Thursday, May 3, 2012

Is God Just a Human Invention - Chapter 6 How Did Life Begin?

As mentioned previously, I am following a book club type format for this book over on another blog. I was going to just participate over there but I have a lot more to say than I want to shove into their comments, so I figured I'd do a normal long form post over here and then just talk about 1 or 2 main points over there. I'm sticking to my normal format of bold for section heading, regular text for summary, and italics for my commentary.


So this chapter starts with a quote from Richard Dawkins and follows it with a quote from the movie Dumb and Dumber in an effort to discredit Dawkins. Are they even taking this shit seriously?

The Mystery of the Origin of Life

We actually don't know that much about how life began. It is a large mystery.

No argument here.

"Skeptics often like to claim that as science progresses the gaps of scientific knowledge diminish. But this is incorrect. The more we learn about the universe, the wider the "gaps" often become."

What a strange thing to say. I would say that the gaps always become smaller, it's just that when we become aware of them they seem to get bigger. You might not notice how large the grand canyon is until you start trying to fill it in. It didn't get bigger after you started dumping gravel in there, you just became aware of its size.

The cell is much more complicated than Darwin thought, therefore "it points strongly toward the existence of an immaterial mind."

A very strange conclusion to draw. Wow, this is hard and complicated, therefore God. This is basically the argument right?

Technology and Information in the Cell

The section talks about how complicated a cell is, how it has many specialized 'machines' and it does information processing. About how DNA contains a lot of information. It then points out that explaining this is difficult and asks "How could a mindless material process spawn a system of such dizzying intricacy and sophistication?"

Is this entire chapter going to be an argument from ignorance?

Could Life Have Begun by Chance?

Here, they talk about how much stuff has to go just right for a cell to work. Then the bring out a number which is the odds of this happening by chance which just seems like if that is the odds (10 to the 16414th power) it is impossible.

The problem is, whenever people come up with these number they never say what assumptions they are making. 

The probability of life originating by chance is comparable to a tornado going through a junkyard and making a Boeing 747.

No it isn't. There is not natural selection at work there. The 2 situations are incomparable.

What About Self-organization?

Maybe the materials that made life have an inherent capacity to organize into life. This idea was put forth by Dean Kenyon in his book Biochemical Predestination, he has since fallen out of favor with the idea.

RNA-First Model

Some think that RNA might have come first. However, these ideas don't explain how the vast amount of information was produced.

This isn't my area of expertise at all, but how about the first replicators didn't really carry much information except how to replicate. Then by chance some that carry a little bit of information are better at replicating and the snowball effect gets started.

Simulating the Origin of Life

One of the ways that researchers try to account for the origin of life is in computer programs. There is a program that Dawkins tried that would randomly change a sentence and try to get to a line from Hamlet. This only worked because it was being guided by Dawkins.

I don't know all of the details about the experiment, but I'm guessing it was to test a single idea which it seems to have done. I'm sure it wasn't supposed to simulate how life actually formed in every way.

Ignorance or Design?

A common objection to ID is that it is just an argument from ignorance, but "the case for design is not simply inferred from the present ignorance of naturalistic scenarios."

Holy crap, they are actually going to address my main concern. Let's see what they got.

ID is based on our uniform experience that information always arises from an intelligent mind, no an unguided material process. Several examples are given including "computer scientists write computer programs".

What about when you have a computer program writing another program? Some AI programming involves starting with very simply instructions and letting the computer program itself. I think that qualifies as random processes.

Origin of life research is at a complete standstill.

I can't believe this is actually true.

Well, I think this section has been a pretty good representation of this book. It points out that the opposition has a complaint about arguments from ignorance. Says it will address it, then doesn't at all. That is because it can't. This entire thing IS an argument from ignorance.

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