Serving up sour grapes for Thanksgiving

Granville Sewell is at it again.  Today (Thanksgiving Day in the USA), he posted at UD, a video about his disagreement with the scientific establishment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZFMXR6PqGtg

My reaction is shown in the title of this post.

54 Replies to “Serving up sour grapes for Thanksgiving”

  1. Reciprocating Bill
    Ignored
    says:

    Why does Elmer Fudd narrate his videos?

  2. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    My message to Granville Sewell:

    When most of the experts in the area can see that what you write is obviously wrong, there are only two likely possibilities:

    1. Your ideas are wrong; or
    2. You are communicating your ideas very poorly, so that they are being misread as something other than what you intended.

    In either case, the problem is yours.  It achieves nothing for you to repeatedly point a finger of blame at the scientific community.  What you need to do is reexamine your ideas, and reexamine how you are communicating them.

  3. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Sewell is grasping for excuses out of that Great ID/creationist Grab Bag of Paranoid Persecution Complexes and Self Pity. He will never learn anything about the second law of thermodynamics by rummaging around in there. Given his sour-grapes attitude, there is no hope that he will ever pick up a basic textbook and learn.

    As with every ID/creationist, he wants a free ride by taunting the science community into a “debate’ rather than putting any of his effort whatsoever into really understand any scientific concept.

    I don’t feel sorry for him. By his own admission, he has had over eleven years to learn something. It doesn’t take eleven years to learn thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. There are standard courses in most physics departments around the country; and some of those courses are on line.

    Sewell didn’t even get the point of Editor Jan Tobochnik’s letter of rejection from the American Journal of Physics. The reasons in that rejection letter are no different in principle from the US Patent Office’s refusal to issue patents for perpetual motion machines. Sewell simply doesn’t know or care what basic physics is all about; yet he continues to portray himself as a jilted expert.

    In fact, despite his supposed understanding of applied mathematics, I estimate that Sewell’s understanding of basic physics doesn’t even approach the high school level.

    The vast majority of ID/creationist pushers do not even have an adequate understanding of middle school science; they don’t even try. They are playing to the gallery of their peers and followers. That is where their “fame” lies. Just type in “thermodynamics” in the search box over at the UD website to see who the motley bunch are that really believe Sewell is a persecuted expert.

    Let them keep their shibboleths. The more obviously stupid they reveal themselves to be, the less of a threat they can be to academic standards. Any knowledge they accidentally stumble upon about their own ignorance they simply use for evolving their tactics of deception anyway. This pathetic game has been going on for nearly 50 years now.

  4. Robert Byers
    Ignored
    says:

    It is just plain obvious that subjects touching origins is engulfed with ideasa of God and Christianity and civilizations conclusions from these presumptions.
    Its not like ordinary subjects called scientific.
    It is what it is.

    it is obvious that profound hostility to investigations involving/concluding that a creator’s fingerprints are all over nature  or even Genesis is a witness to some boundaries of nature. 
    So the present establishment is intentionally or sub consciencely fighting researchers who try to add the prestige of these associations to their conclusions.
    A researcher who knows in his heart his stuff is good, even if not settled fact, has the right and duty to loudly protest how his rejection is not within the rules.
    Then to say it is about greater motivations because the research is touching on subjects famous for being contentious.
    In short a educated accusation of secret motivations.

    Piles of inferior stuff gets printed in these science mags and then a researcher who knows he did a damn good job gets the heave ho well its time to say somthing.

    There is a educated suspicion and for some cases a conclusions that creationist investigation of nature is being fought against by passionate opponents.
    I guess a investigation and trial is due for the establishment or its accusers.
    Seems that way from Canada here. 

  5. Alan Fox
    Ignored
    says:

    Thank you for your comment, Robert, though I am unable to follow what your point might be.

  6. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    A researcher who knows in his heart his stuff is good, even if not settled fact, has the right and duty to loudly protest how his rejection is not within the rules.

    Is that supposed to be a comment about Granville Sewell?

    If it is, then his shit still stinks, no matter how proud he is of it, no matter how well he knows in his heart that it is good.

    And yes, of course he has the right to protest the rejection – and he has done so. But when he protests the rejection, he should not be surprised that he is laughed at and that people respond to his protest by pointing out that his shit still stinks.

  7. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Just Too Simple.

    Yeah; that must be it!

    Perhaps kairosfocus and bornagain77 can save the day by Gish Galloping in on their intimidating, copy/paste horses and making it all excruciatingly complicated again.

    Sewell should enlist those two characters in a joint publication in Physical Review Letters.

  8. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    I just posted about that new UD message at my blog:

     

  9. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    The new video begins with these words:

     

    In the current debate between Darwinism and Intelligent Design, the strongest argument made by Darwinists, is this: In every other field of science, naturalism has been spectacularly successful.  Why should evolutionary biology be so different?

     

    What a strange thing to say.  I don’t recall ever hearing that as an argument for evolution or for Darwinism.  I might might have heard it as a side remark, but never as an actual argument.

    Everything I say is probably a side comment, but I think it’s a valid piece of an argument. It’s not an argument for the truth of Darwinism, but it’s an argument for betting that research that pursues regularity will be more fruitful than research into miracles.

  10. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    The trouble with Sewell’s argument, is that it is self-refuting.  It proves too much. 

    I would think that growth, development and photosynthesis would be relevant examples. Sewell needs to explain what physical process in variation and selection differentiates it categorically from more rapid biological processes.

  11. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s not an argument for the truth of Darwinism, but it’s an argument for betting that research that pursues regularity will be more fruitful than research into miracles.

    Fair enough.

  12. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    I would think that growth, development and photosynthesis would be relevant examples.

    Yes, but Sewell is likely to assert that those processes also require an intelligent designer. That’s why I preferred to use weather systems in my response. Of course, Sewell could assert that every tornado requires an intelligent designer, but that puts him back into the problem of evil.

  13. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    There appears to be a recent “disturbance in the Force” of ID/creationism. We see Sewell insisting on reviving the long-debunked “argument from thermodynamics” without even checking into his own understanding of entropy and the second law.

    We are also seeing vjtorley attempting explicitly to return civilization to Medieval Scholasticism and ancient Greek philosophy.

    Vjtorley makes this remarkable assertion:

    With living things, the situation is different. Even if the molecules composing a living thing have a built-in passive capacity to be assembled by clever scientists into a living thing, that would in no way imply that these molecules have the active capacity to assemble themselves into a living thing. What Professor Dembski is denying that the chemical constituents of life possess is the active capacity to assemble themselves, not the passive capacity to be assembled.

    This is an explicit denial of the existence of the electromagnetic forces and quantum mechanical rules discovered by science since the Middle Ages; an explicit denial of the basic science that even high school students learn. It follows the same pattern of “explanation” as the “semiotic theory of ID” that we saw from Upright Biped. These “theories” take us back into ancient Greece and into the vitalism of the Middle Ages.

    It has generally been obvious to outside observers for the last 50 years that ID/creationism is a pre-renaissance “philosophy;” but it has not been clear that ID/creationists consciously embrace and openly rationalize such outmoded thinking. Now they appear to be embracing these discarded notions with open pride and approval, even as they explicitly reject and deny modern science.

    Recall the angry scolding we received from UB when we asked him where along the chain of increasing complexity of molecular assemblies chemistry and physics stop applying and where “semiotic theory” takes over. Now we see vjtorley making an explicit assertion that there is just such a point at which this occurs, but he still coyly avoids saying where explicitly.

    The ID/creationist mind is a curious compound of ancient and medieval philosophy and superstition mixed in with bent and broken concepts in modern science; all of it served up in the support of sectarian dogma. This “disturbance in the ID/creationist Force” that we are apparently observing looks like an attempt by them to take hold of and wear with open pride those ancient and medieval notions; modern science be damned.

    And those grotesque copy/pastes by bornagain77 and kairosfocus strike me as the droning mantras of mysterious priests or witch doctors swooping in to cast their “intimidating” spells over the entire medieval worship services over there at UD. That is one seriously weird site.

  14. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    By the way, note the extensive comment by Gordon Davisson that just appeared at Uncommon Descent in the (somewhat unrelated) thread on “A Simple Argument for Intelligent Design”.

    Mike Elzinga — do either you or one of our other physicists (olegt? Richard Hoppe?) have any thoughts on it? I note that Davisson has previously posted detailed analyses of Granville Sewell’s arguments, finding them unconvincing.

  15. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Yeah; I looked at it, and just shook my head and groaned.  A lot of it is gibberish; and a lot of it is very confused.

    I’m headed off to bed.  Perhaps I can elaborate tomorrow (although I think it may be a waste of time).  I have a bunch of errands and tasks to get done before the afternoon is over.

  16. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    Interesting, since I think Davisson is being highly critical of Sewell.

  17. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Oops!  I didn’t read Davisson’s comment after all. I didn’t use your link, but had been looking at that thread earlier.  Apparently I was looking at one of kairosfocus comments.  I don’t know if Davisson’s comment was up there yet when I was last looking at that thread. 

    I’ll read it a get back.

  18. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    This is going to be long also

    Davisson is responding to some criticisms by Rob Sheldon.

    The issue of the extensive nature of entropy is not problem; as Gordon states. Whether or not one simply adds entropy when bringing two or more separated parts of a system together depends very much on the nature of what is being brought together.

    When we say entropy doubles when doubling the number of particles, we are assuming no interactions between the separate parts being brought together that would increase or decrease the number of energy states. Interactions can either make the entropy more than the sum of the entropies of the two parts or less than the sum.

    Correlations between the constituents of the two parts could lock together states in the two parts and produce fewer states than expected. So the entropy of the combined parts could be less than the sum of the entropies of the separate parts. This will be more noticeable with fairly small systems in which the quantum mechanical correlations can dominate.

    On the other hand, chemical reactions could increase the entropy to more than the sum of the parts. The same is true of nuclear reactions; the entropy of a critical mass of uranium is more than the sum of the entropies of the two halves.

    But this is not an issue when it comes to the entropy of the biomass of the planet. I’ll get to that in a moment.

    Gordon’s example of the “entropy of genetic information” clutters up the issue and conflates entropy with information. Entropy is related to the number of microstates; not “information.” His entire example is not only irrelevant; it leads to more confusion and conflation.

    In Gordon’s section about the relevance of thermodynamics, he makes this statement:

    If you deny that these formulae are relevant to what Sewell is talking about, you’re essentially denying that Sewell’s argument is based on thermodynamics (well, stat mech anyway). You can’t have it both ways: either Sewell’s argument is based on well-established thermodynamics (in which case it’s wrong), or it’s not based on well-established thermodynamics (in which case he’s being dishonest to claim the backing of thermodynamics for his argument).

    Thermodynamics does indeed apply to the biomass on this planet; but the existence of that biomass doesn’t violate the second law of thermodynamics, it depends on the second law of thermodynamics.

    As to Dan Styer’s argument in his AJP article “Entropy and Evolution,” Dan points out creationist misconceptions right at the beginning of his paper; and then he makes the parenthetical comment:

    (This creationist argument also rests upon the misconception that evolution acts always to produce more complex organisms. In fact evolution acts to produce more highly adapted organisms, which might or might not be more complex than their ancestors, depending upon their environment. For example, most cave organisms and parasites are qualitatively simpler than their ancestors. This biological misconception will not be discussed in this article.)

    What Dan did in his paper was to give the ID/creationists every misconception they wanted about what they think the “entropy” of a biological organism is. They think “higher” or more evolved organisms have less entropy (This is false; amoebas have less entropy than humans. Children have less entropy than adults.).

    By going along with ID/creationist misconceptions, Dan showed that there is a far greater increase in entropy of the Sun, Earth system than there is in the supposed “decrease” in entropy due to the evolution of biological organisms on Earth over time. So the ID/creationists are wrong even when given their own misconceptions about the entropies of organisms. Neither Gordon’s refinements nor Emory Bunn’s refinements of Dan’s calculations adds anything new; Dan already did it.

    But now we come to the issue of what the entropy of a biological organism actually is. It is certainly not what ID/creationists think it is. It is not in the genetic code or in the organization or order of an organism. Entropy is, and always has been, about the number of energy microstates. Counting microstates becomes very complicated for composite systems immersed in a larger heat bath. So how should we look at the biomass of the Earth? I will offer a suggestion that may help in the overall picture.

    Divide condensed matter into four broad categories; solids, soft matter, liquids, and gasses. As a rough, general rule at a given temperature; kilogram for kilogram, solids have the lowest entropy because they are more tightly bound and have fewer internal degrees of freedom. Kilogram for kilogram, soft matter will have more degrees of freedom, hence more energy microstates. Liquids have more degrees of freedom than solids; but in comparison with soft matter, it depends on how complex the constituents of the soft matter are compared to those of liquids. “Liquified” soft matter would have more degrees of freedom than the somewhat more tightly bound soft matter.

    Gasses may or may not have more degrees of freedom depending on how simple the constituents are. If they are very simple – e.g., helium atoms – then there only the translational degrees of freedom at room temperature. The kinetic energies of the constituents relative to the potential energies of interaction will have a lot to do with the number of available microstates. If the temperature is in a range in which complex molecules are not entirely broken up, then more microstates are available. It all depends on temperature and the constituents of the system.

    So we are down to considering the biomass of soft matter bathed in a heat bath at the temperature of the surface of the Earth. I would suggest that, in general, without having to look at minute details, the biomass of soft matter would have higher entropy than if all those elements and compounds were frozen in solid forms within the Earth’s mixture of elements and compounds. This raises the question of how such a system of soft matter is maintained in this state.

    This is where the importance of the heat bath and energy gradients comes into the picture. To use a rough analogy, the biomass of the Earth is a bit like the froth one sees at the foot of a waterfall. Energy and matter flows keep the constituents of this system of soft matter biomass in a delicate state of higher entropy than would possible if the temperature were too low. Higher temperatures would tear these systems apart. So, kilogram for kilogram, the soft matter biomass is delicately suspended in a higher entropy state as energy and matter flow through it.

    These systems were formed in energy cascades and shuttled into more benign environments in which they remain relatively stable. In other words, the biomass of the Earth is a complex “froth” that exists within a very narrow energy window within a larger energy cascade. The entropy of this biomass is higher than if its constituents were more dormant parts of the Earth’s crust, oceans, and atmosphere.

  19. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ll just add the obvious. For those who say that the large increase of entropy from the energy flowing out from the run is not relevant to the calculation, because it is occurring “elsewhere”, they are completely wrong. Part of that energy outflow from the sun flows into the biosphere and is the source of energy for the process of growth of living organisms, and thus for the evolutionary process. For someone like Granville Sewell to treat that increase of entropy (and that outflow of energy) as if it were irrelevant is to ignore elementary physics, chemistry, and biology.

    Yet that is what creationists are doing when they say that the “compensation” for the thermodynamic changes in the evolution of life does not make sense. Inadvertently, they are also claiming that the flow of energy from the sun has nothing to do with the growth of plants!

     

  20. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    oops:  “flowing out from the sun …”

  21. OMTWO
    Ignored
    says:

    ID/C is something that falls apart when you zoom out to look at it in totality. Sure, they can make an “argument” based on very narrow parameters, but extend that out a little and you end up as JoeF says with the sun being nothing to do with the growth of plants as a logical consequence of their claims. 

    In some ways, IDC is exactly what they claim about evolution. All micro (tiny claims like “evolution is insufficient for X says I”) no macro (no “the designer acted at this time and here’s the proof”).

    Pennies add up into dollars. Yet the IDC pennies just add up to more pennies, never a dollar. Adding it all up never happens with IDC – it’s why there can be so many mutually exclusive versions of ID out there – they never sum them up and compare.  And they never do that because they know, deep down, what they are doing is not science. Religion all the way down. 

    So yes,  physics, chemistry and biology are all irrelevant to the IDC argument. 

  22. Toronto
    Ignored
    says:

    OMTWO: Pennies add up into dollars. Yet the IDC pennies just add up to more pennies, never a dollar.

    That’s a great way of putting it and something that even someone with no scientific background can understand.

    For those who believe in biblical history, even Noah could understand that every day’s rainfall was added to the previous.

    Each new day did not start off dry.

     

  23. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Worth mentioning that the sun is but one source of the energy flow that organisms tap into. And it is probably not the primordial one. Since the OoL is really the thing they are saying violates the 2LoT (???), that is where they need to concentrate their fire. (??? – Surely they don’t suggest that Life contains more free energy than goes into it? I’m off to tap a giraffe to drive my perpetual motion machine). You only need to make one ‘true’ replicator; the rest is just a chain reaction. 

    Close to the essence of life is, IMO, adenosine in its variously phosphorylated forms.  There is free energy in them thar bonds, hence the centrality of ATP but also its modified presence in various cofactors of the energetic chain, such as NAD, FAD and Coenzyme A. And it is also an RNA base, with the nifty property that ATPs can be stacked one atop the other, using the free energy of the ATP to create a chain of monophosphate units. Not much use, but neat.

    The adenine part doesn’t seem to be absolutely critical for the energetic role, but does need the shape it has in order to stack in a polymer. Furthermore, the edges of the adenines will bond with a uracil chain stacked in exactly the same way in the 1800 antiparallel direction. Likewise cytosine and guanine.

    So there are a number of constraints that may ‘select’ A, U, C and G (just the D-isomers, even) from a primitive mishmash of less exquisitely stackable high-energy molecules. Over at UD, they would see this as the exquisite design of adenosine/uridine, of course. But the more relevant point to the thermo argument is that, in principle, you simply need chemistry. You need to put energy in to make ATP or other RNA monomers, and typically to do that you tap the flow of electrons down a gradient of electronegativity between two atoms or molecules. Modern chemotrophs do a roaring trade in such chemical energy, and it is probable that this was the source of the most primitive energy also. You don’t have to violate anything to get it. Electrons will naturally flow from electron donors to electron acceptors. That flow releases energy, which can be converted into chemical bond energy. The potential energy in the gradient derives from entropy shifts as the different elements were being formed inside stars from simpler ones.

    Of course, for a true replicator you need more than this speculative scenario. You need cyclic energising of phosphates, replenishment of the spent ‘fuel’, some kind of repeat-specification of the base sequence that allows it to act as a replicator … obviously, the OoL is a deep problem I am never going to solve! Nonetheless, it is this molecular-level tapping of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics that is the key to Life, not an obstacle, regardless whether ‘nature’ or a Designer mixed up the brew. If your theory violates it, then I can give you no hope, as someone born but 3 miles from where I sit once said.

  24. Dave L
    Ignored
    says:

    Interesting.
    Allan,
    In the ’90s I read Vital Dust by Christian de Duve, and last year, First Life by David Deamer.  I’d be interested to know your recommendation for more or better thought on OOL.

    I’m still enjoying the TSZ conversations and old posts.  Thanks for putting them down here.  

  25. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Dave – I’m not widely read on the subject, but two books by Nick Lane, Oxygen, the molecule that made the world, and Life Ascending, cover it accessibly, as far as this particular puzzle can be accessed. Lane is good on the ‘motivation’ for reactions to occur; the arrow of chemical potential gradients and how they are interconverted, which most popular science tends to skip. Many students tend to nod off in it too, to be honest!

    This is a point not always grasped: that matter on earth is out of chemical equilibrium, and therefore there is a potential in this alone for the energy to do useful work – arguments about open/closed systems are relevant to the ongoing energy balance once photosynthesis appears on the scene, but even treating the earth as ‘closed’, redistribution on gradients of potential energy releases vast reserves. Electrons are such whores – they bind tightly in their current configuration, but if a more attractive atom drifts by, they’re off! And energy is released. If reactions are coupled, equilibria can shift in directions that, in isolation, are unfavourable. But in order to get such coupling, you need a bit of physics, or materials science, as well as chemistry. It is not enough to just mix chemicals; you need a nanoscale organisation of parts, which is evidently a tough nut. For any Designer. But if you have a local region of regular electron flow, things can happen in its vicinity that would never happen in open solution.

  26. Steve
    Ignored
    says:

    Elzinga has the gall to browbeat alleged “ID/creationist’ misconceptions and misuse of science but here he is talking about how “energy and matter flows keep the constituents of this system of soft matter biomass in a delicate state of high entropy” as if energy and matter ‘do’ anything.

    No doubt he will castigate me for having a grade school level of scientific understanding and playing semantic games.  But its just plain to see how he punts the ball on the crux of the matter by sweeping it under a carpet of verbiage. Elzinga doesn’t tell us ‘how’ the human body’s four levels of entropy (bone, flesh, blood, O2) are kept in a fragile state of equilibrium.  But he is sure its all about energy and matter flow only.  Nothing more.  

    As well, saying that ‘these systems were formed in energy cascades and shuttled into more benign environments’ is just the sort of commentary Elzinga accuses ID/creationists of indulging in.  It’s more just-so-story narrative. It tells us nothing yet sounds as if the question is settled.  Like I said before, if it was as slam-dunk as his rhetoric portrays it to be, we could all go home.

    The fact of the matter is, Elzinga’s tandem bike of appeals to physics/ chemistry and leaning on arguments from authority do little to elucidate the profound difference between life and non-life, regardless of his protestations to the contrary.

    The real contrast lies in Elzinga looking under the same rock time and again, whereas ID types are willing to look under new rocks.  More over, the Elzinga’s of this world will castigate people like James Shapiro for looking under new rocks even when Shapiro explicitly said his rock hunting should not be misconstrued as a creationist endeavor but simply that looking under the same rock is getting pretty tedious.

  27. OMTWO
    Ignored
    says:

    Steve,

    whereas ID types are willing to look under new rocks.

    Good for ID types. Now, what have you discovered so far?

    What “rocks” are you looking under? Are you saying that there is an ID research project aimed at elucidating the origin of life (or anything at all really) from an ID POV? If so, where can I find out more about it?

    As it seems to me that ID types are not looking under any rocks at all, I see no evidence of that. They might be “willing” to, but are they?

    Please provide details of the ID based science that contains actual details of the topic under discussion rather then the “just so stories” that you accuse Mike of peddling. 

    I can wait.  

  28. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Steve – I think you expect a little much from a blog comment. The dynamics of energy flows through living systems have been extensively investigated, and are accessible to anyone who wishes to buy a textbook or sign up to  a course. And bring on Shapiro … you talk of arguments from authority? Have you ever noticed that scientists rarely get someone else to do their arguing for them? Anti-evolutionists, however, can cough up a dozen names at the drop of a hat who ‘support their position’.

    I might take slight issue with just one thing:

    These systems were formed in energy cascades and shuttled into more benign environments in which they remain relatively stable.

    I actually think they have ended up in less benign environments. Incident uv light and oxygen, particularly, are quite tough on biological molecules. As is a world full of things that want to eat you.

  29. Dave L
    Ignored
    says:

    “Electrons are such whores.”
    xlnt
    Ya, they have a few go-arounds with one nucleus and then, they’re off with a more attractive atom or many one after another on the e-motive series.  Fickle.  Hit ’em with an energetic photon and be done with them, I say!  Ya, then they’ll wanna come back!
    Cheers 

  30. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    I actually think they have ended up in less benign environments. Incident uv light and oxygen, particularly, are quite tough on biological molecules. As is a world full of things that want to eat you.

    Indeed; the extremes of the environment in which we find ourselves are not seen as “benign” by us because those extremes tear us apart.

    However, the kinetic energies of air molecules at room temperature correspond to about 1/40 of an electron volt. The binding energies of solids like iron are on the order of 0.1 eV; i.e., these energies correspond to the temperatures at which solids like iron melt. Chemistry takes place at energies on the order of 1 eV.

    UV radiation starts getting into the range of about 3 eV; so it does indeed break chemical bonds. However, much of the energy in visible radiation (in the range on the order of 2 eV) tends to be absorbed and scattered.

    We couldn’t survive in the kind of environments in which the building blocks of life were formed.

  31. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Mike – yes, I guess there is a matter of perspective on just what – carbon-based molecules, or the things made out of them – might offer a view on just how ‘benign’ a particular location is. It is a fair assumption that life originated in ocean depths, with virtually no free oxygen, complete absence of light, aqueous environment at high pressure and temperature, various mineral surface effects and concentrated volcanic emanations etc.

    To life in such a locale, we are the extremophiles, and without some form of protection, ‘up here’ is an impossible environment for nucleic acid survival/replication.

  32. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Dave L – got sidetracked in my own flight of fancy 🙂 – I forgot to mention another book, The Spark of Life by Wills and Bada. I got it from the library; not sure if it is still in print.

  33. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    It was just pointed out to me that Granville Sewell is at it again. At UD he has a new post (with, as usual comments turned off, so as usual he has his fingers stuck in his ears and is shouting “la la la! I can’t hear you refute me!”).

    He starts off talking about mathematical theorems that prove that certain things are impossible (the Four-Color Map Theorem is one example he uses).  Then he asks biologists to show how life could evolve by entirely unintelligent processes (all he wants us to provide is a complete explanation of all features of all living things!).  Then he asserts that there is an impossibility proof.

    The proofs that the above mathematical problems are impossible to solve were quite difficult, but there is a very simple proof that the biological problem posed above is impossible to solve. All one needs to do is realize that if a solution were found, we would have proved something obviously false, that a few (four, apparently) fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into libraries full of science texts and encyclopedias, computers connected to monitors, keyboards, laser printers and the Internet, cars, trucks, airplanes, nuclear power plants and space shuttles. A very simple “proof”, but I cannot imagine how anything in science could ever be proved more conclusively, it is all the proof I need, at least. The video below (here is a Spanish version) presents this argument in a simple, clear, way, and connects it to the second law of thermodynamics (more on this connection here); but please note that the argument does not really depend whether or not what has happened on Earth technically violates the second law, it is much simpler than that.

    Unfortunately, my proof is just too simple to be interesting to most scientists, they are generally not interested in an argument that is so simple you can understand it without a PhD. (Actually, mathematicians do prefer simple proofs to complicated ones, so maybe we are different.) If I could find a proof that was as complicated, and as inaccessible to the layman, as the proofs that the above mathematical problems were unsolvable, perhaps my arguments would be taken more seriously in the scientific community.

    OK, if it is simpler than an assertion of conflict with the 2LOT, maybe he could share this simple proof with the world. The arguments he has supplied so far do not do the trick. And they do “prove” that plants can’t grow.

    Since Sewell won’t supply a sensible proof I think we should come up with a name for that problem: the search for Sewell’s Missing Theorem.

  34. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I thought the four color map problem was solved.

  35. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    Yes, it was, he was talking about proofs that something is impossible, so the proof was that a map that needed five colors was impossible.

    I think I want to modify my suggestion. Let’s call it the problem of Sewell’s Missing Proof for Sewell’s Missing Theorem. He hasn’t really stated clearly what his impossibility theorem is, and he certainly hasn’t given a proof, one that allows plants to grow, while proving that the evolution of more complex life forms is impossible.

  36. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    This framing of the problem suggests that Sewell is either still confused or is deliberately setting up a straw man problem.

    Sewell is attempting to equate the search for the recipe(s) for the origins of life with the search for the solution to mathematical problem that has no solution. He is making the implicit assertion that a “solution” to the origin of life problem would by like finding a solution to a mathematical problem that has no solution, and by doing so, would be proving something that is known to be false.

    He actually says that, by finding a solution, “we would have proved something that is obviously false.” But then he also throws in a bunch of stuff that is known to be man made and implies that science is making the claim that the “fundamental intelligent forces of physics rearranged the fundamental particles of physics” into all that man made stuff.

    All one needs to do is realize that if a solutionwere found, we would have proved something obviously false, that a few (four, apparently) fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into libraries full of science texts and encyclopedias, computers connected to monitors, keyboards, laser printers and the Internet, cars, trucks, airplanes, nuclear power plants and space shuttles. A very simple “proof”, but I cannot imagine how anything in science could ever be proved more conclusively, it is all the proof I need, at least.

    So Sewell has deliberately set up a fake dilemma not only by conflating man made stuff with atoms and molecules, but also by implying that the origins of life and evolution are impossible; therefore finding a recipe (solution) is equivalent to proving something that is already known to be false. Why false? Because Sewell says so?

    After something like fifty years of watching this kind of crap and these kinds of “arguments,” it is little wonder that I have lost patience with ID/creationists.

    Sewell has already told everyone repeatedly that evolution and the origin of life violate the second law of thermodynamics. Obviously he still believes that and is trying to find ways of framing his misconceptions and misrepresentations as faulty reasoning on the part of scientists. He refuses to consider the possibility that his own understanding of physics is faulty.

    Why the hell he can’t just pick up a decent thermodynamics and statistical mechanics book and study it escapes me. Presumably he wouldn’t have to struggle with the math as much as do many undergraduates who are learning the math along with the physics.

    I suspect that the fact that he keeps bringing up his rejected “argument” from the second law over and over and over is because the rejection still stings. But apparently it doesn’t sting enough for him to get off his duff and learn thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.

    He just wants the attention and the pity; he doesn’t want to learn anything.

    Well, I, for one, can help him out on that one; I have no intention of teaching him anything.

  37. Patrick
    Ignored
    says:

    All one needs to do is realize that if a solution were found, we would have proved something obviously false, that a few (four, apparently) fundamental, unintelligent forces of physics alone could have rearranged the fundamental particles of physics into libraries full of science texts and encyclopedias, computers connected to monitors, keyboards, laser printers and the Internet, cars, trucks, airplanes, nuclear power plants and space shuttles. A very simple “proof”, but I cannot imagine how anything in science could ever be proved more conclusively, it is all the proof I need, at least.

    I’m not going to give UD any traffic, and I suspect I know the answer already, but did Sewell provide any details of why it is “obviously false” that the creators of those artifacts he lists could not have arisen through only physical processes?

  38. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    I think it’s that “X-entropies” argument.  Which has been raked over pretty thoroughly here and at Panda’s Thumb, and found very flawed.

  39. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    ID is Paley’s stopped watch. Nothing has been added to his argument in 200 years.

  40. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    Perhaps Sewell should be asked whether humans, who made all these things, are comprised of something other than elementary particles and forces, and if so, what. Perhaps intelligence is the vital force.

    Is Sewell combining Paleyism and vitalism?

  41. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Patrick asks: I’m not going to give UD any traffic, and I suspect I know the answer already, but did Sewell provide any details of why it is “obviously false” that the creators of those artifacts he lists could not have arisen through only physical processes?

    I suspect he wants some “evolutionist” to point out that libraries, computers, and all that man-made stuff is, well, man-made; assembled by intelligence.

    Then he can pounce, “Aha! So you admit that intelligence is required to make all this stuff!”

    The implicit assertion, of course, is that intelligence is required to make complex molecules; the “blind forces of nature” cannot produce evolution or even the origins of living organisms. Why? Because the ‘blind forces of nature” can’t make man-made stuff out of inert materials.

    This is such simplistic thinking. Either he agrees that complex molecules assemble by electromagnetic forces and the rules of quantum mechanics or he doesn’t. He cannot argue that, at some point along the chain of complexity, the laws of physics stop operating and “intelligence” of some sort starts violating the laws of physics. Humans do not violate any laws of physics in making the things they make. Sewell apparently doesn’t understand that.

    This goes back to that simple little high school level calculation of scaling up the charge-to-mass ratio of protons and electrons to kilogram size objects separated by distances on the order of meters. Energies of interaction on the order of 1010 megatons of TNT operating according to quantum mechanical rules do not randomly scramble junkyard scrap. Neither do the electromagnetic potentials and quantum mechanical rules scramble atoms and molecules.

    This conflating of inert objects like cards, letters of the alphabet, marbles, and junkyard parts with atoms and molecules seems to have become another entrenched feature of ID/creationism. They all need to go back and start over again in middle school science; but that will never happen.

  42. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    The entropy “argument” has flared up again, in the comments to the Nick Matzke / No True Scotsman thread at UD.  Particularly in comments 54 and reactions to it.

    And these include the following utter classic by our friend Mung (comment no. 65):

    So the Sun is shining. Giving off something, I guess. But what?

    I mean, I thought the Sun was converting energy to mass.

    Is it also converting mass to energy?

    That would be awesome. Almost like a perpetual motion machine!

    And then this stuff, or non-stuff, whatever it is, can be used to drive reactions in a way otherwise improbable, but how?

    So with enough energy from the sun, for example, water can turn into ice. Am I on the right track here? 

    I don’t think the rest of us have enough imagination, compared to that. 

  43. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    And here is that kairosfocus character pretending to understand physics better than the physicists.

    Next, justify, relative to known chemistry (including inorganic, organic and physical) the formation of credible concentrations of precursors to life, in the context of relevant thermodynamics and reaction kinetics. (The work by Thaxton et al, c. 1984, TMLO, from which modern Design Theory has largely come, starts here. If you are to genuinely understand rather than angrily scorn and dismiss the questions and objections we have, you need to understand where we are coming from. And, unsurprisingly, this is also where prof Tour is coming from. How would you feel, if we were to angrily deride and denounce you in similar terms to those you use as lazily failing to address or being incompetent to address such fields at technical level, and use that to trash your name? [Where, BTW, [ON FAIR COMMEN T] we are very aware of the tactics that NCSE — your former organisation — pursued over the years in support of polarisation, well-poisoning and unjustified career-busting.])

    Kairosfocus is weird. I keep picturing a goofy painted-up witch doctor prancing around with a bone through his nose, trying to scare the hell out of everyone with his mojo; except I think I would also add a bright orange rubber ball on his nose.

  44. Allan Miller
    Ignored
    says:

    Next, justify, relative to known chemistry (including inorganic, organic and physical) the formation of credible concentrations of precursors to life,

    An inveterate Gish-galloper. Leaping back to the Origin of Life is the favourite swerve of the average Net anti-evolutionist. No matter how many times an opportunity to ‘correct their thinking’ is offered, up it pops like Whack-a-mole. A chemist asked for the chemical details of macroevolution. The fact that that is a bizarre demand, given what macroevolution actually means, is completely lost on the crowd. Yeah, let’s talk about the Origin again, Matzke (you non-chemist, you!). How do you concentrate the building blocks of Life in a warm little pond. Huh? Huh? And intelligence! Explain intelligence! Add the spammers and, like every UD thread (and, to be fair, many threads here), it soon becomes a car crash. 

    I’ll serve up my own personal AAAARGH! moment here – Mung again:

    Matzke: Transitional forms are generally lacking at the species level…

    Mung: IOW, where the theory claims they should be found, they are generally lacking.

    The region where overall change is the least would also be the region in which it was hardest to detect, particularly in the absence of molecular data. So in full accord with theory, one would expect to find fewer identifiable ‘species-transitionals’ than at higher taxonomic levels.

  45. OMTWO
    Ignored
    says:

    Perhaps I got it wrong, but was space not just found to be chock full of organic precursors? 

    The HIFI spectrum of the Orion Nebula, superimposed on a Spitzer image of Orion. A characteristic feature is the spectral richness: among the organic molecules identified in this spectrum are water, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, methanol, dimethyl ether, hydrogen cyanide, sulphur oxide, sulphur dioxide and their isotope analogues. It is expected that new molecules will also be identified. This spectrum is the first glimpse at the spectral richness of regions of star and planet formation.

  46. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    I can’t help but answer Mung, who wrote:

    So with enough energy from the sun, for example, water can turn into ice. Am I on the right track here? 

    Yup, you can hook a refrigerator to enough solar cells and the sun will do just that.

    Or it can turn a seed into a weed that has many seeds.
     

  47. OMTWO
    Ignored
    says:

    Ah, but can the sun create a refrigerator from a tornado in a junkyard!

    No? Therefore ID! 

  48. Joe Felsenstein
    Ignored
    says:

    “Joe” (JoeG) at UD has just proven OMTWO right!

    Oh, and he hasn’t tried a search for refrigerators that run on DC current — at Google Shopping one finds:

    Norcold 10608610 2.7 Cu Ft AC / DC Refrigerator Black

    though it does cost a bit. 

  49. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Note that kairosfocus apparently believes (knows?) that life violates the second law of thermodynamics in his parenthetical reference to Thaxton.

    The work by Thaxton et al, c. 1984, TMLO, from which modern Design Theory has largely come, starts here. If you are to genuinely understand rather than angrily scorn and dismiss the questions and objections we have, you need to understand where we are coming from. And, unsurprisingly, this is also where prof Tour is coming from.

    However, kairosfocus has the original perpetrator and date wrong. Those misconceptions go back at least into the early 1970s with Henry Morris who may have obtained these ideas from A.E. Wilder-Smith.

    All of the probability calculations of the ID/creationists have their origin in this misconception about entropy and the second law.

    Every time Granville Sewell shows up on UD kvetching about the rejection of his “Second Look at the Second Law” article, the kairosfocus character along with that boringagain77 character leap in with their garbage truck dumps of copy/paste thermodynamic arguments.

    That is why kairosfocus and the rest of that crowd over at UD are so sure that we evilutionists don’t know where they are coming from. We are too stupid to understand the second law of thermodynamics. Granville Sewell has even spent eleven years of his life (sob!) proving that the physicists are wrong.

  50. Mike Elzinga
    Ignored
    says:

    Joe Guano doesn’t believe in DC refrigeration.

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