Evolution News says abiogenesis is in trouble

Over at the always unintentionally hilarious Evolution News blog (which, contrary to its name, is a site for Intelligent Design creationism) there's an article about some new research which has supposedly undermined naturalistic explanations for the origin of life – aka abiogenesis.

Oh, but don't get too excited – the IDer's still haven't done any original research. They're reporting on a study published in the journal Nature which suggests that as soon as 500 million years after its formation, Earth's atmosphere may have had abundant oxygen. Here's where the conundrum supposedly arises: scientists (real ones, not IDers) have long though that an anaerobic environment – that is, a low-oxygen or "reduced" atmosphere – would be best for the formation of the amino acids that would eventually form RNA. This new research, according to IDers anyway, suggests that the time was far too short for RNA to have formed by "chance".

Well, not according to one of the authors of the study. In an article that is ironically linked to and even quoted in the article on Evolution News, the authors clarify:
The results do not, however, run contrary to existing theories on life's journey from anaerobic to aerobic organisms. The results quantify the nature of gas molecules containing carbon, hydrogen, and sulfur in the earliest atmosphere, but they shed no light on the much later rise of free oxygen in the air. There was still a significant amount of time for oxygen to build up in the atmosphere through biologic mechanisms.
Huh. I guess the ID guys didn't read the whole article. Of course, that hasn't stopped the them from saying that the study is a problem for "naturalistic" explanations for the origin of life... ergo Goddidit:
Several factors need to coincide in order for nucleotides or amino acids to form from purely naturalistic circumstances (chance and chemistry). The specific conditions required already made purely naturalist origin-of-life scenarios highly unlikely. Drastically reducing the amount of time available, adding that to the other conditions needing to be fulfilled, makes the RNA world hypothesis or a Miller-Urey-like synthesis of amino acids simply impossible.
There are several reasons why the Evolution News article deserves a major facepalm. Firstly, it's only one study, and there shouldn't be too many hasty assumptions based on it. This is the kind of stuff that needs to be researched by lots of people over a long period of time, with results confirmed and replicated by independent researchers. And the study doesn't even do what the IDer's say it does, at least according to the actual researchers who conducted the study.

But the biggest facepalm is in the glaring argument from ignorance at work here. Intelligent Design is supposed to be a bona fide scientific theory. If that's the case, then these 'scientists' ought to know that your theory doesn't become magically confirmed by default just because another theory has to be reformulated or discarded. It's painfully obvious that the 'theory' of Intelligent Design really just relies on purported failures of natural sciences, so that God – or wait, I'm sorry; an "intelligent designer" – can be plugged into the gaps. After all, isn't it telling that a blog supposedly devoted to the theory of Intelligent Design is called "Evolution News and Views"?

Well, sorry IDer's, that's not how actual science works. If you're going to demonstrate Goddidit, you have to present falsifiable evidence of the specific actions of a supernatural being – y'know, the how of Goddidit. What mechanisms are at work? What falsifiable predictions can be made? "A miracle happened!" is not science.Your pet theory has to stand wholly on its own ground, not just in the shadows of natural sciences. Real science has a tremendous track record of filling in those 'gaps', so placing God in them just ensures that divine explanations will become even more irrelevant than they already are.



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