A poster over on Topix has gotten his head stuck on Abiogenesis and keeps using it to try and bash Science in general, and Evolution in particular. Funny how the same arguments keep coming around, it's just new people making them as the old posters fade away. Or maybe it's the same posters simply using different handles. Makes little difference, their arguments do show a lack of originality. The most amusing thing to me is how Creationists keep making the same arguments and then coming into places like Topix pretending that it's something new. You have no idea how often I have heard the breaking news of Darwin recanting on his deathbed, how Pasteur's Biogenesis makes evolution impossible, or that thermodynamics disproves Evolution. Fun, but pretty foolish! Fifth-grade science pretty well settled those arguments for me, and that was with a priest and a lay-person as science teachers!
This particular Topix poster called himself 'Blitzkrieg' and usually refers to Abiogenesis as 'Mud to Man', which as anyone who understands what Abiogenesis is knows how foolish a comment that is to make. He further brags about his misunderstanding by comparing Abiogenesis to other scientific theories, which again anyone familiar with the subjects knows that Abiogenesis is not a scientific theory, but an area of study containing a number of hypotheses.
Like most creationists, he fails to understand what that means. He refuses to allow anyone to have a dissenting opinion from his own and he constantly refuses to be educated, even to the smallest degree, on the subject. I will endeavor to express most of his misunderstandings here.
First of all, some terms. I've written about them before (Arguments XIX -- Hypothesis, Theory, and Law and Words have meanings):
- Fact: In science, an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as “true”. Truth in science, however, is never final and what is accepted as a fact today may be modified or even discarded tomorrow.
- Hypothesis: A tentative statement about the natural world leading to deductions that can be tested. If the deductions are verified, the hypothesis is provisionally corroborated. If the deductions are incorrect, the original hypothesis is proved false and must be abandoned or modified. Hypotheses can be used to build more complex inferences and explanations.
- Law: A descriptive generalization about how some aspect of the natural world behaves under stated circumstances.
- Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.
Evidence starts with something we observe. It doesn't have to be absolute, but a known, repeatable observation. For example gravity started with the observation that things fall down. Nice piece of evidence. The questions start with 'Why do things fall down?' The study of gravity has have a number of hypotheses over time and we formed a theory, complete with some laws (how gravity behaviors under very specific criteria).
What do we really know that would contribute toward Abiogenesis? We know that life exists. There's a fact, one even Blitzkrieg cannot dispute. We can make an assumption that at some point in the past life had a start. Is it an assumption, certainly. But since everything else that has occurred had a start, it's a pretty good assumption. I'm sure Blitzkrieg will disagree, but even he cannot name something that did not have a beginning! He might offer opinion, but the only things he can name are things that we don't know how it started. There is nothing to say we won't know how it started someday. Go back a few decades, centuries, or millenia and you will be able to name many things that the beginning wasn't known at that time . . . but we know much more today -- and not a single one them didn't have a natural process. What we want to do is figure out how it started. That's the term 'Abiogenesis' means, that area of study within Science. Here's the definition from Wikipedia:
"Abiogenesis or biopoiesis or OoL (Origins of Life), is the natural process of life arising from non-living matter, such as simple organic compounds. It is thought to have occurred on Earth between 3.8 and 4.1 billion years ago, and is studied through a combination of laboratory experiments and extrapolation from the genetic information of modern organisms in order to make reasonable conjectures about what pre-life chemical reactions may have given rise to a living system."(Wikipedia: Abiogenesis)What Abiogenesis does have is a number of potential explanations. Yes, the matter is certainly not settled, but there are a number of possible answers, here are a few:
- Chemical Origins
- Clay Hypothesis
- Deep-hot biosphere
- Extraterrestrial organic molecules
- PAH world hypothesis