New Paper Advocates The “Genetics First” Hypothesis

Last year, William Dembski who is one of the key figures in the modern intelligent design movement recently debated Lewis Wolpert who is a developmental biologist. It was an interesting debate, but they were not the only ones butting heads, there was another ID proponent who reviewed the debate and found it to be not that impressive, he states…

“I am afraid I will have to disagree with the impression of the debate. While I give Wolpert a failing grade or at best a D, I cannot give Bill Dembski’s responses better than a C…”

“One glaring example was when Bill was asked whether Chemistry was designed. There was hesitation and then an attempt to get into the design of the universe. The better answer would have been that the laws of Chemistry flow from the characteristics of the elements and that these flowed from the basic laws of physics. To try to move it immediately to the design of the laws of physics left the impression that there was a designer behind every door.”

Dembrski takes issue with a fellow contributor of ID…

“Jerry, We have some history in which you find fault with my presentations, and in which you cite your Duke and Stanford degrees and experience in business communications as qualifications for offering up your criticisms.

As I point out in the debate, the arrangement of stones can signify design even if the stones themselves can’t be said to be designed. The same point can be made for chemistry — basic chemistry may be undesigned (I don’t believe this) but chemical arrangements might be. Thus there are nuances to the design question in chemistry and physics that I was not willing to slide over in my discussion with Wolpert.”

Obviously, Dembski went into is comfort zone which is physics rather than chemistry. Most likely Stephen Meyer could have addressed the chemical aspect. But this brings up the “Genetics First” hypothesis (chance formation of nucleic acids) verses metabolism coming into existence first. The later has been rising in popularity in certain camps. Evolutionists believe replication of chemicals must be in play before natural selection can pick the best material so it can build it into elephants, sharks, humans, you name it.

Two Darwinian schools of thought on origins butting heads and falsifying each other. Three European scientists who published a paper in PNAS, said stated the following…

“A basic property of life is its capacity to experience Darwinian evolution.  The replicator concept is at the core of genetics-first theories of the origin of life, which suggest that self-replicating oligonucleotides or their similar ancestors may have been the first “living” systems and may have led to the evolution of an RNA world.”

“But problems with the nonenzymatic synthesis of biopolymers and the origin of template replication have spurred the alternative metabolism-first scenario, where self-reproducing and evolving proto-metabolic networks are assumed to have predated self-replicating genes.  Recent theoretical work shows that “compositional genomes” (i.e., the counts of different molecular species in an assembly) are able to propagate compositional information and can provide a setup on which natural selection acts.”

“Accordingly, if we stick to the notion of replicator as an entity that passes on its structure largely intact in successive replications, those macromolecular aggregates could be dubbed “ensemble replicators” (composomes) and quite different from the more familiar genes and memes.”

We know metabolism-first scenario is plagued with many problems of its own as indicated in this paper. Anyone can generalize the notion of a replicator up to a system or network of molecules instead of requiring a genetic code but replication has to be accurate! In a designed world we live in, there is not much room for error, in the story of evolution there is plenty room for errors which supposedly result in updates or upgrades.

The “Genetics First” hypothesis have it’s problems as well. Leslie E. Orgel of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies who has spent a lifetime studying origins from an evolutionary framework.  His final paper published in 2007 in PLOS, was not very encouraging for evolutionists, it was called; “The Implausibility of Metabolic Cycles on the Prebiotic Earth.”

The caption reads like this…“In this essay, the final contribution of his scientific career, Leslie Orgel explores the severe difficulties that arise when these proposals are scrutinized from the standpoint of chemical plausibility.”

Their hope is fading, the story of  complex polymers to arise naturally. Rather, they are starting to settle for more on untested ideas such as simple compounds arising instead. Orgel in his final criticisms of the field are so broad and so damaging to the ability of natural processes to produce life at all by any method.  He states…

“It must be recognized that assessment of the feasibility of any particular proposed prebiotic cycle must depend on arguments about chemical plausibility, rather than on a decision about logical possibility.”

Does this sound familiar? I have repeated this theme many times in various topics when it comes to the scientific method concerning data. Just because there is a claim that it could happen, doesn’t mean it ever will. For example, some might believe O2 levels increased sizes of animals and could test O2 levels in tanks to see if it had effects on smaller animals. Then say well we haven’t found it yet, but we believe it will show results. This doesn’t mean certain O2 levels can evolve by a million-fold.

“Whatever the original input, one would finish with an equilibrium mixture, the composition of which is determined by thermodynamics.” Equilibrium means you are at a standstill and nothing more will happen.

Back to the ID debate which I opened up with. Even though Jerry was vague in his assertion that the laws of chemistry  should have been included in the debate for ID, it’s certainly in the debate for creationism. Science has said “no” countless times to evolutionary prediction, assumptions, and other stories. But science has said “yes” to a creator, an intelligent designer, namely God!


10 thoughts on “New Paper Advocates The “Genetics First” Hypothesis

  1. Michael’s puppeteer (MP): “Science has said “no” countless times to evolutionary prediction, assumptions, and other stories. But science has said “yes” to a creator, an intelligent designer, namely God!”

    Two points: a misunderstanding of scientific research (first sentence), and a logical fallacy (second sentence above).

    A large number of specific evolutionary predictions and assumptions over thew past 150 years have been modified or replaced. We thought human ancestors before Lucy (3.4mya) would look more chimp-like; Ardi (4.5 mya) shows that was not correct. Genetic analysis has showed that the evolutionary sequence of horses should be rearranged. Darwin;s original theory of blending inheritable traits was shown to be incorrect early on.

    Yet in every one of these cases, the disproved hypothesis was not replaced by a creationist or design hypothesis, but by another evolutionary hypothesis. Ardi does not demonstrate design; it modifies the probable appearance of our common ancestor with the chimpanzee. New horse sequencing does not show that they sprang from nothing, but that different fossils preceded other fossils. Darwin’s analog inheritance mechanism was replaced by Mendel’s digital trait inheritance, both capable of evolution.[1]

    In other words, the evidence that negated one prediction or assumption pointed to a different evolutionary view. In no case did the evidence point toward a creationist hypothesis as an explanation. Creationism was never “the best explanation” for any field observation, the result of any experiment, or any simulation. This is the misunderstanding of research in the first of MP’s sentences above.

    In the second quoted sentence. the logical fallacy is the false dichotomy—that any evidence against theory A is ipso facto evidence for theory B. The only way in which MP can say that science has said ‘yes’ to a creator is by employing the fallacy that every wrong hypothesis concerning any aspect of evolution is, first of all, evidence against evolution per se, and second that it constitutes positive evidence for creationism. This is obviously false: Evidence that dragons did not breathe fire is not evidence that unicorns exist. Even Michael would agree with that. (One can only hope.)

    So. Michael”s source-who-will-not-show-his-face suffers from the logical fallacy of a false dichotomy and from a misapprehension that replacing one evolutionary hypothesis with another is a malediction against evolution in general.

    This argument has been flogged so often in the past 50 years that it has earned a title as the first of the “Three Pillars of Creationism”—That evolution is a theory in crisis. It has become so trite and formulaic by now that even its entertainment value has vanished.

    Get over it. Argue something new. Such as Stephen Meyer’s “origin of biological information” resuscitation of the 2d-law-of-thermodynamics dead horse.[2] Almost a half year now since your review of Signature in the Cell was promised.

    [1] Of course, MP’s argument that “countless” evolutionary hypotheses have been modified entirely overlooks the even more countless evolutionary hypotheses that have been confirmed. Including the entire field of biogeography, which creationists love to hide. And the Wright-Fischer equations of population genetics. Vavilov’s law. Reconstructions of 450mya functional proteins from pseudogenes in present-day animals. Evolution of bat wings due to mutation of a single mouse gene. Novel bacteria that eat man-made chemicals (Nylon, PCBs), that didn’t exist a century ago. Etc, etc, etc. Creationists may be experts at wishing away contrary evidence, but there are limits. .

    (Speaking of countless, has Michael—the real one, not the puppeteer—come up with an answer yet to whether or not there are more numbers than even numbers? That one seems to be germane here.)

    [2] Michael, can’t you convince your source to come up with an analysis of the substantive points of SitC? Hint: “I like the way he writes about his life and his curiously in particular about the origin of life” in your July 31 preliminary effort is not a substantive point, either against evolution or for creationism/design.

  2. “Two Darwinian schools of thought on origins butting heads and falsifying each other. ”

    Indeed, this is how science progresses. Dozens of hypotheses circulate among those knowledgeable in the field. They are criticized, modified, added onto. They are tested by observation and experiment. Some survive.

    Special creation has been put forth in one form or another for millennia—from pagan (Plato’s Timaeus in 360 BCE) through Islam (the Ilm-al-Kalam of the 8thCentury) to Christian (William Paley, 1802). Century after century after century to produce some positive physical evidence. With no results. Its time has long passed for scientists.

    Today’s creationists have given up trying to produce their own evidence, and survive only by attempts to tear down mainstream science. Creationism is maintained only as a prop to justify their religious faith.

    Yet they face a dilemma. They would, if they could, merely quote scripture to the contrary, as Martin Luther did to Kepler’s heliocentric theory. But science is more and more a central institution of modern society. It cannot easily be ignored or brushed aside. Therefore, the faithful seek to pervert it by clumsy arguments to show that their faith is “scientific,” and that real scientists are mistaken, deluded, and/or dishonest conspirators.

    The irony of their position escapes them. Especially when they demand the new drugs that these mistaken deluded dishonest biologists develop, or invest in oil exploration at locations specified by mistaken deluded dishonest geologists. or find their way with GPS systems designed by mistaken deluded dishonest atomic physicists.

    Then they wonder why people laugh.

  3. I’d like to hear Dembski address Steven Landsburg’s dilemma: if anything incredibly and intricately complex must have been designed, then who designed the laws of mathematics? Mathematics is, almost by definition, incredibly complex, full of irreducibly complex interlocking components and principles, and yet claiming that it was designed is deeply problematic. Not least of which in that if you DO claim it was designed, it becomes very difficult to avoid implying that the ID is an all-powerful God. If it wasn’t designed, and simply is the way it is, inevitably, then the force of the SC/IC falls apart.

  4. “New Paper Advocates The “Genetics First” Hypothesis”

    That’s quite a ramble in this post. From a paper on origin of life to a debate to the Dembski/Wolpert debate on whether chemical laws were designed, back to the OOL question, then to disagreements among OOL researchers, then to thermodynamics, then back to the laws of chemistry.

    Does your source have a take-away message here, or is this strictly random stream of consciousness? Nothing here seems to fit the overall subject of “new discoveries” in creationism.

    Just longer and more confused than your usual post.


  5. Michael’s source: “Anyone can generalize the notion of a replicator up to a system or network of molecules instead of requiring a genetic code [sic] but replication has to be accurate!”

    Please tell me how you supposed that the first part of that sentence is related to the part after “but.”

    Why can a network of molecules not replicate itself accurately? Any auto-catalytic reaction does this—by definition.

    Shall we add chemistry to the long list of subjects of which you pontificate, yet are entirely ignorant?

  6. Drew: “I’d like to hear Dembski address Steven Landsburg’s dilemma: if anything incredibly and intricately complex must have been designed, then who designed the laws of mathematics?”

    Herer are a couple of examples more relevant to science.

    Watch millions of termites building a tower. Who designed the tower? Does one of the termites tell all the others how to lay it out? Any one of them on its own can’t build anything. A thousand of them together will mill about aimlessly. But a hundred thousand build an impressive designed structure—each doing its own task, with no one in charge.

    The Earth’s weather has millions of interlocking parts that work with each other to produce complex effects, including highly regular patterns such as ocean currents many thousands of miles long, Who directs a hurricane to organize into a spiral mass all swirling in the same direction? Who directs El Nino when to begin, and how long to continue?

    We don’t have to go all the way back to mathematics, or to the laws of chemistry or physics.

  7. Have you ever considered adding more videos to your blog to keep the readers more hooked? I just read through the entire article and it was quite nice but since I learn visually, I find videos to be more helpful. I enjoy what you guys are always coming up with. Keep up the excellent work. I will visit your page daily for some of the latest post.

  8. Thanks for the response…Yes, in fact, I have already added a few videos. Also, some pictures. I’ll be adding more in the future…The things I write about are very new so generally a video of what I am discussing isn’t out there yet. I am also thinking of producing a few of my own.

  9. “Genetics first” and the Holy Bible. The first verse on the Old Testament begins, “In the beginning.” But there are two verses in the Bible (KJV) that start, “In the beginning.” And these two verses, that start with “In the beginning”, do not say the same thing. One starts Genesis in the OT and one begins John in the New Testament.

    John 1:1-3 are verses that say things that would seem to lead into the general account of Genesis 1:1. John 1:1 indicates “the Word was God.” Even though the John verse is much later in the Bible and written by a different author well over a thousand years later, it may set up or set the stage for what takes place in the very first verse in the OT. This is not saying or implying that John 1:1 should be removed from the NT and listed in the OT. No problem there.

    The Trinity (Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit) exists prior to “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1, which means information and a plan are there in order to create, before the acts of creation of the universe and all in it begin. A blueprint is necessary before building something. When it comes to living things and HOW God performed His creating, would this information include DNA and RNA, and would the “genetics” part of the scenario have had to be present first before anything actually living got created?

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