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If lab generated life would provide more REASON to disbelieve in God, doesn't its nonexistence provide some reason for belief?

Here are the rules for abiogenesis in the lab: There are no rules. You can manipulate, control, fudge, ignore all naturalistic prescriptions for prebiotic life. Just show us something.

Miller/Urey happened in 1953. Millions of man hours and billions of dollars later it remains less than a starting point for life.(It really is weaker than dish water) Please don’t retreat behind “the OVER TIME it could get all magical” argument. Miller/Urey really has been exhausted.

All known science evidence points toward naturalistic abiogenesis being impossible(I know you think it could have happened or did happen, but lets exclude your own thoughts as EVIDENCE)

If lab generated life would provide more REASON to disbelieve in God, doesn’t its nonexistence(after immense effort) provide some reason for belief?

Posted: October 2nd 2008

George Locke

Abiogenesis is the theory that life on earth arose without outside intervention. Evidence against abiogenesis would be evidence for the theory that outside intervention caused life. Aliens are not a viable alternative unless their origin can be explained without abiogenesis, so I think it’s fair to say that if you can show that life couldn’t have arisen naturally on earth that you’ve proved that supernatural forces exist.

But wait. Your assertion that “All known scientific evidence points toward naturalistic abiogenesis being impossible,” is totally wrong. There is no such evidence. You seem to think the absence of observed abiogenesis is evidence that abiogenesis is impossible.

Evidence against abiogenesis could come in two forms: contradiction of one its predictions or contradiction of one of its premises. I suppose a third form of evidence would be support for a rival theory.

The premises of abiogenesis are essentially canon: chemistry and geology. Specific tools from these and related fields will find their way into various abiogenetic theories, at which point they may be called into question, but, at least in broad strokes, the premises are sound.

I won’t give the third form of counter-evidence much attention. While it’s reasonable to suspect that aliens might exist, it’s only reasonable if the aliens if we have an explanation for where the aliens came from, e.g. abiogenesis. The God hypothesis has no support, at least no “known scientific evidence,” which is what we’re talking about.

As for predictions, the theory of abiogenesis says that life can arise in the conditions present at the early earth. So the most obvious test is to reproduce those conditions and see if life arises. Unfortunately, devising an experiment which could be theoretically expected to produce a positive result does not seem feasible.

Any reasonable version of the theory would have to hold that abiogenesis must be exceedingly rare. Why must this be so? Well, for one thing, life appears to have arisen some one billion years after the planet coalesced. If abiogenesis were not so rare, why did it take so long?

In my post here, I argue that a reasonable upper bound on the frequency of abiogenesis events would be something like once per ten million years. Considering that this is the rate for the whole earth, you could find the rate that these events on a square kilometer, by dividing the base rate by the surface area of the earth, and you get about 1 event every five trillion years per square kilometer. Even if my estimate for the base rate is wrong by a factor of a million (once every 10 years), the expected rate per square kilometer would be once per 5 million years.

The failure of experimenters to observe an event this rare is consistent with the prediction. Mind you, a theory that predicts 'no signal’ runs into the danger of being untestable. However, abiogenesis is falsifiable, since it relies on certain events that should happen much more rapidly than once in ten million years. For example, lipids self-assemble into spheroid membranes. The Miller-Urey experiment to which the questioner refers showed in one week that amino acids and other organic compounds will arise spontaneously.

So if the entire basis of your claim, “All known scientific evidence points toward naturalistic abiogenesis being impossible,” is the absence of observed abiogenesis, then you don’t understand the difference between evidence against a theory and lack of direct confirmation for a theory.

If this lengthy response hasn’t bored you to tears, and you’re hungry for more, check out this talkorigins page for more information about the scientific case for abiogenesis and responses to common creationist objections.

Posted: October 9th 2008

See all questions answered by George Locke

Reed Braden www

Whether or life was created out of hydrocarbons developing into complex proteins that further developed into replicating molecules or life was seeded onto this planet by comets or life simply popped into place when lightening struck a mud puddle (as Ben Stein so elegantly puts it), it holds no bearing on the debate between Atheism and Theism.

Science has some evidence, albeit slight and sketchy evidence, that life can originate from complex chemical reactions over long periods of time. Religion has no evidence that God sneezed in some dirt and Adam was born (or any of the other millions of creation myths). We can shade the probability toward scientific explanation, but the truth is that at this point we don’t know exactly how life came about on this planet. Neither side knows the answer and so it can’t be used in debate.

Both sides are guilty of this.

Posted: October 8th 2008

See all questions answered by Reed Braden

jonecc www

No-one seems to have picked up on this one. This is probably because the question is much more suited to a website which focuses specifically on the subject raised.

However, someone should say something, lest it be claimed that the questioner has provided us with an unanswerable proof for the divine origin of life.

Organic life is incredibly complex, and it’s hardly surprising if it’s taking a long time to synthesise it. It should be remembered that evolution took hundreds of millions of years to get from a cooling planet to the first cells. If directed research moves at a million times that speed, it still has a few centuries 'in the bank’. The absence of artificial life as such proves precisely nothing.

Research on the artificial synthesis of life is proceeding, in the incremental way that research does. You can read more on the subject here.

http://www.ffame.org/

and on many other sites. They’re getting quite close now.

The Miller/Urey experiment was an attempt to synthesise amino acids by creating the appropriate conditions and allowing them to form in a chemical 'soup’. It succeeded in producing about half the forms of amino acid which we see in nature. Given that it wasn’t in any way an attempt to design organic molecules, that’s actually a very suggestive result, and surely satisfies the questioner’s desire to be given 'something’ as evidence.

The questioner seeks to exclude perfectly reasonable arguments in advance. She asks us not to “retreat behind “the OVER TIME it could get all magical” argument.” Quite apart from the misplaced inverted comma, it isn’t clear why the amount of time from Miller/Urey to now is a significant measurement, or why the existence of deep geological time isn’t a problem for her case. Perhaps deep geological time is something she doubts. Her tone is certainly reminiscent of creationists I have read.

But the facts are clear. Miller/Urey generated amino acids, and synthesisers are achieving significant results.

When life is manufactured, it will obviously have a significant social impact. If we allowed ourselves to imagine it was impossible, we would be left entirely unprepared for it when it happened.

Greetings to akusai, who entered the first response just before I hit the Save button.

Posted: October 5th 2008

See all questions answered by jonecc

Akusai www

You fundamentally misunderstand the atheist position. We lack belief not necessarily because there is overwhelming evidence that there is no God, but because there is exactly zero evidence that there is a God. “God” is not the default assumption; the burden of proof is on the theist who is making the positive claim “God exists.”

Even if we felt it was completely impossible to create life in a lab, that would still not give any reason whatsoever to believe in God. It is a non sequitur. “God exists” or even “God may exist” is not entailed by “Humans cannot create life in the lab.”

Creating life in a lab might demonstrate that yet another of the things that only a deity can supposedly do is really quite simple and thus force the theist argument to retreat into yet other, tinier gaps, but it doesn’t really provide, as you say “more REASON to disbelieve in God” and the absence (so far) of lab-created life does not constitute a reason to believe in God, no more than the absence of lab-created lightning early last century constituted a reason to believe in Zeus or Thor.

Posted: October 5th 2008

See all questions answered by Akusai

 

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