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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Without God, How Can One Explain the Origin of Life?


A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk on the origin of life and how it is providing incredibly serious problems for naturalists who seek to eliminate God from the scene. Modern biology has discovered quite a bit about the cell and its complexity, but in so discovering, they have also created quite a conundrum for themselves. How do you get any kind of life, with its requisite DNA code that carries the instructions for how things work operating together with the proteins that carry out the work? David Berlinski, who classifies himself as an agnostic, puts the problem in clear terms. He first identifies the different functions that go into creating proteins in the cell.1:
Replication duplicates the genetic message in DNA.
Transcription copies the genetic message from DNA to RNA.
Translation conveys the genetic message from RNA to the amino acids—whereupon in a fourth and final step, the amino acids are assembled into proteins.
None of the above is controversial. Biologists know that proteins are the things that do all the work of life. The description of DNA to RNA to amino acids to proteins is simple and directional. But Berlinski then notes that when we are talking about the origin of life, the description is reversed. In order to get a replication process, one must have proteins already. In fact, the famous Miller-Urey experiment sought to show that amino acids, not DNA chains, could be produced using natural processes. They were assuming that with amino acids, one can begin the replication process. Berlinski then makes an astute observation:
If nucleic acids are the cell's administrators, the proteins are its chemical executives: both the staff and stuff of life. The molecular arrow goes one way with respect to information, but it goes the other way with respect to chemistry.

Replication, transcription, and translation represent the grand unfolding of the central dogma as it proceeds in one direction. The chemical activities initiated by the enzymes represent the grand unfolding of the central dogma as it goes in the other. Within the cell, the two halves of the central dogma combine to reveal a system of coded chemistry, an exquisitely intricate but remarkably coherent temporal tableau suggesting a great army in action.

From these considerations a familiar figure now emerges: the figure of a chicken and its egg. Replication, transcription, and translation are all under the control of various enzymes, but enzymes are proteins, and these particular proteins are specified by the cell s nucleic acids, DNA requires the enzymes in order to undertake the work of replication, transcription, and translation and the enzymes require DNA in order to initiate it. The nucleic acids and the proteins are thus profoundly coordinated, each depending upon the other. Without amino-acyl-tRNA synthetase, there is no translation from RNA; but without DNA, there is no amino-acyl-tRNA synthetase.

On the level of intuition and experience, these facts suggest nothing more mysterious than the longstanding truism that life comes only from life. Omnia viva ex vivo, as Latin writers said. It is only when they are embedded in various theories about the origins of life that the facts engender a paradox, or at least a question: in the receding molecular spiral, which came first—the chicken in the form of DNA, or its egg in the form of various proteins? And if neither came first, how could life have begun?2 (Emphases in the original.)

References

1. Berlinski, David. “on the Origin of Life.” The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science. Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, Eds. (Wilmington DE: ISI Books, 2012). 280.
2. Ibid. 281.

8 comments:

  1. In science (unlike in religion) it's perfectly OK to say "I don't know." We don't have a scientific explanation for the origin of life. On the other hand, it's not at all clear how God might have created life either. Did God just say the word and it happened? How does that explain anything?

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  2. John unlike with science where its one giant question mark belief in a divine creation gives a plausible explanation to an event. Its fine with religion to also say" I dont know" but in regard to details. Unlike science we possess the theory that encompasses the detail but science fails to even offer an alternative theory let alone detail. Sadly a theory such as this will never be accepted or considered by scientists as theory due to the bias against Christian teachings when perhaps the answer has been there all along

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  3. John unlike with science where its one giant question mark belief in a divine creation gives a plausible explanation to an event. Its fine with religion to also say" I dont know" but in regard to details. Unlike science we possess the theory that encompasses the detail but science fails to even offer an alternative theory let alone detail. Sadly a theory such as this will never be accepted or considered by scientists as theory due to the bias against Christian teachings when perhaps the answer has been there all along

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  4. John, it may be perfectly OK to say :I don't know" but it isn't OK to offer a theory that contradicts the known facts. The facts are that the stages of replication, transcription, and translation are all mutually dependent upon one another and could not come about without the entire system already in place.

    If you are going to say "I don't know" with regard to the origin of life, then you cannot say intelligent design is a priori forbidden. If one doesn't know, then they don't know that, either!

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  5. I wouldn't say intelligent design is 'a priori' forbidden, but I would look for the design. Is there a map, or some kind of blueprint? Is there some kind of scaffolding left over from the construction phase? These are things we're actually looking for.

    Is it really a fact that this and that could not come about without the entire system already in place? We know that "irreducible complexity" has been totally debunked in the realm of evolution. Why should we trust the same idea in the realm of origins?

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    Replies
    1. Please link a scientifically peer-reviewed paper that shows that irreducible complexity has been totally debunked. Recent scientific gene-knockout experiments have shown on the bacterial flagellum that all 30 or so genes are required and if one is missing it doesn't function. In fact, as time has gone on more and more irreducible micro-machines in cells are discovered. Not only that but organs such as the eye still are irreducible. Please submit a peer reviewed paper that explains how the eye went from say a photo sensitive cell to a fully formed eye. You won't find one, because even scientists that hold fast to Darwinian theory are in agreement...they don't know how it happened.

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    2. Please link a scientific peer-reviewed paper on how irreducible complexity has been totally debunked. On the contrary, scientific gene-knockout experiments have shown that if any of the 30 genes in a bacterial flagellum are removed it doesn't function. In fact, as time goes on and we learn more and more about the cell, we are discovering more irreducible micro machines. In addition, organs are also irreducibly complex such as the eye. Please link a peer-reviewed scientific paper showing how a photo-sensitive cell (i'll even let you have the cell although how the cell could form in the first place is another topic) could form into an eye.

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  6. The problem is, as I see, that both ideas are crap. Evolution and divine design need each other to substantiate their own existence where, in fact, both suck.

    I was working on speciation at UC Berkeley and sat in on a lecture looking at dna sequencing of north Pacific oysters. The prof. came in and stated "Well, evolution is dead, lets get on with it." I cheered. The problem he described was that of 2 oysters, with completely different genomes had the exact same geographic, morphologic and anatomical features but were 20 millions years apart in their habitation. The fossils could not be told apart without looking at their genomes and their carbon age.

    Evolution implies that there is a progression of species that a species goes from one location, interior and exterior, in space/time to another and that progress is random. This is not true. A species may go backward, sideways, and upside down depending on the perceptive spaces they enjoy. They must perceive the next space from the spaces available to them within the time of their discrete existence. As these space/times change they may accumulate space/times within their genomes and may become more able to remain and then perceive and occupy new spaces with new, unpredictable times qualities.

    This is the problem with evolution in that it implies that change is random where, in fact, it is a direct function of perception. The change has the opportunity to change the dimensional responses of the species allowing it to occupy that new space, or not. The spaces it occupies allows it to perceive new space/time opportunities or, just as common, be killed by them. Accumulations of similar perceptions enhances the opportunities and, subsequently, new modalities of existence and survivability (extended existence).

    The species did not evolve it chose, it selected. Natural selection implies that things happen randomly, that there is an unconsciousness driving the bus, where, in fact, speciation is a function of direct perception, of choice.

    As for Divine Design well, I think that is just hopeful stinking where great wealth is perceived and collected every week. Of course the evolutionist have their hand out too.

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