Testing The Hypothesis of Abiogenesis

I wish to show here, that there is no viable current theory of abiogenesis–how living things can arise from non-living matter.  A scientific theory, that makes assertions about cause and effect relationships, must make specific predictions, that can be tested experimentally, and must be falsifiable. I’ll try to make this as non-technical as possible.

Typically, a scientific experiment will have one or more independent variables (the factors that are changed or manipulated across experimental conditions) and one or more dependent variables (the factor that is measured to be used in determining the outcome of the experiment).  Also, every attempt is made to control for other influences that may affect the dependent variable or confound (1) the outcomes of the study.  The more variables that are involved, the more experimental groups are required, and the more complex the statistical analysis.  Now, one thing that is important in designing an experiment, is estimating the statical power (2) that is required.

An experiment can be thought of as a specific type of method used in scientific inquiries, and personal questioning, usually to study causality. Often the objective is to test a hypothesis: i.e. a tentative explanation of a phenomenon or mechanism of causality. The essence of an experiment is to introduce a change in a system (the independent variable) and to study the effect of this change (the dependent variable). Two fundamental considerations of experimental design are:

  • That the independent variable is the only factor that varies systematically in the experiment; in other words, that the experiment is appropriately controlled – that confounding variables are eliminated; and
  • That the dependent variable truly reflects the phenomenon under study (a question of validity) and that the variable can be measured accurately (i.e., that various types of experimental error, such as measurement error can be eliminated).  (3)

For example, it might be hypothesized that that patients who are prayed for will recover faster than patients who were not prayed for.  You can randomly assign patients to a “prayed for” group and a “not prayed for group.”  However, in this type of experiment, it is virtually impossible to eliminate confounding variables (i.e., the patients may pray for themselves, the patients family members may pray for them, people in general may pray for the healing of the sick).  So, a finding of no statistically significant difference in recovery rates between the groups would be confounded by prayer actually occurring in the “not prayed for group.”  (4) [footnote 1]

For a better example of a controlled experiment, consider the following:

Two hundred participants are randomly assigned to either a group that takes vitamin C or a placebo for 6 weeks.  The number of colds for each participant are counted during the trial period.  The individual involved in counting the number of colds is “blind” to the condition that the participants are in.  Statistical analyses are conducted to see if the number of colds differ significantly between the control and experimental condition.

The criteria used most often in a controlled experiment is that if the results could be expected by chance 5% or less of the time, then the groups are consider to differ significantly supporting the hypothesis.  In this case, that taking vitamin C will significantly reduce the number of colds experienced over a 6 week period.  That means approximately 5% of the time, chance will produce these results, and the experimenters will be wrong in finding support for their hypotheses that often.  This is considered a reasonable level of risk in being incorrect in their inferences.

So, back to abiogenesis.  The number of “subjects” or trials needed in order to successfully examine the notion that a “prebiotic soup” could result in non-living matter becoming life is beyond any, and possibly any future, experimental methods.  By the accounts of naturalistic evolutionists, the chances of a pre-life-unit arising in this hypothetical prebiotic soup are 1 in 4.29 x 10^40 (that’s 4.29 followed by 40 zeros).  Creationists calculations claim a much larger number (2.04 x 10^390) (5).  Naturalists claim a hypothetical state of the early seas containing a high concentration of organic monomers.  They claim that the correct combination of materials could have occured within 1 million years, or on the first try.

So, in order to conduct controlled experiments that may support this theory, you’d probably need to conduct 80 to 95 times 4.29 x 10^40 trials in order to say that these early conditions could not form a pre-life-unit.  In conducting those trials, a single pre-life-unit would support the theory.  This is impossible to conduct, and thus the theory is unfalsifiable.  It fails to pass the basic requirements needed to be a viable scientific theory.

References

(1). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confounding_variable
(2). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Experiment
(3). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_power
(4). http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/avalos_17_3.html
(5). http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html

Footnotes

[1] The assumption is that God would allow Himself to be a manipulated independent variable in research.  “Thou shalt not test the Lord thy God.”

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part IX

Is it? Could it be? The time we’ve all been waiting for? Perhaps.. Let’s see.

Those dumb and stupid (1) creationists think that life originated through random processes. But we do now know, although we were confused before, that life did not arise through random processes. Although all of our previous ideas on abiogenesis were utterly incorrect, we have now, convincingly to us, solved the problem (praise Science). We do now know, that the formation of biopolymers, from monomers, is anything but random, but relies on the laws of physics and chemistry (2).

We’ve made a diagram. See…it’s true! Look at it–seeing is believing. See it, the Ur Cell.

So we do know, that the first life units (FLU’s), were probably a single self-replicating molecule or possibly RNA polymerase that acts on itself. You saw the drawing didn’t you? Or perhaps, “either protein enzymes or RNA ribozymes, that [did] regenerated themselves as a catalytic cycle.” So, the silly God-believers think that we do just think that molecules did turn into a cell, and think we believe in all the wrong ideas that we did have before!! They don’t know that we do now actually believe in the true idea, not all the old false ideas. We just re-ran the calculations with our new truth, not the dumb and stupid calculations of the creationists, but with respect to the “prebiotic soup” that did exist, but no longer exists, on the Earth. (2) Got it? Good. Now shut up. Go make stone tools, and let us get back to potentially saving lives, and for certain, saving minds (uh, brains) from ignorance (praise Science).

(1). http://www.carpenoctem.tv/killers/gacy.html
(2). http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/abioprob/abioprob.html#Globule

A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part VIII

Please pardon this digression in the name of the Almighty Science. Its ways are multitudinous, its adherents are just, ethical, loving, kind, and smarter than you (1). And then did some of the more intelligent beings on the planet, come to believe that life did arise from outer space. Not from E.T. (2) did it arise, or perhaps it did (3). Before we do become confused and think that real scientists could ever believe in space aliens, we must retract our statements (4). Let us not be misunderstood. We were feeling magnanimous to the IDiots that day. Sorry about that…we are no longer feeling that way. Since the ‘warm little pond,’ has been so hard to find, we turned to the cold rock in space. There, some of us did find what we were looking for, the key to the beginning of the life form to which we all owe our existence (praise Science). But as for certain DO we know, life did arise from non-living matter. So, we do not now think in silly little ways like either/or (Earth or Space). We do know that the early conditions of the Earth and Solar System were quite chaotic. The Earth did become bombarded by meteorites containing organic compounds (ahhhh….life-to-be units). The young little Earth did receive more complex molecules from space that we know were well on their way to becoming biology. Not actually biological themselves of course, but to-be-life units. Or perhaps, they could have been biological units, which arose in a more favorable soup such as Mars (already-life units). So, we do admit this is a bit of digression, and we do know it may be just as false as every other idea we’ve had, we also do know, that everyone who does have even half a brain (5), knows that abiogenesis did occur. So, soon, soon indeed, we will tell you how it happened.

(1). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaGgpGLxLQw
(2). http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?id=did-life-come-from-anothe
(3). http://www.discovery.org/a/4719
(4). http://richarddawkins.net/article,2394,Lying-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins
(5). http://www.intelldesign.com/?p=170

Mind and Brain-Part I

The hemispherectomy was a procedure performed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s which was performed to help relieve epilepsy. In this procedure, an entire hemisphere of brain (half of the brain) was removed. While there were often some long-term effects on controlling movement in one side of the body, studies showed that these individuals retained their personalities, cognitive and intellectual abilities. Of course this depends on the age of the patient at the time that the surgery is performed. Apparently, the unaffected hemisphere is able to adapt and take over the functions of the hemisphere that has been removed.

Hemispherectomy Photo

To me, this is one piece of evidence for a possible split between mind and brain (software and hardware if you will). I may have missed something, but I think these facts support and ID perspective better than an evolutionary perspective. To consider the pressures of natural selection to produce this ability, you would have to have a large population of humans or ancestors (with brains) suffering neural insults, and those who were able to maintain enough of their previous functioning to reproduce would pass on their mutations for neuroplasticity to the next generation. Even then, what would be the need for maintaining the same personality, memory abilities, and cognitive functioning? All you really need to do is to be smart enough to avoid getting killed and smart enough to reproduce (it’s not all that difficult really–at least the latter).

So, from a design perspective, if you were designing a highly advanced life form, I think you’d want to build in capacity beyond what might really be needed. You’d also want to design it to keep functioning as much as possible in the case of an injury. If it was important that this life form maintain a sense of self or “personhood” if you will, then I think you’d want them to continue being the same person in the absense of as much hardware as is possible. We certainly have capacities that are far beyond what we need to survive and reproduce. If not, then why are we blogging, enjoying nature, painting, making music, studying evolution, and so on and so forth (all things that do nothing to enhance survival of either the species or the individual)?

On Religious Beliefs, ID, and Science

Dave Scot, decidedly an agnostic, has written what I believe to be a very cogent analysis of theistic associations between ID and Christianity, and atheism and promoters of science. His views, I believe line up well, with how I see the issue. He also includes a logical rationale for design detection.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/response-to-gabriel/

Front-loading and genetics

Dave Scott over at Uncommon Descent thinks this paper has some interesting implications for ID.

As I read through, I found a few interesting tidbits.

(a) the Universal Genome that encodes all major developmental programs essential for various phyla of Metazoa emerged in a unicellular or a primitive multicellular organism shortly before the Cambrian period; (b) The Metazoan phyla, all having similar genomes, are nonetheless so distinct because they utilize specific combinations of developmental programs.

So, a couple of things that they found were:

While the presence of the opsins could be explained by their possible function in a simple light sensing, sea urchin has the entire set of orthologs of major genes involved in the eye development, e.g., Pax6, Six3, Prox1, Rx2 or Eya1 (NCBI database). Therefore, it appears that information on the eye development is encoded in the sea urchin genome, while no eye is actually developed, and thus the genetic information seems to be excessive.

….and

Also, sea urchin has Rag1 and Rag2 genes that mediate the somatic rearrangement process common to both immunoglobulin and T cell‑antigen receptor gene families. In addition, other components that function in the reorganization and diversification of immunoglobulins and TCR have also been identified, including a polymerase homologous to the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase (TdT) and polymerase m.11 Yet, sea urchin does not have antibodies, and possibly lacks adaptive immunity in general. Genes that are seemingly useless in sea urchin but are very useful in higher taxons exemplify excessive genetic information in lower taxons.

Ref: [Cell Cycle 6:15, 1873-1877, 1 August 2007]; ©2007 Landes Bioscience

The "Show Me" State (of mind)

No, I’m not from Missouri! Over the years, I have had unbelievers, Atheists, or whatever, say to me,

“When you can produce physical evidence, which I can examine with my senses, of creation and the resurrection, then I will believe that there is a God.”

Of course, as everyone knows, or maybe not, “Faith is…the evidence of things not seen.” So, these unbelievers, Atheists, or whatever, and I always simply turned and walked away from each other, without uttering another word.

Today, I want to be that self-assured, as well as arrogant, prosecuting attorney, when it comes to this issue. I want to ask a similar question to the unbeliever, Atheist, or whatever, and my question comes from the same skepticism that was exhibited by these others, only, of course, from the exact opposite perspective.

“When you can produce physical evidence, which I can examine with my senses (by senses, I mean only my touch, taste and feel alone, since telescopes, as well as lectures, quips, qualms and queries, by mere mortals, mean less than nothing to me!), of the big-bang, dark energy and mass, and at least 1000 (I think that’s a fair number) complete, and I do mean complete, skeletal remains from every evolutionary stage of man, then I will be believe in evolution and all else you profess to believe!”

I believe my approach is fair here, and-perhaps-even scientific, since I’m following the prescribed method of interrogation by those, as you, who refuse to believe in creation and yet firmly believe in another, as equally unfalsifiable, doctrine. Besides, unlike me, you claim to have the physical evidence for your belief, so, unlike me, you need to produce it if you want to convert those, like me, who are more than doubting!