Last Update: 08 May 00
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REPLY #65 TO
"EVOLUTION VS. CREATIONISM"
(R) The foundation of evolution is the naturalistic origin of life from nonlife on the early Earth.
(MB) Untrue. Evolution is not a theory of origins. Evolution only describes what happens *after* life has already begun. As far as the theory is concerned, the origin of life is irrelevant.
(R) Over time, unicellular life has been found in earlier and earlier strata. Given the assumption of life's naturalistic origin's, life proceeded more rapidly than once thought from raw chemicals, to amino acids, to polymers, to replicating molecules to life.
(MB) Once again, evolution is not a theory of origins. If you want to believe that life had a supernatural origin, please go right ahead. That particular question of origins is a separate debate better suited to my Religion section.
(R) Of course to get from raw materials to amino acids, a reducing athmosphere is helpful (to understate things VERY dramatically). Unfortunately, the early athmosphere appears to have been neutral (Dgagonic, "Oxygen & Oxidizing Free Radicals in the Hydrosphere of the Early Earth (cA1.3), 9th International Society for the Study of the Origin of Life, 1999: Raulin, "Athmospheric Prebiotic Synthesis", ibid: Delano "Oxygen Barometry Oxidation Dervied Volatiles over Time, ibid
(MB) Actually, Creationists can't seem to decide what they want the early atmosphere to be, but they're certain that it couldn't have been amenable to the origin of life whether it was reducing, neutral, or oxygenated. Needless to say, the question is not one which concerns evolution. Nor are questions about how the Earth formed, how the solar system formed, how the universe formed, etc. They are all legitimate debates, but they fall into other areas of science. To bring them into a debate on evolution is to do nothing more than obfuscate the issue. Have you actually read the sources you referenced, or did you obtain the references from another source?
(R) So while microfossils have constrained the amount of time available for life's formation, from what was once thought, the early athmosphere appears to have been a lot less hospitable to amino acid formation than was once thought.
(MB) If so, how does this argue against evolution? Are you going to argue that multi-billion year old unicellular fossils are not actually that old?
(R) Isn't this a problem? If not, why not? In addition, why isn't amino acid chirality a problem? Have sugars or nucleic acids ever been discovered beyond the earth? If not, why isn't THEIR chirality, also a problem?
(MB) Chirality derives from the fact that carbon atoms can have four bonds that can produce molecules which exhibit "handedness". There are many hypotheses which attempt to account for the observed chirality in carbon compounds like amino acids (Coriolis forces, magnetic influences, extraterrestrial origins, etc.). What property of amino acid chirality do you consider to be problematic? Is there any particular reason why evolution is impossible if amino acids demonstrate any predominant "handedness"? Also, not all amino acids are chiral (glycine, for example, is not), so any "problem" is not an all-encompassing one. Since carbon atoms are the same on Earth as they are throughout the universe, there's no reason to suspect that similar carbon compounds won't exist and have the same properties beyond the Earth.
(R) The second step in life's formation would be the amino acid to polymer step.
(MB) You mean, of course, the second step in the process that took place *before* evolution would begin.
(R) James Ferris (Editor of Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere) and Leslie Orgel wrote an article in the May 2, 1999 issue of Nature titled "Synthesis of Long Prebiotic Oligomers on Mineral Surfaces". Mr. Ferris is a very proud evolutionist.
(MB) What is the purpose of identifying certain scientists as "very proud evolutionists"? Is this meant to denigrate their work? Then, of course, there's the slight problem that Ferris' work deals with polymer chemistry and not with evolution.
(R) For the first time, in his study, scientists were able to synthesize polymers of 50 monomers. How did he do this when previous attempts failed because of the tendancy polymers have to spontaneously breakdown in water?
Easy, you periodically pour fresh water into the system. You then continuously add more activated monomers to stay ahead of the reactions tendancy to break down. You then say that this "could" have occurred on the early Earth and pat yourself on the back for establishing another link in the chain leading to life.
(MB) There's a problem here? If so, what is it? And, need I mention it, what does it have to do with evolution? If such a method of polymer synthesis can be shown to work in *any* given scenario, that is more supporting evidence than any supernatural explanation currently has.
(R) 1. Do you agree that there is more than a little bit of aggressive researcher interference in this scenario? You asked for examples of questionable research on the part of evolutionists. Do you agree that this research leaves itself wide open for questions?
(MB) Any research leaves itself open for questions -- especially by those who have a vested interest in not believing what the research supports. Seems to me that the process used in this scenario is designed only to allow the faster replication of a process that would normally take far longer to happen on its own accord. It's very similar to breeding programs which produce new varieties and species much faster than nature would do it. This acceleration of a natural process in no way refutes that such processes could happen on their own.
(R) Wouldn't one of these questions be is "Did the researcher prove naturalistic origins for a step in the formation of life or intelligent design(in this case his own)? If not, why not?
(MB) The researchers did not create the polymer synthesis chemistry. That already existed. All they did was accelerate it. They did not create anything that could not otherwise have come to be.
(R) 2. Ferris's scenario gets us more or less, back to Darwin's tidal pools, as opposed to the more currently fashionable hydrothermal vent scenario. In fact, Ferris's work points to a major (i.e. catastrophic) weakness in the hydrothermal vent origin scenario (i.e. How do you get life, when even the basic polymer's tend to breakdown in the constantly hydrated environment, long before you even get to life?) Do you agree or disagree?
(MB) You get life when you understand that it can develop in numerous different ways. When one particular method is demonstrated, that does not eliminate all others. The alternative belief would have us accept that an "intelligent" designer created living things that have to violate the rules of chemistry that the same designer also would had to have created.
(R) 3. Given a neutral athmosphere, where does Ferris come up with massive reinfusions of activated amino acids on the early as anything even approaching a realistic situation on the early earth? Even in the best possible areas (river delta oxbox lakes and the like), amino acid contrations would be far too dilute to overcome the natural tendancy of polymers to break down in water (as oppose to the buildup required in evolutionary scenarios). Or do you disagree? If so why? Provide evidence as opposed to speculation to support your conclusion.
(MB) Why do you consider it necessary for me to support research that has nothing to do with evolution?
(R) 4. Given tidal pools, aren't we back to the problems with limited time. With fossils known from 3.5 billion years ago (Australia) and life signature from as far back as 3.85 billion years ago (Isua in Greenland). But the great bombardment only gradually halted between 4 billion and 3.5 billion years ago. Impacts would be most catastrophic at the very level of tidal pools where life was most life to form. Isn't this a problem?
(MB) Do you believe that it took every bit of 500 million years for the earliest simple living things to form? After all, that's almost the same length of time over which life has gone from its first multicellular specimens through dinosaurs, the development of plants, and up to today's rich abundance. Certainly, a unicell could form in that same length of time. Also, there is no reason to believe that tidal pools were the one and only place where living things could have formed. Given the incredible diversity of bacteria, it would strain credibility to constrain its origin to one environment.
(R) 5. Life origins is a hard problem. Do you think it would be helpful for scientists to say, "We don't know." Couldn't articles like Ferris's involve so much design and researcher interference as evidence in the case presented by the other side? (i.e. antievolutionists of whatever stripe). Do you agree that this is an example of questionable research on the part of evolutionists (similar to that you have claimed for creationists? If not, why not?
(MB) Once you get around to understanding that life's origins are not a part of evolution, you'll realize that it makes no sense to chide "evolutionists" for the problems you think you see. Life's origins might well be a hard problem, but they don't concern evolution theory. Evolution only begins *after* abiogenesis ends.
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