Re: Crichton, evolution and chaos

Stephen Jones (
Thu, 26 Oct 95 06:23:55 EDT


On Wed, 18 Oct 95 09:59:22 MDT you wrote:

JT>Shapiro first cites...Hoyle and..Wickramsinghe, who estimated the
>odds of spontaneous generation of a living bacterium at 10^40,000 to
>1...Shapiro then cites Morowitz who made estimates based on more
>realistic conditions (as if 1 in 10^40,000 wasn't bad enough): "A
>more realistic estimate has been made by Harold Morowitz...The answer
>computed by Morowitz reduces the odds of Hoyle to utter
>insignificance: 1 chance in 10^100,000,000,000...

JF>I think the usual response to this argument is that this is not a
>calculation of the probability that life could arise by chance. It is
>*the odds of spontaneous generation of a living bacterium*.

The living bacterium was used by Morowitz because it is the simplest
known living thing and close to his theoretical minimum:

"The minimal cell described above would contain sufficient DNA to code
for about one hundred average sized proteins, which is close to the
observed coding potential of the smallest known bacterial cells. It
may be, therefore, that the tiniest of all known bacterial cells are
very close to satisfying the minimum criteria for a fully autonomous
cell system capable of independent replication. The complexity of the
simplest known type of cell is so great that it is impossible to
accept that such an object could have been thrown together suddenly by
some kind of freakish, vastly improbable, event. Such an occurrence
would be indistinguishable from a miracle." (Denton M., "Evolution:
A Theory in Crisis", Burnett Books: London, 1985, p264)

JF>Scientists who accept a naturalistic origin of life would mostly
>say that the above figure is irrelevant because it is not how they
>believe life began. I think they would argue that there were a
>number of intermediate steps between raw amino acids and a complete
>bacteria (although the details of these steps is largely unknown).

Indeed Dawkins claims these "intermediate steps" are necessary:

"To 'tame' chance means to break down the very improbable into less
improbable small components arranged in series. No matter how
improbable it is that an X could have arisen from a Y in a single
step, it is always possible to conceive of a series of infinitesimally
graded intermediates between them. However improbable a large-scale
change may be, smaller changes are less improbable. And provided we
postulate a sufficiently large series of sufficiently finely graded
intermediates, we shall be able to derive anything from anything else,
without invoking astronomical improbabilities. We are allowed to do
this only if there has been sufficient time to fit all the
intermediates in. And also only if there is a mechanism for guiding
each step in some particular direction, otherwise the sequence of
steps will career off in an endless random walk." (Dawkins R., "The
Blind Watchmaker", Penguin: London, 1991, p317).

But the problem Darwininsts have here is what Battson calls
"irreducible complexity":

"Gould (1985) goes on to point out that among the difficulties of
Darwinian theory "one point stands high above the rest: the dilemma
of incipient stages Mivart identified this problem as primary and it
remains so today." There are numerous examples of organisms with
systems of highly specialized, interdependent components, all of which
must be integrated before they are functional and offer any selective
advantage. Nature abounds in such systems of "irreducible
complexity." Although there may be some examples where certain
components take on some preadaptive function, these cases may be
considered as exceptions to a more general rule. As a rule, any
subset of the components would prove to be a burden to an organism and
thus be eliminated by natural selection." (Battson A.L., "On The
Origin of Stasis by Means of Natural Processes", Perspectives on
Science and Christian Faith, December 1994, p237)

The problem here for the origin of the *minimum* self-replicating
molecule is that it is irreducibly complex:

"Research sponsored by NASA (Harold J. Morowitz, "Biological
Self-Replicating Systems," progress in Theoretical Biology, Ed. F. M.
Snell, Academic Press: New York, 1967, pp35ff), to enable astronauts
to recognize the most rudimentary forms of life, suggested that the
simplest kind of living thing would contain at least 124 proteins of
400 amino acids each. A genetic code would be functioning, making
sure the organism reproduced true to type." (Hitching F., "The Neck
of the Giraffe: Where Darwin Went Wrong", Ticknor & Fields: New
York, 1982, p66)

So it seems that Darwinists need to postulate something like 400 amino
acids self-assembling, in the right sequence, in only L-handed form
before self-replicating can even begin?



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