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I'm Just Not Buying It

Drudge always comes up with fun links.

Science on verge of new `Creation'
Labs say they have nearly all the tools to make artificial life

More than 3.5 billion years after nature transformed non-living matter into living things, populating Earth with a cornucopia of animals and plants, scientists say they are finally ready to try their hand at creating life. ...

Still, artificial life now seems so attainable that the number of U.S. labs working in the field jumped from about 10 four decades ago to more than 100 today.[As I recall there were thousands of alchemists at one time. -ed]

The story goes on from there and basically makes that case that since a lot of people are working on it obviously it is going to happen. Call me skeptical, but we ain't even close.

These guys think they can take inorganic material and synthesize life... I'll make it even easier on them... Start with a guy that died yesterday and bring him back to life. Hell, at least there you've got a running start, he was alive at one point.

A key element of all living systems is the ability to evolve through natural selection. Things that are successful survive, while those that fail to adapt die off. The idea is to incorporate this evolutionary design process into technology that people can use, making things that are complicated and well-adapted without having to figure out in advance all the problems that could arise.


That brings us smack dab into the great lie of the "We came from ooze" theory. If you believe the hype, there was this oooze on the ground when lighting hit and POOF there was single celled life. From there all life on the planet evolved from that glob of primordial ooze.

But there is a fatal flaw with that theory. If you consider the diversity of life on this planet and the fact that 90% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct, it is obvious that there would have had to be trillions of cases when one species evolved into another. Yet with all of our study we can not document one time in history that it has happened. The scientific community has put all its stock in the fact that these trillions of events happened but we can not cite a single example. (notice the word "species" before you flame me)

Further we can not reproduce it in the lab. If it happened this many times in history, clearly it must be happening contemporaneously. Yet not only can we not find it in nature but after thousands of generations in labs nobody can prove that a single species can evolve into another species. It seems rather far fetched that we know so much about the origin of life but can't answer this rather simple question.

Before you flame me, I don't believe either camp. Neither side's story is more believable than the other. Whether you believe the primordial ooze theory or you believe in creationism, you only have your faith as proof.

--------------------------------
I really posted this because it reminds me of a great joke....

One day the scientists decided they had life figured out. They called God and one of them said "God you ain't so special, we can now create life in the lab."

God replied with the predictable incredulity but the scientist pressed on.
He said "God, we want to challenge you to a man building contest."

God said, "OK" and he reached down a grabbed a handful of clay. The scientist grabbed a handful of clay as well.

Then God said, "Woah- Not so fast... Get your own dirt."


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Comments (16)

I love the joke!I ... (Below threshold)
Mark:

I love the joke!

I have similar doubts about the theory that life can come to be out of non-living matter. Not only would it have to happen trillions of times to account for all the different forms of life on earth (past and present), but it would surely have to happen a trillion times and FAIL for each time it succeeded in creating a viable life form.

If evolution is so "intelligent" that it can claim a 100% success rate, why don't you just call evolution "God" and call it a night?

Darwin does address ... (Below threshold)

Darwin does address the issue in Origin of Species. Trouble is, no one reads the book because it's quite boring. However the e-book is available for free:

http://www.literatureproject.com/origin-species/

Okay, I won't flame. Howev... (Below threshold)

Okay, I won't flame. However, much of what you've written makes no sense.

"Yet with all of our study we can not document one time in history that it has happened. The scientific community has put all its stock in the fact that these trillions of events happened but we can not cite a single example. (notice the word "species" before you flame me)"

What do you mean we can't cite a specific example? There are countless examples where the scientists say that animal x evolved from animal y, etc. I understand that you don't believe them. Fair enough. But surely you can't say that "we can not cite a single example." Or do you not count an example unless a scientist can say, it happened on Thursdsy, August 19, 24,000,312 B.C., and here are the photos?

"Further we can not reproduce it in the lab. If it happened this many times in history, clearly it must be happening contemporaneously. Yet not only can we not find it in nature but after thousands of generations in labs nobody can prove that a single species can evolve into another species. It seems rather far fetched that we know so much about the origin of life but can't answer this rather simple question."

The fact that it's not reproduceable in the lab is hardly persuasive. There are countless natural phenomena that we can't reproduce in the lab, except in models or in miniature. That doesn't mean they're not true. Continental drift is one. Meteor impacts on the earth. Hurricanes.

It seems that you treat "evolution" as an almost magical process that transforms one species into another like turning a lady into a tiger. Evolution is nothing special. As theorized, it's a rather mundane process whereby various spontaneous mutations (and those ARE observable and reproducable) occur in a species. Some of these make a species do better off. Some make them do worse. Over time -- often millions of years -- creatures with the helpful mutations thrive, while those with unhelpful mutations die out. Sometimes, different mutations help creatures do different things, or thrive in different environments. Again, this is a process occurring over many millenia.

We've been looking at evolution for less than 200 years. You expect us to spot a "magic moment" in which one species... *poof*... becomes another?

Besides, that's not the way it's theorized to work. We often don't even have a clear definition of where to draw lines between different species that exist today. In most species that exist, there is variation between different individuals. When do the differences become so great that, at the margins, we're talking about different species? That's a question for philosophers as much as scientists.

As for Mark's comment, I'm afraid I don't understand it, either. What do you mean that evolution claims "a 100% success rate"? That's exactly wrong. It's absolutely central to the theory of evolution that the failure rate is massive. More than 99% of all mutations do NOT help an organism to survive. Many species die out, become extinct, and thus can be said to have failed. That's not a bug of the theory, that's a feature.

Honestly, I don't expect (or even hope) to convince you that evolution is more or less true (although I admit to being shocked that you seem to think it's mostly false). However, it seems that you're arguing against a parody of what evolution is, and not an honest treatment of the real theory.

I take it you are not a bio... (Below threshold)
Paul:

I take it you are not a biology major. Believe it or not, I tried for brevity in that piece... Lemme try again.

What do you mean we can't cite a specific example? There are countless examples where the scientists say that animal x evolved from animal y, etc. I understand that you don't believe them. Fair enough.

It is not a matter of not believing. The examples you cite are things like "Well bats evolved from fish." Excuse me? In one step?

Certainly if man came from ooze there were a WHOLE bunch of baby steps along the way. Why can we not find a single case where we can definitively say this critter came from this critter because...

Which leads me to point 2.

We often don't even have a clear definition of where to draw lines between different species that exist today.

That is simply wrong. (see 1.a.) That is why I asked people to note the use of the word "species" before they replied. If a critter can not interbreed it is not in the same species.

If (and that is a supersized if) a critter evolved to a point where it could no longer breed with its ancestors then it would have changed species. (that's the whole point)

But lets pretend it did happen. If they can no longer breed with its ancestors or any of its cousins, won't it die in a single generation? For a species to evolve to another species you would have to have a major hunk of the population all make a major leap in a single generation so they could reproduce.

If animals were that adaptable we would hardly have to worry about endangered species becoming extinct, they would simply evolve to be more adaptable.

Mechanically, the theory is deeply, deeply flawed.

The fact that it's not reproduceable in the lab is hardly persuasive.

Ahh but it is. Scientists have tried for years (probably 100+) to make the common fruit fly into something else. The fruit fly is used because the generations are quite short. For years scientists keep introducing environmental factors that should make the fruit flies evolve. So far they've only managed to kill a lot of flies.

Saying we can't reproduce continental drift in the lab really shows the strength of your argument.

We've been looking at evolution for less than 200 years. You expect us to spot a "magic moment" in which one species... *poof*... becomes another?

In a word... YES.

The "oozers" (as I like to call them) promise us it has happened trillions of times yet they believe that, despite the fact they can not cite a single example. Further, all the evidence we do have says that it is mechanically a loooong shot at best to have ever happened one time.

As I said, I'm intellectually honest enough to admit the only correct answer in this debate is "I don't know."

But if looked at objectively, the idea we evolved from inorganic slime requires a larger leap of faith than an omnipotent being.

I'm not a biologist by any ... (Below threshold)
Boyd:

I'm not a biologist by any means (I even managed to not take Bugology in high school), so I'm sincerly asking an uninformed question.

Paul, isn't it possible that a species could develop little generational changes, none of which individually would make it unable to interbreed with its parent generation, but over time, the collective changes would make a particular generation unable to breed with some distant prior generation, but still be able to breed with the parent generation?

The way I've always pictured it is geographical separation of groups of a single species, and those groups accumulate those evolutionary changes. It finally comes to the point where members of those two groups have changed sufficiently that they cannot interbreed. And I suppose it's possible that each of them could still be theoretically able to breed with a common ancient ancestor.

Please edumicate me!

Paul, isn't it possible ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Paul, isn't it possible that a species could develop little generational changes, none of which individually would make it unable to interbreed with its parent generation, but over time, the collective changes would make a particular generation unable to breed with some distant prior generation, but still be able to breed with the parent generation?

Boyd,

I see where you are going but the fundamental "laws" of biology say the answer is no. That is why Darwin's book is named "The Origin of Species" and not "The Origin of Critters that Look a Lot Alike."

Now, that is "accepted science" of today. 100 years from now we reserve the right to change that answer ;-)

Who knows the truth?

Not me...

And if anyone tells you they really know, they are either a liar or a zealot. (my 2 cents) But the current working theory is deeply flawed.

Who knows... You might even be right- but we can't even prove it happened one time. Accepting that it happened trillions of times just requires more faith in science than I have.

Paul

Me: We often don't even ... (Below threshold)

Me: We often don't even have a clear definition of where to draw lines between different species that exist today.

Paul: That is simply wrong. (see 1.a.) That is why I asked people to note the use of the word "species" before they replied. If a critter can not interbreed it is not in the same species.

Sorry, but I stand buy my original comment. The definition of species you cite is used as a shorthand, but it's not correct that it settles all questions. It's an approximation. To analogize, it's sort of like Newtonian equations of motion. They're accurate enough for daily use, and will get you the right answer most of the time. However, at the margins, they're ultimately just approximations that don't always get you the right answer. In the fields of biology and taxonomy, there is often debate among scientists about whether different varieties of an organism constitute a separate species, or merely a different "breed." That's why there are sometimes revisions to taxonomic nomenclature. This is especially true in the non-animal kingdoms.

Paul: Saying we can't reproduce continental drift in the lab really shows the strength of your argument.

Here, I just don't understand your point. Are you saying that you don't believe in continental drift, either? (and I'm not being snide, maybe you don't).

Me: "We've been looking at evolution for less than 200 years. You expect us to spot a "magic moment" in which one species... *poof*... becomes another?"

Paul: In a word... YES.

Paul: The "oozers" (as I like to call them) promise us it has happened trillions of times yet they believe that, despite the fact they can not cite a single example. Further, all the evidence we do have says that it is mechanically a loooong shot at best to have ever happened one time.

It seems that you are being deliberately unfair. Proponents of evolution don't assert the existance of a *poof* magic moment where one species instantly transforms into another. Nevertheless, you point to the failure of evolution scientists to identify one as proof that their theory is incorrect?!?

I also question how you can say, in good faith, that "Further, all the evidence we do have says that it is mechanically a loooong shot at best to have ever happened one time." All the evidence? Really? Even though evolution, or some version of it, is believed by 99+% of all biolgists, zooologists, anthropologists, paleontologists, and other relevant "ologists", you're sincerely going to assert that "all the evidence" says that it's probably all false? Gosh, that's one effective conspiracy the evolutionists have!

I want to be clear that I have no problem with those who disbelieve in evolutionary theory, even though I think the evidence is overwhelming that something like a Darwinian natural-selection/evolution did occur. It's fair to point out that we don't know everything about how it worked, or how every change occurred. It's likewise fair to suggest a supernatural or divine hand in the process. However, I think your zeal to discredit evolution has required you to make some pretty poor arguments and factually incorrect statments.

P.S. Boyd's explanation is a good one. Evolutionists don't propose that one day a chimp one day gave birth to a man. What they say is that early protohominids developed very slowly, with minute changes occurring over thousands of generations. The difference between how we classify the various "species" isn't an exact science, and the lines are not always well defined. From australopithecus afarensis, to australopithecus africanus, to australopithecus robustus, to australopithecus boisei, to homo habilis, to homo erectus, to homo sapiens, etc. (and probably some I've left out) are tiny changes occurring over millions of years.

You are confusing evolution... (Below threshold)
Paul:

You are confusing evolution and the "oozer theory." To even come close to understanding this you must separate the two.

You never once heard me say evolution did not exist. Evolution obviously exists.

I said I strongly doubt that all the diversity of life on the planet came from a single unicelled organism.

While evolution within a species is extraordinarily well documented extra-species evolution has yet to be documented.

And to be accurate I'm not saying it can't happen. I AM saying it would be tough (obvious statement) and we can't prove it ever happened even though we have gone to great lengths to look for it and even tried to recreate it.

You: It seems that you are being deliberately unfair.

Me: You expect me to believe a theory that trillions of things occurred when we can not prove a single one occurred and you call me deliberately unfair?

Tell me straight up... Can you tell me that in your heart of hearts that this theory is a sound one? Can you tell me that we have all the pieces we need to make this puzzle?

Paul

"While evolution within ... (Below threshold)

"While evolution within a species is extraordinarily well documented extra-species evolution has yet to be documented."

What do you mean by "evolution within a species"? I thought what we were talking about was evolution from species to species. By definition, isn't all evolution what you call "extra-species" evolution? Put another way, when we go from australopithecus afarensis to homo sapiens sapiens (i.e., us), which kind of evolution are we talking about? Because scientists most assuredly say that australopithecus afarensis is a different species from us. Moreover, this type of evolution is extremely well documented in the fossil record.

"I said I strongly doubt that all the diversity of life on the planet came from a single unicelled organism."

Well, I'd concede that we don't know that, but I'm not aware of anyone who claims that we do. Reputable scientsists believe that it's very much an open question as to how original life started. One single organism is but one of many possibilities. It's equally possible that several different one-celled organisms were created (by whatever mechanism) in different places at different times.

"Tell me straight up... Can you tell me that in your heart of hearts that this theory is a sound one? Can you tell me that we have all the pieces we need to make this puzzle?"

Well, apparently we need to define what we mean by "this theory." Do you mean evolution generally? Then absolutely I believe it. I consider the evidence so overwhelming that I don't think there's room any serious scientific doubt. Again, I don't know what you mean by inter-species as opposed to intra-species evolution, so it's hard to address that. I suspect that my answer would one again be, absolutely. I believe that species evolve into other species. I believe that there are primates existing today that share common ancestors with man. Again, I believe that the evidence for this is overwhelming.

Now, when you ask, do we have all the pieces of the puzzle, then my answer is, of course, no. I can't, off the top of my head, think of a complex scientific process where we do have all the pieces of the puzzle. We don't completely understand hurricanes, or nuclear fusion, or cancer -- otherwise we wouldn't need to still study them.

Maybe you need to study it ... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Maybe you need to study it a little more and get back to me...

The basic problem is that like most people that come from our education system, what you think the word evolution means and what it actually means are two different things.

If you don't understand the difference between evolving but still being in the same species and evolving enough to become a new species then I can't go backwards and help you.

Suffice it to say the two are incredible different and the latter is many orders of magnitude more complex.

Thanks

Paul

Lame.... (Below threshold)

Lame.

The comments that indicated... (Below threshold)
Neil:

The comments that indicated that there was no evidence of what is commonly called macro-evolution showed an appalling unfamiliarity with the relevant literature. These FAQs from the Talk Origins Archive provide an introduction to the topic along with numerous references to the primary literature, which is of course the true source of info:

http://www.talkorigins.org/features/whales/
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-transitional.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/evolution-research.html
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/comdesc/

Stylistic comment: Snarkiness works only when you actually know something about the topic
Dr. J

For all your claimed educat... (Below threshold)
Paul:

For all your claimed education you failed to actually read what was written.

I did not say there was no evidence. I said there was no proof. There is evidence to support any number of things that are not ultimately true.

I am quite familiar with Mrs Hunt's work. But there are a few flaws in her logic.

1: She assumes that the samples she sites are actually "transitional" fossils. She has no evidence to PROVE it. - Mind you, I am not saying it is unreasonable to believe it. Just that it is far from proven. In fact many have been quite reasonably explained as being something else.

2: Her examples number in the few dozens. A few dozen fossils of questionable pedigree is hardly proof of something that would have happened trillions of times.

3: Her work fails to account for contemporaneous evolution. Why can we not see it in action today?

If you think one woman's website is prove of this scientific theory then you are obviously easy to persuade. (didn't I say something about faith above?)

Are her ideas and writings interesting? Yes. Do they qualify and proof we came from ooze? Hardly.

Stylistic comment: Snarkiness works far better when you have proof.

Come back when you have some.

From your response:>... (Below threshold)
Neil:

From your response:
>>For all your claimed education you failed to actually read what was written.

"Claimed education"? I guess the .edu mail address wasn't a giveaway, eh? If you were curious, you could have tracked me down easily enough. But then a sense of curiosity might have led to some learning of your own, and God forbid you do any of that! In any event, your assertion that I did not read your note was readily falsified by my comments, as is shown below.

From your response:
>>I did not say there was no evidence. I said there was no proof.

In science, evidence IS proof, sport. What is the proof that the sun will rise tomorrow in the East? In a purely mathematical sense, there is no such proof, yet all available evidence indicates that it will.

From your original article:
>>Yet with all of our study we can not document one time in history thatit has happened.

Gee, above you said there was no evidence? (documentation = evidence). Which is it?

From your response:
>>>I am quite familiar with Mrs Hunt's work.
>>>If you think one woman's website is prove of this scientific theory then you are obviously easy to persuade. (didn't I say something about faith above?)

As per my comments above. Talk Origins is a large Website, run by numerous volunteers. In fact, the FAQ files I listed were written by several people: Douglas Theobald, Chris Colby, Joseph Boxhorn, Chris Stassen, James Merrit, Anneliese Lilje, L. Drew Davis and Raymond Sutera, in addition to Kathleen Hunt. (Oh, and how do you know it is Mrs. Hunt, as opposed to Ms.? Can you quote _in detail_ from her technical publications?) The time gap between my reply and your response was about 30 minutes, so it is very clear you spent no time actually examining the posted articles, never mind the references which are in technical journals. To that end your subsequent comments...:

>>1: She assumes that the samples she sites are actually "transitional" fossils. She has no evidence to PROVE it. - Mind you, I am not saying it is unreasonable to believe it. Just that it is far from proven. In fact many have been quite reasonably explained as being something else.

>>2: Her examples number in the few dozens. A few dozen fossils of questionable pedigree is hardly proof of something that would have happened trillions of times.

>>3: Her work fails to account for contemporaneous evolution. Why can we not see it in action today?

...are literally irrational. You yourself haven't seen them, so they must not exist! I've never seen an appendix, so it must be a figment of someone's imagination. Never mind the specialists who are thoroughly familiar.

In short, your arguments boil down to that of personal incredulity.

I undertook to reply to your comments in the hope that perhaps you were honestly mistaken, and could be, if not persuaded, at least apprised of the facts of the matter. If that is the case, check out the information at www.talkorigins.org. If you wish just to snark and remain innocent of available information, well, have fun, but don't be surprised when your foolishness is displayed for all to see.

Neil Johnson
Appalachian State University

"Claimed education"? I g... (Below threshold)
Paul:

"Claimed education"? I guess the .edu mail address wasn't a giveaway, eh?

And some janitors have .edu addresses. Your point?

And I am starting more and more to suspect that is your title since you apparently have trouble comprehending the written word.

In science, evidence IS proof, sport.

OH? I have evidence that we are pushed down from above rather than gravity pulling us in. Is it proof? Only if you are a fool, Sport. Only if you are a fool.

Gee, above you said there was no evidence? (documentation = evidence). Which is it?

Perhaps you are incapable of understanding. She has documented nothing. She lists what she considers to be transitional fossils. It PROVES nothing. I can list millions of coincidental occurrences. Certainly you understand correlation vs. causation?

(Remember above I said if you refuse to accept that what we have today is not proof you are a zealot... I'm glad you showed up to prove my point.)

DUH! I had seen the website before, I said that if you could actually comprehend what you read.

In short, your arguments boil down to that of personal incredulity.

Well, I guess you can say that... I don't believe you have any evidence. YOU have taken a leap of faith. I am a man of science, I want far more proof than you or anyone has today.

Like many zealots, you think that if you shriek loud enough your story will be believable. It only serves to prove you are a zealot.

If you were a man of science you would admit we don't know jack. I asked that you come back when you had proof. You came back with invective.

Lemme leave you with a snip from the show "Friends" that will explain it. The rerun came on last night and I thought of you.

---------------------
ROSS: Ok, Phoebe, this is it. In this briefcase I carry actual scientific facts. A briefcase of facts, if you will. Some of these fossils are over 200 million years old.

PHOEBE: Ok, look, before you even start, I'm not denying evolution, ok, I'm just saying that it's one of the possibilities.

ROSS: It's the only possibility, Phoebe.

PHOEBE: Ok, Ross, could you just open your mind like this much, ok? Wasn't there a time when the brightest minds in the world believed that the world was flat? And, up until like what, 50 years ago, you all thought the atom was the smallest thing, until you split it open, and this like, whole mess of crap came out. Now, are you telling me that you are so unbelievably arrogant that you can't admit that there's a teeny tiny possibility that you could be wrong about this?

ROSS: There might be, a teeny, tiny, possibility.
---------------------

I don't know the name of the writer of that sitcom but he nailed you. Just another arrogant "academic" (if you are one) that history has routinely proved to be a raving fool.

If your burden of proof is so low that you believe the "ooze" theory and you are so unbelievably arrogant as to not accept that what we have today is far from proof, then I can't help you.

But I ask you don't do 2 things.

1) Don't expect me to take the same leap of faith as you.

2) Quit trying to convince me until you have proof.

And I don't know your level of education but lemme give you a tip on life...

Name calling ain't proof.

Paul

"Appalachian State" ohhhh a great thinker of our times!

Lemme give you one more tho... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Lemme give you one more thought....

OK I'll give you the argument. Let's say Mrs. Hunt actually has 30 or 40 transitional fossils.

NOW- You expect be to believe that is proof that inorganic ooze became life from a lighting bolt and all life evolved from there because you can document 30 or 40 fossils?

Kinda a foolish don't you think?

And if you are worried about "foolishness being displayed for all to see" Perhaps you should look in the mirror at a man who has nothing but his own religion and refuses to admit it.

We have no clue how we got here.

The difference, is I'll admit it. You won't. Now who's the fool?

Paul




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