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.

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

  1. stcordova,

    Amino acids

    While telling me amino acids were irrelevant? No wonder I get confused.

    Like I say, I’m not a proteins-first kinda guy. Of course, similar notions can be brought in to attack the stability of ribose, nucleobase etc, but I would note that half a yard from thermal vents, it’s bloody freezing.

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  2. DNA_Jock I am a little surprised that you didn’t jump all over Allan’s schoolboy error

    Shuddup, SHUDDUP!! 😀

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  3. Two thoughts:

    Amino acids form on meteorites. Where do they get the nitrogen from?

    And … the solution to all chicken-egg paradoxes appears to involve a ginormous chicken. 😀

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  4. I’ve mentioned this before: there are around 500 possible amino acids, not just the 39 imagined by the ’20 plus stereoisomers’ brigade. Some are more thermodynamically favoured than others, which is why we find biologically significant ones (and their isomers) in Miller-Urey and on meteorites. But chirality itself is something of a red herring. An isomer is simply one of dozens of variants among thousands of other small molecules that would need to be filtered out by any process capable of distinction. All that tells us is that the process probably didn’t go on molecular weight, or side chain alone.

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  5. stcordova: 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.

    And yet you were wittering on about isomers of deoxyribose, which is not a nucleotide precursor

    You know, like the one Watson and Crick described in the an earlier quote of their paper.

    That’s ironic: there’s a really famous story about Watson using the wrong guanine isomer. Tautomer, in fact.

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  6. Sal, between your uncharacteristic generosity towards Allan (although you really should re-read his comments, there is some key information there that you need to take on board) and the following exchange:
    Sal:

    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.

    Jock:

    Well, that’s an unusual use of the phrase “biologically usable”, I guess. Quite the keeper.

    Sal responds, quoting wikipedia:

    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.

    Do you even read the stuff you cut and paste, Sal? I only ask because you do not appear to understand any of it; the word “howler” comes to mind.

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  7. DNA_Jock,

    Do you even read the stuff you cut and paste, Sal? I only ask because you do not appear to understand any of it; the word “howler” comes to mind.

    If you don’t comprehend what Sal is writing then why not simply ask for verification. Statements like the one above make you look foolish.

    If the argument style on this blog does not improve to a more professional exchange then it is going to move to irrelevance over time. You are supposed to be a leader here.

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  8. colewd:
    If you don’t comprehend what Sal is writing then why not simply ask for verification.Statements like the one above make you look foolish.

    Sorry Bill, but it is typical of Salvador to quote from something he doesn’t read thinking that it makes his (Salvador’s) point. Only problem, we do read, and we see what Salvador doesn’t. Too often Salvador shoots himself in the foot (if not always). I seriously think that there’s something very wrong with Salvador’s reading abilities.

    colewd:
    If the argument style on this blog does not improve to a more professional exchange then it is going to move to irrelevance over time.You are supposed to be a leader here.

    It’s already irrelevant Bill. If someone as “main frame” as salvador cannot read for comprehension, doesn’t understand biology, yet pretends to pontificate on it, etc. Then what relevance could this blog have? I think that few if any creationists can be reached. Since they only “listen” to someone as ignorant and amazingly stupid as Salvador, what relevance could this blog have?

    What would you need in order to see that Salvador is, at best, a snake oil salesman? Can you bear to even give it a try? I doubt it.

    ETA: Salvador said that ammonia was not a “biologically usable” form of nitrogen, then contradicted himself, shot himself in the foot, when he quoted wikipedia, since wikipedia says that “Biological nitrogen fixation converts N2 into ammonia, which is metabolized by most organisms.”

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  9. colewd: If you don’t comprehend what Sal is writing then why not simply ask for verification. Statements like the one above make you look foolish.

    Well, Bill, if you don’t understand something I write, just ask for clarification.
    I always give Sal the opportunity to clarify or correct his errors. The above exchange that you highlight is an example. Sal wrote that molecular dinitrogen (N2, which comprises 80% of the atmosphere) is a “biologically usable” form of nitrogen, in contrast with “some other nitrogen compound like ammonia.”.
    I gently suggest that he has made an error, quoting him and hinting

    Well, that’s an unusual use of the phrase “biologically usable”, I guess.

    But Sal, in what I suspect is a rush to appear erudite, pastes a large chunk of wikipedia, which explicitly states that molecular dinitrogen, which is “metabolically useless to all but a few microorganisms”, gets converted to ammonia, which “is metabolized by most organisms” (and a primary ingredient in fertilizer).
    Sal has “biologically usable” backwards. It’s a simple error, that he failed to correct when given the opportunity.

    colewd: If the argument style on this blog does not improve to a more professional exchange then it is going to move to irrelevance over time. You are supposed to be a leader here.

    I try to stay focused on the facts. Sal generates vast tracts of hogwash, which need to be corrected, lest other readers get the mistaken impression that he knows what he’s talking about, or works at the NIH.
    ETA: ninja’d!

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  10. DNA_Jock,

    I try to stay focused on the facts. Sal generates vast tracts of hogwash, which need to be corrected, lest other readers get the mistaken impression that he knows what he’s talking about, or works at the NIH.
    ETA: ninja’d!

    Then correct him politely. Your attempts to argue from authority makes you look weak. If you want to have a 100% skeptics website you are doing all the right stuff 🙂

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  11. DNA_Jock: And yet you were wittering on about isomers of deoxyribose, which is not a nucleotide precursor

    It’s a component, so what word would you use. So what word would you use since deoxyribose is in this diagram, if not the word pre-cursor?

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  12. DNA_Jock:

    But Sal, in what I suspect is a rush to appear erudite, pastes a large chunk of wikipedia, which explicitly states that molecular dinitrogen, which is “metabolically useless to all but a few microorganisms”, gets converted to ammonia, which “is metabolized by most organisms” (and a primary ingredient in fertilizer).
    Sal has “biologically usable” backwards. It’s a simple error, that he failed to correct when given the opportunity.

    It wasn’t an error, you’re criticizing an argument I didn’t make.

    I was pointing out the chicken and egg paradox. Without creatures that have nitrogenase and the ability to convert N2 into a biologically useful form, there is no life. But Nitrogenases need living creatures to make them, and without nitrogenases, there is no ammonia and/or its derivatives, and hence no cellular life. So again, without life, there is no possibility of life. It’s echoes Pasteur’s law of biogenesis, and Virchow’s cell theory all over again.

    You could of course invoke some unknown and speculative mechanisms not observed ubiquitously in nature that might make piddly amounts through light, electricity, and uncommon catalysis to make ammonia and it’s derivatives. In the absence of that we need something like a Haber process that takes place at absurdly high temperatures and pressures, and even then, relative to the pool required to explore the combinations to make viable proteins, it’s piddly.

    I quoted the wiki article because you’re not accurately representing what I say. I’m giving you the chance to correct your misrepresentations. You haven’t so far, because, it’s kind of hard for you to acknowlege when I’m right.

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  13. DNA_Jock:

    lest other readers get the mistaken impression that he knows what he’s talking about

    The issue isn’t about me or what I know, you’re trying to make it about me. But of course, it’s preferable to make the issue about me rather than the improbability of life from first principles.

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  14. Allan Miller, do you agree with this?

    Saith DNA_Jock:

    isomers of deoxyribose, which is not a nucleotide precursor

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  15. stcordova,

    I was pointing out the chicken and egg paradox. Without creatures that have nitrogenase and the ability to convert N2 into a biologically useful form, there is no life

    The additional requirement is to produce N2 at the proper rate to keep the organism alive.

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  16. colewd:
    Then correct him politely.

    Do you really think that we never corrected Salvador politely? By this time the problem is that Salvador never listens. The guy misquotes and leaves jumping in triumphant attitude. So, we’re left with little more than making fun of his astounding idiocy, which is the right word to use. Sorry about that, but that’s the impression I have from him. He worked very hard to convince me that he’s just exactly as stupid as his misquotes, and lack of understanding, would suggest.

    colewd:
    Your attempts to argue from authority makes you look weak. If you want to have a 100% skeptics website you are doing all the right stuff

    I don’t understand this. can you explain to me how is showing Salvador his mistakes “arguing from authority”? How can showing that salvador did not read what he himself quoted make someone look weak?

    I’m really lost here, so I’d appreciate it if you can clarify.

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  17. stcordova: It’s a component, so what word would you use. So what word would you use since deoxyribose is in this diagram, if not the word pre-cursor?

    “Component” would seem to be a good word to use to describe a component. That was the word that your ‘physical organic chemist’ used in his delightful bit of combinatorial math.
    Allan Miller explained to you (in that infamous comment) that the isomeric %% of deoxyribose are irrelevant, since DNA monomers are made from ribose nucleotides, after the base has been “welded on”. And ribose actually prefers the 5-membered ring conformation (perhaps why your ‘physical organic chemist’ friend chose to highlight the quite irrelevant isomer distribution of deoxyribose). I pointed out that the addition of the base freezes the sugar isomerization, and also linked to a description of the enzyme (ribonucleotide reductase) that converts NDP’s to dNDP’s, the actual precursors from which DNA is made.
    So your calling deoxyribose a nucleotide precursor or a ‘precursor’ of DNA is simply wrong; how it is wrong has been explained to you on multiple occasions. You should be well-enough informed by now to be able to spot when wikipedia contains an error.

    colewd, was that polite enough for you?
    You appear to be tone-trolling on behalf of Sal. That’s amazing.

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  18. colewd: Then correct him politely.

    However, that assumes I was in error in the first place. So, here is a basic basic issue in abiogenesis. What was the source of nitrogen for the formation of:

    amino acids and proteins, nucleoside triphosphates and nucleic acids.

    Is it atmospheric nitrogen (N2)? Not likely.

    Well what then is the synthesis pathway from N2 to something like ammonia (NH3) or its derivatives since ammonia/derivates is typical of the synthesis pathway of:

    amino acids and proteins, nucleoside triphosphates and nucleic acids.

    This is a problem for abiogenesis. I wouldn’t say insurmountable, but it’s not trivial either. What is DNA_jock actually claiming is in error in me pointing out this problem?

    So, let them be rude, the more important thing is I was right, and they just pretend I was in error. They can only posture and insult me, they can’t actually argue against factual substance. That’s my psychoanalysis of their behavior.

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  19. colewd:
    The additional requirement is to produce N2 at the proper rate to keep the organism alive.

    Don’t be that naïve Bill. salvador is just trying to save face, but it took too long for him to realize his mistake. He clearly wrote that backwards version.

    As to his “argument,” ammonia is often found in meteorites, which is one reason scientists proposed it as a one of the several potential ingredients in the prebiotic earth atmosphere. Also, there’s no reason why organisms could not use other nitrogen compounds at the beginning. Again, several of them are formed in meteorites.

    As to your argument, there cannot be rate problems unless the organisms had quick lifecycles. But why, or, rather, how, could a quick-lifecycle organism evolve unless the rate of nitrogen fixation (if that was a route taken in early life) was enough to sustain such a lifecycle in the first place?

    You might be tempted to remind me that E coli grows very quickly, but that’s a nowadays bacterium growing in a rich medium. So I’d have to tell you that there’s no reason why we should expect that early life forms were as efficient growers as E coli, and that, if that is not enough for you, some bacteria (and archaea) today, have very, but very very very, slow lifecycles.

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  20. stcordova: It wasn’t an error, you’re criticizing an argument I didn’t make.

    Suggesting that ammonia is not a “biologically usable” nitrogen compound is an error. Doing so while contrasting it with N2 is a terrible error.
    Sal wrote:

    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.

    Perhaps not what he meant to write, but he’s already squandered multiple opportunities to set the record straight…
    ETA: wot? ninja’d again?

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  21. DNA_Jock: since DNA monomers are made from ribose nucleotides, after the base has been “welded on”

    In a pre-biotic environment? R5P is in a living organism, it’s not like sitting around for free in a pre-biotic environment! The error is yours not mine. To that end here is one of the first synthesis step proposed in abiogenesis (diagram below) from:

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674987117301305

    And then there is the problem of phosphorylating the sugar after the improbable event that it is made:

    Many efforts have been devoted to phosphorylate nucleosides to nucleotides under various experimental conditions (Table 3). As is the case for the nucleoside synthesis from corresponding sugar and nucleobase, phosphorylation is thermodynamically unfavorable in water over a wide variety of temperatures and pH.

    It’s not like we necessarily start with something like R5P, in fact the above starts with a nucleoside and then attaches the phospahte group, not a ribophosphate attached to a nucleobase.

    Gee, who is getting spoon fed the basic of abiogenesis now? Not me. 🙂 So before you correct my “errors” take the blasted log out of your own eye DNA_”jock”. HAHAHA!

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  22. DNA_Jock,

    I really start despising Salvador, again, every time he figures out his error, produces a red-herring “my real argument was …” as if that justified the mistake, and then continues, arrogantly treating you as some kind of fool for pointing at his mistake.

    Worse because the “actual” “argument” is still pretty stupid. With or without the original mistake.

    I really think that Salvador is excessively stupid, but his arrogance makes it very difficult to feel sorry for him.

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  23. colewd: The additional requirement is to produce N2 at the proper rate to keep the organism alive.

    Just noticed this. You appear to have bought what Sal was selling. N2 is really rather inert (hence the whole ‘nitrogen fixation problem’ that Sal is trying to argue) and it comprises 80% of the modern earth’s atmosphere. Early earth atmospheres are believed to have been much more ammonia-rich, thus destroying Sal’s chicken-and-egg argument. Ammonia is readily used by most organisms.

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  24. DNA_Jock:

    Early earth atmospheres are believed to have been much more ammonia-rich,

    That’s not a unanimous belief, but it HAS to be that way, or else, abiogenesis has more problems.

    Her is a problem:

    Ammonia photolysis and the greenhouse effect in the primordial atmosphere of the earth

    Photochemical calculations indicate that in the prebiotic atmosphere of the Earth ammonia would have been irreversibly converted to N2 in less than 40 years

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/001910357990126X

    The assumption was ammonia was coming from the inside of the Earth, but well, yet another problem. If that were the case we could just mine it rather than synthesize it in Haber process factories like this one:

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  25. So Bill, here’s the reality:
    ribose can isomerize.
    Attach a base to it (at the first carbon, the reactive one) and it can no longer isomerize (without shedding the base and starting over)
    Add 1, 2, or 3 phosphates to get NMP, NDP, and NTP. (where N = A, C, G, or U)
    deoxyribose arises thanks to the enzyme ribonucleotide reductase, which converts NDP’s into the corresponding dNDP’s. These dNDP’s are the precursors of DNA
    So, whereas deoxyribose is a “component” of DNA, free deoxyribose (the species that can isomerize) is NOT A PRECURSOR of DNA.
    Sal’s (and his buddy the “physical organic chemist”‘s) wittering about isomerization of deoxyribose is irrelevant. Sal’s waffling about pre-biotic pathways (which, I hope you can notice, do not include any deoxyribose ) does not restore deoxyribose to relevance.
    Sal’s triumphant insults…well, I’ll let you chastise him in that regard.

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  26. stcordova: Her is a problem:

    Ammonia photolysis and the greenhouse effect in the primordial atmosphere of the earth

    Photochemical calculations indicate that in the prebiotic atmosphere of the Earth ammonia would have been irreversibly converted to N2 in less than 40 years

    Why don’t you quote the rest of the abstract? Here let me help you quote the rest of the abstract:
    Photochemical calculations indicate that in the prebiotic atmosphere of the Earth ammonia would have been irreversibly converted to N2 in less than 40 years if the ammonia surface mixing ratio were ≤ 10−4. However, if a continuous outgassing of ammonia were maintained, radiative equilibrium calculations indicate that a surface mixing ratio of ammonia of 10−5 or greater would provide a sufficient greenhouse effect to keep the surface temperature above freezing. With a 10−4 mixing ratio of ammonia, 60 to 70% of the present day solar luminosity would be adequate to maintain surface temperatures above freezing. A lower limit to the time constant for accumulation of an amount of nitrogen equivalent to the present day value is 10 my if the outgassing were such as to provide a continuous surface mixing ratio of ammonia ≥ 10−5.”
    The part you quoted is in bold. The very same sentence you prematurely cut off immediately goes on to explain how the part you quoted rests on a huge if.

    This is why they don’t just ask you to tell the truth in a court of law, but the WHOLE truth and nothing but the truth.

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  27. stcordova: That’s not a unanimous belief, but it HAS to be that way, or else, abiogenesis has more problems.

    Who says it has to be that way? Quote the people arguing this. Yes, I’m asking rhetorically, this is your spin, nobody actually thinks or says this.

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  28. Rumraket,

    It would be insulting if Salvador thought that we’d be unable to go and read the whole thing ourselves and refute his quote-mining. But maybe he did not, could not, read that far.

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  29. DNA_”jock”

    Did you think nucleotides were just floating around in the pre-biotic Earth? I mean they have to be assembled from some precursors like mabe: ahem

    nucleobases : (A,T,C,G,U)
    ribose isomermers or variants thereof like deoxyribose or ribose
    phophates

    we could have of course some of the above grouped into like
    nucleosides (A,T,C,G,U) joined to ribose, deoxyribose
    ribophosphates phosphate added to ribose, r5p in living organisms is an example

    But, noooooo, I gave you to much credit, and you start with a nucleotide and then start talking about spontaneous isomerization. We’re talking abiogenesis here, not nucleotide and DNA synethesis in a living organism. You’re way past your prime “jock.” No wonder what you wrote sounded like utter drivel.

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  30. Entropy:

    I really think that Salvador is excessively stupid, but his arrogance makes it very difficult to feel sorry for him.

    Take a number and get in line. 🙂 He didn’t earn the nickname “the human shit-stain” for nothing.

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  31. colewd:
    DNA_Jock,

    Then correct him politely.

    I realise we’re all guilty of being a bit partisan, but we never hear a peep out of you when J-mac, nonlin or phoodoo adopt a similar stance. Indeed, you went off on one yourself a bit sometime back. Glass houses.

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  32. stcordova:
    Allan Miller, do you agree with this?

    I agree with Jock and disagree with Wikipedia. Deoxyribose only appears after the nucleotide has been formed. It’s a precursor of DNA (embedded in a nucleotide), but not of nucleotides themselves. The oxygen is removed (my “d’oh” moment: I’d said added) after the nucleotide is formed. Biologically, that is. At OoL, who knows?

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  33. stcordova: We’re talking abiogenesis here, not nucleotide and DNA synethesis in a living organism. You’re way past your prime “jock.”No wonder what you wrote sounded like utter drivel.

    On the other hand, if you get yourself a ginormous chicken …

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  34. Allan Miller,

    I realise we’re all guilty of being a bit partisan, but we never hear a peep out of you when J-mac, nonlin or phoodoo adopt a similar stance. Indeed, you went off on one yourself a bit sometime back. Glass houses.

    Fair point 🙂

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  35. Allan Miller: I realise we’re all guilty of being a bit partisan, but we never hear a peep out of you when J-mac, nonlin or phoodoo adopt a similar stance. Indeed, you went off on one yourself a bit sometime back. Glass houses.

    Now now Allan, you should know me better than this by now. I don’t start off conversing with anyone using the tone of you or Jock, nevermind an Adapa , Dazz or Omagain vacuous ad hominen style. However once I see roster choosing that path, I let them see that I am far better at that then them , so maybe they should just stick to the facts. If they still don’t learn that, well then they have earned the reply.

    There is a very big difference there. Furthermore, there is a rumor that Jock is a moderator here. I know, who started that silly idea?

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  36. Allan Miller:At OoL, who knows?

    Well, a caveat: it’s a reasonably safe bet that ribose consistently lacking oxygen at 2′ would not be predominant, even if we could get synthesis. At best you’d expect a mix of 2’/3′ deoxy, and both-hydroxyl. And the deoxy forms would form a lesser proportion of the 5-carbon rings that form a neat backbone, even though, once formed, deoxy has advantages for stability – that 2′ oxygen can bend round and attack the phosphodiester bond of the RNA backbone. Less an issue for double stranded RNA, because it’s less flexible and because base pairing stops the constituents from floating away when it does happen. Its removal also makes for a tighter coil in DNA, for steric reasons.

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  37. I find it extraordinary that you can talk about all these processes happening, so many things adding up to this and that, and they next step and the next step, which finally leads to you being able to think of each of these steps, and you don’t stop and say, it’s beyond amazing. It’s unfathomably miraculous.

    I suspect deep down you still do think that.

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  38. phoodoo:
    … and you don’t stop and say, it’s beyond amazing. It’s unfathomably miraculous

    I often think something pretty close to that. We’re tiny, and our brains too incapable of comprehending the complexities involved in a lot of it. The origin of life, wow, I think we will never know the “true history.” I think we’ll figure out a few plausible scenarios, but that we will be unable to decide which of them, if any, is the one that gave birth to our lineages. I think that the sense of wonder will remain regardless of the understanding we might attain in the future.

    I suspect though, that you were implying something else besides a sense of wonder here, but I rather not guess.

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  39. phoodoo:
    I find it extraordinary that you can talk about all these processes happening,so many things adding up to this and that,and they next step and the next step,which finally leads to you being able to think of each of these steps,and you don’t stop and say,it’s beyond amazing.It’s unfathomably miraculous.

    I suspect deep down you still do think that.

    What I personally have trouble fathoming is the sheer time involved. I can kinda understand someone occasionally winning the lottery despite odds of about 1 in 400 million. But scale that up to 1 in 400 billion and we would seem to be approaching unfathomable. Yet someone wins the current lottery a couple times a year, so someone would win a 1 in 400 billion lottery every 500 years.

    To me, 500 years is a long time. Imagine a once in 500 years improbable event, and imagine you need a million such events to produce these steps. Golly, you’d need 500 million years! But wait! We’re talking billions of years here. I can understand the arithmetic, I can accept intellectually that in such spans of time many vanishingly improbable things can happen, but I can’t really grasp time at that scale. I think our brains just can’t really do it, and grasping a poof miracle a few thousand years ago is much easier.

    And assigning intelligent agencies to such miracles seems to be human nature. Even primitive tribes, all independently, have assigned intelligent agencies to weather, geologic features, and the coincidences of fate. None have independently incorporated the vasty reaches of sheer time into their beliefs. Some primitive people, clearly, not only can’t do it but can’t believe anyone else can either. The rain gods are so completely obvious.

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  40. I’ve been seeing graphs and charts all my live to depict things like the passage of time.

    Seems natural to me, even if I can’t “feel” the scope of deep time.

    What irritates me is truncated graphs that exaggerate change.

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  41. Flint,

    To me, 500 years is a long time. Imagine a once in 500 years improbable event, and imagine you need a million such events to produce these steps. Golly, you’d need 500 million years! But wait! We’re talking billions of years here. I can understand the arithmetic, I can accept intellectually that in such spans of time many vanishingly improbable things can happen, but I can’t really grasp time at that scale. I think our brains just can’t really do it, and grasping a poof miracle a few thousand years ago is much easier.

    OOL is among other things a huge combinatorial problem. More combinations than population size and seconds to solve it. We have a known way to solve combinatorial problems. A very different solution than the mechanisms for rain.

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  42. colewd,

    OOL is among other things a huge combinatorial problem. More combinations than population size and seconds to solve it.

    You don’t know that.

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  43. phoodoo:
    I suspect deep down you still do think that.

    There you go again. You know what I think better than I do.

    I do think it fascinating, to be sure. But miraculous? Nah.

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  44. keiths:
    colewd,

    You don’t know that.

    Yes, I was going to say similar. People seem to think they have a handle on the probability of a process whose details are completely unknown.

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  45. I’m always looking for ‘how’. So when people say ‘the OoL was miraculous’ or ‘quantum parameters are fine tuned’, I still want to know how? How do you design quantum parameters that make DNA, rock and metals from the same 4 basic numbers? What values could they have had, and how would things be different?

    How do you bolt together a working cell without the components reacting as you manoeuvre them into position? Or do you start with zebras? Ears downwards, or feet upwards? Start with a zygote, or does it happen so quickly there’s an audible ‘pop’ as the air is displaced? How do you sort out imprinting in the first diploid? And so on. ‘Creation’ is an answer to absolutely nothing.

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