Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Moshe Averick at Algemeiner.com quotes a number of Origin of Life (OOL) researchers who speak frankly about their complete mystification as to how life could have arisen from non-living matter.

Nobel Laureate Jack Szostak, for instance, stated that “It is virtually impossible to imagine how a cell’s machines ... could have formed spontaneously from non-living matter.”

Dr. Harold P. Klein, of NASA, once wrote in similar terms: “The simplest bacterium is so damn complicated from the point of view of a chemist that it is almost impossible to imagine how it happened.”

When one of the greatest chemists alive today, Dr. George Whitesides of Harvard University, was awarded the Priestley Medal for Chemistry in 2007, he said: “Most chemists believe like I do, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth. How? I have no idea…On the basis of all chemistry I know, it seems to me astonishingly improbable.”

Dr. Eugene V. Koonin, a molecular biologist, once observed that:
Despite many interesting results to its credit, when judged by the straightforward criterion of reaching (or even approaching) the ultimate goal, the origin of life field is a failure – we still do not have even a plausible coherent model, let alone a validated scenario, for the emergence of life on Earth. Certainly, this is not due to lack of experimental and theoretical effort, but to the extraordinary intrinsic difficulty and complexity of the problem. A succession of exceedingly unlikely steps is essential for the origin of life, from the synthesis and accumulation of nucleotides to the origin of translation; through the multiplication of probabilities, these make the final outcome seem almost like a miracle.
This seemed to echo what science writer and cosmologist Dr. Paul Davies had written years earlier:
You might get the impression from what I have written not only that the origin of life is virtually impossible, but that life itself is impossible ... fortunately for us, our cells contain sophisticated chemical-repair-and-construction mechanisms, and handy sources of chemical energy to drive processes uphill, and enzymes with special properties that can smoothly assemble complex molecules from fragments…but the primordial soup lacked these convenient cohorts of cooperating chemicals…so what is the answer? Is life a miracle after all?
Averick goes on to summarize the current state of OOL research:
  • Everyone agrees that the simplest living bacterium – which is functionally complex beyond comprehension – looks like it was designed and created by an intelligent creator.
  • Everyone agrees that it is virtually impossible to imagine how it could have happened through an undirected process.
  • Everyone agrees that no one has any idea how it actually did happen.
What can we conclude from this? Averick offers an answer:
I simply draw the obvious conclusions. The reason it looks designed, is because it is designed. The reason why it seems “astonishingly improbable” for it to happen through an undirected process, is because it is “astonishingly improbable” for it to happen through an undirected process, and the reason why, in fact, no one has any idea how it happened through a naturalistic process, is because it didn’t happen through a naturalistic process.
But if one is a naturalistic materialist and has apriori ruled out the possibility of a non-natural, non-physical designer of life then it simply must have happened through some natural, mechanistic process.

Averick appositely reminds us of a quote from Darwinian biologist Richard Lewontin who once said:
“Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to the understanding of the real struggle between Science and the Supernatural. We take the side of science despite the patent absurdity of some of its constructs…because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to naturalism…we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanation, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.”
What are we to make of all this? One conclusion I think we can draw is that evolutionary science is not just about science, it's about religion. Following the evidence where it leads is a maxim adhered to only if the evidence leads us away from a Divine mind. If the evidence leads toward the uncomfortable inference that there really could be an intelligence directing the progress of life then, as Lewontin admits, many scientists are prepared to accept patent absurdity in order to cling to their faith in naturalism.

They've got a faith commitment to an atheistic worldview and no amount of evidence will be allowed to change their mind. And they think theists are irrational?

We Just Don't Know

We've spoken on occasion here at VP about the fact that we don't really know that global warming, if indeed it eventuates, will be the disaster the climate change alarmists predict. For all we really know it could be a boon to humanity to have more land in currently inaccessible regions like Siberia, Greenland and northern Canada open up to habitation, mining, and agriculture. Slightly rising temperatures could result in more rainfall in arid regions and reverse the desertification process of northern Africa and elsewhere, making agriculture around the globe more productive. Who knows?

Now science writer Matt Ridley raises another possible benefit of global warming - it could be saving us from an incipient ice age:
The entire 10,000-year history of civilization has happened in an unusually warm interlude in the Earth's recent history. Over the past million years, it has been as warm as this or warmer for less than 10% of the time, during 11 brief episodes known as interglacial periods. One theory holds that agriculture and dense settlement were impossible in the volatile, generally dry and carbon-dioxide-starved climates of the ice age, when crop plants would have grown more slowly and unpredictably even in warmer regions.

This warm spell is already 11,600 years old, and it must surely, in the normal course of things, come to an end. In the early 1970s, after two decades of slight cooling, many scientists were convinced that the moment was at hand. They were "increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age," said Time in 1974. The "almost unanimous" view of meteorologists was that the cooling trend would "reduce agricultural productivity for the rest of the century," and "the resulting famines could be catastrophic," said Newsweek in 1975.

Since then, of course, warmth has returned, probably driven at least partly by man-made carbon-dioxide emissions. A new paper, from universities in Cambridge, London and Florida, drew headlines last week for arguing that these emissions may avert the return of the ice age.
Ridley elaborates on all this at the linked article.

The fact is that we don't know whether the global mean temperature is really rising, or, if it is, what's causing it. Nor do we know what the effects of a modest rise in temperature will be. Nevertheless, we're being told that we must spend billions of dollars and change the entire way of life of modern societies and do it now because if we don't we'll all die. But as Ridley points out, for all we know reversing greenhouse gas emissions may be the worst thing we could do for the planet and humanity.