• Darwin’s Doubt – Prologue Part IV

    This is getting a little nuts.  I only have a kindle copy, so I don’t have page numbers.  But I’m on location 107 of 12,555 (according to Minvera that’s 0% of the book)… yet I’ve already written 4 blog posts correcting errors with probably 4 times as many words as Meyer has written to the point.  And here we go again.

    Here, Meyer says that “natural selection does not help explain the origin of first life” and that’s true enough.  Then he makes a category error.

    Natural selection assumes the existence of living organisms with a capacity to reproduce.  Yet self-replication in all extant cells depends upon information-ric proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and the origin of such inforamtion-rich molecules is precisely what origin-of-life research needs to explain.

    NO. NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

    He’s wrong.  He is fundamentally wrong.  Heck, he’s not even wrong.  He’s purposefully misleading.

    Then he quotes Theodosius Dobzhansky as saying “Pre-biological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.” Apparently, this was in the discussion of another paper, which does not appear in the bibliography, so I have no idea what the context was.

    What’s very interesting, is that if you turn up the google-fu and start looking for this quote.  You find dozens of creationist references to this quote.  The first page of goole results are 6 creationist books including Meyer’s Signature in the Cell and others by Dembski, and Wells, and the rest.  There are two links to creationist and ID websites that use the reference.  Page two of the google results is more books and websites and papers by creationists.  Page 3 is more creationist works, but then they start getting into unrelated hits.

    So, I dug through a couple of these books and papers to see if I could find the original.  According to one book (Dembski’s) and one website, this is the original reference:

    Dobzhansky, Theodosius G., Discussion of Synthesis of Nucleosides and Polynucleotides with Metaphoric Esters, by George Schramm, in Fox, S.W., ed., The Origins of Prebiological Systems and of Their Molecular Matrices, Proceedings of a Conference Conducted at Wakulla Springs, Florida, pp. 309–310, 27–30 October 1963, Academic Press, NY, 1965

    When that goes into google, we get a bunch of creationist sites and unrelated material.  I found out that the book itself does exist.  There aren’t any ebooks available and none of my local libraries has it.  So, there’s absolutely no way to verify what Dobzhansky said.

    But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  Dobzshansky said this in 1965.  He died in 1975.  There’s been a boat-load of research on OOL since then. The vast majority of OOL research has occurred in the last 20 years.  I’m assuming that Meyer couldn’t reach Dobzhansky for a current comment.

    But that’s what Meyer thinks is a telling argument.  A quote from a guy who died almost 40 years ago and the quote was 10 years before then.  This is roughly like asking Custer why he didn’t have helicopter support at The Little Bighorn.

    On to what Meyer is really doing here.

    Here, we see, once again, that Meyer is assuming that life is only modern life.  That there is nothing between raw chemical compounds and modern cells.  Which is stupid when you think about it.  He’ saying (roughly) that first humans couldn’t fly, but now they can because we have stealth jet fighters.  Ignoring the gliding and propellers, and hot air balloons in between.

    No OOL biologist that I’m aware of (and I’ve talked to a number of them and read more of them) suggest that the most primitive reproducing life was like ours.

    Again, I’ve already shown that there are much, much simpler ways of reproducing.  There’s a ton of research on the subject.  Gerald Joyce and Tracy Lincoln have shown how an RNA can make infinite copies of itself, given enough subunits.  That’s just one example.  Their research even used evolutionary pressure to evolve the best replicator.  And it’s only using RNA.  No metabolism, no DNA, no cell.

    So, says Lincoln, “What we have is non-living, but we’ve been able to show that it has some life-like properties, and that was extremely interesting.”Read more at: http://phys.org/news150739469.html#jCp

    So, no non-life can be self-replicating.  And please don’t insert the “it happened in a lab, therefore it was designed” ID mantra. The RNA wasn’t designed, it was evolved.

    And, by definition, the point of labwork is design it so that you can study one particular aspect, in this case, evolution.

    Here’s a paper on the generation of long-chain RNA in nothing more than warm water.
    Here’s a paper on the prebiotic synthesis of RNA.

    Here’s a list of abstracts from the 2008 meeting of the International Society of the Study of the Origins of Life.  It contains some 200+ abstracts of research into the origins of life.  I’m still looking for the one for the 2011 meeting.

    Meyer is wrong.  That’s all there is to it.  He’s patently ignoring all of the research because he thinks that reproduction requires all the things in modern cells.  I wonder if he thinks that a glider won’t work because it doesn’t have jet engines or an Atari game system won’t work because it doesn’t have built in wi-fi?

    He simply ignores the decades of research into this subject.

    Will we ever know how life began on this planet.  No.  We won’t. But what we do know, is that there appears to be nothing stopping life from developing from non-life… given the right conditions.

    Category: Book ReviewEvolutionOrigins of LifeResearch

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    Article by: Smilodon's Retreat

    • Dave Wisker

      I think I have the book with the Dobzhansky quote at home. I’ll check later today.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Excellent. Thank you!

    • Dave Wisker

      It turns out I had it on my work computer. Here is the context, RIGHT before that infamous quote:

      Natural Selection is sometimes described as a mechanism capable of realizing the highest degree of improbability, as Dr Schramm has quite correctly pointed out. I would like, however, to express the belief that the words “Natural selection” must be used carefully. Dr Schramm has so used them. In reading some other literature on the origin of life, I am afraid that not all authors have used the term carefully. Natural selection is differential reproduction, organism perpetuation. In order to have natural selection, you have to have self-reproduction or self-replication and at least two distinct self-replicating units or entities. Now, I realize that when you speak of origin of life, you wish to discuss the probable embryonic stages, so to speak, of natural selection. What those embryonic stages will be are for you to decide.
      I would like to plead with you, simply, please realize you cannot use the term “natural selection” loosely.
      I would like to plead with you, simply, please realize you cannot use the term “natural selection” loosely.

    • hotshoe

      I’m late to the party – enjoying your deconstruction so far – thanks!

      2 minor quibbles:

      your quotation of the Dobzhansky quote omits a key “is”: “Pre-biological natural selection IS a contradiction in terms.”

      the googe-fu link for this quote leads to G Schramm, not the creationist quotemines of Dobzhansky. Is that intended?

      I don’t figure you’re reading comments on month-old posts, and they’re not important problems anyways, but if you do read this, I hpe you enjoy hearing that someone is paying close attention to your posts – and clicking the links, too!

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        Yes, I read all the comments… and thank you.

        The link to the Schramm book is intentional as that’s the source that Meyer uses. i.e. Meyer doesn’t get an original quote, but a second hand quote from someone.

        I’ll fix that quote too. The problems with having to retype all the comments from Meyer’s book (and me not being a good copy editor).