My first actual C/E debate, posted here because this is my soap box. Cheers to the utter lack of formatting; apparently, spacing is beyond me.
Me (minus formatting)
The supposedly “unanswerable” 15 questions: 8 of those 15 questions (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11) can be answered by two fundamental biological concepts: the evolutionary relationship between structure and function, and the process of self-assembly. I suggest that the writer look these two basic concepts up and give them a good think before drawing conclusions about evolution and what it can and cannot explain. Understanding basic biology is essential if you’re going to make an anti-evolution argument about it (which is moot in the first place, since the entire science of biology is based on evolutionary principles). To make this easier to understand, I’ll describe these two concepts briefly. First, “relationship between structure and function” means that one cannot exist without the other. A structure will not exist (or, more accurately, be evolved) if there is no “need” for it. Similarly, the “need” will not exist/be evolved if there isn’t at least a rudimentary structure (something that can be modified) to fulfill it. Take, for example, the evolution of a flagellum; the entire complex did not suddenly mutate into existence - rather, each piece was altered slowly, over big time and as a result of environmental pressures, into its modern form. Remember that its modern form is not its final form, please. Self-assembly: Natural structures assemble themselves according to “rules” that emerge at each new level of complexity (emergent properties - another fundamental biological concept that the author obviously does not understand). At its most basic level, this means that a positively charged sodium ion will form an ionic bond with a negatively charged chlorine ion, forming sodium chloride. This ionic compound has properties that neither the sodium ion nor the chlorine ion had on their own (emergent properties). Keep going up the level of complexity - atom to molecule to membrane, for example - and the impossibility isn’t so impossible. For a more in-depth example, I suggest the author examine embryogenesis, especially in its earliest stages. And of course, it’s essential that anyone claiming that a bunch of chemicals can’t become a cell should remember that there are only two essential factors needed to create life: a membrane or some structure that creates an internal environment separate and different from an external environment, and self-replication. Anyone questioning the ability of a singly cell to evolve, over time, into a large multicullular organism, needs to remember that A) multicellular organisms are MULTICELLULAR, meaning “symbiotic relationships between cells” (see: sponge), and “over time” means over a VERY VERY LONG PERIOD OF TIME. Try to find the answers to your questions yourselves, before you bother someone else. I assure you, they’re out there (in my AP biology text book, for example…). Oh, and one more thing. No, we don’t know exactly the mechanism of abiogenesis, but we also thought flies spontaneously generated on rotting food only a few hundred years ago. Just because we don’t know the answer now, doesn’t mean we won’t later. And when we find it, the foundation of your argument will be all the more unstable.
The author of the original article, a Ph.D. biologist, is on leave. But we already have articles responding to criticism, not least the three-part responses to the article listed at the bottom of the original http://creation.com/15-questions
Your own attempt is a lot of handwaving. How about some actual specifics to explain the many coordinated parts of the flagellum motor (see for example http://creation.com/misotheists-misology-richard-dawkins-attacks-michael-behe#flagellum ) or ATP synthase motor vital for life http://creation.com/atp-synthase
My book Greatest Hoax on Earth? has a chapter on self-assembly. This chapter includes embryogenesis: note that this proceeds by an already-existing program, so is no analogy to philogeny.
It is really naive to compare even the order of amino acids or nucleotides with ionic bonding in sodium chloride (I am a Ph.D. chemist so know what I’m talking about). The order in proteins and DNA is extraneous to the chemical properties of the monomers, while sodium chloride is explainable by the ionization energy of sodium and electron affinity of chlorine. See also http://creation.com/some-thermodynamics-criticisms-and-answers-2
Once again, we need specifics of the origin of multicellularity, not just handwaving about long ages of time http://creation.com/multicellularity
Modern theories of abiogenesis or chemical evolution are the direct descendants of the spontaneous generation of flies, at which you scoff.
Last, your claim about what we will find in the future. I didn’t realize you were a prophetess. In reality, the more we have discovered about the complexity of life, the less plausible evolutionary origins look.
Head Scientist, CMI–USA (formerly Australia)
Dear Mr. Sarfati,
I’m very happy to have gotten a response, and hope that this reply reaches you.
A Ph.D., huh? I’ll admit, I’m a high school senior and A.P. Biology student with only as much experience in and knowledge of the field of biology as can be gained from a bit of personal research and a lot of science courses at a local community college. And chemistry, admittedly, is not my strength. So, I can’t give you the “actual specifics” that I’m sure you can throw around at the drop of the hat - but I can give you common sense.
First, I’ll address your last point. Since you wrote a book directly countering The Greatest Show on Earth, you are probably also familiar with The Blind Watchmaker. In it, Dawkins discusses the misleading fixation we have on the idea of design; if something works, it must have been made to work that way - especially if that something is particularly complex. Nothing new, right? And the inquiry that follows is also nothing new - but I ask it anyway, because I have never seen any kind of worthwhile response:Why? Why is it so inconceivable that natural selection is just that powerful? Why do we assume that just because science hasn’t yet explained it, it can’t be explained by science? It’s not prophesy to assume that someone in the future will find an answer, especially when we already know what questions to ask. This, to me, is common sense.
When I talked about the evolution of the flagellum, I wasn’t attempting to argue specifics, especially since it’s my opinion that logic is the answer to the evolution/creation question. I was making the point that structure co-evolves with function; perhaps a better example would have been the familiar and observable relationship between finch beak morphology and its diet? As its diet changes as a result of drought, the structure of its beak changes to fulfill the function of allowing the finch to eat the available food, and thus survive. And yes, I have seen the bold sentence in the paragraph expounding on Question 4, and would like to point out that I am not using beak variation to explain beak or bird origin, but rather to serve as an example of the process behind their origins (i.e. adaptation via natural selection). Again, this relationship seems like common sense to me; I’m sure that you, a Ph.D. chemist, could better explain the specifics - how structure, function, and emergent properties could possibly result in the organization of a self-replicating molecule. If not, could you give me a specific reason why it’s inconceivable - other than that DNA is too complex (especially since its likely that the original molecule was just a rudimentary version of RNA)? Sadly, I’m not sure how that would be possible, especially since (as Question 1 points out) we don’t really know what was going on during the time we speculate it all began.
“Modern theories of abiogenesis or chemical evolution are the direct descendants of the spontaneous generation of flies, at which you scoff,” you said. Yep, you’re right. We’re assuming that life came from non-life, but don’t know how - just like we assumed that flies came from rotting food, but didn’t know how. Well, now we know that flies come from other flies, thus solving the mystery. Explain why there was an answer to the question of fly generation, but there isn’t an answer to life generation. Also, please explain the point you were trying to make with the above statement.
Finally, it is unfortunate that embryogenesis is not a perfect example of self-assembly, since it does have DNA behind it. But again, embryogenesis is not meant to be an example of the same process that made the leap from non-life to life; after all, “you did it yourself in nine months” - not 4 billion years, with no more guidance than the holistic web of emergent properties that both weaves “local rules” of behavior and the environmental pressures that constrict it. Rather, it serves as an example of a power that can be applied to any aspect of life and non-life, at any level of complexity. And as with all examples used in vain to explain the principles of evolution, the misinterpretation comes from the failure of creationists to think bigger, beyond supposedly “missing fossils” (which Dawkins is eager to point out are in museums), unanswered questions (I’m sure people wondered why things stick to the ground before Newton thought up gravity, but the fact that there was no answer didn’t mean it didn’t exist, obviously), and the basic philosophical traps at the heart of human-exceptionalist thinking (there had to be a beginning to all time, everything that works/is complex must have been designed, etc, etc).