Friday, December 17, 2010

ATP Synthase

Every high school biology student learns that the molecule that provides the energy for the metabolic requirements of every cell in living things is ATP. ATP is synthesized in the cell from a precursor called ADP. This process is catalyzed by an enzyme named ATP Synthase which is a tiny molecular motor of astonishing design. Here's a video that gives an idea of just how remarkable this protein motor is:
The narrator states that these structures are evolutionary impossibilities, but I don't know why he says that. All that had to happen was lots of mutations acting on lots of genes which control lots of proteins, a pinch of pixie dust, a wave of a magic wand, and a few miracles from mother nature, and anyone can see that motors such as these would be almost inevitable, even within the relatively brief window of time between the point when genetic material learned to replicate and the appearance of the first cells.

If you're skeptical it's because you lack faith in the power of blind, impersonal forces to do miracles. You need to try harder to convince yourself that engineering marvels don't necessarily require intelligent engineers. After all, if you put all the individual molecules that comprise a computer in a box and set it out in the wind and sun, after enough time there could be a fully functioning pc in the box. Just ask any Darwinian.

Thanks to Uncommon Descent for the tip.

Merry Reasonmas

Over at Telic Thoughts Bradford calls our attention to the latest doings among our atheist friends. It turns out that the American Atheists association has erected a billboard on the New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel which says, "You Know It's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason." The billboard cost them $20,000 which would have bought Christmas dinners for a lot of poor children in New Jersey, but never mind that.

Reading about the sign has actually put me in the spirit of celebrating Reason and all the wonderful blessings that pure Reason, unencumbered by any mystical, superstitious theistic nonsense, has bestowed upon us. It has, for example, given us state atheism which, in its twentieth century communist incarnation, was responsible for the murders of over 100 million people. The communists believed that they were following the dictates of Reason as they slaughtered their millions, and indeed, they were.

If man is nothing more than a machine, to which conclusion Reason, without the constraint of religious insight, leads us, then he has no special dignity (See Harvard neuroscientist Steven Pinker on the stupidity of thinking we have dignity), no worth, no meaning, none of that anthropocentric silliness Christianity has foisted upon us, so why not simply eliminate him if his existence proves inconvenient?

Consider a few other conclusions arrived at by some of Reason's modern herald angels:
‘You,’ your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have phrased it: ‘You’re nothing but a pack of neurons.’ - biologist Francis Crick in The Astonishing Hypothesis
If you and I are just a pack of neurons neither of us is ultimately distinguishable from the other and therefore no individual is intrinsically valuable. We're like so many cattle to be milked, herded, bred, or slaughtered as those in power see fit. Here are a couple more meditations for the Reason holiday:
[T]he worldview of science is rather chilling. Not only do we not find any point to life laid out for us in nature, no objective basis for our moral principles, no correspondence between what we think is the moral law and the laws of nature, of the sort imagined by philosophers from Anaximander and Plato to Emerson. We even learn that the emotions that we most treasure, our love for our wives and husbands and children, are made possible by chemical processes in our brains that are what they are as a result of natural selection acting on chance mutations over millions of years. - Physicist Steven Weinberg

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. - biologist Richard Dawkins
Don't these thoughts, the deliverances of unadulterated Reason, just warm your heart this Reasonmas season? If only there was a Reason Eve the devout would surely compose a vast body of beautiful music and carols to celebrate the event, and atheists, swept up in the ineffable spirit of the day, would open wide the doors of their hearts, as well as their purses, to their fellows during this magical time. Or maybe not.

Some have gotten swept along by the logic of celebrating reason and have just gone, well, to extremes. For example, consider this perfectly sensible question:
If a person doesn’t think there is a God to be accountable to, then — then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges? That’s how I thought anyway. I always believed the theory of evolution as truth, that we all just came from the slime. When we, when we died, you know, that was it, there is nothing.
What an impeccably rational piece of thinking. It was written by Jeffrey Dahmer. And then there's this:
What’s to prevent us from saying Hitler wasn’t right? I mean, that is a genuinely difficult question.
Indeed, it is. That provocative question was posed by uber atheist and man of Reason Richard Dawkins, and he's right. If there is no God who's to say Hitler was wrong? So, this year let's dispense with all that Christian claptrap about God becoming man and saving us from our sins. Let's just worship Reason's marvelous ability to produce such moral profundities as we've listed above. Let's also pray to the goddess Reason that no one actually takes the worship of her glorious self too seriously and follows the logic of it too far.

Let's celebrate Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men this Reasonmas. At least those men who are the same ethnicity, race, nationality, and sexual orientation as we are. All others, of course, are the losers in the grand evolutionary struggle for survival, but let's not think about that.