Keith B Miller (
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 21:25:26 -0500 (CDT)

Craig wrote in part:

> There is strong "positive evidence" against a naturalistic origin of
>life. The typical plea of materialistic science is "please be patient and
>we'll find the answer" but there is another possibility -- maybe life
>cannot (or at least did not) originate by "matter in random motion"

Origin of life studies have been quite active and quite productive in
recent years. There have been a number of very interesting deveopments
that show promise in dealing with some of the more difficult problems. For
example, RNA and other organic macromolecules can be propagated with random
mutations in a cell-free medium. This process has actually been used to
synthesize functional compounds by trial and error. (Joyce, G.F., (Dec.)
1992, Directed molecular evolution: Scientific American, p. 84-95.
Ponnamperuma, C., and Chela_Flores, J., (eds.), 1992, Chemical Evolution:
Origin of Life: A. Deepak Publ.) Probability calculations have also proven
to greatly underestimate the experimental yields of functional molecules by
random processes. Highly functional and surprisingly long RNA ribozymes
(with catalytic domains of up to 93 nucleotides) have been generated
expermimentally from random sequences (Ekland, E.H., Szostak, J.W., and
Bartel, D.P., 1995, Structurally complex and highly active RNA ligases
derived from random RNA sequences: Science, v. 269, p. 364-370.) New
natural environments have also been recognized in recent years that may
provide appropriate environments for chemosynthesis. Substantial energy is
available from reduced sulfur, and research is focusing on sulfur-rich
hydrothermal springs amoung other environments. (Holm, N.G. (ed.), 1992,
Marine Hydrothermal systems and the Origin of Life: Kluwer Academic
Publishers, Dordrecht. Nisbet, E.G., Cann, J.R. and Van Dover, C.L., 1995,
Origins of photosynthesis: Nature, v. 373, p. 479-480.) Many other issues,
such as the "handedness" of organic molecules in all living things, are
also being productively researched. Terry Gray's comment that "all claims
of the impossibility or implausibility of abiogenesis are extremely
premature" is if anything an understatement.

Craig further wrote:

>There is ample evidence for the "facts" of evolutionary
>changes through time (as seen in geology and paleontology) and for
>micro-evolution (for example, for "evolution" as "changes in the gene pool
>of a population"). But there are reasons to challenge (as do Phil Johnson
>and Michael Behe) the "creative abilities" of neo-Darwinian mechanisms, or
>(in Behe) the specific details of these mechanisms.

The fossil record provides very strong evidence for common descent (what
many would call macroevolution). A web article will be placed on the ASA
webpage in the near future which presents some of the evidence of fossil
transition among vertebrates. As lineages of fossil organisms are traced
back in time, they become more similar morphologically to other closely
related lineages toward their point of divergence from a common ancestor.
This is often to the extent that fossils near the point of divergence
cannot easily be classified. Gaps in the fossil record have been steadily
filled in a manner consistent with the expectation of common descent. I
accept evolutionary theory because of the vast amount of highly supportive
data in its support.


Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506