you're reading...
evolution, science

Whoops! Another Nail in the ID Coffin

We all knew it was just a matter of time, right?  For years now, one of the last strongholds of Intelligent Design proponents has been science’s inability to explain how RNA came to exist in the first place.  IDers have held to the final “irreducible complexity” argument.  RNA itself must have been created by an intelligent being.

Actually, that’s not true.  All you need, apparently, is water, sugar,  and one of four different nucleobases (nitrogen compounds which could easily have been present in the primordial environment.)  Granted, it’s a bit of an oversimplification, but get this:  All you need to do is heat the molecules in some water, let the water evaporate, and repeat the process several times.   After a while, toss in a simple phosphate, and “Blammo!”  (Thanks, KB)  Ribonucleotides!

“By changing the way we mix the ingredients together, we managed to make ribonucleotides,” said Sutherland. “The chemistry works very effectively from simple precursors, and the conditions required are not distinct from what one might imagine took place on the early Earth.”

This will not dissuade the hardest of the hardcore Christians who insist on believing that life on earth was created by God.  However, anyone who holds science in any regard whatsoever will have to admit that the ID argument, which was always on the edge of the precipice, has toppled right over, and is on its way to the abyss where it belongs.  Scientists have known for a while now how ribonucleotides can self-assemble into RNA.  This really is the last refuge of ID, since scientists also know how the simple ingredients in this experiment could have naturally come to exist in the primordial ooze.  In other words, Occam’s Razor now fits into pretty much every nook and cranny of the scientific description of the origins of life.

Isn’t it odd that this story isn’t making headlines in America?

Anyway, since I like this blog to be about critical thinking, let’s look at why the ID argument has always been a failure.  In its simplest form, the reasoning goes like this:

* Life is too complex to have been formed by any means other than an intelligent creator.  Therefore, because life does exist, a Creator must also exist.

Notice the misuse of the anthropic principle?  Recall that the anthropic principle states that because we are here asking the question of the origin of life, the conditions necessary for the origins of life must have existed.  IDers take this a step further and postulate the specific condition they believe to be true.  They’ve got the principle right, but they skipped the whole “Burden of Proof” required by science to state that a thing is true.

Also, consider this riddle:  How would science prove that a thing is scientifically unexplainable?

If that question makes your head spin, you’re thinking correctly.  It’s absurd.  There is no answer to the riddle, for the riddle is nonsense.  Remember from my article on Science and Knowledge that reliable knowledge is inseparable from the scientific method.  Man didn’t invent the scientific method.  He discovered that he’d been using it in some cases, and realized that he could use it in all cases. Science is the only possible way to know anything about the empirical universe.  However, if that is true, then how could science prove that science couldn’t prove something?  The answer is that it couldn’t.  All science can do when faced with an unanswered question is say that there isn’t enough information to answer the question — yet.  There’s no way to ever know if we will answer the question in the future.

That being the case, the only defensible position with regard to any unexplained phenomenon is “I don’t know.”

Here is where ID fails utterly.  Instead of doing the responsible thing and admitting ignorance, IDers make up an answer and declare it to be true.  It feels satisfying to be able to put a label on the box, but when has satisfaction been the measure of truth?  Whatever the next round of ID propaganda, it will acknowledge the advance of science in the ribonucleotide experiment, and will fall back to another unanswered question, proclaiming it to be unanswerable.



14 thoughts on “Whoops! Another Nail in the ID Coffin

  1. Whoops you missed it again. This story is so much like the Miller–Urey experiment, you quickly interpret the information with your Darwin glasses on and fail to look atht ewhole picture.

    First the experiment starts with material and conditions “one might imagine took place on the early Earth.” (Evolutionists like to do a lot of imagining to make their theory work).

    Secondly, I assume that Mr John Sutherland is an intelligent man. Which means that he used his intelligence to design the environment that took to create the results.

    This is a cool chemistry experiment he did here, but scientifically it only shows how a ribonucleotide could be made with chemicals we have available to us today. By the way, did he even create an RNA string at all? Didn’t think so.

    You really want to prove that life can come from lifeless chemicals. Start with a void, sterile environment and do nothing with it. If life produces itself from nothing I would start to believe in your story.

    Posted by mcoville | May 14, 2009, 2:00 pm
  2. You know, it’s funny. I was put onto this article from another forum, and the first comment was, “Just wait. An ID proponent is going to say, “SEE! An intelligence designed the experiment, so this actually proves Intelligent Design!” I thought about putting that little caveat into the article, but I decided it would be more fun to just let someone prove the prediction true.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. Maybe someone else will want to dismantle it. I don’t have the time right now.

    Posted by hambydammit | May 14, 2009, 2:28 pm
  3. “…One might imagine…”

    Way to misinterpret a word. The estimations of elemental compositions of the prebiotic earth are based on well documented isotope readings and the chemical components found in ancient strata infiltrated by the atmosphere. It’s not really that hard of a concept, divvy.

    “He used his intelligence to design…”

    The person in charge did not make the interactions happen. He put the estimated quantities of elemental and molecular structures into a simulated environment based off of previous data that is consistent with all related tests and let them interact as they would in nature. The only thing designed about this entire thing is the medium in which these reactions took place. He didn’t have to do anything other than simulate the prebiotic Earth. Such an experiment couldn’t take place today outside of that medium because oxygen levels in the atmosphere are far too high (as opposed to ~.2-.4% back then) and would create free radicals, tearing these things apart. We know it was different because of the trend of a reducing atmosphere found throughout isotope readings.

    “This is a cool chemistry experiment he did here, but scientifically it only shows how a ribonucleotide could be made with chemicals we have available to us today.

    No, you intellectually vapid scum, what happened was a reaction of basic chemicals found in the prebiotic Earth in a medium to simulate a situation that would have been common during the days of these original reactions. Those chemicals are not around today simply because we have them….they’ve been around for as long as those chemicals could come together in a natural form, which is quite common considering the cascade of elemental and molecular structures being expelled from things like hydrothermal vents in the prebiotic Earth.

    “By the way, did he even create an RNA string at all? Didn’t think so.”

    He doesn’t have to. You ID people are always claiming that we haven’t done everything and thus we haven’t done anything. Showing how this process can happen is a step in discovering how RNA strands could form. After we figure out the methods by which RNA form, since we know in a simulated environment how some of the components are formed, we can work on figuring out more about the process of something like reverse transcription or the methylation of uracil.

    “You really want to prove that life can come from lifeless chemicals. Start with a void, sterile environment and do nothing with it.”

    You really have no idea what this experiment is about, do you? The prebiotic Earth was not sterile, nor was is void of anything. Organic molecules, chemical components, and all sorts of other things were there in large quantities. If you don’t know what the experiment entails, then don’t talk about it and don’t pretend as if you know anything about abiogenetic fields or evolutionary biology. If you don’t even know the difference between doing a simulation and fabrications that replace results such as your ID bollocks, then you shouldn’t dare try to mess with real scientists.

    Posted by Luke W | May 14, 2009, 2:54 pm
  4. Thanks, Luke W. You’ve saved many folks a lot of trouble.

    As long as there are folks with the presupposition of god, you could set up a similar experiment that resulted in self-replicating molecules, and those folks would say, as if with profundity, “Ah, but the experiment was performed by someone with intelligence!”

    It certainly was. Now if only the same could be said of IDers.

    Posted by nigelTheBold | May 14, 2009, 4:58 pm
  5. The point that is lost on so many of the IDers is that our intelligence has nothing to do with the experiment itself. If a boulder breaks off the top of a mountain and rolls down the hill, it does so because gravity compels it to do so. If a man stands at the top of a hill and pushes a boulder off the top, it will roll down the hill, and gravity will have compelled it to do so.

    In the same way, if certain chemicals will bond in a particular way so as to produce the building blocks of RNA, they will do so whether or not there is an intelligence arranging the circumstances by which they come into contact.

    Posted by hambydammit | May 14, 2009, 5:26 pm
  6. No problem. Considering that I recently wrote 10 pages on the entire abiogenetic process and the prebiotic earth, all this information is directly in my head. There are so many things to be known and accounted for that for anybody to say things along the lines of mcoville’s inane babble it’s obvious that they haven’t studied it at all nor do they understand the scientific process. In a few years when I finish my bachelors in biology and work towards my masters so as to teach it, it’s things like what he says that drives me more to do it. Ignorant people are in the majority…and it’s sad.

    Posted by Luke W | May 14, 2009, 7:09 pm
  7. Yawn,

    I hate being the one to continuously bust up a good Atheist mutal appreciation party but Stephen Meyers picked this research apart when Sutherlands research was used to attempt to discredit Meyers book.

    read on…

    In Chapter 14 of my book I describe and critique the RNA world scenario. There I describe five major problems associated with the theory. Sutherland’s work only partially addresses the first and least severe of these difficulties: the problem of generating the constituent building blocks or monomers in plausible pre-biotic conditions. It does not address the more severe problem of explaining how the bases in nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA) acquired their specific information-rich arrangements. In other words, Sutherland’s experiment helps explain the origin of the “letters” in the genetic text, but not their specific arrangement into functional “words” or “sentences.”

    Even so, Sutherland’s work lacks pre-biotic plausibility and does so in three ways that actually underscore my argument.

    First, Sutherland chose to begin his reaction with only the right-handed isomer of the 3-carbon sugars he needed to initiate his reaction sequence. Why? Because he knew that otherwise the likely result would have had little biologically-significance. Had Sutherland chosen to use a far more plausible racemic mixture of both right and left-handed sugar isomers, his reaction would have generated undesirable mixtures of stereoisomers—mixtures that would seriously complicate any subsequent biologically-relevant polymerization. Thus, he himself solved the so-called chirality problem in origin-of-life chemistry by intelligently selecting a single enantiomer, i.e., only the right-handed sugars that life itself requires. Yet there is no demonstrated source for such non-racemic mixture of sugars in any plausible pre-biotic environment.

    Second, the reaction that Sutherland used to produce ribonucleotides involved numerous separate chemical steps. At each intermediate stage in his multi-step reaction sequence, Sutherland himself intervened to purify the chemical by-products of the previous step by removing undesirable side products. In so doing, he prevented—by his own will, intellect and experimental technique—the occurrence of interfering cross-reactions, the scourge of the pre-biotic chemist.

    Third, in order to produce the desired chemical product—ribonucleotides—Sutherland followed a very precise “recipe” or procedure in which he carefully selected the reagents and choreographed the order in which they were introduced into the reaction series, just as he also selected which side products to be removed and when. Such recipes, and the actions of chemists who follow them, represent what the late Hungarian physical chemist Michael Polanyi called “profoundly informative intervention[s].” Information is being added to the chemical system as the result of the deliberative actions—the intelligent design—of the chemist himself.

    In sum, not only did Sutherland’s experiment not address the more fundamental problem of getting the nucleotide bases to arrange themselves into functionally-specified sequences, the extent to which it did succeed in producing more life-friendly chemical constituents actually illustrates the indispensable role of intelligence in generating such chemistry.

    so let it sink in more……

    ….”Information is being added to the chemical system as the result of the deliberative actions—the intelligent design—of the chemist himself.”

    In otherwords, back to the drawing board to try and figure out how undirected chemicals somehow produced information in DNA that is greater than any software ever known to man!


    Posted by PG | May 3, 2010, 11:23 pm
  8. Regarding your boulder analogy hamby!

    Imagine all the information in the encyclopedia Brittanica was somehow engraved into the boulder before it started rolling to the bottom of the mountain..You atheists somehow believe that it all happened by chance!

    A scientist is able to reproduce just one letter of the alphabet onto that boulder and all you Atheist have a party.

    Today, scientist cannot come close to explaining how all that information which is equivelent to all the information in the entire Encyclopedia britanica, got there in DNA in the first place other than to say it happened naturally!

    Your continued credulity is breathtaking!


    Posted by PG | May 3, 2010, 11:34 pm
  9. ….”Information is being added to the chemical system as the result of the deliberative actions—the intelligent design—of the chemist himself.”

    No tampering with the experiment going on here…
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha


    Posted by PG | May 3, 2010, 11:42 pm
  10. I suppose it won’t do any good to point out that intelligent beings (humans) can replicate natural (non-intelligent) events. You know… “add water” substitutes for “tides”.

    Posted by hambydammit | May 5, 2010, 3:05 pm
  11. Hi Hamby,

    Wouldnt you consider it “Replicating natural events” or “tampering” if the scientists deliberately “added” the required information component and then eliminated its origin from the experiment conclusions and findings?

    Though we banter back and forth Hamby, All I ask you to do is consider the “information” element involved in these scientific experiments. Did the scientist simply ignore the issue of information and its need to be explained or in this case added the information into the experiment .

    Today, Scientists have no explaination for the origin of information in DNA. With each new discovery the scientists are finding out that the information is DNA is far more complex than originally thought. For example, they have recently discovered that this DNA code has underlying subset codes as well…

    Going back to your analogy…
    Scientist who insist on natural causes are having to explain how your Boulder was able to engrave on its surface, the equivelent information of an entire set of encyclopedia’ Brittanica by chipping itself on other boulders on its way down the hill…

    That explaination is not intillectually satisfying!


    Posted by PG | May 5, 2010, 3:58 pm
  12. BTW, You never addressed Meyers dimanteling of your nail in the coffin. You view of Specified complexity as ID’s last stronghold is laughable when you consider that scientist are severly struggling with the issue of information in the univserse and DNA to the point of claiming that orgin of life occured by exogenesis.

    1) Sutherland only used right handed isomers to avoid the chirality problem.

    2) Sutherland purified the chemical by products by eliminating the side products to avoid undesirable cross reations

    3) Sutherland created a recipe which is considered “profoundly informative intervention”

    awaiting retort…


    Posted by PG | May 5, 2010, 8:09 pm
  13. Hamby,

    Here is what you need to be fully aware of…

    “Information is Information, neither matter nor energy. No materialism that fails to take account of this can survive the present day.” – Norbert Weiner, MIT Mathematician and Father of Cybernetics

    You do not question scientist about the issue of “information” . I do! When a scientist talks about creating RNA in th lab, I am looking to see if they discovered how the information content originated.

    For example, in the case of Sutherlands experiment, the information was fabricated into the experiment, therfore Im not really impressed!

    Using your analogy:
    If the scientist engraved the encyclopedia brittanica info onto the boulder himself before pushing it over the cliff, then I dont consider the experiment to have empirically evidenced that the information evolved naturally.

    The scary part for Materialist is that they continue to ignore and not take the problem of information into account. It will then not survive this present day!


    Posted by PG | May 5, 2010, 8:22 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Follow Me On Twitter!

%d bloggers like this: