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Basic Worldview:
102 Atheism vs. Theism


Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 3

Prelude: "Atheism/Theism" vs. "Science, the Bible, & Creation"
Atheism: Introduction and Charges
Charge 1, Deduction and Induction
Charge 2, Question 1
Charge 2, Questions 2 and 3
Charge 2, Summary and Question 4
Charges 3 and 4, Definitions
Empirical Evidence
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 1
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 2
Scientists Acting as Mechanisms, Article 3
Occam's Razor and Conclusions
Footnote 1
Footnote 2 and 3
Proof of Life
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 1
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 2
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 3
Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses 4
Scientists: Life on Earth Imported from Outer Space
Atheisms Circle of Reasons
Is God a White Crow?



Discover Article

1) It doesn't hurt to have such a cosmic view of things in Deamer's chosen field of study: the origin of life. Deamer is unusual even among the few dozen researchers in his field, and not just in his discography. For most of the others, explaining the origin of life means explaining the origin of the genetic code: How did DNA arise from chemical reactions on the early Earth? How did the original building blocks of today's genetic code assemble themselves into crudely self-reproducing units? Were the first life-forms based not on double-stranded DNA but on single-stranded RNA? - Discover article

This first quote from the article tells us a few interesting items. First, this quote once again illustrates the chicken and egg dilemma of which came first, DNA, RNA, or proteins. Second, this quote hints that one approach to solving this dilemma has been to suppose RNA may solve the problem, just as our previous article detailed. And third, apparently there are not more than perhaps several dozen researchers in the field of scientific inquiry for the origin of life. The fact that this article starts out by hinting at RNA as a possible solution to the chicken and egg dilemma itself illustrates the smallness of this research circle.

2) To most who search for life's origins, genes are everything. But as David Deamer keeps reminding them, without a container for those genes, there can be no life. "Part of the definition of life," says David Deamer, "is that it is in a place." - Discover article

3) For the past 18 years, though, Deamer has been gently reminding his colleagues that these questions define only part of the puzzle of life. DNA does not float loosely through the oceans. Life is constrained in a place--or, to be more specific, within a boundary. Life is chemical interaction, and for that interaction to occur, life's molecules must be close to one another. Without a physical boundary of some sort, without a skin, a bark, or a cell membrane, an organism is nothing more than a diffusing blur of molecules. To explain how the first creature came to be, you have to explain how its innards got to be distinguished from its surroundings. In other words, you've got to explain how the first single- celled creature got encapsulated in a cell. - Discover article

So far we've looked at attempts to solve the chicken and egg dilemma, which focused on the development of proteins, DNA, and RNA. David Deamer takes a different approach. Deamer believes that life requires not only these molecules, but also a membrane of some kind to define and maintain the first cell.

4) When he returned to Davis, Deamer pursued the "membrane first" hypothesis, experimenting with mixtures of three compounds researchers believed existed on the early Earth: fatty acids, glycerol, and phosphates. - Discover article

(Notice the use of the technical term "hypothesis," instead of "membrane first theory." This denotes the scientifically speaking there is a difference between a theory and a hypothesis, which will become relevant in our article, "Not Theories, Unsubstantiated Hypotheses.")

Deamer and his team soon succeeded in using liposomes to create what could potentially act as a primitive membrane. Their operating hypothesis was that in order for a living cell to exist and survive, it would first need a membrane. So, the chicken and egg debate in the modern scientific community not only involves proteins, DNA, and RNA, but also whether or not a membrane had to come first as well.

5) "Still, given that there must have been a first cell, it had to have a source of lipid molecules. It had to." - Discover article

Believing that some sort of primitive membrane must first exist for a living cell to develop and survive, Deamer and his team find success in using lipid structures known as liposomes.

6) In the right concentrations, he found, they formed into lipids, and in turn, the lipids spontaneously assembled into liposomes. Now Bangham's ponderings had turned into some real chemistry, and Deamer's journey to life's genesis had begun. - Discover article

Now that they had a potential primitive membrane, the next step was to see if they could get other molecules necessary for life, such as DNA, into the primitive liposome membrane.

7) He opens a jar of lipids, extracted from egg yolk, and mixes some of the clear oil into a small test tube of waterÉDeamer extracts a few drops from the mixture and puts them on a glass slide. With the casual precision of a veteran chef, he then adds dried white threads of DNA from salmon sperm to a second test tube, where they turn gooey. He spikes the solution with a fluorescent stain and adds some of these DNA drops to the lipids on the slide. - Discover article

8) After a few minutes of primordial heat, the lipids and DNA on the slide have dried into a thin film. Deamer fills his tide pool again by adding a few drops of waterÉ lipids squirting out from the dried film into the surrounding waterÉSome of them are dim, but others glow with the intense fluorescent green dye attached to the DNA. The glow is clear proof that as the planes of lipids curled up into vesicles, the DNA that had been sandwiched in between them got trapped inside. - Discover article

Success. Deamer is able to create an environment, which through the unintelligent mechanisms of heat and water currents is able to put DNA molecules inside lipids acting as primitive membranes. In fact, through further modifications of the liposome membrane, Deamer and his team were able to get other molecules inside them as well.

9) In 1990, Deamer started trying to toss ions through these pores. Potassium ions, he found, would go through nicely. In 1992, Chakrabarti managed to slip amino acids, which are three times bigger than potassium, through the leaky membrane. - Discover article

10) The researchers began by forming liposomes out of 14-carbon lipids and used Deamer's tide pool method to capture an enzyme known as an RNA polymerase. - Discover article

11) The liposomes had indeed allowed nucleotides to enter through their pores, and the polymerase had assembled them into RNA. The researchers thus showed that primordial liposomes forming in tide pools could have performed some essential cellular tricks. - Discover article

Sounds like success. An unintelligent natural environment bringing DNA, RNA, amino acids and other fundamental cellular molecules into a primitive membrane. However, remember our previous article from American Scientist, Quotes No. 3 and No. 7.

3) Scientists considering the origins of biological molecules confronted a profound difficulty. In the modern cell, each of these molecules is dependent on the other two for either its manufacture or its functionÉOne possible scenario for life's origins would have to include the possibility that two kinds of molecules evolved together, one informational and one catalytic. But this scenario is extremely complicated and highly unlikely. - American Scientist article

7) "In the first stage, a pathway had to develop that took raw organic material and turned it into RNA. The first building blocks of life had to be converted into the constituents of nucleotides, from which the nucleotides themselves had to be formed. From there, the nucleotides had to be strung together to produce the first RNA molecules. Efforts to reproduce these events in the laboratory have been only partly successful so far, which is understandable in view of the complexity of the chemistry involved. - American Scientist article

Proteins and DNA are not likely to have evolved at the same time. That's why scientists have begun to assume that perhaps a primitive form of RNA came first as a precursor to the modern forms of all 3: protein, DNA, and RNA. However, reproducing RNA in an experimental natural environment has only had "partial success." That means, not only has there been no natural mechanism found capable of producing RNA, but also, there is therefore no natural mechanism capable of explaining the evolution of DNA and protein synthesis either. And finally, in order for RNA to lead to DNA and protein synthesis, it would also be necessary for RNA replication to occur through unintelligent natural mechanisms. Remember Quote No. 10 from the American Scientists article.

10) The development of RNA replication must have been the second stage in the evolution of the RNA world. The problem is not as simple as might appear at first glance. Attempts at engineering--with considerably more foresight and technical support than the prebiotic world could have enjoyed--an RNA molecule capable of catalyzing RNA replication have failed so far. - American Scientist article

But bringing about RNA replication through unintelligent natural mechanisms has also failed. In fact, scientists haven't even been able to bring this about with the foresight and technical support that nature doesn't possess. Thus, as of yet, there is no unintelligent natural mechanism for solving the chicken and egg dilemma and explaining the origin of protein synthesis, RNA, and DNA.

As we have said, since a natural mechanism responsible for producing these elements (proteins, DNA, and RNA) has not been found, every time that a scientist creates an experiment utilizing one of these elements, they are themselves acting as the mechanism of cell development. When intelligent human beings insert into the experiment some element that there is no known natural mechanism to produce, intelligent intervention itself becomes the mechanism of the experiment. As such, when Deamer and his team insert DNA and RNA into these primitive membrane-like liposomes, they too, are employing intelligent intervention as a necessary mechanism of cell development.

But that's not all. This series of experiments also asserts one other element in the chicken and egg dilemma.

"Even if they succeed, many questions will remain before anyone will be able to build a functioning cell. How does it manage growth and division--a process that demands mind-boggling choreography even in a microbe? How exactly is this dance powered with energy? - Discover article

This quote also demonstrates that no natural mechanism has been found for powering the energy needs of the first cell. Once again, without identifying unintelligent natural mechanisms capable of recreating the first RNA, DNA, protein synthesis, or other functions of a cell, how can scientists be so sure that unintelligent causes are capable of producing the first living cell? Especially when you consider that nature operates without foresight and that even with direct engineering, foresight, and technical support scientists have not been able to reproduce these things in a recreated natural environment.

We refer once again to the American Scientist article.

10) "Attempts at engineering--with considerably more foresight and technical support than the prebiotic world could have enjoyed--an RNA molecule capable of catalyzing RNA replication have failed so far. With the advent of RNA replication, Darwinian evolution was possible for the first time." - American Scientist article

Apparently, apart from intelligent intervention, Darwinian evolution is still not possible. And by employing human intervention in place of yet undiscovered hypothetical natural mechanisms, even experiments as successful as these, only serve to prove that very fact.

(See Footnote 2 - on comparing diamond formation and the origin of life.)

At this point we have refuted Atheistic/Agnostic Charge No. 3.

Atheistic/Agnostic Charge No. 3: There is no empirical evidence to support or necessitate a theistic assumption (that god exists, i.e. that an intelligent agent was necessary to bring about the origin of the universe and life.) All the empirical evidence only necessitates unintelligent causes.

We have just shown how the only empirical evidence, in fact, necessitates the induction that as a general rule, life is produced by intelligent agency.

(See Footnote 3 - on the causation of life and God's life.)