Taking “ID is science” out of the ID/Creation argument

I have committed the unpardonable sin of promoting ID as theology and arguing ID is not science. ID is the lineal descendant of Paley’s natural theology (as in contrast to “revealed theology”). I’ve publicly disputed the use of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics as a general argument in favor of ID/Creation, and I’ve been mildly critical of the concept of specified complexity and its successors. I’ve suggested ID is most appropriately taught in college/seminary theology and philosophy departments. When I published a 2005 exchange between myself and Eugenie Scott of the NCSE regarding the appropriateness of ID being taught in college religion and philosophy departments, Eugenie was much kinder to me than some in the ID community who insist “ID is science.” See: Correspondence between Salvador Cordova and Dr. Eugenie Scott

To that end, in conjunction with university professors, deans of Christian and secular colleges (who are favorable to both Intelligent Design and belief in Special Creation), I’m helping build out the electronic component of courses that teach ID and concepts of Creationism for such venues.

The first order of business in such a course is studying Paley’s watch argument and modern incarnations of Paley’s watch. But I’ve found compartmentalizing the pure science and math from the theological issues is helpful. Thus, at least for my own understanding and peace of mind, I’ve considered writing a paper to help define terms that will avoid the use of theologically loaded phrases like “materialism”, “naturalism”, “theism”, and even “Intelligent Design”, etc. I want to use terms that are as theologically neutral as possible to form the mathematical and physical foundation of the ID argument. The purpose of this is to circumvent circular arguments as best as possible. If found what I believe are some unfortunate equivocations and circularity in Bill Dembki’s definition of Design using the explanatory filter, and I’m trying to avoid that.

VJ Torley was very kind to help me phrase the opening of my paper, and I have such high respect for him that I’ve invited him to be a co-author of the paper he so chooses. He of course is free to write his own take on the matters I specify in the opening of my paper. In any case, I’m deeply indebted to him for being a fellow traveler on the net as well as the example he has set as a meticulous scholar.

Here is a draft opening of the papers which I present here at TSZ to solicit comments in the process of revising and expanding my paper.

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Multiverse or Miracles of God?
Circumventing metaphysical baggage when describing massive statistical or physical violations of normative expectations

Intro/Abstract
When attempting to set up a framework for expressing the improbability of phenomena that may turn out to have metaphysical implications, it may be helpful to isolate the metaphysical aspects of these phenomena from the actual math used to describe them. Additionally, the probabilities (which are really statements of uncertainty) can be either observer- or perspective-dependent. For example, in a raffle or a professional sporting league, there is a guaranteed winner. Using more formal terminology, we can say that it is normative that there is a winner, from the perspective of the entire system or ensemble of possibilities; however, from the perspective of any given participant (e.g. an individual raffle ticket holder), it is by no means normative for that individual to be a winner.

With respect to the question of the origin of life and the fine-tuning of the universe, one can postulate a scenario where it is normative for life to emerge in at least one universe, when we are considering the ensemble of all universes (i.e. the multiverse). However, from the perspective of the universe in which an observer happens to be situated, the fine-tuning of that particular universe and the origin of life in that universe are not at all normative: one can reasonably ask, “Why did this universe turn out to be so friendly to life, when it could have been otherwise?” Thus, when someone asserts that it is extremely improbable that a cell should arise from inanimate matter, this statement can be regarded as normative from the perspective of human experience and experimental observations, even though it is not necessarily normative in the ultimate sense of the word. Putting it more informally, one might say that abiogenesis and fine-tuning are miraculous from the human point of view, but whether they are miraculous in the theological or ultimate sense is a question that may well be practically (if not formally) undecidable.

The objective of this article is to circumvent, or at least minimize, the metaphysical baggage of phrases like “natural”, “material”, “supernatural”, “intelligent,” when formulating probabilistic descriptions of phenomena such as the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin of life. One can maintain that these remarkable phenomena are not explicable in terms of any accepted normative mechanisms which are known to us from everyday experience and scientific observation, and remain well within the realm of empirical science. However, whether fine-tuning and the origin of life are normative in the ultimate sense, and whether they are best explained by God or the multiverse, are entirely separate issues, which fall outside the domain of empirical science.

438 thoughts on “Taking “ID is science” out of the ID/Creation argument

  1. CharlieM: The concept, “god” and the concept, “triangle”.

    I am glad you have learned the difference between concepts and objects, Charlie. Its a step in the right direction.

  2. CharlieM: You’re objectifying the concept.

    No sir. It is you who is objectifying the concept, by claiming it is something that exists separately and independently outside the human mind. In my view, expressed a few times recently, concepts are mere thoughts, aka processes in the human brain.

    Not objects – processes. The brain is the object and the processes are what it does (ok this is simplified, the brain doesn’t do this on its own but as part of our whole physical makeup; moreover, it does a lot of other things besides thinking).

  3. This kind of argument always strikes me as bizarre. I’m not a fan of the multiverse approach either. Both imply a knowledge of a probability which is not in fact possessed. What’s the probability of a carrot? Or baseball? Or God?

    There is no doubt that the chemical conditions of an OoL are elusive. But it’s also the case that many scientific discoveries remain in the future. We don’t tend to argue, in their present absence, ‘musta bin a bloke in the sky then’. But here, we do, and but for its history we would think it laughable. Monomer formation? Unsolvable. Chirality? Unsolvable. RNA half lives? Unsolvable. But there’s this bloke, you see, and …

  4. Allan Miller:
    This kind of argument always strikes me as bizarre. I’m not a fan of the multiverse approach either. Both imply a knowledge of a probability which is not in fact possessed. What’s the probability of a carrot? Or baseball? Or God?

    There is no doubt that the chemical conditions of an OoL are elusive. But it’s also the case that many scientific discoveries remain in the future. We don’t tend to argue, in their present absence, ‘musta bin a bloke in the sky then’. But here, we do, and but for its history we would think it laughable. Monomer formation? Unsolvable. Chirality? Unsolvable. RNA half lives? Unsolvable. But there’s this bloke, you see, and …

    Not one of those problems you mentioned would tell us anything about what ultimately caused the world and life. There is no “in the future” solvable answer to life’s most important question. That’s a rain check bluff, that science will never deliver. So I think to claim that its just God of the Gaps is a bit disingenuous.

    There are questions that can only be pondered, reflected on, taken with all the facts of one’s own experiences, and considered how and why you are what you are. One could just as easily call the materialists position, a “Just is of the Gaps” position. They either conclude that pondering your place in the universe is unnecessary, or unimportant, or just an illusion of random chemical interactions, or else the materialist just refuses to consider it at all. Or the even more silly response in my opinion- Life and morality are important and exist because we feel it is. To me that’s like saying I know the meaning of life is an illusion, but I am going to pretend its not, even though my world view is that consciousness and awareness is all just a crazy accident.

    If one truly, truly believed in the materialist implications, then the only honest conclusion would be, life doesn’t matter, my family doesn’t matter, there is no such thing as morality, there is no such thing as good and bad, the self is totally unimportant, funerals are a waste of time, and just silly historical artifacts, saying you love someone is bonkers, and the best thing you can do is just have pleasure whenever you want, because nothing matters.

    Not many seem to really believe that however.

  5. Just on chirality, it is important to distinguish the constraints on amino acids from those on sugars. In an alpha amino acid, chirality is determined by the symmetry around the alpha carbon, which possesses a tetrahedral arrangement: amino, carboxy, side chain and hydrogen. We can visualise this with the thumbs and forefingers of our two hands: hold the left vertically and the right horizontally (or vice versa). Clearly, we can readily flip one or other hand and still retain the tetrahedral structure, but each is a mirror image of the other. Even when one ‘hand’ is anchored by the peptide bond, there remains a significant degree of freedom, absent other interactions with the ‘free hand’.

    Even so, racemisation is not a particularly rapid process. I can buy D or L alanine, say, and have a reasonable expectation that it will not racemise in days or months. In peptides, it is more stable still, which is why it is used as a dating method on the millions-of-years scale (a scale that Sal would insist is not real!).

    Moving on to sugars, the situation is a little more complicated. There are four stereocentres, giving 16 different possible isomers. What we call ‘D’ is but one form. ‘L’ is but another, where all 4 stereocentres are reversed wrt D. Worse, ribose in solution exists as a stable equilibrium between linear, 5-ring and 6-ring forms. It’s the 5-ring form that we use (interestingly, this is the predominant form for ribose, whereas deoxyribose left to its own devices favours the 6-ring. When we make DNA monomers, we stick the extra oxygen on at the end, after it’s had a base and phosphate group welded on).

    Thing is though, we don’t need reagents to be pure. We simply need a process to preferentially stabilise one form, and there is certainly a hint of that in complementary base pairing. Because we don’t just use any old base either; we use bases that can ‘handshake’ their complement when attached to a consistent backbone.

    So yes, one can wring one’s hands over the vast numbers of non-canonical rubbish helixes one would expect to arise due to the vast numbers of permutations possible. But if an enantiopure stretch were to arise, with base complementarity, its constituents would be more stable than those same chemical species in pure solution, or in more mixed, and hence less tightly bound, stretches. The two stabilising ribose isomers capable of giving this stability are the ones we know as ‘L’ and ‘D’. They give left and right coiling helixes respectively. Only one survived.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, of course. One is free to pursue ‘bloke in sky’ hypotheses.

  6. Allan Miller: I’m not saying it’s easy, of course. One is free to pursue ‘bloke in sky’ hypotheses.

    You know, you atheists are always asking for theists to just explain how God did it. So if we figure out how this sugar converts to that sugar, and this molecule, attaches to that, which then becomes this, and then RNA and then DNA and then miraculously unfolds into you and I, at that point will you materialists say, “Oh, so that’s how God did it, amazing!”

    I suspect not. I suspect instead you will say, “Boy what luck! “

  7. phoodoo: Not one of those problems you mentioned would tell us anything about what ultimately caused the world and life. There is no “in the future” solvable answer to life’s most important question.That’s a rain check bluff, that science will never deliver.So I think to claim that its just God of the Gaps is a bit disingenuous.

    Being possessed of an intellect, I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of puzzle solving. It may well be that the problem is never solved, but why should we not consider it?

    There are questions that can only be pondered, reflected on, taken with all the facts of one’s own experiences, and considered how and why you are what you are.One could just as easily call the materialists position, a “Just is of the Gaps” position.

    Except that we aren’t resorting to that as an actual explanation, contrast the God notion.

    As to the rest, there is no conflict for me between pondering the chemistry of nucleic acids, or phylogenetics or palaeontolgy for that matter, and living a full, purposeful life. Bizarre notion, that one must draw a veil over matters of interest for fear one might see nothing ‘meaningful’ behind the curtain.

  8. Allan Miller: Being possessed of an intellect, I enjoy the intellectual stimulation of puzzle solving. It may well be that the problem is never solved, but why should we not consider it?

    Who said any such thing? Just don’t confuse studying the chemistry with one day being an answer to how and why. Science has no path towards answering that, I would say philosophy has a better route if we are to get close.

    So no veil. The only veil I see is materialists pretending to not know what their worldview actually implies.

  9. Allan Miller: Except that we aren’t resorting to that as an actual explanation, contrast the God notion.

    Then what are you saying, that you will offer no explanation in the end, right?

    Otherwise indeed you are offering it as an explanation, which you obviously can’t deliver on.

    So you are not offering an explanation, but you are critical of those who are?

  10. phoodoo: Who said any such thing?Just don’t confuse studying the chemistry with one day being an answer to how and why.Science has no path towards answering that, I would say philosophy has a better route if we are to get close.

    So no veil.The only veil I see is materialists pretending to not know what their worldview actually implies.

    Yeah, tell me more what my worldview implies, I love to hear it and it’s not even slightly patronising. Perhaps I should go out a-rapin’ and a-pillagin’? Am I not doing atheism right?

  11. phoodoo: Then what are you saying, that you will offer no explanation in the end, right?

    No. I’ve no idea at this point if the problem can be solved or not. I’m looking at an argument that says it cannot in principle, which seems rather hubristic, should it happen to be solved.

    So you are not offering an explanation, but you are critical of those who are?

    If people offer ‘bloke in sky’ as a way out of a conundrum, I am entitled to raise a quizzical eyebrow.

  12. phoodoo: You know, you atheists are always asking for theists to just explain how God did it.

    Yes, because saying “God did it” is not actually an explanation. The reason saying “Mr Jorgensen did it” is an explanation is that we have an actual grasp of what it would mean for a human being to have “done it”. Mr Jorgensen used his arms and hands to pick stuff up, stick things together, try them out to see how they fared, discarded or adjusted faulty or unsatisfactory components, etc. etc.

    When you say “God did it”, all of that is lacking. There is no actual explanation. It’s just POOF and then “it” was. It is functionally equivalent to saying “it just IS, it just happened”. Is that an explanation? No. Neither is “god did it”. All of the components of what would constitute an explanation are missing.

  13. Fair Witness: I am glad you have learned the difference between concepts and objects, Charlie.Its a step in the right direction.

    And so my next step in that direction is to think about the concept “object” and how it relates to specific objects of my experience.

    And also what do we mean when we say a concept is an object (or a process)?

  14. Allan Miller: Yeah, tell me more what my worldview implies, I love to hear it and it’s not even slightly patronising. Perhaps I should go out a-rapin’ and a-pillagin’? Am I not doing atheism right?

    When you say, I know what the materialist worldview means, you don’t. I could just as easily claim that saying “God did it” is just a caricature, no one believes that, the problem is you just can’t understand it, because its not your worldview.

  15. phoodoo: …the problem is you just can’t understand it, because its not your worldview.

    So maybe YOU don’t understand “materialism”, because it’s not YOUR worldview.

  16. faded_Glory: No sir. It is you who is objectifying the concept, by claiming it is something that exists separately and independently outside the human mind. In my view, expressed a few times recently, concepts are mere thoughts, aka processes in the human brain.

    Not objects – processes. The brain is the object and the processes are what it does (ok this is simplified, the brain doesn’t do this on its own but as part of our whole physical makeup; moreover, it does a lot of other things besides thinking).

    Perhaps both myself and Fair Witness are objectifying the concept in our own way.

    Take the concept “triangle”, would I be correct in saying that you (and Fair Witness) whether it be an object, a process or whatever, locate it somewhere and that somewhere is the brain of the person holding the concept?

    My understanding is that it is not confined solely within our brains. Thinking is the process by which we cognise it, but the concept belongs with any triangle whether they be in our heads or in the world around us. It is not a thing or a process limited in time and space. So if it is an object then it is an eternal, infinite object.

    We apprehend an individual triangle through perception and we apprehend the concept triangle through thinking. But it is only because of our organisation that these seem to be separate in the first place. By combining the two we put back together what was never actually separate

  17. phoodoo: When you say, I know what the materialist worldview means, you don’t.

    Haha, there you go again, channelling Murray. I’m the me doing the me-in’, but I don’t possess your not-me insight into what being me entails. Hee-larious. You don’t seriously believe in God because of the philosophical entailments of the alternative? Sounds like post hoc rationalisation to me. Most believers were raised believers.

    Dunno what I’m supposed to do with the info anyway. Suppose in a blinding flash of light I recognised the kernel of wisdom behind this perennial theist plaint. Still don’t believe in all that nonsense.

  18. Allan Miller,

    I am not sure what you are trying to say here, seems a bit muddled. It seems more simple then this confusion. If you are saying I don’t know what materialism entails, because I am not a materialist, then the materialist can never say what a theist belief means.

    That seems rather silly I would say.

  19. phoodoo: When you say, I know what the materialist worldview means, you don’t.I could just as easily claim that saying “God did it” is just a caricature, no one believes that, the problem is you just can’t understand it, because its not your worldview.

    That’s true. For example, we know from the Bible that God spoke the Sun into existence. “Let there be light!” he said. “and there was light”
    That’s a hell of a lotta detail right there!

  20. phoodoo:

    If one truly, truly believed in the materialist implications, then the only honest conclusion would be, life doesn’t matter, my family doesn’t matter, there is no such thing as morality, there is no such thing as good and bad, the self is totally unimportant, funerals are a waste of time, and just silly historical artifacts, saying you love someone is bonkers, and the best thing you can do is just have pleasure whenever you want, because nothing matters.

    Not many seem to really believe that however.

    To me, the issue you raise above comes down to personal “internal” assessments vs absolute “external” assessments. And I see/feel no evidence of any absolute external assessments.

    So to me, there is no value assessment of life or family from any external standpoint. Neither one matters in any “grand scheme of things” standpoint. And to me, no, there is no such thing as morality, justice, truth, honor, ethics, good, bad, virtue, etc from any external standard standpoint. These are all simply terms used to describe personal assessments and guidance that come from personal feelings. Now, those personal feeling are quite real, so those concepts are real and important from an internal standpoint. They give me a basis for how I ought to interact with the world around me.

    I do not understand the need for some external onlooker/rule maker/value imparter in order to find meaning in the world or in order to feel emotional connection to things. Funerals are important for addressing the feeling of personal loss and the sadness and loneliness that effect those who enjoyed the company of someone. I do not understand the need for some external busy-body in order for feelings of loss and ceremonies of comfort to have meaning.

    And lastly, every action and interaction one takes in this world has some consequence regardless of any external value imparter. So of course, your claim that, “best thing you can do is just have pleasure whenever you want, because nothing matters” is not reflection of how any rational person, and particularly rational materialist, would ever think. There are plenty of things I enjoy doing quite a bit that if done in excess lead to very unenjoyable consequences. Similarly, there are things I don’t particularly enjoy doing that if not done, lead to a much greater lack of enjoyment down the road. So in my experience, a life of balance is preferable. Your mileage may vary…

  21. phoodoo: ….
    If one truly, truly believed in the materialist implications, then the only honest conclusion would be, life doesn’t matter, my family doesn’t matter, there is no such thing as morality, there is no such thing as good and bad, the self is totally unimportant, funerals are a waste of time, and just silly historical artifacts, saying you love someone is bonkers, and the best thing you can do is just have pleasure whenever you want, because nothing matters.

    Not many seem to really believe that however.

    Do you know why not many believe that?

    Because religion is not the source of morality !

    Philosophers wrestled with questions of moral behavior long before modern religions came along. Religion is just a conduit of moral ideas, not the source of them. Some people just wrote down ideas on how they thought people should behave, then decided they would have more weight if attributed to a deity.

  22. phoodoo:
    Allan Miller,

    I am not sure what you are trying to say here, seems a bit muddled.

    I am saying that you appear to claim to know more about a worldview you don’t possess than its possessors, which is a classic theist trait. This is not a symmetrical position – I’m not displaying an equivalent certitude, but questioning the merit of importing ‘God did it’ at the merest hint of difficulty – or, indeed, of using the difficulty itself to ‘prove’ God.

  23. Allan Miller: This is not a symmetrical position – I’m not displaying an equivalent certitude, but questioning the merit of importing ‘God did it’ at the merest hint of difficulty – or, indeed, of using the difficulty itself to ‘prove’ God.

    You obviously don’t know what God did it means, since you don’t share this worldview.

  24. Robin: Now, those personal feeling are quite real,

    What does it mean they are real?

    If a computer says it is very sad, is that real?

  25. phoodoo:

    One could just as easily call the materialists position, a “Just is of the Gaps” position. They either conclude that pondering your place in the universe is unnecessary, or unimportant, or just an illusion of random chemical interactions, or else the materialist just refuses to consider it at all.

    All those things can be true with a supernatural cause of the world. Have you pondered that?

    Or the even more silly response in my opinion- Life and morality are important and exist because we feel it is.

    “There are questions that can only be pondered, reflected on, taken with all the facts of one’s own experiences, and considered how and why you are what you are. ” .

    Sorry about your bad luck, that is exactly what you are advocating , adding in a touch of unknowable supernatural justification.

    To me that’s like saying I know the meaning of life is an illusion, but I am going to pretend its not, even though my world view is that consciousness and awareness is all just a crazy accident.

    Or you could pretend you know something about the supernatural realm to give you meaning and safety. That certainly is a choice.

    On the other hand , for some , believing this conscious experience is a fleeting event resulting from a long series of crazy accidents makes it precious , for the same reasons you imagine it makes one nihilistic.

    Maybe for the non-supernaturalist :
    “Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien
    Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.”

    If one truly, truly believed in the materialist implications, then the only honest conclusion would be, life doesn’t matter, my family doesn’t matter,

    One more step, it doesn’t matter it doesn’t matter in some grand scheme, it is important to us and that is enough.

    there is no such thing as morality, there is no such thing as good and bad,

    Without the belief in the supernatural ,you are completely lost.

    the self is totally unimportant,

    That is the belief of many religious folks

    funerals are a waste of time, and just silly historical artifacts,

    If nothing matters, why would wasting time matter or whether something is just a silly historical artifact?It would be a choice.

    If the supernatural is where importance lies , why have a funeral for the physical body?

    saying you love someone is bonkers, and the best thing you can do is just have pleasure whenever you want, because nothing matters.

    You seem to think there are a lot of rules and requirements that go which the belief the things don’t get their meaning from a divine imprimatur. Where do these rules come from?

  26. The simplest most potent criticism of ID is not that it is wrong, but that it is useless.

    It produces no useful ideas or proposals for research. To the extent there is ID research, it attempts to prove a negative. Which is futile.

    Behe, who has given it the best shot, failed to demonstrate that evolution cannot cross the Edge. I give him credit, however, for posing a solvable problem.

    What’s interesting about Behe is that he had to work very hard to find Edge problems. He concedes the rest, which is 99.9999 percent of the things creationist contest.

  27. phoodoo: You obviously don’t know what God did it means, since you don’t share this worldview.

    That is what he said.

  28. phoodoo: What does it mean they are real?

    I experience them. It appears, when interacting with other people I know, they experience similar personal feelings that they react to in a similar manner.

    Apropos of this discussion, I am currently visiting relatives in my wife’s hometown. We had a vacation trip planned to come out here for our niece’s wedding. As it happened, my wife’s mother passed away a couple of days before the wedding. It was extremely painful and sad for the all of us, but my wife and I are glad we were here to be able to say goodbye and be with her and the family at this time. And even with the sadness, the wedding was a lovely and (mostly happy) event; a nice break in fact from the feelings of loss. And we could all share our feelings of both the loss and happiness for the newly married couple. We stayed an extra week her to attend the memorial service for my mother-in-law, which was a really nice event for the grieving family.

    Nothing about any religious beliefs or any existence or absence of any gods changed the emotional impact of those feelings. Whatever you want to believe or disbelieve or philosophically argue about “realness”, the family and friends were experiencing emotions about the death and the loss of my mother-in-law. And ability to meet and hug and cry and relate helped us all deal with those feelings. And the stories and singing and relating to one another helped those feelings. No gods required.

    So, to me, nothing about the significance of human interactions and emotions requires any external “BIG DUDE” in order for them to have significance.

    If a computer says it is very sad, is that real?

    I have never encountered a computer that said it was sad, so I have no way at this time to evaluate that at all.

  29. dazz:
    Robin,

    Great to hear from you again, Robin!

    Thanks Dazz! Nice to be here again and see all the familiar folk. (And the same old comforting arguments that have been going on forever…) 🙂

  30. Very well put, Allan Miller.
    I am very much looking forward to Sal’s response.
    An aside: given that the one error does not affect your argument one iota, did you put it in there to test Sal’s ability to read for comprehension?
    You bad boy, you.

  31. phoodoo: You obviously don’t know what God did it means, since you don’t share this worldview.

    A feeble attempt to defend symmetry. ‘God did it’ is not an entailment of your worldview that I am trying to impose upon you, but one you apparently freely grasp, two-fisted. So, not the same.

  32. DNA_Jock:
    Very well put, Allan Miller.
    I am very much looking forward to Sal’s response.
    An aside: given that the one error does not affect your argument one iota, did you put it in there to test Sal’s ability to read for comprehension?
    You bad boy, you.

    Yes, I know exactly what you are referring to! I went ‘d’oh!’ as I was out running, no way to edit the damn thing! But a small beer on me if it’s spotted. 🙂

  33. Robin: I have never encountered a computer that said it was sad, so I have no way at this time to evaluate that at all.

    This is a new first in TSZ atheist arguments-you haven’t encountered it, so you just can’t say. I wonder what great revelation encountering would provide? Have you never heard of a child’s toy that expresses emotions like it is sad? But you never encountered it, so who can say really….

    I am going to have to save this one. “I have never encountered a school shooting, so I couldn’t say…”

  34. newton,

    You don’t believe in the supernatural realm, so you can’t comment on it informatively.

    Sorry. Allan’s rules.

  35. Even so, racemisation is not a particularly rapid process. I can buy D or L alanine, say, and have a reasonable expectation that it will not racemise in days or months. In peptides, it is more stable still, which is why it is used as a dating method on the millions-of-years scale (a scale that Sal would insist is not real!).

    That’s on the generous assumption the it is homochiral during the synthesis process, which, in a pre-biotic soup Urey-Miller scenario it’s not, and Urey-Miller assumed ammonia, not an atmospheric Nitrogen N2 scenario. So already that statement is making a generous assumption. If there is a hydrothermal vent scenario with heat the Arrhenius equation indicates the racemization is even faster.

  36. Allan Miller:

    oving on to sugars, the situation is a little more complicated. There are four stereocentres, giving 16 different possible isomers. What we call ‘D’ is but one form. ‘L’ is but another, where all 4 stereocentres are reversed wrt D. Worse, ribose in solution exists as a stable equilibrium between linear, 5-ring and 6-ring forms. It’s the 5-ring form that we use (interestingly, this is the predominant form for ribose, whereas deoxyribose left to its own devices favours the 6-ring. When we make DNA monomers, we stick the extra oxygen on at the end, after it’s had a base and phosphate group welded on).

    So yes, one can wring one’s hands over the vast numbers of non-canonical rubbish helixes one would expect to arise due to the vast numbers of permutations possible. But if an enantiopure stretch were to arise, with base complementarity, its constituents would be more stable than those same chemical species in pure solution, or in more mixed, and hence less tightly bound, stretches. The two stabilising ribose isomers capable of giving this stability are the ones we know as ‘L’ and ‘D’. They give left and right coiling helixes respectively. Only one survived.

    I’m not saying it’s easy, of course. One is free to pursue ‘bloke in sky’ hypotheses.

    Well said. “Bloke in the sky” is my proposed solution.

  37. stcordova: That’s on the generous assumption the it is homochiral during the synthesis process, which, in a pre-biotic soup Urey-Miller scenario it’s not, and Urey-Miller assumed ammonia, not an atmospheric Nitrogen N2 scenario.So already that statement is making a generous assumption.If there is a hydrothermal vent scenario with heat the Arrhenius equation indicates the racemization is even faster.

    What are we talking about here, peptides or nucleic acids?

    The rest of what you describe about the amino acid structure is irrelevant.

    To what? I mean, I’m not a ‘proteins-firster’ in any case, but I don’t see how amino acid chirality is irrelevant to a discussion of … chirality.

  38. Sal,

    “Bloke in the sky” is my proposed solution.

    What? Not a “violation of normative expectation”?

  39. Allan Miller:

    What are we talking about here, peptides or nucleic acids?

    Amino acids.

    I was referring to Urey-Miller:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miller%E2%80%93Urey_experiment#Experiment

    The experiment used water (H2O), methane (CH4), ammonia (NH3), and hydrogen (H2).
    ….

    Originally it was thought that the primitive secondary atmosphere contained mostly ammonia and methane. However, it is likely that most of the atmospheric carbon was CO2 with perhaps some CO and the nitrogen mostly N2. In practice gas mixtures containing CO, CO2, N2, etc. give much the same products as those containing CH4 and NH3 so long as there is no O2.

    So to fix atmospheric nitrogen into a biologically useful form we either need nitrogen fixing bacteria or the Haber process to make ammonia. In any case, it’s not a given we have a biologically usable form of nitrogen (N2) rather than some other nitrogen compound like ammonia.

    Just for reference, the Haber process involves:

    This conversion is typically conducted at 15–25 MPa (150–250 bar; 2,200–3,600 psi) and between 400–500 °C (752–932 °F), as the gases (nitrogen and hydrogen) are passed over four beds of catalyst, with cooling between each pass so as to maintain a reasonable equilibrium constant. On each pass only about 15% conversion occurs, but any unreacted gases are recycled, and eventually an overall conversion of 97% is achieved.[3]

    I’m not aware the amino acids in today’s environment would spontaneously form in abundance outside of living organisms and the by-products created by living organisms (like ammonia from the Haber process). As always we have to hypothesize something we can’t see.

    “The Bloke in the Sky” is looking a more viable solution every day.

  40. phoodoo: This is a new first in TSZ atheist arguments-you haven’t encountered it, so you just can’t say.I wonder what great revelation encountering would provide?Have you never heard of a child’s toy that expresses emotions like it is sad?But you never encountered it, so who can say really….

    I am going to have to save this one.“I have never encountered a school shooting, so I couldn’t say…”

    You still rely heavily on false equivalency I see…

    If I could read about a computer that projected some kind of emotion like sadness, that would suffice as encountering it. But of course, I cannot even do that, because there is no such thing. Same as your supposed god apparently. Sadly, (pun intended), the same cannot be said for school shootings.

    If you want me to assess some hypothetical, feel free to write up a detailed description.

  41. Here, I’ll toss you this bone, Phoodoo. A recording of someone saying “I’m sad” may well reflect a person’s genuine emotion, but it is not the actual, real emotion. By the same token, said recording does not indicate anything about the emotional state of the recording device.

    So no, dolls that have recorded voices that mimick some human statements and emotions are not real emotions.

    But if you get all choked up when your doll says it’s sad, don’t let me spoil your emotional connection there Phoodoo.

  42. stcordova: In any case, it’s not a given we have a biologically usable form of nitrogen (N2) rather than some other nitrogen compound like ammonia.

    Well, that’s an unusual use of the phrase “biologically usable”, I guess. Quite the keeper.
    Your bit about the Haber process was a nice touch, though.
    This is some of your best stuff yet, Sal, but I am a little surprised that you didn’t jump all over Allan’s schoolboy error; it is so unlike you. Here’s a hint – it’s related to the bit about attaching the base (which blocks further isomerization of the sugar, btw).

  43. DNA_Jock: Well, that’s an unusual use of the phrase “biologically usable”, I guess. Quite the keeper.
    Your bit about the Haber process was a nice touch, though.
    This is some of your best stuff yet, Sal, but I am a little surprised that you didn’t jump all over Allan’s schoolboy error; it is so unlike you. Here’s a hint – it’s related to the bit about attaching the base (which blocks further isomerization of the sugar, btw).

    I was referring to the chicken and egg paradox that involves Nitrogen Fixation:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitrogen_fixation

    Nitrogen fixation is a process by which nitrogen in the air is converted into ammonia (NH3) or related nitrogenous compounds.[1] Atmospheric nitrogen is molecular dinitrogen, a relatively nonreactive molecule that is metabolically useless to all but a few microorganisms. Biological nitrogen fixation converts N2 into ammonia, which is metabolized by most organisms.

    Nitrogen fixation is essential to life because fixed inorganic nitrogen compounds are required for the biosynthesis of all nitrogen-containing organic compounds, such as amino acids and proteins, nucleoside triphosphates and nucleic acids. As part of the nitrogen cycle, it is essential for agriculture and the manufacture of fertilizer. It is also, indirectly, relevant to the manufacture of all chemical compounds that contain nitrogen, which includes explosives, most pharmaceuticals, and dyes.

    Nitrogen fixation is carried out naturally in the soil by a wide range of microorganisms termed diazotrophs that include bacteria such as Azotobacter, and archaea. Some nitrogen-fixing bacteria have symbiotic relationships with some plant groups, especially legumes.[2] Looser non-symbiotic relationships between diazotrophs and plants are often referred to as associative, as seen in nitrogen fixation on rice roots. Nitrogen fixation also occurs between some termites and fungi.[3] It also occurs naturally in the air by means of NOx production by lightning.[4][5]

    All biological nitrogen fixation is effected by enzymes called nitrogenases.[6] These enzymes contain iron, often with a second metal, usually molybdenum but sometimes vanadium.

    Well without life, barring some alternatives to the Haber Process, there is no life. To extend Virchow: “cells come from pre-existing cells”, but also collectively some building block like ammonia or related nitrogen compounds.

  44. DNA_Jock:

    I am a little surprised that you didn’t jump all over Allan’s schoolboy error; it is so unlike you. Here’s a hint – it’s related to the bit about attaching the base (which blocks further isomerization of the sugar, btw).

    I didn’t talk about nucleotides or nucleosides spontaneously isomerizing. I was pointing the difficulty of getting consistently the same isomeric form from the pool of precursors of nucleotides or nucleosides. You know, like the one Watson and Crick described in the an earlier quote of their paper.

  45. phoodoo:
    newton,

    You don’t believe in the supernatural realm, so you can’t comment on it informatively.

    Sorry.Allan’s rules.

    Uh, no. Not what I said at all. It’s as if – shock horror – you have to twist people’s words to get anywhere in debate.

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