Why life could not have emerged without God.

Posted on January 7, 2012 By

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backwards and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.”

–Charles Darwin, the founder of evolutionary biology, as quoted in his autobiography.

———-

The Atheist-Biologist-in-Chief, Richard Dawkins, writes in his book The Blind Watchmaker: “…Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” But when one looks into the reasoning behind Dawkins’ statement, one quickly realizes that, to hijack a quote from another prominent atheist (the philosopher Bertrand Russell), “This is one of those views which are so absolutely absurd that only very learned men could possibly adopt them.” Indeed, years of intense research by highly credentialed biologists with rigid ideological commitments to atheism are required to concoct a view so ridiculous. The first key point is that Darwinian theory does not even attempt to explain the origin of life. Rather, Darwinian evolution only attempts to explain the diversification of life from a putative common ancestor. The Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection, quite obviously, applies only to that which has genes to mutate and reproductive offspring to naturally select…namely, living things. So the key question pertinent to God’s existence, here, is not how life diversified, but how it originated. How did the first life emerge from non-living matter? To answer this question, one must first determine just what life is. The simplest living thing (a single celled organism) is described by Oxford University scientist Franklin M. Harold in The Way of the Cell:

“…a high-tech factory, complete with artificial languages and their decoding systems, memory banks for information storage and retrieval, elegant control systems regulating the automated assembly of parts and components, error fail-safe and proof-reading devices utilized for quality control, assembly processes involving the principle of prefabrication and modular construction … [and] a capacity not equaled in any of our own most advanced machines, for it would be capable of replicating its entire structure within a matter of a few hours.”

“…and then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies.

In short, the simplest living organism is several orders of magnitude more complex than anything humans have ever produced: the space shuttle, supercomputers…anything. And this dizzyingly complex first life appeared in what amounts to a blink of an eye in geologic terms. Astrophysicist Hugh Ross writes in The Creator and the Cosmos:

“When it comes to the origin of life, many biologists (and others) have typically assumed that plenty of time is available for natural processes to perform the necessary assembly. But discoveries about the universe and the solar system have shattered that assumption. What we now see is that life must have originated on Earth quickly.” “In early 1992 Christopher Chyba and Carl Sagan published a review paper on the origins of life. Origins is plural for a good reason. Research indicates that life began, was destroyed, and began again many times during that era before it finally took hold.” “…From 3.8 to 3.5 billion years ago the bombardment [of earth by asteroids, comets, meteors, and dust] gradually decreased to its present comparatively low level. But during those 300 million years at least thirty life-exterminating impacts must have occurred. These findings have enormous significance to our theories about the origin of life. They show that life sprang up on Earth (and re-sprang) in what could be called geologic instants, periods of ten-million years or less (between devastating impacts).” “From the perspective of our life span, a ten-million-year window may seem long, but it is impossibly short to those seeking to explain life’s origins without divine input.”

MIT physicist Gerald Schroeder makes the same point:

“…and then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies. Barghoorn discovered that the oldest rocks that can bear fossils already have fully formed fossils of one-celled life. And most amazingly, and yet by necessity, those first forms of life already had the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is not something that can gradually evolve. The first cell to survive had to have all the mechanisms for mitosis the first time around since all the attempts at life that came before (if there were other attempts) died without leaving any heritage simply because there was no succeeding generation prior to reproduction.” [italics added]

At this point, one might ask what IS known by the scientific community regarding how unintelligent natural processes could have brought about life. The answer is simple: Absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch! The reader will please forgive me for recycling quotations from another essay at this website, but here it goes: Francis Crick, the Nobel Laureate well known as the co-discoverer of the DNA double-helix, has stated in his book Life Itself:

“An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

Similarly, physicist and information scientist Hubert Yockey, who is the leading author of the text on the application of information theory to the origin of life, writes in the Journal of Theoretical Biology:

“Since science does not have the faintest idea how life on earth originated….it would be honest to confess this to other scientists, to grantors, and to the public at large. Prominent scientists speaking ex cathedra, should refrain from polarizing the minds of students and young productive scientists with statements that are based solely on beliefs.”

Theoretical physicist Paul Davies made the same point in his book The Fifth Miracle:

“Many investigators feel uneasy about stating in public that the origin of life is a mystery, even though behind closed doors they freely admit that they are baffled.”

Even prominent theoretical biologist (and atheist) Stuart Kauffman, who is known for his “self-organization” theories regarding the origin of life, admits:

“Anyone who tells you that he or she knows how life started on the earth some 3.45 billion years ago is a fool or a knave. Nobody knows.”

(As an aside, please view this Scientific American article titled Pssst! Don’t Tell the Creationists But Scientists Don’t Have a Clue How Life Began. Predictably, the article ends with a lame atheist attempt at damage control by asking the question “What created the divine creator?”…as if an eternally existing being—without beginning— would require a creator.)

From my online debates with atheists, I know that many skeptical readers are now shouting at the top of their lungs, “You are committing the logical fallacy of argument from ignorance!! Just because science doesn’t currently know how unintelligent natural processes could have produced life doesn’t mean that it never will! We can’t just give up and say, ‘We don’t know how life emerged, so God must be responsible.’ You are using God-of-the-gaps reasoning!!” But the view that life could not have emerged from unintelligent natural processes is not an “argument from ignorance.” Rather, it is an argument from knowledge. Oxford University mathematician John Lennox notes the following in his book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?

“How does one scientifically recognize a message emanating from an intelligent source, and distinguish it from the random background noise that emanates from the cosmos? Clearly the only way this can be done is to compare the signals received with the patterns specified in advance that are deemed to be clear and reliable indicators of intelligence — like a long sequence of prime numbers — and then to make a design inference. In SETI [The Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, which was originally a NASA program] the recognition of intelligent agency is regarded as lying within the legitimate scope of natural science. The astronomer Carl Sagan thought that a single message from space would be enough to convince us that there were intelligences in the universe other than our own.” “Writing on paper (or paint on a Rembrandt canvas) exhibits what philosopher Del Ratzsch calls counterflow — phenomena that nature, unaided by agent activity, could not produce. It is because we know that, even in principle, physics and chemistry cannot give an explanation of the counterflow exhibited by the writing, that we reject a purely naturalistic explanation, and we postulate an author. But it needs to be said that postulating an intelligent agent to explain writing is not falling into an ‘author-of-the-gaps’ syndrome; rather it is our knowledge of the nature of the ‘gap’ that demands we postulate an author.”

…And if the complexity contained in a “long set of prime numbers” meets scientific standards for inferring intelligent agency, then why is the far, far, far greater complexity contained in the simplest living thing not enough to convince atheistic scientists of intelligent agency?

And if the complexity contained in a “long set of prime numbers” meets scientific standards for inferring intelligent agency, then why is the far, far, far greater complexity contained in the simplest living thing not enough to convince atheistic scientists of intelligent agency? The answer is that many of the most hardened atheist scientists clearly ARE convinced as such, although they are very reticent to admit it because it is so inconvenient to their ideology. And herein lies a source of enormous entertainment value for theists reading this article. (I never said this website wasn’t supposed to be fun). Outspoken atheistic biologist numero uno, Richard Dawkins, cites “higher intelligence” as a potential explanation for the origin of life in this interview. But what is the source of this intelligent agency, according Dawkins and several other prominent atheists? ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE! (Or “a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe” to use Dawkins’ exact words).

The hypothesis that life on earth originated when it was brought here by space aliens is known as “directed panspermia,” and has been endorsed by highly prominent atheists such as Dawkins, the biologist Francis Crick (who is famous as the co-discoverer of the DNA double helix) and the British chemist Leslie Orgel. (Click here to read an article regarding Crick’s support of the hypothesis). * Astute readers will immediately recognize the problem with citing space aliens as the source for the origin of life: These aliens would themselves be a life form. The question then becomes, How did the aliens emerge from non-living matter? Dawkins, in the above video, suggests that the aliens “evolved, by probably some kind of Darwinian means.” But please recall that the Darwinian mechanism requires random mutation and natural selection. Because non-living matter has neither genes to mutate nor reproductive offspring to naturally select, citing “some kind of [unknown] Darwinian means” is an open-and-shut case of using one’s worldview to extrapolate far beyond the limits of reason.

But the complexity level of living organisms (as it relates to scientific standards for deducing intelligent agency) is not the only line of evidence that clearly suggests divine creation. As Bernard-Olaf Kuppers, a member of the German Academy of Natural Sciences, states in Information and the Origin of Life, “The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information.” And therein lies the next problem for those attempting to cite unintelligent, material causes for the origin of life. Even the simplest living organism is an information processing machine that uses the complex coding and decoding of a language that is akin to (but much more complex than) a computer language. Dawkins concedes this point in his book River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life:

“…The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like. Apart from differences in jargon, the pages of a molecular biology journal might be interchanged with those of a computer engineering journal.”

Elsewhere, Dawkins writes:

“What has happened is that genetics has become a branch of information technology.  The genetic code is truly digital, in exactly the same sense as computer codes. This is not some vague analogy, it is the literal truth.”

So what is the relevance of mentioning the informational nature of living things? Informational exchange is fundamentally mental in nature. Coded information is ALWAYS the product of a conscious, intelligent mind. No exceptions. Period. Information scientist Henry Quastler puts it succinctly: “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” (Please read my post titled How Atheism Relies on ‘Special Pleading’ to gain a more in-depth understanding of why all codes and languages are NECESSARILY the product of a conscious and intelligent mind). (Atheists wishing to dispute this point can go here to participate in an online forum). Information scientist Werner Gitt, a former Director and Professor at the German Federal Institute of Physics and Technology makes this point clear in his book In the Beginning Was Information:

“…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information cannot be a physical entity: ‘Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.’” “Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the nonmaterial nature of information by defining it as an ‘enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.’” “Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated: ‘When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.’” “It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information.”

Meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy. As an illustration of this point, consider the following: A song is a non-material, informational entity that can be stored on a compact disk, in an iPod, on a cassette tape, or in a musician’s head, etc. But these storage devices cannot account for the song itself. Rather, the song exists independently of any storage medium, and resulted from the activity of an intelligent, conscious mind (in this case, the composer of the song). Matter and energy are useful for the transmitting and storing of information, but the information itself is neither matter nor energy and can only be produced by a conscious and intelligent mind.

Just as songs cannot created by unintelligent processes, coded information (such as that stored in the DNA of a living organism) cannot be produced by unintelligent processes. A crucial point to be grasped is that the theories for the origin of life that have been produced cannot even in principle account for the origin of genetic information. Rather, they can only be used to address the origin of the storage medium for genetic information (or the material aspect of the organism). So, in reference to the above analogy, no theory for the origin of life that has been produced so far seriously confronts the issue of the song on the compact disk. Rather, they have only engaged the issue of the emergence of the compact disk itself. This should not be a surprise when one considers that the prevailing cultural context among the ranks of biologists involves a rigid adherence to a materialistic/naturalistic worldview that does not even acknowledge information as a separate category from matter and energy.

(To explore how the deeply entrenched naturalistic/naturalistic cultural context—or ideology—distorts science, please read If the evidence for God is so strong, why are so many smart people unconvinced?) Physicist Paul Davies makes clear the distinction between the medium (the physical aspect of the organism) and the message (the informational aspect of the organism), with regard to the origin of life, in The Fifth Miracle:

“The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules [such as even the most simple organism]. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics…Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [or life emerging through unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”

In a 2002 article for The Guardian article titled How We Could Create Life, Davies writes:

“Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98.  It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.” [italics added]

Perhaps most importantly, it should be noted that the above facts have been more than enough to convince many top-notch scientists and philosophers who are (or were) ideologically opposed to theism. Dr. Hubert Yockey, as I mention above, is the leading author of the text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, and is certainly no friend of theism. He is a physicist (who worked on the Manhattan Project) and an information theorist who states in Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life that “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.” Note that Yockey does not say “as yet unsolved.” Rather, “unsolvable.” The Nobel Prize winning Harvard University biologist George Wald (also certainly not an ideological ally of theism) stated the following in his address to the Quantum Biology Symposium:

“It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

Dean Kenyon was one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorists in the world, and the author of a best-selling text on chemical evolutionary explanations for the origin of life. But, as the video below reveals, Kenyon was eventually obliged by the weight of the evidence to renounce his naturalistic views and endorse theism:

And perhaps most prominently, the Oxford University philosopher Antony Flew was for 50 years considered to be the intellectual “frontman” for atheism as a philosophical cause. His paper Theology and Falsification was the most reprinted philosophical tract in the world during this period. But as the video below reveals, Flew was forced by the facts of biology to endorse theism in 2004. To learn more, please read Flew’s book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

In light of the preceding facts, perhaps Richard Dawkins’ statement, which is recounted in the first paragraph of this essay, should be rephrased as such: “…Although atheism might have been logically tenable before the magically appearing space aliens, these aliens made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” —————————- *For those not satisfied with the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship explanation for the origin of life….do not fear!  Atheism has other explanations. The prominent atheist biologist Michael Ruse hypothesizes that the origin of life can be explained by a MAGIC CRYSTAL PIGGYBACK RIDE!  Sound bizarre? Click on the preceding link. Still not satisfied? There is more!  Other atheists have dropped the “directed” from “directed panspermia” to come up with just plain “panspermia.” In this hypothesis, life came to earth from outer space without the help of aliens. Supporters of this hypothesis include atheists such as the Cambridge University mathematician and astronomer Fred Hoyle, and Chandra Wickramasinghe, the director of the Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology. Please also read my related posts titled Why evolution cannot be used to rationalize atheism and If the evidence for God is so strong, why are so many smart people unconvinced? and How atheism relies on ‘special pleading.


101 comments


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    RATIONAL DUDE says:

    I’ve contemplated the question of how “information” and Intelligent Design work together for a long time.
    I think I can finally draw a safe conclusion about what Intelligent Design means by the word “information”:
    An inherently intelligible specification, exemplifying the qualities of concept and aboutness.
    Before I go on, I might need to say what a “specification” is: Some aspect of how a certain [structure/ object/ etc.] is supposed to be. A specification can be the purpose of the thing in question, or how big it should be, any detail essential to the thing is a specification.
    From this, we see that “nature (the whole of unintelligent reality)” cannot produce information. In nature, things are the product of chance (randomness) and law (regularity). Neither chance, nor law features the qualities of concept or aboutness; they just are, and have no meaning to them. Under atheism, chance and law are incapable of specification, as there is no way anything should be. Under atheism, law may be intelligible, but it is not inherently intelligible; the law is not understood by its “sender”, even though the “receiver” understands it. Chance simply is not intelligible at all.
    In contrast, we see that minds can produce information. Minds have the qualities of concept and aboutness, they are inherently intelligible, and they are capable of making specifications.

    We can now use the following logic:

    1) Either chance and law can produce information, or they cannot.
    2) In order for chance and law to be able to produce information, they must be meet the four criteria of information:
    2.a) Inherently intelligible. 2.b) Specifies another. 2.c) Conceptual. 2.d) Other-directed.
    3) In order to meet the four criteria of information, the criteria must be either 3.a) reducible to chance and law or 3.b) fundamental aspects of chance and law.
    4) It seems self-evident that the four criteria of information are not reducible to chance and law, and are not fundamental aspects of chance and law. (3.a) and (3.b) are both false.
    5) Therefore, chance and law cannot produce information.

    The weak link is Premise Four. To strengthen it, I should present an argument that makes belief in Four more plausible than her denial. Okay then, what would we expect if one of the options, Three-A, or Three-B, were true?
    If Three-A were true, we would expect that randomness and regularity to produce things that meet the four criteria. Not only that, but we would expect to see it happen, right in front of us, a good fraction of the time.
    If Three-B were true, we would expect that there is an inherently intelligible way things controlled by chance and regularity should be. Physical things would naturally have a conceptual aspect, and represent things other than themselves.
    We have no evidence of either hypothesis. The closest thing to evidence for Three-A is the philosophical assertion that life was not created by an intelligent force, in stark contradiction to all our observation that things based on information are designed. Nothing but smoke and ideology!
    Hypothesis Three-B entails one of Pantheism, Deism, Theism, depending on how one interprets it. The thesis that life came from an intelligent source is affirmed, contradicting atheism.
    I think that Four is to be accepted, for evidence-based reasons.


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      ABBEY says:

      Do you realize you are recreating Aristotelian philosophy in almost exactly the same terms? Serious, read Aristotle’s Natural Physics if you haven’t already. Then read his Metaphysics.


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        Caleb Neff says:

        Hi, ABBEY. The comment is rather old, but looking back, I should think recreating Aristotle’s philosophy might be expected. It is largely a philosophical defense and expansion of common sense. I didn’t have that in mind at the time, but I have become more of an Aristotelian in that space.


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        Gerry De naro says:

        There are two if not one, insurmountable problem for atheism:
        The finitude of time i.e past time, as proven beyond any reasonable doubt by the impossibility of an infinite regress of past physical events. Actual infinites in the physical realm don’t exist. If any one can identify an actual infinite in nature, a Nobel prize would surely be his.
        Matter/energy can only exist in the dimension of time. Since past time is finite, then it inevitably follows 1) that matter was created ex nihilo. 2) since nothing causes itself into existence, the cause must be non-contingent, immaterial and uncaused.


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          Caleb Neff says:

          Infinite regressions are hard to discuss. If I try to say anything against them, I get people who rejoin Transfinite maths are (sic) perfectly consistent! Okay, yeah, that’s true, but there are stipulations: subtraction and division are forbidden, and there is no reason to discuss actually traversing the “distance” between one infinite number and the next –the joys of idealization! Considering that time only moves forward, the first provision seems okay. It’s the second, unanswered provision which needs to be resolved. I have yet to see that happen.


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            Gerry De naro says:

            Caleb wrote “Infinite regressions are hard to discuss. If I try to say anything against them, I get people who rejoin {sic} Transfinite maths are (sic) perfectly consistent! Okay”
            I would suggest you are making a category error in comparing infinite in mathematics to the physical realm. We can say that actual infinite series of numbers are possible as is a potential infinite for future time. I hope however, you don’t believe that actual infinites exist in nature. If you can cite one, perhaps a Nobel prize awaits you. The logical impossibility of an infinite regress for past physical events is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt for CREATION ex nihilo.
            In all the YT debates I have with atheists no one has attempted to explain how matter/energy can exist infinitely into the past. (and BTW, I don’t believe a quantum vacuum is “nothing’)
            I would also assert that all physical laws have a time “T” somewhere in their equations. As Michio Kiku laments in a YT video, infinity, like zero is an abomination to all physical equations. Recall David Hilbert, one of the giants of twentieth-century mathematics. His conclusion, ” “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought………”


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              Caleb Neff says:

              Hi Gerry.
              I’m not going to argue for the existence of an actual infinite in the created world –the universe, as far as we can tell, is finite in size and duration. I am just pointing out that infinite regression is difficult to discuss.
              As for my category error, I myself am unsure about it anyway. One might argue that the first provision for transfinite maths is acceptable, because time only moves forward, so this could show that there is no fallacy –though even if he’s right, he can’t solve the problem of traversing an infinite temporal distance (so the error remains). Another may observe how positing an infinite regression to explain anything is like saying a chain can support itself in mid air just because each link can support the one beneath it. In other words, even an infinite past is not sufficient for justifying atheism.

              While I was considering what to say in the first reply, I was considering maybe Dr. William Lane Craig’s paradoxes do not apply to time. A physical scenario (his library example, or Hilbert’s Hotel) involve subtraction or division, which aren’t allowed. Some of them probably still apply (such as the famous orbits of the planets), and will not go away any time soon.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Rational Dude:

      This is remarkably well articulated and spot-on. I wish I could have said it so expertly.

      Scott


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        RATIONAL DUDE says:

        Thank you very much; I’ve been considering how to properly expand on this, and there’s a concept called “Meta-information”, which is described over here: http://borne.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/biological-meta-information/ which might be insightful. “Information about how to use information”; the phrase itself brings thoughts of Mind-Body Dualism.

        Of course, maybe those thoughts are just over-speculating, as a more readily observed implication would be that codes are based on this concept (this is where Werner Gitt comes into the picture). For a code to exist, there needs to be information on how to encrypt and decrypt information. This is why a code can’t be created by chance: it meets the four criteria that makes information what it is, and we’ve already established why we can’t produce information without a designer. A code is “just” information.

        If I have any ideas involving how this relates to mind-body dualism, I’ll probably put the comments at “Why death is not the end,” as this is most appropriate place.


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    Chris says:

    Hey Scott!
    I ust read your article and found it fascinating. However, there’s still something that isn’t quite clear: I get how DNA is a code, since a certain series of nucleic acids will lead to proteins, which will lead to a physical trait. However, as we can predict three specific nucleic acids will give one specific protein, couldn’t you say the same thing of billowing clouds in the distance, which foreshadow a storm? If so, does this mean God is telling us that there will be a storm soon through the ‘code’ of storm clouds?
    Yours


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Chris:

      Not to criticize, but hen you say that “DNA is a code, since a certain series of nucleic acids will lead to proteins, which will lead to a physical trait,” you are vastly oversimplifying. DNA is a code because it involves the coding, storage, and decoding of information. What decoding, storage, and decoding of information exists in storm clouds? None whatsoever.

      Below is an excerpt from Lee Strobel’s The Case for a Creator that discusses another problem with citing mindless processes for the origin of the information present in DNA:

      To convey information, you need irregularity in sequencing. Open any book; you won’t see the word ‘the’ repeating over and over and over. Instead, you have an irregular sequencing of letters. They convey information because they conform to a certain known independent pattern—that is, the rules of vocabulary and grammar. That’s what enables us to communicate—and that’s what needs to be explained in DNA. The four letters of its alphabet are also highly irregular while at the same time conforming to a functional requirement—that is, the correct arrangement of amino acids to create a working protein.

      “Here’s an example. If you go north of here into Victoria Harbor in British Columbia, you’ll see a pattern on a hillside. As the ferry approaches, you’ll realize it’s a message: red and yellow flowers spell out WELCOME TO VICTORIA. That’s an example of an informational sequence. “Notice you don’t have mere repetition—a W followed by an E, followed by another W and another E, and so on. Instead, there’s an irregular combination of letters that conform to an independent pattern or specific set of functional requirements—English vocabulary and grammar. So we immediately recognize this as informational.

      Whenever we encounter these two elements—irregularity that’s specified by a set of functional requirements, which is what we call ‘specified complexity’—we recognize this as information. And this kind of information is invariably the result of mind—not chance, not natural selection, and not self-organizational processes.”

      A storm cloud does not contain either irregularity or specified complexity. Rather, only regular and repetitive patterns. The language of DNA, like a computer language, however, contains both irregularity and specified complexity.


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    Mike de Fleuriot says:

    In all my time on this planet I have yet to find a theist, who can tell me how their gods, actually did the process of creation, what tools and abilities did they use on what materials for how long and under what conditions to create life. Looking at the published papers, you can not find any paper that shows how a god would have done this, apart from the use of magic. One would think that if special creation actually was valid and could be shown to be true, all the world’s scientists would be eager to understand this. But sadly we have nothing except whining about how peer review does not like theistic points of view.


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      GerryD says:

      Hi Mike
      you say “I have yet to find a theist, who can tell me how their gods, actually did the process of creation, what tools and abilities did they use …”
      Is this an original thought as I’ve never seen atheists make such an argument before? To know the mechanisms of creation I dont think is the job of theists but in fact science. You make a category mistake since mechanisms are about e.g. “how” planets formed,what forces are at play. What theists want to know is the “WHY”, like why anything exists & for what purpose if any. We want to know about ultimate causes. We want to argue that mindless matter is not all there is and cannot have an eternal past. We want to argue that the fine-tuning & rational intelligiblity of the universe is not due to chance or necessity but due to an ultimate cause that exits outside of the natural universe that science also tells us has a finite past.
      I could go on and talk about the existence of abstract laws & metaphysical realities that cant exist in an all physical world where mindless matter is the only came in town. But Scott has done much of that already.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      So you are assuming that how God created life is within reach of human understanding?

      Perhaps some of it is, but certainly not all of it. Because there are parts beyond human ability to understand, atheists must resort to explanations such as the space aliens and the piggyback ride on crystals. Do you think prominent atheists such as Richard Dawkins can produce published papers showing how his hypothesized space aliens created life? Can the prominent atheist biologist Michael Ruse produce scientific papers showing how the crystal piggyback ride produced life?

      Humans are the smartest creatures on Earth, but there is always much that will lie beyond our understanding.

      Peer review does not like theistic points of view because whether or not God created life is not ultimately a scientific question. Rather, it is an ontological (or meta-scientific) question.


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        GerryD says:

        I cant remember where i read it, but someone said that we humans are like children in a kindergarden trying to assemble an image of God with the wrong set of blocks.
        Shelby-Spong makesa similar point that humans trying to conceptualize the mind of God is like a horse trying to understand what it’s like to be a human. We can only contemplate God in terms of our our still evolving human intellect so we try to think of God as having human characteristics. God is not a being among many rather the essence of being itself. But we also have the gift of Revelation that tells as much about the nature of God “I am who I am.” And of course, the NT where Jesus speaks about the nature of God’s kingdom mainly in parable form..

        To not believe in the necessity of God as Creator requires faith that goes against reason. It requires illogical faith. When, however, we observe the design of creation and beauty of nature; the universal sense of morality, desire for perfection and consciousness of God; and the witness of personal testimony and power of the Bible, then we know that believing in God is supported by reason. Faith in God is logical faith.


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    GerryD says:

    Back to the topic at hand

    Someone raised the question “Did Dr Craig Venter create a synthetic Life Form”?

    It is well known that Scientists for many years have been working on building a synthetic form of life. On May 20, 2010, the NY times reported that researchers were able to synthesize a bacterial genome which was able to take over an existing cell. During a press conference, Dr. Venter stated, “the first self-replicating species we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.”

    He also states, “Life is basically the result of an information process, a software process. Our genetic code is our software, and our cells are dynamically, constantly reading our genetic code, making new proteins, and the proteins make the other cellular components.”

    The possible implications for mankind are obvious. The new technology is going to be used for products that include vaccines and biofuels. Liberals are very concerned because the likes of BP and Exxon will have this new technology which would make ‘synthetic life’ commercial. So what does all this mean for creationism? Does this prove life coming from dead chemicals or a new synthetic life form?

    Let’s take a closer look on how this ‘synthetic’ life form was actually made. First of all, DNA was ONLY created but in order for it to actually work, it required existing machinery which is encoded. DNA is rendered useless if there is no machinery to decode it. Second of all, the synthesizers also required some very complex starting materials, deoxyribonucleotides.

    DNA sequence is considered my many to be like software, (one could surely ask who programmed it?) Paul Davies who is known for his anti-creationist stance states the following in 2002, “DNA is not a special life-giving molecule, but a genetic databank that transmits its information using a mathematical code. Most of the workings of the cell are best described, not in terms of material stuff—hardware—but as information, or software. Trying to make life by mixing chemicals in a test tube is like soldering switches and wires in an attempt to produce Windows 98. It won’t work because it addresses the problem at the wrong conceptual level.”

    Scanning Venter’s articles he concedes to have used proteins found in yeast to join his large lengths of DNA. To sum all this up, Dr. Venter borrowed an already functional machinery, he used existing information from another cell to modify it, then synthesizing DNA with this information, joined the molecule despite having chemical and physical difficulties which required yeast to help.

    The research though a great scientific feat in itself, is hardly a man-made genome that is technically artificial. Synthetic, involves designed from scratch, not copied from a natural genome. Keep in mind, the entire organism must be successfully produced from raw materials.

    Not all in evolutionary circles appear to have were convinced about the hype, even anti-creationist Geneticist Steve Jones said…

    “The idea that this is “playing God” is just daft. What he has done in genetic terms would be analogous to taking an Apple Mac programme and making it work on a PC — and then saying you have created a computer. It’s not trivial, but it is utterly absurd the claims that are being made about it.”

    I still think Miller’s summation that evolution proceeds not as a “mistake” but naturally, according to the laws initially programmed in to the very fabric of nature.


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    GerryD says:

    Let’s cut to the chase here,
    the PROBABILITY of life emerging without some form of intelligent input,”organizing principle” (Sandage), “supernatural forces” (Jastrow) or “someone fine-tuning nature’s numbers” (Davies) is hardly 1:1, as some atheists may want to believe. No one proposes (that I can determine), that life has emerged as anything more than a very unlikely cosmic accident, if blind forces & mindless processes is the only game in town.

    Before the question of life even arises, the universe had to form as it did. 3 options have been proposed- chance, physical necessity or design. What then is the most plausible explanation for 1) the initial conditions of the Big Bang(e.g. entropy, mass, lambda etc), 2) the existence of all the immutable laws of science & 3) the values for the independent physical constants- values that make it possible for the universe to form galaxies, stars & planets, and to create 112 elements many of which are needed for life?

    While a “theory of everything” might be every atheists’ dream Darwinian explanation (particularly biologist Dawkins) , no physicist presently believes all the independent forces of nature have the values they do by physical necessity. Moreover, George Ellis (British astrophysicist) is one of many eminent scientists who totally reject the idea of chance: “Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word ‘miraculous’ without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word.”
    Stephen Hawking compares the design of the universe to a bunch of monkeys sitting at typewriters eventually punching out a Shakespearian sonnet by chance. Do u have enough faith in blind forces, mindless processes & infinite rolls of the dice? Einstein suggests “God doesnt play dice”. The consensus of opinion in the scientific community obviously doesnt support chance. If u do please give a verifiable quote. Why should we regard the OPINION of the god-denier whose only regress is mindless matter & energy for design as more authorative than those who SHOULD know. Design & Fine-tuning are indeed arguments from authority, unlike those who cant wont even defend materialistic naturalism.
    ______________________________________________________________________
    “Astronomers who do not draw theistic or deistic conclusions are becoming rare, and even the few dissenters hint that the tide is against them.” So concedes confessed atheist, Geoffrey Burbidge, of the University of California at San Diego.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Gerry,

      Atheists try to do away with the anthropic fine tuning of our universe by saying that the chance of our universe being finely tuned to suit human life is 1:1, because, “here we are.” The fact that we are here to observe the universe means that no further explanation in necessary. The philosopher John Leslie responds:

      “Suppose you are dragged before a firing squad consisting of 100 marksmen. You hear the command to fire and the crashing roar of the rifles. You then realize you are still alive, and that not a single bullet found its mark. How are you to react to this rather unlikely event?”

      “….We could state the following: ‘Of course you do not observe that you are dead, because if you were dead, you would not be able to observe that fact!’ However, this does not stop you from being amazed and surprised by the fact that you did survive against overwhelming odds. Moreover, you would try to deduce the reason for this unlikely event, which was too improbable to happen by chance. Surely, the best explanation is that there was some plan among the marksmen to miss you on purpose. In other words, you are probably alive for a very definite reason, not because of some random, unlikely, freak accident.”

      “So we should conclude the same with the cosmos. It is natural for us to ask why we escaped the firing squad. Because it is so unlikely that this amazing universe with its precariously balanced constants could have come about by sheer accident, it is likely that there was some purpose in mind, before or during its creation. And the mind in question belongs to God.”

      It should be noted that the prominent atheist biologist Richard Dawkins accepts Leslie’s reasoning (as does Stephen Hawking). These two men instead cling to multiple universe theories to explain away God. This is despite the fact that the existence of multiple universes also require an explanation.


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        GerryD says:

        Scott says
        “these two men instead cling to multiple universe theories to explain away God. This is despite the fact that the existence of multiple universes also require an explanation”
        The Problems with multiverse theories as I see them are
        1. without any empirical data (evidence)
        2. There are about 9 theories which all contradict each other
        3. assume that scientific laws & physical constants would be different in each world
        4. assume that universes would still form
        5. there cant be an infinite regression of past finite universes.
        6. multiple events that come into existence still need a cause
        My gut feeling is that the theory only developed b/c atheists realised the discovery for our life-permitting universe being finite in the past, shot down their centuries old rebuttal that there was no creation event as claimed in the Bible. Perhaps the following observation is relevant here:
        Robert Jastrow (self-proclaimed agnostic): “For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
        .


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          GerryD says:

          If u think the “multiverse theory is in the realm of fairy tales Wiki’ has some real gems:

          “Alien design
          One hypothesis is that the Universe may have been designed by extra-universal aliens. Some believe this would solve the problem of how a designer or design team capable of fine-tuning the Universe could come to exist. Cosmologist Alan Guth believes humans will in time be able to generate new universes. By implication previous intelligent entities may have generated our universe.[29] This idea leads to the possibility that the extraterrestrial designer/designers are themselves the product of an evolutionary process in their own universe, which must therefore itself be able to sustain life. The Simulation hypothesis promoted by Nick Bostrom and others suggests that our universe may be a computer simulation by aliens.[30]

          The Biocosm hypothesis and the Meduso-anthropic principle both suggest that natural selection has made the universe biophilic. The universe enables intelligence because intelligent entities later create new biophilic universes. This is different from the suggestion above that aliens from a universe which is less finely tuned than ours made our universe finely tuned.

          The Designer Universe theory of John Gribbin suggests that the universe could have been made deliberately by a member or members of a technologically advanced civilization in another part of the multiverse and that this advanced civilization may have been responsible for causing the big bang.[31]

          The ironic point of such fanciful theories is that theyre trying to input an intelligence into the process to explain fine-tuning. At the same time theyre also forgetting to account for the universe that supported the aliens that created our universe”.
          No wonder science fiction is so popular today.


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    GerryD says:

    Very early in the responses to this thread, I stated “I have reached the conclusion that no amount of scholarly citations will convince a closeminded atheist to even admit to the possibility of a Divine Creator.” Let me give an analogy, Not that I dwell on it at all, but I dont believe in aliens based on the lack of evidence (sound familar?). So when an atheist like Dawkins proposes “directed panspermia” as a serious hypothesis for the origin of life, I see no point in even considering the possibility. If there’s no evidence for aliens, hypothesizing about how they could have seeded earth is meaningless. As is the question of who might have seeded them. Perhaps, atheists might explain why they dont also consider themselves as non-astrologists, non-occultists, non-psychics etc etc

    So if the atheist comes to this debate with a preconceived assumption that God cant exist, then of course he must reject any discussion that might implicate a divine hand in how life came from non-life. Much of the objections to this thread commit the circular fallacy as typified by the late Chris Hitchens RIP. The argument goes like this: God doesnt exist so all religious ideas are based on a lie. Then he says look they even believe in miracles like life after death & the resurrection, how deluded is that? “I rest my case”. Hmmm I wonder what case that might be?

    The (nothing to prove atheist) atheist must first establish materialistic naturalism as his worldview and refute the evidence for God established through natural & divine revelation, history, science, reason, desire & morality. He must explain why the universe is finite in the past, rationally intelligible, law-abiding & life-permitting. For those who are interested in my assessment of the teleological argument see a youtube vid’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivKvj8xVl9Y. The militant atheist who spends endless hours debating the non-existence of a god no one believes in has even more explaining to do.


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      GerryD,

      ″I have reached the conclusion that no amount of scholarly citations will convince a closeminded atheist to even admit to the possibility of a Divine Creator.″

      Well, like I said, quotes are opinion, peer reviewed scientific research is science. I have witnessed firsthand the fact that a popular opinion isn’t necessarily a correct opinion, and even incredibly intelligent people can believe in incredibly dumb things. HOWEVER, I have never denied that God or any other creator is possible. In general, atheists don’t make that assertion, any more than we make the assertion that cell division strips a person of their identity, or that scientific theories should be judged by how much they disprove God.

      ″Let me give an analogy, Not that I dwell on it at all, but I dont believe in aliens based on the lack of evidence (sound familar?).″

      The first time I’ve seen you regard lack of evidence as a problem and it’s something that is well within the realm of possibility.

      ″So when an atheist like Dawkins proposes ‘directed panspermia’ as a serious hypothesis for the origin of life, I see no point in even considering the possibility.″

      Nobody does, that’s the point. It’s an example of a theory for which we have no evidence and no necessity and bears no serious consideration. If we’re being objective and honest, this is just as supportable as divine intervention.

      ″If there’s no evidence for [God], hypothesizing about how [He] could have [created] earth is meaningless. As is the question of who might have [created Him].″

      It’s called logic. It often requires objectivity. Hint: God is not the one valid exception to logic.

      ″So if the atheist comes to this debate with a preconceived assumption that God cant exist, then of course he must reject any discussion that might implicate a divine hand in how life came from non-life.″

      You’re kind of stuck on this point. I have shown how all of your arguments lack a logical basis, evidence, or in some cases a rational foundation without once invoking the assertion that God doesn’t exist. I’ll say it again for emphasis, I am tearing down your baseless but pretty sounding opinions using logic, and my arguments have nothing to do with God. The person who keeps dragging God into this is you. So let me ask you, if your opinions don’t make sense under scrutiny, atheist or not, why would I endorse them?

      ″The argument goes like this: [Atheists say] God doesnt exist so all [atheist] ideas are based on a lie. Then he says look they even believe in [science fiction] like [aliens] & the [multiverse theory], how deluded is that? ‘I rest my case’. Hmmm I wonder what case that might be?″

      That right there is what you’re arguing in this post. It’s called an ad-hominem attack. Without actually addressing any of the logical, valid points I’ve been making, you’re painting not just me but all atheists as unreasonable and irrational. This is just slander. The worst part is that you’re accusing atheists of doing what you are actually doing in this post.

      I’ll ask you what I asked Scott. Why is it that your debate style leans so heavily on insulting the opposition? Do you consider mud slinging to be some sort of valid alternative to logic?


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        Gerry De naro says:

        Andrew wrote, “Well, like I said, quotes are opinion, peer reviewed scientific research is science. I have witnessed firsthand the fact that a popular opinion isn’t necessarily a correct opinion, and even incredibly intelligent people can believe in incredibly dumb things.”
        Like many ‘a priori’ atheists u make a lot of unsupported claims. Ridiculing popular (scientific) conclusions and calling them opinions, would be expected if they didn’t agree with ideas that are contrary to a godless (aka materialistic) worldview.
        Just for the record, a cosmic beginning is scientific consensus, making everyone a creationist, even Lawrence Krauss. Except his version of everything coming from “nothing” is via a quantum vacuum -seething with particles of matter and anti-matter. Moreover, he freely admits he has no idea where the abstract laws of quantum mechanics and maths comes from.

        God creating the universe IS quite simply, pure logic: All scientific laws are founded on abstract math and logic. They all have time T in their equations somewhere. Ergo, matter/energy can only exists in the dimension of time. Infinite past time is a logical absurdity as proven by the impossibility of an infinite regress of past physical events. Ergo, the finitude of (past) time proves matter was created from nothing (ex nihilo) Since matter cant bring itself into existence its Creator must be immaterial, uncaused and a-temporal. i.e G O D If u have a rebuttal I’d really love to hear how u can justify anything infinite in the physical world. I’m sure a Nobel prize can be yours.
        “The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought… The role of the infinite is only that as an idea” Dave Hilbert …


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          Caleb Neff says:

          I’m just making a comment on the origin of abstract things like the laws of quantum mechanics.
          I have only acquired a high-school level working knowledge of physics, so the statement that “[the scientific laws] all have time T in their equations somewhere” is very mystifying to me. My schedule is very tight right now, so I apologize for not looking into that more at the moment.

          Before I read that comment, I was thinking about how “an origin” is imprecise. A number of the atheists I corresponded with seem to have an implicit commitment to a kind of realism, where scientific laws are necessarily true (insofar as our formulations are accurate), and can even cause things to happen! Yet when I take this realism, and raise the Modal Ontological Argument, they admit that they don’t care about possible worlds or modal logic. Something is wrong here. I smell moral issues.


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        RATIONAL DUDE says:

        It would be consistent to believe that cell-division strips a person of their identity. It would be consistent to believe that the better a theory is at “removing God-gaps”, the better probability it has of being true (granted, the premises required to accept it are not necessary to be an atheist these days). There are a lot of claims atheists do not make, but would, if they thought about it carefully, and consistently, within their assumptions.
        The people referenced gave their reasons for holding the opinions they did, in most of the citations. They reported the knowledge they have acquired first-hand. They did the science, now they are reporting it.

        Why Cell Division Destroys Identity:
        1) A person is identical to the sum of their parts (consequence of materialism/Reductionism).
        2) When cells divide, the collection of parts composing the person change (cells are the parts of the body, and they are constantly being replaced by cell division).
        3) (Corollary to Two) A different sum of parts exists (Why? The set of cells is different than before).
        4) (1&3) A different person exists.

        I see no reason to prove that atheists should evaluate theories by how well they disprove God, as this relates more to Epistemology, and requires assumptions that do not seem necessary to be a consistent atheist of today. I also see no need to establish that my premise One is true, as it is your own premise; Two is a scientifically proven observation, Three follows from Two, Four follows from One and Three by Modus Ponens.

        If a truth-claim is expected to have certain effects, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. You’re the one making jabs, not Gerry, and not Scott Youngren. Or at least, they are more well-read on Epistemology. Let’s ask the right question this time: “What evidence would we expect of Directed Panspermia, that we would not expect of Divine Intervention?” The previous remark you gave was misconceived.

        Directed Panspermia has less support than Divine Intervention. There are several things we would expect of Divine Intervention: 1) Beginning of the universe (where “the universe” is the whole collection of contingent facts); 2) Universe follows intelligible laws; 3) Things exist which have intrinsic purpose; 4) Immaterial things exist, and do not depend on matter.
        Directed Panspermia assumes Two without explanation, and is arguably inconsistent with One and Four. It fails to explain Three, unless we propose “Alien Directed Evolution,” which either is an infinite regression, or starts with a purposeful being.

        One is almost certainly true (scientific evidence of the big bang; BGV Theorem; probability of our universe NOT existing, given an infinite past; Modal Argument for a First Cause; etc.).
        Two is assumed by science, which is a very profitable enterprise.
        Three is tacitly implied by biology: my organs all do something, and Richard Dawkins admits that we get a head-start on studying life if we assume that its pieces are supposed to carry out particular functions.
        Four is difficult to deny, as even if we grant that humans are entirely material, there are things that we KNOW are not material, such as symbols; symbols are not identical to the medium that carries them, as the medium is itself intrinsically meaningless. Symbols exist everywhere in nature: the sixty-four codons of DNA, bee dances, pheromones, none of these have to represent what they do; meaning has been given to them by something external to them.

        Divine Intervention simply is the better hypothesis.

        If we’re going to make jabs –how did you conclude that Gerry is calling God an exception?– learn some English, or get an interpreter, the quote you mined implies no such thing about God or logic.

        I am in complete agreement this time. That surprises me, though I doubt that you are using pure logic, or you probably would have seen why cell division destroys identity before I wrote a proof of it.

        Gerry obviously created an Ad Hominem, but where in the entire history of this site did Mr. Youngren commit such a glaring error? I would like you to point it out to me.


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    ″Regarding the Wald quote…″

    Let me ask you, if we had a site which reproduced the relevant page of Scientific American, and clearly showed that the quote wasn’t there, would you remove the quote and add a retraction promptly, or would you string it out another ″few days″?

    Your statement regarding Crick’s quote:
    ″At this point, one might ask what IS known by the scientific community regarding how unintelligent natural processes could have brought about life. The answer is simple: Absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch! The reader will please forgive me for recycling quotations from another essay at this website, but here it goes:″

    Translation: Science knows nothing about the origin of life.

    Crick’s cut-down quote:
    “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going.”

    Translation (implied): Given what we know today, the origin of life appears to be a miracle, because it is so unlikely.

    The full quote:
    “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.”

    Translation (implied): The origin of life may look unlikely enough that it would take a miracle, but in fact, based on what we know, it’s entirely possible through natural processes. We just have too many options and too little specific data about the time to say which natural process was responsible.

    The fact that you appear to be unable to read quotes without assistance must be doing wonders to reassure your readers of your technical prowess.

    ″Copying and pasting from an article does not demonstrate that you know something about what science knows about the origin of life.″

    Much like the way copying and pasting quotes does nothing to demonstrate your personal understanding of the issue.

    ″But the question was HOW DID LIFE EMERGE FROM NON-LIFE?″

    No, the question was, ″What does science know about the origin of life on Earth.″ And that question was answered.

    I asked you to paste number six from the list for us, and I notice you haven’t. I see no evidence that you ever even looked at the article. Have you read any part of the article I linked regarding scientific knowledge of the origin of life other than what I pasted here?

    I asked you to paste some excerpts from Wald’s article, which you claimed to have read, but you have not done so. Have you read the entirety of George Wald’s article, Life and Mind in the Universe?

    ″My article is predicated on the premise that information exchange only comes form[sic] intelligence.″

    Your article is predicated on the premise that information only comes from intelligence, and for this reason God must have created life. You are now claiming that the reason we know information only comes from intelligence is because God created life. That is circular logic. You must be so proud.

    ″You need to inform the information scientists such as Dr. Hubert Yockey, who wrote Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life.″

    Published 2005. When were your quotes dated?

    ″Please give us some newer statements.″

    I have no interest in playing your quote game. As I already explained, it’s argument from authority, which isn’t really debate.

    ″Considering the vast amount of information contained in DNA, it is puzzling that you could suggest that information theory does not have application to biology.″

    I didn’t say anything of the sort. I said that information science wasn’t intended to apply to biology and has only been used for that purpose very recently, which is why a lot of the early quotes about the nature of information don’t take biology into account. Bioinformatics is a great science and has wonderful applications, but it doesn’t make the claim that information only arises from intelligence.

    Here’s some helpful reading on the subject.
    http://www.lecb.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/

    ″But when the statement is something to the effect of ‘such and such is more likely to be true because such and such expert provides the following reasons,’ the logical fallacy of argument from authority does not occur.″

    Even if that were true, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re stacking opinion on top of opinion with no hard science as a foundation and proclaiming it a marvel of logical engineering.

    ″I asked you to tell me a couple of times already if the following statement commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority, but you have evaded the question. Please provide us with a YES or NO:″

    I answered that question and several more, and in fact I posted the answer twice. Both posts still say they’re awaiting moderation.

    ″We were discussing the ORIGIN of life from non-life, not the diversification of life.″

    In evolution information arises from non-Intelligent processes. The opposite of that was the center of your argument, if you’ll recall.

    ″I am basing my argument on quotes? Through what other mechanism than a quote does one communicate an experts opinion.[sic]″

    Why are you arguing against science with opinion? I did mention peer reviewed scientific papers, didn’t I?

    ″By the way, do you think citing ‘97% of the world’s scientists’ regarding the theory of evolution commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority? Are my references to experts ‘argument from authority,’ while yours are not? Explain please.″

    It is absolutely and unequivocally an argument from authority. What I was saying, and very clearly, is that one big problem with the argument from authority is that my authority is bigger than yours. I’m not saying that automatically makes me right, because it doesn’t. It just automatically makes you wrong for basing your entire argument on authority.

    ″OK Andrew, here I go again (copy and paste):″

    Does it trouble you at all that when I asked you for an answer that you have repeatedly failed to provide, you copied and pasted something you already said?

    ″Matter regularly follows physical laws. There must be some causative reason behind this.″

    So what you’re saying here (almost), is that matter always behaves like matter. That’s fine. Then you say, ″There must be some causative reason behind this.″ What basis do you have to assert that the fact that matter is matter is not enough to explain why matter behaves like matter? That was actually one of the questions I asked you previously.

    Just in the interest of moving on, however, please, tell us what it is that causes matter to behave like matter.

    ″It is not my responsibility to produce your argument for you.″

    It is your responsibility to actually read the works you quote from, and I see no evidence that you have done so. In fact, I see quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.

    ″Please tell us what hallmarks of a bad scientist Gitt… has.″

    I did in an earlier post. A willingness to ignore substantial amounts of science and a tendency to combine science and religion.

    ″When are you going to cite some scientists of your own that support your view that information can be produced by sources other than mind.″
    I’m not playing the quote game. I have posted several links to articles which show that information can be produced by naturalistic process, and I have given several examples of how information arises from non-intelligent sources. Are you somehow unable to see this if it’s not in the context of someone else’s quote?

    ″You asked for scientific proof that information can only be produced by mind. I responded in my last reply but you did not address my response, so I will copy and paste part of it:″

    That’s not scientific proof. As I said. Several times.

    ″Do you feel that meaning is property of matter or energy, rather than mind? What is your response?″

    The meaning is exclusive to mind. The data is embodied in matter, energy, or a combination of the two, as I recall.

    ″So animals have no intelligence whatsoever?″

    By definition, very few animals have intelligence.

    ″(not an approved atheist source) ″

    Atheists don’t have approved sources. Everything is fair game and encouraged reading. Are you working from a list of approved sources?

    ″And in DNA, neither chemistry nor physics arranges the letters into the assembly instructions for proteins. Clearly, the cause comes from outside the system.″ – Meyer

    Yeah… I talked about this earlier. DNA is ordered, not by physics or chemistry, but the process of evolution. Do you remember what I said about gene duplication? A strand of DNA is a near exact duplicate of the strand from which it divided. Almost no reordering occurs when cells reproduce. The reordering which does occur does so because of errors in the duplication process, precisely because there is no substantial chemical bond between base pairs. These duplication errors (and other mechanisms) add, remove, and modify the data present in DNA. If there were a force bonding the base pairs to each other, organisms would evolve at a far, far slower rate, or not at all. Essentially, this is like your ″Why does matter behave like matter?″ question. There is no ″cause″ outside the system that ″arranges the letters″ of DNA, unless you’re counting selection pressure. There is no need for such a cause. The order of DNA is a result of the evolutionary process. Depending on what Meyer means by ″the system″, he could be technically correct. In any event, he is also being blatantly misleading.

    Just a reminder, I’d like you to post those excerpts from Wald’s paper, and question six from the origin of life article I linked earlier, and answer the question of whether or not you have read them. If you don’t actually respond to anything else, I’d like you to address these points.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      “Let me ask you, if we had a site which reproduced the relevant page of Scientific American, and clearly showed that the quote wasn’t there, would you remove the quote and add a retraction promptly, or would you string it out another ″few days'”?

      Yes, if you could produce the actual Scientific American article from 1954. I don’t want to have anything on this site that is bogus. And if you found something, I applaud you. That quote is not at all pertinent to the article (it is just there as an opener), and if you can reproduce the article and show that the quote is inaccurate, I will graciously and immediately remove it.

      “Translation (implied): The origin of life may look unlikely enough that it would take a miracle, but in fact, based on what we know, it’s entirely possible through natural processes. We just have too many options and too little specific data about the time to say which natural process was responsible.”

      “The fact that you appear to be unable to read quotes without assistance must be doing wonders to reassure your readers of your technical prowess.”

      A little review: Crick went on to endorse the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis (known as “directed panspermia”) in his book Life Itself. Would the aliens be a good candidate for the “natural process” that brought about the origin of life? What was the natural process that brought about the aliens? OF COURSE Crick thought (he is deceased) that it’s entirely possible to explain life through natural processes. He openly subscribed to the naturalist/materialist worldview (which has been completely discredited by modern physics, as I describe in my essay titled What It All Boils Down To).

      So when he endorses the idea that life could have emerged through natural processes and then fails to produce any such natural process other than SPACE ALIEN INTERVENTION (which isn’t even a natural process), what are we to think? Simple, his view that life could have emerged through natural processes is a belief that springs forth from his worldview, not from science. If it is a scientific conclusion, he needs to produce some science to support his view, not space alien speculations. The key point here is that one must always be careful to determine what statements a scientist makes that are actually scientific and what statements are merely worldview projections.

      Why would Crick resort to such a wild and bizarre hypothesis if there were more mundane naturalistic explanations? Because there AREN’T any such mundane naturalistic explanations.

      You say, “The question was, What does science know about the origin of life on Earth? And that question was answered.”

      OK, I will let the individual reader determine for himself/herself what science knows about the origin of life. Your “answer” was a cut and paste about some info regarding the conditions present on the early earth and regarding early life (once it had already emerged from non-life). The world’s most prominent atheist biologist (Richard Dawkins) is on video endorsing the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis.

      “I asked you to paste number six from the list for us, and I notice you haven’t. I see no evidence that you ever even looked at the article. Have you read any part of the article I linked regarding scientific knowledge of the origin of life other than what I pasted here?”

      Look, Andrew…if you have an argument regarding what Wald really meant when he said that “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix,” go ahead and tell us. It is your job to produce your arguments. It is not my job to produce your arguments. If you had an argument as to what Wald really meant, you would no doubt have produced it by now. You are very transparently spending a lot of time and effort stonewalling and tap dancing around a question that you very clearly cannot answer. What did Wald really mean Andrew? WHAT?! SPIT IT OUT!!! You can’t, and therefore won’t, tell us because you have no idea how to spin his statement in a way that supports your views.

      “I have no interest in playing your quote game. As I already explained, it’s argument from authority, which isn’t really debate.”

      Well, I will try again, Andrew…what is this, about try number 5? Does the following statement commit the logical fallacy of argument from authority? YES OR NO and why? Prove that I am wrong when I predict that you will ignore and evade this question again because I have you cornered.

      SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.

      As I said before, if you think that merely citing an expert commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority, you clearly do not understand this logical fallacy. Only citing an authority in a manner that does not reference the reasoning behind said authority’s conclusions commits this logical fallacy. Statement #1 below does not commit this logical fallacy, whereas statement #2 does.

      1) SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.

      2) Do not smoke because the Surgeon General said it is dangerous, and he is an expert who knows what he is talking about.

      “I didn’t say anything of the sort. I said that information science wasn’t intended to apply to biology and has only been used for that purpose very recently, which is why a lot of the early quotes about the nature of information don’t take biology into account. Bioinformatics is a great science and has wonderful applications, but it doesn’t make the claim that information only arises from intelligence.”

      “Here’s some helpful reading on the subject.”
      http://www.lecb.ncifcrf.gov/~toms/paper/ev/

      Please pay careful attention to the crucial distinction between an argument on one hand, and an unsupported assertion on the other. I have cited numerous experts regarding the nature of information. And then in order to avoid the logical fallacy of argument from authority, I have referenced the reasoning behind the experts conclusions. You asked for proof that information is a product of mind. I explained to you how meaning (which is communicated symbolically with DNA) is a property of mind and not of matter or energy. Coding and decoding processes and symbolic language work with MEANING, which is a property of mind. You need to respond to this.

      Feel free to provide any links to articles or websites that you wish. But when you do, please accompany the link with some excerpts that you feel support your views. You should not expect me or any reader at this website to go combing through websites that you link to in order to search for information supporting your views.

      “Even if that were true, that’s not what you’re doing. You’re stacking opinion on top of opinion with no hard science as a foundation and proclaiming it a marvel of logical engineering.”

      OK, once again Andrew. Respond to the following point that is not expert opinion, but rather the reasoning that stands behind expert opinion: Meaning (which is communicated symbolically with DNA) is a property of mind and not of matter or energy. Coding and decoding processes and symbolic language work with MEANING, which is a property of mind. That is a logical argument that needs a response, not an opinion stacked on top of an opinion.

      “I answered that question and several more, and in fact I posted the answer twice. Both posts still say they’re awaiting moderation.”

      OK, I found it now. When I ask you if the Surgeon General warning label on a pack of cigarettes commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority, you write, “It’s kind of yes and no. It’s an argument from authority, but it’s not a fallacy because a pack of cigarettes isn’t a debate.”

      I will just let third party observers of this debate determine if you have satisfactorily answered the question…or merely tried to squirm your way out of it. I don’t think I need to do any convincing. You are clearly not able to answer yes or no because you know that your whole “logical fallacy of argument from authority” argument will fall apart no matter which way you answer. I’ve got you cornered.

      ″By the way, do you think citing ’97% of the world’s scientists’ regarding the theory of evolution commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority? Are my references to experts ‘argument from authority,’ while yours are not? Explain please.″

      “It is absolutely and unequivocally an argument from authority. What I was saying, and very clearly, is that one big problem with the argument from authority is that my authority is bigger than yours. I’m not saying that automatically makes me right, because it doesn’t. It just automatically makes you wrong for basing your entire argument on authority.”

      I will repeat: The logical fallacy of argument from authority occurs when one cites expert opinion without reference to the reasoning behind that opinion. Your citation of “97% of the world’s scientists” does not reference the reasoning behind their opinion. But that is a moot point. I do not object to anyone believing in Darwinian evolution (as I detail in my post titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism in the “short takes” section).

      “Does it trouble you at all that when I asked you for an answer that you have repeatedly failed to provide, you copied and pasted something you already said?”

      What answer have I failed to provide? Please specify such things in your responses because we have both written huge amounts of material that is difficult to comb through.

      “So what you’re saying here (almost), is that matter always behaves like matter. That’s fine. Then you say, ‘There must be some causative reason behind this.’ What basis do you have to assert that the fact that matter is matter is not enough to explain why matter behaves like matter? That was actually one of the questions I asked you previously.”

      There is no self-apparent reason why matter so consistently follows such physical laws. This article even suggests that the laws of physics could be different in different parts of the universe. The laws of physics, for example, do not necessarily have to dictate that “an object in motion tends to stay in motion,” but they do. Why is this. Why can’t it be that objects in motion (in this part of the universe at least) sometimes tend to stay in motion (if not acted on by an outside force) and sometimes don’t? What is the cause of this consistent behavior? This is an ontological question that demands an ontological answer. The ontological answer that the theist provides is that the same mind that creates the material objects also directs them to behave consistently. What is the ontological answer that the atheist provides? It can only be some variation of “it just is” or “I don’t know.”

      “It is your responsibility to actually read the works you quote from, and I see no evidence that you have done so. In fact, I see quite a lot of evidence to the contrary.”

      Feel free to provide links to any articles or websites that you wish. But don’t expect me or any reader at this website to go combing through them to find parts that support your views. You need to accompany an links that you provide with what you feel are important excerpts.

      You suggest that Gitt has, “A willingness to ignore substantial amounts of science and a tendency to combine science and religion.” Please tell us what these “substantial amounts of science” are that he is ignoring. Your decision to attack Gitt instead of responding to his arguments is an utterly transparent dead give-away that you are not able to respond to his arguments. He cited several other scientists to support his views and then provided the reasoning behind his conclusions. I will repeat again. You need to respond to the following: Meaning (which is communicated symbolically with DNA) is a property of mind and not of matter or energy. Coding and decoding processes and symbolic language work with MEANING, which is a property of mind.

      Please note that logical arguments (which are a form of information) exist independent of the person presenting them. It doesn’t matter if Albert Einstein or Bozo the Clown presented the argument. You need to respond to the argument, not the presenter of the argument, if you want to participate in a logical discussion.

      “The meaning is exclusive to mind. The data is embodied in matter, energy, or a combination of the two, as I recall.”

      That’s right. And how did the meaning get there? The coding and decoding processes of DNA communicate meaning with symbolic representation. We need an explanation for this.

      “By definition, very few animals have intelligence.”

      I find that assertion quite shocking. Can you find a zoologist to back you up?

      “Yeah… I talked about this earlier. DNA is ordered, not by physics or chemistry, but the process of evolution. Do you remember what I said about gene duplication? A strand of DNA is a near exact duplicate of the strand from which it divided. Almost no reordering occurs when cells reproduce. The reordering which does occur does so because of errors in the duplication process, precisely because there is no substantial chemical bond between base pairs. These duplication errors (and other mechanisms) add, remove, and modify the data present in DNA. If there were a force bonding the base pairs to each other, organisms would evolve at a far, far slower rate, or not at all. Essentially, this is like your ‘Why does matter behave like matter?’ question. There is no ’cause’ outside the system that ‘arranges the letters’ of DNA, unless you’re counting selection pressure. There is no need for such a cause. The order of DNA is a result of the evolutionary process. Depending on what Meyer means by ‘the system’, he could be technically correct. In any event, he is also being blatantly misleading.”

      Before you can talk about “reordering” in gene duplication, you need to explain the original “ordering.” How is it that DNA can be ordered in a symbolic fashion that involves a coding and decoding process, which communicates meaning. Meaning is not a property of matter or energy. It is only a property of mind. Symbolic representation is not a property of matter or energy…only mind. Please explain. Please.

      “Just a reminder, I’d like you to post those excerpts from Wald’s paper, and question six from the origin of life article I linked earlier, and answer the question of whether or not you have read them. If you don’t actually respond to anything else, I’d like you to address these points.”

      Andrew, go ahead and post anything from Wald’s article (or any other article). And feel free to accompany it with any argument. You are going to awfully great lengths to avoid answering my question about what he meant when he said, “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always, as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical Universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.” If you have an alternate explanation for what he meant when he said this, just SPIT IT OUT! Quit asking me to go and post things for you. If you have an argument, don’t you think it should be your responsibility to post the things that support your argument?


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        Scott,

        As it happens, that talkorigins link I posted earlier had the relevant page of the relevant issue of Scientific American in it’s entirety, as well as most of the rest of the article. These were not hidden in any way. In fact, they were very prominently displayed without any necessity for scrolling.

        I asked you point blank in my last post if you had actually read the Wald article, or the article about the origin of life. I even reiterated the point at the end of my post and said that even if you address nothing else, you should answer those questions. You didn’t answer.

        You claim that you have never seen a proposed mechanism for punctuated equilibrium, but like I said, every reputable, factual and reasonably complete description of punctuated equilibrium I’ve encountered demonstrates at least one and often several possible mechanisms for the phenomenon, which is noteworthy because given the nature of the theory no mechanism should be proposed for it. Even Wikipedia, as I said, mentions this. By contrast, all of the creationist descriptions of punctuated equilibrium that I’ve encountered so far describe it as a problem because it doesn’t have a proposed mechanism, and do not list any possible mechanisms. When I asked you about it, you said nobody had shown you a mechanism, not that you had searched for one and been unable to find it.

        I have offered you numerous opportunities to demonstrate that you have read or even looked at any of the links I posted, or Wald’s article. I have asked you directly if you have looked at either item. I have even hinted that this is something that reflects on your credibility.

        The most reasonable conclusion from the evidence is that you do not view any material that isn’t on some sort of approved creationist reading list, either because you are restricted from doing so, or from a personal desire which outweighs your desire to retain any credibility.

        In light of this, I have to ask you, are you limited, voluntarily or otherwise, to an approved christian reading list of some sort, and if not, can you offer any sort of evidence or proof that this is not the case?


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          Andrew,

          I have read the Wald article in its entirety. I told you that the first time you asked. Because I fail to see how the topic of whether or not I have read an article relates to this debate, and because I already told you at the outset that I did, I did not find it necessary to respond to you repeatedly asking this question.

          If there is something in that article that you would like to post that you feel supports your atheist views, please feel free to post it. From my past debates with atheists, I have noticed that they tend to go off on tangents when their argument loses steam. I read the article, now please stick to the topic at hand. This is not the last time that I will ignore questions that do not relate to the topic of this website.

          Wald makes another statement very similar to the one that I quoted, in the main body of the article:

          “A few years ago it occurred to me–albeit with some shock to my scientific sensibilities–that my two problems, that of a life-breeding universe, and that of consciousness that can neither be identified nor located, might be brought together. That would be with the thought that mind, rather than being as most biologists suppose, a late development in the evolution of organisms, had existed always: that this is a life-breeding universe because the constant presence of mind had made it so.”

          I will go back and look at your talkorigins post tomorrow, and if I can find conclusive evidence that the quote is bogus, I will graciously remove it. Actually, I will probably remove it no matter what because there are far better quotes that I can put there.


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            Scott,

            If you only look at one side of an issue, you get a flawed understanding of the issue. For instance, if a scientist formulates an hypothesis and then eliminates any data which do not fit that hypothesis, the hypothesis will appear to be correct but the research is useless. It’s called confirmation bias, or selective information processing.

            Perhaps you could explain why you are consistently unwilling or unable to even look at links people post in your comments.

            As far as my previous question, you listed some books written by atheists, but nothing which would challenge your notions of how life or the universe came to be. In fact, the only book I see in that list which might contain information contrary to your assertions here is The Selfish Gene, and based on your comment it doesn’t appear that you actually read that book.

            It’s also interesting to note that the question you answered was, ″Do you ever read books which are written by non-Christians?″ which, as I predicted, was not the question I asked.

            So, since you have not actually answered the question after three tries, based on your pattern I’m just going to assume that the answer is yes.

            Unfortunately, this discussion doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and my day-to-day life has picked up significantly, so I doubt I’ll be providing much or possibly any input in the future.

            Just to tie up some loose ends, Hawking addressed the issue of the expansion of the universe a few pages after his other quote.

            ″Moreover, the rate of expansion of the universe would automatically become very close to the critical rate determined by the energy density of the universe. This could then explain why the rate of expansion is still so close to the critical rate, without having to assume that the initial rate of expansion of the universe was very carefully chosen.″ – Hawking, A Brief History of Time, pp. 128

            Since I’m already breaking my rule against using quotes in a discussion, I’ll post one more.

            ″Planets of all sorts exist, and obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist.″ – Hawking and Mlodinow, Why God Did Not Create the Universe, Wall Street Journal

            And with regard to that article about the fine-structure constant, if the findings are accurate, what it indicates is that the scientific perception of the way the fine-structure constant works needs to be adjusted. It doesn’t mean all bets are off. All the laws of physics are still in place and working, our perception of one of them just wasn’t quite right. What this does demonstrate is that the conspiracy theory of science is without merit. Scientists do not ostracize researchers who challenge the widely held precepts of science. When a scientist says, “This theory is wrong,” and has the data to back it up, the reaction of the scientific community is generally to give them a Noble prize.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Andrew:

              Are you suggesting that I am only looking at one side of the issue? Then why do I spend so much time refuting atheist arguments? How is it possible that I provide rebuttals to atheist arguments if I have not even looked at them? In fact, much (if not most) of this website is spent responding to atheists arguments. To be “only looking at one side of the issue,” I would need to be presenting theist arguments without even mentioning atheist arguments. This is puzzling.

              The philosopher John Leslie responds to Hawking and Mlodinow’s comment that ″Planets of all sorts exist, and obviously, when the beings on a planet that supports life examine the world around them, they are bound to find that their environment satisfies the conditions they require to exist”:

              “Suppose you are dragged before a firing squad consisting of 100 marksmen. You hear the command to fire and the crashing roar of the rifles. You then realize you are still alive, and that not a single bullet found its mark. How are you to react to this rather unlikely event?”

              “….We could state the following: ‘Of course you do not observe that you are dead, because if you were dead, you would not be able to observe that fact!’ However, this does not stop you from being amazed and surprised by the fact that you did survive against overwhelming odds. Moreover, you would try to deduce the reason for this unlikely event, which was too improbable to happen by chance. Surely, the best explanation is that there was some plan among the marksmen to miss you on purpose. In other words, you are probably alive for a very definite reason, not because of some random, unlikely, freak accident.”

              “So we should conclude the same with the cosmos. It is natural for us to ask why we escaped the firing squad. Because it is so unlikely that this amazing universe with its precariously balanced constants could have come about by sheer accident, it is likely that there was some purpose in mind, before or during its creation. And the mind in question belongs to God.”

              Einstein famously said that “the man of science is a poor philosopher.” And these two scientists provide one of the best examples ever of scientists who are absolute flunkies when it comes to philosophy. Hawking writes in The Grand Design, “Traditionally these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead.”

              Now, philosophy 101 students, what is wrong with saying that “philosophy is dead”? This statement is itself philosophical! Therefore, it is no less of a ridiculous and self-contradictory statement than, “I cannot speak a single word of English,” spoken with a perfect British accent.

              I am not interested in discussing my reading choices with you any further. As I said before, this is a completely off-topic subject. You can either provide rebuttals for my arguments or you cannot. It would not matter if I read nothing but the Harry Potter series. My arguments are my arguments and you can either provide rebuttals or you cannot. Changing the subject to discussing my reading choices is an attempt to divert attention from the fact that you cannot refute my arguments.

              I am not unwilling to look at the links that people post to in my comments. What I AM unwilling to do is go digging through links that people use as a substitute for a rebuttal. You cannot expect me or anyone else to go digging through some link that you provide to find the parts that support YOUR argument. You must pinpoint how it is that the link you provide supports your views. You must specify what excerpts at that link support your views and why.

              For example, saying “This site (www.blahblah.com) provides an explanation of what science knows about the origin of life,” does not constitute an explanation for what science knows about the origin of life. Nobody should be expected to go pouring through a website that supposedly supports YOUR views. You need to nail down what specifically at that site or in that article supports your views. In fact, when I went to a link that you provided about the origin of life, all that it contained was a bunch of information about the conditions on the early Earth, and information about already-existing life forms.


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            Scott,

            ″What I read or do not read is very much off topic.″

            What you refuse to read is very relevant to the topic.

            ″You will notice that this website is full of references to many non-Christian sources.″

            The quotes you reference from non-Christians or non-creationists all appear to be coming from Christian or creationist articles and books. In fact, a few times you’ve linked the creationist sites your atheist quotes come from. On top of that, I have been looking through your comments on other articles and I see no evidence that you have ever followed a link that someone else has posted.

            More relevant is the way you handle direct questions. If a question is posed to you and the answer is in your favor, you answer it. If the answer is not in your favor you either ignore the question or answer a similar question of your own choosing, such as when I ask you if you have any evidence that the physical constants of the universe had been acted upon by an outside force, and you reply that scientists state that if the physical constants of the universe had been different, life could not have have been possible. It sounds similar, but it isn’t the same question.

            That’s why I’m asking you directly, for the third time, are you limited, voluntarily or otherwise, to an approved christian reading list of some sort, and if not, can you offer any sort of evidence or proof that this is not the case?


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Andrew,

              Please provide for me any questions that were “posed to me, and the answer is not in my favor,” and which I have “ignored.” It is one thing to assert that I have done such a thing. But it is another thing entirely to actually provide specific examples. I doubt that you can provide specific examples (yes, that is a challenge, in case you were wondering). But if you can, fine…it is entirely possible that I have missed many questions that readers have asked me. This website is not my entire life. I have limited time and many other responsibilities. This is your chance to specify what the questions that you feel I have “ignored” are.

              Once again, what I read or don’t read is an entirely off topic question. Of course I read a lot of articles from Christian authors…I am a Christian. But I also read a lot of non-Christian books on the subject. The physicist Paul Davies is not a Christian, and I read A LOT of his stuff (The Fifth Miracle, and God and the New Physics are two favorite reads of mine). Dr. Gerald Schroeder is Jewish, not Christian, and I have read virtually everything that he has written. The astrophysicist Robert Jastrow is not a Christian. I highly recommend his book God and the Astronomers.

              Dr. Hubert Yockey is not a Christian and I have read much of his seminal work titled Information Theory, Evolution, and the Origin of Life. You will notice that I have referenced it more than once.

              The former atheist Antony Flew is not a Christian, but his book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind is one of my favorite books. Flew says that he is open to Christianity, but basically has not decided yet.

              I have even read The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and Consciousness Explained by the atheist Daniel Dennett. I get a lot of entertainment value out of The Selfish Gene considering that a gene is not a conscious entity capable of being either selfish or unselfish.

              Now that I have answered your question, can you give me some inkling as to how your question about my reading choices has any relevance to the subject at hand? How many books by Christian authors do you think Richard Dawkins has read? Since you clearly read a lot of books by atheist authors, why doh’t you include some of their arguments in your replies?

              Finally, I must point out again that changing the subject to off topic subjects (such as my reading choices) is what I have often observed atheists do when their arguments run out of steam.


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            In light of this, I have to ask you, are you limited, voluntarily or otherwise, to an approved christian reading list of some sort, and if not, can you offer any sort of evidence or proof that this is not the case?

            I’d like you to address this before we go on.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Andrew, this goes back to what I was talking about regarding topics that do not relate to the theme of this website. What I read or do not read is very much off topic. That being said, it is my objective with this website to avoid using a Christian source whenever possible. The book I am currently reading is God and the New Physics, which was written by the physicist Paul Davies…who is definitely not a Christian. George Wald, as you know, is also definitely not a Christian.

              You will notice that this website is full of references to many non-Christian sources. In fact, I make it a point to cite as many non-Christian sources as possible. This is because, when a non-theist, such as Wald makes a statement such as the one I cited (where he says mind is the pre-existent matrix), it has a lot more impact than when a theist says it. If Wald were a theist, then atheists could just say, “well of course he is gonna say things like that, he is a theist.” But when a person such as Wald, who has no ideological bias in favor of theism (and in fact, is arguably biased against it) makes such a statement, it becomes clear that it was the facts that led him to such a conclusion, and not an ideological bias.

              Similarly, when a self-proclaimed atheist such as the Cambridge University astrophysicist Fred Hoyle makes a statement such as:

              “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

              …it is clear that this statement really does reflect Hoyle’s “common sense interpretation of the facts,” because a self-proclaimed atheist would not be endorsing belief in a “superintellect” for ideological reasons.

              You will also notice that I cite Richard Dawkins all over this website.


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              GerryD says:

              I am tearing down your baseless but pretty sounding opinions using logic, and my arguments have nothing to do with God. The person who keeps dragging God into this is you. So let me ask you, if your opinions don’t make sense under scrutiny,
              1) What arguments exactly have u torn down? With what logic?
              2) please give me an example so we can know that its not just YOUR opinion as u keep harping on about?
              3) Foget the theistic scientists, u have failed to challenge any of the agnostic scientists & atheists who conclude that modern science supports design & finetuning, not naturalism
              4) For the 4th & final time, is Stephen Hawking quoting a fact, a deduction or just offering an opinion? “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.”
              All we hear is the chance of the universe being like it is is 1:1 And YOU claim intellectual integrity?
              What logic have u offered for why the universe is finite in the past, rationally intelligible, law-abiding & life-permitting (facts or opinion?) “it just is.”
              5) u have provided no argument let alone evidence, that modern cosmology supports Naturalism or materialism
              “And I did explain the relationship quotes have to a scientific argument.”You did? Sorry Science provides data, it makes no arguments; it’s scientists who draw conclusions, make observations & predictions which is the essence of science investigation. You dont like the scholarly quotations I have raised b/c they contradict ur materialistic worldview, right” No doubt if u had any supporting Naturalism u would be screamimg them from the rooftops!
              6) where exactly have I insulted atheism, by saying “they often claim they have nothing to prove”?
              What exactly do u call “Careful there. You could damage your rotator cuff patting yourself on the back that hard.”?
              7) if u think the universe can be explained by chance or physical necessity, a Nobel prize surely awaits u!.

              I said the human soul is compelling evidence for human identity & then u compare it with a body of water. I cant imagine why I bother, but for the sake of others, I know who will be reading this, let show how illogical that analogy is in a following post, time permitting.


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    nick says:

    This has been mentioned several times here… Can information exist or arise without or uncaused by a mind?

    Information can occur or arise from a natural process without a mind. This does not mean that a mind does not exist, but information can arise without the direction of a mind.
    Below is a link to a picture of a brick wall. (5th picture down the page is the one I was going for…)
    http://homepages.tesco.net/pete.rowe/general.htm

    This is a structure that has form and function and can be found in various places, such as in a garden, a house, a castle, or perhaps as a biological form, such as a cell wall, or even on facebook. The wall is a functional thing that can be considered to have information or complexity. A cell wall would certainly be an example of something with information. The human mind built this brick wall and the facebook wall, both of which have information, but is a mind necessary to create every wall? Can this type of information be brought about without a mind?

    Below is a link to a picture of another wall that has been assembled as the result of flooding in an overflowing river.
    http://thestar.com.my/metro/story.asp?file=/2009/10/26/southneast/4940507&sec=southneast
    Here is another picture of a driftwood storm wall on a beach assembled by water surges and the tide. (bottom picture of page)
    http://cossphoto.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_archive.html

    These walls seem to be less symmetrically constructed perhaps. They seem less perfect, but also more complex due to their irregularity. But is this wooden debris still forming the essential makeup of a wall? The wood is interwoven and held together. One is protruding out of the water in the river making the flow pass around it, the other provides a raised barrier between the land and the beach. They have all the form and function of the brick wall. Perhaps they are not as impermeable or well constructed as the brick wall, but larger things cannot pass through them from one side to the other, so they are walls none the less. These walls would also carry information in the same way that the brick wall does. They have been assembled and are clearly performing as walls would, therefore having a function. However, these walls were not assembled by a mind. They were assembled by a series of natural events causing wooden flood debris to collect and become stuck in the flow of a flooding river and at the top of a beach. In the case of the river, with one piece of wood becoming stuck, the effect of a rolling snowball occurs and more and more pieces become snared until a very recognisable wall is being built. Depending on the amount of wood and sediment being carried down river, this wall could become increasingly large, strong and impermeable.

    Here is an example of a naturally occurring phenomenon, in which information has clearly been haphazardly assembled without a mind. Using this example of flood debris, we could imagine how an analogous set of circumstances could have occurred on the chemical level. Imagine such a course of action where a haphazard microscopic wall could be assembled in a similar way to the flood timber wall. Something such as a wall, clearly has a function in biology (as well as other things) for keeping things out and for keeping other things in and we need look no further than a cell wall to see such a biological outcome. Such a thing as a cell wall is something that would have information and will indeed have been coded for in DNA.

    If a haphazard, but functional wall can be created in a river flood, then we can draw two conclusions.
    The first conclusion is that information does not necessarily need a mind to exist. It can be formed via random and even destructive natural events such as walls as a result of flooding or tides.
    Secondly, the example of the river flood and beach wall is rather a good analogy to show how life, living or just useful structures could potentially have emerged on the chemical scale through natural processes. If functional structures such as this can come about naturally, then we have a good observation to tell us that perhaps microscopic, biological structures could occur in a similar fashion with functional outcomes.


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      Nick,

      I was reading a theoretical piece a few months back that put forth the idea that something like a bubble could have been the predecessor to the cell wall. The idea was that a film of lipid or similar substance could congeal on the surface of the bubble giving it stability, while a chemical reaction within the bubble would cause it to inflate. If the lipid congealed at a rate slightly slower than the inflation of the bubble, these bubbles would tend to split in two instead of expanding and bursting. Both new bubbles would contain the same chemical reaction. If this were the case, reproduction would pre-date the formation of genetic encoding. One of the hangups of abiogenesis is the assumption that the first cell would necessarily have to have a cell wall, the ability to reproduce, a method for generating energy, and some method for genetic encoding all at the same time. It was all speculation, of course, but a really interesting idea in any event.


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        nick says:

        Thanks Andrew. Experiments and hypotheses in this area make interesting listening and I think that the problem of life’s origins is hugely interesting. I think I would find it beautiful, if it were initiated divinely or via the natural processes of the universe. In either case, life on Earth from humble beginnings has been an unbroken chain for almost, or perhaps over, 4 billion years. I find that amazing.

        I like the idea that you outline. It essentially postulates that life is a chemical reaction that happened 4 billion years ago, that has been sustained and protected, by those who retain it. Such thoughts are quite humbling and quite awe inspiring.


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          Nick,

          Also, if that were the case, it would mean that all life that exists in the world today was, at one point, dependent on something that was just slightly less fragile than a bubble.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Nick:

      A cut and paste from a reply I made to Andrew is applicable here. The following is an excerpt from The Case for A Creator by Lee Stobel:

      Sensing the need for an illustration, Meyer stood and reached over to the desk to grab another child’s toy–a metal chalkboard with several magnetic letters sticking to it. Sitting back down, he put the chalkboard on his lap and maneuvered the letters until they spelled out the word information.

      “We know that there are magnetic affinities here; that’s why the magnetic letters stick to the metal chalkboard.” To demonstrate, he picked up the letter R and let the magnetism pull it back to the board. “Notice, however, that the magnetic force is the same for each one of the letters, and so they’re effectively interchangeable. You can use the letters to spell whatever you want. Now, in DNA, each individual base, or letter, is chemically bonded to the sugar-phosphate backbone of the molecule. That’s how they’re attached to the DNA’s structure. But–and here’s the key point–there is no attraction or bonding between the individual letters themselves. So there’s nothing chemically that forces them into any particular sequence. The sequencing has to come from somewhere else….Neither chemistry nor physics arranged the letters this way. It was my choice. And in DNA, neither chemistry nor physics arranges the letters into the assembly instructions for proteins. Clearly, the cause comes from outside the system.”

      This is why the prominent physicist Paul Davies said, “Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics…Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [or life emerging through unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”

      Information neither matter nor energy. The arrangement of the DNA letters is information and cannot be the result of physics or chemistry. The cell is the “medium” but the arrangement of the DNA into very specific sequences is the “message.” Your wall example confuses the medium (the cell itself) with the message (the informational content present in the arrangement of the DNA).

      The main point here is that it is the information contained in DNA that needs to be explained. The complex coding, decoding and storage of information present in DNA cannot be explained by physics or chemistry. The language of DNA, much like a computer language uses symbols that have meaning. And symbolic representation is not a process that occurs naturally. Meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy.


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        nick says:

        This post regarding walls, was more simplistic than you make it. You have stated that information cannot arise without a mind several times, or if not stated with certainty, you have at least asked the question, ‘Can information arise without a mind?’

        My post only sought to answer this question. ‘Can it sometimes?’ Not, ‘Does it always?’

        Can information arise without a mind? The answer to this is yes.

        The wall was just a simplistic example of a functional structure that can be formed in nature, via undirected natural forces. This was not supposed to be comparible with the detailed workings of a cell, as there is far more at work inside a cell and this analogy only speaks of one structure, a wall, it goes no further.

        The complexity of DNA can be explained by physics and chemistry at least to some extent, although we are only part of the way there. It is possible though, as the scientists working with Craig Venter have shown. They have used and combined DNA to create synthetic life. This could not be done without, at least, partial understanding of DNA.


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          Nick,

          You suggest that the wall in your example is a “functional structure that can be formed in nature, via undirected natural forces.” But it is misleading to say that “undirected natural forces” are responsible. The laws of physics are responsible for forming your wall. So this just gets us back to the ontological or meta-scientific question of where that laws of physics came from. Is it the case that they “just are,” as atheism suggests, or is it the case that God produced them, as theism suggests?

          Regarding your assertion that “the complexity of DNA can be explained by physics and chemistry at least to some extent,” the citation from the physicist Paul Davies that appears in my essay is pertinent:

          “The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules. Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics…Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [or life emerging through unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”

          Nick, you are forgetting that it is impossible for physics or chemistry to explain the DNA language because there is nothing that physically or chemically arranges the sequence of DNA letters. Further, meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy.

          Please remember that the “synthetic life” that Venter “created” was patched together using already alive organisms. Nobody has taken non-living matter and created life.


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            nick says:

            Misguided is a bit harsh. It was an unintentional error. When I reread the comment, I realised I had mistakenly conflated the two. Sorry about that. Science is the pursuit responsible for things such as Cern. This was an unintentional error and conflation.

            You say you don’t object to any of the science in abiogenesis. This seems to be a slight change from your old perspective. You used to quote people such as Yockey (or perhaps others) who say that life could not have emerged in this way. ‘Why does it need to be proven?’ Well many theists believe that life could not have emerged via natural processes or abiogenesis. We need to prove things in science to gain understanding. If we didn’t have the drive for proof and understanding, we wouldn’t do anything. Perhaps the group of theists who deny the possibility of abiogenesis excludes you now, but unless I am mistaken you seem to have changed your views on this, at least slightly.

            The question of ‘how?’ is the question that you highlight, in which case abiogenesis is a very significant part of this answer. It has consequences with regards to theology, so it is hugely relevant and important. There are many ‘hows?’ that we can ask, mostly intermediate, with the obvious ultimate cause being the biggest one, but we need to understand the intermediates or else we might invoke an ultimate cause in the wrong place.

            The intermediate causes for the origin of life as proposed by science are natural processes. I would say that these are unintelligent processes, that can often be very destructive as well as constructive. So, Venter’s (and other scientists) work is beginning to show how life might have formed from unintelligent processes. ‘Does this contribute something to the explanation of how life could have emerged from non-life through unintelligent processes?’ Yes it does. Natural forces such as wind, erosion, gravity, chemistry etc. are unintelligent natural causes. It shows how the Earth could have potentially produced life with or without a God. It does not say that there is not a God, it simply shows how natural forces could have produced life without God. That’s how his work might show that life could have been produced without intelligence.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Nick,

              When I say that I don’t object to any of the science behind “abiogenesis,” I mean this…and it is not a change in my stance from before. The only thing that I have ever objected to is the philosophical add-ons that materialists/naturalists attach to such science. When a scientist makes a statement suggesting that no intelligence was involved at any stage of the game (either in the actual development of life, or in the development of the mechanisms and processes that in turn developed life) he or she is making an ontological statement…not a scientific statement.

              If you want to believe that “natural forces could have produced life without God,” I suppose there is no problem with that…as long as you realize that you must then explain where these natural forces came from. It all gets back to the robotic factory analogy in my “short take” titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism.

              Keep in mind what both Paul Davies and Hubert Yockey said about the small information bearing capacity of the laws of physics (both men are prominent physicists qualified to comment on this subject matter). Also keep in mind the points I make in my essay about meaning and symbolic representation being properties of mind and not matter or energy. A coding and decoding processes, as well as symbolic representation of information cannot be the result of natural processes. You need to respond to this.


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              GerryD says:

              Nick
              What youre essentially saying is that 95% of science works extremely well without any reference to a supernatural or spiritual dimension. As a scientist of 30+ yrs myself. I was always interested in the “how” of science” it was rare that the “why” ever came up. In fact atheist Prof. Peter Atkins says “why questions are silly questions”. Perhaps it is his biased ideology that wont allow the implication that the “why” entails? But this clearly contradicts the essence of our inquisitive human nature. He goes even further to say in a debate with Bill Craig as I recall, that there are no questions that science cant or will eventually answer. (Bill actually cites several questions to him that science cant answer) But Atkins is clearly making a metaphysical claim that in effect, he has blind faith in “scientism”.
              If we find a pathway for abiobiogenesis wonderful, but all we have is a mechanism. Dont make a category mistake by confusing it with having a cause. I’d be very satisfied if we DISCOVERED a mechanism b/c then I would say, “ah, so that’s how God did it” much like Newton when he discovered the laws of gravity.


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            nick says:

            You mention in your reply, that often atheism results in ‘just are/is’ explanations. Perhaps it does this for ultimate causes, but it endeavours to understand the real world mechanisms and is making progress. So perhaps for intermediate causes it posits far fewer ‘just is’ arguments and is attempting to answer the unanswered questions in this more attainable realm of missing knowledge. A good example might be the work of Cern trying to understand the mechanisms of matter. It probably does give an ‘it just is’ answer for the ultimate cause as you say, at least for the time being.

            Referring to Venter you write, ‘W’hat we are looking for here is an explanation of how unintelligent natural mechanisms can account for the origin of life.’

            You say that he is an intelligent agent and that if he can create life, then this proves that intelligence is needed to create life. This is not quite right. It’s a little more complex than that. ‘Why would you cite intelligent agents if what you want to do is demonstrate that life could emerge without an intelligent agent?’

            Here’s what it would show if totally synthetic life could be created from scratch in a lab:
            -It would prove that life can come from non-life. This is very significant. It would prove that abiogenesis is in principle, possible and this is the first step. If it is not even possible in principle, then it is a failed theory.
            -We could then start to hypothesise how it might have happened on the ancient Earth. If a plausible route that formed structures with functions could be shown to have been possible in the natural world, then abiogenesis would be a very real candidate for how life began. A good illustration of how the natural world might form functional, even symetrical structures would be the wall example I brought up. A totally naturally formed structure.
            -If we could only create life from non-life in a lab, then perhaps abiogenesis was not the origins of life, because it would have needed a lab.
            -If abiogenesis is possible naturally, then this would make it a prime candidate for how life began and would need no physical intervention from God. It could be created by natural forces and chemistry.

            As I alluded to in my previous post, this makes the question of whether God intervened rather more poignant. If there is no evidence or need for intervention, then God is not necessarily involved in the origins of life directly. This is where there is a distinction of ideas and where it would become controversial for those who wish to say that abiogensis is impossible. It is where I would have to side with Ken Miller. I’m sure that he would posit that God did not intervene in the origins of life and that it happened naturally via abiogenesis. I checked out your robots analogy from your other essay and I think that it fits pretty well here. The comparison is that God designed and built the factory and it runs and produces goods by itself without his intervention. This is the model that could become most plausible if abiogenesis were confirmed as possible and even probable. This post was only to illustrate what Venter’s work could mean. God is still left as the ultimate cause in this model, however, the natural forces (intermediate causes) are responsible for the origins of life, as the scientists would argue.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Regarding the “just is/are” explanations that atheism provides. You are correct that these explanations are provided by atheism regarding the questions of ultimate causation. But when you say that atheism “endeavours to understand the real world mechanisms and is making progress,” you are misguided. It is science that conducts these endeavors, not atheism. Science can be neither theistic or atheistic because theism and atheism are both ontological stances, not scientific stances. You appear to equate science with atheism, and this is a widespread cultural context, but it is a non-sequitur because science only addresses questions of intermediate causation, whereas ontology discusses questions of ultimate causation.

              Peter Medwar (an Oxford immunologist who won the Nobel prize for medicine) writes in his book The Limits of Science:

              “That there is indeed a limit upon science is made very likely by the existence of questions that science cannot answer, and that no conceivable advance of science would empower it to answer…I have in mind such questions as:

              How did everything begin?

              What are we all here for?

              You say that synthetic life created “from scratch” in the lab would prove that life can come from non-life. But who denies that life came from non-life? Absolutely nobody, theistic or atheistic, denies this. Why does it need to be proven? It is the question of how this happened that we are addressing. I am still not sure why you are citing intelligent agents (scientists such as Venter) who merely take already existing DNA from already existing organisms, splice it, and then patch it together into a “synthetic organism.” Does this contribute something to the explanation of how life could have emerged from non-life through unintelligent processes?

              There is absolutely nothing about “abiogenesis” that I object to other than the ontological (philosophical) add-on that unintelligent processes are ultimately (as opposed to intermediately) responsible.

              Whether or not God intervened directly or indirectly, as I said before, is a question that is neither answerable nor relevant to the theme of this website. To know the answer to such a question, we would have to know the mind of God.


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            nick says:

            I don’t have too much problem with your first paragraph. But, it seems to me that you are slightly overcomplicating the issue. Essentially you are asking the question, ‘why does anything exist?’ but doing it in a slightly strange way (it seems to me). Would it be fair to state that we would agree that the laws of physics just are the way they are. The laws of physics exist and matter is compelled to follow these laws in everything that we have observed so far. Would we agree on this? I think we would. However, you would posit a lawgiver and I would say that I don’t know why they exist (perhaps they just are, or perhaps not. Or perhaps it is something we haven’t thought of yet). However, we would both agree on how the laws behave and affect the real world. So really, you are just asking the question, ‘why do the laws exist?’, the answer to which, in the context of this discussion, is that either God did or didn’t initiate these laws.

            ‘You say that the my statement that “meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind” does not work as a premise.’

            This was a slight mistake. I was not really referring to the second sentence of this excerpt. Perhaps I didn’t need to include it. I probably would agree with the second sentence of that excerpt. It was the first sentence about the impossibility of the explanation of DNA that I was referring to.

            With regards to Paul Davies, I think he is a fine source. I would listen to many things that he has to say, including this matter. However, it is fair to say that he is speaking outside of his field of expertise in the quotation that you reference with regards to understanding DNA. This alone is not a basis to consider him wrong, but I am unconvinced by his argument when it seems to contradict the real, tangible and groundbreaking achievements occuring within the field of biology, that we can see happening in labs such as that of Craig Venter.

            ‘Have you forgotten that Craig Venter and other such scientists are intelligent agents, not unintelligent natural mechanisms?’

            Is it problematic that intelligent agents are the people synthesizing these life forms? This work is primarily to try to help mankind, in medical, industrial and economic fields. It also has relevance to the question of abiogenesis, but this is not it’s primary reason for existance (at least in Venter’s case). If life can be shown to be created from non-life in such labs as Venter’s, then the principle of abiogenesis will be proven possible. If a pathway can be shown to be a possible natural route in nature from non-life to life, then again the possibility of natural abiogenesis will be proven possible, without the need for scientists or intelligent agents. If this can be shown, then we will potentially have eliminated the necessity for there to have been direction or intervention in the initiation of life. For me this is not so problematic, because of what you said in the first paragraph. If God’s direct participation in the initiation of life is not a worrysome question as you say, then it is perfectly possible that he didn’t intervene to begin life. However, with regards to the first paragraph again, this could mean that God may have created the universe and then set it free. ie. He is the lawgiver as you posit, but he is not necessarily involved in the beginnings of life directly, but perhaps indirectly, because the laws that he set up would inevitably lead to life without need for his direction.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              You write, “I don’t have too much problem with your first paragraph. But, it seems to me that you are slightly overcomplicating the issue. Essentially you are asking the question, ‘why does anything exist?’ but doing it in a slightly strange way (it seems to me). Would it be fair to state that we would agree that the laws of physics just are the way they are. The laws of physics exist and matter is compelled to follow these laws in everything that we have observed so far. Would we agree on this? I think we would. However, you would posit a lawgiver and I would say that I don’t know why they exist (perhaps they just are, or perhaps not. Or perhaps it is something we haven’t thought of yet). However, we would both agree on how the laws behave and affect the real world. So really, you are just asking the question, ‘why do the laws exist?’, the answer to which, in the context of this discussion, is that either God did or didn’t initiate these laws.”

              It’s really not at all complicated. Either the natural laws “just are” as atheism asserts, or the natural laws were put in place by a lawgiver, as theism asserts. Why do I feel that the laws require a lawgiver? Well, if consciousness (or mind) is more fundamental than matter (as modern physics asserts, and as I explain in What It All Boils Down To), then it is immediately obvious what the mechanism is that causes matter to so consistently follow physical laws…the mind that created matter also directs it.

              But if you accept the matter-first model, known as materialism or naturalism, (as described in the above mentioned essay), the question remains unanswered as to how matter can be compelled to follow such laws so consistently. Forget for a moment the question of where that laws came from. What causes matter to follow the laws? The only answer that atheism can supply is some version of “it just does.” So we have “they just are” as an atheist explanation for why the laws exist in the first place, and “they just do” as an atheist explanation for why matter follows the laws. There is absolutely no explanatory power whatsoever in either of these explanations.

              Further, atheism gets into even more trouble when it comes to providing an explanation for how mind (such as our minds) could emerge from mindless matter. Evolution attempts to explain how it can be that there are human brains, but it does not attempt to explain how it can be that these brains have consciousness…or more to the point, what consciousness is if the universe is rooted in mindless matter rather than in mind (read: God’s mind). The most prominent atheist explanation that I am aware of is that mind is an “emergent property” of matter. The problem with this is that it is a description of rather than an explanation for the emergence of mind from mindless matter. In other words, saying that mind is “emergent” is merely an observation…it provides no explanation whatsoever as to HOW mind emerged. The “emergence” of mind is therefore just another thinly veiled “it just is” pronouncement that proceeds forth from atheism.

              You write, “Is it problematic that intelligent agents are the people synthesizing these life forms? This work is primarily to try to help mankind, in medical, industrial and economic fields. It also has relevance to the question of abiogenesis, but this is not it’s primary reason for existance (at least in Venter’s case). If life can be shown to be created from non-life in such labs as Venter’s, then the principle of abiogenesis will be proven possible. If a pathway can be shown to be a possible natural route in nature from non-life to life, then again the possibility of natural abiogenesis will be proven possible, without the need for scientists or intelligent agents. If this can be shown, then we will potentially have eliminated the necessity for there to have been direction or intervention in the initiation of life. For me this is not so problematic, because of what you said in the first paragraph. If God’s direct participation in the initiation of life is not a worrysome question as you say, then it is perfectly possible that he didn’t intervene to begin life. However, with regards to the first paragraph again, this could mean that God may have created the universe and then set it free. ie. He is the lawgiver as you posit, but he is not necessarily involved in the beginnings of life directly, but perhaps indirectly, because the laws that he set up would inevitably lead to life without need for his direction.”

              Nick, what we are looking for here is an explanation of how unintelligent natural mechanisms can account for the origin of life. Citing intelligent agents such as Craig Venter (and other scientists), who merely take already-existing DNA and splice it, is not going to do anything to provide such an explanation. Think about it: Why would you cite intelligent agents if what you want to do is demonstrate that life could emerge without an intelligent agent?

              Regarding what you say about “He (God) is the lawgiver as you posit, but he is not necessarily involved in the beginnings of life directly, but perhaps indirectly, because the laws that he set up would inevitably lead to life without need for his direction.” My essay titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used To Rationalize Atheism (in the “short takes” section) addresses this issue. I don’t object much to the idea that God set up the natural laws and then let them do their thing in creating life (like the robotic automobile factory in my essay). Recall that the question of whether God was responsible for the origin of life is a question of ultimate causation. Whether he was directly or indirectly involved at the actual point of the emergence of life is a question of intermediate causation. It is the questions of ultimate causation that pertain to this website.


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                GerryD says:

                Scott
                The problem of explaining mind & consciousness comes down to “simple” brain physiology if you’re an atheist. The problem compounds however, when the atheists tries to account for the existence & origin of all the immaterial laws & abstract math that define not only brain physiology but a universe that exudes intelligibility. Some have tried to claim that these laws are just an invention of a constantly evolving human intellect. This is clearly false b/c these abstract laws existed long before humans came along to discover & marvel at their complexity. The questions I have therefore for those who reject the concept of a non-material soul or spirit is
                1) What “natural” hypotheses might account for the existence & origin of all the immaterial laws & abstract math that define brain physiology?
                2) Which came first abstract laws or mindless matter? Hawking recently said laws like gravity created the universe out of nothing.” Do u agree that abstract laws can create anything without an external cause?
                3) How do immaterial laws “communicate” with mindless physical matter?
                )How can anything immaterial or abstract exist in an all physical universe?
                4) Does human identity come down to the uniqueness of one’s DNA? If so, wouldnt cloned humans, brain conjoined or identical twins have the same identity?


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                  Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

                  Gerry: Good points. If you are interested in this subject, I very highly recommend that you read The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul by Montreal Neurologic Institute neuroscientist Mario Beauregard and The Mind and the Brain by UCLA Research Professor of Psychiatry Jeffrey Schwartz. Below is an excerpt from the 2nd above mentioned book:

                  “There is a difference between a programmed, deterministic mechanical response and the mental process we call consciousness. Consciousness is more than perceiving and knowing; it is knowing that you know.”

                  “It seems ridiculous even to consider why a handful of wires and transistors fails to generate subjective perceptions, then ask the same question about neurons outside the brain. Why is it that no neurons other than those in a brain are capable of giving the owner of that brain a qualitative, subjective sensation—an inner awareness? The activity of neurons in our fingertips that distinguish hot from cold, for example, is not associated in and of itself with conscious perception. But the activity of neurons in the brain, upstream of the fingertips’ sensory neurons, is. If the connection linking the fingers to the brain through the spinal cord is severed, all sensation in those fingers is lost. What is it about the brain that has granted to its own neurons the almost magical power to create a felt, subjective experience from bursts of electrochemical activity little different from that transpiring downstream, back in the fingertips? This represents one of the central mysteries of how matter (meat?) generates mind.”

                  How does a mental reality, a world of consciousness, intentionality and other mental phenomena, fit into a world consisting entirely of physical particles in fields of force? If the answer is that it doesn’t—that mental phenomena are different in kind from the material world of particles—then what we have here is an explanatory gap, a term first used in this context by the philosopher Joseph Levine in his 1983 paper ‘Materialism and Qualia: The Explanatory Gap.’”

                  What answer does theism provide to the question of how matter generates mind? Theism answers that the cart is before the horse, and that matter cannot generate mind. It is mind (God’s mind) that generates matter, as I explain in What It All Boils Down To. The mind-generates-matter explanation is in line with modern physics, whereas the matter-generates-mind explanation contradicts modern physics.

                  Also, have you read my essays titled When I Die, Is That It? and Has Anyone Met God and Returned to Tell About It?


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            nick says:

            ‘But it is misleading to say that “undirected natural forces” are responsible. The laws of physics are responsible for forming your wall.’

            Fair enough. The laws of physics are natural forces, or at least they result in the natural events we see in cosmology, biology, geology and chemistry. Are they directed or undirected? That is the ontological question that you ask.

            I don’t discount the possibility that the laws were initially given or set up by a mind or God. However, is he pulling the strings at every moment and all the time? Or did he simply set up the universe and let it begin and operate of its own accord?

            .

            ‘Nick, you are forgetting that it is impossible for physics or chemistry to explain the DNA language because there is nothing that physically or chemically arranges the sequence of DNA letters. Further, meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind, not of matter or energy.’

            I am not forgetting, I don’t think this works as a premise. This is another open question that may or may not be answered. To say that understanding is impossible is unfounded certainty when we already have some evidence to the contrary.

            You say that, ‘Nobody has taken non-living matter and created life.’ in reference to Venter. This is not quite true. The cell implanted with the synthetic DNA was from a goat. The DNA implanted was human DNA as well as some newly coded synthetic DNA. The host cell was living. The DNA used was not living. DNA is a strand of lifeless chemicals. Not only this, but the chemical strand implanted was assembled using a computer and was a patchwork of different segments, not a transfer of one complete strand, so it was unnatural and also included some novel coding as well. It contained some completely synthetic, (ie. not borrowed) novel coding which was created by the scientists. This kind of patchwork and creation could not be done without at least some understanding of the mechanisms and working of DNA.

            Paul Davies is a well respected physicist and is acclaimed for his achievements in his field. However, his field is not biology, evolution, chemistry or synthetic biology. Here is a quote that he himself gave of his own chemistry knowledge and understanding, with regards to some comments he made about arsenic. “I had the advantage of being unencumbered by knowledge. I dropped chemistry at the age of 16, and all I knew about arsenic came from Agatha Christie novels.” I’m sure there is a level of humility and self deprecation here, as this comment was made in response to a controversial press conference. I’m sure he understands much about chemistry. However, my point is, that he speaks with such certainty about the possibilities of understanding DNA when it is not his field of expertise and people such as Venter are making steps in the pursuit of understanding DNA and actually creating synthetic life as a result.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Is God pulling the strings at every moment in time? Who knows? I don’t think that question is either answerable or relevant. The pertinent question is, Where did the laws of physics (or chemistry, mathematics, thermodynamics) come from? There is no intrinsic reason why the laws of physics are the way that they are. They could be different. How can a law exist without a lawgiver? This article describes how some scientists think the laws of physics could be different in different parts of the universe. What causes inanimate matter to follow such laws (or “regularities,” if you prefer)? How much explanatory power is contained in the atheist explanation that “it just does”? Answer: None whatsoever.

              The explanation that mind (read: God’s mind) is more fundamental (or “the matrix,” as Max Planck put it) is much more satisfactory. And this explanation is much more consistent with modern physics, whereas the matter-first model contradicts modern physics (as I explain in What It All Boils Down To).

              You say that the my statement that “meaning and symbolic representation are properties of mind” does not work as a premise. Are you proposing an alternate premise? Are meaning and symbolic representation properties of matter? Is there no such thing as mind, as atheists such as Daniel Dennett suggest (in Consciousness Explained)?

              You suggest that my statement, “Nobody has taken non-living matter and created life” is not quite true. Perhaps I did not phrase this correctly in my last reply (because it is true that DNA is not alive). It is the existence of the information in DNA that needs an explanation. When you cite an intelligent source (Craig Venter, in this case) for the creation of “synthetic life,” you have not provided us with an explanation for how the information in DNA could have emerged from an unintelligent source. Have you forgotten that Craig Venter and other such scientists are intelligent agents, not unintelligent natural mechanisms?

              Regarding Davies, if you don’t like him as a source, Hubert Yockey makes the same point in Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life. This book is the leading text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life. Yockey writes (in the 3rd paragraph of the book):

              “The laws of physics and chemistry are much like the rules of a game such as football. The referees see to it that these laws are obeyed but that does not predict the winner of Super Bowl. There is not enough information in the rules of the game to make that prediction. That is why we play the game. [Mathematician Gregory] Chaitin (1985, 1987a) has examined the laws of physics by actually programming them. He finds the information content amazingly small.

              The reason that there are principles of biology that cannot be derived from the laws of physics and chemistry lies simply in the fact that the genetic information content of the genome for constructing even the simplest organisms is much larger than the information content of these laws (Yockey 1992).”

              Further, your contention that Davies is not qualified to comment on the (low) information bearing capacity of the laws of physics does not hold water. If a very prominent physicist is not qualified to comment on this subject matter, who is?


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    Scott,

    I did link you a resource which shows Wald never said that, even in Scientific American, and I explained why Wald never would have said that. I’d say any continued denial that the quote is false is just foot-dragging on your part, and shows a lack of integrity. I mean, you admit at this point that you haven’t independently verified the quote prior to using it, and you have a statement from someone who has read the article and did not find the quote there.

    ″Regarding the other Wald quote (about mind coming first) and the Crick quote: You have suggested that I took these quotes out of context. I then asked you to re-insert them into what you feel is the correct context. You have not done this (nor will you ever, because you can’t). ″

    I did put the Crick quote in context.

    ″Regarding the Wald article where he says “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality,” I did read it.″

    Oh GOOD! You finally read the article. I’m sure you noticed the glaring lack of references to special creation and acts of universal ″fine-tuning″. The most telling parts of the article are:
    The last paragraph of section three, which is the second full paragraph on page 13.
    The third paragraph in section four, also on page 13.
    The sixth paragraph in section four, which is the last paragraph on page 13.
    And then the remainder of the article on page 14, exclusive of the bibliography.

    If you’d be kind enough to post those for us, I’ll explain how they show Wald doesn’t support your premise.

    ″Instead of telling us what the correct context is, you very transparently evade the question by telling me to read the article and figure it out for myself. If you have some idea as to what this other context is, you would no doubt proceed to tell us….but you don’t. Who do you think you are fooling?″

    I made it very clear what my motivations were. How do you think your schoolyard gambit of, ″You’re not telling me because you don’t know!″ looks to the readers?

    ″But you WON’T because you CAN’T because you DON’T have a clue as to how the article that you link to provides such scientific verification.″

    I didn’t say the article provided verification of the theory of abiogenesis. In fact I’ve said several times at this point that nobody knows for sure how the origin of life happened. The thing is, you claim that nobody knows anything, and that’s pretty far from nobody knows for sure. The article I posted outlines some of what science does know about the origin of life.

    ″Andrew, you have evaded the question.″

    No, I didn’t. I’ve answered the same question several times. Remember when I said the question was nonsense? This is why. You ask a question based on a false premise, a premise you can’t even seem to get straight, and then you claim that I’m being evasive when I give your defective question a totally correct answer. I have also asked you several times to explain your premise and provide some evidence of it’s validity. Why is there a need for matter to be ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics, which describe the way matter behaves in any event? What would happen if matter were not ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics? Would it still behave like matter? And your answer: So far, nothing.

    ″Guess what…you won’t because you can’t.″

    Okay. Do you still insist that there is no proposed mechanism, and if so, why do you feel that there is no proposed mechanism?

    ″OK fine, I will go along with this assertion. But my question for you is, How did the genetic information in the first living organism come to be?″

    If there was any, it would most likely have been the result of a chemical chain reaction. How much genetic information did the first living organism have?

    ″A little review is in order, Andrew. A copy and paste from the article.″

    Strombach and Fletchner are not saying that information cannot be produced without intelligence. They’re saying that information has a mental component, which is true. The observer of information must have some sort of mind to make use of the information. Strombach says contemplative cognition, which, it seems to me, may or may not take animal communication into account, so depending on how you define contemplative cognition, I may or may not agree with his point, but neither says intelligence must produce the message.

    ″Attacking the person making an argument instead of the argument itself is what you do when you know that you can’t respond to the argument.″

    It seems to me I did respond to the argument. I asked for actual proof instead of an argument from authority. Your response:

    ″Because I am not an information scientist, I do not read peer reviewed papers regarding information science. Do you?″

    Translation: I am not prepared to support my assertion.

    And while I do read peer reviewed papers, I rarely get into information science because my interests lie more in biology, and there’s very little crossover. Perhaps you should start reading actual scientific documents if you wish to make claims about the way science does and doesn’t work. Then maybe your work wouldn’t be founded on other people’s misunderstandings of science and quotes.

    ″Guess what, you can’t.″

    Should I be required to? It’s your assertion and the crux of your article.

    ″More review by copying and pasting:″

    That’s not actually a path. That’s a statement about the nature of information. In any event, it occurred to me after I posted this that you would probably just cite complexity in manmade objects again. I’m much more interested in that paper that proves information only comes from intelligence.

    ″Is there anything that you need me to explain here, or do you get it?″

    Just the scientific proof of your claim that information only comes from intelligent beings, those quotes from Wald’s article, an account of how much information the first living organism contained, and an answer to how you think matter would behave if it weren’t ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics, preferably coupled with evidence that supports your assertion that matter is ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Andrew:

      I have tried to get that article from Scientific American from 1954, but it looks like I will have to subscribe to Scientific American to do so. Are you able to get the article? If you can, and it turns out that he did not say that, I will graciously remove the quote. But the point that needs to be emphasized here is that you are very transparently focusing on this quote (that is not a significant part of the article) because you need to distract attention from the fact that you are not able to respond to the main points of this essay.

      You did put the Crick quote in context?! OK, why don’t you go ahead and tell us one more time what the correct context is? Simple, because you never did! What is the correct context, Andrew?! W-H-A-T I-S I-T? WHAT IS IT? SPIT IT OUT!!! Any reasonable reader is going to notice that you merely asserted that you put the Crick context into the correct context. If you had some idea as to what an alternate context for the quote is you would no doubt proceed to immediately tell us what that correct context is rather than merely asserting that you put it into the correct context…AND YOU WON’T, BECAUSE YOU CAN’T, BECAUSE YOU DON’T HAVE THE FAINTEST CLUE WHAT THIS ALLEGED OTHER CONTEXT IS!!!!!

      You write, “I didn’t say the article provided verification of the theory of abiogenesis. In fact I’ve said several times at this point that nobody knows for sure how the origin of life happened. The thing is, you claim that nobody knows anything, and that’s pretty far from nobody knows for sure. The article I posted outlines some of what science does know about the origin of life.”

      OK, fine. Please demonstrate for us that you have the faintest clue as to what the article says about what science knows about the origin of life…by providing us with some bullet points (or perhaps a long paragraph if you wish). Once again, you won’t because you can’t because you don’t have the faintest clue about either what this article says about scientific knowledge of the origin of life, or any other source for that matter. Demonstrate for us that I am wrong!

      Next, you write, “Why is there a need for matter to be ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics, which describe the way matter behaves in any event? What would happen if matter were not ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics? Would it still behave like matter? And your answer: So far, nothing.”

      Andrew, I have rephrased a very simple question for you before, and I will do it again…here we go: In the mind-first model (as presented in my What It All Boils Down To essay, and which is consistent with modern physics), it is very much self-explanatory why matter regularly follows laws such as those of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. It is because matter is produced by mind (read: God’s mind), and the same mind that produces the matter also directs it.

      But in the matter-first model (as presented in the essay), we need some sort of explanation as to why matter regularly follows such laws. If you don’t like the words “compelled to follow,” then forget about them. Why is it that matter so consistently follows laws such as those of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics? If mind is the eventual outgrowth of matter (and the universe is fundamentally rooted in mindless matter), then, in this model, it cannot be mind that is causing matter to consistently follow laws. If it is not mind, then WHAT IS IT? Why do you propose matter so consistently follows such laws? I am searching for something more substantive than the usual atheist “it just does” or “I don’t know” answer. How much explanatory power is contained in either of these responses?!

      Next, you write, “Okay. Do you still insist that there is no proposed mechanism, and if so, why do you feel that there is no proposed mechanism?”

      Simple answer: I have seen neither you nor anyone else propose a mechanism that drives punctuated equilibrium. If you know what it is, SPIT IT OUT!

      You write, “Strombach and Fletchner are not saying that information cannot be produced without intelligence. They’re saying that information has a mental component, which is true. The observer of information must have some sort of mind to make use of the information.”

      What part of “information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process,” do you not understand? What part of “information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes” do you not understand? What part of “Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message” do you not understand? A message is something that requires a mind…period.

      Please describe again what animal communication has to do with the origin of life from lifeless chemicals. This is mystifying to me.

      You write, “And while I do read peer reviewed papers, I rarely get into information science because my interests lie more in biology, and there’s very little crossover. Perhaps you should start reading actual scientific documents if you wish to make claims about the way science does and doesn’t work. Then maybe your work wouldn’t be founded on other people’s misunderstandings of science and quotes.”

      So these information scientists misunderstand and you understand correctly? Do I have that right? Do you need to read Darwin’s scientific papers to understand his theories, or would reading On the Origin of Species suffice? Any reasonable third party viewer of this will clearly see that you are asking for a peer reviewed paper precisely because you are not able furnish a rebuttal to the arguments presented by the scientists that I cite. WHY DON’T YOU START BY FURNISHING AN INFORMATION SCIENTIST WHO SAYS THAT INFORMATION IS NOT OF A MENTAL NATURE? Simple…because you can’t.

      Andrew, I have cited numerous information scientists and physicists who say that material processes cannot explain the origin of life and that information is of a mental nature. If you were a true rationalist (as atheists are often fond of perceiving themselves), you would provide some sort of substantive counter argument. So let me get this right…your counter argument is that these scientists misunderstand? The leading author of the text on the application of algorithmic information theory (Hubert Yockey) misunderstands?

      George Wald meant something entirely different than what his words say when he makes the following statement?:

      “It has occurred to me lately—I must confess with some shock at first to my scientific sensibilities—that both questions [the origin of mind and the origin of life from nonliving matter] might be brought into some degree of congruence. This is with the assumption that mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical universe that breeds life and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

      What exactly did he mean? What, Andrew? I think that when he said, “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff,” what he meant was, “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff? WHAT EXACTLY IS IT THAT YOU THINK HE MEANT? Tell us please!

      Dean Kenyon, who was the author of a key text on the theory of chemical evolutionary explanations for the origin of life, misunderstands? What part did he get wrong, Andrew?

      When the prominent physicist Paul Davies says, “But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message,” what part did he get wrong?

      Once again, if you don’t like the words “compelled to follow the laws of physics,” forget them. Why does matter so consistently follow such physical laws as the laws of physics? Can you produce anything with more explanatory power than “it just does,” or “I don’t know?” No you can’t.

      There is a key distinction that third party viewers of this debate must pay attention to…the distinction between engaging in rational discourse on one hand, and engaging in stonewalling and diversionary tactics on the other. Andrew, when you refuse to respond to the conclusions made by information scientists (and you don’t produce any citations from information scientists to support your own views), but instead demand that I produce “peer reviewed papers,” (which by the way, are what scientists refer to when they write books, such as the ones I cite) are you engaging in rational discourse? No, you are stonewalling and using diversionary tactics. The same is the case when you declare that a quote was “taken out of context” even though you clearly have no idea as to what the “correct” context might be. Was the person who I quote joking? Is that the correct context?

      When you attack the religious views of an information scientist rather than responding to his scientific conclusions, are you engaging in rational discourse, or are you using diversionary tactics and stonewalling? Clearly the latter.

      How much information content did the first living thing possess? At least enough to reproduce itself.

      Do you want proof that the information in DNA must have a mental source? A review of one of the quotes from the essay is in order:

      “When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.”

      There is no such thing as a communication language that does not have an intelligent source. Computer language was created by an intelligent source (humans). The same goes for the English language. It requires mental activity to establish language and coding and decoding systems because it requires a mind to establish meaning. In other words, meaning is a mental property, not a property of matter or energy.


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        GerryD says:

        Scott,
        As we can see Andrew has ignored several of your challenges as well as mine to differentiate between scientific fact deduction & opinion . I have cited a number of scientific quotes from Hawking, Davies & others as to the fine balance between the independent physical constants that make the universe rationally intelligible & life-permitting. His only rebuttal is to reiterate his original claim that “these are all just opinions which have no bearing on science. The irony of it all is that he has ignored all the evidence from the greatest physicists today &chosen to tune in to your Wald quote as a possible source of error or misinterpretation. By his reasoning we could throw it back on him and say that Wald is just offering his own “opinion” & therefore of little value.
        As CS Lewis once observed “a sceptic may be briefly swayed by a good philosophical or theological argument but what will trouble him deeply is the number of eminent scientists who draw theistic rather than naturalistic explanations for their data”. Must be hard for a non-believer who has put all his eggs into the scientism basket only to find yoke all over his shoes.


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          A wise man once said, “A person convinced against their will shall be of the same opinion still.” Andrew is someone who is clearly determined not to believe in God, NO MATTER WHAT.


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          GerryD,

          Careful there. You could damage your rotator cuff patting yourself on the back that hard.

          ″As we can see Andrew has ignored several of your challenges as well as mine to differentiate between scientific fact deduction & opinion.″

          If you feel I have not addressed points, please list them. I would ask you to reread the posts to verify that I have not addressed the point you list. Also, bear in mind that at least one of my posts is stuck awaiting moderation. It’s hard to address an argument if my posts are stuck waiting for a moderator. After this post I will be replying to your post beginning ″My dear Andrew,″

          ″I have cited a number of scientific quotes…″

          And I did explain the relationship quotes have to a scientific argument.

          ″…that make the universe rationally intelligible & life-permitting.″

          And you have not demonstrated that the universe could be otherwise. You make an assertion that this question must be addressed, but you make no case for it being a valid question. Please, if you would, tell me what color a square root is. I know you can’t, because your ideology has no answer for even such a basic question, and that’s how we know it’s inferior. It’s a simple question, Gerry, but I don’t think you can answer it.

          ″The irony of it all is that he has ignored all the evidence from the greatest physicists today &chosen to tune in to your Wald quote as a possible source of error or misinterpretation.″

          Once again, with feeling: Quotes are opinions, not evidence. To the best of my knowledge I have not ignored evidence from great physicists or even from bad physicists. Again, be specific, and do your homework before accusing me of sloppiness, please. As for the Wald quote, as I explained in the previous post, Scott’s entire case is built on quotes, and yet both you and he seem to see little importance in the fact that one of them is a complete fabrication, and at least two others were mined to change the context. If you place so little value in the accuracy of your own quotes, and your quotes are the foundation and entirety of your argument, why should anyone place any value in your argument?

          ″As CS Lewis once observed ‘a sceptic may be briefly swayed by a good philosophical or theological argument but what will trouble him deeply is the number of eminent scientists who draw theistic rather than naturalistic explanations for their data’.″

          That is troubling, but I don’t think you understand exactly why.

          There are in fact two things, science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance.
          – Hippocrates


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        Scott,

        Try a library. As I said, I’m not your research assistant. Also, I’m not devoting any more time to this quote than I am to any other part of the discussion. I must say, however, that I find your cavalier attitude about it somewhat… Well, not surprising. Perhaps ‘telling’ would be the better word. Your entire argument is founded on quotations, and yet you consider it unimportant that one of them is a total fabrication.

        ″You did put the Crick quote in context?! [ranting]″

        Yeah, it was in my first post.

        Thus quoth me:
        ″Your Francis Crick quote is taken out of context. What he actually said was, ‘An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.’ Which is pretty much the opposite of the meaning of your partial quote.″

        I notice you didn’t post the portions of Wald’s essay I requested. I would appreciate you doing so.

        ″Please demonstrate for us that you have the faintest clue as to what the article says about what science knows about the origin of life…″

        I already said what’s in the article in a previous post. A lot of it is the same stuff Crick was talking about. I even told you that the author has a list in the article that you can use as bullet points if you like. I’m beginning to suspect that for some reason you are unable to view the internet, or certain parts thereof.

        1. The late Hadean Earth had a neutral to reduced atmosphere and ocean system, a shallow, hot crust and a UV rich, “cold” sun. Highly reduced oasis existed at hydrothermal vents and other mineral rich locations,
        2. Under those conditions, phospholipids, amino acids, nucleic bases, and pentoses readily form (augmented by extraterrestrial sources such as cometary delivery) and are concentrated by freezing and evaporation as well as mineral surface plating, and encapsulation,
        3. Amino acids spontaneously form short (8 to 20 aa’s) racemic peptides, and random RNAs with as few as 2 types of nucleic bases have enzymatic activity. Spontaneous phospholipid vesicles sequester these peptides as transmembrane pores, and along with enzymatic RNAs plated to mineral grains such as montmorillonite, calcite, and metal sulfides.
        4. Electron potential differences are exploited from transmembrane pores to form adenine triphosphate, establishing the first metabolism,
        5. These ancient first cells were racemic, using both L- and D- amino acids because they were readily available,

        7. These ancient cells evolved racemases to maintain/sustain their existing metabolic pathways as attested by L- to D- amino acid racemases found even in humans. Ergo: The chirality “problem” in OOL isn’t a problem.

        Now, I’ve posted the majority of the list. Perhaps you’d be so kind as to post number six for us.

        Also quoth me:
        ″As near as I can tell this is all experimental data modeled and extrapolated to give us an idea what the conditions on early Earth were, followed by more experimental data about how the building blocks of life would form in those environments.″

        ″Andrew, I have rephrased a very simple question for you before, and I will do it again…″

        Yes, only I didn’t ask you to rephrase it, I very clearly asked you to explain the premise. And you didn’t. The question was, ″What would happen if matter were not ‘compelled to follow’ the laws of physics?″
        I have asked that same question several times, and you haven’t presented any sort of answer. I also asked you what evidence you have that matter needs to be ″compelled to follow″ the laws of physics. Nothing. If you don’t like the answers I’ve given you so far, you’re going to have to explain the premise to have any chance of getting a different one.

        ″If you don’t like the words “compelled to follow,” then forget about them.″

        I’m currently using your phrase ″compelled to follow″ because when I used a slightly different phrase, you complained that that wasn’t what you said… And then evaded the question entirely.

        ″Why is it that matter so consistently follows laws such as those of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics?″

        I have answered this question, by my count, six times so far. Because matter is matter. Matter behaves in a manner consistent with matter, and the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics describe the way in which matter behaves. That’s seven times. Here, let me say this again. What, other than ″following″ the laws of physics, could matter do?

        ″I have seen neither you nor anyone else propose a mechanism that drives punctuated equilibrium.″

        This is interesting. You didn’t say that you searched for a proposed mechanism but were unable to find one. It really seems like you only collect data passively, and then only from approved sources. Like I said, I rarely see an actual description of punctuated equilibrium which fails to at least talk about proposed mechanisms, but I do see a lot of creationist propaganda which mentions the phenomenon and then says ″It’s a lie because there is no proposed mechanism!″ Everything you’ve said so far is totally consistent with only being able or inclined to access biased information. Do you have some sort of restriction on your ability to view the internet?

        ″What part of ‘information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process,’ do you not understand??″

        What you don’t seem to be getting here is that information does not exist without an observer. Information is data which imparts knowledge or intelligence. Without an observer, information is just data. DNA is only information provided someone is examining it and trying to understand it’s significance. Are you sure you read that Wald article? He really goes into this in detail.

        ″Please describe again what animal communication has to do with the origin of life from lifeless chemicals. This is mystifying to me.″

        Animals communicate with each other. One animal generates the information, the other receives it and uses it. Animals are not, by definition, intelligent. Therefore intelligence is not the only source of information. Your article is predicated on the fallacy that information only comes from intelligence.

        ″So these information scientists misunderstand and you understand correctly?″

        No, not for the most part. A lot of the problem is that you and Gitt are attempting to shift their statements into a framework to which they were never meant to apply. Information science really wasn’t meant to apply to biology, and it is only recently that it has been applied to such. A great many of the statements information scientists have made in the past went on the assumption that they were talking about information in non-biological forms, which is why many of your quotes are so old.

        ″Any reasonable third party viewer of this will clearly see that you are asking for a peer reviewed paper precisely because you are not able furnish a rebuttal to the arguments presented by the scientists that I cite.″

        Well, first of all, I just refuted their arguments for the second or third time. Second, as I said, it is your article, your assertion, and your point to make. All you have to do is provide a link to a peer reviewed paper that says this is true. In all fairness, I’m asking you to provide a peer reviewed paper is because this isn’t the first time I’ve debated the point, and I have a fair certainty of what the outcome will be. That’s kind of how debate works.

        Let’s assume that science does not know of an example of information being generated by a non-intelligent source. So, we’re pretending animals don’t communicate with each other. Would you be willing to say that the fact science does not know of a source for information outside of intelligent life means that no such source exists?

        ″George Wald meant something entirely different than what his words say when he makes the following statement?″

        Remember when I asked you to post some excerpts from that article you read?

        ″There is a key distinction that third party viewers of this debate must pay attention to…″

        Let me see if I can clarify a little more. You are basing your argument on quotes. This is the argument from authority. You are essentially saying, ″Look, these people agree with me, so I must be right.″ You have provided quotations from, what, 8 people? Most of those were commenting outside their field, and of the four who actually have degrees in biological sciences, three of them are of an opinion which is the opposite of what you argue. That means Kenyon is the only person you referenced who is actually speaking about biology from a position of authority. In the context of this article you have the authoritative support of one guy.

        Something like 97% of the world’s scientists understand and accept the theory of evolution to be true, and among biologists, that number is very nearly 100%. That means for every person you claim supports your opinion, there are millions of learned, educated people, experts in their field, who understand the issue and think you’re full of it.

        This is one reason why I’m not posting quotes. I don’t really need to.

        And stonewalling and diversionary tactics? Seriously? As I just said, I answered your question about how matter behaves six ti- no, seven times, I have explained why the question doesn’t make sense, requested clarification in very specific terms, and you’re still accusing me of not answering a ″simple question″ and telling ″just-so stories″. You have yet to explain why any other answer is necessary or warranted, you seem unable or unwilling to articulate your premise, and you keep turning it into an ad-hominem attack on atheists.

        I have told you several times that I’m perfectly willing to explain how Wald’s second quote doesn’t support your argument when taken in the context of his article, provided you actually read the article, and I have told you why. You say you have read it. Just post the excerpts I requested and we can proceed. We’re waiting on you.

        You keep coming back to my earlier dismissal of Gitt based on his dismissal of science and poor scientific record. You seem to feel his religious stance is not relevant to the issue, but the religious stance of Flew, Kenyon, Wald, Kauffman, and Dawkins is relevant. Like I said, Gitt has all the hallmarks of a bad scientist, and from what I’ve been able to determine he is a bad scientist. If he can’t actually do quality science, it really doesn’t matter what degrees or jobs he’s had. He has no authority. But that’s all beside the point. I have responded to his scientific conclusions several times. I gave examples of forms of information which do not originate with mental entities. I also demonstrated how his trail of logic makes unnecessary assumptions. You, however, insist that I did not address his conclusion or his abilities and instead make it sound like I’m attacking his religion the way you keep attacking atheists.

        The claim that information only arises from intelligence is central to your article, yet when asked to produce some form of scientific proof of the validity of this claim, you deflect (telling me to post the opposite view) and then distract, generally in all caps, sometimes in italics or bold, and always ending with a variation on the phrase, ″YOU CAN’T!″ The question is, and was, can you?

        And you have the temerity to accuse me of stonewalling and diversion.

        ″How much information content did the first living thing possess? At least enough to reproduce itself.″

        First off, how do you know? Second, exactly how much information is that?

        ″Do you want proof that the information in DNA must have a mental source?″

        Was I being overly coy about that? Why yes, I would love proof. You do recall that quotes aren’t proof, right? I explained that they’re opinions.

        ″There is no such thing as a communication language that does not have an intelligent source.″

        Animal communications do not, by definition, have an intelligent source, but they do employ a language. In the case of DNA, the source of the language is the observer, and the meaning is a product of the observer’s interpretation. Much like physics and chemistry, the ″language″ of DNA is not inherent in the subject, but is our way of describing or representing the properties of what we observe.


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          Regarding the Wald quote, you cited some atheist website that says that it is an invalid quote. The only way to know for sure is to get the actual article. Since the article does not seem to be available on the internet without subscribing to Scientific American, I will probably remove that quote in the interest of integrity if I cannot find the full article in the next few days.

          You say that you put the Crick quote into what you feel is a different context. But what you have actually done is put the Crick quote in a larger text. In other words, you have just added additional words that Crick said which surround the quote that I provided, but these additional words do nothing to change the meaning of the quote that I provided. In order to show a different context (as opposed to just more text), you must tell us how these additional words change the context. You have not done that. There is a crucial distinction between text and context. You say that ” is pretty much the opposite of the meaning of your partial quote,” but this is completely mystifying to me.

          The additional text that you provide says, “But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.”

          I cited Crick to demonstrate that science knows virtually nothing about how life emerged. Please tell us how the additional text that you added invalidates my point. He says, “this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions.” Does this suggest that science now has some knowledge of how life emerged? No, it does not. “Could have started” does not convey knowledge, but rather speculation.

          I asked you to demonstrate that you have the faintest clue about what science knows about the origin of life. You proceeded to copy and paste points 1 through 7 above. Copying and pasting from an article does not demonstrate that you know something about what science knows about the origin of life. Below is a copy and paste of a couple of your copy and pasted points:

          4. Electron potential differences are exploited from transmembrane pores to form adenine triphosphate, establishing the first metabolism,

          5. These ancient first cells were racemic, using both L- and D- amino acids because they were readily available,

          7. These ancient cells evolved racemases to maintain/sustain their existing metabolic pathways as attested by L- to D- amino acid racemases found even in humans. Ergo: The chirality “problem” in OOL isn’t a problem.

          Ok, these ancient first cells were racemic, using both L- and D- amino acids. Ok, they evolved racemases to maintain/sustain their existing metabolic pathways. Fine, no problem here. But the question was HOW DID LIFE EMERGE FROM NON-LIFE? All these points do is provide observational data about early life once it had already emerged from non-life, and the conditions present on the early earth. This is not what we are looking for.

          What we are looking for is an answer to the question, How did life emerge from non-life through unintelligent processes? Was it the laws of physics that caused “electron potential differences are exploited from transmembrane pores to form adenine triphosphate, establishing the first metabolism?” The laws of physics, as we mentioned before are descriptive and predictive, not causative. Even if they were causative, the question would then become, “How did the laws of physics get there if matter is more fundamental than mind?” And the only atheist answer to this question is some variation of “it just is.” How much explanatory power is there in such an answer? Further, as the physicist Paul Davies points out, “The laws of physics, which determine what atoms react with what, and how, are algorithmically very simple; they themselves contain relatively little information. Consequently they cannot on their own be responsible for creating informational macromolecules.”

          You write, “This is interesting. You didn’t say that you searched for a proposed mechanism but were unable to find one. It really seems like you only collect data passively, and then only from approved sources. Like I said, I rarely see an actual description of punctuated equilibrium which fails to at least talk about proposed mechanisms, but I do see a lot of creationist propaganda which mentions the phenomenon and then says ″It’s a lie because there is no proposed mechanism!″ Everything you’ve said so far is totally consistent with only being able or inclined to access biased information. Do you have some sort of restriction on your ability to view the internet?”

          Look Andrew, trying to do a rhetorical tap dance around the question will get you nowhere. Do you know of a proposed mechanism for punctuated equilibrium or not? Clearly not. If you did, you would no doubt have proceeded to tell us by now (roughly 4 tries).

          You write, “What you don’t seem to be getting here is that information does not exist without an observer. Information is data which imparts knowledge or intelligence. Without an observer, information is just data. DNA is only information provided someone is examining it and trying to understand it’s significance. Are you sure you read that Wald article? He really goes into this in detail.”

          Look, just tell us Andrew. What part of Wald’s article invalidates his comment “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always, as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical Universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals”? WHAT DID HE MEAN WHEN HE SAID THIS????? Here is what I think he meant:

          “…mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always, as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—that the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff. It is mind that has composed a physical Universe that breeds life, and so eventually evolves creatures that know and create: science-, art-, and technology-making animals.”

          This is a categorical statement. If you think that he meant something different than what his words say, you need to explain. Further, semantic shifts or terminology changes (“information” becomes “data”) will accomplish nothing. How did the “data” get there? Are you suggesting that data can emerge from a source other than mind? Clearly Wald is not, otherwise he would not have made the above statement.

          You write, “Animals communicate with each other. One animal generates the information, the other receives it and uses it. Animals are not, by definition, intelligent. Therefore intelligence is not the only source of information. Your article is predicated on the fallacy that information only comes from intelligence.”

          My article is predicated on the premise that information exchange only comes form intelligence. This means that the SOURCE of the information exchange must be intelligent, not necessarily the sender and receiver. For example, computers are not intelligent but they communicate with each other all the time. But computers we created by an intelligent source…they did not emerge through unintelligent processes. Humans made computers and computer code. In a similar fashion, God made animals and animal communication. And, by the way, please cite for me a biologist who says that animals have no intelligence. Even Richard Dawkins wouldn’t make such a claim.

          You write, “No, not for the most part. A lot of the problem is that you and Gitt are attempting to shift their statements into a framework to which they were never meant to apply. Information science really wasn’t meant to apply to biology, and it is only recently that it has been applied to such. A great many of the statements information scientists have made in the past went on the assumption that they were talking about information in non-biological forms, which is why many of your quotes are so old.”

          Please give us some newer statements. What twisting is involved in defining information as, “enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.” What twisting is involved in “When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.”

          Information science was not meant to apply to biology? You need to inform the information scientists such as Dr. Hubert Yockey, who wrote Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life. Considering the vast amount of information contained in DNA, it is puzzling that you could suggest that information theory does not have application to biology. So information in non-biological forms is somehow different than information in biological forms? Please elaborate.

          Next, you write, “Let me see if I can clarify a little more. You are basing your argument on quotes. This is the argument from authority. You are essentially saying, ″Look, these people agree with me, so I must be right.″ You have provided quotations from, what, 8 people? Most of those were commenting outside their field, and of the four who actually have degrees in biological sciences, three of them are of an opinion which is the opposite of what you argue. That means Kenyon is the only person you referenced who is actually speaking about biology from a position of authority. In the context of this article you have the authoritative support of one guy.”

          “Something like 97% of the world’s scientists understand and accept the theory of evolution to be true, and among biologists, that number is very nearly 100%. That means for every person you claim supports your opinion, there are millions of learned, educated people, experts in their field, who understand the issue and think you’re full of it.”

          A little review here of the logical fallacy of argument form authority. This logical fallacy occurs when a person says something like, “such and such is true because so and so expert says so.” But when the statement is something to the effect of “such and such is more likely to be true because such and such expert provides the following reasons,” the logical fallacy of argument from authority does not occur.

          I asked you to tell me a couple of times already if the following statement commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority, but you have evaded the question. Please provide us with a YES or NO:

          SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.

          Yes or no Andrew, please avoid rhetorical tap dancing around the question. By citing the Surgeon General, am I committing the logical fallacy of argument from authority, or not?

          Something like 97% of the world’s scientists understand and accept the theory of evolution to be true? OK, fine. Why are you changing the subject to the theory of evolution…it only discusses the diversification of life from a common ancestor. We were discussing the ORIGIN of life from non-life, not the diversification of life. Please read my post titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used to Rationalize Atheism in the short takes section.

          I am basing my argument on quotes? Through what other mechanism than a quote does one communicate an experts opinion. Further, by suggesting this, you seem to imply that there is no argument behind the expert opinions. Argument from authority only occurs when an expert is cited with no argument to back up his opinion. An example would be, “Smoking is dangerous because the Surgeon General says so, and he is an expert who knows a lot about the subject, so he must be right.”
          But if I said, “The Surgeon General declares that smoking is dangerous because it causes lung cancer, etc.,” the logical fallacy is not committed because reasoning is supplied to support the assertion.

          By the way, do you think citing “97% of the world’s scientists” regarding the theory of evolution commits the logical fallacy of argument from authority? Are my references to experts “argument from authority,” while yours are not? Explain please.

          You write, “I answered your question about how matter behaves six ti- no, seven times, I have explained why the question doesn’t make sense, requested clarification in very specific terms, and you’re still accusing me of not answering a ″simple question″ and telling ″just-so stories″. You have yet to explain why any other answer is necessary or warranted, you seem unable or unwilling to articulate your premise, and you keep turning it into an ad-hominem attack on atheists.”

          OK Andrew, here I go again (copy and paste):

          In the mind-first model (as presented in my What It All Boils Down To essay, and which is consistent with modern physics), it is very much self-explanatory why matter regularly follows laws such as those of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. It is because matter is produced by mind (read: God’s mind), and the same mind that produces the matter also directs it.

          But in the matter-first model (as presented in the essay), we need some sort of explanation as to why matter regularly follows such laws. If you don’t like the words “compelled to follow,” then forget about them. Why is it that matter so consistently follows laws such as those of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics? If mind is the eventual outgrowth of matter (and the universe is fundamentally rooted in mindless matter), then, in this model, it cannot be mind that is causing matter to consistently follow laws. If it is not mind, then WHAT IS IT? Why do you propose matter so consistently follows such laws? I am searching for something more substantive than the usual atheist “it just does” or “I don’t know” answer. How much explanatory power is contained in either of these responses?!

          DO YOU OR DO YOU NOT HAVE AN ANSWER WITH MORE EXPLANATORY POWER THAN “IT JUST DOES” OR “I DON’T KNOW”? Guess, what: You don’t because atheism is not capable of producing an answer with any more explanatory power than either of these. Is there something difficult about this question? Is the question not absolutely crystal clear? What part of the question are you having trouble with?

          You suggest that I have to explain why “any other answer in necessary or warranted.” Well, it is simple. Matter regularly follows physical laws. There must be some causative reason behind this. I am trying to elicit from you what you think this causative reason is. And I know for a fact that an atheist is not capable of producing any answer with more explanatory power than some variation of “it just does” or “I don’t know.” Prove me wrong. Guess what, you won’t.

          You write, “I have told you several times that I’m perfectly willing to explain how Wald’s second quote doesn’t support your argument when taken in the context of his article, provided you actually read the article, and I have told you why. You say you have read it. Just post the excerpts I requested and we can proceed. We’re waiting on you.”

          Weren’t you the one saying that you are not my research assistant? Well I am not yours. If you have an argument, please produce it for us. If you do not, than admit it. It is not my responsibility to produce your argument for you.

          You write, “You keep coming back to my earlier dismissal of Gitt based on his dismissal of science and poor scientific record. You seem to feel his religious stance is not relevant to the issue, but the religious stance of Flew, Kenyon, Wald, Kauffman, and Dawkins is relevant. Like I said, Gitt has all the hallmarks of a bad scientist, and from what I’ve been able to determine he is a bad scientist. If he can’t actually do quality science, it really doesn’t matter what degrees or jobs he’s had. He has no authority. But that’s all beside the point. I have responded to his scientific conclusions several times. I gave examples of forms of information which do not originate with mental entities. I also demonstrated how his trail of logic makes unnecessary assumptions. You, however, insist that I did not address his conclusion or his abilities and instead make it sound like I’m attacking his religion the way you keep attacking atheists.”

          “The claim that information only arises from intelligence is central to your article, yet when asked to produce some form of scientific proof of the validity of this claim, you deflect (telling me to post the opposite view) and then distract, generally in all caps, sometimes in italics or bold, and always ending with a variation on the phrase, ″YOU CAN’T!″ The question is, and was, can you?”

          Please tell us what hallmarks of a bad scientist Gitt (a former professor and director at the Federal German Institute of Physics) has. Would disagreeing with people of your ideological bent be the hallmark? Are you forgetting that Gitt is not the only scientist I cite? When are you going to cite some scientists of your own that support your view that information can be produced by sources other than mind.

          You asked for scientific proof that information can only be produced by mind. I responded in my last reply but you did not address my response, so I will copy and paste part of it: It requires mental activity to establish language and coding and decoding systems because it requires a mind to establish meaning. In other words, meaning is a mental property, not a property of matter or energy.

          Do you feel that meaning is property of matter or energy, rather than mind? What is your response?

          You write “Animal communications do not, by definition, have an intelligent source, but they do employ a language. In the case of DNA, the source of the language is the observer, and the meaning is a product of the observer’s interpretation. Much like physics and chemistry, the ″language″ of DNA is not inherent in the subject, but is our way of describing or representing the properties of what we observe.”

          So animals have no intelligence whatsoever? Do I have that right? Can you get a biologist to back you up on that? In the case of DNA, the source of language is not the observer. Here is a little more elaboration from The Case for the Creator (not an approved atheist source) to make the point more clear:

          Sensing the need for an illustration, Meyer stood and reached over to the desk to grab another child’s toy–a metal chalkboard with several magnetic letters sticking to it. Sitting back down, he put the chalkboard on his lap and maneuvered the letters until they spelled out the word information.

          “We know that there are magnetic affinities here; that’s why the magnetic letters stick to the metal chalkboard.” To demonstrate, he picked up the letter R and let the magnetism pull it back to the board. “Notice, however, that the magnetic force is the same for each one of the letters, and so they’re effectively interchangeable. You can use the letters to spell whatever you want. Now, in DNA, each individual base, or letter, is chemically bonded to the sugar-phosphate backbone of the molecule. That’s how they’re attached to the DNA’s structure. But–and here’s the key point–there is no attraction or bonding between the individual letters themselves. So there’s nothing chemically that forces them into any particular sequence. The sequencing has to come from somewhere else….Neither chemistry nor physics arranged the letters this way. It was my choice. And in DNA, neither chemistry nor physics arranges the letters into the assembly instructions for proteins. Clearly, the cause comes from outside the system.”

          This, Andrew, is why the prominent physicist Paul Davies said, “Contrary to the oft-repeated claim, then, life cannot be ‘written into’ the laws of physics…Once this essential point is grasped, the real problem of biogenesis [or life emerging through unintelligent processes] is clear. Since the heady success of molecular biology, most investigators have sought the secret of life in the physics and chemistry of molecules. But they will look in vain for conventional physics and chemistry to explain life, for that is the classic case of confusing the medium with the message.”

          Information neither matter nor energy. The arrangement of the DNA letters is information and cannot be the result of physics or chemistry. The DNA letters are the “medium” but the arrangement of them into very specific sequences is the “message.” Is this an “argument from authority”?

          How are the DNA letters arranged, Andrew? Would you agree with your fellow atheists such as Dawkins, Crick, and Orgel that it was space aliens that did it? Or would you like to agree with your fellow atheists Hoyle and Wickramsinghe that it happened somewhere in outer space with no particular mechanism?


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    nick says:

    Life could have emerged without God. But, if this is the case, it doesn’t mean that there is no God.

    ‘Why don’t you go ahead and tell us exactly what science does know about the origin of life. That would be a good start. Guess what, it is all a bunch of theoretical abstraction…’

    Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is making some slow and steady progress.

    Give this short clip a watch (Channel 4 News, England). Craig Ventor has been able to create synthetic life in the lab. This is one of the steps in investigating the idea of abiogenesis. Note that this is not confirmation of abiogenesis, or a claim that the origin of life has been understood. However, it is one step along the way, showing that life can be synthesized from inanimate chemicals and that scientists are making headway in understanding the origins of life, by demonstration rather than just theory.


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    GerryD says:

    Gerry said “″What possible naturalistic explanation have u for the existence & origin of all the IMMATERIAL laws of physics & chemistry builtin to mindless material matter?″
    Andrew replied “What explanation do I need? .
    Of course u can always say “no explanation is necessarily”. I typically get thrown back at me all kinds of responses e.g.:
    “The universe just is, has always existed, as is the laws of science”
    “if the universe wasnt fine tuned fore life we wouldnt be here.
    If these responses satisfy your curiousity then I need say no more. But I think we all know that the most profound human questions concern origins meaning & destiny. Problem is atheism demands that all reality including ideas, logic, reason are reducible to mindless molecules, chemicals in brain tissue. But deep down we know that many metaphysical realities exist. Immaterial laws that defined our finite universe to be rationally intelligible werent invented they were discovered! By what logical necessity should physical matter exude intelligibility by obeying immaterial immutable laws & abstract math. Atheism has no answer for the existence or origin of concepts that transcend matter.Have u seen a molecule for wisdom, truth, hope or love lately?


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      GerryD,

      ″If these responses satisfy your curiousity[sic] then I need say no more.″

      I have plenty of curiosity about genuine questions. I’m not going to waste time on a nonissue, though. As I said earlier, there’s no reason to think that matter needs to be coerced into following the laws of physics and chemistry. Those laws tell us what matter does, not what it should do. There is no evidence, at least to my knowledge, of matter which does not behave as matter. As I said earlier, it’s as reasonable to ask what color square roots are.

      ″By what logical necessity should physical matter exude intelligibility by obeying immaterial immutable laws & abstract math.″

      The laws of chemistry and physics and the mathematical formulas they’re based on are our way of measuring and quantifying the actual phenomenon. They only exist in the minds of humans. I can see you understand what a nonphysical concept is, but you don’t seem to understand the relationship between the concept and the physical. Physics is the language we use to describe the world around us. Physics does not dictate how the world should behave.

      ″Atheism has no answer for the existence or origin of concepts that transcend matter.″

      There you go again, defaming atheists with your own concept of what atheism is.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Gerry:

      What we are witnessing here from the atheist Andrew is a textbook example of the just-so storytelling that is so very characteristic of the atheist belief system. The laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics just are. Consciousness emerging from mindless matter just is. A universe finely tuned to support life (as described in my essay Is There A God: What Is the Chance That Our World Is the Result of Chance) that began instantly out of utter nothingness just-is.

      If atheists truly were firm rationalists (as they are often fond of perceiving themselves), they would not engage in so much faith-based assumption making. The foundation of just-so assumptions that undergirds the atheist belief system is very much akin to a religious faith.

      Speaking of which…readers are encouraged to review my essay titled What It All Boils Down To and decide for themselves which of the 2 models (a mind-first universe, or a matter-first universe) better explains questions such as the following:

      1) How can it be that inanimate matter can be compelled to follow a natural law (such as the laws of physics or thermodynamics)?

      2) How can it be that conscious intelligent beings such as ourselves emerged from mindless matter?

      3) Why is it that modern physics tells us that consciousness (or mind) is more fundamental than matter?

      4) Since our universe clearly did have a beginning (click here), what caused it to begin? The law of causation (without which science would be impossible) declares that everything with a beginning needs a cause.


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        Scott,

        ″If atheists truly were firm rationalists (as they are often fond of perceiving themselves), they would not engage in so much faith-based assumption making.″

        Why is slandering atheists such a big part of your writing style? Are you familiar with the concept of ad-hominem arguments? Hint: They’re even less valid than argument from authority.


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    GerryD,

    ″Scientists who reject naturalistic explanations are not arguing from ignorance, nor are they stating an ‘opinion’.″

    You misunderstand my point. I said that any time you use quotations to try to prove your point, you’re quoting the opinions of others. It doesn’t matter what you’re arguing or what viewpoint you’re in favor of. If I were to quote a dozen scientists saying that the theory of evolution was correct and listing concrete reasons for thinking so, it would still be their opinion. That doesn’t really cut it for a scientific argument, and it is generally inadequate for a logical argument as well. In a scientific argument you have to present science as evidence of your viewpoint. That means experiments, observations, empirical data, and proven laws and theories.

    ″By the way if u have any eminent scientists who draw purely naturalistic explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe I’d like to hear them.″

    I would doubt that there are many ’eminent’ scientists who believe in fine-tuning of the universe, and if they do, it’s their personal opinion and it has no bearing on science. It’s a fallacious concept. The laws of physics are what they are. The ground does not rise up to support one’s feet. When you jump, gravity doesn’t pull you into the air. You might as well speculate on how hands were fine-tuned to fit into gloves, or snails were fine-tuned to fit into their shells. Assuming that the physical laws of the universe have been changed in some way is baseless and unnecessary speculation. The fact of the matter is that we currently have no other universe with which to draw a comparison. The odds are 1:1 of the universe being exactly the way it is. There isn’t even evidence that the universe could realistically have different physical laws than it does now, and if you had that, you’d have to somehow prove that some form of life couldn’t evolve under the new conditions. In fact, the hypothesis that the universe is fine-tuned is at least as speculative as the multiverse theory, if not more so, which would explain why you’re being asked to refute it.

    ″You still seem to be of the ubiquitious[sic] (atheistic) mindset that evolution disproved God. How so?″

    I didn’t say that, and it’s flatly not true. God, by definition, cannot be disproved by science. You’re entitled to believe whatever you want, but when you claim those beliefs have some substantial relevance to science, you’re making a gigantic logical mistake. Keep the science out of the church, and the religion out of the lab.

    ″What possible naturalistic explanation have u[sic] for the existence & origin of all the IMMATERIAL laws of physics & chemistry builtin[sic] to mindless material matter?″

    What explanation do I need? Is there some reason to suspect that matter doesn’t have physical and chemical properties at some point? By the very fact of it being matter, it has physical and chemical properties.

    ″The Bible is obviously not a book on science but it does say ‘man was formed from the dust of the earth.’ Doesnt[sic] this imply a gradual law-abiding process?″

    Does it? I don’t know. I seem to recall the Bible says it happened in a day, which sounds far less than gradual. Either way, I fail to see the relevance to what we’re discussing.

    ″Heres[sic] an interesting thought…″

    That would be interesting if it had any bearing on reality, and it wasn’t just a long winded statement of prejudice. You made at least three logical fallacies there by my count.

    One: You imply that being consistent in one’s worldview means ignoring logic, observation, and any philosophy or ideology that isn’t contained in one tenet. Atheism is the statement that one does not believe that gods exist. It says nothing about science, religion, morality, or interpersonal relationships. However, what you’ve done here is to say that one who is an atheist has no ability to draw on any idea or philosophy outside of one statement of disbelief, and then you’ve loaded that statement with a ridiculous viewpoint regarding identity.

    Two: You have introduced the absurd idea that because cells renew, the organism somehow changes identity. Honestly, didn’t this strike you as nonsensical when you wrote it? I mean, you should be familiar with the idea that the water in a river isn’t the same water that was there yesterday, but it’s still the same river.

    Three: Finally, you take fallacy one and fallacy two and say ″Therefore, it must be a soul!″ Even given the silly setup that isn’t a logical conclusion. You could have said that the (clearly deranged by this point in the analogy) atheist man identifies with the memories and shared experiences with his wife and child, rather than some obscure detail of physicality. Or perhaps there could be some sort of pheromonal cue. Heck, if you wanted to go the no-evidence route, you could posit an unconscious psychic identification system and still be as valid as the soul hypothesis.

    What I do find interesting is your first fallacy, however. Why does it seem logical to you that one who is ″consistent in his worldview″ ignores any concept that doesn’t come from within his core philosophy?


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    GerryD says:

    Andrew said,
    “When you quote the opinions of others, you are actually making an argument from authority”
    Scientists who reject naturalistic explanations are not arguing from ignorance, nor are they stating an “opinion”. They are arguing from knowledge and drawing conclusions for the most plausible explanations that fit their data. Many of them are actually agnostic. So if u want to claim their conclusions are fallacious u will need to do a little more than say so.
    By the way if u have any eminent scientists who draw purely naturalistic explanations for the fine-tuning of the universe I’d like to hear them. And I dont mean the 9 or so contradicting attempts at multiverse theory without a thread of physical evidence. If the multiverse theory came out of a religious text, it would clearly be laughed out
    of town. And yet here we have atheists not only putting blind faith in its validity but arrogantly asking theists to refute it.
    You still seem to be of the ubiquitious (atheistic) mindset that evolution disproved God. How so? As I’ve stated already, evolution no more disproves God than cosmology did for all the pioneering scientists who believed on faith that the universe should be knowable. What possible naturalistic explanation have u for the existence & origin of all the IMMATERIAL laws of physics & chemistry builtin to mindless material matter? The Bible is obviously not a book on science but it does say “man was formed from the dust of the earth.” Doesnt this imply a gradual law-abiding process? As Ken Miller suggests,”The emergence of living world is not a mistake but is made possible if not inevitable, by the very fabric of nature itself. As such the immutable laws of science can easily be understood as part of God’s providential plan.”
    Heres an interesting thought on evolution and the conscious mind.
    The atheist, on his worldview, is not married to the woman he married nine years ago. They are totally different physically, due to the complete exchange of bodily atoms after seven years. If he has a child over the age of seven, by the atheist’s standard, the kid is not the same child that was born to them. Therefore, if he wanted to be consistent in his worldview, he should throw away all his baby pictures and their wedding album. The atheist husband still hugs his wife without being unfaithful to her, since people have souls. He will still take his kid to the park and buy him a balloon. But he will not buy the unknown kid who is next to him a balloon. The atheist knows that his child is the same child who was born to him years before because he has a personal identify that transcends the physical body what we call an enduring immaterial soul. Can the information in one’s DNA be the basis for personal identity? No, since twins have the same DNA but they are two different individuals. The case of Siamese twins who share the same brain is another point in question.


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    With regards to your John Lennox quote, he makes the argument that since we know that things which don’t reproduce and exhibit complexity are made or designed by man (excepting crystals and such), we should assume that things which do reproduce are also made by some vaguely anthropomorphic being. The problem there is reproduction. Reproduction accounts very nicely for biodiversity, which is why the Watchmaker analogy fails. If one found a pocketwatch on the ground as you were walking through a field, you could rightly assume that someone dropped it there, rather than that it evolved in that spot. Unless, of course, the field were full of clockwork timepieces which we knew to be capable of reproduction, and we had a substantial fossil (the preserved remains kind, not the brand of wristwatches and clothing) database showing similar, but slightly different clockwork timepieces, and we were able to look inside the pocket watch and see that the gearing in some places was almost identical to the gearing found in wristwatches that lived in a neighboring area, and lastly, if the observer were a self-aware grandfather clock, it would be pretty reasonable to think that perhaps that pocket watch had evolved. In the real world, we have a substantial foundation of scientific data supporting the idea that creatures which reproduce can evolve. So, essentially, the author-of-the-gaps reasoning does warrant an author due to the nature of the gap, but god-of-the-gaps reasoning applied to biology fails because we’re talking about a different sort of gap.

    ″And if the complexity contained in a ‘long set of prime numbers’ meets scientific standards for inferring intelligent agency, then why is the far, far, far greater complexity contained in the simplest living thing not enough to convince atheistic scientists of intelligent agency? The answer is that many of the most hardened atheist scientists clearly ARE convinced as such, although they are very reticent to admit it because it is so inconvenient to their ideology.″

    If atheists are convinced that something is based in fact and makes sense, they say so. End of story. There is no conspiracy. If you could point out some of these atheist scientists in question, I’d love to hear about it. If you’re referring to your ″atheist″ quotes, from what I can see they’re either irrelevant, misrepresented, or in the case of Mr. Wald, nonexistent. Oh, and I see another Wald here at the end, which he actually DID say but which is frequently taken out of context and misrepresented, much as we see here. Oh, and look, Anthony Flew. Well, that one’s fair enough, although you should bear in mind he’s not talking about any Abrahamic God, but rather a deified imagining of the physical laws of the universe. Also, there’s a decent chance his conversion is a product of senility.

    GerryD is right about the quotes, if for the wrong reasons. When you quote the opinions of others, you are actually making an argument from authority, which as I said earlier is a problem because even the opinion of the greatest thinker is just an opinion, and has no relevance to science, which is what we’re talking about here. On top of that you have a habit of pulling quotes out of context and presenting them to mean something the author never intended, and when you get caught doing that, it hurts your credibility. The main reason you never want to try to argue against evolution with quotes is that somewhere around 99% of scientists accept the validity of the theory of evolution. When you come down to it, the pro-evolution side just has more quotes.

    It’s Bernd-Olaf Küppers, not Bernard.

    That’s about all I have time for.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Yes, you are correct when you say that the problem is reproduction. Where did reproduction come from? Your arguments seem to originate from the assumption that reproduction just is. How do you bridge the gap between non-reproducing inanimate matter on one hand and reproducing organisms on the other? Would you like to agree with your fellow atheists’ (such as Richard Dawkins, Francis Crick, and the chemist Leslie Orgel) hypothesis that self-replicating organisms can be explained by the fact that they were brought here by aliens from outer space (as this essay describes)? Or perhaps you would like to drop the aliens and just adopt the view that life came here from outer space without the help of aliens (just “panspermia” without the “directed” before it). This view is supported by atheists such as the astronomer and mathematician Fred Hoyle and the “astrobiologist” Chandra Wickramasinghe.

      The Wald quote is taken out of context? Please re-insert it into what you feel is the correct context. Stating that something is “taken out of context” without even presenting a case for what you feel is the correct context is utterly meaningless. Perhaps Wald was joking and I made it look like he wasn’t by taking it out of context?

      I could just as easily say that Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” is taken out of context and that Jefferson meant something entirely different. But if I did make such a statement, the onus would immediately be upon me to re-insert his comment into what I felt was the correct context and to explain what I feel he really meant.

      Please provide some sort of evidence that Antony Flew is talking about “deified imagining of the physical laws of the universe.” In his book There Is A God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, it is very apparent that he is talking about a being and not laws. Otherwise, his book would probably have been titled something to the effect of There Are Physical Laws: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Again Remembered That There Are Indeed Laws of Physics.

      Please also respond to the video regarding Dean Kenyon.

      Next, note that physical laws are descriptive and predictive, but not causative. For example, the laws of physics describe and predict what happens when a person knocks around billiard balls with a pool cue. But the laws of physics only describe and predict what will happen when the pool ball is hit with the cue. The laws of physics do not cause the pool ball to move, and they do not explain the existence of the pool ball (or the table or the cue).

      Oxford University mathematician John Lennox provides another great example of how laws are merely predictive and descriptive, not causative:

      The simple law of arithmetic, 1+1=2 never brought anything into being. It certainly has never put any money in my bank account. If I put $1000 into the bank, and later another $1000, the laws of arithmetic will rationally explain how it is that I now have $2000 in the bank. But if I never put any money in the bank myself, and simply leave it to the laws of arithmetic to bring money into being in my bank account, I shall remain permanently bankrupt.”

      You assert, “When you quote the opinions of others, you are actually making an argument from authority.” OK, Andrew, below I have posted an opinion from someone else. Please tell me if it commits the logical fallacy of “argument from authority.”

      SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.

      Well, what do you think? Is there an “argument from authority” logical fallacy being committed here because it cites the Surgeon General? I know a lot of smokers who would like to believe so.

      Let me give you the skinny on the logical fallacy of Argument From Authority: The above warning from a pack of cigarettes does not commit this logical fallacy because the Surgeon General’s warnings are based on solid research. Only when a declaration is made by an authority that is not backed up by anything else (such as research) is this logical fallacy committed. In other words, if there were no research to back up the Surgeon General’s claims and the warning label said:

      SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking can cause all sorts of diseases. We know this is true because the Surgeon General said so, and he is a really smart guy.

      …Then the logical fallacy of Argument From Authority would have been committed.


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        GerryD says:

        Nick
        The link u provide is about Venter’s “life in a jar”experiments. Ground breaking though they may be, I cant see how anyone could possibly suggest they show how life can be synthesized from inanimate chemicals :
        “We clearly transformed one cell into another,” says Venter. In other words, they did not do anything approaching the transformation of lifeless chemicals into a living organism. Rather, they bought “strands of DNA off the shelf” cut and pasted these pieces of already existing DNA to make their own “synthetic” DNA. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/328/5981/958.full)

        “Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is making some slow and steady progress.”

        Of course it is, maybe we will eventually answer PCW Davies question: “How did nature fabricate the world’s first digital information processor?” Science may identify a process or mechanism for how life came from non-life. Perhaps, “God formed man from the dust of the earth” will be proven, along with the creation of our finite universe, to be another accurate Biblical claim. As I keep saying identifying a mechanism for a physical process says nothing about agency or cause. Nor does a mechanism like planetary motion explain the origin or existence of the absurdly complex IMMATERIAL laws and math that define that process.
        I see 2 fundamental Question for anyone who holds that ultimate reality is reducilbe to the chemistry & physics of mindless molecules: 1) how do non-material laws, logic & math exist in a purely physical/material world(view)?
        2.how does mindless matter “recognise” highly complex, NON-material (abstract) laws? Theism has perfectly plausible explanations for why the universe isabsurdly fine-tuned, rationally intelligible & life-permitting.
        Abiogenesis & evolution are nothing more than names for physical processes that also have pathways. Theism says the pathways are not accidental or based on chance but built in to the very fabric of nature . A reasonable observation given the likelihood of a racemic mixture of 200specific L-amino acids coming together by blind forces & chance to form a protein is that evolution is NOT a mistake. It is an inherent, predictable & even inevitable property of nature driven by the highly complex, immutable laws & physical constants of the universe. As Prof. Ken Miller celibrated evolutionary biologist observes “The Darwinian Universe we observe has precisely the properties we observe, if there is at bottom, the wisdom of a providential & purposeful creator…..” .


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          nick says:

          Gerry,

          I prefaced my short post with the sentence, ‘Life could have emerged without God. But, if this is the case, it doesn’t mean that there is no God.’

          My link is almost as you describe it. ‘In other words, they did not do anything approaching the transformation of lifeless chemicals into a living organism.’ You say this, but what are strands of DNA in isolation? They are lifeless chemical chains of information. The cell that was synthesized was alive, but two major obstacles were overcome here. The first was implanting DNA that actually functioned, worked and caused the cell to live and reproduce. That is a very significant step. The other was to show that by combining unliving chemicals to this cell, man has made another step towards creating life from non-life. As I said in my post though, this is not confirmation of or understanding of abiogenesis, it is merely one small step along the way. It is as someone said in the clip, ‘proof of principle’ if not a full explanation.

          You say that identifying a mechanism says nothng about an agent or cause. You are talking about God here and I would agree. In talking about these topics, I make no conclusions as to whether there is or isn’t an agent or cause.

          You ask two questions at the end, which I will try to answer.

          1) I don’t know. We can understand them and are moving closer to describing them and understanding how they wrok, but why do they exist in the first place (ie. physical laws – gravity, strong/weak nuclear force)? I don’t know.

          2) The way you phrase that almost anthropomorphises the matter. Matter simply obeys the laws of physics. We are trying to understand why and how in greater detail and again are making progress here.

          You summarise well by saying that evolution and abiogenesis are simply mechanisms. Evolution may well be inevitable in nature.

          You finish with a quote from Ken Miller. I like Ken Miller and I think he is a good character to draw from. Being a professor of BIology at Brown university, he speaks very well and knowledgably on these topics. There are various lectures and interviews from Ken Miller on youtube and I would advise checking some out. He’s the sort of guy who I would have liked teaching me at school, perhaps you would agree.


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            nick says:

            Gerry cited Miller as having that hypothesis. I’m not sure whether he does, but I assumed that Gerry was correct, because it sounds like an idea that Miller would propose. I think it’s just a general idea that exists, not specific to Miller. It’s a thought that I had had before I had heard of Miller.

            You ask how these processes were built in to the system. I don’t think that we have an answer to this as yet. I’m not sure if that’s quite the right question, or something that we could illustrate, at least not yet. I think that the ontological questions come after the observational questions. First we must see what we can understand from the observational investigations and the scientific process. We have some pretty good understanding of how these mechanisms operate.

            ‘HOW IS IT THAT LIFELESS MATTER IS ABLE TO DO THIS?’

            We understand the processes and physics of these ideas (evolution & abiogenesis) (although abiogenesis is largely theoretical at the moment). We can explain how these things happen and why. We can explain how matter behaves and why it does as well. We can explain alot, but we can’t explain everything. We are doing pretty well on these various fronts. It all seems to obey natural laws and the laws of physics. Why does it do this? Well it just does. Those seem to be the rules of the universe. So we can explain how and why things happen. This seems to be correct, because we repeatedly make physical predictions that can be demonstrated and prove true.

            The ontological questions that you are getting at are of the nature, ‘how and why did this all come to be?’

            The answer to this could be God. It could be God who created the universe, laid down the rules and set it free, hence giving evolution freedom to operate naturally and in an undirected manner. This could be consistant with free will and would be an idea that is not just limited to our own wills, but is manifested in the reality and behaviour of the entire universe. Matter, space and time are simply following the naturalistic rules set in motion by God. We are simply observing and describing the natural universe that God initiated. This is the hypothesis that Miller would be proposing. From this thought it can be argued that God gave the universe the chemical properties and composition that it would generate life as an inevitability and this is how such things may have been built in to the laws of nature and the universe. This is how mechanisms such as evolution and abiogenesis could be operating without the direction and guidance of a creator, but still have a divine initiation set not into the beginnings of life on Earth, but the laws of nature itself.


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            nick says:

            I am not saying that the universe as a whole could not have been designed. I am simply saying that neither abiogenesis, nor evolution neccessitate divine direction or intervention. I think that Miller’s suggestion that ‘those (ie. evolution & abiogenesis) processes are actually buit in to the very laws of nature’ is actually a rather good idea. It’s something that I have always considered as very plausible.

            Abiogenesis may well have been an undirected phenomenon. I think that this is what it was, but it is unproven as yet. I am not saying this with certainty, but I think it is wrong to discount it with certainty as well. Basically it’s an open question with different possible answers, it is not a closed case.

            Relating to my video clip, I have said twice already that this does not prove abiogenesis. As I said in my original post, ‘Note that this is not confirmation of abiogenesis, or a claim that the origin of life has been understood. However, it is one step along the way,’

            You are correct about the extracted DNA used in the experiment. I think they were actually segments of human DNA and the cell implanted was from a goat. However, not all of the DNA was simply borrowed and transferred. Some was novel, newly coded and man made.

            To show that they did insert some novel DNA of their own construction as well, the below article is interesting. Amongst the synthetic DNA that they gave the new cell, they included coded quotes from academic figures, including the following from James Joyce, “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.” as well as quotes from various others including Richard Feynman and the names of 46 researchers who helped out with the project.

            http://www.openculture.com/2010/05/james_joyce_encoded_in_artificial_life.html


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Nick:

              You suggest that neither abiogenesis nor evolution necessitate divine direction or intervention. You cite Miller to suggest that these processes are actually built into the very laws of nature.

              My question for you is, HOW were these processes built into nature? The only atheist response I get to this question (not that you are an atheist) seems to be that they “just are.” How much explanatory power does that have?! And atheists suggest that their belief system is not faith based!!!

              Please review my essay titled What It All Boils Down To and review the 2 models that have been produced by science: One model says that mind (God’s mind) is pre-existent and produces the material world. This view is completely in line with modern physics.

              The other model says that matter is pre-existent (which contradicts modern physics) and that mind is an eventual emergent property of mindless matter.

              In the first model, it is self explanatory how it can be that the mechanisms that drive evolution and the origin of life can exist. This brings us back to my question: In the second model, where matter comes first, how is it that mindless matter can be compelled to follow a physical law (such as the laws of physics, chemistry, thermodynamics)? Please note that since this is an ontological (rather than scientific) question, it demands an ontological answer.

              I should point out that I have absolutely no objections whatsoever to any of the science regarding “abiogenesis.” (At least not that I am currently aware of). If somebody wants to suggest, for example, that life “self-organized” from lifeless matter (as does the prominent theoretical biologist Stuart Kaufmann), my response is always going to be the same…HOW IS IT THAT LIFELESS MATTER IS ABLE TO DO THIS? This is an ontological question that demands an ontological answer. Scientific questions demand scientific answers and ontological questions demand ontological answers.

              By saying that neither evolution nor abiogenesis need divine direction, you are making an ontological or meta-scientific (not scientific) statement. And when you make such a statement, it is necessary for you to provide some sort of ALTERNATE explanation for how it is that these “processes” are “built into nature.” (Or at least it is necessary if you want your argument to have some sort of explanatory power). If it was not mind that did this, then what was it?

              You may want to review my post in the “short takes” section titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used To Rationalize Atheism.

              Scott


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            GerryD says:

            Nick
            you say , “They ( strands of isolated DNA) are lifeless chemical chains of information” and so they are, but they hardly resemble the ancient primordal soup (H20, CO2 N2 etc). if I’m not mistaken they were extracted from living cells. The chunks of DNA were then “rearranged” in the lab (by intelligent minds) and was reinserted into existing cells which then were able to replicate. Wasnt that similar to how Dolly the sheep was cloned?
            Venter admits “We clearly transformed one cell into another,” which is hardly abiogenesis. Now what would seem simple to a chemist like me, would be for a biochemist to take a denatured cell under strict laboratory conditions, & regrow that cell on an agar plate. Despite numerous attempts to do so with the “perfect recipe”at his disposal, all attempts have so far been in vain.. WHat might the missing factor x be? In controlled lab experiments failed tests are important b/c we can then eliminate one set of parameters & try a different combination. Ancient chemicals & blind forces of Nature would not seem to have the same luxury, unless as Miller suggests those processes are actually buit in to the very laws of nature.
            Stephen Wynberg MILITANT atheist & famous theoretical physicis makes an interesting observation: “Nature seems more beautiful than necessary”. “Its almost irresistible to imagine this beauty was laid out for our benefit.” Perhaps, it’s only irresistible if one wants to deny an intelligent mind or organizing principle.Such a sceptic would need to believe that consciousness & ultimate reality are reducible to the chemistry of mindless molecules.
            In the 19th century, the “God of the gaps” was finding himself in a narrower and narrower niche. However, 20th century & now 21st century science is leading us back down the road of design -not from a lack of scientific
            explanation, but from physics & cosmology that requires an appeal to the extremely unlikely – something that science does not deal well with. As a result of the recent evidence in support of design, many scientists now
            believe in God. The degree to which the constants of physics must match a precise criteria is such that even
            a number of even agnostic scientists have concluded that there is some sort of “supernatural plan” or “Agency” behind it.
            BTW you say “You summarise well by saying that evolution and abiogenesis are simply mechanisms” I would say they arent mechanisms as such but just names for a process. A bit like “pregnancy” is the name to describe the growth a fetus. But it says nothing about the mechanism of that journey.


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        ″Your arguments seem to originate from the assumption that reproduction just is. How do you bridge the gap between non-reproducing inanimate matter on one hand and reproducing organisms on the other?″

        As it happens, nobody knows what mechanism brought about the origin of life. Your contention in this article is that the information content in organisms means that chemical processes could not account for the complexity of life, therefore it must have been God. Reproduction accounts for the information content, which means God is unnecessary to the argument.

        Panspermia appears to be a possibility. We certainly see enough evidence of amino acids in comets and such to justify the line of thought. The emotional problem I have with panspermia is that if that was the origin for life on Earth, it may handicap our efforts to determine how life originates in general. It’s an interesting idea, but, in the end, it doesn’t appear to be a useful subject for study.

        ″The Wald quote is taken out of context?″

        Yes. Read the article to see how. All you have to do is actually read the article you quoted from, and it’s actually a pretty good article.

        ″Please provide some sort of evidence that Antony Flew is talking about ‘deified imagining of the physical laws of the universe.’″

        Did you just read the title? Flew wasn’t talking about a being at all. He said, very specifically, that he was talking about the God of Aristotle. Unless you’re working from a very strange translation of the Bible, that’s nothing close to the biblical God. I can see how you would make the mistake, however, seeing as how you would have to do some actual research to know the difference.

        ″Next, note that physical laws are descriptive and predictive, but not causative.″

        Actually, you were saying earlier that matter needs to be convinced to adhere to these laws. That would mean that the laws of physics are prescriptive, not descriptive, and as such cannot be said to be predictive. You’re going to have to pick one.

        ″SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.″

        A pack of cigarettes isn’t a scientific theory, and a reasonable, intelligent, and informed person who wishes to continue smoking (forgive the oxymoron) would research the relevant test data to assess the validity of this statement.


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          “As it happens, nobody knows what mechanism brought about the origin of life. Your contention in this article is that the information content in organisms means that chemical processes could not account for the complexity of life, therefore it must have been God. Reproduction accounts for the information content, which means God is unnecessary to the argument.”

          Reproduction accounts for the information content? What accounts for the information content of the very first living thing? Information science (as this essay describes) declares that information is necessarily mental in nature. A copy and paste from my citation of information scientist Werner Gitt in the essay:

          “It should now be clear that information, being a fundamental entity, cannot be a property of matter, and its origin cannot be explained in terms of material processes. We therefore formulate the following theorem. Theorem 1: The fundamental quantity of information is a non-material (mental) entity. It is not a property of matter, so that purely material processes are fundamentally precluded as sources of information.”

          Andrew, you are glossing over one of the key points of the article. Information is necessarily mental in nature…which means it came from a mind. So what mind did the codified information in DNA come from?

          “Did you just read the title? Flew wasn’t talking about a being at all. He said, very specifically, that he was talking about the God of Aristotle. Unless you’re working from a very strange translation of the Bible, that’s nothing close to the biblical God. I can see how you would make the mistake, however, seeing as how you would have to do some actual research to know the difference.”

          Actually, I read the entire book. He is talking about the God of Aristotle? I don’t know where you got that, but it is fine with me. Aristotle’s theology has been endorsed by many Christian and Jewish theologians, most notably Thomas Aquinas.

          “Actually, you were saying earlier that matter needs to be convinced to adhere to these laws. That would mean that the laws of physics are prescriptive, not descriptive, and as such cannot be said to be predictive. You’re going to have to pick one.”

          I said matter needs to be convinced to adhere to these laws? No, I said no such thing. I asked you how it is that matter can be compelled to follow a physical law in a universe where matter comes first and mind eventually emerges through material processes. We still eagerly await your reply.

          “A pack of cigarettes isn’t a scientific theory, and a reasonable, intelligent, and informed person who wishes to continue smoking (forgive the oxymoron) would research the relevant test data to assess the validity of this statement.”

          No, a pack of cigarettes isn’t a scientific theory, and nobody ever suggested that it is. I asked you the following question. Does the Surgeon General’s statement commit the logical fallacy of Argument From Authority? Please answer the question that I asked you so it doesn’t become immediately obvious to everyone viewing this that you are evading it.


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            Scott,

            ″Reproduction accounts for the information content? What accounts for the information content of the very first living thing?″

            How much information was in the very first living thing?

            ″Andrew, you are glossing over one of the key points of the article. Information is necessarily mental in nature…which means it came from a mind. So what mind did the codified information in DNA come from?″

            Perception of information is mental in nature, but you haven’t provided any compelling evidence that creation of information required a mind.

            ″I don’t know where you got that, but it is fine with me. Aristotle’s theology has been endorsed by many Christian and Jewish theologians, most notably Thomas Aquinas.″

            ″Actually, I read the entire book. He is talking about the God of Aristotle? I don’t know where you got that, but it is fine with me. Aristotle’s theology has been endorsed by many Christian and Jewish theologians, most notably Thomas Aquinas.″

            More information on Flew here: http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article369.html
            Yeah, lots of Christians say that the Deist God is the God of the Bible, but Deists don’t feel that way. Probably because a central tenet of their belief is that the Deist God does not become involved in human affairs, does not perform miracles or answer prayers, and, of course, would never have sent it’s son to die for our sins. It’s another case of Christians deciding what other people think for them.

            So you’re saying that matter doesn’t need to be compelled to behave like matter? That the way matter behaves is intrinsic to it. I would love to answer your question if you would kindly decide what that question is. Here, let me attempt to make this simple.

            Matter behaves in the manner described in the laws of physics and chemistry because of properties intrinsic to matter, and will do so regardless of outside forces.

            OR

            Matter behaves in the manner described in the laws of physics and chemistry because an outside force acts on the matter, and would behave differently if not for this outside force.

            Kindly pick one of those statements as your position or formulate a pair of statements of your own that make a distinction between what you perceive to be the available options. In fact, no, don’t formulate your own statement, just pick on of these two and, I dunno, add a comment if you don’t fully agree with it. A short comment.

            ″Does the Surgeon General’s statement commit the logical fallacy of Argument From Authority?″

            It’s kind of yes and no. It’s an argument from authority, but it’s not a fallacy because a pack of cigarettes isn’t a debate.


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        GerryD says:

        Andrew,
        Thank u for such a long if not bewildering response. Unfortunately I dont have endless hours to respond to all ur comments. So I’ll start in chronological order. I must say I always find it amusing how atheist just “lack belief in God so have nothing to prove“. And yet they then waste what little time they have left trying to justify (to themselves) that the god nobody believes in, doesn’t exist.
        You said “..any time you use quotations to try to prove your point, you’re quoting the opinions of others.”
        Perhaps ur right, here was me thinking that informed debates can work like this. When one steps outside one’s area of expertise to argue, say a scientific point, then one requires verifiable citations from scientists in the relevant field.
        So, are these statements about fine-tuning, facts, conclusions deductions or just opinion? :
        “In order for life to exist ANYWHERE in the universe, the force of gravity must be 1×10 to the 40th power times weaker than the force of electromagnetism. It’s essential that the force of gravity be incredibly weak compared to the other three forces of physics.” “The laws of physics are balanced on a razor’s edge for life to occur. Break just one law or change one constant-no universe, no life” Prof. Robin Collins.
        Stephen Hawking wrote, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.”[7] Andrew, if a doctor said, u had 1 chance in 10 of surviving an illness shouldnt u be putting ur affairs in order?
        You said, “I would doubt that there are many ‘eminent’ scientists who believe in fine-tuning of the universe, and if they do, it’s their personal opinion and it has no bearing on science.”

        What? Obviously u know nothing about cosmology if u thing design & fine tuning aren’t of profound interest to science today: Atheist numero uno, Dawkins: “The greatest challenge facing science today is to explain the appearance of design in the universe” (he got that right) “but that raises an even bigger problem of who designed the Designer” (raises a nice red herring, I say!) Moreover, Chris Hitchens replied to the question as to which was the strongest argument used against atheists and he had no difficulty in identifying it. “The fine-tuning argument we all agree is the most intriguing. It is not trivial – we all say that.” Here he is clearly speaking for his New Atheist friends.
        How lucky do u feel? Agnostic Physicist Paul Davies estimated that “for the electro-magnetic force a change of only one part in 10 to 40th power would have spelled disaster for stars, like our sun, thereby precluding the existence of planets.” To which he logically concludes “the appearance of design is overwhelming”. The question “demanded” by science then, “is the fine-tuning due to chance, physical necessity or design itself?” Since the physical constants are independent, they cant be due to physical necessity, so all the atheist has left is chance.

        Brian Green in his book analyses 9 varieties of multiverses eg. brane world versions, cyclic universes, string theory, chaotic inflation, branches of quantum wave functions, computer simulations and what can exist must exist. But they cant all be true b/c they all conflict with each other. So maybe none of them are true and in fact one universe might be the 1st & only solution (Occum’s razor)! Its very easy to propose hypothetical models, so more difficult to propose scientifically observable & testable ones.

        As to the problem of personal identity, your analogy of comparing the complexity of the human body’s 3 trillion cells with an unchanging, inorganic water molecule is laughable. Do u really want be me to point out the absurdity of such reasoning? BTW, in the time I took to write that last sentence 50,000 cells dies and were replaced with brand new ones. Such is the miracle of life, indeed.”

        “There are those who have seen sufficient evidence but suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:20


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          GerryD

          ″And yet they then waste what little time they have left trying to justify (to themselves) that the god nobody believes in, doesn’t exist.″

          Actually, we spend a lot more time addressing attacks on science from people who believe that religion should take precedence over proven fact.

          ″Perhaps ur[sic] right, here was me thinking that informed debates can work like this.″

          Well, logic is useful in debates, opinions less so. When it comes to arguing science, however, scientific evidence is king. Also, nothing about this exchange looks like an informed debate.

          ″So, are these statements about fine-tuning…″

          They’re opinions, possibly based in fact, but they’re also irrelevant. Again, statistically, the universe has a 1:1 chance of being the way it is.

          ″The greatest challenge facing science today is to explain the appearance of design in the universe″

          Hahahah! Absolutely true. The reason it’s a challenge is because so many non-scientists think that if something looks like it might have been designed that it obviously was. If science were about declaring the obvious to be true, we wouldn’t have electricity, cars, or antibiotics. The simple fact of the matter is that ″obviously″ isn’t a scientific argument.

          That red herring, as you put it, is a huge flaw in your logic. You say that complex things must have a designer, and this is an absolute. Then you say that God has no designer. So then the absolute is wrong or God is not complex.

          Fine tuning is a strong argument because it asserts something which cannot be proven. As Hitch said, ″That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.″ Where is your evidence which shows that the universe could have been any different than the one we live in? Where is your proof that fine tuning occurred?

          ″Its very easy to propose hypothetical models, so more difficult to propose scientifically observable & testable ones.″

          What does that say about religion?

          ″As to the problem of personal identity, your analogy of comparing the complexity of the human body’s 3 trillion cells with an unchanging, inorganic water molecule is laughable. Do u[sic] really want be[sic] me to point out the absurdity of such reasoning?″

          I kind of would like you to point out what’s wrong with that analogy, especially given the analogies you consider valid. For instance, if it’s the number of units that makes it absurd, how many water molecules are there in a river? Is it the fact that a human body and a river aren’t the exact same thing? You do understand how analogies work, right? What I’d really, dearly like for you to point out is how your prejudicial analogy still holds water. You know, actually respond to the comment rather than picking out one little element of it.

          ″Against logic there is no armor like ignorance.″
          Laurence J. Peter


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            GerryD,

            How dare you accuse me of being excessively verbose! Over the next three pages I will demonstrate to you how untrue this is… Seriously, though, I prefer to be as specific as possible, and the formatting makes these posts look much longer than they are. If you’re really having trouble with the length of the posts, I can try to keep them short.

            As far as hypocrisy and satisfying my ego, perhaps you could refrain from the pointless character attacks.

            ″Can I suggest however, u try to stick to 1 point of view at a time?″

            I would stick to one topic at a time, except that we’re actually arguing about a half a dozen points at once, and if I don’t address everything in each post I get stuff like this:

            ″As we can see Andrew has ignored several of your challenges as well as mine to differentiate between scientific fact deduction & opinion . ″

            So, you know, no thanks.

            ″I can see why Scott has lost all hope of any rational response with your repetitive, longwinded rhetoric.″

            Have you noticed that Scott’s posts are every bit as long as mine, and repetitive to the point of copying and pasting the majority of his argument? As far as rationality, I haven’t said anything so far that wasn’t rational, logical, and cohesive, and the accusation that I have, especially in the absence of any sort of example, is a deflection by way of an ad hominem attack. Again, don’t make it personal.

            ″You have offered no credible scientific opinion of your own in favour of naturalism & yet it’s me, who is the one discrediting science??″

            I haven’t offered opinions, I have offered peer reviewed science and logic where applicable, and requested the same from you and Scott and all I get back is more opinions. Quotes aren’t science. I explained that several times. As if that weren’t bad enough, you keep misapplying the quotes.

            “that In order for life to exist anywhere in the universe, the force of gravity must be 1×10 to the 40th power times weaker than the force of electromagnetism. It’s essential that the force of gravity be incredibly weak compared to the other three forces of physics.”

            Nobody has said otherwise. The question you haven’t answered is: What evidence do you have that an outside force was required to cause this to happen?

            ″Howabout- ‘The degree to which the constants of physics must match a precise criteria is such that even a number of agnostic scientists have concluded that there is some sort of ‘supernatural plan’ or ‘Agency’ behind it’. If this is not the consensus opinion then show us where it has been challenged?″

            Here’s a major problem with quotes. What you’re saying here is that one guy saying that other people agree with him equals fact. Again, you have no evidence that the laws of physics could have been different in such a way as to make life impossible, and if you did have that evidence you’d have to then show evidence that the current situation was caused by an outside force. And for the argument from authority you’re making here to work, you’d have prove that a bunch of people believing something is true makes it fact, which is far from the case. And just to point out how bad this logic is, the current ″consensus opinion″ is that the theory of evolution is fact without any supernatural help needed. If you need a quote as evidence of the logic there, please type a quotation mark at the end of this sentence, and then another at the beginning of the paragraph.

            ″Please explain how this is just an opinion or a fallacious argument from authority.″

            Because there is no evidence that the physical characteristics of the universe were or needed to be fine tuned. Do you know what would have happened if the universe had re-collapsed? Assuming the rate of expansion IS random, it would have blown up again, and again, until the correct value came up. If the rate of expansion were not random and not suitable to create a universe, the universe we’re in would never have existed. But guess what, there’s a universe here! So again, as far as anyone knows, there is a 100% chance for the universe to be exactly as it is.

            But we know how many people are playing the lotto. How many universes have we observed?

            ″The conclusion of those who should know is that ‘the appearance of design is overwhelming.’″

            The conclusion of those who should know better but have something to gain from saying otherwise is that the appearance of design is overwhelming. The conclusion of 97% plus of scientists and 99% plus of biologists is that organisms may look like things that humans made, but natural processes are perfectly adequate to account for that appearance in all cases. I really don’t understand why you keep playing the argument from authority when you’re on the wrong side of it.

            ″Only a closedminded God denier with a hidden agenda would refute these findings of modern cosmology.″

            I’ve laid my cards on the table as far as my motives, and I’ve refuted everything you’ve said logically. Your argument doesn’t hold up. The evidence isn’t there. What would it say about my agenda if I supported an argument which was logically inconsistent? So… what’s your agenda?

            ″Three options have been suggested: chance, physical necessity or design.″
            ″The staunch atheist (no names of course) would undoubtedly deny even the possibility of design because that would implicate an actual designer. So all he has left is ‘chance’″

            One of your options disappeared there. What happened to physical necessity?

            Your logic here is prejudicial to say the least. Atheists do not take God into account where science is concerned. Not in a positive or negative sense. In order for something to be introduced as science, it has to be provable or necessary to explain the evidence. God is neither of those things. Additionally, the only function of multiverse theories or panspermia in explaining the origin of life is to illustrate that there are plenty of speculative and unprovable options when it comes to filling the gaps. Why focus on one?

            Now, I have given scientific evidence that shows a mechanism whereby information is added to a genome. I have also shown that given what science knows about prebiotic conditions, a chemical origin for life is totally possible.

            You claim that the universe needed to be fine-tuned with no evidence other than opinion. You present several people’s opinions that if the universe were different, there wouldn’t be life, but no evidence that it could have happened, nor do you offer evidence that intervention was required to set these conditions. And in your coup de grace you explain how the most plausible and in fact obvious scientific answer is an extra-dimensional superbeing.

            The principle of Occam’s razor isn’t a scientific law or theory. It’s a general rule. Also, objectivity is essential to understanding science.


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            GerryD,

            ″As a Christian we are urged to ‘humbly give reasons for the hope within us’.″

            Nothing wrong with that, but what you’re doing here is attempting to discredit science with an assumed position of authority. You’re spreading misinformation. There are plenty of ways to testify that don’t involve distorting the facts and propagating ignorance.

            ″I’m a little interested to know what ur agenda is here & what motivates u.″

            Three things.

            First: In the United States there is a growing (arguably) movement to teach creation in science class. This movement gains support by employing plausible sounding lies (intelligence is the only source of information, evolution is a statistical impossibility). By and large, the people who believe these lies don’t go out of their way to educate themselves as to the facts of the matter, but a surprising number of them will read an article like this, which reinforces their assumption, and some of them will go on to read the comments after. It is my hope that some of these people will read the comments and see that these arguments just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

            Second: Ignorance is the enemy of all mankind. It is the duty of every human to push back against the tide of ignorance. Since actual scientists do their pushing in the lab and don’t really have time to comment on every little blog, and I have an extensive understanding of the issue, I feel commenting in this manner helps fulfill part of my duty.

            Third: I genuinely enjoy debate. Or, well, whatever this has been. I always have. Other play video games, I argue evolution, biology, and atheism. Well, not pure biology, for the most part. There doesn’t seem to be much contention on that subject.

            ″Given the undertones of cynacism (& dare I say, contempt at times) in much of what u write, I just wonder what is it about the God question that obviously consumes ur every waking moment?″

            I wouldn’t say cynical is precisely the right term, but I will cop to contempt. I have argued this issue many times, so I have to frequently remind myself that although I have seen this same mistake made a number of times, this may be your first time seeing it. I also have an ingrained intolerance for people who refuse to think for themselves. I do my level best to suppress these traits, but I am not always successful. When people insult me or other atheists based on their own misunderstanding of what atheism is or what atheists are like, however, I tend to worry less about treating them kindly and more about refraining from profanity and keeping my insults focused and valid. In no case does anything relating to religion spend much time in my thoughts. It is none of my business nor my concern what other people choose to believe or disbelieve. That is a bit of an oversimplification, because it obviously fails to deal with issues like persecution and coercion, and exploitation, but for the most part that covers it.

            ″Perhaps if u disclose what it is that deeply burdens u, we might know how to best help u.″

            I am not burdened, nor do I require help. I’d be interested to know why you feel I am burdened, and you are in a position to provide assistance.

            1. Essentially, but oooooh, those chemical reactions. The phrase ″mindless matter″ doesn’t begin to encompass the beauty of the world we live in, and ″chemical reactions in brain tissue″ is a poor description of the incredible carnival of emotion that makes up the human experience.
            2. The entirety of the universe appears to be a random occurrence, which renders the phrase ‘accident’ fairly meaningless. We’re all very fortunate to have the opportunity to experience the world.
            In biological terms, the purpose of an organism is to support it’s ecosystem and reproduce, and again, in strictly biological terms there isn’t a good or evil per se, but as soon as you step outside that to the fact that we are humans, all the biology becomes much less relevant. Humans do know good, evil, right and wrong. We have empathy, cruelty, love, hatred, all that sort of thing. The purpose of an animal is to reproduce, but the purpose of a human is to do his duty to his species and the members thereof. Humans have an obligation to help other humans, all humans, increase knowledge and decrease ignorance, improve the situation of humanity in general, and support our ecosystem.
            3. Depends on what you mean by metaphysics. It’s kind of used interchangeably to mean a number of things. If you mean the branch of philosophy, I’m pretty sure it exists. If you mean the supernatural, there really isn’t any reliable proof of such, and it seems pointless to speculate. If you meant something other than those two, we’ll have to hash it out in further posts.
            4. I don’t believe there is convincing evidence that the universe is finite in space, time or scale, but there does appear to be convincing evidence that everything we are able to observe, we will, at some point, be able to understand. I use the words ‘we’ and ‘understand’ loosely.
            5. Well, the current thinking is moving away from the big bang theory, toward something which more closely resembles a three dimensional ripple, and the ″came into existence″ part is a little problematic for that reason. Short answer: No, but I can’t prove it.
            6. Also, no.
            7. Science can’t support the supernatural by definition. As soon as there is quantifiable evidence and a known mechanism, a thing is natural.
            8. No. My experience has been that we are all born gullible and ignorant, not believing in God, sure, but ready to believe any stupid thing we’re told, regardless of the evidence. That’s not atheism or theism, it’s credulity, and it’s not a fit state for a human. On the plus side, humans are generally born insatiably curious, which is the only tool necessary for remedying the situation.
            9. In my opinion, one is too many gods to believe in, so I can’t really see the point of adding more.
            10. I don’t really understand the question. More detail, please.
            11. I have no faith that science ever can or will know everything. I think on a long enough timeline it is possible to learn how everything we are capable of observing works, but even that is dependent on humanity surviving long enough to do so.
            12. Haha! There are huge quantities of things science doesn’t know now, and that’s just the stuff we know about.
            13. Atheists have essentially eliminated God the moment they decide that they don’t believe. While religion and the religious are, obviously, real concepts past that point, very few atheists even think about God in anything other than abstract terms from that moment on. If eliminating God has some effect on a person’s lifestyle options, I haven’t seen it.
            14. Those are all abstract concepts and as such immaterial. Except math. I’m not saying it’s material, I’m just saying I’m not going to comment on the nature of math. Math and I have an understanding. We leave each other alone.
            15. The same argument could be made about religious belief, but it’s not true either way, in my opinion. The universe doesn’t have it’s own purpose or meaning, but it has a purpose and meaning for humans. It’s our home and playground, our challenge and our facilitator. Life isn’t ″a sad, pathetic & ever diminishing journey to non-existence″ unless that’s what you make of it. The meaning and value of your life is largely determined by what you do with it. Nobody achieves immortality(yet), but it’s not like anyone is getting cheated out of it. Ultimately the value of your life is it’s value to you and your species. If you increased the amount of goodness and wisdom in the world, left the planet better than you found it, and took the time to revel in the truly mind-blowing spectacle that is Earth and surrounding areas, then you had a pretty good life.
            16. For starters, that’s a pretty poor definition of a religion. Would you say that your religion is just the sum total of a book, some rules, a bunch of rote activities, collecting money and this guy you listen to? A religion is, definition wise, worship of a deity or the supernatural, which clearly isn’t atheism, but it’s also a community and the support that a community offers, which is… well, not atheism, but it definitely describes the secular community. Religion is also a source for morality. Again, atheism isn’t a source of morality, but secular humanism is. The secular community is also a framework for shared understanding of common issues, concerns, and grievances, same as religion. But then we run into some more big differences. Religion comforts people’s fears of death. Atheism and secularity most certainly do not. That’s up to the individual. Religion runs on faith. Atheists and the rest of the secular community don’t operate on faith, and in fact run on skepticism as a rule. There’s an old joke that if you say ‘good morning’ to an atheist, he’ll ask you to cite your sources. As far as rituals, while I have heard of atheist baptisms and atheist prayer, they never really share a common form, and some things formulated on a case by case basis. There are no atheist martyrs, prophets, or clergy. Some atheists are prominent, but there is no hierarchy whatsoever. In fact, while I generally find no fault with Dawkin’s science, I don’t care for this speaking or debate style at all, and I definitely don’t feel he speaks for me. While atheists do support each other, we don’t recruit, and in fact most atheist parents encourage their children to learn everything they can about religion and make their own choice. Lastly, when it comes to the big questions like where did life, the universe and everything come from, every religion’s answer is, ″God (or similar) did it, and we’re sure,″ while atheism’s answer is, ″We don’t know,″. So yeah, based on that, I’d say atheism has as much in common with religion as a fantasy football league.


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              GerryD says:

              It’s somewhat ironical if not hypocritical, that the “I have nothing to prove” God denier must satisfy his ego with thrice daily, 3000word “verbal-athons. Some readers might invoke the “TL; DR” response but I’ll try to give u the respect that this site deserves & not invoke such a claim. Can I suggest however, u try to stick to 1 point of view at a time? I can see why Scott has lost all hope of any rational response with your repetitive, longwinded rhetoric. Despite fair intentions I couldnt even make it past the second sentence of ur latest offering without being totally aghast at this gem-

              “what you’re doing here is attempting to discredit science with an assumed position of authority. You’re spreading misinformation.”

              You have offered no credible scientific opinion of your own in favour of naturalism & yet it’s me, who is the one discrediting science?? u have to be joking, right? I quote Hawking, Penrose, Davies and some of the most eminent scientists regarding the latest findings in modern Cosmology. Let me repeat so u can tell us where I have discredited/misinterpretated THEIR observations:
              “that In order for life to exist anywhere in the universe, the force of gravity must be 1×10 to the 40th power times weaker than the force of electromagnetism. It’s essential that the force of gravity be incredibly weak compared to the other three forces of physics.” This is a statement as close to current scientifc FACT as one can be.

              Howabout- “The degree to which the constants of physics must match a precise criteria is such that even a number of agnostic scientists have concluded that there is some sort of “supernatural plan” or “Agency” behind it”. If this is not the consensus opinion then show us where it has been challenged?

              Moreover, “If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached its present size.
              What Hawking is sayinghere is that the initial entropy of the universe (a random value) defined the rate of expansion (Cosmological constant) which has to be that incredibly precise to allow the expanding mass of singularity to eventually form stars & galaxies. If the universe as we know it, is to exist at all, 3 of the major INDEPENDENT physical constants have to be” fine-tuned” to 1 part in 10 to the 37th power, 1 part in 10 to the 40th power and 1part in 10 to the 55th power. Please explain how this is just an opinion or a fallacious argument from authority.

              Anyone can win Lotto, but when the same ideal person wins it multiple times consequitively with those inconceivable odds, someone gets arrested. The conclusion of those who should know is that “the appearance of design is overwhelming.” Only a closedminded God denier with a hidden agenda would refute these findings of modern cosmology. The obvious question asked by the rational, informed & openminded observer then, is what is the most PLAUSIBLE explanation? Three options have been suggested: chance, physical necessity or design. Maybe u have another?
              The staunch atheist (no names of course) would undoubtedly deny even the possibility of design because that would implicate an actual designer. So all he has left is “chance” which has led to at least 9 very hypothetica,l if not fanciful, “multiverse” theories. According to Occum’s razor however, the theist needs but one universe to explain design. Applying the law of probabilities, this conclusion is infinitely more plausible, if not patently obvious, than the alternative: Conclusion: our finite, rationally intelligible, law-abiding, life-permitting IS designed by the infinite source of all intelligence,from which we infer plan, purpose & intention.

              As such, the odds of us being in such a ideal, meaningful universe is 1:1


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            GerryD says:

            My dear Andrew,
            As a Christian we are urged to “humbly give reasons for the hope within us”. We do so at sites like this, to justify our beliefs and to share the Good News that gives one’s life joy, hope, meaning, fulfilment and destiny in a loving supportive community. You are free to come & go as you please. But given the abundance & length of ur contributions to this thread, I’m a little interested to know what ur agenda is here & what motivates u. Do u also spend an equal amount of time challenging beliefs in UFOs, astrology, Taoism, occultism, Palmistry, numerology, Buddhism communism etc? Given the undertones of cynacism (& dare I say, contempt at times) in much of what u write, I just wonder what is it about the God question that obviously consumes ur every waking moment? When I try to pin down a sceptic as to what he actually believes they become all so coy. Perhaps if u disclose what it is that deeply burdens u, we might know how to best help u.
            If u have the time, I’d like to know if u believe/accept that
            1) ultimate reality is just mindless matter & chemical reactions in brain tissue (materialistic reductionism)
            2) youre just a cosmic accident, a ‘bunch of selfish genes’, ‘a survival machine’ whose sole purpose is to propagate DNA in a world where there is “no evil, no good but blind, pitiless indifference” (quotes from Dawkins)
            3) metaphysics can exist in an all physical (material world)
            4) the universe is finite in the past and rationally intelligible by chance or physical necessity
            5) that all matter, time & space came in to existence at the BB
            6) and therefore reject the idea of a eternal past for matter/energy
            7) modern science should support naturalism
            8) “we are all born atheists”
            9) “there are too many gods to believe in just one”
            10) “If the universe has no purpose, then anything in it could arise to suggest it has no purpose”
            11) when “science will know everything” is itself an act of faith
            12) that there can be anything unknown to science
            13) atheists have an indefensible & insatiable appetite to eliminate God (for lifestyle reasons)
            14) 2) that hope, wisdom, love, logic abstract math are non-material entities/concepts
            15) giving your life “tiny little meanings” (Harris), within a universe that offers no meaning, no purpose or escape (Zacherias) achieve some sort of immortality in what for many, is a sad, pathetic & ever diminishing journey to non-existence?
            15) atheism is NOT a claim to non-belief but actually a worldview bordering on a religion, with tenets (Atheists’ Manifesto), rituals (debaptisms, deconversions), “prophets” (Dawkins etc), sacred texts (atheists’ Bible), fund raising and membership drives etc,
            Perhaps if we know ur thoughts on these few questions we/I might be better informed as to how to comment on the points u raise.


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    Yeah, that citation’s bogus, too. Feel free to keep guessing, but you should consider that that quote A) contradicts views that Wald held and advocated throughout his life, and B) makes a really basic mistake that no biologist worth his salt would ever make, namely misapplication of the principle of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation doesn’t apply to the origin of life. It never has. That point was covered right about the time spontaneous generation was disproved, and pretty much every biologist from that point on has been aware of it. Life and Mind in the Universe deals with the possibility, or rather the near certainty, of intelligent life evolving elsewhere in the universe, and from there the intrinsic value of non-supernatural intelligent life. It’s actually a rather moving article. You should read it some time.

    Here’s an article that shows some of what science knows about the origin of life.

    http://stonesnbones.blogspot.com/2008/12/origin-of-life-outline.html

    It’s based on scientific research, not a series of quotes. Just to clarify, quoting the opinions (or the opposite thereof) of people who may or may not be actual scientists does not constitute a scientific or logical argument. Quoting the opinions of others is still just opinion.

    With regards to Crick, we don’t have experimental data from the early days of the Earth, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have data. We have lots of experimental data from now which tell us about what conditions were possible back then. We have some really good models of what conditions were like at that point, but really good doesn’t mean exact. At this point science is trying to pinpoint the exact set of conditions from a range of possibilities. For more detail, see the link above.

    ″And herein lies a key point for readers to grasp: There is a huge difference between experimentally or observationally verified science and theoretical abstraction. The latter is just ideas without any verification.″ Theoretical abstraction sounds a lot like religion. On the plus side, there’s a lot of empirical data in relation to abiogenesis. Remember, just because we don’t have all the pieces doesn’t mean all bets are off. Also, this is all pretty far afield of the theory of evolution.

    ″If life started on earth by such a sequence of ‘ordinary chemical reactions,’ does this support atheism or theism?″ It doesn’t really relate to either. He’s talking about science.

    ″The question of what caused such a set of putative chemical reactions would be a meta-scienitific or ontological question….not a scientific one.″ Uh… no. See, that’s the thing about chemical reactions. When the necessary chemical components and/or catalysts come in contact, the reaction occurs. There’s an entire branch of science called chemistry devoted to the study of chemical reactions, chemicals, and that sort of thing. So this would be a scientific question. Now, if you want to ask the question of whether or not chemicals react because a deity decreed that it should be so, that’s a religious question, and it really doesn’t relate to science.

    ″So one question that the atheist must answer is, ‘How is it inanimate matter can be compelled to follow a law, such as the laws of chemistry, if the universe has mindless origins?’ ″ Well, that question doesn’t actually make sense, so I can’t see much use in having an atheist answer it.

    Imaginary numbers and punctuated equilibrium don’t really relate to the origin of life. I mentioned them as an example of things you should study before you write about them. You mentioned in an earlier post that you intended to write about both, then illustrated a lack of understanding of both concepts. Imaginary numbers are not numbers that have been made up, as you seem to be implying. They are a way of handling the square root of negatives. They are no less real than non-imaginary numbers in mathematical terms. Even when applied to the real world they are still valid. Actually, rather than explaining it myself, here’s a link.

    http://12tuesday.com/william-lane-craig-vs-stephen-hawking/

    With regards to punctuated equilibrium, you say, ″Regarding punctuated equilibrium, I don’t believe that this theory (proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge) even has a proposed mechanism.″
    I have honestly never seen a legitimate explanation of punctuated equilibrium which didn’t get into the proposed mechanisms within a few paragraphs of the description of the phenomenon. Even Wikipedia has a big, prominent section called ″Theoretical Mechanisms″ on the punctuated equilibrium page. That you have heard of the idea, know who initially proposed it, have the intention of writing an article about it, are already of the opinion that Darwinian evolution could not be involved, and claim to have never heard of a proposed mechanism for the theory is… Well, I’m going to just say astounding.

    Lastly, for this post at least, you claim the following…

    ″Since information is always the product of a conscious and intelligent mind, mindless material processes cannot even in principle explain the origin of life.″

    Science is aware of at least two sources of information. Design and evolution. Design itself can be intelligent or unintelligent, for instance animals generate information on a regular basis. Both intelligent and unintelligent information production could arguably be seen as an extension of evolution.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      Andrew:

      I have copied and pasted your above comment below and have inserted my replies in bold.

      Yeah, that citation’s bogus, too. Feel free to keep guessing, but you should consider that that quote A) contradicts views that Wald held and advocated throughout his life, and B) makes a really basic mistake that no biologist worth his salt would ever make, namely misapplication of the principle of spontaneous generation. Spontaneous generation doesn’t apply to the origin of life. It never has. That point was covered right about the time spontaneous generation was disproved, and pretty much every biologist from that point on has been aware of it. Life and Mind in the Universe deals with the possibility, or rather the near certainty, of intelligent life evolving elsewhere in the universe, and from there the intrinsic value of non-supernatural intelligent life. It’s actually a rather moving article. You should read it some time.

      We appear to be talking about two different articles here. Wald’s comments on spontaneous generation that appear as the header for this essay come from the following article: “The Origin of Life,” Scientific American, 191:48. May 1954

      Do you wish to continue to deny that he made these comments in this article? Careful, everyone is watching.

      Wald’s comment, “…mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff” (that appears at the bottom of this essay) comes from Life and Mind in the Universe. Click on this link to view the abstract, written by Wald, in which the entire section that I quote appears at the bottom. I am curious, as an atheist, what do you suppose he is referring to when he speaks of a mind that has “always existed as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality?” Do you wish to deny that he made this statement…when it appears right at the bottom of the abstract that I link you to?

      Here’s an article that shows some of what science knows about the origin of life.

      It’s based on scientific research, not a series of quotes. Just to clarify, quoting the opinions (or the opposite thereof) of people who may or may not be actual scientists does not constitute a scientific or logical argument. Quoting the opinions of others is still just opinion.

      Please point out for us exactly and specifically what science does know about the origin of life that goes beyond theoretical abstraction. Feel free to cite the article that you link to above. Using your article or any other source you wish, why don’t you just give us a few bullet points? Could it be because you don’t have any?

      Regarding your comment that, “Quoting the opinions of others is still just opinion”: Does this apply to the opinions presented by the scientists in the two articles that you link to in your reply? Does this apply to your opinions? Or does it just apply to the opinions of the scientists that I cite?

      With regards to Crick, we don’t have experimental data from the early days of the Earth, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have data. We have lots of experimental data from now which tell us about what conditions were possible back then. We have some really good models of what conditions were like at that point, but really good doesn’t mean exact. At this point science is trying to pinpoint the exact set of conditions from a range of possibilities. For more detail, see the link above.

      OK, fine. Science is trying to work out what conditions were possible back then. The answer that I am seeking from you is not about conditions present at the time of the origin of life. Rather, we are seeking an explanation for how life emerged from lifeless chemicals.

      ″And herein lies a key point for readers to grasp: There is a huge difference between experimentally or observationally verified science and theoretical abstraction. The latter is just ideas without any verification.″ Theoretical abstraction sounds a lot like religion. On the plus side, there’s a lot of empirical data in relation to abiogenesis. Remember, just because we don’t have all the pieces doesn’t mean all bets are off. Also, this is all pretty far afield of the theory of evolution.

      ″If life started on earth by such a sequence of ‘ordinary chemical reactions,’ does this support atheism or theism?″ It doesn’t really relate to either. He’s talking about science.

      ″The question of what caused such a set of putative chemical reactions would be a meta-scienitific or ontological question….not a scientific one.″ Uh… no. See, that’s the thing about chemical reactions. When the necessary chemical components and/or catalysts come in contact, the reaction occurs. There’s an entire branch of science called chemistry devoted to the study of chemical reactions, chemicals, and that sort of thing. So this would be a scientific question. Now, if you want to ask the question of whether or not chemicals react because a deity decreed that it should be so, that’s a religious question, and it really doesn’t relate to science.

      ″So one question that the atheist must answer is, ‘How is it inanimate matter can be compelled to follow a law, such as the laws of chemistry, if the universe has mindless origins?’ ″ Well, that question doesn’t actually make sense, so I can’t see much use in having an atheist answer it.

      The question doesn’t make sense?! It is a very simple and straight forward question. Let me rephrase it:

      Wald and many other extremely prominent scientists (that I cite in my essay titled What It All Boils Down To) suggest that our universe is the product of a conscious and intelligent mind. In other words, consciousness (read: God’s consciousness) comes first, and matter is the product of consciousness. It is not difficult to see how inanimate matter can be compelled to follow a law from the framework of this mind-first model.

      The opposite model (known as materialism or naturalism) holds that matter comes first and that mind is the eventual outgrowth of mindless material processes. My question is this: Using the matter-first model, how is it that inanimate and mindless matter can be compelled to follow a natural law (such as the laws of physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, etc.)?

      Imaginary numbers and punctuated equilibrium don’t really relate to the origin of life. I mentioned them as an example of things you should study before you write about them. You mentioned in an earlier post that you intended to write about both, then illustrated a lack of understanding of both concepts. Imaginary numbers are not numbers that have been made up, as you seem to be implying. They are a way of handling the square root of negatives. They are no less real than non-imaginary numbers in mathematical terms. Even when applied to the real world they are still valid. Actually, rather than explaining it myself, here’s a link.

      I illustrated a lack of understanding about two concepts that don’t relate to the discussion at hand? I don’t know how to respond to that. Why should we go off on that thread? This is a tangent. Why don’t you restrict your comments to responding to the discussion at hand?

      With regards to punctuated equilibrium, you say, ″Regarding punctuated equilibrium, I don’t believe that this theory (proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge) even has a proposed mechanism.″
      I have honestly never seen a legitimate explanation of punctuated equilibrium which didn’t get into the proposed mechanisms within a few paragraphs of the description of the phenomenon. Even Wikipedia has a big, prominent section called ″Theoretical Mechanisms″ on the punctuated equilibrium page. That you have heard of the idea, know who initially proposed it, have the intention of writing an article about it, are already of the opinion that Darwinian evolution could not be involved, and claim to have never heard of a proposed mechanism for the theory is… Well, I’m going to just say astounding.

      Here, you go off into a rhetorical flourish in order to tap dance around a question that you cannot answer: WHAT IS THE MECHANISM THAT DRIVES PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM? If you know what it is, why don’t you just spit it out? Could it be because you don’t know? Even if punctuated equilibrium does have a mechanism, this gets nowhere fast in doing away with God because, once again, we get back to the question of where such mechanisms come from in a matter-first universe. In other words, we come right back to the ontological (rather than scientific) question of how mindless matter can be compelled to follow a physical law in a matter-first universe.

      Lastly, for this post at least, you claim the following…

      ″Since information is always the product of a conscious and intelligent mind, mindless material processes cannot even in principle explain the origin of life.″

      Science is aware of at least two sources of information. Design and evolution. Design itself can be intelligent or unintelligent, for instance animals generate information on a regular basis. Both intelligent and unintelligent information production could arguably be seen as an extension of evolution.

      Please give an example of design that is unintelligent. Please also give us an example of “unintelligent information production.” Please note that this is in complete contradiction to what information scientists say about information always being the product of mind (as I cite in this essay). Can you provide an information scientist to back you up on your theory of “unintelligent information production?” Is this a new theory that you just thought up?


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        http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/quotes/mine/part1-4.html#quote57

        Okay, it still isn’t something Wald said.

        ″I am curious, as an atheist, what do you suppose he is referring to when he speaks of a mind that has ‘always existed as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality?’″

        Wald explains it himself in the article. Hint: it’s not a deity, and the article offers no support of Intelligent Design. Pretty much the opposite, really. Once again, you’ve taken a quote to mean something the author never intended.

        ″Please point out for us exactly and specifically what science does know about the origin of life that goes beyond theoretical abstraction.″

        The article in the link has a numbered list which highlights the points therein. Feel free to use that as bullet points. Since you’ve read the article, I’d be interested to hear of some alternative to science which tells us more about the conditions under which life may have arisen with accompanying experimental data.

        ″Regarding your comment that, ‘Quoting the opinions of others is still just opinion’: Does this apply to the opinions presented by the scientists in the two articles that you link to in your reply?″

        Of course. That is what I’m saying. The Origin of Life article does have a number of references to actual scientific data, but the stuff in between is still opinion. Granted, if this were not an article relating to science, opinion might have some merit, but that’s not the case.

        ″My question is this: Using the matter-first model, how is it that inanimate and mindless matter can be compelled to follow a natural law (such as the laws of physics, chemistry, thermodynamics, etc.)?″

        The premise of your question is that matter must be acted upon by an outside force or it will not behave like matter. What evidence do you have of that? The laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics describe the way that matter and various related forces behave. Not how matter should behave if it knows what’s good for it; how it DOES behave. It looks like what you’re doing here is taking elements of science and religion, mashing them together, and trying to generate some sort of logical statement from it. This question is no more valid than, ″What color is a square root?″ I’m not here to discuss religion or any other form of pure speculation.

        ″Why should we go off on that thread?″

        Fair enough. We won’t. Oh, wait, no, I have to respond to this…

        ″If you know what it is, why don’t you just spit it out?″

        Because it doesn’t relate to this article, I’m not your research assistant, and you need to do your own research. It takes minutes. Be a man. The only ‘help’ you’re getting from me on the subject is the information that your insistence that you think there’s no proposed mechanism for the phenomenon shows very clearly that you’ve never actually researched it, and the fact that you’ve never researched the concept but you don’t feel it’s consistent with the theory of evolution AND you’re willing to write an article to that effect shows some extremely unflattering things about your ‘methodology’. Essentially, it makes you look like a parroting tool.

        As far as unintelligent information production, I’m referring mostly to communication between animals. I have heard some reference to things like the sound of falling trees or gathering thunderclouds on the horizon as information generated without intelligence as well. It’s actually secondary to the point that evolution is regarded by science as a source of complex information. Also, the ″scientist″ you quote saying information is always a product of mind, Werner Gitt, is a young-earth creationist. I hate to judge people on their beliefs, but to get to the conclusion that the Earth is 6000 years old you need to ignore an awful lot of science.


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          Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

          I will research the Wald quote about spontaneous generation, but it is not very important to the essay at all.

          “Wald explains it himself in the article. Hint: it’s not a deity, and the article offers no support of Intelligent Design. Pretty much the opposite, really. Once again, you’ve taken a quote to mean something the author never intended.”

          Please tell us then what the author did intend. Why don’t you just SPIT IT OUT?! Could it be because you don’t know? A statement such as, “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality—the stuff of which physical reality is composed is mind-stuff” is a categorical statement. There is no wiggle room for misinterpretation of such categorical statements. You give us a “hint” that this mind is “not a deity.” Then what is this mind, Andrew? WHAT IS IT ANDREW?! We are all very curious. It is completely obvious to everyone viewing this that if you knew, you would spit it out….but you don’t.

          “The article in the link has a numbered list which highlights the points therein. Feel free to use that as bullet points. Since you’ve read the article, I’d be interested to hear of some alternative to science which tells us more about the conditions under which life may have arisen with accompanying experimental data.”

          I read the article and I am interested to know which parts you feel cite observationally or experimentally verified science rather than theoretical abstraction. Alternative to science? Why would we need an alternative to science? Science speaks about theories regarding the the mechanisms behind life, but it is silent about where these mechanisms came from. Such a question would be ontological or meta-scientific in nature rather than scientific. So what I am asking of you is to tell us where you think the mechanisms that brought life into being came from. In other words, if we live in a universe where matter comes first and mind is an eventual outgrowth, where did the mechanisms come from that brought about something as dizzyingly complex as the phenomenon of life? The standard atheist view seems to be that these mechanisms “just are” or that you “don’t know.” Would you like to take one of these stances, or present us with something new?

          “The premise of your question is that matter must be acted upon by an outside force or it will not behave like matter. What evidence do you have of that? The laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics describe the way that matter and various related forces behave. Not how matter should behave if it knows what’s good for it; how it DOES behave. It looks like what you’re doing here is taking elements of science and religion, mashing them together, and trying to generate some sort of logical statement from it. This question is no more valid than, ″What color is a square root?″ I’m not here to discuss religion or any other form of pure speculation.”

          No, the premise of my question is not that matter must be acted upon by an outside force or it will not behave like matter. My premise is that matter very consistently follows such laws as the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. And my question for you is, Why is this so? Why is it that matter so consistently follows such laws if matter comes first and mind is an eventual emergent property? Would you like to adopt the standard atheist response that it is “just so,” or that you “don’t know,” or would you like to present us with a novel theory? There is nothing religious here. I am trying to elicit your ontological stance on this issue.

          I ask you why you don’t just tell us the mechanism that drives punctuated equilibrium and you respond: “Because it doesn’t relate to this article, I’m not your research assistant, and you need to do your own research. It takes minutes. Be a man. The only ‘help’ you’re getting from me on the subject is the information that your insistence that you think there’s no proposed mechanism for the phenomenon shows very clearly that you’ve never actually researched it, and the fact that you’ve never researched the concept but you don’t feel it’s consistent with the theory of evolution AND you’re willing to write an article to that effect shows some extremely unflattering things about your ‘methodology’. Essentially, it makes you look like a parroting tool.”

          Andrew, put yourself in the shoes of a third party viewing this debate. I ask you to tell us what you think is the mechanism that drives punctuated equilibrium because I think that you don’t know of any such mechanism. You respond by telling me that I should do my own research. Do you think that you have convinced any third party viewers that you know of such a mechanism? Or do you think that you have convinced third party viewers that you are desperately trying to evade the question because you don’t know? Do you really think you are fooling anybody? If you knew of the mechanism that drives punctuated equilibrium, you would not hesitate to tell us.

          “As far as unintelligent information production, I’m referring mostly to communication between animals. I have heard some reference to things like the sound of falling trees or gathering thunderclouds on the horizon as information generated without intelligence as well. It’s actually secondary to the point that evolution is regarded by science as a source of complex information. Also, the ″scientist″ you quote saying information is always a product of mind, Werner Gitt, is a young-earth creationist. I hate to judge people on their beliefs, but to get to the conclusion that the Earth is 6000 years old you need to ignore an awful lot of science.”

          Well I am not referring to the communication between animals. I would like to know where you think the information content in DNA comes from considering that information science declares that information is necessarily a product of mental activity. What information does the sound of falling trees contain? Can you cite an information scientist to back up such views? Werner Gitt was both a professor and a director at the German Federal Institute of Physics.

          I don’t know what his views are on the young-earth creationism, but I do know for certain that attacking the person making an argument rather than the argument itself is what a person does when he realizes that his counter-argument has fallen apart. Further, the essay cites several other information scientists besides Werner Gitt. Would you like to declare them to be young-earth creationists also so that you can divert attention from the fact that you are not capable of countering their arguments? Can you provide a citation from Werner Gitt which suggests that he is a young-earth creationist?


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            Scott,

            I’d say the first Wald quote is important in terms of showing a lack of research when preparing the article, much the same as the other Wald and the one from Crick.

            ″Please tell us then what the author did intend. Why don’t you just SPIT IT OUT?!″

            Why don’t you just READ THE ARTICLE!? In all honesty the article is extremely good, and there’s no way I could sum up the article and still do it justice. In even more honesty I find it far too amusing that you quoted from an article you didn’t even read as an authoritative source. Did you embarrass yourself? Am I just yanking your chain? You may never know!

            ″I read the article and I am interested to know which parts you feel cite observationally or experimentally verified science rather than theoretical abstraction.″

            As near as I can tell this is all experimental data modeled and extrapolated to give us an idea what the conditions on early Earth were, followed by more experimental data about how the building blocks of life would form in those environments. A few of those citations are articles talking about research rather than the actual research, but by my count they’re the exception. I have to ask, even if this were all pure theoretical abstraction, how does that invalidate it? Theoretical abstraction is still based on hard data, even if at a distance from the subject, and much like evolution, there’s no other scientifically viable competing explanation.

            ″So what I am asking of you is to tell us where you think the mechanisms that brought life into being came from.″

            Nobody knows for sure.

            ″No, the premise of my question is not that matter must be acted upon by an outside force or it will not behave like matter. My premise is that matter very consistently follows such laws as the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. And my question for you is, Why is this so?″

            Because it is matter.

            ″Why is it that matter so consistently follows such laws if matter comes first and mind is an eventual emergent property?″

            Because physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics are a language ″mind″ uses to describe the way matter behaves. This is my third time saying this, and I’m running out of novel ways to phrase it. It’s the same reason hands just happen to be the same shape as gloves.

            ″Do you think that you have convinced any third party viewers that you know of such a mechanism?″

            Do you honestly think I care? It doesn’t even relate to this article. You like casting aspersions on atheists, how about this: I don’t need to share with the people reading this because the atheists will look it up on their own, and the religious readers have already decided it’s not true.

            ″Well I am not referring to the communication between animals.″

            Well, if it doesn’t endorse your argument, feel free to ignore the concept then. Stick to your strengths.

            ″What information does the sound of falling trees contain?″

            The information that the observer should move out of the way, or at least that’s how I think the argument goes.

            ″I would like to know where you think the information content in DNA comes from considering that information science declares that information is necessarily a product of mental activity.″

            Genetic information comes from gene duplication, primarily, but there are a number of other types of transcription errors that generate new information or alter existing information.

            http://www.pnas.org/content/102/25/8791.full

            ″Further, the essay cites several other information scientists besides Werner Gitt. Would you like to declare them to be young-earth creationists also so that you can divert attention from the fact that you are not capable of countering their arguments?″

            Gitt is the only information scientist you quoted who actually said information cannot be produced without intelligence. Did you even read your own quotations? Also, with regards to Gitt I didn’t cast baseless aspersions on his character, I directly questioned his reliability as a scientist. Like I said, young-earth creationists need to ignore a lot of science to float the belief that the Earth is a few thousand years old, and it’s not like there’s a scientific theory of relative terrestrial novelty to serve as an alternative. What kind of scientist ignores science? A bad one. On top of that, in Gitt’s writings he combines religion and science as though there is no difference between the two, except perhaps that religion takes preference. What kind of scientist doesn’t know that religion and science should be kept separate? A bad one. From what I have read about Gitt’s scientific work, it’s pretty sloppy. I admit I haven’t read any of his actual scientific work, though, so I can’t comment on it’s quality from direct personal experience. He’s going to have to wait until I’ve finished with Kuppers. As a side note, I figure you’re still up by about two character assassinations, so I have a lot of work to do to catch up.

            ″Can you provide a citation from Werner Gitt which suggests that he is a young-earth creationist?″

            http://creation.com/10-dangers-of-theistic-evolution

            With regards to the application of information science to biology:
            Could you provide some sort of scientific paper, preferably peer reviewed, which shows that intelligence is the only source of information?

            In addition to that, I’d like you to explain the following: Information is found in forms generated by humans and in biological organisms. We know that human intelligence was a source for information in one of those. The source of information in the other is, for our purposes, unknown. How do we follow a logical path from those facts to a declaration that all sources of information are intelligence?

            My apologies to any religious readers who aren’t obtuse for my earlier generalization, by the way. I am aware that thick-headedness is the extremely vocal exception among religious people, not the rule.


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              Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

              Regarding the first Wald quote: There are several references to it on the internet. We will have to dig up the actual Scientific American article from 1954 to get a final answer. Even if the quote is wrong, it is not at all important to the essay.

              Regarding the other Wald quote (about mind coming first) and the Crick quote: You have suggested that I took these quotes out of context. I then asked you to re-insert them into what you feel is the correct context. You have not done this (nor will you ever, because you can’t). Yes that is a challenge. The fact that you have not even attempted to re-insert these quotes into what you feel is the correct context makes it thoroughly transparent to all readers that you are evading the question because you know that you CAN’T re-insert them into a different context. It is usually impossible to re-insert a categorical statement into a different context.

              Regarding the Wald article where he says “mind, rather than emerging as a late outgrowth in the evolution of life, has existed always as the matrix, the source and condition of physical reality,” I did read it. You suggest that the quote that I provide is taken out of context and that the author meant something else. THEN WHAT WAS IT THAT HE MEANT?! The reason I ask you to SPIT IT OUT is because I am confident that YOU CAN’T PRODUCE AN ALTERNATE EXPLANATION for what he meant. What you are very obviously doing is using the “taken out of context” diversionary tactic to try to sweep something under the rug which is inconvenient to your ideology.

              Seriously, put yourself in the position of a third party viewer of this discussion. You suggest that the quote was taken out of context, then I ask you to tell us what the correct context is. Instead of telling us what the correct context is, you very transparently evade the question by telling me to read the article and figure it out for myself. If you have some idea as to what this other context is, you would no doubt proceed to tell us….but you don’t. Who do you think you are fooling?

              You write, “As near as I can tell this is all experimental data modeled and extrapolated to give us an idea what the conditions on early Earth were, followed by more experimental data about how the building blocks of life would form in those environments. A few of those citations are articles talking about research rather than the actual research, but by my count they’re the exception. I have to ask, even if this were all pure theoretical abstraction, how does that invalidate it? Theoretical abstraction is still based on hard data, even if at a distance from the subject, and much like evolution, there’s no other scientifically viable competing explanation.”

              Look Andrew, I cite numerous scientists who say that nobody knows anything about how life emerged. This includes Richard Dawkins, as he admits in the video in this essay. You suggest that science does know something about how life emerged that is based on observationally and/or experimentally verified science. Don’t you think it would be nice if you could give us some bullet points rather than a link to an article…so as to demonstrate that you have SOME clue as to what the article you are linking us to is saying? If you do have SOME clue as to how the article you link us to provides scientific verification for theories regarding the origin of life, you would no doubt not hesitate to give us some bullet points. But you WON’T because you CAN’T because you DON’T have a clue as to how the article that you link to provides such scientific verification.

              Next, I ask you tell us where you think the mechanisms that brought life into being came from. Your response is “nobody knows for sure.” If you want to convince people that atheism is a better explanation than theism, don’t you think it would help to produce an argument that has more explanatory power than “nobody knows”?

              Next, I say “matter very consistently follows such laws as the laws of physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics. And my question for you is, Why is this so?″
              You respond, “Because it is matter.” ATTENTION READERS! TAKE NOTE! This is a textbook example of the just-so storytelling that is so very characteristic of the atheist belief system.

              I ask, ″Why is it that matter so consistently follows such laws if matter comes first and mind is an eventual emergent property?″

              You respond, “Because physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics are a language ″mind″ uses to describe the way matter behaves. This is my third time saying this, and I’m running out of novel ways to phrase it. It’s the same reason hands just happen to be the same shape as gloves.”

              Andrew, you have evaded the question. OK fine…”physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics are a language ‘mind’ uses to describe the way matter behaves”, as you say. But my question was, WHY do they behave in such a consistent way if matter comes first and mind is an eventual emergent property of mindless matter? If mind is not the guiding force that causes matter to behave in such a consistent manner, then what is this guiding force? What it it Andrew, WHAT IS IT? Can you provide us with some answer that provides some sort of explanatory power…something with more explanatory power than “it just does”?

              I ask, ″Do you think that you have convinced any third party viewers that you know of such a mechanism?″

              You reply, “Do you honestly think I care? It doesn’t even relate to this article. You like casting aspersions on atheists, how about this: I don’t need to share with the people reading this because the atheists will look it up on their own, and the religious readers have already decided it’s not true.”

              No it doesn’t relate to this article…but you brought it up in reference to this article, and you insisted that punctuated equilibrium does have a mechanism. I ask you to tell us what it is and you evade. If punctuated equilibrium has a mechanism, please provide to tell us. Guess what…you won’t because you can’t. Period.

              I ask, ″I would like to know where you think the information content in DNA comes from considering that information science declares that information is necessarily a product of mental activity.″

              You respond, “Genetic information comes from gene duplication, primarily, but there are a number of other types of transcription errors that generate new information or alter existing information.”

              OK fine, I will go along with this assertion. But my question for you is, How did the genetic information in the first living organism come to be? (Recall that we are discussing the origin of life, not the duplication of life once it already exists). This has been the question that you don’t seem to want to answer.

              You write, “Gitt is the only information scientist you quoted who actually said information cannot be produced without intelligence. Did you even read your own quotations? Also, with regards to Gitt I didn’t cast baseless aspersions on his character, I directly questioned his reliability as a scientist. Like I said, young-earth creationists need to ignore a lot of science to float the belief that the Earth is a few thousand years old, and it’s not like there’s a scientific theory of relative terrestrial novelty to serve as an alternative. What kind of scientist ignores science? A bad one. On top of that, in Gitt’s writings he combines religion and science as though there is no difference between the two, except perhaps that religion takes preference. What kind of scientist doesn’t know that religion and science should be kept separate? A bad one. From what I have read about Gitt’s scientific work, it’s pretty sloppy. I admit I haven’t read any of his actual scientific work, though, so I can’t comment on it’s quality from direct personal experience. He’s going to have to wait until I’ve finished with Kuppers. As a side note, I figure you’re still up by about two character assassinations, so I have a lot of work to do to catch up.”

              A little review is in order, Andrew. A copy and paste from the article.

              “Werner Strombach, a German information scientist of Dortmund, emphasizes the nonmaterial nature of information by defining it as an ‘enfolding of order at the level of contemplative cognition.’”

              “Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated: ‘When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.’”

              Are Strombach and Flechtner young earth creationists?

              And I will repeat: Attacking the person making an argument instead of the argument itself is what you do when you know that you can’t respond to the argument. Even if he is a young earth creationist, this would be a reference to his religious views, not his scientific views. The fact remains that he was both a professor and a director at the German Federal Institute of Physics. What you are doing here is creating a diversionary tactic by referencing a different argument that he makes rather than the argument that he makes that you cannot respond to.

              I don’t attempt to ignore the arguments that Richard Dawkins makes simply because he endorses the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship hypothesis. Seriously, if I said that everything else Richard Dawkins says can be ignored because he endorses this hypothesis, how many people would I convince?

              Please provide for us a citation from an information scientist who says that information can be produced by non-mental processes. Guess what…you won’t because you can’t. Once again, some review:

              “…According to a frequently quoted statement by the American mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) information can.not be a physical entity: ‘Information is information, neither matter nor energy. Any materialism which disregards this will not survive one day.’”

              Also, another copy and paste from the article:

              Dr. Hubert Yockey, as I mention above, is the leading author of the text on the application of algorithmic information theory to the origin of life, and is certainly no friend of theism. He is a physicist (who worked on the Manhattan Project) and an information theorist who states in Information Theory, Evolution and the Origin of Life that “the origin of life is unsolvable as a scientific problem.” Note that Yockey does not say “as yet unsolved.” Rather, “unsolvable.”

              Material processes cannot even in principle explain the origin of information because information is a separate ontological category from matter and energy. Matter and energy are useful in the transmission and storage of information, but they cannot originate or produce information.

              You ask, “With regards to the application of information science to biology:
              Could you provide some sort of scientific paper, preferably peer reviewed, which shows that intelligence is the only source of information?”

              Because I am not an information scientist, I do not read peer reviewed papers regarding information science. Do you? Can you provide even a citation from an information scientist, let alone a peer reviewed paper, showing that information can emerge from processes that are other than mental? Guess what, you can’t.

              You write, “In addition to that, I’d like you to explain the following: Information is found in forms generated by humans and in biological organisms. We know that human intelligence was a source for information in one of those. The source of information in the other is, for our purposes, unknown. How do we follow a logical path from those facts to a declaration that all sources of information are intelligence?”

              More review by copying and pasting: “Hans-Joachim Flechtner, a German cyberneticist, referred to the fact that information is of a mental nature, both because of its contents and because of the encoding process. This aspect is, however, frequently underrated: ‘When a message is composed, it involves the coding of its mental content, but the message itself is not concerned about whether the contents are important or unimportant, valuable, useful, or meaningless. Only the recipient can evaluate the message after decoding it.’”

              Is there anything that you need me to explain here, or do you get it?


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    GerryD says:

    Scott,
    “Why life could not have emerged without God.” is the same as asking how could the universe be be rationally intelligible, fined tuned, law abiding & life permitting without a Designer of immerse power & omniesence.
    The proposition put forward by Ken Miller is that nature exudes intelligence. It is not a cosmic accident or a product of blind forces, ancient chemicals & chance.
    “Life is material & a mechanistic capacity is built-in to the physics & chemistry of matter. Evolution is NOT a mistake but an inherent & predictable property of nature driven by the highly complex, immaterial laws & physical constants of the universe. The emergence of living world is made possible if not inevitable, by the very fabric of nature itself. As such it can easily be understood as part of God’s providential plan. (from a YT vid’ by Ken Miller who cites J.Haught, F.Ayala, F.Collins (some of the most well-respected evolutionary biologists in the world today).


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    Your George Wald quote is something that Wald never actually said. You should probably check your sources in the future.

    In this article you assert that science has no clue how life may have started. This is false. There is not enough data to form a scientific theory of abiogenesis, but that is a far cry from “Absolutely nothing! Zero, zip, zilch!” Which leads me to Crick.

    Your Francis Crick quote is taken out of context. What he actually said was, “An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to have been satisfied to get it going. But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions. The plain fact is that the time available was too long, the many microenvironments on the earth’s surface too diverse, the various chemical possibilities too numerous and our own knowledge and imagination too feeble to allow us to be able to unravel exactly how it might or might not have happened such a long time ago, especially as we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.” Which is pretty much the opposite of the meaning of your partial quote.

    That’s all I have time for at the moment. I’d suggest doing your own fact checking in the future. For instance, from your comment it appears that you’re not familiar with the concept of imaginary numbers in mathematics, and you may have never read about punctuated equilibrium.


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      Scott Youngren ( User Karma: 33 ) says:

      George Wald made that statement while giving a speech at the Quantum Biology Symposium in 1984. You should check your facts. Here is the citation:

      George Wald, 1984, “Life and Mind in the Universe”, International Journal of Quantum Chemistry: Quantum Biology Symposium 11, 1984: 1-15.

      Nice try.

      You assert that my statement about science knowing nothing about the origin of life is false. So then all of these scientists that I cite are wrong, and you are right? Do I have that right? Why don’t you go ahead and tell us exactly what science does know about the origin of life. That would be a good start. Guess what, it is all a bunch of theoretical abstraction that results in such ridiculous hypotheses as the aliens-brought-life-to-earth-in-their-spaceship (“directed panspermia”) and life-came-to-earth-from-space-without-alien-intervention (just “panspermia” without the “directed”).

      Regarding Crick: Thanks for the extra text…it just further reinforces my point. In the additional Crick text that you provide, he very clearly says, “we have no experimental evidence from that era to check our ideas against.” This is exactly the point I am trying to make: All that science has regarding the origin of life amounts to nothing more than theoretical abstraction (a.k.a “ideas,” to use Crick’s words). There is no experimental evidence whatsoever with which to verify these cute ideas that spring forth from the mateialist/naturalist worldview.

      And herein lies a key point for readers to grasp: There is a huge difference between experimentally or observationally verified science and theoretical abstraction. The latter is just ideas without any verification.

      A second point that readers should take away from this discussion: When Crick says, “But this should not be taken to imply that there are good reasons to believe that it could not have started on the earth by a perfectly reasonable sequence of fairly ordinary chemical reactions,” what should we take from this? If life started on earth by such a sequence of “ordinary chemical reactions,” does this support atheism or theism? The question of what caused such a set of putative chemical reactions would be a meta-scienitific or ontological question….not a scientific one. So in order to reach the conclusion that God is not required for the origin of life (because a set of ordinary chemical reactions is responsible), one must start from the meta-scientific assumption that mindless forces are the only cause of these reactions.

      So one question that the atheist must answer is, “How is it inanimate matter can be compelled to follow a law, such as the laws of chemistry, if the universe has mindless origins?”

      Please read my post titled Why Evolution Cannot Be Used To Rationalize Atheism in the “short takes” section for further exploration of this topic.

      Please also tell us how the concepts of “imaginary numbers” or “punctuated equilibruim” shed light on this topic. I am familiar with both concepts but I am mystified as to how either of these concepts relates to the origin of life. You seem to have missed one of the main points of the essay…the question of the origin of life is basically the question of the origin of information (the codified information in the DNA of the organism). Since information is always the product of a conscious and intelligent mind, mindless material processes cannot even in principle explain the origin of life.


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    GerryD says:

    Just a further thought or two, Scott. Having debated atheists on YT and other sites like CARM for several years, I have reached the conclusion that no amount of scholarly citations will convince a closeminded atheist to even admit to the possibility of a Creator. Typical respones are “that’s just an argument from authority”, “most sceintists are atheists”, “science has buried God”, “we have nothing to prove”, “religion is based on ignorance, science is based on logic & reason”, “God is no more real than fairies, unicorns or Santa”, “the universe just is”, “if God is eternal why cant the universe be” “just because we dont know now, u cant say therefore God did it,” “if universe wasn’t ‘absurdly fine-tuned’ then we wouldn’t be here to observe it.” and not least of all is “show me the evidence!!” as if they know there is none.
    I think we need to take a different tact and analysis just why so many feel the incessent need to prove (to themselves) that their caricature of god, cant possibly exist. Long before I made science my life, the concept of a loving God was never in question. Atheists try to claim that “everyone is born an atheist” but studies like “Hardwired to connect” of Japanese children and those of drug addicts & non-religious parents show that Children still choose to seek religion & ultimate meaning. Children reach beyond their primary instructors, their parents, and search for transcendent meaning on their own. “It is not merely the result of social conditioning, but is instead an intrinsic aspect of the human experience.”
    Recent studies of the lives of famous atheists have shown that many had estranged, absent or defective biological fathers. Perhaps Freud was right when he observed “Nothing is more familiar than to find a young person who stops believing in God as soon as he loses respect for his earthly father.” Its hard to believe in God if your father has lost your respect. A father can be defective if he abandons his family, is abusive, critical or hostile & lastly if he dies. Freud believed that our father is a psychological model for who God is & suggests that many have an unconscious desire to kill God as an extended father figure. Given that 43% of youth don’t live with their biological father, this might explain why there are so many bitter, angry & spiteful sceptics that litter religious blogs.
    Let me suggest that man cannot life without God. Most people in most cultures in most times have sought meaning & transcendence beyond the material that is why Bertrand Russell reduces our hopes, fears, loves and beliefs — all our mental experiences, in fact — to accidental atomic interactions. The logical result is ‘unyielding despair’.
    In conclusion let me observe that the real reason why atheist need to defend their wordlview is the absurdity of a world without God. Our paradoxical world is filled with deep joys and sadness. But nothing in this life gives us the joy we ultimately seek because nothing in our material world finally satisfies us. Surprisingly, it is the best times in life that awaken in us, this aching need of longing & searching but this beauty is but an anticipation of the truly beautiful. No matter how much we know, we want to know more, no matter how much we love, we want greater love. Man cannot live without God for it is only in the God who is love, that the deepest longings of the human heart are realised.
    God bless & keep up the Good News
    ________________________________________________________
    “Those who know not love, Know not God, for God is love”


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    GerryD says:

    There is a YT video of Penrose saying that he has dissociated himself from Hawkings latest book. I forget the title but I’ll try to find it.
    As for the role of retroviruses in evolution See
    “Evolutionary Surprise: Eight Percent of Human Genetic Material Comes from a Virus and not from our ancestors, according to researchers in Japan and the U.S.”
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107103621.htm and
    http://www.plosbiology.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pbio.1000301

    WHat was once thought to be junk DNA has been shown not to be “junk”

    Unexpected Viral ‘Fossils’ Found in Vertebrate Genomes (July 30, 2010) — Over millions of years, retroviruses, which insert their genetic material into the host genome as part of their replication, have left behind bits of their genetic material in vertebrate genomes.
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100107103621.htm

    I guess such discoveries & hypotheses would explain sudden changes in the fossil record


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    GerryD says:

    Scott,
    Speaking of the “intellectually fulfilled atheist,” Evolutionary theory is a bit like the “who created God” jibes so typical of the uneducated atheist. They think these gems are such knockdown arguments and “god-killers”. John Lennox makes the observation about evolution that it is no more than a proposed mechanism to explain the wonderful biodiversity of life. But all mechanisms and effects need a causual agent. This is how science is undertaken. We observe, we test, we falsify and make predictions.
    Evolution however is no more a god-killer than gravity/general relativity was for Newton or Einstein. Gravity predicts & explains planetary motion. If theism is true then surely God would have created our material world & put in place physical laws & processes that define that physical world. But laws dont create anything, nor e.g. do they cause a ball to move without a cause.
    Science explains how mechanisms/events happen but why abstract laws exist & where they came from are questions totally beyond science & that no advance in science will ever answer. As for Hawking’s “because of laws like gravity, the universe can & will create itself from nothing” he should have listened to Einstein who conceded “scientists make poor philosophers”. Hawking should have known better when he shot himself in the foot by making a metaphysical statement like “science has replaced philosophy in the quest for knowledge.”
    BTW, there are at least 3 mechanisms to explain evolution: random mutation, punctuated equilibrium & viral invasion. Which ever is proved correct, the atheist still must explain how the absurdly complex, immutable * immaterial laws of physics & chemistry even exist when (for them) mindless matter & energy is the only game in town.


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      syoungren ( User Karma: 43 ) says:

      Gerry:

      Speaking of Hawking, I am in the beginning stages of writing an essay about him. In his book The Grand Design he tries to show that there is no need for God in the creation of the universe. But, as with many atheistic attempts to do away with God, the absurdity comes to light with just a little digging. Hawking relies on what he refers to as “imaginary numbers” in his equations in order to do away with the bothersome problem of a cosmic beginning. A cosmic beginning is bothersome to atheists because everything with a beginning requires a cause (the law of causation). He admits in a subsequent book that he coauthored with another physicist that if REAL numbers are inserted into his equations, the whole cosmic beginning problem comes back.

      So, in a nutshell, Hawking has used “imaginary numbers” (his own words) to concoct an imaginary God-free universe.

      Regarding punctuated equilibrium, I don’t believe that this theory (proposed by Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge) even has a proposed mechanism. Rather, “punctuated equilibrium” is a description of how evolution purportedly goes through long periods of stasis alternating with periods of rapid change. What the mechanism is that drives this rapid change, to my knowledge, has not been proposed. Whatever the mechanism is, it can’t be the classical Darwinian mechanism of random mutation and natural selection.

      As far as viral invasion, I am not too familiar.

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