Science does not work on 'proof'.

2013-05-23 12:11

In an article written by Martin Melzer, http://www.news24.com/MyNews24/Scientific-Truth-in-the-God-No-God-Debate-2-20130522, published on 22 May 2013, he Melzer writes (what he wrote in his article are in italics; my answers are in bold) :

While Evolution AFTER life had already begun is well supported…,

The mechanisms of biological evolution are genetic variation and natural selection. Genes are involved in the theory of evolution. Obviously after life began.  That’s what’s accepted by biologists.

 ….there is no acceptable level of proof that evolution operated or was even possible, before life began.

Science doesn’t work on ‘proof’. Science works on empirical, verifiable evidence.

Genetic variation works on genes, so no, genetic variation only works after life began. That’s the theory of evolution: the origin of species by means of genetic variation and natural selection.

 However, some scientists have proposed that the theory of evolution is extended to abiogenesis, for example chemist Addy Pross. Read one of his papers here:  

http://www.jsystchem.com/content/2/1/1

In it he writes:

The analysis leads us to conclude that abiogenesis and evolution, rather than manifesting two discrete stages in the emergence of complex life, actually constitute one single physicochemical process.

Thus, he concludes that in a physiochemical, not biological, sense, the theory of evolution should include abiogenesis.

Ie in the period between two and four Billion years ago when only dead, inorganic matter was available.

Nope. The first undisputed fossils of prokaryotes (you know, fossils of organisms with genes) are found in rocks around 3.8 billion years old. You can even see photos of them.  Life thus evolved between  around 4.55 (when earth formed) and around 3.8 billion years ago (oldest life as we know it).

 To Extrapolate the Theory of Evolution backwards to that period  and pretend that the first living organism  “evolved “ spontaneously from inorganic matter,  is a desperate, unscientific and basically dishonest effort to close off the God / no God debate.

The author has got a bit of a problem here. Very ignorant. Scientists look at science. Scientists look at abiogenesis.

Atheists don’t believe in a God or Gods. That’s it. Nothing to do with abiogenesis.

 If the verifiable evidence all indicate that the theory of evolution should be extended backward, so be it. Science works on empirical, verifiable evidence. Not dogma.

At the center of this effort is an Evolutionary Biologist from the UK, who is too intelligent to claim that evolution existed before life began,

Well, if Dawkins actually is involved in those efforts,  it seems as if he is not  the only one.

 Of course evolution existed before life began. It’s a given fact. Change over time. Even in Chemistry. There are even some chemicals that imperfectly reproduce themselves . They don’t contain genes, though, so it is not incorporated in the theory of evolution. Yet.

For some reason lots of creationists think that Dawkins is the only scientist on earth.

but who aggressively implies in his books and in the media that the Theory of Evolution adequately explains the Origin of Life.   It does not.

Where does he do that? I think that you are not telling the truth here.

This led to the concept of Abiogenesis.

Actually, no. The concept of abiogenesis has been around from before Dawkins was born.

 Abiogenesis is a word that has been introduced to describe the entirely theoretical possibility of a living organism developing spontaneously from inorganic matter. Abiogenesis is not the same as Evolution, (which could perhaps be called Biogenesis).

I think you’ve got the concepts of ‘spontaneous generation’, which was shown to be wrong by people such as Pasteur, and abiogenesis. They’re not the same. Better look up the differences before commenting on it.

In the meantime, we can start with the scientific attempts at describing what life is.

Life is one of those things that we can easily recognize in the extremes but gets difficult as we get into the grey.

 It is obvious that by whatever definition that would work, for most people Barak Obama is alive, but his desk in the oval office isn’t. The problem is on how to distinguish between life and non-life as we study simpler and simpler things.

 A good example is viruses (viri). There are those who would argue they are alive and those who would argue they are not. So the definition has to decide what is it about them that makes them alive or not.

Let’s look at a definition of life.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life#A_conventional_definition

‘While there is no universal agreement on the definition of life, scientists generally accept that the biological manifestation of life exhibits the following phenomena:

1. Organization - Living things are composed of one or more cells, which are the basic units of life.

2. Metabolism - Metabolism produces energy by converting nonliving material into cellular components (synthesis) and decomposing organic matter (catalysis). Living things require energy to maintain internal organization (homeostasis) and to produce the other phenomena associated with life.

3. Growth - Growth results from a higher rate of synthesis than catalysis. A growing organism increases in size in all of its parts, rather than simply accumulating matter. The particular species begins to multiply and expand as the evolution continues to flourish.

4. Adaptation - Adaptation is the accommodation of a living organism to its environment. It is fundamental to the process of evolution and is determined by the organism's heredity as well as the composition of metabolized substances, and external factors present.

5. Response to stimuli - A response can take many forms, from the contraction of a unicellular organism when touched to complex reactions involving all the senses of higher animals. A response is often expressed by motion: the leaves of a plant turning toward the sun or an animal chasing its prey.

6. Reproduction - The division of one cell to form two new cells is reproduction. Usually the term is applied to the production of a new individual (either asexually, from a single parent organism, or sexually, from at least two differing parent organisms), although strictly speaking it also describes the production of new cells in the process of growth’.

These criteria are not perfect, however, as, for example, almost all mules are sterile, but would be classified as alive. To be alive then, organisms don’t have to exhibit all those phenomena mentioned.

For reasons such as this, relevant scientists have indicated that there are degrees of life.  Joseph Morales have penned it down at http://baharna.com/philos/life.htm#defining. Easy to read.

This can result in imperfect replicator as one of the degrees of life.  Some chemicals fall in that category. Those chemicals can undergo a form of evolution (change over time with imperfect replication), but can’t undergo biological evolution (genetic variation and natural selection). They are in the grey area between life and non-life. And grey areas between the theory of evolution (genetic variation and natural selection) and other evolution (imperfect replication in chemicals and natural selection).

For this reason, evidence, such as the carbon-13-depleted graphite particles in deep-sea clastic sedimentary rocks from the Isua greenstone in Greenland;  ‘bubbles’ of complex organic material, which could reproduce, have certain characteristics of life and falls in the grey area between life and non-life. They reproduced imperfectly without genes (so not part of the theory of evolution), but experienced natural selection.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9924024?dopt=Abstract

In the end, there’s degrees of life. As can also be seen in life today and in the fossil record.  Empirical, verifiable evidence for abiogenesis.

Contrary to the claims of the author of that article, there’s nothing unscientific about that. It can be and is constantly tested. For example, we can experimentally test whether the postulated chemical reactions work and can work under the prebiotic conditions postulated to have been present on the early Earth. Hence science.

NEXT ON NEWS24X

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
33 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.