Friday, December 3, 2010

Klinghoffer, Klinghoffer, Klinghoffer are you ever right?

OK, I am sure that you have heard the news. NASA scientists have discovered a lifeform that can be coaxed into substituting arsenic for phosphorus. The news had blown it all way out of proportion, claiming things like "Alien Microbes" and "Life from another planet?" But the reality is less exciting than the news reports. PZ Myers has a nice piece on it "It's not an arsenic-based life form". So what does this have to do with the DI's resident excuse? Well Klinghoffer just had to comment on it. And how does he comment on it? In the least honest way possible.

He starts, as he usually does, in the title: "About That Arsenic-Gobbling Microbe...Bad News for Darwinists?" What I am still not sure of is how is this a problem for . . . to use his favorite pejorative . . . Darwinists? I assume he means Biologists. Well he sort of explains

"The bacterium evidently uses arsenic for purposes that all other known organisms would use phosphorus, including incorporating it in DNA. A reporter for Nature News cites UC Santa Barbara geomicrobiologist David Valentine as observing that the discovery may mean "you can potentially cross phosphorus off the list of elements required for life."
First of all, it's not that it uses arsenic for purposes that all other known organisms would use phosphorus -- it is more that is can be coaxing into using it. I think that's a huge difference. Look at the caveat he sneaks in "all other known organisms". So what in biology or evolutionary theory says that there can be no other organisms based on other than the elements we are familiar with? Absolutely none! Yes, we know a great deal about the life forms around us. we've only been studying them for a very long time. We've also been studying organisms we call extremophile (an organism that thrives in and may even require physically or geochemically extreme conditions that are detrimental to most life on Earth.) So back to the original question, why is this a problem?

In reality it is not! Look at it from this direction. Creationists, like Klinghoffer, like to look from the top and and claim that man has some special relationship with God and that we are at the pinnacle of some imagined ladder of awesomeness. Now biologists look more from a bottom-up approach and we are the result of our environment. So according to Creationists this discovery makes no difference. the 'designer' could do anything it wanted to do. Yet according to biologists if the environment had been different, we might have evolved very differently.

So in other words . . . it is no surprise in biology about this discovery. So where does Klinghoffer go next? SETI. Yea, I thought the same thing.
"Yet we still have no indication from SETI or anything else that intelligent or complex life exists anywhere but here. Which makes the existence of life on earth look just a bit more special than it did before, right?"
Does it really? So instead of making an actual case -- or at least building a decent strawman -- Klinghoffer falls on the tired old argument that because we haven't found life out there . . . we are so special. So just how many planets have we visited? None. How much exploring have we done? Not very much. Yes, we are listening to small portions of the sky at a time. The annual budget for SETI is pretty minuscule.

So back to Davey. The SETI argument makes absolutely no sense, so where does he turn? To Guillermo Gonzalez. You remember Guillermo? He was the Astronomer who lost his bid for tenure at Iowa State University for FAILING to do his job. Now he is teaching at a little Christian school in Grove City, Pa, and I guess he still finds time to dabble in Intelligent Design. But he doesn't say anything. Yet Davey thinks that his words offered . . . to use yet another pejorative . . . materialists dodging a bullet.

So where is this imaginary bullet? The discovery is nothing terribly special. Klinghoffer offers no reason . . . well no ACTUAL reason . . . why this is supposed to be a bad thing for biology. Here is the part that just kills me. We open our eyes a little bit future and make a discovery of something potentially wondrous, yet Klinghoffer seems to want us to be afraid of it.

I think he's afraid of it because it really is nothing more than one more successful prediction based on evolutionary sciences. The same sciences that threaten the narrow worldview of people like Klinghoffer.

1 comment:

  1. Don't get me wrong but I think his "challenge" is that how could changing from Phosphorous-only to Arsenic/Phosphorous happen. Not really much of a challenge though.