Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

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Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Sun Jun 27, 2010 8:21 pm

I thought this was an interesting and thought-provoking article:

http://www.arn.org/blogs/index.php/2/2009/03/31/everybody_believes_something_unbelievabl

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Sun Jun 27, 2010 11:24 pm

Well the title is stupid for a start (how can someone believe in something that is, by definition, unbelievable) and the article just gets worse from there. I don't understand the tactic of comparing your opponent to yourself and claiming that they exhibit the same flawed reasoning as you. Isn't it the equivalent of pointing out that all your own arguments are bad? But this article was clearly not aimed at the non-religious but was more about providing an excuse for the religious to keep believing in their own erroneous ideas.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Mon Jun 28, 2010 2:46 am

Well, the title is intended to grab a reader's attention. It got my attention.

How about the references to abiogenesis, the eternality of matter, or the something-from-nothing elements. What did you think of those? Do you (or anyone else reading this) personally accept / believe in any of those yourself? Why or why not?

And I see what you mean about "unbelievable". Unbelievable can be used to define something that is extreme to a degree that it is hard to believe, but still believable. (EX: The traffic today was unbelievable.)

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Mon Jun 28, 2010 9:32 pm

Further examples of sloppy language use are not going to impress me. I came up with two tittles with only a few seconds of thought that were much better: "Everyone believes something incredible" and "Everyone believes something fantastic". They still retain the overblown hyperbole that was so important to grab attention with the advantage of not being self-contradictory.

Since you asked I'll go through the examples raised in the article and give my honest opinion.

Abiogenesis - most likely we will never know exactly how it happened, or indeed if it did. Any physical evidence from that time period will have been destroyed so all we can know is whether it is possible. There are many scientific studies which show how some of the simple organic building blocks of life can arise from natural processes that could have occurred on the early Earth. However, it has not yet been shown that these organic molecules could spontaneously form something akin to an early replicator or early proto-cell. It's possible that life didn't start here, perhaps it was seeded by immensely powerful entities (aliens) but this is more unlikely as now you need a second origin/evolution as opposed to just one. So for now I would say that this is an area of belief, albeit a scientifically informed one.

Evolution - there is so much evidence, especially in the form of genetics, that evolution is propelled well beyond mere belief into scientific knowledge. To the extent that we can know something in science, we know that evolution is a fact. Evolution tells us that mind can some from matter neatly solving the riddle posed at the end of the article. I'm going to assume you accept evolution but you can correct me if I'm wrong and I'll go into further detail of the evidence for evolution.

Existence - To be honest the article loses me on this point. We know that something exists (as in some-thing) so either something always existed or it has to come into existence (out of nothing) at some point. These options seem to form a true dichotomy yet the article dismisses both of them as ridiculous, hence my confusion. In any case physics tells us that something can come from nothing as long as the product is eventually annihilated. The current theory of the early universe includes inflation where the amount of matter in the early universe increases exponentially. If the initial formation of something was arranged in just the right way it could have 'split' creating both positive mass and negative gravity in an inflationary manner which would match the available evidence. This process does have the unfortunate implication that our universe will eventually be annihilated. So at this point physics tells us that it is possible the universe came out of nothing but there are also indications through 'dark flow' that other universes may exist outside our own, so some sort of tunneling universe is also a possibility. Like the origin of life (but unlike the ongoing process of evolution) the origin of our universe happened only once in the distance past. However, astronomers still have access to evidence of the early universe and so we do have some reason to accept certain hypotheses over others.


Now a question for you. Do you find the arguments of the religious more convincing when the try to bring science down to the level of religion, or is it more convincing when they try and bring religion up to the level of science?

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:26 pm


Abiogenesis - most likely we will never know exactly how it happened, or indeed if it did. Any physical evidence from that time period will have been destroyed so all we can know is whether it is possible. There are many scientific studies which show how some of the simple organic building blocks of life can arise from natural processes that could have occurred on the early Earth. However, it has not yet been shown that these organic molecules could spontaneously form something akin to an early replicator or early proto-cell. It's possible that life didn't start here, perhaps it was seeded by immensely powerful entities (aliens) but this is more unlikely as now you need a second origin/evolution as opposed to just one. So for now I would say that this is an area of belief, albeit a scientifically informed one.

I think that fits the "unbelievable" aspect of the article since you did mention that there is no evidence by saying "physical evidence from that time period will have been destroyed". You then mentioned the scientific experiments that can be done to show that is it possible. Which ones would those be? Would your statement "this is an area of belief, albeit a scientifically informed one" be any different than a "religious" person claiming evidence pointing to validity of certain elements of their beliefs? Why or why not?

Do you find the arguments of the religious more convincing when the try to bring science down to the level of religion, or is it more convincing when they try and bring religion up to the level of science?

The questions assumes science's superiority over religion ("bring down science"). In what way is science superior to religion? I ask because if they are not attempting to ask and answer the same questions, how can they be mutually exclusive? If science and religion are attempting to ask and answer the same questions, does it make science a "faith" and religion a "science"? I think the lines start getting blurry when dealing with the origin of life, time, space, and matter. As you admitted above regarding abiogenesis, there's no evidence. Although you say that there are experiments that prove it to be at least possible, we know the law of biogenesis. Does not the law of biogenesis conclude abiogenesis a scientific impossibility (or at least improbability)?

When I was discussing these things with a biology major a few years back, the step from non-living, inanimate matter to life was an uncomfortable topic. After all, accepting that it happened only once would be accepting the miraculous*. Accepting that it happened more than once would be accepting multiple miracles.

*"Miraculous" meaning a single, nonrepeatable event.

What do you think about all this?

Thanks in advance for your replies. You seem to be a pretty active board member and that's awesome.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Tue Jun 29, 2010 8:42 pm

Well I'm happy to discuss abiogenesis further as it's quite an interesting topic but if I'm going to continue I want a little bit of give and take, and you completely dodged my question.

The article you linked clearly tries to bring three areas of science (abiogenesis, evolution, and early cosmology) into the arena of faith. Furthermore, it states at the outset that resurrection, heaven, and god are already located in this arena. The author was not trying to elevate science by comparing it to religious beliefs, he was trying to denigrate it. Rather than being based on evidence and experiment science is actually faith-based - that was his argument. I'll agree with you that most of the time religion and science aren't in this conflict and thus the question of which one is better is meaningless. However, in these specific areas they both have something to say and the tactic of the religious (as seen in this article) is to say that science is no better than religion at answering our questions.

So, I ask again - Do you find the arguments of the religious (on these three areas of science abiogenesis, evolution, and early cosmology) more convincing when they try to bring science down to the level of religion (faith), or is it more convincing when they try and bring the religious viewpoint up to the level of science?

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Wed Jun 30, 2010 8:29 pm

Do you find the arguments of the religious (on these three areas of science abiogenesis, evolution, and early cosmology) more convincing when they try to bring science down to the level of religion (faith), or is it more convincing when they try and bring the religious viewpoint up to the level of science?

Oh, my mistake. I find their arguments more convincing when they incorporate science into them. Why shouldn't they at least try? Several years ago, there was a big uproar about a psychologist who supposedly "scientifically proved" reincarnation through therapy and hypnosis. The claim made me laugh, but at least it brought that huge article of faith in many religions (Buddhism, Hinduism) into the field of discussion so that it could be dealt with and the word "evidence" (an enemy to the majority of religions) could be dealt with. The "evidence" could then be examined for quality and quantity. (The so-called evidence for reincarnation failed to convince me.)

When discussing the origins again, getting life from non-living matter is a faith proposition, in my opinion. We don't see life coming from non-life. In fact, it contradicts the law of biogenesis. How can accepting that it happened some time billions of years ago not be a faith claim? We can have theories about how it all began, but how can either be proved conclusively?

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Thu Jul 01, 2010 9:14 pm

We can have theories about how it all began, but how can either be proved conclusively?
It would be better to say 'we can have hypotheses' because 'theory' implies that the issue is more-or-less settled and abiogenesis certainly isn't. There is a very important point to make here, about the nature of scientific knowledge. Theories in science are not proved conclusively, they are only proved in the sense of being thoroughly tested and passing all those tests. Religion often claims 100% certainty about the way things are but moving to science requires that doubt and uncertainty be accepted. Scientists will try and quantify that uncertainty and they are often careful not to overstate their case. What constitutes scientific knowledge is a plausible explanation, physical evidence, and (most importantly) experimental results which back up the claim. Science is never settled but that doesn't mean there are no good scientifically-informed explanations for remarkable phenomena.

We don't see life coming from non-life. In fact, it contradicts the law of biogenesis.
The law of biogenesis addresses specifically the idea of spontaneous generation. This idea states that organisms such as maggots, moulds, and bacteria could spring, fully-formed, from decaying food over a short time period. One day a piece of meat seemed fine, the next it was covered with wriggling white worms! What Louis Pasteur (and others) showed was that life could not quickly emerge from non-living material. Given that at a minimum there was a billion years between the formation of the Earth and the first possible evidence of life, there seems to be more than sufficient time for a long process like abiogenesis to occur.



When I was discussing these things with a biology major a few years back, the step from non-living, inanimate matter to life was an uncomfortable topic. After all, accepting that it happened only once would be accepting the miraculous*. Accepting that it happened more than once would be accepting multiple miracles.
*"Miraculous" meaning a single, nonrepeatable event.
What do you think about all this?
Well I wouldn't call it a miracle because, to me, miracle implies a supernatural intervention. I wouldn't call it a single event - I think that's misleading. It would have had to be a series of events with multiple molecules and molecular systems making some of the journey towards life before falling by the wayside. Now a single instantaneous creation - that would take a miracle!



You then mentioned the scientific experiments that can be done to show that is it possible. Which ones would those be?
Life is built out of organic molecules. In order for abiogenesis to occur we first need some of these molecules to be present on the early Earth. Experiments done by scientists have shown that in conditions like that on the early Earth many interesting organic molecules will form. These include peptides (the monomer of proteins), some nucleotides (the monomer of nucleic acids), and simple lipids (the monomer of lipid bi-layers). Organic molecules are actually quite common in space so the processes are not unique to Earth. These three are the basic building blocks of all modern cells. It's also been shown that under appropriate conditions all these monomers will self-polymerise, forming chains (peptides and nucleotides) or micelles (lipids). Certain nucleic acids will even self-replicate and form primitive enzymes that can assist in that process. This means that proteins were probably not needed in early proto-cells. Given these experimental results and the physical evidence of organic molecules in space scientists can build a plausible model of how abiogenesis may have occurred on Earth. The details will probably never be known (was the first nucleic acid RNA or PNA?) and this is obviously still an area of active research meaning our information is increasing all the time. But there is yet to be a reason for invoking aliens, a miracle, or a deity and we can tentatively take the scientifically-informed position of abiogenesis while at the same time continuing to try and improve the models by experiment and the discovery of new evidence.


Okay, I'm done for a bit. I didn't answer all of your questions (you ask a lot Razz) but I picked out a few I thought were important. If there were any I missed that you especially wanted an answer to post them again, otherwise I won't revisit them.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Fri Jul 02, 2010 9:39 am

Thanks for the thoughtful reply!

Let me re-read this a few times, do some thinking, and get back to you...

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Neon Genesis on Mon Jul 05, 2010 1:58 am

Even if we presume that everyone believes in something irrational, that doesn't mean all irrational beliefs are equal or that we shouldn't critique irrational beliefs. What it means is we should be more humble in debates and be more open to changing our views and be more aware of our own blind spots and this applies to everyone including both Christians and atheists. The Greeks believed in irrational myths but Christians have no problems debunking their beliefs and they certainly have no problems debunking the beliefs of Muslims. Christians debunk and attack each others' beliefs even all the time and no one cares then but if an atheist dares to enter the arena, suddenly that's off-limits. The article seems to be arguing Christians should be allowed to challenge other peoples' views and demand evidence but atheists are being irrational if they do the same for Christians. The article then goes onto make assumptions like that atheists claim to know they weren't created by God but doesn't back this claim up with any evidence at all like quotes or surveys about how certain atheists are in their non-belief in spite of their claim that they supposedly demand evidence. They also make the assumption that atheism = materialism when they again offer no evidence of this claim.

Essentially what they are doing are confusing the word atheist with naturalist. It is possible to be an atheist and believe in the supernatural. An atheist is someone who doesn't believe in God, nothing more and nothing less and says nothing about other religious beliefs. Buddhism is an atheistic religion but also includes beliefs in other supernatural forces like the soul and reincarnation. If you're to take this argument that since everyone is irrational and this means Christianity is true, then Christians should take this to the logical conclusion and believe in all religions at the same time just to be on the safe side. Otherwise, Christians are holding atheists to a double standard when they bash them for demanding evidence of Yahweh's existence yet Christians turn around and hold the same amount of skepticism towards Islam and Hinduism. If atheists are just as irrational, then Christians are atheists too. Atheists just go one god further than Christians.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Orion on Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:51 am

No God - What do every one of the above have in common? Each is a closely held belief of zealous defenders of some theory of origins or another.

Not believing in a God isn't really a closely held belief, it's just a reaction to theistic claims. I haven't seen evidence of a God, therefore I reject God claims. I don't really hold this as a 'belief' on its own, and I don't see how it fits into the other claims the author mentions.

There is no evidence for the supernatural, only arguments from ignorance. Biogenesis, or non-supernatural origins of life, is not an 'unbelievable belief'. If you're going to admit the possibility of a supernatural explanation for one thing, why not everything? Science couldn't operate on such an assumption, as it depends on testability and repeatability. A miracle by definition involves the normal rules of physics being defied.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Orion on Tue Jul 06, 2010 9:58 am

Neon Genesis wrote:Atheists just go one god further than Christians.

I used to quote that a lot too, Neon. Now I'm not so sure. I think one could conclude that a God must exist (for whatever reason), and then you determine that you believe it to be the Christian God. This might be like figuring that JFK was definitely murdered, and then deciding that the evidence points to Lee Harvey Oswald. If so, you wouldn't think much of someone saying "I don't think anyone shot him. We both reject all other people as being responsible for shooting JFK, I just go one person further than you."

That said, I don't think the evidence DOES point to the existence of a God, but if I did, the 'one God further' line from atheists probably wouldn't mean much to me.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Neon Genesis on Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:23 am

The point of the quote is that all Christians use skepticism when it comes to other religions and their gods but for some reason it's unacceptable for non-Christians to apply skepticism to the Christian god. Christians can better understand how non-Christians think of their god if they look at Yahweh the same way they look at Allah or Vishnu.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Orion on Tue Jul 06, 2010 11:49 am

Yes, I do get that part, and agree with it. But my problem with it remains, for the reason I explained above.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Wed Jul 07, 2010 6:55 am

The law of biogenesis addresses specifically the idea of spontaneous generation.

Can you distinguish spontaneous generation and the origins of the first living cell? What would be the differences?

From my limited understanding of the subject, spontaneous generation was the concept that life can't come from non-life, regardless of the time.

What Louis Pasteur (and others) showed was that life could not quickly emerge from non-living material. Given that at a minimum there was a billion years between the formation of the Earth and the first possible evidence of life, there seems to be more than sufficient time for a long process like abiogenesis to occur.

See the above.

Also, is the idea of "a billion years between the formation of the Earth and the first possible evidence of life" a fact or a belief? (Evidence and experiment that can be done to verify the conclusion.)

Well I wouldn't call it a miracle because, to me, miracle implies a supernatural intervention. I wouldn't call it a single event - I think that's misleading. It would have had to be a series of events with multiple molecules and molecular systems making some of the journey towards life before falling by the wayside. Now a single instantaneous creation - that would take a miracle!

Oh, I do see what you mean about "miracle" and equating it to "supernatural intervention"; that is, indeed, one definition. The other is (from m-w.com):

"an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment"

Would not life coming from non-life be "an extremely outstanding or unusual event" since, up until the point that it happened, it had never happened before?


Experiments done by scientists have shown that in conditions like that on the early Earth many interesting organic molecules will form.

Do you have any specifics about those experiments, like who did them, what they produced, and whether or not they have been refuted by other experiments?[/i]

Even if we presume that everyone believes in something irrational, that doesn't mean all irrational beliefs are equal or that we shouldn't critique irrational beliefs.

I agree. The irrational would depend on the person assessing the claims, right? Could not a person call atheism irrational if it fit into their particular definition of irrational?

Thanks in advance for replies!

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Orion on Wed Jul 07, 2010 8:39 am

In theory you could define 'irrational' in any way you wanted. Define irrational as 'a person with brown hair'. One assumes though that the author intends us to use the common definition, perhaps 'believing something without good cause, or in the face of evidence'.

Sure someone can say that atheism is irrational, but I'd want to make sure they understand that atheism doesn't mean asserting there is no God. Rather it simply means you reject claims that a God DOES exist. Therefore, for atheism to be irrational, one would have to show that at least some claims of a God's existence have so much evidence to support them that it would be perverse to reject them.

And yes, one could define a miracle in non-supernatural terms, such as 'it was a miracle that the bus turned up on time', but I think it's safe to say that when discussing biogenesis the word miracle has supernatural connotations.

Regarding laboratory experiments into the start of life, try googling the following three words together: experiments biogenesis rna

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Wed Jul 07, 2010 9:16 am

Can you distinguish spontaneous generation and the origins of the first living cell? What would be the differences?

From my limited understanding of the subject, spontaneous generation was the concept that life can't come from non-life, regardless of the time.
Time is the issue here. Spontaneous generation was thought to be a common everyday occurrence, that some animals spring forth from putrefying earth or vegetable matter on a daily basis. This is not equivalent to the long process of abiogenesis. See the Wiki article on spontaneous generation which notes the distinction.

Also, is the idea of "a billion years between the formation of the Earth and the first possible evidence of life" a fact or a belief? (Evidence and experiment that can be done to verify the conclusion.)
Fact. The Earth is around 4.6 billion years old and the first signs of life are around 3.4 billion years old. Of course these signs point to quite well formed cyanobacteria so life would have started much earlier but a billion years is a long time.

Oh, I do see what you mean about "miracle" and equating it to "supernatural intervention"; that is, indeed, one definition. The other is (from m-w.com):

"an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment"

Would not life coming from non-life be "an extremely outstanding or unusual event" since, up until the point that it happened, it had never happened before?
Okay, but realise that under this definition getting dealt a royal flush in poker now counts as a miracle. I like to be clear in my statements and I think you are deliberately trying to confuse the issue by using the word 'miraculous'.



Do you have any specifics about those experiments, like who did them, what they produced, and whether or not they have been refuted by other experiments?
Here's four papers. The classic Miller experiment, one showing the possible role of Montmorilloite clay in polymer formation, Szostak's vesicle model, and one on nucleic acids acting as their own enzymes. There are many, many more where these came from.

A Production Of Amino Acids Under Possible Primitive Earth Conditions by Stanley L. Miller, Science, 117: 528-529 (15th May 1953)
Montmorillonite Catalysis Of RNA Oligomer Formation In Aqueous Solution: A Model For The Prebiotic Formation Of RNA by James P. Ferris and Gözen Ertem, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 115: 12270-12275 (1993)
Replicating Vesicles As Models Of Primitive Cell Growth And Division by Martin M. Hanczyc and Jack W. Szostak, Current Opinion In Chemical Biology, 8: 660-664 (22nd October 2004)
Ribozymes: Building The RNA World by Gerald F. Joyce, Current Biology, 6(Cool: 965-967, 1996

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:19 pm

Time is the issue here. Spontaneous generation was thought to be a common everyday occurrence, that some animals spring forth from putrefying earth or vegetable matter on a daily basis. This is not equivalent to the long process of abiogenesis.

So please share with us how time increases the likelihood that something impossible in the short term (spontaneous generation) could become "fact" in the long term (abiogenesis)? After all, the only distiction you are making between spontaneous generation and abiogenesis is the amount of time necessary for it to happen.

Okay, but realise that under this definition getting dealt a royal flush in poker now counts as a miracle. I like to be clear in my statements and I think you are deliberately trying to confuse the issue by using the word 'miraculous'.

Why are you so hesitant to use the word "miraculous"? I'm telling you the definition of the word "miraculous" as I use it. In the way I use it (according to its dictionary definition), life from nonlife - regardless of the length of time it took - is a miraculous event. As are the Big Bang and abiogenesis.

I was waiting for you to point to the Miller experiment. You do know he repudiated his experiment, right? He was asked years ago during a debate in which he was an audience member to defend his experiment. He said (paraphrased), "No. We've known about all those problems with the experiment for years." Even chemists know that his experiment did not recreate the atmosphere of what they take to be that of the early Earth:

http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html

There has been a recent wave of skepticism concerning Miller's experiment because it is now believed that the early earth's atmosphere did not contain predominantly reductant molecules. Another objection is that this experiment required a tremendous amount of energy. While it is believed lightning storms were extremely common on the primitive Earth, they were not continuous as the Miller/Urey experiment portrayed. Thus it has been argued that while amino acids and other organic compounds may have been formed, they would not have been formed in the amounts which this experiment produced.

The objections could go on.

I'll have to check out the papers you linked to when I have time.

Sure someone can say that atheism is irrational, but I'd want to make sure they understand that atheism doesn't mean asserting there is no God. Rather it simply means you reject claims that a God DOES exist. Therefore, for atheism to be irrational, one would have to show that at least some claims of a God's existence have so much evidence to support them that it would be perverse to reject them.

And what evidence could exist that would prove "god" exists?

And yes, one could define a miracle in non-supernatural terms, such as 'it was a miracle that the bus turned up on time', but I think it's safe to say that when discussing biogenesis the word miracle has supernatural connotations.

A bus turning up on time is not a miracle (an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment), at least not where I live. However, for something to become living when everything else is non-living is "an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment". That is a miracle. And do you believe in that miracle?

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:12 pm

So please share with us how time increases the likelihood that something impossible in the short term (spontaneous generation) could become "fact" in the long term (abiogenesis)? After all, the only distiction you are making between spontaneous generation and abiogenesis is the amount of time necessary for it to happen.
Okay, I live in New Zealand so let's say you're over to visit and we're taking a road from Kaitia in the North to Dunedin in the South. I say it'll take us five days to get there but you've heard of some experiments by Prof. Luis Faster who tried to get from Kaitia to Dunedin in just 36 microseconds, he failed. "See", you say, "scientists have shown a person cannot get from Kaitia to Dunedin in 36 microseconds therefore it is impossible for anyone to move between those to places and so we cannot do our road trip!" Well of course we can still go it'll take us a lot longer than 36 microseconds and we'll have to go through all the intermediate stages (Auckland, Taupo, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, etc) but it is possible for us to get there. So, there you go, something that is impossible in the short term becomes possible in the long term. A simple analogy but I think you get the point.

Why are you so hesitant to use the word "miraculous"? I'm telling you the definition of the word "miraculous" as I use it. In the way I use it (according to its dictionary definition), life from nonlife - regardless of the length of time it took - is a miraculous event. As are the Big Bang and abiogenesis.
You can use it like that but I've already told you that the miraculous nature of abiogenesis gets the same reverence from me as the miraculous nature of the perfect poker hand. I wouldn't call it a miracle when talking to religious people because it would confuse them, present company excluded of course Very Happy



I was waiting for you to point to the Miller experiment. You do know he repudiated his experiment, right? He was asked years ago during a debate in which he was an audience member to defend his experiment. He said (paraphrased), "No. We've known about all those problems with the experiment for years." Even chemists know that his experiment did not recreate the atmosphere of what they take to be that of the early Earth:

http://www.chem.duke.edu/~jds/cruise_chem/Exobiology/miller.html
The important point in the Miller experiment is that a reducing atmosphere and a sufficient energy source will produce complex organic compounds. That was a groundbreaking discovery at the time and was never repudiated by Miller. Scientists now believe that the atmosphere only early Earth was less reducing that Miller used but given that 10-15% of the carbon ended up in organic molecules there is plenty of room for lower yields to be significant for abiogeneisis. The point of the Miller experiment is that it is possible. Thanks for linking that page by the way, I wanted to give you the Oro reference but I couldn't find it the other day (I was searching for Ono, d'oh!) He also managed to produce amino acids and even adenine with a set up that was even simpler than Miller's. Oro's experiments show us again that it is possible to produce organic monomers from simple chemicals.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  j on Sat Jul 10, 2010 9:21 pm

I do get the point of your analogy. However, it deals with travel, something we do and observe to happen in the present. We don't observe life from nonlife, do we?

An interesting portion of the Miller/Urey Experiment Web page was this:


These discoveries created a stir within the science community. Scientists became very optimistic that the questions about the origin of life would be solved within a few decades. This has not been the case, however. Instead, the investigation into life's origins seems only to have just begun.

Would you agree or disagree with that?

Surely you'd agree that even if Oro, through the use of his own intelligence and assumption about the environment of the early Earth, was able to produce adenine, that is still a long way from a cell, right?

If so, then has the question about the origin of life been settled? Why or why not?

To me, I don't think we should require that people know the answer before they ask the question. What I mean is that major evolutionists - Richard Dawkins, for example - do not want anyone to question evolution or its implications regarding the origin of life. He and others require that we know the answer (naturalism and naturally) before we ask the question ("Where did life come from?"). Isn't that counter-productive?

One interesting quote from Dawkins (that ties it back with the original thread), from the Atheism Tapes, when asked about natural selection and how it produced feathers:

"There's got to be a series of advantages all the way in the feather. If you can't think of one, then that's your problem, not natural selection's. Natural selection - oh, um - I suppose that's a sort of matter of faith on my part since the theory is so coeherent and so powerful."

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Sat Jul 10, 2010 11:19 pm

I do get the point of your analogy. However, it deals with travel, something we do and observe to happen in the present. We don't observe life from nonlife, do we?
And you can't travel from Kaitia to Dunedin in 36 microseconds but you can do it in 5 days. How about for something we've never done then, travel to another star. Would you say it is impossible because our space ships would take millions of years to get to alpha centauri?

Would you agree or disagree with that?
Agree, as I said previously the Miller experiment was very exciting because up until then everyone had thought that it was impossible for these complex organic molecules to form simpler chemicals. Of course some people made rash predictions about how quickly the research would proceed, unfortunately real life is not that easy.

Surely you'd agree that even if Oro, through the use of his own intelligence and assumption about the environment of the early Earth, was able to produce adenine, that is still a long way from a cell, right?
Obviously Very Happy this would just be one of the first steps. You have to have adenine available before you can make nucleotides, and you have to have nucleotides before you can make nucleic acids. Oro showed that adenine have been available, a necessary step in abiogenesis.

To me, I don't think we should require that people know the answer before they ask the question. What I mean is that major evolutionists - Richard Dawkins, for example - do not want anyone to question evolution or its implications regarding the origin of life. He and others require that we know the answer (naturalism and naturally) before we ask the question ("Where did life come from?"). Isn't that counter-productive?
Well first I disagree with the notion that we already know the answer. At the moment the scientific answer is "I don't know", because no one knows how it could have happened. Second, I'm on the side that says science is methodologically naturalistic which means that if (BIG IF) science finds an answer or comes up with an explanation it has to be naturalistic. Science shouldn't touch the supernatural. This has an implication, science can't tell us the difference between a phenomenon for which we don't yet have a naturalistic explanation versus a phenomenon that has a supernatural explanation. An example would be the existence of an afterlife we don't yet have a naturalistic explanation for an afterlife and science can't adjudicate between the different supernatural explanations so it ends up as a question mark for science. My view is that science will never rule out the supernatural (but can make it superfluous) but neither will it ever be ruled in by scientific findings. I should say that not all atheists agree with me on this point.

One interesting quote from Dawkins (that ties it back with the original thread), from the Atheism Tapes, when asked about natural selection and how it produced feathers:
Seems like a fake quote. You gotta watch the creationist sites, they're tricky like that.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Neon Genesis on Sun Jul 11, 2010 12:52 am

Aught3 wrote:Seems like a fake quote. You gotta watch the creationist sites, they're tricky like that.
I've seen the Atheism Tapes myself and Dawkins did say it was matter of faith on his part in them. You can find the clips on youtube but Dawkins was using the word "faith" as in faith with a lower case f. J is using the word Faith with a capital F. Dawkins' usage of the word "faith" is like the "faith" you have that the sun will rise the next morning. This isn't the kind of faith you have when you have no evidence for it but you have this "faith" because you have no reason otherwise to doubt that the sun will not rise tomorrow. Perhaps it would have been more accurate for Dawkins to use the word trust, but he was clearly being poetic in his usage of faith and is using faith in the popular usage of the word like your faithfulness to your spouse. He was not using it in a baseless religious sense.

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Re: Article: Everybody Believes Something Unbelievable

Post  Aught3 on Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:19 am

I've seen the Atheism Tapes myself and Dawkins did say it was matter of faith on his part in them. You can find the clips on youtube but Dawkins was using the word "faith" as in faith with a lower case f. J is using the word Faith with a capital F. Dawkins' usage of the word "faith" is like the "faith" you have that the sun will rise the next morning. This isn't the kind of faith you have when you have no evidence for it but you have this "faith" because you have no reason otherwise to doubt that the sun will not rise tomorrow. Perhaps it would have been more accurate for Dawkins to use the word trust, but he was clearly being poetic in his usage of faith and is using faith in the popular usage of the word like your faithfulness to your spouse. He was not using it in a baseless religious sense.
I appreciate the correction. It seems the transcript I read was in error, I didn't even think of looking for the videos themselves Embarassed My mistake.


One interesting quote from Dawkins (that ties it back with the original thread), from the Atheism Tapes, when asked about natural selection and how it produced feathers:
Having watched the whole interview what he's saying is more clear to me. It's similar to my point about abiogenesis, we just don't have the physical evidence available to understand exactly how the process would have occurred, so yes I would agree there is a bit of faith involved. But, like abiogenesis, it is scientifically informed faith. We know the power of natural selection, and we know that birds did evolve from dinosaurs. The exact steps might be lost in the mists of time but that doesn't mean that we no idea about how it might have happened.

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