Icons of Evolution

From: pruest@pop.dplanet.ch
Date: Mon Jun 11 2001 - 11:16:46 EDT

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    "Hofmann, Jim" wrote:
    > Peter Ruest wrote (in part):
    > "I don't posit a god-of-the-gaps. In theory, "methodological naturalism"
    > may be the ideal for both atheistic and theistic scientists (in their
    > science). But in practice, atheists are much less likely to recognize
    > and concede that the origin of life and macroevolution pose
    > informational problems. How should one be able to ever find a scientific
    > solution to these problems if one doesn't even acknowledge them as such?
    > In this area, talking about "emergence", "self-organization", "hierarchy
    > theory", "generation of information" and the like is just so much
    > hand-waving. Dembski's filter and Behe's mousetrap may not be the proper
    > way of doing it, but somehow we have to deal with the problem of
    > information if darwinian evolution is not to be left dangling in the
    > air."
    > I think those who work on these problems, such as my colleague Bruce Weber,
    > would disagree about this just being "so much hand-waving". There are a
    > couple of interesting papers at entries 17.2 and 17.9 of our website below.
    > Jim Hofmann
    > Philosophy Department and Liberal Studies Program
    > California State University Fullerton
    > http://nsmserver2.fullerton.edu/departments/chemistry/evolution_creation/web

    Thank you for these references, 17.2 (Weber) and 17.9 (Schneider & Kay)!
    I studied both papers, expecting to find some exciting new data on the
    problem of the emergence of life and of biological functional
    information. I was disappointed.

    B.H. Weber ("Emergence of life and biological selection from the
    perspective of complex system dynamics", in: G. Van de Vijver, S.N.
    Salthe, M. Delpos (eds.), "Evolutionary Systems: Biological and
    Epistemological Perspectives on Selection and Self-Organization"
    (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1998), 59-66) reviews past and present speculations
    about the origin of life. He mentions a few experimental data about
    prebiotic chemical systems that are speculated to have played a role in
    the first preliminary steps of the process, up to now entirely unknown
    and not understood, leading to the first living systems. He further
    believes Kauffman's abstract computer simulation models of complex
    systems might have some relevance for the self-organization of living

    E.D. Schneider and J.J. Kay ("Life as a Manifestation of the Second Law
    of Thermodynamics", Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 19 (No. 6-8,
    1994), 25) do not even claim to discuss a mechanism for the origin of
    biological functional information. They present a new formulation of the
    Second Law, illustrating it with Bénard cells and with the energy budget
    of biological ecosystems. They are concerned with the thermodynamical
    aspects of far-from-equilibrium systems on a macro scale, without
    dealing with any molecular-biological details. Specifically, they state
    that their "restated second law... is a necessary but not sufficient
    cause for life itself." They show that the evolution of life and the
    development of ecosystems must obey the conditions of the second law,
    but they just assume without discussion (as do most biologists) that the
    emergence and evolution of life must have involved the generation of
    genetic information out of environmental conditions and chance alone.

    Neither of these papers gives any hint as to how this could possibly
    function on the chemical/biochemical level.

    Overall, the statement by L.E. Orgel, a longtime investigator of the
    origin of life on the biochemical level (Trends Bioch.Sci. 23 (Dec.
    1998), 491), seems to be much more to the point:
    "There are three main contending theories of the prebiotic origin of
    biomonomers [1. strongly reducing primitive atmosphere, 2. meteorites,
    3. deep-sea vents]. No theory is compelling, and none can be rejected
    out of hand...
    "The situation with regard to the evolution of a self-replicating system
    is less satisfactory; there are at least as many suspects, but there are
    virtually no experimental data...
    "[There is] a very large gap between the complexity of molecules that
    are readily synthesized in simulations of the chemistry of the early
    earth and the molecules that are known to form potentially replicating
    informational structures...
    "Several alternative scenarios might account for the self-organization
    of a self-replicating entity from prebiotic organic material, but all of
    those that are well formulated are based on hypothetical chemical
    syntheses that are problematic...
    "I have neglected important aspects of prebiotic chemistry (e.g. the
    origin of chirality, the organic chemistry of solar bodies other than
    the earth, and the formation of membranes)...
    "There is no basis in known chemistry for the belief that long sequences
    of reactions can organize spontaneously - and every reason to believe
    that they cannot."

    Dr Peter Ruest			Biochemistry
    Wagerten			Creation and evolution
    CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern		Tel.:	++41 31 731 1055
    Switzerland			E-mail:	<pruest@dplanet.ch
     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    	In biology - there's no free lunch -
    		and no information without an adequate source.
    	In Christ - there is free and limitless grace -
    		for those of a contrite heart.

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