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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Abiogenesis, odds and Morowitz

I became very ill during the time we were looking deeply at the odds concerning abiogenesis. Remember this? Click and read if you didn't read it and want to catch up.

" The odds against life forming from non-life: Abiogenesis

Pasteur disproved it, but....naturalistic, materialistic scientists keep asserting that it happened - life forming from non-life."


I have found the post from which one particular part of the above post was culled. This is the portion from a Dr. James Coppedge book with excerpted findings from Dr. Harold Morowitz. Here is an excerpt, below:

"by

JAMES F. COPPEDGE, Ph.D.

Probability Research in Molecular Biology

"The Simplest Possible Living Thing

Dr. Harold J. Morowitz of Yale University has done extensive research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to discover the theoretical limits for the simplest free-living thing which could duplicate itself, or, technically, the minimal biological entity capable of autonomous self-replication. He took into consideration the minimum operating equipment needed and the space it would require. Also, attention was given to electrical properties and to the hazards of thermal motion. From these important studies, the conclusion is that the smallest such theoretical entity would require 239 or more individual protein molecules.

This is not very much simpler than the smallest actually known autonomous living organism, which is the minuscule, bacteria-like Mycoplasma hominis H39. It has around 600 different kinds of proteins. From present scientific knowledge, there is no reason to believe that anything smaller ever existed. We will, however, use the lesser total of 239 protein molecules from Morowitz' theoretical minimal cell, which comprise 124 different kinds."


I found the orginal post here. I find in re-reading it that much of this is a compilation of Morowitz and Coppedge with attributions to both published works and personal communications. You can peruse it for yourself to see what is said there and, sure, if Dr. Morowitz wishes to dispute any of the figures or reasoning I would be more than happy to post it.

The problem with abiogenesis discussions is, as Morowitz said under oath in McLean versus Arkansas, right now any attempt to consider the odds results in a, well, I will let him tell you:

"(Morowitz): Well, I find the use of probabilistic arguments to be somewhat deceptive.

Q: Would you explain what you mean?

(Morowitz): In general in the creation science literature, they start out by assuming, by making statements about the complexity of living systems. These will generally be fairly accurate statements about the complexity of living systems.

They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability, and they then assert that therefore life by natural processes is impossible."


Even Morowitz, a devoted opponent of Creationism, admits under oath that a probabilistic study of abiogenesis will yield an impossibility as a result. So if you do the math, it could not have happened! Why does he consider it deceptive? My take on it is that he doesn't like the results. He will say it is impossible to duplicate the conditions or know them that surrounded the advent of life. Yet he is willing to say, "(Morowitz) : We do not know in any precise way how life was formed. However, it is a very active field of research. There are a number of studies going on, and we are developing and continuing to develop within science a body of knowledge that is beginning to provide some enlightenment on this issue."



On the other hand, a dedicated naturalist will submit that perhaps there have been an infinite number of universes with infinite possibilities, thus making the impossible inevitable! I decided that I would focus more on evidence you can hold in your hand and walk away from the math aspects after running into that line of thought.

~~~~~~~~

If you still find yourself fascinated by the subject, there are a number of sites that go into great detail on abiogenesis. Click on the titles to read the entire articles. I only include a portion for the sake of space:

"Why the Miller–Urey research argues against abiogenesis

by Jerry Bergman
Summary

Abiogenesis is the theory that under the proper conditions life can arise spontaneously from non-living molecules. One of the most widely cited studies used to support this conclusion is the famous Miller–Urey experiment. Surveys of textbooks find that the Miller–Urey study is the major (or only) research cited to prove abiogenesis. Although widely heralded for decades by the popular press as ‘proving’ that life originated on the early earth entirely under natural conditions, we now realize the experiment actually provided compelling evidence for the opposite conclusion. It is now recognized that this set of experiments has done more to show that abiogenesis on Earth is not possible than to indicate how it could be possible. This paper reviews some of the many problems with this research, which attempted to demonstrate a feasible method of abiogenesis on the early earth.

Contemporary research has failed to provide a viable explanation as to how abiogenesis could have occurred on Earth. The abiogenesis problem is now so serious that most evolutionists today tend to shun the entire field because they are ‘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’ because ‘it opens the door to religious fundamentalists and their god-of-the-gaps pseudo-explanations’ and they worry that a ‘frank admission of ignorance will undermine funding’.1

Abiogenesis was once commonly called ‘chemical evolution’,2 but evolutionists today try to distance evolutionary theory from the origin of life. This is one reason that most evolutionary propagandists now call it ‘abiogenesis’. Chemical evolution is actually part of the ‘General Theory of Evolution’, defined by the evolutionist Kerkut as ‘the theory that all the living forms in the world have arisen from a single source which itself came from an inorganic form’.3

Another reason exists to exaggerate abiogenesis claims—it is an area that is critical to proving evolutionary naturalism.4 If abiogenesis is impossible, or extremely unlikely, then so is naturalism.5–8

Darwin recognized how critical the abiogenesis problem was for his theory. He even conceded that all existing terrestrial life must have descended from some primitive life-form that was originally called into life ‘by the Creator’.9 But to admit, as Darwin did, the possibility of one or a few creations is to open the door to the possibility of many others! If God made one type of life, He also could have made many thousands of different types. Darwin evidently regretted this concession later and also speculated that life could have originated in some ‘warm little pond’ on the ancient earth."


"The Improbability of Abiogenesis:
Spontaneous Generation Redux



by R. Totten © 2003

A basic definition of Abiogenesis is: the chance origination of life from lifeless matter, totally through natural, unguided processes...
--and this is the same thing as "Spontaneous Generation."

When abiogenesis comes up in the course of creation/evolution debates, darwinists sometimes object that "abiogenesis is a non-issue, and has nothing to do with evolution, because evolution only occurs with already living things."

Not true. --There is a scientific term --"pre-biotic evolution"-- which concerns evolution of non-living biochemicals leading up to the development of the first life-form.

And if abiogenesis is such a "non-issue," then why do Dawkins, Gould and many other major darwinists trouble themselves to explain how it must have happened?
Why such excited headlines over the possible evidence of life on a Mars rock?
Why all the money and effort spent by SETI, NASA (recently on the Mars Rover probes), a probe to Saturn's moon, and many others to find life (and/or conditions for its abiogenesis) in space? (...or to find water, which --to some-- makes abiogenesis an easily assumed result). This is admittedly NASA's main reason for the effort.
And why does every newly discovered planet (or moon) that might have (or does have) water on it cause such a hopeful stir (such as the March 2006 discovery of water geysers on Saturn's moon "Enceladus" ...called "the greatest space discovery in 25 years")?

For sure, abiogenesis is a big issue, alright, because materialists (who believe that matter alone is real --and not any intelligent Creator) need a materialist explanation for the origin of life, which supposedly then evolves to higher forms. The late Carl Sagan once said that if only one planet has life on it, that could be a miracle; but if there is life on two, it proves life to be a natural evolutionary process, and atheists can "sleep soundly."

Sagan and others have advanced the above point of view --even though it is not a valid conclusion to say that abiogenesis is "proven" by the mere presence of life in space ...or on earth for that matter. What terrible science that is, because the mere presence of life on earth does not demonstrate that it got here by spontaneous generation, just because someone emotionally wants it to have occurred.
--The actual issue is how (and whether) that life did or could have originated via abiogenesis (spontaneous generation)."


You may wish to check out another Totten entry as well: A Mathematical Proof
of Intelligent Design In Nature


~~~~~~~

I found this blog entry to be right on the subject: A chicken-and-egg problem ... how the relationship between RNA and proteins originated

"Here is a nice quote on another major "chicken-and-egg" problem of the naturalistic origin of life, that I found this morning in a secondhand book, "The Structure of Living Organisms" (1989), which I had bought some time ago. The chapter on the origin of life was written by Dr Gail Vines, who at the time was Biology Editor of New Scientist:

"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. My emphasis)"



Could monkeys type the 23rd Psalm?


Evolution Encyclopedia Vol. 2

Chapter 11 CELLULAR EVOLUTION



To summarize, abiogenesis remains a big problem for those who take a naturalistic-only view of science but I don't see the discussion to be particularly useful as we go along. Dr. Morowitz' personal viewpoint is an evolutionary one, so he will disagree with me. If he cares to refute what has been published that has been attributed to him that is his right.

14 comments:

creeper said...

Radar,

Re: The problem with abiogenesis discussions is, as Morowitz said under oath in McLean versus Arkansas, right now any attempt to consider the odds results in a, well, I will let him tell you:

"(Morowitz): Well, I find the use of probabilistic arguments to be somewhat deceptive.

Q: Would you explain what you mean?

(Morowitz): In general in the creation science literature, they start out by assuming, by making statements about the complexity of living systems. These will generally be fairly accurate statements about the complexity of living systems.

They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability, and they then assert that therefore life by natural processes is impossible."


Even Morowitz, a devoted opponent of Creationism, admits under oath that a probabilistic study of abiogenesis will yield an impossibility as a result. So if you do the math, it could not have happened! Why does he consider it deceptive? My take on it is that he doesn't like the results."


No, he considers it deceptive in a similar way that the sleight of hand you conduct here is deceptive. It's the usual "occurred by random chance" fallacy that is attached to so many (if not all) of the creationist probability arguments.

Look: "They then proceed on the basis of probabilistic calculations to ask, what is the probability that such a complex system will come about by random. When you do that, you get a vanishingly small probability"

There's no need for you to speculate why Morowitz considers this deceptive, as he goes on to explain exactly that in the very next sentence:

"A: (Continuing) But the fact of the matter is, we do not know the processes by which life has come about in detail. To do the probabilistic calculations, we would have to know all the kinetic and mechanistic details by which the processes have come about, and, therefore, we would then be able to do the calculations. We are simply lacking the information to do the calculations now, so to present them on the basis of the random model is somewhat deceptive.>"

Get it?

"Dr. Morowitz' personal viewpoint is an evolutionary one, so he will disagree with me. If he cares to refute what has been published that has been attributed to him that is his right."

What has been published that has been attributed to him is correct; what you took out of context is misleading.

radar said...

Creeper this is BS - I posted the link so you could read the entire testimony, therefore I was not hiding anything. Morowitz is full of it, though. He says you cannot know what the conditions were at the time life might have occurred, then says that science is working on figuring it all out. It's a song-and-dance.

Secondly, the formation of the first molecule must take place by a random occurrence, unless you are suggesting that there was a designer involved?

creeper said...

"Creeper this is BS - I posted the link so you could read the entire testimony, therefore I was not hiding anything."

You edited out Morowitz's own lucid explanation of why he thought the probabilistic arguments in question were deceptive and substituted it with your own speculation that "he didn't like the numbers", which isn't true. He disagreed with the premises, which is completely different.

"Morowitz is full of it, though. He says you cannot know what the conditions were at the time life might have occurred, then says that science is working on figuring it all out. It's a song-and-dance."

?? Morowitz said "do not know", not "can not know" - you even included that quote in your post. Where do you see the problem with the statement? ("We do not know in any precise way how life was formed. However, it is a very active field of research. There are a number of studies going on, and we are developing and continuing to develop within science a body of knowledge that is beginning to provide some enlightenment on this issue.")

"Secondly, the formation of the first molecule must take place by a random occurrence, unless you are suggesting that there was a designer involved?"

Morowitz is actually quite specific about what needs to be known to come up with any kind of workable probabilistic calculation: "all the kinetic and mechanistic details by which the processes have come about". They will be subject to random occurences, sure, but as long as we don't know the mechanism and what impact different natural laws will have, it is impossible to make any such calculation.

We've been over this before, Radar. According to the logic of these calculations, which leave out all impacting factors and focus purely on number of combinations etc., if you suspended a drop of water a mile above the Earth and let go of it, the chances of it (a) falling toward the Earth and (b) eventually ending up in the ocean are so absurdly small as to make it appear impossible that either of these events could occur. After all, that drop could go off in any direction whatsoever, at any speed, or explode right there, or hover for eternity. So many possibilities.

It's only when you take all the necessary factors into account, such as gravity, that you could come up with some meaningful probabilistic calculation. That's what Morowitz is getting at, though IMO he phrases it better.

radar said...

We've been over this before, Radar. According to the logic of these calculations, which leave out all impacting factors and focus purely on number of combinations etc., if you suspended a drop of water a mile above the Earth and let go of it, the chances of it (a) falling toward the Earth and (b) eventually ending up in the ocean are so absurdly small as to make it appear impossible that either of these events could occur. After all, that drop could go off in any direction whatsoever, at any speed, or explode right there, or hover for eternity. So many possibilities.

Creeper, what you do here is assume that there is a raindrop and you assume that it will fall. You and Morowitz both assume that abiogenesis occurred and that it occurred by natural means. This is no more than saying, "We are here, so it must have happened." When you assume the pre-existing raindrop then it must fall somewhere. When you admit there is no evidence for the raindrop at the start you then must look to see where one may have come from. I say God made the raindrop.

highboy said...

This is way off topic, but I was discussing global warming with someone, and there is this idea I have no on how to solve the problem. Pay attention, cause this is gonna work.

Step 1. Build a giant space bucket.
Step 2. Fill it up with water.
Step 3. Dump it on half the sun.

Don't even think about calling NASA. Its my idea and I'm on my way to copyright it.

creeper said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
creeper said...

Radar, you seem to have missed the point of the analogy entirely. (Or, who knows, maybe I was making a different analogy than I thought I was making...)

It's not so much about the origin of the drop of water as it is about not taking into account factors that the drop will be subjected to. Mathematically listing the possibilities will lead to an astronomically huge number of possibilities, the kind that makes you spend a paragraph or two gushing about how big that number is.

But once you add what we know about the mechanisms, the laws etc., the picture changes considerably. We'll be able to calculate the odds of the drop falling toward Earth much more accurately, and the drop falling toward Earth will not be impossible at all.

You say God made the raindrop. For the sake of argument, hey, I don't mind. Let's say God made the raindrop. Doesn't affect the argument one bit. Actually if you want to take the analogy in that direction - if God created the initial spark of life, it still wouldn't affect the theory of evolution one bit.

"what you do here is assume that there is a raindrop and you assume that it will fall."

No, we do not assume that it will fall - not until we've taken the appropriate factors into account. Add gravity, and yes, the likelihood of the drop falling toward Earth will be extremely high. But that's not the result of a blind assumption, but of factoring in the knowledge of the effect of gravity.

cranky old fart said...

And for the millionth time, the unproveable/untestable "Goddidit" adds exactly zero to our understanding of any natural phenomenon. That's why it has no place in a science class.

radar said...

Creeper, for the millionandonth time, since you have a naturalistic viewpoint only and exclude the possibility that God did it, then you are arbitrarily eliminating a possible correct answer to your problem. If so, you will never come to the answer at all. Excluding possibilities is not the best science.

cranky old fart said...

Creeper?

How soon they forget you....:(

The point is, Radar, that "goddidit" is useless. As you've thankfully admitted elsewhere, supernatural "explanations" have never been of any practical use to mankind.

As a personal view it may be comforting to you, but for scientific inquiry it's a dead end.

creeper said...

Radar,

"for the millionandonth time, since you have a naturalistic viewpoint only and exclude the possibility that God did it, then you are arbitrarily eliminating a possible correct answer to your problem. If so, you will never come to the answer at all. Excluding possibilities is not the best science."

Can I assume that was directed at cranky old fart? Because I couldn't quite find the connection between this and any of my previous comments.

creeper said...

Amen, cranky.

a theist said...

These worthless arguments co-opted by Radar are old and tired and have been independently overturned so many times that it's pitiful people even resort to them nowadays. Though I commened you for kicking your drug habit, you're still intoxicated by the worst one of all -- faith. Otherwise, you might be able to appreciate the atrociously bad math that has gone into forming these creationist canards. Here's a good place to begin if you care to be objective.

Anonymous said...

There is ample proof that exists that supernatural acts happen, why is it so hard to believe that there is a supernatural God? Which leads me to the next poin, the Bible has been proven to be amazingly accurate throughout its history about historical events. It gives a detailed account of how life came to be, how can it be so accurate on everything in history but so wrong in just that one point? Whether you believe in God or not the accuracy of the Bible about history is not refutable-and is admitted I be so by many atheists.