Re: The young age of Earth

Kevin O'Brien (
Mon, 22 Mar 1999 17:08:58 -0700

DJT: I will predict that in 10 years from now, origin-of-life researchers
will still be seeking the elusive secret of the chemical origin of life. If
I am right, I will ask Kevin to review his "Actually" statement and ask
himself what factors led him to make such a bold, confident and erroneous
pronouncement. In the meantime, I will record his words in my "quotebook" -
I'm sure I'll find suitable occasions to make use of them.

KLOB: I am flattered, but if you do not include the following exposition
you will be guilty of quoting out of context (not that I expect you to be
bothered by that).

DJT: For the record, I am bothered by those who quote out of context.

Then I withdraw my implied criticism and apologize.

KLOB: You obviously define abiogenesis as "the origin of life", but you do
not define life. I suspect that if you did it would involve some kind of
vitalistic nonsense about how "life" is some mystical quality that sets a
living cell apart from a test tube containing chemicals, or some such
schlock. In any event, that's why you have such a serious misconception
about this topic.

DJT: For the record, I am not a vitalist. I am a physicalist regarding all
life except mankind.

In this case I stand by my analysis. You may not be a vitalist in that you
invoke vitalism, but your "physicalism" depends heavily on vitalistic
assumptions whether you recognize it or not. You have on a number of
occasions stated that there is a wide gulf between life and non-life,
despite the obvious fact that everything we know about life and the
physiochemical laws that govern it tell us otherwise. The difference
between a stone and a living cell may appear to be obvious, but it is in
fact a difference in degree, not kind. In the final analysis, any
insistence that there is life and there is non-life and there is nothing in
between is in fact a vitalistic assumption, not an observable fact.

> [....]
> As such, the Miller-Urey experiment, Fox's proteinoids and the formation
> of
> RNA and other replicating molecules, to name a few, are all examples of
> abiogenesis. And since these have all been laboratory experiments,
> abiogenesis is a fact that can be replicated in any modern laboratory.
> And David's prediction has already been proven false.

DJT: If these are examples of abiogenesis, we are totally failing to have
any meaningful communication.

I agree, but the reason is because you refuse to accept the scientific
definitions of life and abiogenesis, not to mention all the clear evidence,
in favor of your more vitalistic beliefs. You have a vested interest in
keeping life and non-life separate. Fine, but all I ask is that you present
some concrete evidence for this. You have had ample opportunity to do so
and yet you have so far failed to do so. As long as you refuse to either
support your claim or to use the accepted scientific definitions, we can
have no meaningful discussion.

DJT: Rather than pursue this thread, to try and work through these specific
cases (to show why there is a great unbridged gulf between them and
abiogenesis), I will stick by my prediction above. In 10 years time, it
will be clear that abiogenesis research in 1999 revealed a situation where
the origin of life was even more enigmatic than thought earlier.

And as I have already demonstrated, your prediction has already been
falsified, whether you choose to admit it or not. Why do you refuse to read
the scientific literature?

DJT: On a more pragmatic front, I am mostly out of the office for the next
two weeks and I am not expecting to find time for debate until after Easter.

Have a safe and enjoyable vacation, and I look forward to your return.

Kevin L. O'Brien