I note Barry Arrington, Uncommon Descent’s president, owner and legal defender is promoting a commenter, the pseudonymous Upright Biped, not unknown to regular participants here. Not one OP but two (so far) glowing posts. Upright Biped has convinced himself, and (let’s be fair) some others, that he has come up with a knock-down argument against origin-of-life theories that take a purely reality-based approach.
The latest OP entitled UB Strikes Again! ends with the rejoinder “AVS, where are you? You’re letting down your side. Come on back and tell UB why he’s wrong!”
This seems somewhat disingenuous. Why should it be left to an anonymous self-described “biochemistry student” to fight against the might of Barry’s moderation and Bipeds weighty argument (that can be summarized as “a miracle happens, therefore design”)?
It’s already been done. Why should AVS need to renvent the wheel? I’d like to remind Barry that there is plenty of material blowing Upright Biped’s argument out of the water but I am unable to comment at Uncommon Descent. Maybe someone who still can would like to draw Barry’s and Biped’s attention to the fact that there are quite a few folks who’d like to tell UB why he’s wrong.
Upright Biped claims:
“This entire arrangement is a necessary precondition of the genotype-phenotype distinction. It must be in place prior to the onset of Darwinian evolution. To say this system is the product of Darwinian evolution, is to say that a thing that does not yet exist on a pre-biotic earth can cause something to happen.
Which is obviously false.”
There’s absolutely no known reason why chemical self-replicators that replicate with variation and are subject to natural selection cannot exist on a pre-biotic earth. If that is Upright Biped’s view, and if that is central to his argument, he has nothing but an unsupported claim. It amounts to “chemical evolution can’t happen because I claim it can’t, therefore, I infer intelligent design of the first life form before biological evolution can set in”.
(The Upright Biped excerpt I quoted above is on the UD post Alan linked to.)
Well, not to defend Upright Biped’s argument but I think he is focusing on the idea that you can’t use RM and NS (evolution) as an explanation for how self-replicators originally came into being. If he limited himself to that only, I think he has a point albeit one with which OOL researchers are already grappling. It’s the unwarranted default assumption of “therefore design” that is unsupported.
If he was arguing that variation and selection doesn’t account for the first self-replicators, he’d just be stating the obvious. However, he’s actually arguing that it requires an already fairly complex system in which a genotype is translated into a phenotype in order for “Darwinian” evolution to take place. That seems like claiming that it requires a system like the one we see at the base of modern life forms in order for chemical evolution by selection to take place. I know of nothing to support that view.
An example of a simpler system would be two RNAs replicating in tandem and acting as templates for each other, and producing variants which are subject to selection. Those have been discovered. Even simpler, self-replicating molecules that act as templates for themselves with occasional variants have also been discovered.
Variation and selection of self-replicators can certainly happen without what Upright Biped likes to describe as a “semiotic system”.
Sorry, nearly forgot. Thanks for the welcome!
Welcome to TSZ.
Your criticisms of Upright Biped’s argument are spot on, but good luck getting him to respond to them. We’ve been making those criticisms and others literally for years (since 2011 at least):
Upright BiPed’s Semiotic Argument for Design
Semiotic Theory of ID
Upright BiPed responds
Semiotic argument for ID: penguin rules version
A (repeated) challenge to Upright Biped
Upright Biped’s “Semiotic Theory” redux.
And those are just the TSZ posts! Some of us have also challenged Upright Biped’s “theory” at Uncommon Descent before being arbitrarily banned.
UB’s “theory” was stillborn, but he still hasn’t come to grips with that.
Thanks for the welcome. Actually, I’ve been here before. I had an account under another username, but when I tried to post today and retrieve my old password, my email wasn’t recognised. So, I registered again, and used a different name because wordpress told me the old one was in use!
I was “dr who”, so we’ve met before on UBiped threads. I remember asking Upright Biped whether or not he considered molecules that replicated themselves to contain “recorded information”, and the answer was no, because they reproduce themselves, not something else. That actually means that Darwinian evolution of a sort could take place without this thing called recorded information. I’d be interested to know whether the example I gave above of two different RNAs replicating in tandem and acting as templates for each other would involve “recorded information”. Based on the objection to the single self-replicator, they should. In that example, they are both genotype and phenotype in a sense, which I find interesting (and Upright should as well!).
Anyway, good to see you’re still around, and apologies to everyone who was around at the time for changing my incarnation.
Ah, I see. Well, welcome back, then.
By the way, the moderators can probably reset your password for you if you’d prefer to go by ‘dr who’ rather than ‘zeus’.
Yes, you, I, and Reciprocating Bill discussed that exact topic on one of the threads, starting here.
Upright’s entire argument devolved into the claim that because contemporary Darwinian replicators employ complex transcription and translation from genotype to phenotype, simpler replicators capable of Darwinian evolution can’t have been possible. It is a claim made with no justification – not even justification within the framework of his semiotic theory. It was an ad hoc addition after the fact, and it’s all he’s got.
He also seems to believe that exposition consists in squeezing a single paragraph of text into an ever denser brick. The only change I’ve noted buried within the brick is the substitution of “translation of recorded information” for “transfer of recorded information.”
(Do broken records transfer recorded information?)
Next Barry needs to look up “circle jerk”, “echo chamber” etc.
Just a hopelessly naive vision. He cannot conceive of systems simpler than the simplest extant organisms (which rely upon translation, products of which are embedded in replication). And of course there aren’t any organisms simpler than the simplest extant organisms still in existence (duh …). Therefore there cannot be anything simpler.
When one offers a conception of such a pre-translation system, he switches from the conceptual to the practical – ‘you believe such a system can exist, you must make it or I say it can’t’.
The RNA world addresses many of these issues, providing a clear conceptual path in to the modern system, whose much greater robustness was the death knell for those ancestors. It’s not without its critics or its difficulties, but merging genotype and phenotype into one molecule answers the conceptual challenge perfectly adequately. The real answer may be entirely different, but one simply has to dispense with the notion that modern protein amino-acyl synthetases are the only possible AARSs, and more generally that catalysts have to be protein, to see the way out of UB’s conceptual thicket.
‘Tis of an Upright Biped, who stoppeth one in three! Let me spin you a web, passing biochemist …
The final, triumphal paragraphs in UB’s ‘succinct’ statement are a little hard to unpack. He seems to be insisting that, because the association of a triplet with an amino acid does not have a ‘physical-law’ relationship (any triplet can in principle associate with any acid), then a chemical explanation fails.
This is wrong. There is a ‘physical-law’ relationship that ensures that any given triplet will bind with varying affinities to the 63 others. The triplet that binds most strongly to any triplet is its anticodon, and it will tend to displace any others that are more weakly bound, by demonstrable physical forces. These same physical forces are at the heart of very powerful techniques such as RNA probes, PCR primer binding/strand annealing, as well as the many biological processes that depend upon base pairing.
Now, there is no ‘golden rule’ that a particular anticodon-bearing RNA structure can only have a particular amino acid stuck on it, so it is essentially arbitrary. But if a catalyst has specificity for a particular anticodon-bearing RNA, and for a particular amino acid, that specificity is again mediated by binding energies. A population of variant tRNAs will bind with varying affinities to the catalyst. A population of amino acids will also bind with varying affinities. A catalyst with binding sites for both will be selective, however weakly, for certain members of the molecular population over others. It cannot be otherwise – the nature of macromolecular catalysts is such that they bind differentially to different substrates. Both sites don’t need to become specific simultaneously. But if a particular consistent association proves beneficial, it will select for better binding at both sites. It is likely, or at least possible, that tRNA charging arose before tight anticodon binding and triplet specificity (not using protein catalysts, obviously). Catalysis is not the only function of protein, and not every function needs tight specification.
Gregory, I’ve moved your comment to the moderation issues thread and will respond to it there.
I just registered. I was brought here from uncommon descent after reading the whale jawbone thread. I thought the whole thing was immensely informative and entertaining.
Welcome aboard, BatGuano.
Thank you. I was also amused by the Guano room. 🙂
Welcome, BatGuano. UD is great entertainment, isn’t it?
Do you know about the “Uncommonly Dense” threads at antievolution.org?
Uncommonly Dense I
Uncommonly Dense II
Uncommonly Dense III
Uncommonly Dense IV
Uncommonly Dense V
Uncommonly Dense: The BlogCzar Years, Er, Months
I’m unaware. I’ll have to peruse those links to form an opinion.
Thanks, Keith, for collating and posting all those links.
Sorry, I can’t locate your old account to send you a new password.
It seems editing display name does not work either. Perhaps I’m not using the correct spelling for your account search but the letter sequence “who” does not bring up yours among the many it does find.
I’d like to sort this out for you so perhaps you can post the exact spelling of your previous user name in the “moderation issues” thread, I’ll see what can be done.
ETA Silly me. After adding “Dr Who” as a nickname it will appear as a selection for “display name”. Select it then “update profile”! (Your login is unchanged as “zeus”)