[Home] [Site map] [Updates] [Projects] [Contents; 1. Introduction; 2. Philosophy (1), (2), (3), (4) & (5); 3. Religion (1) & (2); 4. History (1), (2) & (3); 5. Science; 6. Environment (1), (2) & (3); 7. Origin of life (2) & (3); 8. Cell & Molecular (1), (2) & (3); 9. Mechanisms (1), (2) & (3); 10. Fossil Record; 11. `Fact' of Evolution; 12. Plants; 13. Animals; 14. Man (1) & (2); 15. Social; 16. Conclusion; Notes; Bibliography A-C, D-F, G-I, J-M, N-S, T-Z] [Book "Problems of Evolution"]
"PROBLEMS OF EVOLUTION": 7. ORIGIN OF LIFE (1) 1. Evolutionists have no explanation for the origin of life 2. Problems of Miller-Urey experiments 1. Gases used not the same as the early Earth's atmosphere 1. Carbon dioxide (CO2) 3. The problem of the naturalistic origin of life 4. Problems for all naturalistic origin of life theories 1. Origin of the components 1. Amino acids 2. Nucleotides 2. Purity of components 3. Second law of thermodynamics 4. Interfering cross-reactions 5. Slowness of reactions without enzymes 6. All occurring together in the same place 7. How the relationship between nucleic acids (RNA/DNA) originated 8. Even simplest self-replication system would have to be highly complex 9. Self-replication would have to be accurate 10. Information 1. Alchemy 5. Problems of origin of life approaches 6. Problems of origin of life locations 7. Life still cannot be synthesised in a laboratory 8. No evidence of extraterrestrial life 9. The more known about life, the harder it is to imagine how it arose
"PROBLEMS OF EVOLUTION": 7. ORIGIN OF LIFE 1. Evolutionists have no explanation for the origin of life Naturalistic evolution it its broadest sense seeks to explain the origin of everything from the Big Bang to the present without allowing any role to a Creator, therefore evolutionists must provide a naturalistic explanation of the origin of life (Johnson, 1993b, p.103). Some evolutionists like Gould have claimed that evolution does not include the origin of life within its domain (Gould, 1991, p.455; Johnson, 1993b, pp.102-103). However, the concept of evolution has been applied not only to the living world but to the non-living world as well (Dobzhansky, et al., 1977, p.9). The field that covers the origin of life is variously called "chemical evolution" (Crick, 1981, p.80; Bernal, 1967, p.3; Folsome, 1979, p.55), "biochemical evolution" (Orgel, 1973, p.87), and "prebiotic evolution" (Kuppers, 1990, p.136). Biology textbooks set the origin of life within an evolutionary context and use the word "evolution" and its cognates to describe the process (Campbell, Reece & Mitchell, 1999, p.490ff; Raven & Johnson, 1995, p.61ff; Solomon, et al., 1993, p.446ff). Maynard Smith & Szathmary include the origin of life as the first of the "major transitions in evolution" (Maynard Smith & Szathmary, 1995, p.15. For naturalistic evolution to be generally true, the origin of life must necessarily be the origin of evolution (Cairns-Smith, 1985, p.3; Radetsky, 1998). One of the big questions that people think of when they hear the word "evolution" and a general theory of biological evolution should include the origin of life within its domain as a major problem that to date has resisted solution (Depew & Weber, 1995, p.393)."THE ORIGIN of life was necessarily the beginning of organic evolution and it is among the greatest of all evolutionary problems. Yet its discussion here will be brief, almost parenthetical. Our concern here is with the record of evolution, and there is no known record bearing closely on the origin of life. The first living things were almost certainly microscopic in size and not apt for any of the usual processes of fossilization. It is unlikely that any preserved trace of them will ever be found, or recognized. Indeed it is improbable that the discovery of such remains, if any do exist, would greatly advance knowledge of how life originated. At this lowest level little could be learned from the preserved form: the problem is physiological, not morphological, and it seems that form must develop above the molecular level before it can serve as a particularly useful clue to function. " (Simpson G.G., "The Meaning of Evolution: A Study of the History of Life and of its Significance for Man," , Yale University Press: New Haven CT, 1960, reprint, p.14) [top]2. Problems of Miller-Urey experiments 1. Gases used not the same as the early Earth's atmosphere 1. Carbon dioxide (CO2)"It used to be widely thought, and widely taught, that the original `primitive' atmosphere of the early Earth was a `reducing' atmosphere, that is with no oxygen but rich in hydrocarbons such as methane and ammonia, which can combine with oxygen. This would be similar to the atmospheres of the giant planets, such as Jupiter and Saturn today. The reasoning behind this assumption developed primarily from the belief that such an atmosphere would be ideal, and might be essential, for the development of the complex but non-living molecules that preceded life This idea, and by implication the idea that the Earth's first atmosphere was a reducing one, received a great boost in 1953, when Harold Urey and Stanley L. Miller at the University of Chicago carried out a simple experiment. They set up a closed system in which water vapour ammonia, carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen circulated past an electric discharge. Chemical reactions stimulated by the input of energy produced a brown sludge at the bottom of the reaction vessel. The sludge contained amino acids: complex molecules regarded by many scientists as the building blocks of life, which are used in the construction of the body's proteins, for example. Similar results-can be obtained using ultraviolet light as the energy source, and ultraviolet (from the Sun) and electric discharges (lightning) must both have been around to energise chemical reactions in the terrestrial `primal soup'. This picture captured the popular imagination, and the story of life emerging in the seas or pools of a planet swathed in, an atmosphere of methane and ammonia soon became part of the scientific folklore that `every schoolchild knows'. ... But now, this particular card house seems to have been demolished, and a new scientific edifice is arising in its place. In order to convince people that the Earth started out with a reduced, not a reducing, atmosphere-that is one with oxygen already locked up in gases such as carbon dioxide, and which cannot take up more oxygen-astronomers, geophysicists and, more recently, climatologists have had to explain how life could arise on a wet planet with a carbon-dioxide atmosphere laced with traces of ammonia. By such devious routes is scientific progress made." (Gribbin, 1982)."The presence of a strongly reducing atmosphere is a central assumption of the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis, and underlies the design of Stanley Miller's experiment. Of course, we have no way to sample the air of 4 billion years ago, and inferences concerning its composition must be indirect. Urey based his argument on the cosmic abundance of hydrogen and the probable composition of the solar nebula. As we discussed in a previous chapter, the current geological consensus supports the idea that the atmosphere came from the interior of the earth rather than the nebula. Thoughts concerning its composition vary, but the most frequently heard guess supports the presence of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and a bit of hydrogen, but no methane, ammonia, or oxygen. This atmosphere is neutral for the most part, with a slight reducing power. Geologists now realize that a methane and ammonia atmosphere would have been destroyed within a few thousand years by chemical reactions caused by sunlight.. Stanley Miller and others have attempted to prepare amino acids under the new conditions. The ratio of hydrogen (H2) to carbon dioxide (CO2) is a crucial variable. When this falls below 1, as the above example specifies, only glycine is produced, in trace amounts, but no other amino acid. Miller has been quite frank in his statements: "There are difficulties in maintaining H2/CO2 ratios greater than 1.0 [for the early earth] because of the escape of H2 from the atmosphere. Adequate sources of H2 maintain this ratio are possible but difficult to justify." Elsewhere he notes: "If it is assumed that amino acids more complex than glycine were required for the origin of life, then these results indicate a need for CH4 [methane] in the atmosphere." It is the Oparin-Haldane hypothesis, actually, that requires methane in the atmosphere. If this gas or other reducing substances were absent, it would mean that some other course of events, not described by the theory, led to the origin of life." (Shapiro, 1986, pp.111-112)."It seems, moreover, that the atmosphere's composition during this period may not have favored the synthesis of organic compounds as much as had been thought. The traditional view was elucidated in the early 1950s by Harold C. Urey, a Nobel laureate in chemistry at the University of Chicago. He proposed that the atmosphere was reducing: rich in hydrogen based gases such as methane and ammonia, which are abundant on Saturn, Jupiter and Uranus. It was Urey's work that inspired Miller, a student of Urey's, to conduct his 1953 experiment. Yet over the past decade or so, doubts have grown about Urey and Miller's assumptions regarding the atmosphere. Laboratory experiments and computerized reconstructions of the atmosphere by James C.G. Walker of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and others suggest that ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which today is blocked by atmospheric ozone, would have destroyed hydrogen-based molecules in the atmosphere. Free hydrogen would have escaped into space. The major component of the atmosphere, these findings suggest, was carbon dioxide and nitrogen spewed out by volcanoes. Such an atmosphere would not have been conducive to the synthesis of amino acids and other precursors of life." (Horgan, 1991, p.105)."In 1953, a twenty-three-year-old University of Chicago graduate student named Stanley Miller discovered the origin of life. Or so it seemed. Using an apparatus specially built for the purpose, Miller set out to simulate Earth four billion years ago. His contraption was made of two glass flasks joined by tubing. Into the smaller of the two flasks it poured water to represent the primeval ocean. The larger flask he pumped full of hydrogen, methane, and ammonia, volatile gases then thought to be present in the early atmosphere. He boiled the water, letting the vapor circulate with the atmospheric gases, then zapped the mixture with electricity, the equivalent of ancient lightning. Within a week the water grew deep red and yellow with organic compounds, among them amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which in turn make up cells. The "lightning" had reconstituted the mix of molecules in the "atmosphere" and "ocean" to Produce elements of life. Declared Miller's advisor, Nobel Prize-winning chemist Harold Urey, "If God didn't do it this way, He missed a good bet." Well, perhaps it was Miller who missed the bet. Today his scenario is regarded with misgivings. One reason is that geologists now think that the primordial atmosphere consisted mainly of carbon dioxide and nitrogen, gases that are less reactive than those used in the 1953 experiment" (Radetsky, 1998). Miller's intriguing results were widely hailed as the first steps on the road to the creation of life 'in a test tube'. If amino acids were produced in a week, it was reasoned, imagine what might happen if the experiment were continued for much longer. It may simply be a matter of time before something living crawled out of the red-brown broth. The conclusion that many scientists drew was that a few common chemicals plus an energy supply is all that is needed to create life. Alas, the euphoria over the Miller-Urey experiment turned out to be somewhat premature, for a variety of reasons. First, geologists no longer think that the early atmosphere resembled the gas mixture in Miller's flask. The Earth probably had several different atmospheres during the first billion years, but methane and ammonia were unlikely ever to have been present in abundance. And if Earth once had substantial hydrogen in its atmosphere, it wouldn't have lasted long. Being the lightest element, it would soon have escaped into space. Urey picked these gases because they all contain hydrogen. Chemists call such gases `reducing'. Reduction is the opposite of oxidation, and because organics are rich in hydrogen, a reducing atmosphere is essential to produce them. However, the current best guess for the Earth's early atmosphere is that it was neither reducing nor oxidizing: rather, it was a neutral mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen. These gases don't readily yield amino acids. A second reason for casting doubt on the significance of the Miller- Urey experiment is that amino acids are not, in fact, all that hard to make anyway. Many successful variants on the original Chicago set-up have been tried, in which the electric spark has been replaced by a (Davies, 1998, p.57)."In 1953 Harold Urey and Stanley Miller at the University of Chicago showed that amino acids can be made by energetic processes taking place within a mixture of simple gases. They passed electrical discharges through a mixture of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapour, and found small but significant quantities of relatively complex organic molecules in the solution formed when the water vapour cooled and condensed. These included the simplest amino acids, organic adds and urea. The experiment indicated that delicate chemistry is not needed to make such compounds we might expect them to appear in a prebiotic sea struck by lightning under an Atmosphere of methane, hydrogen and ammonia. But the Earth's early atmosphere wasn't like this; in particular, most of the nitrogen was present as elemental nitrogen gas, not ammonia. Similar experiments with a mixture of methane, water, nitrogen and only small amounts of ammonia do, however, also generate ten of the twenty amino acids found in natural proteins. With the addition of hydrogen sulphide, the two natural sulphur- containing amino adds can be formed too. Which is all very well, except that the primitive atmosphere probably wasn't like this either: it is more likely to have been composed mostly of nitrogen and carbon monoxide and/or carbon dioxide. Spark discharge experiments that use carbon monoxide or dioxide as the source of carbon don't do half as well - the mixture that results contains little more than a single character of the protein alphabet, and the simplest one at that." (Ball, 1999, p.209)."According to Fox and Dose, not only did the Miller-Urey experiment start with the wrong gas mixture, but also it did "not satisfactorily represent early geological reality because no provisions [were] made to remove hydrogen from the system." During a Miller-Urey experiment hydrogen gas accumulates, becoming up to 76 percent of the mixture, but on the early Earth it would have escaped into space. Fox and Dose concluded: "The inference that Miller's synthesis does not have a geological relevance has become increasingly widespread." Since 1977 this view has become a near-consensus among geochemists. As Jon Cohen wrote in Science in 1995, many origin-of-life researchers now dismiss the 1953 experiment because "the early atmosphere looked nothing like the Miller-Urey simulation." So what? Maybe a water vapor- carbon dioxide-nitrogen atmosphere would still support a Miller-Urey-type synthesis (as long as oxygen is excluded). But Fox and Dose reported in 1977 that no amino acids are produced by sparking such a mixture, and Heinrich Holland noted in 1984 that the "yields and the variety of organic compounds produced in these experiments decrease considerably" as methane and ammonia are removed from the starting mixtures. According to Holland, mixtures of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water yielded no amino acids at all. In 1983 Miller reported that he and a colleague were able to produce a small amount of the simplest amino acid, glycine, by sparking an atmosphere containing carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide instead of methane, as long as free hydrogen was present. But he conceded that glycine was about the best they could do in the absence of methane. As John Horgan wrote in Scientific American in 1991, an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and water vapor "would not have been conducive to the synthesis of amino acids." The conclusion is clear: if the Miller-Urey experiment is repeated using a realistic simulation of the Earth's primitive atmosphere, it doesn't work." (Wells, 2000, pp.21-22)."In 1953 Stanley Miller, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, took two flasks - one containing a little water to represent a primaeval ocean, the other holding a mixture of methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulphide gases to represent the Earth's early atmosphere - connected them with rubber tubes and introduced some electrical sparks as a stand-in for lightning. After a few days, the water in the flasks had turned green and yellow in a hearty broth of amino acids, fatty acids, sugars and other organic compounds. ... Press reports of the time made it sound as if about all that was needed now was for somebody to give the flasks a good shake and life would crawl out. As time has shown, it wasn't nearly so simple. Despite half a century of further study, we are no nearer to synthesizing life than we were in 1953 - and much further away from thinking we can. Scientists are now pretty certain that the early atmosphere was nothing like as primed for development as Miller and Urey's gaseous stew, but rather was a much less reactive blend of nitrogen and carbon dioxide. Repeating Miller's experiments with these more challenging inputs has so far produced only one fairly primitive amino acid." (Bryson, 2003, p.253)[top] 3. The problem of the naturalistic origin of life Nobel prize-winner, the late Sir Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, and an avowed atheist materialist, admitted that "the origin 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" (Crick, 1981, p.88. My emphasis). ."`In other words,' I said, `if you want to create life, on top of the challenge of somehow generating the cellular components out of non-living chemicals, you would have an even bigger problem in trying to it the ingredients together in the right way.' `Exactly! ... So even if you could accomplish the thousands of steps between the amino acids in the Miller tar-which probably didn't exist in the real world anyway-and the components you need for a living cell-all the enzymes, the DNA, and so forth-you're still immeasurably far from life. ... the problem of assembling the right parts in the right way at the right time and at the right place, while keeping out the wrong material, is simply insurmountable.'" (Wells, 2004, p.39. My emphasis). "Experiments simulating the early stages of the RNA world are too complicated to represent plausible scenarios for the origin of life, Orgel says. `You have to get an awful lot of things right and nothing wrong,' he adds." (Horgan, 1991, p.103. My emphasis). Another atheist materialist, Chemistry Professor and origin of life specialist Robert Shapiro, pointed out that on the early Earth, "Many steps would be required which need different conditions, and therefore different geological locations" and "The total sequence would challenge our credibility, regardless of the time allotted for the process." (Shapiro, 1986, p.186. Emphasis mine). Citing Shapiro, self-organisation theorist Stuart Kauffman asks, "But how, without supervision, did all the building blocks come together at high enough concentrations in one place and at one time to get a metabolism going?" and concludes that there were "Too many scene changes in this theater ... with no stage manager" (Kauffman, 1995, p.36. My emphasis). As Christian philosopher Del Ratzsch notes, "suppose we finally discover that life can arise spontaneously but only under exactly one set of conditions. One must begin with 4003.6 gallons of eight specific, absolutely pure chemicals, exactly proportioned down to the molecule. ... Do that, and life develops spontaneously by natural means. ... But those initial conditions" could reasonably be taken to "involve interjection of deliberate intent and design ..." (Ratzsch, 1998, p.291). Such an event or unique series of events would fall within the category of what Geisler calls a "second class miracle", a "highly unusual and coincidental" event "whose natural process can be described scientifically (and perhaps even reduplicated by humanly controlled natural means) but whose end product in the total picture is best explained by invoking the supernatural." (Geisler, 1976, pp.277, 281-282; Brown, 1984, p.211). Thaxton et al., after an extensive review of the origin of life literature, noted that what success "prebiotic simulation experiments" enjoyed was due to "the crucial but illegitimate role of the investigator" (Thaxton, Bradley & Olsen, 1984, p.185. Emphasis in original). Shapiro agreed with the creationist Lubenow, "that in every origin of life experiment devised by evolutionists, the intelligence of the experimenter is involved in such a way as to prejudice the experiment" (Lubenow, 1983, pp.168-169), adding "The experimenter, by manipulating apparently unimportant variables, can affect the outcome profoundly" giving "a false impression ... concerning the universality of the process" (Shapiro, 1986, p.103). Another creationist Wilder-Smith, pointed out that "all the efforts of the scientific naturalists to prove their point ... only serve, in fact, to verify the correctness of the supernaturalist position," because "the scientific materialists are, in their experiment, applying intelligence and thought to the ordering of matter... hoping to produce living matter from its nonliving base," which in fact "is precisely the supernaturalist point of view" (Wilder-Smith, 1988, p.xx)! [top] 4. Problems for all naturalistic origin of life theories 1. Origin of the components 1. Amino acids Evolutionists often make much of natural processes that produce amino acids (e.g. O'Hanlon, 2004). But amino acids are the easiest components of life to produce. As Dawkins points out, once "naturally-occurring amino acids would have been thought of as diagnostic of the presence of life" and "If they had been detected on, say Mars, life on that planet would have seemed a near certainty" but "Now, however, their existence need imply only the presence of a few simple gases in the atmosphere and some volcanoes, sunlight, or thundery weather" (Dawkins, 1989b, p.14) [top] 2. Nucleotides Nor is it easy to see exactly how the precursors would have arisen (Crick, 1981, p.85). These might be expected to be nucleoside triphosphates in simpler terms, molecules consisting of a base, a sugar (ribose) and three phosphates in a row (Crick, 1981, p.85)."Gerald Joyce and Leslie Orgel-two scientists who have worked long and hard on the origin of life problem- call RNA `the prebiotic chemist's nightmare.' They are brutally frank: `Scientists interested in the origins of life seem to divide neatly into two classes. The first, usually but not always molecular biologists, believe that RNA must have been the first replicating molecule and that chemists are exaggerating the difficulties of nucleotide synthesis.... The second group of scientists are much more pessimistic. They believe that the de novo appearance of oligonucleotides on the primitive earth would have been a near miracle. (The authors subscribe to this latter view). Time will tell which is correct. [Joyce G.F. & Orgel L.E., "Prospects for Understanding the Origin of the RNA World," in "The RNA World," Gesteland R.F. & Atkins J.F., eds. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, Cold Spring Harbor NY, 1993, p.19] Even if the miracle-like coincidence should occur and RNA be produced, however, Joyce and Orgel see nothing but obstacles ahead. In an article section entitled "Another Chicken-and-Egg Paradox" they write the following: `This discussion ... has, in a sense, focused on a straw man: the myth of a self-replicating RNA molecule that arose de novo from a soup of random polynucleotides. Not only is such a notion unrealistic in light of our current understanding of prebiotic chemistry, but it should strain the credulity of even an optimist's view of RNA s catalytic potential.... Without evolution it appears unlikely that a self-replicating ribozyme could arise, but without some form of self-replication there is no way to conduct an evolutionary search for the first, primitive self-replicating ribozyme.' [Joyce & Orgel, 1993, p.13] In other words, the miracle that produced chemically intact RNA would not be enough. Since the vast majority of RNAs do not have useful catalytic properties, a second miraculous coincidence would be needed to get just the right chemically intact RNA." (Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution," Free Press: New York NY, 1996, pp.171-172)"As we saw in the last chapter, modern nucleic acids are chain-like 'polymers' made when 'nucleotides' become linked together, and these nucleotides are themselves composed of linked bases, sugars and phosphates. Getting bases, sugars and phosphate groups to join together into nucleotides, under plausible prebiotic conditions, has itself proved extremely difficult. Nobody had yet come up with any obviously acceptable way for suitable nucleotides or nucleotide derivatives to form in any abundance on the primordial earth, but there are a host of suggested pathways for nucleotide formation, and simulation experiments have had some limited success (although many scientists dispute that the simulations were performed in plausible prebiotic-conditions)." (Scott A., "The Creation of Life: Past, Future, Alien," Basil Blackwell: Oxford UK, 1986, p.90. Emphasis in original) [top]2. Purity of components"It is, for example, unnaturally pure (Crick, 1981, p.85). [top]3. Second law of thermodynamics Ratzsch makes the following main points below: 1) One of "the most prevalent of the misconstruals of creationism involves the Second Law of Thermodynamics"; 2) "Second Law poses a ... problem for evolution" in at least two areas: a) at "the cosmic evolutionary worldview (or model)" level, "in the overall cosmic, `evolution model' sense"; and b) at the "biological evolution" level "a system being open is not alone enough to cause a reversal of disorder or a decrease in entropy. There are ... some additional requirements that must be met before that can happen. For instance, the flow of energy coming into the system must be adequate, and there must be some already-existing `code' and `conversion mechanism' by which the incoming energy can be harnessed, turned into some form that is useful and usable in the system, and then properly directed and productively incorporated into the system experiencing increasing order". Evolution's main problem with "the Second Law of Thermodynamics" is in providing a fully naturalistic answer to the question, "How do these codes and conversion mechanisms themselves arise?" This is most evident in the origin of life (but it also appears later in the origin of other major complex systems like sexual reproduction, etc) that in a purely physical, non-living world, subject to only physico-chemical processes and laws like the Second Law of Thermodynamics:"Perhaps the most prevalent of the misconstruals of creationism involves the Second Law of Thermodynamics. There are several ways of stating the Second Law, but for present purposes the following intuitive characterizations will be adequate. In a system that neither loses nor gains energy from outside of itself (a closed system), although the total amount of energy within the system remains constant, the proportion of that energy which is no longer usable within the system (measured as entropy) tends to increase over time. An equivalent formulation is that in a closed system there is over time a spontaneous tendency toward erosion of a specified type of order within the system. Creationists nearly unanimously claim that this Second Law poses a nasty problem for evolution. Unfortunately, exactly what creationists have in mind here is widely misunderstood. Creationists are at least partly at fault for that confusion. One reason is that as noted earlier ... most popular creationists use the term evolution ambiguously-sometimes to refer to the cosmic evolutionary worldview (or model) and sometimes to refer to the Darwinian biological theory. Although a coherent position can be extracted from some of the major creationists (such as Morris, Gish, Wysong and Kofahl), this ambiguity has rendered some parts of their writings monumentally unclear. One has to read extremely carefully in order to see which evolution is being referred to, and some critics of creationism either have simply not noticed the ambiguity or perhaps have misjudged which meaning specific creationists have had in mind in specific passages. And critics are not the only people who have sometimes been bamboozled. Other creationists who take their cues from those above have also sometimes missed some of the key distinctions and have advanced exactly the original misconstrued arguments that critics have wrongly attributed to major creationists. In a word or two, we have a four-alarm mess here. But let's see if we can clear up at least some of it. First, when claiming that the Second Law flatly precludes evolution, major creationists almost invariably have in mind evolution in the overall cosmic, `evolution model' sense. The clues to that meaning are the almost invariable use (especially in Morris's writings) of phrases like philosophy of evolution or cosmic or universal or on a cosmic scale. The universe as a whole system is taken to be a closed system (classically), and according to the creationist definition of evolution model, that model is unavoidably committed to an internally generated overall increase in cosmic order, since on that view reality is supposed to be self-developed and self- governing. What Morris and others mean to be claiming is that any such view according to which the entire cosmos is itself in a process of increasing overall order is in violation of the Second Law. Critics of creationism almost without exception take this initial creationist claim to be about purely biological evolution on the earth and respond that the Second Law applies only to closed systems, whereas the earth, receiving energy from the sun, is thermodynamically open. But since the system actually in question here is the entire universe, which is the `prime example' of a closed system, the response that the Second Law only applies to closed systems is beside the point creationists mean to be making in this case. That is not to say that the creationist argument is ultimately correct here, but only that if it is defective the problem is not the one initially proposed. When discussion turns to evolution in the more restricted sense- biological evolution on the earth-then obviously it is highly relevant to point out that the earth is not a closed system and that thus the Second Law by itself does not directly preclude evolution. But Morris, Gish, Wysong and others admit that, and have for decades, although not always in a terribly clear manner. How does that admission emerge? Morris, for instance, claims in numerous of his writings that a system being open is not alone enough to cause a reversal of disorder or a decrease in entropy. There are, Morris claims, some additional requirements that must be met before that can happen For instance, the flow of energy coming into the system must be adequate, and there must be some already-existing `code' and `conversion mechanism' by which the incoming energy can be harnessed, turned into some form that is useful and usable in the system, and then properly directed and productively incorporated into the system experiencing increasing order. These additional requirements are not requirements of the Second Law itself but are requirements that Morris thinks we have good empirical grounds for accepting. Simply throwing raw energy into a system generally does not produce increased order but destroys some of the order already there. So the view is that special conditions-codes, conversion mechanisms and the like-are needed before growths in order can occur even in open systems. That raises the question, How do these codes and conversion mechanisms themselves arise? Some creationists may hold that the Second Law itself flatly precludes such codes and mechanisms arsing naturally. Others take the odds against the codes and mechanisms being generated naturally to be massively overwhelming. But Morris says that the natural development of such codes and mechanisms may, for all he knows, be possible, although it is unlikely. So although the Second Law does impose some conditions, and although other empirical experience seems to impose some additional constraints, at least in principle, according to Morris, all of those conditions and constraints can perhaps be met: `It is conceivable, although extremely unlikely, that evolutionists may eventually formulate a plausible code and mechanism to explain how both entropy and evolution could co-exist.' [Morris H.M., "King of Creation," 1980, p.117] `This objection does not preclude the possibility of evolution.' [Morris H.M., "The Troubled Waters of Evolution," 1974, p.101] `It may of course be possible to harmonize evolution and entropy.' [Morris H.M., "The Troubled Waters of Evolution," 1974, p.99] `This of course does not preclude temporary increases of order in specific open systems.' [Morris H.M., "The Biblical Basis for Modern Science," 1984, p.207; Morris H.M., "Biblical Cosmology and Modern Science," 1970, p.127]. Morris says similar things elsewhere-from at least 1966 on. [Morris H.M., "Studies in the Bible and Science," 1966, p.146; Morris H.M., "The Biblical Basis for Modern Science," 1984, p.207; Morris H.M., "King of Creation," 1980, p.114; Morris H.M., "Does Entropy Contradict Evolution?," Impact, 141, March 1985, pp.i-iv]. So what, then, is the problem? A major one, according to Morris, concerns the required codes and mechanisms: `No one yet has any evidence that any such things exist at all.' [Morris H.M., "Creation and the Modern Christian," 1985, pp.155-56]. `Neither of these has yet been discovered.' [Morris H.M., "The Remarkable Birth of Planet Earth," 1972, p.20]. `So far, evolutionists have no answer.' [Morris H.M., "The Troubled Waters of Evolution," 1974, p.100]. `[The special conditions are] not available to evolution as far as all evidence goes.' [Morris H.M., "Science and the Bible," 1986, p.60]. Notice the invariable qualifications: `yet,' `so far' and so on. And what that all means, according to Morris, is that `the necessary `law' of evolution, if it exists, still remains to be discovered and evolutionists must in the meantime continue to exercise faith in their model in spite of entropy.' [Morris H.M., "The Troubled Waters of Evolution," 1974, p.101]. Those last five quotes, incidentally, come from four different books written from 1972 to 1986, hardly an obscure brief departure from Morris's usual views-and this same sort of view is found in Gish, Wysong, Pearcey, Bird, and Kofahl and Segraves, from 1976 to the present." (Ratzsch D.L., "The Battle of Beginnings: Why Neither Side is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., 1996, pp.91-93)"There do exist a few types of systems in the world where one sees an apparent increase In order, superficially offsetting the decay tendency specified by the Second Law. Examples are the growth of a seed into a tree, the growth of a fetus into an adult animal, and the growth of a pile of bricks and girders into a building. Now, if one examines closely all such systems to see what it is that enables them to supersede the Second Law locally and temporarily (in each case, of course, the phenomenon is only ephemeral, since the organism eventually dies and the building eventually collapses), he will find in every case, at least two essential criteria that must be satisfied: (a) *There must be a program to direct the growth*. A growth process which proceeds by random accumulations will not lead to an ordered structure but merely a heterogeneous blob. Some kind of pattern, blueprint or code must be there to begin with, or no ordered growth can take place. In the case of the organism this is the intricately complex genetic program, structured as an information system into the DNA molecule for the particular organism. In the case of the building, it is the set of plans prepared by the architects and engineers. (b) *There must be a power converter to energize the growth*. The available environmental energy is of no avail unless it can be converted into the specific forms needed to organize and bond the components into the complex and ordered structure of the completed system. Unless such a mechanism is available, the environmental energy more likely will break down any structure already present. "We have seen that organization requires work for its maintenance and that the universal quest for food is in part to provide the energy needed for the work. But the simple expenditure of energy is not sufficient to develop and maintain order. A bull in a china shop performs work, but he neither creates nor maintains organization. The work needed is particular work; it must follow specifications; it requires information on how to proceed." [Simpson G.G. & Beck W.S., " Life: An Introduction to Biology," Harcourt, Brace & World: New York, Second edition, 1965, p.466] In the case of a seed, one of the required energy conversion mechanisms is the marvelous process called *photosynthesis*, which by some incompletely under- stood complex of reactions converts sunlight into the building of the plant's structure. In the animal numerous complex mechanisms-digestion, blood circulation, respiration, etc.- combine to transform food into body structure. In the case of the building, fossil fuels and human labor operate numerous complex electrical and mechanical devices to erect the structure. And so on. Now the question again is, not whether there is enough energy reaching the earth from the sun to support evolution, but rather *how* this energy is converted into evolution? The evolutionary process, if it exists, is by far the greatest growth process of all. If a directing code and specific conversion mechanism are essential for all lesser growth processes, then surely an infinitely more complex code and more specific energy converter are required for the evolutionary process. But what are they? The answer is that no such code and mechanism have ever been identified. Where in all the universe does one find a plan which sets forth how to organize random particles into particular people? And where does one see a marvelous motor which converts the continual flow of solar radiant energy bathing the earth into the work of building chemical elements into replicating cellular systems, or of organizing populations of worms into populations of men, over vast spans of geologic time?" (Morris H.M., "Scientific Creationism," , Master Books: El Cajon CA, Second Edition, 1985, pp.43-45. Emphasis original)As the philosopher Robert Pirsig asked, "Why ... should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? ... If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds ... It isn't the sun's energy. .... It has to be something else. What is it?""The Second Law of Thermodynamics states that all energy systems run down like a clock and never rewind themselves. But life not only 'runs up,' converting low energy sea-water, sunlight and air into high- energy chemicals, it keeps multiplying itself into more and better clocks that keep 'running up' faster and faster. Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organize themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive? If we leave a chemistry professor out on a rock in the sun long enough the forces of nature will convert him into simple compounds of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, and small amounts of other minerals. It's a one-way reaction. No matter what kind of chemistry professor we use and no matter what process we use we can't turn these compounds back into a chemistry professor. Chemistry professors are unstable mixtures of predominantly unstable compounds which, in the exclusive presence of the sun's heat, decay irreversibly into simpler organic and inorganic compounds. That's a scientific fact. The question is: Then why does nature reverse this process? What on earth causes the inorganic compounds to go the other way? It isn't the sun's energy. We just saw what the sun's energy did. It has to be something else. What is it?" (Pirsig R.M., "Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals," Bantam: London, 1991, pp.144-145) [top]4. Interfering cross-reactions"It is possible to see how each of these separate components might possibly have arisen on the primitive earth in one place or another; it is less easy to see how the combination was formed correctly and how it was at least partially separated from other, rather similar molecules which, if present, might possibly have fouled up the system" (Crick, 1981, p.85). [top]5. Slowness of reactions without enzymes"6. All occurring together in the same place"All biological reactions within human cells depend on enzymes. Their power as catalysts enables biological reactions to occur usually in milliseconds. But how slowly would these reactions proceed spontaneously, in the absence of enzymes - minutes, hours, days? ... Dr. Richard Wolfenden .... In 1998, he reported a biological transformation deemed `absolutely essential' in creating the building blocks of DNA and RNA would take 78 million years in water. `Now we've found one that's 10,000 times slower than that,' Wolfenden said. `Its half-time - the time it takes for half the substance to be consumed - is 1 trillion years, 100 times longer than the lifetime of the universe. Enzymes can make this reaction happen in 10 milliseconds.' Wolfenden, along with co-authors ... published a report of their new findings ... in the ... Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ... May 13. The report highlights the catalytic power of phosphatase enzymes to tremendously enhance the transformation rate in water of a specific group of biochemicals: phosphate monoesters. Protein phosphatase enzymes acting on these monoesters help regulate the molecular cross-talk within human cells, the cell signaling pathways and biochemical switches involved in health and disease. `We have esters floating around in our cells with all kinds of functions,' Wolfenden said. `Every aspect of cell signaling follows the action of the type of phosphatase enzyme that breaks down phosphate monoesters. Other phosphatases highlighted in the study for their catalytic power help mobilize carbohydrates from animal starch and play a role in transmission of hormonal signals.' As to the uncatalyzed phosphate monoester reaction of 1 trillion years, `This number puts us way beyond the known universe in terms of slowness,' he said. `(The enzyme reaction) is 21 orders of magnitude faster than the uncatalyzed case. And the largest we knew about previously was 18. We've approached scales than nobody can grasp.' ... `Without catalysts, there would be no life at all, from microbes to humans,' he said. `It makes you wonder how natural selection operated in such a way as to produce a protein that got off the ground as a primitive catalyst for such an extraordinarily slow reaction.' ... `The enzymes we studied in this report are fascinating because they exceed all other known enzymes in their power as catalysts. We've only begun to understand how to speed up reactions with chemical catalysts, and no one has even come within shouting distance of producing their catalytic power.'". (Lang L.H., "Without enzyme catalyst, slowest known biological reaction takes 1 trillion years," EurekAlert!, 5 May, 2003. My emphasis)[top]"It is difficult to imagine how a little pond with just these components, and no others, could have formed on the primitive earth" (Crick, 1981, p.85). [top]7. How the relationship between nucleic acids (RNA/DNA) originated"A chicken-and-egg problem ... There is a further problem (although this affects all the theories, not just the `genes-first' hypothesis) in explaining how the relationship between RNA and proteins originated. In the process of translation whereby proteins are produced ... it is the order of bases on the messenger RNA that determines the order of amino acids in the protein. But there is no inherent attraction between the codons on the mRNA and the amino acids- translation occurs via a code, and in order to interpret that code, both a transfer molecule and a synthetase enzyme (a protein) are needed. Since the synthetase enzyme itself is a product of translation, it is very difficult to imagine how the system could have originated. ... How did the relationship between DNA (or RNA) and proteins begin? The basis of all life today is the ability of DNA and RNA to produce specific proteins. But they do this via a code, and the translation of that code requires two principal factors, a synthetase enzyme and a transfer RNA, as well as the help of the ribosomes. It is very difficult to imagine a simple version of the system from which the translation mechanism seen today could have evolved." (Gamlin L. & Vines G., eds, "The Structure of Living Organisms," Guild Publishing: London, 1989, p.23) [top]8. Even simplest self-replication system would have to be highly complex Even the simplest self-replication system would have to be highly complex:
"Even if these difficulties are overcome, the system, though simple, is already somewhat sophisticated (Crick, 1981, p.85)"... the path of chemical evolution seems sensible and in the right direction ... but ... the trouble with this path is that it leads us toward ... a sudden near-vertical cliff-face. ... a fully working machine of incredible complexity: a machine that has to be complex, it seems. not just to work well but to work at all." (Cairns-Smith, 1985, p.37)! [top]9. Self-replication would have to be accurate"it is difficult to see how an accurate system could have arisen easily from such a complex mixture" (Crick, 1981, p.85). [top]10. Information 1. Alchemy The materialist dream of non-living matter being transmuted into information by unintelligent natural processes is the modern equivalent of alchemy:"alchemy The medieval combination of chemistry, philosophy, and secret lore aimed at transmuting base metals into gold (by means of the philosopher's stone), and discovering the universal cure for disease and mortality." (Blackburn S., "The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, 1996, p.10)"alchemy n. a kind of theory about material substances, based on close analogies between material qualities and relations on the one hand, mental or spiritual ones on the other. Among its practical applications was the preparation of medicines, but best known is the attempt to make gold out of base metals. That process required a catalyst, known as the philosopher's stone. Alchemy flourished in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance." (Mautner T., ed., "The Penguin Dictionary of Philosophy," , Penguin: London, Revised, 2000, p.11)"alchemy, a quasi-scientific practice and mystical art, mainly ancient and medieval, that had two broad aims: to change baser metals into gold and to develop the elixir of life, the means to immortality. Classical Western alchemy probably originated in Egypt in the first three centuries A.D. (with earlier Chinese and later Islamic and Indian variants) and was practiced in earnest in Europe by such figures as Paracelsus and Newton until the eighteenth century. Western alchemy ad dressed concerns of practical metallurgy, but its philosophical significance derived from an early Greek theory of the relations among the basic elements and from a religious-allegorical understanding of the alchemical transmutation of ores into gold, an understanding that treats this process as a spiritual ascent from human toward divine perfection. The purification of crude ores (worldly matter) into gold (material perfection) was thought to require a transmuting agent, the philosopher's stone, a mystical substance that, when mixed with alcohol and swallowed, was believed to produce immortality (spiritual perfection). The alchemical search for the philosopher's stone, though abortive, resulted in the development of ultimately useful experimental tools (e.g., the steam pump) and methods (e.g., distillation)." (Trout J.D.T., "alchemy," in Audi R., ed., "The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy," , Cambridge University Press: Cambridge UK, 1996, reprint, pp.16-17)"Similarly, the discipline of biology will not only survive but prosper if it turns out that genetic information really is the product of preexisting intelligence. Biologists will have to give up their dogmatic materialism and discard unproductive hypotheses like the prebiotic soup, but to abandon bad ideas is a gain, not a loss. Freed of the metaphysical chains that tie it to nineteenth-century materialism, biology can turn to the fascinating task of discovering how the intelligence embodied in the genetic information works through matter to make the organism function. In that case chemical evolution will go the way of alchemy- abandoned because a better understanding of the problem revealed its futility-and science will have reached a new plateau." (Johnson P.E.*, "Reason in the Balance: The Case Against Naturalism in Science, Law, and Education," InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL., 1995, pp.92-93)"Nowhere does Kauffman even attempt to establish a correspondence between the mathematical models he runs on his computer and the actual processes matter must undergo to form a biological system. I find this omission unconscionable, for it represents a descent into mysticism worse than any Kauffman claims to avoid. Kauffman will write, "it is not implausible that life emerged as a phase transition to collective autocatalysis once a chemical minestrone, held in a localized region able to sustain adequately high concentrations, became thick enough with molecular diversity" (p. 274). This is not science, but alchemy (cf. p. 277 where Kauffman actually uses the word "alchemy" to describe what he is doing). Indeed, once Kauffman leaves the pristine world of mathematical modeling and computer simulations, and turns to the messy world of matter in motion, he can do no better than alchemy. Kauffman's laws of self-organization must do their self-organizing all by themselves. A supracritical mixture of diverse molecules (Kauffman's "chemical minestrone") operating according to laws of self-organization must--if he is right--be able to work the magic of life. Get the proper mixture and life will emerge. Nor can Kauffman's approach ever get beyond alchemy. A very damning admission occurs when Kauffman considers a rather large NK Boolean network in which N equals 100,000. Previously Kauffman has contended that life constitutes an attractor for an autocatalytic set of chemicals. Such an auto-catalytic set will be exceedingly more complicated than the NK Boolean network he is now considering. And yet Kauffman will admit that finding an attractor even for this Boolean network will be all but impossible: "I cannot show you an attractor in such an unfathomable state space" (p. 100). If Kauffman's stylized mathematical models are unfathomable, how much more nature herself? Apparently oblivious to how it undercuts his program, Kauffman repeats this admission later on, and even more forcefully: "It is one thing to talk about supracritical reaction systems blasting off into the outer space of chemical creativity, but all confined to a computer model. It is quite another thing to fathom what might go on in a real chemical system" (pp. 118-9). And fathom it he never does. Kauffman has not one thing to say about real chemical systems except the unsubstantiated assertion that the right mixture of chemicals governed by laws of self-organization will yield life. But the laws of self- organization he cites are unknown. And even if they were known, there is no reason to think that we could ever apply them (after all, we know the laws that govern toy examples like Boolean networks, and can't even apply them there). Alchemy plus inscrutable laws of self-organization will ever remain alchemy. All the problems inherent in the origin and development of life are still there after one finishes the book." (Dembski W.A., "Alchemy, NK Boolean Style," Review of "At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self Organization and Complexity," by Stuart Kauffman, Oxford University Press: New York, 1995. Origins & Design 17:2, Spring 1996. Access Research Network) [top]
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Created: 3 November, 2003. Updated: 27 April, 2006.