and some set up in the genome forever. It turns out that the human genome contains about 100,000 fragments of endogenous retroviruses, making up about eight percent of all our DNA.

    In bacteria, horizontal transfer of genes can add to a genomes bulk. I just finished a lab with a group of high school kids where we transformed E. coli and inserted a plasmid into the bacteria that caused it to glow in the dark!!! This occurs in natural populations of bacteria.

    Also, telomerase adds bases to the ends of each chromosome during the mitotic process.

    By no means is this an exhaustive list. It is simply off the top of my head in response to your request.

    Oh, and, tell your friend that he is wrong.

    In reply to #38 by —
    :email: !binary |-
    am9uYXRoYW4ubmV3dG9uQHZ1dy5hYy5ueg==
    :username: !binary |-
    VGFodW5h:

    A creationist friend of mine claims that evolution simply can’t be true because the genetic code is finite and mutations never add anything to it. For this reason, he argues, increasing complexity cannot be generated through the process of the evolving code. I’d appreciate a response to this argumen…

  40. I don’t know why people continue to argue with creationists. I mean, the best they have ever come up with is the crocoduck, and Ray Comfort’s assertion that the banana is proof of ‘God’ because it fits perfectly into the human hand. All good for comedic value only, but never for anything that remotely resembles reasoned debate.

  41. the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure, acting in concert with other similar structures, is an unlikely scenario in the extreme. I wouldn’t bet on it at the bookie’s.

    No, me neither. That would be daft, next you’ll be suggesting something “outside” of the universe was able to knock it all together in under a week.

    Ignoring deliberate antagonism, the bit about evolution-by-natural-selection that many folks find hard to swallow seems to be this: the sheer number of steps. The process is an ongoing cycle of Copy-Compete-Repeat. The copies are imperfect, and they can’t all make it to the next round. That’s all.

    All the irreducible complexity arguments rely on a person’s inability to grasp just how many rounds have been played, and how much complexity this number of rounds can build. I think at the root of it is a failure to comprehend Deep Time.

  42. The odds against me winning the lottery in the UK are about 14,000,000 to one. But I could still buy one ticket this morning and be a millionaire this evening.

    There are about a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, one of about a hundred billion galaxies. For all I know, only our planet won the lottery.

    There’s no rigid formula which can be reduced to “therefore it has to take this long”. It might take six seconds. It might never happen at all. Or anywhere in between.

  43. In reply to #28 by TanyaK:

    Just explain my points Alan. I know the rest ad nauseam.

    I just did! I gave you a link @26 which had diagrams explaining the whole process as illustrated in modern Molluscs.

    @30 – The important point is that the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure, acting in concert with other similar structures, is an unlikely scenario in the extreme. I wouldn’t bet on it at the bookie’s.

    There are no “spontaneous ‘arrivals’ of complex and unified structures”, in abiogenesis or evolution, everything happens one step at a time. Abiogenesis was explained very clearly by a leading expert in the video I linked @25.

  44. In reply to #38 by —
    :email: !binary |-
    am9uYXRoYW4ubmV3dG9uQHZ1dy5hYy5ueg==
    :username: !binary |-
    VGFodW5h:

    A creationist friend of mine claims that evolution simply can’t be true because the genetic code is finite and mutations never add anything to it. For this reason, he argues, increasing complexity cannot be generated through the process of the evolving code. I’d appreciate a response to this argument which I suspect is biologically naive. Ta

    Crookedshoes has given the specialist answer on genetics, on which the average creationist will have no idea, so I will give the simple answer that even they should be able to understand.

    Genetic code is not finite. Understanding this is easily illustrated by Polyploids where the whole genetic code has been duplicated or included as multiple copies. (octaploids have 8) This instantly increases the variety of genes when the parent or progeny is a hybrid.

    The huge range of chromosome numbers in different organisms, – (at present ranging from 2 to 1260) illustrates the ridiculous nature of the claim that they are fixed or finite.

    Mutations change some of the genes and the order of the genes, as gene replication is not perfect. (There is some “misprinting” of copies) Where these happen to make viable changes, natural selection (in a competitive environment) can then increase the number of individuals and offspring with the advantageous genes. Failed changes are disabilities or fatal, so they die out. Further mutation and selection is on-going as it has been for millions of years.

  45. In reply to #46 by Alan4discussion:

    Thanks Alan4discussion. Really helpful. Your answer complements Crookedshoe’s nicely. I have passed both on to my friend who incidentally, is a Christian evangelist, and so is spreading his biological ignorance to the biologically ignorant and in so doing giving them all a false sense of intellectually defensible faith. Sad.

  46. In reply to #27 by Mbee:

    In reply to #24 by TanyaK:
    “nothing can function out of context? ”
    Your argument is of irreducible complexity.
    It has been shown, by richard in particular how eyes can evolve from simple light sensing cells becoming more complex over time to the variety we see today. You are obviously ignorant of th…

    I am not ignorant of them – I find them inadequate.

    It is not the presence of complexity which is the issue – it is the synchronously co-operative orchestration observed in all living systems which is the fly in the ointment.

  47. Do we really have someone with the username:-

    :email: !binary |- am9uYXRoYW4ubmV3dG9uQHZ1dy5hYy5ueg== :username: !binary |- VGFodW5h:

    who posted #47, or is it a bug?

    Can someone please flag this message so the mods, and then the maintenance programmers see this. Ta.

  48. It’s a bug affecting new accounts created over the last couple of days. The technical team are working on it.

    The mods

    In reply to #49 by God fearing Atheist:

    Do we really have someone with the username:-

    :email: !binary |- am9uYXRoYW4ubmV3dG9uQHZ1dy5hYy5ueg== :username: !binary |- VGFodW5h:

    who posted #47, or is it a bug?

    Can someone please flag this message so the mods, and then the maintenance programmers see this. Ta.

  49. In reply to #45 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #28 by TanyaK:

    Just explain my points Alan. I know the rest ad nauseam.

    I just did! I gave you a link @26 which had diagrams explaining the whole process as illustrated in modern Molluscs.

    @30 – The important point is that the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure,…

    Alan – half a cell does not work, lol. I am amazed I need to point this out. This was the point Crick was addressing. Take transcription, for instance – without the entire set of structures and so on it is not going to happen – at least, it is not going to happen accurately. Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart. The lack of a proper explanation for such orchestration in biology is a yawning explanatory gap.

  50. In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Alan – half a cell does not work, lol. I am amazed I need to point this out. This was the point Crick was addressing. Take transcription, for instance – without the entire set of structures and so on it is not going to happen – at least, it is not going to happen accurately. Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart. The lack of a proper explanation for such orchestration in biology is a yawning explanatory gap.

    More than half of modern civilisation doesn’t work either. In order to put a shelf up I need a drill. The drill requires machine tools to make. The machine tools require machine tools to make. The steel for the drill, machine tools, and machine tool to make the machine tools come from a blast furnace. The blast furnace requires steel from another blast furnace … and so on ad-infinitum. However, most of us know it all came from a few guys banging pieces of flint with rocks 100,000 years ago. Its called “bootstrapping”.

  51. This illustrtes the clueless invented strawman arguments.

    OP- @4. The problem that natural selection must solve is summed up very well by biophysicist, Hubert Yockey. The question addressed in his book, Information Theory and Molecular Biology, is: “If the genetic code could change over time to yield a set of rules that allowed for the best possible error-minimization capacity,

    Minimisation of copying error is not a feature of evolution. If the copying errors were reduced to zero, the variation generated by copying mutations would be eliminated, so the ability to diversify and adapt would be disabled – probably leading to extinction. Balanced levels of copying-errors would match diversification to environmental change.

    then is there enough time for this process to occur?”

    Does it matter? It is not happening anyway!

    He determined that natural selection would have to explore 1.4 x 10 raised to the 70th power (1.4 followed by 70 zeros, a very, very large number!) different genetic codes to discover the universal genetic code found in nature. The maximum time available for it to organize the universal code-of-life was estimated 6.3 x 10 raised to the 15th power seconds or 200 million years.

    This is comical numerical gibberish – even though abiogenesis had millions of years in which to arise! The current theory of life forming near undersea volcanic hydrothermal vents, has current vents situated along thousands of miles of mid-ocean ridges, with past opportunities spanning the whole globe for millions of years. The early Earth was much more volcanically active than at the present time, so potential possible sites run into multi-billions, even without considering shore pools.

    Natural Selection would have to evaluate roughly 10 raised to the 55th power, codes-per-second to find the one that’s universal.

    Another comical strawman. Natural selection never “looked for a universal code”. It found one simple replication code, and mutations, and evolution, have been adding bits of complexity ever since, with natural selection picking out diverse bits which work while the environment and competition from the successful organisms eliminates those which fail or don’t compete.

    Put simply, natural selection lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code.

    Put simply, this creationist lacks the scientific skills to understand even the basics of planetary development, abiogenesis or evolution, and has absolutely no idea what he is looking for or talking about!

  52. In reply to #52 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

  53. In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #52 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Whoosh, there goes the point, right over your head.

  54. In reply to #55 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #52 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Whoosh, there goes the point, right over your head.

    Hardly – I am nearly 6′ tall.

    Any theory of life requires to provide a comprehensive explanation for three primary points:

    1 – The origin of life.
    2 – The constantly observed sustained and directed synchronously co-operative orchestration of matter in both the development and maintenance of living systems.
    3 – the derivation of conscious awareness of information.

    Thus, Biology currently has no formal theory of life, it has identified an effect – evolution.

    It is a red herring to waste time attacking creationism, because the effect of evolution is a fact. No doubt there. But, as for the rest, the hype far exceeds the substance.

  55. Hey,
    You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mistakes. But, you are making a mistake and until you see it and have the “aha” moment, you will continue to run afoul of the beauty of Darwin’s wonderful explanation.

    I admire you for listening and staying with us. Learning is painful and intrusive and I think you have both the capacity and the opportunity to really have an epiphany here. You are one concept away from the cartoon light bulb appearing above your head.

    Here is the point of contention:
    Your demands of evolution are:

    1 – The origin of life. 2 – The constantly observed sustained and directed synchronously co-operative orchestration of matter in both the development and maintenance of living systems. 3 – the derivation of conscious awareness of information.>>

    However, as we have repeatedly (perhaps nebulously) tried to highlight, evolution does not make these claims. About this concept of directed synchronicity and co-operative orchestration of matter… It is a terribly impressive phrase. It is a bunch of words that you obviously are pleased with and will have trouble distancing yourself from. But it is wrong. This is NOT what evolution claims or requires.

    So, you are demanding of the theory something that it does not predict and then criticizing the theory for falling short of your own self imposed need. I love that you have the understanding of the “effect of evolution” being undeniable. Now, put the last couple puzzle pieces in place — get rid of this one fundamental misconception (by reading and viewing the suggestions throughout this thread and then going out and researching using your own curiosity). If/when you have your light bulb moment — please start your own discussion and I’ll be sure to be there cheering for you.

    If you haven’t deduced, I am a teacher and got into the business a long time ago. The most rewarding part of my day is seeing that light bulb appear in student’s heads. I know you aren’t a student of mine, however, your light bulb is imminent; I just know it!

    In reply to #56 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #55 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #52 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Whoosh, there goes the point, right over your head.

    Hardly – I am nearly 6′ tall.

    Any theory of life req…

  56. In reply to #57 by crookedshoes:

    Hey,
    You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mistakes. But, you are making a mistake and until you see it and have the…

    Lol. I am making no mistake – and my light bulb is already plugged in. 🙂 I’m not being facetious in stating the points above – the position I just outlined is actually held by many of the more sane biologists of my aquaintance.

    I am afraid that many modern students of my age group will have more access to information than previous generations, and will have more perspective as a result. Many of my contemporaries hold the view I gave above in some form.

    This site promotes ‘Critical Thinking’ – I think you will find that Critical Thinking will be directed more often towards Biology. We have less reverence for the status quo and intellectual authority than our predecessors may have had. Traditional ‘pat’ answers will no longer ‘cut the mustard’, as we say.

  57. In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it? It would probably work a lot better if it had been designed from the top down.

    Ecosystems also seem to work amazingly well, almost like cells. Did God design them too?

  58. In reply to #59 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Explains a lot, doesn’t it? It would probably work a lot better if it had been designed from the top down.

    Quote by Peter Grant: ” Did God design them too?”

    God?

  59. In reply to #60 by TanyaK:

    God?

    The Great Green Arkeseizure then, or whatever you posit as responsible for creation.

  60. In reply to #61 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #60 by TanyaK:

    God?

    The Great Green Arkeseizure then, or whatever you posit as responsible for creation.

    I am not religious and am not a Creationist.

    [Edited to bring in line with Terms of Use – moderator]

  61. In reply to #61 by Peter Grant:

    I am not religious and am not a Creationist.

    Is that sufficiently clear, or should I be using simpler words?

    Preferably, just fewer. If you don’t have some alternative hypothesis, what are you actually talking about?

  62. In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Just explain my points Alan. I know the rest ad nauseam.

    I just did! I gave you a link @26 which had diagrams explaining the whole process as illustrated in modern Molluscs.

    @30 – The important point is that the spontaneous ‘arrival’ of a complex and unified structure,…

    [email protected] – There are no “spontaneous ‘arrivals’ of complex and unified structures”, in abiogenesis or evolution, everything happens one step at a time. Abiogenesis was explained very clearly by a leading expert in the video I linked @25.

    Alan – half a cell does not work, lol. I am amazed I need to point this out.

    Obviously you did not watch the video or learned nothing from it.

    Take transcription, for instance – without the entire set of structures and so on it is not going to happen – at least, it is not going to happen accurately. Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart.

    Modern DNA and transcription are far removed down the time-line from abiogenesis. There is a whole RNA World in between.

    I am amazed I need to point this out.

    You don’t need to point it out to me. I have seen the ignorant pseudo-science “half a wing” etc ID arguments from those illiterate in evolutionary biology many times before.

    I see you have no comment on the evolution of the eye from light sensitive patch, to octopus type camera eyes, on the link I provided. It is a good illustration both of the silly nature of ID claims and of the progressive nature of evolutionary development over millions of years.

    Human eyes and octopus eyes did not evolve in humans and in the modern octopus. They started to evolve millions of years ago in distant ancestors.

    Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart. The lack of a proper explanation for such orchestration in biology is a yawning explanatory gap.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128251.300-first-life-the-search-for-the-first-replicator.html#.Ubyjd9ih7PU

    As you will see from the above New scientist article, the yarning gap is in your understanding of the process and the timeline of evolution http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17453-timeline-the-evolution-of-life.html#.Ubyh59ih7PU .

    Evolutionary changes are made in tiny increments, one step at a time, with very slight advantages gradually being selected for. (Such as fish evolving legs and becoming amphibians) Any “imbalance” will initially be tiny and may exist for many generations before selection for other features catch up.

    @48 – I am not ignorant of them – I find them inadequate.

    This is incorrect. Your comments indicate both lack of understanding and your inadequate study of the biology. You have made no indication of having any understanding of the development of the eye or of Dr Szostak’s explanation of how abiogenesis works, but have jumped to transcription, missing out all the intermediate developments, Biology is a very large subject area where a focus on detail is required.

  63. In reply to #64 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #61 by Peter Grant:

    I am not religious and am not a Creationist.

    Is that sufficiently clear, or should I be using simpler words?

    Preferably, just fewer. If you don’t have some alternative hypothesis, what are you actually talking about?

    I thought my point was clear enough. As Biology currently cannot explain the three required points I outlined, then I am afraid that its authority is a little undershod. Only by concentrating on addressing these primary issues, rather than wasting effort attacking Creationism, which is invalid anyway as it ignores the basic timescales involved, will science advance more quickly and logically – and maintain respect.

  64. In reply to #66 by TanyaK:

    As Biology currently cannot explain the three required points I outlined, then I am afraid that its authority is a little undershod.

    Not every question that can be asked is necessarily meaningful. It is precisely because biologists devote so much of their time to real science, instead attacking creationism, that you even think these questions make sense.

  65. In reply to #67 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #66 by TanyaK:

    As Biology currently cannot explain the three required points I outlined, then I am afraid that its authority is a little undershod.

    Not every question that can be asked is necessarily meaningful. It is precisely because biologists devote so much of their time to real sc…

    Are you stating that the three requirements I gave for a valid Theory Of Life are not actually correct?

  66. In reply to #68 by TanyaK:

    Are you stating that the three requirements I gave for a valid Theory Of Life are not actually correct?

    Probably not, I really don’t know. Are viruses alive? How about computer viruses?

  67. In reply to #69 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #68 by TanyaK:

    Are you stating that the three requirements I gave for a valid Theory Of Life are not actually correct?

    Probably not, I really don’t know. Are viruses alive? How about computer viruses?

    Viruses certainly display targeted attributes,in terms of having a degree of specific function about them. Computer viruses are, of course, made by us and are informational constructs. The parallel may have some merit – clearly information management is at work somehow within living systems. Recently I saw an article concerning the discovery of spontaneous Quantum Recoherence in plant chlorophyll which may have a bearing on living systems’ management.

  68. In reply to #70 by TanyaK:

    Oh, so life is quantum then. Pity this doesn’t really help because everything else is quantum too.

  69. In reply to #56 by TanyaK:

    Any theory of life requires to provide a comprehensive explanation for three primary points:

    There is no all embracing “theory of life”, but there are many scientific papers on the subjects covered.

    1 – The origin of life.

    Abiogenesis – For this there are various models and hypotheses, with partial results coming from world leading geneticists.

    2 – The constantly observed sustained and directed synchronously co-operative orchestration of matter in both the development and maintenance of living systems.

    This is extensively documented in terms of the evolution of specific genera, species and subspecies, as well as in the the wider context of ecology and planetary science.

    3 – the derivation of conscious awareness of information.

    There is published work on the evolution of brains, sensory inputs to brains, nervous systems, and modern detailed work on neuropsychology.

    ( To co-evolution of eyes and brains is one example spread over millions of years).

    BTW: Beware of the ill-defined term “consciousness” which theologists love to misuse to insert woo into science.

    Thus, Biology currently has no formal theory of life, it has identified an effect – evolution.

    Evolution is so well documented for some organisms that entire genomes have been sequenced. Evolutionary changes over many generations have also been mapped.

    @66 – I thought my point was clear enough. As Biology currently cannot explain the three required points I outlined, then I am afraid that its authority is a little undershod.

    This is simply wrong being based on personal incredulity and a lack of researched understanding of the subjects!

    Biology can and does explain point 2 conclusively,
    with heavily evidenced partial answers for point 1.

    Point 3 is not sufficiently clearly defined to identify what is being asked.

    @54 – Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    Do you have a citation to support that claim. (Also – Is ant or termite civilisation a product of their purposeful direction?)

  70. In reply to #21 by TanyaK:

    Proper muscularity is required to focus the lens for instance, as well as to move the eyeball, and other functions – all essential to effective vision.

    The muscles working my lenses are just about knackered, yet my eyes are still valuable to me. My lifestyle is somewhat reduced by this so catching insects at night is no longer possible. But during the day when my pupils are little pinpricks the pin hole camera effect gives me back good vision and I can snack to my hearts content.

    All the bits do in one sense work together, but some vision is better than none. None swiveling eyes mean we turn our heads and bodies and betray our presence more readily. No iris control means we are stuck using them over a limited range of brightnesses. Image forming is better than just light from dark, but two none image forming light detectors can detect near field agents and some directions of movement. (Close your eyes and wave your hand first one way then the other.) See! (Sic).

    Each bit adds capability or extends our habitat.

    As for the visual cortex interpreting optical nerve fibre inputs …What we start out with is not functional except in the crudest of ways. Brain cells learn on the job and are wired by the act of visual stimulus.

    At every stage in evolutionary development our eyes match our habitat and lifestyle or perhaps rather restrict us to the same.

  71. In reply to #71 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #70 by TanyaK:

    Oh, so life is quantum then. Pity this doesn’t really help because everything else is quantum too.

    Just saying ‘life is quantum’ isn’t the point, lol – it is the specific nature of the evident co-operation and timing which needs to be addressed.

  72. In reply to #72 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #56 by TanyaK:

    “Biology can and does explain point 2 conclusively,
    with heavily evidenced partial answers for point 1.

    Point 3 is not sufficiently clearly defined to identify what is being asked.”

    Biology has not explained point 2, I’m afraid. Not even remotely. I am referring to the actual orchestrated performance within an organism, not about species behaviour. Point 1 – Life’s origins – has a number of quite problematic hypotheses and no consensus. As for my third requirement – an explanation of consciousness – That is the most problematic of all. Neuroscience and psychology have advanced not one metaphorical nanometre as far as an account of conscious awareness is concerned.

    I am not trying to ‘insert woo into science’ lol – quite the reverse actually.

  73. In reply to #75 by TanyaK:

    As for my third requirement – an explanation of consciousness

    Consciousness is subjective.

  74. In reply to #48 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #27 by Mbee:

    In reply to #24 by TanyaK:
    “nothing can function out of context? ”
    Your argument is of irreducible complexity.
    It has been shown, by richard in particular how eyes can evolve from simple light sensing cells becoming more complex over time to the variety we see today. You ar…

    It is not the presence of complexity which is the issue – it is the synchronously co-operative orchestration observed in all living systems which is the fly in the ointment.”

    Or, the fly in your eye!

    You error has been explained to you ad infinitum and still you will not see this error in your thinking. The basics elude you, obviously. You do not see that only populations evolve while individuals are selected. Until you see this your position is creationist. Sorry, one must be blunt here; you are being obstinate. .Regardless, I am through here.

  75. In reply to #48 by TanyaK:

    It is not the presence of complexity which is the issue – it is the synchronously co-operative orchestration observed in all living systems which is the fly in the ointment.

    It’s called mutualism.

  76. In reply to #78 by Neodarwinian:

    In reply to #48 by TanyaK:

    “Until you see this your position is creationist. Sorry, one must be blunt here; you are being obstinate.”

    May I be equally blunt – to presume that an individual who disagrees with you is ‘obstinate’ and ‘ignorant of the basics’ is, simply, Woo. My position is not Creationist – the concept that one must be a member of one extreme or the other and embrace everything within the context of the chosen one is an enormous failure of intelligence.

  77. In reply to #81 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #80 by TanyaK:

    Or, you could simply be confused.

    Or, more positively, open minded.

  78. In reply to #82 by TanyaK:

    Or, more positively, open minded.

    Perhaps, so open minded that your brain has fallen out?

  79. In reply to #83 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #82 by TanyaK:

    Or, more positively, open minded.

    Perhaps so open minded that your brain has fallen out?

    I was waiting for you to post that – lol. The alternative is a closed mind, which lets nothing in.

  80. In reply to #75 by TanyaK:

    @ Alan -“Biology can and does explain point 2 conclusively, with heavily evidenced partial answers for point 1.

    Biology has not explained point 2, I’m afraid. Not even remotely.

    What you are stating is that you have no understanding of how these evolutionary mechanisms work, despite the information being available in the scientific literature. Some of it even in basic textbooks.

    I am referring to the actual orchestrated performance within an organism, not about species behaviour.

    Your problem is that you do not understand that evolution works through natural selection acting on populations. – and wider ecology. – Not just individual organisms.

    “Tuning” of “orchestrated performance”, as you put it, is done by selection over many generations, from variation within species.

    This is not the normal terminology of biology, but could be taken as:- “matching the different organs and features of an organism, to optimise performance and survival of it and its offspring”. (In the context of its environment.)

    I explained some aspects of this to you on this earlier discussion:- http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/6/7/fossil-of-unusual-human-ancestor-discovered#comment-box-15 .. . .
    … . . and…. .
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/news-articles/2013/6/7/fossil-of-unusual-human-ancestor-discovered#comment-box-20

    Point 1 – Life’s origins – has a number of quite problematic hypotheses and no consensus.

    That makes no difference to the peer-reviewed experimental data which has already been confirmed multiple times.

    As for my third requirement – an explanation of consciousness – That is the most problematic of all. Neuroscience and psychology have advanced not one metaphorical nanometre as far as an account of conscious awareness is concerned.

    Perhaps you should read some of the research papers describing experimental work. If you did not understand the co-evolution of the eye and the brain, you have quite some way to go.

    I am not trying to ‘insert woo into science’ lol – quite the reverse actually.

    What you are doing is similar to woo arguments in that you present an argument from ignorance and incredulity. with unsupported assertions, contradicting well evidenced science.

    (_ The fallacy lies in the unstated major premise. If a state of affairs is impossible to imagine, it doesn’t follow that it is false; it may only mean that imagination is limited. _)

    Your lack of awareness of the science does not mean it does not exist.

  81. In reply to #84 by TanyaK:

    I was waiting for you to post that – lol. The alternative is a closed mind, which lets nothing in.

    No, there is a scientific method which allows us to remain open minded and keep hold of our brains. Skepticism plays a large part in this.

  82. In reply to #86 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #84 by TanyaK:

    I was waiting for you to post that – lol. The alternative is a closed mind, which lets nothing in.

    No, there is a scientific method which allows us to remain open minded and keep hold of our brains. Skepticism is a large part of this.

    Indeed – that is precisely my approach. We agree at last.

  83. Moderators’ message

    The aim of this site is civil, rational, honest and thoughtful discussion. Please remember this before posting.

    The mods

  84. In reply to #88 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #87 by TanyaK:

    Indeed – that is precisely my approach. We agree at last.

    Bullshit.

    Is that a technical term? Related to Woo, perhaps?

  85. It gave me a good laugh anyway haha.
    In reply to #49 by God fearing Atheist:

    Do we really have someone with the username:-

    :email: !binary |- am9uYXRoYW4ubmV3dG9uQHZ1dy5hYy5ueg== :username: !binary |- VGFodW5h:

    who posted #47, or is it a bug?

    Can someone please flag this message so the mods, and then the maintenance programmers see this. Ta.

  86. In reply to #57 by crookedshoes:

    Hey, You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mistakes. But, you are making a mistake and until you see it and have the “aha” moment, you will continue to run afoul of the beauty of Darwin’s wonderful explanation.

    TanyaK @58 – Lol. I am making no mistake – and my light bulb is already plugged in. 🙂 I’m not being facetious in stating the points above – the position I just outlined is actually held by many of the more sane biologists of my aquaintance.

    I am afraid that many modern students of my age group will have more access to information than previous generations, and will have more perspective as a result. Many of my contemporaries hold the view I gave above in some form.

    We have less reverence for the status quo and intellectual authority than our predecessors may have had. Traditional ‘pat’ answers will no longer ‘cut the mustard’, as we say.

    Ah well Crooks! That’s told all those research geneticists and evolutionary biologists with their peer reviewed studies!

    We have a new “scientific method”, “STUDENT OPINION CONSENSUS” – presenting an argument from (selective “sane?”) authority here!

    Do you think the students will be marking their own exam papers, or do think some of those professors and lecturers from “previous generations” will be involved?

    Perhaps the student consensus should publish and try for a Nobel Prize? Dr. Jack Szostak who explained abiogenesis on my link, has got his already!

  87. In reply to #87 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #86 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #84 by TanyaK:

    I was waiting for you to post that – lol. The alternative is a closed mind, which lets nothing in.

    No, there is a scientific method which allows us to remain open minded and keep hold of our brains. Skepticism is a large part of this.

    In…

    What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. You’re just saying stuff…and inserting the word “quantum” because its so mysterious and seems to be an all embracing term to cover anything unexplained.

  88. In reply to #93 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #57 by crookedshoes:

    Hey, You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mistakes. But, you are making a mistake a…

    “Do you think the students will be marking their own exam papers, or do think some of those professors and lecturers from “previous generations” will be involved?

    Perhaps the student consensus should publish and try for a Nobel Prize?”

    No Alan, but remember that many of us will be the scientists actually doing the work in a few years. Unlike skeptics and commentators, we will be having to tackle these issues.

    My dad has a useful way of looking at this sort of thing – “They are just shouting from the touchline babe – not playing the game” I shall concentrate on those who play the game.

  89. In reply to #94 by Nitya:

    In reply to #87 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #86 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #84 by TanyaK:

    “What you’re saying doesn’t make sense. You’re just saying stuff…and inserting the word “quantum” because its so mysterious and seems to be an all embracing term to cover anything unexplained.”

    Quite the contrary – I understand its relevance clearly.

  90. Sigh, While I truly respect your clear desire to think outside the box and even more so hope you get your chance to make a meaningful impact in whatever scientific endeavor you choose to pursue, “thinking outside the box” is necessary for progress and I think you are doing exactly that.

    However, progress in science requires that we “stand on the shoulders of giants” to reach higher than we could without their advances that they worked and studies and achieved. I wish you luck in your nobel pursuit of a huge paradigm changing discovery. I however am watching your hubris and real deficiency in fundamental biology and wonder if your prediction about your future will ever come to fruition.

    You are wrong. Simple as that. And, the advances you seek to contribute to require that you get the foundational skills correct.
    I just googled ” Quantum Recoherence in plant chlorophyll: and found that it is quantum decoherence” and well, that just about describes your entire approach to the information that has been proffered here.

    I also read page after page of relatively weird and strange “science” done by people who are blogging about shit they think up. We do research and prove things. Again, your “fuck the establishment” attitude is not lost on me and welcome here (of all places here is very accepting of this attitude) but, the things you are choosing to “buck” and refute are well understood and the facts have been capably laid out here. Be careful of the charisma of big word using blog producing assholes. Good luck.

    Again, if you follow through on watching or reading any of the stuff here (especially Alan4’s suggestions) please open a discussion so that we may speak again!
    Peace,
    Crooks out.
    In reply to #95 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #93 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #57 by crookedshoes:

    Hey, You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mist…

  91. In reply to #95 by TanyaK:

    • 57 by crookedshoes:
      Hey, You are making an unfounded claim that everyone on this thread is trying to point at and bring your (slight) error in thought to your attention. One of the very hardest things to do is recognize and internalize your own mistakes. But, you are making a mistake and until you see it and have the “aha” moment, you will continue to run afoul of the beauty of Darwin’s wonderful explanation.

    “Do you think the students will be marking their own exam papers, or do think some of those professors and lecturers from “previous generations” will be involved?

    Perhaps the student consensus should publish and try for a Nobel Prize?”

    No Alan, but remember that many of us will be the scientists actually doing the work in a few years.

    Not unless you learn the basic stuff that some of the more expert biologists have explained to you here first! Some of us (like crookedshoes) have been scientists doing this sort of work for a long time.

    Unlike skeptics and commentators, we will be having to tackle these issues.

    There are no jobs for people who don’t know where to start, repeat researching basic textbook stuff, or papers which have already been available for years!

    My dad has a useful way of looking at this sort of thing – “They are just shouting from the touchline babe – not playing the game” I shall concentrate on those who play the game.

    Perhaps you should take his advice, read the links and look at Jack Szostak’s video on abiogenesis, rather than “knowing it all”, in subject areas you have clearly not studied!

  92. In reply to #97 by crookedshoes:

    Sigh, While I truly respect your clear desire to think outside the box and even more so hope you get your chance to make a meaningful impact in whatever scientific endeavor you choose to pursue, “thinking outside the box” is necessary for progress and I think you are doing exactly that.

    However,…

    Try Googling again, using the search term ‘recoherence in plant chlorophyll’. I mean, actually try it, instead of just stating that you have – it provides the right results when I do it.

  93. I did google it and will do it again right now. Here is what comes up: a redirect and then a bunch of stuff that either is bullshit or so advanced that it is over my head. I approached reading it as if it were something I could learn from. Here is the redirect and the first three hits….

    Did you mean: decoherence in plant chlorophyll

    Search Results
    Is There A ‘Poised Realm’ Between the Quantum and Classical …
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/…/is_there_a_poised_realm_betwee.html‎
    Mar 3, 2010 – Chlorophyll is the molecule in plants that carries out photosynthesis. … is thought to suppress decohrence, or possible enable recoherence.
    You visited this page on 6/15/13.

    Chlorophyll – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorophyll‎
    Chlorophyll (also chlorophyl) is a green pigment found in cyanobacteria and the chloroplasts of algae and plants. Its name is derived from the Greek words …

    Chlorophyll | Causes of Color – Webexhibits
    http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/7A.html‎
    Green Plants. Chlorophyll is responsible for the lush green hues of many plants. … Green plants are green because they contain a pigment called chlorophyll.

    I am cutting your direct quote out and pasting it into the search engine. Also note that the first hit says “You visited this page on 6/15/13”. i always read up on things, especially when I have the opportunity to learn something.

    Why don’t you take a few minutes and follow your own advice.
    In reply to #99 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #97 by crookedshoes:

    Sigh, While I truly respect your clear desire to think outside the box and even more so hope you get your chance to make a meaningful impact in whatever scientific endeavor you choose to pursue, “thinking outside the box” is necessary for progress and I think you…

  94. BTW, after a while of digesting, I decided to go to google scholar. I figured that I may need to learn some cool new cutting edge stuff so here are the first three hits and the redirect:

    Did you mean: decoherence in plant chlorophyll

    nature.com [HTML]
    [HTML] The role of non-equilibrium vibrational structures in electronic coherence and recoherence in pigment-protein complexes
    AW Chin, J Prior, R Rosenbach… – Nature …, 2013 – usrexp-sandbox.nature.com
    … The role of non-equilibrium vibrational structures in electronic coherence and recoherence in
    pigment–protein complexes. … the unexpected observation of robust, long-lasting oscillatory features
    in two-dimensional spectra of PPCs extracted from bacteria, algae and higher plants. …
    Cited by 10 Related articles All 4 versions Cite
    journalofcosmology.com [PDF]

    [PDF] Is Your Gut Conscious? Is an Extraterrestrial?
    JV Post – journalofcosmology.com
    … Yet these experiments, carried out at 77K, but thought to apply to chlorophyll in plants at ambient
    temperature, show quantum coherence … More, they believe that the evolved antenna protein either
    suppresses decoherence or induces recoherence. No one knows at present.” …
    Related articles Cite More
    edge.org [HTML]

    [HTML] FIVE PROBLEMS IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND
    SA Kauffman – edge.org
    … mind is quantum coherent, but reversibly locally passing to decoherence and recoherence
    repeatedly. … of freedom are decohering, that they can be made to recohere to coherence …
    Reversibility of the coherent to decoherent-classical to recoherent quantum states are essential …
    Related articles All 2 versions Cite More

    journal of cosmology? For your Biology research? Google what PZ myers thinks of this “publication”.

    Could you explain this idea — the one about “recoherence in plant chlorophyll”? And do it in simple laymen’s terms. My interest is piqued.

  95. Evolution is just a theory? Well, so is gravity and I don’t see jumping out of buildings Gravity is a fact.

    Evolution while the data and evidence can not be rationally interpreted any other way , is not the same as Gravity.

  96. In reply to #99 by TanyaK:

    Try Googling again, using the search term ‘recoherence in plant chlorophyll’.

    Some stuff about the energy efficiency of biological photosynthesis and how understanding it may help with the development of better solar panels. Cool. Cutting edge stuff where we need it. Other hits led to some vague pseudoscience piggybacking on the terminology, or so it appeared at a brief glance. Can’t be helped, I suppose.

    What was the reason for drawing attention to that particular search?

    Was it something along the lines of “science doesn’t know everything”? Which is trivially true, and what makes it so cool, there’s always more to find out, and always that pesky peer-review thing to filter out the nonsense. Which Google doesn’t do. Well, maybe it does, if you know how to ask it right, but that wasn’t in the search term provided.

    Tanya, I think it’s probably nice to have you aboard, you’ve certainly rattled a few cages. Is there a particular point you’re trying to make, or are you just lobbing rocks into the pond? (Please excuse the mixed metaphors, can’t seem to keep them apart).

  97. In reply to #101 by crookedshoes:

    Journal of cosmology? For your Biology research? Google what PZ myers thinks of this “publication”.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/01/16/diatomsiiiiin-spaaaaaaaaaaace/
    You all know that the Journal of Cosmology is complete crap, right? In addition to some of the worst web design ever — it looks like a drunk clown puked up his fruit loops onto a grid of 1990s-style tables — the content is ridiculous, predictable, and credulous. Their big thing is seeing life in every space rock, or raining down from Mars, or drifting in vast clouds through the galaxy. I’ve criticized their absurd conclusions before, and jumped on the quality of their work, and in return…they photoshopped my face onto a picture of an obese woman in a negligee. Multiple times. That’s the kind of rigorous scientific thinking we’re dealing with here.

    Their latest is an article claiming to have found diatoms in a meteorite (pdf). It’s the same ol’, same ol’. They have taken electron micrographs of samples from the rock, and found things that they claim look like organisms, most of which don’t at all.

    But this time there’s a twist. They’ve got a picture of something that looks exactly like a diatom. A diatom that is identical to a natural, earthly species of freshwater diatom. Exactly like one. Now you or I, seeing that, would wonder why a space organism (or a Martian organism, or whatever) would evolve to look exactly like a species that evolved in a completely different environment, and how it could have converged in all its details on such remarkable similarity to a specific earthly species. Why, we might even suggest that it clearly looks like contamination. But no, not to the editors and authors at JoC (pronounced as you might expect): no, these are proof of diatoms in spaaaaaaace.

    In addition, Phil Plait explains that it probably isn’t even a meteorite — it doesn’t look like a carbonaceous chondrite, and it’s of highly dubious provenance.

    The regulars on this site will know we have discussed the possibilities of life forms in space on RDnet before.

    Could you explain this idea — the one about “recoherence in plant chlorophyll”? And do it in simple laymen’s terms. My interest is piqued.

    This could be interesting in the issue of basing views on the recognition of relevant, multiple, quality, academic sources of information, in the context of a wider understanding of the subject, – re. – my earlier speculation!

    Alan @93 – We have a new “scientific method”, “STUDENT OPINION CONSENSUS”

    I have anecdotal evidence that the study of peer-reviewed academic reference materials, attentive presence in lectures and use of libraries, is more effective than consulting student opinion in bars – in the opinion of numerous uni students doing re-sit exams.

  98. In reply to #103 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #99 by TanyaK:

    Try Googling again, using the search term ‘recoherence in plant chlorophyll’.

    “Tanya, I think it’s probably nice to have you aboard, you’ve certainly rattled a few cages. Is there a particular point you’re trying to make, or are you just lobbing rocks into the pond? (Please excuse the mixed metaphors, can’t seem to keep them apart).”

    Thanks – and don’t worry about mixed metaphors, they sometimes convey more than the normal variety – never failed Jim Hacker, lol. 🙂 I’m aware I’ve rattled a few cages, but I think it’s justified. No, I’m not just ‘throwing rocks into the pond’, I wouldn’t waste my time doing that, and yes I do have a point, which I shall put in a response to Crookedshoes’ post.

  99. In reply to #101 by crookedshoes:

    BTW, after a while of digesting, I decided to go to google scholar. I figured that I may need to learn some cool new cutting edge stuff so here are the first three hits and the redirect:

    Did you mean: decoherence in plant chlorophyll

    nature.com [HTML]
    [HTML] The role of non-equilibrium vibrationa…

    Yes – I always ignore redirection and just hit search anyway, lol. Search engines have a tendency to be a little pedantic and bossy.

    The nature.com article is indeed the one to which I was referring – and the reason I find it of note is that it seems, on the face of it, to have potentially removed an objection held by many people to such potential management. I’ll explain as briefly as I can.

    I have an interest in the ideas of people such as mathematician Roger Penrose and so on regarding both the nature of consciousness and the role of Quantum effects and states in living systems – as outlined in his excellent book Shadows Of The Mind, etc. I’ve also been looking into other material in this area related to Biology. One of the objections previously made, and it seemed valid to many people, was the idea that environmental decoherence would act to mask the sustained existence of a coherent quantum potential state in living systems (Penrose was focusing on the brain) and thus such influence was unlikely to be significant. Technically, decoherence does not eliminate a superposition state, it merely seems to act to mask the evidence for the state and thus provides an effective impression of collapse to a classical state, at least perceptually. Reversal of this process was held to be improbable under the conditions at hand. This experiment seems to imply that recoherence to a state of coherence occurs within living systems in certain contexts and seems to be able to sustain a balance for some length of time, and at normal temperatures and under normal biological conditions. That’s why it is interesting.

  100. In reply to #107 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #106 by TanyaK: Reality Check: Is the Brain a Quantum Device? Victor Stenger

    That was a nice article. The quantum stuff is total woo. Dawkins wrote a nice article about this a long time ago and its in The Devil’s Chaplain. I think its on the old site but I couldn’t find it with a quick search. Dawkins points out how every once in a while some new science will come along that is hard for even fairly science literate people to understand. Such science is a magnet for woo peddlers like Depak Chopra who lash on to it and since very few people can understand the details you can make all sorts of unsupported claims and say that quantum theory (or before that Chaos Theory) support it and its hard for people who aren’t experts in the field to see that its nonsense. And most experts in quantum physics have better things to do then show Depak Chopra for a charlatan. That’s a full time job.

    The only problem I had with that article you linked to is I thought it missed one of the major flaws in the Penrose argument. The argument is that the brain isn’t just an “algorithmic” computer. As if that is some controversial claim when in reality most AI researchers would respond by saying “of course its not and your point is?” The computational model that most closely resembles the brain are neural nets and they can process information without using the traditional sequential logic that your normal computer program does. No one who really knows AI thinks that the brain in that sense works like a program running Java or some other sequential programming language.

  101. In reply to #108 by Red Dog:

    Agreed, with everything you said. I started out majoring in AI, would have completed it if my scholarship hadn’t run out. Got into tech support instead. Sort of similar, I guess.

    Would also like to point out that many of the supposed advantages of quantum computing, decryption etc, are easily reproducible using the old analogue systems.

  102. In reply to #108 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #107 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #106 by TanyaK: Reality Check: Is the Brain a Quantum Device? Victor Stenger

    That was a nice article. The quantum stuff is total woo. Dawkins wrote a nice article about this a long time ago and its in The Devil’s Chaplain. I think its on the old site…

    “Dawkins points out how every once in a while some new science will come along that is hard for even fairly science literate people to understand.”

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it, not because it is particularly difficult. If one has a grasp of physics, the basic concepts of Quantum Theory are quite easy to understand – people often seek to avoid the direct approach to it, however, by seeking to ‘interpret’ it, and then they confuse the entire thing. Just approach it square on and it’s easy.

    It is not all ‘woo’ (I am sick of hearing that infantile term) and I haven’t even mentioned Depak Chopra, lol. I am interested in the potential for explaining the orchestration inherent in living systems, and the nature of information management in the nervous system – something has to be doing all this, so we need to start looking for it.

  103. In reply to #110 by TanyaK:

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it,

    Who doesn’t like it? I can’t recall ever reading anything by someone who said they “didn’t like” quantum theory.

    It is not all ‘woo’ (I am sick of hearing that infantile term)

    Sorry. I agree terms like that are just a cheap shot and a way to avoid real arguments. I should have said its pseudoscience.

    I am interested in the potential for explaining the orchestration inherent in living systems, and the nature of information management in the nervous system – something has to be doing all this, so we need to start looking for it.

    Why do you think there is something about Information Management in the nervous system that requires a quantum explanation? What can’t we explain via non-quantum effects that we can explain with quantum? I’ve never seen any evidence that biological systems can interpet quantum phenomena. And as I said in my original comment people like Penrose who should know better and who made some really important discoveries in neuroscience don’t take the trouble to understand basic AI when they make the kind of critiques that they do.

  104. In reply to #112 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #110 by TanyaK:

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it,

    Who doesn’t like it? I can’t recall ever reading anything by someone who said they “didn’t like” quantum theory.

    People react against the effects demonstrated within it with varying degrees of ‘tolerance’ lol, depending upon how much they have invested in an orthodox classical worldview. Such people then seek to attempt to minimise the significance of the implications of the theory and its experimental results by attempting to diminish its relevance to ‘reality’. One sees such examples all the time.

    How exactly is AI relevant? As far as I understand it, the major ‘boasts’ of AI have proved a failure so far. We have no ‘conscious robots’ lol – the only thing which provides awareness of the information in my laptop is me.

  105. Here is an interesting excerpt from a book by Jeff Hawkins called “On Intelligence”:

    ” From the dawn of the industrial revolution, people have viewed the brain as some sort of machine. They knew there weren’t gears and cogs in the head, but it was the best metaphor they had. Somehow information entered the brain and the brain-machine determined how the body should react. During the computer age, the brain has been viewed as a particular type of machine, the programmable computer. And as we saw in chapter 1, AI researchers have stuck with this view, arguing that their lack of progress is only due to how small and slow computers remain compared to the human brain. Today’s computers may be equivalent only to a cockroach brain, they say, but when we make bigger and faster computers they will be as intelligent as humans.

    There is a largely ignored problem with this brain-as-computer analogy. Neurons are quite slow compared to the transistors in a computer. A neuron collects inputs from its synapses, and combines these inputs together to decide when to output a spike to other neurons. A typical neuron can do this and reset itself in about five milliseconds (5 ms), or around two hundred times per second. This may seem fast, but a modern silicon-based computer can do one billion operations in a second. This means a basic computer operation is five million times faster than the basic operation in your brain! That is a very, very big difference. So how is it possible that a brain could be faster and more powerful than our fastest digital computers? “No problem,” say the brain-as-computer people. “The brain is a parallel computer. It has billions of cells all computing at the same time. This parallelism vastly multiplies the processing power of the biological brain.”

    I always felt this argument was a fallacy, and a simple thought experiment shows why. It is called the “one hundred–step rule.” A human can perform significant tasks in much less time than a second. For example, I could show you a photograph and ask you to determine if there is cat in the image. Your job would be to push a button if there is a cat, but not if you see a bear or a warthog or a turnip. This task is difficult or impossible for a computer to perform today, yet a human can do it reliably in half a second or less. But neurons are slow, so in that half a second, the information entering your brain can only traverse a chain one hundred neurons long. That is, the brain “computes” solutions to problems like this in one hundred steps or fewer, regardless of how many total neurons might be involved. From the time light enters your eye to the time you press the button, a chain no longer than one hundred neurons could be involved. A digital computer attempting to solve the same problem would take billions of steps. One hundred computer instructions are barely enough to move a single character on the computer’s display, let alone do something interesting.

    But if I have many millions of neurons working together, isn’t that like a parallel computer? Not really. Brains operate in parallel and parallel computers operate in parallel, but that’s the only thing they have in common. Parallel computers combine many fast computers to work on large problems such as computing tomorrow’s weather. To predict the weather you have to compute the physical conditions at many points on the planet. Each computer can work on a different location at the same time. But even though there may be hundreds or even thousands of computers working in parallel, the individual computers still need to perform billions or trillions of steps to accomplish their task. The largest conceivable parallel computer can’t do anything useful in one hundred steps, no matter how large or how fast.

    Here is an analogy. Suppose I ask you to carry one hundred stone blocks across a desert. You can carry one stone at a time and it takes a million steps to cross the desert. You figure this will take a long time to complete by yourself, so you recruit a hundred workers to do it in parallel. The task now goes a hundred times faster, but it still requires a minimum of a million steps to cross the desert. Hiring more workers— even a thousand workers— wouldn’t provide any additional gain. No matter how many workers you hire, the problem cannot be solved in less time than it takes to walk a million steps. The same is true for parallel computers. After a point, adding more processors doesn’t make a difference. A computer, no matter how many processors it might have and no matter how fast it runs, cannot “compute” the answer to difficult problems in one hundred steps.

    So how can a brain perform difficult tasks in one hundred steps that the largest parallel computer imaginable can’t solve in a million or a billion steps? The answer is the brain doesn’t “compute” the answers to problems; it retrieves the answers from memory. In essence, the answers were stored in memory a long time ago. It only takes a few steps to retrieve something from memory. Slow neurons are not only fast enough to do this, but they constitute the memory themselves. The entire cortex is a memory system. It isn’t a computer at all. “

    In reply to #108 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #107 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #106 by TanyaK: Reality Check: Is the Brain a Quantum Device? Victor Stenger

    That was a nice article. The quantum stuff is total woo. Dawkins wrote a nice article about this a long time ago and its in The Devil’s Chaplain. I think its on the old site…

  106. In reply to #111 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #110 by TanyaK:

    “If you think you understand quantum mechanics… “

    “…you are probably ahead of someone who doesn’t” lol.

  107. In reply to #113 by TanyaK:

    We have no ‘conscious robots’ lol – the only thing which provides awareness of the information in my laptop is me.

    As I said before, consciousness is subjective. To me you seem largely unaware of the information on your laptop.

  108. In reply to #114 by Marktony:

    You are correct about the complexity of distributed solutions. It was something I had to tell my bosses when they assumed that giving me twice as many programmers would automatically mean the job got done in half the time. If I was to paraphrase your point it would be that some problems are not amenable to a distributed solution. You can’t deliver one baby in one month with nine women.

    So the whole question comes down to “is the kind of processing the brain of a conscious human does highly distributed?” The evidence we have for that is overwhelmingly yes. As you probably know neural nets are by design highly distributed. So we can start by looking at the kinds of problems neural nets currently solve. They solve all kinds of problems and what is interesting is that for problems that are really “true AI” things that conventional algorithmic or rule based systems can’t solve neural nets do the best at. So signal processing for example. Recognizing things like faces or the edge of a surface.

    Or consider the problem of understanding spoken language. (I’m no longer talking about neural nets now but distributed computing in general) Is language understanding (something critical for a real AI to do) highly distributed? Absolutely yes. Any approach that isn’t meant to be a toy has to be highly distributed. You need to factor in all kinds of information coming at real time from all levels of the problem. Some times information about idioms informs what kind of phoneme you’re expecting for example. You need your system to be working at all sorts of level: basic sounds, words, phrases, grammar, sentence meaning, paragraph meaning, overall context, all at once and each level can provide information useful to others.

    So I think the evidence is pretty clear that the kind of processing the brain needs to do is amenable to distributed computing.

  109. In reply to #116 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #113 by TanyaK:

    We have no ‘conscious robots’ lol – the only thing which provides awareness of the information in my laptop is me.

    As I said before, consciousness is subjective. To me you seem largely unaware of the information on your laptop.

    Then who is responding to this post? – lol

    Just saying ‘consciousness is subjective’ is a rather limp-wristed statement. It means ‘I don’t know the answer, but I have to save face by saying something philosophical’ lol. Why not try answering with a proper point?

  110. In reply to #113 by TanyaK:

    People react against the effects demonstrated within it with varying degrees of ‘tolerance’ lol, depending upon how much they have invested in an orthodox classical worldview.

    I don’t know which people you are talking about. Can you name one person who thinks like that and give a quote that demonstrates how they are reacting against quantum effects? I ask because in my experience when people say this the actual reaction is against an unjustified claim made in the name of quantum theory not to quantum theory itself.

    Such people then seek to attempt to minimise the significance of the implications of the theory and its experimental results by attempting to diminish its relevance to ‘reality’. One sees such examples all the time.

    If there are examples all the time it should be easy to provide one.

    How exactly is AI relevant?

    AI was referenced in the article Peter linked to. Penrose is making a claim about AI, that it must fail because humans don’t think algorithmically. I claim that shows he doesn’t understand AI.

    As far as I understand it, the major ‘boasts’ of AI have proved a failure so far.

    There were a few “boasts” in the early days. Roger Schank and Doug Lenat were two of the worst examples. But in my experience people are circumspect with their claims these days. And AI has made immense progress. When I first started working with computers there were people who seriously claimed they would never solve certain AI problems like playing chess at the grand master level or mastering tasks like being a contestant on Jeopardy. In the neurological area even more so, there was an article on this site a while back about how doctors can hook up the chips in a prosthetic limb to the human nervous system.

    We have no ‘conscious robots’ lol – the only thing which provides awareness of the information in my laptop is me.

    Yes, its an unsolved problem. That doesn’t mean it can’t be solved one day.

  111. In reply to #118 by TanyaK:

    You are not nearly as consciously aware of what is happening as you seem to think you are. The evidence is plainly there for all to see.

  112. In reply to #119 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #113 by TanyaK:

    “AI was referenced in the article Peter linked to. Penrose is making a claim about AI, that it must fail because humans don’t think algorithmically. I claim that shows he doesn’t understand AI.”

    Actually, it shows that he does understand it – he just doesn’t agree with the stance. Why do people constantly make the presumption that if someone disagrees with something, then they must be ignorant of it? It is usually the reverse. At least, if they show a general grasp of the rest, then you must assume they can grasp that too, lol.

  113. In reply to #121 by TanyaK:

    At least, if they show a general grasp of the rest, then you must assume they can grasp that too, lol.

    You have yet to do so.

  114. In reply to #120 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #118 by TanyaK:

    You are not nearly as consciously aware of what is happening as you seem to think you are. The evidence is plainly there for all to see.

    I’m sorry Peter – if you expect blind obedience to your opinion from a British Public School educated Londoner, then dream on.

  115. In reply to #123 by TanyaK:

    I’m sorry Peter – if you expect blind obedience to your opinion from a British Public School educated Londoner, then dream on.

    I try not to have opinions.

  116. Moderators’ message

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  117. In reply to #119 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #113 by TanyaK:

    People react against the effects demonstrated within it with varying degrees of ‘tolerance’ lol, depending upon how much they have invested in an orthodox classical worldview.

    I don’t know which people you are talking about. Can you name one person who thinks like that…

    “I don’t know which people you are talking about. Can you name one person who thinks like that and give a quote that demonstrates how they are reacting against quantum effects? I ask because in my experience when people say this the actual reaction is against an unjustified claim made in the name of quantum theory not to quantum theory itself.”

    Yes – generally there has been a tendency to oppose the implications of an honest view of Quantum Theory by many people, who have reacted against its predictions/experimental results – and related further results – in varying ways and degrees. Even Einstein tried to prove non-local effects were a function of something else, in his case ‘Hidden Variables’ lol. Experiment proved him wrong.

  118. In reply to #121 by TanyaK:

    Actually, it shows that he does understand it – he just doesn’t agree with the stance. Why do people constantly make the presumption that if someone disagrees with something, then they must be ignorant of it? It is usually the reverse. At least, if they show a general grasp of the rest, then you must assume they can grasp that too, lol.

    My point was that by saying “the brain doesn’t work algorithmically” he shows a lack of knowledge about AI because no decent AI researcher would disagree with him. It would be like someone who criticized Evolution saying “evolution can’t work because random chance could never produce something like the eye”. No one who understands evolution thinks its random chance and no one who understands AI thinks the brain works only by sequential algorithms.

  119. In reply to #126 by TanyaK:

    “I don’t know which people you are talking about.”… Yes – generally there has been a tendency to oppose the implications of an honest view of Quantum Theory by many people, who have reacted against its predictions/experimental results – and related further results – in varying ways and degrees. Even Einstein tried to prove non-local effects were a function of something else, in his case ‘Hidden Variables’ lol. Experiment proved him wrong.

    So, let me make sure I understand. The first thing you said was:

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it, not because it is particularly difficult.

    Then I asked you for an example of someone like this and your example of someone who “fails to understand Quantum Theory… because they don’t like it” is Einstein? Seriously?

  120. In reply to #128 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #126 by TanyaK:

    “Then I asked you for an example of someone like this and your example of someone who “fails to understand Quantum Theory… because they don’t like it” is Einstein? Seriously?”

    Exactly so – despite having triggered the sequence of events which led to the development of Quantum Theory, Einstein was personally opposed to the validity of some of its more esoteric predictions, such as non-local behaviour – to which it is well known that he referred as “Spooky action at a distance”. Experiment proved non-locality to be valid.

  121. In reply to #129 by TanyaK:

    “Then I asked you for an example of someone like this and your example of someone who “fails to understand Quantum Theory… because they don’t like it” is Einstein? Seriously?” Exactly so…

    So you are saying that you understand Quantum Theory and Einstein didn’t. You are claiming that on this issue your knowledge of physics is better than Einstein’s.

  122. In reply to #117 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #114 by Marktony:

    You are correct about the complexity of distributed solutions. It was something I had to tell my bosses when they assumed that giving me twice as many programmers would automatically mean the job got done in half the time.

    You need to donate them a copy of “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks. Used to be required reading for anyone involved in software projects, and should be still. Timeless wisdom: Q: how do you make a late project even later? A: Add more people.

  123. In reply to #110 by TanyaK:

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it, not because it is particularly difficult. If one has a grasp of physics, the basic concepts of Quantum Theory are quite easy to understand – people often seek to avoid the direct approach to it, however, by seeking to ‘interpret’ it, and then they confuse the entire thing. Just approach it square on and it’s easy.

    Ok, so if QM is so easy, it should be no trouble at all to show us that you actually have some grasp of it, and are not just spouting nonsense. The following is a problem I have picked at random from a introductory QM textbook, so it shouldn’t be too hard.
    Please solve it without any aid.

    “For a function f(phi) that can be expanded in a Taylor series, show that f(phi + varphi)= e^{frac{iL_{z}varphi}{hbar}} f(phi) (where varphi is an arbitrary angle) “

    Should you fail to do this, you may either retract your statements about QM, or at least I and perhaps others will stop taking you seriously at all, if we ever did

    Edit: I’m assuming you are familiar with latex, but if you for some reason found that confusing, here is another problem without any math symbols in it, so you cannot use that as an excuse.

    “Because the three-dimensional harmonic oscillator potential is spherically symmetric, the Schrödinger equation can be handled by separation of variables in spherical coordinates, as well as cartesian coordinates, Use the power series method to solve the radial equation. Find the recursion formula for the coefficients, and determine the allowed energies.”

    Answer either of these two basic problems please.

  124. In reply to #130 by Red Dog:

    In reply to #129 by TanyaK:

    “Then I asked you for an example of someone like this and your example of someone who “fails to understand Quantum Theory… because they don’t like it” is Einstein? Seriously?” Exactly so…

    “So you are saying that you understand Quantum Theory and Einstein didn’t. You are claiming that on this issue your knowledge of physics is better than Einstein’s.”

    Not at all. I stated that many oppose Quantum Theory – or some aspects of it – because they ‘don’t like’ some of its implications – Einstein was one of the first and prime cases of that.

  125. In reply to #134 by TanyaK:

    And for my next trick…..

    What’s that supposed to mean? Can you solve these problems or not? You were the one who said it was easy, personally I find it rather difficult

  126. Looking back at the OP and the earlier issues raised on evolution, the ramblings over quantum theory seem to have side-tracked the issues off topic!

  127. In reply to #135 by MahouShoujoMaruin:

    In reply to #134 by TanyaK:

    And for my next trick…..

    What’s that supposed to mean? Can you solve these problems or not? You were the one who said it was easy, personally I find it rather difficult

    Shame. What I mean is – don’t try to divert the point, there’s a good chap.

  128. In reply to #131 by OHooligan:

    You need to donate them a copy of “The Mythical Man Month” by Fred Brooks. Used to be required reading for anyone involved in software projects, and should be still. Timeless wisdom: Q: how do you make a late project even later? A: Add more people.

    I did recommend that very book but usually the kind of people who make those kinds of decisions in the first place aren’t that open to evidence that they are wrong.

  129. Evolution doesn’t concern itself with Abiogenesis which science does not yet, and may never, have a good answer about. The origin of life happened so long ago, and left so little evidence that we are currently in the “making educated guesses” stage.

    Many people have run those supposedly large and improbable numbers, but when you have a whole ocean of chemicals combining, and physics and chemistry eliminates huge swaths of possibilities it is clear that it almost certain that if life can arise from “primordial soup” that it will arise from primordial soup, and do it pretty fast.

    Yes, science changes it answers as it gets new data. It gets more right as time goes on. We still evolved from a ancestor that if you go back in time far enough has a common ancestor with modern apes, we just now have a better idea of what some parts of that family tree look like. This is a strength, not a weakness, of science.

    The creation stories of all religions are just as wrong today as they were when someone first dreamed them up.

  130. In reply to #137 by TanyaK:

    Shame. What I mean is – don’t try to divert the point, the…

    I’ll just take that as a confirmation that you don’t actually know what you are talking about, and you think QM is easy because you don’t actually know anything about it except what you’ve read in pop-sci magazines and on wikipedia.
    I realise this is tangential to the main topic in this discussion, but it shows that it’s probably not worth taking what you are saying too seriously. As far as I can see, you have yet to explain why your three requirements for a “theory of life” are necessary and sufficient.

  131. In reply to #140 by MahouShoujoMaruin:

    In reply to #137 by TanyaK:

    Shame. What I mean is – don’t try to divert the point, the…

    Believe as you wish.

    As for my points, they are required to be explained, whoever makes them.

  132. In reply to #137 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #135 by MahouShoujoMaruin:

    In reply to #134 by TanyaK:

    And for my next trick…..

    What’s that supposed to mean? Can you solve these problems or not? You were the one who said it was easy, personally I find it rather difficult

    Shame. What I mean is – don’t try to divert the point, the…

    Tanya, I suspect you are a philosophy student and will finish up by asking, “what is truth, anyway?”

  133. In reply to #142 by Nitya:

    In reply to #137 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #135 by MahouShoujoMaruin:

    In reply to #134 by TanyaK:

    Sorry to disappoint you. I am a physics student.

  134. In reply to #141 by TanyaK:

    As for my points, they are required to be explained, whoever makes them.

    As a long term goal, maybe.

    Meanwhile, science has work to do, discovering the discoverable, not scruting the inscrutable. And it is doing a pretty good job of narrowing down the details of what possibly happened, in the three areas you mentioned: abiogenesis, or the origins of replicating entities that we term “life” from simpler molecules, evolution by natural selection leading to the diverse interdependent complexity we see around us, and the specifics of the human family tree, finding the places within it of our various relatives, including Neanderthals, other primates, other mammals, other vertebrates and so on down to pond slime and beyond.

    Of course there are gaps. The work continues.

  135. In reply to #144 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #141 by TanyaK:

    As for my points, they are required to be explained, whoever makes them.

    As a long term goal, maybe.

    Meanwhile, science has work to do, discovering the discoverable, not scruting the inscrutable. And it is doing a pretty good job of narrowing down the details of what…

    And consciousness? I have a feeling we may wait quite a while for that.

  136. In reply to #143 by TanyaK:

    Sorry to disappoint you. I am a physics student.

    Then either you know that QM is the most difficult class you had to take, or you haven’t taken it yet. You will have to solve problems like this eventually though. Once you can, you are still not competent enough to say it’s easy, because these were from a textbook aimed at undergrads. You should look up the Dunning-Kruger effect btw.
    Oh, and if you are physics student, you are not a biology student, so perhaps you should defer to those on this site that are actually biologists, like crookedshoes, when it comes to biology.

  137. In reply to #145 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #144 by OHooligan:

    In reply to #141 by TanyaK:

    As for my points, they are required to be explained, whoever makes them.

    Sorry, consciousness. Yes. That too. A recent New Scientist issue had several articles on the topic. Interesting work continues to be done on that too, it seems. And of course, it ain’t all done yet. There’s plenty of solid work in progress, and tangible results emerging into the realm of engineering, such as thought-control for artificial limbs and other gadgets.

    So, is there some kind of deadline on the “required explanations”?

  138. In reply to #133 by TanyaK:

    “So you are saying that you understand Quantum Theory and Einstein didn’t. You are claiming that on this issue your knowledge of physics is better than Einstein’s.”… Not at all. I stated that many oppose Quantum Theory – or some aspects of it – because they ‘don’t like’ some of its implications – Einstein was one of the first and prime cases of that.

    No you didn’t state that. What you said exactly that I responded to was:

    The reason many people fail to understand Quantum Theory is because they don’t like it, not because it is particularly difficult.

    I wanted an example of someone who “failed to understand Quantum Theory because they don’t like it” and you eventually ended up naming Einstein. So either you think Einstein “failed to understand Quantum Theory” or you have still failed to give an example of that point you made a long time ago.

  139. The theory of evolution does not explain why magnets point north either. It does not claim to. This is the proper answer, though creationists will reject it.

    Biological evolution is defined as the descent of living things from ancestors from which
    they differ. Evolution kicks in after there is something, like a replicating structure, to evolve. So the origin of
    life preceded evolution, and is conceptually distinct from it.

    ~ Dr. Eugenie C. Scott 1945-10-24
    9780520261877 Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, Second Edition

    Creationists make no distinction and like to falsely claim that because science has not
    definitively cracked the origin of life problem, there must be something deficient in the theory of evolution.

    Another analogy, we have no unified field theory yet, but that does not mean there must be a flaw in general and special relativity.

  140. In reply to #146 by MahouShoujoMaruin:

    if you are physics student, you are not a biology student, so perhaps you should defer to those on this site that are actually biologists

    As I recall, vaguely: when stuff gets too complex for physicists, they pass the buck to chemists. When it gets too complex for the chemists, they hand over to the biologists. When it gets too complex for the biologists, they pass it over to the psychologists. And when psychologists find it all too crazy, they call in the psychiatrists. When the psychiatrists can’t figure out what the devil is going on, they call in the exorcists.

    Something like that anyway, can anyone find the real quotation?

    1. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible

    It obviously is not impossible. I watched it happen over a period of 3 decades in my own body as my personal crop of HIV viruses evolved immunity to the entire pharmacopea of HIV drugs

  141. How did inorganic material evolve into organic material?

    It didn’t. Inorganic means without carbon atoms. Organic means with carbon atoms. Carbon atoms were formed in the center of stars. We have discovered all manner of organic compounds out between the stars. Carbon atoms are not created or destroyed in the sort of conditions you find on earth.

    That is the way chemists use the terms.

    In popular speak organic means “grown without artificial fertilisers or pesticides”. I don’t think that is what you meant.

    Perhaps you meant to ask how did non-living matter evolve into living matter. The key are viruses, which in their inactive state are crystals, not living. In their active state, they are a primitive tiny form of life.

    DNA is just a big molecule. We can create them with just like any other complex molecule with special sequencing equipment. When we insert them into cells, they take over the function of natural DNA, and become effectively living — reproducing and directly the activities of the cell.

    It looks like early life used RNA or perhaps something even more primitive and then more complex life flipped to DNA. The advantage of DNA is its has a correcting mechanism to correct any errors in genome duplication.

    1. The universal genetic code consist of an 8 by 16 matrix of amino acid elements. Each element is known as a codon. There are 128 (8 x 16) codon elements in the universal genetic code of life. Each codon element consists of 3 different kinds of amino acid molecules, known as coding triplets. Therefore, there are 7,680 required different amino acid molecular arrangements for life’s universal genetic codes.

    this is not quite right, but it does not matter. Evolution would still work even with a different coding scheme.

    Each slot on the double helix DNA chain could be one of 4 possible neucleotides (guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine) GATC. If you group them by threes, each triplet is sort of like a template for manufacturing one of the basic amino acids. There are 4 x 4 x 4 = 64 possible triplets. Some of the triplet patterns are used to mark the end of longer patterns.

    For Darwin, evolution was a black box. He knew what it did, but not how. He did not know anything about DNA, or even Mendelian genetics. These discoveries in the 1950s confirmed his findings.

  142. Put simply, natural selection lacks the time necessary to find the universal genetic code.

    But it did not have to. Nature did not have to seek the precise coding scheme it is using now. He is assuming there are no others that would have worked just as well. It just had to be good enough.

    One of the very interesting questions about life elsewhere in the galaxy is does it use the same code as us. Others are looking around earth so see if there are obscure creatures using a different code which would indicate life originated more than once.

  143. That conclusion coincides precisely with the biblical genesis account of creations.
    What bullshit!. The bible has NOTHING to say about DNA. It does not even know the earth is round or what the stars are.

  144. Other major changes in the theory of evolution were caused by the DNA genetic testing of fossil remains. It was determined by DNA testing that the human hominid did not evolve from the Neanderthal hominid. Before DNA testing technology came on the scene, evolutionists asserted that the human hominid directly evolved from the Neanderthal hominid. Because of new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs in DNA molecular biology, many evolutionary theories will gradually fall by the wayside and be disproved as time passes

    As time progresses you have more pieces to the jig saw puzzle. If you have intellectual honesty, you revise your picture. Your previous guess was not wrong, just the best guess for the limited data.

    Creationists have not appreciation for what a magnificent fluke it is for a fossil to form and to be found. It requires an incredible string of coincidences. You find a bed of trilobites and you imagine every creature that ever lived must be preserved.

    Creationists hate truth. They are professional liars. They are con men. They bring up the same phony arguments century after century. They do not debate in good faith.

  145. Freely admit that I don’t fully understand QM, but I quite like the implications. A bit of uncertainly makes things more interesting and reality feel a lot more real. Also, if there is some creative force in the universe, QM demonstrates that it must be fundamentally chaotic in nature.

  146. In reply to #137 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #134 by TanyaK:

    And for my next trick…..

    What’s that supposed to mean? Can you solve these problems or not? You were the one who said it was easy, personally I find it rather difficult

    Shame. What I mean is – .don’t try to divert the point, there’s a good chap.

    Patronising drivel from those who cannot or will not answer straightforward questions, does not add anything of value to discussions.

    @99 Try Googling again, using the search term ‘recoherence in plant chlorophyll’. I mean, actually try it, instead of just stating that you have – it provides the right results when I do it.

    We know the origins of chlorophyll in Cyanobacteria and the progression to chloroplasts via symbiosis. We also know the products produced by the photochemical reaction to support the food chains, so what point relevant to a discussion on abiogenesis and evolution, are you trying to make about quantum subatomic activity in this photosynthetic process?

    It simply looks like a diversion from the biological issues you could not answer and ignored earlier. Similarly there were multi-millions of years of evolution after abiogenesis before brains even evolved.

    I suggest you look at a couple of items of psychology as you seem fixated on individual conscious brains and quantum obscurity, rather than understanding evolution or basic biology.

    Psychological projection

    Dunning–Kruger effect

    Coming to a science site and pretending to blind scientists with a muddled understanding of complex or irrelevant science, shows naivety.

    Honest and competent scientists recognise when they do not have answers and need more study of the subjects. They are prepared to admit what they do not know and then proceed to learn where resources and the expertise of others, permits this.

  147. In reply to #157 by Peter Grant:

    Freely admit that I don’t fully understand QM, but I quite like the implications. A bit of uncertainly makes things more interesting and reality feel a lot more real. Also, if there is some creative force in the universe, QM demonstrates that it must be fundamentally chaotic in nature.

    Once we move away from NTP and Earth ambient temperatures, there are all sorts of exotic reactions and materials :- pulsars, neutron-stars, black-holes, photons splitting, superconductivity, diamond planets, metallic hydrogen, hot ice etc.

  148. In reply to #159 by Alan4discussion:

    Yet, strangely, all of this raw natural beauty is not enough for some, they want to put themselves at the centre of it all and elevate “consciousness” to some sort of divine determiner of everything. Take this chap, he spends about an hour tediously explaining the rather banal point that measurement and entanglement are the same thing, then expects us all to be so surprised that we will leap to follow him as he plunges off the physicalist cliff into some misty realm where nothing exists but pure thought.

  149. In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    In reply to #52 by God fearing Atheist:

    In reply to #51 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    There was no purposeful direction in putting the power tool in the woodworkers hands. No designer, no top down management.

    How does all this economic stuff work, anyway? It all sounds impossible. Surely modern economics is wrong, or at least incomplete, and there is some sort of guiding hand, somewhere, directing events, so that the iron dug up from the ground is assured, in advance, of getting into my hands in the form of a drill.

    I hypothesize a covert government agency, complete with black helicopters.

  150. I lost the point of this thread when all these biologists dismissed: “Take transcription, for instance – without the entire set of structures and so on it is not going to happen – at least, it is not going to happen accurately. Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart. The lack of a proper explanation for such orchestration in biology is a yawning explanatory gap.” Google “Error Catastrophe.”

  151. In reply to #162 by logicophilosophicus:

    Error catastrophe

    Perhaps genomes started out really short? I wouldn’t have imagined that they started out long and complex.

    Edit. Another possibility might be redundancy. Longer strings with multiple copies of the same information.

  152. In reply to #163 by Peter Grant:
    >

    Perhaps genomes started out really short? I wouldn’t have imagined that they started out long and complex.

    If it’s too short it can’t do much – a minimal genome is recckoned to comprise hundreds of genes.

  153. In reply to #159 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #157 by Peter Grant:

    Freely admit that I don’t fully understand QM, but I quite like the implications. A bit of uncertainly makes things more interesting and reality feel a lot more real. Also, if there is some creative force in the universe, QM demonstrates that it must be fundamentall…

    These things are all so much more deserving of awe and wonder than some puerile myth.

  154. In reply to #164 by logicophilosophicus:

    If it’s too short it can’t do much

    The first proto genomes probably didn’t need to do much except copy themselves.

    a minimal genome is recckoned to comprise hundreds of genes.

    Reckoned by whom? Modern genomes are long and complex, but that tells us nothing about how they started out.

    1. The statistics cannot be used to argue backwards. For example, I deal you a poker hand. There is a 0.000154% you would get the particular hand you were dealt. That doesn’t change the fact you are indeed holding that particular hand no matter the odds.

    2. Abiogenesis is indeed a separate question, though nonetheless important question. The only difference between organic and inorganic molecules is that all organic compounds contain carbon, and mostly all inorganic compounds do not. Carbon does have some unique features that make it suitable for biochemistry. There is progress in understanding how the self-sustaining processes we call “life” came from things we don’t apply that label to. Going from one label to the other is more of a gradual progression, without some black-and-white boundary separating the two. It isn’t like a bunch of complex nucleic acid spontaneously showed up one day in the primordial soup.

    3. I’m not really sure about the numbers, but I know the total number of amino acid combinations is staggering. This is simply more proof of evolution, since out of that huge number, only a small subset is present in all living species. And it happens to be the case even in instances where another amino acid choice would be more efficient.

    4. Key statement here, “set of rules that allowed for the best possible error-minimization capacity”. Life doesn’t search for best solutions, it searches for ones that work given time and energy constraints. A solution only has to work just a tiny bit better than another one.

    5. Biblical creation places the Earth’s age at around 6-10,000 yrs. (6-10 ka) An old earth creationist would allow for accuracy in radiometric dating, which is the position being argued here I assume. How can the appearance of proto-life be equated to a supernatural being creating all life we observe today and a human couple from sand?

    6. Changes to the phylogeny occur as we receive new information about molecular evidence. These changes don’t overturn the entire theory, just as Einstein didn’t really overturn Newton as much as he refined Newtons work to account for effects that hadn’t been accounted for before. Newton’s work got us to the Moon just fine, without need for any of Einsteins refinements.

    In addition to this awesome site, see http://www.talkorigins.org they have a great site.

    Andres

  155. In reply to #166 by Peter Grant:

    The first proto genomes probably didn’t need to do much except copy themselves.

    Metabolism? Maintenance of an appropriate environment for survival/replication?

    a minimal genome is reckoned to comprise hundreds of genes.

    Reckoned by whom? Modern genomes are long and complex, but that tells us nothing…

    It tells us something. It certainly doesn’t even hint at a simpler way of achieving a viable life form.

  156. In reply to #168 by logicophilosophicus:

    Metabolism? Maintenance of an appropriate environment for survival/replication?

    Watch this video from this thread, explains it much better than I could. Was only trying to nudge you into the right way of thinking about the problem.

  157. Even though I feel like my post got hijacked and diverted off topic by TanyaK, I am so so grateful for the responses. I have been following quite a few of you and your comments/posts on this site for a while and sincerely value and respect your input. Thanks again!

  158. George Gilder is a rascal from the Discovery Institute. He is trying to wiggle into legitimacy through the financial venues. He was published in an article in Barrons, he had accolades from an article in Forbes, he was interviewed on the Kudlow Report (CNBC). I’m not sure if they also get economic commentary from the Flat Earth Society but this snake is trying to gain legitimacy for a reason. The fact of Evolution has no greater enemy than the “Discovery Institute”.

  159. In reply to #170 by dinc12964:

    Even though I feel like my post got hijacked and diverted off topic by TanyaK, I am so so grateful for the responses. I have been following quite a few of you and your comments/posts on this site for a while and sincerely value and respect your input. Thanks again!

    I think it made for compelling reading. I found myself tuning in every morning to read the latest installment in the debate. In fact, I’m disappointed to see that it’s over, though I guess there was nothing more left to be said.

  160. In reply to #169 by Peter Grant:

    Watch this video…

    It wouldn’t download for me, but this is I presume the RNA World speculation, one essential element of which is the random appearance of coding for ribosomes. Currently DNA has a sequence of hundreds of base pairs to achieve this, and the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problems for arriving at this solution. Meanwhile, RNA is fragile, and can’t just slosh around in an ocean of destructive chemicals for a billion years randomly generating hopeful ribosome-coding sequences: which would not be short…

  161. In reply to #173 by logicophilosophicus:

    . In reply to #169 by Peter Grant:

    Watch this video…

    It wouldn’t download for me, but this is I presume the RNA World speculation, one essential element of which is the random appearance of coding for ribosomes.

    ..From billions of reactions over millions of years.

    Currently DNA has a sequence of hundreds of base pairs to achieve this, and the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problems for arriving at this solution.

    Not really. Doubling of chromosome numbers splicing of DNA etc is very common, but properties of modern DNA are in any case irrelevant to early life.

    the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problems for arriving at this solution.

    Gradually building up complexity one step at a time, is the nature of evolutionary development. It has taken billions of years to reach the present state of DNA replication. Your perception of “huge problems”, is just personal incredulity based on a lack of understanding.

    Meanwhile, RNA is fragile, and can’t just slosh around in an ocean of destructive chemicals

    What evidence do you have that the chemicals were destructive at that time? You are simply making this up. – this is pure assumption – surely those reactions forming these chemical chains would be constructive or they would not form in the first place.

    can’t just slosh around in an ocean of {destructive??} chemicals for a billion years randomly generating hopeful ribosome-coding sequences: which would not be short…

    Why not? Billions of reactions in millions of different locations for millions of years, will produce a vast range of products. – Some of which have already been demonstrated in laboratory experiments.

    Peter Grant- 163

    Error catastrophe
    Error catastrophe is the extinction of an organism (often in the context of microorganisms such as viruses) as a result of excessive RNA mutations. Error catastrophe is something predicted in mathematical models and has also been observed empirically.

    Like every organism, viruses ‘make mistakes’ (or mutate) during replication. The resulting mutations increase biodiversity among the population and help subvert the ability of a host’s immune system to recognise it in a subsequent infection. The more mutations the virus makes during replication, the more likely it is to avoid recognition by the immune system and the more diverse its population will be (see the article on biodiversity for an explanation of the selective advantages of this). However if it makes too many mutations, it may lose some of its biological features which have evolved to its advantage, including its ability to reproduce at all.

    This seems to be in the context of competition with other organisms (especially infectious viruses) so extinction of SOME is no threat to evolution. With millions or billions of interactions involved, it is a feature of natural selection. Virus reproduction is in any case parasitic on other existing organisms. The existence of extinctions is not news in evolution.

    Perhaps genomes started out really short? I wouldn’t have imagined that they started out long and complex.

    My early link to Dr Jack Szostak’s video, goes back to replication way beyond DNA and RNA. It seems to suggest replication pre-dating the existence “genomes” as such!

    Some trends with excessive destructive mutations cause extinctions of those organisms containing them – leaving others without those trends to live on . This is not news in evolutionary biology! (Cells of people suffering radiation damage, have these same properties.)

  162. I apologize if this was mentioned before, i didn’t read through all of the comments!

    Evolution, and even specieation has been observed in Galopagos island finches in just over 20 years. Evolution and natural selection can happen much faster that previously thought

    “http://www.sciencemag.org/content/313/5784/224.short”

    Dr. Yocky is not a biophysicist. He’s a physicist and an information scientist. I don’t know how familiar he is with biology, but his work was based off of very old information (his theories date to the 70’s) and genetics really hadn’t taken off yet.

  163. In reply to #54 by TanyaK:

    Civilisation is a product of our purposeful direction.

    No, Civilization is a product of Sid Meier!

    Erhm. Sorry for the late input.

    Actually Civilization is the product of external non-conscious forces. Survival of the most well organized, so to speak, where some models like “Keeping to myself in the bush” has come up against models like “Tribe” and failed. Fairly parallel to biological evolution in fact, while of course not being the exact same thing.

    In any case you attribute too much baggage to the rise of civilization in exactly the same way as you do to complex biological structures. The stone age extended family group was no more conscientiously working towards becoming the roman empire (but rather trying to survive in a brutal world) than the first photosensitive cell tried to become a modern human eye with countless advanced systems working in synergy. Nor did any of them need to.

  164. In reply to #174 by Alan4discussion:
    >

    ” ‘[The] Error catastrophe is the [theoretical] extinction of an organism (often in the context of microorganisms such as viruses) as a result of excessive RNA mutations.’ This seems to be in the context of competition with other organisms (especially infectious viruses) so extinction of SOME is no threat to evolution.”

    Not at all. The Error Catastrophe is a theoretical loss of functionality which occurs when a genome or a hypothetical primitive replicator falls below a threshold for required accuracy of replication. The larger the genome, the greater the required accuracy. Even a small virus – which does not have to carry code for the cellular chemistry it depends on – must copy very accurately. A replicator which includes code for all the essential processes must copy extremely accurately – as already said. Since you do not know what the Error Catastrophe is, I don’t appreciate your gung-ho dismissal of an argument based on the concept.

    ” ‘Currently DNA has a sequence of hundreds of base pairs to achieve [the required production of a ribosome], and the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problems for arriving at this solution.’ Gradually building up complexity one step at a time, is the nature of evolutionary development. It has taken billions of years to reach the present state of DNA replication. Your perception of ‘huge problems’ is just personal incredulity based on a lack of understanding.”

    Again your lack of genetic knowledge is ironic. (Google “highly conserved sequence” – another technical term.) Gene sequences for ribosome production are so similar across all organisms that it is deduced that changing a conserved/required codon would be lethal. That implies that any “one step” back in your “evolutionary development” leads to a non-viable organism. That is widely recognised as a huge problem – not of my devising. Getting to a ribosome-coding sequence at one bound is of course impossible in practical terms. Have a look at the complexity of a ribosome here:

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v461/n7268/fig_tab/nature08403_F1.html

    And yet the ribosome-coding sequences are the most highly conserved of all; see here:

    http://arep.med.harvard.edu/pdf/Isenbarger08.pdf

    ” ‘Meanwhile, RNA is fragile, and can’t just slosh around in an ocean of destructive chemicals…’ What evidence do you have that the chemicals were destructive at that time? You are simply making this up. – this is pure assumption – surely those reactions forming these chemical chains would be constructive or they would not form in the first place.”

    There you go with the accusations of dishonesty again. (Sometimes people know stuff that you don’t know.) RNA is hydrolysed in either acidic or basic solutions. Its fragility (compared to DNA) is one of the most frequently cited objections to the RNA World hypothesis. Viruses have to seal it in a protein shell to protect it outside of a cellular host. At room temperature RNA degrades on a timescale of days even in completely pure, sterile water. That’s just one more relevant fact you didn’t know but felt able to pontificate about in an insulting manner. See here:

    http://www.seracare.com/Portals/0/Posters/ISBER%20Poster%202011%20RNA%20Stability%20Final.pdf

    “Billions of reactions [of RNA in primeval seas] in millions of different locations for millions of years, will produce a vast range of products. – Some of which have already been demonstrated in laboratory experiments.”

    Those experiments highlight the huge problem. Take a sterile environment. To pure water, add some RNA, plus RNA subunits (the four required bases and ribose), and in that unrealistic environment wait for the RNA to evolve. But, of course, the experimenters add one more ingredient: q beta replicase. That is a vastly complex enzyme, and doesn’t just happen. Have a look at it here:

    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/24/10884.full.pdf

    This is one more promising discussion to which I shall not be contributing further.

  165. In reply to #177 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #174 by Alan4discussion:

    This is one more promising discussion to which I shall not be contributing further.

    Well! When you have found and bandied around some complex science which you can’t understand, for the purpose of doubt-mongering about real science, playing the insulted card as a final flourish is to be expected.

    As I said on a previous discussion, – If you have no understanding of the subject it is best left to those that do!

    Getting to a ribosome-coding sequence at one bound is of course impossible in practical terms. Have a look at the complexity of a ribosome here:

    I thought I had made it abundantly clear that steps in evolution do not proceed “in one bound”! I am aware of your incredulity over genetic complexity and your failure to grasp the times scales of the vast number of reactions, in a multiplicity of environmental conditions, (temperatures, pressures, radiation levels) over millions of years.

    And yet the ribosome-coding sequences are the most highly conserved of all; see here:

    Of course they are! It took millions of years to evolve a stable form from earlier versions.

    RNA is hydrolysed in either acidic or basic solutions.

    Hardly surprising from a choice of acidic, neutral, or basic!

    Its fragility (compared to DNA) is one of the most frequently cited objections to the RNA World hypothesis. Viruses have to seal it in a protein shell to protect it outside of a cellular host. At room temperature RNA degrades on a timescale of days even in completely pure, sterile water.

    If you had watched Dr.Szostak’s video on abiogenesis, you would see that early proto-cell replicators (pre-RNA and preDNA,) like viruses, have an enclosing shell – (cell) walls.

    That’s just one more relevant fact you didn’t know but felt able to pontificate about in an insulting manner

    That’s just one more thing which I and other biologists know which you did not understand and think you can blind me with incredulity about science!

    @174 – This seems to be in the context of competition with other organisms (especially infectious viruses) so extinction of SOME is no threat to evolution.” With millions or billions of interactions involved, it is a feature of natural selection.

    Not at all. The Error Catastrophe is a theoretical loss of functionality which occurs when a genome or a hypothetical primitive replicator falls below a threshold for required accuracy of replication. The larger the genome, the greater the required accuracy.

    I thought various people including myself, had made it perfectly plain, that the earliest life did not have “large genomes” or large numbers of “essential processes”. – indeed they may not have had genomes in the form present life does at all!

    Even a small virus – which does not have to carry code for the cellular chemistry it depends on – must copy very accurately. A replicator which includes code for all the essential processes must copy extremely accurately – as already said.

    **It is a feature of mutation rates and adaptability in viruses that they do NOT replicate “very accurately”! ** This is very basic biology!

    Since you do not know what the Error Catastrophe is, I don’t appreciate your gung-ho dismissal of an argument based on the concept.

    Perhaps if you read the link below it will explain why small RNA genomes are viable, why your misunderstanding and misapplication of the error catastrophe theory is a red herring, and why personal incredulity is not a reasoned argument.

    Viral evolution – http://www.immunome-research.com/content/6/S2/S5

    A quantitative description of viral evolution is necessary for monitoring the spread of viral pandemics and for developing effective therapies and vaccines [3]. Viruses are not only a threat to human health,

    **but they also provide attractive model systems for evolutionary studies **

    due to their short genomes, large population sizes, and high genetic diversity [4]. The extreme replication dynamics of RNA viruses, for example, allow for observing significant evolutionary changes over time.

    Hypotheses and theories about evolutionary mechanisms can often be tested directly with these measurably evolving viruses [5].

    The mutation rate of RNA viruses is about a million times larger than the human mutation rate [6]. Thus, RNA viruses display a huge genetic diversity and this feature is critical for survival of the virus [7,8].

    Virus populations are exposed to fluctuating environments when migrating through different organs and tissues of the host organism and when exposed to immune responses mounted by the host. Transmission to a new host is typically associated with both traversing various tissues and facing new immune responses, and therefore it represents a major bottleneck for the virus population. The genetic diversity of RNA viruses makes it likely that adapted variants preexist in the population even before the selective pressure has changed [9,10].

    Because the diversity of the virus population can determine its evolutionary fate, selection seems to operate on the population level rather than at the level of individual viruses [11].

    This idea was originally developed for self-replicating RNA molecules and termed quasispecies theory [12], and then applied to RNA viruses [13,14].

    One prediction of quasispecies theory is the existence of an upper bound on the mutation rate beyond which the population cannot maintain its essential genetic information. Many RNA viruses appear to have mutation rates close to this error threshold.

    RNA viruses exist, diversify, mutate and proliferate right up to the edge of the limits of the Error Catastrophe theory. I would presume those which exceed the limit die so becoming extinct – leaving those below the limit to continue to evolve in diverse forms – as I suggested earlier.

    Probably early life in RNA World did the same!

  166. In reply to #23 by Neodarwinian:

    ” It ” doesn’t adjust anything.The blind watchmaker chooses among a population of variations that have a plethora of skeletal/muscle, retinal and every other variation here and natural selection confers reproductive success successively through the ages until the adaption is a very good fit against the immediate environment and spreads through the whole population.

    Seems that in the realm of The Blind Watchmaker, the two-eyed girl is Queen.

  167. Just a note regarding Natural Selection. People posting here, and reading, do know that Darwin originally wrote that Natural Selection was ‘a’ factor, not ‘the’ factor in determining species’ adaptation to environment? Has anyone actually read Origin Of Species? I have.

  168. In reply to #180 by Nemesis:

    Just a note regarding Natural Selection. People posting here, and reading, do know that Darwin originally wrote that Natural Selection was ‘a’ factor, not ‘the’ factor in determining species’ adaptation to environment? Has anyone actually read Origin Of Species? I have.

    I think that is well understood in all recent work on evolution. Numerous other factors have been covered in discussions on RDnet.

    Seems that in the realm of The Blind Watchmaker, the two-eyed girl is Queen.

    “Thinks she is queen” seems more appropriate – given her lack of understanding of the stages of eye evolution in comments.

  169. In reply to #177 by logicophilosophicus:

    This is one more promising discussion to which I shall not be contributing further.

    Even a small virus – which does not have to carry code for the cellular chemistry it depends on –

    must copy very accurately.

    It is a well known feature of mutation rates and adaptability in viruses – essential for their survival, that
    they do NOT “copy very accurately”! (see link @178) – The mutation rate of RNA viruses is about a million times larger than the human mutation rate.
    This is very basic school-level biology -with high virus mutation rates known to anyone with a basic understanding of viruses!

    Just making up your own “facts”, as an expression of irreducible-incredulity and the misreading of science papers once again!?

    That’s just one more relevant fact you didn’t know but felt able to pontificate about in an insulting manner.

    Gazzzzooooiiing!!!!! – Ironic projection!

  170. In reply to #183 by Alan4discussion:

    must copy very accurately.

    Nice how you dishonestly insinuate that the “pontificate” remark referred to copying accuracy. It referred to the fragility of RNA compared with DNA, which you rubbished even though it is in the Jack Szostak video YOU keep pushing. (JS suggests that DNA may be preferred as the original replicator because of its greater stability. Did you watch all the way through?)

    RNA viruses replicate very accurately (roughly one error per 10,000 base pairs per generation); this is regarded as error prone only compared to the near perfect replication of DNA based genomes.

    You wrote that I have a “purpose of doubt-mongering about real science”. Nonsense. I merely pointed to real science which indicates that abiogenesis has huge problems – basically the bits where JS says “somehow”… “Somehow” does not qualify as an hypothesis.

  171. In reply to #184 by logicophilosophicus:

    “Somehow” does not qualify as an hypothesis.

    “Abiogenesis has huge problems”

    No, but “somehow” is a perfectly good euphemism for “here’s a gap in our knowledge which we’re currently working on understanding”, and is a very honest alternative to throwing our hands up in the air and postulating GDI. We don’t know yet is a very valid position in scientific questions.

    And Abiogenesis has one huge problem; the impossibility of rewinding time to be able to observe the actual process. Well that and the scale required to run one or preferably several replicate tests.

  172. In reply to #184 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #183 by Alan4discussion:

    must copy very accurately.

    Nice how you dishonestly insinuate that the “pontificate” remark referred to copying accuracy.

    You got it wrong with a schoolboy error, which shows despite bandying around citations of reputable scientific papers you are totally clueless about about the basic biology! – Now as a distraction you accuse me of dishonesty!!

    Nice how you dishonestly insinuate that the “pontificate” remark referred to copying accuracy.

    I didn’t! I pointed out the irony of someone so clueless about the basic biology of viruses making up fictitious “facts” and then accusing me of not knowing the “facts”!

    It referred to the fragility of RNA compared with DNA, which you rubbished

    ..Which I rubbished because it did not take into account the enclosure of RNA in proto-cells by that stage in evolution, taking it out of context to make a misleading claim. – A position about which you showed no awareness at the time. The relative fragility and its irrelevance was clearly explained on my link @178.

    even though it is in the Jack Szostak video YOU keep pushing. (JS suggests that DNA may be preferred as the original replicator because of its greater stability. Did you watch all the way through?)

    Jack Szostak showed pre-RNA and pre-DNA replication as proto-cell precursors.

    RNA viruses replicate very accurately (roughly one error per 10,000 base pairs per generation); this is regarded as error prone only compared to the near perfect replication of DNA based genomes.

    You seem to have changed your asserted story about this being a “problem for abiogenesis and evolution” since I refuted your earlier claim.

    You wrote that I have a “purpose of doubt-mongering about real science”.

    I did indeed point out that feature of your convoluted arguments simply asserting doubt because of complexity and your own incredulity from lacking key knowledge.

    Nonsense. I merely pointed to real science which indicates that abiogenesis has huge problems –

    You didn’t! You asserted this as an uniformed personal opinion of someone who had just put his foot in his mouth over virus replication! !

    basically the bits where JS says “somehow”… “Somehow” does not qualify as an hypothesis.

    Your blinkers seem to have blanked his key statement!

    This video summarizes one of the best leading models. Yes there are others. Science may never know exactly how life DID start, but we will know many ways how life COULD start.

    Ah! – From the Nobel prize winning Jack Szostak’s elegant explanations of a range of possibilities, excellent research, and working evidenced biological models, let’s put it at a level you can understand without getting the science backwards or needing a dictionary to define “hypothesis”:-

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AbiogenesisScientific hypothesesabout the origins of life may be divided into several categories. Most approaches investigate how self-replicating molecules or their components came into existence. For example, the Miller–Urey experiment and similar experiments demonstrated that most amino acids, often called “the building blocks of life”, can be racemically synthesized in conditions thought to be similar to those of the early Earth.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#.22Primordial-soup.22-hypothesis

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenesis#Current-models

  173. In reply to #185 by Angry Atavist:

    “We can’t know” is unduly pessimistic, but “we don’t know yet” is optimistic. “We don’t know” doesn’t involve any postulates.

    Personally I don’t believe in miracles – there has to be some way of producing self-replicators from an inorganic starting point without violating physical laws. But it is a huge problem, often glossed over. Paul Davies – based on many conversations over the years – wrote: “Many investigators feel uneasy stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they admit they are baffled.” Davies’ conclusion, that there may be unknown effect in physics favouring complexity, is radical but possibly necessary.

  174. In reply to #187 by logicophilosophicus:
    >

    But it is a huge problem,

    Referring to a bit of speculative conjecture and persistently repeating the words, ” huge problem”, does not provide evidence of anything! It is just doubt mongering from incredulity.

    The fact that RNA is less stable than DNA was asserted as allegedly ” a huge problem” for RNA virus and proto-cell reproduction – but turned out to be an essential feature in adaptability and evolutionary survival, once a little research was done.

    there may be unknown effect in physics favouring complexity, is radical but possibly necessary.

    On the other hand, increasing complexity of life chemistry is known to be powered by sunlight under the well known laws of thermodynamics.

  175. The problem with these mathematical, so-called disproofs of evolution is that they assume only one thing can happen at a time.

    By the same logic, it would take thousands of years for anyone to ever win the lottery. When there’s lotteries the world over and hardly a day goes by without someone, somewhere, winning a huge amount of money.

    It’s fairly easy to see why. When millions of people buy tickets, hoping to get the big one, the odds of millions to one are tested millions of times every week. It’s no surprise that somebody wins.

    So back to abiogenesis? How many pre-life events were there? How many times were the conditions nearly right. Or ‘life’ started but was wiped out again? Without discovering time travel, I don’t see that we’ll ever know. But is there any reason it can’t be “billions of times”

  176. In reply to #190 by Smill:

    In reply to Alan4, post 188. The thing I like about you, Alan, is that you’re a captain whose willing to go down with his ship. : )

    What??? Are you being facetious?
    BTW #187, Paul Davies’ world view is well known.

  177. In reply to #188 by Alan4discussion:

    The fact that RNA is less stable than DNA was asserted as allegedly a “huge problem”…

    Let’s check:

    “Currently DNA has a sequence of hundreds of base pairs to achieve this, and the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problems for arriving at this solution. Meanwhile, RNA is fragile, and can’t just slosh around in an ocean of destructive chemicals for a billion years randomly generating hopeful ribosome-coding sequences: which would not be short…”

    The problem is that there are no pathways for gradually arriving at highly conserved sequences. The RNA fragility is a different issue. Two different sentences.

    Yockey’s 1 in 10^70 will do as an example. Suppose the “primeval soup” tries out a trillion possibilities a second for 10^17 seconds (rough age of the universe). That reduces the improbability to 1 in 10^41. Millions or billions barely scratch the surface of such a “huge problem”. Well, I don’t knw how Yockey arrived at his figure, but I do know that some highly conserved sequences code for hundreds of the 20 aminoacids, and 20^100 is 60 orders of magnitude greater than 10^70. When you understand “highly conserved sequence” you will know the problem is immense. In the case of ribosomes, it is also apparently inescapable unless something beyond the usual assumptions is involved.

  178. In reply to #193 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #188 by Alan4discussion:

    The fact that RNA is less stable than DNA was asserted as allegedly a “huge problem”…

    Let’s check:

    I am not a biologist, for which I apologize in advance. However this numbers game always seems to be where it ends at. Back calculating a probability for something complex will always yield a result close to impossible^infinity.

    “20^100”

    Thats a very impressive number. Another impressive number; 10^82. This is the upper estimate of the number of atoms in the observable universe. Quite some RNA sequencing. On the other hand I can throw a 20 sided dice 100 times and declare the result impossible in hindsight. If I assume that this was the only predestined and possible result that would make sense it would be a staggering result indeed. But in case of the dice there are of course 10^100 – 1 other possibilities which would work just fine, and the dice do not (unless it is a cheating dice) have any external pressure to make it gravitate towards certain results. In the case of RNA the degrees of freedom would be far smaller, but on the scales we are talking about it would still have to be a SLN (staggeringly large number). The possibilities that would work != 1, which is the faulty assumption that is the basis for every creationist calculation. Evolution also has the cheating dice in form of external pressure that eliminates non viable alternatives.

    “something beyond”

    So this it is then? Your alternative hypothesis to “somehow”?

  179. In reply to #193 by logicophilosophicus:

    Let’s check:

    “Currently DNA has a sequence of hundreds of base pairs to achieve this, and the fact this chemistry is very highly conserved in evolution implies huge problem…

    The complexity of modern DNA is irrelevant to early life and abiogenesis.

    I see you have repeated the unsupported claim of “a huge problem” yet again. It sounds like the theist chants in church – chanting and wishing will make beliefs so! It also looks like the “ID-god-did-its” style of debate –

    Look at this assertion about a complex subject I have made up – Let’s see someone refute it while the obfuscation and doubtmongering is hidden in complexity! As I said earlier – the constant challenges from “irreducible incredulity”!

    The problem is that there are no pathways for gradually arriving at highly conserved sequences.

    and your evidence for this incredulous claim is ????????

    Perhaps you should study evolutionary genetics where horizontal gene exchange moves genetic material around, merges genetic material from different organisms, and where there is a huge variation in the number of pairs of chromosomes in different organisms, with material being gradually gained or lost as part of the evolutionary process.
    The concept of more stable systems evolving from less stable ones is hardly new to the concept of natural selection.

    We have even already discussed the relative range of mutation rates in RNA and DNA. A range from extinction from zero change failing to adapt at all, to your much beloved red-herring of ” Error Catastrophe”, where the replication process falls apart from mutant instability. Evolution works on populations not just individuals, and within populations there is considerable diversity of genetic material with constant gradual changes in numbers and content. The constant losses from natural selection constantly removes failed competitors leaving better adapted organisms in place.

    Nitya @191 – (to Smill) – What??? Are you being facetious? BTW #187, Paul Davies’ world view is well known.

    My comment @188 “Referring to a bit of speculative conjecture”, was identifying the difference between citing adventurous scientific speculation, and citing evidenced experimentally backed science.

    It is important to be sufficiently familiar with the subject matter, to know the difference. This is where those who read advanced papers and articles to cherry pick items, without the basic grounding in the subject fail!

    To understand science papers, science is required! Philosophy does not cut it!

  180. In reply to #169 by Peter Grant:

    Watch this video

    Thanks for the link Peter, finally got to watch. Very clear and elegant presentation of a plausible bootstrapping of the beginnings of evolution from nothing more than basic chemistry. It’s great for me to see how far the dots have been joined up in my own lifetime.

  181. In reply to #194 by Angry Atavist:

    I am not a biologist, for which I apologize in advance…

    I am not a statistician, for which I apologize in advance. I noticed in the pre-edit version of your post (via email alert) that you have a background in statistics in science, so you will be way ahead of me here. We cannot perform multiple reruns of the billion-year world-scale abiogenesis experiment. That does not mean we just look at the outcome and announce an “a posteriori probablity of 1”. An appropriate analytical tool is Bayesian analysis, which I am about to use very informally. We have to decide how surprising an outcome is. If the process is basically digital – dice throwing, card dealing, long-chain polymerisation – it is easy to work out how many possible outcomes there are. Each individual outcome is equally likely, but some are more surprising than others.

    You may recall the Bob Newhart sketch about actually performing the million-typewriting-monkeys experiment. The aim is to produce the Works of Shakespeare. The supevisors watch out for any Interesting outcomes; one of them gets excited: “I think I’ve got something! ‘To be or not to be, that is the gzmvtrk… Never mind…” In reality even a short meaningful string like that is “impossible”. Shakespeare wrote less than a million words, so there are less than a million word strings of 31 characters (letters and spaces, say, ignoring punctuation and capitalisation). Since there are over 10^44 possible such strings, getting any Interesting one of them is worse than a 1 in 10^38. With 10^6 monkeys each typing one 31-character string per minute for 14 billion years any Shakespeare fragment still would not appear (10^26 to 1 against).

    So suppose your icosahedral die is thrown 100 times. Is the outcome, the sequence, Interesting. If the die comes up 19 every time, a hundred in a row, that would definitely be Interesting. It would require explanation. Suppose you file the results of many sequences into categories: not very interesting, somewhat interesting, really Interesting. You might get a sequence looking as random as this: 1, 1, 17, 5, 11, 5, 13, 7, 9, 1, 19… but containing no even numbers. Interesting? Yes – 10^30 to 1 against getting one of those. (Even at one sequence per minute for 14bn years that’s 10^8 to 1 against.)

    Anyway, for numbers read aminoacids. You are busy classifying sequences, and you come across a Very Rare subset that are essential for life. Is that more or less Interesting/Unexpected than the all-odd sequence? How can we tell it is truly Very Rare? By seeing how highly conserved such sequences are (i.e. lacking possible precursors), which seems to be a hard concept for some, or by considering those sequences with no living (i.e. accurately replicating) precursors. While the odds are 10^30 against or worse, I suffer from Irreducible Incredulity.

    I don’t have any hypothesis. Sooner or later there will be a scientific explanation, but no one is even close yet. Pointing out that nucleotides or peptides link up is not an explanation – it’s the definition. A self-replicating system of maybe thousands of units, without a self-replicating precursor… That needs explanation.

  182. Any statistics should be put into context. One of the current hypotheses about the chemical origins of life is that it could have formed in the area of black or white smoker volcanic vents – at present at the mid-ocean ridge moving junctions of tectonic plates all over the planet, where there is a huge range of temperatures and chemical mixing. The Earth is still a very volcanically active planet, but much volcanism is hidden under the ocean.

    At present:

    The mid-ocean ridges of the world are connected and form a single global mid-oceanic ridge system that is part of every ocean, making the mid-oceanic ridge system the longest mountain range in the world. The continuous mountain range is 65,000 km (40,400 mi) long (several times longer than the Andes, the longest continental mountain range), and the total length of the oceanic ridge system is 80,000 km (49,700 mi) long.

    Statistically we are looking at this sort of planetary scale over volcanic action interacting with sea water and atmosphere over millions of years. The Earth was volcanically even more active in its early development. There are also hypotheses about reactions in many miles of shoreline in coastal shallow pools worldwide.

    The problem with statistical incredulity, is the lack of understanding of the diversity of natural conditions and operations on an astronomical or planetary scale, – over geological time!

  183. In reply to #198 by Alan4discussion:

    Any statistics should be put into context.

    . . . . . . And more statistics about numbers of bacterial cells (albeit modern ones) found in rich organic material.

    Indicator bacteria are not themselves dangerous to the health but are used to indicate the presence of a health risk.

    Each gram of human faeces contains approximately ~100 billion (1×10^11) bacteria.

    Over the whole planet there are quite a lot of them replicating all the time!

    Bacteria – Another group whose importance in oceans seems to have been underestimated (in fact, bacteria may make up to 90% of all biomass in the ocean!)

    Only recently have viruses in ocean water been quantified, yielding surprisingly high estimates (e.g. 10-100 million virus and virus-like particles per milliliter of sea water)
    http://science.kennesaw.edu/~jdirnber/BioOceanography/Lectures/Plankton/LecSmallGuys%20copy.html

    Those lacking an understanding of planetary science can only throw incredulity at these sorts of figures!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean The total mass of the hydrosphere is about 1,400,000,000,000,000,000 metric tons (1.5×1018 short tons) or 1.4×10^21 kg, which is about 0.023 percent of the Earth’s total mass. Less than 3 percent is freshwater; the rest is saltwater, mostly in the ocean. The area of the World Ocean is 361 million square kilometres (139 million square miles),[18] and its volume is approximately 1.3 billion cubic kilometres (310 million cu mi).[7] This can be thought of as a cube of water with an edge length of 1,111 kilometres (690 mi).

  184. In reply to #197 by logicophilosophicus:

    A self-replicating system of maybe thousands of units, without a self-replicating precursor… That needs explanation.

    Once again! – evolution builds up complexity from simple beginnings, as is demonstrated over and over again in practical examples!

    without a self-replicating precursor… That needs explanation.

    I thought a Nobel laureate had provided one!

    @186 – Your blinkers seem to have blanked his key statement!

    This video summarizes one of the best leading models. Yes there are others. Science may never know exactly how life DID start, but we will know many ways how life COULD start.

  185. In reply to #197 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #194 by Angry Atavist:

    I am not a biologist, for which I apologize in advance…

    I am not a statistician, for which I apologize in advance. I noticed in the pre-edit version of your post (via email alert) that you have a background in statistics in science, so you will be way ahead of…

    Indeed. Trying to combine running after my two year old daughter and writing a reply had forced me on the terse side of short and to the point, so I took the time to revisit the post. And to be completely accurate my background is in physical chemistry and multivariate statistical analysis, I am not a classical statistician per se, but I have a working knowledge of the field.

    So how to decide what constitutes a surprise when you simply don’t have the whole picture, only the world as it appears in hindsight? Bayesian analysis is useful for such a thing as decrypting (or finding fraudulent research results, or when someone tampers with the odds in a game of chance) where you do know such things as the frequency of certain letters and combination of letters in the English language, but then you have the blueprint. If the code was not necessarily in English, but could be in any known language as well as any non existent but viable language, the analysis would be meaningless.

    The problem with the monkey example is that it is not a gradual escalating process where an external factor exerts a pressure towards meaning and poetry, but instead absolute randomness working against a predetermined target, and as such is entirely irrelevant. It is parallel to assuming that evolution would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a modern mammal suddenly sprang out of the process.

    An amino acid sequence might very well be essential to the life that developed with it as an integrated part, and the longer life and the trait coexisted the more essential it will seem. However here Bayesian analysis fails because as essential as it is now, it does not mean that it would be the only way it could have evolved if it attempted again. The essential sequences might be very different, but when looking on them a few billion years later they would be as locked in as the ones we have. The problem is that these alternate pathways are impossible to quantify, which throws a spanner in the works for the frequency analysis.

    Even if you could have managed to resolve those issues, which you can’t) and conclude that it would be exceedingly unlikely that life should have evolved here, you are ignoring the fact that the process of life could have had countless false starts elsewhere in the universe (possibly with completely different biochemistries and “essential” ingredients), and the discussion of how unlikely it to have happened to just us is could only be had on one of the few planets that managed to overcome the odds. Enough dice throwers that do not know each other, and somewhere there will be a very confused Bayesian (hint; not only 19×100 would show up as a incredibly unlikely result, but countless other statistical anomalies).

    Again, this is essentially the same story, taking a highly complex situation and back calculating the odds with woefully insufficient knowledge, thereby arriving at faulty unconstructive conclusions. What on earth does it contribute to human knowledge to sit down with crossed arms and proclaim that abiogenesis is an impossibility, and that somebody someday will come up with an alternate supernatural theory? (guess what, they will not; The people most likely to try are all too busy thinking up sufficiently high numbers to do any actual research or make testable positive theories). Let the scientists get on with their work without being told what is impossible or not (preempting the result before the experiment is a big no no), and they will eventually find out what is viable and what is fantasy.

  186. In reply to #197 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #194 by Angry Atavist:

    Anyway, for numbers read aminoacids. You are busy classifying sequences, and you come across a Very Rare subset that are essential for life. Is that more or less Interesting/Unexpected than the all-odd sequence? How can we tell it is truly Very Rare? By seeing how highly conserved such sequences are (i.e. lacking possible precursors), which seems to be a hard concept for some, or by considering those sequences with no living (i.e. accurately replicating) precursors. While the odds are 10^30 against or worse, I suffer from Irreducible Incredulity.

    Why do you think that highly conserved genes lack possible precursors? It seems you have made the assumption that genes evolve in isolation. One of the hallmarks of a successful gene is to coexist and work with other genes in the gene population. Genes in the population evolve together. A step backward in a conserved gene may be catastrophic, but if you first take steps back in other genes in the population you eventually reach a point where a step back in the conserved gene is not catastrophic.

  187. @ Angry Activist: Long and final amswer.

    You suggest that my (very informal) Bayesian approach is wrong BECAUSE the actual data from the era of abiogenesis (in his case the RNA world) are not available. I think you are doubly mistaken, firstly because this is a one of those dice-like combinatorial problems where many of the necessary elements – the identities and behaviours of the nucleotides in this case – are available after the event, but also because Bayesian thinking is ESPECIALLY suited to problems with missing information. (From one authoritative source: “…we have developed a formal Bayesian definition of surprise that is the only consistent formulation under minimal axiomatic assumptions… surprise can exist only in the presence of uncertainty, which can arise from intrinsic stochasticity, missing information, or limited computing resources. A world that is purely deterministic and predictable in real-time for a given observer contains no surprises… In probability and decision theory it can be shown that, under a small set of axioms, the only consistent way for modeling and reasoning about uncertainty is provided by the Bayesian theory of probability.”) But you are right in the sense that a key piece of information is left to one’s judgment: the number of different/independent possible successful biochemical systems. MY BELIEF is that the number will fall far short of 10^50, and therefore the existence of life in a context of 10^130 possible trials is immensely surprising. YOU may believe that there are, say, 10^100+ possible life-supporting biochemical systems. If so, you are entitled to wait optimistically for some experimental confirmation to bridge the gap.

    But that is a BIG act of faith to base on a sample of 1. It is like a biological version of the Multiverse Theory. With the Multiverse mindset you can believe pretty much whatever you want.

    “[You are] assuming that evolution would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a modern mammal suddenly sprang out of the process.”

    No. I am assuming that nature, unable to employ evolution UNTIL a successful self-replicator emerged, would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a SUCCESSFUL SELF-REPLICATOR suddenly sprang out of the process – unless “something else” was happening. Paul Davies thinks it could be an unknown law of nature favouring complexification. I’m not keen on that. Schrödinger, discussing the same problem [edit: but explicitly from the thermodynamic perspective – on which he was a world expert] wrote: “We must… not be discouraged by the difficulty of interpreting life by the laws of physics… We must be prepared to find a new type of physical law prevailing in it. Or are we to term it a non-physical, not to say a superphysical, law?”

    However, you decided to refute the statistical argument – remember I had suggested that biologists tend to mention “million” or “billion” or occasionally “trillion” in the mistaken belief that 6 or 9 or a dozen powers of 10 make significant inroads into an intractable Very Big Number such as 10^30?

    [Assume that the habitable planets of the universe contain] Enough dice throwers that do not know each other, and [then] somewhere there will be a very confused Bayesian (hint; not only 19×100 would show up as a incredibly unlikely result, but countless other statistical anomalies).

    Let’s try it. Assume that the universe contains 10^82 nucleons, and that a die-thrower weighs 100 kilos. That’s 10^29 nucleons per die-thrower. If the entire universe consisted of die-throwers, there would be 10^53 of them. The universe is 10^17 seconds old. Let’s assume that every one of those very busy die-thrower has completed 100 throws every second since he Big Bang. That’s a lot more trials than you envisaged. They will generate 10^70 100-dice sequences. The total number of 100-dice sequences is 20^100, or 10^130. The odds against a sequence of a hundred 19s among all those sequences are still 10^60 to 1 against. [Edited: I carelessly typed “10^80” originally.] So thanks for the sarcastic “hint”, but no thanks.

    There is an experiment where the RNA from a q beta phage is provided with ample supplies of nucleotides and q beta replicase. It doesn’t need to do anything in that perfct environment but replicate. It evolves (or, if you like, degenerates) until a minimal replicator remains, which consists of only about 220 base pairs. It’s called Spiegelman’s Monster. It requires an optimal environment, and it requires q beta replicase (a molecule very much more complex than itself, as I showed http://www.pnas.org/content/107/24/10884.full.pdf ) so it’s a fair bet that a real minimal replicator, the original first replicator, unaided, was larger. However, take 220 bases from a set of 4 bases and you have 4^220 or roughly 10^130 possible sequences from which the Monster is the (or a) winner. As it happens, chains occasionally exceeding 50 bases have been achieved (Szostak) but they are not functional/”meaningful”. Even if a potentially functional chain of 50 bases appeared, that would chop only 15 zeroes off that optimistic 10^30. There is still a mountain to climb, and WITHOUT REPLICATION every trial is independent, “scrapping any result until” that successful self-replicator emerges. (Well – successful in that pampered environment.)

    [You] sit down with crossed arms and proclaim that abiogenesis is an impossibility, and that somebody someday will come up with an alternate supernatural theory [because you are] too busy thinking up sufficiently high numbers to do any actual research or make testable positive theories…

    A) “crossed arms” – interesting that you not only believe in body language, you can also read it telepathically… All the celeb mags and new age columns apparently regard crossed arms as defensive. I wonder what you think I am defending…

    B) …”supernatural theory” – ah. You think I am “lying for Jesus”. I don’t know where you learned to sniff out witches, but you got that wrong too.

    C) “proclaim that abiogenesis is an impossibility” – short memory there. I wrote: “Personally I don’t believe in miracles – there has to be some way of producing self-replicators from an inorganic starting point without violating physical laws.”

    D) “too busy… to do any actual research…” – what biochemical research would you suggest I undertake? I may have a little difficulty in getting funding… But, come on, you gave a statistical result (the near certainty of getting a hundred 19s if all the die-throwers in the universe are on the job) which was wrong by at least 60 [not 80 – see above edit] orders of magnitude. It’s a simple back-of-an-envelope calculation. Too busy?

    E) “…make testable positive theories…” That goes with (D), and I’ve heard them both many a time. The fact is that you don’t need to peform an experiment or produce an alternate theory when you see (and it’s not just me) a problem with someone’s hypothesis. Einstein never performed an experiment in his life, but he disproved Newtonian gravitational theory sitting at his desk. Before Newton, Galileo imagined an experiment (dropping a small weight attached by a rope to a large weight) which proved – all in the mind – that the dynamics of falling bodies are independent of the masses of the bodies. I don’t think he bothered with an explanatory theory. Daniel Dennett has used a combinatorial explosion argument to prove that we are not “brains in vats”. More practically, combinatorial explosion arguments have been used to raise a problem with the concept of “grandmother cells” in the human brain, or to draw conclusions in evolutionary psychology, and of course in computer theory. “Sufficiently high numbers” often raise major problems for a theory.

    Well, I don’t know why you should get annoyed about this. Big numbers need explaining. I have been talking about 10^130, but that’s an extremely low estimate of the odds against life as we know it. I’ve just allowed replicases to exist, ignored the need to explain the origin of the genetic code, etc. Some other (non-religious) sources bandy numbers like 10^40,000, but, to be honest, that’s infinitesimal compared to the improbable initial state of the physical universe according to Sir Roger Penrose – 10^10^123 to 1 against. But, please, don’t tell me that I must do an experiment, or produce a testable theory, or shut up.

    My initial point was that the explanatory gaps in the emergence of life are immense – “huge problems” – and I believe biologists (but not molecular biologists) are often blind to that. They assume that anyone raising the issue is a closet Creationist, and invoke “millions of reactions” or “billions of years” to exorcise the demon. They don’t understand Very Big Numbers.

  188. In reply to #203 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Angry Activist: Long and final amswer.

    I am assuming that nature, unable to employ evolution UNTIL a successful self-replicator emerged, would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a SUCCESSFUL SELF-REPLICATOR suddenly sprang out of the process –

    One more time! Watch the video by Jack Szostak which shows this early stage process of self-replication long before RNA World!

    Assumption without research is the basis of incredulity! Flip-flopping around multiple isolated complexities, simply hides the missing points available in joined up thinking!

    unless “something else” was happening. Paul Davies thinks it could be an unknown law of nature favouring complexification.

    The universe has been getting more complex ever since atoms formed in the Big-bang!

  189. In reply to #203 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Angry Activist: Long and final amswer.

    You suggest that my (very informal) Bayesian approach is wrong

    I see you’re having fun with words, (changing “Atavist” to “Activist”, and “erroneous” to “informal”) and while I’d never begrudge a man a bit of good natured humour, it’s too bad that so many errors have crept into your answer given that it’s apparently final, but some things don’t change so let’s have look at them.

    BECAUSE the actual data from the era of abiogenesis (in his case the RNA world) are not available. I think you are doubly mistaken, firstly because this is a one of those dice-like combinatorial problems where many of the necessary elements – the identities and behaviours of the nucleotides in this case – are available after the event, but also because Bayesian thinking is ESPECIALLY suited to problems with missing information.

    My point is not about the lack of complete data, nor the lack of method but the lack of a functioning model (and I will show what you need for that model in a separate post for readability). And let’s be honest here, you are not doing an actual Beyesian analysis, you are trying to confound readers with big numbers and complex terminology. You can do a similar analysis on the Drake equation; after all you have the current situation as it is known to you. One planet with life, the rest is just missing data and therefore “ESPECIALLY suited” for your Bayesian thinking. In practice though interesting to muse about whether we are alone or not, the exercise only yield a massive amount of opinionated speculation.

    • (From one authoritative source: “…we have developed a formal Bayesian definition of surprise that is the only consistent formulation under minimal axiomatic assumptions… surprise can exist only in the presence of uncertainty, which can arise from intrinsic stochasticity, missing information, or limited computing resources. A world that is purely deterministic and predictable in real-time for a given observer contains no surprises… In probability and decision theory it can be shown that, under a small set of axioms, the only consistent way for modeling and reasoning about uncertainty is provided by the Bayesian theory of probability.”)

    You do realise that the work from USC (et al) on the theory on surprise that you are quoting specifically relates to human surprise (in fact calculating your incredulity in practice), or more generally to any prenotion regarding information not being met? Not the actual likelihood of the results but to the observer reaction to the results based on his own internal predictive models (“surprise can only be defined in a relative, subjective, manner and is related to the expectations of the observer”). In other words the method described there is fine for calculating how “surprised” you are that life exist, but doesn’t tell anything about how “surprising” it is. The lack of data, missing information etc that it is referred to is not the missing data input for this analysis, but in the existing world model of the observer being surprised.

    YOU may believe that there are, say, 10^100+ possible life-supporting biochemical systems. If so, you are entitled to wait optimistically for some experimental confirmation to bridge the gap.

    I am not making that prediction at all, given that I, like you, lack the information to make a workable estimate for the probability, but have the sense to face the consequence of that fact; that no informational or scientific value is contained within such a faulty estimate. Not only in the part of the model that estimates the number of results neutral to the outcome, but also in the dynamics of the probability distribution of the result that can have an extreme impact on the degrees of freedom for the model. Plainly if some results are being favoured by chemistry and physics, and many of the complete sets of non life favourable alternatives being unviable vs the monkey on typewriter model.

    But that is a BIG act of faith to base on a sample of 1. It is like a biological version of the Multiverse Theory. With the Multiverse mindset you can believe pretty much whatever you want.

    Which I did not bring up. I only brought up the Universe Theory. I feel that I am on safe ground.

    No. I am assuming that nature, unable to employ evolution UNTIL a successful self-replicator emerged, would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a SUCCESSFUL SELF-REPLICATOR suddenly sprang out of the process.

    You are right, I should have been more precise, although the error is still in the same category, based on any or all of the assumption that there 1) the modern self replicating mechanism is what we would have to arrive at, 2) That there were no intermediate steps on the way to 1 and 3) That there were no limitations or external pressure on the results of the process and the degrees of freedom for the process.

    [Edited: I carelessly typed “10^80” originally.] So thanks for the sarcastic “hint”, but no thanks.

    And yet you failed to grasp the point and go off on a long tirade. There is an extremely large subset of “surprising” results, not only 100×19.

    Every trial is independent, “scrapping any result until” that successful self-replicator emerges. (Well – successful in that pampered environment.)

    And what is a pampered environment if not an environment that physically and chemically favours a certain result? And how then would you predict the likelihood of the result without taking the environment and the resulting skewed probability into consideration? Which is what you are trying to do (or rather; one of the errors of what you are doing). How many pathways lead to this replicator, and how many did not lead to it based on the environment that would make a lot of alternate pathways unviable. You can keep coming up with numbers but they again have no fundament on a functional model of reality.

    But, come on, you gave a statistical result (the near certainty of getting a hundred 19s if all the die-throwers in the universe are on the job) which was wrong by at least 60 [not 80 – see above edit] orders of magnitude. It’s a simple back-of-an-envelope calculation. Too busy?

    See above. You missed the original point, and spent time on refuting a claim I did not make.

    E) “…make testable positive theories…” That goes with (D), and I’ve heard them both many a time. The fact is that you don’t need to peform an experiment or produce an alternate theory when you see (and it’s not just me) a problem with someone’s hypothesis. Einstein never performed an experiment in his life, but he disproved Newtonian gravitational theory sitting at his desk

    Because the theory Einstein made behind his desk was positive and testable, which is why it got validated and gained traction. He did not state that “based on how my observations of the world there is a 10^59th – 10^97th chance that Newton was wrong”. Come on, do you think it was the actual desk I was criticizing? You can do better.

    “[very big numbers]. They don’t understand Very Big Numbers.”

    Quite the contrary. I do understand big numbers, I do have a fair grasp on probability, but it is the process of arriving at those big numbers, what limitations they have and how and for what purpose they are used that interests me. I will explain what I see as your error in this case in the next post.

  190. Any sufficiently complex, branching process will have enough possible iterations for any single outcome to have likelihoods approaching zero. Yet they happen all the time:

    • You were born against extreme odds, and so was every human being who ever set foot on our planet (while on the flipside a virtually infinite amount of potential human beings were never born.)

    • An evening spent at the roulette table will yield results that would have been impossible to guess.

    • An unexpected results cannot be called unexpected unless it is put into context. A lottery result of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 might be more unexpected to you than a result like 4,17,22,26,30,34,37, but they are equally unlikely when randomly drawn from a pool of 40 numbers. The first result only become extremely unlikely when you expect exactly that draw to happen, and while for the second alternative it is ok to arrive at something similar. A human brain always seeks for patterns even when there are none.

    A functioning model for calculate how “unexpected” the outcome is must account for the following effects:

    • The effect of internal pressures on the outcome. Does each iterative step gravitate towards some results more than other or are they totally random in nature? Are some combinations more chemically or physically likely than others?

    • The effect of external pressures on the outcome. Does the environment favor certain results, and have the pressure
      changed over time with the environment. (A chemical reaction with multiple possible outcomes can be dominated by one pathway at a given temperature and pressure, while another pathway can be favored by changing these)

    • The degrees of freedom of the process based on these two. How many alternatives and branching subsets are not viable at all. Physically and chemically.

    • The effect of external pressures on the conservation of an outcome.

    • How many possible alternate pathways are neutral to the overall result “life begins“ (for abiogenesis) or “life evolves” (for evolution) – this is where any so far attempted calculation I have seen really falls apart because it starts from “given the life that have evolved, what are the chances” (which brings you into the trap of point #1), and not all possible alternate pathways that could been taken. It is like concluding that a man made habitat cannot exist without a central pole because the only habitat that you ever saw was the inside of a circus tent. Even if circus tents were the only abodes human beings ever resided in this would still not be true (similar to the “essential for current life” fallacy).

    • …And of course the scale of resources which the process had available. Not only on a planetary scale, but on a universal scale. This is another hard number to estimate, but at least here it is possible to make a sensible range.

    [Edited for formatting]

  191. @Alan4Discussion

    Logicophilosophicus: “Personally I don’t believe in miracles – there has to be some way of producing self-replicators from an inorganic starting point without violating physical laws. But it is a huge problem, often glossed over.”

    That’s a clear statement, but it has attracted your unremitting jeers and slurs. I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing them, and their SUPPOSED SCIENTIFIC GROUNDS (capitalisation added) so that you, or anyone else, can see why I am reluctant to discuss topics at this level of personal insult.

    Alan4Discussion: “You are simply making this up… this is pure assumption… you have found and bandied around some complex science which you can’t understand, for the purpose of doubt-mongering about real science… you have no understanding of the subject… I am aware of your incredulity… your failure to grasp… IF YOU HAD WATCHED DR SZOSTAK’S VIDEO ON ABIOGENESIS, YOU WOULD SEE… [WHAT] I AND OTHER BIOLOGISTS KNOW which you did not understand and think you can blind me with incredulity about science!…Just making up your own “facts”, as an expression of irreducible-incredulity and the misreading of science papers once again!?… You got it wrong with a schoolboy error… despite bandying around citations of reputable scientific papers you are totally clueless about about the basic biology!… making up fictitious “facts”… JACK SZOSTAK SHOWED PRE-RNA AND PRE-DNA REPLICATION… because of complexity and your own incredulity from lacking key knowledge… YOU… BLANKED OUT… THE NOBEL PRIZE WINNNG JACK SZOSTAK’S ELEGANT EXPLANATIONS… just doubt mongering from incredulity… the unsupported claim of “a huge problem” …sounds like the theist chants in church – chanting and wishing will make beliefs so! It also looks like the “ID-god-did-its” style of debate… Perhaps you should study evolutionary genetics… lack of understanding… incredulity… A NOBEL LAUREATE… PROVIDED [AN EXPLANATION OF HOW A COMPLEX REPLICATOR CAME INTO BEING]. THIS VIDEO SUMMARIZES [IT]… ONE MORE TIME! WATCH THE VIDEO BY JACK SZOSTAK WHICH SHOWS THIS EARLY STAGE PROCESS OF SELF-REPLICATION… Assumption without research is the basis of incredulity!”

    I had looked – carefully – at the video, and I pointed out that at more than one key point in the narrative Jack Zsostak simply says “somehow”. My position is clear (see above) – the “somehow” steps are a “huge problem”. Jack Szostak’s video was posted on YouTube in early January 2012: I was interested to see how he assesses the size of the remaining problem. This is an extract from a paper later the same year. I’ve added emphasis by capitalising relevant phrases:

    “…the creation of a true replicase remains a great experimental challenge. At first glance the alternative, in which RNA replication is driven purely by chemical and physical processes, seems even more challenging… [However] recent findings… SUGGEST that chemically driven RNA replication MAY not be COMPLETELY impossible… As recently as 2004, Leslie Orgel, one of the great founding fathers of the field of prebiotic chemistry, suggested that ‘the abiotic synthesis of RNA is SO DIFFICULT that it is unclear that the RNA World COULD EVER HAVE EVOLVED de novo on the primitive earth’.”
    [http://molbio.mgh.harvard.edu/szostakweb/publications/Szostak_pdfs/Szostak_2012_JSystChem.pdf]

    The “OTHER BIOLOGISTS” who, along with yourself, know that abiogenesis is not a “huge problem” clearly do not include these great molecular biologists, Szostak and Orgel, whose views are entirely in line with mine.

  192. In reply to #207 by logicophilosophicus:

    @Alan4Discussion

    Logicophilosophicus: “Personally I don’t believe in miracles – there has to be some way of producing self-replicators from an inorganic starting point without violating physical laws. But it is a huge problem, often glossed over.”

    That’s a clear statement

    But can you not see why your reasoning evokes suspicion of ulterior motives? While the statement above in isolation is fine and commendable (except the use of “Inorganic”), you still claim by producing (in my honest opinion) speculative statistics that self replicators are statistically unlikely to the point of being impossible. Your use of citation as shown in my previous reply either borders on dishonesty or at the very least it is sloppy work. (and before you go into defensive mode, I specifically mean your argumentative technique, not you as a person). You use these high numbers, technical statistical terminology, citations, and arguments from authority in a way very remniscent of standard creationist tactic. While it certainly does not prove you are one it raises warning signs, sets off alarm bells and increases the threat level to code orange.

  193. In reply to #207 by logicophilosophicus:

    The “OTHER BIOLOGISTS” who, along with yourself, know that abiogenesis is not a “huge problem” clearly do not include these great molecular biologists, Szostak and Orgel, whose views are entirely in line with mine.

    The problem with your “authorities” is that you are just flip-flopping around, cherry-picking bits of information about which to express your persistent incredulity. Irreducable incredulity on which no amount of science makes any impression. As I said earlier – you are just doubt-mongering without understanding, as you did on earlier threads, with denial of evidence others present to you, challenged with sloppy and often vague, citations which you cannot recognise as inconclusive or simple speculation.

    This work on abiogenesis has substantial experimental support and is steadily progressing as synthetic genomes and genetic engineering progress.

    I had looked – carefully – at the video, and I pointed out that at more than one key point in the narrative Jack Zsostak simply says “somehow”.

    If you understood the subject, you would know that “somehow”, means “one of several possibilities”, not “we have no idea”!

  194. In reply to #208 by Angry Atavist:

    In reply to #207 by logicophilosophicus:

    Your use of citation as shown in my previous reply either borders on dishonesty or at the very least it is sloppy work. (and before you go into defensive mode, I specifically mean your argumentative technique, not you as a person).

    You use these high numbers, technical statistical terminology, citations, and arguments from authority in a way very remniscent of standard creationist tactic. While it certainly does not prove you are one it raises warning signs, sets off alarm bells and increases the threat level to code orange.

    +1

    The point has been made on past discussions!

  195. @ Angy Atavist

    It would be churlish not to reply to your long posts, especially since I owe you an apology for inadvertently misquoting your username. (I’m sure you realise that if I was looking for a jibe, “Activist” isn’t it.)

    My conclusion was that abiogenesis along the lines of the RNA World is a “huge problem”, because of the combinatorial difficulty (this is precisely Manfred Eigen’s position), but that there MUST be a solution within the laws of physics. That is LESS pessimistic than Jack Szostak (it “MAY not be completely impossible”) or Orgel (“unclear that [it] could EVER have evolved de novo on the primitive earth” – hence his and Crick’s consideration of Panspermia). That’s three Nobel Prize Winners working in molecular biology right there, all more pessimistic than I am. You’d better put them all on “code orange”.

    Re big numbers, I notice you don’t acknowledge your 60-orders-of-magnitude slip, asserting: “I do understand big numbers, I do have a fair grasp on probability…”

    To explain what you see as my error, you produced a separate post. Your first example is:

    “You were born against extreme odds, and so was every human being…” Very true: with 2 parents each offering a 50-50 choice of each of 23,000 genes (ignoring homozygosity etc) the odds that this precise genome (its active parts, anyway) might be as high as 2^23,000 to 1 against, or around 10^700 to 1. Many years ago I had occasion to calculate the odds against the precise hands in a session of 26 Bridge (or whist) deals. It came to around 10^747, which I christened a “jumbillion” at the time. So the odds against “me” are a few dozen orders of magnitude below a jumbillion. But you mentioned “every other human being” – and it is their existence which makes mine unsurprising. We need to define what is unexpected.

    “An unexpected results cannot be called unexpected unless it is put into context. A lottery result of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 might be more unexpected to you than a result like 4,17,22,26,30,34,37, but they are equally unlikely when randomly drawn from a pool of 40 numbers.” Absolutely right, but HOW unlikely? That specific set is one of 40!/(40-7)!x7!, i.e. around 1 chance in 19 million. You suggest it would not be rational to be surprised a posteriori. I almost agree in that case. But here is a parallel case, from real life, with much bigger numbers. It has happened that in a bridge game, normally dealt, all four players each received one complete suit of cards. The odds against this are worse than 1 in a trillion trillion – think in terms of million dealers each dealing one layout every 30 seconds without a break for a million years. That’s why it is universally agreed that the real life cases involved trickery. (Decks come unsorted when new, but a normal one-at-a-time deal precludes that as an explanation.)

    You suggest that taking an informal Bayesian approach “either borders on dishonesty or at the very least it is sloppy work”. A choice of insults in a single sentence.

    Try this for size: “Bayesian probability is the name given to several related interpretations of probability, which have in common the notion of probability as something like a partial belief, rather than a frequency. This allows the application of probability to all sorts of propositions rather than just ones that come with a reference class. ‘Bayesian’ has been used in this sense since about 1950.” It is very simple. Lacking complete data to establish a frequency, you assign a Bayesian probability – a measure of belief between 0 and 1 – to a proposition. You update that belief according to newer data.

    I based my initial “partial belief” (or rough Bayesian probability) about terrestrial abiogenesis via RNA (the RNA World) on what is known about replicators (the target) and what is known about nucleotides (the sample space); and I had read Oparin-Haldane and Urey-Miller, at the time the state-of-the-art best speculation/demonstration. It was very rough and ready, but I believed then that abiogenesis by such a route was probably a once-or-twice-in-a-million-year probability. I updated it in the 1970’s when I read Crick and Orgel: rather more improbable than I had thought. I updated it again in the 1980s when I read Manfred Eigen: problems were mounting. I updated again in the 1990s, when the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey. I was particularly impressed by the CO2 atmospheres repeatedly confirmed for Mars and Venus. (Note: A CO2 + N2 + H2O atmosphere is inorganic, even in your pedantic sense.) I was also impressed by the CH4 atmosphere of Titan and the simple organic molecules detected in comets: maybe abiogenesis happened somewhere else? I downgraded my expectations for terrestrial abiogenesis yet again when I realised the most optimistic experimenters (the Szostak group) were still so far from a solution (which “MAY not be COMPLETELY impossible”).

    Re the Einstein comment, you did indeed rubbish armchair science by non-experimentalists. The “testable practical theory” counter-examples were different: you have just ignored them and pretended that I attributed lack of a testable theory to Einstein. Check back – you’ll see that it is so.

    I wrote: “…you gave a statistical result (the near certainty of getting a hundred 19s if all the die-throwers in the universe are on the job) which was wrong by at least 60 orders of magnitude.” You replied: “You… spent time on refuting a claim I did not make.” But you did. (“Enough dice throwers that do not know each other, and somewhere there will be a very confused Bayesian (hint; not only 19×100 would show up…”)) Check back.

    You last post is disappointing but also amusing. “Ulterior motive”? The golden rule is to address the point, not the person. Would an argument be any the less valid because the writer was a Christian (like Ronald Fisher) or a sexist (like James Watson) or a Nazi? That was disappointing. Evangelistic Christians, mind you, are obsessed with their higher moral standards. I can’t resist smiling when paranoid atheists assume that undercover Christians are “bearing false witness” and “denying Jesus” to infiltrate atheist websites. Are you SERIOUS?

    I have a motive, and it’s not ulterior: “There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear.” (Daniel C. Dennett)

    @ A4D From the guy that repeatedly cited Szostak (“MAY not be COMPLETELY impossible”) as showing/proving/explaining/demonstrating abiogenesis, that is RICH.

  196. But the power ball is based on number of people entering the contest, it has no time factor.
    Out of 100 millions people or whatever who entered the contest the chances that one person will win are not so small.
    Out of the few billion years that the earth exist, the chances that we evolved are so probably slimmer than a miracle(a miracle is defined in probability as something with a very small chance to happen).
    In other words, they are not saying we don’t exist. They are saying the the chances for us to exist were so small it’s nothing short of a miracle.

    In reply to #2 by Neodarwinian:

    . ” Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible. “

    Just one point I will comment on. These people obviously never took statistics and they are the ones starting at the wrong end. You do NOT calculate odds of something happening backwards. What these people are saying, in a general sense,…

  197. In reply to #61 by Peter Grant:

    In reply to #60 by TanyaK:

    God?

    The Great Green Arkeseizure then, or whatever you posit as responsible for creation.

    What the hell is a “Great Green Arkeseizure”? Sounds like a bad sneeze.

  198. In reply to #204 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #203 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Angry Activist: Long and final amswer.

    I am assuming that nature, unable to employ evolution UNTIL a successful self-replicator emerged, would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a SUCCESSFUL SELF-REPLICATOR suddenly sprang out of the process…

    You use a lot of Exclamation Marks. Makes you sound a bit emotionally immature and hysterical. Just a word of advice.

  199. In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:

    I updated again in the 1990s, when the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey.

    What a load of crap! You are really absolutely clueless about planetary science and geology, and are just making up this rubbish to support your incredulous private agenda of abiogenesis denial! Reducing atmospheres are pretty well the norm in the Solar System!

    I was particularly impressed by the CO2 atmospheres repeatedly confirmed for Mars and Venus.

    So what? They are not their original atmospheres! They have nothing to do with early Earth, and a great deal to do with loss of initial atmosphere due to the action of the Solar wind, so are just another irrelevant diversion.

    (Note: A CO2 + N2 + H2O atmosphere is inorganic, even in your pedantic sense.)

    CO2 contains carbon and hence is “organic” when discussing biological science rather than the vernacular.

    An organic compound is any member of a large class of gaseous, liquid, or solid chemical compounds whose molecules contain carbon. – For historical reasons discussed below, a few types of carbon-containing compounds such as carbides, carbonates, simple oxides of carbon (such as CO and CO2), and cyanides, as well as the allotropes of carbon such as diamond and graphite, are considered inorganic. The distinction between “organic” and “inorganic” carbon compounds, while “useful in organizing the vast subject of chemistry… is somewhat arbitrary”.

    The modern meaning of “organic compound” is any one of them that contains a significant amount of carbon – even though many of the “organic compounds” known today have no connection whatsoever with any substance found in living organisms.

    There is no “official” definition of an organic compound. Some textbooks define an organic compound as one containing one or more C-H bonds; others include C-C bonds in the definition. Others state that if a molecule contains carbon―it is organic.

    Planetary atmosphereshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing-atmosphere

    The same principle applies to planets. Early Earth had a reducing atmosphere, along with Mars and Venus. This proved to be a good environment for Cyanobacteria to evolve the first photosynthetic metabolic pathways which gradually increased the oxygen portion of the atmosphere, changing it to what is known as an oxidizing atmosphere. With increased levels of oxygen, the evolution of the more efficient aerobic respiration was enabled, allowing animal life to evolve and thrive.[1]

    In contrast, the constant bombardment with hydrogen in the solar wind means that interplanetary space is reducing. For example, the Moon is directly exposed to solar wind, such that sodium is reduced and evaporated to produce the sodium tail of the Moon (see atmosphere of the Moon).

    Perhaps you are using selected quotes from different sources to modern science!

    To the question, “Did the early earth have a reducing atmosphere?” we can say that reducing evidence has not been documented in therocks. An evolutionist can maintain that a reducing atmosphere existed before any rocks available for study formed, but such a belief is simply a matter of faith.
    http://http://www.creationsd.org/PDF-insight-articles/Did_The_Early_Earth_Have_A_Reducing_Atmosphere.pdf

    A clearly false statement from the geologically illiterate or plain dishonest!
    There is overwhelming evidence in the rocks and in the planets of the Solar System.

    I have a motive, and it’s not ulterior: “There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear.”

    Gazzzzoingggg!!

  200. In reply to #215 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:

    I updated again in the 1990s, when the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey.

    What a load of crap! You are really absolutely clueless about planetary science and geology, and are…

    “Gazzzzoingggg!!”

    I have a feeling Alan that you are just an “IT nerd wannabe science geek recruited at a Skeptics’ conference”, right? The level of biology you post is at the level of a GCSE textbook.

  201. Logico is actually basically right from what I’ve read. There are multiple difficulties with the synthesis of key organic compounds in the context of prevalent environmental conditions. Just research the steps required to produce a Ribose sugar for instance – many steps, and all needed. It is way too complex to put in a single post, but people can easily look it up.

  202. Is there some sort of tag-team of nutters continuing the discussion on this thread? I’m way, way past the stage of being able to comprehend the arguments put forth, but I can see that Alan4Discussion is supplying valuable links and putting up great facts to counter the arguments of the creationists.

    What it boils down to is this. You (dissenters) prefer the existence of some giant in the sky initiating life on earth as an explanation to that of natural forces at work. That doesn’t sound intelligent to me no matter what sort of scientific terminology you use.

  203. Erm – no-one has mentioned a “Giant In The Sky” except you, Nitya. What’s your point? Are you stating that discussion about Biology is not permitted? Is it somehow “Taboo”?

  204. In that case, what explanation are you proposing? Be honest here…are you simply dissenting for the sake of it, or do you have an agenda?

  205. In reply to #220 by Nitya:

    In that case, what explanation are you proposing? Be honest here…are you simply dissenting for the sake of it, or do you have an agenda?

    No-one has an “agenda”, except discussion. The points made by people like Logico and so on are quite valid points. The point I made about Ribose sugar production is hardly esoteric to a Biologist. It’s just relevant discussion.

  206. In reply to #214 by roxyrox:

    You use a lot of Exclamation Marks. Makes you sound a bit emotionally immature and hysterical. Just a word of advice.

    Feckin’ tone trolls.

  207. In reply to #216 by roxyrox:

    I have a feeling Alan that you are just an “IT nerd wannabe science geek recruited at a Skeptics’ conference”, right? The level of biology you post is at the level of a GCSE textbook.

    The ignorant…it stings.

    Rather than make ad hom attacks, produce an argument against the so-called GCSE textbook science you feel the level his posts are at.

  208. In reply to #203 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Angry Activist: Long and final amswer.

    I am assuming that nature, unable to employ evolution UNTIL a successful self-replicator emerged, would have to try and fail, scrapping any result until a SUCCESSFUL SELF-REPLICATOR suddenly sprang out of the process – unless “something else” was happening.

    This erroneous assumption of yours makes it seem virtually impossible that a replicator molecule could ever appear. Your implication is that everything that happened before a replicator was random, and that everything in the universe up to that point suddenly sprang out of the process until finally life began– unless, of course something else was happening. Well, something else WAS happening: the evolution of the universe, and the target wasn’t a replicator molecule, it was the ability to exist longer against the tide of increasing entropy. Systems that broke down quickly became more rare, and longer lasting stable systems became more common. Systems became more complex because of the interaction of order and disorder. Replication could have evolved along with increasing complexity, beginning with things like reversible chemical reactions and catalytic reactions that produced compounds that were the catalysts for the same reaction. There would be pressure to improve replication because it allowed a more complex system with a relatively short existence to continue and become more common. When the replicators became good enough for life to emerge, they would continue to improve as life became more complex. Something as complex as living systems couldn’t evolve without a replicator, but it wouldn’t have to wait until it sprang from the soup of random reactions. It could have evolved in a step-wise process as chemical systems became more complex. It may still be a fairly improbable set of occurances, but not nearly as improbable as you imply.

    “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

  209. From original discussion.

    1. Simply stated, evolution is mathematically impossible. Most evolutionist start in the middle of the puzzle. They begin with comparative anatomy, which is very impressive. They fail to start at the very beginning.

    Mathematics only does mathematics. Its ability to model reality is a happy coincidence, most of the time. Nature ignores the non-invertable matrix. The problem in University level maths is the maths people take maths on faith. Scientists use it as a modelling tool and descriptive language, engineers use it as a blunt instrument to get close enough to be able to rely on a ‘factor of safety’.

    Stats is even worse, so be a bit careful about how you use mathematical models and proofs.

    It is possible in some modelling systems using finite element analysis to get errors in stresses of 27% as a matter of routine. It is also easy to hack the google algorythm to stop pages being found on the net.

  210. In reply to #217 by roxyrox:

    Logico is actually basically right from what I’ve read.

    Then clearly you have no idea about the subject! **The disputing of a reducing atmosphere on Earth, not only shows a total ignorance of the chemistry of pre-biotic Earth, but also a total ignorance of the nature of life and environmental conditions for the first billion years of pre-oxygen evolution. **

    In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:

    I updated again in the 1990s, when the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey.

    roxyrox: – There are multiple difficulties with the synthesis of key organic compounds in the context of prevalent environmental conditions.

    In the opinion of those who have no idea what the environmental conditions were!

    roxyrox: Just research the steps required to produce a Ribose sugar for instance – many steps, and all needed. It is way too complex to put in a single post, but people can easily look it up.

    Oh dear more ignorance and incredulity! The universe, galaxy, nebulae and Solar System are teaming with organic compounds!

    roxyrox: @216 have a feeling Alan that you are just an “IT nerd wannabe science geek recruited at a Skeptics’ conference”, right?

    Wrong! If you are playing the “authority card”, I am a fellow of a leading space science organisation.

    roxyrox: The level of biology you post is at the level of a GCSE textbook.

    You couldn’t spot the key schoolboy blunder of the denial of a reducing atmosphere??? – GCSE fail at Biology, Geology or Solar-System Astronomy on that one!!!!

    Gaazzzzooooing!!! – Erroneous thinking by “feeling” is well known in pseudo-science!

    The only remaining question is which creationist IDiot “Science cannot answer list”, is being used as a source of information, by those who have nothing to contribute to the discussion except their personal ignorance and incredulity, buried in obfuscating complexity?

  211. In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:

    I’m sorry but I have to ask. Are you being obtuse or did my grasp of the English language just take a nosedive? Acknowledge my 10^60 error? Did you ever read what I said in the first place? Your 10^60 calculation while amusing was an estimate based on a proposition I never made in the first place (filling the universe with human dice throwers and letting them get on with it for the lifetime of the universe would yield a dice throw of 100 times 19). What I said was that 100×19 was not the only surprising result. I thought it pretty evident that I meant that there were quite a few results that in isolation would confound a statistician if the net is set wide enough (the definition of a surprise, or the size of the subset “surprise” vs the rest) and there are enough simultaneous and independent processes at work. If that statement qualifies as a 10^60 error in your world then yes, we have a very different understanding of large numbers.

    I also thought that I made it clear enough that it was your use of citations that I found either sloppy or dishonest, but you’re of course free to play the offended-card despite the qualification of my initial statement. Here is the link to the page that describe the source you cited as a reference to support your view of Bayesian analysis and missing data (http://ilab.usc.edu/surprise/), and everyone can read for themselves what it actually said and which context the missing data was being discussed. The fact that you ignore being caught red handed here while continuing to spend paragraph after paragraph on a claim I did not make (again; unless I have run into some language barrier previously unknown to me) is telling. You ignore the degree of which a chemical system does not behave as a random equal probability system and the potential effects of these on the probability calculations you make, and for me it shows that your model is just as speculative as any attempt that I have seen on the Drake equation. Not knowing or understanding the base conditions and drivers of the process is not solved by conceding a few orders of magnitude on your estimate!

    The reason why I would be vary of discussing with someone with a creationist agenda, while I agree in principle that it is always the argument not the worldview that count, is the speed of which nonsense can be postulated vs the time it takes to disprove it (like the infantile “third law of thermodynamic disproves evolution”-argument I’m sure you’ve heard). Which would have been fine if only these debates are initiated with the goal of arriving at any resolution or the honest wish to learn something, and not to confound with pseudoscience, misquoting and cherrypicking sources and then ignoring unwanted answers. In the long run it just becomes pointless verbose version of whack-a-mole.

    Ok that’s all I had time for today and I will not be in reach of an internet connection for the next week or so. If there are some new points to respond to it will have to wait until then.

  212. In reply to #227 by Angry Atavist:

    In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:
    The fact that you ignore being caught red handed here while continuing to spend paragraph after paragraph on a claim I did not make (again; unless I have run into some language barrier previously unknown to me) is telling. You ignore the degree of which a chemical system does not behave as a random equal probability system and the potential effects of these on the probability calculations you make, and for me it shows that your model is just as speculative as any attempt that I have seen on the Drake equation. Not knowing or understanding the base conditions and drivers of the process is not solved by conceding a few orders of magnitude on your estimate!

    The reason why I would be vary of discussing with someone with a creationist agenda, while I agree in principle that it is always the argument not the worldview that count, is the speed of which nonsense can be postulated vs the time it takes to disprove it

    You have spotted the methodology illustrated over this and various threads.

    There seems to be a large dichotomy between the created complexity of the creationist ID style arguments, and the personal level of understanding of the subject matter! You may have noticed the ignoring of key elements my posts and links when they raise inconvenient issues or refutations. The cascade of trolling complex assertions then continues to flip-flop all over the topics into various diversions.

    logicophilosophicus @207 .. so that you, or anyone else, can see why I am reluctant to discuss topics at this level of personal insult.

    I think the amber warning just went red!

    Yeah! I can see that pointing out that churning out incompetent misleading complex garbage, is regarded as “an insult”, so providing a good excuse to duck the inconvenient issues and play the offended card!

    logicophilosophicus @211 – That is LESS pessimistic than Jack Szostak (it “MAY not be completely impossible”) or Orgel (“unclear that [it] could EVER have evolved de novo on the primitive earth” – hence his and Crick’s consideration of Panspermia). That’s three Nobel Prize Winners working in molecular biology right there, all more pessimistic than I am. You’d better put them all on “code orange”.

    … Just check out a bit of name-dropping, quote mining, or misrepresentation of casual speculations as “evidence”!

    logicophilosophicus – That was disappointing. Evangelistic Christians, mind you, are obsessed with their higher moral standards.

    A comically delusional notion really!!

    logicophilosophicus – I can’t resist smiling when paranoid atheists assume that undercover Christians are “bearing false witness” and “denying Jesus” to infiltrate atheist websites.

    Wasn’t that liars for Jebus “bearing false witness” and “denying SCIENCE”?? –
    Especially when they churn out pseudo-science garbage, or doubt-mongering nonsense, which is the spitting image of stuff on creationist pseudo-science websites!

    Strange that after numerous posts posturing as presenting complex expert information on abiogenesis, logicophilosophicus finally reveals that he does not know that the early Earth had a reducing atmosphere which would have determined the chemistry involved in those processes!

    It would be comical if so much time had not been wasted on the vacuous assertions and the contrived complexity, of diversionary, rambling, red-herrings!

  213. Indeed.

    Of course when pointing out someone elses sloppieness one should take care when writing ones own posts, and here I erred on one point in my last comment. I had meant to write second, not third law of thermodynamics, but pasted into the browser from Word before I had corrected my mistake.

  214. In reply to #229 by Angry Atavist:

    I had meant to write second, not third law of thermodynamics, but pasted into the browser from Word before I had corrected my mistake.

    Ah! But unlike some, you have corrected your mistake!!

    Don’t worry about the second law of thermodynamics – or the others.

    logicophilosophicus refuted those in one or more earlier discussions!!!!! (He has those atoms running a temperature and shaking in their boots in awe of his grasp of science!)

    @A4D Aw come on. You’ve been getting an easy ride. Your physics is virtually non-existent. I wasn’t going to go here, but you’ve touted this repeatedly as proof positive:

    #112: “Physicists know the Laws of thermodynamics, which pretty well cover ALL movements and transmissions of energy and interplay with matter at atomic scales!”

    Kindly enlighten anyone here – WHICH law of thermodynamics do you think has any application whatsoever “at atomic scales”? I’ll help you – NONE. Au revoir.(http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/2013/1/26/can-anyone-be-an-atheist-and-also-believe-in-an-afterlife#comment-box-159

    A look over that discussion could be quite enlightening, in showing the nature of the trolling!

  215. @ Angry Atavist – Good. I have to write a long post now, so I shall be glad to wait a few days before replying. I don’t want to hog the thread – I don’t have the time, either.

    @ Any innocent bystander reading this – I have leavened this spiel with some REALLY USEFUL info about using Wikipedia.

    @ Alan4discussion and @ Roxyrox

    OK – One point at a time, in depth. A4D, you are rabid about this point, so I would appreciate an answer:

    “…in the 1990s… the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey.”

    Alan4discussion was moved to write:

    “What a load of crap! You are really absolutely clueless about planetary science and geology, and are just making up this rubbish to support your incredulous private agenda of abiogenesis denial! Reducing atmospheres are pretty well the norm in the Solar System!”

    He cites his authority (which I often refer to as “The Deaded Wikipedia” – you’ll see why):

    Planetary atmospheres: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing-atmosphere

    He also quotes it verbatim:

    “The same principle applies to planets. Early Earth had a reducing atmosphere, along with Mars and Venus. This proved to be a good environment for Cyanobacteria to evolve the first photosynthetic metabolic pathways which gradually increased the oxygen portion of the atmosphere, changing it to what is known as an oxidizing atmosphere. With increased levels of oxygen, the evolution of the more efficient aerobic respiration was enabled, allowing animal life to evolve and thrive.[1]”

    The footnote [1] cites a 2007 article in the New Scientist, by John Gribbin, a prominent UK astrophysicist and science writer. (The Wikipedia article has only that single source cited. There is no [2].)

    Alan4discussion suggests that the source of my “load of crap” is Creationist disinformation/propaganda:

    “Perhaps you are using selected quotes from different sources to modern science! [e.g.] “…a reducing atmosphere… has not been documented in therocks. An evolutionist can maintain that a reducing atmosphere existed before any rocks available for study formed, but such a belief is simply a matter of faith…” (from http://www.creationsd.org)

    This source – laid at my door – is “A clearly false statement from the geologically illiterate or plain dishonest! There is overwhelming evidence in the rocks and in the planets of the Solar System,” says A4D.

    “The disputing of a reducing atmosphere on Earth, not only shows a total ignorance of the chemistry of pre-biotic Earth, but also a total ignorance of the nature of life and environmental conditions for the first billion years of pre-oxygen evolution…”

    A4D himself speaks with specialist authority:

    “I am a fellow of a leading space science organisation.” This is entirely consistent with his previously stated credentials: “I am a biologist (and ecologist and planetary scientist).”

    A final and familiar flourish from Alan4Discussion:

    “The only remaining question is which creationist IDiot ‘Science cannot answer list’, is being used as a source of information, by those who have nothing to contribute to the discussion except their personal ignorance and incredulity?” That’s a very robust, not to mention very abusive, challenge which it would be cowardly to leave unanswered.

    Sources:

    1) Re 1990s scientific rejection of a reducing atmosphere for pre-biotic Earth.

    New Scientist, 21st April 1990.

    “…Until recently, scientists believed that the atmosphere of the early Earth, in common with the giant outer planets of the Solar System, was mostly methane, ammonia and water – known as a reducing atmosphere… However, scientists now believe that the primitive Earth could not have had a reducing atmosphere. Sunlight, they say, would have caused any methane in the atmosphere to react with water to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The hydrogen, being light, would then have escaped from the atmosphere, while the ammonia dissolved in the sea. Chemists calculate that this process would have taken less than a million years. Some geochemists have an alternative suggestion for the composition of the Earth’s primitive atmosphere. They contend that it was formed entirely from gases that bubbled up from beneath the crust. Methane and ammonia were probably not present in very large amounts. Instead, the main constituents of the Earth’s early atmosphere were probably carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water, together with small amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.”

    2) How can that be so? A4D’s Wikipedia source also cites New Scientist, 2007. Maybe opinions have changed, and planetary scientists now favour a reducing atmosphere once more? Not at all. This is from Gribbin’s article:

    “VERY early on in the history of the Solar System, any traces of primordial gas around the young Earth would have been swept away by outbursts from the young Sun. So the present day atmosphere has evolved from a mixture of gases released from the interior of the Earth. Geologists and astronomers try to understand what happened in the early atmosphere of the Earth by studying the kinds of gases emitted by volcanoes today. The main gas released by volcanism is water vapour, which makes up 64 per cent by weight. Carbon dioxide provides 24 per cent of the total, sulphur dioxide 10 per cent and nitrogen just over 1.5 per cent.”

    3) So is the Wikipedia author citing a source – his ONLY cited source – wrongly? Yes, absolutely. There is NOTHING in the Gribbin article which is remotely consistent with the paragraph which cites it. Surely that is impossible! The Wikipedia community polices its material – any error by an author is edited out by others. Also, why WOULD anyone plant an obscure piece of misinformation like that? Cui bono?

    The fact is that many Wikipedia articles are initially dubious, and one pressure applied is that articles are required to cite sources. There is a boxed comment at the top of this one: “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.” Having mentioned the history of the Earth’s atmosphere, the author has added a source which he or she DEMONSTRABLY DID NOT READ. Every one who has ever been tempted to beef up a bibliography by copying someone else’s can understand this. But why has no planetary scientist spotted this and edited or commented? That is the easiest question to answer. The article has not been read by any planetary scientists (except A4D), because it is not about planetary atmospheres, although it is headed “Reducing atmosphere.” This extract shows the actual topic:

    “In metal processing, a REDUCING ATMOSPHERE is used in annealing ovens for relaxation of metal stresses without corroding the metal.”

    The paragraph about planetary atmospheres is at the end of the short article, a gratuitous unresearched addition. Surely not! Once again, cui bono? This takes us into the hidden depths of Wikipedia…

    Clicking on the “View history” tab on the page, we see all the edits right back to the original article in 2003, when a user called Nickfl produced a page entitled “Reducing atmosphere” which is about the effects of firing glazed ceramics in an oxygen-free environment. The title seems unhelpful, but authors have their pride, and it does make the piece distinct (unhelpfully I’d say) from articles with “Ceramic” or “Glaze” as the keyword. If an article is not distinct it can be moved/attached to an existing article. In 2004 “Marshman” moved the article to another, “Reducing environment”, but the change was undone. People are jealous of their work, and edits are often edited back by the owner. Then – in 2010 – an editor named “Student7” made a change, and was prompted to provide a citation. This is the resultant addition:

    “The same principal [sic] applies to planets. Early earth had a reducing atmosphere, along with Mars and Venus. Later events stabilized earth’s atmosphere to permit the evolution of life.[1]” The citation (proudly announced on the history page as “first citation in entire article!”) is not to New Scientist, but to Columbia University: follow the link and it actually tells the same NON-REDUCING story: “Early Earth probably had an atmosphere dominated by carbon dioxide similar to the atmosphere of Venus today.”) The suggestion that a reducing atmosphere was regarded as UNFAVOURABLE to the origin of life is also plain wrong, and another user “corrected” this, and changed the citation to New Scientist (Gribbin); the edit included the first mention of cyanobacteria modifying the reducing atmosphere. But there was no reducing atmosphere! Just in case you think this is a single rogue entry at Wikipedia, note that the article links to “Cyanobacteria” which is classified as a “High importance” article with no problems, has gone through hundreds of revisions, and yet includes the “information” that “By producing oxygen as a gas as a by-product of photosynthesis, cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the EARLY REDUCING ATMOSPHERE into an oxidizing one…”

    Cui bono? Vain “authors” and “editors”. Did “Student7” edit the page about ceramics because he/she is an expert in either ceramics or atmospheric science? Clearly not, from the remark left on the Revision History page: “well, here’s one citation. there are hundreds of them. Probably better known in planetology than in metallurgy or whatever this is”.

    From the Revision History page you can click on the dates to see the article as it was at that revision; OR you can click on the name of the editor… Click on “Student7” and you will find these pieces of information:

    “This editor is a Master Editor and is entitled to display this Platinum Editor Star.”
    “This user has made over 55,000 contributions to Wikipedia.”

    55,000+ in six and a half years is one per hour, 24/7, without a day off. Draw your own conclusions; and wonder how many of those tens of thousands are of the same quality…

    I’m not suggesting Wikipedia is a bad tool. To be honest, using the obvious pages (“History of the Earth” or “Abiogenesis”) leads to the correct information about the early atmosphere.

    Anyone interested in using Wikipedia – I do all the time – should treat it with care:

    a) Read the boxes at the top of the article…
    b) …If they suggest controversy/inedaquacy, click on the “Talk” and “View History” tabs.
    c) Treat W/P as a FIRST source – the cited sources are the proof of the pudding. If they seem obscure (Anchorage Druidical College or whatever) look elsewhere. Rememember: some Platinum Star Editor may be responsible.

    The only remaining question is why a “biologist, planetary scientist and fellow of a leading space science organisation” would not know the facts, and would use “selected quotes from different sources to modern science” such as a site about “metallurgy or whatever this is”.

  216. In reply to #233 by Smill:

    In reply to Alan4D, post 232. I’ll admit, I was enjoying this thread, especially the repartee you engage in with L-P-S. Please identify the trolling for me?

    The OP gives examples of pseudo-science trolling of disinformation to disrupt and discredit genuine scientific information by creationists pursuing their deluded agendas.

    2 . – Internet Troll – http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=internet%20troll
    An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

    Alan @228 – Strange that after numerous posts posturing as presenting complex expert information on abiogenesis, logicophilosophicus finally reveals that he does not know that the early Earth had a reducing atmosphere which would have determined the chemistry involved in those processes!

    While the topic of this discussion is creationist “irreducible complexity” trolling, or as I more accurately described it, “Irreducible personal incredulity”, with refusal to rationally consider evidence, while churning out disruptive disinformation and mischievous doubt-mongering wrapped up in contrived misleading complexity to meet some undisclosed agenda. – Very often with such disinformation copied from AGW denial websites of ID creationist websites by people who personally know little or nothing about the subject and demonstrate little or no willingness or capability to do constructive research at a level they can personally understand.

    The contrived complexity is flawed, but sufficiently intricate to “blind with (pseudo)science”, all but the most versed in the subject. Essentially they are throwing copied complex issues and unsupported assertions which require long detailed explanations, at other people, in the expectation of “blinding them with science” or sniping at the replies. They have no intention of engaging in a reasoned understanding, and often lack the ability to do so, – so if a mathematicians tells them their maths is nonsense, they will simply deny this and pretend they have superior knowledge and ignore inconvenient information or refutations.

    Posts 224 and 226 to 229 explain the flawed thinking. Post 232 gives a link to an earlier discussion where similar features are visible.

    If you want to see a contrast with a constructive discussion about abiogenesis, without persistently asserted ignorance, – have a look at this thread: http://www.richarddawkins.net/discussions/2013/5/17/abiogenesis-multiple-times#

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  218. In reply to #234 by logicophilosophicus:

    The only remaining question is why a “biologist, planetary scientist and fellow of a leading space science organisation” would not know the facts,

    NO! The question is why does someone with no idea, select misunderstood information to cast doubt on science.

    I quote Wiki not because it is an excellent reliable source, but because it is a concise presentation of the widely agreed scientific fact that Earth’s atmosphere was initially reducing and anoxic for millions of years, – possibly with variations over its calamitous history.

    New Scientist (Gribbin); the edit included the first mention of cyanobacteria modifying the reducing atmosphere.

    There is admittedly some confusion between “reducing” and “anoxic”.

    “…in the 1990s… the tide of scientific opinion was clearly turning against the supposed reducing atmosphere needed by Oparin and Urey.”

    Alan4discussion was moved to write:

    “What a load of crap! You are really absolutely clueless about planetary science and geology, and are just making up this rubbish to support your incredulous private agenda of abiogenesis denial! Reducing atmospheres are pretty well the norm in the Solar System!”

    ..and they are in initial planet formation.

    He cites his authority (which I often refer to as “The Deaded Wikipedia” – you’ll see why):

    Planetary atmospheres: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing-atmosphere

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reducing-atmosphere
    A reducing atmosphere, also known as a reduction atmosphere, is an atmospheric condition in which oxidation is prevented by removal of oxygen and other oxidising gases or vapours, and which may contain actively reducing gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide and gases that would oxidize in the presence of oxygen, such as hydrogen sulfide.

    ▬▬▬▬▬

    Materials processing

    In metal processing, a reducing atmosphere is used in annealing ovens for relaxation of metal stresses without corroding the metal. An inert gas, usually nitrogen is used, or for more extreme conditions, hydrogen gas.

    ▬▬▬▬▬

    Planetary atmospheres

    The same principle applies to planets. Early Earth had a reducing atmosphere, along with Mars and Venus. This proved to be a good environment for Cyanobacteria to evolve the first photosynthetic metabolic pathways which gradually increased the oxygen portion of the atmosphere, changing it to what is known as an oxidizing atmosphere. With increased levels of oxygen, the evolution of the more efficient aerobic respiration was enabled, allowing animal life to evolve and thrive.[1]

    In contrast, the constant bombardment with hydrogen in the solar wind means that interplanetary space is reducing. For example, the Moon is directly exposed to solar wind, such that sodium is reduced and evaporated to produce the sodium tail of the Moon (see atmosphere of the Moon).

    You will see the bluff, bluster, lack of understanding, and misrepresentation, goes on in attempting to link my quote of creationist style denial of Miller-Urey + follow-on work, and the reducing atmosphere in the oceans of early Earth, to a diversion about an irrelevant industrial process in a different section of the article:-

    logicophilosophicus: -and would use “selected quotes from different sources to modern science” such as a site about “metallurgy or whatever this is“.

    I’m afraid, anyone who does not know chemical reduction in a reducing atmosphere on a planet and a reducing atmosphere in an industrial furnace, are similar descriptions of chemical reactions, is in no position to have their opinions taken seriously! It shows a fundamental lack of understanding of basic chemistry. The ad-hom attack on the Wiki source (which was not entirely clear), with an argument from ignorant misrepresentation is a typical creationist tactic!

    logicophilosophicus – The article has not been read by any planetary scientists (except A4D), because it is not about planetary atmospheres, although it is headed “Reducing atmosphere.” This extract shows the actual topic:

    “In metal processing, a REDUCING ATMOSPHERE is used in annealing ovens for relaxation of metal stresses without corroding the metal.”

    … A classic misrepresentation by quote mining an irrelevant section of the article!!

    While the changes of view regarding the composition of the atmosphere are significant, the relevant gases to Miller-Urey + follow-ups, are in the oceans and the volcanic vents where reducing gases were prevalent. In the case of some volcanic vents, they still are!

    http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4373/earths-early-atmosphere

    Despite being the atmosphere that life currently breathes, lives, and thrives on, our current oxidized atmosphere is not currently understood to be a great starting point for life. Methane and its oxygen-poor counterparts have much more biologic potential to jump from inorganic compounds to life-supporting amino acids and DNA. As such, Watson thinks the discovery of his group may reinvigorate theories that perhaps those building blocks for life were not created on Earth, but delivered from elsewhere in the galaxy.

    The source of the organic chemicals is of course, not relevant to the validity of the Miller-Urey experiment or the various spin-offs which it generated. Various possible sources of organics have been discussed on other threads.

    astrobio.net – continued The results do not, however, run contrary to existing theories on life’s journey from anaerobic to aerobic organisms. The results quantify the nature of gas molecules containing carbon, hydrogen, and sulfur in the earliest atmosphere, but they shed no light on the much later rise of free oxygen in the air. There was still a significant amount of time for oxygen to build up in the atmosphere through biologic mechanisms, according to Trail.

    There is some substance to the claim of a less reducing global atmosphere in the quoted link which is confirmed in my link above:

    @234 by logicophilosophicus – The citation (proudly announced on the history page as “first citation in entire article!”) is not to New Scientist, but to Columbia University: follow the link and it actually tells the same NON-REDUCING story:

    The lack of understanding which I expressed as “a load of crap”, is in claiming this challenges Miller-Urey (about which there is some genuine scepticism) and the spin-offs it generated!

    http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise-chem/Exobiology/miller.html

    Perhaps most importantly, Miller’s experiment showed that organic compounds such as amino acids, which are essential to cellular life, could be made easily under the conditions that scientists believed to be present on the early earth. This enormous finding inspired a multitude of further experiments.

    In 1961, Juan Oro found that amino acids could be made from hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and ammonia in an aqueous solution. He also found that his experiment produced an amazing amount of the nucleotide base, adenine. Adenine is of tremendous biological significance as an organic compound because it is one of the four bases in RNA and DNA. It is also a component of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is a major energy releasing molecule in cells. Experiments conducted later showed that the other RNA and DNA bases could be obtained through simulated prebiotic chemistry with a reducing atmosphere.

    What is very clear, is that the atmosphere of the early Earth was initially strongly reducing, and it remained anoxic for about a billion years, with cometary or meteorite impacts and with local and global volcanic venting of volcanic gasses, around the time life started. The geological history shows any free oxygen being removed by reacting with minerals such as iron, for millions of years.

    I made the point earlier in this discussion, about the huge diversity of local conditions over millions of years. Science moves on in the light of new discoveries, but the updating does NOT cast doubt on the whole process.

    Angry Atavist @2227 – I agree in principle that it is always the argument not the worldview that count, is the speed of which nonsense can be postulated vs the time it takes to disprove it.

    The problem with the research burden arising from asserted doubt-mongering in complex areas, is the possibility of errors or lack of clarity, from brevity and over-simplification! That is the basis of incredulous arguments from “irreducible complexity” seeking credibility!

  219. In reply to #237 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #234 by logicophilosophicus:

    Sticking to one point at a time… Your Duke University source (cited in your last post) re Urey-Miller continues: “There has been a recent wave of skepticism concerning Miller’s experiment because it is now believed that the early earth’s atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules.”

    I.E. Exactly the point I made.

    You wrote: “The disputing of a reducing atmosphere on Earth, not only shows a total ignorance of the chemistry of pre-biotic Earth, but also a total ignorance of the nature of life and environmental conditions for the first billion years of pre-oxygen evolution.”

    Would I be right in saying “It is NOT believed [by Alan4Discussion] that the early earth’s atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules”?

  220. In reply to #238 by logicophilosophicus:

    Sticking to one point at a time… Your Duke University source (cited in your last post) re Urey-Miller continues: “There has been a recent wave of skepticism concerning Miller’s experiment because it is now believed that the early earth’s atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules.”

    I.E. Exactly the point I made.

    I did point this out when I posted that link – and have also pointed out the follow-on work superseding Miller’s work . The issue hinges on the word “predominantly”. The chemistry is basically reduction V oxidation. DEFINITIONS OF OXIDATION AND REDUCTION (REDOX)

    You wrote: “The disputing of a reducing atmosphere on Earth, not only shows a total ignorance of the chemistry of pre-biotic Earth, but also a total ignorance of the nature of life and environmental conditions for the first billion years of pre-oxygen evolution.”

    That is correct. The key issue is “pre-oxygen evolution”. Regardless of the degree of “reduction”, The oxidizing atmosphere did not arise until the iron dissolved in the seas was precipitated out as iron ore (rust) 3 billion years ago, – after combining with any free oxygen which came into contact with the water. I’ll give you a Wiki chart again as it is a compact presentation of the data. The free oxygen was from evolved photosynthesizing cyanobacteria nearly a billion years after abiogenesis.

    There was oxygen around earlier, but this was most likely due to the loss of hydrogen from the upper atmosphere coming from dissociated water molecules. (I don’t have a link to that time, That is my personal opinion). I would suggest, in view of the fine dust of space debris falling to Earth, the volcanic ejecta in the earlier atmosphere, and the iron dissolved in the seawater, this oxygen was unlikely to make it underwater to where life was evolving without being rapidly trapped and put out of circulation in combination with some form of mineral.

    Here is a link with some quick present day calculations of the Earth’s gains and losses of mass.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-16787636
    Using some back-of-the-envelope-style calculations, Dr Smith, with help from physicist and Cambridge University colleague Dave Ansell, drew up a balance sheet of what’s coming in, and what’s going out. All figures are estimated.

    By far the biggest contributor to the world’s mass is the 40,000 tonnes of dust that is falling from space to Earth, says Dr Smith.

    “Physicists have shown that the Earth is losing about three kilograms of hydrogen gas every second. It’s about 95,000 tonnes of hydrogen that the planet is losing every year.

    “The other very light gas this is happening to is helium and there is much less of that around, so it’s about 1,600 tonnes a year of helium that we lose.”

    Would I be right in saying “It is NOT believed [by Alan4Discussion] that the early earth’s atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules”?

    We can argue about “predominantly”, but it was anoxic up to the evolution of photosynthesis at approx 3 billion years ago.

  221. I’ve read this thread with a mix of interest and amusement. There are some good points raised though.

    Someone (whose posts then vanished, oddly) mentioned the problems with Ribose Sugar in the context of a reducing environment. This is actually a valid concern, as Ribose itself is a reducing sugar, and will react with any amino acids in its environment rapidly. Miller (of Miller-Urey fame) stated that such problems regarding Ribose are so pronounced as to require an alternative to be postulated.

  222. In reply to #239 by Alan4discussion:

    There was oxygen around earlier, but this was most likely due to the loss of hydrogen from the upper atmosphere coming from dissociated water molecules. (I don’t have a link to that time, That is my personal opinion). I would suggest, in view of the fine dust of space debris falling to Earth, the volcanic ejecta in the earlier atmosphere, and the iron dissolved in the seawater, this oxygen was unlikely to make it underwater to where life was evolving without being rapidly trapped and put out of circulation in combination with some form of mineral.

    The gradual progression of Earth, from the starting point of a reducing atmosphere to the modern photosynthetic oxygen atmosphere is a key feature of evolution.

    Looking over this discussion, there is a need to clarify oxidation BY the modern oxygen rich atmosphere at surface level , and limited oxidation WITHIN the upper atmosphere by transient oxygen molecules generated by radiation at the top of the atmosphere. The latter would have gradually oxidized hydrogen or methane, any mineral dust from volcanism, and any from meteorite impacts, or space dust swept out of Earth’s orbit, following the Late Heavy Bombardment – http://www.space.com/2299-insight-earths-early-bombardment.html

    Early Earth was anoxic and early life anaerobic, until the evolution of photosynthesis tipped the atmospheric balance. The presence of vast quantities of dissolved iron in seawater until around 3 billion years ago, makes it clear there was an absence of significant oxidation by the atmosphere at sea-level before this time.

  223. In reply to #241 by Alan4discussion:

    If the “gradual progression… from… a reducing atmosphere… is a key feature of evolution” – as you claim, then you will be on the side of the creationists (e.g. the creationist source you quoted a few posts back) because the orthodox view is that THERE WAS NO SUCH PROGRESSION.

    You have been suggesting that an “anoxic” atmosphere contradicts my points about the 1990s orthodoxy of a prebiotic CO2/H2O/N2 (i.e. OXIDIZED) atmosphere, as opposed to the 1960s orthodoxy of a prebiotic CH4/NH3/H2/H2O (i.e. REDUCED and in fact – hydrogen being in available form – REDUCING) atmosphere. But both these atmospheres are ANOXIC – i.e. free oxygen is not a significant component.

    “The gradual progression of Earth, from the starting point of a reducing atmosphere to the modern photosynthetic oxygen atmosphere is a key feature of evolution.”

    Now you have slipped back to a REDUCING ATMOSPHERE as an environment for abiogenesis. But ANOXIC does not mean REDUCING. The CO2 in the (orthodox) oxidized atmosphere is the component that is not compatible with the Miller-Urey synthesis (that’s the “one point”. It is also the component which is essential for the photosynthesis by which cyanobacteria make a living (6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2); and it is thereby the source of the oxygen in the modern atmosphere.

    There was, it is supposed, a transient (predominantly) Hydrogen atmosphere (a “reducing atmosphere”) around all planets at their formation. It was calculated long ago (1930s I think – this is all from memory) that the Moon lost this initial atmosphere in a few thousand years, the Earth in a few hundred thousand. That is not the “prebiotic atmosphere” under discussion. There was (according to theory) no “gradual progression of Earth, from the starting point of a reducing atmosphere to the modern photosynthetic oxygen atmosphere…”

  224. logicophilosophicus @234

    2) How can that be so? A4D’s Wikipedia source also cites New Scientist, 2007. Maybe opinions have changed, and planetary scientists now favour a reducing atmosphere once more? Not at all. This is from Gribbin’s article:

    “VERY early on in the history of the Solar System, any traces of primordial gas around the young Earth would have been swept away by outbursts from the young Sun.

    That is correct. The largely hydrogen atmosphere would have been lost.

    So the present day atmosphere has evolved from a mixture of gases released from the interior of the Earth.

    … and from water ice and other impact material from the outer Solar System which arrived around the time of abiogenesis during the Late heavy Bombardment (Which I mentioned earlier).

    Let’s have a look at the frozen gasses in the composition of that sort of material once any free hydrogen was lost or included in other molecules:-

    Jupiter and the Outer Planets

    Unlike the terrestrial planets, the giant planets formed
    under conditions that allowed them to retain gas from
    the solar nebula (the gaseous disk from which the Sun
    and planets formed). The abundances of elements
    in the jovian atmospheres therefore resemble a
    cooled-down parcel of the Sun. In such a parcel, the
    dominant constituents are hydrogen (H2) and helium
    (He), which together comprise 98% of the mass,
    followed by neon (Ne), oxygen (O), carbon (C),
    nitrogen (N), and sulfur (S). The chemical equilibrium
    forms of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur in the
    giant-planet atmospheres are H2O, CH4, NH3, and H2S

    The sort of materials which would give Earth a largely nitrogen atmosphere and oceans.

    Geologists and astronomers try to understand what happened in the early atmosphere of the Earth by studying the kinds of gases emitted by volcanoes today.

    Most of the material in present day volcanic eruptions comes from the wet carbonaceous rocks of subducted in sea-floor sediments which have absorbed CO2 from the atmosphere via marine biology..

    logicophilosophicus The main gas released by volcanism is water vapour, which makes up 64 per cent by weight. Carbon dioxide provides 24 per cent of the total, sulphur dioxide 10 per cent and nitrogen just over 1.5 per cent.”

    as you would expect from recycled modern sedimentary rocks and seawater. The Earth’s crust was thin and subduction processes had not yet evolved at the time of abiogenesis. The crust was however volcanic being severely stressed by massive tidal forces and meteor/comet impacts.

    and nitrogen just over 1.5 per cent.”

    This would indeed suggest another source for our nitrogen atmosphere.

    logicophilosophicus @242
    If the “gradual progression… from… a reducing atmosphere… is a key feature of evolution” – as you claim, then you will be on the side of the creationists (e.g. the creationist source you quoted a few posts back) because the orthodox view is that

    I am not sure where that contorted thinking came from?

    THERE WAS NO SUCH PROGRESSION.

    After the initial loss of the early atmosphere and its replacement from the late heavy bombardment and volcanism, there would be the radiation driven liberation of transient free oxygen from atmospheric water which I explained at 241, which along with anaerobic chemo-synthesising life would cause a gradual evolutionary change in the atmosphere up to the point at which photosynthesis rapidly accelerated the oxidation.

    You have been suggesting that an “anoxic” atmosphere contradicts my points about the 1990s orthodoxy of a prebiotic CO2/H2O/N2 (i.e. OXIDIZED) atmosphere, as opposed to the 1960s orthodoxy of a prebiotic CH4/NH3/H2/H2O (i.e. REDUCED and in fact – hydrogen being in available form – REDUCING) atmosphere. But both these atmospheres are ANOXIC – i.e. free oxygen is not a significant component.

    I have already given a link (- http://www.chemguide.co.uk/inorganic/redox/definitions.html) explaining DEFINITIONS OF OXIDATION AND REDUCTION (REDOX) as a two way process. The removal of free oxygen from the atmosphere maintaining an anoxic atmosphere was a key reductive element.

    I explained earlier that there was some confusion over the terms “reduction” and “anoxic”. They are both the opposite of oxidizing conditions. Reducing conditions are those with an absence of oxygen and a removal of oxygen by chemical “REDOX” processes. The oxygen was removed from the early atmosphere to maintain anoxic conditions.

    Alan – “The gradual progression of Earth, from the starting point of a reducing atmosphere to the modern photosynthetic oxygen atmosphere is a key feature of evolution.”

    Now you have slipped back to a REDUCING ATMOSPHERE as an environment for abiogenesis. But ANOXIC does not mean REDUCING.

    @my link:
    Oxidation and reduction in terms of oxygen transfer – Definitions

    • Oxidation is gain of oxygen.
    • Reduction is loss of oxygen.

    Anoxic means the oxygen has been removed and tied up in non-oxidising molecules.

    The CO2 in the (orthodox) oxidized atmosphere is the component that is not compatible with the Miller-Urey synthesis (that’s the “one point”.

    Even discounting your disregard of the Late Heavy Bombardment, – nobody I am aware of has suggested that the Miller-Urey (or follow-on) experiments, were conducted in the atmosphere. They were under water.

    I have already explained at length about under-sea volcanic vents. The point is that oxygen dissolved in seawater as at the present time was not present, with the geology of the iron, confirming that there was no dissolved oxygen in early seawater.

    It is also the component which is essential for the photosynthesis by which cyanobacteria make a living (6CO2 + 6H2O → C6H12O6 + 6O2); and it is thereby the source of the oxygen in the modern atmosphere.

    A post photosynthesis event about a billion years after abiogenesis, which I have already explained.

  225. @Alan4discussion # 243

    “Even discounting your disregard of the Late Heavy Bombardment, – nobody I am aware of has suggested that the Miller-Urey (or follow-on) experiments, were conducted in the atmosphere. They were under water.”

    1) The LHB theory dates from around 2006 and is first mentioned in New Scientist in 2008 as a “controversial theory”; did you rubbish my acceptance of orthodox science in the early 1990s because of my “discounting and disregard” of a theory that nearly two decades later was new and controversial?

    2) Miller would have had a lot of trouble creating electric sparks (the only energy source in the experiment) under water – but he didn’t of course; the reactions took place in the gas-vapour phase, deliberately simulating the supposed early atmosphere. Watch the experiment here:

    – nicely recreated and explained by Carl Sagan.

  226. In reply to #244 by logicophilosophicus:

    1) The LHB theory dates from around 2006 and is first mentioned in New Scientist in 2008 as a “controversial theory”; did you rubbish my acceptance of orthodox science in the early 1990s because of my “discounting and disregard” of a theory that nearly two decades later was new and controversial?

    Oh! dear! More ill informed doubt-mongering!

    Controversial ??? Old orthodoxy ??? The study of Moon rocks started in the 1980s with dating of surface samples and craters. You would have thought someone would have told NASA it is supposed to be controversial!!!

    http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/articles/the-solar-systems-big-bang/
    In the theory, the four biggest planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus — initially had sedate, circular orbits and were packed into a region only about half the diameter of Neptune’s average modern orbit. Gravity then caused these bodies to spread out and break into a planetary version of bowling that not only violently rearranged the outer solar system but also led to an avalanche of debris pelting the inner planets and their moons.
    Prompting this melee, scientists propose, was a series of gravitational interactions between the planets and the hefty disk of debris that lay just beyond. This disk, a forerunner of the Kuiper Belt, contained as much mass as 35 Earths.

    For a while, not much happened. Jupiter moved slowly inward while the three other planets moved slightly outward. Then, at about 500 million to 600 million years after the birth of the solar system, Jupiter and Saturn hit a gravitational sweet spot, with Jupiter going around the sun twice for every orbit of Saturn.

    In this configuration, known as an orbital resonance, the mutual gravitational influence of the two giants strengthened, elongating their orbits over time. The changed paths of Jupiter and Saturn eventually jumbled the orderly, circular orbits of the two lighter-weight, outermost giants, Uranus and Neptune. And that’s when all hell broke loose, Levison says.

    Within a few million years, Uranus and Neptune were kicked so far out that they plowed into the surrounding disk of icy debris. Like bowling balls scattering pins, the two planets scattered the debris all over the solar system.

    Some of the debris became trapped by Jupiter’s gravity and could account for the planet’s retinue of Trojan asteroids, a group of objects that lead and trail the planet today, and have not been explained by any other theory, says Levison.

    Some of the scattered material traveled farther, penetrating deep into the inner solar system, the simulation suggests. It was this debris that pummeled Earth’s moon during a geologically brief window of time that lasted only 100 million to 200 million years.
    Indeed, this onslaught may well have generated the cataclysmic late heavy bombardment, in which Earth’s moon and the inner planets were blasted with debris, Levison says. The cataclysm generated by the Nice model “is consistent with the magnitude and duration of the late heavy bombardment inferred from lunar craters,” Bottke and his colleagues noted in an abstract from the meeting.

    In this way, a fracas originally limited to the outermost regions ended up affecting the entire solar system.

    Planetary scientists have recently gathered evidence that the asteroid belt, located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, also took a direct hit during the late heavy bombardment. An analysis of meteorites believed to be fragments of Vesta, the second largest asteroid, reveal that they, too, suffered an intense bombardment about 3.9 billion years ago, Bogard notes. In addition, the famous Mars meteorite ALH84001, which dates from about 4.5 billion years ago and was once believed to contain fossils of nanobacteria, also shows signs that it suffered a major impact 3.9 billion years ago.

    Controversial?? – more doubt-mongering!! You could not make it up! Oh! You just did!!

    Earth did however have a history before the Late Heavy Bombardment and some of that has still been preserved. It is even possible that life began before the LHB in somewhat different earlier conditions.

    But even on Earth, not all of this early history was erased, new research shows. The first era on our planet is called the Hadean period as in Hades, or hell. However, studies now show that this might not have been such the hellish period — impossibly hot and dry — that many researchers had imagined, says Stephen Mojzsis, a geochemist at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

    The clues come from ancient zircons — durable and chemically inert minerals that are remnants of Earth’s first rocks.

    Discovered about 25 years ago in the Jack Hills region of western Australia, the zircons are no bigger than the size of President Lincoln’s eyeball engraved on a penny. They are up to 4.38 billion years old, predating by several hundred million years the era of the late heavy bombardment.

    It is quite possible that organic molecules which formed in space, or on the very early Earth under reducing conditions, were involved in abiogenesis, but the MHB provides an abundance of organic material from the outer Solar System. There would also be a whole load of geology preserved from the earlier reducing conditions of earth’s formation – possibly with periods of other conditions due to the turbulent conditions in the early stages of the inner Solar System.

    logicophilosophicus: Miller would have had a lot of trouble creating electric sparks (the only energy source in the experiment) under water – but he didn’t of course; the reactions took place in the gas-vapour phase, deliberately simulating the supposed early atmosphere.

    There was massive geothermal activity on early Earth, while huge lightning storms are known throughout the Solar System in planetary atmospheres. Nobody suggested all the chemicals needed to be created at the same time or in the same place. Nor have later experimenters said that they need to slavishly follow Miller’s methods.

    Lightning doesn’t strike the ocean as much as land, but when it does, it spreads out over the water, which acts as a conductor. It can hit boats that are nearby, and electrocute fish that are near the surface. http://oceantoday.noaa.gov/lightning/

    You can also have lightning in vented volcanic gas and ash clouds. – Vastly more powerful than anything Miller had!

    http://geology.com/articles/volcanic-lightning/

    I have pointed out many times, that abiogenesis only needs a suitable favourable niche to get started, not a whole planet of uniform conditions. – although whole planets can have a huge range diverse niches.

    I have also pointed out that when you express incredulity because do not know or understand planetary processes, that does not mean they do not, or cannot exist.

  227. @ Alan4discussion #245

    A return to the original abuse, I see. You are suggesting that I was “ill-informed” and deliberately “doubt-mongering” because I didn’t take the Late Heavy Bombardment into account in the 1990s, since(A4D): “The study of Moon rocks started in the 1980s… You would have thought someone would have told NASA it is supposed to be controversial!!! …Controversial?? – more doubt-mongering!! You could not make it up! Oh! You just did!!”

    But studying rocks and theorising about a Late Heavy Bombardment are two different things. This is your original link about the theory:

    http://www.space.com/2299-insight-earths-early-bombardment.html

    • The article you reference is from 2006. (This is YOUR source…) It begins: “New dating of lunar rocks…” i.e. The theory is based on evidence UNKNOWN in the 1980s and 1990s. Thats enough to prove that your criticism (“load of crap”) of my orthodox attitude in the 1990s was phoney. Your source, your problem.

    • That same article ends: “All of these scenarios are still highly speculative, however.” There is no accepted theory to explain the, therefore controversial, LHB. Your source, your problem.

    My source:

    “Kevin Grazier of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, and colleagues built a computer model comprising 40,000 small objects in circular orbits between the outermost planets, similar to the disc of material present in the early solar system. As the simulation progressed, Jupiter hurled over 95 per cent of the objects out of the solar system. But in the process its gravitational tug stretched their circular orbits into loops that crossed the paths of the inner planets. The model, presented at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Ithaca, New York, this week, provides a possible mechanism for the ‘late heavy bombardment’, a CONTROVERSIAL THEORY which says that some craters on the moon and inner planets were caused by a massive influx of small bodies around 4 billion years ago. The deflection of comets may also explain how volatile substances like water arrived on the inner planets. New Scientist Oct 2008.” No problem for me.

    If real, and if known in 1990, would the LHB make any difference to anything I’ve said? That’s an entirely different question. One question at a time.

  228. In reply to #246 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Alan4discussion #245

    A return to the original abuse, I see. You are suggesting that I was “ill-informed” and deliberately “doubt-mongering” because I didn’t take the Late Heavy Bombardment into account in the 1990s, since(A4D): “The study of Moon rocks started in the 1980s… You would have thoug…

    Out of curiosity…what are your alleged scientific credentials…..gish gallops aside, I assume you have some? Just asking.

  229. In reply to #246 by logicophilosophicus:

    @ Alan4discussion #245

    A return to the original abuse, I see. You are suggesting that I was “ill-informed” and deliberately “doubt-mongering”

    You keep disputing information which you could easily check out for yourself if you had any idea of the subject and where to find evidenced current material.

    because I didn’t take the Late Heavy Bombardment into account in the 1990s,

    What have the 1990s to do with present understanding based on more recent research?

    My source:

    “Kevin Grazier of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, and colleagues built a computer model comprising 40,000 small objects in circular orbits between the outermost planets, similar to the disc of material present in the early solar system.

    You clearly failed to understand my NASA link, and have picked a different, inappropriate model which made wrong assumptions and addressed the wrong question.

    As the simulation progressed, Jupiter hurled over 95 per cent of the objects out of the solar system. But in the process its gravitational tug stretched their circular orbits into loops that crossed the paths of the inner planets. The model, presented at the Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Ithaca, New York, this week, provides a possible mechanism for the ‘late heavy bombardment’, a CONTROVERSIAL THEORY

    It would be considered “controversial” at the present time if it is suggesting that Jupiter deflected the asteroid belt or *”small objects in circular orbits between the outermost planets”, *to create the LHB!

    which says that some craters on the moon and inner planets were caused by a massive influx of small bodies around 4 billion years ago.

    Failed speculative model and failed concept! The model I gave you did not say there was a band of “small objects in circular orbits between the outermost planets,”

    The deflection of comets may also explain how volatile substances like water arrived on the inner planets. New Scientist Oct 2008.”

    Comets do not come from the asteroid belt and do not orbit in circular orbits between the outermost planets!

    No problem for me.

    That’s what I mean! Glaring errors sail right past you because of a lack of understanding!

    Alan – link and quote @245 – Within a few million years, Uranus and Neptune were kicked so far out that they plowed into the surrounding disk of icy debris.

    I give you a link which explains how the icy cometary material was deflected by Uranus and Neptune, and you produce an irrelevant failed model of small objects being deflected by Jupiter!
    You do know Uranus and Neptune from Jupiter?? … and the disk of icy debris OUTSIDE the orbits of the gas-giants, NOT “small objects in circular orbits between the outermost planets

    Wrong planet and wrong orbit! – Why present it AFTER I have explained it?
    Presenting a failed and refuted model as evidence against the LHB, just illustrates that you have no idea what you are talking about.

    If real, and if known in 1990, would the LHB make any difference to anything I’ve said?

    Cherry-picking outdated and superseded material is a feature of clueless people pursuing chosen agendas to cast doubt on valid science.

    I thought I explained in considerable detail with links, that the LHB delivered oceans of water and large quantities frozen gasses from the outer Solar System to Earth. Do you see no significance in that to abiogenesis or early pre-oxygen evolution?

    The article you reference is from 2006. (This is YOUR source…) It begins: “New dating of lunar rocks…” i.e. The theory is based on evidence UNKNOWN in the 1980s and 1990s. Thats enough to prove that your criticism (“load of crap”) of my orthodox attitude in the 1990s was phoney. Your source, your problem.

    It did not say ALL the evidence was unknown, but merely that new work had allowed the development of the theory I linked. You continue to bandy words without understanding – rambling over out-dated and refuted information.
    Once again! Why use out-dated claims from the 1990s, when modern information is available. The fact that the Moon, Mars, and various asteroids have impact craters, or that ejecta from some of these has been studied, is hardly news! We know there was a LHB.

    I see you have made no attempt to discuss the nitrogen atmosphere, cometary water, correct any of the mistakes in your posts about volcanism I pointed out, or show any understanding of the orbital resonance and the rearrangement of the gas giants causing the LHB!
    The independent more recent dating of meteorites etc has confirmed the dates multiple times.
    Orbital resonance is basic physics based on the theory of gravity.

  230. In reply to #234 by logicophilosophicus:

    1) Re 1990s scientific rejection of a reducing atmosphere for pre-biotic Earth. – New Scientist, 21st April 1990.

    “…Until recently, scientists believed that the atmosphere of the early Earth, in common with the giant outer planets of the Solar System, was mostly methane, ammonia and water – known as a reducing atmosphere… However, scientists now believe that the primitive Earth could not have had a reducing atmosphere. Sunlight, they say, would have caused any methane in the atmosphere to react with water to form carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The hydrogen, being light, would then have escaped from the atmosphere, while the ammonia dissolved in the sea. Chemists calculate that this process would have taken less than a million years.

    1990 !! – Lets have a look a what this says:-

    It says Earth started with a reducing atmosphere and interacting with solar radiation, molecules would be dissociated, with oxidation and loss of hydrogen – Just like my explanation of the gains and losses from the modern atmosphere. – The atmosphere GRADUALLY changed prior to the LHB.

    Some geochemists have an alternative suggestion for the composition of the Earth’s primitive atmosphere. They contend that it was formed entirely from gases that bubbled up from beneath the crust. Methane and ammonia were probably not present in very large amounts. Instead, the main constituents of the Earth’s early atmosphere were probably carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water, together with small amounts of carbon monoxide and hydrogen.”

    1990s speculation!! – “Bubbled up” is of course suggesting hydrothermal vents.

    2) How can that be so? A4D’s Wikipedia source also cites New Scientist, 2007. Maybe opinions have changed, and planetary scientists now favour a reducing atmosphere once more? Not at all. This is from Gribbin’s article:

    “VERY early on in the history of the Solar System, any traces of primordial gas around the young Earth would have been swept away by outbursts from the young Sun.

    That is generally accepted. The question is about the replacement atmospheres which developed later from cometary impacts and volcanism. The primordial gas would of course be swept out into the outer Solar System, and then likely to be frozen.

    So the present day atmosphere has evolved from a mixture of gases released from the interior of the Earth. Geologists and astronomers try to understand what happened in the early atmosphere of the Earth by studying the kinds of gases emitted by volcanoes today. The main gas released by volcanism is water vapour, which makes up 64 per cent by weight. Carbon dioxide provides 24 per cent of the total, sulphur dioxide 10 per cent and nitrogen just over 1.5 per cent.”

    Wrong source material! – I have already pointed out the flaw of using volcanic gases from subducted sea-floor sediments as a source for volcanic gas analysis when discussing gasses from before the development of subduction and prior to marine biological deposition of carbonates.

    logicophilosophicus: I was particularly impressed by the CO2 atmospheres repeatedly confirmed for Mars and Venus.

    The modern CO2 atmospheres of Mars and Venus are evolved over billions of years and highly modified. To suggest that these are a model for early Earth is comical!

    I have also pointed out that an atmosphere containing water would lose hydrogen and produce transient free reactive oxygen in the upper atmosphere. A fully oxidised atmosphere of CO2 would not have the reductive capability to remove this, remaining anoxic for about a billion years, prior to being overwhelmed by photosynthesis.

  231. In reply to #247 by Ignorant Amos:

    In reply to #246 by logicophilosophicus:
    Out of curiosity…what are your alleged scientific credentials…..gish gallops aside,

    I am working through the cascade of assertions and incredulity!

    logicophilosophicus: @234 – “Reducing atmosphere” which is about the effects of firing glazed ceramics in an oxygen-free environment. The title seems unhelpful, but authors have their pride, and it does make the piece distinct (unhelpfully I’d say) from articles with “Ceramic” or “Glaze” as the keyword.

    I wonder if you can see a connection between comparing the melting and solidifying of silicate mineral glazes in the oxidizing atmosphere of an electric kiln, with the melting of silicate glazes in the reducing, anoxic, atmosphere, of a gas kiln, and the geological analysis of silicate lava flows which solidified in an anoxic reducing atmosphere on early Earth?
    Apparently such consideration is (allegedly) “unhelpful” in the tirade against my Wiki link!

  232. In reply to #189 by CarolineMary:

    Hi Caroline Mary,

    The problem with these mathematical, so-called dis-proofs of evolution is that they assume only one thing can happen at a time.

    Yep.

    … back to abiogenesis … How many pre-life events were there? How many times were the conditions nearly right. Or ‘life’ started but was wiped out again? Without discovering time travel, I don’t see that we’ll ever know. But is there any reason it can’t be “billions of times”?

    You’re right, of course, life could have nearly got started many times over. If there is a model (to be discovered) for how chemistry tends to self-organise then we could apply it to answer your question much better than what follows.

    Observations of self-organising chemistry suggest that there is a better answer, but no-one yet has a clear objective model that makes predictions. My best guess, and I know very little so I would welcome input from anyone out there who knows more, is that Chaos Theory probably (no pun intended) holds the key to a solution.

    Leaving a detailed answer to one side can we hypothesise that chemistry, self-organising or not, could produce the necessary chain of events to produce life?. Yes: see alan4discussion’s posts for links to hypotheses of this sort.

    Indeed, there are so many ways that we have an embarrassment of riches, as far as hypotheses are concerned. Nevertheless, without a predictive model we cannot say we have solved the biopoiesis (a.k.a.abiogenesis) problem.

    If we did have a predictive model we could probably support some hypotheses with geology – which seems likely to hold some evidence for biopoiesis which we are currently unable to decipher. But that is as close to direct evidence as we’re likely to get – as you correctly note – as biopoiesis probably occurs at a level where the chemistry leaves no other traces.

    Let’s take the position that biopoiesis occurs. This is not in the least controversial as we have so many possible paths – as already noted. What would have to be present?

    To cover all the possibilities we need to keep our comments very generalised. The system where life emerges would have to be open in energy terms. The Earth fits the bill, being fed energy constantly by the Sun but also the early Earth has enormous additional energy: Geo-thermal energy bubbling up to the surface and probably little or no atmosphere so it was being bombarded with radiation too.

    It would also require a rich mix of elements – particularly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. Two things here:

    • Earth fits the bill again, so no difficulty here

    • The above elements are the basic building blocks for acids and bases – essential for Earth lifeforms – but it is perfectly possible to hypothesise chemistry that could lead to life with a shortage of one or two of these elements. As Dr. Spock might say: “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it”

    Some solvents and catalysts would be nice – but they’re not absolutely essential given the depth of geological time. Sadly the passage of time also means that we have very few samples of early Earth geology so a time and date for when all this lovely chemistry spat out something that looked like life is a very tough question.

    To focus on one of the more likely models:

    Nowak and Ohtsuki hypothesise that:

    All known life on Earth is based on biological polymers, which act as information carriers and catalysts. Therefore, any theory for the origin of life must address the emergence of such a system. We describe pre-life as an alphabet of active monomers that form random polymers. Pre-evolutionary dynamics [therefore] have selection and mutation, but no replication. Life marches in with the ability of replication: Polymers act as templates for their own reproduction.

    In his paper [The Hadean-Archaean Environment] Sleep tells us that:

    Recently discovered ∼4.3 Ga rocks near Hudson Bay may have formed during the warm greenhouse. The presence of 3.8 Ga black shales in Greenland indicates that Sulphur-based photosynthesis had evolved in the oceans and likely Iron-based photosynthesis and efficient chemical weathering on land.

    [Ga = billions of years ago]

    All of which comes as close as we can (for now) to answering the part of your question:

    How many times were the conditions nearly right?

    Many, many times. All the precursors were here from very early on, and conditions were right for a very long time – and once conditions for the emergence of life arrived, they stayed. Indeed Sleep’s paper is worth reading as he explores how the balance of the elements on the surface was changed by tectonic subduction – did this make the emergence of life more likely? It seems so to me, but I’m no expert.

    Moving on to your question:

    How many times [did] ‘life’ start but was wiped out again?

    Again, based on the evidence, the answer would appear to be that it is possible that it happened many, many times.

    Next, you asked:

    How many pre-life events were there … is there any reason it can’t be “billions of times”?

    No.

    Given that the pre-cursors of life were self-replicating chemistry, perhaps added to polymers mutating and being selected by environmental conditions, on an Earth with the few simple necessities on-hand, this is pretty trivial stuff. The Earth would have been producing vast quantities of pre-life chemistry. Never mind billions, trillions is probably more like it – vast though that number is, we’re talking molecular scale here. Add to that the billions of years of geological time the Earth’s chemistry had to change and for different sets of reagents to bump into each other. The possibilities are off the scale – we only lack a measure of probability.

    Of course, going back to your lottery analogy, the above means that even if the emergence of life is extremely improbable it doesn’t matter. The Earth would have been producing so many potential-for-life-events that improbable things could have been happening all the time.

    It is very hard to say for sure, of course, because the Earth would probably have been like today’s Earth in one important respect – highly varied across its surface. But, once oceans formed the Moon would have provided plenty of mechanical action (think tides) and water is an ideal solvent for many chemical compounds – and for releasing elements from rocks. Meanwhile polymers would have been transported by the oceans (most are insoluble). It seems logical to conclude that life was just waiting to happen and that there was enough ‘chemical stuff’ around for it to happen many, many times.

    We can’t be more specific before a properly scientific theory of self-organising chemistry emerges. But does it matter?

    No, and here’s why.

    Once we add replication (something we know is possible – we just don’t know how probable it is) to Nowak and Ohtsuki’s “alphabet of active monomers – pre-evolutionary dynamics with selection and mutation” we get life, and when we have life evolution happens and natural selection happens. It’s that simple.

    Thus, evolution teaches us something wonderful – spellbinding even: The Earth could have produced trillions of ‘life starts’, for billions of years – and that seems, however subjectively, highly likely – yet it only had to do it ONCE.

    It is these reasons: these possible trillions of starts (with hundreds of possible chemistry paths, and the likelihood – but not the necessity – of self-organising chemistry and the fact of self-replicating chemistry and a highly productive chemical Earth) – and the fact that we know it only had to happen once – that biologists treat biopoiesis as a subject so insignificant it is barely worthy of study.

    I hope you enjoy reading that as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it. Evolution via natural selection is just so simple – and yet so stupendous that it explains so much.

    Peace.

  233. In reply to #227 by Angry Atavist:

    In reply to #211 by logicophilosophicus:

    I’m sorry but I have to ask. Are you being obtuse or did my grasp of the English language just take a nosedive?

    The latter (see footnote B). But first things first.

    One point at a time, then. (Plus footnote.)

    “You ignore the degree of which a chemical system does not behave as a random equal probability system and the potential effects of these on the probability calculations you make… Not knowing or understanding the base conditions and drivers of the process is not solved by conceding a few orders of magnitude on your estimate!”

    (That got a hurrah from Alan4Discussion.)

    You are 100% right that I ignored this – I did this quite deliberately, because I wanted to limit this argument. You are also 100% wrong that I do not know or understand the issues.

    • The appearance of complex organic molecules – notably amino acids and nucleic acids – is common in experiments such as Miller-Urey. As a chemist you are aware that these syntheses are thermodynamically favoured, or exothermic. Whether reasonable concentrations or purities can be achieved by plausible processes is an issue for this discussion, but not the key point.

    • The reactions discussed in this thread, relatively long RNA (or DNA or aminoacid) polymerisations, are not thermodynamically favoured. They are not impossible (in living cells they are achieved with the aid of specific enzymes) but theoretical and experimental approaches to producing them depend on very special conditions to enable appropriate concentrations of reactants, removal of waste products, variations in temperature for different parts of the process, etc. So the point I ignored was marginally supportive of my position, not yours. As a chemist you presumably knew this.

    • The big number calculations relate only to specific sequences of units in RNA (or DNA or polypeptides). If you believe that sufficiently effective self-replicating sequences are sufficiently common/favoured among the total possible sequences in the sample space, then for you abiogenesis is not a “huge problem” – though I would be interested to know the basis for your optimism. Leslie Orgel, for example, spent a lifetime on experimental research in this field and remained pessimistic that anyone would ever find a solution. He probably knew a bit more about “the base conditions and drivers of the process” than anyone commenting here.

    (Footnote:

    A) Re “inorganic”. I expected you – the chemist in the mix – to point out that there absolutely ARE internationally agreed definitions of “organic” and “inorganic”, provided by the IUPAC, and that oxides of carbon, carbonic acid, carbonate ion, bicarbonate ion etc are ALL defined/listed as inorganic compounds.

    http://www.ssag.sk/SSAG%20study/CHE/IUPAC%20nomenclature%20of%20inorganic%20chemistry4,5.pdf – IUPAC Nomenclature of Inorganic Chemistry

    I thought you might also know/mention that SPECIFICALLY in the fields of biology/ecology it is absolutely STANDARD to describe those compounds as “inorganic” – even if they are respiration products or sketetal material – to distinguish them from life-specific chemicals: a fact that has been vehemently denied in the thread. A few of many examples:

    http://aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_45/issue_8/1707.pdf

    http://worldoceanreview.com/en/wor-1/ocean-chemistry/co2-reservoir/

    http://limnology.wisc.edu/courses/zoo535/classprojects/harte1_138-149.pdf

    http://www.astr.ucl.ac.be/textbook/chapter2_node12_1.xml

    http://www.vliz.be/imisdocs/publications/126900.pdf

    or even at the Dreaded Wikipedia:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_cycle

    B) Re “at least” 10^60 error, you had written that “Enough dice throwers that do not know each other, and somewhere… 19×100 would show up”. I showed that if the universe comprised nothing but fantastically efficient dice throwers, beavering away non-stop since the Big Bang, you would still be out by 60 orders of magnitude. Of course you could replace each dice thrower with one Miller-Urey type experiment, or one Szostak-type experiment, but the numbers game is worse: these experiments – unlike the dice throwers – are unable to produce sequences as long as 100. Unless, unlike Orgel, you are very optimistic about the number of possible “winning throws”…)

  234. In reply to #250 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #247 by Ignorant Amos:

    In reply to #246 by logicophilosophicus:
    Out of curiosity…what are your alleged scientific credentials…..gish gallops aside,

    I am working through the cascade of assertions and incredulity!

    I have a long-standing interest in the process of debate – in fact that was the only reason I joined this thread (#162). Ignorant Amos’s question, enthusiastically endorsed by Alan4Discussion, gives me the occasion to expand on my #177.

    A) I assume from the use of the phrase “gish gallops” that you have both read the last 77 posts. They gave you the impression (quoting the RationalWiki) that I am guilty of “such a torrent of half-truths, lies, and straw-man arguments that the opponent cannot possibly answer every falsehood in real time… ‘starting 10 fires in 10 minutes’…” Or, as A4D put it: “The cascade of trolling complex assertions then continues to flip-flop all over the topics into various diversions.” The phrase has additional connotations, since it is “named after creationist Duane Gish”.

    (I wouldn’t normally use RationalWiki, but I make a point of trying to stick to other debaters’ sources: probably IA’s “gish gallop” and certainly A4D’s “argument from ignorance and incredulity” have that source.)

    Let’s take a look.

    My initial source was Manfred Eigen – impeccable. Alan4Discussion disagreed, and joined the fray. Since that point I have posted about 270 lines in response to him; he has posted about 920 lines in response to me; who’s doing the galloping?

    Perhaps you think I managed to slip in extra references/ideas that forced A4D to respond at such length? Not so. I kept as low as 270 by sticking to my own points as far as possible; A4D has continually introduced new issues, making it much harder.

    Perhaps you think that I inflated the discussion and “obfuscated” the issues as A4D has repeatedly claimed: “Perhaps you are using selected quotes from different sources to modern science… sloppy and often vague, citations… “churning out incompetent misleading complex garbage…” etc.

    Not so. As stated above, as far as possible I stick with the other debater’s sources. A4D cited Wikpedia – an article allegedly supported by a single citation, New Scientist; I replied using that EXACT source (John Gribbin in NS) and have followed up with two other New Sientist articles. A4D cited Jack Szostak’s video; I cited that EXACT source, and added Zsostak’s own subsequent scientific paper. A4D cited a Duke University source; I cited that EXACT source. A4D cited NASA on the supposed LHB – I cited that EXACT source and another NASA article.

    RationalWiki describes the remedy for the gish gallop: “…some debate judges now limit number of arguments as well as time. However, in places where debating judges aren’t there to call bullshit on the practice, like the internet, such techniques are remarkably common.” I agree with that wholeheartedly.

    B) The only people in the latter part of this debate who have “alleged” they have “scientific credentials” are Alan4Discussion and Angry Atavist. I haven’t, so I think your suggestion of “allegation” is misdirected. However, I’m up for it. I’ve asked the same question of Alan4Discussion previously. Now A4D endorses and re-posts Ignorant Amos # 247.

    @Alan4Discussion: Well, I asked first, so here’s the deal: short CV. Real name, dates, places; education, qualifications, career history and any other relevant verifiable background or expertise. You first, and I guarantee to do the same immediately after your CV is posted. You have my solemn affirmation on this.

  235. In reply to #252 by Alan4discussion:

    I see there is a new discussion which continues the topic of evolution in the reducing atmosphere of early Earth prior to the:-

    Neither the link nor the source article mentions or even hints at a “reducing atmosphere”. Hamlet without the Prince.

  236. In reply to #254 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #250 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #247 by Ignorant Amos:

    In reply to #246 by logicophilosophicus: Out of curiosity…what are your alleged scientific credentials…..gish gallops aside,

    I am working through the cascade of assertions and incredulity!

    I have a long-standing interest in the process of debate –

    ..and apparently no interest in dealing with the evidenced science questions raised about kilns, atmospheres and the geology of solidified silicate rocks, or why you failed to see the connected chemistry.

    .. and no interest in the NASA link to the best model as to the causes of the Late Heavy Bombardment or its atmospheric implications.

    …no explanation of why you threw in a flawed Jupiter model as a diversion, or why you were quoting 1990’s speculation to challenge modern work!

    Just a heap of semantics without understanding!

    I cited that EXACT source. A4D cited NASA on the supposed LHB

    I think that comment on the Late Heavy Bombardment spells out the level of your grasp of celestial mechanics, and the persistent doubt-mongering!!

    LPhil – Quoting Alan – “The cascade of trolling complex assertions then continues to flip-flop all over the topics into various diversions.”

    Yep! A duck and dodge, with a lack of focus on addressing scientific questions.

  237. In reply to #255 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #252 by Alan4discussion:

    I see there is a new discussion which continues the topic of evolution in the reducing atmosphere of early Earth prior to the:-
    “Great Oxidation Event” –A New Discovery of Evolutionary Singularity that Transformed the Planet

    Neither the link nor the source article mentions or even hints at a “reducing atmosphere”.

    It does not spell it out in words of one syllable for those who cannot recognise REDOX chemistry!
    “Great Oxidation Event” as a title – could be a clue about earlier anoxic conditions!!

    Hamlet without the Prince.

    Poster without a clue!!! – Full of semantic waffle!

  238. In reply to #162 by logicophilosophicus:

    I lost the point of this thread when all these biologists dismissed: “Take transcription, for instance – without the entire set of structures and so on it is not going to happen – at least, it is not going to happen accurately. Yet it needs to happen accurately or the whole thing falls apart. The lack of a proper explanation for such orchestration in biology is a yawning explanatory gap.” Google “Error Catastrophe

    It was “dismissed” for the same reason all “Arguments from Irreducible Complexity” are: because they look up the sheer face of Mount Improbable and claim that evolution had to leap it or fail. Moreover, the argument is an argument from ignorance, made with no reference to or establishment of any actual facts.

    For instance, the comment on a “lack of a proper explanation” for what seems to be the abiogenesis or biopoiesis of life (which, in any case, is distinct from evolution by natural selection) is simply untrue, and either an ignorant assertion or an outright lie. Wikipedia alone lists about ten viable scientific models for the origin of the necessary organic molecules based on the most up-to-date research (thirteen if you accept the subdivisions under the “soup” theory subtitle), four models for the transition to protocells (seven if you accept the subdivisions under the “metabolism first” models subtitle), and nine other models alongside them, making a total of twenty three to twenty nine explanatory models which would go some way to explaining how transcription could have come about, in the wider context of how replication worked in older times.

    But even if there wasn’t a single model, positing that transcription is caught in a chicken-and-egg problem and then acting as though evolution is a poor way of explaining it is simply to make a claim without even checking one’s facts. What was the absolute length and mutation rate of, say, the earliest replicator or replicators – RNA before the protocell, RNA after the protocell, another replicator molecule entirely – and how did the amount of information lost in this way compare with the amount of new information gained through natural selection? Mutation rates don’t happen in a vacuum but depend on environmental conditions such as the presence of mutagens and types of background radiation. Moreover, Error Catastrophe is mostly concerned with the specific case of RNA viruses. While the general principle of fidelity is something to take into account in models of abiogenesis, it can’t glibly be used as a rebuttal to abiogenesis as a whole, much less to evolutionary biology.

    In addition, your subsequent comments dismiss a shorter genome on the grounds that it wouldn’t do much, then add that, by analogy with modern organisms, it would have had to do much, citing metabolism and environmental maintenance (presumably some form of homeostasis). This is a blatant argument from irreducible complexity. Nothing about the fact that all modern organisms are highly complex proves or implies that they always had to be like that, any more than the fact that most modern organisms are multicellular implies that multicellularity always had to be there, exactly as it is today. In the same way, the fact that modern organisms metabolize and maintain internal environments does not prove that they always had to do that. It’s perfectly possible that the precursors did not do either, and either had to rely on naturally hospitable environments or simply took their chances, which were sufficient at the time until a subset of them evolved more and more useful protein-based mechanisms for modifying and then controlling their local environment, which enabled them to outcompete their rivals until no organism could afford to do otherwise – i.e. evolution via natural selection.

    My point is not that this is the case, but that nowhere in your comments do you seem aware of the assumptions you are making, being content instead to poke “holes” in evolutionary theory and abiogenesis. TanyaK was doing the same thing, making arguments of irreducible complexity under the misconception that they are good counters to evolutionary theory.

  239. In reply to #253 by logicophilosophicus:

    You are also 100% wrong that I do not know or understand the issues.

    I think you continue to fail to recognise your mistakes both in assertions about science and in argument, despite various people explaining them clearly. An unfortunate example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect!

    The appearance of complex organic molecules – notably amino acids and nucleic acids – is common in experiments such as Miller-Urey. As a chemist you are aware that these syntheses are thermodynamically favoured, or exothermic. Whether reasonable concentrations or purities can be achieved by plausible processes is an issue for this discussion, but not the key point.

    The big number calculations relate only to specific sequences of units in RNA (or DNA or polypeptides). If you believe that sufficiently effective self-replicating sequences are sufficiently common/favoured among the total possible sequences in the sample space, then for you abiogenesis is not a “huge problem”

    This is the personal opinion of someone who has consistently produced arguments from ignorance and incredulity, missed most of the relevant scientific points ( such as DNA and RNA being later developmental stages), and it seems has difficulty in comprehending basic Wiki articles on reducing atmospheres and Gish-Gallops!

    logicophilosophicus @254 – The only people in the latter part of this debate who have “alleged” they have “scientific credentials” **are Alan4Discussion and Angry Atavist. **I haven’t,

    Only too obvious I’m afraid!
    When peer-reviewed scientists use terms like “speculative” in papers, they do not mean that every scrap of science in the paper is speculative.

    They expect their readership to have a sufficient grasp of the subject, to know innovative speculative material from basic textbook science.

    Doubt-mongering by those who don’t know the difference, (“the supposed LHB” ????) adds nothing of value to a scientific discussion.

  240. In reply to #259 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #253 by logicophilosophicus:

    I think you continue to fail to recognise your mistakes [which are an] example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect! (“a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average”)

    The only people in the latter part of this debate who have “alleged” they have “scientific credentials” are Alan4Discussion and Angry Atavist. I haven’t [made any such allegation]

    Only too obvious I’m afraid!

    Since you clearly have nothing to fear, I await your CV with trepidation (see #254) since I must and will then immediately expose my own to public ridicule.

    (Late Heavy Bombardment “controversial”? Read my New Scientist source or, indeed, the article in your Beloved Wikipedia.)

  241. In reply to #258 by Zeuglodon:

    Logicophilosophicus: “I lost the point of this thread when all these biologists dismissed… [the] Error Catastrophe [as a problem for the origin of replication/abiogenesis].”

    Zeuglodon: “It was ‘dismissed’ for the same reason all ‘Arguments from Irreducible Complexity’ are: because they look up the sheer face of Mount Improbable and claim that evolution had to leap it or fail. Moreover, the argument is an argument from ignorance, made with no reference to or establishment of any actual facts… [A]biogenesis…, in any case, is distinct from evolution by natural selection…”

    I think you need to take that up with Manfred Eigen, especially the bit about “no reference to or establishment of any actual facts”. But how does evolution address abiogenesis? An origin of life, anywhere, consists of a CHANCE arising of a self-replicating entity. We can calculate chances. It appears that, in the most favourable/artificial of environments (far more favourable than the interior of a cell) a 200-base RNA is inadequate for self-replication. It is possible to calculate, given generous assumptions about the environment and avaiability of precursors, probabilities for the CHANCE assembly of RNAs of a given length.

    “[T]he comment on a ‘lack of a proper explanation’ for what seems to be the abiogenesis or biopoiesis of life is simply untrue, and either an ignorant assertion or an outright lie. Wikipedia alone lists… twenty nine explanatory models…” I see that, like Groucho Marx, you have principles, and if we don’t like them you have others… Hubert Yockey has spent over 30 years studying this problem and concluded (on Combinatorial and Information Theory grounds, informed by the state of the art molecular biology) that “the origin of life, like the origin of the universe, is unknowable.” The fact that the Szostak team and others are trying to unravel the mystery (in dozens of different ways) doesn’t contradict the current “lack of a proper explanation” and certainly doesn’t entitle you to conclude that anyone accepting that view is either wilfully ignorant or blatantly dishonest.

    “Error Catastrophe is mostly concerned with the specific case of RNA viruses.” Wrong. Eigen devised the argument over 40 years ago specifically to address replication accuracy in evolution. In the last few years it has become popular in discussions about possibly inducing an Error Catastophe in viruses as a health strategy.

    “In addition, your subsequent comments dismiss a shorter genome on the grounds [of] a blatant argument from irreducible complexity. Nothing about the fact that all modern organisms… metabolize and maintain internal environments… prove[s] that they always had to do that. It’s perfectly possible that the precursors did not do either, and… had to rely on naturally hospitable environments… [i.e.] simply took their chances, which were sufficient at the time…” This is another of your false dichotomies. There is no take-it-or-leave-it choice: modern organisms are the ONLY evidence we have; we must use it with caution, as being suggestive rather than decisive; it is better evidence than an asserted but unobserved “possibility” (“perfect” in what sense?)

    “…nowhere in your comments do you seem aware of the assumptions YOU are making, being content instead to POKE “HOLES IN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY and abiogenesis… making ARGUMENTS OF IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY under the misconception that they are good COUNTERS TO EVOLUTIONARY THEORY.” You have already pointed out, correctly, that “[A]biogenesis… is distinct from evolution by natural selection” (the latter is dependent on a pre-existing replicator). The capitalised phrases all relate to denial of evolution. That has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this thread.

    But it’s worse than that. I haven’t even denied abiogenesis: I have asserted it:

    “My conclusion was that abiogenesis along the lines of the RNA World is a ‘huge problem’, because of the combinatorial difficulty (this is precisely Manfred Eigen’s position), but that there MUST be a solution within the laws of physics. That is LESS pessimistic than Jack Szostak (it ‘MAY not be completely impossible’) or Orgel (‘unclear that [it] could EVER have evolved de novo on the primitive earth’ – hence his and Crick’s consideration of Panspermia). That’s three Nobel Prize Winners working in molecular biology right there, all more pessimistic than I am.” Yockey too – see above.

    Evolution proceeds by an almost tautological law, natural selection, working on occasional variations in a replicator. Abiogenesis is the emergence of a sufficiently effective replicator, and is not driven by any evolutionary law. An origin of life, anywhere, consists of a CHANCE arising of a self-replicating entity.

  242. In reply to #260 by logicophilosophicus:

    Since you clearly have nothing to fear, I await your CV with trepidation (see #254) since I must

    A diversion on to an argument from authority is the best you can manage??/

    and will then immediately expose my own to public ridicule.

    There’s no need – your comments have already done that for you. Scientific conclusions are not derived from rhetoric!

    (Late Heavy Bombardment “controversial”? Read my New Scientist source or, indeed, the article in your Beloved Wikipedia.)

    Why don’t you have a look at the Moon next time there is a clear night! All those impact craters – including the ones which have been dated!

    Just more confirmation that you cannot tell variations in views about “How it happened” from “If it happened”, and do not know how paste/quote specifics from citations!

  243. In reply to #261 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #258 by Zeuglodon:

    Logicophilosophicus: “I lost the point of this thread when all these biologists dismissed… [the] Error Catastrophe [as a problem for the origin of replication/abiogenesis].”

    If you look at the first two responses you put on this thread, and Peter Grant’s reply to the first one, the issue was not that error catastrophe is invalid – I do not say that it is invalid – but that you specifically were artificially claiming that a short genome (which, by the formula of error catastrophe in the information-theory based presentation section, is still acceptable) would be insufficient because it would have to do things like metabolize and regulate an environment hospitable to replication. It was this part of your response I criticized as being an argument from irreducible complexity because it appeared to me that you were assuming that the original replicator had to perform all these complex functions the instant it appeared.

    Zeuglodon: “It was ‘dismissed’ for the same reason all ‘Arguments from Irreducible Complexity’ are: because they look up the sheer face of Mount Improbable and claim that evolution had to leap it or fail. Moreover, the argument is an argument from ignorance, made with no reference to or establishment of any actual facts… [A]biogenesis…, in any case, is distinct from evolution by natural selection…”

    I think you need to take that up with Manfred Eigen, especially the bit about “no reference to or establishment of any actual facts”.

    Well, as a first stop, I’ve got his Wikipedia page open, and the most relevant thing I can see is [his contribution to the hypercycle theory](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypercycle_(chemistry), which according to that page is similar to the autocatalysis model, which is also listed as one of the proposed models of abiogenesis in that list previously mentioned:

    Hypercycles are very similar with autocatalytic systems in that both represent a cyclic arrangement of catalysts which themselves are cycles of reactions. The difference of hypercycles is that the catalysts that constitute them are themselves self-replicative.

    In reference to the point you were pushing about transcription being a chicken-and-egg problem, I’m afraid I don’t see what you’re referencing. Perhaps you’d be so kind as to explain?

    But how does evolution address abiogenesis?

    I never said it did. I was saying it would address the features you brought forth as criticisms of Peter Grant’s simple point that the original replicating entity need not require transcription, metabolism etc. or else “do much”. I apologize if that was unclear, and would like to take the opportunity to clarify the issue here.

    Since you zeroed in on the transcription issue, apparently stressing the irreducible complexity of it, my point was that the transcription, metabolism, etc. features need not arise spontaneously, but that these were most likely the products of evolution, developed after the original replicator came about. I’m not even saying the original replicator was RNA, though I think it played a significant part in the history of life before DNA arose. The original replicator could have been a simple polymer with sufficient fidelity to fulfil the criteria for natural selection and avoid the fidelity issue (like RNA and error catastrophe), though I am not sure what specific polymer it was.

    An origin of life, anywhere, consists of a CHANCE arising of a self-replicating entity. We can calculate chances.

    I agree, though that depends on what you mean by chance. At the atomic level, it would have to be obeying the laws of chemistry, and the most relevant issue is under what specific conditions it did so (availability of raw ingredients, background radiation levels, presence of certain chemicals, etc.), so in this sense it isn’t chance. However, in the sense of opportunities for it happening given certain conditions, then I concede the point.

    It appears that, in the most favourable/artificial of environments (far more favourable than the interior of a cell) a 200-base RNA is inadequate for self-replication. It is possible to calculate, given generous assumptions about the environment and availability of precursors, probabilities for the CHANCE assembly of RNAs of a given length.

    Where are you getting your information from? At the very least, RNA is well-suited as a precursor replicator, being capable of catalysis, information-storage, and self-regulator, and while fragile, it’s not outright useless. The nucleotides required can be formed in prebiotically plausible conditions, and some of the necessary molecules can even be found formed in space. As for specific experiments on RNA self-replication, I’m not aware of any, and on the subject of RNA synthesis, the impression I get is that it’s currently a work in progress in molecular biology and biochemistry.

    “[T]he comment on a ‘lack of a proper explanation’ for what seems to be the abiogenesis or biopoiesis of life is simply untrue, and either an ignorant assertion or an outright lie. Wikipedia alone lists… twenty nine explanatory models…” I see that, like Groucho Marx, you have principles, and if we don’t like them you have others… Hubert Yockey has spent over 30 years studying this problem and concluded (on Combinatorial and Information Theory grounds, informed by the state of the art molecular biology) that “the origin of life, like the origin of the universe, is unknowable.” The fact that the Szostak team and others are trying to unravel the mystery (in dozens of different ways) doesn’t contradict the current “lack of a proper explanation” and certainly doesn’t entitle you to conclude that anyone accepting that view is either wilfully ignorant or blatantly dishonest.

    I agree that there’s no one decisive theory to explain the origin of life, but that wasn’t what I thought you had in mind. Unless you mean by the use of the word “proper” that they’re not as comprehensive as evolution by natural selection or the two theories of relativity, then I should think the existence of twenty nine scientific candidates would at least make you a bit cautious in how you phrase your doubts. The models are there to determine what is the most likely origin of living matter, a probabilistic account based on the degree of confidence we can have that any one of them is true. Categorical “knowable-unknowable” dichotomies are unscientific and wrong to introduce here, as they don’t take into account the “Relativity of Wrong” noted in Asimov’s essay, which is what I meant by degrees of confidence in any particular theory. It is dishonest or ignorant to assert that there is an explanatory gap if that is meant to imply that the models are simply just-so stories that do nothing to fill the gap, or that they can be dismissed on spurious grounds and pseudo-problems (such as the “metabolism” issue you raised and the assumptions on molecular length you brought in). Besides, what alternative model did you have in mind to explain the origin of life?

    “Error Catastrophe is mostly concerned with the specific case of RNA viruses.” Wrong. Eigen devised the argument over 40 years ago specifically to address replication accuracy in evolution. In the last few years it has become popular in discussions about possibly inducing an Error Catastophe in viruses as a health strategy.

    Sorry, I put that clumsily. Here’s what I was referring to:

    Error catastrophe is the extinction of an organism (often in the context of microorganisms such as viruses) as a result of excessive RNA mutations

    Most of the rest of the article addresses viruses, so I got the impression it was mostly in reference to them. I certainly don’t object to its broader application as a measure of replicator fidelity, which I had hoped was conveyed in the sentence immediately following:

    While the general principle of fidelity is something to take into account in models of abiogenesis…

    I would certainly be interested to know how much its application as an anti-viral measure has progressed.

    “In addition, your subsequent comments dismiss a shorter genome on the grounds [of] a blatant argument from irreducible complexity. Nothing about the fact that all modern organisms… metabolize and maintain internal environments… prove[s] that they always had to do that. It’s perfectly possible that the precursors did not do either, and… had to rely on naturally hospitable environments… [i.e.] simply took their chances, which were sufficient at the time…” This is another of your false dichotomies. There is no take-it-or-leave-it choice: modern organisms are the ONLY evidence we have; we must use it with caution, as being suggestive rather than decisive; it is better evidence than an asserted but unobserved “possibility” (“perfect” in what sense?)

    What is dichotomous or false about it? You were asserting those things as counters, but only by assuming that the analogy with modern organisms was sound, you were basing your assumption on an unrepresentative sample. Since it’s plausible that nearly all modern organisms are very unlike their most ancient precursors, the more reliable information is going to come from fields specifically devoted to issues of biochemistry and so on. I even acknowledged as such when I presented a plausible rebuttal to your scenario: that early life did not metabolize, and so on, but relied on natural conditions initially before evolving such features as are widespread today. It may well have been that a primitive and extremely simple form of metabolism arose alongside the early replicators, or that different replicators coopted different mechanisms and then fused symbiotically. As much as I would be interested to know how such things did come about, I did not impose a dichotomy on the issue. I was, however, noting an assumption in your arguments that comes right out of the school of irreducible complexity, and I offered a scenario counter to it.

    “Perfectly” in the colloquial sense of “adequately”.

    “…nowhere in your comments do you seem aware of the assumptions YOU are making, being content instead to POKE “HOLES IN EVOLUTIONARY THEORY and abiogenesis… making ARGUMENTS OF IRREDUCIBLE COMPLEXITY under the misconception that they are good COUNTERS TO EVOLUTIONARY THEORY.” You have already pointed out, correctly, that “[A]biogenesis… is distinct from evolution by natural selection” (the latter is dependent on a pre-existing replicator). The capitalised phrases all relate to denial of evolution. That has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of this thread.

    Yes, I did mix my concepts up quite horrendously there, so allow me to correct myself. From where I was standing, you argument appeared, in the first two comments on this thread, to be roughly this:

    1. Transcription is an issue that has to work perfectly (or at least to a very high caliber) or not at all.
    2. The original replicator could not be short because it could not “do much”. To do much includes metabolizing and maintaining a stable environment.
    3. Modern organisms show us that to replicate is to require complex molecular machinery alongside.
    4. Ergo, if the original replicator was short, then it would not produce life because it could not metabolize or maintain a stable environment.
    5. Ergo, the original replicator must have been formed with all the complexity pre-prepared, which is a problem.

    In TanyaK’s post, the argument was seemingly that the irreducible complexity of the transcription was an obstacle to abiogenesis. The problem is that both she and you are making assumptions in posing this criticism – namely, that the original replicator must have come with these complex features already in place, hence abiogenesis is a suspect theory. It doesn’t take into account the possibility that the original replicators didn’t need to do those things, but could have evolved them later on, and so on both counts it is a failure to appreciate evolutionary biology. Admittedly, “poking holes in evolutionary theory” was the wrong thing to say because neither of you discussed it directly or explicitly for this particular case. Having seen your reply, however, I do stand by my claim that your assumptions are unjustified.

    But it’s worse than that. I haven’t even denied abiogenesis: I have asserted it:

    “My conclusion was that abiogenesis along the lines of the RNA World is a ‘huge problem’, because of the combinatorial difficulty (this is precisely Manfred Eigen’s position), but that there MUST be a solution within the laws of physics. That is LESS pessimistic than Jack Szostak (it ‘MAY not be completely impossible’) or Orgel (‘unclear that [it] could EVER have evolved de novo on the primitive earth’ – hence his and Crick’s consideration of Panspermia). That’s three Nobel Prize Winners working in molecular biology right there, all more pessimistic than I am.” Yockey too – see above.

    If it was simply on the RNA world hypothesis specifically, in the sense of RNA being the first replicator, then I concede the point, although I think there is a strong case to be made that RNA preceded DNA. However, your stressing the universality of the error catastrophe beyond RNA viruses, combined with what seemed to me to be the needless invoking of metabolism et al., appeared to be a criticism of any and all forms of abiogenesis.

    Evolution proceeds by an almost tautological law, natural selection,

    Natural selection is not tautological, almost or otherwise. It’s an algorithm for reducing genetic variability based on how well the alleles’ phenotypes meet the demands of environmental factors over multiple generations.

    working on occasional variations in a replicator. Abiogenesis is the emergence of a sufficiently effective replicator, and is not driven by any evolutionary law.

    In that case, why invoke metabolism, transcription, and environmental regulation? None of them are necessary for abiogenesis or subsequent replication, and seem to me more suited for discussions under natural selection models. This was the point I wanted to get across.

    An origin of life, anywhere, consists of a CHANCE arising of a self-replicating entity

    Again, see my comment above on “chance”.

  244. In reply to #263 by Zeuglodon:

    It is dishonest or ignorant to assert that there is an explanatory gap if that is meant to imply that the models are simply just-so stories that do nothing to fill the gap, or that they can be dismissed on spurious grounds and pseudo-problems.

    I had noted that in the similar doubt-mongering about the bombardment of rocky bodies with water-ice and organic molecules from the outer Solar-System, where the superficial reading of words like “speculative” and “controversial” – (applied to specific models), is misrepresented as applying to the topic generally – in support of the process of incredulity.

    As I said earlier, science models containing provisional hypotheses, expect their readership to have sufficient grasp of the subject matter to distinguish innovative ideas, from basic text-book information which is presented as supporting material.

    Rather than have the scientific information buried in cascades of superficial incredulous verbosity, I have put it here on this science thread.

    It should give anyone interested, – a concise history of the evolution of the Solar-System in relation to Earth.

    Like abiogenesis and evolution, deep time astronomical events cannot be reasonably discussed by flip-flopping across isolated events millions of years apart, while looking incredulously at the cliffs of Mt. Improbable created by the missing parts of the picture.

    1. “Mathematically impossible.” A bold statement with no explanation back it up, therefore meaningless.

    “They fail to start at the very beginning.” Any problem solving class will teach you that an important problem solving skill is the ability to work backwards toward a solution.

    1. This is the question of abiogenesis, a different theory altogether. The creationist is showing his complete lack of knowledge of the theory he thinks he is refuting!

    2. These numbers are completely wrong, as other posters have already pointed out.

    3. This is simply incorrect, and computer simulations have shown this to be incorrect. Natural selection does not minimize errors, it eliminates them.

    4. The two estimates more or less exactly coincide. It’s like if Eigen said the boy is ten years old and geochemical evidence said the boy was born ten years ago. It means the same thing, there is no contradiction. The fact that two different methods came up with the same number is evidence that they are correct.

    5. This demonstrates the great strength of science. We continuously improve on what we know. Change is good because it means we have learned something new. Evolution is a very complex theory, the details of it will probably always be getting fine tuned, but in over 150 years of intense research, not a single thing has been discovered that disproves evolution. We have made many, many predictions that have come true through research. After 2,000 years creationism hasn’t made a single prediction. Not one. They have never provided a single piece of evidence for creationism. The best they can do is attempt to cast doubt on Evolution Theory with the false assumption that if Evolution Theory is wrong, then their idea is correct by default. But that is not how science works. You still have to provide evidence to support your own “theory.” They have the answers and are attempting to make the facts fit their answers. Science discovers the facts and uses them to find the answers.

  245. In reply to #264 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #263 by Zeuglodon:

    “It is dishonest or ignorant to… imply that the models… can be dismissed on spurious grounds and pseudo-problems. I had noted that in the similar doubt-mongering about the bombardment of rocky bodies with water-ice and organic molecules from the outer Solar-System, where the superficial reading of words like ‘speculative’ and ‘controversial’ – (applied to specific models), is misrepresented as applying to the topic generally – in support of the process of incredulity.”

    The undeniable controversy about models is within NASA itself, with clearly opposing views, as already unambiguously quoted here as anyone can see if they bother to read it. The new accusation is that I used this to cast doubt on the whole LHB concept, “in support of of the process of incredulity.” But that is not so: your favourite WIkipedia makes this explicit. Here is yet another authoritative source:

    “So, did the Solar System go through what is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB)? Exciting new research, using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) may cast some doubt on the popular LHB theory. It’s actually quite a heated debate, one that has polarized the science community for quite some time. In one camp are those that believe the Solar System experienced a cataclysm of large impacts about 3.8 billion years ago. In the other camp are those that think such impacts were spread more evenly over the time of the early Solar System from approximately 4.3 to 3.8 billion years ago.” http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4435/new-research-casts-doubt-on-late-heavy-bombardment (based on Spudis, Wilhelms, and Robinson, 2011).

    Well, my source there is pretty authoritative, but I see you have tucked a source of your own elsewhere to bolster your claim:

    “Rather than have the scientific information buried in cascades of superficial incredulous verbosity, I have put it here [link] on this science thread.”

    Being scrupulous, I followed the link, and read cascades of peripheral stuff (almost 100 lines of it) with one short sentence about the LHB. As with my source, I took the liberty of examining yours to see the ultimate authority on which you base your abusive accusation of dishonesty and ignorance. Bear with me, because this is the best laugh I’ve had in some time. The text you quote at such inordinate length is from a blog entry based on a “project that took place in 18 primary and junior schools across the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane in the year 2000.” For any non-Brit reading this, those are schools for 4-11 year-olds.

    But that’s not the punchline. The sentence about the LHB isn’t in the source at all. No hint. You just inserted it in a source purporting to prove it. I can’t really put this any better than Monty Python:

    “I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.”

    (BTW Still waiting for those credentials.)

  246. In reply to #266 by logicophilosophicus:

    The undeniable controversy about models is within NASA itself, with clearly opposing views, as already unambiguously quoted here as anyone can see if they bother to read it.

    But it is totally irrelevant to the topic of the delivery of frozen organics and water from beyond the frost line around the time of abiogenesis! You are attributing “controversy” to the wrong topic!

    Alan @262 -Just more confirmation that you cannot tell variations in views about “How it happened” from “If it happened”,

    This is about “WHEN” the organic molecules were delivered, not “IF” the organic molecules were delivered as I commented @262.

    The new accusation is that I used this to cast doubt on the whole LHB concept, “in support of of the process of incredulity.”

    Yes! The incredulity was over the availability of the organic molecules from beyond the frost line in support of incredulity over abiogenesis.
    You disputed my explanation of this in your very confused post at #242 by logicophilosophicus , in which you confused volcanic CO2 with a supposed hydrogen atmosphere millions of years earlier and disputed the CH4/NH3/H2O deliveries from asteroid and comet material.

    “So, did the Solar System go through what is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB)? Exciting new research, using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) may cast some doubt on the popular LHB theory. It’s actually quite a heated debate, one that has polarized the science community for quite some time. In one camp are those that believe the Solar System experienced a cataclysm of large impacts about 3.8 billion years ago. In the other camp are those that think such impacts were spread more evenly over the time of the early Solar System from approximately 4.3 to 3.8 billion years ago.” http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4435/new-research-casts-doubt-on-late-heavy-bombardment (based on Spudis, Wilhelms, and Robinson, 2011).

    Well, my source there is pretty authoritative,

    I see you can give specific quotes when you bother, but still entirely miss the point!

    You may recall that I introduced the topic of the Late Heavy Bombardment in support of the delivery of Water and organic molecules to Earth from the outer Solar-System as source materials for abiogenesis in our oceans – as you were casting doubt on this at the time.
    The water and organic molecules were delivered from two sources both beyond the frost zone, and both containing the organic reducing molecules I mentioned. The sources were the ancient asteroid belt and the ancient Kuiper Belt.
    The explanations I have linked on this and on the other discussion concerning the reorganisation of the gas giant planets are elegant descriptions of the celestial mechanics involved and are in readable form.

    I have no intention of being side-tracked into an argument about how heavy or how late the main substance of the bombardment was. Massive tonnage of water and organics was involved.
    The water and organic molecules were delivered to Earth before the incidence of impacts tailed off after 3.8 billion years ago.

    Nor am interested in doubt-mongering disparaging remarks against the concise and simple clear source I have used on the link, in the absence of any constructive comment on the substance of the explanation.

    Your link confirms my claims about atmospheric molecules! I have twice previously pointed out the misreading and misapplication of the words “speculative”, and “controversial”, to the wrong subject matter on links.

    I can’t really put this any better than Monty Python:

    I know! The science just sails straight past you without any sign of recognition – even when you have just confirmed my claims while under the impression you have disputed them because you discovered the word “controversial”! . Basil Fawlty would be proud!

    “I took the liberty of examining that parrot when I got it home, and I discovered the only reason that it had been sitting on its perch in the first place was that it had been NAILED there.”

    Yep! “Evidence” by diversionary rhetoric as usual!

    (BTW Still waiting for those credentials.)

    Still very obvious that you don’t have any, but like doubt-mongering those of others!

    If you want to amuse yourself look up the letters FBIS.(JBIS).

  247. In reply to #266 by logicophilosophicus:

    In reply to #264 by Alan4discussion:

    Being scrupulous, I followed the link, and read cascades of peripheral stuff (almost 100 lines of it) with one short sentence about the LHB. As with my source, I took the liberty of examining yours to see the ultimate authority

    Ah! The basic prongs of a LPhil argument. Refutation of comical ignorance – equals “abuse”. – The offended card in the absence of a coherent reply, arguments from ignorance and incredulity, and arguments from “authority”!

    on which you base your abusive accusation of dishonesty and ignorance.

    The ignorance, misrepresentation, and evasive diversion, are obvious!

    LPhil – Bear with me, because this is the best laugh I’ve had in some time.

    @262 –

    LPhil- and will then immediately expose my own to public ridicule.

    Alan reply -There’s no need – your comments have already done that for you. Scientific conclusions are not derived from rhetoric!

    and now you are repeating the farce!

    The text you quote at such inordinate length is from a blog entry based on a “project that took place in 18 primary and junior schools across the Borough of Basingstoke and Deane in the year 2000.” For any non-Brit reading this, those are schools for 4-11 year-olds.

    Yes! They produced a simple evidenced narrative which any literate person should be able to read – and – they read the NASA information (like that I gave you below) correctly, while you saw the word “controversy” through bias-blinkers, and misunderstood its application!

    What’s more, according to a leading theory now being explored in detail, that early era was capped by a truly cataclysmic event. About 3.9 billion years ago, the movement of the most massive planets dramatically rearranged the outer solar system. The shifting planets freed rocky and icy bodies from the solar system’s edge, commencing a bombardment of the entire retinue of planets.http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/articles/the-solar-systems-big-bang/
    At the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Houston last November, theorists and observers convened for a rare meeting in which they hashed out what each had gleaned about the solar system’s early history. “We have two communities coming at the same problem from very different perspectives,” says Don Bogard of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

    LPhil – But that’s not the punchline. The sentence about the LHB isn’t in the source at all. No hint.

    Is this the “hint” you cannot recognise?

    The planets scattered the majority of the small icy bodies inwards, while themselves moving outwards. These planetesimals then scattered off the next planet they encountered in a similar manner, moving the planets’ orbits outwards while they moved inwards. This process continued until the planetesimals interacted with Jupiter, whose immense gravity sent them into highly elliptical orbits

    You just inserted it in a source purporting to prove it.

    Hmm! – I inserted this sentence in reference to my NASA link quoted above – which dates events around 3.9 billion years ago –

    Models of this indicate that part of this inward deflection was the Late heavy bombardment of Earth and the inner Solar-system. – http://lunarscience.nasa.gov/articles/the-solar-systems-big-bang/

    Is there some problem with reading and basic comprehension??

    I can’t really put this any better than Monty Python:

    I know! – Laughing at the kids who got it right, while you could not read or understand the information – is ironically comical!

    LPhil quote – “So, did the Solar System go through what is known as the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB)? Exciting new research, using data from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) may cast some doubt on the popular LHB theory. It’s actually quite a heated debate, one that has polarized the science community for quite some time. In one camp are those that believe the Solar System experienced a cataclysm of large impacts about 3.8 billion years ago. In the other camp are those that think such impacts were spread more evenly over the time of the early Solar System from approximately 4.3 to 3.8 billion years ago.” http://www.astrobio.net/pressrelease/4435/new-research-casts-doubt-on-late-heavy-bombardment (based on Spudis, Wilhelms, and Robinson, 2011).

    So having confirmed the bombardment I was discussing, – where I had cited two schools of thought within NASA, you carry on doubt-mongering based on mis-reading the science.

    Well, my source there is pretty authoritative,

    .. . but does not support your argument about abiogenesis and largely supports my information. It merely debates how extended the period of the Bombardment was! (How many millions of years.)

    It add no “authority” to your claims! – and was in any case presented AFTER I had given you my NASA link!

    but I see you have tucked a source of your own elsewhere to bolster your claim:

    I see! I have given you two sources: One technical one from NASA, which you appear to be unable to understand, will not debate, and ignore, and one easy reading one for children – which you also appear unable to understand, and against which you have nothing relevant to say about the substance, but dispute its “authority”:

    @262 – A diversion on to an argument from authority is the best you can manage??

    and will then immediately expose my own to public ridicule.

    There’s no need – your comments have already done that for you. Scientific conclusions are not derived from rhetoric!

    Having again made a fool of yourself, you will no doubt once again be “offended” at this being pointed out!

  248. In reply to #267 by Alan4discussion:

    In reply to #266 by logicophilosophicus:

    You introduced the LHB on the phoney assumption that it would support your claim of a prebiotic reducing atmosphere, i.e. at the time when life began (“… hydrogen or methane… following the Late Heavy Bombardment.”) I didn’t wish to be sidetracked, knowing that this was irrelevant to the oxidized state of the prebiotic atmosphere. http://www.geosocindia.org/abstracts/2013/may/p605-636.pdf

    That, by the way, is a scientific paper, arguments included, not an “argument from authority”.

    For some bizarre reason you insisted on discussing the LHB, finally conceding that it may not have existed after all, but any bombardment will do. Yet you haven’t cited a single source suggesting that the LHB or any other bombardment(s) gave the earth a reducing atmosphere. In fact the earth never received hydrogen gas in an impact event because hydrogen is a gas above 10K. There is extant a Royal Society paper on the occlusion of hydrogen in meteoric iron, but I wouldn’t advise you to go there: I leave you to work out why.

    Your credentials (Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society) do not qualify you to judge on this issue. The BIS magazine has never mentioned the Late Heavy Bombardment or any other bombardment; and “fellowship” of that society is an upgrade of (3 years plus) ordinary membership conferred upon receipt of a statement by the applicant and an annual payment of £70, or something like that – did I get that right? Space travel is no longer science fiction, but it’s not planetary science. (Well, sometimes it is science fiction: BIS journal published Roger Shawyer’s Em Drive article in 2005 – lending it sufficient credibility to fool an unwary editor at New Scientist to repeat the story in 2006. Mine was one of several letters published analysing the fallacy in the design. A reactionless drive…)

    In my own field, application forms always ask applicants to distinguish between memberships by election and those by subscription.

    I leave you to reflect on some of your assertions:

    A4D: There is no “official” definition of an organic compound.

    The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry is the universally recognised authority. Ask any chemist. It lists CO2 as inorganic – the point at issue.

    A4D: CO2 contains carbon and hence is “organic” when discussing biological science rather than the vernacular.

    Actually it is absolutely standard PARTICULARLY in biological science to call CO2 “INORGANIC”, e.g. http://www.mbari.org/chemsensor/c/carbon.html. How could a biologist/ecologist not know that?

    A4D: “Nobody I am aware of has suggested that the Miller-Urey (or follow-on) experiments, were conducted in the atmosphere. They were under water.”

    Totally wrong. See Carl Sagan’s video at YouTube. How could a planetary scientist not know that?

    A4D: …a reducing atmosphere… proved to be a good environment for Cyanobacteria to evolve the first photosynthetic metabolic pathways.

    Wrong, because the transient reducing atmosphere was lost before the CO2 rich atmosphere needed by the cyanobacteria was outgassed.

    Compare http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange1/current/lectures/Perry_Samson_lectures/evolution_atm/

    One final tip on research on the web. You only get what you look for. If you search for CYANOBACTERIA REDUCING ATMOSPHERE you will get page after page of entries including the sentence “cyanobacteria are thought to have converted the early reducing atmosphere into an oxidizing one”. Your search will only find all those wrong answers – there are plenty of wrong answers on the internet.

  249. In reply to #269 by logicophilosophicus:

    Given your demonstrated inability to understand basic explanations on links, I would want to see specific pasted quotes, relevant to the topic, before I waste my time on any more vague claims that scientific papers support your views.

    I see from your comments on the BIS – a leading space-science organisation, that you are still given to asserting side-tracking rubbish from a view-point of ignorance! – Not even worth a comment!

  250. In reply to #269 by logicophilosophicus:

    For some bizarre reason you insisted on discussing the LHB, finally conceding that it may not have existed after all, but any bombardment will do.

    You really can’t comprehend scientific articles on links can you! The linked and pasted NASA article explained it very clearly and identified the heavy peak as 3.9 billion years ago. The article you threw in suggest the bombardment MAY have started earlier, but included that time in its range.

    finally conceding that it may not have existed

    You really must get those blinkers off and actually read what is written! Nobody conceded a heavy bombardment may not have existed! You even denied the child science project’s simple explanation included the bombardment and actually laughed at their correct explanation which described it!!!

    In fact the earth never received hydrogen gas in an impact event because hydrogen is a gas above 10K.

    Just more Gish-galloping side -tracking. My description of the water ice and HYDROGEN CONTAINING MOLECULES, was explicit. – H2O, CH4 and NH3 .

    Your credentials (Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society) do not qualify you to judge on this issue.

    Really? And your lack of any scientific credentials at all trumps this in your view! – But then I do not argue from authority, after misreading papers.

    The BIS magazine has never mentioned the Late Heavy Bombardment or any other bombardment; and “fellowship” of that society is an upgrade of (3 years plus) ordinary membership conferred upon receipt of a statement by the applicant and an annual payment of £70, or something like that – did I get that right?

    No! You got it wrong as usual. You do not even make it clear which publication you are referring to.

    This is a comical attempt at further doubt-mongering, so for the benefit of other readers I will state the facts.

    The British Interplanetary Society is a leading space-science organisation.

    It publishes a well respected peer-reviewed journal:

    http://www.bis-space.com/what-we-do/publications

    The Scientific Space Journal

    First published in 1934, the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society (JBIS) was the first to describe many aspects of space travel which are now commonplace.

    After over 70 years of publication, JBIS is still concerned with originating and encouraging forward-looking ideas on how space exploration should develop.

    It is on the science citation index and is one of the highest rated astronautics journals in the world.

    JBIS is published monthly and contains refereed academic papers from all over the world on all aspects of astronautics. This wide brief includes space science, space technology, spacecraft and space mission design, and humanity areas such as the philosophy of space flight.

    JBIS has a particular reputation for exploring forward thinking subjects such as interstellar flight, exobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life. But it also aims to cover current and planned space activities as well as historical studies.

    BIS also publishes:

    The first JBIS issues of Space Chronicle appeared under the editorship of Andrew Wilson between August 1980 and July 1986. These issues became widely read offering articles at a more general level than those found in the other monthly JBIS issues. In effect Space Chronicle was regarded by many as a new space magazine being set apart by its unique character.

    Spaceflight is the international magazine of space. It first appeared in 1956, a year before the launch of Sputnik, and has been at the forefront of space exploration ever since.

    Odyssey (e-newsletter)

    Books

    Interstellar Studies Index

    You really love making up doubt-mongering misinformation! – Like this drivel!

    Space travel is no longer science fiction, but it’s not planetary science.

    This is referring to a scientific body whose publications have reported on Earth science satellites, studying:- oceanography, land-use, geological mapping, climate data. atmospheric data, ice cap 3D mapping, and reports (frequently from conception to post mission analysis), of every probe which has ever studied planets, moons, Lunar impacts, atmospheres, asteroids, meteor impacts, comets and the Sun. – Not to mention the space telescopes looking at exoplanets.

    but it’s not planetary science.

    Ha! ha! ha! ha!

    I’ll leave it at that, as I have better things to do than refute Gish-galloping nonsensical doubt-mongering, from someone who has no scientific credentials, but persists in making up rubbish about scientific studies and scientific bodies. This thread has had enough illustrations of made-up pseudo-scientific arguments from assertive ignorance and incredulity.

  251. @ Zeuglodon #263
    In reply to #261 by logicophilosophicus:

    “…you specifically were artificially claiming that a short genome… would be insufficient because it would have to do things like metabolize and regulate an environment hospitable to replication. It was this part of your response I criticized as being an argument from irreducible complexity because it appeared to me that you were assuming that the original replicator had to perform all these complex functions the instant it appeared.”

    “…artificially” ? It would be more productive to ask for evidence instead of asserting that I fabricated the point. It can be approached from at least two directions – the need for useful information whose variations/errors are the raw material natural selection, and the need specifically for metabolic processes.

    “In order for RNA to have emerged as the genetic polymer that enabled protocells to evolve in a Darwinian manner, the process of RNA replication must have been accurate enough to allow for the transmission of useful information… Useful information in this context is generally thought to imply sequences with ribozyme activity…” (Szostak)

    “…biologists are getting tantalisingly close to creating an RNA molecule, or perhaps a set of molecules, capable of replicating itself. That leaves another sticking point: where did the energy to drive this activity come from? There must have been some kind of metabolic process going on…” http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128251.300-first-life-the-search-for-the-first-replicator.html?full=true#.UdqGm6N5mSM

    “In reference to the point you were pushing about transcription being a chicken-and-egg problem, I’m afraid I don’t see what you’re referencing. Perhaps you’d be so kind as to explain?”

    I haven’t pushed this point, but it is a valid point. Forget modern transcription, and consider the hypercycle approach (the front runner?), which you mention (it’s also alluded to in the New Scientist link: “biologists are getting tantalisingly close to creating an RNA molecule, or perhaps a set of molecules, capable of replicating itself.”) RNA A produces copies of RNA B which produces copies of RNA C which produces copies of RNA A. While this is in principle vastly simpler than the DNA/RNA/protein systems we see today, it does involve the simutaneous appearance of three RNA molecules with very specific functionality. On current performance, these RNAs will each need to be > 200 bases in length.

    “…you zeroed in on the transcription issue, apparently stressing the irreducible complexity of it…”

    That’s another of those have-you-stopped-beating-your-wife dichotomies. In between “IRREDUCIBLE complexity” (i.e. IMPOSSIBILITY of natural explanation) and demonstrated abiogenesis there is a whole range of views, with Yockey, Orgel and Shapiro at the pessimistic end of the spectrum. As a non-specialist, I merely note the spectrum of views, check the plausibility of the arguments as well as I am able, and conclude that there are still “huge difficulties” but that a solution “within the laws of physics” necessarily exists. That’s what I have maintained throughout.

    I agree that there’s no one decisive theory to explain the origin of life, but that wasn’t what I thought you had in mind. Unless you mean by the use of the word “proper” that they’re not as comprehensive as evolution by natural selection or the two theories of relativity, then I should think the existence of twenty nine scientific candidates would at least make you a bit cautious in how you phrase your doubts.

    I use words very carefully. The phrase “proper explanation” was quoted (hence given in quotation marks) from TanyaK (#51), so I didn’t mean anything by it. TanyaK didn’t apply it to abiogenesis in general, but to the specific problem of “orchestration” of activity. That’s a problem apparent in the hypothetical appearance of the first hypercycle. Personally, I see this as just a matter of semantics: if RNAs A, B and C happened to be physically rather than just functionally connected – as one long (600+ bases) sequence – we’d be talking about “functionality” rather than “orchestration” but the scale of the problem would be broadly identical (though the Error Catastrophe woul impose tighter constraints). I call it a “huge problem”, TanyaK calls it a “yawning explanatory gap”. We both explicitly endorsed naturalistic explanation and dismissed miraculous intervention or creationism, only to be accused of creationism – and by implication “lying for Jesus” – continually.

    The word “theory” also requires careful use. You claim 29 “candidate… theories” for abiogenesis, and suggest I demand one as well validated as Relativity. Why say that – I never did? Actually a theory as developed as stellar nucleogenesis would more than satisfy me? But I have seen no theories for abiogenesis, just dozens of partial hypotheses. A theory is a detailed explanatory structure. Any eventual theory of abiogenesis will no doubt subsume manyc of those 29 hypotheses if and when they are demonstrated.

    I would certainly be interested to know how much its application as an anti-viral measure has progressed.

    Google “error catastrophe and antiviral strategy” for 133,000 hits.

    Evolution proceeds by an almost tautological law, natural selection,

    Natural selection is not tautological, almost or otherwise.

    You seem to think I am attacking Natural Selection. Darwin would disagree – he introduced it in these terms:

    “Can the principle of selection, which we have seen is so potent in the hands of man, apply in nature? I think we shall see that it can act most effectually… Can it, then, be thought improbable, seeing that variations useful to man have undoubtedly occurred, that other variations useful in some way to each being in the great and complex battle of life, should sometimes occur in the course of thousands of generations? If such do occur, can we doubt (remembering that many more individuals are born than can possibly survive) that individuals having any advantage, however slight, over others, would have the best chance of surviving and of procreating their kind? On the other hand, we may feel sure that any variation in the least degree injurious would be rigidly destroyed. This preservation of favourable variations and the rejection of injurious variations, I call Natural Selection.”

    This is an almost entirely a priori argument. You presumably fall into the trap of accepting the Creationist argument that NS is tautologous, THEREFORE TRIVIAL. How can that be sensible? The same Christian tradition has frequently used the Ontological Argument (a supposedly tautological argument) to “prove” that God exists – would that be a trival result? Of course not.

    Natural Selection is basically tautologous, THEREFORE TRUE. The “huge problem” is the need to discover how an “adequate replicator” – one which is ssceptible to Natural Selection as discussed above – arose.

    Anyway, I can tie this up very easily. The OP asked how to answer the creationist argument quoted in detail. Most posters here think that the answer is to deny outright every point in that argument, whatever its merits. Well, I don’t think “lying for Darwin” is any better than “lying for Jesus”; so here is my suggested answer:

    “Dear Christian Fundamentalist,

    I see from your argument that you believe real scientific knowledge of the past 5 billion years agrees (if we don’t argue about the word ‘day’) with the Book of Genesis, and that since the origin of life is so difficult to explain scientifically we should accept the Genesis account. You are absolutely correct that the account in Genesis very specifically divides the creation into a sequence of creations:
    Day 1 Light.
    Day 2 Water (?) and the non-existent Firmament. (But no rainbows yet!)
    Day 3 Continents and Flowering Plants.
    Day 4 Sun, Moon and Stars.
    Day 5 Animals.
    Day 6 Humans.

    If you wish to co-opt the scientific evidence for life/genetic code (Day 3) originating at 4Ga BC to back up the Genesis story, then you need to explain where the carbon came from (stars before 5Ga – on Day 4?), or how the Earth was apparently there ‘in the beginning’ (call it Day 0) before the Sun, or how flowering plants appeared (Day 3) before pollinating insects (Day 5) and other scientifically known impossibilities.

    The difficulties in producing replication and the genetic code are ones to which molecular biology can assign probabilities, however daunting they may seem, even at this early stage. (Molecular Biology is younger than Relativity, younger than Quantum Mechanics, younger than Rocket Science…) This is a detective story which may run and run, but one thing is logically certain: ‘When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’ “

  252. @ Alan4Discussion

    You really love making up doubt-mongering misinformation! – Like this drivel!

    Space travel is no longer science fiction, but it’s not planetary science.

    This is referring to a scientific body whose publications have reported on Earth science satellites, studying:- oceanography, land-use, geological mapping, climate data. atmospheric data, ice cap 3D mapping, and reports (frequently from conception to post mission analysis), of every probe which has ever studied planets, moons, Lunar impacts, atmospheres, asteroids, meteor impacts, comets and the Sun. – Not to mention the space telescopes looking at exoplanets.

    but it’s not planetary science.

    Ha! ha! ha! ha!

    Your layout needs attention.

    1) Use of brackets suggested to assist comprehension:

    This is referring to a scientific body whose publications have reported on Earth science satellites (studying:- oceanography, land-use, geological mapping, climate data, atmospheric data, ice cap 3D mapping) and reports… of every probe (which has ever studied planets, moons, Lunar impacts, atmospheres, asteroids, meteor impacts, comets and the Sun) not to mention the space telescopes (looking at exoplanets).

    BIS is deeply interested in satellites, probes and space telescopes. Its publications are not about oceanography, geology, and all these other branches of planetary science. “Its aim is exclusively to support and promote astronautics and space exploration,” according to its Wikipedia entry. I have no complaint against this admirable institution, just doubts about the crediblity of a member who seems to regard a paid membership as a major qualification for pontificating about tenuously related subjects. Still, probably not as bad as founder member and long-term president Archibald Low: “Many of his scientific contemporaries disliked him, due in part to his using the title Professor, which technically he wasn’t entitled to do as he didn’t occupy an academic chair.”

    (My own credentials, since I have not boasted of any, remain unknown rather than , but – see #254 – the remedy is in your hands.)

    2) Laughter is not usually punctuated with stops after every “ha”. If you read it out loud you’ll see what I mean. Just a hint there – I’d hate you to make yourself look unnecessarily comical.

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