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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Science Edges Closer to the Beginning of Life (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Science Edges Closer to the Beginning of Life
Alcon
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New York Times Article

It looks like we're edging closer to how life spontaneously starts from a bunch of random organic molecules. They haven't quite recreated the event in a lab, but they've figured out how they might.

quote:
Yet rocks that formed on Earth 3.8 billion years ago, almost as soon as the bombardment had stopped, contain possible evidence of biological processes. If life can arise from inorganic matter so quickly and easily, why is it not abundant in the solar system and beyond? If biology is an inherent property of matter, why have chemists so far been unable to reconstruct life, or anything close to it, in the laboratory?

...

Simple fatty acids, of the sort likely to have been around on the primitive Earth, will spontaneously form double-layered spheres, much like the double-layered membrane of today’s living cells. These protocells will incorporate new fatty acids fed into the water, and eventually divide.

Living cells are generally impermeable and have elaborate mechanisms for admitting only the nutrients they need. But Dr. Szostak and his colleagues have shown that small molecules can easily enter the protocells. If they combine into larger molecules, however, they cannot get out, just the arrangement a primitive cell would need. If a protocell is made to encapsulate a short piece of DNA and is then fed with nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA, the nucleotides will spontaneously enter the cell and link into another DNA molecule.

I was recently having this discussion with my two coworkers - one of whom is a biblical literalist and the other of whom is an Intelligent Designer. Neither of whom believes in evolution really. But this is some pretty strong evidence for life to be able to spontaneously generate of its own accord given the right circumstances.
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King of Men
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Eh. Incremental steps. Every few years since the 1960s someone figures out another possible path that life might plausibly have arisen by. It won't be really convincing until it's done in the lab. And of course some people won't be convinced until our creations rise up and eat our brains - an event which, alas, will leave only creationists to write its history.
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
And of course some people won't be convinced until our creations rise up and eat our brains - an event which, alas, will leave only creationists to write its history.

And the brain-eaters. And for them, deliberate creation will be the correct answer to their origins.
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Catseye1979
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I'd think that Intelligent Design believers would think that creating life in a lab would be evidence in their favor. You would need to show them a case if it happening without Intelligent Design or influence since I'm pretty sure that they believe that God or an Intelligent Designer can do anything man can do.
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King of Men
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I don't think so. Showing that you can assemble a cell molecule by molecule using nanotech manipulators (as has been done with viruses) is not really evidence either way; nobody disputes that you can create life in this manner, the question is whether this is what happened. The IDers need to show that life cannot self-assemble without intelligent intervention. A lab which takes large batches of chemicals (preferably simple ones) X, Y, and Z, mixes them at temperature A, and perhaps runs the occasional shot of lightning through it, and ends up with life, has not intervened in this sense - you can hardly call "zap it with lightning" an action requiring intelligence. The IDers would then have to fall back on their standby of "who created conditions for lightning to exist in the first place?", which is not ID in the usual sense, but deism. ID as the phrase is usually used requires intervention at the level of specific molecular events, not mere creation of physical law.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
I'd think that Intelligent Design believers would think that creating life in a lab would be evidence in their favor. You would need to show them a case if it happening without Intelligent Design or influence since I'm pretty sure that they believe that God or an Intelligent Designer can do anything man can do.

I'm not sure. As I understand it, intelligent design is essentially a way of thinking about creationism to allow for its teaching in the classroom. When I first heard the term, I thought it sounded innocent enough because I've long believed that God and science are perfectly compatible and never had a problem with the idea that the universe, left to its own devices, can accomplish a great many things. Maybe I'm weird...
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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I don't think so. Showing that you can assemble a cell molecule by molecule using nanotech manipulators (as has been done with viruses) is not really evidence either way; nobody disputes that you can create life in this manner, the question is whether this is what happened. The IDers need to show that life cannot self-assemble without intelligent intervention. A lab which takes large batches of chemicals (preferably simple ones) X, Y, and Z, mixes them at temperature A, and perhaps runs the occasional shot of lightning through it, and ends up with life, has not intervened in this sense - you can hardly call "zap it with lightning" an action requiring intelligence. The IDers would then have to fall back on their standby of "who created conditions for lightning to exist in the first place?", which is not ID in the usual sense, but deism. ID as the phrase is usually used requires intervention at the level of specific molecular events, not mere creation of physical law.

Alas, the argument being fatally wrong won't preclude ID advocates from making it and believing it.
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Catseye1979
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
I'd think that Intelligent Design believers would think that creating life in a lab would be evidence in their favor. You would need to show them a case if it happening without Intelligent Design or influence since I'm pretty sure that they believe that God or an Intelligent Designer can do anything man can do.

I'm not sure. As I understand it, intelligent design is essentially a way of thinking about creationism to allow for its teaching in the classroom. When I first heard the term, I thought it sounded innocent enough because I've long believed that God and science are perfectly compatible and never had a problem with the idea that the universe, left to its own devices, can accomplish a great many things. Maybe I'm weird...
If your weird then that makes two of us.
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Badenov
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
I don't think so. Showing that you can assemble a cell molecule by molecule using nanotech manipulators (as has been done with viruses) is not really evidence either way; nobody disputes that you can create life in this manner, the question is whether this is what happened. The IDers need to show that life cannot self-assemble without intelligent intervention. A lab which takes large batches of chemicals (preferably simple ones) X, Y, and Z, mixes them at temperature A, and perhaps runs the occasional shot of lightning through it, and ends up with life, has not intervened in this sense - you can hardly call "zap it with lightning" an action requiring intelligence. The IDers would then have to fall back on their standby of "who created conditions for lightning to exist in the first place?", which is not ID in the usual sense, but deism. ID as the phrase is usually used requires intervention at the level of specific molecular events, not mere creation of physical law.

Now, I'm not a believer in Intelligent Design for various reasons, but you're ignoring some very important facts aside from the creation of lightning. For instance, how would those chemicals get put together?

What you fail to realize is that any attempt for humans to replicate the conditions that hypothetically resulted in life in a lab involves an intelligent being. It may not *require* intelligence to do it, but the simple fact is that the process did, in fact, involve an intelligent being and as a result, said experiment cannot be used to ultimately prove Intelligent Design as incorrect.

The only way you can "prove" IDers wrong is to view the whole multi-billion year process occurring spontaneously in nature. I realize you're too stubborn to accept this, KoM, but no human success at synthesizing the creation of life could "prove" what you want it to.

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King of Men
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I don't want to get into the whole evidence versus proof thing again. I understand that there's no proof that will satisfy a sufficiently stubborn mind.

Nonetheless: The ID hypothesis is, in effect, that life cannot possibly arise without intelligent intervention. If the chemicals in question are, let's say, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, I think you will have a hard time denying that life resulting from the mix is pretty strong evidence against the ID claim; to state that carbon, hydrogen and oxygen never mix at temperature X in the presence of lightning, unless an intelligence intervenes, is fairly audacious.

I grant you that this is an extreme case. The more complex the chemicals, the weaker the evidence. Still, we know that simple amino acids can arise without the presence of intelligence. I think that would be a nice cutoff. If you need actual proteins, then you've only shown one step in a long pathway. Someone else would then have to show where the proteins come from.

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Catseye1979
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Well then I'm certainly not and ID person.From the evidence I've seen it seems likely it is possible, however unlikely. Future evidence may change this or may support it. It will be intreasting learning more. Has any part of this contradicted my beliefs in God? Not yet.
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King of Men
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Of course it hasn't; tell me, what sort of evidence would contradict your theistic beliefs?
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Dr Strangelove
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(Don't answer)
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Dr Strangelove
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Sorry for the double post, but what would happen if it were somehow proven (or there emerged some strong evidence) that life started elsewhere and then plopped down on earth? What would the effect be on the positions of IDers, Creationsts, or evolutionists?
I wonder if ID advocates would say that this proves it, since it must have been God that directed it here or created it "there," wherever there is (that seems weak even to me). I suppose a more likely result would be something of a standstill in the debates until more information was found on exactly where life originated.

Oh, by the way KoM, have you read much by Michael Ruse?

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Catseye1979
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Of course it hasn't; tell me, what sort of evidence would contradict your theistic beliefs?

Well, I guess the results of a vast majority of the thousands of tests I've conducted regarding the exsistance of god would need to be retro-actively changed, or at least explained with evidence stronger then the evidence suggesting the exsistance of a god.
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Papa Moose
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Uh oh.

Cat, I think your use of the word "tests" there is gonna be a sticking point. Note my not taking any sides here.

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King of Men
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quote:
Oh, by the way KoM, have you read much by Michael Ruse?
No.

quote:
What would happen if it were somehow proven (or there emerged some strong evidence) that life started elsewhere and then plopped down on earth? What would the effect be on the positions of IDers, Creationsts, or evolutionists?
This evolutionist would state that this does nothing for or against evolution, which deals with existing life, and is interesting for abiogenesis.

quote:
Well, I guess the results of a vast majority of the thousands of tests I've conducted regarding the existence of god would need to be retro-actively changed, or at least explained with evidence stronger then the evidence suggesting the existence of a god.
How about "This data indicates the existence of a god only to one who already believes it"?
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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
Well, I guess the results of a vast majority of the thousands of tests I've conducted regarding the exsistance of god would need to be retro-actively changed, or at least explained with evidence stronger then the evidence suggesting the exsistance of a god.

I'm always curious, when someone makes this claim, specifically what some of these tests were, how they were conducted, and what evidence pointed so strongly to the existence of a god.

Strangely, I've never had anyone who could produce convincing tests which would lead an observer from a neutral standpoint to a deistic standpoint. I'd love to be shown otherwise.

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Catseye1979
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Hmm I never liked spelling and "tests" is easier to spell then "Spiritual Experiments".

But yes the tone of the thread is changing. If my post(s) is what is changing it I'm sorry. I'll withdraw before the tone gets heated. I hope the good discussion will continue.

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scifibum
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I read the thread title and thought science was about to come to life. That's just what we need, science reproducing and excreting all over the place.
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Dr Strangelove
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
Oh, by the way KoM, have you read much by Michael Ruse?
No.

Eh, he's a History and Philosophy of Science guy, big into biology and evolutionary theory, as well as a Darwin expert. He's pretty heavy into the evolution/ID debates. I think he's probably a bit moderate for your taste though. I went to the Creation Museum with him last week. It was quite the experience. If you're ever flying through the Cincinnati airport ... probably skip it. [Razz]
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King of Men
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As it happens, I live in Cincinnati. And the only reason I would ever give any money to those liars is so I could scope out their security.
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Dr Strangelove
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The interesting thing about it is that it really is not science, and for the most part is not trying to be science. In fact, at least how I saw it, they were pretty blatant about being anti-science, anti-intellectual, and I would even go so far as to say anti-knowledge. The base assumption was that truth exists in, and only in, Scripture, so any science, or knowledge, not directly supported by Scripture is false, and any science in Scripture is better described by Scripture. This led to some pretty interesting, glaringly blatant contradictions in their presentation, but given that base, there really was no way around it. Kinda sad really.
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
Hmm I never liked spelling and "tests" is easier to spell then "Spiritual Experiments".

But yes the tone of the thread is changing. If my post(s) is what is changing it I'm sorry. I'll withdraw before the tone gets heated. I hope the good discussion will continue.

Some posters can come across as heated, and I think it's unfortunate that people end up preferring to avoid threads because of that, but I think there's other other people you can have worthwhile conversations with.

That said, the reason King of Men defaults to a hostile position is that whenever someone makes a claim to the point of "I've done/seen tests that suggest God exists," those claims almost invariable end up being full of false premises and logical fallacies. If you truly believe your experiences are the exception, go ahead and stand by them. But to date I've never seen a creationist or intelligent design argument argument that didn't rely on the same faulty logic.

One big thing to consider: in the tests you've witnessed/conducted, what outcome would you have considered evidence AGAINST God? What new evidence would cause you to reconsider your position? Science is only valid if it has the potential to be disproved. The reason Intelligent Design is not science is that it doesn't make a claim that can actually be falsified.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
I'd think that Intelligent Design believers would think that creating life in a lab would be evidence in their favor. You would need to show them a case if it happening without Intelligent Design or influence since I'm pretty sure that they believe that God or an Intelligent Designer can do anything man can do.

And that, my friend, is why "Intelligent Design" is not a scientific theory. When the results of any possible experiment would seem to prove either way that a certain hypothesis is correct, you don't have a theory, you have something else.
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Mucus
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I suggest that if you really have "spiritual experiments" that have positive results, rather than mixing it up with random forum goers on the Internet, you could look into things like the Randi challenge which could be quite profitable.
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Tarrsk
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Guys, I'm as vociferously anti-Intelligent Design as anyone here, but it's pretty obvious that Catseye was using "tests" in the colloquial, laymen's sense, rather than in the strict scientific sense of the word. He (she?) has stated a skepticism about ID/creationism, and otherwise seems to be the same sort of theistic evolutionist as quite a few others at Hatrack. So in the spirit of the "be nice to each other" threads, can we not immediately jump all over Catseye for a belief in Intelligent Design that he/she has stated outright that he/she doesn't even hold?
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King of Men
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It is my impression that he/she is now being jumped on for theism and for believing that private states of mind are credible evidence, rather than for ID.

In passing, I note that your last sentence is ambiguous; "Can we not do X" can mean either "Let us do X" or "Let us avoid doing X".

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Mucus
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(I'm specifically not addressing "tests." Rather I'm addressing the term "spiritual experiments" that was proposed as a replacement.)
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Orincoro
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As far as we know, that could mean *anything*.

quote:
Originally posted by Catseye1979:
Well, I guess the results of a vast majority of the thousands of tests I've conducted regarding the exsistance of god would need to be retro-actively changed, or at least explained with evidence stronger then the evidence suggesting the exsistance of a god.

I suppose 9.11 conspiracy theorists would like to require their opponents to sit down and prove, conclusively and more importantly to the theorist's satisfaction, why every piece of "evidence," arrived at by errors in reasoning is in fact something else, and more specifically, prove exactly what it is.

Last I checked it was more than enough to prove convincingly that an argument is wrong- one need not be required to supplant it with a conclusive and comprehensive explanation of whatever observation may have been made and then wrongly theorized about.

Just to get to the brass tacks: I don't need to know that 2+2=4, I just need to know that when you say 2+2=5, that's wrong, because 2+3=5. I don't actually have to sit down and show you what 2+2 actually equals 4. When talking about a much more complex observation, like almost anything deemed "spiritual" by some observers, is going to require much more work to correctly *explain* than it would take to negate obviously false conclusions.

That's just argumentation 101 though Catseye, you don't get to sit pretty just because I can't explain your spiritual experiences for you.

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Papa Moose
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Wouldn't argumentation 101 also need to take into account that sometimes there may be more than one correct answer? To continue with the math thing, if I say the answer to x^2=4 is x=-2, and you say you don't need to prove that's wrong, but you already know that x=2 is the correct answer.

Granted, Catseye has been pretty non-specific, and I'm not going to ask for more than has been given (it's a topic I don't consider arguing over to be worthwhile). But just because one can explain something without a "supernatural being" (caveats galore on the title, its various attributes, and people's disagreement thereupon) doesn't mean there isn't one. And just because one can't come up with an explanation that doesn't require a "supernatural being" doesn't mean one exists. But one can certainly state that "proof" has not been given in those cases. But distinguishing between proof and evidence so often comes back to "this is more likely," which can have discrete measurement but often doesn't, and even when it does, less likely needn't mean impossible.

To put myself in the hotseat for a little while, I'm willing to answer "[T]ell me, what sort of evidence would contradict your theistic beliefs?"

Honestly, lots of things have resulted in my adjusting my overall theistic beliefs, but to change from theist to atheist -- I can't think of anything aside from a (multiple-use) time-machine. I've posted here at Hatrack before about some experiences I've had, and fully granted that they could probably be explained away, and that I don't expect anyone else to alter his own belief system based on them. But they've formed mine, and I can't really see un-forming them, as opposed to a more modest re-forming of them.

<Never really completes a thought any more, but kinda mentally rambles, so doesn't know if there's a point.>

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MightyCow
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Something I've discovered, is that when I was a theist, I did have a concrete idea of things which would contradict my theistic beliefs. Upon closer examination, many of these things came to my attention, and as a result, I am now an atheist.

Without making a value judgment on the practice, I imagine that it's a quite good defense, if one really desires to be a theist, to have none, impossible, or ill-defined standards to contradict one's beliefs. [Smile]

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Papa Moose
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I've talked before about the difference between concluding that there is a god and believing that there is a god. Had I only concluded it, I think I would more likely have an idea of something which would contradict it. (I don't believe I've taken the tack of "logically" determining the existence of God, and I don't believe it's a claim I'd make.)

And if I had chosen to answer "nothing" specifically as a defense to the question, I think it could serve as an effective defense, but I wouldn't therefore categorize it as "good."

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MrSquicky
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quote:
That's just argumentation 101 though Catseye, you don't get to sit pretty just because I can't explain your spiritual experiences for you.
Why not? That seems pretty obviously what you would need to do in this instance.

Catseye was asked what would it take for him to change his theistic beliefs. He responded that you'd need to provide a better explanation for his experiences and "tests" than he has right now.

That seems perfectly logical given the context we're talking about. You seem to be suggesting that in order for him to not change his beliefs, he should be able to establish that they are true to you. That seems very unreasonable.

---

I've never really gotten where the vehemence stirred up by people believing for themselves in religion comes from. I'm talking about people who are not intent on forcing it on others, who are intelligent and psychologically healthy who have a personal belief in religion. What is the big problem here, that they have a belief that they can't be sure is true?

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by MrSquicky:
quote:
That's just argumentation 101 though Catseye, you don't get to sit pretty just because I can't explain your spiritual experiences for you.
Why not? That seems pretty obviously what you would need to do in this instance.

Catseye was asked what would it take for him to change his theistic beliefs. He responded that you'd need to provide a better explanation for his experiences and "tests" than he has right now.

That seems perfectly logical given the context we're talking about. You seem to be suggesting that in order for him to not change his beliefs, he should be able to establish that they are true to you. That seems very unreasonable.

---

I've never really gotten where the vehemence stirred up by people believing for themselves in religion comes from. I'm talking about people who are not intent on forcing it on others, who are intelligent and psychologically healthy who have a personal belief in religion. What is the big problem here, that they have a belief that they can't be sure is true?

There's no "big problem," it's rather a small problem for me, since my mind is made up, and the existence of this particular logical fallacy, along with the unreasonable requirement that some people have that the world be totally within their personal grasp, does not actually bother very much because I am not so afflicted.

I don't think catseye must provide proof of the veracity of his beliefs to others in order to hold them himself- that's obviously not the case, nor can it be. I would argue that he will be unsuccessful in arguing *for* his beliefs if he thinks they stand as true until alternate theories are proven correct, especially when falsifying his personal theories (at least scientifically) is bound, almost certainly, to be easier.

Now, were it me, I would only require that my theories (and by the way I didn't say "beliefs," but only theories), for the things I observe be falsified, not adequately explained, for me to abandon my theories in search of better ones.

This, I think, is the fairly clear difference between theories which are based on articles of faith, and theories which are based on scientific curiosity. Theories about god in general, unless you are studying way-far-out theoretical cosmology, or philosophy, are not scientifically interesting, because they produce no scientifically meaningful instruments. To me, the lack of scientific meaning removes *most* of my interest. My pure curiosity keeps me wondering, but I do not want to form theories that I have no hope of proving or falsifying- that just feels pointless.

quote:
I've never really gotten where the vehemence stirred up by people believing for themselves in religion comes from.
Well, I find a lot of arguments in favor of specific religions, and more generally those in favor of the god hypothesis to be insulting to my intelligence. I have no *problem* with people believing in God, but then I have no problem with other people being less smart than me- I understand it's a natural consequence of living. And really, not to be flip about it, I personally view theistic beliefs (granted I have a viewpoint with its own limitations, far from perfection itself) as dumb. On another level, I find some varieties and consequences of those beliefs to be actually dangerous. I suppose all of that baggage informs the way I react- and really I don't react with much fire to the idea any more at all, because I realized a long time ago that I am not personally capable of doing much good in this area. If you sensed a lot of passion on my part, I don't think it's there. I'm very frank about my position on it, but I have no stake in changing minds.

[ June 18, 2009, 10:47 AM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Raymond Arnold
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Though I try to avoid being the annoyingly evangelist atheist, the thing that bothers me and at least keeps me involved in internet arguments is people believing that their beliefs are justified logically and/or scientifically when they really are not.

There are people whose reasons for believing are "I was raised this way and it makes me happy so I'm sticking with it." (Or, alternately "I found this religion in adulthood and it has improved my life.") There's also people who don't fully understand the science and mathematics involved in evolution and see life as too miraculous to believe it came about by chance. Those people are wrong but I don't think it's fair to force them to study evolution and statistics until all the counterintuitive implications make sense. There are people who've had a powerful experience that suggests God is real to them. Even if other people have had similar experiences that pointed to an opposite kind of God, I think it's reasonable (if not fully logical) for those people to accept those experiences.

I'm fine with those people believing what they do and don't argue with them unless they go out of their way to evangelize me.

What bugs me, though, are people who honestly believe they have arrived at the conclusion of God (intelligent design/creationism in particular) through logical and/or scientific processes that are, in fact, completely bogus. I think there is a danger to misunderstanding science and logic that can A) lead them to make misunderstandings in other areas of their life, B) because the misunderstood science/logic sounds reasonable to laymen, they may end up spreading that those misunderstandings to other people.

While Catseye's statement was fairly vague, the language ("Spiritual experiments, thousands of tests") suggested that he/she fell into the later category.

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ricree101
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
It is my impression that he/she is now being jumped on for theism and for believing that private states of mind are credible evidence, rather than for ID.

I don't see any particular reason for anyone to be jumping on at this point.

Personally, I thought that Raymond Arnold's response covered pretty much everything that needed to be said, so unless something else comes up I see no need for this particular line of conversation to be pursued.

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Orincoro
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I agree.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by MightyCow:
Something I've discovered, is that when I was a theist, I did have a concrete idea of things which would contradict my theistic beliefs. Upon closer examination, many of these things came to my attention, and as a result, I am now an atheist.

Without making a value judgment on the practice, I imagine that it's a quite good defense, if one really desires to be a theist, to have none, impossible, or ill-defined standards to contradict one's beliefs. [Smile]

This sounds a bit like what happened to me except that, in the end, I came to the conclusion that the things I was ignoring contradicted only my Christian beliefs, but did not contradict the idea that there is a God, when I broaden the term God to be a concept removed from specific doctrine.
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Orincoro
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Well, you can easily remove the trivialities of the God of religion from every level of logical reasoning and still maintain a belief in God just based on the things science *can't* tell you, which is plenty of important stuff.

At that level, I'm agnostic. The point interests me, but I would find it silly (and would fully expect an immortal divine being to agree with me here) if there was a god that actually fit the Christian, or any other, religious doctrine. I mean seriously. Perhaps God has a sense of humor? That's all I ever got from the bible myself "you've got to be kidding... there's no way a god would act like this..."

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The Rabbit
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quote:
It looks like we're edging closer to how life spontaneously starts from a bunch of random organic molecules. They haven't quite recreated the event in a lab, but they've figured out how they might.
No! I'm neither a young earth creationist nor a proponent of intelligent design, I'm just a scientist with a decent grasp of both biochemistry and mathamatics. This is still light years away from creating the simplest self reproducing living systems. The genetic code is truly mind bogglingly complex and even with this minor advance we still don't have a real clue of as to how the genetic code got started.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
To continue with the math thing, if I say the answer to x^2=4 is x=-2, and you say you don't need to prove that's wrong, but you already know that x=2 is the correct answer.
I don't know if I need to point this out but x = -2, is also an answer which satisfies the equation x^2 = 4. Perhaps this is what you you were implying when you said

quote:
Wouldn't argumentation 101 also need to take into account that sometimes there may be more than one correct answer?
So to make your analogy more explicit, are you saying that atheists have the equation x^2= 4 (How was life on earth created?) and they have found a solution 2 (evolution) which they believe satisfies the equation. This however does not preclude the possibility that -2 (perhaps intelligent design) is also a solution which also satisfies the equation equally well.
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Raymond Arnold
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It may satisfy the equation, but there is actual evidence that 2 is the correct answer, whereas there's no particular evidence that -2 does. To continue the increasingly convoluted (and probably flawed) math analogy, biological life is a square with area 4. It's hypothetically possible that we somehow live in a world where the sides of squares can have negative dimensions and the square has a width of -2, but it makes a lot more sense, for now, to assume that the width is 2.

Edit: I like how the 42nd post in a thread about life, the universe and everything prominently ended up featuring the numbers 4 and 2.

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Orincoro
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See? There *is* a God.
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Papa Moose
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What you're asking, Rabbit, is pretty much what I was saying (where it said "but you already know" it should have said "because you already know" which might have made that more clear). When it comes to "How was life on earth created" I certainly wouldn't have used such a simple equation (at the time I was thinking of what Catseye referred to as "tests"), but the concept still holds to a degree.

Had I been talking about creation, I'm certain I would have created an equation where the alternative answers could readily have been called imaginary, or irrational, or unnecessarily complex, not because I would intend to belittle one side of the conversation, but because it would make me chuckle.

More thoughts on a different tack, but they'll have to wait a bit because my youngest is sick.

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
This sounds a bit like what happened to me except that, in the end, I came to the conclusion that the things I was ignoring contradicted only my Christian beliefs, but did not contradict the idea that there is a God, when I broaden the term God to be a concept removed from specific doctrine.

Having abandoned the specific evidence or beliefs that first made you think there was a god, why would you continue thinking so? It's as though you have this scaffolding of Christian stuff, eg Jesus rose from the dead, or whatever it was you started out with; and on top of all that is "God exists". Then you remove all the scaffolding as not making sense - and the God-belief continues to stay up! How can you account for this without a kmb-like "I choose to believe", which you would not accept in any other context?
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Audeo
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Wow this thread has drifted considerably, so I'm going to ignore the ID vs. evolution debate initially and comment on the original post. I was a little surprised at the original excerpt because it isn't news. In fact I love the New York Times Science section, but occasionally, they seem to be stretching for an article. The fact that micelles (the technical term for the spontaneous spheres) form is not new, nor is the theory that if somehow nucleic acids, sugars, and amino acids all happened to be inside a micelle you would essentially have a primitive cell, also supposing the nucleic acid had a mode of self-replication.

Reading through the article in more detail, I realized that this theory was originally published in 2001, which fits with the reason why I've 'always' known it, because it was published 3 years before I began studying biochemistry, and it's so cool professors want to throw it out there as cutting edge, but by this point even text books have it in there as incontrovertible fact.

However this theory does not solve the problem of spontaneous generation because in order for it to occur it assumes that several other things have spontaneously formed in sufficient quantities:
A) phospholipids
B) amino acids
C) nucleic acids

I don't know much about the spontaneity of phospholipids. Amino acids, however, are not complex and I are quite readily and easily created using inorganic means. The problem is nucleic acids, which require a sugar molecule to be linked to an acidic base. This reaction is extremely improbable and unfavorable without enzymes (in fact DNA and RNA are both very fragile molecules and don't survive long outside a cell). So a problem to creating life in a test tube has been creating this self-replicating RNA system. And the 'news' in this article is that some guy proposed a method for the RNA to be created all at once, rather than having a sugar and the base link up after being separately formed. Then some other guy is working on proving that he could do just that, however (at least from what I read) he hasn't actually done it yet.

So I guess the gist of the rather long article is that there are still people working on proving the 8 year old theory is possible without any significant concrete advancements. [Dont Know]

The article also doesn't address a few other flaws in the theory. A phospholipid bilayer is semipermeable, but there are a few things it is explicitly not readily permeable to including certain amino acids, all sugars, and naturally nucleic acids. If it were permeable to these things then a cell would not be able to concentrate them inside it without an active pump. However since it is effectively impermeable to these things I am not clear on how they are supposed to have gotten inside to begin with.

Another flaw is with the 'self-replicating' bit. In order to become a cell you not only need this combination of organic molecules to form out of an inorganic soup, then you need them to begin inexplicably copying itself. In fact you need the micelle (the phospholipids) and the RNA and the amino acids (which eventually have to become proteins coded for by the RNA) to have independent replication processes which are somehow improved when the elements are all fused together.

Maybe one day science will have answers to these questions. Certainly there are a lot of other smaller questions to answer before it will get to them. However it requires no less to faith to believe science can figure these things out than it does to believe that maybe some intelligent being helped the process out.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Having abandoned the specific evidence or beliefs that first made you think there was a god, why would you continue thinking so? It's as though you have this scaffolding of Christian stuff, eg Jesus rose from the dead, or whatever it was you started out with; and on top of all that is "God exists". Then you remove all the scaffolding as not making sense - and the God-belief continues to stay up! How can you account for this without a kmb-like "I choose to believe", which you would not accept in any other context?

Wow. No. That's exactly backward. God -- or something like God -- is not a conclusion, he's a premise. I never accepted the doctrine of Christianity as proof that God existed. God was never a difficult concept for me -- it was all that stuff they piled on top of him that was hard to swallow. (ie Jesus is his son, died and rose from the dead, the earth is 6,000 years old and was made in a week...)

Looking broadly at *all* religions -- not just the Judeo-Christian religions that get so much flack around here, there is a core of something out there. who, or what, is that something? I tend to think that everything we learn about the universe gets us closer to that something.

[ June 21, 2009, 09:21 AM: Message edited by: Christine ]

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swbarnes2
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
Looking broadly at *all* religions -- not just the Judeo-Christian religions that get so much flack around here, there is a core of something out there.

The virtue of stuff "out there" is that you can easily look at it, and poke it, and study it.

But stuff "in here", you can't do that to.

So most people come up with some kind of God idea. Well, we are all human. We all have very nearly the same biology. So the commonality could be due to something "in here", not "out there". In which case, there might be nothing "out there".

quote:
who, or what, is that something? I tend to think that everything we learn about the universe gets us closer to that something.
The way one learns is by collecting evidence, and rejecting false conclusions. If God is an unfalsifiable premise, you can't do that.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by swbarnes2:

quote:
who, or what, is that something? I tend to think that everything we learn about the universe gets us closer to that something.
The way one learns is by collecting evidence, and rejecting false conclusions. If God is an unfalsifiable premise, you can't do that.
The way one learns about what?
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