Fallacy Friday!

Today's Logical Fallacy is... Half Truth!

(Cherry-Picking, Card Stacking, Incomplete Information, Texas Sharpshooter, suppressed evidence, fallacy of incomplete evidence, argument ...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Common Creationist Complaint: How Did Life Originate?

Common Complaint: How did life originate? Evolutionist Professor Paul Davies admitted, “Nobody knows how a mixture of lifeless chemicals spontaneously organized themselves into the first living cell.” Andrew Knoll, professor of biology, Harvard, said, “we don’t really know how life originated on this planet.” A minimal cell needs several hundred proteins. Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form. So how did life with hundreds of proteins originate just by chemistry without intelligent design? [1]

Logical Fallacies:
  • Straw man (assumes that evolution means the same thing as the “origin of life” and then uses the lack of information about the origin of life as evidence against evolution) 
  • Argument from ignorance (the lack of knowledge about a scientific process is evidence of creation)

Answer: Repeat after me: "Evolution does not mean the origin of life." This question is fundamentally wrong when it asks evolution to explain how life originated. Evolution is the change in populations over time. Getting upset because evolution can't explain the origin of life is like getting upset that the guy who does your taxes can't also replace your kidney.

The quotes by Davies and Knoll are accurate. Scientists don’t have all the answers to every question, and we never will. But that’s part of science – to keep asking questions. The fact that we still have questions doesn’t mean all science in invalid. It means that it is still a rich field of study.

While scientists admit that we don’t “know” how it happened, that doesn’t mean that we can’t hypothesize, nor does it mean that it isn’t possible. As it turns out, chemists have shown that the building blocks of life can be created from an environment similar to what would have been on earth 3.5 billion years ago, and we’ve been able to explain how the first true cell could have evolved. The Harold Urey and Stanley Miller experiment, conducted in 1952, showed that the four basic compounds found on earth early (water, methane, ammonia, and hydrogen – note, there is no clay present), with the addition of electricity, could form organic compounds including amino acids, sugars, and lipids. With the discovery of proteinoid microspheres - self-contained, self-reproducing structures with the ability to aggregate and grow in size and complexity - which form spontaneously from amino acids, it became very clear how the first cell could have evolved (see Sidney Fox in 1950). With the discovery of ribozymes, RNA structures (nucleic acids) that could both carry genetic information, self-replicate, and act as enzymes, all on their own, it became clear how the first coded and transmittable information could have come about. So from very basic, naturally-occurring organic compounds, several other self-replicating structures emerge, structures that act as cellular membranes, enzymes, and a genetic code – all on their own. This basic cell structure could easily form multiple times, some with the ability to produce sugars from light and others that could take sugars and break them down. Structures that worked together had greater success than those that didn’t, and we get different types of life.

The claim, “Even if every atom in the universe were an experiment with all the correct amino acids present for every possible molecular vibration in the supposed evolutionary age of the universe, not even one average-sized functional protein would form” is entirely unsubstantiated. Self-assembly is an intrinsic aspect of chemistry. Atoms seek the lowest energy state, and sometimes, that involves creating molecules. It isn’t random that some molecules form and others don’t. It’s guided by physical laws.

[1] 15 Questions for Evolutionists. Evolution: the naturalistic origin of life and its diversity (The General Theory of Evolution, as defined by the prominent past evolutionist Kerkut; see introduction to Origin of life.) by Don Batten

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