A Naturalistic Fairy Tale-Part XXVI

And then did we, the Most High Scientists, decide that life may have “been forged in a quantum crucible.”(1)  Not to be outdone by our fellow believers in Naturalism, the venerable biologists, we physicists did decide to weigh in on the matter of life’s beginning. 

Erving Schrödinger, the fellow who did imagine a cat being dead and not dead at the same time,(2) did also imagine other things about life.  Some 65 years later, do we weigh in on the issue.

Now, while some silly folk (i.e., creationists) do make wildly erroneous calculations about the probability of abiogenesis, we’ll give you a calculation in order to promote our theory.  We’ll deny it if the creationists do try to use it (Praise Science). 

But we do now focus in on one molecular machine, the ribosome, that protein factory of the cell that is capable of producing even more ribosomes.(3) 

So we did calculate that there could be 4165 possible primitive ribozyme structures based on 165 DNA base pair sequences.  We do know that most of these would not be self-replicators. 

“That’s more than the number of electrons in the universe,” he says. What’s more, life came about relatively soon after the planet formed, he says. “The puzzle is not only how life emerged, but how it emerged so fast.”

We shall now engage in a bit of anthropomorphism, (4) forgive us (Praise Science).  But do realize that it is completely naturalistic, and God is not needed.  Quantum processes did sort through and discard unwanted structures.  We’re certain you’ll have no problem with our use of the terms of “sort” and “unwanted” with regards to nature.  So, we do now think, that multiple mutated configurations did exist simultaneously (just like the cat was dead and un-dead a the same time).  This simultaneous existence of configurations allowed for the testing of a range of possibilities.  We do now know that quantum effects are a bit finicky; however, we do believe that they could act at the bottom of the Ocean (Praise Science). 

Davies also finds the idea promising. “These guys may have found a niche where quantum magic really could be at work,” he says. “But it is conjecture at this stage, just as all ideas for the origin of life are.”

We do also know that you know that when we use the term “magic” we don’t mean anything by it.  We certainly don’t mean “non-material” (Praise Science).  Once the configurations were sorted out and selected, the struture would become fixed, and unavailable to quantum effects. 

 

(1). http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19626332.700-was-life-forged-in-a-quantum-crucible.html

(2). Schrödinger’s Cat

(3). http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/R/ribosome.html

(4). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropomorphism

More Complex than Previously Thought-Part VI

In The Journal of the Creation Science Movement,(1) we find:

The psalmist says, “I will praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvellous are your works” (Psalm 139: 14). Nowhere is this more evident than in the design of the human brain. Capable of incredible feats of computation, data recognition and information storage, the brain exceeds the abilities of all the electronic devices mankind has yet been able to devise. As none of the latter have ever occurred by accident but have had to be painstakingly designed, so the human brain is likewise compelling evidence for a Designer. New evidence now indicates that this design is still greater than had previously been realized.

If the brain wasn’t already complex enough (100 Billion neurons with 1000 to 10000 interconnections each), it was recently found that individual synapses (think of it as a point of connection between neurons), can act independently.

Furthermore, work on neurons by other researchers has suggested that even individual synapses – the junctions of a neuron with other neurons and nerve cells – could be capable of acting independently from each other within the same neuron. This could mean that these different synapses are processing or storing completely different bits of information, even at such a microscopic level.

At the edges of all that is known in science, one finds ever more baffling phenomena and/or breathtaking complexity. Ultimately, we discover the limits of our ability to comprehend and even observe. I believe that there are messages in these facts for those who are listening. That is, we should maintain some humility in our search to understand, and that many aspects of the nature of God are evident in nature for all who are willing to see.

(1). Creation, 15(9), pp 2, 2008

Nested Hierarchies: Proof of Evolution?

We had a recent drive-by commenter, John, here who purported that nested hierarchies were “proof” of common descent (the holy grail of Darwinism). My friend over at the Italian ID site, Progetto Cosmo, recently wrote a post on nested hierarchies.

Why complex systems of nested hierarchies like cars or living things cannot be produced from the lowest to highest level.

An automobile is an example of a complex system with nested hierarchies. At the highest hierarchical level, a car is a device for transporting people and things. It consists of several sub-hierarchies:

1. Steering mechanism
2. Braking system
3. Engine
4. Transmission Etc.

The most complex of these is the engine. Within the engine we have further sub-hierarchies like the crankshaft assembly, a precisely machined and balanced steel bar which converts rotary to linear motion. Then we have the piston assembly which includes the piston itself, connecting rod, piston pin, and rings. The rings are a hierarchy down from the pistons. They are precision parts and typically sold as sets. The set of spark plugs and wires is yet another sub hierarchy of the engine. And each spark plug is a hierarchy of it’s own consisting of insulator, threads, electrode and so on. And the same applies even to spark plug wires which consist of insulator, copper wire, and connectors.

The car does not function unless all the hierarchies of systems are included in the proper order. Nor can they be included helter-skelter. They have to be in the proper assembly order. The piston rods must be connected to the crankshaft. The cylinders must have spark plugs. The wheels must have tires. A car which has the pistons in the trunk and the tires on the back seat is useless. An engine without piston rings will not function.

And continues…

We now understand that the molecule lying at the lowest level of hierarchy is DNA. The random changes are simply substitutions of one DNA base for another resulting in a mutation. A useful mutation will aid survival and reproduction. The cycle of mutation/selection is the engine that drives evolution. So we are told. But wait: mutation takes place at the lowest level of a living organism’s hierarchy. How can changes at this level be coordinated into the vast array of hierarchies above?

Imagine handing an ancient Roman engineer a spark plug and expecting that by tinkering with it he might eventually develop a car. How could this possibly happen without a vision of a car and how its hierarchies interrelate? Even if that ancient Roman somehow stumbled on a modification that improved the spark plug he would have no way to recognize the improvement because without all the hierarchies that make up a car, the spark plug is useless.

So his notion is that for complex systems of nested hierarchies, there must be a designer who has in mind, a purpose and function of the designs, from the beginning in order to produce a functional nested hierarchy. In other words, random changes in the surface of your concrete floor in your basement will not transform your house into something different. Random changes to a blueprint for a house before it is built would certainly have implications for the outcome, and blueprints that result from random processes would have even further implications. The blind process and necessity worshipers seem to believe that these processes can result in nested hierarchies and even try to use this as proof of evolution. I’m less than convinced…

The Naturalistic Myth of Creation

Over at Atheism is Dead, there are two very well written recent posts on the creation myths of atheists by means of cosmology. They are fairly long posts, but worth the time to read.

In the Beginning… Cosmology, Part I – The Pre Big Bang Scenario
In the Beginning… Cosmology, Part II – Book, Chapter and Multi-Verse

More Complex than Previously Thought-Part V

The New York Times ran an article last November on the Language of Biology. This article is more amusing than anything else for some of the language that is used in the article.

Scientists have learned that the canonical “genes” account for an embarrassingly tiny part of the human genome: maybe 1 percent of the three billion paired subunits of DNA that are stuffed into nearly every cell of the body qualify as indisputable protein codes. Scientists are also learning that many of the gene-free regions of our DNA are far more loquacious than previously believed, far more willing to express themselves in ways that have nothing to do with protein manufacture.

So much for the Junk DNA myth that was advanced by Darwinists as previous “proof” of their theory. But we’ve already been down that road, so let’s get to the interesting part.

Dr. Keller is a big fan of the double helix considered both in toto and in situ — in its native cellular setting. “DNA is an enormously powerful resource, the most brilliant invention in evolutionary history,” she said. “It is a far richer and more interesting molecule than we could have imagined when we first started studying it.”

Still, she said, “it doesn’t do anything by itself.” It is a profoundly relational molecule, she said, and it has meaning only in the context of the cell. To focus endlessly on genes, she said, keeps us stuck in a linear, unidirectional and two-dimensional view of life, in which instructions are read out and dutifully followed.

“What makes DNA a living molecule is the dynamics of it, and a dynamic vocabulary would be helpful,” she said. “I talk about trying to verb biology.” And to renoun it as well. Writing last year in the journal PloS One, Dr. Keller and David Harel of the Weizmann Institute of Science suggested as an alternative to gene the word dene, which they said could be used to connote any DNA sequence that plays a role in the cell. So far, Dr. Keller admits, it has yet to catch on.

So a blind process is brilliant. That’s impressive language, and so is “verb biology.” I wonder if dene will be a verb (That ribosome is dening a protein.) And indeed, Darwinists “never would have imagined” the complexity they would encounter, and they continue to be surprised.

Here is the part I found most amusing:

In a similar vein, we may never understand the workings of our cells and genomes as comfortably and cockily as we understand the artifacts of our own design. “We have evolved to solve problems,” Dr. Keller said. “Those do not include an understanding of the operation of our own systems — that doesn’t have much evolutionary advantage.” It’s quite possible, she said, that biology is “irreducibly complex,” and not entirely accessible to rational analysis. Which is not to say we’re anywhere near being stymied, she said: “Our biology is stretching our minds. It’s another loop in the evolutionary process.”

I guess we’ll have to wait until we do evolve to understand the operation of our own systems, and that may entail waiting for a selection process that allows only those with greater understanding to live. Note also, the Darwinists use the term “irreducibly complex,” but not in the way intended by Behe. I think what they mean is, “So complex we could never understand it.”

The Applied Science of Intelligent Design-Part II

In Part I, I introduced the concepts that were set forth by Joey Campana on how a design orientation fosters applied science. William Dembski over at UD linked to a site that has a page titled: The 15 Coolest Cases of Biomimicry. I am much more an advocate of applied science over basic science. That’s not to say that basic science can never eventually be useful, because sometimes the findings of basic science eventually end up finding some applicability. But, the fact is that a choice must be made about what’s the most important. Money doesn’t grow on trees. The equation is simple in my mind. Let’s focus more on things that might actually improve people’s lives.

The site documents 15 of the Coolest things that are based on God’s designs [my words, not theirs]. My point of view is that ID researchers would have more of an orientation toward things that might actually be useful now rather than on processes that purportedly take millions of years to have any effect. Some of the things documented at the site include: velcro, passive cooling, gecko tape, whalepower wind turbines, and more.

The Edge Becomes Clearer

Douglas Axe has written an interesting post in which he reviews a recent article by Darwinists and further demonstrates the edge of evolution (i.e., Michael Behe).(1) Darwinists are consistently unable to demonstrate how useful mutations can occur on a level to result in anything other than minor advantages (usually with a single point mutation that just breaks things), and I think Axe’s analogy to computer software is very apt.

By way of analogy, you might easily cause your favorite software to crash by changing a bit or two in the compiled executable file, but you can’t possibly convert it into something altogether different (and equally useful) by such a simple change, or even by a series of such changes with each version improving on the prior one.  To get a substantially new piece of software, you would need to substantially re-engineer the original code knowing that your work wouldn’t pay off until it’s finished.  Darwinism just doesn’t have the patience for this.

Furthermore, returning to the first question, it seems that even humble binding-site conversions are typically beyond the reach of Darwinian evolution.  Durrett and Schmidt conclude that “this type of change would take >100 million years” in a human line [1], which is problematic in view of the fact that the entire history of primates is thought to be shorter than that [3].

Might the prospects be less bleak for more prolific species with shorter generation times?  As it turns out, even there Darwinism appears to be teetering on the brink of collapse.  Choosing fruit flies as a favorable organism, Durrett and Schmidt calculate that what is impossible in humans would take only “a few million years” in these insects.  To get that figure, however, they had to assume that the damage caused buy the first mutation has a negligible effect on fitness.  In other words, they had to leap from “the mutation need not be lethal” to (in effect) ‘the mutation causes no significant harm’.  That’s a big leap.

What happens if we instead assume a small but significant cost—say, a 5% reduction in fitness?  By their math it would then take around 400 million years for the binding-site switch to prove its benefit (if it had one) by becoming fully established in the fruit fly population.  [4] By way of comparison, the whole insect class—the most diverse animal group on the planet—is thought to have come into existence well within that time frame. [5]

Do you see the problem?  On the one hand we’re supposed to believe that the Darwinian mechanism converted a proto-insect into a stunning array of radically different life forms (termites, beetles, ants, wasps, bees, dragonflies, stick insects, aphids, fleas, flies, mantises, cockroaches, moths, butterflies, etc., each group with its own diversity) well within the space of 400 million years.  But on the other hand, when we actually do the math we find that a single insignificant conversion of binding sites would reasonably be expected to consume all of that time.

(1). Bold Biology for 2009