The Big Bad Wolf, Theism and the Foundations of Intelligent Design

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Source: http://www.epsociety.org/library/articles

The source document is a lengthy article with many references that deals with a Review of Richard Dawkins’, The God Delusion, (Bantam, 2006) by Peter S. Williams (MA, MPhil)

To view the original article please refer to the Source link at the top of this article.

I will make some selected quotes from the article but I highly recommend that you read the complete article. This is a most informative article that highlights a significant number of scientific assumptions and improbabilities that are not normally understood by the general public and consequently most noteworthy. Please note that I have also taken the liberty of highlighting some text in bold.

Excerpts are as follows:

Page 8: Cell biologist Franklin Harold admits that “there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.84

Page 9: Nevertheless, the supposed spontaneous origin of life from inorganic chemistry does represent a significant and improbable historical change, and one that cannot be addressed in terms of evolution by natural selection, for as Dawkins notes: “The origin of life was the chemical event, or series of events, whereby the vital conditions for natural selection first came about.” 105 Dawkins’ handles the improbability of jumping the gap between chemistry and the specified complexity of life by stating: “The origin of life only had to happen once. We can therefore allow it to have been an extremely improbable event, many orders of magnitude more improbable than most people realize…106

Page 10: Many of those with the expertise Dawkins admits to lacking are not so confident. For example, Robert Shapiro writes:

A profound difficulty exists… with the idea of RNA, or any other replicator, at the start of life. Existing replicators can serve as templates for the synthesis of additional copies of themselves, but this device cannot be used for the preparation of the very first such molecule, which must arise spontaneously from an unorganized mixture. The formation of an information-bearing [RNA chain or equivalent] through undirected chemical synthesis appears very improbable. 118

According to biochemist Stuart Pullen:

The hypothesis [of abiogenesis] is found in almost all biology books where it is put forth as the generally accepted theory. Yet in the scientific journals, scientists routinely dismiss many aspects of the hypothesis as highly improbable… When it comes to chemical evolution and the origin of life, science just doesn’t have the answer… While several amino acids can be created under plausible conditions, proteins cannot be… many biologists mistakenly believe that it is quite easy to synthesize all of the required biological molecules. Nevertheless, a quick review of the relevant literature reveals that this is not true. 119

Having restudied this evidence, Nobel laureate Richard Smalley recently affirmed that life must have been created by an intelligence. 120 The hypothesis that life sprang from non-life without the aid of intelligent design, as Dawkins’ comments make clear, is a philosophical deduction entailed by the assumption of naturalism. It is, as Shapiro writes: “mythology rather than science”. 121

Dawkins contradicts his incoherent assertion that the alternative to the “design hypothesis” is the anthropic principle:

the anthropic alternative to the design hypothesis is statistical. Scientists invoke the magic of large numbers… a billion billion is a conservative estimate of the number of available planets in the universe. Now, suppose the origin of life, the spontaneous arising of something equivalent to DNA, really was a quite staggeringly improbable event…. If the odds of life originating spontaneously on a planet were a billion to one against, nevertheless that stupefying improbable event would still happen on a billion planets… I do not for a moment believe the origin of life was anywhere near so improbable in practice… Even accepting the most pessimistic estimate of the probability that life might spontaneously originate, this statistical argument completely demolishes any suggestion that we should postulate design… 122

Odds of “a billion to one against” can be expressed as odds of 1 in 109. In Climbing Mount Improbable Dawkins calculates: “the probability that any particular sequence of, say 100, amino-acids will spontaneously form is [roughly] 1 in 20100. This is an inconceivably large number, far greater than the number of fundamental particles in the entire universe.”123 And yet here is Dawkins arguing that any suggestion that intelligent design might be the best explanation for the origin, not of a single chain of amino-acids at odds of 1 in 20100, but of life capable of undergoing evolution, is demolished by the “statistical argument” that it only had to “spontaneously originate” on a single planet out of “a billion-billion”! Dawkins vastly underestimates the odds against the spontaneous generation of life. As Dean L. Overman complains: “Many proponents of the origin of life by chance do not bother to perform the mathematical calculations which render their conclusions highly improbable.” 124Stephen C. Meyer calculates that to generate a single functional protein of 150 amino acids exceeds: “1 chance in 10180,” and comments “it is extremely unlikely that a random search through all the possible amino acid sequences could generate even a single relatively short functional protein in the time available since the beginning of the universe… 125

We have come a long way in our understanding of life since Ernst Haeckel described cells as “homogeneous globules of plasm” 126 in 1905. As Overman observes: “the difficulties in producing a protein from the mythical prebiotic soup are very large, but more difficult still is the probability of random processes producing the simplest living cell which represents an overwhelming increase in complexity“. 127 David Swift comments:

Biologists have become increasingly aware that the real stumbling block to the origin of life is its complexity – complexity in terms of the interdependence of molecules and biochemical pathways within cell metabolism, and complexity at the molecular level of individual components. The combination of complexities at these different levels presents insurmountable difficulties to getting anything that is remotely life-like… the complexity of even the simplest forms of life, a bacterium is much closer to a human being than it is to any cocktail of organic compounds in some putative primeval soup… the core of the problem is the considerable complexity of even the “simplest” forms of life, or even of some notional system that is stripped down to the theoretical bare necessities of life.128

Page 11: Fazale Rana and Hugh Ross report that: “Theoretical and experimental studies designed to discover the bare minimum number of gene products necessary for life all show significant agreement. Life seems to require between 250 and 350 different proteins to carry out its most basic operations.” 129 The simplest existing self-reproducing organism known outside the laboratory is the bacterium Mycoplasma Genitalium, which has 482 genes (two thirds of which have been shown to be necessary to its survival in the laboratory). Outside of the laboratory Mycoplasma Genitalium is “unable to sustain itself without parasitizing on an even more complex organism… Therefore a hypothetical first cell that could sustain itself would have to be even more complex.” 130 Rana and Ross argue:

the minimum complexity for independent life must reside somewhere between about 500 and 1,500 gene products. So far, as scientists have continued their sequencing efforts, all microbial genomes that fall below 1,500 belong to parasites. Organisms capable of permanent independent existence require more gene products. A minimum genome size (for independent life) of 1,500 to 1,900 gene products comports with what geochemical and fossil evidence reveals about the complexity of Earth’s first life. Earliest life forms displayed metabolic complexity that included photosynthetic and chemoautotrophic processes, protein synthesis, the capacity to produce amino acids, nucleotides, fatty acids and sugars [as well as] the machinery to reproduce. Some 1,500 different gene products would seem the bare minimum to sustain this level of metabolic activity… neither enough matter nor enough time in the universe exist for even the simplest bacterium to emerge by undirected chemical and physical processes. 131

Paul Davies writes that the odds against producing just the proteins necessary for a minimally complex life-form by pure chance are “something like 1040,000 to one.” 132 No wonder Benjamin Wiker concludes: “there are insuperable problems in trying to explain, via some mode of design-free evolutionary theory, how the first cells could have arisen“. 133 As Swift concludes:

it is no longer tenable to hide behind millions or even billions of years – trying to argue that even the improbable becomes probable given time – nor even behind the argument that life did not have to evolve on earth but could have arisen on any one of an astronomical number of possible planets. The conclusion is plain and simple: the universe is not big enough or old enough, not by a factor of trillions of trillions… for the complexities of life to have arisen by random associations of simple organic molecules or of random mutations of proteins or nucleic acids. 134

Appealing to the existence of a billion billion life friendly planets (and they have to be life friendly planets) doesn’t rescue the theory of spontaneous origination when the odds against the formation of a single functional protein are 10180 to one. In point of fact, Dawkins’ appeal to the existence of a billion billion life friendly planets is made in the teeth of the evidence, because as astronomer Danny R. Faulkner writes: “it is unlikely that there are many, if any, other earth-like planets in the universe”135 able to sustain life. Benjamin Wiker reviews some of the finely tuned conditions that permit life on earth:

Our sun is not a typical star but is one of the 9 percent most massive stars in our galaxy, and is also very stable. Further, the sun hits the Goldilocks mean for life – neither too hot (like a blue or white star) nor too cold (like a red star) – and its peak emission is right at the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum – the very, very thin band where not only vision is possible but also photosynthesis. Earth just “happens” to have the right combination of atmospheric gases to block out almost all the harmful radiation on the electromagnetic spectrum but, strangely enough, opens like a window for visible light. Jupiter is deftly placed and sized so that it not only helps to balance the Earth’s orbit but also acts as a kind of debris magnet keeping Earth from being pummeled. Our moon is just the right size and distance to stabilize earth’s axial tilt so that we have seasonal variations but not wildly swinging temperature changes. 136

Hugh Ross reviews 200 parameters required for a life-bearing planet. Comparing the chances of a planet falling within these parameters by chance alone with our best estimate of the total number of planets in the universe (1022) he estimates that there is “less than 1 chance in 10215” of a habitable planet existing in the universe. 137 Elsewhere, Ross argues:

fewer than a trillionth of a trillionth of a percent of all stars will have a planet capable of sustaining advanced life. Considering that the observable universe contains less than a trillion galaxies, each averaging a hundred billion stars, we can see that not even one planet would be expected, by natural processes alone, to possess the necessary conditions to sustain life. 138

Page 15: In particular, as a philosopher I welcome Dawkins’ recognition that ID theorists are building upon solid foundations:

  • Science is “the honest and systematic endeavour to find out the truth about the real world.” 184
  • Since the only good reason to believe in evolution is “because the evidence supports it,” 185 we should “abandon it overnight if new evidence arose to disprove it.” 186
  • The presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question, even if it is not in practice – or not yet – a decided one... The methods we should use to settle the matter… would be purely and entirely scientific methods.” 187
  • Patterns exhibiting specified complexity are reliable indicators of intelligent design: “Metronomic rhythms can be generated by many non-intelligent phenomena… Nothing simply rhythmic, then, would announce our intelligent presence to the waiting universe… Prime numbers are often mentioned as the recipe of choice, since it is difficult to think of a purely physical process that could generate them.” 188
  • Irreducible complexity provides a valid scientific test of Darwinism: “Maybe there is something out there in nature that really does preclude, by its genuinely irreducible complexity, the smooth gradient of Mount Improbable… if genuinely irreducible complexity could be properly demonstrated, it would wreck Darwin’s theory. Darwin himself said as much… genuine irreducible complexity would wreck Darwin’s theory if it were ever found… 189Dawkins thinks that no specified or irreducible complexity has, as yet, been discovered in pre-history. ID theorists such as myself disagree with this assessment of the evidence, but at least we are agreed that the above theoretical foundations of ID are sound and that the crucial question is whether or not the evidence justifies a design inference. As we have seen, Dawkins’ arguments to the contrary are about as impressive as the big bad wolf’s attempt to blow away the house of brick.For references to this article, click here.

 

 

 

 

7 comments

  1. This cited work is a very good one Dearly Beloved Brother.

    The unreasonableness of the claim that life suddenly springs from non life and that something suddenly comes from nothing is not quite easily accepted without a strong debate the days.

    I have an academic background in biology with a major in Microbiology. The academic system provided nothing but teachings on evolution as “the explanation” for the origin of life.

    I did quite a good deal of study on the subject myself and came to a conclusion of unreasonable such claims are in the light of scientific evidence and above all God’s account. More study materials are always welcome.

    I am still reading the full article to which you provided a link on your post.

    More of Lord Jesus to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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