Sunday, March 13, 2016

Abiogenesis and Evolution

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.
At its heart Abiogenesis is an idea, a concept, and a process.  What it is not is a scientific theory or even a hypothesis.  Look at the terms, do any of them fit?  No, and at this point in time, they shouldn't.  We can't use any of those labels at this point in time.  One day we might have a Theory of Abiogenesis, in other words a well-established explanation of how life began.  We aren't even close yet.  But to offer religious explanations is ridiculous because religion is not science.  It can't be tested, measured, falsified, or predicted.  Religion is a belief without evidence while science is all about the evidence.

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
  • Panspermia
  • Extraterrestrial organic molecules
  • PAH world hypothesis
Unlike Blitzkrieg, you can do your own homework and check them out for yourself. But the bottom line comes down to as of yet, we do not know how life started on Earth. It is within the realm of possibility we may never know to 100% certainty. But if the history of science has taught us anything it's that tomorrow we will know more than we do today. In one year, in 10 years, even in 100 years we will know considerably more than we do today.

Now what Blitz is doing is trying to use his strawman of 'mud to man' as a way to bash evolutionary theory.  He doesn't do a good job of it.  For one reason his mud-to-man is a strawman and not particularly applicable.  The other reason is while there is a relationship between Evolution and Abiogenesis, the theories are not dependent on each other.  For example I listed 6 potential Abiogenesis explanations above, none of them would have much impact on evolutionary theory.  For when it comes to evolution, it really wouldn't matter which one of them -- or a completely different explanation -- turned out to be true.  So basically Blitz is firing blanks.

In closing, please remember that Science closes no doors, not even the religious ones.  But we also don't spend much in the way of resources addressing religious ideas.  History has once again shown us that they tend not to pan out.  Just ask any honest intelligent design 'theorist'.  What scientific advances have been made using Intelligent Design 'Theory' . . . the silence will say more than I ever could.  I've asked the question before and while there were a lot of words said in their responses, they named absolutely nothing!  Oh they love to cite examples of humans using intelligence to design things -- but that's not what Intelligent Design 'Theory' is all about.

I also asked a number of Creationists what scientific advances have been made using Creationism and their responses like to list scientists in history who also believed in God, but at no time have they ever specified what scientific theories, or what parts of scientific theories, show an application of 'Creationism'. Funny, isn't it?  Well to me, anyway.

No comments:

Post a Comment