Thursday, May 17, 2012

All IDiots Believe in Evolution!

The title of this post may shock you but bear with me for a minute. I've been trying for years to educate creationists on the meaning of evolution and the strawman term "Darwinism." I've pointed out repeatedly that the the standard minimal definition of evolution ("Evolution is a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations") should be perfectly acceptable to any IDiot. They don't really reject all of evolution, just the part that causes particular problems for their religion.

Finally, we have an Intelligent Design Creationist who is willing to take the bull by the horns and point out the obvious. Johnnyb explains how his fellow IDiots should think about evolution [How to Talk to Your Professors About Your Darwin Doubts].
So what is one to do? Well, thankfully, our friends the evolutionists have given us a way out. In their zeal to claim consensus on the “fact of evolution,” they have had to steamroll together such a large diversity of opinion into the single term “evolution”, that the word “evolution” no longer has the grand meaning it used to. The only real meaning everyone can agree on is “change in allele frequency over time” – and that is a definition that literally everyone can agree with.

In other words, even if you are a young earth creationist, if your professor asks if you believe in evolution, the legitimate answer is “yes”. Given the common definition of “evolution,” the only thing they are really asking with that question is, “do you believe in genetics?”

Therefore, here is how you can, and, I say, should frame yourself – you believe in evolution. However, there are a few parts of the theory that you disagree with. Don’t be obnoxious, but don’t be overly shy either. Just be frank. Do you believe in evolution? “Yes, but I disagree that common ancestry is universal.” Do you believe in evolution? “Yes, but I don’t think that natural selection alone as a mechanism sufficiently explains life’s diversity.” You don’t even have to put the “yes” and the objection in the same sentence. What do you think about evolution? “The study of evolution is fascinating!” How do you think multicellularity evolved? “I think that multicellularity is a fundamental property of certain organisms, and can’t be evolved piecemeal from the presumed single-celled ancestors.” But you do believe in evolution? “Yes, of course.” Do you think multi-cellular organisms evolved? “Certainly!” From what? “Other multi-cellular organisms.”

If someone challenges you on the definition of evolution, simply challenge them back. What definition of evolution are you using? “I’m using the standard population genetics definition of evolution as the change in gene frequencies over time.” That’s not what evolution is. “What is your definition of evolution?” Evolution means natural selection and common ancestry! “Well, that’s a pretty narrow view of evolution in modern biology. So, while I agree with evolution in general, I don’t agree with your specific view of it.” What’s your specific view? “I’m still learning! But I do find it interesting that….[put your favorite evolutionary or non-evolutionary feature of biology here]”
Let's see how many of his fellow creationists take this advice to heart. Are you listening Denyse?

I'm willing to bet that the vast majority will still never admit that evolution, as defined, is a fact because we can directly observe it happening right before our eyes.


42 comments:

  1. "Believe in evolution"?

    How many people who, on the basis of the evidence and reasoning, accept that evolution happens wherever there is life -

    Or who accept that there is universal gravitation or that the Earth is in motion around the Sun -

    How many of those people would say that they "believe" in evolution, or in gravitation, or in the Solar System?

    TomS

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    1. I don't think it's controversial to use the word "believe" here. Some hypotheses (whether in the context of science or in day-to-day life) are better established than others - another way of saying this is that we have different degrees of belief in different hypotheses. When the support for a hypothesis is so strong that we are no longer taking the alternative hypotheses seriously, it is common and correct English to simply say that we "believe" the hypothesis, without mentioning degree of belief. This does not imply that we are unwilling to change our minds when new evidence appears.

      I believe that gravity out in the corridor is acting in the same direction (downwards) as it is here in my office. This means that, the next time I leave the office, I will completely disregard the possibility that I might fall upwards towards the ceiling the moment I step out. Since I am not hedging my bets on this one, the word "belief" is appropriate.

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    2. I don't think the question here is the matter of belief itself. Belief in anything simply means that you have sincerely come to regard the matter in question as a part of reality that must be dealt with in some fashion.

      I think the matter here is ON WHAT BASIS you come to regard that something as "real".

      Is it real because someone can repeatedly demonstrate the principle to you and, potentially, show you practical results from the application of that principle? Or, is it because someone asserted it and applied emotional blackmail to the extent that the only escape from the fear that results was to embrace the assertion?

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  2. Wow Larry, you found an IDiot who can actually write a sensible argument - I'm impressed! If this catches on (not that I'm holding out much hope for that) one would actually be able to engage them in conversation.

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  3. The standard position for many creationists and "ID theorists" is now to be against "Darwinism" but to be all in favor of "evolution" as long as that does not mean common ancestry and long-term change. But even as recently as 50 years ago their antecedents were quite seriously talking about fixity of species. They seem to have forgotten that.

    A major exception among these folks is Cornelius Hunter, who is always denouncing "evolutionists" and "evolution". He says things like: "the scientific evidence does not show evolution to be a fact", and says it a lot.

    So it is up to "Johnnyb" to ask Cornelius what he means by "evolution". It is up to "Johnnyb" and the other "ID theorists" to debate with Cornleius, isn't it? Somehow I'm not holding my breath waiting for that debate to finish ... or even to start.

    On the issue of what kind of "evolution" these "ID theorists" believe in, I suggest holding their feet to the fire over the issue of common ancestry. When they try to wriggle out by saying (as Johnnyb does above "Yes, but I disagree that common ancestry is universal" or saying "but it's not exactly a perfect tree" we should narrow the question down to whether they think that all mammals share common ancestry. They can wriggle all they want but they'll never agree to that.

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  4. ALLAHUAKBAR YOU INFIDEL ALLAH WILL PUNISH YOU FOR YOUR IGNORANCE

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  5. I think it's really interesting that he's saying things like 'if your professor asks if you believe in evolution...". Who actually does this?
    It seems like a common thing amoung creationists to believe that there's some sort of 'hunt' for them or that 'scientists' are seeking them out to expose them.
    It's also really interesting that he's pretending that his approach is frank and upfront, but it boils down to obfuscation, denial, and hiding.

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    1. Conservatives never tire of the whole "don't ask, don't tell" mindset, do they? Weaselly compliance to perceptions of dogma matters more than sincerity... very Orwellian. It says a lot about the religious mindset in Western society.

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  6. When I teach an undergraduate evolutionary biology course, I try to avoid this issue by not basing my grade on their private beliefs. If I ask them on an exam how XYZ is explained, I do not ask "how do you explain XYZ?" Because then they could just say "I believe God made it during the Six Days of Creation" and they could argue that this was a correct response and they should get full credit. Instead I ask "how would an evolutionary biologist explain XYZ?" That way they have to give the evolutionary explanation and show that they know it.

    That also does not place them at risk of their immortal soul.

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    1. Nice, but how would you deal with the counter that, say, Richard Sternberg is an evolutionary biologist who would not explain it that way?

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    2. I am of course asking about how most evolutionary biologists would explain XYZ but you point out that Sternberg can also be classified as an evolutionary biologist, so maybe I had better add some qualifications.

      Looking at the Wikipedia page for the Sternberg controversy, I see he is described as a "process structuralist" rather than an ID proponent. They link to a page with an explanation of process structuralism that, as far as I can see, is incomprehensible. If he were in my class and gave that explanation I suspect that I would say "what??" and ask for a comprehensible explanation. When I ask them to "explain", the minimum requirement is that there is some way of understanding the explanation.

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    3. Joe Felsenstein says,

      Instead I ask "how would an evolutionary biologist explain XYZ?"

      I would ask; "Do humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor? Be sure to support your answer with evidence."

      Creationists have only two choices. They can be honest, in which case they will fail the course, or they can lie. Mostly they lie but they are not very good at it because they really don't believe the evidence. That's why they rarely get a good grade in a biology course.

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    4. LM, I would ask a materialist ideologue "are functional movements of matter in living organisms caused by teleological intelligent forces or by random chaos and standard chemistry? Be sure to show evidence based on the scientific method for your answer and show your math."

      The Materialists have two choices: Lie, while preaching their religious beliefs with no evidence whatsoever, thus failing the course, or admit that overwhelming mountains of evidence (versus zero contrary evidence) supports purposeful movements of matter in all life forms.

      Materialists would have to choose between their religious beliefs and science.

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  7. When people say things like "I accept evolution but not Common Descent", I do wonder quite how they conceptualise their non-Common-Descent mechanism (assuming they have any mechanistic curiosity whatsoever). DNA is almost exclusively made by template copying from a prior molecule. The relationships between a cell from a cheek swab and the hair one inadvertently left at the crime scene exist because of common descent, likewise the paternity test one was foolish enough to have revealed live on air, or the migration patterns inferred from mtDNA, or the relationships among dog breeds and the wolf, or the various cetaceans ... all of this is unquestioned genetic continuity.

    But somewhere, this continuity is held to break down. Despite substantial sequence similarity throughout the mammals, for instance, hard lines can be drawn around clades where there is no genetic continuity. So, what happened? Did the Designer simply perform some directed breeding or genetic engineering (in which case Common Descent is still true)? Or were brand new genetic instances created, stitched up in a petri dish and implanted in a surrogate? Or whole animals drawn in the air? Which came first, nose, tail or feet? How many is a reasonable starter population? How do you integrate them into a pre-existing ecology?

    Obviously, the answer will be a perfectly reasonable one: "don't know". Regardless, one would expect to be able to detect a signal of genetic discontinuity. We can, for short segments (eg viral inserts). But not the whole piece.

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    1. hard lines can be drawn around clades where there is no genetic continuity.

      Just to clarify - that should have read "hard lines can supposedly be drawn around clades where there is no genetic continuity". :0)

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  8. When people say things like "I accept evolution but not Common Descent", I do wonder quite how they conceptualise their non-Common-Descent mechanism (assuming they have any mechanistic curiosity whatsoever). Allan Miller

    I had a big fight about the origin of life at another blog in which some of the materialists argued against a single common ancestor. It's not just creationists who can argue that line when it suits their purpose. Why materialists would argue something that would have far, far higher odds against it happening by random interactions than a single original organism assembling, I couldn't get but they did argue it.

    I think the chances that DNA, as it exists in modern organisms, including the extraordinarily complex cellular mechanism which is needed to use it, was present in the beginning of life is so remote as to make a miraculous explanation of that happening more likely than not. My guess would be that it is the product of evolution within already living organisms and that the original form of life was far, far different from anything known today. Which would be unfortunate for the "science" of abiogenesis but reality often seems to be indifferent to ideological and professional aspirations.

    I don't think it's likely that life arose more than once, though there is no evidence to base any conclusions on and the information on which to base ideas about an actual, historical, event can't be reliably derived from anything but actual evidence of it. A single original ancestor is what I accept as the most likely seeming explanation of interrelations among present day life but who knows?

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    1. I'm not familiar with the "ideological and professional aspirations" in the science of abiogenesis that would lead to the assertion that there are those in the field who claim that DNA was present in the beginning of life.

      In my admittedly limited perusal of this field I have come across the RNA world, clay and a number of other hypothesis but nowhere have I seen the assertion that DNA must have been present in the beginning and was created ex nihilo.

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    2. I think the chances that DNA, as it exists in modern organisms, including the extraordinarily complex cellular mechanism which is needed to use it, was present in the beginning of life is so remote as to make a miraculous explanation of that happening more likely than not.

      And what exactly ARE those chances? How did you assess the relative probability that carbon chains can self-replicate--something that we know for certain occurs--versus the probability of the existence of a conscious supernatural agency that is a) self-originating, b) is also the creator of the universe, and c) needs to constantly interfere in the natural workings of biology moment by moment (because the central point here is, after all, that organic chemistry itself is insufficient to biological processes)--and what exactly are those relative probabilities?

      If you don't actually have numbers for these and an objective process for determining them, then all you're doing is putting a fancy label on belief by emotional fiat, and that's been par for the course since before the "science" of using and controlling fire. As such, that's not a credible objection to findings indicative of abiogenesis per se.

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    3. Thought Criminal: I think the chances that DNA, as it exists in modern organisms, including the extraordinarily complex cellular mechanism which is needed to use it, was present in the beginning of life is so remote as to make a miraculous explanation of that happening more likely than not.

      Well, I was talking about CD as it relates to extant organisms - ie DNA-RNA-protein organisms descended from an assumed LUCA, some time after the origin of life.

      As to the 'chances' of DNA being present at the start ... I don't buy probabilistic arguments of any stripe on such small sample sizes ... but it is the properties of DNA itself that render it an unlikely First Replicator. I don't think anyone really thinks it was. It has a bizarre antiparallel complementarity that argues against its appearance out of nothing, and a lack of structural versatility that renders it incapable of actually doing much - certainly not directing its own synthesis.

      RNA, on the other hand ... RNA ain't much more than DNA with an extra oxygen in the ribose. It has versatility of structure, can function as a catalyst (most tellingly in the ribosome), and can be template-copied. One interesting trick that RNA can do is to form a double helix from hairpinned regions of antiparallel complementary sequence on the same strand - local regions of almost-DNA. Such regions play a part in creating 3D structures with direct catalytic function. The base pairing in such regions is not 'for' templating, but for structure .. but they 'select for' (antiparallel) complementarity of the bases in such regions. It is a relatively short step from such structural complementarity to the present method of base-burial, RNA specification and exponential duplication provided by DNA.

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    4. Pedantic point - DNA oligos have been shown to have the same potential for catalysis as RNAs.

      ex. A new and efficient DNA enzyme for the sequence-specific cleavage of RNA. Feldman AR, Sen D. J Mol Biol. 2001 Oct 19;313(2):283-94.

      -The Other Jim

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    5. The other Jim,

      Yes, given that double-helical structures are involved in RNA catalysts, and single-stranded DNA exists, I guess being too dogmatic about what they can and can't do respectively would not be expected to hinge solely upon that 2' oxygen atom, or the presence of U vs T.

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  9. In the aecond sentence of your post, I believe the word "education" should read "educate".

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  11. I second Rachel Scott’s remark above that Larry’s “All IDiots Believe in Evolution!” is a great post!

    However, I would have entitled it: “An IDiot’s recipe on how to expose holes in modern evolutionary theory and force evolutionary biologists to come up with solid scientific explanations and arguments, rather than indulge in weak or misleading assumptions and confusion”

    Well, maybe the title is too convoluted, but the message is clear: there are plenty of weaknesses or holes in the evolutionary theory that need addressing; here I bring forward two (due to text length limitations, the second example is in a separate comment):

    The first has to do with the definition of evolution. Larry is a champion in clarifying concepts and streamlining definitions in order to create a common language for understanding and discussion. However, this a rare case, not only in the field of evolution but in many other scientific fields, even in those that are of extraordinary medical and public health significance, such as in the field of neurodegenerative disorders (stay tuned!).

    A similar situation is the fields of philosophy and religion. For example, very recently, in a response to Jerry Coyne’s challenge (http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/elliott-sober-responds-to-my-challenge/), philosopher Elliott Sober says:

    “You have said on your blog that the absence of evidence for God is evidence that there is no such being. To me, that depends on what you mean by “God” (bold mine)

    “But sometimes when people tell me what they mean by “God,” their answers makes me doubt that science could ever provide evidence about whether such a being exists. In this case, I feel obliged to be an agnostic. This is why I find statements like “there is strong scientific evidence that shows that God does not exist” unsatisfactory; the claim is correct for some concepts of God, but not for others(bold mine).

    So, I would like to ask Elliott: can you please give some examples of concepts of God you think can exist and you believe in? Hope he will address the question!

    Turning this question to evolutionists: which concepts of Evolution should people believe in?

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    1. Turning this question to evolutionists: which concepts of Evolution should people believe in?

      Evolution is a proven fact, given the minimal definition of evolution. Allele frequencies in a population DO change over time. It would be foolish and perverse not to believe that.

      Similarly, the two main mechanisms of evolution, natural selection and random genetic drift, are known to exist and have been well-documented in hundreds of scientific papers. Only an idiot would deny that.

      The history of life on Earth is not the same as evolutionary theory. It's a unique one-off event like anything else in the historical sciences. Nevertheless, there are parts of that history that are facts by any reasonable definition of the word "fact." For example, humans and chimps share a relatively recent common ancestor. If you don't "believe" that, then you are rejecting science and openly declaring that evidence and logic have no place in your worldview.

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    2. LM, the first and third paragraphs of your message are indeed common to any evolutionist's answer, but not your references to selectionism. You do not represent evolutionists with that answer.

      Of course selection exists! Whether a species survives or goes extinct, it can be said that selection happened. The debate is not whether or not selection exists, but whether or not it is a "main" mechanism for evolution or, for that matter, any part of evolution at all.

      Selection is nothing and does nothing. It is merely a bad way of stating what has taken place, not a causal force or actual thing that does something.

      Selection is a subtractive filter which, like all filters can only eliminate or do nothing. It is NEVER additive.

      Selection is stasis, not evolution, and it occurs only AFTER a trait has evolved, hence it can not be a cause of evolution. Selection is staying the same, not change over time (evolution). It is a result, not a cause.

      Only an idiot would deny that.

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  12. there are plenty of weaknesses or holes in the evolutionary theory that need addressing; here I bring forward two (due to text length limitations, the second example is in a separate comment) ;

    The second example regards the prevalent modern view on the origin of life: the RNA world theory. This theory has dominated the thinking on the origin of life ever since it was shown that RNA molecules can serve both as carriers of genetic information and as enzymes. Apparently, this theory provides such a parsimonious and intuitive solution to the origin of life that basically all textbooks of Biology and Biochemistry published in the last two decades have adopted it.

    However, in the furry of enthusiasm for this theory, apparently, the RNA world starts with ready-made, self-replicating RNA molecules, which is a 'no start'. One way of thinking about the origin of self-replicating RNA molecules is that a random population of RNA molecules was somehow synthesized and some members of this population were able to self-replicate by chance, which jump-started the RNA evolution. The big question, however, is how this large population of RNA molecules originated in the first place?

    In any case, a template-based RNA self-replication process is more complicated than it is usually perceived, and as emphasized by Christian deDuve, an eminent biochemist and cellular biologist, self-replication of RNA “does not make chemical sense” (Chemistry and selection; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17443872).

    Other renowned evolutionists who are not satisfied with the RNA world theory are Charles Kurland and Eugen Koonin.

    The title of one of Charles’ latest papers on the subject tells much of his perspective: The RNA dreamtime: modern cells feature proteins that might have supported a prebiotic polypeptide world but nothing indicates that RNA world ever was (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20806270).

    And, dissatisfied with the current explanations on the origin of life, Eugen apparently felt that he had no choice (short of stop thinking about it, or allowing for the origin of life to become a religion) but to call upon the weak anthropic principle as an explanation: The cosmological model of eternal inflation and the transition from chance to biological evolution in the history of life (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17540027)

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    1. Yes, there are real problems within the RNA-world hypothesis - which is why it remains a hypothesis. But ribosomal catalysis is a strike in its favour - the insistence that synthesis of catalytic peptides in the modern manner was an essential feature of early life is a mere assertion.

      I think Koonin's invocation of the 'multiverse' is about as ad hoc and unnecessary as invocation of hyper-intelligent beings that can suspends physics in order to generate the assumed integrated system, every thermodynamic problem of every reaction cascade neatly solved in one fell swoop - like trying to assemble a jumbo-jet in mid-air, fuel spilling every which way.

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    2. It's almost impossible to imagine how ribonucleotides could be synthesized in the absence of catalysis. That's the fatal flaw in the RNA world scenario.

      "Metabolism First" is the best available hypothesis for the origin of life [Metabolism First and the Origin of Life].

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    3. Allan Miller says:

      Yes, there are real problems within the RNA-world hypothesis - which is why it remains a hypothesis

      Although the ‘RNA-world hypothesis’ has maintained the term ‘hypothesis’(from historical inertia, I would say), this hypothesis is often presented as fact. And that is the case with many other ‘hypotheses’ and ‘theories.’

      For example, we have the ‘prion hypothesis’; how can this be a ‘hypothesis’ when the thousands of scientists (except a handful or so) working in the field of neurodegenerative diseases use it as fact? And, the textbooks of biology, biochemistry and virology present it as a fact, though they still use the term ‘hypothesis’?

      Same with the ‘theory of evolution’! I understand that there’s a conceptual difference between a ‘hypothesis’ and a ‘theory,’ but still, considering that most scholars, whether religious or not, consider evolution a fact, why are we calling it a theory, which in many peoples’ mind and dictionaries that resonate with ‘hypothesis’? We should call it: ‘the fact of evolution,’ or just evolution!

      If the ‘RNA-world hypothesis’ has big conceptual and scientific problems (see also Larry’s comment below), then let’s don’t call it a hypothesis, let’s call it pseudoscience.

      Again, a valid scientific hypothesis should make sense, have explanatory power, and be consistent with the experimental evidence. If they don’t, we should put them in the category of pseudoscience.

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    4. Correction: see also Larry’s comment above

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    5. Claudiu Bandea,

      The RNA world would be pseudoscience, rather than a hypothesis, if its proponents ignored all contrary evidence, performed no investigation whatsoever, and preferred instead to pour scorn on and very selectively pick holes in what they perceive as the competing hypothesis. That tactic is more perceptible from the proponents of the theory of Intelligent Design.

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    6. Larry: It's almost impossible to imagine how ribonucleotides could be synthesized in the absence of catalysis. That's the fatal flaw in the RNA world scenario.

      It’s also almost impossible to imagine how catalytic polypeptides could be synthesised in the absence of catalysis! I can’t say I’m a fully-throated advocate of RNA, but it remains my favoured bet due to its evolutionary logic. Without a milieu in which ‘better’ catalysts persist at the expense of ‘worse’ ones, the world will simply fill up with the products of the catalysts, rather than the catalysts themselves.

      "Metabolism First" is the best available hypothesis for the origin of life

      On a semantic point, I would argue that metabolism in the absence of an organism – some kind of integrated, replicating system – is just ‘chemistry’. It is clear that some kind of chemical evolution needs to precede any kind of macromolecular extension – you need blocks before you can build. So yes, I can readily buy some kind of non-enzymatic cycle with intrinsic thermodynamic favourability, from which at various points arise complex non-polymeric molecules. The question, in my mind, is which came first, polypeptide or polynucleotide catalysis?

      Amino acids are surprisingly easy to make in ‘Miller’ apparatus and on meteorites, nucleotides less so, particularly because of the need to condense three sub-subunits - but then, Sutherland’s work does suggest that lateral thinking can get round this problem. Then, it becomes a problem of subunit condensation. To make the peptide bond, you have to supply energy, rather ‘surgically’. But to make the nucleotide, the energy is already available, exactly where needed, as part of the nTP subunit. That alone makes me favour the RNA hypothesis.

      Repeatability (or heritability) is the other issue. I think the Central Dogma is buried deep in Life, for good reasons. You can’t unfurl a working peptide and create another one just like it. But you can (in an admittedly rather complex two-step process) a working ribozyme. Without heritability, and linkage, you cannot have an integrated system – a linked set of parts with subdivision of task that benefits collectively from individual ‘skill’. Nor can you have exponential growth, the key to success - make more copies than you lose.

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    7. Allan Miller,

      Perhaps classifying the RNA world hypothesis as pseudoscience is too severe. Maybe labeling it as a highly speculative idea that stars with a ‘non-starter’ (i.e. a population of RNA molecules that self-replicate) would be more appropriate.

      However, the process of promoting a highly speculative idea, the RNA world, at the forefront of our understanding of the origin of life, and embedding it in the front page of most textbooks chapters and scientific articles addressing the origin of life, and to do that for almost three decades, does flirt with pseudoscience.

      I think scientists, as a progressive community, can do better than that!

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    8. Larry, Allan Miller:

      I think we have a lot of common ground here, and perhaps we can build a sensible scenario on the origin of life that integrates metabolism/catalysts, amino acid/peptides, ribo-nucleotides/RNAoligos, continuity/repeatability/heritability all within a compartmentalized environment or system that was energetically and physically able to sustain the chemical and bio-chemical evolution leading to the origin of first living entities or organisms on Earth.

      A few years ago, I proposed a “cell-like world” model for the origin of life in the context of a broader scenario for the origin and evolution of cellular and viral domains; please see pages 7-15 of a paper I posted at: (http://precedings.nature.com/documents/3888/version/1.

      It would be great to hear your thoughts.

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    9. Claudiu, I don't want to stray too far off of the topic of the article, but I see major holes in your cell-centric theory of abiogenesis. Where did these cell-like compartments come from and why did they proliferate? Simply providing an enclosure does not in any way explain ribosomal activities within nor any other aspect of life or reproduction.

      How do we get from enclosures to a genetic code that directs the construction of (the same or different?) enclosures? I will grant you that an enclosure can form by chance but not repeatedly form nor will it replicate or imbibe nutrients.

      Origin of life will be better understood once we answer more questions about how reproduction occurs, which is something we can see in real time. Still, it is good to attempt to find answers in the meantime and I did like that you attempt to include viruses in your explanations.

      I think the hardest questions remain unanswered.

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  13. Actually, some of my young-earth creationist students do agree that gene frequencies change, that organisms change (e.g. Galapagos finches or anoles). They know this is evolution, explain that that's all just microevolution which doesn't really count, and merrily disbelieve all the most fascinating events of deeper evolution.

    It would be hard for me to believe that a professor would be foolish enough to ask "Do you believe in evolution" as a graded question, except that I've seen a few grad students do it, and some of them will turn into profs. It can be hard to persuade the grad students that if they ask this, then logically they have to accept "No" when it's an honest answer to the question asked. They don't have to like it, but they have to accept it.

    Better questions ask about facts and processes in biology. Some of those questions will challenge to YEC's belief systems and/or honesty -- or would be if they understood the material and its conflict with their beliefs, which many of them don't. Sigh.

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  14. It would be hard for me to believe that a professor would be foolish enough to ask "Do you believe in evolution" as a graded question, except that I've seen a few grad students do it, and some of them will turn into profs. It can be hard to persuade the grad students that if they ask this, then logically they have to accept "No" when it's an honest answer to the question asked. They don't have to like it, but they have to accept it.

    I'd like to mention two things in response to this comment.

    First, I would never accept just "yes" to such a question so why would I have to accept "no"? It's obvious that an essay question requires a small essay outlining the explanation for your answer.

    Second, there's an implicit assumption that "no," with an explanation and evidence supporting the answer, is an acceptable answer ("... they have to accept it"). That's not true. If by the end of an evolution course you still reject evolution in spite of everything you've been taught, do you deserve to get credit for the course? I don't think so. Can you think of any other course where such accommodation would be acceptable? How about civil engineering, internal medicine, history, anthropology, astronomy, sociology ...?

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  15. Is that JohnnyB aka John Bartlett the YEC computer programmer? The guy who thinks temple carvings prove dinosaurs and humans lived together?

    Great....

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  16. i am so smart and anyone who dosnt believe in god is stupid

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